13 June 2013

What do the Russians really want?

Wouldn't you like to know? Well, some Russians wanted to know too. As it happens, the knowledge may appear to be somewhat surprising for a foreign observer.

A non-commercial NGO Levada Center polled 1601 Russian citizens on a following question: "Your attitude to various Russian leaders from different periods". Follow the positive results, sorted in descending order:

  1. Leonid Brezhnev - 56%
  2. Vladimir Lenin - 55%
  3. Joseph Stalin - 50%
  4. Tsar Nikolay II - 48%
On the negative side there are two outstanding "leaders":
  1. Mikhail Gorbachev - 66%
  2. Boris Yeltsin - 64%
Compare the two figures above with measly 38% of the negative ballots for the second greatest murderer of the XX century, Joseph Stalin, and the magnitude of the above numbers will be put in a better perspective for you, I hope. I prefer not to analyze the results, only saying that many people familiar with the goings-on in modern Russia and with the last, say, 100 years of its history, are not surprised at all. The usual mismanagement of Russian affairs in all possible areas, the thievery and neglect are inexorably strengthening the traditional yearning for the seemingly strong and reliable "father figure". In short, Brezhnev fits the bill. Especially if you consider the short memory of the people...

So, instead of analysis I shall present two polarized comments on the above results. The first one - from a relatively independent and sometimes dissident Grani.ru, by Vitaly Portnikov - Meeting the old age.

The fact that the Levada Center poll on the best ruler of Russia ended in triumph for dear Leonid Ilyich is not surprising. Of course, this triumph is conditional - only one point separates him from the other Ilyich*, and the no less dear Vissarionych(**) is perched in third place. But Lenin, Stalin - these are by now not people but symbols: how many people are left in Russia that remember how it was during their times? On the other hand Brezhnev - it gives you a feeling that can be considered a real victory of power over reality.

Not so long ago, "stagnation" era seemed wrong: we all remember the emptying shelves, Afghanistan***, and most importantly - the drama of the degradation of power and of the state, unfolding before our eyes, so that no one argued with the fact that the aging leadership of the country takes idiotic decisions. It was only degree of idiocy that was debated. Brezhnev lived in anecdotes, surely surpassing Petka and Vasily Ivanovich, Shtirlits and even the Jews and the Chukchi****. Because Brezhnev - it was truly ridiculous and funny.

And now it is no longer funny. Now, it looks solid and stable. This means that the government was able to instill in a sufficiently large part of the society the idea of ​​the inevitability and positivity of "stagnation". It was able to prove that stupidity is good, that when nothing changes, nothing progresses, when all around us withers and decomposes - it is life.

(*) Vladimir Lenin and Leonid Brezhnev share the patronymic Ilyich.

(**) Stalin's patronymic was Vissarionovich - or Vissarionych for brevity.

(***) The author forgot Czechoslovakia for some reason. I wouldn't, no sir/madam.

(****) Too long to explain, just take it as mentions of more ubiquitous Soviet/Russian anecdotes.

This is where I have chosen to end the translation. I think that the gist of the article was reflected faithfully in this part. And now - to the other side. Here comes an absolute opposite of the above: a view expressed by a rabid loyalist and ultra-nationalist, one Alexandr Belov. It was difficult to find some material in English on this character, but here and here you can find enough to get an impression. His article is titled Not a Servile Nation and subtitled: The Levada Center data makes the viability of liberal project in Russia doubtful.

It turned out that our citizens live and think outside liberal propaganda's context. But in the 90s it [the liberal propaganda] was an absolute mainstream, and still retains much of the "strategic high ground" in the media space.

*** [here the author reports the poll results that appear in the beginning of the post]***

Thus, the absolutely preferred leader at the moment is Leonid Brezhnev. That is, the leader, who is associated with a sense of stability and confidence in the future and the power of the state. We should take into account that people remember well the Brezhnev's era*, so the years of demagogy about "lines for sausage" hadn't confused them.

Usually avid for various fresh "numbers", liberal journalists either kept silent or barely mentioned the results of the study**. Such a reaction was evidence of the shock experienced by the media pool, whose work has long focused on the demonization of bygone eras.

The cliché of the "Bloody Nicholas***" and "damn the tsars", defamation of historical Russia were replaced a quarter of a century ago by "exposing" the "Stalin's terror", the "Brezhnev's stagnation" and unbridled defamation of the entire Soviet period. As a result, the population of Russia could form their view of history as a "black hole", which has been replaced by the "triumph of democracy" in the nineties****.

Did not happen. It was not so easy to fool the people .

[I am skipping some of the cursing addressed at "liberal propaganda", going directly to conclusions]

These studies, which visitors to the site "Levada Center" have described as "unexpected", show two trends.

First, the citizens of Russia are no longer willing to play along with the endless juggling of their own history and are increasingly convinced that those who ruled the country until "perestroika" cared mostly about her welfare.

Second, a steady demand for sustainable, strong and dynamic nation was clearly formed. It is consistent with the view our fellow citizens have of themselves and of the positions that they ought to take in this world.

[More cursing of the "liberals" skipped. End of the piece]

(*) Mr Belov... oh, let's cut the crap - this schmuck was born in 1976 and definitely doesn't remember anything from the Brezhnev's "era" and wasn't standing in lines for milk, bread, not to mention sausage. I do. I did.

(**) Which is a barefaced lie. There are tons of material from the liberal side of the political map (in Russian) on the subject.

(***) Tsar's Nikolay II's nickname

(****) I wouldn't use the term "black hole" for a period that was so generously splashed by red. As for the author placing Stalin's terror and Brezhnev's stagnation in quotes, it's up to him, of course. Did I mention the word "schmuck"?

To conclude: the author achieved rather the opposite of what he intended to, at least in the title of his article (re servility).

Now the last bit of input for you, my dear reader(s): I have done my own poll, of a kind. I passed the results of the Levada Center poll to a few people (some of them Russian) living outside of Russia, but still very much in touch with it. The response was crushing in its uniformity: leaving out the non-parliamentary parts, the conclusion was: "These ... deserve the ... government they have and the ... future they have coming". I know that in many senses this is not a politically correct opinion, but here you are.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Too bad.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Russia is an f-ing time machine. Under the wise leadership of Vova Putin they are off to the middle ages.

This week alone they made it illegal to "punish feelings of the faithful" and to distribute information about homosexuality.

BTW, did you know that recently they outlawed Memorial? (charity helping the victims of Stalin's terror).

SnoopyTheGoon said...

It's shocking they are nostalgic for Stalin. I doubt many Germans would like to have Hitler back.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yes, it is not boding good for the future of these people.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yes, I know about the new laws, but I didn't hear about the charity closure. They deserve what is coming indeed, then.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

They like Brezhnev over Joe because he killed fewer with less ado, the "no muss no fuss" dictator. All political systems reflect the internal conflict people people naturally have generally stated as "don't tell me what to do and go make those other people behave!"

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yes, but the main point for me and other people who may have cared about this unhappy country is that its people prefer to fall in love with a stick, essentially rejecting any attempt to make them stand up an walk like men.

There is something deeply unsettling about a nation choosing slavery for its preferred way of life.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

"There is something deeply unsettling about a nation choosing slavery for its preferred way of life." Snoop, they reflect the majority of nations.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

There is that, yes. Still, in some cases the emotional side is prevailing upon logic. Like in this case.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

They haven't closed it yet, but declared Memorial "a foreign agent" (because it received a small grant from the US). The actual closure should come next.



SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yeah. The picture is quite clear, thanks. Soon they will close it under some pretext.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

They should feel at home with Putin, anyhow, tho I don't recall Uncle Joe going about without a shirt.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Exactly. And Putin slowly but surely is taking them back to the future. Not that of Stalin, maybe, but not very different from that of Brezhnev.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

It is also possible that they are clueless. North American youth doesn't know who is Charles Darwin (I tested a pair of 17 year olds, both university students earlier today). In the same manner Russians probably don't know who Stalin is. Maybe they just like the sound of his name.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

That is part of the whole story, unquestionably, but only a part. There is a serious wave of revisionism in the country now, whitewashing Stalin in particular and Soviet times in general.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Th attack on homosexuality could have to do with the falling birthrate. They are going to be extinct before much longer.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Possibly, but the church plays an increasing role there. Most of the ex-commies are now diligent and active churchgoers.