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Having grown up in the seventies and eighties, I distinctly remember the time when the Soviet Union was A Thing. I remember when nuclear arms were always to the front of our minds, and the policy of assured mutual destruction was supposedly the only thing that kept us from assured mutual destruction. It was such a reality that about a decade ago, when discussing history with a few people younger than me and some professors older than me, I was surprised to see what they understood about Soviet Communism and its place in history.
For many, they have less information on the atrocities of the Soviets and more on the ideals those atrocities were supposedly performed for. I recall discussing the fall of the Soviets with my history of film professor who lamented the fall of Communism when it was the only politico-economic philosophy that supposedly cared about the common man. I was surprised to hear that, as I understood there was some great atrocities against these common men they philosophy supposedly lifted up. Such objections were usually brushed off with claims moral equivalency that today still wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny.
For the older generation, they may not have hope. If you’re older than me and you still don’t see clearly what the Soviets did and the havoc they wreaked upon the world, then you might never see. You want to believe what you believe regardless of facts. For some younger people, there’s hope. It’s possible they just don’t know.
For them, and for the rest of us too, I highly recommend The Eastern Border Podcast. This is a modern history podcast as told by native Latvian Kristaps Andrejsons. He tells not just the events, but speaks of attitudes held by those under the Soviet regime and life in the Soviet Union. He speaks with the knowledge of experience – that of his immediate and close family, and those of his countrymen.
There’s some experienced humor in the early episodes as he speaks of how day-to-day life for citizens was affected. There’s some decidedly dark episodes as well. It’s rather horrifying to see how Soviet Communism caused and exacerbated the Chernobyl disaster. The sheer disregard for human life is also demonstrated as he describes the Soviet space program. More recently in several episodes he’s discussed the utter cruelty of the Soviets in how they punished citizens.
Occasionally he does an episode with other podcasters. Some of the younger of that crowd are a bit surprised at his confirmations. In a recent episode, Death and Ideas, Kristaps interviews with the members of the Dead Ideas podcast. More than once they repeat what they take for just American exaggeration or propaganda of the Soviet Union only to find out that, no, no that’s exactly what it was like.
For example, the podcasters mention how churches noted the lack of religious freedom and how you could be punished for going to church. Rather than contradict, Kristaps confirms that yes there were Soviet officials posted outside churches on Sundays noting anyone who attended and that those people could face repercussions for attending. Lenin hypothesized that if people believed in paradise after this life, they would not be motivated to try to make paradise here on Earth.
He is not shy about his feelings towards modern day Russia either, and his impressions are not just that of a citizen of a former state under the Soviet Regime. He regards the current Russian political leadership with a keen historian’s eye and has criticized as he sees it needed. As a result, he has received not a small number of death threats. In a recent episode, he’s even noted that his podcast just might stop one day as it may be seen he’s too much a liability to allow to live.
Understanding the history, the societal and cultural effects of, and the modern repercussions of the Soviet Union and Russia today is important. If you are looking to add a podcast to your list, I highly recommend this. If you aren’t, I would ask you reconsider and discover more about an important part of world history. This may be one of the more important podcasts of our time.Published in