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post #1981 of 2176 Old 03-23-2017, 09:55 AM
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Was life in the USSR really that grim back in the 80's?

“You cannot play God and then wash your hands of the things you created.”
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post #1982 of 2176 Old 03-23-2017, 01:34 PM
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Much to Martha's surprise GUM's empty shelves were common.
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post #1983 of 2176 Old 03-23-2017, 03:48 PM
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Was life in the USSR really that grim back in the 80's?
That's part of the reason why it dissolved. There were bread lines, crappy appliances, etc.

Official story is that the arms race drove them to bankruptcy but even if they weren't spending money on missiles, they just didn't have the economic output to support a large populace and country to a high standard of living.

They had to import grain, from the US and others. No currency to import nice consumer goods. Americans were loving advances at the time like microwave ovens and VCRs.

To this day, the only thing Russia has going for them is resource extraction -- mainly oil and mining to a much lesser extent. So the oligarch/kleptocrats could enrich themselves from old industrial goods but they never modernized their industry. They obviously had some math and computer science talent but now they're known mostly for hacking.
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post #1984 of 2176 Old 03-23-2017, 06:33 PM
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I dunno. We've been hitching rides to the International Space Station from them for several years now that we've essentially abandoned our manned space program.
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post #1985 of 2176 Old 03-23-2017, 06:46 PM
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Yeah they invested a lot in basic science after WWII. They probably had their share of German rocket scientists, like the the US.

I remember seeing an almanac of world universities one time and Moscow State rated high in many basic science disciplines.

So for instance they could design and build high-performance jet fighters but these had little in the way of advanced avionics and long-distance air-to-air weapons.

While their space program achieved a lot, it didn't lead to commercial technology products like the US space program did.

They continued to develop jet and rocket technology but by the late '70s, private American companies were doing a lot with IC design and fabrication processes, which opened the way for all the digital innovation which drives a significant part of the US and global economy.

You hear about tech startups from all over the world but not so much Russia or China, which is good at imitating or stealing IP but not so much innovating something new.
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post #1986 of 2176 Old 03-23-2017, 07:19 PM
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Was life in the USSR really that grim back in the 80's?
And never forget the great car called the Yugo that had its spare tire stowed on top of the engine.
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post #1987 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 05:46 AM
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You hear about tech startups from all over the world but not so much Russia or China, which is good at imitating or stealing IP but not so much innovating something new.
kleptocrats, good one.

The fact most technology based gadgets are manufactured in China indicates they have mastered key engineering disciplines.

Questioner should google 'planned central vs. laissez-faire economies.'
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post #1988 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 08:00 AM
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Questioner should google 'planned central vs. laissez-faire economies.'
You beat me to it. The conventional wisdom seems to be that the USSR was sunk by its blind insistence on a command and control economy, thereby excluding the immutable laws of supply and demand. I don't know if the economy Russia has now is any better than it was then but it certainly can't be any worse.
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post #1989 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 08:05 AM
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You beat me to it. The conventional wisdom seems to be that the USSR was sunk by its blind insistence on a command and control economy, thereby excluding the immutable laws of supply and demand. I don't know if the economy Russia has now is any better than it was then but it certainly can't be any worse.
It might be worse. A vast network of central planners & Party apparatchiks has been replaced by a vast network of kleptocrats & oligarchs.

OTOH, modern agricultural techniques have probably alleviated much of the food shortages of that era. Hard to say. The average American doesn't know much more about modern Russia than he did about the Soviet Union. It's still a largely closed society, revealing to the west only what they want it to know.
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post #1990 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 09:11 AM
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FWIW- Back in 2001 or so I did work with a nice young woman (in her mid 20's) who was born and raised (somewhere) in the USSR....
She was very straight forward, wasn't looking to make new friends (at work anyway), hardly ever smiled, no external sense of humor, and 100% never spoke about life in the USSR.
When she first started working for us... we tried to kid around with her to break the ice... never happened- we gave up on that. You could tell she wasn't the kind of person you would mess with either- very serious.

I guess it supports the 'life was tough' in the 80's/90's in USSR theory.

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post #1991 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 09:49 AM
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And never forget the great car called the Yugo that had its spare tire stowed on top of the engine.
...to the envy of Corvair - Pinto owners.
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post #1992 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 10:03 AM
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It might be worse. A vast network of central planners & Party apparatchiks has been replaced by a vast network of kleptocrats & oligarchs.

OTOH, modern agricultural techniques have probably alleviated much of the food shortages of that era. Hard to say. The average American doesn't know much more about modern Russia than he did about the Soviet Union. It's still a largely closed society, revealing to the west only what they want it to know.
Geopolitical analyst Peter Zeihan makes a strong case that geography makes the big difference. Once you grow food you have to get it to where the people are. The US is uniquely blessed with geography. The biggest blob of good agricultural land in the world lies in the US greater Midwest. It is bigger than the next two blobs put together. A further accident of geography places the Mississippi/Missouri river system and tributaries right on top of this farm land and this river system is bigger than the rest of the world's good waterways put together. Add in the unique inter-coastal waterway that stretches from the tip of Texas to Chesapeake Bay and moving our produce to market is cheap and easy.

Russia's wheat belt is the eastern extension of the North European Plain. Their belt runs east and west but their rivers run north and south, leading uselessly into the Arctic Ocean or, with the Volga, into the Caspian Sea. There is no good, cheap way to get that grain to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Minsk, Kiev, or the other population centers of Russia and the FSU. Building roads and railways is very expensive (no one had to build the Mississippi river) and fuel costs are much higher for road or rail than they are for barges. Add to this the inefficiencies of central planning and you have a nightmare.

(Zeihan has written a couple of books the first of which discusses the above in great detail but there are a good number of his speeches on Youtube that people may find shorter yet interesting.)
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post #1993 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 10:53 AM
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You have to remember Russia was a poor country period before the Soviets took over.

Before the czar was toppled, they still had a feudal society, in the early 20th century.

Things would probably be worse if the czar was still in charge.

I don't know how much time someone like Sergei Brin spent there but imagine if they had the academic and startup culture there to foster innovation there instead of him having to come to the US.
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...(Zeihan has written a couple of books the first of which discusses the above in great detail but there are a good number of his speeches on Youtube that people may find shorter yet interesting.)
According to his Linkedin page Zeihan was employed for 12 years by Stratfor...
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post #1995 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 11:07 AM
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It might be worse. A vast network of central planners & Party apparatchiks has been replaced by a vast network of kleptocrats & oligarchs.
Just the thought of this is disturbing.

These are just my opinions.
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post #1996 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 11:50 AM
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FWIW- Back in 2001 or so I did work with a nice young woman (in her mid 20's) who was born and raised (somewhere) in the USSR...
In the early 1980s our computer programmer was a Russian emigre. At our office Christmas party he once commented that fresh oranges were a treasured gift in his homeland (he brought some). I'd guess life in Russia then was like life in America forty or fifty years earlier.
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post #1997 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 11:54 AM
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According to his Linkedin page Zeihan was employed for 12 years by Stratfor...
George Friedman, also once with Stratfor, also has gone on his own with his Geopolitical Futures group. Zeihan's style is less academic than that of Friedman or Stratfor and not all will find his style agreeable but I find Zeihan at least plausible and many times compelling.
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post #1998 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 11:54 AM
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The vast majority of Russia's population lives within 1,000 miles of its agricultural regions, including Ukraine. The distance from Topeka to Sacramento is 1,600 miles. Caveat emptor.

Spoiler!

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post #1999 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 11:56 AM
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George Friedman, also once with Stratfor, also has gone on his own with his Geopolitical Futures group. Zeihan's style is less academic than that of Friedman or Stratfor and not all will find his style agreeable but I find Zeihan at least plausible and many times compelling.
lol, more plausable than Stratfor's other work.
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There's a BBC show about life in England in different decades.

The first decade they tackle is right after WWII, when food supplies have not yet caught up. So they have a contemporary family try to make meals based on the typical food allocations of the period. No meat, no rich protein sources or fresh vegetables. Mostly things like corn meal.

It would take almost 20 years for things to improve.

In France, supposedly into the '60s, people lived in apartment buildings where bathrooms were shared by people on the same floor.
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Common guys, let's not blame the Yugo on the Russians. That car was originally an Italian Fiat128. Just like the Fiat 124 sedan and the larger 125, Fiat dumped the molds on the Communists and made a lot of money. As bad as those cars were, they were way better than anything they had.
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post #2002 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 12:16 PM
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Common guys, let's not blame the Yugo on the Russians. That car was originally an Italian Fiat128. Just like the Fiat 124 sedan and the larger 125, Fiat dumped the molds on the Communists and made a lot of money. As bad as those cars were, they were way better than anything they had.
OK then, Trabant.
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post #2003 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 12:22 PM
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Was life in the USSR really that grim back in the 80's?
YES! their system was a failure from almost of the beginning and fear was their only weapon to keep that large country in line. Not until Gorbachev and his reforms that things got relaxed, but the goods didn't get to flow till they switched to free market.....
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post #2004 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 12:37 PM
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Common guys, let's not blame the Yugo on the Russians. That car was originally an Italian Fiat128. Just like the Fiat 124 sedan and the larger 125, Fiat dumped the molds on the Communists and made a lot of money. As bad as those cars were, they were way better than anything they had.
Correct, the Soviet version was called "Lada" they also made "Volga" which was their answer to the Lincoln Continental
The Polish version was "Polski Fiat"
Yugo was made in Yugoslavia
Trabant was made in East Germany [that's the "car" you see on U2's "Achtung Baby" covers], so did "Wartburg"
Romania made "Dacia"
Czechoslovakia made "Skoda"
You guys thought the Japanese cars were ugly back than? You guys have no clue, and of course buying one of these.... you had to wait years and had to be paid it full before delivery. Oh and you can't chose the color you want, unless you were a Party higher up. Fun times
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post #2005 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 12:52 PM
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There's a BBC show about life in England in different decades.

The first decade they tackle is right after WWII, when food supplies have not yet caught up. So they have a contemporary family try to make meals based on the typical food allocations of the period. No meat, no rich protein sources or fresh vegetables. Mostly things like corn meal.

It would take almost 20 years for things to improve.

In France, supposedly into the '60s, people lived in apartment buildings where bathrooms were shared by people on the same floor.
This was common issue throughout Europe, that War was devastating for everyone there.

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post #2006 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 01:05 PM
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And never forget the great car called the Yugo that had its spare tire stowed on top of the engine.
You thought that was bad? How about the Trabant which had a fuel tank shared in the engine compartment !! and when you were running low on fuel you had to reach down under the dash at the passenger side to turn the petcock to reserve. [No fuel gauge on those] Yeah you do that while you drive! Oh that engine was a 2 stroke.

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Thehun - On top of that, they had to export those cars to other countries in order to obtain badly needed dollars and BPound. I was stationed at the NATO base in Iceland, 1971-73 and all those cars were being exported to Iceland and sold cheaper than the Western European cars. I recall seeing a 4-wheel drive SUV type Yugo, fairly new, looking already rusted.
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post #2008 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 01:19 PM
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At least Stan continues to entertain. Curious what meeting
Oleg missed.
The CIA shake down kind.
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post #2009 of 2176 Old 03-24-2017, 01:24 PM
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Oh yeah any of you recognized the blonde store manager? Without checking names to verify, she looked a lot like the Russian cousin in the Sopranos, although she had only one leg then.

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They still make Skodas and some of the models aren't cheap.
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