Staunton, June 23—Since last fall, magistrates in Nizhny Tagil say, ever more local people, primarily pensioners, have declared themselves to be “citizens of the USSR” in order to avoid paying for things they didn’t have to pay for in Soviet times. So far, they’ve run up 6.5 million rubles (100,000 US dollars) in debt (tagilcity.ru/news/society/20-06-2019/bolee-6-5-mln-dolgov-po-zhkh-i-kreditam-nakopili-grazhdane-sssr-iz-nizhnego-tagila).
Such people began to appear last fall but “at first we didn’t believe in the seriousness with which these people took their declarations. It seemed like some sort of joke.” But as those whom these people owed money to multiplied and came forward, investigators say, they were forced to recognize this as a serious problem.
Polit.ru journalist Katerina Norseyeva says that “the situation in the Urals isn’t new” and it isn’t confined to that region. Instead, it is found in various places but it is united by one thing and one thing only – the desire to avoid paying for goods and services that Soviet citizens used to get without paying for them directly (polit.ru/article/2019/06/23/back_ussr/).
In 2010, the Novy Den news agency reported that the Soviet citizens movement was started by Sergey Taraskin, a dentist from Dushanbe who returned to Russia and organized a group to avoid paying for communal services. He even claimed to be “president of the USSR” (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-president-of-ussr-is-alive-and.html).
Eventually, the FSB got involved and his activities were shut down (newdaynews.ru/ekb/660506.html). But others have taken up this cause, including Sergey Demnkin, who organized a USSR Trade Union which collected dues and pocketed them (meduza.io/feature/2018/12/27/tysyachi-lyudey-vstupili-v-profsoyuz-soyuz-ssr-oni-schitayut-sebya-grazhdanami-sovetskogo-soyuza-i-otkazyvayutsya-platit-za-uslugi-zhkh).
Yevgeny Kulikov, secretary general of the Union of Trade Unions of Russia, denounced him and his associates as “swindlers, imposters, who know what” and demanded that law enforcement agencies crack down on them. Some agencies have; some haven’t (riafan.ru/1074692-razvodka-pod-emblemoi-sssr-kak-samozvanyi-profsoyuz-obmanyvaet-lyudei-rassledovanie-fan).
But the idea has sparked copycat crimes from Kamchatka to the European portion of the country, and officials are trying to end it because it is costing the state and the state’s big business allies real money (newdaynews.ru/fareast/650966.html). The only factor limiting state actions, it seems, are official fears about how moves against pensioners will be received.