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Depression and nostalgia

All of Russia’s current leaders grew up in the Soviet Union where, as schoolchildren, they were indoctrinated with the belief that global capitalism would one day self-destruct in an orgy of financial gluttony and malfeasance, writes Fred Weir.

world Updated: Oct 11, 2008 00:41 IST
Fred Weir

All of Russia’s current leaders grew up in the Soviet Union where, as schoolchildren, they were indoctrinated with the belief that global capitalism would one day self-destruct in an orgy of financial gluttony and malfeasance.

But ultimately it was the USSR that collapsed, along with the dream of world Communism, and post-Soviet Russians wearily set their sights on becoming just another “normal” market economy, like the US or Germany.

So, it’s fascinating to watch Russian reactions as the capitalist Apocalypse that was long predicted by their former Soviet leaders seems to be finally coming to pass — amid just the sort of financial chaos that Bolshevik founder Vladimir Lenin would have relished. Unfortunately for the current masters of the Kremlin, the worst carnage is occurring in Moscow’s own fledgling stock market, which has shed almost two-thirds of its value in the past three months.

President Dmitry Medvedev, reacted to the crisis much like a European technocrat, by ordering the Central Bank to pump more than $150-billion into stumbling markets. But even he couldn’t resist taking a couple snide shots at Washington, noting that the global credit crunch proves that the days when “one economy and one currency dominated the global economy” are finished.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent who admits that he took his Soviet-era Communist Party membership very seriously, has been less restrained. He almost seemed to be channelling Lenin as he railed against the “American contagion” and warned the crisis was brought on by “the irresponsibility of a system which, as we know, claimed to lead the world.”

But it is Sergei Mironov, the Speaker of parliament’s upper house and head of the pro-Kremlin Fair Russia Party, who managed to sound the most nostalgic when Moscow was an ideological beacon to all who toiled under the imperialist yoke. “We are witnessing all the conspicuous omens of a terminal crisis in the utilitarian capitalist model” and the demise of US economic hegemony, he told journalists last week.

“Russia can do a great deal now to steer a changing world in the right direction. That is, to make the world more socialist, which means more humane and more harmonious. An alternative model does exist,” he added.