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From Moscow to Sochi- Professor: Russia stuck in the past

9:27 PM, Jul 15, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - When some people think of Russia, certain images come to mind. That perception is not lost on the Russians.

"When foreigners think about Russia, they often think about bears and vodka," Rostov-on-Don resident Sergei Alnikov said. "We have a lot of traditions, and I think foreigners will very much like our country. "

In February 2014, Russia will be the focus of attention, not only as host, but a participant in the biggest show of sportsmanship.

"Russia is a patriotic country, and we'll go there to support our teams no matter how they perform," Alnikov said.

"Some of the Russians will buy into it, they will be proud," Jonathan Adelman is a professor at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. "What they're going to get is something very similar to the Chinese. It's going to look gorgeous. Is that going to help 99 percent of the rest of the people to spend billions and billions of dollars on Sochi? No; it's going to be all about Vladimir Putin, and it's all going to be about the party elite."

Russians officials, including the Mayor of Sochi Anatoly Pakhomov, say the spending is necessary to build new infrastructure for the entire city.

"Speaking about the city legacy, I must say that all this money we channeled into the future of the city and into the development of Sochi as a resort," Pakhomov said.

If it's all for show, as DU's professor Adelman believes, then it's interesting how history is repeating itself.

The themes were different during the Cold War, but today - the show is very much alive, with similar political leaders, according to Adelman.

"Right at the beginning at the end of the [Mikhail] Gorbachev era, we thought things were going to turn out better," Adelaman said. "But instead of better, in many ways, when we look at Vladimir Putin, we see the Communists are not in power. But, ex-communists certainly are, and so much of what they're doing, seems awfully familiar."

There are no bread or toilet paper lines of the early 1990s. You can pretty much buy any European or Western product you want, but progress -in its true form - or the way many other countries define it, has not reached Russia.

"The biggest reason is unfortunately the economy, they have the 'petro curse,'" Adelman said. "That is almost 50 percent of their entire budget, simply natural resources found in the ground. What happens in a regime that basically doesn't need the people's money because it has hundreds of billions of dollars. That vital link gets severed, and they can literally buy anybody they want and do."

While the world is watching, the Olympics will go off without a hitch.

"So people come away with a notion everything is fine with Russia, there are no problems," Adelman said.

The bigger picture, or one Russians will be left with after all the visitors are gone, may not be one they want.

"They've not gotten their ability to be free that, ironically, the states they used to occupy in Eastern and Central Europe have," Adelman said. "They've now gotten freedom they always wanted. They now have gotten much wealthier. They're not part of the European Union. They're not part of NATO. They've not joined the world. Russia is, in a sense, in a nightmare. The nightmare is, that they're only left with themselves, and under the same kind of retro-grade leadership that just stubbornly refuses to recognize the talents and capabilities of its own people."

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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