For Discussion Forum 4, please address any of the questions below. As always: you are required to make a minimum of THREE (3) posts per module. At least one of your three posts should be your own original comment; at least one – should be a response to or comment on something another classmate has posted; the third post can be either your own original post or a comment on a classmate’s post. Keep in mind that your response should NOT simply be a summary of the assigned reading. A higher grade will be awarded to posts that demonstrate student’s ability to provide an original interpretation of the topic while also applying relevant concepts, issues, and theories covered in the module.
1. Judyth Twigg begins her essay by stating: "The human costs of the Soviet regime were unquestionably and unbearably high. Few would argue for a return to the political repression, pervasive economic and bureaucratic inefficiency, corruption, and general malaise that plagued the late Soviet society. From the perspective of the Russian people, however, not everything about the Soviet Union was bad..." (p.147). Based on the materials you have read and watched, discuss what upsides and downsides of the Soviet (and post-Soviet) regimes Russian people experienced. Even though the question might be somewhat oversimplifying the issue, what were the "good" and the "bad" aspects of the Soviet regime?
2. From what you have learned so far, what advantages does the system of central planning have over a free market economy? What are the disadvantages? Give specific examples from your readings / viewings.
3. A question for those of you interested in business and economics. Writing in 2002, Harley Baltzer refers to Russia as becoming a "post-industrial petro-state" (p.164) (basically, a state that heavily depends on exports of raw materials [oil] to sustain its economy). You will continue hearing this term as you move on to the study of Putin's Russia. From what you have read in this module / know so far, why do you think this term is applicable to Russia? What in your mind makes the Russian petrostate essentially vulnerable? Do you have any examples from recent developments in Russia to illustrate the vulnerability of the petrostate?
4. Writing in 2002, Harley Balzer discusses several major problems that stemmed from or got exacerbated by psychological and physical shocks of the 1990s. Discuss any of these problems; provide your own feedback and opinion on them. From what you know about histories of other countries (including the U.S.), have major socio-political upheavals ever had similar impacts on the country's population?
5. Here's one more humanitarian problem for you to consider. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union many ethnic Russians resided in Soviet republics outside of Russia (say, in Ukraine, or the Baltic republics). With the collapse of the Soviet Union, all of these republics became different countries, many of which focused on the development of their own national identities. With the Soviet Union gone, ethnic Russians living in various former Soviet republics one day woke up "abroad." They never immigrated or gave their consent to living in a foreign country, it's just that the republic they lived in was now "foregn." To give you an example, during Second World War, my aunt's family ended up in Latvia. Latvia, of course, was a Soviet republic, where Russian was one of the official languages. My aunt was a little girl when her family took her to Latvia. She, of course, learned the Latvian language, went to Latvian school, then university, etc. At the time of the collapse of the USSR she was firmly established in Latvia: she was a secondary school teacher, and - apart from a few relatives - had no place to go to in Russia (she didn't need to!). For all intents and purposes she considered herself Latvian. When in 1991 Latvia became a brand new country, my aunt encountered tremendous hostility towards herself because she was not ethnically Latvian. She was fired from her job, and for a few years had to survive teaching private Russian lessons. (I must say, that within about 10 years things calmed down and she is now Latvian citizen - a whole separate long story). Provide your own feedback on this situation of ethnic Russians residing in former Soviet republics and all of a sudden facing the ethnic hostility that I described. If you are familiar with the recent Russia - Ukraine conflict, explain how president Putin used the argument of "ethnic Russians in Ukraine" as a pretext of annexing Crimea.
6. Discuss comedy monologues that I included in this module representing the eras of perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Did you find these monologues funny? (give specific examples). What are the themes and targets of satirists' writings? How do these stories present Russia as a nation? Did you feel that the topics and /or tonalities of the comedians' satire change from the late 1980s (perestroika era) to the 1990s? Using the information that you have about the era, explain the change (or lack thereof).
the two peer reviews I choose to write about:
"I am responding to question 6:
Some of the monologues were funnier than others. Overall I would say each had at least one part that I found funny or interesting. I will highlight the parts I thought were funny. In Briefing, I thought it was a little funny that the tourists were under the impression the dry cleaners was a cheap store. I also thought that it was funny the man bought a funeral outfit (for the one who died) for the tour organizer. While these were both a bit comical, it is also kind of sad that the level of living from Russia to West Europe is so different. I also found a few things funny within It's time to take measures. They were taking problems and instead of solving them at the root cause, they were adding solutions to make their hard situation better. For example they added cots, comfy chairs, and entertainment to long lines. The last thing I thought was comical was the quote "The only thing our thumb tacks are good for is putting them on a teacher’s chair." I think I thought this was funny because it is relatable to us as seen in American TV.
I think the general theme of these comical monologues and thus how Russia is presented is harsh and overall a little sad. I have multiple examples of this listed here: the fact that questions are embarrassing, it making them seem barabarish for not using forks and knives, "once a little boy asked his Dad: “Dad, who wrote the book ‘Who is Happy in Russia?’” The Dad says: “You know, son, although we have glasnost now, I can’t answer that question.”", Russia's newspapers write about something bad about themselves before west Europe could, "Katerina, his wife, was an exact replica of our perestroika. They both promise something good all the time, but when it comes to actually delivering, they hide in the bushes.", "“Money can’t buy happiness” exists only in our language. Maybe we should be more precise: “It’s our money that can’t buy happiness.”", and "remember, how birth control used to be sold everywhere but now you can only buy it in clinics reserved for members of the state apparatus? You know why? So that a species like that one doesn’t reproduce itself. This will be the real achievement of perestroika!"
All of these show me that it does not seem like leaders and media of Russia did not have much faith in its citizens and that its citizens did not have faith in its leadership either. This is both harsh and sad because as a country it should not come to the point where there is no faith where all there is is bitterness and negativity.
Overall throughout the monologues there may be a little change, but mostly the citizens stay negative about glasnost and perestroika and the leaders stay selfish and rude toward the citizens. "
"Russia reaffirms it is a post-industrial petro-state in many ways. One glaring reason is Russia's lack of enthusiasm about building human capital within their own country. The country is more focused on exporting and being apart of the global economy, a pressure that almost all places experiences nowadays, than it is investing in the success of its own citizens. An economy that bases itself on outside sources, whether relying on importing or exporting goods, is set up for dependence on foreign countries. A country that is not self-sufficient, such as being unable to provide sufficient education and healthcare to its citizens, is set up for failures long-term and is vulnerable through this dependence on foreign connections. Reignited tensions between Russia and the West have lead to increasing military presence in many countries on both sides, but has also as a result continued to reveal how fragile Russia is economically. If one of its main export lines is disrupted, Russia does not have other ways of filling that void in the economy. An example of Russia's instability involved the Ukrainian crisis from recent years. When Russia invaded and annexed the Ukrainian area of Crimea economic sanctions were imposed from western countries and lead to a big decline in the worth of the Russian rouble, their currency, and created a financial crisis. For Russia to become more stable and successful it must first care for its people first."