September 19, 2007 Hardships Still Common in Former Soviet Nations
Many citizens say aspects of life are worse now than under the Soviet
by Patricia Guadalupe GALLUP NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991,
residents of the emerging countries likely hoped that independence
would bring greater economic prosperity and personal well-being.
However, when the Gallup World Poll interviewed citizens of 14 former
Soviet Republics throughout 2006, respondents often reported being
worse off now than they were under the USSR.
In the transition from communism to capitalism, one might expect to
see a trade-off between affordability and quality, especially for
aspects of life that were previously subsidized or free. But while
59% of respondents across the countries surveyed say they face a
higher cost of living now than they did under the Soviet system, they
commonly report deterioration rather than improvement in key
indicators of well-being, including housing, healthcare, and education.
In the case of the once heavily subsidized housing system of the
former Soviet states, it is not surprising that 61% of respondents in
these countries say housing is now less affordable. But when asked to
rate the quality of housing now versus in the Soviet Union days, 42%
say it is worse now than it was then. Twenty-eight percent of those
living in the former Soviet republics say the quality of housing has
improved and 20% say it remains the same. Residents of Lithuania
(64%), Georgia (60%), Tajikistan (54%), Russia (50%), and Armenia
(50%) are most likely to say the quality of housing has deteriorated.
In no nation is there a majority that says the quality of housing has
improved, though residents of Belarus and Estonia are the most likely
to say so, at 49% and 47%, respectively.
A similar pattern emerges when examining ratings of healthcare and
education. More than half of respondents (55%) say healthcare, which
was provided free by state health institutions in the Soviet era, is
now less affordable. When respondents were asked instead about the
current quality of healthcare versus the quality of care available
under the Soviet Union, they were more divided. Thirty-four percent
of people across all nations surveyed say the quality of healthcare
is better, 38% say it is worse, and 19% say it is the same.
Uzbekistanis (49%), Armenians (48%) and Belarusians (47%) are the
most likely to say the quality of healthcare is better today, while
those in Kyrgyzstan (60%) and Tajikistan (55%) are the most likely to
say it is worse.
Similarly, about half of respondents (49%) tell Gallup that
education, which was free, universal, and multilingual under the
Soviet Union, is currently less affordable. When asked to rate the
quality of education available to them, respondents are again
divided, with 36% saying it is better, 27% saying it is worse, and
23% saying it is the same. People in Lithuania (61%) and Uzbekistan
(50%) are the most likely to report improvement in the quality of
education, while those in Azerbaijan (43%) and Tajikistan (41%) are
most likely to report deterioration.