Grigory Pasko: Accident Prone Russia


For several years now I’ve had to make repeated trips, back and forth, on the same road in Vladimir Oblast.  Over the years the road has gone from lousy to perilously unnavigable. Deep ruts, craters, obstacles, potholes, and huge puddles of uncertain depth…

However the last time I drove this road, something new had appeared. Do you think they fixed the road?  Of course you don’t!  No, they put up new signs posting a lowered speed limit. The speed is indicated at 60 km per hour, although you can easily go 90 there. More precisely, you could easily go 90 there if not for the ruts and potholes.

It occurs to me that this is how many problems are solved in Russia. They can’t find the resources to repair a road, but they can put up a bunch of fancy new signs.  There isn’t enough infrastructure investment to make hydroelectric dams safe, as it is cheaper to just pay the survivors of any accident. They can’t seem to establish rule of law, but no reforms are ever made on the public prosecutors.  They can’t prove the guilt of the supposed terrorists or faux-spies they catch – but they can eliminate jury trials.

Thus our law professor President Medvedev decided recently at a meeting in Stavropol after the bombing in Nazran that this proposed law to ban jury trials should be expedited and passed without delay. Human rights advocates were dismayed, but nobody else gave a damn. Like other instances of apathy, no one cares because a) this has not yet affected them personally; and b) they already know anyway that our courts – with juries or without – will always issue whatever kangaroo-verdict the power indicates.

After the explosion at the Sayano-Shushenskaya GES [hydroelectricpower station], they suddenly started talking about how ALL 80(eighty!) hydroelectric power stations of Russia demand modernizationurgently and for a long time already. After a day – to express myselfin the words of Putin – this «hysteria» ceased. And rightly so:otherwise, they would have had to admit that Putin’s decade of rule -has been not only ineffective, but criminally ineffective. And anothersong appeared: minister-of-all-times-and-peoples Shoygu declared that “the accident is unique, its nature is incomprehensible, nothing likethis has ever been observed in world practice.

This is true, it has not been observed. Because everywhere in the worldit is customary to modernize in time everything that moves, spins,floats, flies, works more than 10, as an example, years. Here, I’llgive you an example. Aircraft carriers in the USA were modernizedseveral times and carried out their functions for decades. WhileRussian ones were decommissioned and scrapped after even the designlife-cycle hadn’t passed.

How does the Kremlin handle the criticism after the accidentat the hydroelectric power station? Does it agree? Does it adoptmeasures? Hardly! It prosecutes those who write about this and attemptto figure out why it is proving impossible to save the people trappedunder the rubble. Thus, it became known that the procuracy of Abakanhas opened a criminal case in relation to editor-in-chief of theinternet-magazine “Novy fokus” Mikhail Afanasiev “based on the fact ofdissemination in the net of knowingly false information about thesituation alongside the accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya GES.

Out of the latest events, it goes without saying that I will alsomention the catastrophe in the sky on the eve of the pompous air show,being made, as it seemed to me, for the greater glory of Putin. There,if you remember, airplanes crash landed into a settlement of dachas.  Once again we Russians were treated to another performance of botched emergency services. (By the way, the collision of the airplanes theyalso called unique and unusual, rare and untypical). Here’s how ajournalist describes the post accident handling by the authorities:

«Firemen drove up in two engines. They drove up in 40 minutes. In oneengine there was no water, in the other the pump was not working. Fromwhere were they driving for 40 minutes? Why did they not pick up water,if, of course, they were rushing to the fire not from the Sahara? Whendid they learn about the non-working pump and how were they able towork with this pump before? They started to take water from apumphouse. However, they did not reach an agreement with itimmediately. In short, by the time they agreed everything, there wasalready nothing left to extinguish. They say that people were preparedto save property with their own hands, but that an uncoupling [sic,probably “a police cordon”] had already been put up around the crashzone. Now the cordon they did manage to put up. It took them all of 15minutes».

To kill, to poison, to beat up, to body-search, to besmirch, to lockaway, to rob, to deceive (you can continue the list yourselves) – theseare things our power knows how to do. And it knows how to do thisquickly and efficiently. Everything else – this is not for our government.Nobody, it seems, has ever taught it how to think, to create, torespect, to value, to care and (it’s frightening to even say this) tolove. For example, its own people.

So why do we love it so much then?