Criminalized, rapacious super-oligarchs - billionaire modern barons -
retain control of the Russian economy.
Beneath them, a society of 145 million people
stretching across almost one-seventh of the land surface of the planet
remain mired in poverty, despair and a moral squalour
even more devastating than their physical one.
RUSSIA IS HELL'S INFERNO
Satter explores the alleged role of Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB,
in the terror bombings of apartment buildings
that killed hundreds of ordinary Russians in their sleep and
provided the main pretext for the 1999 Chechnya war.
Russia's darkness is rising
by Martin Sieff, United Press International
(review of book "Darkness at Dawn" by David Satter)
Monday, May 26, 2003
Western policy-makers and pundits have shared the comfortable assumption in recent years that Russia Does Not Matter Anymore and that simultaneously it has been Saved for Democracy. They should read Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State, David Satter's vivid, impeccably researched and truly frightening new book published by Yale University Press, and think again.
To anyone who has covered Russia or visited often over the past decade, most of the case studies, scandals and problems examined in Darkness at Dawn will not come as any surprise. But what Satter has done is to re-examine these individual cases and show their interconnections with each other, like putting together the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. He does so in such a way that both the expert on Russia and the casual reader wishing to be informed can be left with only one conclusion: One of the two major thermonuclear superpowers in the world, and the only one left with Multiple-Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicles on its nuclear missiles remains unstable, unpredictable and is dangerously close to becoming a ruthless, predatory and unpredictable criminal state.
Something -- in fact, a lot of things -- went terribly wrong during the early 1990s transition of Russia from state communism to a supposed free market economy. Many others detailed the problems of transition as they were happening, but Satter maps the contours of the debris that was left.
Without any stable legal structure governing the owning and trading of property and wealth or the regulation of business transactions in the decade after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russian society became totally criminalized, not merely in its day-to-day dealings but in the widespread existential consciousness of its people. Russia's newly emergent oligarchs have often been nicknamed "Robber Barons" after the Gilded Age plutocrats of late 19th-century industrial America, but the term is a misnomer in all too many ways. Industrial titans like John D. Rockefeller in oil and Andrew Carnegie in steel built huge business empires and acquired enormous power. But they did so within an ordered society, built tremendous industrial infrastructures that generated wealth for generations after them, and felt obligations towards it. Rockefeller and Carnegie, like the Ford family after them donated hundreds of millions of dollars to enormous, organized philanthropies that immeasurably boosted education, health and culture, first across the United States and then across the wider world. The Robber Barons of President Boris Yeltsin's Russia created an industrial and socio-economic desolation and called it peace.
Satter takes his readers through the seven circles of this modern, all too physically real hell. He explores the alleged role of Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB, in the terror bombings of apartment buildings that killed hundreds of ordinary Russians in their sleep and provided the main pretext for the 1999 Chechnya war. He documents how the worst old Soviet-era traditions of excessive secrecy and xenophobic paranoia in the Russian Navy's high command doomed the surviving sailors of the mighty Oscar II class nuclear killer submarine Kursk when a faulty torpedo detonated during a test firing, sending its 118 crew members to their deaths at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean in August 2000.
He shows how an innocent young Russian beauty queen made the biggest -- and last -- mistake of her life in getting romantically involved with a respected hired killer and what happened to both of them. He traces the gangster struggles for control of cities, banks, industrial complexes, even entire provinces each of which is larger than any other major European nation. And he vividly documents the casual violence that the protagonists in these -- literal -- wars take for granted, making Al Capone and his colleagues look like disciples of Mother Teresa by contrast.
Things have stabilized, and somewhat improved since President Vladimir Putin succeeded Yeltsin. But the criminalized, rapacious super-oligarchs, those billionaire modern barons, retain control of the Commanding Heights of the Russian economy.
Beneath them, a society of 145 million people stretching across almost one-seventh of the land surface of the planet remain mired in poverty, despair and a moral squalour even more devastating than their physical one. Russia's population continues to implode with soaring death rates and plummeting birth rates. The underlying reason for this, far more than the collapse of living standards in the 1990s was, Satter concludes, that most of those people had lost all hope. They now despaired of things ever getting better.
Satter plays Dante, taking his readers on a comprehensive tour of this thermonuclear-armed Inferno. Reading his relentlessly grim, implacably documented accounts is to be reminded of D.H. Lawrence's prescient vision on observing the crazed gaiety and brilliance of Weimar Germany in the 1920s. Beneath the surface dazzle, the great British writer noted, a huge chasm had opened up -- moral and spiritual even more than economic and social. Superficial politics alone could not bridge it. From that gaping abyss emerged: Adolf Hitler.
There is still time for Russia to stabilize and for those who wish her well to support the constructive forces for good within her. But most of the promise has been squandered, and the Hobbesian nightmare of a society of chaos, red in tooth and claw, remains the dominant reality today.
Western policy-makers would do well to study these pages and to ponder the teachings of the great Russian religious philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev with which Satter closes this important, troubling book: "In the soul of the Russian people there should appear ... a transfiguring and creative beginning." Only then, "the creative instincts will defeat the rapacious ones."
Reader Toby came across "Orwell Today" whilst researching comparisons between 1984 with Stalin's Russia
Red Square wants our red meat. AustraliaFarmLand, Oct 9, 2008
As in China and India, newly-rich Russians are eating more protein. And unlike its Asian counterparts, Russia is already a nation of dedicated red meat eaters – there is no conversion from white meat necessary here. In fact, the new Russia offers the world’s most promising market for protein. In the past 12 months, it has imported more than a million tonnes of meat – and unlike the high-end East Asian beef markets, it wants everything, from marbled rib-eye steak to chuck and offal. In central Moscow and St Petersburg, some 101 billionaires, an estimated 88,000 millionaires, and an uncountable number of the more modestly wealthy that form Russia’s first-ever middle class are turning to steak, once a rarity on Russian menus, for the first time. Elsewhere, most of Russia’s 143 million citizens still drive Ladas as they wait for the economic tide to float their boats, and they stick to their usual sources of protein: mince-filled dumplings, cured sausages of infinite variety, and a colourful array of tinned meats. "Russia is a one-stop butcher’s shop," says David Jones, Meat and Livestock Australia’s regional manager, Europe, and himself a former butcher. Australia’s main opportunities lie in the top end of the market, where its strengths and cost structure are similar to those of its main competitors, the US and New Zealand. Russia’s food service and retail sector are increasingly dealing with steak, and most big restaurants in the biggest cities feature Australian steak. Volatile currencies have also helped make Australia a strong competitor against the dominant player in the huge frozen beef sector, Brazil.
Russian oligarchs tighten grip on London (home to 300,000 former communists; $100-billion buying real estate etc; where did they get the money?). Telegraph, Aug 5, 2008
Moscow's suburb for billionaires (15 yrs ago everything owned by state; now economy owned by 36 men). BBC, Apr 22, 2007
RUSSIAN REVOLUTION READING
Britain's PM Blair inspired by Trotsky ("I might as well confess") & 10 Downing Street press release. Telegraph, Mar 3, 2006 & TROTSKY AKA BRONSTEIN & ORWELL ON STALIN ON TROTSKY & COMMUNISM'S TRUE BELIEVERS
Communst Party tycoons' new wealth (like Versaille & St Peter's Square). Telegraph, Oct 27, 2005. Go to CHINA'S COMMUNIST CAPITALISTS & CHINA'S SLAVE WORKERS & RICH RUSSIANS LIKE LENIN
USSR's bureaucrats rake in billions (bribes to avoid conscription, secure place in school, buy judge or medical treatment). Guardian, Jul 22, 2005
Canadian steel union likes Russian bid (4,000 Stelco workers back USSR Severstal buying record-breaking profit maker). National Post, Feb 15, 2005. Go to 9.Keeping Masses Down & SELLING ROPE TO HANG US
Chinese Dragon stings Russian Bear (Third World poverty stricken China now "Yellow Peril" massively migrating, devouring Russian resources & people). Globe & Mail, Nov 14, 2004. Go to 7.Sytems of Thought & 10.Rulers & CHINADA'S SOVIETIZATION
Czech teenagers are human torches (protesting money & power depravity & war, unemployment, poverty). Scotsman, Nov 9, 2003. Go to 9.Keeping Masses Down & GOOD KING WENCESLAS PLEASE LOOK OUT
Russian tycoons buying up England (with billions made from plundering their nation's natural resources) & KGB men run Kremlin. Telegraph, Oct 31, 2003
Like old times in new Russia (ultra-rich businessmen oligarchs bought country's assets for song). Independent, Oct 25, 2003. Go to 35.The Brotherhood
Queen urges UK-Russia partnership ("admires, respects & supports" Putin under banner of United Nations). BBC, Jun 24, 2003. Go to 10.Rulers & 7.Systems of Thought & CORPORATE COMMUNISM & Putin a Harry Potter Elf
10.Rulers and 8.Classes of People and 9.Keeping Masses Down and ANIMAL FARM
COMMUNISTS COINED MCCARTHYISM
ORWELL'S CRYPTO-COMMIE LIST
RUSSIA 1917 TO 1939
CANADA FORCED LABOUR CAMPS?
COMMUNISM'S TRUE BELIEVERS
MY JOURNEY THROUGH FAMINE STRICKEN RUSSIA, 1933
EXPERIENCES IN RUSSIA, 1931, A DIARY
SOVIET UNION FAMINE EXPOSURE, 1930-1933
NO ESCAPE FOR GULAG PRISONERS
COZY DAYS IN STALIN'S KREMLIN
RISE OF GODFATHERS
GOOD KING WENCESLAS PLEASE LOOK OUT
SPYING FOR STALIN WAS BAD, RIGHT?
POLICE STATE OF UNION
CANADA COPS UNLEASHED
COLD WAR, WARM WAR
GULAG'S HAUNTING LEGACY
SOVIET DEFECTOR IGOR GOUZENKO
RUSSIA IS HELL'S INFERNO
CANADA'S RED TRUDEAU
STALIN'S LIAR IN NEW YORK
MCCARTHY GLIMPSED VISCIOUS TRUTH
REIGN OF TERROR AGAINST MCCARTHY
SUPERMAN A SOVIET - CLARK KENT A COMMIE
COMMUNISTS COINED "MCCARTHYISM"
GOLDSTEIN IS NOT TROTSKY
COMMUNISM CUBAN STYLE
ORWELL'S "CRYPTO-COMMIE" LIST
COMMUNIST CRIMES EXPOSED
ORWELL'S PUBLISHING PROBLEMS
SOLZHENITSYN'S WORDS OF WARNING TO AMERICA
LENIN BEHIND ENVIRONMENTALISTS
STALIN: KOBA THE DREAD II
STALIN: KOBA THE DREAD I
WOLVES IN WOLVES' CLOTHING
CANADA'S SOVIET SCHOOL
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