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Some questions about the USSR

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Soviet cogitations: 33
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 09 Jul 2016, 17:21
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Pioneer
Post 13 Jul 2016, 11:41
Hi comrades,

I have some questions about the USSR in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

1. Was electricity always available? (I think so because the USSR had a lot of industrial resources in Siberia and the Far East)

2. Was the food of alright quality? (late 1960s and early 1970s)

Thanks liebe Genossen and comrades!!
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User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 1277
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 29 Sep 2011, 13:51
Party Member
Post 13 Jul 2016, 12:17
USSR wrote:
1. Was electricity always available? (I think so because the USSR had a lot of industrial resources in Siberia and the Far East)
Electricity was never a problem in the USSR due to the immense wealth of resources the soviets had at their disposal imperative to generating electric power; not least being the production of electricity through nuclear means. The USSR was the first country to start using nuclear reactors for commercial purposes in 1954; and in post-Soviet Ukraine for example, nuclear reactors still generate 60% of the country's total electrical output.

Quote:
2. Was the food of alright quality? (late 1960s and early 1970s)
Soviet cuisine was the best. Take it from me.

I spoke about this briefly here.
Image


My laws shall act more pleasure than command,
And with my prick I'll govern all the land.
[+-]
Soviet cogitations: 33
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 09 Jul 2016, 17:21
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Pioneer
Post 13 Jul 2016, 12:49
Hello,

Thank you for your reply, I had already figured that electricity and energy was never really a problem because of the immense landmass of the USSR and the resources that could be found within.

I know that Soviet cuisine is special, but I'm focusing more on the food in shops

Thanks!
Soviet cogitations: 12389
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 18 Apr 2010, 04:44
Ideology: None
Philosophized
Post 13 Jul 2016, 13:03
Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country. — Vladimir Lenin

I've never had "Soviet" cuisine, but I've certainly been to Yeltsin-era Murmansk and had my fill of delicious tuna and salmon sandwiches, a bit of caviar, borscht, vodka, and entirely too much fragging cabbage. Russian food standards are quite high, and the portions are just right for someone with my appetite who has never learned to adapt to American sized portions.
Miss Strangelove: "You feed giants laxatives so goblins can mine their poop before the gnomes get to it."
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 4381
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 13 Jul 2016, 22:02
Image


USSR, this chart takes some figuring, but is worth your while in terms of getting a sense of Soviet availability.

The table is titled "Consumption of the main food goods in the US and Russia (per capita average, in kilograms):

The top part with the dates shows USA 1989, RSFSR (the Russian republic in the USSR) 1989, USA 1997, Russia 1997, USA 2003, Russia 2004, USA 2009, Russia 2010

The products on the left are listed as (in order): Meat and meat products, Milk and milk products, Eggs (individual eggs) Fish and fish products, Sugar, Bread products, and Potatoes.

In today's Russia, there are no shortages of food products like there often were in the Soviet period; the stores are packed with stuff like any Western supermarket. But paradoxically, Russian consumption of many goods has declined very significantly.

If you need the source, it's from Russian sociologist Sergei Kara Murza's thorough tom White Book on Russia. The book has several editions, and can be found here.

http://www.kara-murza.ru/books/wb/

I'd like to add a few things:

* Soviet products, as Comrade Gulper said, were of very high quality, especially compared with what is being sold in Russia today. There are entire forum communities now filled with nostalgia about Soviet sausages or cheeses, complete with regular requests of 'where can I find these items made according to Soviet standards?' The answer, typically, is 'Belarus'.

* With a few rare exceptions, the shortages regularly talked about as dogma in many Western resources of even basic things like bread, root vegetables, milk, etc. only existed beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the country's supply system was destroyed and the country was on the verge of collapse. It was not a regular occurrence, even in the 'stagnation years'.

* In certain areas, shortages of many goods did exist; for instance, the much discussed 'sausage trains' of popular lore (with people commuting or traveling to areas were supplies were plentiful to stock up and return home) were real, particularly from the 1970s on.

* Certain goods, in certain seasons, were simply unavailable in many parts of the country. For instance, finding locally sold bananas or fresh leafy greens in many parts of Siberia was simply impossible during winter. This had to do with several factors, including a) the lack of technology to preserve the food on its way to the store b) lack of storage facilities and c) lack of local greenhouses (with the exception of some regions, including Ligachev's Tomsk region) where delicate vegetables could be grown even in winter.

* When taking account of people's consumption, one factor Western statisticians long failed to considered was 'obshepit' - 'public catering', that is food which was provided in schools, in work cafeterias, from street kiosks, in barracks, hospitals and nursing homes. In other words, judging strictly by store shelves is not an effective way to measure consumption. This was a point recently brought up by Kara-Murza actually.

* About classy restaurants and the fancy meals they served, they certainly existed, but were rather rare, and very uppity; first off, it was hard to get in. Often a rude doorman or babushka would simply shush you away or tell you there are no places if you weren't dressed the part or looked like a foreigner. Second, the waiters were usually rude, since they, not the customer, were effectively kings. Third, again, if the waiters felt you weren't up to snuff, they could simply not serve you some menu items, suggesting they were out of stock or making up some other lie. In general, from everything I've read and heard from family and friends, it was all a pretty unpleasant experience.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
[+-]
Soviet cogitations: 33
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 09 Jul 2016, 17:21
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Pioneer
Post 14 Jul 2016, 06:52
Hello soviet78,

Thank you! But were there actually shortages (like famine) or that there is just not much to choose from and that the shelves aren't always full (in the late 1960s and early 1970s)
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 4381
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 14 Jul 2016, 21:55
Of course there was no famine USSR; the country suffered its last famine in 1948 when it was recovering from the Second World War.

One other thing I forgot to mention in my other post is the markets; there, one could find most anything that couldn't be found elsewhere, but the prices were often sky high, since the supply was limited. These markets operated with people selling what they grew themselves, or merchants (many of them shady and unofficial) buying something cheap (saw cashews or wallness) in a southern SSR republic, and taking it north to resell for a good profit.

Incidentally, even official retailers were not immune to petty corruption, putting products in short supply aside for friends or relatives, for example.

Another myth you may have heard of is that Soviet agriculture was so inefficient that they had to import grain from Canada, Argentina, and the USA. The truth was that the vast majority of these imports was feed grain, used to feed animals to make meat and dairy products. In fact the USSR was making tremendous investments into agriculture by the 1980s, to increasingly diminishing returns.

...

In my opinion, shortages (i.e. empty shelves, little choice) and petty corruption by retailers was one of the biggest real problems the country faced in the 1980s; if Gorbachev had begun with system-wide anti-corruption reforms, combined with price reforms for non-essential goods and investment into agricultural technologies (storage facilities, refrigeration, packaging, agricultural chemicals, etc.) the country's most annoying day-to-day problem would be solved. Instead, Gorbachev chose to dismantle the very core of both the political and economic system - the Communist Party, and hence doomed the country to destruction.

Ultimately, I think the main point which myself, Comrade Gulper and Yeqon have tried to make here is that despite its problems, the USSR was not that bad a place to live, and certainly better than capitalist Russia. The fact that you asked about whether there famines or electricity shortages in the 60s and 70s suggests that unfortunately, most people in Western countries are still convinced that the Soviet Union was some kind of hellscape where daily survival was a real struggle. That simply is not true.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
[+-]
Soviet cogitations: 33
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 09 Jul 2016, 17:21
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Pioneer
Post 15 Jul 2016, 06:29
Hello soviet78,

Thanks!!! And yes, I agree, Westerners are snobby (I'm actually from the West, lolololo!).

Anyway, I still have some questions

1. Did they also have to import grain in the late 1960s and early 1970s? Was the grain for bread for the people?

2. Were there also long lines in stores and occasional empty shelves in the late 1960s and early 1970s (I suppose so, but all not as bad as the late 1980s and early 1990s)

Thank you comrade/Genosse
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 4381
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 15 Jul 2016, 11:03
USSR, it's not so much that Westerners are snobby; they are just taught to believe certain things, and there are few alternative sources on something obscure like quality of life standards in a country that fell apart 25 years ago.

As to your questions:

1) Grain was imported, but to feed cows and other animals; from this the government was trying to grow meat and dairy consumption.

2) Yes, there were sometimes lines and empty shelves, but mostly this was for some deficit item(s), not for basic consumables. Things like breads, root vegetables, dairy products, etc. were generally always available.

No problem. Are you German or Austrian by chance comrade? If so, perhaps you could also search for some German-language sources on living standards in the former East Germany. That country was certainly more advanced than the Soviet Union in quality of life, but I think a lot of the same issues/problems applied, except to a lesser degree.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
[+-]
Soviet cogitations: 33
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 09 Jul 2016, 17:21
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Pioneer
Post 15 Jul 2016, 12:00
Hello soviet78,

Well, yes I'm half German (I don't live in Germany though) but I'm still a teenager lol I just really like history and the USSR. I'm doing a project (voluntarily) about the USSR so I wanted to learn a lot more about living in the USSR. I would like to help you but I really have no idea where I could find any German sources about the GDR.

Aha, so bread and things like that were generally always available? I'm taking this with a grain of salt, of course, but I understand what you are saying because most (NOT ALL) pictures and videos you find on the internet of Soviet stores are from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when, as you know, the country wasn't doing well at all. I also understand what you're saying because bread is something so basic and it would make sense of course that bread was available (at most times).

Thanks for your replies, again! It really helps me out. Are you Russian?

Danke/благодаря
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 4381
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 15 Jul 2016, 19:57
USSR wrote:
I would like to help you but I really have no idea where I could find any German sources about the GDR.


No, I wasn't asking for help; I just thought that since you know German it would be easier for you to look for sources about how life was in the Eastern Bloc.

USSR wrote:
Aha, so bread and things like that were generally always available? I'm taking this with a grain of salt, of course, but I understand what you are saying because most (NOT ALL) pictures and videos you find on the internet of Soviet stores are from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when, as you know, the country wasn't doing well at all. I also understand what you're saying because bread is something so basic and it would make sense of course that bread was available (at most times).


Yep, it most certainly was. And yeah, the late 1980s were a horrible time, since the incompetent Gorbachev government effectively dismantled the old planning system but didn't replace it with anything else.

If you use the search phrase 'Магазины в СССР' (stores in the USSR), possibly adding the phrase '60-е' or '70-е' (Russian letter е), you could see more stores from earlier periods; of course you could go back or forward from the 20s to the 80s if you wanted to.

No problem; glad to help! It's nice to see people your age inquire about the Soviet experience. Yeah, I am Russian, although I lived for a long time in the West before returning home.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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