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Serfs Up! Is there a Russian Mindset Against Democracy? - Democracy in Russia from the Czars to Putin

Updated on May 6, 2015
The Russian Bear now goes hairless and shirtless, but the teeth of the beast have grown back and its once subdued appetite has now returned with a raging hunger.
The Russian Bear now goes hairless and shirtless, but the teeth of the beast have grown back and its once subdued appetite has now returned with a raging hunger. | Source

Never Full Frontal Democracy - Only the Bare Torso

I love taking shots at Vladimir Putin, but probably only because I'm sitting here in my living room in California, and not halfway around the world in Moscow, where perhaps I wouldn't be so bold. Anyway, if I ever flirted with joining the Putin fan club all that changed after this man turned his Cossacks loose on the all-girl punk rock band Pussy Riot in Sochi. In my opinion, the deadly charade that is playing out in the Ukraine doesn't come nearly as close as bullwhip wielding Cossacks attacking girls in ski masks toward demonstrating that Russia has a long way to go before it achieves what we in the West define as a true "democratic" society.

Russia rubs elbows with Europe geographically, yet remains light years away politically and culturally. While nearly every other European country has finally achieved stable democracy Russia still teeters on the brink of the dark ages and really is not much better off in terms of human rights and the rule of law than it was during the time of the Czars.

In a country that has produced so many phenomenal achievements in the arts and sciences I find this almost impossible to comprehend. Yet every time that we in the West think the Russian Bear is finally going to show us full frontal democracy all we get is its unsettling, hairless bare torso strutting around on a tank turret or charging in half naked on a horse to try to scare its weaker neighbors to roll over and stand aside.

Pussy Riot

In 2012 the punk band Pussy Riot staged an unsanctioned protest concert in a Moscow cathedral; but unlike Vladimir Putin they kept their shirts on.
In 2012 the punk band Pussy Riot staged an unsanctioned protest concert in a Moscow cathedral; but unlike Vladimir Putin they kept their shirts on. | Source

Serfdom

The progress of Russian democracy was delayed significantly by the abolition of serfdom, which did not take place there until 1861. To paraphrase the various online definitions, serfdom is a condition in which peasants are held in perpetual bondage to the land on which they live and are required to perform services for the lord who owns their land and lives. In contrast to Russia, serfdom in Western Europe largely disappeared roughly around the end of the late 15th, early 16th century, when the Black Death resulted in a sharp decline in the labor force and increased bargaining power for workers. The end of serfdom led to the growth of a middle class that increasingly demanded and through several bloody revolutions eventually gained participation in the political process. In other words, Russia is roughly three and a half centuries behind Europe in political experience and is still experiencing the growing pains that rocked Western Europe for a few centuries after the emancipated peasants began to demand their rights.

Power sharing is not something that is easily accepted by tyrants, and the monarchs of Western Europe were no exception. France experienced revolutions n 1789-99, 1830, 1832, 1848 and 1871 before democracy finally settled in to stay. Spain went through a violent civil war between 1936 to 1939 that installed strongman dictator General Francisco Franco in absolute power until 1975, and it was only after "El Caudillo's" death that a functional, relatively stable democracy was put in place to govern the country. Spain's Iberian peninsula neighbor Portugal was also ruled by a military junta until the 1970s. Even English democracy, which started out with the baby steps of the Magna Carta in 1215, went through centuries of class conflict before the full franchise for most English males was gained around 1867.

Even here across the pond in the United States, where we Americans like to brag about being an enlightened model of individual democratic participation, a large proportion of our population remained in chains for almost a century after our Bill of Rights was enacted. Complete freedom for this country's African American citizens was not achieved until after the tumultuous upheaval of a civil war between 1861-1865 and then 100 more years of often violent civil rights battles. It appears that no system of government willingly gives up its monopolization of power, and history calls for several centuries of social turbulence before representative democracy and the rule of law can be put in place. Russia got a very late start in this process and appears to still be experiencing growing pains.

Serfs Up!

Serfs up dudes!  Do the vestiges of serfdom - meaning dependence upon a powerful lord, continue to linger in the mindset of the Russian people?
Serfs up dudes! Do the vestiges of serfdom - meaning dependence upon a powerful lord, continue to linger in the mindset of the Russian people? | Source

Boris Yeltsin's "Tank-top" Speech 1991

Boris, not yet "Boorish" Yeltsin gives his famous speech from atop a tank that galvanized the opposition against the communist reactionaries.
Boris, not yet "Boorish" Yeltsin gives his famous speech from atop a tank that galvanized the opposition against the communist reactionaries. | Source

Jaded by "Boorish" Yeltsin and Gangster Capitalism?

As the world watched in hopeful anticipation, Russian democracy finally cranked up again after a 74 year hiatus when in August 1991 Boris Yeltsin stood atop a tank in Moscow and delivered a speech denouncing a communist reactionary coup and calling for a general strike. The world applauded Yeltsin and Gorbachev for their bold steps to tear down the Iron Curtain and bring Russia into the fold of the democratic western countries. People everywhere were naming their Chihuahuas Gorby and Boris to commemorate the men who seemed to have brought about so much hope for peace and human rights. It was a time when the Russian people seemed one in their accord to denounce the communist system as an evil aberration that had to be thrown off and forgotten for the future prosperity of the nation.

The hopes of the Russians did not materialize as expected. The courageous and charismatic Boris Yeltsin degenerated into the drunk and incoherent "Boorish" Yeltsin as his tenure as Russian President sank down into poverty and economic misery. Yeltsin became an embarrassment as he staggered drunkenly in his underwear down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington and danced a tipsy polka with a German brass band. The once mighty Russian bear appeared to have been ingloriously transformed into a comedic circus act, but the disastrous effects of Yeltsin's time in office went way beyond a shameful blush for the ordinary Russian citizen.

Under Yeltsin's tutelage the Russian economy descended into the decay and collapse of "gangster capitalism," in which the owners of Russia's leading industries, known as the "oligarchs," literally fought pitched battles for control of the means of production. These "godfathers" of the Kremlin who carried out assassination attempts against one another were sometimes Yeltsin's chief supporters and the primary financiers of his political campaigns.

It is not surprising that the Russian economy went into near complete collapse and disillusionment began to grow over this new democracy that had seemed so rosy and glorious in its nascent stages. Due in large part to the concentration of wealth in just a handful of Yeltsin's cronies Moscow now has the highest per capita population of billionaires in the world, while the condition of the ordinary Russian is certainly not any better off, and probably worse, since the collapse of communism. Yeltsin's "shock therapy" transformation from a socialized to market economy resulted in hyperinflation, widespread poverty, and a corresponding growth in crime and corruption. Essentially the sleazy black marketeers who had operated in the shadows of the inefficient Soviet controlled economy were the only people with the necessary capital to purchase the newly privatized Russian industries, and the result was the mafia economy of the 1990s that brought misery and hopelessness for millions of Russians. Is it any wonder that widespread disillusionment with the bounties of democracy continues to exist?

Other than providing amusement to his countrymen for his sometimes excessive use of liquor, Boris Yeltsin did little else during his time as Russian President to inspire his fellow citizens.
Other than providing amusement to his countrymen for his sometimes excessive use of liquor, Boris Yeltsin did little else during his time as Russian President to inspire his fellow citizens. | Source

Throwback?

Vladimir Putin may be a throwback to Russian autocrats of the past, which in the minds of many Russians might not be such a bad thing.
Vladimir Putin may be a throwback to Russian autocrats of the past, which in the minds of many Russians might not be such a bad thing. | Source

Enter Putin

Vladimir Putin emerged from the economic chaos left behind by Yeltsin and was hailed as a savior by his people as he seemingly set to right the foundering Russian nation. Putin signed several economic reform acts into law and was given most of the credit for the rapid turnaround in the Russian economy, even though structural reforms initiated by Boris Yeltsin, the devaluation of the ruble, and rising oil prices also had significant beneficial effects. As is the case in the United States, where presidents either sink or prosper based on the capricious, uncontrollable whims of the economy, Vladimir Putin was the man on the scene as living conditions improved for Russians and he was given the lion's share of the credit for them.

With economic expansion came a gradual erosion of democratic rights for Russians. Just as the German people gladly cast their political rights aside in exchange for the full bellies and prosperity that Adolf Hitler initially provided for them, so were the Russians willing to give Putin carte blanche in the political sphere in exchange for improving economic fortunes.

But economic happiness came at the heavy cost of a serious downgrade in individual liberties, as the political gospel of "Putinism," was institutionalized to insure continued power for Putin and his cronies. Way back in 2007 The US economist Richard W. Rahn defined Putinism as "...a Russian nationalistic authoritarian form of government that pretends to be a free market democracy." Under the philosophy of Putinism much of the political and financial power is concentrated in the hands of the siloviki, a term referring to politicians emerging from the Russian Federal Security Service, the Army, or the police. Being a former KGB agent himself, it is no surprise that Vladimir Putin surrounds himself with people who are more dedicated to state security and Russian nationalism than they are to democracy. The siloviki are connected to Vladimir Putin to such an extent that their personal fortunes are largely tied to the continuation of the Putin regime,a situation that echoes from the nascent days of Stalinism in the 1920s, when that particular Russian dictator loaded the General Secratariat with his own cronies and eventually achieved complete power because of it.

Beginning in 2000 Putin began to take power away from the various Russian regions and to consolidate most of the governmental authority in his own hands. He established seven federal districts which were led by his own self appointed cronies, not elected by the people. Just three days after taking office Putin began to deploy masked bandits to raid the offices of mass media enterprises whose philosophies opposed his own. Criminal proceedings were also hatched against political leaders whose viewpoints ran contrary to the official Kremlin policy, meaning Putin's policy. It was clear from the beginning that Putin was dedicated to being the unofficial Czar of Russia and concentrating all power in his own hands, rather than continuing to establish an open society where political issues could be debated freely and the laws of the land would be applied fairly by a system of impartial courts, rather than arbitrarily by a dictator.

Whether by horse or by tank, Vladimir Putin with his minimalist clothing style is leading the Russian Bear farther away from the hard fought democratic freedoms that have been gained in the rest of Europe.
Whether by horse or by tank, Vladimir Putin with his minimalist clothing style is leading the Russian Bear farther away from the hard fought democratic freedoms that have been gained in the rest of Europe. | Source

What Does This Mean for the Rest of Us?

If you have seen the second Star Wars trilogy, you know a large part of its plot deals with how a powerful Sith Lord disguised as a Senator deliberately creates an unstable political environment in which the citizens of the galaxy become so fed up with chaotic living conditions that they willingly surrender their freedoms and declare this Sith Lord and Senator Palpatine to be Emperor. Emperor Palpatine quickly consolidates all power in his hands and kills his enemies in a move to "restore order."

Putin's machinations in the Ukraine are similar to those of this Sith Lord Emperor Palpatine. He deliberately fostered chaos by withholding a promised financial bailout to Ukraine and then gleefully watched from the sideline as this country descended into civil war. Now he is engaged in sweeping up the broken pieces of Ukraine in the name of "restoring order," and only history will tell us if he will stop there, or if he plans to continue violating the territorial integrity of sovereign nations for the greater glory of Russia. A study of history indicates to this particular writer that Putin will not stop. Hitler was not satiated by the Sudetenland and Austria; he kept going until he had consumed most of the European mainland.

Keeping Russia on a constant war footing is part and parcel of Vladimir Putin's plan to increase his dictatorial control over the country. The nationalistic tendencies of a country's citizens are fiercely intensified when they are fighting their neighbors, and once again history shows us that people kept in a constant state of fear will willingly surrender their individual rights to those who are engaged in sweeping up the dangerous enemies of the motherland. The scenario does not bode well for democracy in Russia, or for those of us in the rest of the world.

Another Darth Sidious?

Is Vladimir Putin another Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine, fomenting chaos in the shadows and then sweeping in to pick up the broken pieces?
Is Vladimir Putin another Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine, fomenting chaos in the shadows and then sweeping in to pick up the broken pieces? | Source

Is the Problem in our Definition?

It's interesting that Russians don't think about democracy in the same way we westerners do, and perhaps therein lies the problem. I once had an acquaintance who was a Ukrainian Russian with whom I would chat with about the political issues of the former Soviet bloc. To my surprise this man actually looked back to the days of Stalinism fondly and considered Josef Stalin, one of the most brutal dictators in history, to have been a great leader. Of course there was no way this friend of mine could have been much older than 9 or 10 years old when Stalin died, but perhaps his attitude reflects that after the political chaos and the gangster capitalism of the Boris Yeltsin era Russians desire stability more than full democratic participation.

But along with his shirt, Vladimir Putin has begun to strip the Russian Federation of all vestiges of democracy and is moving the planet towards a 21st century version of the cold war in which the one remaining global superpower is now butting heads with the reawakening one. The hopes and dreams that emerged with the fall of the Iron Curtain have begun to vanish like articles of Darth Vlady's minimalist clothing, and it remains to be seen what this means for the future of Russia and for mankind in general.

At Least These Chicks Dig Putin

Is Vladimir Putin in the right?

With his recent actions in Ukraine, is Russian leader Vladimir Putin embarking on a policy of illegal expansionism, or merely reestablishing Russia's rightful borders?

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well welcome back my friend. Nothing like tackling a light subject upon your return. LOL The day you figure out Russia, please let me know.

      In the meantime, interesting write.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you. I really didn't intend to disappear for so long but this subject was rather grueling. I've been tackling it for weeks between other endeavors and finally said screw it I'm going to hit the submit button. I really do intend to get more involved here. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Interesting stuff here. I learned a lot.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wow, the amount of research that must have gone into this hub Mel! I can understand why you have been quiet on Hub Pages for awhile. Very in depth and interesting read. Thanks for all the hard work, I learnt a lot. Voted up.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you Erikdierker for the nice words. I am glad I could be of service.

      Yes Jodah I have been gone awhile and I apologize but it is primarily due to working exceptionally long hours outside in these hot Santa Ana winds that won't let up. I hope to get back on track.

      Thank you both for reading and commenting!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The whole situation is quite corrupt to me I have been paying attention to the news and really am impressed of what you have accomplished here.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Your first question: “Is there a Russian mindset against democracy?” The answer is “yes” because the people of that country have never really known democracy and were totally unprepared when the opportunity arose. I made a visit to the Soviet Union with a group of academics during Perestroika and got to ask a few questions of young Russian students. The problem is the welfare state they lived in after the fall of Czar Nicholas II until the fall of the Soviet Union. They envied our freedom to choose our careers and change careers or jobs, yet they didn’t want the responsibility of having to take care of themselves. They wanted job security for life like they had under communism, but they wanted to be secure in any career changes they made, including job hopping. They were shocked that we had only short-term unemployment when we were out of work, but they liked that we could retire on social security which they couldn’t do. Their people had to work until they became disabled or dropped. I saw octogenarians working as guides and guards in museums.

      Their second fear that they expressed quietly to us Americans was that the Russian mafia would take over the enterprise system when the government turned it over to a free society. This has come to pass. I won’t go so far as to call Putin a leader in the mafia, but I do question his meteoric rise to power and his totalitarian stance. Recent U.S. television shows have featured both American capitalists and Russian corporate executives who have been ousted for trying to expose this corruption to the world.

      My Russian and Soviet History professor was of the opinion that if the Czar had been left alone, he would have eventually converted Russia to a democracy and abdicated. The professor taught that at the end of Lenin’s life, the revolutionary saw that and regretted taking leadership in the revolution that deposed him. I would say that you have hit the nail on the head in your account.

      Don’t forget, here across the pond while we do have things a lot better, it still isn’t so rosy for women. We women are still fighting for our rights. We don’t make as much on the dollar as men in comparable positions, and the ultra-rightists are trying to control our bodies. We can’t say that we have true democracy here until women achieve the same rights as men. Beautifully done hub, Mel, it should be required reading in world history class. Voted up+++

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 3 years ago from California

      Fareed Zakaria from Newsweek International has an interesting book called The Future of Freedom. He makes the point that rushing headlong into democracy isn't a good thing and he praises countries that focus on liberalizing their economies before they focus on liberalizing their political systems. Perhaps Russia would have been better off withholding liberty while trying to get it's economy in order. It's a controversial but interesting argument.

    • electronician profile image

      Dean Walsh 3 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I love the comparison of Putin to a Sith Lord, lol!

      Thumbs up for a very interesting article which broadened my understanding.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      Thanks for all of the interesting information about the Russian government. I chose "other" in your poll, because I have no idea if the guy is right or wrong in what he's doing. I would say it's "illegal" if there were some type of agreements signed when the old Russia broke up. He's restoring the borders if there were no agreements not to reform the old way. Or a third choice would be whatever the plan is could be a good thing, but he's going about it the wrong way.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you DDE for your nice words. I think we are all praying that events don't spiral out of control there and lead the world to a regrettable war.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you Mizbejabbers for contributing so eloquently to this discussion. Your personal insights into Russia are definitely valuable during this international crisis. From what I have heard from Americans who have been to Russia, the Russians are a delightful people and they deserve peace and stability. Your very meaningful comment is greatly appreciated.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Learn things Web that was the painful process that took place in Europe and the only problem is that it took centuries. If Putin wasn't so hungry to reconquer former pieces of Russia I might say the political stability he has given the country might ultimately provide a cradle for budding democracy, but he seems too anxious to challenge the West militarily.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you electronician. I appreciate your nice words and I couldn't help but include the Sith analogy because it seemed very appropriate.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you shielamyers for reading. There are definitely a lot of unanswered questions here, and while I feel sorry for the Ukranians getting trampled by the Russian bear our history of meddling with sovereign nations isn't exactly stellar either.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting analysis, Mel. I'm very happy that you decided to write a hub on this topic and took all the time needed to prepare it. The result is a very informative and thought provoking article.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you AliciaC I had a lot of fun doing it. Russia is kind of a throwback to the dark ages, it is so sophisticated and cultured in so many ways but so backward in others.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Mel, you are correct. The Russians are a delightful people, and I do love them. They truly didn't know how democracy worked. I would love to go back to see how they have progressed, but I don't think that would be a wise idea right now. A coworker was there 10 years ago and shares my opinions.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Mel. First class hub! So well researched and insightful. You echo my own thoughts in so many ways. What then does the future hold for all of us? The job held by Putin in the secret police says it all to me.

      'The price of freedom is eternal vigilance' So said Winston Churchill. We should not forget it.

      voted up and following.

      Graham.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you Graham for your kind and insightful comment. These days our younger generation takes its liberties for granted and even laughs at the idea as if it were a quaint, outmoded thing like my Dad's 57 Chevy. This does not bode well for our collective Anglo-Saxon civilization. Thanks for dropping in!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      'Tis true. South Asia and the Middle East have their problems, too. People feed of each other through fear. It would be such a nice thing to have world peace, but that is a dream, isn't it? Good work, Mel!

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you Deb my friend, I appreciate your kind comment. War is such a wasteful endeavor that I hope for the sake of my college age sons and your family too that we never experience it.

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 2 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      Hey, Mel--excellent hub! This is the best work I have ever read about Russia.

      First about the mail service. I live in the country and have no complaints. In my life I have dealt with at least a dozen (maybe 2 dozen) local postmasters and mail carriers--friends all!

      About dogs: I have no love for unleashed dogs, even less for their idiotic owners, and those yippin little bastards are just as deadly as big dogs, but of course their owners say "He/she won't hurt you!" Right, until one turns their back.

      About Ukraine: I voted in your poll and I see Ukraine as just the first slow step on return to the Soviet Union, and our spineless leader plays golf! I have always supported our new president whether I voted for him or not. As for our present leader I was half okay with him until--unbelievably--he won a second term. After that he could do no right! He waffled on Syria, and now, years late, with Iraq imploding, he's planning to get involved. What on earth were those so-called red lines supposed to represent, anyway?

      I spend more time on Facebook and my blog then Hubpages, and quite often the shirtless Putin is compared to our own leader. I agree, but at the same time I hate to see it, and don't even get me started on the wife....

      Thanks for a really interesting read!

      James W. Nelson

    • Horia Pop profile image

      Horia Pop 2 years ago from Romania

      A very interesting article. Russia has never really gotten over its losses. After the fall of the Iron Courtain and the migration of European states towards "democracy" (and I'm using quotation marks because I've seen how the U.S.A. and Europe have meddled in the affairs of my country - Romania, helping to preserve a dictatorship of nearly 10 years, because certain strategic and political interests have dictated that the will of the people be dismissed) Russia found itsef in danger of becoming a third rate power.

      What happened to Crimea was clear pro of the Russian Federation's expansionist tendencies. The U.S., didn't say much, and Europe kept its mouth shut, because the Russians supply us with fuel and gas, and if they were to cut the cord so to speak, the great democracies of Europe would find themselves having to face the wrath of their citizens.

      Now, Russia's doing its best to destabilize Ukraine, trying to send a message. "You're not getting your hands on this one, it belongs to us!". Of course Russia is also suspected of trying to cause political shakeup in Europe through the extremist movement. Several countries, including my own are in danger of being fractured because extremists continue to advocate for territorial authonomy based on ethnic criteria.

      Keep in mind that many European states are also NATO members, therefore, a Europe shaken by internal conflicts automatically weakens the position of the U.S. especially near its borders with the Russian Federation. That would be the perfect opportunity for Russia to swoop in and reclaim Ukraine. If there is no political, economical, military consensus what's to stop them from expanding their influence!

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Those are some very excellent points. I'm afraid you are right - the US does support dictatorship as long as it is of the pro US variety. We have done the same thing in a Central America for decades and we are now paying the consequences for our actions. Putting bad governments in Europe only makes it easier for Putin to swallow up the little fish one by one. Great comment!

    • Horia Pop profile image

      Horia Pop 2 years ago from Romania

      To be frank, the U.S. isn't the only one to blame. we also have to take into consideration the greed and political ambitions of the leaders who have sought out and benefited from U.S. support. All those who wanted to be "king for a day" didn't mind accepting the "terms of service".

      The saddest thing is that all the countries, all the citizens who have regarded American democracy as a salvation, have been deceived. From that point of view they traded one master (the Soviet Union, or various dictators, in the case of other states) for another.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      If you look back through history you will find that Athens the great democracy fell in the Pelopponesian War because they started bullying around their less powerful neighbors. This tends to happen to countries that forget their founding principles, and I certainly hope that it does not happen to the US. Thanks again.

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 2 years ago from New Zealand

      I see too much cultural elitism in our Western politics. I think that if the Russians don't think about democracy in the same way we do, we should leave them to govern themselves in the way they want. It's the same with the Muslims and Chinese. If they want democracy in great enough numbers, they'll fight their revolution to get it. American or European interference will only make them hate democracy more. It's their fight, not ours. I'm not saying you're suggesting otherwise; just making a point.

      It is a shame that Putin wants to stay in power indefinitely by abusing the system, though I believe his approval ratings are high. I think he's getting a bit senile in his old age, and this recent conflict will only make him worse. He'll see the sanctions and media propaganda against Russia as wrongly persecuting his country (and it is wrong imo). This will cause him to see America even more as the enemy. He's already imposing more `fascist'-style laws in Russia, such as making internet bloggers with more than 3000 daily hits register with the government. Putin used to be quite liberal about the internet. It's a sign of things to come I think.

      America/Britain hasn't helped though. The media bias against Russia is clearly being encouraged by our governments. The sanctions are not based on proof of culpability. It's a farce. Crimeans wanted to join Russia, so I wouldn't frame it as "illegal"... which is a word that means nothing in this context anyway. It was just thrown around by Western leaders to say "we don't like it". Giving the Crimeans what they wanted was probably the right thing to do (though I voted other in your poll) but it's not a restoration either. It's what they wanted, therefore the right thing.

      Like the previous Cold War, no side is fully to blame. Both are making the situation worse, and both will probably benefit from it in the long run.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Your point is well taken Thomas Swan, I think we tend to view everything through western colored lenses and sometimes people just don't want to live in open societies because they have no frame of reference for it. I know there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides; the US practices economic hegemony all over the world, but I think Putin'a actions in interfering with Ukrainian sovereignty certainly show his culpability.

      I think it is interesting that so far I haven't come across a Russian writer here or on any other writing site I participate in. Then again I haven't met any Ukranians either.

      Thanks for your great comment.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana Zakinov 2 years ago from California

      Well, hello there, I'm a Russian writer here.

      As a Russian American, I often find myself ambivalent about Russia, Putin specifically, and Russian-American relations. It's not that I'm loyal to Russia. The very fact that I immigrated to America says how I truly feel about Russia. It's a dictatorship, more or less. I hated Putin for putting the Riot Girls in prison, but they are basically canonized now, so I guess it worked out OK for them.

      I understand your point of view and I share your basic sentiment about the state of affairs in Russia but... it's not quite as black and white as this, in my opinion. The Ukrainian situation was definitely painted in very anti-Russian tones in the American media. I don't think it was ever clearly stated that there is a large Russian population in Crimea (a majority I believe), and Crimeans collectively chose to join Russia.

      Terrific job on the article, by the way. Nominated for HOTD.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Well thank you very much kalinin1158 for the nice words. Not being a Russian myself I can only go by news reports and we all know that the news media mostly reports a slanted version of the truth that is mostly calculated to raise indignation for better ratings. It is nice to have the input of a Russian-American here, and I appreciate your visit very much.

    • Elliot Bartz profile image

      Elliot Bartz 2 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Hi there,

      Great article, I really enjoyed reading it and it was well written. I am doing writing on similar topics, including Russia (more through an international politics lens) on my Hub. Check it out if you like and follow me back if you do :)

      http://hubpages.com/@elliotbartz

      Elliot B.

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 23 months ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      This is an impressive piece of writing! It is nice to see it all summed up with the history and then the present day situation. I see all the comments that tell us that we do care so very much. Obama is recognized by anyone paying attention as a dismal failure in this and about everything else on the world stage. I must read this many times as it is an education that I am lacking. Thank you. from all us who are pretty much uninformed.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 23 months ago from San Diego California

      Thank you for the nice words Reynold Jay. Putin is definitely the kind of man who would aggressively exploit any perceived weakness on the part of the west. Russia is a rare bird, and I don't think anyone understands her completely. I appreciate you dropping in!

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      Jerry 8 months ago

      Your theories about Putin fail to account for his involvement in the BRICS movement with China and India, whose whole principle is "for the benefit of the other", and which is bringing and end to hunger and backwardness in many Asia, Europe and other places. That does not sound like a vicious dictator to me.

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      Mel Carriere 8 months ago from San Diego California

      You are right Jerry that I don't have the answers, and the United States is certainly no perfect democracy, we just fool the people better. But Putin's poisoning of political opponents is a page straight out of Stalin's handbook. The Soviets headed a host of noble, benevolent sounding causes as well. It means nothing.

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