Daily Archives: November 29, 2008

December 1, 2008 — Contents


(1)  Another Original LR Translation:  Beslan and the KGB

(2)  EDITORIAL:  A New Low in the Annals of Russian Stupidity

(3)  Vladimir Putin:  Hoist with his Own Petard (Translation)

(4)  EDITORIAL:  A New Low in the Annals of Russian Barbarism

(5)  Putin on the Brink

(6)  The Horror of Russian Nationalism, Unbound

NOTE:  We offer today two translations from the Russian press, most importantly a stunning piece of work by our own Dave Essel from the heroic pages of Novaya Gazeta.  The piece makes jaw-dropping claims regarding the involvement of the KGB in the Beslan atrocity, very similar allegations to those made by Alexander Litvinkenko about the Moscow apartment bombings — allegations which ultimately may have got poor Sasha whacked. We can’t help but be reminded of NG’s other epic piece of a similar nature, Spare Organs, which we also translated and made available to the outside world.

NOTE:  LR publisher Kim Zigfeld recently had two pieces appear in the wider blogosphere.  First on the Jewcy website she analyzed the Kremlin’s outrageous attempt to install offensive ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad, and then on Pajamas Media she exposed the Kremlin’s ridiculous attempt to make propaganda hay out of leaked information from the OSCE investigation on the use of Georgian artillery during the recent war with Russia. As always, Kim’s work is required reading of the first order for those who want to know what is really going on behind the new Iron Curtain. Go boss, go!

NOTE: Other Russia reports on a new documentary film about the Russian opposition movement called In the Holy Fire of Revolution by Masha Novikova. The film was recently screened at an international festival in Amsterdam, and Garry Kasparov, who appears prominently in the film, was on hand and had firey words for the Kremlin during his festival interviewKasparov and Boris Nemtsov recently came together for a formative meeting of the new “Solidarity” movement and promised they would cease their bickering and focus on the common enemy.  We wish them well.

Another Original LR Translation: Beslan and the KGB

A note from the translator: The following article which I have translated from Novaya Gazeta raises a number of very pertinent questions about what exactly was going on at the Beslan tragedy. If true, and I can see no reason to doubt that it is, the Beslan tragedy may be more a crime of state terrorism than Islamic terrorism. The information, collected by Ella Kesayeva, co-chairman of the All-Russian Voice of Beslan Public Organisation, certainly raises some very nasty doubts and suspicions that this is yet another criminally botched Russian secret police operation along the lines of the Moscow flat bombings, the Nord-Ost theatre debacle, the Litvinenko murder, and so on. In my translation below, I have mostly rendered the interminable and semi-mystical acronyms for the various police, state security, and other legal institutions by their Latin letters. Russian bureaucracy, in law-enforcement too, is labyrinthine. I think that for the most part it is sufficient to remember that any acronym with VD in it means “cops” of one sort or another from the Ministry of the Interior and any acronym with FSB somewhere in it means “KGB goon of one sort or another” from the Federal Security Service. The precise body can be ascertained by those who wish to do so by reconverting the Latin letters into Cyrillic.

Terrorists or Agents?

Strange facts about the Beslan Tragedy

by Ella Kesayeva

 Novaya Gazeta

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

The investigation into the Beslan tragedy is now into its fifth year but no clear answer has yet been provided to one of the main questions: precisely how many terrorists were there at Beslan and who were they? According to the investigators’ version, the terrorist group was composed of 33 people. The identities of most of them were established from their fingerprints. This means that all these terrorists must, at one time or another, have been registered by the North Caucasus regional UBOP and UFSB [anti-organised crime police and KGB, in our parlance], been on the wanted list, been detained or arrested, or in some cases condemned.

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EDITORIAL: A New Low in the Annals of Russian Stupidity


A New Low in the Annals of Russian Stupidity

We’ve chronicled some amazing instances of Russian stupidity here on this blog over the years, but this one may well take the cake:  It was announced last week that Russia was “considering” the possiblity of cooperating with OPEC to reduce the world’s supply of crude oil and artificially jack up prices.  Oil prices actually rose on the news, about 1% but still below a — for Russia — sickening $52/barrel.  This notion is stupid on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to begin.

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Vladimir Putin, Hoist with his own Petard

A De-Facto Confession

Vitaly Portnikov



Translated from the Russian by The Other Russia

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin became yet another high-ranking Russian civil servant to admit that an economic crisis exists in the country. He did this loudly and solemnly at a congress of the party of power. And having promised that there would not be a repeat of the 1998 collapse, he took personal responsibility for the social impact of the crisis, which even such a mighty national leader doesn’t have the power to prevent.

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EDITORIAL: A New Low in the Annals of Russian Barbarism


A New Low in the Annals of Russian Barbarism

If we told you that a certain Russian was announcing a prediction that the United States of America would experience a total economic collapse and within the next six months break apart into a half dozen separate new countries, ceding world leadership to Russia and China, and that when this occurred Russia would seize back the state of Alaska, which in fact America only held by lease interest anyway, we bet that you, seasoned Russia watcher that you are, would have no trouble guessing that Russian’s identity.

Vladimir Zhirinovksy, you’d say. There he goes again!

But you’d be wrong.  Oh, so very wrong.

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Putin on the Brink

From the London Review of Books, an account of Putin teetering on the brink of Soviet-style collapse:

The financial crisis – or, as we like to call it here, ‘the effects of the American and European financial crisis on Russia’ – has taken a little while to get going, but it’s going now. Yesterday my grandmother sat me down for a serious conversation: she wanted to know if she should take her rouble-denominated life savings out of the Sberbank and put them into dollars. Everyone’s a financial adviser now. Or rather, I’m a financial adviser now. This is not good.

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The Horror of Russian Nationalism, Unbound

The New York Times continues its series of articles published in the paper and translated into Russian on a ZheZhe blog, collecting comments in Russian which it then translates back into English. The latest installment exposes the phenomenon of nationalism in Putin’s neo-Soviet Russia, exploding the myth that Putins’ KGB regime lacks ideology.  Some hopeful Russian comments are digested following the text. Perhaps the most telling and typical is this neo-Soviet rationalization:

You gentlemen are interested in “Stalin” secrets. Why so? So many years have passed. If The New York Times was able to dig into the archives of the American secret services and the role of F.B.I. and C.I.A. in the organization of President Kennedy’s assassination, this interest would be understandable. However, there is one guess. A program of active (secret) propagandist operations has been put in motion on the Web. One more “Orange Revolution” is required, this time in Moscow. And human rights in the U.S.S.R. (Russia) and Stalin repressions are nothing but a smoke screen to cover a secret operation. Undoubtedly.

Another poor ignorant soul writes:  “The word ‘nationalism’ is not applicable to Russia at all (at least on the state level, on the level of everyday life, there is no more nationalism than in any other state).” A third claims:  “No matter how much mud they sling at Stalin his accomplishments are so obvious that all this propaganda hullabaloo does not impress anybody.” And so it goes in the wretched quagmire that is neo-Soviet Russia.

TOMSK, RUSSIA. For years, the earth in this Siberian city had been giving up clues: a scrap of clothing, a fragment of bone, a skull with a bullet hole. And so a historian named Boris P. Trenin made a plea to officials. Would they let him examine secret archives to confirm that there was a mass grave here from Stalin’s purges? Would they help him tell the story of the thousands of innocent people who were said to have been carted from a prison to a ravine, shot in the head and tossed over?

The answer was no, and Mr. Trenin understood what many historians in Russia have come to realize: Under Vladimir V. Putin, the attitude toward the past has changed. The archives that Mr. Trenin was seeking, stored on the fourth floor of a building in Tomsk, in boxes stamped “K.G.B. of the U.S.S.R.,” would remain sealed. The Kremlin in the Putin era has often sought to maintain as much sway over the portrayal of history as over the governing of the country. In seeking to restore Russia’s standing, Mr. Putin and other officials have stoked a nationalism that glorifies Soviet triumphs while playing down or even whitewashing the system’s horrors.

As a result, across Russia, many archives detailing killings, persecution and other such acts committed by the Soviet authorities have become increasingly off limits. The role of the security services seems especially delicate, perhaps because Mr. Putin is a former K.G.B. officer who ran the agency’s successor, the F.S.B., in the late 1990s.

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