Category Archives: social services

The Horror of Childbirth in Neo-Soviet Russia

Journalist Natalia Antonova, writing on Foreign Policy’s website:

“Russia needs babies” may as well be the unofficial slogan of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia Party. The country is in a demographic crisis, shedding 2.2 million people (or 1.6 percent of the population) since 2002, and the government is trying to encourage more women to bring Russian citizens into the world. This year, when I unexpectedly got pregnant soon after receiving my visa to work in Moscow, I became a test case.

Since the Soviet days, having a baby in Russia has been commonly understood as a nightmare of understaffed state hospitals and forbidding bureaucratic mazes. Feminist author MariaArbatova‘s My Name is Woman, an alternatively harrowing and hilarious account of childbirth in the 1970s, was the grim reality for many. Arbatova described being left completely unattended during the final stages of labor, which nearly resulted in her death and the death of her twin sons.

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Stuck in a Russian Elevator

Michele Berdy, writing in the Moscow Times, shows bilingually how little different Russia really is from the USSR:

Ваш лифт не сдан: your elevator hasn’t been certified for service

In an old Soviet joke, a hare runs for his life in the forest. A bear asks him why he’s running, and the hare says that camels are being caught and shoed. Bewildered, the bear points out that the hare isn’t a camel. The hare replies: Поймают, подкуют, а потом доказывай, что ты не верблюд (They’ll catch you and put shoes on you, and then go and try to prove that you’re not a camel).

Today доказывай, что ты не верблюд (prove that you’re not a camel) is used any time you can’t prove something obvious to an obstinate bureaucracy.

For example — that you have an elevator.

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EDITORIAL: Putin the Road Hog


Putin the Road Hog

Yet another international survey, yet another laughable, failing, third-world score for Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

This time, it was roads.

According to the World Economic Forum, Russia’s rank among world nations for quality of roads is a shocking #124.  The Moscow Times reports that  “data published by the World Bank suggests that Putin did not prioritize road construction during his rule, with spending on roads falling to 1.5 percent in 2009, compared with 3.5 percent spent by China, from 2.8 percent of GDP in 2000.”

This is just one more example of the absolute failure of leadership by the Putin regime.  While Putin has ignored Russia’s roads and spent money on cold-war provocation (and personal graft for his network of palaces), Russians have continued to favor him with sky-high approval ratings in polls.  As such, Russians get exactly the roads they deserve.

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EDITORIAL: Saved from the Russian Meat Grinder


Saved from the Russian Meat Grinder

If you stare hard at the twin girls pictured above on the left, you’re immediately struck by now much they resemble their mother and father, at right.  But when you look at the background of the photo and learn more about them, you’re even more struck by the fact that these girls are Russian, their parents are American, and they were adopted at the age of two from one of Russia’s infamous hell-hole orphanages.

A quarter million children live in such awful places in Russia, and over three-quarters of them end up convicts, drug addicts or prostitutes.

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The Wolf Pack runs Wild in Putin’s Russia!

This Youtube Video is amazing for two entirely different reasons.

First, it shows a Russian policeman actually stopping a vehicle on the highway for a violation — in this case, only one working headlight.  The norm in Putin’s Russia, of course, would be for a cop to stop a driver for no reason other than to collect a fat, juicy bribe for continued passage.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that this officer didn’t intend to ignore the violation in exchange for such a bribe, just one one of many reasons that Russia’s roads are among the world’s most dangerous.

But even more shocking is what happens next.

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EDITORIAL: The Shameless Fraud called Putin


The Shameless Fraud called Putin

Mr Putin repeatedly praised the quality of the Lada car he was driving, giving valuable free publicity to the car’s struggling Russian manufacturer Avtovaz. However, he admitted he would not be personally driving the vehicle for the entire journey and would sometimes travel in his convoy of expensive foreign-made Jeeps.

Vladimir Putin was off on another one of his utterly absurd publicity stunts last week, this time driving a thousand miles across Russia in a Lada to prove how great the car is and encourage his fellow citizens to purchase one, while at the same time showing his own mettle as a he-man destined to rule Russia for life.

Except that Putin wasn’t driving a Russian Lada most of the time; most of the time, he was riding in an American-made Jeep.

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Now, Putin’s Russia is a Kasha-Free Zone

More spectacular leadership from Vladimir Putin. The Moscow Times reports:

Moscow stores reported a deficit of buckwheat — a regular side dish in Russian cooking — this week as suppliers hiked prices after a two-month drought that ravaged grain crops.

Suppliers of the Sedmoi Kontinent supermarket chain have hiked prices by more than a 100 percent, to 45 rubles per kilogram compared with 22 rubles in early August, the retailer’s spokeswoman Vlada Baranova said Tuesday. She said the company’s stores haven’t run out of buckwheat.

Two customers said they could not find buckwheat at any Auchan supermarkets over the weekend. Auchan declined to comment Tuesday.

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EDITORIAL: Putin Incinerates his Country


Putin Incinerates his Country

Let’s be absolutely clear:  The wildfires that have swept through Russia, killed dozens, wiped out billions in property, and severely constrained the Russian economy, did not just happen on Vladimir Putin’s watch.  That would be bad enough, and grounds for his ouster.  But it is much worse:  These fires are the direct result of Putin’s horrific policies.

Specifically, four years ago Putin gutted the Russian forest protection service. He did so in order to give his fat-cat oligarch pals unfettered access to the forests for logging purposes, and almost certainly received a rich reward for doing so.  Putin’s actions left the government totally unable to prevent the wildfires from occurring, and totally unable to stop them once they started.

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Putin, Clueless as Always, Betrays Russia Again

Yes, that's an American bike he's riding. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin steering a Harley-Davidson Lehman Trike on July 24 as he arrives for a meeting with Russian and Ukrainian bikers in Ukraine's Crimea region. Photo courtsey fo the Moscow Times.

Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:

The Shatursky district has the distinction of being one of the few areas in the Moscow region where not a single home or person suffered from the fires, despite the fact that the area had more dried-out peat bogs — and was thus more fire-prone — than other districts in the region.

Shatursky was spared largely because Andrei Keller, the district’s head, was one of the few administrative chiefs who took preventative measures and moved quickly and decisively when the fires broke out. Amazingly, 1,051 fires had been spotted in the district since April, yet not one of them ever spread beyond 20 hectares to 26 hectares in size. What’s more, Keller declared a state of emergency in the district as early as June 22.

This is a good illustration that in the modern world, there are no natural disasters — only social ones.

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Putin’s Neo-Soviet Apocalypse

Is anyone surprised that Vladimir Putin, a proud KGB spy, is handling the wildfire disaster exactly the way the USSR handled Chernobyl?  Writing in the Moscow Times, Georgy Bovt isn’t:

Russian media started reporting the forest fires in bits and pieces in mid-July, but it only became a full-blown story when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the burned down village of Verkhnyaya Vereya in the Nizhny Novgorod region. He ordered that each fire victim receive the generous sum of 3.5 million rubles ($117,500) in compensation for new housing.

It had seemed that the forest fires, a common phenomenon in Russia, would pass relatively unnoticed this year. But by the time the suffocating smog from the burning forests and peat bogs covered Moscow, the authorities were facing a barrage of questions about the effectiveness of Putin’s power vertical.

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Putin the Dictator, Failing at Every Turn

Hero journalist Yevgenia Albats, writing in the Moscow Times:

For over a month, Moscow has been boiling in heat that has approached and sometimes surpassed 40 degrees Celsius, along with heavy, sticky, eye-burning smog. Carbon monoxide levels have reached crisis levels, at six times the maximum acceptable concentration. Other toxic substances in Moscow’s air are at nine times the normal level.

In early August, a journalist called the office of Mayor Yury Luzhkov, seeking comments on the situation. “The office is closed,” a woman at the press office answered, adding that smog had gotten inside the mayoral building, which is located several hundred meters from the Kremlin, so everyone was ordered to go home. This was a weekday, shortly after lunch. “Is it at all possible to get a comment from Mayor Luzhkov?” the reporter asked. “He is not in Moscow,” the woman replied.

Indeed, there are reports that the mayor’s spokesman had been telling journalists that there is no reason for the mayor to return to Moscow. “Why should he?” said the spokesman. “Is there a crisis in Moscow? No, there is no crisis.”

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EDITORIAL: Putin’s Russia goes up in Flames

Love, Putin style. Courtesy of RIA Novosti.


Putin’s Russia goes up in Flames

We’ve been saying since April 2006 when we started publishing this blog that Putin’s Russia would go up in flames.

But we never thought it would happen this fast, or this literally or relentlessly.

Putin has been unmasked in a truly spectacular and emphatic manner, before the eyes of a slack-jawed world.

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Kiselyov on the Wildfires

Dissident pundit-in-chief Yevgeny Kiselyov, writing in the Moscow Times:

Yevgeny Kiselyov

Despite the cheery promises of the authorities, it seems that the wildfires that have caused a real environmental catastrophe will not end for at least another three weeks — that is if you believe the U.S. State Department’s warning to Americans to think twice about traveling to Russia before Sept. 5. Perhaps the warning stems from the fact that the State Department — in contrast to senior Russian officials like chief public doctor Gennady Onishchenko and members of the state meteorological service — is accustomed to behaving more responsibly toward citizens.

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Putin, Man on Fire

Author Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post:

Red-headed spy Anna Chapman is no longer the hottest thing in Russia. Now it’s the 500 out-of-control wildfires devouring thousands of square miles of the countryside.

This conflagration makes California’s annual blazes look like Boy Scout campfires. The fires have consumed entire villages and ravaged the critical wheat harvest; now they threaten a key nuclear-weapons-research facility. A huge naval logistics base burned — along with 200 helicopters and planes.
But the reputation of Russia’s new czar, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, may have been scorched worst of all.

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While Russia burned, Putin Sang

A modern Russian fire truck rushing down a modern Russian road. courtesy of the New York Times

“Why the [expletive] do we need an innovation center in Skolkovo if we don’t have common firefighting vehicles?”

— Russian blogger top_lap

Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:

Since the first wildfires started a month ago, 125,000 hectares of Russia’s forest have been destroyed in 17 regions, and 40 people have died.

Russia’s statistics on casualties from fires have always differed drastically from those in the West. For example, four firefighters died during wildfires in Washington state in 2001. Nine firefighters died in Colorado in 2002. Eleven firefighters died during Spain’s fires of 2005. Only one firefighter has died during this summer’s fires in Russia.

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Russia, Melting

Jim Heinz, Moscow correspondent for the Associated Press, reports:

As Moscow’s record heatwave began, I threw open all the screenless windows in my apartment, hoping for some breeze — but mostly what I got was visits from bugs and, briefly, an inquisitive crow. Then, tendrils of the acrid smoke from the peat-bog fires surrounding the city wafted in, bringing nausea and dry-mouth.

The recommendation of Russia’s top doctor to hang wet sheets at the windows to block the smoke just makes the rooms more stifling. With no end in sight to the misery, another doctor’s advice may be the only one thing that brings relief — think as little as possible. In my 11 years in Moscow, the most frequent question from friends abroad has been “Aren’t the winters tough?” Maybe so. But Russians handle winter with aplomb — fur hats, afternoons in steamy bathhouses, long evenings gulping warming vodka around the table in toasty kitchens.

The country’s not geared for summer, however.

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A Country Ruled by Amoebas

Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:

Moscow road workers closed the bridge on Leningradskoye Shosse without any forewarning, leaving only one of three lanes open in one direction and backing up traffic to Sheremetyevo Airport for hours. As a result, thousands of passengers missed their flights and Aeroflot suffered losses of 700,000 euros ($877,000) on the first day alone.

This kind of stupidity happens only in Russia — or maybe Zimbabwe as well. Where else would the authorities effectively shut down the only road leading to an international airport? In Europe, they have to contend with volcanoes. In Moscow, we have Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Sheremetyevo Airport director Mikhail Vasilenko said the problems were an underhanded attempt by Luzhkov to drive people away from using Sheremetyevo and toward the city’s other major airport, Vnukovo, which is opening a new terminal this month and happens to be owned by City Hall.

But Vasilenko’s claim is based on an implausible assumption — that an amoeba is capable of making a plan. It can’t. An amoeba can only eat.

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Essel on the Russian Road

Russian Roads – An Oxymoron

by Dave Essel

My translation of Yulia Latynina’s piece from Yezhedevny Zhurnal in today’s issue shows what has come of Russia’s efforts to build a competitor to Silicon Valley.  Meanwhile, one cannot help but be reminded of other pressing Russian issues that may be getting left behind.

No Westerner who has not been to Russia, for instance, can truly grasp what a Russian means by bad roads (or, by the same token – a “good” Russian road). In fact, some of the infrastructure labelled road or highway in Russia would be deemed impassable by loggers in Oregon.

As I translated the road section of  Milov/Nemtsov’s latest report, I could not help googling for things about roads in Russia. Laughing just to keep from crying should be the supreme Russian phrase and not a line from the Delta.

I collected a few pictures for fun.

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Putin’s Russia: Poor, sick and Ignorant . . . Forever!

Boris Kagarlitsky (sure no Russophobe, he), writing in the Moscow Times:

When initial reports appeared in the media that a new bill had been introduced that would alter the way the state regulates education, the arts and social services, many people refused to believe that it would actually be passed. But when deputies actually passed the bill, hope still remained that President Dmitry Medvedev would not sign it. But the law has been passed and signed.

The document is a death sentence for universal access to education and health care. By introducing a per capita financing structure, the law makes it financially impossible for rural and small-town schools, hospitals and clinics to continue functioning. Those that do continue operating will be forced to lower the quality of their work. This is because under the new law, the more students a teacher instructs and the more patients a doctor treats, the greater the funding their host institutions will receive from the state. In addition, schools, hospitals, museums and universities that currently receive insufficient state funding to cover their operating expenses will go bankrupt and close.

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EDITORIAL: Another Nauseating new Low for Russia


Another Nauseating new Low for Russia

You may think the photograph above is just another imagine of Vladimir Putin’s goons assaulting one of the “Solidarity” opposition movement’s members at a peaceful rally in Moscow.  But if you think that, you’re very much mistaken.

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Latynina on the Mine Explosion

Latynina with Condoleezza Rice

Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:

On the night of May 8-9 at the Raspadskaya coal mine in the town of Mezhdurechensk in the Kemerovo region, two huge explosions took the lives of 90 miners. Because the country was celebrating Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s World War II victory that day, few paid any attention to the blasts. While Muscovites enjoyed the grandiose May 9 festivities, poor families in Mezhdurechensk mourned the loss of their loved ones.

After the tragedy, surviving coal miners and their families blocked a Siberian railway and clashed with riot police in Mezhdurechensk. After that incident, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev declared that they were not real miners, and that “enemies” were behind the protests.

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EDITORIAL: Summer time, but the Livin’ Ain’t Easy in Russia


Summer time, but the Livin’ Ain’t Easy in Russia

It’s summer time in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and that means just one thing:  No hot water.

Nearly half of all Russians in the city of Moscow will be forced to heat water on their stove tops if they want to take a hot bath, carrying pot after pot to the tub.

But the Muscovites are Russia’s rich, and lucky. Each of them will likely go without hot water for only a few weeks.   Travel farther away from the capital, and you’ll find many cities that will go without hot water all summer long.

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Kadyrov on Pushkin

Paul Goble reports:

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has done many things that one might reasonably expect would offend people of good will in Russia, but now he and his administration have taken a step certain to offend many of them: suggesting that Chechen pupils that Russia’s national poet Aleksandr Pushkin wanted everyone to study the Koran.

In an article in yesterday’s Gazeta, Olesya Gerasimenko notes that Chechnya is one of the 19 regions of the Russian Federation in which the foundations of religious culture and civic ethics has been introduced, with 99.64 percent of all pupils there selecting Islam as their course of study. Only 73 of the 20,000 students in the fourth class, the Moscow journalist says, have chosen to study Orthodoxy. And that tilt, she continues, is reinforced by two other developments, one that has attracted some attention and another that few Russians appear to know about.

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EDITORIAL: The Putin Holocaust


The Putin Holocaust

“All the vices of our bureaucracy were exposed by this tragedy. Its incompetence, corruption and links to businesses. We need legal changes strengthening criminal punishment for bureaucrats for violations in control and supervision area.  They simply signed fake documents. Did they not know about it? Of course they knew. Where did the municipal authorities look? Why did they close their eyes?”

That was dictator Vladimir Putin’s response to the holocaust in Perm that, by last Friday, had killed over 140 Russians.  He did not acknowledge that his country has one of the worst fire fatality rates on the planet.  He did not accept blame for having done nothing in ten years in power to alter that rate.  He did not acknowledge what his own remarks clearly prove, that the survey results of transparency International, so often attacked as “russophobic” by Russian nationalists, are in fact deadly accurate in declaring that Russia is one of the most corrupt societies on the planet.  He did not accept blame for having done nothing in ten years of power to alter that reality either.

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One Photo is Worth a thousand Screams

The toll of fire fatalities at the “Khromaya Loshad” night club in Perm (pictured, left) has risen to 125, with 100 more currently hospitalized, many of them in critical condition.

At least 15 children lost both their parents in the conflagration.

Many of the victims were killed not by fire or smoke but by being stampeded by fellow Russians fighting to get out the only exit.

After the jump, shocking pictures from the scene reveal bodies stacked like cord wood in the streets, shirtless burned men standing without medical attention in the freezing cold, clueless party goers moments before hell broke loose, and the horrifically bleak burial conditions met by those who did not survive. They also show the special plane that was needed to carry burn victims from Siberia to Moscow because Perm, a major Russian city, lacks sufficient medical facilities to care for them.  You can also watch video from inside the club here and read a Russian blogger’s first-hand account of the events in English here.

We would like to ask:  Mr. Putin, why do you have money to buzz the USA with nuclear bombers and send weapons of war to the crazed Islamists in Iran but not to provide burn treatment in Perm?

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