Witness transition

Here I am on a school exchange to Russia in the Spring of 1992:

Moscow, April 1992

That trip prompted a fascination with alternative economic systems and the process by which a country can transition from communism to capitalism. This page is a collection of resources that have nurtured and fuelled my fascination with the topic of post-Soviet transition.

I devoted a section of Chapter 12 of my Managerial Economics textbook to transition. You can read it for free here.

Additional activity: The Museum of Neoliberalism

Traumazone, by Adam Curtis – this collection of BBC archival footage provides a fascinating and absorbing insight into how life changed for ordinary citizens of the Soviet Union, from 1985 through 1999.

For more see here: https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/traumazone-2022/

Excerpt from a 1985 documentary


Bald and Bankrupt – a British vlogger who travels around the former Soviet Union providing a glimpse at the legacy of communism. I particularly liked this video, filmed one day before the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

Collective (2020) – a quite stunning look at how public officials attempt to restore trust, and how investigative journalists pursue justice, for the victims of the 2015 Romanian nightclub fire.

Flying over Berlin in 1991 – aerial shots taken by a helicopter

Berlin 1990 the end of the war (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) – home movies shot by Derek Williams who was in Berlin to see the Pink Floyd concert

Me visiting the Berlin wall in 2023:


Good Bye Lenin! (2003) – Set in East Berlin, a woman falls into a coma and misses the fall of the Berlin Wall. When she awakens her children don’t want to shock her, and attempt to screen the economic changes occurring outside the bedroom window. This is an entertaining but poignant demonstration of the transition process and alternative economic systems.

For more movies, see my Shin Film List.

Written ethnography

Here are some recommended books that uncover the impact of transition transition on the daily life of ordinary people:

  • The unmaking of Soviet life: Everyday economies after socialism, by Caroline Humphrey, 2002
  • Domesticating revolution: From socialist reform to ambivalent transition in a Bulgarian Village, by Gerald Creed, 2007
  • Market dreams: Gender, class and capitalism in the Czech Republic, by Elaine Weiner, 2007
  • Crisis and the everyday in post-socialist Moscow, by Olga Shevchenko, 2008
  • Getting by in postsocialist Romania: Labor, the body, and working-class culture, by David Kideckel, 2008
  • Needed by nobody: Homelessness and mumanness in post-socialist Russia, by Tova Hojdestrand, 2009
  • Secondhand time: The last of the Soviets, by Svetlana Alexievich, 2013
Online learning

BBC Bitesize has a module on the Cold War, which deals with the fall of communism. See here.

“This isn’t the Wild West.”

“You got that right. This is the timid West. We need to roll the clock back.”

Jack Reacher, Gone Tomorrow