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mushy, salty, and to many people, delicious. I did learn to appreciate it, so I happily join
Viktor.
“Andrei, Viktor, I wonder if we can reflect a bit more on what happened here in Sagra,”
I say, as we all chew—and chew and chew—our chunks of salo .
“The police,” says Andrei, in midbite. “They tried to suggest this conflict was just a part
of everyday life in Russia.”
And that is sadly believable. Even just living in Russia for a few years, I adjusted to the
lawlessness. It was not uncommon to see two men punching each other on a street corner,
settling some dispute, then moving on.
“The truth?” Andrei says. “The police didn't want to admit there was organized crime
here. They didn't want to admit there was major gang activity. That would have opened
them up to charges of negligence and criticism. In Russia that's all anyone worries
about—blame.”
He takes a few chews of salo and pickle and gets more animated.
“In our country, sure, a person is equal to another person. But there are people who are
more equal. They have connections to another resource—the police, or government offi-
cials. And they feel superior. The law is not one and the same for everyone. And that is not
democracy.”
He chooses his next words carefully. Sergei smiles as he translates them.
“In this case publicity was our protection.”
“Okay Andrei, publicity is your protection. A belief that the truth can expose a corrupt
power. Aren't those democratic values?”
“Yes,” Andrei says, “and we have to protect them. When I studied at university, I was
taught that the police, the authorities, should fulfill their duties for the state. Their only
motivation should be, 'What can I do for the people?' But the state machine that we
have works in favor of itself. I remember the lectures. They are supposed to work for the
people.”
“So a government for the people—”
Andrei cuts me off. He senses where I'm going. “But our Russian mentality has to be
protected, too.”
Russian mentality?
“You can't impose an ideology on a country. Other people often talk about Russians as
lazy alcoholics. I'm not lazy. And I don't drink. And I don't smoke.”
This accusation of laziness has him animated.
“In Soviet times the flight of stairs was cut off for a Russian person. He can't move up.
If and when this formula changes—then everything will work, and we'll feel those values.”
We are into a second plate of meat and pickles, refreshed from the fridge.
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