Daily Archives: February 18, 2007

The Sunday Photos: YouTube MegaEdition

Various heroic images of “President” Vladimir Putin. LR particularly likes the fact that there was no need to doctor his baby photo,it’s hilarious all by itself au naturel!
Drunk Putin (yes, it’s a fake . . . but it’s a damn
good one, he sounds totally plastered in Russian)

Russian cops smoking crack

A Russian flash cartoon. What does it mean? Don’t ask us,
we just find these things. It probably makes sense to Russians.

Mad Intersection – video powered by Metacafe

How is it that so many are killed in Russian
automobiles every year? Watch and see!

The Sunday Satires

Scraps of Moscow (returning to the blogosphere from a hiatus) offers readers the following translation from Vladimir Vladimirovich which cleverly links Russia’s recent bout of orange snow to Ukraine’s recent bout of orange revolution. Hopefully SOM will continue this effort as the prior translators at the VV site have abdicated their office, much to LR’s chagrin (we have previoulsly translated VV, but far more rarely than we’d like).

Once upon a time, Vladimir Vladimirovich™ Putin was sitting in his Kremlin office and waxing his Presidential Skis.

All of a sudden, the tall doors of the Presidential office burst open, and in rushed the deputy chief of Vladimir Vladimirovich™’s administration, Vladislav Yur’evich Surkov.

“Hey, bro,” said Vladislav Yur’evich, “Whaddaya doing there?”

“Waxing my skis,” answered Vladimir Vladimirovich™. “I’m gonna go skiing. There’s a lot of snow, it’s real nice.”

“Hold off on the skiing,” said Vladislav Yur’evich. “We got something strange here.”

“Whazzat?” asked Vladimir Vladimirovich™ with alarm.

“They had orange snow fall in the Tomsk, Tyumen and Omsk regions,” said Vladislav Yur’evich quietly.

“Orange?!” shouted Vladimir Vladimirovich™ in horror.

“I think it’s begun,” nodded Vladislav Yur’evich.

“What are we going to do?” fretted Vladimir Vladimirovich™. “But you promised me there was no threat! That nothing orange would happen.”

“We’re doing our best,” said Vladislav Yur’evich calmly. “Look, we kept those tangerines out of the country. But who could have known that it would come down in the snow…we’re going to melt it.”

“Melt it,” said Vladimir Vladimirovich™ tensely. “Melt it ASAP!”

“We’ll get it melted,” said Vladislav Yur’evich confidently, and quickly left the room.

The Sunday Travel Section: Grigori Pasko Takes a Train Ride

Robert Amsterdam offers readers a translation of hero journalist Grigori Pasko’s recent train trip across the Russian heartland (that’s Grigori at left):

An acquaintance from Vladivostok asked me where I’d been traveling for so long. I quickly replied that I had been traveling on the «Moskva-Rossiya» train. “Sure”, he said. “That sounds about right: Moscow hasn’t been a part of Russia for a long time already”. [The name of the train, which translates as “Moscow-Russia”, suggests that it goes along a route “from Moscow to Russia”—Trans.] I wanted to answer back that it had simply been a slip of my tongue. After all, I had actually been traveling on the «Moskva-Vladivostok» train, of course. But then I understood that my slip of the tongue had actually turned out to have been true in essence – Moscow really isn’t Russia. Russia is what I saw out the window of the train «Rossiya» between Chita and Vladivostok.

The train they call «Rossiya» left the Chita station at around 2 in the morning. I stood on the platform waiting for about ten minutes, but at a temperature of 28 degrees below zero Celsius, that was more than enough to chill me to the bone. I discovered that I was the only one in my compartment on the train. Conductress Marina Vladimirovna said that she doubted anyone would be coming on board before Khabarovsk.

On the morning of the next day, I could already observe the wide open spaces of the Trans-Baikal region. The landscape beyond the window didn’t change for a very long time: dreary gray wooden peasant houses, from which a thin trail of smoke from what was left of the previous night’s wood-stove fires was slowly rising in the early morning light. The houses cool down overnight in the freezing cold, so you need to start up a new fire first thing in the morning. Which is why you could see a strategic reserve of firewood piled up beside every home. Timber, a valuable natural resource, was literally going up in smoke. I can see why the monopoly concern «Gazprom» prefers to sell its gas beyond Russia’s borders, and not inside its own country. But I can’t see why the country’s leadership prefers to allow such a thing to happen. This can be possible only in one situation – if «Gazprom» and the country’s leadership are one and the same people.

In a word, Russia is sitting on the firewood [A Russian phrase meaning “sitting around doing nothing” —Trans.]. And as long as it has forests, that’s exactly what it will continue to do. Meanwhile, at those infrequent stations where the «Rossiya» made a stop, the local populace came out to the train and offered passengers its simple goods: magnolia-vine branches twisted into rings; pirozhki [small baked or fried filled pastries, convenient for travel—Trans.] of unknown provenance that had frozen rock-hard in the cold; vareniki [boiled filled dumplings—Trans.], and boiled potatoes [see photo at left]. There were no takers. Maybe they were afraid of the cold, or perhaps they had serious doubts about the quality of the goods on offer.

For the most part, the passengers ate what food they had brought with them right in their seats. At any rate, in my three days on the train, the only people I saw in the restaurant car were a group of young people from England traveling to Australia via Vladivostok and Singapore.

I was quite surprised by the meager selection in the restaurant. For example, there were absolutely no dairy products or hot porridge available.

The Trans-Baikal Railroad is 350 kilometers in length. All this time there is nothing but flat land outside the window. They say that soybeans, corn, and barley are grown here… As I understood, life in these parts exists only along the railroad. It is noteworthy an automobile highway runs parallel to the railbed in many places. You can’t look at some sections of it without tears in your eyes. There were four men riding in the compartment next to mine. They were heading to Vladivostok for Japanese cars [As Grigory Pasko has mentioned in a previous article, the majority of cars in the Russian Far East these days are used imports from Japan, brought in through ports such as Vladivostok and then often driven by private car traders to their destination.—Ed.] These men – car-runners – were discussing the road. In places, they said, it is practically nonexistent. I was surprised. How could this be? After all, last year president Putin had announced the opening of a bridge across the Amur River, describing it as the final link in the creation of a Vladivostok-to-Moscow federal highway. “Putin doesn’t drive on these roads”, the men replied to me.

At night we passed through Skovorodino (they say that this is the coldest spot on the whole Trans-Siberian – the temperature can fall to 50 below zero here), Magdagachi, Svobodny… Then we went through Seryshevo, Belogorsk, Zavitinsk, Pozdeyevka, Vozzhayevka, Arkhara, Obluchiye… Many of the names reminded me of my classmates at military school: they had served in these places, the majority of which are nothing but military garrisons. The history of the creation of the railroads of Russia is really the history of the appearance of camps for prisoners and garrisons for soldiers. For example, Belogorsk. This is not simply a station, but a huge garrison, the former headquarters of a deployed army and with a population of around 90 thousand, the second largest city in Amur Oblast after Blagoveshchensk. It is in Belogorsk that the ribbon of steel turns south, towards the Amur and Blagoveshchens.

At the present time, many of the garrisons have already become ghost towns, the military units disbanded. A huge territory of the country was previously at least settled by soldiers. Today, it is deserted and uninhabited here. Guidebooks about Russia don’t write about these places and don’t call tourists to come here and visit. At the same time, this too is Russia. A thousand kilometres. 24 hours on a train. And not a soul in sight.

And now a few words about the landscape outside the train’s window. People who know explained to me that “mari” are endless bogs lying on permafrost. Mounds frozen in the bogs in the winter. Berries, mosquitoes, dampness, squishing and sloshing with every step you take in the summer. As one traveler wrote, “the infantry won’t be able to pass and an armored train won’t be able to speed through”. In the writings of this same traveler I found a description of a typical settlement along the rail line. The settlement of Zilovo was taken as an example. Here’s how he described it: “Zilovo is a small settlement on the Trans-Siberian mainline. The houses are wooden, single-story; the streets are dusty; the post office is a wooden hut, ordinarily closed; two or three commercial shops with prices higher than in Moscow; a small river; a large rail yard and a huge station building. Next to the station building is a new but already neglected monument to the combatants of the war, created in honor of the 50th anniversary of Victory. The appearance of the settlement did not instil any desire to remain there to live. Around could be seen sloping mountains covered in forest.”

I have to say that nothing saw through the windows of the «Rossiya» train instilled in me any desire to remain there to live. The night before Khabarovsk was marked by two people with whom I was sharing my compartment – a vice-admiral and a major-general – getting drunk. Marina Vladimirovna told me many stories about her work as a conductress on a long-distance train. The majority of them had to do with generals getting drunk. One particular story had me laughing to tears. I then asked Marina Vladimirovna if anything had changed outside the windows in those 30 years that she had been a conductress on the «Moskva-Vladivostok» train. She pondered for a moment, and then replied: “Nothing, really…”.

LReports Links of Interest

The brilliant Economist columnist Edward Lucas describes the battle for hearts and minds now going on in London over the Russian attack on Litvinenko. He says there are three camps, with Berezovsky’s and Khodorkovsky’s in the unfortunately divided opposition going up against the Kremlin’s onslaught. He aptly sums it it up: “the mood in moneyed London is still largely positive towards Russia. In thinking London it is increasingly negative. The battle continues.” A moronic Russophile commenter named “Martin” launches the usual crude personal abuse, and Edward lays him to waste with ease.

Valiant Estonia has passed a law calling for the destruction of Soviet monuments in the country, which Estonians view as salutes to Russian imperialism and rape of their nation.

The New York Post publishes three letters from ordinary Americans condemning the Putin regime’s outrageous provocation at Munich (“America says ‘nyet’ to Putin’s politics”) in response to the Post’s earlier article exposing Putin as a neo-Cold Warrior.

A Russian government report says that a Pulkovo Airlines Tu-154 returning to St. Petersburg from the Black Sea went down on Aug. 22, 2006, near the southeastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, after its crew sent distress signals as a storm raged in the area, because a pilot-in-training was at the wheel, wwith the the plane’s 10 crew members 160 passengers, all killed, as guinea pigs.

The Times of London reports that even the Kremlin cannot agree on the terrifying scope of Gazprom’s power, resulting in a visible fissure.

A Moscow suburb has been quarantined for deadly bird flu according to the AP.

In a timely reminder, Time magazine tells us about a film now in theaters that reminds us about the dangers of the Soviet Union.

An anonymous commenter notes a story on Pravda about “a secret cemetery has recently been discovered in the vicinity of the city of Nizhni Tagil in Russia’s Ural” being reported by Komsomolskaya Pravda. KP claims “the cemetery was used by an organized criminal group for burying bodies of women who refused to work as prostitutes for the benefit of the gang.”

Russian Kafe posts photographs of the laughable (and gross!) old Soviet “gas water” soda machines. Unable to afford cans or bottles, the machines relied on rinsing the same drinking glass for patron after patron. Apparently, Russians are hot to return to those good old days. Isn’t that sad?

Dostoevsky the Russophobe

ALEXEY Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper place. For the present I will only say that this “landowner” — for so we used to call him, although he hardly spent a day of his life on his own estate — was a strange type, yet one pretty frequently to be met with, a type abject and vicious and at the same time senseless. But he was one of those senseless persons who are very well capable of looking after their worldly affairs, and, apparently, after nothing else. Fyodor Pavlovitch, for instance, began with next to nothing; his estate was of the smallest; he ran to dine at other men’s tables, and fastened on them as a toady, yet at his death it appeared that he had a hundred thousand roubles in hard cash. At the same time, he was all his life one of the most senseless, fantastical fellows in the whole district. I repeat, it was not stupidity — the majority of these fantastical fellows are shrewd and intelligent enough — but just senselessness, and a peculiar national form of it.

The Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Part I.
Book I: The History of a Family
Chapter 1: Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov

That damn Dostoevsky! What a Russophobe! How DARE he talk about the “national form” of senselessness in Russia? What a nasty little man, so full of hate! Thank heavens Russia had the good sense to send him to a labor camp. They almost managed to shoot him too, but didn’t quite bring it off. Hmmm . . . maybe he was right about that “national form of senselessness” . . . but they got that wicked Anna Politkovskaya all right, didn’t they?