Capitalist Tsar of a Lost Superpower

Ironies in the post Soviet days surpass those that characterized it. Despite longueurs of economic progress that “Tsar Putin” has made an exhibition out of, it must appear to be ironical that every publication worth its name declares there is more poverty and less equality in Russia these days than they ever were during Soviet days.

But what’s even more satirical are the suggestions from the concerned quarters that see this as an essential problem of the formerly controlled economy, than as an obvious aftermath of the presently capitalistic one. Considering that the crisis is evident (and multiplying) after the collapse of communism, it should come as no uncommon sense to perceive the root of disarrays. And yet the more populist and political correct accusations are aimed at the former era than the present regime.

Well, that’s not such a surprising finding if we traverse back at the hundreds of thousands of myths that the private capital masters have spread over past few decades about the merits of capitalism. In such ways the myths have been reinforced that even the biggest apostles of capitalism would have to pause awhile.

Its over 15 years since the USSR dissolved in its political form, and yet the only path that its economy has taken for the majority of people is downwards. This, despite absence of any capricious elements in an otherwise compromised economy. Apart from a few oligarchs who have been prosecuted, the country has seen one of the more stable forms of capitalistic expansions by business interests. Despite talks of nationalization or renationalization, only sectors affected thus far have been oil and gas. International currencies, free market and prosperous middle classes are characterizing the country in its free-est market condition in its entire history.

And yet, inequalities of wealth among the population are greater. Poverty, unemployment, crime, and prostitution are way higher. Social security is nearly absent and “terrorism” is at the highest. The country is struggling even to hold bilateral talks, its Nato membership pleas challenged by its own people.

Kremlin is gaining notoriety for “getting rid” of its enemies: Murders of eminent people include journalists (Anna Politkovskaya), research scholars (Indologist Grigory Bondarevsky), scientists (Alexander Krasovsky and Viktor Frantzuzov), security service agents (Alexander Litvinenko), and top officers (Andrei Kozlov- vice president of Central Bank, and Alexander Plokhin, director of Foreign Trade Bank), to mention only a few.

Chechnya crisis, high corruption rate, growth of the Russian “Mafia”, racism by “skinheads”, ban on Communists to conduct parades are not the only features that characterize a fragmented country unable to celebrate its national and cultural diversity. According to the Reporters Without Borders, Russia ranks below many African countries in terms of its press freedom ranking, indeed out of 168 countries, its rank is 147 (worse than Mugabe’s Zimbabwe)! In terms of corruption, Russia is the top most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International’s global corruption reports. Lets not even bring up the controversial but almost accurate Amnesty International which maintains horrific databases.

“The Road Ahead”:
And yet, most economists suggest that even greater private investments hold the key for a country like Russia to gain a foothold. Putin has been acclaimed on one hand for raising the nationalist level among the people so as to take back the country to the days of Tsarist glory (implying the biggest feudal society in the contemporary times where private capitals will be concentrated in the hands of selected domestic business houses). This is the more popular choice considering the general anti-Americanism prevailing among the people and unduly being milked by the Americanized leaders of Europe themselves to further their political (read: democratic) ambitions.

And on the other hand, from the critics’ quarters, he has been advised to opt for greater concentration on capitalistic expansion so as to make way for a truly “free market” (implying the establishment of a neo-American society where money will engage people as a commodity, and take away the human elements that are needed for any progressive dissent).

The third front is, alas an alternative, least explored. While visiting Borders book store, I usually chuckle at the sections such as History and Government & Politics. Several racks of books are collected under different sub-headings for easy perusal. It is there that one understands how silently, and effectively the alternatives are purged. You will surely find subheadings such as “Russian History”, and “Russian Government”, but under parenthesis they have carefully typed out phrase: “Non-Soviet”.

Somewhere between Tsarist oppressions and Capitalistic expansions, the Soviet intentions are conveniently buried. And it’s most ironically absent in Putin’s Russia.


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