Collapse of the Soviet Union
Irreversible Losses Since Independence
by Svetlana Krasnova
When I think about the changes that Azerbaijan's new sovereignty has brought to the lives of my relatives, friends and myself, I basically can't see many benefits. Azerbaijan's independence seems to be merely a formality brought about by the collapse of the USSR.
To be honest, I'm beginning to appreciate the well-being we had during the Soviet era living in that united, powerful, great state that we all used to curse. What a good, comfortable and quiet life we used to lead.
I blame the Armenians, Gorbachev and the "Democrats", especially the Russian ones, for all that has happened to us since then. And, certainly, I also condemn the once-so-much-respected Western world - America and Europe.
Left: One sign points to "bread",while the other one points to "democracy". This poster was featured in Unocal's 1997 "Azerbaijan Today" poster contest. (Art by Mirazar. Unocal poster contest)
I understand, of course, that the existence of the USSR - that huge, powerful and armed-to-the-teeth State that dictated its will to such a huge geographical expanse - did not sit well with the West. But why should America be comfortable? And how is it that United States wasn't also branded as "the world's scarecrow"? Of course, we didn't approve of the way the USSR was created. It was far from perfect by any standard and in need of desperate reforms.
But if we had only been able to see the future, we probably would have been aghast. It's extremely hard and sad for a middle-aged person like myself to be separated from everything I've grown to love and respect, including the Soviet hymn and flag and the feeling of belonging to such a vast nation and territory.
It used to be that we could travel across the USSR - that expanse that spanned 12 time zones - without any problem. Today, I can't even go across the nearest border to Russia because I don't have a single kopeck [Russian currency], or the means to do so. Besides, even if I could afford it, I would be afraid that the law would not be able to protect my human rights. So many cars and trains are being attacked these days because the Chechens are fighting for independence from Russia.
The decision to dissolve the Soviet Union has caused me much suffering. When you look at our elderly, it's pathetic. They're humiliated, pitiful and begging. Everything that they lived and fought for during World War II has gone down the drain. It's really hard to imagine that so much suffering could be squeezed into a single lifetime.
For several years now, our World War II veterans, so proud of their uniforms and medals, have not been able to officially celebrate the "Day of Victory" on May 9, as we used to do in order to commemorate the defeat of Nazism.
Would Azerbaijan's independence be jeopardized if our old people spent that day away from work, dressed up in their uniforms, walking the streets with flowers in their hands, sharing the joy of that decisive event with relatives and colleagues? One might get the idea that Azerbaijanis never fought or died in that hideous war. I could understand if the former authorities were depriving Azerbaijanis of that holiday, as they so often refused to give us the credit we deserved. We were a determining factor in winning that war because most of the oil used for the Soviet defense was pumped from our wells. And the oil was of such a high quality that they didn't even have to refine it before using it.
So, what kinds of changes have my family and I faced over these past three years? In my opinion, practically nothing has changed for the better. My father, who lives in Sevastopol, Crimea, can't even afford to come to Baku to visit the grave of his father. Nor can I imagine when I'll be able to visit him.
Being Russian, and knowing only Russian, and not Azeri, the majority of my dearest friends have left Azerbaijan for Russia, America or Israel. My telephone book looks like a sad martyrology in which almost all the names, telephone numbers and addresses have been crossed out. Thank God, the deletions only indicate that they have moved away, not passed away.
As for the practical financial side of life, we have suffered nothing but losses. Even though I had no other income except for my salary as a journalist, I used to be able to afford a trip to Moscow or one of the regions in Azerbaijan several times a year-not to mention an annual vacation outside of the Republic. I never had any difficulty getting tickets, vouchers or hotel reservations. Of course, I didn't travel first-class, but my accommodations were adequate, just like those of other average citizens.
The last time I took a vacation was more than three years ago, just before Azerbaijan gained its independence. That was when I went to the writer's resort in Yurmala, Latvia. Since then, vouchers to other Republics of the former USSR are no longer available. A return ticket to Moscow costs five times my monthly salary (not including the cost of food and accommodation).
Of course, this is only my personal opinion about what's going on. Others may not feel this way at all. As I see it, our lives have been destroyed, and I for one don't have enough time to wait until a new life-shiny and beautiful - is rebuilt. Changes are so slow that it's difficult to believe I'll witness them during my own lifetime.