Saturday, August 06, 2005

Policies of Profit in Russia and the Market of Nostalgia

This past week OMON, or masked commandos, carried out high Russian court orders to raid the dachas of Yekaterininskiye Valy outside of Moscow. Dachas are coutry houses that have occupied a place in Russian history since the early 1700's. The masked OMON violently tore through these country villages arresting those who resisted their advances. The high courts of Russia ruled that this particular village had built thier dachas too close to the Istra River and thier permits had run out in 2000, almost six years ago.
This situation exemplifies how courts create inequality and facilitate the consolidation of property rights. The court decision follows Mr. Veremeyenko's annoucement of financial interest in developing this region into golf courses and vacation homes, reminiscent of the gardening and subsistence culture of the dacha lifestyle. The dachas were an important symbol of the redistribution of property rights in the Russian Revolution. They were also refuges of stability throughout Russian history. The stability of the dacha system provided an artisitic climate for many famous Russian writers.

The dachas in Yekaterininskiye are being emptied in order to supply consumers with "culturally authentic" vacation experiences. As the Russian economy stalls and industrial manufacturing drops-off the economy increasingly becomes dependent upon foriegn capital from both corporate entities and the global elite. The political backlash of economic decline, corruption, and dissident terrorists have made Russia a tough sell to global investors. The dachas seems a likely target for marketing the nostalgic cottage life of Russia's dwindling middle class to the global elite and Moscow aristicrats.

The dacha "lifestyle" was popularized by Martha Stewart's quest for the perfect home environment to nest in. Mr. Veremeyenko's proposed development offers wealthy individuals the rustic lifestyle of homemade meals made from the surrounding gardens without the fuss of actual work. I'm not saying that Martha Stewart is complicit in the OMON raids in Yekaterininskiye, but it is the marketing of an unattainable imaginery and nostalgic upper-middle-class lifestyle that creates economic demands which unscrupulous investors will exploit. And exploit them at the cost of the very cultural settings that are the object of desire. The consumption dachas is class warfare and it does not appear to be going away. Achieving a more exquitable system will mean starving the elite, more than a little, they are already beyond fat.