Bloody Bars

Besides occasional sugar cubes, satisfying your sweet tooth was not always easy in the Soviet Union. However, generations of children fondly remember the existence of various sugary over-the-counter medicines that made life more exciting. Examples of these are rolls of giant Vitamin C tablets and rosehip cough syrup that was made into "cola" by diluting it with mineral water. The strangest of them all was surely gematogen, a type of candy bar with high iron content, achieved by spiking it with processed cow blood.

Gematogen was developed for people suffering from anemia, malnutrition and fatigue. The children's version had added condensed milk and a rosy-cheeked toddler on the wrapper. Since it was divisible into 1-centimeter rations, bored kids staying home sick would use them as mini building blocks on their bedside table.

The bars were sold at drugstores, as they are now, and had a reddish color, because of their content of dehydrated cow blood. That fact didn't stop kids from pitching in pocket change to buy gematogen, or to beg adults on the street to go into the drugstore and buy it for them. Not all pharmacists sold gematogen to children under 13.

Some Orthodox conspiracy theorists argue that prescribing gematogen to children was a way for the Soviet government to force people to ingest blood and therefore lower their chances for salvation.

Several companies make gematogen these days, using alimentary albumin, which is a processed and dehydrated blood product in the form of a powder. Most bars no longer have reddish coloring and some are even coated with chocolate.