In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Gone, But Not Forgotten.”
The world still remembers the Soviet Union.
I, as a child of Russia, the successor of the Soviet Union, do encounter the reminders of the Soviet Union almost every day. Surprisingly, people in the world talk much more about the Soviet Union than Russians. It always fascinated me how people dismissed other members of Soviet Union as non-existent. They are very diverse and not very similar to Russia itself. Their relationships with Russia and between each other are also forgotten, except for Ukraine-Russia never ending struggle of independence and power.
Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – always seemed to be more European and detached from Russia than others. I never completely understood how they ended up in a team with Russia and not with Scandinavian countries. They always had more European values and mindset, which helped them rapidly develop a partnership with NATO.
More Slavic and directly related to Russia states are Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. These are the countries that were never separate from Russia, until the Soviet Union collapse. To give you some perspective, Russia as a country started in Kiev – Ukrainian capital. Our cultures and languages are so intertwined that we do not have issues with communication. Almost every Russian can understand the languages of these countries without any background with them, and we share folklore, literature, and media. This is why it is so easy for Putin to claim Crimea or Donetsk as Russia. He could as well succeed at claiming Kiev, and have more Historical Evidence to support this claim, but the consequences from the world would be more drastic.
Other, more distant and less famous in Western World countries, with the exception of Georgia, are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Every one of them, except for Armenia and Georgia that have significant Christian population, are overwhelmingly Muslim, which is not a transparent fact about Soviet Union. Almost half of post-Soviet territory has been Muslim the entire time. These countries have also struggled the most after the collapse of Soviet Union, and they kept the strongest bonds with Russia. They still provide Russia with much of its sustenance, in exchange for gas and oil. Fun fact, Kazakhstan is actually #9 largest country in the world with the population of only 17 million people, while official number for Moscow city is 14 million.
Foreigners seem to say the words “Soviet Union” more than people from the past-Soviet territories. However, ex-Soviet people are more likely to relate to other ex-Soviet people as to their own nation. Even my generation, that was born years after the Soviet Union collapsed, followed this model. Sadly, there are instances of racism and Islamophobia that cause clash between the nations, when Russians and other Slavs engage in violence against other ethnicities, and they are forced to answer. Furthermore, because Russia encompasses such area, it also includes hundreds non-white ethnic groups, that are discriminated in addition to the outsiders from post-Soviet States. Nevertheless, we are connected in some weird way, that makes us convene if abroad, with no matter what.
Sure, most of us speak Russian as our first language. Many only learn their native language in schools or from their older relatives, because parents usually prefer Russian in daily life. Language is a factor that cannot be dismissed when speaking about connections and bonds between people. Soviet Union provided free universal education in Russian to all its citizens, most countries still require Russian language in their schools along with a national language and a foreign English or French.
After years being under Soviet rule, countries are regaining their independence and identity. Religion is a large part of identity. I saw the growth of the influence of religion in Russia, as I was growing up. Christmas was replaced with New Year by Soviet Union, but every consecutive year the holiday season is more about Christmas. Every year I see more women in hijabs, and every year I see more different temples. Jewish people are still the most discriminated group in Russia, or so it seems to me. But it is Russia. I know people from South Eastern post-Soviet States, who notice similar things about their countries. It is scaring me, because as Western states embrace Christianity more, the Eastern states embrace Islam, and it created tension between nations that are more interdependent and connected with each other than with almost any other outside country. I hope that the secular perspective will dominate our societies in the future, and we will spare ourselves some needless homicides and acts of violence.
There is still a bond between post-Soviet States. We share the experience of being against everybody who is not us, and we keep this dangerous mindset together. The issue is that “not us” now includes more states than before. Those that were with us before now begin to be seen as foreign, and it will cause political and economic instability in the region. Drastic inequality and dire poverty do not help. Unfortunately, my motherland, Russia, has no chance of omitting these conflicts. It is most likely to be the center of unrest and tension between its religious and ethnic groups. I wish we could drop the mindset of being against the world together, and start working towards a better future.
There is clearly much work to do, especially with the collapse of a ruble, Russian Currency, this week. Hopefully, it will keep regaining its positions, and my parents will not have to pay twice as much for my school with the same income.