We left off talking about the Soviet Generation last time. By the by, some commenters over on Unz got mad and accused me of promoting pro-Western talking points and being anti-Russian for being a bit harsh, admittedly, about the old-timers. Well, putting aside that some people seem incapable of seeing the world with any nuance and fall back on good vs. evil, black and white narratives, its also an amusing reaction when you consider that the Soviet Generation doesn’t really even see itself as Russian or Ukrainian or Belorussian for that matter. They see themselves as Soviets first and foremost and their allegiance and true love is for a dead political ideology and project, not for the country that they ended up in when the whole thing collapsed. There is even an entire movement of pro-Soviets that refuses to acknowledge that they are Russian and wave their Soviet passports around, saying that the USSR was never formally dissolved, therefore, they remain Soviets and not Russians. And just because these people are anti-Western because the West is supposedly an imperialist, capitalist, bourgeois project, doesn’t mean that they are Russian patriots. But whatever. Consider me what you will if you must, but I think my positions and worldview will become clearer as the blogging continues.
Some more qualifications and equivocating first though: generations are generally remembered and evaluated based on the culture and attitudes that they produce. That being said, there are always members of the generational cohort who do not participate in the defining culture of their time. Sometimes, they form a distinct sub-culture that is in opposition to the dominant culture of their time. Exceptions to the general rule, however, are just that. I realize that I am talking to dissident right-wingers for the most part, so please remember that we allow ourselves to generalize on other topics for good reason, and the same rules should apply to my generalizations here.
So, after the Soviets, we had the first “free” generation coming into mature adulthood while living in the ruins of the Soviet Union or spending their teenage years enjoying the free-for-all that was the 90s. These people are generally in their very late 30s and early 50s now. And if we were to compare the values and behavior of this post-Soviet generation with similar generations in the West, we’d have to look at Generation X as a useful template to compare and contrast to. On the one hand, both Gen X’er groups loved their angsty rock music and plunged headfirst into nihilistic self-harm, drug experimentation and a “burn it all down, man” sort of political platform. On the other, Eastern Gen X’ers were very pro-Capitalism and free markets and hustlin’ in a way that their drop-out Western counterparts were not, and this became the key defining driver of this generation and its values. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was this general idea in the heads of the youth that now was a golden opportunity to finally make some money. See, in the Soviet Union, there was no real path to making any money that didn’t include a party membership and a knack for embezzlement. Now though, there was a feeling that the looting was going to be democratized and the Eastern Gen X eagerly rubbed its hands and plunged in headfirst to eke out its share.
This is also why I, personally, refer to them as the Bariga Generation, which is a term worth a short explanation as well.
The term “bariga” is most often used to refer to dealers, but it’s also used for fast-talkers and scam artists. In contrast to the muscled, tattooed thug who simply beats money out of people, the bariga sweet-talks them out of it and generally does less physical forms of crime. Being a criminal, acting like a gangster, and getting rich or dying trying were the literal rallying cry of a large swath of this generation, helped along by Western ideals that they were so eager to adopt and mindlessly follow. Many died along the way, but a few succeeded in stealing a little something for themselves and their loved ones. To be fair, the whole FSU at that point was basically a carcass being looted by vultures and scavengers, and the social order largely collapsed once a faction of the ruling Party decided to chip in and help the West detonate what they had spent the better part of the century building up. So the Bariga generation was literally just monkey-seeing and monkey-doing and I’m not saying that they were metaphysically evil by dint of being born when they were or anything like that. But take racketeering, for example, which became a legitimate profession because, well, everyone from the KGB to the Georgian mafia to the Party Nomenklatura was doing it. Can we blame a significant part of the youth for trying to get in on the action as well?
Personally, I think it’s sort of understandable behavior in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that was the FSU.
But as part of their rebellion against the Soviet Union, they also went to war against their socially conservative Soviet family and their values. Dealing drugs, burning and reselling punk rock and gangster rap CDs, tricking a granny out of her apartment, sitting around all day in the staircase and eating sunflower seeds, smoking cheap cigarettes and throwing up on the walls, sneaking into a factory and stealing the copper wiring in the walls — all favorite pastimes of the rebellious youth that were then immortalized in song and verse by their punk rock and gangster rap bards.
Ever hear of “Gopniks” and the infamous “gop stop”?
The “GOP” part is an acronym that refers to government-subsidized housing quarters. Their residents began to be referred to as Gopniks and their favorite pastimes were accosting random pedestrians and demanding cigarettes or sunflower seeds from them. Handing over a cigarette or two was no guarantee of being left unmolested though. Usually, as urban legend holds, one had to reply in a certain coded way and one “correct” answer that you could give was that you didn’t smoke because you were a sportsman. I never tried this password myself and either way, it seems like one’s mileage could vary.
Context, context, context, though, I know.
It is hard to put into words just how demoralized the entire FSU was at the time. The Soviet Union had been locked in an ideological war with the Capitalist West that they had suddenly and unexpectedly lost without even putting up a fight. That meant that literally everything that was promoted yesterday became discredited today. The Soviet Generation, in particular, had a very hard time accepting that the Western bourgeois propaganda about the gulags and the actual, uncensored story of the Bolsheviks’ bloody rise to power had more than a kernel of truth to it. The youth, however, accepted it with zeal and became ardent anti-Sovoks to an extreme. This meant that they also eagerly lapped up everything else that the West had to share with the East simply because they were so thoroughly disenchanted with the ideals of their parents’ generation. They developed a mania for everything Western and that meant that no one critically assessed what was flowing into the country at the time — so long as it was Western, it was considered good. The lying, discredited Western news was accepted uncritically by them — after all, they were right about the crimes of the Soviet Union, weren’t they? That clearly meant they were the good guys and should be trusted about, say, the crimes of the Serbs against … well, whoever it was that they were being accused of being mean towards at the time. And this applied to all the pressing social, political and economic issues of the day. To this day, the Bariga generation harbors a fondness for America and the West, whom they see as liberators who freed them from the clutches of the USSR (and their parents’ stifling conservative values). While this has been changing (slightly) because of the events surrounding Crimea and now the war in Ukraine, many still remain hopelessly demoralized and supportive of whatever the West does and endlessly critical of “Rashka” — an insulting epithet hurled at their own country.
But you would be mistaken if you assumed that these people were entirely “liberal” in the same sense that we understand liberals in the West. While the Bariga generation generally wants to cargo-cult and import the West wholesale into the FSU, if not simply outright move there forever, that doesn’t mean that they are like modern SJWs who hate White people and Western culture. See, that’s the funny part — the Bariga generation, to their credit, are generally racists (or race-realists if you prefer) partly because of their rejection of the Soviet “Friendship Between Peoples” official propaganda platform and because of their lived experience with hostile, feral migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus that were unleashed on an unsuspecting and prostrate Soviet population after the collapse of the USSR.
What’s worse, the prisoners from the Soviet Union’s massive archipelago of camps were also suddenly released/let loose on an unsuspecting, law-abiding population as well. There were, to be fair, undoubtedly, “Zeks” (prisoners) who did not deserve to be incarcerated in the first place, but there were, also, undoubtedly hardcore criminals who either deserved their hard labor sentence or who had turned feral during their time in the prison system. These prisoners were already being let loose during Gorbachev’s short reign, but the trickle became a flood under Yeltsin, who, like all good revolutionaries, made sure to empty the prisons to inflict as much terror on the people as possible. This influx of Zeks into society significantly contributed to the rise of gangster culture in Russia and the poor behavior of Generation Bariga.
Many former Zeks drive “marche-routka” minivan public transportation in the FSU today. You can usually spot them because of the tell-tale tattoos on their hands and fingers.
On the slightly less bleak side, compared to the younger generations, the Soviet generation is far less likely to be woke on the race/ethnicity question, because, thanks to the Soviet Union’s internal passport system, the non-White populations of the Soviet empire were kept segregated in their own republics. The only real contact that the average Soviet citizen had with swarth was with the exotic and quaint watermelon salesman at the bazaar or from the Soviet movies, where they were depicted as eccentric, but amicable enough fellows who took pride in providing hospitality for any Soviet guest that might visit them. As a result, Soviets prefer to remember race relations this way and stubbornly refuse to be “red-pilled by reality,” thinking that the crime and the predation will end as soon as Communism is re-instated and the various ethnicities forced to become race-less Soviets again.
A famous Soviet comedy called “The Caucasian Prisoner(ess)”
An interesting point worth mentioning: if you point out what the West actually stands for nowadays and highlight just how bleak the situation is for Western men who are basically openly hated on by their own companies, media, government, wives, and so on, you come up across a wall of denial that I have yet to ever break through with the generic West-obsessed Gen X’er. Any criticism of the West, even coming from a young man who lived there, comes off as yet another Sovok lie, which they, enlightened as they are, refuse to even consider for a moment.
See, the West is a utopia and Rashka is Mordor. End of discussion.
It’s funny to consider how, in the West, nationalists rally behind LOTR. But in Russia, it’s the Liberals who use LOTR in their propaganda. Bizarre.
The Bariga generation, however, is archetypically liberal in the sense that they believe that holding the right political views makes them morally superior to all other people and generations. Even though their parents’ generation (with all its faults, admittedly) generally possesses the traits that we associate with morally upright people, the Gen X’ers believe that hating Stalin and Brezhnev gives them a carte blanche to behave however they see fit and still claim the moral high ground.
A typical conversation with a Gen X’er goes something like this.
- See these sneakers? Got ‘em from Poland. Can’t get them here. I know a buddy who got it for cheap there. Not like here in Rashka.
At that point, their parents overhear the conversation and butt in.
- In the Soviet Union, we had wonderful shoes. We used to make everything in the Soviet Union. Now … everything is just foreign junk. What a bardak. I saw someone littering the other day in the park. People wouldn’t litter in the Soviet Union. They’d be sent to jail for littering! Or not paying their fare on the bus! A strong hand — that’s how you deal with crime!
This riles up the Gen X’er, who enjoys littering.
- All you ever talk about is sending someone to prison. You Sovoks want to send us back into the dark ages. Shoes? Are you kidding me? We had to stand in line to get shoes. I remember you pulled some strings with your KGB friend back in the day to get some imported Italian shoes. What’s wrong? Was the Soviet shoe factory not good enough for you then?
This angers the Sovok, who denies the existence of lines as a rule.
- The agricultural output of our region alone was 77 thousand tons of wheat and barley. We had a 17% increase in urazhai (harvest) in 1982 alone! How many hectares are even being plowed now? We import everything. Everything!
Now that food has been mentioned, the friendly debate is about to devolve into a full-blown argument. We’re in the danger zone, folks.
- You remember Misha? He worked his whole life on a kolkhoz (collective farm) and you saw how he ended his life. Destitute. Drunk. At least they pay wages now. What you had before was slave labor. And you moved to the city and lived there your whole life which is why you can afford to romanticize the kolkhoz. You just filled your head with Soviet propaganda films and think this reflects reality. Wake up.
A hand slams on the table.
- And is this any way to live life now? Have you seen the way that the girls dress? The youth on the buses and the metro go around with those devices glued to their ears. They don’t talk to anyone! No respect for their elders!
Now he’s done it.
- Why don’t you just turn on the TV and fall asleep to Kremlin propaganda lullabies like you usually do. Me, I prefer living in the real world. Hold on, my ex-wife is calling. “Hello, yes? Stop yelling, Katya!” Ok gramps, gotta go. I’ll see you next New Year’s.
Touching, isn’t it?
But I suppose we’ve come to the part of the essay where, after having spent hundreds of words trashing an entire generation, I throw them a bone out of pity and to assuage the vengeful commenters who hound me so.
It is easy to just say that these people sold out their own inheritance to the West for a bowl of porridge in the form of blue jeans, Walkmans and sexual promiscuity, but…
Sorry, I lost my train of thought there. Where was I?
Oh yes, the Bariga generation sold out themselves and future generations for Western products and hide their greed and vanity with a narrative in which they are freedom-fighters and persecuted dissidents. They had few kids if they had any at all. The climbing divorce and abortion rate absolutely exploded as a result of their drunken end-of-the-world-party attitude. Times were tough, but no one held a gun to their heads and forced them to be degenerate. They could have borne their bad hand stoically. They could have found a compromise with their parents instead of violently lashing out. They can sober up at any time even now and realize that the dream of the 90s has died and that we now face a new reality.
What’s worse, to this day, many in this generation refuse to consider the fact that they might have gotten duped or trapped like a mouse in a trap going for the easy cheese. It’s much easier to consider themselves liberators and ardent anti-Communist political rebels fighting against the Stalin in their very own family who spends his days on the couch watching channel 1 and collecting his pension.
Much like their demographic counterpart in the West, there aren’t that many of these guys around and they have generally under-achieved as a generation, leaving their mark mostly in music and underground culture. Mentally, many of them remain trapped in the 90s, which they remember as a golden era of freedom, rebellion and financial opportunity that Putin, the Soviet scoundrel, snatched away from them.
After all, once upon a time, one could take a trip to Poland, buy some foreign sneakers and bring them back to Rashka where the other youths would nod with approval…
The Gen X’er lights up a cigarette and leans back with a drag and a sigh. “Ah, the good old days. Kids these days simply can’t understand. Don’t know how good they have it. If it weren’t for us, they’d still be living in the Soviet Union. We gave them punk rock and freedom.”
I have no problem admitting that many of their criticisms of the Soviet Union ring true. And an eccentric free-thinker like myself would no doubt have been thrown in the Gulag too. But how does blindly hating on one’s country and acting in a destructive manner benefit anyone other than the people who want you dead? They never seem to have an answer.
So, all I have to say to them at this point is: keep on fighting the good fight against mom and dad, Putin and the state, Soviet shoes, and the kolkhoz. History will no doubt look kindly on you and your generation.