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Thread: Communism: Do Russians think the USSR was communist?

  1. #1
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    Communism: Do Russians think the USSR was communist?

    Hi everyone,

    I was wondering if most Russians think that the USSR was in anyway communist? Many people in the west think of the USSR as communist when in fact it was obviously socialist.

    So, are Russians taught about socialism and communism? Do they know the difference?

    I find this quite interesting, because the west is just as socialist as the USSR was. It is just that they are different types of socialism.

    So I want to know, do Russians know that?

    Not only that, do they know about socialism and communism in detail? I mean, it seems that the Soviet military had political officers that were suppose to teach conscripts about socialism/communism. If they only taught the subject superficially, then they would run out of things to say after 5 minutes I think.

    I guess another way I could ask this is: what do Russians think socialism is? what do they think communism is?

    Would most Russians think that the USSR collapsed because socialism and communism (according to their understanding of it - whatever that is) can't work, or because of mistakes made by political leaders.

    Socialism in the USSR was nothing like how the old European communists described it.

    Based on what the European communists were thinking of when they described socialism hundreds of years ago, Europe (and even the United States) are socialist countries. Russia is also socialist.

    I haven't described socialism and communism here, because I want to hear what people (Russians specifically) think it is first.

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    I am not really asking about what the USSR was like. I am asking about what Russians (as individuals) think socialism and communism is, and if they think that the USSR was communist.

    Russia, the USSR, the USA, Canada etc etc or all socialist countries. They are simply different types of socialism. One is not more socialist than the other.

    I am interested in knowing if they have a better understanding of socialism and communism than westerners do. That is not the same as knowing what socialism in the USSR was like. Or what people in the USA think socialism is.

    I also know what socialism in the USSR was like, what I want to know is whether or not Russians think that what the USSR had the one and only type of socialism, or simply a version of socialism.

    Karl Marx did not come up with communism or socialism.

    Another way to put it is to ask, would a Russian (or even a Soviet citizen) look at the United States, or Canada, or a European country and say: "oh, they are socialist as well" (implies an understanding of what socialism is). Or would they say "I would rather live in a non-socialist country like the United States or Canada" (implies a lack of understanding of what socialism is).

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    So, are Russians taught about socialism and communism?
    I think more than 3/4 of people do not know these things. Maybe more.
    Idea of "USSR crash as the result of congenital malformations of the planned economy" was very important keynote of the 90th during capitalization of Russia, so, most of people believe it.
    There are few people who realize that modern developed countries are synthesis of planned and market economy, synthesis of socialism and capitalism.

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    I just came up with another way to ask one aspect of my question to help clarify things: What were the Soviet political officers teaching people?

    It has to be more than just a USSR government definition of communism and socialism.

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    Or would they say "I would rather live in a non-socialist country like the United States or Canada" (implies a lack of understanding of what socialism is).
    Yes. Most of russians think that 'western countries are pure capitalism', which excludes term 'socialism'.
    There is mess with these terms.

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    What were the Soviet political officers teaching people?
    I think nobody remembers. It was boring and soldiers prefer to sleep with open eyes at these lessons.
    But I think they cannot be far from official books anyway.

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    Putin might be a neoliberal but has implemented socialist features in Russia. Billions of funds for education were set aside for the deserving. Almost all narrow-minded Russians are amazed with fast cars, HDTV, American movies, and life in America. But we communists can see through the silhouette. The more you patronize these American products like CDs, movies, cars, computers, the more our own countries suffer. Our national bourgeoisie cannot sell their products always outcompeted by US because of the brainwashing done by American movies. Communists like me would rather prepare an organic chicken sandwich in my kitchen rather than McDonalds. I would rather patronize the Soviet Lada which can bring you tens of thousands of miles away from Moscow. I drink water. Not Coke. I consider myself a patriotic Canadian who would rather go to the tailor than buy those American imported Levis bluejeans.
    This has literally nothing to do with my question. I am interested to hear your thoughts, but please do it in your own thread so that my questions can be discussed on this thread.

    Thank you.

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    The soviet definitions are completely different from the western ones.

    Communism is a hypothetical social order, at which "people's well-being, equality and freedom will be
    achieved on the basis of the highest development of material production, technologies and science".

    Socialism is the first stage of Communism's development.

    There were (and are) no communism countries on the Earth, but there were countries, which tried to achieve communism.

    The sentence "The USSR is a communist country" can have 2 meanings:
    1. Western: There is communism in the USSR.
    2. Soviet: They develop communism in the USSR.

    I don't think soviet people could describe the USSR as a communist country in the western meaning. They were teached that communism is the future, not the present.


    What about the USSR collapse, I don't think it is related to communism in any way.
    USSR never was independent from the Western Europe. In my opinion, the soviet governement was under control of the British Intelligence Service. The USSR was and Russia now is a British satellite.
    The independent Russian politics was over, when the Russian Empire fell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dinlot View Post
    A Soviet Lada car costs only 800 roubles which is 2 months pay.
    800 roubles is a price of a motorbike.

    Here are real prices: http://www.opoccuu.com/autoprices.html

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    Yes. Most of russians think that 'western countries are pure capitalism', which excludes term 'socialism'.
    What about older Russians? The ones that grew up in the USSR?

    To be clear, I am not asking people to tell me what communism and socialism is. I already know a lot about communism and socialism. I am interested specifically with a Russians understanding of what socialism and communism is.

    The soviet definitions are completely different from the western ones.
    I am not asking about the Soviet definition, I am asking about the Russian peoples understanding of communism and socialism in general.

    Soviet communism or Soviet socialism is specific. I want to know about what Russians understand about communism/socialism in general.

    I think that you are misunderstanding what I am asking. I am not asking what socialism/communism according to the Soviet government was.

    So for example, my country is a "constitutional monarchy". I can describe what that means for my country, but I also know that a constitutional monarchy will look different depending on which country I am in. The constitutional monarchy in Australia is different to the constitutional monarchy in the United Kingdom. However, they are both constitutional monarchies. If you flew me from my country to another country that is a constitutional monarchy, I would be able to recognize it as a constitutional monarchy even though it is not run in the same way as my country is.

    It seems that Alex80 has already answered my question, but I am eager to hear other peoples views.

    Another way to put it is if I flew a Russian to the new communist country of "Esidian", a country that is nothing like the USSR whatsoever, would Russians say to themselves: "hey, this is a communist country"? or would they say: "what sort of country is this?".

    if I flew a Russian to the new socialist country of "Residian", a country that is nothing like the USSR whatsoever, would Russians say to themselves: "hey, this is a socialist country"? or would they say: "what sort of country is this?".

    The comments in bold require a Russian to actually know what socialism/communism is. Not what the USSR was, not the USSR governments brand of socialism was, not what the typical westerner thinks socialism/communism is, but what socialism/communism actually is.

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    What about older Russians? The ones that grew up in the USSR?
    Well, I made experiment and call my mother (56 years old). She was typical "city worker class woman". She worked as telegraphist. No special high edication nor political education.
    My questions and her answers:

    Me: What kind of political system was in the Soviet Union?
    She: We were going to communism.
    Me: So, what it was, if it was no communism?
    She: Socialism.
    Me: Ok. What kind of political system was/is in the USA?
    She: Bourgeoisie.
    Me: Hmmm.. Can socialism happen in USA?
    She: No. They have bourgeois clans of several people who controls everything and not allow it to happen.

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    Did you really call your mum? Thanks so much for your dedication to the question

    It is so cool that she uses the term bourgeoisie. Is it normal for Russians to use bourgeoisie? Proletarian? What about "the worker class"?

    Does your mother think the Russia Federation is bourgeoisie or socialist?

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    Is it normal for Russians to use bourgeoisie?
    A little. It is archaic term. I smile too.
    Proletarian?
    Jokingly or in context of history papers.
    What about "the worker class"?
    It's ok.
    Does your mother think the Russia Federation is bourgeoisie or socialist?
    She told "oh... we are half bourgeoisie too right now...".

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    P.S.
    Indeed "we are going to communism" was well-known idea in soviet times. It was on the posters often and so on.
    So, it is difficult for old people to forget it. However new generations (including mine) do not know it often and thinks that "if communist party was only party in USSR, so it was communistic too". Moreover this is used sometimes as "marker of the political ignorance" in political disputes.
    But term "socialism" is associated with USSR very often.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chemist12 View Post
    I am not asking about the Soviet definition, I am asking about the Russian peoples understanding of communism and socialism in general.
    Quote Originally Posted by RedFox View Post
    The sentence "The USSR is a communist country" can have 2 meanings:
    1. Western: There is communism in the USSR.
    2. Soviet: They develop communism in the USSR.

    I don't think soviet people could describe the USSR as a communist country in the western sense. They were teached that communism is the future, not the present.
    Are you able to read?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chemist12 View Post
    Another way to put it is if I flew a Russian to the new communist country of "Esidian", a country that is nothing like the USSR whatsoever, would Russians say to themselves: "hey, this is a communist country"? or would they say: "what sort of country is this?".
    Коммунистическая страна makes no sense in soviet political terms.

    "В этой стране строят коммунизм" — "They develop communism in this country", they would say.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chemist12 View Post
    It is so cool that she uses the term bourgeoisie. Is it normal for Russians to use bourgeoisie? Proletarian? What about "the worker class"?
    The younger generation mainly uses these terms in a humorous way.

    For example: По многочисленным просьбам трудящихся — Lurkmore

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    It might probably help if Химик provided brief definitions of both terms to make a sort of terminological corridor.

    It's not likely that younger generations (born after late 80s) can really help much here.

    The attitude towards these ideas was different during the course of the Soviet history and they were developing and changing due to propaganda and educating Soviet generations according to the official ideology (i.e. in 1920s and 1980s the attitudes were different). I suspect the early stages of the Soviet state are not of interest here, so just a brief remark that anti-communism among the people was big during the beginning of the new Soviet state.

    So phrases commonly used were: we are building communism, this generation of the Soviet people will live in the society of communism (Khrutschev in 1961, implying that communism will have been built within life of this generation).. so you see the idea of building was present.

    So the word 'communism' has a more practical meaning in minds of Russian people compared to 'socialism', the latter being some sort of theoretical and sometimes even philosophical basis, often some abstract idea (at least in its classical meaning). Whereas 'communism' is some concrete realization. At least this is official theoretical description that people born in 50s and 60s would find satisfactory (in USSR contexts) I am suggesting.

    Now as for today, the word 'communism' is not so popular in the media, maybe it's heard in some debates and historical contexts (i think the idea that this was an erroneous course is quite popular in the Russian society today, though some older people are quite nostalgic about the Soviet past).

    But I often here people in Russia today commenting on Norway and Sweden using phrases like У них там социализм (They have socialism there). I think this is quite interesting. The meanings of words are really evolving and changing.

    Bourgeois - immensely popular term today in Russia, the connotations are different (e.g. 'all those westerners', 'all those capitalists', ... might be negative, might be humorous)...

    Working class and proletarian - these words are not so popular, as they are part of earlier Soviet class based theoretical ideology (so they may be used humourously or in scientific literature), ... but Он из рабочих (he is from working class family) - without the word 'class' - can still be used.

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    Bourgeois - immensely popular term today in Russia
    Do you mean semi-humorous "буржуи"?
    "Буржуазия" is not so popular term now. I think it may appear in rhetoric of modern communist party due to historical connections, but it is not widespreaded.
    "Буржуй" as semi-humorous description of business class with connotations to "exploitation of the working class" can be met in inofficial speech often, yes...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex80 View Post
    Do you mean semi-humorous "буржуи"?
    Yes, и все производные.

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