Monday 24 October 2022

Russia 1985–1999: TraumaZone - a review

I've reviewed Adam Curtis's new documentary Russia 1985–1999: TraumaZone for Quillette.

What we see is a country where people have been degraded by poverty and tyranny for decades, ruled over by an elite whose power is slipping away. Russia is being looted from within and without. Violence and nihilism reign. Everything is decrepit. Nothing works. Nobody knows what they are doing and nobody is coming to their rescue.

Restricted to the occasional caption and subtitle, Curtis refrains from editorialising. This cannot have been easy for him. I can picture him in the studio desperately resisting the urge to add a little sermon, particularly in the last episode. I couldn’t help wondering what he would say if he did. What does he want us to take away from these miles of videotape? Is it that communism and capitalism are as bad as each other? Or that capitalism requires stronger institutions and less corruption than the former Soviet Union could offer? Is he saying that a gangster like Putin has been able to maintain power for so long because Russians are scarred by their experience of freedom? Or has he simply decided that he is, first and foremost, an archivist?


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