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Steven Harris, ‘Aeroflot’s Passengers Enter the Soviet Jet Age’
March 21, 2019 at 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Like their counterparts in the West, Soviet citizens experienced the jet age in the air and on the ground. They walked through newly built, modernist terminals and boarded Tupolev and Ilyushin jets that dramatically shortened travel times—not a small change in a country with the world’s largest landmass. They complained about Aeroflot’s shortcomings from delayed flights and lost baggage to refund policies and getting bumped. They consumed a steady stream of news and advertisements, as well as fiction and film that championed air travel and a socialist culture of aviation promoting selflessness, technology, patriotism and material prosperity. In this presentation, Steven E. Harris will discuss a chapter from his book project on Aeroflot in late socialism, which explores the customer service that Soviet citizens encountered in flying their country’s sole airline. To date, historians have examined the evolution of Soviet consumer subjectivities primarily in housing, food, household items and clothing. This book shifts our attention from goods to services—in this case, air travel—and how it advanced socialism’s ‘scientific and technological revolution’ for the mass consumer.