Carpet from Turkmenistan

Carpets As Carpets And Carpets As Symbols

One cannot imagine a good Soviet apartment without carpets. Carpet was on the floor in a living room and… often on a wall of a living room. Why?

A Typical Carpet

First of all – what kind of carpets were popular? Traditional, «Persian-style» carpets, mainly produced in Turkmenistan and other former Soviet republics. They were very expensive and were «in deficit» (hard to find). I guess that the love to the carpets goes from the Asian part of our souls.

I am not sure whether any other, more modern carpets were available at that time, but the typical carpet looked like that:

Carpet from Turkmenistan

I have found this picture on AVITO (Russian “Craigslist”). I assume that this carpet is from USSR time or looks very similar to carpets, which were in fashion at that time

Carpets On The Walls

A lot of Soviet people, had at least two carpets at home – one the floor and one on the wall in the living room. If they could afford that of course, since carpets were expensive. Carpets served dual purpose – they provided coziness and were a symbol of wealth. I am not exactly sure why people placed carpets on the wall – a logical explanation is that a carpet provided extra insulation from cold, but very often carpets were at the internal walls. So, I believe that people just thought that having a beautiful carpet on the wall is part of a stylish interior design.

Carpets USSR

Carpets on the floor and at the wall, photo

Now that habit went out of fashion completely. But of course, some old apartments still have carpets, hanging on walls. People usually make fun of photos from Russian dating sites, on which candidates are posing at the carpet background (which btw is probably the worst background for a photo).

Other symbols of wealth of the Soviet time included crystal glasses, vases etc and crystal lamps, usually made in GDR or Czechoslovakia, such as the following:

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Cleaning Carpets

Carpet cleaner

Carpet cleaner, which you use to beat dust out of the carpet

Cleaning carpets was a special event. Not everybody had a vacuum cleaner and vacuum cleaners, which use water and foam, were non-existent. So, even though Russian people never wear street shoes at home, carpets needed cleaning at least twice a year.

Carpets were cleaned couple of times per year. In summer you would take a carpet outside, hang it on the special metal tube and use a special device to beat the dust out of the carpet. In winter – you would take the carpet outside and clean it with the snow. Cleaning the carpet, using snow was a lot of fun for kids!

Other Types Of Carpets

Less affluent people, or people, who lived in rural areas often had other types of carpets on the walls of their homes. Such carpets reminded the medieval gobelins and served mainly the decoration purpose. The most typical ones pictured swans or deer:

Carpet with deers

Carpet with deers, lots of such lots on Avito

There is one thing that really puzzles me about usage of carpets in Russia. In the US most homes have carpet floors. Of course, carpet floors are also available in Russia, but I have never seen an apartment with carpet floors. And it has nothing to do with our weather – Chicago also has a lot of snow in winter, but most homes there have carpet floors. Also, unlike in the US – Russians never walk in the apartments in the same shoes they wear outdoors. It would’ve made total sense to have warm carpet floors, but people strongly prefer wooden floors in the rooms and tiles in the kitchen and bathroom. That makes me think, that carpets never served the rational purposes, they rather served aesthetic and status symbol purposes. Maybe having carpets at home remind us of our Asian roots?

How are carpets used at homes in your country? Please share any thoughts or stories!

Leave a Reply

  • Stephen Palmer - 7 years ago

    Ask FSB why carpets are in most visitor areas and many CCCP hotels, etc. Hiding bugs in lamps were only in movies, weaving them into carpets was more practical, thus the antennas could also be in the carpet as well as the power source

    • Tanya Golubeva - 7 years ago

      Hi Stephen,

      I never thought about carpets in that way! Your comment made me smile!
      I think that in the hotels or some organizations carpets were placed also as a sign of “luxury”. I have no idea about bugs in carpets, so cannot comment on that))

  • Andrey - 7 years ago

    Carpeted floors in the US definitely go in and out of style. When I was growing up in the 1980s literally every house I went to had carpeted floors. I can’t think of a house we lived in (we moved around a lot) or any of my friends houses where there wasn’t carpet. Maybe not in the kitchen (that tended to be linoleum or tile) but even in the bathrooms.

    Then in the mid-1990s it seemed like carpeting went out of style and hardwood floors. I remember in 1993 or 1994 one of my friends redid their floors and replaced the carpeting with hardwood floors. They were pretty fashionable and all the adults would comment on how much they liked it.

    Now days, it seems pretty rare to find wall-to-wall carpeting. If you were looking at houses and saw one with carpeting, I think most people would think that would be a negative feature of the house.

  • Ahmad Afendiyevich - 7 years ago

    I find it slightly ironic that carpets are used as a status symbol in the USSR, because the point of having communism in place is to make everyone equal in terms of socioeconomic status. Anyhow, I can’t blame them – those carpets really do look beautiful in the house :)

  • Juan Camilo Vergara (@juan_c_vergara) - 7 years ago

    Thanks for this post. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) this tradition slowly died. But if you take a look to many photos and profile pictures in VK or Facebook, you can still see many carpets on the walls :)

  • Lars Bekken - 6 years ago

    In Scandinavia carpet floors seems to be something that “comes and goes”, like most other things in interior design. In the seventies, fitted carpets were rather fashionable. Later, they were considered unhygienic, causing allergic reactions etc and were thrown out. Now I think carpets are more or less accepted again. I’m no expert on this, but I think the use of carpets on walls are a bit more than just a weird trend from yesterdays interior design. I think this is part of a traditional way of using carpets, that comes from the parts of the world where such carpets are made. The carpets pictured in your article, are also something more than just any industrial product. They are part of a very old and fundamental part of how to make a nice and suitable place for people to live.


  • галина лабынько родригез - 5 years ago

    Awww carpets. In Ireland they call it carpet if it is used instead of the fooden floor and they call it a rug if it is used on the floor for decoration purposes. And if it is a decorative piece for a wall it is called tapestry гобелен. I remember when I was a little girl in early 70s, my dad brought home a beautiful tapestry from Germany. It depicts a bunch of Spanish gypsies I think dancing and playing girar. My god, I just loved it. It was proudly hanging in our sitting room for ages. Now I have it in my house in Ireland. And I don’t care if it is not in fashion or not. By now it is 40 plus years old, kind of antique. I love it. But I do hate carpet floors, never had them in my house , only wooden floor.

  • Marsha - 5 years ago

    In the US, use of carpet comes and goes with the times. I grew up in the 50s and we only had hardwood floors with rugs in each room. The 70s and 80s brought covering the hardwoods with all-to-wall carpet in all rooms, excluding the kitchen and bathrooms. I remember we actually had carpet in the bathrooms for a while during early to mid 80s…yuck! Hardwoods made a big comeback in popularity, and have stayed so. I love hardwoods with beautiful rugs on them, but prefer carpeted bedrooms for warmth in the winter.