January 01, 2000

Of Soviet Santas & Snegurochkas

In the Soviet past, when most Russians were employed at huge working collectives, Ded Moroz figures began paying visits to households from December 22 and continued through January 2. Parents of children did not have to pay for the visit, as it was covered by the local trade union. They merely had to purchase gifts for their children beforehand and then pass them on to the fairy tale hero. The job of Ded Moroz was taken quite seriously by directors of factories or institutes, as the Ded Moroz was officially exempted from work.

Individual visits by Ded Morozes could also be arranged through the then famous firm Zarya, which specialized in social services. Today, a visit by a Zarya Ded Moroz costs at least 300 rubles. Competitors often charge 700 rubles ($27) and more. But in the 1970s, a visit cost just three rubles, fifty kopeks; a visit on December 31 cost five rubles. The average Moscow Ded Moroz would make 5-10 visits per day.

Two of the main criteria for a good Ded Moroz were height and artistic talent. Yuri Davydov had both. A staff writer with Family Council magazine (which focuses on preservation of family traditions), Davydov “worked” as Ded Moroz while he was in secondary school and continued his job while working at the NII  (Research Institute) on Land Planning.

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