The FINANCIAL — Almost a third of Georgians feel that things were better during the Soviet times, and only half think that life is better now.
According to a poll conducted by Georgian Opinion Research Business International in December of 2011, there remains some substantial nostalgia for Georgia as a part of the USSR. Respondents of this poll were asked, “Taking everything in to account, is life better now, or was it better during soviet times?” In total, 51% said it was better now, 29% said it was better then, and 19% said they didn’t know.
It would be difficult to overestimate how much being a part of the USSR has influenced the Georgian culture, language and people. For a country that spent decades as a CIS member, and experienced national pain in its early independence and establishment, to long for this past is understandable. In my time in Tbilisi so far, I’ve encountered at least 2 businesses that capitalize on this nostalgia (CCCP and KGB Café), and there are certainly more.
In fact, this phenomenonis common among ex-soviet states and has been discussedby opinion researchers quite a bit over the last 20 years;significant portions of the once-sovietpopulationlong for that lifestyle. There have been many suggested reasons for this. While we certainly cannot prove them to be true in one article, we can certainly discuss these possible factorsusing GORBI’s most recent data.
There may be psychological explanations, such as humans’ natural tendency to view the past through rose-colored glasses. Portions of most populations wish for “simpler, better times,” soviet or not. Additionally, this nostalgia is likely affected by the respondent’s own situation. Even if our countrymen are doing well, it is certainly hard to say things are better nowif there is difficulty putting food on our own table. Because we cannot measure nostalgia, or gain an in-depth personal understanding of each of the thousand and a half respondents to our poll, we’ll use some demographics to infer.
Education, Wage and Age — Those with the least education are much more likely than the mean to think Soviet life was better than life now. A full two thirds of those with 7 completed grades or less would choose the Soviet times over now, all things considered. There follows a steady decrease in this opinion with each additional year of school, bottoming out at only 17% of those with incomplete higher education (and 20% of those who’ve earned their degree). This could be an example of personal situation affecting opinion; those who’ve been given the opportunity of schooling are happier with their society’s situation. It could also be a result of information learned: perhaps the extra hours spent studying the particulars of Soviet lifestyles turn people’s noses away.
There are two more clear and obvious trends that can explain the data, in household income and age. The instance of nostalgia based on income is a good mirror to education: those with very low incomes have warmer feelings of soviet times (37% miss “back when”) than those with very high incomes (6%). It’s important to remember that there is a strong correlation between income and education, which conflates the data, but when looking at things from this angle it seems to support the idea that respondents’ answers were very dependent on their personal situation.
Finally, there is age. Here we see that there is, in fact, probablytrue nostalgia at play. From among those aged 65 and older, half feel that life in the USSR was superior. On the other hand, only 1 in 10 of the youngest respondents said the same. It seems that many of these elderly are still pining for the society they’re accustomed to, having spent well more than half their life in the Soviet Union. As is obvious, finding the exact root of this “longing for days past” is a difficult task. It seems likely, though, that the ideas discussed in this week’s article play some part.
While it’s not within the scope of this article to discuss the variation that exists between Georgia’s regions, I’ve generated a simple map based on this GORBI data. The percentages represented were calculated without including respondents who answered “Don’t Know.” The rest of the percentages in this article do, however.