WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 31 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Russia’s Nuclear Shell Game
(2) EDITORIAL: Russia, What kind of Country?
(3) EDITORIAL: Another Russian Patriot off to Siberia
(4) The Day of the Russian Jackals
(5) Novokuznetsk on the Ropes
NOTE: La Russophobe wishes all her contributors and readers a happy and prosperous new year, hopefully one that in Russia will bring less Vladimir Putin, less KGB and more democratic civilization to Russia. Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!
Russia’s Nuclear Shell Game
A week ago Tuesday, Russia once again tried to fire a Bulava nuclear missile from a submarine, this one located in the White Sea. For the fifth time in ten tries, the missile veered wildly off course and had to be destroyed immediately after leaving the launching pad, ending the effort in total failure and humiliation.
Russia — What kind of Country?
After 2 pm on New Year’s eve, those whose hobby is following the activity of the Russian stock market will have to find a new way to amuse themselves for a while. The markets will shut down at that time and they will not reopen, per Kremlin order, until Sunday — yes, Sunday — January 11th.
Just what kind of crazy “country” are we dealing with here, anyway?
You might think that ten days is an absurdly long time to shut down the national economy, but in fact for Russians it’s not nearly enough. Last Wednesday the Moscow Times reported:
With investors preparing for the holidays and many international funds closed until January, Russia’s equity markets look set for a quiet last two weeks. But the state may also seek to use the Christmas lull to buy up domestic equities as a consolation boost to finish out 2008. The state’s main bailout vehicle, Vneshekonombank, or VEB, will likely take advantage of the low trading volume on the MICEX and RTS exchanges in the coming days to prop up prices, analysts said, which could mitigate — if briefly — what has been a particularly dismal year for Russian stocks.
So the Russians need two weeks to prepare for ten days of binge drinking and doing even less than usual, and the Kremlin is planning to take advantage of this pre-lull miasma to invade and manipulate the stock market, driving its prices up artificially so as to create the illusion of an end-of–year uptick. Ironically, even the MT itself is affected, and won’t publish another issue during Russia’s national orgy of drinking. Its next outing will not come until January 12th.
There’s only one word for all of this, and that words is: Yikes!
Another Russian Patriot off to Siberia
Vitaly Efremov, Russian Patriot
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Alexander Pushkin.
It would be hard to think of three greater Russian patriots, wouldn’t it?
So naturally, the people of Russian handled them as follows: Pushkin was killed, Dostoevsky was put up against wall facing a firing squad and almost killed, and Solzhenitsyn was deported.
Meanwhile Josef Stalin, one of the greatest mass-murderers of Russians in their history, was given total power as a dictator and is lionized to this day.
Doesn’t quite make sense, does it? Except in the sense that it perfectly explains why the average Russian man works for $4/hour and doesn’t live to see his sixtieth year.
And if you think this kind of behavior ended when the USSR collapsed because of it, you’d best think again. Vladimir Putin, a proud KGB spy, currently rules Russia at the behest of the Russian people, and then there’s the case of Lieutenant Vitaly Efremov.
In another installment of its “Kremlin Rules” series the New York Times reports on the sellout by former “opposition” politician Nikita Belykh. As always, the Times has translated the article into Russian and posted it on a Live Journal blog, collected comments and translated them back into English. One commenter stated: “Can there be two opinions on this? Belykh sold himself completely, but isn’t he a human being? The liberals have absolutely no chance for success.” Another wrote: “Why do you think Belykh surrendered after years of tough criticism of the Kremlin? He was persecuted by the bloody K.G.B. Just visit the Lubyanka basements, listen to the growl of the ungreased stone crusher, and you won’t have these questions any more.”
Vladimir V. Putin was sitting behind his desk. Before him was a prominent opposition leader named Nikita Y. Belykh, a beefy and bearded liberal with a fondness for scribbling poems on the side. In one, each stanza began with a word that he said characterized Mr. Putin’s Russia: Autocratic. One-Party. Authoritarian. Aggressive. Yet there Mr. Belykh was, ready to abandon it all.
Mr. Putin had invited Mr. Belykh to his office on Dec. 5 to make an offer. Renounce the opposition. Come work for the Kremlin. Mr. Belykh was feeling beaten down, “a sense of my own degradation,” as he explained in an interview last week. He said he was tired of being vilified in the state-controlled news media, of being hounded by the state security forces, of being arrested at demonstrations, of having his political party thwarted at every turn.
And so Mr. Belykh, 33, who represented the future of the liberal opposition, said yes. He accepted an appointment as one of the Kremlin’s regional governors, turning his back on his party allies and becoming emblematic of the opposition’s difficulties this year.
The Moscow Times reports:
The working week, like the winter days in this Siberian city, has become shorter since the global financial crisis paralyzed its heavy industry. Paychecks have been cut by a third or more.
Novokuznetsk’s half a million residents, over 60 percent of whom depend on the steel, coal and aluminum industries, dare not contemplate the alternative — mass layoffs — as they struggle to repay bank loans taken out in more prosperous times. “If nothing changes, we will come up against more serious consequences in February or March,” said Alla Semyonova, director of the city’s employment center. “People have not yet fully grasped what is happening here.”
Novokuznetsk, 3,000 kilometers and four time zones east of Moscow, was booming when demand for steel produced by its two giant mills reached record highs early this year. The sudden reversal in the world economy has hit hard.