With the Russian presidential elections just around the corner and Putin appearing weak, the opposition candidates are really up in arms and out in full force. One of my favorites to watch is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a bulldog of a man and the leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party… which, to judging from his pronouncements, really doesn’t deserve either of those adjectives. He’s a fairly outspoken racist and Greater Russian irredentist, once even calling for the re-annexation of Alaska as a place to which to deport the Ukrainians. Yeah. It’s him Sarah Palin should be watching for.
Zhirinovsky (via nightly news coverage) also introduced me to my new favorite term: “Washingtonskii obkom” (“вашингтонский обком”). “Washingtonskii” is the adjectival form of Washington, referring of course to the American capital, and “obkom” refers to the “oblastnoi komitet” (областной комитет or county committee). These were the fundamental building blocks of the Soviet political structure – each oblast of the Soviet Union was run by a committee of bureaucrats organized in a hierarchy depending on the importance of the county or city, the Moscow obkom being the most important of all.
As you may have guessed, the phrase is a pejorative reference to what some Russians believe is Washington’s interference in global affairs made possible by its all-seeing, all-knowing totalitarianism in the post-Cold War world order. Zhirinovsky recently hurled it at two of his presidential-race opponents after they were seen having a meeting with the US ambassador in Moscow during the anti-Putin protests there. I think it’s very humorous, and perhaps an apt metaphor for certain offices of the US federal government. The DMV in Hamden, CT., at least, might be the closest one can get these days to a simulacrum of Soviet life under Brezhnev.