Doomsday?

Prominent Russian writers express pessimism about the future of Russia and the world. Some of their readers perceive the dark expectations as presentiment of an impending Doomsday, while others simply see a literary trend, psychologically rooted in rapidly increasing social, political and technological changes. Centuries ago, it took several generations for the world to change. Today, the world can be turned upside down several times within a single generation. Utopian or dystopian predictions are often reflections on present problems in society. Presented here are
four works of Russian fiction that look to the future.

Day of the Oprichnik

VLADIMIR SOROKIN
52, author of The Norm, The Queue, Blue Lard and many other bestselling works, all controversial
Prediction made in 2006 for 2028

Prediction

After the monarchy is re-established in Russia, it erects a replica of the Great Wall of China to isolate itself from the West. The country is split in half from east to west by the Great Route, a ten-lane highway with an underground speed railway. China has become the world's leading manufacturer, and its commodities travel along the Route constantly.

The Lenin Mausoleum has been demolished and the red-brick Kremlin painted white. Lubyanka Square, which, during Soviet times, contained a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky (the founder of the Bolshevik secret police), now boasts a monument to Malyuta Skuratov, a ruthless torturer and right-hand man of Tsar Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century.

Russia has revived the heinous ways of Ivan the Terrible and reestablished Tsar Ivan's Life-Guards, the Oprichnina, notorious for their atrocities and recruited from petty nobility. The Oprichniks dash around in their Chinese-made red Mercedes. Executions and floggings are held in public, while commoners and aristocrats alike hang from city arches. Oprichniks have become ideological supervisors and insatiable racketeers of businesses, with interests in the Great Route. They speak a jargon that parodies the Russian language of Tsar Ivan's time. For example, the television is referred to as the "news chest."

Grounds for Prediction

Sorokin, the brilliant social critic, is far less alarmed by consumerism than by contemporary Russia's quest for ethnic identity, which, according to him, is permeated by the three Ps: petroleum exports, piety and paternalism tinged with monarchist nostalgia.

2008

SERGEI DORENKO
48, television presenter
Prediction made in 2005 for 2008

Prediction

Shortly before the 2008 presidential election, Vladimir Putin converts to Taoism and Chinese masters settle in his country residence, a pagoda at Novo-Ogarevo. During meditation sessions pervaded by intoxication from incense, he holds conversations with the King of Hell, Yanlo Wang, who personifies irrevocable and incorruptible justice. The president is also visited by a wise salmon with whom he discusses existential problems and a more pragmatic subject - the succession of power.

Meanwhile, Boris Berezovsky's men plan his assassination. Another tycoon, Roman Abramovich, secretly makes a plan to establish a Russian Salvation Committee, which would restore Putin to the presidency soon after the election.

All plots crumble as Putin flees to China to seek advice from Wang Liping, a Tao patriarch. Chechen terrorists use the occasion to seize Obninsk, a power plant close to Moscow. As the city is thrown into panic, Putin rushes back, but only too late. By then, the Russian Salvation Committee has emerged and seized power. Not wanting to cede power to the president, they arrest Putin and confine him to an underground bunker. While George W. Bush prepares to send Marines to Russia - ostensibly for a rescue and peacekeeping mission - the KGB destroys its archives. National Bolsheviks (a radical left-wing political party) seize the Kremlin, and tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is appointed Prime Minister.

Grounds for Prediction

As the 2008 presidential election approaches, the Russian public is tense, even though it is clear who the next president will be. Conjectures now proceed into the possible turns the situation may take during his presidency.

The Mosque of Notre Dame de Paris

YELENA CHUDINOVA
48, Orthodox Christian, writer
Prediction made in 2005 for 2048

Prediction

Although the Western world has welcomed Muslim immigrants, they now rise against their adoptive countries to trample Christian Europe, renaming it Eurabia and outlawing Christianity.

As most European countries are violently converted to Islam, ethnic Europeans huddle together in ghettos. The Notre Dame de Paris becomes a mosque and Sharia courts are used to administer merciless justice. A Frenchman is stoned to death in front of the Arc de Triomphe for clandestine production of wine.

Greece manages to preserve Christianity at the expense of humiliating tributes paid to Muslim Europe. Poland, the pillar of Catholicism, leaves the European Union and hosts Russian military bases while Russia preserves its Orthodox traditions.

Grounds for Prediction

Tolerant of Muslim religion and customs, Europe is being flooded by Muslim immigrants. Chudinova comments on this trend: "Europe has given up its Christian ideals and now recedes under Muslim advances. My book shows where this may lead."

"This is nothing new. Take Ancient Rome: Romans were skeptical about everything. They enjoyed the same comforts we do today, even greater, perhaps. They were post-modernist, just as we are today. Their literature was refined to the utmost. Then barbarians came and stabbed all those liberal-minded sybaritic highbrows right in their bathtubs. Barbarians always attack when civilized people become too comfortable and, therefore, indifferent to the world."

Metro 2033

DMITRY GLUKHOVSKY
30, Kremlin reporter, foreign affairs specialist, former war correspondent
Prediction made in 2005 for 2033

Prediction

The world has just suffered a nuclear war; contamination and radiation destroy all surface life on earth. All who stay above ground face death or mutation. Muscovites take refuge in the metro, whose formidable doors keep radiation and aggressive mutants out.

The few surviving engineers construct underground water filtering stations and power plants. Metro dwellers tend mushroom farms, breed pigs and engage in commerce. However, warfare becomes a favorite pastime. The metro soon divides into tiny city-stations, known as "metropolitanates," each with a political system of its own. Instead of joining hands for survival and fighting rats, bellicose mutants and abject poverty, the stations wage war on each other. Coalitions come and go, as recent allies become sworn enemies.

Grounds for Prediction

Glukohvsky states: "I do not think another cold war is far off. Every news story reads like a dystopian thriller about World War Three. Confrontation gets tougher with every passing day. Russia is reluctant to meet the West halfway, and its foreign policy is becoming increasingly independent."

He remarks that it is "no wonder [that] the West is becoming paranoid, as are Russians. The West wants to deploy its missile defense system in Poland. Russia strikes back by threatening to quit the CFE treaty. Russia talks of military threats nonstop and alleges that America has resumed the arms race. American television says the Putin regime is becoming unmanageable."

He concludes that "mutual trust is dwindling. It's hard to say who is to blame. A nuclear conflict was hardly possible during the 1970s and 1980s. Now, there is a far greater chance of that happening."

Material prepared by Anna Starobinets, Moscow (first published in the magazine Russky Reporter)

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