« Credit controls & the crisis | Main | "Subsidizing" childcare »

March 17, 2014




here's a better, if slightly indirect explanation.

Luis Enrique

I'm not sure about this. Some smells linger and other quickly dissipate. Are these two *seperate* mechanisms?


I am not convinced by Meek's thesis. Supposedly the USSR was horrendous: how could that be forgotten in under 40 years?

Another hypothesis is that the Yeltsin years also arouse bed memories and Putin is able to claim that he creating stability, reining in the oligarchs etc.

Dave Timoney

And sometimes historial memories are dug up, given a makeover and forced to roam the world like a scented zombie.

For example, the idea that Greek tax evasion stems from Ottoman times is a myth. Very few Greeks would have paid any sort of (evadable) tax in the centuries up to 1830, and most tax collection (in respect of land, customs and excise) was "farmed" by local elites, not by interloping Turks.

Tax evasion (as distinct from smuggling) is a largely twentieth century development (the search for antique roots is simply an attempt to dignify it), associated with the introduction of income tax and sales taxes. In Greece, habitual evasion largely stems from the social divisions, corruption and political clientelism of the post-WW2 period. The civil war (sponsored by the UK and US) and the colonels were more to blame than the Otttomans.

Deviation From The Mean

Meeks article is beyond risible. It takes apologism to new levels of absurdity, a ramping up of the desperate need to apolgise from a whole new angle, as all the other angles look so nakedly apologetic.

And is this really the time to talk about pan Russianism when the USA are seeking more and more to encircle Russia with NATO bases and spread US hegemony to every corner of the Earth? By the most undemocratic methods it must be said!

What justifies pan Americanism? Do you like their pop music or something or were you moved by some Hollywood weepie or did your kids enjoy some Pixar animation? Maybe you have played too much Call of Duty?

The present weighs even more than the past.


I am of russian origin - having come to Britain as a Child in 1978 and travelled back frequently since - so I may give some perspective

The Soviet system was brutal to anybody who opposed it so most people did not. Some people suffered greatly (my grandpa, dedushka's family suffered during the colectivisation in the 1930's) but if you behaved you were basically OK. people felt frustrated by the lack of freedom and choice and when communism fell they believed that everything would be rosy.

The 1990's were however a disaster for Russia and the other post Soviet states due to the entire economic system collapsing - imagine a 30=35% fall in GDP, massive fall in birth rate, rise in death rate, murder rate & criminality. The Russian public blame the liberals and their western backers for this catastrophe.

Since Putin became leader ( and I am not personally a fan of his) the statistics have improived, in 2007 Russia passed the GDP it had in 1989, Birth rates have increased and death rates have fallen (Russia had a natural population growh in 2012). Freedoms have been restricted and people are unhappy about this but accountability and corruption were worse in the Yeltsin years.

All nations have national myths based on a version of the truth and folk memory and this shapes their actions. Russia has been invaded and attacked from the West through its history (my great uncle was a prisoner in Dachau concentration camp for example and would never talk about his experience)and current western actions when seen through Russian eyes are particularly menacing. Sadly neither side wishes or wants to understand the other.

Hopefully Russia will become a normal country at peace with itself and its neighbours


I would like to concur that the Ottoman thesis is a fiction created by the Greek right-wing to lament the 'un-European' character of the Greeks. It's part of a complex narrative whose main aim is to subjugate the working classes by instilling the notion that they are backwards Orientals which only the Western-educated elite can lead and tell them what to do.

If the Ottoman thesis was true one would expect that for example the Ionian islands which were always under Western sovereigns would not exhibit those traits. There is no evidence that there are or were at any time after the union fewer tax evaders or corruption cases in the Ionian islands, even before the population mixed with the rest of Greece (actually according to Transparency International, despite their iffy ratings, corruption perception is almost the highest in the Ionian islands than anywhere in Greece).

Furthermore, as FromArse to Elbow said, tax collection was a much more local thing back in the Ottoman days and as such tax evasion efficiency should exhibit wide divergences across different areas. This is also nowhere to be seen. Tax evasion I believe is simply the result of the failure to build inclusive institutions for the entire Greek population and the subsequent spread of tax evasion as a social norm even among strata that were not necessarily excluded.


@asiangeo: "All nations have national myths based on a version of the truth and folk memory and this shapes their actions..."

This is a great truth, indeed. These orally transmitted myths, totally un-scientific and obviously biased remain stratified in the collectivity either consciously (and can lead to various forms of unpredictable behavior, e.g. Venetian or Scottish independence movements) or as unconscious ghosts which only await some kind of external trigger - a charismatic orator, a traumatic event - in order to resurface.
Then they are further propagated / amplified through word of mouth (family, social acquaintances) and social rituals both on and offline, with internet being a greatly efficient amplifier of partisan feelings and behaviors.


"Germany's experience of hyper-inflation in the 1920s makes them inflation nutters today"
Really? German households have latterly been net savers, with stagnant real wages. They tend to rent, and even those who do own their own homes didn't see house price rises in the 2000s before the crisis. Before that an inflation averse Bundesbank appeared to be a linch-pin of post-war success. This surely explains their inflation aversion, not some folk memory of the 1920s.


I think you're right to draw attention to this mechanism. I bet more examples are hiding in plain sight.


Russia is best understood as in a place like that of early 19th century France.

When Napoleon Bonaparte fell from power he was most unpopular as his imperial wars had failed and destroyed French living standards but his grandson became president of the second republic and then dictator using nostalgia for the great man. People do remember the past but often in a rosy and unrealistic way.

Putin has placed himself at the head of a personality cult based around the idea of a new Russian empire. Paid for by petrodollars (or petroeuros) based on right wing nationalism and authoritarianism.

The idea that Russia is being encircled by hostile powers or has anything to fear from the EU, or Ukraine joining the EU, is just hogwash. Having to drink French wine or eat Parmesan is not a threat to anyone.

The EU are paying for the Kremlin by buying Russian Gas.

What is a threat is the racist war monger ideology of national bolshevism built around the idea that Stalinism was not so bad as the USSR and its Tsarist predecessor defended russians and made them strong. This is a threat and is really no different to the ideas popular under the Weimar republic leading to the rise of Hitler. When Russia gets rid of this nasty little man and his lap dog lavrov and gets a liberal democracy people in Russia will be much better of but they need to stop being duped by this rosy nostalgia for greatness that benefited only mainly a few like all Imperial projects.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad