Daily Archives: June 15, 2009

June 17, 2009 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  Gontmakher Strikes Back!

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Neo-Soviet Apes, Scratching Themselves

(3)  Novaya Gazeta Under Siege

(4)  Ponomarev on the Neo-Soviet Gulag

(5)  The Strange Case of Artyom Loskutov

EDITORIAL: Gontmakher Strikes Back


Gontmakher Strikes Back

In November of last year, Russian economist Yevgeny Gontmakher published an op-ed item in the Russian newspaper Vedemosti in which he warned of, as the Carnegie Center’s Nikolai Petrov wrote recently in the Moscow Times “unrest if factories in one-industry towns shut down as a result of the crisis.”  Petrov remembers:  “At the time, the government accused both Gontmakher and Vedomosti of inciting social unrest. But government leaders did nothing to prevent such a scenario from playing out or to at least develop an effective contingency plan in case it did.”

In fact, the Putin regime did more than just “accuse” Gontmakher, it tried to silence him, threatening the paper with closure and Gontmakher with prosecution. 

Now, Gontmakher has been utterly vindicated.  The recent protest action in the town of Pikalyovo proves that was exactly right while the Kremlin was absolutely wrong. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the Kremlin to apologize and make amends.

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EDITORIAL: Russian Apes, Scratching Themselves for our Bemusement


Russian Apes, Scratching Themselves for our Bemusement

Once again, just when you think Russia has found a the bottom, it sink so low that its previous position looks like a mountaintop.

Last week the world was appalled by the issuance of a formal report from the United Russia political party, Russia’s party of power, the party of Putin and of Medvedev, condemning the very institution of democracy itself, supposedly a political party’s sole reason for existence.

Get this:  When Russia is rich, it has plenty of time to become democratic so it doesn’t need to rush things. And when Russia is poor, it has no time to waste on “luxuries” like freedom, because it must bear down on the economy.  In other words, Russia has no need for democracy of any kind at any time at all.

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Novaya Gazeta under Siege

Der Spiegel reports, in an impressively massive effort which includes an interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, on the horrific persecution being visited upon Russia’s most patriotic newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, by the KGB monsters who prowl the Kremlin.  The report aptly explains why we are so proud when the lunatic Russophile nationalists of the blogosphere refer to us, as they see it derogatively, as an English version of the mighty little paper.

Olga seemed simultaneously awestruck and wary as she ran her fingers across the envelope. The sender seemed to be important: the “Presidential Administration.” Was it mail from the Kremlin? “But the envelope felt strange,” says Olga, who is secretary to the editor-in-chief of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. When she finally opened the envelope, she felt something cold and leathery inside: the severed ears of a donkey. “One needs strong nerves here,” she says. Four of the newspaper’s journalists have already been murdered, and one of its attorneys was shot dead in broad daylight. The donkey ears were followed a few days later by a bloody piece of meat. This time there was no return address on the envelope. And then a peculiar man offered the editor-in-chief a bribe.  

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Ponomarev on the Neo-Soviet Gulag

Paul Goble reports:

Forty of Russia’s 700 penal institutions have features which resemble those of Soviet-era concentration camps, according to a leading Moscow human rights activist, who warns that “as long as concentration camps and torture exist, the spectre of totalitarianism will continue to hang of the country.”
In an article in Yezhednevny Zhurnal, Lev Ponomaryev argues that Russian “society must finally understand that no democratic transformations are possible until a radical reform of the penitentiary system and of the law enforcement one as well takes place” and eliminates such institutions.

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The Strange Case of Artyom Loskutov

Last week we reported on the horrifying neo-Soviet crackdown being imposed on artists in Putin’s KGB Russia. That was only one of many examples, of course, as the Russia blog of the Foreign Policy Association reports:

Who is Artyom Loskutov, and why should we kiss his babushka?

While the industrial victory in Pikalevo (however Phyrric it may yet prove) hogs the headlines, the fate of this 22 year old performance artist from Novosibirsk has shown the stark limits to people-power in today’s Russia. Largely ignored in the mainstream media, Loskutov’s summary arrest nearly a month ago and continued detention have electrified the Russian internet, overwhelming the social networking site Livejournal and setting off a hunger strike.

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