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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kyiv in 1983

Kyiv spans more than fifteen centuries of history. The city was destroyed and rebuilt many times: from the days of Kyiv Rus to WW II. Roman coins and Stone Age settlements were discovered on its soil.

Today, the city celebrates its 1527th official anniversary. We call it Kyiv Day (the last Sunday in May).

Here's what Kyiv looked like in 1983, behind the Iron Curtain.

Києве мій” (Kyiv of Mine”)
Music: I. Shamo
Lyrics: D. Lutsenko
Vocals: D. Hnatyuk

Київський вальс” (“Kyiv Waltz”)
Music: L. Maiboroda
Lyrics: A. Malyshko
Vocals: A. Shevchenko, M. Fokin

Video embedded from:


Gabriela said...

Wow! 1527 anniversary! Quite a milestone...
Congratulations to you and to every fellow citizen. From Lima, kilometers away, receive muy best.

Taras said...

Thank you, Gabriela!

It's an honor to hear from you!

Peru and Ukraine share some historical parallels. Both have a colonial legacy and both want a better future.

Qatar Cat said...

This is the city I remember. Haven't been there since, and refuse to go because of everything I hear...

Thank you so much.

Little Miss Moi said...

Dear taras. I've seen this vid before.. the one thing that I noticed first was that there was practically no traffic on the streets (or the sidewalks).

Even for me, a resident of Kyiv for only 2.5 years, it pulls my heartstrings.

Taras said...

Little Miss Moi,

Thank you for commenting! The two Ukrainian songs you hear in this video have long been Kyiv’s anthems.

When I watch this video, I remember my childhood, especially trips to downtown Kyiv with my father.

The absence of huge traffic wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I consider it one of the blessings of the ‘80s, as opposed to Chernobyl, the war in Afghanistan, and consumer good shortages.

Of course, having lived in Kyiv in the ‘00s, you’ve seen our car-congested roads. They simply weren’t built to contain that many cars. And I'm sure you know that the abundance of luxury cars in Kyiv does not represent Ukraine’s overall wellbeing. I call this phenomenon Potemkin village. In Ukraine, the middle class makes up about 5% of the population and is nowhere near the levels of social stratification found in the West.

In the video, the sidewalks don’t look quite as empty as the roads. It all depends on what time of the day or what day of the week these scenes come from. As for the season, I think it’s May.

In 1983, Yuriy Andropov was running the country. A former KGB chief, he launched a big campaign for labor discipline. Narodniye druzhyny (people’s patrols) would raid the streets, movie theaters, cafes, and beauty shops in search of malingering workers. Those caught AWOL would be reported to their employers and severely reprimanded or fired.

Nevertheless, the mid ‘70s-to-mid ‘80s actually encompass the most prosperous Soviet era, largely due to oil and gas revenues (petrodollars). By the mid ‘80s, oil prices had taken a nosedive, and so did the petrodollars.

Soviet corporate culture began waning in the ‘70s, demoralized by decades of disincentives and failures of the command-and-control economy.

Ironically, Ukraine’s economy still relies on Soviet-era industry and contains many of the same disincentives and failures, albeit of a capitalist kind. No wonder our GDP shrank 21% in Q1.

I know it’s a bit of a rambling lecture. I just wanted to put things into perspective:)


Don’t give up on Kyiv!

Of course, tempus fugit. But you still may rediscover many places dear to your heart, and reconnect with people you grew up with.

Except for those ugly high-rises, much of Khreshchatyk’s architecture remains intact.