Russia’s Commissars of Anti-Racism

If legal policy towards human biodiversity/race realism/racist hate speech (cross out as per your ideological preferences) ranges from mildly to severely repressive across Europe and Canada, then in Russia it can best be described as schizophrenic.

There is more freedom of association than in Europe or even the US: You can specify “Slavs Only”/”No Caucasians” when renting out your apartment with no consequences, as Muscovites do. It trolls the West by accomodating far right conferences, such as the one in Saint-Petersburg in 2015. Moderate nationalists such as Egor Kholmogorov write op-eds for Komsomolskaya Pravda; even under Trump, I don’t see Steve Sailer penning articles for the NYT anytime soon.

On the other hand, remarkably trivial “offenses” may potentially get you in hot water. The classic case might be the Article 282 case against Konstantin Krylov, which unlike Pussy Riot is of course completely unknown in the West, who called on the Kremlin to “end this strange economic model” (sic), the “model” in question referring to Russian monetary transfers to the backwards Caucasus republics. For this act of fascist extremism he was sentenced to 120 hours of community service, though the verdict was overturned in 2014.

More recently, there appeared what might be a potential contender for sheer absurdity.

I do not know much about Dmitry Bobrov apart from the fact that he appears to be some sort of Russian nationalist. He is currently in trouble for the following propaganda of race hatred and extremism:

Today there has been another hearing in the case against me for the phrase “the great Russian people” and humiliation of West Europeans by the phrase “Western European peoples are currently in the phase of obscuration” (which is an almost identical retelling of Lev Gumilev).

They questioned a specialist who examined the text for extremism. That woman asked the court to remove “outsiders,” who were two girls from the human rights organization “Civil Control,” who decided to attend the hearing as observers. She stated that she is categorically opposed to the public hearing about her participation Article 282 cases, and the MSM and social media writing about it… The court refused her request. As for myself, I have decided to help make her slightly more famous.

Please meet: Rezeda Halyafutdinovna Salahutdinova, former associate professor of the Faculty of Sociology at Saint Petersburg State University. She graduated from the Faculty of “Scientific Communism” at Kazan University. Over many years, she has provided many such expertises against opponents of the regime.

In the Soviet Union, “scientific communism” had a status similar to that of the Womyn’s/African-American/LGBTQX “Studies” courses in the West – everybody knew it was a pseudoscientific scam, but you were still advised not to say that out loud. But in private, achieving perfect scores on your mandatory “scientific communism” course was considered to be a smirch on your academic record by real professors in science and mathematics.

So what we have here is a clear-cut transition from the pseudoscience of “scientific communism” to the pseudoscience of modern sociology. Very logical.

A search of her name confirms that Rezeda Salahutdinova does indeed have a “reputation” in certain corners of Runet for participating in Article 282 cases. “Rezeda Salahutdinova” currently only has eight Google mentions in English. Let us help Rezeda Salahutdinova become a bit more famous in the Anglosphere too. Saint Petersburg State University is hardly a provincial community college, so it would be good to let any foreign collaborators know of her impressive pedigree in punishing thoughtcrime (too bad they’d probably approve, but that’s another matter). You are welcome, Rezeda Salahutdinova.

In particular, she declared that the phrase “white race” just by itself fans the flames of hatred, because “they don’t talk like that in modern science” and that the expression “non-white people” is extremist, since it attacks the national dignity of other peoples.

It is heard to describe this theater of the absurd under the guise of a law court. When she was asked, “What specific racial, national, ethnic, social, or other groups were insulted?”, she replied: “All those groups, that are not identified with whites.”

No, this makes no more sense in Russian than in English.

Let me see if I get this straight: The white race doesn’t exists, but not belonging to it is an insult?

Since Article 282 specifically applies to hatred against specific groups, I tried to force her to clarify herself:

Dmitry Bobkov: “Could you please clarify whether there exists a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group “everyone, who isn’t white”?”

Rezeda Salahutdinova: “From the point of view of Gobineau’s racist theory, all non whites are inferior…”

DB: “Could you please clarify whether there exists a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group “everyone, who isn’t white”?”

RS: “In our many-national country it is very important that hatred and enmity not divide peoples of different nationalities…”

DB: “Could you please clarify whether there exists a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group “everyone, who isn’t white”?”

RS: “Gobineau’s theory states that representatives of the white race participated in the creation of the great civilization of ancient Egypt, however…”

DB: “Could you please clarify whether there exists a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group “everyone, who isn’t white”?”

RS: “It should be noted that the growth of national consciousness on Russian territory can be observed across all nationalities, and not just ethnic Russians…”

DB: “Could you please clarify whether there exists a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group “everyone, who isn’t white”?”

RS: “As a representative of modern science, I can confirm that a conceptual analysis of this text speaks to its extremist slant…”

DB: “Could you please clarify whether there exists a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group “everyone, who isn’t white”?”

The judge speaks up, evidently annoyed. “Could you please answer that specific question?”

RS: : “Taking into account the many-national and multiracial character of the Russian Federation, the danger of such teachings is that peoples living on the territory of this country are subjected to an analysis based on a racial typology…”

DB: “Could you please clarify whether there exists a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group “everyone, who isn’t white”?”

What’s with the Gobineau obsession, anyway? I mean it is The Current Year for crying out loud! She doesn’t appear to have even left the era of Stephen Jay Gould and The Mismeasure of Man.

Anyhow,  it would be interesting to know how this case turns out.

It’s encouraging that the judge, at least, appears to be sane. This is fortunate, because cases like Bobrov’s get scant attention at best from Russia’s homegrown HR activists, while Western critics of our glorious Putlerreich (/s) only ever whine that Russia isn’t doing enough against supposed racists.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. I have a feeling some on the alt-right side secretly hope Russia is a racist country(such as the Russia depicted in Western massmedia). Violent Russian thugs are probably real but there’s more to Russia. For example its Muslim community.

    Rezeda Salahutdinova from a university in Kazan sounds very Muslim to me. Not surprised someone like her would be a commissar.

  2. Moderate nationalists such as Egor Kholmogorov write op-eds for Komsomolskaya Pravda; even under Trump, I don’t see Steve Sailer penning articles for the NYT anytime soon.

    And Kholmogorov is more nationalist than Steve. Also, Kholmogorov has written about a real-life conversation with Putin during which the latter told him “well, I’m a Russian nationalist too.” That’s some stretching of definitions, but Trump will never invite people like that to the White House in the first place.

    In the Soviet Union, “scientific communism” had a status similar to that of the Womyn’s/African-American/LGBTQX “Studies” courses in the West – everybody knew it was a pseudoscientific scam, but you were still advised not

    It was a BS discipline, and a degree in it is a sign of conformism and intellectual incuriosity, but unlike LGBTQX Studies late-Soviet communist theory did not promote degeneracy or the destruction of the family. Early-Soviet communist theory did promote those things though. The ideological turnaround happened around 1935. SJWs are like early Communists and the opposite of late ones.

  3. Anatoly, you make fun of Masha Gessen, Kasparov, etc., and I do too, and they deserve to be mocked, but you seem to have the same view of the post-WWII USSR that they do. The average Western poli-sci academic shares this same view of the late USSR with you. Do you think this is because you fooled them or because they fooled you? Or do you think that your and their genuine interests coincide?

  4. Also, you’re offended by the Western media’s disparagement of modern Russia’s standard of living, economic performance, political freedoms, etc. And you’re right to do that. The Western media considers Russia to be an enemy, and when people see an enemy, their first insticnt is to shout “you suck!”

    But you take it on faith that this same Western media’s critiques of late Soviet economy, standard of living, political freedoms, etc. are correct. You don’t remember the Soviet Union yourself. Obviously, you didn’t take your view of it from old Soviet media or from modern pro-Soviet people. Apparently you think that that Schrad person, for example, is a trustworthy source on Brezhnev.

    Why would the same set of institutions, the Western media and poli-sci academia, have suddenly changed its standards of reporting and level of bias in 1991?

    If you ask them, they’ll tell you that they’re fighting the same enemy for the same reasons. The reasons they’ll give (democracy, freedom) will be false, but the actual reasons that underlie those are, I think, the same.

    In general I think that the Western left has a more realistic picture of what happened during the Cold War than the Western right. I don’t share the left’s goals, actually I root for goals that are opposite of theirs, but they have more info, more facts.

    They want to move the whole town in the opposite direction from you, yes, but their map is better than yours. And I’m trying to tell you, and not just you, “I’ve been to these places on the map, and yes, their map is better. That river right here really does turn right, not left like your map shows. Those guys are evil, sure, but they’re not stupid and they have more info than you do.”

  5. Just to be clear:

    The idea that the late USSR was rife with corruption, mismanagement, incompetence, etc.: that’s mostly shouts of “you suck!” from opponents. Of course there was some corruption, mismanagement and incompetence, but on balance Soviet society was much healthier than those of the West. If the late USSR’s leadership really was screwing things up, these same people, its opponents, would have praised it the way they praised Gorbachev and Yeltsin later.

    There’s a limit to how much a person can know from experience. I form my view of a country like Burma/Myanma by watching more knowledgeable people’s reactions. If the NYT says the Burmese government is bad for the Burmese, that means that it’s good for the Burmese. If the NYT says that that Aung Sang Whatever lady is a fighter for democracy, she must be a traitor trying to sell out her people.

    But that’s not how I formed my opinion of the USSR. I formed it by observing, comparing and thinking things over. Though the first method is probably nearly as good.

    Just looked up Aung San Suu Kyi. She’s Burma’s Prime Minister now. My heart goes out to the Burmese.

  6. A lot of what they say about the late USSR in the West is pure BS but your views of it are a little too… rosy.

  7. Why would the same set of institutions, the Western media and poli-sci academia, have suddenly changed its standards of reporting and level of bias in 1991?

    Because I am infamous for basing my opinions on institutions, the Western media, and poli-sci academia. /s

    I like comparisons and statistics.

    The USSR objectively failed on the economy and moreover it couldn’t help but fail because central planning is fundamentally inefficient. This isn’t an ideological viewpoint, BTW, it’s a mathematical proof.

    It also failed on many social indicators, such as the rising mortality rates between 1965 and 1985 while Western life expectancy continued surging ahead. Its suppression of non-Marxist aligned viewpoints and arguments ensured no honest discussions about these problems could be held, and no serious resolutions sought.

    I defend the USSR against lies where it is warranted and on balance view its dissolution as a tragedy, but ultimately, I am not going to shill for a state whose own rulers ended up selling it for jeans.

    Incidentally, do you really have to turn posts that are not in any substantial way related to the Soviet Union into discussions of your belief that pre-1930 USSR = very bad, 1930’s USSR = transitional, post-1938 USSR = very good? I am sure that virtually every reader of this blog is familiar with it by now!

  8. That’s interesting, didn’t know about that Kholmogorov – Putin convo.

  9. I’m sorry that I’ve bored people by repeating things. But no, I don’t believe in that “mathematical proof” stuff. Economists are worse than astrologers were. There was statistical proof in the 1990s, and it went the other way – the free market led to a severe downturn in every single post-Soviet and post-Warsaw-pact economy – but I’ve talked about that here before too.

    And since you mentioned Kholmogorov yourself, he dislikes the USSR for its model of interethnic relations – it WAS a multi-culti state – but he praises it for its economics. Specifically economic equality, social protections and domestic industry.

  10. 100 years since disaster of communism revolution. Are you planning writing about centennial? Many in countries now free from Iron Curtain hope for more freedom progress and less Russia worship.

  11. I, too, long for the day when the Latvian people can find the courage to come to terms with their historical responsibility for Communism.

  12. [It also failed on many social indicators, such as the rising mortality rates between 1965 and 1985 while Western life expectancy continued surging ahead.]

    By the same token a rate of increase in life expectancy faster than in the west prior to 1965 (which was the case) would show the USSR to then have been superior.

  13. Hector_St_Clare says


    I really like Glossy’s commentary here, mostly because it’s a perspective that you hear so rarely in America (I would imagine there are a lot more people with his views in Russia).

    And I think the point was made somewhere in that Crooked Timber thread you link that the flaws of central planning may not be inherent to central planning itself, and could potentially be overcome by advances in computing power and Big Data methods. Hayek and others said “the Soviet economy can’t ever work, because it would take hundreds of years to do all the calculations necessary to plan the economy for one year”, or something like that. The thing is, though, advances in computing power (Moore’s Law) have already changed that, and at this point you could do all the calculations in three days. And of course that trend is only going to continue in future, so central planning will become more and more feasible as information technology improves.

    And as you point out your self, it’s possible to have communism with some limited use of market prices, as Hungary did, and their system worked quite well. (Well enough that a majority of Hungarians, as of 2010, thought that their country was better off under communism).

  14. reiner Tor says

    a rate of increase in life expectancy faster than in the west prior to 1965

    Easier to do from a lower base, when there are a lot of low-hanging fruits. Soviet style communism seems to be good at “catching up” up to a point. Chinese Mao-style or Korean Juche communism were not very good even at that, for example. But Soviet communism seems to have reached its limits at catching up around 1965, and after that it started lagging – which is a very bad record if you consider that it still needed to grow from a lower base.

    And the earlier faster development also came at a staggering price in terms of excess deaths and human suffering. Add to that the cost of a huge disruption of society and economic development by the civil war, and even pre-1965 communism doesn’t seem to be so great. If you restrict your study to the era 1953-65, then yes, Soviet communism does seem to be superior than capitalistic societies at the same development level. (Perhaps it was a case of a sweet spot where fear of Stalinism was still very much alive and motivating people to work, while the disruptions of terror and crazy Stalinist ideas were no longer felt. Or a sweet spot in terms of economic development. Or both.)

  15. reiner Tor says

    I spent my childhood in 1980s Hungary, and by 2000 it felt better for at least half of the population.

    But I was surprised to learn that meat consumption per capita was higher in the 1970s than ever since. In the 1980s it started to drop (and its composition was getting worse – more chicken, less beef), but it was still higher in in the late 80s than any time since 1990…

    The main problem for 1980s Hungary was the following:

    • very low quality of goods (they also were often aesthetically unpleasing)
    • low supply – you often couldn’t buy things you wanted, for example a pair of shoes exactly matching your size (especially a problem for children, or for adults who wanted aesthetically pleasing products)
    • my parents had to organize to buy bread in the morning – couldn’t do that after work, since bread or milk was often gone by that time
    • a general feeling that everything was slowly getting worn out, and only a few new things getting built
    • probably a few other things which I forgot
  16. reiner Tor says

    I didn’t mention the at least 100,000 paid moles the government employed to spy on its own citizens and similar issues. Though there’s a similar issue with HBD in the West, too, even if nobody is paid to spy on his neighbors, there’s electronic surveillance and the volunteer auxiliary thought police, as we all know.

  17. reiner Tor says

    Russia is better than the West, but not nearly as good as it could be if Putin knew everything about HBD.

  18. I remember seeing someone say on TV a long time ago that there was no homelessness in Hungary in the 1980s.

  19. One key element is that economies are simpler at low per capita development levels, meaning you don’t need to produce as wide a variety of goods (steel, coal, etc).

    The problems of central planning become really intractable once you also have to start producing more diverse things, like windshield wipers… or a good variety of differently sized shoes.

  20. The thing is, though, advances in computing power (Moore’s Law) have already changed that, and at this point you could do all the calculations in three days.

    The Crooked Timber article claims its considerably more than that:

    A good modern commercial linear programming package can handle a problem with 12 or 13 million variables in a few minutes on a desktop machine. Let’s be generous and push this down to 1 second. (Or let’s hope that Moore’s Law rule-of-thumb has six or eight iterations left,and wait a decade.) To handle a problem with 12 or 13 billion variables then would take about 30 billion seconds, or roughly a thousand years.

    In The Age of Em, Robin Hanson claims that an economy based on brain emulations (ems) will have a much lower variety of goods. Maybe central planning would become efficient then, heh.

  21. The statistics comport with people’s memories. With my personal memories.

    Let me give you some links (sorry other commenters, they are all in Russian.) I give them because stuff described there closely matches my own experience. There are even details that I’ve forgotten about that had been brought back after several decades (nothing can compare to that feeling.)

    First, Kholmogorov himself on books in the USSR. It’s not even political censorship, it’s the whole wacky system.
    Again, I can relate to that because I had a nearly identical experience. Even many of the books were the same. (I, too, read Druon in my early to mid teens. OMG! An uncut Thyl Ulenspiegel made a great impression on me as well. Etc.) Oh, and there is even a picture of makulatura coupon with stamps. That brought back a flood of memories.

    One level below from books, food. Here is a post describing what kind of food was sold in the USSR, and how. Do click on the links “ice cream in the USSR,” “bananas in the USSR,” etc. (I touched a banana for the first time in my life when I was about 15.)
    (For fairness sake, some illustrations here seems to be from the late Gorbachev period.)

    Finally, this.
    How the late era Soviet kids came to hate everything to do with the Soviet system. I had seen it in real time. Even the little details are correct. For example, the huge difference between 1984 and 1986. Almost the first time I see it ever mentioned; everyone else seems to have forgotten it. Now, judging by the comments, the author is a major a-hole, but what he writes in the post is absolutely correct.

  22. I think I already mentioned how some of Marx’s prophesies are weirdly coming true in just the last couple of decades. The possibility of central planning is one example. Already as we speak, Google, Amazon, and many others are busy creating algorithms that could predict your future purchases based on a million of facts about you. There is only one step from this to central planning that works.

  23. Technology is not the central issue here. The silly “Austrian” argument about the impossiblity of central planning didn’t even reach 1914 before being refuted as theory. More importantly, practice showed that it worked fine. With a lot of cheating, to be sure, but that is common to all economic systems.

  24. British children didn’t see bananas between 1939 and 1951 or thereabouts.

  25. Just read that article by Kholmogorov on Soviet books.

    My father participated in the book exchange that he described there. Yes, popular books were hard to get. But remember what happened to the book trade when the system was liberalized. The market was flooded with crap. There was some kind of a series about somebody named Angelica.
    Trashy foreign sci-fi. Occult stuff, porny stuff. If you want a symbol in your mind of what the market economy is like, think about that.

    The circulation of serious books plummeted. And he mentioned that himself. That enormous foreign literature collection which he talked about couldn’t be made in modern Russia. Many hundreds of translations, scholarly prefaces. It’s shocking amount of work. What happened to all of those scholars when the Soviet system fell? They started selling things at bazaars, became psychologists, left for foreign universities.

    We had a neighbor on our floor who had that whole collection in her apartment. Kholmogorov is right about the dust jackets though.

    Some time ago I looked at a wiki page on the Life of Remarkable Peolple collection (ЖЗЛ). The circulation figures plummeted from hundreds of thousands to 2,000 or less at the time of the Soviet collapse. But those were good books.

    The Soviet Union promoted the kind of culture that it thought was good for you. Some of it was Marxist-Leninist thought, which was bad and boring. But the rest of it was high culture, which really is good. And the USSR did all it could to stamp out low, base culture.

    A couple of years ago Kholmogirov wrote a stand-alone review of the Druon books, and every word there was true. I loved that stuff to death for exactly the reasons he described there.

    And I loved Captain Blood books, Jules Verne and most of the other stuff he mentioned there. Everybody did read the same things. And the artistic quality of those things was higher on average than what our contemporaries read in the West. And we read more too, even though books really were harder to get.

  26. All Soviet books had a circulation number in the back together with many kinds of typographical information that a nerdy kid like me was fascinated by.

    Again talking about that gigantic foreign literature collection:

    There have never been any other societies on earth where something so scholarly could be printed so widely. And yet it was still hard to get. And that wide popular interest in high culture died with the Soviet Union. That makes me sad.

    I think they printed 30 million copies of the standard 3-volume Pushkin collection. Citing from memory here.

  27. His article about Cursed Kings:

    I don’t know if I’d like those books now. Probably yes, but not as much as I did then. But I remember a much higher proportion of what was in them than of the other stuff that I read at that age.

  28. I didn’t follow your link about Soviet food yet, but I did eat bananas all through my childhood. And I have great memories about the various kinds of ice cream that were sold then.

    Moscow was better supplied than the rest of the country though.

    I probably saw a whole, fresh pineapple only once there. Usually you saw it in small frozen slices. Coconuts were something from adventure tales about European explorers of roughly 1900 in the southern seas. You never thought that modern city dwellers anywhere could buy coconuts. I didn’t know that kiwis even existed.

    But caviar was eaten more often than in the West, then or now.

    In general there was much less variety, but no one went hungry after about 1947.

  29. Daniel Chieh says

    Russia is more intolerant of homomania than she is racist from what I can tell.

  30. Here’s his article about two kinds of anti-Sovietism:

    I agree with most of that. The horrors of the early Soviet period were not necessary to achieve the social justice (real, not the SJW kind) that existed in the late Soviet period. It could have been achieved without them. But the people who deny that this social justice existed there are wrong.

  31. When I was making that list of all the crap that became popular after liberalization, I forgot self-help books. Dale Carnegie and co.

    The kind of bad books that the Soviet Union threw at you were unreadable, so nobody read them. Lenin, etc. The kind of bad books that the market produces – Chicken Soup for the Soul, 50 Shades of Grey, etc. – end up being read by millions. And that makes society trashier. Same thing for movies and all other kinds of culture.

  32. Just finished reading the livejoirnal post that you linked to.

    I’m 10 younger than that guy and he specifically said that things improved during the 80s. I don’t know if that’s true.

    He laments the lack of comic books in his childhood. I don’t. I think comic books are stupid. My cousin’s husband collected foreign comic books in the 80s and I never even asked him to look at them.

    I was also into photography. Had two cameras and a projector (I’m guessing that’s the right English term), bought chemicals, made prints. This stuff was available at stores, but again that was in the 80s and he says things were worse before.

    Foreign goods were prestigious, yes. But Soviet goods weren’t as awful as he says. One of those two cameras that I mentioned for example was a Zenit from 1956 that was given to me by my uncle. I used it until 1992, when I gave it to my best friend before leaving. I never had to repair it. It always worked. And those old cameras had a lot of moving parts.

  33. Hector_St_Clare says

    What is the central issue then? I’m a little unclear on whether you are arguing for or against the late Soviet period.

    To really sum up my feelings about communism, I think there were some very serious flaws with central planning (that Anatoly and others have ably described). That being said, I also think that 1) in some circumstances the advantages of communism (providing full employment including for blue collar workers, low inequality, avoiding geographic and personal concentrations of wealth, and exerting some measure of state control over what people consume and produce) outweighed the defects, 2) the advantages of the market over planning aren’t quantitatively as big as most people think (see East vs. West Germany), though they are certainly real, 3) late capitalism is entering crises of its own which may dwarf the final crises of communism, 4) communism can be improved by mixing in some elements of the market, and 5) improved IT / Big Data could eventually help ameliorate and maybe solve the socialist calculation problem entirely.

    Regarding Hungary, I have a family friend who spent a couple years there in the 1960s, as an engineering intern or something. (He was from a neutral country, India, and Hungary had offered to train Indian engineers, or something). Hearing about his experiences is really fascinating. He had really positive things to say about Hungarian hospitality and how welcoming people were. And he thought that generally, people were pretty comfortable and happy, as long as they didn’t question the government.

  34. Jaakko Raipala says

    Glossy, I’m guessing you didn’t experience the West before the fall of communism? What you’re describing is probably the climate right after communism fell when the vast majority of Western academic and intelligence agency work and thought on the USSR was discredited and the minority who maintained that the USSR was not doing well despite all the elite ridicule such an opinion invited found the tables suddenly turned.

    The gloating about economic failure in the 1990s was not just about Russia but also about gloating about being right in the internal debate in the West. Remember that in the West you could simultaneously be anti-Soviet and still believe that the Soviet model was very successful, in fact many of the zealous anti-communists were driven by the fear that the Soviet economic model would triumph and lead the world to atheism or whatever. Intelligence agencies, think thanks and bureaucracies were set up with the explicit goal of countering the Soviet Union and they frequently ended up arguing that the West is going to fall behind unless it adopts more aspects of the Soviet model.

    This even predates the Cold War. If I look at my great-grandfathers pre-Civil-War writings as the local head of the White Guard, he still takes it granted that the Reds are the side of material progress so when he argues that tenant farmers should side with Whites he points out that there are unwritten obligations and protections offered in the traditional relationship between landowner and tenant and all those will disappear if the Reds take over and replace tradition with mere economic progress.

    The fall of communism was also a cultural revolution in the West where it ended the centuries long background belief that the Left “owns” economic progress. Western opinion on the Soviet Union before and after aren’t really comparable because it also shattered much of elite consensus in the West.

    PS. My grandfather was in the Finnish parliament from the 1950s to the 1970s and he was one of the very few right-wing politicians from capitalist countries who actually spent a lot of time speaking to Russians. He had lots of stories of Finnish socialists thinking they’d get a lot of points by showing knowledge of Marxist-Leninism only to find out that no one was less popular at a diplomatic banquet in Moscow than the Western guest who wanted to discuss his passionate belief in Marxist theory.

  35. You assume that the USSR ceased to exist because it was doing badly economically. I think its economic system did well until it was abolished for foolish reasons. And then its economy was looted by thieves.

    And official Western opinion, which had all sorts of relationships with these thieves, decreed that this collapse predated the thieving. That’s a lie.

    The oligachs had an interest in saying that they didn’t break the Soviet economy. They claimed it was already broken when they approached it. But that’s a lie. It was doing well until they broke it. By stealing things.

    And the current official Western view covers for these oligarchs.

    In other words, the old Western idea that the USSR was doing well was correct. The current idea is revisionism. There was a collapse, but it post-dated market reforms. And was caused by them.

  36. The second cause of the economic collapse was the breakup of a single, integrated economic space into 15 separate economic spaces.

    It has been pointed out, including by Anatoly, I think, that Belarus suffered only from this second problem. The first problem – looting by oligarchs – was avoided in it. And that helps explain the relatively good economic performance of Belarus in the post-Soviet years, in spite of its lack of oil and gas.

  37. There was plenty of ridicule by both sides of each other during the Cold War, including of the “you’re failing” kind. But there was what you described as well. There were CIA reports that projected strong growth for the USSR. And that aspect has been mostly forgotten, yes.

    Why were such reports made? First, to drum up funding and enthusiasm for the Cold War. Second, nobody could predict that Gorbachev would start these “reforms” on order to get fashionable people to like him. And if he didn’t, the USSR might well have met and even exceeded the CIA’s expectations.

  38. Think of China now. I read an article at least once a year saying that it’s near collapse because of debt or because the Communist party is unpopular. At the same time others argue that China is very stable.

    But what if a “reformer” takes power in Beijing, allows Western-funded press to influence his people, gives independence to Tibet and Xinjiang. That gives new life to dormant nationalisms, core China splits into 10 pieces, the “reformer” is replaced by an outright thief in a coup or a media-driven election, the economy tanks and is looted by more thieves.

    Then everyone will pretend that they’ve always made the collapse prediction, even if they didn’t. The existence of the rise-of-China, Chinese-century view will only be remembered by a few.

  39. ussr andy says


    I think the word is “arbitrary” and that it’s partly by design. It’s a defect and it’s messing with the brain. Though from a purely probabilistic perspective, arbitratriness beats consistent draconicity.

  40. Pumblechook says

    Oh how exhausting to hear the Baltic butthurt belt squawking all the time. There is not much point having your freedom if you’ve all emigrated anyway.

  41. And the USSR did all it could to stamp out low, base culture.

    Is this why we ended up stuck with the Kardashians?

  42. Well, I think all your points are reasonable (though suitably vague) except 5. Leave Big Data to Big Data Tom.

  43. reiner Tor says

    Isn’t it true of all ex-communist countries? I wrote the situation felt better for at least half the population (i.e. not everyone). But the number of homeless people is low (they usually estimated them at 40-60,000, until they did a sort of homeless census I think in 2010 and it turned out that their actual number wasn’t higher than 20,000 or 0.2% of the population), a lot (of course not all) of them are there of their own fault, and the question is whether there is some growth sacrifice for that unquestionably positive outcome of zero homelessness (probably there is), in which case over time the costs might far outweigh the societal benefits.

  44. Pumblechook You like communism? I hate communism.

  45. Thank you comrade Stalin

  46. Soviet Communism did a bang up job of turning the USSR from an agrarian 95% peasant society to an industrial powerhouse capable of out producing Nazi Germany and friends (France, Chekoslovakia, et al). In the space of about 10 years. The human cost would have been higher had they failed.

  47. Myths. Industrialization was well under way under the Tsars. Commies sped it up, but not by a huge amount, and at enormous cost.

  48. But the number of homeless people is low (they usually estimated them at 40-60,000, until they did a sort of homeless census I think in 2010 and it turned out that their actual number wasn’t higher than 20,000 or 0.2% of the population), a lot (of course not all) of them are there of their own fault

    Indeed, having people who are homeless largely due to their own behaviors (often, chronic alcoholism) being housed in a society where housing for the so-called “middle class” was almost poverty-level by Western standards is a really silly reason to brag about the superiority of the system.

    I visited the USSR in 1990. Having previously only been to western Europe and North America, the shabbiness and poverty were striking. Soviet housing (Khrushchovky) was the equivalent of American housing projects, food (other than bread, which was very good) was awful, clothes were terrible (no wonder everyone wanted Western jeans or such trinkets), public places were often overgrown by weeds.

    Ironically everything has flipped now.

  49. You don’t know anything about the USSR. Just one of many inaccuracies: By 1990 khruschovky represented roughly 5% to 10% of Soviet housing. I’m guesstimating, but this is something I’m highly qualified to guesstimate. I was born at a hospital, but was brought back to a khruschovka a few days later.

    A khruschevka is a very specific kind of building: 5 stories, no elevators. The majority of the housing that stood in Soviet cities in 1990 was built after khruschevkas, and was never called by that name.

  50. You don’t know anything about the USSR.

    And yet you are the one spreading nonsense about it.

    By 1990 khruschovky represented roughly 5% to 10% of Soviet housing.

    American “housing project” type housing constitutes much less than 10% of housing stock.

    My aunt, a schoolteacher, lived in one. It was shocking to me that a “middle-class” person could live in such a place. They seem to have been more common in oblast capitals than in, for example, Moscow.

    Sovok buildings that were not technically Khrushchevky were often not much better. Perhaps as an experienced consumer of horrible housing you can see the subtle differences better than I can.

    For example this monstrosity from the 70s is not a Khrushchovka but also has strong housing-project qualities:

    A khruschevka is a very specific kind of building: 5 stories, no elevators.

    While this was generally true it was not always the case – you are wrong, as usual.

  51. [Perhaps as an experienced consumer of horrible housing you can see the subtle differences better than I can.]

    Cheap snobbery, the last refuge of the fool.

  52. reiner Tor says

    Commies sped it up

    After having reversed it during the civil war, when industrial production dropped by 90%. It wasn’t entirely their fault, but they contributed mightily to the civil war and its destructiveness. I guess even Glossy agrees to that point: the bolsheviks after 1917 were generally horrible.

  53. [Perhaps as an experienced consumer of horrible housing you can see the subtle differences better than I can.]

    Cheap snobbery,

    No, reality. He admitted it himself – ” I was born at a hospital, but was brought back to a khruschovka a few days later”

    As a resident of the Soviet Union he was undoubtedly used to terrible housing, and can pick up on the subtle differences of various unpleasant shoddy places, whereas those of us used to normal housing see a mass of “khrushchyovky.”

  54. I guess even Glossy agrees to that point: the bolsheviks after 1917 were generally horrible.

    The Bolsheviks of 1917 murdered Russia and constructed a putrid monster out of its corpse. Because the murdered was beautiful, some beauty was still retained here and there. But it was still a grotesque thing.

  55. For example this monstrosity from the 70s is not a Khrushchovka but also has strong housing-project qualities.

    Seems to be a normal 1970s/80s-era building, strongly resembles the one I’m living in right now.

    They don’t look great but they’re quite solid and respectable on the inside.

    I think individual housing units are largely an Anglo tradition (nor are they all necessarily good; for instance, in California, it is not unusual for cardboard like constructions to sell for $250,000 or more, depending on the area). My impression is that far more people live in flats in mainland Europe.

  56. I lived in a wonderful Stalin building. Though it was right off busy Tverskaya, the walls were so thick it was nice and quiet inside. And warm – in winter we’d leave the windows open for a refreshing breeze.

    A lot of the worst of the Soviet-era buildings have been destroyed in Moscow. Often they build new highrises and reserve the bottom floors for the former residents of the buildings that were destroyed to make room for the new ones. It’s a great deal for them, yet sometimes they still resent the people who paid a lot of money to buy flats higher up..

  57. inertial says

    Books, and photo cameras, and bananas, oh my. I have personal stories to tell about that but… perhaps some other time. Instead I’d like to make a few general points.

    1. Soviet economy was doing fine by many measures but when it came to serving people it was falling short. You didn’t necessarily see it as a kid but as you grew up you started to notice (and sometime experience) this more and more. But it didn’t mean that the whole thing had to collapse as it did, it could be gradually reformed. One element of the reform would be a relaxation of the stupid ideological ban on small time entrepreneurship (as they did in China.) Ironically, in the bad old USSR private enterprise (in the shape of co-ops) was an important part of the economy until Khrushchev destroyed all that.

    The only problems with that solution would’ve been social, not economic. First, even a limited private enterprise would’ve generated a degree of inequality. Soviet people of that era were highly intolerant to any degree of inequality (unlike the “Communist” Chinese who didn’t seem to care about that at all.) Ruling class had their own reason to object. For decades, the Communist elite’s main claim to legitimacy was the claim that they were building something totally new and much better than everyone else had. Introducing “Capitalist” reforms would’ve been a major loss of face. But the point is, Soviet economy could’ve been reformed, and if some alternative reality Gorabchev had managed to do that, USSR would still be around today, bigger and more powerful than China.

    1. In regard to who reads what. This is an HBD blog. The readers of this blog should understand that taste, like everything else, is a bell curve (almost certainly highly correlated with IQ.) If you give freedom to the people on the left side of that curve they will seek out trash. If you don’t give them freedom but instead try to push high culture down their throats they won’t come to like your high culture. Instead, they’ll start to hate it, and you as well. They won’t buy tickets to opera, they will sullenly drink vodka in their kitchens.

    On the other hand, people who like to read high brow books still read them today. It’s just that the variety of reading material is orders of magnitude greater now, so the circulation of any particular book is smaller.

  58. Jaakko Raipala says

    The territorial break up didn’t mean much to most outside the USSR and it alone would not have discredited communism as an economic system. Eastern European states come and go before Westerners manage to memorize them on the map. What was new was the opportunity to look at the results of the long communist experiment and the USSR didn’t even need to collapse to get there, we just needed to have travel restrictions lifted a bit.

    The humiliation of Western advocates of the Soviet system was not merely economical. For example, many on the Left had been promoting socialism as the environmentally friendly alternative to greedy polluting Western capitalism, a delusion that could only be maintained as long as it was difficult to travel to the industrial cities of the USSR.

    Now, I grant you that I only visited the intact USSR once (in Estonia), though I then became a frequent visitor to the post-USSR as the mild anarchy of the 1990s was a great time for a teenager. However indicators like the condition of buildings, the cars people drive, basic infrastructure, where people lived and so on do not just change instantly in a crisis and all that was vastly inferior to Western standards.

    Some things were especially obvious for a visiting Finn. For example, St Petersburg has lots of exactly the same Tsarist era construction as Helsinki to the point where these days I often can’t tell whether a building is from St Petersburg or Helsinki. I would have had no problem with that at the end of the USSR given the appalling state of disrepair of most of that stuff. Decades of decay and damage doesn’t magically happen in a year because some oligarch swindled a place form himself with shady deals, actually I’m pretty sure that whatever repairs have happened are often due to some oligarch owner…

    It’s true that politics might cause differences in particular indicators so maybe some things were neglected by the communist government for ideological reasons (eg I’m guessing the Orthodox church in Helsinki was the only one getting gold for its domes for a long time) but there are just too many indicators.

  59. It makes sense to separate complexity from morality when thinking about culture.

    There’s no way to make people on the left side of the IQ curve appreciate complex culture, but it’s possible to make them behave better by producing simpler but moral culture for them and by banning immoral culture. Before the revolution the church did some of that work, and it should have continued doing that, but the early communists declared a war against it. Late communism produced plenty of simple secular moral culture, as well as the complex kind. A government that cares about its people will always try to ban immoral culture.

  60. inertial says

    Finally, on topic. Russia’s own version of Political Correctness (for the lack of better term) is homegrown, not imported. Anatoly thinks within the paradigm of Western PC, so Russian version appears schizophrenic to him.

    White Western European had been on top of the heap for centuries, so a major feature of Western PC is white guilt. Russians had not been on top, so they suffer no guilt.

    On the other hand, the “everyone is the same / there is no such thing as race” thinking appeals greatly. Some of it is explained by the need to maintain modern multinational state (same as in the USA.) But the greater part of this is the fact that the Russians themselves were targets of “racism” since forever. Of course, everyone remembers how Nazis regarded Slavs as subhumans. And today, too, there are many voices that say that Russians are nothing but a horde of drunken barbarians. So, there is this chip on the shoulder.

  61. inertial says

    Actually, the Soviet system was quite bad at producing quality culture for the left side of the curve. Of course, these things were created from time to time even if almost accidentally. But not nearly enough.

    Take comics as an example. Yes, I didn’t feel the need for them, either, because I was a reader. But it’s obvious that many people – kids – would love to have them. Why couldn’t the system produce tons of good, moral, educational comics? No, we were supposed to sneer at comics as degenerate Western pseudo-art.

    Or take books. Why couldn’t they print enough sci-fi to satisfy demand? Good, pro-Soviet, optimistic sci-fi like early Strugatskys. While we are at it, why not produce and print more good romance novels for women? And mysteries? I can understand the deficit of bananas but books??? Yes, I know, this would mean that more of this stuff would be published than Dostoevsky, or Lenin, or whoever the head of Writers Union was at the time. But so what?

  62. I remember a Soviet TV show aimed at women, hosted by a woman named Leontyeva, who separately hosted a kids’ show. I think it was sappy, but innocent. Life stories, crying. I’ve seen little bits of Malakhov’s modern-day show, and I’m sure there are lots of others like it, and I think it’s much trashier than that, like Western talk shows for women.

    A lot of stuff on late Soviet TV did not require a big brain to be appreciated. And other things did require it. The pop music was not intellectually demanding. All of it was innocent and most of it was very well done.

    Men of all IQ levels can appreciate a football or hockey match, and there was certainly lots of that. Figure skating and gymnastics for women. It’s entertainment.

    Detective stories were very popular, but they were translations of Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, whom Kholmogorov mentioned there, Conan Doyle. More domestic stuff of that kind could have been written. Pikul’s naval novels were genre literature. They were very popular and hard to get. But I don’t think they were aimed at the lower end of the spectrum. I’m not aware of any Soviet romance novels.

    I don’t think a Soviet writer could get rich off massive sales. I think most of them aimed for respect by their peers instead, and writing romance novels was not a road towards that. But yes, of course there should have been romance novels.

    Most of the sci-fi that I read as a teen was Belyaev’s and Jule Verne’s, and then translated American stuff when it appeared en masse. I think I read a total of one Strugatsky story in my life. I liked it.

  63. Anonymous says

    Glossy clearly did not live in the USSR as an adult and he is clearly clueless of the everyday realities of life there and then.

  64. Anonymous says

    I don’t think a Soviet writer could get rich off massive sales

    You think wrong. Successful authors were fabulously rich by Soviet standards. A typical payment for an “author’s unit” (авторский лист, roughly 25 printed A4 pages, double-spaced) was on the order of 400-500 rubles plus-minus 50%, depending on one’s status and rank. (That is in the time when an average monthly salary was 155 rubles). Formally-speaking, sales mattered little but in reality they of course did – one received additional payments in proportion to the print volume and each reprint. And many authors got tons of money as entertainers through popular public readings of their works. (“Встречи с читателями”, etc).

  65. The Chinese objected just as much as Soviet citizens to inequality before 1980. They had to be steadily coaxed into tolerating it.

  66. “There’s no such thing as racial superiority” was simply part of the USSR’s ideology, and unlike the rest of it was not inconvenient to the rulers of post-Soviet Russia. It is still defended for that reason. But neither in the USSR nor afterwards did people interpret it to mean there was no such thing as race, or that one ought not to favour one’s own race.

  67. Moderate nationalists such as Egor Kholmogorov write op-eds for Komsomolskaya Pravda; even under Trump, I don’t see Steve Sailer penning articles for the NYT anytime soon.

    I cannot say for sure if Kholmogorov and Sailer are similar, but KP is hardly NYT. I do not know much what American tabloids exist, but the analogues of KP in the UK may be the yellow-press tabloids like “The Sun” and “Daily Mail”.

  68. For this act of fascist extremism he was sentenced to 120 hours of community service, though the verdict was overturned in 2014.

    Just for your and other’s information. Unlike in the USA where only small insignificant misdemeanors are sentenced with community service, Article 282 is a criminal offense or, in American terminology, a felony. Even if a person do not go to prison, he is still considered a criminal (felon) and is limited in certain rights and has a criminal record.

  69. inertial says

    I remember a Soviet TV show aimed at women, hosted by a woman named Leontyeva

    Ah yes. A super-popular show. Ot Vsey Dushi was the name. In the West, this would be a weekly or even daily show. But in the USSR a new episode only come out once every three months. Why? It was just a talk show.

    And why did we, the Soviet kids, have to wait a whole year for a new episode of our favorite cartoon, Nu Pogodi? A year is infinity for a kid.

    They were very popular and hard to get.

    You can say that about nearly everything that was popular in the USSR, even about many things that had no business being rare.

    Capitalist societies lean toward the opposite extreme – if anything is popular it will be exploited every which way from here to Friday. This often looks ridiculous. Still, this is preferable to the alternative.

  70. reiner Tor says

    Nu Pogodi

    It wasn’t bad, at least I didn’t think it was much worse than Tom and Jerry. It was perhaps a bit less sadistic, an aspect I didn’t like much about many cartoons, especially Tom and Jerry. But in late 80s Hungary the American cartoons had the coolness factor going for them.

  71. In the West, this would be a weekly or even daily show.

    I don’t think so. What they do instead is exploit people’s suffering in a nasty, prying way, stage trashy arguments and fights with lots of bleeping and things flying around, invite a flamboyant gay guy to the set to gossip about celebrities, etc.

    I’m not the intended audience, and my exposure is small, but it’s my impression that the West produces zero shows like Ot Vsey Dushi per year. And per decade too. I’m pretty sure that Oprah, for example, was worse. And I’ve seen modern Russian versions of that crap. I haven’t seen anything like that show that we both remember again.

    With the market it’s not weekly, it’s never. It’s not even a deficit, it’s total absence. The only thing they forgot to do is destroy all the copies of the old shows.

  72. Best Soviet cartoons…

    The Maugli series:
    The Winnie the Pooh series:

    The USSR did British culture better than the Brits. The best Sherlock Holmes movies are Soviet as well.

    The Musicians of Bremen:

    A million others. When I was a kid my favorite was The Mystery of the Third Planet:

    There was an enormous variety though – one thing that you rarely hear in descriptions of the USSR. A variety of topics, visual and narrative styles. If I were to list all the Soviet cartoons which I remember positively, I might end up finding out if there’s a comment length limit at

  73. Throughout history women did most of the work of raising kids, so there was some evolutionary pressure to make them kind, nurturing and sappy-sentimental. But there’s another side to them, the bitchy, catty, gossiping side.

    Two entertainment products that appeal to these opposite sides of female nature have very little in common. It’s like “do you have seltzer water?” “No, but there’s 100 varieties of vodka.” “I don’t want vodka right now, I want seltzer water.” “But they’re both drinks.”

    Is it a law of nature that there’s always more money to be made on TV by appealing to women’s bitchy side? I don’t know. Nobody wanted that much gayness on TV, so that must be ideological, not market-driven. Maybe some of the trashiness of talk shows is ideological too. But whatever the cause, the final result is trashiness.

  74. inertial says

    Nah. You’ve read too many anti-TV jeremiads. I used to occasionally watch quite a bit of daytime TV, including talk shows, and it wasn’t that bad. You could find a couple of shows like you describe but most of them were fine and some were quite good. In fact, Ot Vsey Dushi‘s premise – helping people separated for decades find each other – was a common trope with shows like that. The emotional effect of such shows was as you would expect. Most shows’ topics were quite trivial – to me. I am sure they were very important to the target audience.

    Oprah was quite good back in the day (I don’t know what she is up to now.) She could be emotionally uplifting, cathartic, what have you. There is a reason she got where she is today.