Writing in the Moscow Times, Russian Boris Kagarlitsky gives a bravura performance demonstrating how bizarre and unhinged Russians can be when they really get going.
Kagarlitsky begins by noting: “On Sept. 26, the European Commission announced that Bulgaria and Romania would join the European Union even earlier than previously planned. The two former Soviet satellites will join the EU on Jan. 1, 2007, instead of 2008.”
Now, right of the bat we can see that this is an issue that could be deeply affected by Russian nationalism, indeed Neo-Soviet paranoia of being “encircled” by the evil forces of NATO and the European Union. But we get no acknowledgment of this from Russian Kagarlitsky, who purports to analyze the question as a dispassionate scientest. What folows is classic Russian gibberish.
Kagarlitsky claims to oppose the admission of Bulgaria and Romania not because of Russian nationalism but because of his deep commitment to democracy. He objects: “Both Bulgaria and Romania were accepted into the union essentially as second-rate members.”
Yet, in the entirety of his discussion he does not give one single specific limitation on the either one of the two countries that is being imposed by the EU. And he goes on to state: “The union of Western democracies with the corrupt regimes of the eastern part of the continent, where parliamentary institutions are no more than a facade for oligarchic rule, is evidence that a united Europe will cease being a community of free citizens.” So is he attacking the EU for admitting the two countries with allegedly limited rights, or is he attacking it for failing to reject them on grounds of corruption? In classically insane Russian manner, he doesn’t say.
Instead, he spouts even more confusing gibberish. He writes: “On paper, however, the expansion looked like a process that was almost democratic. Formally, at least, no one resolved to divide Europeans into first- and second-class citizens. Previously, all members of the European Union — at least on paper — enjoyed equal rights. In point of fact, of course, this was far from the case, and the accession of countries from Eastern Europe drastically changed the nature of the union.” So what is his objection? Is it that the EU doesn’t even have a pretext of equal treament any longer? Does he really think a pretext is important and meaningful?
Ultimately, his real concern becomes apparent, if you can bear the headache you have to sustain waiting for it amid all this gibberish. Here it is:
Formally Romania and Bulgaria have failed to meet a number of the conditions for membership, so they effectively are not full members. But other countries accepted earlier also did not meet all these conditions. Indeed, violations were flagrant and widely acknowledged, from the level of corruption in Poland to the absence of civil rights for the Russian-speaking populations of Estonia and Latvia. This did not stop them becoming full-fledged members. Even worse, ruling elites in the “new European states” have not shown the slightest interest in dealing with these problems. In some respects, the situation has gotten worse. Mass popular unrest in Poland and Hungary and the ongoing crisis with Russianschools in Latvia are stark examples.
Yup, Russian nationalism. Kagarlitsky couldn’t care less how Bulgaria or Romania are treated by the European Union; what he cares about is how they treat Russians. Well, not how they treat Russians, so much as how Latvia and Estonia treat Russians. Sure, he also mentions “corruption” in Poland, but corruption certainly hasn’t prevented Russia, the 9th-most corrupt economy in the world and far more corrupt than Poland, from seeking (no, demanding) admission to the G-8 and WTO.
No, all Russian nationalist Kagarlitsky, and others of his crazed ilk, care about is what is happening to poor, innocent Russians in Latvia and Estonia. And what is happening? What is the “ongoing crisis with Russian schools in Latvia,” the only specific example he mentions?
Well, the question is whether Latvia should offer instruction in their schools in a foreign langauge. And not just any foreign language, but the language of the country, Russia, that held them as a slave state for decades under the Soviet dictatorship. Or, to put it another way, should Latvia be allowed to begin the process of requiring young people who speak only Russian to become billingual in their national language? Guess how Russian nationalists answer this question.
They start talking about “equal taxes, equal rights” and demand that they be allowed to continue wallowing in ignorance of their country’s language, history and culture, waiting for the day when Russia will seize it once again and finally obliterate it, as was originally planned. Russian citizens like Alexander Kazakov, an aide to Russian Duma Vice-Speaker Dmitri Rogozin, enter the country and begin efforts to undermine Latvian sovereignty even as Russia decries similar efforts by foreigners in Russia. Can you imagine how Russia would react if a Georgian started agitating in Russia about “equal treatment” for the Georgian langauge in areas of Russia with large Georgian populations? How would Russians define the “crisis” then?
More to the point, is there, in fact, a “crisis” in Latvia? If you search “Latvia crisis Russian school” in Google you get exactly zero hits. So maybe “brouhaha” or “tempest in a teacup” would have been a better choice of words.
What does Kagarlitsky want? Does he want the EU to step in and protect the “rights” of Russians? Or does he want the EU to reject countries with Russians in them so that Russia can continue to dominate those countries, just as the USSR once did? Does he want Eastern Europe itself to reject the EU, or does he simply want all the Russians living in Eastern Europe to leave and return to Mother Russia, panicked by the idea of persecution?
As is typical with a Russian, the reader has no idea whatsoever.