Staunton, May 20 – When things are going relatively well, many Russians like to say they are the best at everything. When things start to go wrong, they routinely insist that they’re just as good as anyone else. And when ever more failures and crimes make such insistence insupportable, they often begin to say that at least they aren’t as bad as some others.
This pattern is most obvious in the case of Russia’s recent defeats in athletic competitions, Moscow commentator Aleksey Melnikov says; but it quite often extends to economics, social and demographic conditions, politics, and international affairs more generally (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5B004B0C76A43).
As bad as Russian teams do, especially in comparison with the past, he continues, there are always teams that do even worse; and instead of focusing on the problems of their own teams, Russians increasingly direct their attention and that of others to these other teams, thus eliminating any pressure on themselves to improve.
This approach of what might be called Russia’s “C students” who like to point out that many are doing even worse than they are even if others are doing better is viewed as patriotic. It is certainly emotionally comforting and means that Russians do not feel any reason to think that they have in any way fallen short, however much they have fallen from past victories.
Obviously, such attitudes work to the benefit of a political class that doesn’t want to be forced to make changes and so the regime itself is only to happy to promote rather than discourage such talk. But the long-term impact of such attitudes for Russia’s future will be anything but positive.