We Told you So
On September 28, 2011, a perfect metaphor for the horror that is Vladimir Putin’s Russia appeared in The Independent, which has over the years been responsible for some of the toughest and most insightful reporting on Russia (hat tip: Streetwise Professor).
The paper wrote about how thousands upon thousands of stray dogs roam the streets of Moscow, how they have killed Muscovites in packs and how they pose all manner of serious health concerns, to say nothing of betraying Russia’s eternal poverty regardless of the propaganda the state may churn out. Yet Russians, idiots that they are, are fighting to keep these dogs on the streets, and do what they can to care for them.
Similarly Josef Stalin is beloved by Russians, even though he murdered more of them than any other person who ever lived.
And similarly, the proud KGB spy and murderer of Starovoitova, of Litvinenko, of Politikovskaya, of Yushenkov, of Shchekochikhin, of Girenko, of Klebnikov, of Kozlov, of Estemirova, of Markelov and of so very many others, known as Vladimir Putin, is being embraced as he declares himself president for life. Lenin, Stalin, Putin.
On April 2, 2006, we warned the world that it would be so.
Estonia Whips Russian Butt
Reader “Robert” directs us to a BBC web page which compares the performance of the nations in post-Soviet space on economics, health and democracy. It provides three charts which reveal shocking facts about the failure of Putin’s resource-rich Russia when compared with tiny Estonia, the leader of the group.
First comes economics, which reveals not one but three stunning insights about Russia:
The Russian Economy is Collapsing
In 2008, nearly $130 billion flew out of Russia, erasing the modicum of inflows registered in 2006 and 2007. For its size, Russia as an investment destination pales in comparison to South Korea. Total equity portfolio inflow into Russia in 2009 was just $3.4 billion, according to World Bank data, making it the lowest of the big emerging markets by far. India, China and Brazil all registered inflows over $20 billion. A recent opinion poll by the Levada Centre shows that 22% of Russia’s adult population would like to leave the country for good, up from 7% in 2007. It is the highest figure since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when only 18% said they wanted to get out. Over 50% of Russian entrepreneurs said that they wanted leave the country. “From a macro perspective, I don’t want to be in Russia,” says Justin Leverenz, emerging markets portfolio manager at Oppenheimer Funds in New York. “From an investor’s point of view, Russian politics are far beyond what I’m able to analyze.”
Believe it or not, those words appear in a recent article in which the author is trying to put a positive spin on Russia. Can you imagine what Russia’s economic critics are saying these days?
Alexei Bayer, writing in the Moscow Times:
The origins of the Russian state and its early history help explain the country’s modern political makeup.
According to the Kievan Primary Chronicle, compiled around 1110, Slavic tribes invited Scandinavian prince Rurik to rule over them in the 9th century. But the history of the Viking expansion in Western Europe suggests that an “invitation” was hardly necessary. In the West, the Vikings began by raiding settlements, pillaging them and dragging their inhabitants off to slavery. They set up outposts to collect tributes, gradually becoming feudal lords. They adopted the local language and customs and eventually melded with the local population.
The Norsemen followed the same pattern in Britain, France and Sicily. The Varangians, as they were known in Russia, became feudal lords and the name of their tribe, the Rus, gave Russia its name just as Normandy was named after the Normans.
“Why do you hate your own country so much?” This was the angry reaction of one Russian who had just listened to a devastating critique of everything that Communism had done to his country between 1917 and 1990. The event was a seminar at the Moscow School of Political Studies and the speaker who had provoked this outburst was Andrei Zubov, one of Russia’s most brilliant — and most controversial — historians.
Zubov, who is the editor and co-author of a two-volume history of Russia in the 20th century, has a burning desire to make Russians face up to the realities of the Soviet era. He used his talk (which I attended as a participant in a later seminar) to describe in relentless detail the way in which all that was good in Russia’s past — not least the flowering of culture that took place in the second half of the 19th century — was destroyed by Lenin, Stalin and their associates. But his remarks about today’s Russia were no less striking.
Spotlight on Russia reports:
One of the surest signs of repression in Russia is a flourishing culture of political jokes. The 1930s and the 1970s, in particular, bear testimony to this. In 2008, when Vladimir Putin tricked term limits by becoming prime minister under hand-picked President Dmitri Medvedev, a new joke was born in the Moscow intelligentsia’s kitchens. The year is 2020. Putin and Medvedev are in a bar, drinking beer. Putin looks up and asks: “Dima, do you remember which one of us is president, and which one is prime minister?” Medvedev thinks for a short while, then replies: “I think you are president, Vladimir Vladimirovich, and I am prime minister.” “Then it’s your turn to pay for the beer,” responds Putin.
SPECIAL EXTRA EDITORIAL
Putin, President for Life
Prokhorov in the Woodshed
Last week saw the Right Cause party of oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov go down in flames. It used to be the case that the Kremlin liquidated politicians (like former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov and former first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov) because they were too anti-Kremlin. But those days are over. Now, it’s going after all political figures who are not pro-Kremlin enough! It is the natural progression as Russia returns to a neo-Soviet state.
Drunken Russian Killers
When a TU-134 jet went down in Petrozavodsk, Russia on June 20th this year, some people (the Russian government included) wanted to blame the aging plane itself. Now, they own the poor plane an apology.
The 47 Russians who lost their lives on that flight were not killed by the plane, nor were they killed by any “evil” Chechen terrorist. They were killed by a fellow Russian, the navigator of the plane Aman Atayev. He was drunk at the wheel.
So even if the passengers had been flying in a brand new Boeing aircraft made in America with the latest technology, they still would not have been safe. Atayev’s mother says he turned to drinking as a result of his recent divorce, yet another omnipresent Russian social ill. She says so as if he were somehow the innocent victim of that divorce, but in fact one Russian man murders his wife every forty minutes, so it’s quite likely he brutalized his wife emotionally or physically or both, and that’s why she left him.
Does Britain still Remember Chamberlain?
Simon Tisdall, a columnist for The Guardian in Britain, says Russians think of British Prime Minister David Cameron a “useful idiot” who offers the KGB regime of Vladimir Putin “de facto, unthinking legitimization.”
Tony Brenton, Britain’s ambassador to Russia from 2004 through 2008, says that “Russia’s ruling elite has become immovable and predatory, elections are fixed, corruption is on a par with Nigeria, the legal system is pliable, and the police and security agencies untouchable.” He says its government is a sham: “While Dmitri Medvedev enjoys the title of president, Vladimir Putin continues to call the real shots.”
But despite that, the British idiot-in-chief recently traveled to Moscow and inked hundreds of millions in trade deals in exchange for ignoring Russian human rights atrocities and the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London.
An Open Letter to Donna Welles
Blogger Donna Welles is having trouble understanding why Russians don’t understand why jokes about xenophobia are funny. Herein, we explain it to her.
Dear Ms. Welles,
We thought we’d help you out with your conundrum about Russians and xenophobia. You relate a “joke” about it told to you about Russia by a Russian who asked you why it was funny. You suggest it might be because the joke wasn’t invented by a Russian, and therefore isn’t tortuously illogical enough for a Russian to comprehend. But that isn’t it at all.
The reason is much more simple: For Russians, xenophobia and racism are normal, not unusual, and certainly not suspect. Russians believe that all people, just like them, hate those from other countries and want to see them destroyed. It’s necessary to view the world like that, you see, if you want to live by such a view yourself.
Pavel Stroilov, writing on the Spectator blog:
“Russian democracy has been buried under the ruins of New York’s twin towers”, famous KGB rebel Alexander Litvinenko wrote in 2002. The West, he warned, was making a grave mistake of going along with Putin’s dictatorship in exchange for his cooperation in the global war on terror. He would never be an honest partner, and would try to make the Western leaders complicit in his own crimes – from political assassinations to the genocide of Chechens. As a KGB officer, Putin would see every friendly summit-meeting as a potential opportunity to recruit another agent of influence.
David Cameron, whose summit-meeting with Putin coincided with the sombre jubilee of 9/11, would be well-advised to remember these warnings. The previous generation of Western leaders – from Bush to Blair to Schroeder to Berlusconi – has discredited itself by their ‘friendship’ with Putin, and got nothing in return. As The Spectator revealed this summer, there are serious questions to be asked about Russian secret service’s alleged links to Al-Qa’eda. Hopefully, the Prime Minister may have even asked those questions in Moscow.
Amanda Bellows, writing on the New York Times Opinionator blog (click the link for an audio comparison of American and Russian slave songs):
Frederick Douglass spent much of his life speaking about the hardships of slavery — but even he, at times, realized that words were not enough. Instead, he turned to music: “The mere hearing of [slave] songs,” he said, revealed the “physical cruelties of the slave system; for the heart has no language like song.” Today, spirituals like “Go Down, Moses” and “God’s Going to Trouble the Water” continue to convey American slaves’ anguish, frustration and hope.
Less familiar to Americans, however, is the music of Russia’s serfs, who were emancipated in 1861, on the eve of President Lincoln’s inauguration. Although the slaves and serfs were separated by vast distances and significant historical experiences, each group endured years of bondage by turning to song. Likening the songs of Russian serfs to those of American slaves, early 20th-century actor and slave descendent Paul Robeson observed that both groups had “an instinctive flair for music … [a] faculty born in sorrow.” But their musical traditions have striking differences, too — differences that help us understand the contrasts between the two systems.
Vladimir Putin, on the Take
We recently published a Special Extra post which contained a translation of an item from the Russian web. In it, a Russian website interviewed a high-ranking Russian corruption investigator who revealed shocking details about his investigation of Vladimir Putin for personal corruption while Putin was serving in the government of St. Petersburg.
In an almost casual fashion, as if it were obvious to everyone, the investigator reveals that Putin had both hands in the cookie jar of budget revenues in Piter. And, of course, to any human with a brain it is obvious. How else would Putin be able to afford to sport expensive watches and live in a network of palaces that span the globe? And if Putin were not personally corrupt, how could corruption flourish so openly in Russia, so that Transparency International routinely finds Russia to be the single most corrupt major civilization on this planet?
The fact that Putin’s personal corruption is so well documented, even in Russia itself, just goes to prove that Russians approve of it, just as they approve of Putin’s brutal crackdown on democratic values, including his brazen murder of political opponents like Starovoitova, Politkovskaya, Estemirova and Markelov. Indeed, we recently reported on the fact that a new arrest in the Politkovskaya case clearly shows the involvement of high-level Russian law enforcement in her killing.
Why now, Mr. Medvedev, why now?
Last week any intelligent Russian citizen had just one question in response to a pair of orders emanating from their so-called “president”: Why now, Mr. Medvedev, why now?
First, in response to the crash of an airliner that killed an entire Russian professional ice hockey team, Medvedev ordered the airline shut down. But intelligent Russians were asking: Why didn’t you shut them down before the crash, Mr. Medvedev? Why did you wait so long?
Then, in response to growing civil unrest, Medvedev authorized the Russian Gestapo to utilize water cannons, tasers and tear gas on peaceful opposition protesters who fail to disperse upon the illegal order of the authorities. Intelligent Russian citizens were asking: Why now, Mr. Medvedev?
The Evil Empire shows its Russian Face in Syria
We’ve previously reported on the appalling lack of openness to charity displayed by Russian citizens, especially in comparison with the much more generous Americans. The data clearly shows that Russians simply don’t care what happens to their fellow man. Two other items in today’s issue, an essay by Russian film director Andrei Konchalovsky and an editorial about personal corruption by Vladimir Putin, confirm emphatically that Russians simply don’t give a damn at best, at worst they wish their fellow citizens harm.
And that’s just other Russian citizens. When it comes to people from other countries, you may as well consider Russians to be sadists. Take Syria, for example.
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 Other Russia reports:
In Russia, taking part in a demonstration that hasn’t been sanctioned by the government can cost citizens their right to work in federal agencies. Officially dubbed “unreliable” citizens, opposition activists and other political protesters are entered into special blacklists drawn up by law enforcement agencies for purposes that are not entirely understood. It was on such a blacklist that Vera Sizova, a retired resident of St. Petersburg, unexpectedly found herself – upon being told that she was banned from working for the 2010 Russian Census because of her son’s opposition activities.
Olesia Stefanko, Miss Ukraine, top 2 Miss Universe 2011
Natalia Gantimurova, Miss Russia, did not make the top 16 at Miss Universe 2011. Ouch!
The New Warsaw Pact
It’s not clear whether Barack Obama doesn’t know who Nikolai Bordyuzha is or doesn’t care and that’s disturbing, because Bordyuzha is the proud KGB spy who is the spokesman for the new Warsaw Pact.
The constituents of this terrifying group (here is a photo of their assembled foreign ministers, a true rogue’s gallery), known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization, are Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus and Armenia. There used to be nine members, but Georgia and Azerbaijan both bailed out in 1999, leaving seven. Bordyuzha, a Russian KGB officer, is the General Secretary.
The ragtag assembly of nations that comprise the CSTO include the worst dictatorships of post-Soviet space, and the organization’s charter is essentially the same as that of the Warsaw Pact: mutual defense from the horrific dangers posed by the forces of democracy.
And just as was the case with the Warsaw Pact, the CSTO is rapidly turning into a mutual aid society for the repression of domestic dissent.
FPS Russia vs. Russia Today
FPS Russia is a guy in Georgia named Kyle who shoots things with automatic weapons in his back yard and then blows them up. Meanwhile, he talks about it in English with a fake Russian accent and refers to himself as “Dmitri.”
Russia Today is an official state-funded propaganda television network which employs hundreds of people and spends hundreds of millions of Russian tax dollars on production and advertising. They talk with weird, stilted accents in English, too.
Both FPSR and RT have YouTube channels to display their handiwork. Comparing their performance is interesting.
Piter Drives the Final Nail into its Own Coffin
Before Vladimir Putin came along, the city of St. Petersburg, Russia enjoyed a national and even an international reputation for enlightenment. It was called Russia’s “window on the West” and it was famous for citizens who had a broader world view, a more democratic inclination, who were more civilized and intelligent than ordinary Russians.
But Putin, a native of Piter, changed all that. From the moment the world learned how he shamelessly plagiarized his dissertation at an elite Piter university, it became clear that Piter was just like every other rotten place in Russia under the skin. When it remained just as silent as the rest of the country (or cheered even louder) as its native son seized power in Moscow, filled the Kremlin halls with proud KGB spies and began a relentless neo-Soviet crackdown, the world saw the true St. Petersburg.
And nothing could have better confirmed Piter’s wretched barbarism than the recent election campaign of former governor and Putin lackey Valentina Matvienko for a local legislative post in the city, one she needed so Putin could appoint her to the Federation Council and name her speaker.
Ariel Cohen, writing on the National Interest website:
In late August, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev appointed Georgy Poltavchenko governor of St. Petersburg. Poltavchenko has served as presidential envoy to Russia’s central-administrative district since 2000. More importantly, he is a loyalist to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and a KGB veteran. He replaces Valentina Matviyenko, another Putin confidante, who has moved on to chair the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament. Sergey Mironov, the former speaker of the Federation Council, is out. All this game of musical chairs has little to do with either President Medvedev or significant democratic developments. Rather, it demonstrates how Putin is rearranging his insiders.
When Russia found it had a fertility problem, its adopted an unusual solution: bribing parents to have babies. Never mind what might happen to a child born into a family which only had him to get a quick infusion of cash, never mind that one Russia woman is murdered by her husband every forty minutes. And now the New York Times reports that Russia has found an interesting “solution” to its drug addiction problem. Regardless of the fact that it’s palpably illegal and barbaric, Russia simply puts an addict in a cage and lets him scream until enough time has passed for his withdrawal symptoms to disappear.
The treatment center does not handcuff addicts to their beds anymore. But caged together on double-decker bunks with no way out, they have no choice but to endure the agonies of withdrawal, the first step in a harsh, coercive approach to drug treatment that has gained wide support in Russia.
“We know we are skirting the edge of the law,” said Sergei Shipachev, a staff member at the center, which is run by a private group called City Without Drugs. “We lock people up, but mostly we have a written request from their family. The police couldn’t do this, because it’s against the law.”