Saturday, June 17, 2023

Bad Roads are the Broken Windows of Russian Life, Safronov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 14 – The broken windows theory, offered by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in 1982, suggested that signs of disorder in a neighborhood, like broken windows which go unfixed, leads to more serious problems, including not only more broken windows but also more serious crimes.

            Now, a Russian commentator, Kirill Safronov, argues that in the case of Russia, bad roads and the government’s failure to build good ones or promptly repair existing ones plays a similar role, affecting how people see themselves and their relationship to the state and much else in a negative way (

            Potholes are such a common feature in Russian roads that Russians view them as natural and inevitable, Safronov says. But potholes aren’t either. Roman roads have lasted 2000 years without them, and many countries have good roads without this bane of Russian existence. Where there are potholes as in Russia, there is “endless humiliation.”

            According to Safronov, “our resentment is born out of endless humiliation” and affects all of the lives of Russians. All of this – “and much more,” he insists – “grows out of broken roads.” If the roads were better or fixed promptly and properly, Russians would feel differently about far more than just the roads themselves.

            With bad roads, Russians “subconsciously feel that something is wrong;” and not surprisingly, he looks for something, including his neighbors to blame. That changes both how he works and how he relates to them and the state as a whole, undermining the possibility that they can cooperate with one another.

            Should normal roads eventually appear in Russia, “the bewitchment of the majority of our fellow citizens with television will disappear. There will still remain a lot to be done,” Safronov says; “but normal roads are a necessary  even if not sufficient condition for the emergence of self-esteem and the normalization of the state of consciousness.”

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