Can anybody tell me what the hell this is about?
This crazy rant, third-hand from La Russophobe via The Indispensable Paul Goble via Aleksey Shornikov is suddenly beginning to gain a fair bit of traction with russophobes and “Russia News” sites. That’s curious, because it makes no sense whatever, and no evidence offers itself that its author is any kind of “analyst”, as he is described by Goble. Rather, he appears to be just some opinionated blogger, and no more an analyst of anything than I am. That’s just a title Goble likes to give his sources so they will sound more authentic. Mr. Shornikov actually bills himself as a “Luzhkov Researcher”.
If you’ve ever wondered whether material needs to have a point at all, or if it’s sufficient that it just be anti-Russian in order for it to be picked up by russophobes, this may clear up a few things. Let’s look at it. Russia, we’re told once again, is not a country. Jeez, how many times have we heard that? Instead, it’s a corporation, which the author wants to call “RF Inc.”, presumably signifying, “Russian Federation, Incorporated”. Catchy: I like it. RF Inc., we’re told, patterns itself on the British East India Company, best-known for its colonization and subjugation of India.
The British East India Company was incorporated in 1600, and ceased to exist as a legal entity in 1873, so it had a pretty long run. It was formed to seize advantage for the crown in the spice trade, although it later exercised considerable political influence and became the primary agent of British imperialism in India. In its initial operations it conducted each spice voyage as a separate business venture, with its own stockholders. In 1612 it switched to temporary joint stocks, and then in 1657 to permanent joint stocks. The company assembled its own military and administrative departments, owing to the threat from foreign competitors, so I suppose it was a de facto state of sorts, and it created and policed colonies on behalf of the crown.
By now you’re probably asking yourself, “What has this got to do with Russia being a country, and if it isn’t a country, what is it??” Don’t ask me, because I’m in the “Russia is a country” camp. But the assembled wise heads of La Russophobe, The Indispensable Paul Goble and Aleksey Shornikov don’t appear to have an answer, either. How, exactly, is Russia like the British East India Company? We’re going to have to guess.
The British East India Company was formed to fight for market share in international trade, on behalf of the host country – England. At no time I’m aware of did anyone suggest England was no longer a country because it was host to the British East India Company. Is it because Russia aggressively pursues international trade opportunities? If so, how does that make it not a country, but a corporation better described as “RF Inc.”? I can’t wait to hear the preferred alternative; is it smiling peasants, selling root vegetables from roadside stands? Perhaps the comparison with the British East India Company owes something to its having made a select group very wealthy by exploiting a much larger group- is that it? Please say it’s not, because if you say, “Yes, that’s it exactly!!”, I’ll ask you to point me to a state or competitive organization that features a management or leadership core which deliberately makes itself poorer while enriching its subjects. If you can do that, and it’s not too much trouble, could you forward me a citizenship application? Get it? Every nation in the world is interested in increasing its market share of international trade; even the dumb, backward ones. Every nation in the world which enjoys reasonable success at it features a core of individuals who profit more than anyone else. In a good many of those countries (notice that they’re all called countries, not Incs), that core forms the national government. In the rest, the profit-taking core is formed of business heads who are well in with the government, but not actually members. Don’t make me name names, because that apparently is “whataboutism”.
Perhaps the LaRussophobe/Goble/Shornikov Think Tank is comparing Russia the non-country to the British East India Company because of the latter’s acquisitive nature and imperialist ambitions as a colonial power. If so, I suggest it’s 19 years late; the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 without even releasing a “Greatest Hits” album. That shouldn’t suggest there are not nationalist elements in Russia today who would like to have all those “colonies” back again, but there are probably not enough of them to form their own country. Or Inc., or whatever. The fact remains that the Russian Empire has not gotten larger since 1991, unless you want to count South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
According to Shornikov, “RF Inc.” appeared coincident with the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although he claims to despise communism, Russia was apparently still a country while it was a communist state, although the Bolsheviks kind of spoiled it a little. Before 1917 Russia was not only a country, but a pretty good one, then. Some of the people must not have shared his enthusiasm, since Emperors Ivan VI, Peter III, Paul I, Alexander II and Nicholas II were all murdered or assassinated, but we’ll leave that for now. Where in the Shornikov Doctrine, then, which holds that RF Inc. emerged in 1991 and ushered in a corporation totally occupied with self-enrichment which persists to the present day, do figures like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Boris Berezovsky fit? Both made fortunes by acquiring state assets at fire-sale prices, both are fabulously wealthy (Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man and 16th in the world). Pursuing unrestricted wealth is the watchword of corporatism – why, then, aren’t these exemplary men welcome in RF Inc.? More to the point, why are they the darlings of russophobes? I think if you look around, you can find other countries that are run much closer to the corporate model. One of them almost took down the world economy recently with its unabashed corporatism.
If you wanted a good laugh, the emergence of the Corporate Inc Formerly Known As Russia is supposedly personified by the sacking of Moscow ex-mayor Yury Luzhkov, whose wife is the richest woman in the non-country.
Well, here’s a little free advice for the Triple-Headed Focus Group – take it, or don’t, as you wish. Aleksey Shornikov; real academics and analysts don’t threaten to delete the comments of people who respond rudely, and ban them for life. Those are the resources of people who can’t stand up under debate. Paul Goble, stop getting your facts from opinion columns and whackjob bloggers. La Russophobe, check your links before you publish – your link to Paul Goble in the subject piece is the wrong Paul Goble, unless the crusading researcher who features prominently in your dreams is actually an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books, from England.
In closing, I’m sure Alexei (or Aleksey) Shornikov is a common name in Moscow, but I couldn’t find one with any credentials as an analyst of anything. I did, however, find this guy. Hope this isn’t your analyst, Paul.
Update: One of our readers, Peter, provided this link to another “essay” by Mr. Shornikov, in which he suggests the Moscow Metro is a monument to Lenin, a continuation of the mausoleum, and a temple to satanists (the Bolsheviks).
Holy Jeebus. The man appears to be a kook. Nice one, Paul Goble.