Tallinn Russian Market / Soviet Union pin badges

I've recently returned from some eye opening adventuring around Estonia and Finland for summer, so much so my head is a bit congested with all the shiny things I saw.  I'll start with Tallinn in Estonia; my good friend Jaana hails from there so I've always been intrigued about seeing her on her home turf, especially after sipping the supreme Estonian vodka she often smuggles back. 

This building was my home for the week.  It had a rickety and austere Soviet era lift that slammed shut then made noises that sounded like they came from the Futuristic Zone in the Crystal Maze as it whisked me high speed to the fourth floor.  By the end of the week I'd grown very fond of it's cantankerous ways.

Tallinn has a beautifully preserved medieval centre which is worth a visit to see some of the buildings but, for me, lacked anything genuine anymore in terms of having many Estonian residents or a semblance of normal working life - it's simply a gilded land for tourists.  After a day there I didn't go back, and instead spent my time exploring the diverse Russian neighbourhoods, traditional wooden housing, vibrant creative spaces, and industrial landscapes reminiscent of Tarkovsky's Stalker (which was filmed in part in Tallinn).  

One brilliant place to get a flavour of the past, as well as the present mix of people who populate the city is the Russian Market (Baalti Jaama), just behind the train station.  I spent hours here rooting through the Soviet memorabilia stalls and junk shop outlets, meeting and photographing some stiking local ladies and sampling some of the technicolour cabbage salad offerings.

 The antique shops there were brimming with enough oddball Soviet toys and artifacts to keep me short on breath for a while, but my favourite finds were these metal pin badges boasting some super psychedelic designs.  After standing in a store for a good stint carefully selecting these ones to take home, I found later that other outlets I came to at the market were selling hundreds more, all with different designs, at which point I had a tiny meltdown and resigned myself to just sticking with the ones I'd chosen.  I'm definitely flying back here and snapping up the lot when I have my lotto win, and I will employ elves to tile my bedroom with them.

For now, here are the few I chose, in no particular order as I think they work best in a random fashion.  They look to date to the 1970's, but who knows with Soviet design, their aesthetic was often out of sync with the rest of the world so these could be more recent:

I really liked these next two in particular...

I think because for some reason they reminded me of Terry Gilliam's Monty Python animations from the late 1960's and early 70's which massively perturbed and excited me in equal measures as a child. I still love them as an adult and think they had a huge impact on my fledgling mind:

I was interested in general to see trends in the imagery towards powerful and wild animals, 'heroes' fighting dragons, images of courage, ferocity and dominance.  This might generally have helped perpetuate the sense of a world with enemies, one with constant threats, where the reality of combat was (supposedly) real and tangible, learning then to harness a kind of fierceness within oneself was perhaps the clearest way of preparing for this.


I also found these energetic Soviet posters in the corner of one second hand outlet, photographed at weird angles as I was sardined against military uniforms. There were lots more but I chose to cease photographing when I caught the Russian owner shooting me a seething look, oops


I was amazed at the playfulness of some of the Soviet toys I came across too.  I had to restrain myself from buying a squeaky rubber cockerel since it was half my budget for the last couple of days, but I realise now he was an essential purchase.  Am still thinking about all of these guys, they all had such character, I'd love a room full of them.

Welcoming market ladies

 This chic dame was called Zoya, I put a little more about her on my Luminous Eye blog where I collect intriguing people

More to come soon anyway - I started interviewing people on the trip and met Estonian artist Jurri Arrak well known for his beautiful and insane 1970's swamp ladies illustrations, animations, paintings and more; will post the full story shortly!


  1. I was really unknown about these places so thanks for a good presentation about the Soviet union pin badges !

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