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Grigory Pasko: The Common Touch of a Tsar

It must have been a month or so ago that my wife brought to my attention that the towel-dryer in our bathroom wasn’t working [all Russian flats have an exposed hot-water pipe on the bathroom wall for hanging wet towels and clothes on–Trans.]. That is, there was hot water in the house, but it wasn’t getting to this device for some reason. My background in the humanities was sufficient for me to understand: the reason for the trouble was external.

Be that as it may, I telephoned the housing office. From there came a plumber. He looked at the pipes, fiddled around with the faucets and the towel-dryer and said: «The riser with the hot water is shut off somewhere below». And he went to that “below”. From “below” he phoned. It turned out that the apartment in which, most likely, the riser was shut off, was closed, while the neighbors said that the owner lives all the time outside the city.

On the left, the people, on the right, their tsar.

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We threw a note for the owner into the box and started to wait. Wewaited for this jerk a long time, but eventually he showed up. Itturned out that this jerk, having uncovered a water leak in histowel-dryer, had simply shut off the valve for the entire riser and hadonce again gone off to the out-of-town house. Very Russian: to dosomething nasty to everybody and disappear.

I don’t know what the plumbers said to the owner of the house, butsoon afterwards the hot water appeared and the towel-dryer began towork again.

All of this took about a month. That is, during the course of thirtydays I maintained close contact with employees of the housing office,they with me, I with the plumbers, they with me…

The most amazing thing didn’t get to me at first. All this time,this entire month, at the very minimum twenty other residents of myhouse also didn’t have hot water in their towel-dryers. And none ofthem – not one! – didn’t complain anywhere in all this time. I amconvinced: If I had not started to pester the people at the housingoffice, to search for the ogre of a resident who had shut off thewater, then they would have gone right on living without water untilwinter, and the whole winter besides.

What is this? The mentality of the Russian person?

There’s a crisis in the country. Mass layoffs of people fromworkplaces. Wage reduction. Prices in so doing for everything – foodproducts, gasoline, transportation services, metro tickets, housing andpublic utilities – are not falling. [In defiance of all the laws ofeconomics, gasoline prices in Russia have continued to rise even asworld crude prices plummet and Russian oil producers export less andtherefore increase domestic supply–Econ.] And nobody says a word.As if though that’s how it should be. As if though it’s not at all thefault of our very own dear government headed by our very own dearPutino-Medvedevs.

This isn’t the first time Russians have had to live throughunpleasantness. Be it crisis, or war, or famine, or a towel-dryer, orinefficient leadership… They’re used to it. Because they themselveschoose those who govern them. Why are the Russians so unpretentiousabout the powers and about themselves? Because, probably, as one writerwrote: «In any oligarch there lives a Gastarbeiter… Today a stratum,tomorrow the elite, after that – dregs, and eternally – nobody».

The Russian people for its rulers – is nobody. That’s how it used tobe, that’s how it is, while under the current chekists and supposedlawyers – that’s how it will remain. And may God grant that the lack ofhot water be the worst news in our life.

The recent appearance (apparition to the people!) of Putin beforethe tele-people of Russia showed once again: the people is ready to bea statist, a puppet on strings, a grovelling toady for a master likePutin, who himself was a toady and a slave not that long ago at all.The puppet-masters chose just the right format for interaction with thepeople: the people has to come begging to the tsar. That’s why allthose deputies, bureaucrats, farmers, doctors, retired generals,regular-term officers, children, and olympic champions only asked…Nobody even once said: the power is lying, the power has stifled theyoung shoots of democracy in the country, the power is at fault for thecrisis …There was nobody to say this.

The wonderful Russian actor of stage and screen Oleg Basilashvili inone interview said thus: «We are still – slaves. We want for there tobe somebody above us, while we will obediently carry out his will. Sit,know your place».