Newsweek Seriously Asks: 'Was Russia Better Off Red?'

Proving yet again how out of touch the publication can be, the October 12 issue of Newsweek seriously asked the question: "Was Russia Better Off Red?" The "Back Story" page of the magazine featured a graphic comparing life under communism to now and bizarrely asserted: "Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has seen an increase in oligarchs and Louis Vuitton outlets. But by many other measures, Russians are worse off."

Yes, despite the fact that 20 million people were murdered in Soviet Russia, this unsigned feature in Newsweek contrasted the crime rate under communism, the number of hospitals and the total number of cinemas (among other factors) to those in the country today. Sadly, there are only 1,510 movie theaters today. Under the brutal repression of communism, however, there were 2,337.

(JPG image, via a scan, that matches the full size of the Newsweek page and so is readable.)

For sources, Newsweek cited the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Labour Organization, National Statistical Office of Federation, UNESCO and the World Health Organization. The publication didn't explain why readers are supposed to assume that the original communist numbers are accurate.

Other statistics compared: Population, life expectancy at birth, divorces, diseases, agricultural land (in acres), forest land (in acres) and alcohol consumption. All of these, according to Newsweek, were better under some undated time of communism.

The magazine did not ask: Are more people being sent to the gulag or murdered now than they were under communism?

Newsweek's Web site no longer includes most of the printed magazine and so this page is not online. But, readers can find it on page 62 of the October 12 edition - or click on the jpg link above for a scanned image.

The magazine's tone seems reminiscent of Mike Wallace on the February 11, 1990 edition of 60 Minutes. The co-anchor famously declared, "Many Soviets viewing the current chaos and nationalist unrest under Gorbachev look back almost longingly to the era of brutal order under Stalin." And of course, conservatives will recall this headline from the New York Times:

A Gulag Breeds Rage, Yes, but Also Serenity

- New York Times story on last Soviet political prisoners being released, February 12, 1992.

- Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center.