July 7, 2004 by AK

Russians and privacy

OK, I guess I’m going to take on windmills. I like stereotypes no less than the guy next door, and I also like whiskey. Taken in excess, either is fatal to the brain. Let’s start with my fave, “Russian even doesn’t have a word for privacy, a fundamental concept of Anglo-Saxon civilization. They’re just suckers for Big Brother,” etc., etc.

Russians would like the state to provide order and a minimum level of welfare without meddling with their private lives. The word “privacy” is indeed absent from the Russian language, but the thing itself is what millions of Russians pursue. To paraphrase E.D., privacy is counted sweetest by those who’ve never been left alone. Generations have missed it–because of peasant poverty, Bolshevik collectivism and now a malformed housing market. Russians like to get together for a drink, but don’t enjoy being herded. Leaving to the government its basic functions, they prefer to be left alone.

The problem is not what Russians want, but whether they know how to get there. Most are unaware or too skeptical of political mechanisms that can get the government to do as they say. That’s political immaturity or ignorance, not masochistic yearning for a strong hand. Also, Russia has a grotesquely oversized underclass, the lumpenproles, who don’t have any particular principles at all. If they are taken to be representative of the nation, welcome to the crapfest.


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