Peter Pomerantsev is an ethnic Russian who was born in Kiev, under the USSR. He grew up in England. When he moved to Moscow as an adult, he fell in love with Moscow’s wild and intense euphoria where “anything goes.”
Pomerantsev returned to Russia as a “reality TV” producer, learning in the process that reality is not fit for Russian TV.
At first, he is drawn in by Moscow’s chaos, with its fresh and gaudy wealth, wild parties and intense personalities. He embraces the world of Moscow’s extremes, working for a network called TNT, producing shows with titles like “How to Marry a Millionaire.” Yet he soon sees the dark side of the madness — the violence, the emptiness and, ultimately, the lack of control average Russians have over their own fate. Russians’ ability to adapt to their environment no longer seems admirable. _NYT
“Reality” is scripted by the dark forces inside the Kremlin. Fake opposition parties engage in fake opposition to those who rule, a fake justice system goes through the motions of the legal process, and the fake television news shapes what Russia’s 143 million citizens are allowed to see…
… Putin has now fully established control over the media. A vast majority of Russians still get most of their information from television, and the three major channels are either owned directly by the Kremlin or by state-owned companies. Each week, a Kremlin official directs their coverage. Major newspapers have been cowed. __NYT
The story of Russian propaganda — as told by an ethnic Russian from inside the Russian TV industry — can make for compelling reading, particularly for westerners who are just becoming acquainted with “Russia Today,” “Russian Insider,” and other Russian media outlets. But for those who truly want to understand what things are like inside Russia today, they should read further . . .
Pomerantsev… is all too believable in the bad news he brings us from Russia. His reporter’s straightforward and unlimited curiosity, his willingness to plow and harrow the widest fields for facts, and his exacting descriptive details give him credibility. Plus, what he tells us is so incredible. As reporters say, “You just can’t make these things up.”
… Russia’s mortality rate is horrific. According 2012 World Health Organization statistics, a fifteen-year-old Russian male has a life expectancy that’s three years less than a fifteen-year-old Haitian boy’s.
The life expectancy of a fifteen-year old Russian female is sixty-one, three years less than in Cambodia.
Russians die from cardiovascular disease and from accidents, murder, and suicide. They smoke, they drink, they despair.
Russia’s great wealth is based on extraction of oil and gas. Even so, the value of Russia’s exports in 2013 barely exceeded Belgium’s. And energy prices are falling.
The likelihood of the economy being transformed from extractive to knowledge-based is slim in a country rife with slogans like “How can you believe in anything?” and “Everything is PR.”
“Long-term economic progress,” says Eberstadt, “depends on improving productivity through new knowledge . . . Patent awards and application provide a crude but telling picture . . . Consider applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty . . . Russia comes in No. 21—after Austria—racking up less that 0.6 percent of the world’s total. The population of Russia is more than fifteen times that of Austria. Russia’s ‘yield’ of patents per university graduate is vastly lower than Austria’s—thirty-five times lower. By this particular metric Russia is only fractionally better placed than Gabon.” _PJ O’Rourke in World Affairs Journal
There is much more of interest in O’Rourke’s review above. He describes multiple ways in which the long-standing rot infesting Russia today, manifests itself across the country. The closer one gets to centres of power in Russia, the more intense the rot.
Putin’s unbelievable stupidity in having opened up another front of war in Ukraine is only now slowly coming to light. Multiple hotspots for Russia’s army — across the Caucasus and into Eastern Europe — hover near the flashpoint. The Russian army is a Potemkin force waiting to be exposed. Russia does not have enough healthy sons to sacrifice to Putin’s ambitious hubris.
Russia’s Problems Go Deeper than Drinking
If one digs beneath the shite shoveled out by Russian Propaganda Inc., the scope of Russia’s devastating demographic crises reveals itself. Despite what you may have heard from grad students Karlin and Adomanis, Russia’s demographic crisis is still on — and drinking is not the primary culprit after all.
Yes, vodka and its relatives make an appreciable contribution to the high rates of cardiovascular, violent, and accidental deaths—but not nearly enough to explain the demographic catastrophe. There are even studies that appear to show that Russian drinkers live longer than Russian non-drinkers. Parsons discusses these studies in some detail, and with good reason: it begins to suggest the true culprit. She theorizes that drinking is, for what its worth, an instrument of adapting to the harsh reality and sense of worthlessness that would otherwise make one want to curl up and die. _The Dying Russians in NY Books
People who are depressed — living constantly in despair — die much earlier than other people, whether they drink alcohol or not. There is something deeply toxic about despair, which poisons all the cells of the body — particularly those in the pre-frontal regions of the brain. Despair poisons the will, leading to an early dementia, a wide range of bodily diseases, and death. Helpless despair.
When judging Putin’s actions and when assessing Russian propaganda, one must remember the thing that allows the corrupt criminals and ex-KGB functionaries to remain on top — the abject helplessness and despair that fills the hearts of ordinary Russians who cannot leave.
When viewed in that light, the ordinary Russian girls who study and train for years in order to become well-paid prostitutes and mistresses in Moscow, are pursuing a rational course. It is a course which will give them a certain amount of control over their lives for as long as they remain physically young and attractive.
It would be comforting to be able to believe that Russia would magically “snap back” into a reasonably happy and healthy society, with citizens who had many opportunities for self-development, and hope for the future. Perhaps if someone other than Putin were to take charge . . . . ? But no, the fatal strain has run too deeply inside the heart of Russia, for far too long. Corruption above, fatal despair below, violent turmoil in between.
Like the human race, Russians cannot be saved en masse. But large numbers of Russians are worth saving, all the same. In order to do that, one must reach beneath the Potemkin facade of Russian propaganda and grad student smoke screens to the tragic truth below. That is what must be worked with if we are ever to see a more satisfactory result: the oxymoron — a happier Russia that lives in peace with its sovereign neighbors.
Global suicide rates on left vs. global homicide rates on right.