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David Carr considers Russia

David Carr may have given up cigarettes but he still likes a good cigar.

Here he is, pictured at my place on Friday night, pondering the enigma wrapped in a mystery smothered in something else which I have forgotten that is Russia. This was the subject spoken about by Helen Szamuely (co-author of this blog – here is her latest, posted this morning).

DAvidCarrSmokinS.jpg

Click on David if you want him to be bigger.

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9 comments to David Carr considers Russia

  • snide

    cigars? how politically incorrect!

    splendid.

  • Guy Herbert

    “Click on David if you want him to be bigger.” The reality blog strikes! Has John de Mol joined the Samizdata team?

  • Tim

    “Here he is, pictured at my place on Friday night, pondering the enigma wrapped in a mystery smothered in something else which I have forgotten that is Russia.”

    Wish I’d been there (not that I’d ever qualify). I got back from a two-week holiday in Moscow last Friday. My girlfriend is of Russian origin, and thank God for that, because like a typical Brit I assumed the locals would speak at least a smattering of English; they don’t, with rare exceptions. I found the whole city rather disquieting, though I went there trying my best to put my preconceptions behind me. Beneath the veneer created by all the billboards and BMWs and young people funkily dressed in designer clothes, there’s a real sense of menace. On the way to the airport our cab was stopped and my passport was demanded of me by a truncheon-brandishing policeman. Tickets on buses are checked by groups of gold-toothed, shouting young men who swarm aboard suddenly and thrust their ID cards in people’s faces. We changed our place of residence more than once, and each time I had to re-register with the authorities. President Putin’s presence is everywhere: bookshops feature martial arts manuals with his picture on the cover, department stores sell framed portraits of him which are prominently displayed, and Moscow’s foremost sculptor has a gallery dominated by an eight-foot-tall iron statue of him. It doesn’t feel like a free country, and 13 years after the end of the Soviet Union, I don’t think it’s out of the woods yet.

    Well worth a visit, though, and I hope to be back in the winter.

  • —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
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    “It doesn’t feel like a free country”

    Yes, because it isn’t one, as the ubiquitous pictures of Comrade Vladimir you mention testify to.

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  • Tim

    ‘”It doesn’t feel like a free country”

    Yes, because it isn’t one, as the ubiquitous pictures of Comrade Vladimir you mention testify to.’

    I don’t think that necessarily follows, Abiola (like your blog, by the way). Any country which displays its leader prominently is a bit iffy, but in theory, Russia is a parliamentary democracy whose leader can be dismissed at the next election. This is a vast improvement over the system which pertained only 15 years ago. Nonetheless, the sense I got from Russia during my admittedly brief visit was influenced more by my day-to-day experiences with bureaucracy. The system of registration for foreign tourists is horrendous: I was shunted from pillar to post in the first three days because various offices didn’t have the right form. Post office clerks put you on the defensive when you’re trying to buy stamps. When we were trying to check in a bag from the GUM department store before entering the Kremlin (having been told at the gate, after a two-hour queue, that the bag could not be brought into the sanctuary), a military official asked us why the bag was so big if it only contained a pair of trousers as we claimed. It was little things like this that made me uneasy.

    That said, there are aspects of life in Moscow which are freer than their equivalents in Western Europe. You can buy food, alcohol and cigarettes at almost any hour of the night. Public boozing is not only not frowned upon, but can be witnessed among the militia. The official taxi network is largely eschewed in favour of a system whereby the aspiring traveller flags down a private car at the roadside, negotiates a fare, hops on board and reaches his/her destination for the cost of at most 150 roubles (less than £3 sterling).

    And Russia stiffened my resolve against the anarchists. Traffic signals are regarded as guidelines rather than legally-enforceable rules. I escaped more than one crossing of Moscow’s numerous eight-lane avenues by the skin of my teeth. However libertarian you might be, there’s a certain comfort in crossing a road knowing that drivers will almost certainly bow to the red light.

  • The enigma wrapped in a mystery- Russia or David Carr?

  • Tatyana

    So what was the talk about? Your speaker doesn’t seem to have anything related posted on her blog.

    Besides, if David wanted to pander the topic of eternal Russian mistery, he should’ve been pictured with a glass of Stoli insted…

    And what with the Tims of Britain and their Russian girlfriends?

  • Tatyana: The talk was about Russia, and I was left with the distinct impression that it has a long way to go before becoming a free country in any meaningful sense.

    Tim: I don’t think many libertarians are against traffic signals, it’s more about who enforces the rules. If enough people get run over at traffic lights the road owner is likely to want take measures to stop this because it is bound to be bad for business…

  • Tatyana

    Rob, that’s a given (your conclusion about Russia).
    Anything more specific in the topic to illustrate this “immersed” look on David Carr’s face?
    About the “road owner”: ehm…how to put it …are you seated? …the owner is a STATE, Rob.
    Do you think “the road owner is likely to want take measures to stop this because it is bound to be bad for business…” applies to the STATE?