Review: The Russians – A Journey From Cradle To Grave

  • Rusia
  • 0
  • 11042 Views
  • 15 April 2020

Most documentaries about Russia tend to fixate around Vladimir Putin, the former KGB spy turned president, who is clamping down on Russian society and chipping away at its democratic institutions. On occasion, we get non-Russian experts like Stacey Dooley covering the controversial, such as far right groups, anti-gay laws and domestic abuse. Every so often, one appears that actually attempts to cover normal everyday life away from the Kremlin and controversy (though these are important). Or, like my friend Andrei Nekrasov did in 2015, some attempt to deconstruct how Russia got to where it is and assess the impact on the national psyche.

A few days ago, DW did more to provide an insight into Russia today than any documentary in a long time. A German public broadcasting service, the six part documentary did exactly what it said on the tin; look at Russian life from cradle to grave beyond the megalopolis of Moscow and everyday political feed we are used to.

Each episode followed three people (or groups of people) in their daily lives, at least so far as the particular theme of each episode was concerned. Birth, childhood, youth, adulthood, retirement and death in the world’s biggest country all got a special looking in different parts of Russia.

The episodes began with basic facts that would probably surprise non-Russian experts. Russia is getting older and experiencing a declining birth rate. By 2030, we are expecting 12 million fewer people if current demographic trends continue. About 53% of young Russians want to move abroad, and pensioners receive just 180 Euros a month. Many more do not even live to get their pensions, either because they cannot afford to retire or life expectancy catches them up. Finally this information was put out there to the masses in an honest manner. Russia, whilst possessing a vast cultural wealth, is experiencing some socio-economic challenges holding the society back and which look set to stick around for a little while.

Something I have long wanted from a documentary on Russia is to simply show Russians as they are, and its authors to avoid tipping the scales; DW did this and it worked well. If I had one quibble, a little more commentary would have tied up few loose ends much to the viewers’ benefit. The makers could have explained who the Chuvash teenagers in the second episode were, and the 97 year old ethnic Bashkir pensioner speaking her native language. Whilst Russian citizens, and indigenous for that matter, they are not ethnic Russians. Living standards among Russia’s 100+ ethnic groups vary considerably, particularly when taking into consideration their age and location.

The first episode on birth shows how common home births are. Many women simply do not trust going into hospital, or there just is not time for the ambulance to get there. Outside of big towns and cities, hospitals tend to be even more poorly equipped and further away. One woman had her eight months old in her apartment, whereas another gave birth in a pool at home. As of 2018, Russians have 1.6 children per family, and maternity leave can be up to three years.

As a teacher who has worked in Russian schools and universities for the last seven years, for me the most interesting episodes were on childhood and youth. In Russia, ‘upbringing’ is a part of the education process. What comes through the most is both the intensity of schooling and that Russian education places a lot of emphasis on culture; perhaps more than any other European country. Also, the young blogger from Vologda was not chosen by accident. Russians are among the most active social media users worldwide. Much of Russia’s youth view it as an escape from the pressures of school, which the new exam systems have brought more competition to.

So why might 53% of young people want to leave? The documentary fails to explain its own statistic, but it has to do with a lack of real opportunities. Getting ahead in Russia is difficult if you are not extremely talented, have wealthy relatives or know (bribe) somebody to give you a leg up. Salaries remain lower than the rest of Europe, housing problems persist and the economy is over reliant on commodities. Small businesses are extremely difficult to run and set up, too.

The poor quality of housing that pensioners live in will surprise most viewers. And similar to Britain, their lives can be rather lonely, particularly in villages gradually becoming obsolete. So many pensioners continue to live a more traditional way of life, though it begs the question of what will become of these ghost towns if nothing is done to diversify the Russian economy or save them from oblivion.

However, I am not sure this part of the series really captured the difficulty of being a pensioner in Russia today. Seeing an elderly lady in a Moscow Billa* arguing over ten roubles in 2016, or another begging for money at a Pyatorochka** till in Vladimir might catch the reader’s eye a little more. Even the sight of those selling their own vegetables outside supermarkets and metro stations says a lot about how little their pensions actually are.

The only trace of politics came from a young model and two middle aged family orientated people. Each had opposite views of the country they live in and Putin personally, and this was an accurate reflection of the generational divide. Russia’s young have only ever known Putin and are rather sick of him. Many feel their country is being held back by those in power. By contrast, those above the age of forty remember the 1980s and 90s and are genuinely fearful of a return to those times. For them, stability means having a job, salary and food in the shops; seeing that their relatives have enough to get by on speaks more of stability than anything else could. Even if they are not huge fans of Putin, as one woman interviewed remarked, ‘if there is stability, then the government is good’. Young Russians tend to view stability through another lens, which in my view, will become more properly defined over the next five years.

Choosing Russians who are a true reflection of the country as a whole is difficult, but the nation’s huge diversity was captured here. DW has finally given us something more closely resembling Russia today, and aspects of life that most people are unaware of. DW showed the Russians as a population just trying to get by and perhaps feeling a sense of disillusionment from elements of the political system. What this means going forward after COVID-19 remains to be seen.

If you want to learn something, then I recommend dedicating one day of your self-isolation to this series.

 

* Billa and Pyatorochka are the names of two Russian supermarket chains.

 

Episode One – Birth  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cO58tL1CUw

Episode Two – Childhood  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IG4eVdhbxI

Episode Three – Youth  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRIiTk1nR78

Episode    Four – Adulthood   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=he8FGw9e-pcHYPERLINK “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=he8FGw9e-pc&t=1351s”&HYPERLINK “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=he8FGw9e-pc&t=1351s”t=1351s

Episode         Five – Retirement  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAnWF6yTaWQHYPERLINK “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAnWF6yTaWQ&t=1288s”&HYPERLINK “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAnWF6yTaWQ&t=1288s”t=1288s

Episode         Six – Death            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQN420LIwrc

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Russian Leadership Changes: How it was, is and how it might be

  • 0
  • 198 Views
  • 3 January 2022

Now that 2022 is finally here, it means Russia’s next presidential election is just two years away. The way has been paved for Vladimir Putin to run again if he chooses. The will he/won’t he? question is a favourite of pundits as is speculation of a potential or likely successor. Russia’s next leader will be immensely consequential, as will the time when he or she takes over.

It’s certainly possible that by the end of t

citește mai mult

Researchers from Six Countries Discussed the Challenges for International Psychological Security in the Context of the Use of Artificial Intelligence

  • 0
  • 22768 Views
  • 23 November 2020

On 12 November 2020, a panel discussion "Artificial Intelligence and International Psychological Security: Theoretical and Practical Implications" was held at St. Petersburg State University as part of the international conference "Strategic Communications in Business and Politics" (STRATCOM-2020).

The discussion was moderated by Konstantin Pantserev – DSc in Political Sciences, Professor of the St. Petersburg State University,

citește mai mult

AVENUES FOR A WAY-OUT FROM RUSSIA – EU STALEMATE

  • 0
  • 11407 Views
  • 2 July 2020

PASHENTSEV, EVGENY (ED.), 2020.  STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION IN EU-RUSSIA RELATIONS.  PALGRAVE MACMILLAN

This book  , edited by Evgeny Pashentsev, brings together a series of chapters written by Russian and non-Russian scholars

citește mai mult

Azebaijan, cheia geostrategică a Asiei Centrale

  • 0
  • 19750 Views
  • 13 February 2018

După destrămarea URSS, Azerbaijanul a fost statul ex-sovietic care alături de    republicile Baltice a avut o dezvoltare constantă și durabilă. Desigur, aici pot fi adresate unele critici regimului de la Baku cu privire la democrație, care în opinia multor analiști este doar mimată la Baku. Însă faptul adevărat este că acest stat a reușit să își gestioneze eficient resursele de care dispune pentru a deveni o societate prosperă. I se atribuie Azerbaijanului etichet

citește mai mult

What Can Democrats Learn From Alabama’s Doug Jones?

  • 0
  • 12561 Views
  • 30 November 2017

In ordinary circumstances, Doug Jones would already be preparing to move to Washington DC. The former prosecutor famous for convicting KKK members for a church bombing is up against gay bashing, God and gun lovin’, twice kicked out of elected office, Judge Roy Moore. A man who has eight accusers of sexual assault, all of whom were underage at the time of the allegations.

Yet, if one looks at all the recent polls, they show a ti

citește mai mult

Azerbaidjanul, petrolul și românii

  • 0
  • 12373 Views
  • 7 October 2016

Întotdeauna, statele sunt nevoite să își apere poziția pe marea tablă a geopoliticii, uitându-se cu grijă la vecini, dar și la puterile regionale. Această regulă presupune nu doar poziția ofensivă, ci și valorificare atuurilor, astfel încât să devină piese care contează pe „câmpul de analiză”, iar nu elemente neglijabile, care sunt măturate dintr-o dată de cei ce au suficientă putere să mânuiască piesele.

Caucazul, ca regiune geopolitică, nu face nici ea excepție

citește mai mult

The US Strategic Provocations before and during the Olympic Games: The Stakes Are Growing

  • 0
  • 89 Views
  • 16 January 2022

Introduction. To make your foe act in a definite way through the planned escalation of events, thereby making him lose his position and his tangible and intangible assets – that is the essence of any international provocation. In history, one can find many examples of strategic provocations with long term goals and, very often, grave and long-term international consequences. The Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964 – where a North Vietnamese to

citește mai mult

Experts on the Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence and Challenges to International Psychological Security (part III)

  • 0
  • 129 Views
  • 28 December 2021

The Questionnaire for Experts “Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence and Challenges to Psychological Security”

 This questionnaire is a part of the research project “Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence and Challenges to Psychological Security in Northeast Asia” funded by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, project number 21-514-92001. citește mai mult

Experts on the Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence and Challenges to International Psychological Security (part II)

  • 0
  • 162 Views
  • 17 December 2021

  1. Which of the threats to international psychological security caused by the malicious use of artificial intelligence do you consider the most relevant for your country?

  Vian Bakir and Andrew McStay Surreptitious influencing via psychological manipulation on social media is a real threat in the UK. In the 2016 “Brexit” referendum on whether or not to leave the European Union, Cambridge Analytica offe

citește mai mult