jacdon at jacdon at
Fri Dec 14 05:51:39 MST 2001

The following article is from the Dec. 15, 2001, issue of the Mid-Hudson
(NY) Activist Newsletter.


Exactly 10 years ago Dec. 8, ignoring the great majority of opinion in
his own country but following the recommendations of  his U.S. advisers,
President Boris Yeltsin of Russia dissolved the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics.  This anniversary is an appropriate time to briefly
inquire into how Russia -- once the engine of the world’s second largest
economy -- is succeeding in its transformation from socialism to the
magical marketplace and ever-filled cornucopia of capitalism.

In essence, the economic decline of Russia has continued without
interruption since 1991, and the social toll, except for a small
minority who have gotten very rich, is appalling.  Russia today is “10
to 20 years behind” where it was a decade ago, according to economist
Oleg Bogomolov of Moscow’s Academy of Sciences, who might be termed an
optimist.   Conservative estimates of Russia’s gross domestic product
indicate it has dropped over 30% since the old socialist days. 
Industrial output is down 35%.  Over 30% of the population lives in deep
poverty.  Many more are just scraping by.  Crime is rampant, corruption
rife.  If current statistics hold, the country’s population will wither
from 145 million today to 55 million in 75 years, reports the Institute
of Social and Political Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In the former Soviet Union as a whole, plus the one-time socialist East
European countries, a combined total of 18 million children now live in
serious poverty, according to the UN Children’s Fund.  This means they
survive on less than the equivalent of $2.15 a day for everything --
food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, entertainment -- the works. 
Another 60 million kids in the former socialist bloc live on less than
$4.30 a day. Russia alone now has a child poverty rate of 23.2%--several
times higher than a decade ago before the transition to capitalism. The
infant death rate (16.5 per 1000 infants one year or younger)  is
200-300% higher than for comparable developed countries.

The newspaper Moscow Times reported earlier this year that Russia’s
death rate in 2000 rose to 15.3 per 1,000 people, “the highest in Europe
and the highest in Russia since the end of World War II.... For adults
age 20 to 29, the death rate has jumped 60% over the past decade.” The
average age of death for men, which was 69 years during the final year
of the USSR, fell to 59.8 years last year--11 to 15 years earlier than
average male deaths in developed countries.

According to polls taken in anticipation of the Dec. 8 anniversary,
Russia’s largest public opinion agencies concluded that 55% of the
population preferred life before the establishment of capitalism.  This
is down from 64% two years ago. The opinion researchers don’t attribute
the decline to improved living conditions or to infatuation with “really
existing” capitalism, but to the dying off of the older generation which
lived most of its life in the USSR, and to the loss of hope (only 22%
still have it) that it was any longer possible for the Soviet Union to
be restored.   Another poll taken last spring showed that after 10
years, “two-thirds of Russians still look fondly on Vladimir Lenin,” the
leader of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

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