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On the eve of the 2016 US elections, I got to talking with a Jew at one of the futurist meetups who was hyperventilating about the prospect of Trump winning. He unironically thought there was a risk of actual deportations of immigrants to concentration camps and pogroms against Jews. Typical Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferer, who cares, they were and remain a dime a dozen. Curious thing is, though, he was also looking to pursue Polish citizenship, from where his family had originally emigrated, and which he now considered a safe harbor against the rising tide of anti-Semitism in America promoted by the Putlerreich.

Well, did I have news for him, even if he did insist it was “fake.”

In 2014-15, the ADL carried out a large survey of “anti-Semitic attitudes” around the world, in which 26% of the global population were found to be anti-Semites (translation: Believed in 6+/11 of popular stereotypes about Jews).

map-world-jews-antisemitism

This figure was 30% in Russia, falling to 23% in the follow-up survey in 2015 – which was slightly higher than the 24% average for Western Europe, but lower than the 34% for Eastern Europe (45% in Poland) and far lower than the 74% average for the Middle East.

map-europe-adl-jews-youth-antisemitism

This gap between Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe is even more marked with respect to 18-34 year olds.

map-europe-approval-israel

Moreover, even if Russians are slightly more likely than Western Europeans to think statements such as “Jews have too much power in the business world” are true – all things considered, it is amazing the figure is not much higher, given the ethnic composition of the oligarchs – they are certainly not the sort to engage in sanctimonious lectures. Heck, possibly the biggest Russia-based critic of Israel on account of them being mean to Palestinians is a guy called… Israel.

Approval of Israel in Russia and most of Eastern Europe is substantially higher than in Western Europe, especially its more “progressive” countries.

Of course these sentiments are very much a one-way street. One could view it as an admittedly much less extreme version of American evangelicals’ unreciprocated love for Jews and especially Israel.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Anti-Semitism, Israel, Russia 
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Charles Bausman (Russia Insider): It’s Time to Drop the Jew Taboo

The most vitriolic and obsessive Russia-bashing journalists in the media are mostly Jewish. The publications which push these writers most energetically are ALL Jewish-owned, and as a publisher, I know very well, that is where the buck stops.

On the policy side, the neo-conservative movement, Russia’s harshest foe, was conceived of, is led by, and consists mostly of, Jews. And their trouble-making extends far beyond Russia – they are responsible for America’s disastrous debacle in the Middle East over the last 20 years – where their crimes have been stymied by precisely one country – Russia. The psychotically anti-Russian recent UN ambassadors, Nikki Haley and Samantha Power, were put there by the Israel lobby, and given an independent brief, in other words, they answer not to their presidents, rather to their Jewish sponsors.

In Congress the biggest Russia-Gate tub-thumpers are noticeably Jewish – Schiff, Schumer, Blumenthal, Franken (although not as overwhelmingly as in the media). The Israel lobby routinely enforces legislation hostile to Russia. Bill Browder with his Magnitsky Sanctions – is Jewish.

This is objectively true. Heck, don’t ask me, someone who writes for a site famous for its “mix of far-right and far-left anti-Semitic crackpottery” (as per the Jew Cathy Young). Ask J-Pod.

podhoretz-no-jewish-russophile

Rachel Maddow, the nation’s most popular and influential liberal political show host is Jewish. She has gone so overboard demonizing Russia and pushing Russiagate that she has become a figure of fun. On the print side, the list is the same – the ones shrieking the loudest are mostly Jews, and disproportionately female – and there is an important lesson there too – Masha Gessen, Anne Applebaum, and Julia loffe, to name a few.

Also true.

I speculated about the deep causes of this in my classic article on The 5 Types of Russian-American back in 2012:

A controversial assertion, perhaps… But one need only drop a few names: Anne Applebaum (Putin stole my wallet), Miriam Elder (Putin stole my drycleaning ticket), Julia Ioffe (I hate objectivity), Masha Gessen (Putin has no face), Anna Nemtsova (Russian dudes suck).

One thing that really stands out is that it is female Jews who dislike Russia more than anything, at least among Western journalists. As this post has already pushed well beyond all respectable limits of political correctness, I might as well go the full nine yards and outline my theory of why that is the case. In my view, the reasons are ultimately psycho-sexual. Male Jews nowadays have it good in Russia, with many Slavic girls attracted to their wealth, intelligence and impeccable charm (if not their looks). But the position of Jewesses is the inverse. They find it hard to compete with those same Slavic chicks who tend to be both hotter and much more feminine than them; nor, like Jewish guys, can they compensate with intelligence, since it is considered far less important for women. This state of affairs leads to sexual frustration and permanent singledom (pump and dump affairs don’t count of course), which in turn gives rise to the angry radical feminism and lesbianism that oozes out of this piece by Anna Nemtsova bemoaning Russia’s “useless bachelors”.

Steve Sailer’s Law of Female Journalism rears its head again.

Charles Bausman’s thesis is of course a controversial one, and I don’t agree with some things at both the macro level – high Jewish verbal IQ partially, though not fully, explains the overrepresentation of Jews amongst elite Russophobes – as well as some of the historical details at the micro level.

However, he is correct at a broad level.

Again, don’t ask me. As the Twitter mentions for this article make clear, the people he is talking about make the case far more succinctly than I could.

democratic-jew-journalists-respond

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Anti-Semitism, Jews, Russia, Russophobes, Western Media 
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Battle of the hacks! In response to Alexei Pankin calling him an anti-Semite in The Moscow Times, Oleg Kashin pens a tongue in cheek response telling him to imagine a kitten dying every time he abuses an overworn cliche.

On the Horrors of Anti-Semitism

In which Oleg Kashin gives some advice to the politologists.

The editors asked me to reply to a columnist in the English-language Moscow Times who accused Svobodnaya Pressa of – wow, wow! – anti-Semitism. I don’t even know how to object to this dear fellow – I love the way he holds that pipe in his mouth in his avatar; as for the rest of his remarks, I will only recycle what one of my friends has already noted: The Jewish question in Russia ended when those standard (which is to say, fascist) ads for apartment rentals marked “For Slavs only” started to encompass Jews, together with Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians. This was unimaginable even back in 1990 – you know, the era of Pamyat, and all that. Today – be my guest! Even the lumpenproles, ready at take part in some ethnic cleansing at the first opportunity, no longer consider Jews to be foreigners. In reality, it’s stupid to ponder on the differences between Ivan and Abram when Dagestan is in the foreground; those differences are negligible.

If there was any “social thought” whatsoever in the Russian Federation, beyond what we see at Svobodnaya Pressa and at one and a half other sites, there would have long been a flood of books, lectures, exhibitions, and films meditating upon the end of Russian anti-Semitism. But social thought, sucking away on his pipe, prefers to flog 20-year old stereotypes, whose authenticity somewhat resembles Intourist stories about bears and balalaikas.

Every time I have to speak before some foreign audience – well, not even “some” audience, but one that is prepared, and interested in Russian affairs – I am forced to answer questions about the threat of a Communist comeback in my country, about Moscow’s repressive policies towards the Chechen people, and even about the possibility that Russia could try to reconquer the Baltic countries. Patiently answering these questions (“No, ladies and gentlemen, the Communist Party is part of the political system”; “Excuse me, but Mr. Kadyrov himself represses whomsoever he wants”; “If they attack Europe, they will have nowhere to keep their money”), I can see despondency in the eyes of my interlocutors – they do not believe me, because the word of some unknown Russian can’t outweigh the terabytes of nonsense issued by all these veterans of the Valdai Clubs and Pugwash Conferences from both sides of their mutually beloved Iron Curtain.

Though it’s too late to do anything about Alexander Rahr or Nikolai Zlobin, I would however like to give some friendly politological advice to their less famous colleagues, who are easier to recognize by pipe than by name. Friends, next time you’re about to reproduce your typical analytical klyukva – imagine that a little kitten dies somewhere in Russia. Imagine that the kitten dies because he simply can’t bear to watch how credulous English-language readers are fed tales of Russia’s unreadiness for democracy, the popularity of “Ethnic Slurs” among the Russian opposition, and similar bears and balalaikas. Don’t think about about visitor views, reposts, and honorariums – think of the kittens. Maybe this will seem like an unserious argument to you, but it is surely – for all that – a more serious one than what you’re scribbling.

Mazel tov, friends!

(Republished from Russian Spectrum by permission of author or representative)
 
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While writing this post on Da Russophile about why Russians do not (for the most part) hate Jews – a post that will also be of interest to AKarlin readers – I came across very interesting historical data on literacy and educational accomplishment by ethnic groups in the USSR.

Per 100 people of respective nationality
Literacy Rate among…
ages 9-49 50 and older
Jews 85,0 90,0 62,5
Germans 78,5 79,1 74,4
Russians 58,0 64,3 27,9
Ukrainians 53,4 59,2 22,2
Georgians 50,3 57,0 24,7
Belorussians 47,6 54,2 16,1
Koreans 45,1 50,6 20,6
Armenians 42,9 47,5 20,4
Tatars 41,7 46,4 19,0
Kazakhs 9,1 9,9 5,3
Uzbeks 4,8 5,2 3,3
Chechens 3,4 3,6 2,6
Tajiks 3,0 3,0 3,0
USSR average 51,1 56,6 24,5

This table shows the literacy rate among different groups from the 1926 First All-Union Census. Coming less than a decade after the Revolution this table is of course a reflection of the Tsarist education system, not of the Soviet one. Apart from puncturing one Communist myth, that the Tsarist regime didn’t do anything for people’s literacy and that it was all a Soviet achievement, it also demonstrates that Jews had the highest literacy rate of all the peoples in the Empire.

Per 1,000 people of respective nationality
With higher education With high school diploma Literacy rate
Jews 57,1 268,1 943
Georgians 14,3 129,8 825
Armenians 10,9 106,8 790
Russians 6,2 81,4 834
Ukrainians 5,3 82,1 843
Germans 5,2 69,7 935
Belorussians 4,7 71,0 780
Koreans 4,3 75,6 727
Tatars 2,2 50,3 779
Kazakhs 0,9 21,7 618
Uzbeks 0,7 15,1 635
Tajiks 0,5 12,0 676
Chechens 0,3 7,6 428
USSR average 6,4 77,8 812

The above from the 1939 Soviet Census. Jews are way, way ahead in educational attainment.

Per 1,000 people of respective nationality
With higher education With apprenticeship No education
Jews 561 174 12
Koreans 249 210 42
Georgians 195 202 29
Armenians 163 178 34
Russians 138 201 60
Kazakhs 119 158 62
Ukrainians 108 177 73
Belorussians 107 170 79
Uzbeks 90 123 63
Tatars 92 164 73
Tajiks 79 91 66
Chechens 61 111 137
Germans 57 167 84
USSR average 125 182 64

From the 1989 Soviet Census. Jews maintain a massive lead in educational attainment despite supposed rampant anti-Semitism.

BTWNotice however that Germans are bottom of the barrel, below even Chechens and Tajiks in tertiary attainment. Now that is clearly a group that is being discriminated against as German IQ is typically a couple of points above that of ethnic Russians, so their rate of tertiary attainment should be at least equal if not higher.

So how to resolve these paradoxes – that Jews were “held back” from Russian schools and universities, but at the same time somehow maintained educational qualifications well in excess of the Soviet and Russian averages?

I think the answer is quite simple; both are true.

Ashkenazi Jews (such as lived in the USSR) are typically recorded to have a mean IQ about one S.D. above the white European norm. So all things equal they will perform much better than ethnic Russians. What the imperial Russian government did in fact do was a form of pro-indigenous majority affirmative action.

In 1887, the quotas placed on the number of Jews allowed into secondary and higher education were tightened down to 10% within the Pale, 5% outside the Pale, except Moscow and Saint Petersburg, held at 3%. It was possible to evade this restrictions upon secondary education by combining private tuition with examination as an “outside student”. Accordingly, within the Pale such outside pupils were almost entirely young Jews.

This 10% quota broadly correlated with the actual percentage of Jews in the Pale of Settlement.

It all makes complete sense.

The differential between Jews and Russians with a higher education was recorded at more than 10x in 1939. This was reduced to 4x by 1989. Two possible explanations:

(1) The 1920′s were a philo-Semitic period and AFAIK quotas on Jews entering universities weren’t present during this period. I do not know if there were formal quotas against Jews in the later, “anti-Zionist” period of Soviet history but it IS anecdotally known that barriers to entry into many institutions were higher than for other Soviet citizens. Certainly this played a major role in setting Soviet Jews against the regime. This is the well-known version which stresses Russian anti-Semitism.

(2) The other explanation is that by 1989 when more than half of Jews had higher education the percentage of Jews who could access it even based on pure meritocracy had been maxed out. Let’s crudely assume a mean IQ of 100 for Russians and 115 for Jews with an S.D. of 15. This means that 16% of Russians and 50% of Jews will have an IQ of 115 or above. Let’s say that this is the part of the population that had access to a higher education in the Soviet era (this makes sense: The system was, for the most part, meritocratic, and standards for entry where far higher than today when higher education is far more accessible). According to our stats, the actual higher education achievement figures in 1989 were 14% for Russians and 56% for Jews, i.e. Jewish access to education was actually higher than what you would get by assuming reasonable mean IQ’s and no anti-Semitic discrimination. Of course even slight differences in the actual mean IQ levels (e.g. a Russian mean IQ of 97, not 100 – as may be more realistic) will have substantial impacts but they would not cardinally change the overall picture.

My preliminary conclusion is that anti-Semitic discrimination at least in terms of higher education was negligible at least as indicated by this simple thought experiment. A more detailed model would be preferable but I do not see how it could invalidate any of this.

Russia has long been presented as a seething bastion of anti-Semitism.

To the contrary, an objective look at it through measurable impacts finds that at worst what existed was a system of pro-indigenous affirmative action. It is loosely comparable to official AA in American college admissions, however in the US case it is geared to aid NAM’s. Nonetheless as Blacks are about one S.D. below whites even fairly drastic interventions do not much impact on white admissions. The effect on Jews, who are in turn one S.D. above whites – or two S.D.’s above Blacks – is of course all but negligible. So although pro-NAM’s-AA in the US does disadvantage Jews it does so to a far lesser extent than did pro-non-Jew AA in the USSR.

A better comparison might be with Asian-Americans, who are (slightly) discriminated against in favor of whites in the US. For the USSR, replace Asian-Americans with Jews. Of course Asian-Americans will rarely improve their lot by going back to China or Korea, unlike Soviet Jews emigrating to Israel or Silicon Valley; hence, they are quiescent, and largely satisfied with the American regime.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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From what I generally knew of contemporary Eastern European attitudes towards Jews (in two words “not good”) I expected that the Russian public’s attitude towards Israel would be decidely frosty, if not outright hostile… But what seems noteworthy to me is not the downward blip in 2006 but the generally high level of Russian support for Israel over the past 9 years and the generally small number of Russians who will outright say they relate poorly towards it (the balance being made up by people who said they have a hard time answering).Mark Adomanis.

There are several reasons as far as I can see, some of them obvious, some of them not so obvious because they are clouded over by noxious PC fumes.

* There are now simply a lot fewer Jews in Russia. There were 1.4mn in 1989 in the USSR, and 550,000 in the RSFSR; as of 2010, only 158,000. Jews typically occupy positions in the economy, culture, etc. out of all proportion to their population size. This is typically ascribed to conspiracies whereas in fact it is a simple function of their IQ’s which are about one S.D. above the white European average. This typically causes resentment in places where Jews settle with a few major exceptions like the Anglo-Saxon world. In fact much of Tsarist and Soviet “discrimination” against Jews was (in modern US terms) an affirmative action plan for the indigenous population.

* While Jews in the late Soviet era were heavily associated with dissidence, a function of their relative exclusion from mainstream politics, now they range all over the spectrum. While a majority are still probably more liberal than not you now have Jews like the TV games star and Stalinist blogger Anatoly Wasserman not to mention Zhirinovsky (aka Eidelstein) who is a half-Jew as well as the head of the biggest nationalist party.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6eZd1x3M0g]

* Migrants from the South Caucasus who are seen as more criminalized and dependent on welfare (“Stop feeding the Caucasus!”) – and not mistakenly so, regardless of what the PC brigade wants to claim – are far more of a everyday concern than ZOG conspiracies. For a typical Muscovite there is simply far more reason to fear the Chechen who will beat up his nerdy son in school than the besuited Jewish IT professional who would hire him.

* While the USSR supported the Arabs, today’s Russia balances between them. There is military cooperation between Russia and Israel, e.g. on drones, and there exists a visa-free travel regime between them. Something on which the EU not to even mention the US has long dragged its feet on.

* Critically Israel does not criticize Russia for HR abuses, illiberalism, etc. as most Western countries love doing. This makes sense because Israel is hardly a very liberal state itself and besides it is not in its interests to make additional enemies if it can possibly help it. Even on a site like Inosmi where commentators tend to be pretty nationalist Israel does not get bad rap. Whenever “Gayropean” do-gooders sail a “freedom flotilla” to Israel, the good people of Inosmi sympathize with the Israelis, and wish Russia could retaliate in similarly uncompromising fashion against foreign liberal interventionists who undermine its sovereignty.

* As Mark Adomanis correctly noticed, both Russia and Israel have problems with Islamist terrorists. Who happen to be supported by liberal forces abroad.

* Jews and Israelis are seen as distinct. Jews are the rootless cosmopolitans, more loyal to their in-group than their country of residence. Israelis on the other hand are a nation of blood and soil.

* According to (Russian Jewish-American) historian Yuri Slezkine the history of the 20th century is one of peoples around the world “becoming Jewish” in terms of values. This has been especially true in post-Soviet Russia. Case in point: While most of the oligarchs were Jewish, most Russians would still rather emulate than dispossess them. Among Europeans, Russians and Israelis are the two peoples who most agree that “it is important to be rich, have money and expensive things.” This is no longer a picture of peasant, honest Russians vs. urban, mercantile Jews as it was a century ago. There are no longer any irreducible value differences between the two peoples. (The same of course cannot be said for urban Russians vs. clannish Chechens, Avars, etc., from the mountains).

Hope that goes some way to explaining things.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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The second part of my series comparing Russia, Britain, and the US focuses on the people themselves. What are their strengths and foibles? How do they vary by class, region, race, and religion? How do they view each other and other countries and peoples? What do they eat, drink, and watch? Where do they travel and against which groups do they they discriminate?

The National Character

As befits its climate, Californians are a sunny and gregarious people. It is not unusual to refer to someone as your friend after getting to know her after a few minutes, whereas this typically takes weeks in Europe. Other states are, from what I heard, different; e.g. New Yorkers are known for being curt and rude.

Friendly is distinct from polite. As a rule, Britons are very polite. However, this translates into a greater sense of distance and insistence on propriety that approaches dourness as one travels north into Scotland. Driving on UK roads is a stress-free experience (and a boring one), while Californian roads demand attention and Russian roads are for thrill seekers only.

Russians are cold and curt to strangers, which many foreigners attribute to rudeness. This isn’t exactly fair; most Russians are just warier of people they don’t know. This is not an irrational attitude in a society more permeated by scams and violence.

Friendships that do develop with Russians usually go deeper than in Britain or the US. If you slip down a social class or two, e.g. after a bankruptcy, you may find your previously big social circles beginning to melt away in the West. In particular, Americans have a special instinct for steering away from “losers”.

Russians ARE far less civil in big groups. For instance, it is common for someone to start talking on her cell phone in a cinema. While Britons will always let a pedestrian walk across a zebra crossing – as they are obliged to do by traffic regulations – there is a 25% chance that an American wouldn’t, and a 75%+ chance that a Russian wouldn’t. By and large, Russians only follow regulations out of fear of punishment – and as mentioned in the last part, these regulations are rarely policed.

Many things will make you go WTF?! in Russia.

Many things will make you go WTF?! in Russia.

On the other hand, the disregard for social conventions leads to a lot of quirky and unusual happenings in Russia. E.g., I’ve seen a man walking with a bear in central St.-Petersburg, walkways leading into blank walls and cars with their internal machinery exposed, etc. In general, weird things like this are rarer in the US, and almost non-existent in the monotone plod of British life.

Girls typically consider American men to be more humorous and talkative than British men, though the latter enjoy a more masculine reputation. Russians are considered to be more romantic or macho (it’s usually one or the other).

Though not quite as disciplined as the Germans, the British are expected to get to meetings strictly on time. Things are far laxer in Russia, where it is common to see people wandering in and out of meetings, and half or a quarter failing to turn up at all. The golden mean is in California, where things are fairly casual but still organized (e.g. “Berkeley time” equals the appointed time plus ten minutes). But it is not representative of the US as a whole; stricter punctuality is expected in the east of the country.

The US is dominated by imperial measurements – miles; pounds; Fahrenheit; etc. Britain is also largely imperial – miles; pounds; Celsius. Russia is completely metric since the Revolution – kilometers, kilograms, Celsius; with archaic units like the verst or the pud only present in poetry or referring to traditional objects (e.g. church bells).

Class System

Lower class whites are "white trash" in the US, "chavs" in Britain, and "gopniki" in Russia.

Lower class whites are “white trash” in the US, “chavs” in Britain, and “gopniki” in Russia.

Despite the UK having the lowest formal rate of economic inequality – its Gini index is 34, compared to Russia’s 40 and America’s 45 (for comparison, Sweden – 25; Brazil – 57) – it also has by far the most deeply embedded class system. There is a world of difference between the socio-economic expectations of the “chavs” (low-class; lumpenproletariat), the working class (emphasizes importance of hard, honest work); and the upper middle class (goes to Oxbridge; constitutes political and financial elite).

Even their accents are noticeably different: Britain may well be the only country on Earth where class overrides region and ethnicity in this respect. There are very clear demarcations between poor, middle-class, and affluent neighborhoods. Needless to say, the latter two also have the best schools. I would estimate that the UK has lower social mobility than either the US or Russia.

Despite their higher inequality, relative to Britain, there are fewer class differences in the US and far fewer in Russia (though they’re increasing in both countries).

Russia’s case is unsurprising. It had no billionaires before about 1995; even millionaires only began reappearing in the late 1980′s. They might vacation in the French Riviera and send their children to private schools, but it is not uncommon for that same Russian millionaire to live in a Moscow flat with other professionals and pensioners, and retreat to his dacha on the weekends (however, more and more of them are moving to gated communities as is common in the US).

Regional Stereotypes

In the UK: London / the South is viewed as rich, effete, unconcerned with the rest of the country; Wales as a quaint land of castles and sheep-shaggers; northerners as hard-drinking coal miners. The biggest national rivalry is between England and Scotland, which the latter are always fated to lose. I was unimpressed by my (short) visit to Northern Ireland; it seems that its economy is about two decades behind the rest of the country, e.g. things look run-down; bad roads; petrol stations don’t accept credit cards. (This was in stark contrast to the Republic of Eire in the south, which struck me as being very modern, shiny clean, and efficient; though granted, I visited it at the height of its boom, which has since turned into a huge bust).

You can't get much more stereotypically Ukrainian than this.

You can’t get much more stereotypically Ukrainian than this.

In Russia: Moscow is viewed as rich, privileged, uncaring to the rest of the country; St.-Petersburg is regarded as more intellectual and cultured; the peoples of the Urals and Siberia are viewed as being wilder and tougher, and more criminal; and the North Caucasus – because of its society being vastly different from that of ethnic Russians (very religious, based on clan loyalties, hyper-patriarchal, different language, culture and religion) – is viewed as another country. Further afield, Georgians are the butt of jokes on account of their accents, rural nature, oversexed men and goat-shagging; Central Asia is viewed as a land of oriental exoticism; Ukraine is regarded as the poor cousin that speaks mangled Russian. To Russian jokers, Ukrainians are khokhly, which refers to a stereotypical Cossack hairstyle, while to Ukrainian jokers Russians are moskali, which refers to Muscovites, with their reputation for conceited arrogance.

In the US: New York is the big city of money and arrogance; Los Angeles is the big city of money and air-brushed decadence; the Bay Area are full is full of liberals and stoners and open-source IT geeks (not mutually exclusive); the “South” is full of religious nuts and inbreds (Q: What’s an Okie girl who can run faster than her brothers? A: A virgin); the peoples of the Rockies are men of asperity and libertarian independence and paranoid anti-government survivalism; Texas has oilmen and cowboys; the Plains have wholesome American homesteaders who fear God; the Mid-West has decrepit deserted towns full of rusting factories and criminals (it’s called the “Rustbelt”); the East Coast is full of elitists, bankers, and mocha-sipping liberals.

Religion

The Creation Museum in Kentucky features exhibits of humans coexisting with dinosaurs.

The Creation Museum in Kentucky features exhibits of humans coexisting with dinosaurs.

About half of Americans deny evolution and believe in the literal truth of the Bible, a figure that elicits smirks among Europeans; including Britons and Russians, amongst whom such people constitute no more than 20% of the population. Interestingly, many Christian fundamentalists in the US are polite, generous, middle-class, frequently young professionals; but then your ears wilt as they move onto topics like gay marriage or the moral decline of society. In some of the conservative states, there have been attempts to teach “intelligent design” (a lightly disguised form of creationism) on an equal footing with the theory of evolution.

In recent years, Britain has experienced an inflow of the kind of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity so popular in the US, and in contrast to the patterns of previous decades, it is now young people and denizens of London – traditionally the most secular groups – that are becoming the most fundamentalist. That said, most Britons and Russians remain mostly agnostic, atheistic, or mystical-pagan in a way that sidesteps traditional dogma. Go into a typical Orthodox Church in Russia, and practically all the congregation will consist of elderly women in skirts and shawls.

There is no separation of Church and state in Russia and the UK, unlike in the US; their governments finance the churches, mosques, etc. In Russia, the state considers four religions to be traditional to Russia, and supports them financially; they are Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. Other faiths are ignored (e.g. Roman Catholics, pagans), or harassed (e.g. evangelical proselytizers, Wahhabi preachers), or in the case of Scientology banned as a cult. In the past two years there was a big scandal when the Education Ministry decided to begin teaching classes on “The Foundations of Orthodoxy” and on other religions, with critics arguing that it represents undue religious influence in secular school institutions; as someone who had mandatory classes in religion (mostly Christianity) at a British state school, and aware of the Sunday Bible classes common in the US, I find their concern hard to understand.

There are two major groups that are exceptions to secularity in Russia and the UK. First, Britain’s Muslim community isn’t only very religious by British Christian, but also by European Muslim standards. In fact, a high percentage of them are outright fundamentalists, e.g. more than a third support the death penalty for apostasy. Second, the Muslims of Russia’s Caucasus, such as the Chechens, Ingushetians, and Daghestanis. Few of them are fundamentalist, however their religiosity is well above those of ethnic Russians (as well as of Muslim ethnicities in the center of Russia, like the Tatars or Bashkirs) and comparable to that of the conservative US states. They largely follow Sufi Islam, which is moderate; however, since the mid-1990′s, there have appeared more extremist Islamists.

How do they view each other?

Americans view the British as transatlantic cousins, with some odd quirks and a Queen, and reliable allies. The British like Americans, but feelings towards the US state are very mixed – whereas conservative elements admire it as the (perceived) defender of Western civilization, bastion of morality and religion, etc., the liberal elements detest it for its (perceived) hypocrisy, imperialism, bloodthirstiness, Guantanamo, etc. Many British also think – justifiably, IMO – that they got the short end of the stick in the Special Relationship between their two countries (i.e. whereas the UK bends over backwards to support US foreign policy objectives, the Americans treat it like any other West European country).

Russian attitudes towards Britain, and especially the US, vary greatly by political persuasion. Its liberals adore the US (and dislike or hate many aspects of their own country); the Communists and patriots / nationalists dislike or hate it. On average, they are mildly positive or neutral, which is a retreat from the very positive feelings they have for the US in the 1990′s. Since then, the general sentiment has been one of repeated let-downs (e.g. bombing Serbia; the Iraq invasion; the moral support for Georgia in the 2008 South Ossetia War; etc). This has distinctly cooled Russia’s love for the West in general, and the US in particular. Many Russians do acknowledge that the West does many things objectively better than Russia, and is worthy of emulation; however, Westerners are now recognized to be driven by self-interest, not altruism, and thus all dealings with them should be made with caution*.

The ekranoplan is fast, capacious, and hard to detect.

* This is in stark contrast to the naive optimism of the late 1980′s – early 1990′s. Back then, the Soviets and their successors thought that the West would be willing to cooperate with Russia on equal terms, which led to many idiotic mistakes. One minor, but telling, example: Russia had a unique technology called the ekranoplan, a plane that could fly meters above the water at jumbo jet speeds, with obvious military and logistical applications. Hoping to cooperate on their further development with the US, the Soviets invited American journalists to come look over the machines, allowing them to photograph all the details, etc. Needless to say, the Americans never came back for a second visit. They began working on their own ekranoplan using the photos and videos that would have required billions of dollars to buy, or steal. (And this is just one example, there were dozens of similar cases). And who can blame them? They were only being rational and capitalistic, and to their loss, the Russians hadn’t yet gotten used to thinking in those terms.

One cover says as much as 1,000 words.

One cover says as much as 1,000 words.

The British, and I imagine the Americans, viewed Russians with mistrust and hostility in the 1990′s and most of the 2000′s. Interestingly, the more educated and middle class a Brit is, the more likely he is to view Russians as un-European, aggressive, and barbaric subhumans; partly, I think it is because media outlets aimed at the bourgeoisie, such as The Economist or the Wall Street Journal, tend to have the most Russophobic slant of the Western media which is no mean feat*. (In contrast, the views of ordinary people tend to be apolitical, associating Russia with bears, vodka, Matryoshka dolls, etc). That said, things seem to have began to change in the past 5 years. This just proves that the remedy for Western contempt isn’t becoming (the Western definition of) liberal democracy, or even having pro-Western policies, but getting richer, stronger, and more independent of them. I noticed that by around 2008, most acerbic comments by bourgeois Brits about East Europeans were addressed in the direction of Poles and Ukrainians.

* I think both US and British media coverage of Russia is atrocious, a subject I will cover in far greater detail later in the series.

The British tend to be a bit more skeptical of their media than the Americans, which is perhaps why Americans have an even lower opinion of Russia. On the other hand, Russians as people are far more readily accepted into US society; the Americans are far less nativist and ethnocentric than the British.

How do they view other countries?

The American view of the world aside is centered around: Mexico (poor, illegal immigrants, burritos, drug wars otherwise good holiday destination); Canada (cold, lumberjacks, boring); China (stealing our jobs, outproducing us); Japan (robots, anime); the UK (the Queen, quaint traditions); Europe (old, decadent, wine, lots of history, aging); Israel (our good friends / will bring on the Second Coming / extremist Zionists); Middle East (Arabs, oil, sand dunes, hate women); South America (cocaine, coffee, jungles, ten minute dictators).

Americans view most West European nations, and Japan, positively (though this depends on the political mood; for instance, during 2003, the French were hated by conservatives); they are neutral or mildly negative towards China and Russia (view them as authoritarian strategic competitors); very negative towards most of the Muslim world and the countries their political elites have defined as being “rogue nations” (e.g. Cuba, North Korea).

The US under Obama is positively regarded in Western Europe, very positively in Poland and Korea (viewed as a liberator and protector) and Africa, mildly positively or neutral in Russia and China (imperialistic strategic competitor), negatively in Latin America (they’re not fans of the Monroe Doctrine, and view Americans as rich and arrogant gringos), and very negatively in the Muslim world (who are accused of supporting kleptocratic elites who funnel profits from the people’s oil into their Swiss bank accounts and disrespect Islam).

The British view of the world revolves around Europe (i.e. the EU) and the Commonwealth (the countries that used to make up its Empire). France and Spain are regarded as nice places to visit; Germany is viewed as a center of industry and trading partner. Poland is good, but the immigrants aren’t appreciated. The EU is nice and convenient, but should NOT be allowed to infringe on British sovereignty in any meaningful capacity. (In fact, what the UN is to American conservatives, the EU is to British conservatives; frightening bureaucratic constructs dead-set on crushing their hallowed liberties).

Canada, Australia and New Zealand are comfortable, brotherly English-speaking places (Australia in particular is a favored emigration destination). Russia is a foreboding presence to the east that spies on us. India is viewed favorably. One of the big debates in the British Indian community is about whether the Empire had a positive or negative historical role for their old country. China is strange, distant and exotic.

Britain is viewed positively in most places outside the Muslim world, where it is regarded as a stooge of the US. One exception is Argentina, with which there are still tensions over the Falklands / Malvinas dispute.

The Russians divide the world into the “Near Abroad” (the territories of the former USSR) and the “Far Abroad” (everywhere else). In the Near Abroad, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan are regarded as brotherly nations and there is popular support – more so in those countries than even in Russia – for a closer union, perhaps along the lines of the EU. However, it should be noted that in Ukraine, attitudes towards Russia vary: whereas they are very positive in the east and south, the central and western areas to a far greater extent stress the Ukrainian national identity.

Bulgarians and Serbians are very pro-Russian. Almost all of them I’ve met adore it, if anything, more than Russians themselves (to the extent that I was at times forced into the uncomfortable position of arguing that Russia’s really isn’t all that awesome). In a sharp reversal from Soviet times, when Armenian terrorists seeking independence bombed the Moscow Metro, today Armenians really like Russia; presumably, because it is its main protector against Azerbaijan, with which it has territorial disputes that resulted in a war in the 1990′s. (The Azeris are backed by Turkey and the US, while Iran – geopolitics trumping religion – backs Christian Armenia over Muslim Azerbaijan). The Azeris, unsurprisingly, aren’t positive towards Russia.

9/11 monument, "The Tear of Grief", by Zurab Tsereteli, an ethnic Georgian who is Russia's most prominent architect. Gifted to the US.

9/11 monument, “The Tear of Grief”, by Zurab Tsereteli, an ethnic Georgian who is Russia’s most prominent architect. Gifted to the US.

Georgia was mostly pro-Soviet, in large part thanks to national boundaries being drawn in their favor under Stalin, who was an ethnic Georgian. (This was the root cause of the 2008 South Ossetia War: Georgia attempting to reincorporate the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which split off after the Soviet collapse and don’t want to go back to Georgia; and Russia intervening in support of the Ossetians).

Current relations are heavily colored by the adverse politics between the two countries. Russians dislike President Saakashvili, but are OK towards Georgians; at least, they like Georgian cuisine, if not their architects. While many Georgians dislike Russia, others obviously disagree, at the very least the 20% of their 5 million population that now lives in Russia.

Poles are split fifty-fifty on Russia. One elderly Pole in the UK was extremely pro-Russian, having been freed by the Red Army from a Nazi concentration camp in 1945; he died a few years ago. Another one was a Russophobe extremist, and impossible to communicate with on that account (his parents had migrated from Poland in the 1980′s). Yet another was 100% apolitical and easy to get on with. Etc.

Though Central Asians like and appreciate Russian culture – it was Soviet power that created their nation-states in their modern form – the reverse is largely untrue.

March of SS veterans in Riga, Latvia in 2009. Balts consider them freedom fighters; Russians say they were war criminals. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

March of SS veterans in Riga, Latvia in 2009. Balts consider them freedom fighters; Russians say they were war criminals. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

The Balts are viewed negatively and the feeling is very mutual. Once the Baltic nations got independence from the USSR, they made citizenship for ethnic Russians subject upon the passage of a (politicized) history test and language test (Estonian or Latvian are hard to learn for anyone, let alone people in their 50′s or 60′s). This has resulted in a large population of Russian aliens in the Baltic states, who are subjected to extensive discrimination, as documented by HR organizations like Amnesty.

These disputes are centered around different interpretations of history. The Baltic peoples view the USSR as an occupier, and hence the ethnic Russians as illegal immigrants (even though they came not of their own volition but by the decree of Soviet central planners). Latvia has even built a monument to their national Waffen SS, and holds annual marches for its veterans. It sees them as freedom fighters against Soviet occupation, whereas Russians (and Jews) see them as war criminals. Both have a point. The majority of Balts – though far from all of them – did not want to be incorporated into the USSR in 1939, and their “forest brother” anti-Soviet partisans had popular support. However, the narrative that it was a heroic struggle against oppression is rendered implausible by the fact that 90%+ of all Jews in the Baltics were wiped out under Nazi rule, with the enthusiastic cooperation of the local population.

One unpleasant experience I had was at a friend’s birthday party in a Dublin restaurant; the two waiters never came up to take our orders, but continued serving newcomers. After more than half an hour, we decided to investigate what the matter was, after one of the waiters smirked at us and turned back to some couple who had come in 10 minutes ago. The (Irish) restaurant owner reprimanded the waiter, after which he cursed at us, and was fired on the spot. It turned out that they were both Latvians, and though there’s no way to prove it, I’m pretty sure it was our Russian-language conversation that provoked their hostility. (The affair ended by the restaurant owner apologizing and offering free service, but by then we had no desire to remain there and went elsewhere).

Balts sometimes argue that Russians exaggerate or invent the presence of Russophobia in Latvia and Estonia, but if the above incident is anything to go by – very hostile reactions to Russian spoken not even in their own countries but on the other side of Europe – it might if anything be underestimated.

If there’s one generalization I can make about all of these views, it is that throughout the post-Soviet space, Russia (and Russians) is viewed more positively by ordinary people, less positively by the elites. I suspect it is not because of their higher perspicacity, but because more educated people tend to be better at constructing narratives. The most widespread elite narrative there is that Russia is the successor of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union oppressed their culture and stymied their development potential.

In the Far Abroad, the Americans and most Europeans view Russia very negatively, as does Japan because of the Kurils dispute; otherwise, most Arab and African countries, China and India view it positively and Latin Americans are neutral. This is largely reflected by (and/or caused by) the media coverage of Russia; whereas European and America news outlets rant on about Russian authoritarianism, imperialism, etc., I’ve noticed that the non-Western media hold a more balanced stance.

Russia has more or less normal relations with countries shunned by the US, e.g. Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Syria, etc. This has to do with commercial interests, plus the fact that the Russian political elites believe US denunciations of these countries based on human rights are nothing more than a cover for advancing its geopolitical interests, or else: why do they remain silent on, say, Saudi Arabia, which is certainly no better than any “rogue nation”? As noted in the previous part, though the UK and US passports are far better for travel in general, visiting places like Iran is much easier (and safer) with a Russian passport.

Foreign Languages

Unlike the more urbane central Europeans, all three countries perform pretty miserably on foreign language knowledge. Perhaps 20% of Americans (excluding Hispaniacs) can speak Spanish fluently, though this is probably a California bias and lower in the eastern states. Knowledge of other languages is rare, excluding immigrant communities. A similar proportion of Britons can speak French fluently; the vast majority can only dredge up a few phrases that they learned back in secondary school.

The situation in Russia is a bit more complicated. The older generations, that is until 1970, mostly studied German at school. Needless to say, the vast majority did not reach proficiency. After 1970, the emphasis switched to English, but again, for the vast majority of Soviet citizens – those who did not intend to become trade delegates, diplomats, spies, academics, etc. – fluency was not required, so amongst the middle-aged, perhaps 20% or fewer can competently communicate in it. From the 1990′s, it became clear that English is indispensable to success in the modern global marketplace. I would say that amongst young Russians, an adequate level of English knowledge is approaching 50% (though this is still far below the near universal English knowledge amongst young Germans or Swedes). Knowledge of languages other than English is minimal.

Intelligence

While there exist stereotypes of the ignorant American, the cultured Englishman, the uncultured Russian savage, etc., they are fairly useless. Differences between personalities far exceed any national differences. For what they’re worth, international IQ tests peg the US, the UK and Russia at around 95-100; lower than East Asian countries like Japan or Korea (105), but average for industrialized countries.

All three countries have an anti-intellectual climate. In British schools, especially amongst males, not giving a fuck about schoolwork confers coolness. In the US, “nerds” and “geeks” are ostracized, since associating with them threatens one’s social status. From what I heard, things are largely similar in Russian schools.

Travel & Tourism

Many middle-class Americans travel to places like Mexico, Australia, Canada, the UK, France, Italy, or other places of the US on holidays. In winter, ski resorts in the Rockies are popular; in summer, the US has a rich variety of stunning national parks to choose from (e.g. Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Everglades, etc).

Among Californians, favorite getaway destinations include Yosemite National Park (it of the giant sequoia trees), the ski resorts of Lake Tahoe, the casinos of Reno and Las Vegas, and the beaches south of Santa Barbara (which offer great surfing). Americans can freely visit the border Mexican city of Tijuana, either individually or, as recommended, in tour groups. (In the guardhouse on the border, there are photos of the hundreds of Americans who went into Mexico and never came back). Needless to say, Mexicans aren’t accorded similar privileges.

One Turkish resort even built a replica Red Square for Russian tourists.

One Turkish resort even built a replica Red Square for Russian tourists.

If going abroad for the sun, Russians tend to visit Turkey, Egypt, the Crimean peninsula or Odessa in Ukraine, or their own resorts at Sochi and Krasnodar. The latter also include ski resorts; they were once primitive, but are now being rapidly developed in time for the upcoming Sochi Olympics. Many residents of the Far East hop across the Chinese border to do shopping.

However, most Russians stay at home, or go to their dachas (country houses), where they do some of the following: harvest their fruit and vegetable gardens; swim in Russia’s myriad lakes and rivers; mow the grass; make barbecues (shashlyk) and drink beer; etc. I would estimate around half of Muscovites have a dacha outside the city.

For the British, popular destinations include: the beaches of Spain, France, Majorca; cities with cheap booze like Prague or Budapest; or further afield, the US and Australia. The most popular emigration destinations are Australia, the US, Canada, Spain and New Zealand. Hundreds of thousands of Britons maintain holiday homes in Spain and Portugal.

All three countries’ tourists have very poor reputations. Americans are regarded as arrogant, ignorant, loud, demanding, and culturally insensitive. Britons are infamous for trashing places during alcohol-fueled parties; in particular, their football hooligans are the stuff of legend throughout civilized Europe. Russians are considered rude, penny-pinching gluttons and drunks (where Russian clienteles predominate, hoteliers and restaurateurs have learned to avoid open-ended “All you can eat” deals, because Russians exploit them for all they’re worth and they end up losing money on them).

Parties & Night Life

British and US parties involve a lot of beer, and hard spirits with mixers. The American parties tend to be wilder and have more drugs. Russian parties just have a lot of beer and vodka.

American night clubs tend to have older clienteles, because of the higher drinking age and strict checks. Especially compared between university towns, American nightlife is far more subdued.

Hip Russian nightclubs and American frats practice “face control”. You may not get in if you are (1) a male without 2+ girls or (2) a non-pretty girl.

Cuisine

Obesity in the US.

Obesity in the US.

Everything in America is much sweeter. And bigger, but mainly sweeter; sometimes uncomfortably so for the foreign palate. Though there is a rich selection of foods at both shops and restaurants, including healthy options, most Americans seem to prefer high-glycemic load foods such as burgers, fries, breaded chicken, etc. The unsurprising result is an obesity crisis, though the extent of it varies by state, race, and sex. In the health-conscious Bay Area, for instance, the majority of people are normal or slightly overweight; go to the numerous, small towns further inland – with their monoscape of strip malls, fast food joints and SUV’s – and practically everyone over the age of thirty is obese or approaching it. California is one of the slimmer states, along with the East Coast states; blacks and Hispaniacs are on average fatter than whites and Asians, and women more so than men.

The UK is slightly better off than the US in this regard, but not by much (furthermore if Scotland was an independent country it would be the most obese in the world). Obesity is much less prevalent in Russia, albeit with two major caveats. First, many Russian women begin to fill up after the age of thirty or so (obesity even in older men is rare). Second, in recent years, the obesity problem has increased, and if current trends continue it may “catch up” to the Anglo-Saxon countries in another decade.

Cioppino stew, the author's interpretation.

Cioppino stew, the author’s interpretation.

The US has a brilliant range of culinary cultures, as befits its “melting pot” society. Its ethnic dishes are sometimes even judged to be better than what’s done in their country of origin, since as they’re freed from the constraints of tradition, immigrant cooks can innovate or mix and match. I’m guilty of that myself, e.g. replacing the potatoes in Russian soups with tofu, and adding lemon and spices.

The Bay Area is especially good for Mexican, Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese. The UK is very strong on Indian food, due to the size of its diaspora, but like the US its range is global. Ethnic cuisine is also present in Russia, though it’s mostly limited to food from Eurasian countries (an exception is Japanese – for the upper class circles, sushi has become something of a craze); the favorites are Georgian and Uzbek dishes.

The national cuisines of all three countries are plain – nothing fancy, as with French, or world-famous, as with Italian or Chinese – but filling. Though the US is, of course, best known for its fast McDonald’s food culture (burgers, fries, soft drinks, etc), it also has interesting regional cuisines.

The most famous is Southern cuisine, which is sweet, spicy, filling, tasty and unhealthy: it features rice; barbecues; a panoply of sauces; fried chicken; crawfish; “gumbo” stew; and a drink called swamp water (far better than its name suggests). The dish most native to California – to the extent that a California cuisine even exists, given its overwhelming tendency to amalgamate global styles instead of generating original recipes – is heavily fish-based and includes the cioppino soup. If you ever get more seafood than you know what to do with, there’s a solution!

The Sunday roast.

The Sunday roast.

English cuisine is bland, boring, and filling. The more famous offerings include: The “English breakfast” (bacon, a sausage, fried eggs, a tomato, and black tea); the “Sunday roast” (roast beef, potatoes, vegetables, gravy, and a bread-like cup called Yorkshire Pudding); cottage pie; shepherd’s pie. The best known dish, fish and chips, is actually Scottish. So, of course, is haggis; though the ingredients better remain undisclosed, it is actually pretty delicious.

Pelmeni.

Pelmeni.

Russian cuisine is, IMO, one of the better ones in the non-global / plain category, featuring the famous borscht (beetroot soup), schi (cabbage soup), caviar served with buttered bread and vodka, etc. Over the centuries it has assimilated plenty of influences from the Mongols, who know how to cook much better. In this way they got golubtsy (rice and meat lattice wrapped in cabbage leaves); pelmeny (meat dumplings served with sour cream); shashlyk (marinated meat that is barbecued). Also of note are vareniki (fruit or cheese dumplings); olivje and vinegret salads; etc. One Ukrainian dish that is popular through Russia which I find disgusting but many others swear by is salo, or salted pork fat. More recognizable to Westerners is Chicken Kiev and Beef Stroganoff. While vodka is its most famous alcoholic drink, the medovukha (mead) and kvass (a low-alcohol fermented drink) are also appreciated.

The English like to drink their tea with milk. Russians look upon this with revulsion; they prefer lemon. They like lemon with coffee too, which is bewildering to Americans.

Traditionally, vodka has accounted for the bulk of Russian alcohol consumption. There are many different types of vodka. Some of the best vodkas in Russia come from the Kristall factory in Belarus. There are some specifically themes ones, such as ones named after Kalashnikov and Putin (Putinka). One infamous variety is the hrenovuha, which is distilled from horseradish; it is literally the most disgusting stuff I’ve ever tasted. There is an entire body of etiquette on vodka drinking in Russia, as well as folk wisdom on how to drink prodigious quantities of vodka – up to a 750ml bottle over an evening, even for non-alcoholics – without as much as getting a headache in the morning after.

One such evening occasion is known as a pyanka, whereas multi-day binges are referred to as zapoi. Here are the main points from my article Zen and the Art of Vodka Drinking:

  • Fill up your belly with fatty, starchy, salty foods, e.g. fried potatoes and onions, salads with mayonnaise, etc.
  • Folk tradition when downing your shot involves blowing out through your noise, downing the shot and breathing in with your fist over your nose
  • Eat things like salted cucumbers or pickles, sausage, oily fish like sprats, salo, etc. immediately after the shot. These are called zakuski (lit. something you “bite over”).
  • When it’s your turn to make a toast, pour everyone their “fifty grams’, think up of some noble ideal to drink to (world peace, the generosity and other many good qualities of the host, victory!, etc – creativity is encouraged) and announce it in as theatrical a manner as you can manage without overdoing it.
  • Maintain a steady pace. If you’re getting buzzed way too fast, start covering your glass with your hand on subsequent rounds.
  • Drink water; don’t drink carbonated water; take a multi-vitamin before bed; drink a beer first thing on waking up.

Fun factoid: Vodka is nicknamed the “green serpent” in Russian. The name vodka itself is a diminutive of voda, which is water.

In recent years, beer has become much more popular; especially amongst the young, it is now the drink of choice. The most famous Russian beer brand is Baltika, though other domestic brands like Stary Melnik and Zhigulevskoye are popular. The most notable beers from the British Isles are the dark, bitter Irish brews of Guinness and Murphy’s (the former has a huge brewery in Dublin which is in operation for almost 250 years; a popular tourist attraction, it has an exhibition on the history of the drink). Some stereotypes are true, e.g. popular American beers are nothing to write home about. However, there are plenty of very good local breweries, which are sometimes attached to a single bar.

Single malt whiskeys, such as Macallan, are considered the cream of the crop.

Single malt whiskeys, such as Macallan, are considered the cream of the crop.

The British are big on beer and wine, with the young and lower class going for the former; the more bourgeois elements preferring wine. (Many Britons in the south actually drive over to France and buy a year’s worth, e.g. 100 bottles, of wine at a time; this is profitable, because whereas the average good-quality bottle in the UK is priced at £10-15, in France one can get them for as low as £2. The differences add up over many bottles and besides you get a nice weekend break into the bargain). The hard drink of choice is whiskey; as is well known, Scotland is the center of the industry. Its distilleries are major tourist attractions. The most famous Irish whiskey is the sweet Jameson, produced in Dublin.

In the US, alcohol consumption is much less prevalent than in either the UK or Russia; partly due to the 21 thing, partly due to more conservative social mores. The most common whiskey is the Jack Daniels blend.

As everywhere else, beer dominates at institutions of higher learning; in fact, many drinking games, such as beer pong – which even has national tournaments – originated in its fraternities. Over the entire population, there is a roughly equal split between beer, wines, and spirits.

The Russian Diaspora

This deserves its own section, as I feel especially qualified to comment on it.

The modern Russian diaspora began in the 1970′s, when many Soviet Jews began to leave for Israel and the US. It accelerated in the late 1980′s, when the Soviet government eased emigration controls (prior to that the US had sanctioned the USSR for limiting Jewish emigration with the Jackson-Vanik amendment; bizarrely, it remains in effect to this day). By the early 1990′s, these were joined by ethnic Russian academics, as part of a general “brain drain” (e.g. reminiscent of postwar Germany), since the new Yeltsin government failed to pay them living wages (this situation was only substantially remedied in the late 2000′s); as well as ethnic Germans returning to Germany (who now form their own Russian-German minority, concentrated in Berlin). By far the three most popular countries for emigration were the US (half Jews, half Russians); Germany (mostly Russians, some Germans); and Israel (Jews and a few pretend-Jews). Other destinations included Italy, the UK, France, Canada, Australia, and South Africa.

It is common for Russian ballet and circus companies to tour in both the US and the UK.

It is common for Russian ballet and circus companies to tour in both the US and the UK.

Though they are drawn from multiple ethnicities – for instance, they include Tatars, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, etc., while the Russian diaspora in the US is more accurately called the Russian-Jewish diaspora – their culture, i.e. spoken language at home, cuisine, mannerisms, fondness for ice skating, playing durak or making borscht, etc., is 90%+ Russian. Importantly, this does not mean that they like Russia (the country) or even Russian culture. I should stress that dismissing and dissing Russia was fashionable in the 1990′s, when Yeltsin’s “family” were pillaging the nation and many Russians, especially migrants, genuinely felt “betrayed” by the Russian state (it is an open question as to what extent this feeling is a result of their need to justify to themselves their own decision to leave their roots and emigrate). In fact, many diaspora Russians are psychologically averse to equanimity on Russia; in many cases, they are huge fans of whatever country they immigrated to, and of the West in general, as if to justify their own immigration to themselves. Consequently, some even view any “defense” of Russia, no matter how justified, as a personal attack on themselves and respond ferociously.

There’s also a generational aspect here. Whereas the “fathers” tended to gleefully indulge in Russia-bashing (out of a genuine sense of betrayal; overcompensating need to justify their emigration; etc.), and embraced all aspects of Westernization with the fanaticism of the new convert – frequently extending to right-wing, neoliberal views on economics and society; less frequently extending to concepts such as positive discrimination or the welfare state, which they associate with “socialism” – the effect was sometimes quite different on Russia’s “sons”. A few followed in the footsteps of the “fathers”; some (perhaps most) are largely indifferent to Russia, and have blended into the socio-political mainstream of UK or US society; others appreciate Russia to an extent that the “fathers” find puzzling, annoying, or even intolerable.

(But here, another caveat. The Russia-bashing “fathers” are also, by and large, the successful ones. Those Russian emigrants who failed to set up a good career in the West, and ended up driving taxicabs despite their higher educations, tend to be more resentful of their adopted countries, and look back on Russia more fondly. In general, among diasporas, views on the old country are ANYTHING but objective.)

It is hard to generalize, but overall – and this is hardly surprising – ethnic Russians and more recent migrants have higher opinions of their original homeland (they are also more leftist and closer to the European political spectrum) than Russian Jews or earlier migrants (who are more right-wing and closer to the American political spectrum).

Opinions on Russia amongst other emigrant ethnicities largely reflect sentiment in the home country, but if anything magnified even further.

But more about the Russian diaspora. As I mentioned, the one I’m most familiar with is the one composed of emigrant academics (though there do of course exist other circles, e.g. female gold-diggers, and gangsters or corrupt bureaucrats who had taken their ill-gotten gains to the West, etc.; I have little familiarity with the former and none with the latter). They cluster around university towns; if there’s a campus, chances are there are a few Russians around. As an in-joke amongst them goes: “What’s an American university?”, “It’s a place where Russian physicists lecture to Chinese students.” Not that far off the mark either… In the hard sciences, especially math and physics, many profs in Western universities are Russians (and it’s also the case that math and physics classrooms in the US are disproportionately populated by East Asians).

The winners of the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics were a pair of Russians working in Manchester. When asked if they were interested in Medvedev's plan to come back, their answer was a firm no.

The winners of the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics were a pair of Russians working in Manchester. When asked if they were interested in Medvedev’s plan to come back, their answer was a firm no.

These academics usually have one, or at most two, children, who are pressured to study hard and more restricted from pursuing social activities than the indigenous population (though not to the extent typical in Chinese or Indian families). At their homes, one almost never sees a Play Station or computer games; one does however see books on math, science, history, economics, as well as magazines like New Scientist or The Economist. Their children don’t usually have much fun at school, but on the other hand they do stuff like win local chess tournaments and reliably get into the top universities. Though one would think that these Russian academics are entrepreneurial go-getters – after all, they were willing to gamble on a new life abroad, right? – most are actually risk-averse and ultimately limited in their horizons. But on second thought this isn’t that surprising. Academia is a very safe environment (in terms of employment) and guarantees a reliable cash flow and career progression. The truly entrepreneurial Soviet academics have long since abandoned academia and made big bucks in the business world.

In the past two years, the Russian government has begun making noises about drawing back its researchers lost to brain drain. To date, the initiative has met with minimal success. Although Russian academic salaries are becoming competitive with Western ones (when the cost of living and low income taxes are factored in), most see no particular reason to risk the adventure, especially since the conditions for pursuing research in Russian universities remain far below those in the US or the UK. Besides, emigration is a young person’s game, and many of these academics are now in their 40′s and 50′s, or nearing retirement. Finally, the possibility of the subgroup of Russia-haters / West-worshipers going back can be excluded altogether. I suspect that the only scenario in which a substantial portion of the Russian academic diaspora returns is if their host countries go the way of the USSR, i.e. mounting debts and state insolvency leading to a collapse of research funding.

Russian mail order brides

Not only did they break hearts, Russian mail order brides also inspired a bestselling book.

Not only did they break hearts, Russian mail order brides also inspired a bestselling book.

A common delusion that feeds the “mail order brides” industry is that Russian women are less feminist than their over-entitled Western counterparts, eternally thankful for the opportunity to escape poor, barbaric Russia, and hotter to boot. Sounds like a good deal, no?

But while traditional gender roles are indeed a bit more evident in Russia than in the US or Britain, this does not extend into family relations (Russia’s divorce rate is over 50%, which is only slightly lower than in the US), and it most certainly doesn’t equal respect, let alone supplication, to the extremely beta males who presumably can’t score with the local girls and order women over the Internet in the first place. Furthermore, the days when being foreign upped your worth in the eyes of Russian girls ended sometime in the mid-2000′s; nowadays, if anything, they are at a disadvantage relative to Russian guys.

In many cases, the customers don’t get what he thought he signed up for, as his Russian wife gets her residency papers, empties his bank account, and dumps him for someone cooler and richer. They then go on to vent their resentments, complaining in person to anyone who would listen and posting about “male discrimination” at sites like The Spearhead, and describing Russian women as avaricious, disloyal, gold-diggers, etc.; my response is, why should she not exploit a total sucker like you!?

Discrimination

For this section, I’m going to look at relative levels of discrimination based on race, immigrants, sex, sexual orientation, and religion.

Race

The kind of blatant, institutionalized racism common in America prior to the civil rights movement is practically non-existent. Somewhat more prevalent is unofficial discrimination; for instant, half of all US prisoners are African-Americans, whereas they only constitute 13% of the population. On the other hand, it’s also pretty much beyond doubt that African-Americans commit more crimes than their share of the population. Quite a lot of Americans would consider the preceding sentence racist or at least controversial, which is itself a strong testament to their non-racism. When they must find some group to blame, Americans tend to focus on poor people and illegal immigrants; but in general, as mentioned above, criminal acts are viewed as individual – as opposed to group – moral failings.

Russians are far more open about blaming groups such as Caucasians, Chechens, etc. – sometimes derogatorily called “black-asses” – for high crime rates. This is not without foundation. While skinhead violence is tragic and highly visible, it is – according to many who live in Russia – dwarfed by the scale of everyday crimes committed by various ethnic gangs from the Caucasus. Nonetheless, dispassionate analysis of crime rates does overflow into outright racism far more casually than in the US or the UK. It’s not so much as Russians being far more racist than the PC culture being far less developed. It is common to hear Britons in private conversations, or on the comments sections of papers like The Telegraph or The Daily Mail, making pretty racist comments about “Third World immigrants”, “Islamic gangs”, etc.

Anti-Semitism

Overall, anti-Semitism is somewhat more prevalent in Russia than in the UK or the US (it is comparable to average European countries and far lower than in the Middle East, which is the epicenter of modern anti-Semitism). Jokes about Jewish niggardliness can be heard in all three countries, but whereas Americans and Brits only tend to make them in private or when drunk, they are aired more openly in Russia.

Boris Berezovsky: Probably responsible for 31% of Russia's anti-Semitism.

Boris Berezovsky: Probably responsible for 31% of Russia’s anti-Semitism.

That said, anti-Semitism is non-existent in official policy. Three of the wealthiest oligarchs are Jewish; so was one Prime Minister in the past decade (Mikhail Fradkov), who last I heard was head of the SVR intelligence agency. Ironically, the clownish leader of Russia’s leading nationalist party,Vladimir Zhirinovsky, is a Jew (Fun anecdote: When asked about his ethnic roots, he replied, “My mother – was a Russian; my father – was a lawyer!”; feel free to search for his quotes on Google, he’s as much fun as Gadaffi or Berlusconi).

After a big outflow to Israel in the 1990′s, net migration between Russia and Israel has stabilized at a level close to zero (despite that the latter is a wealthier country and the Jewish homeland). Attitudes towards Israel are actually more positive than in most European countries, probably because Russians sympathize with their Islamic terror problems (Palestine; Chechnya) and appreciate the visa-less travel regime between the two countries.

Most negative opinions on Jews in Russia stem from the fact that most of the oligarchs created in the corrupt Yeltsin era were Jewish*, including the most infamous and/or ostentatious ones: Berezovsky (“godfather of the Kremlin” in the 1990′s), Abramovich (he of the world’s most expensive yacht), etc. Nowadays, it is Caucasians and Central Asians who are the main targets of xenophobic rhetoric in Russia.

* This isn’t anti-Semitism, just the facts on the ground. I don’t want to get into a history lesson, but for a good explanation of why Jews are so overrepresented amongst the Russian oligarchs (and why other “market-dominant minorities” emerge elsewhere, e.g. ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, or whites in Latin America) consult World on Fire by Amy Chua.

Probably the best places for Jews in the world (maybe even Israel, given its terrorist problems) are the US and the UK. I don’t really know why that is the case. Perhaps, they have traditionally been the most capitalistic societies, which left less to differentiate between indigenous Britons / Americans and Jews than in less commercialized mainland Europe. But this is just speculation on my part.

In conclusion, while you do people with too much time on their hands who rant on about Zionist Occupation Government in all three countries, their views are very much in the fringes.

Immigrants

There is a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric in all three countries. The complaints are pretty similar: they steal jobs; commit crimes; etc. IMO, their real sin is to be willing to do work that Americans / British / Russians are no longer willing to do for low wages, and are easier scapegoats for economic problems than politicians, bankers, and others with wealth and power. As a rule, the crowd picks on the weak and losers.

Most low skilled migrants to the US come from the poorer, southern areas of Mexico, and from Central America. They are widely employed as agricultural laborers throughout the US South-West and Texas; as nannies everywhere (including the North); and as construction workers. The US is more successful at integrating immigrants than either Russia or the UK, possibly due to its “melting pot” traditions. Americans are far more understanding of people who have difficulties communicating in English, and immigrants have a far easier time getting a job than their equivalents in Britain. As long as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stays off their backs, some of them do quite well. Their children can attend US schools for free (though problems can start up once they apply to universities, where background checks are more stringent). Any children born in the US automatically become citizens, for which reason they are disparagingly called “anchor babies” by anti-immigrant activists. If they are apprehended by ICE, then they are typically put into deportation proceedings. They can hire a lawyer or the government appoints one for them. If they are found guilty of illegally entering the US, they are driven over the Mexican border (or flown to their country of origin) at government expense and barred reentry for many years, or for life if the immigrant had committed a felony while in the US.

The US immigration process, pursued by the rulebook, is incredibly inefficient, taxing, and idiotic. A skilled foreign worker needs an H1-B work visa for 6 years before he becomes eligible for a Green Card, which entitles her to Legal Permanent Residency (if she changes employer, the clock starts ticking from the beginning again; furthermore, during this time, her spouse cannot work unless he also has a work visa). After getting the Green Card, it takes five more years to become a US citizen, during which time it is impossible to go abroad for any long period of time without risking the permanent residency (two years is the absolute maximum if you exploit all bureaucratic channels). To America’s detriment, many decide that spending 11 years in this limbo state just isn’t worth it, and thus depart back to China, India or eastern Europe after getting an American degree or work experience in the US.

In the UK, most low skilled migrants come from the Indian subcontinent (Pakistan, Bangladesh); Africa; and eastern European countries such as Poles, Latvians, etc. AFAIK, the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are now mostly family members and relatives of previous immigrants who have already settled in the UK. The eastern Europeans are more recent arrivals, coinciding with the opening of its labor markets to the new EU members in the east (it was the only country to do along with Ireland and Sweden). The result was a sharp rise in Polish migration – perhaps 500,000 in total – where they worked as plumbers, construction workers, agricultural workers, and in the service industry. However, it’s a very transient migration wave. Following the post-2008 recession, many – perhaps most of them – have left back for Poland (which is now doing very well, economically).

Possibly not the best way to endear oneself to the indigenous population.

Possibly not the best way to endear oneself to the indigenous population.

The Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities are there to stay, arguably to Britain’s detriment, as not only have they transformed many inner cities into areas of urban blight (e.g. Luton, Burnley, Leicester), but they also form the bulk of the British Muslim community, which is by far the most radicalized and anti-progressive in Western Europe. For instance, in polls more than a third support the death penalty for apostasy.

This isn’t just reflected in these figures, or photos of extremists carrying placards with “Behead Those Who Insult Islam” on them. The areas in which these communities predominate are no go areas, because of the gangs and crime rates. They also have very backward ideas on women’s rights. Once when I was shopping for groceries with a female friend who happened to have dark features, which I guess can pass for South Asian ones, a bearded Asian man began hurling slurs at her for exposing herself, i.e. wearing a T-shirt, forcing me to resolutely intervene. Now all this might sound stereotypical, prejudicial, racist, etc. to liberals who’ve never lived or even wandered into such areas, but they are just the facts on the ground.

Some US conservatives believe that Muslims are going to demographically take over Europe, turning it into a “Eurabia”. This is, by and large, fear-mongering nonsense, including the British variant of the Eurabia scenario: “Londonistan“. The fact is that Muslims are only c.3% of the British population, are highly fragmented by ethnicity and levels of religious devotion, and their fertility rates – though higher – are steadily converging to the UK average. In the next generation, though the UK will become a more Muslim country, minarets won’t replace Oxford’s “dreaming spires” any time soon. Nor, BTW, is Russia going to become majority Muslim (despite analysts / propagandists who argue otherwise). They constitute a maximum of 10% of the population (polls actually indicate 4-6%), and the two largest Muslim ethnicities – Tatars and Bashkirs – have fertility rates that are no different from those of ethnic Russians. In fact, the only Russian Muslim group with fertility rates substantially above replacement level rates are the Chechens, of whom there are only a bit more than one million.

Migrants in Russia – called “Gastarbeiters”, from the German name for Turkish guest workers – are typically from the poorer countries of the “Near Abroad”: Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Georgians, Armenians, and Moldovans. The Central Asians dominate construction work, Caucasians dominate open air markets / bazaars, while Slavs tend to work in services like interior decorating or hairdressing. The typical pattern is for them to arrive legally – Russia has visa less travel with the former Soviet republics, with the right to reside up to three months – but work illegally and overstay. The migrants live in communal apartments in out of the way places, and their employers typically arrange bribes for the police to leave them alone as long as they don’t make trouble. There’s a good photo album of their living conditions here.

Their lives are unpleasant, access to social services is far more limited than for illegals in the US, and they always live under the cloud of arbitrary deportation (sometimes, for political reasons: once, there was a large campaign at expelling Georgian illegals after a serious deterioration in relations with Georgia). Nonetheless, around 5-8 million of them have decided to come nonetheless, because of the salary differentials. Whereas a Tajik can expect to earn perhaps $80 per month in construction in his home country, in Russia the equivalent figure is $500+.

Gender

The stereotype of Russia is that it’s a patriarchal country, and one where things have gotten a lot worse for women since the end of (supposed) Soviet egalitarianism. This isn’t quite as simple.

For the seventy years of its existence, there was not a single woman in the Politburo, whereas the current Cabinet has two (albeit in the “softer” departments: economy; healthcare). Nonetheless, politics is undoubtedly far more markedly dominated by men in Russia than is the case in Britain or the UK.

The female share of the workforce is higher, and the ratio of male to female wages, and the prevalence of female managers, is similar to that in the US and Britain (and higher than in mainland Europe). Russian women did take a big hit in the 1990′s when state employment fell (most state workers are women), but as already mentioned, the state has since recovered; whereas the prospects for women in the UK, due to the big cuts in the state sector planned for the coming years, are bad.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was one of the top 10 Soviet snipers of WW2, with 309 confirmed kills.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was one of the top 10 Soviet snipers of WW2, with 309 confirmed kills.

The early Soviet state pushed for the modernization of women’s lives, pioneering concepts such as maternity leave, industrial employment, etc. The latter reached an apogee during the Second World War, when the conscription of men spurred huge growth in industrial jobs for women. Uniquely amongst the combatant nations, Soviet female volunteers were allowed to serve in combat positions on the front, such as fighter pilots and snipers.

The process continued after the war, e.g. the first female cosmonaut was Soviet. However, most women’s professions remained those regarded as traditionally feminine – nurses, doctors, teachers, office workers, bureaucrats. Today, more jobs are closed off to Russian women than in the UK or the US – mostly by social convention (e.g. whereas many women work traditionally male jobs such as truck drivers in the US, it is far rarer in Russia), but in a few cases by formal requirements (e.g. e.g. Moscow Metro’s job ads for train drivers specifically ask for male applicants). Front line combat in the armed forces is closed off to women in all three countries.

Discrimination laws exist, but lag behind Britain and the US. It is far easier for Russian bosses to get away exploiting their female colleagues, e.g. trading pay rises for sexual favors. The good news for the majority of normal men is that there are far fewer frivolous harassment lawsuits.

In all three countries, more women go to university than men. Furthermore, the difference in male and female life expectancy in Russia – 62 years to 75 years in 2010 – is one of the highest in the world. This is mostly because, while there are some female alcoholics, excessive alcohol consumption is far more prevalent among Russian men. Unlike in the US or the UK, there is no rhetoric among Russian conservatives against single mothers.

The flip side of patriarchy is chivalry. Women in Russia can retire at 55, whereas for men it is 60; pretty bizarre, given that they live about 13 years longer. They cannot be sentenced to the death penalty (on which there is, granted, a moratorium) or to life imprisonment. Women aren’t subject to conscription in Russia. Whether this is discrimination, a privilege, or both, is up for debate.

Sexual Minorities

Being LGBT is far worse in Russia than in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Despite the impassioned rhetoric against homosexuality in the US, this does not stop several states from allowing gay marriage and there being an active political debate on the subject. The state of gay rights in the UK is similar, but with less vitriol.

In Russia, homosexual acts between males were only legalized in 1993. Under the Mayoralty of Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow Pride parades were banned up and marches dispersed until his ouster in 2010. Support for gay marriage is minimal, at no more than 20% of the population. Gay couples can’t adopt children.

Society will tolerate you, but it will object to you flaunting your sexuality; it is common for Russians to fear the “propagandization” of the “homosexual lifestyle” and its (supposedly) infectious effects on children. Obviously, it’s still far better to be a homosexual in Russia than anywhere in the Middle East (except Israel), or most of Asia for that matter. You won’t go to prison just for being gay. But even in Moscow, you’ll be subjected to the kind of discrimination and popular disapproval that would have prevailed in the US or Britain in, say, the 1980′s.

Islamophobia

The omnipresence of “war on terror” rhetoric in all three countries, and Russia’s and Britain’s large Muslim minorities, make this an important issue.

The US used to be markedly better than the rest, but with the upsurge of Islamophobia in recent years – bizarrely, well after 9/11 – makes this no longer accurate. Rep. Peter King recently launched congressional hearings about the “radicalization” of the Muslim community, no matter that most terrorist attacks in the past decade actually came from White nationalist and anti-government groups. But these neo-McCarthyite antics have the support of most of the population.

American Muslims tend to have a divide between conservative fathers and mothers, and liberal sons and daughters. The parents come from more traditional societies and tend to continue thinking in this way. Their offspring not only have the natural tendency to rebel against them, but also against a government and a society that is ever less welcoming of their presence in the country. Go to a Muslim political gathering, and you’ll hear about Foucault and Derrida and the importance of “changing the narrative”; you won’t hear anything about the likes of Sayyid Qutb or the necessity of jihad.

The British have the most radicalized Muslim minority in Europe. There is a lot of latent Islamophobia, though it’s not quite as extensive as in mainland Europe; given that their Muslims are more extreme than in the US or Europe, however, that is somewhat understandable.

The two most populous Russian Muslim minorities, the Tatars and Bashkirs in the center of Russia, are indistinguishable from ethnic Russians in their secularism (including alcohol consumption). The southern Muslims of the North Caucasus, such as Daghestanis, Chechens and Ingushetians, are far stricter, religious, conservative, and patriarchal (e.g. the father of the house, to this day, still frequently decides whom his daughter is going to wed). However, Russians are not Islamophobic in the way that Britain or especially the US is; their antipathy is expressed not through religion, but through ethnicity. That said, there’s also a countervailing admiration for Caucasians’ famed warrior spirit, machismo, and perceived social cohesion.

Conclusion? If you’re a moderate Muslim, then chances are you’ll get along fine in Britain, Russia and the US (though you will also occasionally run into prejudice, bigotry and discrimination). If you’re a radical Islamist, however, then staying in Russia and the US could be outright dangerous; you’re better off moving to the UK, where you may be prosecuted but at least won’t be put into secret jails.

Ageism

The retirement age in the UK is 65, at which point an employer can force his worker to retire without additional compensation. In state institutions like universities it is done as a matter of course. The retirement age in Russia is 60 years for men and 55 years for women, but many continue working into their seventies and eighties to supplement their meager pensions. My impression is that people retire late in the US. I don’t know much about elderly workers’ rights or the details of their pensions systems, largely because I haven’t yet had cause to concern myself with them.

In education, it is not unusual typical to see older people at US universities, who take classes in subjects they’re interested in for pleasure or enlightenment. This is much rarer in the UK and Russia.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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During one conversation at Sean’s Russia Blog, the commentator Evgeny referred me to a work by Russian political analyst & nationalist Konstantin Krylov, Поведение (“Behavior”). In it he tries to classify the world’s civilizations into four ethical systems (South – tribal, East – collectivist, West – individualist, North – kind of like communism?, and not yet reached anywhere). He makes some good observations, though they are certainly not new to sociology and he simplifies too much. However, I found his last chapter, Civilization and its Enemies, to be a really incisive characterization of two major social groupings “outside” conventional civilization – international diasporas and barbarians. [Go here for Google translation].

Krylov characterizes the diaspora mentality thus:

Мне нет дела до других, как и им – до меня. Как другие ведут себя по отношению ко мне, пусть так себя и ведут. Как я веду себя по отношению к другим, так я и дальше буду себя вести. Все действуют так, как считают нужным, и я тоже действую, как считаю нужным.

[I don't have any cares for others, just as they have no cares for me. Let others continue to behave towards me just like as already do; as for me, I will continue behaving towards them just as I always have. Everyone acts as they consider necessary, and I too act, as I consider necessary.]

According to Krylov’s thinking, diaspora peoples follow a “minimal ethical system”, expecting, and thus accepting, anything at all from others, both within and without their diaspora. They tend to disavow black-and-white, good-and-evil thinking; instead, they can understand an array of different values, they’re just not judgmental about them, except in so far as they are more or less “useful” or “harmful” to them personally. They hold a certain contempt for the rigid ethical / behavioral constraints of normal societies, which they find difficult to understand. Instead, they view themselves as unabashed realists, focus on survival and profiteering, and do not hold grudges or blood feuds; they are fully capable of negotiations with people who wronged them in the past if the situation changes or they need something from them.

Because of their minimal levels of social trust, the diaspora population cannot exist as a stand-alone community and must act as a parasite on another, already existing one; the example par excellence are the Jews, though others include Armenians, Greeks, the Chinese “bamboo network” of East Asia, etc (see Amy Chua’s concept of market-dominant minorities). He acknowledges that this view may be interpreted as being anti-Semitic, but disavows it because it is not an innate characteristic of Jewishness (be it in the “ethnic, religious, or politico-conspiratorial sense”), but rather of their diasporic nature.

Indeed, he notes at the end that Israeli Jews are entirely “another people” from the classical Jewish diaspora, since they have taken up the (Western) ethical system in favor of their previous diasporic ethical system after the formation of the Israeli state. They had to, since they now constituted the majority population and could no longer parasite off themselves. Nowadays the Jews in Israel possess a great sense of national destiny / uniqueness / patriotism, education isn’t particularly valued (interestingly, on international standardized tests Israelis tend to perform rather poorly, in stark contrast to diaspora Jews), etc, – in other words, they are a conventional civilization.

He then discusses relations between the diaspora within, and its relations with its “host” society. He notes that they can be at times useful, at times neutral, and at times debilitating to the host society; furthermore, the diaspora itself remains constant, while it is the host society that leads change. He makes the interesting observation that frequently members of a diaspora are more afraid of their own, rather than of members of the host society, since the latter must act towards them under the constraints of their particular ethical system, whereas between diaspora members relations are cleanly pragmatic / exploitative – and thus they can do unto them any kind of evil if it serves their purposes. Paradoxically, this state of internal insecurity actually binds the diaspora together.

Стоит обратить внимание на внутреннее устройство такого рода сообществ. Как правило, люди, входящие в них, боятся друг друга больше, чем чужих – поскольку ждут от “чужих” этически окрашенного поведения, а от “своих” чисто прагматического. Именно это обстоятельство может как разрушить подобное сообщество, так и (как это не парадоксально) сплотить его.

Diasporas are easily pushed around, and hesitate to stand up for themselves, preferring instead to buy off threats. He then argues that the phenomenon of diaspora peoples favoring others from amongst themselves for jobs, positions, etc – e.g. a Armenian (or Jew, etc) looking out for other Armenians at a big company – is not so much an expression of “national solidarity”, but a method of buying off potential enemies from within their own community; however, when said Armenian reaches a high management position subject to closer scrutiny, he refrains from hiring fellow Armenians, instead relying on credentialed specialists.

Diasporas sometimes have a good effect on the national economy, e.g. in nations where the host population is barred, through law or custom, from working in certain dirty or “debasing” occupations (typically those tied to finance or commerce in traditional Malthusian societies) – the Jews of medieval Europe are the archetypal example. He is also strongly against the idea that diasporas try to covertly acquire power in a country through cabals, etc – quite simply, they are not interested in it enough, nor do they understand the culture they are in (whose behavioral norms are much more complex than their own) well enough to be effective at it. Their main interest is in survival and eating.

Why do diaspora peoples appear to be extremely effective and successful? According to Krylov, because far from being extremely clever or devious as caricatured, the diaspora mindset is much simpler; they have little concept of social shame and simply don’t think about, or notice, many of the ingrained social customs and traditions constraining the actions of members of the host society. For instance:

Если самый дешевый способ получить то, что тебе нужно, от кого-то, это публично унизиться перед ним, то почему бы так и не поступить? Но если проще и дешевле обхамить, надавить, в конце концов обмануть того же самого человека, почему бы не сделать так? С такой позиции это чисто технический вопрос. Для того, чтобы его решить, не надобно большого ума, хотя со стороны такое поведение может казаться чуть ли не образцом сатанинской изворотливости.

[If the cheapest method of acquiring something you need, from someone, is to publicly lower yourself before him, then why not? If its easier and cheaper to pressure or deceive that same person, again why not? To them this is an entirely technical question with no moral overtones. To solve it one doesn't need a great deal of intelligence, even though from the side this kind of behavior may appear to be an example of almost Satanic resourcefulness.]

Finally, he notes that short of the diaspora disappearing – either through complete assimilation into the host society, or by acquiring a new ethical system and becoming another people entirely (like modern Israelis) – the civilized state must treat them with cautious toleration.

Кроме всего прочего, не следует излишне демонизировать поведение “рассеянных народов”. Люди такого типа действительно способны совершить любое зло (за что к ним соответствующим образом и относятся), но они, по крайней мере, не считают причинение зла другим единственным достойным способом существования. Такие люди могут быть безупречно лояльными гражданами, если только государство, в котором они проживают, будет внушать им достаточные опасения – а запугать их легко. Другое дело, что ждать от них проявлений настоящего патриотизма, чести, даже элементарной порядочности, не имеет никакого смысла.

[It does not follow that we should excessively demonize the behavior of diaspora peoples. People of this type can indeed make any kind of evil (which is why host peoples tend to have such bad relations with them), but they ultimately don't consider doing evil unto others to be the only way of earning a good existence. They can be flawlessly loyal citizens, though only if the state in which they live pressures them with substantial threats for disobedience, for they are easily cowed. It's another thing, however, that to await expressions of real patriotism, honor, even elementary decency from them, is entirely futile.]

Are these viewpoints bigoted? Correct? Racist? Anti-Semitic? Primitive? Incisive? A combination of all of them? As someone forced into becoming a “rootless cosmopolitan” myself, I admit to finding myself nodding to almost everything he said. Here’s a recent convo I had with people at Peter Lavelle’s UT discussion group on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall:

I realize, of course, that life under “Communism” was very bland andas the years rolled by increasingly corrupt and unfair to the peopleliving under it. I also understand that from the perspective of most East-Central Europeans, especially those of the younger generation,that system’s collapse was greeted with joy, signifying as it didnewfound social, economic, and national freedoms. Good for them, I hope they enjoy themselves.

That said. As a Russian whose parent’s livelihood basically vanished (R&D / academia) in the 1990′s, forcing him to migrate to a strangeculture whose pernicious effects made me into the historyless rootlesscosmopolitan / cultural traitor that I am today, I view the collapseof the USSR with a certain sadness and regret, despite my recognition of its manifold flaws.

You don’t have any roots in this country, You are like one of those weeds that do not develop deep roots; they grow everywhere and are native nowhere, You are a human weed without the roots, You are apiece of human trash that America collects from all over the world.

This is how a (proudly anti-Semitic, fascist) critic once described me. The thing is, he is 100% correct in my view.

In the context of this discussion, instead of living under the second, “Eastern” (collectivist) ethical system of the Soviet Union, I have been forced into living under the minimal “diaspora” ethical system described by Krylov, in which I am unaccepted by my host societies – and which I myself reciprocally do not accept either – the kitsch, or feelings of loyalty / self-sacrifice / etc, for either Britain, or the US, or even Russia. One of the replies was the following:

Your condition as described by one of your detractors and which you agree is correct -

[["You don't have any roots in this country, You are like one of thoseweeds that do not develop deep roots; they grow everywhere and arenative nowhere, You are a human weed without the roots, You are a pieceof human trash that America collects from all over the world".]]

– is actually a blessing.

This is what has enabled you to be a truly interesting and outstanding thinker, and this is why you will be able to contribute to humanity as you go along.

Had you been “enjoying your life” in that great and fantastic USSR, and taking deep roots there, the chances are that you would grow up as an insignificant miserable cog in that self-destructive aimless machine.

I remain to be convinced.

Anyhow, back to Krylov and this time his exposition of the barbarian mentality. Whereas diasporas lie half-way between civilization and its opposite, barbarians are symmetrically opposed – an ethical system of pure parasitism, glorifying the use of violence and deceit to achieve its goals. He does not believe that barbarism merely signifies a lower level of socio-economic and cultural development than civilization; instead, it is its own world opposed to and feeding off civilization. Barbarism is tightly-interlinked with and even a product of civilization, being that it is a parasite on civilization (which he defines as a construct that aims to solve its problems by itself, problems ranging the gamut from gathering food to hosting high-minded philosophical debates).

Я буду вести себя по отношению к другими так, как они не ведут себя по отношению ко мне (не могут или не хотят). Я буду делать с другими то, чего они со мной не делают (не могут или не хотят).

[I will behave towards like others don't behave towards me (either because they can't or don't want to). I will do unto them, what they don't do unto me (because they can't or don't want to).]

It is a principled position – the barbarian chafes under any other ethical system. A barbarian society regards living off others with pride, as self-actualization of its values, etc – and the feeling is all-encompassing, even among those who can’t physically be thieves or raiders. Furthermore, a key defining trait is that barbarian elites have access to the technical and ideological products of civilization:

Настоящее варварство еще не там, где все ходят с дубинами (и каждый может сделать себе такую же дубину). Настоящее варварство начинается там, где все ходят с дубинами, но вождь и его охрана носят стальное оружие (которого данный варварский народ делать не умеет), а еще лучше – с автоматами и гранатометами.

[Real barbarism begins not where everyone walks with clubs (and anyone can make himself a club). Real barbarism begins where everyone walks with clubs, but the leader and his guards carry cold steel weapons (which said barbarian society can't manufacture itself), or even better - with assault rifles and RPG's.]

Наиболее характерное внешнее проявление варварства – нарочито примитивные и дикие нравы в сочетании с развитой чужой (купленной, краденой или отнятой) материальной культурой. Монгольский хан, кутающийся в китайские шелка; африканский вождь на “джипе” и с “калашниковым” на шее; пуштун со “стингером” на плече – вот это и есть варварство. Варварство выживает, борясь с цивилизацией средствами самой цивилизации.

A characteristic expression of barbarism is the presence of primitive and wild social norms in conjunction with a developed foreign (bought, stolen, or looted) material culture. A Mongol khan, wrapped in Chinese silk; a Pushtun with a Stinger [missile] on his shoulder – this is barbarism. Barbarism survives by fighting civilization using the tools of civilization itself.

Barbarians defend their barbarism eloquently using the intellectual language of civilization – “freedom”, “faith”, “human rights”, “Sharia”, etc. At heart it is a criminal enterprise (by civilizational standards), but Krylov notes that frequently it has a seductive character of its own – thanks to its avid mimicry of civilizational attributes, and the support of influential supporters within civilization. He makes the intriguing argument that the Russian intelligentsia is an essentially barbarian social group.

“Русский интеллигент” – это человек, решающий свои проблемы за счет того, что он доставляет обществу неприятности, хотя и не оружием, а словами. Интеллигенция ведет себя по отношению к русскому обществу (и тем более к государству) примерно так же, как скандалист в очереди: он непрерывно оскорбляет всех присутствующих, и ждет, что его пропустят вперед просто затем, чтобы он, наконец, замолчал. …

[The "Russian intelligent" - is a person who solves his problems by way of bringing ill to society, if not by weapons, then by words. The intelligentsia behave towards Russian society (and especially towards the Russian state) as a scandal-maker in a queue - he insults everyone present, and expects that he will be allowed to move forwards in line just so that they'd get him to shut up.]

Именно такую цель имеет тотальная критика интеллигентами всех аспектов русской жизни и целенаправленное внушение русским людям чувства иррациональной вины … Как правило, эта “критика” использует ряд идей, созданных на Западе (например, либеральных социально-экономических теорий), причем ссылающиеся на эти идеи лица обыкновенно не понимают смысла того, о чем они говорят: это еще один случай использования орудий, созданных цивилизацией, для борьбы против цивилизации …

[This is the basic underlying point behind the intelligentsia's total criticism of all aspects of Russian life and their purposeful foisting of an irrational sense of guilt on the Russian people... As a rule, this "criticism" uses an array of ideas, created in the West (e.g., liberal socio-economic theories), furthermore in many cases the people leaning on these ideas don't actually understand them: this is another example in which the tools created by civilization, are used in the fight against civilization.]

Поэтому не следует удивляться тому, что вполне конструктивные западные идеи приобретают в России некую “разрушительную силу”: они используются для заведомо деструктивных целей.

[Therefore there's no reason to be amazed that completely valid Western ideas acquire a "destructive force" when applied to Russia: they are used for explicitly deconstructive purposes.]

I agree. The Russian intelligentsia has at large been an agent of destruction, most clearly seen in their guise as Old Bolsheviks and the 1990′s extreme liberals. Their current manifestation is in the liberasts, e.g. for examples of their arrogant intolerance and treasonous mentalities see Korchevnaya’s observations and Anatol Lieven’s article on Russia’s Limousine Liberals. Thankfully they no longer represent a real threat to Russian society and can be safely ignored.

One final thing I would note is that it is much easier for a person with a diaspora mentality to become a barbarian, considering that they’re already half-way there.

Application to the Belief Matrix

The Belief Matrix is a tool I invented to classify societies based on their degree of rationalism – irrationalism / mysticism on one axis, and sobornost / social solidarity – poshlost / internal strife on another axis. See “The Reich Loop within the Belief Matrix” section here for a more detailed description.

In this model, the diaspora mentality correlates to both rationalism and poshlost, i.e. the lower-left of the Belief Matrix; barbarism is the top-left, i.e. irrationalism and poshlost. Both are unstable states. The diaspora mentality cannot be sustained within a non-diasporic society, for a society cannot be a parasite on itself indefinitely; it will have to move upwards, towards barbarism, and start preying on others. But that too will eventually come to an end, either when it is crushed by the civilizations it makes war on – or it conquers them, and must now generate its own productive forces now that the opportunities for living off rents / confiscated surpluses have extinguished. This is the essence of the belief cycle called the Sisyphean Loop.

For more on related themes, see here (according to Mark Steyn, the Muslim community in Europe would qualify as barbarians), here (Germany), here (Russia), here (violence is reality), and here (my exposition of nihilism).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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It is a pity that foreigners are not privy to the wild and wacky world of LiveJournal, Russia’s premier blogging site – many prominent people have accounts there and traditions of opposition and kompromat makes for a lively stream of scandal.

One recent case involved Tatyana Korchevnaya, who used to be a prominent member of the Russian “liberal” opposition (I’ve explained why I use apostrophes around the word in that context before and my translation of her work below will clarify it further) and ran one of the top 10 Russian political blogs, but now condemns Soros funded evangelical groups / NGOs in Russia and the mafia linked Vladivostok demonstrators. She made a huge splash and political Runet is abuzz with the story. Whatever made her change her mind?

She came to the movement young, naive and with a Manichean worldview in which the Putinists were bad and the oppositionists good. Little by little that black and white picture dissolved into the gray cynicism of virtual politics. In a nutshell, she became disillusioned with how the “liberals” organized web brigades, the cynicism of their leaders and the zombiesm of their followers and above all their unbearable hypocrisy. They put “democratic” ideals above common human decency and empathy, tossing aside their cripples once they were no longer useful in the fight (on which note, LR recently provided a good example of this) and treated ordinary Russians as a herd to be guided and manipulated. As in the movie Night Watch, we realize that the borders between good and evil are porous, if they exist at all, and that should their cancer spread and the likes of Kasparov and Limonov ever come to power in Russia we are doomed to replay the history of Bolshevik Terror.

Read all about it here in the original Russian or my English translation below. She writes in a very colloquial style and I did my best to maintain a balance between keeping it both true and readable. I also tried to fill in several points of possible confusion (it was not a well organized text) and tried to find suitable English replacements for Russian idioms. This is a two part series. Enjoy!

TRANSLATION: Tatyana Korchevnaya LJ post of Feb 24, 2009, Part 1

(http://tanya-ogf.livejournal.com/202793.html; accessed March 7, 2009)

Warning: I will not reveal any of your true names1 or LiveJournal2 (LJ) identities, but only in so far that you do not force my hand.

I decided to write all this only now because by this time the “for” arguments begin to outnumber those “against”. Call me a traitor all you like, I couldn’t care less – I’m just sick and tired of your lies and the lies of your (and not that long ago, my) leaders.

When you only have access to limited information, your knowledge, your beliefs and your opinions all revolve around that information. Sometimes, the more information you acquire – the more you understand that sometimes you go off on a wrong track.

It is natural for good people to be mistaken from time to time. What is inexcusable is to continue deceiving other people, and yourselves, even after receiving new information and realizing, knowing, that you strayed into error.

As I said before, I’m usually a nice girl – but I also mentioned that I don’t like it when people lie.

I will now tell you a snippet of history from my life. I have more than enough evidence that it all happened. The problem is that if I were to reveal it, it will not only confirm my story but will also strongly compromise everyone else who is mixed up in this mess. And so they have a choice – accuse me of lying (with all the consequences for them therein) or keep their peace forever.

Yes, I understand that there might be consequences for myself – I’ve been warned more than a few times already. But I’ve insured myself…

So let’s start from the beginning. It was an ordinary day in the spring of 2007. I, Tatyana Korchevnaya, was surfing the Internet and reading my Friends list. On the pages of the online community namarsh_ru3, I stumbled across a post in which an unbeknown to me woman was soliciting communication from people who’d like to participate in a project to link together Dissenters4 on the Web.

Now I’m always for linking people together, so I sent her a reply.

I got my answer. I was told to swallow the red pill5, acquire an anonymous mail folder6 in an Internet-cafe and continue corresponding from there. I did this.

Then I started receiving letters. In one of them there were several IQ tests, personality tests and a form “About Myself” which I had to fill in. I was asked about my nationality in one of them, to which I truthfully replied that I was Russian. After several more letters they requested me to provide links to my discussions on the Internet so that they could gauge how good an opponent I was of the so-called “Kremlin web brigade”7.

For by that time I was already registering and debating with “defenders of the regime” wherever I could under my own name. I always included my phone number, cell phone number, etc, in my sig. Why did I do this?

After the Moscow Dissenters arrived to our gatherings in Nakhodka and at around the time when we joined the United Civil Front8 (UCF), I went from opposing the local authorities9 to dissenting against our government in general – I became a full-fledged Dissenter. Many people were writing about our movement on forums and sympathizing with us, and I wanted to reply to them. I also suffered from a sense of loneliness, for I had an idea, information – and I wanted to share it with people. Yes, I still believed in many things back then, and when I believe in something, I tell everyone about it.

I made an evolutionary jump, becoming an active, convinced adept of the revolution, any revolution, because I had had enough of the state’s criminal wantonness10. I believed all bad people were for Putin, and all good people – for the UCF and Other Russia; I respected the likes of Limonov and Kasparov for their words (which at the time did not seem to me to be at odds with their actions) and respected everyone who supported them, whether I knew them or not.

Although I wasn’t quite as woolheadedly naive as you might think from above – after all by summer 2006 I had already done time as a “terrorist”11 and was well acquainted with many famous figures in the opposition.

And here I am, sitting at home and answering all your letters, and on the other end of the line people are already forming positive opinions about me as well, as an impression of me as a ninny. But I’m a ninny only in a nice sense. To all those for whom it is necessary, I am not a ninny at all. Hell no! Although the attentive reader would have already noticed this. :)

Anyway, back to the story. They perused the links to my online discussions and wrote to tell me that I debate very well, that I have a good “command of the word”, etc. And I love it when I’m congratulated. :)

But they also mentioned that to participate in the project not only did I need to know how to elegantly own opponents12, but also how to operate with facts, pass on information and several other things of this nature. I said that although I could do all that, it is not the brigadniki13 who need facts but ordinary people who go on the Internet to get info and to talk about the chaos in the country. After all, replying to comments along the lines of “You have no boobs!” or “Have you ever tried getting married?” is pointless.

Why? Because their only goal in a debate is to a) bait their opponent and portray her as a schizo and b) to bury an important thread under a heap of unrelated comments so as to distract readers’s attention and reduce everything to floods and flames14. I mean in real life when we don’t care for someone’s opinions, do we go to his house for hours, days, months and years on end, just to bait and goad him? Of course not. Because we’ve got all got our own lives, our own interests. No-one will ever go to a Pugacheva15 fan club just to try convincing its members that she is a bad singer. Why then do some people on the Internet behave differently? It would seem the answer is obvious.

They told me that I understood the situation well and asked me to draft a manual of instructions for those who weren’t as advanced or experienced as myself. I just borrowed the manual used by the brigadniki, because their “Kremlinist” methods were already well developed16. It’s not as if it was something sacred and untouchable17.

So I wrote the manual and sent it off. And they sent me an air ticket to Moscow.

Now that was quite curious – is it really that there’s no-one in Moscow who’s as clever as me, or else why spend so much money to get me there? (Yes, back then I had no idea of how big they were and that this was all pennies to them). The last time I was in Moscow was when I was 7 years old and now I kind of needed to go there again. True, I was afraid to fly there, for the “scars” from last summers’ attempt to reach Moscow hadn’t yet healed18. But then again they did send the money, plus I was lonely, I wanted to meet up with all the opposition in real life, and anyway, what the hell – why not go to Moscow?

And yikes, its not as if they hired me as some kind of hitwoman, but rather to share my experiences with other “young revolutionaries” like myself, for the sake of destroying the regime, if you will. I can write a whole book on those 45 days I spent there, if I wasn’t so lazy. I arrived in Moscow and they greeted me.

For some reason the woman said she was Jewish. This was the first Jewess whom I had ever met in my life. She asked me about my views on Jews. I replied that I can’t have much in the way of views since I don’t know anything about them, but she kept insisting that I confirm that I don’t have any hidden Antisemitism. I replied truthfully that I don’t have any such thing.

Not to mention that at the time I had already spent two years in the United Civil Front, whose leaders and nearly all Bureau members are Jews, so obviously this couldn’t have annoyed me that much.

This topic was raised again several times. One day she became very upset after returning from a Dissenters March, where two guys in the crowd said something along the lines of “Ah, these foul Yids, they have taken over the whole country they have”. She said that she had had enough of the hatred which we Russians project to her people.

I said that I was a Russian, a very Russian Russian, and I don’t have any Jews in my family tree, or indeed any other people. I mean I don’t have anything against her, so why is she so mad against all Russians? But either I was unconvincing or my words fell on deaf years. She continued that Jewish children know Brodsky19 by heart by the age of six while their Russian counterparts just play football or throw snowballs at each other and don’t develop at all. I replied that I too knew all the sonnets of Shakespeare by heart by six. But I’m not a Jewish child. Don’t belittle others to make yourself look better, I said.

In this world you can’t ever make everybody love you – Jew or Russian, no matter who, if someone wants to hurt you, they will, no matter your ethnicity – they’ll just find another reason. I am Russian, but other Russians can offend me just as easily as Jews or anyone else. And in general whenever a person is vulnerable there will be those who will take advantage of his vulnerability to kick him down. Anyway, sorry for the brief diversion.

On the other hand I understood a specific feature of the Jewish disposition – they are a people with many complexes20, complexes that take over and drive them. Such people no longer belong to themselves. I was possibly not the first one to understand this, nor the only one, but I did by myself. Along with their mother’s milk they’ve internalized that everybody everywhere always oppresses them, and hence live with hatred towards everyone around them, always ready to oppress them right back.

She admitted that the tipping factor leading to my invitation to Moscow was that I wrote about reading the “Rose of the World” by Daniil Andreyev. Apparently he too was a Jew. I sure never realized that there were so many Jews everywhere before this trip, but she told me all about it.

I can’t say that I’d actually read this book, as it was my mum and aunt who were fans of occult literature, but I more or less know what it was about. Or to be more specific I internalized one idea from the book, which is that religion divides people and that it’s better to get together and to unite everyone. She was rather unpleasantly surprised by my exegesis, but she never told me how she interpreted the book21. I didn’t have a return ticket, but the UCF bought me one and sent me back home.

As my favorite poet put it (also a Jew, by the way) – “You can convince the whole country of anything, most likely, if you mutilate spirit and reason with the help of a printing press”22. But since we, the opposition, didn’t have money for newspapers or large volumes, and were not allowed on TV, only one media source was still left open to us – not the most popular, but still the freest – the Internet. The choice of whether to surrender it entirely to official propaganda or to fight back and seize at least a small part of it was entirely up to us.

Furthermore, the Internet was the only media space where it is possible to establish feedback and dialog. Where it must be established. After all, wh

o knows how people react to program after program on the main TV channel of the country – I mean, it’s not as if anyone measures the volume of spittle on TV screens around the country, right? But on forums, on LJ, etc, you can observe people’s feelings, discover their opinions, etc.

But, as is usually the case in social relations… Do you remember how in the film “The House that Swift Built” – “I hired actors to show the people this, but the powers that be proved cannier. They hired the audience…”. So. They explained that the aim of the project is to unite many Dissenters across the country, differing from each other in status, social position and other such things. That said that it is being created under adverse conditions – “harsh oppression of the opposition” – and that very soon there will come a revolutionary situation in the country, when the state will exert its energies towards suppressing anti-regime information on the Internet and that we must become the detachment responsible for breaking up this information blockade. And they said that the project already has a conception and many other such things, up to patrons in the “enemy camp”, as well as skilled hackers and other such folks.

Not everyone would be required to participate in the debates, as some will simply spread information to every corner of Runet23, and will need to know how to defend it in case our opinion – the correct opinion, fails to win against their opinion – the incorrect one. So as to prevent everyone in our team from being uncovered in one fell swoop, they developed a clandestine cell system24 wherein one person knows only four others from her detachment, as well as her manager; and the manager knows only the four people in her command as well as her own manager. The other four don’t know each other at all.

They explained to me that these precautions were taken so that if it were uncovered by the bloodthirsty regime25, for example if they got hold of me and tortured me, then I would be unable to betray anyone else and the project will continue its work “without pausing for its fallen soldier”26. They told me about the array of torture options available to the regime, that there exist truth chemicals that can be injected into someone’s bloodstream which will force her to rapidly spill out and betray anyone and everything; quite a change from the days of Joan d’Arc, where none of this was possible and they had to burn her. Again, sorry for using so many words, its easier for me to write this way.

And if they figure me out and I crack, I would only know my “manager” and the four members of my cell. That is, if I choose to be the leader of the cell. But if I don’t agree to participate in it straight away, then I will know only her which is not so bad because I will not tell anyone anyway, or they’ll sooner believe her, than me. There.

Our main agents would preferably live not in Moscow, but in some shitty-ass backwater27, like myself in Nakhodka. The wider the net the better it would be for everyone. Why that is so, I did not understand then.

We would be required not to go under own names in the Internet so as to not get unmasked before our time. This was very much in contradiction to my values – the gist of it was that nobody would listen to anonymous Dissenter crybabies, nor would the authorities respect them, and this is why I always wrote everything I thought about our government under my own name everywhere. For I myself would have given no heed to some random shit-stirrer28, some coward who cannot stand up and expose the regime in full view but instead prefers to hide behind nicknames, proxy servers, etc. And I’d never agree with him because I don’t like cowards.

I believe that if someone is afraid to say what they think out loud from their own names then they are not a free person – it’s as if they’re playing for both teams. That is, at work he is a Putinist29, but then he comes home, logs in as Lusechka and off he goes “exposing” the regime. And the regime quails in terror – yeah, right! And anyway if you shrink from writing something you believe in from under your true name, but instead shriek, “It’s time to grab the pitchforks, for its time!” then the revolution should not be entrusted to you, coward! For as it stands you’re just a fleck in the crowd, zombified, capable of doing something. And generally, what is the only thing crowds are capable of? Chaos. A senseless and merciless bunt. And then you wake up, sober up and again gather round your porno sites, whining: “Oh what a bad, bad regime!”

But they explained me that I was in the wrong. I was supposed to be Vasya O. on one forum, on another – Lolita, on a third – Sergei Petrovich Kozlov. I could remain in LJ under my own name, but only if I left no traces tying me to my three previous alter egos.

And we would have an internal network, where our team members knew each other only by our virtual nicknames (mine was “Daughter”), and if, for example, we have difficulty “convincing” an opponent or making him out as a donkey before the other readers, we would call on our cell buddies for help or our own clones from other forums. I was OK with my secret nickname – “Daughter”, though a year, or perhaps a bit later, I finally understood the why of it. Or more accurately, the whose.


1Inspired by V. Vinge’s sci-fi novel of the same name, I will refer to real life names as “true names”.

2LiveJournal is the most popular blogging site in Russia (http://www.livejournal.ru/).

3намарш_ру (http://community.livejournal.com/namarsh_ru/), “liberal” opposition site “To the March!”.

4Несогласные – lit., “those who do not agree” (with the government, Medvedev, Putin, etc).

5“Съесть” – lit., “eat up”. Given the spirit of this writing, I think the Matrix reference is appropriate.

6“Левый ящик” – lit., “left drawer”.

7“Kремлевской бригаде в сети” – there is a theory amongst elements of the “liberal” community in Russia that there are Kremlin-sponsored “brigades” working to promote pro-Putin, pro-security forces and totalitarian opinions on Runet. See the original article “Commissars of the Internet” by A. Polyanskaya, A. Krivov and I. Lomko (http://www.gulag.ipvnews.org/article20060916_01.php) or the English translation (http://lrtranslations.blogspot.com/2007/02/commissars-of-internet.html). For a critique, see A.Yusopovsky’s “Conspiracy Theory” (http://old.russ.ru/politics/20030426-yusup-pr.html).

8Объединённый Гражданский Фронт – led by Kasparov and part of the Other Russia coalition (http://www.rufront.ru/).

9“городской несогласной” – lit., “those who disagree of the city”.

10“беспредел” – lit., “without limits”. Spread from criminal argot to mass usage in the early 1990′s.

12“Умение «красиво послать»”.

13“Бригадник”, i.e. members of the “Kremlin web brigades”.

14“Свести все к флуду и флейму” – “flood” as in spam and “flames” as in insults and threats.

15Alla Pugacheva, famous Russian singer.

16“Достаточно засаленной” – lit., “well-salted”.

17“Не Боги там ее обжигали” – lit., “it’s not that the Gods fired it”, i.e. usually applied to clay pottery in the olden days.

18This refers to the Other Russia summit in Moscow which took place in July 2006. Korchevnaya says that she tried to go to Moscow by train but was detained by the local OMON at Chita, beaten and imprisoned for several days (http://www.theotherrussia.ru/candidates/?id=220) thus preventing her from attending.

19I. Brodsky, Jewish Soviet poet.

20“Очень закомплексованные люди”.

21We can make some educated guesses however. According to this mystical book, Russia is supposed to be the civilization through which utopian global unity (the Rose of the World) is supposed to manifest itself on Earth; but that cannot happen unless and until Russia ceases to exist as an empire. Draw your own conclusions. The book is available online (http://mirosvet.narod.ru/).

22I. Guberman.

23The Russian Internet.

24“Система «звездочки»” – lit., asterisk/little star system which I take to mean a clandestine cell system.

25“Кровавый режим” – lit., “bloody regime”, is used frequently in this (and other “liberal”) texts.

26“Не заметил бы потери бойца” – lit., “wouldn’t have noticed the loss of a fighter”. Sounds quite Bolshevik to me.

27“В Зажопинсках”.

28“«Ляпиздрончика» какого-нибудь”.

29“Путиноид” – “putinoid”.

Part 2

OK, let’s go step by step. Example. A discussion about a Dissenters March. Three forumers write – “You’re all fags and Orangeists 1”. And those reading it will see, that’s how people think about them, therefore that’s what they are. But there I enter the discussion, as tanya_ucf 2; then Sergei Petrovich Kozlov happens to come by and help me out, tailed by Lolita. Now it’s three versus three. And now my cell buddies pull over, making us 3 + 4 = 7 strong.

Now we start throwing each other links and participating in discussions on other forums, where each of us was already known as a dog breeder enthusiast or playgirl or physics teacher or sport mom. That is, we don’t come out as Dissenters until the moment is ripe. First we work on developing the trust of other people, for it is always easier to convert an already like-minded group than to try winning them over from zero. I don’t know who said this first, perhaps I did.

Another example. For the first two months at a cactus-growers forum we write things like: “Your cactuses are so cool!”, and they’d reply with thx and :* kisses, and then we casually throw in: “Yeah and there was this march, so many people killed, wounded, etc”. And these people, the electorate so to speak, receive info even while doing nothing more than hanging out at cactus-growing forums. Not only do get this info, but they also get to see how “everybody” reacts to it. And who exactly is this “everybody”? That’s right. It’s us – the project participants, 3 people and our 9+ avatars.

Am I explaining this clearly? At the time this was all clear to me too and I was OK with it.

At the time I had not yet joined the project all-out, since apparently only four people had yet given their consent to participate which was too little. But I was already given the task of registering on the forum of the Daily Journal 3, where my mom had been hanging out for more than a year. Mother stumbled upon it once upon a time and remained there, and even somehow managed to become its president, which is why she has the nickname that she has on LJ 4. Now I also registered there previously, but I had forgotten my password. I had also joined My Circle 5, but forgot its password too and even the email I used to register. And in general since I was on so many different forums and sites I didn’t write down my passwords anywhere, so that the bloodthirsty regime could not uncover them, but rather forgot most of them. But that’s all to the good.

Together with that woman 6 we set off finding and recruiting new people. And one fine day there arrived a certain person. She said he would soon arrive by train and I was to meet him and then she too would come by. She also told me that he also has a LJ account, but I was not to know his identity and that to me he was to be just Sergei, and nothing else. For the fewer people I knew the fewer people I’d be able to betray if I was ever apprehended by the authorities.

I met him, we talked for five minutes and I told him his true name on LJ. I mean it’s not my fault that by that time I had already memorized the commenting styles of all Dissenters by heart, and it wasn’t very hard for me to identify someone by two or three key words they typically use. He could have said I was mistaken, but instead he became reddened and flustered, and it was clear I was right on the mark.

But nonetheless we agreed that we never met, that we didn’t see each other here and so on. And note that even now I’m not exposing him. I’m not ratting anyone out unless they they wanna play the goat and deny this 7. She didn’t like that I blew his cover, didn’t appreciate my attitude.

It’s just that I’ve been very attentive and had a good memory and sense of logic since childhood. Or maybe just imitated my mom. :) For my mom and I communicated with everyone and went there and everywhere all the time, and many people agreed with us and tried to participate in our enterprises however they could.

And it so happened that at this time there was a Dissenters March in July in Moscow 8 and Yuri Chervinchuk, leader of the Moscow’s National Bolsheviks, said something along the lines of “and Yeltsin was bad too”. And then all the Union of Rightist Forces 9 (SPS) folks began raising a fuss over how offended they were over his words. And then Limonov apparently slighted Masha Gaidar, apparently by not allowing her to take the podium.

Afterwards when they were analyzing the schedule of flights home in the offices of the United Civil Front, I said that I too agree with what Chervinchuk had to say. And when I came back home I also told everyone that I support Yuri Chervinchuk and that I don’t love the likes of Chubais, Gaidar, Nemtsov, Berezovsky, etc, much more than I love Putin.

I said this without any second thoughts, assuming this is all OK and understandable – but actually no, it wasn’t. For the unity of the opposition was built on the principle of uncompromising opposition to Putin. The question of who we’d support after the destruction of the regime was delegated to the future. I was told – what, you don’t support SPS??

And later she even wrote me a comment on my LiveJournal that if I continued dissing SPS then I would become her enemy. Now I’ve never had a single enemy, and here you go, there appeared an enemy. No, no, I don’t have enemies! I love everyone! I want everyone to open up and stop lying, stop it with their stupid complexes, cynicism, zombieism, etc! I know I can do this. But they need to want this themselves, and as of now they don’t want it.

I don’t like it when people threaten me. And they always threaten me. Yes, those, who call themselves the opposition, write, for example, that I “might meet the fate of Larisa Arap 10”. That is, the opposition is not averse to using the same methods which the authorities use against them.

Everything I do and will continue doing is geared towards one thing – exposing them, unclouding their fog of lies 11. And that’s all.

For by that time I had already long been a member of the SPS branch in my city – in fact from the first days of their foundation there (but I already wrote much about that), and long enough to understand what they are and how they do things. And I said that the main thing is not that I am against SPS, but that I’m for the UCF and for Kasparov. And I asked them, why is this project not focused on Kasparov – I mean, wasn’t it created for him?

“Yes, but not quite. It’s against the regime, but not quite for Kasparov, but for him and also someone else”.

Back then I didn’t understand who was that someone else.

Later I understood.

Then they told me that they wanted to be even more confident in me and that I’d have to see a psychologist-psychotherapist. They gave me money and his address (it’s on the Old Arbat street) and I went off to see him.

The psychologist said only one thing – “Tell me about yourself”.

“About me? Where should I begin?” I replied.

“From the beginning,” the psychologist said.

And I told him everything from the beginning. I talked for 40 minutes, then he said – “All’s understood, you can go now”.

“But why don’t you tell me as well, I mean I’m interested too,” I said.

He replied that he’d tell those who sent me to him. I mean why not just tell me, that I’m not inclined towards treachery, enemy recruitment and things of that nature.

*whisper* You remember, right, who told me about this again a year later?

That’s right, the NLP 12 practitioners at the NLP-seminar in St.-Petersburg under the Solidarity 13 movement. They told me that this is necessary because there will a come a time when the bloodthirsty regime will bind and torture us, repress us as in the days of old, lock us up in lunatic asylums and practice punitive psychiatry against us. And for insurance we need to consult doctors now, before the storm, so that if worst comes to worst they could give authorities proof that we’re sane – for it is better to do time in prison than in a madhouse, they said.

With every passing day I become ever more saddened by the things they told me. I began to experience hitherto unfamiliar feelings, which I only later figured out as like being a “sacrificial lamb on the altar of democracy 14”. But I stress I only pinned down the meaning of this feeling later; at the time they just appeared to be overly impressionable and mistrustful. They’re sure taking a lot on themselves, if they fear so much 15.

I left the psychologist. I then wandered around the Old Arbat, joined a picket with the National Bolsheviks, visited Lev Ponomarev, joined a “Free Khodorkovsky!” demonstration. There they interviewed me because since I was from Nakhodka, they thought I had flown to Moscow just to join them. And by that time I already had several things to say about old Khodor, because I wrote him many letters and he replied to them (and about which I boasted to everyone).

Then a friend of Khodorkovsky presented me with two tickets to the Lenkom Theater, because I said I had never been to a theater before. And that was that. I met all the opposition, such as it was, in those 45 days. I’ve still got lots of photos from that trip and many other things. Then I returned to Nakhodka. After that I traveled to Moscow five times, but henceforth only by invitation to UCF conferences.

But after that first visit, we ceased communicating. Furthermore, they even let me know that the project, apparently, could not take place. Yes, and I also missed the moment. The so-called first “action”16 of our project was to be my memories, dedicated to the anniversary of those mass repressions – the barriers against the Alternate Summit 17. For this person they even involved a very famous and popular LJ user, but I won’t say who exactly.

But nothing came of it. I was very offended that they were trying to trivialize, “popsify”18, my personal tragedy, my family’s tragedy. No-one offered me legal help, for I was useful only as a living example of the regime’s evil. Moreover at the time I believe those repressions were indeed one of the most awful cases from my subjective perspective. Like the later case of Arap, for instance.

Yes, and where exactly is Arap today? Who’s interested in her health, her life? No-one. That person was needed only as a pawn in the information war.

When I returned to Moscow after a year, I met the “project manager” again.

Yes, only then did I understand that she was not its originator but just a “manager”, never mind that she insisted it was only her own personal initiative. But who pulled the strings behind this project, and behind other projects already in play after my first visit to Moscow, and projects created afterwards, I only understood later. Yes, not without hints too.

Today there are already more than a few such projects aimed at “forming social opinions 19”. Under every real “movement” there exists an e-project.

Why is this bad?

Because society never gave anybody the right to form its own opinions, just as the people never conferred authority on any of our political movements and parties to speak on its behalf.

Because just a few dozens of men and women can weave a web of opinions over the people at the behest and by the design of their clients 20, forcing people to think – that this is how the people think.

Because no-one knows what they will define and spread as “truth” and to what you will become an accomplice to the day after tomorrow.

Sometimes you may get the impression that there is nothing on the Internet except projects and their promoters. But there actually do exist other people. It is they who are the target audience and it is for their hearts and minds that the information war is waged.

Things might look totally different to you and you might argue that you never notice any such thing. And I trust you when you say that, for it is noticeable only to those who spend as much time on the Net as myself and in like manner.

You need time and attentiveness to notice all these things. And something else too. I’ve met people who told me (and there were witnesses with me), “We found sponsors and the project was launched on a larger scale than was planned at the start”. That already they are planning to ditch their real life jobs and embark on this project full time, especially now that they are going to get paid for it. They even named several participants in this project from St.-Petersburg – they are quite famous amongst the opposition.

And there are some other things, but this is all for now.

To be continued…

Tatiana Korchevnaya, Tel #: 89147277889, Nakhodka, Primorsky Krai.

1“Оранжисты”, i.e. foreign financed stooges, dupes and traitors in reference to the events in Ukraine in 2004-5.

2таня_огф is the author’s nickname on LJ.

3Ежедневный Журнал (http://www.ej.ru/).

4 Her mother’s blog is at http://prezident-ej.livejournal.com/.

5МОЙКРУГ is a professional networking site (http://moikrug.ru/).

6 The one who was soliciting letters at the beginning.

7“Я вообще никого тут не озвучиваю, пока они первыми не скозлят”.

9Союз правых сил (СПС) – Yeltsinite party of Chubais, Nemtsov and Gaidar enthusiastic about free markets and privatization. Unsurprisingly, not that popular – they got 0.96% of the vote in the 2007 Duma elections and some of their people like N. Belykh and M. Gaidar recently made their bed with the Kremlin (http://exiledonline.com/surprise-another-russian-liberal-sells-out-to-the-kremlin/).

10 Larisa Arap was a victim of “punitive psychiatry” in July-August 2007, Murmansk.

11“Все, что я делаю и делать буду – это раз-ОБЛАЧАТЬ их ложь”.

12 She links to a prior post in November 6th, 2008 about her experiences of “liberals” undergoing Neuro-linguistic Programming (http://tanya-ogf.livejournal.com/187244.html) sessions to reinforce their faith. She compares it to a cult and criticizes the leaders who would press such things on their followers. She left the UCF on November 8th.

13 Amalgamated movement founded in December 2008 uniting many different “liberal” forces.

14“Сакральная жертва на алтарь демократии”.

15 I think I know what she’s talking about. See this interview of an anonymous and to my mind rather paranoid St.-Petersburg student on Al-Jaazera (http://www.darussophile.com/2008/03/21/editorial-i-appear-on-al-jazeera/). I also appear on there and unwillingly provide a good example of how the MSM twists facts to fit its preordained narrative.

16 To me this evokes the concepts of the “active measures” popular with Russian intelligence services.

17 The Other Russia summit in Moscow which took place in July 2006 – as Korchevnaya says, she was physically barred from attending by the Chita OMON. She and accompagning members of her family were beaten, imprisoned for several days and had ammunition planted on them.

18“Пытаются как-то опопсить (от слова попса)”.

19“Формированию общественного мнения”.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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EDIT: Check out the updated Top 50 Russophobe Myths.

According to this blog’s philosophy, every thesis needs an antithesis. Hence I present the Top 10 Russophobe Myths, in opposition to La Russophobe’s Top 10 Russophile Myths. (As well as to celebrate our 2000th visit).

10

MYTH: The barbarous state of Muscovy arose in the sixteenth century when Ivan the Terrible climbed out of the trees.

REALITY: The more than 1000-year old civilization of Kievan Rus’ was literate, affluent, governed by a legal code that abhorred cruel and unusual punishments (including the death penalty) and accorded women property and inheritance rights.

9

MYTH: Russians are a pack of uncultured illiterates.

REALITY: Russia leads the world in literacy, level of tertiary attainment and the quality of its mathematicians and programmers. It possesses a world-class literary, musical and artistic heritage and to claim otherwise is in fact to admit oneself ignorant and uncultured.

8

MYTH: Russia has fallen to Tsarist levels of inequality and is plagued by endemic, African-level corruption. Both of these have become much worse under Putin.

REALITY: Russia’s level of income inequality and of corruption is average by world standards. Under Putin, they have registered a slight deterioration and slight improvement, respectively.

7

MYTH: Russia is an aggressive state which is hated by its neighbors.

REALITY: Unlike some superpowers, the Russia Federation has yet to invade another country. Most of its neighbors view Russia favorably and a majority of Ukrainians would be happy to join it.

6

MYTH: Russians are sexists and xenophobic racists who hate the West.

REALITY: Russian women live longer and are better educated than men, enjoy full abortion rights and participate extensively in the economy. Few Russians are predisposed against the US and there are far fewer anti-Semitic incidents in Russia than in France, Germany and the UK.

5

MYTH: Heroic Americans with their British sidekicks won World War Two, while the Russians just threw billions of soldiers without rifles in front of German machine guns.

The vast majority of German soldiers were killed, taken POW or otherwise incapacitated on the Eastern front. The Soviet to Axis loss ratio was 1.3:1 and the USSR outproduced Germany in every weapons system throughout the war.

4

MYTH: Russia’s economy is one big oil bubble.

REALITY: The extractive industries contribute a negligible amount to Russia’s real GDP growth. Today’s excellent macroeconomic situation combined with its impressive human capital stand Russia in good stead for convergence to First World living standards by 2020-30.

3

MYTH: Life has only improved for a few oligarchs. Russia is in a demographic death spiral that has gotten worse under Putin and which will soon sink its economy.

REALITY: In the last eight years, poverty rates have more than halved and wages have risen by a factor of 2.6, fuelling an on-going consumption boom. The birth rate has increased, the death rate has fallen and mortality from murder, suicide and alcohol poisoning has plummeted. Projections of Russia’s future dependency ratios are no worse than for China or the G7.

2

MYTH: Putin has abused human rights, personally murdered 200 journalists and returned Russia to its totalitarian past.

REALITY: Too bad that only 3% of Russians agree, despite having easy access to such views via the press, cable TV and the Internet. The number of journalists killed under Putin (17) is less than under Yeltsin (30), and only five of them can be definitively linked to their professional work. Elections have been mostly free and fair.

1

MYTH: Russia is Mordor.

REALITY: Scratch a Russophobe, and you find a talentless fantasy writer. Sorry to disappoint you folks, but there aren’t billions of orcs beneath the Ural Mountains preparing the final phase of their assault on the West. Not as far as I know, anyway.

I’ll be adding more myths as I think of them…
11

MYTH: Chechnya’s heroic freedom fighters deserve their indepedence.

REALITY: When they had de facto independence, the Chechens created a criminalized, Wahhabi state, practiced ethnic cleansing against local Russians and launched armed raids against border regions.

12

MYTH: All Soviet space programs were developed by German prisoners of war, who are still kept in labour camps in Siberia.

REALITY: Sorry, but wrong country. All German leading hi-tech professionals, including rocket scientists, surrendered to Americans and many worked on their space program.

Comments and Sources
10. Read the Kievan Rus’ wiki and consult its sources for confirmation and more information. Just to pre-empt any confrontations, I am aware that some Ukrainian nationalists consider the history of Rus’ to be exclusively theirs, dating the emergence of the Russian state to the late medieval expansion of Muscovy. This is a ridiculous viewpoint. Firstly, Kievan Rus’ also covered modern-day Belarus and most of European Russia west of the Volga. Secondly, even Muscovy can trace its ancestry from the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal’, which was nearly as old as Kiev or Novgorod.
9. Russia has universal literacy (see World Bank). Statistics on the percentage of the population with tertiary education from the OECD. In PIRLS 2006 (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study), Russia came first in the world on the average combined reading literacy score. In mathematics, 17% of all Fields Medal winners (and 36% since the RF came into existence) have been Russian/Soviet nationals (see Wikipedia). Programming prowess is indicated by articles such as these (The next Silicon Valley: Siberia) and reflected in things like Maths Olympiad and programming competition results.
8. Russia’s income Gini coefficient (a standard measure of income inequality) of around 41.3 as of 2007 is high only by the standards of socialist European countries. It is lower than in the US, China and the vast majority of developing countries. It has remained almost completely constant from 1994-2003, and by projection, to 2007 (see HDR05 RF: Rusia in 2015, p.33). Only 17% of Russians paid a bribe to obtain a service in 2007 (see Transparency International’s GCB) – putting them into the same quintile as Bulgaria, Turkey and the Czech Republic, i.e. slap bang in the middle of world corruption rather than at the end. Even according to the World Bank (control of corruption 16.5 in 2000; 24.3 in 2006) and Transparency International (CPI of 2.1 in 2000; 2.3 in 2007), transparency has slightly improved under Putin. I have already discussed issues of inequality and corruption (in particular the problem with CPI) here and here. To quote A Normal Country (Andrei Shleifer & Daniel Treisman, Foreign Affairs, Mar/Apr 2004) in extenso:
Yet what about sources less dependent on the perception of outsiders? In the summer of 1999, the World Bank and the EBRD conducted a survey of business managers in 22 postcommunist countries. Respondents were asked to estimate the share of annual revenues that “firms like theirs” typically devoted to unofficial payments to public officials “in order to get things done.” Such payments might be made, the questionnaire added, to facilitate connection to public utilities, to obtain licenses or permits, to improve relations with tax collectors, or in relation to customs or imports. Respondents were also asked to what extent the sale of parliamentary laws, presidential decrees, or court decisions had directly affected their businesses, in the hope of measuring the extent to which policymakers were co-opted by business.
On both the “burden of bribery” and “state capture” dimensions, Russia ranked right in the middle of its postcommunist peers. On average, Russian firms reportedly paid 2.8 percent of revenues on bribes, less than in Ukraine and Uzbekistan, and far less than in Azerbaijan (5.7 percent) and Kyrgyzstan (5.3 percent). The percentage who said it was “sometimes,” “frequently,” “mostly,” or “always” necessary for their firms to make extra, unofficial payments to public officials in order to influence the content of new laws, decrees, or regulations was also about average: 9 percent, compared to 24 percent in Azerbaijan, 14 percent in Latvia and Lithuania, and 2 percent in Belarus and Uzbekistan. In both cases, Russian responses were very close to what one would predict given Russia’s relative level of economic development.
How does corruption in Russia affect individuals? The UN conducts a cross-national survey of crime victims. Between 1996 and 2000, it asked urban residents in a number of countries the following question: “In some countries, there is a problem of corruption among government or public officials. During [the last year] has any government official, for instance a customs officer, a police officer or inspector in your country asked you, or expected you, to pay a bribe for his service?” The percentage of positive responses in Russia was about average for the developing and middle-income countries surveyed. Some 17 percent of Russians said they had been asked for or had been expected to pay bribes in the preceding year, fewer than in Argentina, Brazil, Lithuania, or Romania. Again, Russia’s relative position was almost exactly what one would expect given its per capita income.

7. 81% of Ukrainians, 78% of Bulgars, 59% of Slovaks and 54% of Chinese view Russia favorably (in each country, that’s more than those who view the US in a positive light). These opinion polls are from the 47-nation PEW survey Global Unease with Major Powers. (Ok, admittedly the same cannot be said for Poles and the Czechs). Some 54% of Ukrainians are positive about joining the Union of Russia and Belarus, while only 24% are negative (see this poll). More Ukrainians would prefer to join the Union of Russian & Belarus (43%) than the European Union (30%) (see Levada poll here).

6. For abortion laws, see Wikipedia. For other stats, see the WEF Gender Gap Index 2007 Russia section, according to which women are better educated, healthier and constitute 38% of decision-makers and 64% of professional workers. (Admittedly, the political subsection isn’t as good, though it should be noted that since the last Duma elections, the percentage of women in parliament has increased from 10% to 14% and two women have entered the Russian Cabinet). Only 8% of Russians view Americans very negatively (an attitude not shared by most people in Latin America and the Middle East). In 2006, a typical year, there were 136 violent anti-Semitic incidents in the UK, 97 in France, 74 in Canada, 38 in Germany and 34 in the Ukraine, compared to just 30 in Russia (according to the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism).
5. Rüdiger Overmans. Deutsche militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Oldenbourg 2000. ISBN 3-486-56531-1 estimates that from the Polish campaign to the end of 1944, 75-80% of all German armed forces personnel died or went missing in action on the Eastern Front up to the end of 1944. According to Krivosheev’s research, throughout the war, the vast majority of German divisions were concentrated against the Soviet Union – in 1942, for instance, there were 240 fighting in the East and 15 in North Africa, in 1943 there were 257 in the East and up to 26 in Italy and even in 1944 there were more than 200 in the East compared to just 50 understrength and sub-par divisions in the West. From June 1941 to June 1944, 507 German (and 607 German and Allied) divisions and 77,000 fighters were destroyed in the East, compared to 176 divisions and 23,000 fighters in the West. The two pivotal battles, Stalingrad and El Alamein, differed in scale by a factor of about ten.
According to meticulous post-Soviet archival work (G. I. Krivosheev. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses. Greenhill 1997 ISBN 1-85367-280-7), casualties were as follows:
Number of Soldiers – the total number of people who passed through the armed forces of the following combatant countries during the course of World War Two.
USSR – 34,476,700, Germany – 21,107,000.
Irrevocable Losses – the number of people serving in armed forces of following countries who were killed in military action, went MIA, became POWs and died of non-combat causes.
USSR – 11,285,057, Germany – 6,231,700, (Germany + occupied territories) – 6,923,700,
(Germany + occupied territories + Axis Allies) – 8,649,500
Ratio (USSR + Germany) – 1,8:1, Ratio (USSR + (Germany + Allies)) – 1,3:1
Military Dead – the number of people who were KIA, died of non-combat causes, died as POWs or went MIA (and thus presumed dead). Germany according to Overmans’ figures.
USSR – 8,668,400 (of whom Russians – 6,750,000), Germany – 5,318,000.
The problem is that during the Cold War, historiography in the West was dominated by the memoirs of Tippelskirch, who wrote in the 1950′s with constant Soviet/German forces ratios of 7:1 and losses ratio of 10:1. This has been carried over into the 1990′s (as with popular historians like Anthony Beevor), although it should be noted that more professional people like Richard Overy are aware of the new research. Note also that cumulatively 28% and 57% of all Soviet losses were incurred in 1941 and 1942 (source), whereas for the Germans the balance was roughly the opposite.
The idea that there were two soldiers for every rifle in the Red Army, as in the film Enemy at the Gates (a truly awful film which moved the Russian veterans’ association to demand of the Duma that it be banned in Russia), is a complete figment of the Russophobic Western imagination. From 1939 to 1945, the USSR outproduced Germany in aircraft (by a factor of 1.3), tanks (1.7), machine guns (2.2), artillery (3.2) and mortars (5.5), so in fact if anything the Red Army was better equipped than the Wehrmacht (sources – Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won, Pimlico 2006, ISBN 1845950658; Chris Chant, Small Arms, Silverdale Books 2003, ISBN 1-85605-790-9).
Another particularly insidious myth is that Russia would have been better off surrendering to the Nazis, espoused by our dead friend La Russophobe, since apparently Stalin killed more people than Hitler. All that one needs to do to disprove this vile idea is consider the fact that 26.6mn Soviet citizens died in the Great Patriotic War, the vast majority of them civilians under German occupation and the whole Generalplan Ost.
The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. – Adolf Hitler, March 1941.
4. In 2007, Russia’s economy grew by 8.1%, driven by construction (16.4%), retail (12.0%), finance (10.4%) and manufacturing (7.9%) and weighted down by the extractive industries (a meager 0.3%) (source). This pattern has held since 2005, and even in the 2000-2004 period only a third of growth was due to increasing hydrocarbons production. Consult the economics part of this post for further information. Russia has a healthy current account surplus, 0.5tn $ in foreign currency reserves and as of now the budget is calculated to break even at 65$ / barrel oil. Continuing increases in oil prices mask volume growth in non-hydrocarbons exports. For why I am bullish on continuing high growth in the future, refer to my previous posts here and here. Note that Goldman Sachs thinks that Russia is the only member of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, China, India) with the potential to reach Western levels of GDP per capita in the foreseeable future.
3. According to Rosstat, in the last eight years, poverty rates have more than halved (from 30% to 14%). In real terms during 2000-2007, pensions have grown by a factor of 2.3 and wages by a factor of 2.6, reaching 643$ as of February 2008 (while the Gini index has remained roughly steady, as we’ve already covered). A consumption boom has seen cell phone and Internet penetration by 2008 exceed 100% and reach 28%, respectively. From 2000-2007 per thousand people, the birth rate has increased from 8.7 to 11.3, while the death rate has fallen from 15.3 to 14.7 – thus, natural population growth has increased from -0.66% to -0.34%. Similarly, infant mortality has tumbled from 15.3/1000 to 10.2/1000. (In fact, increased migration meant the total population fall in 2007 was just -0.17%, i.e., not substantially different from Japan, Germany or just about any central-east European nation). During the same period, mortality from alcohol poisonings, suicide and murder has fallen by 40%, 25% and 40%, respectively. However, all of this misses the point that in economics what matters isn’t the population or its growth rate per se, but the dynamics of the working age population as a percentage of the whole population – in this respect, Russia’s projected decline is no more severe than that in the the G7 or China (see this post and pg.8 of this Goldman Sachs report).
2. The notion that Putin has strangled Russia’s nascent democracy is an exclusively Western one. 64% of Russians think Putin has had a positive influence on democracy and human rights, while only 3% think it was ‘very negative’ (see recent BBC World Service poll and fedia’s excellent commentary on it). For more information, please consult this blog’s stated position on HR in Russia and my appearance on Al-Jazeera. The data on journalists is taken from the Committee to Protect Journalists‘ database and fedia’s audit of it. Finally, on the topic of the election, no election watch-dog has been able to point out anything other than vacuous allegations that I’m aware of. For instance, on the topic of the 2008 Presidential elections, please consult my blog post on it (including the Western media’s shameless manipulation of the response to the Moscow protests) and the response of independent Russian election monitor GOLOS (here):

GOLOS Association observed that the Election Day was held in a relatively quiet atmosphere in contrast to the State Duma election day. Such large-scale violations observed then as campaigning next to polling stations, transporting of voters, intimidation of voters and others were practically non-existent. Polling stations were better prepared and the voting process was better organized. At the majority of polling stations voters’ lists were properly bound, there were fewer representatives of administration at inside polling stations. In general the process of opening of the polling stations went well without any major incidents.

1. This last myth is a bit tongue in cheek, although on the topic of Mordor I’ve actually managed to find a Russophobe who makes the comparison explicitly.
But as time since 1991 passed and the two countries drifted in their development further and further away from each other, the city was increasingly attached to Estonia because of the dark presence of its evil twin, Russian Ivangorod (right).
Crossing the river bridge into Ivangorod makes those numbers quickly grow in flesh and obtain form in miriad of differences, which set Russia apart from Europe, starting with sickening public toilets and ending with the hopelessness in the people’s eyes.This is why looking again at the crude limestone fortress almost invisible at night with only the howling of wild beasts giving away the presence of life on the other side of the vast body of water I can’t help it but recollect the following verse:
…to bring them
all and in darkness bind…
in the land of Mordor, where the shadows lie.
I have a feeling that this attitude could be just one of several things uniting myself and many decent Narva inhabitants. And this feeling is good.
And so the Annals of smug, self-satisfied Western Hypocrisy go on, world and time without end, imagining Russians to be Mongols with tanks and ICBMs (for the most extreme example, check out these religious nutjobs who go on about the “Final Phase“). Too bad Russia prevented the West from becoming better acquainted with the Golden Horde by being in the way.
11. Go here for our take on the Chechen question.
12. See Brother Karamazov’s comment on 31st March, 2:14PM. Also has another myth.
Note also that it was a Russian (Tsiolkovsky) who developed the theoretical and philosophical basis for space exploration.
(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.