USSR, Soviet Nostalgia On The Rise
In 1988, while shopping at the old outlet mall on Northwest Expressway and Council Road in Oklahoma City, I had the good fortune of running into a group of college students from the Soviet Union. They were Gen Xers just like me, and after years and fears of the Cold War that framed so much of our childhoods and youth, I walked right up and introduced myself to them.
They were shy and hesitant, and they spoke no English. Our exchange lasted only a few minutes, but by the time we parted ways they had placed a lapel pin of the USA and USSR flags in the palm of my hand. I have kept it in my jewelry box among a variety of other souvenir pins for nearly 25 years.
It has always been a reminder to me that the future can’t be predicted by no one, and sometimes, the unbelievable can happen. Walls can come down and cold wars can thaw. Republics can gain independence and super powers can dissolve. Enemies can become friends and friends, God help us, can become enemies.
The 20-year anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union just passed. It formally ceased to exist on December 25, 1991, the same day General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev resigned from office. The event was not formally commemorated in Russia, where Soviet nostalgia has been on the rise since the late 1990s.
PRI just aired a story about this, Nostalgia for the Soviet Union. According to the story, “not everything in the Soviet Union was bad, and there were actually quite a few good characteristics.”
Salon also ran an excellent piece the other day by Julia Barton, I Miss Hating the USSR, in which she bears witness to her “addictive mixture of wonder and disgust evoked by all aspects of that communist empire.”
Most Soviet nostalgia is for everyday objects that belonged to a culture that reportedly vanished immediately following the dissolution of the empire. Then there is nostalgia of the Putin variety. In April 2005, the Russian Prime Minister called the collapse of the Soviet Union the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.
Some of the popular objects of Soviet nostalgia include Young Pioneer uniforms, USSR school uniforms, Soviet versions of Santa Claus (Ded Moroz), items with Sputnik themes and CCCP posters and pins.
One of my favorite group pools on Flickr is My Happy Soviet Childhood. There are only 315 images in the pool, including several pictures of the Soviet Union equivalent to Generation X. As I perused them I had a stunning realization. Generation X was the last complete Soviet-era generation to fully come of age behind the Iron Curtain.
So, I did some research via search engines and I found out that a documentary has been made about this. It’s called My Perestroika, and it follows five ordinary Russians from their sheltered Soviet childhoods to the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was screened at Sundance last January.
In recent weeks, Russia has seen unprecedented protests against fraudulent elections. Thousands of people have collected in the streets of Moscow demanding true democracy. You can keep up with the movement via the Occupy Russia Facebook page.
Do you have feelings of nostalgia for the Soviet Union or nostalgia for the old USSR?
Click here to see some magical Cold War Family pictures and Russian photos.