Findings Show Russians Don’t Trust Government In Coping With Tragic Events

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 11 January 2019
Findings Show Russians Don’t Trust Government In Coping With Tragic Events

Hours before the New Year, Russia was hit again by the news of yet another tragedy – this time in Magnitogorsk.Russia's reaction to such tragic events has not been cohesive for a long time and this is yet another indicator of a lack of common values in Russian society itself. 

The reaction is quite uniform in terms of sympathy, however. A comparatively recent tradition to bring flowers and toys to a certain place to commemorate the victims has also become entrenched. But alternative theories about what caused the tragedy have appeared.

A certain number of people would almost always claim, contrary to all the assurances of the authorities and the Investigations Committee, that it was a terrorist attack now, for example when a man-made disaster happens. Experts will also tell you that panel houses do not fold this way from a domestic gas explosion. Sentiments opposing the authorities usually generate the terrorist act theory.

The particularly stubborn would insist on it, swiping away the facts that do not fit. They really want it to be a terrorist act to immediately begin to denounce the authorities and their security services for inaction and incompetence; that is, they do not need the truth itself, just a reason.

A pretty large number of people almost never trust the authorities and the official media already and only believe rumors or reports referencing "anonymous sources in law-enforcement agencies." Admittedly, the official media have long worked for this dubious reputation. There is no-one to separate facts from fiction in this situation: the institution of independent expertise, especially the parliamentary one, has been essentially killed in the country.

The Magnitogorsk case conspiracy theorists would also certainly point at a Gazel van somehow suspiciously exploding next to the collapsed building the next day. And the official theory of compressed natural gas equipment malfunctioning "does not fly", you see, and they shot three militants there, you see. They consider connection with the house collapse a priori proven, though it is well known that in general, the main thing in terrorist attacks is intimidation and demonstrativeness.

They are absent in this case; no-one took responsibility for the acts. And the security services' reluctance to go into detail about who died in the Gazel fire may be dictated by the fact that they themselves are proceeding from an a priori skeptical attitude of society to all official theories. So what is the point of making a fuss, as they say? We told you that no traces of explosives were found; what more do you want?

At the same time, the three victims' identities are unknown. Do they have families, relatives, maybe they need help? It was somehow decided not to work on this issue, apparently, as well as not to remind the people that "anonymous terrorist acts" have actually happened in our country before.

This surge of various theories, facts and conjecture strongly resembles the story of the two "Salisbury tourists" who went to England to gawk at the cathedral's high spire. And after such a surge, we cannot not really distinguish where the unpleasant truth or pure falsification might be.

The "sect of terrorist attack believers" living with their faith is acting somehow too calmly and even indifferently for such a dramatic event, well, a terrorist attack, so what? Why did you try so hard to prove it; what are you going to do with it now? And then nothing, actually. A common element of Russian life's landscape, it turns out.

And these "doomsday" callers ("Terrorist attack! Terrorist attack!" they shout all the time) are certainly "going to get it" from the other side of the barricades for objectively working on destabilizing the system.

But we can also look at it from yet another angle: when a terrorist attack - even if it was dictated by very understandable political motives - looks as somewhat less "shameful" than the collapse of a multi-storey building from a domestic gas explosion in a big city, where there is at least one pretty successful rich enterprise owned by an even more successful tycoon.

No, the tycoon of course allocated significant funds to help the victims (and still this topic will be discussed against the background of his luxury flats), but such disasters are still more appropriate for a Third World country or poor districts of a megalopolis in a developed country. Even though it is difficult to call gas monopoly in our country a "languishing industry".

By the way, do you remember how, after the fire in the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping and entertainment centre in Kemerovo, distrust of the authorities and firefighters' actions and disbelief in the official death toll numbers essentially resulted in mass riots?

They had to conduct "excursions" to morgues. By the way, there was still "no smoke without fire" there; as a result, the local fire department leadership ended up in a corruption investigation and the Emergencies Ministry leadership has changed.

In Magnitogorsk, the public actions of the local authorities looked more sufficient. It seems that the regional governor Boris Dubrovsky was not reproached for "wrongly" arriving to the tragedy's site with a motorcade, for which the now former governor Aman Tuleyev was punished in Kemerovo.

Rest assured, however, after the Magnitogorsk tragedy and a number of reports that fell out of the approved lineup appeared, attempts to impose punishment for so-called "fake news" will intensify so that there are no unnecessary deviations from the security services' press releases.

But everyone noticed Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova's expensive fur coat. Was the fur coat appropriate at the ruins? Should she have changed into a padded jacket on the plane? I do not know. Probably, On the other hand, officials developed a habit of being personally present at the scenes of tragedies, which is intended to symbolize their care and sympathy as well as their effectiveness. Although the latter is always a problem: well, what is effective if nothing really works without a kick from the country or the industry's leaders.

Thus far, our officials do not have a habit of bringing their public image in exact line with the essence of the events taking place. On the other hand, the president seems to have done everything correctly on his part. He could have chosen not to come [to the explosion scene] on 31 December, although there were still the "dissatisfied" with him for not re-recording the New Year's address taking the Magnitogorsk tragedy into account. In fact, those "dissatisfied" "do not give a hoot" about his address or any of its content.

If a disaster strikes the country, there are enough resources and organizational capacity for a specific local relief operation. At the same time, we would most likely never know the whole truth about what happened, and especially about the causes, and we have long been reconciled with this. And even if we learn it, we would not believe everything.

We honor specific ordinary emergency workers, but are extremely distrustful of the rescue organizers-managers, although we are still sending all complaints and requests to them. And when something explodes somewhere else next time, we would again guess what it was: our inescapable disorder or sabotage. And we still do not have a clear answer to a question of which of these two evils is worse.