Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Collective Memory in the former USSR

The crimes of the Stalin regime have been almost completely forgotten in the former USSR. The surviving victims were told to be grateful that the Soviet government in some cases either pardoned or forgave them in the 1950s and 1960s. There was a brief recognition of the worst of the crimes in the early 1990s, but then the coming to terms with the past ended for most of post-Soviet society. There is a strong nostalgic longing for the Soviet past here and this reconstruction of the USSR as a golden era does not distinguish between the brutal dictatorship of Stalin and the comparatively mild Brezhnev era. The entirety of Soviet history is compressed into "Soviet times" when food according to an advertisement at a popular cafe here was always cheap, quick, and tasty. Of course in much of the Soviet Union in the early 1930s including neighboring Kazakhstan millions of people starved to death because there was no food what so ever tasty, cheap, or otherwise. Nor did such hardships end in the 1930s. The USSR suffered another famine in 1946. But, these two famines along with the one in the early 1920s, the GULag, the mass deportation of whole nationalities, and the mass executions of 1937-1938 have all been purged from popular memory. Instead everything from the USSR is glorified in a bizarre capitalist marketing campaign of a very selective and revisionist memory of Soviet state socialism.

No comments: