Daily Archives: August 28, 2009

August 30, 2009 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  Nemtsov Steps Up

(2)  Translation:  Russia Fears the Truth

(3)  SWP Rips Putin a New One

(4)  Russia’s Economy is Doomed

(5)  When will Siberia Secede From Russia?

EDITORIAL: Nemtsov Steps Up


Nemtsov Steps Up

It seems that Garry Kasparov may at last be evidencing enough good judgment to step into the background of the “Solidarity” opposition movement and let Boris Nemtsov take the leading role.  As a result, we’ve seen Nemtsov in public far more often at opposition rallies, and we’ve even seen Nemtsov elbow Kasparov aside on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, as he recently did while excoriating the Kremlin for its failed policies in Chechnya — a failure he believes is leading to a third regional war.

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Translation: Neo-Soviet Russia Fears the Truth

The Sayano Chernobyl

Vitaly Portnikov

August 21, 2009


Translated from the Russian by The Other Russia

A Note from the Translator:  On August 17th, a powerful explosion ripped through the Sayano–Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station in southern Russia. Even as the public tried to make sense of the disaster, authorities mounted libel charges against one journalist, Mikhail Afanasyev, who tried to independently verify death counts, questioning the rescue effort and asking if living workers were still trapped in the wreckage. Writing for the Grani.ru online newspaper, journalist Vitaly Portnikov relates the way Afanasyev was silenced with the mass censorship of calamities during the Soviet Union, and resurgent government control over the media. Public safety, Portnikov argues, is just one of the necessary functions of the media that disappears when the press serves the interests of the government and not the people.

I remember the first days after the Chernobyl disaster well. I wasn’t living in Kiev then, but wanted to visit my relatives for the May 1st holidays. The accident had already taken place, but it was absolutely impossible to understand what was happening: the official reports were patchy, Western radio voices were strenuously suppressed, and even they at first had trouble getting a sense of what happened.

The May 1st demonstration resolved everything. It was hard to suspect that it could be conducted in a city that should, to be safe, have been evacuated. That was how I ended up in the post-Chernobyl Kiev. And after several days took ill with a heavy cold. Panic was already wandering the city streets, everyone was picking up [Radio] Svoboda and Voice of America, buying up red wine by the case. The doctors who visited me only shrugged their shoulders: what do you want, radiation, people are dying now like flies… They started washing the tram stops with soapy foam, parents tried to send away their children to relatives in other cities, even under threat of expulsion from the Party and dismissal from work.

And so, in its throes, sneering over its subjects and scornful of them, the empire of lies, whose leadership would declare glasnost just a few months after the Chernobyl nightmare, was on the verge of death. And it seemed that all this would end forever. At least they wouldn’t hide catastrophes from the people. At least in the critical moments, the government would think not about a pretty picture on the television, but about human lives.

It turned out that everything was just starting.

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SWP rips Putin a New One

In a truly devasating bit of economic analysis, Streetwise Professor guts the Putin record (on his blog and on Seeking Alpha):

I asked a Russian friend how the financial and economic crisis had affected the regional art center in the Urals where she works.  She said that she and her colleagues were coping with typical Russian resignation, and had made “нет дениг, нет проблем” (”No money, no problem”) their motto.

The “нет дениг” part may fit the country as a whole, but the “нет проблем” part doesn’t, quite.  The  Sayano- Shushenskaya dam disaster is widely considered to be a harbinger of potential problems.  The direct economic consequences are severe, reducing Russian electrical generating capacity by 2 percent; this in fact understates the impact because the dam was an inframarginal (i.e., relatively cheap) source of power.  The costs of repair are very high. Estimates run to $1.25 billion, but being estimates, being early, and being Russia, it is likely that the final bill will be much higher than that.  (Just ask the Indians about how the estimates for the repair bill to the Admiral Gorshkov compared to the actual cost.)  That in itself represents about 3 percent of total Russian infrastructure spending in 2008.

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Russia’s Economy is Doomed

The Russian investment houses are of two minds these days.   One camp wants to try to sucker as much money out of their clients as possible before the edifice of Russian society finally crumbles. They want to lie and talk about green shoots. Streetwise Professor exposes one such charlatan in today’s issue. Then there are those who are making a last desperate bid for reform in the hope of preserving some vague hope of long-term prospects. Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib Capital, appears to be one of them.  Here are his thoughts, from the Moscow Times:

When you are mired in a severe economic crisis, it is normal to get excited at even the smallest morsel of good news. It is therefore tempting to interpret the 0.5 percent monthly improvement in July’s gross domestic product and the smaller contraction in industrial output as an assurance that all is now well with the economy and that the stock market will imminently start the second leg of its recovery rally. Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach fueled this optimism when he proclaimed Monday that “the recession is over,” commenting on July’s GDP results.

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When will Siberia Secede from Russia?

Paul Goble reports:

Just as the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident convinced many Ukrainians that they did not want to remain part of the Soviet Union, so too, despite all the differences in the extent of the disaster, the Sayan-Shushen dam accident is leading many Siberians to conclude the same thing about remaining part of the Russian Federation. In the current issue of  Novaya Gazeta, journalist Aleksey Tarasov says that in the wake of the August 17 dam disaster, “Siberia is changing” in large measure because “the cheap electric energy” which the dam provided in “compensation” to that region for all that Moscow has taken from it is now a thing of the past.

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