The Russian Flag at the North Pole

Having spoken to a few Russians around the place about the flag that the Russian expedition has plonked beneath the North Pole, it is safe to say that almost all Russians are as proud as punch.  And well they might be, given that it represents an impressive technological achievement.  Presumably they consider this money well spent, and as far as I am concerned the Russians have the right to spend their collective money on whatever they wish.  After all, it is nothing to do with me.

But the sympathy I have for those who complain about the terrible state of the infrastructure in Russia, those who worry how their parents will survive on meagre state pensions, and those who complain that the money from Sakhalin’s oil projects will bypass the island and end up in Moscow, is fast eroding.  I’m sure there must have been a British visitor in Russia at the time of the Sputnik launch who found his sympathy with those queuing up for bread diminish a notch as he watched the crowds cheering at Russia’s triumph over the west.

Governments usually get priorities wrong.  But it is less usual for entire populations to do so as well, and so consistently.

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18 Responses to The Russian Flag at the North Pole

  1. Girda Clamp says:

    I feel more sorry for the Russians who have to put up with you and your distorted view of life. The vast majority of Russians, particularly in place like Sakhalin, have no choice at all in what they do nor any chance of improving their lot. You, on the other hand, are only there for a short while, earning more money than the locals could ever dream of and with a return ticket out of the place in your back pocket.

    I agree the Russians are far from perfect but then again who is? Also, national pride may be the only thing they have that will make them feel a bit more happy about themselves. After all, it works for the Welsh!!!

  2. Tim Newman says:

    What a load of patronising shite.

    Russians have plenty of opportunities for improving their lot, particularly on Sakhalin where salaries are several times the national average. Thousands of Russians are making the most of the opportunities presented to them, and there is little stopping the rest from doing the same. It would just require them to cooperate with each other a bit and to get their priorities straight, starting with holding their leaders responsible for what goes wrong rather than just shrugging their shoulders and saying chto delat’?.

    As for your bleating that expats are earning more than the locals: change the record.

  3. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Russia: North Pole Flag-Planting

  4. varske says:

    At the risk of being also condemned for a distorted view of life, it is hard to be so sympathetic to citizens of a country who have had a recent taste of freedom of speech and are now supporting it being taken away from them. It does seem like they would rather moan than accept responsibility and try and change.

    And I don’t have much respect for the Welsh either. They can’t even get it together to have proper devolution and prefer a talking shop.

  5. Tatyana says:

    Tim, instead of “change the record” you should’ve said:
    “???? ?? ????? ?????, ?????? ????? ???????”
    I think it’d be closer to GC’ understanding.

    Excellent post.

  6. Tim Newman says:

    Tatyana,

    Yes, that would have been a good phrase to use. I am guessing this phrase dates back some way in Russia.

    Glad you liked the post.

  7. Tim Newman says:

    And I dont have much respect for the Welsh either. They cant even get it together to have proper devolution and prefer a talking shop.

    With me considering myself a Welshman, I think this is a virtue. Unlike the ever-moaning Scots (and certain Irish, for that matter) who are always demanding “independence”, the Welsh I know aren’t in the least bit interested in politics. The reason we can’t get it together to have proper devolution is because hardly anybody in Wales cares less that we are governed from London. We’re too lazy to think of these things, we’d rather spend our time in the pub complaining about the incompetence of our national rugby team. I much prefer this approach to politics and independence than the Scottish one.

    In case I am appearing inconsistent, the difference between the Welsh and Russian apathy towards politics is that the Welsh really don’t have much to complain about, things are pretty good there all things considered. On the other hand, the Russians have genuine complaints, and really should get more involved with politics if they want to lift themselves out of the situation they are complaining they are in.

  8. JJ says:

    . . (Where is the at symbol on this Russian keyboard?)

    Yes I have arrived in Yuzhno. What very impressive potholes we have here.

    The discussion about patriotism is getting a bit complicated, and as a Scot I think ‘ever-moaning’ is a bit steep. You might notice the SNP did not get voted in because most Scots don’t want to risk a vote that might disolve the Union. Take what you want [from the Union] and leave the rest, I say.

    Anyway, regarding patriotism from an ill-served populus, 2 points. When people feel hard-done-by something to be proud of can be a positive thing; it can make them feel better in spite of themselves. Here in Yuzhno I see several references for example to the successful space program and I agree this is worthy of pride. My other point – wherever you are it is often those who aren’t doing well who lean towards the status quo in politics (in another country this would be conservatism) since they fear the risks associated with change.

  9. BearBait says:

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/World/Russian-sub-plants-flag-at-North-Pole/2007/08/02/1185648056423.html

    And heres a footnote to history;

    ‘ A second Russian submersible, manned by Swedish businessman Frederik Paulsen and Australian adventurer Mike McDowell, reached the seabed 27 minutes later. It reached a depth of 4,302 metres. ‘

    I hear the Aussie found a nice titanium flag & took it back home as a souvenir ;-)

  10. Girda Clamp says:

    Being patronised by a Welshie. That’s a novelty and certainly a first.

    As for “Russians have plenty of opportunities for improving their lot, particularly on Sakhalin where salaries are several times the national average.” What a complete load of bollocks!!! Try saying that to any of the Sakhalin Islanders outside your cosy little Peyton Place world in Yuzhno and see what reaction you get. If by improving their lot you mean working as taxi drivers, barmen, waiters, security men or secretaries for expats then you’re spot on. Get real and start looking at the facts and not what you see through the bottom of a beer glass or out of your nice expensive apartment windows.

    By the way, if I’d known that talking about pay would hit such a sore spot, I’d have made more of it.

  11. Tatyana says:

    Hey, Girda or whatever your name is: what’s wrong with working as a secretary? Beats not having a job at all or wiping the streets with your skirt. Apparently you did talk to the locals outside of Tim’s apartment complex – care to relay what exactly they said to you? That they’d trade their taxi-driving jobs on Sakhalin to being an engineer on a bottle factory in continental Russia? Coz they learn much less but respect themselves more? Or some such utter crap?

    If anybody has a sore spot about pay it sure looks like you do: Tim comes out as perfectly satisfied with his financial setup, you’re the one drooling for his kinda money.

  12. Tatyana says:

    a typo: *earn, not *learn. Apologies.

  13. Tim Newman says:

    What a complete load of bollocks!!!

    No, it’s not: salaries on Sakhalin are much higher than the national average. This is fact, not opinion.

    Try saying that to any of the Sakhalin Islanders outside your cosy little Peyton Place world in Yuzhno and see what reaction you get.

    Oh, I do. I even say it in Russian. How did you communicate with the locals, assuming that you’ve ever been here?

    If by improving their lot you mean working as taxi drivers, barmen, waiters, security men or secretaries for expats then youre spot on.

    And department managers, engineers, planners, production superintendents, project managers, project administrators, contracts managers, cost controllers, yard formen, wellhead technicians, drillers, HR managers, financial managers, senior accountants, safety officers, and several dozen other skilled or managerial positions. And I’m sure it’ll be news to my wife that the only opportunity she has in Sakhalin is to work as a waitress or secretary for an expat! I guess she should quit her job as sales and marketing director for a Russian-owned hotel and get with the program, eh? Uppity wife!

    Get real and start looking at the facts and not what you see through the bottom of a beer glass or out of your nice expensive apartment windows.

    Erm, who do you think is the beneficiary of the rent for my nice expensive apartment? And for what it’s worth, my view of Sakhalin is gained largely by living with a Russian, speaking Russian, drinking with Russians, and hanging out with Russians. Assuming you were here, which given what you know about the place is in more than a little doubt, how did you go about forming an impression of what the locals think?

    By the way, if Id known that talking about pay would hit such a sore spot, Id have made more of it.

    It’s not a sore spot. I simply told you to change the record, and – as a cursory glance at the thread will reveal – nothing more. As Tatyana has pointed out, it is you who seem to have the hang-up about money, having first brought the subject up and now continues to pursue it.

  14. Girda Clamp says:

    WOW!!! Really have hit a sore spot or two.

    For your information I worked in Sakhalin 2005 – 2006 and so do know a bit about the place. Spent much more of my time outside of Yuzhno than you seem to do – overnight train trips don’t really count as anything other than jollies for the office-wallahs.

    With regards to money, I don’t give a sh*t how much you earn but I do think you’re being a bit disingenuous. Of course pay is higher in Sakhalin than in other parts of Russia. For two main reasons – oil and location. But it only applies to those with a job and there are plenty of Islanders who aren’t employed and have no chance of ever being so. And through no fault of their own. Go to somewhere like Poronaysk or Makarov and see what real life in Sakhalin is all about.

    Also, how many of your “department managers, engineers, planners, production superintendents, project managers, project administrators, contracts managers, cost controllers, yard formen, wellhead technicians, drillers, HR managers, financial managers, senior accountants, safety officers, and several dozen other skilled or managerial positions” were filled by Islanders? Vast majority of these Russians are mainlanders – not many locals amongst them as I seem to remember.

    With regards to your wife, all I can say is Well Done and I do mean that. By the way is she from Sakhalin?

    As for Tatyana. Who rattled your cage? I’m certainly not drooling after Tim’s money or anything of Tim’s for that matter. But it certainly sounds like you have the hots for him. As for Sakhalin, been there, done it and moved on and up to better things. Had a good time while I was there but life moves on and so did I.

  15. Tatyana says:

    Girda – if you’d moved to “better things”, you wouldn’t be leaving your feces all over this comment thread.

    You seem to believe the corporations have some sort of hiring obligation to the local workforce, no matter their qualifications for the job or projected benefit for the Company. I’m surprised you ever held a job, with attitude like that. I certainly wouldn’t hire you (and I’m in the position to hire people).
    Why Tim’s wife has to be from Sakhalin to get her job – are you subscribing to necessity of “propiska” theories? Have you ever heard of freedom of movement, both physical and movement of capital?

    Also, your understanding how economy works is below 5th-grader’s level. Where do you think the employees of the Big Oil are spending their money? Who’s paying to taxi-drivers and janitors – people without skills, I remind you, who would have no job prospects at all if not for Big Oil. Ever heard of money trickle effect?

  16. Tim Newman says:

    WOW!!! Really have hit a sore spot or two.

    Nope. Wrong again. You leave comments on my blog, I respond. Nothing sore about it.

    For your information I worked in Sakhalin 2005 – 2006 and so do know a bit about the place.

    Oh, so you were here for a year. Big deal.

    Spent much more of my time outside of Yuzhno than you seem to do

    Where, exactly? In an oil company compound in Chayvo or SEIC’s OPF? Yeah, that’s representative!! If you want to play a game whereby we list the number of towns and villages we have visited in Russia in order to see who has a better idea of life in Russia, let’s play.

    With regards to money, I dont give a sh*t how much you earn but I do think youre being a bit disingenuous. Of course pay is higher in Sakhalin than in other parts of Russia. For two main reasons – oil and location. But it only applies to those with a job and there are plenty of Islanders who arent employed and have no chance of ever being so.

    Really? Why don’t they have a chance? Are they incapable of relocating?

    Go to somewhere like Poronaysk or Makarov and see what real life in Sakhalin is all about.

    Have you actually spent any time in either of these places? What language did you speak to the locals? Life is crap in these places, and the responsibility for improvement lies solely with the locals who, as I’ve said in the post, seem to put planting flags beneath the North Pole higher up the list of priorities than getting their water supply fixed.

    Also, how many of your department managers, engineers, planners, production superintendents, project managers, project administrators, contracts managers, cost controllers, yard formen, wellhead technicians, drillers, HR managers, financial managers, senior accountants, safety officers, and several dozen other skilled or managerial positions were filled by Islanders?

    I don’t know. But speaking about my operation, which employs about 40 people, about 35 of them are from Sakhalin. And from what I can gather, most positions are filled by Sakhalin Islanders.

    Vast majority of these Russians are mainlanders – not many locals amongst them as I seem to remember.

    This isn’t really the question though, is it? The question is not how many of the employed on Sakhalin are locals, it is what percentage of Sakhalin Islanders are employed. From what I can gather, which I suspect is more reliable than your memory, it is somewhere above 90%.

    As for Sakhalin, been there, done it and moved on and up to better things.

    I very much doubt you have ‘done it’. How much Russian do you speak now? How many male Russians outside of your immediate work do you know? How many Russian homes did you visit? Did you actually speak to any Russians about their opportunities, or are you just going on observations?

  17. Girda Clamp says:

    They say that if you argue with an idiot, you’ll end up talking stupidly yourself. So I’ll leave you and Tatyana to lead your bigotted, narrow, little lives on your own and I pray that you will reap what you sow. And the sooner the better for all concerned.

    By the way, I really don’t understand why your blog has a photo of Lassie having a shit on it.

  18. Sergei says:

    Catching up on past posts, and I had to mention this.

    I don’t know if you heard it there, but apparently the Russian news video of this event “borrowed” some scenes from the movie “Titanic” (I guess they didn’t think anyone would notice).

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