The Spectacle Blog

The Tragedy of Communism Lives on in Russia

Government and people fear volunteerism two decades after communism collapses

By on 2.3.13 | 3:50PM

In the Soviet Union the government manifestly failed.  It oppressed and murdered its own citizens while leaving the mass of people in poverty.  However, since the illusion of success had to be maintained at all costs, volunteerism was discouraged.  After all, there were no problems which required private action.

Today the Russian government fails its people.  Not quite so dramatically as the old Soviet Union, but still, bad enough.  Without totalitarian controls, people now are volunteering to help those in need.  Which is wonderful.  But it isn't easy.

Reports the Washington Post:

The rapid emergence of volunteer efforts, fueled in large part by social media, coincides with the eruption of public political protest — and that’s not by happenstance. There is an overlap between the political opposition and those who have become fed up with a corrupt government that delivers little and who have decided to take matters into their own hands.

Legislation to regulate volunteers has been introduced in the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, by President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. Backers say it will ensure that volunteer activity conforms to the government’s priorities and doesn’t conflict with Kremlin policy.

Officials aren’t the only ones hostile to volunteerism. Russia’s Soviet past, when the government controlled all aspects of life, has left it with a population that is accustomed to the idea that the government should provide for its citizens and that is suspicious of volunteer organizations. A 2012 poll found that more than half the population disapproves of them, said Boris Dubin, a sociologist with the Levada Center in Moscow.

When communism collapsed hope for rapid reform and transformation of the Soviet empire was high.  It turns out that it was harder than most of us imagined for people to make the admittedly huge jump from totalitarian communism to democratic capitalism.  The Central and Eastern European states, which spent less time as part of the Evil Empire, recovered the most quickly, though Bulgaria and Romania continue to have difficulties even as members of the European Union.

However, the new countries which emerged from the U.S.S.R. suffered not only politically and economically, but culturally.  Including the widespread assumptions that government is supposed to take care of all problems and that people are supposed to do what the government wants.  The idea of people organizing to help one another remains foreign, more than two decades after the Soviet Union disappeared into oblivion.

The tragedy of Soviet communism continues.

 

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