Streetwise Professor

August 1, 2011

31 Days–How Many Disasters?

Filed under: History,Russia — The Professor @ 6:35 pm

Today is August 1.  This article suggests that 31 days of tragedy are on the way in Smolensk and points east.  It’s a long article–and it only chronicles August disasters since 1998.  (Which means that the ’91 coup is not included.  Whether you would put that in the disaster category tells a lot about you.)

August started early this year.  In July, actually, with two nautical disasters, including one in right in the center of Moscow on Sunday.  Walter Russell Mead notes that Russia is held together by duct tape, and wonders whether there is a shortage of the stuff:

Since the Brezhnev era, Russia has been skimping on maintenance. Factories, highways, bridges, rail networks, schools, hospitals: Russians have been trying to keep them running rather than investing money they don’t have to maintain, upgrade and replace them.

Corruption, low salaries and the general malaise of post-Soviet Russia make things worse.  Russia has been running on duct tape for twenty years, and now the duct tape is starting to fray.

. . . .

Ceci n’est pas un bric.

I would put more emphasis on the “general malaise” explanation.  That, and one Mead overlooks: vodka.

It is interesting to conjecture, though, why August seems so cursed.  Is it so?  And if so, why?  Thoughts, people?

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  1. A resource colony does not need that many roads, bridges, railroads or people for that matter.

    Comment by So? — August 1, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

  2. We see a similar pattern in the oil and gas business (especially in those companies with a lot of Frenchmen in). Like the Russians, the French like to take long holidays in August, meaning key figures are out of the game leaving more inexperienced folk behind manning the ship. This extends through the subcontractor chain, so a lot of your service personnel are also lacking key personnel. Our operation decided to postpone all non-routine work until September for this very reason.

    Comment by Tim Newman — August 1, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

  3. Switching to wine is a solution then. Being a faux Frenchman beats being a Snow Nigerian any day (and they are used to aping “real people” anyway). Maybe Medvedev is not as dumb as he seems. After all, when you pretend long enough and hard enough, you become it. Might explain Mistral, Skolkovo, etc.. At least it’s better than Putin’s “great statesman” mimicry (easy, when you surround yourself with gopniks).

    Comment by So? — August 2, 2011 @ 1:04 am

  4. Actually So? a resource colony does need roads, bridges, railroads etc in order to get said resources to market.

    Comment by Andrew — August 2, 2011 @ 8:49 am

  5. Professor, it’s a curse. Or a hex. Or a bad spell. The coup took place in August 1991 because they were about to sign the new union treaty. The default in 1998 — I can’t remember why exactly then, except that they’d run out of dough. The other disasters don’t entirely corellate with people on vacations or lax standards. It’s just, you know, a really bad month.

    Comment by mossy — August 2, 2011 @ 10:38 am

  6. Russian wine is vodka with beet juice in it.

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 3, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

  7. Russia does not work in August. Europe in general is out to lunch during August.

    Give em a break. By the middle of September the Russians will be wearing their fall coats, and by October winter will be well on the way. Let them have their August swansong. Six or eight months of winter deserves an August haitus. In Russia, whatever joy can be found is pursued to its fullest. Let them have their August. Your criticism here is unwarranted–you try living in a World O’Winter eight months a year to see how it feels.

    Comment by gardener1 — August 3, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

  8. GARDENER: Iceland lives in a world of winter. That is why they call it ICELAND. But the people of Iceland are NOTHING like Russians, nor are the people of Alaska. These are merry, good-natured, democracy-loving people who do not invade their tiny neighbors or embrace the secret police or torture their national mascots like barbarians

    Stop making excuses for Russians and justifying their failure and deterioration. By doing so you are not helping them, you are helping them into an early grave.

    (Incidentally, here’s an analysis of why/how Russians hate ice:

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 5, 2011 @ 6:47 am

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