Thursday, July 11, 2019

‘Fate of Moscow Doesn’t Depend on Muscovites,’ Roshchin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – All the money the Kremlin has extracted from the rest of Russia in order to keep Moscow from being the seedbed of revolution has played an evil trick on the residents of the capital: ever more Russians want to come to the city, and the government isn’t capable of keeping them out, Aleksey Roshchin says.

On the one hand, the Russian commentator says, that means that Moscow is turning into a monster with a swelling population that requires ever more money from the provinces to survive at its current level. And on the other, it means that the provinces will have fewer resources the Kremlin can extract to keep the standard of living in Moscow where it is.

            In short, Roshchin says, “in essence, today’s Moscow is a colonial capital,” a kind of “Titanic” that is heading right toward the iceberg even as its passengers celebrate as if nothing could ever go wrong. And no one. including those who call themselves the opposition, is capable of pointing out this looming disaster (

            Roshchin’s reflections in this regard arise from his consideration of the situation facing Moscow in its upcoming city council elections. The city’s government can’t afford to lose openly or to restrict the candidates of the opposition so scandalously that someone in the Presidential Administration will decide that “’Sobyanin poorly controls Moscow.’”

            And the opposition even if it does manage to secure the election of a few of its members will not change things because “by tradition which isn’t changing, ‘the opposition’ doesn’t have any positive program” and because “the fate of Moscow already does not depend on the Muscovites themselves.”

            Moscow, Roshchin continues, is “an enormous fashionable Titanic” which is sailing through the night with its passengers celebrating because they “consider themselves “’the elect.’” They “really are,” he says, “but in a someone different sense than it seems to them.” And that difference matters.

            “Moscow is an enormous ‘bubble,’ which the Russian Federation or more precisely the ruling organized criminal group has diligently pumped up over the last ten years. The main thing for the regime is the absence of a revolution, and all revolutions as is well-known are made in the capital.”

            Consequently, the Kremlin has set about to “transform Moscow into a showcase of the regime and at the same time deprive Muscovites of any reason to revolt: to transform Moscow in short into ‘a bulwark of stability.’” For that, the center needs money and it gets it by extracting it from the rest of the country.

            At present, the central government spends on average nine to ten times more per capita on people in the capital than it does in any other oblast center.  That gives Muscovites some immediate advantages and a sense of entitlement as better than they are but all of these carry with themselves longer-term threats.

            Salaries in Moscow are higher, pensions are too, the costs for basic services lower, prices are lower, new housing is more accessible, and public transport is far better, Roshchin says, providing specific figures to support each of these contentions. How can these things be bad, some Muscovites may ask; but the answer, he says, is very simple.

            Everyone in Russia wants to move there, and that influx is “levelling all the advantages Moscow has as a colonial capital. Moscow is DROWNING in people. And this process will only intensify.” The Soviet government largely prevented this with the propiska system, but the Russian one has thrown up its hands.

            As a result, “Moscow is being transformed into a city-monster.” And over time, it will lose the very sources of revenue that it has relied on. Muscovites will suffer first, but the regime will suffer as well.  All this needs to be discussed, but neither the officials who want to continue to dance in the face of disaster or the opposition leaders are willing to do so.

            The first because the current situation is the only one that keeps them in office; the second because they don’t know how to approach voters with a message that the electorate in the colonial capital doesn’t want to hear. 

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