Thursday, February 5, 2009

Life in the Soviet Union

This is how Soviet people lived (I assume people know this, but 1 ruble = 100 kopeyek; I am using Russian plural endings, because this is the proper way to do it):
1 kopeyka — a box of matches
2 kopeiki — call a girlfriend
3 kopeiki — a glass of soda water with syrup, or a trip on a street car
4 kopeiki — call a girlfriend twice and get a wrong number once, or a trip on a trolley bus
5 kopeyek — a small glass of sunflower seeds (to go)
9 kopeyek — milk ice cream
13 kopeyek — butter ice cream
14 kopeyek — a piece of “block” bread
22 kopeiki — chocolate ice cream “Leningrad”
56 kopeyek — 1 dollar
1 ruble 12 kopeyek — 2 dollars
2.87, 3.62, 4.12 rubles — three bottles of vodka
8.80 rubles — a night trip by taxi to the railroad station and back. On the way there, buy flowers for a girl, give the cab driver a tip and lose 3 rubles
44 rubles — a University student’s stipend. Crazy money.
160 rubles — the goal of life. Dirty money if necessary.
5000 rubles — Zhiguli
10,000 rubles — Volga (in theory. In reality, due to deficit, you had to be in a line to buy a car, and after that, it cost a lot more.)
15,000 rubles — 1o years of prison with confiscation of property
1 million — no such number
300 million — the number of people living in the USSR
But hey, people had free education, free medicine and free service in the army.

* * *

An amazing post by Artemiy Lebedev on Russian food. You really have to understand Russian to get the context; my favorites were:
  • being able to pick the bread by poking it with fingers to check for freshness
  • being able to cut bread in halves or quarters
  • milk brand was called Milk — levels of fat were labeled by cap color
  • butter was cut with metal wire and weighed
  • eggs were bought in numbers — if you bought at least 30, you could get the container, otherwise, you’d put them all in a bag
  • you paid first, got a receipt, brought it to the “cashier” who put all the receipts on a metal spike, calculated in hear head and using the abacus that the sum was correct and then gave you the produce
  • if you wanted to insult the cashier, you could buy a single egg
  • a produce store, liquor store, paper store, toy store, butcher store “director” could be sure his children would get into a University
  • no plastic bags — you brought your own bag or carried things in hands
I lived the total of seven years of my life under Communism, but I remember almost all of this. Aah, the nostalgia!..

Lebedev tells a joke regarding the picture above:
A Soviet and an imported chicken legs are lying in a store and having a conversation:
— Look at you: you’re all skinny, venous, blue, hairy!
— Yeah, but at least I had a natural death.
If you think this is funny, it’s not. I am not talking about the joke — the whole topic. That’s what spreading the wealth accomplishes. Americans have seen something likes this, during the Great Depression. Two to four generations of Soviets lives their lives through this.

But yeah, capitalism is evil. No question about it.

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