Monday, November 9, 2009

Was the Collapse of the Soviet Union a Disappointment?

There is an article in today's El Pais about the disappointment that many people from the former Eastern bloc feel about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ensuing process of transition to a new political and economic system. Many people in the former socialist countries (especially those who belong to the older generations) lament the breakdown of the Soviet Union and think it was a negative thing that had a horrible impact on their lives. Evidently, the Soviet Union was a terrible, monstrous system that committed a lot of crimes against its own population and against the people of many other countries. It is hardly possible (or I would even say absolutely impossible) to find one redeeming feature of this system. So why do so many people feel nostalgic about the Soviet Union?

In order to find an answer to this question, we have to remember that a very special system was formed in the Soviet Union which was based on amputating certain characteristics in every one who wanted to survive under it. A huge number of people spent their lives not doing any actual work. The remuneration that they got for presenting themselves at their workplace and doing absolutely nothing there was a mere pittance. It allowed you to cover your most basic necessities but in return you could avoid doing any real work for the duration of your lifetime. When the Soviet Union collapsed, this became impossible. Everybody had to learn to work, make a living, and fend for themselves. The generations that were used to the system where their basic necessities were covered and they sismply didn't have to work at all were understandably distraught over the new reality. For the first time in generations, people had to learn what it means to write a CV and a cover letter, what job interviews feel like, and what it means to work (and I mean to work, not to sit around gossiping with your colleagues) a full working day.

One of the sad legacies of the Soviet Union is that working for a regular salary is somehow shameful. Of course, it is acceptable to work for huge amounts of money, but everybody who makes an average salary is still considered to be somewhat a loser. The Soviet system did everything in its power to kill off the spirit of entreprise, personal achievement and personal responsibility. And it succeeded in this effort. This is why there are still so many people in the former Eastern bloc countries who feel nostalgic about the communist times.


Anonymous said...

It also explains why so many people immigrate and find themselves taking advantage of the system and collecting unemployment benefits for years.


Jason said...

How's it going?

I like your blog a lot. I have a new college blog, which I want to be the number one place for college kids to connect, besides Facebook. I was wondering if we could exchange links to spread some traffic around. Please let me know if this is possible.


Clarissa said...

You are welcome to give me your link, Jason, and I will check it out and put it in the "Useful links" category.

Богдан said...

"It allowed you to cover your most basic necessities but in return you could avoid doing any real work for the duration of your lifetime."

Це дійсно мало місце. Але розглядати проблему лише з такого боку - надміру спрощувати проблему.
Загалом це цікаве психологічне явище яке заслуговує тривалої дискусії.
Особисто я гадаю, що це пов"язано з тим, що в СРСР ґарантовано задовольнялись базові потреби людини (безпека, охорона здоров"я, харчування, відтворення), але складніше було із розвитком особистості. В капіталістичному ж суспільстві особистість має більше можливостей для самоактуалізації, проте не гарантована у задоволенні основних базових потреб.
Це як вибір між тим, що краще(рос.): "Синица в руках, или журавль в небе" . Молоді люди завжди оберуть журавля, літні ж зачасту нададуть перевагу синиці...