Staunton, October 7 – Moscow is spending enormous sums in Russia’s Far North but “exclusively for military purposes,” leaving residents without heat, indigenous peoples without fish, and both without modern medicine, Tatyana Britskaya says. Instead of being impressed by this display of power, local residents are furious: Life in the North has become “a horror.”
Last week this disjunction was very much on public view when Murmansk marked its day of the city, the Novaya gazeta correspondent in that northern city says. Military jets flew over the city at a cost of 16,000 US dollars an hour in flying time each while the people of the region did without (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2019/10/07/82266-na-severe-zhut).
One local journalist, Britskaya continues, announced on Twitter that he “will not take part in city holidays while there are displayed instruments for killing people.” And she adds that for the cost of one hour’s flying time of each plane, the city could replace its aging x-ray machines and cure people of cancer.
But the priorities of Moscow are clear, war over peace, military spending over the needs of the people; and despite the widespread assumption in Moscow that Russians simply take pride in the one while suffering from the other, ever more people in the North in particular see this disjunction and are angry about it.
Ninety of the 125 billion rubles (1.5 to 2 billion US dollars) Moscow spent on the North between 2015 and 2017 went to military needs. Hundreds of military facilities were built while many in the region did without roads, heat or medicines. Officials wouldn’t turn on the heat in schools or homes when a cold spell hit the region in the summer.
The officials’ response to complaints: “Let’s not escalate” because it will get warm again soon. It isn’t quite “let them eat cake,” but it isn’t reassuring either. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, Britskaya says. The person who came up with the slogan “In the North – Live” lives in Moscow. People who live in the region have modified it: “In the North – Horror.”