"The first half of The Nineties largely reflected this realization that the world was no longer what we thought it'd be, from the decline of the military industrial complex, to who should be the default bad guys in fiction."
Any work that deals with the So What Do We Do Now? environment after the Cold War. Everything seemed to shift. What was relevant now? What was irrelevant? These works either asked those questions or focused on how people dealt with them.
And it can often be discussed in relation to modern conditions, such as comparing life back then and now, or military policy then and now.
Just to clarify, mentioning in passing that communism fell isn't enough. There has to be a sense that, well, someone was bummed.
This is somewhat Truth in Television — many people from the Eastern Bloc regret the fall of state-socialism. For more on this, see the Real Life section.
Compare Make the Bear Angry Again, The New Russia.
Contrast Red Scare, The Great Politics Mess-Up.
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Anime and Manga
Ex-Japanese Red Army member Takenaka from Black Lagoon is sad that he didn't get his revolution, and now allies with Muslim extremists he first met when collaborating with PFLP in Lebanon because he's become A Terrorist Without A Cause. Can be a Shout-Out to how the actual JRA operated for a time in the ME during the Cold War.
Furthermore, Hansel and Gretel are products of Ceauşescu's rule of Romania. With the country unable to take care of them after his death at the end of the Cold War, they were sold to the Sicilian mafia, and... it goes From Bad to Worse.
The series also features a criminal organization known as Hotel Moscow, which is composed of veterans of the Afghan War. It's leader, Balalaika, is a disillusioned former Soviet Special Forces commander who turned to a life of crime after being screwed over by the government in the wake of the war. OTOH, the end of Fujiyama Gangsta's Paradise arc could be explained only by her being, you know,.. deep in the loop. Just undercover.
Monster includes a number of ex-GDR officers and scientists who have tried to create new lives and identities for themselves, with varying degrees of success.
The plot of the second Patlabor (a series which previously suffered quite heavily from The Great Politics Mess-Up) movie revolves around a terrorist plot intended to show the world how vulnerable the military budget cuts brought about by the end of the Cold War have made people (at least it was before Tsuge hijacked the plan for his own personal vendetta against the apathetic citizenry and the people who hung him out to dry when his attempts to develop a Humongous Mecha school of combat fell apart).
Many former Soviet superheroes in the Marvel Universe, especially Iron Man specific enemies created during the cold war - Titanium Man, The Crimson Dynamo. Even DC Comics gets into it with former teams such as the Rocket Red Brigade.
GoldenEye wondered if James Bond was even relevant now. This is one of the reasons some consider it the best of the Brosnan films. M in particular bluntly told Bond he was "a relic of the Cold War".
Casino Royale has a throwaway line where M grouses about the new political scene, ending with, "Christ, I miss the Cold War!"
By the time Skyfall comes around, M seems to have come to terms with this. When she's Hauled Before a Government Inquiry to answer precisely this question, she responds that espionage is even more relevant now, as modern enemies are much more nebulous and elusive than they used to be.
Ronin. In fact the title is based on the notion that former Cold War agents are now like the Ronin samurai.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country did a metaphorical version of this by having the Klingon Empire sue for peace, ending the Space Cold War which had been raging since the original TV show. The bad guys are conspirators on both sides trying to sabotage the peace process because they don't want the familiar world of Federation vs. Klingons to end. Kirk himself feels somewhat this way at first ("No more Neutral Zone. I was used to hating Klingons."), but he comes around. The film went into production when the Iron Curtain was falling and it ended up being released just nineteen days before the Soviet Union was officially dissolved. In fact, Star Trek VI actually predicted the August Coup. The film's plot is set in motion when Mikhail Gorbachev's expy character is assassinated by hard-liners in his own government. The real coup occurred while the movie was being edited and, with Gorbachev's survival unclear, the filmmakers were left to wonder how much life would be imitating art.
A plot to kill Gorbachev and keep the Cold War going was the subject of The Package.
(The) last few years have been very confusing for people in my line of work.
The characters in Good Bye, Lenin! try to hide the fall of communism from their mother who just woke from a long coma after a stroke, as they fear with her weak heart condition, she might die when the truth is revealed to her.
The film is part of a larger East German art movement called Ostalgie, which is based around nostalgia for the old communist years of the GDR. You'll note the presence of old East German cartoons throughout, the idolization of Sigmund Jähn, the protagonists' consternation over the loss of their favorite brand of pickles, and the general malaise that sets in with the city's mad rush toward the worst aspects of materialistic capitalism.
Economically the 20-ish protagonist lands on his feet, going from apprentice TV repairman to satellite dish installer. Meanwhile his sister who had been at a prestigious university finds the degree in Marxist-Leninist economics she had been pursuing would now only be useful if printed on toilet paper and goes to work at Burger King, and several neighbors in their 50s remain unemployed throughout the film.
Canadian Bacon centers on the US President trying to start a Cold War with Canada, now that the Cold War with the Soviet Union is over.
There's a very funny scene where a general says the missiles are still pointed at Moscow, because "We couldn't find anybody new to point them at."
In The Man Who Knew Too Little, this is the motivation of the villains Sir Roger and Sergai. They were heads of British and Russian intelligence (respectively) and now they're collaborating to restart hostilities between their nations, because they have nothing else to do.
Burt: Did you know Heather blames our problems on the collapse of the Soviet Union?
Earl: Well, you did take that kinda hard, Burt.
Burt: Said I was getting too hard to live with. Said I couldn't handle life without the threat of global war! (Beat) What kind of thing is that to say to a man?
Averted in Lord of War. Yuri kisses the screen and is completely oblivious to his son's first steps when Gorbachev announces the official fall of the USSR. This means tons of unwanted and unused Soviet arms lying around ripe for the taking and selling.
Yuri's rival, Simeon Weisz, plays it straight though. A traditional man with an ideological motivation for selling arms, he had trouble adapting to the moral greyness of the Post-Cold War world. His attempt to adapt by trying to sell in Yuri's turf in Liberia doesn't turn well for him.
Brother deals with it. It's in the background, but it's there.
In Burn After Reading, John Malkovich's character is fired from his position as an analyst for the CIA. He later lies to his father, who himself worked for the CIA, that he quit because the end of the Cold War marked the CIA's transformation into nothing more than a bureaucracy.
Played with elsewhere in the movie, when nobody from the CIA can understand why Linda would think to sell Malkovich's memoirs to the Russians.
Oswald Cox: "The Russians? Why the fuck would she go to the Russians? Why the fuck!?!"
In Man With the Screaming Brain, we are introduced to Yegor, a KGB agent who got laid off after the collapse, and now has to work as a cab driver.
In the spy movie Company Business (1991) Gene Hackman's character gushes about the luxurious house of an Arab Arms Dealer with its gold-plated doorknobs etc, only to find the place has been stripped bare; the owner has fallen on hard times as no-one wants to buy weapons anymore. Presumably the script was written before Yugoslavia fell to pieces.
The protagonist of Hedwig and the Angry Inch had every reason to be bummed by Communism's fall. Born a wispy little gay boy in East Germany, he was mangled in a sex change operation so that he could marry an American G.I. and escape to the west. A year later to the day, his husband abandons him and the Berlin Wall falls. Ouch.
This is a major point in Severance, as the area the main characters are camping in happens to be an ex-compound where Soviet commandos were imprisoned when they couldn't be de-programmed after the Soviet fall. It's supposed there might be one left that escaped into the woods. They're wrong. There are several.
Leland: I can't change sides, you silly old fart! There's no side to change sides to!
In The Peacemaker, a White House official says it outright - "Russia, what a fucking mess! God, I miss the Cold War."
Lee Child's books, especially The Enemy and The Affair, deal with the rapid reduction of US armed forces after the end of the Cold War, and how it affected the soldiers, including Jack Reacher, the main character.
One could include thriller writers of the late 80's/early 90's under this trope. While the entire world changed around them, it seemed that for years the only plot they could come up with was: "Hardliners conspire to bring back the Good Old Days of the Cold War."
The Negotiator, a novel by Frederick Forsyth, has some American arms manufacturers rather upset that the end of the Cold War means their weapon to destroy Soviet tanks isn't going to be a big seller. Time to stir the pot.
Hell, this was the whole point of Archangel by Robert Harris. Thus the euphoria when they find Stalin's son and bring him to Moscow.
Tom Clancy makes frequent use of this trope. Fully justified, since almost all of his characters are government agents and this trope affected (or still affects) them personally. John Clark comments at one point that he spent much of his CIA career working against the USSR, and now he's friends with the new Russian Prime Minister.
John LeCarre's spy fiction tends to invoke this as well, especially prominent in Single & Single, where the crux of the plot is a Georgian family who fell in power after the fall of Communism.
Used again in a more recent Saturday Night Live where they are discussing a Russian spy and are nostalgic and hopeful to fight a war they can understand again.
In Burn Notice, Sam mentions that one of the reasons he got out of the spy game was because "Now it's all about religion and oil; it's no fun anymore."
In a sketch on The Ben Stiller Show, Stiller pretends to be Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff trying to keep his career going after the fall of communism. It doesn't go well.
The real Smirnoff is actually doing pretty well, with a year-round show in Branson, Missouri and teaching gigs at various universities.
An early episode of Boy Meets World has Cory studying for a geography bee, commenting that all the new little countries have made it a real pain.
In the old days, things used to be so simple. You had Russia, you had Moscow—one country, one capital. Now you've got your Latvia, your Estonia, your Ukraine, and each one's got its own capital. What were these people thinking?!
Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? had to stop airing repeats of its entire first season after it was rendered obsolete by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Episodes in later seasons concluded with The Chief reading a disclaimer: "All geographic information was accurate as of the date this program was recorded!" and the production date, just in case a new country cropped up before the episode was aired. (Such as Eritrea, the former Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia...)
The worst part was the breakup of Czech Republic/Slovakia, since Czechoslovakia is referenced in the theme song. The worked around it by changing the lyric from Czechoslovakia to Czech-and-Slovakia.
A late-night talk show host making quips about how badly American high school students had performed on a globally-administered geography test. "Slovakia, which had been a country since, like, Tuesday, kicked our butts!"
The Kids in the Hall had a sketch where Dave Foley plays a "rightwing paranoid reactionary" seriously bummed that communism fell because "People used to listen to me. I fit in".
The Golden Girls had an interesting case. In one episode Dorothy's ex-husband Stan had a cousin named Magda who was visiting from Czechoslovakia. She didn't really seem bummed as much as worried. While in a bookstore, she mentions how if her people read all those different books and different ideas, they'd get confused, and it would lead to anarchy. She felt that Communism was more fair, saying "When there's only one road, no one gets lost." Dorothy convinced her to read Thomas Paine's Common Sense, and she seemed to come around.
Diagnosis: Murder played with this trope in the episode "Discards". Jesse Travis' father, played by Robert Culp, was a former spy dealing with obsolescence after the Cold War, while facing assassins hired by the son of his late partner, who blamed him and his fellow spies(played by Barbara Bain, Robert Vaughn and Patrick McNee) for his father's death. At one point, Jesse's dad, who had been estranged from his family due to his job keeping him away for so long, learned that the mission that killed his partner, arranging for the Soviets to "acquire" Western technology that the CIA had bugged so they could monitor the Kremlin, was all for nothing; the only thing the Soviets used the tech for was to maintain the Minsk subways. By the end of the episode, the older agents were offered new assignments in a new anti-terrorism unit, but Jesse's father insisted on taking an assignment in Los Angeles so he could spend more time with his son.
Lampshaded in The X-Files: After a member of The Conspiracy gets a phone call informing him the Cold War is officially over, he looks distinctly surprised and dismayed as he tells his associates, "Gorbachev has resigned. There are no more enemies."
Saul: Prefer the daily threat of nuclear annihilation?
Adal: No, I miss the rules. The Soviets didn't shoot us, we didn't shoot them. Boy, this bunch...
In the revived Get Smart series, Max's old nemesis Siegfried, his occupation gone, plots to re-ignite the Cold War by hitting Moscow with a missile which was itself bought at "a Soviet Union garage sale."
One of the subplots of The West Wing episode "The Lame-Duck Congress" deals with a Ukrainian government official named Konanov who comes to D.C. because he wants to speak to President Bartlet. Bartlet and his staff don't want to speak with Konanov, but he shows up anyway, drunk. After Josh hides Konanov in an office until he finds out what to do, Josh exclaims, "Oh, how I miss the Cold War."
This was a major plot point in the background of Metal Gear Solid. The titular Metal Gear was designed primarily as a mobile launch platform for nuclear missiles. When the Cold War ended, there was no longer any need to develop this kind of weapon, budgets were cut, so the corporations and scientists behind it went to the black market.
The mercenary army of Sergei and Olga Gurlukovich was created from former Soviet soldiers as a response to their dissatisfaction with the new Russian government and military, to restore the glory of Russia.
The leaders of the Ultranationalists in Modern Warfare believe that Russian glory was lost after the fall of the USSR. Notably, they don't want to bring back the USSR, but rather are interested in bringing back the "glory" of those days.
Mike Toreno from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a government agent who fondly regards the Cold War days as "good times". Nevermind that the things he gets up to these days are much the same as back then, only set in other countries.
However there is a scene he has with CJ where he implies that the current situation causes a lot of Paranoia Fuel since America won't know where the next attack will come from.
The Big Bad of Phantom of Inferno used to brainwash people for the Stasi and KGB. When the Cold War ended, he picked up the protagonists and brainwashed them to be hired guns.
Halbech, inc from Alpha Protocol derived a major source of income from cold war-related arms sales. With the cold war now gone, they decide to heat up global tensions in key areas to increase demand for their products.
On Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee has often accused developers of modern first person shooters of feeling this way, given the number of game involving the Russians as the bad guys.
Yahtzee: So why in the name of bollock burgers do we keep coming back to the same alternate history where the Cold War escalated? I know how disappointing it was that we didn't get to have another big fancy war like in the forties, but if you're fine with rewriting history so that Americans are actually heroic underdogs rather than both sides being dicks to a precisely equal degree, why don't we ever see games where the Viet Cong have laser guns or the Taliban have giant robot snakes?
The Fed (with his head in his hands): ...Born twenty years earlier, it'd be so much easier. "Agent Mulcahy," they'd say, "Go shoot Russians." And I'd ask, "Russians from an alternate future that no longer exists?" And they'd say, "They are your average Russians. Go shoot them."
Defied in Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire, a story on AlternateHistory.com in which, after The Great Politics Mess-Up, the infamous Russian far-right gadfly Vladimir Zhirinovsky becomes President of The New Russia and turns it into a fascist dictatorship. The Bear only gets angrier after the fall of the Soviet Union, meaning that communism is simply replaced by neo-fascism and the Cold War still goes on up to at least 2003 (the year when he's finally overthrown). Whether there's a "Why We're Bummed Zhirinovsky Fell" moment afterwards remains to be seen.
General Eiling explains that his war with the Justice League in Justice League Unlimited was because we didn't have a clear threat like the Commies for the military to fight. It should be pointed out that Eiling is not a character to be liked, and his former co-conspirator even says that the idea is stupid.
From American Dad!, Sergei the former-KGB agent lost his wife and son to capitalism when communism fell, so he went to America to "steal away Stan Smith's son... FOR COMMUNISM!" He failed, so he decided to plant his seeds of revenge, to grow some plants of revenge (which could also be used in a stew of revenge) and keep cultivating revenge until "the time was right."
Captain Planet and the Planeteers does this with Commander Clash, an American agent stationed on a remote island. For some reason, his superiors forgot to tell him that the war was over for a year or two, and when the Planeteers told him, he was rather upset. He eventually found new meaning by dedicating his life to (what else?) environmental protection.
Appropriate, since the Soviets probably did more damage to wilderness areas (just check out the rivers in Central and Eastern Europe) than any other people in history.
There is a short film in which a chimpanzee, dressed as a cosmonaut, wanders around in a space station/satellite that's decorated with pictures of Lenin, bored out of his mind. He keeps returning to his radio set to try to contact home, but no one answers, presumably because Russia has downsized its own military and the chimp's satellite was part of a discontinued orbital-observation program.
The Penguins of Madagascar had some fun with this in the "Red Squirrel" episode. For 47 years, Special Agent Buck Rockgut has the single-minded purpose of waiting for escaped Penguin Enemy #1 the Red Squirrel to surface and recapture him. The penguins join in on the hunt but eventually they realize that after decades of waiting, with not having seen hide nor hair of the villain, Buck has gone paranoid, accusing every animal of being secret agents for things that really don't have anything to do with the Red Squirrel. They conclude that the Red Squirrel probably no longer exists and Buck Rockgut just couldn't accept that. Then it turns out that the Red Squirrel really has been hiding in his secret lair, and he is spying with satisfaction on how his arch-nemesis is being discredited and disposed of.
There's a political cartoon that shows two maps: one for the Cold War era, one post-Cold War. The Cold War map simply shows the US labeled as "Us" and the Soviet Union as "Them," whereas the post-Cold War one has a lot more labels for various countries like "A Little Bit of Them," "No Longer Them," "Fast Becoming Them," "Sometimes Them," and "Big-Time Them." One of the men examining the maps laments, "What's happening to me? I'm starting to MISS the Cold War!"
The Tabletop RPGSpycraft has a setting, 'World on Fire', that has this as part of its setup. The main conspirators are top agents from both sides.
Fundamentalist Christians had to rewrite their interpretation of the End Times, the Biblically-extrapolated sequence of events leading to the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ. Whole shelves of books and pamphlets had been written predicated on the God-revealed fact that somehow, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were the mechanism the Antichrist would use to work his dastardly Godless plan for world domination. When the USSR imploded, those Christians doggedly awaiting Rapture and Apocalypse were bereft of an obvious Antichrist. Until 9/11.....
Putin might've quoted it once or twice, which is why it got attached to him.
The book Revolution 1989 describes Mikhail Gorbachev as a man who did "the right thing for the wrong reasons". Gorbachev did not relax the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe because he wanted to see the Soviet bloc go capitalist. He did it because the Eastern Bloc countries had become a serious economic drain on the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was, in fact, a committed Communist. He believed that his own country and the USSR's satellites would choose communism of their own free will. He was wrong.
Then again, Marshal Tito wasn't exactly a Communist. He was a more conventional Socialist who quickly broke with the Soviets after WWII, and helped found the third-way Non-Aligned Movement.
Plus, it's easier for geographers not to have to label all those new countries.
As mentioned above, former citizens of East Germany have begun a trend of Ostalgie, a neologism combining Ost (east) and Nostalgie (nostalgia). The rather sad economic state of what was once East Germany in the decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall has led to many romanticizing the previous Soviet establishment. In Berlin, many people make a living by selling relics of the Soviet past such as Social Realist art, Soviet war medals, hats, and there is even a restaurant that specializes in selling East German food.
Although a distinction should be drawn between those who miss the food/books/music of the old days, and those who mourn the old system.
Bitterns towards the unification and it's aftermath is rather widespread in east Germany. It's not that people miss Stasi and a one-party system, but many citizens of the old DDR feel that their entire world up until 1989 have been written of as a oppressive failure by a new ruling elite that insists that they are supposed to be thankful for being let in again.
When the Cold War ended, most of the world's major military forces were outfitted for armored warfare and strategic bombing in anticipation of a massive East vs. West conflict. When that threat disappeared, these military forces were forced to undergo (and in many cases, are still undergoing) expensive reorganization programs in order to face more modern threats. Several planned platforms were curtailed or canceled as a result, while others were retired early.
Bill Clinton's central role in the Northern Ireland peace talks was a part of this — without communism to fight, America had to find something to do on the world stage.
The few places Communism didn't fall was more because they didn't practice it to begin with, or at least not to the letter. Post Mao Mainland China and 1990s Vietnam are the more successful examples of ideology bending to reality - Deng Xiaoping, leader of the CCP was proud to proclaim words to the effect that "It doesn't matter whether 'the cat' is black or white; if it catches rats, it's a good cat". North Korea is an example of spectacular failure. It actually had a higher standard of living than South Korea for a time, until Park Jung-Hee took over South Korea and set into motion a bunch of five-year plans that worked. His successors carried it on, and by the time Seoul hosted the Olympic Games in 1988, South Korea blew past their northern brethren.
And then Kim Jong Il came to North Korea and ran it into the ground to the point where its Human Development Index (HDI) has sunk to the level of nations like Haiti, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Many citizens of old Soviet bloc countries miss Communism because it's what they knew. And it certainly affected a lot of people in various ways. Some see it as their Glory Days.
It was also the only real source of jobs and food and now there is no infrastructure for a capitalist economy in the region and no one in the countries has the money to fix it.
This also means that there is a high proportion of beggars and vagrants in former Communist cities. Most of these beggars are men in their thirties to fifties, who grew up with the expectation that the state would provide for them and find them a stable job, and they were unable to cope when things fell apart.
Also, the Soviet Union was big on subsidies of oil, cash and machinery to its client states (Cuba being a notorious example). The end of the system also meant yawning gaps in the economy that the countries had no means of addressing, particularly in the recessions that followed.
This is in part due to the fact that most communist countries, particularly those that broke off from the Soviet Union suffered a major depression after the overthrow of their communist governments (caused partly by disruption of the formerly established economic ties — for Cuba, for example, much of its revenue was due to export of sugar and tobacco to the USSR). While many (Poland, Hungary, the Baltics) saw some modest improvements following the turn of the century, others (Ukraine, Moldova Central Asia) have not recovered the per capita GDP from the Soviet era.... 20 years later.
R. James Woosley, who was about to become Director of Central Intelligence, testified to Congress in 1993 about the downside of the end of Soviet Russia, at least so far as intelligence gathering was concerned (with a subtext of "so please don't cut our budget"):
Woosley: We have slain a large dragon. But we live now in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes. And in many ways, the dragon was easier to keep track of.
In the Robert D. Kaplan book Eastward to Tartary, he discusses what the fall of Communism meant to the former Eastern Bloc countries and he found that, not exactly surprisingly, the further West the country was the easier they took the transition. (This book dates to the late 1990s - ca. 2000 so things might be different today.) In places such as Romania and Georgia, there's a huge struggle to cope with life in the post-Communist era; older Romanians are considered unemployable by Western firms who find their secrecy and lack of teamwork antithetical to the capitalist way, and Georgians are regularly intimidated by ex-Olympic wrestlers who are employed by former members of the Soviet KGB to form corrupt corporations that exist as little more than gangs with offices. Georgia is also the home of Stalin's birthplace, a heartbreakingly poor town that lives off the Stalin legacy and with a high concentration of residents whom Kaplan found were exceptionally nostalgic for Communism and had nothing but good things to say about their native son. On the inverse, most of the ex-Soviet nations that border present-day Russia have come off rather well in the post-Soviet era.
"Ex-Soviet nations that border Russia" includes most of the "-stans", Georgia, Belarus and Ukraine, that have pretty much been fluctuating degrees of political and economic disaster. The only real successes from the USSR proper are the Baltics, and even then only Estonia can really be labeled as "prospering". Lithuania can't keep inflation down or get enough jobs to keep their population from fleeing to the rest of Europe. Latvia had no choice but to take a IMF loan after 2008 took its toll and is the poorest EU nation besides Romania. Sure they fare a bit better than their Eastern neighbors, but no former Soviet nation has quite 'made it'.
On the other hand, from the perspective of politics and freedom, the ex-Communist states of Europe (save Belarus) are way nicer to live than the Central Asian ex-republics and even Russia itself (though it's debatable). Not for nothing were the Baltics, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia admitted to the EU. The Caucasus is more of a mixed bag, with Armenia and Georgia being not unlike their neighbor (and age-old enemy) Turkey in many senses (including politics, albeit without the military's political role), while Azerbaijan is an economically-successful political clusterfuck (that's what happens when you're a main battleground between Turkey and Iran for influence.)
A lot of scientists feel this way. NASA's funding was at its high point, and anyone with a physics degree was basically guaranteed an awesome high-paying job right out of college. After the Cold War ended, funding for a lot of these programs was cut drastically. That, coupled with the fact that there was an influx of immigrant scientists from Eastern Europe, including many who were Nobel laureates, meant a drastic decrease in the number of available science jobs.
Academia in general suffered from this. There has now been a move away from the arts, humanities, social sciences, and hard sciences—and towards engineering, business, and medical school—coinciding with the fall of the USSR. One of the most telling bits of information is that, for a while, 9 different engineering professions were in the top 10 for the most demand in the 2000s and are still up there in the 2010s. Ironically, arts, humanities and social sciences were discredited in the USSR because of their associations with intellectualism. Josef Stalin didn't want anyone as smart as him around and considering he had a standardized IQ of 160, it was difficult to find anyone that smart. Furthermore, the CIA actually used Art as a weapon against the USSR. While Soviet artists stuck to "safe" realist art, the CIA promoted more abstract art as kind of a "this is why freedom is better" sort of tactic in the "Cultural Cold War". A senior CIA member, Thomas Braden, has gone on record saying, "The Boston Symphony Orchestra won more acclaim for the US in Paris than John Foster Dulles or Dwight D. Eisenhower could have brought with a hundred speeches". Indeed many Soviet artists started to sneak in more abstract themes in their art.
Many engineers from the Soviet Union have faced difficulties adapting to the post-Soviet economy. Due to organizational structure of the Soviet engineering, with its concentration of most R&D in huge centralized Research Institutes, a lot of fresh engineers have found a cushy position where they could do essentially the same thing for all their career, gradually losing any semblance of flexibility. Adapting to the more general nature of engineering outside of the Soviet Union was difficult.
During the Cold War, competition between the United States-led West and the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc at the Olympic Games was incredibly intense, with heated patriotism on both sides of the Iron Curtain generating a great deal of the excitement. The Olympics literally became an ideological battlefield and a direct extension of the conflict. As a result, performances such as the Miracle On Ice at the 1980 Winter Games have a lasting impact on popular culture today. However while in the immediate post-collapse era the lingering influence of the Soviets intensified many of the competitions (such as the "Magnificent Seven" US women's gymnastics team winning Gold at the 1996 Games) the Olympics today have lost much of their relevance without the Cold War driving the rivalries.
Russia still remains a strong contender in the Olympics in these days, but for Americans, the new "Enemy" has become China. Since 2000, Russia usually comes in third place (based on total medal count), with the United States and China coming in first and second, respectivelynote Not always the case, but usually. Russia usually shines during the Winter Olympics, along with other countries like Canada and Sweden. Russia, on the other hand, has come to accept the spirit of the games once more: Only competing for the pride and love of their nation, and not so much to prove themselves "better" than others.
Many Americans miss the days when they had a clear enemy, versus the more nebulous, decentralized threat of modern terrorism.
This article describes how the National Geographic Society struggled to keep its maps updated as the Soviet Union unraveled.
Even though the USSR/Eastern Europe and post-1990 China has stopped supporting pro-Communist rebel groups in Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East, some of them still exists due to other factors such as government corruption or poor living standards.
Despite the fact that even when the Union was around every rebel seemed to have an AKM rifle, it was nothing compared to today. The bunkers and storage facilities owned by Russia but outside of its territory that had to be abandoned with the collapse (and apparently no one bothering to lock the door on the way out) caused an explosive proliferation of small arms in the 3rd world.
Many women's artistic gymnastics fans long for the days when, as they see it, artistry and grace dominated the sport. The Soviets won an unheard-of nine back-to-back team Olympic gold medalsnote the Soviet women took home gold at every Olympics they competed in, not winning in 1984 (Romania won instead) only because of the boycott; their winning streak lasted from 1952 to 1992, and on any list of the greatest gymnasts of all time, a minimum of seventy percent are guaranteed to be Soviet.note The others will be Romanian or East German, with maybe one American (almost certainly Shannon Miller) on the list. The Soviets, with their national training center and in-house choreographer, emphasized line, artistry, dance, and grace in their gymnastics, and no one will dispute that their routines, and floor exercises in particular, are of a standard that may never be reached again. There is a reason why the Golden Age of Women's Gymnastics is considered to have ended with the 1992 Olympics. On the other hand, the system's Training from Hell means that dark brutality lurked in the shadows behind the blazing lights of the Soviet greats, and many of the stories hidden in that darkness would give any parent nightmares.