Political dissent and the social phenomenon of dissidents played a considerable role in Soviet Russia up to the times of Mikhail Gorbachev and his perestroika and glasnost policies. Together with “openness,” these policies made unnecessary the very institution of dissidents as illegal and persecuted fighters for freedom of information and as accusers of the regime.
Also, under the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, during whose rule the communist hegemony was undermined and the old rigid economic system dismantled, the former dissidents found themselves jobless. Some joined the emerging political life that had begun to develop according to more or less democratic rules, while others moved away from political activities and went into business, or started writing books, or concentrated on their social life.… Seguir leyendo »
On May 9, Moscow and the whole of Russia will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the victory in what is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War. Some foreign guests are expected to join these solemn festivities.
Yet, nearly all heads of European states, including those liberated by the Soviet Army in 1944-1945, will probably not be among them.
On May 8, Russia’s former allies in the anti-Hitler coalition and many other countries around the world celebrate the victory in World War II, or more exactly “V-E Day, that is, Victory in Europe Day.”
The historic content and the symbolic sense of these back-to-back anniversaries have too many basic differences and eloquent nuances to let these differences remain unnoticed.… Seguir leyendo »
The following economic and social paradox has attracted the attention of analysts for at least two decades.
The Soviet-style economy with its presumably full employment is dead. State-owned heavy industry is partly ruined and partly privatized in a peculiar crony manner. The consumer-oriented industries did not reach the necessary normal development scale, and stores around the country had been and still are full of imported goods ranging from cheeses and “J.W. Bush’s chicken legs” to garments, footwear and mobile phones.
The whole economy and export operations have taken on an even more resource-oriented character than ever. Annual capital flight from the country is running at $100 billion to $150 billion.… Seguir leyendo »
It is always a tricky task to define complex and sophisticated social phenomena. Defining the political, economic and social order of modern Russia is even more of a challenge because of its transitional nature and the uncertainty of what has been transformed to what.
In particular, it wasn’t “bookish” — truly Marxian — socialism that had to be dealt with in the early 1990s and be replaced by a modern variety of market economy. Instead, the point of departure was a rough case of state economy disguised as public property. Private initiative was fully outlawed as totalitarian “communist” power of tougher or milder variety reigned supreme.… Seguir leyendo »
Trying to contemplate modern political, social and economic realities — on a global scale and country by country — analysts inevitably have to deal with issues and touch upon practical instruments of geopolitics, geostrategy and geoeconomics. Unfortunately, these three very meaningful concepts are often not very well comprehended. For example, if we ponder the United States or, for that matter, the Russian Federation, what will these “three geos” stand for in concrete and practical terms?
In modern historical circumstances, U.S. geostrategy seems to focus on such intricate and vital aims as preserving global stability. To put it briefly, there is no other single power around willing and capable of taking such comprehensive responsibility upon itself.… Seguir leyendo »
The bicontinental nature of Russia, mirrored in its national symbol — a double-headed eagle looking in two opposite directions — tends to express itself now and again in substantial turns in the country’s central government policies.
Thus, after centuries of domination by the Tatar-Mongolian hordes over the territory representing modern Russia, including its western parts with the center in Moscow, the emerging and integrating Russian state has taken a predominantly European orientation.
Paradoxically, while expanding its territory and statehood in the East Asian direction, Russia got accustomed to “looking West” for new ideas, inspiration and partners in cooperation. Actually this happened even before Russian Czar Peter the Great proclaimed “cutting a window to Europe” as the aim of his foreign policy.… Seguir leyendo »
Perhaps what is most amazing and regretful about the current situation in Russia is the nearly complete absence of truth and objectivity in the mass media covering Ukrainian events. Lie upon lie — unprecedented in quantity and quite typically dismal in quality.
It looks like a full monopoly of the nationalist Great-Russia-style propaganda! Obviously those professionals engaged in it and their high-ranking customers do not realize that to be really good in this profession takes some real education, talent and charisma combined with at least a certain degree of sincerity — actually, much more of it than in the case of Dmitry Kiselev, our main TV newsmaker recently decorated by President Vladimir Putin.… Seguir leyendo »
Trying to explain the causes of the recent sharp slowdown of Russia’s economy, many local analysts tend to concentrate on technical particularities of the country’s economic mechanism.
Typically, while doing so, they dismiss as “commonplace” and thus “impractical” such fundamental issues as the necessity to improve the political and investment climate, to radically revise the tax system and to stop discriminating against small and medium-size businesses — by setting for them clear and stable rules of the game.
Other observers, many of them foreign — such as Financial Times or Standard & Poor experts — point to basic negative features of Russia’s political and business environment.… Seguir leyendo »
Many peoples on our small green planet already live under more or less democratic conditions. This is a boon for mankind and a source of minor, and not so minor, differences in human mores and mentality.
For one thing, it is obvious that, in democratic countries, citizens display more tolerance toward each other and tend to show affirmative acceptance of others’ ideas and way of life.
In contrast, totalitarian and authoritarian rule tends to breed tension among particular groups within society — with ethnic, gender, educational and cultural differences serving as the base for social and ideological divides.
In Hitler’s Germany, in Stalin’s Russia, in Mao’s China, there were, aside from political opponents, various “chosen” categories that routinely came under fire — liberal thinkers, feminist activists, ecological alarmists, modernist painters and sculptors, postmodern writers, disabled and mentally ill persons, etc.… Seguir leyendo »
Since the presumably rigged elections of December 2011, Russia’s parliament — the Duma — has become very prolific in lawmaking. On the surface, that is a good sign because it is the legislature’s job to issue new acts and sometimes to amend existing ones in accordance with the current changes in social, economic and political environment.
But the pathos and general direction of recent lawmaking efforts seem to be mostly of a restricting nature and thus narrow political horizon and contract opportunities for the populace to openly display its mood and aspirations. Especially since the inauguration of the current Russian president, the freedom to demonstrate and picket both in favor of peoples’ demands and/or against certain government actions has been substantially curtailed.… Seguir leyendo »
In one of Moscow’s central subway stations — Arbatskaya — the escalator leading up to the city exit ends in a spacious vestibule. On the front wall, a classic frame several meters high is covered with white plaster. It bears no image, and the white paint must be regularly renewed to avoid ugly cracks.
Not many Muscovites know that beneath the white plane is hidden a magnificent mosaic depicting “the Great Leader” — Josef Stalin in the apotheosis of victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945).
I still remember how big and pompous that image looked and its intimidating influence on the weary people riding up the escalator.… Seguir leyendo »
In Soviet Russia, a maxim coined by the not-so-educated but very talented botanist and natural selectionist Ivan Michurin was popular and often repeated: “We may not expect any charities from nature; to take them from it is our task.”
This is quite an anthem to science indeed — even if it was sung in a dramatic historical context and put to questionable ideological use.
In my youth, I invented (or picked up somewhere) another maxim with somehow similar logic but an almost diametrically opposite meaning: “A fight against nature always ends with nature’s victory!”
What is true about nature in general should also be true with regard to human nature.… Seguir leyendo »
Moscow, they say, “wasn’t built at one go” — in contrast to St. Petersburg, which emerged laid out, as if by magic, in strict conformity to Peter the Great’s plan — and it has been growing chaotically for more than 800 years on seven gently sloping hills surrounding the river of the same name.
Today, Moscow is an agglomeration of about 12 million people, with more than 1 million visitors coming and leaving each day. Modern suburbs are marching ever farther from the 110-km-long road ringing the original city, while a recently adopted new expansion plan for the capital is aimed at doubling the city’s size, thus making it possible to move official institutions away from the historic city center.… Seguir leyendo »