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tervening years, demand for Chelyabinsk's metals and raw materials saved the city.
With new service industries, shops, restaurants, and everything that comes along
with them, there is an emerging middle class. There is a profound psychological
change. Residents credit former president, and now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin,
with bringing stability and a renewed pride in being Russian.
But Anne found the boom ending, as the world was on the cusp of another economic
downturn. “All of the signals of a crisis are here, but journalists writing about it have to be
careful. Several local reporters are being investigated for what the prosecutor general calls
'inflaming a mood of panic.'”
Not even realizing that we have reached the bus station—because our bus just stops in
the middle of a parking lot—our driver yells “Chelyabinsk” and Sergei and I and a few oth-
er passengers are quickly ushered off by our friendly driver so he can continue his journey
to Kazakhstan.
We are able to wave down a car, a red Lada, a Soviet make that ceased to be produced in
2012, driven by an easygoing older gentleman named Oleg. I immediately inspect Oleg's
dashboard and am disappointed not to see any videotaping device. And this seems an ap-
propriate time to point out how so many vivid images of that streaking meteorite here were
caught on tape, and beamed on the Internet around the world. It has something to do with
Russians' fear of trusting anyone. If Russian drivers are ever in an accident—even the
smallest fender-bender—they will keep their vehicles right where they are, even if they are
blocking traffic on a congested highway. This is to avoid the other driver fabricating what
happened. What's more, when police arrive, Russians doubt the cops will be fair—what if
they accept a bribe from the other driver, or what if the other driver has connections with
the police or local government? The solution? Many Russians install small video cameras
on their dashboards to film everything. Sergei has one. I asked him about it once.
“So, how much memory do these things have?”
“Well, mine has about six hours. So it continuously copies over, but keeps the last six
hours. So if anything happens, you can go back six hours and find the video.”
Voilà! When you have thousands and thousands of drivers on the roads around Chelyab-
insk, and a meteorite happens to streak across the sky, chances are there would be some
damn good images caught. But even more shocking than those images was the fact that
there was very little screaming or yelps of surprise from the Russian motorists. The
comedian Jon Stewart, in a segment on The Daily Show , may have put it best when he aired
one of the videos, noting the reaction from the driver—or lack of: “The dude in the car is
completely unimpressed by a ten-ton death rock hurtling at mach 50 toward the city!”
And this made more sense as Stewart played a montage of more scenes captured on
these video camera in Russia. There were motorists emerging from their vehicles after an
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