Sunday, January 1, 2017

What Keeps the Russian Federation United? Comments pertaining to this question by Moscow-based writer/professor Mark Teeter

via Facebook [JB -- for Putin's New Year's speech see]

Mark H. Teeter  4 photos [JB - photos regrettably not included; somehow I can't post them "po tekhnicheskim prichinam."]
1 hr
IT TAKES A COMMUNITY: V. Putin, A. Chakovsky, Graham Greene & Stupid Men. 
Was 2016 really “a challenging year that brought us closer together,” as the president told us? Only time will tell. And magic.
--> The most striking anomaly in last night’s curious presidential New Year’s greeting – which may go down as the Be All the Magician You Can Be Address – was our singularly divisive president’s sudden attempt to invoke community: “We are united by common concerns and common joys…Peace and prosperity to our common, great homeland, Russia.” This country is many things, but one that it decidedly is not is a community of shared concerns and joys. Perhaps this jarring disconnect was what inspired the president to scurry off seconds later into Magic Land:
“New Year has its own secrets. For instance, each of us may become something of a magician on the night of the New Year. To do this we simply need to treat our parents with love and gratitude, take care of our children and families, respect our colleagues at work, nurture our friendships, defend truth and justice, be merciful and help those who are in need of support. This is the whole secret.”
Suddenly, the ills visited upon the entire nation – the years of frightening and disorienting propaganda, the shrill public finger-pointing, the continuous and incomprehensible wars, the 20 million souls living in poverty, the medicine we don’t have and can’t buy for our sick and elderly, the suicidal alcoholism, and on and on and on – all these can be magically remedied by love and gratitude, caretaking, respect, defending the true and just, and showing mercy. In other words, by becoming precisely what we aren’t – citizens who look out for one another, a real community. One can hardly fault the president for terming this a “secret,” of course; this approach has clearly been a secret to *him* for something over 17 years.
And yet there are many in this non-community who have no idea, one suspects, that they are members of a non-community. With eyes unmagically unopened, they have been actively supporting or quietly acquiescing in the directives sent around by the current administration for some years now. Think of the Russian arts “community” – some 500 of whose most visible members were convinced to support anti-community between Russians and Ukrainians by dressing up a declaration for them in communal sheep’s clothing: “We want the community of our peoples and our cultures to have a strong future. That is why we firmly reiterate support for the position of President of the Russian Federation on Ukraine and Crimea.”
One hopes these firm supporters were watching late yesterday: as of midnight, invasion, annexation and other forms of un-community are no longer to be considered community; real community, now redefined and sanctioned by the president, is in force. Or will be, if we all agree to act magically.
Will our non-community members get the memo, so to speak? Or will last night’s address prove itself mere magical unrealism? Setting aside the wand issue, it is probably safe to speculate that artists and others will change their ways if and when they perceive that actual community is in fact where their own best interests lie. Put simply, that looking out for others is in fact looking out for oneself.
This is not as easy to perceive as it might appear at first blush. Recall the ancien régime and the post-Thaw straits its intelligentsia had to navigate. It took a certain intellectual acumen – and often no little courage – to (a) understand that one’s true self-interest did not always coincide with state directives; and (b) live one’s life accordingly. A good example of perception failure occurs in a previous New Year’s greeting from Moscow – this one sent to Graham Greene by Alexander Chakovsky in 1968. But let’s let Greene tell the story in his chosen off-the-cuff fashion:
“…One of the traces left on the world by Christianity, I think, is a phrase like ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’ or in Donne’s more literary fashion, ‘For whom the bell tolls’…In any government there grows up an Establishment of stupid men. What seems to me appallingly absent among these stupid men is a feeling of community. I wrote – if you’ll forgive me being personal – to the Union of Writers in Moscow, asking them to hand over my royalties to the wives of the imprisoned writers Sinyavsky and Daniel. After about three months I got a cold response that they could not hand over *my* money to anyone but myself. Legal enough, fair enough. But I knew the answer to that, and so I wrote to Mr. Alexander Chakovsky, the editor of the Literary Gazette, who is also a member of the Supreme Soviet, and asked him if I took out a deed of attorney at he Russian Embassy in Paris and sent it to him, whether he would draw out my money and hand it over to these ladies. I didn’t expect a very good response, but I [really] didn’t respect such a reply, smooth as ice. Can I read it to you?
‘My dear Greene,
It goes without saying that I remember our encounters quite well, and those are very pleasant memories indeed. There’s no need to tell you that I am prepared to comply with any of your requests if it is within my power to do so. I am extremely sorry that in this case I have to start with a refusal. The fact is that we do not see eye to eye with regard to the matter raised in your letter. My attitude towards this matter being what it is, I would not like to be involved in it or get in touch with persons who in one way or another are connected with it. This is the reason I cannot comply with your request. Please accept my best wishes for the New Year.’
One must say that no bell tolls in Mr. Chakovsky’s ears: no thought that when we defend others we are defending ourselves. Because, one day, God knows, we shall need to be defended.”
Surely the Cultural Five Hundred know that Greene’s “one day” comes for all of us; and just as surely they have no desire to continue as “stupid men,” the Chakovskys of the new millennium. How could they, now that the president himself has come out foursquare against such stupidity…
As if by magic.

JB -- Addendum, 1/1/2017 (from
On the portal for the new year, commentator Svetlana Naumova notes that she has spent much of the past year tracing ... Putin’s “unbelievable successes in turning the population into a herd” ( ...
[O]ne must ‘”unite and form horizontal cooperation.” The Putinists are afraid of this and afraid of its capacity to organize mass demonstrations against them. That fear must be recognized and then exploited, Naumova says.
At the risk of sounding naïve and overly optimistic, Naumova concludes by saying that she “as before believes that Russia will be free, even if this happens not very quickly and possibly at the price of disintegration and the loss of territory and that the Putin regime, which rules society with the help of fear and force is doomed.

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