Sunday, January 04, 2009

By their heroes ye shall know them...

I know that Israel has invaded Gaza, that Pakistan is moving troops towards the border with India and that there has been a spate of suicide bombings in Iraq(what else is new?). All that will be waiting for President Obama in the oval office even before the Inaugural euphoria has worn off on January 20. But let's not forget l/6th of the world's surface...the Black Hole, the Twilight Zone, RUSSIA(!). They aren't going to be any less of a challenge, if you take into account their recent ranking of top Russian historical figures. You can read quite a lot into these choices...

3. J.V. Stalin. He needs no introduction--he's the man who said you have to break eggs to make an omelet, and then broke tens of millions. Some people said all they could see at the end were broken shells, but nevermind. He built the Soviet Union we all knew, the superpower, with coercion and terror. A real colossus of violence.

2. Petr Stolypin. This one is probably going to go by you if you aren't on a first-name basis with Russian history. He was an adviser to Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, and worked hard to establish a regime that was rich and prosperous while brooking no dissent and inflicting severe punishments on critics and revolutionaries. A kind of proto-Pinochet, or perhaps Putin, if you will. He ordered the deaths of so many accused revolutionaries that the nooses became known as "Stolypin neckties."

1. Prince Alexander Nevskii. This was the man who took on the NATO expanders of his day, the Teutonic Knights, on Lake Chud near Novgorod in l240. Then as now, what passed for a Russian army was ragtag and easily counted out, but they rallied under flinty-eyed Prince Alexander and routed the enemy. In the Eisenstein film of the same name, the Teutonic Knights were inhuman violence machines who wore buckets with evil-looking grilles on their faces and burned babies. Alex Nevskii was kind of a cross between John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.

If you accept that a nation's choice of heroes or top leaders is an accurate reading of its mood, then you could say this incarnation of Russia believes strongly that the end justifies the means, that it can enjoy economic prosperity while severely curtailing personal freedoms and that it will push back aggressively against the west whenever and however it feels threatened. A far cry from the halcyon days of US-Soviet friendship under Gorbachev and Yeltsin and absolutely a test for President Obama, who believes he can get beyond established patterns between peoples and nations...we'll see if he can work some magic with this belligerent, categorical Russia.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a whole other Russian front, bet you've been enjoying the resurgence of attention Igor Panarin has been getting these days for his prediction of the 2010 US breakup. Gotta love anybody who thinks that there's enough homogeny in Idaho & California citizens for them to split off together. Or that folks in Montana and Illinois will gleefully run away together. Pretty funny stuff. (Until you realize that there are folks in the old USSR who are taking it seriously, hoping I suppose that the USA breaks up the way they did.) News Flash Igor, a Georgian was a Georgian first, Russian second; a guy down in Atlanta is an American first, a citizen of the state of Georgia second.

2:42 PM  

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