Daily Archives: September 18, 2006

KGB Manual on How to Win "Elections": First, Make Pseudo-Parties, Then Have Them Simply Buy Their Votes

Previously, the Guardian reported that the Kremlin was engaged in manufacturing sham opposition parties in order to further manipulate election outcomes. Now, the Guardian reports that those parties are moving forward to actually buy the votes of Russian citizens, focusing on the poor. What’s most disturbing about this behavior is not that the proud clan of KGB spies that occupies the Kremlin would engage in it, that should suprise nobody. What’s so sickening is the total lack of opposition from any corner of the country.

Roll up, roll up: get your blue jeans and politics here! United Russia, the party which acts as a legislative sledgehammer for the Kremlin, is opening bargain-basement shops with a weather eye on next year’s parliamentary elections.

A cut-price furniture store jointly run by the party and a local business opened this week in Nizhny Novgorod, 250 miles east of Moscow. United Russia bosses have said no profit will be made and denied it is a ploy to curry favour with voters. However, a source inside the party told the Kommersant newspaper the venture promised to be “very beneficial”.

“Poor people will be able to buy products in shops with the logo of the party for much less money and will start to trust United Russia,” the source said. “It’s a simple idea and it’ll win political points.”

Similar “social” shops selling cheap furniture, clothes and shoes are being opened by United Russia in poor regions across the country. A clothes store opened by the party in Kirov offers pairs of jeans for 100 roubles (£2) to 400 roubles, and T-shirts for 30 roubles. War veterans and the disabled get a discount.

Rival parties have threatened to go to court to prove the shops violate electoral law. “Politically one can make this conclusion: the campaign for elections to the state duma has already begun,” said Vadim Solovyev, a secretary of the central committee of the Communist party.

More Objective Proof of Utter Russian Political Failure and Total Lack of G-8 Fitness

La Russophobe has previously reported that the German think tank Transparency International had rated Russia tied with Niger and Sierra Leone for the 9th most corrupt economic system on the planet out of 159 nations surved.

Now, the World Bank has provided further confirmation of Russia’s byzantine status as a third-world economic and political system. Its “World Governance Indicators” report isssued last Friday places Russia 151st out of 208 countries surveyed, just ahead of Niger and right behind Swaziland, when judged on various criteria for electoral voice and accountability, political stability, effectiveness of the government, the quality of regulatory bodies, the rule of law and control over corruption.

Saudi Arabia has the same daily amount of oil production as Russia and far greater proven reserves, but it isn’t a member of the G-8. China and India both have nuclear weapons, far larger populations and far more formidable conventional armies than Russia, but neither sits on the G-8. Isn’t it time to admit that objective scientifically gathered evidence from inpartial third parties conclusively proves that Russia is far too corrupt to constitute a viable G-8 partner and expel it from membership?

That Form of Torture they Call the Russian Hospital

Global Voices has a harrowing account of a mother’s struggle to nurse her son back to health at a Russian hospital. Here is an extract:

A room for five people, one bed’s empty. Gloomy men of various ages lie either with broken legs suspended or simply on their backs. In the room for those who can’t move, there’s no bell to summon the personnel. The door is wide open and this is understandable. First, to yell and be heard in case something happens (this, I guess, is problematic, however – the post is far away and the nurses’ room is all the way around the corner); second, it works like air conditioning. No way to open the window – because they can’t move. And because one bed is underneath the window and the person there can catch a cold.

Mityay has just recovered from a severe cold, he has running nose and cough, and it hurts him to cough. I went to ask the nurse for some nasal drops and [a cough medicine]. I was ready to pay for this “service.” But they don’t have any drops or syrups. They also don’t have any camphora alcohol to prevent bedsores. But I’ve got it with me. As well as a cup, a spoon, toilet paper (thank God, they have sheets – in the children’s hospital […] they once made us bring that, too).

In the Soviet time, I was an in-patient at the traumatology department […]. In general, the hospital was no better. A drunk doctor, lazy nurses. In our room for people who couldn’t move, an old woman with a broken hip died – she had bedsores, she rarely had visitors, it smelled bad in the room. The old woman lied dead for a few hours before my classmates came to visit me and went looking for the staff. I wanted to smoke very much, and when I did light up under the blanket, the other old women said, “Go on smoking, daughter, let there be human smell in here at least…”

You can see the horrible truth about Russian hospitals by clicking here, where a number of photographs of the son’s room and the hospital exterior are to be found. Is this a G-8 country flush with oil revenues? You tell La Russophobe.

The Disappearances Begin in Chechnya

The Jamestown Foundation reports that we are now entering the phase of Russia’s management of the Chechnya problem where people (including women) that the Kremlin doesn’t care for simply start disappearing (like in Argentina):


The Sunday Times reported on September 10 that fears were growing over the fate of Elina Ersenoeva, a young Chechen journalist who was reportedly forced to marry Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev last fall and was abducted at gunpoint, apparently by pro-Moscow Chechen security forces, in Grozny in August, just weeks after Basaev’s death. The British newspaper quoted her mother, Rita Ersenoeva, as saying she was “terrified” that her daughter’s captors had already killed her. “I fear that the men who took her have done terrible things to her,” she said. “She had no choice but to marry Basaev. Now that she is gone I have lost hope. I have lost a golden child.” Rita Ersenoeva told the Sunday Times that she has received anonymous calls warning her not to make a fuss and that she fears that her daughter’s captors will come back for her two brothers, aged 15 and 22. According to the British newspaper, Elina Ersenoeva was approached last autumn by Kheda Saidulaeva, the wife of the late separatist leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, who was a distant relative of Ersenoeva. Saidulaeva told her that she had been chosen to marry a commander known as Ali-Khan Abu Yazidov and that if she refused, her brothers’ lives would be in danger. “On November 30 Elina was approached by an envoy of Abu Yazidov,” the Sunday Times reported. “The man ordered her to get into his car. He blindfolded her and drove her to a house on the outskirts of Grozny. She was led into a room where she came face to face with Basaev.” She was forced to marry the rebel warlord, whom she saw on a few other occasions for several days at a time before he was killed in July of this year. It was only after his death that she revealed to her family that she had been married to Basaev.The FSB questioned Elina Ersenoeva two weeks after Basaev’s death, but they accepted that she had been blackmailed into the marriage and brought no charges against her. On August 17, she was abducted at gunpoint as she and her aunt, Elza Astamirova, were on their way to work in Grozny. “Eight men with machine guns shoved us in and drove us away,” Astamirova told the Sunday Times. “They put sacks over our heads to stop us seeing where they were taking us. I was screaming with fear but they were just laughing. We ended up in a small room with bare walls. Elina was next to me. They let me go and kept her.” On the day she was abducted, Elina telephoned her mother three times to say that she would be released that evening, but she has not been heard from since. The Sunday Times quoted her mother as saying that she fears her captors may have believed rumors that Basaev left behind a stash of millions of dollars and decided to torture her into disclosing its whereabouts. “To think that Basaev would share that information with her is absurd,” her mother said. “To think she lived all those months in fear to protect her family is very distressing. I can’t bear to think what they are doing to her.”

New Zoshchenko

The New Yorker reports that, fittingly, a new translation of the short stories of Russian satirist Mikhail Zoshchenko has just been published. What could be more timely, as the Neo-Soviet Union rises from the ashes of the USSR, that one of the Soviet Union’s most acid critics should also reappear.

The Galosh, by Mikhail Zoshchenko, translated from the Russian by Jeremy Hicks (Overlook; $24.95). Though little known to English readers, Zoshchenko was one of the most popular writers in early Soviet Russia—a time when, as Hicks explains in a useful introduction to this collection of brief comic tales, satire was not yet prohibited by the authorities. Describing himself as “a temporary substitute for the proletarian writer,” Zoshchenko wrote in a deliberately simple style, filling his pages with corrupt officials, petty thieves, and confused bureaucrats. Hicks’s fine translations overcome tricky problems—one dénouement involves “Paris” being misread as a word written in Cyrillic—and successfully capture Zoshchenko’s knockabout use of everyday speech. Zoshchenko brought out the latent comedy of people’s adaptation to new ways. In one story, the electrification of an apartment building upsets residents who previously, thanks to the gloom, had not been able to see the squalor in which they lived.