Friday, October 05, 2018

Donald J. Raleigh: 'Soviet Baby Boomers' (2012), Part II

Donald J. Raleigh, Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Russia's Cold War Generation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

"Soviet teachers were among the strongest believers in socialist values." (page 94)

From the Young Pioneer manual: "'It will be the best, the most just and the happiest society on earth.'" (page 110)

"influence, connections, and pull -- blat in Russian." (page 118)

Soviet schools: "They instilled in their charges basic human values that would be appreciated in most societies." (page 118)

A Soviet Baby Boomer about living in the 1960s: "'We always had decent food; we went to the theatre, to the movies, to the circus, and to whatever else was of interest. We didn't differ from other average people of our time.'" (p. [120]).

Many Soviet Baby Boomers developed an "identification with a larger global youth culture;" guys in particular tinkered with space-related themes (page 121).

"Many female Baby Boomers loved theatre, ballet, dancing, reading, hanging out with friends . . . Olga Gorelik liked to read, draw, go to the movies, and spend time with her girlfriends." (page 122) 

Many enjoyed sporting events. Pioneer palaces gave people places to hang out. (pages 122-124) Kids loved to play in apartment courtyards (dvor), too. (page 125)

On social relationships, Raleigh notes: "Friendship lacks a definition that works for all times, places, and peoples, because the phenomenon is a cultural and historical one that changes over time: the type of society determines the nature of friendships." (page 126) Soviet friends provided emotional and practical support for each other, and they could counter or at least alter government and family controls (pages 126-127). A fair number of high school friends remain friends for life. (page 127)

"The Soviet Union prided itself in being the 'most reading' nation," and many continue to read heartily long after the collapse of the USSR. Friends traded books and they also utilized libraries, like many sensible people still do wherever they are available. "Reading conferred status" (page 129). During an interlude in the 1960s, Mikhail Bulgakov (Master and Margarita), Solzhenitsyn (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) Kafka and Kierkegaard were published (pages 130-131). Samizdat (underground writings produced in the USSR) and tamizdat (things smuggled into the country from the outside) also made the rounds (page 131) -- and made reading all the more exciting, no doubt. Eventually, photocopy machines sped up the process of underground writing production. (page 132)

Movies opened up portals to other worlds (as T. Bone Burnett, an American Baby Boomer, has put it, after growing up in conservative Fort Worth, Texas). These were real social events: "it was always something you simply had to see. . . not only so that you could take part in conversations but also because they really were worth seeing" (such as Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky films) . Through cultural diffusion, in came American jazz, Western fashion and music, and exotic tastes. (page 135)

"'[B]ut it was difficult to get hold of such things. . . and we need to "get hold of" them. The meaning of the very "get hold of" is probably uniquely Russian' . . . it means acquiring something with great difficulty." (page 136)

Tape recorders became popular when they were made available -- music could be recorded and shared, especially underground material: "'forbidden fruit is always sweet.'" (page 140)

[To be continued.]

Today's Rune: Possessions.

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