From Soviet times and through the present, ordinary Russians' descriptions of their Belarusian neighbors have spoken of a calm, organized and disciplined people. Russian internet regularly flashes with excitement over YouTube videos showing tourists to Belarus commenting on how fallow fields and villages in disrepair on the Russian side of the border are soon replaced with tidy villages, tractors in the fields and neat haystacks on the Belarusian side. ... This sense of calm and collectedness seems to translate to politics as well, with Belarusians proving themselves again and again to be averse to revolutionary political fervor. While Russians clamored for Yeltsin, who promised in 1990 that Russia would be richer and stronger independently, Ukrainians voted in their majority for independence in 1991, nine months after a majority had voted to stay. Unlike its two East Slavic brothers, Belarusians did not have a powerful revolutionary leader, nor did they hold a referendum. ... Unlike Ukraine, which has gone from one of Europe's greatest industrial and agricultural powerhouses to a failing state within a quarter century, Belarus preserved its Soviet economic legacy, and built on it. The country was the first in the former Soviet space to restore its Soviet-era economic and social indicators, preserving its massive state industries and saving and investing in its agricultural sector. Belarusian tractors, refrigerators, meat and potatoes continue to find an eager market in Russia, while Ukraine, once known for world-class airplanes, advanced rocketry, metallurgy, and agricultural goods, struggles to obtain basic ISO certification for its products.Leads me to a new thought about the meaning of a word that I use a lot: Experimental. We restless Westerners are accustomed to calling ourselves Experimentalists. We get tired when things work properly, so we do risky shit to make things work badly or to blow the whole fucking universe up. We pick up some bizarre theory that has already been disproved a trillion times. We follow the theory until it inevitably fails or smashes a considerable piece of the universe. Then we get crazier, picking up an even wilder delusion. Exponential, not experimental. Always heading away from centerline, constantly accelerating. This is not Nature's version of experimentation. This is not why Nature equipped all living things with the ability to try new shit. Nature's purpose is to find the optimum, to reach an asymptote given current conditions, and stay there. When current conditions change, we sense the pull of a delta, and we try small changes until we reach a new asymptote. Tanh. Always heading toward optimum. Belarus is a Tanh Country. Experimentalists in the proper natural way. They realized that the Soviet system was working well enough, and semi-dependence on Russia was working well enough. They had useful jobs and their products were bringing in cash from outside. Good enough. Make small adjustments, stay there. Tanh. Relevant sidenote: Belarus tractors have been a familiar sight in Kansas and Oklahoma since the '70s. They weren't considered foreign or Commie; they were just good tractors. And just for fun, Youtube is full of old Belarus tractors getting the damn job done under all sorts of impossible conditions. Search for "MTZ-52" or "MTZ-82".
Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.