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Russia's Pothole Predicament

Beneath the Pavement, Corruption

Russian journalists drive retro cars to mark the opening of a new bridge in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, October 2015. Ilya Nyamushin / Reuters

My grandfather was enamored of his car, a Soviet attempt at an all-wheel-drive offroader. Even though it was 20 years ago, I still remember that going for a drive with him was a special treat: he only wheeled his prized possession out for ritualistic camping and fishing trips. But it wasn’t just for off-roading that grandad needed his 4x4. The vehicle was necessary to get by on the Russian roads of the 1990s, which were so dilapidated that it was common practice for drivers to meander onto the dirt shoulder, which provided a markedly smoother ride than the massively potholed, uneven “paved” surface. More than a decade later, after being picked up from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, my taxi driver repeated the same maneuver on the capital city’s highways.

It’s no secret that Russia is a kleptocracy in which the state is run for profit by a criminal

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