Life in Russia under sanctions may look like a journalist found in Iran

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Russians are proud people. Iranians too. That’s not all they have in common.

They are the two most sanctioned countries in the world. Russia has just pushed the Islamic Republic back to first place. When Russia launched its first war in Ukraine, many Russians said they feared they would soon join the ranks of Iran and North Korea. So Russian journalist Alexei Pivovarov traveled to Tehran to learn what life is like in a rogue state. His YouTube upload got over 4 million views.

“Hi, folks,” he said in the opening sequence. “We are in Tehran, the capital of Iran. I think you understand why we are here.”

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Alexei Pivovarov in Iran.  (Credit: Redakstia)
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Alexei Pivovarov in Iran. (Credit: Redakstia)

Pivovarov and his film crew moved through the streets of the city, visiting outdoor markets, covered markets, talking to people. He said he learned you could find just about anything you desperately needed, but said much of that likely required a circuitous trip to Iran. For luxury goods not available in stores, Iranians with means but without visas to travel abroad employ designated “buyers” who filled suitcases with special orders while traveling abroad.

Pivovarov found that while Iran managed to acquire desperately needed new planes in that small sanctions reprieve window after the Iran nuclear deal was signed but before former President Trump walked away retires, the county won’t be able to get them serviced now that things have slipped back. Thus, Iran has resorted to a sort of aviation organ donor system: when an aircraft is taken out of service, any parts that remain viable are used for the next aircraft in need.

Pivovarov spoke to TASS man in Tehran, Nikita Smagin, who said sanctions had pushed Iran to refine its own essence, which ironically it hadn’t done much before and was not doing apparently not well.

“A very big smog appeared over Tehran,” he told Pivovarov. “It’s because the gasoline is of very poor quality, and that’s one of the big environmental problems in Iran.”

One of the highlights of Pivovarov’s trip: a stop at the money changer who gave him 37 million rials for $150, he said, holding the huge stack of banknotes in front of the camera. Russia’s ambassador to Iran said at least the two countries are looking forward to expanding mutual cooperation in the current environment, but admitted that Russia is unlikely to be a lifeline for the tourism industry beleaguered Iran, largely because of the drinking ban.

If Pivovarov reflects on what the future of Russia might look like, Maxim Trudolyubov analyzes its past and the lessons that have not been learned.

Trudolyubov is editor-in-chief of Meduza, one of Russia’s most popular independent news agencies, branded a “foreign agent” by the Kremlin and operating in exile. He was also a senior researcher at the Kennan Institute for Russian Studies. Trudolyubov said the fact that Russia never fully addressed and blamed the crimes committed under Soviet rule meant that it never moved beyond a reality of KGB lies and state management.

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“What we see now in Ukraine is almost all the crimes of the Soviet state resurrected, in a way, from the grave. We have seen murders. We see attitudes towards our neighboring countries as a kind of ‘buffer state that has no right to sovereignty,’ Trudolyubov told Fox News.

He said Russia and Russians have long shaped their image on something easier than digging into the darker aspects of the past, and that was their victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

“It was sort of a universal ticket to kindness for many, many Russians. Russia and being on the right side of history, the moral position that comes with that. He still claims he’s fighting the Nazis, but everyone understands that’s a lie. It’s a pretext, a smokescreen to make him feel good.

Fox News asked Trudolyubov if he thought Putin’s aides, like his gracious Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, actually believed what they were saying about this war they wouldn’t call a war. Trudoly Iubov said he believed the propagandists had made some kind of change in mentality and that their posturing was in the same category as the government’s failure to deal with the bad times of the past.

“Blaming the state basically kills the state. It’s against Russia, it’s anti-Russian, it’s Russophobia, as they like to point out. So, from what I understand, Lavrov and all propagandists, especially those who partly believe what they say, subscribe to this kind of notion,” he said.

But, he added that he still believed they knew the truth.

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Both Russia and Iran have defied the sanctions they have faced, often saying they are bolstering domestic production and making them truly independent countries. But, even the TASS correspondent in Tehran said: Don’t get me wrong; no one wanted it.

“The Iranian people hope that they will not remain under sanctions. There is a consensus in Iran. It does not matter whether the forces are conservative or reformist, everyone says that the sanctions must be lifted and that normal development under them is not possible. is not possible,” he said.

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Pivovarov ended his piece with something like the following thought: there is always a way around sanctions, a workaround. But, what matters to citizens is whether the reason behind the sanctions is worth the sacrifice.

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