News / Europe

Immigrants Reflect on Soviet Collapse

Peter Fedynsky

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, millions of people have emigrated from the newly created nations that once were constituent republics of the communist empire.  Our correspondent spoke to several of them who have settled in New York.

Marketing consultant Irina Shmeleva uses social media to follow events in her native Russia.  As a Soviet actress, she says, she lived a privileged and comfortable life, but the lack of freedom forced everyone to act.

“The Soviet individual had to be a true soldier, pretending everything is fine, because everything should be beautiful," said Shmeleva. "But if you wanted to discover what is going on inside you, what is your destiny, what you want to do, what you think about this, that or the other - that was impossible.”

Shmeleva says recent demonstrations in Russia show young people may finally realize hopes for freedom that were raised by the Soviet collapse, but dashed by what she characterizes as a return to authoritarian rule under Vladimir Putin.

“I speak here with people of my generation and ask everyone, ‘What do you think?’  They say, ‘Nothing will come of the demonstrations.’  But the young don’t know that nothing will happen and they try to make it happen," she said.

In Ukraine, the nation’s rich farmlands and industrial base briefly raised expectations that the country’s standard of living would skyrocket.  What skyrocketed instead was the price of energy that Soviet economic planners had subsidized.

Vasyl Lopukh is a researcher at New York’s Shevchenko Scientific Society who taught economic theory in the western Ukrainian city of Ternopil.  He says Ukrainians did not initially realize that their inherited Soviet industries were not viable.

“Approximately 60 or 65 percent of Ukraine’s labor force worked for the military-industrial complex directly or indirectly," he said.

With little or no demand for the weapons, uniforms and food produced for the Soviet army, he says many Ukrainians became unemployed.  And the status of Ukraine and other post-Soviet nations as some of the world’s most corrupt countries now hinders Ukrainian membership in the European Union.  Lopukh says the country’s political and industrial leaders have lacked vision.

“They cared about their corporate interests and profits, and not about creating an economically independent Ukrainian nation," he said.

Unlike Lopukh, Isakjon Zokirov says he would be imprisoned if he returned to his native country, Uzbekistan.  Strongman Islam Karimov has ruled the Central Asian country since it declared independence in 1991.   A human rights activist, Zakirov fled his homeland in 2004 and now works as a delivery man in Brighton Beach, New York’s Russian-speaking neighborhood.

“The standard of living in Uzbekistan has dropped significantly," he said. "The economy has worsened.  There have been no democratic transformations there.”

Numerous international organizations confirm Zokirov’s assessment.  He says he likes living in America.

“The country is safer for me personally," he said. "It’s democratic and I support democracy. You can find a job here, learn, and you can do everything.  In a word, I like America.”

Once part of a single empire ruled by Moscow, post-Soviet immigrants again have a common nation, the United States.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Video Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid