Russia has just marked the 75th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany with a huge military parade through Red Square. As in the old Soviet days, some of the country’s state-of-the-art military equipment was on display; there was a fly-past and an address by President Vladimir Putin, looking every inch the commander-in-chief and latter-day tsar.
This show of officially sponsored patriotism served as the prelude to a week of voting in a referendum on changes to Russia’s 1993 constitution, which – if passed, and the incentives to vote include a lottery with big-ticket prizes – could allow Putin to occupy the presidency until 2036. Oh, and by the way, if you didn’t know already, Russia has fared particularly badly in the coronavirus pandemic. Well, of course it has, which is why the Red Square parade (with no masks and zero social-distancing) was not just gratuitously political, but reckless as well.
So here they go again, you might conclude, those subservient Russians and their power-crazed president, strutting around in their dysfunctional country where life is cheap. Let me offer a different reading.