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[P]
Dont cry for me, Vladimir Lenin

By eLuddite in MLP
Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 09:36:01 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Jeffrey Tayler is a travelogue writer without peer. In the latest issue of The Atlantic Online, he is proclaiming the death of Russia.


In the usual tradition of accidental tourists, military enthusiasts amateur and professional, knights against the Evil Empire and the Evil Monk (pix0r!), Jeffrey Tayler has managed to rewrite Russia's obituary:
Internal contradictions in Russia's thousand-year history have destined it to shrink demographically, weaken economically, and, possibly, disintegrate territorially. The drama is coming to a close, and within a few decades Russia will concern the rest of the world no more than any Third World country with abundant resources, an impoverished people, and a corrupt government. In short, as a Great Power, Russia is finished.

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Dont cry for me, Vladimir Lenin | 40 comments (38 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Well... (4.33 / 3) (#2)
by RareHeintz on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 06:10:36 PM EST

Interesting stuff - I voted it up - but some of the things that made Russia/the USSR a superpower haven't gone away yet, and won't go away anytime soon. Not least among these is their nuclear arsenal, but their natural resources (Siberia has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, large reserves of strategic minerals), a population of almost 150,000,000 people (many of them rather well-educated), and a fair industrial infrastructure ought to keep them out of banana-republic-grade obscurity for some time yet.

Of course, organized crime, a corrupt government, and a culture that is entirely unequipped to deal with a free market and a democratic government doesn't help - but give them a generation, and see what they do.

Just my 2 rubles.

OK,
- B
--
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily

Interesting that you ended the way you did (3.00 / 2) (#3)
by eLuddite on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 06:33:36 PM EST

Just my 2 rubles.

Oh no, you must give your pocketbook more credit. Rubles have their Russian adjective form in the word dengi which describes "theirs" or "of the fatherland." Dengi is inferior to valyutny ("hard" currency) which is reserved for the infinitely preferable items of dignity and value purchased with dollars. From Jeffrey's Siberian Dawn,

Valyuta was a symptom of national malaise, of disgrace, a voucher of credibility in a system of fiscal insolvency; as its prestige increased, Russians' faith in their own system diminished.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Russia (3.50 / 2) (#4)
by aphrael on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 07:00:08 PM EST

is a mess. Unfortunately, it's a nuclear-armed mess. Sure, it's got a hell of a lot in the way of natural resources --- the use of which has caused some of the world's worst environmental disasters, including a once huge sea that has all but vanished, a desperate and quixotic attempt to reverse the flow of a river, and the desertification of what had once been among the most fertile areas in the world. Historically important towns like Samarkand (outside of Russia, but within the USSR) have been deprived of their history, cast adrift in time with no intelligible way to recreate their culture.

The economy is devastated, and the people learned well the lesson of the communist years, during which time the only way to function was through corruption; corruption is the basis of the modern economy and is likely to remain so.

Worse yet, corruption has so infested the organs of the state --- and love of the motherland, while not atrophied, has proven incapable of translating into sacrifice for the motherland --- that the state is essentially not functioning. The comparison to Zaire is apt; Zaire is an *immensely* wealthy country (in terms of natural resources) in which the state, and the economy, have completely stopped functioning. Russia isn't there *yet*, but it's close.

Too close for comfort.

the unpatriotic russian mob (4.00 / 2) (#5)
by eLuddite on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 07:23:23 PM EST

Worse yet, corruption has so infested the organs of the state --- and love of the motherland, while not atrophied, has proven incapable of translating into sacrifice for the motherland

Louise I Shelly, Director of American University's Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, wrote an an op-ed piece for the New York Times in 1999 repeating Izvestia's description of Russian corruption as unpatriotic. Unlike American or even South American crimelords and corrupt officials, Russian black market money flows in one exactly direction: out.

Then the launders take over:

The U.S. government and the IMF may have committed one of the largest blunders in the history of international financial assistance by lending to Moscow's corrupt government and the Russian Central Bank. There are strong indications that a significant part of that assistance was abused or embezzled, possibly ending up in bank accounts in the United States and Switzerland. It is also possible that billions of dollars were diverted and laundered through the Bank of New York and other financial institutions.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Declare (4.50 / 2) (#6)
by SPrintF on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 08:03:46 PM EST

It seems appropriate to mention here Tim Powers' recent novel, Declare, which explains the real reason that the Soviet Union collapsed. Since it's a Tim Powers novel (in the tradition of Last Call and On Stranger Tides), you can expect that the reason is a bit more esoteric than the usual explanations.

Esoteric? (none / 0) (#17)
by The Cunctator on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 02:39:56 AM EST

I found it utterly convincing. Declare wasn't nearly quite as good as Last Call, IMHO. But it is fun seeing the SF writers take on WWII (Cryptonomicon, Declare). I suspect they're realizing that it's a fount of techno-socio-political fodder and everyone involved isn't dead yet, but is about to be.

[ Parent ]
And Apple won't survive the year (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by slaytanic killer on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 08:34:22 PM EST

The Russians come from a very proud intellectual tradition, and are perhaps not entirely sane. In fact, many of them are acting perfectly rationally -- the point is to gain currency that actually means something, not pointless rubles.

Economists like Jeffrey Sachs perhaps thought they could fit a round peg in a square hole, but Russia is nothing like a Third World nation. Many Russians understand quite well what market economics are about; Adam Smith may have described a utopia, but it does require a strong enough government to ensure that people do not pursue strategies that break the system to their will.

What bothers me... (2.33 / 6) (#8)
by jd on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 09:28:36 PM EST

Is that Russia is populated with Vikings who found it more profitable to stay than to go home after plundering.

If it stops being profitable, you think they might want Denmark back?

Russian, from an insider (4.66 / 6) (#9)
by strlen on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 09:31:50 PM EST

Well, I'm not truly from Russia, I was born in Belarus, lived there for my first 13 years, then moved to United States. Yet, I still check news papers (via the internet), communicate with other "Russians", speak fluent Russian (I even have a Russian accent), and am planning to visit sometime.

Russia is marked by two peculiar qualities: a well known intelectual tradition (Pushkin, Lomonosov, Tolstoy, Landau etc..) along with extremely cruel and tyrannical governments (from Ivan V'th to Stalin). As for territorial disintigration, that is nothing special. Chechnya is to Russia what Vietnam is to France -- a former colony. Russia has been a colonial power, and its zone of influence was Middle Asia (not Middle East), Eastern Europe, Caucasus, Far East. And under authoritarian governments, colonies are not easily given up -- as has been in case of Portugal's Antonio Salazar (East Timor, Angola, Mozambique), Spain's Franco -- all the countries that have released their colonies, have done it after having established a stable democracy.

Perhaps Russia will return to its normal size (the original size it was under Peter The Great (which still, is pretty f'n huge), but it will not decay. And as in case of Spain, Portugal, recovery from a totalitarian state is not easy -- and the larger the country, the more diverse the people -- the longer it takes. What has to be insured, is that the middle class, what generally shows the differences between third world countries and others, does not decay.



--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
Russia scares me (3.50 / 2) (#11)
by cezarg on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 11:23:10 PM EST

I come from a country where there is a lot of hatred towards Russia. Unfortunately our reservations towards that country are well founded in history. Poland has suffered a hell of a lot purely due to the fact that we had Russia across our eastern border.

Now even after the collapse of the communist regime in Russia I'm still concerned what this huge and unsteady country will come up with next. Call me paranoid but I don't think we as a nation ever enjoyed a single century without at least one war with Russia. It's an imperialistic state whose national pride is purely based on its past conquers and this mentality still prevails in that country's society.

Witness their new president Mr. Putin. Just like everyone with their right mind predicted, that guy was blowing hot air. He's done bugger all so far to improve the state of their economy and didn't even dare touching all those oligarchs who effectively keep on running the country. The most disturbing fact about Mr Putin is they way he got into power. He didn't have to present any realistic economic programme. He wasn't made say whot he was going to do to cure the country's finances. All he had to do is say on public television that he'd [quote] blow the Chechens up even if they're in a toilet [end quote]. That alone was enough for over half of the russian population to vote him into the office without the runoff. It's not just Russia's political and economic system that's fucked up, it's the society too. Unless they (Russians) realise that wars are expensive and they can't afford them as a country they'll be frigging poor forever.

I hope Russia collapses soon and splits into smaller countries that manage themselves. When Russians abandon those great empire myths hopefully the'll be enough pragmatism in them to just start building their future from ground up on solid democratic foundations instead of being mentally stuck in their "glorious" past. Which is what I sincerely wish to every Russian citizen. For their own good.

Re: Russia scares me (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by MeanGene on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 11:39:10 PM EST

Let our "quiet" Polish neighbors not forget that it was Polish troops that at one point occupied Moscow and installed their own puppet tzar.

European history is too intertvined and incestuous for any country to be able to claim itself as a victim and a peaceful lamb.

Heh, at least Russians never said things like: "We are the best of the human breed, so the more space we occupy the better it is for the whole civilization." The preceeding quote by the way, is by a certain Brit - Mr. Rhodes or Rhodesia and Rhodes scholarship fame.

[ Parent ]
Never heard of this (none / 0) (#13)
by cezarg on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 11:50:26 PM EST

Never heard of the incident with a puppet tzar. Can you provide a reference link? I would like to follow up on that.

Russians never said that they should occupy the whole world but you sure have the history of grabbing the neighbouring nations as you please and when you please for no apparent reason. Look into the future instead of yearning for the good ol' days and things will be better in Russia too.

Now, I infer you're Russian so I have this question to you: what the hell do you have in that bloody Chechnya that makes you send thousands of troops there. If they want to turn the place into Afghanistan II let them do it. Russia has a lot more pressing stuff on its hands. You guys need less land and more management which can only be accomplished once the country gets to a reasonable size. What makes Russians want to control Chechnya so much (other than the injured Russian pride)?

[ Parent ]

Re: Never heard of this (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by MeanGene on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 12:34:30 AM EST

> Never heard of the incident with a puppet tzar. Can you provide a reference link? I would like to follow up on that.

I don't have any specific URL, but here's something from memory - and you should be able to pick up any decent textbook on your own country's history:

Second son of Ivan IV died under some strange circumstances. Then in 1601 certain Grigory Otrepiev appeared at the Polish court, got engaged to Marina Mnisek and gathered troops of some restless Polish nobles. He went into Russia presenting himself as Dmitriy I (son of Ivan IV) and eventually took Moscow in 1605. He was killed in Moscow the same year, but not before emptying the treasury to pay off the Polish "panove."

There was a second impostor - Dmitriy II. Together with the Polish noble Zebzidowsky (sp?) he took many towns, but not Moscow. And was killed in 1610.

At the same time, Polish king Sigizmund Vaza was busy with the siege of Smolensk - what was this peaceful Pollack doing in the heart of Muscovy? And oh, by the way, need I mention that Poland at the time was occupying present Ukraine?

The point is, just because your country's era of conquests ended several centuries ago doesn't make it right to complain about the neighbors.

As far as Chechnya goes, Russian gov't should do everything it can to prevent it from becoming an "Afghanistan II." You may like to think that you're part of Western Europe and "almost" EU, but how would YOU like to live next to Afghanistan? Drugs and weapons and restless people who grew up knowing nothing but war...

[ Parent ]
Drugs, weapons, restless people? (none / 0) (#15)
by cezarg on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 12:47:51 AM EST

Drugs and weapons and restless people who grew up knowing nothing but war...

Man, are you listening to yourself? You sound like the archives of your (kremlin run) state television. This is exactly what kremlin wants you to believe. They need a scapegoat to explain themselves for Russia's desperate situation. I fail to believe that Chechens are the ultimate evil of the Russian nation and that once they are gotten rid off everything will be well. Keep on believing this nonsense.

The point is, just because your country's era of conquests ended several centuries ago doesn't make it right to complain about the neighbors.

Actually it does. It's called advancement of civilzation. Most countries already realise that war is neither profitable nor glorious. Real battles are being fought at the corporate level. It's time Russia made this transition too.

[ Parent ]

Re: Drugs, weapons, restless people? (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by MeanGene on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 08:03:55 AM EST

> Man, are you listening to yourself? You sound like the archives of your (kremlin run) state television. This is exactly what kremlin wants you to believe. They need a scapegoat to explain themselves for Russia's desperate situation. I fail to believe that Chechens are the ultimate evil of the Russian nation and that once they are gotten rid off everything will be well. Keep on believing this nonsense.

Man, are you listening to yourself? You sound just like those pseudo-liberal jerkoffs in Strassburg who desperately need to justify their existence.

I don't watch TV (Russian TV included), so here you go. Chechnya is not the solution to all problems, but it's a problem to be taken care of. For example:
1. Chechens practice slavery.
2. A relative of mine had to run for his life from Grozny in the early 1990s because of the quickly increasing violence.
3. It is impossible to "seal off" Chechnya and let them stew in their own juices.

> Most countries already realise that war is neither profitable nor glorious.

What have you been smoking? War is enormously profitable for those who supply arms and for politicians. For that reason alone, wars will keep going on. As far as glory goes, Colin Powell is in the US State Dept. now because of it.

> Real battles are being fought at the corporate level.

Believer in a free market, eh? Actually, free markets don't exist. The real battles are still fought on the gov't level with regulation and taxation of international trade. But when that doesn't work (or works too slow), there's nothing like a good old-fashioned violence.

[ Parent ]
Er, nope. (none / 0) (#19)
by cezarg on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 08:43:28 AM EST

Chechens don't practice slavery. Not routinely anyways. As for your relative who had to flee from Grozny well, Chechens are routinely discriminated against in Russia (pretty much the same way gypsies are discriminated against in Poland for example). What else do you expect back from them? I'm not saying that it's right but that's the way it is. They view Russians as opressors so they are not being nice to you. No surprises here.

The fact that you don't watch TV actually makes sense as Putin just captured the only remaining independent TV station in Russia. From now on all media in Russia will be soaked in Kremlin's propaganda. Mr. Putin is obviously drawing on his KGB experience here.

Believer in a free market, eh? Actually, free markets don't exist.

Free market is a reality for most of the western world. It just doesn't exist in Russia. What you have is a degenerated, unregulated version of it. This isn't a free market economy there it's a bitter parody of thereof.

But when that doesn't work (or works too slow), there's nothing like a good old-fashioned violence.

Again nope. While this is true in some trades (diamonds) or some countries (Russia) it is not the general rule. Tax SWAT teams do not exist in most countries. If you think that the whole world is based entirely on underhanded deals and dirty money you need a reality check. It's not nearly as bad as you think. If the only country you've recently been to is Russia you really need to travel a little bit more.

Finally, I'm not here to trash Russia. I'd love to see the country prosperous and peaceful. If anything just because it's still Poland's second largest trade partner. But in order to do that Russia must go through a mental adjustment. Namely people of Russia must start believeing that the state can work for them instead of against them. Secondly Russians must stop believing in miracles. No single person will drive Russia to prosperity. Stop idealizing your leaders and start scrutinsing them. You've had a fair share of tyrans, isn't it time the Russian society started monitoring their lawmakers' actions? Don't let Putin do just whatever he wants to for he's not going to be the Saviour. There must be a grassroots effort started in Russia that will improve the nation's social and political awareness. Otherwise you'll just keep switching from one Big Leader to another.

Anyways, this thread got off on the wrong foot but I really have no major grudge against Russia per se. But Russia needs to understand that countries such as mine are completely independent of Moscow and they can run their states as they please. Once this idea sinks in your politicians' heads I'm sure the relationship between our countries can greatly improve. Then we will be able to have a healthy and normal situation which is in the best intrest of both countries. Take care.

[ Parent ]

Whence this 'free market' thou speakest of (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 09:23:43 AM EST

Free market is a reality for most of the western world.
Show me one prosperous western country that has a truly free market. All the ones I have any knowledge have tremendously mixed makets. The USA has incredible agricultural subsidies, for example. Or how about the Cuban trade embargo? Surely an indicator of a truly free market.

What about Japan's MITI? The UK? Nope. France? Nope. Germany? Nope. Canada? Nope. All mixed economies.

Now, I'll grant that most western countries have markets that are free by comparisson to other countries. But in many cases, that doesn't mean diddly squat.

Nothing can be more pitiful and absurd than to pride oneself on one's genius
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Berdyaev, "The Ethics of Creativity"


[ Parent ]

My definition (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by cezarg on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 09:30:19 AM EST

My (very pragmatic definition) of a free market is that if it's free enough that normal citizens have an unrestricted access to goods and services that fulfill their needs and that enterpreneurs can pursue business without being punished by the state or the mafia for doing so it's a free market. Surely it's not the utopia that Adam Smith dreamed about but utopian structures are just that: utopian. For all intents and purposes the US is a free market economy. Free enough to create opportunity yet restrictive enough to prevent anarchy. However, Russia just went from one extreme to another.

PS. Stop nitpicking. Argue with my point instead of chewing on individual phrases.

[ Parent ]

Re: My definition (none / 0) (#24)
by MeanGene on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 10:06:52 AM EST

> My (very pragmatic definition) of a free market is that if it's free enough that normal citizens have an unrestricted access to goods and services that fulfill their needs

So, basically all you want is prosperity. And you couldn't care less where it comes from. Well, under Socialism you were reasonably well off compared to, say, free market Brazil or, ahem, free market Egypt.


[ Parent ]
Define prosperity (none / 0) (#29)
by cezarg on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 12:31:27 PM EST

Prosperity is a result of a market economy. Prosperity for all citizens however, is governed by a number of other requsites such as low corruption, low to at most moderate crime rate with little trace of organised crime, working law enforcement and justice with sensible law and order. I suppose this isn't the definition of a free market model but these things are the prerequsites of a functioning free market economy. Poland as a country addressed or is addressing most of these issues and that's why our market economy is functioning (at least to a degree) and Russia's isn't.

[ Parent ]
Interesting definition (none / 0) (#31)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 12:42:53 PM EST

Prosperity is a result of a market economy
If one defines prosperity as the result of a market economy, by definition no non-market economy can ever be prosperous. Interesting way to argue for the superiority of a market economy, to eliminate the chance for any non-market economy to achieve any sort of prosperity because by definition prosperity is the result of a free market.

As an aside, while I agree that many of things you mention in regards to government and not the economy (justice, law and order, working law enforcement) are good things, they are in fact orthogonal to a functioning market economy. I think that perhaps you are confusing the ideas of peace and prosperity. They are not the same thing and each is possible without the other even thought they are each experienced best hand in hand.

Nothing can be more pitiful and absurd than to pride oneself on one's genius
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Berdyaev, "The Ethics of Creativity"


[ Parent ]

I wasn't exactly nitpicking (none / 0) (#25)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 10:10:42 AM EST

I was just pointing out my largest contention with your previous post. In fact it was the only significant part of your previous post that I disagreed with and hence the only part I criticized. Other posts of yours I have disagree with more substantially and have responded where I felt appropriate.

With your clarification, I'm pretty sure I understand what you mean, though your wording is a bit contradictory.

I, however, continue to disagree that the US is a free market "for all intents and purposes." I also have little faith that a free market is necessarily a good thing. It can be, but whether it is or not depends more on the culture and mores of the society than whether or not the free market exists.

In other words, life under a non-free market doesn't suck because it's a non-free market, but because of other factors like a culture of violence and totalitarianism.

Nothing can be more pitiful and absurd than to pride oneself on one's genius
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Berdyaev, "The Ethics of Creativity"


[ Parent ]

Re: Er, nope. (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by MeanGene on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 10:01:48 AM EST

Chechenz do practice slavery routinely enough and with enough support from non-slave-owners to be able to keep people in bondage for 3-5-8 years (those are documented cases).

And there's a big difference between casual discrimination and institutionalized violence.

The reason I don't watch Russian TV is that I live in the US. But I don't watch American TV either. Nevertheless, NTV was neither free nor the last non-gov't TV. Gusinsky owned it for his own political purposes. His buddy Berezovsky owns TNT and TV-6 - and doing just fine.

It's quite funny that somebody who preaches "free markets" is so upset about foreclosure for non-payment of debts - 200 million USD must be pocket change, right?

Free markets don't exist even in the "1st World." Before Poland joins all the sweet organizations, perhaps you should acquaint yourself with such fine points of international trade as tariffs and protectionism. Does the phrase "Banana wars" ring a bell?

[ Parent ]
loans, shmoans (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by eLuddite on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 11:42:58 AM EST

It's quite funny that somebody who preaches "free markets" is so upset about foreclosure for non-payment of debts - 200 million USD must be pocket change, right?

If you follow the article's reasoning, you must conclude that Russian loans have been repaid multiple times thanks to the fact that they were made contingent upon the deregulation of the ruble and free market prices for non strategic goods.

As a result, the oligarchs have been able to finance the movement of strategic goods to the west using worthless rubles. They sold these goods to their own offshore companies at below dollar market prices and those off shore companies turned around and sold them to the Mercedez or who not.

Thus Russia is being stripped of its strategic resources without an opportunity to derive ecomic benefit or even taxation. Meanwhile, Mercedez is selling more cars to the oligarchs than they ever have to the Bundestag.

It's no wonder you dont hear the West crying over bad loans. They never do, you know, for any country. If you force someone to bargain with you on your own terms, you're going to come out ahead in that bargain.

Russia is not ready for state capitalism. It has a hundred years of unpreparedness to catch up with, first.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

The Quest for Peace (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 09:55:33 AM EST

MeanGene: The point is, just because your country's era of conquests ended several centuries ago doesn't make it right to complain about the neighbors.
cezarg: Actually it does. It's called advancement of civilzation.
You are obviously more educated about Poland than I am, so I might very well be speaking from ignorance. If I am, I would like to be corrected.

My reading of history tells me that Poland's decisions to no longer conquer other countries has less to do with an increasingly enlightened civilization than with lack of opportunity. I don't single Poland out here, I extend the same to most other countries. As examples of this theory I would point to the massacres of Jews by Poles in WWII. Loading hundreds of people into a barn and setting it on fire simply because of their ethnic heritage doesn't speak of a terribly enlightened and peaceful culture.

The same criticisms can be leveled at other countries as well. Just this past weekend, my hometown, Cincinnati Ohio in the heartland of the USA, was the site of race riots after police shot an unarmed man. Notable was an event that occurred after the riots began to settle down. Following the funeral of Timothy Thomas (the man who was shot and killed), a squad car pulled up, six police officers jumped out and with no warning begin to shoot the crowd with shotguns loaded with bean bag ammunition. Several children were hit. One woman who was hit needed hospitlization. After the unprovoked attack, the police returned to their cruiser and drove away.

Enlightened and peacable behavior, wouldn't you say?

cezarg: Most countries already realise that war is neither profitable nor glorious. Real battles are being fought at the corporate level. It's time Russia made this transition too.
Economic warfare is still warfare and no more moral or enlightened than warfare using force of arms. It simply hurts the invading force less. The victims, in many (not all) cases, still suffer and die. Of course, on that note, some invasions by force of arms are also peacable in that no blood is spilled.

Nothing can be more pitiful and absurd than to pride oneself on one's genius
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Berdyaev, "The Ethics of Creativity"


[ Parent ]

Poland's no angel (none / 0) (#28)
by cezarg on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 12:04:11 PM EST

I make no bones about it. There are things in Poland that I don't like and I'm not going to deny them. In fact they are the primary reason why I decided to settle elswhere (Canada). Main things are self centric view of the world and almost fanatical catholicism [is that a word?].

However, those problems are miniscule compared to what Russia is currently going through. Also I think In terms of how much damage we did to other peoples is relatively small compared with the other nations. Take Jedwabne for instance. I'm not in denial. It was Poles who did them and I'm sure that we as a nation have even more skeletons in our closet. However if you take things on the grand scale we fare reasonably well. Does Austchwitz (Germans) mean anything to you? How about Katyn (Russians), or colonies (British, French) or slaughter of native Americans (USA)? Every nation comitted atrocities and those things should not be forgotten.

However, the way American media is portraying us as Jew haters is disgusting and hurtsome. There is a lot of grassroot work to be done in that department in Poland but we're hard at work trying to rebuild the society on tolerant grounds. Telling everyone that antisemitism is rampant in Poland not only insults our tradition of tolerance but also could become a self fulfilling prophecy. I think the US media must drop the sensationalist streak from every newscast they report and present things as they are. It causes damage and builds stereotypes.

[ Parent ]

Sure, no one is innocent (5.00 / 2) (#30)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 12:34:48 PM EST

As I tried to communicate, I don't think that Poland is any worse (or any better) than any other nation. Poles are human and given what I expect of human nature, I am rather cynical about virtually every country.

Which is precisely my point. Poland is no more or no less civilized than Russia. Certainly there is a different culture with a different feel. There are different mores, different values, differences in outlook. Both have incredibly rich and varied histories and traditions. Both have produced both great thinkers and sinister villians. Both have produced sinners as well as saints.

I would contend that the only reason that Russia's Imperial era lasted longer than Poland's has nothing to do with Poland being more civililized but is simply the result of a the quirks of history (who has control of the right resources at the right time). Imperialism has not any type of option for Poland for quite some time.

To imply that Poland is more innocent because other countries have committed larger and more revolting atrocities is to misunderstand that at the end of the day, we are all part of the same humanity. We have met the enemy and he is us. We all have a heritage of genocide, conquest and murder alongside a heritage of art, poetry, and beauty.

Anyway, I do quite agree with you about the USAian media. They feed us (at our own request) a putrid smorgasboard of lies and rhetoric. A great example was the entire discussion concerning the recent war in the Balkan that didn't even mention the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Christians by the Croatian government in WWII. This slaughter certainly doesn't justify Serbian Ethnic Cleansing, but it certainly puts it into an almost entirely different light. The media in the USA look for the soundbyte, instead of presenting issues in depth, they are characaturized into sound bites that can portray one person or group of people as villians and one person or group of people as heros.

Nothing can be more pitiful and absurd than to pride oneself on one's genius
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Berdyaev, "The Ethics of Creativity"


[ Parent ]

Re: Sure, no one is innocent (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by MeanGene on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 09:38:41 PM EST

I would contend that the only reason that Russia's Imperial era lasted longer than Poland's has nothing to do with Poland being more civililized but is simply the result of a the quirks of history (who has control of the right resources at the right time). Imperialism has not any type of option for Poland for quite some time.

I apologize for invoking, ahem, geopolitics in this forum, especially since my understanding of it is somewhat limited.

Basically, any nation's expansion is limited by three factors:

  • natural boundaries: oceans, deserts, etc.
  • powerful neighbors with strong identity
  • passionarity of its own that produces explorers and adventurists willing to seek out and settle unknown realms
Note that there're two different types of empires:
  • Empire with colonies. Western European countries had no qualms about exploiting brown and black people in Africa and South America whom they never considered even remotely equal. And when the heat became too much, they had no problems abandoning those lands because (almost by definition) colonies are far away from the mainland. Think Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium - the countries that expanded by sea.
  • Empires that absorb instead of colonizing. Think Rome, Mongols (Chenghis-khan), Turkey (Ottoman) and Russia - the countries that expanded by land. These empires actually had to live with the peoples they acquired, and thus were granting them citizenship rights. At least in Russia, that meant converting to Orthodox Christianity in order to be able to join the government service.
So, as you see now, Russia (once united), indeed, had clearer expansion opportunities than Poland (or Germany) - it was limited by Catholicism on the west, Turkish Islam on the south and Chinese Buddhism on the east.

And to suggest, as some people did in this thread, that Russia should somehow miraculously split itself into several small self-contained countries is to suggest to return directly to the 1300s. The country cannot be divided as long as its people continue to think of themselves as Russians - as opposed to "Siberians," "Muscovites" and so on.

[ Parent ]

But do they think they're Russians? (none / 0) (#35)
by cezarg on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 10:00:12 PM EST

Apparently (not sure if it's true or not) But in a Russian passport people not only have their citizenship but also their nationality. Thus one can have Russian citizenship and have Chechen nationality. Don't know if it's true but if it is it suggests that those people do not regard themselves as Russians. Correct me if I'm wrong about the passport thing.

[ Parent ]
I don't see this (none / 0) (#32)
by Eccles on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 02:41:16 PM EST

However, the way American media is portraying us as Jew haters is disgusting and hurtsome.

As an American who sees a fair bit of American media, I'm not getting this impression about Poland. Instead, there's more a sense of outrage and disappointment at the denial. There's a similar feeling towards Japan, where there's systemic denial of the use of Korean and Chinese "comfort" women. You're no angels, we're no angels (slavery, segregation, Amerinds, etc.), but the way to progress is to recognize the wrongs we've all done and kill the forces of racism and ethnocentrism.

Heck, a billion Chinese think a 350 MPH prop plane can intentionally run into a mach 2 jet, because we're the Bad Guys and they're the Middle Kingdom.

[ Parent ]

But it's not the worst yet (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by poor thing on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 11:54:04 AM EST

I hope Russia collapses soon and splits into smaller countries that manage themselves.
You better not see this. Basically now you have Russia. That's not the most plaseant neighbour. But once Russia is split, no forces to keep talib-style forces inside Afganistan (Russian forces at Tadzhikistan-Afganistan board are now keeping talibs from invasion because Tadzhikistan forces just cannot keep them out themselves) and a yet-not-yet-as-poweful but similar forces inside Chechnya region, those nice small countries will rather quickly fall under joint strikes of Bin Laden-backed dzhihad forces and you will soon have talibs or somebody like them at your borders. Pray NATO will help you then. Don't hope to have little casualties.
When Russians abandon those great empire myths hopefully the'll be enough pragmatism in them to just start building their future from ground up on solid democratic foundations instead of being mentally stuck in their "glorious" past. Which is what I sincerely wish to every Russian citizen. For their own good.
Here, you're right. Some of us here really need a reality check about that great empire stuff.

[ Parent ]
The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated. (3.55 / 9) (#16)
by jabber on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 01:30:00 AM EST

I find it amusing that a writer from a country that has existed for 250 years at most has the audacity to declare Russia to be as good as dead. Just another "Ugly American", looking through a rolled-up copy of the Wall Street Journal, if you ask me.

Empires rise and fall. Russia, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Greece, Egypt. Then they rise again, and fall again. The sentiment that the Muscovite nation is dead, as stated by this man is akin to a flea on the back of a pitbull claiming that sharks are inferior, just because they don't survive well out of their element.

Nice doggie. Pretty little doggie. Give it some time. Things will change. Then doggie paddle for your life.

Russia survived Napoleon. It survived Hitler. It survived the Ottoman and Mongolian onslaughts. It mitigated Christianity. It will survive the current, relative flash in the pan of American economic power as well.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

It survived? (none / 0) (#38)
by ryancooley on Sun Apr 22, 2001 at 02:41:39 AM EST

You think russia survived all that's happened? No. It just happened that the events that ocurred in the general outline of the former country, so it kept being called Russia. Once One portion of the coutry's events do not match up with the rest, individual countries will break off and the territory named Russia will wither down. I certanly don't claim it's dead as this author so insolently does, but it has many changes to go through, and may not be recogonizeable as Russia when it's through.

[ Parent ]
What country does? (none / 0) (#39)
by jabber on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 04:01:27 PM EST

Agreed. But by that definition, no country ever survives very long at all.

I still claim that Russia is a live and well. Her people certainly are, and will do just fine after their current period of readjustment. As you say, Russia has died time and time again. It died when the Soviet Union dissolved. It died when The Wall fell, and before that when the Eastern Bloc satellites started to break away. It died in 1917, and many times before that as well.

Hakuna Matata, the circle of life and all that. :)

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

no country ever survives (none / 0) (#40)
by ryancooley on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:34:17 PM EST

Many countries have been around for hundreds of years without any significant change in government, geography, etc. The USA being my favorite example although it is very young. England is a better example, and there are more as well. I'll say very few countries last long by that standard, but it does happen.

[ Parent ]
Truly Heartbreaking (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by kostya on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 03:14:01 PM EST

I read the Atlantic article, and if it is even half true, that is still more than I can bear.

I'm not Russian, and I have never been there. But I have always wished the Russian people the best. I had hoped that the fall of the Soviet Union would bring them something good. But all reports I have seen point to the Russian mafia simply taking over for the old communist regime--bringing even worse oppression. I had, until now, thought that the Russian government was just unable to keep the mafia under control. To hear that they are largely in league with one another is a depressing surprise. I.e. it is worse than we had been lead to believe.

The USSR had its problems and it was not kind to its people in a lot of ways. But this news is just plain distressing. World security concerns aside (what happens to a former super-power with nuclear arsenals when it becomes desperate?), the gradual decline of Russian Federation due to crime and corruption is just horrible. As a US citizen, I have often wondered how the US will react when it gets knocked off its #1 spot of world power. But I had never imagined what it would be like if basic infrastructure started to come undone.



----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
This is no different.. (none / 0) (#36)
by infinitesin on Sat Apr 21, 2001 at 06:02:46 AM EST

..than survival of the fittest in action. Darwin would be proud.

This is no different than the demise of the Mayan culture, or the Byzantine empire, or any society that just couldn't make it. The Earth is incredibly unique in the way it just re-loads. Societies begin and end depending on sociological and environmental conditions, and in the end, its all totally and utterly insignificant. America is going to shrink and be dissolved into other cultures just like Russia currently is. It may be sad and tragic, but its reality. Just ask a descendent of the Aztecs - if you can find one.

It is rather tragic though, since the Bolshevik Revolution was one of the most important political events in history. Russians must be commended for having the resolve to change and fight for freedom, having the courage to reject the way of the world, and having faith in themselves to govern themselves as equals. Whether you want to admit it or not, Communism was incredibly important in the shape of the political climate around the world today. Its ideas influence almost every aspect of life, from standardized health care to discussion of flat taxes. The incorporation of new ideas are imperative to the advancement of society, and if it weren't for revolutionaries like Lenin and Trotsky, our lives would be considerably different.
--
"Just wait until tomorrow..I guess that's what they all say..just before they fall apart.."

Russia: Ethnogenesis in action (none / 0) (#37)
by MeanGene on Sat Apr 21, 2001 at 01:24:17 PM EST

According to the theory of ethnogenesis, himan civilizations have a lifespan of approximately 1500 years divided into several stages:
  • initial passionary impetus
  • 0-300 years - formation
  • 300-600 years - expansion
  • 600-900 years - stress
  • 900-1200 years - inertia
  • 1200-1500 years - obscuration
  • memorial stage
The Western-European super-ethnos is about 500 years older than the modern Russian super-ethnos. The modern Western nations were initially formed around 800-900AD. The original Russian super-ethnos ("Kievan Rus") entered into obscuration in 1200s, died in the Mongol invasion and gave birth to the modern Eastern-European Slavs.

So, it should come as no surprise that Western European nations are working on a new, united civilization right now. EU is seeking a new destiny and will, perhaps, in due time create a new super-ethnos.

As far as Russia goes, it remains to be seen if we can successfully enter the "golden autumn" stage, or if we will create a new civilization - made of the same people, but with different culture and destiny.

There's no fate, but there's destiny!

[ Parent ]

Dont cry for me, Vladimir Lenin | 40 comments (38 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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