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From zero demand to scarcity: why there was no toilet paper in the USSR until 1968

'21.05.2022'

A source: Maxim Mirovich

Now it's hard to believe it, but there was no toilet paper in the USSR until 1968, writes Maxim Mirovich in his blog on Livejournal. Next - from the first person.

Photo: Shutterstock

For the sake of interest, ask your older acquaintances what was used up to these times as toilet paper - I think everyone will remember the cut from Soviet newspapers “voluntary-compulsory subscription” that was in a conspicuous place in the toilet. They began to make paper only in fact in the seventies, and even then on imported equipment - their machines for the production of toilet paper did not appear for 50 years of the existence of Soviet power.

I don’t even know what explained such a long absence in the USSR (in comparison with developed countries) of such a necessary hygiene item. I have one version - the well-being and well-being of its own citizens was in last place for the Soviet regime, and all sorts of militant ambitions came first. Interestingly, a considerable part of the citizens were completely satisfied with this. Many willingly changed their life comfort for the ephemeral feeling of "belonging to a great power."

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From product history

Paper for sanitary purposes began to be used as early as 589 BC. in China, and in 1391 in the same China, toilet paper was already widespread - for example, 720 thousand sheets of such paper were supplied to the imperial court annually.

In 1857, a New York businessman named Joseph Gayetti released toilet paper cut into squares and packaged (much like modern napkins look like), and roll toilet paper (almost the same as sold now) began to be produced in 1890 in the USA, at the Arthur Scott paper mill. In principle, since then, toilet paper has practically not changed - except that in 1928 they began to produce rolls with perforation.

I also heard about a toilet paper factory in the Lithuanian city of Grigiskes that produced toilet paper even before World War II - they say that after 1940 this factory produced small batches of toilet paper for Soviet leaders and ruling elites, while ordinary Soviet citizens learned about toilet paper almost 30 years later.

Pravda newspaper in the Soviet toilet

Believe it or not, in the USSR, toilet paper began to be produced only in 1968. In fact, it took the country as many as 50 years after the “great revolution” to start producing such a simple and necessary hygiene product. The production itself was carried out on imported machines - they were purchased in England in 1968 for the Syassky Pulp and Paper Mill - it was on them that the first toilet paper in the USSR began to be made, and the first batch was released on November 3, 1969, on the eve of the Great October Socialist revolution ”.

Interestingly, at the initial stage, the new products encountered zero demand - the citizens of the “great country” simply did not know what to do with the rolls of this paper and did not buy it. I’m even afraid to suggest what was used in the Union instead of toilet paper until the era of developed socialism until 1968 - what good can it turn out that for these purposes, the cut editorials of Pravda with Khrushchev and Stalin were used, and then the entire population of the country will have to be enlisted in western intelligence.

By the way, such cases did happen - in the Stalinist thirties, in an atmosphere of total suspicion and hatred, residents of Soviet communal apartments scribbled denunciations on their neighbors that they were using newspapers with portraits of leaders in the toilet, accusing them of “Trotskyism with a right-wing bias ”.

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From zero demand to scarcity

In general, laughter is laughter, and at the first stage, paper was really not popular. Then the Soviet authorities began a large-scale advertising campaign for new products - there was an advertisement for toilet paper in newspapers, and advertising "magazines" about toilet paper were played in Soviet cinemas before the films began.

And then something happened that usually happened with all the necessary goods in the planned Soviet economy - paper became a terrible shortage, because planning did not keep up with demand. Large queues were lined up for toilet paper, in which customers were sold in “small wholesale” - 10-20 rolls of toilet paper per person. The rolls were most often strung on a string, and one of the signs of the perestroika eighties was happy people, intertwined with ribbons of toilet paper, like revolutionary sailors with bandoliers.

In the eighties, in some cities it became a good tradition to give a roll of toilet paper for the New Year.

So it goes. Also, by the way, in the USSR, feminine hygiene products were not produced (instead, the ladies were forced to use gauze, cotton wool, etc.), and the condoms were of such quality that they looked more like a tourniquet for a slingshot and smelled like a rubber gas mask. But the missiles were - wow!

Do you remember any stories about Soviet toilet paper?

The original is published on Maxim Mirovich’s blog on livejournal.

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