“Why do you hate your own country so much?” This was the angry reaction of one Russian who had just listened to a devastating critique of everything that Communism had done to his country between 1917 and 1990. The event was a seminar at the Moscow School of Political Studies and the speaker who had provoked this outburst was Andrei Zubov, one of Russia’s most brilliant — and most controversial — historians.
Zubov, who is the editor and co-author of a two-volume history of Russia in the 20th century, has a burning desire to make Russians face up to the realities of the Soviet era. He used his talk (which I attended as a participant in a later seminar) to describe in relentless detail the way in which all that was good in Russia’s past — not least the flowering of culture that took place in the second half of the 19th century — was destroyed by Lenin, Stalin and their associates. But his remarks about today’s Russia were no less striking.
Alina Simone, a singer, blogging at the New York Times:
A Russian acquaintance of mine who grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, recently told me that her father microwaved his orange juice. Her grandmother also used to heat her ice cream in a saucepan on the stove. She remembers once asking her grandmother why it was even called “ice” cream, when by all rights it should be called warm cream, or maybe hot cream. “Things have all kinds of crazy names,” her grandmother snapped back. “How should I know?”
If you were born in the Soviet Union and are of a certain age, ice is your enemy. As the daughter of émigrés from Ukraine, I was raised on room-temperature beverages and always associated ice with a raft of great American stuff other kids were allowed to have but I wasn’t: puppies, sheet cake, fun. My own grandmother would cringe from a glass of ice water as if it were a syringe of Ebola virus. To this day I have no idea what disease she associated with the consumption of cold liquids. Pneumonia? Athlete’s foot? Chlamydia?
Why do Russians hate ice? I called my dad and posed the question.
Welcome to the Horror of Neo-Soviet Russia
When you click the jump, you will see an image of the leather trench coat that was worn by officers of the NKVD, the organization that became the KGB and is now the FSB (the organization has twice been required to change its name to try to ward off its disgraceful past). The NKVD, like their successors, were responsible for horrific crimes against the people of Russia and were a legion of goons that terrorized the country in order to support the Stalin dictatorship. They were integral in carrying out one of the most infamous crimes against humanity in world history, the Katyn massacre in 1940 Poland.
Russians Love them some Graft
One of the most obvious reasons why corruption rampages like a wildfire in Vladimir Putin’s Russia is that the people of the country would prefer to lap up its “benefits” than to live another way.
For instance, Russians pay far less for gasoline than they otherwise would because of political corruption. Just like in the USSR, the Russian Kremlin controls gas prices to make the privations of the failed neo-Soviet economy more palatable to clueless Russian citizens. Other prices are controlled too, like transportation and basic foodstuffs, regardless of the fact that it’s not legal.
The result of such a practice is predictable: Shortages. The USSR was infamous for them. Now, the same is happening in Russia.
A movie review in The New Yorker shows the horrifying similarity of behavior between Russians and Nazis during World War II. In fact, it’s easily arguable that the Nazis were not as a bad as the Russians when it came to murdering innocent people in Eastern Europe:
Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah,” the shattering nine-hour documentary about the Holocaust, which was first shown in New York in 1985, has, on its twenty-fifth anniversary, reopened here and will soon appear in museums, universities, and select theatres across the country. Back in 1985, the film left me bruised and sore, moved by its clarifying passions and its electrifying rhetoric, and amazed by its revolutionary form. Lanzmann, a French filmmaker and intellectual journalist, omitted photographs, newsreels, and documents (all the usual historical materials), and, instead, reconstructed the past from what remained of it in the present.
The Craven Cowards in Washington DC
Here is what the U.S. State Department had to say about the Kremlin‘s barabaric crackdown on peaceful protesters on August 31st, including the illegal arrest of a former first deputy prime minister:
U.S. officials in Moscow and St. Petersburg confirmed that several gatherings took place across Russia to demonstrate support for Article 31 of the Russian Constitution. And according to our Embassy and consulate, dozens of protestors were detained in both cities. Article 31 guarantees to Russian citizens the right to gather peacefully, without weapons, and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets. Since 2009, Russian citizens have been holding similar rallies on the 31st day of every month that has 31 days. The United States reiterates the importance of embracing and protecting universal values, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly enshrined in the Russian Constitution, as well as in international agreements with which Russia has signed. We are concerned by actions by the Russian Government in recent years, shrinking the space for civil society. We have concerns about intimidation of citizens, intimidation of journalists, intimidations of nongovernmental operators who are working on behalf of the Russian people. It is part of our ongoing dialogue with the Russian Government, and we hope and expect that Russia will live up to its human rights obligations. We – well, through our Embassy, we have expressed our concern to the Russian Government and that conversation is ongoing.
This mealy-mouthed, craven gibberish would be unacceptable even if it came directly from the lips of the President of the United States or the Secretary of State. There is no hint of any policy action, no naming of names like Nemtsov, and no language which would even vaguely suggest outrage. It is the language of a small person, from a small country, a cowardly mouse hiding in the shadows.
But America did not even have the courage to let a president or secretary utter these words. Instead, they came from an anonymous underling deep in the bowels of the State Department and were heard by almost nobody, least of all anybody in the Moscow Kremlin.
Michael Bohm, writing in the Moscow Times:
Three weeks ago, NTV television reported that more than 70 engineers working at a Komsomolsk-on-Amur airplane factory in the Khabarovsk region had obtained fake engineering degrees from a local technical college. The high-security military plant, which belongs to state-owned Sukhoi, assembles the Su-27, Su-30 and Su-35 fighter jets, as well as the much-anticipated Superjet 100 passenger plane. The trade in fake diplomas is nothing new, of course, but the sheer number of employees involved was mind-boggling.
Sukhoi management took a nonchalant attitude toward the scandal and refused to fire the employees, referring to a company rule that employees can be dismissed only for “grave crimes.” (According to the Criminal Code, knowingly purchasing a fake diploma carries a maximum punishment of an 80,000 ruble [$2,600] fine and two years of “correctional labor.”) Sukhoi management also explained that the diplomas were a mere formality since the engineers had been employed at the plant for years and assured that no engineers with fake diplomas had been employed in actual plane production.
This is a classic case of self-deception. Sukhoi pretended that it had “raised worker qualifications” by instantly turning dozens of employees with only a high school education into engineers with college degrees. Until they got caught, everyone seemingly gained from the scheme. The plant reported to Sukhoi headquarters in Moscow that it fulfilled its plan for the number of degree-holding engineers on staff, the workers received a small bonus for their new skill level, and everyone pretended that they were making better airplanes.
Robert Amsterdam interviews Lev Ponomarev:
Russia-watchers are no doubt aware of the recent arrest of my good friend Lev Ponomarev. Lev is one of the leading lights of the Russian human rights movement, part of the original perestroika-era generation of human rights advocates whose courageous efforts ensured that democratic reforms were an integral part of the changes that followed the collapse of communism. These reforms have been steadily and vigorously eroded over the past decade under Vladimir Putin. Several days ago, for example, Lev was arrested in Moscow on Flag Day – while walking with a Russian flag. The irony is all the greater because Russia’s Flag Day commemorates the day in 1991 when the tricolor was raised for the first time over the Supreme Soviet building after the failed August Putsch, a time when Lev was a deputy to the Congress of People’s Deputies of the RSFSR and a key figure in the fledgling democracy movement.
I spoke with Lev by phone after his release, and here is what he had to say:
Posted in neo-soviet crackdown, opposition groups, russia
Tagged Flag Day, Human rights, lev ponomarev, Lev Ponomaryov, Moscow, robert amsterdam, russia, Russian language, Soviet Union, vladimir putin
Aleksandr Golts, writing in the Moscow Times:
Practically every hospital-themed television show has an episode in which doctors attempt to revive a dying patient without noticing that the person is already dead. Something similar happened at the Collective Security Treaty Organization summit held this month in Yerevan. Even noting that the meeting was riddled with disagreements would not go far enough to describe the confusion that reigns in the CSTO today.
Posted in cold war II, neo-soviet failure, russia
Tagged Aleksandr Golts, Collective Security Treaty Organisation, CSTO, Kyrgyzstan, russia, Soviet Union, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Yerevan
Три четверти россиян хотели бы покинуть Россию
You read that right: “Three-quarters of all Russians would like to leave Russia.”
That’s according to a poll commissioned by the Russian version of Monster.com, namely Superjob.ru, as reported by Vedemosti (Russian-language link) the Russian version of the Wall Street Journal. Another confirming poll by rival firm HeadHunter shows the same figure, three-quarters of all Russians, would prefer to work abroad.
Of course, that’s if they had the chance.
Posted in editorial, neo-soviet failure, russia, russian people
Tagged canada, iron curtain, Italy, russia, Soviet Union, United States, vladimir putin, Wall Street Journal