EDITORIAL: Russia is (Still) Burning


Russia is (Still) Burning

Russia watcher trivia quiz:  When was the last time Russian ruler Vladimir Putin spoke publicly about Russia’s horrifying problem with residential fire fatalities, and what is his proposal for making Russian homes safer from fire?  Bonus points for naming the last family of residential fire victims that Putin visited for comfort.

Last weekend, firey explosions killed eight Russians, seven in Irkutsk and one in St. Petersburg.  That’s only a tiny fraction of the nearly 20,000 fire-related fatalities that Putin’s Russia records each year, about fifty each and every single day of the year.  In the United States, fires claim the lives of only about 2,500 people per year, nearly eight times less than in Russia, a figure which is all the more stunning when you remember that the U.S. population is twice as large as Russia’s.  That means the rate of fire fatality in Russia is more than fifteen times higher per capita than in the United States.  Just one more reason that you take your life in your hands every time you choose to spend a night in Russia.

What does Putin have to say about all this?

In 1996, Putin’s personal dacha burned to the ground.  He wrote about the incident in his 2000 book First Person:  “The firemen arrived, but they ran out of water right away. What do you mean, you’re out of water? There’s a whole lake right here!’ I said. ‘There’s a lake,’ they agreed, ‘but no hose.”’ So it’s not as if Putin is unaware of the problem.  Of course, now that he’s the ruler of Russia and has no plans to be anything but for the rest of his life, he may have forgotten.

And the problem is really quite simple.  Elena Panfilova, director of the Russian office of Transparency International, sums up the problem:  “‘Pretty much nobody follows fire safety standards in Russia, but building owners and tenants negotite bribes with fire inspectors. ‘It is common here. Everyone understands it.”  Everyone, it seems, except the man who promised Russia law and order above all things, namely Vladimir Putin.

Just try to find recent remarks by Putin laying out proposals to deal with this problem.  Look for a major speech devoted to the issue.  Search for discussion of the issue in a press conference or debate.  Good luck with that.

Vladimir Putin always has time for sensational public remarks condemning Russia’s foreign “enemies,” from the United States to Estonia to Georgia. But no time to talk about close to 200,000 of his fellow citizens having been burned alive during his time in the Krmelin.  He has plenty of money to buy new and better nuclear weapons, and to send bombs to places like Venezuela and Iran, but no money to improve fire safety.  He has the resouces to prosecute Mikhail Khodorkovsky and send him to prison for years, but he can’t seem to manage to prosecute the officials of his own government who are flouting basic Russian fire safety rules.

14 responses to “EDITORIAL: Russia is (Still) Burning

  1. Aww, his dacha burned down. How sad.

    When they burned the school in Beslan (Russia’s Reichstag fire), at first they didn’t call for fire fighters (and by “at first”, I mean during the 3-day crisis and then during the first hours of the storming). When they called after over 2 hours, a single old fire truck arrived – everyone who remained in the gym (wounded people) all burnt to death by this time.

    He commented: “weak get beaten”, while the debris with body parts got bulldozered and transported to a garbage dump outside the town.

  2. Actually most of the arms dealing is a source of income for Russia (including the mentioned Iran).

    Giving weapons for free is now rare (an example is Georgian separatists) – compared to the Soviet often ideological approach (free weapons and ammunition for communists everywhere after WWII), they designed a more business model of dealing with their allies and partners (in crime).

  3. Выучили бы уж английский. Стилистика текста как у школьного сочинения.

    И стёрка вам не поможет

    • aglyamoff,

      Your hypocrisy is astounding. Here you are pontificating in Russian as to how others should learn proper English and you yourself use a Russian word for eraser “стёрка” that is used by school children instead of using the proper Russian word “резинка.” Вам не стыдно?


  4. A lot more than 2,500 Americans die every year in fires. Karter’s figure, which you cited, covers only residential fires attended by the fire department. When you add non-residential fires and those not attended by the fire department, the total is about 3,400 per year. So fires in Russia kill about six times as many people as fires in the U.S. (assuming the Russian figure is accurate).

    (My data source: The 1999-2006 Multiple Cause-of-Death data, which cover every death in the U.S. during those years, based on official death certificates.)

  5. aglyamoff said:

    “Выучили бы уж английский. Стилистика текста как у школьного сочинения.

    И стёрка вам не поможет”

    Easy for you to say.

    • He lost me at “Выучили”.

      • Rough translation: “If only you had learned English. The style of the the text is like a school paper. [i.e. infantile]

        And an eraser would not help you.”

        Note the verb выучить is the perfective, so it implies the completed act of learning English, so it implies that even though La Russophobe is writing in English, she did not learn the language completely. Again, a hypocritical comment given that it was written in Russian.

        • Attacking the style of writing, eh wot? How delightfully vague not to mention irrelevant to the content. Rather than her style being like a school paper, I think he might be finding the truth to be like a school lunch. [i.e. indigestible]

  6. 90 years ago Mayakovsky wrote “on behalf” of an old Black: Я русский бы выучил только за то что им разговаривал Ленин (I would learn Russian for no other reason that Lenin spoke it).

    Our friend aglyamoff goes one step further and recommends that we learn English. It’s important to note that while aglyamoff’s English is mediocre at best, he feels quite comfortable assessing English skills of others (“school-level essay”) and dispensing linguistic advise.

    I think we can study aglyamoff as quite typical homo post-soveticus. While Russian economy, finance, law, and all other components of civil society are in shambles, Medvedev and Putin feel quite comfortable advising Wall Street and EU on anti-crisis measures.

  7. I’m impressed with Michel’s Russian – well done.

    Funny that LR should mention Putler spending money on “new and better” nukes, given the mass of technical nightmares that has been the bulava debacle. Put that together with the impending stockpile catastrophe (the majority of warheads will be unreliable by 2015) and the long-decayed detection umbrella, and it would seem that a hell of a lot more money is needed just to maintain a basic functional deterrent. Of course, when you’ve run your economy into the ground, it not always easy to find a few spare tens of billions…

  8. I bet La Russophobe’s authors and editors have also relatives abroad.

    Explanation: During Soviet times there was obligatory questionary in important paperwork devoted to “relatives abroad”. Under Stalinist rule having relatives abroad was considered unreliable.

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