WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 18 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Russia is a Nation of Barbarians
(2) EDITORIAL: On Russian Ignorance and Hypocrisy
(3) EDITORIAL: The Russian Economy, Enslaved
(4) Babitsky on NTV
(5) Subnational Authoritarianism in Russia
NOTE: A German think tank has published a paper by Russian scholars on the political degeneration of Russia’s regional governments. It begins with a discussion entitled “Subnational Authoritarianism in Russia” which we republish as #5 above. Click the link to read the report’s case studies in two regions.
Russia is a Nation of Barbarians
Last week in Russia, a military officer got mad at his live-in girlfriend and decided that to punish her he’d throw her eight-year-old twins out the window of the their eighth-floor apartment. Meanwhile, in a scene right out of Sweeney Todd, a trio of Russian homeless men killed a 25-year-old and ate him. What they couldn’t finish, they butchered and sold to a kebab restaurant, which turned the victim into pies.
Lest you think these are somehow aberrations which are abhorred by Russia’s general population, just check out the most recent op-ed in Prague Watchdog from the website’s editor-in-chief, the hero journalist Andrei Babitsky, which we republish below in today’s issue. Babitsky shows how the once mighty and independent NTV television network, now controlled by the Kremlin, has published a propaganda diatribe praising notorious war criminal Colonel Yuri Budanov, a rapist, murderer and torturer who savagely terrorized innocent civilians in Chechnya for years and who is treated as national hero by Russians and their government. Think viewers will utter a peep of protest? Think again.
On Russian Ignorance and Hypocrisy
One of the most striking impressions left upon those of us who have spent time living in Russia is that, while Russians portray and imagine themselves as erudite, cosmopolitan and educated they are in fact among the most crudely ignorant people on the face of the earth. Racism, including open lynchings of blacks, flows through Russia is it were still mired in the last century. The Internet is repressed, political life is non-existent, and the great artists who once characterized the upper echelons of Russian society have long since passed from the scene.
It may be for this reason that Russians hate foreigners so much, and constantly tell themselves that foreigners hate and misunderstand them right back. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, as three news stories from just the last week alone clearly show.
The Russian Economy, Enslaved
“If the oil price is around $68-70, then the increase (in GDP) could surpass 3 percent, it could be 3.2-3.5 percent.”
–Russian Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach, to Reuters on Friday, November 13th
Klepach was only saying out loud what everybody else (except the people of Russia) already clearly understands: Russia has no real economy. Even before the August 2008 financial crisis laid Russia low, the Putin regime had done nothing to diversify and broaden Russia’s economy, leaving it totally dependent on world crude oil prices for subsistence. And even now, growth of just 3% on Russia’s pathetically small economic base is simply not sufficient to create any real improvement in living standards. Since the U.S. economy is ten times larger than Russia’s while the U.S. population is only twice as big, each point of economic growth has five times more value in the U.S. than it does in Russia.
And let’s be clear: This isn’t just a matter of incompetence or inattention. This horrific enslavement of the Russian economy is official Kremlin policy.
Hero journalist Andrei Babitsky, writing on Prague Watchdog:
Even the less discriminating viewer cannot help having one or two problems when watching Russia’s NTV television channel. In the end, the problems lie not in the ideas that guide the program-makers – there is, after all, a plethora of obscurantism of all kinds to be found on practically all the Russian channels now – but in the fact that NTV has managed to become the undisputed, invincible leader in the field of sheer unbridled nastiness, by the use of methods which reduce all reality and human motivation to biological needs.
Vladimir Gelman, a professor in the Faculty of Political Science and Sociology at the European University in St. Petersburg, writing in the Russian Analytical Digest:
The practice of subnational authoritarianism in the Soviet period was the “point of departure” for processes of decentralization in the 1990s and recentralization in the 2000s, both of which were path dependent in that they depended heavily on historical legacies. The centralized subnational party authoritarianism of the USSR was a complex political project. On one hand, it was based on a hierarchical concentration of power and resources, which was supported by the vertically integrated structures of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the nation-wide branch ministries and agencies, including the coercive agencies from the military to the State Security Committee (KGB).
On the other hand, at the local level, the territorial committees of the CPSU performed the functions of social integration and distribution of social benefits. Also, they acted as interest groups in lobbying the interests of territories in the upper echelons of the political hierarchy. In the 1960s–1980s, the Soviet system of regional and local governance came into conflict with the constantly decreasing effectiveness of central control. The relations between the national and sub national regimes in the USSR can be described as “loyalty in exchange for non-interference.” Perestroika, accompanied by a large-scale change in the managerial cadres at the local level, dealt a powerful blow to the balance of power defining subnational authoritarianism.