Russia didn’t ‘feed’ the USSR: the entire USSR ‘fed’ the nomenklatura, Mirovich says

A Soviet propaganda poster. The Russian-language slogan on the left says: "All power to the Soviets!" The slogan on the right says: "We will achieve victory of Communist labor!"

A Soviet propaganda poster. The Russian-language slogan on the left says: "All power to the Soviets!" The slogan on the right says: "We will achieve victory of Communist labor!" 

More, Op-ed

One of the most widespread myths in Russia today is that in Soviet times, Russia took care of everyone, Maxim Mirovich says; but in fact, Moscow didn’t “feed” anyone. Instead, “the entire country worked for the Soviet nomenklatura” which distributed scraps to the population at its discretion.

In short, the situation now is not much different than it was then but it involves only the Russian Federation and not the USSR which no longer exists except in the dreams of some regime propagandists and those who believe them, the Belarusian blogger suggests.

If one uses UN figures of GDP per capita in the union republics in 1990 and compares that with the pay Soviet citizens received, it becomes clear that the nomenklatura took 90 percent or more for state purposes and itself and paid the population only about 10 percent of what the people produced. In short, the regime got fat while all the people were kept poor.

The old Soviet poster proclaims: "Long live the brotherly union and great friendship of the peoples of the USSR!" Apparently, large military planes filling the sky are a prerequisite for the said "friendship." The other prerequisite must be having Ukraine in the union, as a woman figure representing Ukrainian people is positioned next to the largest, Russian, figure. The flags say: "Salutations to the great Stalin!"

The old Soviet poster proclaims: “Long live the brotherly union and great friendship of the peoples of the USSR!” Apparently, large military planes filling the sky are a prerequisite for the said “friendship.” The other prerequisite must be having Ukraine in the union, as a woman figure representing Ukrainian people is positioned next to the largest, Russian, figure. The flags say: “Salutations to the great Stalin!”

The average Belarusian, for example, produced more than 1300 US dollars a month for the state but got back only a tenth of that in pay. The rest was taken by the state for its purposes, including supporting dictators abroad and conducting wars of one kind or another. The state didn’t “feed” its own people then either.

The fallback myth about the USSR is that the Russian SFSR supposedly “fed all the rest.” That is based on the fact that GDP per capita in the RSFSR was more than three times that of the similar measure in Tajikistan. But what is offered as evidence of Russian assistance isn’t in fact evidence of that. Rather everyone was kept poor by the state, Mirovich says.

One reason the mythology of Moscow or Russia “feeding” everyone else lives on, he continues, is that much that was produced in one place was shipped to others without anyone who produced it benefiting. Thus meat products produced at a factory outside of Minsk were dispatched to places beyond the borders of Belarus.

But these things didn’t go to the Russian people or to the Tajiks: they went instead to the Soviet nomenklatura or were sold abroad to raise money for what the nomenklatura wanted.

What makes Mirovich’s article worthy of note is that it suggests that the debate about the Soviet past is heating up and that class analysis which drives much thinking about injustice under the Putin system is now being extended back in time to the Soviet system out of which the Putin regime came and to which it would like it certain respects to return.

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Edited by: A. N.

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