WEDNESDAY JANUARY 6 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Russia on the Brink
(2) National Projects? What national projects?
(3) Kirill prepares for Holy Russian Empire
(4) Dobrokhotov Speaks
(5) In Putin’s Russia, no Shops
(6) Russia sucks!
NOTE: A few weeks ago we published an interview with the firebrand Russian historian Yuri Felshtinsky. Now, Felshtinsky’s Live Journal blog has been shut down by the provider because, according to Global Voices, Felshtinsky dared to publish a link to a Russian translation of his book “The Age of Assassins: The Rise and Rise of Vladimir Putin.” Yet one more nail in the coffin of the Russian Internet, driven by proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin while the craven population of the country turns a blind eye. Apparently, if we were on ZheZhe, the lines we’ve just written would get this blog turned off. Yikes.
Russia on the Brink
“The Russian economy is in recovery and will post significant growth next year.”
That’s the Kremlin’s story and it’s sticking to it, whatever the facts may show.
Those facts are frightening, for folks interested in such trifles as facts. Russia’s PMI index, a key gauge of manufacturing potency, fell even further below the threshold score of 50 below which recession is indicated. The index is at its lowest point since July of last year. To glimpse a genuine economic recovery in an economy with solid economic foundations, take a gander at the USA, where the manufacturing index has risen for five consecutive months and now stands at its highest level since April 2006.
New export orders from Russia dropped for the fifteenth straight month and Deputy Industry Minister Andrei Dementiev projected a 7 percent decline in the country’s steel industry in 2009. Belying any notion of recovery, the Russian central bank went on furiously cutting interest rates in the hope of generating manufacturing activity, and Russia’s own Finance Minister referred his country as the “weak link.”
Robert Coalson reports, on the Power Vertical:
Remember the much-ballyhooed Russian “national projects”? Evidently, you aren’t supposed to.
Let me remind you then that the national projects were four long-term domestic-policy priorities laid out by then-President Vladimir Putin in 2005. They were supposed to bring dramatic improvements to the areas of housing, medical care, education, and agriculture. And they were under the oversight of then-First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. (The projects are now under Putin’s direct supervision.)
Now, according to a front-page report in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” it turns out that the Kremlin’s priorities have changed. The four projects have become, in the words of one analyst quoted in the piece, “non-priority priority projects.”
Paul Goble reports:
In the waning days of 2009, Patriarch Kirill made three statements designed among other things to position the Russian Orthodox Church for even greater role in Russian politics at home and abroad in the year to come, a role that some may welcome but that others will see as a challenge to secular values and human rights in both Russia and Europe.
First, in what must be music to the ears of many in the Russian government, Kirill repeated his longstanding view that Russia represents a unique civilization and should therefore can and should ignore the evaluations offered by outside experts and institutions like the European Court of Human Rights. Second, and as part of his campaign to build bridges with the Papacy and conservative Christians more generally, the outspoken Russian patriarch lashed out at Europeans for surrendering their cultural and political values to what he described in Gumilyev-style language as “passionate” Muslims. And third, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church further integrated that institution with the state not by signing an expanded cooperation accord with the Academy of Government Service, and demanding that the powers that be support religions relative to their size.
Yet another young Russian opposition leader has crossed the Atlantic to reach out to American leaders. First it was Oleg Kozlovsky, now Roman Dobrokhotov. Global Voices reports:
Roman Doborohotov (27) is a leader of Russian youth democratic movement “Mi” (We). He attracted media attention after he had interrupted the Russian President Dmirty Medvedev’s speech[RUS] by shouting that there were wide violations of the constitution in the country. Dobrohotov keeps his blog on Livejournal and studies political science at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. In November 2009, Dobrohotov visited the Kenan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in the U.S. where he spoke about “Mi” movement. He also talked to GVO about the Internet, democracy and online activism in Russia.
Roman, thank you for talking to GVO. Let’s start with a general question. What is the role of the Internet in Russian society?
The Internet is the only source of information [in Russia – G.V.] that is not censored. As alternatives, we have only newspaper “Kommersant” and radio “Echo Moskvy“ with, to some extent, TV channel “REN TV.” But “Kommersant” and “Echo Moskvy” also use the Web a lot as a source of information. Very often, their news sources are blogs. Most of journalists also have their online dairies.
Paul Goble reports that in Putin’s Russia, it’s just like the good old neo-Soviet days:
Bryansk Governor Nikolay Denin’s directive this week that officials there deliver vodka, champagne and other goods to isolated villages for the New Year’s celebration highlights the increasing isolation of many Russian villages from the amenities available in Russian cities and the growing desperation of the rural residents in that country. Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported that “only just ahead of the New Year did [regional officials] suddenly remember that in [their] Bryansk oblast [which is located in central Russia not far from Moscow], some 1386 population points somehow are living without any stores”.
Indeed, the paper’s Aleksandr Fedosov said, “to reach some of them now is more difficult than it was for the Germans who during the war launched attacks against [the famed] Bryansk partisans.” There are no passable roads, he continued, and in many heavily-forested places even a helicopter has no safe place to land. Normally, Fedosov continued, officials ignore these people and their problems, but this year, they have had to pay attention because “on the eve of the [New Year’s] holiday, many [of the villagers remain without moonshine [samogon] and even without home-brewed beer [braga]” that have long been an integral part of the holiday.
Russia sucks, and nobody knows that better than people who have seen the horrid place up close and personal. Especially the Russians themselves. And that’s the name of that tune. An exchange from Facebook: