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The Simpsons predicted Russia's current economic downturn back in 1999

There is saying in the entertainment industry, meant only in half-jest: "The Simpsons did it first." No matter what the gag or idea, the 25-year-old cartoon almost invariably got there first.

It turns out that this applies to international geopolitical events as well. Today, the Russian ruble tumbled in value against the dollar, due in large part to plummeting oil prices, as well as Western economic sanctions. But The Simpsons did it first: as the Guardian's Alex Hern points out, the cartoon portrayed this very event this in an episode way back in 1999:

The clip is from the opening scene, in which members of the Olympic committee debate where to hold the next games. After this, they decide to consider the Simpsons' hometown of Springfield, and exactly 22 minutes of hilarity ensue. (This isn't the only such historical echo: a 1998 Simpsons clip was passed around last year, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, as eerily anticipating events.)

The lesson here, beyond simply appreciating the apparent foresight of an American cartoon program, is that this 15-year-old clip shows the extent to which things have not fundamentally changed in Russia. Of course it was not actually "predicting" today's Russian economic downturn, but rather riffing off the earlier downturn, of which there have been several. The fact that the clip could have been today is a remind of the degree to which the country's post-Soviet economy is still unstable, still prone to major shifts due to changes in the price of oil and natural gas that are its dominant exports. And that economic volatility is still a tremendous force in shaping Russian politics.

It's a reminder that, while Putin has indeed brought sweeping changes to Russia since taking power in 2000, a year after this episode aired, he has not solved the fundamental economic problem at the heart of Russia's struggle to adapt to a world after the Soviet Union.

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