WEDNESDAY JANUARY 21 CONTENTS
(4) The Stalin Orgy
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 21 CONTENTS
(4) The Stalin Orgy
Speak out on Ukraine, Mr. Obama!
So much for the hopelessly stupid and dishonest claim of Kremlin stooge Vladimir Frolov that Russia “won” its confrontation over gas supplies with Ukraine. His latest opus in the Moscow Times actually, in so many words, calls upon the Kremlin to ignore Ukraine’s legal government and “reach out to a new generation of Ukrainian leaders.” That’s the surest sign of Ukraine’s victory one could imagine — and here’s an idea: Maybe Obama should try that with Garry Kasparov?
Once again, Vladimir Putin has led his nation to humiliating defeat abroad. First the world condemned Putin’s invasion of Georgia and prevented him from ousting that nation’s government, and now Putin has been forced to back down in his outrageous provocation of Ukraine over gas exports. The New York Times reports that Russia has been forced by international pressure to allow Ukriane to “pay a price substantially similar to what authorities in Kiev had offered before the dispute escalated into a 12-day cutoff of heating fuel to large parts of Europe.”
But just as disgrace and failure in Georgia wasn’t sufficient to stop Russia from attempting another attack on Ukraine, Putin’s humiliation in Ukraine won’t stop him from further imperialistic adventures. After all, Putin did manage to achieve a temporary spike in gas prices and to lop off two bits of Georgian territory — for all the good those things will do him in the long run. Only the concerted efforts of the world’s democratic leaders can accomplish that, starting with U.S. President Obama. We call upon him to end his silence on Russia’s barbaric behavior in Ukraine and demand an end to neo-Soviet aggression against its neighbors. Russia has been in the wrong from the beginning, and it’s time for Mr. Obama to say so. It’s not leadership to simply wait for the Russians to destroy themselves, likely a prospect as that may be.
“Justice” as Putin Defines It
Just as in Soviet times, it’s clear that the word “justice” means in Russia only what the Kremlin says it means, and nothing more. There is no rule of law in Russia, only the rule of power.
Back in August, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was denied parole following his conviction on hilariously bogus charges of embezzlement and tax fraud. So be it, you say — in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, they’re tough on crime. If you want to make an omlette, you have to break some eggs — or, in Russia’s case, crack some skulls.
But what then, dear Putin sycophant, do you say about the strange case of Yuri Budanov? Sentenced to ten years in 2003 for the barbaric murder of a 18-year-old female Chechen civilian, the Russian army officer was paroled last week after serving only half his short sentence. One would think Budanov’s crime was just a wee bit more serious than Khodorkovsky’s, wouldn’t one? Even Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin’s puppet ruler in Chechnya, protested the action, stating: “Even if he repented, someone convicted for such a brutal and cynical killing of an innocent underage schoolgirl should not be granted parole. Moreover, he deserves a more severe punishment.” Yet the Kremlin paid no heed.
That is “justice” as Russian dictator Vladimir Putin defines it. Because Putin sees a key difference between Khodorkosky and Budanov: the former criticized him, while the latter supported him.
Russia Through the Ages, Through the Looking Glass
The image at left is a poster designed by, of all people, the infamous pro-Kremlin Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. It depicts a giant upturned galosh orbiting the planet Earth and protecting it from cosmic rain of some kind. At the top it is headlined: “Rezinotrest [the Soviet rubber monopoly] protects you from rain and mud.” Below it reads: “Without galoshes, Europe would sit and weep.”
The blogger at Strange Maps points out that the map depicted on the globe leaves something to be desired: “Mayakovsky may have been a great poet and graphic designer, but he wasn’t much of a cartographer. The borders of the Soviet Union, highlighted in red, are rendered fairly accurately, but Europe is severely disfigured: an oversized Scandinavian peninsula points toward an expanse of water where most of Western Europe should be. There is no sign of the British Isles either, and the Iberian peninsula is wrong and too big. Iceland is attached to Greenland, and half of China seems to have fallen into the ocean.”
That’s, in fact though, only the least of the bizarre and sickening features of this poster, which clearly shows how consistently Russians have demonstrated their psychotic worldview right down through the ages.
Arseny Roginsky, a founder and Chairman of Memorial, Russia’s largest human rights organization, as well as a historian and ex-inmate of the Soviet prison camps, writing on Open Democracy:
The memory of Stalinism in contemporary Russia raises problems which are painful and sensitive. There is a vast amount of pro-Stalinist literature on the bookstalls: fiction, journalism and pseudo-history. In sociological surveys, Stalin invariably features among the first three “most prominent figures of all times”. In the new school history textbooks, Stalinist policy is interpreted in a spirit of justification.
There are also hundreds of crucial volumes of documents, scholarly articles and monographs on Stalinism. The achievements of these historians and archivists is unquestionable. But if they do have any influence on the mass consciousness, it is too weak. The means of disseminating the information have not been there, and nor in recent years has the political will. However, the deepest problem lies in the current state of our national historical memory of Stalinism.
I should explain what I mean here by historical memory, and Stalinism. Historical memory is the retrospective aspect of collective consciousness. It informs our collective identity through our selection of the past we find significant. The past, real or imaginary, is the material with which it works: it sorts through the facts and systemizes them, selecting those which it is prepared to present as belonging to the genealogy of its identity.
The New York Times reports (we are interested to hear reader thoughts about this fellow before we speak our own mind):
When John Beyrle, the new American ambassador to Russia, appeared on a Russian radio show shortly after Russia’s five-day war with Georgia, the questions he got were predictably in-your-face. Is it true that the United States is sneaking weapons into Georgia disguised as humanitarian aid? Can you prove that planned American missile defense sites are not aimed at Russia?
And then: Is it true that your father was a Soviet soldier?
The answer — which Mr. Beyrle (pronounced BY-er-ly) delivered on the air in flawless Russian — has to be one of the more amazing stories to come out of World War II. Yes, during the last desperate months of the war, a starving 21-year-old from Muskegon, Mich., crossed the eastern front by foot and offered his services to a Soviet tank battalion, using the three words of Russian he had learned as a German prisoner of war — Ya Amerikansky tovarishch, or “I am an American comrade!”