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What do people miss most from the old days?

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Post 27 Nov 2008, 03:50
Hello,

I hear a lot of negative things from people who live in the former Soviet republics so I was wondering whether there are any things people actually miss from the Soviet days? What are the most important ones? Things related to employment? Certain social events that no longer occur? Or possibly forms of comradery and hospitality that somehow disappeared in the Post Soviet republics?

Thanks.
Post 16 Jul 2009, 18:15
The old keeper of my gramdmother was a bulgarian and she used to say that the old Bulgaria was better than it is now.
Post 16 Jul 2009, 18:40
I don't know about the Soviet Republics, but I know a bit of stuff about what German easterners miss from the German Democratic Republic, and I guess much of it applies to the Soviet Union, too.

1. Freedom of speech. This may sound strange, but as one of them put it, "In the East, you were forbidden to rant about the state, but you were free to say whatever you wanted about your boss. Now the reverse is true." Upon my persistent asking, he explained that, as long as you didn't say stuff like "socialism sucks", you could criticize everything you wanted, and according to him, the right to step up to your boss and shout into his face when he treats you unfairly was worth much more than the freedom of speech that we have in capitalist states.

2. Solidarity. Even though Marxist education didn't work too well on people, there was still some kind of class consciousness. You would see a stranger and know that he's your comrade, your fellow proletarian, and therefore there would be solidarity between you. It was no problem to ask anybody for a favor, and people were, generally, much friendlier with each other.

3. The welfare state. Housing and food were ridiculously cheap. An apartment cost about 50 marks a month back then. This makes 12,5 Western marks, which in turn makes 6,25 euros, which in turn makes about five dollars. FIVE DOLLARS. Every student in grade 11 or higher got 110 marks per month. Just as a reward for being so ambitious. Now if a month's rent was less than half of that, you can imagine just how much 110 marks were for a teenager. And apparently there were lots of financial benefits like this one.

4. The right to work. I guess this is an obvious one. If you were looking for work, you'd always find a job on a construction site or similar.

5. Security. Due to all the above benefits, people in the GDR always had a strong sense of security. They were absolutely certain that life would always be okay, even without bananas and coffee, because they just couldn't imagine that there were things like begging or being homeless. Sadly, this is also why they wanted capitalism so bad in the end. They'd never experienced just how bad life can be.
Post 16 Jul 2009, 18:52
The apartments were given, not rented though. It was much more of an ownership scheme than a rent scheme as the "rent" was essentially the equivalent of "condo fees." At least that's how it was in the USSR, but I suspect it was similar in the GDR. The fastest way to move to Moscow was to work at the AZLK (Moskvich) plant which granted you a dormitory room and then an apartment in 2-5 years for example. As far as I know though, once you had an apartment, it could be sold/exchanged outside of closed cities and high-density areas of Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev, for which the internal passport system remained functional (Otherwise the passport was more of a proof-of-residence and living history form in one little red book).
Post 16 Jul 2009, 19:03
The monthly payment was called "Miete" in the GDR, which translates to "rent". But I'll admit that I don't know about the economics behind it.

Could you explain the internal passport system a little? I've only ever heard that it kind of prevented people from leaving/entering big citites, but I've always found it hard to believe that.
Post 16 Jul 2009, 22:28
You could enter and leave but you couldn't legally live, be employed, receive benefits, etc. if you lived in one of said cities without a proof of residence. The passport itself was little more than an ID card though.

This article actually isn't half-bad:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propiska
Post 17 Jul 2009, 04:13
Propiska is like a resume of who you are. Instead of being stamped with visas like a foreign passport it would be stamped with places you've worked, lived, have you been to prison, marriage/divorce... When you had kids etc etc.
Post 17 Jul 2009, 12:30
That would be the passport. Propiska was just one of the stamps in it, probably the most important one. Overall it's a pretty convenient system of having all your references in one place.

Also, your work history was/is in the little green book that dealt with how much you've worked, how much you got paid, etc. so that it's possible to calculate what your pension should be. There was also the little blue book which was a record of all deposits, transfers, and withdrawals from your savings account in the state bank which was essentially a 'security' as it could not be recovered outside of the bank branch where you last used it if lost due to the absence of an electronic banking system.
Post 29 Jul 2009, 23:22
I have heard from East Germans, that the long lunch breaks, with food provided by the workplace is missed. after eating, people could enjoy a nap, a massage, etc. at work. All that is gone in the new rat race...
Post 04 Sep 2009, 09:09
Quote:
I hear a lot of negative things from people who live in the former Soviet republics so I was wondering whether there are any things people actually miss from the Soviet days? What are the most important ones? Things related to employment? Certain social events that no longer occur? Or possibly forms of comradery and hospitality that somehow disappeared in the Post Soviet republics?


I used to work with a guy, who immigrated from Russia to the U.S., as he married an American woman. He grew up up during the end of the "Cold War" in the late seventies-mid eighties. He talked about how he missed having a stable and fixed income, that he could depend on, while he lived in the former U.S.S.R.
Post 04 Sep 2009, 14:06
A lot of Russians and other former Soviet citizens miss the stable income and other things like food prices that didn't skyrocket becuase of ridiculously high inflation. Same goes for East Germany and many of the other former Socialist states as well.
Post 04 Sep 2009, 20:06
Quote:
A lot of Russians and other former Soviet citizens miss the stable income and other things like food prices that didn't skyrocket becuase of ridiculously high inflation. Same goes for East Germany and many of the other former Socialist states as well.


This is one of the biggest complaints in the former Georgian SSR. Likewise, people I've known are constantly anxious over the uncertainty and political instability that has arisen.
Post 15 Sep 2009, 12:52
I for one, cannot imagine why anyone would give up such an existence for one of capitalism. I would never trade my empowerment and freedom for some cheap commercial blandishment. I do wonder, what do the people of the former socialist states think of them now? I have relatives who lived in the DDR, and still live in the former DDR, and they expressed regret over the end of the state, how now they didn't have their job security, their healthcare, their school system, their sense of national pride; but they were also religious, so they did not mind an end to some repression (it wasn't total, but it was there). I wonder how much regret people feel now? Does anyone have an anecdote or study/survey that could give a picture of what people think, 20 years on?
Post 15 Sep 2009, 17:24
According to http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/959/473475/text/ - Süddeutsche is a very conservative newspaper, so the actual figures are probably higher:

49% of people who live in the former GDR think that the GDR had more good sides than bad sides. Only 26% of people said that it was a dictatorship with more bad sides than good sides. Considering that the present government still bombards people with propaganda about how horrible the GDR was, and considering that there are now many people in the area who have never lived in the GDR (younger people, people who moved there after reunification), those numbers are magnificently high.
Post 16 Sep 2009, 00:36
I wonder what talking to a common Russian/Eastern European worker during the late-80s to now would be like, if they feel that the "birthing pains" of capitalism in the former USSR is worth it for an America-style economy/political organization.

I also wonder what ethnic minorities in the Central Asian republics feel about the fall of the USSR, and the treatment of non-Russian minorities in places like Ukraine, Russian, Estonia, etc.

edit: There are at least 2 Eastern European ex-patriots that are regular costumers of mine, and practically the whole physics department at my university is Eastern European/Russian, and I wonder all the time when and why they left their home countries.

Also, when I was working right outside New Orleans, a couple of Ukrainian guys about my age (early 20s) came to America to "make money." They were parking cars for a living and wore the same clothes everyday. I gave them a discount, but I don't know if they ever noticed.
Post 29 Sep 2009, 03:07
They in general miss the guarantee of food, housing, and a job.
They also miss the excellent free health-care, free higher education, and other perks.

Most of all, they miss the sense of comradeship, how all were equal, there was no profit race, little crime. It was peaceful for the most part.
Post 29 Sep 2009, 15:43
I realize that this thread is about life in the USSR, but...

As an American, I miss the presence of a powerful counterweight against American imperialism in the geopolitical arena. The lack of such balance has led to a major increase in American arrogance and has strongly affected our policies both at home and abroad. There was a time when the US would not have implemented a policy as draconian as the PATRIOT ACT out of fear that it would tarnish our image as "Leader of the Free World."

It was nice that there was a time when my country's decision makers had to ask themselves, "What will the Soviets think?" before deciding upon any policy or course of action.
Post 30 Sep 2009, 08:05
I had never lived in the U.S.S. R., and I had never visited Eastern Europe, but I would bet that most of the Russian & Eastern European people would probably regret the introduction of credit cards, into their households. I personally believe that credit cards are evil, and take away any discipline that you may have had, before the discovery, that you can actually spend more than you have. Credit is one of the major reasons, that we have been in a "Global Recession". I have met people from Russia, the Ukraine, & East Germany, and they spoke about how they were happy with what they & their families had, back east in the 1980's & earlier.

Quote:
Buying on Credit Is the Latest Rage in Russia
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: Monday, January 20, 2003

New advertisements are appearing on Moscow's streets and subways. Comic-book-style stories portray the new quandaries of the Russian middle class.

''If we buy the car, we can't afford to remodel the apartment,'' says a woman with a knitted brow, in one ad. Then comes the happy ending. Her husband replies, smiling: ''We can do both! If we don't have enough, we'll take a loan!''

In a country that has yet to discover the personal check, where people still pay for apartments and cars with suitcases of cash, Russian consumers are beginning to borrow. This is a new step for Russia's economy, which until now had neither credit cards nor mortgages, and required life's largest purchases to be paid for up front.

Complete Article:http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/20/world/buying-on-credit-is-the-latest-rage-in-russia.html
Post 02 Oct 2009, 18:32
Without an expansive credit system advanced capitalism cannot function. Not to mention without credit, world revolution would have happened a long time ago. That is, without credit, the standard of living in the west would be drastically lower as almost the entirety of the supposed 'middle-class' is just a mountain of debt.
Post 30 Mar 2010, 07:04
I met a 30 year old guy recently in Serbia who lived with his mum in one of the typical bloc flats. He really felt nostalgic for Yugoslavia and he was editor of an underground pro-Socialist (or Communist - I am not sure!) newspaper. Special issue: Lenin etc...

I guess looking at their tiny flat, and small old car, for them nothing had changed in their circumstances only they had no fixed job and income, and social benefits are now worse.

I remember most him saying he missed the sense of community.
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