inside russia: Plain Stupidity Caused the Krasnodar Floods
Published: July 18, 2012 (Issue # 1718)
Ten days have passed since theáfloods ináKrymsk, andáwe can already observe some interesting patterns connected with that tragedy.
Theáfirst, andámost unpleasant foráthe authorities, is theápersistent rumor that theáflood was not caused byáheavy rains but byáa surge ofáwater fromáthe Neberdzhayevskoye reservoir above theátown. Theásuggestion is that either theádam broke or aálarge quantity ofáwater was released fromáthe reservoir toward Krymsk ináorder toáprevent flooding President Vladimir Putinĺs palace ináGelendzhik, 60 kilometers away.
But theádam did not break, andáthe Naberdzhai River actually rose less than other rivers ináthe area. But that does not worry critics ofáthe government. If you try toáconvince them ofáthe facts, they just accuse you ofáselling out toáthe authorities.
It is noteworthy that rationally minded opposition members, such as independent environmentalist Suren Gazaryan, inspected theárivers ináquestion andárejected theáconspiracy theory outright. But theápopulation ofáKrymsk, 95 percent ofáwhom apparently voted foráPutin ináthe March election, firmly believe it.
This is aáwell-known psychological phenomenon andávery bad news foráthe authorities. It is common forávictims ofánatural disasters toábelieve that they were victims ofáan evil plot ofásome sort. Theáfamine ofá1317 was blamed onáJews, andáthe black plague epidemic ofá1347 was blamed onáJews andáwitches, who were subsequently burned atáthe stake.
This is bad news foráthe authorities because theápeople ofáKrymsk do not blame their troubles onáJews, witches, U.S. State Department, foreign agents or anti-government protesters. These once-steadfast supporters ofáPutin place theáblame squarely onáthe Russian government.
Theápeople ofáKrymsk also donĺt believe theáofficial death toll ofá171. Whenever aáconscientious journalist investigates rumors about ôthousands ofádeathsö andásays clearly that they are nothing but rumors, theáresponse fromáKrymsk residents is usually: ôIt is your duty toáprove theárumors toábe true.ö
As I have already written, theádisaster that struck Krymsk was, ináfact, more theáresult ofáhuman rather than natural causes. This is because natural disasters only occur ináplaces where nature, not civilization, is theápredominant force. As Napoleon once said, there is no point attributing something toáevil intent that is actually theáresult ofáplain stupidity.
Many Russians gladly voted foráPutin ináMarch, despite knowing that he essentially forced his will onáthem byásending busloads ofáindividuals toávote inámultiple polling places andámanipulating theáelectoral process as much as he could. Theátruth is, average voters donĺt analyze deeply.
If baboons could vote, they would clearly vote foráthe alpha male. Andáthe most subjugated baboons turn out toábe theáleaderĺs most enthusiastic supporters.
Theáproblem foráPutin is that theámost powerless members ofásociety voted foráhim. But they can withdraw their support foráhim just as irrationally as they gave it.
That is exactly what we are seeing ináKrymsk. When it comes toádisasters that personally affect them, average voters will not accept theástupidity ofátheir elected officials as anáexplanation when they can instead attribute it toáevil intent.
Yulia Latynina hosts aápolitical talk show onáEkho Moskvy radio.