Fixing the World. Valery Panyushkin on the heating collapse

20 January 2024

by Valery Panyushkin


There have been major emergencies involving light, water, and heat this winter in half of Russia’s regions. In Podolsk, outside Moscow, 20,000 people are in bitter cold without heating; in Novosibirsk, 14,000 people in 237 buildings. In Lipetsk, 10,000 are freezing in 282 buildings. In Saratov, the heating has been turned off in 650 buildings, as well as in schools and hospitals.

Everyone who talks about this communal collapse — from the odiose Deputy Gurulev to liberal political scholar Belkovsky — talks about money. They’re saying funds should have been invested for a long time and consistently into updating heating and water systems, but the money was either not allocated, or else stolen, or else sent to produce tanks and ballistic missiles.

All this about money is correct, but I think a no less important reason for the collapse has been the shortage of people. As it so happens, nearly every day the plane accidents that occur are also connected not only to the shortage of imported spare parts but also to the shortage of people at work repairing everything on earth. That’s just how the world is made. It requires constant repairs, otherwise everything goes down the tubes.

That everything on earth needs constant repairing you understand when you start living in your own home. I have five years of that experience. In an urban apartment building somehow you just don’t think about the fact that the day-to-day work never ends. Everything seems fine with the water pipes, but you have to change the filters and monitor the pressure, otherwise they break. The sewage system seems to be in working order, but you have to clean it out prophylactically once a year because three years ago you didn’t and it backed up and for three whole days you had to do your business in the bushes. Every spring, you have to clear last year’s leaves from the roof, otherwise the gutters get clogged, the rain damages the walls, and mold starts growing in the corners. In the winter you have to clear the snow, not only to walk but also so that the van that brings the gas for the gas tank can get through. . . . This requires constant care. The owner has to be a capable person who keeps all this in his head. Or else has to hire a capable person. And anyone who has lived in a private home knows there is a shortage of these capable people. If you have a hundred buildings in a village and one sensible plumber, all the inhabitants will have a good water supply. If there isn’t a plumber, then they’re done for. Let’s say three hundred people live in a hundred houses. This means that the one sensible plumber for the town comprises just 0.3% of the population. Take away that 0.3% and you have collapse.

Now let’s admit that since the war began a minimum of a million people have been removed from Russia’s economy.

Those pacifists who left and did not come back are sensible people, we have to admit, because they were able to start their life in emigration, proved useful somehow, and found an occupation despite the unfamiliar culture and foreign language.

The half-million who according to official data were enlisted in the army are also sensible people for the most part. Prisoners, mercenaries from private military companies, and criminals make up an insignificant percentage of the army. The majority of soldiers are normal, capable guys who maybe don’t understand politics and maybe have been taken in by propaganda, but normal and capable. Incapable ones could not have constructed a “Surovikin line,” could not have supplied food and ammunition in a timely fashion.

Let’s not analyze their moral rightness or wrongness now, let’s establish one thing: they are capable people, they have been removed from the country’s economy, and there are at least a million, maybe two of them, counting soldiers and emigrants together.

According to data from Rosstat [Federal Statistics Service], the able-bodied male population in Russia is 43 million in all. Rosstat has no statistics on how many of the able-bodied men can be considered sensible. The war has removed 2-3% of the able-bodied male population from Russia’s economy. And what percent has the war removed from the sensible able-bodied population?

Here you have your collapse!

Translated by Marian Schwartz

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