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Social Welfare and Change Programs

Soviet paternalism has given way to a weak welfare state. Soviet citizens were guaranteed free schooling, free comprehensive medical care, housing, maternity leave, and annual vacations, and there was an extensive system of pensions and special subsidies for retired persons, invalids, and war veterans. Although the level of access to social provisions was not uniform, most citizens' basic needs were met and people were largely satisfied with the services they received.

Budgetary difficulties have made it increasingly difficult for the postsocialist government to provide the services mandated by law, and new legislation has expanded the range of services. The result is the overall crumbling of social welfare systems. Hospitals and schools are in bad condition, especially outside the largest urban centers. International lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund have pressed Russia to privatize social welfare and curtail subsidies. Government officials have delayed dismantling the welfare state for political reasons and a widely held view that people should be protected from poverty.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Until Gorbachev, the only legal organizations and associations were those created and managed by the government bureaucracy and the Communist Party. The nongovernmental sector consisted of underground dissident groups, networks, and clubs. Although there was a wide range of unofficial activity, independent political and religious groups were persecuted by the KGB and legal authorities. Since the late 1980s, civil society has grown dramatically and includes organizations that span the country and cover major areas of concern. Groups in every region are dedicated to humanitarian, environmental, medical, cultural, religious, feminist, pacifist, and other causes. Groups focusing on the development and democratization of technical, commercial, legal, and political institutions are active. Scarce resources force many groups to operate on a shoe-string

A woman places teapots and teacups in a cabinet, possibly for drying, at the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory. Unemployment for women has increased in the 1990s, especially in the manufacturing sector.

budget, although partnerships with international foundations have provided start-up funds and strategic support.

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 596

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