A few months ago our dear friend ‘Natacha’ (not her real name) went back to Russia ‘foregood’; away from The Netherlands, where she had lived for the last 15 years.
After falling in love with an old Russian schoolfriend, with whom she got a baby, and after her divorce from her Dutch husband with whom she lived in The Netherlands, she decided to return to Moscow for what had to become a new phase in her life.
Initially she was full of optimism about her new step in life. Through her mother and stepfather, her Russian boyfriend had found a sponsor, who gave him a job as an engineer. At the same time her stepsister would help hér with finding a new job. The ‘young’ couple and their baby would find a new life in the country she had missed dearly, since she lived in The Netherlands.
Now, a few months later everything is slightly different. Although the couple itself is still happy together fortunately, life in Russia had been disappointing for – especially – her.
The new job that had been promised to her, did not exist in reality... On top of that life in the economically shell-shocked and very expensive city of Moscow was far harder and much more expensive than she had anticipated.
And there was one particular Russian problem that she had forgotten about, during her fifteen years in the fairly honest and incorruptable country The Netherlands: the inevitable kickbacks at ALL levels of Russian society.
In general, the Russian kickback system works like this:
on behalf of your boss in the company where you work, you order for €150,000 in lightbulbs for a certain office building. The company where you order the lightbulbs, agrees to pay you a €30,000 kickback for the favour of delivering your order. From the €30,000 you earned in kickback fees, you pay roughly half to your boss, who gave you the initial order to provide the company (i.e. the office building) with the lightbulbs.
The lightbulb company must order components to manufacture the lightbulbs necessary for your €150,000 light bulb order (i.e. they have about €75,000 in expenses on components). For this order the lightbulb company itself expects €15,000 in kickbacks from the component company.
And so virtually everybody in Russia sponsors each other with kickbacks, paid or asked for everything that they want to do themselves or ask somebody else to do:
- There is no such thing as doing eachother a favour just for the sake of it;
- There is no such thing as being loyal 'for free' to people, who have helped you in the past, as loyalty is a good that needs to be bought time and time again;
- Or for something like simple honesty, decency or trustworthiness.
And in spite of the basic rules of Newtonian gravity, all the corruption money flows ‘uphill’: from the bottom to the top, where the greatest robber barrons sit.
The Russian in the street, who simply goes with the flow because he can't do anything else, is the victim of this ubiquitous corrupted behaviour: he lives in a country where nothing goes normal and where nobody can earn a really honest income and a decent life, without having to sponsor 'everybody and their sister' from his already quite poor income.
At the same time, this Russian must toothgrindingly observe:
- How his daily groceries and essential consumption goods get more and more expensive by the day, as a direct consequence of boycotts between Russia and the Western world;
- How it became harder by the day to find a decent and honest job, in order to make money for his family and loved ones, due to the economic boycotts and the dire situation in the whole Russian economy, now that the oil prices have plummeted;
- How museums and city monuments are robbed from their priceless paintings, their statues, jewels and other national treasures by their management and influential local hotshots, against whom almost nobody dares to protest. And the few ones who do, are simply taunted away and even threatened when they keep protesting;
- How everybody profits from state maintenance and investment money in Russia, except for the objects-to-be-maintained and the to-be-investments themselves. And how in general maintenance money for the city is abused as a source for kickbacks and other payments of officials;
- How buildings and flats are robbed from their maintenance money, by flat supervisors of whom nobody knows who appointed them in the first place. And how the homes in these blocks of flats thus become dangerous traps for their inhabitants, due to elevator accidents, fires and collapses, caused by poor maintenance and consequentially diminishing building quality;
- How decent owners of small shops in Moscovian metrostations are suddenly forced out of their small businesses, without prior warning, on behalf of the owners of fancy supermarkets and department stores who sponsor the robber barrons in the Kremlin and the State Duma;
- How billions and billions of oil and gas proceeds have landed in the pockets of political officials and ‘oligarchs’, without anything good happening with it within the Russian economy;
- How ‘friends’ of the ‘capo di tutti capi’ get appointed as ministers and political officials, without having any sheer talent whatsoever, simply for the fact that they are friends of the ‘boss’;
- How the common Igor-in-the-street is brainwashed by the state media via the evening news and the officially endorsed newspapers, without even being aware of it, because the capo-di-tutti-capi nearly owns all the news media and thus totally controls the news;
- How the enemies of the 'capo di tutti capi' are ridiculized and displayed as idiots and fools in these national news media or even end up being murdered, when they become too dangerous;
- How the World Championships football of 2018 and earlier the 2014 Olympic Games have turned into an orgy of corruption, in which billions and billions of dollars have vanished from the face of the earth.
And our Dutch/Russian friend? She has become so disappointed about life in Russia, that she considered returning to The Netherlands, while hoping she can take her Russian boyfriend with her. Her own words: ‘The corruption in Russia is just sickening and I can’t stand it anymore...’
Unnoticedly she had become used to living in a quite honest country, where things just happen by themselves without her having the need of paying kickbacks to everybody. And where people just can live decent and honest lives, without being part of a totally corrupted system that sponsors ‘the rich, the powerful and the influential...’.
We must hope that Russia will ever reach this state of life. Now, unfortunately, that moment is still far away...