My father died two years ago; my mom, a year and a half ago. Both of them were fifty-nine. They worked their whole lives, my mom a little longer. She taught physical therapy and physical education. Dad was a military man and volcanologist. He went into business after perestroika.
I don’t want to generalize, but they had very different, very complicated lives. They did not communicate with each other for the last twenty years. But they had one thing in common: they did not think in terms of the future. They did not look forward to anything. They did not dream of traveling. They did not plan to move house or look for better housing. They did not want new friends. They did not pursue hobbies. They never got the hang of computers. (Although Dad used them, he did not like them at all.)
One another annoying but important thing was that they drank a lot. When they were on binges, they would turn into people who could not care less whether there was a future or not. In the aftermath of their binges, they would experience an agonizing sense of guilt.
I find it horribly painful to write this, but it is not only my family’s story. It is the story of many families in Russia.
When we cannot choose our own reality, we do not think in terms of the future. Along with poverty and helplessness, we learn the important lesson that we cannot change anything, and all that awaits us is death.
I have always asked myself whether anything would have been different if my parents had more money and opportunities. When it comes to alcoholism, I don’t know. Maybe nothing would have changed. As far as despair was concerned, maybe they would have made a difference.
The new retirement age in Russia will be sixty-three for women, and sixty-five for men. The government has been instituting this reform hastily, while people are watching the World Cup.
Photo and translation by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Ms. Apahonchich for her kind permission to translate and publish her piece on this website.
Yesterday, for the first time in many years, I listened to the leader. I listened and thought, “Is that a human being?” In other news, it has snowed.
Translation and photo by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Mr. Kalugin for his kind permission to translate and reproduce his remarks on his website. You can support him and me emotionally in the coming months by banishing from your head the pernicious, widespread myth that the leader enjoys tremendous popular support. If anything, it is now obvious to observers on the ground that the leader has produced a sense of tremendous hopelessness in large swathes of the populace and has become deeply unpopular by leaps and bounds, especially in the past year.
A Circus, Psychopaths, and a Great Power: We Found Out What You Associate Russia With Guberniya Daily (Petrozavodsk)
June 14, 2016
On Friday [June 10], on the eve of Russia Day, we asked what you associate our country with. We suggested more or less decent answers and waited for the results to roll in. Ultimately, we learned that many of you associate our country with “a circus,” “psychopaths,” and “corruption.” And also with Putin. We got the impression that the respondents lived in different countries: some had it all bad, while others, on the contrary, had it all good. That is why a serious discussion, numbering over a hundred comments, broke out below the survey. So let us have a look at what many people associate Russia with.
First, the results of the survey:
As you can see, the answer “Putin” came in first place, “Bears, balalaikas, and vodka,” second, and “Birch trees,” third. It was in the comments that things got complicated.
Here are just a few of your answers (the original spelling and punctuation have been preserved):
I would like to associate it with birch trees. But, alas, I associate it with Krushchev-era blocks of flats [khrushchovki] and Brezhnev-era blocks of flats [brezhnevki] ))
With a complete lack of prospects for a decent life.
A country where happiness is forever in the future.
Where can I answer “with a total f–ing mess”?
With beautiful girls
With bad roads and a country where it is extremely hard to find a good job (even with a university degree)
The Motherland, just the Motherland
With a slave mentality, neo-feudalism, the lack of a future, vatniks,* and a huge ego trip about its “greatness”
Recently, only with “seagulls,” cellos, and Panama hats . . .**
alas, I feel like splitting from here like Peter the Pig, a typical post-Soviet space with khrushchovki and rutted roads and yards that have not been repaired since Soviet times
With people who work and earn less than a living wage.
With corruption, drunkenness, and parasitism . . .
Motherland, history, childhood, family . . .
Minus all the sarcasm and crap written [here]. MOTHERLAND to me is MOM, CHILDHOOD AS A YOUNG PIONEER, THE COMMUNIST YOUTH LEAGUE, BIRCH TREES AND LAKES, SAYING FAREWELL TO KINDERGARTEN IN THE VILLAGE OF SNEZHNOYE, AND THE SIMPLE PRIDE THAT I AM A RUSSIAN
With a strong country!!! And Putin.
Strange that nearly everyone answers in the present tense.=) Or is that how we should answer? Then, apparently, I didn’t understand the question. The country is ancient and large, with a difficult destiny and history. Loving the Motherland . . . in my view you love it no matter who rules it. True, then your love manifests itself differently at different times. What you cannot take away from it is the natural beauty and the people . . . The people in this country are still good. The times are often complicated. But you can get through them by looking at the beauty of nature and the spiritual beauty of people.=) Something like that.
To answer simply and cornily, Russia is the place where I learned to walk and talk. But to answer the question from the viewpoint of a person who is a citizen of Planet Earth: Russia is a multiethnic, multi-party country. It has become the rage in Russia to say what one thinks about Putin, about world politics and foreign policy. I am afraid it will soon become a ritual, like the morning conversation about the weather among the English.
Kickbacks and dog and pony shows.
With the permafrost.
* vatnik = “Russian patriot and nationalist (An outspoken follower of Putin, who aims to compensate his meaningless life by glorifying the motherland. This insulting term derives from the name of an iconic Soviet padded uniform jacket issued during WWII.” Source: Multitran.ru
** A reference to Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika (his surname means “seagull” in Russian), recently reappointed to another five-year term despite substantial allegations of corruptions against him and his family, and cellist Sergei Roldugin, implicated as Putin’s bagman in the Panama Files.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade VZ for the heads-up