Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Another peek at the past predicting tomorrow

Here's another captivating postcard from the 1976 "World of Tomorrow" postcard set that was published in the Soviet Union. Floating head and giant eyebrows aside, what did the young adults of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics really think the future would be like in 1976? That year, in the middle of the Leonid Brezhnev era, they were watching their CSKA Moscow ice hockey team lose a tension-filled "goodwill" game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Some were reading the Chronicle of Current Events samizdat publications on the sly. They were listening to Sir Cliff Richard play a dozen concerts "behind the Iron Curtain" across the Soviet Union. The standard of living in the Soviet Union that year was generally thought to be about one-third of the American level and slightly less than half of the level in France and West Germany. So huge floating heads would certainly have seemed farfetched.

Those young adults of 1976 are in their mid to late 60s now. Did some ever believe they'd see a day when they'd live in a nation called Russia, instead of the Soviet Union? (And yet find themselves under the oppressive rule of Vladimir Putin.) Other former citizens of the USSR found themselves in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Armenia and other "new" republics — not that I'm any kind of expert on the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Today, wherever they are, they find themselves in a world of big-screen televisions (perhaps as large as the sci-fi screen on this postcard), worldwide internet, VKontakte and Instagram, ongoing military interventions, Pussy Riot, figure skaters Anna Shcherbakova and Evgeni Semenenko, and much more.

And, like the rest of us, they have seen life derailed by COVID-19 for the past year. The pandemic has affected them in different ways, though. The Russian people are among the most hesistant in the world to take or trust COVID-19 vaccines. (Not that the United States doesn't have its own challenges in that regard.) That distrust is seemingly rooted in years of being fed lies by the government and frustration with an oft-ineffective state health care system. It doesn't put them in a good spot, at this moment, to successfully navigate this health crisis. The same goes for many of the former Soviet republics.

All in all, if you had told the 22-year-olds of Moscow or Minsk in 1976 what 2020 and 2021 would look like, I'm not sure how cheery they would have been about the whole deal. They might have preferred the big scary eyebrows.

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