WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 25 CONTENTS
(1) EDIORIAL: The Times, they are a-Changin
(2) EDITORIAL: Ukraine, Smoldering
(3) The Battle for Russia’s History
(4) Russia in La-la Land
(5) Putin, Exposed
NOTE: As we had hoped, Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar for best picture on Sunday, and solidified its position with the best director award. Russia, of course, won nothing. Perhaps it will take the lesson we described to heart, but we doubt it.
The Times the are a-Changin’
The Russian RTS stock index's performance last week
A year or so ago, when the U.S. and Russian stock markets were at historic highs, the ratio between the two was roughly 6:1. The U.S. Dow Jones average was valued at 14,000 while the Russian RTS average was at 2,400.
Times have changed. Both the U.S. and Russian stock markets have suffered debiliating setbacks, but the impact on Russia has been far, far worse. Today, the Dow Jones stands at 7,500 while the RTS is at 500. That means the ratio betwen the two is now on the order of 15:1. The relative size of the U.S. stock market compared to Russia’s has, in other words, increased by more the double following the onset of the global economic slowdown. It now stands in the appropriate ratio given the relative sizes of the two countries’ GDPs.
In civilized countries, a national ambassador is seen as a representative of the best his country can offer, and expected to use only the most diplomatic language even in time of war, to show that he does in fact represent a civilized, modern nation deserving of the world’s respect.
But Russia, of course, is not a civilized country. So Russians apparently have no problem with their Ambassador to Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin, publicly stating that the President and Prime Minister of Ukraine were “at each other like dogs.” Instead of censuring Chernomyrdin, the Russian Foreign Ministry castigated Ukraine for daring to complain about his outrageous insult.
Jeremy Putley directs our attention to the following item from the virtual pages of OpenDemocracy’s Polit.ru website:
The raid by on Memorial’s offices in St Petersburg in December 2008 has far wider ramifications for Russia’s identity and history. What action have the courts taken? And what was the real purpose of the raid?
From a judicial point of view, the first move was extremely encouraging. For on January 20th, In the Dzerzhinsky Court in St Petersburg Judge Andrei Shibakov ruled that the search was illegal. Following the complaint filed by Memorial, the police officers of Petersburg’s Central District were forced to justify their action in court. Memorial demonstrated that the law enforcement and security authorities were powerless before an independent court. Many observers thought that this was the end of the affair.
But on the very next day, the Senior Assistant to the Petersburg Central District’s Prosecutor Vladimir Vasyukov launched an appeal, which meant that Shibakov’s verdict did not enter into force. The Memorial case will come before the St Petersburg City Court again on February 24. In the meantime, the confiscated electronic archives, hard disks and other material on Soviet history that Memorial has collected over the last 20 years have not been returned.
Jeannette Di Louie, Assistant Editor of Mt. Vernon Research, blogging on iStockAnalyst:
For my final blog of the day, I had a choice to write about Russia’s economic harships or the fact that Hugh Heffner has said that he would be open to selling the Playboy enterprise. Sadly for my mostly male audience, I chose to write about the first topic. However, if you’d like to know more about the potential sale, click here. If not, let’s get down to real business…
When we last discussed Russia, the motherland was doing less than phenomenally. In fact, former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was starting to feel the weight of a turning tide of public sentiment that was once heavily in his favor.
Writing in Foreign Policy Arkady Ostrovsky, the Moscow correspondent for the Economist magazine, exposes the Potemkin Village that Vladimir Putin has built in neo-Soviet Russia:
For the Western world, 1929 marked the start of the Great Depression. For the Soviet Union, it was a year that Joseph Stalin called the “Great Break”—the ending of a short spell of semiprivate economic policy and the beginning of the deadly period of forced collectivization and industrialization. Often mistranslated as the “Great Leap Forward,” “Great Break” is truer to Stalin’s intentions and much more befitting their tragic consequences. The events he set in motion 80 years ago broke millions of lives and changed human values and instincts in Russia. It was, arguably, the most consequential year in Russia’s 20th-century history. Now, 80 years later, and for much different reasons, 2009 could shape up to be a year of similarly far-reaching consequences for Russia’s 21st century.
Today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is not Joseph Stalin. But just as historians view 1929 as the end of the revolutionary period of Soviet history, scholars will (and already do) define Putin’s rule as a restoration that followed a revolution. Restoration—of lost geopolitical influence, of Soviet symbols, of fear, of even Stalin’s reputation—has been the main narrative of the past decade. But as history shows, periods of restoration do not restore the old order; they create new threats. This is what Russia is today—a new, much more nationalistic and aggressive country that bears as much (or as little) resemblance to the Soviet Union as it does to the free and colorful, though poor and chaotic, Russia of the 1990s.