Daily Archives: November 8, 2007

November 8, 2007 — Contents

THURSDAY NOVEMBER 8 CONTENTS

(1) Another Original LR Translation: Bukovsky, Russian Hero

(2) Bovt on the Quashing of Debate

(3) Kiselyov on the Neo-Bolshevik State

(4) Latynina on Georgia

(5) Annals of Neo-Soviet Propaganda: It’s Just Pathological

NOTE: Well, what can we say? Another brilliant day for the Moscow Times. Today we republish three amazing op-ed pieces (Bovt, Latynina, Kiselyov) and top it off with a shocking news report on the horror of neo-Soviet propaganda efforts by the Kremlin. Where would the world’s comprehension of Russian reality be without the mighty MT? And but for our efforts, this stuff would end up getting locked behind their archive wall and functionally lost forever. A true tragedy to contemplate! And we start things off with another original translation from our brilliant in-house expert, who opens a window into the soul of Vladimir Bukovsky, the soul of Russia itself. Our translations library, located here, now contains 32 original translations from the Russian media by four different professional translators, led by the yeoman work of our original translator. Have a browse, you might be surprised by what you learn from the Russians.

NOTE: Check out our latest installment on Publius Pundit, where we review the recent outbreak of trouble in Georgia. Just the latest round of efforts by Russia to destabilize and unseat the tiny country’s pro-West government.

Another Original LR Translation: The Return of a Russian Hero

La Russophobe‘s original translator provides a fascinating insight into the mind of Russian hero Vladimir Bukovsky from the pages of the Russian press:

“Vladimir Bukovskiy:

‘I came back because people are once again afraid…’”

Aleksandr Podrobinek

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

October 31, 2007

Vladimir Bukovskiy — the famous Soviet dissident, who first exposed the political abuse of psychiatry then spent 12 years in prison and psychiatric hospitals for it, before being traded in 1976 for the Chilean communist Luis Corvalan – was back in Moscow in the middle of October.

As we rode through the foggy early morning streets from the “Domodedovo” airport, billboards gleamed, as if mockingly, with advertisements for a men’s journal: “Where have you been all these years?” Later, at a meeting with the pro-democracy community at the Sakharov Museum, a nervous young man asked Bukovskiy, “Where have you been all this time, Vladimir Konstantinovich, and why haven’t you moved to Russia to help defend democracy?” This question was repeated in various versions at press conferences, meetings with journalists, and presentations of his book “И возвращается ветер…” [translated into English as, “To Build a Castle, My Life as a Dissenter”]. Bukovskiy remained unperturbed throughout, noting that even the most unpleasant questions were engendered by ignorance, not personal enmity.

It is true that for the past 15 years Bukovskiy could not be found in Russia. At first he was not particularly longing to return, understanding as he did that the era of the dissident had passed, and the country no longer needed his experience at resisting the Chekists. But events of the past eight years gradually changed his views about returning, and he eventually accepted the invitation of a group of social activists and journalists to stand for the presidential election in 2008. In August, Bukovskiy received a new passport from the Russian embassy in London, and can now travel without interference to Russia.

His most recent arrival could hardly be called triumphant, but it also did not pass unnoticed. There was certainly no lack of interest from journalists. Bukovskiy did not refuse anyone an interview, even those working for publications from which nothing good could come. From some he evoked praise, from others – jeers, and from others still – irritation. One journalist from “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, Yuliya Yuzik, published a disgraceful and mendacious profile of Bukovskiy, then the following day, on her personal website, wrote that she regretted doing it, making a laughingstock of Bukovskiy, but she had to feed her children. The next day she had to leave her job. Bukovskiy, hearing about this story, remarked with sad irony: “The poor woman… how will she feed her children now? But she did the right thing.”

Despite all the unpleasantness of the current political system, Bukovskiy has not shown any personal enmity toward his political opponents. The harshest thing to be heard from him was in his answer to a question from the news anchor Tatyana Limanova of REN-TV. Paraphrasing the famous question, “With whom would you go to the intelligence services?” she asked Bukovskiy, “With whom would you share a jail cell?” Without hesitating Bokovskiy answered that he would be ready to share a cell with Nemtsov or Kasparov, then after thinking about it for a moment noted that it would better if Putin were not put in the same cell with him. “It would be bad”, he added, as if joking, but his face had become hard, like that of a prisoner who has been backed into a corner.

With everyone else he has been fairly gentle. One very high-ranking Russian official, well-known to the public, asked through a mutual friend for a signed copy of Bukovskiy’s book “И возвращается ветер…”. Bukovskiy made his usual inscription, then added the words, “Honor your own constitution!” – a slogan from the dissident era.

It is a slogan as fresh today as it was 40 years ago. There are two legal obstacles to Bukovskiy being registered as a presidential candidate. First, the Constitution requires that a candidate have lived in Russia at least 10 years – though it does not specify that it must have been the 10 years immediately prior to the election. Second, a law passed this year prohibits any person with dual citizenship from being elected to parliament or the presidency. Bukovskiy, who 30 years ago was sent directly from Vladimirskiy Prison to the West, has both Russian and British citizenship. Both obstacles are patently absurd. The residency requirement clearly contradicts the Constitutional principle of “general, equal and direct vote”. [Article 81: The President of the Russian Federation shall be elected for a term of four years by the citizens of the Russian Federation on the basis of general, equal and direct vote by secret ballot.”] Limiting voting rights on the basis of dual citizenship absolutely and unambiguously contradicts the Constitutional restriction that only the incapacitated or imprisoned do not have the right to vote or be elected. [Article 32: “Citizens who have been found by a court of law to be under special disability, and also citizens placed in detention under a court verdict, shall not have the right to elect or to be elected.”]

But the real issue is not with the laws.. Bukovskiy knows perfectly well that he will never be allowed to register as a candidate for president, no matter what the law is or who is interpreting it. He took up this patently lost cause in order show our society that it is not doomed to submit to the choice presented by the Kremlin; that one need not agree with “Operation Successor” as long as one still has the strength to resist. In Soviet times, this position found expression in the ironic toast, “To the success of our hopeless project”. History has shown, however, that the dissident project was not so hopeless after all.

“I have never had any political ambitions,” says Bukovskiy. “I gave 12 years of my life to help pull my country away from this abyss, and I cannot sit idly by while it careens back toward it. I will, of course, not become the President, but I will present the voters with a point of view with which they may or may not be acquainted; I will try to sharpen and consolidate the democratic opposition.”

Bukovsky suggested that all the presidential candidates join him in a pre-election pledge containing five points: free all political prisoners; cease all political repressions and reconsider the laws that were adopted for this purpose; cease the misuse of psychiatry for repressive purposes; cease all torture and violent means of dealing with the population being used by the law enforcement agencies; provide for an objective and independent judiciary in Russia. So far the only person to respond to this proposal has been Grigoriy Yavlinskiy, who during a meeting with Bukovskiy said he was ready to sign every word in it. Bukovskiy sincerely hopes that the other presidential candidates will join Yavlinskiy in this.

For the six days he was in Moscow, Bukovskiy was most often asked about his relationships with the “Other Russia” movement and the leaders of the opposition parties. Bukovskiy has had warm relations with Garry Kasparov for 20 years, and he welcomes in every way efforts by “Other Russia” to defend Russia’s democratic institutions. But he considers it a mistake to try and put forward a single candidate for all the opposition parties, inasmuch as it is impossible to find a candidate acceptable to, in his words, both the Communists and the anti-communists.

Regarding other opposition leaders, Bukovskiy is ready to meet with everyone, and he might make a good conciliator, since he is not beholden to any one political movement. In fact, it would be hard to doubt the conciliatory capabilities of a man who in his own lifetime has had occasion both to break bread with hardened criminals in prison, and to dine with the Queen of England.

On the other hand, the role of conciliator will hardly be the main one for Vladimir Bukovskiy. He is entirely capable of becoming a political figure in his own right. His supporters are already thinking about creating a political movement based on Bukovskiy’s campaign platform and manifesto “Russia on the Chekist Hook”.

At a rally on Mayakovskiy Square with Bukovskiy in attendance, his supporters announced a plan to create “Bukovskiy Clubs” in cities throughout Russia, which could eventually form the basis for a new political movement, created from below rather than at the will of political leaders or on orders from bureaucrats at Staraya Ploschad [TN: refers to the Presidential Administration headquarters, located at No. 4 Staraya Ploschad].

This small rally, totaling perhaps 300-400 people, had a very symbolic feel to it. It was here, almost 50 years ago, that the democratic movement essentially began, with public readings of prohibited poetry written by the youth of Moscow, among them Vladimir Bukovskiy.

Appearing at this meeting on the eve of his departure, Vladimir Bukovskiy explained why he had come back to Russia. “I came back because people are once again afraid. And I know that when they start to be afraid, they need to stand up and say: Here I am, and I’m not afraid! I came back because the feeling of defeat had returned: we are too few, and the adversary is too strong. I came back to remind everyone that we once were even fewer, and our adversary was even stronger… But we nonetheless survived and prevailed. We prevailed because the adversary could not kill us, break us, force us to submit. Because in the end the entire pathos of our actions, their whole meaning, came down to just one thing: If you want to build your own prison, go ahead – I can’t stop you. But I am not going to do it myself. And you can’t force me.”

Bovt on the Quashing of Debate

Writing in the Moscow Times, Georgy Bovt exposes the fundamental fraud that is Russian “democracy”:

Vyacheslav Volodin, United Russia presidium secretary and State Duma deputy speaker, said recently that election campaign debates were nothing but “squabbles.” This is apparently why United Russia refused to participate in the debates. As Volodin put it, the party does not want to come down to the level of other parties that only spout populist slogans during such debates. Volodin and his fellow party members, including State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov in particular, confirm that for them, the goal of the election campaign will be to “explain the fundamental provisions” of Putin’s Plan, which constitutes United Russia’s entire campaign slogan.

Volodin’s description of public debates is similar to Gryzlov’s off-hand remark that “the Duma is no place for discussions.” Both statements, I am sure, were sincere, and they express quite clearly and concisely the contemptuous attitude toward politics held by the representatives of the new establishment — politicians who are not so much elected by the people as they are appointed to their posts from above.

These people are completely isolated from the daily lives of their electorate. With rare exceptions, most politicians are unable to engage in public debate. They cannot answer uncomfortable questions without having prior preparation, nor are they fit to participate in the rough, competitive environment of politics. Moreover, as a rule, they are incapable of speaking in a language that ordinary people can understand.

After rejecting any role in the televised debates, United Russia explained that the party intended to use their allotted time to air promotional spots to explain Putin’s plan. It is obvious that the spots will be all image and promotion and little substance. United Russia will rely heavily on emotions while offering few details of the party’s program. This will only add to the campaign’s superficiality.

With President Vladimir Putin’s decision to head United Russia’s federal ticket, the public loses out on any opportunity to discuss the different possible solutions to actual problems facing Russia. The public is deprived of being able to participate in an elementary exchange of ideas that focus on different approaches to the country’s development. The whole Duma election campaign has turned into nothing but a referendum on supporting a single individual — or more accurately, an expression of general approval for him, because Putin has yet to announce what post he will occupy after leaving the presidency.

From the historical perspective, Western democracies adopted the practice of holding pre-election debates relatively recently. And although the first such debate was most likely that between the candidates for the 1858 U.S. Senate seat in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, political debates were not widespread prior to the era of mass communication, nor did they significantly influence the outcome of elections.

The first televised debate in the United States was held in 1960 between presidential hopefuls Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. It is generally held that Nixon’s physical appearance during the first debate hurt his image and that despite making a stronger showing during subsequent debates, he eventually lost the election in part due to that initial setback.

After that, U.S. presidential candidates learned their lesson from Nixon’s defeat and refused to participate in televised debates until they resumed again in 1976 between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. But now debates have become the norm in all democratic countries and have taken on such importance that it is hard to imagine a candidate winning an election without first winning a debate. And this year, debates for Poland’s parliamentary seats and for the presidency in France gained worldwide attention for clearly determining the outcomes of those elections.

Now the United States has taken another step toward the popularization of politics by holding a debate between Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the web site YouTube, for which Internet users sent in questions to both candidates.

The majority of Russian voters, however, do not see the necessity for this form of pre-election contest. For example, prior to the presidential election of 2004, almost 90 percent of those polled said that such debates play no role in how they would vote.

And it is worth remembering that neither the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, nor Putin ever participated in a televised debate against their opponents. United Russia also turned down debates in the 2003 State Duma election campaign.

The television companies have taken a similar position in relation to the first-ever televised debates in Russian history by scheduling them for time slots that could hardly be considered prime time. Channel One offered the Central Elections Commission and the 10 parties willing to participate in the debates the 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. slot. After the commission complained, the debate was moved to the more popular 7:05 a.m. slot, when many people watch television before leaving for work. Rossia television chose to air the debates from 10:50 p.m. to 11:20 p.m.

Another half hour of free airtime will be disbursed in segments from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. for various party advertising spots and prerecorded addresses by party leaders. TV Center will air those clips from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and the debates from 5:40 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. All of the stations justified their choice of time slots with the explanation that “very few viewers watch political debates.”

That conviction is supported by the results of a ratings survey conducted by TNS Gallup Media during the 2003 State Duma elections campaign. At that time, just 13 percent to 17 percent of people 18 or older watched the debates on Channel One and Rossia. That was 10 percentage points fewer than typically watched the regularly scheduled evening shows. And really, who wants to watch the chatter of politicians from marginal, relatively unknown political parties?

Meanwhile, the “party of power’s” campaign tactic of open disdain for the methods all developed countries employ in public politics, as evidenced in part by United Russia’s refusal to participate in the debates, is, from the party’s point of view, a rational approach, given that the competition was long ago destroyed. The little opposition that still exists includes a few, virtually unknown figures whom many Russians consider to be clowns.

After all, one of the cardinal rules of political campaigns is not to agree to a debate with an opponent whose ratings are significantly lower than your own. In a best case scenario, the leader can only maintain his lead, but it is possible that the political David would gain points for having stood his own against the party of Goliath.

In any other country claiming to hold democratic elections, a political party –even with ratings significantly higher than its nearest competitors — would never be able to so openly avoid facing difficult and uncomfortable questions from its opponents. That would be considered absolutely unacceptable.

But it appears that in Russia, the time has not arrived for competitive, adversarial politics. Politicians — and sadly enough, voters — do not understand the fundamental importance of or need for the “competition of ideas.”

Kiselyov on the Neo-Bolshevik State

Writing in the Moscow Times, leading opposition pundit Yevgeny Kiselyov explains the rise of the neo-Soviet state. It turns out it was never really gone at all.

Wednesday is the 90th anniversary of the date when the Bolsheviks came to power with Vladimir Lenin as their leader. And if we believe the apocryphal version of the country’s history, then we know President Vladimir Putin’s grandfather served as a cook for Lenin’s family.

Had the Communist Party remained in power, we would have seen to this day grandiose ceremonies with military parades and mass demonstrations like we saw during the 50th, 60th and 70th anniversaries of the Great October Revolution.

But the Communists fell from power long ago, and the Nov. 7 anniversary is no longer an official government holiday.

The paradox is that the Bolsheviks, in a sense, haven’t gone anywhere. They remain in power even today.

Putin’s Kremlin has adopted many of the Bolsheviks’ worst traits by its disdain for the opinion of the minority, parliamentary government, fair elections, an independent judiciary and a free press. The other Bolshevik trait is the Kremlin’s willingness to use force to suppress political opposition.

After the Soviet collapse, several former Soviet-bloc countries passed laws that banned leaders who held high posts in the Party leadership from holding a future political position. Russia, however, never instituted this ban on former Soviet leaders and nomenklatura. The result is that we now have many Soviet-era Communist functionaries occupying high-ranking posts. The freshest example is the new prime minister, Viktor Zubkov. Under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Zubkov headed the district committee of the Communist Party on the outskirts of Leningrad, and he later worked as head of the agricultural section of the Leningrad regional committee of the Communist Party.

And, in contrast to Gorbachev, who ultimately separated from the Party — albeit very late in the game — Zubkov never expressed these sentiments.

In fact, you can count on the fingers of both hands the number of officials in power today who actively supported the democratic policies of the late 1980s and early 1990s. One of these is the current president. Putin served as an assistant to the late Anatoly Sobchak, who was the first mayor in the history of St. Petersburg to be democratically elected. But no one can exclude the possibility that Putin in 1990, when he was still an acting KGB officer, was placed in that post by the KGB to keep an eye on the new, democratic city leader. But the fact of the matter is that Putin — who resigned from the KGB in August 1991 after a group of conservative Communist leaders tried to organize a putsch against Gorbachev to forestall the collapse of both the Party and the Soviet Union — now speaks with regret about what he calls the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

But some people consider that the complete opposite case is true — that the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the last century was actually the October Revolution, which meant decades of totalitarian Communist rule that resulted in countless suffering and tragedy not only in the Soviet Union but in many countries where the Soviet influence spread. But these people are in the minority in Russia.

As soon as the Bolsheviks seized power on Nov. 7, their main concern was how to maintain and strengthen it. On Dec. 20, 1917, they created the Cheka, a brutal secret police force that served as the primary tool for fighting counterrevolutionaries and for increasing their power. Then came the Red Terror, the appearance of the gulag and Stalin’s purges and repression. The name of the secret police force changed several times throughout that period until it ultimately became the KGB in 1954.

Ninety years since the creation of the Cheka, a countless number of former members of the KGB occupy positions of authority, with the president at the head. They proudly refer to themselves as Chekists, a reference to members of the Cheka under the leadership of Felix Dzerzhinsky, a notoriously bloodthirsty Communist fanatic. Some still hang Dzerzhinsky’s portrait in their offices.

It is unlikely that these modern-day Chekists are willing to employ the same harsh measures of the Cheka and KGB, but they are nevertheless trying to create a “Chekist corporation” as a mechanism for holding on to power for as long as possible.

And the closer we come to May 7, 2008, when Putin’s second term officially ends, the more urgent the issue of staying in power becomes for the members of the Chekist corporation within the Kremlin. Political analysts have lost count of the number of times Putin has said he will not stay on for a third term or amend the Constitution, but for some reason the question of a third term never seems to go away.

It seems that almost every day another prominent cultural or political figure makes a public appeal for Putin to stay on as president or some kind of meeting or demonstration — obviously organized with the blessing of the authorities — is held across the country under the slogan of “Putin for a third term!”

What is happening?

First, I wouldn’t attach too much significance to Putin’s numerous statements that he plans to leave his presidential post. He has frequently acted in direct contradiction to what he has promised on record. Recall, for example, how Putin said the direct election of governors would not be abolished or that the government had no interest in the bankruptcy of Yukos.

It could very well be that Putin sincerely believed what he said at the time, but at the end of the day, he changed his mind. And with the question of a third presidential term, perhaps something hasn’t worked out as expected. For example, maybe Putin couldn’t find a successor who was satisfactory to all Kremlin factions.

Perhaps there is some doubt that Zubkov, the most probable successor, will manage to win this election. Even the huge pro-Kremlin media and administrative resources may not be enough to put a positive spin on Zubkov and turn him into a popular presidential candidate. In addition, Putin cannot be certain that even the most loyal successor will not follow his own, independent path once he samples the sweet taste of power sitting in the presidential chair.

Moreover, what exactly is a third term? What does it mean when people say, “Putin is leaving office”? Judging from Putin’s behavior, he will hardly want a life of retirement, watering the flowers in his dacha garden. His supporters are taking every possible opportunity to make it clear that the president intends to remain the top politician in Russia and to influence all of the most important political decisions directly, even if his official job is ostensibly nothing more than chairman of the 2014 Sochi Olympics commission.

In this sense, it is already clear that a third term is probably unavoidable, regardless of what Putin’s future job title might be after May. This means the country is doomed to live under dual power — something that has always ended tragically for Russians.

Latynina on Georgia

Writing in the Moscow Times, hero journalist Yulia Latynina explains the horror of Russia’s foreign policy towards Georgia:

For over a week straight, television news reports have been showing demonstrations against Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and they claim that his regime is on the verge of collapse.

In the same spirit, news reports from the 1970s showed demonstrations in the United States accompanied by self-gratifying predictions that U.S. imperialism would soon collapse. The propagandists did not understand that open political demonstrations are a sign of weakness only under a dictatorship; in democratic nations, they are a sign of a strong and secure government.

Russia’s foreign policy toward Georgia is mind-boggling — not only in the degree to which President Vladimir Putin hates Saakashvili, but also in the striking ways the Kremlin finds to express that hatred. For example, take the pornographic film about Saakashvili, which was the masterpiece of State Duma Deputy Alexei Mitrofanov. Or the Russian missile that landed in Georgian territory followed by Moscow’s accusations that Georgians actually brought the missile to the site where it was found and staged its “discovery.”

When the United States was concerned about the Cuban threat, they conducted the Bay of Pigs invasion. Even though the operation was a failure, it was clearly on a different level than what we see coming from the Kremlin. No superpower would react to a national security threat by producing a porno film or by “losing” missiles in foreign territory — because it would lose its face along with its missiles.

What is most striking about the Kremlin’s attitude toward Georgia is the pettiness of the whole matter. A superpower should not respond in this way. Russia’s behavior is more akin to a communal apartment dweller who spits in his cohabitant’s soup out of spite and malice.

The second most striking feature is the senselessness of the Kremlin policy. Russia’s ostensible goal is to strengthen its authority in the Caucasus, but it certainly can’t achieve this by making a porno film about Georgia’s president. Russia can’t conduct its foreign policy as if it is living in a communal apartment. In these situations, you can befriend a neighbor and earn his respect. Or you can strike fear in his heart by roughing him up a bit. But you will never be able to strengthen your authority by spitting in his soup.

On the other hand, however, if you take a blunter approach by punching your neighbor in the face, for example, there is a good chance that he will call the cops.

Russia differs from rogue states in that it does not constitute a real threat to other nations. Sanctions can be levied against countries that fire missiles at their neighbor’s territory, but not against countries that simply drop unexploded missiles in their neighbor’s backyard.

There was a time when the Soviet Union represented a real threat to the free world, and in the end, the free world was able to drive the Soviet Union into a corner. Today, it is much easier to drive the current Kremlin into a corner by simply exposing the overseas bank accounts of its top bureaucrats.

That is precisely why Putin is careful not to attract the police by punching his neighbor in the face. Instead, he blows a lot of steam by comparing U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic with the Cuban missile crisis. Putin is smart enough to understand that if he responds by putting Russian missiles in Cuba now, the incriminating Swiss bank accounts of certain top bureaucrats would quickly become known to the whole world.

Putin promised an “asymmetric” response to U.S. plans to build a missile defense system, but in the end, all that he has done is appoint a former furniture store manager, Anatoly Serdyukov, as defense minister.

Maybe he is being too asymmetric?

Annals of Neo-Soviet Propaganda: Pathologically Unable to Tell the Truth

The Moscow Times reports on the ever more paranoid, ever more pathological, ever more neo-Soviet insanity going on within the Kremlin walls these days:

When Alexander Sibert told President Vladimir Putin that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had said Siberia held too many resources for Russia alone, Putin dismissed the statement as “political erotica.” Albright might have found “political fantasy” more appropriate. Putin said he was not aware of the comment, Albright denies ever making it, and no one else seems able to provide any evidence that she did. But this hasn’t stopped Putin and others from attributing these thoughts to foreign figures who they say wish Russia harm.

Sibert, 70, a mechanic who works at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Novosibirsk, brought up the purported statement in a question during Putin’s annual call-in show last month. “I know some politicians entertain such ideas in their heads,” Putin replied, adding that Russia was able to and would protect its natural resources.

The only problem is that Albright, who is now a principal at the Albright Group strategic management and lobbying firm, denied through a spokeswoman that she ever entertained the idea. “I did not make that statement, nor did I ever think it,” she said.

On Tuesday, Sibert was unable to provide a source for the alleged quote, or even a guarantee that he had heard it. “I don’t know. I might have made a mistake,” he said by phone from Novosibirsk. “But I don’t think I did.” Sibert said he was not instructed in any way to ask his question on the call-in show but that the event’s organizers were aware of its content. And he remains convinced that the idea he raised was an accurate one. “The question I asked is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

More of that iceberg was visible Sunday, during celebrations for People’s Unity Day.

At an event on Red Square, Robert Shlegel, an activist with the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth group, raised the issue again. Putin, in a veiled reference to the United States, described some world leaders as having “just lost it” because of Russia’s wealth in natural resources. Shlegel said Tuesday that he didn’t know whom Putin meant but that opposition movements like The Other Russia were playing into the hands of the country’s enemies because they were weakening the country. As for the elusive statement, he said Albright had made it during an interview with Alexei Pushkov on the “Postscriptum” news analysis program in 2005. “The president’s words could hardly have been unfounded,” Shlegel said.

But Oksana Yanovskaya, editor in chief of “Postscriptum,” said Tuesday that Albright was never interviewed on the program and that Pushkov had just cited a statement that he had seen or read somewhere else. “I am absolutely sure there was no interview,” she said, although she added that Pushkov had met Albright at some event. Yanovskaya said she had called Pushkov, who was out of the country, on Tuesday and that he couldn’t remember where he had seen the quote. “Many people were citing it back then,” Yanovskaya said.

In perhaps the strangest part of the story, there are those who argue that it doesn’t matter what Albright said — they know what she was thinking.

Boris Ratnikov, a retired major general who worked for the Federal Guard Service, said in a December 2006 interview with government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta that his colleagues, who worked for the service’s secret mind-reading division, read Albright’s subconscious a few weeks before the beginning of the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999. Albright, who as secretary of state played a major role in the lead up to the attacks, was one of the main targets of Russian criticism of the bombing campaign. Apart from her “pathological hatred of Slavs,” Ratnikov said “she was indignant that Russia held the world’s largest reserves of natural resources.” On Tuesday, Ratnikov, 62, said he hadn’t been part of the mind-reading experiment but had worked as an analyst on the data produced by his colleagues in the study. He said the mind-reading process involved using a picture or some other image of the person under study. “By tuning in on her image, our specialists were able to glean these things,” he said.

Others say you don’t have to be a mind reader to understand that some outsiders would like to lay their hands on Russia’s wealth. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that he was not sure which outside forces Putin was referring to on Sunday or whether the Albright quote was authentic. He did say, however, that it was “obvious that Russia had ill-wishers” that don’t like the revival in the country’s assertiveness and are irritated by its newfound economic power and global weight.

Alexei Sidorenko, coordinator for the society and regions program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said that although the alleged quote had been making the rounds in Russian on the Internet since 2005, his center had been unable to find any mention of it in the English-language media. He said conjuring the image of an external enemy to mobilize the population and deflect attention from domestic issues was nothing new in politics, and the fact that Albright was no longer in government meant she had no official channels through which to respond. “The Kremlin’s entire political strategy at present rests on consciously created myths, and they are beginning to dominate the agenda,” Sidorenko said.