Arts & Culture

Everyone Should Probably Keep An Eye On Russia

What is going on in Russia? I’m fairly certain that no one has any idea. When the wall came down and the USSR collapsed upon itself like a neutron star 17 years ago, Russia was supposed to evolve into a … Read More

By / November 14, 2008

What is going on in Russia? I’m fairly certain that no one has any idea. When the wall came down and the USSR collapsed upon itself like a neutron star 17 years ago, Russia was supposed to evolve into a modern, industrial nation, a model of European democracy with strong ties to America and all of the freedoms and spoils that come with it. Unfortunately, things haven’t quite worked out that way, as Russia remains as shady as ever. Beyond the large-scale geopolitical issues in which Russia has flexed its increasingly bizarre and powerful muscle (Chechnya, Georgia), the nation’s enduring crookedness can be aptly embodied by a series of hilarious (and often tragic) anecdotes.

After the New England Patriots’ last Super Bowl victory, in 2005, team owner Robert Kraft traveled to Russia, where he met with president Vladamir Putin, and showed off his Super Bowl ring. Putin famously told Kraft that "Is very nice ring," before pocketing the ring and walking away without saying anything. Kraft was left unsure of what to make of the whole episode, with at least one US official telling him that he should not ask for the ring back. The ring was never returned, and predictably, Kraft issued a statement saying that he had intended to offer the 124-diamond encrusted ring to Putin as a gift all along.

More recently, the New York Rangers (an organization that engages in a sporting event called "hockey") drafted a Russian player named Alexei Cherepanov in the first round of the 2007 NHL draft. Cherepanov had one year left on a contract to play for a Russian hockey team, the Avangard Omsk, and was expected to report to New York to join the Rangers the following season. Unfortunately, Cherepanov never made it out of Omsk, dying of "unknown causes" in the middle of a game. Take a second to soak that in – the dude just dropped dead in the middle of a hockey game and no one had any idea why. Does that sound like something that happens anywhere in the western hemisphere? Granted, there is way less hockey going on on this side of the world, but still, if players were occasionally just dropping dead in front of large crowds of people, someone would probably look into it.

Earlier this week, a church in central Russia that had been standing since 1809 disappeared. Thieves had dismantled the church, brick-by-brick, in order to sells the parts — apparently there is a market in Russia for random pieces of old church. Again, does this sound like something that goes on in America, or Canada, or England, or anywhere else in the world where people live that can be considered "modern?" All of these crazy things happening, in conjunction with Putin retaining a firm grip on the government’s power as prime minister after serving two terms as president, make it pretty clear that Russia is indeed the sketchiest place on Earth. As hypothesized by The Simpsons in 1998’s Simpson Tide, we have probably not seen the last of Russia as the world’s premiere villain.