Though illegal, in the late Soviet period, some amateur and semi-professional photographers pursued nude and erotic photography. This is not to imply that nude images were not available during the Stalinist period. The State Library’s Soviet era Erotica collection contains some 12,000 items from around the world, but contains few individual photographs and the majority of the collection was imported. But the expansion of underground networks, the expansion of the second economy, and black market connections, coupled with the accessibility of cameras, certainly allowed for further exploration of erotic and pornographic photographs produced within the Soviet Union or smuggled in from abroad.
While the 19th century ushered in the development of erotic literature in Russia, the sexualized body in Russian and Soviet photography as a genre was never fully developed before the revolutions of 1917, nor after Stalin’s consolidation of power in 1928. Though the 1920s witnessed some experimentation with nudity and photography, as a result of the general liberalization of sexual politics, for the most part photographers of the period were disinterested in nudity as it had little to do with the revolutionary agenda of their work. Furthermore, as Eliot Borenstein noted, “pornography was at best a theoretical concept, the sort of thing found only in the decadent West, or, in a throwback to the previous century, a charge leveled at writers who broke with the accepted standards of decorum in terms of content and lexicon. Either there was no pornography at all, or the lack of an approved place for photography meant that any text with strong sexual content could be seen as phornographic.” While members of the nomenklatura maintained access to pornography from abroad, it was illegal to possess or produce erotic images and literature and there was no distinction between artistic and mass-marketed erotica.
For some scholars, nude or semi-nude bodies that appear in photographs, paintings and sculpture are bereft of all sensuality. According to Alexander Borovsky, the lack of sexuality of nudes and nakedness in Soviet art lies in “the existence of a particular Soviet ‘optics,’ or way of viewing things, derived from the prohibitions against individuality that permeated every aspect of Soviet life and culture.” In totalitarian art, the body, although possessing all the qualities of idealized corporeality, was utterly bereft of individuality.”  If Soviet “optics” accounted for the incorporeal nature of nudes in art in the late 1920s and 1930s, then the state was responsible for further de-sensualizing Socialist Realist art. Even after Stalin’s death, nudity remained a contentious issue in all Soviet arts, and most, if any at all appeared in paintings rather than photographs. But amateur photography in the USSR especially in postwar times, was actively channeled to… areas of intimate life…Thus, the Soviet authorities unknowingly stimulated erotic photography.” Some have described erotic “photography in the private sphere as ordinarily unartistic. But life under Soviet postwar socialism was so centered on cheap self-expression – gardening, knitting, poetry writing, and photography – that even among personal anonymous photographs of the Soviet era one comes across impressive artifacts focused on exalted symbols of the private: sex, eroticism, friendship, intimacy.”  The emergence of nudity in amateur and unofficial photography became a means not only of exploration of intimate private spaces, but tacit subversion of official culture. Nevertheless, in postwar photography, as in other media, Soviet erotica appears tame in comparison to Western pornographic literature, images, and films. This is perhaps unsurprising considering that the sexual revolutions that occurred across Europe and the United States in the 1960s did not penetrate the iron curtain until the 1980s-1990s. The majority was also oriented towards heterosexual men, and Sergei Merkurov’s 1931 “Erotic ABC” contains multiple images that do not conform to female heterosexuality but are oriented towards a male audience.
Nevertheless, on occasion the journal Sovetskoe foto published nude photographs, but only in very specific contexts. Banya (sauna) and travel photographs represented the exception to the general rule against nude photography. Republican amateur photographers were also more comfortable shooting nude photographs. A short article about the Tallinn photography club included two nude photographs, one of pioneer youths bathing, though this image was not viewed as sexualized by editors. Instead the photograph of girls bathing was presented as a slice of life.
In working with images that were reproducible, and yet not frequently reproduced, unofficial photographers explored areas of visual culture which official photographers had been unable to investigate for decades. Yet by the mid-1960s, and certainly by the 1970s, professional, amateur and unofficial photographers were increasingly willing to explore the nude female form, despite the potential legal implications of their images.
 Joy Neumeyer, in collaboration with The Moscow Times and The Guardian published an article about the collection in 2014: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/25/pornography-soviet-union-secret-collection
 Eliot Borenstien, Overkill: Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture, (Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY, 2007), 58.
Alexander Borovsky, “Closer to the Body.” Beyond Memory: Soviet Non-conformist Photography and Photo-related Works of Art, ed. Diane Neumaier (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004), 80.
 Ibid, 80.
 Ekatrina Degot, “The Copy is the Crime: Unofficial Art and the Appropriation of Official Photography.” Beyond Memory: Soviet Non-conformist Photography and Photo-related Works of Art, 113.
 Ibid, 113.