Russia makes you, as a Westerner, feel guilty (primary fact).
Because these are people who are so much like you (they're European), and still, so very many of them live very badly (in terms of wealth, health etc.). And yet, you then understand, there are still surprisingly many who make out all right, live full, rewarding lives, live deeply and passionately. Even if the mortality rate is very high.
But if pressure increases beyond a certain point, people break apart, get warped, and it's their mind, not their body, that warps first and fastest. People go crazy. (This probably is implicit in the way kul'tura works, as a world of "fantasy".) They can't stand the pressure. This was the danger Gorbachev saw: "Look people, things have to change, so let's do it calmly, if we don't, you all know how it's going to be. So let's pretend we're calm, maintaining the status quo. We've all been hurt by this. We're in it together."
A traveller through Soviet Russia was impressed by a basic uniformity, a sameness of material conditions. This, which was often experienced as monotony, also implied a fairness, an a-national tolerance and a standard of living where excessive personal luxury was frowned on, hidden away, nobody really knew who governed them, government was hidden and impersonal, almost magical, because such an unpredictable force. Under Stalin the pressure of this configuration was too much for most people. There was a big change, and people rushed loyally into it, and many were crushed by it. But after Stalin, things were more or less calm. People were hurting. And things were getting worse, materially speaking, but slowly. As far as the vlasti were concerned, things were basically quiet, and slowly (with many reverses) getting better, more liberal. But then the economy caught up with them again.