Tag Archives: pensions

Oh the irony

Just a quick little update today. Prime minister and badminton champion of The Shire Dmitry Medvedev ruffled some feathers recently when he told pensioners in the Crimea that there wasn’t any money to raise pensions to keep pace with inflation. You can read about it here. There are a couple insanely ironic points about this little exchange which must be noted.

-One of the major motivations for people in the Crimea (and other parts of Ukraine) to side with Russia was the promise of higher pensions (and salaries in many cases). How do you like that “self-determination” now?

-The annexation of the Crimea and Russia’s campaign in Eastern Ukraine are both major contributing factors to Russia’s current economic woes, and both continue to cost the state a lot of money directly. There’s no money for a pension increase, but there’s always money for more rockets and shells to lob at the “Banderites,” not to mention the poor persecuted “Russian speakers” whose salvation apparently means being bombarded almost every night.

-To be honest, these people wouldn’t necessarily have been much better off were they still in Ukraine now, but at least under such a government they could organize, protest, and agitate for a redress of their grievances. I highly doubt many Ukrainians would come out in force against better pensions. Now, however, they’re in Russia, so they don’t get a say. If they make too much trouble, they’ll be labeled as traitors paid by the US State Department and thus fair game for harassment by thugs of all sort, not to mention spurious prosecution.

Apparently Medvedev reassured the poor peon pensioner that the government would do something when they “find the money.” I suggest you start looking in Panama, Bilbo.



Two Items

On 29 October, police shut down an obvious coup d’etat attempt organized by the Russian seventh column. A mob of about 30-35 fifth columnists, obviously in the pay of the US State Department, descended upon the office of Moscow’s mayor. Clearly their plan was to overthrow the government of Russia and then turn over Russian sovereignty to the United States. Luckily, the ever-vigilant police were on the scene to prevent this coup, and to stop Russia from becoming America’s 51st state, Gaylabama. Nice try, Obama!

Seriously though, what happened could barely be called a demonstration. As far as I have managed to gather from reading about the story and from the video, a group of teachers and doctors actually made an appointment to speak with the mayor or someone in his office regarding the state’s failure to keep up their end of the bargain on some kind of housing provision.  Unfortunately I cannot speak authoritatively on this because I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of provisions for teachers and state-employed doctors, but I do know for a fact that both education and healthcare are major targets of severe budget cuts made necessary by the government’s recent international dipshittery.

One disturbing part of the video shows a woman talking about how some “column”(she’s not sure whether it’s the usual fifth column or possibly the sixth or seventh) must be behind this injustice, and she’s sure that president Putin can’t possibly know what’s going on. In other words, the bureaucrats who are behind this mess are supposedly part of Russia’s 5th-48th columns of US State Department-paid agents, and she’s hoping that daddy Putin will be informed of this travesty so that he can make this all better.  Can you see why I get fed up with this country sometimes? A year ago it would be hard to find someone so stupid as to think Putin was somehow unaware of the corruption here. Now Putin is looked at as someone who is aloof from the system, and his name is invoked in hopes that he will set things right. In reality, while Putin may not know about this specific injustice, he’s more aware than anyone of what Russia has in store. He knows about budget cuts before anyone else. He must be able to infer what results they will have, but he just doesn’t care because it doesn’t affect him. If it gets too bad, he’ll be on a plane with a shitload of money in his accounts.

Of course it doesn’t matter how loyal these people are to Putin, because they have already identified themselves as fifth columnists. They protested; Russians aren’t supposed to do that.  You’re supposed to obey your leaders, no matter how corrupt, because…because….uh…AMERICA! GAY PEOPLE!!! BLEAAAARGH!!!

One other thing I’d like to note about this is the reaction this video has got from some Russians.  Here’s an example off Vkontakte.

“Эти бюджетники всегда голосуют за “Единую Россию”, потому что она им обещает квартиры, зарплаты. А как только трудности в стране – сразу майдан? Пусть едут в глубинку работать. И почему за популизм Собянина должен отвечать Путин? За Лужкова тоже Путин должен был отвечать?”

The main gist here is that the people seen in the video supposedly always vote for United Russia because they are promised apartments and salaries. I’ve seen similar sentiments expressed in the comments section of the video on Youtube.  I realize that some of these people may be right to some extent, but this is really the wrong attitude to take if you want change in the country.  So let’s say these people did vote for United Russia and support Putin. Why not acknowledge the fact that they were duped, like many people in Russia in the past 23 years? Why not reach out to them and show them why they were misguided when they thought that the leadership actually cared about them?

No doubt one could argue that a major reason for the failure of Russian opposition politics is that society is so atomized and people would rather attack other like-minded individuals over things they did in the past rather than respect the fact that they made a change in their lives.  Would it really be better if all these people just stayed home and continued to support the government?  It reminds me of the damned if you do, damned if you don’t attitude in American politics. What’s that? Your job doesn’t pay a living wage? Maybe you should have gone to college! What’s that? You’re buried in student debt? Maybe you shouldn’t have gone to college if you couldn’t afford it!  AMERICA!

The next story is from the “You have got to be shitting me” file, and it comes to us from the tiny non-country of “Novorossiya.” It’s fairly noteworthy that many of the local supporters of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics are quite elderly.  Well if they were expecting pensions from their new, unelected leaders, they can go fuck themselves according to the guy who was made premier of the Donestk Republic by a citizen of Moscow.

Alexander Zakharchenko told his citizens that they should ask Kyiv to pay their pensions, since they paid taxes to Ukraine all these years. That’s right, they tried to create their own country and refused to fully disarm and integrate into Ukraine, but Kyiv is still responsible for the pensions of people who are supposedly citizens of a separate country.  Okay.

Apparently some days before in the “Lugansk Republic,” not to be confused with a traditional republic where you vote for people who supposedly represent your interests, a peaceful demonstration of citizens demanding pensions and unpaid salaries was forcibly driven off by militiamen. In the process, shots were fired to disperse the crowd of unarmed fifth columnists, who had the audacity to demand that their new “government” actually function like a state.  Fortunately, their were no casualties.

I offer these two examples for those lying Team Russia fans, Eurasianists, and RT lovers who present Russia and Novorossiya as an alternative to neo-liberal capitalism and in some cases, a step towards socialism.  This is a “state” where unelected armed men, many from a different country, drive workers and pensioners away with gunfire when the demand their benefits and salaries.  This is a “state” which forcibly separates from another state, then tells the people who supported it that they should appeal to the latter for their pensions.  I’d call it a fucking joke but it’s just not funny. This farce will do nothing but prolong the humiliation of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples for years to come.

Where are all the old people?

A friend of mine brought up a really interesting point the other day. I had mentioned the fact that veterans of Germany’s Wehrmacht and apparently the Waffen SS receive government pensions from the German government, and that these pensions are far higher than those of Russia’s Great Patriotic War veterans. Add to that their top-of-the-line healthcare and we’ve got a goddamn whale of an injustice on our hands. But my friend’s point hit on something I never noticed before. Where are Russia’s old people?

That might sound like a stupid question because you can see old people, mostly women almost everywhere. What my friend hit upon, however, is where you don’t see them. In America you can often witness old people congregating in restaurants such as Denny’s or Country Buffet. Their attendance is so crucial to business that restaurants long ago devised “early bird specials” just to attract their business.  These old people can be seen sometimes in large groups, without the presence of under-50 people, seeking the protection of numbers from potential threats such as “those teenagers.” Because of their experience in the Great Depression they tend to seek bargains, but if you’re eating out several times a week and basically doing nothing but shopping at swap meets, playing golf, fishing, etc. it’s clear you have a decent amount of disposable income.  And if they think they have too much there’s always Laughlin, Nevada, where they can feed it all into a one-armed bandit.

That’s not what you see old people doing in Russia. Here the ones that aren’t begging on the street are in parks, a free activity, or selling things on the street such as vegetables from their garden. And when I say selling things from their garden I don’t mean they have this farmer’s market-style fruit and vegetable stand either. I mean they may be sitting next to a milk crate with a couple buckets of cucumbers sitting on it.  Now one could surmise that these people actually are taken care of by their families and they are doing this for a little extra money but that doesn’t really sound too good. I can understand an old woman in the US knitting socks and selling them on eBay or something, but it appears to me that some of these old women are dragging their meager crops into Moscow on a daily basis because it is potentially a matter of survival.

This is one of the things that drives me up the wall about Russia’s phony “patriotism,” so much of which revolves around WWII. The same people who literally destroyed the Soviet Union demand credit for its accomplishment. Meanwhile the veterans themselves are denied dignified pensions and high quality medical care, for what, exactly? Oh right, because some bureaucrats want to drive their German Mercedes and send spoiled little ‘Dimon’ to some American university. Thanks for the victory, Grandpa!

I’ve known about this shit for years, even before I returned here, but in the past I always thought that Russians were actually as upset about this as me if not more so. I’ve certainly seen the question raised by Russians before. But wouldn’t you know, someone just has to wave a flag and make references to a utopian Russian empire which never existed, and overnight everyone just closes their eyes to the injustices they see every single day. Giving back to the generation which made this one possible doesn’t interest them. We just get a holiday every 9th of May, where young people pretend to give a shit. We get films made by “patriotic” Russian filmmakers, at taxpayer expense, which malign, slander, and distort the war and insult the veterans. Worse still, the horrendously idiotic portrayal seen in post-Soviet Russian films totally puts off the youth, some of whom come away with the idea that the whole Great Patriotic War was a stupid mess, a big joke, and in some unfortunate cases they come away believing that the Germans were better and that the whole mess was really just a misunderstanding between two empires.

This is why, incidentally, I don’t discuss or read much about the Great Patriotic War these days. In fact other than a lecture I gave on the topic earlier this year, I haven’t dealt with the war at all since some time back in 2013. It had been a topic of great interest to me since I was 15. When I arrived in Russia I dove into this world of new sources which were unpublished in the West and untranslated. My bookshelf is still filled with the works of David M. Glantz, John Erickson, Overy, and Bellamy, not to mention the memoirs of Chuikov, Zaitsev, Abdulin, and even Josef Stalin. I have not cracked one of those books for almost a year now.

Do you know what it’s like to have the subject you love so profaned and distorted that you can’t even discuss it without becoming enraged or horribly depressed? Could you imagine a talented painter who one day destroys all his canvas and can’t pick up a brush? Could you imagine a master pianist who cringes at the sound of keys? That’s me, and I feel totally alone in this because the flag-waving patriot, as is the case with self-proclaimed patriots the world over, is more offended hearing about injustices like the one I describe here than they are at the injustice itself. It is always easier to shout people down rather than solve problems and right wrongs, and if there is one thing patriots love, it’s easy. Everything’s got to be easy for them.

I wonder if the veterans who live to see this ever feel that way. I think that even if they do, they are probably good at suppressing those feelings, unlike me. For who could claim to have that endurance which these people had? What few can say they knew anything close to the suffering they experienced? But Russia’s younger generations don’t care. They have Starbucks and iPads,  and now they think they have Crimea.  Who cares if you don’t see groups of elderly retirees gathering in restaurants and laughing it up? Who cares if they are reduced to selling homemade pickles by the metro? The elderly aren’t glamorous. They don’t appreciate the wonders of Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, or Apple.  See you on 9th May. Till then, stay out of our way, sell your vegetables, and don’t disturb the fashionable young people on their way to club B2.  And like, yeah, thanks for the victory or something.