FRIDAY MAY 6 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Putin Knifes the Infant RuNet
(2) EDITORIAL: Readin’, Ritin’ and Rooskie Rithmatic
(3) INTERVIEW: Kevin Rothrock of A Good Treaty
(4) EDITORIAL: The Collapse of the Neo-Soviet Army
(5) EDITORIAL: The Silver Anniversary of Chernobyl
(6) EDITORIAL: Gagging on Russia
NOTE: In a special issue today, we offer 100% original content in the form of five editorials covering Internet freedom, education, military collapse, Chernobyl and Russian cuisine. We cap things off with an exclusive blogger interview, Kevin Rothrock, the half-hearted Russophile who blogs at “A Good Treaty.”
Putin Knifes the Infant RuNet
If we were talking international basketball scores, those would be good numbers for Russia. But we’re not. We’re talking Internet freedom, as analyzed by Freedom House. The higher the score, the less the freedom.
FH reviewed Internet access among a group of 37 countries around the world, and found that Georgia ranks #12 in the group, in the top third and right behind South Korea, while Russia ranks #22, right behind Rwanda and well into the bottom half of all countries surveyed. In the group of nations designated by FH as “partly free” only four have lower scores than Russia (including Egypt at 54 and Pakistan at 55). The USA’s score is 13, surpassed in the group only by Estonia.
Twice as many Russian bloggers were arrested in the most recent survey period compared to the last one. Russia’s rank fell three places since the prior survey, and its score got much worse, from 49 in 2009 to 52 in 2011.
If course, it may not matter much how free or unfree Russia’s Internet is, because according to FH two-thirds of the Russian population has no Internet access at all.
Posted in editorial, georgia, internet, neo-soviet crackdown, russia
Tagged freedom house, georgia, Internet in Russia, Mikheil Saakashvili, russia, vladimir frolov, vladimir putin
Readin’ and Writin’ and Roosskie Rithmatic
One of the most hilarious features (or it would be if it were not so tragic) about the Russian psyche is the nation’s continued insistence that it is well-educated, especially compared to Americans. The actual facts tell a quite different story (not that Russians are ever over-interested in facts).
The United States spends 5.7% of its GDP on education, ranking #37 out of 132 countries surveyed by the United Nations Human Development Program.
Russia spends a woeful 3.8% of GDP, ranking a sad and sorry #88. Two-thirds of world nations spend more on education as a share of GDP than Russia does. The USA in particular spends over 65% more on education, as a share of its GDP, than Russia.
If you think about it in dollar terms, the picture is even more horrifying for Russia.
Kevin Rothrock of “A Good Treaty”
La Russophobe recently sat down (virtually speaking) with Russia blogger Kevin Rothrock of “A Good Treaty.” As the name of his blog suggests, Rothrock is lobbying in favor of Barack Obama’s nuclear arms treaty with Russia. As such, he’s eager to paint Putin’s Russia as a more-or-less reasonable country America can trust well enough to keep its word on such a treaty.
Just as we suspected was the case with now defunct Russia blogger Mark Adomanis, Rothrock is far from being the hardcore Russophile fanatic that many of the idiotic Russophile lurkers and scum seem to take him for being. And, just as we suspected, that doesn’t keep Rothrock from both intentionally and unintentionally undermining American values and helping (in his silly, insignificant little way) to perpetuate the worst and most abusive aspects of dictatorship in Putin’s Russia. Commiting such vile acts doesn’t seem to bother Rothrock one bit. Indeed, Rothrock seems almost reptilian in his cold-blooded attitude towards the subject, caring not one wit for the fate of the people of Russia but only for his personal intellectual amusement and his Obamanian political agenda, and not acknowledging that the rise of a neo-Soviet state in Russia has any risks for American security. Truly, with “friends” like these Russia needs no enemies. Americans, the same.
Most importantly, Rothrock is unable to give a satisfactory answer as to how America can possibly place enough faith and trust in the hopelessly corrupt Putin government so as to justify signing a one-sided nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and he refuses to acknowledge anyone as being viable opposition to Putin. He believes that the only way Putin will not have power for life in Russia is if he doesn’t want it, and he goes on the record saying Putin will not stand for reelection — or if he does, apparently, Dima Medvedev will best him at the polls. Quite a long neck stretch, no? Due credit if he is right. If not . . . guess he’ll just shrug and say “oops, my bad” when he learns lots of folks dropped their guard and let Putin sneak in a haymaker because of his prediction. Meanwhile, Rothrock totally ignores the fact that all the evidence from every source, including the Russian people, indicates that Medvedev is nothing more than Putin’s puppet, a total sham, meaning that it might actually be worse for Putin to pull the strings in secret, where his accountability is even less.
The Collapse of the Neo-Soviet Army
We cannot afford to create a fully professional army. If we save funds elsewhere, we will certainly go back to this idea, but well prepared.
— Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, October 2010
As shown in the chart at left, between 2006 and 2010 the number of young Russian men drafted into the army has nearly tripled, from just over 200,000 per year to nearly 600,000 per year.
There are two simple reasons for this shocking increase in conscription: First, the number of young men newly eligible to serve in the Russian army is plummeting along with the general population (from about 900,000 in 2004 to 500,000 in 2011); second, the horrors of dedovschina and other barbaric practices and hardships of the army have led many young men to reject the option of volunteering. The result is that nearly 100% of all newly-eligible Russians were drafted into the army in 2010. If things go on as they are, even drafting every single eligible man won’t be enough to fill out Russia’s ranks — and the Russian army will start collapsing.
The Horror of Russian Cowardice and Lies
The nuclear reactor in Power Unit No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded at 1:23 am on Friday, April 25, 1986 — twenty five years ago this month.
It immediately generated a cloud of radioactive vapor ten times more toxic than the Hiroshima nuclear bombing.
But the 50,000 residents of the neighboring town of Pripyat, USSR, were not told to take protective measures, such as staying indoors with the windows shut, for a full twelve hours following the blast, when it was announced that they faced “an unfavorable radioactive atmosphere.” Unfavorable indeed! They were not told they would be evacuated until late in the evening the next day, Saturday April 26, and they were not actually evacuated until 2 pm on Sunday, April 27. By that time, many had incurred lethal or life-altering doses of radioactivity.
Residents were not permitted to take their personal property with them. Patriotic Soviet citizens soon swarmed in and looted them to the bare walls. Today, Pripyat is a ghost town.
Gagging on Russia
Anatoly Komm in his Moscow restaurant, Varvary
Even when Russia gets something right, it’s still wrong. That’s Russia in a nutshell. And we do mean nut.
For the first time, Russia has placed a restaurant into the world’s top 50 as assayed by the San Pellegrino sparkling water company. The place is called Varvary, and its chef is Anatoly Komm. It even specializes in Russian cuisine! This ought to be a great day for Russia.
But here’s what Komm has to say about his eatery (which costs over $300 per person to explore):
Plumbing the Depths of Russian Poverty
For our money, the most under-appreciated Russia journalist working today is Galina Stolyarova of the St. Petersburg Times. In our issue today, we republish not one but two of Stolyarova’s recent reports exposing the true horror of poverty in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. No thinking, feeling human being can read these reports and conclude anything other than that the Putin economy is a not just a total failure, but a total sham.
Putin in Space
Just as there are any number of ignorant Russians who, hilariously, believe their country really only leased Alaska to the United States, there are many who will insist that the Americans never landed a man on the moon (not even once, much less multiple times). Apparently Americans are not clever enough to do so — but more than clever enough to fool the rest of the world into thinking that they did!
Such ignorance, such laughable stupidity, and such mind-boggling contradictions are what emerge from decades of crazed, feverish neo-Soviet propaganda. Even watching the Soviet system destroyed was not sufficient to convince hapless Russians to reject it. So right after it fell, the rushed to put the KGB right back in power, in the person of Vladimir Putin — doing so because a man they claimed to hate, Boris Yeltsin, told them to.
The latest instance of Russian brain fever has the population believing that even though Russia, admittedly, has never even once landed a man on the moon, it will build a station and start permanently living there by 2030.
We would find Russian belief in such a notion hilarious were it not for the dire consquences it suggests for the country and its future.
Kremlin Stooge, The Very Bottom of the Fetid Russophile Barrel
He is a stooge, and he is proud of it!
We here at LR have laid quite a number of invidious, smelly little Russophile bloggers in their graves. Konstantin. Accidental Russophile. Russia Blog. Even a queer little bird called “La Russophobe Exposed.” So many others. We’ve seen them come, and we’ve seen them fall. And each time one does, we’ve noticed, the replacement is that much more insipid, clueless and pathetic than the one that came before — which, in context, is saying quite a lot.
Here’s a case in point: The ever so aptly named “Kremlin Stooge.” With this one, Russia really is scraping the absolute bottom of a very fetid barrel.
Here’s the executive summary: Russia is losing billions and billions and billions in capital flight and foreign investment. The response of the Kremlin Stooge: It doesn’t matter. Russia already has more money than it knows what to do with. Besides, America also has financial problems.
You think we’re kidding? Read on.
Galina Stolyarova, writing in the St. Petersburg Times:
In an old Soviet joke, three elderly women go to the doctor. All have exactly the same health condition but they enjoy very different incomes. When the first woman — the wealthiest — tells her story, the doctor asks what her income is, and then suggests eating plenty of fruit and vitamins and recommends a trip to a seaside sanatorium. The next one, who has an average salary, is recommended to cut meat, sweets, and fatty foods from her diet. When the doctor examines the last one, who survives on a tiny pension, all he can prescribe is plenty of fresh air.
It is an open secret that the cynicism of the Russian authorities today is no less than that of the doctor in the joke. And a 17-year-old Yekaterinburg high school student, Vitaly Nikishin, embarked on a crusade last month to expose this cynicism to the entire world. He launched a popular blog in which he recounted his attempt to survive for a month on 2,632 rubles, or $88 — the sum calculated by his regional government as the cost of the monthly “minimum consumer basket.”
Galina Stolyarova, writing on Transitions Online:
Toward the end of March, Nina Martynova, a 70-year-old retiree from Voronezh, paid for a loaf of bread and a carton of milk at her local grocery and then walked toward the door. She had taken only a few steps when she was stopped by security guards and ordered to follow them.
She was ushered into a small storeroom and searched. In Martynova’s pocket, the guards found two small chocolate bars. She hadn’t paid for them.
It seems the guards had ample evidence to detain her. A recording by the shop’s security cameras, part of which has been posted online, showed the elderly woman sneaking the bars into her pocket.
On the tape, Martynova seemed so shocked that she slowly fainted when the items from her pockets were laid on the table in front of her.
She at once went into cardiac arrest. An ambulance was called, but by the time it arrived she was dead.
Dima Medvedev has suddenly started blabbing about illegal narcotics. Mark Lawrence Schrad, an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University and the author of The Political Power of Bad Ideas: Networks, Institutions and the Global Prohibition Wave, writing in the New York Times, explains why:
IN an effort to reduce both its sky-high alcoholism rate and its budget gap, Russia recently announced plans to quadruple the tax on the country’s eternal vice, vodka, over the next three years.
But while the move might be well intentioned, the long history of liquor taxation in Russia exposes a critical obstacle in the path of any anti-drinking campaign: the Kremlin’s own addiction to liquor revenues, which has derailed every previous effort to wean Russians from their tipple.
Translation -- Putin declares to Medvedev: "Uh-oh, looks like our partnership is about to end . . ."
Clifford J. Levy (pictured, left) of the New York Times and his colleague Ellen Barry have been awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting on account of their “dogged reporting that put a human face on the faltering justice system in Russia, remarkably influencing the discussion inside the country.”
We heartily congratulate Mr. Levy, Ms. Barry and the New York Times for this tremendous accomplishment on behalf of Russophobia and the battle to turn back the self-destructive impulses of the Russian people and save their children from obliteration.
FRIDAY APRIL 22 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: The Russian Nightmare
(2) EDITORIAL: The Russian Halucination
(3) The Day Russia turned out the Lights
(4) The Doomed Russian Economy
(5) Under Putin, Russian Culture Perishes
(6) In Putin’s Russia, the Poor get Poorer
(7) English in Russian “Translation”
(8) CARTOON: Putin on the Run
NOTE: LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld’s latest installment on the mighty Pajamas Media megablog reports on the latest shocking round of Internet crackdowns by Vladimir Putin and his bestie, Barack Obama.
NOTE: Kim is also now blogging on the Global Freedom blog at the new NRB website. Her first post is live now.
NOTE: Barron’s has published a horrifying account of the investigation of the brutal state-sponsored torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky, including a wealth of damning evidence of Kremlin corruption. It’s a must-read.
A scene from the Rose Monday Carnival Parade in Dusseldorf, Germany, February 2009. Reuters. On the gun barrel is written Freedom of the Press Putin Style.
The Russian Nightmare
Alexander Andreyechkin. Vladimir Litvinenko. Alexander Surinov. Do you know these names? If you don’t, you can’t claim to have any real understanding of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Let us introduce you to them.
Andreyechkin wants to ban Hotmail, Gmail and Skype from use in Russia.
Want to see what somebody who would say something as venal as that looks like? Good luck trying to find a photo of him. Google images has never heard of him, but it’s not because he’s a nobody.
To the contrary, Andreyechkin is the head of the FSB’s department for protection of information and special communication, and Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, said that Andreyechkin was voicing the FSB’s official position. The FSB is the KGB, by another name.
It’s hard to say which is more a more ominous sign for Russia: That the FSB is so brazen and heedless of its own history that it can openly call for shutting down basic communication services, or that it is so incompetent that doing so is the only response it can make to its helpless inability to deal with these evil foreign systems, which apparently are far too complicated for it to manage on its own.
Then there’s Vladimir Litvinenko.
The Russian Hallucination
Russia’s most valuable company, Gazprom, has a market capitalization about $150 billion. That seems impressive, until you know that Exxon, America’s most valuable company, has a market capitalization more than double that of Gazprom.
Flip your perspective, and you see something even more amazing. Gazprom’s value constitutes more than ten percent of the total gross domestic product of Russia. Exxon’s value? It’s less than two percent of America’s GDP.
In other words, because the American economy is ten times larger than Russia’s, Exxon can fail and America will go merrily on, almost oblivious. But if Gazprom fails, Russia crashes into poverty and absolute collapse. And competing head to head in Russia’s area of greatest strength, America still wins hands down, in dominating fashion.
How is it, then, that Russians dare to continue to adopt such a provocative and hostile attitude towards the USA?
The brilliant Vladimir Kara-Murza reports:
If one were to name a particular date when Russia’s nascent democracy succumbed to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime, April 14, 2001 would be a fairly good contender. Ten years ago the Russian government, using the state-owned energy giant Gazprom as its proxy, seized control of NTV—the country’s largest and most popular independent television channel. There were, of course, other significant dates: June 22, 2003 (the government-ordered shutdown of TVS, Russia’s last independent television channel), October 25, 2003 (the arrest of oil tycoon and opposition supporter Mikhail Khodorkovsky), December 7, 2003 (the expulsion of pro-democracy parties from Parliament in heavily manipulated elections), December 12, 2004 (the abolition of direct gubernatorial elections—ironically, signed into law by Mr. Putin on Constitution Day). But it was the takeover of NTV that was, in many ways, the point of no return.
Foreign investment in Russia fell a whopping 13% last year and is now half what it was four years ago. Vladislav Inozemtsev, professor of economics, director of the Moscow-based Center for Post-Industrial Studies and editor-in-chief of Svobodnaya Mysl, writing in the Moscow Times, explains why:
President Dmitry Medvedev publicly acknowledged last week what everyone has known for two decades: The investment climate in Russia is bad. While the measures Medvedev proposed to improve the investment climate are generally sound, there are several reasons why they won’t work.
In 2010, fixed capital investment in Russia totaled 8.35 trillion rubles in constant 2008 prices ($310 billion), the same as it was in 2007. In China, however, investment in 2010 was 14.4 trillion yuan ($2.16 trillion). One of the main reasons China’s investment level is so high is its high domestic savings. But the higher the level of savings, the lower the level of consumption.
The Associated Press reports:
A squirrel tail. Wolf teeth. Sheets of gold. Flax oil.
These are the things Vladimir Buldakov uses to work a feat of modern-day alchemy: transforming an ordinary papier-mache box into a gilded miniature masterpiece that will tell the story of saints or heroes, fairies or dragons.
Buldakov comes from Palekh, a 700-year-old Russian village where a church’s lavender onion-domes overlook snow-clad houses, a frozen river and a distant birch forest. The town is famous for its beauty, but the rare outsiders who visit come for the varnished boxes that bear its name.
Now, the unique art form, which emerged in the 1920s after the atheist Bolsheviks approved a new medium in which masters of religious icon paintings could use their talents, is struggling to find a reason to exist in capitalist society.
If it disappears entirely, its stunted lifespan will bear vivid testament to the twists of Russia’s turbulent recent history. And Russia will lose one if its hallmark trinkets, the product of an astonishingly high-skilled process.
Paul Goble reports:
The real incomes of the two least-well-off quintiles of the Russian population have fallen since 1991 while those of that two best-off have risen significantly, dramatically increasing income differentiation and potentially exacerbating class-based tensions, according to two studies by the Higher School of Economics.
“If one considers the overall figures concerning how Russia lived in 1990 and 2009,” Andrey Polunin of Svobodnaya Pressa says in reporting on these studies, “it turns out that citizens have only won as a result of reforms. Thus, consumption has gone up overall 1.45 times. But this is like an average temperature in a hospital”.
That is the trend Moscow and its supporters normally report, but if one unpacks the figures as the Higher School of Economics experts do in two reports (“The Level and Way of Life of the Population in 1989-2009” and “A Comparative Analysis of Consumption and Expenditures”), Polunin says, the picture is far more complicated and less positive.
Linguistics expert Michele Berdy, writing in the Moscow Times, exposes the hilarious ignorance of Russians attempting to translate from English. Russians are often outraged by statements made in English that they don’t begin to understand.
It’s late Saturday afternoon, and having finally accepted that spring has been canceled this year, the downcast expat trudges to the local shopping mall. Loaded down with booze and bags of high-calorie food (why not, if you’re never going to take off your parka?), you (downcast expat) trudge to the video store. You stand in front of racks of DVDs, conveniently — for the non-native speaker of Russian — divided into genres like комедия (comedy), мелодрама (melodrama) and триллер (thriller).
Putin is running away from two buzzing Russian letter “zh” characters. In translation, both of the words in the name “Live Journal” — the blogging platform that recently came under determined cyber attack — begin with “zh.”