• 17 DEC 22
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    Reflections on a Russian Neverland

    Don Maisch PhD December 17, 2022

    In September 2004 I was fortunate enough to receive funding to attend a Russian International Conference, titled: Mobile Communications and Health: Medical, Biological and Social Problems. It was held in Moscow and was attended by a wide range of international scientists including researchers from the USA, Great Britain, Europe, Ukraine, Poland and Australia. Russia was represented by The Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (RNCNIRP), The Russian Academy of Science, and The Russian Academy of Medical Science.

    What was interesting about the research papers presented at the 3 day conference was the high quality of the biological research that had been carried out by Russian and former Eastern Bloc scientists – and that was a high point of the conference. However, much of this research seemed to be largely a product of the past, before the break up of the former Soviet Union.

    As part of the conference we were taken to a Moscow based research institute which was to showcase Russia’s research activities. The building itself was built in the 1960s and was designed to be an impressive structure, but after some 50 years use it was in poor condition from an obvious a lack of maintenance. Upon arrival we had to use a side entrance as the large main doors had fallen off their hinges due to rust and were being hastily repaired by a construction crew. Not a good first impression.

    The facility was constructed around a large courtyard originally envisioned to be a relaxing parkland setting for the resident scientists/researchers. We, however, were warned not to enter the overgrown area as it was populated by dogs which had been abandoned there by city residents who no longer were able to care from them. Food was being provided for the resident dogs by somebody but they looked pretty thin, hungry and not particularly friendly! And this was being presented as a modern Russian research establishment! The Americans in the group were amused and took plenty of photos.

    Internally the place seemed more of a dusty museum with no apparent research programs running. One of the Russian scientists attending the conference apologized for the state of the place and said that before the collapse of the old Soviet Union in the early 1990s they had plenty of research funding but since that collapse funding had been slashed, including funds for even basic maintenance of the buildings.

    An impression of Moscow

    While travelling around Moscow, I noticed a number of what appeared to be American Hummers (or perhaps Russian knockoff copies) all painted black. I inquired who owned them and was told they were the favoured vehicle of the Solntsevskaya Bratva organization (Russian Mafia) made up of 10 quasi-autonomous ‘brigades’ overseen by a 12 person council. According to Fortune magazine this is the biggest crime group in the world raking in some $8.5 billion annually.


    Burning the inconvenient

    One of the many peculiarities of Moscow (if not the entire country) is that even though the built environment can be privately owned, the land on which buildings are built on remains the property of the state. There was at the time I was there a major building boom: large apartment buildings were springing up all over the place. Whole suburbs were razed and when property owners refused to sell, inconveniencing developer’s plans, their properties mysteriously were destroyed by fire. Then, with no building left to sell, the land on which they were built reverted to the state and then were conveniently sold to the developers who just happened to have links with the Russian Mafia. According to The Guardian in a 2018 article, organized crime syndicates have effectively been allowed to take over Russia under Putin’s government.


    Rehabilitating the Faithful

    On another field trip during the conference we were bussed to a Russian Orthodox monastery not far from Moscow. It was an impressive Russian/gothic style edifice but what was strange was that many of the supposed monks wandering around the place did not fit the image of religious types and would have looked far more at home on a Mad Max movie set. While we were there, a few were arriving and leaving in expensive cars (even one in a black Hummer) and all seemed to have mobile phones. As I later found out they were actually members of various crime groups who were foolish enough to be caught committing crimes and, as punishment, were sent to the monastery for ‘rehabilitation’ for a brief stay before returning back to their previous activities.

    It seems that 18 years later the situation has only worsened, with Russia now operating in conjunction with a criminal quasi-government with Putin as ‘Godfather’. Any potential political opposition is safely locked away in a high security prison – or dead. The 450 members of the Russian State Duma well know their fate if they oppose anything Putin wants.

    Going after the money

    In order to understand the twisted logic behind the current invasion of Ukraine one must go past Putin’s paranoid dreams of a reincarnated grand Russian Empire and consider what the ‘hidden hand’ of the Solntsevskaya Bratva stands to gain if the invasion is successful. The natural resources of the entire nation would be up for grabs. Ukraine has some of the world’s largest reserves of titanium and iron ore, fields of untapped lithium and massive deposits of coal. Collectively, they are estimated to be worth tens of trillions of dollars. On top of that we can add Ukraine’s agricultural output which in 2021 amounted to approximately $27.8 billion and was 41% of the country’s $68 billion in overall exports.

    Forget Putin’s rantings about the need to fight nazification, this is what the invasion is really all about…..

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