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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Russian Logic 101

It's becoming an interesting parlor game, almost a spectator sport, trying to guess whether Russia is run by people who are merely stupid, clinically insane or mouth-frothingly evil. Here, take a whirl at it yourself.

Something strange to chew on: Moscow Times columnist Alexander Golts reports that Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov has announced that "it is essential to work on the question of raising insurance compensation for passengers killed or maimed to international levels -- to at least $75,000."

Actually, the figure Ivanov quotes is considerably more generous than many international standards. For instance, in the state of New York the minimum level of automobile insurance coverage for an accident with no fatality is just $25,000 and just $50,000 for one with a fatality. That's a common standard in the U.S.

But even if America required $75,000 in coverage, since when does Russia need to match an international standard? According to the "purchasing power parity" formulation, a Russian doesn't need to earn as much as a Westerner because things are cheaper in Russia. Some people argue that Russia's nominal GDP should be doubled before it is compared to that of Western countries. If that's so, why doesn't Russia need, say, only $37,500 in actual insurance coverage in order to match the level of the West?

Could it be that Ivanov knows "purchasing power parity" is an utter fraud? Is he, perhaps, aware that Moscow was recently annointed the most expensive city in the world? Or is he remembering the fact that when Boris Yeltsin needed heart surgery, he brought in foreign doctors? Maybe, he was reading the recent report indicating that Russia has three of the top seven most polluted cities in the world, meaning that a glass of water from a Russian faucet is perhaps not quite the same as one from an French one (especially since an average Russian lifespan is much shorter than that of a Frenchman).

All that's quite possible. Then again, it's also quite possible that Ivanov is simply stupid, babbling gibberish without the slightest knowledge of the facts.

On the other hand, it seems equally possible that he's insane. That seems to be Golts's hypothesis. Golts notices that although Ivanov, wearing his "deputy prime minister" hat, screams about increasing compensation for the victims of traffic accidents, when the topic of injuries to Russian soliders comes up, and he's wearing his "defense minister" hat, suddenly he turns into Jack the Ripper. Golts writes:

Captain Vyacheslav Nikiforov, an officer of the Railway Troops convicted for the murder of Vyacheslav Penteleyev, a conscript under his command, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. But the soldier's family received a mere 200,000 rubles ($7,450) from the Defense Ministry. Some grim math reveals that this values the lives of air passengers at 10 times those of soldiers, for whom Ivanov's ministry is responsible. In total, the family of a conscript killed while serving in the armed forces receives a one-off payment of about $5,000 and then an extra $1,000 in insurance payouts for each family member. Andrei Rudenko, a soldier who had been rented out by his commander to a local businessman in Chita, was brought to Moscow. Rudchenko had been found lying on the side of the road after being hit by a car in an accident that resulted in the loss of one an eye and a leg. Ivanov has yet to make any public comment about the case or what kind of compensation the victim would receive. Paying out $75,000 in each of these cases would bury the armed forces. If every officer who failed to prevent crimes as dangerous as drunk driving were cashiered, then at least 1,000 officers would have to be dismissed every year.
Golts concludes:
Ivanov ends up exhibiting the symptoms of professional schizophrenia when itcomes to the question of putting a value on life. He ends up with a higher number whenspeaking as deputy prime minister than he does when speaking as defense minister. But this is based more on tradition than a split personality. Ivanov and President Vladimir Putin treat the state's unique right to dispose of the lives of citizens as holy, much the same as their predecessors -- tsars, party general secretaries, military commanders and generals -- have done over the past 300 years or so. It is this and not financial considerations that engender the lack of sympathy on the part of the army. For Ivanov, it is as if military service should not be considered a profession, but something more like a tax on the country's population. The armed forces should remain, as the Soviet expression went, the "school of life." Here people learn that those at the very top decide everything and that the greatest virtue is unconditional submission. A person's life belongs entirely and unconditionally to the state. Private Pantaleyev was disposed of in an irrational way from the state's point of view, so the offending party was punished. But there is no sense that the state is responsible as well.
Yet, who can rule out the possiblity that Ivanov is evil? It's certainly another way to explain Golts's findings. Maybe he wants the killings in the army to continue without compensation to families. After all, that's raw expression of the the power of the state, bound to strike terror into the hearts of Russians that will make them more docile and easier to control, especially where military matters are concerned. Josef Stalin tried to govern the country that way for decades.

What do you think? Is Ivanov just stupid? Or is he insane? Evil? Or is this just an ordinary case of "being Russian"?


Penny said...

Evil, stupid or insane...take your pick, it's Putin's retro Russia.

When the common folk there go to bed at night, and review their lives, what are they thinking? Do they think?

Some cultures, like the Arabs, just aren't capable of capitalism and democracy. Russians are another of the world's basket cases. Spiritually and morally deadened after the 70 years of Big Brother, never having experienced the Age of Enlightenment or Reason, beasts of burden in their own minds and having fascism as a comfortable default, Russians are a very sad group. Fascist Putin is the logical default when you can't fathom the rest of the world or take personal risks.

One of the things that struck me, so long ago in '89, was how insular was my Russian exchange teacher. Sweet, bright and, as you'd expect, at the top of the communist strata, she had no liberal arts/humanities grounding. She loved stuff, but, failed sometimes to appreciate why we had it.

I liked the Russians I met in those days, and we had many at our home, it is sad to see such a reversal of fortunes. One of my daughters was a Russian major in college.

You are on target regarding the blogs that are no more than Useful Idiots for Russian fascism. I've read them in the past and moved on.

Life expectancy is horrible in Russia, the birth rate reinforces their lack of investment in the future. Alcoholism is another story. When Putin's oil and commodities revenues die so will Russia.

Sad. Bring on the straight out of cental casting, the stalking KGB rodent, raccoon, for some lame fascist pittbull commentary....

Thanks, LR, for aggregating the factual status of Russia.

La Russophobe said...


You're such a baboon. Russians ARE "biologizing" (not a word) their culture RIGHT NOW with racist pogroms and sending the message that the Slavic race is superior. Look outside your windown you ape. How can you possibly think you will encourage respect for Russians with such pathetic rhetoric? Did it ever occur to you that you need to WIN respect from more powerful countries, not simply demand it?

What's more, Putin is forming an axis RIGHT NOW with Alexei, who many believe is a lifelong KGB informant. He is forcing Russian students to study religion in primary schools. Again, your lack or intention disregard of information is quite typical.

Russians are governed by fear right now. If you're not afraid after so many murders of high profile people, you're the only one.

Russians are fundamentally cowards. They feard Solzhenitsyn and Dosteovsky, that's why the sent them to the camps. Who fears a writer? Only a weakling and a coward. And even more cowardly than those who SENT them to the camps are those who didn't protect them. Russia is the most cowardly nation on earth.

Penny said...

Raccoons - you're such a phoney. It would take an amatuer linguist only a minute to spot the inconsistencies of your alleged English as a second language writing style.

Your silly little bio with its generic superficialities, absolute lack of substance is pathetic.

I think you are a silly attention seeking little troll stuck in life at a keyboard somewhere in the world. You probably stalk many other blogs trying desperately to be the "expert".

You really need to develope a life. Get some friends. Find some other ways of channeling your anger. Life is too short.

Penny said...

LR - name a culture that sends its best and brightest into exile or the gulag on a par with Russia?. It's a romantic thing with them, suffering is noble rather than pointless, sheeple stupity their default comfort zone, a culture of greed and envy.

You aren't hard enough on Russia and far too polite.

I love their literature, and, after you subtract their moronic proclivity for pathos, drama and fascism, their social frivolity.

Fear will always govern their miserable lives. Better to die on their knees then stand in defiance.

Russia would be irrelevant and totally dead by now if their oil, like the Arabs, didn't keep them on the radar for now. That will end too. China will probably own Russia in the not too distant future.