Shantrapa: An Insight into Putin’s Russia

(2) putin on horsePaul Krugman in the NY Times wrote about Putin’s bubble bursting. It got me thinking of an article that I had read about the Ukrainian “shantrapa” that was written about four years ago. Putin’s in trouble now because his cronies have stolen all Russia’s wealth and invested it abroad in their own names. That was not unique to Russia, it would appear that Ukraine would quickly try to emulate it.

Here is the article that’s dated but very much relevant to present day Russia but it also gives an insight into the desperation that brought the Ukrainian people onto the streets of Maidan as the cold winter was descending on that country last year which resulted in the overthrow of their President Victor Yanukovich.

The article written on February 11, 2011, tells about the “shantrapa”.  That word “shantrapa” “broadly used in Soviet slang to define petty thugs or, as a dictionary more politely suggests, “worthless persons.” The word had arguably come from the French ne chantera pas, meaning will not sing. It referred to actors who lacked a singing voice and were used in operas as mere figureheads – just to give the appearance of a huge chorus on the stage. In actuality, one dictionary claims, the word originated from the Czech šantrok, šаntrосh (“liar”) and old German santrocke (“fraud”).”

I suppose the better definition of it would be a loyal thug. The shantrapa take advantage of any situation where law and order has no meaning and those with the most brazen and cruel attitudes survive as long as they adhere to the party-in-power line.

The author of the article Mykola Riabchuk was writing about what was happening in Ukraine after Victor Yanukovych of the Party of the Regions (Regions) became president of Ukraine. Yanukovych was a former thug himself having been convicted and imprisoned for robbery and assaults.

One of his supporters who ended up having disagreements with Yanukovych and who resigned from the Regions said that under him: “shantrapa reigns unchecked. First, they pillage en masse, and second, they shut up all opponents… Here we have an absolute lawlessness (bespredel) at the level of local authorities, law-enforcement agencies, and so on” “

The author noted that the rise of the shantrapa in Ukraine was following what had already happened in Russia: “The phenomenon is barely new. Long ago, it was observed in Russia where critics of Putin’s regime argued that he created an atmosphere of lawlessness and brutality, so familiar and convenient for the post-Soviet elite that he did not necessarily need to commission the murder of Politkovskaya, or Estemirova, or other human rights activists. He just signaled to society that revolutionary expediency, not the law, reigned supreme, and that all the enemies of the regime should be cooled off in “cesspools.” This was a clear message to all the thugs both inside and outside the government that they had a free hand to decide arbitrarily who was the enemy and when and how they should be cooled off.”

Riabchuk points to several examples to demonstrate how the shantrapa were then utilizing their power in Ukraine. One stuck in my mind for a long time. Some members of the opposition parties were savagely beaten by these thugs and “were hospitalized with broken limbs.” The matter came up before the Ukrainian Parliament and one of the Regions’ bosses Mykhaylo Chechetov said: “There was no beating. Probably they broke their own heads against the wall and now try to accuse us”

The ability to state outrageous and boldfaced lies without hesitation, doubt or embarrassment was always for me the sign of a thug or criminal. Communists excel in this. So do the present day tyrants.

Unfortunately when the only crime in a country becomes disloyalty to the party in power like in present day Russia the message is sent out that the loyalists can “tear and screw off whatever they wish and whoever they feel appropriate.” The other message that is sent out is that is very dangerous to be in the opposition. Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s most prominent critic of Putin faces ten years in prison for his opposition.


2 thoughts on “Shantrapa: An Insight into Putin’s Russia

  1. It is interesting to reflect on how Russia’s privatization and the consequent widespread theft of state property resulted from the advice of Harvard’s Economics Department.

    “Pointy-headed Liberals” like Jeffrey Sachs, for example.

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