Sunday, June 20, 2010

Russian trends - some articles of interest

It's been a long time since I've written again. I can't say I know why, other than I just didn't have the feeling to write. My apologies.

On the other hand, I've had a lot of thoughts to say. Some have been politically controversial, or at least, if I post them, you will see me blasting somebody politically. I don't like political conversations, as I've been the victim of them ever since I was first able to participate. I use the word "victim" intentionally, since it usually seems to me that those who enjoy participating in political "discussions" are quite a bit like the barroom thug who sits at the bar, ready to take advantage of anyone foolish enough to challenge them to an arm-wrestling contest. You have entered their domain, and picked their contest of choice. You have been suckered, and yet you come off as the instigator. I usually end up feeling like I've been suckered into endless circular arguments that I cannot win, and I only look like the foolish target.

Today, though, I'm going to point you to some articles I've recently run across about Russia. In my thinking, they illuminate the current political climate/course in Russia.

I'll start with the Muscovite's Code - if there is any humor to be found here, it is on this topic. A quick intro is at
newsdesk.org/2010/06/in-moscow-put-a-damper-on-slaughtering-sheep-in-courtyards-ok?
with a tongue-in-cheek counterpoint here
themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/a-guide-for-parking-swearing-and-weeing
So, we have a growing nationalist sentiment, combining with some "anti-" ethnic/racial sentiments. Nothing new here, just things we all have in some form. It's what happens as a result that matters, yes? What is important to me is the growth of this side of things.

Speaking of growth in political "areas":
themoscowtimes.com/news/article/directly-elected-mayors-on-their-way-out
It appears to be a strengthening of political crony-ism, and a move against representative government. My first thought is that some of my friends out there will believe I am speaking negatively about this. For you, please stick with me for a little longer.

Economics is much in the news lately. Here we have, in my opinion, a balanced view of the current situation for Russia
themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/sailing-toward-soviet-stagnation
In the middle of this article, you will also find the reason why the pendulum will not swing too far back: "Russia is no longer isolated - its elites and upper middle class know the world outside of Russia through travel and the Internet". And, you will see, if you read this article, a willingness to speak openly about the current economic conditions.

Wrap it up with international politics
themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/russias-zone-of-responsibility

What I see here, quite clearly, is a swing of the pendulum. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the pendulum swung to the opposite side of the spectrum. As would be expected. Now it is swinging back. But, just like a pendulum, political situations rarely swing all the way back to the original spot. External energy must be applied to keep the pendulum swinging. What I see here is confirmation that nationalism, and racist, attitudes continue to grow (although it seems slowly) in Russia. I also see that government continues, slowly, to reform itself along more oligarchic, and less democratic lines. Next, I also see that, while the "Housing Depression" has also impacted Russia, there is still economic strength in that area.

In the middle of the economic article, you will also find the reason why the pendulum will not swing too far back: "Russia is no longer isolated - its elites and upper middle class know the world outside of Russia through travel and the Internet". And, you will see, if you read this article, a willingness to speak openly about the current economic conditions. The very fact that this article is possible, and that the author makes the assumptions, asides, and conclusions that he does, speaks for long-term optimism about Russia economic and political climate.

And, lastly, we have a frank examination of Russia vis-a-vis other area governments/countries. This is a very good examination of Russia's options in Kyrgyzstan. It is also applicable to relations with Georgia. Both have been under Russian power since well before the Soviet came to be. They are immediate neighbors, and have much weaker economies than their larger neighbor to the north.

I see some trends I don't like, and that I mistrust, but, overall, I think we have good reason for long run optimism in Russia. There is still an economic vigor, and a political freedom, that was not there in the Soviet era, and enough people like trend, that, with a little luck, and some work, these negative trends will just be the swinging of the pendulum hitting its reverse end.

The change in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet is not through. It may have only just begun.

I don't know how long the referenced articles will be posted. I've saved copies for my records if you should read this and can not get to the articles.

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