The monolithic period of repression
In the cities, fear of losing one’s job or drawing the attention of the ORGANS forced people to blend into the masses of other similarly grey and lifeless people. Hiding family tragedies, when loved ones were taken away. Leaving and changing your name in order to save yourself and your children. Repudiating your relatives. The government killed people’s trust, friendship and nobility. Imagine how lonely a person was – a part of the apparently monolithic Soviet society.
Under Stalin, collective farmers were practically serfs, but they were also supposed to feign happiness.
After the condemnation of Stalin’s cult of personality, Khrushchev’s amnesty filled the country not only with rehabilitated “political” but also criminals, who started to dictate their own orders.
In the ’60s, underground millionaires appeared. Around hotels where foreigners stayed, black marketers would try to fool people. Dissidents appeared. The U.S.S.R.’s first subculture sprung up in kitchens. The generation of the ’60s got a bit of freedom and a bit of new information. And that needed to be digested. Young intellectuals argued at night over vodka or strong tea about the fate of Russia, passed around heavily worn “samizdat” books, and sang the songs of Okudzhava and Galich. The academician Sakharov began his human rights activity. That’s when civic society was born.
The times changed, and the KGB could no longer carry out mass terror, but it could still expose and imprison “people of a foreign opinion” – there’s a key phrase from those times. It’s very much in the Soviet-style. Consider: a person’s blame lies in the fact that he tried to get more information and, as a result, began to see the world and think differently than his fellow citizens. To the camps with him. These dissidents of a foreign opinion, as a rule, were educated residents of big cities.
Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of the country’s population in the years of stagnation (the ’70s and ’80s) more and more quickly degraded: they were stealing and drinking more – not only men, but by that time women, too; the level of culture was falling, vulgarities became a regular part of the vocabulary; young people in the villages left for the cities. Some of them left to study, others to join the ranks of youth gangs.
At the dawn of perestroika, when society woke up and hopes were high, in a televised debate on what’s more important for the country – economics, politics or culture – the academic D.S. Likhachyov drew society’s attention to the danger of degradation and insisted that preserving culture as the moral base of society was most important. People didn’t want to listen to him.
Yeltsin spoke the fateful words “enrich yourself” – and a wave of crime washed over Russia. It was the consequence of a 70-year absence of ethical norms. Meanwhile the Soviet Union was dying.
Text of the Trailer
‘Once, on the dance floor, I was, what you would call it, insulted. So right there I got together some of my mates. About twenty-odd of us got together and we caught up the guy in a quiet side-street and beat him up brutally. He fell, I recall, tried to raise himself on his hands, and we started kicking him; even something in his chest juddered. Even now I cannot forget it’
‘…there would not have been such debauchery, immorality, and so on, if people had not forgotten the Biblical and gospel rules of reciprocal behaviour. The absence of these solid moral foundations, based on the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, allowed immorality, shamelessness and not only disrespect for things holy, but also mutual disrespect for the human individual, for the spiritual aspect of the person, to become commonplace.’
‘…In the countryside, there has always been in some way respect for elders, and not just for the clergy; at that time children were likely taught to respect their elders in general, and to respect the priest all the more so. Everyone called him “Dear Father”, of course. And, well, I’ve told you we loved it when, say, we caught him up and greeted him and said to him: “Hello, Dear Father!” and we sounded a bit like a chorus. And then he would put his hand to his, he had this black cap, and he would say: “Hello, young ladies.” We really liked that!’
‘…prostitutes who were in some way linked with foreigners were put in prison then. By the way, those who married during the war were classed as prostitutes. There were some. There was a whole category. Very unfortunate.’
‘In our day, no one ever meddled in anyone else’s private life. That was the most stringent taboo for us. It was impossible for anyone to find out who your children were, or whether your wife was there, or anyone else, in our day.’