Letter From the Editors

As 2022 draws to a close, finding optimism on the horizon is going to take some work. Nezavisimaya gazeta editor in chief Konstantin Remchukov reflects on the fact that life will now forever be divided into “before the special operation” and “after the start of the special operation.” For some, “the shock treatment performed on the Russian economy” and the “cancellation of Russian culture” resulted in a “life without”: “without Aeroflot flights abroad; without international soccer, hockey and basketball; without cultural, scientific and student exchanges. Without Netflix and Nescafé.” Mind you, these changes did not affect Putin’s core electorate, who don’t shop at Hermés or withdraw dollars from ATMs. But they struck a blow to the minority of people who “are educated, business-savvy, energetic and internationally minded.” Yet “they are not considered victims. Which is not entirely fair,” Remchukov surmises.

On the other hand, some believe that those who chose to flee from Putin’s “special operation” and the ensuing mobilization haven’t been punished enough. Namely, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who wrote in a scathing Telegram post on the issue of relocated Russians who continue to work for Russian companies remotely: “Those who realized that they made a mistake have returned to Russia by now. The rest should understand that the vast majority of society does not support their actions – [the majority] believes that they have betrayed their country, relatives and friends,” Volodin wrote.

To punish such unpatriotic behavior, Volodin proposed introducing higher tax burdens on these unsavory citizens. Some legislators who were quick to jump on the bandwagon even called for entire industries and sectors – e.g., IT – to be made off limits to remote workers. According to the Federation Council, “at a time when intelligence agencies from NATO countries and their affiliated structures have launched an active campaign to recruit foreign agents, persons abroad are at obvious risk in this sense.”

The only officials calling for restraint are those representing the country’s economic block. The Finance Ministry, clearly worried about the potential loss of revenue if these highly qualified – and highly paid – professionals find employment elsewhere, urged caution: “Those people who have the right and opportunity to leave today should not be subjected to additional pressure,” said Artyom Kiryanov, deputy chairman of the economic policy committee. But according to Yevgeny Karasyuk, the low-hanging fruit of rooting out “national traitors” may be too tempting for some lawmakers to resists – the economy be damned!

In fact, according to Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko, the Russian economy is doing just fine: It has a safety margin and a huge growth potential, and severe Western sanctions have not made it unmanageable, she said during a year-end press conference. The speaker also summed up 2022: “If we’re talking about the semantic meaning of the past year, it was a special, defining year, a year that will go down in history.”

Speaking of historical events, Andrei Kortunov reflected on another milestone this week – the centennial of the founding of the USSR. Few would argue that the October Revolution had reshaped the world. But what would have happened if the Bolsheviks had been defeated, wonders Kortunov? World War II would still have happened: “The inevitability of a new conflict was predetermined by the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles.” However, “without the USSR, it is unlikely that the world would have experienced a scientific and technological revolution in the second half of the century.” The 1969 moon landing may never have happened – and what about the Internet, the brainchild of the Pentagon? Would we have smartphones without the ruthless midcentury competition between two superpowers? These what-ifs bring up the 300-pound gorilla in the room: What if Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had never happened? But it’s pointless to predict a future that was not to be. Let’s focus on the here and now. In the words of Remchukov: “Happy New Year, dear readers! Health and endurance! I hope these will come in handy for us in happier and more optimistic joint projects.”