“If the Soviet Union was so bad, then why didn’t people flee?”

Captain Capitalism who is a very intelligent and kind person and who always promotes me on his massively popular blog sent in the following question:

If the Soviet Union was so bad, then why didn’t people flee?

I ask because (in the case of a Vietnamese friend) the North Vietnamese “said” they would allow anybody who wanted to, to leave.  Well, that ended up not being true.  North Korea people can’t “just leave” but it’s on a peninsula and with mountains so the passes can be guarded.

But the Soviet Union just seems so big and so vast with sparsely populated areas, I can’t see how the government could effectively stop somebody who was determined from fleeing.

Additionally, couldn’t you, say, fly to Finland, then to the UK and then declare you were defecting?

I know this sounds stupid, but I would love to post your answer on my blog because it would be of interest to my readers.

The question doesn’t sound in the least stupid to me. The Soviet reality is so different from anything people have experienced or can imagine in other countries that it is, indeed, very difficult to comprehend it.

Leaving the USSR was next to impossible. People who applied for visas (mostly the Jews who had relatives outside of the country) were persecuted, sometimes imprisoned, and sometimes placed in psychiatric wards. The idea behind this was that anybody who wanted to leave the Soviet paradise had to, of necessity, be insane. Such people would be put on massive amounts of powerful psychotropic drugs with the goal of “curing” them of their desire to emigrate.

The only people who could leave the country for a short visit overseas were the ones who were considered “reliable” by the regime. You had to be an artist going on a tour or a very famous scientist traveling to a conference with a group of other Soviet people, many of whom were KGB informants and were following your every move. Of course, if you were a Jew, you wouldn’t be able to travel at all because Jews were considered unreliable by default.

All of this vigilance didn’t always work and some of the artists or scientists did end up asking for refuge in the countries they visited. This meant that they would never see their families again and could not even hope to get in touch with their relatives back in the USSR. People were never allowed to travel with their families, and who could face losing everybody you know and love for good? Single people were not allowed to travel precisely for this reason. If you wanted to work as a diplomat, for example, you had to get married because only then could the government keep your wife and children as hostages whenever it liked to do so.

In Captain Capitalism’s reality, people can just get on a plane and fly to Finland. This is a great, beautiful reality, and I really love it that there are people in the world who think in these terms. A Soviet person, however, could not have imagined such a possibility. Even traveling by train from one city to another in the USSR was very problematic. You needed to be prepared to show paperwork explaining why you needed to travel just to buy a ticket. Getting on a train or a plane to travel within the country was extraordinarily difficult. And when I imagine a poor Soviet citizen approaching the ticket counter at a Soviet airport and asking for a ticket to Finland (Bulgaria, Poland, etc.), I feel bad for that hypothetical Soviet traveler already. This person would have ended up at the police station and then the psychiatric hospital within minutes.

Gosh, folks, you couldn’t even make a phone call to another country. Talking to a foreign tourist in the street would put you in jail. We were completely isolated from the world because the Soviet government knew that the only way to keep people from running away in droves was to lock them down.

It’s true that Siberia is vast and sparsely populated. Obviously, nobody could guard the entire expanse of the border perfectly. However, you have to possess very special training to survive the climatic conditions. Besides, you need to know where exactly to go to have a chance to cross the border. Remember that one thing that you could never ever hope to purchase in the USSR was a map. Of anything. All maps were top secret. Also, a person who tried fleeing the country in that way – even if s/he were successful – was destroying the lives of every family member for generations to come as a result of the flight. How many people can face something like this?

I hate the Soviet Union.

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125 comments on ““If the Soviet Union was so bad, then why didn’t people flee?”

  1. Although I never visited the USSR I share your hatred of it. In 1963 I travelled by train from France to Poland. As soon as we arrived in East Germany, the government thugs were out, pouring through our personal items and roughing us up. Again as we left West Berlin, the same disgusting thuggery. Poland was much nicer, such a relief to be free from the neo-Nazis of East Germany. The Poles utterly despised the Russians, viewing them as an inferior species in every way but guns. And from what I saw of them in Lodz and Warsaw, they were completely correct. Animals, I thought of them, and still do. Never civilized and maybe never will be as long as they remain in their own country. It is the people that make a country, and the culture that identifies a people. In Russia that it is a very bad mix. At least most of the Russian men die young. That is a blessing, as the population declines, and the nation weakens.

    • My husband is Russian and he refuses to watch TV shows from Russia because it traumatizes him too much to see what his own people are like. Most people don’t understand that I didn’t emigrate because of poverty or to improve my finances. I was not poor back in Ukraine. It’s the daily indignities of everyday life, the aggression, the anger, the cynicism, the endless prostitution of everybody and everything that I couldn’t stand.

      The ideologues of the Soviet Union set out to transform the very nature of human beings (as they always said very openly.) They succeeded and tragically so. I traveled to Cuba and saw the exact same people: miserable, angry, aggressive, cynical, etc. This is a system that brings out the absolute worst in people.

      • Your writing is very interesting on this topic. One of the worst situations I faced was working at a Labor union, where they tried to change my character structure. There was a profound degree of cynicism in this place about human nature. You couldn’t do anything pleasurable, because it was a sign you were giving in to your humanity. I think the core of this ideology was driven by the Catholics in the organisation. The right faction of the left-wing Labor party in Australia has a lot of union support and I was working at a relatively conservative union.

        Human dignity was degraded because the goal was to “shape” people, and to make them earn their respect. Any amount of protest against this was considered to be a sign of attempted political or emotional manipulation.

        Trying to put up with this ended up breaking down my digestive system, which hasn’t fully recovered to this day. I wish people would learn we can’t shape adults, who have already developed a shape of their own. Trying to shape children isn’t all that better.

      • Layer upon layer of traumatisation. I’ve even had people assert that the fact that I, at one time, tried to accommodate all the demands for change, by changing myself, meant I had an unstable sense of self.

        Once you engage with evil people, the effect of their force field is hard to resist.

        The good news is, I’ve finally found a way through — by giving up.

        You know, if an assailant has you in a bear hug, you can find that difficult to resist, but if he grabs you when you have a lot of air in your chest, you can suddenly let all the air out and make your body go limp. You can then drop to the ground and escape.

        This is what I’ve finally managed to do on a psychological level, because the more I resisted, the worse it was becoming for me.

      • I live in northern Siberia and i want my nation back i hate people who complain like this we work for are nation i want my soviets union back instead of this prick head Putin and this retarded flag they call Russian its an insult

    • // As soon as we arrived in East Germany, the government thugs were out, pouring through our personal items and roughing us up.

      Personal items of travelling to US are well checked too. The technology is more efficient, more advanced, so it may be easier on the travellers. However, what I read about security checks on US citizens, let alone foreigners, doesn’t sound too pleasant.

      Israel too checks very well who & what comes in.

      // Animals … At least most of the Russian men die young. That is a blessing, as the population declines, and the nation weakens.

      Long Live The Cold War!

  2. This underlines why the glibertarian response to state-level oppression (pack up and leave and live somewhere else) is so full of shit. Like every other authoritarian, the USSR made it hard to leave. That’s because one of the first things any authoritarian does is prevent people from leaving (not to mention the fact that not everyone can just pack up and leave). And yet they expect (say) theocrats taking over a state to just idly let people leave.

    • Every Libertarian I ever talked to lives in a world of his own where no knowledge of understanding of how things in the real world work is even remotely present. It is a very childish, fairy-tale world where everything will work out just like thr Libertarian wants it work in some inexplicable magic way. It’s especially curious to see this magical thinking in those Libertarians who claim to be atheists.

      • B.S. Clarissa. This comment is an excellent generalization, devoid of any truth. You asked someone you know? I got here from Small Dead Animals, and it’s the first and last time.
        I am amazed at how naive you are. ‘Every Libertarian’? CC’s question makes him ignorant? I wonder if you will get any more links from him. I certainly wouldn’t give you any.
        I am an agnostic Libertarian. I live in the real world and I value the things we have here in North America. Life in most of the rest of the world sucks. I have friends who emigrated from Cuba, so I know the details of life there. Another friend emigrated from the Ukraine. He had a nice job but left when he was 25. Today he has a big home, a boat and drives a Mercedes. He even was able to get his mother to emigrate a few years later.
        You are certainly entitled to your opinion but insulting Libertarians with your vapid comments achieves what, exactly?

      • “You are certainly entitled to your opinion but insulting Libertarians with your vapid comments achieves what, exactly?”

        - The same purpose as everything I do: entertaining me.

      • Meh. stupid comment. I suspect that you don’t actually know any libertarians. Either you make up your friends and acquaintances or, like you they are simple minded and don’t actually know what a libertarian is. It is clear that you don’t.

      • I’m only speaking of Libertarians who have visited my blog. It is hardly my fault that better quality ones never came by, you know. :-)

        If those better quality Libertarians do exist, you could always give me some links where I could find them.

  3. I’m reminded of a Mark Steel quote. “Few things can be more obvious than the fact that Marx was wrong. If you had a party one night, and found the only way to keep the guests there was with a 50 foot high wall (and even then, some of them were building a hot air balloon in an effort to escape), you wouldn’t say, “well, that was a successful evening”.

  4. Wow. Just…wow. I’m sorry, but eloquence fails me. I am sad to say that I learned a lot from your post. I do not want to be just another ‘ignorant American’ who doesn’t know or appreciate the realities of other times and cultures. But I have to admit that your description was news to me. It sounded like a movie or a book. I realize that many Americans see life through the double lens of our own culture AND the 21st century (like children who think the only way anyone communicates is via twitter)…but the harsh realities you presented still almost sounded like exaggeration. A sort of, “it couldn’t have been THAT bad..could it?” mentality.

    I wonder if I am reacting negatively to something that doesn’t fit into a nice neat “everyone join hands and be happy” worldview — not a pleasant thought — or if America has subtly been downplaying those realities for years. Or maybe those of us who grew up in the cold war god used to the Soviets being “the big evil empire” and so we assumed our own government was playing up the threat to help us vote in the way they wanted?

    I am not explaining this well. Thank you for the explanation. I am sad about my ignorance, but ignorance can be cured

    • You are not in the least ignorant, Cicero. It’s impossible to know these things. Unless you read them on a blog somewhere. :-) When I first arrived in Canada, I had no idea how anything worked. Only an actual encounter with another culture or its representatives can serve as a useful source of information.

    • For me, the issue was that I expected the American government to lie about Russia, and other communist countries. They lied so regularly to promote their own interests, that when they told the truth, or part of it, I just assumed they were lying.

    • Wait a minute here. There are actually people who think that the US government was lying about conditions in the Soviet Union to keep people from voting Democrat? Seriously?

  5. actually Clarissa is right about most things… apart from some exaggerations. No maps? Seriously? I mean it might be difficult to get a detailed map of some border area… but I guess it is true also for US-Mexican border, at least for the time before Google maps.
    Traveling within the country for business or leisure was not a problem. However, one needed a permission of authorities to move within the country (as in changing permanent address)
    But it is true one could not just buy a ticket to Finland. There was such a thing as “exit visa”, a concept totally alien for Westerners. No exit visa – no travel. And one indeed had to be trustworthy (which usually meant being a party member) to be considered as having good reasons to travel abroad.
    Being jailed for talking to foreigners is a bit of an overkill again, at least for my and Clarissa’s lifetime. But you could get under KGB surveillance for that. My mother had to explain to KGB why she sent and received Christmas cards to foreign scientists. Meaning – why she did not limit her interactions with them with strictly job-related matters. Or why she had to spend couple of hours alone with a foreign scientist (the rule was that one should not be alone with a foreigner, there had to be at least two soviet citizens present at the same time, but the second person had some emergency)

  6. I remember when I was on a bus trip from St. Petersburg to Moscow that we were stopped at an internal checkpoint on the main road where our papers were checked so you had to have permission to travel from city to city in the USSR. There were some city maps but they were intentionally incorrect. When I crossed the Finno-Russian border, I had a machine gun pointed in my face so I know what you mean.

  7. All socialism leads to what you describe in the USSR. That is why so many of us hate liberals and want them stopped in their tracks. There are only two important fundamentals in humanity that matter …. freedom and health and you cannot have one without the other.

  8. Pingback: After the Chimurenga « muster you

  9. Any system so contrary to human nature will of necessity resort immediately to coercive behavior. A “managed economy” means nothing more than a “managed population”.

    I am certain it is going to soon come to blows with the Leftist fools in this country, the fools who refuse to learn these lessons from people who have already experienced it.

      • One such as the USSR had coercive behaviour as it’s central founding operative.

        Note the speed and brutality with which they disarmed the people. Note how there only incentive was wrapped with and in coercive behaviour.

        When reason will not work, then force is the only option. Reason was not a strong point of Marxism or the USSR.

  10. My Dad was invited to Moscow in the summer of 1970 to speak at a medical convention.We drove into USSR from Romania , We were re-routed due a cholera outbreak in the Crimea. Seem the police sent us up a road that they did not know was beside a secret air force base, where we glimpsed unique helicopters flying around. Our route took us from Kiev, Moscow and Leningrad and then out through Finland, after passing the base we suddenly found ourselves constantly meeting up with a well to do Russian family (Likely KGB) who wanted to be friendly to us. We accepted because suddenly everything became easier. We had a basic map bought in europe which surprised most policeman we encountered. They were not pleased to see us, as we could become a career ending event for them. The people themselves were decent to us and I was amazed at their mechanical aptitude and ability to fix almost anything. Shopping was bizarre as you had to go through 3 lineups to buy something, 1 to see what they had, one to pay for it and one to pick up the item, if they ran out, then you had to line up to get a refund.
    I was 10 years old when we did this, 3 months in a camper with 4 kids and 2 adults, I now realize just how hard my Mom worked at keeping us fed, clothed and not killing each other. It was an adventure and glimpse into a forbidden world, even at 10 I could see how mucked up the country was. The border guards confiscated all my comic books and I never forgave for that!

  11. Thanks for your post. It’s important to remember the past. Many of the, “I never realized life under the boot of an authoritarian murderous regime could be so harsh,” comments posted here are depressing. All the injustices you note were written about by many superb Russian writers. Start with The Gulag Archipelago; it will cure any misplaced USSR nostalgia.

  12. On a slightly different track, I recommend Marechera’s MINDBLAST. It starts with a youth being indoctinated by a giant cat. The cat wants him to say 2 plus 2 equals 4, but the youth insists it equals 5. The cat become more and more condemnatory: “I will reeducate you!” whilst the youth insists that reality can mean whatever he wants it to mean.

    This is paradoxical criticism of the stifling of creativity, especially that of writers, under Robert Mugabe’s Marxist regime.

    There were only a few hundred copies made of this excellent collection of sketches, poetry and some unfinished works. The order that it wasn’t allowed to be published in Zimbabwe was temporarily reversed — (or perhaps permanently so, but still there are no books available for purchase, and sellers request over 100 pounds for old copies). My university library copy, hurriedly printed by College Press, was yellowing, with many of the pages inserted in the wrong order (duplications, along with some pages missing).

    Other sections of the book are veiled criticisms of the regime, which tried to co-opt ambitious writers by offering them unproductive jobs in ‘The Ministry of Education’.

    Here’s another criticism of censorship from one of the long poems:

    Minds of every hue intermingle with matter
    Only of concern to the Censor; Athena
    And Malcolm X are the hosts, dealing
    Out dagga [marijuana] and kachasu (a lethal homebrew spirit) to freedom’s veterans.
    Black sky, dark stingray — O To drown in deep waters!
    This dried-up Lake Kariba
    Of censorship peering over
    Homer’s shoulder;
    That tumultuously waterless
    Victoria Falls
    Of writer after writer
    Hurled to the seething hell below.
    I gave her the pure bloom of jacaranda
    The fiery ecstasy of flamelilies
    The continuous gnawing delight
    That now is nothing but painful memory;
    And few the luminous seasons in her eyes
    Which to sheer adoration toss grudgingly
    Bits of psychological speculation,
    Bits of political condemnation.

    Were Hell other people
    And not myself I could willlingly
    Diagnose the scratchings at the other side
    Of the door.
    The telephone rings; from the other end of the line
    My name an voice introduce themselves: Poet.

  13. According to the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, this and worse are true of the USSR. Pretty women were raped by the KGB, everyday soldiers and police for simply being attractive.

    Socialism is pure evil and government is the tool to achieve socialism. It’s a permanent gun in you face, but so are all states.

    There is no good side or silver lining to these dark strorms.

    We can watch our own western states adopt every technique and employ new tortures and arm twisting.

    Don;t say it can’t happen here because it has happened here.

  14. People in Socialist countries eventually wake up. Canada finally began to after years of Lieberal Party rule and has switched to conservative (social, still infected by Progressives, but conservative.).

    • Quite right. Obviously, though, someone is giving thumbs down to every comment that points out the “soft socialism” in Western social democracies is merely Marxism in slow motion. These are the same people who explain away the miserable failure of Marxism as being due to inadequacies of particular leaders in a particular time and place. It’s never the rotten ideology itself that is to blame, according to such apologists. I will give Lenin credit for one thing, his sobriquet “useful idiots” was very apt indeed.

      • “These are the same people who explain away the miserable failure of Marxism as being due to inadequacies of particular leaders in a particular time and place. It’s never the rotten ideology itself that is to blame, according to such apologists.”

        - It annoys me more than I can say when people start telling me that Communism ONLY didn’t work in the 15 republics of the USSR, Cuba, China, North Korea, Cambodia, etc. because the conditions were not exactly right but it would totally work someplace else. Idiots.

  15. This post made me think of Jean-Michel Guenassia’s book “Le club des incorrigibles optimistes” (Incorrigible optimists’ club) about a group of Soviet emigrés in Paris during the 50s. The emigrés grumble about the French bureaucrats in the immigration department, who are all communists but have not had the pleasure of experiencing communism first-hand. They (the bearucrats) suspect the emigrés of being criminals and mental defectives – obviously no one else would want to leave the USSR.

  16. “… Additionally, couldn’t you, say, fly to Finland, then to the UK and then declare you were defecting? …”

    For the duration of the Cold War , Helsinki was the only air access in or out of the Soviet Union and as such was closely monitored.

    You ask … why not just walk across the basically unguarded Finnish border. First you would need the travel documents to get anywhere near the border , then you would need to walk through dense forest and snow in winter … or be eaten alive by insects in the summer. Try trekking across northern Ontario in spring to see what that is like.

    During a business trip to Finland in 1981 I was told a “black humour” Finnish joke.

    Khrushchev visits a pig farm and the reporters from Izvestia , Tass etc. tag along to report and they take a photo of Khrushchev among the pigs. When they return to Moscow the reporters try to caption the photo … Khrushchev visits pig farm …no …Khrushchev among the pigs … no … finally they agree … Khrushchev , third from the right.

    • I forgot to mention that at that time in Finland (1981) , Polish resentment of Russian occupation was beginning to boil over , and this made the Finn’s very nervous because they sensed that if the Russians invaded Poland to put down the fire , the Russians would also invade Finland for good measure.

      At that time a good percentage of the Finnish military was believed to be infested with KGB , so criticism of the Soviet Union was muted so as not to antagonize the Russians … hence the “black humour”.

      The “Evil Empire” cast a long shadow at that time.

  17. Wow, how old is Captain Capitalism? I grew up knowing all that stuff, why you just couldn’t up and “leave” a country behind the Iron Curtain. People have forgotten so many things in just a few years that it’s scary.

      • Oh yes, that one also makes me crazy. Sure, I’ll just quit my job and another will fall right into my lap right away and it will be the perfect job this time!

      • To just obtain another job, of any sort, in Western Australia, is extremely difficult. One would have to move to a bigger city. There’s no such thing as opting for lesser pay to be happier, since the job that gives you those options may not be available.

        WA is extremely regressive about gender. It’s a very isolated city — more like a big, rural town than anything cosmopolitan.

  18. Wonderful article. Right on the mark. Remember onlyh 12% of the population of the USSR were members of the Party. They also purged members from the party (sometimes by execution and others to the GULAG). Yes maps were considered state secrets. Communism is Cradel to Grave with the grave the most likely way to leave the country.

  19. You make a good point about leaving your family behind and the problems that it would cause for them. I was priveliged to have Vladislav Tarasov as one of my Russian teachers. There was a book written about his escape from the Soviet Union. (USSR vs. Tarasov: a test of Indian justice). Basically he jumped ship in the Indian ocean near Calcutta in order to ask for asylum in the US. The book was written by one of his Indian lawyers, and focuses mostly on the legal aspects of the case. As his
    student, I was much more familiar with the toll that this event took on the man and the family he left behind. In this event, not only could you not get permission to leave the country, the Soviets fought to have him extradited from India. While Vladislav Stepanovich’s story was an extreme example, every one of my Russian teachers had similar terrible stories of how they managed to escape the USSR.

    • Well, instead of falling into fit of hysteria upon hearing the word “socialism”, one could educate oneself about various models which are at work in different countries. There is the whole spectrum between the libertarianism offered as the only alternative to “socialism” and the Soviet-style socialism. And by European standards American democrats are pretty right-wing. Sorry if by “progressive overlords” you meant somebody to the left of the democrats… If we are so powerful, where can I get my share for being an overlord?

      • You know, some people fall into so-called fits of hysteria upon hearing the word socialism precisely because they know what it’s about. And just because Euro-socialism is a less overt and imminent form of the disease, doesn’t make it any less deadly. And no, American Democrats are not pretty right-wing, they’re European Social Democrat wanna-bes; they’ve just been prevented from implementing the SoDem Utopia at the same pace as the Europeans have.

      • Thanks for your feigned concern. I assume you mean your Soviet-style medical care. Perhaps you can report me.

    • Could the esteemed conservatives explain their vision of the future, then? Given the globalization, increase of population and technical progress. As a result of which significant fraction of population (either world population, or population within a given country if said country self-isolates) will not be able to earn a living by means ideologically acceptable to the libertarians. Everything necessary for the whole population will be produced by a fraction of the population. And then what? Active violent population reduction measures? Who will decide whom to “reduce”? Are you hoping those deciding will be on your side? Just letting those unemployed (and without health insurance) die out? What if they disagree and fight back? Just as you undoubtedly would, in their place.
      You know, not all liberals are just creators of fuzzy pro-Obama ads. :) Some can shoot pretty well. Do not get me wrong, I am not going to join violent socialist revolution. Too suspicious of too much socialism myself. Know too well what characters may come to power. Obama will feel one of the saints of capitalism by comparison. :) Just when it gets to free for all shootout for resources (and it is either that or peaceful redistribution), I may forget my humanism and take out a couple of conservative bloggers… if they get brave enough to not only blog but attempt some libertarianism in action. :) Just in self-defense. :) :)
      Clarissa, sorry for the macho-rant. :) :)

      • “Given the globalization, increase of population and technical progress. As a result of which significant fraction of population (either world population, or population within a given country if said country self-isolates) will not be able to earn a living by means ideologically acceptable to the libertarians.”

        - These folks have a very parochial vision. They can’t even begin to imagine anything a little bit different from their own experience.

        “Clarissa, sorry for the macho-rant. ”

        - As long as you enjoy yourself. :-) This whole thing has to serve some useful purpose, eh?

      • Why only three “thumbs down”? But it does not surprise me that no one offered any libertarian vision of the future not involving a free for all shootout…

      • I don’t see anything in that post that makes sense – as Neils Bohr used to say – there were three types of research papers: Right, Wrong, and not even wrong. I might as well argue with a poem in Alice in Wonderland.

  20. I visited the Soviet Union in the summer of 1979, as a 15 year old student, with a group of students from my school. We spent a little time in Moscow and 3 weeks in Leningrad, working on language skills.

    Everybody on the streets had a look of total depression. All the time. It was blatantly obvious that they were all miserable.

    When I got home, I joined the NRA.

  21. An interesting discourse. I never visited the USSR, but I have studied it fairly well, including some earlier Russian history.

    President Reagan had it right: the Soviet Union was truly an “evil empire.” It not only ruled its citizens with an iron fist and terrorized them with immense cruelty, but it extended its reach and subjugated a number of countries prior to World War II: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Armenia, Mongolia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, White Russia and so forth. After WW II the USSR occupied subjugated a number of additional European nations, like Poland and Hungary. Russia was the driving force in this so-called union thus becoming the worst of imperialists in the modern era. Recall Russia’s posture of moral superiority toward the “imperialists” of the West?

    The USSR was one enormous lie from beginning to end, and to maintain that lie it established a vast archipelago, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it so well, of slave camps and prisons many deep in the Siberian and Arctic wilderness, or in the deserts of the south. And for those who denounced the lie? They would be charged with anything from “slandering the state” to “parasitism.” The ‘show trials’ were farces that could bring death or decades in prison or exile to Siberia never to return.

    The consequence of this implementation of Marxist-Leninist socialism? Estimated “death by government” ranges from 80 million to 140 million people in Communist states. For the USSR it’s 20 million to 65 million. Think about it. Think hard. The slaughter of tens of millions and enslavement of the rest was the price of Communism.

    You have made a good start, Clarissa.

  22. Pragmatically speaking it would be hard for anyone to move, let alone run for the border, in a country where cars were limited to a lucky few and rail and air transportation were heavily regulated and watched.

    In a country where freedom of movement did not exist, anyone walking along the roads or countryside would’ve looked extremely out of place, particularly if that person went into towns and cities for food, water, and other essentials as they would most certainly have had to do.

    Through decades of effort the Soviet Union never could create the perfect communist man that they envisioned despite having everything at their disposal to do so.

    Still there are instances of Soviets making a break for freedom, mostly those who were charged with guarding the borders. Many reports have been filed about a brave East German/Soviet border guard making a run for a visible American unit on the other side while his own unit refused to fire and simply watched him run as if they envied him.

    Similarly when the 3rd reich initially invaded the Soviet Union many red army soldiers surrendered willfully to the Wehrmacht and greeted them as liberators.
    It was only when the SS Army units arrived and began the wholesale massacre of the Slavs did the red army return to strength. Though at that point they fought out of defense of their homelands they still did so with the threat of a bullet in the back from their own party leaders in the field. This was not only the standard during WWII but was part of the plan were war in Europe to break out during the Cold War.

    Life in the Soviet Union left the people truly stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    Today in America we are stuck between Barack and a hard place.

    • “I hear that Obama is travelling around NY today scouting out sites for post election FEMA concentration camps. ”

      - I’m sure he will still have time to squeeze us all against that hard place. :-)

      I think I’ve had too much coffee.

  23. When I was a child, my parents bought their first TV, (1953). One of the most powerful things that EVER made an impression on me was seeing videos on it of people trying to escape Communist East Germany by trying to make it over the Berlin wall and other parts of the border. Men, women, (and maybe children as I can’t remember), were gunned down and left hanging on the barbed wire.
    It was reported that they had to bring guards in from the interior with special screening. These were rotated on a nightly basis so that they could not develope friendships with their peers/get to know them and whether they could dare not to shoot without being exposed.
    Even at 10-12 years of age I knew that the Communist system must be very evil system if people would die trying to escape it.

    I read the word Libertarian tossed about by some of you people. I doubt if even a very few of you have a clue what it means as it has been so massively smeared and misrepresented by the left.

    • Mike, you may accuse the left of slandering the good name of libertarians all you want, but let it be noticed that you failed to offer a vision of libertarian future which is more bright than the one proposed by me.
      However, I do not want to distract attention from the original topic of this thread, which is the evils of the SU. I am ready to return to the polemics about libertarianism should Clarissa open a special thread for that purpose.

    • “I read the word Libertarian tossed about by some of you people. I doubt if even a very few of you have a clue what it means as it has been so massively smeared and misrepresented by the left.”

      - Once again, all I know about it is what I’ve heard from people who self-identify as Libertarians. I don’t deny that they could have just been pretending to be Libertarians but how am I supposed to know the truth if the only alternative are cryptic comments like these?

  24. I’d like to go live in Europe. I don’t have a hope in hell of being able to do that. And if I try, I’ll end up in jail. I could also end up in jail for 10 years for disrespecting a war memorial. (I live in Canada.)

    Russia was desperately poor before the revolution. Then there was a civil war, exacerbated by the interference of 17 capitalist governments. Not too long after that, there was WWII. And all the while, every other country and every institution of capitalism was determined to destroy it. When Allende was elected in Chile, Nixon’s orders were “make the economy scream”. That’s always been the pattern. And the Russian economy was screaming already.

    There are atrocities in Russian history: before the revolution, after it, and now, after the counter-revolution. The same is true of American history (though you don’t know it, as a member of one of the most heavily propagandized societies in the history of the world), UK history, and the history of the Christian church. That doesn’t excuse anybody but it does kind of put things in context!

    • “Russia was desperately poor before the revolution. Then there was a civil war, exacerbated by the interference of 17 capitalist governments. Not too long after that, there was WWII.”

      - I feel very weird when commenters try to explain these things to me, of all people.

  25. As I recall Russia was a world power before the revolution and considered a major threat/allie for any sort of confrontation. In the Russo Japanese war, Russia, under the Czars was considered the likely victor with assorted Battleships and Cruisers amongst other ships. I live in Canada which has never had a Cruiser let alone a Battleship, though we fought significantly in both wars.

    As I recall, the main enemes of Russia were her own post revolutionary leaders, who liquidated anyone in their way. Stalin, in particular used to brag about signing the death warrents of Many per night and being able to go to a sound sleep. When WW2 started many to most of the top military officers were executed or in prison.

    • Correction to Mike, Canada had Cruisers in WWII (HMCS Quebec paid off in 1956) and several aircraft carriers. Canada did take part in the attempt by White Russia to defeat the Bolsheviks in 1919, however the affair was short lived and not popular back home. Stalin’s pogroms and purges are well documented with an estimated 25 million killed under his regime and many millions more displaced. Only outdone by Mao with a guesstimated death toll of 20-80 million depending on who is counting. When a communist says; “we regret the excesses” it means many people died needlessly.

      • I did a bit of checking and you are right, Colinpark. That said, HMCS Uganda, spent most of the war as a British ship and was sort of a “Hand Me Down”, to the Royal Canadian Navy in Oct 44 and Renamed “Quebec”. Most of the RCN seems to be hand me downs from the Royal Navy such as the disasterous 4 Oberon diesel class submarines purchased a decade (?) ago and ready to fight WW2 if we get a time warp.
        When I was in High School in the late 50′s early 60′s, we still had “Cadet Training”. We were issued with WW2 Kaki uniforms, boots and dummy Lee Enfield rifles. After school we would march about the parking lot in close order drill. As I recall it was the last year of it and then it was shut down, (likely because news of the end of the war finally got thru to the next door Armoury ;-}. A year or so later, an Officer of the Canadian Forces did a recruitment presentation at our weekly “Assembly”, in the auditorium. Amongst his presentation of the Canadian Forces he talked about “our submarine”. That rang through our class like a gong. We had a single diesel class submarine, just one. I had forgotten the Bonnaventure but I believe it was a single then as well.
        I have nothing but the greatest respect for Canada’s armed forces. They have fought well above their weight in many conflicts. During WW2 my father and two uncles were in the Air Force. One uncle was a bombardier and was shot down over territory held by the National Socialist Party. He bailed out, was caught and put in a Concentration Camp. He was part of an escaped attempt and was caught again by the Nazis. To discourage escape attempts of others, the Nazis lined up the escapees and machine gunned them.
        This too was an early lesson for me about Totalitarian regimes.

      • Canada had no experience building large capital ships like Cruisers and Fleet aircraft carrier, both types were excellent examples of their class and added significantly to our navy. The O boats were bought new and gave sterling service, they were replaced by the current subs which we have to take some of the blame, as we were offered them hot and running, but dithered for a decade, while they rusted. We did the same when the Germans offered us almost new leopards and APC’s went they left Shilo, we thumbed our noses at a fantastic deal as the Liberals believed that “Peacekeeping” was going to save the world, all the while covering up the fact that Canadians soldiers were getting into combat during these mission..

        Sometime we don’t need an enemy, we have ourselves

  26. For God sake, people!!! How long it take to persuade someone, that communism is the most evil political system on this planet. I was born and live 28 years in that red concentration camp. It took me over thirty years to get over it. It still haunted me and anybody how is playing with it idea of communism look in North Korea or Cuba. This is not life, it is red feudalism in the worst form. Enjoy your freedom and get as much from your free life as much you can get.

  27. It’s fun to see so many brain damaged north american suckers telling hilarious lies here about a country THEY HAVE NEVER ACTUALLY BEEN TO, while living in their fantastic packaged 3rd world country posing to the rest of the world as the best ever society human could possibly fancied. Hahaha, that’s laughable.

    I lived in the USSR for 4 years and now I’m in Canada. Back in the People’s republic of China, we chinese inheritated everything from the USSR since the 50′s, everything, and guess what, now the whole west expect us to bail them out from a crisis they created. I cannot even believe even today I can find people like your guys when your whole society falling apart because of your fantastic capatalism.

    OK, all the bla bla bla bla aside, let me ask you a few questions: in the USSR, everyone is BY LAW entitled to have a place to livem while you have to be slaved for your whole mature life to pay for mortgage, not to mention million of citizens turning into homelessness due to foreclosure. Am I right? Food in the eastern bloc countries is not as rich as here in wasteful, environmentally destructive america, but they cost almost nothing because of the state subsidy and toxic-free. There’s no tax of any form because in a socialist country the state is supposed to owe to its people. Lunch is free in workplace, Child care is free, pension is for everyone unconditionally. 30 days paid annual leave. 50-55 retirement age for all citizens unconditionally. Public transportation is good, reliable and free. Health care is entirely free and available to everyone. Fantastic arts, culture, libraries and cinemas everywhere, good movies, music, ballet, dramas, literature. The list could go on and on and on.

    Now the question is: how many of those have you acchieved in North America? None. Everything listed above, you have to fight for your whole life to get from the capitalists. You don’t even have a universal healthcare!!! Cuba has it decades ago with high quality, let alone all the countries in the former comminust camp. Haha, you guys are funny. It’s laughable that your guys consider your country part of a developed world while you have to work your ass off to struggle to meet the most basic human needs in every critical aspect of your life. What a shame to the US.

    I’m here to help you guys to stop self-deception. Let’s face the fact, and it is simple: Your country sucks. Even worse than China in the cultural revolution in the 70′s.

    Those are just facts, and those of you whose posed as fake Russians pleeeeese, stop making up stories to amuse me. I lived there in the SU, and I saw how happy people are there with my own eyes. Even self deception has a limit. It ceases to be believable when it gets toooo exaggerated and funny.

    Now another question is fatal to many of your right-wing americans fragile self-esteem: Why the whole rest of the world hates you so much? Ask anyone, on the street of Asia, middle east, south america, Africa,North Europe, or even Britain. A survey conducted 1 year ago basically said that 7 OF OUT 10 PEOPLE in average in those places said THEY DESPISE AMERICANS. The rest of the world all go insane? Has it ever occurred to your guys that there’s got be a reason for this? You won’t have trouble finding the answeer, just go on you tube and search it. Tons of footage about your bloody, murderous post-war history.

    I don’t blame you for being ignorant by choice, who could turn blind to the facts that the history of this country was built upon genocide of the native people. Denial and story telling is necessary poor creatures like you to survive. But you cannot live you life through lies. By convincing yourself that socialism is evil and american style capitalism is the best system created somehow magically by the worst people with worst motives and lowest moral standard, it won’t keep you from being laid off by corporations, being poisoned by big pharm and food corps, being foreclosed by big banks, being torn away your child by goverment agency because of a minor misdeed, being shot accidentally by someone with a God-given right to have a gun. Lies won’t work to save you from cruel everyday reality of your pathetic life under american winner-takes-all jungle capitalism.

    Wake up, pleeeese, Americans, stop this self brainwash, because the whole world knows that you are living in the worst country and they are laughing their ass off because you are the only one who seems totally clueless.

    • “OK, all the bla bla bla bla aside, let me ask you a few questions: in the USSR, everyone is BY LAW entitled to have a place to livem while you have to be slaved for your whole mature life to pay for mortgage, not to mention million of citizens turning into homelessness due to foreclosure. Am I right? Food in the eastern bloc countries is not as rich as here in wasteful, environmentally destructive america, but they cost almost nothing because of the state subsidy and toxic-free. There’s no tax of any form because in a socialist country the state is supposed to owe to its people. Lunch is free in workplace, Child care is free, pension is for everyone unconditionally. 30 days paid annual leave. 50-55 retirement age for all citizens unconditionally. Public transportation is good, reliable and free. Health care is entirely free and available to everyone. Fantastic arts, culture, libraries and cinemas everywhere, good movies, music, ballet, dramas, literature. The list could go on and on and on.”

      - A bunch of stupid lies. And I’m not American, by the way. If you didn’t even manage to understand that from my post, then you are too stupid to comment on my blog.

  28. laosunny, China and USSR barely shared the same beliefs and were quite ready to go to war with each other. Estimates of deaths in China’s cultural revolution range range from 20-80 million depending on which of the old gang you believe. The air quality and pollution in China is becoming a destabilizing political issue. 25 million surplus males who will never have a job or a family. land issues and corruption are causing riots which even the state media cannot hide anymore. china will survive the communists because of it’s rich history of which the communist era is but a blink of an eye. You clearly must have belonged to the “More equal than other class” to believe what you claim you do.

  29. Wonderful creations, I mean, your guys, when millions are living such a totally unbearable pathetic life under capitalism while still enjoy demonizing the only serious effort in human history to liberate human beings from life time slavery. Wake up! It doesn’t help to pay for your mortgage no matter how hard you try to kiss the ass of capitalist masters or keep your from being kicked out of your job when you are considered useless by them. I’m just here to watch a joke. It’s really fun to watch absolute working class people engaging in such intense volunteered self-brainwashing, so what? To wait until they destroy the whole mother earth with their endless cancerous growth?

    It doesn’t matter if you are americans or not. A slave is still a slave wherever you are, so is a slave with racist hatred towards your class brothers who ever tried to with their lives to make your miserable life under capitalism easier. You are from Europe? Japan? Guess what? Congratulations! Because today it’s even worse than the US. And without the soviets, you are probably still living under nazism, the most fundamentalist form of capitalism. You prefer that?

    And why nobody answeers my questions about Soviet social welfare. Is it really so hard to swallow? Because when facing with everyday economic reality of the most ordinary Soviet citizens, a country without poverty and the most egalitarian and culturally developed and safest country in the world, any theory or lies about history seems pale and powerless.

    And the worst of all, your guys just don’t want to be reminded of your harsh daily reality in face of this. it made the cold war almost pointless. It says this: all your feeling of freedom, democracy, all that blablabla, they are all lies. The point is to get your obedience and turn you into money making cows serving the 1% and make you believe sabotiging the only alternative social system that works and challenge the capitalism at all cost is the right thing to do. And you really buy it.

    What makes it so curious is how pathetic creatures like you guys can still believe those lies you were fed with growing up, while facing with today’s harsh reality around the globe. The capitalists themselves cann’t even resist the impulse anymore to have fun testing how stupid and easily convinced people like your guys can be. Warren Buffet, the richest financial capitalist on this planet, throw this shit to your face in public: “Of course this is a class war, and it’s my class waging this war. And you know what? We are winning.”

    Why? Because people like you refuse to believe what reality told you and instead believe those bullshit the west has been feeding you.

    OK, look, Yes, Soviets are misserable, more than you guys are. Now satisfied? I won’t come here and bother you again. You guys need space to go on with your self-deception sport. OK. Go luck with it, and keep doing it until one day you end up on your death bed with cancer. Wishful thinking makes life easier, at least it’s a choice of lifestyle. Isn’t it?

  30. Sweetheart, I am going away just now. You are putting the whole human race to shame with you and your guys far-right nazi racist pornographic comments about the greatest workers-motherland ever existed in this planet. After reading your guys, I’m ashamed even to be human. But don’t worry, you win. You can never beat a bunch of retarded. Can you?

    • You have been going away for days and still not succeeding. I guess that after your Communist experiences you are so broken you can barely crawl.

      I’m glad you experience shame for your horrible country.

  31. Hi Clarissa,
    I’ve got a question or, rather, few questions. Was the difficulty of leaving USSR as difficult for Uzbeks and Kazakhs as it was for Russians? Say, an Uzbek (or a Russian) wanted to get a train ticket to Mongolia, could he do that? Did he need to have special reasons, such as work invitation, etc? Because the transsiberian train from Russia to China via Mongolia kept running in Soviet times – who travelled on it? And another question – could a Soviet citizen go to China?

  32. Hi Clarissa,
    I don’t know whether I managed to post my question the first time.
    I’ve got few questions – was it as difficult for Soviets from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to leave Soviet Union as it was for Russians? Say, an Uzbek (or a Russian) wanted to buy a train ticket to Mongolia – could he do that? Or to China? Because transsiberian trains between Russia and China kept running in the Soviet times. Who travelled on them?

    • “was it as difficult for Soviets from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to leave Soviet Union as it was for Russians?”

      - Of course. Every ethnic group was in the same boat.

      “Say, an Uzbek (or a Russian) wanted to buy a train ticket to Mongolia – could he do that? Or to China?”

      - No, of course not. The ethnic minorities were in a worse situation, not a better one, than the Russians.

      “Because transsiberian trains between Russia and China kept running in the Soviet times. Who travelled on them?”

      - In order to be able to travel overseas, you had to have been approved by the Communist Party. Your family would be held hostage while you traveled, and you would be accompanied at all times by a KGB employee who would spy on your every move.

  33. But I read on the Internet about Soviet citizens who moved to live to Mongolia with their families.
    Also the famous escape of two GDR students to Beijing via Ulanbaatar. The site doesn’t even mention any trouble of them getting to Mongolia (but goes into a lot of details about visa trouble to Beijing), which means that they must have gotten to Mongolia “just like that”.

    • There was a handful of families sent to live in a variety of very poor “developing” countries. I know people who were sent to Cuba and to some African countries. That wasn’t about escape but about being part of the system.

      As for GDR students, I don’t know anything about East Germany so I won’t venture any opinions.

  34. I find this article as interesting but this certainly does not bring the right picture of soviet union.Soviet Union was a state of massive communist propaganda but the capitalist media in usa or in europe also work as propaganda tool of their respective governments.American citizens tend to think ‘America is the world’ just like the soviet people thought they were living in paradise.Every system,every country has/had/will have certain drawbacks-so blaming becomes a easy business.KGB was the worst,but the CIA IS/WAS also the most bizarre,nasty,inhuman..Soviet Union had gulags,USA has Guantanamo bay,secret prisons in different parts of the world.American information war against it’s adversaries are as bad as soviet propaganda machine.Apart from the negatives of soviet union,world got many great ideas about social welfare,labor rights,social rights of the citizens,inclusive development from he socialist and communist ideologies,history says communists influenced the social welfare measures in modern world as capitalism always harbored/harbors on profit making without paying heed to human exploitation..Karl Marx presented the communism in a more radical way but actually communism did exist from the beginning of community,may be in different way or in different name(it can be a matter of great discussion which i do not want to bring over here)..The life in soviet union was difficult but soviet union did not have so called rich and poor division though one may point out high ranking officials did enjoy special status..In cultural,sports and scientific fronts contribution of soviet union was huge.But we know winners write the history,as USSR lost the cold war and vanished from the world map,it has become an easy affair to demean it by every necessary way. Solzhenitsyn wrote about Gulags but when he wrote about american crimes and western faults then USA and west started to ignore him.When Pope John paul 2,fought against communism to protect catholic Christianity west and usa stood behind him,but when he blessed Fidel Castro they suddenly tried to criticize him.So it is evident that you support dissidents,so called enlightened intellectuals who took refuge in other countries/free world as long as they serve your interest and agenda.So where is the honesty?Personal experiences of few people cannot be taken as only proofs ignoring other factors-one may counter their claims that they were given asylum in “free world(!)’only because they agreed to write bad things about their own country just like Judas acted against Jesus.

    • “The life in soviet union was difficult but soviet union did not have so called rich and poor division though one may point out high ranking officials did enjoy special status.”

      - You are either extremely naive or extremely stupid. The number of platitudes in your painfully boring post points to the former.

    • Ok, this is the stupidest comment I received in all the years of blogging. Do you really believe anybody can cross a border relying on an encyclopedia map?

  35. Thank you for sharing. I am doing a presentation on the living conditions of citizens of the Soviet Union and your perspective is just what I was looking for. Its odd how very little you learn about the people’s struggle.

  36. I remember my grandpa’s tales about those Soviet soldiers. One of his mates put the maybug in a matchbox, and told one of these that it was a watch (“Listen, how it ticks”), which was,for some reason, great object of desire among Soviets. He took it joyfully, but after few days he returned dissapointed and cried out: “Hey, Pole! the engineer died”.

    When they killed a German, they always looted his shoes, and other equipment, cause they were wrapping their legs with some rags, and carrying guns on linen cords. Thousands of them have fallen in pointless way in German traps, made of any stuff arousing their curiosity. It was enough to cram the alarm clock with explosives, and let them activate the detonator while fighting for such “precious find”.

  37. i am from ex-Yugoslavia, now my country is in Europe .thanks god we never be in USSR. after world war 2, USSR threat us military that we must enter. but we have support from west and be ready to fight, we did not want to go. Yugoslavia was socialist country but completely different from USSR. we had open borders and if you want go live to west you can without any problem,only you should not talk against the government . for social country we had very nice life . my family work in tourism ,today we have private company and because job we travel and saw all world. in past my company visited many strangers ,some lucky off them are from USSR,lucky because in USSR was very hard travel in world. That was unhappy misery people, very sad. when they see how we live ,many of them whispered in our ears ” you are America for us” , they feared KGB and here . when I visited some countries in USSR it was very sad,I can not spend money , on what ,everything was empty ,no stores . Today all that countries are in EU and try to live better ,they travel normally and gone in NATO for security . 50 years they lived under the iron boot . before Russian aggression on Ukraina some of my friend visited Russia, 30 days in big fish competition.they traveled through the whole Russia.when I asked how it was, they told me :Russia nature is beautiful ,some new parts of Moskva and ST.Petesburg are very nice but nowhere did not seen so much poverty as there in modern world . standard is very very bad and people poor. my friends and part of family who live on west have nice and good life. someone who not lived in my region and the young generation can not understand how bad are ex SSSR , It was a prison of nations. Today new bad ex kgb person lead Russia ,dreaming again SSSR , attack and threat neighbors , lying their people how the world wants Russia only bad. Putin is big problem for democratic world and for Russian peoples. Russia needs big change in administering country for own good!

      • Thanks Clarissa

        I accidentally found this blog and I told the truth, because I live close. when you work in the tourism all life you know very much. and we travel a lot. my parents have passed literally the entire world several times. I know that some will disagree but that’s their problem. from my ex-country Putin have support only in Serbia are Serbs who live in others ex-Jugoslavia countries , similar nations, very aggressive for territories and some orthodox brotherhood ,hate all west .Serbia start war in ex Yugoslavia. INTERESTING ,Serbian peoples support Russia but all of them try to go are live on USA are west . Absolutely nobody goes to live in Russia .

  38. Please mod can you edit CCCR in SSSR ,.i read now some cyrillic letter and made mistake, we use here SSSR . thanks

  39. I think this is just not a meaningful question, In my humble knowledge I’ve never heard of any law like that from any country ever (for non criminals, of course). Although I believe there are a few states such as the North Korea imposes that kind of regulation, generally they do not.

    Why? Because it works the other way around, countries tend to prevent illegal immigrants rather than emigrants. So getting in a wealthier country is harder than fleeing from an undeveloped one, and there is no point just traveling freely between poor countries, right?

    More importantly, the painful part of being a refugee is not to cross the borders, but to be adapted to the new life. Immigrants have to deal with the new language, customs and even discrimination. Think about it, even moving to another city in your home country for the first time is a challenging experience, especially when you have no job prospect or degree or money, and you will be very very lonely.

    Imagine the argument “If you don’t like this country, you’re welcome to leave” (providing that they even buy you a ticket to go to wherever you want) becomes popular, it will be the favorite saying of dictators to prove that people still have free choices.

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