It is not completely accurate to say that the health crisis in the former Soviet bloc has been brought about by the socialist vision of society; rather, the crisis seems to be one outcome of European socialism’s unsuccessful efforts at modernization (Watson 1995). The 1950s and early 1960s were a time of dynamic economic growth in the region, but efforts to overtake the West faltered thereafter and this period also marked the onset of rising mortality from natural causes. A review of this situation suggests that socialist health policy, societal stress, or health lifestyles are the most likely social determinants of the premature mortality. Were the health policies of the communist regimes so ineffective that scores of middle-aged men died early deaths for more than 30 years? Or were the stresses produced by adverse societal conditions—such as a failing and stagnant economy—at fault? Or were unhealthy styles of living associated with communism the major culprit? These questions are examined in chapter 3.
Health care delivery systems and policies are acts of political philosophy; therefore, social and political values underlie the choices made, institutions formed, and levels of funding provided for health (Light 1986). Prior to the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and