Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Connecting the Dots – Volga Drying Up Because of ‘Imperial Policies,’ Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 28 – In Soviet times, the rule for the media was that journalists could criticize but not generalize; now, something similar obtains. Reporting on problems is typically all right, as long as those doing so do not connect the dots and link specific shortcomings and mistakes to problems with the system as a whole.

            But just as in Gorbachev’s times, when glasnost allowed journalists to report and Soviet citizens to see that the problems they knew about were not in isolation but part of the system, so too now, ever more experts and journalists, on the one hand, and ordinary Russians, on the other, can see these links and draw conclusions.

            An example of this is provided by a report Sergey Gogin and Maksim Fedorov of Radio Svoboda have prepared on the drying up of a reservoir on the Volga River. They say that everyone can see that the cause of this dangerous ecological situation lies with mistakes committed by an interagency commission (

            The problems these mistakes have caused are serious: water shortages and a decline in the quality of water available to the population. But if observers left it at that, there would be little reason to talk about something that has been happening again and again across the Russian Federation.

            Now, one of the closest observers of this situation, Yevgeny Burdin who has written numerous books on Russia’s waterways, has connected the dots, linking this failure directly to the Putin system as a whole. “The fact that we do not have fish or pure water,” he says, “is the result of imperial policies.”

            They have their roots in Soviet times, he says, noting that two decades ago, he warned that the current disaster was on its way to occurring. No one paid attention at that time. Instead, officials continued to act on the basis of decisions taken above them that ignored what the people in the specific region need.

            Unless that system changes, Burdin suggests, the problems people are now upset about have no chance of being resolved, exactly the kind of conclusion that animated people at the end of Soviet times to try to overthrow that system and one that could easily become the basis for people now to do the same with the overcentralized imperial system of the Putin regime. 

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