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What I Would Like to Tell the World about Russia (Winner; Category: English, 21-30) Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Evgeny Osin, Russia Nov 2, 2004
Child & Youth Rights   Opinions
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What I Would Like to Tell the World about Russia (Winner; Category: English, 21-30) There is a vision of Russia in my mind, which I feel I would like to share.
I have traveled around the country quite a bit and I like the very feel of
plains mostly untouched by human hand stretching out to the horizon, ancient
towns centred around fortresses and monasteries built of white stone on high
river-banks, golden domes shining in the sunlight within clear blue. And I
like people, especially those living their steady lives outside big cities:
unlike us townsfolk they are not in a constant hurry and they have time to
welcome you, chatting about their life and yours, always hospitable and
ready to help. Sometimes it grieves me to see confusion and despair in their
eyes or feel the alcohol in the breath of those who can not find a place to
apply their skilful hands and their effort.

I hate the widespread bureaucracy everyone has to struggle through in order
to obtain all the papers needed to do anything of importance. I despise
carelessness which leads to rives being polluted and forests pulled down,
and the hungry careless greed by which other people have to suffer and die
when medications in a hospital are stolen and sold, or spares on a submarine
or a helicopter are stolen and sold, or when soldiers' food and winter
clothes are stolen and sold on a regular basis, and so forth. And I loathe
the injustice and the bribery which can help anyone escape proper trial and

It would take me long to draw a full picture of my country, of its unique
features and its severe but not quite unprecedented problems - those lessons
learned in most Western countries that Russian society is now trying to
learn in its unique history, culture and mentality. Instead, I would like to
focus on one thing which concerns me most in today's Russia - the future of
Russian democracy. This concern, though, is not solely mine, being shared by
many people here.

The downfall of the Soviet Union proceeded under the flag of political
freedom: everyone was greatly inspired by the ideas of democracy and
glasnost' (freedom of speech and mass media). However, the concept of
perestroika was also linked in people's minds with long-cherished hopes of
purely economical nature, expectation of increasing social security and
welfare. When it was clear that neither of those were going to come true,
most people of Russia became pessimistic about any kind of change, political
or economic. The need for security and daily bread outweighs for them the
need for freedom to express their opinion and to participate in political
affairs. Thus, it has become quite easy to manipulate the public opinion in
Russia, as long as you have enough money or enough administrative power over
the mass media.

The overwhelming majority of those politics who took part in the birth of
Russian democracy on the verge of 1990s are currently keeping behind the
scene. I have no reason to doubt that those who are in power now might be
trying to do their best for the future of Russia by responding to people's
needs for security and welfare. However, the notion of stability the present
government shares seems inseparable from the concept of being in control,
which, after all, is quite understandable for people with secret service
background. On the other hand, given all the things that have been happening
in Russia lately, it seems to me that the notion of open society is alien,
if not frightening, to them. Like some old-fashioned doctor who prefers to
conceal the full information about the disease from his patient, the Russian
powers-that-be are inclined not to reveal the information about the real
state of things to the society, giving only ambiguous placebo statements of
their positions and plans when the public opinion has been crying for those
long enough.

While such Machiavellian policy of maximum manageability might be justified
in the short term (say, during the war), the world experience shows that in
the long term it often turns out harmful and detrimental. This is clear to
some people in Russia, and yet there are still many, especially among those
grown up under the Soviet regime, who are eager to accept as ultimate truth
whatever the government says and who share the opinion that the end always
justifies the means.

I fear that we, as a society, might eventually fail to prove mature and
strong enough to resist the temptation of falling back to an authoritarian
regime, just the way several former Soviet Republics have already done.
Though the destiny of Turkmenistan being too exotically Asian seems
unrealistic for Russia, the regime established in Belarus looks like a
probable scenario in our case, and the present government seems to be
preparing a good ground for it - unintentionally, perhaps - by quelling the
freedom of mass media and by ignoring the people's right for information.

The danger of a new totalitarian regime in Russia is becoming evident to the
rest of the world, and I am glad to know that my concern is shared outside

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Evgeny Osin

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vinod sreedhar | Feb 21st, 2005
Excellent essay! Keep it up. :)

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