Economic Crisis: Rethinking Post-Soviet Society

by Z*

It may be that every cloud indeed has a silver lining. This year, plagued by the ongoing financial crisis, has so far been the most eventful and memorable in my bicultural life. Having had to cut spending, I found new ways of enjoying my life besides shopping and going out. And what is making each day memorable is the increased amount of thinking I now go through.

Summer break this year significantly differed from the previous year. In 2007, I came home to find my parents buying property to expand their business, opening a gaming parlor, and building a house that would allow my grandparents to move in with us. I also barely had a chance to sit down and chat with my parents about anything.

This year, while I spent only a month at home (unlike three months in 2007), that month was filled with all sorts of family events. Despite the unfinished house, untouched and unsold property, and inability to pay back debts, my parents found strength to praise the financial crisis for allowing them to reconsider their values.

In a post-Soviet culture, very similar to the Chinese culture of conspicuous consumption described in a recent Washington Post article, reconsidering values means forgoing that new $900 cell phone, resisting the temptation to buy overpriced European brand clothes, and even going somewhat vegetarian.

My parents have never traveled anywhere because they do not want to leave their small business without supervision. Yet, several years ago my dad bought a German Mercedes while my mom was spending thousands of dollars on clothes. With the financial crisis spreading across the globe, we realized that in difficult times it is not a Chanel purse that helps you make it through.

This summer, for my family, things like making the first vegetarian pie, arranging improvised photo sessions, walking around the city, and drinking tea late at night while talking about cultural differences kept our spirits strong.

It is sad that in the times of crisis people begin thinking fresh and realize their mistakes but it is an uplifting thought to view the crisis as a moment of introspection. The financial crisis certainly is causing a lot more headache and problems than joys. However, reflecting on the past few years, I realize only now am I really seizing the moment.

*Z is from a country that made up the Soviet Union, and her writing on cultural and political matters could have a backlash when she returns home from the U.S., so she writes under a pseudonym.

(Political graphic by The Culture Ghost; you can see more of The Culture Ghost's graphics at the blogs Guys from Area 51 and The Culture Ghost. This graphic is made available through a Creative Commons license.)

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