Desperate for Jeans

This post earned a "red star" award from the editorial team.

This post earned a “red star” award from the editorial team.





In the 1970s, the USSR is thought to go through a period of stagnation. However, there was little stagnation in the economy. Brezhnev’s Five-year plan from 1971-1975 had as its goal the improvement of the people’s standard of living.  To achieve this aim, pensions and minimum wage were raised to accommodate the higher cost of living.



The government also mandated an increase in the production of goods, a goal that they tried to achieve by raising quotas. However, this had an unintended consequence of decreasing the quality of goods, because companies focused more on the number of goods they had to produce. As the quotas increased, the quality of the products decreased. This focus on quotas followed the earlier Liberman Proposal from 1962.

Later on, in the 1980s until the fall of the Soviet Union, the lack of high quality goods led to an underground economy. In the black market, foreign goods began to have enormous value, to the point where foreigners could sell their American-made or Finnish-made goods for high profits. A “jeans culture” began to emerge, in which the type of goods you had, and especially your clothing, told people what social class you were in.  In the article Knights of the ‘Jean Culture’, the author criticizes the youth of Russia for their emphasis on materialism. Not only were Soviet goods less well made, but they were also more expensive after the government raised the prices of goods.


The government actively tried to fight the black market that emerged during this time period. The party declared a war on crime, even sentencing some ‘speculators’ to death. However, their attempts to stifle the underground economy were ultimately not effective.


5 thoughts on “Desperate for Jeans

  1. Absolutely love the photographs in your post. Additionally, I liked how you deny the idea that economy was going through a period stagnation and instead talk about the decline in quality of goods produced.

  2. This was a well-written and informative post. I find it ironic that Soviet goods were not only of lesser quality, but they were also more expensive too. Thank you for pointing out that the Soviet economy was not necessarily going through a period of stagnation, that topic always confused me somewhat. Great post!

  3. I agree with Jen and Kelly, I liked that you pointed out that the economy was not going through a period of stagnation, but producing much lower quality goods instead.

  4. Great photos and sources in your post! This is similar to what we discussed in class last week, so I was glad to see that you fine-tuned that information. Like the other comments say, I was glad that you pointed out that the Soviet economy was not experiencing stagnation necessarily, but that the quality of goods had decreased as their quantity within the economy increased. The article on Jean Culture was especially interesting.

  5. Lots of agreement in these comments so I’ll just ditto the above and especially endorse the images, which are so wonderful! Could you add captions / translations so we can better understand what they are about?

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