Tag Archives: Russia

The Soviet government’s uniformly pro-marriage position

Young Soviet marriages have a rather poor survival rate. Marriage at 19, divorce at 23–often with a young child left in the breach–is the all-too-common scenario. …

A small quantity of condoms are produced by Soviet factories, but their unpleasant character and doubtful reliability make them little more than a popular topic for off-color jokes. Some Russians claim that birth-control pills can be obtained through the black market, but at outrageous prices and–of course–without a doctor’s supervision.

Low-price abortions are available, but the concomitant red-tape and the reputedly shoddy manner with which the operations are performed lend yet another topic for the well-developed sense of Soviet chorny (black) humor.

Parental pressure is another factor. Soviet males, in particular, claim that after having “walked” (khodili) with their girl friends for a year or so, they are pushed into marriage by the combined forces of the girls and their over-anxious parents.

The Soviet government itself also has a hand in the pro-marriage propaganda campaign. It has replaced the religious service of pre-revolutionary days with an equally elaborate state ceremony which takes place in a “palace of marital union” (dvorets brakosochetanija), complete with flowers, music, speeches by Soviet officials, etc.

Unlike most countries in the world, the Soviet Union would like to increase its birth rate. …

Soviet women work hard at their jobs all day, but even those who spend their work-day resurfacing Nevsky Prospect are expected to cook, clean and play the little wife when they come home. If they are unable to maintain a sweet temperament, and if marital joys have otherwise lost their attraction, the husband will begin to spend more and more evenings out with the “boys,” drinking vodka and exchanging anti-wife anecdotes. …

During my 4-month stay in the U.S.S.R., I encountered a startling number of divorced 25-year-olds, mis-matched couples, nagging young wives and cynical, irresponsible young husbands. The Soviet government, many Russians feel, should recognize the problem and modify its uniformly pro-marriage stance. It should not continue to jeopardize the domestic happiness of its young people in the hope of bolstering a declining birth rate.

(The author is a 1972 Radcliffe graduate who has traveled and studied in the Soviet Union and will file her observations regularly with the Crimson this summer).


A Communist in Mecca

Scene: Peggy Dennis, a Communist activist, arrives in Moscow on Party orders to join her husband, who had fled there months before, also on Party orders, to escape a prison sentence in America.

Our train slowly crossed the border onto Soviet soil. With face pressed against the window, heart pounding, I hugged Tim tightly in my arms and my eyes blurred with tears. High above, the wooden arch through which our car moved proclaimed: “Workers of the World Unite.” I was in mecca.

When the uniformed border control with the Red Star insignia on their fur hats came to collect passports, I barely resisted giving them the clenched fist salute. I wanted to hand them my Party identificationa more fitting entry permit into the Land of Socialism.

Reunion with Gene, awaited so eagerly, was almost eclipsed by my excitement at being in Moscow. I wandered the streets at every opportunity. Every detail had special significance: the broken, cobblestoned sidewalks and boarded-up empty storessymbols of a painful past; Red Army platoons marching down the street, lustily singing revolutionary songssymbol of a land where the people’s army had triumphed. I smiled broadly at every beshawled peasant woman shuffling by in her knee-high, shapeless, stiff felt boots, the valenki I was soon to wear. I wanted to clasp the hand of each man and woman I passed. I wanted to shout “tovarich!” to all Moscow. Six thousand miles from home, I was Home. Here everything was truly “nahsh”ours, everyone was “nahsh braht”our brothers. After the last two years, the exhilaration at being one of the working class ruling majority was particularly gratifying.

Being an outsider, I sentimentalized the harsh realities of daily life. Life was tough and elemental that winter of 1931. Each day was a struggle to survive–personally, economically, politically. Stalin had declared: “We are fifty to one hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must cover this distance in ten years or we shall be crushed.” The socialist countries which were to follow could afford a slower pace; the first socialist state could not.

The First Five Year Plan to rapidly industrialize a backward, underdeveloped giant was being compressed into four years. The rest of the world, floundering in economic crisis, scoffed at this mad dream. Even more unrealistic, they said, was Moscow’s insistence that socialism would achieve this miracle of industrial growth without private foreign capital investment. There were no Italian Fiat plants in 1931, only the first Soviet AMO auto plant. There were no U.S. banks with branch offices in Moscow. Capital investment was squeezed out of a Soviet people who for many years were ill-housed, ill-clothed, and ill-fedbuilding for the future.

Yet even in those lean years there existed the concept of social benefits as an individual right. Free medical clinics, child care centers in factories, free education, rest homes, infinitesimally low rentsthese were available to all. Back in the States twenty million were out of work, millions more were hungry and homeless, social security was a revolutionary demand being fought for in the streets.

Peggy Dennis, The Autobiography of an American Communist: A Personal View of a Political Life 1925-1975.

Private foreign capital investment is one matter; private foreign capital support, in the manner of Olof Aschberg, is another. (Speaking of Olof Aschberg, Peggy Dennis isn’t the only Communist to have inherited the cause from her parentshere’s what Aschberg’s grandson is up to these days.)

But that’s beside the point.

Read the excerpt closely. Take note of all the social dynamics at work.

Aren’t humans interesting?

As for her claim that she was “one of the working class ruling majority”, she later writes:

Exhilarated at living in this international milieu, I was slow to realize that we were completely isolated from ordinary Soviet life. We did not even know any Soviet persons, except for Boris and Bob who lived in the Luxe and worked in the Comintern with Gene. All of the comrades living there and working at the Comintern were divorced from Soviet life. We were living in Moscow, but were not a part of it. No one could give me a plausible reason why this was so; no one I knew seemed to really care that it was so. …

Boris and [his wife] Musa had recently returned from Comintern assignment in China and Bob and [his wife] Valerie had been to India. The discussions in our room ranged from their experiences abroad to our asking them questions about Soviet life. But they were not typical Soviet citizens and our isolation was not lessened by them.

Upon our return to Moscow in 1937, we could find no trace of them. No one would or could tell us anything. During my third return trip in 1941, I saw Valerie walking towards me on Gorky Street. I started to greet her warmly, but she passed me with a slight flicker of recognition. Insisting upon answers from comrades, I was told that Bob had been executed and Valerie, only recently released from prison, carefully stayed away from all foreign comrades. I was told for her sake to leave her alone. We never heard anything at all about Boris and Musa. In the purges of the Comintern in 1937 and 1938, the very international activity and foreign travel demanded by the Comintern became the basis of charges of “foreign agent” that sent hundreds of Soviet and European Comintern workers to labor camps and firing squads.

American Ghazali

So, like, there’s this place called Russia, right? And they’ve got this guy, Vladimir something, and this guy Vladimir, like… Russia doesn’t like us very much. See, the Soviet Union… when the Soviet Union was around, like, it was, like, people like to say they were bad, but maybe they weren’t, you know? A lot of bad people said they were bad, so they might have been good, you know? Like, you can tell if you’re doing something right if you make the right enemies, right? But then again, they had this thing, like, they banned rock music, and I once went to a museum in Berlin, about East Germany, and, like, there was this… egg thing, egg container, I forget what it’s called, but there was only one type of egg thing, you could only get one. It had a chicken head on it. The only style of egg thing you could get. So, like, maybe the Soviet Union was bad. I don’t know. That’s bad. Only one kind of egg thing. That’s bad.

Anyway, Reagan made the Soviet Union stop existing, or something. Reagan was bad, man, fuck Reagan. So then, like, some other stuff happened, I guess, I mean, it was there for like ten years, so something must have happened, but I don’t know what. And, like, then this fascist Putin came along, and he hates gay people, and Russia is really bad now, really bad, man. They’ve got this fucking fascist Putin, and the fucking Russians are too stupid or something to see that Putin is bad. There was this article in the Times, like, this novelist, he holed up in a hotel in New York and watched a bunch of Russian TV, and he thought it was stupid, and there were a bunch of other novelists and they all agreed with him. He’s a novelist and he was in the Times and New York is cool, but anyway. Where was I?

Right. Vladimir something. So this guy Vladimir something, he’s something high up in Russia, some kind of advisor, something like that, and he keeps talking about America, and the Russians, they’re, like, stupid or brainwashed or something, I don’t know, they apparently think this guy Vladimir is right. Here’s what he says:

America has a simple ideology – that there is only one truth in the world, that truth is held by God, and God created the United States to be an embodiment of that truth. So the Americans strive to bring this truth to the rest of the world and to make it happy. Only after that will everything be well. This ideology has a strong influence on their policy.

So Vox ran this article, you know, here’s what they said.

Lukin is hardly seen as an anti-American hard-liner in Russia — rather, he’s considered to be an objective expert on the United States and a highly professional diplomat. He is a founding member of the liberal opposition party Yabloko. That he would get the United States so obviously wrong — what Americans would call defending democracy and human rights, he sees as a far more radical and explicitly religious agenda of “advocating a world revolution” — is troubling. But his view is a common one, and that tells you a great deal.

The interviewer’s response is similarly telling: “So Russia took off its ideological blinders in 1991, but America still seems to have them on. The Soviet Union is gone, but the policy against it is not.”

This narrative of an inherently aggressive America is one we heard over and over in Moscow, not just from people who support Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aggressive, anti-American policies but even from those who oppose them. In this view, American politics and policies are bent on, and in many ways driven by, a hatred of Russia and desire to destroy or at least control it.

Lukin, that’s it. Alright. So, like, yeah, do you see the problem here? Like… this guy doesn’t like democracy and human rights and all that, you know? “World revolution”, how do you get there from here?

Like, democracy, human rights, all that, these things are good, right? And we know that. Everyone knows that. It’s just how it is. It’s not religious at all. Religion, you know, that’s things like myths and going to church, like, weird shit that people do over there. Democracy and human rights, that’s just how things are, you know? Lukin is probably a fascist too. You have to be either stupid or evil not to believe in democracy and human rights. It’s 2015!

And, you know, man, democracy and all that, it’s going to happen, it’s going to come, it’ll just happen. The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice, except sometimes it doesn’t and we have to go bend it ourselves. But, like, it’s progress, you know? It’s just, like, an inevitable historical process. Sometimes we have to go inevit it, but it’s not us doing it. We order that some stuff happen, and some people follow the orders, I guess, and then it happens, but we didn’t make it happen. History did.

It’s like those riots in… where are the riots now? It was… what was it, somewhere, I don’t know where, a while ago it was that, and now it’s Baltimore, those riots in Baltimore, there are rioters, and they burn some buildings down, and then the buildings are burned down and they aren’t there anymore, but the rioters didn’t make that happen, you know? We don’t have enough justice yet. The buildings got burned down because it’s only 2015, and, you know, we’ve come a long way, but we aren’t there yet, like, someday history will end, but today we have all these racists and sexists and homophobes and Putin and all that, and, like, we’ve got to inevit that inevitable process, man, we’ve got to do that, but it won’t be us doing that, you know? It’ll be history, it’ll be inevitable, it’s going to happen, and once it happens, once we’ve gotten rid of all the racists and sexists and homophobes, I mean, once history has done that, once they realize what year it is, once they wake up and realize what year it is, like, this medieval shit, it’s not the Dark Ages anymore, man, once they wake up and realize what year it is, this stuff won’t happen anymore, the buildings won’t get burned down, and the foreigners, the Russians, the… there was that guy who got fucked up the ass with a knife until he died, what was his name, in, like, one of those countries over there, dictator, totally insane, like, once all those fascist dictators are gone, once they have democracy, once they start respecting human rights, those buildings, they won’t be getting burned down.

It’ll just happen, you know? All those dictators, man, it’s 2015, like, you know, it’s… it’s the will of the people, man, humanitarian interventions, we should go over and help them, but, like, sometimes they get brainwashed, you know, and we have to do something about that, we have to tell them, like, it’s not the Dark Ages anymore, man, these dictators have got to go, get with the times, right?

Like, alright, Iraq and Vietnam and all that, that was wrong, man, that was Bush, fuck Bush, something about oil, but these, like, that guy over there, knife guy, he had to go. Humanitarian intervention, right? Democracy. Human rights. It’s the will of the people.

This Vladimir guy, man, how could anyone get America so wrong?

The Express Gazette is not good at geopolitics

Mysterious and unnamed Russian ‘experts’ have a map in the Express Gazette predicting what Europe will look like in 2035.

Every secession movement in Western Europe wins, as do some that don’t even exist; Bosnia and Moldova disappear; and for added comedy value, France clips a bit of the hexagon off and gives it to the Arabs. Russians are honest: “Мультикультурный крах уже претерпевает Франция.”

Russia’s expansion confirms what the sub-4chan quality of the map already suggests: one of these “experts” works for the Express Gazette, and all the others are bottles of vodka. In 2035, Russia will have invaded Ukraine so hard that they end up with a third of Moldova. Right. Also Belarus, half of Latvia, and… Narva, because they lost Kaliningrad to Germany. Wasn’t there a largest ethnic cleansing in European history about that?

Best part: sovereign Carpathian Ruthenia. Because seven microstates weren’t enough.