Daily Archives: March 7, 2009

March 9, 2009 — Contents

MONDAY MARCH 9 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  Putin =  Russophobia

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Inflation Ravages Putin’s Russia

(3)  Gorby Blasts Neo-Soviet United Russia

(4)  A Postcard from the Real Russia

(5)  Chechnya is Burning

(6)  Annals of Russian Barbarism

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EDITORIAL: Putin = Russophobia

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EDITORIAL

Putin = Russophobia

To know Vladmir Putin, public opinion surveys clearly show, is to hate him (and all the simple-minded or just-plain-evil Russians who support him, of course).

2002 — 66% 
2003 — 63%
2004 — 59%
2005 — 61%
2006 — 58%
2007 — 53%
2008 — 48%
2009 — 40%

Those are the the percentages  from annual opinion polls of Americans who viewed Russia in a favorable light during Putin’s years in power since the 9/11 tragedy when America’s attention was distracted.  They decline every year (except a brief anomaly in 2005) and have plummeted a breathtaking 40% while Putin has held power.  A majority of Americans now have an unfavorable opinion of Russia.  Both Egypt and China have higher favorability ratings among Americans than does Putin’s Russia.

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EDITORIAL: Inflation Ravages Putin’s Russia

EDITORIAL

Inflation Ravages Putin’s Russia

One of the most important signals of the fundamental failure that has characterized the Putin regime has been Russia’s horrifying consumer price inflation rate.  Last week, it was announced that Russia’s overall consumer price inflation had risen to a four-month high as the increasingly weak Russian ruble forced Russians to pay ever higher prices for the vast array of basic consumer products the country cannot produce itself and therefore must import from abroad, paying in foreign currency.

Consumer prices soared 1.7% in February, 4.1% in the first two months of the year.  If that rate continues, Russia’s basic inflation rate would exceed 20% for 2009.  In fact, the annualized rate as of now is projected at “only” 14%.  Even at that, Russia is facing a rate of inflation what would instill panic in any other industrialized country — and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  A number of factors lurking below the surface give Russian inflation the flavor of a true apocalypse.

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Gorby Blasts Neo-Soviet United Russia

The BBC reports:

The last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, has given some of his strongest criticism yet of the politics of modern Russia. He says the United Russia party of the current Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, behaves like the old-style Communists. “I criticise United Russia a lot,” said Mr Gorbachev, “I do it directly.” He also said Russia’s judicial system was not properly constitutional and dismissed members of its parliament as not truly independent. “United Russia is a party of bureaucrats,” he said, in an interview with the American news organisation, Associated Press. “It is the worst version of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.” Mr Gorbachev was speaking as the countries of Eastern and Central Europe look towards the 20th anniversary this year of the fall of Communism in Europe, as symbolised by the smashing of the Berlin wall.

The BBC correspondent in Moscow, James Rodgers, says that although Mr Gorbachev is respected throughout the world for his role in ending the Cold War, many Russians more readily associate him with the economic hardship that accompanied the end of Communism. Mr Gorbachev himself now says he did not foresee that his policies of openness and reform – “glasnost” and “perestroika” – would lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. “I was a resolute opponent of the break-up,” he said, expressing the hope that one day Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus might again re-join Russia in a political union.

A Postcard from the Real Russia

The South African Dispatch Online reports:

AN East London woman has written a book detailing her adventures and frustrations of living and working in the Russian capital for three years. The book, titled 23 Months of Extreme, is a diary account of Lisa Hirschbeck and her husband Robert McIntyre’s life in Moscow from 2004 to 2007. Hirschbeck, a born and bred East Londoner who matriculated from Hudson Park High School in 1991, studied accounting after leaving school. She and McIntyre were married in 1999 and, after a number of years living in East London, decided to pursue work opportunities abroad. “A lot of our friends had gone overseas to work so we decided to do the same,” she said. We had a choice of going to the US or Moscow and decided on the latter because we believed it would be more interesting.”

They initially spent a week in Moscow before moving to the city permanently. But three weeks into their new life, the couple were stopped by four militsia, or police.Even though their papers were in order, they were forced to pay a bribe to avoid being detained.Hirschbeck said the experience had been shocking, but it also gave her a new-found understanding of what foreigners in South Africa were subjected to.“The police there are very corrupt and it has definitely given me a better understanding of what foreigners here go through, especially if they don’t have the correct papers,” she said.

The couple faced numerous challenges in adapting to life in Moscow, like overcoming language and cultural barriers. “They don’t have the same retail system that we do here,” she said. “Most of the bigger shopping malls are on the outskirts of Moscow and were far from where we lived.  There are a lot of corner cafés where you can buy groceries, but things are not packaged the same as in South Africa and it’s in a different language.“We spent about two weeks looking for salt before we found it.”

Hirschbeck said they had also battled to adapt to the five-month long Russian winter. “It was quite hectic, we’re not used to that kind of weather. The snow would sometimes be piled 12 centimetres thick on the sidewalks.”  Hirschbeck said it had taken her six months to write the book and another six months to find a publisher. She now lectures in accounting and taxation to second-year students at the University of Fort Hare in East London. “It was an incredible experience, one I’m glad I did but one I would not do again,” she said.

Chechnya is Burning

RTT News reports:

At least six policemen were killed in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia when a bomb they were trying to defuse went off, said officials on Thursday. Local police authorities said that the incident happened near a cemetery on the edge of the village of Surkhakhi. They said the dead included local law enforcement chiefs and added that two of those injured in the blast were “in a serious condition”.

Ingushetia has seen frequent clashes between insurgents and Russian security forces ever since Chechnya’s post-Soviet independence movement was launched in 1994. Though the active phase of the Russian operations against Chechnya’s rebels are over, sporadic militant attacks occur in Chechnya and neighboring republics. Various human rights organizations claim that the violence in the Muslim-dominated Ingushetia has increased after the war in Chechnya ended, and say that at least 90 people have been killed there since August.

Annals of Russian Barbarism: Yup, you guessed it, now they’re Tattooing cats

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The Pet News Examiner reports:

A disturbing new trend has surfaced in Russia: cat owners getting their felines tattooed with elaborate, colorful designs. A young Russian woman, Oksana Popova, had her rare Canadian Hairless cat Mickey put under general anesthesia for three hours while an image of King Tut was etched onto the cat’s chest. The tattoo artist Anatoly Keksel performed the work at his TattoonHamon Tattoo Parlor in Russia. “I wanted something new and different for the times we live in,” Popova explains. “I have the same tattoo,” boasts Keksel, lifting up his shirt. The practice has infuriated animal rights activists in Russia, such as  Irina Novozhilova. “The ethical thinking about animals in Russia lacks behind that of the West,” says Nozozhilova. “People in Russia mostly buy animals for selfish reasons and anything that happens to them afterwards is a consequence of that.”

Dogs fare little better in Putin’s Russia.