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what was communism like in Russia?

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Marty McFly
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So I go to my doctor who happens to be russian. I sit there in the waiting room which is full of Russian speaking patients (A russian Doc would attract similar language speaking patients) I'm sittin next to this russian guy and he tries to explain to me how much better Russia was under communism. he actually takes out a pen and paper and shows me "I made 200 a month, rent was 20 a month, bread was .75 etc vacation was a full month rather than two weeks etc. I was incredulous, I mean, like, what on earth did he do with all the rest of his money? its not like he would be allowed to buy a bigger house or start a business with all that extra cash... what do you think?

i

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... what do you think?
For centuries, some people have looked back at times when they were poorer with a sense that they were somehow better off. The guy can almost certainly well-afford his soviet lifestyle now, with lots of money to spare. So, why doesn't he opt for that? I think some people feel trapped by their current life-style.
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So I go to my doctor who happens to be russian. I sit there in the waiting room which is full of Russian speaking patients (A russian Doc would attract similar language speaking patients) I'm sittin next to this russian guy and he tries to explain to me how much better Russia was under communism. he actually takes out a pen and paper and shows me "I made 200 a month, rent was 20 a month, bread was .75 etc vacation was a full month rather than two weeks etc. I was incredulous, I mean, like, what on earth did he do with all the rest of his money? its not like he would be allowed to buy a bigger house or start a business with all that extra cash... what do you think?

i

I was born and raised in Poland which was only slightly better than Russia so I think that makes me qualified enough to answer your question.

Was life much better under communism? The answer is - for some people it seemed to be (seemed because if you ask them they would say: it was but if you ask me I would say: it was no life at all.

Some people like: moochers/freeloaders, people with low/no self esteem and pride (among many other things the system provided greater opportunity for such people to gain power over others - in fact this happened a lot because promotion was not necessarily merit based), people who lacked ambition (or of low ability) themselves and took satisfaction from the fact that the more ambitious (or more competent) guy next door had no much better than them, people who lacked independence - those who never outgrown that psychological state of a child/dependent and thus those who took security in the government making decisions for them those who took security in not having to plan - those people did not mind the price that had to be paid for it (like for example: restrictions on how much living space it was allowed per person), those people who enjoyed using force in their dealings with others - those who took personal pleasure from abusing their position of power (the system placed most at the mercy of such people and one had to seek their favor - corruption was rampant), thieves (everything was public thus "nobody's" and in their mind morally free to be taken - just don't be stupid - don't get caught), those who liked the idea that almost anything could be done/arranged by favor (as in contrast to strictly merit - as in contrast to equal laws for everybody).

And this is just from the top of my head. I could probably write another paragraph or two after some thinking. You be the judge if that is better.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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I lived in Soviet Ukraine until I was just 10, but I have some relevant experience:

As far as what that guy said, it's probably accurate. However, there are a few things he didn't mention:

  • Since all prices were set by the state, it was easy to keep them low. However, the result was perpetual shortages of everything.
  • You couldn't buy any Western goods. "High-quality" goods were produced exclusively for export, so you good only buy mediocre stuff in the stores. I think I saw my first mall ever in Moscow, but it was for foreigners only.
  • Perishable foods (fruit, bread, meats) were localy produced. As far as I know, food preservatives were not used, so your diet was very limited.
  • Unless you could afford cafeteria food every day, you had to spend a significant portion of your free time walking around town looking for stores with food.
  • I don't ever remember going to restourants as a kid. I think restourants were limited to the elite and special occasions like weddings - everyone else went to huge cafeterias where you ate whatever was served that day.
  • I remember once standing in line for many hours with my grandmother because the store had exotic food - figs. All the elites and veterans got to go first, so they were sold out before we could get any. Everyone was very rude shouting insults for things such as cutting in line, with the grocers shouting back just as rudely.
  • Of course you couldn't buy any non-Soviet books or media in the stores, but everyone smuggled them in or pirated them anyway.
  • Trying to save up money for anything was useless, because you couldn't do anything with it without permits and quotas, and you couldn't invest it in anything. Periodic inflation wiped out everyones savings anyway. Trying to buy foreign currency was a major crime.
  • Everything was very corrupt and there was a ton of smuggling going on. Our city had a candy factory (export only) and inevitably a large part of the production was sold in the bazar.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist
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So I go to my doctor who happens to be russian. I sit there in the waiting room which is full of Russian speaking patients (A russian Doc would attract similar language speaking patients) I'm sittin next to this russian guy and he tries to explain to me how much better Russia was under communism. he actually takes out a pen and paper and shows me "I made 200 a month, rent was 20 a month, bread was .75 etc vacation was a full month rather than two weeks etc. I was incredulous, I mean, like, what on earth did he do with all the rest of his money? its not like he would be allowed to buy a bigger house or start a business with all that extra cash... what do you think?

i

Thanks for asking this question Marty. I'm going to show this to my economics professor. He use to be the Ambassador of Moldova and was born and raised in Russia, but he is very much against communism now.

Edited by dadmonson
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My experience with communism was on the other side of the Iron Curtain when I went on a border tour of the Czech border. Machine gun emplacements facing into the country (not out toward the evil capitalists), fences with the barbed wire tops angled in toward the commies to prevent escapes.

Communism was so great they had to turn entire countries into maximum security prisons.

I remember watching the exodus of desperate family's with everything they owned strapped to the family Zastifa pouring through the breech in the socialist dike to get to any place outside of the USSR. Chowchesque being hunted down by an angry mob in a scene like a Frankenstein movie.

If it was so great how come not a single former soviet state has gone back to Communism?

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"If it was so great, why did the Russian government imprison and/or kill all those people for trying to leave?"

"If you had plenty of bread and extra money left over each month, why didn't you give it to all those poor, thin people we saw on TV standing in line for a loaf of bread? Why were you taking more than you needed? From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, right?"

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In the UK right now there is a show called "The Lost World of Communism" which interviews ordinary people who lived beyond the iron curtain about their lives and uses footage taken from their personal video cameras. I'm not sure if it's up on YouTube or the BBC iplayer.

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I was born at the year then the Soviet Union fell, so I don't have any of my personal experiences.

For starters, 33 percent of Lithuanians still miss Soviet Union. I know, it sounds just terrible, but all of them probably are older than 50.

Also, lines for goods like vodka, cakes, and bannanas were mile-long.

And to end my post a joke said by the people who miss Communism: "Twenty years ago, Lithuania was the face of the Soviet Union. Now, it is the butt of European Union."

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"I made 200 a month, rent was 20 a month, bread was .75 etc vacation was a full month rather than two weeks etc. I was incredulous, I mean, like, what on earth did he do with all the rest of his money? its not like he would be allowed to buy a bigger house or start a business with all that extra cash... what do you think?

Reminds me of the old joke:

Nixon and Brezhnev are having a conversation during a summit. "So how much does an average American worker earn a month?" Brezhnev asks.

"Oh, about 4 to 5 thousand dollars, I believe," Nixon says.

"How much does he spend on rent, food, and clothing?" the Soviet leader inquires.

"Somewhere between 1 and 2 thousand dollars," the President responds.

"And what does he do with the balance?"

"That is entirely up to him. You see, we live in a free country," says Nixon. Then he asks: "Now tell me, Mr. Brezhnev, what is the average earning of a Soviet worker?"

"234.67 rubles," says Brezhnev.

"And his living costs?"

"315.29 rubles."

"Where does he obtain the balance from?" Nixon asks with a puzzled look on his face.

"That's entirely up to him," Brezhnev replies. "You see, we live in a free country, too!"

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My experience with communism was on the other side of the Iron Curtain when I went on a border tour of the Czech border. Machine gun emplacements facing into the country (not out toward the evil capitalists), fences with the barbed wire tops angled in toward the commies to prevent escapes.

A good friend of mine had chance to visit Prague in the 1980s before the fall of the Iron Curtain. I recall him saying that it was a very depressing place. The people seemed to be resigned to their joyless existence and they eased the pain by drinking too much. I also recall that he was struck by the strong smell of urine in many public places like subways, government buildings and even on the streets. I suppose if you drink a lot, you have to go somewhere. :o

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So I go to my doctor who happens to be russian. I sit there in the waiting room which is full of Russian speaking patients (A russian Doc would attract similar language speaking patients) I'm sittin next to this russian guy and he tries to explain to me how much better Russia was under communism. he actually takes out a pen and paper and shows me "I made 200 a month, rent was 20 a month, bread was .75 etc vacation was a full month rather than two weeks etc. I was incredulous, I mean, like, what on earth did he do with all the rest of his money? its not like he would be allowed to buy a bigger house or start a business with all that extra cash... what do you think?

i

I was born in USSR, more specifically Kiev, in 1983, we escaped to United States in 1991 just before it fell. Housing was 10-20 rubbles a month. Salary out of college was 80-110 a month. My mom was pharmaceutical technician made 80 at first and then 180 later. My dad was mechanical engineer made 110 at first then 250. You had to live and work in the city you where born in. The rations for housing was 4 square meters per person. My mom and her sister lived in their parents place which was a 3 bedroom apartment. When my mom got married my dad moved in there as well. When I was born, the space in the apartment still exceeded the 4 meters per person so no one was eligible to apply for a new place yet. Thats 3 generations under one roof. Just around the time I was born they passed a rule that teachers can get more space. My grandma on moms side was a teacher so she got in line for more living space. Five years later she got a space which she let me and my parents live in. The average wait was 15 to 20 years, the only reason it was so fast was because they decided to build what they called corporate towers in Kiev and let people buy condominiums. Buying had nothing to do with ownership, basically if you had a lot of money saved up and you give it to them they let you move up the waiting list and live in these towers for the usual monthly price. The towers where 9 stories high. Me and my parents never had a phone in this new place because there wasn't enough phone numbers, the wait for a phone number was also on average of 15-20 years. The only reason we had enough money to get this place was because my dad's father was a dentist and he gave us the money. The only reason he had money was because he did some of private work, which was illegal, basically he made people dentures. The average 200 rubble salary was spent on living space, necessities like food and clothes, and your 1 month vacation. When Chernobyl happened in 1986 my parents wanted me out of Kiev, we paid people of in Moscow to let us live with them for a little bit, and also lived on a farm somewhere lol. Since you could not live outside the city you work, we where criminals.

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Thank you for sharing your story.

So, in your opinion, why would the guy Marty encountered want to go back to that? Just too lazy to take care of himself or what?? :wacko:

Edited by K-Mac
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Housing was 10-20 rubbles a month.

As a quick note, the Russian/Soviet monetary unit "рубль" is usually spelled "ruble" or "rouble" in English, one "b". And "копейка" = "kopeck" or "kopek." I am not sure why the "a" doesn't come across in translation.

Though when discussing Soviet housing, "rubble" is certainly appropriate. :wacko: But that's more evidence that the man Marty McFly was talking to is simply out of his mind.

Steve

(PS The "rouble" spelling is actually the French spelling and really doesn't make a lot of sense in English since here "ou" rarely sounds like the vowel in "food." I generally go with "ruble" and I do actually use the word a lot. I also note that Ayn Rand spelled Kira's last name "Argounova" in "We The Living" with that same French surplus "o." She learned French at an early age.)

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Thank you for sharing your story.

So, in your opinion, why would the guy Marty encountered want to go back to that? Just too lazy to take care of himself or what?? :wacko:

It could be many reason, would have to question him further. Could be Servile dependence <-- good article. He could be one of those people who was brain washed. Or he could be a person that is better at surving under that kind of enviroment where things are done with bribes, favors, people you know, ect instead of achievement and trade. There was, and is plenty of every kind.

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I think a much simpler and likelier explanation is that he just doesn't like being charge of his life. In the old days, he didn't have to think, he didn't have to make money, he didn't have to worry about the choices he made--he was always told what exactly to do, and he always had a roof over his head and a few bites of food to eat. He was basically a domesticated animal that looked like a human. Living qua man was never his ambition, and now that it is expected of him, he resents the idea.

There were many people like that in Communist countries.

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A bit off topic, but Jeff Cooper, famous pistolero and ex-marine corps officer in WWII, visited the line in 1984 and wrote this about it. It has stayed with me since I first read it:

I have seen The Line - the infernal demarcation line between freedom and slavery.

It is the worst thing I have ever seen.

I have lived two-thirds of a century, and travelled widely. I have fought in many battles, both major and minor. I have seen hospitals and prisons, inside and out. I have know much blood, suffering and terror. But I have never seen anything as horrible as The Line.

The Line slashes across the heart of Europe, from the Baltic Sea to Ausria, separating the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) from the German Democratic Republic (DDR). The BRD is "Free Germany." The DDR is "Red Germany." The Line is thus a fence of the realm of shadow - the brink of evil. It is the brand of Karl Marx across the face of humanity.

As a guest of the Third Reconaissance Squadron of the Eleventh United States Armored Cavalry, I was conducted in September of 1984 along its sector in the center of The Line, in Hesse due east of Frankfurt. The land is green and pleasant, rolling enough to be interesting and watered by the River Fulda. Patches of forest separate well-tilled fields; but, unlike most of Germany to the west, there is little or no wild game, for reasons that will be clear. In the frequent villages just west of The Line life is good enough, but it is not exactly normal. The shadow is just there to the east, and it is very palpable

Starting at the western edge, The Line is composed of several strata. First comes the actual linear boundary, surveyed and marked to the centimeter. Free people can walk right up to it - but they do not step across it. Death looms. Some ten paces beyond the marked boundary, to the eastward, is the outside fence. It is a single barrier some ten feet high, eectrified and sown with directional mines set to fire along its inside surface. Beyond the outside fence is a band of dead ground some 100 meters in width, cleared of life and planted at random with pressure-release anti-personnel fragmentation mines. When the snow melts in winter thaws these go off erratically in the sunshine - "Lenin's serenade."

At the inner edge of the dead ground are the dogs - German shepherds chained to and overhead trolley that allows them to run parallel to the inner fence but not back into it (electrocution) nor forard away from it (explosion.) These dogs are carefully bred and trained. In the land of evil the dogs really lead a dog's life.

At intervals watchtowers loom fifty feet into the air, manned and equipped with enhanced-vision devices, cameras, weapons, and release controls for packs of killer dogs which can be set free at command behind the inner fence.

The towers are repellently dead in aspect. There are men in them, but they shun the light. We could see binoculars, but when we ointed ours at them they vanished. Fear. The terrible people who man The Line live in fear. Of what? Conscience, perhaps?

Behind the inner fence lies a belt of zombie-land five kilometers deep. No one moves here except those whose duties demand it. The fields produce. Roads and roofs are mended. There is an occassional dilapidated vehicle in motion. At first glance it seems a viable countryside. On closer inspection, however, it is death-in-life. There are perhaps two lighted windows where there should be scores. Such villages in which there are lights are inside electric fences. The sickening effect grows as the sun sets.

In the afternoon light we watched the once-living village of Ifde. It would seem to have housed a population of 10,000. Neat, red roofed, cozy - once upon a time. Now, one light - quarters for the orcs. A couple of cats hunting field mice. Two ravens overhead. Silence, Desolation. This is Mordor, the prison of the world.

These efforts are beiny applied not to keep enemies out, but to keep an enslaved population in. Never before in history has any accursed tyrant, from Senacherib to Hitler, felt it necessary to do this!

With exquisite cruelty the very existence of The Line is concealed from those it contains The east border of the 5 Km zombie zone is marked - from the East - simply as the border. Good slaves do not cross it, not because it is fearful to behold but because they are good slaves. Bad slaves sometimes do cross it, but because they do not know what they face they usually die.

My staff sergeant guide on this occasion told me of a case he witnessed. A young woman, apparently driven to desperation, dared to cross the eastern 5 Km line and lead her small child west toward liberty. As she approached the inner fence, the orcs in the watchtower loosed the dogs.

"I stood there with a rifle in my hands, but I was not allowed to shoot," he said. "I hear those screams every day. The mother's were louder than the child's. They were long and very high. They drowned out the growling of the dogs. For a while. As long as I live I will hear them."

The sergeant was black. He knows more about real oppression than Andy Young or Jesse Jackson can ever tell him.

The Line, of course, is not impenetrable. No yoke upon the human spirit ever has been. It was supposedly impossible to escape from Alcatraz or Andersonville, but men did. And people break out of the workers' paradise. Quite regularly. About one hundred a year make it. My hosts estimate that five times that number fail They also feel that those who do cross The Line are mainly people who work The Line. No matter what sort of Orwellian indoctrination is used, man can still distinguish good from evil. Those who inhabit those troll-towers know. And they break out.

The most recent instance in the sector, for instance , involved an electrician who was checking the circuits on the outside fence ("A dirty job, but somebody has to do it.") He simply disconnected some circuits and jumped from his truck to the fence. He was out of sight before the gunners in the towers to get on him. (Heads, we may assume, rolled.)

All aware people in the West know about The Line - or let us hope so. But knowing about it is not the same as feeling it. To look upon it is a dreadful experience, but deadful experiences are necessary if we are to know what is dreadful.

There is an Evil Empire. It can be seen. It can be felt. It can be know.

Go and look - and understand!

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A bit off topic, but Jeff Cooper, famous pistolero and ex-marine corps officer in WWII, visited the line in 1984 and wrote this about it. It has stayed with me since I first read it:

The atmosphere and nature of the Soviet Union was brilliantly conveyed in that writing. The stale bareness of the Soviet Union was very real and what has not been mentioned here in this thread is the forced starvation of millions and the gulags for those who wouldn't go along. How many millions were murdered, 60? And some 30 million in China. It's funny, because what came to my mind before he mentioned orcs and Mordor was The Lord of The Rings and then he named them.

These are facts that we should never forget, but so long as altruism is pushing down on society, we are in danger of doing the same thing again some time in the future when all is forgotten.

Altruism is death, both in theory and practice. Altruism means to deny the self and to live for others, to live for the others who are to also deny themselves. In such a society everyone is deliberately made into an empty, unfulfilled shell.

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I think this is why I appreciated We the Living so much. Many O'ists shrug it off as not their favorite or too depressing. I don't like what happens in the story, but I think it's important to know and not forget. It's my favorite Rand fiction, after AS, of course.

Thales mentioning of the gulag reminds me of when

Irina and her boyfriend are turned in by her own brother, Victor, and they watch each others train pull away until they can't see each other anymore...you could just feel the despair.

Who wants to live (or rather, not live) like that? Everyone needs to know that is what's going to happen again unless we stop it.

(And for whatever it's worth, I hear Robert Mayhew's essays on the book are excellent and worthwhile, and make the book have even more meaning.)

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