Here’s the sad tale of an expat waking up to smell the burned coffee in the Neo-Soviet Union from Ruminations on Russia:
I crawled out of bed early today to scribble my thoughts on what it feels like as an expat in Russia right now. There will be no link love, mostly because its too early and I am not sure that the thoughts need expanding on. Some, if not most, of these thoughts will not be popular amongst Russian friends and readers.
It is not always easy liking the country which I have lived and done business in for the last decade. The past few weeks have been particularly bad;
Firstly Andrei Kozlov was shot and murdered, presumably for business reasons. Not his business but the job that he was doing as a government official. And by all accounts he was doing it well. God forbid that a government official actually tried to make banking better.
Then, and its not clear which small child started throwing stones first, Russia and Georgia got in to a spat. The worst of it is not that you cannot buy Georgian wine or soothe your stomach with Borjormi or fly in to and out of Tblisi. The worst of it is that the Militia are demanding attendance lists from schools. If your name ends -villi you can be sure that you will be getting a visit from the Militsia. The Georgian restaurants are all “pod remont” (under reconstruction), voluntarily closed to stop being forcibly closed. And, as I mentioned earlier, the casinos run by Georgians as criminal enterprises were closed down. But to give you an idea of how inter-linked the “vlast” and money are, other casinos, not run by Georgians were also closed. They will reopen in a couple of weeks or months – with new shareholders.
Finally, and most newsworthy, but unfortunately not most surprising, was the death and murder of Anna Politkovskaya. I have no insight to add. One observation; she died on Putin’s birthday. No one, that I have read, has made the Henry II, Thomas a Beckett link. And one comment; to the LJ bloggers who describe her as an enemy of Russia – you are scum.
So why is it difficult to love my neighbours? I have written before of Russia’s need to face up to its Stalinist past before it can move on. It is difficult to see how a nation can move on when in its most liberal and cosmopolitan city (pace St. Petersburg) a spat with a tiny state on its southern border can lead to the Militsia demanding school lists on the basis of your name – notwithstanding that they may well have lived in Moscow as long as their persecutors. And there is no outcry. Oh well, not me. Keep my head down and maybe no one will notice.
I am not even going to begin to compare asking for school lists with Stalin’s purges. But they started somewhere. The somewhere was the lack of a society who would stand together, and a vast class of small-minded ill-educated thugs in uniforms who are willing to take a bad idea to its most illogical and violent extreme.
Opposition starts when brave people stand up and talk the truth – all too often they are found dead in their podezd’s. Three bullets in the body, a last one to the head and the murder weapon by their sides.
Society starts when government officials enforce the laws without prejudice. Why would they do that when the result is an early death. Who will rid me……..
The VVP Petersburgers came to power to bring order to a state that had morally disintegrated. Unfortunately, the untold wealth that comes from bankrupting Yukos and living off the fat of Gazprom profits means that they are no longer doing the job that they came to office to do. There is no alternative to them, nor the ability to vote them out. So we will do what foreigners here have always done; join our Russian neighbours, close our eyes and get on with making money.