Staunton, May 17 – The social, medical and economic crises are hitting Russia very hard at present, but “it is possible,” Kirill Martynov says, that “the main drama” lies elsewhere, in the realm of ethics where the powers that be are treating citizens like “a biomass” who are only getting in the way of the enrichment of those on top.
That is bad enough in and of itself, the political editor of Novaya gazeta says; but this moral “decay” of the elites is having a serious impact on society with ever more Russians assuming that if those on top view others in this denigrating way, it is appropriate for them to behave in the same way (echo.msk.ru/blog/kirillmartyn/2644397-echo/).
Recovering from that will be harder and take longer than recovering from the pandemic, the oil price shock, or declining incomes as a result of self-isolation of business closures. It will require a major effort to overcome a problem that is all the worse because so few people yet see it as one.
By the middle of this month, Martynov says, “the extent of this moral catastrophe” had become clear. And that catastrophe can be described in a few words: “the worst things become for citizens of Russian under conditions of the epidemic, the more they are likely to fall into the clutches of the state” in a variety of ways.
This is the state, after all, “which asserts that there are none of its soldiers on the territory of Ukraine, that won the Olympivs by doping only to be driven out of international sports,” and that two of its killers who went to Salisbury to kill a defector were simply tourists interested in a cathedral spire.
With respect to the pandemic, this state behaved in the same way, first denying the extent of the problem, lying even when it was compelled to admit that it was serious, and refusing to help the population even though the regime has the resources to do so, the political commentator continues.
The Russian state continues to insist on lies. Its doctors die from the coronavirus even as they explain the deaths of their patients from the same cause by listing other medical problems. And the government tries to keep those who have symptoms at home so they can die there and not add to the death figures the regime cares about so much but only for propaganda purposes.
And the authorities have allowed the virus to run rampant through hospitals and prisons, denying all the while that that is happening. It may be that some Russians still believe there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. After all, they haven’t seen them. But it soon won’t be possible for any of them to ignore the reality that the powers that be are denying nearby.
Some of them will become angry that the government views them with such withering and dismissive contempt rather than treating them as human beings worthy of respect. But others, and that is Martynov’s fear, will decide that the way the powers are behaving is the way they should – and that will be even worse for them and for Russia’s future.