Home » Soviet Youth Culture’s Little Known Forest Lecture Dating: Cold Start

Soviet Youth Culture’s Little Known Forest Lecture Dating: Cold Start

Cs Volga

Growing up in the Soviet Union presented a number of challenges for youth culture that wanted to be free of the restrictive demands of the state. That’s how things like samizdat literature and bootleg Western music pressed onto old x-ray film happened. Along with these attempts to smuggle in outside culture, internal youth culture developed as well, leading to the phenomenon known as The Forest Lectures.

The Forest Lecture was a way for Soviet teens could try to meet one another and express subversive ideas privately, along with a way to meet romantic/sexual partners. The common method was for a trio of teens to arrange to meet; by having three, suspicions about their potential romantic intent could be allayed, and books and other study materials were used to suggest an academic or political intent. Clothing was formal, also to convey a tone of solemnity.

One of the participants would have expressed a romantic interest in one other, and so the three would drive out to a forest, park in a clearing, and the teen that suggested the meeting would issue a short “love lecture” where they would outline their benefits as a romantic partner. Sometimes charts would be involved. Any of the participants could take the lead here, and same-gender pairings were possible, though at the time far more risky than this practice already was.

If the lecture was well received, the targeted participant could agree to going at it right there in the woods, with the friend/third party keeping watch. If not, firm handshakes were exchanged, and the group would return to town.

Notably, the third party was allowed to object to the lecture, or add their own commentary, pro or con.

This Volga ad is interesting in that it’s one of the only semi-official photographs showing a Forest Lecture scene in action. While never overtly admitted, Soviet teenagers would have recognized the situation immediately, as it makes no sense in any other context: a car parked in the woods, with three young people in formal clothes, one with an armload of books, standing by a tree? What the hell else would it be?

In modern former Soviet states, Forest Lecture re-enactments have become popular for dating as a kitchy form of role-play.

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36 Responses

  1. I grew up in Soviet Union and there were no forest lectures. We f.. in volgas and friends appts, we talked shit about party everywhere else.
    Forests were for mushrooms/berries gathering, lakes and rivers were for frolicking/studies and sunbathing ..

  2. Jason, solely because its you, I don’t know how much of this is true or how much is made up.
    We need a tag for when you’re relaying stuff that actually happened in the world.

    1. No, that would only confuse us. Besides, Torch would just attach random tags to his articles (the tag that says “INSPECTED BY 16” is a special keeper..

  3. I dunno. I’ve always had a yen to grab a Moskvitch 410, the four-wheel drive SUV (Soviet Utility Vehicle). The Volga looks a total limo compared to the 410.

    Never heard of a Forest Lecture — is this a Thing, or does Torch have a beyond-vivid imagination? — but the FWD would surely get one deeper into the forest….

    1. The Volgas were the largest and nicest cars ordinary citizens were permitted to buy new, if they had the money – the bigger Chaika and ZiL limousines were only available to the government, though Chaikas were sold off to the public as used cars when they were done with them. Those usually wound up as wedding cars

      1. They were also the largest Soviet cars exported in any appreciable numbers. A few Chaikas wound up as official transport for Politburo members of satellite states – those that didn’t get Tatras or bring hard currency to neutral Sweden for some Volvos – but as far as I know ZIL limos were basically hand built and there wasn’t production capacity for export.

        1. Yep, I think they were even assembled in the Netherlands from CKDs for awhile, you could even get one with a Perkins diesel.

          The first Volga, the M21, was actually considered for sale in the United States in the early 1960s – the GAZ factory even developed a fully automatic transmission specifically with the US market in mind, but, saner heads prevailed in the Politburo, recognizing that that was probably the absolute worst time to try to sell anything Soviet in the US (other than maybe caviar and vodka), and cancelled the plans.

  4. I didn’t know about the Forest Lectures.
    My first thought upon seeing this picture was, “Oh, well, THIS is awkward.” See, her bf finally talked her into a bit of bdsm. He’s tied up in that stand of trees back there. She was aiming to grab the ball gag out of the trunk when these Soviet Mormons accosted her. She’s praying to Lenin that he won’t call for her as that would escalate the situation exponentially.

  5. Volga isn’t the only thing on that guys mind. He is hoping they would straighten out his Lenin. The 2 girls are wondering where to dump his lifeless body.

  6. Following Soviet customs, the 3rd youth had the right to veto any sex if it was thought to be ideologically harmful to the state. This was formally called the Communist Cock Bloc, though young men derisively referred to it as “Stalin’ the launch of my Sput-dick.”

    1. Why the Hell would Donald Trump have owned a Volga? Or is this some Seinfeld type scenario where it was a lebaron owned by John Voigt the dentist, not John Voigt the actor

  7. Hey Torch/mods/powers that be, why does my first comment here need moderator review? I started posting here as soon as the website went live for comments. Is it because of the phallic jokes? Because if it’s about the phallic jokes, then I’m going to be taking up a lot of your reviewer’s time every day.

  8. I see a radio, not books. While I love Jason’s licentious take, these young sneaked away from a Leninist Youth meeting to rebelliously listen to the latest decadent western music. Clearly Volga was targeting the disenfranchised youth market, but in a subtle, wholesome way.

  9. Also one must-do for any Soviet Era car owner:
    1. when leaving the car take your hubcaps and windshield wipers
    2. that could also be the wheels altogether, they might be gone by morning
    3. that also applies to the gas tank, you might get your gas syphoned

    it all happened (except for 2) to my dad 🙂 80s and 90s in post-USSSR was an interesting time

    1. That advice applies to a lot of the U.S. as well. At least your dad didn’t have to worry about cat thieves. Also the Soviet thieves only siphoned the gas. Here they’ll drill a hole in your tank.

  10. Jason, keep up the good work on your Pulitzer-level fiction writing.

    Ever think why is Volga even spending time and money with this advertising photograph at all? The vast majority of Soviets in the 1960’s didn’t have money for new cars. Even if they did, they may not really of choices to purchase because so few options either in a rigidly planned economy.

    So…why develop these photos of young adults posing in the woods with the car? Pure propaganda to the West. The purpose is to show the West the appearance that they had cool hip youngsters like Amerika but with more virtuous youth not smoking pot or having illicit sex parties.

    OOH-OOH, Or maybe you just uncovered a secret KGB plot in that one photograph.

    1. “So…why develop these photos of young adults posing in the woods with the car? Pure propaganda to the West. The purpose is to show the West the appearance that they had cool hip youngsters like Amerika but with more virtuous youth not smoking pot or having illicit sex parties.”

      More likely propaganda to themselves showing whatever a defector thinks to gain in the west is no better than they might get at home.

      And don’t kid yourself, plenty of vodka fueled sex parties went on behind the curtain. What, you thought the party was only about communism? Who’d want to sign up just for that?

    2. “Ever think why is Volga even spending time and money with this advertising photograph at all? The vast majority of Soviets in the 1960’s didn’t have money for new cars.”

      Do you mean like how automakers try to sell cars to young people these days who have no money and can’t afford them or the insurance?*

      *Unless daddy buys it for them. ‘Cause, like daddy buys everything – duh.

  11. I remember when I was a kid, one of the cops in my dad’s department went to Moscow for summer vacation, this would have been around 1988/1989, when traveling to the Soviet Union was certainly a thing, but also still kind of a weird thing. Apparently, he flashed his badge at a Moscow Militia officer during some ceremony at Red Square and they got all excited and escorted him through the crowd to a VIP viewing area at the front, everyone back home thought that was a ridiculously stupid thing to have done, but I guess it worked out. He came back with a big selection of Soviet toys – tanks, planes, cars, most of them made of plastic shitty enough to embarrass early 2000s DaimlerChrysler, and with really low grade cardboard boxes, like that homemade recycled paper you’d do in arts and crafts class at school.

    Anyway, my favorites were a couple of metal Volga M24 toys, one done up as a yellow and white police car, the other as a normal sedan, and I am almost certain that exact picture was used on the front of the box for the latter one.

    1. I know a guy that went to the USSR back in the seventies and wanted to travel around freely (which was not really possible for foreigners) and see the “real place”. He bought the uniform off of a drunk soldier’s back and wore it for two months as he moved around without any objection. Definitely one of the gutsiest things I know of anyone doing.

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