We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


The even interesting Perun has another very interesting talk titled: How lies destroy armies – Lies, coverups, and Russian failures in Ukraine.

Highly recommended.

15 comments to Vranyo

  • Mark

    Was just on his channel and have literally finished a few minutes ago. Whatever can be drawn from the politics, culture, history etc, I suspect this and his earlier one about corruption probably explain why the Russian military is in its current hole.

    How (if) they get out it? Well, that’s another story!

  • MobiusSlit

    Perun is always a good watch. It’s interesting to think about how the concept of vranyo has infiltrated Western life recently. He mentions stock markets and crypto but I would add US election trustworthiness and ESG.

  • Barbarus

    Fascinating stuff.
    As for getting out of it … war is a pretty powerful Darwinian selection mechanism. It may be that the Russian army in a couple of years’ time will be led by battered, PTSD laden, and much promoted officers and NCOs with an unpleasant culture of having anyone that tries ‘vranyo’ on them shot.

  • A shame that it’s a video and not a blog post that’s a lot quicker to read.

  • Kirk

    Hierarchical societies are typically inflexible and prone to takeover by the sort of egotist that says “I know best, and you know nothing…”

    Which militates against such a society ever attaining much in the way of success. Imagine a British East India Company that had to send off to Britain for every decision, made back at the center? In all likelihood, it’d have been a massive failure.

    That’s Russian society since the Communists. The Tsar was somewhat similar, but they did allow some devolved authority, even though they hated it. The Communists just amped up an already existent Russian tendency, and turned it into a major vice.

    The problem is that the greater the complexity of any situation, the less you can exert any sort of successful central control on it. The people out where the decisions need to be made need to be empowered to make those decisions, and do so with impunity from the central office punishing them for failures or successes.

    The thing about top-down societies like the one Putin built is that the temptation to keep things from rising up from below is two-fold: The men at the center want credit for any success, and they want to blame anyone else but themselves for failures. Because of this, they conceal reality from the decision-makers above them, and hide things that go wrong.

    I’m pretty sure Putin bought the bullshit he was told about the Russian Army, hook, line, and sinker. He’s probably still buying it, because he hasn’t started killing underlings wholesale, the way I’m pretty sure Stalin would have.

  • Paul Marks

    Stalin inspired terror, he had millions of people murdered, so the Red Army (renamed the Soviet Army in 1946) was not the mass of corruption that the modern Russian army is.

    Mr Putin may think he is Stalin – but he is not. Mr Putin is more like Nicholas II (although Nicholas did NOT start wars – it was Japan that attacked Russia, not the other way round, and it was Germany that declared war on Russia, again not the other way round) – there is air of farcical incompetence around the regime of Mr Putin – just as there was around Nicholas II.

    There is also the element of motivation – Russians knew in World War II that Hitler regarded them as subhuman and so they had to win, or have the Russian people enslaved or exterminated.

    But what is the war with Ukraine about? No one, not even Mr Putin, seems to have a clue what the war with Ukraine is supposed to achieve.

    So why not (so the average Russian soldier or officer) sell these military supplies?

    It makes corrupt sense to sell off military supplies (fuel and so on) for personal profit – and it makes no sense at all to be killed in a war that has no valid purpose.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – the culture of lies is starting to appear in the AMERICAN military.

    For example, in the withdrawal from Afghanistan – those officers who lied were rewarded, and those officers who told the truth were punished (sometimes even with military prison).

    To a Russian this emerging aspect of the American military would be very familiar – lie and you be rewarded, tell the truth (admit failings – and point out wrongdoing) and you will be punished.

    It is also an emerging part of British culture – sadly so.

  • Paul Marks

    There is also an ideological aspect – which is different to the corruption aspect.

    In the Red Army people either had to believe in Classical Marxism (Classical Marxism – not Frankfurt School Marxism, you could be shot, or sent to a death camp, for supporting that) – or pretend to believe in it. In the Russian army everyone has to pretend to believe that Mr Putin is a good President – even though everyone knows he is useless.

    In the new American military, one has to believe (or pretend to believe) in Frankfurt School “Critical Race Theory”, Feminism, Gay Rights, Trans Rights, and-so-on.

    The Russian military has conscription – but the American military is all volunteer, so why does anyone join this new American military?

    Perhaps the recruits really believe in the “Woke” Marxist doctrines. Doctrines so absurd, for example that mathematics, science and engineering are not objective and universal truth, that even Stalin banned them in the Soviet Union.

    Yes, what the Soviet Union regarded as Infantile Leftism – is now the ruling philosophy of the Western world.

  • Steven R

    @Paul Marks
    By the way – the culture of lies is starting to appear in the AMERICAN military.


    It’s been that way since McNamara and his Whiz Kids came to town.

  • Kirk

    I have to agree that the “Russian Syndrome” is prevalent in the US military, as well.

    Don’t ask about readiness reporting. Nor, the way they basically condition lying to higher.


    I think I’ve posted that video here, before. It’s a telling one, that’s for sure: Retired Lieutenant Colonel Wong makes some great points, but there’s another aspect to this I want to highlight:

    Wong, in my opinion, along with most of his audience, is and has been essentially blind to how the US Army actually works, in real life. They all dwell in the realm of diktat, where they create their reality via memorandum and email. There’s zero cognizance on evidence that they grasp that it’s not the diktat itself which controls things, but the environment they’ve created and co-exist with in complete and utterly oblivious ignorance. They simply don’t get that all the other things they set as policy and which already exist inside the environment they work within are what conspire to make these things happen.

    Wong highlights a couple of points, one being the inane “Safety Risk Assessment” policies for leave, and the whole “Lie to us about your drug use, on cue…” thing.

    He leaves out so, so much… The idea that these guys understand how their policies actually work out in the “Real Army” is ludicrously delusional. They believe they’ve solved all the problems with troops driving tired on leaves and passes, yet fail to recognize that they’ve subverted their own message just with routine daily operations–If you’re familiar with Army life, you know all about overnight 24-hour duty as “Charge-of-Quarters Runner” and “Staff Duty Driver”.

    The irony and hypocrisy with that is that the same mouth telling people not to “drive tired” on leave or pass is also the mouth telling them to pull 24-hour duty, and then drive home through morning rush-hour traffic without any sleep or rest.

    Think about that, for a minute. Or two. I’ll wait. I will also point out that training exercises also, of necessity, include a lot of “driving tired” in order to inure the troops to the effects of a lack of rest during operations…

    Now, ask yourself how effective your “safety mandates” are, with regards to driving tired: On the one hand, you’ve paid lip service to it all. On the other, you effectively demonstrate that driving tired is just peachy-keen A-OK. When it’s convenient for the command, that is…

    Wonder why your pro-forma safety BS is so widely ignored?

    Another thing is wherein they constantly harp on fraud, waste, and abuse of the taxpayer’s dollar. You’re inculcated with all these values about being a good steward of public funds, all through training and your indoctrination.

    Yet, what do you encounter out in the “Real Army”? Yeah; little organizational perversities like the annual “EXPENDEX”, wherein some young lieutenant is told to go draw whatever is left over in the yearly ammo accounts, and just fire it off with no training value gained, ‘cos we also got us something called “Use it or lose it” accounting.

    Don’t use your ammo allocation, this year? Well, golly gee, you must not have needed it, so we’ll just cut next year’s allocation down to what you actually used… Never mind that you may have had your planned training sh*t-canned by real-world events like the fires at Yellowstone in 1988, precluding a major brigade-level training exercise: You go forth, Lieutenant, and fire up all that training ammo. What? No time to prepare a useful training plan? No money to do an exercise in time for the expenditure? Don’t worry; just go waste all that stuff in the ammo account. We’ll wait.

    And, then they wonder why that Lieutenant notes that if he does something similar with his personal travel budget on Temporary Duty Assignment, they’ll put his ass in jail, which plays into a large part of why said young Lieutenant chooses not to make a career of the military, wasting all the money and effort that went into recruiting, training, and getting him all that time as a Platoon Leader.

    You point these things out to the guys like LTC (R) Wong, and they just look at you as though you’ve grown a third eye. They’re totally blind to the fact that the environment that they drop all these varied and sundry diktats into has rather more influence than their mere words. They’re also entirely oblivious to the perverse incentives they’ve set up, all across the force, which militate against all these varied and sundry “best intents” actually working. They never go out and look at things, because they think their words are the sole things creating and supporting reality.

    It’s nowhere near as bad in the American system as it is in the Russian one, but it’s getting there.

    I will continue to assert that most of the people running these institutions have absolutely no idea how they really work. It’s obvious from the way they do things, how they never go out and examine what is actually driving troop behavior, or ever consider modifying the actual environmental cues that are already in existence, which tend to directly oppose the things they set out in their memorandums and policy directives.

    It’s the same across much of human endeavor, and I have to blame the way we train and select the leadership everywhere. Nobody goes out and looks, then thinks about what they observe, only then “doing something”. You can often influence more indirectly through carefully considered modification of the environment, both physical and rule-based parts of it, than you can by some direct-to-the-point piece of paper. But, they’ll never know that, because they don’t look, never having been trained to look at things this way.

  • Kirk

    @Steven R,

    Goes back to the foundation of the Republic, really. You want a most excellent example of bureaucratic insanity and outright dysfunction, read up on one Braxton Bragg.

    Summary of that would be that, in the capacity of temporarily appointed quartermaster of a post where he was assigned as a company commander, he disapproved something he’d requested as company commander. He then protested said disapproval, appealing to higher authority, as the company commander.

    When this chain of correspondence, all signed by the same guy wearing different hats on that post, arrived at higher, the comment was made to the effect of “…that damn Bragg; after having argued with everyone else in the Army, he’s now reduced to arguing with himself…”

    Bragg is the guy who went on to signally fail to cover himself in glory during the Civil War on the Confederate side, and he’s also the guy who they named Fort Bragg after. I think it might have been because he did rather more good for the Union cause serving on the Confederate side than he did for the Confederacy itself.

  • Steven R

    It doesn’t need to make sense. It just needs to be a positive bullet point on an OER.

  • Kirk

    All too true. Until reality ensues, and we find out that all those OER bullets were so much venal bullshit.

    Russia is in the process of discovering all that. I imagine that we will eventually discover our own reality, at some point.

    I think the whole thing is cyclic; the BS and the cruft accumulates and builds up, until it cripples the organism. Whereupon, it all gets shed, and the organism either adapts to the reality it is in, or it dies. If it adapts, then the process begins anew, with a new set of lies and obfuscations. Which go on and on until the next time reality ensues…

  • Paul Marks

    Steven R and Kirk

    Yes – sadly true. The American military has been corrupted (as have all institutions – public and private).

    There was a fight back under Ronald Reagan – but that has proved, tragically, a false dawn, or rather the last glow of honour in a dying polity. Rather like Majorian in the Western Roman Empire – or the legend of “King Arthur” in the island of Britain (with the Bush family playing the role of Mordred?).

    Economic collapse is inevitable over the next couple of years – and then we (or rather you) will see what comes after that.

  • Kirk

    I’m not quite so pessimistic…

    Discerning people observed many of the same issues with FDR’s regime. We got over it, mostly after the bright lights of the New Deal had entirely discredited themselves with the public.

    Similarly, it will go on until the incompetence and venality are undeniable, then it implode on them. The side-effects will be a lot bigger than with FDR, however.

    Do remember the things that both he and Wilson got up to; Wilson turned the US into a virtual police state the likes of which the Nazis looked at and said “Yeah, great ideas, but we’d never get away with that, here in Germany…” FDR was a great admirer of Hitler and Mussolini, until he realized they were competition for him. Personally, I’ve never really read his opposition to either the Japanese in China or the Germans in Europe as anything other than opportunistic distractions from his manifest domestic policy failures. The man had, after all, managed to turn a minor economic correction into a decade-long depression, solely through misguided policies and “smart people” being put in charge of a planned economy. In that, he wasn’t that much smarter than any of the various apparatchiks of the Communist regimes.

    So… I think the US will do just fine, over the long haul. The Democrats do not understand what they’re dealing with, and live in a self-created delusional dreamworld where there are no consequences for policy failures. There will be, and you mark my words, the crap going on in places like Maricopa county are going to come back to haunt them.

    You can’t turn electoral fraud into lasting success, unless you manage to also run things well, which will flow onwards into people forgiving you for your criminal acts. You fraud yourself into being in charge, well… You’d better demonstrate that you’re actually doing a decent job of things, or you’ll be standing next to Nicolai Ceaucescu and his wife, queueing up in Hell.

    The one thing I’d caution the Democrats about is over-reach, which they are in the midst of doing. You had best demonstrate some success to show for that over-reach, or people are going to turn on you. I don’t see signs of success; indeed, I see a lot of habitual life-long Democrats from where I grew up around Portland, Oregon who’re turning into rabid anti-Democrats.

    You have to be cautious in declaring that “things are all over, man… We’re all gonna die… After me, the deluge…”, because that isn’t the truth. Look at France after the Revolution and Napoleon got done with the place. You’d think the French were ruined for all posterity, with all those deaths and losses, but there turns out to be an awful lot of ruin in France, after all.