Life in the Soviet Union

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Jeremy
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Life in the Soviet Union

Post by Jeremy » 2008-05-14 10:53pm

Preface: I am a right winger; extreme conservative with libertarian idealism.

Normally, in my circles, people get quite anxious about government controlled economies and central party empires. The thought is of a broken man, reduced to serfdom, cowering at home (while not toiling) amongst severe austerity.

I find it implausible that post Stalinist life was THAT bad. So to the Russian fellows on this board, how was it for you or how has it been described to you by your elders?

Was there government provided education?
Were you assigned to a vocation?
Did you pay taxes directly?
Could a person start a business and recieve some income off its profits?
Were you allowed to have unregulated churches?
Did you need government approval for vacation trips within Russia?
Could you buy anything or was everything provided for you?
Was military service mandatory?
Could a laborer attend higher education?
Could you own land and property?
Did you need government permission to publish works?
Could you secure a patent on an invention?
Could you express disapproval of government policies without fear of reprisal?
Were you allowed to purchase or order goods from foreign countries?
Was there private media?
Could you own firearms?

Whatever you can think of, I would appreciate.
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Post by Axis Kast » 2008-05-15 12:31am

My father grew up in Communist Romania (b. 1949). From time to time, he talks about his "very unhappy" life there. In essence, he feels that it was a fairly certain dead end.

By question...

1. Was there government-provided education?

Yes. Education was compulsory through the secondary level, complete with provision for students to enjoy extracurricular activities such as travel soccer.

With respect to the quality of education available, my father praised the mathematical, scientific, and language instruction, but recalls that history was heavily edited and propagandized.

2. Were you assigned to a vocation?

Not necessarily. Appointments to professional schools and access to jobs in government administration required success in examinations, usually taken during the final months of one's secondary school career. My father's family retained their traditional livelihood as vintners after collectivization, and farmed a small-holding besides. This would have been a reliable fall-back if any of my grandfather's sons did not wish to pursue other work.

3. Did you pay taxes directly?

To whom? Taxes were payed, and several items (such as a cow) surrendered during collectivization. To whom, he is unsure, except that that individual was widely disliked, and directly identified with the state apparatus, enjoying communication with the district capital.

4. Could a person start a business and receive some income off its profits?

My father is unsure. He does know that his family managed to do quite a bit of side business, selling game and breeding rabbits. But this had the hallmarks of a barter-style economic traditional in the mountain villages, and it was not a formal arrangement.

A doctor in town had plenty of disposable income (he was the only one with motorized transport; a bike, and had leather gloves that my father recalls even today for their good manufacture). He dispensed private operations deemed unnecessary by the State, and was eventually the victim of an informer.

5. Were you allowed to have unregulated churches?

No. My father reports that they boarded up the local Lutheran Church when he was a child.

6. Did you need government approval for vacation trips?

Yes. Even internal movement was strictly regulated, although long journeys just to see family were expected (and probably not closely monitored, especially if it was not cross-country). Rural people also likely had it easier, being unassigned to an industry.

7. Could you buy anything or was everything provided for you?

There were stores, although Party members and notables got more ration stamps and money. Some stores were reserved.

8. Was military service mandatory?

Yes, and university graduation qualified one for officer training automatically. This was not always consistent with martial competence.

9. Could a laborer attend higher education?

Yes, assuming they tested well.

10. Could you own land and property?

One had at least rights of occupation and habitation. It was up to the state to uphold those, however.

11. Did you need government permission to publish works?

Absolutely.

12. Could you secure a patent on an invention?

My father doesn't know.

13. Could you express disapproval of government policies without fear of reprisal?

No. My grandfather was removed from a local Communist Party leadership post when, after a trip to the United States made on behalf of the government, he returned with "inappropriate views."

A doctor who funded construction of a home with private funds gained from unauthorized surgeries was made to flee the country, although this might have been a consequence of his spending the money rather than making it (because presumably the building materials were slated for some other project).

14. Were you allowed to purchase or order goods from foreign countries?

Yes, but the range of items available on store shelves was very limited. My father remarks that he encountered tropical fruit only as a travel player on his school soccer team.

15. Was there private media?

Not legally.

16. Could you own firearms?

No. Guns were seized during collectivization or before. He believes that some locals may have had fowling pieces purely on an as-needed basis.

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Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-05-15 01:49am

Wow. Axis' post made me realize that Romania was pretty fucked up. "Rations" and "internal travel regulations"? Uhuh. But then, Romania never liberalized it's system a-la 1960s, didn't it?

And I suggest that this thread be stickified, because I think we could discuss a lot of stuff here.
I find it implausible that post Stalinist life was THAT bad.
Romania, Albania were pretty bad. Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, USSR proper were okay. I'd even say some of them were better than modern Russia. Many social evils that we have today did not exist in the USSR. Life was pretty spartan by the standards of a modern (2000+) first-worlder, but far in excess of what Third Worlders were reduced to.
So to the Russian fellows on this board, how was it for you or how has it been described to you by your elders?
Pretty happy for me, and all my family. The era after Stalin was marked by a lot of progress and peaceful work, as well as quite a lot of choice for people as to where to work.
Was there government provided education?
Mandatory school, universal. Higher education, universal, with exams.
Were you assigned to a vocation?
Not always. Depended on how well you excelled at learning, et cetera. Honours, the sector which you learned and worked in.
Did you pay taxes directly?
Not much direct taxation on citizens. I can't say "none", there probably was some taxation rules, but most USSR citizens were workers not capitalists, and thus were not taxed directly.
Could a person start a business and recieve some income off its profits?
No.
Were you allowed to have unregulated churches?
Yes, but religion was under pressure, especially after massive anti-religious crackdowns in the early XX century.
Did you need government approval for vacation trips within Russia?
NO. Any place within the USSR was free to travel to (except classified cities and factories - for those places, entering them required a permit). Travel was very cheap and accessible. A taxi driver could spend a weekend in Moscow or chill out in Tbilisi and fly back to, say, Omsk, all within his wages.
Could you buy anything or was everything provided for you?
Yes, you could and shoud buy things.

Services were provided, mostly: communal, education, healthcare were provided. Things like barbers, etc. were paid for. Food, utilities were bought. Flats were provided. Cars were bought. For service, provided. Public transport was paid for, but the fee was really small.
Was military service mandatory?
Yes, draft army; remains so.
Could a laborer attend higher education?
Yes, so; as well as various courses to raise his professional education. A rank and tariff system was in place (and still is) - a montage worker had, for example, 6 grades of professional education. He could also enter higher education if he did not receive one ever in life.
Could you own land and property?
You could, for all intents and purposes, use land, as well as buy, but you could not sell. Land was not in private sale. You could own property; but you could not be a capitalist (but that was already said earlier).
Did you need government permission to publish works?
Yes; the press and books were government-run; thus you needed permission from the paper/book printer management team. Think of it as of a giant corporation.
Could you secure a patent on an invention?
Yes, but not to use as a private inventor and rake in cash. The USSR fell out of the intellectual property frenzy - it's patent bureau listed technical inventions but since the USSR itself was the only nation that could use them, there was no point in making patents private property.
Could you express disapproval of government policies without fear of reprisal?
Yes, actually you could- depending on what kind of "disapproval" we're talking about. You could criticise your local party bosses, or local factory bosses. There were also circumventin channels to higher CPSU or Soviet ranks.

However, publicly denouncing the USSR's government and/or Soviet power was explicitly forbidden; propagandizing against the USSR in the streets would lead to detainment. Though probably no jailings, but firings and other reprisals were possible.

Most people could, at least in the 1970s-1980s, casually talk about good and bad sides of Soviet policy or ridicule Brezhnew, or Khrushev. During the very last years (1985-1991) you could talk, even publicly, about anything and criticise anything in the USSR as part of the Glasnost policy.
Were you allowed to purchase or order goods from foreign countries?
You could purchase foreign goods if any passed the Soviet border :lol: and ended up in the stores. For example, polish textile "Wanda" shop was highly valued and almost a brand in the USSR. It exclusively traded foreign textiles.
Was there private media?
No.
Could you own firearms?
With a hunting license, yes.

No private circulation, or sale of firearms, however.

The situation on the ground was a tad different, in the 1950s-1960s a lot of families in small cities and rural parts of the USSR wielded WAR ARMS despite the legalese in place. Almost a totally armed population came out of the Great Patriotic War, and it was decided that it's just too costly to disarm them.

After 20 years, old weapons fell out of use.
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Re: Life in the Soviet Union

Post by PeZook » 2008-05-15 06:18am

Jeremy wrote: Normally, in my circles, people get quite anxious about government controlled economies and central party empires. The thought is of a broken man, reduced to serfdom, cowering at home (while not toiling) amongst severe austerity.
Uh...yeah. Needless to say, it's a dumb idea. Not even during Stalinist times you saw the 1984 level of opression.

People were controlled pretty strictly, but not to the point you wrote. It's just a right-winger carricature of life under Socialism.
Jeremy wrote:I find it implausible that post Stalinist life was THAT bad. So to the Russian fellows on this board, how was it for you or how has it been described to you by your elders?
I was born in 1983 in Poland, as a preface, so I didn't experience the PRL (People's Polish Republic) directly, but my parents and grandparents talked a lot about life back then. Your question in about Russia, but Poland was part of the USSR, too, so I figured my answer would be relevant enough.
Jeremy wrote:Was there government provided education?
Yes, with mandatory education untill 18 years of age. Higher education was free for anybody who could pass the entry exams.
Jeremy wrote:Were you assigned to a vocation?
Depends on the time period. Usually, when you finished school, you had guaranteed employment in one of the state-run enterprises, but you weren't bound to it. Immediately post-war, you were assigned a post (but we kinda had to rebuild the country from rubble - see the Great Victory memorial thread to find some pictures of 1945 Warsaw)
Jeremy wrote:Did you pay taxes directly?
I'm a little fuzzy on that, so I can't answer.
Jeremy wrote:Could a person start a business and recieve some income off its profits?
Actually, yes! Not in the Stalinist period, though.

After that, there were plenty of small enterpreneurs functioning everywhere. Mostly artisans and small-time shoppers, and international trade and industry could only be done by state enterprises.

Farming was never fully collectivized in Poland, either.
Jeremy wrote:Were you allowed to have unregulated churches?
Yes. The government didn't even try to legislate them away, but it did infiltrate the Church quite heavily with intelligence operatives and agents.
Jeremy wrote:Did you need government approval for vacation trips within Russia?
No. You had to carry ID,though, and report to local municipial authorities while staying somewhere else than the place you lived in. You still theoretically have to.
Jeremy wrote:Could you buy anything or was everything provided for you?
Flats were provided, as far as I can recall. Otherwise, you could buy anything you wanted.

In the later years of economic crisis, though, there was little to actually buy, and food and fuel started to be rationed. You could still easily buy (or "organize") meat and such on the black market.
Jeremy wrote:Was military service mandatory?
Yes, two years mandatory service. University students could become officers easily.
Jeremy wrote:Could a laborer attend higher education?
Yes, all he had to do is pass the entry exams.
Jeremy wrote:Could you own land and property?
Certain forms. Farmers owned their land, while housing was owned and managed by commonalities. Many shops and businesses were as well, albeit plenty of people owned small shops
Jeremy wrote:Did you need government permission to publish works?
Yes, and they were censored with varying levels of strictness. In fact, it led to a whole generation of film makers with a brilliant sense of metaphorical comedy, designed to circumvent the censors :D
Jeremy wrote:Could you secure a patent on an invention?
Yes, you could. I'm not sure about the details, though.
Jeremy wrote:Could you express disapproval of government policies without fear of reprisal?
Depends on the time period
Jeremy wrote:Were you allowed to purchase or order goods from foreign countries?
From other countries in the USSR, sure. From the West - yes, in government stores and for dollars (posession of dollars was a crime for much of the PRL, but you had to have dollars in order to buy in Pewex :D )
Jeremy wrote:Was there private media?
No.
Jeremy wrote:Could you own firearms?
Yes, with a permit. It was only an issue for hunters, though, as the militsia didn't like handing out firearm permits to ordinary citizens.
Jeremy wrote:Whatever you can think of, I would appreciate.
These questions don't really show you the quality of life. They are the usual talking points when comparing socialism to capitalism, of course, but you can easily have a good life under restrictive policy. I'm certainly glad I was born in Poland and not, say, Liberia, and I would chose the Stalinist USSR over modern Liberia any time (or even over modern US if I was to be, say, a ghetto-born black man with no perspectives)

EDIT: Oh, about arms...plenty of people still own WWII weapons here, mostly in the country. There were cases where people got shot with WWII era pepeshas in the country during a quarrel.
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JULY 20TH 1969 - The day the entire world was looking up

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
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Post by Jeremy » 2008-05-15 06:00pm

Addendum;
I would appreciate comments from any "communistic" country (i.e. Cambodia, Mongolia, and Cuba) though I am mainly interested in the Eastern European countries.

Feel free to add any comments you can think of to describe the situation both political, economic, and lifestyle. The list I provided is a short and rigid topical survey meant as a starting point.

Additional Questions:
From whom did a laborer receive his wages?
Was it possible to not work?
Could you retire early?
Was there a mandatory retirement age?
Did people dress more conservatively?
Did parent's have to prove competency before having a child or to keep a born child?
Could children be educated privately?
How severely was low-level crime punished?
How severely were felonies punished?
Was there a curfew?
Could people hold social gatherings without informing the local government?
Were there national parks for public use?
Could you take more than one spouse?
Was marriage regulated by the government?
Were liquor or narcotics regulated?
Were there amateur rocketry clubs?
Were there food or commodity shortages?

Re: taxes:
Was there a tax on earned wages, purchases, on certain specific products, etc? How did the government (at any level) attain its funding?

If citizens were taxed, was there a point at some time of the year where they had to pay the government or were taxes automatically assessed?
Stas Bush wrote:You could, for all intents and purposes, use land, as well as buy, but you could not sell. Land was not in private sale. You could own property; but you could not be a capitalist
Could you will land to be inherited to your children or someone? Instead of selling land you owned did you have to return it to the government if you no longer wished to own it?

Re: public disapproval:
Could you demand more resource to be shifted to your area (infrastructure development)?
Could you accuse party bosses and bureaucrats of corruption?
Could you negotiate for more wages?
Could you denounce government policy while still being patriotic?

Thank you for your answers; everyone.
• Only the dead have seen the end of war.
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K. A. Pital
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Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-05-15 11:04pm

Okay, let's go for a round 2. You're welcome.
From whom did a laborer receive his wages?
From his enterprise or factory. They were nationalized, but had internal accounting. Wages were paid according to national tariff and wage tables, set by the Gosplan (State Economic Planning Ministry). Since prices and wages remained more or less constant over the years, inflation (pre-1987) was rather small, and Wage Tables were corrected only a little each year.
Was it possible to not work?
Yes; unemployment benefits were enough to make a living, just as student premiums and pensions. However, you had to have good reasons not to work. Labour was "right and obligation" - everyone could work, and everyone had to. Pregnancy, health, traumas, psychological reasons wre all grounds for prolonged unemployment.
Could you retire early?
You could retire at retirement age, unless special considerations applied (any type of harmful production: shaft mining, chemical industry, medical industry, working in the extreme north (upwards from Omsk and the like into North Siberia).
Was there a mandatory retirement age?
Yes; after that the person received a pension. He could technically continue to work if he wanted to.
Did people dress more conservatively?
Yes.
Did parent's have to prove competency before having a child or to keep a born child?
In case abuse was reported by relatives or neighbors, the parent could have the child withdrawn; unless this applied, parents were not required to pass any special screening before having a child.
Could children be educated privately?
Kindergarten: yes. School: no.
How severely was low-level crime punished?
Depends on what you call "low-level crime". Theft? Gang violence in the streets? The USSR didn't have much "low level crime" to begin with, or at least had far lower levels than modern Russia. Larger theft, if proven, was punishable by jail terms, small theft, etc. were administrative code matters (there was prosecutorial and administrative codes, working for criminal acts and what was called "administrative neglects").
How severely were felonies punished?
Jail terms, obviously. However, due to reduced crime levels and overall lower criminality, the USSR had fewer prison inmates than modern Russia. After the 1990s, crime levels and incarceration rates rose massively.
Was there a curfew?
No.
Could people hold social gatherings without informing the local government?
Yes.
Were there national parks for public use?
Yes, very many.
Could you take more than one spouse?
No; polygamy was banned.
Was marriage regulated by the government?
Yes, through civil registration offices.
Were liquor or narcotics regulated?
Yes. There were no drugs period.
Were there amateur rocketry clubs?
Yes, many.
Were there food or commodity shortages?
Depending on the period. Occasional post-war shortages of goods persisted until 1963. 1963-1987 shortages were time- and place-depending and pretty rare (what concerned food and necessary commodities). From 1987 onwards, hidden inflation and the rapidly rising crisis tendencies in the economy led to more shortages. However, no risk of famine or serious malnourishment of the populace was present, as well as no homelessness problem.
Was there a tax on earned wages, purchases, on certain specific products, etc? How did the government (at any level) attain its funding?
No taxes were levied against the consumer/worker. All taxes were levied at the enterprises, which were nationalized, and they supported the government out of the added value. Think of it as of a massive corporation again. ;)
Could you will land to be inherited to your children or someone?
Children or relatives, IIRC, per the legalese - so your flat and dacha, and land were passed on to them and so on and so forth.
Instead of selling land you owned did you have to return it to the government if you no longer wished to own it?
Yes, you could return it. IIRC, some compensation was in order if you did it, and several possibilities were open (another dacha, possibly).
Could you demand more resource to be shifted to your area (infrastructure development)?
Yes, very common.
Could you accuse party bosses and bureaucrats of corruption?
Yes; if you successfully presented your case before the higher leadership.

Case in point: coworker architect. Worked at cotton plants in Uzebkistan as a student. Overwork hours arose. Students were unhappy. Filed letter to Moscow, circumventing local party bosses, accusing them of labour rights violations.

Result: in one week, a commission from Brezhnew's administration apparatus came over, fucked the local party goons ten ways down the road, routinely inspected cotton fields every week.

Several firings, labour rules shaped up to normal (8 hr workday, weekends).
Could you negotiate for more wages?
Yes, if feeling discriminated by the boss. In case it be proven that your qualification is exceeding requirements for a higher wages (accoring to the National Wage Tariff Table), the boss would be in serious shit for underpaying.
Could you denounce government policy while still being patriotic?
You could denounce local political errors and mishaps, but you could not openly (i.e. publicly, with high attendance) criticise the entire Soviet political choice until 1985.
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Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-05-16 06:24am

I thought I could share some photos of old Soviet Omsk along with some life tales here and there.

Image
OMSK, ZAGS marriage-divorce registration office (those offices were called "Palace of Weddings" in USSR) in the Lenigrad Square. Circa 1980s. That's how it looks now, but IIRC the huge LCD screen was finally taken down due to aesthetic considerations.

Me and Ania will be having a marriage in a similar one (that one went defunct and it's area was sold to cloth shops and boutiques).

The ZAGS (Civil Status Recording Office) recently had a 90-year jubilee. First created in the Soviet Russia, which became a secular state, they took on registrating deaths, births, marriages and divorces in the land, and successfully serve as a civil marriage office.

The Church since 1917 is no longer allowed to issue formal marriage registration, and only can run additional wedding ceremonies, like in most secular European nations. This is still so in modern Russia.

My parents registered their marriage in the year of my birth. Both were 3rd course students of the Omsk Polytechnical Institute.

My father used to work at the local superconductivity department (no shit) which was one of the few superconductivity labs in the USSR. They conducted experiments with liquid helium, which they transported by train in pressurized metal ballons from the industrial helium production center in the Urals, every month or so to replenish the helium stocks.

My mother was the daughter of a nuclear physics teacher, and both excelled in their class, graduating with Red Diplomas in Electronics and Measurement Device Physics.

After graduation, my parents were provided a 2-room flat. I've been living there since then.

Father still worked at the University until the fall of USSR. Science quickly bankrupted; almost entier superconductivity laboratory emigrated, including it's chief engineer who, it seems, found a good pay in a foreign nation. The laboratory was shut down.

I was entering school at that time, and barely made it to become an Oktyabrionok. I lost my red tie, though.
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Post by PeZook » 2008-05-16 06:46am

Jeremy wrote: Feel free to add any comments you can think of to describe the situation both political, economic, and lifestyle. The list I provided is a short and rigid topical survey meant as a starting point.
What my parents and grandparents remember most was the feeling of communal goal and hope for the future ; During the 60s, when the reconstruction was practically done, and real development started, lots of people were very, very hopeful for the future of Poland. And, of course, there was the security of guaranteed employment and little crime - it seems to be a common sight in socialist European countries that there was very little petty crime - probably because the militsia had far more powers than today, and co-operation was valued more than competition in propaganda.
Jeremy wrote:From whom did a laborer receive his wages?
From his company. They were separate entities from the government.
Jeremy wrote:Was it possible to not work?
Yes, on pretty much the same rules as in Russia.
Jeremy wrote:Could you retire early?
You became eglible for retirement at a certain age ; Some groups could retire early as a priviledge (For example, soldiers and policemen)
Jeremy wrote:Was there a mandatory retirement age?
As far as I know, no, there never was. You could work as long as you wanted to.
Jeremy wrote:Did people dress more conservatively?
Not from the perspective of the times they didn't ;)

I mean, we're talking about the era where the bikini suit was new and radical.
Jeremy wrote:Did parent's have to prove competency before having a child or to keep a born child?
Uhh...no. As far as I know, no country on Earth has ever instituted that kind of legislation :D
Jeremy wrote:Could children be educated privately?
As far as I know, no.
Jeremy wrote:How severely was low-level crime punished?
Pretty standard - jail time, fines or public works.

The only difference was that the militsia could arrest and keep you a bit more easily than the police can do today.

What you have to understand is that petty crime was never an issue under communism ; A thief was a thief, and there was nothing more to it. It's the issue of what was designed a crime which matters - for example, in Poland it was illegal to trade meat privately for a time. Sometimes, things which were felonies and crimes were completely absurd.
Jeremy wrote:Was there a curfew?
IIRC, only once and only to prevent youth crime, and even then - no stormtroopers on street corners :D
Jeremy wrote:Could people hold social gatherings without informing the local government?
Depending on their size. You had to inform the government about large demonstrations and such, and if you wanted a public political display, it had to toe the party line.
Jeremy wrote:Were there national parks for public use?
Yes, and lots of them. In fact, it's one of the most significant legacies of the communist government.
Jeremy wrote:Could you take more than one spouse?
No
Jeremy wrote:Was marriage regulated by the government?
Yes. Isn't it everywhere?
Jeremy wrote:Were liquor or narcotics regulated?
Yes. But here's a little absurdity: on one hand, the government wanted to fight alcoholism. On the other, you could occasionally see poster with the slogan: "A worker need 3000 calories a day, and a beer pitcher contains nearly 400! Drink nutritious beer!"

Little things like these were pretty common :D
Jeremy wrote:Were there amateur rocketry clubs?
Not really, but plenty of aviation and shooting clubs.
Jeremy wrote:Were there food or commodity shortages?
Yes, by the end of PRL - quite severe, due to incompetent economic management.

Another absurdity: In the later part of the 1980s, food prices began to rise rapidly. The glorious party decided to compensate for this rise by lowering the prices of...railway loccomotives!

Long live the glorious United Polish Worker Party!

Out of curiosity, are you engaged in some sort of a project or debate where you need those questions answered?
Image
JULY 20TH 1969 - The day the entire world was looking up

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
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Post by Jeremy » 2008-05-16 05:20pm

Does most Soviet architecture have the "Fortress of Doom" look to it?
PeZook wrote:Out of curiosity, are you engaged in some sort of a project or debate where you need those questions answered?
Since the current trend in American politics is towards socialist-light ideas (even the current "conservative" candidate is lacking much "conservativeness" by my metric) I thought it would be interesting to read what life was like under a REAL socialist government. To contrast this historical account with the percieved benefits of currently shifting opinions and the reaction to those shifting opinions.

I am specifically curious about Eastern European countries because they have the living experiences of working communism and the change away from it. I also felt that there was the possibility that I could miss some quite signifcant and relevant historical and cultural considerations if the review was given by people who lived in Africa, the Levant, or the Orient -- me being mostly educated in a Eurocentric world history.
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Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-05-16 05:24pm

Does most Soviet architecture have the "Fortress of Doom" look to it?
Most common Soviet architecture, is just a panel house. Does a prefab look like a "fortress", and "of doom"? Hardly. You can check how prefabs and some other Soviet architecture looks in my Russia photo thread in AMP.
Since the current trend in American politics is towards socialist-light ideas (even the current "conservative" candidate is lacking much "conservativeness" by my metric) I thought it would be interesting to read what life was like under a REAL socialist government.
Well... let's put it that way, America is nothing like socialism. It's the polar opposite, and so far right that what you call "socialism light" would be called "super evil capitalism" in a socialist nation. This is really too far out there. America is not socialist, no candidates there are socialist, and all socialist political forces in the USA have been destroyed or reduced to insignificance during hte consequent red scares.

Out of all First World nations, America is the only one which openly loathes socialism, or any socialist policy. Europe has large state sectors, large welfare states, nationalized universal medicine and, often, education. America has nothing of that, and won't have in the nearest future until all Cold Warriors die, and you claim the turn is to "socialism light"?
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Post by Alan Bolte » 2008-05-17 12:12am

Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, anti-trust laws, worker's rights laws, food stamps: in the US, these programs and ideas are thought of as socialism light, and the capitalists loath them, but they are too popular to do more than chip away at. I think they are also termed 'progressive,' because they were largely introduced by supporters of more progressive taxation. Capitalists hate progressive taxation. Some conservatives cheer the rising national budgetary deficit, because it will eventually force the government to its knees and force it to get rid of some of these programs.
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Post by Coyote » 2008-05-17 01:07am

It's true, having visited many countries and lived overseas for many years, I always come back shocked and amazed at what a vast, tax-free playground America is, and I am amazed that so much manges to get done--roads, parks, etc. But it's starting to wear and crumble, and something has to be done.

I actually began to find it troubling how little safety net there is for Americans, and how such a wealthy country can have so many in poor conditions. We really skirt the ragged edge of disaster each day, and I, a former pro-Reagan type, would now feel a little more comfortable with a bit more openness towards some socialist ideals in areas like health care.
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Post by Jeremy » 2008-05-17 08:03am

Stas Bush wrote:Most common Soviet architecture, is just a panel house. Does a prefab look like a "fortress", and "of doom"? Hardly. You can check how prefabs and some other Soviet architecture looks in my Russia photo thread in AMP.
Government buildings I meant.
you claim the turn is to "socialism light"?
As Alan Bolte alluded to two post above this one.
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Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-05-17 11:22am

Jeremy wrote:Government buildings I meant.
Ah. No, of course not. Not even all Stalin-era administrative buildings have that look. The Commisariat for Heavy Industry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Moscow do - that's just two buildings out of hundreds built around Russia. The rest look very light and aerial, even with all the imperial majesty in the style. And all post-Stalin buildings are prefabs, which again don't look any scarier or doomy than an ordinary house.
PeZook wrote:A worker need 3000 calories a day, and a beer pitcher contains nearly 400! Drink nutritious beer!
Grand! :lol: Yeah, we also had funny stuff like that - the government was opposed to alco and tobacco, but the alcohol and tobacco industries required advertising and so occasionally you could have "Say NO to vodka!" and "Smoking kills, smoking is cancer" and "Yava Special Souvenir Cigarettes" and "Glavspirtrest Vodka - the Best!" posters right next to each other. :lol:
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Re: Life in the Soviet Union

Post by TheKwas » 2009-04-16 03:06am

*BUMP*

Rather than make a completely new thread, I figured this would be good place to ask about some details as to how the Soviet Music industry worked.

I understand there was only one Soviet record label (if I can call it that), but were bands formally organized by musical institutes? Could a bunch of teenagers make their own band and simply try to somehow get the attention of the record label? Were there many pub bands? Would foreign music be sold seperately from Soviet music and would foreign music still have to be published by the Soviet label? Was there serious censorship in what the authorities would allow?

Sorry for the barrage of questions, but the entire process is a mystery to me so I don't even know where to begin.

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Re: Life in the Soviet Union

Post by K. A. Pital » 2009-04-16 09:16am

TheKwas wrote:Could a bunch of teenagers make their own band and simply try to somehow get the attention of the record label?
If their songs pass the censor's pen - yeah.
TheKwas wrote:Were there many pub bands?
Actually, yes. Going to folks pub singing was a good time leisure, especially in the 1960. There were lots of known "fav" songs from Soviet movies and the like, which they sang.
TheKwas wrote:Would foreign music be sold seperately from Soviet music and would foreign music still have to be published by the Soviet label?
Yeah, for the most part, "Melodia" (Melody, the Soviet label) would aquire rights (like it did for the Beatles for EMI Records) and then publish the songs.
TheKwas wrote:Was there serious censorship in what the authorities would allow?
Of course. However, that doesn't mean "Melodia" didn't publish Western music. Since 1973 to 1976, for example, Melodia published records of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Creedence, Deep Purple, Sweet, Middle of the Road. Pretty decent bands.
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Re: Life in the Soviet Union

Post by Samuel » 2009-04-16 12:41pm

How did the communist party work? How did people join? What did membership entail?

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Post by Elheru Aran » 2009-04-16 06:22pm

A small question, if I may--
Stas Bush wrote:
Did you need government approval for vacation trips within Russia?
NO. Any place within the USSR was free to travel to (except classified cities and factories - for those places, entering them required a permit).
'Classified cities' I'm a little surprised by. What exactly would these be-- cities containing military bases, military production, or what? Factories I understand, but how does one 'classify' a city?
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Re: Re:

Post by Pelranius » 2009-04-16 07:05pm

Elheru Aran wrote:A small question, if I may--
Stas Bush wrote:
Did you need government approval for vacation trips within Russia?
NO. Any place within the USSR was free to travel to (except classified cities and factories - for those places, entering them required a permit).
'Classified cities' I'm a little surprised by. What exactly would these be-- cities containing military bases, military production, or what? Factories I understand, but how does one 'classify' a city?
Well, they were typically ones of strategic importance on the border (Kalingrad and Vladivostok) or high value military/industrial facilities, such as tank factories and the city housing workers at that Cosmodome (is that the right term, Stas?) in the Kazakh SSR.
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Re: Re:

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2009-04-16 11:09pm

Elheru Aran wrote:A small question, if I may--
'Classified cities' I'm a little surprised by. What exactly would these be-- cities containing military bases, military production, or what? Factories I understand, but how does one 'classify' a city?
I recall vaguely that the city or town equivalent of the Russian Sandia and Lawrence Livermore were considered Classified and no one was allowed to go there.

I would imagine that certain sections of the Russian railroad was simply out of bounds to the civilian populace.
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Re: Life in the Soviet Union

Post by K. A. Pital » 2009-04-17 01:28am

1) Classified cities - these were essentially "closed cities" which contained top priority military installations. Examples: Arzamas-16, nuclear bomb production center. Balashikha, the site of Soviet underground secret submarine base.

There were various degrees of "closedness" - a large city would be closed to visits from foreigners but Soviet citizens would be allowed to travel there with a permit.

A small city may have been entirely stricken from the maps, removed from the administrative control of it's regional government and only exist on military maps from thereon. On usual maps, voids or some sort of leisure camps were drawn up to confuse foreign spies if they tried to use official Soviet maps to find out anything about the "secret cities".

If the city was completely closed, that usually entailed a "no-leave" policy for it's residents, who were required to get a special permit even if they travelled to other locations inside the USSR.

These cities were mostly populated with scientists, military folk, especially Strategic Nuclear Forces servicemen, and their families.

2) How did the communist party work? How did people join? What did membership entail?

The Communist Party worked much like any other Party would. It had a youth wing (Komsomol), from which, after graduation, one could rise to proper Party ranks. A lot of patronage existed as to who would rise to the party in the late Soviet era, but in the 1950-1960, the CPSU generally took talented people in.

Graduating with excellency was required to aspire to the communist party at all, as well as having a clear crime record, clear biography was also quite often required in the early Soviet days - but often matters of practicality overrode the various bans for "nobility" to not be allowed into the CPSU.

Joining was done by giving a petition to join to your local party secretary, which then would be approved or disapproved at the local party council.

Membership required going to Party councils, listening to political information once a week or once a month (depending on local Party procedures), and such.
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Re: Life in the Soviet Union

Post by Guardsman Bass » 2009-04-17 12:03pm

A small city may have been entirely stricken from the maps, removed from the administrative control of it's regional government and only exist on military maps from thereon. On usual maps, voids or some sort of leisure camps were drawn up to confuse foreign spies if they tried to use official Soviet maps to find out anything about the "secret cities".
That sounds kind of pointless in an era of spy satellites. Even if they don't know what the city exists for, they at least know it's there, and then they can turn their intelligence towards trying to find out what's in it.
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Re: Life in the Soviet Union

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2009-04-17 12:10pm

Guardsman Bass wrote:
A small city may have been entirely stricken from the maps, removed from the administrative control of it's regional government and only exist on military maps from thereon. On usual maps, voids or some sort of leisure camps were drawn up to confuse foreign spies if they tried to use official Soviet maps to find out anything about the "secret cities".
That sounds kind of pointless in an era of spy satellites. Even if they don't know what the city exists for, they at least know it's there, and then they can turn their intelligence towards trying to find out what's in it.
There's always camouflage etc. to make a city look like something else.
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Re: Life in the Soviet Union

Post by HamsterViking » 2009-04-17 06:14pm

Thanks you guys for this thread! It's very enlightening!

I'm a socialist and an America, so the USSR holds an interesting position in my mind. They're the evil bad guys for my culture, but as a socialist, I have a tendency to outright reject that as propaganda and bullshit. Now the more I learn about the USSR, the more it seems to me that it holds the same position America did during the cold war: a powerful nation trying to build up it's own power even more while claiming to be all about some grand ideals (democracy and freedom for America, equality and cooperation for the USSR), but then they both seem very willing to sacrifice their morals for the sake of more power.

Now I know how most Americans looked at the cold war and treated the whole conflict. How about the people in communist nations? How did they view socialism? Capitalism? The conflict between the two? What were considered to be the obligations as a citizen? How seriously were these obligations taken by most people? Finally, how do Russians and Eastern Europeans see the old war looking back?
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Re: Life in the Soviet Union

Post by Samuel » 2009-04-20 04:01am

The Communist Party worked much like any other Party would. It had a youth wing (Komsomol), from which, after graduation, one could rise to proper Party ranks. A lot of patronage existed as to who would rise to the party in the late Soviet era, but in the 1950-1960, the CPSU generally took talented people in.

Graduating with excellency was required to aspire to the communist party at all, as well as having a clear crime record, clear biography was also quite often required in the early Soviet days - but often matters of practicality overrode the various bans for "nobility" to not be allowed into the CPSU.

Joining was done by giving a petition to join to your local party secretary, which then would be approved or disapproved at the local party council.

Membership required going to Party councils, listening to political information once a week or once a month (depending on local Party procedures), and such.
That sounds pretty easy. Why was party membership such a small proportion of the population?
They're the evil bad guys for my culture, but as a socialist, I have a tendency to outright reject that as propaganda and bullshit.
Well, some of the propoganda is true- Stalin did kill millions. As for the ape-man project... :mrgreen: The most consistent thing I have seen is that most basic indicators improved but the economy stalled after a certain point due to the system.
Now I know how most Americans looked at the cold war and treated the whole conflict.
Stas mentioned this in an old thread- for the most part he said the population and the news didn't pay much attention to the outside world.
Finally, how do Russians and Eastern Europeans see the old war looking back?
Depends on the country. Romanians probably don't look back fondly (they were the only one that executed the previous leadership). Russia probably wants the old days to return. Of course, you have news stories like a Stazi themed pub opening in Germany...
http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEno ... 1420080806

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