EDITORIAL: His so-called “Life” in Putin’s Russia


His so-called “Life” in Putin’s Russia

Dmitri Minaev earns just a little more than the average Russian wage, taking in $5/hour, $800 per month, as a systems adminstrator in Samara.  He blogs in his spare time on Russian history at De Rebus Antiquis Et Novis, which appears on our blogroll. 

Minaev is also a thief, proudly so in fact.

In a recent post, he describes a visit to his local bookstore, where he was depressed to find that a much-desired French volume cost, at $25, more than 3% of his monthly income, and as such was unaffordable.  In fact, he was also forced to reluctantly decline two other volumes, respectively on German and Italian history, even though they each cost only half the Russian volume’s hefty (for him) pricetag. He ended up buying a book on Russian history whose price he did not mention but which must have come quite cheap, as Russian goods are wont to do given the pathetically low wages paid to those who make them.  Minaev writes:

I bought a copy of The Course of Russian History of 19th Century by Alexander Kornilov. He was another historian from those last free thinkers who worked in the early 20th century, like Sergey Platonov or Dmitri Ilovaisky or Vasily Klyuchevsky. A great book. I’m afraid that we won’t see a comparable work on 20th century for a very long time. Not from the Russian historians, sorry.

Sounds like a volume we’d like to get our hands on as well.  But we think we might have some insight on why the book may never see the light of day in English.

Minaev, you see, was in no way distraught by his financial obstacles. They don’t affect him much, because he steals most of his books these days.  His foray to the bookstore came out of boredom with his family away in Russia, a quaint bit of nostalgia, a diversion to a time when people were actuall foolish enough to pay for the books they read.

Yes, that’s right, he steals them.  He brags about being the proud owner of the Russian version of the Amazon Kindle, an e-book reader made in Ukraine and reprogrammed by Russians to take full advantage of Russia’s vast sea of pirated literature, all “free” for the asking.  And Minaev is asking quite a lot these days, it seems.  Not surprising really, given that the Russian stock market is down 80% from the spring, unemployment is skyrocketing and inflation is out of control.  Quoth Minaev:  “Taking into account the digits I saw today, my LBook has already payed off its cost in six months.”

What a clever fellow.

Since it conveniently isn’t Minaev’s full-time job to write history books, or any kind of books, it’s no skin off his nose if anybody steals them.  He’s an intelligent fellow, though, and therefore it’s rather surprising that he doesn’t seem to see the connection between his proud thievery and his statement, quoted above, that “I’m afraid that we won’t see a comparable work on 20th century for a very long time. Not from the Russian historians, sorry.”

To be sure, the main reason we won’t see such work is because of the cowaridie of Minaev and millions of Russians just like him, who have turned a blind eye at best to the rise of a neo-Soviet state in Russia, and who at worst have actively supported it.

But even if Russia’s government were not inclined to adopt the methods of Stalin in purging historical accuracy from Russia’s bookstores and libraries and classrooms, surely Minaev realizes that publishing of all types would dry up entirely in a nation that won’t pay for the work, but prefers to steal it.  His attitude, as anyone familiar with Russia knows full well, is utterly commonplace. Russians not only steal as a matter of course, they’re proud of doing so.  This is why Transparancy International routinely ranks Russia as one of the most corrupt societies on the planet.

Does Minaev really fail to ask himself:  Why would anyone, even if free to do so, invest years in researching and writing a new volume of accurate Russian history, only to receive no compensation for his work and end up starving?  He does.

To put it mildly, nobody would do that.  Just like nobody in his right mind would work for the starvation wages paid to teachers in Russia’s woefully backward universities.  And if you heap on top of that the Putin regime’s relentless threats against such writers, threats which include assassination, it’s hardly surprising that Russia remains in darkness.

But you won’t find Minaev making any such linkage, or critizing the Putin regime in any way in his post.  Undoubtedly, he thinks it’s not worth risking his safety to try to build a better Russia, since he knows he won’t be joined by any appreciable number of his fellow citizens.

Ironically, then Minaev the amateur historian is making Santayana’s mistake, failing to remember history and therefore becoming doomed to repeat it.  If Minaev, and his fellow Russians, think they can save themselves by remaining silent, they should read up on what happened to such people under Stalin. Sure, they delayed the inevitable a bit — but the languished in terror waiting for the axe to fall, as it inevitably did, not just on them but on their country itself.

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