Daily Archives: June 12, 2007

June 12, 2007 — Contents


(1) The Other Russia Marches On!

(2) We Must be Firm with Russia

(3) David Warren on the Neo-Soviet Union

(4) Why Russians Need to Hate Estonians

(5) Annals of Russian Barbarism

The Other Russia Marches Continue

Other Russia reports their recent protest march in St. Petersburg (pictured left). It seems they are making progress, having managed to keep Putin’s stormtroopers at a distance this time.

What wasn’t said by the chants and the banners held by the marchers was clearly spoken by the massive police presence in St. Petersburg today for the latest Dissenters’ March. “Russia Without Putin”, “We Need Another Russia”, “This Is Our City”, “No Police State!”. Radio Ekho of Moscow reported that between 8,000 and 10,000 police had been brought in from other part of the country to St. Petersburg, which is hosting an International Economic Forum this weekend. Garry Kasparov, on of the Other Russia leaders at the event, said afterwards that “the energy was enormous. Now we know the regime is right to be afraid of us.”

There was nothing like the police brutality that occurred at the St. Petersburg rally on March 3. Today the police acted correctly and there were few incidents. Instead, they lined the path of the March in an attempt to prevent people joining once it was underway, but did not act when the sheer number of marchers inevitably overflowed the pedestrian walkway into the street at several points. Despite the intense security force presence, the number of marchers clearly surpassed the unrealistic 500 limit set by the authorities. Being forced to march nearly in single file at some stages made it difficult to count the number of marchers. Based on how many eventually arrived at Suvorva Square, they exceeded two thousand, and there were roughly three thousand attending the meeting in the square. Speakers represented the United Civil Front, Yabloko, Republican Party of Russia, and many other groups.

At the meeting, Garry Kasparov criticized the plans for ‘Gazprom City,’ the new headquarters for the state energy goliath which include a massive tower that will dominate the historic St. Petersburg skyline. Kasparov called it “a symbol of the thieves in Putin’s regime.” Former Putin economic adviser Andrei Illarionov said that the difference in police behavior indicated that things are changing. “The choice today,” he said, “is not between political courses, but between civilization an barbarism.”

Kasparov pointed out the contradictions and hypocrisy of the Kremlin’s policy and statements about the Other Russia marches. “They tell us we can only have 500 people and warn us what will happen if there are more. Then the Kremlin propaganda tells Russia and the world that we are an insignificant minority, radicals with no support. The Kremlin tells everyone how popular Putin is, but they continue to actively suppress any attempt at dissent or criticism. They say no one wants to join us, but every time we organize they bring out thousands, even tens of thousands, of troops from all over. Clearly they don’t believe their own words and they are afraid our protests will gain momentum if they don’t keep increasing the pressure.”

Other Russia leaders Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov were briefly hassled en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg this morning, but were allowed to travel. (Unlike when they tried to attend the Samara rally.) This was not the case with Vanguard of Red Youth leader Sergei Udaltsov, who was detained at the Moscow airport and missed his flight.

A second march was scheduled for yesterday in Moscow. Other Russia reported:

The June 9 March of Dissent in St. Petersburg (1700 local time) was officially sanctioned by city officials, but only in the pedestrian pathways and with a maximum of 500 people. These restrictions, which seem impossible for organizers to manage, leaves the door open for police involvement. Far more than 500 people are expected, despite the illegal confiscation of 150,000 copies of the Other Russia newspaper by the authorities. No charges were made, no one will admit they were taken; they were simply stolen. Other news from St. Petersburg is that Vasily Yakemenko and his Kremlin-sponsored Nashi thugs have arrived in town, no doubt to begin their usual provocation and harassment of Other Russia marchers. The situation around the June 11 Moscow March of Dissent (1600 local time) is even worse. The authorities sanctioned only a single public meeting from our application for a meeting, march, and concluding rally. The march was not approved and the bid for the second meeting was simply ignored. Officially, only a meeting of 500 people in Pushkin Square has been approved. They called us (nothing in writing) and said they could help us have a rally in another district, but we would have to submit another bid. Yesterday they responded to our letter of complaint, saying they had offered an alternative route, which is a lie. They said that since we had declined that (nonexistent) offer, they would only approve the meeting for 500 at Pushkin Square. Standing firm with our rights under the Russian constitution, we will march regardless.

Here is OR’s report on the second demonstration in Moscow:

Nearly 2000 people came out to the Other Russia rally in Pushkin Square in Moscow today. They listened to human rights and political leaders from across the broad ideological spectrum of the Other Russia pro-democracy coalition. They included Alexei Navalny of Yabloko, Garry Kasparov of the United Civil Front, Eduard Limonov of the now-banned National Bolsheviks, and Sergei Udaltsov of the Vanguard of Red Youth. En route to the rally Udaltsov was picked up by police in the subway and taken to the police station. At the rally he said that “the Other Russia won today because in the police station the officials said they supported us and released me!” (Perhaps this is the reason the regime is careful to bring in thousands of more hardened troops from the regions.)

Kasparov (right) pointed skyward and said, “This is the ninth time we have marched and always under a shining sun. Even nature wants us to win!” Navalny said, “We are with you, whatever our differences, we must be united. How can it be that Russian citizens are treated like wild animals and aren’t allowed to travel freely to another city to participate in an event?” Eduard Limonov: “The authorities have not been able to intimidate us out of existence. We continue to hold up our heads proudly and to speak openly in dissent.” Oleg Kozlovsky: “Each of us alone could not achieve anything, but together we can. This is our country!” Yuri Chervinchuk referred to Putin’s regime as “Pinochetism” and that it would collapse as do all dictatorships.

A massive police presence locked down the square and prevented anyone from attempting to begin the march organizers had hoped for, despite not receiving approval from the city authorities. (”Only” 1000 were seen in the square, but the side streets all around the plaza were full of troops ready for action if we attempted to leave.) They also prevented anyone from joining the rally after the event had begun. According to the law, approval for a march is not required, only notification, but they declared our planned march illegal regardless. According to official sources, there were 720 police officers, not counting the many soldiers brought in. We counted at least 20 trucks belonging to the National Guard of North Ossetia as well as buses from six or seven regions.

We Must be Firm with Putin

An editorial in the Washington Post calls for the West to remain firm in dealing with the neo-Soviet Union:

In the past few days, the anti-Western rhetoric of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which had been rising in pitch for several months, has reached Soviet levels of shrillness. He accused the U.S. of “imperialism” and threatened to target Europe with new Russian weapons. In an interview with foreign journalists, he cynically mocked Western democracy, saying that U.S. “torture, homelessness, (and) Guantanamo” and Europe’s “harsh treatment of demonstrators” have left him as the only “absolute and pure democrat” in the world.

If the Cold War were still on, Western leaders would probably find it relatively easy to rebuff such barbs at the summit of industrialized democracies in northern Germany. But this is a different era, and Putin himself attended the summit, a member of a club – the Group of Eight – in which he clearly doesn’t belong. His presence should be a reminder of how much has gone wrong in Moscow since the group decided in 1998 to offer Russia membership in the hope that it was evolving into a liberal democracy. It should also give them the opportunity to make clear to Putin that his belligerence will not return his country to great-power status.

It’s hard to know the real objective of Putin’s bombast. In recent days the Kremlin’s tone has become so propagandistic that some observers believe it is driven entirely by domestic politics. Putin is due to step down as president in nine months; though he has engineered the political system to “elect” whomever he chooses, his impending departure seems to have touched off power struggles.

Putin may be hoping to create rifts between European governments and the U.S., or between Western Europe and former members of the Soviet bloc that have joined NATO and the European Union. That would explain his insistence that the Bush administration’s plan to locate a small missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic poses a critical threat to Russia, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The dilemma for the West is that Putin continues to be cooperative on a handful of crucial issues, including the effort to stop Iran’s nuclear program. But the West cannot afford to respond to Putin’s bluster with appeasement. The missile defense initiative should proceed or not on its own merits; outreach by NATO and the EU to neighbors suffering from Russian bullying should be accelerated, not stopped. Support for independent civil society and human rights groups in Russia should be increased – not cut, as in the administration’s budget proposal for next year. Putin should get the clear message that repression at home and Soviet-style diplomacy abroad will make his country less rather than more influential in the 21st-century world.

David Warren on the Neo-Soviet Dictatorship

A reader direct La Russopobe‘s attention to a recent column by Canadian columnist David Warren (and blogger, pictured) in the Ottawa Citizen, which neatly summarizes the stormclouds gathering far across the sea.

Icing on Ye Cake

Great: we’re getting the Cold War back again. That can be the only conclusion from all of Vladimir Putin’s behaviour in the time since George W. Bush last entertained him in Crawford, Texas. On the eve, yesterday, of the G8 meeting at Heiligenndam, the latter did not seek to appease the former with the usual soft and distracting words, but instead pointed to the obvious. President Putin’s threat to aim new missiles at Europe and America, in retaliation for the U.S. developing missile-shield technology, is not reasonable. There is nothing subtle about this. A missile-shield is defensive, multiple-warhead missiles are offensive. It can’t be put simpler than that.

Why is Mr Putin doing this? There is a school of diplomatic thought — the Russophiles, let us call them — who insist that we just don’t understand Russia, and the ancient and modern historical reasons why the Russians feel so peculiarly vulnerable to external threats. So much so that, although they are bears, their persistent habit of overreacting to threats from mice must be assuaged, appeased. We must help them to feel better in their bearskins. I called them Russophiles, because I’ve met several of these people, and noticed that their views are generally founded on aesthetic rather than political judgements. They are animated by the romance of Mother Russia. Often they can say quite intelligent things about Russian literature and music, even about the old Slavic liturgy. It is only when they turn to discussing power politics that they become completely batty, in the manner of a man who is in love with a tart.

The analogy would be to our diplomatic Arabists, who similarly romanticize the Arabian past. And once again, make no mistake, there is much to be admired in that past, in the cultural accomplishments of Arabic-speaking peoples over many centuries (though alas, not recent ones). But they are not now, nor perhaps have ever been, models for religious toleration, or peaceful interaction with their neighbours. That the entire Arab world to this day can continue to obsess violently over the tiny patch of land that is Israel, is the indication of a political culture that has itself degenerated from former times.

Contrary to what is mistaught in our universities, the Arabs did not obsess about the loss of approximately the same territory during the Crusades. Nor did old Mother Russia freak, when she faced not polite Americans and Europeans, but the Mongol hordes. It is another example of a maturity that was lost many centuries ago; of a sharp-edged realism erased in the twilight shadows of paranoia.

Collective paranoia is worse when it is being exploited by a demagogue, and at its very worst when the demagogue is clever. Mr Putin is fairly clever. He is playing on Russian sensibilities as on a musical instrument. He is in the act of restoring the Soviet empire, as he imagines it being made to work — without the crippling economic effects of Communism.

The current mainland Chinese leadership imagines itself to be doing something similar: forging a unified and aggressive superpower, that will achieve some dominance in the world. The lost motivator of Communism is replaced respectively by Russian and Chinese chauvinism; power always needs an excuse. All such imagine themselves to be steering cleverly between the Scylla of economic dysfunction, and the Charybdis of democracy and civic freedom. Either will undermine, then destroy, the power of a tyrant.

It won’t work; it has never worked. The project, to “normalize” and thus immortalize a tyranny, has always ended in squalor and carnage. Both Russian and Chinese leaders are having another try at what their predecessors attempted — unsuccessfully, at the cost of a hundred million human lives. They think they are smarter than Lenin, Stalin, or Mao, and can make their omelette by cracking fewer eggs. They can’t: tyranny is impossible to immortalize.

Mr Bush, from his side, which is incidentally our side whether or not my reader has the ability to discern the better from the worse, added yesterday what any American President must inevitably say: that without democracy and freedom, there can only be tyranny. This was his view on Iraq and Afghanistan; it remains his view on Iran and North Korea; and will ultimately be his view (or that of his successor) on Russia and China. The American touch is the optimism: the belief that finally democracy will win through. It is a view that may prove foolish, but is at least not ugly.

Abraham Lincoln once realized that a point had been reached, when freedom for some could no longer co-exist with slavery for others, within America; that one or the other would have to go. I made myself unpopular several years ago by remarking that Bush had reached the same conclusion about the world at large. I said he was Lincolnesque. I am still convinced that Bush thinks like Lincoln. I observe, however, that this time around, the forces of the Union are losing.

Why Russians Need to Hate Estonia

Writing in New Europe Ott Lumi, a member of Estonian Parliament, Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, explains why Russians “need to hate Estonia.”

I start with a question: “What era do I describe?” Head of Russian legislative body Duma threats to cut diplomatic relations with a EU country. Official youth organisation of the Russian president’s party is blocking for weeks the entrance of an embassy of an EU country in Moscow. During an interview a member of the organisation attacks the EU country’s ambassador with gas. It is suddenly prohibited for one of EU member states to sell its products to Russian market.

Yes! I’m talking about the 7th year of 21st century. The headline of my article refers to probably the best summary made by professor of semiotics in Tallinn University – Mihhail Lotman – concerning provocations organized by Russia towards Estonia at the end of April. Lotman’s concept is based on the comprehension that small country is a convenient enemy for Russia. Firstly, because Putin mainly chooses to provoke countries whose response is definitely civilised and secondly, no one ever really believes that Estonia could be really a threat to Russia. Lotman also succinctly compares Putin to Alexandrer the III whose favourite aphorism was: “Russia has only two allies, army and fleet.”

Riots which were organised in Tallinn on the night of 27th of April regarding the removal of so called “bronze soldier,” showed clearly that Russia’s real interest has not been the memory of those who died during the fights in the Second World war, but to use this controversial symbol for Estonians and Russians, to destabilise the political atmosphere in Estonia. For Estonia’s government it became clear already some time before the provocations started, that it is not possible to hold any longer a statue in the centre of Tallinn, which for some symbolises victory over the Nazi army, but for a large majority the start of Soviet occupation. The way how the criminals and marauders destroyed, burned down and simply stole the property in the historic Tallinn city on the already mentioned night, was clear approval that the decision to remove the statue was absolutely appropriate. For now the situation for the majority of Estonian citizens is solved, no matter their ethnicity. The bronze soldier is staying in the Tallinn military graveyard. During coming nearest weeks the buried will be placed to the same place, so they can rest there together with Estonian, Russian, British and other soldiers who have fought on the ground of Estonia.

It is quite clear that Russia had a logical ground to play demonic games with the souls of these Estonian Russian-speaking inhabitants who have deep personal relations with the topic of World War II. Both Estonians and Russians lost thousands of fellow natives in the WW II and generation who remembers this tragedy still lives among us. War and death don’t choose victims and all of them are worth to commemorate. Of course, what concerns the war-graves, then Estonia is not unique in that sense.

There are hundreds of occasions in the world where reburying has taken place. For example, Egypt and Israel exchanged without any treaties in the middle of seventies remains of soldiers. Indonesia in 1991 gave to Japan the remains of 3500 soldiers. North Korea voluntarily opened the graves of 200 US soldiers who died in Korean war and gave them over to United States. Under special treaties some remains have been reburied between Russia and Finland, between Estonia and Germany and etc. So reburying remains of those died in the war to more dignified locations is not merely a normal practice, but a elementary practice of a civilised state

So let’s come back to the question why Russia uses Estonia’s internal matters in order to vilify Estonia’s public image and also disturb normal process of integration of Russian minority into Estonian society? All the causes could be actually driven under one common denominator – identity crises and threat to inner stability what could possibly be driven out from that.

The main cause for such identity crises is the fact that Kremlin still cannot accept its realistic role in the today’s world. It is weird to watch that a country with GDP per capita far behind the poorest in EU is still trying to pretend to act like an Empire, except concentrating to its internal problems. With a rapidly worsening demographic situation and critical living-conditions in many areas, it is mainly just the high level of oil prices in the world market, which makes it possible for the current Kremlin administration to play the revival of Soviet Union.

And, of course, we see evidence of some results, both symbolic and realistic. We hear Soviet anthem again in the international sports events, we have heard Putin’s statement, who said that “the collapse of Soviet Union was the greatest disaster of 20th century.” We have just seen the brutal action against Mr Kasparov and his allies in opposition to Kremlin. Of course, the basis of all such pseudo-empire action is in essence the fact that Russia still has not properly expounded the communist regime as such. Russia is still the main player in the international field, which opposes the criminalisation of communist totalitarian regime, which killed the same amount or even more people as Nazi regime. The decision of European Commission to organise official public discussion in one of the Baltic countries on the issue of communist crimes, is impressive.

Important factor, why Russia continuously creates image of enemies through massive propaganda is the fact of internal instability. We see that this process intensifies before every presidential election in Russia.

To conclude: Estonia is a democratic country that 16 years ago broke free from an evil empire where destiny of many nations was greatly damaged. There is no question about significant problems between different nations living in Estonia. Of course, the process of integration has its drawbacks time to time, but this is the problem we face together in different European countries.

We also face the need to finally contest some dark spots in our near history in order to cut the feet of possible false propaganda.

Annals of Russian Barbarism

The Guardian reports:

The son of Russia’s deputy prime minister was sentenced to 14 months in a British jail for beating a banker during a drunken brawl. Petr Zhukov, who works in London as an investment banker, repeatedly struck another banker at a party in an East London apartment, leaving him unconscious and bleeding heavily last July 7, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said. The 24-year-old son of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov was convicted of unlawful wounding after he joined a melee between his friends and the other banker. Zhukov’s friend, Artjom Dahko, a Latvian bank analyst started the fight because the victim was wearing shoes in the apartment – which he said was an insult in his culture. The judge said Zhukov tried to stop the attack at first. “But you, too, very quickly lost your temper and turned … to aggressor,” Loraine-Smith said during a hearing at Southwark Crown Court. The victim eventually regained consciousness and staggered out into the street. He needed five stitches in his cheek and 20 to his lower lip. He suffered a crushed cheekbone, two cracked ribs, a swollen jaw, cuts on the back of his head and bruises to his arms, shoulder, chest and legs. Zhukov was cautioned three weeks before the incident for a drunken attack on a taxi driver – a factor Loraine-Smith said he considered in passing sentence. In an earlier plea for leniency, Zhukov’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, said her client was “deeply mortified” by the injuries he helped cause. She said he was also deeply upset at the damage that the “horrendous publicity” about his case in Russia caused his family. Zhukov’s friend, Dahko, 27, was sentenced to 12 months on the same charges.

Mind you, he’s not sorry he caused these barbaric injuries, he’s just embarrassed to have been caught and exposed.

June 11, 2007 — Contents


(1) Editorial: Exploding the Central Neo-Soviet Myth

(2) Annals of Neo-Soviet Economic “Success” — Part I

(3) Annals of Neo-Soviet Economic “Succes” — Part II

(4) Trial in Absentia: Precedent Established! Thanks Russia!

(6) Zaxi on the Azerbaijan Missile System Proposal

(5) Who do the Russians need?

NOTE: One can’t highly enough praise the intelligence and valor of that little newspaper that could, the Moscow Times. Today we feature two articles (#2 and #3) from last Friday’s edition of the paper which work brilliantly together to expose the Potemkin Village that is the Russian economy. Without the mighty MT, you can bet your bottom dollar that neither one of these pieces would ever have seen the light of day. It’s horrifying to contemplate what fate may lie in wait for the true Russian patriots who put out the MT every week when the Kremlin finally gets around to turning its evil eye towards them.