We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Bratislava’s Pravda

This is a picture of front page of a benign ‘cousin’ of the infamous Pravda (or more like a foundling on the same porch). It is a local paper that covers the small area of the Old Town of Bratislava, thoroughly local, post-communist, and reflecting the concerns of the local populace. Did I mention that it was local? The headline reads:

Two Bratislava districts (equivalent of local councils) have raised average wage above 25,000 [crowns].

What struck me was the active tense of that sentence � as if the local government had any control over what wages people get paid. I am told that the current Prime Minister was going around the country on a bicycle during the election campaign promising to double wages for everyone or words to that effect. Nothing extra-ordinary for a politician but people were actually disappointed after election when the wages did not double. When challenged he pointed at the fact that the wages did go up but nobody was fooled because they knew damn well that the cost increased as well. This did not seem to occur to them when the guy was making the promises though.

There seems to be the perception that the government still somehow doles out the wages as well as fiddles the cost of everything. Well, they sort of do but not in a good way. I also note the difference between the West and the post-communist East � people in the former talk in terms of rising cost of living and price inflation, people here think of terms of size of salary. I think it reflects the difference in mentality � it is thinking of how much you have rather then how much you can do�

11 comments to Bratislava’s Pravda

  • Pavel

    1. Slovak verb tenses cannot be literally translated this way. In this particular case this is analogy to the English sentence “The U.S. economy grew by 4 percent.” Everybody knows that “the economy” means corporations and individuals.

    Similarly, every reader of the Slovak paper KNOWS that wages are not set by the government, local or central.

    2. I really don’t think that there is any deep divide between the mentality of people in Western Europe and the former Communist countries. When reading The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian I have almost the same feeling as when I read Czech papers Lidove Noviny and Pravo, respectively.

  • Pavel, I must disagree! First of all, Slovak verbs can be translated like that, in fact, that’s the only way that sentence works.

    I think your pride in your homeland blinds you to the obvious and profound differences in the mentality that hit me like a brick every time I visit this world. The article is just a tangible reflection of that and the obsession with wages, a deeper misunderstanding of economic realities.

    None of my UK or US friends ever discuss wages as that’s far less relevant then the cost of petrol and tax increases shall we say.

    The truth is that every time I see the countries of former Soviet bloc I realise just what a long journey they lies ahead for them.

    As for the Czech newspapers, I can’t comment, but will let you know next time I get a chance to read them.

  • Euan Gray

    So what does the article say about how the districts managed to do this?


  • That Bratislavska Pravda is distributed for free in almost each mailbox in Bratislava. Since it is for free I have never bothered to read it. I certainly didnt know they have such hilarious headlines.

    Of course, (left-leaning) newspapers have idiotic editors. Where is the news in that?

  • Pavel

    Adriana, I’m not particularly proud of my origin. Not long ago, some 12-14 years, I even though my fellow countrymen were mostly stupid. (I mean their beliefs in welfare state, etc.)

    Then I discovered Western Europe and found out that most Westerners were stupid the same way.

    Reading Polly Toynbee’s praise of Swedish welfare state in The Independent is absolutely the same experience as reading Petr Uhl’s or Jan Keller’s articles in the Czech leftist daily Pravo. (You probably don’t know Petr Uhl or Jan Keller; you’re not missing anything.)

  • dan

    I recently heard the German ambassador to the US speak here in San Diego.

    While trying to explain his countries opposition to the War in Iraq, he mentioned that in re-unifying Germany, the hardest part has been trying to teach a people that have never experienced self sufficiency and personal independence that they have to take responsibility for their own success and subsistence.

    Of course, he was trying to tell us that this is why Iraq would never be a functioning democracy, just a week prior to the passing of the Constitution, but it highlights the pervasive and long lasting effects of communism on the people who were under it’s control for at most three generations.

  • Pavel

    Dan, East Germany has been the most spoiled part of the world – I mean, spoiled with subsidies. No wonder that East Germans too often have “gimme” mindset.

  • veryretired

    Maybe it’s time to resurrect that old joke—there’s no pravda in Pravda, and no izvestia in Izvestia.

  • Michael Farris

    I don’t really know Slovak (fluent in Polish, can read a fair amount of Czech) but my first impression seeing the headline described would be:
    a) local government workers in the two districts now earn more
    b) average wages of people living in those two districts has risen
    In either case the headline as written makes some sense.

    The cost-of-living vs wages question. That’s a very good observation, though I’m not sure if I agree about the reasons. My take is that westerners think in terms of overall cost of living because they’re used to the concept of disposable income. Having enough for living expenses is taken for granted so attention is switched to how much extra will be left over to put in savings (ha ha!) and/or spent on goodies. In Central/Eastern Europe, the concept of disposable income is mostly alien and concern over salary is concern over having enough to pay living expenses period. Entertainment might be factored in as a living expense but many/most people are used to budgeting their entire salary so the larger the take home pay the bigger the budget.
    The silver lining is that being able to live on a budget is a good skill to have, one that’s been lost in a lot of the west.

  • Shaggy

    I have to say only one thing. Michael Farris – you are right, that headline could be translatted as – average wages of people living in two Bratislava districts has risen…
    Bratislavská Pravda is local newspapper and it brings information about local life. And that include information about wages in Bratislava – it is not that type of “serious” economic information.
    And why we are talking about wages? For about 40 years the prices were stable, there was only little changes in the cost of living.
    That’s why we are talking about wages rather than about prince inflation and cost of living.

  • barbra

    Dear Adriana
    I’m afraid you did not get the right meaning of that title.
    The meaning is approximately about: In two Bratislava’s areas the wages are so high that it pulls (statistically) average wages of other Bratislava’s areas up