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The best in the USSR: five major myths about the Union

More than 30 years ago, in December 1991, the state of the Soviet Union ceased to exist. By that time, the country was in a deep economic crisis, there was no normal choice of products and other necessary goods for sale - many were tired of Soviet reality, and when the Emergency Committee tried to protect it, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, writes "Medusa».

Photo: Shutterstock

Now it is customary to idealize the Soviet Union: not only the elderly, but also young people with nostalgia speak about a wonderful state, which everyone treated with fear and respect, where they had the best medicine and education in the world, where everyone lived in prosperity and everyone was confident in tomorrow bottom.

For those who yearn for the Soviet past, there are two news - good and bad. On the one hand, idealized ideas about the USSR do not correlate well with facts. On the other hand, there is so much Soviet in modern Russia - in all spheres, from legislation and law enforcement to language and jokes - that sometimes there is a feeling that the Union is still around us.

Meduza refutes the myths about the "golden age" of the USSR, which fell in the 1970s and 80s, and notes how much Soviet remains in modern Russia.

The USSR had the best education in the world. And free!

A typical quote:

Friends! The Soviet education system was and remains the best in the world !!! To return it should be a task for the current authorities, since it is good for the people and for the next generations of our children !!!

Not really

There are very few objective criteria for comparing which country was better taught. Soviet education had its good sides: in some disciplines — especially mathematics and physics — graduates of Soviet universities were traditionally highly rated in the world. This can be judged at least by the fact that after perestroika, Russian scientists turned out to be in great demand abroad. This does not mean that they were the best: for example, economist Sergei Guriev recalls that when he went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990, there were a lot of talented people from different countries.

And yet, in the Soviet education there were such flaws that many of those who studied under the USSR can hardly hear the enthusiastic exclamations about the “best system in the world”. Often, scientists believe that the success of Soviet science was achieved not through the education system, but in spite of it: in order to achieve something, people had to overcome a huge amount of difficulties and obstacles of a completely non-academic nature. When admission to universities, there were restrictions not only on a class basis, but also on a national basis: let's say, the 20 anniversary from about 1960 to 1980 was a period of anti-Semitism in mathematics — it was extremely difficult for Jews to get into the Mekhmat. Tacit restrictions also acted upon admission to other universities - for example, to the prestigious MGIMO and the Moscow State Technical University. Bauman.

Ideology was one of the main negative factors, it influenced all areas of education - the content of curricula, the values ​​imparted in school, the selection criteria, etc.

Examples can be listed for a long time. A lot of time and effort was spent on studying subjects like the history of the Communist Party of the Union, to which practically no one was serious, but which, nevertheless, prevented many talented students from continuing their studies. Unreliable teachers, students and children of dissidents were expelled from universities for political reasons. The Soviet high school was almost completely isolated from the world. Foreign languages ​​were taught poorly - except for specialized universities and elite schools for the children of the nomenclature. Natural sciences were given a clear preference, because it corresponded to the public interest. The school and universities did not study the work of outstanding poets, writers and artists who did not correspond to the Soviet ideas of the beautiful and ideologically correct (for example, the Silver Age poets: Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Pasternak, Mandelstam, Gumilyov) turned out to be ideologically wrong.

History was taught exclusively in a key approved by the state: the interpretation of events could not disagree with ideological attitudes, and many episodes were hushed up - for example, for obvious reasons, the entire history of Soviet repression. Sometimes the exact sciences also experienced such an influence: the infamous “Lysenkoism” from Soviet textbooks on biology disappeared only by the 1960 years.

In the USSR was the best medicine in the world. And free!

A typical quote:

I was in the hospital on Sakhalin, in Pyatigorsk, Sverdlovsk and in Ust-Ilimsk, and they cured me without any cronyism and put me on my feet. So the fact that the author is lying is a liberal lie. Xnumx's. SOVIET MEDICINE has indeed been the BEST IN THE WORLD. Only for her, darling, Gaidar bastard deserved drowning in the toilet.

Not really

Independent research describe in detail the sad situation in which there were medicine and health care by the end of the USSR. Admission to medical schools and further education depended not only on knowledge: a medical career was often provided with connections with the right people. Soviet medicine lagged far behind Western countries. Modern technologies and methods of treatment were available only to the elect, most doctors simply did not own them.

At the end of 1980-x, polyclinics and hospitals used glass syringes, reusable needles, catheters and systems for intravenous infusions. Pharmaceuticals were poorly developed, so much of the drugs had to be bought abroad. Simple medicines and drugs cost very cheap, but they had to “get” a little less common - sometimes in other cities. Apart from world science, doubtful treatment methods (for example, “sanatorium-resort”) spread in the USSR, it was then that non-existent diagnoses appeared, such as “vegetative-vascular dystonia”, which are still being used.

The authorities were proud of the fact that there were more doctors in the Soviet Union than in other countries, but the quantity did not turn into quality. The hospitals were overcrowded, people often lay in the corridor - not least because many were hospitalized for reasons that did not really require inpatient treatment. People were in the hospital for a long time; weeks and months of waiting for the queue for procedures and operations.

Life of Soviet hospitals many recalled with genuine horror. This is especially true of childbirth: “My mother gave birth to a sister in 1975, in Moscow. Her story will never forget. To begin with, they were stripped naked and shaved with a rusty razor, there were no sheets on the beds, oilcloths, food was not allowed for a day, and she begged the nurse to bring her abortion medicine, was afraid that she didn’t have enough strength, gave birth to 12 hours, the doctor went 2 times, doctors and nannies there are selected special, as supervisors in a concentration camp, a sadist simply. “I don’t remember anything worse in life, like a dog in the Middle Ages“ - its feeling ”(the memory of collections in LiveJournal).

The rudeness of Soviet doctors and medical staff in district clinics and hospitals deserves special attention. In one of 1987 works of the yearBased on numerous interviews with doctors and medical students, it is concluded that doctors were not motivated and did not experience job satisfaction. As a rule, they received little money - and the payment did not depend on the number of people cured. Most of the doctors almost did not seek to deepen their knowledge, they had little interest in publications in medical journals. The function of polyclinics, basically, was to estimate whether to give a person a sick-list or not. Patients didn’t particularly trust the doctors - perhaps because of this, at the end of 1980's in an atheistic state, “alternative medicine”, such as homeopathy and healing, turned out to be so popular.

Speaking of "the best in the world of Soviet medicine", one can not but mention the steady practice of so-called punitive psychiatry, which was widely used against dissidents in 1960 – 80-s - for example, to demonstrators against the entry of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia in 1968.

In the USSR, all lived in abundance

A typical quote:

Here in the Soviet Union were pensions! And there was enough salary for everything. And everyone had housing. Not like now!

Not really

It is easiest to refute the thesis about housing: the housing problem in the USSR began to be dealt with much later than it should be - decades after the war. Even the most rabid supporters of the Soviet Union seem to be unacceptable the practice of communal apartments, and in fact a significant part of the urban population lived in them even in the 1990s. Khrushchev and the truth helped to rectify the situation - and although housing was really “provided”, further operations with it were either semi-legal or completely illegal. "The Soviet man was provided with housing for a quarter of the American", - stated in the book of Maxim Trudolyubov "People behind the fence."

The rest is a little more difficult, first of all, because people have forgotten or do not know how the supply was arranged in the USSR. Yes, for salaries and pensions in 1985, it was possible to buy approximately the same amount of milk, bread and vodka as in 2016 (something less, something more, but on average as much), but the main problem was a friend - in addition to milk, bread and vodka, there was nothing more to buy. Housing and land plots were distributed at work, cars (and garages) had to be recorded in long-term queues, imported goods were delivered by “gray” schemes, and the store’s choice was literally North Korean.

As Yegor Gaidar writes in “The Death of an Empire,” this problem was realized at the highest level, but unmet demand grew sharply - in 1970, it was 17,5 billion rubles (4,6% of GDP), in 1985 — 60,9 billion rubles (7,8% GDP) ). If you translate it from an economic language: nominal wealth came into strong contradiction with the real one - there was money, but there was nothing to buy for them. Many people remember that during perestroika, their savings in Sberbank were “lost on 2 Volga,” but they forgot that these Volga ones had to wait for years.

There was stability in the USSR

A typical quote:

The Soviet Union was bad for many people, but the main thing was confidence in the future.

Not really

Indeed, when state control over prices is in place, and all citizens are paid on a fixed scale, the feeling arises that the system is stable and will not change for decades. Some called it stability, others - stagnation. The feeling that “the Soviet Union is forever,” was both among those who supported the Soviet system and those who tried to break it. With such unanimity, it is surprising how quickly (and relatively peacefully) the USSR collapsed and the iron curtain fell. This is convincingly written in the book “It was forever, until it was over” Alexey Yurchak: “Most of the Soviet people did not just expect the collapse of the Soviet system, but could not even imagine it. But by the end of perestroika — that is, in a rather short period — many people began to perceive the crisis of the system as something natural and even inevitable. ”

Moreover, the “stability”, the unwillingness to change anything, mainly in the economy, led to the “crisis of the system”. For example, over the course of 1960 – 80-ies, the USSR consistently increased its dependence on imported food, buying it for gold and investing in inefficient, huge construction projects. In 1969, the USSR received $ 443 million from grain exports, for the first time imports exceeded exports in 1972, and in 1989, the balance was negative by $ 5 billions. For all agricultural products, minus was even more significant - $ 21,7 billion. The absence of market mechanisms, the stopping of problems, and not their solution led to the fact that imbalances in the economy grew and eventually ended with the collapse of the end of the 1980-s - the beginning of the 1990-s.

In other words, stability really was, but it came at an extremely expensive price and turned into hyperinflation, depletion of stocks, impoverishment of the population and humiliating “humanitarian aid” programs. Confidence in the future turned into inevitable chaos. This chaos can easily be attributed to market reforms, but in fact it was the years of “stability” that led to the collapse of the USSR, and the reforms were (far from ideal) a way to overcome the economic crisis.

But everyone was afraid of us!

A typical quote:

Give USSR !!!!!

To spit, as the Americans call us,

the main thing is to be afraid.

Actually yes

Indeed, during the Cold War era, the United States and the West as a whole seriously feared an open military conflict with the Soviet Union. Including nuclear. Since the 1950s, a powerful campaign to educate citizens in civil defense began in America. During the entire post-war period, situations arose when countries could go to a direct armed conflict, for example, in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis or in 1983, when technical error almost led to an exchange of nuclear strikes.

American training film 1951 of the year Duck and cover ("Kick and hide") / Nuclear Vault

The Soviet tradition was also anxious over the Soviet tradition to keep control in countries of the “zone of influence” Czechoslovakia, Hungary and others.

The vast majority of people in the USSR lived poorly, poorly fed, could not be treated normally, they were not allowed to go abroad, they didn’t influence the decisions made by the authorities, but yes: the state in which they lived really feared abroad. It is not very clear whether there is a reason for joy or pride.

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