Nostalgic Photos of Student Life in the USSR

Y. Khalip
Y. Khalip / Y. Khalip

Ah, college life. For many people, college is a time of transformation and personal growth, and many adults look back on the time they spent on campus with nostalgia for the freedom, friends, and opportunities for drunken shenanigans it offered. A new photography exhibit in Moscow illuminates the Russian version of that nostalgia, with beautiful portraits of what life was like for Soviet college students.

The exhibition, Gaudeamus (it's named after a popular graduation song), uses photojournalism from both professional photographers and students to explore college life in the USSR from the 1930s through the 1990s. The more than 100 images present an idyllic, carefree side of Soviet life not often seen in Western media (even in the context of forced labor). Here are a few more images of what life looked like for Soviet student bodies. 

Students at the Saint-Petersburg Cinematic Arts School in the 1950s:

Image Credit: L. Sherstennikov

Studying, 1960s:

Image Credit: L. Lasarev

Studying for exams along the Neva River in St. Petersburg, 1970:

Image Credit:V. Opalin

High school and university students from Soviet cities were sent to work on collective farms for stretches of time. One former student who was sent to work on a collective farm for about a month in the 1980s remembers it as being kind of like summer camp, with more sunbathing and swimming in the lake than real agricultural work. Here is an image of students working in the fields in 1974 (the emblem says "student soil 1964," per Google Translate):

Image Credit: Y. Khalip

Image Credit: I. Stomakhin

A student construction brigade in the 1980s:

Image Credit: I. Stomakhin

This girl worked hard to cheat on a test:

Image Credit: V. Khristoforov

A 1970s college dorm:

Image Credit: N. Sviridova

The exhibition runs until April 3 at the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography in Moscow.

All images courtesy the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography