We can only imagine what Putin imagines when he sees crowds in the street

(December 27, 2016)

Russians No Longer Dispute Olympic Doping Operation said the New York Times.

Russia is for the first time conceding that its officials carried out one of the biggest conspiracies in sports history: a far-reaching doping operation that implicated scores of Russian athletes, tainting not just the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi but also the entire Olympic movement.

Over several days of interviews here with The New York Times, Russian officials said they no longer disputed a damning set of facts that detailed a doping program with few, if any, historical precedents.

“It was an institutional conspiracy,” Anna Antseliovich, the acting director general of Russia’s national antidoping agency, said of years’ worth of cheating schemes, while emphasizing that the government’s top officials were not involved.

A lab director tampered with urine samples at the Olympics and provided cocktails of performance-enhancing drugs, corrupting some of the world’s most prestigious competitions. Members of the Federal Security Service, a successor to the K.G.B., broke into sample bottles holding urine. And a deputy sports minister for years ordered cover-ups of top athletes’ use of banned substances.

The article goes on and on, the details just as seamy, the sweep of it just as inexplicably corrupt. The Russian officials admit to an “institutional conspiracy”, but deny the government–that is, Putin–was involved. Considering just how involved he is in the Russian Olympics program, that seems a little disingenuous.

While the Olympics are is only a game, and not a war, nor a presidential election, I’ve always thought that this massive doping scheme is a perfect symbol of the Russian KGB-state kleptocracy’s complete contempt for the concept of fair play. Putin’s regime believes everything should be fixed so the Russian kleptocratic leadership wins. There is no ideology there anymore, Russian socialism is dead, it’s all about greed and power and stealing. And by the time Putin is gone and his regime runs its course, the country will be an empty husk.

But apparently Vladimir Putin is terrified of revolution. Of a repeat of Kiev in Moscow. In some ways he is more like the Shah of Iran than anybody else, robbing his nation blind while forces as yet unknown, unseen and unrealized might be stirring up, ready to suddenly explode and destroy him. Russia is a state that really could implode suddenly and without warning, as it has done twice already in the last 99 years (in 1917 and 1991). Revolutions can take centuries, far longer than a single life span, and Russia may only be halfway through what began in 1917 (twice in one year in fact, with the democratic revolution in February and the Bolshevik in October). Or the revolution of 1905, which followed the catastrophic loss to Japan in the Russo-Japanese War and brought forth the Constitution of 1906 and the beginnings of their experiment with democracy. Or maybe even when Czar Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861, or when an anarchist blew him sky high 20 years later. Wherever we set the opening, Russia’s revolution is nowhere near the final curtain. The last four have begun with mobs in the street. We can only imagine what Putin imagined when he saw the crowds in the street in 2012. The elections had been crooked as hell and hundreds of thousands of people were very angry. He set the army and police and nationalist thugs on them. That worked in 1905. It didn’t in 1917 and 1991. And it worked again in 2012. But Putin knows the pattern of Russian history this past 110 years. For every successful repression there is an unsuccessful repression. It is only a matter of time. Russian dramas have a certain inevitability, the characters trapped in events they have no control of. Sometimes it’s the plot of a story. And sometimes it’s the sweep of history.


Moscow, 2012

Come the revolution

When I was a college kid in the seventies, surrounded by intellectuals of radical or wanna be radical temperament, there were a lot of Revolution jokes. Come the revolution this, come the revolution that. Come the revolution, you will no longer have to wait in line at the falafel stand. Some the revolution, we will not pay the landlord, that landlord will pay us. Knock knock. Who’s there. The revolution. The revolution who. The revolution will not be televised. No one said they were funny. But everyone said them. Continue reading