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100 Craptastic Years of Communism

November 10, 2017

Communist PartyTo commemorate the one hundred year anniversary of a truly morally and intellectually bankrupt system – one that cost the world somewhere in the realm of one hundred million souls through systemized starvation, random executions, gulags, balls-out genocide and other forms of creative murder, I thought we’d take a few minutes this week to sit back and reflect on the twenty-eight years since the beginning of the fall of the Soviet Union.

You know, just to feel good about ourselves in these trying times and all that.

While it’s true that we still have some hold-outs – namely Cuba and North Korea, who are trying to remain “pure,” whatever that means – the fact is that things in the former Eastern bloc are nearly unrecognizable from just a few of decades ago.

The general vibe in the region, even on the heels of a massive global recession, is now more like Vanity Fair’s Oscar night to-do, where attractive up and comers nibble on truffle puffs and drink rose champagne. It’s a far cry from the droll, mid-level office party reminiscent of the way things used to be. You know the one. It actually takes place in an office under fluorescent lighting with that sickly greenish tint. No music, no spouses allowed, and the deli tray comes from the local discount supermarket and would otherwise go untouched if people didn’t need to find something to do with themselves other than talk about needing a new color copier.

Office party

In my own Iron Curtain experience, I remember the dismal slop-cafeterias that served – honestly – some of the worst food I’ve ever encountered. Stews with thick layers of grease that floated over gristley meat and old potatoes like the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The spirit of customer service that inspired insult, indifference and even contempt. A waiter actually once snarled “blow me” after I asked him for a menu, and what’s more…I wasn’t even surprised.

There was a sense of style that can only be described as “failure chic.” Poor quality textiles that not only trapped, but enhanced stale, unpleasant body odors, the casual don of oily, dandruff-speckled hair, and a perfume of alcohol and cheap cigarettes that clung to nearly everyone’s breath and general aura like a silent but deadly fart.

Let’s not forget the architecture that made you want to kill yourself.

commie architecture

All of this was wrapped up in a culture of paranoia and oppression that dissuaded intimacy and even broke family bonds. Impelled people to plaster book covers made of paper bags onto their reading materials – you wouldn’t want anyone to know what types of fiction you liked, God forbid – and pad their doors and walls with cushions, so as not to be overheard by spying neighbors. In a culture where the government openly advocates snitching and cultivates envy, no one is safe.

But much of that is over now in what used to be called the Soviet Union.

The young people are hip, favoring craft beers and barbecue joints. The cafes are a twitter with conversations about popular culture, travel and politics. Nobody makes their own book covers anymore and flagrantly reads whatever the hell they want. I can no longer tell the difference between an Eastern and Western European based on dress, posture and general disposition. Even the waiters seem jolly.

commie propaganda

So, despite the uncertainties of our age – the terrorist plots, wacko gunmen, partisan divisions and IQ crushing media culture – we have a lot to be optimistic about. A mere thirty years ago, the dominant belief was that Communism was not only here to stay, but would ultimately prevail, so we’d best get used to it. East Berliners had to reconcile their own grimy and tedious lifestyle with the bright lights and festive bustle that they knew to be bursting like a star from every bar and boutique just steps away in West Berlin. Few of them ever thought their city would be whole again, let alone their nation. We were all sitting around waiting, just waiting, for Russia to finally make her move and put us out of our suspense.

atomic blast

But no bad party goes on forever. The most desperate, diehard revelars – the ones who want to bed the girl everyone’s had a go at, who need to at least be able to say they did something on Saturday night – eventually go home. Sick of the wrong music – too, loud, too weird. Bored of the small talk. Done with the Everclear punch and Coor’s Light. Even they can’t take it anymore.

Let’s remember that as we fret over our problems of the day.

And to celebrate the end of the aforementioned bad party, i.e. the Communist Party, please enjoy my friend Mark Baker’s new travel blog centering on Central Europe. Mark makes his home in Prague and has been in the region a long time, critter-crawling through little-known towns, haunting eccentric-looking cafes, taking gorgeous pictures, and writing for publications like Lonely Planet. He has such an artistic eye and knows a great story – the kind you’ll rarely find in mainstream publications. Click here. I think you’ll love it.

Prague cowboy love

This is one of Mark’s photos

And just for fun, Cold-reader and author Anne Coates is “celebrating” one hundred years of Communism by offering her very anti-communist book, Eagle in the Fridge for .99 cents on Amazon US.

Eagle in the Fridge is the story of the breakup of the Soviet Union, told by someone who lived behind the Iron Curtain. It’s an account narrated by a woman whose breath is taken away when the impossible dream of Baltic independence moves from fairy tale status to one that’s close enough to touch. Eagle in the Fridge is for anyone who wants a behind the scenes look at living behind the Iron Curtain, and an aftermath of independence that brought with it yet more challenges. It’s a testament to the courage of everyday people under extraordinary conditions. It’s a reminder that history isn’t made by generals. It’s made by normal people merely living their lives.


Click here to get Eagle in the Fridge for .99 cents


  1. Great perspective adjustment. Well done.

  2. Thank you, Joseph.

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