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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Unglamorous Uzbekistan

A few hipsters post texts on the Internet that are written in appalling Russian. The web is loaded with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, and most of us learned to ignore them long ago. Then one fine day, the folks at Russian Newsweek decided to gather some of the clumsiest and most awkward of these mistakes and declare this mess the future of the Russian language.

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This discovery apparent stunned the magazine's staff to such an extent that they decided to make it the cover story. thought the Newsweek article was so sensational that it appeared on the web site as breaking news.

You can find dozens of new dialects out in cyberspace. There is only one way to spell things correctly, but there are a plethora of possible misspellings. People can distort language as they see fit. They do it because they are ignorant, snobbish or simply pressed for time. Often, they are all three.

You have to sympathize a bit with the writers and editors at Russian Newsweek, who spent so much time and energy studying this phenomenon. However, there is one aspect of the situation that forces us to look at this article a bit differently. In the very same issue that featured the expose on how to trash Russian, another article appeared that discussed the mass shootings in Andijan, Uzbekistan. This was not front-page news. It did not merit mention on the magazine's cover. The events in Uzbekistan were allotted only one-fourth of the space that was dedicated to the latest gems of the illiterate Internet.

But then again, who really cares what happened in Andijan? Sure, soldiers shot into the crowd and killed as many as 800 people and then buried their bodies in a park. The people in question likely earned around $20 a month, and they were hardly good consumers. Advertising would have been lost on them. None of them were familiar with the latest craze. There was not a single star among them.

Members of the cultural middle class expressed the requisite sympathy and grief and then got back to more interesting matters. Thinkers close to the Kremlin made the requisite call for tough measures. Their bloodthirsty statements only partially concealed their apathy. "It was obvious in a second that these people had never killed anyone," an officer of the General Staff's Main Intelligence Directorate told me after watching yet another talking head on television.

Political commentators' wisdom was limited to a variation on the themes of Islam, geopolitics, democracy, the war against terror and Russia's interests. In passing, they referred to "the poverty of the masses," but with such lofty concepts being tossed around, this seemed like a minor detail. And it was not all that interesting for the talking heads. They did not seem able to put themselves in the shoes of someone earning only $20 a month. It is a lot easier to talk about geopolitical forces vying for power.

Some said that Islamic radicals who were pushing the people to revolt were behind the uprising. Others insisted that it was all Uzbek President Islam Karimov's fault, as he led the country into poverty and repressed the opposition. Yet Uzbekistan is not a rogue state and is not in outer darkness economically. On the contrary, by international standards, Uzbekistan's economy is developing rapidly.

But unfortunately, Uzbekistan's successful statistics do not make people's lives any better. They are doomed to live in poverty and thereby support the economy. For this reason, the Uzbeks themselves are the biggest threat to the country's economic success. To keep people from getting in the way of the economy, you have to do some shooting now and then.

Unfortunately, Uzbekistan is an example of the extremes of the same system people are trumpeting on a daily basis in Russia. Karimov is just playing tougher than the Russian authorities or, of course, than the officials in the enlightened West. But he is playing by exactly the same rules.

In France, for example, no one would think of shooting at demonstrators protesting the EU Constitution. People are given the right to a referendum, which has become practically impossible in Russia. But the principles of the EU Constitution, of contemporary Russian law and of Uzbek law and order are the same. Success, efficiency, the market and competition are angry gods who demand human sacrifices.

If the commentators here had a bit more sympathy for their neighbors, perhaps they would realize something about their own country.

Boris Kagarlitsky is director of the Institute for Globalization Studies.