Who fed whom in the USSR and who lost more from its collapse
Who fed whom in the USSR and who lost more from its collapse

What arguments could the local princelings use to convince the peoples of their republics that an urgent need to get rid of the "oppression of Moscow"? Well, except for national pride, which you can't smear on a bun?

Everyone's argument was simple: we are feeding the rest of the Soviet Union. We work hardest. And other republics hang around our necks. And as soon as we get rid of these freeloaders, we will live no worse than in Europe or America.

25 years have passed. We can summarize the first results. Did the former fraternal republics of the USSR begin to live better, becoming proud independent states? Let's get a look.


It must be admitted that even at the end of its history, with all its internal problems, the Soviet Union was really powerful. As stated in the directory "National Economy of the USSR", the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Union in 1990 amounted to 1 trillion Soviet rubles. At the official exchange rate, 1 US dollar then cost 59 kopecks. This means that even nominally, the USSR's GDP was equal to 1.7 trillion dollars.

However, the Soviet ruble was not freely convertible. And in the world economy, it is customary to consider the true size of GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP). Adjusted for the fact that for $ 1 somewhere in China you can buy 1.5 times more food than in the United States. And, for example, in Switzerland or Norway - 1.5 times less.

Therefore, IMF analysts believe that the USSR's GDP, at purchasing power parity, in 1990 was $ 2.7 trillion. Or 12, 1% of the world!

Largest economies by GDP in 1990

And UN experts believe that the economic power of the USSR reached 14, 2% of the world value. This means that it surpassed Japan by almost 1, 5 times, Germany - twice, and China - three times!

And in the same Ukraine or the Baltic states, Georgia or Moldova, they believed - if we allocate our share from the enormous power of the Soviet Union - we would be very serious respected countries, comparable to some Sweden or Austria. And everyone will reckon with us.

In numbers, it looked like that. For example, the economy of only one Ukrainian SSR in terms of steelmaking, coal mining, wheat harvesting and other indicators per capita was comparable to the Federal Republic of Germany - the locomotive of the entire European Union!

Therefore, the Ukrainian elite decided - with such and such a rich Soviet legacy, it is necessary to collect things as soon as possible and - to leave the Soviet Union. So as not to share with anyone and live like dumplings in oil.

Where is that Ukraine now and where is Germany?


Why, then, almost all the former Soviet republics quickly deflated, squandered wealth and could not remain at least at the same level of economic power with which they left the USSR?

Because the USSR itself was built as a single well-oiled mechanism. As clear and reliable as a Kalashnikov assault rifle. And each screw in it performed its function.

For example, in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, great emphasis was placed on growing grain and cotton, since their climatic conditions were much better suited to this than the mountain slopes of Georgia and Armenia or the swamps of the Belarusian Polesie.

And Uzbek cotton provided raw materials for the weaving factories of the "city of brides" Ivanovo.

And from Ivanovo, the fabric went to garment factories in Belarus and the Baltic states.

In Lithuania and Latvia, they staked on the development of electronics. There was a time when Latvian VEF radios, Lithuanian Snaige refrigerators and Shilyalis TVs were considered the best in the country.

Any Soviet person could read "where it is made" on the packaging.The sugar was mostly Ukrainian, the sprats were from Riga, the potatoes were Belarusian, and the wines were Caucasian or Moldovan.

And what about the RSFSR? Russians, in the minds of a simple Georgian, Uzbek or Estonian of that time, were only tanks, guns, submarines and atomic bombs. Also, perhaps, Zhiguli cars (however, everyone knew that they were actually Italian, but badly spoiled by "Russian hands").

But from the point of view of ideology, it was extremely important to equalize the standard of living of different republics of the great USSR. But initially it was very different, so large investments were required. This was superimposed on purely political moments. For example, they tried to create a kind of "showcase of socialism" from the Baltic republics.

Russians, in the minds of a simple Georgian, Uzbek or Estonian at that time, were only tanks, guns, submarines and atomic bombs


Because of this desire to make life in Yerevan or Chisinau no worse than in Moscow or Leningrad, back in the 1960-70s, a clear imbalance began to arise between work and remuneration for it. And in the last years of the USSR, it became completely indecent. With formal equality, the Soviet periphery began to live much better than the central regions of the country.

When they talk about empty store shelves filled with only packs of cookies and canned food, this is basically Russia. While in the Baltics, Ukraine, Moldova and many other places, this was not the case. During my school years, even under the USSR, I lived in Vilnius and remember yogurt. He, of course, was not much like what is meant by this today. In half-liter bottles with tin lids. But he was! While my relatives in Volgograd have not even heard of anything like this.

When they talk about empty store shelves, this is mainly Russia

However, to understand the full depth of inequality between the republics of the USSR, it is worth looking at the table. These figures appeared in the public domain after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And it’s a pity that they were hidden for ideological reasons. Perhaps, having looked at them, many in the Transcaucasus or the Baltic States would have changed their minds to leave the Soviet table, at which they had the “fattest” seats.

How much was produced and consumed

If we consider the level of production of public goods and the measure of its consumption in the RSFSR per unit, then we immediately see:

in Armenia they produced for each person 2 times less Russian, and “ate” 2, 5 times more;

in Estonia, per capita consumption exceeded Russia's level by 3 times;

and Georgia lived 3.5 times richer than the RSFSR and generally richer than anywhere else in the Union!

Should we be surprised at the mass conviction that developed in those years about the superiority of all the other republics over the "lazy and eternally drunk" Russians? However, where did other ideas come from? After all, it was not the Balts who flew to Voronezh for meat, but Voronezh went to the Baltic States for smoked sausage.

And the local elites in the union republics only fueled these sentiments.

And when the general standard of living in the USSR in the late 1980s began to decline, there was no longer enough food, clothing and household appliances, many "national consciousness clicked": stop feeding strangers! And since Russia is so poor, it means that they simply do not want and do not know how to work well there. Separate!

It was not explained to ordinary people that Russia lived worse than other republics because of every three rubles she earned, she kept only two for herself. And I gave the third ruble to the brothers in the Union.

All other republics (except for Belarus, which, in fact, also put more into the common pot of the USSR than it drew from it) lived largely on this “third Russian ruble”.

So which of the former republics of the USSR began to live richer and who is poorer? Let's summarize.

Indicators of GDP of the Soviet republics for 1990


The collapse of the USSR hit the Russian economy very hard. By 1997 - 1998, it had lost more than a third of the "Soviet level". A number of industries, for example, textiles and footwear, which were deprived of internal sources of raw materials, generally found themselves on the brink of survival. Problems arose in the rocket and aviation industries, as Ukrainian engines suddenly turned into imports.And the oil-loading terminals of the Baltic states and gas pipelines of Ukraine, built on common (read - Russian) money, ended up abroad and had to be paid for using them.

Nevertheless, over a quarter of a century, Russia has managed to rebuild its economy, having achieved its greater independence. Manufactures that were previously located in the union republics have been created. And Russia today is the only part of the USSR that not only did not lose its Soviet industrial potential, but also increased it. In terms of purchasing power parity, Russia's GDP in 2015 was $ 2.5 trillion, or 121.9% of the 1991 level.

And per capita (according to the World Bank), Russia's GDP in 2015 amounted to 25, 4 thousand dollars, which is 1, 45 times higher than before the collapse of the USSR.

Thus, it must be admitted that the Russians (with all the reservations about the increased stratification into rich and poor) still began to live better than in the Soviet Union. Almost one and a half times!


In Soviet times, Kazakhstan was one of the three leaders of the USSR in terms of GDP. And formally, over the past 25 years, Kazakhstan has even managed to increase the size of its economy. Even if not by much - from 11.3% to 11.5% of the Russian. But this was achieved mainly due to a sharp increase in oil and gas production (especially gas - 5 times). However, being squeezed between Russia and China, Kazakhstan has almost no other development options.

However, in terms of GDP per capita, this former republic of the Soviet Union reached 24, 2 thousand dollars. This is slightly lower than the Russian one, of course, but very close.

And, by the way, ironically, Kazakhstan did not really want to leave the Soviet Union. In fact, he was confronted with the fact that there is no longer a single country, live as you want. And Kazakhstan succeeded in general.

Rally against the collapse of the Union


The result of the “special path” of Belarus can be considered the second after Kazakhstan. The GDP of Belarus is now 4.5% of Russia's, but in per capita terms it is 1.37 times less than the indicator of Russia. And yet, quite worthy in comparison, for example, with the neighboring - Ukrainian. It is a fact - Belarusians live 2, 5 times richer than Ukrainians!

Minsk's problems are typical of all "industrialized Soviet republics." Once upon a time, looking at MAZ, at the Minsk refrigerator plant, at NPO Gorizont (televisions) and many other pillars of the industry, a feeling was created of the enormity of this economy. Gathering for gatherings in Belovezhskaya Pushcha in the early 1990s, the leaders of the republic firmly believed in the self-sufficiency of the Belarusian economy. However, it turned out that its lion's share consists of the final, assembly, cycle. And the republic has almost no raw materials of its own. No oil and gas, not even ports - like in the Baltics.

So the Belarusians have to "spin" - to compete with the monsters of the world industry with their tractors, trucks and refrigerators. And the Belarusians, in contrast to the same Balts, did not close any of their large factories. And agriculture is kept in good shape.

Minsk's problems are typical for everyone


At the time of its divorce from the USSR, Ukraine was one of the most powerful powers in Europe. She owned the third (!) Industrial power of the Soviet Union. And its then GDP was 29, 6% of the level of Russia.

Ukraine had rocketry, aviation, automobile and machine-tool industries, developed metallurgy, oil refining and petrochemistry. And the presence of the largest shipbuilding center in the USSR in Nikolaev made it possible to look at many from a high point.

And what is the result? In terms of GDP for 2015 ($ 339 billion in PPP), Ukraine today is one of the poorest countries in the world. Even Venezuela, which is on the verge of hunger riots, has a GDP of 1.5 times that of Ukraine!

But let's better compare with Russia. 25 years ago, Ukraine was no lower than the RSFSR in terms of economic development - about a third of the Russian population and the same third in terms of GDP. Today the Ukrainian economy is only 8.8% of the Russian one.In terms of per capita of each individual Ukrainian, the figures are even more deadly - $ 7,500 a year compared to the Russian $ 24,500. Although in the USSR the level of consumption in Ukraine was 12% higher than in Russia.

The presence of the largest shipbuilding center in the USSR in Nikolaev allowed Ukraine to look at many from a high


The main message of the Baltic countries' drive for independence was the conviction that without the USSR they would be on par with Switzerland in no time. But over the past 25 years, the main criterion for their "success" has been one thing: how much they have surpassed the per capita Russian GDP.

And after all, formally, they really overtook. Last year, 2015, the standard of living in Lithuania exceeded the Russian by 11.4%, in Estonia - 12.2%. And only Latvia was slightly below the "Russian level" - only 2, 8%. The devil, however, is known to be in the details. When the future "Baltic tigers" proudly left the USSR, the level of consumption in Lithuania exceeded the Russian level by 1, 97 times, in Latvia - by 2, 27 times, in Estonia - by 3, 03 times. So, in fact, the process of impoverishment is progressing there.

There is no industry left in the Baltics. "Shilyalis", VEF, the Fuel Equipment Plant, the famous VENTA and RAF, none of this is there anymore. Even agriculture, which the Balts were very proud of, is going through sad times. There is no sales market in Europe, and our own internal one is frankly microscopic. The freebie of parasitism on Russian transit export flows has also ended. Russia is now building its own ports. In fact, all the current prosperity of the Baltics rests only on Euro-subsidies, which will also end after 2019.

There is no industry left in the Baltics


One thing can be said about the rest of the republics, in all honesty - the times of their economic happiness ended exactly with their independence.

If the per capita GDP of Armenia in the USSR was 2.5 times higher than the Russian one, today it is only 33% of it.

Azerbaijanis in the USSR lived 1, 4 times richer than Russians. And now they barely reach 70% of the standard of living in the Russian Federation.

Georgia has slipped even deeper. In the USSR, in terms of consumption, it was the richest of the republics - 3.5 times higher than the Russian figure. Today this figure is only 37.9% of it.

In Moldova, things are even sadder - it was 113, 5% of the level of Russia. Now it is 19.6%.

Do the "former Soviet" republics understand what they have lost? Apparently - yes. That is why they are so desperately trying to manipulate numbers. For example, they compare the nominal indicators of GDP "then" and "now". Let's say, Lithuania "had" 34.5 billion dollars a year under the USSR, and now it is 82.4 billion. It seems like growth. Almost 2, 5 times. But if we take the ratio of the size of the Lithuanian economy to the Russian one as a starting point, then the picture of the world appears in a completely different light. Lithuania is developing much more slowly than Russia. And if she had not left the USSR, her growth would certainly have been much higher.

GDP of former Soviet republics as a% of Russian


In general, if you dance "from the stove with a common boiler", then in our first question - who fed whom in the once united country - the answer is obvious. Even if we consider it simply in terms of money, it still turns out that the high level of well-being of the republics "under the Soviets" was ensured primarily at the expense of Russia. As soon as this support disappeared, all the economies of the republics began to actively deflate. Moreover, if some in general figures of GDP, as it were, can boast of growth, then in terms of per capita they all flew past the cash register. Even such "successful" ones as Latvia and Estonia.

This gives a convincing answer to the second question: did the republics of the USSR benefit from the collapse of the country or not? Have you become better off getting rid of the "leash" of Moscow? Judging by the numbers, only Russia won. Although the moral collapse of the USSR hit the Russians the hardest. But all the other republics are clearly the losers.

Moreover, those countries of the former "Soviet family" that did not break pots in relations with Russia, but tried to maintain common economic ties - this, of course, Kazakhstan and Belarus - lost less from the collapse of the Soviet Union. And the one who fled from the USSR in the forefront, cursing Moscow and breaking all ties with it, now slurps "independence" to the fullest. From an empty cracked plate.

Popular by topic