May 04, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Konstantin Cheremnykh


While media speculate on supposed Putin-Medvedev odds, London eccentrics amuse the public with a real scuffle


According to a recent study of a Moscow-based E-Generator research company, The Guardian, a major British newspaper, mentioned the words "Russia" and "GULAG" in the same context 453 times during the last decade. The manner of depicting the Russian civilization as a permanent generator of violence and arbitrariness is as old as the discipline in Western political sciences, traditionally known as Sovietology.

A new tendency, revealed by the researchers, is to apply another negative capacity to the Russian civilization – namely, "superfluity". This feature is detected by our professional critics in a similarly broad definition, ranging from the expanse of the country, the reported excessiveness of its managerial apparatus, to the "superabundant" architecture of 1950s, Russian manners of spending money and even beauty of Russian ladies, whom a foreign essayist usually meets in the company of "suspicious" males.

This new brand of the Sovietological genre has acquired new classics like Sunday Times' special correspondent Jonathan Dimblebee, busy buzzing as a dazzled bumblebee around the same subject Ц the capacity of Russians to concede to mass manipulation by their power authorities, originating, to his view, from ontological despise of democracy.

Still, most advanced Western authors admit that the alpha and omega of the Human Rights Declaration's basics have lost attractiveness and respect not in Russia alone but in most of the mankind. Handelsblatt's Florian Willerhausen even agrees that in the world of today, economic success is not necessarily associated with political democracy: the examples of China and Russia are true to the contrary. Moreover, this incompliance with the Western pattern is directly or indirectly approved by the national leaders, this argument being eagerly accepted by the people's majority that really prefers a strong centralized rule to individual liberties. Moreover, according to Willerhausen, "there are presently no reasons to expect countries like Russia and China to follow Western examples Ц until their political culture "undergoes a change".

Concluding his analysis with the recognition of inevitability of change of Russian political culture, the author thus states that the Russian tradition is not just backward but more backward than it was supposed to be. Cautioning his reference group from naive optimism, he expects that until some internal developments force the Russians and the Chinese to revise the basics of their existence, they will combine their belief in national leadership with regular lunches at McDonalds.

Were Mr. Willerhausen as insightful as the untiring traveler Mr. Dimblebee, he would notice that Russians have got today a lot of alternatives to McDonalds, today more frequently using catering services Ц a clear additional evidence of the notorious superfluity.

Superabundant respect of Russians towards strong power is logically reflected in jejunity of political opposition. Though this phenomenon is obvious enough, most critics of Russia are unwilling to admit this truth. Perfection of Western democratic values and imminent inevitability of its universal implementation is supposed to be confirmed with some proof of irreversible progress. But this proof is miserably jejune. Instead, perfection of democratic choice is left in doubt personally by US President George W. Bush as he sincerely tries to draw the latest developments in Iraq and Kosovo as evidence of a triumph of democracy. Paradoxically, this Mr. Bush is universally regarded as a lame duck, while Vladimir Putin, who openly mocks his examples of progress, is not Ц though leaving his presidential post six months earlier.

This contrast reveals the second crisis of Sovietology that was not foreseen with the formal logic of its own development. The first crisis of the discipline, following USSR's disintegration, was perfectly calculable, new jobs for professionals being reserved in newly independent states. It was equally calculable that the same specialists would be, according to poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, repeatedly "mobilized and redrafted" as soon as the ostensibly spontaneous First Chechen War creates new jobs and allocates new grants. But the present crisis was not foreseen. This fact is proven with the abovementioned statistics of unconvincing patterns revealing the essential futility of Western argumentation Ц as well as emergence of a new, predominantly private, competent and inspiring Russian anti-Sovietology that is more skilful in revealing weak points of the opponents than the Soviet-time "counterpropaganda".



As recently as five years ago, when a series of well calculated operations were planned in Tbilisi and Kiev for the purpose of long-time damage for Russian interests, the residual potential of Sovietology was still impressive, in terms of institutional, financial and cadre supply. At that time, the leadership of Russia was still enough vulnerable both in foreign and domestic policy affairs to be intimidated with the menace of "export of orange revolution" from Kiev to Moscow. Predicting this transition, Anders Aslund believed in his own words, while top Western functionaries on the level of Undersecretaries of States, arriving at The Other Russia's founding assembly in Moscow, were convinced of being involved in a fateful event.

It would be today curious to calculate the rate of reduction of the positive use of the definition of "orange revolution" as a plausible scenario for Russia. The most recent references to this self-discredited term represent most typically not more but quotes from political non-entities, remaining non-entities even if combined. The image of Maidan was used, for instance, by Tageszeitung's Barbara Ertel, who visited the latest helpless unification assembly of Russian liberals in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, her colleagues from Spiegel have already discovered the fact that most that is presently left from the supposedly fateful The Other Russia is the flock of the "grotesque" though dissident National-Bolshevik Party.

When all the political stakes multiply to zero, laborious special correspondents start frantically searching for alternatives among the second row of Russian liberal oppositionists, hoping to find real selfless revolutionaries among them. Mrs. Erkel has found one in Olga Kurnosova, a physicist by profession from St. Petersburg. The lady from Tageszeitung would be surprised to know that the ostensibly radical liberal activist, Olga V. Kurnosova, is the daughter of Vladimir Kurnosov, director of Nuclear Energy Concern's Energy Technologies Research Institute (NIIPIET), included in the notorious "black list" of Iran-cooperating institutions by US President Bill Clinton.

These face-saving efforts to discover new promising names of liberal luminaries reflect the subjective side of the crisis of Sovietology. This crisis has developed in fact not only due to Vladimir Putin's overtake of political initiative due to mostly international political and economic advantages. It happened, to the same extent, due to the internal bureaucratic degradation of the dissident-supervising apparatus that appeared to be affected with the process described in the times of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev as nachotnichestvo (window-dressing) and zaorganizovannost (over-organization). The list of liberal names, described for years in institutional and governmental reports as a promising potential, turned to be what dissident author Vasily Aksenov described as zatovarennaya bochkotara (oversupplied cooperage). The immediate operators of this resource were perfectly aware of its inutility. However, their own mode of function, according to one more Brezhnev-time slang term, represented a typical pattern of imitatsiya kipuchei deyatelnosti, or I.K.D. (imitation of vigorous activity). Stereotypically buoyant accounts on vibrant grassroot development of civil society, superabundantly delivered to Washington from of Russia-based NGOs, echo the late Komsomol's reports to the senescent Politburo.



The most convincing evidence of inefficiency of an agency of influence is predictability of its production. There was no problem for any state or private Russian researcher to foresee what the Western liberal press would write about the presidential elections in Moscow, as well as about the personality of Putin's successor. In a chorus, the community of political commentators featured the elections as undemocratic, and the selected candidate, on the contrary, as a more flexible figure, more convenient for the West and thus hardly able to coexist with Vladimir Putin "in one den".

The image of the Russian bear was not much sophisticatedly combined with the image of a double eagle by The Observer; meanwhile, The Financial Times was concentrated on transition of several speechwriters from the Presidential Staff to the office of Prime Minister Putin; Washington Post instructed the elected President to mercy "pragmatic oppositionist" Lev Ponomarev (who was believed in 1992-time Democratic Russia to be a KGB agent) who had just promptly delivered stolen video evidence of poor conveniences in Russian penitentiaries to Washington; Newsweek's laborious correspondent found out from [this author's neighbor] Prof. Dmitry Lenkov that a young lawyer Medvedev shamefully addressed to KGB [and not gangsters] to protect the business of Ilim Pulp, a timber process enterprise where he was employed in the early 1990s; New York Times expects Medvedev to "become independent", and Le Monde is eager to see him "rioting against Putin", and all the authors, referring to the same flock of cheaply available interview-vendors from Moscow, describe Mr. Medvedev as a person with "much broader views" than Putin.

Most comically, this stereotypically reiterated scanty logic still sounds convincing for some capable Western politicians, at the moment overwhelmed with political problems of their own. In a most articulated way, the argument of illegitimacy of Russian elections was reproduced by Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband. The immediate reason was to snub Prime Minister Gordon Brown, denouncing him for the ostensible attempt to "flirt" with the Russian President-elect.

Earlier, Mr. Brown was ostracized for a shadowy deal with Saudi arms traders, okayed actually by his predecessor Tony Blair, for a real and clumsy flirt with US presidential successors, for poor performance of the British military in Basra and for the downed and annihilated US-purchased drone in Afghanistan, for stuttering, for being periodic depressive, and for attempts to convince Peter Mandelson of NOT being homosexual.

The brawl between "new labourists", as Tony Blair was traditionally identified, and "novel labourists" from the circle of Miliband, Murphy, Purnell, Burnham etc., before the eyes of the international (including Russian) audience, turned a sweeping defeat of the party and the unprecedented triumph of Tories in the local elections, precisely reproducing the pattern of the unforeseen advantage of veteran John McCain from the brawl between two leading US democrats, Mrs. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Moreover, the elections of the Mayor of London were preformed in the typical style of the US campaign where ideas Ц the absence of which Brown was blamed for Ц are far less significant than eloquence. As a result, the incumbent pretty eccentric leftist-liberal populist Ken Livingstone, pro-gay-lesbian and furiously pro-environmental, was smashed by an even more eccentric rightist populist, Etonian playboy Boris Johnson, a convinced Eurosceptic, famous for his definition of Islam as a "most intolerant" "sect", of Africans as "piccaninnies with watermelon smiles", and for seeing no difference between a same-sex marriage and a "wedding of three men and a dog". The most sensitive readers of the Guardian, including playwrights and rock stars, report of their intention rather to escape to Australia than to see London ruled by "this clown and bigot"; some conservatives are also irritated, as the "clown" does not demonstrate enough respect to Her Majesty as well, saying she is fond of the Commonwealth because of "flocks of piccaninnies" queueing to bow to her. Nonetheless, the democratic procedure was perfectly pursued, and Mr. Consumer has acquired his new idol.

The "novel labourists" had been quiet seriously struggling for top posts, impatiently anticipating Brown's resignation and publicizing polls proving his negative popularity. They had sought to re-establish authority and influence of the British Commonwealth in Europe and worldwide, and dreaming of Pakistan rejoining the Queen's realm of rule. All these expectations stumbled upon the mechanism of formal democracy. The result, reverse to the expected, is not going to favor London's reputation and geopolitical influence. Instead of photo opportunities with the re-recruited General Musharraf, David Miliband is going to spend time for a new while of exhausting power brawl with two political clans.

We are lucky to be free from such kind of problems. Dmitry Medvedev has just announced that his first trip in the capacity of President will be to Asia. Namely, first to Kazakhstan, a nation offended by a British eccentric, and then to China that has its own keys for Islamabad. Quite possibly, he will also meet the leader of Afghanistan who recently expressed open disloyalty to London and consequently underwent an ostensibly occasional assault on his life.

Some nations are reputed as keen in violence as a method of foreign policy. In March, MI-6 had to admit the fact of having been proposed a deal to exterminate Slobodan Milosevic. The experience of royal special services was obviously taken into account.



"If we have our weaknesses diagnosed and clinicalized we don't have to take responsibility", sneers Carol Midgley, a columnist of The Times, reporting about the decision of Lord Irvine Laidlaw, a top sponsor of the Tories, to address physicians over his longtime psychological problem of "sex addiction" that he promptly recognized in himself as he was caught frolicking with four naked ladies and serving them an abundance of cocaine. "I've been fighting sexual addiction for my whole adult life. There is no cure for it, and self-help is rarely successful--"

It is really easier for today's West to explain its weakness with unavoidable obstacles. The heralds of democratic values permanently stumble against some circumstances from outside and inside Ц like Milosevic, or Saddam Hussein, or the Talibs originating from nowhere, or the disease affecting the whole personnel of the Abu Ghraib penitentiary, impelling to strip convicts and to piss on their sacred books.

The Western civilization, with its equal contempt towards "piccaninnies" and Orthodox believers, is pathologically incapable to notice the Mormon fundamentalist sect raping dozens of American girls in their town's vicinity, and an Austrian landlord keeping three kids, born from an incest with his daughter, for nineteen years, none of the neighbors being puzzled about the origin of growls the kids used instead of human speech.

It does not really seem quite obvious that other civilizations are supposed to love and respect the civilization combining Big Macs and waterboarding practice, sperm-losing lords and mayors of capitals that experience special joy from a stag hunt at seeing the guts streaming, and the stag turds spilling out on to the grass from within the ventral cavity (one more quote from Boris Johnson).

The Times' Carol Midgley suggests that beside costly medication, superfluous licentiousness of a Western personality can be treated otherwise: in case the compulsive lord gives away his $729bln more to a charity, his sex opportunities will instantly dry up. The fact he does not do that rather diagnoses him not as a victim of addition but "simply a rich, randy old goat".

Russians really have sins of superfluity. This civilization, however, is typical for overcoming sins with a greatly superfluous zeal, and the whole classical Russian literature is dedicated to this effort. We'll have to overcome lots of problems but finally manage to make use of our superfluity without prompts from outside, as well as to find a way to deal with "goats" of our own. Unlike the world of Big Macs, we face a narrow choice: either we become a part of this randy old world, or survive.

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