Daily Archives: July 30, 2008

EDITORIAL: Russia, the Eternal Morass


Russia, the Eternal Morass

Last week the New York Times blog The Lede reported on how Russians were being mauled by their national symbol, the brown bear. A wolf pack of 30 bears is running wild in Kamchatka and has already killed and eaten two people. The Lede reported that “people in the region have been forced to cower in their homes waiting for hunters to dispose of the animals, which can stand 10 feet tall and weigh up to 1,500 pounds.” Three others have been killed on Sakhalin Island. The reason? “A sharp decline in salmon, their traditional food, due to poaching has forced them to seek out other food sources, as more and more unfortunate people have come to discover.” In other words, the utter failure of public policy.

The first commenter on the story spoke in the loud, clear terms of the insane Russophile, a perfect encapsulation of what is wrong with Russia as a country:

The New York Times is always so negative about Russia! So what that the bears eat people? They are beautiful, majestic creatures who inspire Russia and Russians. Do bears not eat people in America!? You also couldn’t help but draw a parallel between killer bears and United Russia…again, negative muckraking! I implore you CIA sponsored “journalists” to stop implying that United Russia gobbles up other parties like a hungry beast. Write about something positive, like Putin’s pecs.

That’s right: Russians (and especially Russophile sychopants of Vladimir Putin) want this story ignored. Far from being a cause to criticize the authorities and call for reform to save lives, Russians want the whole thing swept under the carpet. As long as bears eat Americans, it seems, Russians have no problem with being consumed themselves.

And yet, if you were to suggest to a Russian that his nation’s lack of contested elections, opposition parties and major media criticism of the regime comes up far short on the democracy scale when compared to the United States, Russians would then say that Russia is “different country” that can’t be compared to America.

Meanwhile, do you think this commenter, or any member of the psychopathic Russophile set, ever makes such comments about the things written about America by state-controlled Russian media? Do they ever speak unfairly and inaccurately about America? Does Vladimir Putin ever do so? When, dear reader, was the last time you heard Mr. Putin give America a compliment? Aren’t his remarks about America “always so negative,” to quote a Russophile?

This kind of childish, impulsive “reasoning” characterizes Russian society from top to bottom. Rather than admit any fault, they would prefer to have all problems ignored. When convenient, they compare themselves to America. When not, they contend only a Russophobe would do so.

Exactly this kind of “thinking” destroyed the USSR root and branch. The Politburo was incapable of accepting any responsibility for any fault, and instead simply blamed all problems on misfortune and foreign intrigue. No reform was undertaken until the nation was in its final throes, and even then the measures were half-hearted and totally unsuccessful. As a result, the USSR collapsed.

And how did Russians respond, seeing that collapse? They merrily and blithely returned the KGB to power, the very same KGB that had shipped off so many souls to the Gulag archipelago, wiping out Russia’s best and brightest with relish, squashing all dissent and information at gunpoint. Then they merrily and blithely watched their proud KGB spy return the nation at breakneck speed to the same condition of blind willful ignorance that brought down the USSR.

America is full of people, including powerful elected politicians and major international media outlets, who upon hearing foreign criticism are only too ready to accept it and to call for responsive change. Right now, major party candidate Barack Obama is running on just such a platform, and could well be elected. And America stands astride the world like a colossus, the world’s only superpower, with an economy more than ten times larger than Russia’s and a growing population twice Russia’s size.

Russia, by contrast, pokes its head into the sand like a witless ostrich, has a plummeting population and an economy where a person is lucky to earn $4 per hour as a wage and teachers earn less than half that amount.

Will Russians never learn? Will they go on repeating their barbaric behavior until they have utterly destroyed not just their country but their entire civilization, ceding it to the Chinese to be erased forever from human memory?

We are afraid they will.

Last week the White House website posted a message from President Bush in honor of “Captive Nations” week. Bush stated: “In the 20th century, the evils of Soviet communism and Nazi fascism were defeated and freedom spread around the world as new democracies emerged.” (Similarly, Lithuania recently enacted a ban on the display of Soviet and Nazi symbols, treating the two the same.) The Putin regime rushed to defend Soviet communism, attacking Bush for attempting to “feed the efforts of those, who for political and selfish ends are striving to falsify the facts and rewrite history.” In other words, the Russian state is repeating the Soviet propaganda lie that Sovietism wasn’t just as bad for Russia as Nazism was — even though it was Sovietism, not Nazism, that actually destroyed the USSR, and Sovietism that killed far more Russians.

Russia can’t manage to understand how the people of Eastern Europe see the advance of Soviet troops to defeat Hitler, either. They, too, are hard pressed to see any difference between Nazis and Russians. After all, the Russian troops enslaved them for a far longer period of time than the Nazis did. It can’t manage to understand, as Germans have done, the need to confront their dark past and take aggressive measures to make sure it is not repeated. Instead, Russians seek to bury, twist and pervert their past into a mythology of heroism. Russians leave memorials to Stalin’s Gulag to foreigners, and elevate Stalin to cult hero status. They are, it should be remembered, still using the melody of the Soviet national anthem, a tune written to glorify Stalin. It will play when Russians are awarded medals at the Bejing Olympiad.

No country can survive this level of extreme barbarism.

Russia and Stalin: Explaining the Phenomenon

Paul Goble reports:

Many were shocked when the Internet Project “The Name of Russia” showed that Russians saw Joseph Stalin playing that role, with some suggesting that this was equivalent to present-day Germans identifying Hitler in that way for their country or even Israelis deciding to name the German dictator as the symbol of their country.And others were disturbed when the organizers of this project suggested Stalin had come out on top because of a concerted campaign by a small number of web activists and when those carrying out this informal survey said that they had “taken measures” in response that had the effect of elevating Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar, into first place. But now a prominent Moscow analyst suggests that the results of this project show something even more disturbing at least to him than the initial “victory” of Stalin. They indicate, Aleksei Roshchin said in an article posted online recently that Russians are increasingly obsessed with themselves rather than with the role they have played in the world.Arguing that even “without Stalin” in the top spot – and he is still among the leaders – Roshchin, who is an expert at the Moscow Center for Political Technologies, says the results of the project to date should disturb all those concerned about the future of Russia and its integration into the broader world.

The “top ten” candidates in the Name of Russia project are Stalin, Vysotsky, Lenin, Nicholas II, Yesenin, Ivan the Terrible, Sergii of Radonezh, Chekhov, Pushkin, and Aleksandr Nevsky. Of these, half were supreme rulers, one was a writer, three were poets, and one was a religious leader.“Not one (!),” Roshchin notes, “is a scholar and only one (!) is a figure of culture known to every cultured individual in the world. That is Chekhov, and he is in eighth place.” But “what does this mean?” the Moscow writer asks rhetorically. “It means that we ourselves, citizens of Russia, are convinced in the depth of our souls that humanity to a great extent does not need our Russia.” And consequently, “we ourselves select out of our 1,000-year history people who clearly are interesting only to us and to no one else.”No one will have a problem with Aleksandr Nevsky who “saved Rus’ from the crusaders” or even with Ivan the Terrble “who took Kazan,” Roshchin says. They are both in the tradition of the type of state figures Russians and many others admir. But what about the others on the list?Yesenin and Vysotsky were accomplished lyric poets who “beautifully expressed ‘the Russian soul” but who as a result are unknown beyond the borders of Russia.

That then there is Lenin, whose activities “showed to the entire world HOW ONE SHOULD NOT PROCEED. But Roshchin inquires, is that something which Russians should be proud of?Given these others, it is thus perhaps not surprising that Stalin received so many votes as “the name of Russia.” Instead, this poll shows clearly “in what direction one should be working if we would like sometime to return to the civilized world:” Russians should focus less on those who have worked only for Russia and more on those who have made a broader contribution.Russia does not lack such people, Roshchin says, and he points to figures like Mendeleyev, Lomonosov, Cherkhov, Kandinskiy, Tolstoy, Landay, Kapitsa, Basov and Popov. If Russians would only display a little more confidence in themselves, he continues, they would see that they are “indeed a GREAT nation.” But until Russians understand that, he concludes with regret, they will continue to vote for Stalin, who symbolizes as it were the sad reality that Russians view themselves and their nation as “good for nothing” and boastfully by voting for people like the dictator Stalin their “lack of faith in themselves.”

Putin’s "Divide and Conquer" Approach to Human Rights

The always brilliant Robert Coalson, writing for Radio Free Europe:

The question of the purpose and role of international election monitors, one would think, should be a pretty easy one. They are sent as impartial observers to judge the conduct of elections in terms of democratic values such as transparency, fairness, access, and competitiveness.But at a conference at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna this week, the Russian mission offered a competing vision, one that seems part of a larger effort by Moscow to fracture the admittedly weak sense of shared values in international law and politics.

Election monitors, Moscow’s representatives argued, should primarily “respect the laws of the states holding elections and show respect for the national organs of power, including the electoral organs.” This “respect” for the host state, according to the proposal, should take the form of letting it determine the format of the mission, its leader, the number of monitors, the period of monitoring, and “all other questions touching on the sovereignty of the country.”Such a view, it should be noted, has long been the norm at the Moscow-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). CIS election monitors have been hard-pressed to find a post-Soviet election anywhere — from Belarus to Russia to Turkmenistan — that wasn’t to their liking. Their effusively congratulatory election postmortems are routinely ridiculed outside the CIS — if they are noticed at all.

The Russian proposal comes in the wake of tense relations between that country and the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which organizes OSCE election-monitoring missions. After ODIHR monitors declared the 2003 Duma elections in Russia “free, but unfair,” Moscow imposed such onerous restrictions on future missions that the OSCE declined to send delegations to the 2007 Duma elections or the presidential election in March.It should be noted as well that the OSCE has sometimes shot itself in the foot. Its monitors praised Russia’s elections during the era of Boris Yeltsin, despite massive evidence of their shortcomings. Such reports feed Moscow’s assertions that the organization is politicized in its judgments and operating under double standards.But Moscow’s dissatisfaction runs deeper still.

The Kremlin fumed at what it perceived as the OSCE’s role in fuelling the so-called colored revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, countries where manipulated and falsified elections were exposed and massive protests ensued. In fact, Russia has long taken umbrage at the OSCE’s emphasis on human rights and democratic development. A Moscow-inspired anti-OSCE tirade submitted by six CIS countries in 2004 stated baldly that the OSCE “does not respect such fundamental…principles as noninterference in internal affairs and respect for national sovereignty.”The OSCE bills itself as a 56-member “community of values.”

Its governing 1990 Charter of Paris commits members to “build, consolidate, and strengthen democracy as the only system of government of our nations.” It further defines democracy as “based on the will of the people, expressed regularly through free and fair elections. Democracy has as its foundation respect for the human person and the rule of law. Democracy, with its representative and pluralist character, entails accountability to the electorate, the obligation of the public authorities to comply with the law and justice administered impartially. No one will be above the law.” The document, which heralds “a new era in democracy, peace, and unity,” continues in this vein for many pages, obligating members to help one another make democratic gains “irreversible.”Russia in the era of President Vladimir Putin has increasingly presented a challenge to this “unity” and this “community of values” not only in terms of its actions, but on the plane of ideas as well.

Moscow has repeatedly defended its antidemocratic domestic policies by arguing Russia has its own “path to democracy,” and that all nations must build democracies that are unique to their cultural heritages.While some observers expected this sort of divisiveness to be toned down after Dmitry Medvedev — who rarely misses a chance to point out that he is a lawyer by training — became president, it has in fact been ramped up in recent weeks. Moscow has renewed its calls for phasing out The Hague war crimes tribunal, saying it is fatally “biased.”Perhaps most importantly, the quasi-official Russian Orthodox Church last month adopted its Basic Principles of the Russian Church on Human Dignity, Freedom, and Rights.

The document, which was partially drafted by Kremlin insider and Eurasianist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin, called for a “reexamination” of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It says Western notions of human rights do not apply to Russia and should be replaced by Orthodox principles. It also asserts that civilizations “should not impose their lifestyle patterns on other civilizations.” The document clearly prioritizes the rights of society over the rights of individuals.As the Vienna conference on election monitoring shows, Moscow’s assertiveness in the realm of ideas can have serious consequences. Organizations like the OSCE and the UN are already cumbersome institutions that often have difficulty acting decisively.

The Kremlin’s challenges to the fundamental assumptions and values of international organizations will only magnify those difficulties.Conferences such as the one this week will be reduced to discussions of basic principles — of whether they even exist — and issues of implementation will be crowded off the agenda. And achieving that goal is enough to satisfy those whose domestic policies and institutions fail to stand up to scrutiny from the perspective of values that have been recognized internationally since the end of World War II.

Some Hope for Russia

Russian ZheZhe blogger Introvertoff points to the following results of a recent public opinion poll in Russia (our staff translation, corrections welcome):

  • Only 20% of the population believes the political and econmic situation lic is “stable and prosperous” in Russia.
  • More than half of Russians (51%) believe that the country is on the wrong path, and only 38% of those surveyed said that believe in the correctness of the course.
  • The state of the economy was called “good” 18% of those surveyed while 54% found it difficult but tolerable; 24% stated that “any worsening would be intolerable.”
  • 14% hope to improve their material situation in the future, while 22% believe that it will only worsen.
  • 24% of Russians are ready to participate in mass protest actions. 19% are willing to participate in strikes.
  • 64% of respondents disapproved of the government’s policy actions

Given the fact that the Russian economy is supposedly “booming” and given the fact that the Kremlin is in the midst of a massive campaign of terrorism against civil society, we must be heartened by these results. There remains in Russia as there always has been a nucleaus of clear-thinking people who, if they could only be induced out of their stupors, might save the country from its fate. Dictator Putin dare not imagine what these results might show if the price of oil was a bit lower and the level of social oppression was a bit less intense.

Seen in this light, Vladimir Putin’s support takes on the aspect of a cult, with blinded sycophants marching like zombies rather than informed voters giving voluntary respect. Of course, Russia being a nation of zombies taking orders from those whose policies it knows are wrong, just as in the time of Stalin, hardly bodes much that is good for the nation’s future.

Racism out of Control in Moscow

The Moscow Times reports that racist violence is “exploding” in Russia’s largest and supposedly most sophisticated city, supposedly booming with wealth and happiness, right in Vladimir Putin’s backyard. Do you dare imagine what might be going on in a place like Chelyabinsk — that is, if any dark-skinned people were foolish enough to go there?

The number of hate crimes committed in Moscow has exploded this year, rising sixfold compared to the same period last year, Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin said Friday. The authorities registered 73 hate crimes in Moscow in the first six months of this year, a trend Bastrykin said must be halted with “decisive and systematic efforts.”

“We are worried that while the overall number of crimes registered in Russia has shrunk by 9 percent, crimes of an extremist nature are increasing year after year,” Bastrykin said, Interfax reported.

The Moscow branch of the Investigative Committee announced Friday that it had opened two criminal cases involving hate crimes, one of which involves 12 racially motivated murders. The announcement came after the beginning of two high-profile trials in the Moscow City Court last week, in which several teenagers are accused of murdering multiple dark-skinned victims — as well as an Investigative Committee statement Thursday saying seven ultranationalists are suspected in at least 21 racially motivated murders. Mikhail Ionkin, spokesman for the committee’s Moscow branch, said the spike in hate crimes was not just a reflection of the authorities’ efforts to crack down on such crimes.”It’s no secret that hate crimes are on the rise,” Ionkin said. “We are not registering more because of any change in methods or priorities on our part. We have always worked with equal focus against extremism.”Ionkin declined to say what could be behind the dramatic rise. “It’s complicated,” he said.

The case of Artur Ryno, who went on trial last week in the Moscow City Court with eight other people suspected of committing 20 racist murders, received so much publicity that it could have sparked copycat crimes, said Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy head of the Sova center, which tracks hate crimes. But the authorities’ apparent decision to prosecute neo-Nazi groups more actively could also be contributing to the spike, Kozhevnikova said.”In big cities, we know there are lots of underground Nazi groups,” she said. “When the government began to investigate their activities and arrest them, they reacted violently against ethnic minorities. “Kozhevnikova cited an incident earlier in the year when a racist murder was committed in the same location where a group of neo-Nazis had been arrested by police in Moscow the previous day. A city police spokesman denied Friday, however, that there has been any rise in hate crimes in the city this year. “Such crimes are becoming less frequent,” said the spokesman, who declined to give his name. “In my opinion, certain organizations beef up the statistics on such crimes in order to attract funding. “The Sova center recorded 60 racist murders across the country so far this year, while it recorded a total of 85 such crimes in all of 2007. The actually number of hate crimes is likely three to four times higher than the number registered by authorities, Kozhevnikova said.