So, Mikhail Prokhorov announced yesterday that he’s going to run for president of Russia.
I’m not the biggest Prokhorov fan – after all, he got fabulously wealthy off others’ toil in a mine and smeltery in what’s pretty unequivocally one of the dirtiest, most depressing, least livable places in the world.*
Prokhorov definitely isn’t a Chekist. Prokhorov isn’t going to try to build a parody of the Soviet Union. Prokhorov isn’t going to tell us old ghost stories about NATO and America and waste half the budget building obsolete tanks. Prokhorov is scarcely going to suppress the media, beat people with police batons on the street, or leave Churov [chairman of the Central Election Commission] to keep working his magic. Prokhorov is rich, so he’s not running for president for the chance to steal. He’s a capitalist, and it’s high time we started building capitalism instead of this mix of socialism and idiocy.
I don’t agree that people who already have a lot of money can automatically be trusted not to steal more money from the state, or that people who own magazines necessarily won’t suppress the media. But I do like, and wholeheartedly agree with, the bit about ghost stories about NATO and the United States. Compare to what Dmitri Rogozin, the Russian ambassador to NATO, said from the stage at Monday’s allegedly poorly-attended United Russia rally:
There are forces today that consider Russia easy prey. They bombed Iraq. They destroyed Libya. They are approaching Syria. They stepped all over the people of Yugoslavia. And they are now thinking about Russia and are waiting for a moment when it is weak.
This is a pretty common attitude in Russia, shamefully perpetuated and played up by its leaders. Any whisper of interest, any news coverage, any American opinion proffered on Russian current events, is spun as an act of imperialism by evil Western forces that are bent on the worldwide dissemination of lies about Russia and the ultimate destruction of everything Russia stands for. Not that there aren’t legitimate criticisms of American imperialism to be made, but this blatant fear-mongering, this refusal to see the U.S. and its allies as having any interests other than blind aggression toward poor beleaguered Russia, this invocation of Cold War dualities… it’s really tiresome. It’s a way for the elites to make the people feel that they stand together on the us side of us versus them; Russians versus the rest of the world, instead of oligarchs and plutocrats versus the Russian people. And it’s a way to justify Russia’s flouting of international standards of, say, electoral procedures and human rights.
I’m still skeptical that we’ll see someone other than Vladimir V. Putin as Russia’s next president, but one of the most hope-inspiring things about this December is that it seems that Russia’s people are no longer interested in being told, or pretending to believe, that the elites are on their side.
*Just realized that “You’ll Never Leave Norilsk Alive” needs to happen. For one thing, the sun really does come up at ten in the morning and go down at three in the day.