Daily Archives: December 16, 2007

December 16, 2007 — Contents


(1) The Sunday Photos: YouTube Edition

(2) Nekrasov vs. Surkov

(3) Why Putin Picked Medvedev

(4) The Sunday Horror: Annals of Russian “Healthcare”

(5) The Tasty Tale of Tsar Nicoulai

(6) The Sunday Funnies: Ellustrator Edition

The Sunday Photos: YouTube Edition

David McDuff says: “Dan Rather reports on the increasing danger posed to the rest of the world by the Russian state (about 14 minutes into the show, in a segment lasting some 40 minutes). From the truly sickening scenes of violence and intimidation of civilians in a modern European capital city perpetrated by young Russian Nazis – scenes which recall historical archive footage of Kristallnacht – to the massive cyberattacks on the infrastructure and institutions of a neighbour, orchestrated by the Russian government itself, this televised report goes to the centre of a real and growing threat to global peace and security.”

Robert Amsterdam offers viewers a peak behind the new iron curtain. CAUTION! Intense footage! Robert says it comes to him via “Lev Ponomarev, who when not writing for this blog or getting arrested during pro-democracy rallies, is one of Russia’s leading defenders of the rights of prisoners. Lev and his organization, ‘Foundation for the Defence of Prisoners,’ only very recently obtained possession of a secret video made in 2006 by a prison guard of a ‘Preventative Actions’ exercise by the OMON (special police squad) performed at a prison camp in Yekaterinaburg. The appalling instances of beatings, torture, inhumane treatment and excessive and arbitrary violence shown in this recording inarguably represent a fundamental violation of human rights.” Remember, Russians consider themselves to be living in an extraordinarily cultured, civilized society, entitled to look down their noses at the crude, barbaric USA.

Finally, Click here to watch more video (and read text) from a Russian expat reporter on the neo-Soviet crackdown, this time from the PBS “Frontline” program regarding police attacks on protesters in St. Petersburg.

Nekrasov vs. Surkov

Robert Amsterdam reports:

[We are pleased to feature this exclusive special guest column from the Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, the director and producer of “Rebellion, The Litvinenko Case” (which premiered at this year’s Cannes film festival), “Disbelief” (2004), and many other films. Here Nekrasov takes a look at the dialectic of Vladislav Surkov’s “sovereign democracy,” and a critique of the “institutions of latter-day ideological eclectics.” – Robert Amsterdam]

Andrei_Nekrasov.jpgThe Ideology of the Sole Party

(or, “Not Our Ideology”)

By Andrei Nekrasov

The fact that a one-party system is being re-established in one form or another in Russia can be seen with an unaided eye. But I am not in agreement with the idea that the party that has set its sights on the leading role in the new historical tragedy does not have a political face and an ideology from where the legs grow. The opposition, on the other hand, today does not have that comfort and leisure which, apparently, allow for Mr. Surkov’s flights into near-philosophical empyreans; his ideological texts now are worthy of attention not because one ought to respond to them – after all, he himself, it seems, is from that cohort which does not conduct either negotiations or discussions with those who are not with them. But now, when society again finds itself behind the bars of one-partiness, one can and should come to several interesting conclusions from the way this modern-day classicist-careerist implemented the theoretical preparation of this campaign.

At the beginning of the year 2005, I wrote the essay entitled “On the Meaning of the Russian Rebellion,” which was published in Kiev as the book “This – Is revolution!” Someone called its political orientation liberal-patriotic, but now I mention this only in connection with Mr. Surkov’s texts which have appeared since then in the capacity of the ideological substantiation for «sovereign democracy». What Surkov wrote was very similar to the reasoning in my book – but with absolutely opposite conclusions. Russia is chronically behind, our role in the world’s division of labor is primitive, we are strangling in the fetters of the bureaucracy clinging to oil pipelines, and we are suffocating in a vast quagmire of corruption – on this point Vladislav Yurich and your humble servant agree.

But one of them makes the straightforward, unoriginal conclusion that the system needs to be changed, the power needs to be changed. While the other finds an extraordinary solution: we need to unconditionally support the power – and Comrade Putin personally!

But for my money, Surkov is still head and shoulders above such specimens as Leontiev. And if Putinism were regularly presented on television at least at Surkov’s level, then maybe some kind of roots of discursive culture just might start organically sprouting up in our country. Leontiev, perhaps, may also be capable of working more subtly, and the role he is playing has been simply allocated to him, but just the fact that he’s still not bored of doing it says a lot. surkov2.gifCynicism is a defect not only of the conscience, but of the intellect as well, although under authoritarianism this is less noticeable than under democracy. But the fact that today, the political broadcasts of the audiovisual mass media, with rare exceptions, do not rise even to Surkov’s level is no accident, and not at all simply because editors are afraid the people won’t appreciate Surkov’s “archetypes” and “holism”, and won’t understand references to Kennan and Prigozhin. They’re afraid of something else. They’re afraid that the very structure and nature of the language that they’re testing out in loyal service to the non-democratic power will unwittingly, just in passing, make people think. After all, the struggle, of course, is going on not for ideology, but for speechlessness, which, according to Kant, forces people to ask the nice smart man to do the work of making sense of reality for them. The regime of intelligence operatives, oilmen, and gasmen is in need of consecration by some kind of ideological Kabbalah, but its over-exposure is a high-stakes poker game; if you overshoot the mark, it could lead to incorrect conclusions from Surkov’s admissions, and from Surkov’s unadmitted errors.

Inherent to a Russian’s outlook is a romantic – a poetic, I would say – farsightedness. What is close at hand – a sagging fence, a bad road, garbage in the gateway next door – he sees dimly. But then, brightness in the distance, mirages on the horizon are known in every detail. Devoting more attention to the desired than to the actual, such an outlook on things leads to quests for the sole truth, for higher justice. It creates a sense if not of exclusiveness, then of a distinctiveness, an otherness from one’s neighbors.” (From V. Surkov, “Russian Political Culture“).

Garbage in the gateway – nothing to argue with there.

Although poetic farsightedness did not get in the way, for example, in Ryazan in that fateful year of 1999, of citizen Kartofelnikov noticing people with suspicious sacks by his house. He, and other inhabitants, and the Ryazan UFSB demonstrated those same analytical abilities which are not very typical, according to Surkov, of the Russian synthetic consciousness, as the result of which were caught the failed terrorists who turned out to be agents of the FSB. Then, as is known, there was the once again untypically analytical NTV television program «Ryazan sugar», in which the majority of the inhabitants of the building expressed distrust in the FSB, which was insisting that the laying of the explosives was for training purposes. Several deputies of the Duma demanded an investigation. Kovalev with Yushenkov created a commission. Litvinenko wrote a book. Trepashkin started poking around in the cases, I shot the film «Disbelief».

Everything somehow not in the Russian manner, as Surkov puts it, too analytical, not synthetic somehow… But as a result isn’t everything fine and dandy? The obliterated NTV, blocked inquest in the Duma, intimidated inhabitants and witnesses, the case classified as secret… (Yushenkov and Litvinenko were murdered, Trepashkin locked up – but all this, of course, is unrelated) Now this is already synthetic, this is already “po-russki” – in the Russian manner.

Is Mr. Surkov aware, at least in those rare moments when his style remotely aims to invoke sincerity, that he enjoys a dramatically uneven playing field as the opposition has been gagged with all the might of post-Yeltsinite statehood? And is he aware that, at the higher “culturo-civilizational”, “archetypal”, “holistic” level, this gag consists of all the unlawful secret classifications, intimidations, framings and killings? I deem that he is very much aware. And that he calls all this “the sole truth”, or “higher justice”.

In the meantime, among the Russian citizens with whom Mr. Surkov has to associate, far from all suffer from poetic farsightedness, suffering sagging fences and “garbage in the gateway.” Decidedly prosaic billionaires pay both for quality fences and for security protection, but most importantly – for a protective ideology, which is very sensible, for no fences with security protection will help prevent a revolution.

Surkov is no Suslov and today’s gag is not the total control of one-party of the Brezhnevite type. Today’s one-party system allows Surkov to cite Berdyayev and even Brodsky, while Surkov’s allies, «young guards» soothe the traditional left electorate with pro-Soviet nostalgia. What is this, internal party democracy, or is it already the sovereign one? Yeltsin, Brezhnev, Stalin, Nicholas II, Peter I anyone at all can be turned in the direction needed by the party – but then, this is dialectics, everything is ambiguous after all.

Total dialectics with one single objective and value: the Russian State (it goes without saying, with the condition, that l’état, c’est them). Nearly three years ago, in my essay, I recommended to Surkov that he add Hegel to his arsenal. Could it be that he has? Nah, probably this stuff is just floating around in the air. Or perhaps it is wandering around like that haunting ghost. Only old man Hegel had yet another absolute value – freedom. But freedom seems to have gotten lost someplace in the Surkovian clichés that are conning the calculating West and poetic Russia. For the simple reason that the institution of latter-day ideological eclectics can only exist and carry out its propagandistic functions in the absence of freedom.

Universal human values do exist. And in the West too (and not only in Germany) there were and are attempts to present chauvinistic mythologies as the source of higher values. But in Russia, what a real, not professional, patriot values in our tradition is not the vertical of power, but love and compassion for people. It is specifically these, expressed by the best of our writers and artists, thinkers and public figures, that are the core of our national self-awareness; love and compassion, and, yes, yes, freedom (read the classics whom you cite more carefully, Mr. Surkov), a dream of freedom from tyranny and bureaucracy, and not a mania of depersonalized imperial grandeur, the lot of slaves and slave owners.

Why Putin Picked Medvedev

Writing in the Weekly Standard Michael Weiss, a senior editor at Jewsy magazine, offers the following analysis of Dimitri Medvedev:

IT ALL SEEMS so familiar. Whenever the West expresses optimism about the advent of a Europeanized Russian “liberal” as the head of state, there’s a good chance reference will be made to Peter the Great, the man credited with dragging Russia out of the dark ages and founding the pre-Soviet empire. An entire history of social and political thought used to rest upon this czar who whose very name was a synecdoche for Russian glory (Stalin’s famous worship of Ivan the Terrible notwithstanding).

Peter founded the city that bears his name as a “window into Europe,” created the country’s first standing army and navy for purposes of warring with Sweden, and converted the pedigreed nobility, or mestnichestvo, into a bureaucratic military class with an open enrollment policy. For this, he became an icon of promise and reform to the 19th century intelligentsia, which tended to downplay his more dubious accomplishments, like merging slavery and serfdom in order to expand the Russian tax base, establishing the internal passport system, one of Lenin’s main grievances with the ancien regime (before the Soviet one restored it), consolidating a hyper-loyalist cadre of czarist nomenklatura known as “Peter’s Fledglings,” nationalizing the incipient state industry, bringing the Orthodox Church under his all-commanding sway, overseeing a 25 percent drop in the population during his 44 year reign, and, most perilously of all, enacting the Law of Succession. This abolished primogeniture in the dynasty and gave the sitting czar complete freedom to choose his heir. Court intrigue and assassinations were the result of this disastrous policy, which not a few historians have seen as the first domino to fall before the revolution 200 years later.

As for Peter’s enlightened opinion of his subjects, he was given to statements like these: “Our people are like children, who would never of their own accord decide to learn, who would never take up the alphabet without being compelled to do so by their teacher, who would at first feel despondent. But later, when they have finished their studies, they are grateful for having been made to go through them. This is evident today: has not everything been achieved under constraint?”

Understanding this duality in the Russian tradition, the fusion of the forward-looking technocrat with the hidebound authoritarian, is crucial in assessing today’s Russia, particularly in light of the fact that the new law of succession is really more of a law of suspended animation. On Monday came the news the next president will be Dmitry Medvedev. A 42 year-old lawyer and academic from St. Petersburg, Medvedev, now a deputy prime minister, is conspicuous in the Kremlin for being one of the only advisors to Vladimir Putin not moored to the vast KGB-FSB security apparatus. His appointment–which is what Putin’s endorsement of Medvedev amounts to–comes as a relief to foreign investors who deem his pro-market orientation as a sign that “state capitalism” is on the wane, never mind that Medvedev is also the current chairman of Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas company responsible for 20 percent of the world’s natural gas supply.

Andreas Umland, a foreign affairs analyst, writes in the Washington Post that Medvedev, who repudiated Communism and backed perestroika, represents a “serious chance to embark a new on a course of political liberalization and democratization.” The Times of London praises his reputation as a “consensus-builder” and takes at face value that his self-proclaimed disposition on international relations is “European” (always a byword, in Russian terms, for a milquetoast). And the Guardian, which just weeks ago compared Putin to Stalin, strikes the common chord that Medvedev is viewed as a “liberal” and–here the contrastive standard is almost amusingly low–“less of a hawk” than Sergei Ivanov, another deputy prime minister and former defense minister who, up until yesterday, was Medvedev’s main rival for the presidency.

Such optimism, however, is not borne out by Medvedev’s unimpressive and toadying history. (His only distinguishing characteristic is a fondness for heavy metal; he’s a collector of original Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath records.) Though not a silovik, he is in many ways more of a harbinger of strengthening Russian autocracy given his status as a behind-the-scenes policy wonk who owes his political rise exclusively to his boss. It’s always the quiet ones you have to look out for

In 1991 Medvedev served as a legal expert to the Committee for External Relations in the office of St. Petersburg’s first democratically elected mayor Anatoly Sobchak, under whom both men had studied law. (Putin was then the head of the committee). In one of the series of revealing interviews collected in the book First Person, a handy resource on Putin’s psychology, the then newly-elected president confessed to feeling an “abstract category-comradeship” with three people in his life: Ivanov, Nikolai Patrushev, now the FSB director, and Medvedev. The latter was entrusted with orchestrating Putin’s 2000 election campaign, for which he earned the Gazprom appointment a year later–a position he maintained despite also being named the president’s chief of staff in 2003 and then deputy prime minister in a much-scrutinized cabinet shakeup in 2005. This was the same year, you’ll recall, that Mikhail Khodorkovsky was railroaded through a farcical “trial” on the pretext of tax evasion, sent to Siberia, and had the assets of his multi-billion dollar petroleum concern Yukos absorbed by the state. On this occasion, Medvedev, who had been in charge of Priority National Projects geared towards domestic reforms, including one of the Russian judiciary, said that the courts were “genuinely independent.” As for other renewal projects in the areas of health care, housing and education that Medvedev has spearheaded, the majority of Russians considers them failures, projects whose funds were stolen by corrupt government officials. (It hardly helps that Medvedev thinks corruption disappears in totalitarian countries.) Also, the birthrate continues to plummet despite his efforts to correct the “demographic problem.”

As even his own Leningrad State University advisor phrased it, Medvedev sees Putin as an “older brother” and there seems to be little if any sibling rivalry between them. Consider that Medvedev, who will become the youngest leader of Russia since Nicolas II, wasted not a moment of his coronation before supplicating Putin to do what everyone suspected he would do anyway and become the next prime minister: “I appeal to him with a request to give his agreement in principle to head the Russian government after the election of the new president of our country.” Putin will of course accept the assignment he all but drafted for himself, counting on one of three possible outcomes in the forthcoming administration, which will glide into office in March.

The first is that his underling will simply remain just that, arrogating all de facto presidential powers to the prime minister, including those pertaining to foreign and military affairs, in which case, Medvedev’s dovish outlook is moot. Leave it to the 21st century Communist to tell it like it is: “Medvedev is insecure, weak. Putin can have full control over him,” said senior party official Viktor Ilyukhin.

There is also the possibility that he will revise the constitution to accord the prime minister more de jure power, which can easily be done with United Russia’s 70 percent control of the ratifying body of legislators. The problem with this scenario is that it depends on just how slavish Medvedev will be to Putin once he’s legally in charge of the country. Bundled into the Western hopefulness of his liberalizing tendency is that he is also a Khrushchev-type figure: someone who has played the game of sycophant in order to inherit the throne and undo the damage of his predecessor. As Yevgeny Volk, the Moscow director of the Heritage Foundation recently said, “Whether he maintains his absolute loyalty to Putin or starts to change, that’s a very serious question. Because in politics, there cannot be absolutely loyalty. Situations change, promises are broken. People in power also change.”

Perhaps, although Medvedev’s only flicker of disapproval with the status quo concerns the term sovereign democracy, which was coined by Vladislav Surkov to describe the strong centralized Russian state and was thoroughly embraced by the glowering architect of it. As a euphemism, sovereign democracy ranks right up there with Lenin’s democratic centralism, and so it is, on the surface, encouraging that Medvedev finds the term counterproductive and transparent as a public relations gambit aimed toward winning dupes and apologists in the West. However, he’s less bold outside of the field of semantics. The New York Times quotes him as saying, “Any seeker of this position should indicate that if he is elected, he will spoil nothing” of what Putin has insituted. He also told foreign journalists last month that:

“A parliamentary republic–this is my personal opinion–is not acceptable in Russia, either today or in [the] future. Probably, in 200 or 300 years when the idea of democracy is different and we can express our will without leaving our homes, when everything is different as to the current situation, the model we are having in Russia, the socioeconomic model is compatible with the parliamentary democracy. Russia should develop the same way as a number of major countries with strong presidential power.”

So the dim prospect that Medvedev is a late-blooming champion of de-Putinization brings us to the other two scenarios that exist for keeping him in check. Unless he purges the cabinet, he will find himself surrounded by the Kremlin “uncles” who aggressively jockey for the coveted spot as second-in-command–to Putin. Medvedev has gone on record as being dismissive of factions or intrigue in the executive: “[I]f you ask me if it is reflected in our work, and moreover, in state decisions, I can firmly answer–no.” However, there is no question that the ex-secret policemen who, like their current paymaster, matured in the cask of Andropov’s KGB and now masquerade as public servants, will view him as an impotent steward and nothing else. These include Igor Sechin, first deputy chief of the Russian presidential administration and the chairman of Gazprom’s sister oil monopoly Rosneft, also the presumed pack leader of the siloviki; Sergei Chemestov, the head of the state defense contractor Rosoboronexport; Nikolai Patrushev; and Viktor Cherkesov, the head of the Federal Antinarcotics Service. Garry Kasparov has called Medvedev’s selection a “defeat for the Igor Sechin group,” which also underscores its inherent danger if that group isn’t removed. In the event of a severe power struggle that effectively hobbles the presidency, Prime Minister Putin has the right, under the constitution, to impeach Medvedev with a two-thirds majority vote in the Duma, He can then return to the post himself.

The other scenario is that economy suffers, and so too does the man in charge. Alexei Bayer, a New York-based economist, has limned in the Moscow Times two ways this can happen in the coming months: either oil prices remain high and inflation rises, leading to higher consumer prices (food prices rose an ominous 19 percent over the past year) and more workers’ strikes, or Russia’s oil bubble bursts and everything goes south:

Either way, the new president is not likely to face such a glowing economic landscape when he assumes office. Whether Medvedev harbors liberal economic views will not matter, since an economic downturn is not the time to introduce reforms–especially not in Russia. His most likely response will be price controls and greater government interference in the private sector, which has already been done to combat inflationary pressures this year.

In the event that this does indeed happen, Putin will have performed his greatest trick yet: Convincing the Russian people that it didn’t happen under his watch and that the true father of the nation is ready to come back and restore the good old days.

The Sunday Horror: Annals of Russian "Healthcare"

Writing on Robert Amsterdam, hero journalist Grigori Pasko extols the glories of Vladimir Putin’s healthcare system. Oh, what a country!

I’ve got the compulsory medical insurance policy of a citizen of the Russian Federation. According to this piece of paper, I have guarantees of receiving medical aid at medical institutions under the compulsory medical insurance program. At any rate, that’s what the paper says: “have guarantees”. And I had always thought that I had these guarantees. Until today.

Today (I’m almost embarrassed to say!), I cut my finger. At home. In the kitchen. It can happens to anyone. Unfortunately, I cut it in such a way that it didn’t stop bleeding for a long time. No matter what I tried, the blood just kept gushing out like a river.

I had to go seek medical attention. Good thing there was a «Family medical center» right next to my home. I had never been there before, and figured this was probably as good a time as any to pay them a visit. With my finger.

I was welcomed somewhat cautiously, because I hadn’t given them any advance warning I was coming, hadn’t signed up for an appointment with a doctor, and so forth. The girl at reception explained all this to me. I said that I hadn’t been able to foresee that I would cut myself, or else I would gladly have made an advance appointment to see a doctor.

The following dialog then ensued:

Girl: “Your surname? Address? Where are you officially registered?”

I tell her, and think to myself: “I wonder if she’ll ask me about prior convictions and about my marital status – this is a ‘family’ medical center, after all.”

Girl: “Show your insurance policy.”

I show it.

Girl: “Wait!”

I wait. In a couple of minutes, the girl returns and informs me that I need to be seen by a surgeon, but that there just happens not to be a surgeon on duty today.

“Go”, she says, “to the traumatology center on such-and-such a street…”

Oh, and I should mention one slight but important detail: the whole time that we’re having our pleasant little chat, the blood is still gushing out of my finger with no sign of stopping.

I say: “Maybe you could just get a nurse or someone to at least bandage the finger up with something…?”

“What are you saying!”, this endearing creature in her little snow-white medical gown retorts indignantly. “You need a shot, against rabies.”

Yes indeed, I had somehow neglected to think about the possibility that I might be rabid. Although, to be perfectly honest, I had long suspected that this disgusting attribute was already slowly festering somewhere deep inside me. Whenever I have to deal with representatives of my dear motherland’s executive power, this rabid feeling really does start to rise up in my throat. Whenever I watch domestic television, there it is again. Whenever I personally have to experience yet another manifestation of Soviet service someplace, I’m as good as gone… I get rabid.

But I digress. Off I went in search of the traumatology center. Since I had no idea where it was, I ended up stumbling across yet another medical center on my way. This one had the rather poetic name «Marina». At the entrance I immediately saw a door with the inscription «Examination room». I remembered from childhood that that’s where they give shots and bandage wounds. I showed my cut finger to the girl in the «Registration» cubicle (the blood was oozing out of the napkins I had wrapped it in).

“You got an insurance policy?”, the girl asks for starters. I answer in the affirmative. “And where do you live?”

“In the building across the street from your center.”

A pause. “You know, we don’t got no surgeon here. You gotta go to the polyclinic at your place of residence.”

Then I asked: “Maybe you could at least give me a rabies shot? Because I can already feel it in me; I’m going to get rabid any moment now…”

The girl looked at me like I was a mental patient.

So, off I went to continue my quest for that medical aid that is guaranteed by those insurance policies. I walked a long time. Nobody I asked on the way seemed to know where the traumatology center could be found. But they did tell me where the nearest polyclinic was located.

I enter the polyclinic. At the registration desk they ask: “Got a policy?”

“Got it.”

“Where do you live?”

“Practically right next door.”

“Got a medical book?” [a certificate of good health required for certain professions, such as hospital, restaurant, and educational personnel—Med.Trans.]

“No, haven’t gotten one yet.”

“Well, in that case, we don’t know if the surgeon will agree to see you…”

Just in case you were wondering, the blood is still oozing from my wound, but somewhat more sluggishly now.

I go up to the seventh floor to the surgeon. There are three people waiting ahead of me. I sit and I wait. About thirty minutes later, I walk in to the doctors. There’s two of them – pleasant looking women.

The familiar question already: “You have a policy?”

I decide to answer with a question of my own: “What if – just suppose – I don’t?” And I stick my bloody finger under their noses.

They’re in a state of bewilderment.

Then I say: “I’ve got a policy, I live next door, I don’t have a medical book, I’m soon going to get rabid, and I’m bleeding. So what do we do next?”

The women suddenly say: “Step into the examination room”, and point me towards a door nearby.

They washed the wound and bandaged my finger. The entire procedure took all of three minutes.

They never did give me a rabies shot, though, for some reason.

Maybe they should have. Because right now I’m sitting in front of my computer and reading everything there is on the internet about compulsory insurance, and I can feel myself getting very rabid indeed…

The Tasty Tale of Tsar Nicoulai

It’s farmed renewably to preserve the precious sturgeon resource that Russia has obliterated, it’s delicious and sells for a lofty price. It’s called Tsar Nicoulai caviar. And who makes it? Why, Dafne and Mats Engstrom, Swedes in California, of course. Makes a great holiday gift!

On a related note, did you know that U.S.-made Smirnoff vodka outsells Russian-made Stolichnaya vodka in the United States? More proof of the wonderful success and prestige being lavished upon Russia by Great Leader Vladimir Putin.

The Sunday Funnies: Ellustrator Edition

Translation: “The Creation of the Bear”

Note: Vladimir Putin has endorsed Dmitri Medvedev, whose last
name is basedon the word “bear,” as Russia’s third “president.”
Russia itself, of course, is also often symbolized by the image of a bear.

Source: Ellustrator


Panel #1 — Three soldiers on Putin’s each shout: “Leave me and save yourself, sir!”
Panel #2 — They each shout again.
Panel #3 — Putin says: “OK, Sorry ’bout that comrades Zubkov
and Ivanov, God be with you!”
Panel #4 — Medvedev shouts “Leave me and save yourself, sir!”
Panel #5 — Putin answers: “No need for that, comrade
Medvedev, you’ll carrying the load from here on out.”

Source: Ellustrator.

Here’s a really classic encapsulation of Russia in a nutshell from the virtual pages of Ellustrator. “Real” Russians are depicted as lemmings rushing (pun intended) over a cliff to a downfall that starts with “Moscow” Russia, then “Europe” and finally “America.” It’s the way of of things in Russia that rather than actually do anything to stop the lemmings from jumping, Russians console themselves with the idea that Moscow is not as far down as the others. The handwritten note/arrow says: “This is me.”

NOTE: Thanks to several helpful readers who picked up an error in our in-house translation of the text for the second cartoon. Your constructive criticism designed to encourage the use and promotion of the Russian language was most appreciated!