Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Window on Eurasia: ‘No One is Minding the Store’ in Russia, “Gazeta” Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, December 30 – Few Moscow outlets have offered a more devastating judgment about the state of Russia at the end of 2009 than the editors of the mainstream newspaper “Gazeta,” who say in an unsigned lead article today that “the main result of the last year and of the entire Putin decade is the recognition that no one is dealing with the affairs of the country.”
Instead, everyone is concentrating on their private affairs, something the paper indicates is not an entirely bad thing in the case of ordinary Russians but one that is disastrous when the powers that be are negligent of their responsibilities to ensure that the country is governed (
Unlike at certain points in the past, “Gazeta” argues, “the country still has money.” What it does not have are “masters,” neither “a Master with a capital letter (now formally we have even a total of two) but even real masters who are concerned about the management of the country as they would be of their own home.”
Instead of worrying about how to ensure that the country is governed and developed, the powers that be there at present are only interested in milking the country for all it is worth and then, patriotic rhetoric to the contrary, sending their children and money to the “hated” West rather than trying to develop Russia.
Because that is how the elite is behaving, the editors of “Gazeta” continue, “the population, which has exchanged … the abstract right to participate in the administration of the country via elections for non-interference of the government in its personal affairs is involved in the arrangement [only] of its own life.”
The powers that be, the Moscow paper says, have reinforced such popular attitudes in order to free the elite from any interference in what it is doing, but tragically, what the elite is doing is not to govern the country but rather taking part in “a struggle for property and the feverish conversion of control into oil and gas dollars” for themselves.
As a result, “it is not accidental” that this year, “Russians found out that no one is ensuring that hydro-electric turbines are being maintained properly,” that no one is ensuring that fire codes are observed by night clubs, that no one is making sure that the roads are safe, and that no one is guaranteeing that soldiers in the military are protected.
Even more, the Moscow newspaper’s editorial board concluded, Russians are discovered that “with us, law and order are antonyms, because the order which the powers that be at all levels support through the use of the force structures subordinate to them in no way is based on law.”
All the talk about Russia “rising from its knees” or engaging in “modernization” – frequent themes of the much-ballyhooed tandem -- is thus revealed as empty words that by themselves will not preserve forever the structures left over from Soviet times even in the part of the economy – oil and gas – on which the powers that be rely.
The population, the paper continues, also “reasonably assumes that it has no power and therefore has no responsibility, but if that attitude continues into the future alongside the indifference of the powers that be to the fate of the country itself, then the consequences for Russia are going to be tragic.
“If nothing changes,” the Moscow paper says, “we will live” in a country where the elite combines “unrestrained ambitions and complete indifference to the fate of their own home” and where the population feels it can do nothing about that with the current incumbent powers that be.
“No one needs a Russia under the unlimited power of ‘patriotic forces’” that failed over the last decade, when funds were available, to undertake “the reforms which could have converted Russia into a developed democratic state with a worthy level of life for its citizens,” the paper concludes, including presumably in the first instance the Russian people themselves.

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