A road in Dagestan, though to the north and west of the Georgian border by a few hours. Photo Credit: Un Bolshakov

It sounds very straightforward when he describes it. There was no good road leading from his town to the nearby border; he was a retired builder; he sold everything he had to build the road himself, building it where his government would not.

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A new first-person report on Radio Free Europe (a grain of salt: it’s backed by the U.S. Congress) has Magomed Kebedov tell his story of success and failure in building a 45-kilometer road for his town that his corrupt local government wouldn’t provide.

Kebedov explains that he lives near the Georgian border in northern Daghestan. The locals have always had a good relationship with their Georgian neighbors, Kebedov explains, but the Russian government is less than enthused about the nation with whom they were quite recently at war. So Kebedov sold his house, his cattle, and his worldly possessions to build a road to the border himself, using equipment he already had from his profession.

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Did the government thank him? Did they return his favor, as he requested, and match his work by building a new school? Nope. They shut his shit down.

Shortly after it opened, the road was shut down by the authorities. Considering the current political climate I have little hope of seeing it reopen in my lifetime.

Is Kebedev upset? Is he deeply embittered by the experience in the way that any ordinary person would be? No again!

I’m not bitter about it. On the contrary, standing on this road, even if it’s closed, fills me with pride. Every small contribution I make toward improving life in Daghestan brings me happiness.

It makes me richer inside.

This is possibly the most post-Soviet attitude I have ever heard. Kebedev now lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his wife (who suffers from cancer) on a few hundred rubles a month in pension. He skips lunch every day, and is instead funneling his efforts into building a local bridge and a small hydroelectric station to provide electricity and heating to a school.