Daily Archives: December 12, 2008

December 15, 2008 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  The Kremlin Panics

(2)  EDITORIAL: Bizarre, even by Russian Standards

(3)  Piontkovksy Speaks

(4)  Russia’s Coming Fascist-Racist Nightmare

(5)  Russia’s Incredible Shrinking Economy

NOTE:  A blogger surveys the role of Russians in American comic books. Check out especially “KGBeast.”

EDITORIAL: The Kremlin Panics


The Kremlin Panics

“We must defend ourselves, since this is our revenue base, both from oil and gas.”

— Russian “President” Dima Medvedev, December 11th

It’s hard to imagine a single act the Kremlin could take that would more conclusively demonstrate its total failure of economic policy, and its abject panic as a result, than to announce it is considering becoming a member of OPEC — which is exactly what the Kremlin did last week.  Medvedev sounded like the Nazi hordes were at the barricades and it was Moscow’s 11th hour. 

And maybe it was.

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EDITORIAL: Bizarre, Even by Russian Standards


Bizarre, Even by Russian Standards

And that’s saying something!

The Moscow Times reports that

Exactly a year ago, then-President Vladimir Putin warned that the liberal opposition was trying to return to the power it enjoyed in the 1990s by staging street protests and enriching themselves, while bringing the country to its knees. Now former Union of Right Forces head Nikita Belykh, one of the leaders of the liberal opposition who was arrested at a Dissenters’ March this spring, will likely become governor of the Kirov region after President Dmitry Medvedev nominated him for the post Monday.  Belykh said he accepted the nomination because the position was “very interesting from a professional point of view. I understand how to do it, and it is interesting because it is a big challenge. I have not said that people should not cooperate with the powers that be.” Several opposition figures, including former SPS activist Maria Gaidar, have accused Belykh of striking a deal with the Kremlin to destroy SPS.

Belykh claims that he plans to work against the Kremlin from the inside, making common cause with like-minded such as Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, Central Bank chief Sergei Ignatyev and Federal Anti-monopoly Service head Igor Artemyev.

What are we to make of this?  Has the Kremlin shown yet another sign of weakness in light of the massive economic caststrophe it is facing, or is Belykh just one more sellout to the Kremlin’s brutal repression?

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Piontkovsky Speaks

Fresh off his stunning victory in court against the ludicrous effort to persecute him by the Kremlin, neo-Soviet dissident Andrei Piontkovsky speaks out against neo-Soviet dictatorship in on the Russian website Grani.ru, one of the last remaining voices of true jouranlism in Russia:

A Thaw from Below

Andrei Piontkovsky



Translated from the Russian by The Other Russia

The significance of the Basmanny court’s December 5, 2008 decision, or more precisely, the Russian Federal Center’s legal expertise which preordained it, goes far beyond the bounds of my case.

The FSB [Federal Security Service] and the prosecutors, armed with a new law on extremism, were trying to hold a show trial and create a precedent of criminal prosecution for criticism of the authorities.

The highly professional and academically reasoned report by Andrei Smirnov, Olga Kukushkina and Yulia Safonova, which found no signs of extremism in my harsh criticism of the country’s president, knocked this “avenging sword” from the hands of the repressive agencies. And for a long time, I hope.

The 34-page text of the report is our small Magna Carta; a charter of liberties to Russian journalists; a first step to restoring freedom of speech in Russia, which was deceitfully stolen from the public by a chekist lieutenant colonel who imagined himself the “father of the nation.”

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Russia’s Coming Fascist-Racist Nightmare

Last week, a black American teenager, a tourist from Rhode Island, was stabbed in Russia, in just the latest in a long series of brutal and barbaric racial attacks in which Russia leads the world. In another, a 20-year-old Tajik worker had his head cut off and stuffed in a dumpster. These events continued apace even as the Russian economy was supposedly flowering. What will happen now as it collapses? When will dark-skinned people, of any nationality, realize that they have no future in Putin’s Russia?  Paul Goble reports:

Rising unemployment, cuts in the size of the military, drug abuse and alcoholism, corruption, and increasing attacks on ethnic minorities “have created [in Russia] a very favorable basis for the development of fascism,” according to one of the leading foreign policy commentators in Azerbaijan.
Indeed, the situation is so dire and Russia is so “pregnant with fascism,” says Vafa Guluzade, that ethnic Azerbaijanis – and presumably members of other groups from other post-Soviet states – now resident in the Russian Federation should “leave there before it is too late”.

Guluzade, who earlier served as Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s Arabic translator and as the late Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev’s national security advisor, said that the situation in Russia today resembles the one in Germany in 1933 which brought Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to power there. “God forbid that Russia will repeat the fate of fascist Germany,” he continued, a danger that could prove threatening to a large number of states given Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. As a result, he said, the entire world should be paying close attention to what is taking place in the Russian Federation now. 

“The present leadership of Russia has led its people into poverty,” the Azerbaijani analyst added.

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Russia’s Incredible Shrinking Economy

Business Week reports:

On 9 December, Russia’s State Statistics Service revealed the GDP growth figures for the third quarter. And – lo and behold – they are “surprisingly bad”, “below market expectations”, etc. (Read the reports in The Moscow Times, Bloomberg and Reuters).

You might think that by now economists would no longer be surprised by the stream of dire economic news. For anyone who has been closely following what has been happening in Russia’s economy over recent weeks, it’s increasingly obvious that it has essentially stepped off a cliff. As Danske Bank economist Lars T. Rasmussen writes in a research note: “The question is whether there will be any economic growth at all in Russia next year.”

“But surely 6.2% growth in the third quarter isn’t so bad?” I hear you say. Think again.

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Special Extra: The Assault on “Memorial”

The Observer reports on yet more brazen, criminal efforts to whitewash Russian history and obliterate civil society under Vladimir Putin, namely the Kremlin’s brutish raid on one of Russia’s most prominent and well-respected human rights organizations immediately after it announced a boycott of a Kremlin-sponsored NGO conference (following the piece is the U.S. State Department’s statement on the case):

Eminent British historian Orlando Figes yesterday accused the Russian authorities of trying to ‘rehabilitate the Stalinist regime’ after armed police seized an entire archive last week detailing repression in the Soviet Union. Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck, a London University college, condemned the raid on Memorial, a Russian human rights organisation. He said that the police had also taken material used in his latest book, The Whisperers, which details family life in Stalin’s Russia.

On Thursday, armed and masked men from the investigative committee of the Russian general prosecutor’s office burst into Memorial’s St Petersburg office. After a search of several hours, they confiscated its entire archive – memoirs, photographs, interviews, and other unique documents detailing the history of the gulag and the names of many of its victims.

Yesterday Figes claimed the raid ‘was clearly intended to intimidate Memorial’. The confiscated archive included unique documents detailing the ‘Soviet terror from 1917 to the 1960s,’ he said, adding that the office was ‘an important centre for historical research’ and a ‘voice for tens of thousands of victims of repression in Leningrad’. He said he believed the raid was ‘a serious challenge to freedom of expression’ in Russia: ‘It is part of a campaign to rewrite Soviet history and rehabilitate the Stalinist regime.’

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