Monthly Archives: June 2014

Off-Topic Rant: Football

It happens at least once every World Cup- Americans pretend to give a shit about soccer. Today it happened again. What is “it,” you ask?  Read on.

Ahem...Ladies: "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. " -US Flag Code, paragraph D.

Ahem…Ladies: “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. ” -US Flag Code, paragraph D.

Whenever multiple Americans are pretending to be interested in soccer, and particularly if they believe that there are non-soccer fans among them, at some point they will inevitably say something like this:

“You know, what we call soccer, the rest of the world calls futbol! I’m intellectual and worldly because I am pointing out this trivial American absurdity!”

Alright, the last part isn’t typically spoken allowed but it’s definitely implied. Some of you might remember an almost identical statement lampooned in the old TV animated series King of the Hill, and as it turns out that satire was spot on because I have actually heard Americans say this long after that episode appeared. The last time I saw that statement almost verbatim was during the last World Cup in 2010. Today’s rant was prompted after I saw an author repeatedly referring to football as futbol.  Still think I’m making this up? check out this Washington Post headline: “Poll: Do football fans care about today’s futbol match?” That came up simply by Googling the words “football match.”

 

For all you pretentious American soccer fans out there, no, “the world” does not call soccer “futbol.” The Spanish-speaking world calls it that. In Brazil, where I’m told football is kind of a big deal, it is “futebol”, pronounced roughly as “foo-chee-bow.” In Germany it’s Fußball. In Germany’s BFF, Poland, it’s piłka nożna(peew-ka nozhna). In Italian it’s calcio.  Yup, the whole world except stupid, cheeseburger-obliterating America calls it “futbol!” Football is the English word, for a sport invented in…wait for it…England. So here’s a tip to show how cultured you are without coming off as a pretentious fuck- Don’t make unsolicited declarations like this unless you actually bothered to check.  Unless you’re referring to football in a Spanish-speaking country, stop calling it “futbol” and just use the English term. Try that at your next party of social event and you might notice that the other guests are suddenly far less reluctant to carry on a conversation with you. Chances are they don’t give a shit about soccer anyway.

I really liked the match where they kicked the ball around and then it ended 0-0.

I really liked the match where they kicked the ball around and then it ended 0-0.

Now at this point I know I have provoked some people by my use of the term soccer. While it’s nowhere near as pretentious as the informative American “futbol” fan, I have noticed how citizens of the United Kingdom occasionally like to make snarky comments about Americans calling the game soccer instead of football. Well shit, if you didn’t want us to call the game soccer maybe you shouldn’t have invented the term.

“The rules of association football were codified in the United Kingdom by the Football Association in 1863, and the name association football was coined to distinguish the game from the other versions of football played at the time, such as rugby football. The word soccer is an abbreviation of association (from assoc.) and first appeared in universities in the 1880s. An early usage can be found in an English 1892 periodical. The word is sometimes credited to Charles Wreford Brown, an Oxford University student said to have been fond of shortened forms such as brekkers for breakfast and rugger for rugby football (see Oxford -er). Clive Toye noted “A quirk of British culture is the permanent need to familiarise names by shortening them. … Toye [said] ‘They took the third, fourth and fifth letters of Association and called it SOCcer.’”    –Wikipedia

Look, I’m not trying to launch into one of those typical American anti-soccer rants, though I do hate the tendency of players to act like they’ve been shot by a sniper every time a light breeze from an opponent passing by tickles the hair on their calves.  I acknowledge the extreme endurance it takes to play the sport, and one could see the low scoring as the inevitable by-product of being challenging. This also makes matches more unpredictable.

What gets me sometimes is the culture surrounding soccer. American sports fans can be annoying as they live vicariously through “their” teams, but that’s just it- they diversify. They tend to hold an interest in more than one sport, and isn’t unusual to find someone who religiously follows American football, basketball, hockey, and baseball all year long. You can see a by-product of this in the ever ubiquitous advertising that surrounds us. Sports-themed advertisements in the US represent all the major sports; the only time you tend to see multiple ads involving one sport is when you’re watching that particular support on TV.  When I moved to Europe that all changed. In the Czech Republic it’s not so obvious because that country has a huge hockey following that tends to balance out the football-themed advertising. But Croatia? Nothing but football.  Russia pretty much adores all sport, particularly if they happen to be playing against the US, but still most of the advertising here is football themed. Years ago I started to think that working for a European ad agency must be the easiest job in the world. Take your client’s product, and have it kicked around like a football by some famous professional players. No good? In that case anthropomorphic, computer-rendered versions of your product will be depicted scoring a goal against gingivitis, soap scum, hard-to-clean grease, or heavy flow during menstruation.

Don't let your period give you the red card!

Don’t let your period give you the red card!

One of the other many problems surrounding football soccer is the way some of its fans treat it like the World Cup is some kind of great celebration of peace, where all nations come together to play in harmony. Bullshit. Aside from the horrible things FIFA puts countries through in order to host a World Cup, soccer has a long, historical association with nationalism and even fascism. It’s just taken as a given in many countries. Just see how soccer stacks up to other sports when it comes to associations with far-right fanatics and neo-Nazis.

Sports without historical associations with nationalism or fascism

Baseball, basketball, American football, ice hockey, tennis, NASCAR racing, gymnastics, figure skating, downhill skiing, bobsledding, biathlon, curling, running, cycling, swimming

Sports with historical associations with nationalism or fascism

Association football, AKA “soccer,” AKA “Hitlerball”

Oh look, there must be a football match today! These guys just love the celebration of diversity and international harmony that the sport brings!

Oh look, there must be a football match today! These guys just love the celebration of diversity and international harmony that the sport brings!

The whole “football brings the world together in peace” thing is the reason why I loved the vuvuzelas during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

That was the last time I had to deal with the cascade of stupid pretentious comments about how football unites the world, and as soon as people heard those plastic horns they suddenly went ape-shit. All that peace and understanding went right out the window and I laughed my ass off at reading the whiny comments of British fans in particular.

Look, I don’t hate the sport itself. Frankly I don’t give a shit about spectator sports at all. I admire all forms of athletic activity. The problem tends to come from the cultures which grow up around those sports. When I look at conflicts in Eastern Europe such as that between Russia and Ukraine, I see people treating life like it’s a football match. In fact I’ve used the term “football nationalism” to describe this phenomenon for years, originally to describe the kind of nationalism one typically associates with the Balkans or former Yugoslavia. “Your” nation is your team, and all that matters is that you beat your historical rival, even if everything around you is crumbling. You’re reminded of this when you see advertisements in Russia telling you to “cheer for our own”(болей за наших); in English we’d typically say “root for our team,” highlighting the fact that it’s just a sporting event. Politics, indeed life, is not a football match. Not all Russians are on the same team, ditto for Ukrainians, ditto for everyone.

For the reader, however, I only ask for one favor. Regardless of whether you love or hate football, please, please, help stamp out the trend of English-speakers referring to it as “futbol” or claiming that it’s “actually called futbol” whenever and wherever you encounter it. Also please do the same with people whining about the use of the word “soccer.” Together, we can make a difference.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Good Stuff Part III: Your wedding traditions suck

Without a doubt, we Americans have the stupidest traditions when it comes to the process of getting married. Let us examine American wedding traditions and see how they stack up to those of Russia. Hopefully by making Western readers aware of these facts, it will spark a movement to ditch our corporate-contrived “traditions” and adopt far more economical, practical, and reasonable customs of Russia in this particular sphere.

Getting Married in America 

-“Tradition” dictates that the man should propose in public, typically making the biggest scene possible. You’re having a good time at a restaurant or sporting event, and suddenly you find yourself bidden to give your attention to some jackass who gets down on one knee and proclaims, “Madison, ever since I got you pregnant last month I knew you were the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Will you marry me?” We’ve all seen videos of poor saps who get rejected, sometimes in the middle of a basketball court in front of thousands of people. Instinctively we feel embarrassed for both parties, but in reality we should hold the man in utter contempt. He’s using all of us as an audience to pressure his girlfriend into saying yes, and if she refuses we have to feel awkward as a result. Could you imagine a married couple engaging an entire restaurant to witness one of their arguments? No, that’s “making a scene” and it’s bad because it makes everyone uncomfortable. But we’re all supposed to turn our attention away from our own very important business to watch total strangers take their relationship to another level, which statistically will lead to divorce within a few years. Thanks, asshole.

Occasionally I’ve heard American women brag about how “traditional” their fiances are, apparently because they asked their  father for their “hand in marriage” prior to proposing directly. This isn’t more traditional. This is fucking stupid. Aside from the idiocy of asking an adult woman’s father in a modern, free society for his permission to marry her, you’re not some kind of nobleman and neither is he. You work at Best Buy, he manages a fucking Denny’s. Chances are he’s not angling for the chance to marry off his daughter to some man who has landed titles or who can at least offer a large dowry.  Ask your girlfriend directly, and not in public.

-Diamond engagement rings. Ah yes, we all know the tradition that a man should spend two months salary on a diamond engagement ring. It is a deep-rooted custom which stretches far back into the depths of human history all the way to…1939-1947, the period in which the De Beers diamond cartel hit America with an advertising blitzkrieg aimed at making people think that diamond engagement rings are an essential part of getting married. Hollywood was happy to do its part as well.  So basically we think that no proposal can be acceptable without a “traditional” diamond engagement ring solely because…a company which sells diamonds basically told us so. This is a societal equivalent to the “wallet inspector.”  (Here’s an amusing video if you’d like to learn more. If you’re looking for more in-depth history on De Beers and their bullshit, look here.)

-The average American wedding costs something between $25,000-27,000, forcing some families to go into debt for their little girl’s big day.  All that money goes to planners, the dress you wear once, a tuxedo, the rings, bouquets, catering, limousines, DJ’s, etc. I was shocked to find that even in my home state, which is not known for having very high costs of living, a significant portion of weddings are over $10,000, with a slight majority being just under that.

-Brides wear a white dress, and ignorant people crack jokes about the color because they think it has something to do with virginal “purity.” Do you want to know where the white dress tradition comes from? Right here:

Behold, your goddess, ladies! Still want to follow the tradition of wearing white? Why not follow some of Queen Victoria's other traditions, such as marrying your cousin, for example?

Behold, your goddess, ladies! Still want to follow the tradition of wearing white? Why not follow some of Queen Victoria’s other traditions, such as marrying your cousin, for example?

That’s right. Queen Victoria started the trend of wearing white wedding dresses, and you know it couldn’t have anything to do with “purity” because Vicky very famously loved the cock. Loved it.

-You are expected to get married in a religious institution or failing that, by a member of some clergy.  I remember attending weddings where I knew damned well that the bride and groom were not religious, and as far as I know never went to church, yet there officiating their wedding was a pastor or priest.

-The father walks the bride down the aisle, signifying that he is giving his property daughter away to the husband, who will be granted official rights to bone her shortly thereafter. Father-husband parallels make me sick.

-The flower girl and ring bearer- why? I was a ring-bearer one time when I was about 7. Fuckin’ nailed it, of course.  But it seems sometimes that these poor children are chosen in hopes that they will do something amusing and it will be caught on video. Admit it. If you choose a 5-year-old nephew to be a ring-bearer, you’re secretly hoping he’ll blurt out some curse word he saw on TV the other night or piss himself at the altar. You’re setting these kids up for failure. You don’t need a flower girl or a ring bearer. The best man can carry the damned rings, and you’ve got plenty of flowers all over the place. If you must preserve these two make-work, unproductive job titles, give them to family members who are no younger than 10. By that age they have a firm understanding of what shame is, and the crucial role that feeling plays in making us functional, well-adjusted people.

-People at the weddings publicly making jokes about what the couple will be doing later that night. For some unknown reason it is perfectly acceptable for friends and family of the bride and groom to make “jokes” about how the newly-wedded couple will most likely be fucking later that night. No shit? In most cases they’ve already been doing that for months at this point. That’s why the bride’s two months pregnant. I realize this practice seems to run in certain demographic groups in the US, but I’m sad to say my family seems to be totally afflicted by this matrimonial social-filter breakdown. Can you imagine the same people making these cracks a couple years down the road, perhaps at a Thanksgiving gathering?

Married man: “Well thank you so much for a wonderful evening, but Madison and I have to get home.”

Father(winking furiously): “What’s the rush? Looking to spend some time alone with my daugher?”

Mother: “Oooh I bet these two are gonna be up aaaaaaaaaaaaall night!”

Married man(muttering to himself): “Tonight’s the night. I do her, the kids, and myself. Sweet release of death. I await you with open arms.”

Getting Married in Russia

-First off the bat there is one caveat I should mention, and that is the ridiculously bureaucratic process of getting the marriage registered. You and the bride must fill out a form with laser-like precision, and a desk-jockey will then examine the forms and your personal documents with the scrutiny of a watchmaker. They will look at individual letters in your names and occasionally lengthen lines or correct minute parts of those letters to ensure that they are perfect. That process was the toughest crisis my marriage has ever faced to date.  Another issue is the massive pain in the ass it is for the bride to change her name on all her documents, but I’m told it is similarly annoying in the US and luckily it’s not a problem for her to keep her own surname if she so wishes. I recommend it. This way if you are ever murdered, your wife will be able to secretly track your killers until it’s time to wreak bloody vengeance upon them. They won’t see it coming.

Anyway, yes, the paperwork aspect of getting married in Russia is annoying, but that’s not something the US needs to adopt.

-I have never seen a Russian man publicly propose to a woman anywhere. In fact I asked students over the years how to propose marriage and I was given two common examples. One is that a couple lives together for a long time and then one day the man or the woman will suggest getting married. Another common way is for the prospective bride to make the proposal, with the traditional phrase “I’m pregnant.”  I just casually popped the question on a Sunday morning, in my own place.

-No engagement rings. It’s pathetic how badly Russia beats America in this category because with Russian society being as it is, you would think that diamond engagement rings would be all the rage, especially given the fact that American TV and Hollywood movies have been very popular here ever since the 90’s. I’ve heard of some people buying diamond rings but De Beers thus far hasn’t been able to work its dark magic here for some reason.

-Costs. When I tally up everything associated with my wedding, that is to say every piece of notarized paperwork, wedding rings, wife’s dress(she bought it herself), restaurant, fees, etc.  The total comes out to around $1100. I just wore my best suit while my wife’s dress can be worn on other special occasions. We could have paid extra to have the band play the traditional “Wedding march” as we walked out of the hall after the short ceremony, but guess what- we didn’t! If I’m going to walk out with my bride to a march, this is what I’d choose.  Americans can call us cheap all they want. We used the money we saved to travel to three different countries.

-Russians get officially married in a state office, not in churches or religious institutions. You can get married by a priest or imam, but that marriage isn’t recognized by the state unless you go through the state wedding ceremony. You know what’s nice about getting married by a state official? They make it short and sweet instead of rambling on with that “Dearly beloved” bullshit. Then you get to sit down and sign this contract and the whole affair looks like you are two heads of state securing a free trade deal or a non-aggression pact.

"Let's see here. Blah blah blah...Sudetenland...yada yada...shall be annexed by Germany...blah blah... Screw it. I'm sure everything's in order here."

“Let’s see here. Blah blah blah…Sudetenland…yada yada…shall be annexed by Germany…blah blah… Screw it. I’m sure everything’s in order here.”

-No sick father/husband parallels.

-No stupid kids dicking up the ceremony.

Conclusion

Russian wedding traditions win, hands down. Perhaps if we started doing things this way in America, minus the nerve-wracking bureaucracy associated with the pre-marriage paperwork, we’d have a lot more successful marriages.

Also, I’m sorry but I can’t stand the name Madison for girls. It literally means “son of Matthew.” Is your name Matthew? Is your daughter your son? If you answered no to either of those questions, do not name your daughter Madison.

The Good Stuff Part II: Aeroflot

Today I was planning to write a “Good Stuff” article about the subject of weddings and marriage in Russia. After finally posting the previous entry I knew that there would still be dozens of people who would miss the point and stupidly characterize it as “Russia bashing,” therefore I figured it should be followed up with a positive article where I present one of the few aspects of life in which Russia whoops America’s ass hands down. Marriage, as in the process of getting married and the traditions associated with it, is one of those categories. At least that was what I was going to do, until I saw this recent entry from one of my favorite blogs, Gin & Tacos. So it looks like the marriage article will have to wait till later this week, because here we have another aspect of life that actually happens to be better in Russia.

I highly recommend reading the article because Ed is a hilarious writer, but for those of you who can’t bear to leave my page I’ll summarize. It’s an open letter to American Airlines, who gave the author a serious dicking over during his recent vacation. Thanks to this and a few other articles I’ve read over the last couple of years, I’m starting to get wise to the fact that air travel in the US sucks now. The last two times I flew to the States I used Delta, but lately I read online that Delta is worse than Hitler. Now I realize that some American readers might be wondering how I could possibly be unaware that air travel in America sucks, but that’s what happens when you spend roughly eight years in Russia, only returning to the US twice in that whole time.

For most of my flights since moving abroad I have flown Aeroflot. I returned to Russia on Aeroflot. I then used Aeroflot to fly to Turkey two out of the three times I’ve been there, and I’m planning a fourth. I’ve flown it to Spain, China, Krakow, and Vilnius. I have never had a problem with it.  Scratch that, I had one “problem,” which I would like to relate now.

It was late December 2009, I was flying to Istanbul. If I remember correctly heavy snows had just started a few weeks prior; winter had arrived. For those who haven’t been to Russia, know that there have been years where we have virtually no snow until late December, or later. Snow may fall as early as October, but this will usually melt quickly due to bizarre temperature changes. Our flight was delayed, naturally. The explanation they gave was that the airport was short of ground crew and there was an issue with prepping our plane, so they decided to switch it for another plane.  This was probably the safest bet.  Incidentally the plane was a Russian Tupolev but I have to say that inside there was nothing radically different from a Boeing or Airbus. In total I think the delay lasted maybe three hours, but in the meantime we were given vouchers for food, in stark contrast to poor Ed of Gin & Tacos. His flight, in the summer, was delayed for “weather.” We had a fucking blizzard outside.  A similar thing happened the following year, once again going to Istanbul but in this case it was a charter airline. Delays yes, but we made it, snow be damned.

I can say one thing about my American flying experience in recent years. Without going into details, I had to travel to several American cities back in 2012. Between major cities, the only flights I could find from Delta were flights which had stops in between, despite the distance not being terribly far. What is more, some of the stops actually entailed flying in the opposite direction. There was also some kind of issue in Minneapolis involving roller bags. Apparently too many people, i.e. everybody but my wife and I, had roller bags and they had stored them in the overhead compartment, thus leaving no room and requiring people to fly with their coats on. The attendant made several requests for people to voluntarily check their roller bags to make room, but alas a prisoner’s dilemma arose and nobody wanted to check their precious roller bag.  Why the fuck are roller bags allowed as carry on luggage in the first place? Make people check their fat, inflexible roller bags and this problem will not occur.

Also despite being Delta, I don’t remember any actual meals during the flight. I distinctly remember than on flights between Phoenix or Houston and New York there used to be meals. Not the kind of meal you would get on an international flight, but meals nonetheless. For fuck’s sake I once flew from Vilnius to Moscow via UTAir, a lesser-known Russian airline, and despite the fact that it was a twin-engine prop-plane I still got a complete meal for a flight which was just over two hours.

Security checks have caught up with the US in the sense that you can no longer carry large amounts of liquid on board with you, but on the flip side despite having body scanners and making you remove your shoes the security checks are not really invasive. I’ve never heard any Russians complain about being groped. Probably the only disadvantage of Russian airports is the slow passport control, but I’ve seen worse, much worse. In Krakow we must have waited at least 45 minutes in a passport control line, around noon, much of that time standing still. Apparently a thirty-something blonde Russian woman bore an uncanny resemblance to some Salafist arms dealer and thus the customs official had to make several calls to determine if it were safe to grant her entry into Poland.

So apparently this is just one of those things I’m going to have to get used to whenever, if ever I end up back in the United States. We’re constantly told that the free market ensures more choices and greater service, and yet it seems that every major airline in the US excels at treating its customers like shit.  This serves as one of those reminders that the only reason I’m considering moving back to the US is because it is the sole other option open to me. This enjoys the company of other things such as potentially terrible internet service, lack of employment prospects, and horrible political views rooted in profound ignorance.

"The captain has turned off the fasten seat belts sign and you are now free to GO FUCK YOURSELVES!"

“The captain has turned off the fasten seat belts sign and you are now free to GO FUCK YOURSELVES!”

Something for Everyone Part II: Conservative values

Introduction to this series

Russia – a land of traditional values!

Alright folks, this article comes with a few disclaimers.  First, in case you don’t want to read through the introductory article linked above, the gist of this series is that Russia’s foreign audience media tends to portray Russia in a wide variety of contradictory ways, so that people with radically different and indeed, diametrically opposed ideologies can somehow end up seeing Russia as some kind of representative of their views, a potential ally, or in some cases a promised land where all is right with the world.

I decided to start with the conservative/right-wing side of the coin for several reasons:

-Russia’s press and leadership often make this claim.

-Western right wingers from somewhat mainstream conservatives to full-on neo-Nazis often believe that Russia is a promised land of “traditional values,” in contrast to the degenerate, chaotic West which is due to “collapse” any day now, just as such reactionaries have been predicting for decades now.

-Left wing supporters of Russia often admit or at least know that their views are not common in Russia, ergo they tend to see Russia as a useful ally against their own governments as opposed to a model to emulate.

-I would say that few leftists are attracted to Russia by a belief that their ideology is better represented there. On the other side of the coin, many conservative or right-wingers often flock to Russia to live for long periods of time, drawn by the false belief that if they come here they will find women desperate enough to ignore their social ineptitude and actually have more-or-less consensual sex with them a wonderland of traditional values where they will finally be really appreciated and understood(hopefully by women who don’t have many options in life).  Typically they end up disappointed on all counts, but some of them manage to maintain their fantasy through the magic of self-delusion.

For these reasons I figured dispelling conservative ideas about Russia should take first priority. Partially because I’d rather not see more of these perpetually angry, maladjusted people coming here and attracting more of their kind, and partially because as much as I may obviously revile their beliefs, I’d actually prefer that they aren’t duped by false hopes into thinking they’ve found some sort of paradise into which they can assimilate, only to end up massively disappointed. My experience has been that right-wing ideas are often a product of youth and inexperience, and I’d much rather every young man(let’s face it, they’re always male) better himself by gradually getting acquainted with reality as opposed to getting a rude awakening after changing their whole life and betting on Russia to be their own personal paradise.

This leads me to my next disclaimer, which is even more important. In this article I’m going to be pointing out a lot of things which happen in Russia that contradict the idea of a country which is ruled by “traditional values” of the sort supposedly held by most American and Western conservatives or reactionaries. As I bring up some of these topics, such as the abortion rates in Russia for example, the reader should not assume I am making any kind of personal moral statement about these facts. The topic isn’t how Russia measures up to my moral standards, but rather those of conservatives and fellow right-wing travelers. I also need to point out that the values discussed here obviously won’t perfectly conform to every type of right-wing ideology, but on the other hand I won’t suffer any ridiculous accusations of “straw man!” I was very conservative, even radically so, up to the point when I decided to grow the fuck up.  I’ve read thousands of pages in right-wing literature, including stuff that would make your average liberal Alternet writer faint. I may not hit your ultra-specific, contrived, ideology-of-the-week which you synthesized from discussions on the pseudo-intellectual internet forum of your choice squarely on the head, but the issues I’m going to bring up definitely resonate with right-wing people in general. Let me make this absolutely clear- When I bring up a particular fact, please don’t assume that I am approving or condemning it. This is not a platform for airing my moral values or ethics. I am merely saying that these things happen and I am implying that these facts may strongly contradict what is considered to be conservative or traditional values.

Lastly, I realize that the ultra-Russophiles, particularly the non-Russian Americans which may or may not have ever spent any significant time in Russia, are going to get about halfway through this list of myths and facts and scream, “RUSSOPHOBIA! RUSSIA BASHING!” No, you neckbearded, drooling moron, this is not “Russia bashing.” This is not a list of things I bring up when someone talks about Russia. This is only what I bring up if someone wants to portray Russia as a land of good, wholesome family values in contrast to a “degenerate West.” If anyone makes that claim, it means we get to open the books so to speak and see if said claim measures up to reality.

Alright enough with the disclaimers, on with the show.

Myth 1: Russia has less “consumerism.” People put spiritual and family values over material benefits.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

No.

Okay allow me to explain. This idea about Russians is just an example of Western fetishization of “Eastern peoples”; similar stereotypes exist about people from India, East Asia, etc.  Usually the people who hold such beliefs don’t have any overt hostility toward the people they are stereotyping. Quite the opposite they often show great admiration. This doesn’t change the fact that it is fetishization, and more importantly it is wrong. I don’t mean just morally wrong either, but wrong as in incorrect.

This fetish can be held by left-leaning people as well as right-leaning, but in this article I’ll deal with the latter point of view for obvious reasons. I’m not sure how this stereotype about Russia got started. It’s hard to remember my thought processes so many years ago, but it seems to me the idea might stem from the observation, in my case direct observation, that Russians seem to have far less and yet we can see plenty of evidence that there are happy Russians. Therefore it follows that if Russians can be happy and seemingly satisfied with less “stuff”, they must value other things more.  That was the idea I got having lived in southern Russia at the age of 16.  Boy was I wrong.

As I moved to Europe and started encountering Russians before my return, I was dumbfounded by the brand awareness of Russians. Even several years into my time in Russia I was surprised at the regard Russians have for brand names. I come from a major American city and before I returned to Russia names like Lacoste, United Colors of Benetton, and Louis Vuitton were simply not part of my vocabulary. The average Russian on the other hand can rattle of brand names like an expert, and they hold them in extremely high esteem. Me I’m happy with Chinese knockoffs be they shoes or electronics.

The amount of money people will spend on things is absurd as well. I remember one of my ex-girlfriends whose biggest dream at the time was to buy this bag that was $600. For a fucking bag. Yes it’s real leather, but leather from what, a unicorn? And that brings up another point about consumerism. In case you’re wondering, fuck no, I did not buy that girlfriend the bag or any other presents. But realize that there are many young women in Russia who will give their body to the most butt-ugly, dirty old man simply for the sake of jewelry, name-brand clothes, and shoes. Now yes, this sort of thing happens in every country, even the leading developed countries such as Canada and the US. The difference is that in Russia it’s often treated as perfectly normal and logical, whereas in the West this is known as “golddigging” and it’s compared to prostitution. While this is by no means exclusive to Russia, it totally dispels any nonsense about Russians putting material values on the back burner or being “less consumerist.”

Indeed, the Russian attitude towards brands, “elite” products, and paying through the nose for less is by no means unique. I’ve heard people describe the very same attitude in various developing countries and the logic explaining this phenomenon is quite sound.  Most Americans and other Westerns come from the so-called “middle class.” Middle class Americans tend to brag about what kind of bargain they got. If they buy name brand, they want you to know how little they paid for it. It’s not owning the branded product that counts, but rather getting brand-name quality at what seems like a cheaper price. In developing countries or countries like Russia which suffered economic catastrophe, this middle class mentality doesn’t exist. There are indeed many families or individuals in Russia who started out in dire straits during the 90’s, only to survive and live on to be very successful today. Expensive brand name products and luxury sports cars tell everyone how successful they are. Excess, not consumer savvy is what matters. Whatever the case, it’s obvious that Russians as a whole love all sorts of products and gadgets, particularly from Europe and America. Shops often advertise “Italian footwear,” “German medicine,” “jeans from the USA,” etc. Moscow and other cities have massive shopping malls and any one of them puts the malls of my home town to shame.

Now at this point the right-wing Russophile is probably pounding his fist on the table and screaming, “But that’s the fault of the West! America rammed consumerism down their throat!” First, calm the fuck down. Second, no. For one thing, if you make that claim you are essentially negating any claim that Russians are less “materialistic,” “consumerist,” or whatever. More importantly, it’s simply not factually accurate. Take a look at this page which tells the story of the first McDonald’s in Moscow, which opened in 1990. People lined up for six hours just to get a taste of the food sold by this American icon. Guess what- McDonalds remain extremely popular in Russia. Pretty much any time of day they are packed, and the atmosphere is frantic. Same goes for consumption of American and Western products like Coca-Cola or Nike. Realize that these businesses invest in Russia and export their products here because it is profitable to do so, period. And not a single US or NATO soldier ever set foot on Russian territory to force Russians to consume Western products. The love of foreign goods pre-dates the collapse of the USSR by many years in fact.

So no, Russia is at best just as “consumerist” as any Western country, if not more so.

Myth 2: Russia is a more moral society

No. Russia, like many other countries, suffers from massive corruption. This is no secret to any Russian person you meet, and even presidents Putin and Medvedev have openly acknowledged this from time to time. When it comes to everyday people, corrupt behavior and law-breaking is taken as a given of doing business or sometimes sheer survival. Now on the one hand, solving this problem is no easy matter because it is essentially a major collective action problem. Individuals or groups in society which decide to fly right risk getting seriously fucked by those who decide to stick to their old ways, and they may have an incentive to do this simply because they see others starting to play by the rules, thus creating an opportunity to gain an advantage.  Having said this, corruption largely entails stealing, stealing which usually leads to the purchase of expensive Western products and other material goods, by the way, and I don’t think it’s over-simplistic to say that a society where stealing is so ubiquitous as to be seen as normal cannot possibly hold the moral high ground.

Myth 3: Okay, Russia at least is more traditional in terms of other morals. You know…ahem…er…sex.  

Ha ha! No. Wrong again. Here Russia is much like the self-righteous American south, and for the same reasons. See Russia doesn’t have comprehensive sex education, and the Orthodox church has successfully blocked any attempts to change that. And as is the case in certain American states and many other countries which have the same “values,” so too are teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases a major problem in Russia(and many former Soviet/Eastern European countries).  Teen pregnancy usually leads to the burden of raising the baby being put on the parents of the father or mother.

Young, frustrated American males are often duped by a number of sources into believing that Russian women are the perfect mates. They’re insanely beautiful, but unlike all those “dirty sluts” grinding away with stupid jocular douchebags in the clubs, they’ll more than happily listen to your rants about how immigrants are screwing up your country and lazy, welfare-abusing freeloaders are the real reason you’re working at Best Buy. But more important than any of that, unlike those “spoiled Western sluts,” they will have sex with you!

Allow me to break your heart and tell you the truth about your ideal Russian wife. Yes, it is true that things are more “traditional” over here. The problem is that most people who frequently use the word “tradition” as though it’s a good thing typically have no idea what is traditional and if they did, they’d be shocked, justifiably so.  Yes it’s true, women often expect men to pay for their dates. It’s also “traditional” for women to use this to their advantage. It’s funny how you often see misogynists these days complaining that chivalry is dead just because those spoiled Western women won’t let them pay for their meals, but then on the other hand women are “privileged” parasites for getting free meals and drinks from men if they don’t “reciprocate” with sex. Sex in exchange for food and drink- that’s chivalry! But I digress.

Other “traditional” behaviors you might encounter may include:

-Ordering the most expensive things on the menu because she know’s your paying.

-Spending copious amounts of your money.

-Deliberately getting pregnant so as to trap you.

-Cheating on you because the basis of your relationship is economic/immigration related.

-Flipping the fuck out over the stupidest reasons.

See it turns out that “tradition” means that the “traditional woman” finds a way to entrap the man into marriage. Young Russian men seem to be aware of this as well.  “Tradition” means strict gender roles which in practice leads to relationships based on manipulation, cold-hearted calculation, deception, and subtle resentment. Those “spoiled Western women” are looking better already, are they not?

Now let me make something absolutely clear. I’m not saying this applies to all Russian women(thought it does to a lot), but if one doesn’t have Russian language skills and experience that is what you will most likely encounter if you’re the type of guy who comes here seeking “superior” women. Admittedly this is anecdotal, but all the successful Russian-foreigner relationships I know of including my own, the man spoke Russian and had spent several years in Russia before meeting their long-term girlfriend or wife. We all have plenty of experience dating in Russia and we can spot the bad ones a mile away, sometimes before they even say a word.

While we are still on the topic of sex, keep in mind that this is a country where it’s considered acceptable for men in their 30’s to cruise for girls of about 17 or even 16. I assume it’s considered acceptable based on how openly I hear Russian men talk about it. Now to be sure, the age of consent here is 16, but I don’t think this means its morally acceptable for mature men to troll for teenage girls even if they are considered “legal.” I’ve been told that many states in the US have 16 as the age of consent, but I’m not sure that an American man in his 30’s hanging around outside a high school or shopping mall would be able to use that defense successfully when confronted by police. The difference between can and should can be very wide at times.

Myth 4: Russia is “pro-life”

Russia, like most former Soviet countries, has one of the highest rates of abortion in the world. Even with the massive, unconstitutional power the Orthodox church wields in this state, they have made little impact in changing the status quo. Good thing too, because history shows that banning abortion doesn’t actually reduce the rate of abortion. Turns out that the best way to reduce abortions is a combination of easy access to contraceptive plus comprehensive sex education.

Myth 5: Russia is proud and nationalistic, and this is good for some reason!

It might seem odd that I’m listing this as a “myth,” because I myself have frequently said that nationalism is widespread in Russia. But you have to understand that lurking just beneath the surface of that nationalism lies grave mistrust, hatred towards other Russians, as well as self-hatred.  In this sense it’s no different than our American “patriots” who constantly tell us that half of America consists of lazy freeloaders.  This sort of patriotism is merely skin-deep; Russia is a highly atomized society, and this creates a lot of alienation that makes people want to feel like they belong to a larger group or community. If you speak to enough of these people or watch them argue, however, you will see that they often show little trust in nationalist figures or leaders, who they often suspect of working for the government. This is natural skepticism and a good defense mechanism.

In short, America is a nation which espouses individualism but is very collective. Russia espouses collectivism but is highly individual. Both nations would probably benefit if they learned to accept reality.

Myth 6: Russia is very religious

Russia is religious in the sense that people say they are “Orthodox” or Muslim or whatever. But if you’re a conservative Christian brace yourself for a shock. If you go hang out with a few American Southern Baptists somewhere in the US, for example, you can be pretty certain that you’re not taking a trip to a strip club. In fact you might not even see them drinking alcohol. In Russia however, don’t be surprised to learn that many people consider it normal for married men, including fathers, to pick up girls when their wives are away or failing that, go to a sauna and order some prostitutes. Oh yes, American Christian fundamentalists struggle with temptation and end up giving in all the time. The thing is that they do struggle, and when they fail they feel bad about it.  In Russia it’s enough to simply wear a cross around your neck. Lie, cheat, steal, fuck. It’s all good.  This wouldn’t be so annoying if these people didn’t occasionally give speeches  about how important their faith supposedly is to them.  Look, I was raised in a Christian fundamentalist upbringing. I know what it means to fear eternal damnation. I am by no means saying that Russia is completely amoral, but I will say that there are a lot of “religious” people here who don’t act as if they actually believe in hell.

Myth 7: I love Ron Paul, ergo Russia is awesome!

I really didn’t know how to characterize this last bit. Libertarians often differ from mainstream conservatives yet they still tend to be rather conservative socially on virtually every issue save for legalized weed. It’s a cliche to find a libertarian who is an outspoken atheist yet for some unknown reason is extremely opposed to abortion or gay marriage. I have to include something about libertarians in here, however, because it seems RT loves libertarians and libertarians love RT.

I get it, libertarians. You love Russia’s state-owned media enterprise because it gives you a product which you subjectively value far higher than that of the American market-based media. I know you love how RT has stories about your beloved Bitcoin which is sure to end the Fed and which is the only other thing besides gold which has value. But I’ve got some bad news for you.  Russia is full of government intervention, state-owned enterprises or partially state-owned enterprises, and basically the entire Russian system is the opposite of what you libertarians claim you want. Do you know why this state of affairs exists? It’s because one day in the 90’s, Russia was libertarian paradise. What commercial laws existed were practically unenforceable, and the government wasn’t even able to collect taxes. Rather than becoming a rational, Randian utopia, the country sank into chaos and was only saved by re-nationalizing enterprises and strengthening the role of the state. Oh yeah, Bitcoin isn’t legal in Russia either.  Sorry.

Myth 8: One more thing about family values

The family is held as sacrosanct in Russia, or at least that’s what you hear people say. Reality is a different matter, however, if you spend enough time in the courtyards of the city. It’s not uncommon to see a father pushing his baby in a stroller, bottle of beer in hand. Mothers too. At night, past eleven, young fathers and mothers will gather in the playgrounds to drink, smoke, scream, and fight, sometimes while their young children play nearby. I’ve observed this behavior consistently for over four years in one neighborhood and not once have police ever been called despite loud arguments, physical fighting, and sometimes incoherent screaming.

Family values!

Family values!

Conclusion

I had to cut this short because if I did not, this one article could be a stand-alone book. I realize that this sounds really grim, and yes I am compiling some of the worst things about Russia in one article. Like I said before though, it’s the “paleo-conservatives,” American Eurasianists, Team Russia fanatics, and even Vladimir “Christian values” Putin himself who opened the door to this examination.  The Netherlands doesn’t go around screaming about traditional Christian values, so they don’t get the same treatment. Don’t make claims you can’t back up, pure and simple.

Perhaps someone could claim that all of this doesn’t matter because at least Russian society espouses traditional values and an ideological bent which appeals to that particular individual. If you’re that individual, however, I must ask- Do you even care if it’s real? Is it enough for you to see the outward image of a state that claims to uphold values you believe in, while the reality of everyday life in that society is the complete opposite?  If that’s all you want, maybe this is a good time to start rethinking your “values” if not your whole worldview. I am an extremely left-wing person and I can tell you that I would not go to bat for some state simply because it hoisted a red flag and claimed to be socialist.

Finally, if we just ignore all this pesky reality and assume that Russia is a traditional conservative country, is that even good? I mean it’s been this way since 1991, and Russia has yet to become a real economic power in the world. It had a shot a few years ago but according to the finance ministry thinks aren’t looking too good at the moment and time is running out as other nations figure out ways to compete with Russia in the natural gas market. While it might seem simplistic, have you ever noticed that countries which are highly traditional tend to be extremely poor, and those which are far more liberal tend to be the richest? It’s not that liberal values make a country rich, but usually vice versa. Governments and ideologues who can’t offer their people higher standards of living and opportunity fall back on vague, abstract ideas like “tradition,” or “spiritual values.”

Yes, yes, I know all those foolish, tolerant liberal countries will surely collapse any day now, but depending on where you start Russia’s has about 23-25 years, and the liberal Sodom and Gomorrah countries still enjoy far higher standards of living while Russia is floundering. Better hope they collapse real soon otherwise this will start to look embarrassing!

Fools! You'll see! The degenerate West will collapse in the next few years, while Russia's new Eurasian empire is rising! Alexander Dugin has predicted it! I can't wait to leave this filthy, slut-filled shithole of a country so I can move to Russia! My great-great-great-Grandfather was half Polish, meaning he was Slavic, meaning I am Russian. I will return to my ancestral homeland and assimilate into the superior Orthodox culture! Bleeeargh!!!

Fools! You’ll see! The degenerate West will collapse in the next few years, while Russia’s new Eurasian empire is rising! Alexander Dugin has predicted it! I can’t wait to leave this filthy, slut-filled shithole of a country so I can move to Russia! My great-great-great-Grandfather was half Polish, meaning he was Slavic, meaning I am Russian. I will return to my ancestral homeland and assimilate into the superior Orthodox culture! Bleeeargh!!!

 

A Pretty Good Article

I know there are readers out there who are highly anticipating the follow up to the last post, “Something for Everyone.” The problem is that my timetable is highly variable and as of late doesn’t permit me to put the kind of time into it as would be necessary.  That’s just not the kind of article you bang out in ninety minutes.  I wanted to give you, the readers, at least something for the first half of this week, so I found this rather balanced article.

I see only one major problem with it.  The premise of the article is that Putin is done for politically because he has caused damage to the base of oligarchs whom he serves.  The problem is that oligarchical control in Russia is a bit different than it was in the past. Putin still has the ability to smack down a few of these billionaires if they get to unruly, as in supporting some kind of opposition movement as in the author’s hypothesis. There’s another layer to Putin’s base which, while being neither extremely rich nor famous, can neutralize a certain number of rebellious oligarchs before they can become much of a problem. That is why I think if these oligarchs see conflict with Putin coming on the horizon they are most likely to simply leave the country rather than stay and try to oust him by funding some kind of Maidan-style movement.

There is another angle to this one flaw as well, namely that at the moment, there is nobody to replace Putin except maybe Medvedev again, and adorable as Medvedev is, there is always the danger of him being carried away to Isengard by a pack of orcs.  This sounds like a pro-Putin campaign slogan, but it is actually true because he made it so. After so many years in this country it hit me that opposition leaders like Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov don’t really spend time thinking about what they’d do if they managed to get elected president. While this article insinuates that Putin has lost touch with reality, he’s most likely the only powerful person in Russian politics who at least had some connection to reality, and who can be brought back to his senses.  The fact that nobody in Russia can adequately replace Putin in the foreseeable future is a separate question from how he leaves power, and even if he does kick the political con-men “advisers” to the curb and returns to the real world, this fact won’t automatically change.  Do I need to explain why this is a bad thing, seeing that a lack of Putin would lead to a power vacuum which could be filled by someone far worse?  Russia’s “intelligentsia” is jam-packed with fascist, reactionary wannabe tsars who would just love to impose their will on the populace, whom they see as cattle.

Anyway, other than the author’s wishful thinking, I think the article is rather sober and balanced.  Go read it.

Something for Everyone

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the chimerical image of Russia in the eyes of outsiders. I suppose that’s apt, given that his blog is dedicated to correcting misconceptions about Russia, but lately I’ve been devoting more time to considering the big picture. Lately I hit a sort of epiphany. It’s not that I realized something new, but rather that I finally found a simplistic way to put into words that which I had known for so long but could not adequately express to those not in the know.  Consider the following.

-Many leftists, now more than ever, are under the impression that Russia is somehow progressive, opposed to NATO, neo-liberal economics, imperialism, and fascism. Radical types, many of them calling themselves Communists, believe that Russia is somehow a quasi-socialist or at least socially oriented state.

-Libertarians love Russia’s state-run RT network, and see Vladimir Putin as a check on American militarism.

-Paleoconservatives and hardcore reactionaries believe that Russia has rejected socialism and embraced “traditional values”, and thus it represents a check on liberal “Cultural Marxism” and the like. The most recent example of this is Pat Buchanan’s article about Putin, but this viewpoint is quite old and in some ways pre-dates the fall of the Soviet Union.

Since populism tends to affect all three of those broad groups, it’s natural that one can find significant overlap, but this should be enough to show us that something is seriously wrong. How is it that various groups who are in many cases diametrically opposed to each other manage to come to the same conclusion, that Russia is somehow favorable to their beliefs if not representative of them? How does the radical leftist see Russia as a new Soviet Union while a hardcore rightist or even neo-Nazi believes Russia is a traditional ethno-state?  The answer is that Russia, through its various forms of media, is basically telling various groups what they want to hear.

Before we can explore this though, I must address some caveats.  The first objection might be that this is not the only example of a phenomenon with radically divergent groups of supporters. Euromaidan also had its share of cheerleaders from every stop along the political spectrum, from CATO libertarians opposed to Russia’s protectionist economics, to Trotskyites swearing that this was a genuine workers’ uprising, to right-wing nationalists hailing the destruction of Communist monuments in Ukraine. Right-wing Cold Warriors rubbed their hands with glee at the destruction of Lenin statues and Soviet flags while NPR-loving liberals were told about a solid alliance of creative types, students, and LGBT groups. I do concede that many movements, especially in this era of social media and PR, deliberately try to court people from all over the political spectrum. However, looking at Maidan I would say it is merely par for the course in former Soviet Union politics. In other words, Maidan’s supporters were basically doing the same thing the Kremlin has been doing, which I intend to explain here.

The second objection, which I myself acknowledge, is that different groups can support things for different reasons, something which always seems to be lost on many people when discussing Russian politics. Someone could read an anti-Maidan article on this blog and say, “I heard RT saying the same thing,” while another person could read an article critical of Russian policy and say that it’s similar to something they read by a neo-liberal hack.  This is similar to the fallacious argument, “Cows have four legs. Tables have four leg. Ergo cows are tables.”  Radical leftists see in Russia a check on imperialism and believe this to be good because their ideology holds domination of other countries to be a negative thing. Paleoconservatives believe their country is degenerate, and spreading its degeneracy via its foreign policy, ergo they like the idea that Russia is opposing this. Though we can talk about different motivations behind certain positions on certain issues, one thing above all stands out. There is an obvious presence of groups with divergent, diametrically opposed ideologies which believe that they have found a champion in Russia.

With that out of the way, the explanation for this is quite simple. On one hand it is the simplistic principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Therefore any group or individual deeply opposed to the policies of his or her government is likely to look favorably on any nation which appears to be opposed to that government. This alone can’t explain it, however, for we rarely see the same across the spectrum enthusiasm for countries like Iran, China or Venezuela. Of the latter two, they do have their strong partisans in the West, but these tend to be strictly left-leaning people. They don’t enjoy the same across-the-spectrum status as Russia.  The real reason for this, in fact, is because Russia’s foreign-audience media actively promotes these ideas. They have got something for everyone.

Westerners are really at a loss here because they don’t understand the kind of alliance politics which dominate the former Soviet Union. An American Communist cannot believe that Russian Communists condemning fascism in Ukraine might be in open association with Russian fascists.  A leftist who opposes imperialism cannot imagine that a great deal of influence in the Russian foreign press is wielded by supporters of right-wing ideologue Alexander Dugin, a man who openly calls for a Russian empire and the destruction of Ukraine. Conservatives cannot imagine religious fundamentalists marching with a nominally “Communist” party.  In other developed countries, political ideologies are taken seriously. Anarchists don’t march with the Tea Party, Tea Partiers don’t attend Occupy. It is only populists who swim in both seas. Both the Russian protests of 2011-2012 and Maidan easily demonstrate how different things are over here.  Just as Maidan had supporters from different political factions speaking to their receptive audiences abroad, venues like Voice of Russia and RT seem to combine this into one megaphone broadcasting to the world. Different audiences somehow filter out that which contradicts their ideological values and focus on what appeals to them.

This might seem advantageous to Russia, but I would argue otherwise.  Russia’s message isn’t attracting any true solidarity in the world because it is incoherent and seeks opportunistic, short term gains. It is also internally inconsistent, which further detracts from any coherent message they might get out.  Lastly, it only flies in inverse proportion to how much the audience actually knows about Russia. The more they speak the language, observe the Russian internet, and spend time actually living in Russia, the more they realize that the picture Russian foreign media painted is nothing but a joke, regardless of what their views are.  Leftists will be appalled by the way the state has let reactionaries run wild in recent years. Conservatives will be disappointed to find that this isn’t the land of “traditional family values.” Both will be shocked to see rampant “consumerism.”  Of course many of these romantics solve this contradiction by going into denial and carefully tailoring their life in Russia so as to minimize the cognitive dissonance which comes with living in a fantasy world. But then again, many others won’t. I became a romantic after my first encounter with Russia. I ditched that quick after I returned, this time as an adult.

Over the next few weeks, I will begin tackling the various myths that Russia’s foreign media and its allies have been selling to different political tendencies around the world. The inspiration came from this article. I would like to expand on that author’s ideas by fleshing out what he described quite accurately, albeit briefly.  Read that link and stay tuned.

 

This shit right here

This. Look at this picture. Look at it!

poro

That’s the new Ukrainian dictator president, Poroshenko, wearing a traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt, the kind you could find in the souvenir stores of Kyiv.  And it pisses me off to no end. You see there is this thing I’ve noticed about Ukrainian politics, and for me it goes back to Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko was basically an oligarch who reinvented herself as a type of Ukrainian patriot, supposedly by taking a crash-course in Ukrainian and then getting her famous, traditional hair braid. I remember my first visit to Kyiv in 2007 and let me tell you that what surrounded Tymoshenko was nothing short of a cult of personality on par with that of Putin. Souvenirs with her picture were plentiful, and people called her things like “Lady Yulia.” Nothing could be more absurd than an oligarch in Ukraine pretending to have some kind of connection with the people. If Yulia truly wanted to experience the life of the modern Ukrainian farm girl, she should have spent a few months working in a Greek brothel, preferably on the condition that an actual Ukrainian girl is released in exchange.  Braiding your hair doesn’t make you one of the people, except in Ukraine, apparently.

And so it is with President Willy Wonka. A billionaire puts on a traditional shirt and suddenly he’s as Ukrainian as every other Ukrainian. This is the kind of bullshit which flies when you have a nationalist mindset, even if it’s not as extreme as that of Svoboda or Praviy Sektor. You think your country, as you define it, is your team, and if Poroshenko wears your team colors he’s on your team! Idiocy. Sheer, unadulterated, idiocy.

I also need to point out that Putin actually comes out better compared to Ukraine’s posturing, costumed politicians in this respect. I’ve rarely if ever seen Putin walking around in traditional Russian dress, whether it be traditional peasant style or the more modern traditional dress, consisting of fake Adidas track pants, sweater, and a leather jacket.  But who’s to say this tactic wouldn’t work in Russia just as well as it does in Ukraine? Perhaps the best way Putin could recover his popularity is to simply go around wearing a traditional Russian kosovorotka.

"We're the same, me and you. Except I have a net worth equal to the GDP of Belize and I live in a walled compound in Rublevka. Other than that we are the same."

“We’re the same, me and you. Except I have a net worth equal to the GDP of Belize and I live in a walled compound in Rublevka. Other than that we are the same.”