Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Russian Nostalgia for Soviet Times Not Nostalgia for Soviet Realities, Psychologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 1 – Polls showing that a majority of Russians regret the disintegration of the USSR and the obvious interest of Russians today in Soviet styles represents a nostalgia for what many now believe was a more stable time rather than any support for the communist system with its ideological bombast and real shortages, a Yekaterinburg psychologist says.

            Nadezhda Vlasova says that those who are nostalgic for the Soviet Union include both those whose youth was passed while it existed and who remember it through the gauzy lens of memory and young people who did not live then but who believe because of what some of their elders say that life was better (momenty.org/city/i180459/).

            She points out that this is much like the reaction of those who like “romantic films about the Middle Ages with beautiful dresses and architecture” but who in no case “would like to live in a city without plumbing.” Russians today look at the USSR like the first but increasingly and at the same time recognize that it was like the second.

            The interest in all things Soviet in Yekaterinburg provides support for Vlasova’s position. People are intrigued with various Soviet clothes, radios, and even wines, in short with all things retro.  But this is a fashion and fashion, experts say, comes and goes.  People are bored with the current situation and are looking for something to interest them.

            There is now a Museum of Soviet Life in that city, and its organizers suggest that people are trying to make sense of what happened rather than simply showing their support for what was at least in terms of the communist political system. An exhibit at the Yeltsin Center is in fact devoted to “the gap” between Soviet advertising and Soviet realities.

            Aleksandr Tsarikov, who has organized a house museum of Soviet realities, says that visitors are “nostalgic not for the Soviet Union but for their own childhood.”  As soon as they see what life was like then once again, they recognize that there was good reason they didn’t like the state even if they liked their own time as young people.

            Fond memories about those one grew up with are one thing and quite widespread; positive feelings about a system in which many lived in communal apartments and had to share bathrooms and kitchens with other families are something else and in fact very, very rare, he and others in Yekaterinburg suggest.    

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