Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Nick's sad, loan post touched on an interesting theme, nostalgia for the Soviet Union. In Russia itself, a wide segment of Soviet Soviet is obviously nostalgic for the Soviet past, even or especially Stalinism. One wonders how this could be possible, but history always has winners and losers and so perhaps it's not especially surprising that some current losers would hearken back to a time when they or the people they identify with were higher up in the pecking order.

Besieged Town of Gori Suffers Under Uncertainty

One can't completely condemn those in Stalin's hometown, or in Georgia in general, who take some pride in the largeness of Stalin's legacy, for good or evil. Then there is the nostalgia born of traumatic experience. People obviously get stuck in a time that was somehow more important than other times. World War II by itself, the Great Patriotic War, was a horrific event, but one understands that its survivors must view later life as somehow less real than the war years. Moreover, survivors must want to stay in touch with a time when many of their loved ones still lives. The tragedy itself probably invites people to stay rooted to the moment of loss.

Berlin Hotel Inspired By Communist Past

There's a whole literature of nostalgia that explains how this process works. This literature suggests that modernity and instability and radical change--see Berman's All That Is Solid Melts Into Air--lead to greater levels and more ac cute forms of nostalgia. Of course, the post-Soviet experience with economic shock treatments, political disintegration, gangsterism, and unbridled capitalism naturally lead to nostalgia. To use the title of one book on American nostalgia, Russians probably miss "the way things never were."

And, to be fair, there probably are a few things that are worth missing, such as relative economic equality, political stability, international power and prestige, and visions of a communist utopia that was always on the horizon. To a lesser extent, it's also interesting to reflect upon nostalgia in the West. As Nick says, CCCP gear are back in vogue. I suspect this Western nostalgia will grow and the Cold War becomes more surreal, Stalin's crimes more distant, etc.

And perhaps we do have some things to mourn in terms of international system stability and some form of perceived alternative to the existing economic or cultural system in the West.

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