Russian film director Andrei “Russophobe” Konchalovsky, writing on Open Democracy:
“Cursed be those who express our thoughts before us!”
— Aelius Donatus, Roman grammarian and teacher of rhetoric
Donatus, living in ancient Rome, was fortunate – he wanted to be the first to express a seditious thought. If I, living in today’s Russia, wish to express an opinion that someone might find offensive, I need to attribute it to some recognised authority, ideally an eminent Russian thinker. Otherwise I will be accused of every sin in general, and of hatred of everything Russian in particular.
So, here are my thoughts.
The Brutality of “Normal Life” in Vladimir Putin’s Russia
In our issue today we republish two stories about ordinary life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. One story involves an adventure with an elevator, the other with childbirth. They are absolutely required reading for anyone who is interested in understanding what is going on in Russia today.
Anyone who has spent any time living a real life in Putin’s Russia will instantly recognize the truth and the horror reflected in these stories. And nobody who has not lived in Russia can truly appreciate how awful it is to experience so-called “life” of this kind up close and personal. This is what it means to live in a neo-Soviet state ruled by a proud KGB spy. It sucks.
But let’s be perfectly clear: The people of Russia are not the innocent victims of this type of horror. To the contrary, their reckless and irresponsible behavior is the root cause of it.
Simon Shuster, writing for Time magazine’s website:
Alexander Smirnov has never gotten over the euphoria of August 1991. He was a college student in Leningrad at the time, lanky and pale with Coke-bottle glasses, and on the morning of Aug. 20, 1991, he walked out onto the central square of the city to find a sea of people taking part in one of the largest demonstrations Russia had ever seen. The day before, a military coup had begun.
The heads of the KGB, the army and police, along with a few other obdurate communists, had seized control of the Soviet Union from President Mikhail Gorbachev, and ordered tanks into Moscow to impose a state of emergency. In response, hundreds of thousands of people went onto the streets across the empire to stop the return of the bad old days of the Communist state. “We were prepared to lay down in front of the tanks,” Smirnov says. And in Moscow a few of them did. Only three days after the military junta began, the civil resistance defeated it. On Aug. 22, the coup leaders were arrested, and the Soviet Union never recovered. Four months later, on Christmas Day, it was dissolved.
Here Come the Russian Rapists
Russia and its Real Men
Russians are fond of working themselves up in to a state of high outrage whenever they hear stories about Russians being abused in foreign lands (like the recent incident in which a Russian adoptee was made to drink hot sauce
by his new mother, or the incident where a mother returned her adopted child to Russia).
But good luck getting Russians to manage as much as a yawn when they learn about shocking acts of abuse by Russians against foreigners — that is, if state-sponsored Russian media even report such incidents at all, which they usually do not.
Take for instance the brutal gang-rape of a young Malaysian student at Bellerbys College in London, where tuition is £30,000 ($50,000) a year. The wolf pack of four Russian students who drugged and then attacked her over the course of more than two hours, filming the savage assault with a cell phone and “celebrating like footballers” as they mauled the helpless fellow student, showed “callous disregard for (the victim) as a human being and a callous disregard for her as anything other than an object” according to the judge who sentenced them to prison in Woolwich Crown Court.
Briton in Russia Clare Taylor, blogging at the Moscow Times, explains what it’s like to face the Russian retail establishment, which is in no significant way different from what it was in Soviet times. It sees customers as an annoying problem and it is not equipped or interested enough to deal with them properly. This is why Russian can’t compete in international markets and can’t attract a large number of tourists. (FYI, children don’t have the experience to know when shoes fit properly, and therefore can’t help parents when seeking to determine if they do. That’s why careful parents want their kids’ feet measured when buying new shoes.)
Back in May, my sons were in need of new shoes, and, I must admit, I had been putting it off. I was hoping against hope that the canvas sneakers I picked up for them in London on a solo trip over there in April would stay the course until our summer break when we would be back in the land of less expensive and — crucially — expertly fitted footwear. What’s that you say? Muscovite children wear shoes, too, and amazingly, they even fit? That fact is obviously true, but based on our experiences shoe shopping in Moscow, for the life of me I can’t work out how.
The Ghastly Horror of Russian Barbarism
It’s really amazing how, no matter what horrific and repugnant thing you may have seen from Russia, the country can always surprise you with something even more vile tomorrow.
What would you say if we told you, for instance, that the bus shown above is “home” to dozens – that’s right dozens — of helpless animals?
What if one of them was a super-famous animal celebrity, who had performed at a nationally famous circus, in feature films and even at the Olympic Games?
What if that celebrity, Katya the Bear, now “spends the long hours jumping up and down in her cage and trying to crack the rusty metal railings with her chipped and yellowed teeth”?
Well, it’s the case. In fact, here she is: