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.
Lebedev Goes Down
Lebedev goes Down
Recent days have seen a disturbing trend as oligarch after oligarch bows and scrapes before Vladimir Putin (so-called “president” Dima Medvedev did the same in his recent press conference). By the far the most ominous of these has been Alexander Lebedev.
Lebedev is the publisher of Novaya Gazeta, by far Russia’s most important source of information about the Putin regime. He openly admits that he has been receiving relentless pressure from the KGB on his banking business, and that he has decided to side with Putin rather than become a jailed pauper like Mikkhail Khodorkovsky. The tycoon posted a statement on his website stating that his “Our Capital” movement had decided to join the All-Russia People’s Front created by Putin earlier this month.
Posted in editorial, journalism, journalists, neo-soviet crackdown, russia
Tagged Alexander Lebedev, dmitry medvedev, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, novaya gazeta, russia, vladimir putin
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.
In the provocative cartoon above Sergei Yelkin, a/k/a “Ellustrator,” describes three blue-shaded “freeze” periods in Russian history (from left to right those of Stalin, Brezhnev and Putin) and three green-shaded “thaw” periods following them (those of Khrushchev, Gorbachev and Medvedev). As you can see, each type of period grows smaller over time, indicating that Russia is headed towards absolute inertia at best. One reader drew a huge amount of feedback when he commented: “People who live on icebergs should not rejoice in news of a thaw.”
The always-brilliant Ariel Cohen, writing on the Heritage Foundation blog:
[The first week in November], two seemingly unconnected events took place in Moscow. Yet, considered together, they have are of tremendous importance and serve to weaken the rule of law in Russia.
[On] Tuesday, imprisoned former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky delivered a passionate speech at the end of his kangeroo court proceedings about the corroding lawlessness plaguing his country. As Khodorkovsky addressed the court, masked Russian police SWAT teams armed with Kalashnikovs raided the National Reserve Bank in Moscow. The bank belongs to Alexander Lebedev, another billionaire political opponent of the Putin-Medvedev “tandemocracy.”
Vladislav Inozemtsev, writing in the Moscow Times:
President Dmitry Medvedev’s ambitious modernization goals remind me of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika. In fact, we are now at the two-year mark of Medvedev’s program, and if you look at where Gorbachev’s program was two years after it was initiated, you will see an amazing parallel — both projects amounted to little more than hype and empty slogans.
Many parallels have been drawn between Russia and the Soviet Union. United Russia has replaced the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and the State Duma has taken the place of the Supreme Soviet. Much like in the old days, opposition rallies are dispersed, and the courts rule in favor of the government line.
Paul Goble reports:
The dismissal of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov highlights the fact that “there is no Russia,” a Moscow analyst argues. Instead, “there is only a Sovietoid copy which has been converted into the RF Corporation,” something everyone involved needs to recognize in order not to continue to pay a high price for making a mistake on this point.
In an essay posted on the Folksland.net portal, Aleksey Shornikov says that “the Russian Federation is not a state, although it dresses itself up in the clothes of a power. The RF is instead a commercial company or as it can be expressed in terms familiar to us, ‘RF Inc.’”
According to Shornikov, “the various European East Indian companies” prefigured the form that RF Inc. has taken since 1991. The most famous of these was the British one in India, a public-private partnership chartered by the king that performed many of the functions of a state but was organized and acted like a corporation pursuing profit.