In an alarming op/ed in today's NY Times, Leon Aron describes the perilously high unemployment facing Russia's major factory towns ("monotowns"), home to 25 million Russians. Aron calls these cities "ticking time bombs." He believes that many of these cities could explode simultaneously in massive unrest that could take down Putin.
JOTMAN.COM Russian contributor Sanjuro, having read the op/ed, responds: "Sad, but true in most details (I saw the Pikalevo story a few month ago)... Except that company town residents are not always as immobile and passive as described in the article. Given a prospect of a better future, they are often quick to move."
Yet, Sanjuro believes that Russia's real problem is not what the article seems to presuppose:
What really makes this issue complicated is that these "monotowns" have not only working class people, but many other residents that collectively far outnumber the working class.Interesting to imagine Twenty-First Century Russian bureaucrats in a position roughly analogous to the feudal landlords of old Russia.
Russia's main problem are not the working class people - although their genuine grievances occasionally result in a great turmoil. I'd say, the more important problem is the lack of working class people, or, rather, the excessive proportion of government bureaucrats and public service employees of all kinds.
You might say, what's the difference? Industrial production is dying anyway, here in the West you have most people employed (or unemployed) in some sort of service industry, isn't government almost the same thing? I'd say, government in Russia is a thing in itself, like a foreign object in a body, its purpose is not to serve the society, but to intimidate it, it's "us against them" - a mindset of a medieval invader or a feudal landlord. It's not intended to be humane or effective or efficient, it's not supposed to look into the future. Its sole purpose is to reproduce and to support its existence by eating everything within its sight:
"...Chudische oblo, ozorno, ogromno,
Stozevno yi layai..." *
"...A monster, portly, playful and giant,
Has a hundred mouths and barks.."
* V.K. Trediakovsky (1766) // A.N. Radischev (1790)