Homo Sovieticus

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Homo Sovieticus (Dog Latin for "Soviet Man") is a sarcastic and critical reference to an average person in the Soviet Union, also observed in other countries of the Eastern Bloc. The term was coined by well-known Soviet writer and sociologist Aleksandr Zinovyev as the title of his book of the same name.[1] A similar term in Russian slang is sovok (совок, plural: sovki, совки), which is derived from "Soviet" (literally means "scoop (tool)").

Zinovyev also coined a newspeak-style abbreviation homosos (гомосос).[2]

Characteristics[edit]

The idea that the Soviet system would create a new, better kind of Soviet people was first postulated by the advocates of the system; they called it the "New Soviet man". Homo Sovieticus, however, was a term with negative connotations, invented by opponents to describe what they said was the real result of Soviet policies. In many ways it meant the opposite of the New Soviet man, someone characterized by the following:

  • Indifference to the results of his labour (as expressed in the saying "They pretend they are paying us, and we pretend we are working").
  • Lack of initiative and avoidance of taking any individual responsibility for anything.
  • Indifference to common property and petty theft from the workplace, both for personal use and for profit.[3] A line from a popular song, "Everything belongs to the kolkhoz, everything belongs to me" ("всё теперь колхозное, всё теперь моё" / vsyó teper' kolkhóznoye, vsyó teper' moyó), meaning that people on collective farms treasured all common property as their own, was sometimes used ironically to refer to instances of petty theft.
  • Soviet Union's restrictions on travel abroad and strict censorship of information in the media (as well as the abundance of propaganda) was with the intent to insulate the Soviet people from Western influence. There existed non-public "ban lists" of Western entertainers and bands, which, in addition to the usual criteria of not conforming to ostensible Soviet values, were added to the list for rather peculiar reasons; one such example being the Irish band U2, the name of which resembled that of Lockheed U-2, a high-altitude U.S. reconnaissance airplane. As a result, "exotic" Western popular culture became more interesting precisely because it was forbidden. Due to limited exposure, entertainers considered minor, B-list, or of low artistic value in the West were regarded as A-list in the Soviet sphere. Soviet officials called this fascination "Western idolatry" / "Idolatry of the West" (идолопоклонничество перед Западом / idolopoklónnichestvo pered Západom).
  • Obedience or passive acceptance of everything that government imposes on them (see authoritarianism).
  • In the opinion of a former US ambassador to Kazakhstan, a tendency to drink heavily: "[a Kazakh defence minister] appears to enjoy loosening up in the tried and true Homo Sovieticus style – i.e., drinking oneself into a stupor."[4]

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References[edit]

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