The war in the mountains of Badahshan made the observers talk about possible destabilization in all Tajikistan and the inevitable collapse of the seemingly eternal regime. Inevitable collapse - these two words as a rule are used to talk about practically any regime in the post-Soviet countries. The only difference in use is time - more may be necessary in Russia, less in Tajikistan, in Belorussia it depends a lot on the Russian money and so on. But why really? Why these very different regimes, these very dissimilar people are so alike?
Nazarbayev and Karimov (Uzbekistan) have been ruling their countries since Soviet times, when they even had the chance to work in the last Politburo. A member of the Belorussian Parliament Lukashenko and opposition leader in Ukrainian Rada Yanukovich won in democratic elections. Aliyev (Azerbaijan), Putin and Sargsyan (Armenia) received power from the hands of predecessors. Head of a collective farm Rahmon became president owing to Kulyab and their allies winning in Tajikistan civil war. Different fates, different political experience - nobody can say that Rahmon or Yanukovich has their power delivered on the silver platter and no one can compare Nazarbayev's Soviet school of being the First Secretary of the Republican Central Committee and Putin's experience as a Lieutenant-Colonel in KGB.
Why then is Russia so similar to Kazahstan, Ukraine to Belorussia and Tajikistan to Uzbekistan? The leaders of post-Soviet countries may fall out and make up with each other, from alliances and even start wars, but the people live exactly the same - not feeling their country under them. All throughout the post-Soviet space there is a full depreciation of any and all values, bureaucracy, contempt to free initiative and respect for a gangster in a Mercedes. All throughout the post-Soviet space - cultural demise, still trying to fend off the last isles in the capitals with their last surviving "intelligentsia" and the triumph of mafia-adorned chanson music wailing out of muddy taxi buses from Brest to Chimkent.
May be the Bolsheviks were right? May be daily destruction of free will that started on 7 November, 1917 and has not ceased for a day has really gave birth to this marginal community of people not willing to be accountable for anything - Soviet people?
In 1991 when the Empire broke down it might have seemed that its components will each go its own way, that we will see a real parade of civilizations - so different were former Soviet republics. Yes, where the societies took the path of economic reforms, freeing initiative - there they are different and their problems are different. Not only is Georgia different from Latvia so is Estonia and Lithuania. And in everything else - in everything else it turned out that unhappy families are unhappy in the same way.
In 1991 it seemed to me that Armenians for hundreds of years remembering and dreaming about their own statehood who broke apart from the Soviet Union because of Karabah conflict will regard the future of their country different from many other republics who hardly understood what a state is. Armenia could not "not be different" but it is not! People emigrated all over the world, surviving population, nouveau riches in the capital's downtown cafes, worn-down roads, disoriented voters, opposition that fights for its political prisoners but cannot come even close to becoming the power, bickering of those who got the power, absence of faith and dreams - these lines could be written by a journalist in the center of Erevan. But also in the center of Kiev. And the center of Moscow. And the center of Minsk. And is it really important what goes on at the top of this senseless pyramid? Well, let's say Nazarbayev is a massive politician and Yanukovich - not so much. But is Yanukovich's level of control different from Nazarbayev's, can the verdict be reached without papa's agreement, can justice be made without papa's blessing? Can you get any justice without papa's blessing? You can put any two names in this puzzle but note this - Nazarbayev (Kazakhstan) has been ruling for 22 years, Yanukovich has ruled for 2 years. But the result is the same. Papa, papa, papa, papa. It is the same Golden Horde!
Two decades ago I could still write a collective political portrait of very different leaders of Commonwealth. Now it would be a boring book about very rich losers. They each have a skeleton in their closet - own Hodorkovskiy or Timoshenko, own Andijan or Janaosen. Nobody has an answer to the question - what is after them. It seems that they sincerely believe that after them there is really nothing.
There is enough to fall into despair: it turned out to be easy to kill the Dragon but absolutrly impossible to get rid of its teeth buried in Ukrainian black earth and Turkmenistan sand. The teeth grow, give sprouts and every day they grow indifferent thousands. Those who cannot live in this atmosphere of senseless harvesting have a simple choice - leave or lead.
Of course there are those who try to grub out these weeds, who comes out on squares, who is not afraid to show the naked kings that their time is running out. But even these - yet not so numerous - people are dissociated and have no idea what will happen after. In reality none of us has yet lived in the world where you don't need to ask or humble yourself, where a nobody with a flashing light is a nobody with a flashing light. Nobody has lived in the world where flatterers and liars are despised and honest people are respected and are brought to power. Nobody has yet left the Soviet Union even though it has long ceased to exist. And to breathe clean air may turn out to be much harder that to imitate breathing.