May 01, 2023

Snapshots from Small-Town Russia

Snapshots from Small-Town Russia
Family in town.

Vladimir Volkov is a Russian professor of philosophy who has published widely on cultural semantics, sociology, history, political studies, ethics, and pedagogy. His books include Western Philosophy of the XXth Century (2000) The Ontology of Personality (2001), and Postmodernity and Its Interpretations (2017). He is retired and lives in Vladimir Oblast, where he taught children in two rural schools until he was fired from both for not supporting the “special military operation.” Since then, he has been posting searing social media commentaries about life in the Russian heartland. This text compiles several of Volkov’s posts and his responses to readers and are translated and published with his permission.

I have begun teaching kids at two rural schools, but for now I’m stuck in the hospital again. The medical and support staff are all attentive and take good care of you. There are eight patients in my ward. They make me feel as if I’ve landed in a prison cell.

My ward mates have all been in and out of jail, many served long sentences. They’re the men of Russia’s rural depths. Their interests are exactly what you’d expect. Most dropped out of school in third grade. All of them are pro-Putin. They talk nonstop. They reminisce about their military service, how they waged war in various “hot spots,” their life in detention centers, in jail, in the prison camps. Their main passion in life is fishing. Their income has always been modest and not guaranteed. For them, even thirty thousand rubles [approximately $390] is a huge sum. They watch only Russian TV shows. They dream of visiting the Urals, Siberia, Lake Baikal, and the Far East. They don’t have passports for foreign travel (only 20 percent of Russians have those), which is why they have no wish to see Italy, France, England, or the US. They’ve got no money for foreign travel either, of course. They’re all into sports. They’ve all trained in Sambo (Russian Self-Defense) or Judo, so that they could beat someone up real good, or kill them, if need be. All of them are tattooed head to toe.

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