Letter from a Russian Immigrant

The following is a letter that Investors Business Daily editors felt worthy of posting online.


In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, I was taught to believe individual pursuits are selfish and sacrificing for the collective good is noble. In kindergarten we sang songs about Lenin, the leader of the Socialist Revolution. In school we learned about the beautiful socialist system, where everybody is equal and everything is fair; about ugly capitalism, where people are exploited and treat each other like wolves in the wilderness. Life in the USSR modeled the socialist ideal. God-based religion was suppressed and replaced with cult like adoration for political figures.

The government-assigned salary of the proletariat (blue-collar worker) was 30%-50% higher then any professional. Without incentive to improve their life, professionals drank themselves to oblivion. They — engineers, lawyers, doctors, teachers — earned a government-determined salary that barely covered the necessities, mainly food.


Raising children was a hardship. It took four to six adults (parents and grandparents) to support a child. The usual size of the postwar family was one or two children. Every woman had the right to have an abortion and most of them did, often without anesthesia. There is a comparative historical reality that plays out the consequences of two competing ideologies: life in the USSR and in America. When the march to the worker’s paradise — the Socialist Revolution — began in 1917, many people emigrated from Russia to the U.S. In the USSR, economic equality was achieved by redistributing wealth, ensuring that everyone remained poor, with the exception of those doing the redistributing. Only the ruling class of communist leaders had access to special stores, medicine and accommodations that could compare to those in the West. The rest of the citizenry had to deal with permanent shortages of food and other necessities, and had access to free but inferior, unsanitary and low-tech medical care. The egalitarian utopia of equality, achieved by the sacrifice of individual self-interest for the collective good, led to corruption, black markets, anger and envy. Government-controlled health care destroyed human dignity.


Chairman Nikita Khrushchev released facts about Stalin and his purges. People learned of the horrific purge of more than 20 million citizens, murdered as enemies of the state. Those who left Russia found a different set of values in America: freedom of religion, speech, individual pursuits, the right to private property and free enterprise. The majority of those immigrants achieved a better life for themselves and their children in this capitalist land. These opportunities let the average immigrant live a better life than many elites in the Soviet Communist Party. The freedom to pursue personal self-interest led to prosperity. Prosperity generated charity, benefiting the collective good. The descendants of those immigrants are now supporting policies that move America away from the values that gave so many immigrants the chance of a better life. Policies such as nationalized medicine, high tax rates and government intrusion into free enterprise are being sold to us under the socialistic motto of collective salvation. Socialism has bankrupted and failed every society, while capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other system.


There is no perfect society. There are no perfect people. Critics say that greed is the driving force of capitalism. My answer is that envy is the driving force of socialism. Change to socialism is not an improvement on the imperfections of the current system. The slogans of “fairness and equality” sound better than the slogans of capitalism. But unlike at the beginning of the 20th century, when these slogans and ideas were yet to be tested, we have accumulated history and reality. Today we can define the better system not by slogans, but by looking at the accumulated facts. We can compare which ideology leads to the most oppression and which brings the most opportunity. When I came to America in 1980 and experienced life in this country, I thought it was fortunate that those living in the USSR did not know how unfortunate they were.


Now in 2009, I realize how unfortunate it is that many Americans do not understand how fortunate they are. They vote to give government more and more power without understanding the consequences.


Svetlana Kunin, Stamford, Conn.

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One Comment on “Letter from a Russian Immigrant”

  1. mikromike Says:

    Russian Immigrant’s Perspective: a big lie for naïve Americans

    Few days ago, I received an e-mail message from one of my long time correspondents, a Russian gentleman who was born in Russia but left the country with his parents soon after the sad events of 1917. He never visited Russia and the only opinion he can make is based on what other people say.

    The above mentioned letter came with a PDF file attached. This file contained three “opuses” by Madame Kunin, which were published on-line:

    I was so emotionally distressed by Madame Kunin’s negativism that decided to answer her “opuses” almost sentence by sentence. I did not address her negative attitude towards current U.S. administration but focused entirely on her dirty bragging about the Soviet Union. If to put it short, Madame Kunin has a very bad breath which is caused not by gingivitis but by one feeling which dominates her soul: HATE.

    I am extremely hesitant calling this person “Russian” immigrant. The one who hates everything related to his/her home country does not deserve to be called Russian. There was not a single positive word in this river of dirt that came from the mouth of this person, only criticism for the sake of criticism ‐ and there were many things in this river of dirt that were twisted or deliberately misrepresented, to put it mild. Not to mention that the writing style of Madame Kunin is very poor and I wonder who is the editor responsible for publication of this ridiculously low quality bragging which resembles the time of a witch hunting.

    Here are just some examples:
    1. Yes, we did sing the song about Lenin ‐ but who would blame the British kids for singing “God save the Queen”? I wouldn’t!
    2. Yes, we did learn about the “beauty of socialism”, but it was the American teacher who first told my son that Americans won WWII, and called him after the class to whisper that she knows the truth and it was Russians, but they are told to teach this way.
    3. Being a biologist, I cannot comprehend this comparison with the way wolves are “treated” (sic!) in the wilderness.
    4. Life in the USSR did not model the “socialist ideal” ‐ simply because it was built on different from ideal concepts.
    5. Far from every factory worker was making 30‐50% more than the “intellectual labor” individual. Also, everyone was free to choose whether to go to the university or to the factory. Nobody was forced to become a doctor or a teacher. The same is here, in the U.S.: I am teaching at the university and getting a 9‐month salary while I could have been working for an industry and make twice as much (I was getting such offers) ‐ and it was my choice to do the job I love and not to go for some bigger money.
    6. Madame Kunin is a liar: there were a handful of mechanisms to improve the person’s life.
    7. According to Madame Kunin, all Soviet professionals were alcoholics. One of my grandmothers was a M.D., chief pediatrician of the Astrakhan Region; she served as a Major of Medical Service during WWII. Her husband, my grandfather, was a 1st Rank Navy Engineer (equivalent of Captain in the U.S. Navy); he served as the Chief Mechanic of the Caspian Sea Fleet until retired. My father was an engineer-metallurgist and Chief Metallurgist at the Metallurgical Factory, and my mother was a Chief Architect. The grandmother from my mother’s side was an economist and her husband, my grandfather was a radio‐engineer before WWII, lost his left leg during the war, and was still professionally active until retired. Not a single member of my family was an alcoholic. None of our neighbors and friends were alcoholics.
    8. It is difficult to raise children ‐ everywhere. However, I wonder why this bad-breath Madame Kunin is saying nothing about the nurseries, kindergartens, pre-schools etc. which were available for the children in the Soviet Union? Why is she “forgetting” about the enormously‐long (compare to the “evil world of capitalism”) PAID maternity leave? World is not the same (forgive my cliche!). For instance, every Belgian family is getting substantial monetary support from the government ‐ for each kid, and if there are 4+ kids in the family, they are getting a person to help them with the kids (free of charge!). Now, we don’t have it in the U.S. of A. ‐ so does it mean that the American system is “evil”?! Let us hold this angry Madame Kunin from racing any further!
    9. Yes, there was a right for abortion ‐ and one can argue whether it is good or bad, but how it relates to the story about the “evil USSR”?!
    10. Now, this is the thing that is really killing me: “comparative historical reality”?! What kind of terminology is that?!smile
    11. The “Socialist Revolution” was NOT a “march for the worker’s paradise” ‐ it was an act of terror organized and orchestrated by the small group of Jewish extremists, paid by German and American intelligent services and industrialists. PERIOD.
    12. Hmmm.. “everyone is poor except for those who are in charge of redistribution”… in other words, except for the people with power.. but.. wait.. isn’t it the same here, in the land of paradise, the U.S. of A.? The person is leaving the White House and “accidentally” taking with him a lot of things which don’t belong to him ‐ we call it STEALING and prosecute such person to the whole severity of the LAW, but.. not the one who has some real power and comes from “certain circles”… Madame Kunin is either blind or deliberately refuses to see the truth: people are the same everywhere, and the only difference is in the way they behave: it is more civilized in the U.S. and more barbaric in the USSR, but the nature of the people’s behavior is the same!
    13. I can tell a lot about “unsanitary” and “low‐tech” medical care ‐ both in the Soviet Union and in the nowadays America. But of course, Madame Kunin pretends not to see it.
    14. Once again I rest my case: “government‐controlled health care destroyed human dignity”??!!! What kind of sick‐mind demagogic full of crap person will write something like that and what kind of a similar professional qualities individual will publish something like that?…
    15. Freedoms of America… let us not to forget about genocide of the Native Americans, slavery of the Chinese workers, concentration camps filled with Japanese Americans, years of witch hunt and propaganda… yeah….
    16. What kind of “average immigrant” Madame Kunin is talking about? The one that lives in Brooklyn, the one who used to be involved in dirty black market economy in the Soviet Union, the one who is bragging about being a victim of political system while being just a simple criminal? These are the many of ex‐Soviet Brooklyn. They don’t work ‐ officially. So, they spend our many, the taxpayers’ money, while working all their lives for cash. They live in apartments provided by the government on our, tax‐payers’ money. Are these the people she is talking about?
    17. I am not going to elaborate on the “bankruptcy of socialism”. It didn’t bankrupt. It was destroyed by ex‐KGB, with heavy support from the Western intelligent services ‐ for the sake of keeping the majority of the country’s money and gold in the hands of KGB connected and related individuals.
    18. “Only the ruling class of communist leaders had access to special stores…” Well, I do know for fact that pretty similar “system of distribution” exists in the world of capitalism.
    19. Here is another pearl: “The egalitarian utopia of equality, achieved by the sacrifice of individual self‐interest for the collective good, led to corruption, black markets, anger and envy.” Now, I wonder what led to “corruption, black markets, anger and envy” in the world of capitalism? And, please, don’t say that we don’t have it!
    20. Madame Kunin says: “USSR, 1959: I am a “young pioneer” in school.” I don’t recall any “old pioneers”.
    21. She continues by saying that “History classes remind us that there is a higher authority than their
    parents and teachers: the leaders of the Communist Party.” Well, I am pretty sure that the U.S. President is also the higher authority than grandpa John Smith.
    22. Madame Kunin is bragging further: “From the first year in school, all of us are made aware of our
    ethnicity (ethnic Russian, Jewish, Asian, etc.) and class (proletariat, intelligentsia), around which society is structured. This inherent divisiveness makes it easy for the government to stir ethnic and class tension and in this way distract from economic failure.” I am not sure about “all of us” but my parents were told by my head teacher that at the age of 9 I didn’t know about ethnicities. Also, “intelligentsia” was never determined as a class – I doubt Madame Kunin had good grades at school.
    23. Madame Kunin complains that “All workers are unionized — another way the state controls the citizens.” I am not sure about the whole country – however, I was told that I MUST join the union – not in the Soviet Union but here, in the U.S.
    24. Madame Kunin purposelessly postulates that “All medical care and schools are state entities.” I cannot comment on this matter.
    25. Madame Kunin is crying: “Religious symbols are forbidden in schools or on state property.” If I am not mistaken, in the U.S. church is separated from the state. However, what makes my skin itching is a huge number of Masonic symbols on each and every road, next to the official traffic signs here, in the U.S. I wonder why do we have so many of them?
    26. Madame Kunin continues with her complaint about the state having “strict control over our ability to travel abroad.” Now, I wonder if every American can freely visit Cuba – with no consequences.

    Yes, I am a former Soviet scientist who is currently working in the U.S. Yes, some of my family were repressed and killed by the Communist regime ‐ just because they were from the other side of the barricade. I left my home country in 1990 at the age of 30 while holding a position of a Senior Researcher, to conduct a two year study in The Netherlands ‐ just before Gorby, The Devil, received his 30 silver coins for destroying the Empire. I did not come back ‐ not because of any political motives but because nobody needed scientists in the “new” Russia, and science and teaching are the only things I know how to do well. And, I have a family to support ‐ as simple as that. While disagreeing with many things from my past, while having negative opinion on many political matters in the USSR and modern Russia, I would never say a single dirty word about my Motherland ‐ that is because I HAVE a Motherland, while Madame Kunin does not have one.

    Warm regards,
    The Russian, scientist, educator, non-alcoholic.
    P.S. I am pretty sure that the editor in charge of Madame Kunin’s pearls is a smart individual. the question remains: WHY s/he decided to publish it? What was the goal, the purpose? What exactly this person was trying to achieve?…

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