Often enough you hear the sycophantic Russophile set complaining that Russian “president” Vladimir Putin is being mis-translated, quoted out of context or misquoted. Covering up Putin’s litany of outrageous, thug-like remarks is a demanding full time job, especially when Putin insists on making it so very difficult.
Case in point: One might have thought that after Russia was humiliated by French revelations that Putin had told their government he wanted to not only invade Tbilisi and affect regime change but hang the president of Georgia “up by the balls,” Putin would have taken the next opportunity to distance himself somewhat from the comment, perhaps even to blame evil foreigners for mischaracterizing his statement.
But he didn’t.
SUNDAY DECEMBER 7 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: The Putin Economy, Sinking into the Mire
(2) EDITORIAL: The Russian Stock Market Speaking in Tongues
(3) Russia’s Unemployment Crisis
(4) Russia’s Real Enemies
(5) Sokolov Speaks
(6) Horsepower for Gazprom
(7) The Sunday Funnies
NOTE: In another big step, Oleg Kozlovsky has broken into the ultra-blogosphere and is now writing a regular column on Russia for the Huffington Post. His first installment is about the Politkovskaya trial. Way to go, Oleg!
The Putin Economy, Sinking Deeper into the Mire
The Institute of Supply Managementproduces something called a Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI), and has been compiling data for Russia since 2001. It is based on a monthly survey of 300 purchasing executives in Russian services companies, asking about their inventories, orders, deliveries, and staffing.
In November, Russia’s PMI index plummetedto the lowest level ever recorded, in the words of VTB Bank Europe “a clear sign that the financial crisis was feeding through to the wider economy.”
The details are truly horrifying.
The Russian Stock Market, Speaking in Tongues
- The RTS stock index on 12/3/08
The image at left shows the performance of the dollar-denominated RTS stock exchange on Wednesday December 3, 2008.
Though the market lost only 13 points from the opening bell, this represented nearly 2.5% of the exchange’s total value, a stunning fact emphasized by the market being driven close to the critical 600 point psychological barrier, which it has already crashed through on a previous occasion. Gazprom and Sberbank, the two leading Russian companies, were down well beyond the market average, 4.8% and 3.8% respectively. The consumer and retail index was down even more, nearly 8%. The MICEX ruble-denominated index suffered a similar loss. On Tuesday, the losses were even more staggering, and the market was once again shut down to staunch the bloodletting, making about three dozen such occurences since the August crisis began.
It seems we now need a new vocabulary with which to discuss the Russian stock markets, which appear to be speaking in tongues. Saying that the market suffered “only” a 2.5% trading loss would not mean much in any other country, but in Russia these days such losses would be sufficient to run the market all the way into the ground. Now, the Russian market has a “good” day whenever a full trading session is executed without the market but summarily shut down in panic by regulators.
Meanwhile, the market would have fallen even further were it not for the relentless buying by the Kremlin itself to inflate the market’s value, just as the Kremlin is doing with the ruble. As the Kremlin slowly becomes the sole owner of shares, and the price of oil — the Kremlin’s only real asset — dips shockingly below $40/barrel, it really can no longer be said that a stock market exists in Putin’s Russia. In the same way, it can’t be said that elections exist, or high offices of government.
There is only Putin.
Unemployment in Russia is soaring, and the level is 16% higher in the first 11 months of this year than it was last year. As many as 5 million people in Russia may presently be jobless, with 800,000 having lost their work in November alone. The Associated Press reports the horrifying details:
Cowed by what she called a growing campaign of intimidation, equity analyst Yekaterina Krylova finally quit her job. In submitting her “voluntary” resignation, she waived her right to any compensation — and that saved her employer a hefty payout.
As the Russian economy hurtles toward its toughest period in a decade, many companies are resorting to desperate and some say underhanded measures as they rush to cut staff and save money. And as the outcry over worker mistreatment rises, the government is under mounting pressure to show that it is listening.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will host a televised phone-in show Thursday, and many of the questions already pouring in to the program have focused on Russia’s worsening economic situation.
Russians want to know how the government will force employers to abide by the country’s Labor Code, whether it will help the newly unemployed make their mortgage payments and what kind of support graduates can expect as they seek their first job.
Russia is heading for a serious slowdown in economic growth and companies across a range of sectors have announced job cuts as they hunker down to conserve cash.
Russia’s Real Enemies
December 1, 2008
Translated from the Russian by The Other Russia
I know now who is yelling the loudest and the most forcefully about those “cursed nineties,” when Russia was “trampled in the mud,” and people “wiped their feet” on her, during the epoch of Russia’s Great Humiliation by the Horrible West. I know, who strains themselves most of all while hysterically recounting the Worldwide Russo-phobic conspiracy. [A conspiracy] led, as is easy to guess, by that infernal America, for whom Russia’s undeniable greatness– as a country with unrecognized constructive-destructive possibilities and an inexhaustible oil-and-gas-based spirituality– is the single, though insurmountable barrier to global domination. I know who they are.
Robert Amsterdam translates an essay by persecuted Russian professor Boris Sokolov, who as we’ve previously reported was persecuted by the Kremlin for daring to challenge the Putin line on Georgia:
I do not agree with Kirill Benediktov, who asserts that the party “Right Cause” is obviously being created for internal (Russian) use, and not for international PR», inasmuch as «The Kremlin has decided to “save” what was left of the SPS after its downfall precisely because it had become evident: it will not be possible to melt the vanishing identity of the Russian rightists in the kettle of the “party of all the people” even with all the discernible advantages of such an assimilation. The struggle with the SPS, which occupied in the years 2003-2007 a critical position in relation to the power, has led to a situation where the most intransigent rightists left for street politics, for extremism and “dissenters’ marches”, merely adding to the Kremlin’s headaches».
An equine solarium
Novaya Gazeta reports:
Gazprom’s website has published a request for bids. It’s soliciting a contract for the supply of equipment to its equine stables in the village of Bogorodskoye, in the Leninsky District of the Moscow Region.
The company is requesting the installation of a Warendorfer Standard II Solarium with a set of built in thermal showers, to be completed by the end of this year, with a maximum contract price of 338,000 rubles (roughly $12,000). Only experienced tradesman are solicited.
I am pleased to announce that, with the help of cryogenics, it is now possible to extend the presidential term up to 6 million years!
PNR Newswire reports:
In an echo of the Soviet era, Andrei Piontkovsky, a Hudson Institute Visiting Fellow, has been summoned back to his native Russia, accused of violating a law that that has widely expanded the scope of illegal “extremist activities.” So-called extremist acts now include “abasement of national dignity” and “slander of a public official.”
Piontkovsky, described by the Washington Post as “one of Russia’s most pungent political commentators,” has harshly criticized Russian leader Vladimir Putin in his Novaya Gazeta column and in his books, including Putin’s Soul (Hudson Institute, 2006) and Russian Identity (Hudson Institute, 2008). In a profile of Piontkovsky, the Wall Street Journal noted: “Civil-rights groups said the pressure on Piontkovsky was by far the highest-profile move to silence a Kremlin critic.” During a first hearing in September 2007, prosecutors failed to prove that material in Piontkovsky’s books constituted extremist activity. As a next step, the circuit judge sent Another Look into Putin’s Soul to a panel of “experts” to determine whether the material is indeed, by Russian law, extremist. Piontkovsky faces trial again on Friday, December 5th. He will depart for Moscow immediately following a Hudson Institute panel discussion of his new book, Russian Identity. The event will be held at noon at Hudson’s Washington office. For more information about attending this event, please visit www.hudson.org. Piontkovsky will be available to answer questions about his trial and the state of Russian politics. Hudson Institute is a non-partisan policy research organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom.