There is a misleading story going around in political circles. Apparently, some American politicians are putting an effort into promotion of this story. The story says that Putin has the intention of rebuilding USSR, and that this goal of his is the reason of the Ukrainian crisis.
Is it really as they say?
The USSR fell apart on December 26, 1991, and after this day, 15 new republics appeared on a political map of the world.
The West was satisfied with these new circumstances, and it thought that the East shared their feelings. Well, if it is to trust statistics, that was not the case, not even close. During the referendum held in March 1991, 77.85% expressed their desire to stay united. However, their opinion had not been taken into account.
An interesting thing is that this didn’t change, not even after 20 years. According to Ukrainian sociologist, 30% of Ukrainian people was feeling nostalgic about Soviet-style planned economy, and what is even more interesting, 17% of them are young people born after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. However, one more time, their opinion didn’t have any influence.
This fact suggests that, in case of the Putin’s attempt to rebuild USSR, he would have a lot of supporters, but as Putin himself once mention, reconstituting the USSR would not be a smart move at all. He also remembered that one of the best things about USSR was the unified market and a free trade zone, which is why Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and several smaller countries formed the Customs Union, after the USSR dissolved.
The Ukraine refused to join the Customs Union, but kept trading with members of the Union. Soon it became obvious that their decision to stay out of Customs Union negatively affected the Ukrainian economy.
The positive changes after the dissolution include abandoning of the communist ideology, adopting a multipolar system as a replacement for the bloc mentality, adopting a market economy, an export-driven economy and the governance where leaders gain their popularity based on their results.
Public health and public education significantly changed after the dissolution. Medicine became privatized, what caused problems to those people unable to pay for private care. Even though the educational system kept the high level of quality, many people claimed it was better before the dissolution.
During the time of the USSR, science and culture had no commercial dimension. The Soviets invested in these areas without regret, their goal was not to export their results in the western markets, their goal was the science itself. This was something that commercially-driven Americans have never been able to understand. However, the circumstances changed after the USSR fell apart, and many people are unsatisfied because of that.
The regression of the basic Soviet science, negatively affected science in general, worldwide. The investments in science have stopped, forcing scientists to look for grants and other financing alternatives.
Many aspects of the USSR were abandoned or degraded after the dissolution. But, that was not the case with living arrangement. Many families now don’t have to pay the rent, because they are the owners of their houses, which means that the majority of people doesn’t have debt problems. In addition to this, the system of public transportation has been upgraded, and people who live on the periphery of dense, urban areas, have a high quality connection between their homes and work.
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Many things can collapse, for example, buildings, educational systems, economies, empires. But can that happen to civilizations? Civilizations are systems guided by strong principles.
If a civilization “collapses”, its principles remain. Those principles will be adopted and applied again, at some point, and the civilization will keep living through them. For example, many Roman organizational principles remained even the Roman Empire is long gone.
The same can be said for the USSR. The USSR doesn’t exist anymore, but the principles are there. The Customs Union, mentioned above, is inspired by the system from the Soviet time. Even the name survived – “Soyuz” (Union) is an actual name of the Russian spaceship. The USSR keeps living through children’s movies as well. New generations are growing up watching very popular Soviet children’s movies.
Additionally, all attempts of replacing the Soviet civilization with the western one went down the drain, as soon as people had realized what kind of values comes with western civilization.
The social conservatism is one of the Soviet principles that the Russian Federation is now applying. There are still two dominant religions (Orthodox Christianity and Islam) and everything that doesn’t comply with these religions has no chance of surviving.
Ethnicity, as the next principle, will always be a distinctive characteristic of the Russian Federation. People from Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Belarus, China, Germany and USA are just a part of the total number of ethnic groups that are integral part of the Russian population. This was the case in the USSR as well. The Russian Federation keeps supporting multi-ethnic structure, providing ethnic sovereignty to every ethnic group, provided that their actions will never do damage to the society as a whole.
Unlike Russia, the US, which is also ethnically very diverse, has a completely different situation. Ethnicities very often face discrimination. If we assumed that each of these groups had the same level of autonomy, the US would probably encounter serious problems, because that would mean violating the principle of “white privilege”.
The bottom line is that the future will always be uncertain, but the differences between civilizations can always trigger the conflicts.