First News
Volume:7, Number:25
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Around The World 1

The Happiness Gap

| Jobaid Alam |

Survey found just over half the respondents from former Soviet states were nostalgic for Soviet-style rule

The Soviet Union was dissolved on December 26, 1991, as a result of the declaration no. 142-H of the Soviet of the Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The declaration acknowledged the independence of the former Soviet republics and created the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), although fi ve of the signatories ratifi ed it much later or not at all

On the previous day, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and fi nal leader of the Soviet Union, resigned, declared his offi ce extinct, and handed over its powers – including control of the Soviet nuclear missile launching codes – to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. That evening at 7:32 p.m., the Soviet fl ag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced with the pre-revolutionary Russian fl ag.

Now a quarter of a century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, life satisfaction in Russia and other ex-Soviet states remains stubbornly low, with enthusiasm wavering for democracy and open market economics, according to a survey.The study found that only 15 percent of Russians think their households have a better quality of life, compared with 30 percent in 2010 when respondents were last asked, and only 9 percent see their fi nances as better than four years ago. Just over half the respondents from former Soviet states also thought a return to a more authoritarian system would be a plus in some circumstances, said the fi ndings from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank.

The EBRD, created 25 years ago to invest in former communist countries, questioned households across ex- Soviet bloc for more than a decade for its “Life in Transition” project, polling 51,000 households in 34 countries from Estonia to Mongolia. They did fi nd the “happiness gap” with western Europe had narrowed, thanks to improvements in central Asia, the Baltic states and central Europe, but also because of less satisfaction in parts of Europe, including Germany and Italy. The fi ndings resonated with increasing evidence in 2016 – ranging from Britain’s vote to quit the European Union and Donald Trump’s US election win – of dissatisfaction with some of the effects of globalization.

The EBRD chief economist Sergei Guriev said the study also showed countries could only successfully transition from command economies to more open-market systems if that process was “perceived by the public as being fair and of benefi t to the majority”. Guriev said one of the biggest factors in people’s lower life satisfaction was losing their jobs. Governments therefore needed to make sure workers learn new skills, he said. He also said the survey showed people’s appreciation of democracy and open market economics was wavering. Right now in most of the countries the majority does not seem to prefer democracy over authoritarian rule, whereas in Germany 80 percent do, Guriev said. He then added that it raises big, big questions as to what has gone wrong and what should be done.

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