Russian film director Andrei “Russophobe” Konchalovsky, writing on Open Democracy:
“Cursed be those who express our thoughts before us!”
— Aelius Donatus, Roman grammarian and teacher of rhetoric
Donatus, living in ancient Rome, was fortunate – he wanted to be the first to express a seditious thought. If I, living in today’s Russia, wish to express an opinion that someone might find offensive, I need to attribute it to some recognised authority, ideally an eminent Russian thinker. Otherwise I will be accused of every sin in general, and of hatred of everything Russian in particular.
So, here are my thoughts.
The Brutality of “Normal Life” in Vladimir Putin’s Russia
In our issue today we republish two stories about ordinary life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. One story involves an adventure with an elevator, the other with childbirth. They are absolutely required reading for anyone who is interested in understanding what is going on in Russia today.
Anyone who has spent any time living a real life in Putin’s Russia will instantly recognize the truth and the horror reflected in these stories. And nobody who has not lived in Russia can truly appreciate how awful it is to experience so-called “life” of this kind up close and personal. This is what it means to live in a neo-Soviet state ruled by a proud KGB spy. It sucks.
But let’s be perfectly clear: The people of Russia are not the innocent victims of this type of horror. To the contrary, their reckless and irresponsible behavior is the root cause of it.
Simon Shuster, writing for Time magazine’s website:
Alexander Smirnov has never gotten over the euphoria of August 1991. He was a college student in Leningrad at the time, lanky and pale with Coke-bottle glasses, and on the morning of Aug. 20, 1991, he walked out onto the central square of the city to find a sea of people taking part in one of the largest demonstrations Russia had ever seen. The day before, a military coup had begun.
The heads of the KGB, the army and police, along with a few other obdurate communists, had seized control of the Soviet Union from President Mikhail Gorbachev, and ordered tanks into Moscow to impose a state of emergency. In response, hundreds of thousands of people went onto the streets across the empire to stop the return of the bad old days of the Communist state. “We were prepared to lay down in front of the tanks,” Smirnov says. And in Moscow a few of them did. Only three days after the military junta began, the civil resistance defeated it. On Aug. 22, the coup leaders were arrested, and the Soviet Union never recovered. Four months later, on Christmas Day, it was dissolved.
Here Come the Russian Rapists
Russia and its Real Men
Russians are fond of working themselves up in to a state of high outrage whenever they hear stories about Russians being abused in foreign lands (like the recent incident in which a Russian adoptee was made to drink hot sauce
by his new mother, or the incident where a mother returned her adopted child to Russia).
But good luck getting Russians to manage as much as a yawn when they learn about shocking acts of abuse by Russians against foreigners — that is, if state-sponsored Russian media even report such incidents at all, which they usually do not.
Take for instance the brutal gang-rape of a young Malaysian student at Bellerbys College in London, where tuition is £30,000 ($50,000) a year. The wolf pack of four Russian students who drugged and then attacked her over the course of more than two hours, filming the savage assault with a cell phone and “celebrating like footballers” as they mauled the helpless fellow student, showed “callous disregard for (the victim) as a human being and a callous disregard for her as anything other than an object” according to the judge who sentenced them to prison in Woolwich Crown Court.
Briton in Russia Clare Taylor, blogging at the Moscow Times, explains what it’s like to face the Russian retail establishment, which is in no significant way different from what it was in Soviet times. It sees customers as an annoying problem and it is not equipped or interested enough to deal with them properly. This is why Russian can’t compete in international markets and can’t attract a large number of tourists. (FYI, children don’t have the experience to know when shoes fit properly, and therefore can’t help parents when seeking to determine if they do. That’s why careful parents want their kids’ feet measured when buying new shoes.)
Back in May, my sons were in need of new shoes, and, I must admit, I had been putting it off. I was hoping against hope that the canvas sneakers I picked up for them in London on a solo trip over there in April would stay the course until our summer break when we would be back in the land of less expensive and — crucially — expertly fitted footwear. What’s that you say? Muscovite children wear shoes, too, and amazingly, they even fit? That fact is obviously true, but based on our experiences shoe shopping in Moscow, for the life of me I can’t work out how.
The Ghastly Horror of Russian Barbarism
It’s really amazing how, no matter what horrific and repugnant thing you may have seen from Russia, the country can always surprise you with something even more vile tomorrow.
What would you say if we told you, for instance, that the bus shown above is “home” to dozens – that’s right dozens — of helpless animals?
What if one of them was a super-famous animal celebrity, who had performed at a nationally famous circus, in feature films and even at the Olympic Games?
What if that celebrity, Katya the Bear, now “spends the long hours jumping up and down in her cage and trying to crack the rusty metal railings with her chipped and yellowed teeth”?
Well, it’s the case. In fact, here she is:
Alina Simone, a singer, blogging at the New York Times:
A Russian acquaintance of mine who grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, recently told me that her father microwaved his orange juice. Her grandmother also used to heat her ice cream in a saucepan on the stove. She remembers once asking her grandmother why it was even called “ice” cream, when by all rights it should be called warm cream, or maybe hot cream. “Things have all kinds of crazy names,” her grandmother snapped back. “How should I know?”
If you were born in the Soviet Union and are of a certain age, ice is your enemy. As the daughter of émigrés from Ukraine, I was raised on room-temperature beverages and always associated ice with a raft of great American stuff other kids were allowed to have but I wasn’t: puppies, sheet cake, fun. My own grandmother would cringe from a glass of ice water as if it were a syringe of Ebola virus. To this day I have no idea what disease she associated with the consumption of cold liquids. Pneumonia? Athlete’s foot? Chlamydia?
Why do Russians hate ice? I called my dad and posed the question.
Russia, Uncivilized, Reckless and Suicidal
Russia has the ninth highest murder rate on this planet, higher than any other major industrialized nation. No other nation in the world has a higher divorce rate. Only only four nations drink more alcohol. By contrast, Russia doesn’t even rank in the top 125 nations of the world for life expectancy.
If a person showed this kind of absolute, grim and dismal failure, a psychiatrist would no doubt classify him as a suicide risk. Indeed, Russia seems to be, for all the world, an entire nation hellbent on suicide — and indeed only five countries on this planet have people more likely to commit suicide than Russians.
Many intelligent people would suggest that there is a direct connection between Russia’s place in the world’s top ten for murder, suicide and divorce and its top-ten position for alcohol abuse. Certainly, the Russian government sees it that way. For this reason the Kremlin has launched a policy of open warfare with alcohol, dramatically increasing taxes on both vodka and beer (a drink which, until recently, Russia classified as a “food”).
But the notion that Russia can solve its problem of alcohol abuse using brute force measures like taxation is abject nonsense.
The Russian Volga cruise ship Bulgaria
At 8:19 am EST on Sunday, July 10, 2011, the Washington Post published a wire story on its website from the Associated Press about the sinking of the Bulgaria (shown above in happier times), a fifty-year-old tourist vessel plying the Volga River in Russia more than a mile off shore and near the village of Syukeyevo in the Kansko-Ustinovsky district of the Republic of Tatarstan. Two minutes later the New York Times published a wire story from Reuters about the same event. The reports followed the event by about three hours. Since then, the two papers have altered the reports substantially because the information they reported was totally false.
The AP story, relying on a male spokesperson for the Russian Emergencies Ministry, said that 61 of the 173 people who were on the vessel (140 passengers and 33 crew) were missing. The Reuters story, relying on a female spokesperson for the same ministry, said the number missing was 96 of 173.
Various Kremlin spokespeople then began claiming that the vast majority of the passengers had been rescued. Acting as if the Russian government were a responsible, intelligent organization that could be trusted, innumerable Western news outlets began reporting these claims.
Then all hell broke loose.
Michael Bohm, writing in the Moscow Times:
It is often said Russians don’t smile much, while Americans smile too much.
In general, the American smile has a terrible reputation in Russia. The campaign started in the early Soviet era. Look at the sinister smiles on old agitprop posters of caricatural “U.S. imperialists” wearing trademark cylinder hats, smoking cigars, salivating and smiling as they relished their piles of money and power over the world’s exploited classes.
Later, starting from the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras and continuing until the late 1980s, the Soviet print and television media carried regular reports called “Their Customs,” which focused on contemptible bourgeois lifestyles in the United States and other Western countries.
You’re a sick man, Vova!
For us here at La Russophobe, the single most damning fact about the Russian people that anyone can point to is that they find Vladimir Zhirinovsky amusing, even sexy. That this is possible betrays all you need to know about the fundamental corruption, the vile and odious horror, that is Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky personifies the very worst that a Russian can be.
Ignorant, crude, violent, sloppy, horrifying, disgusting, vile and worthless, Zhirinovsky is an oozing pustule of slime on the buttocks of a corrupt, malignant jackass of a country. Naturally, Russians adore him, continually reelect him to the Duma and cover him with laurels, power and wealth.
But even by his standards, last week was a new low.
Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times, asks why her countrymen are so pathetically spineless:
In an interview with Gazeta.ru, Natalya Vasilyeva, assistant to Judge Viktor Danilkin in the second criminal case against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said Danilkin had to obtain approval from the Moscow City Court — and higher — for each of his actions, and that the city court wrote the verdict that Danilkin read at the trial.
There were two surprising things about the interview with Vasilyeva. The first is her claim that Danilkin considered the process unjust and was out of sorts as a result. If that is true, it is unexpected because people tend to rationalize their actions. I find it hard to believe that the average NKVD officer really considered himself an inhumane executioner, despite the historical record showing him to be exactly that.
The second is that, if Vasilyeva spoke the truth, it is amazing how easily Danilkin buckled under pressure and sold out his ideals. After all, what would have happened to him if he had acquitted Khodorkovsky?
Julia Ioffe, writing on Slate:
One evening in Moscow, Tanya (not her real name) found herself at a dinner table with a group of friends, most of them married couples. One of the men started to tell a story about the coda to a recent guys’ night out. He’d stumbled home the next morning to his wife and two children—a 2-year-old and an infant—to find that he’d forgotten his underwear. Everyone at the dinner table, including the man’s wife, laughed at the story: the hijinks!
Wandering spouses have become a common trope for the women of Moscow. “Men’s environment here pushes them towards cheating,” Tanya told me, adding that, these days, a boys’ night out in Russia often involves prostitutes. Tanya and her friends are young, educated, upper-middle-class Muscovites, but talk to any woman in Moscow, and, regardless of age, education, or income level, she’ll have a story of anything from petty infidelity to a parallel family that has existed for decades. Infidelity in Moscow has become “a way of life,” as another friend of mine put it—accepted and even expected.
Remembering the Horror of Russia’s Mayak Atrocity
A recent independent news report out of Australia reminds the world of what Russia has become under the “leadership” of Vladimir Putin — a toxic waste dump, the world’s nuclear toilet.
Russians, you see, hate it when foreigners look down on them and use them to wipe their feet — until Russians don’t hate it, and actually encourage it. It seems Russians have absolutely no problem with such attitudes by foreigners if Vladimir Putin, their anointed holy deity, is the one encouraging them to happen.
What a country! The details of Russia’s toxic nuclear quagmire are truly shocking, but even more so is the Kremlin’s total failure to try to protect Russians from the nightmare, and indeed its taking every possible step to make the problem much worse..
Russia is Snob Nation
A recent item in the New Yorker magazine reveals Russia descending to yet another new low. It discusses the latest venture of the Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who has chosen to invest vast sums in American, rather than Russian, professional basketball. It is a magazine called Snob that the New Yorker describes as looking “like a cross between Tatler and The New York Review of Books, printed on the kind of paper stock usually reserved for royal invitations” with “an alarming cover price of eight dollars.” The New Yorker attended its opening night in New York City, and described it as follows:
Posted in arts/letters, editorial, journalism, journalists, russia, russian people
Tagged Alexander Melamid, Aliona Doletskaya, Mikhail Prokhorov, Nicole Kidman, russia, Vitaly Komar
Oleg Kashin, Russian journalist under attack
Last weekend leading Russian journalist Oleg Kashin lay in an induced coma after being brutally beaten in Moscow by Russian assailants who broke his fingers, cracked his skull and left him for dead. Kashin’s reporting on controversial subjects like Kaliningrad for the maverick Kommersant publishing group directly challenged the Kremlin’s authority and basic anti-democratic policies, and it seems they could no longer be tolerated. In a shocking trivialization of the incident, Russian “president” Dima Medvedev actually Twittered about it, writing “the criminals must be found and punished.” This appears right next to his remarks about cheeseburgers with Barack Obama and other nonsensical, childlike babblings. Julia Ioffe writes:
Many pointed instantly at United Russia’s youth wing, Molodaya Gvardia, which openly threatened Kashin in an August article on its website. It was titled, in the hyperbolic, hyphenated language of early Soviet propaganda, “Journalist-traitors need to be punished!” “They have betrayed their homeland, they have spit on their civic duty!” it blared, adding Kashin to a list of others needing to be punished.
Simultaneously, a horrific mass killing in the Krasnodar region was being reported, with a whole household massacred by knife-wielding maniacs and then set ablaze in their own home, including numerous children.
And to complete this trifecta of savagery, the Sunday Times published a devastating, shocking translation of a text written by a Russian solider describing his acts of perversion and bloodthirsty barbarism in Chechnya.
Nobody — but nobody — can read these three accounts and conclude anything but that Russia is an uncivilized, bloodthirsty nation, and that the people of Russia are just as guilty in these crimes as the perpetrators because they stand mute at best, at worst actively encourage both governmental and non-governmental criminals to continue their bloody rampage.
Russian Humiliation on American TV
Even we who have nothing but scorn and contempt for the manner in which most Russians have behaved over the past decade, choosing to be ruled by a proud KGB spy and watching him roll back their wretched state to Soviet-era darkness, were somewhat appalled by the humiliation Russia received at the hands of the American TV show “The Amazing Race” in its recent episode which took place in Russia.
In a startlingly accurate set of images from the environs of St. Petersburg, Russia was exposed as a backwards nation reeking of cow manure and languishing in the darkness of the past. Loud and obnoxious, crude and vulgar, dirty and bedraggled, that was the image of Russia that millions of Americans saw depicted on the show. Americans roared with laughter as the contestants were forced to dress up like “babushkas” with kerchiefs and ill-fitting dresses to shovel cow poop and “dig potatoes” as the Russians say.
For all viewers could see, Russia was little different from the prior stop on the contestant’s list, namely the impoverished African nation of Ghana. Surveys clearly show, of course, that Russia keeps company with such states when it comes to topics like official corruption and democracy.
America and her Russian “Guests“
Once again, a small army of toxic, venal Russian invaders has been discovered within America’s shores. First it was a nest of spies led by the Mata Hari wannabe Anna Chapman, and now it is cyber criminals.
Russia is an Uncivilized Monstrosity
An exhibit opened last week in Berlin, Germany, whose purpose is to confront the people of Germany directly with the active support — indeed, adoration — given by their ancestors to the maniacal regime of Adolf Hitler. The New York Times reports:
As artifacts go, they are mere trinkets — an old purse, playing cards, a lantern. Even the display that caused the crowds to stop and stare is a simple embroidered tapestry, stitched by village women. The household items had Nazi logos and colors. The tapestry, a tribute to the union of church, state and party, was woven by a church congregation at the behest of their priest.
The same exact thing, of course, was true of Russians during the time of Stalin, and Stalin ended up murdering far more people than Hitler ever dreamed of doing. But instead of facing up to their hideous past as Germans are doing, Russians prefer to rewrite their past with absurd lies and misdirections, and now Russians are weaving new tapestries of exaltation to Stalin and his ilk. Indeed, they’ve even elected a proud KGB spy from the Brezhnev era as their “president.”
Pretty much everything went according to plan with the Carolina Hurricanes‘ recent historic trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. And if it weren’t for actually having to play an exhibition game there, the trip might have been the perfect precursor to the NHL’s staging a regular-season game in Moscow.
But the Hurricanes did end up playing an Oct. 4 exhibition game against St. Petersburg, and the game turned into an ugly affair with Carolina coach Paul Maurice pulling his No. 1 goaltender, Cam Ward, and top forward, Eric Staal, out of the contest for fear they would be injured.
Russia, Nation of Lab Rats
Last week the world learned that it may finally have found a use for Russia apart from as a nuclear waste dumping ground: Russians make great lab rats.
Yes, it’s true: If you’d like to experiment with dangerous new “medications” on real live human subjects, there’s no place on earth you’d rather be than Vladimir Putin’s Russia.