Daily Archives: August 22, 2007

August 22, 2007 — Contents

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 22 CONTENTS


(1) In Putin’s Prosperous Moscow . . . No Hot Water

(2) Free At Last!

(3) Thinking of Traveling to Putin’s Russia? Think Again!

(4) Sweden Bashes Russia, Withdraws WTO Support

(5) He’s a Yale Man, That Explains a Lot

In Prosperous Putin’s Moscow, No Hot Water

He’s boiling water on his STOVE so he can take a bath. In Russia’s wealthiest metropolis!
Is that barbaric or what? Russia as Africa. Zaire with permafrost!
This country is in the G-8! What a cosmic joke.


The New York Times reports that in the prosperous Moscow of Vladimir Putin, you can’t even get hot water to take a bath. Now is that pathetic, or what? Meanwhile, Russia’s military budget expands exponentially and the population continues to dwindle by up to 1 million per year. No wonder Putin is so popular with Russians! What wise, thoughtful people they are!

The dour Moscow of cold war film strips is long gone, and this increasingly prosperous city fancies itself striding chest out into the future. But every summer, the people here get a taste of old-style deprivation, as if they were flung back to a time when they had to queue up at dawn to buy a few coils of mealy sausage.

In neighborhoods rich and poor, for as long as a month, most buildings have no running hot water, not a drop. [LR: This is Moscow we’re talking about. Can you imagine what “life” is like in provincial areas?]

For all its new wealth and aspirations, spurred by a boom in oil and other natural resources, Moscow remains saddled with an often decrepit infrastructure. Around now, an apt symbol of its condition is the city’s hot water system, perhaps one of the more exasperating vestiges of Soviet centralized planning. Buildings in Moscow usually receive hot water from a series of plants throughout the city, not from basement boilers, as in the United States. By summer, the plants and the network of pipelines that transport hot water need maintenance. Off goes the hot water. And in homes across the city, out come the pots and sponges and grumbling.

The summer suspension of hot water is such a part of life that it has found its way into poems and songs, Russians being accomplished at turning privation into art. (There is also no shortage of jokes bemoaning the olfactory assault from the unwashed masses in the subways when the temperature sometimes reaches the 80s.) In fact, how people cope with the suspension seems to reflect the evolution of Russian attitudes. Younger Muscovites, who are less familiar with the hardships of the past and are as comfortable with Nokia and Pizza Hut as their peers in suburban New Jersey, seem far less forgiving.

The older generation certainly complains, but seems more willing to shrug it off. After all, what are a few weeks without hot water, given everything else that has been weathered over the decades? This view may be especially prevalent in Moscow, the largest city in Europe, whose population has surged with an influx of people from hardscrabble regions. “We are all basically country folk,” said Lidiya Artyomova, 52, a maid. “We are used to this sort of thing, so there’s nothing to be done.” Ms. Artyomova was working the other day at an apartment building without hot water on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street, in one of the city’s better neighborhoods. Soon after she spoke, up drove a resident, Roman Berezin, 25, a student with a dog in the back seat and a harsher view. “It’s very unpleasant,” Mr. Berezin said. “I like to take a shower twice a day, and without hot water, you end up going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, carrying the water from the kitchen to the bathroom.”

Of course, as under Communism, ways are devised to skirt the common misery. Some buildings, including hotels, install boilers, and some people put small water heaters in bathrooms — both are legal. But many cannot afford to do so, or live in dwellings whose plumbing and electricity cannot handle the equipment.

Moscow is not alone in its summertime water woes. St. Petersburg and other Russian cities have similar systems. But it galls some Muscovites that a city of such power and money cannot provide a basic necessity year-round. “We often think about why the city cannot fix all the pipes,” said Aleksandr Savin, 38, another resident of the building on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street, who runs a package delivery company. “How come they have to do this every year? And then there are the accidents, so they have to turn off the cold water sometimes, too.”

Moscow officials acknowledge the system’s failings but note that they have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years on replacing pipes, some of which did not function all that well even when they were installed during Stalin’s rule. Irina Negazina, an official at the city agency that oversees the system, said she hoped that pipe replacements would be complete in as little as five years. At that point, the suspensions, which roll across Moscow as crews move from site to site, should be briefer, she said. They might last only a few days, she said, because only plants should require major repairs.

Still, the feeling of frustration when the faucets run dry is widespread, as was captured by a prominent poet, Tatyana Shcherbina:

They’ve turned off all the hot water,
My liquid of love, my stream of words.
I should complain to the people,
But a scarf’s been thrown over my mouth.
Like this, without moisture of life, I’ll dry out,
Along with the unwashed dishes,
I’ll gather moss, a stone unturned,
Or perhaps be forgotten, lost in the grass.

For now, with a respite a long way off, Russians, as always, find ways of getting by. “We pretend we are angry and complain about it mockingly, and sometimes we go to visit those friends who have hot water in their apartments,” said Dmitri Kuper, 39, a clothing designer with a fondness for tattoos and piercings who lives in the building on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street. “I simply call my friends and tell them, ‘I am coming to see you, and I will have my towel with me!’ ”

In Prosperous Putin’s Moscow, No Hot Water

He’s boiling water on his STOVE so he can take a bath. In Russia’s wealthiest metropolis!
Is that barbaric or what? Russia as Africa. Zaire with permafrost!
This country is in the G-8! What a cosmic joke.


The New York Times reports that in the prosperous Moscow of Vladimir Putin, you can’t even get hot water to take a bath. Now is that pathetic, or what? Meanwhile, Russia’s military budget expands exponentially and the population continues to dwindle by up to 1 million per year. No wonder Putin is so popular with Russians! What wise, thoughtful people they are!

The dour Moscow of cold war film strips is long gone, and this increasingly prosperous city fancies itself striding chest out into the future. But every summer, the people here get a taste of old-style deprivation, as if they were flung back to a time when they had to queue up at dawn to buy a few coils of mealy sausage.

In neighborhoods rich and poor, for as long as a month, most buildings have no running hot water, not a drop. [LR: This is Moscow we’re talking about. Can you imagine what “life” is like in provincial areas?]

For all its new wealth and aspirations, spurred by a boom in oil and other natural resources, Moscow remains saddled with an often decrepit infrastructure. Around now, an apt symbol of its condition is the city’s hot water system, perhaps one of the more exasperating vestiges of Soviet centralized planning. Buildings in Moscow usually receive hot water from a series of plants throughout the city, not from basement boilers, as in the United States. By summer, the plants and the network of pipelines that transport hot water need maintenance. Off goes the hot water. And in homes across the city, out come the pots and sponges and grumbling.

The summer suspension of hot water is such a part of life that it has found its way into poems and songs, Russians being accomplished at turning privation into art. (There is also no shortage of jokes bemoaning the olfactory assault from the unwashed masses in the subways when the temperature sometimes reaches the 80s.) In fact, how people cope with the suspension seems to reflect the evolution of Russian attitudes. Younger Muscovites, who are less familiar with the hardships of the past and are as comfortable with Nokia and Pizza Hut as their peers in suburban New Jersey, seem far less forgiving.

The older generation certainly complains, but seems more willing to shrug it off. After all, what are a few weeks without hot water, given everything else that has been weathered over the decades? This view may be especially prevalent in Moscow, the largest city in Europe, whose population has surged with an influx of people from hardscrabble regions. “We are all basically country folk,” said Lidiya Artyomova, 52, a maid. “We are used to this sort of thing, so there’s nothing to be done.” Ms. Artyomova was working the other day at an apartment building without hot water on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street, in one of the city’s better neighborhoods. Soon after she spoke, up drove a resident, Roman Berezin, 25, a student with a dog in the back seat and a harsher view. “It’s very unpleasant,” Mr. Berezin said. “I like to take a shower twice a day, and without hot water, you end up going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, carrying the water from the kitchen to the bathroom.”

Of course, as under Communism, ways are devised to skirt the common misery. Some buildings, including hotels, install boilers, and some people put small water heaters in bathrooms — both are legal. But many cannot afford to do so, or live in dwellings whose plumbing and electricity cannot handle the equipment.

Moscow is not alone in its summertime water woes. St. Petersburg and other Russian cities have similar systems. But it galls some Muscovites that a city of such power and money cannot provide a basic necessity year-round. “We often think about why the city cannot fix all the pipes,” said Aleksandr Savin, 38, another resident of the building on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street, who runs a package delivery company. “How come they have to do this every year? And then there are the accidents, so they have to turn off the cold water sometimes, too.”

Moscow officials acknowledge the system’s failings but note that they have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years on replacing pipes, some of which did not function all that well even when they were installed during Stalin’s rule. Irina Negazina, an official at the city agency that oversees the system, said she hoped that pipe replacements would be complete in as little as five years. At that point, the suspensions, which roll across Moscow as crews move from site to site, should be briefer, she said. They might last only a few days, she said, because only plants should require major repairs.

Still, the feeling of frustration when the faucets run dry is widespread, as was captured by a prominent poet, Tatyana Shcherbina:

They’ve turned off all the hot water,
My liquid of love, my stream of words.
I should complain to the people,
But a scarf’s been thrown over my mouth.
Like this, without moisture of life, I’ll dry out,
Along with the unwashed dishes,
I’ll gather moss, a stone unturned,
Or perhaps be forgotten, lost in the grass.

For now, with a respite a long way off, Russians, as always, find ways of getting by. “We pretend we are angry and complain about it mockingly, and sometimes we go to visit those friends who have hot water in their apartments,” said Dmitri Kuper, 39, a clothing designer with a fondness for tattoos and piercings who lives in the building on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street. “I simply call my friends and tell them, ‘I am coming to see you, and I will have my towel with me!’ ”

In Prosperous Putin’s Moscow, No Hot Water

He’s boiling water on his STOVE so he can take a bath. In Russia’s wealthiest metropolis!
Is that barbaric or what? Russia as Africa. Zaire with permafrost!
This country is in the G-8! What a cosmic joke.


The New York Times reports that in the prosperous Moscow of Vladimir Putin, you can’t even get hot water to take a bath. Now is that pathetic, or what? Meanwhile, Russia’s military budget expands exponentially and the population continues to dwindle by up to 1 million per year. No wonder Putin is so popular with Russians! What wise, thoughtful people they are!

The dour Moscow of cold war film strips is long gone, and this increasingly prosperous city fancies itself striding chest out into the future. But every summer, the people here get a taste of old-style deprivation, as if they were flung back to a time when they had to queue up at dawn to buy a few coils of mealy sausage.

In neighborhoods rich and poor, for as long as a month, most buildings have no running hot water, not a drop. [LR: This is Moscow we’re talking about. Can you imagine what “life” is like in provincial areas?]

For all its new wealth and aspirations, spurred by a boom in oil and other natural resources, Moscow remains saddled with an often decrepit infrastructure. Around now, an apt symbol of its condition is the city’s hot water system, perhaps one of the more exasperating vestiges of Soviet centralized planning. Buildings in Moscow usually receive hot water from a series of plants throughout the city, not from basement boilers, as in the United States. By summer, the plants and the network of pipelines that transport hot water need maintenance. Off goes the hot water. And in homes across the city, out come the pots and sponges and grumbling.

The summer suspension of hot water is such a part of life that it has found its way into poems and songs, Russians being accomplished at turning privation into art. (There is also no shortage of jokes bemoaning the olfactory assault from the unwashed masses in the subways when the temperature sometimes reaches the 80s.) In fact, how people cope with the suspension seems to reflect the evolution of Russian attitudes. Younger Muscovites, who are less familiar with the hardships of the past and are as comfortable with Nokia and Pizza Hut as their peers in suburban New Jersey, seem far less forgiving.

The older generation certainly complains, but seems more willing to shrug it off. After all, what are a few weeks without hot water, given everything else that has been weathered over the decades? This view may be especially prevalent in Moscow, the largest city in Europe, whose population has surged with an influx of people from hardscrabble regions. “We are all basically country folk,” said Lidiya Artyomova, 52, a maid. “We are used to this sort of thing, so there’s nothing to be done.” Ms. Artyomova was working the other day at an apartment building without hot water on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street, in one of the city’s better neighborhoods. Soon after she spoke, up drove a resident, Roman Berezin, 25, a student with a dog in the back seat and a harsher view. “It’s very unpleasant,” Mr. Berezin said. “I like to take a shower twice a day, and without hot water, you end up going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, carrying the water from the kitchen to the bathroom.”

Of course, as under Communism, ways are devised to skirt the common misery. Some buildings, including hotels, install boilers, and some people put small water heaters in bathrooms — both are legal. But many cannot afford to do so, or live in dwellings whose plumbing and electricity cannot handle the equipment.

Moscow is not alone in its summertime water woes. St. Petersburg and other Russian cities have similar systems. But it galls some Muscovites that a city of such power and money cannot provide a basic necessity year-round. “We often think about why the city cannot fix all the pipes,” said Aleksandr Savin, 38, another resident of the building on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street, who runs a package delivery company. “How come they have to do this every year? And then there are the accidents, so they have to turn off the cold water sometimes, too.”

Moscow officials acknowledge the system’s failings but note that they have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years on replacing pipes, some of which did not function all that well even when they were installed during Stalin’s rule. Irina Negazina, an official at the city agency that oversees the system, said she hoped that pipe replacements would be complete in as little as five years. At that point, the suspensions, which roll across Moscow as crews move from site to site, should be briefer, she said. They might last only a few days, she said, because only plants should require major repairs.

Still, the feeling of frustration when the faucets run dry is widespread, as was captured by a prominent poet, Tatyana Shcherbina:

They’ve turned off all the hot water,
My liquid of love, my stream of words.
I should complain to the people,
But a scarf’s been thrown over my mouth.
Like this, without moisture of life, I’ll dry out,
Along with the unwashed dishes,
I’ll gather moss, a stone unturned,
Or perhaps be forgotten, lost in the grass.

For now, with a respite a long way off, Russians, as always, find ways of getting by. “We pretend we are angry and complain about it mockingly, and sometimes we go to visit those friends who have hot water in their apartments,” said Dmitri Kuper, 39, a clothing designer with a fondness for tattoos and piercings who lives in the building on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street. “I simply call my friends and tell them, ‘I am coming to see you, and I will have my towel with me!’ ”

In Prosperous Putin’s Moscow, No Hot Water

He’s boiling water on his STOVE so he can take a bath. In Russia’s wealthiest metropolis!
Is that barbaric or what? Russia as Africa. Zaire with permafrost!
This country is in the G-8! What a cosmic joke.


The New York Times reports that in the prosperous Moscow of Vladimir Putin, you can’t even get hot water to take a bath. Now is that pathetic, or what? Meanwhile, Russia’s military budget expands exponentially and the population continues to dwindle by up to 1 million per year. No wonder Putin is so popular with Russians! What wise, thoughtful people they are!

The dour Moscow of cold war film strips is long gone, and this increasingly prosperous city fancies itself striding chest out into the future. But every summer, the people here get a taste of old-style deprivation, as if they were flung back to a time when they had to queue up at dawn to buy a few coils of mealy sausage.

In neighborhoods rich and poor, for as long as a month, most buildings have no running hot water, not a drop. [LR: This is Moscow we’re talking about. Can you imagine what “life” is like in provincial areas?]

For all its new wealth and aspirations, spurred by a boom in oil and other natural resources, Moscow remains saddled with an often decrepit infrastructure. Around now, an apt symbol of its condition is the city’s hot water system, perhaps one of the more exasperating vestiges of Soviet centralized planning. Buildings in Moscow usually receive hot water from a series of plants throughout the city, not from basement boilers, as in the United States. By summer, the plants and the network of pipelines that transport hot water need maintenance. Off goes the hot water. And in homes across the city, out come the pots and sponges and grumbling.

The summer suspension of hot water is such a part of life that it has found its way into poems and songs, Russians being accomplished at turning privation into art. (There is also no shortage of jokes bemoaning the olfactory assault from the unwashed masses in the subways when the temperature sometimes reaches the 80s.) In fact, how people cope with the suspension seems to reflect the evolution of Russian attitudes. Younger Muscovites, who are less familiar with the hardships of the past and are as comfortable with Nokia and Pizza Hut as their peers in suburban New Jersey, seem far less forgiving.

The older generation certainly complains, but seems more willing to shrug it off. After all, what are a few weeks without hot water, given everything else that has been weathered over the decades? This view may be especially prevalent in Moscow, the largest city in Europe, whose population has surged with an influx of people from hardscrabble regions. “We are all basically country folk,” said Lidiya Artyomova, 52, a maid. “We are used to this sort of thing, so there’s nothing to be done.” Ms. Artyomova was working the other day at an apartment building without hot water on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street, in one of the city’s better neighborhoods. Soon after she spoke, up drove a resident, Roman Berezin, 25, a student with a dog in the back seat and a harsher view. “It’s very unpleasant,” Mr. Berezin said. “I like to take a shower twice a day, and without hot water, you end up going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, carrying the water from the kitchen to the bathroom.”

Of course, as under Communism, ways are devised to skirt the common misery. Some buildings, including hotels, install boilers, and some people put small water heaters in bathrooms — both are legal. But many cannot afford to do so, or live in dwellings whose plumbing and electricity cannot handle the equipment.

Moscow is not alone in its summertime water woes. St. Petersburg and other Russian cities have similar systems. But it galls some Muscovites that a city of such power and money cannot provide a basic necessity year-round. “We often think about why the city cannot fix all the pipes,” said Aleksandr Savin, 38, another resident of the building on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street, who runs a package delivery company. “How come they have to do this every year? And then there are the accidents, so they have to turn off the cold water sometimes, too.”

Moscow officials acknowledge the system’s failings but note that they have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years on replacing pipes, some of which did not function all that well even when they were installed during Stalin’s rule. Irina Negazina, an official at the city agency that oversees the system, said she hoped that pipe replacements would be complete in as little as five years. At that point, the suspensions, which roll across Moscow as crews move from site to site, should be briefer, she said. They might last only a few days, she said, because only plants should require major repairs.

Still, the feeling of frustration when the faucets run dry is widespread, as was captured by a prominent poet, Tatyana Shcherbina:

They’ve turned off all the hot water,
My liquid of love, my stream of words.
I should complain to the people,
But a scarf’s been thrown over my mouth.
Like this, without moisture of life, I’ll dry out,
Along with the unwashed dishes,
I’ll gather moss, a stone unturned,
Or perhaps be forgotten, lost in the grass.

For now, with a respite a long way off, Russians, as always, find ways of getting by. “We pretend we are angry and complain about it mockingly, and sometimes we go to visit those friends who have hot water in their apartments,” said Dmitri Kuper, 39, a clothing designer with a fondness for tattoos and piercings who lives in the building on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street. “I simply call my friends and tell them, ‘I am coming to see you, and I will have my towel with me!’ ”

In Prosperous Putin’s Moscow, No Hot Water

He’s boiling water on his STOVE so he can take a bath. In Russia’s wealthiest metropolis!
Is that barbaric or what? Russia as Africa. Zaire with permafrost!
This country is in the G-8! What a cosmic joke.


The New York Times reports that in the prosperous Moscow of Vladimir Putin, you can’t even get hot water to take a bath. Now is that pathetic, or what? Meanwhile, Russia’s military budget expands exponentially and the population continues to dwindle by up to 1 million per year. No wonder Putin is so popular with Russians! What wise, thoughtful people they are!

The dour Moscow of cold war film strips is long gone, and this increasingly prosperous city fancies itself striding chest out into the future. But every summer, the people here get a taste of old-style deprivation, as if they were flung back to a time when they had to queue up at dawn to buy a few coils of mealy sausage.

In neighborhoods rich and poor, for as long as a month, most buildings have no running hot water, not a drop. [LR: This is Moscow we’re talking about. Can you imagine what “life” is like in provincial areas?]

For all its new wealth and aspirations, spurred by a boom in oil and other natural resources, Moscow remains saddled with an often decrepit infrastructure. Around now, an apt symbol of its condition is the city’s hot water system, perhaps one of the more exasperating vestiges of Soviet centralized planning. Buildings in Moscow usually receive hot water from a series of plants throughout the city, not from basement boilers, as in the United States. By summer, the plants and the network of pipelines that transport hot water need maintenance. Off goes the hot water. And in homes across the city, out come the pots and sponges and grumbling.

The summer suspension of hot water is such a part of life that it has found its way into poems and songs, Russians being accomplished at turning privation into art. (There is also no shortage of jokes bemoaning the olfactory assault from the unwashed masses in the subways when the temperature sometimes reaches the 80s.) In fact, how people cope with the suspension seems to reflect the evolution of Russian attitudes. Younger Muscovites, who are less familiar with the hardships of the past and are as comfortable with Nokia and Pizza Hut as their peers in suburban New Jersey, seem far less forgiving.

The older generation certainly complains, but seems more willing to shrug it off. After all, what are a few weeks without hot water, given everything else that has been weathered over the decades? This view may be especially prevalent in Moscow, the largest city in Europe, whose population has surged with an influx of people from hardscrabble regions. “We are all basically country folk,” said Lidiya Artyomova, 52, a maid. “We are used to this sort of thing, so there’s nothing to be done.” Ms. Artyomova was working the other day at an apartment building without hot water on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street, in one of the city’s better neighborhoods. Soon after she spoke, up drove a resident, Roman Berezin, 25, a student with a dog in the back seat and a harsher view. “It’s very unpleasant,” Mr. Berezin said. “I like to take a shower twice a day, and without hot water, you end up going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, carrying the water from the kitchen to the bathroom.”

Of course, as under Communism, ways are devised to skirt the common misery. Some buildings, including hotels, install boilers, and some people put small water heaters in bathrooms — both are legal. But many cannot afford to do so, or live in dwellings whose plumbing and electricity cannot handle the equipment.

Moscow is not alone in its summertime water woes. St. Petersburg and other Russian cities have similar systems. But it galls some Muscovites that a city of such power and money cannot provide a basic necessity year-round. “We often think about why the city cannot fix all the pipes,” said Aleksandr Savin, 38, another resident of the building on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street, who runs a package delivery company. “How come they have to do this every year? And then there are the accidents, so they have to turn off the cold water sometimes, too.”

Moscow officials acknowledge the system’s failings but note that they have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years on replacing pipes, some of which did not function all that well even when they were installed during Stalin’s rule. Irina Negazina, an official at the city agency that oversees the system, said she hoped that pipe replacements would be complete in as little as five years. At that point, the suspensions, which roll across Moscow as crews move from site to site, should be briefer, she said. They might last only a few days, she said, because only plants should require major repairs.

Still, the feeling of frustration when the faucets run dry is widespread, as was captured by a prominent poet, Tatyana Shcherbina:

They’ve turned off all the hot water,
My liquid of love, my stream of words.
I should complain to the people,
But a scarf’s been thrown over my mouth.
Like this, without moisture of life, I’ll dry out,
Along with the unwashed dishes,
I’ll gather moss, a stone unturned,
Or perhaps be forgotten, lost in the grass.

For now, with a respite a long way off, Russians, as always, find ways of getting by. “We pretend we are angry and complain about it mockingly, and sometimes we go to visit those friends who have hot water in their apartments,” said Dmitri Kuper, 39, a clothing designer with a fondness for tattoos and piercings who lives in the building on Sadovaya-Karetnaya Street. “I simply call my friends and tell them, ‘I am coming to see you, and I will have my towel with me!’ ”

Free At Last!

Bloomberg reports that Larisa Arap (pictured) has finally received her freedom; in the hot glow of world outrage, it took more than one month. Can you imagine how long it would have taken if nobody had noticed? Remember how Jack Nicholsen got “free” of solitary confinement in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”?

A Russian journalist won release after 46 days of forcible confinement in a psychiatric hospital, a case human rights groups likened to the Soviet-era practice of locking up dissidents in clinics.

Larisa Arap, 48, who had written an article on maltreatment of children at a mental clinic in the northern city of Apatity, was hospitalized against her will on July 5. Doctors at the clinic released her today after intervention by Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin, his spokeswoman Natalya Mirza said by telephone. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists had written to Putin asking him to secure Arap’s release. “The horrifying method of forcible psychiatric detention as punishment for dissent was a trademark of the Soviet past and has no place in a new, democratic Russia,” it said in the letter.

President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel who was elected in 2000, has tightened control of political life in Russia, squeezing opposition parties out of parliament and eliminating most independent media. Arap, who belongs to an opposition movement led by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, was taken away in an ambulance after visiting a doctor for a routine health check needed to extend her driving-license, said Marina Litvinovich, a spokeswoman for Kasparov. Hospitalized in the northern port city of Murmansk, she was injected with drugs that weakened her, caused her tongue to swell, blurred her vision and affected her balance, CPJ said, citing her family.

On July 26, the authorities transferred Arap to the clinic in Apatity, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Murmansk, the place she had described in her article, the media freedom watchdog said. Lukin’s spokeswoman Mirza said that an independent psychiatric commission appointed by the human rights official to investigate Arap’s case had recommended her release.

Thinking of Traveling to Russia to See the Sights? Three words of advice: Don’t do it

The International Herald Tribune reports on neo-Soviet Russia’s warm, welcoming attitude towards foreign tourists. Just wait until they get a crack at those Olympics visitors!:

A Chilean graduate student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has been detained in Russia for more than two months after customs officials found several Soviet medals and currency she bought from a street vendor. Roxana Contreras, 29, faces up to seven years in prison, her supporters say. She “acquired USSR state honors illegally” and attempted to export them, according to Russian court documents. Supporters in the United States say the physics student was visiting friends in the southern city of Voronezh and probably did not realize she was doing anything wrong when she bought the six military medals, currency and coins for $66 (€49) and tried to bring them on the plane home with her. “They were being sold by a street vendor, so she had no idea they were not supposed to be taken out of the country,” said Sonya Bahar, the director of the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Rep. Todd Akin, who represents Missouri in Congress, has written to Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov inquiring about the case. Russia’s right to protect its national heritage is “undeniable,” he wrote. But, “there are many at the University who vouch for the integrity of Ms. Contreras and who are convinced that this incident is the result of an unfortunate error. It is my understanding that in similar cases contraband is rightfully confiscated, but that individuals are usually detained only for grave offenses.” In a follow up letter, Akin wrote that the ambassador’s office told him by telephone that Contreras had been released. However, her supporters said Russian authorities are still detaining her while she waits for a court date. Phone calls to the Russian embassy went unanswered Monday. An e-mail was also sent to the Chilean consulate in Moscow seeking comment. Attempts were also made to reach Contreras.

Bahar has asked university officials, academics and politicians to vouch for Contreras’ character. She fears the outside support may have an unintended consequences. “Whatever we seem to be doing to try and help seems to be making it worse,” she said. Contreras has hired a lawyer and rented an apartment. Russian officials are reluctant to keep renewing Contreras’ visa, but a judge there refused to write a letter explaining the situation to help, her supporters said. They are concerned she will be in further violation of the law if her visa expires. Contreras, who previously studied in Russia, is trying to improve her language skills and bought a guitar to pass time. “Some days she’s all right,” Bahar said. “Other days she’s just devastated.” Contreras’ boyfriend, Fred Scherrer, 41, of St. Louis, said, “She has been put on, we would call it, city arrest.” He said officials want to be able to reach her at all times. He thinks the items may have been intended as a gift for him, but said neither he nor his girlfriend collected medals or currency. “We don’t understand it from an American point of view. Why would they detain a traveler for two months?”

Thinking of Traveling to Russia to See the Sights? Three words of advice: Don’t do it

The International Herald Tribune reports on neo-Soviet Russia’s warm, welcoming attitude towards foreign tourists. Just wait until they get a crack at those Olympics visitors!:

A Chilean graduate student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has been detained in Russia for more than two months after customs officials found several Soviet medals and currency she bought from a street vendor. Roxana Contreras, 29, faces up to seven years in prison, her supporters say. She “acquired USSR state honors illegally” and attempted to export them, according to Russian court documents. Supporters in the United States say the physics student was visiting friends in the southern city of Voronezh and probably did not realize she was doing anything wrong when she bought the six military medals, currency and coins for $66 (€49) and tried to bring them on the plane home with her. “They were being sold by a street vendor, so she had no idea they were not supposed to be taken out of the country,” said Sonya Bahar, the director of the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Rep. Todd Akin, who represents Missouri in Congress, has written to Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov inquiring about the case. Russia’s right to protect its national heritage is “undeniable,” he wrote. But, “there are many at the University who vouch for the integrity of Ms. Contreras and who are convinced that this incident is the result of an unfortunate error. It is my understanding that in similar cases contraband is rightfully confiscated, but that individuals are usually detained only for grave offenses.” In a follow up letter, Akin wrote that the ambassador’s office told him by telephone that Contreras had been released. However, her supporters said Russian authorities are still detaining her while she waits for a court date. Phone calls to the Russian embassy went unanswered Monday. An e-mail was also sent to the Chilean consulate in Moscow seeking comment. Attempts were also made to reach Contreras.

Bahar has asked university officials, academics and politicians to vouch for Contreras’ character. She fears the outside support may have an unintended consequences. “Whatever we seem to be doing to try and help seems to be making it worse,” she said. Contreras has hired a lawyer and rented an apartment. Russian officials are reluctant to keep renewing Contreras’ visa, but a judge there refused to write a letter explaining the situation to help, her supporters said. They are concerned she will be in further violation of the law if her visa expires. Contreras, who previously studied in Russia, is trying to improve her language skills and bought a guitar to pass time. “Some days she’s all right,” Bahar said. “Other days she’s just devastated.” Contreras’ boyfriend, Fred Scherrer, 41, of St. Louis, said, “She has been put on, we would call it, city arrest.” He said officials want to be able to reach her at all times. He thinks the items may have been intended as a gift for him, but said neither he nor his girlfriend collected medals or currency. “We don’t understand it from an American point of view. Why would they detain a traveler for two months?”

Thinking of Traveling to Russia to See the Sights? Three words of advice: Don’t do it

The International Herald Tribune reports on neo-Soviet Russia’s warm, welcoming attitude towards foreign tourists. Just wait until they get a crack at those Olympics visitors!:

A Chilean graduate student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has been detained in Russia for more than two months after customs officials found several Soviet medals and currency she bought from a street vendor. Roxana Contreras, 29, faces up to seven years in prison, her supporters say. She “acquired USSR state honors illegally” and attempted to export them, according to Russian court documents. Supporters in the United States say the physics student was visiting friends in the southern city of Voronezh and probably did not realize she was doing anything wrong when she bought the six military medals, currency and coins for $66 (€49) and tried to bring them on the plane home with her. “They were being sold by a street vendor, so she had no idea they were not supposed to be taken out of the country,” said Sonya Bahar, the director of the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Rep. Todd Akin, who represents Missouri in Congress, has written to Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov inquiring about the case. Russia’s right to protect its national heritage is “undeniable,” he wrote. But, “there are many at the University who vouch for the integrity of Ms. Contreras and who are convinced that this incident is the result of an unfortunate error. It is my understanding that in similar cases contraband is rightfully confiscated, but that individuals are usually detained only for grave offenses.” In a follow up letter, Akin wrote that the ambassador’s office told him by telephone that Contreras had been released. However, her supporters said Russian authorities are still detaining her while she waits for a court date. Phone calls to the Russian embassy went unanswered Monday. An e-mail was also sent to the Chilean consulate in Moscow seeking comment. Attempts were also made to reach Contreras.

Bahar has asked university officials, academics and politicians to vouch for Contreras’ character. She fears the outside support may have an unintended consequences. “Whatever we seem to be doing to try and help seems to be making it worse,” she said. Contreras has hired a lawyer and rented an apartment. Russian officials are reluctant to keep renewing Contreras’ visa, but a judge there refused to write a letter explaining the situation to help, her supporters said. They are concerned she will be in further violation of the law if her visa expires. Contreras, who previously studied in Russia, is trying to improve her language skills and bought a guitar to pass time. “Some days she’s all right,” Bahar said. “Other days she’s just devastated.” Contreras’ boyfriend, Fred Scherrer, 41, of St. Louis, said, “She has been put on, we would call it, city arrest.” He said officials want to be able to reach her at all times. He thinks the items may have been intended as a gift for him, but said neither he nor his girlfriend collected medals or currency. “We don’t understand it from an American point of view. Why would they detain a traveler for two months?”

Thinking of Traveling to Russia to See the Sights? Three words of advice: Don’t do it

The International Herald Tribune reports on neo-Soviet Russia’s warm, welcoming attitude towards foreign tourists. Just wait until they get a crack at those Olympics visitors!:

A Chilean graduate student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has been detained in Russia for more than two months after customs officials found several Soviet medals and currency she bought from a street vendor. Roxana Contreras, 29, faces up to seven years in prison, her supporters say. She “acquired USSR state honors illegally” and attempted to export them, according to Russian court documents. Supporters in the United States say the physics student was visiting friends in the southern city of Voronezh and probably did not realize she was doing anything wrong when she bought the six military medals, currency and coins for $66 (€49) and tried to bring them on the plane home with her. “They were being sold by a street vendor, so she had no idea they were not supposed to be taken out of the country,” said Sonya Bahar, the director of the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Rep. Todd Akin, who represents Missouri in Congress, has written to Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov inquiring about the case. Russia’s right to protect its national heritage is “undeniable,” he wrote. But, “there are many at the University who vouch for the integrity of Ms. Contreras and who are convinced that this incident is the result of an unfortunate error. It is my understanding that in similar cases contraband is rightfully confiscated, but that individuals are usually detained only for grave offenses.” In a follow up letter, Akin wrote that the ambassador’s office told him by telephone that Contreras had been released. However, her supporters said Russian authorities are still detaining her while she waits for a court date. Phone calls to the Russian embassy went unanswered Monday. An e-mail was also sent to the Chilean consulate in Moscow seeking comment. Attempts were also made to reach Contreras.

Bahar has asked university officials, academics and politicians to vouch for Contreras’ character. She fears the outside support may have an unintended consequences. “Whatever we seem to be doing to try and help seems to be making it worse,” she said. Contreras has hired a lawyer and rented an apartment. Russian officials are reluctant to keep renewing Contreras’ visa, but a judge there refused to write a letter explaining the situation to help, her supporters said. They are concerned she will be in further violation of the law if her visa expires. Contreras, who previously studied in Russia, is trying to improve her language skills and bought a guitar to pass time. “Some days she’s all right,” Bahar said. “Other days she’s just devastated.” Contreras’ boyfriend, Fred Scherrer, 41, of St. Louis, said, “She has been put on, we would call it, city arrest.” He said officials want to be able to reach her at all times. He thinks the items may have been intended as a gift for him, but said neither he nor his girlfriend collected medals or currency. “We don’t understand it from an American point of view. Why would they detain a traveler for two months?”

Thinking of Traveling to Russia to See the Sights? Three words of advice: Don’t do it

The International Herald Tribune reports on neo-Soviet Russia’s warm, welcoming attitude towards foreign tourists. Just wait until they get a crack at those Olympics visitors!:

A Chilean graduate student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has been detained in Russia for more than two months after customs officials found several Soviet medals and currency she bought from a street vendor. Roxana Contreras, 29, faces up to seven years in prison, her supporters say. She “acquired USSR state honors illegally” and attempted to export them, according to Russian court documents. Supporters in the United States say the physics student was visiting friends in the southern city of Voronezh and probably did not realize she was doing anything wrong when she bought the six military medals, currency and coins for $66 (€49) and tried to bring them on the plane home with her. “They were being sold by a street vendor, so she had no idea they were not supposed to be taken out of the country,” said Sonya Bahar, the director of the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Rep. Todd Akin, who represents Missouri in Congress, has written to Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov inquiring about the case. Russia’s right to protect its national heritage is “undeniable,” he wrote. But, “there are many at the University who vouch for the integrity of Ms. Contreras and who are convinced that this incident is the result of an unfortunate error. It is my understanding that in similar cases contraband is rightfully confiscated, but that individuals are usually detained only for grave offenses.” In a follow up letter, Akin wrote that the ambassador’s office told him by telephone that Contreras had been released. However, her supporters said Russian authorities are still detaining her while she waits for a court date. Phone calls to the Russian embassy went unanswered Monday. An e-mail was also sent to the Chilean consulate in Moscow seeking comment. Attempts were also made to reach Contreras.

Bahar has asked university officials, academics and politicians to vouch for Contreras’ character. She fears the outside support may have an unintended consequences. “Whatever we seem to be doing to try and help seems to be making it worse,” she said. Contreras has hired a lawyer and rented an apartment. Russian officials are reluctant to keep renewing Contreras’ visa, but a judge there refused to write a letter explaining the situation to help, her supporters said. They are concerned she will be in further violation of the law if her visa expires. Contreras, who previously studied in Russia, is trying to improve her language skills and bought a guitar to pass time. “Some days she’s all right,” Bahar said. “Other days she’s just devastated.” Contreras’ boyfriend, Fred Scherrer, 41, of St. Louis, said, “She has been put on, we would call it, city arrest.” He said officials want to be able to reach her at all times. He thinks the items may have been intended as a gift for him, but said neither he nor his girlfriend collected medals or currency. “We don’t understand it from an American point of view. Why would they detain a traveler for two months?”

Sweden Bashes Russia over WTO

Reuters reports that Sweden has said it plans to raise new objections to Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization. Another brilliant success for Vladimir Putin in international diplomacy:

Sweden warned Russia on Monday that it could be harming its chances of World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership and future investment with its behaviour towards trading partners. Swedish Trade Minister Sten Tolgfors told Reuters he felt direct trade discussions with Russia were no longer productive and he had asked for EU help as he accused the Russians of failing to live up to promises on timber tariffs. “This is the first time my government is really this outspoken and critical towards Russia,” he said in an interview. Tolgfors’s office said earlier he had written to EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson raising objections to Russia’s planned membership of the WTO.

The letter was prompted by Russian plans to sharply raise export duties on birch timber. “I think simply that the highest leadership of Russia has not seen the linkage to the conditions for the WTO membership. So that’s why the promises made by ministers have not been fulfilled,” Tolgfors said. “It’s very hard for me to continue a dialogue when the agreements are not fulfilled. That’s why it has to go back to the Commission and they have to handle this issue with urgency in the WTO negotiations,” he said. Russia is negotiating in Geneva for entry into the WTO, possibly next year, and the Commission represents the members of the EU, which include Sweden.

Russia as of July began charging a 10 euro ($13.50) export duty on each cubic meter of hardwood timber. It plans to raise that to 50 euros a cubic meter in January 2009, with one interim increase in April of 2008. Tolgfors said he had been promised by Russia that birch would be exempted from any export moves until 2011. Birch is a key import for Sweden because it is mixed with Swedish-grown timber to make pulp used in wood products. The move could make it impossible for some Swedish timber importers to turn a profit and could lead to plant shutdowns and lost jobs, the minister added. An official in his office said Sweden employs 90,000 workers in the forestry industry, or 1 percent of the population. Tolgfors, who expects the EU to support Sweden, said Russia’s actions were also in breach of a 2004 agreement between the EU and Russia. “Yes, I really do think the commission will support this,” he said, noting the European Commission had already rejected a Russian compromise proposal, as had Sweden and Finland.

Russia, Tolgfors said, appeared to be trying to force wood products companies to invest in Russia and add value there. “Their motive for imposing this export tariff is that they want to encourage companies to invest in Russia and not export raw materials but export products,” he said. But he argued it could have the opposite effect. “This is sending a signal that the business conditions are not that stable, and that I think is going to hurt investments in Russia,” he said.

He’s a Yale Man, That Explains a Lot (Remember, Putin Soul-Gazer George Bush is Too)


The following opinion piece, written by a card-carrying AARP member named Paul Kennedy (the pathetic-looking loser shown above), identified as “the director of International Security Studies at Yale University,” appeared recently in the International Herald Tribune and the Khaleej Times. Whose security, exactly, he’s concerned with remains a mystery. Let’s help him look foolish (not that he needs any), shall we? There’s some hope to be found in the fact that his gibberish couldn’t find publication in a more significant forum. When you look up the word “senile” in the dictionary, you should see an illustration of this fellow. Weirdly schizoid, the column actually starts to make some sense half way through — but no thinking person would read that far after seeing so much gibberish that might as well have been written by the Kremlin at the start.

For the past several years, the Russia of Vladimir Putin has been sending very clear signals that it is no longer the weakened, troubled and Western-dependent state that it was following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia is once again a proud and assertive nation, increasingly recognizable by its actions to historians of its czarist and Communist predecessors. Many will say that its recovery is based on shallow foundations, in fact that it rests almost totally upon the high price of oil and gas – and Russia’s fortunate possession of vast supplies of those vital commodities. That is true. But oil revenues, if invested wisely (as has been done by two countries as different as Norway and Dubai during the past decade), can enhance national infrastructure, industrial and technological developments, and military security.

LR: Note to Professor Kennedy. Norway and Dubai are tiny little countries with tiny little infrastructure costs and per capita revenues from oil that dwarf Russia’s. Russia’s is trying to build infrastructure in a country that covers eleven time zones, you totally helpless idiot! There is no comparison between Norway or Dubai and Russia. What’s more, neither Norway or Dubai are trying to confront the entire world in a new cold war, now are they? Putin’s policies are destroying Russia, not rebuilding it. It’s rather ironic that, as shown in our first post above on the same day that Professor Kennedy’s piece appears in the IHT, the New York Times, its sister paper, runs a major feature about the fact that in Russia’s most advanced metropolis they still don’t even have hot water in the summer time.

Not only is Putin’s regime making smart strategic investments – in infrastructure, laboratories, a modernized military – its flow of energy wealth is giving the Kremlin the confidence to pursue assertive foreign policies, secure for the moment in a set of global circumstances that has hobbled the United States, turned the attention of China and India elsewhere (toward growth and internal modernization), and given all the world’s oil-producing states immense leverage.

LR: Professor Kennedy doesn’t give one single fact to show that Russia is making significant investments in infrastructure. To the contrary, Russia is hoarding its oil revenues as cash reserves, and spending them only on its military. But Russia still has one the lowest-paid, most poorly-equipped armies of any industrialized nation, a horrific problem of hazing and suicides therein, and it is non-competitive in any category with its chief rival the U.S. Oil didn’t help Russia at the U.N. security council recently when the whole world sought to condemn it over it’s attack on Georgia. Only Russia’s veto, which it’s had since Soviet times,did that.

Right now, the list of Moscow’s unilateralist actions is probably only exceeded by those of the White House over the past six years. Take an obvious example: Russia uses its veto power on the UN Security Council to support Serbia and crush Kosovo’s hopes of independence, just as the United States uses its privilege to protect Israel and block pro-Palestinian resolutions in the world organization. In a similar negative way, Russia controls what the Security Council may, or may not, do regarding actions against Iran and North Korea.

LR: The economy of the United States is more than twelve times larger than Russia’s. America’s population is twice that of Russia and growing strongly, while Russia’s is shrinking violently. America has a host of powerful allies established by a formal treaty, while Russia stands utterly alone. All this means that America can afford to be aggressive — Russia can’t. For Russia to act like America is like Woody Allen acting like Mike Tyson. Only one thing can come of that — failure. What’s more, Russia has tried to criticize America for its unilateralism, meaning it’s one of the great hypocrites in world history. Notice how Professor Kennedy doesn’t notice that?

The list goes on. Putin’s ministers are adept at using what has come to be called “pipeline diplomacy” to force neighbors like Belarus and Ukraine to bend to Moscow’s will and recognize their dependence upon Russian energy supplies, and it is clear that this is intended to have a secondary intimidation effect upon the states of Western Europe as well. Estonia and Latvia are browbeaten over what are regarded as anti-Russian acts, such as the removal of Soviet war memorials or treatment of Russian-speaking citizens.

LR: It seems they are smoking some powerful weed up there at Yale these days. Ukraine bending to Moscow’s will? Is that why they’ve elected Victor Yushchenko president, and are now holding snap elections despite Russian opposition? Is it a point of pride for Russia that it’s able to dominate Belarus and Ukraine? If so, that’s just about as pathetic as you can get.

Western oil companies are discovering that a contract for control of energy resources is not necessarily viewed by the Moscow government as a sacred legal obligation. Thus, massive international corporations such as BP and Exxon, long regarded as powerful independent actors, are now, literally, being put over the barrel, forced to recognize their weaker bargaining position. Many of their chief executives must have rubbed their eyes at the reports that Russia has just claimed extensive rights at the North Pole, with implications for rights to the exploitation of seabed energy resources. Moscow seems to be advancing its international claims with about the same speed that it denounces arms-control accords.

LR: It’s a sign of Russian resurgence that it will flout the law and the basic concept of property ownership, alienating the entire world in the process? Some people (those with actual brains) might see that as a sign of self-destruction.

If all of this is unsettling, it is by no means unusual. Actually, Russia’s actions are rather predictable. They are the steps taken by a traditional power elite that, having suffered defeat and humiliation, is now bent upon the recovery of its assets, its authority and its capacity to intimidate. There is nothing in the history of Russia since Ivan the Terrible to suggest that Putin is doing anything new. “Top-down” policies from the Kremlin have a thousand-year provenance. If they seem more noticeable at this moment in time, it may simply be because of two (possibly temporary) factors: the modern world’s dependence upon petroleum, and the Bush administration’s obsession with Iraq and terrorism. All Putin is doing is walking through an open gate – opened, by and large, by the West.

LR: And then suddenly, he starts talking sense. He concedes that Russia is a nation of barbarians that has been destroying itself by making the same mistakes over and over. And he seems to imply that we in the West are negligent in failing to resist it from the beginning, which is perfectly correct. Perhaps he’s a true hater of Russia, who doesn’t care whether Russians survive or not, or is even glad to see them go. That’s even worse than a Russophile, as far as we’re concerned. What he says next seems to confirm this.

So the reports from Russia that interest me most are not those concerning drone submarines under the Arctic icecap, or putting the screws upon Belarus to pay backdated oil charges. What intrigues me are the broader and more subtle measures being instituted by the Putin regime to enhance national – and, even more, nationalist – pride. They point to something much more purposeful, and potentially quite sinister. Two examples will have to suffice here: the creation of a patriotic youth movement, and the not-too-subtle rewriting of Russia’s school history books. The youth movement called “Nashi” (it translates as “ours”) is growing fast, encouraged by government agencies determined to instill the right virtues into the next generation and to use this cadre of ultra-Russianists to buttress Putin’s regime against domestic critics.

LR: “Potentially” seems like a real “door-opening” word, doesn’t it? “Quite sinister” has a nice ring to it, though, we must admit.

The policies that Nashi advocates are eclectic. Among the main features are reverence for the Fatherland, respect for the family, Russian traditions and marriage, and a detestation of foreigners; it is hard to tell whether American imperialists, Chechen terrorists, or Estonian ingrates are at the bottom of their list of those who threaten the Russian way of life. Right now, Nashi is training tens of thousands of young diligents; right now, they are in summer camps where they do mass aerobics, discuss “proper” and “corrupt” politics, and receive the necessary education for the struggles to come. Vast numbers have recently been mobilized to harass the British and Estonian ambassadors in Moscow, following Moscow’s disputes with those two countries. According to The Financial Times, Nashi is training 60,000 “leaders” to monitor voting and conduct exit polls in elections this coming December and March. I find this all pretty creepy.

LR: It’s horrifying. Too bad it’s buried so deep in the piece, many people might not even read that far.

So, too, are the reports that Putin has personally complimented the authors of a new manual for high school history teachers that seeks to instill a renewed pride in teenagers of their country’s past and encourage national solidarity. As a historian, I always shrink from the idea that education ministries should approve some sort of official view of the national past, although I know that bureaucrats from Japan to France do precisely that, that Beijing’s leadership would get highly upset if it learned that schools in China could choose their own textbooks, and that American fundamentalists try to put their own clumsy footprint on what children should actually be exposed to.

LR: Are “American fundamentalists” really the same as Chinese bureaucrats? Seems like this old fogey’s true colors are shining through, aren’t they? What kind of historian is unaware of the fact that neither Japan nor France have recent histories of being ruled by maniacal regimes dominated by the secret police which wiped out millions of citizens for expressing political dissent? Aren’t Japan and France both flourishing democracies with standards of living far above that of Russia? If the KGB were responding to criticism of Russia, the first thing they’d do would be to start talking about other countries. Hmmm . . . coincidence?

But it is one thing for French kids to be told about Joan of Arc’s heroism or American kids about Paul Revere’s midnight ride; everyone is entitled to a Robin Hood or William Tell or two. It’s a bit more disturbing to learn that the new Russian history manual teaches that “entry into the club of democratic nations involves surrendering part of your national sovereignty to the U.S.” and other such choice contemporary lessons that suggest to Russian teenagers that they face dark forces abroad.

LR: Only “a bit more disturbing”? Gosh, wonder what sort of genocide it would take to provoke this fossil into actual outrage? How many people would have to lose their lives?

What does this all mean? Should oil prices collapse – should pigs fly – then Putin’s efforts at a Russian nationalistic renaissance might also tumble. But there is no doubt about the coherence of this plan to rebuild Russian pride and strength from the top down and the bottom up. Over the longer run, the current street agitation against Britain’s ambassador and the tearing down of the Estonian flag by Nashi extremists may be obscure footnotes to history. By contrast, the deliberate campaigns to indoctrinate Russian youth and to rewrite the history of the great though terribly disturbed nation that they are inheriting might be much more significant for the unfolding of our 21st century.

LR: Do you notice that he doesn’t have one single practical suggestion as to how we can respond to these outrageous actions he is documenting? He calls Russia “great” but doesn’t mention one single act of “greatness” Russia has ever undertaken. Maybe he thinks the murder of millions of innocent Russians by Stalin or hundreds of thousands by Peter I was great? If so, what could possibly make him hate Russia so much?