The Communist Long Tail of Ukraine

I’ve now spent a long time in the Ukraine because we are building some significant software there for our upcoming and super-secret gaming destination, and I’ve made a number of observations.

Since one of my hobbies is economics, it has been very interesting for me to be immersed in a country that is emerging from communism into a form of capitalism with a pinch of kleptocracy/oligarchy chewing away at the fringes during the transition.

I took the first three pictures below from the common areas behind my apartment that I stay in while in Kharkov, Ukraine. The inside of my apartment is very nice, as is the inside of many places throughout Ukraine. The offices up at Program Ace are spotless, pristine, and very HAL-2000-like.

However, every single “common” area in the Ukraine is completely run-down and looks bombed out, forgotten, radiated, and dangerous. In my judgment, this is a vestige from the communist era, when everything was commonly owned and there was no personal property. When things are commonly owned, they almost always fall into disrepair since “altruistic cleaning and maintenance” is a concept that only is heard from the ivory towers of college professors that are inside the theoretical and elitist bubble.

The same thing happened in New York’s Central Park in the late 70′s. It was very much treated in a communist way, where a faceless bureaucracy expected their disconnected staff and an altruistic public too keep Central Park nice, clean, and well maintained. It turned into one of the dirtiest and most unsafe areas in the US. After that, Colombia University did a study and the system changed to one of privatization where people had a sense of ownership and pride in different parts of the park. Today it is one of the best public parks in the world.

Even though apartment buildings are privately owned in Kharkov, the landlords still have the oligarch mentality that there is no real need to maintain and beautify the common areas since competition is not yet in full force. Almost every elevator I entered was very old, with exposed and rusted gears, creaking chains, and a layer of dust collecting since the days of Sputnik. Every stairwell looked like the Germans had used it for target practice in 1943. Every face I saw in those stairwells was morose and untrusting. My walks home in the middle of the night after a long day of work have very little light as I pass from one cloister to another, walking from one group of dark-dressed smoking men quietly grunting to the next.
The final picture is from another stairwell, just outside the old KGB building.

Rusted

The Sweatbox

The Ruins of Kharkov

The Front Door, facing the KGB

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