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Brezhnevism
Brezhnevism

The Brezhnev era was later dubbed the "period of stagnation." as we all
know, but that does not mean that there was no economic growth under that
leader. On the contrary, there was considerable development, especially in
the first half of his reign. The Soviet Union was regularly beating the
most advanced countries of the world in terms of annual growth rate.
Between 1964 and 1981, production of steel in the Soviet Union increased
from 85 million tonnes to 149 million, topping US output. Coal output beat
the American production of 500 million tonnes a year by half as much again.
In fifteen years, the Soviet Union doubled its oil production, becoming the
world's largest producer of oil. There were similar developments in the
other sectors, even in agriculture, where increased investment and higher
prices of agricultural produce introduced by the 1965 Central Committee
plenum made the Soviet Union the world's biggest producer of wheat.
But all these beautiful figures were made meaningless by the simple fact
that the share of consumer goods in the overall production was constantly
falling. That meant that the system favored production for production's
sake, its capacity either channeled into the military sphere or simply
wasted through the system's internal defects like poor organization, lack
of incentives for the workers, rejection of scientific and technological
innovations, etc. All those silly pochins and "socialist competitions"
could not obstruct the inexorable working of economic laws: No consumer
goods - no money for the budget - no investment -no progress or growth -
inevitable crisis as demand for consumer goods grows and supply shrinks.
Apart from crises, the Soviet economy produced even more inflammable
material - the Soviet intelligentsia. The Party's avowed goal was still the
Khrushchevian motto - to catch up with the West in every sphere of
"material and spiritual production." and this could not be achieved without
major breakthroughs in science and education. So in the years of
Brezhnevite "stagnation." the number of people with a higher education more
than doubled. The swelling intelligentsia formed, in fact, a new class that
bitterly resented its designation in the official ideology as a prosloika,
a rather derogatory term meaning something like a "thin layer between two
masses", the masses in question being the urban and rural workers.
^ It was, of course, more than the mere designation that the
intelligentsia resented. First, it was only too well aware that it was
grossly underpaid, getting a mere fraction of what their counterparts in
the West were earning. Speaking for oneself, I was one of the very few best
paid. top professional translators in Moscow doing translations from
Russian into English for about a dozen publishing houses, but I calculated
that I was being paid roughly the sum that a typist in the United States
was getting, page per page. And I lived about ten times better than some
m.n.s. or miadshiy nauchnyi sotrudnik "junior research fellow" getting 105
rubles a month (the trouble of course was that one couldn't correlate this
sum with any known currency, as the official $1=64 kopecks rate was
patently something from beyond the looking-glass).
Second, the nature of the intelligentsia's occupations made it keenly
sensitive to the prevailing stringent curbs on the freedom of intellectual
pursuits, especially in the humanities, where any deviation, real or
imaginary, from neo-Stalinist ideological dogma was punished swiftly and
ruthlessly. That was why most talented people went into the natural
sciences or mathematics, where they could be as free-thinking as they
wished in their quest for eternal truths. This elicited a couple of puzzled
lines from the Soviet poet Boris Slutsky, which instantly became famous:
Chto-to fiziki v pochyote,//Chto-to liriki v zagone... "Curiously,
physicists are in the limelight and lyricists are eclipsed..." Sure they
were eclipsed - who wanted to hear their bravura lies or piteous whining?
There were, however, some "lyricists" whom everybody wanted to hear as
they expressed the intelligentsia's most hidden attitudes and aspirations
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