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A young friend here from the martial arts community asked me not long ago about communism. Most young people here have no idea what the term means: truly no idea. I was searching for a way to explain the horror of it to him, something he could really understand, and I finally hit upon the example of Slavic women. I explained to him that believe it or not, it used to be a known joke that Russian women were abject crocodillo moosepigs. Yes, I explained to him as he stared at me in astonishment, communism turned the women every young Turkish man knows to be the most babelicious in the world into the women of the famous Wendy’s commercial. I’m not sure he believed me, but it did impress him. (The Wendy’s commercial reference was lost on him, though.)
I do think that what woke a lot of ordinary people up to just how awful communism was was seeing this–first, they actually saw a lot of Russian women (few people in the West had met more than one or two in the flesh before the Wall came down, since they weren’t allowed out); but also, incredibly, the world’s most laughably dumpy and sexless women, the butt of all these cruel jokes, almost overnight became seriously-threatening, drop-dead gorgeous, scantily-dressed stone foxes. If communism could do that to young women, people thought–and the free market could do that–communism must be pretty wicked indeed, as indeed it was.
When I visited the Soviet Union, the first thing every woman would ask me is if she could see my makeup. And whatever was in my handbag, she, and all the women around her, would sigh over and admire as if I’d just produced the Hope Diamond instead of some 99 cent tube of fruit-flavored Chap-stick. They lined up for hours in the hope of procuring the one single item the stores were rumored to have that day, for so-called shampoo that I wouldn’t use to scrub my toilet. And I think one of the reasons Russian women are so hot now is the memory of this humiliation: They would die before they looked like that again. It’s an overcompensation.
Anyway, my theory about this took a minor hit today when I found these scanned images from Playboy’s 1964 March pictorial, “Girls of Russia and the Iron Curtain.” (Totally safe for work! Go ahead, enjoy.) Indeed, you see in these lovely women the prototype of the modern era’s Slavic Superslattern, albeit more modestly dressed.
So, where exactly–besides Playboy–were these women during the Cold War?