Musings of a Russophile: Russians share responsibility for Volga tragedy

© Photo : Masha Simonian Frederick Andresen
Frederick Andresen - Sputnik International
The Volga tragedy! Where to begin? I could turn away like some of my Russian friends, saying, “Just another Russian tragedy.”

The Volga tragedy! Where to begin? I could turn away like some of my Russian friends, saying, “Just another Russian tragedy.”

Or I could be breathless in disbelief, like others of my Russian friends when we heard that two riverboats passed the drowning passengers off the Bulgaria without lending a helping hand. Inconceivable! These kinds of disasters happen on occasion around the world and I have never heard of people not helping to save lives. What does this tell us about Russia? From a current perspective? From a cultural perspective? It is an insult to the whole country. But the country can’t just cast blame.

The saying that so quickly came to mind is the common Russian response to a challenge to act: “It is not my responsibility.” Those responsible for this accident are identified and will surely be prosecuted. They should be. Yet, I suspect not one of them would have taken part in the launch of this broken ship, if they knew even one, let alone more than a hundred men, women and children, would die a horrible death. Yet, that congenital avoidance of personal responsibility surfaces again and again as the excuse for improper decisions and lack of thoughtful and correct human action.

But it is that incredible decision of the captains and crews of those two ships that passed by and watching the crying passengers reaching for help just motored on—that has shocked so many of us. That made me angry! Yes, they may now have guilty consciences, but they also may have said at the time, “It is not my responsibility.” Why, oh why, didn’t they help? I read the captains have been arrested – but for what? Their act was a moral crime. Is not Russia a Christian nation? Then where is the Golden Rule? “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Responsibility to our fellow man? After asking myself this I read the comments of Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and I was pleased to see him at least absolutely right in his questions about this avoidable disaster. He said, "What is happening today is an insult to the government, to society, to the entire people, and we must not see this calmly as just one more accident. We must pluck up courage, use our willpower, our financial resources to prevent possible disasters of this kind in the future." But where is the action to teach individual integrity and responsibility at a common level? Often that is taught in the church as well as the family and schools. Is the outdated “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationalism” still more important? Fatalism robs the soul of purpose and promise.

One is reminded of the destructive fires of 2010 and the reported unreadiness to handle potential wildfires due to the Kremlin’s elimination of the Russian State Fire Service in 2007, putting 70,000 forestry guards out of work. Because of the recent aircraft crashes, President Dmitry Medvedev has admitted the decrepit condition of the Russian aircraft fleet. Hard to believe! Russia can make great aircraft. There is much in the media now about the ancient Soviet era infrastructure and the present day corruption and lack of governmental responsibility to face these threats and change it all. Billions have flown into foreign banks while the national economy has disintegrated, surviving only on natural resources, all controlled by corrupt business interests and central government.

Yet what is the lesson to be learned and will it be learned by not only the men in control, but by the ordinary Russian? After all, eventually, it is at this citizen level where the responsibility must be assumed, practiced, and insisted upon. That is how a democracy works, if that is what Russians want. And many observers agree that the great effect of today’s increasingly borderless world and the unifying influence of global communication is the establishment of an informed and interactive individual. That is what catches the Russian mindset off guard.

Russia has so much to offer. One editorial reached a bitter, but habitual Russian conclusion after the Volga disaster: "But nothing will change¬ even in time for the next drama." But change is absolutely necessary. And if it does happen, it will not be by central command, regardless of well-meaning Skolkovo-style initiatives. It will happen when the ordinary Russian accepts responsibility not only for his personal progress, but also the cares and concerns of his fellow beings, and his great nation.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Musings of a Russophile: A people not to be trifled with

Musings of a Russophile: Russians and Americans - A good team

Musings of a Russophile: Heroic Writers -The Pen Mightier than the Gun

Musings of a Russophile: The “pleasures” of the banya

Musings of a Russophile: The Contract and The Rule of Thumbs

Musings of a Russophile: Russia and China – Next Generation or Today?

Musings of a Russophile: “The Will of Heaven” or “Swaying the destinies of half the globe”

Musings of a Russophile: “The Mechanical Piano” plays a familiar tune

Musings of a Russophile: Babushkas Rule

Musings of a Russophile: Meeting a Hero from the Elbe

Musings of a Russophile: Discipline?

Musings of a Russophile: Authority

Musings of a Russophile: The Massage

Musings of a Russophile: The Train to Helsinki

Musings of a Russophile: Point-of-view from under the bushes

Musings of a Russophile: Change and the Big Mac

Musings of a Russophile: The Vodka Curse

Musings of a Russophile: Russians - First in Space

Musings of a Russophile: A Peek into the Noble Past

Musings of a Russophile: A Land of Walls and Windows

Musings of a Russophile: What makes a Russian tick?

Musings of a Russophile: The Mystery of the Missing Stopper

Musings of a Russophile: Statistics know everything!

Musings of a Russophile: St. Petersburg - a city of cats

Musings of a Russophile: Moscow – a city of dogs

Musings of a Russophile: Russian art - as I see it

Musings of a Russophile: Our guys and their guys

Musings of a Russophile: Walking on ice

Musings of a Russophile: Good sisters make good families – usually

Musings of a Russophile: A Real Russian City

Musings of a Russophile: Chekhov Lives... at 20 Gorky St.

Musings of a Russophile: Russian music, like Russian literature, is always excited about something

Musings of a Russophile: Suddenly

Musings of a Russophile: "Never Talk to Strangers"

Musings of a Russophile: Everything is difficult—and everything is possible

Musings of a Russophile: What Is To Be Done?

Musings of a Russophile: An Inconvenience of Geography

Musings of a Russophile: What is it about October?

Musings of a Russophile: What is a Russophile?


The column is about the ideas and stories generated from the 20 years the author spent living and doing business in Russia. Often about conflict and resolution, these tales at times reveal the “third side of the Russian coin.” Based on direct involvement and from observations at a safe distance, the author relates his experiences with respect, satire and humor.

Frederick Andresen is an international businessman and writer with a lifetime of intercultural experience in Asia and for the last twenty years in Russia. He now lives in California and is President of the Los Angeles/St. Petersburg Sister City Committee . While still involved in Russian business, he also devotes time to the arts and his writing, being author of “Walking on Ice, An American Businessman in Russia” and historical novellas.


To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала