The Code of the Muscovite Idea

Paul Goble reports:

After a Moscow city duma deputy proposed preparing a “Code of the Muscovite” to tell new arrivals what behavior is appropriate and what is not in the Russian capital, politicians in St. Petersburg have proposed coming up with an analogous document for the Northern Capital, a step that highlights the absurdities and dangers of such actions. On the one hand, Ilya Raskin writes in Vestnik Civitas, there is a very real chance that other cities and even small towns and villages will do the same, something that will make this an “all-Russian” phenomenon without the powers that be in the central government having to take responsibility. (In St. Petersburg, Elena Babich, an LDPR deputy in the city Duma, has called for the development of “a dress code” for gastarbeiters so that they will better fit in with the city’s longtime residents, something she said would be a supplement to the “ABCs for the Beginning Petersburger” developed last year.)

And on the other, Raskin notes, the timing of the Moscow proposal is suspicious: It appeared just as the FSB called for giving its officers the power to issue warnings to citizens without reference to the courts, a coincidence that represents in Raskin’s words, “a standard method of districting attention and [producing] disorientation.”

Raskin says that it is entirely consistent that what Moscow city proposes, others will copy, repeating a pattern that often has happened before. But the appearance of such “codes” in each and every place raises some serious questions given than there is so much diversity in the Russian land – and even within Moscow.
It isn’t entirely clear, however, just how all these codes with operate, Raskin continues, given that there are already “a Constitution and Criminal, Administrative, Procedural, City and other Codes as well.” Will they be applied to people as they move about? Or will they become something like “the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism’” of Soviet times?

Indeed, he suggests, such behavior codes will rapidly render themselves absurd given that Moscow itself is extremely diverse, and using the logic of the authors of “the Code of the Muscovite,” each district of the city will want its own. Indeed, “only people who are in Moscow rarely could imagine such a fantasy” as a single code. But unfortunately, the “Vestnik Civitas” writer continues, such people include senior Moscow officials who live behind high walls, travel around in closed cars, and otherwise avoid the rest of the population, and who consequently do not understand what they are saying when they talk about “a native” Muscovite and his behavior.

Raskin notes that he once proposed dividing Moscow into circles analogous to those in Dante’s hell (see, but now, he says, he thinks it is “more correct” to divide it up according to the current territorial-administrative units because these too have “very little in common” with one another. But that is not the chief problem of this whole notion, he says. Instead, it reflects a far more troubling one. According to the “code,” “a ‘real’ Muscovite must not go to opposition meetings, must give way to those with blue lights on their cars, and must respond immediately to ‘the warnings’ and ‘prophylactic’ measures from ‘people in gray.’”
Indeed, he suggests, it “was not for nothing that ‘the Code of the Muscovite and the draft legislation about responsibilities for ‘warnings from the FSB appeared at the same time.” That reflects “the standard operating procedure” that the Russian powers that be have used for a long time, and thus the “Code of the Muscovite” may prove to be something even more sinister.

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