The Social Legacy of Communism

Article excerpt

James R. Millar and Sharon L. Wolchik, eds. The Social Legacy of Communism. Cambridge: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Cambridge University Press, 1994. xiii, 404 pp. Illustrations. Index. $69.95 Cloth. $18.95 Paper.

This is a collection of sixteen articles grouped into four parts: ethnic issues (Part I); deviance and health (Part 11); social cleavages (Part III); and labour and elitism (Part IV). The focus of the volume is primarily on the negative legacies of communist rule in the former Soviet Union and the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Part I discusses in articles by Peter Juviler, Marjorie Balzer, and Maria Todorova the growth of ethnic identity and the emergence of nationalism in Russia and Eastern Europe. Juviler concludes in his article that the legacy of communism in post-Soviet states created not only an ethnic identity crisis for many nationalities, but also a civic void in institutions for peaceful resolution of tensions over self-determination, power, citizenship, and property. Balzer reviews the political and cultural history of five republics in the Russian Federation. She notes that, apart from the desire of Chechen leaders to opt for secession from Russia, leaders in Tatarstan, Buryatia, Sakha, and Tyva preferred to negotiate with Moscow for more local sovereignty. Todorova concludes from her discussion of ethnicity and nationalism in Eastern Europe that its growth is more of a European phenomenon than a legacy of communism. The ethnic strife that came with the collapse of Yugoslavia, in Croatia (1991-92), Bosnia (1992-95), Kosovo (1999), and Macedonia (2001) suggests that her approach of explaining ethnicity in Eastern Europe within a European framework may be correct.

Part II devotes considerable coverage to issues of social deviance, crime, drug abuse, medicine, and health in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Andrea Sanjian writes that the rise of social deviance following the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union is not so much the consequence of communism's collapse as of communism itself, of its criminalization of market activities as violations of socialist morals. The rise of crime in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, argues Louise Shelley, resulted largely from the decline of centralized control and the diversion of police resources, means, and attention to controlling interethnic conflicts and safeguarding public order.

John Kramer writes that under communism, authorities contributed to the spread of drug abuse through neglect and indifference. This indifference toward substance abuse was equally apparent in the health care field. Mark Field argues that the treatment of health care in the Soviet Union as a "residual budgetary item" and "socially unproductive service" created conditions in which future reforms of the health care system would be a slow and uneven process. Furthermore, as long as governments and populations continue to believe that socialized medicine is a universal entitlement, medical insurance will be slow to develop. Nicholas Eberstadt shows that the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact Europe encountered a serious deterioration in the health of their populations in the 1980s and that the sharp rise in mortality rates, for males and females alike, was a contributing factor to the collapse of communism. One main cause for rising mortality rates in the 1980s was the rapid rise in deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease, prompted by heavy smoking, heavy drinking, poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, and psychological stress.

Part III contains three articles on youth expectations in Russia, the status of women in Central and Eastern Europe, and the religious revival in the Soviet Union and its successor states. Richard Dobson notes in his article that by 1991 young Russians had largely repudiated communist principles and were the most willing of all age groups in Russia to seize the opportunities that were to come from privatization. …