Vacation Resort for the People, Sochi, USSR, 1961

Vacation Resort for the People, Sochi Photo Gallery

Visiting a vacation resort for the people, Sochi (the site of 2014 Winter Olympics) on the Black Sea in Russia in the summer of 1961 at age 17, I encountered a town like no other I had ever heard of.  It had sun and beaches (if rocks can substitute for sand) and lots of tanned people like other resorts. What was unusual, maybe unique, was that it was run by unions and industry associations for workers. Looking at the buildings I could see its noble past.  Great columns and waterworks testifying to the wealth that had built it.  But when the Russian revolution essentially eliminated the noble class and confiscated their property, it turned these mansions into health spas for the people. See my video of still photos with music “Sochi, 1961 Resort for the People.”

As part of our tour of the Soviet Union, we visited the union run spas and learned that miners, whose conditions of work were so hazardous, received extra vacation days annually with special therapy and medical attention to keep them healthy. My father, Harvey Richards, had recently completed a film, Perch of the Devil (1960) about miners in Butte, Montana, where the hazards of mining work were repaid with an early grave and miserable poverty.  The contrast has never left me.  Sochi became a place forever associated in my mind with a society that marshaled its resources for the benefit of the people.

As good as these resorts were, the real reason Russians flocked to Sochi was sun and the beach. Russians are sun worshipers.  Probably because of the cold climate and the long winters.  Sun bathers brought boards to the beach and found ways to follow the sun by moving them to keep the best angle for maximum tanning.  Bathing suits were tiny, tiny, tiny.  I was not used to it in those days, coming out of the uptight 1950’s in California and being only 17 years old.  I wandered among vast crowds of barely clothed people of all ages, families and all worshiping the sun.  When the vacations ended, people returned to the cold north with brown skins and fond memories of the warmth of the sun.

About the Harvey Richards Media Archive: The Harvey Richards Media Archive contains a treasure of images of the political and social justice upheavals of the 1960s on the west coast and of the devastating impact of capitalist resource exploitation in western forests, and mines among other subjects.  All of his 22 films are available for streaming, downloading and as DVDs. The interest and demand for his images has continued to grow along with the interest in the legacy of the 1960’s political and cultural upsurge. Estuary Press is the home of the Harvey Richards Media Archive video and photo image collections.

About Estuary Press: Estuary Press is the publisher of Nicaragua Way by Nina Serrano and Heart Suite, a trilogy of three books of poetry by Nina Serrano. It is also the home of the Harvey Richards Media Archive, a repository of photography and video documentaries of the social change and political movements during the 1960s and 1970s. Contact Paul Richards (510) 967 5577, or visit for more details.

MEDIA – For photos & interviews: Paul Richards (510) 967 5577;

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