Tag Archives: alexei bayer

Pigs, Dogs and Sheep in Putin’s Russia

Alexei Bayer, writing in the Moscow Times:

George Orwell’s anti-utopian novel “1984” enjoyed a revival during the presidency of George W. Bush. Even though Orwell’s totalitarian future is now more than a quarter-century out of date, the book read like a collection of newspaper headlines. The current government in Washington also pays homage to “1984.” The recent U.S. withdrawal from Iraq can be described in Orwellian newspeak, “peace is war.”

Orwell’s other masterpiece, “Animal Farm,” is a wickedly funny look at the Bolshevik Revolution and Stalinism. But since communism has collapsed and its hypocrisies and evils have been condemned by most thinking persons inside and outside Russia, there seems little point in revisiting this work.

Not so. Published in 1945, “Animal Farm” satirizes Soviet history through World War II but also takes it far into the future. With extraordinary prescience, it paints a picture of post-Communist Russia that is extremely accurate even for our own times.

Continue reading

The Russians and their Dangerous Self-Delusion

Bookmark and Share

Russian expat Alexei Bayer, writing in the Moscow Times:

A year ago, at the height of the oil price bubble, I took a flight from London to Moscow. Once our final boarding call was announced, duty-free shops all over the terminal came alive with a flurry of activity. Moscow-bound passengers, already burdened with numerous shopping bags, grabbed last-minute electronics, perfume and jewelry and rushed to the checkout. Then, on the way to the gate, we were greeted by a man in a kind of butler’s uniform bearing a strong resemblance to the late British actor John Gielgud. His jaw set in a disdainful grimace, he kept repeating: “Thank you very much, my Russian friends. Much appreciate your spending your money here.”

I have no idea who paid him to stand there and whether his withering English sarcasm was part of his job description. It is true, however, that in recent years Russian visitors have developed a reputation for crass nouveau-riche consumerism. Although Russia no longer has world-renowned writers, artists or composers, wild Russian spending and partying have become legendary the world over.

Continue reading

Part II: Putin’s Russia is Collapsing

Alexei Bayer, independent Russian economics analyst based in New York, writing in the Moscow Times:

In the mid-1960s, there were pundits on both sides of the Iron Curtain who predicted that the Soviet and U.S. systems would eventually become identical. The Soviet Union was then in a relatively liberal phase, whereas the United States, with President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program full speed ahead, seemed to be moving toward social democracy.

By the 1970s, such talk ceased when the Kremlin tightened the ideological reins. But economic similarities did emerge in one aspect: The formidable U.S. economy, stifled by government intervention and overly bureaucratic corporations, began to stagnate almost as badly as its Soviet counterpart. The 1980s then became a period of renewal for both countries, even though the responses — and results — were very different, underscoring the contrast between the two political systems.

Continue reading

Russia: No Longer a Nation

Russian economist Alexei Bayer, writing in the Moscow Times:

With the rest of the world worried about the economic crisis, the news of yet another politically tinged crime in Moscow gets little more than a shrug. It draws the same response in Russia, even though the killing of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova last month provided a glimpse into a murky, Byzantine abyss lying just beyond the country’s facade. It’s a frightening sight in normal times but especially so in a worsening economic climate.

The crimes themselves — and the usual ho-hum reaction to them — testify to the absence of even a rudimentary civil society. Russia is a country of inhabitants, not citizens. Citizens have a stake in their political entity, and murders like these target the very foundations of a nation. This is an occasion on which citizens of all political persuasions would have found a way to make their voices heard. Instead, Russia’s inhabitants go down into the streets to protest higher duties on foreign cars.

Continue reading