What was remarkable in Viktor Yanukovych’s latest tour was his art of an auctioneer. He did it Dutch style. It is not to be confused with gallantry. A Dutch auction is one in which bidding begins with an immense price, and then bids are gradually reduced to the audience’s purchasing power. This method is applied whenever many things are to be sold fast (see the Practical Business Dictionary). Having begun with 160 billion, Yanukovych auctioned off the lot for 15 billion. It is inessential in this case to name the currency unit. Firstly, let us not indulge in mercantilism, analyzing an exalted game. Secondly, we know neither the inner implications of the lot nor the estimate of the property being sold. We do not even know whether the unsmiling man, who raised a flashcard, will pay the money. What if this card is a dummy bet – rather a frequent phenomenon at auctions, when the buyer and the seller decided to cash in on third parties? Why does this harbor suspicion? And would you not suspect anything wrong if you saw the owner of an impoverished manor sell a diamond to a ragamuffin?
I do not mean specific persons, of course. They are all right. If Mr. Yanukovych were interested in artworks, he would be gladly welcomed at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips de Pury. Likewise, Mr. Putin would be cordially welcomed at any luxury establishment, be it De Beers or Royal Dutch Shell. But the business of the respected people with a remarkably solvency causes mistrust. I will not go into details about the Ukrainian side. We can see everything, including empty corn bins, and hear expert opinions. But it is not much known about Russian prosperity.
We know that they roll in petrodollars, the bowels of their earth fill the budget, and tourists with a double-headed-eagle passport shower the planet’s sun spots with money. But how ordinary people live in Russia still remains a puzzle. We do not roam their boundless expanses or penetrate through silver screens to Vologda and Biysk, Yaroslavl and Ussuriysk, Altai and Valdai. Moscow does not speak of or shows them, as if only it and Petersburg have remained behind “in almost a sixth of the world’s land.” This is why any information from the east at least arouses interest. All the more so when it comes from Andrei Konchalovsky, not the least person in Russian culture. He is an internationally acclaimed film director whose father wrote the words of the song which Joseph Stalin personally approved as the USSR national anthem. Later, the same words by Sergei Mikhalkov and El Registan were modified a little at Putin’s request and made the anthem of Russia. Konchalovsky’s brother, Nikita Mikhalkov, also a well-known movie director, is a friend of Putin and, admittedly, a leading Russian patriot. In a word, the information I received from Konchalovsky’s blog almost a year ago, firstly, comes from the depths of the pro-Kremlin Russian aristocracy. Secondly, it is important to understand the conventionality of the auction deal between Putin and Yanukovych. Let us look through the eyes of Konchalovsky at the entity that has bought the Yanukovych regime for 15 billion (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30_tE2_kd48).
Russia annually loses an oblast-size number of its population – seven million people in ten years. In terms of life expectancy, it is the world’s 160th, behind many countries of Africa. There are about five million homeless in Russia – ten times as many as in the post-WWII USSR. Eighty percent of children in orphanages and boarding schools have natural parents. Eight out of ten old people in rest homes have well-to-do children. Alcohol and drug abuse claim more than 70,000 and 30,000 human lives, respectively, every year. The density of population in the country’s vastest and richest in mineral resources Asian part is two people per square kilometer. To make the picture clearer, take a small Ukrainian village with, say, 150 houses and about 500 people. Now imagine it in the center of a circle, where there is not a living soul within a radius of 50 km. These are just a few figures from the Russian intellectual’s big and alarming message to the nation titled “Be Horrified at Your Own Self.”
How can I believe that a large country that suffers from poverty, social evils and moral anguishes is giving the last of what it has to its unloved neighbor? Official statistics claims that their army of paupers has increased by half a million and reached 19.6 million people in the past year (http://ria.ru/economy/20130716/950095869.html).
Ukraine’s State Statistics Committee optimistically estimates our “army of beggars” at 7 to 8 million. This means that every poor Russian chips in 8 million for keeping Ukraine well-fed. Then our 8 million should refund 1,870 dollars each plus the interest to them. This smacks of double murder. First we drive the poor Russians to the grave, and then they drag the debt-burdened Ukrainians there. This brings to memory a joke about godfathers coming back from an unsuccessful fair. They both sold nothing and are groping for the last hryvnia in the pocket and thinking about how they could double at least this small capital. Now one of the godfathers sees a brick of dry dung on the road and says: “I bet I will eat what is on the road for a hryvnia.” The next point in this story is common knowledge.
I am afraid it is not only a joke, but also the consequence of the Moscow auction. According to their economists, Russia is not going to issue a loan to Ukraine in the shape of active money. The two sides must have agreed to cash in together on gas – such a customary and tempting commodity for their and our business energizers – weightless, invisible, easily compressible and combinable with air in any ratios, expensive abroad and cheap at home, having an offensive smell and a palatable liquidity. It’s a dream of any seller. Regrettably, neither we nor the Russians are among them. All we can do is pull money from our emptying pockets for generous credits and murderous interest.