The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

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The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

Postby spot » Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:41 am

Since we have a Russian to ask - Barmaley, do you ever feel nostalgic for any aspect of the Soviet Union? Perhaps you're too young to remember or you never lived through any of it, but maybe you have an opinion.
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Re: The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

Postby Barmaley » Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:47 am

I am too old not to remember living there ;) . This is a huge topic and i would love to give my opinion here since I have my own theory about that time. However there are a lot of misconceptions about life there. I think it would be interesting if you guys first tell about what you think life was there and then I will give you my testimonies about what I remember about that time.
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Re: The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

Postby Brian » Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:55 am

Hi, Barmaley. :)

I learned about the Soviet Union in high school. (I went to high school from 1985-1989.) The thing I remember hearing about most is that there was only one party to vote for. How can you call it voting if there's only one party? I never understood that.

The other thing I remember hearing about a lot is that there were shortages of everything, because the high-ranking party members were taking everything, and leaving very little for the people.

And of course, there was the Cold War. Everybody was afraid that there would be a nuclear war when I was growing up.

This was a popular song in the 80's:

"I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower
Makes you talk a little lower
About the things you could not show her."

-- Counting Crows, "A Long December"
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Re: The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

Postby spot » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:11 pm

Brian wrote:The other thing I remember hearing about a lot is that there were shortages of everything, because the high-ranking party members were taking everything, and leaving very little for the people.
The shortages were, I'm sure, entirely real. The wealth of party members was comparative and not a patch on the average executive in the West.

Still, the Soviet Union covered a long while and I suspect we have different views of each time period. Apart from the Better Dead Than Red patriots and you never know, there might be one or two here.

I'll try to sketch living memory before I say anything before, say, the Czech Spring.

The Soviet Union was a luxury-free zone and short on basics too sometimes, but the old were housed and starving or freezing to death was unlikely. There was a huge and sincere pride in being Russian. Dissidence and Samizdat were electrifying for those who wanted to think independently but they were rarely fatal. The sharp edge of disagreeing with authority under a one-party system made life more vivid. Crime was treated as antisocial by the population at large, it was rare and it was effectively policed.

Now, being as Barmaley's the expert and I'm merely guessing, he can tell me just how wrong I am.
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Re: The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

Postby Barmaley » Fri Jul 16, 2010 7:34 pm

Wow - I put a BIG post here about shortages - (whey are a big misconception) but it is not here :cussing: It is specially sad consider that for me typing in English is a torture. Brian - can you try to recover it? I will kill myself if I need to retype it!
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Re: The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

Postby Brian » Fri Jul 16, 2010 8:17 pm

Barmaley wrote:Wow - I put a BIG post here about shortages - (whey are a big misconception) but it is not here :cussing: It is specially sad consider that for me typing in English is a torture. Brian - can you try to recover it? I will kill myself if I need to retype it!


Did you ever save it, Barmaley? I don't remember ever seeing it here, and if you didn't save it in the first place, it probably won't be in the database to retrieve.
"I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower
Makes you talk a little lower
About the things you could not show her."

-- Counting Crows, "A Long December"
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Re: The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

Postby sledge » Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:15 am

What was the difference of the Soviet Union(the Communists) and Nazis? one party one dictators but only reason Hitler and Nazism(to some degree) perished is everyone was against him and his Reich was blown to pieces. The 2 biggest rivals were Communists and Fascists so two could not have flourished which communism won.

Everything was in short supply in communist countries except corruption and still is today.
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Re: The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

Postby Brian » Tue Jul 27, 2010 6:29 am

sledge wrote:What was the difference of the Soviet Union(the Communists) and Nazis? one party one dictators but only reason Hitler and Nazism(to some degree) perished is everyone was against him and his Reich was blown to pieces. The 2 biggest rivals were Communists and Fascists so two could not have flourished which communism won.

Everything was in short supply in communist countries except corruption and still is today.


The big difference is that Nazism is far right, and Communism is far left. That's the reason all the big corporations in Germany supported Hitler. The "Socialism" in "National Socialism" was just for show. It's also the reason that I don't think Nazism wouldn't've collapsed on its own. It wasn't much different (economically) from our capitalist system. To my knowledge, Hitler didn't try to nationalize production. To be certain, businesses could have their goods commandeered by the Nazis for the war effort, but the right to own private property was, itself, still respected.

The other difference is that communism still had the skeleton of a representative government -- even if it's not what we in the West would recognize as "democracy". Those old enough to remember the Cold War will remember that the USSR ended bloodlessly, ultimately, because the people in charge had the ability to vote it out of existence. The coup against Gorbachev failed, in my view, because the hardliners didn't have the stomach to go against the people. There was no enthusiasm for the equivalent for the equivalent of a Tiananmen Square. In a true dictatorship, where it's really one guy running the show (e.g., North Korea), such piddling concerns as the will of the people aren't taken into account. If the people piss you off, you just smash them.

That's not to say that the USSR was a paragon of democratic thinking, but it was more of a representative government than people now give it credit for. It collapsed in an avalanche of referendums with the various republics declaring independence, rather than with armed conflict (such as what happened with the United States vs. Great Britain, for example).
"I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower
Makes you talk a little lower
About the things you could not show her."

-- Counting Crows, "A Long December"
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Re: The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

Postby sledge » Thu Jul 29, 2010 7:06 pm

Brian wrote:
sledge wrote:What was the difference of the Soviet Union(the Communists) and Nazis? one party one dictators but only reason Hitler and Nazism(to some degree) perished is everyone was against him and his Reich was blown to pieces. The 2 biggest rivals were Communists and Fascists so two could not have flourished which communism won.

Everything was in short supply in communist countries except corruption and still is today.


The big difference is that Nazism is far right, and Communism is far left. That's the reason all the big corporations in Germany supported Hitler. The "Socialism" in "National Socialism" was just for show. It's also the reason that I don't think Nazism wouldn't've collapsed on its own. It wasn't much different (economically) from our capitalist system. To my knowledge, Hitler didn't try to nationalize production. To be certain, businesses could have their goods commandeered by the Nazis for the war effort, but the right to own private property was, itself, still respected.

The other difference is that communism still had the skeleton of a representative government -- even if it's not what we in the West would recognize as "democracy". Those old enough to remember the Cold War will remember that the USSR ended bloodlessly, ultimately, because the people in charge had the ability to vote it out of existence. The coup against Gorbachev failed, in my view, because the hardliners didn't have the stomach to go against the people. There was no enthusiasm for the equivalent for the equivalent of a Tiananmen Square. In a true dictatorship, where it's really one guy running the show (e.g., North Korea), such piddling concerns as the will of the people aren't taken into account. If the people piss you off, you just smash them.

That's not to say that the USSR was a paragon of democratic thinking, but it was more of a representative government than people now give it credit for. It collapsed in an avalanche of referendums with the various republics declaring independence, rather than with armed conflict (such as what happened with the United States vs. Great Britain, for example).


Yep left and Right they would not be able to exist side by side because they hated each other and there was a rivalry between Stalin and Hitler. The true ideals of Communism is not really bad as Lenin envision but Stalin grabbed power after Lenin's death through murder and mayhem. Stalin became the Tyrant and twisted communism for his own gain and killed more people than Hitler mostly his own people. He was very paranoid.

The leaders that followed him ran in what Stalin had built but not extreme until the 1980's when Gorbachev became president the new wave of communism leadership that caused the attempted overflow by the hardliners which marked the end of the Soviet Russia. But Corruption is still business as usual like in any other government.
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Re: The pros and cons of life in the Soviet Union

Postby Boba » Fri Jul 30, 2010 12:50 am

sledge wrote:Yep left and Right they would not be able to exist side by side because they hated each other and there was a rivalry between Stalin and Hitler. The true ideals of Communism is not really bad as Lenin envision but Stalin grabbed power after Lenin's death through murder and mayhem. Stalin became the Tyrant and twisted communism for his own gain and killed more people than Hitler mostly his own people. He was very paranoid.

The leaders that followed him ran in what Stalin had built but not extreme until the 1980's when Gorbachev became president the new wave of communism leadership that caused the attempted overflow by the hardliners which marked the end of the Soviet Russia. But Corruption is still business as usual like in any other government.

There's an old saying that "Communism looks good on paper". However, it doesn't work is the real world. There are holes in the theory, such as motovation, too much power within the government, peoples quest for power. In concept, it's not a bad idea, IF you can get everybody to agree to and play by all the rules and participate accordingly. Unfortunately, that'll never happen.
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