Cultural Revolutions

Minister of "Emergency Situations"

Vladimir Putin’s minister of “emergency situations,” Sergei Shoygu, has been particularly busy this winter, since the usual unpleasantness associated with Russia’s harsh climate has been made worse by the country’s crumbling infrastructure.  In October and November, entire villages in Yakutia were swept away as huge ice flows jammed the rivers, causing massive flooding, while January saw Southern Russia’s Black Sea coast buried by an unusual blizzard and the country’s Pacific coast frozen solid by waves of arctic air.  Soviet-era buildings simply collapsed under the weight of snowdrifts and floodwaters, while much of the country was left without heat or electricity for prolonged periods, as dilapidated power stations failed and rusty water lines burst.  Meanwhile, aging gas lines broke, blowing a number of residential buildings (and their residents) to smithereens—a wintertime disaster fatalistic Russians have grown accustomed to in recent years.

If natural disasters and collapsing, exploding, and frozen buildings weren’t enough to convince Vladimir Putin that the iznos (“wear and tear”) of Russia’s urban, industrial, and technological infrastructure has reached crisis level, the poor performance of Shoygu’s army of spacitely (Emergency Situations Ministry rescue workers—literally, “saviors”), equipped with...

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