Latynina: Why are Russians so Gutless?

Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times, asks why her countrymen are so pathetically spineless:

In an interview with, Natalya Vasilyeva, assistant to Judge Viktor Danilkin in the second criminal case against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said Danilkin had to obtain approval from the Moscow City Court — and higher — for each of his actions, and that the city court wrote the verdict that Danilkin read at the trial.

There were two surprising things about the interview with Vasilyeva. The first is her claim that Danilkin considered the process unjust and was out of sorts as a result. If that is true, it is unexpected because people tend to rationalize their actions. I find it hard to believe that the average NKVD officer really considered himself an inhumane executioner, despite the historical record showing him to be exactly that.

The second is that, if Vasilyeva spoke the truth, it is amazing how easily Danilkin buckled under pressure and sold out his ideals. After all, what would have happened to him if he had acquitted Khodorkovsky?

Former Bolshoi Theater ballerina Anastasia Volochkova left the United Russia party, and what happened? A program on state-controlled television about her controversial decision was pulled before it could air. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov went to court against Gennady Timchenko, co-owner of the Geneva-based oil trader Gunvor, and what was the result? Nemtsov got 15 days behind bars.

The paradox is that Danilkin would have been set for life if he had mustered the courage to acquit Khodorkovsky. The judge would have become an international hero. Washington would have given him a visa — if not a passport — and he would have become the country’s top expert on the Russian judiciary. And if Danilkin desired anything else — a car, a house or a lifetime subscription to the Harvard Law Review — Khodorkovsky’s friends and former business partners would have surely been happy to oblige.

Fate handed Danilkin the chance to defy this insipid, almost toothless regime and enjoy the good life in the West. But for what worthless baubles did he trade in his winning hand?

There are two great motivators capable of making people deliberately lie or violate their own principles: fear and greed. We’re talking about animal-like fear, the type that makes you fear for your life. Would any of Stalin’s notorious “troika” judges have dared to acquit someone after they had been charged? Of course not. That type of bestial fear makes you lie not only to others, but to yourself.

But where is the animal fear in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s Russia? Is the threat of 15 days behind bars like Nemtsov got really so terrifying?

The second motivator is greed. Promise the judge $3 million, and he’ll quickly find arguments to prove whatever he’s told to prove. It is a rare judge in Russia who won’t sell out for $3 million — but if one is found, he’s easily replaced. The irony is that Danilkin probably wasn’t offered any money at all. He delivered the pre-determined and perhaps even pre-written verdict as if it were just part of the job, and absolutely free of charge.

And this ability to elicit the desired behavior from officials by applying a little pressure even while refraining from any promise of reward is an amazing feature of the Putin regime. But any regime whose guiding principle is “only sticks and no carrots” could totter to its foundations from the slightest shove — and collapse even faster than Mubarak’s regime fell in Egypt.


14 responses to “Latynina: Why are Russians so Gutless?

  1. imho it’s down to a slave mentality instilled in Russians for generations,

    • Indeed, and the sad thing is that slave mentality continues even when they escape the Russian state, look at Ostap/Michael Tal/Phobodunce/Voice of Reason/Maimonides/whatever name he comes up with today. Supposedly he is the child of Jewish Russian dissidents, but he sure spends a lot of time defending the USSR and communism.

  2. The root of all disasters Russians have been enduring for generations lies in Orthodox Church’s mentality deeply embodied in people’s mind.

    Now, what the definition of Russians? You see. There is no such nation as a pure Russians — it was rooted out by Tatar-Mongols hundreds of years ago.

    Russia would survive only on the basis of former Soviet Union — current “citizens of Russia” — preserving all variety of customs and traditions amassed throughout the generations.

    • It’s just like the Nazi propaganda. ‘Untermensch’ and so on. I think all the ‘true Russian patriots’ (like Latynina, Kasparov, Nevtsov, Lipman and other Soviet Jews) are happy to be supported with Nazy arguments. Russians racially are not far less monotypical than their close genetical relatives, Poles. And the Orthodox mentality has little to differ from the Catholic one.

  3. Sergei Magnitsky stood up for what was right against the Russian tax police and paid with his life. Danilkin would have paid with his life as well if he did not deliver the “correct” verdict. Fascist Russia is almost as inhumane as Stalin’s but you are not seeing it being covered. The William Duranty’s of the Western Media have returned.

  4. The Russian Orthodox Church and the Cyrillic alphabet are preventing Russia from fully integrating into Western European civilization.
    Russians should adopt either Protestantism or Catholicism and the Latin alphabet.

    The Russian Orthod0x Church and the Cyrillic alphabet perpetuates the myth that Russians are special and unique and must be protected from “malevolent” foreign Western European influences like democracy, rule of law, respect for private property, capitalism, and personal freedom.

    The Russian Orthodox Church preaches a herd and siege mentality that makes Russians slavish to autocrats and dictators. This explains Russians’ rabid xenophobia too, Russians in their hearts know something is wrong with their culture to keep produces so many calamities and why they’re so backward in comparison to Western Europe.

    • I think you are oversimplifying things. I agree that it’s possible that the troubles of Russia may be caused, at least in part, by their Orthodox religion, or rather by the fact they have never undergone Reformation; it’s the same root cause of the backwardness of most Islamic countries — there has never been Reformation there either.

      So both Russia and most Arab and Muslim countries remain in the Middle Ages, mentally and emotionally speaking.

      But honestly I don’t get your point about the alphabet. What does it have to do with anything? I fail to see how using it hurts or helps. Certainly Japanese or Korean writing appears much more complex, and yet we all know how highly developed and democratic Japan and S. Korea are.

      On the other hand there are many examples of Latin American countries, both Catholic and Latin alphabet-using, that are true basket cases. Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are just a few examples of those.

    • Warren, very good thoughts, indeed.

    • The Cyrillic alphabet is a far more terrible evil even than the Orthodox Church. It sucks out the brain. The hundreds of thousand German, Poles, French and other Westerners lived in Russia were made pure idiots by the Cyrillic alphabet. It made them slavish and xenophobian. The Cyrillic alphabet is far worse than the continental climate, stretched communications and perpetual frontier wars.

  5. I hadn’t thought about the root cause of Russia’s current “dilemma” as sourced in the Orthodox church, but it does seem logical. The anti-Semitic outbursts and anti-Western currents are all deeply rooted in Orthodox mysticism. It is sad because there is so much beauty in the ancient rite and unique chanting, but it has never able to become more “catholic” in the universal sense, and is stuck in a medieval time and place, the Russian village with an autocrat emporer far away in Moscow. My mother was Russian, but never was part of the church when she was in the USA. She became a citizen but never declared a religion, saying her father had told her to hold on to her wallet when the priests came around! She was baptised a Christian but was disgusted with anti-Jewish talk she would hear and said only inferior and ignorant people would say such things.

  6. Fear or greed? The dilemma of authoritarian regim`s subjects? Or there can be some additional factor? In the case of Danilkin I think about fear of seizure from corporative society, but in the case of persecuting of the banker Alexey Frenkel, who have been condemned by court as the killer ? The passionate accusations of Frenkel by Latynina in tens of artickles during 4 years are astonishing! In this case I believe in the passionate hate!

  7. The recent decision to extend Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s sentence until 2017 and the suspicions of politically motivated reasons to it mirror the underlying thread of your article.

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