Archive for December 31, 2008

Maiya’s paper: Soviet Living Conditions

The echo of the past:

Destruction of Soviet memories.

I.  Introduction

Soviet Union. This country doesn’t exist anymore, and even though our generation was born while it still was one nation, we don’t know how it was like to live there. Only through the books, movies and the stories of our relatives we can draw a picture of those days. And, of course, now, when we finally do have freedom of speech, people started to find out all the bad sides of Soviet leaders, all the evil things they did and now try to wipe out everything that was left from those times. But I believe that despite all the bad moments we know in Soviet history, we should not try to erase it and not to destroy the monuments that remind of it.

II.  Our history – Memories of WWII

          Today, our teachers at school tell us all the truth about the policies of Soviet leaders, about all the problems people had in USSR – famine, injustice, repressions, the Great Patriotic war, “perestroika”, etc. Sometimes when you hear all of that, it seems that it was impossible to survive in those kinds of living conditions. Despite all of that, the generation of our grand parents somehow managed not only to survive and overcome all those tribulations with pride, but also to bring through the memories that are full of joy, happiness, love and passion. When we had a personal interview with Lydia Timofeevna, who was only 2 years old when the World War II has started, what was very surprising for many of us was that she is reminiscing that some of the fascists were nice to them and gave her candies, if they met her on the forests while she was looking for her dad there (2008). I mean, after all the fascists did to our nation, to remember moments like that is very rare and significant. And there are plenty of examples like that! However, the younger generations now tries to amend all the history like it never happened – they rewrite books, change the facts, and destroy the monuments of Soviet era that as Forest and Johnson (2002) noticed were “among the most potent sites for the construction of a Soviet national identity”(p. 524).


III.           Possible causes – living conditions of our parents. 

Along with all the difficulties that our parents had in their childhood there were many problems they had to overcome when the Soviet Union collapsed. Changing from one system to another was definitely not an easy task. As Klugman and Braithwaite (1998­) noticed in their research paper, “for many that transition has been marked by a dramatic increase in the scale of poverty and deprivation.” (p. 37).  The period of 90s was a hard time for them – no job, economic problems within the country… And they had to raise and feed us – their children – in those conditions. Men usually worked on two jobs or even more, and women had to work even when their children were very small. It was even estimated that over the last two generations, women in Soviet Russia reached the highest labor force participation role in the world (Ofer and Vinokur, 1985). As one lady told her life story:

“I started working at the factory in 1975 and I’ve given it, or to be more precise, I’ve given the foundry shop, my whole life and my health. I fell in love there and got married. No matter how we tried, we couldn’t get our own place to live. We had a tough time and he left. We were left alone. We’ve been living in a dormitory since 1984. There are ten families on our floor, and each of them has two kids. Imagine the hell we have in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the laundry room? Lord, how tired I am of living! I earn 250 rubles and the child support payments are paltry. Believe me, I don’t want to live anymore. But I feel sorry for my children-who needs them?! Our life is humiliating, poor and hungry.”


IV. Possible causes – stereotypes from Soviet times.

Also, because of the fact the Soviet Union was such a closed country – all the information coming in and out of it was controlled by the Kremlin – during the Cold War period many stereotypes were born and we still have to live with many of them nowadays. So, many people try to ruin everything that reminds them of Soviet Union because they do not want to live with those stereotypes. For many nations all over the world states like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and other CIS countries are still associated with USSR. And the youth of these countries doesn’t want to have anything in common with Soviets. But as Merridale (2003) noticed “recreating history was never likely to be a simple matter. It may be easy to agree on the destruction of a unitary past, but after that the contests start again, often in an atmosphere of anxious economic and political transition.” (p.13)


V. Conclusion

In conclusion, probably no one would not want to change our lifestyle to the one that Soviet nation had during the last century, because they had to go through so many difficulties and problems. We should appreciate all of that and treat them better than we do sometimes, we should listen to what they have to say, their personal stories and try to learn from them, because it is remarkable how they managed to stay kind and caring people after all they went through. More than that, we should not try to erase and wipe out all the evil from our history, because it will not help. If there are no monuments that remind us of that, it does not mean that nothing happened. Instead, we should remember of all the mistakes done and try not to repeat them all over again.



Forest, B. & Johnson, J. (2002). Unraveling the Threads of History: Soviet-era monuments and post-Soviet national identity in Moscow. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 92(3), 524-547.

Klugman, J. & Braithwaite, J. (1998). Poverty in Russia during the transition: An overview. The World Bank Research Observer, 13(1), 37-58.

Merridale, C. (2003). Redesigning history in contemporary Russia. Journal of Contemporary History, 38(1), 13-28.

Ofer, G. & Vinokur, A. (1985). Work and family roles of Soviet women: Historical trends and cross-section analysis. Journal of Labor Economics, 3(1), S328-S354.

Racioppi, L. & O’Sullivan, K. S. (1995). Organizing women before and after the fall: Women’s politics in the Soviet Union and Post- Soviet Russia. Signs, 20(4), 818-850.

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