Kamil Galeev Profile picture
Jul 27, 2022 26 tweets 10 min read Read on X
Die Fürstenstadt

There was a Soviet joke:

- What is long, green and smells with sausage?
- Moscow-Tver train

Why? Well, under the USSR provincials had to go shopping to Moscow. Their shops had no food, often very literally. Today we'll learn an expression "supply category"🧵 Image
Under the centrally planned economy it was the state which supplied food to the localities. It would assign each city one of four "supply categories" determining how much food there will be on shelves. Moscow was supplied far better than anyone while cities like Tver - horribly Image
Provincial Soviet cities of the lower supply categories might have no food on the shelves at all. Sometimes very literally. Sometimes they would have only the scraps from the table of the higher status city: like some algae, or the disgusting paste "Ocean" Image
That's difficult for a modern Westerner to understand, so I need to reiterate it. When I say "there was no food", I don't mean delicacies. My friend from Moscow who visited Penza in the 1980s was shocked to see that the food shelves there were literally empty. Nothing to buy Image
How would people survive then? Well, now you get the purpose of dacha. It's not recreational, it's primarily the subsistence farming for food. Extremely tiresome and inefficient, but ppl in many localities had no choice. Shelves were empty, so you must grow potatoes etc. yourself Image
Second, grey sector. You may not grow food, but you could buy from someone who does or who steals. The USSR had a massive shadow economy which provided much of population with the means of subsistence. Much like the modern Russia. See Simon Kordonsky's writings on гаражный сектор Image
Of course, much of the shadow economy was just the side hustle of the state. For example, during the Holodomor you absolutely could buy food in Torgsin (="trade with foreigners"). In spite of their name, they were frequented by Soviet citizens. Except you couldn't pay with rubles Image
During the worst Stalin's famines, you could buy any food in Torgsin for the real values: gold, silver and of course the hard currency. That was the instrument of the Soviet state to milk the values out of it starving population. Bring gold, get food. Rubes are not accepted Image
In the late Soviet era this role was played by the "collective farm markets" (колхозные рынки). Even though the shop was empty, you still could buy food on these markets from the collective farm (= the state), but for the price several times higher than the official one Image
While the province had basic subsistence problems, Moscow was supplied lavishly. As a result, much of the country went to shop to Moscow, from hundreds or thousands of kilometres away on the so called "sausage trains". Muscovites hated these aliens for emptying "their" shops Image
Sausage trains were often organised by the regional enterprises. A factory would organise for its workers an "excursion" to "museums" of Moscow. In reality they're gonna shop. Saratov workers would come to Moscow to buy Saratov-produced food that was impossible to buy in Saratov Image
Moscow authorities would limit how much food you can get to "one hands" so that hungry provincials wouldn't buy everything. Provincials would not surrender. They would stand in the queue, make a purchase. Then stand in the back of the queue again and repeat. And again. And again Image
With the economic situation worsening, Moscow took tougher measures against provincials. In 1990 they introduced compulsory "purchaser cards" which only locals were getting. Letters "MA" mean Moscow - best category. If you were from Moscow Oblast, it would be MO which is okayish Image
Purchaser cards were introduced to exclude the hungry provincials from abundant Moscow shops. In reality personnel wouldn't always demand documents. They recognised provincials from how they are dressed and look like, so they asedk for a card only from suspiciously looking people Image
Sausage trains demonstrate that the key aspect of the "centrally planned economy" is the word "central". Centrally planned USSR was a hierarchical society of extreme inequality. It was your assigned status rather than cash that determined if you're allowed to buy food or not Image
Second, that they hierarchy and inequality had the geographical dimension. Those living closer to the centre for power were supplied lavishly. But in just two or three hours away there started a zone of extreme destitution. Another planet Image
Moscow is not an "economic" or "cultural" centre. It's what Max Weber would call a "Fürstenstadt": city built around a princely court and living off expenses of a prince, his officials and courtiers. Its modern prosperity is a function of its central status in the imperial system Image
That's why the economic effect of the war is so little visible in Moscow. The prince would make every possible expense and put every effort for maintaining the quality of life and the business as usual mindset in his Fürstenstadt. The rest of the empire can go fuck themselves Image
That also explains the destitution of much of the Russian empire. That's Arkhangelsk, the capital of Pomorye which had historically been the richest part of the country. All the resources are sucked from the region to feed the Fürstenstadt of enormous size and appetites Image
Russia is so poor because its Fürstenstadt is just too expensive to maintain. Moscow is a geographic anomaly among the cities of its size, being located so:

1) far north
2) deep inland and far from (used) navigable waterways
3) in a non-farming region

It's too expensive to feed Image
Almost all large cities of the world lie either close on the shore of the World Ocean (Rio de Janeiro) or close to it (Sao Paolo) or on actually used navigable waterways (Chicago). That makes logistics cheaper and the city easier to maintain Image
Those few cities that don't lie near the shore/on the navigable waterways lie amidst the highly fertile food producing regions. Examples: Mexico City, Bogota, Delhi. Expensive logistics pretty much sentence them to poverty. But the abundance of food make them sustainable, if poor Image
Moscow is different. It's located 700 kms away from the nearest seaport in St Petersburg. That looks far enough. In reality though cargo trains connecting Moscow with its seaport go by much longer circular way through Vologda and Yaroslavl. Direct route is occupied by Sapsan Image
Add to that that Moscow is a uniquely northern and cold megapolis. There are no cities of its size located so far north and on so infertile soils. This regions is called Нечерноземье, Not Black Soil, referring to its infertility in comparison to the Black Soil of the south Image
Add to that that this extremely bid and extremely expensive to feed Fürstenstadt should never ever feel the slightest worry and discomfort from the reckless imperial policies

wsj.com/articles/in-ru…
And you'll get why Moscow sucks its empire dry. It's just too expensive to feed. The insatiable appetites of the Fürstenstadt are a major reason for the decolonisation of the Russian Empire. End of 🧵 Image

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More from @kamilkazani

May 19
I have repeatedly pointed out that the modern Russian military industry has little continuity with the Soviet one. Destroyed in the 1990s, it was effectively created anew in the Putin's era. Still, it may sound too abstract, so I will zoom in on one specific example:

Stankomash Image
Located in Chelyabink, Stankomash industrial park hosts major producers for the nuclear, shipbuilding, oil & gas and energy industries. It also produces weaponry, including mine trawls and artillery ammunition (based on the open sources)

All under the umbrella of Konar company Image
Some examples of the Stankomash manufacture. These photos well illustrate the philosophy of Soviet/Russian dual use industry. In the peace time, you focus primarily on civilian products, in the war time you convert it all to the production of weaponry.


Image
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Read 27 tweets
May 17
No offence, but this is a completely imbecile, ignorant, ridiculous framing. I have no explanation for all this debate except for a complete & determined ignorance of the foreign policy making class, and their refusal to learn literally anything about the material world.
"Components" framing makes sense when we are discussing drones. Why? Because drones are literally made from the imported components. You buy like 90% of them in China, and may be you make like 10% domestically. For the most part, you just assemble what you bought in China.
Not the case with missiles. Most of what the missile consists of, including its most critical, hard to make parts is produced domestically. Why? Because you cannot buy it abroad. More often than not, you cannot buy it in China. You can only make it yourself, domestically.
Read 9 tweets
May 12
Contrary to the popular opinion, Andrey Belousov's appointment as a Minister of Defense makes perfect sense. From the Kremlin's perspective, war is primarily about industry & economy. Now Belousov is the central economic & industrial thinker (and planner) in the Russian gov.
Born into a Soviet Brahmin economist family, Belousov is an exceedingly rare case of an academician making a successful career in the Russian gov. Even more noteworthy, he rose to the position of power through his academic work and publications.

This is unique, ultra rare.Image
Belousov's career track:

1976-1981 Moscow State University ("economic cybernetics"). Basically, economics, but with the heavy use of then new computers.
1981-1986 Central Economic Mathematical Institute
1986-2006 Instutute of Economic Forecasting
2006-2024 Government
Read 8 tweets
May 7
If you want to imagine Russia, imagine a depressive, depopulating town. Now on the outskirts of a town, there is an outrageously over-equipped, overfunded strategic enterprise that has literally everything money can buy in the world. It feels like a spaceship from another planet
Strategic industry is extremely generously equipped. Western companies look scoundrels in comparison. That’s why I am so sceptical about the whole “corruption” narrative. Not that it’s wrong. It’s just that it is the perspective of a little, envious bitch.
What needs to be funded, will be funded. It will actually be overfunded and most literally drowned in money. Obviously, overfunding the strategic sector comes at the cost of underfunding almost everything else (like urban infrastructure). That’s why the town looks so grim.
Read 4 tweets
Apr 29
We have successfully documented the entire Russian missiles industry, mapping 28 of its key enterprises. Read our first OSINT sample focusing on the Votkinsk Plant, a major producer of intercontinental ballistic missiles. How does it make weaponry?


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The strategic missiles industry appears to be highly secretive and impenetrable to the observers. And yet, it is perfectly OSINTable, based on the publicly available sources. This investigation sample illustrates our approach and methodology (31 p.)

assets-global.website-files.com/65ca3387040186…
Image
Step 1. State Propaganda.

Our first and invaluable source is the state propaganda, such as the federal and regional TV channels, corporate media, social media and so on. It provides abundant visual evidence, particularly on the hardware used in the production of weaponry.Image
Image
Read 9 tweets
Mar 22
In August 1999, President Yeltsin appointed his FSB Chief Putin as the new Prime Minister. Same day, he named him as the official successor. Yet, there was a problem. To become a president, Putin had to go through elections which he could not win.

He was completely obscure.Image
Today, Putin is the top rank global celebrity. But in August 1999, nobody knew him. He was just an obscure official of Yeltsin's administration, made a PM by the arbitrary will of the sovereign. This noname clerk had like 2-3% of popular support

Soon, he was to face elections Image
By the time of Putin's appointment, Russia already had its most favoured candidate. It was Primakov. A former Yeltsin's Prime Minister who broke with Yeltsin to contest for power. The most popular politician in Russia with massive support both in masses and in the establishment. Image
Read 20 tweets

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