It’s been a hard week. On the personal front, my job situation is still up in the air. As far as I know I still have a good shot at my dream job, but I’ll have to wait nearly two months to find out for sure. It was a real Catch 22 situation; if they had needed me at the earlier time, I’d have had about a week to run all over Moscow tying up all sorts of loose ends, but at least I’d definitely have the job. As it stands now, I have plenty of time to take care of those things and work at the same time, but I can’t be certain if I’ve got the job. As if that weren’t enough, I just found out I will have to find a new apartment after five years of living in a very convenient location. Donations to my crowdfunding campaign will mitigate this somewhat, but with only two weeks to go I don’t believe there will be enough money for any radical expansion of Russia Without BS in the near future.
As bad as that might seem, it’s not particularly cause for alarm. I think most long-term expats, excluding those who have access to massive amounts of funds, will agree with my assessment that living in Russia long term as a foreigner is essentially a series of one major crisis after another. You’re lucky if you manage to go six months without some major issue cropping up, usually involving your visa, living arrangements, or employment. You come to expect it, and thus you’re always stuck, perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it does, it’s almost a relief.
What is hard to deal with though, is the increasing unreality of politics in Russia. In the past week or so, we have seen the following stories:
Dutch investigation finds fragment from a Russian-manufactured Buk surface-to-air missile in the wreckage of MH17. Russia denies it, claiming the fragment is from a model of Buk that Ukraine uses. But wait. I thought Russia’s story was that the Ukrainians shot MH17 down with a SU-25 ground attack aircraft! The last three hypotheses, all of which were put forth without any verifiable evidence, claim that MH17 wasn’t shot down with a Buk SAM system. Oops. Also, Russia claims that the rebels got all their weapons from Ukrainian stocks. It’s a verified fact that the rebels had shot down planes several times prior to the downing of MH17. Oops again.
The president disappears and possibly confirms that Russia is actually run by a Chechen warlord. This is one of the great ironies of Russia. They’re putting out all this propaganda about taking on the US, NATO, etc. and yet when it comes down to Moscow vs. Grozny, the latter wins.
The pièce de résistance, St. Petersburg hosts a conference of Russian, European, and American fascists and other right-wing extremists. Of course nobody there gets investigated, arrested, or questioned about “extremism,” the Russian authorities’ favorite word, because this meeting was sanctioned by the government and people with ties to the Kremlin or its proxies in Ukraine were in attendance. Did anyone get arrested or detained? Of course! Three people demonstrating against the conference were detained by police. It’s official, folks, Russia is by definition a fascist country. You can tick off virtually every single box on any commonly accepted checklist of fascist features.
For the record, this is by no means the first far-right conference held in Russia with the blessing of the authorities. In the past they used to held at least one conference called the “White World Future” conference. American neo-Nazi David Duke was one of its speakers. So what makes the St. Petersburg conference different, then? Well for starters it’s the first majorly publicized fascist gathering since Russia started constantly babbling about fascism and neo-Nazis in Ukraine and Europe back in late 2013. The views of Ukrainian nationalist groups such as Svoboda or Praviy Sektor are by no means radically different from those of Russian nationalists or their European guests. Also, as Russia continues to flop and flail around, it has been similarly babbling more and more about its “victory” in World War II. While Dozhd TV got into trouble for asking the stupid question as to whether the Soviets should have surrendered Leningrad to the Nazis, the Russian government openly invites fascists into the city they weren’t able to take by force.
Was there any explanation for this contradiction? Well let’s look at an excerpt from Max Seddon’s article, which quotes a Russian attendee.
“Everything that’s happening in the Donbass is anti-fascism. Everything that Ukraine does is fascism. There’s no other fascism in the world,” said Alexei Zhivov, leader of an obscure organization called the Battle For Donbass.
Well there you have it, dear readers. Here is a grown man with the mind of an adolescent boy. As it turns out, this basically describes most of Russia’s elite, leadership, and intelligentsia.
Speaking of powerful men with childlike minds, Russian oligarch Vladimir Yakunin gave a lecture where he introduced numerous conspiracy theories and railed against globalization and capitalism. Yes, a Russian oligarch complained about capitalism. Indeed, he was put in charge of the Russian Railways, which is ostensibly state-owned, yet he and the company rely on the global capitalist financial network to accumulate and secure their ill-gotten gains. This man, who owns massive estates, even admitted that his son and granddaughter “happen” to live in London, one of the hubs of this evil Anglo-American financial empire. This man is a patriot.
In a rare twist, an Orthodox website got a warning from Russia’s censorship agency, Roskomnadzor. Their infraction? They mentioned that a man committed suicide because he could no longer tolerate the pain of his medical condition. Why is that, you ask? This article explains how bureaucratic controls make it nearly impossible to get proper pain medications for people suffering with conditions such as cancer. As is always the case, the Russian government would rather prevent people from talking about the problem rather than fix it.
So there you have it, dear readers. That’s all within the space of a week, give or take. Why don’t I write a comprehensive analysis of the connection between neo-fascism and the Russian government, using the St. Petersburg conference as a basis? Why don’t I poke more holes in Yakunin’s theories and lampoon his hypocrisy? To be honest, I simply can’t. Not now.
If I were getting paid to write about these things, it would be easier. It would be doubly easier if I weren’t living here while doing it. As I said before, my current employment issues, living arrangements, and financial obstacles are nothing special, but when they are totaled together with what can only be called a tsunami of galactic stupidity, something just snaps in your mind and you fall into this malaise. This is the effect of unreality in large doses.
I think it will pass soon, even as Russia continues to descend into madness. At the very least, I’ll get the job I’ve been angling for and that will get me out of Russia for some time. Of course in an ideal world, I’d leave Russia permanently and never think about this place and its politics again for the rest of my life. But if I have to continue writing or speaking on these issues in exile for the sake of supporting myself and my family, so be it.