Staunton, May 3 – Sergey Mironov of the Just Russia Party says that most Russians have stopped telling “New Russian” jokes that were common in the 1990s but that the phenomenon they described remains and in today’s tough economic times is becoming a greater threat to national unity than any CIA-organized “fifth column.”
That is because, he argues, tensions between the impoverished majority and the rich minority are growing, with “the poor getting poorer while the rich get richer,” tensions that are being provoked by the often outrageous behavior of the rich are just below the surface but could easily explode (politobzor.net/show-91508-yadovitye-semena-socialnoy-rozni.html).
At the very least, Mironov says, “the division of society on the basis of wealth can be a barrier to a return to economic growth; and what is stil worse it destroys the idea of a social state and pushes the country into fixed strata where all the population is divided between a privileged caste and a mass of disadvantaged ones.”
Unfortunately, many of the latter, who are often called “’nishebrod’” and who are characterized by “not having a car or only having one produced domestically, by not travelling abroad for vacations, by wearing cheap clothes, and having credit card debt,” among other things, are being told that they are to blame for their situation, something many have accepted.”
The powers that be might be able to keep all this under control were it not for the vulgar displays of wealth and of contempt for those with less money and power by the new Russians. Ordinary people may have stopped telling “new Russian jokes,” Mironov says. They are out of fashion – but only because the new Russians have become such an ordinary part of Russian life.
But ordinary Russians – the overwhelming majority who are classed by commentators as “’the nishebrod’” – are infuriated by some displays of wealth; and polls show that they believe that extravagant weddings and ceremonies at a time when many are impoverished are wrong and can “lead to the exacerbation of social tensions.”
Indeed, Mironov insists, it is those who have a lot of money but no sense of what’s appropriate who are “the genuine nishebrods,” people who will do anything for money and who think money is the measure of all things.
Ordinary working Russians need to be respected and paid better. Much of the wealth of the new Russians, he points out, comes not from the construction of industries but from their destruction and from paying workers truly miserly wages. One study a decade ago found that because of low pay, Russians actually produce more per dollar of wages than Americans do.
That has to change, Mironov says, and he and his party are committed to changes like raising pay, on the one hand, and going after excessive displays of wealth and after those who despite everything keep their money and with it their identities abroad and thus do not help the country with the money the country has given them.
Mironov cites Zbigniew Brzezinskis observation that Russians who keep billions abroad are not Russia’s elite but rather the elites of other countries, and he says that such people “today are more dangerous than ‘a fifth column’ financed by the State Department and the CIA.” Indeed, he says, “this is the Achilles’ heel of Russia” that Russia’s enemies can use against it.