Believe it….Russia will Rise from the Ashes!
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?