German Soviet Nonaggression pact
Literature on the per-modern period refers to “wandering minstrels,” who often were blind, and “strolling beggars,” many of them were disabled, who solicited charity in and around Orthodox Churches and monasteries. Such persons were often referred to in Russian as ubogi, a term that translates literally as “of God,” iurodivye — “God’s fools” or “holy fools,” and proroki, or “prophets.”6 Because of their close association with churches and religious moral culture, these “wanderers” often were respected and revered, but persons thought to be mentally ill were also treated in a dualistic fashion some manifestations of mental illness were shown, while others were feared.
Throughout its existence, the Soviet Union was a powerhouse of many important technological achievements and innovations of the 20th century, including the world’s first human-made satellite and the launching of the first humans in space. The country had the world’s second largest economy and the largest standing military in the world. The Soviet Union was considered as one of the five nuclear weapons states and possessed the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. It was a founding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) and the Warsaw Pact.
By the time World War II ended, most American officials agreed that the best defence against the Soviet threat was a strategy called “containment.” In 1946, in his famous “Long Telegram,” the diplomat George Kennan (1904-2005) explained this policy: The Soviet Union, he wrote, was “a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with the U.S. there can be no permanent agreement between parties that disagree; as a result, America’s only choice was the “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” President Harry Truman (1884-1972) agreed. “It must be the policy of the United States,” he declared before Congress in 1947, “to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by outside pressures.” This way of thinking would shape American foreign policy for the next four decades.
This overview of disability policies and experiences in the Soviet Union has revealed several important trends that shaped the lives of people living with disabilities in Soviet Russia, Ukraine, and other Soviet republics. The state’s two-pronged policy of care and control was applied unevenly across space and time, and produced myriad contradictions. People with disabilities sometimes suffered from too little state attention and intervention; they also suffered from too much. The material presented here has illustrated many of the harsh realities of Soviet disability policy, which produced constraints on people’s lives and denied many Soviet citizens a common humanity. At the same time, in light of the numerous challenges that market reforms and the collapse of social policy pose for people with disabilities in the former Soviet Union today, it is difficult to discount some of the relative benefits of the former system. Despite the many injustices, the Soviet state did provide some citizens with disabilities with the basic commodities for life, albeit in exchange for political satisfaction.