Monthly Archives: November 2009

December 2, 2009 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  Shame on Russia!

(2)  EDITORIAL: A Blogosphere under Siege in Putin’s Russia

(3)  EDITORIAL:  Another Test, another “F” for Russia

(4)  Is Russia “driven” to Revolution?

(5)  Book Review

* * * Won’t you help support Natalia Estemirova’s Daughter? * *  *

NOTE:  Our sidebar now contains a permanent link to information which can be used to make a donation to a fund created by the Memorial human rights organization to support the education of Natalia Estemirova’s daughter Lana.  We encourage all our readers to make a generous contribution to this worthy cause, both in honor of Natalia’s memory and as a statement against the rise of dictatorship in Russia.

EDITORIAL: Shame on Russia!

Passengers evacuating other passengers, official rescuers nowhere to be seen


Shame on Russia!

There was nothing we could do to help the injured. There was no doctor, no first-aid kit on board the train. It seems like there wasn’t anything to provide even the most basic assistance. There weren’t even any torches to look for the injured with. A lot of time valuable time was lost, time that could have been used to save people. The apparent absence of first-aid kits on such a train was simply unbelievable, especially in the light of the 2007 blast. No one even thought to have reserves of bandages.”

— Stanislav Aranovsky, Nevsky Express rail passenger, to Delovoi Petersburg

When a terrorist bomb exploded underneath a high-speed train halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg on Saturday night, once again the greatest damage to Russia was not the loss of life, horrible as it was, but the humiliating light cast on Russia’s reckless indifference to the welfare of its citizens.

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EDTORIAL: A Blogosphere under Siege in Putin’s Russia


A Blogosphere under Siege in Putin’s Russia

Irek Murtazin

Even though, as we’ve repeatedly shown, less than a fifth of the Russian population has Internet access, that’s way too much freedom of information for the Kremlin’s taste. 

Because of this, the Putin regime has been engaged in a feverish, Stalin-like crackdown on bloggers from the first moments it took power. 

Alexei Sidorenko of Global Voices reports on the two most recent casualties in this final battle for the Russian soul.

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EDITORIAL: Postcards from the Russian Wasteland


Postcards from the Russian Wasteland

In a recent survey by HSBC Bank of 26 countries, Russia ranked #24 as the third-worst place on the planet for expat corporate workers to take up service. reports:

Russia came stone cold last in terms of enrolling children at a new school and establishing finances. Its healthcare system was ranked 25th and commuting experience at 23rd, with an overall placing of 24th out of the 26 countries surveyed. The ranking was also hampered by poor scores in utility set-up (25th) and ease of finding an apartment (23rd). Russia did manage to beat out India and Qatar which came 25th and 26th respectively. The poll was topped by Canada, Australia and Thailand.

Ouch.  And the expat community brutally condemned every aspect of Russian life even though they have the highest per capita earnings of all the surveyed countries!  Just imagine what they would have said if that weren’t the case.

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Is Russia “driven” to Revolution?

The New York Times reports:

Every society has a breaking point. In Boston it was the tea tax; in France it was Marie Antoinette’s wigs. If you’re curious where the breaking point may lie in Russia, try slamming the door as you get out of a taxicab — even the most rickety Soviet-era Lada. What will pass across the driver’s face is an expression of such exquisite suffering that you will first apologize and then run. Russians love their cars.

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Book Review: Postcards from Neo-Soviet Russia

The Seattle Times reports:

‘Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia’
edited by Mikhail Iossel and Jeff Parker
Tin House Books, 374 pp., $18.95

“Do you know how I knew spring was here? I found a skull in the garden. I immediately looked for a bullet hole in it.” With a beginning like this, you know you have picked up no bland, overly processed work of fiction, but something raw, intense and sure to leave an impression.

And that is just what “Rasskazy” (the word means “stories”) offers with its collection of 22 short pieces by some of Russia’s finest young writers.

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SPECIAL EXTRA: Blood on the Russian Rails

What used to be the Nevsky Express

At 9:30 pm Moscow time on Saturday, the Nevsky Express high-speed train bound from Moscow for St. Petersburg derailed.   Three hours later, the Kremlin’s RIA Novosti newswire reported 10 passengers had been killed and 130 injured. But five hours after that, RIA was reporting that two dozen had been killed only 90 injured, and indicating that “the death toll could rise as new bodies were being taken out of the deformed railroad cars.”  32 passengers were reported missing. Nearly 700 people were on the train.  By the following afternoon, it was clear that more than three dozen had perished, triple the initial a report.

Quoting an anonymous source in “law enforcement,” RIA Novosti also reported on the cause of the derailment:  “Preliminarily, an explosion occurred under the ninth car,” it stated. “There was a clap. The last two cars almost fell apart. I’ve seen such things only in movies,” a passenger named Alexander told the newswire.

Once again, Russia rescue efforts were pathetic and infuriating.

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November 30, 2009 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  Bloody Russia

(2)  Russia Corruption leads the World

(3)  Hospice Russia

(4)  Into the Russian Darkness

(5)  Felshtinsky and the Future of Russia

NOTE:  FinRosForum links to a video allegedly showing Russian soliders cutting of the head of a Chechen woman they had abducted from her home.  WARNING:  DO NOT CLICK THIS LINK UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO WITNESS SHOCKING VIOLENCE.  View the video here.

EDITORIAL: Bloody Russia


Bloody Russia

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again:  Russia is a nation of murdering bastards.  The nation’s leader sets the precedent, and the vast majority of the others follow right along in step.  Including the police.

Last Tuesday in Moscow, a trio of cops beat a man to death.  Two days later, this time in St. Petersburg, a second man met the same fate.  The week before, attorney Sergei Magnitsky died in prison after being denied medical treatment, and Putin’s cops claimed they didn’t even know he was sick, as if they thought that was an excuse.

Bloody Russia.  When Britons use that phrase, it carries a double meaning that we would adopt here.  Both “covered in blood” and “filthy, stinking, rat-invested.” That’s Russia in a nutshell.

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EDITORIAL: Russian Corruption Leads the World


Russian Corruption Leads the World

He never once complained to investigators about the state of his health.  His death was completely unexpected.

Irina V. Dudukina, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry, on November 25th, responding to questions about the death of attorney Sergei Magnitsky

This was a deplorable incident, which has left a serious stain on the entire work of our judicial system.  We are not in any sense playing down our guilt, which clearly exists.

Alexander Smirnov, the deputy head of Russia’s prison service, on November 27th responding to similar questions.

No sooner had Transparency International come out with its most recent ranking of 180 world nations for corruption, placing Russia in the bottom quintile of all countries on the planet, and no sooner had the Russophile rubbish come forth with their tired drivel about TI’s alleged methodological flaws, than PricewaterhouseCoopers released its own study of 55 countries and, using an entirely different methodology, found Russia to be the very most corrupt of all of them.

It was almost as if the world had baited the Russophile trash into a trap and then snapped shut steely jaws right around their crooked necks.  It was truly a beautiful thing to see.  And the Russian government’s humiliating about-face on the Magnitsky killing only underlined the absolute incompetence which characterizes the government of Vladimir Putin.

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Hospice Russia

Tim Collard, a retired British diplomat who spent most of his career in China and Germany and is an active member of the Labour Party, writing on his blog on The Telegraph‘s website:

The BBC reports that Mr Bill Browder, head of a company called Hermitage Capital and once the largest foreign investor in Russia, has now described that large and empty country as “essentially a criminal state”. One’s first reaction is that Mr Browder, who has had far better opportunities for observation than most of us, has taken rather a long time to realise this. But then none of us has been particularly quick off the mark in grasping what has been right in front of our noses for years. Their representatives are still polluting the G8, the Council of Europe and other supposedly civilised institutions. We still pretend politely to take Mr Vladimir Putin seriously.

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Into the Russian Darkness

Under the headline “Misery, thy name is Russia,” reports on an art exhibit at the Alice Austen House Museum in Staten Island, New York (follow the link on the artist’s name to view the full body of work):

Purges and pogroms, famine and war, Lenin and Stalin. Misery, thy name is Russia.

There’s an ironic upside, naturally. Bad luck and trouble are a far better wellspring for playwrights, novelists, composers and photographers than good fortune and happy times.

In “Russian Archive,” contemporary photographer Donald Weber locates Soviet junctures where the awful past flails at the present.

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Felshtinsky on the Future of Russia

Russian historian Yuri Felshtinsky

Radio Liberty’s Mikhail Sokolov interviews Russian historian Yuri Felshtinsky on the future of Russia, translated by David McDuff:

Mikhail Sokolov: Have you noticed that they’re still trying to work out some kind of [national] ideology? There’s this “Shoigu Law”, which really threatens anyone engaged in research relating to the Second World War that doesn’t fit in with their view of it – that’s a form of ideological activity.

Yuri Felshtinsky: Yes. Though I don’t think it’s dangerous, because I think it’s all rather absurd. For example, I never believed – and this goes back to the discussions there have always been among the émigré community, at least since the years when I first came over here in 1978, that there would be fascism in the Soviet Union or Russia. I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now. I never believed that there would be nationalism in the Soviet Union, or now in Russia. Because Russia really is a multi-ethnic state. And the numbers of Russians, who have never been counted, and especially of pure ethnic Russians, whom it is absolutely certain that no one has ever counted, are not critical enough for Russia to have a hard-line national government.  And Russians themselves probably see one another as people who are soft rather than hard-line, more disorganized than organized, more slovenly than focused on certain ideas and rules.  Russia is an enormous state. For all the attempts to remake it and build a centralized “vertical of power”, you and I know that the power ends at the Ring Road. And in fact there are many who would seriously assert that it ends at the walls of the Kremlin. Beyond the walls of the Kremlin, none of that centralization and “vertical of power” works any more.

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November 27, 2009 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:   Getting Russia Right

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Russia and its Future

(3)  Kozlovsky on Russia’s Failed Democracy

(4)  China turns off the Russian Spigot


EDITORIAL: Getting Russia Right


Getting Russia Right

Russia’s best weapon against the West continues to be the West itself.  Our inability to get Russia right, inexcusable when we have so much more information about the country now than in Soviet days, is Vladimir Putin’s only hope to recreate a new USSR in Russia.

But there are signs that, at long last, this is starting to change.  Two Russian academics from the New Economic School blasted the Kremlin over the demise of Sergei Magnitsky in the pages of the Moscow Times earlier this week, and no thinking person can misapprehend their ominous words — words that, we might add, we have been publishing here on this blog for more than three years now.

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EDITORIAL: Russia and its Future


Russia and its Future

The future of Russia

The chart above is translated from the Russian website Rumetrika (Russian language link) and shows the source of information relied upon by Russian young people aged 16-26.  Horrifyingly, the graphic shows that the older a Russian gets, the less he relies upon the Internet and the more he relies upon TV.  In the oldest age range, more than twice as many got their news from television than relied upon the Internet, and gossip from friends was nearly as popular as the Internet.  Less than one third of the people in this group read newspapers, and half was cut off from the Internet entirely.

Let’s be perfectly clear:  Those gigantic columns on the left side of the chart represent not just TV, but state-owned, Kremlin-operated TV.  Even though, in other words, Russia is supposedly a “free” society, just as much indoctrination and brainwashing is going on now as there was in Soviet times.

So much for the bizarre notion that the Internet can save Russia.

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Kozlovsky on Russia’s Failed Democracy

Oleg Kozlovsky

Oborona leader Oleg Kozlovsky, writing in a new volume from a German publisher entitled 20 Years Ago, 20 Years Ahead: Young Liberal Ideas:

On November 4th 2008, the world watched Barack Obama win the US presidential elections. The first black person to rule the planet’s most powerful country, he promised to change those policies of the previous administration that were seen by many as undemocratic. On the next day, another recently elected President was presenting his plans to the public. Dmitry Medvedev was addressing the Russian Parliament and he too was speaking on the broad topics of democracy and the rule of law. But he did make a very practical point in his speech when he suggested amending the Constitution and extending the terms of both the President and the State Duma (the lower House of the Parliament). This amendment was supported by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who had until recently before claimed that the Constitution must not be changed. Parliament passed the resolution in a matter of weeks with hardly any discussion. This amendment to the Constitution, its first, was a clear example of what democracy in Russia had become.

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China turns off its Russian Spigot

So much for the Russia-China alliance! 

The Irtysh river flows out of the mountains of Mongolia down through the northwest corner of China, through Kazakhstan and then down into Russia towards its basins in the Actic. The major Russian city of Omsk stands on its banks. Paul Goble reports that Russia’s beloved ally China is about to show its love for Russia by turning off the spigots:

By unilaterally taking out of the Irtysh far more water than ever before, China has put at risk the economies and populations of downstream communities in Kazakhstan and Russian Federation, threatened a delicate eco-system and raised questions about Beijing’s plans regarding other trans-border rivers in the Russian Far East.

According to Zhanaidar Ramazanov, head of the Independent Association of Water Users in Kazakhstan, China is currently planning to increase its annual withdrawal of water from the Irtysh from one billion cubic meters to 4.6 billion cubic meters in the immediate future to support development in Xinjiang, an amount equal to 68 cubic meters every second.

Because China’s action is so threatening, Russian ecological commentator Dmitry Verkhoturov argues in his report on this development, both Moscow and Astana are seeking to force China to accede to the 1992 Helsinki Convention on the Protection and Use of Trans-Boundary Watercourses.

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A parkour practitioner jumping from an 18-meter high roof to a 14-meter high roof across a 7-meter wide gap in St. Petersburg, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009, with an advertising poster in the foreground, left. The jumper survived.

Source:  The Moscow Times.

Jibber jabber.

November 26, 2009 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  Russia on the Verge of Religious War

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Russia on the Verge of Energy War

(3)  Journalists Flee Putin’s Russia in Droves

(4)  The True Horror of Russian Corruption Revealed

(5)  Russia at Rock Bottom

NOTE:  Kim Zigfeld’s latest column on the Pajamas Media megablog addresses the horrifying murder of Sergei Magnitsky while interned in the neo-Soviet gulag.

EDITORIAL: Russia on the Verge of Religious War


Russia on the Verge of Religious War

Orthodox Priest Daniil Sysoyev

From his earliest days in the Moscow Kremlin, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s chief claim to fame has been that he brought peace to Russia’s relations with Chechnya and its growing Muslim population (it’s predicted that within the next century Russia will become a majority-Muslim nation).

That absurd propagandistic lie got yet another harsh jolt of reality last week when Orthodox Priest Daniil Sysoyev, Russia’s most active proselytizer in the Islamic world, was shot dead in Moscow.  Sysoyev crusaded to bring Orthodox Christianity to the Russia’s Tatar region, and aggressively confronted Russia’s Wahabi Islamic sect with his Christian views.  He had written, for example:  “In contrast to the opinion of many  both the word of God and the rules of the Church condemn marriages between Christians and followers of other faiths.”  One Russian Orthodox clergy leader responded:  “Father Daniil, his message, and martyr’s end will become a symbol of the rebirth of missionary activity of our Church.”

It appears, then, that the forces of Islam have now struck back, and that Putin’s Russia stands on the brink of holy war.

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EDITORIAL: Russia on the Verge of a New Energy War


Russia on the Verge of a New Energy War

Once again, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has proved itself wholly unable to carry on productive, friendly relations with its nearest neighbors.

Last week, in response to libelous, provocative unilateral Russian threats to shut down gas supplies in the event of payment default or “theft” of gas,  Ukraine announced that “it would double the fees that Russia must pay to transport natural gas through Ukrainian territory to the rest of Europe.”  Russia called the announcement “political blackmail,” yet Ukraine has not been late on any payments to Russia this year and there have been no allegations of siphoning.

Russia’s crude threats are the same ones the world heard last year, and Ukraine’s response was predictable as well.  The reasons for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine are perfectly clear.

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Journalists Flee Putin’s Russia in Droves

Russian Journalist Oleg Panfilov

Hero journalist Grigory Pasko, writing on Robert Amsterdam’s blog:

A well-known Russian journalist, head of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations  Oleg Panfilov in early November moved for permanent residency from Moscow to Tbilisi. In a conversation with journalists he explained that his decision was based on the fact that in Russia unknowns were constantly threatening him through the internet with physical lynching.

This news appeared on the internet on the 9th of November. To me this «news» was known two months ago: Oleg himself had told me about his desire to forsake Russia. In so doing no arguments in the form of threats did he name. I think that in this situation, unnamed colleagues were inaccurately treating the essence of the event.

Oleg told me that he intends to live in Georgia and to read lectures at the journalism school in the Tbilisi state university, as well as to actively cooperate on the “Caucasian telechannel”  being opened as of the new year in Tbilisi, which, presumably, will broadcast to the whole Caucasian region.

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The True Horror of Pandemic Russian Corruption

Especially for those Russophile jackasses who claim Transparency International’s methodology is somehow unreliable, Jason Bush, writing for Reuters, provides independent verification of their results:

Everyone knows that Russia is corrupt, but did you know just how corrupt? The short answer is: more than any other country. That, at least, is the conclusion of a survey just published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which examines the level of economic crime around the world.

PwC canvassed more than 3,000 companies in 55 countries, 89 of them in Russia. It asked them if they had been the victim of frauds such as embezzlement, bribery and crooked accounting. Russia topped the list, with 71% of respondents reporting at least one instance of fraud during the previous twelve months.

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Russia at Rock Bottom

Russian writer and television host Victor Erofeyev, writing in the New York Times:

Once again, Russia has found itself at a crossroads. The reason may not seem all that significant in itself: After the recent restoration of the gaudy Kurskaya station on the Moscow Metro, there appeared for the first time in half a century, in full view of all the passengers, the word “Stalin,” which was implanted in the underground ensemble in a line from the national anthem of his time glorifying the leader of all peoples. Thus did Stalin’s ghost come back to haunt not only the Metro, but all of Russia.

This appeared as a Rubicon. To cross it would be to start anew on the whole glorious path of Soviet imperialism. But President Dmitri Medvedev, in his last two broadcasts over the Internet, tried to blow up the bridges.

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