Fascinating Book on Daily Life in Post-Collapse Russia

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Fascinating Book on Daily Life in Post-Collapse Russia

Post by Zach » Sun Aug 06, 2017 1:58 pm

I recently read Armed with Patience: Daily Life in Post-Soviet Russia by Margaret Winchell. She’s an American academic librarian who made two extended visits (about a year or so each) to Russia at the beginning and end of the 1990s. The book covers a wide breadth of topics on what daily life was like for Russians after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent economic crisis. I found it very interesting as a case study on what types of strategies would be most effective for navigating a crisis like this.

From my perspective, it was very empowering to see confirmation of how effective an ERE lifestyle can be in the face of challenges like this. Some examples:

1. While staple items were still available, stores often had long lines, erratic hours, unpredictable inventory, and goods of sometimes questionable quality. Minimal reliance on shopping and maximizing home production would have allowed one to minimize the time and effort spent procuring goods and vastly enhance quality of life.

2. The impact of salary payment delays and rapid inflation could be mitigated by diverse income streams and minimal reliance on money.

3. Having an existing capital base and a wide skill set gave you more options. For example, some Russians started their own businesses that were under-the-table and not advertised to avoid having to pay “protection” fees to the mafia. Instead, they relied on word-of-mouth. Successfully doing this would have required not just capital and a tradeable skill, but strong social connections, an example of the importance of taking a systems approach.

4. Being comfortable living in a small space was a major advantage. The author describes some units where multiple families could be crammed into a very small space, sometimes with a curtain providing the only separation and privacy. I think I remember reading that in one case, a tenant got stuck dealing with the cockroaches that showed up because her neighbors on the other side of the curtain weren’t keeping their side clean! :?

It’s a very fascinating and engaging book in its own right, and as an added bonus it stimulates some worthwhile thought experiments for those of us interested in contingency planning!

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Re: Fascinating Book on Daily Life in Post-Collapse Russia

Post by onewayfamily » Fri Aug 11, 2017 12:47 pm

Having just traveled through a de-industrialized former Soviet 'model' city this is very interesting to me.
I may not read the book but I appreciate your summary of some of it and its relationship with some ERE principles.

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