As a young mother in the Soviet Union, Irina Bezrukikh had few worries when trying to get her daughter into a good grade school. Education was free, and it took just a little sweet something to ensure winning the headmaster’s favor.
“I brought her a book by Boris Pasternak and a bottle of French perfume, and that was that,” said Bezrukikh, now 51. Her daughter, Katya, received a top notch, if strict, education, and now has a good job in media. She travels often and widely, reaping the benefits of a Soviet education combined with the relative freedom of the modern Russian state.
Katya, however, would have faced far greater challenges if she were born more recently.
Along with the fall of the Soviet Union came a collapse in social services. Long accustomed to free, high quality education and healthcare, decent pensions, secure jobs and apartments, Russians decry the loss of what they call “social guarantees,” just as they welcomed the country’s new openness and flood of capitalist goods...

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