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 Russian Reaction Blog / RussiaTeasers

This is a horse I’ve pretty much beaten to death, but still worth pointing out – not many Russians want to leave Russia. And not many Russians ever wanted to leave Russia.

Results of the latest Levada polls:

levada-leave-abroad

levada-how-prepared-to-leave

Incidentally, when I was in Saint-Petersburg, the hotel receptionist said that if anything, there has been a substantial increase in repatriates like myself.

Another account to that effect.

I am not going to claim that there is some great repatriation trend, because I am not a dishonest Western hack who constructs a “sixth wave of emigration” meme on the basis of purely anecdotal evidence.

Still, it’s something to think about it.

Incidentally, according to the OECD’s latest PPP benchmarks (2014), actual Russian household consumption is comparable to the rest of East-Central Europe and the Baltics, and is at 50%+ of the German/French/UK level and 42% of the US one.

gdp-ppp-consumption-russia

The OECD countries & partners, with Russia in red.

gdp-ppp-consumption-russia-progress

Russia has also continued gaining relative to the US through to 2014, despite the Great Recession. It must have fallen somewhat during the 2014-2016 recession and devaluation, but only modestly, since Russia produces most of its own consumer goods.

Rule of thumb for Russia: While wages might be 4x lower than in the developed Western countries, prices are likewise 2x lower, so the differential in living standards is far more modest.

So, no particular reason for Russians to want to leave, considering the administrative barriers they face as a non-Schengen European country.

I suppose that if Russia had freedom of movement with the EU (like Poland, Romania), or was truly destitute (like Ukraine, Moldova), then there would surely be more emigration.

But this is not the case. And, hypocritical though it might be on some level, that’s probably for the best. Russia has already lost enough of its cognitive elites during the 1910s-1930s and the 1990s.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Emigration, Russia 

As some of you are aware, last week I was traveling in Saint-Petersburg.

I went upon the invitation of a local politics club, but decided I stay several days to explore the city. I haven’t been to SPB since 2002, so this doubled as an opportunity to see how the northern capital has changed in the past 15 years.

spb-foggy-canal

City Observations

As with the rest of Russia, the city itself has certainly changed for the better in all the usual respects. More cars, and far newer ones. Roofs appeared much cleaner and shinier from the top of St. Isaac’s Cathedral than in 2002. As in the rest of Russia, virtually everyone who wants Internet access has it (SPB actually has slightly higher Internet penetration than Moscow, for some reason).

That said, whereas I distinctly remember liking Saint-Petersburg more than in the early 2000s, this is no longer the case.

spb-metro-station(1) Moscow is and technologically advanced, e.g. it has free WiFi in the metro for several years now, which SPB and other backwards cities like London and San Francisco have yet to adopt.

(2) I greatly prefer acontinental climate to a cold maritime one.

(3) There is a reason Slavophiles have traditionally viewed Moscow as Russia’s “true” capital. The architecture is more authentically Russian. It also tends to be more human-scale. Central Saint-Petersburg is a place of wide imperial avenues, and the grand pomposity of the buildings and palaces, though initially impressive, gets monotonous after a while (in this respect it is actually reminescent of Washington DC).

This is of course a simplification – there are plenty of oppressive open spaces in Moscow too, and SPB has its fair share of quaint courtyards and interesting corners – but as an architectural ensemble Moscow definitely wins out.

(4) The Moscow metro is far more developed, so distances between stations are shorter. This makes Moscow more walkable, especially since SPB is also intersected by a massive river. Finally, although SPB’s bridges are a nice tourist magnet, they can be a pain in the ass for locals who can be cut off from their homes if they don’t leave the bar in time (not helped by the SPB metro closing one hour earlier than the Moscow metro).

(5) Whereas in 2002 Saint-Petersburgers – at least in my limited, one-week tourist experience – were more civil than Muscovites, Muscovites have improved greatly since then, and there is now no longer any difference.

spb-bookshop One easy way to test civility is how frequently drivers make way for pedestrians on zebra crossings. 15 years ago in Moscow, it was perhaps 10%, and 25% in SPB. Nowadays I’d estimate it’s about 75% in Moscow, about the same as in the US. In SPB, however, it might be closer to 50%. Still, these are all extremely approximate figures, especially for SPB where I only spent 6 days.

I noticed that many Saint-Petersburgers seem to have a sort of inferiority complex, a lingering resentment towards Moscow at being deprived of their capital. Unfortunately, they have a point. I don’t like it and I think the hyper-centralization that accounts for this is very bad for the country, but the fact of the matter is that least 50% of everything interesting and significant taking place in Russia happens in Moscow.

Moscow is the undisputed political (executive, legislative), economic, and scientific center of Russia.

SPB has some modest share of influence in the political-legislative and cultural sphere (though probably not near as much as Moscow), but otherwise, it is ultimately just the largest gorod-millionnik.

That said, as one person I talked to optimistically pointed out, SPB does have a “marginalistic charm” to it, and she continued, “all the most interesting and disruptive phenomena come from the margins.” If there’s one thing that SPB suffers no shortage of relative to Moscow, it is hipsters.

spb-lecture-on-hbd

Politics

I was invited to Saint-Petersburg was to give a lecture to a local right-wing politics club about “HBD and its Role in the Alt Right.”

There is a loosely affiliated network of such clubs through Russia in Moscow, SPB, and the bigger cities. (Vincent Law, whom I had the pleasure of meeting, wrote about the SPB chapter here).

This invitation was perfectly congruent with my wider meta-goal of redpilling Russian nationalists on HBD/IQ-realism, so of course I accepted.

My talk itself covered the basics of HBD/IQ:

  • The largely separate evolution of the world’s three great races since they split ~50,000 years ago.
  • The validity of psychometrics
  • The importance of psychometrics, esp. wrt life outcomes and national differences in GDP per capita and other development metrics
  • The direction of causality – exceptions (Communist legacy; oil windfalls) prove the rule!
  • Why should this be the case?
  • FLynn effect: Will immigrant performance converge?
  • Would HBD-informed prescriptions apply to Russia? (e.g. immigration policy, positive eugenics, genetic augmentation of IQ)

I was very impressed by the quality of the responses and questions. Many people were familiar with the material, and asked pointed and relevant questions, such as the technical details of how national IQs are calculated, the extent to which emotional intelligence is important, and why US Jews cleverer than Israelis.

Clearly young Russian nationalists are informed, intelligent, and intellectually curious, having avoided the ideological skeletons of the boomer nationalist mindset in Russia (e.g. Eurasianism, “geopolitics,” Heidegger, extreme Orthodoxy, and various other obscurantisms). This is incredibly encouraging for the future.

Many interesting and spirited discussions about the Alt Right, Milo, Karelian nationalism, censorship, and many other weird and esoteric topics followed.

The politics club is only one element in SPB’s nationalist ecosystem, which even extends to having their “own” bars with discounts for nationalists. I would shill them but I don’t know if they’d appreciate the publicity.

code-russian-officer The city also hosts the Black Hundreds publishing group, which specializes in republishing Tsarist-era classics as well as modern nationalists authors. I bought two books from each category.

The first was a 1916 edition of Valentin Kulchitsky’s The Code of Honor of the Russian Officer (widely distributed to Russian officers during WW1 because the accelerated wartime training schedule meant that many of them didn’t have time to fully absorb the culture of the General Staff).

The second was Vitaly Fedorov’s (“Africa”) Notes of a Terrorist (in the good sense of the word) – possibly the best war novel from the Donbass to date (an English translation is available on Amazon).

A third major nationalist organization in SPB is the Russian Imperial Movement.

Its nationalism is explicitly based on religion, not ethnicity – you don’t have to be an ethnic Russian to join, but you do have to be an Orthodox Christian. However, they are also considerably more hardcore than the others, having been directly involved in the events in Donbass through their Imperial Legion batallion.

spb-night

Tourism

When not delving deeper into extremism and padding my files at Langley and Lubyanka I did the usual touristy stuff.

Transport/Hotels

spb-sapsan I traveled to SPB via the Sapsan high speed train, which at 250kph takes about 3.5 hours to get there from Moscow.

$75 normal ticket, $100 business class. The latter has far better conditions, and includes a meal, so it’s worth considering.

Alternatively, you can take the overnight train for $25 or $40 (platskart and kupe, respectively), depending on your desired privacy level.

spb-katyusha I stayed at the Katyusha hotel. It’s right next to the Neva River – right past the arch in the photo to the right – and about 200m from the Hermitage. One night there costs a mere $50.

This really brings home the point why PPP-adjustments to GDP per capita are absolutely relevant when gauging living standards. Russian wages might be far lower than in Western Europe, but so are the prices.

Food

spb-brynza In addition to the standard Western fast food chains, such as McDonald’s/KFC, Russia now has many of its own indigenous equivalents. Being a tourist in SPB, unlike in Moscow, I took the opportunity to explore some of them. Teremok is a national chain that features very traditional Russian fare such as common soups (borscht, obroshka, ukha, solyanka, etc.), pelmeni, pancakes, cutlets with buckwheat for prices similar to a MacDonald’s. Even better, though, was the SPB-specific Brynza chain, though it is marginally pricier (right: Cod Leningrad style).

spb-tandoori I last had Indian food half a year ago and really wanted to try my favorite national cuisine again. Fortunately, Saint-Petersburg has an excellent Indian restaurant right in the city center called Tandoor. It compares well even with Indian restaurants in London and the Bay Area. A business lunch of yellow daal, spicy vegetables, and butter chicken costs $10. So do most curries (e.g. the vindaloo on the right). The masala chai is also very good. It is run by Russians, though the cooks are Indians.

Note that traditionally Russia traditionally hasn’t had anything spicier than, I dunno… paprika? So you have to order your Indian food very/extremely spicy to get it moderately spicy by British/American standards.

Museums

Finally visited the Kunstkamera. It is by and large a standard ethnographic museum, the most interesting part of the exhibit being the original Petrine collection.

spb-naval-museum I was very impressed with the Central Naval Museum. It hosts a series of huge halls with thousands of naval paintings, ship models, figureheads, guns, munitions, uniforms, and other naval objects, all exhaustively documented and woven into a comprehensive history of the rise and fall of Russian naval power. Unfortunately, there are few English translations.

Visited the Yusupov Palace. TIL they were Christianized Tatars, descended from one 15th century Khan Yusuf.

spb-petropavlovsk-fortressPetropavlovsk Fortress includes the cathedral where the Russian Tsars since Peter the Great are buried, including Nicholas II and his family, who were interred there in the 1990s. The Russian Orthodox Church objected to burying a person who abdicated the throne inside the main cathedral, so they repose in an adjoining room to the main hall which can be considered a separate chapel.

There are several other separate museums.

spb-petropavlovsk-prison One is the prison with its 69 rooms that held revolutionaries. The tour group leader made a point of how horrific conditions were, though in my experience, that’s part and parcel for historical prison tours everywhere. But to the casual eye the rooms sure look spacious even by the standards of modern US prisons, to say nothing of typical jail conditions a century ago. And the sentences tended to be remarkably lenient considering prisoners were often involved in assassination plots, terrorism, etc., which in many other states would have warranted the death penalty. It was surely much more humane than Guantanamo.

There was a museum of the history of SPB from the early native inhabitants who lived there in their log cabins. One room was famous for having been the scene of the sentencing of the Decembrists, of whom five were put to death. This was cited as an example of Tsarist cruelty and caprice in Soviet history textbooks, but come on… this was ultimately a violent mutiny against the sovereign. The vast majority of the plotters were exiled to Siberia for some period of time, or even pardoned. Even many West European countries at the time would have been far less lenient.

One building that used to host a secret rocketry R&D facility in the early USSR is now a space museum. One thing I was struck by was how many people both interested in and technically capable of developing modern rocket technologies there were in the late Russian Empire (starting with Tsiolkovsky, the concept’s father). It seems inevitable to me that there would have been a strong Russian missile and space program regardless of whether the USSR had appeared or not.

spb-winter-palace-library I visited the Hermitage. I have been there before, but it is so vast you need to spend a few days to properly see all of it anyway. My favorite room there in the original palace section was Nicholas II’s library. Most of the Winter Palace was for all intents and purposes a “museum,” even when it was still the living quarters of the imperial family (the status signalling problem really reached absurd proportions in the Russian Empire, as in ancien regime France). The library looks like a place where you could actually sit down and get some work or reading done over a glass of red wine.

spb-popovPopov’s Central Museum of Communications is one of the oldest science and technology museums in the world. Amongst other exhibits, it hosts Alexander Popov’s original radio set. He actually made his revolutionary discoveries slightly earlier than Guglielmo Marconi, but the Italian became known as the inventor of radio in the West because of his greater interest in and success at commercializing it.

spb-museum-of-democracy I also passed by the Chubais Museum of the Implementation of Democracy in Modern Russia (what a mouthful, even in Russian). As Lazy Glossophiliac commented, “Should have been housed in a 90s-style kiosk store with lots of gaudy advertising all over it.” You had to make an appointment to enter the museum, which I suppose says something about its popularity.

I couldn’t be bothered, having better things to do with my time, such as drinking with the people who will one day kick those squatters out of such a fine building and open a Museum of Autocracy in its stead.

 

Western journalists have this weird habit of making fun of Putin for his yearly marathon phone-ins with the Russian public. It’s populism. It’s all staged.

Well, sure, it’s all that. I can see how a class that writes articles with titles such as “It’s Time for the Elites to Rise Up Against the Ignorant Masses” might be uncomfortable with that. To be fair I find the usual fair – personalistic appeals to the sovereign to fix some road or reign in some tyrannical local bureaucrat to be pretty boring as well.

But still, it’s a nice gesture, and partly explains why he retains such popularity.

putin-brezhnev My impression is that Putin has started to decline as a leader, starting with how he speaks. Though he started his Presidency as a very poor speaker, he evidently got tuition, and became much better at it by the end of his first term. In the past couple of years, however, this has started to reverse. I thought that last year’s disappointing Q&A might have been an exception, but this year’s confirms that it is a trend.

But far more worrying was the content, which failed to articulate any coherent vision for the next few years and revealed an alarming complacency with respect to foreign policy and the other burning social issues of the day.

This was reflected in Putin’s comments on Ukraine, where he has tried to opt for another “mnogokhodovochka” (4D chess). In response to a Russophile from Kiev, asking him why he doesn’t do more to support Russia sympathizers in Ukraine, Putin told him, “We don’t want to give any public support, because we don’t want to harm you and we try not to get involved in internal Ukrainian political affairs.” Meanwhile, hundreds of Russia sympathizers continue rotting in the Maidanist regime’s jails. With friends like these…

Several minutes later, however, he casually mentioned that Viktor Medvedchuk, the godfather of Putin’s daughters and one of the most energetic champions of integration with Russia before Euromaidan, was actually a Ukrainian nationalist. But, he continued, Ukrainian nationalism, according to its 19th century sources such as Grushevsky, Franko, Dragomanov, Chernovol, stood for a federated state, for democratic, and for individual rights; some of them didn’t even consider Crimea to be part of Ukraine (no shit they didn’t – it never was until Khrushchev handed it to the UkSSR in 1954). Maybe so, but does anyone care? Medvedevchuk’s supposed “colleagues” in the OUN promptly clarified he has nothing to do with them. Perhaps having finally realized his “dear partner” Poroshenko wasn’t coming round, Putin has started thinking of allying with the Banderists. The whole episode is just bizarre.

question-ukraine Meanwhile, the one legitimate question about Ukraine – “When you shake Poroshenko’s hand, are you not afraid to dirty yourself with Donbass blood?” – was removed from the screen within seconds.

The one “gotcha” moment he got in was his riposte to Poroshenko’s comments bidding “farewell to unwashed Russia” on getting visa-free travel with the EU, quoting a line from the well-known Russian poet Lermontov. Putin quite skilfully counter-cited Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko, quoting a line on how after winning the liberal struggle, her children are crucifying her worse than the erstwhile Polish oppressors. “I hope that at some point this period of Ukrainian history will come to an end.”

But he then followed it up with a suggestion to Poroshenko that if he truly wanted to be European he should part with his offshore accounts. Not bad, but it would have been more convincing if Putin’s own elites weren’t wrapped up in analogous schemes – indeed, the Panama Papers, which revealed Poroshenko’s offshore accounts, also revealed some $100 million+ in assets connected with Roldugin, an old celloist friend of Putin’s who was his other daughter’s godfather. In last year’s Q&A, Putin had clumsily explained those accounts as having been used to buy rare historical instruments for talented young Russian musicians.

Speaking of anti-corruption investigations: “We all know that unfortunately, the mass media in general and the Internet are also used to spread fake news, in service of the political struggle. What to do, this is life, there is nothing unusual here. But I must always double check it through the opportunities I have, and I have many such opportunities.” Meanwhile, the utterly compromised Medvedev remains PM, Russophile emigres from Ukraine continue getting deported back into the loving embrace of the Maidanists to make more space for Tajiks, and new laws are under consideration by the Duma to ban VPN services and to greatly limit people’s ability to make FOI requests about bureaucrats’ properties to the land registry.

No bold new ideas about social, economic, or foreign policy. There was a vague statement to the effect that a transition to a “new technological order” was needed, but no further details.

gallup-poll-us-russia

Parallel reality so far as relations with the US are concerned (Putin commented that Russia has “many supporters” in the US, no matter that approval of Russia in the US is at near record lows, and that on this very same day that there was a 97/100 bipartisan vote in the Senate to further sanctions against Russia).

The repetition of old tropes. “We need to strengthen the Syrian Armed Forces.” Meanwhile, more than a year after the start of the Russian intervention, the great bulk of the SAA remains militarily useless, with the hard fighting done by Hezbollah, the Iranians, about 20,000 just about competent SAA fomrations, and increasingly, Russian mercenaries in the Wagner Company.

Though the Presidential elections are less than a year away, it is now clear that Putin does not appear to have any any new ideas, plans, or visions for the long-term future apart from hunkering down and perhaps hoping that the state apparatuses in the US and Western Europe continue degrading even faster than in Russia. He is sitting on his 80% approval laurels, his status as the “inevitable” candidate assured.

Although I have to date avoided the comparison, because I had considered it inapplicable, the Brezhnevite critique is now becoming ever more germane.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Russia, Vladimir Putin 

PAPER REVIEW


I don’t know how, but Lynn, Cheng, and Russian psychometricist Grigoriev have managed to find Russian regional results for PISA 2015.

lynn-grigoriev-russia-pisa-2015

Moscow has plummeted in the rankings and is now fourth, whereas Saint-Petersburg is now first.

I have calculated the correlations with the PISA 2009 results, for regions that participated in both surveys, to be a pretty weak r=0.52. As you can see, the samples for each region are pretty small, typically around 100, though relatively more schoolchildren were tested in the capitals: 245 in Saint-Petersburg, and 373 in Moscow.

The Yakut-majority Sakha Republic has improved drastically, by half an S.D., so it is no longer last, but modestly below average (this ties in with Vladimir Shibaev’s recent work in 2017 which shows that Yakut IQ might be similar to Russian, and not drastically lower, as an earlier study from 2015 had indicated). That “honor” now belongs to Dagestan, which remains stuck at a PISA-equivalent IQ in the high 80s.

lynn-grigoriev-correlations

Lynn et al. also did their standard correlation exercises.

Other tests of academic achievement (average Unified State Exam results of those admitted to universities from 2014) and historical literacy (1897 census):

Note in particular that the province of Dagestan has the lowest PISA score (424.1) and the second lowest EQ (84); and also that the city of St. Petersburg has the highest PISA score (524.4), the highest EQ (111) and the highest literacy rate in 1897 (61.6%). The city of Moscow has the fourth highest PISA score (516.4), the second highest EQ (110) and the second highest literacy rate in 1897 (53.1%).

GDP per capita:

Second, the PISA scores were correlated at r = .31 with GDP per capita. The correlation falls just short of statistical significance at p<.05 (r = .32 would be statistically significant).

wealth-iq-russia This is because some Russian regions have resource windfalls amidst low populations, e.g. Khanty-Mansyisk AO, which accounts for half of Russia’s oil output and enjoys a Swiss-like standard of living.

If you only consider “normal” Russian regions, the correlation becomes a much more typical r=0.73 (the graph to the right is based on results from PISA 2009 and PPP-adjusted Gross Regional Products from 2008.

Russian ethnicity:

Third, the PISA scores were significantly correlated at r = .45 (p<.01) with the percentage of the population with Russian ethnicity. This result is confirmed by the multiple regression analysis showing that the percentage of Russian ethnicity was a significant predictor of the PISA scores (β = .36, t = 2.68, p<.01).

Cold winters:

Fourth, the PISA scores were significantly correlated at r = .35 (p<.05) with latitude showing that IQs are higher in the more northerly provinces.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: IQ, Paper Review, Psychometrics, Russia 

The American Interest’s Karina Orlova writes:

A group of young independent filmmakers (Sota Vision) captured a moment that perfectly sums up not just what it was like yesterday in Moscow, but also what it’s like living in Russia these days. This is the reward you get for going out of your way to praise a dictator.

(Original).

His protestations of his “innocence” in the police van went unheeded.

Predictably, this video evokes a gushing flood of Schadenfreude amongst anti-Putinists, while pro-Putinists experience a jittery “there but for the grace of God go I” feeling.

But from a neutral perspective, how exactly does this reflect badly on “teh regime.”

What we see in it is unsanctioned protesters getting treated the same under the law, regardless of their fealty or lack thereof to the national leader.

This is the marker of civilization.

Let’s compare and contrast to Ukraine, the country where Navalnyites won – and what the Western elites want for Russia.

There, anti-war protesters are not only arrested, but jailed, whereas on the rare occasions that much more aggressive Maidanist “activists” are arrested they are let off with apologies soon after.

In fact, in Ukraine, so long as you belong to the appropriate faction, you can even shoot taxi drivers with pneumatic pistols for refusing to chant “Glory to Ukraine” along with you and get off with just house arrest.

This is the marker of barbarism.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Color Revolution, Law, Russia 

The Russia wide protests organized by Navalny on June 12 were a flop.

This was not unexpected, given the lack of enthusiasm on social networks – in Moscow, there were 20% fewer people expressing interest in going to this event relative to the March 26th protest on Facebook. The earlier event had translated into 8,000 people, which is pretty much a “fail” so far as a 13 million population metropolis is concerned.

In the smaller Russian cities, where the June 12 protests went ahead as agreed with the local authorities, turnout was unimpressive, typically numbering in the low 100′s.

Pavel Gladkov has collected some photos (h/t melanf):

The protest in Novosibirsk, the third biggest Russian city (1.5 million) and unofficial capital of Siberia, gathered 2,000 people, which is about the same as in March.

Turnout has in general been similar to the March 26 rallies. This implies Navalny’s support on the streets – as in the polls – hasn’t improved since then.

Which, I suppose, explains why Navalny decided to sabotage his own protests in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.

Quick recap:

The Moscow city authorities gave Navalny permission to stage a meeting at prospekt Sakharova, a relatively central and spacious location. In Saint-Petersburg, they offered a location at Udelnaya, which is less central, but still spacious and easily accessible by metro.

In the last few hours before the protests, Navalny made a location change, to Tverskaya in Moscow and The Field of Mars in Saint-Petersburg, both of which are at the very centers of those cities. Moreover, Tverskaya in particular was already hosting a massive historical reconstruction festival.

sakahrov-speakers Before the protests, many observers, including myself, had expressed skepticism about Navalny’s claims that stage and sound suppliers had been pressured not to service his event. Navalny used this “insult” as the formal explanation for why he was moving the location of the protest.

However, the only evidence he provided was a phone conversation between two anonymous people. Moreover, as the liberal blogger Ilya Varlamov pointed out, why couldn’t he have bought speakers at a store and then returned/resold them?

Then on the day of the event itself it emerged that a sound and speaker system did emerge on prospekt Sakharova anyway, which should blow up anyone’s suspicion meter through the roof.

The weight of the evidence thus indicates that the sound and speaker blockade reason was bogus.

The likeliest alternative explanation is that Team Navalny, aware that attendance numbers were going to be unimpressive – in the event, an accurate assessment – decided that the only way to get into the news cycle would be to create an interesting spectacle for make benefit of Western cameras.

Unfortunately, due to the very low quality – or malicious competence – of the Western media, he largely succeeded in this, as RT’s Bryan MacDonald points out:

macdonald-crap-russia-journalism Then there were the blatant misrepresentations. Such as when New York Times’ bureau chief Neil MacFarquhar and Financial Times’ Eastern Europe Editor Neil Buckley both attempted to depict barriers clearly erected as props for the military history show as “traps” to impede protesters. Tweets they later deleted, in fairness. Nevertheless, this particular “fake news” tweet by the anti-Russia activist Alex Kokcharov has been shared hundreds of times, enjoying retweets from the likes of Economist magazine editor Edward Lucas and Anders Aslund of NATO’s Atlantic Council adjunct.

Almost every correspondent refused to tell followers how the event was “unsanctioned” and “illegal,” instead preferring to act as cheerleaders. Some examples included hacks from Foreign Policy, the Guardian, BBC and the Moscow Times. Meanwhile, Associated Press, the Washington Post, ABC and Fox all managed to omit any mention of the history festival in their reaction to the change of location.

And then there was CNN, always good for a laugh on this beat, breathlessly telling its viewers that hundreds of thousands of demonstrators could be mobilized. When in reality it was around 5,000 in Moscow.

Unfortunately for Navalny, the Russian electorate are not Western audiences, and these stunts are unlikely to work out well for him.

The March 26 meeting was an essentially harmless affair, perhaps a minor inconvenience to some Muscovites, but one that was adequately compensated by the entirely voluntary personal risk the protesters took by participating in an unauthorized gathering.

It was the protesters’ choice to come there and effect non-violent resistance (for the most part) in service of a cause they believed in. It was OMON’s choice to uphold the letter of the law and clear out an unsanctioned protest; they are well-compensated for their trouble. It was my own choice to risk arrest by covering it as a “citizen journalist” of sorts; as with Vincent Law, my greater fear is not getting arrested per se, nor the fines, nor a day or two in detention; it’s the fact of getting arrested *at a Navalny protest*.

The important thing is that the risk of innocent passersby getting caught up was minimal.

This time round, Navalny and his crew purposefully crashed a separate event where people wanted to cosplay historical battles, not participate in an actual one against the police. This would have been irresponsible and unethical course of action for anyone with pretenses to serious politics. That this was very likely based on a lie makes it outright disgraceful. These are the actions of a two bit rabblerouser.

For instance, here is one account of how Navalny supporters ruined the day of one reconstructor who wanted to show Muscovites how medieval Russians made decorative beads (h/t E for partial translation):

They [the liberals] yelled into the faces of myself, the musicians and historical reconstructionists that we were “traitors”, that what we’re doing is useless sh*t, that we should instead be having meetings, that we are paid-off varmints who were placed there in order to disrupt their meetings. To our protests that we’re teaching people crafts and history, we received the reply: “Nobody needs any of that sh*t! We need to have meetings and create a revolution!”. I really wanted to bash these people’s faces in, but people were yelling at us that we shouldn’t give in to provocation, because EVERYTHING was CONSTANTLY being filmed by dozens of cameras.

In the end, the programme continued after a several-hour interruption. Of course, I didn’t make any more beads, because I needed to heat up my oven again and there wasn’t much time left.
In one of the camps, they took down and broke a pavilion, and broke the tent in another. But the reconstructionists, having armed themselves with shields, saved the most important places from total destruction. I understand how difficult it must have been not to grab the spears and axes, as well.

By all rights, this should finally finish off Navalny’s portrayal of himself as a champion of honesty and transparency in politics.

As his recent interview with Ksenia Sobchak confirmed, this is a non too bright man who does not know elementary facts and figures about the state of the Russian economy or public health. He is a one-trick pony who is only any good on corruption, or at least coming up with catchy slogans about it. However, even on corruption, it just so often happens that Navalny’s demonstrated behavior is at odds with his purported principles and beliefs, with this latest episode being just the latest example.

That said, Navalny is undoubtedly extremely talented at playing the democratic martyr for the Western cameras.

Therefore, the main part of his constituency – Western consumers of CNN and Buzzfeed – will have to keep on wondering why the collapse of the Putin regime keeps failing to pan out for the nth time.

 

Navalny has just moved the planned June 12 protest from Prospekt Sakharova, a fairly central and very spacious location, to Tverskaya, which is minutes away from the Kremlin, at the last minute.

The former event was officially sanctioned by the city authorities.

The new one is *not*.

Navalny claims that this was done because the Moscow city administration pressured sound and stage suppliers not to participate in his event. This makes it impossible for him to give a speech to a large crowd. As evidence, he attached a recording between one of the suppliers and what is presumably one of his staff members, in which the supplier sheepishly explains that he has received instructions from on high not to service the event.

This is his version of the story.

There is however an alternate theory.

The Tverskaya protests on March 26 were unsanctioned, meaning that the more timid and “respectable” avoided showing up. Attendance at a sanctioned meeting, all other things equal, should be considerably higher (the middle-aged office plankton who form a considerable percentage of Navalny’s support base aren’t keen on risking arrest by participating in illegal gatherings). But with less than 12 hours to go, the the number of people saying they are “going” on Facebook stands at a modest 4,000. In contrast, 5,200 say they “went” to the Tverskaya protest in March, which translated to an actual turnout of about 8,000. Assuming the correlation holds, we are looking at similar figures this June. This is decidedly embarassing, especially in light of the anti-khrushchevki demolition protests this May, which gathered 20,000 people – and at the very place where Navalny was supposed to hold his meeting, to add to the humiliation.

Ordinary Muscovites evidently care more about their khrushchevki – and for that matter their summer sojourns to their dachas – than staying behind in Moscow to hear more about Navalny’s latest beef with Uzbek oligarchs. Not good!

So this is where the alternate explanation comes in. Since the original protest looked like it was going to be a flop anyway, why not make a last minute change to “illegalize” it, inviting a potentially heavy police response for the delectation of Navalny’s YouTube fans and Western videocameras?

preobrazhensky-polk

There is an additional fact that makes this version of events both more plausible, and more potentially dangerous. June 12 is a national holiday (Russia Day), and there is already another event planned for the Tverskaya location – the last day of a 12 day historical reconstruction festival that has been advertised for weeks, and is expected to draw up to 150,000 visitors.

The last day of the reconstruction festival will be dedicated to the defense of Sevastopol in the Crimean War.

So imagine the spectacle of Preobrazhensky Regiment riflemen coming from all over Russia and abroad to support Navalny – and having to pit their “reconstruction skills” against the truncheons of the OMON.

headlines-ready As noted by one Twitter user: “Cameras and headlines are ready.

Not a lot more to add. Now we wait and see.

Hopefully, the Russian police exercise appropriate restraint, so that we don’t actually have to find out whether the bayonet is a fine lad. They are well funded and quite professional these days, so I don’t think it’s likely things will get out of hand.

It is also worth underlining that it is grossly irresponsible and unethical for someone who pretends to be a serious politician to push his agenda on people who didn’t ask for it, and who only want to watch pretend battles, not risk being caught up in a real one. This applies tenfold if Navalny misrepresented the situation with the stage and sound suppliers to justify his planned hijacking of the reconstruction festival (if so this would not be the first time that he has bent the truth to serve his own narrative).

Though who cares about any of that when there is clickbait to be written about the latest crimes of the Putler regime.

EDIT June 12, 1330 Moscow time: On Reddit (1, 2) a couple of people have criticized me for not using VK.com attendance data. I copy my response:

What matters is not absolute numbers who say they are going to attend, but relative numbers from event to event.

Assuming that a similar multiple of Facebook “goings” translate into visitors from event to event, then comparing the previous event to the later event on just one social media platform is legitimate.

Anyhow, there is a banal reason I didn’t include VK – while this current protest does indeed have 15K, I was simply unable to locate the VK event page for the March 26 protest.

Moreover. List of event pages for the March 26 protest. But Moscow links takes us here, which now advertises today’s event. This is not an event page, but as I understand a group page.

Was the counter actually reset to zero after the last event? This is a critical question that I don’t know the answer to (I don’t use VK much and am not very familiar with its fine workings), so using VK data would have been doubly unrealistic.

Anyhow, if anybody can’t answer the two questions above – whether or not the counter reset to zero after the March event, and if it did, what was the peak “going” figure for it – that would be much appreciated.

EDIT 2: It now emerges that a sound & stage system *was* installed at prospekt Sakharova after all (1, 2), which would appear to invalidate Navalny’s claim that suppliers were forced to pull out.

 

There have been three significant political protests in Moscow in the past few months, and each in their own way – and in their relation to each other – say a lot about the state of Russia today.

It’s not that great for the Kremlin.

But not for the reasons the Western media would have you believe.

moscow-protest-tverskaya-4

“He Is Not Dimon” / Navalny, March 26

This unsanctioned protest in response to Navalny’s video about Medvedev’s corruption gathered about 8,000 people, mostly young people and university students, with some seasoned color revolution veterans sprinkled in.

It also got by far the most Western coverage, even though 8,000 people is less than 0.1% of Moscow’s population.

This is reflected in Navalny’s poll numbers, which remain very low – firmly in the single digits, though in an election – on the off chance he is allowed to run – I suspect he might eke out as much as 10%, if he overperforms expectations as he did in the 2013 Moscow elections.

I am not going to write much more about Navalny and his protests, since I already have several blog posts about that. My goal here is to look at the alternatives on offer.

enough-protest

“Enough” / Khodorkovsky, April 29

That Navalny is head and shoulders above any other Westernist liberal figure is proved by the embarassingly low turnout at the “Enough” protests called for by Khodorkovsky’s “Open Russia” NGO.

There were perhaps 200 people there. As RT’s Bryan MacDonald noted, “I have honestly seen bigger crowds at bus stops in Russia than what has assembled for Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s march today.” Their guerilla advertising strategy – the graffiti in the photo above appeared on the sidewalk close to my apartment – evidently didn’t work out.

Khodorkovsky himself was quite sad about this, whining on May 1 that it is dangerous to “have a monopoly on opposition” in a transparent dig against Navalny. My advice to him would be just stick to what he does best, such as inserting anti-Putin op-eds into English language papers and single-handedly providing a living for about half the world’s Russia-specialized neocons.

Anyhow, the bottom line is that if Navalny’s anti-corruption populism at least enjoys some degree of mass appeal, Khodorkovsky doesn’t even have that. There just aren’t that many Russians outside a 100 meter radius of Echo of Moscow HQ willing to rise up on hearing the clarion call for more sanctions against their own country on the pages of Politico and The World Affairs Journal.

There wasn’t that much coverage of this protest in the West. I suppose it was just too humiliatingly small for it to be worth giving any further exposure.

khrushchevki-protests

Credit: George Malets, martin_camera

Anti-Khrushchevki Demolition Protest / Evgenia Vinokurova, May 14

In 1955, Khrushchev began a massive program of urban housing construction – an urgent priority at the time, what with the massive influx of peasants into the cities. On the plus side, the program succeeded, and the USSR consequently avoided the slums typical of the urbanizing Third World. On the negative side, these “khrushchevki” were cramped and poorly constructed, both by the standards of Stalinist housing (which mostly catered to the elites) and even of the later Soviet apartment blocks of the 1970s-80s.

Moscow’s mayoralty has recently announced that renovating this housing stock is unfeasible, and it will instead be demolished over the course of the next ten years at a cost of 3.5 trillion rubles ($60 billion), or twice the city’s annual budget income. The current residents will be compensated with more modern housing, of which there is a surplus in the wake of the last construction bust. On paper, everyone will benefit: People will get apartments with working plumbing and internal wiring; the politically connected real estate lobby won’t lose money; and many officials will doubtless be enriched.

But not everyone is happy with this deal. Some have invested considerable amounts of money into renovating their apartments. Others have grown attached to their neighborhoods. Although khrushchevki are bottom tier housing stock, the districts that contain them do tend to have a certain verdant vibrancy to them. They are walkable, they have plenty of greenery, and ecosystems of shops, schools, and other services have long evolved around them. In contrast, the new blocks tend to be massive, gray concrete monoliths on flat, gray plains criss-crossed with asphalt and more concrete.

What’s more, they tend to be farther from the nearest metro station, and at the outskirts of Moscow, if not entirely outside it. Moscow property prices depend far more on location than on building quality, and since the exchanges are square meter for square meter, not ruble for ruble, it is easy to imagine cases where people would stand to actually lose asset value in absolute terms.

And some of those people reacted. Around 20,000 people protested on Sakharov Avenue on May 14 against the khrushchevki plans – more than twice as much as at Navalny’s protest, and a couple of orders of magnitude more than at Khodorkovsky’s.

Moreover, these protesters weren’t kreakl hipsters, or professional revolutionaries, or Ukrainian nationalists, or the assorted other weirdos that tend to fill out Moscow protests against the regime. They were pensioners, housewives, and office plankton, many of them with children, who made their voice heard about a matter of real world concern to them. In other words, they and people like them are the closest thing there currently is to a genuine Russian civil society – and though the situation is currently fluid, it currently appears that officials are seriously engaging with their demands.

And of course the Western media pretty much ignored them.

Incidentally, as Maxim Kononenko points out, Navalny’s response to this protest is also very telling as to his agenda.

Initially, Navalny and his staff largely ignored the anti-demolition campaign, unable to believe that political nobodies campaigning on some boring socio-economic issue could be more successful than the undisputed leader of the “real” Russian opposition with its cult following, massive online presence, and lack of any serious competitors in the professional color revolution industry. But once it emerged that this protest was going to be a big hit after all, Navalny hurriedly dressed up as a very concerned khrushchevka resident and set off for the protest meeting. (As one online wit commented, “Whom hasn’t Navalny roleplayed as?: An owner of a mortgage in foreign currency; a Moscow stall owner; a Dagestani truck driver; a Chechen gay. Now he is a khrushchevka resident”).

Navalny proceeded to request a speaking slot at the meeting. The organizers refused, for the understandable reason that Navalny had no part in organizing them. Shocked by their impudence, Navalny and his acolytes decided to blame this epic zrada on Evgenia Vinokurova, one of the dozen largely female organizers of the protest. She made for an easy target: She has ties with both Putinist patriot-conservatives (she is friends with Kris Potupchik, a former spokeswoman for the youth movement Nashi) and more hardcore nationalists (she is an open Sputnik and Pogrom reader, Russia’s premier nationalist publication), all of which makes her completely “unhandshakeworthy” in the respectable Westernist circles to whom Navalny owes his ultimate loyalty.

So Navalny got an excuse for his failure there – he was sabotaged by a Putler agent. Still, the old problem of said respectable circles remains as acute as ever: Their inability to get any significant number of Russians out into the streets.

 

The other day a Levada poll was released showing an apparently lackluster performance by Navalny in a hypothetical Presidential race against Putin and the other candidates.

If there were elections on the coming Sunday, who would you vote for? (The figures below exclude those said they don’t know, or don’t intend to vote).

Apr13 Apr14 Apr15 Jan16 Apr17
Putin 64 81 82 83 83
Zhirinovsky 7 6 5 4 5
Zyuganov 13 7 9 6 4
Shoigu 3 2 <1 3 2
Navalny <1 <1 1 1 2
Medvedev 3 <1 <1 <1 1
Mironov 1 1 1 1 1
Prokhorov 4 1 1 1 <1
Other 4 2 1 2 2

This seems very bad for “Alexey 2 Percent,” as he was just styled by the great Paul Robinson.

On the one hand, he is certainly correct in his main point that one shouldn’t be rushing to buy the hype around Navalny generated by the Western media.

OTOH, I don’t think it’s quite as catastrophic for Navalny as the professor makes it out to be. For instance, in February 2012, (adjusted for non-voter’s/don’t knows) about 6% of Russians intended to vote for Prokhorov. In the event, he got 8%, which would have been closer to 9% without electoral fraud.

Of perhaps greater relevance, Levada and VCIOM opinion polls were giving the Kremlin-backed candidate Sobyanin about 70% versus 9-13% for Navalny in the Moscow mayoral election of 2013. In the event, Sobyanin only narrowly avoided a second round with 51% to Navalny’s 27%.

navalny-voting-intentions Even more worrying for the Kremlin though is that the percentage of Russians saying they were “probably” or “definitely” going to vote for Navalny increased from the 5% level he enjoyed from March 2012 to February 2017 (i.e. encompassing the period of the Moscow elections) to 10% in March 2017 following the release of the Medvedev corruption video.

Now just to make it clear I am not implying that Navalny is any sort of serious electoral threat to Putin – at least for now. In particular, the President’s ratings are at a consistent ~80% since Crimea, whereas during the 2012-13 period they were hovering at a nadir of ~60%.

Putin’s relatively greater popularily will, presumably, mostly or even wholly cancel out Navalny’s momentum.

And, of course, the question of whether Navalny will even be allowed to run is still an open one. Just a few hours ago a Russian court upheld the five year suspended sentence given to Navalny for the Kirovles Affair, which might be grounds for formally barring him from the Presidential race – though as in 2013, it is possible that it will not be enforced. Still, I’m not going to bet on that. Navalny is far more charismatic than Prokhorov, he is the only liberal candidate with a reasonable chance of making inroads into the (considerably bigger) nationalist electorate, and the recent attack on him by kremlin-affiliated thugs – which threatens to make him blind in one eye, if his own assertions are true – might create a martyr effect for him (as the murky dioxin poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko in 2004, which helped drive Ukrainians to stage the Orange Revolution). It would not be wise for the kremlins to risk a Navalny run.

One other very interesting, and even more interesting development, is the complete collapse of Zyuganov’s (Communist) support – he has gone from 13% in April 2013, to just 5% today; practically level pegging with the nationalist Zhirinovsky, who has also declined, but by a far more modest degree, despite losing part of his nationalist base to Putin after Crimea.

russia-elections-2016-party-support-age-group As I have long pointed out, the Red base of pensioners is dying out – there are three times fewer Communist voters in the youngest age group versus the oldest, whereas the LDPR’s share, conversely, doubles – and the demographics are now fast translating into electoral politics.

What this means in practice is that in the unlikely scenario that Navalny does run, I strongly suspect that he and Putin will between them compress the two fossils of Russian politics – that is, Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky – into the single digits, and will manage to come a distant second, perhaps 15% to Putin’s 70%.

 

hi-reddit-russia A couple of weeks back I had an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with /r/Russia.

Direct link: Hi /r/Russia! Anatoly Karlin, writer for The Unz Review / Анатолий Карлин, “пейсатель” о России, геополитике. AMA!

Thought I would reprint some of the questions and answers there so that they don’t vanish into the digital ether.

***

Politics

You were at the March 26 protests

Can we confidently say that the Kremlin lost young voters forever.

Does Russia have a new protest generation?

For example in the west, there was the contrast between the WWII conservative generation and the young generation of the 60s( this so-called counterculture )

Yes, here’s my account of the March 26 protests.

I don’t think the Kremlin has lost young voters, though some kremlins are definitely trying to. Ultimately, Putin after Crimea still has the steady support of about 80% of Russians, so that precludes any great dip in support amongst young people.

My impression is that paradoxically, both liberal and pro-Putin sentiments might be somewhat higher amongst the younger generations, alongside a melange of other, more idiosyncratic ideologies like monarchism and whatnot. Why? Because Communist sympathies collapse amongst younger Russians. That is, relative to the older generations, there are still plenty of “vatniks,” but many fewer “sovoks.”

If there is going to be a strong youth-based protest movement in the future – which isn’t the case now, 8,000 protesters in a city of 12 million is nothing – I suspect nationalists will play a big role in it.

***

Two questions

  1. In your opinion, what are the most important politcal challenges facing our country and how can those challenges can be adress?
  2. What should the federal government’s top three priorities be in setting a sound foreign policy vital to our interest?

(1) The lack of a clearcut succession mechanism is a serious problem. Putin after Crimea has become sort of what the poli-sci types call a “charismatic leader,” so his own power is quite secure, but you can’t say the same for the beigeocratic bugmen who make up his entourage from Medvedev on down. Hopefully he can groom an adequate replacement in his remaining years as President.

(2) It all boils down to this: Be smarter.

pushkov-need-to-be-smarter

Alexey Pushkov: “Russia invested $200bn in Ukraine’s economy in the past 20 years, the US – $5bn in the “development of democracy.” Looks like we didn’t invest correctly. Important lesson.”

The lack of a clearcut succession mechanism is a serious problem. Putin after Crimea has become sort of what the poli-sci types call a “charismatic leader,” so his own power is quite secure, but you can’t say the same for the beigeocratic bugmen who make up his entourage from Medvedev on down. Hopefully he can groom an adequate replacement in his remaining years as President.

What do you think might happen if Putin fails to produce a successor in time (for one reason or another)? Are there any political elites or oligarchs who might be plotting an aggressive move to be executed against Putin (if his support wanes over time) or shortly after him suddenly stepping down (ill health, death, or something else)? Maybe someone in the military or siloviki? Indeed, the lack of any clear mechanisms will cause chaos, which will be an opportunity for some.

I am just as skeptical about the prospects of an internal coup against Putin as about the prospects of a color revolution (detailed article about this).

Putin’s approval rating hasn’t consistently dipped below 60% since late 1999. Any event or development that brings it down into dangerous territory is likely to be so unexpected and traumatic that little could be meaningfully predicted about it. If Putin steps down due to “life” reasons (e.g. ill health), Medvedev would be the immediate logical successor. He will get by in the short to medium term, I suppose, though being much less popular and charismatic than Putin his position will be shakier.

***

How much of a role did the US have in the Russian troubles in the 90s? Mostly talking about the domestic problems. Aside from their monetary support of Yelstin in the 1996 election, can’t think of any nefarious actions, while some claim that the CIA conspired with the oligarchs to destroy the country, and then with the Chechens to destroy it again, and so on. From what I’ve read, the US (as a whole, with the exception of some officials including presidents) was mostly disinterested in Russian domestic problems, leaving it to its own problems.

Do you think that if the US managed to execute a Marshall plan-style aid for Russia back then, it would have been a better place now?

I think US role in that is overdone in “patriotic” Russian propaganda. Most of the damage was either self-inflicted (the kleptocratic nature of the privatizations), or inevitable (reintroducing markets after 60 years of central planning – you can turn a fish into a fish stew, but turning a fish stew into a fish is harder, as the economists joked).

To be sure, the oligarchs pretty much were Western agents of influence, but I agree with you that the dominant US policy towards Russia was disinterest.

Russian opinion towards the US was extremely positive in the early 1990s, through to the war against Serbia. There were even serious considerations of pursuing NATO membership through to the early 2000s. If there ever was an opportunity to draw Russia within the Euro-Atlantic orbit and preempt a Sino-Russian alliance, it was then. Instead, Washington D.C. considered itself the victory in the Cold War and chose to expand NATO (a policy opposed by both George Kennan and Henry Kissinger).

***

Do you think Lenin will be buried? How do you expect the 100th anniversary of his revolution will be “commemorated” in Russia?

Lenin was a traitor, so if his body has to be disposed of in some way, it should be cremated and scattered to the four winds.

That said, it does have some historical value as the oldest well preserved body in the world, so perhaps it could be moved to an outskirt of Moscow. Maybe the commies could crowdfund a “shrine” of some sort there.

***

If Vladimir Zhirinovsky had a daughter named Martine could she lead the LDPR to power?

Martine Lebedeva would be a good name for a video game anti-heroine.

***

Political Theory

Any favorites among right-wing thinkers from nineteenth century? Do you think that, say, Pobedonostev still holds water today as an actual political philosopher, or he should be read from purely historical POV? Name your three favorite russian philosophers, right-wing or not.

I haven’t studied Pobedonostev in any great depth, but I’m not enarmored with him; too often he seems to adopt egregiously reactionary positions just for, well, the heck of it.

I do recall him having some good thoughts on how the mass media operates, rushing to print anything without fact-checking (#fakenews?). But his proposed solutions tended to be antagonistically authoritarian, and some were outright crazy, like his arguments against mass schooling.

Favorite 3 Russian philosophers:

  1. Ivan Ilyin
  2. Vladimir Vernadsky
  3. Nikolay Berdyaev

***

What’s your take on classic Moldbug writings from 2008-2013, and separately, on current state of neoreactosphere?

I am not a big fan of Moldbug.

For instance, he not only denies AGW, but also seems to be under the impression that this makes him some sort of dissident against the “weaponized memeplex of Hypercalvinist Atheo-Oecumenic conspiracy,” as opposed to just subscribing to one of the tenets of Conservatism Inc. (USA).

As for his big idea, neocameralism – dividing up sovereignty into shares to be bought up by Silicon Valley oligarchs? Congratulations, neoreactionaries – you’ve just handed the SJWs absolute political power on a platter.

My view on NRx (in its original formulation) is that it was just libertarians trying to deal with the fact that the average person has an IQ of 100. Since I was never a libertarian, it never appealed to me all that strongly, despite certain sympathies for it. To be sure, there was also an “ethnonationalist” strain in NRx, but my impression is that it has since pretty much merged into the Alt Right (as Michael Anissimov predicted a couple of years back).

***

Let me just say that I greatly value your blogging over the years. It’s a breath of fresh air. Western coverage of Russia is 100% propaganda but the simpletons over at RT are not much better. I realise your biases – you’re open about them – but I much prefer that over feigned ‘neutrality’ which always end up in a monotone demonisation.

Now to my question. Putin strikes me as less of a nationalist than an imperialist . An imperialist believes in a larger, over-arching idea. Rome went from being a nation-state to an Empire, and being “roman” moved from an ethnic concept to a universal concept. Same is true with America.

In my view, if you’re a Russian nationalist, then you should be against imperialism. This isn’t to say that you don’t want Russia to be strong(which is often confused with being an imperialist by naïve people). Because only nationalism will preserve the Russian nation(see the Central Asian immigration problem).

So, with such a large preamble, do you A) agree with my characterisation of Putin and B) what do you think are the chances of purely ethnic Russian(with some allowances for other ethnicities, as long as they meld into the larger Russian core) nationalism? I’m thinking post-Putin mostly given that he is in his mid-60s and is unlikely to change.

I am a Russian nationalist, but I subscribe to the concept of the triune Russian nation – i.e., of Great Russians, Little Russians, and White Russians – as the nation-building core of a prospective “Big Russia.”

This implicitly demands the eventual reunification of the Russian lands – not as an imperial project, but a nation-(re)building one.

The most “imperial” aspects of Russia are (1) Chechnya/Ingushetia/Dagestan and (2) Central Asia, both of which were only brought within the Russian Empire in the middle of the 19th century. And I am indeed lukewarm about whether or not the former should remain within Russia, and am certainly opposed to any significant degree of integration with the latter (not least for demographic reasons: There are about now as many young Central Asians as there are ethnic Russians).

With that out of the way, to answer your specific questions:

(A) Putin is an imperialist, a nationalist, as well as a conservative, a liberal, a liberal-conservative, a patriot, a sovok, an opportunist, and so forth. His modus operandi has always been to balance between different political and ideological factions.

(B) Support for this strain of nationalism is certainly growing – as of the latest polls, “Russia for [ethnic] Russians” enjoys about 50% support, and that viewpoint is relatively far more prevalent amongst the younger generations.

***

Geopolitics

Who will take power next in Ukraine? Do you think the Kremlin’s decision to take a passive approach will be vindicated? My impression is that Ukraine is a bit of a dumpster fire at the moment, which will make anyone who steps inside regret it. But then, vigorous action might have and might yet restore the status quo ante of a reasonably large and friendly buffer state (minus west Ukraine).

I speculated about developments in Ukraine here. There’s a possibility that Tymoshenko is mounting a slow-motion coup against Poroshenko with the help of Turchinov, Kolomoysky, and his pet far right batallions.

I unenthusiastically supported Minsk II at the time, however I think since then its detractors have been proven right – as of Q4 2016, the Ukrainian economy was growing by close to 5% (after all, even Ukraine has to hit bottom at some point). That said, Trump’s election victory is an unexpected wild card that may yet rescue the day, and Ukrainian nationalists have proved to be reliably helpful.

restore the status quo ante
friendly buffer state

Pick one. Pre-Maidan Ukraine was not friendly.

Yes, this is true. Yanukovych only turned to EEU at the last moment, right after running an extensive pro-EU campaign. Genius!

The demographics in Ukraine are also very unfavorable in terms of attitudes towards Russia. The Far West is growing vigorously – it has some of the highest fertility rates in Europe – whereas the Donbass was in a true death spiral even before the war.

Moreover, even I can sympathize with Ukrainians who don’t want their country to be a buffer state. While both the EU and Russia can sell tantalizing (if unrealistic) visions of what is possible – TyschaVDen’ to the west, space race victory to the east – literally like, nobody, wants to be a “buffer” between a bunch of gayropean degenerates and sovok cretins. :)

***

What is your opinion on the syrian intervention and how much longer in your opinion will we stay in the country?

I initially supported it on the theory that its goals were to provide cheap real life training for the Russian Air Force; secure itself a couple of useful bases in the MENA region; use it as a bargaining chip with the US in future discussions about spheres of influence in Eurasia.

I have since become more skeptical about it. There is now a much larger degree of involvement, including ground involvement, and it seems like Russia is taking its own rhetoric about fighting the terrorists in Syria so as not to have to fight them in Russia itself seriously. That said, I still support it, though I now have major reservations about the dangers of overextension.

If there is no further substantial US intervention, I expect Syria to be eventually divided between the Syrian government west of the Euphrates, and Kurdistan east of it, maybe by 2019-20. They will come to some kind of confederal arrangement. If however the neocons win out and move forwards with HRC’s no fly zone ideas, who knows what will happen. Nothing good, that’s for certain.

***

What’s the general sentiment towards Germany? What do Russians think about Germany today and how much did the feelings towards Germany change after our relations took a change for the worse recently? Also, what do you think would need to happen to better the German-Russian relations?

(1) Were generally good until 2014. I can’t find polls on Levada, but I would imagine Russian opinion of Germany tracks that of the EU, which was consistently higher than opinion of the US, but converged after 2014.

(2) AfD comes to power in Germany. Khodorkovsky comes to power in Russia.

More realistically, if the US goes full neocon and goes gallivanting on Middle East adventures again. There are committed Atlanticists in Germany like Julian Roepcke, but they are still a minority. German assessments of US trustworthiness have already plummeted from ~60% under Obama to close to 20% after Trump (similar to the current figures for Russia), and especially if the SPD takes back power and anyone other than Macron or Hamon win in France, I could just about see the reformation of the Paris/Berlin/Moscow bloc that opposed the Iraq War. Still, it’s a huge longshot.

Thank you! Military misadventures of the US are the most realistic possibility for an improvement in my eyes, too. But such an outside influence wouldn’t be a very substantial one and also may only be short lived.

Still, it’s a bit paradox that while the “West” seems to be united in its condemnation of and mistrust towards Russia, Germany is building NordstreamII and some german lower rank politicians like Seehofer keep traveling to Moscow, seemingly to keep relations from dropping too low. I think Germany is caught in the middle, having to appease its main and most influential ally, the US, while trying to maintain some contact with Russia and access to the Russian market on which can be build upon in the future, if the situation improves and allows for it.

A last note on why I asked my question… I was very moved by Putin’s speech at the German Bundestag in 2001 and felt like the vision of a shared EU/Russian market, common security policy and general cooperation between the EU and what is now the EEU would have been a true path to stability and prosperity for our region and most of the world and it saddens me very much that this vision is more or less dead now.

***

What do you think of use of military force to achieve Russian goals? Syria seems to me to be a success, regardless of many possible concerns, however instances like Georgia and Ukraine seem to be very much a mixed bag. In short – was it worth it, and was there a viable alternative?

Georgia – Russian peacekeepers were directly attacked, no choice but to respond forcefully.

Ukraine – Crimea was an undisputed success that saved it from Donbass’ sad fate. If anything, a timely Russian large-scale intervention in early 2014 would have resulted in far fewer overall deaths and suffering.

Syria – See here.

***

Technology

Will Russia return to the cutting edge of space exploration (and/or exploitation, colonization, etc.) technology in the near future?

How does the Russian military stack up against the US and China when it comes to the space domain?

No. In fact, I expect Russia to continue slipping behind.

Ultimately, there is only so much $3.5tn economy and $3bn Roskosmos budget can sustain versus a $20tn economy (USA, China) and a $35bn NASA budget/$6bn and rapidly growing Chinese space budget.

That said, I don’t expect space colonization to occur on any substantial scale in this century, Musk’s rhetoric regardless.

***

As a transhumanist myself I don’t really understand how transhumanism and nationalism mixed together in you. The idea of transhumanism transcends the ideas of nations, races and even the human nature. Technological evolution should unite the humanity and as long people become more and more connected today with each other – the ideas of national goverments and nations will be rendered oblosete with time.

Good question.

Very legitimate one, of course. I am sure that once we get to computer superintelligence or CRISPR ourselves up to 175 average IQs, the world will become thoroughly cosmopolitan (support for tolerance, open borders, free trade, etc. tends to increase with IQ).

Problem #1 – developing those technologies takes brains. Elite brains. “Smart fractions,” as they’re known in the psychometric literature. As well as the appropriate technological growth-friendly institutions, which again need a certain level of average national IQ to maintain.

Problem #2 – the evidence suggests that mass immigration from the Third World has negative effects on average national IQ. There is also good recent economic research that suggests that immigrants tend to carry over their home country cultural attitudes, with negative impacts on the quality of institutions in the host countries. See Garett Jones.

Can you envision the US or Japan (average IQ ~100) launching a singularity? It doesn’t seem entirely implausible.

Can you envision Brazil or Indonesia (average IQ ~85) launching a singularity? Sub-Saharan Africa (average IQ ~70)? Seems rather less likely.

As the neoreactionaries say, you can’t cultivate gardens without walls. We don’t know what kind of smart fraction ingenuity would be necessary for the biosphere to complete its transition into a disembodied noosphere. As such, it makes sense to play it safe.

Thank you for broad answer! Technological singularity is my dream. I wish would live long enough only to see the start of it. I have limited knowledge about general AI and even less about gene alteration technology, but guts of the computer engineer say that achieving artificial or virtual intelligence is faster way to help humanity to solve difficult problems. Only after development of such system humanity would reach the level when they will “gene-engineer” the humanity itself. Putting it simply – be smart enough to become smarter first and use this knowledge later.

Sometimes I think that sometimes society and technology develops way ahead of human basic behavior – eat, dominate and multiply – and that creates problems we have worldwide.

***

Economics

Russia’s economic growth 2000-2008: how much is luck and how much is sound fiscal management/ macroeconomic policy? I find this to be a fundamental question when it comes to assessing Putin’s legacy.

Russia’s future economic growth: will Putin be able to deliver solid numbers or do you agree with me that the preferable route for Russia going forward would be to be led by liberal reformists such as Medvedev/Kudrin?

EEU: Does it make sense for Russia economically? Should it continue to be pursued for geopolitical purposes? Bonus: should Russia seek closer ties with Europe or do it’s own Eurasian thing?

Also, do you share my assessment that Putin’s domestic policy since 2008 of increased authoritarianism etc has been a bad thing and that there is a need for a change in direction?

(1) Russia did about average for the ex-Soviet region – much better than Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, most of the Central Asian states; about the same as two of the “Baltic tigers,” Latvia and Lithuania; and worse than Estonia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan.

Oil production in the latter two greatly increased relative to the peak Soviet period, whereas Russia’s only recovered to where they were. It might have done better without hasty corruption-wracked privatizations; even star reformer Poland didn’t rush with them, and they did very well. Even just doing what Belarus did would have probably been better. Their GDP stopped falling around 1995. OTOH, it wasn’t a total disaster like Ukraine. I don’t know if the Estonian example is extendable to Russia given its status as a tiny entrepot.

(2) What does “reform” even mean? Russia is now 40th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ratings. I call that successful reform.

Then there is the “cult of reform” which involves installing pro-Western yesmen into power for a temporary bump to the stockmarket in return for selling state assets for pennies on the dollar, unilateral geopolitical concessions, etc.

Kudrin once went on record calling on Russians to drink more vodka for the good of the budget. Vodka bingeing is the leading cause of premature mortality in Russia. I don’t think Russia needs “economic geniuses” like that, regardless of the opinions of Davos bugmen.

(3) I supported the EEU when it appeared to be something around which Russia could return to its older borders through peaceful economic integration. Since then it has started to look more like a mechanism to send cheap labor to Russia, styming automation, suppressing wages, helping Central Asian sovok dictators stay in power, and perhaps eventually turning Russia into Greater Turkestan. I support a wall with Central Asia and the regathering of the Russian lands.

(4) “Bonus: should Russia seek closer ties with Europe or do it’s own Eurasian thing?”
Meaningless question. Whoever speaks of Europe is wrong. Europe is a geographical expression. – Bismarck. For instance, even today there are huge differences in attitudes towards Russia, from Russophobic Swedes to Russophilic Italians.

(5) I don’t have any cardinal disagreements with the setup of the Russian political system, though there are certainly many specific points of disagreement (e.g. the lack of a clear succession mechanism; the undeniably high levels of corruption within the elites; etc).

Thank you for the reply.

1) This does not really answer my question. Basically, how much credit can Putin take for Russia’s fast economic growth? His critics would say he simply “got lucky” as he was able to export expensive oil and gas.

2) I have noted the progress in the “doing business” ranking. However, how significant is this in practice? By “reform”, I mean modernisation and diversification away from energy dependence. The govt seems to have largely failed in this regard – would you agree?

4) Andrei Tsygankov divides Russia’s political class into three ‘schools’: Westernisers, statists and civilisationists. Westernisers (Medvedev, Kudrin etc) perceive Russia as a “European” country and argue that Russia should join the ranks of Western countries and seek closer ties with the EU and disregard Eurasian integration initiatives – essentially, become as “normal” a European state as it can.

5) What about heavy state ownership of the media? On corruption – is it fair to say that Putin does not appear to have done enough? Are you familiar with any of the intricacies of it – ie how difficult would it be to actually “clean up” Russia and get it to Northern European levels of corruption? Saakashvili appears to have managed to do something like this in Georgia, for all his flaws.

(1) The point that I tried to make, perhaps unsuccessfully, is that this is a very hard question that might be impossible to answer without rewinding history. Perhaps Russia could have done a bit better – though not necessarily through “Western approved” methods, as Belarus showed – but it’s also easy how it could have gone considerably worse (see Ukraine).

(2) The ease of business rankings seem to be pretty important in that (a) they are objective, unlike many other indices, such as the CPI; (b) businesspeople pay a lot attention to it; (c) n=1, but it syncs with my own impressions that the Russian bureaucracy has improved, if from a very low base.

Consider diversification practically, instead of as a slogan. Since Russia produces as much oil as Saudi Arabia, diversification away from it is not easy, just as it is not for, say, Norway, or Australia (both fully developed countries with large natural resource sectors). Unlike, say, Saudi Arabia, Russia does have a substantial manufacturing base – comparable in scope to that of France, Italy, India, and Brazil. In my opinion, the problem with the Russian economy isn’t so much that there’s no diversification beyond oil and gas – there is – but that it tends to be technologically underdeveloped.

(4) There is a difference in becoming a “normal European country” (which is good, and something that Russia has been doing anyway, not unsuccessfully as was pointed out by Treisman & Schleifer as early as 2003) and pursuing European integration, which right now is akin to boarding a sinking ship, and was never a realistic option for Russia anyway.
(5) “What about heavy state ownership of the media?”

The (realistic) alternative is ownership by oligarchs who wish their own and pro-Western agendas. Here’s the famous quote on this from Pelevin (only in Russian, unfortunately):

“On corruption – is it fair to say that Putin does not appear to have done enough? Are you familiar with any of the intricacies of it – ie how difficult would it be to actually “clean up” Russia and get it to Northern European levels of corruption?”

Yes, that’s fair. He is far too easy on corrupt members of his entourage. Which, frankly, is most or all of them.

That said, I am very skeptical that Russia can “solve” corruption for a variety of historical (both Tsarist Russia and USSR failed to), comparative (Italy, Greece, etc. haven’t come anywhere near Northern European standards, despite decades of institutional convergence by dint of EU membership), and cultural/biocultural (see hbdchick’s theories on the Hajnal Line) reasons.

Obviously we should aim to become better, but expectations should be kept realistic. I am pretty sure that liberal appetites for corruption are constrained only by their own lack of access to power, not ethics, and besides, Ukraine next door has now – twice! – demonstrated that color revolutions do nothing for improving corruption.

“Saakashvili appears to have managed to do something like this in Georgia, for all his flaws.”
Commented on this here:

“6% of Georgians reported paying a bribe in the past year in 2004, the first year of Saakashvili’s Presidency, and before his reforms could reasonably be expected to have taken effect; in 2013, the last year of his President, it was 4%. An improvement, sure, but not a particularly radical one. Actual opinion polls by Transparency International suggest that lowlevel corruption was not a big problem in Georgia pre-Saakashvili, and its reduction under him could just as easily have been a simple matter of the general withering away of the state’s regulatory agencies under his libertarian reforms. For instance, the near wholesale removal of university tuition subsidies – essential for democratic access to higher education in a country as poor as Georgia – led to a plunge in tertiary enrollment by almost a third relative to the early-to-mid-2000s. Fewer students automatically translates to fewer bribes for grades. These examples can be extended indefinitely: Less contact with the state automatically leads to “lower” corruption. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “good” in all cases.”

Share of exports does not equal level of dependency. Natural resources may make out a large part of Norwegian exports, but they siphon only a very small percentage​ of this income into the state budget (<4% per annum). Russia has clearly taken a bigger hit from the recent crisis than many other energy exporters.

It seems I may have fallen prey to the myth of Saakashvili’s ingenuity on this front. How come Georgia’s level of corruption was already so low? Did they not go through the same decade of looting during the 90′s? In any case, does Georgia’s relative similarly to Russia (in terms of history and culture) not suggest that Russia should be able to reach a similar level?

The revelations by Navalny suggest something bordering on complete apathy towards corruption on the part of the Russian elites, wouldn’t you agree? You don’t really see the same level of – let’s face it – looting among the leaders of less corrupt countries. This leads me to suspect they are ultimately responsible for the high levels of corruption.

On the topic of inequality – I assume you agree it is a significant problem in Russia. Do you see any remedies for it? Would you favour additional Khodorkovsky-style, let’s call it, “acquisitions” by the state? Russia appears to be in quite a unique position in that it could massively improve its level of inequality by dealing only with a few select individuals. Again, my suspicion is that the political elite much prefers the current situation, wherein it enjoys free access to these looted assets.

I wasn’t aware there was any unified consensus on what exactly constitutes oil & gas dependency (i.e. share of the budget, share of exports, share of GDP, or some combination of the three).

But speaking of the budget… The share of oil & gas in the consolidated budget is now 21%, so I don’t think the situation is exactly catastrophic. Ultimately, despite the recent collapse in oil prices, the Russian budget has avoided slipping deep into the red.

I don’t think Georgia is similar to Russia at all. It is Orthodox Christian, but otherwise they speak a totally different language, belong to another (older) civilization, are genetically distinct, etc. It is also much more rural. Don’t think its very extendable to Russia at all.

Re-corruption. Mostly agreed. I would also note that there are different kinds of corruption, e.g.:

  • Everyday corruption – high by European standards though not an outlier (not only Ukraine but Romania, Hungary, Lithuania are similar); seems to be constant under Putin.
  • Business corruption (e.g. pay to get construction permit) – high by European standards though not outlier; massively improved according to World Bank Enterprise Surveys under Putin.
  • Elite corruption – very hard to measure – not exactly like you can poll them on this, like you can random individuals and businesses – but seems to be very high; trends hard to ascertain, though my guess would be that the situation is modestly better than in the 1990s, but hasn’t seen any major improvement under Putin.

Re-inequality. The political elite as such, though wealthy, doesn’t enjoy access to most of those “looted assets.” They mostly belong to the oligarchs who became rich off the 1990s privatizations, and who were explicitly told to stay out of politics (Khodorkovsky disobeyed).

Should those oligarchs be expropriated? I don’t know. On the other hand, it might frighten businesspeople and discourage longterm investment (the standard economists’ argument). On the other hand, it’s not as if they don’t deserve it, and so long as this issue remains unresolved, the consequences of privatization will remain a potential source of political illegitimacy.

I wasn’t aware there was any unified consensus on what exactly constitutes oil & gas dependency (i.e. share of the budget, share of exports, share of GDP, or some combination of the three).

I don’t think one exists, hence my objection to going simply by “share of GDP”.

But speaking of the budget… The share of oil & gas in the consolidated budget is now 21%, so I don’t think the situation is exactly catastrophic.

That doesn’t seem too bad. However, I wonder what the number would be if you included indirect income from the oil and gas sector – ie payroll taxes on employees and even the economic activity generated by their spending (this isn’t measurable, but I’m sure some estimates could be generated). This could be quite significant simply given how much more profitable this sector is than other sectors of the Russian economy.

I don’t think Georgia is similar to Russia at all. It is Orthodox Christian, but otherwise they speak a totally different language, belong to another (older) civilization, are genetically distinct, etc. It is also much more rural. Don’t think its very extendable to Russia at all.

I can see how there are certain differences, but I don’t see why they should result in such a disparity re corruption levels. You also have to factor in the 70 years spent as part of the same union. IQ levels and GDP per capita also point in Russia’s favour in this sphere (though the latter point may be negated by the “resource curse” argument).

I find your distinction between different types of corruption useful. This leads me to believe that “elite corruption” (what I guess you could also term “inequality”) is the real problem here. This, coincidentally, appears to be the domain over which Putin should be able to exert the most influence.

I’m not sure if this is so much about the political elite, in general, as about the small clique surrounding Putin. As Navalny’s most recent work revealed, the oligarchs’ assets appear to be largely at the disposal of this inner circle. For example, Usmanov gifted Medvedev his personal homes and allowed him to stay in his residence​ in Italy. Why give that up?

Even if Putin did want to break the piggy bank this would be an extremely risky (even potentially lethal) project, as the remaining guys would do anything they can to protect their assets. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and Putin will need to maintain his “performance legitimacy” somehow.

It will be interesting to see how Putin’s popularity develops going forward. Any ideas? I assume it can only go so low post-Crimea, but the lacklustre economic predictions are not very reassuring. Absent regular foreign policy victories (which is hardly a reliable political strategy despite recent successes), I suspect there may be clouds lining up in Putin’s horizon. If there’s one thing Navalny’s documentary showed, it’s that people are eyeing the oligarchic piggy bank and they may grow increasingly unhappy with Putin if he does not let more of its contents flow into their pockets.

I kind of do and kind of don’t buy the economic argument against re-acquisition of assets. On the one hand, I believe it could be done in a way that would clearly single out the top 6-7 cats. These would be distinct from foreign investors in that they will be natives and their assets will have formerly belonged to the state and often be related to natural resources. On the other hand, I guess you can always trust clueless foreign investors with zero local knowledge to completely fail to understand what’s going on and proceed to get their panties in a twist.

Sure, the indirect effects of the oil & gas sector certainly has positive downstream effects – certainly inflates consumption to some extent – though of course similar considerations would apply to all large per capita oil & gas exporters.

Pretty much agreed with everything you say about corruption here. that seems to describe reality.

I am actually quite optimistic about economic growth in the next 5 years, barring any major political or geopolitical shocks. We’ve had a two year period of gloom, but this period also saw a tight monetary and fiscal policy, the taming of inflation, and a demographic shock as the numbers of workers entering the labor force plummeted (minimum fertility in Russia was in 1999). But the negative aspects above should attenuate soon, while the positive ones stand the Russia economy in good stead for a strong recovery in the near future.

I’m not categorically against re-appropriation. As you say, it’s not entirely obvious that the reaction will be all that bad, and certainly few people would feel sorry about the likes of Usmanov or Abramovich getting their (belated) just desserts.

I did not think of the demographic factor. I wonder if it will be sufficient to bring about decent growth figures. I wish I shared your optimism, but I feel like significant structural changes are needed to see anything above 2% growth.

***

Which sectors you believe are likely to become future drivers of Russian economy?

Probably the current mainstays: Oil & gas, steel, the military-industrial complex.

I am actually pretty pessimistic on the long-term prospects of the Russian economy, though not for the usual reasons such as demographics and corruption. Automation in manufacturing is extremely low, scientific output is minimal however you try to measure it, on virtually any hi-tech metric from numbers of supercomputers to numbers of high-thoroughput sequencers, Russia is on the level of small European countries like Sweden and Switzerland.

Despite a few areas of excellence such as nuclear power, Putin’s preference for football stadiums (and the Rotenbergs’ wallets) over R&D funding is increasing Russia’s technological lag, and I’m concerned even the MIC will simply be unable to compete with the likes of the US or China past c.2025.

Considering Putin’s past job of “acquiring” foreign technology in the DDR, he must be aware of Russia’s technological weakness.

What are the prospects of reindustrialisation and foreign investment in Russia considering the collapse in oil prices, Western sanctions as well as more positive economics aspects such as a cheaper Ruble and turning to non-Western sources of investment.

Edit: How well will raising trade barriers work for encouraging domestic manufacturing like how agriculture is benefitting now.

He’s no doubt aware of it, and has even said as much (recall the nanotech initiative back around 2008? Or his promise of 20mn (?) hi-tech jobs in 2012? There was also, of course, Skolkovo. But none of these seem to have been particularly successful to my knowledge. Rosnano was handed over to Anatoly Chubais (LOL), who I think preceeded to invest most of it in Western startups, perhaps after skimming some off for himself.

I don’t know what Russia can do to change to radically improve the situation. Even the East-Central European states that have integrated with the EU haven’t developed strong hi-tech sectors; neither has Mediterranean Europe. It’s something that remains largely confined to the US, North-West Europe, Japan, and increasingly, China. Maybe its just a combination of superior human capital and/or institutions.

However, less money on show-off sporting events and more money for R&D would surely be a good start. There’s also a huge amount of bloat and corruption in Russia higher education, from university rectors to paid-for dissertations (they constitute approximately 10% of the total according to the Dissernet plagiarism detection organization). This must be tackled, but with Putin himself being the recipient of a fictive PhD, not to mention a good percentage of the Russian elites, that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Nationalism, Neoreaction, Politics, Russia, Ukraine 

Should the government try to limit the inflow of immigrants, or should it not place any administrative barriers and try to use it for the benefit of Russia?

levada-russia-opinion-about-immigrations

 

Red = Restrict immigration; Blue = Don’t place barriers; Green = N/A.

russian-emigration-immigration-1997-2015

This makes sense. The early 2000s saw an all time low in immigration to Russia – the influx of ethnic Russians from the Near Abroad had abated by that period, while the economy was not yet strong enough to attract masses of Central Asian labor.

From the mid-2000s, large numbers of Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Kyrgyz have been rotating in and out, with the occassional dip during recessions.

If there is one thing that Navalny can capitalize on, it is this graph. Still, there’s no need to overstress its significance. After all, discotent with immigration was similarly high by 2011-12, and Navalny’s nativist credentials then were far stronger, but he was unable to turn it into any significant political success.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Immigration, Opinion Poll, Russia 

Here is a graph of monthly births in Russia since 2006 through to March 2017:

russia-births-2006-2017

It is pointless to make sweeping conclusions based on demographic data from the past one or two months.

That said, the three month moving average has been down relative to the same period in the previous year since the middle of 2016, and as of this year, has widened to 10%, an unprecedented figure in the past decade.

russia-births-change-2006-2017

Now to be sure, birth rates should – all else equal – be falling, because the diminished generation of the 1990s is now moving into its peak childbearing years. It shouldn’t be falling by 10% in any one year, however. If this new trend continues, Russia’s TFR for 2017 should fall to about 1.65 children per woman from the 1.76 in 2016.

OTOH mortality continued improving, falling by 1% in the first three months of 2017 relative to same period last year, which translates into a correspondingly greater improvement in life expectancy because of Russia’s ageing population (i.e. for the same reason that Russia’s fertility rate would increase if the number of births was to stay the same).

So I don’t want to imply all is doom and gloom after having covered Russia’s demographic turnaround for almost a decade.

However, it does perhaps warrant a reassessment of the weight we attach to different demographic projections.

For instance, the “Medium” scenario in my Russian demographic model – also the one which I long thought likeliest – involves the assumption that the TFR would converge to about 1.75 (where it has generally been since 2012), with steady convergence in life expectancy to developed world levels, and annual (official) immigrant inflows of 300,000. In this scenario, Russia’s population would actually increase to about 150 million in 2025 and 158 million by 2050 (that’s including Crimea, aka +2 million).

However, if the recent fertility decline is not a one-year blip, and were to instead to continue falling to about 1.50, then Russia’s population would stagnate (this is from before Crimea):

Low (TFR=1.5 from 2010)Population growth starts from 2011, going from 142mn to 143mn by 2023. Then it falls slowly to 138mn by 2050. The birth rate peaks at 12.5 in 2013, falls sharply to 7.8 by 2032, and then remains in the 8-9 range. The death rate troughs at 11.4 in 2032, then rises to 12.9 by 2050. Positive natural increase is never attained.

Not really the demographic apocalypse long promised by the Western media either, but a disappointing outcome nonetheless.

It’s also possible that this will further encourage the kremlins to intensify immigration from Central Asia.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Demographics, Russia 

Probably unintentionally, but still.

The video, subtly titled “Hitler 1945/Navalny 2018,” basically argues that if you oppose Medvedev’s corruption and the importation of infinity Moslems into Russia then you are Hitler.

Its current Dislikes to Likes ratio is at around 10.

According to Navalny himself, the man behind the video is Sergey Kiriyenko, the First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration.

The kremlin connection is probably true.

First, it obviously has a high production value, and has many of the stylistic features of the My Duck’s Vision studio, known for its goofy hyperbolic rhetoric and CGI overkill, which nobody really uses nowadays apart from the kremlins.

Second, the video has been shown to [edit 4/20: as has just been brought to my attention by Alexey Kovalev, they were actually shown another video, about Navalny's involvement in the Kirovles affair (an alleged corruption scandal for which Navalny had been convicted), not the one about how he is Hitler; in his post on the matter, Navalny had implied otherwise, which serves as a good reminder that what Navalny says should be fact checked as well] students of Vladimir State University, some of whom had allegedly been forced to go there as punishment for participating in the protests against corruption on March 26.

After the video, the head of the regional law school’s department for counter extremism outreach amongst youth, one vibrantly named Alla Byba lectures the disgruntled students for their temerity in asking her that she also show some of Navalny’s videos – for example, on how Dmitry Peskov wears watches worth three times his annual salary – in the interests of academic neutrality.

“You all know there that is an information war against the Russian Federation,” she informs the students, “No wonder that terrorist organizations are intensively recruiting across the Internet.”

So the basic takeaway is that as we well know actual terrorists have no religion or nationality, discussing Medvedev’s corruption and opposing infinity Moslems in Moscow makes you an extremist, a supporter of Adolf Hitler, and a member of the sixth-column ala Dugin.

You can hardly find a better way to inflate Navalny’s otherwise very modest approval ratings and smother away his real failings, such as a lack of knowledge about policy.

Indeed, as Egor Prosvirnin argues, calling Navalny a Russian fascist is perhaps the one thing that can save him – because it is evidently false to just about everyone who is not in the over 50, no Internet connection, sub-90 IQ demographic. But by attacking him on the basis of his supposed nationalism, the kremlins may well actually end up forcing Navalny to (re)adopt Russian nationalism. In the current climate, that could well increase Navalny’s popularity by a factor of of two or three, making him a real political threat to the kremlins.

All of which begs Milyukov’s classic question: Is this treason, or stupidity?

Well, judge for yourselves.

Some biographic data on Kiriyenko from the English Wikipedia (no mention of this in the Russian version, incidentally):

Sergei Kiriyenko’s grandfather, Yakov Israitel, made his name as a devoted communist and member of the Cheka, and Vladimir Lenin awarded him with an inscribed pistol for his good service to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Sergei Kiriyenko, son of a Jewish father, was born in Sukhumi, the capital of the Abkhazian ASSR, and grew up in Sochi, in southern Russia. He adopted Ukrainian surname of his mother.

He was also one of the Gaidar’s “young reformers” responsible for the theft-ridden privatizations of the 1990s, and was Prime Minister during the 1998 default. After that, he spent the next seven years in inconsequential posts, until Putin plucked him out of obscurity to head Rosatom, the state nuclear power behemoth.

There have also been rumors in the press (which he denied) that he attended Scientology seminars in his hometown of Nizhny Novgorod.

Speaking of weird quasi-Masonic associations… Kirienko’s direct boss now is Anton Vaino, a descendant of Estonian communists. On becoming head of the Presidential Administration, the Internet quickly discovered his dissertation about the “nooscope,” a theoretical device that tracks “the collective conscience of mankind” thought a system of “spatial scanners” that monitor “changes in the biosphere.”

Many Russians expressed the hope that Vaino had paid someone to write it, because having an academic fraud in a position of power is par for the course in Russia, and far preferable to him being the deranged madman who wrote many dozens of pages about this pseudoscientific nonsense.

Apart from “treason” and “stupidity,” I suppose there is also a 666D chess explanation, a “mnogokhodovka” so to speak. If the kremlins could get nationalists to hop back aboard the Navalny bandwagon – meme Navalny into becoming a Russian Richard Spencer, as one Twitter user just suggested to me – then perhaps the kremlins could use the opportunity to shut down Russian nationalists along with Navalny himself in a future crackdown (for instance, if it coincides with the surrender of Donbass).

However, I don’t think that’s true, because I don’t think the kremlins are any smarter than Trump.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Alexei Navalny, Politics, Russia 

There is a huge amount of misinformation and disinformation about what is and what is not Russian nationalism.

As a ROG agent and evil Russian oppressor, it’s incumbent on me to set the record straight.

sputnik-i-pogrom-big-russia

Sputnik and Pogrom’s vision of “Russia for Russians.”

***

Platform: The 3 Principles

Western commentators love to designate every single frothing at the mouth bearded Russian maniac into the ranks of “Russian nationalists.” Even many Russians whose only sin is to oppose replacing ICBM parades with LGBT parades in Moscow qualify.

In their world of the ROG conspiracy, Putler is the “godfather of extreme nationalism.”

In the world of reality, however, the term “Russian nationalist” has much more precise boundaries and connotations, at least within Russia itself. It can be narrowed down to loyalty to a set of common principles, of which perhaps the three most critical ones are:

  1. The cessation of political prosecutions for “hate speech” under Article 282.
  2. An end to mass immigration from Central Asia.
  3. The regathering of the Russian lands, including Belorussia, North Kazakhstan, Novorossiya, and Malorossiya.

To be sure, just like the Alt Right in the West, we do have our own internal debates and disagreements on all sorts of issues – on Putin, on Navalny, on the Syria adventure, on whether Orthodoxy is part of implicit Russian identity, on whether Pussy Riot should be locked up, on the optimal levels of gun freedoms, even on whether or not some aspects of SJW culture should be accomodated for. It is a wide tent that is open to people from a wide variety of ideological and religious backgrounds, and you do not have to be an ethnic Russian to join in.

But we do not waver on those three big principles. Those who do, such as Anatoly Nesmiyan (El Murid), who in recent months started writing positively of a united Ukraine, get excommunicated.

What Russian nationalism is not about is dismembering Russia, transforming it into “Little Russia” around its old Novgorod heartlands, etc. This misconception centers around the frequently repeated propaganda trope that Russia is a multi-ethnic empire, which Russian ethnic nationalism will break apart. Only political prosecutions of nationalists and infinity Moslems from Central Asia can avert that.

Reality: 81% of the Russian population are ethnic Great Russians, and 83% are Slavs. This is far higher than the percentage of White Americans in the US, but for some reason the US survives just fine without any ethnic minority republics with special privileges. It is also hard to square with the very hardline positions of Russian nationalists on the Ukraine question, which match word for word the publicly stated positions of traditional Russian conservatives such as the anti-Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the political philosopher Ivan Ilyin.

Incidentally, the reincorporation of the lost territories of the triune Russian nation will raise the percentage of Slavs in Russia to close to 90%, making problems with Muslims even less of a consideration.

***

People: Who’s In? Who’s Out?

Russian nationalists do include the following:

  • The “Committee of January 25″ (K25) movement under Igor Strelkov and many of the people who were or are at associated with it, such as Konstantin Krylov and Eduard Limonov. Its US equivalent might be something like Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute.
  • The flagship magazine of Russian nationalism, Egor Prosvirnin’s Sputnik and Pogrom. Its Western equivalents would be higher tier Alt Right publications such as Radix Journal, Counter Currents, and Occidental Observer
  • Possibly Konstantin Malofeev’s Tsargrad TV, especially after Dugin’s recent ouster and replacement with Egor Kholmogorov. That said, it is more conservative than nationalist, with more than a passing resemblance to Breitbart.

Russian nationalists do not include the following:

  • Eurasianists, such as Alexander Dugin, a Warhammer 40k cosplayer who wants to replace Russia with Greater Turkestan.
  • Soviet nationalists, such as Alexander Prokhanov and Sergey Kurginyan, who want to resurrect the Soviet Union and its suppression of Russian identity.
  • Liberal nationalists, such as Alexey Navalny, who want to make Russia into a ZOG colony.
  • Ukrainian nationalists, which is what most liberal nationalists and Neo-Nazis functionally are.
  • Putin personality cultists, such as Nikolay Starikov and the (now defunct) Nashi youth movement.
  • Orthodox fundamentalist nutjobs such as Vsevolod Chaplin, who wants to legalize FGM and to replace Russia with Central Africa.

***

Putin: Putler or Putlet?

Attitudes towards Putin amongst Russian nationalists range from moderate support to outright hatred.

The more conservative and Orthodox elements of Russian nationalism tend to support him, while the more socially liberal, atheist, and/or racialist ones tend to oppose him. The most fervent Putin fans tend to be “patriots” (“putzriots“), they are not Russian nationalists, except in the loosest sense of the word. Their foreign equivalents would be the personality cults that have formed around “strong” charismatic leaders such as Trump and Erdogan.

Realistically speaking, Putin deserves neither the uncritical adulation nor the frothing condemnation of Russian nationalism. As I pointed out in my earlier article on whether or not Putin is “the godfather of extreme nationalism,” Putin is neither /ourguy/ nor (((theirguy))); he is a politician who needs to carry out a complex balancing act between various political-economic blocs and ideological strands in Russian society.

Let’s just briefly consider how Putin stacks up against Navalny and some Western politicians on the Three Principles:

(1) Russian nationalists do get imprisoned for hate speech, sometimes on remarkably spurious and illegitimate grounds. On the other hand, 282 is also wielded against Russophobes and Islamic extremists, which has made the Council of Europe very sad, so the situation here is perhaps not quite as bad as in the more “cucked” European countries. Still, its worth noting that Richard Spencer himself managed to get deported from Orban’s Hungary of all places, so there are few true nirvanas in this respect. Navalny would probably be an improvement on Putin here, assuming he does move to repeal Article 282; many of the Echo of Moscow liberals, who form part of his constituency, are big fans of it, and were instrumental in legislating it in the first place. On the plus side, there is far less political correctness in Russia than in Europe or the US, though this has little-to-nothing to do with Putin per se.

(2) Putin is very weak on immigration, though at least there are considerably fewer Third World immigrants per capita than in the UK, Germany, or Sweden; not exactly a high bar to clear, of course, but it’s still worth keeping in perspective. Navalny would almost certainly be an improvement, at least if he follows through on his platform. Putin is somewhat like American Republicans theorizing that socially conservative Latinos would be a solid support base for conservative politics, except that in Russia, this theory actually “works” – ethnic minority republics and Central Asians vote 90% for United Russia. Putin is also no match for Trump (2016 edition) on this question, though as we have recently seen, the Current Year has brought many unwelcome surprises on the God-Emperor’s true agenda.

(3) While Putin did not realize Russian nationalist aspirations to the extent that many hoped he would in the spring of 2014, it is difficult to imagine any other (viable) politician going as far as he did by bringing back Crimea and helping the LDNR survive. With Navalny, the Donbass will be left to the tender mercies of a vengeful and very Russophobic regime in Kiev, and even the long-term status of the Crimea will be put under question. On the other hand, Putin’s growing fondness for adventures in the Arab world – first Syria; soon, perhaps, Libya – is also a source of concern in some quarters of the Russian nationalist movement, who view it as a way of deflecting attention from the plight of Russia’s co-ethnics in the Donbass.

***

What is to be Done?

The only major political force in Russia that, at least on paper, satisfies all Three Principles is Zhirinovsky’s LDPR. It is against Article 282, against Central Asian immigration, and has a very strong line on Ukraine. However, there are many questions over both its competence and its independence from the Kremlin, so most Russian nationalists vote for it not so much out of ideological considerations as to move the Overton window in the right direction.

Russian nationalism as a political force is in a somewhat ironic situation. Theoretically, a good 80% or so of Russians are “vatniks” (whereas only perhaps 40% of Americans are “deplorables”), and more than half agree to some extent with the implicitly ethnonationalist slogan “Russia for Russians” (which makes half the Russian population either idiots or provocateurs, according to Putin himself). On the other hand, the main demands of Russian nationalism are either accomodated for or subverted by the Kremlin just enough to prevent a strong independent nationalist movement from emerging. For instance, Igor Strelkov, a potential figurehead for such a movement, was blacklisted by the MSM soon after his return from Ukraine.

There is currently no unity on strategy. The bulk of K25 advocates cautious cooperation with the Kremlin. Sputnik and Pogrom is more overtly oppositional. Tsargrad TV are basically regime loyalists who want it to take a harder line on the pursuit of Russian national interests, like America’s Breitbart or China’s Global Times.

My own modest aims are twofold. First, I want to help introduce the Alt Right to Russian nationalists, and vice versa. Second, I am trying to place Russian nationalism on a firmer, more scientific ideological footing, by importing useful concepts developed primarily in the West and applying them to Russian realities, such as IQ/HBD-realism.

Russian nationalism is extremely underdeveloped on these issues, thanks in part to the Soviet “blank slate” legacy, as well as to Eurasianism’s destructive promotion of “traditionalist” obscurantism (Dugin in particular denies the concept of race, period, which perhaps explains why he is so open to Central Asian population replacement). Moreover, to the extent that race is discussed at all amongst Russian nationalists, most of it happens amongst Neo-Nazis who unironically subscribe to Nazi era pseudoscience on the matter. (That said, it’s worth pointing out that European nationalisms aren’t much better. This is not surprising, since something like 80% of psychometrics and evopsych research takes place in the US, while European nationalists obssess over the intellectual miasma that is continental philosophy/Heideggerism).

This is a very sad and very stupid state of affairs – but it also represents some very low-hanging fruit. To this end, I and a couple of my friends here, Kirill Nesterov and @pigdog, have recently started up a podcast to discuss Russian politics from an Alt Right and HBD/IQ-realistic perspective in /pol/’s irreverent and semi-ironic style.

If you understand Russian, or are learning the language, you can check it out at ROGPR.com.

 

navalny-2018

Instead of speculating about what Navalny’s program involves, let’s just look at his website: https://2018.navalny.com/platform/

I summarize the main points and provide some brief comments on each of them:

A Satisfactory Life for All, and Not Riches for the 0.1%

  • Oligarchs that live on reselling oil and resources should pay a windfall tax (as in the UK in 1997).
  • Massively reduce bureaucracy
  • Individual entrepreneurs with small incomes should be freed from taxes, regulations, and accounting requirements.
  • Minimum wage of 25,000 rubles per month. [~$400]
  • Removing construction regulations will hugely decrease housing prices. Subsidize mortgage rates.

This mostly sounds good, since Russia does genuinely have too much bureaucracy and regulations, but Navalny is having his own work out for him. Russia is now 40th in the World Bank’s Ease of Business rankings, sharply up from 112th in 2013 (the first full year of Putin’s third term).

A high minimum wage is a great idea both out of economic justice concerns and to disincentivize low skilled labor migration. Russia’s current minimum wage is entirely symbolic.

The UK’s Windfall Tax produced £4.5, almost pocket change by national standards, so this is probably just a way to legitimize past illegal privatizations under the mask of populism.

Time to Fight Corruption, and Not to Make Peace with Thievery

  • Bureacrats should live in accordance with their salaries. If there’s a mismatch, either they explain it, or they answer it in court.
  • Anti-corruption processes should be public and transparency, not hushed away like with Serdyukov and Vasilieva. [The Defense Minister dismissed for corruption]
  • Transparency in state corporations.
  • If MSM publishes facts about a bureaucrat’s corruption, he should refute them or give up his post and be prosecuted.
  • Uncovering the end owners of all companies that provide goods and services to the state and to state companies.

Navalny claims that even his detractors recognize him as the leading anti-corruption expert in Russia, which gives him the qualifications necessary to root it out.

I agree that if anything will improve under Navalny, it will likely be corruption.

However, there are good reasons doubt it will be the revolutionary change he promises for two reasons. Russia is “naturally” corrupt, like most of the rest of South/Eastern Europe; places like Italy and Hungary remain considerably more “corrupt” than the countries of “core Europe” despite decades of institutional convergence under the EU. This goes back to millennial factors revolving around culture and possibly selection for beyond-kin altruism in core Europe, that didn’t operate so much outside it.

Second, Navalny is not going to be able to pick his cadres from scratch. He will have to draw heavily from the ranks of the liberal elites, and they are only less corrupt than the people currently in power to the extent of their own distance from the feeding trough. Whenever they did have access to power, the likes of Kasyanov, Belykh, Ponamarev, etc., proved adept at translating it into wealth for themselves.

Time to Trust People, and Not to Decide Everything in Moscow

  • All but the smallest decisions are made in Moscow… All of Russia should develop, not just Moscow.
  • More taxes should be kept in local budgets, instead of going to Moscow
  • Local administrations should receive more rights and resources for solving the problems of people “on the ground.”

This is just a mix of things that have already been done and unworkable populism.

Moscow is central to Russia, and is much more developed, primarily because it has by far Russia’s highest concentration of human capital – not because it concentrates resources (it is a massive net donor).

Second, responsibility for education and healthcare has long been largely under the purview of local authorities. In fact, Navalny’s demand that the federal government should be responsible for not only guarding the borders and maintaining order, but also “building roads and hospitals,” would be a move towards centralization. I.e., his rhetoric is not even internally consistent.

Perhaps Navalny means decentralization more in a political sense. This will be a disaster, since Russia has no substantive experience of local self-government devoted to the commonweal. This is a product of Anglo civilization that it spent centuries developing and that has no chance of working in Russia. When local bigwigs acquire too much autonomy, as in the 1990s, corruption and nepotism increase, if anything.

Economic Development, Not Political Isolation

  • Russia should use its unique location between Europe and Asia to become a respectable partner for everyone.
  • The hundreds of billions thrown away on the wars in Syria and Ukraine, and on helping far-off countries, are better spent on improving life at home.
  • Our country would profit from moving politically and economically closer to European countries.
  • Visa regime with Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Labor migrants should come on work visas, and not in an uncontrollable flood, like today.
  • Russia should be the leading country of Europe and Asia, expanding its influence through economic might and cultural expansion, including worldwide support for the Russian language.

Navalny has been consistently strong on immigration, much more so than Putin, if less so than Trump. That said, he does not clarify his stance on illegals currently in Russia, nor even on precisely how many work visas he intends to give out to Uzbeks and Tajiks, nor details on how those long borders would be secured. Nonetheless, apart from his record on corruption, the immigration question is Navalny’s other major ace against Putin, especially now that the recent terrorist attacks in Saint-Petersburg and Astrakhan have brought it out into the limelight.

Navalny’s foreign policy is a trainwreck that will unilaterally any influence Russia still has over Ukraine and rule out the reunification of the Russian nation, the largest divided nation on the planet, most likely forever. This should be read in conjunction with his public statements on holding a second referendum on Crimea’s status. Even though the pro-unification side will undoubtedly win under a fair vote, this will still functionally be a retreat from the Russian government’s position that the incorporation of Crimea is a fait accompli and non-negotiable. With Donbass unilaterally surrendered to the tender mercies of the anti-Russian regime in Kiev, the status of the peninsula will become a leverage point against Russia by a vengeful Ukraine, and possibly even by the West as a whole, if Navalny’s hoped for “reset” with Europe and the US doesn’t pan out.

Navalny’s comments on global economic and soft power are populist nonsense that a quick glance at Russia’s share of global GDP should instantly dispel.

Justice for All, or Impunity for Siloviks

  • Justice reform. Courts must be respected and truly independent.
  • The police should be trusted, not feared; service there should be prestigious and well compensated.
  • Siloviks should be stripped of excessive authority, which allow them to enact levies upon entrepreneurs.

All well and good, though short on details, which we absolutely need to know if we are to assess whether the rate of improvement under Navalny is likely to be higher than under Putin.

For instance, according to the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys, the percentage of Russian firms expected to give gifts in meetings with tax officials fell from 55% in 2002 to 7% by 2012, which hardly hints at soaring silovik banditry that he implies is happening under Putin.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Alexei Navalny, Liberalism, Nationalism, Russia 

margarita-simonyan

In a recent, widely shared Facebook post, Margarita Simonyan, the ethnic Armenian chief editor of RT, has asked what exactly a Kyrgyz national of Uzbek ethnicity did to get Russian citizenship while ethnic Russians from the wartorn Donbass struggle to even get a residency permit:

The nurse of my children and her family, whom we evacuated from Donbass after having massed a vast thicket of queues, insults, delays, examinations, etc., can’t acquire a Russian residency permit after three years. This is despite my “administrative resource,” which, I freely admit, in this particular case I freely used. This family are simply Russian people with a Russian mentality, language, faith, biographies, and connection to the Motherland. Hard-working people who would be of GREAT USE to our country where, as is well known, there is a demographic crisis and a shortage of people. Fuck them, no residence permit! But here comes Akbarzhon Jalilov, who received Russian citizenship five years ago. CITIZENSHIP!

I have two questions in this regard:

1) Who, and under what circumstances, provided this citizenship. Perhaps at the time he was just a nice schoolboy, who had solid reasons for getting citizenship in my country. Or perhaps not, especially on account of consequent events. I don’t want to judge without first knowing all the details. But I do want an answer.

2) For how long will Russia continue to be embarassed to give citizenship to Russian people just on account of them being ethnic Russians. Like how it is done in “respectable” countries from Israel to Germany. I don’t understand.

This note of protest is especially striking in light of the fact that Margarita Simonyan is the quintessential Putinist Russian patriot, and as such, an object of loathing from the pro-Western liberal opposition, who simply hate Russia and Russians, to the more extreme Russian ethnonationalists, who hate her for her Armenian ancestry and for her status as a “stalwart of the regime.”

Putin once called Russians – specifically, ethnic Russians – the “biggest divided nation in the world.” But the time has come for back up his words with actions. He can now either take the side of the Russian people, or double down on the friendship of peoples project that will eventually lead to either Navalny or Greater Turkestan.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Immigration, Nationalism, Russia, Russophobes 

It’s like the CIA/Mossad/Illuminati-financed Takfiri mercenaries, otherwise known as radical Islamists amongst sane people, have embarked on a marketing campaign in favor of a visa regime with Central Asia.

A group of Islamists ambushed a pair of Russian policemen doing a routine vehicle check on a minibus in Astrakhan oblast. Eight men of apparent Kazakh ethnicity, including the driver who participated in the conspiracy, are wanted.

I would note that Kazakhs are some of the most secular Muslims around, not just by global standards, but even by Central Asian ones. They don’t have a reputation for terrorism. Yet here, in a Russian oblast where they make up just 7% of the population according to official statistics – that translates to about 70,000 Kazakhs – it has emerged that there’s not just one “lone wolf” terrorist amongst them, but a cell of at least eight.

Note that this comes the day after the Saint-Petersburg terrorist attack, where the starring role was played by a Kyrgyz national of Uzbek ethnicity with a Russian Federation passport. It also comes several weeks after an attack by North Caucasus militants on a National Guard base, which left six soldiers dead.

A couple of days ago, I was planning to write a data-heavy article about how Navalny doesn’t have any chance. Too unpopular, too much of a Ukrainian nationalist, etc. I’ll still write it, but I will now have to preface it with a cautionary note. Since Navalny is a longtime proponent of visa regime with Central Asia, which contrasts with Putin’s support of Central Asian enrichment, this is something that he can really play up now (if his liberal sponsors allow him to, anyway).

Just consider the recent train of events. In the past month, thanks in large part to Navalny’s efforts, Medvedev’s relative reputation for probity has been destroyed. Now, Putin’s reputation for ending Islamic terrorism is also increasingly under question.

This is all very, very good for Navalny. I still think Navalny’s prospects in this electoral cycle are very slim, but I don’t now exclude the possibility of the Kremlin “clever planning” themselves into a serious crisis. Nothing is beyond those “geniuses.”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Terrorism 

In an infamous 2008 article, Alexander Dugin makes the distinction between “patriotic corruption” and “comprador corruption,” or “Eurasian corruption” and “Atlanticist corruption.”

Here are the main features of “Eurasian” (patriotic) corruption:

  • Doesn’t damage Russia’s national security;
  • Concentrates the proceeds of corruption on Russian territory, or that of allied or strategically important countries;
  • Doesn’t put the corruptioneers in a state of dependency on Russia’s enemies;
  • Do not try to legitimize themselves through political lobbying and establish themselves as social norms.

And the main features of “Atlanticist” (comprador) corruption:

  • Damages Russia’s national interests;
  • Concentrates the proceeds of corruption outside Russia, in offshore havens and in countries hostile to Russia;
  • Makes the corruptioneer susceptible to blackmail from the governments and intelligence agencies of foreign Powers;
  • Attempts to create and empower lobbying structures, such as NGOs and political parties, that could legitimize the positions of Atlanticist corruptioneers in society.

Now okay, this distinction between “patriotic” and “comprador” corruption is trivially fun to make fun of. It is almost self-parodying. It is easy to ridicule whoever is making this argument, regardless of whether or not he benefits from said corruption. Dugin was endlessly ridiculed for it (even though there are no end of other, far more legitimate ways to make fun of him, such as his opposition to Hawking’s physics). No doubt I will be ridiculed for this post.

But for all that, Dugin is not wrong.

If large-scale corruption has to exist – and we know that for most countries outside North/West Europe, it must – it is doubtless better for corruptioneers to invest in their own society, like the American robber barons did in the 19th century and which the Chinese elite mostly do today, than to stash it away abroad, as was typical for Russia in the “roving bandits” era of the 1990s, when Yeltsin’s “family” was ferrying away assets in London and Switzerland like there was no tomorrow.

And the recent revelations about the network of charitable fronts that sustain Medvedev’s property empire prove that at least Russia’s political elites have embraced “patriotic” corruption.

Consider the following:

1. Of Medvedev’s $1.2 billion empire, a good 90% of investments are in Russia itself. And the 10% that is abroad – the Tuscan villa and vineyard – is in Italy, a country that does not have any particular animus towards Russia, unlike the favorite bolthole of corrupt Russian elites, Londongrad. In the 1990s, these ratios would have likely been the inverse.

2. As “stationary bandits” with some degree of interest in preserving the value of their holdings, the Russian ruling clique has a common interest in regulating corruption. Those who overstep the bounds of what is permissible, e.g. by practicing “compador” corruption, such as United Russia MP Vladimir Pekhtin with his Florida waterfront condo; or who end up stealing far too much for their station, such as the former head of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin and former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, are quietly dismissed. The question of whether or not Medvedev overstepped his station is now on the cards, with the systemic opposition in the Duma, such Fair Russia’s Sergey Mironov, calling on Medvedev to answer the questions raised by Navalny’s investigation.

3. The properties in question do not directly belong to Medvedev, not even to his direct relatives, but to an opaque network of charitable foundations credited with interest free loans by Russian state banks. And since what is given can be withdrawn, and – most critically – not on the whims of Western lawmakers (who in practice only target corrupt Russians who do not serve Western geopolitical interests), but on that of the dozen or so security men around Putin who rule Russia. To be sure, those “silovarchs” like to enjoy la dolce vita themselves, but at least they are not compradors themselves, i.e. they are more loyal to Russian national interests than to foreign ones.

4. “Patriotic” corruption, relative to “comprador” corruption, is closer to how political corruption tends to operate even in Western countries such as the United States. It’s an open secret that the Clinton Foundation has very little to do with charity, and a lot more to do with currying favor with one of America’s most powerful political dynasties. One critical difference, of course, is that it is not American state banks (hence, taxpayers) providing the financing, but private actors, companies, and foreign governments that expect to get some return on their investments. Now on the one hand, personally financing the lavish lifestyle of your elites is more directly insulting. On the other hand, having the likes of George Soros and Saudi Arabia do it for you is perhaps not an altogether superior alternative.

5. To end on an especially whimsical note: Although Navalny in his video criticizes Medvedev for owning Russian vineyards while also pushing for lower excise taxes on wine, one cannot judge him too harshly for it, since it would be a great boon for public health in Russia for alcohol consumption to shift from vodka to wine. To be sure, Medvedev – or rather, the charitable funds who finance the properties and vineyards he occasionally stays at – monetarily benefits from that, but then so does the life expectancy of Russians. Perhaps former Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin, one of Putin’s few confidantes who still enjoy respectability in the West, is personally less corrupt than Medvedev, but he has also gone on record calling for Russians to smoke more to benefit the Treasury; his fiscally hard-headed lack of concern for the social good was one of the reasons why he fell out with, and was eventually sacked by, Medvedev. Which of these two would be the better choice as PM for the average Russian? It is not clear that it would be Kudrin.

Well, that’s my strained defense of Russia’s corrupt thieving elites out of the way. They should pay me for the PR, or something.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Corruption, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia 

moscow-protest-tverskaya-ak

As one of the world’s leading activists against the Putin regime, I had no choice but to show up on Tverskaya Street today, to fight for your freedom and mine.

As expected, turnout wasn’t particularly high. Although the area around the Pushkin Monument was crowded, it only extended to half a block in every direction. The regime loyalist I was with estimated there were about 5,000 protesters. A guy with a Ukrainian flag lapel badge whom I asked for his opinion said 10,000. Taking the average estimate from supporters and detractors was a good strategy for estimating crowd size in 2011-12, and coincidentally enough, the resulting figure of 7,500 coincided exactly with the police estimate of 7,000-8,000 protesters. This is not altogether bad, thought quite insubstantial in a city of 12 million.

To be sure, this was an unsanctioned protest, and as I pointed out earlier, a lot of the risk-averse office plankton who form the bulk of Navalny’s support don’t turn up to such protests. They don’t want to run the risk of getting arrested, not when it could impact on their employment. Still, this is about 3x fewer participants than in the last big protest of the 2012 wave, which was also unsanctioned, the farcical “March of the Millions” of May 6 to which about 25,000 turned up.

With the lack of office workers in the crowd, the demographics were heavily tilted towards young people and university students, though there were quite a few older people with that Soviet intelligentsia look.

Definitely lots of Euromaidan supporters – apart from Ukrainian flag lapel badge guy, there was another man, who had the look of a protest veteran about him, who regaled a small crowd with tales of his adventures fighting the police in Khabarovsk, in Kiev in 2014, and afterwards, in Kharkov (the local police there was hostile, and they had to wait it out long enough for them to get reinforcements from Poltava and further west; putting things together, he was one of the people who helped preempt the formation of a Kharkov People’s Republic). However, the Ukrainophilia wasn’t quite as noticeable as in Ekaterinburg, where the crowd chanted, “He who doesn’t jump is Dimon” (a riff on “he who doesn’t jump is a Moskal,” a rallying cry for the “Glory to Ukraine” crowd).

(Incidentally, this is one reason of many as to why the protests in Russia are unlikely to amount to much – the Ukrainians, at least, advanced into bullets for their own nationalism during Euromaidan; in contrast, the pro-Ukrainian Russians at these protests are “cucking” for someone else’s nationalism. Come to think of it, trolling the protesters by shouting “Glory to Russia” at the next protest might be a good idea).

There were also, as expected, plenty of journalists. Most of them were local media; I observed a couple from the opposition TV channel Dozhd, as well as a group from some state TV company. Incidentally, contrary to some reports, the protest was covered in the Russian state media, both in Russian and English. There did not seem to be many foreign journalists (perhaps its too early in the political season for that). However, one of them, The Guardian’s Alec Luhn, did manage to get himself arrested and charged with an administration violation, which he understandably complained about. On the other hand, such “heavy-handedness is hardly exclusive to Russia (e.g. six RT journalists were charged for covering violence at Trump’s inauguration).

About 30 minutes after the announced start of the march, the police and the OMON started arresting people, darting into the crowds and hauling people off into the waiting police buses. Navalny was also arrested, not having even made it as far as the Pushkin Momument, let alone the Kremlin that was his destination.

The arrests were for the most part non-violent, though there were several hundreds of them, and one policemen was hospitalized for a traumatic head injury following a kick to the head from a protester.

While I’m myself rather indifferent to arrest – as a committed NEET, I have no need to worry about any repercussions on my employment or education prospects, and if anything it would provide me with nice new content – I certainly don’t want my first arrest in Russia to happen at a fucking Navalny demo of all places, so I began skulking away as soon as the arrests started. I spent the next couple of hours drinking at a bar with my regime loyalist friend.

Towards the evening, I returned to Pushkin Square. It was much less crowded now, though there were still throngs of people discussing the days’ events, with the police swooping down on them every so often to enquire as to whether they were protesting, and ensuing philosophical debates between them and the police about the semantics of group discussion versus group protest, and the precise point at which the former transitioned into the latter.

I descended into the Metro.

***

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• Category: Ideology • Tags: Color Revolution, Moscow, Russia, The AK 

The basics on Denis Voronenkov: Communist MP. Bombastically patriotic. He led the way on highly needed and necessary legislation, such as a ban on Pokemon Go, and often waxed lyrical about the “patriotic” and “non-materialistic” values instilled on him by his Komsomol education.

This patriotism and lack of materialism expressed itself in the form of a $5 million apartment in the center of Moscow, a small fleet of luxury cars, a celebrity opera singer wife, and the respect of his fellow Kremlin elites. Current head of the SVR Sergey Naryshkin sang at his wedding to Untied Russia deputy Maksakova, which the Duma hailed as its “first interfactional wedding.”

He acquired his riches by selling favors to businessmen in return for promises of official access, and there’s not entirely incredible allegations that he ordered a contract killing (on a businessman who claimed that he had reneged on one of those promises).

However, at some point he crossed the wrong people, and there were rumors that an investigation would be started up when his parliamentary immunity was to run out in December 2016.

What’s a Russian communist patriot who finds himself the subject of criminal proceedings to do?

To flee to the UkSSR, of course, where he is warmly welcomed into the Maidan elites, including accelerated citizenship (in contrast, the Russian useful idiots who went to fight for the Revolution of Dignity and a future for white children have long since been thrown to the winds; many have struggled to even get a residency permit).

There, he goes from fighting Pokemon Go in Russia to calling Russia a latter-day Nazi Germany.

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In December 2016, soon after settling down in Kiev, he gloated: “First the downed fighter pilot. Now the Russian ambassador. Who’s next?”

Why, you:

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Who did it?

To be sure, Russian special forces are one; it’s not exactly a secret that intelligence services have a special hatred for traitors. Voronenkov was not only a politician, but had once worked in the Federal Drug Control Service, which was once a full-fledged “silovik” institution until it was dissolved and merged into the Interior Ministry in 2016. Not only was he a traitor, but he was also an outspoken one – in his last interview, published just today, he claimed that someone who understood the FSB, like himself, could simply “walk away” from them. That was essentially taunting them to get him.

That said, this was a very sloppy hit by Russian intelligence service standards.

I don’t think Poroshenko & Co. had anything to do with it. He was pretty useless – in the end, he was a lowly Duma deputy, and as such not privy to any of the real decision-making processes – but his chequered history hardly makes a great face as a democratic martyr done in by ROG.

It could also have been a banal falling out with his new “business partners” in Ukraine. Crime has risen since 2014, and the likelihood of such disputes being resolved through guns, not paperwork, is now higher.

That said, there is a good chance he was killed by genuine Ukrainian nationalists. They hate Poroshenko, and they cannot be very happy about the red carpet treatment rolled out for someone who not only supported but helped enable Crimea’s incorporation into Russia.

According to the latest reports, his killer – who has just died in hospital – was an ATO veteran and a member of the National Guard. Now yes, its possible that Russian intelligence services outsourced the assassination. But Occam’s Razor suggests that it was just a case of excessive svidomism.

In which case, just today: Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the hero.

PS. Since this story is such a succinct metaphor for everything wrong with everything – with the Russian elites, the Ukrainian elites, the Western media, and the Ukrainian nationalist yahoos who so conveniently insist on shooting their own country in the foot so regularly – that there will definitely soon be a longer post on this. First, though, a couple of minor technical issues with the blog software need to be fixed.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Assassinations, Elites, Russia, Svidomy, Ukraine 
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.