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7 - No tomorrow

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Interesting take on Russian indifference to the doping scandal (they DGAF, and anyway it was the Americans)



http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/11/world/europe/russia-olympics-doping.html

The Russian reaction to moral questions is complicated by their association of national greatness with Stalin, who oversaw Russia’s industrialization and victory in World War II, but during his long rule millions died in prisons, forced collectivization, purges and mass deportations.

Russia tends to avoid confronting the crimes committed in tandem with its 20th-century climb to greatness, analysts said, especially since it is trying to regain the same stature. In defending Russian history, given that the government plays down what Stalin did, a doping scandal appears fairly minor in comparison.

Just last week, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church defended Stalin’s legacy without naming him. “Achievements of one or another state leader who stood at the roots of the country’s revival and modernization should not be called into question, even if that leader is known for villainies,” he said at an opening of a museum exhibition on Russia’s 20th century history that also showed how Stalin decimated the ranks of the clergy.

At the deepest levels, analysts say, the idea of morality in public policy died out decades ago, if not centuries, under the weight of government repression.

“It is not that Russian people are bad,” Mr. Babitsky said. “It is just that for 100 years they have not seen a politician who lives by any moral standards. When you bring up a moral argument, everybody looks at you as a kind of crazy person, like those people on Times Square shouting about the end of the world.”
 
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Good read. My initial thoughts on what the Russian reaction would be were reflected in the article by 'the average Russian on the street' - regarding doping "everyone else does it" and, regarding the current economic crisis "we've gone through worse".
I don't think Russian national greatness is associated solely with Stalin, they've a great history both culturally and militarily, much of it preceding communism. As for Stalin himself, he was undoubtedly a tyrant but he got the job done- he created an industrial powerhouse from a subsistence agrarian economy and led the USSR to victory over the Nazis* so for that there will be some gratitude.
Regarding blaming the West, its somewhat understandable, Russia for many years wished to be accepted by the West as a European state with a common civilisation but it was generally rebuffed, rejection always hurts so the subsequent damning of the rejector is not wholly unexpected.

*Well, the victory was in spite of many of his decisions- purging the army on the eve of war and ignoring top generals for much of the early years of fighting etc. Still though, the average citizen knew nothing of this and he was the main man so he'll be remembered for that so long as the official truth remains the dominant narrative.

(I may have strayed slightly from the article there, sorry).
 
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Isn't Pegida in Europe loaded up with Russians?
Flying Russian flags and in love with Putin and all that gear?
I'm redirecting this from the 'Party, Another Party' thread.

Why Europe Is Right to Fear Putin’s Useful Idiots

Here's a piece on Russian support for Europe's far-right.

A couple of points I would add - I think she's ignoring the fact that the EU is very much an elite driven project that the ordinary citizen feels no real engagement with, so, while the crisis did unleash an anti-EU backlash, there has always been an ambivalence to the EU amongst the people and a backlash would eventually have manifested itself, economic crisis or not.
Similarly, when the by-line claims that Russia is aiming to subvert the European idea, what is the European idea? The elite-driven EU and all that entails or a more grounded Europe with a host of different cultures and outlooks? I assume she means the first but I would hold the second to be more representative.
She also seems to miss that Russia has only relatively recently began to position itself as a defender of Christian orthodoxy (if you'll pardon the pun) and a bulwark against modernity, both of these positions appealing to those of a right-wing orientation. While European right wing support for Russian positions is a recent departure, it's not necessarily all about the material support Russia offers the European right.
She then goes on to claim that Russia is "hostile to the West and the value system — democracy, freedom of expression, political accountability — that it represents", again this is true but similar to the above, it's only a relatively recent phenomenon*, and, I believe, more the result of the perceived meddling of the West in Russia's sphere of influence and the rejection of Russia as a partner than it is a reflection of Russia's actual outlook.

The author is undoubtedly far more intelligent than I but her employer and worldview (as expressed through Twitter) suggests that an anti-Russian bias is at play here. Still, I wanna read her book.

*When talking about the period from the end of the Cold War to the present day.
 

7 - No tomorrow

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She then goes on to claim that Russia is "hostile to the West and the value system — democracy, freedom of expression, political accountability — that it represents", again this is true but similar to the above, it's only a relatively recent phenomenon*
Hasn't Russia more or less always been against these things?
They went from monarchy to Communism to whatever ersatz democracy they have now.
Elections are a show, rules go out the window in the service of power, the media is vertically integrated with the state, journalists get shot or go to jail, same with political opponents.
It's how it is today, and it was ever thus.
This is the only way of being that Russians have ever known.
It's the only way a KGB man like Putin knows how to operate.

That said, I don't buy that he's having a go at the West because he hates freedom. He knows that a strong EU is bad for Russia and for him. Anything he can do to undermine cohesion is fair game to him.
But he also can't be blind to the fact that communism fell because of the powers of ideas.

What does Russia actually stand for?
Do believe in Russia, what does one believe in?
It's a country that admits Stalin committed genocide on his own people, but mitigates what he did in the name of progress.
Some progress when the entire country is at the whims of the global oil market.

Sorry, I am rambling. I just don't get what is so great about Russia. Except perhaps their military capability.
 
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That's debatable; Tsar Peter the Great was certainly inclined towards Europe and its enlightenment outlook, he developed St. Petersburg as a European city to contrast with Russia as it was then, a rather insular state that had no interest in Western style progress. Following him was Catherine, another European inclined leader. The Bolshevik revolution interrupted what likely would have been a (slow) process of democratisation, Russia had only recently (in the grand sweep of history) ended feudalism and although there was no great rush to democracy, had communism not got in the way I'm sure Russia would eventually have arrived at that point. In the 90s Yeltsin attempted to draw closer to the West but was rebuffed again and again with Russia treated as a supplicant rather than as an equal. Of course there was no obligation on the West to do any different but if they had perhaps we would not be where we are today.
The rest of your first point is well taken though, for Russians it seems that when they don't have a strong leader troubles arise - most recently when they did experience democracy after the collapse of communism it turned out to be a crock of shit; the great mass of people were impoverished, the formerly guaranteed stability was upended and twice in quick succession the currency was devalued further impoverishing the people. All this was under Yeltsin the drunken mess so when Putin emerged and brought about a rise in living conditions (with thanks to the rise in oil prices) backed by a strong man image (see the second Chechen war v the first for a demonstration of a resurgent Russia) the people probably thought "fuck democracy", and who could really blame them?
Communism fell when it did because Gorbachev tried too much, too soon. He initiated economic and political reforms at the same time and in ceding more power to the Soviets allowed for the rise of ambitious opponents, primarily Yeltsin. He, Shushkevich and Kravchuk went behind Gorbachev's back to dissolve the Union and Gorbachev was too weak and indecisive to strike back effectively. The Chinese were exposed to the same forces yet managed to maintain their communist state, they introduced economic reform first and now, very slowly, are introducing political reform. I don't believe that the collapse of the USSR was a foregone conclusion.
Russia stands for itself as a great power, however true that is or not at a given time. A belief in itself as a civilising and unifying force that offers a counterweight to other powers. The Stalin genocide thing is played down and I'm not sure they'd identify it as genocide as such, just actions that had to be taken. He brought the USSR from the plough to being a nuclear power in the space of 30 years, that's staggering progress in anybody's book, that it was built on the bodies of millions is incidental, as he said himself, one death is a tragedy, a million a statistic.
They've got the military capability, they've got great composers and authors, they've got a vast history within and without a vast nation, they've got scientists to beat the band, and they have a distinctive culture that is uniquely Russian. There's a lot to admire there.

(I'm also rambling in parts here and apologies if I failed to fully address any of your points, do note them and I'll try later, I should really be on my way home now)
 

7 - No tomorrow

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(I'm also rambling in parts here and apologies if I failed to fully address any of your points, do note them and I'll try later, I should really be on my way home now)
No, that was great.

I still find the general population's omelette/eggs dismissal of the murder of millions to be staggering.
 
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Good piece here on the repression of gay people in Russia, the article argues that the whole anti-gay propaganda furore masked a much deeper repression of political protest within Russia

Real though these concerns are, they have had a disproportionate influence on Western media coverage. Over a thousand stories were published on the New York Times website including the words ‘Russia’ and ‘gay’ between 2011 and the time of writing, while items featuring the word ‘Bolotnaya’ number just 67.
Bolotnaya Square being the site of anti-governmental protests from 2011-2013.

The site also has a shorter piece on the very real violence used against gay people by ordinary citizens justifying their behaviour via the rhetoric coming from "prominent people in government, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the media", Occupy Pedophilia being particularly notable for their abhorrent behaviour.
 

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I'd second much of what Theodor Kaczinski has said above. To it i would add that much of what is repressive about the Russian political scene and tends to be attributed to Putin can actually be traced back to the Yeltsin years.
 

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I'd also add that Russians are generally not dismissive of the sacrifice of millions during the rapid industrialisation of the 30s. It's just that they recognize that the alternative would have been much much worse. Industrialisation is painful no matter how one looks at it. In the US it involved the genocide of the natives and the mass-importation of slaves. In the UK industrialisation proceeded on the basis of capital acquired from a rapacious colonial program and the untold misery that involved, amongst other things.
 

7 - No tomorrow

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Industrialisation is painful no matter how one looks at it. In the US it involved the genocide of the natives and the mass-importation of slaves.
Everyone acknowledges these things happened.
What no one says is "Slavery wasn't ideal, but we had an economy to build, so them's the breaks"
Apart from complete crackpots, most people accept slavery as a great national sin.
In Russia, the deaths of millions is regarded as the cost of doing business.
What is "much much worse" than killing, millions upon millions of your own people to have an economy that is at the whim and vagaries of the commodities markets?


Russia is still obsessed with being seen as a world power. Everyone from Putin to the man in the street wants it to be 1989 again. Which is all well and good, but as the defining ethos of government, it seems misplaced.
Bomb Ukraine cos we still need satellite states.
Bomb Syria because we want to be a regional player.
Fuck the sanctions and hardship for regular people that go with that because we need national prestige. It doesn't matter that you're hungry, we are bombing places on TV.
Lie and manipulate and murder opponents, journalists and anyone else that doesn't get in line because we have a story to tell.
It's a country in love with its past. And worse than that, its past was a lie to begin with.
 
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7 - No tomorrow

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From where I am sitting it is very hard not to look at people that love Russia and just see people that hate commercialism, the West, America, capitalism and so on. They had their shining leader in Communism, which has been proven to be a massive con.
And now they're left with backing Russia which is led by a murderous thug with an affinity for geopolitical chess, and a people that have never had a truly free press or the free exchange of ideas.

I mean would anyone that goes on about how great Putin is ever want to live in his regime?
 
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In Russia, the deaths of millions is regarded as the cost of doing business.
What is "much much worse" than killing, millions upon millions of your own people to have an economy that is at the whim and vagaries of the commodities markets?


Russia is still obsessed with being seen as a world power. Everyone from Putin to the man in the street wants it to be 1989 again. Which is all well and good, but as the defining ethos of government, it seems misplaced.
Bomb Ukraine cos we still need satellite states.
Bomb Syria because we want to be a regional player.
Fuck the sanctions and hardship for regular people that go with that because we need national prestige. It doesn't matter that you're hungry, we are bombing places on TV.
Lie and manipulate and murder opponents, journalists and anyone else that doesn't get in line because we have a story to tell.
It's a country in love with its past. And worse than that, its past was a lie to begin with.
The Russian psyche is one that sympathises the idea that the collective comes before the individual, so while it's a shame that millions died under Stalinism (particularly in the early years), their deaths dragged the country from what was essentially a feudal system into the modern industrialised era, this a trade off that was seen as worthwhile*. Regarding the economic reliance on oil and gas, that wasn't the plan, they also developed an industrial base that, had it not been for the inefficiencies of communism, could have rivaled the West, certainly in the 50s Soviet economic growth outstripped that of the US, even if actual productivity was low. It was only from the 50s onwards that serious amounts of oil and gas began to flow from Siberia, once this mineral wealth began to flow into the coffers it didn't matter so much that the rest of the economy was a mess; there was enough to keep the arms race alive and people out of absolute penury.
While they would like to be a world power I'm not sure it's the ultimate driving force behind all they do, any actions they've taken in their immediate neighbourhood have been in response to what they consider to be Western provocations - Georgia and Ukraine in particular. Russia has a long history of invasion from Europe, the Northern plain gives any invaders a straight run from Germany to Moscow with no real geographic barrier to speak of (Belarus and areas of Poland are pretty marshy/swamp-like but that is easily overcome) so, to the Russian mind, it's necessary to have this buffer zone that allows defence hundreds of miles from Moscow. Historically Russia expanded until it came to a vast natural defence; the Arctic Ocean, the Pacific, the Caucasus mountain range, there's another huge mountain range along the Chinese/Mongolian border whose name I don't know, the steppes of what is now Kazakhstan, and the Caspian and Black Seas all offered protection against potential invasion, it was only on the European side that there was no real natural barrier, hence the need for satellites.
Going back to the start again - hardship for the Russians is nothing new, they'll just get on with it, assisted by a media that sells the idea of a nation/civilisation under threat.

*Whether all those deaths were absolutely necessary is another argument altogether.
 
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From where I am sitting it is very hard not to look at people that love Russia and just see people that hate commercialism, the West, America, capitalism and so on. They had their shining leader in Communism, which has been proven to be a massive con.
And now they're left with backing Russia which is led by a murderous thug with an affinity for geopolitical chess, and a people that have never had a truly free press or the free exchange of ideas.

I mean would anyone that goes on about how great Putin is ever want to live in his regime?
This is rather more difficult to tease out.
I think a lot of the people who admire the current Russian regime do so because it offers a more conservative alternative to the liberal West, this somewhat tying in with the primacy of the group over the individual. It's not necessarily a hatred of the West, rather a rejection of the Western ideal as one that fits the world. Alexander Dugin goes on at great length about this and much of his thinking seems to inform current Russian political thought; while Liberalism works in the West it is because it is a product of Western history and society. It is not a one size fits all model and attempts to impose it elsewhere are nothing short of imperialism and racism, sold under the guise of human rights*.

*His words, not mine.

Oh, and yeah, I'd love to live in Russia, Putin or no. Which isn't to say that I'm an uncritical lover of the guy.
 

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You’re right of course, 7 - No tomorrow, almost everyone does acknowledge slavery and colonialism in the development of capitalism, as they should. However there’s rarely the same urgency to prefix any discussion of UK, French or American politics with a reference to the awful human costs upon which those bodies-politic are based.

When i said that Russians are generally not dismissive of the sacrifices of industrialisation i think it’s implicit that they don’t celebrate this suffering, however much some might valorise Stalin. The “much, much worse” was Operation Barbarossa and the Hungerplan Ost, whereby the Russian steppe was to be cleared of its indigenous inhabitants by war and starvation so that it could be settled by Germans. In that respect it wasn’t “the cost of doing business” but, rather, a matter of survival.

Russia is still a world power to some extent. It’s just that many assumed that it wasn’t. The stuff about bombing Ukraine is just wrong. Ukraine seems to be bombing itself, if anything. No doubt there’s logistical support for LNR and DNR coming from Russia itself, but to call it an active participant in military operations is to stretch it. It’s bombing extreme islamist in Syria at the request of the government there. None of this makes Russia some beacon of progress, and few would genuinely try to make that case. It’s not some irrational spoiler either though, but seems to at least act with a measure of restraint, something one could hardly say about the NATO powers, for example.

Communism transformed the country from being somewhere alongside Brazil in terms of industrial and social development in 1917 to being somewhere far beyond that by the time the USSR broke up. So it was far from a con, whatever its faults were. Its eventual collapse is not attributable to its systemic faults alone. Personal ambitions amongst the power elites also contributed, as Theodor Kaczinski alluded to above in the infamous Belevezha agreement.
 

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