Tag Archives: dave essel

Another Original LR Translation: The Whirlpool of Russian Madness

A Note from the Translator:  Some people in Russia – sadly few in number – see and understand the ever enlarging whirlpool of madness into which the country is being engulfed. Here are three ‘fun’ items from last week’s Novaya Gazeta, a special issue subtitled “Encyclopedia of Bureaucratic Idiocy: Can there be any hope for a country where such stupidity reigns?”

The Whirlpool of Russian Madness

Novaya Gazeta

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

Sergei Kuzhegetovich Shoigu [TN:  Russia's Minister of Emergency Situations] has proposed that that it be made a criminal offence to deny that the USSR was victorious in the Great Patriotic War.

We have chosen Mr. Shoigu as our “Man of the Issue,” in particular because Yuri Chaika, our Prosecutor General, seconds the choice. Shoiga has done well to take this matter so much to heart: it’s a very serious thing to entertain doubts about Russia’s victories nowadays! Shouldn’t we be doing more than he proposes, however? We suggest that there should be a 2-year sentence for denying that Russia is rising up from its knees, one year for each lying rug-burnt knee! It should also be a criminal offence to deny that Zenit won the European Cup and Bilan the Eurovision contest. A suspended sentence would probably do in the latter case – on condition that the accused expresses regret.

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Another Original LR Translation: Jobless in Russia

Thousands of AvtoVAZ (Lada) workers may lose their jobs

Grani. ru

4 March 2009

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

Twelve and a half thousand AvtoVAZ workers have been temporarily laid off and there are plans to make 3200 of them redundant, announced Minister of Public Health and Social Development Tatyana Golikova at a session of the Federation Council. AvtoVAZ ‘s press office advised that the assembly line is currently at a complete standstill because of a shortage of components and that no date had been set for re-starting it.

Golikova went on to say that the government has allocated 12 billion roubles for government departments to purchase Russian-made automobiles. Her ministry said that most of these purchase would be made from AvtoVAZ. However, she herself went on to say that in her view this step would be “clearly unequal” to the task of ensuring employment at the plant.

AvtoVAZ employed 104,000 people as of Qtr4 2008. 6.1 million people are considered unemployed in Russia today – that’s the number of people that government statistics agency Rosstat counts as actively seeking work. At the same meeting, Golikova also mentioned that 1.97 million people are registered as unemployed at labour exchanges.

Another Original LR Translation: The Sochi Farce

Translator’s Note: On Wednesday LR carried a fairly negative report from Der Spiegel about the forthcoming Olympic fiasco. However, it was bouncy upbeat European in comparison to what I had just been reading in Novaya Gazeta. See below.

Oligarchs Aren’t “Go”

Yevgeni Titov

Novaya Gazeta

25 February 2009

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

Is the state going to have to rescue Potanin and Deripaska’s businesses in order for the Sochi Olympics to happen?


Construction costs for the Sochi sports venues have gone down by 15%, declared deputy-premier for the Olympics Dmitri Kozak at a meeting with prime minister Vladimir Putin. According to the deputy minister, an expert review of the project documentation was able to find ways to make the saving. However, given that food, transport, and utility prices are rising, making the Olympics cheaper seems a rather doubtful proposition. Especially if one takes into account that construction of the venues has not started and building workers are not getting paid. One gets the impression that Olympic optimism is directly but inversely proportional to the depth of the economic crisis. Especially at the venues that Russia’s former Forbes-list billionaires and business giants are responsible for. Novaya Gazeta’s correspondent visited Sochi to see for himself how preparations for the Olympics were going. No venues were to be seen and he was left only with questions.

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Another Original LR Translation: The Nemtsov White Paper, Volume III

Putin and the Crisis


by Boris Nemtsov and Vladmir Milov

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

Click here for PDF version.

A note from the Translator:  The authors have provided this third installment in their White Paper series to Novaya Gazeta and Grani.ru for publication. “Putin and the Crisis” will also be published in brochure form. The authors are Boris Nemtsov (First Vice Premier of the Government of the RF 1997-98) and Vladimir Milov (RF Deputy Minister of Energy in 2002). Both are members of the Bureau of Solidarity, the united democratic movement. This is the authors’ third White Paper. The first two –-  “Putin: The Bottom Line” and “Putin and Gazprom” are well-known both in Russia and abroad and were translated into English by this blog.  They have been censored by the Kremlin.

Official propaganda would have it that this crisis is a “made in the USA” event and that the mistaken economic policies of the American government are the root cause of all our misfortunes in Russia. It is true that the origins of the crisis lie in America; however the crisis that has developed in Russia is far more serious and painful than in the West. We are facing a deep devaluation of the rouble – over 50%, the collapse of our stock markets where the indices have dropped 75% (40% in the USA), a budget deficit of 20% in December 2008 (not equalled even during the collapse of the USSR), a 36% drop in rail transport volumes in early 2009, a fall in ferrous & non-ferrous metals output, a rise of over 1 million unemployed, a sharp reduction in real salaries, rising poverty and the destruction of the middle classes.

Why did the crisis virus hit Russia’s economy so hard?

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Another Original LR Translation: YeZhe on the Gas War

A note from the translator:  It’s a refreshing change to see Russians excoriating Europeans deservedly! Here is Yezhednevny Zhurnal columnist Matvei Ganapolski’s take on the recent ‘gas war’. The journalists of Yezhednevny Zhurnal, Grani.ru, Novaya Gazeta have most certainly earned the right to speak to the West on the subject of principledness, courage, and honour. Europe is a disgrace to its name and history. The only country that still seems to hold the banner up is the USA. My inauguration wish is that it should continue so to do.

What an unbelievable farce!

by Matvei Ganapolski

Yezhednevny Zhurnal

21 January 2009

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

Whoever was worried about the Russo-Ukrainian gas jamboree that has been shaking Europe can now heave a sigh of relief – it has come to an end with a deafening plop. However, this plop is not just the long-awaited sound of the gas valve to Europe opening but also of the failure to find the true reason why the gas was turned off in the first place.

One wonders if Europe will ever realise that it not only watched but actually took part in one of the grandest settling of accounts ever – wonderfully choreographed by Russia and the Ukraine.

So who directed the event and what was the libretto?

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Another Original LR Translation: Milov on the Gas War

Vladimir Milov

Vladimir Milov

A note from the translator: Russians can get clear information from a few remaining sources in their country. For example, here is an article by one of my favourite politicians, Vladimir Milov, published recently in one such brave source – Novaya Gazeta. In fact, I like this paper so much that I have bought subscriptions to it for a number of friends and acquaintances around Russia. This leads me to two hopes: 1) that my money (not much, really!) isn’t wasted and that they get the paper to the end of the year since I imagine it could be closed down at any moment by the neo-nazis in the Kremlin and b) that being the recipient of such a paper doesn’t get them arrested by those same N-N in the K under the vicious new legislation constantly being brought in to control the Russia’s unfortunate populace.

Pipe Cleaners

Vladimir Milov

Novaya Gazeta

11 January 2009

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

This now yearly gas skirmish suits both the Russian and the Ukrainian élites because it moves the gas into no man’s land and increases profits at both ends of the pipe while allowing both parties to blame the political problems on each other.

Can a Gas War be Avoided?

I have come to the conclusion that Gazprom intended all along to cut off the flow of gas into the Ukraine.

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Another Original LR Translation: The Perils of Putinomics

A note from the translator:  The whole world has been laughing at Pooty’s potty potted pearls of market wisdom. Old Poot just can’t learn not to toot! Every time the KGB goon turned ‘prime minister’ shoots his mouth off about the economy, it costs the Russian taxpayer another billion or two, plus kickbacks! Why do they put up with it? Anyway, LR did in an article on this yesterday. Of course, the matter did not pass unnoticed in sensible Russia either. Here is Dmitri Oreshkin of Yezhednevny Zhurnal on the matter. If only more Russian could see the good sense that some of their compatriots are writing.

The Market as Mirror

by Dmitri Oreshkin

Ezhedevny Zhurnal

3 December 2008 

Translated from the Russian by David Essel

Prime Minister V.V. Putin said the way in which the stock market set the value of the Russian economy was “deformed and unfair”. This is a statement to remember since it reflects the PM’s conceptions of economic deformity and and economic justice.

These conceptions are deeply rooted in a Soviet ignorance that genuinely does not comprehend why “greenbacks” with nothing material backing them up are highly valued while the Soviet rouble, backed by mountains of natural resources, is priced so cheaply.

It’s not fair!

But let’s be serious. The trouble is that money and shares are not at all what they seem to be in the eyes of our economic gurus brought up in the materialistic traditions [of the USSR].

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Another Original LR Translation: Beslan and the KGB

A note from the translator: The following article which I have translated from Novaya Gazeta raises a number of very pertinent questions about what exactly was going on at the Beslan tragedy. If true, and I can see no reason to doubt that it is, the Beslan tragedy may be more a crime of state terrorism than Islamic terrorism. The information, collected by Ella Kesayeva, co-chairman of the All-Russian Voice of Beslan Public Organisation, certainly raises some very nasty doubts and suspicions that this is yet another criminally botched Russian secret police operation along the lines of the Moscow flat bombings, the Nord-Ost theatre debacle, the Litvinenko murder, and so on. In my translation below, I have mostly rendered the interminable and semi-mystical acronyms for the various police, state security, and other legal institutions by their Latin letters. Russian bureaucracy, in law-enforcement too, is labyrinthine. I think that for the most part it is sufficient to remember that any acronym with VD in it means “cops” of one sort or another from the Ministry of the Interior and any acronym with FSB somewhere in it means “KGB goon of one sort or another” from the Federal Security Service. The precise body can be ascertained by those who wish to do so by reconverting the Latin letters into Cyrillic.

Terrorists or Agents?

Strange facts about the Beslan Tragedy

by Ella Kesayeva

 Novaya Gazeta

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

The investigation into the Beslan tragedy is now into its fifth year but no clear answer has yet been provided to one of the main questions: precisely how many terrorists were there at Beslan and who were they? According to the investigators’ version, the terrorist group was composed of 33 people. The identities of most of them were established from their fingerprints. This means that all these terrorists must, at one time or another, have been registered by the North Caucasus regional UBOP and UFSB [anti-organised crime police and KGB, in our parlance], been on the wanted list, been detained or arrested, or in some cases condemned.

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Essel on Imperium

Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński

A book review by Dave Essel

imperiumI find Western Europe’s foreign and domestic political outlook more and more weak-kneed, morally relativistic, and appeasement oriented. In a word – deplorable. But them I’m a Brit and therefore an involuntary member of the European Union. Clear-sightedness is to be sought elsewhere, in certain quarters across the Atlantic but also, and importantly for the Russian theatre, in Eastern Europe, where the stance is clear and the knowledge direct. Nowhere more so, it seems to me, than in Poland, whose citizens have had centuries of experience in dealing with the Bear.

I was therefore delighted to come across this by no means new book – Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński – the other day. Herewith a couple of excerpts which I think demonstrate the peculiar genius of the Polish way of thinking (and of the author, of course).

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Another Original LR Translation: Essel on the Russia Motorcar

pics1A note from the translator:  I’m not the sort to deny myself or feel guilty about Schadenfreude, particularly when it comes to Russia and the Russian “élite” (whom I wouldn’t let come nearer me or mine than a – preferably spiked – barge pole would permit). So I couldn’t resist translating this for LR readers. (It was either this or more on the freon submarine).

That however, would have been more of the same – underfunded shipyard, loss of specialists, unpaid subcontractors, what one can expect for mothballing a complex piece of engineering for 22 years, poor planning of systems upgrades, and so on and so forth. The usual for Russia.

This, therefore, was the better laugh. Not feeling easy in a Bentley . . . The Rich are Selling Their Premium Class Vehicles; Working Folk are Buying Them.

Pavel Kalygin, “Our anti-crisis correspondent”

Novaya Gazeta

15 November 2008

Translated by Dave Essel

The world crisis is steadily worming its way into stranger and stranger places, confounding our dreams of stability and undermining our way of life and habits. The middle class is already profoundly affected and has lost everything: creditworthiness, quarterly bonuses, free lunches… But the premium class is striving to stand firm against the crisis. It is not proving easy for them as I discovered when I took a trip to the Rublevka and saw the scale of the damage, the actual costs of their battle. I was shaken: a Porsche Cayenne S, fresh from the factory in March this year, going for a mere 1,5 million roubles (~$55K)…

“That’s mind-boggling!” I said to Maxim Denisov, the manager of this second-hand car dealership on the Rublevka. “It’s worth twice that.”

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Another Original LR Translation: Of mice and men and submarines

A note from the translator:  One of the things I find most striking about Russia’s recent misadventure with its submarine is how little sense is being written about it. This is one of the best I could find. Yet, it, too, disappoints – in a very Russian way. Here we have a professional, writing a popular explanation in what is left of Russia’s free press. Well and good. But he too suffers from a peculair Russian syndrome. The question that immediately occurred to me – and I am sure it would to any Western reader – was: how is fire prevention and firefighting done on the submarines of other countries? The author of the article below writes as if submarines are only made in Russia. [Any submariners out there among LR’s readers willing to enlighten me/us?] Why do Russians always have to re-invent the wheel? This clearly sensible writer appears to live on an island called Russia, just like the people he disapproves of.

Of Pikes and Freon

by Alexander Pokrovsky, Submariner and Author

Novaya Gazeta

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

“On 8 Novermber at 20:30 local time, the multipurpose submarine Nerpa (project 971 Shchuka-B [shchuka = pike] sailed from its ZATO (Closed Territorial-Administrative Settlement ) Bolshoi Kamen base to undergo sea trials. During these trials, the freon-release fire extinguishing system went off unexpectedly. Six servicemen and 14 civilians died. A further 22 people required hospital treatment. All told, there were 208 people on board the submarine, of whom 81 were servicemen.” Thus the official press release.

The press office of the navy later issued a correction: the dead consisted of 3 servicemen and 17 civilians.

One of the things that makes the Project 971 Shchuka-B special is that it involves more automated systems that previous designs. Command and control is from a single central command centre. The boat is run by a crew of 73.

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Essel Updates the OMON Flag Stomper Story

OMON Riot Policeman Fired

by Dave Essel

The riot policeman I wrote about the other day, the one who was stomping on a demonstrator’s Russian flag, has been found and dismissed, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on Wednesday.

Always a pleasure to see something like this

Always a pleasure to see something like this

According to the GUVD (State Directorate for Internal Affairs – what is this love for acronyms? And don’t they sound threatening?), OMON internal security identified the officer and he was dismissed on the spot. “He was lucky to get off so lightly,” Komsomolka was told by Moscow GUVD. “Had he actually broken the flag, he would have gone to jail. We are not releasing his name as we feel he has already been sufficiently punished.”

How humane! So the OMON do know how to be considerate – but obviously only when it comes to one of their own.

Another Original LR Translation: Russia’s Rent-a-mob Racket

Russia’s Rent-a-Mob Racket

by Dave Essel

We all know that neo-nazi Russia does not permit genuine popular demonstrations. I can never quite get it through my mind how one can have a constitution permitting the freedom to demonstrate and the fact on the ground that authorisation to demonstrate has to be sought and obtained. Unauthorised demonstrations lead to broken heads and arrests – to a greater or lesser extent depending on whether it is neo-nazi youth getting a bit too turbulent without having been invited to do so (in which case expect some nominal arrests and quick releases with a warning, as was the case last November 4, or people genuinely moved to demonstrate about a genuine evil, in which case it’s 14 days in the cells as it takes that long for semi-literate cops to compose a case).

So it was with particular interest that I read this report in Novaya Gazeta about how actual demonstrations are organised.

Just as capitalism in Russia bears only a slight resemblance to the real thing – more 19th century factory screwing workers by paying in factory notes that can only be used for purchases in the company store than voluntary and mutually beneficial exchange of goods/service for money) so Russian demonstrations are not spontaneous manifestations – of course, but rent-a-mob with the added element of manages to screw the rented mob and make money for the stewards!

Sweet land of блат, pork (in very small portions for all but the select), and exploitation of the disenfranchised….

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