A Review of Occupations in the Soviet Society: the high, the low and the marginal.
The Professional Orientation in the USSR meant, first and foremost, a process of advising the youth on the future career choices. A group of teachers and fresh graduates of a college would go to high schools to give talks to school kids in order to deliver the first hand information on vocational choices. Every occupation is regarded highly in the Soviet Union — well, this slogan turned out to be quite untruthful. Please read on find out about the differences in social ladder between the different occupational groups. The hierarchy of labour was a prime element in social discrepancies in this country.
Certainly the system of socialism would deny the mere existence of the dual labour market, yet all occupations in the USSR occupations were covertly divided into the primary and secondary ones. If we were to analyse the Soviet media press releases, then we’d notice that 90% of all jobs mentioned in the papers as cover or success stories were of the working class origin. Certainly the list of jobs was just as wide as anywhere else in the world, however, the working class had a special attitude towards its.The working class was declared to be the base for the ruling socialism due to its hegemonic part in all part and future revolutions.
There were two reasons for it – a political and an economic one. On one hand, it was well worthy to praise the hegemony, on the other – it was important to attract new members to its teams, as nobody really wanted to join in. The technical colleges – where one could become an electrician, a seamstress, or a locksmith – were a constant scare for the growing generation of high school kids. Like, if you don’t do well, you end up as a painter. This was the absolute and finest example of the Soviet double standards: from the papers the working class was praised daily, in reality, it was almost like a curse to belong to it. Certainly the workmen did well, they had respect in the society and they had their privileges, but nonetheless, it was somewhat of a forced choice. The USSR had a cult of tertiary education – of universities and institutes of all sorts, often of any sort, as long as it was a university, not a technical college. The highest-flying uni was the MGIMO – the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Affairs: diplomats, ambassadors, attaches and future politicians and ministers graduated from there. The Moscow State University was also highly regarded. These two had very high level entry exams, and often the knowledge itself was not enough – one had to be well connected to get in. Needless to say, kids of diplomats, ambassadors, attaches and politicians were destined right in.
As for the technical universities, Moscow had a great range of those. Excellent engineers of all sorts were graduating in huge amounts, and, if a student had half a brain to hold on to his place, they became very knowledgeable and very employable specialists in the chosen field. However, the ideology went as far as to remain people that it was shameful to engage into a career path solely on the monetary rewards: the media, the movies, the books were constantly reinforcing the goodness of any job, regardless of the pay. Every now and then there would be a story full of good morale: how a guy would want to get rich quickly and abandon his geological research for the instant cash reward of being a taxi driver. The USSR philosophy was to strongly discourage such action. Interestingly, what strongly encouraged was a long tenure, a job for life kind of a thing. Those who liked to change jobs (or even worse, careers) often, were called “flyers” and it was a shame to be identified as one. Another unusual moment was that women doing the typically male jobs were praised highly. This Soviet phenomenon could possibly start after the war, due to the severe shortage of males, and then somehow lingered. Women operated heavy machinery, women did road works, women engaged in oil refinery – the list is long. We mentioned it in more detail in our article on Russian feminism. What didn’t occur to this staunch feminists was that the labour itself did not have to physical in order for a woman to be equal – managerial positions were just as good. Unfortunately, it was just as hard for a woman to make it to the top — as anywhere else in the world.
To conclude, it would be a fair assumption to say that in the Soviet Union the most prestigious occupations were considered those of the importance to the well-being of the country. Everything which was related to a personal well being was always secondary and supplementary. Understandably, the people’s choice begged to differ: so a good-for-everyone hairdresser had more social leverage that a good-for-the-country production line worker.