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Those who grew up in the Soviet Union, what was it like? And would you go back if you could?

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Questa volta abbiamo cercato: Those who grew up in the Soviet Union, what was it like? And would you go back if you could?
Those who grew up in the Soviet Union, what was it like? And would you go back if you could?

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I’m in my mid 30s and I met someone in college who grew up in the USSR. They said when the USSR dissolved they never went one day without eating again. They also mentioned when McDonald’s came to town, people waited in lines for hours for it.

I grew up in East Germany, which wasn’t that great, but we knew very well that our live was still much better than in the USSR. The Russian soldiers in East Germany were treated like shit, they were not allowed to have contact with the German population, and they were very poor.

I went to a summer camp near Volgograd in 1985, and even as a child I could see the discrepancy between the representative buildings and the poor conditions of the living quarters, the cheap clothes and the empty stores. The food in the camp was very basic, things like cabbage soup. Once I went with some Russian kids to “get” some apples from the next kolkhoz. The lavatories in the camp were disgusting, and toilet paper was in high demand (there were no leaves on nearby bushes). I still had a lot of fun.

My class went to Moscow and Ivanovo in 1989, and the cities were gray and dirty. In Moscow, there were many cockroaches in our (just six year old) hotel, and there were rats on the streets. There were no TVs in the rooms, only a few in the lobby. It was there where I saw that the unpopular East German head of state was forced to leave, which was a last ditch attempt for the party to keep control, foreshadowing the opening of the wall.

I want to stress that the Russian people were great, very friendly and curious.

So, to answer your question, I think there are only very few people who are so brainwashed that they would actually want to go back. However, there are much more people that dream of old victories and glory, and want to have Russia’s status as a superpower back, but without being poor, cold and hungry.

I’m from the USSR, born in 88. Hard to say anything about that, as I was far too young to genuinely remember anything during the 3 last years of its existence.

My mom however, has a far longer span of memory than me. My grandparents too.

The amount of different periods the USSR has went through, in terms of economic prosperity levels, in terms of government control levels, in terms of social atmosphere, and many more aspects – is frankly a little staggering. There is such a richness to the history of the USSR – to the details of its darkest times, to the details of its brightest times, to the perspectives of all the different generations which have been born into it, that I really hope you aren’t expecting any answer here which will truly satiate your curiosity.

At best, you are most likely to get mainly answers limited in scope to the USSR’s last decade of existence, probably mixed with other memories of the immediate years after its dissolution, as such memories will definitely mix within the mind of a young child.

If you want to hear one point of view about the very last few years of the union’s existence, the answers to this question will likely satisfy that. If you are genuinely curious, however, you’d do better by reading some (unbiased) history books.

If it’s literally only the final years of the USSR you’re interested in, however, I can recommend “The Last Empire” by Serhii Plokhii. It goes into the details of the dissolution itself and what led up to that, and is genuinely one of the best reads on the subject that I can recommend.

I worked with a guy from Soviet Ukraine and he told me about smuggling Levi brand Jeans in and selling them for $100 American per pair in the 80’s. The reason for that was it was to the work camp if you were caught smuggling American products in.

I have a buddy who is nostalgic for it. His family were the huge beneficiaries of land when the Soviets got rid of the Kulaks. They made out like bandits and eventually rose fairly high in their town’s Party. They talk wistfully about how they always had plenty to eat, they were taken care of and never wanted for anything. They only left because of that pesky radiation problem.

They miss that, and always support the government here, and do what it tells them to, because they secretly hope they can repeat the trick. And, it’s working.

He’s never met a government program he wasn’t all for, he follows them unconditionally, and the day he was told about our country’s covid tracing app, he downloaded and installed it. I’ll likely be the first one he reports for non-compliance when they make it mandatory here.