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Belarus: Memories of the Soviet Past

LJ user aneta_spb, a St. Petersburg journalist, is posting vignettes with her memories of the Soviet years (RUS). Here's why:

As a result of heated discussions…

… on whether life in the USSR was good or bad…

I've decided to reminisce for myself. This will include memories about myself, my way of thinking and my perceptions – from that time.

In the USSR, I've spent my whole childhood, my whole youth and part of my maturity.

Additionally, I come from a family that has barely benefited from socialism – no free apartment (not even today), not even a motorcycle – and I'm not even talking about a car. I wasn't born in one of the capital cities – but 20 km from a regional center. My parents are from peasants, they are teachers. Didn't drink, didn't smoke. […]

aneta_spb spent her childhood in the westernmost corner of the Soviet Union, at the Polish-Soviet border in western Belarus. Below is some of what she remembers of religion, Soviet rituals – such as the Little Octobrist and the Young Pioneer Organizations – and of everyday life (RUS):

Easter was always beautiful, and it [contributed to my multiple personality]. Also, there were two Easters, and people celebrated both – the “Russian” [Orthodox] Easter and the “Polish” [Catholic] one. For the Willow [Palm] Sundays people carried willow branches decorated with paper flowers. The flowers were homemade, of goffered paper, and I really wanted to learn how to make them, and I did learn it.

When bread vanished from the stores, people began to bake it by themselves. And for Easter, they invited you to their homes and treated you to this bread and white buns with poppy seed. We didn't have that at home. Mama used to always yell at father: “They all know how to steal, and you don't!”

And I used to really like the Polish girls. Even for school holidays (in elementary school only; they weren't allowed to later), they weren't wearing the octobrist-pioneer uniform, “white top-black bottom” – but had those amazing colorful outfits on, embroidered with sparkles and beads, or simply embroidered… I learned later that when papa had just begun teaching at school and the children had been sworn in as pioneers – they came without their [red] ties the following day. “But you are the Soviet children!” – “We aren't Soviet children, we are Polish children.” But I don't remember any of it. Everyone wore ties and starlets.

Those starlets. For a long time, I thought that the octobrist star featured … [poet Aleksandr] Pushkin as a child. Because [Vladimir] Lenin was bold…

Accidentally, I learned that they meant Volodya Ulyanov [Lenin].

Stars were of two types: made of aluminum and painted over – and the cooler ones, made of transparent red plastic with a built-in tiny photo of a boy with curly hair. […]

2 comments

  • Veronika, could you give me some more context to the photo posted in this comment? For some reason it fascinates me – the expression on each face, the bottle of coke, the soldier and young woman …

    I’m just curious as to why the commenter put it there. Thanks!

  • The photo’s linked from this English-language site: Money & Prices in Belarus. It’s taken at a Minsk farmers’ market on August 22, 2000, and shows the prices for meat, fruit, veggies, etc. Looks very interestingly Soviet to me – would have never guessed what year it is, I’m afraid. Though, of course, the Soviet, pre-inflation, prices looked different – three-digit figures were not for ordinary citizens (a teacher’s salary was 120 rubles a month).

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