Daily Archives: December 18, 2008

December 21, 2008 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  Annals of Russian Propaganda

(2)  The Sunday Saint:  A Postcard from Chechnya

(3)  Russia Ratifies Foreign Dictatorship

(4)  The Sunday Book Review:  A Brotherhood of Thieves

(5)  Kiselyov on the New Stalinsm

EDITORIAL: Annals of Russian Propaganda


Annals of Russian Propaganda

0_1c7d6_5c4b3ed3_xlThis cartoon from the Russian humorist Sergei Yelkin (a/k/a “Ellustrator“) neatly encapsulates Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s view of the current status of the Russian economy, shown as the woman on the table being frightened by a tiny mouse named “crisis.”

This view, of course, is dead wrong on three different levels, and reveals Putin’s extreme ignorance of the basic elements of governing a market economy.

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The Sunday Saint: A Postcard from Chechnya

Open Democracy reports on the minting of a brand new human rights activist:

The human rights organisation Memorial has representatives all over Russia and neighbouring countries. How do ordinary people become human rights advocates? And how do they work with the European Court of Human Rights? Dokka was head official of his village in Chechnya when he became involved, during Russia’s first war against Chechnya. This is his remarkable, typical, story.

Dokka’s hair is streaked with grey, but there is a sparkle in his eyes. He met me in a small room in a hotel near Moscow, where legal experts, monitors and lawyers from regional Memorial offices were attending a special seminar about changes in Russian immigration legislation. He greeted me like the owner of a small and shaky house, but a real one for all that: in the next room, women were setting the table for tea. Dokka introduced me to Chechen human rights activists, and told me how he ended up among them almost by accident, when he left his job at an agricultural enterprise.

“At dawn, there was a sharp, imperative knock at the door.

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Russia Ratifies Foreign Dictatorship

In another installment of its series of reports on Russia that are translated into Russian and published on a blog for Russian comment, with selected comments translated into English, the New York Times reports on how Russia is shamelessly ratifying electoral fraud in former Soviet states so as to maintain influence through dictatorship:

The voting monitor began his rounds on election day here at Polling Place No. 7. “Issues? Violations?” he asked the poll workers, glancing around like a casual sightseer. They said no, so he left. The monitor, Kholnazar Makhmadaliyev, breezed from one polling site (“What’s up? Things O.K.?”) to another (“Everything fine here?”), shaking a lot of hands, offering abundant compliments and drinking brandy with this city’s mayor. Such went Mr. Makhmadaliyev’s stint on a large observer mission led by the Kremlin that concluded that Belarus, a former Soviet republic and an ally of Russia, had conducted a “free, open and democratic” parliamentary election in late September.

The Kremlin monitors’ version of reality, though, clashed with the one described by a European security group, whose own monitors dismissed the election as a sham tainted by numerous shortcomings, not the least of which was vote rigging. The monitors dispatched by the Kremlin did not report anything like that. Nor did they raise concerns about Belarus’s security service, still called the K.G.B., which had exerted harsh pressure on the opposition, imprisoning several of its leaders over the last year and thwarting their campaigns. Or about state-controlled television broadcasts repeatedly branding opposition leaders as traitors. Or, for that matter, about the final results: a sweep of every seat in the 110-member Parliament by supporters of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, often described as Europe’s last dictator.

The Kremlin under Vladimir V. Putin has sought to bolster authoritarian governments in the region that remain loyal, and these election monitoring teams — 400 strong in Belarus alone — are one of its newer innovations. They demonstrate the lengths to which the Kremlin will go to create the illusion of political freedom in Russia and other former Soviet republics, even though their structures of democracy have been hollowed out.

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The Sunday Book Review: A Brotherhood of Bolshevik Thieves

26523194Writing in the Literary Review Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of the novel Sashenka and the biography Young Stalin, reviews History’s Greatest Heist: The Looting of Russia by the Bolsheviks by Sean McMeekin.

This book can be read in three ways. First, it is a work of considerable scholarship and the fruit of much archival probing by a fine scholar of early Bolshevism – and much of it is fresh, exciting and overdue. Secondly, it is a study of how a new, radical and illicit government used all means possible to launder the money and treasures of Russia’s tsarist regime, sell them to the capitalists who hated the Bolsheviks, and use the ill-gotten gains to buy arms and fund the nightmarish, blood-spattered experiment of the Soviet Union. Thirdly, it has a contemporary relevance since it is the first study of illegal funding – or, as we would say today, sanctions busting – on a colossal scale.

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Kiselyov on the New Stalinism

Russia’s top opposition pundit Yevgeny Kiselyov, writing in the Moscow Times, decries Putin’s horrifying new wave of Stalinism:

Under a new amendment to the law on treason, which was sent to the State Duma on Dec. 12 for approval, I could get 12 to 20 years in prison for the article you are about to read.

The changes would give authorities extremely wide latitude to interpret what constitutes treason. This is how the old definition of treason reads: “a hostile act directed at damaging the external security of the Russian Federation.” If the Duma approves the new amendment, the phrase “hostile act” would read simply “act,” and “external security” would be broadened to “security.” In addition, treason would also include the following activities: “rendering financial, technical, consultative or other assistance to a foreign state, international or foreign organizations or their representatives in activities directed against the security of the Russian Federation, including its constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial and state integrity.”

It is not surprising that the authorities cannot explain why these changes are necessary. They only offer a vague explanation that the current wording in the Criminal Code makes it extremely difficult for investigative agencies to prove the guilt of suspected traitors — as if the law needs to be rewritten to help prosecutor’s increase their conviction ratio.

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