The Cold War Is Over: Memories of the USSR from 1990

The Cold War Is Over: Memories of the USSR from 1990, by Peter Hitchens. Some excerpts:

The comparison of today’s Russia to yesterday’s U.S.S.R. is baseless. I know this, and rage inwardly at my inability to convey my understanding to others.

On the overpowering presence of the state (remember, “government is just what we do together” according to today’s enthusiasts for big government in the west):

Even births (annually outnumbered toward the end of the U.S.S.R. by abortions) were fiercely regimented. In terrifying maternity hospitals, short of necessary basics and none too clean, newborn Russians were snatched away by nurses, wrapped tightly, and brought back at set times for feeding, then snatched away again. Fathers were not allowed to visit for many days, and mothers would hang strings from the windows, bearing notes pleading for bars of chocolate or other comforts and giving news of the baby’s progress.

Family life, once begun, was precarious and fraught. Divorce had been made very easy by the family-hating Bolsheviks. One wedge-shaped Wedding Palace was known as “the Bermuda Triangle” because all the marriages contracted in it disappeared so quickly. I do not think I ever met a Soviet couple with two children who were full brothers and sisters. Invariably, it was a merger of two broken marriages into one new one.

And no wonder. All the things that keep families together were absent or weak. Rents and prices were devised to ensure that even the educated middle class needed two full-time salaries to pay the bills. Unless there was a retired grandmother around, children were inevitably abandoned in early infancy to state nurseries and became the state’s charges.

By the time I was there, the hideous state-sponsored cult of Pavlik Morozov [a 13-year-old boy who denounced his father to the authorities and was in turn killed by his family], was fading, but friends of mine remembered, sometimes with a shudder, being marched to pay respects to statues of this little monster, and to sing songs in his praise at Soviet youth gatherings. [The cult had a huge impact on the moral norms of generations of children, who were encouraged to inform on their parents.]

St Basil's cathedral, Russia

The damage done to generations is yet to be undone:

The generation most fully exposed to this propaganda was permanently warped. One of these worked for me as a translator. She had been born into the elite in the 1940s and as a teenage girl had attended dances among the brown marble pillars of the KGB social club behind the Lubyanka prison. When I questioned her about Morozov, she shuddered. At the time, she had been taken in by the propaganda, only to learn in the long years after just how deceived she had been.

I could not possibly condemn her, nor the other Russians I knew who, like she did, viewed Christianity with lip-curling cynicism, mixed with deep ignorance. They had been marked for life, and it was not their own fault. They felt this wound, and so did their children, who in many cases have turned toward the cross their parents had been taught to despise, because they have seen what a world without Christ actually looks like. Would that their Western counterparts, who think atheism bold and original, could have that knowledge without the accompanying pain.

It’s a pity that our government schools don;t teach more Soviet and Russian history. A lot of it would be more relevant than the endless social justice and climate change propaganda that they are taught.

hat-tip Stephen Neil