Archive for March 10, 2008

Hopeless Desperation and Other Strong Feelings

            From resilient sadness to utter outrage were some of the varying emotions expressed by the students who asked their parents what life was like during the Soviet period.  Yet a few had feelings of nostalgia for the good old days of communism, but that was rare.  Alua wrote: “My Mom told me that during Soviet times it was total shortage almost for all goods (even for most necessary).  In shops there always was very sad picture of empty counters.  All clothes and shoes were available only if you had good friends in trade.”  Elena was quite prolific in her response and wrote:  “to be honest my parents and grandparents do not really like to discuss this period of time.  The only words which are heard very often tell about the “great” deficit.  Though my father has some kind of nostalgic, because he remembers that people had a job, stable workplace.  I came to an idea that for him it was not a problem to be in the long lists, waiting for a flat, for beds, for sofas and all necessary everyday things.  Many things were very cheap, such as ice cream, bread, milk, and available in the shops.”
 Melancholy usually came to the fore while reading through these students’ responses especially after reading Yevgeniya’s story that can easily be visualized.  “Soviet period was a time of deficit for everything and books were not exception.  People go up at 4 a.m. in order to stand in line near the bookshop in order to get the book, which name they even didn’t know.  They just knew that seller will give some books with the limited quantity.  The biggest misfortune was a situation when you was coming at that moment, the seller told that all books were up.  As a result, you had a sleepless night, tireness of legs and no book in your hands.”  Elena had written about the quiet desperation that her parents told her about “In the offices for lunch break and at the end of the day, the bell rang to let people know they were free.”
 Free from what?  To go and stand in line again?  Someone who will remain nameless wrote very emphatically that this whole system was “** damn socialism!  It made torture machine out of a simple procedure.”  Yerbolat wrote what he knew about Soviet Union’s planned economy.  “I think it is not good idea and 0 make planned economy.  In my opinion planned economy is bad for society.  They don’t know which good or service people need.  They do by their own ideas.”
 Saltanat wrote what her parents had told her about shopping in the USSR in the 1980s and early 1990s.  “That it was not interesting at all as there were not enough products.  During the card system existed they didn’t like it to stand in queues and they felt themselves kind of ashamed.”  Yerner wrote of an earlier time when famine had gripped the land of Kazakhstan and what he knew of his granny’s life “…in order not to die from hunger, they had to sell very expensive carpets for one bowl of rice.  She said that it was a very hard time, because their parents were repressed.”  However, Askar told a more hopeful scenario especially during the 1920s and 1930s.  “People believed in Soviets and were very enthusiastic about their future.  The war brought severe destructions and after the WWII it was too burdensome system.”
 Seemed that politics piped down from Moscow deeply affected the people of Kazakhstan as well as world events with the war.  Marzhan wrote that his father had told him about the times of the USSR.  “He said that Kazakhstan had 40,000 sheeps.  And meat packing plants were working around the clock.  But this meat were exported to other countries of USSR.  Because of the shortage for products, no matter what there were selling, people bought everything because in the future they can resell it.”
 Gulshat wrote despairingly what she knew about USSR economy:  “Too many attention was given to special products, and some product and service were out of consideration.  For example, in 1950s they grew on virgin soil. They used entire part of Kazakhstani land.  They didn’t consider demand for wheat, just continued to produce to match certain plan that was set by Moskow.  They used wrong tools of seeding, after what a lot of fat [fertile] land became infertile.  It was too harmful in the long run.”
           According to Aldiyar, Moscow had all the privileges and goods:  “Shopping in USSR was complicated especially in small cities (not in Moscow).  As they lived in Moscow they could get rare things, and almost everything that they needed, but thei friends and relatives living in Almaty could not get as much as they could.  They could get product of local manufacturing area.  However, Moscow had everything from all areas of USSR, and even could get such things as records (tapes) of Western musical orchestra, bands, etc.  Also, market access was relaxed to position of people (not financial, but hierarchical, social, political)
           Aigerim also stated something similar, Moscow is a city that was supplied with the goods, but also there it wasn’t easy for getting roubles, only for a volute.  My father told me that in those days all was the real things and if it was from American, it was from America.  He somehow bought jeans for $1,500 and then was afraid to wear them.”  It does seem that people had money back in those Soviet times but Amir wrote what happened to his mother who helped an older woman who was without money.  “…my mother was in a line for meat, and her turn came one older woman didn’t have enough money, so my mother gave some amount of it.  She told me, almost all people at that time had money, but there was little chance to buy something for them.  She said money for our family of that time were only pieces of paper, only some time they were helpful. So it was better to give them to someone, who didn’t have enough for allowed goods.  In addition, people could buy only allowed amount of goods, for all family members, no more!!! 

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