More than one forth century has elapsed after the disintegration of the USSR, but for many people, mainly for the youth, it is not clear why such the great and powerful state has broken down, which processes have caused the centrifugal strivings of the “fraternal” republics, their distancing from the “yoke of slavery of the Kremlin”.
From early 1980s, in several republics of 15 Soviet republics, among them – in Georgia, Lithuania, and Estonia, the waves of national independence aroused out – the people were told insistently – we work more than others, we feed the remainder USSR, while the other republics sit on our heads. As soon as we get rid of these parasites, our live will become not worse than in Europe and America. Long time has passed after that and, the results may be analyzed, now. Do the former soviet republics gaining independence, live better today?
Great and Powerful
Even at the end of its history, the USSR, despite its local problems still remained the powerful state. In 1990 the GDP of the USSR equaled to 1 trillion soviet ruble, the USA-RUBLE official exchange rate was 1/0,59. Therefore a nominal GDP of the USSR was 1,7 trillion USD. Besides, the soviet ruble was a free convertible currency and, in the global economy, the GDP was calculated with taking into account its purchasing power, for example, one could buy 1,5 times more product by 1 USD in China than in the USA, and 1,5 times less than in Switzerland and Norway
That is why, by view of the analysts, the GDP in the USSR, by its purchasing power, in 1990 equaled to 2,7 trillion rubles, i.e. 12,1% of the World GDP
For comparison: According to the data of the International Monetary Fund, in 1990 the GDP of USA was 5,8 trillion USD (26,1% of the world GDP), the GDP of Japan – 2,3 trillion USD (10,6% of the world GDP), the GDP of Germany – 1,6 trillion USD (7,3% of the world GDP), the GDP of Italy – 1,1 trillion USD (5.1% of the world GDP), the GDP of China – 1, trillion USD (5% of the world GDP), the GDP of France – 1,1 trillion USD (5% of the world GDP), the GDP of Brazil – 1,0 trillion USD (4,53% of the world GDP), the GDP of India – 997 milliard USD (4,5% of the world GDP), the GDP of Great Britain – 979 milliard USD (4,4% of the world GDP)
While by presumptions of the UN experts the economic power of the USSR made 14,2% of the world economy. i.e. almost 1,5 times higher than of Japan, 2-times higher than of Germany, and 3-times higher than of China
In several republics of the USSR a spread idea was that if they take their share from the enormous power of the USSR, they could become such the respectable and rich countries like Sweden or Austria were. So it was seen by figures. For example, economy of the Socialist Republic of Ukraine in terms of per capita steel smelting, coal extraction, wheat harvesting and other indicators, was similar to the indicators of the EU locomotive – Federal Republic of Germany. Therefore, the Ukrainian elite (and not only) decided to get the so rich soviet heritage in its suitcase and leave the USSR. Where is now the Ukraine and, where is Germany?
In Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan an accent was made on wheat harvesting and cotton manufacturing, in Latvia and Lithuania – on development of electronics. In that times the Latvia-origin radio set “VEF” and Lithuania-origin refrigerator “Snaige”, as well As the TV set “Shilialis” were considered the best ones in the USSR. Sugar was mainly the Ukraine-origin, “Sprot” – of Riga, potatoes – of Belarus, swine and tea – of Georgia
In that time, as ordinary nationals of Uzbekistan, Estonia, or Lithuania thought, the Russians had only tanks, canons, submarines, nuclear bombs and “Jiguli” motor-cars, but, everybody knew that this car was the Italia-origin and then “spoiled” by Russians
Worker and Parasites
For the soviet ideology, it was essentially important to equalize the living standards in all republics, where initially, the economic indicators differed considerably from each other. That’ is why the huge capital investments were required . To them a pure political moments were added as well. For example, in the Baltic states they tried to create a certain “showcase of socialism”. IN order to demonstrate that in Yerevan or in Chisinau the living standards were not lower than in Moscow or Leningrad, as earlier as in 1960-70s a difference was made between labor and compensation. This difference reached at its peak in the last years of existence of the USSR
On the background of a formal equality, on the peripheries of the Soviet Union people was living better than in the central areas especially in Russia, where the shops were almost empty and “colored” only by the cakes and canned cans. A difference between the living standards in the soviet republics is well seen in the table, which was shadowed from the public by ideological reasons and which was pu8blished only after disintegration of the USSR
But, it cannot be excluded that if these data were available, some of the republics could re-consider their views regarding leaving the USSR
Production and Consumption indicators
Republic Production* Consumption** Balance
Russia 17,5 11,8 +5,7
Belarus 15,6 12 +3,6
Ukraine 12,4 13,3 -0,9
Kazakhstan 10,1 17,7 -7,6
Uzbekistan 6,6 17,4 -10,8
Lithuania 13 23,3 -10,3
Azerbaijan 8,3 16,7 -8,4
Georgia 10,6 41,9 -31,3
Turkmenistan 8,6 16,2 -7,6
Latvia 16,5 26,9 -10,4
Estonia 15,8 35,8 -20
Kirgizstan 7,2 11,4 -4,2
Moldova 10 13,4 -3,4
Armenia 9,5 29,5 -20
Tajikistan 5,5 15,6 -10,1
* Per capita GDP (thousand USD)
** Sum (in money) of goods and products consumed by the republics (thousand USD)
If take as an unit measure the wealth produced and consumed in Russia, it becomes clear that per capita production in Armenia was twice lower than in Russia, but, consumption was 2,5-times higher. Per capita consumption in Estonia was 3times higher than in Russia, while in Georgia, people lived 3,5-times better than in Russia.
But, at the end of 1980s when the general living standards in the USSR was lowering gradually – deficit created in clothes food products, consumable goods, etc., a certain national identity arose in many republics – Enough to feed others! Since Russia is so poor, it means that they do not work and do not know how to work well, that is why we’d better to separate from them”. But Russia, from each 3 rubles it worked out, 2 left for itself and 1 sent to the common soviet piggy bank. Because of this third 1 ruble the republics lived better.
It should be noted that the Russia’s share in the GDP of the USSR was 60,33%, share of Ukraine – 17,5%,Uzbekistan – 2%,Kazajhstan – 6,8%,Belarus – 2,7%,Azerbaijan – 1,9%, Tajikistan – 0,6%, Kirgizstan – 0,5%, Turkmenistan – 1%, Georgia – 1,2%, Moldova – 0,7%, Armenia – 0,4%,Lituania – 1,7%, Latvia – 1% and Estonia – 0,7%
Disintegration of the USSR turned out the most painful for the Russia’s economy where almost in all branches the problems were created. The situation was similar in all other soviet republics. However, Russia managed to come out and develop the economy. In 2015, the per capita GDP made 25,4 thousand USD (Data of the World Bank) which is 1,45 times higher of the indicator being fixed at the moment of disintegration. According to the Statistics Office of Georgia, per capita GDP in 2016 was 3852,5 USD. Current GDP in Ukraine is 2052 USD (Wikipedia), Lithuania – 14210 USD, Latvia – 13618 USD, Estonia – 19631 USD, Armenia – 3047 USD, Azerbaijan – 6794 USD, Kazakhstan – 10511 USD, Belarus 17700 USD
These figures show clearly, who fed whom in the USSR and who suffered most as a result of its destruction
5 Myths on the USSR
Myth No.1: People in the USST had law wages
Many people wants to believe that he/she lives much better than his/her ancestors, but, the facts should be taken here into account: According to calculations made by the experts, If the USSR was not disintegrated but existed in the same form, in early 1990s 80% of the population could have higher wages than they have today
Beginning from 1950s, wages of the soviet people were increasing permanently and, at the end of 1980s reached at average 150-300 rubles. At the end of the soviet era 1 ruble was sufficient to but many things: 50 notebooks for pupils, or 10 kg potatoes, or 5 breads, or 33 tram tickets, or 20 kg tomatoes, or 4 tickers in cinema, etc. Price of the refrigerator “Saratov” was 200 rubles. “Minsk” (with two chambers) – 500 ruble, chair – 11 ruble, etc. It should be noted also that that there was no unemployment in the USSR. Anon-working person could be punished by law
Myth No.2.The level of medicine in the USS was very low
The level of the medicine in the USSR still remains a subject of discussions. But, in many fields of medicine – ophthalmology, cardio-surgery, therapy, , the soviet specialist were the beast in the world. Of course her was a certain shortcomings, but, a free medical service was a serious relief for the soviet people.
Myth No.3 . Low quality educational system of the USSR
Education ibn the USSR was available and mass, free-of charge. There existed a net of additional education – music and art schools, dance studios sports sections. Free summer camps for pupils. Higher education was also free-of-charge. As to the quality of education, in Georgia for instance, indicates the number of specialists who received education in the soviet period and are today working in the leading foreign scientific centers
It should be noted that all the ministries of education in all soviet republics knew the 5-years later demand of this or that branch in specialists and, based on this need the higher educational institutions were preparing students with their further guaranteed employment
The recently published data indicate also the educational quality level in the USSR and current Georgia: in 2017 examinations, 11000 pupils failed
Myth No.4. At and Culture in the Soviet Union served for the ideology and were of a low quality
Here, let’s remind the movie masterpieces: “War and Peace” (Oscar – for the best foreign movie – 1969); “Dersu Uzala” (Oscar – 1975); “Moscow does not believe in tears” (Oscar – 1981), “Mirror”; “Father of a Soldier“, “Blue Hills”, “Feola”, “Record”, “Kvevri”, etc. Famous Georgian actors and actresses – Akaki Khorava, Sergo Zakaraidze, Erosi Manjgaladze, Ramaz Chkhikvadze, Ipolite Khvichia, Otar Megvinetukhutsesi, Veriko Anjaparidze, Sesilia Takaishvili, Sopiko Chiaureli,,etc.
Great theatrical performances of the soviet era: “Chincraka”, “The Caucasian Chalk Circle”, “King Lear”, “Uriel Acosta”, etc.
But now, whom the Georgian society watch at? – tasteless Turkish and Indian serials and “Friends of my wife”
During the soviet era Galaktion Tabidze,Mukhran Machavariani,Murman Lebanidze, Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, Nodar Dumbadze, Chabua Amirejibi, Guram Dochanashvili, Otar Chiladze and others have created their masterpieces in the literature
Just during the soviet era realized fully their talent the famous Georgian artists: Lado Gudiashvili, Elene Akhvlediani, David Kakabadze, Merab Berdzenishvili, Elguja Amashukeli
Myth No.5. Soviet sportsmen were not competing with foreigners
To destroy this myth, even one fact is enough: In 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, 16 sportsmen from Georgia gained 5 gold, 2 silver, and 5 bronze medals – the highest result in the Georgian sports history . And, if remind triumph of Dinamo Tbilisi in 1981,in UEFA Cup of Cup Winners and compare that level of Georgian football to the current (118th position in FIFA rating), everything becomes clear
Prepared by Nila Korinteli