It is no secret that the Soviet Union was a country of long lines. People lined up for any product or good that was in short supply. In times of crisis or war, people were lining up for bread, soap and sausages. In more prosperous years of 70-90s - for Yugoslav-made boots, Polish furniture, Finnish toilets, or some huge event such as the opening of the first Soviet McDonald's in Moscow in 1990. That was one of the longest and most famous lines in the country’s history. About 30,000 people lined up for the opportunity to eat at the first fast food restaurant in Moscow located in Pushkin Square.
For a new generation of Russians, it is hard to imagine a "deficit of goods" or completely empty shelves in the stores in such a prosperous city as Moscow. However, the phenomenon of waiting in line has not completely disappeared in modern Russia, even though it has changed and has little to do with hunting for hard-to-find goods.
SOME USEFUL VOCABULARY ON TOPIC
If you visit a Russian supermarket today, you’ll see people lining up at the cash registers with full carts—in this sense, present-day Russia is no different than any other country. However, during the Soviet era, buying goods required standing in line, a particular phenomenon that required a specific vocabulary.
о́чередь (она́) (noun)
О́ЧЕРЕДЬ as LINE
дли́нная о́чередь = long line
жива́я о́чередь = a line in order of arrival (not by appointment)
занима́ть / заня́ть о́чередь = to take place in line
стоя́ть в о́череди = to stand in line
пройти́ без о́череди = to go to the head of the line; not to have to wait in line
вле́зть без о́череди = to jump the line
Кто после́дний? = Who is last?
Я за ва́ми. = I am behind you.
Вы стои́те? = Are you in line?
Рисунок Б. Дубова
Depending on the context, the noun ОЧЕРЕДЬ is used with different prepositions (and cases, of course).
When it is mentioned in what place people are standing in line, the prepositional case with the prepositions НА or В is required:
о́чередь (где?) на по́чте, в поликли́нике, в магази́не, на вокза́ле, на ры́нке = a line (where?) at the post office, store, train station, market
When it is mentioned what place people are standing in line for admittance, the accusative case is required with the same prepositions НА or В:
о́чередь (куда́?) в магази́н, в ка́ссу, в туале́т, на по́чту = a line to the store, to the cash register, restroom, post office
When it is mentioned what things people in line are getting, the instrumental case with the preposition ЗА is required:
о́чередь (за чем?) за биле́тами, за проду́ктами, за пе́нсией, за хле́бом, за спра́вками = a line for tickets, groceries, pension payments, bread, certificates
Nowadays, the classic Soviet line is no longer relevant; nevertheless, the lines in Russia remain. Thus, in municipal medical clinics in front of the doctor’s office there often arise conflicts about how to form the line: according to the time/number indicated on the ticket «по номерка́м»(“by registration”) or in the order of arrival «жива́я о́чередь».
О́ЧЕРЕДЬ as WAITING LIST
Another meaning of the word related to the Soviet times is "waiting list".
о́чередь на (жильё, маши́ну) = waiting list for (housing, car)
быть / стоя́ть на о́череди = to be on the waiting list
Мы стоя́ли на о́череди на кварти́ру 5 лет. = We were on the waiting list for an apartment for 5 years.
В сове́тские времена́, что́бы купи́ть маши́ну, ну́жно бы́ло стоя́ть на о́череди. = In the Soviet times, in order to buy a car, you had to be on the waiting list.
It is hard to believe that in the Soviet era many common Russians had to be on the waiting list to get an apartment or a car for several years!
Please mind the difference: стоя́ть в о́череди (to be in line) and стоя́ть на о́череди ( to be on the waiting list).
О́ЧЕРЕДЬ as TURN
This is just a more common meaning of the word that has nothing to do with lines.
Тепе́рь моя́ о́чередь. = It’s my turn now.
по о́череди= in turn; taking turns; one after another
Говори́те по о́череди! = Take turns to speak!
ждать свое́й о́череди = to wait one’s turn
EXPRESSIONS with О́ЧЕРЕДЬ
в пе́рвую о́чередь = first of all
в свою́ о́чередь = for one’s part; e.g. Я, в свою́ о́чередь,… = for my part; synonymous to «пре́жде всего́»
Дава́йте посмо́трим очередно́й сериа́л по телеви́зору. = Let’s watch another soap opera on TV.