Imagine Fords and Chevrolets, parked with the windows down, in a drive-in movie theater advertising Western previews; imagine poodle-skirted girls sipping milkshakes at their local diner while their letterman-clad dates sauntered off to put Buddy Holly on the Jukebox. This scene seems straight out of 1950s middle America, until you realize none of it is real – it's 1959, and you're in the fake American KGB town of Vinnytsia, Ukraine.
Vinnytsia may be a booming, modern metropolis in the 21st century, but that wasn’t always the case. The top-secret town was part of KGB training, which taught deep cover spies how to play American during the Cold War so that they could infiltrate the country without raising suspicions.
Vinnytsia raises so many questions: did America have secret replica Soviet towns to do the same? How many of these spies came into America without any of us batting an eye? Here's a close look at the eerie, fake American town resting in the middle of a war-ready Soviet Union.
The Church Always Remained Locked, In An Eerie Ode To Soviet Beliefs
Vinnytsia had an American-looking church, which some would regard as a crucial element to Midwestern life. Imagine living in the Bible Belt having never seen a Christian church. It may seem normal to every American, and even residents of Europe, but the USSR put an emphasis on atheism. They created government-sponsored programs that forced residents to convert to it. Though most religions were never outlawed in Soviet Russia, religious property was confiscated; those who practiced were bullied and harassed; and schools preached atheism. Notably, the church at the center of this fake American town remained locked as a reminder of the USSR's core values.
The Grocery Store Was Stocked With American Goods
Vinnytsia had all of the common shops on the main street of a typical American town, including schools, a library, a hardware store, and a grocery store. The grocery store was stocked with American goods, but one thing was noticeably absent. There were no screaming children reaching for sugary cereal because there were no children in Vinnytsia.
The 1950s Diner Served Nothing But American-Style Food
Diners were a craze among young people in the 1950s; they would stop by for a milkshake, a burger, and some songs on the jukebox. The replica American-style diner in Vinnytsia served nothing but American foods (think: burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and sandwiches). Thus, it not only taught appropriate diner behavior, but it also familiarized deep agents with the typical American menu via cheeseburger training.
Familiar Brand Names Peppered The Shops And Pharmacies
What would an American town be without Coca-Cola or McDonalds? Vennytsia had it all. In this typical pharmacy, you can pick up a can of Coke with your prescriptions, something unfamiliar to Russian life. By the Cold War, most pharmacies in the Soviet Union were nationalized and not privately owned. They adopted a socialist healthcare model in which the government provided state-funded healthcare to all citizens. Health personnel, including doctors and pharmacists, were state employees.