The Death of a Nation
April 9, 2007 12:05 PM   Subscribe

The death of Russia [google video]. A very interesting documentary made for Channel 4 in the UK on the state of modern Russia from Marcel Theroux. Marcel is older brother of Louis Theroux and son of the travel writer Paul. Marcel's documentary style is more sober than that of his brother and he deals with a tragic subject delicately and with a sympathetic tone. A very depressing but nonetheless very watchable documentary told by a literate, compassionate journalist. [48 minutes running time]
posted by ClanvidHorse (18 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Isn't that a bit overstated? They entered a lawless era, but seem to have come out of it, just as authoritarian and tyranical as ever but I would hardly call them "dead"
posted by delmoi at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2007


I would say watch the doc delmoi. There is a lot more to it than lawlessness.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 12:21 PM on April 9, 2007


Will watch later, but I would suspect demographics have a lot to do with it this time.
posted by Krrrlson at 12:29 PM on April 9, 2007


It's been like this for a while now. Corruption everywhere and of course the people are the ones that suffer, and some rich oligarchs in the process as well. Good documentary though, puts the issues in a pretty even handed way.
posted by vodkadin at 12:40 PM on April 9, 2007


Russia is a standing rebuke to the argument 'you don't need democracy to have sustainable prosperity'.
posted by athenian at 1:29 PM on April 9, 2007


Russia is a standing rebuke to the argument 'you don't need democracy to have sustainable prosperity'.

Except that as Russia has got less democratic in the last 10 it's economy has gotten markedly better. Everything I have read lately says that the average Russian is happier now than they were in the Yeltsin or Gorbachev eras, so it is definitely hyperbole to say that the country is dying. Of course Putin is a total piece of shit who is blatantly killing anyone who disagrees with him, but that doesn't mean the country is lost.
posted by afu at 1:50 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Russia is a good example of where America headed. The Russian mind preference authoritarian leadership to choas. It is a cultural trait that has become all pervasive due to centuries of tyranny.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 1:54 PM on April 9, 2007


Everything I have read lately says that the average Russian is happier now than they were in the Yeltsin or Gorbachev eras

Cite that shit, please. If you're going to lie, at least further someone else's lie rather than start a new one.

Because I've been reading that the average Russian is poorer, deader and much sadder than s/he has ever been. (PDF)
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2007


Uh, did you read your link?

"Individual changes in wealth, however, cannot explain the recent, dramatic improvement in the distribution of happiness in Russia. Based on panel analysis of longitudinal survey data, this shift should be attributed to the collective experience of recovery from the shock of the 1998 ruble crisis, rather than to individual economic trajectories."
posted by afu at 2:06 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Individual changes in wealth, however, cannot explain the recent, dramatic improvement in the distribution of happiness in Russia.

Yeah, I screwed that up in the editing. The study argues that Russians are happier than in the late 90's but not as happy as they were in Soviet times. I had some pro-politburo line in my response and then when I changed it to give it more zing I totally contradicted what I wanted to say.

Sorry! I'm stepping out of the thread in embarrassment and going back to huffing oven cleaner.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:28 PM on April 9, 2007


Desperately needed an editor and a director. First twenty minutes, reveal what Russia is becoming, investigate different cities and cite how they apply to the bigger picture of what the issues are. Lack of vision, racist Cossacks (always a gimme), and AIDS. But in the last 25 minutes get very boring and monotous with the same one guy talking head shot, with the same message over and over, AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS. If it was 'Why AIDS is killing Russia', ok, but it's like they spent twenty or so minutes setting up a look at Russia then blew it all on AIDS.

Yes AIDS is important. Yes the situation is deplorable. I just wish they had had some direction when they got there instead of just getting stuck in a loop.

(Thanks for the post)
posted by cavalier at 2:45 PM on April 9, 2007


Afu: The Russian economy doing all right for now, or even people being happy about things, is not the same as sustainable prosperity for the people (cf: Nigeria).

OECD view:
Although Russia continues to grow at relatively high rates, the main factors underpinning current growth are transitory. The gains in competitiveness that Russian producers enjoyed after the 1998 financial crisis have now largely disappeared. Moreover, there appears to be little scope left for Russian industry to go on raising output by increasing capacity utilisation without substantially greater investment. Finally, the impact on growth of commodity price increases will inevitably attenuate even if oil prices remain high, as the economy will adjust to the new terms of trade.
Strategic investment, public sector reform, health reform, all these things happen more readily and more effectively in a society that has democracy and the rule of law.
posted by athenian at 3:06 PM on April 9, 2007


Thanks for posting this.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:22 PM on April 9, 2007


Watched it. Thanks. Good show.

Seems like an imbalance with the southern Asian countries which have the largest and fastest growing populations in the world and lack natural resources. And the north which is empty and full of natural resources. I guess nukes keep it in balance.
posted by stbalbach at 4:24 PM on April 9, 2007


Jeffrey Sach in the Financial Times weighs in:

"I advised Russia for two years from December 1991 to January 1994," Sachs says defensively. "It was an extremely frustrating period for me." The problem, he says, was not that good ideas were tried and failed, but that neither the US nor the powerful elites in Russia wanted to try sensible economic reforms. The US, he says, failed because it wanted a weak Russia, while the Kremlin's corrupt efforts to stop the communists' re-emergence in the mid 1990s led to the transfer of the Russian state's assets into the hands of a tiny elite."
posted by IndigoJones at 4:55 PM on April 9, 2007


Sachs (Sorry.)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:55 PM on April 9, 2007


I prefer Louie.
posted by dydecker at 6:11 PM on April 9, 2007


I thought it was fantastic, although obviously he's not as perkily engaging as his brother. The way that he "followed the story" by ingratiating himself with the Cossack officer who wanted to arrest them, and then got an entirely different aspect of the story on camera, was amazing and gutsy -- Russia being a country where journalists are murdered with disturbing frequency.

The narrative did flag a bit when he got bogged down, you might say, in the sheer mass of the AIDS problem, but it certainly didn't deviate from his thesis. Happiness distribution notwithstanding, Russia is a country -- or at least a culture -- that is dying apace, and its increasing weakness as a state has to concern everyone, given the nuclear weapons and all.
posted by dhartung at 11:49 AM on April 10, 2007


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