Monday, April 22, 2019

Russians Increasingly Walling Themselves Off from Others

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 22 – Russians are erecting ever more and ever higher walls around where they live, where they work and even where they are buried, Vadim Zhartun says, a reflection of the sacred character they give to such fencing off of themselves from others and of the fences and walls they have in their minds.

            Other nations have erected fences and walls, but they have done so to block a particular threat, the Russian blogger says; but Russians view them as a universal necessity and even status symbol, suggesting both a distinction from others and a danger to Russians themselves ( reposted at

            People put them up around their houses and dachas, ministries and firms put them around industrial zones even if there is nothing behind the walls but rusting metal, and military units have them around them both where they might be useful and, in many places, where it is difficult or impossible to imagine that they are, Zhartun continues.

            The barriers are “an indicator of status. The higher the position of an individual, the higher will be the fence or wall separating him from others. Remember the 9-meter fence surrounding Medvedev’s dacha? That is true happiness Russian style.
            “All our lives, we live behind walls, go to work along fences, work behind walls, but even after death walls continue to follow us: I was horrified by a cemetery where each grave was separated by boundaries.  The dead aren’t going to be running off anywhere,” the commentator continues.

            “The fences around us are only a reflection of the fences we have in our heads and whatever we do and whatever we are involved with, in the final analysis, we always end up doing one and the same thing – putting up fences and walls,” Zhartun says.

            According to him, “the Berlin Wall became the symbol of the Soviet era;” but a true wall supports something and so it would be better to call that “grandiose” construction the Berlin “fence.” Unfortunately, then there existed “fences in several dimensions at once – political, economic, social and cultural.”  And although some came down, many more are going up.

            Indeed, he continues, “now we are again at shock rates putting up fences and walls” for the country as a whole so far “virtual” against the Internet. But there is one difference now: in Soviet times, the fences and walls restricted everyone. Now, they restrict the population but not those who want to put their money in the West.

            But however that may be, one thing is clear: walls are the symbol or even the embodiment of Russia. The Kremlin after all is “a fortress” surrounded by a high stone wall with little towers.”  And both Russians and those who deal with them often suggest that the Kremlin does this or that, something other nations typically do not do about themselves.

            In short, walls now are taking the place of people and institutions, a development that must be reversed if Russia is to have a future.

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