‘Yes,’ Russians Say, ‘Yes, We’d Like To Live In Strike-Plagued Paris’ – OpEd


Human beings are contrarians. Whatever conditions they are living in, they’d like to be in others. In the wild 1990s, Russians dreamed of stability and peace; now, when things are quiet, they “have begun to dream about vandalism and mass disorders” and take vicarious pleasure in such things among others, a blogger reports.

The author of the Minsk Blog notes that after Vladimir Putin invoked what was going on in the streets of Paris to justify his arrest of human rights activist Lev Ponomaryev by saying that “you and I do not want that we should have events like those in Paris,” Russian reacted in a way other than the Kremlin leader wants them to (minskblog.livejournal.com/221991.html).

Activist Ilya Varlamov asked his followers whether they would want to be in a situation “like in Paris?”  The blogger said he expected that perhaps 15 to 20 percent of the respondents might say yes; but in the event, 89.1 percent of this self-selected sample said they very much would like to have a Paris-type situation in their cities and towns.

On the one hand, this may simply be a repetition of the famous “Man from Fifth Avenue” reaction. That involved a late Soviet-era documentary about a homeless man walking down Fifth Avenue in New York. Soviet citizens were supposed to focus on him and his plight; instead, they took note of all the stores filled with remarkable goods.

But on the other, it may indicate something else: A large share of Russians really are ready to see a situatione merge in Russia where stores and restaurants are vandalized, cars set aflame and cultural monuments defaced as a protest against the authorities for the problems of the people.

What is interesting, of course, and perhaps most instructive, the Minsk Blog says, is that the situation in the French populace is exactly the reverse.

There 85 percent of French citizens do not approve the disorders and acts of vandalism taking place in the streets of Paris.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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