Another thing I like about Masha Gessen’s book is that she dispels the myth about the increase in inequality after the collapse of the USSR. There was no increase. To the contrary, all evidence demonstrates that there was a slight decrease in inequality.
I always knew this but most Soviet people were unaware because they had no opportunity to observe the lives of the Soviet rich. The separation between the rich and everybody else was complete. After the fall of the Soviet regime, the elites didn’t need to conceal their lifestyle any more, so most people decided that the inequality was something new.
When I was 11, I saw a classmate of mine, the daughter of the director of the farmers’ market light a cigarette with a hundred-rouble bill. That was my father’s monthly salary. My father had a PhD in applied linguistics. Her mother (the market director) had dropped out of high school after the eighth grade. This was in 1986.
There was always inequality. Maybe not so much in the 1920s, but after that, it got worse and worse, exploding to ridiculous heights during WWII.