Russia and the russians
Why are the Russians as they are? What historical experiences have shaped this nation and its people? That is my first subject – necessarily superficial and anecdotal.
The most recent experience – the fall of the Soviet Union, the convulsions of the 90ies surrounding the change from a communist society, a centrally planned system to a market economy, is very much alive in the minds of most Russians. “The greatest tragedy of the 20th century” said Vladimir Putin of the fall of the USSR – the one who brought it about, Boris Yeltsin, was also the one who named Putin president. That shows how attitudes change – and how old ones tend to come back. How did it happen – an empire was lost, a social system collapsed, all in the course of a few years and – unique in history – without any bloodshed? Did Gorbachev and Yeltsin plan their actions – or did they at all understand what was happening and what they were doing? How do the Russians now look upon the 90ies? That is my second subject.
And now – is it as the French cynics say “plus ca change plus c´est la meme chose”- do we now see a return to some of the soviet behaviour, do the “siloviki”, the people with background and thinking from the KGB, now dominate the Kremlin, has the old nomenklatura, the Soviet elite, been succeeded by a kleptocracy, bureaucrats who use their positions to rob the country and think of nothing else? And can a system with one autocrat at the top deciding everything really be stable. Or can we hope that