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.
Boris Nemtsov has published the fifth installment of his White Paper series reviewing the manifold failures of the Putin regime. This time, his focus is personal corruption by Vladimir Putin himself, and the allegations are truly sensational. Nemtsov is clearly taking his life in his hands by publishing this material, once again translated professionally by the amazing Dave Essel. The four prior installments are located here. The original Russian version of Part V is here.
AN INDEPENDENT WHITE PAPER
V.Milov, B. Nemtsov, V. Ryzhkov, O. Shorina
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
Vladimir Putin’s decade in power associates in most minds with two highly negative phenomena – an extraordinary increase in the abuse of power and corruption.
Russia in 2010 managed to rank 154th out of 178 countries according to influential global civil society organisation Transparency International. Our peers in the list are some of the least developed countries of Africa (Congo, Guinea-Bissau) and other countries such as New Guinea and Tadzhikistan. Transparency International considers Russia to be the most corrupt of all the major countries in the world, the so-called G20. Our BRIC colleagues (Brazil, China and India) rate way above us as well in 69th, 78th, and 87th respectively.
Paul Goble reports:
Although this has been sometimes obscured by high oil and gas prices, the policies Vladimir Putin has carried out over the last decade “are contributing to an economic and political trend which repeats that which led to the demise of the Soviet Union,” according to a leading Moscow commentator.
Writing in Novaya Gazeta, Georgy Satarov, the head of the INDEM Foundation, argues that once these trends and the dangers they present are recognized by Russian society “disappointment with Putin will be much deeper and more severe than the [currently widespread] disappointment in Gorbachev or Yeltsin.
The New York Review of Books explains why the Putin regime is unable to protect Russian citizens from terrorism:
As the story of the horrific January 24 bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport continues to unfold, the parallels with past major terrorist attacks in Russia are striking. It is not just the high number of casualties (36 dead and 160 wounded) and that the perpetrators appear to have come from the volatile North Caucasus. As with earlier such violence, there were also serious warning signs in advance that were ignored, and the immediate handling of the attack by the authorities was botched. Above all, the confusing and contradictory response of both the security agencies and Russia’s leadership has once again raised troubling questions about the Kremlin’s counter-terrorism policies.
Russia’s Siamese Twin Idiots Come Unglued
“You can say that the case has on the whole been solved.”
— Vladimir Putin, February 3, 2010
“No one has a right to make an announcement about the solution of this crime.”
— Dmitri Medvedev, February 3, 2010
The horrifically successful bombing of Russia’s Domodedovo airport has caused the idiotic Siamese twins who rule the country to come unglued. It seems those who gave their lives at the airport did not do so in vain.
They are actually, openly contradicting each other. It’s sweet music to our ears.
An editorial in the Moscow Times:
“I felt terrorized!” the young woman told a Moscow Times journalist.
The young woman had not been at Domodedovo Airport, but instead was driving home when a Volvo owned by the Federal Guard Service — with its familiar EKX number plates, which drivers know as an acronym for “Drive Anyway I Want”— and a presidential administration Mercedes entered the oncoming lane and forced her and all the other drivers into the shoulder.
Were the government vehicles speeding to an urgent meeting to resolve a national crisis? Doubtful, since it was a recent Friday evening rush hour and they were heading away from Moscow’s center, toward the elite’s residential area.
Other drivers aren’t so lucky.
Sobyanin Cracks Down
Finding a juicy hotdog lathered in ketchup has gotten a bit harder since Mayor Sergei Sobyanin took office. Forty of the 150 Stardog!s hotdog stands dotting Moscow have been shut down over the past week, and another 20 are expected to be closed shortly, said Sergei Rak, director for development with Markon, the private company that runs the Stardog!s chain.
— The Moscow Times, November 15, 2010
Moscow’s new mayor, it seems, is a cheeseburger man. And he’s responded to his desires exactly the way Josef Stalin would have done if Moscow’s streets had been peppered with repugnant hot-dog stands in his time: He’s shut them down. The MT reports that Sobyanin’s minions “studied Markon’s leases for the hotdog stands in hope of finding errors that would justify their cancellation. Finding none, they said bluntly, ‘Close! At any rate, you are not going to work here anymore’.” The MT continues:
A visit by Sobyanin to the Ulitsa 1905 Goda metro station during an Oct. 30 city tour promoted the kiosk crackdown. Sobyanin complained that the kiosks blocked the view of a historical monument and were located too close to the metro station. The head of the Presnensky district, where the metro station is located, was fired on the spot, together with the head of the central Tverskoi district. The official reason given for the dismissals was that the officials’ work contracts expired Nov. 8, RIA-Novosti reported.
Now we ask you, dear reader: How is this behavior any different than Stalin’s would have been? Is Russia’s really the type of economy that can afford to wipe out hundreds of thriving small businesses on a daily basis in an arbitrary, unpredictable, nakedly illegal manner, thus sending a clear message that setting up any such business is a gamble at best?
We think not.
Just a few weeks ago, Sobyanin had declared: “Small and medium-sized businesses are in need of aid.”Referring to bureaucratic barriers for small business startups in Moscow, he said: “We should take them away. Then there will be a completely different investment climate.” Any number of kiosks might have opened specifically in reliance on these words, only to have the rugged yanked out from under them just as the Russian regime has done to so may others, domestic and foreign alike, for so many years now.