Cold Peace

Cedric Durand in the New Left Review’s Sidecar:

Petrov’s Flu (2021), the latest film by Kirill Serebrennikov, opens with a depiction of a crowded commuter bus in Russia. The atmosphere is febrile, almost violent. In the grip of a fever, the protagonist suffers a coughing fit and moves to the back of the vehicle. Following closely behind him, another passenger shouts, ‘We used to get free vouchers for a sanatorium every year. It was good for the people. Gorby sold us out, Yeltsin pissed it away, then Berezovsky got rid of him, appointed these guys, and now what?’ He concludes that ‘All those currently holding to power should be shot’. At this point, the protagonist steps off the bus and enters a daydream in which he joins a firing squad that executes a group of oligarchs.

‘These guys’ refers to Putin and his clique, while ‘now what?’ is a question that weighs heavily on the country they’ve created. What kind of society is contemporary Russia, and where is it headed? What are the dynamics of its political economy? Why did they spark a devastating conflict with its closely entwined neighbour? For three decades, cold peace reigned in the region, with Russia and the rest of Europe swimming together in the icy waters of neoliberal globalization. In 2022, following the invasion of Ukraine and the West’s economic and financial sanctions, we have entered a new era, in which the delusions that animated the country’s market transition have become impossible to sustain.

More here.