The Soviet Ghost

  • 2009-04-30
Lately in some TBT issues there was a mention of ever present Soviet era ghost. For people who grew up under the Soviet regime it's really a whole era, as for me. About those experiences one could write volumes starting from fiction to historical, psychological and scientific works. The problem is, it's a very vast theme. So, I'd like to express some partial observations. First of all, I always call those times "padumju" (stupid) instead of "padomju" (councils') because the founding ideas of the system are rather stupid and therefore it was doomed right from the start. The ideological basics or cornerstone of the system: the cause of all social evils is private property and ensuing the possibility to exploit the hired workforce; a total happiness, justice and equality must be created through classless society by using the dictatorship (proletarian). To push these ideas through there was a need of mass illiteracy and general low cultural level as it was the case in the former Soviet territory at the dawn of empire. 

There are a lot of older folks who are nostalgic for these times gone by. They say the life then was better. It's a strange logic, with time passing by they grew wiser and more experienced but the whole life has become worse. Usually it is said by people who never are satisfied. If they had been put back into the old system, in a couple of days they would go mad. It is strange how short the human memory is. 

There were some things hardly imaginable for democratic societies which were typical of the Soviet era: the notions such as a deficit, a queue and "defective goods". The last word is an approximate translation because there is no corresponding notion in English, but this phenomenon was widespread and part and parcel of everyday life. "Brak" (in Russian) meant freshly produced spoiled articles or poorly done job whatsoever. I am tempted to cite some slogans and idioms of the time:
Lenin even now is more alive than all the living ones.

The Party (Communist) and the people are one.
The Party 's the mind, honor and conscience of our epoch.
We say the Party and think Lenin; we say Lenin and think the Party.
The economics must be economical.
It doesn't matter where to work in, the point is not to work.
A man is just a small screw.
I was born in a queue, grew up in a queue, and spent my life in a queue.
A sausage under the name "sausage."
It (something) has to be like the people (other) have it.

In conclusion I can say, for me it was not all doom and gloom though from the present standpoint it looks like that. Everything was short. There were specialized meat shops by name "Meat" which quite often had nothing on offer except for shop assistants. The only positive things were free education, medical care, social security (like in a prison) and there was total employment because people without a job were punishable under the then Penal Code.  

Yours sincerely,
Gundars Sondors       

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