The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Russia – the isle of stability

Tuesday, 7 April 2020, 10:13 Last update: about 3 months ago

Julia Fedotova

Russia now stands on the crater of a volcano, which magma is a mixture of three crises: epidemiological, political and economic. Probably, for now, it does not matter who is to blame: we must go down to a peaceful green meadow from this crater. The country has been persistently climbing there for a long time and ended up in the most dangerous zone "unexpectedly". I remember that feeling. A few years ago, my mother had a jubilee, and we decided to celebrate it in Sicily. Everything went according to plan: we left Malta on the morning ferry, had tasty marzipan in Taormina, had a long coffee break at the foot of Etna, went to a family-run restaurant and ate heavy servings of caponata followed by Barolo while watching the sun going down. We were already on the mountain and we had almost opened the presents... when suddenly we found ourselves cut off from the ground at the top of the mountain. A hurricane hit, everything was covered with snow, visibility became zero and our vehicle was forced to stop and locked up at a narrow serpentine's ledge to avoid falling into the abyss.


"Stability is more important and must be a priority," said Putin, explaining his decision to leave himself an opportunity for a lifelong term in power. After, there will be another president, soothes Putin. When will we have that chance? However, so far there are many problems and enemies. "According to the Western media, our opponents are afraid of both a strong president and a strong Russia. Today (if he stays), no one would look at Putin, either inside or outside Russia, as a lame duck," comments a State Duma deputy from the TV screen; he was very pleased to spend time with us in Malta in the 2000s and was quite open to the cultures and traditions of other countries. Yes, political technologists offer their explanation for the liberal public: the president has got a feeling of being a "lame duck". Being aware that this is the last term, officials began to work less efficiently and started to look for a new leader. They had to be put in their place. Apart from the fact that democracy is officially over in Russia, the mindset of the nachalnik ("boss" - the president is now commonly called so) raises questions in society. Yet, if the end of a politician's term of office causes instability in the state, then how can one still get out of the trap during each term and last till the end? And should we continue to work with people who instantly stop performing the most important state functions as soon as they notice the "surprising inside information" -  that the elections are scheduled in a couple of years? Or, as in our case, about the transfer of power. Although the "zeroing" of Putin's term of office is an issue that has already been resolved, technically, the citizens' poll has been postponed "to a later time" due to the epidemic.

Meanwhile, society thrives in gallows humor. The term is used in psychology: the irony on the brink of negation that helps to control anger. Since Soviet times, people have been used to mocking frightening events as if to put up with them. But let's see how humour has changed in 10 years. If in the past, political jokes were happily repeated in the corridors of the Kremlin, today they are unpleasant to the authorities. Just compare: "Putin and Bush are fishing in Russia. They throw their fishing rods; Putin is focused on the float. Bush slaps himself on the cheek, on the forehead, on the neck, experiencing itching all around. He stares at Putin, who is calmly looking at the float.
Why are you not bitten by the mosquitoes? - They are not allowed to".

Or: "Obama came to the Kremlin to negotiate with president Medvedev. He is waiting and waiting, and Medvedev isn't there yet. Suddenly, the doors open and Medvedev, out of breath, runs in. Obama: Dmitri, what's happened? Sorry, I was in traffic! Putin was on his way to work in the morning, the road was blocked!"

And yesterday's sad and laconic: "The State Duma unanimously equated Putin's 20-year presidency with zero."

In Russia, there is a church tradition which for a long time goes beyond the limits of religious action - Lent. During this time, for about a month and a half (from March to April), you should not eat the food of animal origin, keep away from fun activities, less hangouts, think more about the soul and tighten your belts. Few people put any sense into restrictions, because in a country that calls itself mostly Orthodox (71% Orthodox, 10% Muslims); only about one-third of the population celebrates Easter. However, any cafe will offer a lean menu and shops will put out broccoli cutlets to the noticeable places. People follow the tradition and limit their consumption, though some of them are preparing for the beach season. As a reward, after months of eating cabbage, on Easter (Russia celebrates Easter on 19 April this year) there is a "breaking fast" followed by barbeque parties in the countryside or fireworks in the city. If one believes the ancient Russian traditions - the coronavirus outbreak hit the world at exactly this time for a reason. Losses, fear, misunderstanding and isolation will disappear with the advent of the "sacred day". That's how people in Russia call Easter. In the meantime, the entire country is trying to identify the positive aspects and eat our favourite fresh and smelly garlic (the good news is that we are quarantined at home) in the hope of repelling both the virus and "all kinds of evil". "And then, we will see," as the president said.


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