Mankind's only alternative 7   FEB.   23  
Mankind's only alternative
Vlad's Daily Gloat - The eXile Blog

The Fall of The eXile For all those wondering what the "Save The eXile Fundrasier" banner is all about, here it is as simply as it can be phrased: The eXile is shutting down.
June 11, 2008 in eXile Blog

War Nerd: War of the Babies in Taki's Magazine The War Nerd talks about babies, the greatest weapon of the 20th century.
May 28, 2008 in eXile Blog

Kids, Meet Your President A website for Russian kids to learn all about President Medvedev's passion for school, sports and family.
May 22, 2008 in eXile Blog

Cellphone Democracy Cam If this girl was exposed to Jeffersonian democracy...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Dyev Photos Yet another hot Russian babe imitating the Catpower look...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

Proof That Genetic Memory Is Real! Sure, the Ottomans shut down the Istanbul Slavic slave markets centuries ago...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Russia's Orthodox Church Youth Outreach Program The priest is going, "Father Sansei is very impressed with grasshopper Sasha’s...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Club Photos w/Russian Dyevs We took the Pepsi Challenge here...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Blogs RSS feed

Moscow Babylon April 5, 2002
Poking Russia From Behind
By Mark Ames Browse author Email

All the spoonfed stories in the Western press about Russia's remarkable economic boom share one thing: dateline MOSCOW.

Just last week, the second anniversary of President Putin's "election" victory offered Western-amenities-wowed journalists yet another ripe opportunity to pitch the same rah-rah story they've been pitching here ever since sushi bars spread like crabweed, and Putin signed over the last vestiges of the Russian empire in exchange for a few dinner dates with Real Live White People like Dzhyordzh Booish and Tohnee Blyehr.

And they're not necessarily wrong, either. Moscow has become unmistakably bourgeois, and its bourgeoizification all took place under Putin's watch. Young Russians now prefer to sit for hours in newly-opened cafes which, although they look almost Western and offer all the familiar pretentious choices of coffee and milk with Italian names, nevertheless have a distinct leaky-vagina-like aftertaste. I swear, every last Moscow cafe has a leaky vagina filter in its milk steamer.

But that doesn't matter either. It's the veneer that counts. Don't underestimate the surface.

The surface here has definitely changed, and by some kind of McFaulian algebra, a change in the surface has led to a change in the soul. Young Muscovites, who once stuffed their heads with more chemicals than an Iraqi Kurd could take and dragged their bodies around without sleep from party to orgy day after day, disfiguring an entire generation, are now just as aggressively pursuing lives sober and sedate. The popular tusovka Kult, not far from my apartment, is packed with rats who once would have been gnawing on their jaws or nodding off in bathrooms... today, they sit in IKEA-artsy tables, sipping exotic tea and playing Monopoly, backgammon, or whatever shitty game is offered on the menu, while a DJ plays techno music tamer than the Carpenters.

To every Western journalist and Russia watcher, from Thomas Friedman's mustache to Rob Cottrell's doe-eyes (see his account of his sushi date with Anatoly Chubais in The Financial Times) to last week's USA Today feature, Moscow has finally come around. It looks and feels far less alien. It looks and feels far less threatening. It's finally how we'd hoped it would be: sushi and Starbuck's only with a view of St. Basil's instead of the Space Needle.

Which isn't necessarily bad. I mean the last thing Russia needs is to be the living incarnation of this newspaper's fantasies. I want these people to crawl out of their tragedy. They've already given me a decade of memories "you people can't imagine."

I am grateful and willing to support your new penchant for flavorless fresh-frozen sushi, leaky lattes and weekends at the Monopoly board, because frankly, I couldn't handle another ten years of the old feral Russia even if you'd offered it to me.

Or has Russia really changed that much?

Last week, Sex Machine Jake Rudntisky and I took a road trip to Tver to make a fraudulent attempt to get to the bottom of it all. We know that that the glowing press Russia has been receiving is due to the fact that the Western press corps never ventures beyond Russia's ring road. Inside this medieval gated fortress called Moscow, it's almost, say, Central Europe. But outside, it's the same polnaya zhopa I saw eight years ago when I worked at an investment fund, traveling the miserable provinces in Yak-40s or Latvian mini-buses, chasing my boss as he hunted relentlessly for marginally-viable factories to snap up on the cheap.

The ocean-floor drop between Moscow and the not-Moscow was great enough then to make Moscow feel like Geneva every time I'd get back from a freezing three-day stint at sub-Intourist hotels in hopeless shitholes like Voronezh, Izhevsk, Perm... Moscow had heating that worked, and a Patio Pizza. It was the First World.

What about now? Although it is logically impossible to imagine that non-Moscow Russia can have made a surface change even remotely like Moscow's, I didn't exclude the possibility. After all, we went out last December in search of sovoks, only to find that Putin's Moscow had nearly wiped them out. Better not jump to conclusions.

SHARE:  Digg  My Web  Facebook  Reddit
Browse author
Email Mark Ames at
Let The Market Save Darfur : Guest Editorial By Ron Paul

The eXile's History of the World :

New Cold War Kitsch: We Were So Young, So Naive, So Idiotic! :

Incorruptible: A Russian Fairy Tale : The Exile imagines a Russia without corruption!


Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...


    MAIN    |    RUSSIA    |    WAR NERD     |    [SIC!]    |    BAR-DAK    |    THE VAULT    |    ABOUT US    |    RSS

© "the eXile". Tel.: +7 (495) 623-3565, fax: +7 (495) 623-5442