It used to be the case that the Great October Socialist Revolution was the cue for the unfurling of a mass of red banners and flags. But on the eve of what is now the Day of Harmony and Reconciliation, St. Petersburg was treated to an exhibition of fabrics of another kind: Soviet underwear. The opening of "Memory of the Body: Underwear of the Soviet era" was the main attraction for city residents enjoying a day off at the St. Peter and Paul Fortress on Monday, as they caught a glimpse of the past "from below," as the organizers put it. The brainchild of the Goethe Institute and the Pro Arte Foundation in St. Petersburg, this excellent exhibit details the types and styles of undergarments that were worn in the Soviet Union from its very beginning to its ultimate collapse in 1991. Divided into three parts, the exhibit shows how the most intimate clothes in the Soviet drawer changed throughout the century, passing from the military mindset of War Communism to the sporting ideal of the 1930s, the poverty of World War II, the thirst for inner privacy of the '60s and the depressed economy of the late Soviet era. "I think that people who come here start telling their own stories," said Yelena Kolovskaya, chairwoman of the Pro Arte Foundation to Saint-Petersburg Times, after the opening ceremony on Monday. "I myself was a serious swimmer [during the Communist era], and went to sports camps at which we were allowed to wear our underwear only, and nothing else!" The collection of underwear was culled from various museums and two private collections.
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