Translation: A Hell Of Their Own Making

Believe it or not but some people call me a Russophobe. Even more shockingly, perhaps, I plead guilty (at least in the sense that I do not have a very high opinion of the Russian people). There are only two logical alternatives: (1) Claims that Russia really is as good as Western Europe and the US on issues like corruption, social cohesion, etc., which is quite simply implausible to almost anyone who lived there; (2) That the cronyism, bad roads, etc. are all the fault of “corrupt bureaucrats” or even just “Putin”, as if to pretend that they are not real Russians but an occupying force, which is simply bizarre and only believed in by liberals.

The most plausible but rather banal explanation is that to the extent that things are bad in Russia (although, ironically, as I’ve frequently shown here they are nowhere near as bad as portrayed in the Western media) they are bad because of Russians themselves, or more precisely the crook-enabling and general impudent go-fuck-yourself attitudes inherited from the Soviet era. There is no way to quickly change this, least of all by decree, and Putin himself implicitly recognizes this, although as President, he has to sugarcoat things and explain them to the people in a fatherly way (whereas as a blogger I am perhaps a bit blunt about these things).

Anyhow, the following account basically encapsulates the basic thing that is wrong with Russia and, indirectly, the liberal interpretation of the symptoms (that they are the Kremlin’s fault). And while A Hell of their Own Making is set in Ukraine, any Russian would recognize this in her own country; only Ukrainian nationalists would seriously deny that social attitudes in Russia and Ukraine are rather similar.

***

A Hell of Their Own Making

I live abroad. Once upon a time, I came to visit my mother in Ukraine with my husband. I got the kin together for a barbecue picnic. We decided to go to a place not far from mother’s house – a beautiful valley with a lake and a small forest. During my childhood I loved to wander there among the sweet-smelling grass and wild flowers, and to bathe in the lake.

We came there. The wild grass was now covered with tall weeds, many places were burnt out or filled up with plastic rubbish. I was so disappointed! We could barely find a more or less clean clearing by the lake. We tidied up the trash and cigarette butts so that we could sit, then we started a fire in the mangal grill. The barbecue was delicious, but the sight of my beloved valley depressed me – everything was so dirty, so pathetic… The lake was murky and desiccated. I did not risk swimming in it.

From the start I told my relatives not to throw the trash into the grass and bushes, but to gather it up and put it into a special bag. When we were leaving I checked that we had left nothing behind. For I was very sad about this forest clearing. And I was loudly distraught that people could so comprehensively foul up a place where they themselves went to relax. Is it really so difficult to carry the trash over to the bins that are one hundred meters away at the valley’s end?

When we were preparing to leave, I found out that no-one had the trash bag in their hands. I started asking who had it. And my mom waved it way – we’ve already thrown it away. “How did you do it, where?” I whispered. “There, into the reeds. What, are we garbage men or something? Everyone dumps it there!” It was hard to refrain from swearing out loud. It was impossible to retrieve the trash from there – it had already lodged in the reeds by the cliff.

At that moment I recognized a great truth: They deserve the lives they lead. They deserve their cracked asphalt, broken lampposts, dirty streets, and reeking rivers, and their criminal government, and their miserly wages and pensions. They spit on themselves, so why shouldn’t the government spit on them? They do not respect themselves – so who will respect them?

It is not the government which litters on the streets and trashes children’s playgrounds. It is not the President who steals lampposts and cables. I no longer trust your complaints. My countrymen, it is you who created your own hell, and it’s you who will have to live in it.

***

Harsh but it rings true. I wonder if any “Russophiles” will now call the author a Russophobe (or perhaps Ukrainophobe) herself? The only thing I have to add is that many Russians – especially liberals, and those who love to complain – really do not realize how their own actions and attitudes (or the lack of them; in a recent poll, only 50% of Russians said they’d report a drunk driver, compared to about 90% in the US and the UK) contribute to problems. It is always someone else who is to blame, like Putin, or the US, or oligarchs, or ethnic minorities. Oftentimes this hatred is expressed in shockingly violent and callous terms to popular approval. They cannot see fault in themselves, so ironically enough, it is the much loathed Russian state itself which is left with the unenviable task of trying to re-inculcate basic moral values and respect for the law into a self-hating and crook-enabling society.

That is why I support it. The words of the liberal-conservative Vekhi are as relevant now as they were back in 1909: “We ought to fear the people and bless this government which, with its prisons and bayonets, still protects us from the people’s fury.”

Comments

  1. First of all, good to see you posting again. I think you make some interesting points, which I (having lived in Russia for several years until about 6 months ago) will chew on for a while.

    I don’t really have an immediate reaction to your post, except to note one irony. When you first came on the scene in the guise of “Da Russophile,” I avoided your blog because I thought you were some sort of Kim Zigfeld in reverse – either a Russia-based “ura patriot” or one of those Russian expats who lives in the West and enjoys its comforts while endlessly pissing on it. Fortunately I actually began reading your blog and was disabused of this notion.

    I do think the Russophile/-phobe dichotomy is misleading, and oversimplifies a complex situation. In fact, I think your overall point applies to post-Communist societies in general more than to Russia in particular. Since I have a lot of experience of Eastern Europe outside of Russia, maybe I’ll go into detail later.

    • I second this. But this also means Russia in corruption/accountability sphere should be able to get where Poland/Bulgaria/Italy are now – with better government….

  2. Riga and Tallinn are almost 100% post-Soviet and almost half of their populations are ethnic Russians, Ukrainians or Belarusians. Still there is a distinct lack of “cracked asphalt”, “broken lampposts”, “dirty streets”, and “reeking rivers”, and “criminal government” (though miserly wages and pensions still prevail) when comparing them to Odessa or Nizhny Novgorod or even Kiev or Moscow. So Russian ethnicity, whether it is Great, Little or White, has nothing to do with hellmaking.

    • When I was researching Balto-Russians a few years ago, I kept hearing that their mentality was (for lack of a better term) more “Central European” than that of RF Russians: that is, greater trust in institutions, stronger business orientation, more concern for their physical environment. So I basically agree with your conclusion.

    • It’s probably because there is a critical mass of Estonians and Latvians nonetheless. For instance, Russians account for a disproportionate number of IV drug users (and HIV carriers) in both countries, also the average PISA score of native Russians in Russia (477) is virtually identical to that of 2nd generation immigrants, i.e. Russians, to both Estonia (479, vs. Estonian natives – 524) and Latvia (469, vs. Latvian natives – 489). Basically Baltic Russians have similar characteristics to those in Russia itself and from what I’ve read Narva (which is 93% Russian-speaking) is as run down as any typical Russo-Ukrainian small industrial town.

      • I’ve been to Narva, and I disagree. But an interesting avenue of research (should you wish to pursue it) is the so-called “traditional Russian” (i.e. pre-Soviet) minorities in Estonia and Latvia. They are mostly Old Believers and descendants of Tsarist officials and White emigres – a very different group of people culturally from both RF and Soviet-era Baltic Russians. There are Old Believer villages stretching along Lake Peipus that are interesting to visit because you can see their virtues in action, like sobriety, craftsmanship and hard work.

    • Sorry, I’m a westerner living in Riga (and Moscow). Go to any Russian enclave here and it is exactly Soviet as described in the original post. It’s all Potemkin like Old Town or that corrupt ex-Soviet apparatchik Ainars Lembergs version of the power vertical in Ventspils. Ainars, his son & daughter are the three richest people in Latvia, no coincidence.
      I don’t know how Latvia in particular pulls it off but they have everyone fooled. It’s still corrupt to the core, broke and broken with the only infrastructure improvements coming from an EU desperate to show that austerity works.
      There is something about being an ex-Soviet republic that dirties the soul for generations. People of a certain age I talk to are proud to steal, blame their drunken life on the Soviets, blame their inability to get their house in order on ethnic Russians and interference from the Kremlin. The young people just leave, in droves.
      On most days I feel like I’m in Moscow.

  3. David Habakkuk says:

    Anatoly Karlin:

    Good to have you back blogging.

    I agree that Vekhi looks extremely pertinent, in the light of events in the Middle East and Western delusions about them.

    You might perhaps be interested in three diaries which David Loepp and I have put up on the Litvinenko affair on the European Tribune website: Scaramella Condemned for Aggravated Calumny in Rimini, Litvinenko’s final frame-up?, abd Fact, frame-up, or fiction — Litvinenko’s ‘deathbed testimony’.

    Addresses are:

    http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2012/12/4/191342/931

    http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2012/12/11/11445/887

    http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2012/12/18/171030/73

  4. If a muscle is not exercised, it atrophies. In case of Eastern European societies their self-discipline did not atrophy, it simply never developed in the first place. People are just so used to somebody else kicking their behind to move them forward, they are simply unable to do it themselves. Russian national character is wonderful in many ways, but it does have an extremely annoying tendency not to take responsibility for one’s own actions. Still, its no use getting TOO upset about it. Overcoming this weakness will take a lot of time and even then some parts of it will always remain.

    No nation is perfect. Everyone have their own self-destructive tendencies. As a Russian, our weaknesses tend to annoy me a whole lot more than somebody else’s. The right course of action is to acknowledge them and work on them, starting with yourself, rather than wish that Russians would suddenly turn into Germans, British, Americans or any other DEEPLY DEEPLY flawed nation, since a) it is not possible and b) even if it were it would not solve our problems, but would simple swap one set of weaknesses for another.

  5. Fedia Kriukov says:

    Well, you appear Russophobic in a sense that you take a statement that is indeed banal (that a country’s problems are the fault of its people) and make it appear uniquely Russian/post-Soviet. Although this post of yours proves to me that underneath you’re Russian to the marrow of your bones. Only a Russian could write like that about Russia. :) I appreciate the fact that you’re more annoyed by those shortcomings specifically in Russia due to your emotional connection to the country, but you have to maintain a wider perspective nonetheless, if you want there to be a real discussion.

    For example, you say that only 50% of Russians would report a drunk driver. Okay, but what was that percentage 20 years ago? What about the social mores that frown on “stukachestvo”? Why is there alienation between police and society? In reality, these are technical questions that can be solved with governance reform and solid propaganda. But you need to start with propaganda to even initiate reforms. Saying “it’s your damn fault” isn’t good propaganda. Good propaganda should be “these are the problems that we have, this is why we have them (i.e. inadequate government organization or social mores), this how what we need to change to get rid of these problems.”

    All of this takes real effort, and a lot of it. Russians, like any other nation, don’t want to put all that effort in unless they’re forced to. And why should they want to? They don’t have any democratic instincts. They never had the opportunity to develop them. True democracy comes from true tyranny. And historically, compared to the tyranny regular people experienced in the west, various Russian governments have been pussy cats and teddy bears. Western democracy was born with blood, sweat and tears, wrested away from oppressive regimes in a struggle that was oftentimes about physical survival. Democracy is maintained with a realization that the government left to its own devices can be an awesome instrument of terror. That’s what democratic instinct is about — your constant feeling of being threatened or potentially threatened by the government. When have Russians ever felt threatened en masse by their own government? Like never. You take the most brutal regime that Russia ever experienced, the Stalin era, and even then most people had no actual realization that the regime was brutal. No one knew how many people were getting arrested or even executed. Or that a large percentage of them were innocent. That thaw that followed was initiated from above, it’s like the gov’t all of a sudden said “Hey, guess what, that previous guy was a really evil mofo” and the people went “Huh? Dafuq you’re talking about? We never noticed.” And then the collapse of the Soviet system, when the government said “Yeah, we don’t wanna be authoritarian anymore, here guys, you get to decide who rules.” And the people went “What the fuck do we need this shit for? We just want to live like in Europe [not the real one, the one we imagine]. And we’ll vote for this guy Zhirik cause he’s funny.” And when the economy went to shit, they went “Dafuq just happened? At least the Soviet government took care of things. Bring it back! Fuck your democracy. Fuck [imaginary] European standards of living. Just give us back our Soviet standards.” And then the economy started growing and the standards of living are indeed approaching [real] European level. The strategy of not fighting for your civil rights proved to be successful on the surface.

    Is there anything wrong with this? Not really. Until people FEEL the need to control the government, it will continue in the same vein. For democracy, you first either need very bad government, or very tyrannical government, or both at the same time. Well, after the Yeltsin era, that brought to Putin, the most democratic moment in Russia’s history, people aren’t getting that. There was only a single mass protest during the Putin presidency, over the monetization of benefits, and look how it ended? The government caved in in 5 minutes flat. People just started opening their mouths, and the gov’t jumped all over themselves to throw more money at the problem. So the people relaxed and went back to not giving a fuck about politics.

    So the real difference of opinion between you and most Russians is not in whether certain things are bad, but in that Russians don’t think they’re bad enough to stir themselves to do anything about. And they don’t have the instinct that tells them to do something even when things don’t look so bad.

    The above was for the “kto vinovat?” part. As for “chto delat’?”, since I doubt anyone wishes for Russia to experience real tyranny that would instill some democratic instincts in Russians, the only other option is years and years of good propaganda. All we’re getting right now, in large part thanks to western financing, is extremely unhealthy propaganda of the “сраная рашка катится в сраное говно” variety, to which you and many others add “из-за сраного россиянского быдла” (sorry, can’t translate this to English since every word is so loaded with meaning). But the real question is, are things changing for the better in terms of people’s attitude toward the government? I believe they are, absolutely. Look how many grassroots organizations engaged in solving real problems are popping up? Well, sorry if Russia doesn’t fit your criteria at this time. But think where it was 10 years ago. Where will it be 10 years from now, if nothing really shitty happens? Just one foreign agent law is a big step forward. And eventually, without western meddling, there might even appear a genuine and non-retarded liberal opposition (well, I’m dreaming, but hey…).

    • Little Pig says:

      And why do we need real democracy? Honestly, I don’t trust it enough, and I don’t find the Russian way of life to be so bad. What’s wrong about being different? What will democracy give us? I lived for 2,5 years in France and I found it boring and generally worse than in Russia because it’s so difficult to find a job there, and even if you are young and talented, there is no guarantee that you succeed in life. I find it quite easier in Russia… At least I came back and I really like it here. I don’t earn a lot, but I feel free. Much freer than in France. And I wouldn’t want to lose this freedom even for democracy.

      And actually I really doubt that propaganda can help democracy in Russia. Democracy has already failed here. Many times, in fact. If democracy was possible here, it would have already happened long ago. Do you have any example of propaganda causing democracy? Ever?

  6. Anatoly,

    There is a certain fearful symmetry between the fanatical Russophobe and fanatic Russophile. Both would in Orthodox terms be guilty of the sin of Pride.

    And lately what disturbs me is that whenever I see a negative trend in Russian society it is often as not copycatting a similar erosion of human rights in the West, whether the Guardian or The Economist would care to admit it or not. Establishmentarian Occidental-triumphalist fanatics like Craig Pirrong insist that there are signs the U.S. might be sinking down toward the Russian level (though Pirrong prefers to stay remarkably vague about said developments, and has done a whopping three blog posts about the theft with impunity of 1.2 billion in customer funds by Goldman Sachs kingpin Jon Corzine within Pirrong’s own industry, perhaps the biggest example of Russia in 1990s style lawlessness the Western financial markets have seen yet).

    But as for me, I would prefer to see it as Russia’s halting progress of the 2000s backsliding in considerable part because Moscow’s notorious chinovniks can increasingly say, “Hey, the Americans, Brits and Eurocrats do it [some arbitrary restriction or tax on the individual’s liberty], why shouldn’t we?” And this is of course the ultimate slap to both the Russophile triumphalist who thinks Russia’s Holy Rus unique civilization will see Her through the collapse of the West AND the Occidental triumphalist who thinks Russia is pure evil and can always rationalize all manner of Western foreign policy depravity in the name of fighting the eternal Muscovy enemy [see Syria, NATO support for jihadists and then U.S. retroactively naming a group U.S. or U.S. allies have massively supported as an Al-Qaeda aligned organization, perversely confirming the truthyness of Assad’s claims that he’s been fighting terrorists all along]. To which when I point these things out to think tank kids at the Saban Center in D.C. and tell the bosses there on Twitter that they ought to feel very weird as pro-Israel advocates making Syria safe for the Muslim Brotherhood, they simply check out or call ME the tin foil hat wearer. I respond with links to the New York Times or McClatchy correctly pointing out how many members of the FSA have pledged allegiance to or refuse to disavow openly Al-Qaeda linked groups. But somehow I’M denounced as the crazy and conspiracy theorist while they cover their ears and go la la la la la can’t hear you.

    But the worst thought of all is that I might take myself and my family away from the TSA gropers at the airports and highways only to have the Police State follow me to Russia!

  7. Agree with Fedia. Progress is still possible. But chinovniks have to stop saying it’s ok if the West does it, we’ll screw our people over too.

  8. I noticed that Kiev is dirtier than Moscow, and saw little difference between central Ukrainian areas and Russian ones, but noticed that villages and rural areas in western Ukraine were quite neat and tidy – reminiscent of Poland or Germany, though much poorer and with third-world touches such as using horsecarts to transport things. Given others’ observations about the Baltics (which, like western Ukraine, missed out on a generation worth of Sovietization), this problem seems to be another example of the bad influence of Sovietization on society. The Island of Crimea was fiction, but if it did exist I suspect it would be like the Baltics and western Ukraine.

  9. moscowexile says:

    I’ve lived in Russia for 20 years and can largely vouch for what Anatoly says and also feel that what he has translated concerning the Ukraine rings true.

    When I walk through the woods along the path that leads from my dacha to the country railway halt in order to return to Moscow after having spent the weekend with my family at our summer residence, I am often dismayed by the mounds of rubbish that I see dumped in the undergrowth: empty beer cans and vodka bottles, household garbage, old shoes, clothes, broken items of furniture, food containers etc. I’ve even seen people pitching their full plastic binbags into the woods without any apparent shame whatsoever as they walk to the station. And what gets me is this: they are middle-class, well educated people; they keep beatiful gardens and cosy little cottages in the country, yet they think nothing of dumping their trash not 100 metres from their summer homes. True, there are many who don’t do this, and our dacha territory has two containers in a specially allotted place and they become full every week and are removed weekly. Nevertheless, the majority, I believe, think nothing of of dumping their rubbish in the woods whilst on their way back to Moscow: it’s not their wood; out of sight – out of mind, and Russia is such a big country – the biggest, in fact – and anything that is swept under the Russian carpet, as it were, becomes invisible within the great expanse of the Russian land.

    However, I must stress that I have seen exactly the same kind of behaviour in my native England perpetrated by all classes of people: there are always the bone-idle, lethargic, indolent or “fuck-you-why-should-I-be-bothered” types everywhere. Furthermore, many of these anti-social louts have the attitude that to obey “the rules”, to leave the place as you find it, to be neighbourly to those whom you don’t know and perhaps won’t even care for, is a sign of craven weakness. I think this attitude is especially prevalent amongst many Russian males.

    I remember how over 10 years ago I was travelling home quite late by metro, when suddenly I smelt cigarette smoke. Smoking is, of course, forbidden in the metro, and at first I thought the motorman must be smoking in his cab and that there must be a crack in the parittion wall separating it fom the remainder of the first carriage in which i was travelling. And then I saw him. Squatting on his haunches next to the front slide-doors of the carriage was a youth – and he was smoking. At the same time, he was glaring at the passengers, as though saying: “Go on! Try and tell me to stop”. He’d clearly been drinking, but he wasn’t too drunk – not by Russian standards at least.

    He finished his smoke and got off the train. No one told him to quit smoking, No one said a word to him. And I thought, if this were in Germany, there would be a riot! (I have lived for several years in Germany.)

    I said nothing either.

    I suppose I’ve “gone native”.

    • Yes, I’ve noticed the ubiquitous garbage piles while riding the electrichka from Moscow to the in-laws’ dacha too (the dacha itself and the neighborhood it’s in are a pristine pine forest). I didn’t see this when taking an electrichka out of Lviv.

  10. Dear Anatoly,

    Apologies for not getting back sooner on this post, which has been due to my visits to my eye doctors, who have now told me that I will need to have surgery on my left eye.

    First of all, let me say that I consider the suggestion that you are any sort of Russophobe complete nonsense. I hardly think the subject merits discussion so I am not going to waste time on it.

    Secondly, let me say that though I think your comment is written in quite emotional language (and why shouldn’t it be?) I think your underlying point is entirely valid. Far too many of the things Putin and the Russian government get criticised for are massive problems which are not susceptible to a quick or easy solution. When people complain that “Putin” hasn’t “solved” such problems as Russia’s problems of energy dependence or corruption or poor infrastructure or health care or the problems of its education system or its high level of alcoholism or high murder rate and that he hasn’t brought the Russian police or courts up to western standards, they betray a fundamental inability to understand the nature and complexity of such problems and of how difficult and how long they take to solve.

    These are intractable problems having deep roots in Russian history and in its socio economic conditions and culture. It is simply ridiculous and also totally unhelpful to think that they can be solved easily and quickly and that Putin is somehow to blame because he has not completely solved them. That is not to say that these problems are insoluble. They can be solved over time by hard, focused and consistent work. Progress is (especially at the beginning) slow and incremental and may not be immediately visible, which is not however to say that it is not taking place. Despite what you read and hear Russia today is a more orderly, more law abiding, healthier, much better governed, better educated, less corrupt and (beyond question) much richer place than it was when Putin became President in 2000. In spite of all the grumbling (in itself by no means an unhealthy thing) most Russians surely think so too as is shown not just by the fact that they have just voted Putin back into power by a large margin but by the way they are doing the one thing which best shows confidence in the present and the future, which is have more children. I would add that Putin is absolutely right when he says that the precondition for continuing progress on these problems is political stability to give more time for progress to be made. Again I have no doubt that most Russians instinctively agree with him, which is why they continue to support him.

    I would add that historic experience amply shows that attempts to “solve” intractable problems suddenly in one full swoop are always counter productive and (as the recent prison abuse video in Georgia shows) invariably lead to unfortunate consequences.

    The one thing I would say is that I don’t think the two examples you have chosen make your point very well. As Moscow Exile correctly says the problem of littering in public spaces is hardly unique to Russia (or the Ukraine). Certainly it happens in Britain to a similar or arguably greater degree. By the way viz some of the comments made above, I don’t think comparisons with the Baltic States are terribly helpful. As anyone who has had experience of management or administration (as I have) can say, it is much easier to achieve quick results in small spaces or organisations than in very big ones. A friend of mine who has recently been working and travelling in Belarus (a country arguably even more similar to Russia than the Ukraine) was struck by how clean and tidy Minsk is, how roads and buildings are kept in perfect repair (she felt they could even compare to Germany’s) and how clean and tidy and well ordered the countryside and the towns and villages looked. The same friend travels quite extensively in Russia on academic exchanges and is always struck by the marked differences between Russian towns. For example she tells me how much tidier and cleaner she found Perm to be compared to her earlier experiences of Nizhny Novgorod. She was also recently in St. Petersburg where she found a substantial change for the better over a previous visit.

    As for your second example, I am afraid that in my sad option it says more to me about the lamentably (and undeservedly) low opinion Russians have of their legal system, something which they are of course encouraged to have by the battering it constantly gets from Russia’s western and liberal critics, than it does about Russian callousness generally.

    • On reflection, perhaps Ukrainians have a better reason to be hostile to their legal system than Russians do. Certainly the hostility is ugly. I don’t know enough about the Ukrainian legal system to be able to say. I do get the impression that the Ukrainian judiciary is still very heavily politicised whereas I can definitely say that the Russian legal system is becoming less so. Perhaps AP has some thoughts on this?

      PS: I have made some more comments about Navalny over at Kremlin Stooge.

  11. Thorfinnsson says:

    The old phrase “you get the government you deserve” applies, and I’m glad to see you tackling the problem with the East Slavic people.

    That said, I do not appreciate your disgraceful endorsement of DUI qvislings. Drunk drivers are the most persecuted minority in the West, and as drinking and driving is symbolic of man’s triumph over nature your tacit endorsement of this persecution is shameful.

  12. “…general impudent go-fuck-yourself attitudes inherited from the Soviet era.”

    I remember the Soviet era as very law-abiding. As for the cleanliness of public spaces, and generally giving a damn about people and things unrelated to oneself, well, it was neither Switzerland nor the Third World. Something in the middle. And thanks to Third-World immigration, even Switzerland probably isn’t Switzerland anymore, in this or in anything else.

    It’s good to see you posting, by the way. Hope you’re OK.

  13. Giving a damn about public spaces isn’t perfectly correlated with intelligence. There’s been some discussion on the Web recently of the fact that 72% of the students in NYC’s most prestigious public school, the one with the most meritocratically-elitist admission policy, are Asian. I’m sure that a large majority of those 72% are Chinese kids.

    Well, Manhattan’s Chinatown is pretty unkempt. There’s a disgusting smell all around there from the numerous establishments selling fish. It seems that restaurants and groceries dump spoiled food on the streets. It’s just a generally dirty place, dirtier than Brighton (which, sadly, isn’t particularly clean either), dirtier than any part of the Soviet Union that my eyes had seen.

    • When I returned to the partially re-united Germany (Königsberg, Stettin, Breslau, Danzig etc. are still Kaliningrad, Szczecin, Wrocław, Gdansk respectively) after having lived in the former “West Germany”, I noticed it to be less tidy than it had been before re-unification. Must be the fault of all those damned Slavs flooding into “das Vaterland”. :-)

      • Taking the train from Luebeck to Wismar in 2004, it was immediately apparent when I crossed the former East German border: everything was still notably more shabby than in the West, 14 years after reunification.

  14. To be honest I find this post quite offensive. In my honest opinion, one’s views of a large group of people stems from the people they are surrounded by, and their own position/view in society.

    I am sorry to hear that most of your friends and family have a “crook-enabling and general impudent go-fuck-yourself attitude,” but my family and friends certainly don’t. I am also sorry to hear that you are unhappy with your life and hence are cynical and regard others poorly.

    These are, however, problems you, your family and your friends have to face, and not a cause for you to write offensive posts on the internet. I wish you luck, and hope you attain a better outlook on life and your people!

    • Little Pig says:

      Actually I’ve been thinking about it and I totally agree. My family never behaves like that. To be honest, I’ve seen only alcoholics throw their garbage everywhere. And I’m not sure that the author was perfectly honest – if you come to the forest, normally you assign “the garbage bag” before you start eating so that by the end everything is well-packed. It seems to me that the author doesn’t have the habit of cleaning herself but still wants to feel superior to the others.

      • moscowexile says:

        It all depends on how you’ve been brought up. My wife and none of my Russian acquaintances throw garbage around. My children sometimes did, and I always chastized them and told them to go and pick it up and keep hold of it until they had found a suitable place to dispose of it. And that’s what my dad did with me.

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