The Russia of Today
"The Soviet Union broke up without a civil war, thank God. But huge empires always go down with a lot of noise. The process is not over. It will be many years before all the damage can be undone."
"Now, it's like the Soviet era is a phantom pain."
Yevgeny Roizma, 54, historian, mayor, Ykaterinburg, Russia
"It wasn't the collapse of the Soviet Union that was the problem. It was the economic dislocation. It created an economic depression that was far harsher than what was experienced in the United States in the 1930s [Great Depression years]."
Michael McFaul, U.S. ambassador to Russia, 2012 to 2014
"Putin thinks the state is legitimate because it is the state."
"He has a philosophical belief that popular revolutions against state power are always illegitimate, and always end in tears."
Alex Kliment, Russia specialist, Eurasia Group
That last observation may partially explain why and how it is that Vladimir Putin suffers no pangs of conscience in aiding Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad in his 'war on terror' against his own civilian Sunni population with the use of the most obscenely extreme military measures meant to maim, murder and mayhem. And nor has Mr. Putin been the slightest bit perturbed that his own warplanes have bombed and demolished hospitals, clinics, schools and other public institutions in Aleppo.
Perhaps the stupendous trauma of suddenly plummeting from world power status on the dissolution of the Soviet Union, to the status of a stumbling, lone nation abruptly assailed with a loss of global prestige, self-confidence, and economic stability, knocked humanity out of the consciousness of the man who now rues the fall of the Soviet empire, and engages in actions emulating and leading toward a restoration in part of what had been, to the alarm of former satellite nations.
"It was only a few minutes' walk away [from their home] and it didn't open until 6 a.m. Most days there would be a long line. If I was in the first ten, we would get cottage cheese or sour cream If not, only milk", explained Alexander Andreev, 64, recalling the end of Soviet normalcy when chronic food shortages erupted, in central Russia. He would be awoken by his wife at 5 a.m. to stand in a lineup outside a store near their home.
"I cried so much", 54 year old Tatiana recalls. "I was worried about the children. We were constantly adding things to the food to make it go further. Now, within reason, we can buy anything. Different kinds of cars. We can travel. We don't want to go back."
Not go back to a time when everyone was equal and to each worker was apportioned the same living wage, irrespective of their personal commitment in industry and production? The talented and productive earning precisely what those who preferred malingering would, in the spirit of community and socialist fairness? When private dachas, luxurious vehicles and champagne and caviar represented the singular pleasures available to Party leaders? And no one starved unless they lived in Ukraine...?
And now, what now? Has the birthplace of equal inopportunity been vastly altered with the fall of the USSR? A 2016 Credit Suisse global world report tells us that of the world's unequal countries, Russia ranks at the highest level, with 75 percent of the nation's wealth in the control of the richest one percent;echoes of a familiar plant elsewhere. That while in 1991 no billionaires existed in Russia, while at the present time 77 billionaires with a combined net value of $289 billion are on the list of Forbes' richest people globally.
"It's becoming harder and harder to speak out against the crimes [human rights abuses endemic in the ex-Soviet Central Asian "Stans" and it is worse now than it's been at any point since Soviet times", according to Svetlana Gannushkina, 74, a mathematician, and formerly a Russian lawmaker who is currently a human rights lawyer, a woman held in such high esteem that she is named as a potential Nobel Peace Prize winner. "In Chechnya "there is no law, no constitution, only the order of [Chechnya leader] Ramzan Kadyrov", she states.
In the Russia of today, opposition politicians who contend against Vladimir Putin are charged with questionable criminal offences and languish in prison if they are not murdered first. In the Russia of today, news media are shut down, journalists are killed or imprisoned. In the Russia of today, Vladimir Putin's old KGB cronies are the elites, the preferential treatment they enjoy enriching them beyond their wildest dreams.
In the Russia of today, Vladimir Putin's palatial palace enshrines his indomitable position as imperial Czar. In the Russia of today, former satellite nations shiver in apprehension, as Mr. Putin manipulates relations with Georgia and Ukraine, ripping away portions he covets, and eyes the Baltic countries. Who weeps for Russia now?
|During the Mongol-Tatar invasion, the Kremlin was destroyed and then rebuilt. But only in the middle of the 14th century, during the rule of the Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoy, the Kremlin's wooden walls and towers were replaced by structures from local white stone. It was from that moment on that Moscow was referred to as "Moscow made of white stone" ("Moskva belokamennaya")|