… for the 11.5 million people in its capital city of Moscow, life in Russia is forging on in a curious way, bordering on theater of the absurd. Absurdity is part of daily life. And the higher its concentration, the less people seem to notice it, since they’re not only the audience but also have to get on with their lives in the middle of this play.
… Most Muscovites go about their daily lives. But behind the public displays of patriotism and demonstrative apathy, another feeling is getting stronger: disgust. Moscow resembles a room in which there’s a corpse. And everybody is trying not to notice it. __ Routine Absurdity of Moscow
In Russia, lying has become a traditional value without which the state cannot exist. Television constructed a parallel world in which fascists came to power in Ukraine, a Russian child was crucified by the Ukrainian army and Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet.
For many, one great irony is that this parallel world is more fascinating than the real one. They’re not used to dealing with reality and don’t find the language to talk about the things behind the propaganda. Putin, TV presenters and people on the street speak in the same phrases that have become the building blocks of their worldview: “We will prevail.” “Russians don’t surrender.” “Fascism won’t pass.”
In a sense, Russia is isolating itself as if in a vacuum, and there is less and less free air to breathe. __ Living With a Secret Corpse
Ordinary Russians are not supposed to notice the death and devastation being perpetrated by Russians and their paid mercenaries against a neighboring country — all done under the cover of aiding criminal clans in east Ukraine — some with ties to Yanukovych.
They know that something is wrong, but are not allowed to talk about it for fear of Soviet-style penalties for thinking-wrong-thoughts. But if they can get out, they do.
… well-educated professionals are emigrating from Russia in massive numbers. According to Rosstat, Russia’s federal statistics service, more than 300,000 people left the country from 2012 to 2013, a migration that tellingly coincides with Putin’s stage-managed return for a third presidential term; the rate of departures climbed even higher after the annexation of Crimea last year. By comparison, approximately 70,000 people left from 2010 to 2011. The cream of Russian society is voting with its feet, leaving a stultifying, ever more corrupt environment for greener pastures that allow them to productively apply their talents. __ Russia is Not What You Think it Is
Russians are leaving the motherland at a rate of over 200,000 per year now — but not just any Russian. The ones leaving the country are those who are desperately needed to create a solid, broadly based economy. Talented people are leaving, the ones who could make Russia more of a country fit to marry and raise a family.
… the profile of the typical emigrant has changed. When the Soviet Union dissolved, the most common emigrant was a poor, unskilled young man. Today, it is a well-off professional,” according to World Policy.
“People who have it good are starting to leave,” Anton Nosski, a tech entrepreneur, told World Policy.
… “I want my children to grow up in a fairer country, one where the rule of law is more or less observed. I used think it was possible to build a better society in Russia, but I’ve basically lost all hope now. It’s time to leave,” one Russian businessman told Vocativ. _BI
Russian state employees are forbidden to leave — but then, they are among the best treated and most secure of Russia’s remaining population. But now, even state employees are being laid off and downsized in the face of the Putin depression.
Those who must remain behind have no choice but to stay glued to the television’s faux narrative, or to drink cheap vodka day and night.
Among Russians’ weaknesses is a proclivity for believing in all kinds of strange ideas, a tendency that manifests itself in persecution manias, neo-Eurasianism, and zapadophobia (fear of the West) as well as the exaggerated belief in Russia’s historical destiny.
… Self-criticism has not been in fashion in Russia for a long time: Whenever something goes wrong, it must be the fault of the West. There is the widespread and profound belief in all kinds of conspiracy theories, the more outlandish the better and more popular. This mind-set is not at all funny in the age of weapons of mass destruction. __ Russian State of Mind
You would probably have to live in Moscow to understand all the talk about how absurd public thought has become there.
I recently moved to Moscow, and it’s hard to miss the extent to which Russian society exists in an alternate universe. Even well-educated, sophisticated people who have traveled widely in Europe and North America will frequently voice opinions that, in an American context, would place them alongside people wearing tinfoil hats. Russia is not living in the reality-based community. _WaPo
Mark Adomanis, author of the excerpted WaPo piece above, has long been one of Putin’s foremost champions. But absurd is absurd, and even Adomanis was unable to ignore the “tinfoil hats” everywhere in abundance in Moscow.
… the old, Soviet era, generation is dying out, and younger Russians consider this “NATO is the enemy” line as absurd. Russia has many real problems, like drugs, corruption and economic stagnation. Potential invasion by NATO is not a real problem, but the political leadership believes that talk of the “NATO threat” works with Russian voters. It does, but less and less. __ 2014 paraphrase of 1914?
The rapidly aging Russian population is not only shrinking but is not fit for any major economic or military efforts. During the last decade it was discovered that some 60 percent of Russians are elderly, children, or disabled. Out of 20 million males of working age, one million are in prison, a million in the armed forces (including paramilitaries), five million are unemployed (or unemployable due to poor education, health, or attitude), four million are chronic alcoholics, and a million are drug addicts. __ Russia’s Demographic Shift
The human underpinnings of the former empire and superpower are eroding, corroding, rotting. The best are leaving, those left behind are falling into despair from dismal economic, political, and social conditions. No one knows what will happen next, but it is not likely to be good.
Russia can fall apart. It’s not because of the oil prices … It’s because what sticks a country together is a common interest of people. It has to be economically and socially profitable — beneficial — for people to be together. They should understand how they benefit from a large country. And if they start to feel like a large country is a source of problem, then the country collapses as the Soviet Union collapsed. And right now, I see a lot of alarming trends inside Russia, especially in Siberia, which I represent in the parliament. __ Russian MP Ilya Ponomarev
Putin is not a good strategist. His questionable skills as a tactician are fading as the situation he created moves beyond his control.
President Vladimir Putin’s next moves are unpredictable because he appears to be motivated not by economic considerations but by a sulky, aggressive nationalism. __ Age of Uncertainty
Russians are not supposed to know many of the things that they know. This sets up a subconscious conflict, a cognitive dissonance.
In the northwestern city of Pskov, on the border with Estonia, there are real corpses. They are paratroopers who lost their lives in covert missions in eastern Ukraine. At least 12 names are known. The state prosecutor has declared that the place of death is a state secret.
In the summer, there was an attempt to keep outsiders away from the funerals, and in the meantime, the names have been removed from several graves. There are now more than 12 corpses. According to local deputy Lev Shlosberg, newly fallen soldiers from the 76th Airborne Division joined them in January. But in Pskov nobody talks about it openly. “Most people don’t want to know anything about it,” says Alexei Semyonov, a correspondent for Pskovskaya Gubernia, which uncovered the soldiers’ deaths. He was surprised when acquaintances asked him: “Why are you guys even writing about it?” __ Russians Returning in Body Bags
The pile of young, formerly healthy Russian corpses will continue to accumulate to the point that the anger of those left behind will be uncontainable. It is a metaphor for the state of Russia’s dwindling possibilities, under Putin.
Russia’s demographic condition is assumed to be dismal, although vital statistics in Russia have become something of a state secret and propaganda weapon. It is claimed that Russia is experiencing a period of population increase, but no reputable demographers believe that such an increase — if it exists — will continue.
The population of the country is predicted to resume its population decrease, however, starting in 2015. By 2015, the population is projected to decrease to about 140.75 million people, which is a decrease of about 1.6% from the current population. Again, by 2020, the population will decrease again to about 139.31 million people, a decrease of about 2.6%. Then, by 2025, the population will reach about 137.48 million people, an approximate decrease of about 3.9%. Between 2025 and 2030, the population will decrease to about 134.82 million people, which is an approximate decrease of 5.7%. Then by 2035, the population will decrease by about 7.8% to 131.86 million. Lastly, in 2040, the population will drop below 130 million, reaching 129.14 million people, which is a decrease of 9.7% from the current Russian population. __ RussPopStat
Emigration of Russia’s best and most fertile is ramping steeply upward, and abortion rates — although unrecorded — will also ramp up during the economic downturn. Russia’s public health infrastructure is in decay, and what is available is conserved for state employees and well connected individuals. Russia’s elite, of course, will travel out of the country to receive any important medical or surgical care.
Rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, and violent crime are all expected to shoot higher as the miasma of utter despair descends even more deeply upon Russia’s long-suffering populations.
When oil prices were inflated in value, Putin was able to use oil & gas profits from purloined assets to bribe the loyalty of elites, state employees, and ordinary people alike. Now, during the Putin depression, the dictator must be more selective in how he distributes stolen income and other assets. Things are apt to grow even more absurd, even more surreal, in the Potemkin Paradise.
News and views from one of Russia’s “troll factories”
Putin has expertly used an endless and highly professional barrage of propaganda to widen the gulf between the beliefs of most Russians and those of most Westerners. Indeed, official propaganda – playing off deep strains of nationalism – is the key that allows the Kremlin to foment a climate of jingoism and intolerance.
The power of Putin’s propaganda can be seen in the way it resonates far beyond Russia’s borders. During Soviet times, it was easy to understand how the communist ideal could seduce those of generous spirit, even if its promise of a just and free society ultimately turned out to be a lie. What is harder to explain – beyond the crass financial and commercial interests of some – is why so many in Western Europe demonstrate such an affinity for Russia today.
For some, it may be the allure of anti-Americanism, mixed with the defense of conservative values and the rejection of liberal “decadence” (for which Exhibit A is the West’s growing social acceptance of same-sex marriage). Others may be searching for an ally in the face of a greater threat. Just as some in the West advocated cooperation with Nazi Germany against what they saw as the far more menacing Soviet threat… __ Dominique Moisi
Some westerners are attracted to weird conspiratorial propaganda of the Putin variety. Through some inner need, they form an emotional attachment to Putin which overrides all rational thought and real-world data. Such helpless subversion and obfuscation of any fact-checked sense of reality is likely to cause incalculable damage, but like an addict they are hooked. As Moisi remarks above, hatred of “the other” combined with the irrational notion that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” has led them far off any rational path.
Putin continues making enemies at a time that Russia so desperately needs friends and reliable trading partners. Such a pattern of behaviour, historically, usually ends badly.
A historical parallel to Russia’s plight may be found in the history of Sweden in the 1600s:
For a generation, Sweden had been drunk with victory and bloated with booty. Charles XI led her back into the grey light of everyday existence, gave her policies appropriae to her resources and her real interests, equipped her to carry them out, and prepared for her a future of weight and dignity as a second-class power. __ Roberts, Essays in Swedish History, p. 233
Russia has a critical need for such a leader at this time, before its modern-day criminal junta leads her to total catastrophe — and much of the rest of the world with her.
Something Muscovites are not supposed to know about: Putin’s invisible army currently at war in Ukraine
Russia’s foreign reserves are shriveling away as Rosneft and other companies linked to Putin’s inner circle bleeds national assets dry, to pay their foreign loans. The central bank is quickly approaching the large portion of Russia’s reserves that are illiquid. Very difficult decisions will have to be made — decisions that become more difficult for all the bombastic belligerence and comic denial flowing out of Kremlin news outlets and mouthpieces.
Russia’s shrinking forces:
Unlike Russia’s navy, which has been essentially reduced to a coastal defense force, its air force is still capable and deadly by global standards. It has the world’s second-largest strategic-bomber force, capable of delivering nuclear weapons thousands of miles from home.
But Russia’s air force has a lot of problems familiar to other branches of the Kremlin’s military. With few exceptions, its aerial fleet dates to the Cold War and is getting older. Modern and capable fighter jets are entering service, but only in small numbers. Over the long term, Russia’s air force is expected to dwindle further.
The roots of these problems date from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Factories producing aircraft and parts have shut down or became part of foreign, predominantly Ukrainian, territory. Engineers experienced in building jets have immigrated or retired. Moscow put a halt to buying new planes — it bought none until 2003 — and halted most training exercises.
… “Many of the auxiliary systems, from hydraulics to drogue parachutes, for the Russian Su-27, Su-30 and Su-35 fighters, as well as for Russia’s newest Su-34, are also produced in Ukraine,” the research group noted. __ Power Fades Away