Tag Archives: Soviet Union

The ironic fate of Soviet nostalgia




Poster for the Soviet classic, “The irony of fate”, where the big joke is that all cities share the same street names

If you’re feeling nostalgic for the Soviet Union, for the days of free education, jobs for life, and street names that were the same in every city, then it seems you’re not alone.

Sputnik News today reports the results of a poll of over 12,000 people across 11 countries of the former Soviet Union who were asked whether life was better in the USSR than after it collapsed in 1991. On average, over 50% of those aged 35-64 agree that life was better before. This compares to an average of just under 30% of those aged 18-24 who felt the same – though how they might know this without having been born during the Soviet Union escapes me.

The breakdown of the results by country is interesting, particularly looking at unlikely outliers Uzbekistan and Moldova. In Uzbekistan, apparently almost no one misses the good old days, in stark contrast to its extremely economically successful neighbour Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan purports to have similar levels of nostalgia as Kazakhstan, despite enjoying a reputation as “Central Asia’s most stable state”. I’m not saying that political and economic success/stability as an independent country necessarily affects results, but I do feel surprised by the lukewarm response from older Tajiks based on my own extensive research and contacts in the country.

Comments on the Sputnik News website express a similar range of confusion and scepticism. Indeed, Sputnik News – a Russian government spin-off – is regularly accused of spouting Russian-friendly propaganda. Certainly, the way the statement is worded is highly subjective: why not flip the question and ask whether life is better now than it was during the Soviet Union? And why are the voices of those who weren’t even born when the Soviet Union collapsed given equal weight to those who lived a good part of their life with a different passport – and where are the over 65s?

Revitalizing the idea that times were better in the old days is not new – just look at the ongoing “ostalgie” stories about East Germany. If you have the time to explore this further, I strongly recommend Alexei Yurchak’s absolutely beautifully named 2005 book, Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More. It focusses on the 1960s-1980s, the many paradoxes of Soviet life and telling the story of the last Soviet generation – the very same people who now seem to be so nostalgic…

Life in USSR poll.png

(c) Sputnik News, August 17 2016


Holiday viewing: early Soviet Central Asia posters


This isn’t a news story but a visual offering from me to you for the holiday season. My MA thesis was on the relationship between art and the state in the early Soviet period in Russia. Continuing my interest in this theme, it’s a delight to share these wonderful and often rather radical designs with you. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Соли Нав Муборак, Жана Жылыныхбен, Жаны Жылыныздар Менен, С Новым Годом and so on. See you in 2014!

All images sourced from Eurasianet.org (http://www.eurasianet.org/node/67527); all images (c) Mardjani Foundation or the State Central Museum of the Contemporary History of Russia (SCMCHR).

“Strengthen working discipline in collective farms” – Uzbek, Tashkent, 1933 (Mardjani)

“Peasant: Don’t elect these people. They were your enemies and remain your enemies” – Tajik, Tashkent, 1920s (Mardjani)

“Through their strong union, workers and peasants destroy oppressors” – Azeri, Baku, 1920s (Mardjani)

“Life in the East was slow” – Russian and Azeri, 1920s (Mardjani)

Two years of the Bolshevik Revolution – Kazan, 1919 (SCMCHR)

Tatar Club – Tatar (Arabic and Latin script), Moscow, 1935 (Mardjani)

“Don’t leave your bed earlier than 7 days after delivery” – Russian and Tatar, Kazan, 1927 (SCMCHR)

“Who doesn’t work doesn’t eat” – Uzbek, Tashkent, 1920 (Mardjani)

“Water soil and it will feed you” – Russian and Uzbek, Tashkent, 1920s (Mardjani)

Urging peasants to speed up cotton production – Russian and Uzbek, Tashkent, 1920s (Mardjani)

“Work hard to produce locomotives!” – Russian and Uzbek, Tashkent, 1920 (SCMCHR)

For the Soviet East: 10th Anniversary of Red Army – Russian and Uzbek, Tashkent, 1928 (SCMCHR)

Despite the rise in mechanized farming, “we cannot dispense with the horse” – Russian and Uzbek, Tashkent, 1933 (Mardjani)

“Workers and Peasants: Don’t let them destroy what was created over 10 years” – Russian and Uzbek, Tashkent, 1927 (SCMCHR)

Lenin calling for hard work – Kazakh, Tashkent, 1933 (Mardjani)

“Female Muslims: The tsar, beys and khans took your rights away” – Azeri, Baku, 1921 (Mardjani)