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Bolshoi Scandal: Russia Still Struggling With Democracy

After the Soviet Union collapsed, merry western observers expected democracy to burst out across newly liberated Russia. Twenty disappointing years later, this optimism has all but disappeared, and few now expect a democratic transition is in the offing.

We received a crude reminder of this on Thursday when Sergei Filin, the artistic director of Moscow’s famous Bolshoi Theater’s ballet troupe, was attacked outside his home while exiting his car.

Fox News reports:

The artistic director of the Bolshoi Theater’s ballet troupe was splashed with acid and may lose his eyesight in an attack that the Bolshoi said appeared to be linked to struggles for influence at one of the world’s most famous ballet companies.

Filin knew that someone was trying to threaten him or undermine his position at the theater, [the theater’s general director Anatoly] Iksanov said. He said Filin’s car tires had been slashed earlier this week and he was targeted in early January by hackers who posted his professional correspondence online.

This story is certainly shocking, but at first glance it looks like a tragic but but bizarre workplace dispute and nothing more. But events like this are depressingly common in much of the country, and they offers a window into the harsh realities of life in post-Soviet Russia. Ruthless figures operating beyond the reach of the law create a situations in which honest people are at a disadvantage, not only in the upper reaches of government, but for ordinary individuals as well.

Those thinking of investing money in Russia, whether individual investors or foreign companies, should think carefully about stories like this one before jumping into a market they may not understand. If this is what quarrels at a ballet company look like, imagine how struggles over major corporations would look.

It takes courage to live decently in this tough part of the world, or to expose the toxicity within it, as journalists do. These people deserve our deepest admiration.

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