Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Believe it….Russia will Rise from the Ashes!

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Recently, a friend of mine who had visited me in Central Asia in the later 1990s sent me a picture of a bag we had gotten in the Tashkent bazaar. In the 1990s, the plastic bag one brought to the bazaar was an important marker of one’s identity. In what was a quite eco-friendly policy born of necessity, shoppers always paid extra for bags, and there was a tendency to reuse them indefinitely. This particular bag was one of the most sought after, being of much better quality than most standard Chinese-made vegetable-carrying bags, but it was also remarkable for its content as well as its form. Despite looking as if it had come from a nice western designer store, it in fact carried a curious propagandistic message about Russia’s eventual return to greatness as a super-power. Its printed message (although strangely written in English) epitomized the feelings of many Russians during the late 1990s as Yeltsin’s government pulled the country into an economic crisis and as Soviet order was replaced with post-Soviet chaos. It was this dream of Russia’s return to global greatness during the later 1990s that spawned Putinism and its great success throughout Russia today. When my friend sent me the photo, he noted that the plastic bag had been quite prophetic. Indeed, I think a lot of people today believe its message quite clearly, not the least of whom is Georgia’s President Saakishvili. The question is whether the ambition expressed in this plastic bad will also eventually return the country to another crash into ashes. Maybe there are some plastic bags available in Tbilisi today that can foretell the answer?

13 Comments:

Blogger English Advantage said...

If the plastic bag says so, I guess resistance is futile.

4:00 AM  
Blogger Edil said...

have seen hundreds times this type of a bag, never read it through.

guess, we all should have been paying attention...

or should we be ordering plastic bags predicting the return of Manas (the hero, not the base)??? :)))

5:18 AM  
Blogger Sean R. Roberts, PhD said...

Yes, it turns out that it is critical to pay attention to plastic bag details. I do wonder, however, who made these bags. There is obviously an interesting story in there somewhere. Were they created by somebody in Russia, or was it a Chinese factory owner predicting what would sell well in the former Soviet Union in the 1990s?

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Josh said...

As far as I can tell, the plastic bag evidence suggests that soon the former USSR will be one giant rave: http://www.joshuakucera.net/2007/08/man-purse-or-ce.html

12:58 PM  
Blogger kashgar216 said...

I can picture Putin on the bench press for the last decade, staring at this bag, tacked to the ceiling.

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Nick said...

For so long as Russia's soul is rapidly vanishing from the young, this Phoenix will not fly. Proud as they may be of defeating Georgia, it was hardly a test of moral or military might, and the Bear should not allow this to embolden them toward a loftier goal like taking on a real army of NATO. The young tooling around Moscow in their Mercedes and $300 handmade silk shirts collecting salaries tax free off shore while babushka of the steppe and true heroes of the Great Patriotic War suffer lack of even small necessities, these young don't represent Russian greatness, but an embarrassment. A few years ago they couldn't even spell "EBITDA" and now its mainstream vernacular but a truly meaningless phrase in the absence of conscious. This Potemkin village will collapse as rapidly as the price of a barrel of oil, a barrel of oil is all it costs anymore to send the tax inspector away.

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean:

In your opinion, does this war/conflict and the recent statements about a "new" united Russia represent a premeditated effort on the part of the Kremlin elites to allow Putin to become President again? You have been watching this region for a long time and know how bizarrely contrived the logic can be... I just wondered if you think this could be one of the objectives behind the conflict, the "new country" being the justification for new elections?

jb

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally want one of those! Know where I can get one?

Maybe the bag is just a reminder to us all that many Russians (in Russia, Central Asia, and abroad) believe that the Soviet Union was never dead, but just hibernating. I am just guessing the bag was probably just left over from the 1980s early 1990s and someone decided to use it because of the "resurgent Russia" and thought it was appropriate to use.

Just from looking at the bag, the bag was probably manufactured in an European country just by looking at the fonts and the style of the bag.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for the trip down memory lane - I remember that bag as well! I really liked the juxtaposition of seeing a conservatively dressed Uzbek housewife coming from the bazaar carrying a back with a bikini-clad girl on a sports car with the slogan RICHMAN on it. It was odd how people tuned out of the bags and the way they looked. But then again, people would turn on the most horrible music as a backgound sound when guesting too. does anyone else remember being tormented with the refrain, lets do it like they do it on the discovery channel...

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes--this bag brings back memories! To add another layer of oddity/significance, I believe it's a reference to Pushkin.

3:07 PM  
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