Kremlin / Sputnik Photography
Russia - too big, too complex and too puzzling to be understood. Such a view makes it too easy for yourself as a viewer of the country, comments Dlf Russia correspondent Thielko Grieß. Much is strange and difficult to understand - but it is possible.
From the Russian diplomat and poet Fyodor Tjuttschew, rhyming lines have come down to us from 1866, which basically read that Russia cannot be understood and also cannot be measured with an ordinary yardstick. It has its own shape. One can therefore only believe in Russia.
If Russians warm up this quote from the tsarist empire, that's okay, of course: it's their country and their poet. But the quote can also be found reliably in small talk among Germans. The country is simply too big, too wide, too complex, too mythical and too enigmatic to be understood, they say. I think that's way too easy for yourself. It is true that much is strange and difficult to understand, especially here. But it is possible.

Corrupt clique rules

In the third decade of Vladimir Putin's reign, one can see from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka: The world's largest land-based country is essentially ruled by a corrupt clique, which enriches itself massively and shamelessly with its unbelievably large number of treasures and in their equally limitless avarice the broader population lets step in.

One consequence of the extreme inequality in power, opportunities and prosperity is that the country and most of its people are in dire straits. When the pandemic hit Russia a year ago, the state refused to give people the option of longer isolation, i.e. to protect themselves from the pathogen. There is almost no financial support. So life quickly went on as usual. Today there is hardly any trace of restrictions.
This strategy undoubtedly increases the quality of life of the survivors and prevents their frustration from growing. But the downside of this policy, thanks to which the strong survive and the weak fall by the wayside, is that there are now around 400,000 people in Russian cemeteries who were killed by the virus.

Kleptocratic autocracy is given a democratic whitewash

This huge number does not generate any social resonance. There are no probing questions for those in power. Why is that? A basic answer is that the Kremlin's political technologists are professionals, and they are very successful. Its business is to provide the kleptocratic autocracy with a democratic whitewash. Of course, they do not use the nagging mallet propaganda that one may be familiar with from North Korea, but rather fine instruments of this century.

They have elections held, the outcome of which is known in advance. They direct the profits from commodity trading to Moscow and distribute them according to a key that ensures them loyalty. The political technologists control the content in old and new media. And new instruments are constantly being added, for example to further isolate Russia from intellectual exchange with the world.
And if nothing else helps, then rubber paragraphs and a compliant judiciary are always ready to lock up opponents. If that fails too, there is still the neurotoxin Novitschok.

Russia is more alive than one might think

Somehow a miracle that Russia is still much more alive than one might think. However, if you want to try out the colored, the lively, the creative, even the irritating under the prevailing conditions, you need courage. But the stronger the pressure from above, the stronger the resistance from below. That is why there are countless people, often women by the way, who stand up to the isolation and seclusion of the majority. They rescue other women who are trying to escape domestic violence, which is now largely unpunished, they take care of migrant workers who toil under often degrading circumstances, and they tirelessly remember the fate of political prisoners.
Russian contrasts are much sharper and sharper than contrasts in Germany. Deep tiredness and bursting zest for life, shattering sadness and the most open hearts, life-threatening sausage and precise perfection are always inseparable, one above the other, one below the other. You have a tangled, often difficult Russian knot in front of you.
Therein lies the real task for a viewer of this country: unambiguity is rare, but ambivalence is the rule. However, it is easy to describe, measure and even understand. You just have to endure this ambivalence.

by Thielko Grieß/ deutschlandfunk