Daily Archives: April 5, 2007

Horror Stories of Russia, the Barbaric Country

It’s been said that you can judge the level of civilization a country has reached by the way it treats its prisoners. If that is so, Russia still labors in the dark ages.

The Moscow Times reports that, once again, Russ
ia has been convicted of grievous human rights violations by the European Court for Human Rights. This time, it’s not barbaric treatment of dark-skinned minorities that is at issue, but mistreatment of Slavic Russians who are confined to prison. Russians, often obsessed with being treated respectfully by the West, seem utterly heedless about how Russians are treated by Russians, and recklessly indifferent to how they humiliate themselves in the eyes of the world. (For more horrifying facts about Russian prisons, click here).

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered the Russian government to pay more than $20,000 to a prison inmate who was forced to share an 8-square-meter cell with 12 other men. Andrei Frolov, 40, was awarded 15,000 euros ($20,060) in compensatory damages last Thursday. The case sheds light on the harsh conditions endured by many inmates in the country’s prisons. The Strasbourg-based court found no evidence of a “positive intention to humiliate or debate” Frolov. But the fact that he had been “obliged to live, sleep and use the toilet in the same cell with so many other inmates for more than four years was itself sufficient to cause distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention,” the court ruled. The judgment was posted on the court’s web site.

St. Petersburg’s Kresty prison, where Frolov was incarcerated from 1999-2003, was designed for 3,000 inmates, but routinely houses up to 10,000. Frolov was arrested in 1999 and convicted in 2001 of robbery, conspiracy and selling stolen property. He was sentenced to 16 years in jail. He was housed in 11 different cells at Kresty, each measuring 8 square meters and equipped with six bunks. Twelve to 14 inmates were kept in the cells, forcing them to sleep in shifts, he testified. Frolov is currently incarcerated at a prison colony in Fornosovo, outside St. Petersburg. During the trial Frolov said “the cells were dimly lit; the ventilation system was blocked; inmates had to make curtains to separate the lavatory pan from the rest of the cell; all the inmates in the cell had six minutes, once a week, to shower together — although there were only six shower heads — with no toiletries,” the court judgment said. A complaint sent by Frolov to the Justice Ministry in June 2001 was rejected and declared “unsubstantiated.” In Strasbourg, the seven-member panel of judges ruled in Frolov’s favor. The facts described by Frolov, including the size and overcrowded state of the cells, and the poor food and hygiene, were not disputed by government representatives.

The conditions endured by Frolov are not unusual in Russian prisons. According to official statistics, the country’s prisons hold more than 870,000 inmates. A recent report compiled by the Council of Europe found that the mortality rate in Russia’s prisons was 20 times higher than the national average.

Nikolai Tarariyev, who was incarcerated in the Krasnodar region, died at the age of 26 of internal bleeding caused by an untreated stomach ulcer. In 2006, the European Court of Human rights awarded his mother 25,000 euros in damages.

Russia paid nearly $500,000 in damages awarded by the Strasbourg court last year. To date, the court has ordered Russia to pay 1.24 million euros ($1.65 million).

Igor Kalyapin, a lawyer and head of the Committee Against Torture, a nongovernmental organization based in Nizhny Novgorod with branches in six regions, including Chechnya, has prepared several successful appeals to the Strasbourg court. The court’s intervention has even saved lives, Kalyapin said. “It was only thanks to [the appeal to the Strasbourg court] that Alexei Mikheyev, a police officer unjustly accused of rape who was tortured for ten days, survived until the trial,” Kalyapin said, adding that Mikheyev’s condition was deteriorating. “He underwent two complicated operations in Oslo, with funding coming from Norwegian NGOs, including a policemen’s union. Needless to say, the police in Nizhny Novgorod responsible for the torture did not pay a penny,” he said.

Annals of Cold War II: The View from Estonia

Writing in the Brussels Journal H.E Mart Helme (pictured), Estonia’s ambassador to Russia 1996-1999, confirms the beginning of new cold war, insanely provoked by Russia as a mere shadow of the country, the USSR, that lost the first one:

When last February the Russian president Vladimir Putin unleashed his chilling attack against America in a speech in Munich, he was really addressing the European Union, or “old Europe” to be exact, and most humiliatingly its most influential state, Germany.

Barely a day earlier, TV screens had been inundated with promotional clips about the cooperation between Russia and the EU in the days of Germany’s ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder. It was natural that the present chancellor, Angela Merkel, is all for emphasizing the need to preserve the dialogue with Russia.

So why did Putin humiliate and aggravate his friends and hosts in such a way? Simple. Putin used a well-known technique of Zen-Buddhism’s shock therapy against senile, indecisive, spoiled and greedy Europe.

Having used his prior bully tactics – gas attacks, political assassinations, obstruction in the Middle-East, etc. – to demonstrate his brutality, resolve and fearlessness in the face of the New Cold War, Putin set the European Union on a crossroads: either Russia or America, either gas and Europe’s readiness for deals or confrontation over economy and security issues with obvious consequences.

The fact that “old Europe” is in a depressing silence shows that Putin’s message has hit home. Only the representatives of the United States and some of the Northern and Mid-European countries, i.e those who feel that they will have to face Russia’s threats anyway, have raised their voices in protest.
But why has Putin sud

denly turned so active and audacious? It is wrong to seek the answer in Russia’s upcoming elections. Sure, they are a background but nevertheless an unimportant one. The continuing inflation of the prices of raw materials is also more or less a background as it gives Moscow more money to carry out its plans. However, the primary reason lies elsewhere. Basically in the fact that the increasing hunger for energy in the Asian giants has created an alternative for Russia, one that liberates Moscow from the mutual trade dependence with European countries and gives it trump cards for political extortion.

Indeed, in collaboration with China, India and other Asian countries, Russia can completely satisfy its own need for consumer goods and at the same time export all – and I mean all – of its produced and exportable raw materials to the Asian Tigers, leaving European foundries in Germany and its neighbours dry. In other words Russia no longer needs Europe.

Moscow gets added confidence thanks to the fast development of relations between Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan – all countries that are part of the Shanghai Association founded in 2001. This syndicate, where Mongolia is an observer country, is the embryo of an extremely powerful geopolitical consortium. It engulfs two thirds of the Eurasian continent, has 1.5 billion people and a remarkable portion of the world’s raw materials. This alliance, not just Russia, is the main challenger to the block of the United States and its allies. Moreover, one has to add to this the hostility of the Islamic world towards the US (and Western civilisation in general). This is a force that Washington does not have the luxury of ignoring.

But who are still allies of the USA in the present anti-American world? Which countries can Washington still rely on? Primarily the Anglo-Saxon nations (Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New-Zealand) and “new Europe” – the East-European countries, including the Baltic States, who have conterminously felt the threat emanating from Russia.

In Asia, the two new power blocks fight over India. In Europe they fight for old Europe’s allegiance. As an adept prostitute, old Europe is flirting with both sides. Putin’s attack on Europe was meant to force Berlin, Paris, Rome, Brussels and all the others who are situated to the west of the former Iron Curtain to decide whether the European Union wants to choose the gas coming from Russia – and thus become a vassal of a considerably weaker Russia than that of the Cold War period – or continue as an appendage of the United States. The fact that Europe is unable to form an independent and monolithic centre of power is apparently clearer to Moscow than to Brussels, which is still living in the illusions of a common foreign and security policy and a European Constitution.

From the point of view of Eastern Europe, it would of course be welcome if new Europe remained allied with America. But be that as it may, these nations can no longer follow a strategy of silent reliance on a non-existent European solidarity. New Europe must stop putting its trust in the EU’s dream of a common foreign and military policy and opt for a clear security policy oriented to the United States.

This orientation, besides being the only one offering potential security, might tilt the Western-Europeans, who have wound up sitting on Russia’s gas syringe, a few millimetres to decide in favour of a real, not merely a verbal, transatlantic coalition.

We need a new Truman doctrine. We need a new “Berlin wall” against neo-Stalinist Russia and its anti-Western allies. This time the Baltics cannot be left to the East of it. ‘Old Europe” has to realize that the attempts at democratising Russia have failed. The efforts at integrating Russia with the West have failed. Only one option remains: Russia, which is threatening world peace, must be opposed through a New Cold War.

Now, the Rats

The environmentalist blog Celsias reports that Russia is experiencing an “explosion of virus-carrying mice.”

Experts have long feared that Earth’s warming climate would cause tropical diseases such as malaria to spread into more temperate zones, but a dramatic example of an apparently climate-related disease outbreak cropped up this winter in a cold place — Russia.

More than 3,000 cases of infections caused by hantaviruses have been reported so far in Russian cities and towns, including many that are within a few hundred miles of Moscow, such as Voronezh and Lipetsk. The viruses can cause a serious, and sometimes deadly, disease known as hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, or HFRS.

During Russia’s more typically frigid winters, scientists believe, HFRS-causing viruses die off in the consistently below-zero temperatures. But this winter has been anything but cold. On Dec. 7 Moscow hit a record 46 degrees Fahrenheit. HFRS was last on a rampage in Russia in 1997, coinciding with another very warm winter. By mid-spring that year, the number of cases reached more than 20,000.

The viruses are transmitted to humans when infected mice set up housekeeping in the nooks and crannies of homes, barns, sheds and other buildings. If droppings left by the mice are disturbed, the viruses waft up and out of the excretions like a miasma, infecting people who breathe the air.

Biologists estimate that the current population of rodents in Russia is 10 times as high as in previous years, and that one in three mice is infected with an HFRS-causing virus. Most researchers attribute the spike to the unusually warm weather, although some think a natural cycle in mouse populations may play a role.

“Global warming has tipped a balance,” said Irina Gavrilovskaya, a scientist and physician at the State University of New York at Stony Brook who has conducted research on HFRS at the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences in Moscow. “Because of the lack of snow cover on Russian fields, the country has had an explosion in numbers of virus-carrying mice.”

Tracking the Blogosphere: An Update Introducing the LR Index

Having taken it upon ourselves to adopt the claim that we are the “#1 independent English-language Russian politics blog in the world, it is of course incumbent upon us to document that claim with careful research. One month ago, we published the results of a major study doing just that. Herein, we continue that effort.

As readers interested in such things may know, some time ago La Russophobe noted the claim of Russia Blog that it was be the most trafficked Russian politics blog in the world, with thousands of visitors every day, several times more than any other Russia blog (and indeed perhaps more than all the rest put together). So it was perhaps surprising to some to learn, when La Russophobe published her landmark study one month ago, that Russia Blog had virtually the same number of Technorati-recognized linking blogs as La Russophobe. In other words, despite all that traffic, the blogsophere in its wisdom simply heaved a giant sigh at the buffoons from the Discovery Institute. Here is that ranking, updated for the latest information (as of April 2, one month from our last data collection, with the prior data following in parenthesis and ties broken by referring to total number of links from blogs):

Top 16 Russia Blogs Blogs Ranked by Technorati Links

Russia Blog 139 (115)

La Russophobe 122 (107)

Sean’s Russia Blog 84 (74)

Edward Lucas 83 (71)

Siberian Light 76 (58)

Robert Amsterdam 75 (59)

Very Russian Tochka 75 (66)

Vilhelm Konnander 69 (58)

Lex Libertas 66 (64)

Russian Blog 59 (70)

Russian Spy 53 (52)

A Step at a Time 44 (47)

White Sun of the Desert 43 (45)

Accidental Russophile 37 (38)

Copydude 35 (35)

Scraps of Moscow 35 (28)

Now, let’s refine this data a bit. If we do, Russia Blog’s traffic information rings even more hollow.

While the Technorati index measures total present total influence in the blogosphere, it ignores link-generating power (and the potential for future influence it implies) because it doesn’t take any account of a blog’s age. In other words, it’s to some extent misleading to compare the number of links collected by a one-year-old blog to those collected by a two-year-old blog, since the latter has had much more time to collect links than the former.

Therefore, LR has adjusted the Technorati-based ranking she previously reported to account for blog age. Here’s the ranking for link-generating power based on updated link numbers shown above through the end of March . In parenthesis are the blog’s total links and its age in months; the number to the left of the parenthesis is the quotient of those two numbers, the link-age index by which the blogs are re-ranked, with ties again broken by referring to total links from linking blogs.

Top 16 Russia Blogs Blogs Ranked by

Technorati Links Factored by Age

Robert Amsterdam 10.7 (75/7)

Very Russian Tochka 10.7 (75/7)

La Russophobe 10.2 (122/12)

Russian Spy 8.8 (53/6)

Russia Blog 5.8 (139/24)

Vilhelm Konnander 4.9 (69/14)

Sean’s Russia Blog 4.7 (84/18)

Edward Lucas 4.0 (84/21)

Copydude 3.2 (35/11)

Accidental Russophile 2.3 (38/16)

Russian Blog 2.2 (59/27)

White Sun of the Desert 2.2 (43/19)

Siberian Light 1.9 (76/40)

Lex Libertas 1.4 (66/46)

A Step at a Time 1.3 (44/34)

Scraps of Moscow 1.2 (35/30)

As you can see, using this analysis, Russia Blog drops out of first place and falls to fifth. Given the fact that the vast majority of links received by Very Russian Tochka are freak occurrences having nothing to do with Russian politics, one must be very impressed by the performance of La Russophobe’s favorite blog (apart from LR of course), the one operated by Mikhail Khodorokovsky’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam – it is the true #1 in this category right now, not only because his links are far more genuine but because he has significantly more links from his linking blogs than VRT from its group. Way to go, Robert! It should be noted that some blogs, like Siberian Light and Accidental Russophile, may be argued to suffer a bit under this analysis from being moribund for a while; on the other hand, Siberian Light benefits from being the recipient of a freak traffic upsurge and the links that went with it, so it is probably a wash in that blog’s case.

While we are at it, we may as well update the Alexa traffic data from last month as well:

Top 12 Russia Blogs Blogs Ranked by Traffic (Alexa)

Siberian Light 182,688 (was #2) +1

Russia Blog 456,842 (was #3) +1

La Russophobe 995,009 (was #5) +2

White Sun of the Desert 1,702,866 (was #7) +3

Russian Spy 1,909,149 (was #4) -1

Very Russian Tochka 2,001,312 (was #1) -5

Robert Amsterdam 2,446,880 (was #8) +1

Edward Lucas 2,694,546 (was #10) +2

Russian Blog 2,839,468 (was #9) +/-0

Lex Libertas 3,026,394 (was #6) -3

Copydude 4,406,855 (was #12) +1

Sean’s Russia Blog 5,050,738 (was #11) -1

As previously noted, the traffic figures for two blogs are warped by freak occurrences. Both Siberian Light and Very Russian Tochka experienced a brief period when their blog’s received a giant amount of traffic which was not sustained over time. Alexa data covers a period of three months, so the freak occurrence for VRT has now been cleansed from their system, resulting in that blog’s precipitous fall in the ranking. SL’s freak occurrence will not clear the system until the end of next month, hence it now occupies the #1 spot. By May, traffic figures will be comparable for all blogs assuming no further freak occurrences (and remembering that Alexa’s data is far from perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got). As previously noted, four of the top 16 Technorati blogs do not have cognizable Alexa traffic.

We now have three different lists rank-ordering the 16 English-language Russia politics blogs that are in the Technorati top 125,000 of all blogs in the world. We can combine these three lists and get a cumulative score for each blog, ranking them on that basis. We can assign 16 points to the #1 blog on each list, 15 to the #2, and so on down to the bottom, then we can add up the three point scores for each blog and thus compare them in the broadest way possible (the highest possible score would be 48). If we do, here’s the result, what we will call the “LR Blog Index” (the scores shown in parenthesis are for total Technorati links, Technorati links per month of existence and Alexa traffic, in that order).

LR Blog Index for April 5, 2007

Russia Blog 44 (16+13+15)

La Russophobe 43 (15+14+14)


Very Russian Tochka 37 (11+15+11)

Robert Amsterdam 36 (10+16+10)

Siberian Light 33 (12+5+16)

Edward Lucas 32 (13+10+9)

Russian Spy 31 (6+13+12)

Sean’s Russia Blog 30 (14+11+5)


White Sun of the Desert 23 (4+6+13)

Russian Blog 22 (7+7+8)

Vilhelm Konnander 21 (9+12+0)


Lex Libertas 19 (8+4+7)

Copydude 17 (2+9+6)

Accidental Russophile 11 (3+8+0)


A Step at a Time 8 (5+3+0)

Scraps of Moscow 3 (1+2+0)

It should be noted that the rankings for Siberian Light, Russian Spy and Very Russian Tochka are open to debate. It can be argued that the scores for SL and VRT are too generous. Although, as noted above, VRT’s freak traffic has cleared the Alexa system, a huge number of its links are due to that freak event (they have nothing to do with Russian politics), and its large number of such links combined with its young age skews the results. SL’s freak event has not cleared the Alexa system, skewing its score for traffic.

Comments on how our methodology might be improved are greatly appreciated, as are notices of errors in our calculations; apologies in advance for any inadvertent errors in crunching the numbers, which we will immediately correct upon notice.

Conclusions? Two. (1) La Russophobe and Russia Blog virtually tied on the LR Index even though Russia Blog is much older and supported by a huge wealthy organization and put out by a paid publisher. This indicates that the traffic passing through Russia Blog is largely empty and illusory, totally failing to generate the kind of profile in the blogosphere that it logically should. (2) More importantly, LR is head and shoulders above every other independent English-language Russian politics blog in the world on the LR Index, and hence solidly entitled to her claim of being #1 among them.

LR’s leadership is also clearly seen, of course, in the fact that it is only she, over the course of many years that the Russia blogosphere has existed, who makes reports of this kind available.

UPDATE: Commenter Andy has ferreted out the age of Russian Spy as being six months, so the data above has been adjusted accordingly. RS rockets up the LR index to nudge Sean’s Russia Blog down into 8th place from 7th, taking the #7 spot for itself. More importantly, RS knocks Russia Blog down from 4th place to 5th on the adjusted Technorati index, making its traffic even more hollow than before. As we’ve said before, however, it’s quite stretchings things to consider RS to be a true blog; if it is, the Moscow Times would have that claim too, and it would defeat all rivals easily. Also interesting to note that under new Kremlin policies reported on Publius Pundit, RS could be required to register as a “newspaper” in Russia and fined or closed if it failed to get government imprimatur.

Shamapova will play for Russia!

Oops, wait a minute, sorry, no she won’t!

Oh so conveniently, an “injury” suddenly came up that not only made it possible for Maria to avoid playing team tennis for Russia (where she never spends a second of her time), but also to claim that her humliating loss to the much lower ranked Serena Williams in Miami last week, and the loss of her #1 ranking the week before that to Justine Henin, was not really her fault. Unfortunately for Maria, tennis fans will likely recall how Serena demolished Shamapova in exactly the same fashion at the Australian Open at the start of the year, making her claims of “injury” irrelevant and utterly lame — to say nothing of the worst kind of poor sportsmanship. Maria has been dusted (and bagled) so many times in her career by much lower-ranked players that her claims of injury are just plain white noise. Apparently, she spent just enough time in Russia to learn how to make excuses and blame others for her own failings.

Maria recently made a point of demanding that women be paid the same as men in Grand Slam events — but she didn’t say a word about their being expected to play the same number of sets as the men, who often play matches that last twice as long as the women (and hence give the audience twice as much value). Once again we see Sharapova as the personification of Russia itself: All style and illusion, no self-sacrifice, no substance. Ever heard of playing with pain, sweetie? The men do it all the time.

April 4, 2007 — Contents


(1) Racist Russia bans Dark-Skinned People from the Marketplace

(2) They’re at it Again in Urkaine

(3) Ivanov calls for Non-Boycott of Estonia

(4) Russian Students [HEART] Zhirinovsky

(5) Litvinenko’s Widow calls for Action

(6) Annals of Russian . . . umm . . . cuisine