Daily Archives: June 29, 2008

The Sunday Photos: Ponomaryov on the Front Lines

Lev Ponomaryov on the job, standing up for human rights in Russia and confronting the malignant forces of the Kremlin that oppose him.

The Sunday Illiteracy

Paul Goble reports:

Russians now spend an average of nine minutes a day reading newspapers, a figure that puts them among the lowest in the world and one that suggests they read only headlines and titles, the head of the World Newspaper Association told a Moscow conference earlier this week. Speaking to the annual forum of Russian publishers recently, Timothy Bolding, the general director of that association, said that only ten percent of Russians now read newspapers at all, far lower than in countries like Sweden where as many as 90 percent of the population reads the print media.

A major reason for this low readership, he continued, is that Russians do not trust what they see in the printed media: “Only six percent of Russians trust newspapers, while 70 percent of the population in Russia trusts Putin.” As a result, the number of papers and their print runs continue to decline, unlike in other countries with a similar level of economic development. The total number of copies of newspapers printed in the Russian Federation fell from 8.05 billion in 2006 to 7.8 billion last year, according to the Russian government’s own Federal Agency for the Press and Mass Communications, an institution whose analysts blame the decline on the rise of the Internet and increasing problems with distribution.

Bolding, however, suggested that the problems were broader and deeper. These declines he said “perhaps are connected with the low journalistic quality of [Russian] publications.” Many papers are boring as well, in large measure because the local governments that own and subsidize them do no permit the kind of hard-hitting reporting which could attract more readers.

Not surprisingly, Russian media officials did not take Bolding’s comments lying down. Mikhail Seslavinsky who heads the government’s agency for the press said he was not unhappy about the notion that Turks now spend more time reading newspapers than do residents of the Russian Federation. Indeed, he suggested, the difference speaks in Russia’s favor. “When Nadezhda Krupskaya [the wife of Vladimir Lenin] began the [Soviet] struggle against illiteracy,” he pointed out, “she also said that Soviet citizens read newspapers much more slowly than did the Turks.” Now, the data suggest, he continued, that “Russians read newspapers and journals much more rapidly than the Turks do.”

And as to Bolding’s statement that Russians read newspapers much less than Swedes do, Seslavinsky continued, that is easily explained: Swedish audiences have free access to only four or five television channels, while Russians have such access to 15 to 20, a difference that helps explain why the latter watch more television than the former. But neither Seslavinsky nor any of the other Russian participants challenged Bolding’s fundamental observation that when it comes to newspapers, Russians today are reading far fewer and with far less care than in the past, a development that as he suggested reflects both global trends and specific developments in the Russian marketplace.

The Sunday Conquest

The Associated Press reports:

A senior Russian general says Russia will conduct military exercises in the Arctic to uphold the country’s claim to the region’s vast natural resources.

Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, in charge of military training at Russia’s Defense Ministry, also said planning for the exercises began after several nations disputed Russia’s Arctic claims. “Modern wars are won or lost long before they start,” Shamanov told the military daily Krasnaya Zvezda in an interview published Tuesday. He noted that 5,000 U.S. troops were involved in the Northern Edge military exercise in Alaska last month.

Canada and Denmark have also been involved in the race to claim the area’s extensive oil and other resources. Russia last August sent two mini-submarines to plant a Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole, staking its claim on an underwater mountain range that is believed to contain huge oil and gas reserves. A U.S. study suggests the area may contain as much as 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.

After the Russian expedition, Canada vowed to increase its icebreaker fleet and build two new military facilities in the Arctic. The U.S. government also sent an icebreaker for a research expedition. Russian officials say preliminary results on soil core samples gathered by the expedition show that the 1,240-mile Lomonosov Ridge under the Arctic is part of Russia’s shelf. More geological tests are planned.

Denmark has also sent scientists to seek evidence that the underwater ridge is attached to its territory of Greenland. The dispute over who controls what in the Arctic has become more heated with growing evidence that global warming is shrinking polar ice, opening up new shipping lanes and resource development possibilities.

Yet in May, representatives from Denmark, Norway, Russia, Canada and the United States met in Ilulissat, 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle, to reaffirm their commitment to international Arctic treaties. Under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, Arctic nations have 10 years after ratification to prove their claims under the largely uncharted polar ice pack. All countries with claims to the Arctic have ratified the treaty, except for the United States.

President Bush has been pushing the Senate to ratify the treaty.

The Sunday Sob Stories

Russia’s top-ranked player Maria Sharapova was blown off the court in easy straight sets in her second match at The Championships in Wimbledon last week by a player who had never before won a match at the tournament, was unseeded and not ranked in the world’s top 150 players. The loss came just hours after Sharapova learned that Russia had refused her request to carry the national flag at the Beijing Olympiad opening ceremonies. The request was certainly an odd one coming from a person who lives in America and never spends any time in her so-called “homeland.”

Sharapova at least did better than Russia’s top-ranked male player, the infamous Nikolai Davydenko (embroiled in a match-fixing scandal), who also crashed and burned spectacularly at Wimbledon. He lost his opening match in easy straight sets to an unseeded German not ranked in the world’s top 100.

And to round things out nicely, Russia’s national football team (albeit coached by a Dutchman) lost its second match of the Euro tournament to Spain even worse than it had the first encounter, which was a massacre. This time Russia didn’t manage to score a single goal and was eliminated from the tournament after much posing and strutting by the Russian nationalist crowd. Hard to imagine how the Russian side could have surrendered so meekly not once but twice . . . after all, they’d been bribed with whores and everything. What more motivation could they possibly have required?

The Sunday Funnies

points out the physical similarities between Barack Obama and Cheburashka, the Russian Mickey Mouse, by having Chebby’s little pal ask him, upon noticing a campaign poster, why he’s never tried to trace his family tree.

Interesting to know if any readers think there is any racism inherent in this cartoon.