Staunton, December 28 – This month is the 90th anniversary of the formation of the USSR and the 21st anniversary of its dissolution, and Russian media are full of stories reflecting on both the one and the other, with Russians divided in their assessments of the two events and on their meaning for the future.
Among the most interesting are a set of six interviews conducted by Lyudmila Nikolayeva and posted on the “Svobodnaya Pressa” portal yesterday, including one with Nina Andreyeva, who gained notoriety when she published a diatribe against Gorbachev’s Perestroika in “Sovetskaya Rossiya” in March 1988 (svpressa.ru/society/article/62575/).
That article, entitled “I Cannot Give Up My Principles,” was printed apparently with the backing of conservatives on the Politburo and was subsequently denounced by “Pravda” three still has not given up her “principles.”
Andreyeva, general secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks (www.vkpb.ru/), says that for her, the USSR was first of all “the first socialist state in the world, a country which was able to establish an economic system” in which each and every citizen could realize his aspirations.
The Soviet Union had free education, free medicine, sports, music and art. And everyone who needed it “had the opportunity to obtain free housing. Andreyeva says she grew up in a modest family but “nonetheless” was able to attend the best schools and teach in an institute, and “the state offered [her] famlly a comfortable three-room apartment for free.”
“Such was the fate of thousands and thousands of Soviet people,” the Communist loyalist continues. “But now?” Everything, from education to housing is a commodity and costs more than many can afford. “The quality of education has sharply fallen, and as a result, we have an illiterate younger generation.”
“Someone correctly said,” Andreyeva continues, that “if you undermine the young, the nation will be destroyed.” She adds that in her view, “the destruction of the nation is almost completed.”
Andreyeva argues that relations between people in Soviet times were so good that “the entire world was surprised and envious,” but now as a result of television and the Internet, “crime among the young has risen,” while “the government acts as if nothing terrible is taking place.”
Andreyeva observes that there are several things she most regrets about the dissolution of the USSR. Most important is that with its end, “people had their faith in the future and their confidence in tomorrow stolen from them.” And they see that “there no longer is any order in the land,” because “people have become a commodity” rather than human beings.
Nikolayeva then includes interviews with five other people who help put Andreyeva’s views in context. Olga Starovoitova, the sister of the scholar and Duma deputy who was murdered in 1998, said that she agreed that those who said “the USSR was an evil empire” were in part correct.
“For long decades, the USSR was a state closed off from the world.” The Communist Party did not allow people to have access “to the values of world culture.” Traveling abroad was “an enormous problem,” and Soviet citizens were not allowed to know about poets and artists even of their own country.”
Since the USSR disintegrated, Starovoitova continues, she and many others have been able to travel abroad. “Each such trip and meeting has enriched [her] both from a cognitive point of view by broadening [her] field of vision and intellectually.” That is what “Soviet leaders had feared.”
According to her, no one had been “a Soviet man” for a long time, “although,” she added, “all of us in the current generation are somehow and to some degree still Soviet people.”
Tatyana Dorutina, the head of the Voters League, provides yet another perspective. While acknowledging that “the Soviet Union was the time of [her] youth,” she said she “never considered herself to be a Soviet man. “Just the reverse.” And she said she always tried to “escape from this ‘honorable rank.’”
“At home with relatives and friends” in those years, she and they “read the forbidden authors, listened to Vysotsky and to ‘foreign voices’ on the radio.” But the sudden collapse of that system nonetheless caused her and others to feel a certain “discomfort” because everything changed quickly and so far.
Captain Igor Kudrin, the head of the Petersburg Submariners Club, in contrast says that for him the expression “born in the USSR” was something he liked and likes to hear.” Among his friends, “there is not one who would reject” the Soviet past, because despite “the bad,” there was so much more “good.”
Moreover, he suggests, at that time “we served the Motherland with a capital letter. Russia is also our motherland but still, if you will forgive me, all the same with a small letter.” Kudrin concludes that he “of course is a Soviet man” and “does not see anything bad in that.” Moreover, he routinely insists that he is “not a mister but a comrade.”
Aleksandr Nevzorov, a television journalist and former Duma deputy, says that he “is not inclined to nostalgia.” He was “born and grew up in the Soviet Union as did the overwhelming majority of citizens of present-day Russia and also of the republics of the CIS.” There was both a lot of good and a lot of bad in it. Now, Nevzorov says, he “lives in the present” not the past.
And finally, Yakov Kostyukovsky, a researcher at the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, notes that “unfortunately, no one in the country has yet conducted research on the issue of the relationship of Russians to the USSR.” But there is one thing that is clear to everyone.
Those who grew up in Soviet times, even if they were born five or even 15 years apart, “are not significantly different from one another in their views, way of life and interests.” But “now the break between those born at the end of the 1980s and those born ten years later is colossal.” They are “simply completely dissimilar people!”
As a result, he observers, many people feel that society is too individualistic and divided, and they look back to the more unified times of the Soviet Union “with nostalgia. They consider that in those years, the state was more concerned with its citizens than now. People were closer to one another,” and however much they varied, they were “all related as Soviet people.”
This set of interviews already has attracted numerous comments. Among the most intriguing of the posts is the following. The author commented that “it is too bad about the empire of Chingiz Khan. That was a really great state! There was order, and it existed five times longer than did the USSR.”
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