Holidays behind the Iron Curtain: A collection of rare vintage posters advertising unlikely vacations in the Soviet Union have been revealed

  • The art deco posters were created in the 1930s by Intourist, the official state travel agency founded by Joseph Stalin
  • Destinations such as Moscow are featured in the advertisements as well as places like Odessa, Crimea and Armenia
  • This rare collection was designed to get people to visit the Soviet Union and is tipped to earn thousands at auction

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A collection of rare posters attempting to lure tourists into unlikely holidays behind the Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union have emerged for sale. The art deco-style posters were made in the 1930s by Intourist, the official state travel agency founded by communist dictator Joseph Stalin and staffed by NKVD and KGB officers. The visually stunning posters advertise more obvious destinations such as Moscow and Leningrad, but also further flung places including Odessa in the Ukraine, Crimea and Armenia.

The visually stunning posters also advertise the Geogian Military Highway (left) as well as further flung places such as Armenia (right)

The art deco-style posters were made in the 1930s by Intourist, the official state travel agency founded by communist dictator Joseph Stalin and staffed by NKVD and KGB officers

One even touts the delights of the Geogian Military Highway, the main route from Georgia to Russia through the Caucasus mountains. Tourism was practically non-existent at the time largely due to the negative attitudes surrounding the Communist Party and the state’s Red Army. But the poster campaign had a surprisingly successful effect, helping to triple yearly visitor numbers from a feeble 15,000 to 50,000.

The images concentrated on the beauty of the Soviet Union, from Moscow’s iconic Red Square to a romantic castle overlooking a lake in Crimea. Others boasted of the technological advances the Soviet Union had made – one advertising Soviet Armenia shows a glamorous car in the foreground with a train travelling over a viaduct in the background. Experts say Soviet-era art deco posters are now as sought after as their European counterparts – and the collection is tipped to fetch $25,000 ( 16,000) when it goes under the hammer at Swann Galleries auction house on behalf of a private collector.

Nicholas Lowry, president of Swann Galleries, said: ‘These posters were designed to get people to visit the Soviet Union. The art deco posters are now as sought after as their European counterparts – and the collection is tipped to fetch $25,000 ( 16,000)

‘During the 1920s and 1930s the majority of European travel posters were produced by the railways or by ocean liner companies to sell seats on their trains and ships.

‘By comparison these Russian posters were more of a general genre variety promoting the country as a whole.

‘In the years after the First World War and after the Russian Revolution, the fledgling communist economy was struggling to earn hard western currency, and tourism was seen as a great way to do this.

‘Additionally these posters served as great foreign propaganda, promoting a positive image of the Soviet Union in the West by showing to the rest of the world the beauty, modernism and up-to-date advertising techniques of the USSR.

‘They were aimed at foreign tourists as well as the hearts and minds of people who might have formed a negative attitude towards Russia on account of its Communist government. ‘By all accounts the posters did succeed in bringing in tourists. The 1930s poster campaign had a surprisingly successful effect, helping to triple yearly visitor numbers from a feeble 15,000 to 50,000.

‘An estimated 50,000 foreign visitors went to the Soviet Union in 1934, exceeding by more than three times the previous highest figure of fifteen thousand in 1930.

‘The Russian market can be a little fickle, based on current geopolitical trends.

When the Russian economy was robust, collectors in the were beginning to buy back some of their heritage and often posters commanded very high prices.

‘Currently these posters are as much in demand as other Western art deco posters.

‘They’re not collected much for the artists but for the images themselves as well as the curious historical aspect of a communist country using decidedly capitalistic means to encourage tourism. The collection of rare posters attempted to lure tourists into unlikely holidays behind the Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union

‘Artistically speaking these posters were very much outliers as the standard soviet poster art from the 1930s was far more propagandistic and less in-keeping with Western artistic trends.

‘They are beautiful, well-accomplished Art Deco images completely in the Western style.

‘They are socio-political outliers and attractively help define a confusing historical period.’

The auction will take place on November 19 in New York. The stunning 1930s collection will go under the hammer at Swann Galleries auction house on behalf of a private collector next week

Last week, MailOnline Travel reported on a savvy bargain hunter who snapped up a box of old travel posters for 20 at a car boot sale is set to cash in after they were valued at a whopping 4,000.

The unnamed buyer went to the bazaar on the lookout for potentially valuable items after reading a story in a local newspaper about a collector who had sold a set of posters for 1,600. After spotting a box of 15 old posters he decided to take a punt and forked out 20 for them last month. His gamble has now paid off after experts revealed them to be highly sought-after art deco-style posters dating back to the golden age of travel of the 1920s and 1930s.

The collection included advertisements to far-flung locations such as Australia (left) with cruise liners such as the Normandie (right) featured

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