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The Trump administration is endlessly accused of having had contacts with Russian officials during the election campaign, as if that was a Very Bad Thing.

In reality is it not only standard diplomatic practice, but it is something that the US has always done itself – and usually from the other wise of the fence.

Perhaps the most richly illustrative case is from January 2012 at the height of the anti-Putin protests, when the US Embassy invited leading members of Russia’s pro-Western opposition to its Moscow Embassy – though given the marginal electoral ratings of Nemtsov, Chirikova, Ponomarev, Mitrokhin, etc., this is not even so much like the Kremlin talking to Republican candidate Trump as to various assorted marginals like Evan McMullin, Michael Moore, Bill Kristol, the guy who played knockout on Richard Spencer, and whoever the current chairman of the CPUSA is).

NTV journalists had gotten the scoop on this visit, and showed up to ask what their goals of their visit to the US Embassy was. Since those people are politicians who claim to be the consciousness of the Russian nation, warriors of light against the Dark Lord Puter, these were entirely reasonable questions. But none of them had an intelligible response – on going in, at any rate. But evidently the folks at the US Embassy have a bit more creativity, and on going out, they all started chanting “You are Surkov propaganda” to the journalists, dismissing them as pawns of the guy who was then widely rumored to be the gray cardinal of the Kremlin.

In what way is Trump worse than the Russian pro-Western opposition?

Take a cue from them. Refuse to answer their questions. Proclaim “You are Soros propaganda” to their faces. Maybe even physically assault them just like WSJ op-ed writer Kasparov and Bozhena Rynska did at their Vilnius Conference, where they were discussing what territories Russia has to give away to make up with the West.

But seriously, contacts between opposition forces and foreign governments is neither illegal nor even unusual. This is standard practice in democracies. But Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferers evidently disagree on whether the US should remain a democracy now that the wrong people have been voted in.

Some of them, like Bill Kristol, are even quite open about it (“Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state“).

 
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free-russian-forum-lithuania-2016-transl

Not a month goes by without the Ukrainian nationalists of multinational nationality otherwise known as the Russian non-systemic pro-Western opposition reminding us why they have sub-margin of error approval ratings.

Their latest Kunstkamera of a conference, the so-called Free Russian Forum, was held on 9-10 March in Vilnius, Lithuania. Some 250 specimens turned out to hear what the self-styled “founding fathers” of Russian democracy had in mind for Russia’s future. Despite featuring an impressive range of handshake-worthy people – Valeriya Novodvorkaya’s spiritual successor Konstantin Borovoy, WSJ op-ed writer Gary Kasparov, persecuted $75,000-a-speech former Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, persecuted contraband art smuggler Alfred Koch, Cato Institute fellow Andrey Illarianov, Pussy Rioter Maria Alekhina, noted cheese aficianado Masha Gessen, thinktank welfare recipients Lilia Shevtsova and Andreas Umland, and Freedom House political scientist Vytis Jurkonis – there was virtually no Western media coverage of this event. I ever so wonder why. /s

Anyhow, I consider that to be a complete disgrace. As a democratist committed to living not by lies, I felt it incumbent upon myself to help remedy this information blackout. For your freedom and mine!

Here are the leading luminaries of the pro-Western Russian opposition, in their own words:

Alfred Koch on Euro-Atlantic Values:

It is time to stage a self-occupation and to admit there are many things we can’t do ourselves. In practice, this means that some state functions will have to be given away: That of the Central Electoral Commission – to PACE, the Constitutional Court – to The Hague, we will have to run electoral campaigns under the control of international organizations, and so forth. This is a voluntary renouncement of part of our sovereignty, but we have to do it under the clear understanding that we are suffering from schizophrenia and are seeing things which don’t exist in reality.

… on Stopping Putin’s Genocide in Syria:

One of the ideas raised was to give portable missile systems to the Syrian opposition so they could shoot down Putin’s fighter aces, analogous to American creativity in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Gary Kasparov on Reform:

Historically, one of the conditions for successful reform in Russia has been geopolitical defeat. If this should involve the losses of territories which do not wish to live by Euro-Atlantic rules, then whatever. Russia is a big country. The USSR fell apart and nothing bad happened.

Konstantin Borovoy on Democratic Values:

A large part of Russian society is obsessed with revanchism and the resurrection of empire. That is why we can’t win without external intervention. To deal with this – as in postwar Germany and Japan – we will have to undertake lustrations and conduct investigations into personal affairs.

Evgeny Chivcharkin on Moral Superiority:

Because we liberals can’t cooperate with each other, it is the evil people who are winning. Because they are mindless worms, who know only how to march in lockstep, and we don’t.

Andrey Illarianov on What Is To Be Done:

Unfortunately, a large percentage of Russians are infected with the imperialist virus, and without its destruction the country can’t be free. There are several parts to this: Immediate cessation of the war aganist Ukraine and in Syria, an end to the confrontation with Turkey, the normalization of relations with the West, the return of Crimea and Donbass to Ukraine, and of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to Georgia, and the removal of Russian troops from Georgia and Ukraine.

Artemy Kivovich Troitsky on Civil Society:

There is a information war going on which creates real victims. Moreover, it produces quite a lot of “crippled minds.” So if you see a vatnik [a Russian redneck], throw a haymaker at him immediately. If he also has an iPhone, first take it away from him, then clock him.

Ilya Ponomarev on Effective Governance:

The government should share its sovereignty, as happen in the EU… the end goal of the state is to self-annihilate.

… on Why Putin is Responsible for Russian Liberals Being Unable to Get Anything Done

This [opposition] dialog on Russia after Putin is really hard to carry out within Russia, because there we’re all fighting for a piece of the pie: Elections for leadership positions, in which some people unify, while others split off… But here abroad we have nothing to divide!

Livia Shevtsova and Andreas Umland on Russia Weaponizing Information:

The former alerted the audience to Kremlin financing of Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban, and the Pegida movement, while the latter claimed that the affair with the “raped girl” in Berlin has struck a blow to Russia’s image in Germany.

Borovoy to Russian journalists on Freedom of the Press:

I really hope that you get banned from journalistic activities. Scumbags have to be barred from educational, government, and journalistic activities. You are not a journalist or a media person. You are a propagandist…

Kasparov to Russian journalists on Freedom of the Press:

I am calling the police. You are a KGB freak. *proceeds to take Troitsky’s advice on clocking vatniks literally*

(The TV crew attempting to interview Kasparov were arrested by Lithuanian police and deported as a national security risk).

The Free Russian Forum’s Ultimatum to Putin, written by Borovoy:

Humanity must realize that the discussion is not about saving human lifes, but about saving life on planet Earth. The Forum calls on the leaders of the democratic community to present the following Ultimatum to Vladimir Putin:

If in the immediate future there is to be:

1) No withdrawal from the occupied territories of Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine;

2) No freeing of all illegally held hostages;

3) No withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria;

4) No cessation of anti-human Russian propanda throughout Russia and the entire world;

5) No moves towards restoring Russia’s constitutional democracy;

… then Russia will be subjected to a total blockade.

All political, economic, transport, and information ties with Russia are to be cut until the complete fulfillment of all conditions of the Ultimatum.

Kasparov’s Concluding Remarks:

Before this Forum, it was unclear whether we would be able to launch a serious dialog. But the intellectual quality of these discussions have exceeded the most optimistic expectations.

Kasparov is, of course, perfectly correct. Many of the participants in the Free Russia Forum did indeed make accurate and incisive observations. It’s hard not to sympathize with Troitsky’s lamentations about”crippled minds,” nor fault Koch for his “clear understanding that we are suffering from schizophrenia.”

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Liberal Opposition, Lithuania, Neocons, Russia 
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A couple of polls to provide the fodder for the subsequent discussions.

Feel free to provide an exact figure (to one decimal place) for Navalny’s percentage share in the comments and we can have a little competition along the lines of the one we had for the Presidential elections.

BackgroundSobyanin vs. Navalny in Figures (July 23 summary); last Levada poll; last WCIOM poll; last FOM poll and prediction; last Synovate Comcon poll.

Discussion thread at The Russia Debate forumThe Moscow Elections, 8 Sept 2013.

Poll #1:

[polldaddy poll=7372081]

Poll #2:

[polldaddy poll=7372096]

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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As far as I understand, Michael D. Weiss is one of those neocons who loves Guantanamo but has a special soft spot in his heart for those Muslims who happen to be fighting Russia or some other state that the US doesn’t like much. When he isn’t chumming it up with his jihadist pals in Syria (see below), he performs his role as the chief editor of The Interpreter – in theory, an “online journal dedicated primarily to translating media from the Russian press and blogosphere into English”; in practice, a publication that would be more aptly named The Interpreter of Novaya Gazeta, considered the open slant in its choice of which articles to translate and its consistently anti-Putin, pro-Western interventionist editorials.

michael-weiss-with-jihadists

Nonetheless, all translations are good. They are inherently neutral. This is why I wrote a letter to Weiss with a cooperation proposal, whose essence was to save both The Russian Spectrum and The Interpreter duplicating work while increasing the size of the content that we both offer. I did not think Weiss would accept and he failed to surprise to the upside. Which of course he was perfectly within his rights to decline. You’ll see no complaints whatsoever from me on that point.

But he wouldn’t let it go – and in fact later, started insisting that I was running around begging favors and threatening to publish my letter as he believed it would discredit me amongst my “Putinist chums” (which he eventually did). The conversations that resulted were not only illustrative of the neocon-Bolshevik like mentality of these people, but are also rather hilarious. It is for this reason that I’ve gathered them all together for the delectation of DR readers.

Note – There is nothing here that is not accessible to the public.

(1) It started when @CollenWinthrop posted the following episode:

1) On July 10th, while Edward Snowden was roving about the transit area of a Moscow Airport, Time Magazine’s Simon Shuster wrote an article that argued that Snowden “was taken soon after his arrival — if not immediately — to a secure location run by some arm of the Russian government.” On top of that, Shuster writes that Snowden was likely drugged by Russian officials so he can tell them what they want to know. Here is the article: http://world.time.com/2013/07/10/snowden-in-moscow-what-are-russian-authorities-doing-with-the-nsa-whistleblower/

2) Michael Weiss (the Russophobic psychopath of The Interpreter and Now Lebanon) promoted the article on his Twitter account:

{BTW, @shustry‘s report on what has likely happened to young Edward in Moscow is a must-read}

3) The article got bashed as propaganda and lies by many of the people on Time’s website and Shuster lambasted on his Twitter account, as a reply to Weiss’ acclaim:

{@michaeldweiss Thanks! the breadth of responses to this story has been amazing. From livid condemnation to your kind words. Both appreciated}

4) To which Weiss replied:

{@shustry Fuck ‘em. You know how the Cheka operates and you live there. Your stuff is consistently excellent.}

5) “Fuck ‘em”???????? Weiss is such an asshole. He cannot stand the truth, he prefers to fuck the truth instead.

(2) Conversation Number 1:

‏Anatoly Karlin @akarlin88
Account of how zhurnalizd @shustry neocon Bolshevik @michaeldweiss operate: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rlnqop via @ColleenWinthrop
5:01 PM – 3 Aug 13

{Okay, not polite on my part. But honestly – that is not how Russia discussions work there, including (especially) those involving Weiss.}

Russian Truth ‏@RussianTruth1 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @michaeldweiss @ColleenWinthrop Russian hate is a paycheck to Weiss. His baby is Israel.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @colleenwinthrop Anatoly, you should relay the story of how you asked me for a publishing agreement.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss @shustry @ColleenWinthrop It was a cooperation proposal, not a request for a publishing agreement. Please don’t lie. First.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss @shustry @ColleenWinthrop Second, I don’t divulge personal correspondence in public.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @colleenwinthrop You asked to share our material. I can produce the email publicly if you like.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @colleenwinthrop Though I wouldn’t want to embarrass you in front of your friends who might find this very odd indeed.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry No, you insult people and then hypocritically ask them for professional favors. At least you’ve a comic instinct.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss @shustry @ColleenWinthrop Go ahead LOL. There is nothing damning or even controversial there whatsoever.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss I was not asking you for a favor. And you are just about the last person who should be whining about online insults (wah wah)

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 Who’s whining? I enjoyed it thoroughly.

(3) Conversation Number 2:

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88
Just to clarify: My proposal to @Interpreter_Mag was a *sharing* agreement (so as to avoid duplicating effort). Nothing more, nothing less.
6:15 PM – 3 Aug 13

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 “A mutual listing of each other as partners on a partners or links page”. Partners = slightly more, actually.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss I view it as a glorified blogroll, personally – e.g. http://russianmind.com/content/partners …. Partners pages = more visitors, SEO for all.

4) Conversation Number 3:

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
.@michaeldweiss refused. More power to him. Will create more work for both @Interpreter_Mag & @RussianSpectrum, but ultimately irrelvant.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
@akarlin88 Strange that you’d seek to collaborate with neocon Bolsheviks, no? Thought Putinists were made of tougher stuff.
6:20 PM – 3 Aug 13

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss That is because you are a with-us-or-against-us Bolshevik. That is why it seems so strange to you.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 :) I like your last few defensive tweets. Don’t worry, your chums won’t hold it against you. They can’t afford to.

(5) Conversation Number #4 (a month later, in response to a satirical tweet by Mark Adomanis)

Mark Adomanis ‏@MarkAdomanis
“WE NEED TO INTERVENE IN SYRIA BECAUSE THE JIHADISTS ARE SAD” – actual foreign policy analysts
7:36 PM – 31 Aug 13

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@MarkAdomanis Who is saying that?

Russian Truth ‏@RussianTruth1 31 Aug
@MarkAdomanis @hannahgarrard Add @michaeldweiss to that list. Jihadists, AIPAC, Likudites, Bilderbergers. Sad days pic.twitter.com/JWrIANajN0

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg 31 Aug
lolwut @RussianTruth1 @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @hannahgarrard

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@SolJewEgg Imbeciles of the world, unite!

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg 31 Aug
Is russia ever going to stop being just a soul sucking abomination? @michaeldweiss

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@SolJewEgg What’s interesting to me is that Booz Allen keeps hiring accidents waiting to happen. Surely that is a conspiracy worth scrutiny.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
@michaeldweiss The same Booz Allen employee who demanded Russia send Snowden packing? http://darussophile.com/2013/06/25/mark-adomanis-do-as-us-officials-say-or-else/ … @SolJewEgg

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@akarlin88 Anatoly, privyet. Unfortunately, we are still not seeking a content-sharing agreement. Feel free to apply again next year. Xoxo.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
@michaeldweiss Stop trolling or publish the email as you said you would. Go ahead – everyone is waiting with baited breath.

Nick Nipclose ‏@NickNipclose 31 Aug
@Karlsson111 @michaeldweiss @SolJewEgg There’s no excuse for Chechen jihadism, they chose to support Islamist filth no one forced them.

… {discussion by other participants on Chechnya}

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg 31 Aug
@NickNipclose @Karlsson111 @michaeldweiss Russia’s brutal repression didn’t help anyone

… {more Chechnya discussion… check the link to Twitter convo if you’re really interested}

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
Oh noes @michaeldweiss BLOCKED me. wah wah wah. Whatever shall I do now?!? cc @MarkAdomanis @RussianTruth1 @SolJewEgg @hannahgarrard

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg
Lol russian propagandist. @akarlin88 @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @RussianTruth1 @hannahgarrard

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@SolJewEgg Karlin is my aspiring professional partner. Hell hath no fury like a Putinist scorned.

Hannah Garrard ‏@hannahgarrard 31 Aug
@akarlin88 Join the club. I got blocked by him for criticising Al-Qaida. @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @RussianTruth1 @SolJewEgg

Russian Truth ‏@RussianTruth1 31 Aug
@hannahgarrard @akarlin88 @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @SolJewEgg For criticizing Al Qaeda? Did he take it personally?!

(6) The publication of my email (1, 2, 3, 4)

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
I see @michaeldweiss continues to twist the contents of my email to him in public. This leaves me with no option but to publish it myself.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
@akarlin88 Don’t worry, Anatoly. I shall publish it now.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
‏@michaeldweiss Anatoly Karlin’s request to partner with The Interpreter — evidently this meant more to him than it did to (cont) http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rm7dhg

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
@akarlin88 Here you go, sweetpea. Happy blogging: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rm7dhg

(7) The damning email that will meant so much more to me than to him – in which case, why was Michael Weiss the one ranting on about it the entire time?

Anatoly Karlin’s request to partner with The Interpreter — evidently this meant more to him than it did to us:

Dear Michael Weiss/Interpreter Staff,

It is great to see you making translations of the Russian press available for a wider audience. Regardless of one’s political views, that is an unquestionably positive and effective means of fostering more informed views and dialog on Russian politics and society.

As it happens, I have a similar project at The Russian Spectrum (though it is more narrowly focused just on the translation activity). Also, to allay any concerns, it was not created to compete with The Interpreter (I had first publicly written of my intention to do such a project last September, that is, way before The Interpreter’s launch date).

Since we share a common interest in presenting “English Inosmi” services, I would like to propose a partnership or cooperation agreement to avoid needlessly duplicating work and expanding the range of translated pieces we both offer.

Here are two proposals for your consideration:

(1) A sharing agreement in which we agree to republish a number (e.g. 5?) of translations per week from each other’s site. The original translators will, of course, be credited on both sites.

(2) A mutual listing of each other as partners on a partners or links page.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forwards to hearing from you on what you think of this.

Best,
Anatoly Karlin.

Hope you’ve had fun reading through this and made it through without an aneurysm! ;)

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Earlier today, Navalny received a custodial sentence of five years for the theft of 15 million rubles ($500,000) worth of timber from Kirovles.

It is simply not true to say that there was “no case” against Navalny, as the Western and Russian liberal media insists on doing. There is wiretap evidence and witness testimony that Navalny and Ofitserov exploited their official positions to rewrite Kirovles supply contracts so as to have them go through VLK, a shell company that took a signicant cut for its “services.” It is also a fact that VLK was indebted to Kirovles, the state lumber company that was allegedly defrauded, to the tune of around $100,000 upon the latter’s bankruptcy.

But that, at worst, would fall under Article 165 (“causing financial loss by way of deceit and misuse of trust”), and not under Article 160 (“theft”) on which Navalny was actually convicted. At the most elementary level, how can one “steal” $5 from someone, and yet only owe him $1 at the end of it? The evidence in support of this is that Navalny actually was charged in relation to Kirovles TWICE before, but under Article 165; it was also dropped twice, which perhaps indicates that the prosecutors didn’t believe the evidence was sufficient to secure a conviction. Until, presumably, a certain political decision was taken to go ahead with the prosecution after all. A decision that Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin himself all but admitted: “But if the person in question draws attention to himself with all his strength, or we can even say, teases authority – saying that oh I am so white and flawless, then the interest in his past increases and the process of exposing it to the sunlight, understandably, accelerates.

So let’s put aside concerns about legal process, morality, and justice for a moment. Let’s even assume Navalny really was guilty of “causing financial loss by way of deceit and misuse of trust.” In short, let’s posit the most favorable possible interpretation and frame of reference as far as the Kremlin was concerned. What, exactly, does it gain by jailing Navalny on an article (“theft”) that couldn’t possibly have applied to him?

Well, let’s make a list, shall we.

(1) Proudly confirm Russia as a country where legal nihilism reigns. With Khodorkovsky, it was eminently credible that he was guilty of the charges made against him – an assessment later confirmed by the ECHR, even if neocons, faux-leftist liberals, and political shysters posing as human rights lawyers like Robert Amsterdam begged to differ. No such “defense” applies to Navalny’s conviction. Not to mention, of course, the conflict of interest involved in the IC deciding to prosecute Navalny – for real, this time – soon after he accused its head Alexander Bastrykin of having owned properties in the Czech Republic.

(2) By even further delegitimizing the Russian courts system – as if it didn’t have enough image problems already – it also undermines any other prosecutions the state might carry out. There is video evidence of Urlashov taking a bribe (even the NYT acknowledges that the case is probably legitimate); of the Bolotnaya “political prisoners” hurling stones and beating up policemen; of Udaltsov planning riots and taking money from a pro-Saakashvili Georgian. The Pussy Riot sentence of two years may have been extremely harsh, but it was undoubtedly legal; there was, furthermore, a roughly analogous case in Germany in 2006. But thanks to the Navalny mess, these cases are all going to be even further discredited together with the judicial system in general.

(3) There appears a man with a Messiah complex who claims he has “millions” behind him, but in reality enjoys the support of no more than 10% of Muscovites (and 5% of the entire country). He can’t gather enough signatures to pass the municipal filter required to participate in the Moscow elections, so you order your United Russia flunkies to help him out. He gets registered. You now have the prospect of a truly “competitive” election in in the capital – thanks to Navalny’s participation – but one that you are nonetheless all but guaranteed to win. Surely this would calm down the “hamsters.” And then, “BAHM!” Wave goodbye to that new aura of legitimacy you’d hoping for. In fact, you are now regarded by some people as a manipulative scumbag for “helping” Navalny in the first place. That is the story of Sobyanin. One almost feels sorry for him.

(4) Make a martyr out of a man with 5% approval ratings, who’s popularity has been decreasing even as his name recognition spread through Russia. It couldn’t matter less whether or not he “deserves” that status. The reality is that the PR efforts to portray Navalny as a timber chief have been entirely unsuccessful – not that surprising, really, considering the Kremlin cares so little for its image that it left its propaganda to bloggers like Stanislav Apetyan – and as such, according to opinion polls, more than half the Russian population views the Navalny case as politically motivated.

Navalny is not tainted by the mass theft and thuggery of the 1990s. He is a member of the upper middle-class who drives a fairly modest car, lives in a good but not luxurious apartment, and has a lot of things to say about corruption and bureaucrats. Yes, not all those things might be true; and you are also free not to like him for his “nationalism,” or any one of his various other political stances. Nonetheless, the fact remains that as far as most normal Russians are concerned he still cuts a vastly more sympathetic figure than Khodorkovsky, the first “martyr” of the non-systemic opposition.

(5) The street opposition has split into squabbling groups and petty infighting. The Coordinating Council has become something of a byword for ineffectiveness and political impotence, with its recent chief Treasurer suspected of stealing its funds and making off with the proceeds. So what’s a great idea? Give them something to rally over!

(6) Attendance at the Moscow protests has been dying down ever since the rally at Prospekt Sakharova in February 2012. It entered freefall since the May 6th riots, when the protesters lost a lot of goodwill from the population by getting into scuffles with the police. So what’s a great idea? Jail Navalny and incite them all out into the streets again! Why not, LOL?

(7) In recent weeks, Russia got the image and propaganda coup of a decade thanks to Snowden’s decision to stay and seek asylum there. It was entirely undeserved, of course, given the status of whistle-blower protections in Russia; that is to say, they don’t exist. Though granted, Russia was was singularly sluggish about taking full opportunity of the windfall, e.g. aggressively positioning itself as a safe haven for Western dissidents. After all, “our relations shall not be the hostage of Snowden or other US or Russia extravagant persons,” according to certain influential people linked to the Russian government.

But he might not have worried overmuch. Sandwiched as Snowden was in between the conviction of Magnitsky’s corpse and the jailing of Navalny, he might as well not have existed so far as the media narrative will be concerned in the next months. He will become one of those “extravagant persons” at the center of US – Russia relations, the latest in a long line that stretches back to encompass Magnitsky, and before him, Litvinenko, Khodorkovsky, and Berezovsky (funny, and sad, how that list progressively goes from oligarchs, to their employees, and finally to just an ordinary citizen). Defending the Kremlin’s clawback of the state from the oligarchs in the early 2000s was reasonable and proper. As regards Litvinenko and Magnitsky, the situation was a lot less clearcut, but still far too murky to make any clear judgment one way or the other. With Navalny, however, the Kremlin is now clearly in the wrong.

And so it will be Navalny! – Navalny! – Navalny! for the next months and years to come, in the absence of an (improbable) acquittal in an appeal. And unlike in earlier years, no longer unjustifiably so.

(8) But what about Serdyukov? So unfair *wah* *wah* *wah*. Well, look, unless you suffer from some infantile disorder of idealism, you will know that society is corrupt, hierarchic, and unfair. In some countries the law levels the playing field to a greater or lesser extent. In Russia, the emphasis is very much on the latter: “For my friends – everything; for my enemies – the law” might be cliche, but it is impossible to deny its continued relevance. It sometimes seems that the more you steal in Russia, the better your chances of getting away with it. Ordinary bureaucrats who have stolen orders of magnitude more than Navalny – even if we take at face value the $500,000 he was convicted of – typically get suspended sentences for their efforts (gazeta.ru has compiled a detailed list). Akhmed Bilalov, the fall guy for the Olympics cost overruns that made them the most expensive games in history, was “allowed” to emigrate to Britain. Former Moscow Mayor Luzhkov walks freely, commuting between Moscow and his mini-palace in London. The Oboronservis scandal that developed under former Defense Minsiter Serdyukov, where losses are at more than $100 million and counting – that’s more than 200 times greater than the most than the least favorable possible accounting of Navalny’s demeanours – remains at liberty as a mere suspect to the case, while his lover Elena Vasilieva who did the dirty work is under “house arrest” in a central Moscow luxury apartment with 13 rooms, and gets three hours off per day to do boutique shopping. This is all not so much even a question of “morality” as of basic legitimacy and whether such a state of affairs will continue to be tolerated indefinitely. When Putin was asked why Serdyukov wasn’t in jail at his annual Q&A by a Komsomolskaya Pravda reporter, he replied, “We don’t want another 1937.” Because, of course, imprisoning types like Luzhkov and Serdyukov for corruption is totally equivalent to rounding up and shooting hundreds of thousands of saboteurs and spies. At this rate, sooner rather later people will be DEMANDING a new 1937.

(9) Even the Prosecutor-General Office thinks Navalny’s immediate jailing is way over the top and uncalled for! So on top of reigniting opposition protests, the conviction may well have provoked an inter-siloviki scuffle as well.

(10) Last, and admittedly least, a note to the Kremlin: If you ever end up following La Russophobe’s advice, chances are it’s time to stop, and reconsider.

Power summary: If the Kremlin wanted to provoke instability both within the elite and without, invite contempt from broad swathes of otherwise neutral or apathetic social groups, and sully its image both internally and in the West for many more years to come, then jailing Navalny was a great idea. It could have hardly have chosen a better way to go about it.

The verdict is worse than petty and hypocritical. It’s incredibly stupid. I do not think it was so much a “Kremlin” decision as an initiative of the siloviki around Bastrykin, the IC, and Sechin (suffice to say that even the Prosecutor-General’s Office isn’t all that happy about it). One need hardly mention the liberal/technocratic wing of the Kremlin, which actually helped Navalny get past the municipal filter to participate in Moscow’s elections. Why would Sobyanin do that intentionally, just to come off looking as a total scumbag when Navalny was jailed and arrested? Sobyanin doesn’t need it. Even Putin doesn’t need it! As he himself might say, jailing Navalny is a lot like shearing a pig: Little fur, and a lot of squealing.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Apparently he fled to France after senior “systemic liberal” sources in the government told him he was not safe staying in Russia. So he played it safe.

Interpretations about. The return of Stalinism; a new critical phase in the siloviki vs. civiliki clan war; Putin’s vindictiveness against a supporter of Khodorkovsky.

The only problem, at least with the latter explanation? Sergey Guriev himself denies it is so, according to Ben Aris at the FT:

The whole episode is embarrassing for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been calling for improvements to Russia’s investment climate. According to Guriev, Putin has reassured him that he will come to no harm, but clearly Guriev was not confident that even Putin could protect him. …

While Guriev has been outspoken on economic issues and warned that the current policies will lead to economic stagnation, he is usually a lot more circumspect when it comes to politics. He was again on Friday when asked who was to blame for the attack.
“I have no complaints about either Vladimir Putin or Dmitry Medvedev. I heard them say that nothing is threatening me and that they will not interfere in the work of the investigative committee. I respect such an approach and believe that it is wrong to ask the president of the country to interfere on each occasion,” Guriyev told the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

So unless you believe Ben Aris to be making this up, or consider that Guriev is trying to inveigle himself back into favor (“No hard feelings! It was all just a misunderstanding”), his words have to be taken at face value.

That leaves us with over-enthusiastic investigators who went way beyond the remit of legal acceptability – at least if Guriev’s version of his interactions with them (e.g. the demand to hand over the last 5 years of his emails, etc.) are likewise correct. Investigators whom Bastrykin or Putin are, for whatever reason, either won’t, can’t, or just haven’t yet reined back in.

PS. The Presidential Committee on Human Rights under Medvedev became something more accurately described as the Presidential Committee on Khodorkovsky’s Rights. Why and how an official tax-payer funded grouping devolved to lobbying the interests of a single private individual is, in my view, an entirely valid matter for investigation. AFAIK, however, Guriev himself was only tangentially related to it however, doing little more than giving his “expert opinion” on the issue for their consideration.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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I think the real situation is somewhere in between the Kremlin’s position and Mark Adomanis’ and the rest of the Western and Russian liberal media’s alarmism. So as far as this is concerned, I really do think Gudkov is exaggerating, not to even speak of the inevitable and hysterical comparisons to Stalinism cropping up in some quarters.

So what if Levada registers as a foreign agent? The fact will remained buried in the paperwork. Clients won’t care, so long as the sociological work is good.

Or it can simply refuse foreign financing, which according to Gudkov himself accounts for 1.5%-3% of its total.

The only danger to Levada is if it openly defies the law, and commits seppuku out of spite, so to speak. Which is not impossible, if very unlikely.

This does not however mean that the application of the foreign agents law to it is justified. As Gudkov himself argues, political research is not politics, period. While I do think comparisons of Russia’s law to FARA are valid, on paper, the application of them is not. Can you imagine US prosecutors going after the likes of Gallup or PEW if they do some contracts for foreigners?

The reason the witchhunt is stupid (in addition to being wrong) is that Levada actually supports the Kremlin’s record. 70% approval ratings for Putin coming from a state-backed pollster like FOM or VCIOM is one thing – the same numbers from a private pollster that gets money from Soros or the NED is a whole other level of credibility, at least so far as Western audiences are concerned.

If Bastrykin was wise and aware, he would waste no time reigning in the enthusiastic lower-level prosecutors going after Levada and other non-political NGOs. I am not sure he is either though.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Writing in Novaya Gazeta, Andrei Vladimirovich Kolesnikov argues that the branding of the opinion pollster Levada Center as a “foreign agent” marks Russia’s return to the bad old days of Lysenkoism.

A Sociology of Dvoechniki

Levada Center is being destroyed with Stalinist methods.

Sociological data is dope for the present-day vlast. She looks at sociological reports just like a certain famous fairytale character, and with much the same question: “Who’s the fairest of them all?” But smoothing the wrinkles spreading all over the carcass of the political system requires ever more applications of the tonal cream of court sociology. Meanwhile, real sociology – incorrect, inconvenient – is being exiled. The method for this has been found: Amendments to the law on NGOs, so that they could be exiled as “foreign agents,” involved in “political activities.”

The Levada Center is being destroyed for the second time in its history. Founded at the end of the 1980s under the name of the exceptional sociologist Yuri Levada, this professional sociological organization has already once been demolished once – few now remember that VCIOM is, in fact, the old name of the Levada Center. In 2003, when Yuri Levada was still alive, the hostile takeover was successful, but not fully so – the re-branded sociological service remained the source of the country’s most reliable sociological data. I remember well that press-conference at Izvestia’s media center – Izvestia as it was then {Translator: It was more oppositional then} – I remember Yuri Alexandrovich’s bewilderment, and the sense of surrealism about the whole thing… And now we have the second attempt to destroy it, this time by tagging scientific work with the mark of politics. The Savelovskaya prosecutor’s office took upon itself this difficult mission.

This is unadulterated Stalinism. As far as today’s vlast is concerned, sociology is no different from what state statistics were to the Stalinist vlast. No coincidence that the spirit of the era became encapsulated in the following brilliant aphorism from the economist Stanislav Strumilin: “Better to stand for high growth rates, than sit for low ones” {Translator: To “sit” in Russian can simply mean to go to prison}. The Levada people aren’t sitting yet, but the continued exist of the Levada Center has come under threat; and not only of the Levada Center, but of independent, scientific sociology such as it is…

At the same time, we see the elimination of competition on the market on sociological services: Instead of a “Big Troika” – FOM, VCIOM, and the Levada Center – we are left with just a “Big Deuce.” And with all due respect to their colleagues, it will also be a sociology of dvoechniki. Where are the voices of other professional sociologists in defense of their colleagues, of science, and of honest research? Only crickets chirping. Are they afraid?

Even if the Levada Center somehow survives, it will be easy to bankrupt it via “market” mechanisms: Such agencies mainly live off marketing research, and how many of their clients will continue dealing with an organization branded as a “foreign agent”? They would henceforth go only to Kremlin-certified agencies, which had pledged allegiance to the “correct figures.”

On this account I also have an old anecdote, which I was told by the academic Revold Entov. The unchanging director of the Soviet statistics service Vladimir Starovsky, having passed through all epochs and outlived all leaders, became famous for the following phase addressed to a colleague: “I present you with the Order of Lenin for your ability to give the correct socialist figure.” Maybe it’s just the case that of all today’s surviving Russian sociologists dream of the Order of Lenin? But as is said: Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

Any honest research, any honest civic activism, any honest voluntary movement, any honest science, any honest newspaper or magazine article, is – by the logic of the Savelovskaya prosecutor’s office and of Prosecutor D. D. Minkov, whose names will enter the annals of history in the Saltykov-Shchedrin, if not the Gogolian, sense of the word {Translator: The latter two were famous 19th century Russian satirists} – equivalent to political activity. And if it is paid just a single cent by a foreign fund, then it becomes not only political activity, but hostile to boot. Vladimir Putin was lying when he claimed that the concept of a “foreign agent” carries an exclusively legal meaning, with no allusions to darker times. The semantics here are entire Stalinist, repressive, and propagandistic. According to the Levada Center’s own surveys, our compatriots quickly got the correct bearings: More than half of all Russians support harsh sanctions, up to and including liquidation, as regards NGOs that engage in politics, receive money from abroad, and don’t register as foreign agents.

The vlast is cutting off the very branch on which it sits. It deprives itself of reliable social feedbacks. It destroys studies of the humanities. And it risks being left alone with some kind of “Orthodox sociology.” But so what? “Orthodox sociology for Orthodox Chekists” – sounds about right.

At this rate it won’t be long before we get to the “rootless cosmopolitans,” and the “Weismann-Morganists,” and finally the academician Lysenko to top things off.

Reader comments

Дмитрий Кузьмин: The vlast isn’t cutting off any branch on which it sits. The Levada Center has open statistics, while the Chekist accounts are closed… Why does the alpha crane need people to know even part of the closed statistics. Better make the people into a herd of cattle, who don’t know their past or their present reality – and then, they have no more future!!

александр46 марков: Just register as a foreign agent and continue working! But wait a second, weren’t you saying earlier that you didn’t get any money from Gosdep!?

Сергей Аникин: The foreign agents are trying their utmost to conceal their true faces.

Не Гражданин (replying to above): And what is their “true face,” in your opinion. Do think, that instead of a face, they have a Botox-inflated ass, like our beloved Mr. President?

Previously, “enemies of the people” – now, “foreign agents”; previously, “witches” – now, “blasphemers”… But, at least, yesterday, “militaria” – today, “police,” that is modernizaton Medvedev-style. Modernassization.

That’s the problem with this country – the dominance of cattle, slaves, ready to lick the ass of anybody who comes to power, which itself consists of the same artiodactyla.

Don’t blame the mirror if your mug is skewed!

(Republished from Russian Spectrum by permission of author or representative)
 
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In which Russian writer Dmitry Bykov compares the Russian opposition to Pugacheva, and God – for that is what most concerns Russians, and not the trivialities they typically discuss.

The Anatomy of Context

Just about the same thing has happened to the Russian opposition as has happened to the Russian intelligentsia: it has been accused of every mortal sin; but without it, one cannot live.

The opposition has become just a little bit more like Alla Pugacheva, who is hated so much – yet without her it is inconceivable that one can live one’s life: without her there would be no New Year.

Let’s agree that there is no opposition in Russia and that there has never been one. It has lost everything that it could lose; it has degenerated into buffoonery; it has compromised itself (in the eyes of the Patriots) by socializing with the liberals and (in the eyes of liberals) with the left; it did not offer a coherent programme and a specific plan of action; it did not find a common language with the people, with the authorities, with the West and with patriots. It has no goals, objectives and principles. We are agreed: it has been forgotten and buried and its inscription written. An opposition that blows neither hot nor cold insofar as it now has completely different problems.

Perhaps it would be easier to accept that it does not exist and never has, and then the provocations such as “Anatomy of Protest”, the harassment, the defamation and the professional restrictions would at last cease: there can be no reactions to nothing. But of Russia’s columnists, ranging from the completely incorruptible to those who are mostly concerned about seeking sponsors, such as Leonid Radzikhovsky, who touchingly combines wise scepticism with teenage angst and lots of BLOCK CAPITALS, – what are they all going to do?

What will happen to Arkady Mamontov and other such members of the powers that be? Finally, what will become of those with the most power, those that have neither thought up a slogan for the immediate future nor a programme – apart from fighting the opposition? What will live on in literature – for in all of the new Russian novels, from realism to fantasy – the white ribbon movement has become a common thread? What can be generally spoken of in Russian, apart from the opposition – and spies?

Just about the same thing has happened to the Russian opposition as has happened to the Russian intelligentsia: It has been accused of every mortal sin; but without it, one cannot live, because there is nothing else. The proletariat and the peasantry have long turned into something completely different – and partly, by the way, in the same way as the intelligentsia has – and there they are, and you can throw them around as though they were dead bodies. To be honest, it is about the same situation as regards God. They have all said twenty times over that He does not exist, that His existence cannot be proven, that He alone was to blame; as a result , the expression: “There is no God” has been transformed into the formulaic expression: “There is nothing but God”.

The intelligentsia, for all its notorious shirking of physical labour, has long fed Russia, has provided it with its defences and all that it possesses and with which it has been able to compete. The beginning and end of all this is the culture of the physical sciences. The opposition is the only theme of Russian conversations, because there is nothing more to talk about. There is nothing easier than to exclude it from the political field, to destroy it morally and physically, to stop constantly being reminded of it, thereby inflating its rating. But here is the rub: there is no programme for the reaction, apart from repression; therefore, the opposition is as necessary as is air. You can make any conflicting claims, especially when you consider that there are no rights and opportunities in this opposition that are primordial. In the era of this said reaction, the oppositionists and intellectuals time and again have been guilty of everything: this has been said outside, but not in their homes; they have no humility; they did not set off for the Kremlin – if they had done so the opposition would have been blamed for leading its supporters to the slaughter.

But insofar as the dominant content of the era has been the violence targeted at them – which, by the way, touches upon individual civil servants, anti-regime activists, “back-to-the-soil” activists, radicals, elderly non-conformists and the Kremlin “young guard” – then to finally bury the opposition would be inconceivable, even if it ardently wished that this be done. Surkov has gone into retirement? It was he who supported the opposition, not otherwise. Check out “RUSNANO”? This Chubais fellow under the wing of and in participation with U.S. intelligence has cultivated the opposition. Summer promises to be a hot one? The opposition is at hand!

In modern Russia people say what they want about anything – from the “Eurovision” song contest to the Rosbank scandal – but it is only in the opposition that they are really interested in; only the opposition is either abused in queues, or praised in the kitchen.

Such excessive attention can in no way be combined with incessant talk of wretchedness, nullity and security. If there were no opposition, as God was, it too would have been invented. Another thing is that our understanding of the opposition is at the same approximate and superficial, just as are our opinions about God: judging the opposition movement by what is said in abundance from meeting podiums is as mistaken as using icons to make judgements about God. God is everywhere: He is in the air – and the opposition is also everywhere; God is what emerges from our thirst to understand, to ask, to thank, and even to break into anger, and to dump any guilt – and the opposition has exactly the same mission. Atheists are kicking God just as they can break icons, having been bullied by Scripture – thus they do more for faith than does the most zealous preacher: there is no fighting with those who are not there.

God does not exist, but He will: Gorky proposed that we should be God-builders. There is no opposition, but there is a flurry of vilification; there are cries of horror; there is praise of its never tiring power to create – and as a result it becomes truly ubiquitous: any provincial student, any vendor, any taxi driver asks “When will it all end?” The whole thing is so enormous – and that includes the money that has been spent -, an array of modern Russian ideology, all the propaganda, all the fire and brimstone and utopia is hung on to by a handful of showmen who are not capable of doing anything, of writers and leftists. In this sense, the opposition is even a bit similar to Alla Pugacheva, who is hated so much – yet without her it is inconceivable that one can live one’s life: without her there would be no New Year.

Alla Pugacheva is also similar to God, a myth that has become out of date, but without whom the world would collapse. There will be no ethical or aesthetic criteria, or even gossip. However, as Brodsky observed: the only interesting things are gossip and metaphysics; in fact, they are one and the same.

As God left the clouds and turned into an idea, the opposition has gone from the street (there is very little of it left) and turned into total suspense, anger, and a secret malevolence. And the louder the assurances are that the situation is almost pre-crisis again – so audible is the laughter of the population in response to any power realities. The louder and clumsier the anti-religious propaganda, the more united are the ranks of the true believers. The more poisonous the slander of specific individuals, the more faceless, all-encompassing, secretly-gloating from the underground the opposition, which knows that the future belongs to it.

Of course, this hidden opposition is not particularly favored by me, because it has for the time being no responsibilities and is just about useless. But then the eternal reproach concerning God’s existence is that nobody has seen Him, and yet any doubt of His presence is almost impossible for any sensitive person.

People talk about football, but they are only interested in God, according to Chesterton’s puzzle. In modern Russia people say what they want about anything – from the “Eurovision” song contest to the Rosbank scandal – but just wonder about the opposition: it is either abused in queues or praised in the kitchen.

“God is objective reality given us by our senses,” said Petsukh. There is no arguing about that. The opposition today is the only reality given us by our senses. All the rest is a fiction. And the louder the authorities stamp their feet, the more certain is that reality – the only thing that is contained within our huge country, it seemingly having lost its other brands, compromised its reason and eaten up all its resources.

“Either there is no God, or everything is God”, Tolstoy wrote shortly before his death. And those six words, in my opinion are the best he wrote.

(Republished from Russian Spectrum by permission of author or representative)
 
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In one of the most scandalous op-eds of the year, KP’s Ulyana Skoybeda takes the liberal Leonid Gozman to task for equating SMERSH with the SS. The original byline was later toned down, and the author offered a partial – and some insist, halfhearted – apology.

The Politician Leonid Gozman Says: “A Nice Uniform is the Sole Difference between the SS and SMERSH.”

At times, one regrets that the Nazis didn’t make lampshades out of the ancestors of today’s liberals – there’d be fewer problems. Liberals are revising history so as to knock the rug out from under our country’s feet.

“The federal channels are releasing a new serial about the war. On the roles of the SS. Our heroes aren’t the butchers of Auschwitz; they are not sadists or rapists… In the terrible meat-grinder of war, they honestly fight the enemy, performing deeds of great bravery, and self-sacrifice on behalf of their comrades. Many of them die, but they die with honor…

I made all this up, of course. Sorry. A film like that will never be shown on our screens. Likewise in Germany – even those Germans born many years after that nightmare are still ashamed of the SS uniform.

But in the past few days of Victory celebration, our screens have played host to a serial about SMERSH. They did not have handsome uniforms, but that is their only significant distinction from the SS.”

This post was published yesterday by the prominent liberal Leonid Gozman at his blog on the radio station Echo of Moscow’s website. He surely chose the appropriate time to compare a combat unit of Soviet military counterintelligence with the armed guardians of fascist concentration camps. Not just to compare them, in fact, but to equate them.

He must have waited for the moment, in all likelihood. So as to make it sting all the more.

You can just about imagine what started going down in the Internet.

Heated arguments and fights at Echo of Moscow and dozens of other sites. Blood, dirt, the gnashing of teeth.

I will advance one of the most representative discussions.

“SMERSH’s task was to catch saboteurs,” say a few outraged commentators. “The SS, on the other hand, was the chief organizer of terror and the destruction of peoples on racial criteria. How could you possible compare them?”

Then a liberal – not Gozman, but close enough – entered the discussion, and started bloviating. That during the war years, military tribunals convicted more than 994,000 Soviet soldiers, out of whom 157,500 were shot – that’s twenty times higher than the Nazi figure. That SMERSH operatives put soldiers up against the wall just for picking German propaganda leaflets off the ground, praising Germany weaponry, or phrases of the following sort, “No, we can never seize this hill, we’ll get destroyed by machine gun fire,” which were equated to spreading panic. That SMERSH and the NKVD were, for all intents and purposes, also killing squads just like the SS.

At which point the other commentators exclaimed, “Don’t compare them! The SS was an occult, anti-human organization. We personally know people, who exhumed corpses with skulls that had been drilled into; the SS had been searching for a “third eye” there, or something…”

The liberal: “Calm down, the NKVD also carried out medical experiments on people, and was also an anti-human organization, if not an occult one. Besides, it’s not like ordinary Waffen-SS soldiers did occultism or drilled into skulls, did they? Were they not, like, defending the Vaterland?”

The other users groaned, “Sure, they defended the Vaterland – at Smolensk?!” and proceeded to state the obvious: That the SS were enemy troops who had attacked us, and we were defending ourselves. And that is the essence of the difference!

The liberal: “You consider a soldier to be a criminal just because he’s participating in an unjust war of conquest? If so, then Soviet soldiers were criminals too. If not, then German soldiers weren’t criminals either. Russians were defenders in 1941, but aggressors in 1939 – not to mention interventionists in 1968, and once again aggressors in 1979.”

And moreover, it’s not like we can have any pretensions to military honor; everybody knows that we began the war allied with Hitler. And didn’t we steal the Brest Fortress, which we defended so heroically in June 1941, from the Poles?

“Ah…” rebutted the commentators, laying out their last, and ostensibly rock-solid, argument, “Wasn’t the SS recognized as a criminal organization in the Nuremberg Trials? And the NKVD – wasn’t!”

“The NKVD is a criminal, terrorist organization,” the liberal ambushed them. “The Nuremberg Trials were illegitimate, because it was a case of the victors judging the defeated…”

Well, how do you like that, hum? Beautiful, no? The liberal, crushingly victorious…

So here’s the liberal ditty, from the emigre Mikhail Berg to Leonid Gozman: Stalin is equal to Hitler, maybe even worse (he killed more people); Communism is equal to fascism, SMERSH – to the Waffen-SS. There is nothing to celebrate, and nothing to be proud of. The Nuremberg Trials were illegitimate. It would have been better if the Germans had won (the last claim, by the way, was proudly made by Berg, an ethnic Jew).

But I have an answer for the liberals. The Soviet Union was not equivalent to Hitler’s Germany by simple right of conquest. However the war started, and however it was fought, the fact remains that we won – and that will establish our own rules. We established them in 1945, to be precise. They do not require any revisions.

The main question concerns something else. Why do the liberals require historical revisions? Why do they insist on knocking the rug out from under our country’s feet? Why do they reevaluate and spit on everything tied to the war – that is, the most sacred thing remaining to people who lived past the collapse of the Soviet Union? Why do the Gozmans wish to lead us away from Victory into loserhood, worthlessness, and inferiority?

This question was best answered by the publicist Olga Tukhanina. “You know how the psychologist Levi put it? Nobody ever just walks up to you in an alley and suddenly starts beating you. The victim should first be put into the role of a victim. Hence, questions of the type, “Hey, can I borrow a fag? What’s the time?” And now we’re getting asked the same question: “Hey, what are we celebrating? How many died?”

Russia is being put into the role of a victim.

And you know, that means the activities of these liberals are nothing short of… subversion. Sabotage.

What are our intelligence services waiting for? They don’t want to recall SMERSH’s experience?

Reader comments

Правдоруб: The beginning is good… promising. I’m talking of the lampshades and “problems” – I haven’t bothered reading any further yet. But, knowing Skoybeda, I feel she won’t disappoint. Skoybeda, you are a nasty bitch, if you wrote this… It’s a pity that the Red Commissars, butchering the denizens of Ukrainian villagers, didn’t also butcher your ancestors. Maybe today’s journalism then would be a bit less repulsive than it actually is.

Константин Калинин: The liberals are losing and they are beginning to show their rotten, wolfish nature. Every liberal is a potential traitor to the Motherland, because they place individual interests above that of social interests. For them, their understanding of the Motherland is abstract; they are cosmopolitans by nature. As far as they are concerned, their Motherland is where they can more easily get fed, where they have access to more sorts of sausage. For them the interests of sexual minorities is higher than family values. As for Russia’s victory in 1941-45 this makes them totally mad and they are prepared to do all they can to smear this victory.

You can’t say it any better than Dostoevsky already did: “Russian liberalism is not an attack upon the existing order of things, but an attack upon the very essence of things themselves – indeed, on the things themselves; not an attack on the Russian order of things, but on Russia itself… Every misfortune and mishap of the country fills him with mirth, and even with ecstasy. He hates national customs, Russian history, everything… This hatred for Russia has been mistaken by some of our ‘Russian liberals’ for sincere love of their country, and they boast that they see better than their neighbors what real love of one’s country should consist in. But of late they have grown, more candid and are ashamed of the expression ‘love of country,’ and have annihilated the very spirit of the words as something injurious and petty and undignified.”

As far as I’m concerned, a liberal is worse and more dangerous than an SS man, because it’s clear that the latter is an enemy, and how to fight him. But the liberals act slyly. But as a result of their activities, Russia in the past 25 years has suffered twice as many losses as in the Great Patriotic War – both economic, and demographic, losses.

Alexey Peshemorehodov (replying to above): All this is banal, unoriginal. Along the lines of, “Today he listens to jazz, and tomorrow he will sell his country!” We’ve been through all this before…

Вадим Гасенко: I support Ulyana! Gozman, why don’t you go get lost somewhere?

(Republished from Russian Spectrum by permission of author or representative)
 
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Is discussed at the other blog.

To add a couple of things that are Russia specific:

(1) We now learn that the FBI had interviewed the older brother at the bequest of an unspecific foreign government – almost certainly Russia. Tamerlan had visited it for 6 months in 2011. I wonder if he established links with some of the Caucasus Emirate Wahhabi types while there – and if so, whether US suspicions about Russia’s “assaults” on human rights in Chechnya made them drop their guard on a man who, it is now clear, was by then fast becoming an Islamist radical. The one silver lining to this horrible event is that it will become even more obvious that the Chechen rebellion has now been completely subsumed into the global Islamist struggle – and by extension, it will encourage the West to take a closer look at its “friends” in Syria.

(2) The reactions of Russian liberals has as always been as hilarious as it is nauseating. They seriously believe that the FSB is behind this.

Vasily Gatov, state news agency RIA employee: “I am watching three TV channels and listening to the radio, and reading the Boston Globe, and I gather that the main task of the FBI is to take the suspect alive. There is a drama brewing between Watertown, Washington, Moscow, and Grozny… And who knows which other cities. But I’m sure that the greatest fear is felt in Grozny. Which is why he will be taken alive.

Self-hating random Echo of Moscow commentator: “I will not be surprised if it turns out that the Tsarnaev brothers where recruited by Russian special forces for the execution of this terrorist act, because Russia will benefit from it. Why? Because this terrorist act will change American and Western public opinion – and hence, that of their politicians – towards Chechnya. If before the Western public supported the Chechens’ independence struggle, it is now more likely that they will support the Russian government’s policy on the Caucasus. And this means that the Kremlin KGBists will be able to use still crueler and more barbaric methods to fight separatism on the part of the Caucasus peoples. In other words, this terrorist act will untie the hands of the Kremlin in its war against the peoples of the Caucasus.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Everybody in the Western media seems to have forgotten Pussy Riot. Well, not forgotten, they still wheel them out every so often as symbols of the repressiveness of the Putin regime – but news of actual developments in the affair have come to a standstill. Which is a pity, because they undermine the commonly accepted narrative about what it was in the first place.

I am talking, of course, about the estrangement of Pussy Riot from their original trio of lawyers – Mark Feygin, Nikolay Polozov, and Violetta Volkova. This began approximately when they Pussy Riot lost their case and got sent off to jail, which led them to switch lawyers. Their new lawyer, Irina Khrunova, managed to get Samutsevich (one of the Pussies) released by arguing that she was not an active participant in the “performance.” Khrunova continues to represent the other two who are still in jail. Here is pretty much the only article you will find out about this in the Western media. (Funny that it’s in The Independent, and not in the Guardian, which was otherwise Pussy Riot’s most fiery supporter).

Then Mark Feygin, via his wife’s company, tried to register the Pussy Riot brand. Pussy Riot claims that he did not have their permission to do so and that it was an attempt to cash in on the case. Feygin denies this, saying that he did have permission and that his intentions were to prevent OTHERS from unscrupulously profiting off the name. He says the newspapers smeared him. In any case this is a moot point anyway, as Russia’s patent office denied them their trademark anyway; but this was just one of a series of wedges that would alienate the lawyers from the Pussies.

Things moved up into critical mode when Samutsevich asked Russia’s bar association to consider Volkova’s status as a lawyer, and now, to dismiss her. This prompted a furious, vitriolic, and frankly stunning reaction from the lawyers:

Mark Feygin: Samutsevich again requested the Association to disbar Violetta Volkova!

Mark Feygin: Without a doubt, we are dealing with a RAT here!

Mark Feygin: As regards Samutsevich, I still can’t forget that Big Mac which Violetta brought to her in her pre-trial detention… How could one be such an ungrateful rat?

(AK: A whole BIG MAC? How *generous* of her!)

Also, in response to a commentator, who tweeted:

Marina Marinina: Have you ever noticed that if a person looks ugly on the outside, she’s also probably ugly on the inside?

Mark Feygin: Yep, I noticed. https://twitter.com/mark_feygin/status/322046597955457025/photo/1

(AK: Funny, that. Marina Marinina hardly strikes me as a star in the looks department. Let alone Volkova LOL).

Nikolay Polozov: The regime eggs on Samutsevich to debar Volkova on the threshold of her defense of Udaltsov in soon forthcoming trials. The rat earns her keep.

Violetta Volkova, replying to a commentator: I can only say one thing – Samutsevich could not have written this complaint by herself. She was helped a lot – but this is just my private opinion.

Elsewhere by the pattern of her re-Tweets she makes it quite clear that she agrees with the theory that Samutsevich is a rat, though she does not use the actual word herself unlike her two colleagues.

There are two ways of looking at this.

(1) From the lawyers’ side:

Mark Feygin: In Russia, we all know that Samutsevich agreed with the Kremlin. So let her go

That, and now she is working on their orders, trying to discredit their work.

(2) From (what I assume to be) Samutsevich’s, and perhaps the other two’s, side:

Feygin and Co. are not so much lawyers as political activists posing as lawyers, whose primary concern is not so much the welfare of their clients (e.g. keeping them out of prison) as smearing egg all over the Kremlin’s face. This explains the decision to switch them for Irina Khrunova and the general acrimony between them since.

Frankly, with their online behavior, I think the lawyers have – if anything – lent more credence to #2. Calling out a former client of yours as a “rat” is extremely unprofessional, something you might see in a “Lawyers from Hell” episode. Who on Earth would want to be represented by them in the future? When you know that if you have issues with their defense strategy and professional ethics you will be subjected to an online barrage of smears from them and their liberal opposition groupies?

I know who! The professional revolutionaries like Udaltsov, who would gladly go to jail if it made the “regime” look bad. And what then would that make the lawyers? It would make them their professional enablers.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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In a recent interview with the opposition Dozhd TV channel – which is, incidentally, available for public viewing in Russia as part of the NTV Plus satellite TV package – for the first time openly declared he wants to be President. He also speculated about the motivations behind the Kirovles fraud case being brought against him. (He expects to get a suspended jail sentence that will disbar him from electoral politics).

However, I think other parts of the interview were at least equally interesting and telling about what sort of politician Navalny would be. First, he unequivocally said that he would send Putin and his friends to jail. It is rather ironic that the self-appointed leader of the extra-parliamentary Russian opposition doesn’t bother, unlike Putin, to even pay lip service to the rule of law and judicial impartiality that he supposedly espouses. Second, his tendency to intemperately react to critics – even those who support him – is, once again, on full and inglorious display.

Below is a translation from the relevant part of the interview.

Host: Many people interpreted you as saying, I paraphrase, “I am Alexey Navalny and I will put you in prison, once I become President.”

Navalny: I don’t know about a President Navalny, but one day there will come to power those who will put him in prison. It’s a general feeling, I or we altogether, in another regime we would put him…

Host: [interrupting] [unclear] is it we or I?…

Navalny: Well, I, because I feel myself as part of this process, and I will do everything possible to make sure that he, and Putin, and Timchenko, and the entire list go to prison. To me these are all chains in this odious, kleptocratic regime, from the policeman who breaks your arm to Timchenko who steals oil, it’s all related…

Host: [interrupting] Do you want to become President?

Navalny: I do want to become President. I want to change life in this country, I want to change the system of administration, I want to make it so that the 140 million people of in this country – who are surrounded by oil and gas that flows out of the ground – would no longer have to live in destitution and hopeless squalor, but lived normally, like in any European country. We aren’t any worse than Estonians!

Host: Do you have a clear, well-planned program? Because as we know, and I think we raised the issue a year ago with you, you said that one shouldn’t lie and steal, and we got questions from many people like this on air: “To not steal and lie is all well and good, but what can we concretely do about it?”

Navalny: These “many people” are all idiots. We don’t need to do anything other not lie and not steal.

Host: So everyone will cease to not lie… will cease lying and will cease stealing…

Navalny: [interrupting] It’s the principles that are important.

Host: … and the Sun will start shining?

Navalny: If the top echelons of government will no longer lie and steal, but will do what is expected of it, and will at the least start to realize those nice programs of Putin such as Strategy 2020… All the reforms we need have already been compiled, down to roadmap detail. But none of them are being fulfilled.

Host: [interrupting] [unclear] … So the plans suit you. At least as they are on paper.

Navalny: No. They don’t exist. The plan for Russia’s development, and reforms, has been reworked multiple times, and overall everybody pretty much understands and agrees… We have this strange situation where we have a consensus between Left and Right as relates to the reforms we have to carry out, but they aren’t getting carried out, because the essence of the current regime is corruption. Everybody more or less understands how to combat this corruption, and we bring very concrete and constructive proposals on how to combat corruption to Medvedev’s anti-corruption conferences…

Host: For example Rospil.

Navalny: Yes Rospil, and our Anti-Corruption Fund, and many other suggestions, and many people there agree with those suggestions, but nothing happens further.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Here it is in Russian: Вверх-вниз по рейтингу свободы. This translation here is of a longer version at my Russian language blog.

A version of it also appears on Voice of Russia: Press freedom – on both sides of the Information Curtain.

press-freedom-voice-of-russia

Thanks to Alexei Pankin (who is a regular at Komsomolskaya) for making it happen – and for the title!, and to Alexander Mercouris for proving a couple of ideas and nice turns of phrase.

Up and down the freedom index

Recently the French human rights organization Reporters Without Borders unveiled new press freedom ratings, which showed Russia sinking to 148th place globally. This finding is consistent with the yearly ratings of the American organization Freedom House, which deems the Russian media to be “not free.” In contrast, Western countries, as we might expect, are the world’s freest and most democratic and ahead of everyone else.

Does this correlate to reality? As a regular reader of the mass media from both sides of the Information Curtain, I have long been under the strong impression that the Western public intelligentsia – including the creators of all these ratings – often consider that the only “free” and “independent” media outlets in Russia are those which support their own ideas and prejudices. At the same time, those Russian media outlets that take a pro-Kremlin or even neutral position are inevitably painted as Kremlin stooges – disregarding that the majority of the Russian mass media audience approve of Putin.

(By the way, those approval ratings are created by polling ordinary Russians, whereas the ratings of organizations such as Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders are compiled using opaque methodologies by anonymous “experts.”)

As evidence of their position, their argue that Russia apparently has no freedom of speech, and that the “bloody regime” crushes the voices of “democratic journalists.” Yes, these things sometimes happen. For instance, after the Presidential elections, Kommersant Vlast printed a photograph of a election ballot saying, “Putin, go fuck yourself.” The paper’s editors cheekily captioned it thus: “Correctly filled out ballot, ruled spoiled.” The paper’s owner Alisher Usmanov quickly fired them.

Harsh? Maybe, but there is a wealth of similar examples in the West. For insulting Romney, accidentally caught on open mic, the journalist David Chalian was fired from Yahoo News. One can compile an entire list of journalists who were fired for criticizing the state of Israel: Sunni Khalid, Helen Thomas, Octavia Nasr, etc. Likewise there is another substantial list of journalists fired for attending Occupy Wall Street protests. The most famous journalist-whistleblower in the world, Julian Assange, today lives in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London to avoid arrest the moment he walks out onto the street.

Regardless of all this, “professors of democracy” continue to harangue us with the idea that the Russian media are controlled and toe the Kremlin line. These claims would seem absurd to any Russian who cares to leaf through the pages of Vedomosti, Novaya Gazeta, Echo of Moscow, or an array of other publications. If you wish to find a glaring example of mass media parroting a single narrative, one need look no further than Western coverage of the 2008 war in South Ossetia. In that fairytale, evil Russian orcs cravenly attacked flourishing, democratic Georgia, ushering in all kinds of savagery and destruction in their wake. At the same time, the American news channel FOX interrupted its interview with an Ossetian-American schoolgirl, at the time resident in Tskhinvali, when it became clear that her account did not square with Washington’s party line. The Polish journalist Wiktor Bater was fired after he started saying “politically incorrect” facts about the Georgian bombing of Tskhinvali and Saakashvili’s lies. Needless to say, these episodes did not in the slightest impact the press freedom ratings of either the US or Poland.

This is not to idealize the state of Russian press freedoms, which has a huge number of its own problems. For instance, writing about Putin’s private life (but not his policies!) is something of a taboo in Russia, just as is criticism of Israel in the US. And the situation as regards unsolved murders of journalists is far worse than in the West, albeit in statistical terms it is comparable to or even better than in many widely acknowledged democracies such as Brazil, Mexico, India, Colombia, and Turkey.

That said, there are some things Russia can be “proud” of. American “dissidents” such as Hearst Newspapers journalist Helen Thomas and former professor Normal Finkelstein are not only fired, but also put on blacklists which complicate their chances of finding another job and getting access to high-ranking officials. Meanwhile, in stupid and naive Russia, the American journalist Masha Gessen can publish a book about Putin titled “The Man Without a Face” and get a personal interview with the Russian President as a reward. She is then free to repay his consideration by practically calling him an idiot in an account of their meeting in the journal Bolshoi Gorod – and to then go on to head the Russian service of Radio Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, headquartered minutes away from the walls of the Kremlin.

So in some sense Russia still has many, many steps still to climb up the stairs of the press freedom ratings…

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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For background see here, here.

Russia Voices is good because it powerfully hints at what the project is all about: Giving the Anglo-sphere some sense of what Russians from all sides of the political spectrum are saying. But downside is it’s similar to Voice of Russia (a radio station), and besides, the more “intuitive” Russia nVoices.com has already been taken.

RossPress is succinct and powerful; my innumerable thanks to the glorious Craig J. Willy for suggesting it. Only downside is that many Westerners don’t know that Russia, in Russian, is Rossiya.

I can’t say I’m 100% happy with either choice but c’est la vie. This issue should be gotten out of the way sooner rather than later.

RossPress (RossPress.com) 24
Russia Voices (RussiaVoices.com) 17
Other 3

Only vote “Other” if you really hate both of them (preferably provide an alternative in that case). Thank you all for your participation.

Finally, I’d like to note that today I have translated the first two articles ever specifically for RV/RP. They are:

I have chosen to translate liberals because to date I have mostly only translated “patriots”, conservatives, and Putin supporters. This is to demonstrate and affirm that the site will be a non-partisan affair to the maximum feasible extent possible.

Edit 2013/2/2: As there is strong support for both options, I will test them out via Google Adwords and come to a decision by next week (which is when I plan to launch the site anyway).

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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In one of his regular columns for mafia state news agency RIA Novosti he wrote (h/t Mercouris):

Valentina, an acquaintance of mine, is a third year Moscow University student. She told me recently: ‘Whenever I or my friends and college mates hear ‘Georgia’, the reaction is nearly universally positive – food, people, culture and now democracy! The Georgians succeeded where our rulers failed”. The Kremlin may well hear more from Saakashvili – and Georgia’s growing fan-base in Russia itself.

But wait! This sounds… remarkably similar to a Facebook conversation with one Valentina Filippenko on Eggert’s wall. (She is a student at the Journalism Faculty of Moscow State University, presumably another democratic journalist in the making). Except that “food, people, culture and now democracy!” or even “nearly universally positive” (≠ “Georgia’s image becoming more and more positive”) don’t figure anywhere in her comment. This is what she actually said, in translation:

You know, I’m noticing in my “youth” circles: The connotative coloring of Georgia is becoming ever more positive – this the Kremlin and United Russia will find hard to deal with.

Now it’s more likely than not, I suppose, that Ms. Filippenko would not disagree with Eggert’s apparent amplification of what she actually said. Still, unless she further expounded on this topic to Eggert on the telephone, one has to conclude that he is guilty of the same thing that ruined Johann Hari’s career.

PS. In case Eggert deletes this:

Note also another gem, in the third section. One journalist Ramil Gataullin comments, “Saakashvili above all entered history as a killer of Russian peacekeepers.” In reply, Sergey Medvedev, a professor of Economics at the (neoliberal) School of Higher Economics replied, “Russian peacekeepers got lost in the mountains and ended up in the wrong territory…)) Konstantin, excellent commentary.”

Needless to say, it was Medvedev who got most of the Likes on Eggert’s page, not Gataullin.

Little surprises me from these people, but still, even I am taken aback by this degree of loathing for their country. They really do think it excellent that Saakashvili bombarded the barracks of their own soldiers and killed some of them. To them, Kasparov and his ilk meeting Saakashvili in solidarity immediately after the war wasn’t a cause for disenchantment; it was taking a heroic stand against the Kremlin! It’s not like I care about their views that much, they are of course entitled to them, but what’s hilarious is that these liberals genuinely can’t figure out why they are considered revolting by much of the rest of the country.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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This post is a continuation of the last, and can otherwise be called “Konstantin von Eggert: A Case Study In Democratic Journalism (part 2).” Alternatively, one might view it as a refutation of claims that the Kremlin controls or censors the Russian media (Eggert’s own protestations, hilarious and Orwellian in the context of what follows, to the contrary). In this fascinating piece for Kommersant (a moderately liberal Russian newspaper, believe it or not) Eggert takes out his frustrations on Assange for the unpardonable offense of humiliating his journalistic profession – Wikileaks produced more big news stories in a year than dozens of journalists do in their entire careers – and even worse, presenting in a bad light the West that he worships.

***

“Russia Today Hired You To Talk About the Cynicism and Wickedness of the West”

Konstantin von Eggert, writing for Kommersant (January 26, 2012).

Julian Assange will soon be a columnist for Russian state TV channel Russia Today. Kommersant FM’s columnist Konstantin von Eggert decided to write a letter to his new colleague.

Dear Julian! I would like to extent a warm welcome to our club of Russian journalists. Perhaps after you present us with your ten interviews with the politicians and even “revolutionaries” that RT promise, you will finally understand what is journalism. You see, it is not a waste basket, even a flash card-sized miniature one; it is a laborious process of fact checking and protection of sources. I myself, Julian, could have told you this in a private meeting – for my own name figures a few times in Wikileaks publications.

Visual summary of everything Eggert hates.

By all means, thanks for the publicity. But I suspect it would be better if the basics of the profession were to be explained to you by the families of those Afghans, Iranians, and Arabs who had the misfortune to have confidential conversations with American diplomats. Their relatives died when you released details of these conversations on the Web. They died because of your irrepressible vanity and your no less irrepressible hatred for the United States, and the West in general.

By the way, Julian, you’re a grown man and should understand this: Russia Today took you on as one of their staff precisely because of this – to tell the international audience about the cynicism and wickedness of the West, CIA plots, and the lack of democracy in countries like the United Kingdom. Because that is where you, Julian, heroically fought extradition to Sweden (on that small and insignificant matter of rape) in the face of absolutely brutal pressure from the Washington Obkom and the counterintelligence of Her Majesty’s Courts. But now you’ll get even with them all!

I think I can guess at least a few of the guests on your mobile studio: For instance, Bashar Assad (hurry up, you might be late!) and the builder of “Bolivarian socialism” and darling of leftists all around the world, Hugo Chavez (here, I think, you still have time). I am confident, that you will not forget about that other idol of the refined global left, the scholar and writer Noam Chomsky. He hates rotten American pseudo-democracy so much that he’s lived and worked there successfully his entire life.

Don’t forget Thierry Meyssan. This brave Frenchman wrote a book. In it, he revealed that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 weren’t actually organized by Islamists, but by George Bush. But I’m afraid that Raul and Fidel Castro are best left alone. In the light of recent reforms in Cuba, they have now presumably become too spinelessly bourgeois for your broadcasts. Although who knows, maybe the old “Comandante” will loosen up and reminisce with you on the good old days of the anti-imperialist struggle on Soviet – that is to say, my – money.

By the way, speaking of money… Don’t be shy, ask for more! First, everyone has already began to forget about you, so this might be your last chance to hit the jackpot. Second, that is what real fighters for truth do anyway. They go to work for a state propaganda channel – be it Russian, Iranian, or even Georgian or Chinese – and uncompromisingly reveal the whole truth in the eyes of the public. All this will be especially pleasing to your young and sincere fans, Julian, who’d once seen you as a beacon of free speech. I’m afraid many of them will become disillusioned with you. But this is a mere trifle in comparison with the joy of continuing your great struggle – of course, all strictly within the framework of Russia Today’s editorial objectives.

***

I have no desire to systemically identify all the smears and fisk the lies and aspersions cast about by this democratic journalist. I believe the article speaks for itself and shows up its author in a worse light than I could possibly manage myself.

Still, there are a few points that absolutely have to be made:

(1) Needless to say, the “sheer snobbery and pretentiousness” and “unpleasantly sarcastic, sanctimonious, hypocritical” tone (in Mercouris’ words) is on full display. Note the false and overly polite nature of this “letter”, accompanied by repeated kicks straight in the nuts. He waxes poetic on journalism’s preoccupation with “fact checking”, but his own spiel consists almost entirely of rumors, smears, and innuendo. He slams Chomsky for writing critically about America and living there, in the “love it or leave it!” vein of argumentation, while doing the exact same in Russia (with the important difference that Chomsky criticizes all sorts of countries, while Eggert concentrates his venom on his own homeland and other countries that aren’t very friendly with the US). His assessment of his ideological opponents consists of pure caricature, and he absolutely refuses to engage with the substance of their arguments; while this might be acceptable on a personal blog, what exactly such pieces are doing in a major newspaper I do not know.

(2) No, absolutely no, deaths among Arabs, Afghans, etc. have been connected to Wikileaks (despite very great efforts to identify such). However, we do know that there have been dozens of collateral deaths from US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc. for every terrorist killed. Somehow, I don’t imagine Eggert ever writing anything critical about that.

(3) The flippant and dismissive attitude to the numerous signs of political motivations behind the Assange rape accusations. These include, but are most certainly NOT limited to:

  • One of the “victims” tweeting about what a great guy Assange was the day after the supposed “rape” (since deleted from Twitter, of course, but fortunately you can’t really delete things from the Internet).
  • The condom used as evidence against Assange not containing his DNA, or any DNA/semen for that matter.
  • Why did Anna Ardin not warn Sofia Wilen that Assange was a rapist?
  • The remarkable intensity with which Britain is willing to pursue Assange for a crime that is not even a crime on its own soil (up to and including threatening to storm a sovereign embassy)
  • The tons of circumstantial evidence that the US is indeed seeking to charge and prosecute Assange.

(4) His assumptions about RT setting editorial policy on Assange’s interview were quite simply wrong. For instance, Assange openly criticized Hezbollah chief Nasrallah’s support for Assad in the first interview, in direct contravention of official Russian policy. Not that Eggert ever picked up on that; his response to that was predictable as clockwork: “It is shameful that the Russian taxpayer funds anti-Semitic propaganda.”

I for one was very glad and interested to hear Nasrallah’s perspective on the Middle East and Israel. I did not notice anti-Semitic statements (unless one considers statements like “Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people” to be anti-Semitic, which is admittedly quite possible in Eggert’s case). I am also glad that Russian taxpayers helped Assange reach a far broader audience than what was possible in the “free” West.

Finally, I am also glad that Russia does not suppress voices like Eggert’s, who wants to ban free speech to defend free speech (that is, “free speech” within the narrow confines of his little Orwellian world). After all, I am not a democratic journalist. I think the Russian people should know their “democratic” heroes.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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There is a term on Runet, popularized by the satirical “dissident” Lev Sharansky, called “democratic journalist.” Of course, this term is every bit as satirical as its main propagator. In the Russian context, it denotes a journalist who is obsessed with free speech, human rights, democracy, the whole turkey. But they are “obsessed” with them in a rather peculiar way. Namely, when Russia violates these things in some way, real or imagined, they raise a loud howls of protest that reverberate around the globe: Formal condemnations, calls for the persecutors to be banned from Western countries and their financial accounts frozen, trade sanctions against Russia, etc, etc. But when the West does things that are just as bad or even worse, they are either silent on it, or blame the victims themselves (there are of course many exceptions… but then they are not “democratic journalists” in the first place). Those who call them out on their hypocrisy are assailed with the strawman label of “whataboutism.” To these people, the world is built on Manichean principles: There are enemy states, whose victims are “worthy” and deserve unalloyed attention (e.g. Pussy Riot, Iranian protesters); and then there is the West – that is, the US and its allies – which can do no real wrong, and as such, their victims (e.g. Assange, Bahraini protesters) are “unworthy”.

A case in point: In 2010, an RT crew was arrested and detained for 32 hours for covering protests against Fort Benning, the infamous School of the Americas with a dark reputation around its training of Latin American right-wing paramilitaries. With the honorable exception of Ilya Yashin and Boris Nemtsov, Russia’s liberals took a rather different view. For instance, in the comments section to their blogs, one user wrote, “So that democracy can survive in civilized countries, they have to limit the activities of agents of influence of barbaric fascist regimes on their own territory.” This was not a lone voice; to the contrary, at least half the comments reflected similar sentiments. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who used to sit on President Medvedev’s Council on Human Rights blamed the RT journalists themselves for their own arrests (incidentally that Council, before it was recently – and in my opinion none too soon – restaffed under Putin, also spent much of 2011 compiling a 400 page report on the purported unfairness of Khodorkovsky’s conviction; one would think there were more things worthy of their attention in the evil empire than the fate of a major crook who probably ordered contract murders, and whose conviction was maintained multiple times by the ECHR, but that’s just me).

This phenomenon of “democratic journalists” is however best illustrated by the Russian liberal intelligentsia’s reaction to Wikileaks and Cablegate – which is to say, parroting the US Establishment and their Western colleagues, they started to disparage, loathe, smear, hate on, mock, and condemn Julian Assange. One of these “democratic journalists” is Peter Savodnik. Yet another is Konstantin von Eggert. In his vitriolic, froth-on-the-mouth reactions to Assange’s plight; in his attacks on his critics; in his privileged position in the Russian media (which we are meant to believe is controlled by Putin), he represents all of the hypocrisy of your stereotypical Russian liberal. If there was a holotype specimen for “democratic journalist” he’d be an excellent candidate for it.

As far as I’m aware, Eggert first made his views known in 2010. The title says it all: “The tabloid freedom of Wikileaks.” But first note at the onset that it was published in English at RIA Novosti, the official Russian news agency. Personally, I do not decry that Eggert is employed there. First, it would be hypocritical of me, as I write for Al Jazeera and get money from them for articles that are hardly in line with official Qatari foreign policy (though at this point I should note that Eggert does have a problem with me writing for Al Jazeera, or any MSM outlet for that matter). Second, whenever somebody claims that the Kremlin controls the Russian media, one can simply point to Eggert’s scribblings for its main news agency. So in this regard, Eggert in his own way serves the Kremlin; though not, I think, in quite the way he imagines it.

Assange thinks of himself a some kind of Internet-age messiah, but in fact his worldview is not much different of your average salon leftie from Harvard or Islington, ever ready to believe any smear about the United States and to apologize for any tyrant, as long as the latter claims to be a socialist and dislikes the US. … The “bien pensants” of the Western left think that their governments are wicked – despite leading prosperous and protected lives under those same governments.

Apparently, he is a radical leftist and committed anti-American, stubbornly unwilling to realize how free he really is (to be financially embargoed and effectively imprisoned on trumped up charges for years on end?):

Somehow, I do not expect many cables from the Burmese Foreign Ministry (or Myanmar if you like it) or minutes from North Korea’s Politburo meetings to be revealed any time soon by Wikileaks.

Note that despite being an ardent critic of whataboutism, like many democratic journalists, Konstantin von Eggert feels free to liberally engage in it himself when the occasion calls for it. How dare Assange expose Western dirty laundry without first doing the same for dozens of other nasty regimes? To (very) loosely paraphrase Miriam Elder, another democratic journalist: “It’s unclear what Eggert, or his sponsors, would prefer. That Assange avoid leaking stuff about Western countries until he spills all the beans on Iran, Syria, Burma, North Korea, China, and Russia too?” (Contrary to what Western democratic journalists wrote at the beginning of the saga, of those Russia at least is NOT going to kill Assange for revealing stuff about it).

***

But the shit really started hitting the fan when news emerged that RT (Russia Today) was teaming up with Assange to product a ten-part series of interviews with the world’s movers and shakers, he went on an all-out offensive, publishing a new round of hit pieces at Kommersant (January 26, 2012) and Russian Forbes (January 27, 2012). Let’s start with the latter:

After the news that RT is going to use the services of Julian Assange, I got a phone call from a Reuters correspondent. She asked me whether I knew whether the Kremlin would pay the Wikileaks founder for his program. I don’t have a clue of course. But with RT, this weird Australian might as well work for free. For his alliance with the main organ of Russian state propaganda on the world stage – is an alliance of kindred spirits.

After this, he goes on to criticize RT for its “conspirological” bias, by “interviewing marginal people” and catering to Westerners who are “marginal” and for whom “The Guardian and The New York Times are too leftist.” Is this guy for real? In what universe is The Guardian and the NYT leftist? But I guess to a neocon of his calibre anything that marginally deviates from the US party line is automatically leftist. Furthermore:

… As a rule, [these conspirological audiences] really don’t like Israel. For natural reasons, for Jews are frequently the heroes of various conspiracy theories. For these audiences, RT frequently invites “fighters against Zionism” from the ranks of rather paranoid Western researchers, such as Norman Finkelstein. He is a hero of multiple scandals and for all intents and purposes denies Israel its right to existence.

A bit of background on Norman Finkelstein. True, he does not like the Israeli state, perhaps irrationally so (much in the way that Eggert himself doesn’t like RT, or Wikileaks, or – for that matter – Russia). Unlike Eggert, however, who is given a privileged position in the Russian media, Norman Finkelstein has been hounded out of academia for his views, detained and expelled from from Israel at the airport (recall the uproar when Luke Harding was expelled from Russia for overstaying his visa?), and – the mark of Cain in America – has been branded an anti-Semite, which permanently blacklists him from the US media. Here is another view of him, from Peter Lavelle:

Norman Finkelstein is a hate figure for many of those who know of him in America and for many in the worldwide Jewish community. He is another person who is blacklisted by Western mainstream media for speaking his mind and revealing the frauds of others.

A child of Holocaust survivors – Finkelstein’s father was on a death march in Auschwitz and his mother was a survivor of the Majdanek death camp – he challenges anyone who tries to use his deceased parents’ memory for geopolitical advantage when invoking the Nazi genocide against the Jews.

I understand where Finkelstein is coming from. I lived in Poland for 12 years and visited every Nazi death camp. To this day I am left speechless by how the human condition can succumb to evil. Thankfully we have Norman Finkelstein to remind us that honoring the memory of the Holocaust does not automatically mean supporting Israel and Washington. As someone aware of how ideologies literally destroy people, Finkelstein is worth listening to when it comes of the suffering of the Palestinian people.

When prominent US politicians like Romney say there can be no peace with congenitally violent Palestinians – and are backed up on this in the op-eds of major American papers such as the WSJ – contrary voices like Finkelstein’s are clearly needed for a balanced debate. Konstantin von Eggert, however, would do his best to suppress it; and condemns RT for giving Finkelstein the freedom of speech he does not enjoy in America.

They say, that Assange will interview for RT famous people. I suspect they will mainly be opponents of America and the West, both internal and external. Ahmadinejad and Huge Chavez, Bashar Assad and Evo Morales, Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, Slavoj Zizek and Robert Fisk…

There is little more left to say here. In the Kremlin-controlled Russian media (according to this democratic journalist, let us not forget, the Russian elites “rule like Stalin and live like Abramovich”), Konstantin von Eggert is basically waging a McCarthyite campaign (“enemies internal and external”???) against supposed Kremlin (China, North Korea, etc) friends. What kind of idiot totalitarianism that allows this does Russia run anyway? (This is sarcastic, of course; I genuinely love the fact that Eggert gets the opportunity to write these things in the Russian media, both in itself (a free media is good) and for mercenary reasons (one can always cite him to the various hacks who claim otherwise). Now as for smearing the child of Holocaust survivors as anti-Semitic, or in bracketing people like Robert Fisk and Assad in the same category of miscreants, I will not dwell on that… I leave it on Eggert’s conscience (if he has any).

There is a paradox that a person around whom is constructed the aura of a global fighter for free information, not sits in one dugout with employees of an organ of state propaganda. On the principle of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The hypocrisy is oozing out of his every slimey pore. The stench is so nauseating that even the readers of this fairly pro-Western publication, Russian Forbes, call him out on it. Here is one representative comment by alexz105:

Ah, Kostya, Kostya. If you can’t do the job – don’t take it. A fine advert you make for Forbes. The all-encompassing usage and constantly repeated of this juicy little word “marginals” reminds one of the rhetoric about the Weismann-Morganists [AK: Practitioners of "bourgeois" genetics, persecuted under Stalinism]. You’re a sovok bast shoe, even if you do have a “von” in your name.

To which Eggert replied with anti-Semitic accusations.

All as I thought. No relevant comments. Banal fighters with the “Jewish conspiracy” soloing. And, as expected, they mention the “von” thing. … You have nothing to say. It’s boring – noone to argue with.

And so on in the most dismal vein. The commentators started to identify themselves with the “marginals” to piss Eggert off. To which Eggert responded by correcting their spelling mistakes. Now I don’t often agree with La Russophobe (LOL), but she’s right that when have to resort to pointing out spelling or grammar mistakes to attack your critic, you’ve probably already lost the argument.

***

This is a fascinating case study, and there is plenty more to come. Stay tuned. The next part will deal with Eggert’s articles for Kommersant smearing Assange with rape, lying about his release of the unredacted Cables, and repeating the “he’s anti-American!” In fact, I’m half of a mind to translate this gem in full and reprint it my book as evidence of Russian media diversity (I mean he can’t complain, right? I will be making more people aware of his work. I’ll be doing him a favor!). There may also be a third part dealing with his personal attacks on me and other critics of his work.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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The latest US-Russia.org Expert Discussion Panel focuses on whether Russia was correct to expel USAID on the grounds that it interfered in domestic Russian politics to an acceptable degree. Here is my contribution:

I have no connection to USAID, or indeed to any American NGO operating in Russia or anywhere else. I do not pretend to have much of a clue as to what extent the Kremlin’s claims that it interferes in Russian politics to an unacceptable degree are true or not, and likewise for US denials of these allegations.

To a large extent I have to agree with Nicolai Petro, writing in the NYT’s Room for Debate, that foreign democracy assistance has “outlived its usefulness in Russia.” As he points out in his article “Local Groups Must Not Rely on the US“, the Russian government’s own funding of NGO’s now dwarfs US contributions, and contrary to popular belief, this includes Kremlin-critical organizations such as the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Committee of Soldier’s Mothers.

Furthermore, Russia is now an increasingly rich and middle-class society, so in most cases, a cutoff in foreign aid should not be a critical issue to the continued operation of the recipient NGO. If anything, shifting to exclusively domestic funding – as Golos once considered doing – would altogether free them from the potential stigma of being labelled “jackals scavenging for funds at foreign embassies”, as Putin described the non-systemic opposition in one his less charitable moments.

Yet with all that said, I doubt that banning USAID is a good move. Speaking of Golos in particular, which has been singled out for using USAID funds, it typically refrained from taking concrete political stands during the last election season and instead focused on the technical standards of the elections and data compilation from its own and other election observers. This is a good thing, because like it or not, there were severe falsifications in those elections, to the sum total of about 4%-5% in the Presidential elections, and up to 10% in the Duma elections. That the former figure however was much lower than the latter may in fact be partly attributed to the efforts of organizations like Golos, which helped increase the prominence of observers and increased demands for clean elections.

This is undoubtedly a good thing for Russian democracy, keeping it from slipping away into complete illegitimacy like in Belarus or Mubarak’s Egypt. It is also a good thing even for Putin himself, even if many of his acolytes don’t realize it; he is genuinely popular, and a truly fair and overwhelming victory (i.e., the c.59% he should have gotten) is surely far superior to a dirtier but only marginally more overwhelming victory (i.e., the 63.6% he actually got).

Should Golos or USAID be blamed for lifting the lid on an electoral system that looks like something from 1950′s Italy or Uganda today?

If it’s true that USAID tried to interfere in Russian politics, or even “ordered” the protests (which to be honest sounds rather far-fetched to me), that still doesn’t mean banning it is a good idea. If its aim is to subvert the Russian political system, then surely it would make more sense to just increase scrutiny of its activities? If undermining the Russian political system is part of America’s goals there, then they can just use other NGO’s… and if Russia bans them too, then there will always be the spies in its Moscow Embassy. What is to do then – take a leaf from North Korea?

Even if the Kremlin’s cynical (realistic? paranoid? – I don’t know, I suppose it depends on your political sympathies) view of USAID’s activities are correct, it would still behove it to listen to Michael Corleone’s advice: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Natalia Zubarevich’s concept of “The Four Russias” is one of the most reasoned and perceptive political analysis from the liberals, and as such I think it important enough to translate it (mostly I disagree with its core assumptions and conclusions though I do think it is a useful way of envisioning Russian politics). As such I am translating Четыре России from Vedomosti (there is also a longer version, translated here).

The Four Russias

Natalia Zubarevich

The events of 2011 demonstrated that the authorities’ habit of looking at the country through a “vertical incision” played a cruel joke on them. In reality, there is not one Russia, but rather three or even four. And this is a reality with which both the government, and the opposition, will have to come to terms with.

The Four Russias: First Russia – urban, educated (white); Second Russia – urban, industrial (blue); Third Russia – rural, apolitical (green); Fourth Russia – ethnic, poor (red).

The First Russia is a country of big cities. They aren’t great in number, but the 12 city-millionaires as well as Perm and Krasnoyarsk, which have close to a million residents, constitute 21% of the country’s population, i.e. every fifth Russian, while Moscow and Saint Petersburg by themselves account for 9%. In the past 20 years, the biggest cities cities ceased being industrial – only in Ufa, Perm, Omsk, Chelyabinsk, and Volgograd do Soviet industrial enterprises continue to dominate the economy. Although the fastest post-industrial transformations are observed in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Rostov-on-Don, all the city-millionaires have seen a change in employment patterns: The percentage of qualified “blue collar” workers rose, there appeared more employees of small businesses, and even the public sector attracted more qualified workers. There is quick adoption of the metropolitan model of consumer behavior, even though earnings are 1.5-2x lower than in Moscow. It is precisely in the bigger cities that we see a concentration of those middle class “disgruntled urbanites.” Migration flows in Russia are directed towards these bigger cities, so their share of the population is growing. The only difference is that the two federal cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and their adjoining agglomerations, attract migrants from all over the country, accounting for up to 80% of net migration in Russia, while the other big cities for the most part draw migrants from their own regions.

We can also include cities with a population of greater than 500,000 into the First Russia, raising its share of the population to 30%. The most optimistic variant – all cities with a population greater than 250,000, which altogether account for 36% of all Russians, or 51 million people. Of course, these are very different cities – from the progressive university and research center Tomsk, with its half a million people – a fifth of them students, as well as its own independent TV channels and rich cultural life; to Saransk with its 300,000 people, which – as does the entire Republic of Mordovia – votes exclusively for United Russia.

It is in precisely in the big and biggest cities where we see most of the 35 million Russian Internet users and the middle class that wants change. Its animated activity isn’t based on advancing economic crisis, but on the frightening prospect for a multi-year Putinist stagnation that would stall the lifts of social mobility. Although there’s an economic factor too – in a corrupt country, the deficit of investments translates into a deficit of new, quality jobs for urban professionals. The First Russia’s appetite for protest appeared without any stimulus from the crisis; it sprang not from the instincts of homo economicus, but from moral revulsion. In the event of a new crisis, the educated urban class will be hit hard, but the mobility and higher competitiveness of big city residents will enable them to quickly adjust to new circumstances.

The Second Russia is a country of industrial cities, most of them with 20,000-30,000 to 250,000 people, but occasionally bigger: Up to 300,000-500,000 (Cherepovets, Nizhny Tagil, Magnitogorsk, Naberezhnye Chelny) and even 700,000 (Tolyatti). Not all of these middling cities preserved their industrial character in the post-Soviet years, but its spirit remains strong, as are Soviet values and ways of life. In addition to a significant industrial “blue-collar” workforce, there cities also have many public sector workers, most of them with lower qualifications. As a rule, small businesses do not thrive – either the residents’ purchasing power is low, or there are high institutional barriers to entry due to local cronyism. There are of course exceptions – for instance, small business is well-developed and diverse in Magnitogorsk, but it crucially depends on the financial fortunes of its Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works; any fall in wages for its metallurgists would collapse demand for services.

About 25% of the country’s population lives in the Second Russia, and its most unstable parts – the single-industry “monotowns” – account for 10%. There are twice fewer of these towns than reported by the Ministry for Regional Development. According to official statistics, there are 334 mono-profile towns, but this number includes a hundred small settlements, two mono-profile villages, and even one mono-Cossack village (a kind of Russian peculiarity). Humming monotowns, with more or less stable working enterprises, account for half the official figure – about 150, whereas in the other towns enterprises already drastically reduced employment rolls way back in the 1990′s, and it no longer makes much sense to consider them mono-profile.

Should there be a second wave of the crisis, it is the Second Russia which will be hardest hit – industry falls more than other sectors of the economy, and the mobility and competitiveness of its population are low. Will there be enough money in the federal budget to raise transfers to the regions by a third, and increase unemployment support many times over, as in 2009? If not, it will be the residents of the industrial cities who will become the main motor of protest with their demands for work and wages, which will increase pressure on the government to make populist decisions. Many of these zombie enterprises should have been closed a long time ago now because of their lack of competitiveness and profitability, but this wasn’t done during the crisis, and most likely, it won’t be done in the next. As shown in 2009, the authorities both realize the dangers of an agitated Second Russia, and know how to quench it. The struggle for employment and wages leaves the Second Russia entirely indifferent to the problems that concern the middle class. The authorities understand this and try to play it off against the First Russia. This, however, has no future; time works against them. When the economy was growing, wages in the industrial cities grew slower, than in the regional centers, and fell into crisis faster. The population of the industrial cities is rapidly shrinking, as young people move to the regional centers. So there’s no point in intimidating the capital with Nizhny Tagil.

The Third Russia is the vast expanse of the periphery, consisting of the residents of villages, settlements, and small towns. They constitute 38% of the country’s population. The Third Russia “lives off the land”, outside politics, for the calendar of agricultural work doesn’t depend on changes of government. Their depopulating small towns and settlements, with their heavily aged populations, are scattered all about the country – but there are especially many of them in Central Russia, the North-West, and in the industrial regions of the Urals and Siberia. The rural population is more concentrated in the Southern and North Caucasus Federal Districts, which account for 27% of Russia’s rural residents. In the other regions, the only viable rural populations are those close to the big cities; their populations are young, more mobile, and earn more. The periphery’s protest potential is minimal, even should a crisis create delays in paying pensions and wages.

There is also a Fourth Russia, which we need to distinguish from the previous three. These are the republics of the North Caucasus and southern Siberia (Tyva, Altai) which accounts for less than 6% of the population. They have big cities, and small cities, but almost no industrial cities. According to statistics, Makhachkala has 580,000 residents, but this figure rises to close to a million with the inclusion of its densely packed suburbs. The urban educated middle class is low in numbers, and transient, frequently migrating to other regions. The rural population is young and growing, but its young people are migrating to the cities. For the Fourth Russia, plagued by local clan wars for power and resources, as well as ethnic and religious strife, it is only important to maintain stable flows of federal aid and investments. In 2009-2010 federal transfers to underdeveloped republics and their people’s income both grew at fast rates, and so they could give the party of power a nice present in the elections. And even if the crisis comes again, nothing is likely to change, for federal spending on them is actually relatively modest: The total volume of transfers to the North Caucasus republics in 2010 was 160 billion rubles, or just 10.7% of all regional transfers from the federal budget, and if we include Tyva and Altai too – then 12%. For comparison, Moscow spent twice as much in 2012 on its transport infrastructure.

It might appear at first glance that the political “carrying pole” – the 30% more educated and modernized population of the big cities and the 38% residents of the village and small towns – consistently leans towards the side of patrimonial mores. And the protest sentiments of the residents of the middling industrial cities of Second Russia can likely be satiated in the event of a new crisis. However, the passing of 2011 should remind us of the laws of physics – the density of brains is higher. Sooner or later, the First Russia will tip the balance.

The author is a director of the regional program of the Independent Institute for Social Policy.

***

Disagreements

Disregarding the obvious ideological slant of the author (“Migrants, of course, can also create problems, by bringing their rural conservatism to a city that suffers enough from this already”)…

First, it treats white-collar professionals in the “First Russia” as irrevocably opposed to (some unchanging and monolithic власть, or authority). In reality we know that even Moscow’s richest precincts favored Putin over Prokhorov in the 2012 elections. Second, the differences between the Russias aren’t anywhere near as radical as she makes out (one can even say she buys into the Kremlin’s strategy to side with Nizhny Tagil against Moscow LOL); your average industrial city resident is only 10% points likelier to vote for Putin than Moscow, and the rural resident – 15% points. Third, it assumes that in the long-term, quantity is on the side of the First Russia; whereas in fact that is far from self-evident as it assumes that migrants there will “modernize” their outlooks. In reality there is no reason for the “heartland” (The Second and Third Russias) not to continue playing a decisive political role; if anything, the influence of their “rural conservatism” may increase as this Russia gets richer, more politically engaged, and wired up to the Internet.

In short, Zubarevich seems to suffer from the common liberal delusion that more wealth and Internet –> more support for her ideological comrades and the West. That is not really how Russia (or the world) works.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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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.