You know that moment when a football team wins the Superbowl and the reporters run up to them and ask what they’re going to do now and how they all say “go to Disneyland/world!” or something like that?
Now imagine you’ve found yourself on the winning side of the most massive war the world has ever seen. Insecure about your place in the world but desperate to embrace it for fear it will slip away, your answer to the “what are you going to do now?” question is going to be “find some way to secure/reassure myself” (notably less fun than Disney.) And what better way to do that than to engage in some serious consumer culture? Cue the Pobeda.
This car was among the first to be developed in the Soviet Union with the consumer in mind. Originally named the “Homeland,” but later (with attention given to Stalin’s preferences) came to be known as the Pobeda, or “Victory.” While the information regarding the design of this car is in and of itself fascinating, I care more to discuss the name of the vehicle as well as its popular counterpart, the Moskvich (Muscovite).
The Pobeda (Victory) is a unique name for an automobile. Production for these cars began in 1946 and demand for them was high. There was a sense of security that could be found not only in the ownership of the car but also in its name. On the tail-end of World War II, Stalin was just as, if not more, insecure of the Soviet Union’s place in the narrative of world players. And so these cars that were to be staples of Soviet society were named ‘victory’ as a present reminder that it was not only something they created but something they could possess as well. Worth noting is the original name: “Homeland.” A source states that upon hearing this name for the vehicle, Stalin responded, “So how much will the “Rodina” (homeland) sell for?” Clearly, they realized the answer would be “not much.”
To name this vehicle “victory” over “homeland” represents Stalin’s understanding of the Soviet people. The pride in their homeland was known. They had proved that through the years of the war as well as the revolutionary decades before. Victory, however, was something that had not been tangible in years prior. The status of the Soviet state was tumultuous and uncertain: from its establishment in the heat of revolutionary hearts, to the power shift from Lenin to Stalin, to the post-war years and the weight of the loss of loved ones on the country’s shoulders. By naming this expensive yet desirable product “victory,” the positive connotation and certain interpretation of this word could become tangible. The Soviet citizen could quite literally hold the keys to victory.
The Moskvich was the more affordable of the iconic Soviet-era cars. It was the name of those who resided in Moscow, it was a car of the people. Notably cheap, this car was much more accessible to the Soviet people and thus its name was accurate to its target demographic. In its name, just as much as the Pobeda, is a sense of control and possession and identity. By naming this car after the people, one could own this vehicle and feel that sense of control and pride. That’s truly what this comes down to. Stalin and the manufacturers named these cars something which would both appeal to and satisfy the insecurities of the Soviet people.
As far as marketing goes, this was naming genius. Taking advantage of the lapses in people’s sense of confidence and filling them with technological luxuries which embodied the same name Soviets gave to their insecurities was truly genius. But for inspiring a generation of Soviet citizens to take pride in not only their victory but also their national identity during the tumultuous era after the war? These names would be iconic.