Skip to comments.Experiences in communist countries
Posted on 06/29/2012 9:23:02 PM PDT by moonshot925
Have you even lived in or visited a communist country? What was your experience?
Unk....I can’t tell you enough! It IS AWFUL!!!! Please, people......LISTEN!!!!!!
I cant tell you enough! It IS AWFUL!!!! Please, people......LISTEN!!!!!!
I hope enough are listening and waking up but I have very little faith in most Americans.
Does Massachusetts count?
The first thing that struck me is there are no banks. We had hired a private guide, a professor of English at the University,who was quite candid when out of earshot of the driver, who only glared and never spoke for 3 days. She was quite matter of fact about it- “no one trust banks, we keep our money under the mattress. That way the government cant tax it.” It sounded like most transactions were underground, in cash. She said she even bought her car, a new BMW for cash.
The urban center was quite nice, the buildings seemed to be in good repair. She told me they “bought” their own apartments now- from the government. She seemed quite proud of the progress to private property. But when pressed, it wasn't clear what she owned. The government still owned the actual building, the walls, floors and ceilings of each apartment, and all the common areas. So I guess they bought the air inside, and the right to breathe it. They think they are REAL capitalists- not like Moscow or the provinces clinging to the old ways. So bizarre.
Finally- my husband's most striking memory was how beautiful the women were. We are of an age where dumpy Mrs. Kruschev was the only Russian woman we knew- so it was a shock to see the streets and shops filled with such lovely females, with gorgeous skin, fashionable clothes, stylish hair.
You didn't mention about the other counters in the stores. For example they had about 3 brands of cereal behind one counter and you paid for them the same way as the meat but it wasn't weighed. You didn't grab anything and take it to a checkout like you do here. Lived on caviar, bread, and pate most days.
Went to the famous Moscow circus. My now fiance went to a scalper for tickets. Has to pay in American dollars which were illegal at the time but they took anyway. Did see some errors that I'm sure wouldn't be allowed in previous years but was a great show. Commenting on hoping the cork didn't shoot out of the horse's rear end during the show didn't make her too happy as she thought it was the only thing I got from the show as she didn't completely understand American dark humor.
My personal experiences (previously posted on FR)
1st generation American
Here are some things I remember:
I could go on for ages, but this is already way too long of a list!
I was in Vietnam once. The residents shot at me.
in 1973 I had a job on a Danish cargo ship which made several stops in various ports in Yugoslavia. I even got lost there once and wound up in Ljubljana by mistake. One of my shipmates fell asleep one night in a rowboat (he was too drunk to find his way back to the ship) and spend 2 months in jail... when his embassy finally got him out, most of his ribs and fingers had all been broken from the daily beatings.
I also did a bicycle trek through the USSR in 1985. I was in various cities in Russia, Latvia and Estonia. They wouldn’t let me go to Lithuania as planned due to protests going on there. My assigned escort was a nice gal who explained all the great things about Communism and tried her best to insure I only saw the “correct” things. It was a fascinating adventure for sure.
Thought of something else: the elevator my friends’ apartment building was somehow activated by the weight of someone stepping into it. It would abruptly drop several inches when you went in, which was very disconcerting. Also, there was little spent on lighting in interior hallways. They were dim. On the other hand, my friends assured me that the buildings were air-tight in order to keep from loosing heat in the winter.
I don’t specifically remember the cereal counter, but I’m sure it was there. I do remember an office supply store where there was not much, and it was all behind counters. That store was in St. Petersburg, on the premises of the Singer Sewing Machine factory that had been built before the Revolution. It had lovely art nouveau ironwork on the staircase.
Thanks for that interesting info., moonshot.
You always come through with neat info.
Cheap looking bunkers.
They didn’t do he and his wife any good.
I have visited the Peoples Republic of China and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic several times over the past twenty-five years.
Back in the 80s, China was still pretty much a communist totalitarian state. Now it seems as free as the US for a foreign traveler with cash to spend. A foreign traveler in China is certainly less likely to get asked for ID or searched than in the US. Chinese cops are genuinely friendly and helpful. Commentators on Chinese TV bluntly criticize the quality of government administrative functions and transparency (but not the CPC.) Books that honestly (that is to say, severely) criticize Mao are available for purchase. In the past one dared not speak of politics; now one can freely discuss ideas even with members of the Chinese Communist Party. Of course, I’m not a Tibetan or a Uyghur, or a South China peasant with two children trying to get a job in Shanghai. Their experience is entirely different from mine. On the other hand, from my discussions with local entrepreneurs, it’s easier to start a business there than here, and it’s a matter of fact that their business tax rates are lower than in the US.
Laos is even better than China. A foreign traveler sees very little government intrusion in everyday life and micro-entrepreneurs everywhere. On the plus side, you can rent a motorcycle for $6/day, go barhopping while innertubing down the river in Vang Vieng, go caving without a guide, get a sugar and cholesterol laden crepe and a cold beer from a street vendor for 50 cents each, and any other dangerous thing you want. All of which would be illegal or vastly more expensive in the US regulatory environment. They don’t have tort lawyers and nannystatists like Bloomberg. And, like China, tax rates are such that businessmen and wage-earners both get to keep more of the fruits of his labor than in the US. Of course, on the minus side, it’s still a very poor country. And, if you wreck the motorbike, or get drunk and drown after going down the zip line into the river in Vang Vieng, or fall in a crevice in that cave: tough luck. There’s no nanny state to indemnify stupidity.
Except for the NORK and Cuba, the world has changed ... and for the worse in the USA.
Poland, East Germany, Ukraine, and Check Republic. Lots of left over Stalin era buildings. Saw many old barracks from the Austrian Hungarian empire that were Russian bases rotting away. Nice 3 story high brick buildings that could easily be turned into condos. Visited people in homes that weren’t too impressive from the outside but once you went inside they were modern and beautifully furnished. The east German and Polish Food markets were impressive. Much like Super Walmarts but far better looking and more of a food selection and no shortage of anything. Once you left the cities and went into the countryside, things weren’t as flashy. However, they are progressing, we seen what appeared to be housing developments here and there. They were even repairing and expanding the roads.
The older cities were becoming modern and some still retaining their Austrian-Hungarian look. Many of the smaller towns we saw were shoddy, it was like no one wanted to do work on the outside of their homes. We found that in Poland, or what was once Germany and now Polish territory. The Ukraine was disappointing, looks like they had a rough time. We didn’t go into the large cities, we suffered through the small towns and the worst roads. They reminded me of Tijuana in the 60’s. East Germany’s cities were like here in the states, as was Poland’s. You found graffiti on the walls of buildings which took a lot away from what was once a clean beautiful site.
The Communist style prefab block buildings were still being built. The old and new were also given brighter colors and murals. The strangest sight I saw in south Poland was the placing of 2 second generation Russian fighter aircraft on a farmer’s property as lawn ornaments.
I was deployed to Uzbekistan in 2003. Managed two trips to Samarkand, my only time out of the U.S. compound. The drab old mixed with the colorful new. One section of the city was Little Moscow with the signs still in cyrillic (Uzbek is now written our way). More trucks than cars on the streets.
On base, the Uzbek interpreters were middle aged women who told me about the bad old Soviet days; nothing negative I have ever heard about communism was proven to be false. They described midnight arrests & relatives taken & never seen again. Yet they regarded Russia & things Russian as their window to the West. With Taliban infested Afghanistan to the southwest, this was understandable.
The young women (quite attractive, BTW) on the other hand had a strange nostalgia for Soviet rule even though it had ended when they were but children. Much more food, they said, was available under communism. Being part of a huge powerful nation (one girl told me she admired Stalin!). We Americans all agreed that these Central Asian lovelies now working as secretaries for Halliburton would in an earlier time have been some Soviet officers’ playthings.
I actually liked my time there but I appreciate so much more being an American even though we’re throwing it all away what makes this nation great.
I knew a mechanical engineer tech rep that was a war orphan of WW2 and had bounced around most of Europe as a houseboy type hanger on with our troops and spoke several languages including Russian. He had been brought to the USA after turning 18, sponsored by some American veterans. He applied for citizenship and was quickly drafted for the Korean War. During the sixties he was sent to Russia on some kind of exchange program arranged by the state department and the Soviet purchase of an American powerplant boiler. He said that the Russian master mechanics was using wrenches they had hacksawed out from quarter inch steel plate and filed to fit the various sized fastners. He had taken three sets of Sears hand tools with him and gave them to the workers when he left and they regarded them as gold. He told many great stories about not letting them know he was fluent in Russian language for a couple of days after he had worked with them while they jabbered away about the corrupt Americaans.
Back on topic, I grew up in Taiwan under Martial Law. Apparently not communist country, but I DO know what it is like to have central government control (almost) everything.
back in Beijing one of the Tech's realized he forgot to leave part of the drawing package at the plant and because they searched our rooms every day, an old Chinahand with us said "Roll it up and put it in the wastebasket, I guarantee somehow, someway, it will get to where it belongs."
he did, and we NEVER got a Telex stating they needed us to send them the drawings... scary
Lived and worked in Sichuan Province, China for three years from 2007 to 2010. A place at the foot of the most beautiful mountain in all of China - Emei Mountain. The town of Emei is small but rocking with mom and pop businesses. Capitalism is indeed alive and well. As long as a person stays out of politics, it seemed like any place in capitalist asia. People are friendly and helpful and my wife and I had the time of our lives. We go back every year to visit the university, my students and our friends. We are comfortable traveling all over China.
Additionally, I worked for a while in Laos but as a US official. Laos is backward, wonderful and the government simply sucks.
Between 1994 and 1997, we opened an English language school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Technically a newly formed democracy but still very socialist and communist. A dangerous place to live and work. An interesting place to live.
Seems like we always prepare for the last war. China is convinced that they will regain Taiwan, the Taiwanese I know are convinced that they will be left alone based on China's self-interest. Much like Hong Kong.
Biggest difference - HK has HSBC financing the Chinese government.
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