In all it's glory.
Before I get into the story, I need to let you know that this nearly never happened. It was my last full day in Kazan before a 16 hour, scoliosis-inducing train ride to Samara and I was showing the city around to friends I had met in Moscow. We were on a fairly calm walk through the Kremlin when, for no apparent reason, Mother nature decided to be a jerk and began mercilessly throwing down sheets of rain, soaking us and flooding the streets. We needed shelter and we needed it fast. We ran down the street, with at first nothing catching our eye. But then, suddenly, we noticed this big red star on a house-like building with a sign jutting out that read Музей Социалистического Быта (Socialist Lifestyle Meseum/Soviet Lifestyle Museum). And although I'm not the biggest enthusiast about museums, this would suffice for our current situation. Who knows, I thought, maybe this could be a bit different after all.
Turns out it was different. Very different, but in the most awesome way imaginable. Right upon entering, it became clear that it was not the place to move from one exhibition to another, viewing an endless amount of large scale displays. Nor were there any curators, audio guides, or grandiose artifacts to be found anywhere. There was, instead, space that consisted of an upstairs and downstairs room that were both lined wall to wall with seemingly everything that was ever made for regular people during Soviet times. And I mean everything. There were hats, milk containers, bars of chocolate, cigarettes, movie posters, newspaper clippings, political cartoons, buttons, pins, athletic sneakers, arcade games, Lenin paraphernalia and pretty much anything else that could be involved in daily life.
Meanwhile, as I walked from a Lenin poster to a display case of 1980's Russian punk t-shirts, I began to hear some music, similar to that of 70s and 80s hair bands in the US. I looked up, and sure enough, music videos of Russian hair bands (presumably from the same time frame) played on a small TV hanging on the front wall. And even though the music was just as bad as the western bands of the same genre, I couldn't help but happily laugh and watch. It wasn't because I liked the music, but because this was this side of Soviet life that you never hear or think about. It is always presented as cold, serious and oppressive, which makes it easy to forget that they too had goofy musicians with ridiculous haircuts that enjoyed using lasers way too much.
As this was all going on, the owner of the museum just chilled by the entrance, next to his collection of signed guitars from Russian and Soviet bands (which he called 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame'). After checking out the guitars (including several from the Russian punk-rock band Leningrad) which were all dedicated to the owner himself, it soon became clear to me that this whole display was comprised of random things that he personally owned and collected while growing up in the Soviet Union (by the looks of it, mostly from the 80s), and never bothered to throw any of out. And I couldn't be happier he didn't because with this collection of the random, everyday junk used by Soviet citizens he presented such a clearer image to the past than any museum or monument possibly could have. This was the commoner's historical exhibition to a communist country. It can't really get much more fitting than that.