Daily Archives: July 12, 2007

July 12, 2007 — Contents

THURSDAY JULY 12 CONTENTS


(1) There’s no two ways about it: Russia is a Sick Society

(2) Annals of Russian “Patriotism”

(3) Keeping Secrets: The Kremlin Tries to Conceal History

(4) Latynina on Sochi

(5) Russians Blast Sharapova, Eat Their Young

July 12, 2007 — Contents

THURSDAY JULY 12 CONTENTS


(1) There’s no two ways about it: Russia is a Sick Society

(2) Annals of Russian “Patriotism”

(3) Keeping Secrets: The Kremlin Tries to Conceal History

(4) Latynina on Sochi

(5) Russians Blast Sharapova, Eat Their Young

Russia is a Sick Society, There’s Just no Two Ways About it

Can you imagine how Russians would react if Germans were buying consumer goods named after a modern neo-Nazi who proclaimed that Russia would have been better off if it had been conquered and subjugated by Hitler? The International Herald Tribune reports that, just when you think Russia can’t get any more outrageous, it gets so outrageous that you can’t believe you thought it was outrageous in the past. Only a truly sick society could generate a story like this one. No society can survive generating stories like this for very long.

The name has the ring of virulent nationalist politics, yet buyers should be prepared to pay a fortune for the brand. The trademark Zhirinovsky is up for grabs, and the current owner says he wants 77 million rubles, or $3 million, for the right to stick the name of the flamboyant and populist politician on a bottle of vodka. The seller is a Moscow businessman, Sergei Kuznetsov, who says Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, gradually gave him rights to use his name on a variety of products beginning in 1994. “I got it for a symbolic price,” Kuznetsov said, explaining that Zhirinovsky did not need money at the time and had wanted his name to become more popular. The license, Kuznetsov said, was recently renewed for about 10 years.

Besides vodka, the products bearing Zhirinovsky’s name include cigarettes, after-shave and even mayonnaise. There also is an extra-rich ice cream called Zhirik, the popular diminutive form of Zhirinovsky, Kuznetsov said, though it is a separate brand and is not for sale. “Zhir” in Russian means “fat.”

It might seem strange consumers are willing to buy household goods under the name of a boisterous politician who has been involved in sometimes bloody fistfights in the State Duma, but Zhirinovsky, who has been in Russian politics since the early 1990s, is popular. His party won 11.5 percent of the vote in 2003 Duma elections and 10 percent in regional elections this past spring. Zhirinovsky declined to be interviewed for this article, but he told a newspaper, Vedomosti, that he had allowed Kuznetsov to register his name as a trademark to avoid its abuse. “If businesspeople want to use the brand, they should do without eroticism and exotics,” he said, adding that he would not approve of toilet paper or condoms bearing his name.

The businessman is offering eight trademarks bearing Zhirinovsky’s name, but he said the vodka was by far the most attractive. Kuznetsov said he wanted to sell because he was frustrated with the vodka factories and wanted someone to invest in marketing the brand. “You do not earn much with the brand, but money is made from the production,” he said, explaining that he receives just 88 kopeks, or 3.4 cents, for each half-liter bottle with a wholesale price of 68 rubles. “Producers are not willing to invest in a brand they do not own.”

So far, Zhirinovsky products are far from best sellers. The vodka is among the country’s lesser-known spirits and, Kuznetsov said, production runs at 200,000 to 300,000 bottles a month. LR: Maybe there’s a little hope for Russia after all! Then again, there’s no active protest against the sale of these products, either — and maybe the limited distribution is simply due to utter incompetence on Zhirinovsky’s side.

Competitors in the vodka business said they were not impressed by Zhirinovsky’s performance. “This brand has been around for some 10 years now, but it never achieved a prominent position in the market,” said Dmitri Dobrov, a spokesman for Kristall, the state-controlled distillery. Kristall makes a highly successful brand of vodka called Putinka, which bears more than a slight resemblance to President Vladimir Putin’s family name. The brand was introduced in 2003, three years after Putin was first elected. Putinka and Zhirinovsky, however, have nothing in common, said Stanislav Kaufman, marketing vice president of Vineksim, the distributor for Putinka. “Putinka is a sympathetic nickname, while Zhirinovsky is an exact copy of a family name plus the man’s portrait,” he said.

The art of just sticking a family name on a product has also been perfected by several businessmen, including Oleg Tinkov, a St. Petersburg entrepreneur, who made a fortune with a brewery named after him. Vladimir Dovgan created a small empire of foods bearing his name in the 1990s. Although the brand has been discontinued in Russia, it is currently selling well in the sizable Russian-speaking market in Germany. But consumer goods analysts say this is becoming a method of the past. “This worked well in the 1990s, but it won’t work today,” said Mikhail Terentyev of Troika Dialog, a Moscow brokerage.

Brands with prominent family names could sell in markets with low levels of consumer sophistication, typical of the years after the Soviet breakup, he said. Today, buyers are more concerned about lifestyle, health care and the quality of ingredients, and this is not conveyed in a family name, he said. Furthermore, a famous name alone does not guarantee long-term popularity, said Alexandr Pismenny, general director of the Russian office of the A.C. Nielsen marketing company. “Apart from a brand that consumers can associate with, other factors like pricing, distribution and packaging are important for success, too,” he said.

Zhirinovsky is about the only prominent Russian politician to have endorsed the use of his name on consumer goods. But that has not stopped other companies from following Putinka’s lead. A factory in Astrakhan is selling pickled peppers and eggplants under the brand Puin. A sword inserted between the “u” and the “i” makes the word appear to be “PuTin.”

Russia is a Sick Society, There’s Just no Two Ways About it

Can you imagine how Russians would react if Germans were buying consumer goods named after a modern neo-Nazi who proclaimed that Russia would have been better off if it had been conquered and subjugated by Hitler? The International Herald Tribune reports that, just when you think Russia can’t get any more outrageous, it gets so outrageous that you can’t believe you thought it was outrageous in the past. Only a truly sick society could generate a story like this one. No society can survive generating stories like this for very long.

The name has the ring of virulent nationalist politics, yet buyers should be prepared to pay a fortune for the brand. The trademark Zhirinovsky is up for grabs, and the current owner says he wants 77 million rubles, or $3 million, for the right to stick the name of the flamboyant and populist politician on a bottle of vodka. The seller is a Moscow businessman, Sergei Kuznetsov, who says Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, gradually gave him rights to use his name on a variety of products beginning in 1994. “I got it for a symbolic price,” Kuznetsov said, explaining that Zhirinovsky did not need money at the time and had wanted his name to become more popular. The license, Kuznetsov said, was recently renewed for about 10 years.

Besides vodka, the products bearing Zhirinovsky’s name include cigarettes, after-shave and even mayonnaise. There also is an extra-rich ice cream called Zhirik, the popular diminutive form of Zhirinovsky, Kuznetsov said, though it is a separate brand and is not for sale. “Zhir” in Russian means “fat.”

It might seem strange consumers are willing to buy household goods under the name of a boisterous politician who has been involved in sometimes bloody fistfights in the State Duma, but Zhirinovsky, who has been in Russian politics since the early 1990s, is popular. His party won 11.5 percent of the vote in 2003 Duma elections and 10 percent in regional elections this past spring. Zhirinovsky declined to be interviewed for this article, but he told a newspaper, Vedomosti, that he had allowed Kuznetsov to register his name as a trademark to avoid its abuse. “If businesspeople want to use the brand, they should do without eroticism and exotics,” he said, adding that he would not approve of toilet paper or condoms bearing his name.

The businessman is offering eight trademarks bearing Zhirinovsky’s name, but he said the vodka was by far the most attractive. Kuznetsov said he wanted to sell because he was frustrated with the vodka factories and wanted someone to invest in marketing the brand. “You do not earn much with the brand, but money is made from the production,” he said, explaining that he receives just 88 kopeks, or 3.4 cents, for each half-liter bottle with a wholesale price of 68 rubles. “Producers are not willing to invest in a brand they do not own.”

So far, Zhirinovsky products are far from best sellers. The vodka is among the country’s lesser-known spirits and, Kuznetsov said, production runs at 200,000 to 300,000 bottles a month. LR: Maybe there’s a little hope for Russia after all! Then again, there’s no active protest against the sale of these products, either — and maybe the limited distribution is simply due to utter incompetence on Zhirinovsky’s side.

Competitors in the vodka business said they were not impressed by Zhirinovsky’s performance. “This brand has been around for some 10 years now, but it never achieved a prominent position in the market,” said Dmitri Dobrov, a spokesman for Kristall, the state-controlled distillery. Kristall makes a highly successful brand of vodka called Putinka, which bears more than a slight resemblance to President Vladimir Putin’s family name. The brand was introduced in 2003, three years after Putin was first elected. Putinka and Zhirinovsky, however, have nothing in common, said Stanislav Kaufman, marketing vice president of Vineksim, the distributor for Putinka. “Putinka is a sympathetic nickname, while Zhirinovsky is an exact copy of a family name plus the man’s portrait,” he said.

The art of just sticking a family name on a product has also been perfected by several businessmen, including Oleg Tinkov, a St. Petersburg entrepreneur, who made a fortune with a brewery named after him. Vladimir Dovgan created a small empire of foods bearing his name in the 1990s. Although the brand has been discontinued in Russia, it is currently selling well in the sizable Russian-speaking market in Germany. But consumer goods analysts say this is becoming a method of the past. “This worked well in the 1990s, but it won’t work today,” said Mikhail Terentyev of Troika Dialog, a Moscow brokerage.

Brands with prominent family names could sell in markets with low levels of consumer sophistication, typical of the years after the Soviet breakup, he said. Today, buyers are more concerned about lifestyle, health care and the quality of ingredients, and this is not conveyed in a family name, he said. Furthermore, a famous name alone does not guarantee long-term popularity, said Alexandr Pismenny, general director of the Russian office of the A.C. Nielsen marketing company. “Apart from a brand that consumers can associate with, other factors like pricing, distribution and packaging are important for success, too,” he said.

Zhirinovsky is about the only prominent Russian politician to have endorsed the use of his name on consumer goods. But that has not stopped other companies from following Putinka’s lead. A factory in Astrakhan is selling pickled peppers and eggplants under the brand Puin. A sword inserted between the “u” and the “i” makes the word appear to be “PuTin.”

Russia is a Sick Society, There’s Just no Two Ways About it

Can you imagine how Russians would react if Germans were buying consumer goods named after a modern neo-Nazi who proclaimed that Russia would have been better off if it had been conquered and subjugated by Hitler? The International Herald Tribune reports that, just when you think Russia can’t get any more outrageous, it gets so outrageous that you can’t believe you thought it was outrageous in the past. Only a truly sick society could generate a story like this one. No society can survive generating stories like this for very long.

The name has the ring of virulent nationalist politics, yet buyers should be prepared to pay a fortune for the brand. The trademark Zhirinovsky is up for grabs, and the current owner says he wants 77 million rubles, or $3 million, for the right to stick the name of the flamboyant and populist politician on a bottle of vodka. The seller is a Moscow businessman, Sergei Kuznetsov, who says Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, gradually gave him rights to use his name on a variety of products beginning in 1994. “I got it for a symbolic price,” Kuznetsov said, explaining that Zhirinovsky did not need money at the time and had wanted his name to become more popular. The license, Kuznetsov said, was recently renewed for about 10 years.

Besides vodka, the products bearing Zhirinovsky’s name include cigarettes, after-shave and even mayonnaise. There also is an extra-rich ice cream called Zhirik, the popular diminutive form of Zhirinovsky, Kuznetsov said, though it is a separate brand and is not for sale. “Zhir” in Russian means “fat.”

It might seem strange consumers are willing to buy household goods under the name of a boisterous politician who has been involved in sometimes bloody fistfights in the State Duma, but Zhirinovsky, who has been in Russian politics since the early 1990s, is popular. His party won 11.5 percent of the vote in 2003 Duma elections and 10 percent in regional elections this past spring. Zhirinovsky declined to be interviewed for this article, but he told a newspaper, Vedomosti, that he had allowed Kuznetsov to register his name as a trademark to avoid its abuse. “If businesspeople want to use the brand, they should do without eroticism and exotics,” he said, adding that he would not approve of toilet paper or condoms bearing his name.

The businessman is offering eight trademarks bearing Zhirinovsky’s name, but he said the vodka was by far the most attractive. Kuznetsov said he wanted to sell because he was frustrated with the vodka factories and wanted someone to invest in marketing the brand. “You do not earn much with the brand, but money is made from the production,” he said, explaining that he receives just 88 kopeks, or 3.4 cents, for each half-liter bottle with a wholesale price of 68 rubles. “Producers are not willing to invest in a brand they do not own.”

So far, Zhirinovsky products are far from best sellers. The vodka is among the country’s lesser-known spirits and, Kuznetsov said, production runs at 200,000 to 300,000 bottles a month. LR: Maybe there’s a little hope for Russia after all! Then again, there’s no active protest against the sale of these products, either — and maybe the limited distribution is simply due to utter incompetence on Zhirinovsky’s side.

Competitors in the vodka business said they were not impressed by Zhirinovsky’s performance. “This brand has been around for some 10 years now, but it never achieved a prominent position in the market,” said Dmitri Dobrov, a spokesman for Kristall, the state-controlled distillery. Kristall makes a highly successful brand of vodka called Putinka, which bears more than a slight resemblance to President Vladimir Putin’s family name. The brand was introduced in 2003, three years after Putin was first elected. Putinka and Zhirinovsky, however, have nothing in common, said Stanislav Kaufman, marketing vice president of Vineksim, the distributor for Putinka. “Putinka is a sympathetic nickname, while Zhirinovsky is an exact copy of a family name plus the man’s portrait,” he said.

The art of just sticking a family name on a product has also been perfected by several businessmen, including Oleg Tinkov, a St. Petersburg entrepreneur, who made a fortune with a brewery named after him. Vladimir Dovgan created a small empire of foods bearing his name in the 1990s. Although the brand has been discontinued in Russia, it is currently selling well in the sizable Russian-speaking market in Germany. But consumer goods analysts say this is becoming a method of the past. “This worked well in the 1990s, but it won’t work today,” said Mikhail Terentyev of Troika Dialog, a Moscow brokerage.

Brands with prominent family names could sell in markets with low levels of consumer sophistication, typical of the years after the Soviet breakup, he said. Today, buyers are more concerned about lifestyle, health care and the quality of ingredients, and this is not conveyed in a family name, he said. Furthermore, a famous name alone does not guarantee long-term popularity, said Alexandr Pismenny, general director of the Russian office of the A.C. Nielsen marketing company. “Apart from a brand that consumers can associate with, other factors like pricing, distribution and packaging are important for success, too,” he said.

Zhirinovsky is about the only prominent Russian politician to have endorsed the use of his name on consumer goods. But that has not stopped other companies from following Putinka’s lead. A factory in Astrakhan is selling pickled peppers and eggplants under the brand Puin. A sword inserted between the “u” and the “i” makes the word appear to be “PuTin.”

Russia is a Sick Society, There’s Just no Two Ways About it

Can you imagine how Russians would react if Germans were buying consumer goods named after a modern neo-Nazi who proclaimed that Russia would have been better off if it had been conquered and subjugated by Hitler? The International Herald Tribune reports that, just when you think Russia can’t get any more outrageous, it gets so outrageous that you can’t believe you thought it was outrageous in the past. Only a truly sick society could generate a story like this one. No society can survive generating stories like this for very long.

The name has the ring of virulent nationalist politics, yet buyers should be prepared to pay a fortune for the brand. The trademark Zhirinovsky is up for grabs, and the current owner says he wants 77 million rubles, or $3 million, for the right to stick the name of the flamboyant and populist politician on a bottle of vodka. The seller is a Moscow businessman, Sergei Kuznetsov, who says Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, gradually gave him rights to use his name on a variety of products beginning in 1994. “I got it for a symbolic price,” Kuznetsov said, explaining that Zhirinovsky did not need money at the time and had wanted his name to become more popular. The license, Kuznetsov said, was recently renewed for about 10 years.

Besides vodka, the products bearing Zhirinovsky’s name include cigarettes, after-shave and even mayonnaise. There also is an extra-rich ice cream called Zhirik, the popular diminutive form of Zhirinovsky, Kuznetsov said, though it is a separate brand and is not for sale. “Zhir” in Russian means “fat.”

It might seem strange consumers are willing to buy household goods under the name of a boisterous politician who has been involved in sometimes bloody fistfights in the State Duma, but Zhirinovsky, who has been in Russian politics since the early 1990s, is popular. His party won 11.5 percent of the vote in 2003 Duma elections and 10 percent in regional elections this past spring. Zhirinovsky declined to be interviewed for this article, but he told a newspaper, Vedomosti, that he had allowed Kuznetsov to register his name as a trademark to avoid its abuse. “If businesspeople want to use the brand, they should do without eroticism and exotics,” he said, adding that he would not approve of toilet paper or condoms bearing his name.

The businessman is offering eight trademarks bearing Zhirinovsky’s name, but he said the vodka was by far the most attractive. Kuznetsov said he wanted to sell because he was frustrated with the vodka factories and wanted someone to invest in marketing the brand. “You do not earn much with the brand, but money is made from the production,” he said, explaining that he receives just 88 kopeks, or 3.4 cents, for each half-liter bottle with a wholesale price of 68 rubles. “Producers are not willing to invest in a brand they do not own.”

So far, Zhirinovsky products are far from best sellers. The vodka is among the country’s lesser-known spirits and, Kuznetsov said, production runs at 200,000 to 300,000 bottles a month. LR: Maybe there’s a little hope for Russia after all! Then again, there’s no active protest against the sale of these products, either — and maybe the limited distribution is simply due to utter incompetence on Zhirinovsky’s side.

Competitors in the vodka business said they were not impressed by Zhirinovsky’s performance. “This brand has been around for some 10 years now, but it never achieved a prominent position in the market,” said Dmitri Dobrov, a spokesman for Kristall, the state-controlled distillery. Kristall makes a highly successful brand of vodka called Putinka, which bears more than a slight resemblance to President Vladimir Putin’s family name. The brand was introduced in 2003, three years after Putin was first elected. Putinka and Zhirinovsky, however, have nothing in common, said Stanislav Kaufman, marketing vice president of Vineksim, the distributor for Putinka. “Putinka is a sympathetic nickname, while Zhirinovsky is an exact copy of a family name plus the man’s portrait,” he said.

The art of just sticking a family name on a product has also been perfected by several businessmen, including Oleg Tinkov, a St. Petersburg entrepreneur, who made a fortune with a brewery named after him. Vladimir Dovgan created a small empire of foods bearing his name in the 1990s. Although the brand has been discontinued in Russia, it is currently selling well in the sizable Russian-speaking market in Germany. But consumer goods analysts say this is becoming a method of the past. “This worked well in the 1990s, but it won’t work today,” said Mikhail Terentyev of Troika Dialog, a Moscow brokerage.

Brands with prominent family names could sell in markets with low levels of consumer sophistication, typical of the years after the Soviet breakup, he said. Today, buyers are more concerned about lifestyle, health care and the quality of ingredients, and this is not conveyed in a family name, he said. Furthermore, a famous name alone does not guarantee long-term popularity, said Alexandr Pismenny, general director of the Russian office of the A.C. Nielsen marketing company. “Apart from a brand that consumers can associate with, other factors like pricing, distribution and packaging are important for success, too,” he said.

Zhirinovsky is about the only prominent Russian politician to have endorsed the use of his name on consumer goods. But that has not stopped other companies from following Putinka’s lead. A factory in Astrakhan is selling pickled peppers and eggplants under the brand Puin. A sword inserted between the “u” and the “i” makes the word appear to be “PuTin.”

Russia is a Sick Society, There’s Just no Two Ways About it

Can you imagine how Russians would react if Germans were buying consumer goods named after a modern neo-Nazi who proclaimed that Russia would have been better off if it had been conquered and subjugated by Hitler? The International Herald Tribune reports that, just when you think Russia can’t get any more outrageous, it gets so outrageous that you can’t believe you thought it was outrageous in the past. Only a truly sick society could generate a story like this one. No society can survive generating stories like this for very long.

The name has the ring of virulent nationalist politics, yet buyers should be prepared to pay a fortune for the brand. The trademark Zhirinovsky is up for grabs, and the current owner says he wants 77 million rubles, or $3 million, for the right to stick the name of the flamboyant and populist politician on a bottle of vodka. The seller is a Moscow businessman, Sergei Kuznetsov, who says Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, gradually gave him rights to use his name on a variety of products beginning in 1994. “I got it for a symbolic price,” Kuznetsov said, explaining that Zhirinovsky did not need money at the time and had wanted his name to become more popular. The license, Kuznetsov said, was recently renewed for about 10 years.

Besides vodka, the products bearing Zhirinovsky’s name include cigarettes, after-shave and even mayonnaise. There also is an extra-rich ice cream called Zhirik, the popular diminutive form of Zhirinovsky, Kuznetsov said, though it is a separate brand and is not for sale. “Zhir” in Russian means “fat.”

It might seem strange consumers are willing to buy household goods under the name of a boisterous politician who has been involved in sometimes bloody fistfights in the State Duma, but Zhirinovsky, who has been in Russian politics since the early 1990s, is popular. His party won 11.5 percent of the vote in 2003 Duma elections and 10 percent in regional elections this past spring. Zhirinovsky declined to be interviewed for this article, but he told a newspaper, Vedomosti, that he had allowed Kuznetsov to register his name as a trademark to avoid its abuse. “If businesspeople want to use the brand, they should do without eroticism and exotics,” he said, adding that he would not approve of toilet paper or condoms bearing his name.

The businessman is offering eight trademarks bearing Zhirinovsky’s name, but he said the vodka was by far the most attractive. Kuznetsov said he wanted to sell because he was frustrated with the vodka factories and wanted someone to invest in marketing the brand. “You do not earn much with the brand, but money is made from the production,” he said, explaining that he receives just 88 kopeks, or 3.4 cents, for each half-liter bottle with a wholesale price of 68 rubles. “Producers are not willing to invest in a brand they do not own.”

So far, Zhirinovsky products are far from best sellers. The vodka is among the country’s lesser-known spirits and, Kuznetsov said, production runs at 200,000 to 300,000 bottles a month. LR: Maybe there’s a little hope for Russia after all! Then again, there’s no active protest against the sale of these products, either — and maybe the limited distribution is simply due to utter incompetence on Zhirinovsky’s side.

Competitors in the vodka business said they were not impressed by Zhirinovsky’s performance. “This brand has been around for some 10 years now, but it never achieved a prominent position in the market,” said Dmitri Dobrov, a spokesman for Kristall, the state-controlled distillery. Kristall makes a highly successful brand of vodka called Putinka, which bears more than a slight resemblance to President Vladimir Putin’s family name. The brand was introduced in 2003, three years after Putin was first elected. Putinka and Zhirinovsky, however, have nothing in common, said Stanislav Kaufman, marketing vice president of Vineksim, the distributor for Putinka. “Putinka is a sympathetic nickname, while Zhirinovsky is an exact copy of a family name plus the man’s portrait,” he said.

The art of just sticking a family name on a product has also been perfected by several businessmen, including Oleg Tinkov, a St. Petersburg entrepreneur, who made a fortune with a brewery named after him. Vladimir Dovgan created a small empire of foods bearing his name in the 1990s. Although the brand has been discontinued in Russia, it is currently selling well in the sizable Russian-speaking market in Germany. But consumer goods analysts say this is becoming a method of the past. “This worked well in the 1990s, but it won’t work today,” said Mikhail Terentyev of Troika Dialog, a Moscow brokerage.

Brands with prominent family names could sell in markets with low levels of consumer sophistication, typical of the years after the Soviet breakup, he said. Today, buyers are more concerned about lifestyle, health care and the quality of ingredients, and this is not conveyed in a family name, he said. Furthermore, a famous name alone does not guarantee long-term popularity, said Alexandr Pismenny, general director of the Russian office of the A.C. Nielsen marketing company. “Apart from a brand that consumers can associate with, other factors like pricing, distribution and packaging are important for success, too,” he said.

Zhirinovsky is about the only prominent Russian politician to have endorsed the use of his name on consumer goods. But that has not stopped other companies from following Putinka’s lead. A factory in Astrakhan is selling pickled peppers and eggplants under the brand Puin. A sword inserted between the “u” and the “i” makes the word appear to be “PuTin.”

Annals of Russian Patriotism

The Daily Times of Pakistan reports on how Russia fills the ranks of its armed forced with patriotic men who love their country, fully respecting the rule of law like a civilized nation:

Russia army ‘press-gangs’ conscripts-campaigners

‘The military close their eyes to our complaints’

Artyom Yemelyanov had a document deferring his military service, but that did not stop officers grabbing the 20-year-old Russian from his work, shaving his head and packing him off to serve as a conscript. Rights groups say Russia’s military is taking young men from their homes, work and even hospitals and press-ganging them into the army despite the fact they are exempt from the draft.

The military has long had to hunt down young men trying to dodge the draft, an 18-month compulsory stint in the armed forces which is widely feared because of bullying and sometimes squalid conditions. Often, the reasons young men give for not serving are bogus. For example, draftees can pay corrupt doctors to diagnose them with non-existent illnesses.

But rights groups say draft boards frequently do not bother to establish if the draftee’s excuse is legitimate or not and instead put them in uniform and send them off to units before they have time to appeal against their call-up.

A defence ministry spokesman denied that people were being drafted illegally. Yemelyanov was released after the campaign group, the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee, intervened. But Lyudmila Vorobyova, with the group’s Moscow office, said there were dozens of similar cases and the military did not always admit its mistake.

In another case, Alexei Vabilyan, 20, was hauled off into the military from hospital, despite holding valid medical papers showing he needed treatment to his leg, Vorobyova said.

“The most insulting thing is that they (the military) close their eyes to our complaints,” she said in her cramped office. Campaigners say the number of such cases has gone up since compulsory military service was cut this year from two years to 18 months as part of a drive to modernise the armed forces.

That meant the military – which was already struggling to fill the ranks because of high levels of draft-dodging – had to bring in even more recruits to maintain numbers.

Campaigners also allege corrupt draft board officers are using the recruitment drive as an excuse to extort money from conscripts’ families in return for letting them go free.

Brazen: “They have started to behave more harshly … (and) started seizing people more brazenly, on the streets,” said Ella Polyakova, chair of the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee in St Petersburg, Russia’s second city. Igor Kostychin, deputy head of the defence ministry’s press service, said there were stringent procedures in place to make sure no one who should not be in the army is called up. In the event someone is illegally drafted, “every concrete case should be examined by prosecutors”, Kostychin said. Only about nine percent of those eligible for conscription answer their call-up.

The horrendous case last year of Andrei Sychev has deterred many. The 19-year-old recruit had his legs and genitals amputated after being abused in his unit.

So far this year, the Soldiers’ Mothers in St Petersburg say they have registered 26 cases of people being unfairly drafted. Many were detained by patrols of police and draft board officers who comb the city’s metro stations.

Mikhail Zhbanov, 24, was drafted despite having an official exemption on health grounds, his father, Anatoly, told Reuters.

“They said to him: ‘You are dodging service.’ Right there and then they took him away, detained him and sent him off,” Anatoly Zhbanov said.

A court suspended the decision to draft Mikhail but by then he was already in a unit near the Arctic Circle, his father said. “My wife is on the verge of hysterics and is only holding on in the hope she will see her son,” he said. reuters

Keeping Secrets: The Kremlin Hides Russian History From the Russian People

The irony is simply unbelievable. “President” Putin says Russians have nothing to fear from their own history and should celebrate it, then he won’t even let them see the records of it for themselves, keeping them hidden away behind KGB guard and doled out only a selected few in expurgated form. The Guardian reports:

Files on millions of victims of Stalinist repression, including those who perished in the Soviet Union’s infamous gulags, have been declassified, Russia’s federal security service announced today. The documents, dating from 1920 to 1950, are expected to shed new light on some of the most notorious excesses of the post-revolutionary and Stalinist eras, including Stalin’s forced collectivisation of agriculture in the early 1930s, in which up to 10 million people died. The archives, which include some two million documents, also cover the political purges of the late 1930s, which saw hundreds of thousands of party members executed as counter-revolutionaries or shipped off to gulags.

Historians and human rights activists reacted cautiously to the news, pointing out that only relatives of those “purged” would be able to study the documents.

Arseny Roginsky, a spokesman for the Russian human rights organisation Memorial, told the Guardian: “We welcome this but it’s not sensational. This process of opening up the archives started under Boris Yeltsin in 1992. The problem is that it is up to the federal security service [the FSB, successor to the KGB] to decide what gets released and what stays secret. Most of these documents concern people subsequently rehabilitated.

“There is no independent historical committee allowed to evaluate this material. The Soviet Union’s wartime relations with other states are completely off limits. And the biggest problem is that there is no catalogue: finding stuff is very difficult.”

The FSB confirmed today that the archives would be made available only to relatives of those who were “purged”. Vasily Khristoforov, head of the FSB’s archives and registers department, said family members could apply. He said the documents would be made available in a public reading room and that 1,500 requests were approved last year, under a policy of liberalising access to previously secret documents. Most government archives were classified as state secrets during the Soviet era. A 1992 presidential decree declassified materials on Soviet-era repression. But Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a veteran human rights advocate, told Associated Press that access was again restricted in the late 1990s without any explanation.

She said the FSB may be lifting recent curbs to improve its image but lamented: “A small window is being opened again but 87 years later we are finally opening it up but only to relatives.”

Latynina on Sochi

Writing in the Moscow Times, Echo Moskvy commentator Yulia Latynina looks at the Sochi olympics:

Russia’s winning of the right to host the Sochi Olympics in 2014 must be the happiest event that has happened for Russia in the last couple of years. International Olympic Committee members were given the red-carpet treatment when they came to Sochi. They stayed at Oleg Deripaska’s elite hotel consisting of 24 swank rooms with interior decorating done by the same designer who did work for the queen of Belgium. LR: In other words, they have no idea what Russia is really like, but they’re going to send lots of unwary tourists and athletes in to find out. Looking back, Russia had no real chance of winning this contest because Olympic officials gave Sochi the lowest possible rating. The main argument against Sochi was that every Olympic facility has to be built from scratch. Moreover, no one has an idea how to solve transportation problems. LR: Indeed. Just try to book a direct flight from abroad to Sochi. You can’t! Just try to fly into Moscow and then travel to Sochi. How? I disgusting train that takes years to arrive? A rickety, horrifying Russian domestic flight? Yikes!

Russia’s saving grace, however, was that the IOC’s final decision was made by bureaucrats rather than the experts who visited Sochi. On the eve before the IOC announced its decision, President Vladimir Putin personally met with every key IOC bureaucrat, even though it was clear after the preliminary vote that Pyongchang would be the likely winner.

The only thing that saved the day for Russia was the Lord’s intervention. Or perhaps Putin’s. I don’t know what Putin said to the IOC members. LR: Maybe he whispered “polonium.” Or maybe he didn’t say anything, but carried a big suitcase. I do remember, however, Putin telling U.S. President George W. Bush some time ago about a cross that he found after a fire in his dacha. And Bush informed the whole world after the “lobster summit” in Maine, that Putin cannot tell a lie. Since not all of the IOC members are Christian, Putin could not mention the story about the cross to them. On the other hand, he could have modified the story by saying that, in addition to the cross, he also found a Quran and Buddhist beads unscathed by the fire. Whatever the case, every member of the IOC looked Putin straight in the eyes and understood that this person truly cannot tell a fib. Even if Putin said there would be no more traffic jams in Russia, he would be telling the truth. LR: Chamberlain also looked Hitler in the eye.
Putin is certainly able to pull off this feat. After all, when North Korea hosted the Youth Festival in Pyongyang in 1989, there were no traffic jams because everybody over 40 years of age was evicted from the city. Why not oust everyone who could possibly cause traffic jams in Sochi? Authorities could give only tourists, athletes, service personnel and journalists access to the city. LR: The Chechens are already practicing their luge.

This is wonderful news because the $12 billion allocated for the Olympics will create a gold rush — particularly for bureaucrats if you consider the kickbacks typically payed by construction companies for lucrative building contracts.

It is wonderful because it will do more than give Putin a chance to develop a new southern capital at the expense of state funds and Russia’s oligarchs. It should be noted that Putin, who adores recreation, receives guests more often in Sochi — and in extreme cases at Novo-Ogaryovo — than in the Kremlin.

The Sochi victory is wonderful for a different reason. Imagine this: Putin flies to Guatemala City to attend the IOC meeting. He personally meets with each IOC member. Nonetheless, the members of the committee decide against Sochi based on the low rating given by the experts. If this happened, Russians would have cried: “Again the West has offended us. See how much the West hates us? The evil hand of the imperialists of the Fourth Reich have reached Sochi.” LR: Yes indeed, and where are the wonderful words of praise for the West now that it has awarded Russia the games? Russians are silent. What a nightmare! This have would meant disgrace for Russia, a formal break with West and a third term for Putin. Thank God those nasty scoundrels in the West remained our friends, placing their trust in Putin and keeping their boundless faith in Russia’s bright future.

Russians Blast Sharapova, Eat Their Young

The Telegraph reports that Russia has already started to devour Maria Sharapova over her refusal to play Fed Cup tennis for the Russian side, accusing her of being a liar and a traitor. Maybe now Maria can clearly see the true nature of “her” country. Note how they bash Sharapova, because she lives in the US, whilst ignoring Kuznetsova, who lives in Russia and who did exactly the same thing for the same cowardly, dishonest reasons as we previously reported (Venus and Serena Williams are both playing Fed Cup, and both are playing with significant injuries, both having been treated on court during Wimbledon).

Russian tennis officials have accused Maria Sharapova of putting her own interests ahead of her country after she pulled out of the team for this weekend’s Fed Cup semi-final against the US.

The Florida-based world No 2 agreed to make her Fed Cup debut in Vermont before saying she was not match-fit because of a persistent shoulder injury.

“Just forget about all these promises,” Russia’s chief tennis coach Vladimir Kamelzon said, “her closest advisers are Americans and they would never allow her to play for Russia.”

Former national champion Anna Dmitrieva, now a prominent TV commentator in Russia, also questioned Sharapova’s commitment, saying: “Well, she never intended to play in the first place. All she wanted was to be included in the Fed Cup team so she would be eligible to play at the 2008 Olympics.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s Fed Cup captain and national federation president, Shamil Tarpishchev, has asked the International Tennis Federation to move the match to a neutral country after accusing the US authorities of refusing him a visa. The US embassy in Moscow said that Tarpishchev’s application was being processed in Washington. But Tarpishchev said: “The Americans always like to talk about human rights and democracy but they are the first ones to deny others the same rights.” LR: So let us see if we understand. Any country that dares to deny a visa to an applicant is a non-democracy? It’s “undemocratic” to screen and reject visa applicants? If so, then we have sure and certain proof that Russia is a dictatorship. Is this maniac really suggesting that Venus and Serena Williams need the conspiratorial help of the U.S. government to defeat Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova? Does he recall what Serena did to Maria at the Aussie Open, or what Venus did to both Maria and Svetlana at Wimbledon? How neo-Soviet and paranoid can you get?