Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sayings / Поговорки

Quote #1: "В России только две проблемы: дураки и дороги." / "In Russia there are only two problems: fools and bad roads." (Yulia)

Just read the article about the drunken man who wandered into a pigsty in the middle of the night and was killed by a startled boar. It explains most of the problem.

Quote #2: "The judicial power is the third among equals." (Igor)

According to our political science professor Igor, the Soviet times ingrained the concept of varying levels of equality into the psyche of the Russian people. Twenty years ago, the General Secretary was the first among equals. Today, the "tandemocratic" executive of Medvedev-Putin is the first among equals. Following far behind are the legislative and judicial branches.

Igor classified the Russian judicial courts into "white", "gray," and "black." Namely, the spectrum of "cleanliness," as Igor liked to describe it, runs from "white" (pure) to "black" (completely impure). "Gray," of course, is the average status of Russian courts, meaning that sometimes the judges are bribed beyond the brink of human necessity, but sometimes the court system functions legally.

Quote #3: "We cannot treat people with respect. Let's just get rid of criminals now. But later when we are more civilized, then we can maybe stop killing criminals." (Igor)

Since its entry into the Council of Europe in 1996, the Russian Federation has refrained from utilizing the death penalty. But in the wake of four terrorist attacks in the past week (two in Moscow, two in Dagestan), President Medvedev felt inclined to revisit the death penalty stance, stating, "Nevertheless, those who committed those appalling crimes, will pay for that --with their own lives, regardless of the ban on the death penalty." No one is quite sure what he means by that, but one thing is certain: if the president blatantly refers to using the death penalty regardless of its current illegality, then it is certain that the country has become less law-abiding within the past week.

Quote #4: "The Kalishnakov is the final arbitrator. Not as much now, but for sure in the 1990s." (Igor)

Despite the global notoriety of the so-called "Russian mafia" from Istanbul to Iowa, the most prominent ethnicity within the feared group is Georgian. Not only do Russians consider Georgia to be one of their most difficult neighbors, but it also is the birthplace of former Soviet dictator and mass-murderer Yosef Stalin. As Igor viciously described in class the other day, Stalin "characteristically represented the Georgian people with their inner composition of violence and centuries-old tribal feuds. Of course, it will take centuries to evolve to something more civilized." Biased, yes, but perhaps not entirely inaccurate.

Upon first Wikipedia-ing the "Russian mafia," I was shocked at the extensive list of offenses, from "Fake anti-spyware...Professional sports corruption...Vandalism" to "Human trafficking...Sexual Slavery...Prostitution...Child Pornography" to "Illegal sale of Plutonium...
Illegal trading of nuclear materials." The last two send shivers down my spine. By the end of the aphabetical list, I was horrified. Even before living in Russia, I joked with people about the widespread corruption in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Needless to say, sometimes the stories of criminality spark a smile, such as reading how there are laws against "hooliganism" in Russia. Or comparing the least corrupt country in the world, Finland, to one of its nearest neighbors, Russia, which struggles for 147the place out of 200. Yet, seldom now would I dare to smile at the reality of the crimes listed above. They are real. Very real.

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