Daily Archives: March 3, 2008

March 3, 2008 — Contents


(1) Another Original LR Translation: Putin as Hitler

(2) EDITORIAL: Those were the Days

(3) EDITORIAL: Yuri Mamchur, at it Again

(4) An Open Letter to the KGB

(5) The Railway of Bones

(6) An Open Letter to the Leaders of Russia

NOTE: The Finnish source that originally broke the news about Oleg Kozlovsky being illegal shanghaied into the Russian army now reports he has finally won his battle and been released, the day after the presidential elections concluded. How convenient!

Another Original LR Translation: Putin as Hitler

We reported last week on the Kremlin’s effort to persecute and prosecute a Russian political commentator for writing an essay comparing Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. Now, the good offices of our original translator offer you that Russian text in English:

Putin is Our “Good Hitler”

by Igor Valeryevich Averkiev

Za Cheloveka

December 2007

Putin is our Good Hitler.

“Our” because Putin, like Hitler, is blood from blood, flesh from flesh of his own people.

“Good” because no real Leader of the People (for as long as a majority of the people consider him as such) could be bad for his people. The majority of Germans to the very end of the Third Reich considered Hitler a great man.

“Hitler” because the manner and style of President Putin’s leadership very much resembles the manner and style of Reich Chancellor Hitler in the early stages of his career in politics; because the situation in post-Soviet Russia very much resembles the situation in post-war Germany; and because Russians at the turn of this century very much resemble the Germans of the 1920s and 1930s.

But there remains the problem of “perspective”. Most Russians formed their impressions of Hitler from book, films and other “political folklore” that describe only the final, military/concentration camp phase of the German Fuehrer. They know practically nothing about the early, pre-war Hitler, whom the Putin of today so resembles. Hitler’s own road to Hell was paved with good deeds and the best of intentions.

* * *

Putin today, like Hitler at the beginning of his journey, is not evil. Like Hitler, Putin is just trying to save his Motherland.

At the beginning of their great journey to save the Fatherland, no one wants to kill anyone. They are only led to this later, by the logic of absolute power and the mission of “savior of the Fatherland” (although it may seem a small point, the mission of “rebirth of the Fatherland” brings forth an entirely different logic).

Putin, like Hitler, is genuinely loved by most of the people, the simple people.

Putin, like Hitler, became a real leader of the people because he has an amazing ability – Putin, intentionally or not, reproduces in his people his own worst qualities, but exactly these qualities are the most tempting for even normal people.

People love Putin, as they loved Hitler, because he lets them relax, throw off the burdens of responsibility, freedom and civilization. Under Putin, as it was under Hitler, people can happily give in to fears and weaknesses. Under Putin, as it was under Hitler, it is easy for even a normal person to be irresponsible and juvenile, cowardly and servile – society will not condemn him for it. Under Putin, as it was under Hitler, one can easily and with pleasure give in to the strongest and most extreme of human emotions: hatred.

Putin, like Hiter, is not only loved by the simple people, but is also very amenable to a significant portion of the Russian elite as well. In exchange for their loyalty, President Putin delivers businessmen, academics and artisans from the rigors of competing with their peers and offers them administrative guarantees of a decent professional status and viable place in our state-capitalist marketplace.

* * *

Putin is not Stalin. President Putin has no Leftist agenda, he is not opposed to the wealthy, he is not planning to sic the people on the elites, nor is he a slave to the ideal of economic equality. But what difference does it make what is going on in his head? Hitler and Stalin, despite their deep ideological divisions, were unified by mass terror and concentration camps. Nonetheless, it turns out that to this day there are people for whom it is important under whose flag the new concentration camps are organized.

* * *

Some classic Russian fascists and nationalists, who vilify in every way the post-Soviet regime and democracy, do not do the same with Putin; they sense he is one of their own. Conversely, those outside the system – that is, the ideologically Leftist groups (not including the Communist Party of the Russian Federation), every imaginable type of Lefty, from the Russian Communist Workers Party to the Trotskyites, anarchists and “Antiphus” – are irreconcilably opposed to Putin personally; they sense in him an antagonist to the core.

* * *

National leaders come in two different types: “light” and “dark”.

Some spur their nations onward, call on them to storm the heavens. They bring to mind Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Martin Luther, Napoleon, Peter I, Lenin, Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Others are the opposite: they weaken their nations, immerse them in the abyss of base instincts. They present as models to the world Ivan the Terrible, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong. Unfortunately, Putin continues the tradition of the latter, the “dark” type.

Russia before Putin, like Germany before Hitler, was wallowing in national humiliation. Both great powers suffered the shame of defeat in war: Germany in World War-I, Russia in the Cold War. Both great people were humiliated by the victors. Both countries lost the halo of greatness that kept their people warm.

Both nations suffered the collapse of their traditional government institutions: those of imperial and Soviet power. Both peoples suffered through vulgar democratization, and recoiled from it. Their Great Depression, and our cold-and-hungry 1990s with its default, made Stability and Order into national idols. In pre-Hitler Germany and pre-Putin Russia (although for different reasons) politicians of the Left and Right, the Communist-Socialists and Liberal-Democrats, could not attract the people with their projects for the future. Not knowing where to find the strength for a rebirth and not knowing how to activate their own resources, both peoples took to looking for enemies.

Both countries awaited their savior. And he arrived.

* * *

Putin, like Hitler, is the savior of his Fatherland, the guardian of its Greatness, Stability and Order. Putin is here the Chieftain.

Putin, like Hitler, is saving the country form external and internal enemies. In the imaginations of most of his people, Putin, like Hitler, personally ensures the health and well-being of everyone. The most important thing for the average Russian is to be For Putin (as it was for the average German under Hitler). Everything else follows from that.

Putin, like Hitler, is the idol of the most helpless and aggressive segment of society: the youth. Members of the Nashi movement quickly and logically turn into classic storm troopers and Red Guards. Putin, like Hitler, gives juvenile, unselfconfident youths a basic socialization through the corporate power structures of the regime (“Nashi”, “Young Gurads”, “Politzavod”, etc.) and an official, permissible outlet for their aggressiveness (anyone who has seen the members of “Nashi” in action will know what we are talking about here).

Putin, like Hitler, is in and of himself not a bad guy: not a miscreant, not a moral monster. One gets the sense that Putin, as an “early Hitler”, has normal ideas about honor, decency, duty and even politics. It is only later, after losing their orientation under the weight of their mission as “Savior of the Fatherland”, under a torrent of eyewash and puffery, that their personality is degraded, losing the common norms and human sensors of good and evil.

Saving millions, they first forget about a few thousand, and then about the millions themselves. Any important person, striving for absolute, exclusive power, believes that he will have the rationality and will to avoid becoming a moral monster – because he’s so exceptional. But the years go by, and he, like anyone who gains absolute power, turns into a monster. The only ones to escape it are those who, in their thirst for power, fail to achieve it, or find the strength in themselves to resist putting on the Ring of All-Power. Our President has already put his finger through this ring’s “black hole”.

* * *

Both Putin and Hitler at the foundation of their “political personalities” have one and the same concern. Both took the geopolitical defeat of their country as a personal defeat, a moral trauma – one battling on the front lines, the other serving his Motherland on the “invisible front” [of intelligence work]. But, unlike for most of their peers, for both Putin and Hitler their wounds became what lifted them to their destinies.

Both Putin and Hitler have a peculiar, growing charisma, fed not by their internal world but the external (one should note that charisma is a very efficient thing for the organism). Not outstanding in their youths, but quiet and disciplined, nothing heroic or remarkable about them, both Putin and Hitler blossom as it were in an instant, capably – even ingeniously – expanding their personal power not through internal conditions of mind and spirit, but external circumstances of “city and world” [Urbi et orbi].

Both Putin and Hitler are political maximalists. Both Putin and Hitler seriously took upon themselves as nothing more and nothing less than the salvation of their country. Both Putin and Hitler were not contented with having won in the backrooms and in elections the highest office in their country. Both Putin and Hitler did not limit themselves to the role of leader of a specific majority. Both Putin and Hitler, in the final analysis, came upon absolute power not packed up in the cramped and boring confines of a parliamentary democracy (how else to understand the status Putin so graciously accepted of “National Leader”, except as an embarrassing rehash of the Chieftain-Fuehrer theme).

Despite significant differences in temperament, both Putin and Hitler are inveterate populists. Both Putin and Hitler are, it goes without saying, talented in their skill and knowledge of how to please the people. It is a thesis that requires no further proof.

Both Putin and Hitler are neither Left nor Right, neither liberals nor socialists, neither for freedom nor for justice. Both Putin and Hitler are for the people, for their national interests and against the enemies of their countries. Both Putin and Hitler are as it were above politics (something Putin himself has said more than once). Both Putin and Hitler insist that they came to power not like others – through money and a personal struggle for power – but from the people themselves, a higher mission, providence, fate, duty, etc. The political paths of both Hitler and Putin were of a mostly third/median way. A path not associated with any ideology that might divide society. A path for national unification by general deliverance from a common enemy. Exactly the sort of Bonapartism that elevates demagoguery (no irony intended) to the level of national idea and high strategy.

* * *

By the fairest possible accounting, Putin, like Hitler, is a fascist. A fascist, at a minimum, in the world-outlook sense of the word – as a populist striving for absolute power, depending on the people’s xenophobia (in this case, as a popular “cult of the enemy”: the enemy of the country, the nation, its people, etc.), and inclined to view violence as the basic instrument for solving political and social conflicts.

More exactly, President Putin is a fascist in tendency, since his regime has only begun to adopt the fourth characteristic of fascism – violence as the entire universe of political discourse. Violence that is physical, moral and social: massive, barbaric voter fraud through absentee ballots and threats of firing; massive, barbaric prohibitions against publishing campaign leaflets other than for United Russia; massive confiscation of non-United Russia campaign materials; transferring from the Elections Committee to the Ministry of Internal Affairs the function of ensuring that “legality” is observed in election campaigns; gratuitous forced dispersal of silly “Marches of Those Who Disagree”; preventative arrests of non-United Russia activists; test pogroms of non-United Russia officials by juvenile Putin-worshipers, etc, etc. Everywhere and in everything, we see barbaric, lawless demonstrations by the regime of its still-inflated strength.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Russia felt themselves raped in the last elections. No, they were not the majority, but neither were they smallest of minorities.

Scholars specializing in the history of Weimar Germany and the history of Fascism know what all this resembles.

Grappling with his political opponents, President Putin strives for an extremely fascist, or more exactly totalitarian type of repression – a “peoples repression”; repression at the hands of the people themselves. The “enemies of the people” surrender in a symbolic or physical hounding to a “people” specially prepared for them: storm troopers, pogrom-inciters, Red Guards, or “Nashisti”. The simple dictator represses through the use of police, guard forces and gendarmes – that is, government forces. For the fascist, totalitarian leader, this is small potatoes: his “people power” demands the organization of “popular” and “social” repressions.

President Putin’s struggle with corruption, with the “werewolves in shoulderboards”, but without such things as curbs on the oligarchs or a people-friendly social policy – all of this, to the last piece, repeats the internal social policies of the early fascist government of Adolf Hitler. These were good policies – absolutely worthy of Hitler to pursue them before the German people of that day, but these good policies do not excuse all the other counts against the Fuehrer.

Of course, President Putin is only at the beginning of his “dark path”. He has only taken the first steps, but these steps can leave no doubt concerning their ultimate direction. The absolutist/totalitarian inclinations of our President; the ease with which he deploys large-scale (though still not fatal) repressions; his readiness to answer every political challenge exclusively with the force of “political resources” and by crushing opponents with his new “body guards”; and breaking out the theme of “enemy of the country” – all of this speaks to the totalitarian, fascist essence of what is occurring.

But we are still just at the breaking point. Everything described above still co-exists with specifically limited, but free speech; “administrative resources” often cannot withstand a simply-organized opposition by the people; and the judicial system, despite all its flaws, has more than once shown its ability to protect people from government caprice. We are at the breaking point, however, and this is very important.

* * *

Intentionally or not, Putin, like Hitler, carries in himself the pathos and political logic of the “dark kings”. Like all leaders with his spiritual makeup, Putin is doomed like a magnet to attract exactly the same sort of “dark” human material. No sooner did Vladimir Putin come to power, than we saw every brand and caliber of slob, barbarian and thug shake himself loose and stretch upward.

Despite all the outward respectability of today’s regime, Vladimir Putin brought with him the era of the government thug, the enlightened punk, the high-ranking slob. At issue is the dominant style in public life, the mode of politics, how people have decided to conduct themselves in society. In this sense, Gorbachev’s Russia was a time for idealists and revolutionaries, Yeltsin’s Russia opened the way for adventurers and pioneers, while Putin’s Russia let loose the thug in all professions and generations.

The country has become bored of bravery, heroes and patrons – of “bright” leaders in general. And they are now in short supply. The old heroes drank themselves into oblivion or wasted away during the Yeltsin stagnation, while the new ones have only just been conceived or are in their childhood. In their place, imitators come on the scene. Instead of social heroism, the public gets demonstrative, lawless barbarism. Barbarism is the favored style of the Putin elite, relying on the soulless power of the crowd or megatons of padding from “administrative resources”. It was precisely under Putin that the skinheads crawled out from under the gates and into the city squares, criminal leaders plunged into politics, slob prosecutors began to rule the courts, and the insolent political thug came into full bloom. The riot police (omonovtsy), those new gendarmes, began harrying to their hearts content the “disagreeing” remnants of our naive liberal intelligentsia.

By crime or misfortune, to his shame or tragedy, President Putin secretes that fluid that attracts slobs and barbarians of every stripe. At the same time, there is some reason to suspect that Putin himself is not at the same level as those he attracts, and for whom Putin is a activation signal. Moreover, his personal reactions to the world were, until recently, entirely within the normal range of decency for a Russian male of his age, level of education, career and temperament. As is often the case with “dark leaders”, Putin himself is not a barbarian, but this makes little difference. Heinrich Himmler was also not a sadist, but he could not have done what he did without them, and he and his work simply attracted the cruelest of monsters.

The Putin regime is a public triumph of the “gray mice”. To see this for oneself, one need only take a sociological or even simply human look at the membership of the United Russia party. “United Russia”, “Nashi”, “Young Guards” – all are well-oiled recruiting machines for selecting mediocrities. Sort of an “unnatural selection” or “reverse selection” process. But exactly this sort of human material is necessary for anyone wanting absolute power. It all adds up.

Of course, Putin, like Hitler, also has to attract the services of talented and well-heeled people, the highest class of professionals. But their service to the regime is a long series of onerous compromises, both professionally and as human beings. And it is not they who are “Putin’s Guard”.

Putin’s Russia once again does not need brave soldiers or efficient government workers; Putin’s Russia does not like self-respecting politicians and independent entrepreneurs. It needs only new Maliuta Skuratovs and spook-gardeners: specialists in mutilating anyone who moves a little too fast or climbs a little too high.

The main thing is that Putin, like Hitler, has no use for citizens – he needs only devotees. Only for his devotees is President Putin prepared to care, only his devotees will he lead into the great new Russia. And every day, in his every deed, President Putin hints at this and facilitates it.

* * *

Something happened to our President two or three months ago [September-October 2007]. It was as if he had been replaced. The honor of the Russian officer, the political pragmatism and his healthy conservatism, none of it could protect him from the seductions of absolute power and the eternally dark mission of Chieftain and Savior of the Fatherland.

During the Duma elections of 2007, President Putin, trying on the title of “National Leader”, effectively came into absolute power in Russia. Absolute power is that power which is unlimited by anyone or anything – neither elections, nor parliaments, nor constitutions. More exactly, the power of the National Leader, the Chieftain, the “Father of the Nation”, etc., is limited only by the personal ambitions of the leader and the love of the people. Judging from everything, it would seem that exactly this sort of power is what President Putin is aiming for, just like Reich Chancellor Hitler did 80 years before him.

It is possible that all this Bacchanalia about a “National Leader” and turning the parliamentary elections into a referendum “For Putin”, with the carnal creation of all these “Lovers of Putin” organizations, was just an attempt to scare people, or the latest test of the people’s readiness to accept new types of “administrative resources”. But the unfortunate thing is that most of the population and a significant part of the elite took this test seriously. Whether from spiritual weakness, force of habit, or just not having the time to think about it, it was taken as just another damn thing in everyday life.

But the results were very serious. The thing is, any major political move gives rise by the law of cause and effect to its own political demons. The politician either gains control of events brought about by his actions, or he ceases to be a politician: in the best case, he leaves the political scene; at worst, he heads downhill at fatal speed. This phenomenon is lodged in the historical memory of mankind by the metaphor of “crossing the Rubicon”.

Vladimir Putin has crossed his Rubicon, having given the country to understand that he, Vladimir Putin, aspires to absolute power in Russia, a power not limited by any sort of formalities or term limits, depending only on the BELIEF in him by the majority of the people.

Now Vladimir Putin is forced to confirm with his every step his right to absolute power. Each of his achievements must be more striking than the previous. Any step back, anything that disconfirms his “absolute” status, will be taken by the people and his opponents as a sign of weakness. And weakness, real or imagined, is a fatal illness for an absolute leader, a decisive and irrecoverable fall. For this reason we all face the threat of more Putin-justice, Putin-severity, Putin-absolutism. The enemies will multiply simply for demonstrative effect. Repression will increase not due to political malevolence, but just inescapably. Vladimir Putin must now win every bet at any price – or pretend he is winning – by deceiving his people, employing a widening scale of Goebbelian propaganda. Because every second of every day he needs to “save face” – the face of the National Leader, who has the right to flout everything but the people’s faith in him. If nothing changes in the coming months, then in the near future everyone in Russian can expect a forced, egged-on by our faith, increase in Putin-radicalism and Putin-extremism. Such is the meaning and iron logic of the life of Vladimir Putin following the parliamentary elections of 2007.

It is unimportant whether President Putin runs or does not run for a third presidential term. What is important is that he has become the “National Leader”.

As late as this past summer, looking forward to 2008, President Putin might have imagined becoming one thing or another. But now, having come into absolute power, our President has narrowed his range of choices to a single remaining dilemma: either he becomes the sole master of Russia, or he intentionally becomes a political nonentity.

An eternally tragic choice. And all of us, the entire country, are held hostage to this choice.

In his own time, Julius Cesar, that great reflexive dictator, could not bear a similar choice, and allowed himself to be killed.

Not all is Pre-Determined – We are at a Fork in the Road

This is a very serious situation, but we, devil may take us, are a great country! We are not Turkmenistan, devil take them (my apologies, former brothers)!

Here are the possibilities:

1. Our President could quit – though of course, only at the price of his career and his departure into political non-existence. Compromise at this point is, unfortunately, impossible, or more exactly – possible, but would give rise to chaos. It will be hard for us without Vladimir Putin, seriously hard. His capabilities and services as leader of the state are obvious. We would wander around lost for a year or two, but we would create a new government and smooth out our lives. As long there is no war!

2. Modern Russia resembles in many way inter-war Germany, but in one way it is very different. Despite all the successes of Putin’s “verticalization” [centralization] of power, the state in Russia is still very weak and incompletely formed. Somehow we do not seem to notice it, but none of the reforms put forward by Putin has been brought to completion (except for the political-technical division of the country into federal sectors and the mechanical reshuffling of political institutions, like eliminating the election of governors), and many vitally important reforms were simply curtailed due to the inability of the government apparatus to digest them. Systems for social security, education, health care and public protection services have therefore not emerged from systemic crisis. Simply pumping oil money into them does not help them overcome their indifference to people and their bottomlessly low quality of service.

There is another side to all of this. It may be bad living in a half-baked government, but for the usurper it is also an unreliable instrument. In such a government the leader has difficulty showing the population his latest successes, and much time and effort will be devoted to re-working the government. But the people will not for this reason give the Savior of the Fatherland much time as they await their manna from heaven. And our repressive apparatus is also not of such a high quality that the leader can rely on it completely, chasing as it will “those who disagree” into the same pen with those who do agree.

For reasons that would take long to explain, it seems that in the 21st century personality-driven dictatorships are not as effective at solving large-scale problems as they once were. Modern life is too complicated in its structure, and the people too varied in their interests. Political success nowadays is best ensured by skill at quick conciliation.

3. Yes, the Russian people have lived through much the same traumas as the German people did. But we overcame those traumas after the industrial era. For most of us, our social instincts are not limited by the experience of working together in factories. We are not at such an early stage of development. We are informed, historically experienced; we know something about their Hitler and our Stalin. We have to a large extent seen the joy of an era of freedom and private life. We are more varied and sophisticated in our desires. People like us are harder to rule from one center, harder to dominate. Although, of course, most of us still succumbed to the Putin proposal that we surrender our freedom in exchange for his care. If this was the result of light-heartedness and an apolitical frame of mind, then all is not so bad, and will easily heal.

4. For 20-30% of our fellow citizens all these totalitarian overtures from the half-baked lackeys of a careful dictator are repulsive by their very definition. That is a lot. Enough to become united by the strength of their emotions, and in their unity persuade the rest of the rightness of their cause.

If for 20-30% of the citizens of Russia what happened in Russia in the Fall of 2007 was a serious problem, then it is time for us to get to work.

“To be Enlightened is a Choice; To be in Darkness is a Condition. Change it.”
— Svetlana Makovetskaya

P.S. – The advancement of Dmitri Medvedev as Vladimir Putin’s “successor”, and Medvedev’s subsequent request – disarming in its archaism – that “the royal name” “become the prime minister”- all this is, at a minimum, is confirmation of President Putin’s desire to take his leave without departing. To achieve at whatever price the status of “National Leader”, with all the consequences described above. Naturally, Vladimir Putin himself, along with his clients and admirers, explain all of this as being “for the good of Russia.”

Our President is like our oil: on the one hand, it is good; on the other, we would be better off without it. If oil while saving the economy of Russia at the same time deprives its economy of stimulation and development, then President Putin, by every means stimulating and preserving the paternalistic inclinations of the people, at a minimum limits the Russian nation in its political and civil development. At a minimum.

December 10, 2007

EDITORIAL: Those Were the Days


Those Were the Days

We remember so clearly those heady days after the Berlin Wall fell, when so many of us rushed to Russia, secure the belief that her best days lay ahead and wanting to be a part of it, to help any way we could.

Those were the days my friend!
We thought they’d never end!
We’d sing and dance, forever and a day!
We’d live the life we’d choose, we’d fight and never lose!
Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days.

Now they seem not like days, but like pipe dreams. Crack pipe dreams.

Yesterday, a page turned and suddenly we are back where we were before the wall crumbled. In fact, things might just be worse. When the wall fell, the KGB didn’t have anything like the direct grip on the formal halls of power in the Kremlin such as it has now. They were far more circumspect. Now, there’s no point in even attempting to discuss the actual results even as far as turnout is concerned, since it’s already been proven that the data being reported by the Kremlin is bogus, virtually all international observers having been excluded from the process.

Once again, we hear a drumbeat of propaganda from the Russia apologists, those who would subvert our security by calling for hesitation. When Putin came to power, we were told that his shocking allegiance to the KGB was a minor matter, that he would not attempt a crackdown, that he was an enlightened man. We waited, and we saw that crackdown unfold before our eyes. Now, we are being told that it is irrelevant that Dmitri Medvedev has come to power in one of the most shamelessly rigged large-scale “elections” in world history, and irrelevant too that his KGB Svengali remains in power as his prime minister. Will we wait again, to see what new horror this atrocity will visit upon us?

For any clear-eyed observer, it’s hard to imagine how the outlook for Russia could be gloomier. We’ve said for years now that we’d have much preferred to see Vladimir Putin remain in power in 2009 than to allow a proxy to take his place, because remaining in power would signal that he doesn’t yet have sufficient control to make him comfortable with a proxy — in other words, that he recognizes vulnerability. But now he has allowed Dmitri Medvedev, an utterly unqualified sycophant, to assume the nominal reins of power whilst he remains as prime minister, and this is a darkest omen for Russia’s future, indeed.

Russians have voted to continue a government whose primary characteristic has been provocation of the Western world, the onset of a new cold war identical to the one that bankrupted and destroyed the USSR. They’ve voted to allow a proud KGB spy to remain as prime minister of the country while allowing his personal proxy to assume the nominal duties of “president” of the country. They’ve created, in other words, a neo-Soviet state.

As the Washington Post noted:

Washington’s estrangement from the Kremlin became evident this week as Bush and both remaining Democratic presidential candidates publicly expressed uncertainty about the would-be Russian leader. Asked to name him during a presidential debate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), stumbled over the pronunciation. “Um, Med-Medvedova — whatever,” she finally said, mangling the name in a way that, in Russian, would identify the new president as a woman.

Bush the next day had the name down but, by his own admission, not much else. “I don’t know much about Medvedev, either,” he said at a news conference. “And what will be interesting to see is who comes to the — who represents Russia at the G-8, for example. . . . It will help, I think, give some insight as to how Russia intends to conduct foreign policy after Vladimir Putin’s presidency. And I can’t answer the question yet.”

At the same time as Russians have authorized this international provocation, they’ve also approved a horrifying domestic crackdown, which has included aggressive efforts to deny visa access by critical outsiders. In short, a new Iron Curtain has descended across the continent, and another mysterious neo-Soviet figure has been thrown up in our faces to preside over it, just like Putin back in 1999.

Sunday’s elections, of course, were a classic neo-Soviet charade. First Vladimir Putin wiped out every single legitimate rival candidate for the Russian presidency and then, since nobody would want to vote in a non-election, he alternatively bribed and threatened his own people to do so. As the capper, even the laws governing the election themselves were rigged in the Kremlin’s favor. The Telegraph asked: “Has Russia got a New Stalin?” The Independent simply called it a “farce” — and Andrei Illarionov agreed.

The only silver lining in all this jaw-dropping horror was that the world’s media was incited to put forth a raft of coverage exposing Putin’s fundamentally fraudulent governance. Even the bookmakers were appalled as even the Kremlin itself admitted the pandemic fraud it was engaging in. Outside observers, like Transparency International, called the process itself “corrupt.”

Writing in Yezhedevny Zhurnal Illarionov has stated:

Any expectation of support – even just moral support – for a Russian civil movement from the political leaders and governments of the West is without basis. For many Western leaders, the current regime in Russia is more convenient, comfortable and pleasant than its opponents would be. Western leaders have accumulated considerable experience in cooperating with and supporting authoritarian regimes in Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The establishment of civil rights, legal order and democracy are matters for the Russian people themselves.

In other words, Putin is our fault too. The press coverage was far too little, far too late, and not accompanied by forceful action on the part of our leaders, who have chosen to stick their heads in the sand just as they did at the time of the Bolshevik revolution and during the Stalin era, leaving our children to pay the price for their recalcitrance.

Today, we lead with a translation by a Russian critic of Putin who compares Putin to Hitler and is now facing imprisonment for doing so. What more perfect response to the “election” of Putin’s proxy ruler Dmitri Medvedev over the weekend could we possibly make? But tomorrow, the world needs to begin waking up to the reality that we are facing a new cold war with neo-Soviet Russia, a country that should more properly be called “KGBland.”

All those who believed, when the Berlin Wall fell, that the people of Russia were as much victims of the Soviet government as we were in the West, all of us have been betrayed by those same Russian people. Now, we can only conclude that, all along, they supported and approved the imperialistic, militaristic, aggressive and provocative actions of the Politburo, and that since the Berlin Wall fell they’ve simply been biding their time, waiting for a chance to continue the battle.

And now they have it.

EDITORIAL: Yuri Mamchur — He’s at it Again


Yuri Mamchur — Is he the Biggest Idiot in the Russian Universe?

We think so. The evidence is pretty compelling.

Leave aside the numerous occasions when this blog has exposed Russia Blog’s chief psychopath for his lies and virulent pro-dictatorship propaganda (just enter his name into our search engine if you want to read them). Let’s just talk current events.

On February 21st, Mamchur published a post called “Russians for Obama.” It’s beneath our dignity to discuss the utterly insipid, mindless manner in which he arrived at the conclusion that Barack Obama is Kremlin-friendly, we’d feel dirty if we even tried to do so. Plus, it’s beside the point. The point is that he said it, and then he said it again on the Kremlin’s other propaganda outlet, Russia Profile, and he’ll inevitably say it again on Russia Today Kremlin-sponsored television.

And you can pretty much take it for granted that no sooner did these words escape his lips than they were proved utterly false. Just one week later, Kommersant reported:

Obama began with criticizing the Bush administration for being too soft with Russia, as Obama regards it. “Just think back to the beginning of President Bush’s administration when he said — you know, he met with Putin, looked into his eyes and saw his soul, and figured he could do business with him. He then proceeded to neglect our relationship with Russia at a time when Putin was strangling any opposition in the country when he was consolidating power,” said Obama. That statement, both in style and in content, resembled the notorious statement by Arizona Senator John McCain, who also tried to ridicule Bush’s utterance about the soul he saw in Putin’s eyes.

The Russian theme of the Democratic debate in Ohio was not over yet. Russert asked Obama what would he do, in the president’s capacity, if “President Medvedev says to the Russian troops, you know what, why don’t you go help Serbia retake Kosovo”. “Fortunately, we have a strong international structure anchored in NATO to deal with this issue,” replied Obama, adding that “the Clinton administration deserves a lot of credit” for “the way in which they put together a coalition that has functioned” [in 1999, the U.S. persuaded its NATO allies to launch a joint military operation against Yugoslavia].

No sooner had Obama uttered these statements than Mamchur turned around and bitterly denounced him, making no reference to his prior gibberish and censoring most of Obama’s actual remarks.

Let’s be frank: if you read Russia blog for any purpose other than to keep abreast of the Kremlin’s latest lies, you’re an idiot. Having now read his drivel, you’re left to wonder whether Mamchur’s own stupidity was responsible for a ridiculous misreading of what Russians actually think, or whether his mindless inanity caused him to utterly misread Barrack Obama, or whether he is simply evil and attempting to sow the seeds of discord within the American electoral process (in the most ridiculously ineffective manner imaginable).

Does Mamchur really think that Americans should take into account what Russians, who are buzzing them with nuclear bombers and supplying weapons to their arch enemies (Venezuela, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas), think about who should be our next president? Are Russians going to start factoring in American desires when selecting their next leader? Is that what Mamchur is arguing for?

What we see in this pathetic display is neo-Soviet conduct, utterly self-destructive, ludicrous on its face, and backed up only by a mindless, soulless determination with no connection whatsoever to anything like reality.

An Open Letter to the KGB

The Other Russia translates “an open letter to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) from a series of prominent journalists, questioning the actions taken against Natalya Morar (pictured). Morar, a fiery investigative journalist, has been barred without explanation from entering Russia, and has been trapped at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport for three days. A separate open letter has also been written on behalf of Ekho Moskvy radio.”

We, journalists and colleagues of Natalya Morar, a correspondent of the New Times magazine, demand that the leadership of the FSB ceases her anti-constitutional detention in the customs area of the Domodedovo airport, and opens the Russian border for her.

Natalya Morar did not commit any crimes on Russian territory, and she has not been presented with any charges. She has every legal basis to enter the territory of the Russian Federation [(RF)]. For several days now, Natalya Morar has been forbidden from crossing the Russian border, in an attempt to deport her to Moldova.

By persecuting Natalya Morar, Russian authorities are violating the laws of the RF as well as international law. For a great while, Natalya Morar and her husband Ilya Barabanov have been kept from eating, drinking and sleeping normally, which is a direct violation of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and of articles on the right to life in the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

This whole time, her attorney has been kept from her, and this is a gross violation of parts 1 and 2 of article 48 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Natalya Morar has lived in Russia for more than 6 years. She completed the Moscow State University, she is registered to live in Moscow, and she has a work permit. Furthermore, she is a citizen of Moldova (with which Russia has visa-free travel), and the spouse of a Russian citizen, Ilya Barabanov. The actions of the FSB violate the requirements of the fundamental documents of the OSCE [(Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)], which forbid the separation of families, and the RF federal law “On foreigners.”

We are convinced, that the reasons for Natalya Morar’s deportation are political, and connected with her professional activities. Morar’s persecution began after her publication of courageous investigative reporting in the New Times magazine –“Bureaucrats are Diverting Money to the West,” “A lifetime ‘Discount’” [a Moscow bank], “Payment for Loyalty,” “VTSIOM 2,” “The Black Till of the Kremlin.”

We are convinced, that the FSB is using clause 1 of article 27 of the law “On the procedure for departing the RF and the procedure for entering the RF,” to carry out political censorship. We believe that by answering journalistic investigations with these measures, Russian authorities, as represented by the FSB and president Vladimir Putin personally are signing off on confessionary statements to all the facts of corruption laid bare by Morar’s articles.

We demand that the Federal Border Service of the FSB RF cease its blatant violation of the law, and admit Natalya Morar onto the territory of the Russian Federation. We likewise demand that Russian authorities publicly name the reason for Natalya Morar’s deportation.


Yulia Galyamina, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Alexei Sochnev, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Anton Semikin, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Yuriy Gladish, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Natalya Volosnikova, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Olga Malysh, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Ksenya Firsova, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Stanislav Yakovlev, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Tatyana Kashintseva, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Olga Bogun, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Vladimir Tsybulskiy, journalist (Kasparov.ru) Andrei Dmitriev, (APN-CPB (http://www.apn-spb.ru/)) Andrei Skovorodnikov, journalist (Krasnoyarskaya Gazeta) Yekaterina Fatyanova, journalist (Ej.ru) Aleksandr Golts, journalist (Ej.ru) Olga Pashkova, journalist (Ej.ru) Yekaterina Shmelkova, journalist (Ej.ru) Svetlana Solodovnik, journalist (Ej.ru) Maria Kamenskaya, journalist (Ej.ru) Aleksandr Ryklin, journalist (Ej.ru) Maria Olendskaya, journalist (Ej.ru) Maksim Blant (Matveychenkov), journalist (Ej.ru) Vladimir Yermolin, journalist (Grani.ru) Natella Boltyanskaya (Ekho Moskvy) Rimma Polyak, independent journalist, Moscow Mikhail Fishman, journalist Yuliya Kukushkina, OK! Magazine Irina Borogan, “Agentura.ru” Andrei Soldatov, “Agentura.ru” Varvara Turova, journalist Ilia Ekchtout, P.Eng Alexander Samartsev, journalist

The Committee to Protect Journalists has also sided with Morar.

The Railway of Bones

Britain’s Channel 4 News reports:

As President Vladimir Putin prepares to hand Russia’s presidency to his chosen successor, Unreported World travels deep into the country’s Arctic North to examine his legacy. Reporter Sam Kiley and director Nick Sturdee discover a nation where political dissent is stifled, corruption is rife, and where little of Russia’s huge wealth reaches a population racked by poverty, alcoholism and suicide.

Kiley and Sturdee begin their journey in Syktyvkar, capital of the Komi Republic and 1000 miles north of Moscow. It’s election day for the Russian Parliament and the team has been tipped off that political parties are handing out money to buy votes. Kiley meets student activists who claim they have been offered 400 rubles to vote for President Putin’s United Russia Party. In dramatic scenes which support claims that polls in some electoral areas were rigged, the team films a student negotiating her payment from her United Russia contact and others queuing to sell their votes as well.

The Unreported World team boards a train to take the “Railway of Bones” built by Stalin’s Gulag prisoners northwards to Usinsk, the region’s oil capital. Russia now earns more than £75 billion a year from oil exports, but little seems to be reaching the people here. Many of the workers who built the town are housed in barracks and one of them tells Kiley that it would take nine years, without eating or paying any bills, to save enough money to buy a one-room apartment in the town they built. In this small one-industry town two oil companies own the newspapers. The leader of the opposition Other Russia movement says that oppression is in the air, and that parties not sanctioned by the Kremlin struggle.

As the team travels further north they find once wealthy logging towns like Ust Tsilma in the grip of an alcoholism pandemic. In a nation which Putin has supposedly reignited the wealth and pride of the Soviet era, Kiley meets Igor, a youth worker in the town of Izhma. He says he knows ten children and 20 adults who have killed themselves in the town, which he says has long been abandoned to its fate.

At the end of the railway is the city of Vorkuta, which was originally a Gulag labour camp. Today its residents are free but, apparently, only if they keep their mouths firmly shut. Liudmila Zhorovlia, a community activist who campaigned against local authorities over price rises in rents and services did not. Her husband Ivan shows Kiley where his wife and 19-year-old son Konstantin were slaughtered in their own home minutes after he left for work. Their killers took nothing he says, but he claims, they did erase files detailing Liudmilla’s campaign from her computer. He says the investigation has been closed for lack of evidence.

Back in Syktyvkar, Kiley interviews Yuri Bolobonov, United Russia’s deputy leader for the Komi Republic. He is dismissive of the complaints of a growing one-party state in Russia and the rigging of elections, which he blames on rival parties trying to make United Russia look bad. He says Russia is a huge country and it needs a big powerful party. As the team leaves, Kiley concludes that it’s clear a one-party Russia might be good for business, and good for politicians, but it seems that very few ordinary citizens he’s encountered think it is good for Russians themselves.

An Open Letter to the Leaders of Russia

Asia News reported March 1st:

On the eve of tomorrow’s voting for the new president, in a tough open letter to the heads of the Russian federation, well-known human rights activist Sergei Kovalev (pictured) denounces the “mangled electoral legislation” and the “moral crisis” in politics; he points his finger at “a sycophantic puppet parliament, a decorative Constitution, a justice system working to order and an uncontrolled leadership reappointing itself”.

Kovalev, born in Ukraine in 1930, began his efforts in defence of human rights in Russia in the 1960’s. He is a founding member of the Initiative Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR. In 1974, he was arrested and sent to the gulag, and then sent into exile for having made public some of the cases of detained activists. During his detention and exile, until 1987, he was declared “a prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty international.

Russians [went] to the polls [yesterday] to select the next president of the federation. For 24 hours, before the opening of the polls, all political advertising and campaigning will be prohibited. According to most of the observers, the results of the voting [was] already assured: the winner will be Dmitrij Medvedev, the candidate supported by the current head of state, Vladimir Putin. Challenging Medvedev, who according to polls should receive about 70 percent of the vote, will the three candidates: the communist Gennadij Zjuganov, the nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovskij, and the almost unknown pro-European Andrej Bogdanov. In the runup to the latest elections, which the critics of the Putin government describe as a “farce” of democracy, we publish the complete text of the open letter that Kovalev has sent to Putin himself, to Vladimir Churov, president of the central electoral commission of the Russian federation, and to foreign minister Sergei Lavrov .

Dear Sirs,

Gentlemen, I have no doubt that you are well aware that the free expression of the will of free citizens via free democratic elections can never result in 99.4% of the votes being cast for one party with a turnout of 99.5% of the voters.

Now obviously that is only impossible where there is open, transparent political competition between electoral candidates, with equal opportunities for public campaigning, where there is no administrative pressure on individuals and where one finds impeccable honesty and scrupulous accuracy from the election commissions.

Yet all these are surely the crucial conditions for democratic electoral procedure?

No need to prove to you that these very 99.4% votes “for” provide incontrovertible evidence of vote-rigging. You know that as well as I do, and as well as any remotely literate citizen with at least commonsense, not to mention a basic awareness of the nature and possibilities of the popular vote. You of course also know that such results far above 90% (i.e. the same fraud) did not happen in isolated polling stations, no, in several subjects of the Russian, if one may use the term, “Federation”. This unfortunate circumstance is more than sufficient to correctly assess the tasteless farce being played out by untalented directors on the entire boundless Russian stage on 2 December, and for good measure in the coming event on 2 March.

It is entirely redundant to tediously collect up the electoral commission protocols rewritten in retrospect, or evidence of shenanigans with ballot papers etc – it’s all clear enough anyway. The authorities (who by the way you represent, Gentlemen), mangled electoral legislation and then wantonly, with no finesse, came up with some kind of imitation of elections. In doing so they sneered at the Constitution and armed themselves with administrative resources. The simulation was not for us but for the West you so dislike.

I am not in the slightest claiming that “United Russia” would not have got into the State Duma without the rigging. For goodness sake, obviously they would have been in first place anyway. That’s quite another, also painful problem for the country.

However on another subject now. Through your deliberate efforts, Gentlemen, in a country where the democracy was only budding forth, we once again have no elections – the main criterion for a democracy. And for a long time. Not even Stalin could have dreamed of the Chechen record. In his “elections”, that sort of percentage was gained by a single candidate with no alternative. While in the present case this pathetic 0.1% was supposedly shared by virtually 10 parties.

It’s not by hearsay that we know what’s happening to a country which receives a sycophantic puppet parliament, a decorative Constitution, a justice system working to order and an uncontrolled leadership reappointing itself (like the profoundly expressive word “successor” which has sullied our political lexicon for a good 10 years). Details are hardly appropriate. It would seem that that does not frighten you and you have decided to try it yet another. Or maybe you simply don’t know anything else.

Well, the choice – conscious and well-thought-out – has undoubtedly been made -, and long ago, and I am quite well aware that I can’t stop it. I do have a question, however: will you be able to stop if at some stage you don’t wish to follow things through to the all too familiar end?

It’s clear that the lies exuding from all your lackey screens, are powerless to hide the electoral shame. Yet despite that, you are forced to lie shamelessly and hopelessly, with arrogance and anger jumping down on any doubts (like “… let them teach their wives …”). You don’t have another choice, I mean you can’t say: “Well, we took over here, slightly corrected the results, and there they went overboard. Well don’t be too critical, it’s all though their enthusiasm and uncontrollable functionary zeal.

And in your step there are the adepts hurriedly bustling to get themselves onto the patriot register. Earlier our leaders quite often had to lie tediously and brazenly for decades, denying the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, or the Katyn Massacre of Polish prisoners of war, or the arrest of Wallenberg. In a word, what was obvious to all around them and now it’s you. History is unfortunately repeating itself.

The lie which you so decisively have again established in government use and which you are incapable of rejecting has an important and extremely dangerous quality – I would say a particularly corrupting force. The point is that the majority of your listeners don’t believe you, and that includes your convinced supporters. That is, they are of course pleased with “United Russia’s” victory, but they understand very well whatever you say how the mould for such a victory was set.

We have a paradoxical change – you lie, your listeners know this and you know that they don’t believe you, only pretend to believe, and yet they also know that you know they don’t believe you. Everybody knows everything. The very lie no longer aspires to deceive anyone, from being a means of fooling people it has for some reason turned into an everyday way of life, a customary and obligatory rule for living. You have a Mr Markov, supposedly a professor, supposedly a political expert, and in fact a hardened and dense cynic. Speaking with him about our “politics”, a journalist said: “lies have short legs”. “Human memory is even shorter”, was Markov’s response. Horrible, yet it would seem that this is in fact the case. Of course they’ll forget a lot about the two grubby spectacles in succession in a couple of months after 2 March. However they’ll never forget something else – that the top figures of the state lie through their teeth. And how could they forget when lying is your natural element?

This memory is catastrophic and its results irreparable because the customary lies of leaders always generate and cultivate cynicism in society and cannot achieve anything else. Whatever your people now say about freedom being better than lack of freedom, about the right to self-expression and so forth, these pompous speeches are fixedly (and fairly, by the way) perceived as a continuation of your untruth. They’re mere words. There is exactly the same attitude to the bombastic ambitiousness of your utterances about the guaranteed phenomenal and swiftest successes in all conceivable areas, matters and issues.

It would seem, however strange this may be, that for us, coming from the Stalin era, those in power also need public support. So you want to rely on cynicism? Yet cynicism is cowardice, the flight from burning problems and hard-hitting discussion. It is the lowest pragmatism, petty timeserving teetering on the verge of baseness, or having toppled over that edge. It is intrigue, preferred to competition, and a rejection of moral taboos.

Can any serious political force really base itself on such social tendencies? Well, yes, cynicism does not scorn obsequious enthusiasm. We all remember well enough the paid mobs of your “nashy”, 150 per body. So what do you expect – they’re your prop in the flamboyantly announced “innovations” and other achievements? Enough, after all you, Mr President, openly shared with us your devastating assessments of your main people – the party of power “United Russia”. What other “innovations”?

What then, do you expect with pitiful charms about “four and “to turn a mob into a creative force? Now that is foolish! From dishonesty, Gentlemen, nothing grows barring new dishonesty. On that road you have already achieved your real main goal. Publicly you name it ponderously as stability, whereas in fact its total power. Simply speaking, modernizing and improving (cynically, yet reasonably subtly one must say) Soviet ideology and political practice, you have built a political construction in Russia within which it’s impossible to win the elections.

Not even squeeze them in any way in parliament. Not even exert any noticeable political pressure. This is a blind alley that can no way lead to democracy. And gradually going back by the same path we came on is almost impossible since you are doomed to lie. As I said before, you can’t renounce the lies once spoken, or your whole system will come tumbling down.

What you are to do in this situation is of no interest to me. Most probably you’ll continue your course, perhaps on the way filling your pockets (those in the know say that you’ve long being doing this – I don’t know, I’m not an expert in this area). What the country is to do, having ended up under you, now that is the question. It is immoral and very dangerous to put up with you indefinitely. Since your present shameless “elections” are absolutely useless, we therefore need an entirely different instrument in other hands.

We don’t need “political experts” and “political technology specialists”, not economists and not politicians in the traditional sense of the word. We need intelligent, daring and extremely well-meaning leaders who instead of loud opposition noises, can create a decisive, calm, persistent and unwavering protest and not allow it to slip out from the tradition of the great peaceful Eastern European victories over despotism, to not allow bloodshed and the brown-shirt plague. This is incredibly difficult. It is much harder in Russia than it was in Poland or Czechoslovakia, harder even than in Ukraine.

Yet who promised that our life would be easy? I believe that these people will at some stage come. I see no other possibility for overcoming our shameful moral crisis. However it’s not with you that these problems need to be discussed.

With the most sincere and unwavering lack of respect,

Sergei Kovalev