Putin’s Russia in the Context of Pandemic

12 June is a national holiday in Russia, which this year was marked with weird ‘side’ effects. In the middle of June after the review of COVID-19 statistics was made, we can see a rather weird picture of morbidity in Europe. …

12 June is a national holiday in Russia, which this year was marked with weird ‘side’ effects. In the middle of June after the review of COVID-19 statistics was made, we can see a rather weird picture of morbidity in Europe. More than half of the newly infected people every day are from Russia and two thirds, if we add Belarus. However, in Russia almost nobody dies of this virus, even the corrupt world Health Organization is surprised about it… 
Everybody understands that COVID-19 is not just a sickness to be treated with medicines or active assistance of medical staff. It is politics or, in other words, a situation where political solutions are most important.  
The virus has already ruined several projects of Moscow. It failed to organize a referendum that would hold over antidemocratic adventurism of the 21 century during the birthday of the historical adventurer-organizer of a coup d’etat (best known as Lenin). It failed to honour the end of the war understood in a Moscow way. We can remember attempts to interpret historical events in its own way about the mentioned war and all global geopolitics. The virus is not corrupt. It has no understanding what jubilees and political heats are.
We can have different speculations why Russia is becoming almost the biggest victim of pandemic. We can blame health care system, lifestyle of Russians, we can think of various conspiracy theories. We can blame the international imperialism in the old soviet habit. We can say that the lifestyle is to blame, however we cannot cast all blame just on that; we can create more theories of conspiracy; however… the reality is like it is. The virus is not smart and you cannot command it; it cannot be beaten with administrative measures and verbal threats. Citizens may be frightened and pretend they are healthy; however the virus does not get frightened. We can hide figures, but nobody believes in them anyway. 
Why don’t Russians believe in statistics?
For two reasons.
It’s been a hundred years when they know that the life outside the window is completely different from the one demonstrated in statistical factsheets. They know how performance results have been made and salaries paid. There is no independent statistics. Russians just laugh at the belief of western nations in Russian statistics. At some time so-called sovietologists used to count performance results of five-year economy plans and discuss why in one region 99.9 percent and in other region only 99.8 percent of voters voted during elections. Aren’t these signs of an uprising? Discussions about percent and five-year plans was the topic of jokes for us in the soviet prison.
Another reason is that political solutions of Russia do not depend on statistics. Annexation of Crimea, conquest of Ossetia or extension of presidential cadencies is happening not just because it is required by priorities of the country in a public discussion. Nobody asks what wishes of citizens are about political priorities, the president does not worry a thing about his ratings, no matter how objective or speculative they might be. If somebody in the West believes that unpopularity of the president can lead to his resignation, this believer looks simply funny.
The main point is not in the fact whether the Constitution will let Putin to stay in power. The time when he stays in power will be determined by his own and opponents’ power. Russian governments change not because their cadencies come to the end, but because their leaders are dismissed or they retire because of physical reasons.
In referendums people of Russia do not solve anything– they just have to legitimize decisions of the government. They just legitimize, although they might not approve them. Was there any decision of the government that was rejected by a referendum? We can recall that citizens of the USSR voted for retention of the USSR, however later they were just passive observers of the collapse of their country. 
Politics of Russia is not conceptual at all. It is personal. It consists of influence of different officials and their personal relations. These officials are not elected in one way or other. They are appointed. In most cases based on the influence of the monarch or according to his plans.
As it has been mentioned above, in authoritarian countries public opinion does not make influence on decisions of the government. Thus, pandemic will start and end in some way, since actually there is no initiative to overcome it somehow.
One more ‘pandemic’ problem exists. Like in a fairy-tale. Since the government of Russia never tells the truth, nobody believes even when the truth is told. Thus people did not take information on pandemic seriously even when the government starting telling the truth that a risk was tremendous. However, they came to their senses too late. Same as Stalin after Hitler from his ally became an enemy. 
Pandemic is a trouble, however even in this trouble the government of Russia starts realizing its political priorities. It seems that Russia is the only remaining big country that has not developed a wider programme for rescuing people and recovering economy. People say that it cares more about how it looks like but not how it should be saved. The health system has been unprepared and stays the same. Volunteers and doctors make more than the whole system on the account of their time and money. Finally, the situation becomes chaotic and reminds of a panic. Premiums to doctors remind of another strange story – you earn much, but after all deductions, nothing is left…
Putin took on not a cooperation but confrontation policy. Relations of Russia with the West in the last decades have never been so confused. The European Union does not understand how Putin and Trump have been or are related, talks about lifting of sanctions, however is well aware that it helps the country that fails to fulfil its obligations. Europe can live without Russia, however it is still lazy to get rid of it, same as to change policy with China.  
We might think that a paranoid discussion about who started the World War II now is in the worst time as ever, however, on the other hand, maybe there will be no better time for such tittle-tattle as pandemic.
Political experts seriously ask what contemporary political strategy of Russia is. What is this country seeking – is it trying to be the greatest, the third after China and USA? It is too weak. Does it seek to be Third Rome? It got angry with brothers of faith too much. A state to another timeless president as in the third world. This can be done even without a referendum. Is it just a minor political hooligan that is seeking some short-time need recklessly?  
That’s why nobody can answer what happy Russia looks like. The timeless president, unfortunately, is neither Peter the Great, nor Ivan the Terrible, nor Alexander Nevsky, who went to make a bow to the great khan for his ambition to be the greatest among subjugated nations. He cannot be compared to either of them… And he does not want to be like Nicholas II or the liberator Alexander II.
Thus, its history will be created not by wishes of Moscow. It is not Moscow that writes a scenario, it cannot fix even the prices of raw materials.
Excursion guides in the old cities of Russia like telling that smart Russian merchants were trading with the west a thousand years ago… they used to sell honey, wax, animal fur and wood… They used to buy weapons, agricultural implements and other machines. One thousand years have passed but nothing changed. They still sell raw materials and buy products of technology. The country that has most natural resources and so few happy people. However, its rulers want to be everlasting.   
Even during pandemic.
Egidijus Vareikis

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