Streetwise Professor

February 8, 2009

A Comment Well Worth Reading

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:44 pm

I have a good friend from Yekaterinburg.  One time I expressed surprise at some aspect of Russian life she had mentioned, and she responded: “Craig, you live in a different world.  And be glad that you do.”

Much of the debate that rages on SWP relates to those differences, and their meaning.  Today “Russianwitness” contributed a very passionate comment that deserves the attention from those interested in this debate.  Here’s the comment in full:

Hey, Da Russophile, are you saying something about civilized manner? Are you civilized enough daring to say so cynically about doubling of pensions in Russia? You are a trouble free American getting your salary in USA dollars. It is the same like to say: The retired people were paid 1 dollars and now, how greatly positive, they are paid 2 dollars 30 cents. You are such a “great” expert of Russian life – compare at least the milk and bread price in 1998 and today. To enlighten you properly I inform you that bread was 2-3 rubles and milk was 4-5 rubles in 1998 and in 2009 bread is 20-30 rubles and milk is 25-35 rubles. And now compare the same in the US.
Do not speculate about Russian people as population of animals or guinea pigs! Russians are the same human beings like you who deserve to live not worse than you.
Do not even dare to say about sweet life and better changes of seniors and children in Russia. What do you know about it? When did you come to Russia for the last time? Come over today! Get your own statistics – go to typical Russian towns, villages, rural areas in the Urals, Siberia, Far East, somewhere father from Moscow and Sochi (the best, subtropical, climate in Russia). Talk to ordinary people in the territory of Russia not the USA: teachers, budget doctors, engineers, workers farmers and peasants and especially with seniors. Smell for at least one month the air of such industrial towns and cities like Nijniy Tagil, Novokooznetsk, Argoyash, Ekaterinburg! Wash your body with the yellow stinking water which flows from water supply system pipes all over Russia in the eastern areas and in the most western areas in Russia! Live for a few day in the apartment without hot water when the temperature is +8 degrees C inside and -20 degrees C outside! When your wife gets pregnant and the term of this pregnancy is less than one month, rush to the local Children Defense Board and register in a huge line for your future child in the age of 3 years to be cared in kinder garden! Stay in so called budget Russian hospital far from being free and pay for every pill and every polite phrase from a nurse or doctor! Start your own business without any connections in state authorities and without lots of money on the base of bank loans with the annual rate 26 percent! I would like to meet with you in six months of your peacocky business efforts. If you kept your house you would be blessed!
What do you know about Russia having the US citizenship and residing in a warm American state?
Russia is not Moscow and a few more big megacities. The visibility of the better life of some people of a very fragile middle class of Russia happened to a huge extent because Bush was left a president of the USA in 2004 and provided Russia with this horrible chance to fill in the country with heaps of priceless oil and gas money not supported by the real economical growth. A typical representative of middle class who used to have a salary $1000-23000 rubles with the rate 23 rubles per $1 in May of 2008(oil barrel was $145) and now because of crisis his/her salary has been reduced to 10000-15000 rubles with the rate 36 rubles per $1(oil barrel is $40). How much is 10000-15000 in USA dollars now? Would you like me to tell you the level of foodstuff prices while such a horrible devaluation of rubles? Do you know this type of statistics?
What do you know about adoption in Russia? It has been zero for more than 5 months by Russians. Even earlier it was really rare. Russian people have never been sure in their future to deliver children not saying about adoption. A Russian mentality is not ready for adoption and for more than one or in better cases two biological children in the family. Foster care in Russia is the only way to survive for foster parents because they are not able to find jobs other than foster parenting. Russian foster parents are far from genuine love to children. What do you know about the life of children in foster families when they are always under the threat to be thrown off back to orphanages because the state may stop paying foster salaries any time? What have you done for these Russian orphans without any successful prospects in Russia? Have you adopted anybody to rescue at least one? Shut up in your primitive attacks against Americans who really help Russian children.
By the way, when did you throw trash in Russia last time? In 1998, in 2004, 2008? I do it every day and is aware pretty well how scrap-heaps looked in 1998 and how they do now. Never in 1998 the garbage containers were empty and all trash was thrown nearby. Today every morning trash containers are empty and all area around is covered with this garbage because there is much more starving people now (than it used to be in 1998) who scraped out the garbage to find something to eat.
I am questioning you again and again when did you come to Russia for the last time to learn anything of it not saying about proportion of the good and the bad in Russia?

Wow.  (The comment originated from an IP address in the Urals, BTW.)  A very personal, immediate, and intense appraisal of life in today’s Russia.  And not one submitted by “the Other.”  

I should say that I’m pleased, honored, and humbled by the many comments posted on SWP, even (especially?) from those with whom I usually disagree.  I am especially appreciative of comments such as Russianwitness’s, and hope to receive more such first-person correspondence as time goes on.

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  1. DR–

    This is the Hotel California of blogs–you can check out, but you can never leave;-)

    And, re being called out, I’ll say this. Given the choice between being attacked and being ignored, I’ll typically choose the former. To be ignored means that you are irrelevant. To be attacked, well, you may be wrong, but at least you are considered to be worth the time.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 8, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

  2. I agree SWP. But I should make one thing clear. I use the expression “call out”, in the sense of ‘To demand or ask for the presence of”. I certainly don’t intend anyone to think that I’m complaining of being attacked by you.

    Obviously this post is intended to “call me out”, since it is mostly addressed to me. I don’t mind replying to it as a favor to the readers here, to give them another view which I agree is important – although the extent to which I can do this is limited since much of the quoted material substitutes disjointed invective and anecdote-based rambling for reasoned debate (and is certainly not “well worth” reading, IMO).

    Comment by Da Russophile — February 8, 2009 @ 11:38 pm

  3. Господин Руссофил, вы мне напоминаете мою двенадцатилетнюю племянницу, которая всегда за отсутствием аргументов и неумением принимать очевидные факты, предпочитает наехать на оппонента от бессилия и вопить: неудачник, лузер, неважно насколько успешный человек с ней ведет беседу. Я не собираюсь метать бисер перед тем, кому нужно объяснять, что я или кто-то другой не верблюд, если этот кто-то с ним не согласен. Только очень незрелые люди с менталитетом подростков не способны анализировать факты и предпочитают плавать в своих розовых инсинуациях, построенных на десятке мнений с сайта одноклассников.
    Однако, даже моя двенадцатилетняя племянница иногда признает свои ошибки. Вы, похоже, никогда. Люди, не способные к развитию, многостороннему анализу происходящего, а главное, лишенные милосердия, цинично утверждающие, что старики в России разве что роскошь себе позволить не могут, вызывают у меня чувство разочарования от расходования моей драгоценной энергии на предсказуемых оппонентов, утративших чувствительность и проницательность в восприятии информации. Остается, напоследок, великодушно пожелать вам повзрослеть и помудреть, а главное подобреть.

    Comment by Russianwitness — February 9, 2009 @ 7:35 am

  4. Mr Russofil, you remind me my twelve years old niece, who is always in the absence of arguments and the inability to accept the obvious facts, prefers to hit an opponent of powerlessness and yell: loser, luzer, no matter how successful a person has a conversation with her. I am not going to cast pearls before those who have to explain that I or someone else is not a camel, if that someone does not agree with him. Only a very immature people with the mentality of adolescents are not able to analyze the facts and prefer to swim in their pink innuendo built dozens of opinions from classmates.
    However, even twelve years old, my niece is sometimes recognized its mistakes. You seem to be never. People who are not capable of development, analysis of multilateral and, more importantly, without mercy, cynically claiming that the elderly in Russia is it that luxury can not afford it, cause I have a sense of frustration of spending my precious energy on predictable opponents who have lost their sensitivity and insight in the perception of information. There is, finally, graciously wishing you grow up and pomudret and, most importantly, podobret.

    Comment by Vladimir — February 9, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  5. Well, DR, it looks like you asked for it and now got it. It’s a fair challenge by real Russians calling your bluff. It’s just too cheap and easy sitting in your comfy perch in California and defending the Putin’s fascism. By every metric Communism was an abysmal failure that extracted a terrible price on people, a price that is still ongoing in Russia. It’s astounding that a human mind can still defend that failed “ism”. My problem with you has always been my perception of your lack of morality. Sure, many Russians gained with oil prices material stuff, but, they lost any chance the last eight years of building a civil society which is more important than the wealth accumulation by a few.

    It’s ironic and amusing that you digressed into an ad hominem attack on me with “suffered from personal failures or losses in the last ten years” while criticizing insinuations and ad hominem attacks on you.

    Comment by penny — February 9, 2009 @ 9:46 am

  6. My time and energy isn’t worth on ideological fanatics and trolls. One thing I can agree with Russianwitness on though obviously from different sides of the window.

    So have fun stewing in your hatred and pessimism if it gives meaning to your lives and wish you a nice day. Adios.

    Comment by Da Russophile — February 9, 2009 @ 12:35 pm

  7. […] A debate on life in today's Russia between “Russianwitness” and “Da Russophile” – at Streetwise Professor's blog. Posted by Veronica Khokhlova  Print version Share This […]

    Pingback by Global Voices Online » Russia: “Russianwitness” vs “Da Russophile” — February 10, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

  8. “It’s just too cheap and easy sitting in your comfy perch in California and defending the Putin’s fascism.” – It’s also easy sitting in your nice heated house/apartment, in your comfy computer chair, using your expensive computer/internet to exaggerate your hardships beyond belief just to get people to sympathize with you, and then throw out personal insults when confronted with a rational, fact based argument.

    I’m from Canada. I used to live in a pretty rotten city when I was a kid. With a little exaggeration, a little added drama, I could easily make it sound like Canada is some scummy third world country based on select personal experiences I had growing up.

    For example, I lived in an area with lots of immigrants. A lot of refugees from Sri Lanka in fact, many of them not yet “civilized” by our standards, or used to the “western” lifestyle. There was this building complex near our school where a lot of my friends lived. Whenever I visited, I was always struck by how terrible and disgusting those buildings were. Not only did they look worn out and depressing from the outside, but the were even worse inside. They smelled like urine, the carpets were completely stained and discoloured, the walls black and filthy. It looked like no one had cleaned anything in decades. The elevators were always out of service, and there were always burnt out lights in every hallway. I remember once seeing a (presumably) used condom just lying there on the staircase one time. Disgusting. And the apartments were so small, there were often families of 4-5 living with one small living room, one small kitchen, one bathroom and two bedrooms. Oh and don’t even get me started on the cockroaches.

    Don’t tell me about downtown Toronto or Montreal. That’s not Canada. Try visiting the slums and the welfare neighbourhoods, the ghettos and the “bad” streets, like where I grew up. You think we live in some wonderful paradise land where everything is perfect? Oh sure, maybe the wealthiest 10%-20%. But the rest of us are stuck living in their trash. If we have it so nice, then how come half the people I know are on anti-depressants including many of my family members? Why do so many people still commit suicide? Don’t compare your situation with ours until you’ve lived here, in the REAL Canada for a few years, to see what it’s really like.

    Now, this is all 100% true. Not a single thing made up in the above “story”, just a bit of added drama and rhetoric. But does my personal, select experience of this one part of this one city really change the fact that Canada is, statistically speaking, one of the most developed countries in the world with one of the highest living standards? Of course not. That’s no way to argue or make a point. You can’t use sob stories and personal experiences to reflect on an entire country. It’s cheap. It’s meaningless. All you’re doing is manipulating peoples minds, either to get sympathy, or to turn them against someone you’re arguing against without having to actually make a real argument.

    I’m a fan of statistics and logic, not stories and hearsay. I know from personal experience (and I think we all do) how people around us often complain and exaggerate their own hardships even though they have things a million times better than poor people in Africa, Bangladesh, India etc.. Believe me, when I watch American made TV, I get jealous and reflect on my own average life just like everyone else. But you gotta understand that what you see on TV is not real life. Normal people don’t live like the fools in Orange County or 90210. That’s not what “the west” is like. Stop comparing your life to fictionalized portrayals of our lifestyle, and start looking at some statistics. Yes we live better than most people in Russia (statistically speaking, I’ve never been there), but not THAT much better. We’re not comparing Sweden to Zimbabwe here. And again, statistically speaking, Russia has made far more gains than any western country over the past 8 years in terms of living standards, wages, middle-class etc..

    Just my two cents anyways.

    Comment by Bob from Canada — February 10, 2009 @ 11:56 pm

  9. It is easy to say that Russia is better than Somalia, Nigeria or Sri Lanka. The tragedy of Russia that it is potentially a very civilized country and has to exist according to rules and laws as any other civilized country like the USA, Germany, UK , France, Israel, etc. with all drawbacks of democratic structures, at least with fair competition. Unfortunately today Russia exists like the former Soviet Union with a little bit more freedom, with some more opportunities for the stronger people with entrepreneurial and creative abilities. Now people in Russia are able to say truth and express disaffection to government not only in their kitchens, unless they are the real potential threat to the official regime, like Mr. Khardakovskiy, f.e., or famous journalists, dead now.
    Russia proved historically, very practically an economical incapacity of Marxism models of a human society. But the majority of Russian population is still from the former Soviet Union mentality by roots, especially it refers to the government. They run the country not according to economics rules, but according their totalitarian ideas, taking in consideration from time to time, not really voluntarily, laws of world economics development, in order to keep their power. People in Kremlin think that they know better than the historical economical experience of mankind what to do for Russian economy, middle class business, for seniors, for children without parental custody, invalids, etc. First of all mentality of powers-that-be works to satisfy themselves and to adjust to current circumstances to do anything to keep their power together with the group of big businessmen who feed this power. Russia is a country of nomenclature(state) capitalism and it is a huge tragedy for the majority of those who were raised in the former Soviet Union, I hope very young people have definitely more chances. Russia is not in the position of an African tribe because it is a country of talented people who always find opportunities to survive independently on laws and government(because they both do not work appropriately, not saying about stupid laws the stupid government creates), including smart accountants, very flexible little businessmen and lawyers, etc. Everybody more or less strong enough tries to find a niche, a “comfy perch”. But it does not refer to unprotected children, lonely seniors, disabled people. The tolerance of Russian people is limitless and it is a huge tragedy for Russia, the country of an ETERNAL POTENTIAL, but currently nothing much more than potential.

    Comment by Russianwitness — February 11, 2009 @ 5:15 am

  10. Hmm I just realized something interesting. If you had actually bothered to read the NPR report itself rather than just reading LaRussphobe’s cherry picked paragraphs and assuming the whole article was negative, you would see that the report is actually about documenting improvements from the 90s, which is completely contrary to what you’ve been trying to convince me of. The bulk of the four part report is about vast improvements over the past decade, and although it talks about short-comings, that is no surprise, no country goes from rags to riches in 8 years.

    -“The biggest change is psychological. There is a new confidence. Khatumova credits former president, now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with bringing stability.

    “Putin has made quite a number of very important decisions — decisions which are in the interests of Russia and the Russian people,” she says. “We started to respect ourselves.”-

    Please, do yourself a favour, stop reading blogs like LaRussophobes, and start reading things with actual substance and meaning. LaRussophobe’s job is to make people hate Russia, and he lies and manipulates, misreports and makes logical fallacies in order to achieve his goal. There’s nothing honest or truthful in what he does, and you’ve obviously been taken in by it.

    Comment by Bob from Canada — February 11, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

  11. So once again you’re going to try and “prove” something by making a video of areas near where you live, as if your personal experiences speak on behalf of a country of 140 million citizens and thousands of cities and towns? I could do the exact same thing where I live. I could go to Toronto right now and take pictures of the slums, drug addicts, the massive amounts of homeless people who often sleep on sidewalks…I could take pictures of the cockroach infested buildings I was talking about. I hear vancouver is even worse with street bums. Or maybe I’ll go up to one of those native Canadian reserves where they live like it’s still 1930.

    You’re not going to convince me of anything with some home-made video. Every country has its problems and no one is claiming that Russia is an exception. You just like to exaggerate and make things up. I still don’t know your motive, but I know you’re not just trying to “spread the truth” because you “love” your country. It’s anything but the truth.

    You haven’t even responded to my last two posts or acknowledged anything regarding your previous bogus claims. Why is that? I want to know about this genocide and I want to know why every single source I find says the middle-class in Russia is growing, while you say there is no such thing. I want to know why you call Rosstat a joke. I want to know what you think about that report that you linked, which ended up debunking your own argument because you never actually read it beyond a few select paragraphs posted on a russophobe blog.

    I guess DR was right. This is pointless, probably not good for the health. Some people just don’t understand that facts trump all, and you sir do not have any facts at all.

    Comment by Bob from Canada — February 11, 2009 @ 9:33 pm

  12. And once again your claim is wrong. Even your own article talks about how authorities in Russia are trying to combat the problem. How could they combat the problem if there were no laws against it? You’re just making things up, it’s that simple. You appear to be living on a different planet.

    And where exactly did I mock anything? I think you’re delusional.

    Comment by Bob from Canada — February 11, 2009 @ 9:36 pm

  13. “I’m passionate about these issues but I’m also objective.”

    Why should anything you say be taken as objective when you’re clearly making things up to further your argument (which can only be assumed by your continual dodging of my inquiries). That’s the exact opposite of objective, you’re trying to get your point across using exaggerations and fiction instead of looking at things from a neutral point of view and criticizing only what needs to be criticized (which is admittedly plenty). What that does is make people like me, people who don’t have an inherent bias, become biased. Now I’m not even arguing FOR Russia, I’m arguing AGAINST you, and because of you, I find myself unintentionally shrugging off and dismissing problems that otherwise would deserve attention.

    Maybe people like me would put more serious thought into things like human rights in Russia if people like you weren’t constantly shoving this ridiculous image of Putin being Satan himself and turning Russia into the Fourth Reich with living conditions of 18th century Russia down our throats.

    And tell that to your pal Kasparov the next time you see him, too. I recently came to realize that I don’t hate Kasparov because he’s anti-Putin. I hate him because he’s a bullshitter and a fake, a pawn of the west who lies and manipulates to gain sympathy (he obvious took lessons from us). That in turn makes me sympathize with Putin, (who, hate him as you may, is not a bullshitter or a fake), and regret that there is no credible opposition in Russia, not even in the fringes.

    Comment by Bob from Canada — February 13, 2009 @ 6:49 am

  14. I am in fact Boris from KGB. You caught me.

    No wait, your second guess was right I changed my mind. I’m actually the product of brainwash. My state controlled Canadian media has been brainwashing me since birth. All hail Tsar Putin.

    There are approximately 55,000 Ethnic Russians in Canada, including those who were born here. We have many more Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Chinese, Indians and Italians. But why is that important? You can learn all about Canadian demographics here:

    Comment by Bob from Canada — February 14, 2009 @ 1:18 pm

  15. RW makes an excellent point, along the lines of one I made a couple of years ago. The “power vertical” has essentially just centralized and integrated the process of corruption and violence. The state has displaced the gangsters. This is an improvement, but hardly an ideal, and far from what would be considered minimally acceptable in say, Canada.

    The famous economist Mancur Olson, distinguished between “roving bandits” and “stationary bandits.” Roving bandits are gangsters. Russia was ruled by roving bandits in the 1990s. Roving bandits are especially damaging because they have no long term interest in the society on which they prey because they anticipate that they will be displaced or killed rather quickly. So they take everything they can while they can. The Russian experience of the 90s is a good illustration of this.

    “Stationary bandits” are those that amass sufficient force to permit them to overwhelm and displace roving bandits. Stationary bandits anticipate that they will survive for some period of time, and hence have some incentive to encourage wealth creation–to maximize their future take. But, they have no interest in fostering a civil society that could oppose their predations. Moreover, they distort economic activity in order to foster those that are easier to plunder. By extracting their take they discourage economic activity. Thus, those subject to the stationary bandit’s rule are better off than when roving bandits flourish, but are far worse off than they would be under a more liberal, democratic system that is not designed to maximize the ruler’s take.

    Putin and the siloviki are stationary bandits. That makes them better than roving bandits. But they are still bandits. They have centralized corruption. That improves things (as I have explained in earlier posts, making an analogy to the industrial organization literature), but it is not conducive to permitting the Russian people–the people, not the state–to realize their economic potential, or their human potential.

    Putin crushed the roving bandits. He and the siloviki became the stationary bandits in their stead. Bravo. This is an improvement, but as I’ve said before, it’s an improvement from hell to purgatory, and there is little prospect that under the current system Russia has realistic hopes for anything better than that.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 14, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

  16. Well, Bob, you always substitute ideas and notions of everybody you dislike here or may be you do the same in your everyday life. Please, do not “surprise” me informing me that Canada is a multinational country. I repeat for the most gifted, that I mention a huge immigration from Russia for the last 10-20 years. I personally know a lot of people who moved to Canada and the USA for the better life and found it. I am informed personally and keep in touch with a few of these people. They are happy and do not come back. Do you disagree with them too? Give me the link of Canadian Diaspora of recent Canadian immigrants who found the life in Russia better than in Canada.

    I am glad that your have a sense of self irony. It is a good sign for development.

    Comment by Russianwitness — February 15, 2009 @ 3:21 am

  17. I would like to add, the Professor, that in the time of “roving bandits” I did not feel myself so unprotected, lost and insecure of the future than now under “stationary bandits”. Definitely, in 1990- 2000, regardless of crisis of 1998, I was full of optimism, hope and freedom. Today nothing of rainbow feelings left. Should I join “stationary bandits” :-(( and :-))

    Comment by Russianwitness — February 15, 2009 @ 4:05 am

  18. Very interesting comment, RW. I value your personal testimonies. They bring a lot to the blog. Thanks.

    I am sorry to hear about your loss of hope, but I can understand it. In a way, it encapsulates my “purgatory” analogy. Even in the chaos of the 90s, there was (as I understand it, though not having personal experience) a widespread sense of liberation from the deadening hand of Soviet rule even in the midst of kaleidescopic change, economic insecurity, and for some, personal insecurity. Now, the stifling heavy hand of the state, and the omnipresent propaganda emanating from the TV, weigh on the minds of thinking people. In chaos, change is inevitable, and it may be change for the better; at least there is that hope. In an autocracy that fetishizes “stability” there is only the promise of more of the same. Limbo. Purgatory. This is not an environment in which hope blooms.

    Moreover, there is something fundamentally more dispiriting when it is the state that is fundamentally corrupt. One never has any illusions that gangsters will ever act in your interest. But, at least in theory, the state is supposed to be your agent, to have your interests at heart. The hypocrisy of the state posing as the embodiment of the people at the same time that it is transparently the mechanism by which its minions enrich and empower themselves at the expense of the people is particularly discouraging.

    What are your thoughts?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 15, 2009 @ 11:27 am

  19. I wish I disagreed with you, Professor. Everything you write is absolutely true. Not everybody is able to realize this verity. Propaganda machine is in action. The traditional technologies in manipulation of public conciseness work here by displacement of accents, imitation of freedom and reporting of false achievements. There are rather many people in Russia, including representatives of a very young generation (without hard inheritance), whose political conciseness is completely distorted by the successful brainwash machine. Furthermore Putin’s totalitarian regime differs from Stalin’s one that not indifferent people can openly speak, even demonstrate to some extent their indignation whereas in Stalin’s time people did not dare even to think against, instinctively killing any rebellious ideas. However both regimes are monumental and inviolable and nothing and nobody changes or break the system unless the dictator needs it. One of the notorious and cynical phrases of Putin is: “A dog is barking, caravan is going forth.” (Собака лает-караван идет.) It was said in regard to foreign mass media but it is his attitude towards anybody whom he is not considered as a worthy enemy. We bark – he does not care. But if he cares the “proper” place will be found for you soon, for example, in prison or cemetery after a cup of polonium tea or umbrella shot. I don’t think that he personally approves every political murder. The point is that generally, principally he does not mind against this way of political and economical solutions. It is in his blood, skin, brain soaked up in his young and mature years of ebullient KGB life. And it naturally transforms in outrage of secret and not secret services of Russia.
    In Russia the fortune of country is governed by a strong personality, the role of an individual in the history of Russia is the only possible. Masses have never been capable to be organized in a mighty positive power moving history in a civilized direction putting up a resistance to the existing regime. Everything good and bad is performed by heads (power).
    Besides the post Soviet Union mode of thinking of many people in Russia, very stagnant and sluggish, with subservience of inferior to superior, there is one more very serious problem. It is a total degradation of culture, an intellectual level, moral values, ethic norms, human rights, Russian language due to overall commercialization of all spheres of Russian life. Education, medicine, art, human relations, mass media, relationship between masses(people) and heads(power), social care of children and seniors, everything is infected with a golden calf. Money does not help here as much as it ruins.
    Professor, if you understand Russian you may find all spectrum of ideas of both very intellectual progressive people and average retrogrades, both execrators and minions of system on Echo of Moscow Radio Station. You can listen to it in the Internet and to download interviews, to vote, to express your own ideas. . They “bark” very well.:-)

    Comment by Russianwitness — February 17, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  20. RW–I am saddened that you agree with me. I will not be gratified if I–and you–are right about Russia.

    One thing that struck me about your comment is how materialism (both in its common usage, and in a more philosophical sense) has infected Russian life. I hypothesize that this is an inevitable result of the aggressive materialism (in the philosophical sense) of the Soviet regime that warped people’s values; the material deprivation of Soviet times that made people focus on the purely material; and the devaluation of human relations and social capital in that system.

    Your comment also brings to mind a subject that I have discussed extensively with a young friend, who happens to live in your city, and who works in the arts. The subject is “the Russian soul.” The basic idea, of course, being that Russia is different than the West because it is more spiritual, more naturalistic, less ratiocentric, and less materialistic. It seems that this concept is effectively an anachronism, something that may have characterized Russia and Russians at one time, but no longer (with exceptions, of course.) Today, the concept seems to be invoked primarily to rationalize seemingly irrational acts. But, as you describe, true spirituality seems a rare thing in Russia today (not to say that it is prevalent in the West by any means, or that I am a spiritual person.)

    I have been wrestling with a post about this subject. The basic idea is that the brutal Stalinist process of wrenching Russia from its rural roots to create an industrial state was extremely traumatic, and warped the Russian soul, and largely extinguished “the Russian soul” (which was, of course, identified with the peasantry.)

    I would love (lyoubyou, right?) to tune into Ekho Moskovy, but alas am only beginning to learn a little (very little) Russian. That’s why I value hearing from people like you.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 17, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

  21. […] is soaring (well, admittedly the latter might be true for the last two or three months), note that she speaks only for herself and the c.10% of the population that are fifth-columnists, not the silent majority of […]

    Pingback by Voice of the People (since July 2008) Part 2 | Sublime Oblivion — May 31, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

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