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ryzhenko-zontik

Pavel Ryzhenko (2008): Umbrella.

The latest in our series of translations of Russian national-conservative intellectual Egor Kholmogorov, as promised.

In his latest article, published at Vzglyad, Kholmogorov demolishes twelve myths about the Bolshevik revolution, using a recent article by the Russian novelist Zakhar Prilepin as a foil. Why Prilepin? Who is he, anyway? You won’t find many mentions of him in the Western media, like you would of Vladimir Sorokin, Lyudmila Ulitskaya, or Dzerzhinsky admirer turned maniac Russophobe Svetlana Alexievich – writers that take a “handshakeworthy” anti-Russian stance. However, Zakhar Prilepin enjoys far more popular acclaim within Russia itself than any of those third rate entities – the only modern Russian literary authors comparable to him in eminence are Boris Akunin (historical mystery), Viktor Pelevin (satire), and Sergey Lukyanenko (sci-fi).

Part of the reason is Prilepin’s background. He has nothing to do with the Moscow intellentsia; he is the quintessential Russian redneck. Worked as a laborer, a security guard, and with the OMON riot police. Chechnya vet. Went into journalism in the 2000s, but found his true calling in artistic literature: Writing socially critical novels, typically about life in the Russian podunks (he himself hails from the rustbelt city of Nizhny Novgorod). Worst of all, he is a vatnik, a Communist (a National Bolshevik, to be precise), and a Donbass supporter. Most definitely not handshakeworthy – especially since he doesn’t exactly keep his politics on a backburner. Prilepin is also Chief Editor of Svobodnaya Pressa, an intelligent online journal and media success story that enjoys 15 million monthly visits (they even once translated one of my articles). He also pals around with DNR bigwigs and has even gathered a batallion for the War in the Donbass, though its more PR spectable than anything else.

As one of Russia’s leading “patriotic”/vatnik intellectuals, and one of the most authoritatative spokespersons for what Russian Neo-Stalinists actually think, a point by point critique of Prilepin’s apologia for the Bolshevik Revolution has value beyond just another recitation of Bolshevik crimes and hypocrisy (of which there is no shortage of anyway). Moreover, even if you substantively or wholly disagree with Egor Kholmogorov’s critique, I hope that this translation will at least help you get a better picture of the actual state of the debate about the Soviet legacy amongst normal Russians, beyond the banal (not to mention 90% wrong) Western representation of it as a binary struggle between a Stalinophile Kremlin and pro-Western liberals.

Translated by: Anatoly Karlin (intro to #5) and Fluctuarius Argenteus (#6-12).

Original: https://vz.ru/columns/2017/11/8/894324.html

***

Twelve Myths of the Bolshevik Revolution: A Conservative Refutation

The defense of Lenin and the Bolshevik regime in Zakhar Prilepin’s recent article is so representative of the genre that one can barely leave it uncommeted.

The Great October Revolution lies in ruins on its centenary. The essence of its defeat lies in that even the modest apologists for Bolshevism hardly ever cite their actual programs, slogans, and values. Nobody knows says that the Revolution opened the path to socialism and Communism all over the world, nobody expresses joy over the collapse of the bourgeoisie and the Tsar’s henchmen, and their replacement by a workers’ state. Nobody says that the light of atheism shone through the darkness of clerical obscurantism, nobody insists that the Bolseviks gave the land to the peasants, the factories to the workers, and peace to the people.

The justification of the October Revolution, of Bolshevism, and of Soviet power – in short, the entirety of Red apologetics – now occurs from within patriotic, nationalist, conspirological, populist, and even Christian Orthodox frameworks, all of which were mostly or entirely antithetical to the Communist value system itself. In practice, this consists of sophistic manipulations of Hegel’s “Cunning of Reason.” That is, the Bolsheviks wanted one thing, but something entirely different happened in reality, and it is actually this unconscious benefit which constitutes the real blessing of the revolution.

This form of apologetics was invented as early as the 1920s by the National Bolsheviks, from Ustryalov – who viewed Lenin as a patriot and a great stateman, and the Whites as agents of foreign powers in the form of the Entente – to Klyuev – who saw the Bolsheviks as liberators of the more authentic, pre-Petrine, “Kerzhen” Russia. But the value of all these apologetics was most poignantly demonstrated by the execution (Ustryalov, Klyuev) or imprisonment (Karsavin, Savitsky, Shulgin) of everyone who glorified Bolshevism through prisms other than Marxism-Leninism. Sure, the Bolsheviks were not averse to using smenovekhovstvo – the White emigres pushing for conciliation with the Soviet regime – for their own purposes, but they most assuredly did not subscribe to their vision of their historical mission as patriots, regatherers of the Russian lands, and custodians of the Russian state.

Why do people still bother with Red apologetics today?

Partly, on account of inflexibility. Russia in the 1990s was infested by ghouls, screeching that they had freed us from Lenin, the Communists, and the revolutionary heritage – which quietly freeing us of the contents of our pockets. And since this looting occured under the banner of anticommunism, it is no surprise that pro-Soviet discourse grew popular, since it, at least, did not brook this mass looting.

For all intents and purposes, Red apologetics was an apologetics for a social state; for public property, that had been created by the common labor of the Soviet people; for the Army, cosmonautics, the military-industrial complex, the Navy, the research centers, and so forth. And this was logical.

To my shame, there was a period, when I myself, despite never having imbibed the Leninist spirit, partook of similar activities. The most popular aspect of these apologetics was the Stalinist one – yes, the Revolution may have been horrific, but then came along Stalin and set everything right again…

But this train has passed. Russian society now faces new challenges, in which the political canonization of Bolshevism, Leninism, and Stalinism are not the friends, but the enemies, of our future.

And yet the Red people are still stuck in their polemics about Gaidar and Chubais. For instance, take the issue of creeping separatism in Tatarstan. It is impossible to solve it from a neo-Soviet position, because it was Lenin who created the Tatar ASSR and accomodated the Sultan-Galievs. The Ukraine, which demolished all its Lenin monuments, was his beloved child. In reality, regardless of which question we consider, appeals to the Soviet experience are block brakes on our future progress. It is either a false alternative to the liberal solution, or it is the liberal solution. Therefore, it is of no surprise that we are hearing increasingly Bolshevik overtones in the rhetoric of our liberal cliques, for example, in the matter of anti-clericalism. The Zyuganov era of traditionalist-friendly Communism is coming to its inevitable end, and is becoming displaced by a new era of Communist liberalism, which is hostile to the Russian traditional values that are held in equal contempt by both liberals and conventional Communists. [1]

It is precisely this form of apologetics that was advanced by Zakhar Prilepin in his recent article 12 Points about the Revolution and the Civil War. His defense of Lenin and the Bolshevik order is so representative that the urge to deconstruct it is irresistable, so that is what we shall do, point by consecutive point.

1. The Bolsheviks did not overthrow the Tsar – they overthrew the liberal-Westernist Provisional Government.

The Bolsheviks were the most categorical supporters of overthrowing the autocracy amongst all the Russian opposition parties. They excluded the possibility of keeping the monarchy even in a purely constitutional form; they were the most consistent republicans.

The Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party considers its immediate political task to be the overview of Tsarist autocracy and its replacement by a democratic republic,” read the program of the RSDRP accepted at its 2nd Congress, the very one where Lenin’s supporters constituted the majority, and henceforth came to be known as the Bolsheviks.

The Bolsheviks didn’t play a major role in the overthrow of the monarchy only because the party was still very weak as of February 1917.

But they more than compensated for this through their murder of the royal family, which, besides the innate abhorrence of the murder of the children and the servants, constituted the true overthrow of the Russian monarchy. As many historians and legal theorists have pointed out, the abdictation of Nicholas II in March 1917 was legally null and reversible, whereas death was final.

2. Prilepin, arguing that the Civil War between Whites and Reds was started by the Februarists (Kornilov, Alekseyev, Savinkov), poses this rhetorical question: “Do those who oppose Lenin and the Bolsheviks really believe that Russia would have been better off in the 20th century if it was governed by liberals, revolutionaries with a penchant for terrorism, and generals who broke their vows”?

Unfortunately, the majority of our readers are still not sufficiently familiar with the history of the anti-Bolshevik resistance, and might therefore be inclined to agree with this assertion. But that doesn’t make it correct.

The leaders, the real icons of the White movement – generals Drozdovsky, Markov, Kappel, Yudenich, Kutepov – were convinced monarchists. The only consistent republican amongst the leadership was Denikin. The position of Admiral Kolchak remains unclear.

The rest in one way or another expressed support for monarchy. Moreover, despite the dissatisfaction of Entente emissaries, the White movements continuously moved rightwards throughout the years of the Civil War towards a more definite monarchism, culminating in a Zemsky Sobor in Vladivostok in 1922.

General Kornilov: “I was never against the monarchy… I am a Cossack. A true Cossack cannot be anything but a monarchist.

General Alekseyev: “In the course of time Russia has to move towards a restoration of monarchy.

General Wrangel: “The Tsar must appear only when the Bolsheviks are vanquished.

Even the republican Denikin admitted that half of his Army consisted of monarchists.

But to honestly answer the question of whether it would have been better for Russia to be ruled by liberals, retired Social Revolutionary pyromaniacs, and turncoat generals in the 20th century, it is merely sufficient to pose the following questions:

“Would Savinkov, the terrorist Social Revolutionary, have implemented general collectivization, dekulakization, and the expulsion of people whose lands and property had been seized, into areas of permafrost, where they died of hunger?”

“Would Kornilov, the general who betrayed the monarchy, has created a system of concentration camps covering the entire country, where people would have been sent for telling a joke about himself, or for stealing a sheaf of wheat from one of Savinkov’s collective farms?”

“Would Kerensky, that undoubted leftist scoundrel, have issued orders blocking relief to the famine-stricken oblasts of Malorossiya, the Kuban, and the Volga, and instead barred their denizens from leaving the disaster zones?”

“Would Denikin, the republican, have signed off on lists of hundreds of names to be executed and approved the requests of local secret police HQs to raise the shooting quotas?”

“Would Milyukov, unrivalled in his liberal vulgarity, have closed churches, shot monks, priests, bishops, and hole fools, tear off crosses from children’s necks and open up holy relics for “examination”?”

An honest answer to these questions demonstrates how even a regime of incredibly odious Februarists was still far preferable to Bolshevik tyranny. Even the most authoritarian right-wing regimes are incomparable to leftist totalitarians in the scale of their repressions and destruction. Pinochet is not Pol Pot.

Furthermore, we can see why even the Februarists were preferable to Communist power by the example of the 1990s. In those years, the new Februarists encountered fierce political, ideological, and sometimes violent resistance from the national-patriotic forces. In the end, before a single decade passed, and Russian February ended, voluntarily surrending power to Putin, who began the process of state rebuilding. Why would the 1920s have been any different?

3. “Supporters of the idea that the Revolution was financed by German and British money should try to explain, first, whether they actually obtained the advantages they sought; and second, identify the goals that both pursued by intervening against Soviet Russia, if the Bolsheviks were indeed their agents.

Nobody ever suspected the Bolsheviks of acting in the interests of the Entente. It is the Februarists, overthrown by the Bolsheviks, who were probably English agents, whereas Lenin and his colleagues are, not without justification, seen as German agents.

There were no even minimally significant clashes between the Bolsheviks and the German Army, which occupied a large portion of Russia under the Brest Peace. Lenin and his government was absolutely loyal to Germany up to the last day of the Hohenzollern monarchy, with tremendous benefits to the German war effort – a large part of the Army was freed from the Eastern Front and hurled west instead, helped along by food supplies from the Ukraine.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Lenin was most scrupulous about keeping his side of the German contract, up to and including pressuring even his own party to ratify the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It is sufficient to recall that on March 1, 1918 the Bolsheviks matter of factly surrendered Kiev, liberated from the Petlyurites on February 8 as a result of a workers’ uprising.

The enduring nature of the Bolshevik-German alliance is testified to by its quick resurrection under Germany’s new republican rulers, despite them having suppressed all attempts to seize power by Moscow-backed Cominternists.

4. “When discussing the exile of part of the aristocracy from Russia, and its replacement by “cooks and bandits,” as some of us say, it is worth recalling, that Lenin, too, was a noble, as were many of the most prominent Bolshevik figures and leaders of the party” [there follows a discussion of the noble descent of Lenin, Ordzhonikidze, Mayakovsky, and even the Chekist, Gleb Bokii].

There is nothing new about some members of the aristocracy defecting to anti-aristocratic movements. One can cite many other historical examples, from Pericles in Ancient Athens to Philippe I, Duke of Orléans.

The list of names mentioned by Prilepin himself show that the numbers of noblemen amongst the leaders of the Bolsheviks was negligibly small (especially when your exclude Polish nobles such as Dzerzhinsky, who hated everything Russian and were considered revolutionaries a priori in the Russian Empire).

Moreover, the degree of Lenin’s noble stock shouldn’t be exaggerated; his father, Ilya Ulyanov, was the son of a petty bourgeois, and only acquired the rank permitting him to pass on his noble status seven years after Vladimir’s birth.

Relations between the Bolsheviks and the nobility was determined not by individual relationships, but by the political philosophy of Bolshevism, the essence of which was class war – and the nobility, just like the priesthood, the bourgeioisie, and well-to-do peasants peasants were seen as class enemies, destined for destruction.

5. “75,000 former Tsarist officers served in the Red Army (62,000 of whom were of noble origin), whereas the Whites only attracted 35,000 of the 150,000 officer corps of the Russian Empire.

Prilepin’s numbers are an arbitrary fiction concocted by the Soviet researcher Alexander Kavtaradze in the book Military Specialists in the Service of the Soviet Republic 1917-1920. His speculations were refuted in Sergey Volkov’s ground-breaking research manuscript The Tragedy of the Russian Officers.

Kavtaradze arbitrarily sums up completely different categories, such as:

1. The 8,000 officers who voluntarily signed up with the Bolsheviks to participate in the “curtain forces” shielding Russia from German forces in the spring of 1918. These were men who wanted to continue fighting the German enemy, but were betrayed by the Bolsheviks, and subsequently, a signifcant number of them left the Red Army, or even joined up with the Whites.

2. The 48,000 former officers conscripted into the Red Army from 1918-2020, often coercively.

3. The 14,000 imprisoned White officers, who entered the Red Army to save their own life. These former officers constituted around a quarter to a third of the command of the Red Army, but their percentage steadily declined, since the Bolsheviks didn’t trust the Tsarist military experts.

It also a manipulation to put the numbers of the officers corps of the Russian Empire at 150,000. That was the number of officers in the active Army, whereas the numbers given as serving the Bolsheviks included all officers, regardless of where they were in 1918 – in the rear, in hospital, etc. According to Volkov’s calculations, the size of the Russian officer corps was 276,000 at the end of 1917. Consequently, less than a quarter of all Russian officers ended up serving the Reds.

For comparison, there were 170,000 officers who took part in the White movement, of whom 55,000 died in the Civil War, and a similar number of whom ended up in the emigration.

So you still want to talk about how the cooks and bandits deceived and defeated the wonderful, blue-blooded Russian nobles, who didn’t at all renege on their oaths to the Emperor?” asks Prilepin.

The quality of the officers who went to the Bolsheviks should be discussed separately.

The Russian Army command could be separated into two main groups by 1917.

The first group were the cadre officers of the Imperial Army, like Roschin in The Road to Calvary by Alexey Tolstoy. This category was seriously depleted by the war, especially in its early stages, which predetermined the discipline crisis in the Imperial Army.

The second group constituted officers produced by the exingencies of wartime, such as the poet Nikolay Gumilev and Alexander Blok, Telegin from the aforementioned Road to Calvary, the notorious ensign Nikolay Krylenko, etc. These people were, essentially, ordinary intellectuals in epaulettes, neither from military families nor possessing serious military training.

General Gurko spoke with distain about the “clerks and bathhouse attendants” turned officers. A significant part of them, ensigns, didn’t differ much from ordinary soldiers, and from the civilians, whose ranks they had recently withdrawn from. The vast majority of Red officers came from this group, while cadre officers constituted no more than 6% of the command.

Wikipedia currently lists 385 Tsarist generals who served in the Red Army. For comparison, there were close to 4,000 generals in the Imperial Russian Army in 1916, and even more by the end of 1917. No more than 10% of the generals went on to serve in the Red Army.

There were practically no top-level commanders from the First World War; for the most part they were either staff generals (Mikhnevich, Manikovsky, Zayonchkovsky), or dashing colonels, who got their high ranks in the war. Even more telling is that the Bolsheviks did not entrust these generals with indepenent command, instead using them more as as specialist consultants, and surrounding them with commissars. One rare exception was major-general Vladimir Olderogge, who finished off Kolchak’s army in Siberia in 1919.

However, the ultimate fate of most of the Tsarist generals and officers who went to serve the Bolsheviks is even more germane.

They were destroyed in 1931 in the Vesna case, fabricated by the OGPU. A total of 3,000 people were arrested, and many of them – including the aforementioned Olderogge – were shot. In 1937-38, those who had hitherto received only prison sentences were also shot: The great military theorist Svechin, generals Sytin, Verkhovsky, Morozov…

Consequently, we come to the following conclusion: Either the Soviets inducted enemies into the Red Army, who served it insincerely; or the Bolsheviks deliberately destroyed the officers and generals who believed them and chose to serve them out of their love for the Motherland.

6. “The Civil War was unleashed by the Whites…

The first event of the Civil War in Russia was the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd and Moscow that included such acts as the shelling of the Kremlin – that is, an usurpation of power.

Apparently, the author assumes that all citizens of the former Russian Empire had to accept the usurpation simply because some Congress of the Soviets in the capital proclaimed the transfer of power to something called the Sovnarkom.
If every usurper has the right to unconditional submission, then Major Prilepin is out of place in the Donetsk People’s Republic military. By his own logic, they are typical mutineers who failed to accept the self-proclaimed régime in Kiev and “unleashed” a war by refusing to submit to Maidan usurpers.

Fourteen (14!) foreign countries intervened in the Civil War – and, in this situation, blaming its victims on Bolshevism alone is utter hogwash.

Painting the Bolsheviks as Russia’s defenders against intervention is an old propaganda stunt.

The Entente intervention sought to contain the consequences of their largest ally’s withdrawal from the Great War, then in full swing, and the signing of a separate peace treaty by its usurper government.

Neither Britain nor France nor the US sought to annex a part of Russian territory or overthrow the Bolsheviks by military force (however successful those attempts could have been), and lent a very scanty aid to the anti-Bolshevik resistance while being very assertive in demanding gold in exchange for said aid.

In Spring 1919, the Entente decided to completely cease all military intervention in the Russian Civil War. None of the different “interventions” ever posed any credible threat to the Bolshevik régime.

7. “The first pieces of legislation adopted by the Bolsheviks after their rise to power had nothing repressive in their nature. The Bolsheviks came as unprecedented idealists, liberators of the people, and democrats in the best sense of the word”.

On October 27th (November 9th New Style), the Soviets promulgated the Decree of the Press, its fourth decree up to that date.

It justified and introduced criteria for a repressive crackdown on all “bourgeois” press outlets by the Sovnarkom. They were three in total: calling for “a n open resistance or disobedience to the Government of Workers and Peasants” (i.e., when a legitimate government refuses to defer to usurpers); attempts at “fomenting dissent via grossly obvious perversions of fact” (i.e., any information the Bolsheviks deemed unfavorable to their cause); and calling for “acts of patently criminal or felonious nature” (i.e., given that no Penal Code existed at the moment, acts of any nature the Sovnarkom didn’t like).

Over November and December, the preaching of violence in Soviet acts intensified: confiscation of private printing presses and reserves of paper (November 17th, this and the following dates New Style); state monopoly on public notices (November 20th); demands for arrest and trial “by the revolutionary court of the people” for anyone deemed “harmful to the people’s cause” (November 18th); explicit ban on direct and intermediary negotiations with the “leaders of the counterrevolutionary insurrection” (December 8th); arrest warrant for the leadership of Constitutional Democrats branded as the “party of the enemies of the people” (December 11th).
So much for “democrats in the best sense of the word”.

8. “Faced with an impeding collapse of the Empire collapsing and separatist movements at its fringes, the Bolsheviks immediately shifted their tactics and rapidly reassembled the Empire, only permanently losing Finland and Poland, whose being a part of Russia is even now seen as irrelevant and superfluous anyway. The Bolsheviks have done nothing to merit the title of “wreckers of the Empire” – even if they called their offensive campaigns “internationalist”, their result was a traditional Russian territorial expansion.

The Bolshevik Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, eulogized by Prilepin, explicitly allows for a “right of nations within Russia to free self-determination, including seceding and creating an independent state.

It turns out that Bolsheviks were typical hypocrites – when different nations actually tried to use the rights they were entitled to, they immediately “shifted their tactics” and turned to “territorial expansion”. Seems very familiar in the light of how the Bolsheviks treated all other human rights.

And, of course, the Bolsheviks did not expand to any territory in the end.

By the time the Civil War ended in the Russian Far East, they had lost the Baltics, Western Ukraine, and Western Belarus, ceded to Poland by the Riga peace treaty, as well as Bessarabia, annexed by Romania. Stalin took all of this back in 1939, no thanks to Bolshevism but thanks to World War II and a deal with Hitler (and none of this, save several districts transferred from Estonia and Latvia, was added to the territory of Soviet Russia proper).

The territory that got misplaced on the road to Communism included even the Uriankhai Krai (now the Tuva Republic), only reintegrated in 1944. Permanent losses included regions of Western Armenia ceded by 1921 Moscow and Kars treaties to “our friend Kemal”: Kars, many times washed by the blood of Russian soldiers, and Mount Ararat.

After recognising Finland’s independence, Lenin, in a gesture of largesse, gave up Vyborg, conquered by Peter the Great from the Swedes.
In 1940, Vyborg returned to Russia only thanks to Marshal Mannerheim. His obstinate resistance to Soviet forces caused Stalin to abandon plans for a puppet Democratic Republic of Finland led by Otto Kuusinen. Instead of signing a treaty with the puppet state, voluntarily ceding a good half of Karelia and drawing the border south of Vyborg, the Soviet Union was forced to sign a full-fledged peace treaty with harsh conditions.

The Soviets did exactly zilch in terms of expanding Russian territory until the very capture of Lvov during Stalin’s “liberation campaign” against Poland. However, Lvov would have become a part of the Russian Empire anyway had the Tsar not been deposed. Under Stalin, Lvov became a poisoned gift that contaminated the Ukraine with the most radical strain of nationalism.

9. “Point one: there’s no Tsar. Point two: there are only White generals who are mostly okay with divvying up the country. And there are Bolsheviks who are against this divvying up.

Eulogizing about Leninist national and territorial policy is a particularly arduous affair for Prilepin. He resorts to parroting the Liberal thesis of “all empires are bound to collapse” and appealing to a treaty between Britain and France regarding the “partition of zones of influence in Russia”.

Let’s start with an outright hoax. The Whites were fighting for a united and indivisible Russia. This was the chief slogan and the main goal of the White movement. Gens. Kolchak, Denikin, and Wrangel alike were adamantly against recognizing any separatist statelets that had sprung up in the territory of the Russian Empire.

As has been said, treating a British-French agreement signed on December 23rd 1917 and establishing zones of responsibility of Entente powers in the South of Russia, with the Great War still ongoing, as a “partition of Russia between Britain and France”, is entirely baseless.

The author may fulminate against the idea of Bolshevism as the culprit that had planted the bomb under Russian territorial unity as much as he wishes to. But nothing can be done to disprove the fact that the Bolsheviks established a “Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic” in 1925, rechristened the Kazakh Republic in 1925, its capital until that year having been Orenburg. Such was the revenge of the Bolsheviks against the Orenburg Cossack Host for their resistance. That Russian city having been transferred away from Kazakhstan and back to Russia is nothing short of a miracle. Many other parts of Southern Siberia were much less lucky.

The Soviets, everywhere they could reach, created republics with a right to autonomy and secession, created “titular ethnicities” [2], granted them development funds, constructed their histories and gave them Latin-based writing systems (something reattempted by Nursultan Nazarbayev with much fanfare). [3] Terry Martin’s study The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 is a terrific analysis of this process.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky, the founding father of Ukrainian separatism, came to enact in his capacity as President of the Ukrainian Soviet Academy of Sciences more than he ever could dream of as President of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, – turning millions of Little Russian peasants into “Ukrainians”.

Ukrainization was a central policy of the Soviets in 1920s – 1930s and never ceased completely in later eras. Indeed, Stalin did dampen those processes somewhat (even though he upgraded Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Karelia-Finland from autonomies to full-fledged Soviet republics, the latter fortunately abolished by Khrushchev), but they never stopped for the entirety of the Soviet régime.

Finally, the artificial borders chartered by Communists exploded in 1991 thanks to Liberals.

Who is to blame for falling to the ground – the one who laboriously sawed the chair’s legs or the one who carelessly parked his rear end on its seat?

10. “They say Patriarch Tikhon anathematized the Bolsheviks, and that’s why one cannot support them. But neither did he bless or endorse the White movement.

The Patriarch did not anathematize the Bolsheviks, only those who enacted cruel persecutions against the Church and Orthodox Christians, those who murdered priests, robbed churches, stripped decorations from icons, desecrated holy vessels, and so on.

However, he did censure Bolsheviks proper in his epistle dated October 13th (26th) 1918, and his words are a dreadful argument against Prilepin himself:

Our great Motherland is conquered, diminished, and dismembered, and, as a tribute imposed upon her, you secretly send to Germany the gold that doesn’t belong to you.

No one feels safe anymore. Everyone lives in constant fear of searches, robbery, eviction, arrest, and execution. Innocents are taken by the hundred, tortured in prisons for months, often put to death with no trial or jury, even an expedited trial that you introduced.

The executions affect not only those guilty before you in some way but even those who are patently blameless but taken as “hostages”. Those unfortunates are murdered as a revenge for crimes enacted by people who not only don’t have opinions similar to theirs but also support you or have convictions comparable to yours.

First, under the name of “bourgeoisie”, you robbed well-to-do people; then, under the name of “kulaks”, you turned to robbing richer and more diligent peasants, thus multiplying poverty, even though you must realize that, by ruining a great multitude of individual citizens, you destroy public wealth and lead the entire country to destitution.

In this context, it seems that the point of whether the Patriarch, taken hostage by the Bolsheviks and subject to constant mortal danger, supported the Whites or not is moot.

11. “The Bolsheviks nationalized the industries, harming the interests of large-scale capitalists by siding with those of the laborers. The class most interested in the Civil War were, metaphorically speaking, the Russian Forbes 500…

The identity of the laborers that the Bolsheviks sided with is rather unclear. Were they factory workers doomed to several years of devastation, famine, and non-functional plants? Or peasants, anguishing from the terror of Prodrazvyorstka and Kombeds [4] and later rising up in the Tambov rebellion [5] (and many others), suffocated with chemical weapons?

When the “exploiters” were in charge, Russian economy grew by 8% a year; it took the Soviets more than a decade to reach its 1913 levels.

Regarding the “Russian Forbes 500”: with the exception of Russia’s richest man Nikolay Vtorov, murdered in 1918 in Moscow under suspicious circumstances, the others emigrated and saw the twilight of their years in Paris or Monaco. In the 1920s, Mikhail Tereshchenko’s 127-meter yacht, the Iolanthe, was the world’s largest yacht afloat.

Meanwhile, the living standards of the proletariat liberated from the yoke of capitalists and Tsarist social legislation was graphically described by poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, the chief panegyrist of Bolshevism: “Workers sitting in the dark, munching on damp bread.”

This was all peanuts compared to what came next: a system of forced labor, the main know-how of Stalinist industrialisation. Having no means of concentrating enough capital to fulfil his 5-year plan, Comrade Stalin found an elegant solution – dumping the costs of the other industrial factor, labor itself, to near zero.

For the first time in history, the world saw a modern industrialisation based on slave labor. The Bolsheviks were successful in annihilating private capital. The state remained the sole capitalist. And it was the state, not individual businessmen, who conducted negotiations with workers, with the barrel of an NKVD pistol as its ultima ratio.

While their comrades in both Europe and America successfully campaigned for better wages and welfare and formed the system of the social state, Russian workers spent decades in slave-like conditions and deemed themselves lucky if they weren’t converted from slaves of the 5-year plan to bondsmen of the Gulag.

12. “The main victor of the Civil War was the Russian people. The Russian Revolution of November 7th 1917 is an achievement, a victory, and a tragedy of the Russian nation. It is fully responsible for it, and has every right to be proud of this momentous achievement that changed the course of world history.

I won’t contest that the Russian people emerged victorious from the Civil War. If many, all too many Russians hadn’t thrown their lot with Bolshevism, either actively or by submission, no Latvian riflemen or Chinese volunteers could have led Lenin and his gang to victory.

The Russians, however, won a victory over themselves and their kin who dared to side with honor, God’s truth, and a tormented Fatherland, the united and indivisible Russia. This victory led all who kowtowed before Bolshevism to decades of poverty, terror, slavery, and Kafkaesque everyday life. Their only daily consolation was the hope of suffering for the greater good, a Grand Project.

No one reminded those people that only recently Tsarist Russia had completed one of the most astounding projects in the history of mankind, the transcontinental Trans-Siberian railway. It was achieved with no waste or exhaustion, no payment of tens of thousand of human lives for an infrastructural breakthrough.

Every human community, including the Russians, has a basic set of values and goals. Spiritual: spreading its worldview and faith, bolstering its national character and original creativity in national culture. Material: increasing the welfare of the nation and expanding their numbers. (Geo)political: increasing its national habitat and the security of its borders.

The Russians failed to achieve any of those goals over the 20th century as a direct consequence of the Bolshevik coup.

The Russian Orthodox Church endured a most savage persecution that put it on the brink of extinction. The originality of Russian culture was forcibly erased, having just reached its fin de siècle apex. Russians were subjected to decades of horrific poverty, terror, and famine, falling into a demographic abyss of enormous proportions.

The Bolshevik period ended with a rapid contraction of Russian borders, a reduction of Russian habitat, and our people turned, even within Russia itself, into second-grade citizens.

If this passes as a victory, then our goal is not to triumph over ourselves in this fashion once again.

Translator’s Notes

[1] This entire paragraph does not appear in the Vzglyad text, but did appear in Kholmogorov’s original draft. I considered it too good not to translate and publish anyway. – AK

[2] A semi-official term for ethnic groups whose name coincided with the name of an autonomy of a full-fledged republic in both the USSR and modern Russia (even though they weren’t/aren’t necessarily the most populous ethnicity), e.g. Kazakhs in Kazakhstan, Ukrainians in the Ukraine, Bashkirs in Bashkortostan, etc. Most of the time, the “titular” ethnicity was/is given the largest leeway possible by the central Soviet/Russian government.

[3] Reference to a recent decree of the Kazakh President proclaiming the shift the Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic- to Latin-based , to be completed by 2025.

[4] The Prodrazvyorstka was a Soviet policy of forceful grain confiscation, formally reimbursed with a nominal fee much lower than the market price, leading to mass pauperization of peasants and famine. Kombeds (Poor Peasants’ Committees) were organs of Soviet power in rural settlements, mostly charged with enacting said policy.

[5] A 1920-21 peasant insurrection in the Volga region caused by mass grain requisitions and other forms of Soviet-sanctioned abuse, leaving more than 200,000 civilians dead. Often claimed as the first documented use of chemical weapons in internal conflict.

 
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unsolved-socialism-problem

The latest in our series of translations of Russian national-conservative thinker Egor Kholmogorov.

Translated by: Fluctuarius Argenteus; slightly edited by AK.

Original: http://zavtra.ru/blogs/pravoslavnyij-sotsializm

***

Socialism Not Dead: Paradoxes of an Unsolved Problem

It may seem strange that, at the turn of the 21st century, the word “Socialism” is back in the popular political idiom. The final decade of the preceding century seemed to have been the time of its complete (and, so it would seem, irreversible) annihilation.

Soviet-style “Real Socialism” ended in a pathetic disgrace, striking its colors at the sight of a sausage pointed at its heart. Who would have thought that churning out missiles, dams, and factories wouldn’t be enough to sustain a planned economy based on communal property? It was also necessary to grant the Socialist people access to consumer goods at least remotely comparable to those available under Capitalism; otherwise, falling behind not only in living standards but also in technology became inevitable. Soviet Socialism collapsed under the weight of this contradiction, while China enacted reforms so deep that, while looking at Chinese billionaires, one can’t help but wonder whether it’s still Socialism or a “Red Capitalist” oligarchy of the Chinese Communist Party – quite probably no worse than any other oligarchy in history.

Meanwhile, the Capitalist world with its triumphant Liberalism seemed to have scored a doubtless moral victory. Not only did it outpace Socialism, it completely consumed it. All more or less sensible Socialist ideas were incorporated into the structure of the “welfare state”, leaving “Real Socialism” with such dubious achievements as complete socialization of property or pedantic ideological censorship. Socialism appeared to have been entirely devoured and digested by a Capitalism that had reached in this struggle a new stage in its historical evolution.

A quarter of a century after this victory over Socialism, the foundations of the global Liberal order are more and more visibly shaken. Within the US Democratic party, Hillary Clinton’s Liberalism, oriented at racial and sexual minorities, has been challenged by “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders who is cajoling White American workers into rising against the 1%, the Wall Street loan sharks. Socialist? US Presidential candidate? Early 21st century? It seems patently absurd. Meanwhile across the pond, the Labour party in the UK eschewed fine-looking bureaucrats in favour of Jeremy Corbyn, a Socialist, an anti-militarist, and general diehard Leftist. One of his first acts as leader of the Shadow Cabinet was creating a committee for a new economic policy, including such anti-inequality fighters as Thomas Piketty and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz.

All of a sudden, we not only see a ressurection of Socialism in two of the leading countries of the Capitalist world, but positioning itself as a powerful political political alternative to the dominant Liberal mainstream. If we take into account that this mainstream is also under attack by right-wing populism of the likes of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen (the program of the latter replete with anti-Capitalist and anti-Globalist vocabulary), the Liberal “end of history” seems to have ended quite rapidly. If this wave hasn’t reached us yet, it is only because both our Liberalism and our Capitalism are quite peculiar, and our political system doesn’t operate under Western-style rules. However, one cannot completely shut oneself off from a revolution of ideas, and it seems likely we will soon hear the march of a new Socialism here in Russia.

What is the cause of this 2010s Socialist re-revolution? The return of economic conditions that had caused the heyday of Socialism in the 19th century and were drastically changed in the 20th. The driving force of the Socialism of two centuries ago was a contradiction between the ideals of civil liberty and equality brought about by the French Revolution and the Enlightenment, and an absolute economic inequality typical of ancien régime Europe. The latter became more prominent and intolerable at the start of the Industrial Revolution, when hundreds of thousands of proletarians became concentrated in the stench and stuffiness of the working-class suburbs of developed countries.

Liberalism was faced with a monstrous and insoluble contradiction: why, after declaring human rights and liberties in thought and politics, giving equal rights to all social strata and doing away with the feudal ladder of estates, should it remain the guardian of a gap between wealth and misery, the protector of economic inequality? The situation of defending equality in the sphere of ideas, less important for most of the people, and championing inequality in the sphere of the stomach, of much greater everyday importance, seemed entirely ridiculous.

Excuses invented for explaining why some people are poor and some rich pushed those who considered this to be an injustice to certain solutions. “Private property is inviolable, you have no right to infringe upon it, therefore, you dare not touch the wealth of others,” said the wealth apologists. “It simply means that property is theft, and it must be destroyed or redistributed to close the gap between wealth and poverty,” replied the champions of the poor. “Liberty is not the equality of results but that of opportunities. We should be equal at square one, and then let each one gain according to his energy and talents,” said the wealth apologists. “Then we should socialize the work effort, and then we’ll have a common result: From each other according to their ability, to each other according to their needs. Also, let’s create truly equal opportunities, because the prospect of equal chances for millionaires and have-nots is a bald-faced lie,” replied the champions of the poor.

The ideas, methods, and moral high ground of the Socialism of yesteryear stemmed from a European yearning for equality, described by Alexis de Tocqueville, and the angst caused by the monstrous material inequality in the Europe in an age when the gaps between wealth and poverty were insurmountable. These gaps are the subject of a spirited dialogue between a young Rastignac and a cynical, conniving Vautrin in Honoré de Balzac’s Le Père Goriot. Vautrin explains to Rastignac, then a young idealist, that his chances of making good money thanks to learning, personal qualities, and industriousness are equal to zero. The only way of winning a fortune is getting it from somebody who already has it, by way of inheritance or marriage. The only way of becoming rich is being rich.

The world that spawned most Socialist theories, especially those of Saint-Simon, Proudhon, and Marx, was not a liberal world of free competition and equal opportunity. It was a polarized world devoid of a middle class: the 1% of haves and the 99% of have-nots.

What did this mean in practice? All talk of alleged opportunity in life granted by a Liberal version of Capitalism seemed naught but a myth. Big money was a magnet that attracted even bigger money. The lion’s share of national income, regardless of the pace of its growth, was distributed in the same proportion that was fixed in the structure of national capital. Simply put, those who controlled the majority of wealth gained the majority of income while making little to no effort.

America was the sole exception, with a lower concentration of wealth and a higher share of income distributed through free competition. Hence the image of the USA as a Promised Land, a land of opportunity, a magnet for migration. A good way of making money in Europe was moving to America (with the possibility of returning to the Old World with newfound wealth in tow left open).

No industrial growth, no Socialist attacks on the government or the bourgeoisie could change anything in the structure of this world until the start of World War I. This explains the revolutionary character of European socialism and the borderline utopian radicalism of its proposed solutions: Total socialization of industry, expropriation of the ruling classes, dictatorship of the proletariat, dreams of a World Revolution.

piketty-capital-income-ratio-europe

Source: Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty. Not part of Kholmogorov’s article.

This World Revolution did come to pass – but it started not in 1917, but in 1914. As brilliantly demonstrated by Thomas Piketty in Capital in the 21st Century, the Great War kickstarted a default of old European wealth. The horrors of war, the collapse of world trade, the Russian Revolution with its devastation and expropriation of the wealthy classes, the defeat and hyperinflation in Germany and Austria, the demographic crisis and budget deficit in the UK and France, the impeding dismantlement of colonialism – all of this led to a catastrophic decline in capital concentration in Europe.

piketty-russia-inequality-history

Source: From Soviets to Oligarchs: Inequality and Property in Russia 1905-2016 by Filip Novokmet, Thomas Piketty, and Gabriel Zucman (2017). Not part of Kholmogorov’s article.

The revolutionary role of Russia, whose bourgeoisie was sacrificed at the altar of transformation, consisted not so much in socializing property and launching the Socialist experiment as in crashing the world rent. The enormous Russian debt that had fed millions of rentiers all over Europe turned into dust in the blink of an eye and doomed the rentier civilisation to extinction.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, the level of capital concentration in the world capitalist system continued its decline. Contributing factors included the Great Depression that had finally made its way to America, the devastation of World War II, the post-war wave of nationalisations, and tax deductions for national reconstruction. The ratio of capital to national income fell from 6:1 under the old regime to 2:1, i.e. the entirety of concentrated capital (be it in the form of real estate, shares, or foreign assets) became equal to only two years’ worth of national income.

What were the socioeconomic consequences of this Great Default? The grip of Capital loosened, its magnetic effect wasn’t as far-reaching, and the problem of economic equality was tackled within the framework of global Capitalism, without employing the radical recipes of fin de siècle Socialism. More precisely, those radical recipes were relegated to countries that were lagging behind in industrial development, such as Russia and China. The main goal of this radicalism was a wilful, determined achievement of an industrial breakthrough. Socialism in so-called Socialist countries was most concerned with productivity and not wealth redistribution.

Western countries, however, having no need for a “great leap forward”, were able to afford the luxury of a “Socialism sans Socialism”. Social Democracy, Christian Socialism, Swedish Socialism, Social Reformism all followed the same model. Without abolishing private property as such, without creating a dictatorship of Leftist parties, by limiting themselves to a selective nationalisation, they achieved economic equality by fostering a system of high wages and a well-developed social sphere, ushering in the welfare state. Essentially, it was a huge Ponzi scheme organized according to Keynesian precepts: The state took away a sizable portion of incomes via taxation in order to redistribute this money, also as income but under a more egalitarian distribution.

This was the zeitgeist of the treinte glorieuses of 1945-1975, when all Western governments followed, with slight variations, a single socioeconomic policy targeted at bringing social inequality as far down as possible, raising national income redistributed as salaries to the detriment of rents, dividends, etc., and widening the social responsibilities of the state. It was the age of a rising middle class, the 40% that follow the 10%-strong strata of the wealthy; this class laid claim to 30-40% of national wealth as opposed to just 5% before World War I. The 50% of the poor were stuck with the same 5% as before, but at least they gained a much greater chance of breaking out of poverty by dint of education, good work, entrepreneurial spirit and general savvy.

The social lifts seemed to be working. A peculiar anthem of the era is Chuck Berry’s tongue-in-cheek 1964 song You Never Can Tell, the accompaniment to John Travolta’s and Uma Thurman’s wild gyrating in Pulp Fiction. It’s the story of a young Black couple from New Orleans that makes decent money, buys a house, mail-order furniture, a fridge, a phonograph, even a used jalopy… New capital growth was slow but steady, not in the form of rent or foreign bonds but mostly as real estate, shares and equity.

The most positive Soviet-era memories of those who were impacted by the system are based on largely the same processes, just disguised with red banners and “Glory to the Communist Party” posters. The income levels of Soviet workers were incommensurably lower, as was the quality of consumer goods offered by the market (it took a long time to realise that the Western market of the era was just a mechanism for redistributing wealth that was gained through not entirely market-based means). However, the Soviet system was infinitely more helpful with regards to restoring and accumulating… capital. It was even explicitly called “capital construction.” Most Soviet citizens were granted, entirely free of charge, real estate that was worth many years of individual income and still commands an impressive market price. And so construction proceededly rapidly apace to build the cosy, even slightly bourgeois world of 1970s Soviet comedies.

The Socialist system, like that of the West, followed the route of reconstructive capitalism. Meanwhile, Socialism as an idea gradually fell out of favor over the 20th century as its main raison d’être, inequality, disappeared. The semi-Socialist policies of Western countries created a perfect model village of Capitalism: Low inequality levels, broad opportunities, intensive social lifts, high levels of welfare, a wide availability of consumer goods thanks to a developed and flexible market. All of it seemed like a brilliant alternative to Socialist experiments: Socializing not wealth, not industry, but revenue, redistributing it so that everyone could decide where to spend it within a wide spectrum of options.

An ideal world of freedom and equality finally seemed to be within grasping distance. It also had a place for racial and gender equality, the 1960s becoming a triumph for equal rights activists of all stripes. At the same time, Socialism was quagmired in internal antagonism, the total control of the state eroding all freedom and neutering the enjoyment and variety of everyday life.

piketty-top-income-tax-rates

Source: Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty. Not part of Kholmogorov’s article.

However, the economic developments of the treinte glorieuses were the gravedigger for both Soviet Socialism and Western Welfare Capitalism. They signed their own death warrants themselves. A natural accumulation of capital was underway, via saving a part of income in the West or direct capital giveaways by the state in the USSR. But a feature of capital is that it “magnetizes” and draws income. The owner of capital tends to rent-oriented, not work-orientated, behavior. This “capitalist” wants to gain interest and rent, to make his capital inheritable, to pay the lowest taxes he can, and thoroughly despises the have-nots whose claims to a share of his income seem to him most outrageous.

The late 1970s saw the rise of a new Capitalism with many faces, from British Thatcherism to US Reaganomics to the waves of privatization that swept away the Soviet system and its socialist economy. It was a massive uprising of capital that wanted back its right to extract revenue and spend it on itself without sharing with society. Just like the pendulum swinging towards Socialism in the early 20th century, its return towards pure Capitalism at the end of the century was most pronounced and most socially destructive in Russia. A savage, dog-eat-dog oligarchic Capitalism that took sway in the country freed itself from practically all burden of social responsibility. It was a tyranny of wealth limited only by the garrotte in the hands of thugs, be they mafia racketeers or bureaucrat raiders.

However, it would be unreasonable to claim that the nature of the processes that transpired in those decades was drastically different in Russia, Europe, and the US. It was a time of large predatory fortunes, scams and profiteering, social polarization, and growing inequality everywhere. Americans and Western Europeans, accustomed to slogans of “equal opportunity,” suddenly once again found themselves in the era of Rastignac, when the only way to get rich – was to be rich. Also, the very notion of wealth had changed: It was no longer a reasonable, comfortable prosperity, but a blatant, tacky luxury.

In The Price of Inequality, Stiglitz describes the behavior of modern American business as “rent-oriented.” Nobody wants to improve real economic indices, nobody wants to make money, everybody wants to live as a rentier off unfounded bonuses, “golden parachutes,” and other forms of self-financing so common in American corporations. Is it that different from Gazprom cleaning women?[1]

At the other end is the growth of inflamed poverty: according to Stiglitz, the life expectancy of US White men with no college education is plummeting at the rate of 1990s Russia. Over the last 15 years, everyone and their mother have talked about the “death of the middle class.” Piketty projects that at the current rate of increasing inequality, Europe will return to 19th century levels by 2050: 10% of the population will own 80% of capital, and 60% of all income.

The society built by the global anti-Capitalist uprising of the early 1900s is becoming a thing of the past, as is faith in market-based self-regulation of Capitalism, allegedly evolved enough to solve social issues. It turns out that self-regulation played no part whatsoever, and the growth of economic equality occurred due to a catastrophe that had wiped out the “old money,” paving way for a unique Social-Capitalist system. Conversely, growing capital concentration, seemingly normal for a self-regulating capitalism, simply reproduces inequality.

A Neo-Socialism is the natural response of a society that enshrines equality to the emergence of a new inequality. Will it be different from classic Socialism? It will be, and rather strongly so.

Destruction of private property and socialization of the means of production proved to be a rather dubious road to Socialism. In practice, they only led to the creation of a new class – the nomenklatura, a decline in individual initiative, logistic and planning errors leading to shortages and even famines. And, in the long run, they failed to prevent the restoration of Capitalism in its most savage incarnation. In addition, small-scale private property continued to develop even if when it all private property was nominally abolished.

The utopia of complete socialization is opposed by the following fact: As material progress unfolds, a human being demands more, not less space for individual existence and self-expression. The ideal of a normal human, as it turns out, is his own house, not an army barracks. Collectivism invariably leads to a tyranny of mediocrity and dooms the societies that adopt it to backwardness in scientific-technical development.

Under these conditions, Neo-Socialism presupposes, above all, the socialization of income and prohibitive measures on capital concentration. The world of future Socialism is a world where all offshores are annihilated and each and every fatcat is subjected to high income and property taxes, with inheritance laws hampering the transfer of super-wealth. This nullifies the magnetic effect of large capital, and most of income is redistributed as wages in the context of free labor and a free market. From an instrument of optimizing income, the market turns into an instrument of optimizing expenditure.

Here, however, the New Socialism faces several classic pitfalls, already singled out by Joseph Schumpeter in the mid-20th century. The impossibility of super-wealth, limiting unfair and imperfect competition, monopolism, and profiteering lead to the waning of that very entrepreneurial spirit that nurtures the Capitalist economy. There will a dearth of those interested in starting a new business to beat all competitors and make a nice buck. And, needless to say, an “inventor and innovator” certificate[2] is a feeble substitute for super-incomes.

The only remedy to entrepreneurial crisis within Neo-Socialism could be a change in business philosophy: Stop chasing big money and instead take pride in the individuality of your business, its attractiveness and social relevance. This, however, only works for small and middle-sized businesses, while bigger enterprises require investments (including non-returnable ones) and risks so enormous that a small-time businessman can only afford it if he is aiming for a super-income. An alternative is a planned, state-run innovation policy, a “Communism of ideas” that will be of dubious long-term efficacy.

A society that guarantees a relative equality of income would be doomed to low economic growth. However, it is precisely the form of economic growth stabilization – especially within the core of the Capitalist system – envisioned by Neo-Socialist economists, Piketty above all.

Another question inevitably brought forward by Neo-Socialism is its relations with globalization. In a Neo-Liberal world, globalization is a world market system that forces the expenses of wealthy and developed countries on the poor and undeveloped by creating “common markets” that stifle economic development. They confine poor countries to the lower stages of technological chains while keeping the rights to ideas and the final product in the hands of developed countries. This is exactly the principle of the Transatlantic and Trans-Pacific Partnerships, modern attempts to cement the eternal commercial dominance of the US.[3]

An alternative to this economic globalism is economic Nationalism; the greater the drop in economic growth and surge in inequality, the more that will it be visible. Countries with independent industrial potential and inner market resources will isolate themselves from the rest of the world as much as they are able to, from imports to economic immigrants, in order to maintain their development level despite in spite and at the expense of others.

This Nationalist alternative is seen as the greater threat to the Neo-Socialist project. Its defenders keep putting a lot of effort into criticising Nationalist and Protectionist ideas and rallying to the defence of Smithian dogmas of “relative advantage” that lead to international division of labor and creation of common markets.

Nevertheless, preserving global markets under a Neo-Socialist policy would require a serious “leveling of fortunes” everywhere on the planet. Wealthy countries, much like wealthy people, would be compelled to spend most of their wealth to improve the living standards of the poor up to a certain “golden mean.” According to modern GDP per capita statistics, it would be represented by the living standards of a Turkey or a Mexico – probably even lower in reality, because rich countries create much of their GDP and national income by virtue of being rich. Were they to be more modest in their lifestyle, much of their national product simply wouldn’t be produced.

Is it possible to downgrade the living standards of rich countries and prop up the poor ones to even slightly reduce global inequality? One may well doubt this, especially considering that for most of humanity, it is the quality of life in the developed countries that really matters, not the tyranny of averages. Everyone in the world dreams of a Lexus, not a Zaporozhets.[4]

And now we re-encounter a fundamental contradiction within the Socialist dream. It is inspired by a global historical trend towards equality and social justice, but the justice in question turns out to be a tyranny of mediocrity, the erasure of extremes of arrogant wealth and abject poverty. But how is the value of this justice comparable with the imperative of development that presupposes certain extremes? To move forward, one must desire to be the best, which is impossible without a certain, sufficiently wide score chart – even if it comes at the expense of others.

Combining the values of justice and equality with the values of development is a task yet unsolved by the New Socialism.

***

Notes

[1] Allusion to a news item at around the time of this article’s writing featuring a woman employed as a cleaner in the Gazprom office who had reported the theft of her Christian Dior handbag worth $26K.

[2] Allusion to the Soviet practice of rewarding technical and industrial innovators with honorary diplomas and certificates, as opposed to patent rights or other, more substantial awards.

[3] A cheap rear-wheel-drive supermini mass-produced in the USSR (and then, briefly, in independent Ukraine) in 1958-1994 that became a byword for shoddy, uncomfortable, and breakage-prone cars in (post-)Soviet culture.

[4] On January 23, 2017, the US announced its withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific trade agreement.

***

Translator’s Note

The article was written in April 2016 and reflects the political and economic situation of the era.

 
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The conventional view of nationalism is that it was a product of mass literacy and the modern state, underpinned by schoolbooks and Tombs of the Unknown Soldier. Recent years have seen challenges to this historiographic consensus at both a general level (e.g. Azar Gat’s Nations), and with respect to specific peoples (Robert Tomb’s recent The English and Their History comes to mind).

Our latest translation of Russian conservative intellectual Egor Kholmogorov is more than just a Russian contribution to this debate. It makes the much more radical argument that not only was Russia not a laggard in the process of nation-building, as European historiography has long claimed, but was at the very forefront of this process for longer than a millennium, from Novgorod’s implicit devotion to the Russian commonweal in the 13th century to Russia’s defense of a “Europe of Fatherlands” against the globalist tide of national annihilation today.


russian-mammoths

Mammoths and Patriots on the Russian Plain

A Brief History of Russian National Sentiment

by Egor Kholmogorov

Translated by Fluctuarius Argenteus

Original: https://um.plus/2016/04/09/rossiya-rodina-mamontov-i-patriotov/

Sometimes I hear that saying “patriotism as a national idea” is akin to saying that water is wet. However, this argument comes from people with a very superficial understanding of how difficult it is to be patriot given that, unlike a comfortable cosmopolitanism, patriotism is the path of struggle. Also, they fail to realize how important the contribution of Russia and Russian culture is to shaping the very phenomenon of a patriotic consciousness in the modern world. The Russians developed patriotism as a national idea far earlier than most European nations. And it is Russia that keeps its faith in a “Europe of Fatherlands” or a “World of Fatherlands” in today’s age of identity erasure.

“Russia is the Motherland of elephants.” This zinger, coined as a mockery of Russian patriotism[1], is, however, entirely true, with a slight correction: Russia is the Motherland of mammoths. It is thanks to the hunt of those majestic beasts that the first humans on the Russian Plain, then half-concealed by the Great Glacier, created a culture highly developed for its time. Nowadays, archaeologists even speak of a “mammoth hunter civilization.”

Indeed, even nowadays the remains of long-term housing built out of mammoth ivory, exhibited at the museum of Kostenki village, Voronezh Oblast, are no less amazing than some stone ruins from Oriental or European antiquity. Overall, it seems that the mammoth joke is on the jokers.

With the same minor correction, one can claim that Russia is the Motherland of patriotism. Of course, patriotism is a word of Latin roots, also hearkening back to Greek. Of course, the cult of pride for one’s country, its history and its heroes, was developed in Greece and Rome, and new European nations learned this art from the ancients (for example, Old Rus’ via Byzantium).

But there are different kinds of patriotism. “The thrust of the Greek notion of freedom was directed at their closest neighbors: being free meant not being dependent on them”, as noted by Robert Wipper (1859 – 1954), one of our foremost Classical scholars. Only two or three times out of the entirety of Hellenic history the Greeks showed a capacity for working together and for a Pan-Hellenic patriotism, but even 300 Spartans, defending a bottleneck that led to the heart of Greece, believed they were fighting for “Laconic law.” The Greeks saw Hellas not as a common home country but as a common space for competing hometowns, peaceful if possible (at the Olympic Games).

Roman patriotism was more similar to ours. It was a not solely urban but also imperial patriotism, that of a city turned superpower. The history of a city that defended its freedom from foreign invaders and domestic tyrants, vanquished all of its neighbors, and transformed into a worldwide Empire formed the archetype of a patriotic myth for future generations.

The Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg houses a sculpture by Vasily Demut-Malinovsky (1776 – 1846) named The Russian Scaevola. A very Classical-looking Russian peasant with an axe is chopping off his arm bearing a brand of the letter N, meaning “Napoleon.” This patriotic legend was born as an imitation of a celebrated Roman historical myth. A young Roman patrician named Gaius Mucius, nicknamed Scaevola (“Left-Handed”), attempted to assassinate Porsenna, the Etruscan king. When he was caught and subjected to torture, he placed his right hand on a brazier and endured the pain until it became completely charred. Porcenna, terrified by the Roman’s defiant fortitude, sued for peace with his city.

However, it was the city that formed the nucleus of Roman patriotism. If Russia truly were “Muscovy”, if Moscow had been seen as a creator of a new world and not as a unifier of Russian lands, then we could have developed a Roman-styled urban patriotism.

But Russian patriotism existed long before the rise of Moscow, and had at its forefront not the City, but the Land. Russian patriotic consciousness is the oldest national consciousness among European peoples. There is no France yet, only a “Western Frankia.” There is no Germany yet, just the Holy Roman Empire, which would only have the “of the Germanic nation” appended to its name in 1512. England, only recently under the rule of Danish kings and separated into territories of Danelaw and Saxon Law, has fallen under the sway of new conquerors, the haughty Normans marked by both Frankish arrogance and Norse ruthlessness. Meanwhile, a Russian chronicler is already penning the title of his work containing the question: “From whence came the Russian Land?”[2]

150 years before that, Russian envoys already come to Constantinople bearing the words, “We are of Russian kindred”, and they come, as the chronicle puts it, “from the great Russian prince, and all other princes, and all people of the Russian land.” The oldest historical document mentioning the Russians, the Annales Bertiniani from the year 838, already contains this “Russian kindred” formula (id est gentem suam, Rhos vocari dicebant). The chronicler still remembers the differences between Polans, Drevlians, and Vyatichi[3], he knows that Russian princes united Varangians and Slavs, but the unity of this society named “Rus’” seems to him indisputable and beyond all doubt. The first Russian chronicler deliberately constructs the image of Russian history as that of a unified people creating a unified country and subject to a unified authority. The same is discussed by Hilarion of Kiev (11th century) in his Sermon on Law and Grace with regards to Prince Vladimir: “For he was the sole ruler of his land, bringing all neighboring countries under his sway, some of them by peace, and the unruly ones by the sword.

Those three elements – Land, People, Empire – are, in their unity, the true formula of Russian patriotism, inherited by Russia from the times when Western European peoples had no patriotic consciousness to speak of. Only in 1214, when French king Philip II Augustus crushed the joint forces of the Holy Roman Empire and England near Bouvines, can we discover a semblance of French national pride. Only three decades later, an anonymous Russian scribes writes the Lay of the Ruin of the Russian Land, a haunting patriotic manifesto lamenting the destruction of Rus’ in the flames of the Mongol invasion.

Due to the vagaries of history, the tale of the destruction per se is not extant[4], yet we can still read the preamble, a veritable hymn to old pre-Mongol Rus’ demonstrating the height of its patriotic sentiment. The Lay is a love-letter to the Russian Land, a paean to its beauty and wealth. In my opinion, the text should be learned by heart as a part of school curriculum.

“Oh Russian Land, bright with brightness and adorned with adornments! Many are thy beauties: thou art adorned by many lakes, rivers and wells famed in thy lands, mountains, steep hills, tall oak woods, clean fields, marvellous beasts, diverse birds, countless great cities, marvellous villages, vineries of monasteries, houses of the Lord and redoubtable princes, honest boyars, noblemen aplenty. The Russian Land is filled with everything, oh true Christian faith!”

But it is not just the beauty of nature of Rus’ that he relishes; it is also its might, its dominion over other nations and the prestige of its rulers:

“From here to Hungarians and Poles and Czechs, from Czechs to Yotvingians[5], from Yotvingians to Lithuanians to Germans, from Germans to Karelians, from Karelians to Ustyug[6], where live the pagan Toymichi[7], and beyond the Breathing Sea[8], from the sea to Bulgars, from Bulgars to Burtasians[9], from Burtasians to Cheremis[10], from Cheremis to Mordva[11] – everything did the Lord bring under the sway of Christian people. The pagan lands submitted to the Grand Prince Vsevolod[12], and his father Yuri, prince of Kiev[13], and his grandfather Vladimir Monomakh[14], with whose name the Polovtsy[15] scared their children in their cradles. And Lithuanians dared not crawl out of their swamps, and Hungarians fortified their stone cities with iron gates so that the great Vladimir would not strike at them, and the Germans rejoiced, living far away beyond the Blue Sea[16]”

This common national memory, the idea of the Russian Land as a unity was the force that kept Russia from disintegration and destruction during the years of the Mongol yoke. Serapion, Bishop of Vladimir (? – 1275), lamented that “our majesty is brought to the ground, our beauty is dead, our wealth profits others, our works inherited by pagans, our land is the legacy of outlanders.” This, by the way, is the best answer of a contemporary of the Mongol invasion to those that today would present this incursion from the East as a time of friendship and cooperation.

“We cannot relish our own bread.” This formula of Serapion’s is a precise description of centuries-long Russian woes that intensified in the years of the Horde: we cannot have the joy of relishing our bread, it is either won with blood and tears, or stolen by foreign invaders, or the harvest fails. A simple Russian dream: to relish our own bread.

Nevertheless, that dream required fighting for. The Russians afforded particular reverence to those that would fight for Rus’, like Saint Alexander Nevsky. For Novgorod, he was both protector and hangman when he forced a rich mercantile city untouched by the Mongol invasion to pay the tribute imposed by the Horde. This was done to relieve the burden of other Russian lands, pillaged and impoverished. He chopped heads off, drowned peolpe, gouged eyes out; he should have been remembered as a tyrant. Yet here are the words of a Novgorod chronicler in the First Novgorod Chronicle (oldest recension) regarding the prince’s passing: “Merciful Lord, reveal Thy Countenance to him in the ages to come, for he labored much for the sake of Novgorod and the whole of Russian Land.”

“For the whole of Russian Land”, words written in Novgorod, a city oftentimes presented today as something of an independent state forcefully subjugated by Muscovy. However, in spite of all trade ties to the West, Novgorodians gave priority to a Pan-Russian patriotic sentiment, even judging the prince that had harshly mistreated them from the viewpoint of an integral Russian cause, and not just that of their city.

That is the ideological foundation of the unified Russian state, the great Russia, which appeared not with a delay compared to Western Europe, but with a lead. Dmitry Likhachov (1906 – 1999) noted in his book Russian Culture of the Period of Russian Nation-State Formation (1946): “The origins of national elements of specific cultures are more or less simultaneous everywhere in Europe, but only in Russia do they receive support in the form of a proper Russian nation-state. That is why the national character of 14-15th century culture of Rus’ is more pronounced than in that of England, France, or Germany of the same period. The unity of the Russian language is much stronger than that of French, English, German, Italian national languages. Russian literature is much more subordinate to the theme of state-building than that of other nations…”

I cannot agree with Lev Gumilyov’s (1912 – 1992) statement claiming that “they came to the Kulikovo Field[17] as men of Moscow, Serpukhov, Rostov, Beloozero, Smolensk, Murom, etc., but returned as Russians.” The desire to frame the great battle as a turning point is understandable, but the warriors came to fight, came as Russians already, not only those from from the Vladimir Principality and its vassals, but also from Lithuanian-held Rus’. They realized quite well that the true Pan-Russian cause was that of Moscow and not Lithuania. Simeon the Proud, the uncle of Dmitry Donskoy, the victor of Kulikovo, already claimed the title “of all Russias”[18], and the Byzantine emperor referred to him in his epistles as riks pasis Rossias, “the king of all Russia.” Therefore, the warriors of Kulikovo were already fighting for Russia and just Moscow.

Thanks to Joan of Arc, the French got the idea that Englishmen have no right to claim La Belle France for themselves. The Hundred Years’ War in general played an enormous part in developing national awareness in European peoples. It would suffice to compare two versions of the same chronicle written by the famous Jean Froissart with a difference of several decades and describing the same events. The first version is steeped in chivalric ideas, the second one is inspired by the concept of nationality. Froissart interprets the same act first as conforming to the concept of honor, then as typical of English or French character.

In spite of this dichotomy, it is hard to imagine a 15th or early 16th-century French or English king justifying his claims to a certain territory with a national principle, not defending his own domain but demanding to cede a different one “because Frenchmen live there.” At the same time, barely freed from the yoke of the Horde, Russia begins an irredentist struggle for Russian lands. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Livonia are seen as thieves of “ancestral lands” inherited by Russian princes from their forefather, Prince Vladimir.

The Papal envoys, while attempting to cajole Vasily III into a war with distant Turkey, got the following reply from the boyars: “The Grand Prince wants his ancestral domain, the Russian Land” (at that particular moment this claim also included Kiev). Those demands were invariably followed by lengthy historical justifications of the rights Russian state that would shock European diplomats.“Russian diplomats skilfully used their historical learning and created a complex theory of Muscovite princely power that elevated the prestige of the Russian monarchy… It was a creative political ideology that directed the politics of the Russian state towards the defence of national interests and culture in the complex milieu of European civilisation”, writes Dmitry Likhachov in National Consciousness of Old Rus’.

At that time Europe was engulfed in wars of religion. The battle of Catholics and Protestants almost succeeded in stamping out the sprouts of nascent national consciousness. Only horror and revulsion at the atrocities inflicted by kin and kith speaking the same language keeps national consciousness alive in spite of religious boundaries. European nations mostly grew out of a rejection of religious schism, and this was a positive and unifying side of European nationalism. But it was also marred by a certain Hellenic particularism, all too often national bigotry was directed at closest neighbors and formed a nation based on this hostility. What are the French without hating Englishmen, Germans, or Spaniards?

Russian national awareness evolved in a different way. It was not directed against a neighbor. Even the attitude towards Poland-Lithuania, in spite of incessant hostilities, never developed into an ethnophobia. If Russophobia is an unfortunate fixture of Polish national awareness, the Russian side of the conflict limited itself to “I’ll have my revenge and then forget.” Russian self-awareness was based on a positive patriotism, on love for one’s own land, people, culture, and ruler. The rejection of others expressed itself not in hatred but in a good-natured gibe similar to the manner in which The Lay of the Ruin describes the neighbors of Rus’.

The “foreign” becomes a threat only if it is injurious and harmful to Russian identity. It is menacing not as an external but as an internal threat, as demonstrated by the Time of Troubles. Russia has no difficulty in repelling invaders but wasted much effort on surpassing internal conflict that almost wrecked the state itself. Ivan Timofeev (ca. 1555 – 1631), one of the most acute observers of the Time of Troubles, saw the root of all evil in an obsession with all things foreign that had engulfed Ivan the Terrible and Boris Godunov. He chastises the first Russian czar for straying from national identity:

“He slew many nobles of his czardom that were loyal to him, others he exiled into lands of heathen faiths, and instead of them he favored those who had come from foreign lands… That is why we are surprised: even people of moderate reason would have understood that one cannot trust one’s enemies forever. And he, a man of such great wisdom, was laid low by his own weak conscience, willingly putting his head into serpent’s jaws. All enemies that came from other lands would have never defeated him if he hadn’t surrendered himself into their hands. Alas! All of his secrets were in the hands of barbarians, and they did what they pleased with him. I will say nothing more – he was a traitor to himself.”

Timofeev reproaches the common folk as well. “Their tongues grew mute and their mouths were shut with bribery; all of our feelings were weakened by fear” is his description of Boris Godunov’s rise to power, the ascendancy of a man who was seen by many as a criminal and a child-murderer. The same complacence in the face of wickedness at the beginning of the Time of Trouble is lambasted by Avraamy Palitsyn (? – ca. 1625), who speaks of “a mad silence of the entire people.”

The restoration of the country begins with a loud patriotic proclamations: the epistles of Patriarch Hermogenes (ca. 1530 – 1612), calling Russia to resist brigands and invaders; the letters of the Nizhny Novgorod volunteer army[19] calling to “stand united against common enemies and Russian brigands that spill our own blood in the country.” Patriotic rhetoric and patriotic awareness were the remedy that nursed Russia back to health in the moment where its statehood was in tatters. The Chronograph (1617)[20] describes the Council of the Land that elected a new dynasty[21] by painting a picture of national unity: “From the borders to the hinterlands of the Russian land the Orthodox people, men both meek and powerful, rich and poor, old and young, were granted the generous gift of life-giving wisdom and illuminated with the light of virtuously minded concord. Even though they came from different lands, they spoke with one voice, even though they were dissimilar as they lived far apart, they were gathered in one council as equals.”

The Time of Troubles and the heroism of Minin and Pozharsky’s resistance army are a damning argument against the popular myth that denies the existence of the Russian nation in that period. On the contrary, Russia, in the depth of its national and patriotic consciousness, was a step or two ahead of even the most progressive of neighbouring countries, where even a century later collusion with foreigners against one’s own nation was not considered dishonorable and considered a legitimate political instrument.

In Russia this was already unthinkable. There, patriotic consciousness was a hallmark of identity, which enabled the reunification of Ukraine, the patriotic heroism of the Great Northern War that required a mighty collective effort of the entire nation to carve out a space among great European powers, the brilliant achievements of Catherine the Great, the majestic victory over Napoleon in 1812. The last war is particularly remarkable: not only ex post facto, but even during the campaign itself it was seen as, and called, a Patriotic War. All gestures and words of the actors in this patriotic drama were made for the cause of the Fatherland.

The Russian propaganda machine left Napoleon no chance to subjugate the Russian people or entrench his dominance. The narcissistic conqueror was opposed not only by soldiers but by artists of rhetoric, from patriotic admiral Alexander Shishkov (1754 – 1841) who wrote the czar’s manifestos to populist propaganda virtuoso Count Fyodor Rostopchin (1763 – 1826) and his broadsides[22]. Without understanding the cultural and symbolic background we can never understand the most important of historical events, from the Battle of Borodino, fought mainly for political reasons, where every Russian officer saw death or injury as the highest honor, to the epic and terrifying fire of Moscow. Russia opposed Napoleon not only with a superior fighting spirit but also with a superior, elaborate patriotic ideology.

Even in Europe, German nationalism was not a predecessor but perhaps a byproduct of Russian patriotic resistance to Napoleon. Russia created a vast network of resistance, inspiring many European minds. Alexander Svechin (1878 – 1938), a prominent military theorist, gives the following description of the German front of Russian propaganda wars:

Russia organized a German Committee under the de facto leadership of Baron Heinrich von und zu Stein, the political head of the German national movement, who consented to leading the Russian propaganda effort. With a brilliant cadre of German patriotic officers that had resigned Prussian service when Prussia had been strongarmed into an alliance with Napoleon, Stein decided to create a German Legion staffed with German deserters and prisoners of war from La Grande Armée. The Legion was intended as a revolutionary challenge to a Germany enslaved by the French and then the core of an armed insurrection within Germany itself.

A fine example of propaganda tracts published in Saint Petersburg in October 1812 at the printers of the Senate, financed by an absolute monarch, is the “Brief Catechism of the German Soldier” written by Ernst Moritz Arndt by special commission. It claimed that German soldiers used to have their own emperor, but then they made a pact with Satan and Hell in the guise of Napoleon. People who were once free became slaves and are being sent to far-flung countries to turn free and happy peoples into slaves just as themselves. A German emperor sends a German soldier to war; must he fight? No, says Arndt; the idea of monarchy is subordinate to that of the nation and Fatherland. If the sovereign forces his soldiers to oppress the innocent and violate their rights, if he conspires against the happiness and freedom of his own subjects, if he colludes with the enemies of his own nation, if he allows his population to be robbed, dishonored, and raped, then following the orders of such a sovereign would be an affront to divine law. German honor commands the German soldier to break the sword that German despots force him to raise for the cause of his nation’s enemies, the French. The soldier must remember that the Fatherland and nation are timeless and deathless, while monarchs and all kinds of superiors will stay in the past with their petty ambitions and disgraceful misdeeds…

The success of propaganda among German regiments that defended Napoleon’s operation lines in 1812 was largely instrumental for the Berezina battle plan, an encirclement of the La Grande Armée core that had delved too deep into Moscow.

This fact seems like a veritable mockery of the popular Western “time zones of nationalism” theory formulated by Ernest Gellner. Allegedly, national consciousness in Europe develops from West to East. The further to the West, the more developed the national sentiment, the stronger its civic nature. Conversely, the further you look to the East, the more tardy and ethnocentric the national sentiment there.

As we can see, this is patently untrue. Russian national sentiment is not younger but older than German, or even the French and English. It is the oldest among the modern peoples of Europe, based on an identity of the Russian Land already pronounced in 10-11th centuries. There is no reason for assigning the Russians a more recent birth date. At the same time, the Russian self-awareness is perhaps not the most but the least ethnocentric, sometimes overly so, causing certain inconveniences for the Russians themselves.

The object of this sentiment is not the place of a particular ethnic group among others but the Fatherland, the Russian Land, its beauty and grandeur among other lands.

The Russians were indeed late in realising the ethnic aspect of nationalism, not due to an alleged backwardness, but because they were late in encountering ethnic nationalism directed against them, mostly in the western borderlands of the Russian Empire. A certain part was played by the German nationalism in the Baltic region; having clashed with it, Yuri Samarin (1819 – 1876) formulated his idea of Russians as a nation that needs equal rights within its own empire in his Letters from Riga (1849)[23].

In spite of the “time zone” theory, German nationalism – in the form of a Pan-German, unifying, state-driven national sentiment – was not a predecessor but a product of Russian patriotism that manifested in the anti-Napoleonic struggle. Russia stimulated German nationalism as an opposition to a Pan-European empire, not imitated it. Russia became a protector of identity and national diversity in Europe in spite of all attempts to forge it into some faceless union.

Nowadays, Russian patriotism preserves the same importance. As justly reminded by Vladimir Putin: “For Russia, for a Russian person […] the patriotic sentiment is very important, the sense of national belonging that is now, to their chagrin, being eroded in certain European countries.” In today’s Europe, the eyes of those who seek to preserve their national identity, those who are patriots and nationalists in the best sense of the word, are fixed upon Moscow. Conversely, those who yell the loudest about a “Russian menace” and a “European unity in the face of Russian aggression” are mostly partisans of a complete erasure of European faces and borders, oriented towards the EU Quarter of Brussels and the White House.

As I have attempted to demonstrate, this is really old news. Russia is still the Motherland of patriotism in Europe, and now, in defiance of an artificial denationalisation imposed by Communism, we are returning to our old mission – keeping the flame of nationality in Europe, preserving it as a Europe of Fatherlands and not a public thoroughfare.


Notes

[1] The origins of this memetic phrase are in the so-called Anti-Cosmopolitan campaign enacted in the final years of Stalinism (1948-53); one of its prominent traits was the “discovery” Russian “firsts” in science, invention, the arts, etc.; many of such “discoveries” were based on dubious or outright falsified data. The “Motherland of elephants” joke was born as a parody of this propaganda blitz.

[2] An allusion to the Primary Chronicle, a.k.a. The Tale of Past Years (ca. 1110), Russia’s oldest surviving historical chronicle traditionally attributed to Nestor (ca. 1056 – 1114), a monk of the Kiev Monastery of the Caves. Its first words, often interpreted as the work’s title, are “These are the tales of past years, of where the Russian Land comes from, of who reigned the first in Kiev, and of how the Russian Land came to be.”

[3] Early East Slavic tribal groups.

[4] The anonymous 13th-century work only survives in fragments and quotations, most of them limited to its poetic preamble.

[5] Baltic tribal group.

[6] Modern-day Velikiy Ustyug, a city in the far Russian North.

[7] An obscure Finno-Ugric tribe.

[8] The White Sea or the Arctic Ocean.

[9] A defunct Volga ethnic group of unknown origin.

[10] An ancient name for the Mari ethnic group, in the modern-day Mariy El Republic of Russia.

[11] A Finno-Ugric ethnic group, in the modern-day Mordovia Republic of Russia.

[12] Vsevolod the Big Nest (1154 – 1212), Grand Prince of Vladimir.

[13] Yuri Dolgorukiy (ca. 1099 – 1157), Grand Prince of Suzdal and Kiev, founder of Moscow.

[14] Vladimir Monomakh (1053 – 1125), Grand Prince of Kiev. Famous, among other things, for organizing successful collective Russians expeditions against steppe nomads.

[15] Russian name for Cumans, nomads of Turkic origin.

[16] The Baltic.

[17] The battle of Kulikovo (1380) was fought by a Muscovy-led coalition of Russian principalities and was the first major Russian victory over Mongols in decades.

[18] This traditional English translation of title is something of a misnomer, a more precise one would be “of the whole of Rus’” or “of the united Rus’.”

[19] A popular resistance force organized in 1611 in the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod by the merchant Kuzma Minin and the nobleman Dmitry Pozharsky with the goal of suppressing roving bands of brigands, expelling Polish invaders, and preventing the complete collapse of the Russian state. It was instrumental in defeating the Polish garrison in Moscow in 1612 and restoring an independent Russian monarchy in 1613.

[20] Compendium of Russian and world history from Biblical events to recent times, including the events of the Time of Troubles.

[21] An irregularly convened assembly of delegates from all estates of Russian feudal society (sometimes including peasantry) that discussed and voted on the affairs of the state, active ca. 1549 – ca. 1683. The Council of 1613 was particularly important for electing a new dynasty (the Romanovs) to take the vacant Russian throne.

[22] As governor of Moscow during the Napoleonic invasion, Rostopchin became famous for the mass printing and distribution of colorful broadsides with grotesque caricatures and easy-to-grasp text, written in a deliberately folksy style, that satirized the enemy and called for a mass popular resistance.

[23] In 1846, as a government inspector, Samarin travelled through what now is Latvia, documenting many facts of abusive and arrogant attitude towards Russia and the Russians by privileged Baltic German nobility amid the tacit or open support of Russian government officials. Drawing from those experiences, he published a pamphlet titled Letters from Riga (1849), considered one of the first Slavophile manifestos and a seminal document of modern Russian nationalism. The publication caused a scandal that led to Samarin’s brief imprisonment and exile for “fomenting anti-government dissent.”


Translator’s Notes

  1. Several abridgements were made in accordance with the author’s wishes.
  2. The translator took the liberty of making the text more accesible to readers not possessing an in-depth knowledge of Russian history. All names were rendered in their full form, and mentions of most Russian historical figures come with birth and death years for easier reference.
  3. Only names, events, etc. that cannot be identified with a quick Google or Wikipedia search were annotated. So were several allusions to historical events known to every educated Russian but obscure in the West.
 
A Russian Conservative on James Damore
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Prosvirnin is the most talented writer. Limonov has by far the most colorful personality. Dugin has been the most effective at promoting himself in the West. Prokhanov probably has the most name recognition in Russia. Galkovsky created the most powerful memes. Krylov provided the esoteric flavoring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

google-image

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

Translated by Fluctuarius Argenteus:

Google fires employee James Damore for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.

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

– No, we don’t. You’re fired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the proposed solution?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The differences argued by the author are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

google-fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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The recently departed Vitaly Churkin was /ourguy/ in every sense of the word.

Not only did he fight the good fight in the UN, it has recently emerged he also blogged the good blog (and commented the good comments) online as imperia-mir.

We can’t be 100% certain that it is him. We have only the last post on that blog, claiming Churkin as its main author, to assert that. However, that blog has been in existence for a long time, and the person behind it has consistently commented like someone who is pretty high up, and in the know about, the inner workings of Russian international politics, so the claim is not incredible.

If this is the case, then the picture that emerges is of a Russian patriot, committed to state service, whose ideas and values are surprisingly unorthodox, original, and interesting, especially by the standards of the gray Russian bureaucractic caste.


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On Crimea (Mar 11, 2014)

Crimea is not just…

It is not just Cimmeria, of which the man in the street primarily knows only on account of the name of a barbarian played by a future governor of California…

It is not only the land of the ancient Scythians, whose name resounded far beyond the borders of the Empire that adopted them…

It is not only the kingdoms, cities, towns, and polises, with the proud names of Panticapaeum, Kalos Limen, Theodosius, Heracleon. It is not just only just the realm of the ancient – the shipbuilding, the viticulture, the growing of olives, the construction of temples, theaters, stadiums. It is not just Euripedes, and not just the drama Iphigenia in Tauris.

Yes, Odysseys rested in Evpatoria. Yes, the caligae of the Roman vexillationes gathered dust on the Via Militaris. But not only them. “From Scythia to Camelot,” yes, but not only.

It is not only the Sarmats and the Goths, and the Horde, and the Rus. It is not only wars, it is not just the shores bleached gray by eternity, it is not just the vineyards of the Golitsyns, it is not just the Tatars, not just the sieges, not just the splendor of Potemkin, his works, his pains, and the horrific myths dreamt up about his feats. Not just the Russian fleet, not just the union of steel, will, and talent of all Europe, not just the ascent of John Paul Jones, the creator of the US Navy and an admiral of the Russian Navy, and hundreds of others, who are no less ours by law and blood.

It is not only Ivan Aivazovsky and Alexander Grin, it is not just the crimson sails of the Soviet squadrons, it is not just the endless defenses of endless Sevastopol in the name of endless Russia, baptized into the Empire by the will of God at Chersonesus. And it is not even the Kazantip festival.

It is not only the underground submarine base at Balaklava, where the British Light Brigade perished; it is not the sailor hero Koshka; it is not the endless landing troops, polygons, airports, scientific centers, not the space observation stations, not the looted long-range radar stations and the destroyed fields that were once used to test the Lunokhod moon rovers; it is not Levadia, not Yalta, not the 147 bays and 295 wharfs; it is not the sunsets, the auroras, and not even the secluded lakes and islands, where people learned to talk with dolphins.

Taurida is our Avalon.

It is our sword. And is it returning to us.

***

On Putin (Jul 19, 2014)

Today I learned something that has forced me to reevaluate my opinion about Vladimir Putin.

“Forced” – not quite the right word, and “something” – is a euphemism.

I have always voted for him freely (including, dear God, during “Operation Successor”). I have always been critical towards him – from his personnel policy to a certain (in my view) naive and complacent strategy towards our “Western Partners” (TM), a criminally lackadaisical attitude towards homegrown Russophobe extremists, the strange loyalty to an entire array of strange neoliberal economic mantras, the lack of a clear general development strategy in the widest sense of the word, indecisiveness, the art of “thin ambiguity,” the secret service mentality of not explaining things fully – in other words, my criticism is the entire repertoire of a person who criticizes Putin for not being sufficiently Putin (that is, one’s own singular Putin). And I will continue criticizing him, in part because I do not conflate patriotism and the absence of criticism for making mistakes.

My criticism is based on a social heart, a liberal (in the correct, original, and good sense of this word) mind, an anarchic liver, and monarchic (not constitutional) nerves. My soul belongs to God in the Orthodox interpretation (I hope), but I’d like to live in a pantheistic (not in a pagan one! nor in a so-called “secular”) state! I don’t like Stalin, but hate his demonization, and lies about him. I don’t consider the Russian Empire to be better than the USSR, or vice versa – I have no desire to try to compare the incomparable, or to divide up a continuum. I am a conservative, but can’t stand the opponents of progress. I love ancient traditions, but I am all for genetic engineering and other experiments with embryonic cells. I believe that humanity will conquer the stars, but will be unable to master itself. I equally despise all political systems, but consider direct and absolute democracy, which doesn’t exist and never has, to be closest to my own worldview. Today I live in the country, the US, that is closest to this ideal (with the exception, perhaps, of San Marino), and consider that Russia would find this model to be even more natural and useful and effective, than here. When I live in Russia, I forget all this and it’s all irrelevant to me (joke). Abroad, they categorize me as a “Russian nationalist,” even though, if I am a “nationalist” of anything, it is of the (early) Roman Empire.

In short, I am a typical Russian person.

And my attitudes towards Putin are thus homespun, rustic, true with an inevitable correction for an unusually high level of informedness, but nonetheless, still in the style of, “Caesar, don’t forget that you’re bald!”

But now, everything has changed.

If what I have learned is true (and I have no doubts about this, except in the scenario, “The entire world is an illusion, Neo”), then I have been very much mistaken on Putin.

I believed that he was an ordinary man – well, someone with a high intellect, highly developed instincts, etc., a modest requisition on historical greatness, and so on.

But now I doubt all that. When this happened to him, I am not sure – at birth, before birth, at his meeting with Father John Krestyankin, or even when he swam with the dolphins – but it happened.

And verily I speak: When “Zeus lifts up his soul into the starry sky,” all of Olympus will spar for the right to his nerves, for they are the metal to create invulnerable armor for new Achilles – and Hephaestus himself will prostrate himself before his iron will.

Because nothing human is alien to man.

And because after all that I have learned, I no longer fear even Armageddon with this leader.

Everything will be great.

Our trials will be fearsome. Very fearsome.

But we got very lucky with him. Very lucky.

Dixi.

PS. Anticipating the inevitable dull reactions (in the style of “LOL this vatnik found his idol”), I will just quote the aforementioned Father John Krestyankin:

“You know, once upon a time in Russia before the Revolution there was this one attraction: A circus frequently visited the market, and they hadvarious shows. And one show was called, “Live Peter the Great for 20 kopeks.” There was a tent, within which was a giant telescope, and there entered a person who began to look into its tube, to see Peter the Great. The staff said, “Focus it.” He focused it. “Focus it more.” He focused it even more. And when all attempts failed, they asked him, “And? Do you not yet see him.” “No, I don’t.” And then they told him, “Well, who’d have thought! What did you want, anyway – to see the live Peter the Great for just 20 kopeks!” And on this note, the show ended.

Of course, this might be an invented example, but the Father explained it further. He said, “And so we too in this life want to see a living Christ, for 20 rubles or 20 kopeks. No, it doesn’t work like that. We have to strive together, we have to work, we have to live an intense spiritual life, because man reaps what he sows – He who sows parsimoniously, reaps little; he who sows generously, reaps richly.

Commenter: So what is it that you found out?

imperia_mir: I still want to live. I’m not writing this from Russia. There can be many sorts of provocations, and different situations, and more serious than the one with the Boeing. And when they are averted, it is as if they do not exist. And that’s good. Because the mere voicing of some situations – can be a catastrophe.

 
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Summary of the Russian nationalist response to #ParisAttacks.

A Cruel French Lesson, by Egor Kholmogorov appeared in the November 14 issue of Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the leading Russian dailies. It outlines what is pretty much the standard right-wing conservative Russian position on the #ParisAttacks.

Some context: After the terrorist strikes, many outspoken Russian liberals rushed to wrap their digital selves in the French flag; a status signalling action made easy by Facebook’s provision of a French flag avatar coloration app (one could cynically add: To mark the most significant event in the world since the US legalization of gay marrage). This is in stark contrast to the relative silence over the Russian victims of the terrorist downing of the aircraft over the Sinai – and for that matter, the silence in regards to Lebanon, and for that matter, for Syria pretty much nonstop since 2011. (The Egyptians at least were commendably consistent, bathring the Pyramids in the flags of all four of the aforementioned nations).

To be sure, many Russians who adopted the French flag did so on the fly, with no intentions of making any overtly political point. However, some of the more ideologically pro-Western Russians were more to the point in justifying increased attention for French versus Russian victims of jihadi terrorism. For instance, the Russian liberal “hipster” publication GQ was very explicit in defending its decision to feature the Paris Attacks over KGL9268 on the grounds that they idenfied with the City of Lights as a “permanent festival,” whereas for them their own homeland was a permanent “territory of woe” and thus unworthy of any particular attention (this binary characterization might seem rather optimistic to anyone actually familiar with the Parisian banlieues). An English language illustration of this phenomenon is this Foreign Policy piece by Julia Ioffe, which bizarrely justifies the discrepancy in terms of the better performance of French special forces at Bataclan relative to Nord-Ost (no mention being made of the fact that the Chechen terrorists in 2002 were ten times as numerous and far better equipped).

Bearing this in mind, the patriotic and conservative types – seeing such widespread attitudes in the Russian media as an implicit endorsement of the theme that Westerners are first-rate peoples and the center of civilization, as opposed to disposable Russians in peripheral Eurasia – have not been overly concerned with sensitivity right now, which is clearly expressed in Kholmogorov’s article. He is not writing for Westerners, but for Russians on his side of the domestic culture war.

To be sure, translation ≠ endorsement, and there are several points one can take issue with him on. There is too much butthurt over Charlie Hebdo, which – contrary to its high media profile – is in reality a very low circulation publication in France itself. Furthermore, the French state obviously has no obligation to apologize for it. Tying the emergence of ISIS to France’s Levantine policies between the wars is far too radical a causal stretch and besides the point in relations to current French policies anyway. Perhaps most critically of all, the Russian obsession with the West – most prominent amongst the Westernists, of course, but still making itself felt, if in an inverted form, amongst nationalists like Kholmogorov – is perhaps unseemly and even maladaptive, since ironically one could say that this merely reflects and confirms Russia’s status as a peripheral country.

Nonetheless, I believe the vast majority of the points Kholmogorov makes are fair and to the point, and moreover the fact that something so “politically incorrect” can be published in a major Russian daily – can one imagine anything similar in The New York Times? Or even The Daily Mail? – testifies to the fact that Putin’s Russia, ethnically blank slatist as it might formally be, is nonetheless as good ally as any to those Europeans who still support European civilization and self-determination.

***

A Cruel French Lesson

by Egor Kholmogorov

http://www.kp.ru/daily/26458.7/3328330/

The hideous acts of terrorism in France strongly resemble a fast-forward video of the decades long terrorist war that has been waged against Russia. The massacre at the Bataclan theater is basically a French version of Nord-Ost…

So we in Russia understand what is now happening with the French like few others.

But this tragedy occured at a rather inconvenient time in relations between the two countries. It came on the heels of a French magazine’s vulgar lampooning of the victims of the terrorist attack on our aircraft over the Sinai. I have not seen a single public apology from the French. Our officials are the only people who have tried reassuring us that real French people are ashamed about this… Thus, all expressions of sympathy, alas, have to begin with a caveat: “Regardless of your mockery of the terrorist attack against us, we do really feel for you.”

We feel for you because we ourselves have felt such tragedies on our shoulders. We sympathize, and we sympathize sincerely.

But approaching this with a cool head, one can’t deny that this case is also a matter of France paying the bills, and for multiple accounts at once.

The terrorists shouted, “This is for Syria!” And this is, at some level, “For Syria” – not in the sense that French aviation is bombing ISIS, but in that when France after the First World War received a mandate to govern Syria, it first divided that territory into five states along confessional lines: Christian, Alawite, Sunni, Druze, and Armenian. Then it took them and used them to glue together two states – Syria and Lebanon, thus laying the foundations for civil war in both countries. Had they either kept Syria unified, or properly divided, there would have been no ISIS.

Two years ago, President Hollande rattled his sabre harder than anyone else in pushing for an American intervention in Syria [against Assad], and was only narrowly stopped at the last moment by Vladimir Putin.

It was Hollande and his predecessor Sarkozy who supported the overthrow of Gaddafi, who welcomed the Islamic Revolution in Egypt, who seeded the flames of war in Syria and in so doing became directly responsible for the creation of ISIS, Al-Nusra, and similar demons, for the spread of their activities to France and all Europe, and for the overwhelming waves of refugees.

When in January murderers took care of the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo, instead of a sane adjustment to security and migration policy, Hollande was only interested in preventing Marine Le Pen from getting any political kudos and kickstarted the hysterical tolerance campaign “Je suis Charlie.”

Moreover, the objects of sympathy should not have been a bunch of talentless hacks, but those French citizens who were in danger of becoming victims of terrorism in the future!

Migration policy should have been tightened, and border controls strengthened. A campaign should have begun to fight against terrorist organizations globally and against the Islamist underground in France itself.

Instead of this, the orgy of “tolerance” continued, as Hollande occupied himself with weightier matters, such as saving the Kievan junta and clamping down on Mistral sales. France became a best friend of Qatar – one of the main sponsors of radical terrorism, including ISIS.

And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you…

The most horrifying fact of this strategy is that the killers in the Bataclan spoke good French with no accent. This means that they are not recent immigrants, recently arrived from the Middle East. These are French high school graduates, perhaps – French citizens, to whom they tried to teach the lessons of tolerance.

There is a hard-hitting film from 2008 starring Isabelle Adjani called La Journée de la Jupe. A female teacher in an immigrant quadrant of Paris, despairing of the thuggery and unwillingness to learn of her students, and tired of their barbaric morals, finds a gun in the possession of one of them. She grabs the gun and proceeds to take the class hostage, and force the impudent rascals to study the biography of Molière and respect women at gunpoint. The police and bureaucrats dance about in the background, convinced that the “intolerant” teacher is the main threat. Special forces prepare to storm the classroom. But in the end, the gun ends up in the hands of one of the pupils, and there begins a bloody massacre. This is a very enlightenening film that everyone should watch today.

So it is impossible to say that the French themselves are unaware of what is happening with them. And it is no accident that the Front National of Marine Le Pen is France’s leading party. But the political system there has been specially arranged in such a way that even with a plurality of the votes, the National Front still get the smallest amount of seats in Parliament. This means that the situation will only change when the Front National starts getting more than 50% of the total votes.

Dictatorships can always be excused away by the fact that the incompetence of the man in power is paid for by the sufferings of people who never elected him. But France is a democratic country. It has political leaders who were ready to rearrange politics in a way that could avert tragedy. They could have voted for Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002 and 2007, and for Marine Le Pen in 2012. They not only could have, but should have, voted for Marine in 2012. But instead, the French elected Hollande and his party of tolerant hypocrites.

Today has revealed the frightful cost of that decision. The streets of Paris have been stained with blood, as mobs of fightened and bewildered people rampaged through the city.

But will even this shock change anything? If, regardless of the newly introduced State of Emergency, the regional elections of December 6th go ahead – will the French finally be ready to put a stop to all this, or will they continue to vote for freedom for terrorists, and equality and brotherhood with bandits?

I am afraid that the answer to this horror will be a continuation of the same old, same old. Western propaganda has already adapted an essentially totalitarian tenor: “We will rally all the more closely around the values of multiculturalism, we will not allow any expressions of extremism, this is all Assad’s fault, if only he had stepped down – none of this would have happened…”

Unfortunately, it has become clear that what we are seeing is a live translation of the fall of the Roman Empire under the onslaught of the barbarians. The same stubborn refusal to understand what is going on, the same unpreparedness to take serious decisions, the same vacillation and buffoonery in the moment of mortal danger. It would be great if wonderful France were to finally find its Jeanne D’Arc.

But that is hard to believe.

Therefore, Russia’s main task is to learn its lesson – and to defend itself. To defend its territory. Its people. Its aircraft.

To support its allies. To remove the contagion of terrorism from the Middle East and everywhere else. To be prepared to settle accounts not just with its perpetrators, but also its sponsors.

And to avoid hoping that either the French state or Europe will learn any lessons from this. That they will change their politics, join us in fighting our common enemy, or stop behaving like an elephant in a china shop in the East. To plan our moves on such hopes would be nothing more than self-deceit.

But with the French, we sympathize. Stay strong!

 
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Xi Jinping (pictured right, meeting the Patriarch Kirill) penned an op-ed in a Russian newspaper on May 6th in which, in stark contrast to the typical Western bile and hostility, he acknowledges the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazism and warns off against attempts to revise that outcome, be it on paper or in real life.

I am translating it in full for two reasons.

First, it constitutes a first-hand glance at official relations between China and Russia, which – much to the consternation of neocons, Russophobes, Sinophobes, and Western imperialists – are instead of fighting each other for make benefit of the US are instead building strong relations and continuing to ink dozens of deals whose total value now probably stands at close to a trillion dollars.

Second, to explicitly give the lie to Western propaganda that Russia is somehow “isolated” by the fact that none of Washington’s European stooges turned up at the Victory Day parade in Moscow this May 9th. Who cares? Not many Russians, at any rate. China, India, and dozens of other countries did turn up. That’s the world’s second superpower and the representatives of half of humanity. As for Obama, Merkel, Hollande, and Dave – quite frankly, the air is cleaner for their absence.

*Soundtrack – Russians and Chinese are Brothers Forever*

To Remember History, To Open the Future

by Xi Jinping

On May 9th, Victory Day in the world war against fascism, at the invitation of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, I will visit Russia and take part in the celebrations in Moscow devoted to the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. This sacred day I will celebrate together with the Russian people and the entire world.

Everyone remembers that the aggressive wars begun by the fascists and militarists inflicted unprecedented damage and suffering on the peoples of China, Russia, and the countries of Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. The relentless struggle between justice and evil, light and darkness, freedom and slavery, was joined by the peoples of China, Russia, and more than 50 other countries, as well as by all the other peace-loving peoples of the world, who stood up as one and formed a broad international anti-fascist and anti-militarist front. All these nations fought in bloody battles against the enemy, and in so doing defeated the most evil and brutal aggressors, bringing peace to the world.

I remember, in March 2013, when I first visited Russia on a state visit, I laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin walls. There was a depiction of a soldier’s helmet and a red banner on the tomb, and there burned an eternal fire, symbolizing the unbroken life and unwavering fearlessness of our fallen heroes. “Your name is unknown, your deeds are immortal.” They will never be forgotten by the Russian people, the Chinese people, or anyone else.

China was the main theater of military operations in Asia during the Second World War. The Chinese people stood up before anyone else in the struggle against the Japanese militarists, waged the longest war, fought in the hardest conditions, and, like Russia, suffered the most enormous losses. The Chinese army and people fought stoically and persistently, locking down and destroying numerous contingents of the Japanese aggressors. At the cost of a huge national sacrifice – the lives of more than 35 million people – a great victory was finally won and an enormous contribution was made to victory in the world struggle against fascism. The exploits of the Chinese people in the war against the militarists, just like the exploits of the Russian people, will be immortalized forever in history and will never die.

The Chinese and Russian peoples supported each other, helped each other, they were comrades in arms in the war against fascism and militarism, and built a friendship with each other forged with blood and life. In the most difficult times of the Great Patriotic War, many of the best sons and daughters of the Chinese people decisively joined in the battle against German fascism. Mao Anying – the eldest son of Chairman Mao Zedong – fought on many battles as a political officer of a tank company of the 1st Belorussian Front, up to the storming of Berlin. The Chinese fighter pilot Tang Duo, as deputy commander of a fighter company of the Soviet Army, distinguished himself in air battles against the fascist forces. Children of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party and descendants of the fallen heroes of the Chinese Revolution, when studying at the Ivanovo international boarding school, despite that they were still only children, nonetheless went off to dig trenches, prepared Molotov cocktails, prepared food and clothes for the fighters, chopped trees, dug out potatoes, and looked after the wounded in hospitals. Apart from that, many of them regularly donated blood – 430 millilitres once per month for the soldiers at the front. The Chinese female journalist Hu Jibang, small and weak, underwent the entire war from the first day to the last, through bullets and fire, writing about the resilience and courage of the Soviet people, the barbarous cruelty of the fascist hordes, and the joy of the Russian soldiers and people in their times of triumph. It emboldened the armies and peoples of both countries, raising their will to fight to the end, to the final victory. Alongside the above heroes there are many other representatives of the Chinese people who contributed to the Great Patriotic War while remaining unknown soldiers.

The Russian people gave the Chinese people valuable political and moral support in their war against Japanese invaders. This included large convoys of arms and war material. More than 2,000 Soviet fighter pilots joined the Chinese air force and helped in the air battles over China. More than 200 of them died in battles over Chinese soil. In the closing phase of the war, Red Army soldiers of the Soviet Union were sent to north-east China. Together with the Chinese army and people they fought against the Japanese militarists, which helped China tremendously in achieving final victory. The Chinese people will always remember the Russians, both soldiers and civilians, who gave their lives for the independence and liberation of the Chinese nation.

xi-jinping-70-anniversary-ww2

The famous Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky said, that, having forgotten history, our soul can get lost in the darkness. To forget history is to commit treason. The Chinese and Russian peoples stand ready, together with all peace-loving countries and peoples, and with the automost determination and decisiveness, to oppose any actions or attempts to deny, distort, and rewrite the history of the Second World War.

This year, China and Russia will hold a series of events to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Second World War. There will also be many other events conducted by the UN and other international and regional organizations. The purpose of these events and celebrations is to demonstrate our determination to defend the results of the Second World War, to protect international equality and justice, and to remind out contemporaries that it is necessary to preserve and guard the peace that was won for humanity at too high a price.

The hard lessons of the Second World War tell people, that humanity’s coexistence is not subject to the laws of the jungle; that world politics is diametrically contradictory to belligerent and hegemonic power politics; and that the path of human development is not founded on the principle of “winner takes all” or in games with zero-sum outcomes. Peace – yes, war – no, cooperation – yes, confrontation – no, mutual gains are honored, while zero-sum results – are not: This is what constitutes the unchanging core and essence of peace, progress, and the development of human society.

Today, mankind has unprecedentedly good opportunities for the realization of our goal – peace, development, and the formation of a system of international relations that is ever more strongly based on the spirit of cooperation and mutual benefits. “Unity – is strength, while self-isolation – is weakness.” Cooperation and the win-win principle should be adopted as the basic orientation of all countries in international affairs. We have to unite our own interests with the common interests of all countries, find and expand on the common points of interests of different parties, develop and establish a new conception of multilateral win-win, to always be ready to extend a helping hand to each other at difficult times, to partake together of rights, interests, and responsibilities, and to collectively collaborate to solve growing global problems such as climate change, energy security, cybersecurity, national disasters, and so on. In short, we are in it together on our planet Earth – the homeland of all humanity.

The Chinese people and the Russian people – they are both great peoples. In the years of grief and misery, our indestructible camaraderie was cemented in place with blood. Today the peoples of China and Russian will hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder defend peace, promote development, and make their contributions to lasting world peace and human progress.

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

***

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

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

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

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

Visual summary of everything Eggert hates.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To which Eggert replied with anti-Semitic accusations.

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

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

***

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

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Really now?

Apart from direct falsifications, which were extensively discussed here, the other really big criticism of the Russian elections process is that it isn’t a level playing field. As said by an OSCE bureaucrat, “The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia.”

Well wait a second. First, uncertainty isn’t the point of an election at all; otherwise, why not make it into a lottery? It’s to get the person who most represents the people into power. Second, there is no country where each candidate gets equal airtime, ad money, debating invites, etc. Cases in point: Ron Paul, Nader, Marine Le Pen, generic Green Parties and Pirate Parties, etc. Perhaps one day we will live in Internet democracies where anyone can nominate oneself and debates are won and lost via webcasts on Facebook but for now level playing fields are a fiction everywhere.

One can write a whole article on comparisons, but why bother when the Russian political scientist Evgeny Minchenko has already done an excellent job of picking apart these questionable assertions about how elections in Russia are much less free and competitive than in the West in his article Seven Myths about the Russian Elections? I translate his effort below. H/t @lindsey_bn for the link via Twitter.

Seven Myths About The Russian Elections

Evgeny Minchenko

Myth 1 – A prolonged stay in power can be the basis for proclaiming the government illegitimate. Here we can look at the examples of Canadian PM Jean Chrétien – 20 years, Federal Chancellor of the FRG Helmut Kohl – 16 years. Ólafur Grímsson is the President of Iceland since 1996, and in 2000 his term of office was extended without elections as there was nobody willing to compete with him, he won the elections in 2004, he once again had his term extended in 2008 with no elections, and he does not exclude participating in the upcoming 2012 elections. There is a similar history with Chrétien and Kohl, although one has to note that it’s a slightly different state of affairs in parliamentary democracies.

Myth 2 – Elite collusion, in our context the Putin – Medvedev “castling”, can be a basis for proclaiming the government illegitimate. Unfortunately, politics is structured in such a way that elite collusion does happen. A striking example is the history of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. When they were nominating a candidate for Prime Minister, they agreed that Blair would go first, and then Brown. Vladimir Putin gave this very example: When Tony Blair stepped down after a scandal, there were no elections. Gordon Brown carried on for another three years as Prime Minister, with no elections, even though when the British voted for New Labour at the polls they were voting for Tony Blair as Prime Minister. On the other hand, when they finally did hold elections, Labour was crushed. In my opinion, this demonstrates that the public does have the opportunity to express their attitudes towards this kind of collusion. Our reaction was Bolotnaya Square and Prospekt Sakharova.

Myth 3 – Harsh screening and disqualification of undesirable candidates in the Russian Federation. True, we have our Grigory Yavlinsky with his 1.5% rating who couldn’t take part in the elections, but I want to draw attention to what is now happening in the Presidential campaign in France. They have a very specific system in that the candidate must enlist the support of at least 500 mayors or elected local officials. Despite there being 50,000 such officials in France, Marine Le Pen – who has a 17% approval rating – has yet been unable to collect these signatures. And this isn’t Yavlinsky, with his 1.5%, this is a person, who has a real chance of reaching the second round. I hope that Marine Le Pen will be able to solve her problem, as did her father Jean-Marie Le Pen; the ruling authorities were forced to command signatures to be gathered on his behalf after public pressure. There are various technologies for filtering out undesirable candidates. A striking example is the impeachment of Rolandas Paksas in Lithuania: Only after he left did it emerge that the court had pronounced him innocent, but by then he could not return to the Presidency. Another example – the story of Strauss-Kahn, who had a leading position among the French Presidential candidates, but who for reasons unknown to us could not take part in the elections. Bidzina Ivanishvili lost his Georgian citizenship, and is not allowed into the Presidential election.

Myth 4 – The dominance of one party or one candidate in the mass media. I think this problem with access to media resources exists everywhere. It’s obvious that in the US candidates from the two key parties dominate over all others. On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that the benefits which Mikhail Prokhorov enjoyed on Russian TV channels in the last elections were for a long time enjoyed by no other candidate.

Myth 5 – Vladimir Putin declined to participate in the debates, so the elections were illegitimate – the voters didn’t have an opportunity to assess him. Let’s take a look at other countries. There were 23 candidates in the last US elections. For instance, Ralph Nader was registered in 48 states out of 51, but the elected Obama debated exclusively with McCain. Having a minimum of 15% in opinion polls is a condition for participating in US debates. Or what about France, 2002 – Chirac vs. Le Pen. As a rule, there are no debates prior to the first round in France. The tradition of holding debates only applies to the period between the first round and the second round. Mikhail Saakashvili, who is frequently portrayed as a great democrat, has never debated anyone in his two Presidential elections.

Myth 6 (very common) – Russian legislation creates comfortable conditions for electoral falsifications. The suggested solution – rewrite the laws so that they match those of normal “democratic countries.” But the problems aren’t in the laws. As a matter of fact, ours are very stringent. They say, “Let’s abolish early voting!” But in the US, typically up to 30% of voters cast their ballots early. As for procedures on allowing observers into polling stations in other countries, in France you have to be a member of the Electoral Commission to observe the voting, and in the US observers are frequently denied access, especially foreign ones. In terms of observer access to polling stations, Russia is actually one of the world’s more liberal states.

Myth 7 – Big protest actions are a cause for a revision of the election results. One striking example – the attempted “Cactus Revolution” in Mexico in 2006. Compared to our modest turnouts, in Mexico up to a million people took to the streets. At the same time, there appeared the following phenomenon: “And I don’t know why this candidate was elected, none of my acquaintances voted for him.” The specific cause of this lay in López Obrador being Mayor of Mexico City, and dominant in the capital and the adjoining southern regions, where many people genuinely didn’t know anyone who voted for Calderón. Nonetheless, all those protests came to naught.

What is to be done?

For the elections to be more honest and transparent, we need to have an independent judiciary, and opposition representation in parliament and the regions. I think that if there were to be elections for governors, they would enable them to reallocate administrative resources between the various parties. Inter-elite conflicts, a stable tradition of political competition – which we still have to work out, as it unfortunately isn’t double within 20 years – independent media, true federalism, and so those proposals that were made by Medvedev are, in my opinion, adequate: The liberalization of political party registration, and the transition to direct elections of governors.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Vile, vile election fraudsters...

Did you know that elections in Britain and the US are marred by mass fraud? At least that would be the inescapable conclusion if they were to be subjected to the most popular methods to “prove” that Russian elections are rigged in favor of Putin and United Russia. Below I have a translated a delightful quiz by Mikhail Simkin, where you have to answer just one question: Did this happen in Russia or in a democratic country?

Some of the following weirdness happened in elections in Russia. They contradict the laws of mathematics and basic decency. They cannot be explained by anything other than mass falsifications. Some of the weirdness happened in democratic countries. They can be explained by natural causes. Can you identify which is which?

(1) The distribution of polling stations by the percentage of votes for the winning presidential candidate in their region.

Did this happen in (A) Russia or (B) in a democratic country?

(2) The dependence of the share of the vote for each of two parties on turnout. Each dot represents a region. Each region has a few dozen polling stations, and represents a few tens of thousands of voters. For some reason, the percentage of the vote for Party A grows in lockstep with the turnout whereas the percentage of the vote for Party B doesn’t change.

Did this happen in (A) Russia or (B) in a democratic country?

(3) In one city during the Presidential elections, more than 300,000 people voted. Of them some 97% voted for one candidate, who went on to win nationally (albeit with a score much less impressive than 97%). He got 100% of the vote in more than 15 of the six hundred precincts of the city in question. The biggest of the precincts where he got 100% had 580 voters.

Did this happen in (A) Russia or (B) in a democratic country?

(4) The distribution of polling stations by the percentage of votes for the winning party in their region.

Did this happen in (A) Russia or (B) in a democratic country?

(5) The dependence of the share of the vote for each of two parties on turnout. Each dot represents a region. Each region has a few dozen polling stations, and represents a few tens of thousands of voters. For some reason, the percentage of the vote for Party A grows with turnout, whereas the percentage of the vote for Party B decreases.

Did this happen in (A) Russia or (B) in a democratic country?

(6) The distribution of polling stations by the percentage of votes for the winning party in their region.

Did this happen in (A) Russia or (B) in a democratic country?

(7) In one region, in districts where turnout was less than 65%, party A got 30%, while party B got 39%. But in districts where turnout was higher than 65%, party A got 46%, while party B got only 31%.

Did this happen in (A) Russia or (B) in a democratic country?

(8) The distribution of polling stations by the percentage of votes for the winning presidential candidate in their region.

Did this happen in (A) Russia or (B) in a democratic country?

Turn the page for answers.

The answers are:

1) B
2) A
3) B
4) A
5) B
6) A
7) B
8) B

(1) The distribution of polling stations by the percentage of votes for Obama in the 2008 Presidential elections in the state of New York.

This happened in a democratic country.

(2) The dependence of the share of the vote for each of two parties on turnout in Moscow in the 2011 Duma elections. Each dot represents a region. Each region has a few dozen polling stations, and represents a few tens of thousands of voters. Part A is United Russia, Party B is the Communist Party.

This is almost the same graph as the one in Shpilkin’s [famous article about falsifications]. Only difference is that I grouped the data by region, so that it would be easier to compare with the graph for London in No.5, where there is no data at the level of individual polling stations.

This happened in Russia.

(3) In Detroit during the 2008 Presidential elections, more than 300,000 people voted. Of them some 97% voted for Obama, who went on to win nationally (albeit with a much lower score of 53%). Obama got 100% of the vote in more than 15 of the six hundred precincts of Detroit. The biggest of the precincts where he got 100% had 580 voters.

This happened in a democratic country.

(4) The distribution of polling stations by the percentage of votes for United Russia in Tatarstan in the 2011 Duma elections.

This happened in Russia.

(5) The dependence of the share of the vote on turnout in London during the 2010 Parliamentary elections. Each dot represents a region. Each regions represents a few tens of thousands of voters. Party A are the Conservatives, while Party B are Labour.

This correlation between party vote and turnout in the UK was discovered by Sergey Kuznetsov. I gave a simple explanation for this mysterious phenomenon in this article.

This happened in a democratic country.

(6) The distribution of polling stations by the percentage of votes for United Russia in the 2011 Duma elections in Dagestan.

This happened in Russia.

(7) In one region, in districts where turnout was less than 65%, the Conservatives got 30%, while Labour got 39%. But in districts where turnout was higher than 65%, the Conservatives got 46%, while Labour got only 31%.

This happened in a democratic country.

(8) The distribution of polling stations by the percentage of votes for Obama in the 2008 Presidential elections in Washington DC.

This happened in a democratic country.

Turn the page for conclusions.

This quiz does not, of course, prove that there’s no fraud in Russian election. However, it does caution us to take overly simple methods and bold conclusions with a pinch of salt.

In particular – due to the influence of populous sub-groups with their own particular voting patterns – a fair election need NOT have a Gaussian on a graph of turnout with voting share for a particular party. In the US, African-Americans overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party and its candidate; this explains the spikes Obama gets close to the 100% mark. The Detroit and Washington DC results are skewed in particular because they are predominantly African-American cities, plus the former hosts the automobile industries bailed out under the Obama administration.

Likewise, the share of votes for one party having a positive correlation with turnout is not indicative of fraud either. If that were the case, not only British elections would have to be considered rigged, but also those of Germany and Israel.

Now as blog readers will know from previous posts, I do think there is substantial election fraud in Russia: Around 5-7% in the 2011 Duma elections, and 3-4% in the recent Presidential ones. (This far more resembles someplace like Italy in the 1950′s than the US today where I very much doubt fraud is higher than 1%). However, the indicators I used to reach these figures are far more varied and nuanced than the flagrant statistical misuse that the far higher fraud figures like 10%+ are based on.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Sergey Zhuravlev is a Russian economist who runs a wonky but eminently readable and very useful, interesting blog and writes for Expert (author profile), which I may add is an excellent publication. You have met him previously on my blog as the inventor of a clever – if, in my opinion, flawed – argument that the 2011 Duma elections were marred by 5%-6% fraud, but were clean in Moscow; and if you read the Russia blogs, you may also have come across Mark Adomanis’ translation of one his articles about Russian regional inequality. Now I am presenting a translation of his Feb 13 article on what I called as the end of Russia’s demographic crisis: The Reversal of the Russian Cross. In my opinion, it has a few weaknesses; in particular, he is too cavalier about dismissing the “alcohol hypothesis” about post-Soviet Russia’s “supermortality”. But overall it is a brilliant and deeply informative survey of the origins of the Russian Cross – the crossover of the births and deaths graphs in 1992 – as well as of its recent reversal, to the extent that natural population decline is now almost stabilized and the overall population is able to grow due to net migrants.

The Reversal Of The Russian Cross

Last year our country’s population increased, for the first time in 20 years. Although positive growth in aggregate was only enabled by immigration from the Near Abroad, existing trends in rising fertility and falling mortality were maintained.

If we are to go by Rosstat’s figures, in the past year Russia’s population – for the first time in virtually the entire twenty years of Russia’s existence as a sovereign state – increased, exceeding 143 million people. The maximum population size was reached in 1992, at 148.56 millions, and has since decreased at a practically monotone rate. That said, it should be added that small population growth was previously observed in 1994 and 2009, and that the population fall in 2010 was, most likely, explained by cumulative errors over the period since the 2002 Census, and by the abnormal mortality during that summer’s heatwave [AK: There were c.56,000 excess deaths during the anomalous 2010 heatwave, which is basically equivalent to population decline of 48,300. Furthermore, the 2010 Census showed there to be 143.9 million Russians, which was one million higher than projections based on the 2002 Census; this implied that during the period, net immigration was underestimated by more than 100,000 per year. So its likely that even despite the heatwave, Russia's population still eked out an increase in 2010].

Caucasian Mountains only bested by Urals Mountains

The aggregate growth in our country’s permanent population was 165,000 for the past year [AK: This was a preliminary estimate that seems to have discounted December's migration stats; the final figure is population growth of 189,000]. Although overall positive growth is only enabled by migrants – net immigration is estimated at 296,000 for this year – the rate of natural population decrease continued to decline at a fast pace. Whereas in 2005 there were 828,000 more deaths than there were births, this past year it declined to 131,000.

Russia’s population is substantially affected by the effects of migration from the former Soviet Union. In the 22 years after 1990 – the year when ethnic problems in the former USSR exploded – some 7 million people have moved to Russia for permanent residency. This figure is in net terms, accounting for reverse flows from Russia, and discounting temporary labor migrants. Although net population outflow from Russia into countries of the Far Abroad constituted 80,000 annually throughout the 1990′s – in total, 1,050,000 Russians have officially moved into countries of the Far Abroad for permanent residency since 1990 – it has practically ceased from 2006 [AK: The Far Abroad is the world outside the former USSR, minus the Baltics and (recently) Georgia. Note also that Russia's "brain drain" came to a dripping halt at precisely the time when hacks in the Western media began to propagandize it].

Russia hosts the world’s second largest migrant population, after the US; it slightly exceeds Germany in this respect, and doubly so the next five largest migrant centers: Saudi Arabia, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, and France. A third of Russia’s migrant inflow from 1990 to 2010 from the former Soviet bloc accrued to Kazakhstan. But in the noughties Kazakhstan ceded leadership as a source of migrants to Uzbekistan, and after the Orange Revolution Ukraine caught up with them, and Kyrgyzstan after the Tulip Revolution [AK: Zhuravlev has a separate blog post noting that emigration waves typically accompany revolutions in the former Soviet space. I guess its something to look forwards to if the White Ribbon crowd seizes power.]

The only former Soviet republic with which Russia has had a negative migration balance these past 21 years – in which more people left than came in – is Belarus. That said, it should be noted that starting from 2005 the migration balance with Belarus too has turned positive, albeit it remains modest (net immigration from Belarus constitutes less than 8,000 people over the past six years). It is unclear why more people left for Belarus before this date; perhaps because the Russian provinces neighboring Belarus, such as Belarus, aren’t exactly the richest ones. Maybe it was tied to family reunification – parents returning to their children, or Belorussians returning to their homeland, for instance from Komsomol construction projects. Perhaps for this same reason Russia had a net outflow of migrants into Ukraine in the very early 1990′s.

As regards internal migration, the statistics do not reveal any special revelations that could refute or even complement intuition. There are three main destinations for internal migrants: The city of Moscow and Moscow oblast (in the past year the entire agglomeration absorbed 125,000 people, or three quarters of Russia’s population growth), and St.-Petersburg (33,000 migrants in the past year). There is also substantial migration into the Southern Federal District (in significant part from the neighboring North Caucasus) and into the Urals Federal District.

An important caveat is that in the two latter cases, population growth carries an exclusively point-like character. In the Urals Federal District, it is almost entirely concentrated around Tyumen oblast, the richest province in Russia today. Due to the high levels of social support in Tyumen oblast, fertility is also high: Young families get generous housing benefits, there are special programs for families with children. On its part the situation is similar for the Southern Federal District, which grows entirely thanks to Krasnodar krai, which is also understandable: Sochi.

It is clear that Russia’s demographic situation has improved in substantial part on account of the Northern Caucasus, where a strengthening baby boom started from about 2005. The other more or less demographically balanced Russian region, experiencing positive natural population growth, is the Urals Federal District thanks in turn to Tyumen. But contrary, perhaps, to popular belief, the Northern Caucasus isn’t the main source of migrants to the Central Federal District. In 2010, the most recent year for which internal migration data is available, only 16,000 people from the North Caucasus got permanent residence in the Center. This is but a drop in the ocean to the 19 million population of the Moscow region.

The biggest “donors” to the Moscow agglomeration are the Center itself and the Volga Federal District. These two regions, which constitute the primordial Russia as it developed in the 16th-17th centuries, experience not only the maximum natural population decrease in Russia but also the maximum mechanical loss of population, which in its turn is getting fairly intensively replaced by migrants from Central Asia (and in Siberia, apparently, from China [AK: Here I disagree with Zhuravlev. While there are significant numbers of Chinese labor migrants and shuttle traders in the Far East, very few of them choose to stay. This is not the case for Central Asians.])

Wartime Losses in Peacetime

Russia’s natural population decrease has declined as a result of a significant improvement in mortality, as well as a modest increase in fertility. The fall in mortality, just as its rise earlier in the 1990′s and early 2000′s, for the most part affected men, and substantially affected their expected life expectancy. From a remarkably low level for a civilized country of 58.9 years six years ago (the minimum was 57.4 years in 1994) it has now improved to 63.6 years. This is still far from a result to write home about, but at least it is now almost equal to the best Soviet-era indicators in the early 1960′s and late 1980′s. As for mortality among under 40′s, which has always been the scourge of Russian men, the current curves are even better than the Soviet ones (granted, the share of men living to 35-40 years is now higher mostly thanks to significantly lower infant and child mortality rates).

The phenomenon of “supermortality” from 1991 to 2009 – the 6.24 million excess deaths in the past 19 years, of which 3.2 million accrue to the 1990′s, that would not have occurred had age-specific mortality rates remained fixed at 1990 levels – has yet, in my opinion, to be endowed with a rational explanation [AK: This is the weakest point of Zhuravlev's essay. Yes, there is a rational and very convincing reason: Alcohol. There is a very close correlation between alcohol consumption and mortality since the late Soviet period, when an anti-alcohol campaign reduced consumption and improved life expectancy, to local peaks in consumption - and mortality - around 1994 and the early 2000's, to the past few years, when mortality reductions have occurred in lockstep with less boozing. There are similar correlations between alcohol consumption and mortality by geography, sex, and socio-economic sex; see the evidence here.]

Despite the hugeness of the number itself. It is equal to or even exceeds the “supermortality” caused by collectivization, is almost an order of magnitude greater than the number of victims of the Great Terror, and has the same order of magnitude as the rear losses of the USSR during the Great Patriotic War.

Falling living standards? This fit the maximum in 1994, but not the second local maximum in 2003, when normality was returning. And on the whole, while living standards fell during the transition period and reattained Soviet levels only in 2003-2005, the depth of the fall was nowhere near deep enough to explain this “supermortality” as during the war years with reasons such as malnutrition, poor sanitation, and the unbearable conditions of mobilized labor. The “supermortality” of the past twenty years carried some war front characteristics: Excess mortality among males from 25 to 44 years of age in percentage terms relative to Soviet norms was maximal, at 57%. As if Russia had a war.

To this day another very popular explanation is the “alcohol hypothesis.” Booze became more accessible, people got more free time on their hands, and parasitism was no longer a jailing offense. It is probable that more accessible spirits, and especially drugs – which were little known in the USSR – played their role. However, during the period, people didn’t start to buy fewer spirits; it remained at a constant 9-10 liters of ethanol per capita annually (the contribution of homemade moonshine is purely evaluative, often they add on about 10 liters of ethanol per capital, but who’s doing the counting?).

Be that as it may, the reduction in external (“non-natural”) causes of death in the past few years was very significant and was visibly faster than the reduction in mortality from all other causes. For instance, if aggregate mortality declined by 2.9% in 2011, for non-natural causes – homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning – it fell by 9%-17%. Albeit, mortality from traffic accidents did increase by 1.3%.

The causes for this reduction in “non-natural” mortality should probably not be sought for beyond rising living standards. Especially revealing in this context is a comparison between large megapolises, especially Moscow, with the rest of Russia. In the capital, the numbers of murders and suicides, not to even mention alcohol poisonings by counterfeit vodka, are many times lower – by up to five to ten times lower – than in the rest of the country.

In aggregate drunkenness, banditry, the increasing number of auto accidents, and the war in Chechnya explain much less than 100,000 of the annual number of abnormal deaths, which in some years have reached up to 600,000 in the past decade. Furthermore the rise in mortality also affected women, albeit to a lesser extent, for whom the chances of meeting one of the deaths described above are much less characteristic.

The melancholy arising from a career loss is surely an important factor, especially when it comes to people near the end of it. But then its unclear why mortality increases afflicted 25 year old youths; there are cases of suicide even among party and Komsomol activists of this age, even though they fit perfectly into the new capitalist economy.

The mere fact of the demise of the state of “Kuzmich” could hardly have caused such an overpowering depression, as to invoke the desire to end it lethally [AK: Кузьмичи refers to a person who grew up on Soviet kitsch and later became disillusioned by it, but was forced to continue living the lie to retain his power. This cynicism and obscurantism described the Soviet nomenklatura by the 1970's-80's.] To be honest, it was sooner the other way round: They had annoyed everyone by then. One final consideration: We may be dealing with a statistical artifact from Soviet times. It’s well known that to a Soviet economic statistics were just rubbish to a significant extent. Is it possible that similar techniques were applies to mortality statistics, even though its more difficult? [AK: I very much doubt it, not only because falsifying demographic stats is more difficult but because the picture they reveal is damning nonetheless: Stagnant life expectancy (an overall decline for men) and an infant mortality rate that actually, unique among industrialized countries in peacetime, that actually increased under the late Brezhnev period.]

Girls, Ask your Girl Friends

The shifts taking place in fertility were no less interesting. In the 1990′s, the quantity of children per woman younger than 25 years nearly halved. This decrease barely affected older women; however, because it was specifically “youth fertility” that was high in the USSR, the aggregate result was dramatic. The total fertility rate (TFR) – the number of children a woman can expect to have in her lifetime – fell from 1.89 children in 1990 to 1.16 (!) in 1999, which is, of course, very far from level required to assure population replacement. Although the noughties observed an increasing TFR on account of more births among older women – in 2009, the TFR reached 1.54 children – the total “shortfall” of births from the reduction in “youth fertility” during the 1991 to 2009 period consisted of 11.292 people.

Up until 2007, the influence of these changes on the crude birth rate – the numbers of births per 1000 people – was slightly offset by the increase in the numbers of women in their childbearing age.

In the graph below, it is clear that in this indicator, adjusted for changes in age-specific mortality, was actually growing in the 1990′s and the first half of the 2000′s. This is not surprising, as fertility was mostly formulated on account of women born in 1975 or younger, when we had a repeat demographic spurt (an echo of the baby boom of the 1950′s). After 2007, the crude birth rate is starting to be affected by the echo of its own collapse in the 1990′s and by population aging. That is why the birth rate has remained almost flat since that year, despite the number of children per woman markedly increasing. This “echo effect” is going to influence fertility in the coming decade, since women from the small 1990′s cohort will be reaching child-bearing age.

It is difficult to say with certainty what caused this fertility shift towards women of greater age. In the Soviet period, a significant contributory factor to early childbearing was that it was figured as a condition for registration for the provision of housing. Apparently, postponed childbearing was enabled by growing income inequality (as a result of which, women began to take more care in choosing a mate, with economic factors playing a significant role in the process), new opportunities for international migration, or something else.

It’s clear that under the Soviet Union, the presence of kindergartens, schools, the Constitution’s guarantee – which was more or less followed in practice – of free housing constituted significant social supports, which enabled high fertility rates. One can also add that many Soviet cities – maybe, all of them – were developed like a “company town”, with social and housing infrastructures closely tied to the town-forming enterprise. When markets were introduced, and it became clear that nobody wanted so many tractors or so many tanks and the revenues of these enterprises dried up, all this infrastructure were left hanging in thin air. There was nothing left to finance the kindergartens and nurseries, no funds to build housing. And the destruction and uncertainty, of course, also influenced decisions on having children.

The economic stabilization of the 2000′s, and especially the new social support measures introduced in 2006-2007 – maternity capital, credit programs, etc. – launched a “delayed fertility” effect, a shift of births towards older women. In general fertility has matured, albeit one shouldn’t exclude the possibility that further concerted efforts to provide social support for families and children will return TFR back to Soviet levels. In any case, more than half of the movement back is already behind us.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Courtesy of Evgeny‘s comment at Mark Adomanis’ blog, I found a very interesting piece by Sergey Lukyanenko – the bestselling Russian sci-fi writer best known for his Night Watch series, which was later converted into Russia’s first blockbuster film in 2004 – on the recent turmoil in Russian politics. It is a bit dated, from January 3, and originating as a blog post the language is highly colloquial and informal. But I think it worthy of translation for two main reasons.

First, there is the distinct (but wrong) impression that the mass of the literary “intelligentsia” is behind the anti-Putin protests, because of the visibility of high-profile writers like Boris Akunin, who recently wrote a rather rambling op-ed for the NYT. Lukyanenko demonstrates that this is not the case.

Second, I personally agree with almost all of it, save for a few parts like citing Switzerland or the UK as a good democracies. But on the whole I can vouch for practically every word. And as a science fiction writer in whose worlds the lines between good and evil are frequently blurred – if they exist at all – he brings a much needed “middle ground” position to the rigidly pro-Kremlin/anti-Kremlin binary that dominates this discourse.

I Will Vote For Putin

I didn’t want to, but in the end I had to make a comment. For every so often agitated young people would run into my LJ blog, asking me the following types of question: “Where were you during the Meetings [for Free Elections]? At home? That means you voted for the swindlers and thieves! Are you not ashamed of yourself? Your friends Kaganov, Eksler, Bykov were out there, making rhetorical history and laughing and waving placards… How could you look them in the eyes now? If everything in your life is fine, you’d be for Putin, right? You consider this regime to be ideal? What, you mean to say, that we don’t have anyone else qualified to be President?”

So an explanation is warranted.

I voted for the Communists. I did it with a pinched nose, for today’s Communist Party has no relation to communists, to the people, and unfortunately, even to politics in general. In the past I voted for the Union of Right Forces, but with equal amounts of horror and aversion. But the defining weirdness of my thoroughly anti-democratic and anti-liberal conscience consists of my belief in everyone’s right to think differently. And I want the Parliament to have representatives of the right, and the left, and centrists, and swindlers and thieves too, as they too make up a considerable share of our society – why bother denying this? As our most ardent supporters of democracy insist on denying others the right to their own opinion, I will sing my own song and do everything I can to make “a thousand flowers bloom.” I am mostly satisfied with the result – yes, of course there were violations (yeah, as if they didn’t exist earlier… You remember how Yeltsin won? Nothing bothered you back then?), but the Duma did become more diverse. (And I, by the way, don’t call for my political opponents to be hanged in the squares, stripped of their rights and exiled to Magadan. Unlike you, my dear liberals…)

And the fact that Leo, Alex, and Dima went to the Meetings does not in the slightest interfere with my appreciation of their books. More power to them. And I consider them sane people too.

I am always touched by the argument: “Well, life is good for you – so that’s why you support the current regime?” This is usually said in an outraged and pressured tone. I mean, how could this be – why are those people, who aren’t bothered by the government, why are they of all things not protesting against it? The binomial theory! The great mystery of the universe! The great Russian pastime – cutting off the nose to spite the face! Yes, I will actually vote for the current government, as long as I believe that it is right for me. And you will vote against it, as long as you believe that it is bad for you. And this is all right and proper. Is this not the very democracy that you want?

So moving on, does this mean I consider the current regime ideal?

What a profoundly intellectual conclusion! I do not consider the sausage that I buy in a supermarket to be ideal. I don’t consider my books to be ideal. I consider our entire world to be far from ideal. So what should I do then – refrain from eating, from writing books, and from living in general? If you are not the Dark Lord, you will always find mistakes in the universe. We have no shortage of fools both in power and under their power. We have many swindlers, thieves, idlers, and rascals. But here is one crucial elaboration – these people are everywhere, in all spheres of life. And their percentage shares among construction workers, medics, and politicians are all broadly similar. The world isn’t perfect, you know? People too. Have you forgotten how thirty years ago, the entire country voted in unison for the Block of Communists and Non-Party Members. I remember. Have you forgotten, how twenty years ago schoolboys dreamed of becoming hitmen, and schoolgirls – whores? Better by far that they dream of becoming bureaucrats! Satellites are falling, the Bulava can’t take off? And did you know how many satellites burned up on their way to orbit under the USSR, and how many unsuccessful missile launches there were before things got righted? So the country is dying out? Look at the charts – at how life expectancy has changed in the past few years. Few births? Look at the figures for Europe. Problems with immigrants? Take a walk in London or Paris (which, by the way, is now possible, as was not the case under the USSR).

Do you want the level of democracy they have in Switzerland or the UK? Learn a bit of history, people. How many years did they spend building their modern democracies and modern relations of people to the state? How many people perished in the process? Yes, it would be wonderful to wave a magic wand and… but I don’t have one. I’m afraid Putin doesn’t have one either. There, in Tajikistan yesterday they killed… Father Frost! As a socially and religiously alien element. Do you assume we aren’t Tajikistan? In some respects, we completely are. At least with respect to our attitudes towards differing viewpoints. The entire LJ blogosphere continually demonstrates this.

Not long ago, I was still wondering who to vote for in the Presidential elections. And, you know what, you guys helped me make my choice – with your meetings, provocative placards and loud slogans. I will vote for Putin.

Because we really do NOT have another politician, capable of leading the country.

Because the slogans of everyone else are either naked populism, or facsimiles of Putin’s slogans, or unorganized set of contradictory promises.

Because the “opposition leaders” plaster each other with obscenities, and would tear each other apart if the current government were to fall apart. Do you expect Krylov to get along with Yavlinsky? That liberals will make friends with Communists and nationalists? My friends, this isn’t even funny… All the current protesting opposition marches under the banner of destruction and mutual hatred… Yes, and you they also hold cheap

Because Zyuganov would flee to Switzerland in panic if you were to vote him in.
Because Mironov, though a good man, is not a national leader.
Because Nemtsov – well, that’s not even funny.
Because Zhirinovsky – ‘twould be fun, if the country had a “Save Game” button.
Because Prokhorov is a businessman, and a country can’t be managed like a mining company.
Because Navalny is a person, who works for another country. Not for ours.
Because there is no other. Hasn’t appeared yet.

So is Putin responsible for all that? That he hasn’t raised a successor?

But you didn’t like Medvedev either. “Too liberal”; “too scheming”; “iPhone President”; “innovation”, this and that…

Putin, by the way, was put forwards by Yeltsin. You don’t like the result? So what do you want, that Putin himself could put forward someone, whom you consider worthy? Well then it would be but a continuation of Putin’s policies.

The opposition, in your opinion, should be raised by the acting regime? Don’t take the mickey… Politics aren’t the Olympic Games. Politicians grow notwithstanding the current government. And let them grow, and good luck to them. Let Navalny and Chirikova organize a party, write a program and come to power.

What, they wouldn’t be allowed in? LOL. United Russia had its share of the vote inflated, but probably by not more than 5 percent. United Russia is the party off the majority, that is a fact. So what if they got a few percentage points less – they’d have joined a coalition with Fair Russia. And as if that’d have made a great difference to the political picture in Russia…

Here are transparent ballot boxes, web cams at the elections, parties of 500 people… the mass media are controlled? Again, LOL. There are opposition media everywhere. Do you want to have the first word on TV? Then work for it, fight for it. If you get the majority – you’ll have this all. And if not – well, my apologies…

You have the right to vote. And to monitor the vote. And it’s entirely possible, that on that day – I too will go have a look. So that you, my passionate and fiery friends, don’t flood the streets will your bulletins. Because whenever one side says, that it’s all pure and white, that side I don’t trust in advance.

… And about what is happening now in the world, how one country after another is ruined in the name of democracy and maintaining the status quo, I won’t even talk about that. Either you see it and understand it, or you are naive beyond all measure. And over the next several years, while the world is undergoing this HUGE crisis, I want to see a leader in power who is capable of bold moves. And ready to defend our country.

So I will go and vote for Putin. For the next six years he has my trust on credit. And you go and vote for your candidates. This is what is called democracy.

But magic wands and a free lunch don’t exist in this world.

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

TRANSLATION: Time To Shove Off To Belarus!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Nikolay Starikov, heroic destroyer of Russian liberal myths!

Nikolay Starikov, heroic destroyer of Russian liberal myths!

Do you remember the growing chorus of voices in the Western media speaking of a “growing wave” of emigration from Putin’s Russia? Those 1.25 million liberal professionals who have fled that neo-Soviet abyss in the past few years? As it turns out, not only are these stories complete fabrications – in a previous post, I revealed that the actual statistics (as opposed to hearsay) indicate that emigration has fallen to record lows – but they originate with the Russian liberal media.

The words of a government official, whose department has nothing to do with migration, was egregiously MISQUOTED to give the impression of a huge outflow in the past few years whereas he had been talking about the entire post-Soviet period! Nonetheless, too lazy and/or ideologically biased to do basic fact-checking, this false narrative spread into the top Russian liberal media outlets and from then on into Western publications (with their equally lazy and Russophobic hacks) such as Julian Evans for Wall Street Journal and Simon Shuster for TIME.

The full meta-story of how the Russian liberals orchestrated this “Second Wave of Emigration” meme is reconstructed in painstaking detail by Nikolay Starikov in his blog post How Liberal Myths are Created. My translation follows:

The recipe is simple: a little manipulation, a few lies, and a lot of emotions. And that’s all – yet another calumny on Russia is ready. Let us get to the bottom of this kitchen cooking liberal myths about our country.

A myth is always created in several stages:

STAGE 1 – The “Careless Citation”

Radio Echo of Moscow, Sat. Jan 15, 2011, program “Dura Lex.”

In the studio we have Mikhail Barschevsky and Chairman of the Audit Chamber Sergei Stepashin. They are having a nice discussion and congratulate each other on the New Year.

Sergei Stepashin feels himself comfortable and says the following in his discussion with Barschevsky:

BARSCHEVSKY: … You now speak of innovations. But, in reality, by abusing human rights – ordinary rights, such as security, not providing judicial protection – we lost a lot of talented people to brain drain. People who may now have been very useful for innovation.
STEPASHIN: Well I have the exact figures. 1,250,000 people, who are now working abroad. They aren’t the least able of us….
BARSCHEVSKY: You mean not plumbers?
STEPASHIN: Well, they are academics, specialists.
BARSCHEVSKY: 1,250,000?
STEPASHIN: 1,250,000. About as many left after 1917.

So what did Stepashin actually say? He said that 1,250,000 Russians work abroad. They are educated academics and specialists.

Now pay close attention – the Chairman of the Audit Chamber didn’t say a word about when these people left the country. The conversation was about something else – that today some 1,250,000 smart Russians work abroad. But when did they leave? Throughout the entire post-Soviet era! (And likely, including the period of the late USSR).

Sergey Stepashin has to be more careful with his numbers, and his words – especially on account of his position, and on that radio station! [AK: Echo of Moscow is one of the main media voices of Russian liberals].

STAGE 2 – Quote Manipulation and Myth Creation

After the radio program the liberals did two things:

(1) They began to present the 1,250,000 figure as originating from an authoritative source – the Chairman of the Audit Chamber. As if our Audit Chamber concerns itself with counting the numbers leaving the country. [AK: Obviously, it doesn't; that's the job of the Federal Migration Service]

(2) They presented this figure not as the numbers of Russians working abroad, but as the numbers of Russians who took leave of Putin’s Russia. I hope the difference is clear.

Thus the myth creation process from Stepashin’s carelessly phrased words began to spread in earnest. Here are a few randomly chosen Internet headers:

The middle class leaves Russia. “According to the Audit Chamber’s figures, some 1,250,000 emigrated from Russia in the last few years.”

Consequences of the Putinist decade: clever people scrambling out of Russia. “The country is submerged under a new emigration wave. 1,250,000 people left for the West. Once again people are running out of Russian en masse. If we believe the calculations of Sergey Stepashin, the Chairman of the Audit Chamber, 1,250,000 Russians left the country in the past few years.”

Soon after, this process is reinforced not just by simple “parrots,” but by more qualified commentators. Their goals are the same – the creation of false information in support of their thesis that “all that we had is now gone.”

1,250,000 emigrants. Why is Russia leaking human capital?” asks the title of a program on Radio Finam FM. It begins thus: “According to Chairman of the Audit Chamber Sergey Stepashin’s calculations, in the last few years 1,250,000 emigrated out of Russia. And this is only the official statistic.”

The radio show-manipulators invited Dmitry Polikanov, the Deputy Director of the Central Executive Party Committee of United Russia. But for him and for all its listeners, this 1,250,000 figure is already presented, as the OFFICIAL NUMBER OF EMIGRANTS IN THE LAST FEW YEARS.

This is how they frame their question: “Dmitry, please tell us, is not the younger generation off United Russia party leaders the least concerned about this statistic, or is it considered to be within reasonable bounds, and irrelevant? 1,250,000 people left our country in the last few years, but don’t worry – that’s nothing to worry about.”

It’s a smart approach – how exactly is a young United Russia functionary is supposed to argue with the Chairman of the Audit Chamber? For nobody has the time or desire to read the original source and realize that what Sergey Stepashin talked about, wasn’t in the least related to how leading liberals quoted him.

The liberals always exploit our big weakness – the majority of normal people don’t know the rules of information warfare. They can’t even imagine that liars may intentionally distort and outright falsify words and facts. And the liberals feed off this. They brazenly LIE.

Just remember – don’t trust any numbers put forwards by the liberals. In most cases, it will either be based on lies, or intentional manipulation. Check them; refute them.

But the young Polikanov accepted those liberal figures at face value and didn’t dispute the figure of 1,250,000 who LEFT IN THE LAST FEW YEARS. And in so doing, he in a way confirmed them. And that’s all that “independent” journalists really require.

Because now they can link to that discussion too: here was a United Russia functionary, and he didn’t dispute that figure, hence he agreed with it. And thus that 1,250,000 just left the country is the truth.

After that this figure seeps into the blogosphere, and becomes a common motif. A clear example of how normal life in “Putin’s Russia” is impossible.

Soon after Moskovskij Komsomolets joins in, which employs that famous “literatus” Aleksandr Minkin. He writes an article under the title Flight from the Tandem: “The Audit Chamber officially reported: “In the last few years, 1,250,000 people left Russia.” The wave of emigration is not a lot less than the one after 1917. This statistics are confirmed by the Director of the Federal Migration Service Romodanovsky: “About 300,000-350,000 Russians leave to work abroad every year.” How many of them return he didn’t specify.”

Regular as clockwork, Minkin is lying big time. The Audit Chamber didn’t officially report anything about emigration, nor can it because it isn’t its sphere of responsibility! Minkin isn’t only repeating Stepashin’s distorted words, but he is also creatively manipulating the speech of Konstantin Romodanovsky. The FMS Director actually said this: “Every year more than 300,000 people leave Russia, of whom 40,000 – for permanent residence abroad.”

That is, only 40,000 people permanently leave the country. The others study, work, travel, and return. The state statistics service Rosstat has very similar figures.

But let’s be honest, unlike “independent” journalists. Where to they go, where do citizens “flee” from their “bad” life in Russia? Of course, they leave for the “civilized world.” So let’s take the numbers of those leaving for the so-called “Far Abroad” (AK: Refers to the world outside the former USSR). After all it’s not like our countrymen are leaving for a better life in Moldova or Georgia.

1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Left for FA 86026 82327 87156 63408 59596 54586 47937 42778 33689 18799 15684 13394

So what we have is that in the past 12 years, some 605,380 people left the country. And the trend is for this figure to decrease with every passing year.

Unfortunately, Rosstat doesn’t give figures for 2009 and 2010 (AK: It does, but you have to dig into their database; this trend has continued, and as of this year the migration balance between countries like Germany and Israel has even turned positive!). But in 2008 some 39,508 people left Russia, out of whom 13,394 left for the Far Abroad. Is it even possible to imagine that in 2009 and 2010 there began a flood of 1.2 million when in the previous year there were less than 40,000?

STAGE 3 – Smearing the Country

And now Novaya Gazeta strolls by, all very randomly and independently. [AK: NG is the most hysterically liberal and knee-jerk anti-Putin paper].

After the previous stage of myth creation and “legitimization,” NG confidently states: “A high ranked bureaucrat has shed light on the unprecedented human flight out of Russia at the end of the 2000′s. The Chairman of the Audit Chamber Sergey Stepashin back in January gave a figure – from 2008, some 1.25 million Russians in the economically active part of the population. And the outflow continues. Although Stepashin predictably didn’t delve into its causes, the current emigration wave unconditionally enters the list of deferred achievements of the “eight years of Putinist stability.””

Read this Novaya Gazeta article. Pathos, photo. The general tone: All we have is gone, the Russia, that we have lost.

And now remember back – what did Stepashin actually say?

Do you still trust the liberal media?

All that said, for us this history with the lies and distortions so eagerly spread by the campaigners “for our freedom and yours” is only another reason to soberly analyze the emigration out of Russia of those people, who may be of use to it.

Let’s summarize:

  1. Some 1,250,000 of our countrymen, who left in the past 20 years, are now working abroad. Many of them are well educated and talented.
  2. The brain drain out of Russia continues. But, bearing in mind that the figures are falling year by year (reaching 39,508 in 2008), we can confidently say that the scale of this emigration is continuously declining.
  3. It is also clear that the vast majority of our brain drain happened in the periods of “reform” and “liberalism” – when effective managers and those same liberals destroyed science and industry – and not at all in the past few years.
  4. Sergey Stepashin should not relax when interviewed by Echo of Moscow. He should watch his words carefully, anyone of which may be used against Russia in the information war.
  5. Under no circumstances should one trust figures cited by the liberal mass media and “independent” journalists. They will deceive you, like rogue traders cheat on unwary customers in a bazaar.
  6. Cross check everything yourself, think independently. The main instrument for this is common sense.
  7. You have to love your country. This love will help you separate lies from truth.

End of translation

There is also a STAGE 4 – the Western Transmigration. In this episode, the hacks who populate Western journalism reprint Russian liberal talking points, but being every bit as lazy and ideologically Russophobic as the liberasts (and in some cases not even knowing the Russian language) checking the provenance of these stories isn’t exactly their first priority. It’s not even on the to do list.

Hence articles such as:

Hence what begins as liberal manipulation in the dregs of Russian media spreads to marginal newspapers such as Novaya Gazeta, and from then on to the heights of what passes for Western “journalism.”

PS. Compare also with liberal slandering of Russia on Russia’s demography by Nezavisimaya Gazeta and how the liberal media played up the specter of a wave of crisis-induced abortions in early 2009 even as abortions continued to fall and fertility to rise. Truly there is no end to Russian liberal lies.

EDIT: This article has been (re-!) translated into Russian at Inosmi.ru (Как российские либералы создают русофобские мифы).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Following on from my last post in which I revealed the neoliberal, anti-Russian inclinations of Dmitry Medvedev (pictured left, sporting his new Hitler mustache), let us know consider another question – what to make of his much vaunted liberalism, his humaneness, his consciousness? The Western media as with their liberal Russian running dogs have traditionally presented DAM as the polar opposite of the evil statist Putin, who we are told worships the authoritarian values of the KGB and seeks to turn Russia into a neo-Soviet Union. Now look at the following comments.

1. “Talking of mandatory treatment – one can talk about anything. But mandatory treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction is ultimately worse for ourselves. We have to convince that person, encourage an internal motivation, and understanding of the necessity to conquer these ills. It is important that that person doesn’t feel himself alone, so that he understands and feels that if he fell into this trap, he should feel that he hasn’t been abandoned, that he isn’t alone, that his family and friends, relatives, parents won’t abandon him to the winds, nor will his school, his work collective, wherever he may be studying or working, the state won’t abandon him.”

2. “Concerning testing schoolchildren for drugs, I would be satisfied with any manner in which it is carried out. Practically continuous testing. A situation should be created where not testing becomes inconvenient for the schools… Drugs influence the demographic situation and destroy our nation’s gene pool, people’s health… Everyone, be they young or old, getting a job, should have to think that even if he consumes drugs even just once it will be discovered, and this will stop him from further drugs consumption… I think this idea should be developed. I instruct the Minister of Education* to look at this in the sense of updating the policy documents of state and private universities… The popularization of drugs consumption is simply a crime, not only legally but morally. I am simply shocked by the degree of this popularization on certain Internet information portals.”

One of these statements belongs to a Dostoevskian appreciation of humanity’s universal brotherhood and respect for true liberal values. The other belongs to the world of the Soviet Union, of modern-day GULAG’s (such as the US prison-industrial complex) locking up 1% of their citizenry, of moral hysteria and populist threats against things like the Internet or night clubs which the speaker doesn’t understand. Dear reader, care to guess which statement is whose?

Putin is the nuanced humanitarianism. And it is, of course, the Medvedev Abomination which has moralistic authoritarianism oozing out of every one of its slimey pores.

All those ideas go against the growing consensus of global researchers on the drug problem. They are also deeply illiberal and socially unjust, values which DAM pretends to champion. Just what is he smoking???

For Medvedev is the type of “liberal” who believes dropping bombs can bring democracy. He is the type of person who wants to lock up poor people – say, drug users, or homeless people who steal $100 – while letting billionaire crooks go free; granted Medvedev hasn’t outright admitted to wanting to pardon Khodorkovsky, but his language on the matter – one of “neutral” legalese mumbo jumbo that no normal person cares about – as well as calls for MBK’s pardons from his circles (by their friends shall ye know them) reveal his true standing for what it is – a stooge of finance capital.

In other words, he is a neoliberal Stalinist.

If Medvedev gets a second term in the Presidency, then Russia will evidently not be long for this world. That is why Russians have to take their country back. Get him out of the Kremlin, or burn him out!!!

* The Education Minister Andrei Fursenko (as is Putin, is against mandatory drugs testing in schools. Thankfully not everyone there is insane like Medvedev.

PS. In the latest news, Medvedev embarks on his latest campaign to destroy the Russian defense industry.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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In the post with A Good Treaty’s interview, the commentator peter recommended this book, ВЛАСТЬ-2010: 60 биографий (Power in 2010: 60 biographies) by Vladimir Pribylovsky, as a “useful primer on who’s who in the Kremlin”. I happen to agree – with many qualifications, which are discussed below – which is why I translated its introductory summary “Phantom Tandem, Real Triumvirate and the Kremlin Clan Wars“.

The Triumvirate and the First Ten

According to the official version, Russia is a democratic country, consensually governed by the “tandem” of lawfully elected President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin. The semi-official version says that the two halves of the “tandem” are in fact equal: since Putin is older and more experienced, he is also more “equal” and more important than his protégé in the Presidency.

The second account is closer to the real state of affairs, but it’s inaccurate even so. The pinnacle of power isn’t occupied by a “tandem” or duumvirate, but by a triumvirate composed of Putin, Sechin and Medvedev. The President isn’t even the second man in the hierarchy, but only the third. Although some politogists rank Medvedev fourth (after Viktor Ivanov) or even fifth (after Sergey Naryshkin, or Aleksandr Bortnikov, or Vladislav Surkov, or even Roman Abramovich), these are sensationalist exaggerations.

The real hierarchy and functions of Russia’s highest bureaucrats have no relation to their nominal positions. Vladimir Putin is called Prime Minister, but in reality he’s the Sovereign, our Tsar-Batyushka – while not a sole autocrat or absolute monarch, his power is unconstitutional; and though constrained, it is not by the constitution or the laws, but by corporate-clique traditions (not dissimilar from mafia “understandings”), backstage agreements with shadowy lobbies, and family, friend and administrative connections. Furthermore, not only is Putin a Tsar, he is also his own Minister of Foreign Affairs (the nominal minister, Sergey Lavrov, is nothing more than an advisor on foreign policy).

Though Igor Sechin is called the Deputy Prime Minister, it is he who is in fact the “First Minister”. He’s not quite the head of government (as not all Ministers are subject to him – several answer directly to the Sovereign), but he’s a first amongst equals nonetheless. He holds sway over vast swathes of the Russian economy (with the exception of finance) and the security organs answer to him.

On paper, Dmitry Medvedev is the President and head of stat, but in reality he’s sooner a sort of Deputy Prime Minister on a wide range of issues. Though preeminent in his domain, the legislative sector, he is but an advisor to the Sovereign on cadre questions, and not even the most influential – that honor goes to Viktor Ivanov, and maybe even Sergey Sobyanin has more influence on the appointments of governors than the President who signs to confirm them.

The responsibilities of FSB director Aleksandr Bortnikov are similar to his job description. Though he is formally subordinated to President Medvedev, his real managers are Putin and Sechin.

Although Viktor Ivanov is officially the director of the Federal Anti-Narcotics Agency, no matter the name of his official position in the last 15 years, he was and remains Putin’s main advisor on cadre selection. Furthermore, the Federal Anti-Narcotics Agency is really the “second KGB” (the “first KGB” is Bortnikov’s FSB). This “second KGB” became necessary after the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), which had balanced the KGB during the Soviet era, fell under FSB control during Putin’s reign. Control of the MVD is exercised by the Petersburg – Karelia clan of Patrushev and Nurgaliev.

Sergey Naryshkin, the head of the Presidential Administration, should theoretically work to fulfill the President’s will. However, Naryshkin, Putin’s classmate in the KGB Higher School, is actually Medvedev’s “supervisor” on behalf of the Sovereign, Putin.

Vladislav Surkov is officially the First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration, but is also informally responsible for the regime’s ideology. He holds an unofficial position that is impossible in a democratic state – Minister of Parliament and Political Parties.

The Minister of Finance Aleksey Kudrin, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov (answers on foreign economic policy) and Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Sobyanin (head of the Administration of the Russian President) also figure in the first ten of the administrative-economic oligarchy that rules Russia.

A Note on Oligarchy

An oligarchy is the collective authoritarianism of the propertied class. The single most propertied class in Russia is the higher bureaucracy, the nomenklatura. Directly (through management of state property) or indirectly (through front men, wives, children, cousins, nephews, etc) the oligarchic nomenklatura controls virtually the entire Russian economy. Their leading members are magnates of global stature – Putin in oil/gas and finance, Medvedev in paper and pulp, Sechin in oil, Sobyanin in natural gas, Shuvalov in finance, Surkov in food products, etc. This pattern is reproduced amidst the wider ranks of the regional oligarchies.

Clans, Clienteles and Coalitions

An oligarchy is never united – it is always fragmented into clans, groupings and clienteles waging civil war, as parts of temporary or more-or-less continuous coalitions. Today the main struggle is between two coalitions of administrative-economic clans, Sechin’s and Medvedev’s. The coalition centered around Sechin wants to remove Medvedev and his supporters from power and supports a third term for Putin after the 2012 elections.

In direct opposition, the Medvedev coalition aims to displace Sechin and his allies, reelect Medvedev in 2012, and transform the triumvirate into a duumvirate with Medvedev playing a more equal role in it. However, they are not much interested in Putin’s dismissal, though it is possible that for some of them it is a distant goal.

The foundation of the Sechin coalition is the union of two groups of St.-Petersburg Chekists: Sechin’s own clan and the group of Viktor Ivanov and Nikolay Patrushev (secretary of the Security Council and former head of the FSB), reinforced by a smattering of smaller clans and clienteles. Prominent figures in the Sechin clan include his protégé in the FSB Aleksandr Bortnikov, the Presidential Envoy to the Southern Federal District Vladimir Ustinov (Sechin’s son-in-law), former Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov (current First Deputy Prime Minister) and Mikhail Fradkov (current head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR), Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov, the President of Rosneft Sergey Bogdanchikov and the CEO of Vneshtorgbank Andrey Kostin.

The Ivanov – Patrushev group includes Speaker of the State Duma Boris Gryzlov, deputy head of the Federal Anti-Narcotics Agency Oleg Safonov and Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliev. This group splits further into several sub-groups and clienteles, the more noticeable of which include the Petersburg – Karelia Chekists (Patrushev – Nurgaliev) and the Petersburg – Afghan Chekists of Viktor Ivanov (his fellow servicemen on Afghanistan). The Sechin coalition also draws in the clienteles of Sergey Naryshkin and Aleksandr Bastrykin (Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General and Putin’s classmate from the Law Department of Leningrad State University). Another of Putin’s friends, Sergey Chemezov, is also part of Sechin’s coalition, with his extensive clientele of enterprise directors within the state corporation Russian Technologies, and several governors.

Medvedev’s coalition is composed of the so-called “Petersburg lawyers” (mostly Medvedev’s classmates from the Law Faculty of Leningrad State University), the “Petersburg economists”, the “Petersburg communicationists”, as well as Viktor Cherkesov’s group. The most influential of the “Petersburg lawyers” is Medvedev’s friend and former classmate, head of the Control Department of the Presidential Administration Konstantin Chuychenko. This group also includes the chairman of the Supreme Court of Arbitration and Medvedev’s lifelong friend Anton Ivanov, the Presidential Envoy to the Urals Federal District Nikolai Vinichenko, a few other lower-ranked classmates, Deputy Prime Minister and head of preparations for the Sochi Olympics Dmitry Kozak, Minister of Justice Aleksandr Konovalov, and Prosecutor General Yury Chaika (also a lawyer, though of Siberian origins).

Aleksey Kudrin leads the “Petersburg economists”, which also include Central Bank chairman Sergey Ignatyev, his first deputy Aleksey Ulyukaev, Minister of State Property Elvira Nabiullina, Director General of the state corporation Rosnano Anatoly Chubais, and advisor to the President Arkadiy Dvorkovich.

The “Petersburg communicationists” are led by Presidential advisor Leonid Reiman and his clientele (in contrast to a clan or group, which have some relatively equal personages, a clientele exhibits a more “vertical” nature: a master and his servants, the manager and his subordinates). Cherkesov’s group is also a clientele, though less so than Reiman’s because it includes the head of the President’s personal security service Viktor Zolotov and, perhaps, Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov.

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov (“Igor Ivanovich Not Really” – as opposed to Sechin, who’s “Igor Ivanovich The Real Deal”) and head of Medvedev’s Press Service Natalia Timakova are also part of Medvedev’s coalition. Its other supporters include the moneybags Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov, as well as former Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Norilsk Nickel Aleksandr Voloshin. It is possible to consider these figures as another grouping in Medvedev’s coalition, “Voloshin’s group”. Of the newly appointed regional leaders, Nikita Belykh and Dmitry Mezentsev are supporters of Medvedev and his modernization initiative.

In addition to the two main coalitions there exist individuals and groups which haven’t chosen sides, support a neutral position, or prefer to deal with Putin directly. These include the group of “Petersburg physicists” (the Kovalchuk family and the brothers Fursenko) and the “Petersburg Orthodox Chekists” (President of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin, the Presidential Envoy to the Central Federal District Georgiy Poltavchenko, and the Head of the Presidential Property Management Department Vladimir Kozhin). These groups are historically closely tied both with each other (through the St.-Petersburg Association of Joint Ventures and “Russia” Bank) and with Putin (through the “Ozero” dacha co-op).

Vladislav Surkov and his clientele also orientate themselves directly to Putin, feeding off the management of the Presidential Administration’s internal policy. Most governors – both old hands and new appointees (e.g., the new Governor of Pskov Oblast Andrey Turchak and the new President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov) – prefer to simultaneously show fealty to Putin, loyalty to Medvedev and boundless respect for Sechin.

Though there undoubtedly exist ideological differences between the Kremlin clans, they are not the building blocks of their coalitions. It is usually considered that Medvedev’s people (especially Kudrin’s group) profess economic liberalism, whereas Sechin’s clan are proponents of dirigisme. However, the disagreement seems more theoretical than anything. In practice, and regardless of their economic views, bureaucrats support “liberalism” towards companies under their thumb, while arguing for “dirigisme” towards enterprises connected to their opponents within the apparatus.

The majority of Medvedev’s clan are relative Westernizers and moderate imperialists. In contrast, Sechin favors an alliance with China against the West, and the majority of his supporters are hawkish imperialists in their attitudes towards the former Soviet republics. That said, the views of Cherkesov, especially in foreign policy, are little different from those of his bitter enemies amongst the Sechin clan (e.g., the news group Rosbalt, which they control, beat the war drum for a march on Tbilisi in August 2008).

Though he is a relative Westernizer and fairly liberal in his internal convictions, Surkov is adamantly opposed to even the minimal modernizing reforms in the sphere of ideology and politics suggested by Medvedev’s liberal advisors from the Institute of Contemporary Development, INSOR, patronized by Timakova and financed by Reiman. Though the “Orthodox Chekists” Yakunin and Poltavchenko might sing the Cross and Russian power to the skies, and advocate a strategic blockade of America in conjunction with the Arabs-Muslims, this does not stop them from maintaining a close alliance with the Kovalchuks (moderate Westernizers, and rather indifferent to both Orthodoxy and the Arabs-Muslims) in the interests of remaining competitive in economic and internal political intrigues.

Putin is Above the Fray

Putin remains above the struggle between the two oligarchic-nomenklatura coalitions (the rivalry between which he partly organized himself) and exploits all the political advantages of this state of affairs. Historically, he is closer to the Sechin clan, especially since one of the leaders of this coalition, Viktor Ivanov, is one of his closest friends. However, on economic questions (and personally) Putin completely trusts in Kudrin, and maintains friendly relations with him; furthermore, the appointment of Medvedev as a successor would have been impossible without a certain degree of trust – greater, in any case, than towards any of his former colleagues in the KGB. No doubt Putin was afraid of bestowing the Presidential mantle onto any of them even for a short time – regardless of all the vaunted “friendship” and “brotherhood” in the intelligence services.

In his cultural and civilizational views, Putin is a Westernizer (like Kudrin or Medvedev), but has only distaste for Western-style democracy (like Sechin, Patrushev, Viktor Ivanov). In matters of foreign policy he usually occupies a middle line between Kremlin Westernizers and anti-Westernizers, hawks and moderates, but it remains unclear whether his middle of the road attitude comes from listening to opposing sides of the foreign policy debate or is a product of his own quirks and oscillations.

The Sacred Cow

There are several reasons preventing the Medvedev clan from moving against Putin (and its anti-Putin minority from speaking out against Putin openly). First, it’s simply dangerous – for the future, for business, even life and limb. Second, many members of Medvedev’s coalition feel themselves quite comfortable with Putin – some of them are even closer to Putin, than they are to Medvedev (e.g. Kudrin): it is Sechin who makes their lives hard, not Putin. Third, they aren’t sure that they would be able to keep the Chekists and other assorted siloviks in check without Putin (as of now the Army is quiet and the generals don’t stick their noses into politics, but this will not necessarily be the case forever). Fourth, they are all either unknown to ordinary Russians (from Chuychenko to Shuvalov), or unpopular (Chubais, to a lesser extent Kudrin), and they fear that without Putin, not only would they be unable to control the Chekists, but also the Russian people.

Fifth, and finally, some of them (e.g., Chubais, Kudrin, Shuvalov) understand, that they have no long-term interests binding them to Medvedev, and rightly fear that if there were neither Sechin nor Putin, nothing would stop Medvedev from scapegoating them should the need arise. Nonetheless, in Medvedev’s circle – and especially in that “circle’s circles” – there does exist a dissatisfaction with Putin and a hidden desire to deprive him of power. This dissatisfaction is more or less evidenced in the writings of Medvedev’s experts in INSOR, the speeches of official human rights activists from the Presidential Council on Developing Civil Society, and in the publications of paper and electronic media under the control of Voloshin and Usmanov.

That said, however, it isn’t clear what Medvedev himself wants: to defeat Sechin and ascend to second place in a duumvirate, or to one day become the first and only Tsar himself. It’s possible that Medvedev himself doesn’t quite know yet; in any case, he is still far from successful in his struggle for second place in the real Kremlin hierarchy.

End of translation.

Comments on “Clan War” Kremlinology

1. A bit of history. Unless I’m mistaken, this clan-based view of Russian politics gained prominence around the time Mark Ames published The Kremlin’s Clan Warfare: The Putin Era Ends in the eXile in October 2007 (at any rate its pattern was widely reproduced). According to his view, the main clans were centered around Putin, Sechin and Cherkesov.

The main differences with Pribylovsky’s (2010) version is that Putin’s guys are now Sechin’s. The “civiliki” clan around Medvedev isn’t even mentioned yet.

Then earlier this year STRATFOR came out with its own interpretation in The Kremlin Wars series.

STRATFOR is more focused around which individual is aligned with the interests of which security agency (GRU vs FSB) clan.

Now one question we need to ask is: how much of the popular commentary on the Kremlin clans is based on Pribylovsky’s work (his site anticompromat.org has painstakingly detailed biographies on Russia’s major political figures)?

2. A few notes about Pribylovsky from Wikipedia. First, his professional work is in Byzantology – very appropriate for transfering to Kremlinology, though, of course, there’s always the possibility of its special stress on conspiracy, on insiderism and byzantism, overspilling. Second, he is a Soviet era dissident: he certainly doesn’t much like the siloviks, supported Vladimir Bukovsky (who doesn’t even live in Russia) for President in 2007, and signed the (somewhat ridiculous) “Putin Must Go” petition. Third, collaborated with Yuri Felshtinsky on the book Operation Successor; the same guy also collaborated with Litvinenko on the infamous conspiracy book Blowing Up Russia, and got funded by Berezovsky (the Family oligarch who lost out to the gebenishki and really hates Putin). Fourth, the book this translation is from, Power in 2010, was “издано при поддержке National Endowment for Democracy”. This democracy/freedom promoting organization openly admits to continuing work once done by the CIA.

This is not an argument for or against. It’s context. All political analysis is colored by one’s own political biases, and in Pribylovsky’s case it is undeniably very slanted in a particular direction. This has to be taken into account when deconstructing his work.

3. Now on to the article itself:

A) There are recognizable clans, though I very much doubt they are as rigid as Pribylovsky makes them out to be. Furthermore, these internal corporate structures are not specific to the Russian state. While corporatism is certainly very overt in Russia, it’s not as if it doesn’t exist (and in a big way) in the Western democracies (e.g. in the US the elites are mostly drawn from one class and greasy palms propel them from politics to business to thinktanks and academia and back). In general, like most Russian “dissidents”, he appears to have a rather warped and rose-tinged view of how politics really works in so-called “real democracies”.

B) I don’t think Putin (let alone Sechin) is more powerful than Medvedev for the very simple reason that Medvedev can fire Putin any day of the week, while Putin can’t do the same to Medvedev.

Now as the author pointed out, it is not really in Medvedev’s interest to do so. It is believable, if not inevitable or even likely, that doing so would be the political equivalent of nuclear war in the MAD era. But even in that case, it’s a balance of terror at the pinnacle of the power vertical, not Putin as Tsar / Godfather.

Furthermore, I think Pribylovsky over-stresses the competitive element of the clan system, and bellites the capacity for cohesion and effective action that is present in all feudal-type vertical systems. What is perhaps more logical is that Putin and Medvedev do trust and respect each other, and – as they say themselves – make their decisions in concert (even though it is sometimes advantageous for them to be at odds in public, especially their whole good cop / bad cop play on foreign observers).

D) Medvedev is just not that interested in personal glory. This is my impression, but his pose and mannerisms are so overly-”Presidential”, so cringingly imperious, that they appear utterly artificial, unbelonging to the alpha male-type that has Napoleonic complexes in politics. IMO, he will not seriously try to emerge as a Tsar figure – of his own volition.

E) One very good service Pribylovsky does is expose the Medvedev the Liberal vs Putin the Bad narrative so beloved of the Western media for the sham it really is. The people you attract reflect on you. Nobody who has the likes of people like Alisher Usmanov (a rapist and maybe worse) or Viktor Cherkesov (a thuggish secret policeman) in their retinue can be an liberal “angel”, nor can someone whom Chubais supports have impeccable respect for transparency. Likewise, no-one who protects Kudrin could be an economic populist and statist, just as no-one who appointed “Medvedev the Liberal” to the Presidency can entirely be an illiberal autocrat. The game is almost never black and white, just multiple shades of gray.

4. Commentator Lazy Glossophiliac gives us his thoughts on Reading up on Russia. I agree with him that Putin is probably better than Medvedev for Russia.

Addendum: In a joint effort with Kevin Rothrock of A Good Treaty, we have summarized Pribylovsky’s networks into three convenient tables. Check it out!

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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The two dunces.

The two dunces.

During the past two years, Russian “dissident” liberals Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov have produced a frankly maniacal quantity of so-called “Independent Expert Reports” (there are now seven of them) that purport to debunk the “persistent myths imposed by official [Kremlin] propaganda”. The authors say that their latest exegesis, melodramatically entitled “Putin. The Results. 10 Years” and at 48 pages one of their shorter works, will have a print run of one million copies and will be distributed throughout Russia’s regions. This latest iteration of Nemtsov’s anti-Putin screed differs little in substance from the first, which was pilloried by Sean Guillory in Nemtsov’s White Paper: Bombshell or Dud?

Though Sean castigated the “dynamic duo” for their middle-class chauvinism, neoliberal elitism and poverty of proposed solutions, even he was far too kind in granting them the benefit of the doubt on their “litany of statistics, examples, and facts” showing that Russia had been brought to the brink of collapse by Putin (of course Russia was pushed well past that brink under Yeltsin, when Nemtsov reached his political apogee; but I digress). Now I hadn’t previously read any of Nemtsov and Co.’s earlier scribblings, but their introduction to this latest report raised my suspicions. Apparently, one myth peddled by Kremlin propagandists is that under Putin, Russians began to “give birth more and die less”. Of course, anyone with the slightest familiarity with Russian demography knows this is either a howler or a mendacious lie. If these guys can’t be relied on to get simple facts right, facts which can be looked up on the Internet within seconds, what basis is there to trust them on anything else they have to say? So I decided to sneak a peek at Nemtsov’s chapter on Russia’s demography… and discovered a truly epic mountain of red herrings, statistical manipulation and outright lies worthy of a Brezhnev-era Goskomstat apparatchik.

Nemtsov’s Bomb Defused

The chapter in question is entitled “A Dying Country”… not only is it a kitschy trope, but one that is no longer really valid as Russia saw positive population growth in 2009. But whatever. The choice of title fades into irrelevance in comparison with what comes next.

1. According to the Gospel of Vlad and Boris, one of the main tenets of the “Putinist mythology” concerns Russia’s recent demographic progress, in stark contrast to the “1990′s national extinction”. The authors then invite us to look at the “facts”, which apparently look something like the graph below.

[My translation of Nemtsov's graph (the "Yeltsin" and "Putin" insertions were my own, but otherwise it is unchanged). Click to enlarge.]

Where to start? First, the giant elephant in the room that our democracy crusaders “forgot” to mention was that immigration into the Russian Federation was far higher in the 1990′s than it was during the Putin period. From 1992-1999, Russia received a one-off 3.6mn influx of net migrants, the vast majority of them ethnic Russians repatriating from the other former Soviet republics. During the 2000-2009 period, Russia received just 1.5mn net migrants. This single factor of declining net immigration would account for almost two thirds, or 2.1mn out of 3.4mn, of the “extra” population decline under Putin.

Second, drawing any conclusions just from a straightforward calculation of Russia’s average yearly population decline under Yeltsin and Putin is an exercise in complete absurdity, given that Yeltsin’s early years were influenced by the (relatively) low Soviet mortality rates and high fertility rates, while Putin’s were influenced by the (relatively) high mortality rates and “lowest-low” fertility rates of the Yeltsin legacy. A more nuanced analysis would:

  • Identify defining trends instead of using blanket averages: a transition to fullblown “hyper-mortality” by 1994, a series of peaks and dips under a Yeltsin and early Putin administration that couldn’t care less for the nation’s demography, and concrete improvements after 2005 when the state began to take these issues seriously.
  • Take into account Russia’s aging population (which places upwards pressure on mortality rates over time), and hence use a statistic that is independent of the population age structure: life expectancy, which at 69 years in 2009 was higher than at any time during the Yeltsin period, when it fell from 68 years in 1992 to 65 years by 2000.

Third, note that the vertical axis Nemtsov uses stretches from just 140mn to 150mn people, giving the impression (to the passing eye) that Russia’s population completely collapsed under Putin and most likely continues to retreat into oblivion (whereas a year by year graph would show population decline flattening out during the past 2 years). This is of course done on purpose to elicit a negative emotional reaction.

2. The next paragraph discusses “hyper-mortality” – the fact that Russia’s mortality rates are abnormally high for an industrialized country at peace. This is a major problem I have written about at length, though since it has been metastasizing since as far back as the mid-1960′s what it has to do with Putin must remain a mystery. Yet even here Nemtsov can’t refrain from “embellishing” an already depressing picture. He does this by citing Russia’s mortality and fertility statistics from the CIA, whose demographic stats on Russia paint a bleaker picture than those produced by Rosstat, the Russian statistical agency.

Let me explain. As a rule, only national statistics services have the manpower and regulatory resources to compile comprehensive demographic (economic, etc) statistics on their own countries. The stats you see from international institutions like the World Health Organization are mostly drawn and aggregated from them. Same goes for the CIA on demography, except that since it rarely brings its figures into “sync” with updated ones produced by the national statistics agencies, most of its demographic data is the result of inhouse projections of what the demographic situation might be given a set of increasingly obsolete past assumptions instead of current measures. Hence, whereas Nemtsov claims that Russia has a birth rate of 11/1000 and a death rate of 15/1000 based on July 2009 CIA figures, the real numbers for that year were a birth rate of 12.4/1000 and a death rate of 14.2/1000. Ultimately, this is a fairly minor point, but it does illustrate how Nemtsov is very selective about the data he uses (he has no problems with citing Rosstat on numerous other occasions).

3. The authors begin showing their reactionary colors when they come to dissing Russia’s rising natality. Granted, not quite as in your face as in their first Report, but the ass is still showing. This section is worth translating in full.

Excessively rapid fertility growth in a non-affluent country, especially amongst the lumpenized segment of the population (which are receiving pro-natality stimuli thanks to Putinist measures such as “maternal capital”[20]), could lead to negative consequences: a reduction in the standard of living, poor caretaking of the newborn, and high rates of illness amongst them.

In April 2008, the Health Minister Tatyana Golikova was forced to admit that this [fertility] increase was accompanied by an increase in infant mortality in 48 regions of the country.

[20] For “maternal capital” of 250,000 rubles [AK: today equivalent to $8,000], based on average housing costs it would have only been possible to buy 4-5 square meters of living space.

They’re really getting desperate, firing at every possible angle in the hope of hitting Putin, aren’t they?

First, forget the negative long-term consequences of the continuation of “lowest-low” fertility (seen up until 2006, hovering at 1.3 children per woman). Is Nemtsov really disconnected and foolish enough to believe that Russians will rally to his holier than thou middle-class chauvinism? Especially considering that most Russians have paternalistic views of government, believing that it should help the poorest members of society? Considering that many Russians complain that they want two children but can only afford one?

Second, the authors transparently try to give the (false) impression that Russia’s recent fertility spurt was accompanied by rising infant mortality through very selective quoting of Golikova. Was that really the case? Not at all. Data on infant deaths per 1,000 live births: in 1990 – 17.4; 2000 – 15.3; 2006 – 10.2; 2007 – 9.4; 2008 – 8.5; 2009 – 8.2; 2010 – still falling

4. Then we come to a rather banal history of Russia’s hypermortality with a generous serving of anti-Putin spin. I’ve translated a typical segment below and filled in what Nemtsov wants you to think on reading it.

The rise in Russia’s mortality began way back with Brezhnev, during the 1970′s [AK: actually from the mid-1960's but whatever], and continued up until the mid-1990′s [AK: hence Yeltsin and the reformers can't be blamed for any of this... according to the Gospel of Vlad and Boris]. In 1995, however, Russia’s mortality began to fall and in 1998 retreated below 2 million deaths per year [AK: 1) by "below 2 million deaths", he means 1.99 million deaths - not kidding!, 2) the inconvenient truth that death rates began to soar again in 1999 during the last year of the Yeltsin Presidency - in the aftermath of the 1998 financial crisis, which was enabled by the incessant stealing within Yeltsin's inner circle (and happening to coincide with Nemtsov being Deputy Prime Minister!) - naturally goes unsaid].

But under Putin, the tendency towards a rise in mortality rates acquired a new strength, and reached a new peak of 2.37mn deaths in 2003 [AK: this at a time when Putin was still surrounded by Yeltsin's "Family" cronies and occupied with consolidating a half-disintegrated state]. Lowering deaths back below 2 million still hasn’t been achieved [AK: but this is harder now that it was in 1998, since the Russian population in 2009 is now considerably older than it was back then!].

Look, if you really want to, it is just as easy to spin this the other way. Here’s an alternate narrative. The USSR was a healthy nation. Soviet mortality rates strongly increased under Gorbachev, thanks to the anti-alcohol campaign and the birthmark on his bald head (year: 1989, LE: 70 years). Then Yeltsin and his cabal of traitors undermined and collapsed the Soviet Union, resulting in a massive fall in life expectancy (year: 2003, LE: 65 years). However, heroic Putin rescued long-suffering Holy Rus’ from the Judeo-Dollar yoke in 2003 by attacking Khodorkovsky. Now everything is getting better because Putin kicks ass (year: 2010, LE: 70 years).

[Russia's life expectancy - closely tied *not* to politicians, "shock therapy", etc, but to alcohol affordability and consumption rates. In fact, perhaps one of the main healthcare achievements of the Putin era is that the correlation between (relatively) cheaper booze and higher mortality rates may have broken. Source: Rosstat data.]

Does the above sound kind of ridiculous? Not really any more so than Nemtsov’s narrative. His screed is the mirror image of what a fawning Kremlin sycophant would write.

5. Nemtsov proclaims in gloomy tones that Russia has a very high number of deaths from external causes, murders, suicides, alcohol poisoning, etc, the aim presumably being to present Putin as a bad ruler based on the ills of his kingdom. But what he doesn’t mention is that in recent years Russia’s mortality from “vices” (alcohol poisoning, homicides, suicide) has fallen back down to late Soviet levels and is now well below the peaks around 1994 and 2002-3.

[The drop in deaths from alcohol poisoning is probably the most encouraging indicator, because excessive alcohol consumption accounts for around a third of all Russian deaths (in the broad sense) and drives trends in homicides, accidents and suicides (in particular). Source: Rosstat.]

6. Nemtsov goes on to make another startling claim (to anyone remotely familiar with the situation on the ground).

Low quality healthcare remains a big problem [AK: certainly], and Putin didn’t manage to do anything about this during ten prosperous years [AK: wtf?]… Russia spends just 5.3% of its GDP on healthcare, like Morocco or Ecuador, in contrast to 9-11% in many countries of Western Europe.

Many, many people would disagree with him. E.g. the guys at The Lancet, a respected British medical journal.

A vigorous anti-alcohol campaign, new road safety measures, and a programme of health awareness workshops for teenagers are among the positive signs 6 months after the Kremlin introduced a new 12-year health-care blueprint which identified the “formation of health as a priority in the social and spiritual values of Russian society” as a key task.

Even Nemtsov’s fellow liberal reformer Yegor Gaidar (as translated by Mark Adomanis):

In 2009, despite the economic crisis, expenditures on healthcare from the Federal budget grew 25% in nominal terms from 231.4 billion rubles to 289.5 billion rubles. Expenditures from the budgets of the subjects of the Russian Federation remained practically at the previous level: 518.7 billion rubles against 520.1 billion in 2008. Taking into account investments to obligatory medical insurance of the working population, state financing of healthcare grew in 2009 by 5.6% (2.9% in real terms) having reached 1.06 trillion rubles. This differentiates the situation in 2009 from the crisis in 1998* when state expenditures on healthcare and spending by the population on medicines and medical services all declined.

At the beginning of 2009 the government made a decision to continue the realization of the national project “Health” until 2012. The project’s financing still comes out of funds of the federal budget as well as off-budget funds: the Federal fund of obligatory medical insurance and the Fund of social insurance. Despite the economic crisis and the significant reduction in government income, expenditures on the national project not only weren’t subject to reduction, but grew by 20.2% in comparison with 2008. This attests to the real priority of this project in the government’s budget policy.

*But Kathryn Stoner-Weiss told me that Yeltsin defended Russians’ welfare better than Putin!!

7. Then a big sprinkling of statistics and anecdotes about trends in consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs, and smoking. For once in this chapter I think Nemtsov makes a valid point about the Russian government’s overly cosy relations with the alcohol and cigarette lobbies, which have prevented or delayed the passage of needed legislation. Nonetheless, even here Nemtsov’s point is (politically) wrecked by the class hatred that he just can’t keep bottled in. Sean’s summary of Nemtsov’s position still applies:

The poor “drink more” and the wealthy live the “high life.” In contrast, the middle class is the archetype of healthy and productive living. “Moderate use of alcohol and a healthy lifestyle in general,” they write, “is the way of the middle class.”

Now there might well be research showing that this is the case, as Nemtsov claims. (He doesn’t provide a link or citation). But it certainly isn’t the kind of language that is going to get anything more than 5% of Russians fired up with puritanical bourgeois fervor.

Furthermore, Nemtsov’s comparison of Russia’s 30,000 annual drug-related deaths to its (lower) losses during ten years of war in Afghanistan will surely be viewed as offensive and asinine by most Russians. There is a fundamental difference between the two in that people (by and large) make the choice to become drug addicts, whereas Soviet conscripts had little to no choice about being sent to the graveyard of empires. Incidentally, one of the reasons for the increased flow of heroin into Russia in recent years that Nemtsov decries so much is the US inability or unwillingness to control the growth of opium production in Afghanistan**… (But don’t forget that in the Russian liberal universe America is always right and if it isn’t then suck on it).

8. Nemtsov miscomprehends the French Paradox, saying that the reason the French lead long lives despite a high alcohol consumption rate is because they drink fine wines. (The real paradox has to do with their low rates of heart disease and high rates of saturated fats consumption)*. However, he is correct in his (one-line) suggestion, a rather obvious one, that incomes have to improve if Russians are to afford more expensive drinks.

His suggestion for cutting smoking rates? “It is necessary to implement the successful experience of the US and Western European countries that was accumulated over decades”. You don’t say, Sherlock?! While it is valid to say that Russia’s progress on this front has been on the slow side, it is not fair to imply, like Nemtsov does, that nothing is being done.

9. Now Nemtsov talks about depopulation and labor force decline without trying to distinguish between them.

Population decline has a long-term character. In the last few years and in the near future Russia will lose one million people of working age annually due to the high mortality rates and natural population aging. The loss of one million workers is equivalent to a fall in GDP of 1.5%, and a loss of revenues to the budget, which will lead to problems with paying for pensions and as a result to social stresses. Therefore, chronic depopulation threatens economic development and puts into question the future territorial integrity of the country.

First, Russia’s population has already returned to growth (or more accurately “stabilization”) in 2009, thanks to rising fertility and life expectancy. Second, declines in the working population are now inevitable, but Nemtsov curiously neglects to mention that this was made inevitable by the fertility collapse of the early 1990′s during the Yeltsin period! Nonetheless, he need not worry too much. According to the Rosstat medium scenario, the labor force will fall from 62% of the total population now… to a truly apocalyptic rather unremarkable 55% by 2030.

Furthermore, Nemtsov’s mixing of depopulation and labor force decline is particularly disingenuous because each counteracts the other. If Russia’s population falls, this means it will have failed to raise its life expectancy or fertility rate, and hence its labor force will be higher as a percentage of the population. Paradoxically, if Russia sustainably stabilizes its population by improving people’s health and getting them to have more children, its labor force will shrink much faster as a share of the population for the very reason that this population will have more children and pensioners! (To illustrate this, the labor force in 2030 is at 57% of the population in Rosstat’s low scenario and at 54% in its high scenario).

10. Finally Nemtsov talks the talk about migration.

Instead of [pursuing an effective immigration policy], in 2002 the Putin regime passed repressive [AK: sic!] immigration legislation, which increased illegal immigration while reducing the flow of law-abiding and hard-working citizens into the country. In the 1990′s near 8 million Russophones arrived into Russia from the post-Soviet republics [AK: just to clarify, this is *not* net immigration; during the period, many Russians also left Russia]. With Putin’s arrival this process came to an abrupt halt.

The sudden reduction in the numbers of immigrants became the main cause of the plummeting Russian population during the Putin years relative to the 1990′s.

Look, while I’m not a huge fan of said 2002 law, calling it “repressive” is well beyond the pale – especially for any politician the least concerned about his popularity! It is also interesting to note that Nemtsov puts this section on immigration at the end of the demography chapter, well away the graphs showing population decline under Yeltsin and Putin. One can only assume that Russians wouldn’t be so moved by Russia’s almost-stable population under Yeltsin had they known that it was only being sustained by an unsustainable inflow of ethnic Russians repatriating from the Near Abroad!

[Would an honest observer interpret the above graph as a "sudden reduction in the numbers of immigrants" under Putin? Source: from Rosstat. Click to enlarge.]

Which brings us to a much bigger misrepresentation by Nemtsov. He essentially claims that thanks to Putin’s mismanagement of migration policy (the 2002 law is cited), ethnic Russian immigration came to a halt. Yet as we can see from the graph above, Russia received by far the biggest numbers of migrants during the early to mid-1990′s. By 2000, most ethnic Russians who would ever immigrate back to Russia from the Near Abroad had already done so. This process was always due to come an end, regardless of who was President, and had already mostly petered out by the late 1990′s. (The new uptick in immigration from 2006 mostly consists of Central Asian, Caucasian, and Ukrainian Gastarbeiter drawn to Russia’s rising affluence).

Conclusions

This chapter “A Dying Country” constituted about 20% of Nemtsov’s paper by word count, so it is a valid gauge by which to judge the rest of it. Now demography is a pretty easy subject, especially when it comes to checking up on straightforward factual claims. For this post I didn’t need much else other than Rosstat, Wikipedia, and my sick googling skills. ;) In contrast, making accurate statements on the economy, an entity that can be measured and interpreted in any number of ways, is much harder. And assessing levels of corruption is an order of magnitude harder still, since it relates to the quantity of that economy that people take so many pains to hide away from view. So if one finds so much blatant ignorance or deceit in a big chunk of work dealing with demography – practically on every paragraph – chances are the overall opus isn’t worth anyone’s time.

The pattern of simplification and misrepresentation appears to be repeated throughout the entire paper. For instance, take Nemtsov’s graph of the structure of Russian exports in the chapter on the economy, which shows the share of hydrocarbons exports soaring from 44.9% in 1999 to 69.6% in 2009, while hi-tech exports fell from 10.9% to 4.9% during the same period. But only a hack like Nemtsov would say that this proves that Russia under Putin became more resource dependent “than ever before in its history”. For a start consider that the price of oil rose from $16.56 in 1999 to $91.48 in 2008! If there is a sixfold increase in oil prices over a decade, then its share of total exports was practically bound to increase too, barring Russia blowing up all its pipelines! (Besides, that would be “energy imperialism”). But even all this neglects a more fundamental fact: while Russian exports remain dominated by resources because they constitute its comparative advantage, Russia’s domestic economy has, in real terms, become substantially more productive, more services-centered and less extraction-heavy since the late 1990′s (in relative terms).

Now a defender of this Report may accuse me of missing its entire point – isn’t Nemtsov politicking against equally nefarious Kremlin propaganda? Isn’t it perfectly normal and acceptable for politicians to play fast and loose with the facts? While this may normally be an argument, this is not the case here. First, Nemtsov and Milov portray themselves as paragons of accountability and integrity (as opposed to the kleptocratic Kremlin regime) – if they want to demand their bed they have to lie in it too. Second, these ass-clowns entitle their work an “Independent Expert Report” for crying out loud! I am approaching Nemtsov’s writings on his own terms – as an analytical work. It is on its own analytical merit that it either stands or falls under the weight of its lies and contradictions.

But what about its impact as a political statement? Nemtsov’s only natural constituency, as evidenced by his classist rhetoric, is “the urban, semi-intellectual, semi-politically engaged class” who now make up around 25% of the Russian population. A not inconsiderable potential base, true, but they more than most in Russian society owe their allegiance to Putin; it was under his system that they made – or made off with – their wealth. No amount of one-sided paens to the glory Yeltsin years delivered by Nemtsov is going to change that. And although Nemtsov does make some faux populist overtures, they are hardly going to win him any supporters from amongst the lumpen-proletariat whom he wants to breed out into extinction! (Assuming they even bother reading the 12,000 words of what is really a very dull paper). No, the Gospel of Vlad and Boris is only going to be treated as such by the 50,000 odd signers of the Putin Must Go petition, at least in Russia. As for abroad…

In an interesting twist to the story – and ironically what made me aware of Nemtsov’s report in the first place – Russian police confiscated 100,000 of the one million copies of the Report and sent them to the MVD’s “extremism” department for analysis. Coming as it does on the eve of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where “Medvedev is set to hobnob with businessmen from around the world”, Nemtsov and Milov could not have hoped for a better source of publicity. Tinpot dictatorship here we come! Once again, the idiotic zeal of Russian officialdom elicits outraged editorials in the Western (and Russian) press, snickers from the suave and sophisticated, and delivers further confirmation of Russia’s impending slide into totalitarianism to the typical Westerner.

Not to mention endless frustration for people like myself. I am even coming to think that the deaf Russian state might just deserve its blind liberals.

* Though I do agree with Nemtsov that getting Russians to switch from samogon to vodka to wine or beer is a good strategy as far as these things go. Me from two years back: ;)

Convert wine production into a strategic industry and massively fund its expansion. Try to remake Russia into a wine-drinking nation. Aim to turn vodka into an exclusively export industry.

** That said, I’m very skeptical about the (self-interested?) arguments, or alarmism, of Russia’s anti-narcotics department. To test if this is a major, rapidly-spreading drug epidemic, it is logical to look at death rates for the most-affected demographic groups. Say, 20-25 year old males, among whom death rates are low and mostly due to external causes and poisonings.

Take the death rate for 25 year old males in Russia, a demographic group that would be one of the most exposed to drug abuse (Nemtsov cites the average age of death of Russia’s druggies as being 28). In 2000, i.e. before the Afghanistan campaign, it was 0.0060, and it stayed above 0.0050 until 2007 when it fell to 0.0047, and in 2008 fell further to 0.0041. These improvements, one would think, would have been exceedingly unlikely had there been a big jump in Russian heroin consumption.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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What liberasty does to you over the years.

What liberasty does to you over the years.

So I decide to write about Putin’s mistakes to counter my public image as “ein strammer Putin-soldat“, and guess what, the first comment I get denounces me as a “completely naive and/or delusional person” for daring to “take “Russia’s corruption trends” seriously” (I suppose it proves the old dictim that you can’t please everyone all of the time). Anyhow, to atone for my brief lapse into liberast heresy, I return to my old neo-Soviet ways by translating Russian businessman and LJ blogger gosh100‘s excellent short essay “On Liberasts and Liberasty” (Про либерастию и либерастов) from June 2007. In doing so, I hope to introduce “liberast” and “liberasty” into the English lexicon to denote Russia’s self-styled liberals, who are in fact anything but liberal in word and deed*. Enjoy!

Liberasty is a contagious disease that binds the patient’s worldview to a few uninspired principles:

  1. There’s nothing but shit in Russia and it will never improve.
  2. The state is incompetent by definition, and anything it does only worsens the situation further.
  3. The Russian people deserve their suffering because they are a herd of brain-dead sheeple.
  4. Russia must make unconditional concessions and show unflinching obedience to the West.
  5. This is because the West is, by definition, the beacon of freedom, justice, and rationalism to the entire world, and wishes Russia only the best.

Liberasty affects the human brain with varying degrees of severity, from the first degree (mild form of disease that has almost no effect on the personality) to the fourth degree (critical, irreversible degeneration, frequently associated with a disturbed psyche). Below are some examples of liberasts classified according to the severity of their illness:

This pathosis can be both innate (under certain mental disorders) and acquired (infectious). There are several avenues of transmission, including long exposure to liberasty carriers or mass media with a liberast slant (e.g. Novaya Gazeta, Russian Newsweek, Profile, Echo of Moscow, Kommersant, Novye Izvestia, MK).

Liberasty can be diagnosed by the following symtoms.

  • Usage of expressions such as “this country”, “fed up with this sovok”, “need to bug-out [from Russia]“, “but in the West”, “Rasha”, etc**…
  • Devotion to liberast media outlets (see above).
  • Negative reactions to all new state initiatives and negative spin on any events that happen in Russia.
  • Only very active or negligible involvement in political life.
  • Frequent quotation of Solzhenitsyn, Suvorov (Rezun), and articles by famous liberasts (see above).
  • Poorly educated liberasts can be identified through their frequent use of the word “putztriot”*** (since they find the idea of Russian patriotism altogether difficult to understand).

High risk groups: Persons of Jewish nationality, students, unemployed with higher educations, liberal arts majors with low earnings, tourists from the provinces recently returned from their first trip to the West.

Recommended treatments: High-paying job or profitable business, a failed emigration, reading non-liberast literature and journals, frequent communication – preferably on business matters – with typical Westerners.

Preventive measures: Regular perusal of inosmi.ru.
PS. That’s it, Inosmi has been infected. Achtung!
But Profile has since achieved recovery under its new editor Mikhail Leontyev.

* Most of Russia’s self-styled liberals would be considered reactionary neocons and Tea Baggers in America (progressive Europeans and Americans might be interested to know that Russia’s liberals are only “liberal” in the 19th century sense of the word, in that they love capitalism and the middle class but hate the poor, support bombing brown people, and deny global warming).

Since most Russians are statists, the liberasts enjoy the support of, at best, 5% of the population (this rejection makes the liberasts bitter, making them view Russians as stupid and herdlike, which certainly bolsters their wild popularity and electoral prospects). Nonetheless, they are taken to be the genuine voice of the Russian opposition by ignorant or cynical Western chauvinists.

** Translating “употребление выражений «эта страна», «достал совок», «надо валить», «а вот на Западе», «Рашка»” literally is pretty hard.

*** The Russian word the liberasts use in referring to а Russian patriot, or “патриот”, – is “поцтреот”. According to an this site, this word is an amalgamation of paTRIOT (треот) and POTS (поц), which is Yiddish slang for the male sexual organ. Translated directly in English, this would be “putztriot”, from “putz” and “patriot” (h/t poemless). An archetypal example of a putztriot is someone who leaves absurdly over-the-top nationalist comments on YouTube videos such as this (e.g. “РУССКИЙ НАРОД В СТАНЕТ С КОЛЕН. НЕ ДОЛГО ОСТАЛОСЬ СМУТЕ!!!”).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

6“Левый ящик” – lit., “left drawer”.

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

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

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

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

12“Умение «красиво послать»”.

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

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

15Alla Pugacheva, famous Russian singer.

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

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

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

19I. Brodsky, Jewish Soviet poet.

20“Очень закомплексованные люди”.

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

22I. Guberman.

23The Russian Internet.

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

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

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

27“В Зажопинсках”.

28“«Ляпиздрончика» какого-нибудь”.

29“Путиноид” – “putinoid”.

Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later I understood.

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

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

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

“From the beginning,” the psychologist said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this bad?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

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

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

2таня_огф is the author’s nickname on LJ.

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

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

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

6 The one who was soliciting letters at the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

14“Сакральная жертва на алтарь демократии”.

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

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

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

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

19“Формированию общественного мнения”.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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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.