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The Temerity of Kebab Restaurants

kebab102009.jpgFrom Richard Lourie in the Moscow Times:

Oleg Mitvol, prefect for the Northern Administrative District, pressured the restaurant to change its name, himself under pressure from veterans who found the name “insulting to the history of our country.” How an entire country can be insulted by a kebab restaurant’s name was never adequately explained nor was how that country got so touchy in the first place. (…)

It seems to me that Russia’s own history has set two great tasks before it. One is to forge a new identity for itself, a new direction and a new shared set of values and goals. All the Russias of the past — Muscovite, tsarist, imperial and Soviet — were so definite in nature that they could be summed up by a single adjective. Eighteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the same cannot be said of the new Russia.

The forging of that new identity will not be achieved without a successful integration of the Soviet past. And without creating that new sense of national self and purpose, Russia will be unable to deal with its other great task — the diversification of its economy away from its dangerous dependence on oil and gas. The results of that failure will be unpleasant to say the least.