Writing in the Moscow Times columnist and hero journalist Yulia Latynina (pictured) explains how Russia is just like Africa. Zaire, with permafrost.
In the mid-20th century, British-American anthropologist Colin Turnbull observed the Bambuti pygmies living in the Congo. As a result of the unusually thick African jungle, the Bambuti never saw anything from a great distance.
Turnbull didn’t suspect anything unusual in that until he took one of the tribesmen, the courageous young Kenzha, on a long journey. The first thing that astounded the pygmy upon seeing an open plain were buffaloes grazing in the distance. He asked Turnbull, “What sort of insects are those?” But when he got closer to the buffalo to show him the animal’s actual size, Kenzha was totally confused. How had the buffalo managed to grow so quickly? Or was this some sort of witchcraft?
Last week’s spat between Britain and Russia illustrates that the Kremlin’s view of the world fundamentally differs from the West’s — just as Kenzha’s perception differed from the anthropologist’s.
The British were deeply shaken by the use of radioactive materials in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Scotland Yard implicated Andrei Lugovoi in the murder and demanded his extradition. Moscow refused. Britain expelled four Russian embassy staff members and made it more difficult for Russian officials to enter the country.
Moscow’s response to London is very similar to poor Kenzha’s reaction when he was told that the buffalo in the distance were not insects. He laughed loudly and started going on about the foolish white people who tried to force him to believe such nonsense. “I am not blind, after all!” Kenzha exclaimed.
What buffalo?! In fact, the situation is much more complex. It’s clear that the British don’t like Russia and fear the growing authority of Comrade Putin. And let’s not forget what kind of people we are dealing with in the West — after all, they are the ones who killed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and poisoned Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic. And now they are harping on Russia and trying to pin the Litvinenko killing on Moscow.
It’s absolutely clear that the problem is not about Litvinenko. His murder was a private matter. Regardless of who rubbed out Litvinenko, it was self-exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky, former Yukos co-owner Leonid Nevzlin and other various enemies of Russia who have created such a frenzy around this matter.
Of course, I am exaggerating, but it would appear that the fundamental problem in our relationship with the West is not that the Kremlin pretends that it doesn’t understand why London is demanding Lugovoi’s extradition. The problem is that the Kremlin is not pretending at all — it is completely sincere in its total lack of understanding of the situation.
Thus, the Kremlin and the West have completely different maps and perceptions of the world.
If the Kremlin truly understood that the distant buffalo were actually large, it would have settled down and softened its rhetoric. But what if the Kremlin sincerely believes that the entire problem with the Litvinenko affair is that the whole world is out to get Russia? Then it would be necessary to liquidate its enemies, in particular Berezovsky, who started all of these problems in the first place. And that is exactly what the Kremlin tried to do.
It should be noted that it took Kenzha only a few hours to understand that the buffaloes were the same size, whether viewed from a distance or close up. And what is most remarkable is that Kenzha didn’t even have at his command such resources as the FSB, state-run mass media or an army of friends who grew up with him in the jungle and later became high-ranking government officials. Kenzha did not have friends at his disposal to help him see through the deceit of the Western anthropologist who tried to pass off insects as buffalo.
These are friends whose current perceptions of the world have been formed since early childhood, and who now make all tribal policy regarding buffalo, open plains and the West.