Monday, September 18, 2017

Russians Don’t Just Live in Different Places: They Exist in Different Eras, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 18 – Many analysts have long accepted Natalya Zubarevich’s argument that there is not one Russia but four – the big cities, the smaller industrial centers, the villages and small towns, and the republics of the North Caucasus and Siberia. (

            But Russian commentator Igor Yakovenko suggests that another factor dividing the country is acquiring ever greater importance. People in Russia, he says, are not only living in different places spatially but often exist in entirely different decades or even centuries (

            Moreover, “the localization of various ‘Russias’ in time does not correspond with localization in space,” he continues.  In some cases, even in “a single city, people who come from completely different historical periods are living next door to one another.”  And he defines six different Russias in terms of that.

            The first Russia is the Russia of Soviet times, Yakovenko argues. “It forms the majority of the population in almost all subjects of the Russian Federation, except for the republics of the North Caucasus” and is the basis of Putin’s Russia.  Its members are most often people who work one way or another for the government or are on pensions.

            In some places, such as the company towns, people of this Russia form “almost 100 percent” of the population. In others, like Moscow and St. Petersburg, he suggests, this Russia forms only “a little more than half” of the residents.

            In Soviet times, they knew what the country was moving towards but now they don’t. And they viewed the trajectory of “school-university-work-pension” as an inviolable norm. But now that has been challenged by changes in the society and the economy. And the residents of “Russia No. 1” don’t know what to do. As a result, they are sullenly silent.

            Most of them “watch television and on the whole either believe or consider that the TV is lying and that it is right to do so because with us it cannot be otherwise. They vote for Putin and for United Russia and the KPRF.” And while they may curse the government for this or that policy, they are not ready to challenge it.

            Indeed, according to Yakovenko, “the protest potential of the denizens of Russia No. 1 is equal to zero; but a significant part of them would with satisfaction identify with the victory [should there be any change] and with still greater satisfaction take part in the denigration of anyone who lost.”

            Russia No. 2, the Russian commentator continues, consists of people who remain Soviet but are part of the lumpen rather than the ordinary citizenry.  These are people who ran afoul of the Soviet system and served time. They often turn their backs on the regime. Nearly a quarter of all Russian adults have been in prison, and they are “the nucleus” of this Russia.

            “As a rule,” members of Russia No. 2 don’t vote, “but the subculture which they reproduce in large measure forms the electoral base of [Zhirinovsky’s] LDPR.” That is shown by the fact that that party receives the most votes in regions where the share of former prisoners in the population is the highest. 

            “In the last 10 to 15 years” – that is, under Vladimir Putin – “Russia No. 2 has received a new impulse for its development” with the rise of new criminal groups” and with the chance to participate in Russian aggression against Ukraine. The Kremlin asked them to and they responded positively.

            According to Yakovenko, “today it is precisely Russia No. 2 which has become the main source of that mass force and vandalism which are spreading through the cities of the country.” But this Russia too, doesn’t have any protest potential although its members will be the first to take part in pogroms.

            Russia No. 3 consists of those whose lives remain defined by the village even if they have in some cases moved into the cities.  Many of them are unemployed and have no prospects for the future. In fact, for them “time has stopped: there is no future or way out, and apathy and indifference reign.” In the best case, they try to survive; in the worst, they fall to the bottom of society.  They form, Yakovenko says, about 20 to 22 percent of Putin’s Russia.

            Russia No. 4 is “the internal Islamic state” in the North Caucasus.  It is an enclave which “in fact is living according to shariat law.”  Putin was forced to accept this as the price of bringing a certain stability to that region, but now this area has taken on a life of its own, although the regime can and does make use of its denizens to attack its enemies.

            Russia No. 5, Yakovenko says, lives in the Middle Ages as a Christian State.  For this Russia, time has also “stopped.” Indeed, “it simply doesn’t exist.”  It has been created by Kremlin’s promotion of tradition and its “radical rejection of the modern world.”  Many of its ideas are typical of fascist regimes, of which Putin’s “undoubtedly” is one.

            This Russia is now fighting against the film “Mathilda,” but “its main goal and the reason for existence of Russia No. 5 is for a struggle with the single part of Russia which lives in the 21st century. And that is Russia No. 6 which consists of Russians “who want to become Europeans.”

            Russia No. 6 forms from 15 to 23 percent of all Russians. “About 30 percent of Russia No.  6 are in Moscow, another 10 percent in St. Petersburg, and the rest in a quite thin stratum are located throughout the rest of the country,” Yakovenko continues.  But it is important not to confuse it with the 14 percent who don’t support Putin.

            According to the commentator, Russia No. 6 is divided into two groups: “those who “know that the Earth turns but they have a family’ and those who despite having a family all the same continue to publicly reject the Ptolemaic system.” 
            “The Putin regime in fact has declared war on Russia No. 6, a war to its destruction,” Yakovenko says.  But the reality is that the only one of the six Russias that has any real potential for development in this century is Russia No. 6.  Nonetheless, it can’t be discounted that the Putin regime will succeed in destroying or at least suppressing it. 

            That is because it is entirely “possible,” the Russian observer says, that Putin by intuition understands that “the amputation of the brain [of the country which is what Russia No. 6 represents] is the only means he has to preserve both Russia’s imperial character and his own power over it.”

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