An Inhabited Island
by Boris Vishnevsky
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
“I say ‘Well done’ that they gave Saakashvili one in the kisser”, stated my uncle in a satisfied way as he sat opposite me at the dinner table loaded with party fare for his son’s birthday. “That’s propaganda speaking,” responded his wife with a note of scepticism. But it was a minority voice: most of those present held to the view that while Putin and Medvedev are, to put it mildly, not a bed of roses, at least they did right this time. Attempts to explain that the picture of the events in the Caucasus presented to Russia’s television viewers was radically out of line with reality met with little success. For the record, the members of the gathering (your traditional democratic voters), had never voted for the Communists, for United Russia, for the LDPR [Zhirinovsky’s party], or United Russia. But still they had this most peculiar way of looking at things…
The Triumph of Weak Will
by Stanislav Dmitrievsky
Translated from the Russian by FinRosForum
Yesterday, I was asked to formulate my suggestions to European politicians who will take part in the next OSCE meeting on the human dimension. The question I was asked was: “What should European politicians do to defend civic society, civic and political activists in Russia?”
I find it very hard to formulate my recommendations. In response, I would like to pose my own question: “What are European politicians prepared to do? Is Europe prepared to give up some of its comfort for the sake of defending, –not just in words but in deed,– the great principles of freedom enshrined in its constitution?”
Robert Amsterdam’s blog does not get nearly enough credit for their translations into English from languages other than Russian. Following is his translation from the German of a web posting on neo-Soviet propaganda, which was carried out at our urging. But for the blogosphere, this kind of thing would never see the light of day in English; the item was cited by us last week for its revelation regarding the mistreatment of Russia Today reporter William Dunbar.
War in the Caucasus
The fight for the right of interpretation between Russia and Georgia has broken into a full-fledged battle. It is taking place parallel to the fights on all channels – on television, in newspapers and especially in the Internet.
By Matthias Kolb, Süddeutsche Zeitung
A familiar, almost hackneyed, quote: “When war breaks out the first victim is the truth”. Yet this insight from US Senator Hiram Johnson of 91 years ago applies for 2008 as well: For five days there was fighting in Georgia and the situation was unclear, more than anything. It is difficult for journalists to confirm statements made by the warring parties and have them verified by independent positions. The hardliners in Russia and Georgia are fighting to influence the opinions in the rest of the world.
An example: Russia’s ambassador in Georgia spread the message that 1500 people died as a result of the Georgian attacks on Tskhinvali in the first night of the war. It took days for aid organizations to gain an overview. A representative from the human rights organization Human Rights Watch mentioned around 200 wounded in the area of Tskhinvali in the Frankfurter Rundschau. No one knows the actual number of deaths, but it is most likely significantly lower than what the Russian side has been saying. The objective was reached; the numbers made their rounds for days, were reported and, so they hope, are now fixed in people’s minds.
Boris Suvarin, Ezhednevny Zhurnal, 8 September 2008
translated from the Russian by Dave Eseel
South Ossetia has a population of 60 thousand people. Almost all of them hold Russian passports. Strangely enough, who ordered that they should be given them and why is still a mystery. Some say it was A.S. Voloshin [former chief of Russian presidential administration] but he is not being asked to step forward. For his part, he is keeping his mouth tight shut.
Be that as it may, Ossetians, unlike, say, many of the people from the Caucasus living in Moscow, most certainly did not have to pay for their passports. On the contrary, it was Russia which paid for the pleasure.
Over the last 10 years, South Ossetia has received $100 million a year, paid out of the Russian budget. Of course, no accounts for these funds have ever been produced. No one is asking how precisely Mr. Kokoity spent the money – on the needs of his people, of course. That’s clear since no one is complaining, right?
By a rough calculation, that means every inhabitant of South Ossetia has been having fifteen hundred dollars of Russian budget spent on him every year. It’s worth bearing in mind that South Ossetia contributes no taxes to the Russian budget.
Then came the war.
Cracks in the Tandem’s Frame
Gazeta.ru — 25 August 2008
by Vladimir Milov*
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
The Russo-Georgian conflict has still further confused observers as to the state the Putin-Medvedev tandem is in. One should particularly note two main tendencies of the last fortnight. Premier Putin has, following his loud speeches about the politics of the conflict at its start in Vladikavkaz on 9 August, has completely ceased to appear in public or to comment on the situation. Instead, he recently chaired a meeting to discuss Russian development up to 2020 which looked at such matters as plans for education and science and the creation of competition. He has not become involved publicly in anything to do with the conflict. Putin’s only overt activity was to discuss the allocation of humanitarian aid and provision of funds for the restoration of South Ossetia’s war-damaged infrastructure.