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The Fraternal Kiss - Behind the Famous Photo

Men locking lips in public is a rare site today in Putin’s homophobic Russia. But, it was once a gesture that symbolised the height of fraternal friendship. The socialist fraternal kiss was a special form of greeting between the leaders of Communist countries. The act demonstrated the special connection that exists between socialist countries, consisting of an embrace and a mutual kiss to the cheeks or in rarer cases to the mouth. 

Close attention was paid as to whether the fraternal embrace occurred in meetings between Communist leaders. Its omission indicated a lower level of relations between two countries. After the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s, Chinese officials refused to embrace their Soviet counterparts. Even when relations were normalised more than two decades later, Chinese protocol still insisted on “handshake, no embrace”. Chinese officials would refuse the fraternal embrace when greeting Soviet leaders, even as they exchanged it with leaders from other Communist countries. 

The Famous Kiss

The socialist fraternal kiss gained worldwide attention in 1979 when Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev, the leaders of the German Democratic Republic of East Germany and the USSR were photographed embracing for the 30th anniversary of founding of the East German Republic. Photographer Regis Bossu photographed the moment both leaders kissed on the lips. That picture became known as “The Kiss” by press and magazines around the world. Happy Valentine's Day comrades! Browse a few of my favourite love themed posters below.

Between Greed & Love | East Germany | 1966£450.00
Heave Up | East Germany | 1978£400.00
My Wife Inge & my Mistress Schmidt | East Germany | 1985£400.00
List of all posters

Further Reading


The Polish School of Posters: Creativity vs Communism

The Polish School of Posters was probably the most famous artistic collective operating under Soviet rule. They were prolific then, and they’re still popular today. The posters they produced were unlike anything seen before, and influenced most of what came after – but thanks to the isolationism of the USSR, their legacy is little known.


Must Read Books on Soviet Art, Design and Culture

Most Russian literature on the list of ‘books you must read’ are old and very long. War & Peace or The Gulag Archipelago are striking works of literature, or so I’m told. Both have sat on my shelf for the past two years. Instead, I’ve put together a list of less intimidating books on Soviet art, design and culture.


How the CIA Stole a Sunken Soviet Submarine from the Sea Floor

In the summer of 1974, an unusual looking ship left Long Beach, California. It’s destination? The middle of the Pacific Ocean. Equipped with a giant crane and experimental drilling equipment, the purpose built ship would open up a new frontier in mining. But, the whole expedition was a cover.


Behind the Poster: The Young Pioneers of the USSR

Tying a red handkerchief around your neck was a source of pride in the USSR. On public holidays, millions of Soviet children would march in sprawling parades, singing patriotic songs and saluting banners of Lenin. Young Pioneers were the Soviet’s answer to the Boy Scouts, but they were much more political.
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