The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
Publications Filter?
Da Russophile
Nothing found
 TeasersRussian Reaction Blog
/
Guest

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
A Russian Conservative on James Damore
🔊 Listen RSS

Prosvirnin is the most talented writer. Limonov has by far the most colorful personality. Dugin has been the most effective at promoting himself in the West. Prokhanov probably has the most name recognition in Russia. Galkovsky created the most powerful memes. Krylov provided the esoteric flavoring.

And yet out of all of Russia’s right-wing intellectuals, there is perhaps none so unique as Egor Kholmogorov.

egor-kholmogorovThis is ironic, because out of all of the above, he is the closest to the “golden mean” of the Russian nationalist memeplex.

He is a realist on Soviet achievements, crimes, and lost opportunities, foregoing both the Soviet nostalgia of Prokhanov, the kneejerk Sovietophobia of Prosvirnin, and the unhinged conspiracy theories of Galkovsky. He is a normal, traditional Orthodox Christian, in contrast to the “atheism plus” of Prosvirnin, the mystical obscurantism of Duginism, and the esoteric experiments of Krylov. He has time neither for the college libertarianism of Sputnik i Pogrom hipster nationalism, nor the angry “confiscate and divide” rhetoric of the National Bolsheviks.

Instead of wasting his time on ideological rhetoric, he reads Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century and writes reviews about it on his website. And about 224 other books.

And this brings us to what makes Kholmogorov so unique: He is an extremely well-read autodidact.

This allows him to write informed and engaging articles on a very wide variety of different topics and breaking news.

In my opinion, Kholmogorov is simply the best modern Russian right-wing intellectual, period.

Unfortunately, he is almost entirely unknown in the English-speaking world; he does not angle for interviews with Western media outlets like Prosvirnin, nor does he energetically pursue foreign contacts like Dugin. Over the years I have done my very small part to remedy this situation, translating two of Kholmogorov’s articles (Europe’s Week of Human Sacrifice; A Cruel French Lesson). Still, there’s only so much one blogger with many other things to write about can do.

Happily, a multilingual Russian fan of Kholmogorov has stepped up to the plate: Fluctuarius Argenteus. Incidentally, he is a fascinating fellow in his own right – he is a well recognized expert in Spanish history and culture – though his insistence on anonymity constrains what I can reveal, at least beyond his wish to be the “Silver Surfer” to Kholmogorov’s Galactus.

We hope to make translations of Kholmogorov’s output consistently available on The Unz Review in the months to come.

In the meantime, I am privileged to present the first Fluctuarius-translated Kholmogorov article for your delectation.

***

A New Martin Luther?: James Damore’s Case from a Russian Conservative Perspective

google-image

Original: https://tsargrad.tv/articles/triumf-gendernyh-sharikovyh_79187

Translated by Fluctuarius Argenteus:

Google fires employee James Damore for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.

– You persecute your employees for having opinions and violate the rights of White men, Centrists, and Conservatives.

– No, we don’t. You’re fired.

A conversation just like or similar to this one recently took place in the office of one of modern information market monsters, the Google Corporation.

Illustration to the Google scandal. James Damore fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes”. Source: Screenshot of Instragram user bluehelix.

Google knows almost everything about us, including the contents of our emails, our addresses, our voice samples (OK Google), our favorite stuff, and, sometimes, our sexual preferences. Google used to be on the verge of literally looking at the world with our own eyes through Google Glass, but this prospect appears to have been postponed, probably temporarily. However, the threat of manipulating public opinion through search engine algorithms has been discussed in the West for a long while, even to the point of becoming a central House of Cards plotline.

Conversely, we know next to nothing about Google. Now, thanks to an ideological scandal that shook the company, we suddenly got a glimpse of corporate values and convictions that the company uses a roadmap to influencing us in a major way, and American worldview even more so. Suddenly, Google was revealed to be a system permeated by ideology, suffused with Leftist and aggressively feminist values.

The story goes this way. In early August, an anonymous manifesto titled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber was circulated through the local network of Google. The author lambasted the company’s ideological climate, especially its policy of so-called diversity. This policy has been adopted by almost all of US companies, and Google has gone as far as to appoint a “chief diversity officer”. The goal of the polity is to reduce the number of white cisgendered male employees, to employ as many minorities and women as possible and to give them fast-track promotions – which, in reality, gives them an unfair, non-market based advantage.

The author argues that Leftism and “diversity” policies lead to creating an “echo chamber” within the company, where a person only talks to those who share their opinions, and, through this conversation, is reinforced in the opinion that their beliefs are the only ones that matter. This “echo chamber” narrows one’s intellectual horizon and undermines work efficiency, with following “the party line” taking precedence over real productivity.

In contrast to Google’s buzzwords of “vision” and “innovation”, the author claims that the company has lost its sight behind its self-imposed ideological blindfold and is stuck in a morass.

As Google employs intellectuals, argues the critic, and most modern Western intellectuals are from the Left, this leads to creating a closed Leftist clique within the company. If the Right rejects everything contrary to the God>human>nature hierarchy, the Left declares all natural differences between humans to be nonexistent or created by social constructs.

The central Leftist idea is the class struggle, and, given that the proletariat vs. bourgeoisie struggle is now irrelevant, the atmosphere of struggle has been transposed onto gender and race relations. Oppressed Blacks are fighting against White oppressors, oppressed women challenge oppressive males. And the corporate management (and, until recently, the US presidency) is charged with bringing the “dictatorship of the proletariat” to life by imposing the “diversity” policy.

The critic argues that the witch-hunt of Centrists and Conservatives, who are forced to conceal their political alignment or resign from the job, is not the only effect of this Leftist tyranny. Leftism also leads to inefficiency, as the coveted job goes not to the best there is but to the “best woman of color”. There are multiple educational or motivation programs open only to women or minorities. This leads to plummeting efficiencies, disincentivizes White men from putting effort into work, and creates a climate of nervousness, if not sabotage. Instead of churning out new ground-breaking products, opines the critic, Google wastes too much effort on fanning the flames of class struggle.

What is the proposed solution?

Stop diving people into “oppressors” and “the oppressed” and forcefully oppressing the alleged oppressors. Stop branding every dissident as an immoral scoundrel, a racist, etc.

The diversity of opinion must apply to everyone. The company must stop alienating Conservatives, who are, to call a spade a spade, a minority that needs their rights to be protected. In addition, conservatively-inclined people have their own advantages, such as a focused and methodical approach to work.

Fight all kinds of prejudice, not only those deemed worthy by the politically correct America.

End diversity programs discriminatory towards White men and replace them with non-discriminatory ones.

Have an unbiased assessment of the costs and efficiency of diversity programs, which are not only expensive but also pit one part of the company’s employees against the other.

Instead of gender and race differences, focus on psychological safety within the company. Instead of calling to “feel the others’ pain”, discuss facts. Instead of cultivating sensitivity and soft skins, analyze real issues.

Admit that not all racial or gender differences are social constructs or products of oppression. Be open towards the study of human nature.

The last point proved to be the most vulnerable, as the author of the manifesto went on to formulate his ideas on male vs. female differences that should be accepted as fact if Google is to improve its performance.

The differences argued by the author are as follows:

Women are more interested in people, men are more interested in objects.

Women are prone to cooperation, men to competition. All too often, women can’t take the methods of competition considered natural among men.

Women are looking for a balance between work and private life, men are obsessed with status and

Feminism played a major part in emancipating women from their gender roles, but men are still strongly tied to theirs. If the society seeks to “feminize” men, this will only lead to them leaving STEM for “girly” occupations (which will weaken society in the long run).

It was the think piece on the natural differences of men and women that provoked the greatest ire. The author was immediately charged with propagating outdated sexist stereotypes, and the Google management commenced a search for the dissent, with a clear purpose of giving him the sack. On 8th August, the heretic was revealed to be James Damore, a programmer. He was fired with immediate effect because, as claimed by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”. Damore announced that he was considering a lawsuit.

We live in a post-Trump day and age, that is why the Western press is far from having a unanimous verdict on the Damore affair. Some call him “a typical sexist”, for others he is a “free speech martyr”. By dismissing Damore from his job, Google implicitly confirmed that all claims of an “echo chamber” and aggressive Leftist intolerance were precisely on point. Julian Assange has already tweeted: “Censorship is for losers, WikiLeaks is offering a job to fired Google engineer James Damore”.

It is highly plausible that the Damore Memo may play the same breakthrough part in discussing the politically correct insanity as WikiLeaks and Snowden files did in discussing the dirty laundry of governments and secret services. If it comes to pass, Damore will make history as a new Martin Luther challenging the Liberal “Popery”.

However, his intellectual audacity notwithstanding, it should be noted that Damore’s own views are vulnerable to Conservative criticism. Unfortunately, like the bulk of Western thought, they fall into the trap of Leftist “cultural constructivism” and Conservative naturalism.

Allegedly, there are only two possible viewpoints. Either gender and race differences are biologically preordained and therefore unremovable and therefore should always be taken into account, or those differences are no more than social constructs and should be destroyed for being arbitrary and unfair.

The ideological groundwork of the opposing viewpoints is immediately apparent. Both equate “biological” with “natural” and therefore “true”, and “social” with “artificial” and therefore “arbitrary” and “false”. Both sides reject “prejudice” in favor of “vision”, but politically correct Leftists reject only a fraction of prejudices while the critic calls for throwing all of them away indiscriminately.

As a response, Damore gets slapped with an accusation of drawing upon misogynist prejudice for his own ideas. Likewise, his view of Conservatives is quite superficial. The main Conservative trait is not putting effort into routine work but drawing upon tradition for creative inspiration. The Conservative principle is “innovation through tradition”.

The key common mistake of both Google Leftists and their critic is their vision of stereotypes as a negative distortion of some natural truth. If both sides went for an in-depth reading of Edmund Burke, the “father of Conservatism”, they would learn that the prejudice is a colossal historical experience pressurized into a pre-logical form, a collective consciousness that acts when individual reason fails or a scrupulous analysis is impossible. In such circumstances, following the prejudice is a more sound strategy than contradicting it. Prejudice is shorthand for common sense. Sometimes it oversimplifies things, but still works most of the time. And, most importantly, all attempts to act “in spite of the prejudice” almost invariably end in disaster.

google-fox

Illustration to the Google scandal. A fox sits gazing at the Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber exposing the ideas of the fired engineer James Damore. Source: Screenshot of Instragram user bluehelix.

However, the modern era allows us to diagnose our own prejudice and rationalize them so we could control them better, as opposed to blind obedience or rejection. Moreover, if the issue of “psychological training” ever becomes relevant in a country as conservative as Russia is, that is the problem we should concentrate on: analyzing the roots of our prejudices and their efficient use.

The same could be argued for gender relations. Damore opposes the Leftist “class struggle of the genders” with a technocratic model of maximizing the profit from each gender’s pros and cons. This functionalism appears to be logical in its own way, but is indeed based on too broad assumptions, claiming that all women are unfit for competition, that all of them like relationships and housekeeping while all men are driven by objects and career. And, as Damore claims biological grounds for his assumptions, all our options boil down to mostly agreeing with him or branding him as a horrible sexist and male chauvinist.

However, the fact that gender roles historically developed based on biology but are, as a whole, a construct of society and culture does not give an excuse to changing or tearing them down, as clamored by Leftists. Quite the contrary: the social, cultural, and historical determinism of these roles gives us a reason to keep them in generally the same form without any coups or revolutions.

First, that tradition is an ever-growing accumulation of experience. Rejecting tradition is tantamount to social default and requires very good reasons to justify. Second, no change of tradition occurs as a result of a “gender revolution”, only its parodic inversion. Putting men into high heels, miniskirts, and bras, fighting against urinals in public WCs only reverses the polarity without creating true equality. The public consciousness still sees the “male” as “superior”, and demoting “masculinity” to “femininity” as a deliberate degradation of the “superior”. No good can come of it, just as no good came out of humiliating wealth and nobility during the Communist revolution in Russia. What’s happening now is not equal rights for women but the triumph of gender Bolshevism.

Damore’s error, therefore, consists in abandoning the domain of the social and the historical to the enemy while limiting the Conservative sphere of influence to the natural, biological domain. However, the single most valuable trait in conservative worldview is defending the achievements of history and not just biological determinism.

The final goal of a Conservative solution to the gender problem should not be limited to a rationalist functionalization of society. It should lead to discovering a social cohesion where adhering to traditional male and female ways and stereotypes (let’s not call them roles – the world is not a stage, and men and women not merely players) would not keep males and females from expressing themselves in other domains, provided they have a genuine calling and talent.

The art of war is not typical of a woman; however, women warriors such as Joan of Arc leave a much greater impact in historical memory. The art of government is seen as mostly male, yet it makes great female rulers, marked not by functional usefulness but true charisma, all the more memorable. The family is the stereotypical domain of the woman, which leads to greater reverence towards fathers that put their heart and soul into their families.

Social cohesion, an integral part of it being the harmony of men and women in the temple of the family, is the ideal to be pursued by our Russian, Orthodox, Conservative society. It is the collapse of the family that made gender relations into such an enormous issue in the West: men and women are no longer joined in a nucleus of solidarity but pitted against one another as members of antagonistic classes. And this struggle, as the Damore Memo has demonstrated, is already stymieing the business of Western corporations. Well, given our current hostile relations, it’s probably for the better.

 
🔊 Listen RSS

mls13 writes:

“Anything goes,” eh? Okay, here’s an admittedly-asinine question for everyone: how is the Medvedev-back-to-Putin transition being addressed by Russia’s makers of political matryoshki? Are they doing Putin on the outside, then Medvedev, then Putin again and then Yeltsin, Gorbachev etc.; or are they being untrue to history by doing Putin-Medvedev-Yeltsin-Gorbachev…, or are they just cutting to the chase and omitting Medvedev all together? Personally, I can’t believe how they’ve managed to screw-up one of Russia’s premier products in the international-tchotchke industry! ;)

That is actually a very intriguing question. I suppose there’s a reason Matryoshka dolls weren’t invented in Italy!

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Da Russophile Archives, Guest, Humor, Society 
🔊 Listen RSS

Following the precedent I set with Alex Mercouris – why should I write a post on something myself, when one of the commentators has already done something better? – I present this article on Russia’s recent gastronomic revolution by Ivan Golov:

I can assure you that Russia has been going through a mass gastronomic and retail revolution in the last 5 years, and of course I am not just talking about Moscow, but even cities which one might call isolated and remote. Your expectations seem somewhat unrealistic, because you cannot develop an advanced consumer and food-quality sentitive culture over a short time period and especially in a society that is still recovering from the soviet restrictions in this regard. It is more than evident that Russia is very quickly learning to appreciate good food and service at an affordable price.

Just a quick note – I am a repatriated Russian living in Izhevsk (not my home city, and not the first choice for most who come back to Russia seeking a place to settle). I have watched the impressive transformation of the local retail and food landscape during my frequent visits to the city over the last 7 years. I have been living here for almost a year now. What you mention about the quality food and price of wines seems very bizzare. I am not ruling out that Moscow is very different, but if that is the case then you are totally out of touch with the rest of the country and should not generalize here on behalf of Russians living elsewhere.

Some specific non made up or theoretical examples of decent food at affordable prices: at work, we regularly go to a chinese cuisine restaraunt for lunch. Its a 15 minute walk or 5 minute drive to get there. This restaurant opened just a few months ago and the lunch offers they have are very cheap and tasty indeed. Last time (just a few days ago) for lunch I had pork soup, a generous serving of Gong Bao chicken with rice, chinese bread and tea. All in all cost me around 140 roubles, which in my opinion is extremely cheap. The lunch menu is cheaper of course than what you would pay in the evening, but I wont complain about that )) My colleagues don’t have any problems affording this kind of meal :) I could give you many more examples, but I think a simple link will be sufficient. This is one of several local restaurant holdings – they control a number of restaurants throughout Izhevsk and you can find the menu and prices here http://welcome-group.ru/. Wine may be more expensive overall, but I will write a separate paragraph about that

When it comes to beer, you have only yourself to blame if you go for the expensive imported beers. I don’t see the point because there are some excellent local beers to be enjoyed. To substantiate my claim – on Friday I enjoyed a few beers at a local summer cafe where they offered a decent locally brewed beer which cost only 90 RUR per 0.5 L. Is that expensive by your standards? At the shop I purchase 1L of fresh Zhigulevsky keg beer brewed locally for 100 RUR to accompany me while watching football (sadly, not so much anymore since the awful performance of our team yesterday)

You cannot possible complain about the wine. I remember 5 years ago I was not aware of a single store specializing in wines in Izhevsk, and the wines on offer were either CIS-origin suspicious red mixtures or were ridiculously overprices with disregard to quality. Today you have absolutely incredible variety (in comparison) and much more affordable prices. Today, the big chains and independent importers are much more sensitive towards quality and can import large quantities of good wines and other booze. Growing competition means that they will sell these imported goods at prices which the market will accept. If you get ripped of in Moscow, then perhaps you should move to a smaller city, you may also find that there are a lot less traffic jams. :)

I would argue that american-style steak houses are somewhat exotic in Russia at this point. They are expensive because the meat is imported from USA or Australia and there is little local beef of sufficient quality being produced today. However, this will change very quickly because there are several gigantic agricultural projects happening in Russia at the moment. One of them in Bryansk involves investing billions into angus meat breeds that will be fed with quality Russian grain to produce the same quality meat that is being imported today. Then Onishenko will do his magic, and voila! :) If we are talking about meat in general, then why don’t you settle for decent Russian or Caucasian shashlyk? It is affordable and delicious! Check out the prices in Izhevsk http://www.pazelinka.ru/

Retail is absolutely booming, if you are primarily talking about food products then there is sufficient variety and quality in Izhevsk. That said, my main complaint would be that there is not enough Russian fruit and vegetables being sold, a lot seems to be imported from other countries. I would contribute this to the risky and long invesment cycle (much like the beef situation described above), but I also predict that it will change significantly over the years. In the past 5 years I saw at least a dozen of large shopping malls and retail chain superstores opening in Izhevsk. Many of the federal retailers have showed up here and there are also strong local players which seem to be able to compete against them

Btw. from my knowledge many western countries, especially the ones in northern europe with a historic lack of sensitivity towards food quality, all went through a very similar gastronomical transformation fairly recently as society became more rich and open to the outside world. Norway or the UK would be prime examples of this

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
🔊 Listen RSS
National Library of Belarus. Who says tractors and Bat'ka are all there is to it?

National Library of Belarus. Who says tractors and Bat’ka are all there is to it?

In the vein of my recent posts on the myth of Russian emigration, I am now publishing a translation of Уехать в Белоруссию (“Go Off To Belarus”) by Maksim Schweiz writing for Rosbalt news agency. It is a joint effort by Nils van der Vegte, who blogs with Joera Mulders at Russia Watchers and is now busy propagating Dutch language and culture in the Arctic cornucopia of Arkhangelsk, and myself. Nils translated the section on Belarus, I translated the section on Ukraine.

Introduction

Many pundits have stated lately that Russia is going to experience (or is already experiencing) a large outflow of people who wish to emigrate to other countries because in contemporary Russia, life is supposedly unbearable. However, by looking at the statistics, which we prefer over random quotes, this is not really the case. Also, like some other people pointed out, Russia is not that unique in that a certain percentage has the desire to leave one’s country. Even Russia’s most anti-Kremlin and pro-Western newspapers are fed up with the continuous desire to emigrate. In a recent interview on Echo of Moscow, Konstantin Remtsukov (the editor of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta) commented: “I would like to ask those people who want to “shove off” the following question: just when was it ever better in Russia?” and “Did they want to leave in 1994 and 1993 as well? What aboutin 1998? Do they think they lived better then than we do today?” Instead of doing a serious/academic post on Russian emigration (to counter all these rants) we have decided to translate a rather cynical post by Rosbalt, in which a Russian journalist advises Russians about emigrating to Belarus or Ukraine. – Nils van der Vegte.

Whereas in general terms I have nothing to add to Nils’ comments, I’m not so sure that it’s a “cynical” article. After all, we have to bear in mind that until a few years ago, more Russians left for Belarus than the reverse! This indicates that at least until the country’s recent economic troubles, if you had no special dissident or entrepreneurial proclivities, life was pretty good by ex-USSR standards. That is no longer the case. On the other hand, the Belorussian devaluation does mean that geoarbitrage of the sort I discussed in my last post here is becoming very profitable. The commentator Doug mentioned that Russians are now pouring over the border snapping up Belorussian goods that are now twice as cheap for them as they were a year ago. And property prices in Minsk suddenly look very attractive. So in this sense Russian “emigration” to Belarus doesn’t seem like a bad idea at the moment – just make sure you continue getting paid in Russian rubles! -Anatoly Karlin

TRANSLATION: Time To Shove Off To Belarus!

“Let’s get out”, but where to? In Europe and in the US we are not wanted and the Third World is too far away. For those who are fed up with Russia but who think that Europe and Asia are no alternative, there are two underrated options: Ukraine and Belarus.

There is a popular expression in the Russian blogosphere: “It’s time to shove off” (Пора валить). Usually, Western Europe is the most popular destination. But there are increasingly negative stories about emigrating there: “We are not wanted there”, “All we can do is washing the dishes” and “People are very different and difficult to socialize with” are common mantras nowadays. All of these are true. But if you really want to emigrate to “Europe” there is always Belarus or Ukraine to consider.

The first option is Belarus. Belarus is an ideal country if you want to move out of Russia and live more quietly. The only thing is that, especially now, after the crisis, it is incredibly hard to get yourself a decent living. Even the 200 Dollars needed to pay for a one-or two-room apartment in Minsk are hard to come by. But, as far as other factors are concerned, Belarus can indeed be described as the East-European Switzerland.

Living costs in Belarus are very low. You can buy a bottle of yogurt for 15 Russian rubles, Kefir costs 10 rubles per bottle, a kilo of cooked sausage 10 rubles per kilo and for bread you only pay 12 rubles. An evening in a café or bar in the centre of Minsk costs you about 300-600 Russian rubles.

Belarus has almost completely eradicated corruption: bribes are not necessary when visiting a clinic or during a visit to whatever government agency. Here, the police does not take bribes. If you are caught drunk behind the wheel you have to pay a fine of Moscow-like proportions (1000 Dollars) or lose your drivers license for three years. The latter of these is the more likely outcome, since Belorussian cops are very afraid of taking bribes.

In Belarus, your health will surely improve, and not just because of the famous sanatoriums. For a total of 60-90 rubles you can go ice skating the whole evening. Alternatively, you can also go to the huge “Palace of Water Sports”. In general, the entry fee to all public buildings and the usage of government social services is, by Russian standards, very cheap.

Real estate is very cheap in Belarus. You can get a studio apartment in Minsk for $150 per month, or $200 for a renovated one. Buying a standard one-bedroom apartment will cost you $50,000-$60,000. This is expensive for the locals but not for you Russians, accustomed as you are to “Moscow prices”. Minsk itself is a nice place to live in: it’s full of trees and relatively clean air. Also, Minsk is ideal for couples with children: if you want to send your children to kindergarten it will only cost you 2000 rubles per month.

Now for the minuses. In Belarus, it is very difficult to do business. Even more difficult than in Russia. In Moscow, many issues can be resolved by simply coming to an “understanding” with someone, in Belarus every misstep can lead to confiscation of your property. Also, if you dare to hide your profits and evade taxes, it could put you behind bars for a considerable time. Bureaucratic procedures in Belarus are even worse than in Russia: don’t think that you can register your company within a single day or even within a week. The security services make conducting business here a nightmare, and it is as hard for a businessman to get compensation for his grievances against the state in Belarus as it is in Russia.

For people who are accustomed to Moscow-like entertainment, Belarus is a hard place to live. In Minsk, as well as in the rest of Belarus, there is very little nightlife and if there is, the interior, service and staging is unlikely to be attractive. Belarus does not have a decent amusement park, so don’t think you can somehow organize a nice family day in Minsk. Also, it takes ages before movies from Europe/America arrive in Belorussian cinemas. Don’t expect a Shakira or Madonna here: concerts of world stars almost never happen, prominent sporting events are also absent in Belarus. Belorussians are in general are fond of a quiet, family life. And this is something you have to get used to.

Another decent emigration destination for a Russian, who still hasn’t firmly set his sights on Europe, is Ukraine. This country is the exact opposite of Belarus. You can only really live in two cities – Kiev and Odessa. All others emanate an indescribable sense of gloom and despondency. The Ukraine is dirty, food and entertainment are twice as expensive, and property costs as much or a bit more. There are no affordable gyms or swimming pools. Registration issues are far more inconvenient for Russians than is the case in Belarus, where you can emigrate easily without problems. Healthcare is atrocious, and bribes have to be given for practically everything – even for a consultation in any office. Drunken drivers stopped by the Ukrainian police can buy themselves off for only $200.

On the other hand, Kiev boasts loads of attractions. Here there are always plenty of concerts, many of them free. You can eat lunch in the city centre for only 500 rubles.

There is one unarguably bright side to life in Ukraine – freedom of action. Only in Ukraine will you see signs with “Cafe” or “gas station” on them right in front of ordinary village houses, adjacent to the freeways. Only in Kiev will you see coffee and sandwiches being sold straight out of old, bright-orange Moskvitch cars. You don’t even need a passport to buy a SIM-card. No policeman here will drive out a musician with his guitar and begging cap out of the town centre, or demand to see your passport and registration documents.

People in the Ukraine are responsive and friendly – don’t believe the tales that they dislike Russians. It’s common here to greet fellow customers in the shops and to cut off a piece of cheese for sampling, if you can’t decide which one you want. For all the “backwoods” character and friendliness of Kiev’s townspeople, on weekdays it is full of milling throngs and clonking horns. The tempo of life beats much faster than in Minsk, and is more reminiscent of Moscow – everybody is hurrying somewhere, and getting wound up when they have to stand in traffic jams. And, in contrast to the Belorussian capital, there are certainly plenty of those.

That said, it seems that it’s far easier to do business here, than in Minsk – at least, it’s plainly visible in that there are many home-grown entrepreneurs, who don’t need even a stall to hawk their wares and ply their trades. They do with just an ordinary umbrella.

Summing up, dear Russians, there are many paths of retreat. And if you are firmly set on “shoving off”, then consider that it doesn’t necessarily have to be far away and permanent. There are closer and more humane alternatives.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
🔊 Listen RSS

Letters, we get letters, we get lots of cards and letters every day. Even fan mail from La Russophobe!

Letter to the Editor: Reply to “Given Free Publicity On NTV, Khodorkovsky Only Incriminates Himself Further” (06/11/2011).

In a recent blog post, you touted a report about Mikhail Khodorkovsky on state-owned Russian TV channel NTV. Your post, which implied the Russian Kremlin is being open about its prosecution of Khodorkovsky, was grossly misleading.

You failed to notice that this reporting came only after Khodorkovsky’s conviction. You also failed to notice that public ignorance about the trial itself increased dramatically from 2005, clearly showing that the Kremlin hid the entire proceeding from the public when it counted.

By contrast, you grossly mischaracterize Western reporting of the recent EHCR verdict relating to Khodorkovsky. Contrary to your false claim, a vast number of Western outlets touted the court’s refusal to find Khodorkovsky’s conviction political.

You also mischaracterize the EHCR verdict itself, as did numerous Western reports. The verdict permits Khodorkovsky’s lawyers to submit additional evidence showing political motivation and does not find no such motivation was present. Instead, the decision merely finds that sufficient evidence for a conviction on that point has not yet been submitted, and the court’s rules require a truly profound showing in this regard.

You totally ignore the numerous convictions handed down against the Kremlin by the EHCR for grossly violating Khodorkovsky’s legal rights, actions which the court called “inhuman.” In other words, a stunning formal European pronouncement of Russian barbarism. The Kremlin is now Khodorkovsky’s debtor to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, and there are numerous other challenges by Khodorkovsky’s lawyers to the Kremlin’s illegal actions still pending the European courts.

Predictably, you also totally ignore the ludicrous nature of accusing Khodorkovsky of stealing hundreds of millions of tons of oil, and you ignore the unquestionable fact that Putin has failed to keep his promise to purge Russia of oligarchs. All he has in fact done is to purge the oligarchs who are not pro-Putin, blithely allowing those close to him to continue doing exactly the same things for which Khodorkovsky rots in Siberia.

In short, far from confirming honesty and openness on the part of Khodorkovsky’s foes, your post merely shows in detail how their mendacity and subterfuge continue.

Yours truly,

La Russophobe

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
🔊 Listen RSS

Can you tell your siloviki from your civiliki? MVD, FSB or GRU? The breeds of dog underneath those Churchillian carpets? If not, maybe this will help.

In August 2010, I translated the introduction to political pundit Vladimir Pribylovsky’s recent book ВЛАСТЬ-2010: 60 биографий (Power in 2010: 60 biographies). The resulting Phantom Tandem, Real Triumvirate and the Kremlin Clan Wars is a useful, if a tad obdurate, primer on “who’s who” in today’s Kremlin.

In collaboration with A Good Treaty, we have created three tables listing the biggest players in the “Kremlin clans” according to Pribylovsky (to the extent they exist: see my comments to the original translation). There have been few changes until today, January 2011. The biggest was the replacement of Sergey Bogdanchikov by Eduard Khudaynatov as President of Rosneft.

We hope that it will be of use to all Russia watchers, amateur and expert alike.

Pribylovsky (2010)

The Sechin Clan (“siloviki”)

sechin-clan

The Medvedev Coalition (“civiliki”)

medvedev-clan

“Putin’s People”

putin-group

 

 

These classifications aren’t the only ones in existence: of particular note

Stratfor (2010)

kremlin-clans-stratfor

eXile (2007)

kremlin-clans-exile

 

But do take all this Byzantinism with a grain of salt. ;)

 

UPDATE, May 31st, 2012:

Russian Reporter (2011, 2012)

According to a graph analysis by Russian Reporter, the Putin era saw a diminution of alternate centers of power within the power elites. However, 2012 saw an Anti-Clan Revolution, as the Putin – Medvedev clan got compressed in on itself by unconnected newcomers.

2000 Social Net

russia-clans-2000

2011 Social Net

russia-clans-2011

2012 Social Net – The Anti-Clan Revolution

russia-clans-2012

 

Is this then the end of the Kremlin clans?

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
🔊 Listen RSS

A thundering takedown of the Financial Times transparently one-sided coverage of the Khodorkovsky affair -and Khodorkovsky says Putin is ‘pitiable’ can also serve as a palimpsest for Western media coverage of this topic in general – from Eric Kraus at Truth and Beauty. BTW, do feel free to add his blog Truth and Beauty to your subscriptions. As someone with a dozen years of investor experience in Russia, Kraus has cutting, pertinent commentary, with fine sarcastic wit, on Russian finance and economics and global affairs. His article Is Putin pitiable, or is the FT corrupt? is reprinted below.

Reading the FT on Russia, what is interesting is not what they write – it is why they write it. A friend of T&B was told face-to-face about six months ago by an FT editor that, as a journalist here, one’s role has to be ”to write about how awful Russia is”. (While, admittedly, T&B does not know many FT journalists in Poland, Belgium or Mexico, we strongly suspect that they have an entirely different mandate. Only in Russia has the paper descended to outright advocacy…)

A recent propaganda piece in praise of Khodorkovsky – proudly splashed across the front page of the Financial Times in defiance of the most basic journalistic ethics – is so transparently self-serving, dishonest, and in a few points frankly absurd, that one is at a bit of a loss where to start. We shall borrow a technique from Russia: Other points of view – numbering the paragraphs in the original for discussion.

Khodorkovsky says Putin is ‘pitiable’

By Isabel Gorst in Moscow
Published: December 24 2010 14:27 | Last updated: December 24 2010 14
(and still at the top of their website three days later…)

(Inserted numbers are by T&B, for ease of reference.)

1. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed Russian tycoon, has lashed out at Vladimir Putin, describing his nemesis as a pitiable but dangerous leader steering his country towards degradation and chaos.

2. In a newspaper article published on Friday, three days before a judge begins reading the verdict in a fresh trial that could keep him in jail until 2017, Mr Khodorkovsky said the Russian prime minister was trapped in the cynical political establishment he had created, indifferent to the fate of its people.

3. “I suddenly realised I was sorry for this man – no longer young, but vigorous and horribly lonely in the face of a vast and unsympathetic country,” he said.

4. The latest trial reaches its conclusion before the expiry of an eight-year sentence handed down after a first trial for fraud and tax evasion. After his conviction in 2005, Yukos, the giant oil producer he founded, was confiscated and sold, mainly to state oil companies, to help settle alleged tax debts.

5. Critics say the new charges are aimed at keeping Mr Khodorkovsky, who emerged as a champion of democracy before his arrest, behind bars long after presidential elections in 2012.

6. Together with Platon Lebedev, his business partner, Mr Khodorkovsky is now being tried on fresh charges of embezzlement that even his critics have slammed as absurd. On Monday, a Moscow judge will begin reading out a verdict that is expected to hand the two men additional prison sentences of six years.

7. The publication of the stinging article comes after Mr Putin suggested during a nationwide phone-in with Russians last week that Mr Khodorkovsky could have blood on his hands after Yukos’ former security chief was convicted for murder.

8. Defence lawyers for Mr Khodorkovsky accused Mr Putin of putting pressure on the judge to pronounce a guilty verdict and threatened to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

9. In his article, Mr Khodorkovsky said corruption had increased tenfold since Mr Putin came to power in 2000 and disputed the prime minister’s claims to have boosted stability in Russia.

10. He drew a direct link between rising corruption and the outbreak of racial clashes in Russian cities this month that has exposed a dangerous surge in ultra-nationalism in the country. “Don’t fool yourself. Thousands and thousands of suddenly brutalised youngsters are a clear signal that our children see no future for themselves. This is clearly the threatening result of Putin’s stability,” he wrote.

11. “They are our future, they are our grief, they are the most tragic result of the decade of ‘getting back on our feet’ when there was money in abundance but no compassion.”

12. Mr Khodorkovsky has said in the past he would stay out of politics after his release and dedicate his life to social and charitable projects. But on Friday he hinted of a possible return to politics. “ We will develop the country ourselves… We can do it. We are the people after all. And it is ours. Russia.”

13. Mr Khodorkovsky’s second trial is seen as a litmus test of Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president’s pledge to reform the judiciary and uproot corruption.

Speaking to television journalists on Friday, Mr Medvedev, a lawyer by training, refused to comment on the trial.

“Neither the president, nor any other official, has the right to express his or her position on this case or any other case before the verdict is passed, regardless of whether it is a guilty or an innocent verdict,” he said.

1. Anyone living in Russia in the 1990s knows precisely what “degradation and chaos” look like. If Mr. Khodorkovsky is the sole oligarch to be truly concerned for the well-being of the Russian populace, why was it that, when he was becoming fabulously wealthy as his country dissolved into disaster, he never went on the record to complain of it? Why did he pay just $200m for an oil company worth tens of billions when the country was sliding into bankruptcy? Why use offshore schemes instead of paying taxes if he was concerned with the commonweal?

2. Again, Khodorkovsky – and especially his lieutenants the vicious Nezhlin and Lebedev – were notorious for his callous brutality. The privatization of Apatit alone filled up a medium-sized graveyard in the Urals. Russia may be a sometimes-brutal place, but people like him made it far more so.

3. Mr. Putin gives every sign of enjoying his job, and loneliness does not seem to be an issue for him. Perhaps Khodorkovsky is confusing the Prime Minister’s fate with his own.

4. Correct.

5. Khodorkovsky was never known to champion anything other than the power of the oligarchy. Had he been a champion of democracy, his first act would have been to stop freely corrupting the Russian Duma, media, and bureaucracy. Before his arrest, he never showed any signs of wishing to relinquish the corrupt oligarchic grip on the Russian political system. It is most unlikely that, were he to be freed tomorrow, he would do anything fundamentally different.

6. Nowhere else in the article are Khodorkovsky’s critics even identified – indeed, reading the FT text, it is hard to imagine that Khodorkovsky has any critics. T&B has not heard any of Khodorkovsky’s many critics describing the charges as “absurd” – perhaps the FT is confusing the words “critic” and “shill”. Otherwise, we would like to know who, precisely, they are referring to… Or did they simply invent it, in order to finish up the paragraph on a suitably acerbic note?

7. Khodorkovsky unquestionably DOES have blood on his hands. His head of security, Alexei Pichugin, is serving a 20-year sentence (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4393003.stm) for a series of contract murders: Menatep’s terror tactics were common knowledge in the 1990s, when their opponents lived in terror (and T&B was forbidden to write anything critical of them by our erstwhile employer). What is outrageous is that their head of security, the ex-KGB operative Pichugin, was convicted, but not the bosses who ordered the hits.

Explaining why he has not been accused, Khodorkovsky apologists claim that the charges would never hold up in court. Then, in almost the same breath, they claim that the courts are transparently manipulated by the government – one cannot have it both ways! Either the courts are fair, and Khodorkovsky is as guilty as Cain, or they are unfair, in which case it seems most unlikely that a murder charge would be rejected.

Perhaps the Russian government is holding the murder charge in reserve as an ultimate, nuclear threat against Yukos-Menatep if it were to do further damage – though we are at a loss to imagine what this further damage might be. In either event, it seems an outrage that justice not been done to the victims.

8. Prima facie absurd. Again, they have spent years telling us that the courts are totally controlled by the government. If so, why should Putin bother to publicly pressure a court which is in his pocket anyway? You cannot have it both ways. As for suing before the European Court of Human Rights – one can, if one wishes, sue the Bishop of Boston for Bastardy… But one is most unlikely to prevail.

9. He is on drugs! From what we read in the press, Russian corruption was reported to account for at least20% of GDP in 2000. So it now accounts for 200%? Why be so modest? Why not 2,000%?? More than 100% of GDP going to anything at all is a logical absurdity – but we are in the realm of fantasy here.

10. More insanity. “Suddenly brutalized” (!) – Russia has been a very hard place for the past several hundred years! Skinhead violence was as brutal and far more prevalent during the mid-1990s. It remains a serious problem. Anyone visiting the poorer suburbs of Moscow, but also of Paris or Brussels, will know how widespread it is.

Again, Khodorkovsky and his ilk showed no concern with such social ills in the past. Not surprising, in that they rode around in armoured limousines with large and well-armed security details.

11. Again, to claim that the “skinhead-nationalist-racist” problem is of recent vintage suggests he takes the journalists for morons (alas, at least in this one assessment, he is apparently correct!).

12. Mr. Khodorkovsky’s likelihood of winning an election of any sort in Russia is similar to T&B’s being appointed to the Holy Synod. Less likely really, since never having heard of him, the majority of the electorate does not hate T&B.

Anyone speaking a few words of Russian should simply ask a random selection of a) taxi drivers, b) shop clerks, c) people on the street car, what they think of the oligarchs in general – and of Khodorkovsky in particular. The responses will be fairly rabid. The only significant group of Russians supporting him is the small, English-speaking coterie of members of the Moscow chattering classes who surround most foreign journalists.

13. Who declared it a litmus test? The FT? Are they chemists? No one except the journalists and those in the pay of Menatep much cares anymore. It has been two years since a foreign investor enquired with us about this matter.

It is a criminal case against a man who was as guilty as the worst of his peers, but who, unlike them, refused to cease and desist after the feeble Yeltsin regime collapsed and a more purposeful government took its place.

Of course, Mr. Putin is being disingenuous when he claims that he does not have evidence against any of the other oligarchs. There is ample evidence against many of them. The difference is they knew when to quit, and were not megalomaniacal enough to threaten the Russian state.

We have said it before – we shall say it again. The “journalist” authoring this paper is either a fool or a knave – either corrupted by Yukos money, or totally ignorant of what was public knowledge in the 1990s: that the oil oligarchs were robbing the state blind!

The argument that trying Khodorkovsky now involves double-jeopardy suggests either laziness or intentional disinformation. A quick look at Wikipedia will show that the first Khodorkovsky trial was for the criminal privatization of Apatit, not for the theft from Yukos.

In fact, the ONLY credible legal defense for Khodorkovsky is the “everyone was doing it too” argument. There is only one problem – that it is not a legal defense. We are not aware of any system of justice where it would be an accepted defense. The fact that there were other Ponzi schemes was not exculpatory for Bernie Madoff; that other guys were trading on insider information did not keep Boesky out of jail. People with dark and ugly pasts are best advised to be very, very careful and to avoid antagonizing those who could hold them to account for their past crimes… and the FT damned well knows it!

Lies, Damned lies, and the FT

A number of our readers have written to us expressing skepticism as regards our version of the Yukos affaire. This is hardly surprising – we scan the mainstream Western press in vain for anyone seriously questioning what has become the official narrative.

Is it not extraordinary that none of the famously free and fair Western media even expresses doubt as to whether he is not, in fact, guilty as charged? Could they, in fact, be regimented and beholden to a very specific agenda?

As we have noted previously – we do not find Russia either more or less corrupt than the West. The difference is that Russia has mostly “honest corruption” i.e. well-stuffed envelopes – fee-for-service, without any particular hypocrisy. In the West, on the other hand, the media are bought, generally not for cash.

Cash, of course, does play a vital role. Despite the best efforts of the Russian state, Yukos/Menatep retains control of its stolen billions parked abroad (it is for this reason that the Russian administration rightly fears Khodorkovsky – clever, vicious, infused with a sense of mission, with unlimited access to Western corridors of power, and controlling a multi-billion dollar war chest – back on the street he could be infinitely more pernicious than the equally criminal Berezovsky). This money is channeled through a dense network of political fixers, right-wing think tanks, Washington political operatives, PR and government relations firms (notably APCO, run, disconcertingly, by one Margery Kraus… no relation!), law firms such as Robert Amsterdam (essentially a very effective political huckster posing as an attorney), with scores of Western public figures on the payroll.

We do not have any evidence that publications such as the FT actually receive cash for their disinformation. That would be too simple. The most senior editors lunch with the good and the great – they attended the same schools – sit at the same clubs. Underpaid, they thrive on honours, access, that sense of belonging. Perhaps we are naïve – perhaps some cold cash changes hands. Simply – we are not aware of it.

Whatever the reason – the fact that it is openly “corrupt” is beyond reasonable dispute. The reader can draw his own conclusions as to whether a similar letter written by Bernard Madoff expressing his pity for Barack Obama would have made it onto the front pages of the FT!

This headline news was, after all, nothing more than a poorly drafted broadside by a convicted criminal lashing out at the legitimate government of his country. The fact that Khodorkovsky stole billions rather than millions clearly justifies his moving up on the page – but it does not make this front-page news!

No – the article was placed. Powerful and well-financed sources saw to it that it was given front page coverage. Money CAN buy you “Truth” in the Western press – and unlike the slightly jaded Russian populace, Westerners actually believe their own propaganda.

Other Khodorkovsky coverage of note since my last update: A Journalist Unmuzzled! – A Private Communication (how MSM editors dictate what Western journalists can effectively say – same Eric Kraus); Enough Grandstanding About Khodorkovsky, Ms. Clinton! (the hypocrisy of “rule of law” lectures from a nation that holds dozens of people indefinitely without trial – Yvonne Ridley); Khodorkovsky 2017 (doing the motions – Khodorkovsky’s lawyers); Oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky gets six more years (exercise: how many journalistic fallacies can you spot in this Independent piece?).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
No Items Found
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.