Daily Archives: May 6, 2007

The Sunday Photos

A Russian “protester” outside the Estonian Embassy in Moscow,
where “protesters” attacked diplomatic personnel and
burned the flags of other nations over another country’s right to
relcoatea statue in its own capital. The Embassy was closed,
and Russia took another crazed, barbaric step down the same
path folllowed by the USSR. And where is that country today?
It is no more.

Darkness at Noon has posted a number of photos with commentary regarding his first-hand obersvations of the May Day demonstrations in Moscow. Here a few highlights, click through the links to see the rest.

Zhirinovsky ice cream. Yum, yum. Mabe this one is the special Gestapo Licorice flavor?

DAN notes: “A rally held by the “Patriots of Russia” Party, a minor left-wing party formed when its leader, Gennady Semigin split from the Communist Party. Though they may have been born out of the communists, the Patriots of Russia have an eye on the younger generation, having a rock band perform patriotic-themed songs at the rally. While all age groups were represented, it was a younger crowd than the Communists down the street, and even the babushkas present were tapping their toes to the music.”

Rapping for Zhirinovsky. DAN says: “Like the Patriots, LDPR is targeting a younger crowd, resulting in the appearance of a guy rapping about how great Russians are, using the word for ethnic Russians (русский), not the word for citizens of the Russian Federation (российский). Not a big surprise, as the LDPR is on the ultranationalist end of the spectrum. Not impressed with his rapping skills or his message, I ditched the rapper and worked my way back to the street where I got some photos of Zhirinovsky leaving.”

DAN: “He sped off down the street in his classic Soviet-era ZIL limousine. It has to be some sort of political statement, as his retinue followed in a much nicer modern (western-made) limo.” DAN continues:

Then I headed across Tverskaya Ulitsa where there was a very small rally held by the Eurasia Youth Union, the youth wing of the minor Eurasia Party.

Their rally was focused on protesting the recent move by the Estonian government to remove the Soviet-era WWII memorial (“The Bronze Soldier”) from central Tallinn, relocating it to a cemetery on the outskirts of the city. The move has infuriated Russians living in Estonia and produced an outcry from Russia as well. The upper house of the Russian parliament recently passed a nonbinding measure calling for the suspension of diplomatic relations with Estonia in response. Even worse has been the street protests, violence, and looting in Tallinn as a result.

Their speeches were heavily nationalistic, calling for action against the Estonian government and the Estonian embassy. And somehow the Americans are responsible for this, though I couldn’t quite follow their line of reasoning. In any case, there were quite a few unsavory looking characters among their numbers, many with face masks on like this guy:

DAN: “I’m not quite sure how to best translate their banners, as I may be missing some colloquial meaning. However, the one on the left says something like, “The Russians Go,” and the one on the right – “Dead, Arise!.” If any readers want to suggest better translations, please do so!”

DAN: Also not sure what to do with this one, which says Танкин на таллинн. It’s close to (but not quite) the word for “tank,” in which case it would be something like “Tanks to Tallinn.” But I may be way off on this one, as танкин doesn’t appear in my dictionary. Almost as disturbing is the small child in front of the sign holding a flag.

The second best line of the day was a chant that the guy with the microphone started: “Glory to the Imperial Behemoth!” The funny thing is that in Russian the word “behemoth” (бегемот) is also the word for “hippopotamus.” So it sounded like “Glory to the Imperial Hippo!”

The Sunday Magazine

The Economist, via the brilliant Edward Lucas, reports on New Times magazine, to which La Russophobe introduced readers back in July of last year.

Here’s what Edward has to say about the publication:

New Times is pretty much the only truly independent weekly left in Russia. Its editorial staff includes two of the remaining leading lights of serious Russian journalism: Yevgenia Albats, the country’s best investigative writer; and Raf Shakirov, fired from the editorship of Izvestia, once a top Russian daily, for his coverage of the botched anti-terrorism operation in Beslan. Its website carries footage of the Kremlin’s bully boys beating up opposition demonstrators — pictures that Russian television will scarcely touch.

The magazine is not perfect. Some may find it too wordy, or self-important, or shrill. But at least it is independent: it has no “sponsors”, no “roof.” The publisher, Irena Lesnevskaya, was told by a top Kremlin official that hiring Ms Albats was a “mistake.” Almost any other magazine in Russia would have hurried to correct the “mistake.” Ms Lesnevskaya politely refused.

Sympathetic outsiders who read Russian might consider subscribing. Every little helps. But what New Times really needs is advertisers. And in Russia now, nobody wants to risk incurring the Kremlin’s displeasure. Advertising in New Times would be commercial suicide, Russia’s top business people explain, while insisting that privately they are devoted to the cause of press freedom.

The only people who can help are those who have nothing to lose. It is time for Polish sausagemakers, Georgian wine producers, and Estonian sprat-canners to step forward for their unlikely moment of glory. They have suffered Russia’s spiteful boycotts and bans for months. Diplomacy has got them nowhere. They are mostly now thriving in other markets. So why not hit back, by taking out advertisements in New Times. “Dear Russian customers! We are sorry we can’t sell you our products right now—but please rest assured, we will return to you as soon as better times allow.”

The cost would be tiny relative to the psychological impact. Perhaps the tourist authorities could join in, underlining the welcome that awaits Russian visitors—sometimes to their surprise—in Warsaw, Tallinn and Tbilisi. Even Mr Putin’s Russia won’t touch the freedom to travel, leaving little scope for Kremlin revenge.

Outsiders can’t stop the Kremlin closing the New Times if it wishes. But they can at least help make it a commercial success while it lasts.

The Sunday Sermon: Stand up for Estonia!

Russian policy is failing miserably in Estonia. On Friday, the U.S. Senate adopted a formal resolution supporting Estonia and condemning Russia in the dispute over the Soviet army memorial. An editorial in Investors Business Daily, which routinely puts out excellent commentary on Russian affairs, advises that the time has come for the West to show its true colors:

Time To Stand Up For Estonia

Russian brutality against tiny Estonia over the removal of a Soviet memorial is a brazen challenge to the West and nations that want to become part of it. A response is in order.Since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia has had many disputes with its 14 former republics. Its reputation is that of a bully, but occasionally the blame goes two ways. That’s not the case, however, with its effort to intimidate Estonia this week in clear-cut acts of aggression. A string of events calls for a strong, unified response because this is not as small a case as it looks.

Last Thursday, Estonia’s leaders decided to move an imposing Soviet war memorial from a dominant spot in Estonia’s capital of Tallinn. Russian officials denounced the removal of the ugly Stalinist relic as “sacrilegious.” The memorial was put there by Soviet troops who invaded and annexed Estonia as part of Josef Stalin’s and Adolf Hitler’s secret 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov pact to divide up Europe. Estonia’s forced incorporation into the Soviet Union cost it five decades of freedom until it finally broke free in 1991. Given the Soviet efforts to erase it as a nation in that dark era, it’s a miracle Estonia survived at all.

Estonia’s leaders haven’t said so explicitly, but getting rid of the 1947 Stalinist eyesore was an important move toward acknowledging their nation’s hard-won freedom. Maybe that’s why the symbolic act of removing the memorial touched a nerve in Russia, which has never confronted the savagery of its communist past. Still, Russia’s response was disproportionate to any normal diplomatic disagreement. Estonia’s president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, pleaded with Russia to “remain civilized.”

Russia said it was only standing up for the many Russians who still consider their nation to be Estonia’s “liberator” from Hitler. But on a deeper level, Russians resent Estonia’s exit from the Soviet Union and its success afterward. Hence, the harsh — and illegitimate — chain of responses.

First, local Russian mobs — Estonia-based remnants of the Soviet colonizers — rampaged through the capital, looting and vandalizing shops. To Estonians who remember 1947, it no doubt evoked the pillage of Soviet troops.

But instead of the Red Army, these punks now belong to an ultranationalist mob called “Nashi,” meaning “Ours” in Russian. Besides stealing, they intended to intimidate. About 600 looters were arrested, with 44 injured and one dead in Estonia’s worst violence since ’91. The mobs’ message was clear enough, but it’s hard to prove they’re acting on orders from Moscow. It’s worth noting, however, Russian officials have loudly criticized not the looting but Estonia’s police response.

What can be more directly traced to Moscow is that Russia’s upper house of parliament, or Duma, voted by a wide margin to break relations with Estonia in a nonbinding move. The message got clearer when Sweden’s envoy to Moscow was harassed by Nashi thugs who surrounded the Estonian embassy on Tuesday. After that, Russia stepped up pressure on Estonia by cutting off energy shipments for rail “maintenance.” This revived doubts about Russia’s reliability as a nonpolitical energy supplier to the West.

Crazier still, Estonian officials say Russian computer experts are hacking into and shutting down Estonian government Web sites in a bid to paralyze its operations. The hackers are traceable to the Kremlin, the officials say. While it’s hard to determine the author of all this harassment, there’s little doubt these are escalating acts of warfare against one of Europe’s most upright members. Estonia is the greatest success story of the post-Soviet era.

That’s what makes this important. Estonia picked itself up from the gray rubble of Soviet colonization in 1991 and transformed itself into a first-world state with a true national identity. Its success is a standing rebuke to the backwardness of what Russia remains and what other oppressed nations can become if they are left alone.

Other countries in Eastern Europe are still trying to dig out from the legacy of the Soviet past. Estonia’s clean governance, low taxes, steadily growing economy, soaring foreign investment and 4% unemployment are an amazing and atypical transformation in just a decade and a half.

So far, the European Union and U.S. have issued fairly strong statements condemning Russia’s efforts to intimidate Estonia’s democracy. They need to keep up the pressure. At stake is whether a nation emerging from tyranny has any right to success and to determining its own course.

For more on the same theme from philosopher Andre Glucksman, click here.

The Sunday Funnies: Icarus-Putin Flies too Close to the Neo-Soviet Sun

Source: Ellustrator.

May 5, 2007 — Contents


(1) The Latest on Estonia

(2) The Moscow Times Editors Rip Nashi a New One

(3) Beslan Mothers Beg for Justice

(4) French Elections are Bad News for Russia

WE WIN!: Viktor Yushchenko’s pro-democracy forces score a major victory in Ukraine as the malignant forces of pro-Russian strongman Viktor Yanukovich back down. Publius Pundit has the details. Hooray for our side!