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Monday, September 24, 2007

Annals of Soviet Exploitation

Imagine this scenario: A huge vampire bat lands on the neck of a child and drinks every drop of her blood. Then as suddenly as it came it disengages from the child and flies back to its nest, where it luxuriates in its full stomach. The child, meanwhile, collapses on the sidewalk. A man walks up to the child, wags his finger, and excoriates the child's parents for failing to properly nourish her. What would you think of this man?

For decades, Russia sucked the blood of the Soviet slave states, from Estonia to Georgia, then Russia lost its ability to maintain its colonial empire and retreated, leaving all those states to fend for themselves with no compensation for all their decades of abuse and exploitation. The BBC reports on the results:

Millions of children in the ex-Soviet bloc have suffered a "catastrophic decline" in access to education since communism collapsed, the UN has warned. More than 14m children in the region reach adulthood each year with little or no formal schooling, a report by the UN children's fund (Unicef) says. Education policy in many countries is inadequate and can reinforce social and economic divisions, it says. Georgia, Tajikistan and Moldova are among the worst-affected nations. Much of Central Asia and eastern and Central Europe had attained universal access to education under communism, Unicef said. But despite the transition to democracy, economic growth and an increase in education spending in many countries, access to education has fallen, the report said.

Racial inequalities

Some 12m youngsters do not make it to secondary school, and 2.5m do not even attend primary school. The report, Education for Some More than Others?, found that inequality between rich and poor families was particularly marked. Co-author Phillipe Testot-Ferry said: "Families with higher incomes get disproportionate access to pre-school. "[They] ensure good basic education for their children [and] hire the best private tutors, all paving the way to higher education and better jobs." In contrast, children from poorer families tended to stay away from school or drop out early because they did not expect to reap the benefits of a good education. Racial inequality was also a problem in countries including Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, where a large proportion of Roma (Gypsy) children received no schooling at all. Unicef regional director Maria Calivis called the area's progress a "story of increased disparities". She said the problem would "undermine the capacity of governments to develop globally competitive economies based on skilled labour rather than cheap labour". Unicef found that in the region's poorest countries - Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Tajikistan - less than 50% of children were in secondary education. And the report warned that the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Moldova and Tajikistan are not on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal that all children are able to complete primary school by 2015. The report, which also covered Turkey, called for an increase in education spending to at least 6% of their Gross Domestic Product - the regional average is currently about 3%.

The next thing you know, we are going to hear Russia claim that this situation is a basis for Russian to invade and reconquer these countries, "for their own good." Just like Russia killing Alexander Litvinenko was turned into a basis to extradite Boris Berezovsky. Through the looking glass!

1 comment:

Eugene Tsypin said...

This reminds me of late Soviet agitprop lecturers telling the audience that the imperfections of mature socialism were caused by пережитки капитализма (the leftovers of Capitalism) or the disastrous consequences of the World War II (which ended many decades ago).

Besides, your "vampire bat" analogy is not quite true. According to statistical data, the only Union republics of the USSR which contributed to the Federal budget more than they got from it were the Russian Federation and Byelorussia. Therefore, all those "little-but-proud" Georgias and Estonias can just as well be compared with leeches which sucked the Russian Bear's blood or fleas which hopped from him to another "host" who they thought was more nutritious. :)