Facades Everywhere

One thing Russians have been historically good at, since the Revolution of 1917 at least, has been their mild, unassuming demeanor ~ in personal as well as public spaces.They were to a great extent,  very humble people, without fanfare or much emotion or self-promotion. The Revolution of 1992 ~ aka, the USA Coup ~ changed all of that. It began with loosening of the State purse strings, and the accumulation of great wealth in the hands of a few lucky ones.  Capitalism was then born in Russia.  The gloves would soon come off. Commerce became the watchword.  Everyone needed in on the game, or else you died of starvation.  The race began, the gauntlet laid.If one arrived in central western Siberia, as I did, in April of 2005, what struck you was the gray simplicity of the place and its people. The buildings, a perfect match for the gray skies, and the old, hand-me-down furs, as well. Sure, there were a few billboards, but, very little commercialization. No early morning coffee shops.  No real coffee for that matter. And the buildings reflected the age of the culture.  Never a facade; entrances around the back with the garbage.  Sometimes garbage out front. Even the autos were old, but serviceable… barely.  Lada, Volga, Moskvich, as well as a few older imports, Ford, etc. Yet, very little, if anything here was new or shiny.  Facades were not important.  But, how quickly that had changed. Now commercials light up the airwaves, superb marketing billboards everywhere, fancy facades all around: houses, cars, stores, and relations… more show, then tell.  But, such is the success of capitalism and consumerism.  Buying and selling are now the critical buzzwords.  BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus… also new horses in the garage.  Of course, still the older generation continues roughly down the same old path.  But, even the old sites of social and economic activity, the open markets and small kiosks, are scratched out in favor of new FACADES.  Large, handsome and welcoming malls, OGNI, PROSPEKT, PIONEER, and GALLIGER, to name only a few.  All fresh facades, erected over the old, and constituting the fresh and the new. Something here is being lost quickly.  More quickly than drivers carousing at break-neck speeds through city streets without a thought to pedestrians. This is a country, a people, running as fast as they can to show the world they too have the toys and the facades of the West.  Even their attitudes are changing commensurate with such endeavors.   The deep and restful Russian soul is becoming more superficial, more trivial, day by day.

One Response to Facades Everywhere

  1. Disaffected says:

    Great post! I must have missed this one when it first went up. Russia now sounds like the working class town in the midwest United States of the 1960s where I grew up. All that’s gone now in favor of Riverboat Gambling, Dog Tracks, a Google server farm, and cheap-assed commercial real estate development thrown up in concentric rings around the now decaying downtown, each making the one before it obsolete. Progress they say! Yeah, right.

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