Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Russian Villagers Whose Complaints about Roads Reach TV or Putin Get Relief but Few Others Do

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 – In many parts of rural Russia, to speak of roads is to engage in euphemisms. They are more often muddy tracks rather than graded let alone paved highways. When tragedies happen, they complain to television or to Vladimir Putin and sometimes those who do get relief. But the rest continue as they have been, Sergey Shargunov says.

            The commentator and television program host tells the story of the victim of a heart attack in a Kursk Oblast village whom the ambulance couldn’t reach because the road ran out and of a girl in a Vladimir Oblast village who wanted a road so her younger sister could learn to ride a bicycle (svpressa.ru/blogs/article/301750/).

            They were helped because their complaints reached the Kremlin or at least Russian television, but they are the lucky ones: millions of others live in places where the only way to get in and out is by tractor and where people go to district centers to shop once a month because doing so is an act of heroism, Shargunov continues.

            On the one hand, this arrangement allows TV personalities like himself or Putin in the Kremlin to play Lady Bountiful and hand out benefits, something they are happy to do and for which the villagers are happy. But on the other, this arrangement means that officials won’t do anything unless they are forced by this kind of exposure.

            In the nature of things, with more than 10,000 villages, most of whom aren’t linked by paved roads to the outside world, few will break through and get the benefits. The solution is not to have more exposures of what is wrong but rather to insist that regional and local officials do their jobs and build roads and to have federal officials make sure that happens.

            Until that occurs, Shargunov says, there will be more tragedies and more gratitude when someone intervenes; but the system will in fact not get any better, however much what Putin or central television manages to do in the few cases that manage to attract their attention.


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