Russia and the Former Soviet Republics by Thomas R. McCray

By Thomas R. McCray

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With meager pensions and savings often lost, elderly people were hardest hit by the post-Soviet displacement. Today, many can be seen selling their personal effects on the ground near the train station or making a little money sweeping streets with handmade brooms. Simply stated, a malaise has descended over Russia. Alcoholism is rampant and visible. People everywhere smoke heavily.

The USSR was put on a regimen of Five-Year Plans, which involved the frenzied construction of huge dams, giant factories, long railroads, deep mines, and entire cities for new urban workers. In their first decade, Soviet planners and builders achieved results not seen elsewhere in 50 years. The inspiration for all of this was not profit (no fortunes would be earned here), but an endless stream of Communist Party propaganda. Posters, articles, loudspeaker trucks, and even art and music warned the people about aggressive capitalist enemies abroad and dangerous counterrevolutionaries at home.

Physical Geography A third cause of Russia’s limited agricultural potential is a serious lack of water. This might seem odd, because only Brazil has more freshwater than Russia. Russia’s water problem lies not in amount but rather in distribution. Only one major river, the Volga, delivers water from the cold north to the warmer south, where irrigation can bring substantial harvests of vegetables and fruits. All of Russia’s other great river systems are located in Siberia, where the extreme climate prevents highvalue farming.

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