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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russians’ Nostalgia for USSR Psychology of Children in Orphanages, Pyatov Says


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 19 – Children in orphanages often dream up an imaginary past about their parents, replacing real alcoholics with imagined heroic figures, as a means of keeping at bay traumatizing experiences, German Pyatov says. Something exactly is behind the nostalgia many Russians feel for the Soviet Union.

            They cannot face up to the fact that the USSR was anything but positive, the surgeon who has worked with orphans for two decades says. As a result, they replace this “parent” with an admirable but imagined one that has nothing to do with reality but helps them cope with trauma (mk.ru/social/2021/01/19/nostalgiya-po-sssr-obyasnyaetsya-psikhologiey-detdomovcev.html).

            In doing so, Pyatov continues, they are just like orphans who come up with stories about their parents, replacing the alcoholics who in most cases have abandoned them with heroic pilots and stewardesses who have died in some horrific plane crash. That is especially common in Russia where 95 percent of orphans have still living parents.

            Consequently, for many of these Russian orphans, any reference to their parents is “psycho-traumatizing” and so they invent an alternative story that helps them cope. But what is especially dangerous is that this coping strategy can be adopted not just by individuals but by entire peoples.

            “Every ethnos and every nation has its own biography just as an individual does, and it isn’t a secret for anyone that the histories of peoples is full of legends and myths which can live for centuries but which sooner or later must be dispelled.” That is especially true of those which have gone through major transformations like Russia and the USSR have.

            According to Pyatov, the collapse of the USSR was inevitable for a variety of historical, political and economic reasons, and “the majority of Soviet communist myths were exposed during glasnost and perestroika … but former Soviet people continued to be closely tied to these myths.”

 

“Why? Because there was nothing else in their ‘historical biography,’ just like in those of orphanage children.”

            Regardless of where one looks, there were problems no one could face. For example, cannibalism in the Holodmor. This was not just in Ukraine as some current Ukrainian patriots try to insist.” It existed throughout much of the country. How can one deal with the fact that as a result of state policy, people were forced to eat human flesh?

            The only way to cope is to invent a new history of denial. That is what orphans often do.” “However, if an orphan child can manage to live his entire life with an invented biography … an entire people cannot do the same forever.” Information flows too freely now, and people are constantly being confronted with facts that call their beliefs into question.

            “Cannibalism in the Holodmor, the inability of the USSR to guarantee itself even bread, the total deficit of food and industrial products are all well-known facts. And the present-day Russian can believe in ‘the great, powerful Soviet Union’ only if he turns away from the entire rest of the world.”

            “But we already tried that in the USSR, and things ended badly,” Pyatov concludes. “Do all the peoples need to make the same mistakes again? If you want to go back to the USSR, travel to North Korea.” 

Window on Eurasia — New Series