kolmapäev, oktoober 05, 2011

planet putin

The further the Soviet Union recedes into the mists of antiquity, the more outlandish its perceived successes become.

For hundreds of years the Russian Empire spent fortunes in blood and treasure to maintain some semblance of control over its vast real estate holdings, putting down Polish rebellions here and Chechen uprisings there. The USSR was just about as lucky, spending local and foreign lives like an Atlantic City casino addict.

Its high was a stretch of 30 years between the death of Stalin and the rise of Gorbachev, half of which is now known as the period of stagnation. This just so happened to be the period of time into which its current ruler Vladimir Putin was born and raised. Putin was born in 1952, which means his worldview is restricted to some kind of glossy, wood-paneled 1970s time capsule. People pore over biographies trying to understand why Putin is the way he is. But there is one simple answer: he's just an old fart.

Hence, the "Eurasian Union," the returning president's "new" idea to rebuild some kind of superpower on the sun-bleached bones of the Soviet corpse. Or as Putin put it in an Izvestiya article, "a great inheritance" of "infrastructure, specialized production facilities, and a common linguistic, scientific and cultural space."

This new union would comprise the Russian Federation at its core, of course, as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan, with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan poised to join at a later date. Interesting that more bitter pills to swallow, such as Ukraine, where there are scary nationalists, and Uzbekistan, where there are scary Muslims, were left off the immediate agenda.

Still, according to the once and again president, all of the former CIS countries have "spiritual threads that unite their peoples." Trying to create an entity as glorious as the USSR would be a "naive" attempt to "restore or copy what is already past," he said. The Eurasian alliance instead will be based on "universal principles of integration, as an integral part of greater Europe, united by common values of freedom, democracy and market laws."

Which sounds like complete bullshit to me, but ... who's asking?

The Baltics have been left off the Eurasian Union map for now. Most writers have called the idea of their reorientation from the European Union to the other EU "unimaginable." And, at face value, one could argue that Russia's suggestion could work. Didn't the German-dominated EU make similar overtures to cooperation, democracy, freedom, market laws, peace and understanding when it "enlarged" into Central Europe, the Baltic Rim countries and, especially, the Western Balkans? If Russia was actually a free country with a functioning democracy and obeyed market laws, the Eurasian Union might make some sense. But because it isn't, it only scares people, almost as much as a shot of the old Soviet fart in Siberia with his shirt off.

I'll only remind you that when the Estonian puppet government "applied" for membership in the USSR in 1940, it was done explicitly to protect Estonian independence from the dangers of a Nazi-led, federated Europe. The Estonians would have more freedom within the USSR than outside it, argued its Soviet-picked leaders. According to this line of thinking, a vote to join the USSR was a vote for Estonian independence. Terrific.

I don't know how seriously to take the Eurasian Union. Those who adore the Russian ruler and believe him to embody all good things will likely be warm to this new and brilliant idea -- I mean, what good does a wholly autonomous Tajikistan do anybody, huh? Those who see him as the reincarnation of Stalin, albeit with a mustache-devoid upper lip, will cite it as another example of Putin's power lust and innate evil. Some people just think that the man is trying to seduce Russian voters with big ideas ahead of his reinstatement in March. They're probably right.

16 kommentaari:

Lingüista ütles ...

He's been trying to rebuild the Soviet Union ("greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the XXth century") since it fell. In fact, so had its predecessors, with the CIS, for instance.

The language is of course wholly modern, but Putin is good at that. His intentions, however, are as clear as the best Russian patriotic rock.

Of course, he'll have to convince these people that it's a good idea to participate and stay in the Eurasian Union. With Lukashenka's luck regularly going up and down, it may be trickiest than it seems; and the Kazakhs strike me as interested in keeping their independence no matter how they look internationally (especially now that they're a majority in Kazakhstan again).

The Eurasian Union reminds me of the "independence" of South Ossetia and Abkhazia: sort of OK on paper, not much else. It will be an excuse to print nice-looking passports, designed to look neater than the European Union passports (can't you just already see them, with Eurasian Union at the top and Republic of XYZ under it?). Perhaps a common currency will be proposed (the 'eurasio'?). So that they can say, hey, we're just like the European Union! Just as our managed democracy is just like democracy!

But in the end, it's all about reverting the 'biggest geopolitical catastrophe'.

PTI ütles ...

You thought about "The Eurasian Union" more than 99.998% of Russians. 70% of us like Putin, 10% hate him, 20% too drunk to care!

How about Eurasia to Alaska tunnel? Oh !@#$, some other Russian came up with this brilliant idea!!!!


Meelis ütles ...

"argued its Soviet-picked leaders"
They did not make decisions. They were not at all leaders, they were only puppets.

Giustino ütles ...

"argued its Soviet-picked leaders"
They did not make decisions. They were not at all leaders, they were only puppets.

Ok, that was from the speech that the "foreign minister" gave. You are right that they had no power and were thus powerless, and anyone who disagreed was quickly removed from power. So they were puppets, but they had official roles.

Bea ütles ...

Well, Uzbekistan is just too economically poor for Putin to be interested in them, I guess.
Azeris and other Caucasians, Ukraine and Moldova seem to have made other choices (determined by the non-Russian speakers nationals). Ukraine has its own economical potential and Poland, Moldova has Romania, Azerbaijan has its own economical resourses and Turkey, Armenia has its diaspora and virtually no Russian speakers. Georgia has long shown it is not going to go with Russia.

So then Kazachstan and Belarus are economically quite ok in comparisson to Russia itself and there are many Russian-speakers living there.

Tadzhikistan and Kyrgyztan are Muslims as well. But they write in kirilitsa (Russian alphabeth), Russian is one of the national languages in Kyrgyzstan. They both still have similar soviet coats of arms now, have their economies mostly dependent on the CIS countries and China. They are quite poor by GDP, but might seem wellrulable to Putin. Kyrgyzstan has enough of natural resources for itself.

Bea ütles ...

Well, nah, Uzbekistan is not poorer than Kyrgyzstan and Tadzhikistan, but they have much bigger population, prolly a stronger ruler, Latin alphabet and the majority do not speak Russian well enough.

PTI ütles ...


I'll make you my 'Russian expert', what doya say?

Bea wrote;
"But they write in kirilitsa (Russian alphabeth),"

Lingüista ütles ...

I, for one, am hoping for the independence of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan... Say, after Putin's death? Who knows?

Mari El might also make it. Sigh!...

LPR ütles ...

Putistan is a land of endless wonderment. Like last week, I ran into this woman who spoke russian. We started talking and after hearing that I was Estonian, she offered that she was lak. I had never heard of lak people. So I wikied it later. Turns out, they are real ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lak_people_(Dagestan)

Lingüista ütles ...

Oh yes! A colleague of mine worked with the Lezigan language, spoken by some of the neighbors of the Lak.

Very complicated languages, both in pronunciation and grammar. People feel tired looking at sixteen cases in Estonian, just imagine 20 in Lezgian..

notsu ütles ...

I don't think that the number of cases is biggest problem in Lezgian - in Hungarian, there are even more, and Hungarian is still much simpler language than Estonian, one of easiest languages I've ever learned actually. I guess that its ergative-absolutive nature is the hardest thing for us, as we are used to accusative system, and their ergative logic is mindblowing.

Lingüista ütles ...

Actually, I work on an ergative language (Tiriyó, in South America) which I find simpler (in terms of specific complexity) than most European languages. It doesn't even have cases (the ergative is marked by a postposition).

If I were to guess, probably the pronunciation system of Daghestanian languages (among which the largest consonant systems in the world can be found) would probably cause most foreigners to turn away in disarray...

Spawnie ütles ...

Have you guys seen "The Soviet Story"?
It's a relatively old documentary actually, but I think it puts Putin's plans in a much scarier perspective.
In my opinion, you are taking things a bit too lightly, but maybe I grew up in different circumstances.

Giustino ütles ...

Are the Lak People related to the Tusken raiders?

Lingüista ütles ...

I've seen The Soviet Story. It's an interesting movie, but it clearly is made from an anti-Soviet perspective, to the extent that it presents still debated information as proven facts (collaboration between the Gestapo-SS and the NKVD, etc.). There's a lot in the movie that is true, but there's also a lot that needs checking -- and the director, not being a historian, didn't/couldn't do the checking.

Troels-Peter ütles ...

"Are the Lak People related to the Tusken raiders?"

Now that would be interesting. They may be easily frightened but will return in greater numbers...