More than 50 percent of Russians are nostalgic for the Soviet era – even those born after the collapse of the USSR. The recent survey by the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion showed that 64 percent of Russians would vote for the preservation of the USSR should a referendum be held today…
similar to the one held in 1991 For many – the Soviet era is a kind of fairy tale, which disappeared without a trace. This is a relatively new trend. Because a significant number of Russians were happy to meet the collapse of the Soviet Union and accepted the promise of a new life. Any reminder of the Soviet times was met with disgust and a derogatory nickname – Sovok. Food shortages, rude staff, terrible social service, long queues and censorship – just to name a few of the Soviet staples people were eager to forget about… so eager it seems – they have succeeded. Sociologists say this positive attitude towards a totalitarian past is a reflection of today’s economic challenges and the way pop culture romanticised the USSR in fiction. But statistics speak louder than words: more than half of Russians miss Sovok. So what is it, that people miss? The main thing Russians miss from the Soviet era is the sense of security. My mother recalls how small children played outside all day without supervision. Like all the other kids she would wear a key from the apartment on her neck. Burglary and kidnapping were not an issue in those days. People enjoyed economic stability and permanent jobs with standard wages and access to social security. Mostly people miss their youth: gathering outside, Soviet dance parties, weekends at the dacha, camping trips – these activities are idealized in Soviet movies that were made to boost morale of a post-war society. Picture perfect young soviet people building a bright future in a friendly setting. These feel-good movies are also a feast for the eye – showcasing the best of the best in Soviet Design: furniture, electronics, clothes and cars. Russian social networks capture this nostalgia well with many communities and accounts dedicated to the “good old times”. There is even a TV network called "Nostalgia". It only shows Soviet films. Business is monetizing the trend: soviet style restaurants, toys, clothes and even vehicles – are in demand. Brands that survived the collapse of the Soviet Union and linger on are enjoying a rise in consumer attention. Instead of rebranding iconic chocolates, dairy products or beverages – marketers make sure to keep their design as “soviet” as possible. Giving a young brand a touch of soviet fairy dust also helps: Dva Machya launched a line of Soviet-style sneakers that quickly gained attention. Rostekh is currently marketing a modern Zenit, a Soviet single-lens reflex camera, propelling it into the luxury segment, similar to the Leica. The Soviet Union was known for its grand sport achievements. In 2014, President Vladimir Putin brought back the Soviet-era sports program GTO, a Russian acronym for “Ready for Labour and Defense.” The program has 11 categories of fitness standards for both men and women, from schoolchildren to senior citizens. Why are people nostalgic? The USSR was an Empire: its armed forces could compete with the strongest armies in the world. Soviet scientists and sportsmen were among the best, not to mention space exploration… it was a leading country. These achievements inspired Soviet people – after all, it’s a comforting feeling – a sense of being part of something great. Moreover, the Soviet Union promoted a powerful ideology that promised people to put an end to poverty, inequality and oppression worldwide. Up to a certain point, all soviet people felt like their work mattered: they were ALL building a better, more fair society. So it’s not a surprise that in our days of harsh market competition, people want to find themselves somewhere more equal, less chaotic, more predictable. And many imagine the USSR as such a place. Not everyone is convinced though. In most cases, pleasant memories blur the negative ones. But there are people, who lived most of their lives during Soviet rule, and they have no desire whatsoever to go back. To them, memories of endless lines in shops and medical facilities, party assemblies, censorship and eavesdropping, the helplessness of an individual facing society and the government, oppression and poverty – all outweigh any benefits socialism provided. The country was isolated, closed to the outside world, bands like the Beatles and Rolling Stones were banned, books were banned, jeans were impossible to get. So this pretty picture nostalgia paints about the USSR is largely a distorted view of one’s youth… or a result of poor knowledge of history… where the positive is exaggerated while the negative is either forgotten or significantly reduced. So… No matter what people miss: their personal well being, or a larger picture of a mighty nation – over 70 percent of respondents don’t believe the USSR will ever make a comeback. Are you a fan of the Soviet Union? Do you hate it? Let us know in comments below. And I’ll see you next time, bye!
What does the Soviet Union mean to Russians?
| | |