Translation: Dark Clouds of Revanchism

Izvestiya runs a piece by political scientist Avigdor Eskin on historical revisionism in Eastern Europe (especially in the Baltic countries and Ukraine) pertaining to World War II.

Dark Clouds of Revanchism

For more than 20 years, Nazi revanchism in Eastern Europe has been allowed to roam freely in the post-Soviet space. Immediately after the break-up of the Soviet Union, supporters of Bandera suddenly crawled from under the rocks in Ukraine and the Baltics, declaring themselves the real victors of World War II. Seemingly sacred truths of the Great Patriotic war have been subjected to cynical erosion, thus paving the way for marches of SS veterans in Riga and Tallin and the glorification of Nazi criminals at the state level in Ukraine.

It should be noted that the West and the US have done nothing to prevent this “march of revanchism”. To the contrary, in some cases, they have even encouraged and aided nationalists of different countries, who later turned out to be neo-Nazis.

The current Russian leadership is well aware of what the meaning is of what is happening now. After all, the living memory of common victory did not only lead to a healthy awakening of patriotism in Russia but also laid the basis for the process of integration in the former Soviet Union. Moscow is waging a war against this attempts to rewrite history and turning Nazi criminals into heroes. However, even in contemporary Russia the battle against the “Brown Tide” has not been a complete success, let alone in Ukraine, the Baltics or Moldova.

Attempts to rehabilitate the Vlasov and Kaminskiy armies were, luckily, not successful  But in Moscow there are clubs of intellectuals which, by a strange coincidence, are namesakes not only of the medieval Teutonic Knights but also of fascist divisions of World War II. Influential liberals, meanwhile, in equating SMERSH with the SS, they are wittingly and unwittingly continuing a multi-year campaign to equate the Nazi monsters with their victims.

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Why Are Russian Chicks So Hot?

This is one of those stereotypes that is totally correct. Take a casual stroll about any Russian town and the typical woman you see would be considered “very cute” or “pretty” in places like the Germany, the UK or the US. And one or two of them will have supermodel looks. That kind of talent you will only get in a few select places in the US like Santa Barbara, parts of LA, etc. You also see unremarkable lanky, unkempt dudes with solid 8’s whereas in the US they will either be with a fat white chick or a 5/6 Asian.

I recall some studies been done about this which basically came to the same conclusion. Women from Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Poles, etc) being rated as the most attractive among whites. In my experience I’d also add Norwegians (Swedes are too Germanic-plain) and Bulgarians to the list.

Why is this the case? The eXile theory of “dyevolution” posits that this stemmed from the USSR’s huge manpower losses in WW2. The theory goes that in the postwar period, with sex ratios absurdly skewed, only the hotter part of the beauty bell curve was able to find husbands. While under other circumstances we could have expected some degree of “soft polygamy” in which alpha males develop harems (or formal polygamy, as practiced by traditional Islamic societies with lots of inter-tribal warfare) this was not the case in the USSR what with strict Stalinist social mores and controls.

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Was Russia In A Demographic Apocalypse In The First Place?

And just as the Guardianistas and K.F. & Co. bury their heads ever deeper in the sand, real world statistics show confirm my thesis from the beginning of this year that Russia’s demographic crisis has for all intents and purposes come to an end. As of May there was a y-y increase of 17% (!) in births, a 2% increase in deaths, and virtually zero natural decrease; accounting for the entire Jan-May period, there was a 7.6% increase in births, a 2.2% decline in deaths (including an 18% decline in deaths from alcohol poisoning), and an overall population decrease of -57,000. However since natural decrease is typically biggest in Jan-May (see graphs here) the rest of the year may well see continuous natural population growth; it is also not beyond the realm of possibility that overall natural population growth, i.e. before accounting for immigration, will be positive in 2012.

Still instead of the usual dry demographic update post I want to do something different here and delve into comparative and historical issues. For instance, now that we can pretty confidently say it has ended, how ultimately “bad” were Russia’s two lost decades?

The Russian population peaked at 148.5mn in 1992. After that it declined at an increasing rate, especially after 1998 when the supply of ethnic Russian emigrants coming back from the Near Abroad dried up; then, in the mid-2000’s, it began to slow as core demographic indicators improved, and Russia started getting substantial numbers of Gastarbeiter. In retrospect stabilization was achieved in 2008, and since then Russia’s population rose for 142.9mn in 2010 to 143.0 in 2011 and 143.1/143.2mn this year. Peak to nadir this was a decline of less than 4% (or in chronological terms, 1985), with recovery already in motion. How does this compare with other transition countries?

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Russia Isn’t Hated by (Most Of) its Neighbors

One of the staples of the neocon-Russophobe narrative is that Russia is alone in the world, utterly bereft of friends, left only with the likes of Nicaragua and Nauru to indulge it in its anachronistic “imperial fantasies”. Not really. Conflating the West with the world won’t change the fact that amongst the peoples of China, India, and most of the Middle East and Latin America – that is, the regions containing the bulk of the world’s population and future economic potential – Russia is actually viewed rather favorably. But what about peoples recently liberated from the oppressive, iron boots of Russian chauvinism – surely they dislike Russia? Not that simple. Some sure do – Estonians, Poles, West Ukrainians, Georgians… But plenty more don’t (Armenians, Bulgarians, East Ukrainians). It’s a complex picture of significant political and geopolitical import.

Back in November 2008, the VTsIOM polling site released some very detailed results about what peoples in the former Soviet Union think about each other. The first graph below asks people which countries they consider to be friends or allies of their country.

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Crisis Demography in Eurasia

In a recent post, Mark Adomanis pointed out that the Russian economy has done significantly better than many other East European nations during the recent crisis and is now mounting a strong recovery. He also speculated on the effects of the crisis on the demography of badly-affected countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltics, on the basis that “Russia’s experience during the 1998 debt default amply demonstrates that cutting healthcare budgets and pensions in the midst of an economic catastrophe causes a lot of excess deaths among vulnerable sectors of the population”.

Now I’ve never really worried about the consequences on mortality of an economic recession, because I don’t buy into The Lancet‘s arguments that it was the reduction in Russian social spending in 1998 that contributed to the mortality wave of 1999-2002, since the increasing affordability of, and consumption of, alcohol was by far the more convincing factor. (Also, in industrialized states, recessions tend to correlate with falls in mortality rates). On the other hand, hard recessions – especially ones which result in reduced public spending on social welfare – usually are associated with substantial reductions in fertility. In this post I’m going to take a look at how valid these observations and theories are in light of the recent economic crisis in Eastern Europe.

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The Transition 20 Years On: The Reckoning

It is now nearly 20 years since market reformers began liberalizing the economies of Eastern Europe, or as some smart-ass put it, trying to revive the fish in the centrally planned fish stews. These stews, cooked to diverse recipes from goulash socialism to Soviet “structural militarization“, were subjected to a wide spectrum of overlapping treatments ranging neoliberalism (the Baltics), market socialism (Belarus), and mercantile corporatism (Russia). Other fish stews just stagnated in anarchic stasis (Ukraine). Twenty years on, it is time to observe the oft-surprising results.

I used Angus Maddison’s historical statistics, CIA figures for 2009 growth except where available the results from national statistical services (Belarus & Russia), and the IMF projections for 2010 (adjusted upwards for non-Baltic nations with sharp recent falls in GDP to account for their stronger-than-expected recoveries) to create GDP (PPP) per capita indices for post-Soviet nations and Poland (generally representative of Visegrad) where the output levels of 1989 – the year of peak Soviet GDP – are set to 100.

So which national ponds look like they’ve been subjected to grenade fishing, and which ones have the liveliest fish? Drumroll…

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