Why the Kids Are Bas­tards

The Moscow Times - - LIVING HERE -

It is the last sum­mer be­fore the Rus­sian elec­tion. So it’s time for your fa­vorite, most un­fair Rus­sia ob­server to re­flect on life in “The Big­gest Coun­try.” Just like in the days of yore.

You’re prob­a­bly ex­pect­ing a chat about the hur­ri­cane that tried to flat­ten Moscow — likely an an­swer to Mike Pence’s prayers. But no. The hur­ri­cane is straight­for­ward. If you want to talk about that, take it up with a god of your choice, or the mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices. (You’ll have more luck with the de­ity, I warn you). No, let’s talk about 7.3 bil­lion rubles ($130 mil­lion). This is the ex­tra pay­check that Rus­sia’s top cops will get in 2017-9. Rank-and-file po­lice won’t be as lucky—they’re in line for a cu­mu­la­tive $85-mil­lion pay cut. The same re­view gave ed­u­ca­tion $23 mil­lion ex­tra, or less than one fifth of what the cops are get­ting.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that the pay rises were an­nounced on the same day that the pres­i­dent saw fit to pro­claim a new “Decade of Child­hood” from 2018. Rus­sian de­mo­graph­ics are on the wane again — put an­other way, Rus­sia is slowly dy­ing. And the poor po­lice suf­fer harshly at the hands of pesky po­lit­i­cally ac­tive vot­ers.

The Krem­lin has not for­got­ten about the op­po­si­tion rally in cen­tral Moscow back in March, where some youths showed up and hit back at riot po­lice round­ing up the pro­test­ers. And then there was the 10-year-old who re­cited Shake­speare in the streets of Moscow last week—it took a whole po­lice pa­trol to neu­tral­ize him. There was also a cu­ri­ous in­ci­dent in Chelyabinsk in the Urals, where teens vi­o­lently at­tacked a po­lice car while chant­ing a crim­i­nal mafia slo­gan “AUE.” In what looked like mute em­bar­rass­ment, po­lice tried to down­play the in­ci­dent—un­like its tus­sle with the op­po­si­tion.

Not even The Moscow Times can tell you how the wise and benev­o­lent pres­i­dent in­tends to sup­port child­hood in Rus­sia—a coun­try of glo­ri­ous past, ab­sent future, fall­ing in­comes and a war on In­ter­net anonymity. Most likely, Vladimir Putin will set up a Child­hood Min­istry, with a Fed­eral Pro­cre­ation Agency and a State Videoblog­ging Ser­vice at­tached. But we can safely rule out any rad­i­cal im­prove­ment of, I don’t know, ed­u­ca­tion—be­cause, of course, the cops come first.

A less gen­er­ous soul than my­self might in­ter­ject here to say that Rus­sian street cops are not nec­es­sar­ily to blame for their predilec­tion for adopt­ing At­tila the Hun as a role model. That has far more to do with petty salaries, mis­man­age­ment of the crip­plingly cen­tral­ized po­lice force, and the daily gar­rote of pa­per­work. A case could cer­tainly be made for po­lice top brass de­serv­ing an in­ter­nal re­view over this, rather than re­ceiv­ing a $130-mil­lion bonus. But let’s not get bogged down in minu­tiae.

Just so you get it right: The Rus­sian po­lice chase the in­tel­li­gentsia’s chil­dren around Moscow. The same po­lice were scared by a cou­ple young faces at a petty rally. And their bosses are get­ting loads of ex­tra cash.

Mean­while, the coun­try’s youth—those out­side the con­fines of ba­sic pros­per­ity—are al­ready lost to chaos and come down on said po­lice like, well, At­tila the Hun. Then the Krem­lin sud­denly de­clares a “Decade of Child­hood,” and throw five times more money at cops than at ed­u­ca­tors.

Some­thing tells me it’s go­ing to be an in­ter­est­ing decade to grow up in Rus­sia.

Un­fair Ob­server is a se­cret Rus­sian journalist of­fer­ing a satir­i­cal take on the worst and most ab­surd de­vel­op­ments hap­pen­ing in Rus­sia ev­ery week.

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