FRIDAY JANUARY 8 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: The Perils of Pikalyovo
(2) EDITORIAL: A Tsunami of Sports Humiliation for Russia
(3) EDITORIAL: Look, up in the Sky – It’s Super Russia!
(4) Annals of Russian “Education”
(5) The Traitors among Us
NOTE: A few issues back we hammered Russia over a restaurant review in the New York Times that crucified one of its establishments, while right next door it praised the cuisine of Trinidad. As if to add insult to injury, the Gray Lady followed with a love letter, complete with lush photographs, to a famous and time-honored Ukrainian restaurant. Ouch.
The Perils of Pikalyovo
Last summer, when the town of Pikalyovo revolted against the Kremlin’s gross mismanagement of the Russian economy, which had left residents unpaid, starving and hopeless, Vladimir Putin was left with two choices: implement radical reform, or making protest activity like blocking roads, which the Pikalyovo protester used to devastating effect, a serious crime.
Care to guess which option Putin chose last week?
A Tsunami of Humiliation for Putin’s Russia
The shame and humiliation for Russia came so fast and furious on the sports front last week, across the whole spectrum of its most famous areas of expertise, that it’s genuinely hard to know where to begin.
Look, up in the Sky! It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Super Russia!
Of all the ridiculous, asinine “ideas” to emerge from the fetid wasteland that is neo-Soviet Russia (floating nuclear power stations, building islands in the Black Sea, colonizing Mars, walking on the Moon, etc.) surely the most side-splittingly ludicrous of them all is the Kremlin’s “plan” to “save the Earth” from a killer asteroid by blasting it with a Russian-made missile.
Shaun Walker, writing in the Independent:
Critics are accusing President Vladimir Putin’s government of a Soviet-style rewriting of Russian history with a series of new “patriotic” textbooks to be unveiled in the new school year.
New laws passed this summer have given the government sweeping powers over which textbooks will be used in schools. Teachers and other critics have voiced concerns that this will allow the government to force the use of a single, approved book in each subject – essentially a return to Soviet practice.
Mr Putin has complained that the negative view of the Soviet past in current history textbooks is down to the fact that the authors received foreign grants to write them.
Now, the Kremlin claims it wants to change that situation and a recommissioning of Russia’s history textbooks is under way. A handbook for teachers, on the basis of which a future textbook for students could be written, is called The Modern History of Russia, 1945-2006. Only one of the authors is a professional historian. The book calls Joseph Stalin a “contradictory” figure, and states that while some people consider him evil, others recognise him as a “hero” for his role in the Great Patriotic War (the Second World War) and his territorial expansion.
Lilia Shevtsova, senior associate at the Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writing on the Foreign Policy website:
At a recent meeting with Russian liberals in Moscow, a well-known European intellectual started trying to convince them that, as he put it, “Russia is not a dictatorship these days. [President Dmitry] Medvedev is trying to liberalize the system, and with time Russia will become a democracy. You shouldn’t try to hurry things.” Not surprisingly, this advice provoked consternation among an audience that had expected at least some encouragement from Continental liberals.
At a conference last month in Berlin, I witnessed another example of this divide. When I started to raise the question of democratic standards in Western-Russian relations, I was interrupted by another Western attendee. “You irritate us,” he said. “International relations are not about values; they are about power!” If he is right, Russian liberals will have to reconsider their expectations about the Western opinion-leaders they have long counted on for moral support and understanding.