Smychka

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When you can’t think of anyone else to blame (and especially when you wouldn’t think of blaming your collective self), blame the Russian peasants:

Leonid Vasilyev, head of the Laboratory for History Studies at the Higher School of Economics, believes that the times are very bad not only in Russia, but throughout the world.

“Poverty and ignorance have come to the fore: they are the twin pillars of the world today. Over the past half century, the population of the Earth has increased from 1.6 billion people to 7 billion, of whom 6.2 billion are poor and ignorant. We are seeing the same thing in Russia,” he said.

Vasilyev believes that the Russian peasant commune—archaic, ignorant, inert and hostile to innovation—has now come to power in Russia. The commune has acted as a powerful canopy over the history of Russia or, rather, it  has not let our country’s history come into its own.

“After all, what was the Russian commune for most of its existence? A nomadic population. The commune would use slash-and-burn agriculture to exploit a piece of land from four to eight years, and then it would pick up stakes and go cultivate a new plot. Hence the lack of horizontal ties, of solidarity, in Russia. Serfdom was a blessing for this population; it reduced the costs of encampment. Please note that the Russian commune never raised a rebellion against serfdom. Cossacks and Old Believers protested, but not the Russian commune. The folk liked living under serfdom,”  the historian argued.

At the end of nineteenth century, the commune rejected the intelligentsia’s campaign of “going to the people,”  but the Bolsheviks were able to reach out to peasants by giving them simple slogans and restoring serfdom in the form of collective farms.

“Eighty years have passed, and commune members have moved into the Russian cities. They have not changed much: there is still the same old archaism and ignorance. That is, they are the people whom the current regime represents. If you held fair elections, they would win a stunning victory,”  lamented Vasilyev. “What hopes are there that the situation will change? Hope is almost nonexistent.” *

* Quoted in Pavel Pryanikov, “The child is crying, demanding the pacifier of xenophobia,” Russkaya Planeta, November 23, 2013; photo courtesy of Russkaya Planeta and RIA Novosti.

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