Winter is coming and all that

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August 31, 2015 by AK

I’m tempted to subscribe to somebody else’s theory that Russia is on its way to replacing Iran as the largest pariah state of the world. Whether it is a crackpot idea or something obvious, Russia is facing a major decline in the living standards of its emerging middle class in the coming months, and an economic depression for the next year or two. I’m watching the slide daily but chronicles of a sinking ship make for poor reading. Just some quotes now, in my own free translation.

Grigory Revzin, the well-respected critic specializing in architecture and art history, wrote last week:

People are certain that things are moving towards a disaster. People from the elites, to be clear. They are certain in different ways — business people, intellectuals, politicians, art figures — but they all agree it’s a road to disaster. And the people you meet in the government are also expecting a disaster. No one has any other scenario in mind.

…It’s not that anyone has a program, a goal, a bet on disaster… Some people try to ensure themselves – to secure a safe landing strip – but the majority do not even bother, believing that one should keep doing what one is good at and is used to…

We realize what whatever the government does – repression, war, the circus tricks with the ruble or the destruction of good supplies – are making the cataclysm worse… We keep saying “the government does not understand it” but I’m not sure anyone believes this. Once you get to know people in the government, you find out they have a highly developed faculty of comprehension and comprehend things somewhat ahead of others, by virtue of their occupation… The collapse – of society, of the state, of civilization – has become something like a natural phenomenon. That it’s going to sweep away all the elites – that’s all of us – business folk, intellectuals, politicians, scientists and scholars, the art crowd – is understood by all but as if they were strangers, vicariously. Winter is coming. Man is mortal.

Revzin goes on to suggest a parallel with the death slide that preceded and ended in the 1917 denouement. It is dubious since Russia was, broadly speaking, on an ascending path 100 years ago, even though riven by social strife typical of countries in transition, while Putin’s Russia is a pathological case by itself. As the well-known music and culture critic Artemy Troitsky wrote in response,

…The disaster isn’t coming from anywhere — we are already living in it. The Russian state as it is, Putin with his achievements — this is the disaster. One cannot expert worse than that. How odd it is to compare the Russian Empire of 1916 (to say nothing of 1913)… to the chars and ashes of our days.

From a different angle, the crop of apples, pears and plums has been good to phenomenal this summer even in ungenerous middle Russia.


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