One reason I’ve been a bit pissed at Russians lately is their submissive attitude toward the government as of late. Now at this point some American Russophile beardo will triumphantly proclaim that according to polls, Putin is more popular than ever, and Russians are just standing up for their country. Well no, no they are not. See while Russians will publicly speak about supporting their president and the annexation of the Crimea, they quietly duck into Sberbank and exchange their rubles for dollars as much as they can. If they can afford it, they still pay lots of money to help their children study abroad. Rather than help out Crimea’s struggling tourist industry, they still take their vacations in Europe, the United States, or pretty much any place but Crimea. Young men beat their chest about saving “Novorossiya,” yet not only do they not pack up and join the fighting as some clearly have, but many of them go to great lengths to avoid service in the military. In other words, public statements aren’t backed by actions.
Where it gets infuriating is that just a couple years ago, it was hard to find anyone who bought into the government’s patriotic bullshit. Contrary to the Western media’s coverage, few of these people would describe themselves as “liberals,” nor were they fans of Navalny. In fact even Navalny fans I’ve met don’t seem to trust him very much, and this is totally understandable. Getting back to the point, people were often very apathetic, but they were honest. They said what they believed.
A good example of the way Russians didn’t buy government bullshit was the Sochi Olympics. The insane price tag, which ended up costing around 51 billion dollars, started to become a topic of discussion around 2012, particularly since up to that point there had been stories about money disappearing with little to show for it. Naturally the government flogged Sochi nonetheless, but Russians didn’t buy into it. They talked about the costs, missing money, and most important of all, the myriad of more important things that money could have been spent on. Memes circled the Russian internet, displaying photos of kids in orphanages and homeless pensioners on the street with the caption “SPONSOR OF THE 2014 WINTER OLYMPICS.” Whether it was conscripts suffering abuse and poor conditions, corruption in the police, or deteriorating roads, Russians were not afraid to voice their opinions and they didn’t buy into the regime’s bullshit propaganda or promises.
Then came the Crimea, and so many who were once either at the protests of 2011-2012 in body if not in spirit suddenly changed sides. Indeed, even several famous “opposition” figures sold out as well. In spite of the fact that Russians actually had more access to the Crimea before the peninsula’s annexation, in spite of the fact that this has essentially put a knife in the heart of the Russian economy, which was already facing serious problems before talk of sanctions was ever raised, and in spite of the fact that Russian citizens are being robbed of their pensions to pay for this shit, many people who once had no time for the government are suddenly standing up on their haunches and praising master. The only thing missing is their profuse apologies for not trusting in master’s wisdom. Again and again I keep instinctively going back to this dog-begging-for-scraps analogy, but it’s not even appropriate. This is as if the human actually took some of the dog’s food and left it a small piece of bone. Few Russians will be able to enjoy a vacation in the Crimea and that number will surely decline as the economy weakens. And in spite of this, they’re thanking the government for it.
At this point I feel compelled to state the West’s role in this. The typical story is that by ganging up on Russia, it has unwittingly aided Putin by uniting people behind him. Granted both the EU and especially the US committed their share of boneheaded actions, particularly in regard to the Maidan movement, but I don’t think this excuses the slave-like behavior of people. Let’s be frank- Neither America nor NATO are responsible for Russia’s problems with corruption, alcoholism, ethnic hatred, prostitution, and the like. When there’s yet another drunken domestic violence incident going on outside my block of flats at 2 in the morning, the alcohol wasn’t supplied by CIA agents. When some bureaucrat skims off money for himself from a project, there’s no Academi contractor holding a gun to his head and telling him to do it.
Yes, the destruction of socialism and the neo-liberal economics which followed in its wake were indeed the foundation of these horrible conditions, but many Eastern European and Former Soviet republics faced similar disasters, often with far less wealth than Russia, and yet today they do not suffer from the same problems, or at least they don’t suffer those problems to the same degree. Their presidents and prime ministers change as they are elected by the people.They sometimes have major parliamentary struggles because their political systems, as corrupt as they may be, are actually competitive.
Of course the response to this is that all those countries are somehow “ruled” by the US, and Russia will stand against them to the end. But stand for what? Russia’s ruling elite won’t be the ones to sacrifice. Russians love saying “we” this and “we” that, but everyone here knows that there is no “we.” The elite is angry that their ability to secret away their ill-gotten wealth in the West has now been severely diminished. It appears their response has been to take it out on ordinary people. When the bill is due, they are made to pay it. Of course eventually things will play out much like they did in 1991, but that’s when you’ll see many of these bureaucrats and politicians suddenly hopping on planes and “defecting” to various Western nations, telling every journalist they meet about how they were “dissidents” against Putin’s regime. No doubt some will become demagogues and revive the chorus that Putin and his inner circle aren’t true patriots, nor are they truly the “strong hand” Russia needs. Should these patriots ever take power, rest assured they will take their place among the mansions of Rublevka and things will continue in much the same way as before, with perhaps a great deal of bloodshed in the process.
The most infuriating thing about listening to these fair-weather fans now is that whatever they say, you know that they don’t actually believe that. You know because if you had arrived here as recently as a year and a half ago, those same people would be telling you a completely different story. There is something quite sad about watching people who, while cynical or apathetic, were at least candid about their own thoughts. They wouldn’t ignore the problems they faced every day just because some jackass on the news points his finger toward the west and shouts “AMERICA!” Maybe they weren’t keenly aware what was in their best interests, but they sure as hell knew what wasn’t. If someone told them that they should militarily annex the Crimea or Eastern Ukraine in 2012 those people would have laughed. They tell you that Russia would be better off fixing the roads in Siberia or just the goddamned postal system before trying to expand its territory.
Pity, those days are gone, at least for the time being. Everyone is concerned, everyone knows the truth, but they are afraid to say it aloud now that more and more people are readily labeled traitors and fifth columnists. Eventually sheer survival will force them to admit the truth, but that means the fall is going to be much longer and much harder. Until then I can only hope they can maintain some semblance of order in this country until I can get the hell out of here. In any case, I can no longer respect people who so readily obey an authority which shows nothing but contempt for them. If they had stood up to their own government, Euromaidan probably wouldn’t have happened the way it did, if at all. Russia would continue to attract investment and grow. People would gain real pride, not this phony, masturbatory jingoism that resembles sports fandom. Unfortunately it seems that most of those people who got out in the streets and protested, as well as many of those who frequently voiced their dissatisfaction with the conditions in this country, didn’t really want to work for change. They were hoping for master to wake up and give them something for free, and when it appeared that he was going to do this, they started singing his praises.
People can stand up for a lot of idiotic causes. We have morons in America who will protest shit that isn’t even happening. But it is far better for people to be skeptical of authority and willingly to voice contrary opinions than for them to mistakenly believe that their leaders are on the same team.
EPILOGUE: Cue rant from pro-Kremlin dickbags about how “Russia doesn’t care what anyone thinks”(that’s why it puts so much money into things like the Olympics, World Cup, and RT, right?), Russia is unique and has “it’s own way,” and all the other cliched bullshit phrases which characterize the contemporary “pro-Russian” masturbatory rant.