© 2007 Stefan Nussbaumer.
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Politics, sleepless nights and other cliches

We’re nearly at the middle of August. It’s somewhat what we expect from summer. It’s sticky, hot and I can’t sleep …

Well, summer for Russians usually begins in April – though it might be snowing and lakes and rivers are still frozen, it may be some kind of magical thinking that makes not only the young ones go out in t-shirts and short pants as soon as some early spring sun hits Newsky prospekt. But this is not about easy-living … I have been working here as hard as hardly before in my life. Not that this is to blame on Russia – probably my own hard-headedness and madness. My limbs are feeling heavy, I go bed in the middle of the day and get up again in darkness. Not the easy-going summerfeeling, maybe already Russian melancholy. Yes, life in Russia doesn’t seem to be an easy one. Aside from young, chatting, designer-sunglasses wearing, dressed in the miniest miniskirts you’ve ever seen in your life, girls on a sunny afternoon on Newsky prospekt, I also see lots of lost people everytime I go on the street, mostly lost in alcoholism.I am not clear about what weights so heavily on people’s life here. Sure, the economic situation leaves a lot of victims, but moreover there seems to be a very basic attitude towards life behind it. In a country with such a long history of suffering (at least for the ordinary people, for the rich and powerful this may be quite a bit different …) it may well be, that this is part of a common psychology. Though I haven’t made any particularilly unpleasant experiences so far, I feel that this all goes along with a certain ruthlessness, not only concerning cardrivers, who don’t give damn for zebra-crossings and pedestrians in general …

The Russian society, though the country has gone through sixty years of communism, seems to be a very hierarchly structured one. Personal wealth is something that is being demonstrated very openly. The big cigar, the big, fat car, any kind of luxury – statussymbols are being presented in an unrestrained way I just did not know from where I came from (well, not as much as here).

On the other hand it seems people need their idols, as a point of orientation, maybe as some kind of religious substitute, maybe they kind of give them back a lost identity, a perspective for a better life they will never achieve. For sure this a “the gras is always greener on the other side of the fence” perspective. The current political situation is certainly weighing heavily on many Russians. The consequences of the states efforts to gain control over anything, be it political or economical, interfer with anyone’s life. On the other hand, these figures, who are ruling the country, serve well as idols, who provide identity to a country, that constantly gets humiliated in the game of global politics and economy.

Even in contemporary Russia political careers (and probably other careers as well) seem to be related to an explicit career in the Russian army. Rather humanist figures like Gorbatschow are the rare exception from that principle. It comes as no surprise that political opponents are faught with ruthless strength to their total defeat. The Russian political system cannot tolerate other strong rivals within its own sphere. Of course, these rivals have been raised in the same climate, which makes it very questionable, if they would basically change the character of the way the country is being ruled.

Yet, though public media and expression in general is to a large degree controlled by the state, especially the young ones have managed to build up an underground-network of information-exchange, largely based on the internet. Hardly anyone does not have his or her own livejournal-blog (don’t know why this particular webservice has become so popular, but you probably won’t find this in western countries). These websites are used for relaying any kind of information and they reach a broad public as the number of comments demonstrate. In fact this is a political phenomenon, though hardly any of the young bloggers do percieve themselves as explicitly political.

However, psychology, especially when a certain self-conception has been engrained for centuries, is complex thing, not only the Russian one, also in our own heads a certain image, a cliche about this country has prevailed for too long. Probably Russia is not that superpower anymore if you consider all the wounds a long and bloody history has caused. Probably we are also required to look a little bit more in detail at reality that can be discovered in our own modern, western societies. Under certain circumstances we may be victims, as well as may be dominators. Would it be possible to create a world beyond these principles or are we just caught in determination?

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