One reads staggering amounts of ignorant drivel written on just about any subject these days. But Russia takes pride of place, even in conservative publications.
They’re so desperate, for all the right reasons, about the way things are in their own country that they seek solace in Putin’s Russia – for all the wrong reasons.
For example, a friend has asked my opinion of an article published on a rightwing blog. The very first sentence told me I was in for a rough ride: “On a trip to Russia earlier this year I learned a few things.”
You learn little on a short trip to any country about which you know next to nothing. There’s no harm in this – provided you don’t think you’ve gained valuable insights. If you do, it’s unfortunate. If you then communicate such insights, it’s subversive.
So what did the author learn? “Russia is very similar to Western countries; it’s a majority white Christian nation, so it has almost the same culture as us.” He should have saved himself the cost of the trip: such revelations could have been picked up from a school primer.
Anything else? “[Russians] love their country and they are proud of their history. They are not trying to stuff their country full of immigrants or apologise for the past. And they are united as a people.”
Well, patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel to Dr Johnson, and in Russia’s case this assessment is richly vindicated.
Let’s remember that in my parents’ generation, and partly my own, the Russian state murdered 60 million of its citizens. One would suggest that there’s little to be proud of and much to repent.
The author is confusing the pathetic apologies proffered by our leaders for ‘Britain’s colonial past’ with genuine repentance for things that any decent society should abhor. Germany, for example, has repented her sins and tried to expiate them.
But Russia hasn’t repented her murders, which is understandable. After all, she’s being run by the same organisation that did the murdering, ably led in the best KGB tradition by Col. Putin himself.
As to the Russians being ‘united as a people’, this is simple ignorance, curable by a few short conversations with simple folk in villages and small towns. One suspects the author’s fluency in Russian isn’t of sterling quality, and those chaps are unlikely to speak much of anything else. So the author’s embarrassing comment is understandable. One just wishes he kept it to himself.
“A person who refuses to work in Russia will have a very miserable time… One man…, a factory worker two years before,… [is] now a senior manager in an oil company. The secret to his impressive results? Hard work.”
Here the author shows a skimpy knowledge not only of Russian society but also of his own. The welfare state, which both he and I deplore, isn’t about helping people who can’t or won’t help themselves. It’s about increasing the power of the state.
When a state does much for individuals, it feels free to do much to them. Also, by steadily increasing the number of people owing their livelihood to the public purse, the state ensures its self-perpetuation.
It follows logically that when the state’s power is already absolute in perpetuity, it has no need for any welfare. That’s why all Russian children know the phrase “if any would not work, neither should he eat” even if they are unaware of its Pauline provenance.
To give credit where it’s due, the state practises what it preaches. Even people who genuinely can’t work are starving. To be fair, most of those who work hard aren’t much better off.
For it’s not ‘hard work’ that’s ‘the secret of impressive results’ but proximity to power. Russia’s economy is criminalised from top to bottom, being run as it is by an elite formed by the amalgam of the KGB and organised crime.
People outside this elite won’t get to run oil companies. Outside Moscow and a couple of other places those working hard regard £400 a month as a princely wage. Presumably the author noticed that prices in Russia are only marginally lower than in Britain – would he like to subsist on that amount or less?
“In many ways [the Russians] are more free than us; they can largely say what they want and do what they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone. However, I strongly advise against criticising their President.”
Hence the author’s concept of freedom is compatible with a ban on criticising Putin. By that criterion, Stalin’s Russia was even freer.
Why, Russia is so free that anyone who suggests she isn’t is quietly bumped off in a dark alley or, if he’s lucky, beaten within an inch of his life.
Putin has effectively suppressed free press, and those journalists who don’t get the message suffer a gruesome fate. Over 40 of them have been murdered on Putin’s watch, and God only knows how many roughed up.
The author’s admiration for such thuggery, even when aimed at Muslim ‘hate preachers’, makes one doubt his conservatism. He describes one such cleric being beaten up or killed (he doesn’t say which) by ‘two Russian men’: “Let’s just say that’s one ‘cultural enricher’ who won’t be speaking against Christians again. Ever.”
Much as one may find such things aesthetically pleasing, the author should read up on Russia a bit. Then he’ll find that the same ‘two Russian men’ could the next day do exactly the same to Orthodox priests and rabbis.
The hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church has been an extension of the secret police since the 1920s. The last patriarchal election was contested by three career KGB agents, one of whom, Kiril, codename ‘Mikhailov’, is the current Patriarch.
Priests who preach real Christian sermons often suffer the same fate as the mullahs described by the author. Two examples spring to mind: Fr Alexander Men, hacked to death, and Fr. Pavel Adelheim, stabbed through the heart.
And attacks, often murderous, on synagogues and rabbis far outnumber those on Muslim ‘hate preachers’. Is the author aware of this? Any of it? Probably not.
That’s why he thinks Russia is “a strong Christian nation with a bright future”. It’s nothing of the sort, though I understand his frustration that neither is Britain.