Trade in the service of socialism
One of the symbols of the Soviet past is a soda dispenser. Receiving sweet water for three kopecks, ordinary citizens did not even suspect that they had participated in the ambitious project of the USSR authorities on trade automation.
Path to automation
The history of Soviet trade is now often viewed one-sidedly. Mostly recall the hygienically clean counters of the eighties. Meanwhile, each Secretary General of the USSR noted with his view on how the socialist distribution system in general and trade in particular should look.
For example, Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev, as soon as he concentrated power in his hands in 1957, noticed that the system built by Stalin relies too much on the private owner and the individual initiative alien to socialism. Before the war, only 59.4% of trade was provided by state stores, 21.6% were provided by cooperatives, and 19% by collective-farm markets. At the same time, there was an opinion that the data on the markets where the products of the most diverse artels and artisans were quite legitimately sold were significantly underestimated.
With the help of Khrushchev, private owners began to be squeezed out of the life of the USSR.First of all, they reduced the base for free trade: household farms and subsidiary farms were banned, they began to forcibly buy out livestock, while at the same time artels and cooperatives were made public. Then they began to build more and more consumer shops in the state trading system.
In parallel with these processes, the authorities were looking for new, more socialist, ways of organizing retailers, which were supposed to ease the path to communism. For example, self-service stores and vending machines.
For some reason, it is believed that the devices trading in all kinds of things appeared in the country immediately after the official visit of Khrushchev to the United States in 1959. This was the first visit of the head of this level to the stronghold of capitalism and, of course, the personal impressions of the secretary-general greatly influenced the implementation of many plans. But the very ideas of introducing vending in the country of socialism appeared earlier.
The first time they were seriously studied by Anastas Mikoyan, who then served as deputy chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and at the same time People's Commissar of the Food Industry. In 1937, he also visited the United States and became interested in the issue of automation.Mikoyan did not decide on the mass introduction of trading devices, but he launched the production of installations for hot dogs and hamburgers. Such an automaton was even described in an article in the journal “Technology - Youth” (No. 1 of 1938). But the war and the subsequent campaign against Americanism prevented their appearance.
They returned to vending in the mid-fifties and this time they approached the complex. The Commerce Department first studied the foreign experience. For this, 37 vehicles were purchased from the USA and Europe, and not only from capitalist countries. Five systems brought from the GDR. Even very exotic for the Union machines for selling ice and hot soups were included in the list of purchased devices.
In 1955, as an experiment, two automatic stores were launched: “Diner No.9“ Moscow ”in the capital and“ Diner “Friendship” in Leningrad. Projects worked quite successfully. At least, the authorities were quick to report that at the same time each of them was discussing 120 people, and in just a day about ten thousand buyers passed. Probably, in the imagination of the Soviet bosses, a picture from the future already appeared, in which all trade takes place without human participation, and therefore without theft, complaints of rudeness and other shortcomings.
Already in the late fifties in Moscow, the Avtomattorg Association was created, which was engaged in Soviet vending. At the peak of its development, 74 outlets (an ice cream parlor, tobacco and beer shops) and almost three thousand vending machines that sold soda were operating in its network only in the capital.
From soda to perfume
To say that vending machines flooded large and small cities would be an exaggeration. However, in the sixties, the industry developed fairly quickly, quite a few models were released. Their design was simple, it was possible to do without electronics, only mechanics. Most machine guns required special tokens that were purchased at the checkout, but some accepted coins.
The most common were apparatuses that sold soda. They remained almost until the early nineties. Worked machines from the plumbing, it was required only to regularly replenish the tank with syrup. A glass of ordinary soda cost one penny, with syrup - three. What is interesting, models with paper cups did not take root. Due to the lack of paper, regular and sufficient production did not work out,and the quality of the glue was so low that they could not keep the liquid. So in each machine there was an ordinary glass cup.
We put the devices with soda, not only on the streets. In many factories and factories they could be installed directly in the workshops. They supplied the workers with water. In such cases, the fee was not required, it was enough to press the button and choose whether sweet water is needed or normal. By the way, in some enterprises they are still functioning. Quite widespread were machines selling kvass, beer and wine. Structurally, they are not far from those that poured soda. The main difference was that they connected to the barrels with a drink, and for work they needed a token that they bought in a cafe or a beer hall, where they were installed.
You could also find devices that gave out cigarettes, newspapers, bottles of vegetable oil or milk. A convenient invention, given that, unlike stores, they worked around the clock. In the cafe there were automatic machines in which it was possible to get sandwiches. In the subway there were cars that changed a trifle of 5 kopecks. At the post office, such devices “smashed” coins into two-beige ones.Much less often came across systems that sell ice cream (they were at the Domodedovo airport and at the Moscow railway station in Leningrad) or sprinkled with eau de cologne (could be seen at the Exhibition of Economic Achievements and near hotels).
Separately, it is necessary to tell about the cafe-machines, which began to open in major cities. This format is also seen in the United States. The population met their appearance with enthusiasm. Some, like the Cafe Automat on Nevsky Prospect (45) in Leningrad, became legends.
Institution on Nevsky was, in fact, a bistro, which was famous for two things: a hodgepodge (tasty stewed cabbage with sausages) and devices that give everyone to beer and several types of sandwiches. To get the last, you had to throw 15 kopecks into the slot of the huge glass cabinet.
It opened one of the first, in 1957. At first, the people called the cafe "Machine Gun" or "American." During this period, the authorities considered it ideologically important to succeed in experiments with automation and closely followed the work. But in the future, the quality of food and service declined markedly and for the cafe for a long time not the most euphonic name - “Gastrit”.Already in the sixties, machines began to be put in many pubs and snack bars. But in general, the development of vending in the Soviet Union has stalled.
Without mug and without syrup
There are several reasons for the fall in interest in machines. The most obvious is the departure from the political scene of Khrushchev. Without it, there was no one to motivate the trade revolution from above. Bottom, in the very system of the Soviet catering and retail, interested in vending, too, was not found. Machines do not really fit into the existing fraud and fraud. Although some have managed to earn a soda.
For example, already in the era of Andropov's “purges,” the facts of large-scale theft in the Kiev division of Avtomattorg were revealed. Its director and staff learned how to correct the dosage of syrup, reducing it from five grams to three. So that it was not very noticeable, they ordered glasses with a thicker bottom, as a result, their capacity decreased by 20 grams.
Already in the sixties, automatic cafes ran into queues, and it was by experience revealed that ordinary people served customers faster. And the machines are constantly lacking packaging. At the beginning of the seventies, they stood not only for beer, but also for cups, and later even half-liter jars were used.In addition, the equipment had to be regularly cleaned and maintained, for example, to pour unsold beer. Devices broke down, repairs were constantly delayed.
Already in the mid-seventies, only soda machines remained from the ambitious project. But they could stand for a few days without syrup. Throwing three pennies, buyers received regular, not sweet water. That did not increase the popularity of vending. Pubs, cafes, shops closed or began to work as usual catering, equipment was on a landfill. After a while, the entire Soviet trading system was also there.