Piter Drives the Final Nail into its Own Coffin
Before Vladimir Putin came along, the city of St. Petersburg, Russia enjoyed a national and even an international reputation for enlightenment. It was called Russia’s “window on the West” and it was famous for citizens who had a broader world view, a more democratic inclination, who were more civilized and intelligent than ordinary Russians.
But Putin, a native of Piter, changed all that. From the moment the world learned how he shamelessly plagiarized his dissertation at an elite Piter university, it became clear that Piter was just like every other rotten place in Russia under the skin. When it remained just as silent as the rest of the country (or cheered even louder) as its native son seized power in Moscow, filled the Kremlin halls with proud KGB spies and began a relentless neo-Soviet crackdown, the world saw the true St. Petersburg.
And nothing could have better confirmed Piter’s wretched barbarism than the recent election campaign of former governor and Putin lackey Valentina Matvienko for a local legislative post in the city, one she needed so Putin could appoint her to the Federation Council and name her speaker.
Russian Ignorance, Unbound
“One of our professors talked about him in a lecture. But I don’t really remember now exactly what he said.”
Those were the words of 17-year old Russian law student Maria Danilyants. The “him” she was referring to was Andrei Sakharov, and she was being asked about him by Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times because his wife Yelena Bonner had just passed away.
If you think Ms. Danilyants is an ignorant buffoon, think again. She’s by far the brightest person in her law school class, because not a single one of her classmates could place the name “Sakharov” at all. This is very much the same as if a class of American law students in New York City turned out to have no idea who Martin Luther King was. That is, if America had collapsed and been replaced by another country because it didn’t listen to King.
Cynics on Russia though we may be, we continue to be utterly stunned by the extent of Russian barbarism and ignorance. It is truly not inaccurate to refer to Russia as “Zaire with permafrost” and it is truly breathtaking that Russians can look at any other country and think themselves even remotely erudite.
Readin’ and Writin’ and Roosskie Rithmatic
One of the most hilarious features (or it would be if it were not so tragic) about the Russian psyche is the nation’s continued insistence that it is well-educated, especially compared to Americans. The actual facts tell a quite different story (not that Russians are ever over-interested in facts).
The United States spends 5.7% of its GDP on education, ranking #37 out of 132 countries surveyed by the United Nations Human Development Program.
Russia spends a woeful 3.8% of GDP, ranking a sad and sorry #88. Two-thirds of world nations spend more on education as a share of GDP than Russia does. The USA in particular spends over 65% more on education, as a share of its GDP, than Russia.
If you think about it in dollar terms, the picture is even more horrifying for Russia.
LR rates the Russia Blogs
Happy birthday to us! This month, La Russophobe turns five years old, a mighty milestone, ancient in blog years.
It’s April, the month of our founding, and a young LR’s head turns once again to thoughts of blog ratings. As we did last year at this time we offer our “top ten” list of the best Russia blogs on this planet.
Vladimir Ryzkhov, writing in the Moscow Times:
The Education and Science Ministry headed by Andrei Fursenko has a good shot at winning the dubious title of Least-Loved Federal Agency, an honor once incontestably held by the Health and Social Development Ministry when it was headed by Mikhail Zurabov. He was disgraced after trying to monetize pensioners’ benefits, which sparked widespread protests in 2005.
Criticism has not subsided over standardized university-entrance exams that were intended to end corruption by leveling the educational playing field for rich and poor, urbanites and people from the provinces. But the exams have only given the advantage to the most corrupt regions and turned the educational process into a mindless rote process of memorizing facts instead of testing students’ intellectual ability.
Russian professor of economics Konstantin Sonin, writing in the Moscow Times:
There are some people who love making speeches about Russia’s so-called power vertical and democratic institutions, and there are other people who would benefit greatly from them in their daily occupations — if only the vertical and democratic institutions actually existed.
Here is one example.