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Theater Hostages and Putin’s High Ratings

06.11.2002 10:24

Johnson’s Russia List #6536, 6 November 2002

Some time ago I served as advisor on a Russian gubernatorial campaign. We were pressed for time, and we had few resources. That is why we chose a slogan, “We are going to live better”. I helped to write a speech where the candidate pledged to serve the people, to be fair, to put an end to corruption, to stop the envy-based practices that so severely impede private business in Russia. The candidate ended the speech by saying that his desire to serve is a manifestation of his love for his native land and its people, who, the candidate was convinced, deserved to live better. A hatchet job; I am still embarrassed. Predictably, my driver, Ivanych, greeted my slogan with scorn. “We do not want to live better, you stupid American”, said Ivanych, without even looking at me. I immediately proved I was indeed a moron by asking, “Are you saying the Russians want to live worse?” “We have always lived khuyevo, and khuyevo we shall live”, said Ivanych, spreading me flat on the ground like a cigarette butt crushed with a boot and leaving me smoldering, showing blackened out ugly tobacco guts. It was clear: Ivanych was right and I had no feel for Russia.

Khuyevo is the most important and exalted word in the Russian language; in fact, it is so sacred it is usually not spoken when the ladies are present so as not to trivialize it. Khuyevo means “bad, but bad in an appropriate, expected, deserved way, bad that does not preclude that one day it would be better”. “Bad” actually means “bad, and you are dissatisfied” “Khuyevo” means “Bad, but you deserve it and accept it”. As any other people on Earth, Russians hate to live bad: they want to live khuyevo or better.

Predictably, we lost the election. The governor went on TV and said to the voters, “You better vote for me, you scum, or else I turn off the electricity”. The Russians know that without electricity it will be very khuyevo, if not outright bad. And so, they voted for the governor. Here is a rule for you: the Russians are ready to live khuyevo, but not very khuyevo.

And now we come to the rescue of the theater hostages and the resulting rise of Putin’s ratings.

First, let me proudly quote the definition proposed by my wife, “Russian rescue is when everybody is saved but nobody survives”. Why it is so? Because a Russian rescue must be khuyevo planned, and as a result should turn out khuyevo, which in that instance was the case.

One theater hostage was quoted as saying, “Putin gassed us if we were cockroaches”, and she is exactly right. You see, the President of Russia is not expected to care about people, to think about their well-being: people expect to be treated khuyevo, and the President must make sure they are indeed treated that way. In the middle of Moscow, hostages were writing death messages on their bodies: they knew they would not survive, they knew that everything would end up khuyevo, and eventually it did.

Putin could not negotiate (to say nothing of stopping the meaningless slaughter in Chechnya) because that would be humane, nor could he nuke the Moscow theater and the surrounding districts because that would be bad, but he could and was expected to do something that would turn out khuyevo, and that was exactly what he did. His high rating is well deserved because everything in Russia is khuyevo, with a slight hope that it might be a bit less khuyevo one day.

I am amazed to hear that the Russian “Special Services” failed to take into account that the hostages would be tired, that they would suffer from malnutrition and lack of water, that some of the hostages just might be sick, and that there would be difficulties in evacuating them. I am awestruck by how very difficult it proved to account for 800 immobilized persons. For the Russian government, to treat their people with extreme callousness is natural, but what are the westerners doing praising this operation? Does it mean that western governments also want to start treating their people khuyevo, to crush their will and to destroy their self-respect to the point where westerners too will aspire to no more than to live khuyevo?

I mentioned that the Russian word I’ve been using a lot in this piece is not used when the ladies are present because actually it is a very vulgar word. And I mention it because I like the concept of excluding someone from discussion. There are many people who are willing to discuss “Russian path to democracy”, and there are even some who claim that Russia already is a “democracy”. The words they dare say! Their mouths are so dirty they must clean it with a detergent! These people should not be in a company of well-bred people, concerned, as I am, with a problem of how can we build a democracy in Russia if the Russians do not think they deserve to live better.

Мой Мир

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