Workers' Paradise meets The Devil Take the Hindmost

 

I am unsure if this is visual irony, mostly because I assume that rarity is key to the ironic. The juxtaposition of remnants of communism with idols of the new age is so common that it is a trope.

The Circus
The Circus

There is much more to Soviet architecture than the much maligned functional but ugly Soviet flat block (Khrushchevka or khruscheby). Built in 1974, the Circus is one of many interesting buildings in Bishkek. According to the New York Times in 1989, architecture suffered a blow from Khruschev and died under Brezhnev, but there enough examples of innovative thinking to argue. Today, the wealthy take their children to the circus in their Mercedes' and Hummers.

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The Circus
The Circus

There is much more to Soviet architecture than the much maligned functional but ugly Soviet flat block (Khrushchevka or khruscheby). Built in 1974, the Circus is one of many interesting buildings in Bishkek. According to the New York Times in 1989, architecture suffered a blow from Khruschev and died under Brezhnev, but there enough examples of innovative thinking to argue. Today, the wealthy take their children to the circus in their Mercedes' and Hummers.

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Space

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The mantra of the American labor movement in the 1890s, the decade that gave the world May Day and the eight-hour day, was "8 hours for work; eight hours for sleep; 8 hours for what you will." In the Soviet Union, the spaces in which humans lived, labored, and enjoyed free time were constructed with priorities that might seem alien in the post-Soviet era. Rather than being engineered for comfort, Soviet spaces were meant to be egalitarian and functional. Lines of difference create a society where determinations must be made as to who gets what. Markers of difference can be anything a society determines: gender, skin color, citizenship, caste (status based on parentage), criminalized behavior, education, e.g. The list has varied throughout history. In the FSU, money and ethnicity are the markers that matter. Soviet living spaces emphasize the practical; public buildings tend to be more elaborate.

I'm a title
I'm a title

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The mighty Lada
The mighty Lada

In a country where the GDP is just under $1000, signs advertising the latest computer equipment and other luxury goods are nonetheless ubiquitous. There are still many Russian Ladas on the road, most of them very old and, like the infrastructure, painstakingly maintained. Many people in Kyrgyzstan rely on the family Lada, basic and functional, to do carry the most incongruous cargoes.

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The mighty Lada
The mighty Lada

In a country where the GDP is just under $1000, signs advertising the latest computer equipment and other luxury goods are nonetheless ubiquitous. There are still many Russian Ladas on the road, most of them very old and, like the infrastructure, painstakingly maintained. Many people in Kyrgyzstan rely on the family Lada, basic and functional, to do carry the most incongruous cargoes.

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Convenience

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In the years after der Mauerfall, reports from the FSU indicated a less than a total happiness with capitalism. As I heard on public radio (gutted after the FSU—everyone needs an enemy), "In Soviet times, we had money but no food. Now we have lots of food and no money to buy it." As far as personal property is concerned, items were not built for luxury but for practicality. The ability to buy convenience, what most of the world sees as luxury, was reserved for the nomenklatura, a small percentage of the population. Even so, bureaucracy was enomous but ultimately function. The equivalent of jumping the queue was a reserve of key administrators and party elite. Most had to make due with the adequate, which is better than making due withe the inadequate. What a society determines to be adequate is the key. In the FSU, food, shelter, and tranportation were provided, as were books, classical music, and diversion. I imagine Macs wou; dbe luxury while PCs would be the norm.

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Moral Reversal

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In her essay "Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship," Hannah Arendt discussed the backlash she encountered from her comment about the "banality of evil" she perceived during the 1961 Adolph Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. The upshot: in times of moral reversal, when what was previously legal and morally good has been rendered illegal and morally bad—and vice versa—one has a personal responsibility to think. Otherwise, highly praised activity, despite its inherent immorality, will generate criminal culpability when society returns to sanity.

     The CIS, having been part of the FSU proper, experienced a rapid moral reversal in 1991 during state building. What had been illegal, capitalism, became not only legal but essential to secure American governmental aid. Radical egalitarianism (perceived by the West as Harrison Bergeron, but more like access to convience) became anathema. So far as I can tell, this moral reversal occurrred without questioning the consequences. COmmunism was bad, so its opposite capitalism must be good. Capitalism has been accepted in Kg as a foregone conclusion, notwithstanding the very real social costs and suffering the philosophy demands. From adequacy for all, Kg is now split between those who have all and those who have not.