Beginnings without Endings

rossiya010709.jpgAlison Smale has published a very thoughtful and nostalgic piece in the International Herald Tribune today, which recalls her experiences living in Moscow under the Soviet Union contrasted with Russian society today, remarking on Russia’s penchant for unfulfilled futures, and the missing gap in the generations leaving a fragmented national identity.

I liked this piece in that it was a reminder that while so much in Russian politics is unprecedented, you just can’t escape the feeling like we’ve all been through this before.

President Dmitri A. Medvedev seemed to echo that in his traditional New Year’s wishes to the country in the minutes before midnight on Dec. 31. “The New Year is a new chance, one we mustn’t miss,” he said. “The success of our actions depends on each one of us, and on what we each do for our families, and for our country.”

The common thread in all of this — from the Soviet slogan to the Medvedev hope that Russians will suddenly lavish on the common good the care traditionally afforded their families — is of beginnings without endings, of journeys undertaken with the goal not reached. (…)

Instead, she and many others — including those in the Kremlin — worry about the serious standstill in the economy. In a way, it is the refrain I have been hearing since first arriving in Russia almost 30 years ago. “It” cannot get any worse, goes the lament. And then, somehow, “it” stumbles on, on a fresh journey that may — or may not — reach the elusive, ever-shifting goal.