Russia beyond the headlines
Why does this blog about COVID Russia exist? And other deep thoughts.
The internet changed forever in 1863 when America’s most cherished neckbeard blogger, Hank Thoreau, typed the immortal words: “Let us consider the way in which we blog.”
In Blogging Without Principle, Hank proposed a radical solution to the doldrums of modern punditry: just be true to yourself and don’t worry too much about what people around you think; most of them are basically retarded, anyway.
But what does it mean to be true to oneself? Thoreau advocated digging for the gold buried within ourselves, instead of searching in vain for imaginary gold-pegged rubles that don’t exist. That’s deep. Hank was a great blogger, perhaps the greatest of all time.
From time to time, your Resident Tbilisi Correspondent is accused of useful idiocy, or treachery, or betrayal, or something like this. Some people twist themselves into elaborate pretzels as they try to dismiss the carefully cited claims made on this blog.
I usually just laugh it off. But I was reflecting on why people might do this—because I am trapped in Tbilisi and have nothing else to do—and concluded that I should make a better effort of explaining how this blog came into existence, and how I truly feel about the current state of affairs.
Accordingly, like Hank, I am determined to give you a strong dose of myself. You clicked on the link; it’s your fault.
March 2020: “So this is how it ends—with a whimper”
March 23, 2020—a frigid but snowless Monday—has been forever ironed into my noodle.
I was working a 4/4 (four days on, four days off) schedule at RT, and I decided to use one of my off-days to take the train into Moscow and investigate what was going on with this new Virus that everyone was raving about.
My express train from the suburbs—which should have been packed with commuters—was half-empty, and my arrival at Komsomolskaya Station was conspicuously absent of the orgy of chaos that typically greets you the moment you step onto the platform.
The short metro ride to Lubyanka was my most awkward on record. The handful of Muscovites in my wagon showed a mix of befuddlement, suspicion and total surrender. Collectively and nonverbally we shared a feeling of inevitability, as if we were all bracing for a horrible impact. But what were we about to crash into?
I walked to Turgenevskaya where I decided against my better judgement to breakfast at a Shokoladnitsa, part of the corporate empire of vapid, sterile and underwhelming eateries that are slowly sucking the soul out of Moscow—but that’s a story for another time.
The restaurant was completely empty; it appeared I was the first customer of the day.
I sat down at a table and nodded at the staff, who were huddled in a corner.
They were admiring their Personal Protection Equipment as they eyed me. One of the restaurant workers was taking photos of the group as they modeled their masks and disposable plastic gloves.
The new apparel undoubtedly created a sense of excitement, or at least provided temporary relief from the mundane—which is really the only word you can use to describe a Shokoladnitsa.
Before that moment I don’t think I had ever been served food by someone whose face was veiled from my view; sad to think about—now it seems so completely normal.
The waitress didn’t know whether or not to pull down her mask when communicating with me. She settled for a compromise. Before speaking, she would pinch her mask and pull it very slightly away from her face, creating a small escape route for her utterances.
She didn’t seem overly agitated by it, though. I wonder how she feels now.
I ate my eggs in silence and then made my way to the nearest blogger-sanctuary; yes, I am speaking of the hookah lounge that was waiting patiently for me around the corner.
The hookah lounge was barren. The hostess was shocked to see me and the hookah-master was aloof as I selected the blend of tobacco that I would smoke from a hollowed-out grapefruit. I felt it was my duty to order a Corona with lime, so that’s exactly what I did.
And then I got out my laptop and began to type:
MOSCOW – Despite the stubborn March cold, heroic young ladies in the Russian capital have already shortened (one might say improved) their skirts by at least 15 centimeters. Surely this should give us all confidence to carry on, even as the pillars of western civilization melt away like the last winter frost. What on earth happened, anyway? […]
Fear and mindless acquiescence has gripped the western world, and there’s simply no going back. Cultural, political, spiritual and economic suicide are all around the corner. Maybe even a fun little war. […]
Predicting what comes next is easy – just try to imagine the worst possible scenario. Now multiply that by a factor of ten. Your outlook is still too rosy, but optimism is only human.
Signed: Edward Slavsquat, an American in self-exile in Russia who sometimes writes things on the internet.
In an act of extreme smugness, I also posted a photo of my hookah to VKontakte (Russian Facebook).
A week later Moscow was under strict lockdown.
May 2020: A special playground operation
I was a pathetic excuse for a human being during lockdown.
Working from home, I would finish my nine-hour shift for RT and then hide in my bed. I was inconsolable. The entire world had rugged me; almost everyone I knew was consumed by the Dreaded Curve, which had to be Flattened no matter what the cost.
I snapped in early May.
Our local COVID Nannies had taken it upon themselves to rope off all the playgrounds in my suburb. Rolls of plastic wrap and caution tape were now blocking the town’s children (including my own young son) from playing.
Late one night, when the suburb was sound asleep, an unidentified Caucasian male armed with kitchen shears marched to the nearest playground and liberated the slides, swings and seesaws from their vile plastic wrap cocoons.
The next day, your correspondent watched with a feeling of profound serenity as a group of children lackadaisically swayed on the swings and chased each other up the slide. It had rained in the early hours of the morning and one sprightly young Russian was jumping in a puddle that had formed in a wad of maimed plastic wrap lying defeated on the asphalt.
It was a thing of true beauty. And unfortunately for the local authorities, the nameless plastic wrap-pillaging marauder inspired copy-cats: two days later, a different playground was liberated by a different shadowy figure.
A third playground was raided in broad daylight by a mob of children who tore at the plastic wrap with their hands and teeth.
After that, the suburb abandoned Virus containment measures at playgrounds—even though it would be another month before the Mayor’s Office decreed it safe for children to play outside.
I swear on my favorite bowl of beans that everything I have just typed is true and actually happened.
The police and the WHO are probably still searching for the criminal who launched Moscow’s special playground operation. Who would dare to do such a thing? We will never know; and it’s better this way.
(I’m currently a Reserve Colonel in the Mechanized Kitchen Shears Infantry and I am ready to serve Russia again in her time of need.)
June 2021: By their deeds you will know them
When lockdown was lifted in June 2020 I was eager to put it all behind me. I suppressed the traumatizing memories and ignored the warning signs.
It was now perfectly clear to me that Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin was a lecherous rat, but my hope was that Russia would never again descend into such depravity. I used all sorts of mental gymnastics to convince myself that two months of lockdown—which included the use of QR-coded travel passes—was just a prank, bro.
I paid no attention to Sputnik V’s introduction in January 2021, and I had zero interest in tracking the pearl-clutching outbursts by Russia’s benevolent public health officials.
Everything seemed okay in Moscow—especially when compared to other parts of the world—and I had no desire to look deeper into what was happening behind the scenes. It was a pity that everything was so terrible, but for me the Pandemic was over.
You probably know what happened next.
On June 16, 2021, Moscow introduced compulsory vaccination for government employees and workers in various business sectors. Scammed again.
A few days later, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced the creation of “COVID Free” zones: Those who had been fully vaccinated, or had recovered from the virus over the past 6 months, or could produce a negative PCR test from the last 72 hours, could receive a QR code granting them exclusive access to indoor seating in bars and restaurants. Nice.
It was around this time that I asked the higher-ups at RT if I could write an op-ed highlighting the various reasons why these coercive and discriminatory “public health” measures were ill-advised. After all, RT was pumping out all kinds of provocative commentaries about the COVID authoritarianism in the West—so surely there was nothing wrong with condemning the same exact behavior inside Russia?
My offer was met with a hilarious mess of cynicism and abject nihilism—not to mention giant globs of rancid gaslighting.
They begrudgingly approved my pitch, I wrote the op-ed, and then they refused to publish it. They didn’t even let me revise it to make it more “RT-friendly.”
It is what it is. The op-ed ended up at Anti-Empire (and an updated version was published shortly after by Off-Guardian).
I don’t want to dwell on this regrettable episode—because it’s hardly surprising, and in the grand scheme of things it’s a mere trifle—but there is a juicy moral to this story; a bit of karmic justice.
RT rejected my op-ed on July 15. The next day, on July 16, Sobyanin surrendered to the ongoing boycott of his degenerate cattle tag system, and announced its cancelation.
A news network funded by Russian taxpayers couldn’t muster the courage to advocate for basic human decency in Moscow, and the city’s residents prevailed anyway.
RT didn’t share in this victory, obviously. RT didn’t even publish a report about Sobyanin’s U-turn. Question More.
Now more cognizant of the true scale of COVID depravity in Russia, I began researching the farcical saga that led to Moscow’s mandatory vax and cattle tag decrees. My findings were published by Anti-Empire in early September, a week after I quit my “senior editor” post at RT.
October 2021: “How does this end?”
At this point I really had no idea what to do. I was writing occasional blog posts for Anti-Empire (and not just about Russia; are you familiar with Fauci’s gross obsession with Tamiflu?) but this was not really a sustainable existence.
I was actually toying with the idea of leaving Internet Media forever. But then something quite extraordinary happened.
Immediately after State Duma elections finished in late September, Russia’s regions began adopting cattle tags en masse.
None of the qualified and Very Serious Russia Pundits seemed eager to comment on this. So I did.
It was around this time that I went to Substack.com and registered as Edward Slavsquat. Clearly, trouble was afoot. And maybe someone should document it? I didn’t actually think anyone would read anything I wrote; I originally intended the blog to serve as a quiet place where I could jot down my random thoughts about COVID Russia.
I hope you enjoyed the History of Edward Slavsquat. Now we can proceed to more pressing matters.
Confronting Russia’s Virus Tyranny
There is a curious line of reasoning shared by cliques of disaffected westerners—maybe you have observed it on Twitter or Facebook or some other sad, urine-stained corner of the internet:
If only I didn’t live in a country full of finks, rats, cowards, and muzzle-loving gimps! If only my countrymen weren’t so brainwashed and gullible, lockdowns and triple-masking and forced genetic injections would have never been possible! Save me from my tyrannical government, Vladimir Putin!
They type these desperate appeals without recognizing that it is the equivalent of a Muscovite tweeting pleas to Justin Trudeau in the hope that Canada will somehow stop coercive clot-shot injections in Russia.
Is it worthwhile to pray every night before bedtime that the Kremlin will send a platoon of Novichok ninjas to assassinate the Virus Tyrants terrorizing your homeland?
Maybe a good way to answer this question is to take a deep breath and assess how the Russian government has treated its own population over the past two years?
In a country where 90% of the population opposed digital cattle tags, nearly every region in Russia adopted digital cattle tags.
In a country where very few people were excited about Sputnik V, all 85 federal subjects introduced compulsory vaccination decrees, coercing tens of millions of Russians to get injected with unproven genetic slurries under duress.
In a country that was already suffering from the health-destroying effects of “healthcare optimization,” the Russian Health Ministry suspended routine medical care in order to reserve hospital beds for “COVID” patients—who were “treated” with toxic liver pills and HIV medications.
For a clear majority of Russians, “public health” became a sick euphemism for begrudgingly obeying senseless edicts out of fear of being fined by the police or losing their job or getting kicked out of university. How many lives were ruined—or extinguished—because of this government-enforced depravity?
If you think I am exaggerating or slipping into hyperbole, consider the following: the excellent Russian news outlet Nakanune recently published a detailed post mortem of two years of intensive “public health” measures.
The findings are upsetting but predictable. The Russian government’s decision to suspend routine medical care in order to focus on “fighting coronavirus” was murderous:
The authorities held back [COVID], which had very little effect on the increase in mortality, leaving those who really needed it without planned medical care. This was the reason for the huge increase in mortality, at least 200 thousand “extra” deaths. We can now speak of this as a proven statistical fact.
Two hundred thousand Russians—deprived of (already iffy) medical care that they paid for with their taxes—dead because they weren’t deemed a Priority. And even when they were a “priority,” there was largescale medical malpractice and negligence.
Two hundred thousand Russians. It’s difficult to even imagine, so I will provide you with two specific cases that illuminate the true insanity of this unspeakable crime.
In October 2021, a man from Tomsk dressed up as a doctor and talked his way into a local hospital so he could take care of his criminally neglected grandmother, who died from neglect after he was “caught”:
This heroic Russian even made a video documenting his special Red Zone operation:
You are mistaken if you think only the infirm elderly were culled by Russia’s “public health” measures.
In Stavropol, a pregnant woman was turned away from a maternity ward because she didn’t have a negative PCR test. She died from complications at home.
I know that you’ve probably been reassured by Very Serious Russia Pundits that the Russian government skillfully bypassed COVID Tyranny as part of its master plan to defeat the Globalists—but I’m sorry, that’s total horseshit.
In Russia, any Virus-related “checkmates” that have occurred over the past two years belong solely and exclusively to the Russian people, who have shown tremendous solidarity and quiet defiance against the Virus Scam; the Russians have completely outclassed their bumbling, cynical, and gaslighting “leaders.”
Is anyone licking Trudeau’s boots because Canada was forced to repeal mandatory vaccine decrees? I doubt it. All credit belongs to the Canadian people. Everyone knows this.
And yet there is quite a different attitude towards Putin and the Russian government when discussing Virus Tyranny. Why is this? I’m genuinely puzzled.
My friend and colleague Marko Marjanović summed up this curious phenomenon in an excellent article published in January:
Stop projecting your personality and your worldview on Putin… If you want a Russian that is like you look up Dr. Alexander Redko. It is utterly bizarre that dissident personalities in the West are identifying with the Russian President rather than people fighting their same fight in Russia, including against COVID Vladimir.
Yes, the weight of COVID derangement in Russia is made lighter by lax enforcement. The latter is how the middle management (the regions) squares the circle. They commit Draconian measures to paper to signal loyalty and impress the Kremlin, but skimp on execution so as to not cause catastrophic unrest or bankrupt themselves.
But this fraud perpetrated against the center (which has been a feature of Russia even before the Soviet era) tells you precisely that the Kremlin is on the side of the Draconian measures, not on the side of the lax enforcement.
When Marjanović wrote these poignant words, vax terror had been outsourced to the regions. But now the federal government is taking the reins by announcing that it intends to make COVID injections mandatory under the National Vaccination Calendar. That’s not good; that’s bad.
It gets worse. Russia’s Deputy Health Minister Pavel Pugachev recently opined that QR codes may become “the key to information about all the vaccinations of each individual person throughout his life.”
In an interview with Izvestia, Pugachev said that “with the help of such a system it will be possible to assess collective immunity for a particular disease with an accuracy up to a specific region, locality, and predict the risks of the spread of infectious diseases.”
It’s impossible to imagine how such a health-promoting system could be abused—impossible!
For those who hold the belief Putin is working behind the scenes to stop all this madness—okay, fine, but where’s the evidence of this?
Putin is able to launch an unapologetic, open-ended war against the Collective West, but for some reason lacks the authority or ability to relocate Alexander Gintsburg to a Siberian reeducation camp—even though Putin really wants to do this? Really?
The clock is ticking. What is Putin afraid of? More sanctions? lol.
War for the sake of war?
Unless you are Igor Strelkov, I very seriously doubt that what you thought would happen after February 24 has actually happened. Surely this objective fact should make people more tolerant of different perspectives about what is now happening in Ukraine?
In the spirit of sincere and good-faith discussion, I will share how I honestly feel about what is happening: I feel worried.
Allow me to explain myself—there is no reason to have a heart attack (yet).
What justifications did Putin give when he announced the start of Russia’s “special military operation” in the early hours of February 24? If you haven’t yet, read the official English transcript for yourself.
The primary objective—according to Vladimir Putin—was to prevent the formation of a hostile “anti-Russia”:
For the United States and its allies, it is a policy of containing Russia, with obvious geopolitical dividends. For our country, it is a matter of life and death, a matter of our historical future as a nation.
Marking three months since the start of the conflict, your correspondent wrote on May 25:
The Ukrainian military will eventually be pushed out of Donbass. This was one of the stated objectives of the “special military operation” and so Team Z has every right to argue Russia will emerge victorious, if that’s how you want to measure victory.
But whatever remains of Ukraine will almost certainly become a permanent anti-Russia, and to deny this reality—or to shrug it off, or to pretend it doesn’t matter—is highly unadvisable.
In fact, Sergey Lavrov warned about this exact scenario back in 2018 (when the situation in Donbass was far more violent, I might add): intervening in Donbass would mean losing the rest of Ukraine.
My assessment hasn’t changed. The Ukrainian military being pushed out of Lugansk doesn’t really change the calculus, either.
If you are part of Team Z, taking Donbass isn’t even an objective, it’s a prerequisite for making this conflict “worth it.” For Russia, liberating Donbass is the easiest and most straight-forward chore on its To Do List in Ukraine. And this task has not been a cakewalk—no matter what your favorite pundit keeps telling you.
It’s critically important to understand that from Russia’s perspective, ensuring a neutral and brotherly Ukraine cannot be achieved through military means alone.
If we briefly survey History, we’ll find that bullets, missiles and artillery shells have a poor track record with winning hearts and minds. It’s not impossible to use these items to win hearts and minds—they’re just not the ideal tools for heart-winning.
Just to be very clear: It is absolutely true that many residents of Donbass have welcomed the Russian military as liberators. I am not suggesting otherwise!
But if you take the time to look, you will find plenty of testimonials from Russian-speaking Ukrainians whose apartments were flattened into a pancake for seemingly no reason whatsoever, and they’re rightfully upset and confused by this.
Countless people who just want to live simple, peaceful lives in friendship with all nations have had their lives destroyed. This is a horrific tragedy, no matter what your views are.
When I read the breathless accounts of this war—from both sides—sometimes it sounds like people are talking about fighting the Bugs from Starship Troopers.
This is slightly worrying because Starship Troopers is a satirical film about a global fascist dystopia locked in a forever-war with space insects.
All of this hatred will have to be overcome if Moscow hopes to achieve a positive outcome for Russians and Ukrainians—which again, is a requirement to avoid being sucked into a sunk-cost fallacy.
It’s a tall order. How long will it take? Possibly a very, very long time.
My greatest fear is that this conflict will simply exacerbate all the problems that existed pre-February 24.
Speaking honestly, I have to say that the “special” operation in Ukraine doesn’t seem so special to me. What’s special about it? If this operation is really about decapitating the worst elements of the Anti-Russia Ukrainian Elite—why hasn’t this happened yet?
For example, it would have been cool if a glider full of heavily armed Spetsnaz landed on Igor Kolomoisky’s roof as part of a dashing operation to handcuff Ukraine’s most prominent scumbags. RT could have livestreamed it, too.
Imagine footage of Igor squealing like an obese piglet as gigga-elite Russian soldiers put a canvass bag over his head (filled with spiders, of course) and frog-march him out of his lavish oligarch-condo in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.
That never happened, and it might never happen—and that’s a terrible pity. Think of the memes that could have been. It makes me teary eyed.
Again: if my views about this conflict upset you, please understand that I am aware that I could be very wrong.
If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If the Ukrainian military collapses tomorrow and Russia waltzes into Odessa and Kharkov without firing a shot, I promise that I will type a blog post titled: “I Was Wrong. Sorry About That.”
Because guess what: it’s actually okay to be wrong—provided you are willing to make the necessary adjustments and corrections. I am just expressing my honest and sincere opinions about the situation—which is my duty as a blogger, come what may.
A final thought before I close.
I know that emotions are running high; I fully understand why. But I have a request: guard your humanity closely because that’s really all you have at the end of the day.
Hermann Hesse—one of my favorite German-Swiss bloggers—wrote about this in one of his unparalleled essays about the Great War. He was greatly displeased by how the conflict had turned everyone into zealots, and implored his readers not to succumb to needless vitriol and hatred:
We see artists and scholars joining in outcry against certain belligerent powers. As though today, when the world is on fire, such utterances could be of any value. As though an artist or man of letters, even the best and most famous of us, had any say in matters of war.
Others participate in the great events by carrying the war into their studies and writing bloodthirsty war songs or rabid articles fomenting hatred among nations. That perhaps is even the worst of all… We writers, artists, and journalists—can it be our function to make things worse than they already are? Is the situation not already ugly and deplorable enough?
All these manifestations, from the unscrupulously invented “rumor” to the inflammatory article, from the boycotting of “enemy” art to the defamation of whole nations, have their source in a failure to think, in a mental laziness that is perfectly pardonable in a soldier at the front but ill becomes a thoughtful writer or artist.
A lot of this kind of senseless hatred has been directed at ordinary Russians, as if they are somehow to blame for the current state of the world. It makes me very upset, particularly because as an American I have been treated with nothing but respect and courtesy during my many years in Russia—even though my native land is obsessed with bombing people, everywhere, non-stop. Russians understand that I am not Barack “The First African President to Destroy Libya” Obama, or Pedo Joe, and I am very grateful for that.
Surely we can all demonstrate such an enlightened level of understanding, to all people, everywhere? Because honestly, things could get a lot worse before they get better.
Dignity—and nothing less
I was watching documentaries on YouTube last night because I am trapped in Tbilisi and have nothing else to do.
I found a very interesting National Geographic documentary about China’s Forbidden City.
The name of the City was a bit misleading—lots of people were permitted to enter it. In particular, the Emperor’s extensive collection of concubines. Also, eunuchs. The Emperor maintained an army of castrated men tasked with pampering his pretty ladies.
According to this documentary, lots of guys were lining up to get their balls chopped off because the Forbidden City offered a solid 9-5 job, with good benefits, including dental, and all sorts of comforts that would have been unobtainable for a commoner.
“Wow,” I thought to myself. “Chopping your balls off was the first vax pass.”
And this observation has provided wonderful clarity to my otherwise deeply tormented mind.
In 2019, the highest form of social grace was knowing how to strip half-naked and place all your valuables and electronic devices in a Tupperware container in under fifteen seconds as an Airport Security Fatty, wearing latex gloves and flanked by machine-gunners, barked orders at you.
It was bad enough Pre-Virus. The New Normal is like 10,000x more humiliating in every way. And not just at the airport.
We have to stop this dangerous spiral into Sadness, guys. Think of the ancient eunuchs.
Good luck, friends
So there you have it. That’s Edward Slavsquat. And I’m not sorry.
Russia is a lovely place. I hope we all pull through, in the end.
You have a big heart! Your observations express regret, even in your humorous passages, but I notice a good degree of hope from you. We must never despair because then we are defeated.
Paul Craig Roberts keeps wondering why Russia still provides the West with the energy and resources the West uses to wage war against her. He finds this nonsensical. I would too, if I didn't see the war as part of a concerted plan.
As you say, Putin can launch war yet not remove a politician? I say: Putin can threaten to nuke London, yet he can't stop energy exports? What a colossal farce this modern world is. The scale of the absurdities they want us to believe is ridiculous.