Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Soviet Planners

Siberia is a long way from Moscow, and the Cossacks through the ages have not had a history of bowing to the Soviet propaganda machine, preferring to live in sort of deluded autonomy, or perhaps symbiotically with whatever government was in power, with the kind of begrudging acceptance that a junkyard dog displays to the person that feeds it.

It was strange therefore to hear the young English teacher speaking so positively about the grand foresight of the Soviet planners, and how thoughtful the government has been, particularly after being unusually forthright about some of the other "progressive" demolition works undertaken during the Soviet era. Another victim of the propoganda war we thought.

The Soviet government could never have been described as popularist, having spent a good deal of time, shuffling people from one state to another. Half of the population of the Baltic States, and the lesser principalities was displaced by citizens of the closer Russian States and vice versa in a carefully contrived effort to create a unified country. This was met with benign acceptance, as any dissidence was met with a stint in the far flung reaches of Siberia, and it appears only a Siberian would be comfortable with that.

The reason the government had built so many identical housing blocks across the Soviet Republic, he explained, was not an economy measure to save on documentation, nor was it anything to do with the Communist ideal of all men being seen to be equal.

With a widening grin he explained, the Soviet planners had had the incredible foresight of ensuring all buildings looked the same so that no matter where in the Soviet Union they were built. This he said, was out of kindness, so that no matter where one's translocation had them placed, one never became homesick.

Everywhere, looked and felt just like home.

I'm not sure that some of those planners haven't emigrated, and now work producing "starter homes" in our own suburbs. The philosophy seems strangely familiar at least.


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