Historama, March 16

Chaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Lenin’s free market, and the first Soviet passenger car await you in tonight’s Historama.

World-famous love theme

Chaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” overture premiered on this day in 1870, exactly 240 years ago.

The overture’s rich melodies and harmonies eventually won over audiences not just in Russia but around the world.

Its love theme has even become a TV hit, starring in everything from “Scrubs” to “South Park.”

Free market in the Soviet Union

Today in 1921, the Bolsheviks adopted Lenin’s New Economic Policy, or NEP for short.

NEP included some free-market principles, allowing small businesses to operate for private profit while banks, foreign trade and large enterprises were kept under state control.

Life got more leisurely under NEP as money got easier to make and the entertainment industry flourished. However, NEP’s success threatened the Socialist system, so the Party scrapped the policy in 1928.

Read more about NEP in our “Russia Now” section

First Soviet passenger car

The first passenger car M-1, or Emka, was produced on this day in 1936 at the Soviet Union’s Gorky car factory.

The model was developed in cooperation with the Ford Company, whose Model B car was taken as the base model and adapted for the Soviet market. Emka became one of the symbols of the 1930s, as all senior Soviet army commanders drove it.

In the 1940s, however, most of them switched to the Ford GP.

­”Stray Dog” booted out

The legendary Stray Dog Club in Petrograd, a popular hangout for artists and poets, was shut down today in 1915.

The official reason for the closure was a fight started there by the celebrated young poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Some, however, say the Tsar’s government found the place inappropriate with Russia fighting in World War I.

The club was reopened in 2001 after a revival of interest in pre-revolutionary history and the Silver Age of Russian poetry.

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