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PODCAST: Apartment living in the new Russia … and a $120K email

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Apartments in St Petersburg. Russia

A big chunk of this week’s podcast is taken up with discussing  how worried we should be about the defamation case taken by the chairman of a small strata building in Manly (you can read all about it here), and what that means to those of us who like nothing more than firing off angry emails to vent our spleen at the powers that be in our apartment blocks.

But before that, our regular correspondent Sue Williams has just returned from a trip to Russia where apartment living is much more common than here – but is a very different experience.

And off air we were told a story that might explain why President Vladimir Putin is so popular in Russia today.

Back in the days before the fall of the USSR, everybody in Russian cities lived rent free in admittedly tiny apartments provided by the government. People were not allowed to own property as that went against Russian Communist principles.

After the fall in 1991,  people were basically given the flat they lived in, to own.  But then the criminal gangs started moving in and residents were told they’d be given a house in the outskirts of the cities, or somewhere else entirely, but they had to give their city flat to the mobsters. Those who refused often met a grisly fate.

Enter Former KGB chief Putin, who rode to power in 1999 on the back of a tough law and order program. Ruthless and resourceful, he was able to turn the gangsters’ fear tactics back on them and suddenly Russian people were no longer afraid of being thrown out of their own homes.

Now, what has happened since that is that Putin, according to some observers, has reached an understanding with the higher echelons of the “Vory” as the Russian Mafia is often known, that as long as they don’t represent  a threat to the state, they can go about their nefarious business  – although the low-level criminals will still be investigated and prosecuted when a case can be made.

But in the meantime, President Putin has the undying gratitude of his people who can turn a blind eye to the excesses of the super-rich oligarchs because they feel safe, resulting in a 75 per cent vote in favour at the last Russian election.

Whether or not that story is entirely true is worthy of some conjecture, but the fact that many Russians love Putin because they see him as the tough guy who made them feel safer explains a lot – including why Donald Trump is so keen to get himself some of that Putin magic.

You can hear Sue Williams impressions of what it’s like to live in an apartment in Russia in this week’s podcast. By the way, subscribers to our podcasts will have received this a couple of days ago (partly because I am writing this from a little town three hours out of Tokyo).

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