By on November 29, 2009

Angered by corrupt traffic police, a man drives his truck into a local police station (

When cars and politics collide, the results are rarely pretty. No wonder the political discussions here at TTAC so often rate amongst our most heated and community standards-challenging. Modern cars are machines of great power, facilitating a great deal of freedom but also carrying undeniable consequences, and their position in modern society demands a constant re-evaluation of their terms of use. Some of TTAC’s gripes on car-related policy may lead some to believe that we harbor ulterior political motivations for our coverage, but the truth of the matter is that our principles are simple and directly car-related. If our political coverage sometimes seems petty, it’s because American motorists have relatively little to complain about. In Russia, however, motorists find themselves under assault by import bans, draconian tax increases and corrupt traffic police. And as the New York Times documents, it takes a lot to push motorists into political awareness, but once pushed their eloquent defense of their automotive rights is nothing short of inspirational.

When motorists gather for a meeting, they don’t come out with political slogans. We have no ideology. It’s a revolt of people who are not satisfied — not for political reasons, not because our salaries have not been paid — but because something sacred has been taken from us, our car.

So says one Kiril Formanchuk, a lawyer who helped organize a campaign against traffic police corruption in Yekatrinburg. His cause, combined with last year’s Vladivostok anti-car-import-ban riot and opposition to a proposed doubling of car ownership taxes have galvanized motorists as a political class. So potent is their middle-class rage, that President Dimitri Medvedev recently overturned the proposed tax increase, against the wishes of his party United Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. In a country like Russia, where opposition is scarcely tolerated, this represents a rare concession by the ruling party. Opposition commentators have taken notice of this chink in the Kremlin’s armor, and are embracing the newly politicized motorists. Yuri Gladysh of the opposition site explains the power of this new constituency.

For a car, a Russian will simply bite through the throat of a passer-by. I know plenty of shop owners who in their hearts are prepared, if the state takes their business away, to return to some office job, with their Soviet-era diploma. But I don’t know a single motorist who would silently agree to the infringement of his rights

To which Novaya Gazeta’s Yuri Geyko adds:

My biggest shock was that these people were not poor. This was the middle class. These people, they did not go out into the street because they have nothing to eat. They went out into the street because they have a future.

For all the rhetoric that surrounds the right to bear arms in the United States, few could deny that cars are a far more relevant tool for the cause of freedom. But the eloquent defense of any right is almost always born of extreme pressure. Let’s be thankful then, that Americans enjoy the freedom of the automobile to such an extent that we can remain ambivalent to its politics. Even if some of us choose not to.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

12 Comments on “Russia And The Politics Of Car...”

  • avatar

    Bravo, Comrade.  But seriously, if Russian politicians had any understanding of human psyche, they would have expected this sort of reaction.

  • avatar

    Americans are ambivalent to automotive politics a their peril. It is automotive politics that gave us the 55 mph speed limit, cars with 16 airbags, power sapping pollution equipment and over 1000 lbs of extra weight and $4000 of extra cost to its vehicles.  Corrupt politicians impose ever more draconian restrictions on our right to drive such as “implied” consent laws, requirements for the SSN to be used as a primary identifier for motorists. Our fourth amendment rights to travel without unreasonable searches has been tattered  by sick, deviant vulture-class judges in black robes.
    Because the right to drive has been unconstitutionally reclassified as a privilege, there is no stopping this mess. Unless we exercise our first amendment rights to protest and redress grievances, you can look forward to photo cameras at every road sign monitoring your speed and locations and sending a bill in the mail, followed by license points and insurance increases.  This is all because some sneering  jackyl judge said “there is no expectation of privacy on a public street.” BS. You have every right to expect that you will not be tracked, followed and monitored by the government that is supposed to protect your rights. That doesn’t mean that the person sitting next to you won’t take a picture of you picking your nose.

  • avatar

    It’s sad to hear that the allure of the Internal Combustion Engine is spreading around the world.  The US ideal of one car for each driver isn’t sustainable.  Somewhere, somehow, a new ideal has to be started and be seen as better than horribly wasteful engines propelling single people around in large metal boxes.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I’ll have to disagree with you Edward. Automotive fascism is very alive and very well in the United States.
    Come visit my neck of the woods and watch the cops on motorcycles lined up along the side of the road EVERY SINGLE MORNING AND AFTERNOON FOR HOURS ON END. The random pulling over of drivers is done in the middle of the day on a 50 mph heavily congested major road (Barrett Parkway). The soul and solitary purpose of all this is to ‘inspect’ said vehicles and drivers in order to pony up revenues for the county.
    In the same county it is also now unlawful to park any ‘business vehicle’ on your own driveway. According to the local magistrate, this vehicle is essentially ‘any vehicle you use for your work, commuting or otherwise’. I found this out along with a $300 fine for having the nerve to park my very own car, a car that I own outright (not a bus, truck or other typical commercial vehicle), on my very own driveway. I was one of six residences on my street that was fined for what really amount to ‘revenue focused’ offenses involving automobiles and trailers.
    I think I should append what I just wrote. Apparently I now have permission to park my vehicle in my garage, on the street, or on a paved surface on the back or side of my house. But still not on my own driveway. This is what happens when politically financed douchebags start running the show.
    The kicker to all this was that the fellow who filed the complaint does not even live in my county. He’s a psychopath who  later threatened to blow the head off a Cobb County police officer and made 75 calls to 911 to that effect. The folks at code enforcement also altered the paperwork so that his name wouldn’t be included in the official report, and later the head of code enforcement said that they were being directly told by county officials to ‘search and find violations’ instead of focusing on actual complaints from the county residents.  That may explain why they’re visiting my neighborhood and filing three figured fines for folks who have the nerve to have one of their gardening trailer’s tires on a curb or having their RV on gravel (instead of government approved concrete).
    As an aside, the psychopath mentioned earlier ended up terrorizing my family whenever I was away from home and even made calls to my cell during the week of my father’s funeral. The investigator for this behavior also managed to bungle up the subopena for phone records, which apparently included the wrong telephone company. Inevitably the statute of limitations gave out. So, I will now be overjoyed to submit those phone records along with the recorded voice mail messages, and police reports to another county’s DA so that all this is properly dealt with.
    I will gladly see this jerk handed off to the local jailers and then, who knows? I may just go run for office against the county commissioner who is responsible for much of this mess. Either that and/or write about it for the benefit of our million plus unique visitors to the site. These public officials should get all the attention they truly deserve.
    Who thought life would ever be this interesting?

    • 0 avatar

      Steven, you live in Georgia.  When I lived in Georgia (Augusta area) I noticed it was local custom to park on the grass in your lawn.  The driveway was apparently for just that – driving.  Park on your lawn and avoid the fines.
      My wife to this day (in Virginia now) parks on the front lawn.

  • avatar

    For all the rhetoric that surrounds the right to bear arms in the United States, few could deny that cars are a far more relevant tool for the cause of freedom.

    One of the universal happy skips down the road to totalitarian regime, is restricting, then eliminating private gun ownership.

    My relatives fought the British just fine without cars.  But an armed citizenry is always the most effective final check and balance. There’s a reason it’s second only to freedom of speech… 

    Oppressive police regimes will continue to proliferate across the US, at an accelerated rate.  Lower tax revenues, lower fed grants, coupled with people who want to keep a damn cushy job where you are (generally) above the law?  Recipe for civilians getting a ticket every time you turn around.  

  • avatar

    I lived and worked in Moscow from the early to mid-1990’s.  I miss my Lada Zhiguli 06. Actually, no I don’t.

  • avatar

    So did anyone actually read the article? Or are some posters here so delusional they actually think that the state of American motoring is worth complaining about next to places with real issues, like Russia?
    Seriously. Comparing American motoring to Russia. You have to be bat-shit insane to think we have it bad here.

  • avatar

    I’m sure some Russian politician(s) claimed it was for the common good (the most stupid and dangerous words in the english language). The sad thing is that it’s slowly going on here in the U.S.. Sadder still is the Americans that defend this kind of third world dictation.  Kind of like showing up to a ballgame in your hometown to boo the home team for scoring too many points on an opponent.
    I can tolerate most political b.s. that comes down from the Washington chutes. Want to force me to get healthcare? Fine. I already own it and wouldn’t let me my family do without anyway. Want to make it harder for me to get a handgun? Fine. I can buy a shotgun or rifle from the nearest Walmart or Bass Pro Shop. I draw the line at being told what kind of vehicle I can purchase because of what some piece(s) of shit with an opinion of what the common good is thinks I need.  (I and only I know what I need/want. Not any politician, special interest group, judge, or any other dick with a lofty ideal of what’s best for me.)
    I can assure you if the day ever comes when someone confiscates my vehicle because it’s been decided I don’t need it it WON’T be pried from my cold dead hands. I’ll forgo death long enough to make a list of the legislators responsible, and then take my government mandated Aveo/Prius to the nearest Walmart or Bass Pro Shop…..

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Fascism? One of the more interesting features of fascism is that it is friendly to the concept of the motor car. Hitler was hot on the autobahn and Musso loved any motor.
    Go to any third-world kleptocracy, any place where thugs rule, and you’ll see that only one thing matters: money. Clarkson should like it in such places. You bribe, you drive. No red-light cameras, everybody!
    There is no correlation between true freedom in society and the freedom to drive as one wishes. Those countries that respect freedom of the press, a free judiciary, that don’t torture, etc., are generally the ones that expect each citizen to, like, obey traffic laws.

  • avatar

    Steven Lang: Having lived in a village of the swanky Hamptons, where parking anywhere within the village limits between 1am and 5am is verboten, and where the monthly court session is swamped by people who received a summons because their tire touched the white stripe while parking, I look forward to your series on automotive fascism.

  • avatar

    Problem is that Russian politician impose taxes on vehicles assembled outside of Russia. Therefore, many companies bring parts and assemble vehicles on Russian territory. Problem is that quality of said vehicles does not match original. I used to live in Ukraine. They had similar problem. As for people who used to bring vehicles from Europe for resale, there was age limit. So they found out way around it: buy registration from a vehicle after fire or accident, then import vehicle, but say it will be used for parts. After just update Ukrainian registration with  VIN from a newly brought car.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • WalterRohrl: You sound more desperate than usual. Driving around it becomes obvious that while there are very few...
  • theflyersfan: New and used car prices keep staying high like this, you can bet, assuming these can meet federal...
  • MidLifeCelica: Some observations from my recent drive from Nova Scotia to Florida and back in April… –...
  • Jeff S: Love my Escape pickup especially with higher gas prices.
  • EBFlex: “ EBFlex- So sure, I’ll take your Sunday Drive over actuaries giving the standard deviation for storm energy...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber