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Many Russians Can’t Forget the Soviet Union

One Group Lost East Prussia, another, theSoviet Union

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Thoughts Regarding the Sensitivities of My Spouse

 

Commentary

 

B e r l i n – Recently, spouse Galina (she was born 1958 in Barnaul/Siberia) appeared agitated and nearly in tears. She had just heard on YouTube the sad and melancholic Georgian love song called „Suliko“ (soul). The text had been composed by the Georgian national poet Akaki Zereteli (1840-1915) in 1895. By 1937 it had achieved renown throughout the USSR. In the 1950’s it was being sung throughout the Eastern bloc, even at funerals. Joseph Stalin also liked the song.

 

Songs such as this one remind Galina and other „Soviet citizens“ of bygone times, of that which the USSR once represented. “It was so cool in school around New Years!” she exclaimed. “It was so colourful. We discussed and negotiated on who should appear as an Uzbek, Ukrainian, Georgian, Kazakh, Bashkir oder Chechen.” She added sadly: “Today, our kids dress up only as mice or rabbits.”

 

Not only Galina harbours such feelings. On YouTube one can see how a Kazakh music group called “Gatob” made waves in 2014 when it appeared on the train platform in Almaty and struck up a song from the Soviet era. The passengers and surrounding crowd sang along. During the heyday of flash mobs a decade ago, Ukrainians would perform old Russian songs – and vice versa.

 

A rendition of „Suliko“ on YouTube from 2010 resulted in more than 900 comments. See:

 „www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZehGlB4B6o&feature=youtu.be“. The remarks praising Georgia and the Georgians hail from Azerbaijan, Moldova, Russia, Georgia und the Czech Republic. “How eagerly I recall my childhood back in Tbilisi!“ a Russian woman wrote. “Back then we had neither wars nor ethnic conflicts; all people were ‘brothers’.” A large number of responses are from Poland in Polish. One woman concluded: “Why is the whole world oriented towards the West? Listening to Polish radio, one would think that everything ends on the Bug River.” Another Polish lady exclaimed: “Nobody can sing this song the way the Georgians do.”

 

A group called “Gatob” – see „www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhbsRccmCeE“ – was showered with more than 1.600 comments. Older Russian-Germans are especially prominent; perhaps they are only materially well taken care of in Germany: “I am grateful for every year I was allowed to live in Kazakhstan.” Another confessed that she begins to weep whenever she hears Kazakh music: “Kazakhstan will forever remain my home!”

 

A Russian woman who grew up in Kazakhstan claimed that Kazakhs are wonderful people. “I never experienced that Russians were against the Kazakhs. Each farm included Kazakhs, Russians, Germans and Koreans. We lived together as if we were a single family.” Another Russian wrote: “My passport states that I am a Russian, but in my heart, I am a Kazakh and I am proud of it.” A Kazakh woman from Germany wrote: “The German grandmas in my childhood were all good and noble people.”

 

How awkward seem the two „Borat“ films of the British comedian Baron Cohen from 2014 and 2020! They ridicule Kazakhstan and its culture und appear to indicate the filmmaker’s cultural impoverishment. The West treats blacks and Jews with greater respect.

 

Galina Yoder is no communist, but she concluded: „The immigrants in Germany remain attached to their Kazakh past. Their hearts, exuding the spirit of the Soviet Union, have remained back there. We were united back then; no one asked about nationality or worldview. We suffered jointly and died jointly. So our ties back into the past remain very strong – they do not rupture.”

 

These humans find it self-evident that persons such as Vladimir Putin are saddened by the demise of the USSR. He’s known for the comment: “Those who do not want a return of the USSR, have no hearts. And those who do want it to return, have no brains.” Putin speaks from the soul for these Soviet-born persons.

 

The sadness of these “Soviet citizens” remains me of the former East Prussians after 1945 – major losses are always painful. The one group of bereaved lost Eastern Prussia, the other, the Soviet Union. Millions of Ukrainians also lament the USSR’s passing.

 

Is it any wonder that current-day Russians have no desire to see Belarusians abandon the family? The state is concerned about cold, geo-strategic interests; the nation, as Saint-Exupéry would say, “sees with the heart”. These two are fraternal neighbours and nations, or maybe even a single nation. Were the Germans celebrating when their country was divided in 1949?

 

Today

One can imagine how shocked Galina was when she first visited the Baltics in 1978 and the cashier at a store in Riga refused to serve the tourist from Siberia because of her nationality. That was a harbinger of things awaiting the Russian nation. 

 

In today’s Russia, dark, central-Asian men are intercepted at airports and questioned about their origin and destination. Perhaps that’s almost understandable in view of the large number of illegal immigrants.  

 

I’m still traumatised by a discussion in Kiev in April 2015. A leading representative of Ukraine’s Baptist Union then informed me, among other things, that the sole true fascist involved in the skirmish between his state and Russia was named Putin. That of course is not the Israeli position – the country to which the conservative-evangelical world is dedicated.

 

According to recent Western interpretation, virtually every small nation is entitled to its own turf. Every people should be permitted to live initially for itself, to assert itself. On those terms, a miniature-USSR called Yugoslavia needed to be resisted and even dissolved in 1991. I assume the old tactic of “divide et impera” remains current in the instance of Russia.

 

What cannot be

According to the West and its primary media, it is of course impermissible to think – “political correctness” is the usual term - as Galina does. The West is concerned about democracy, liberty, human rights and the right to self-realisation. The “love fest” described above is not acceptable.

 

One can of course direct legitimate questions at the “Soviet” crowd. Surges of nostalgia can turn sunglasses golden. And it is true that one can usually only in retrospect – or only from the outside – become acquainted with and learn to love the motherland.

 

Even following WW II, the USSR continued to be plagued with occasional unrest and repression. It is obvious that a fighter for religious freedom and the nostalgic crowd would describe the USSR in very different terms.

 

The question remains: Which segment of a complete reality does one choose to highlight? The political mighty are as guilty as any of proceeding selectively and emphasising only a portion of a complete and encompassing reality. Social and political systems are fragmentary – they meet only a portion of the needs expressed by the heart. Yet in the name of world peace, reality as experienced by the “Soviets” dare not be simply swept under the rug. That indeed is vital.

 

Love unites - hatred divides. Very pious, but true.

 

William Yoder, Ph.D.

Berlin, 5 February 2021

 

A journalistic release for which only the author is responsible. It is informational in character and does not express the official position of any church organisation. This release may be reprinted free-of-charge if the source is cited. Release #21-04, 1.129 words.