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    I really did think it was getting better there under Joshu Yaffa, certainly it's not typical of him to write such vitriolic but more importantly factually inaccurate articles. Let's hope the world's sleaziest magazine was getting one of their old-timers to file for him that day, instead of representing the start of a new descent...
  • Here in the beginning Viesti say that only 14 adopted children died in Russian families http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq43uXGfUug (tho the whole report is very biased)

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  • @Fedia Kriukov
    If foreign adoptions were going to get banned anyway, then it's a good idea to use the ban to also to insult Americans (and I think it's clear now that the insult worked like charm -- the butthurt screeching is deafening). However, if the reason for the ban was purely a response to American provocation, and not because it's the right thing to do, whoever is responsible for this should be fired, including most of the Duma. The next steps will tell us what the real reason was.

    I strongly agree. I’m sure the best foreign-policy minds that can be brought to bear are working on the American response.

    I know!!! Let’s change everything with “Russian” in its name to “Freedom”!! I hope you’re ready for freedom roulette and Freedom salad dressing, you spiteful savages!

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  • @Momus
    Well, I believe children are better off if they have an opportunity to grow up in a home with loving parents who will care for them, rather than in institutions (of any nation).

    I agree that it would be best if Russian orphans could be adopted by Russians. Unfortunately, there are far more Russian orphans than there are prospective Russian adoptive parents. Thus, it strikes me that foreign adoption is a far better solution than the institutionalization of children.

    All that said, if Russian lawmakers disagreed with my position and passed laws to prohibit foreign adoption in favor of continued institutionalization of the hundreds of thousands of orphans who cannot hope to be adopted by Russian parents, then I would disagree but I would not consider the action indefensible.

    This measure to ban specifically American adoptions as political retaliation for passage of the Magnitsky Act is very different. It is indefensible.

    Because of the problems with adoptions in America (the kids who died) Russia has made the process of adoptions more difficult, introduced more screenings etc. which already dissuaded Americans from adopting in Russia. So a lot of kids lost out on American home, probably much more than those affected now by Yakovlev law, as the number of American adoptions has fallen so low anyway.
    What I hate about Yakovlev’s law is that it’s extremaly cynical and really makes Russia look bad. And that Americans that specifically want a Russian kid, because of connection to the country, will be unable to adopt one.
    There was anti-American adoption agenda in Russia for a while before any Magnitsky. I remember reading about the special outdoor “camps” where American adoptive parents send their unruly Russian children for weeks.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Foreigners or their absence will now make surprisingly little practical difference because Russians and foreigners alike have little enthusiasm for adopting older children.

    A curious but not surprising fact is that the vast majority of potential adopters prefer younger children. For children under the age of 3 there is already a long waiting list of Russian citizens. The state orphanages are Soviet-era institutions that are living on borrowed time as the cohorts of the 90's to mid-2000 start to reach adulthood.

    FTR, I am also very much against the association of this law with Magnitsky and targeting Americans in particular. I am agnostic about foreign adoptions in general. There are both pros and cons.

    Maybe cynical point that Americans prefer east European kids because they are white has some merit to it. Ukrainian kids win in this situation on the expense of Russians (as I heard Ukraine is actually easing adoption process)

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Dear Alex,

    A very good and comprehensive explanation. Just one small correction: The 12 for Russia figure is for 5 years, presumably 1999-2004. At least that was what was in the original report Найди меня, мама!
    Материалы в помощь журналисту
    :

    In 2005, the Ministry of Education and Science gathered preliminary statistics for the past 5 years on cases of death and incidences of ill treatment of orphans, adopted by Russians or taken into guardianship or a foster family, according to which:

    Out of 1220 children, 12 died by the fault of the adopters and guardians;

    So, as I understand it, 1220 actually did die (the problem is that the language was ambiguous hence my original mistake in the first post on this) of which 12 (1%) died specifically because of the fault of their adopters and guardians, which is more or less comparable to the 19 recorded cases of deaths in the US by the fault of their adopted parents for the entire 20 year period.

    As such Russia's per capita / year figure for deaths by adopted parents may well be a bit higher but certainly nowhere close to an order of magnitude. However as you also correctly point out the overall numbers are extremely low in both cases to the point of being statistically insignificant.

    Your logic on overall death rates of course matched my own.

    Unfortunately, the typical Economist reader is going to read this and think that life for poor Russian children is literally 100x more dangerous than in the West and as such their latent loathing of Putin and let's be honest Russia too will be reinforced yet one more time. This is a perfect example of when in fact this Press Complaints Commission (which you've previously drawn my attention to) can be brought, after all the piece seems to violate points (1) (a)-(c) of the PCC's Editor's Code of Practice.

    Dear Anatoly,

    Thanks for the correction. You had already clarified the point about the 1,220 deaths in your response to the comment made on your previous post.

    I am going to write to the Economist about this issue. I will let you know how they respond.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Foreigners or their absence will now make surprisingly little practical difference because Russians and foreigners alike have little enthusiasm for adopting older children.

    A curious but not surprising fact is that the vast majority of potential adopters prefer younger children. For children under the age of 3 there is already a long waiting list of Russian citizens. The state orphanages are Soviet-era institutions that are living on borrowed time as the cohorts of the 90's to mid-2000 start to reach adulthood.

    FTR, I am also very much against the association of this law with Magnitsky and targeting Americans in particular. I am agnostic about foreign adoptions in general. There are both pros and cons.

    If foreign adoptions were going to get banned anyway, then it’s a good idea to use the ban to also to insult Americans (and I think it’s clear now that the insult worked like charm — the butthurt screeching is deafening). However, if the reason for the ban was purely a response to American provocation, and not because it’s the right thing to do, whoever is responsible for this should be fired, including most of the Duma. The next steps will tell us what the real reason was.

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    • Replies: @marknesop
    I strongly agree. I'm sure the best foreign-policy minds that can be brought to bear are working on the American response.

    I know!!! Let's change everything with "Russian" in its name to "Freedom"!! I hope you're ready for freedom roulette and Freedom salad dressing, you spiteful savages!

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Podsnap
    Why do you think the Economist dislikes Putin's Russia so much ?

    My take would be that Putin seems to be one of the few standouts against globalisation, multi-culti and the various UN sponsored idiocies which the Economist has swallowed in full.

    The Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite and Punditocracy are still sore that Putin nailed tax fraud Khodorkovsky before Kh could sell Yukos to them. The AFPE&P hate, hate with the wildest passion, the fact that the energy price windfall has flowed into the coffers of the Russian government instead of to them.

    The AFPE&P also hate that the Russian government no longer abjectly submit to them, the way their dear departed Boris Yeltsin did.

    Since The Economist and Financial Times (and the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, and the Times of London, and the Washington Post, and I could go on and on…) are the mouthpieces of the AFPE&P, the position on Russia of these media outlets reflects that of their owners.

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  • @marknesop
    Here's what Lady Nicholson, Baroness of Winterbourne, has to say about the issue of international adoptions.

    “I am not a child psychiatrist nor a social worker nor a medical person but I am told by the experts that children are best brought up in their own environment, own culture, their own language, their own family. Maybe they do not have a mother or a father, but they will have cousins, grandparents and aunts. All the professionals engaged in child welfare or in child health or development will say unhesitatingly that children are best brought up in their own environment. I am absolutely sure there are some instances where there is no future for an abandoned baby. And therefore, if you get the right fit, the right people, the right altruism, the right couple then I am sure that wonderful things can happen to the child that would never otherwise have happened. But I am also told that this is perhaps a bit of a rarity and it is all too easy even with well meaning efforts for wrong things to happen."

    I daresay she knows something of what she is talking about; she was Director of the Save the Children Fund for 11 years, is currently the co-Chair with the Prime Ministers of Romania and Moldova of the Children's High Level Groups of those countries, co-Chair of the UK's Children's High Level Group and Executive Chairman of the Associatia Children’s High Level Group, as well as a longtime campaigner for the rights of orphans in Eastern Europe.

    http://www.arabtimesonline.com/NewsDetails/tabid/96/smid/414/ArticleID/160266/reftab/36/t/Child-trafficking-new-form-of-slavery/Default.aspx

    Perhaps countries that were once reliable adoptive markets for Americans, such as China, also feel that Chinese babies are better off being brought up in their own culture. Perhaps that's the reason China is also tightening adoption rules.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20071121/1a_bottomstrip21.art.htm?loc=interstitialskip

    That article is actually from 2007, although it indicates 2011 at the top. In May of 2007, China banned adoptions by foreigners who were (1) single parents, (2) obese, (3) gay, or (5) older than 50.

    Here's another which contains even more specifics: adoptive parents must (1) consist of a man and a woman married not less than 2 years, 5 years if it is a second marriage, (2) not be younger than 30 or older than 50, (3) as previously mentioned, not be obese, and (4) have a net worth of not less than $80,000.00.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/24/nyregion/24adopt.html?scp=4&
    sq=china%20and%20adoption&st=cse

    Maybe there were outraged articles featuring crusaders losing their rag on China for its sickeningly discriminatory policy against nice fat American lesbians who make under $80,000.00. I didn't see any. The fact remains that the Dima Yakovlev Law - targeting only Americans as it does - puts one hell of a lot less children out of reach of adoptive international parents. Other international adopters, still welcome. Fat and gay, no problem. And as I have said before, Americans who do not like it are free to lobby the U.S. government to repeal the Magnitsky Act; I'm sure it would go a long way toward healing the breach - because, lost in the arguments is the irrevocable fact that the Magnitsky Act was every bit as childish and unnecessary. It was plainly put in place as a malleable replacement for Jackson-Vanik, only because Jackson-Vanik is no longer allowed under WTO rules, and U.S. lawmakers showed ambitious intentions to add people to the list who had nothing whatever to do with Sergei Magnitsky or his death; rather, people who were "oppressing the political opposition" in Russia, or even judges who passed laws America does not like.

    I would just add to that, one of the referenced articles on China’s adoption policy suggests that international adoptions are embarrassing for the government, and that a primary driver for increased adoptions within China was increasing affluence of Chinese couples, more of whom could now afford a larger family.

    The per-capita GDP of Russia doubled in the last 10 years, and is the highest among the BRICS countries. An increasing number of Russian couples, too, can afford larger families. The passing of the Dima Yakovlev Law was immediately followed by work on legislation to provide more incentives to adopt within Russia.

    All the numbers suggest adoption of Russian children by Americans was steadily declining on its own. Therefore it is difficult not to conclude that what bothers Americans more than thousands of poor orphans waiting for homes is being singled out for being American. Just as the Magnitsky Act singled out Russians for being Russian, since people of no other nation were included.

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  • @Momus
    Well, I believe children are better off if they have an opportunity to grow up in a home with loving parents who will care for them, rather than in institutions (of any nation).

    I agree that it would be best if Russian orphans could be adopted by Russians. Unfortunately, there are far more Russian orphans than there are prospective Russian adoptive parents. Thus, it strikes me that foreign adoption is a far better solution than the institutionalization of children.

    All that said, if Russian lawmakers disagreed with my position and passed laws to prohibit foreign adoption in favor of continued institutionalization of the hundreds of thousands of orphans who cannot hope to be adopted by Russian parents, then I would disagree but I would not consider the action indefensible.

    This measure to ban specifically American adoptions as political retaliation for passage of the Magnitsky Act is very different. It is indefensible.

    Here’s what Lady Nicholson, Baroness of Winterbourne, has to say about the issue of international adoptions.

    “I am not a child psychiatrist nor a social worker nor a medical person but I am told by the experts that children are best brought up in their own environment, own culture, their own language, their own family. Maybe they do not have a mother or a father, but they will have cousins, grandparents and aunts. All the professionals engaged in child welfare or in child health or development will say unhesitatingly that children are best brought up in their own environment. I am absolutely sure there are some instances where there is no future for an abandoned baby. And therefore, if you get the right fit, the right people, the right altruism, the right couple then I am sure that wonderful things can happen to the child that would never otherwise have happened. But I am also told that this is perhaps a bit of a rarity and it is all too easy even with well meaning efforts for wrong things to happen.”

    I daresay she knows something of what she is talking about; she was Director of the Save the Children Fund for 11 years, is currently the co-Chair with the Prime Ministers of Romania and Moldova of the Children’s High Level Groups of those countries, co-Chair of the UK’s Children’s High Level Group and Executive Chairman of the Associatia Children’s High Level Group, as well as a longtime campaigner for the rights of orphans in Eastern Europe.

    http://www.arabtimesonline.com/NewsDetails/tabid/96/smid/414/ArticleID/160266/reftab/36/t/Child-trafficking-new-form-of-slavery/Default.aspx

    Perhaps countries that were once reliable adoptive markets for Americans, such as China, also feel that Chinese babies are better off being brought up in their own culture. Perhaps that’s the reason China is also tightening adoption rules.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20071121/1a_bottomstrip21.art.htm?loc=interstitialskip

    That article is actually from 2007, although it indicates 2011 at the top. In May of 2007, China banned adoptions by foreigners who were (1) single parents, (2) obese, (3) gay, or (5) older than 50.

    Here’s another which contains even more specifics: adoptive parents must (1) consist of a man and a woman married not less than 2 years, 5 years if it is a second marriage, (2) not be younger than 30 or older than 50, (3) as previously mentioned, not be obese, and (4) have a net worth of not less than $80,000.00.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/24/nyregion/24adopt.html?scp=4&

    sq=china%20and%20adoption&st=cse

    Maybe there were outraged articles featuring crusaders losing their rag on China for its sickeningly discriminatory policy against nice fat American lesbians who make under $80,000.00. I didn’t see any. The fact remains that the Dima Yakovlev Law – targeting only Americans as it does – puts one hell of a lot less children out of reach of adoptive international parents. Other international adopters, still welcome. Fat and gay, no problem. And as I have said before, Americans who do not like it are free to lobby the U.S. government to repeal the Magnitsky Act; I’m sure it would go a long way toward healing the breach – because, lost in the arguments is the irrevocable fact that the Magnitsky Act was every bit as childish and unnecessary. It was plainly put in place as a malleable replacement for Jackson-Vanik, only because Jackson-Vanik is no longer allowed under WTO rules, and U.S. lawmakers showed ambitious intentions to add people to the list who had nothing whatever to do with Sergei Magnitsky or his death; rather, people who were “oppressing the political opposition” in Russia, or even judges who passed laws America does not like.

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    • Replies: @marknesop
    I would just add to that, one of the referenced articles on China's adoption policy suggests that international adoptions are embarrassing for the government, and that a primary driver for increased adoptions within China was increasing affluence of Chinese couples, more of whom could now afford a larger family.

    The per-capita GDP of Russia doubled in the last 10 years, and is the highest among the BRICS countries. An increasing number of Russian couples, too, can afford larger families. The passing of the Dima Yakovlev Law was immediately followed by work on legislation to provide more incentives to adopt within Russia.

    All the numbers suggest adoption of Russian children by Americans was steadily declining on its own. Therefore it is difficult not to conclude that what bothers Americans more than thousands of poor orphans waiting for homes is being singled out for being American. Just as the Magnitsky Act singled out Russians for being Russian, since people of no other nation were included.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Momus
    Well, I believe children are better off if they have an opportunity to grow up in a home with loving parents who will care for them, rather than in institutions (of any nation).

    I agree that it would be best if Russian orphans could be adopted by Russians. Unfortunately, there are far more Russian orphans than there are prospective Russian adoptive parents. Thus, it strikes me that foreign adoption is a far better solution than the institutionalization of children.

    All that said, if Russian lawmakers disagreed with my position and passed laws to prohibit foreign adoption in favor of continued institutionalization of the hundreds of thousands of orphans who cannot hope to be adopted by Russian parents, then I would disagree but I would not consider the action indefensible.

    This measure to ban specifically American adoptions as political retaliation for passage of the Magnitsky Act is very different. It is indefensible.

    Foreigners or their absence will now make surprisingly little practical difference because Russians and foreigners alike have little enthusiasm for adopting older children.

    A curious but not surprising fact is that the vast majority of potential adopters prefer younger children. For children under the age of 3 there is already a long waiting list of Russian citizens. The state orphanages are Soviet-era institutions that are living on borrowed time as the cohorts of the 90′s to mid-2000 start to reach adulthood.

    FTR, I am also very much against the association of this law with Magnitsky and targeting Americans in particular. I am agnostic about foreign adoptions in general. There are both pros and cons.

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    • Replies: @Fedia Kriukov
    If foreign adoptions were going to get banned anyway, then it's a good idea to use the ban to also to insult Americans (and I think it's clear now that the insult worked like charm -- the butthurt screeching is deafening). However, if the reason for the ban was purely a response to American provocation, and not because it's the right thing to do, whoever is responsible for this should be fired, including most of the Duma. The next steps will tell us what the real reason was.
    , @AM
    Maybe cynical point that Americans prefer east European kids because they are white has some merit to it. Ukrainian kids win in this situation on the expense of Russians (as I heard Ukraine is actually easing adoption process)
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Fedia Kriukov
    There's nothing ambiguous in the article. Anyone who reads it normally, rather than with the intent of quibbling over every word in order to defend the author, will come away with the same impression -- that adopted children in Russia are in a lot more danger than in the US. Which is patently false.

    In any case, there are quite a few good reasons why foreign adoptions should be banned.

    There's only one reason why they should be allowed, and that reason isn't applicable in modern Russia. I.e. it's okay to send children overseas if their life in the mother country will be short and unhappy. Whoever claims that such fate by necessity awaits orphans (even disabled ones) in modern Russia is basically a liar.

    So, why do you believe that foreign adoptions should be allowed?

    Well, I believe children are better off if they have an opportunity to grow up in a home with loving parents who will care for them, rather than in institutions (of any nation).

    I agree that it would be best if Russian orphans could be adopted by Russians. Unfortunately, there are far more Russian orphans than there are prospective Russian adoptive parents. Thus, it strikes me that foreign adoption is a far better solution than the institutionalization of children.

    All that said, if Russian lawmakers disagreed with my position and passed laws to prohibit foreign adoption in favor of continued institutionalization of the hundreds of thousands of orphans who cannot hope to be adopted by Russian parents, then I would disagree but I would not consider the action indefensible.

    This measure to ban specifically American adoptions as political retaliation for passage of the Magnitsky Act is very different. It is indefensible.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Foreigners or their absence will now make surprisingly little practical difference because Russians and foreigners alike have little enthusiasm for adopting older children.

    A curious but not surprising fact is that the vast majority of potential adopters prefer younger children. For children under the age of 3 there is already a long waiting list of Russian citizens. The state orphanages are Soviet-era institutions that are living on borrowed time as the cohorts of the 90's to mid-2000 start to reach adulthood.

    FTR, I am also very much against the association of this law with Magnitsky and targeting Americans in particular. I am agnostic about foreign adoptions in general. There are both pros and cons.

    , @marknesop
    Here's what Lady Nicholson, Baroness of Winterbourne, has to say about the issue of international adoptions.

    “I am not a child psychiatrist nor a social worker nor a medical person but I am told by the experts that children are best brought up in their own environment, own culture, their own language, their own family. Maybe they do not have a mother or a father, but they will have cousins, grandparents and aunts. All the professionals engaged in child welfare or in child health or development will say unhesitatingly that children are best brought up in their own environment. I am absolutely sure there are some instances where there is no future for an abandoned baby. And therefore, if you get the right fit, the right people, the right altruism, the right couple then I am sure that wonderful things can happen to the child that would never otherwise have happened. But I am also told that this is perhaps a bit of a rarity and it is all too easy even with well meaning efforts for wrong things to happen."

    I daresay she knows something of what she is talking about; she was Director of the Save the Children Fund for 11 years, is currently the co-Chair with the Prime Ministers of Romania and Moldova of the Children's High Level Groups of those countries, co-Chair of the UK's Children's High Level Group and Executive Chairman of the Associatia Children’s High Level Group, as well as a longtime campaigner for the rights of orphans in Eastern Europe.

    http://www.arabtimesonline.com/NewsDetails/tabid/96/smid/414/ArticleID/160266/reftab/36/t/Child-trafficking-new-form-of-slavery/Default.aspx

    Perhaps countries that were once reliable adoptive markets for Americans, such as China, also feel that Chinese babies are better off being brought up in their own culture. Perhaps that's the reason China is also tightening adoption rules.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20071121/1a_bottomstrip21.art.htm?loc=interstitialskip

    That article is actually from 2007, although it indicates 2011 at the top. In May of 2007, China banned adoptions by foreigners who were (1) single parents, (2) obese, (3) gay, or (5) older than 50.

    Here's another which contains even more specifics: adoptive parents must (1) consist of a man and a woman married not less than 2 years, 5 years if it is a second marriage, (2) not be younger than 30 or older than 50, (3) as previously mentioned, not be obese, and (4) have a net worth of not less than $80,000.00.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/24/nyregion/24adopt.html?scp=4&
    sq=china%20and%20adoption&st=cse

    Maybe there were outraged articles featuring crusaders losing their rag on China for its sickeningly discriminatory policy against nice fat American lesbians who make under $80,000.00. I didn't see any. The fact remains that the Dima Yakovlev Law - targeting only Americans as it does - puts one hell of a lot less children out of reach of adoptive international parents. Other international adopters, still welcome. Fat and gay, no problem. And as I have said before, Americans who do not like it are free to lobby the U.S. government to repeal the Magnitsky Act; I'm sure it would go a long way toward healing the breach - because, lost in the arguments is the irrevocable fact that the Magnitsky Act was every bit as childish and unnecessary. It was plainly put in place as a malleable replacement for Jackson-Vanik, only because Jackson-Vanik is no longer allowed under WTO rules, and U.S. lawmakers showed ambitious intentions to add people to the list who had nothing whatever to do with Sergei Magnitsky or his death; rather, people who were "oppressing the political opposition" in Russia, or even judges who passed laws America does not like.

    , @AM
    Because of the problems with adoptions in America (the kids who died) Russia has made the process of adoptions more difficult, introduced more screenings etc. which already dissuaded Americans from adopting in Russia. So a lot of kids lost out on American home, probably much more than those affected now by Yakovlev law, as the number of American adoptions has fallen so low anyway.
    What I hate about Yakovlev's law is that it's extremaly cynical and really makes Russia look bad. And that Americans that specifically want a Russian kid, because of connection to the country, will be unable to adopt one.
    There was anti-American adoption agenda in Russia for a while before any Magnitsky. I remember reading about the special outdoor "camps" where American adoptive parents send their unruly Russian children for weeks.
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  • Comments like “something is unjust if the life of just one child suffers” are very disingenuous. Our societies make calculations in which an increase of death, including of children, is considered acceptable ALL THE TIME.Every time you increase the speed limit, you do this: society has said, in effect, that x thousand more deaths are worth getting to work slightly faster,

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  • @Momus
    I will reply to both posts together, but I'll take the second one first. I did not intend my post to suggest that I was arguing with you. I did not intend my post to suggest that I was charging you with any sympathy for the adoption ban. My point is simply that, in my view, whether the cited statistic has been misrepresented or not, the adoption ban is a mistake.

    As to the passage you quote, above, I believe it is ambiguous. It may be, as you say, that the passage is comparing homicides/manslaughters in the US to all deaths in the RF. Or it may be that the author is making a direct comparison in the second sentence to the first, but without repeating the clause you have bolded in the second sentence. This is imprecise language, to be sure, but I would have to see the source statistics to be certain what the author intended. I think the latter interpretation of the passage (i.e. a direct comparison is intended) is as supportable as your interpretation, but both are necessarily speculative based on the ambiguity of the language.

    But again, I don't think it matters. I don't believe either interpretation supports the adoption ban, and I do believe that the language is sufficiently ambiguous that a simple misinterpretation will suffice in the absence of any other evidence for journalistic malevolence.

    I will say that, without seeing the context or the source statistics, your interpretation makes the conjunction of these two sentences very odd. Can you tell me, why has the author put these two sentences together if not to draw a statistical comparison?

    There’s nothing ambiguous in the article. Anyone who reads it normally, rather than with the intent of quibbling over every word in order to defend the author, will come away with the same impression — that adopted children in Russia are in a lot more danger than in the US. Which is patently false.

    In any case, there are quite a few good reasons why foreign adoptions should be banned.

    There’s only one reason why they should be allowed, and that reason isn’t applicable in modern Russia. I.e. it’s okay to send children overseas if their life in the mother country will be short and unhappy. Whoever claims that such fate by necessity awaits orphans (even disabled ones) in modern Russia is basically a liar.

    So, why do you believe that foreign adoptions should be allowed?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Momus
    Well, I believe children are better off if they have an opportunity to grow up in a home with loving parents who will care for them, rather than in institutions (of any nation).

    I agree that it would be best if Russian orphans could be adopted by Russians. Unfortunately, there are far more Russian orphans than there are prospective Russian adoptive parents. Thus, it strikes me that foreign adoption is a far better solution than the institutionalization of children.

    All that said, if Russian lawmakers disagreed with my position and passed laws to prohibit foreign adoption in favor of continued institutionalization of the hundreds of thousands of orphans who cannot hope to be adopted by Russian parents, then I would disagree but I would not consider the action indefensible.

    This measure to ban specifically American adoptions as political retaliation for passage of the Magnitsky Act is very different. It is indefensible.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • I will reply to both posts together, but I’ll take the second one first. I did not intend my post to suggest that I was arguing with you. I did not intend my post to suggest that I was charging you with any sympathy for the adoption ban. My point is simply that, in my view, whether the cited statistic has been misrepresented or not, the adoption ban is a mistake.

    As to the passage you quote, above, I believe it is ambiguous. It may be, as you say, that the passage is comparing homicides/manslaughters in the US to all deaths in the RF. Or it may be that the author is making a direct comparison in the second sentence to the first, but without repeating the clause you have bolded in the second sentence. This is imprecise language, to be sure, but I would have to see the source statistics to be certain what the author intended. I think the latter interpretation of the passage (i.e. a direct comparison is intended) is as supportable as your interpretation, but both are necessarily speculative based on the ambiguity of the language.

    But again, I don’t think it matters. I don’t believe either interpretation supports the adoption ban, and I do believe that the language is sufficiently ambiguous that a simple misinterpretation will suffice in the absence of any other evidence for journalistic malevolence.

    I will say that, without seeing the context or the source statistics, your interpretation makes the conjunction of these two sentences very odd. Can you tell me, why has the author put these two sentences together if not to draw a statistical comparison?

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    • Replies: @Fedia Kriukov
    There's nothing ambiguous in the article. Anyone who reads it normally, rather than with the intent of quibbling over every word in order to defend the author, will come away with the same impression -- that adopted children in Russia are in a lot more danger than in the US. Which is patently false.

    In any case, there are quite a few good reasons why foreign adoptions should be banned.

    There's only one reason why they should be allowed, and that reason isn't applicable in modern Russia. I.e. it's okay to send children overseas if their life in the mother country will be short and unhappy. Whoever claims that such fate by necessity awaits orphans (even disabled ones) in modern Russia is basically a liar.

    So, why do you believe that foreign adoptions should be allowed?

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Momus
    I agree that Russia's government has every right to pass such a law. I don't agree that their decision to exercise that right as they did in this case was defensible. Even as geopolitical hardball, it's clumsy and ineffective. The government could pass its own, even tougher version of the Magnitsky bill if it needed to make a point. Orphans? Really?

    On this note, I would like to say that I understand how criticism coming from "outside the family" is intensely irritating. However, not every criticism represents a challenge to Russia's sovereign rights. Most often it is simple disagreement, you know?

    As for whether the "disputed statistic" is a "misrepresentation" or "outright lie," I can't say as I cannot peer into the author's soul. I haven't even seen a definitive source for the statistic, either in the original article or here. I think it's beside the point. Nevertheless, I do appreciate the project of pointing out journalistic malpractice and support those who commit themselves to it. Reading this blog, I do wish it were not so confined to journalistic malpractice "in the West," but I understand that is the blog's focus.

    Thanks for the comment.

    As for whether the “disputed statistic” is a “misrepresentation” or “outright lie,” I can’t say as I cannot peer into the author’s soul. I haven’t even seen a definitive source for the statistic, either in the original article or here.

    Do you read Russian? This post has a translation of the following from the website of the Public Chamber of the RF:

    По данным российских экспертов, за прошедшие 20 лет граждане США усыновили около 60 тысяч российских, за эти годы по вине приемных родителей погибли 19 детей. За тот же период в семьях усыновителей, являющихся гражданами Российской Федерации, погибло почти 1,5 тысяч детей.

    I have bolded the crucial differences.

    The Economist “journalist” is comparing apples and oranges even though the most obvious source for his figures (ironically enough a Russian state body that is itself against the Dima Yakovlev Law) makes it absolutely clear that they are in fact apples and oranges.

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  • @Momus
    It strikes me that the disputed statistic is almost entirely irrelevant to the argument presented. What does it matter what the rate of wrongful death is for Russian orphans adopted by Russian parents? What is clear is that, while even a single child's death is a tragedy, there is no evidence to suggest that American parents are more likely to abuse their adopted children than parents from other nations. No evidence.

    And if one's concern were in fact the safety of adopted orphans, there are rational policies a government could pursue to safeguard them. A blanket ban on adoptions from a single country does not address the claimed problem.

    Regardless of what one thinks of the Magnitsky bill, this kind of ugly political posturing at the expense of children and would-be parents is indefensible. Whatever their differences, two great nations like Russia and the US can do much better than this.

    It strikes me that the disputed statistic is almost entirely irrelevant to the argument presented. What does it matter what the rate of wrongful death is for Russian orphans adopted by Russian parents? What is clear is that, while even a single child’s death is a tragedy, there is no evidence to suggest that American parents are more likely to abuse their adopted children than parents from other nations. No evidence.

    (1) The Economist certainly seems to think it matters. So do quite a lot of other media outlets. They not only think it matters as regards the Dima Yakovlev Law but also of the Russian government’s and state’s general rottenness. Quite frankly this objection while a valid one should not be addressed to me.

    (2) Correct, there is no evidence. I have said as much in fact. In fact I made it clear that based on average child mortality rates it is quite certain that Russian orphans are at significantly higher risk of death than their American counterparts. That is because on average life in Russia *is* riskier and cheaper. That is not however equivalent to claiming fantastical differences on the order of 100x, especially when to do so the journalist quite blatantly and willfully compares numbers from different statistical categories (i.e. essentially homicide/manslaughter by US adopters vs. all deaths among Russian adopted children),

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  • @Marat
    "More people" obviously means means more people from the Patricians, not more people from the Plebs. Let's face it, Plebs have never mattered a flying gerard in Russia.

    If the plebs didn’t matter then the Kremlin wouldn’t be obsessed with opinion polls the way it is.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Anatoly,

    Unless I am completely mistaken it seems to me that we are beginning to see some light amidst alll the fog of statistical information. The Ministry of Education and Science report of 2005 you referred to in your previous post says that 12 children "died by the fault of their adopters and guardians" in the period 1991 to 2005. Gelievna says that 92,000 orphans were adopted by Russians over the same period. I presume this is correct and it does seem to be roughly in line with other figures I have seen. The release by the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation says that 19 children died by the fault of their adopted parents out of the 60,000 that have been adopted by parents in the US over the last twenty years.

    The two sets of figures do not seem to be wildly out of line with each other. In both the US and Russia the prospects of an adopted child dying because of the negligence or fault of their adopted parents is very small (12 out of 92,000 between 1991 and 2005 in Russia and 19 out of 60,000 between 1991 and 2011 in the US). If anything the figures suggest that a Russian adopted child is more likely to die due to neglect or worse by US parents than by Russian parents but the numbers in both cases are so low that I don't think it's right to draw that inference.

    Of course this is not a comparison of the total number of adopted Russian children who die in the US and Russia. There doesn't seem to be a US figure with which to make that comparison. Frankly I would be astonished if the US keeps figures that makes such a comparison possible since I think it inconceivable that the US authorities differentiate Russian adopted children in its statistics from adopted children generally. I also suspect (though I do not know) that any figures the US has for the total premature deaths of adopted children are prepared and kept at state level rather than Federal level, which would make comparisons with Russian statistics which appear to be collected at Federal level more difficult still.

    Let us however concede what is surely the case, which is that the death rate of Russian adopted children who stay in Russia is higher than the death rate of Russian adopted children who go to the US. After all the death rate of Russian children generally is as we know higher than that of US children. It is still not 39 times higher because as you absolutely rightly say that ridiculous figure is obtained by comparing apples to oranges. What we can however say, unless I have read the figures completely wrongly, is that it seems that Russian parents of adopted children are no less solicitous (or more neglectful or abusive) of their adopted children than US parents.

    Incidentally viz a point made by someone who commented on your earlier post, it is not surprising that adopted children in Russia have a higher death rate - even a much higher death rate - than children generally given that they are more likely to have suffered from neglect or abuse by their biological parents with all the health and behavioural problems that causes and/or to suffer from an illness or a disability. The same will also be true of Russian children who have been adopted by US parents.

    Dear Alex,

    A very good and comprehensive explanation. Just one small correction: The 12 for Russia figure is for 5 years, presumably 1999-2004. At least that was what was in the original report Найди меня, мама!
    Материалы в помощь журналисту
    :

    In 2005, the Ministry of Education and Science gathered preliminary statistics for the past 5 years on cases of death and incidences of ill treatment of orphans, adopted by Russians or taken into guardianship or a foster family, according to which:

    Out of 1220 children, 12 died by the fault of the adopters and guardians;

    So, as I understand it, 1220 actually did die (the problem is that the language was ambiguous hence my original mistake in the first post on this) of which 12 (1%) died specifically because of the fault of their adopters and guardians, which is more or less comparable to the 19 recorded cases of deaths in the US by the fault of their adopted parents for the entire 20 year period.

    As such Russia’s per capita / year figure for deaths by adopted parents may well be a bit higher but certainly nowhere close to an order of magnitude. However as you also correctly point out the overall numbers are extremely low in both cases to the point of being statistically insignificant.

    Your logic on overall death rates of course matched my own.

    Unfortunately, the typical Economist reader is going to read this and think that life for poor Russian children is literally 100x more dangerous than in the West and as such their latent loathing of Putin and let’s be honest Russia too will be reinforced yet one more time. This is a perfect example of when in fact this Press Complaints Commission (which you’ve previously drawn my attention to) can be brought, after all the piece seems to violate points (1) (a)-(c) of the PCC’s Editor’s Code of Practice.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Anatoly,

    Thanks for the correction. You had already clarified the point about the 1,220 deaths in your response to the comment made on your previous post.

    I am going to write to the Economist about this issue. I will let you know how they respond.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Momus,

    Have you read Anatoly's previous post? He does not support the adoption ban and nor do I though I would not go so far as to say as you do that it is "indefensible". At the end of the day Russia has the indisputable right to legislate for the welfare of its children and if it feels that it is unsafe to send them to the US because the US authorities deny the Russian authorities access to Russian children and to US court cases that affect Russian children whilst they are in the US (which is the point that is being made) then it is Russia's right to prevent them going there. I may not agree with that decision but finger pointing and hyperbole are not helpful and should be avoided.

    I also cannot agree with you that "the disputed statistic is irrelevant to the argument presented". We are not talking about "disputed statistics". We are talking about misrepresented statistics and outright lies. There is an absolute public interest in exposing such misrepresentations and lies and the fact that those who purport to oppose and criticise the adoption ban such as the Economist make them is concerning in itself and suggests that they actually care for Russian children very little.

    I agree that Russia’s government has every right to pass such a law. I don’t agree that their decision to exercise that right as they did in this case was defensible. Even as geopolitical hardball, it’s clumsy and ineffective. The government could pass its own, even tougher version of the Magnitsky bill if it needed to make a point. Orphans? Really?

    On this note, I would like to say that I understand how criticism coming from “outside the family” is intensely irritating. However, not every criticism represents a challenge to Russia’s sovereign rights. Most often it is simple disagreement, you know?

    As for whether the “disputed statistic” is a “misrepresentation” or “outright lie,” I can’t say as I cannot peer into the author’s soul. I haven’t even seen a definitive source for the statistic, either in the original article or here. I think it’s beside the point. Nevertheless, I do appreciate the project of pointing out journalistic malpractice and support those who commit themselves to it. Reading this blog, I do wish it were not so confined to journalistic malpractice “in the West,” but I understand that is the blog’s focus.

    Thanks for the comment.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    As for whether the “disputed statistic” is a “misrepresentation” or “outright lie,” I can’t say as I cannot peer into the author’s soul. I haven’t even seen a definitive source for the statistic, either in the original article or here.

    Do you read Russian? This post has a translation of the following from the website of the Public Chamber of the RF:

    По данным российских экспертов, за прошедшие 20 лет граждане США усыновили около 60 тысяч российских, за эти годы по вине приемных родителей погибли 19 детей. За тот же период в семьях усыновителей, являющихся гражданами Российской Федерации, погибло почти 1,5 тысяч детей.

    I have bolded the crucial differences.

    The Economist "journalist" is comparing apples and oranges even though the most obvious source for his figures (ironically enough a Russian state body that is itself against the Dima Yakovlev Law) makes it absolutely clear that they are in fact apples and oranges.

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  • Why do you think the Economist dislikes Putin’s Russia so much ?

    My take would be that Putin seems to be one of the few standouts against globalisation, multi-culti and the various UN sponsored idiocies which the Economist has swallowed in full.

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    • Replies: @rkka
    The Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite and Punditocracy are still sore that Putin nailed tax fraud Khodorkovsky before Kh could sell Yukos to them. The AFPE&P hate, hate with the wildest passion, the fact that the energy price windfall has flowed into the coffers of the Russian government instead of to them.

    The AFPE&P also hate that the Russian government no longer abjectly submit to them, the way their dear departed Boris Yeltsin did.

    Since The Economist and Financial Times (and the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, and the Times of London, and the Washington Post, and I could go on and on...) are the mouthpieces of the AFPE&P, the position on Russia of these media outlets reflects that of their owners.

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  • @Momus
    It strikes me that the disputed statistic is almost entirely irrelevant to the argument presented. What does it matter what the rate of wrongful death is for Russian orphans adopted by Russian parents? What is clear is that, while even a single child's death is a tragedy, there is no evidence to suggest that American parents are more likely to abuse their adopted children than parents from other nations. No evidence.

    And if one's concern were in fact the safety of adopted orphans, there are rational policies a government could pursue to safeguard them. A blanket ban on adoptions from a single country does not address the claimed problem.

    Regardless of what one thinks of the Magnitsky bill, this kind of ugly political posturing at the expense of children and would-be parents is indefensible. Whatever their differences, two great nations like Russia and the US can do much better than this.

    Dear Momus,

    Have you read Anatoly’s previous post? He does not support the adoption ban and nor do I though I would not go so far as to say as you do that it is “indefensible”. At the end of the day Russia has the indisputable right to legislate for the welfare of its children and if it feels that it is unsafe to send them to the US because the US authorities deny the Russian authorities access to Russian children and to US court cases that affect Russian children whilst they are in the US (which is the point that is being made) then it is Russia’s right to prevent them going there. I may not agree with that decision but finger pointing and hyperbole are not helpful and should be avoided.

    I also cannot agree with you that “the disputed statistic is irrelevant to the argument presented”. We are not talking about “disputed statistics”. We are talking about misrepresented statistics and outright lies. There is an absolute public interest in exposing such misrepresentations and lies and the fact that those who purport to oppose and criticise the adoption ban such as the Economist make them is concerning in itself and suggests that they actually care for Russian children very little.

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    • Replies: @Momus
    I agree that Russia's government has every right to pass such a law. I don't agree that their decision to exercise that right as they did in this case was defensible. Even as geopolitical hardball, it's clumsy and ineffective. The government could pass its own, even tougher version of the Magnitsky bill if it needed to make a point. Orphans? Really?

    On this note, I would like to say that I understand how criticism coming from "outside the family" is intensely irritating. However, not every criticism represents a challenge to Russia's sovereign rights. Most often it is simple disagreement, you know?

    As for whether the "disputed statistic" is a "misrepresentation" or "outright lie," I can't say as I cannot peer into the author's soul. I haven't even seen a definitive source for the statistic, either in the original article or here. I think it's beside the point. Nevertheless, I do appreciate the project of pointing out journalistic malpractice and support those who commit themselves to it. Reading this blog, I do wish it were not so confined to journalistic malpractice "in the West," but I understand that is the blog's focus.

    Thanks for the comment.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • It strikes me that the disputed statistic is almost entirely irrelevant to the argument presented. What does it matter what the rate of wrongful death is for Russian orphans adopted by Russian parents? What is clear is that, while even a single child’s death is a tragedy, there is no evidence to suggest that American parents are more likely to abuse their adopted children than parents from other nations. No evidence.

    And if one’s concern were in fact the safety of adopted orphans, there are rational policies a government could pursue to safeguard them. A blanket ban on adoptions from a single country does not address the claimed problem.

    Regardless of what one thinks of the Magnitsky bill, this kind of ugly political posturing at the expense of children and would-be parents is indefensible. Whatever their differences, two great nations like Russia and the US can do much better than this.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Momus,

    Have you read Anatoly's previous post? He does not support the adoption ban and nor do I though I would not go so far as to say as you do that it is "indefensible". At the end of the day Russia has the indisputable right to legislate for the welfare of its children and if it feels that it is unsafe to send them to the US because the US authorities deny the Russian authorities access to Russian children and to US court cases that affect Russian children whilst they are in the US (which is the point that is being made) then it is Russia's right to prevent them going there. I may not agree with that decision but finger pointing and hyperbole are not helpful and should be avoided.

    I also cannot agree with you that "the disputed statistic is irrelevant to the argument presented". We are not talking about "disputed statistics". We are talking about misrepresented statistics and outright lies. There is an absolute public interest in exposing such misrepresentations and lies and the fact that those who purport to oppose and criticise the adoption ban such as the Economist make them is concerning in itself and suggests that they actually care for Russian children very little.

    , @Anatoly Karlin
    It strikes me that the disputed statistic is almost entirely irrelevant to the argument presented. What does it matter what the rate of wrongful death is for Russian orphans adopted by Russian parents? What is clear is that, while even a single child’s death is a tragedy, there is no evidence to suggest that American parents are more likely to abuse their adopted children than parents from other nations. No evidence.

    (1) The Economist certainly seems to think it matters. So do quite a lot of other media outlets. They not only think it matters as regards the Dima Yakovlev Law but also of the Russian government's and state's general rottenness. Quite frankly this objection while a valid one should not be addressed to me.

    (2) Correct, there is no evidence. I have said as much in fact. In fact I made it clear that based on average child mortality rates it is quite certain that Russian orphans are at significantly higher risk of death than their American counterparts. That is because on average life in Russia *is* riskier and cheaper. That is not however equivalent to claiming fantastical differences on the order of 100x, especially when to do so the journalist quite blatantly and willfully compares numbers from different statistical categories (i.e. essentially homicide/manslaughter by US adopters vs. all deaths among Russian adopted children),

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  • Dear Anatoly,

    Unless I am completely mistaken it seems to me that we are beginning to see some light amidst alll the fog of statistical information. The Ministry of Education and Science report of 2005 you referred to in your previous post says that 12 children “died by the fault of their adopters and guardians” in the period 1991 to 2005. Gelievna says that 92,000 orphans were adopted by Russians over the same period. I presume this is correct and it does seem to be roughly in line with other figures I have seen. The release by the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation says that 19 children died by the fault of their adopted parents out of the 60,000 that have been adopted by parents in the US over the last twenty years.

    The two sets of figures do not seem to be wildly out of line with each other. In both the US and Russia the prospects of an adopted child dying because of the negligence or fault of their adopted parents is very small (12 out of 92,000 between 1991 and 2005 in Russia and 19 out of 60,000 between 1991 and 2011 in the US). If anything the figures suggest that a Russian adopted child is more likely to die due to neglect or worse by US parents than by Russian parents but the numbers in both cases are so low that I don’t think it’s right to draw that inference.

    Of course this is not a comparison of the total number of adopted Russian children who die in the US and Russia. There doesn’t seem to be a US figure with which to make that comparison. Frankly I would be astonished if the US keeps figures that makes such a comparison possible since I think it inconceivable that the US authorities differentiate Russian adopted children in its statistics from adopted children generally. I also suspect (though I do not know) that any figures the US has for the total premature deaths of adopted children are prepared and kept at state level rather than Federal level, which would make comparisons with Russian statistics which appear to be collected at Federal level more difficult still.

    Let us however concede what is surely the case, which is that the death rate of Russian adopted children who stay in Russia is higher than the death rate of Russian adopted children who go to the US. After all the death rate of Russian children generally is as we know higher than that of US children. It is still not 39 times higher because as you absolutely rightly say that ridiculous figure is obtained by comparing apples to oranges. What we can however say, unless I have read the figures completely wrongly, is that it seems that Russian parents of adopted children are no less solicitous (or more neglectful or abusive) of their adopted children than US parents.

    Incidentally viz a point made by someone who commented on your earlier post, it is not surprising that adopted children in Russia have a higher death rate – even a much higher death rate – than children generally given that they are more likely to have suffered from neglect or abuse by their biological parents with all the health and behavioural problems that causes and/or to suffer from an illness or a disability. The same will also be true of Russian children who have been adopted by US parents.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Dear Alex,

    A very good and comprehensive explanation. Just one small correction: The 12 for Russia figure is for 5 years, presumably 1999-2004. At least that was what was in the original report Найди меня, мама!
    Материалы в помощь журналисту
    :

    In 2005, the Ministry of Education and Science gathered preliminary statistics for the past 5 years on cases of death and incidences of ill treatment of orphans, adopted by Russians or taken into guardianship or a foster family, according to which:

    Out of 1220 children, 12 died by the fault of the adopters and guardians;

    So, as I understand it, 1220 actually did die (the problem is that the language was ambiguous hence my original mistake in the first post on this) of which 12 (1%) died specifically because of the fault of their adopters and guardians, which is more or less comparable to the 19 recorded cases of deaths in the US by the fault of their adopted parents for the entire 20 year period.

    As such Russia's per capita / year figure for deaths by adopted parents may well be a bit higher but certainly nowhere close to an order of magnitude. However as you also correctly point out the overall numbers are extremely low in both cases to the point of being statistically insignificant.

    Your logic on overall death rates of course matched my own.

    Unfortunately, the typical Economist reader is going to read this and think that life for poor Russian children is literally 100x more dangerous than in the West and as such their latent loathing of Putin and let's be honest Russia too will be reinforced yet one more time. This is a perfect example of when in fact this Press Complaints Commission (which you've previously drawn my attention to) can be brought, after all the piece seems to violate points (1) (a)-(c) of the PCC's Editor's Code of Practice.

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  • @Marat
    "More people" obviously means means more people from the Patricians, not more people from the Plebs. Let's face it, Plebs have never mattered a flying gerard in Russia.

    Dear Marat,

    What exactly are you suggesting, that these people will mount a coup?

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  • “More people” obviously means means more people from the Patricians, not more people from the Plebs. Let’s face it, Plebs have never mattered a flying gerard in Russia.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Marat,

    What exactly are you suggesting, that these people will mount a coup?

    , @Anatoly Karlin
    If the plebs didn't matter then the Kremlin wouldn't be obsessed with opinion polls the way it is.
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  • I'm not a big fan of analyzing Russian politics via "Kremlin clans". Estimating their relative power seems to involve mostly tea leaf reading, and in any case the entire exercise is of dubious predictive value. Even the exact compositions and identities of the various clans differ from analyst to analyst! Besides, clans are hardly unique...
  • @kirill
    I agree with your skepticism. A good test of this theory is to use the same method to analyze the US government. I expect similar correlations to hold. At the end of the day, correlation is not causation.

    well off course !!! unfortunately its quite the same everywhere, good old imperialism + privileged clans hidden behind democracy system

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  • @yalensis
    @alexander made an excellent point, and I agree too. I don't know about every society, but In the Russian context, I am sure "clanology" is simply B.S., akin to the game "7 degrees of Kevin Bacon". If you play that game, it turns out everybody is connected to everybody.

    Thanks for the comments Yalensis,

    By the way Anatoly underestimates the lack of professional experience in the British government. Very few members of the British cabinet are lawyers and that are mainly occupy posts such as Minister of Justice or Attorney General for which legal qualifications are essential. If one takes the most senior officials of the British government, who form its inner core:

    1. Cameron studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics (“PPE”) at Oxford University a joint three year degree that is the traditional degree taken by people who wish to go into politics. He is not a trained economist. He briefly worked as a public relations officer for a television company (a post he supposedly obtained after a member of the Royal Family lobbied for him) before starting work as a research assistant for the Conservative party.

    2. George Osborne the Chancellor or Finance Minister studied Modern History at Oxford University before becoming a full time worker for the Conservative party. He got to know Cameron whilst both were students at Oxford (famously they went to the same drinking club) when the two became friends but he has no background in economics or finance or any qualification in either subject.

    3, Nick Clegg the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats studied Archaeology and Antropology at Cambridge University. He worked for a time in various minor political posts in Brussels before also becoming a full time politician.

    4. Danny Alexander the Chief Financial Secretary (ie the number two in the Finance Ministry) also studied PPE at Oxford University before becoming a full time politician in his case for the Liberal Democrats.

    Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Alexander are generally acknowledged to be the most powerful members of the government. They meet informally every week to decide the direction of government policy in an arrangement that is called “the Quad”. Notice that all four have been to Oxbridge University, three (Cameron, Osborne and Clegg) are millionaires by inheritance, two (Cameron and Osborne) are aristocrats and personal friends of longstanding and one (Clegg) practically is (Clegg comes from an old banking family which is connected to both the British and Russian aristocracies).

    In addition to these four there are two other ministers who are also considered especially influential. These are

    1. William Hague the Foreign Minister who also studied PPE at Oxford University. He did do an MBA and worked for a short time as a consultant at McKinsey’s but was always focused on a political career, which he began shortly after. He was briefly a minister in the previous Conservative government (as Welsh Secretary) but has no background or expertise in foreign policy in which he had shown no interest until he was appointed Foreign Minister when the Conservatives won the election.

    2. Vince Cable the Business Secretary. He is the only senior British minister who is professionally qualified and has experience relevant to his job. He actually is a trained professional economist and has worked in the civil service and the oil industry. However at 69 he is much older than the others who treat him with some suspicion. His relations with Osborne are known to be particularly bad. He was recently called a “socialist” (horrors of horrors!) there being no greater criticism in British Conservative politics than that.

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  • @Jennifer Hor
    Dear Alex,

    Your remark brings up an interesting question: What percentage of politicians in Russia / USSR's governments are or have been scientists, engineers and other people with technical qualifications? How does the occupational make-up of politicians in a government influence its policy-making?

    You may have heard that China's government is dominated by scientists and engineers. CPC General Secretary and President of the Chinese People's Republic Hu Jintao got a degree in hydraulic engineering at Qinghua University in 1965 and Premier Wen Jiabao studied geomechanics in Beijing and worked as a geologist in Gansu in the 1960s/70s. The current Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Central Committee includes a chemical engineer (Xi Jinping) and mathematician / economist (Li Yuanchao). Past members include a geologist (Zhou Yongkang) and engineers (Zeng Qinghong, He Guoqiang, Luo Gan).

    Whereas in the US, the dominant profession among Senators and House of Representatives members is law. Most past POTUSes have been lawyers as far as I can tell though Herbert Hoover was a mining engineer. Here's an article from About.com on why it would a good idea to have more geologists in government:
    http://geology.about.com/od/geologyandculture/a/electgeologists.htm

    This would be a good topic for a future post: What impact do the occupational backgrounds of politicians have on government policy and decision-making?

    (@ Anatoly: I hope I'm not burdening you with this idea.)

    Having a lot of engineers in government is a Communist thing, since engineers were always considered the elite of the industrial working class.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    My own impression for what it is worth is that dividing up Russian government figures on clan lines may have made some sense in the 1990s but that this period ended in 2003 following Khodorkovsky's arrest when it was made absolutely clear to anyone working for the government that they were expected to put loyalty to the government first above any loyalty to sectional interests or outside patrons. Individuals like Kasyanov, Chubais and Ilarionov who did have outside loyalties were from that moment gradually edged out and I don't think any such figures exist today.

    As for the government we now have, it seems to me to be a typical Russian government. Russia has historically always given important ministerial posts to experienced and professional experts and that is what has happened. Most of the ministries have been given ministers with technocratic backgrounds though an attempt has been made to bring in some new blood. A small number of more political figures have however been appointed to supervisory posts mainly as deputy Prime Ministers whilst the grizzled veterans of the previous government have been kept on as Presidential advisers not so that they can second guess or meddle in the work of their successors as critical comment has suggested but so that their experience can be called upon when it is needed.

    Nearly all Russian governments extending right the way back to the late nineteenth century have been made up in this way. Late tsarist era governments were formed in this way with most ministers being chinovniki who had worked their way up through the bureaucracy and the Table of Ranks. The few exceptions tended to be outside technical experts who were also recruited because of their expertise. This pattern also held true for the Soviet period when ministerial posts were nearly always assigned to experienced professional technocrats whose work was however supervised and directed by more overtly political figures in the Politburo and the Secretariat of the Central Committee.

    Like all governments everywhere particular individuals have particular ideas and connections However it is going altogether too far in my opinion to see these connections as forming factions or clans. I ought to add that the same assumptions that Kremlin politics were clan or factional politics used to be made about the Soviet period by so called Kremlinologists in the west (Michel Tatu's 1969 study "Power in the Kremlin" is the classic expression of this view). However information that has gradually come out of the Soviet archives showing how Soviet politics really worked does not seem to bear the assumptions that were made then out. I have to say that I am as skeptical about similar assumptions about the nature of Kremlin politics when they are made today as Kremlinologists perhaps ought to have been when they were made then.

    @alexander made an excellent point, and I agree too. I don’t know about every society, but In the Russian context, I am sure “clanology” is simply B.S., akin to the game “7 degrees of Kevin Bacon”. If you play that game, it turns out everybody is connected to everybody.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Thanks for the comments Yalensis,

    By the way Anatoly underestimates the lack of professional experience in the British government. Very few members of the British cabinet are lawyers and that are mainly occupy posts such as Minister of Justice or Attorney General for which legal qualifications are essential. If one takes the most senior officials of the British government, who form its inner core:

    1. Cameron studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics ("PPE") at Oxford University a joint three year degree that is the traditional degree taken by people who wish to go into politics. He is not a trained economist. He briefly worked as a public relations officer for a television company (a post he supposedly obtained after a member of the Royal Family lobbied for him) before starting work as a research assistant for the Conservative party.

    2. George Osborne the Chancellor or Finance Minister studied Modern History at Oxford University before becoming a full time worker for the Conservative party. He got to know Cameron whilst both were students at Oxford (famously they went to the same drinking club) when the two became friends but he has no background in economics or finance or any qualification in either subject.

    3, Nick Clegg the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats studied Archaeology and Antropology at Cambridge University. He worked for a time in various minor political posts in Brussels before also becoming a full time politician.

    4. Danny Alexander the Chief Financial Secretary (ie the number two in the Finance Ministry) also studied PPE at Oxford University before becoming a full time politician in his case for the Liberal Democrats.

    Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Alexander are generally acknowledged to be the most powerful members of the government. They meet informally every week to decide the direction of government policy in an arrangement that is called "the Quad". Notice that all four have been to Oxbridge University, three (Cameron, Osborne and Clegg) are millionaires by inheritance, two (Cameron and Osborne) are aristocrats and personal friends of longstanding and one (Clegg) practically is (Clegg comes from an old banking family which is connected to both the British and Russian aristocracies).

    In addition to these four there are two other ministers who are also considered especially influential. These are

    1. William Hague the Foreign Minister who also studied PPE at Oxford University. He did do an MBA and worked for a short time as a consultant at McKinsey's but was always focused on a political career, which he began shortly after. He was briefly a minister in the previous Conservative government (as Welsh Secretary) but has no background or expertise in foreign policy in which he had shown no interest until he was appointed Foreign Minister when the Conservatives won the election.

    2. Vince Cable the Business Secretary. He is the only senior British minister who is professionally qualified and has experience relevant to his job. He actually is a trained professional economist and has worked in the civil service and the oil industry. However at 69 he is much older than the others who treat him with some suspicion. His relations with Osborne are known to be particularly bad. He was recently called a "socialist" (horrors of horrors!) there being no greater criticism in British Conservative politics than that.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Jennifer Hor
    Dear Alex,

    Your remark brings up an interesting question: What percentage of politicians in Russia / USSR's governments are or have been scientists, engineers and other people with technical qualifications? How does the occupational make-up of politicians in a government influence its policy-making?

    You may have heard that China's government is dominated by scientists and engineers. CPC General Secretary and President of the Chinese People's Republic Hu Jintao got a degree in hydraulic engineering at Qinghua University in 1965 and Premier Wen Jiabao studied geomechanics in Beijing and worked as a geologist in Gansu in the 1960s/70s. The current Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Central Committee includes a chemical engineer (Xi Jinping) and mathematician / economist (Li Yuanchao). Past members include a geologist (Zhou Yongkang) and engineers (Zeng Qinghong, He Guoqiang, Luo Gan).

    Whereas in the US, the dominant profession among Senators and House of Representatives members is law. Most past POTUSes have been lawyers as far as I can tell though Herbert Hoover was a mining engineer. Here's an article from About.com on why it would a good idea to have more geologists in government:
    http://geology.about.com/od/geologyandculture/a/electgeologists.htm

    This would be a good topic for a future post: What impact do the occupational backgrounds of politicians have on government policy and decision-making?

    (@ Anatoly: I hope I'm not burdening you with this idea.)

    I’m aware of this, but I don’t have any plans to make a post on this because I don’t have anything particularly original to say about it.

    My opinion is that having an excess of “soft” people (e.g. lawyers) in government because it can lead to an aversion to serious, technocratic governance – something we are seeing in spades in Cameron’s Britain. On the other hand, having an excess of “hard” people is also dangerous because they also have foibles like poorer people skills (arguably), thinking in boxes and economism with an accompanying lack of inspirational vision.

    On that note, Russia actually appears to have struck a nice balance (as of 2011): 32% engineers; 19% lawyers; 25% economists; 9% humanities; 5% military; 4% medical; 4% math; 2% geologists.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    My own impression for what it is worth is that dividing up Russian government figures on clan lines may have made some sense in the 1990s but that this period ended in 2003 following Khodorkovsky's arrest when it was made absolutely clear to anyone working for the government that they were expected to put loyalty to the government first above any loyalty to sectional interests or outside patrons. Individuals like Kasyanov, Chubais and Ilarionov who did have outside loyalties were from that moment gradually edged out and I don't think any such figures exist today.

    As for the government we now have, it seems to me to be a typical Russian government. Russia has historically always given important ministerial posts to experienced and professional experts and that is what has happened. Most of the ministries have been given ministers with technocratic backgrounds though an attempt has been made to bring in some new blood. A small number of more political figures have however been appointed to supervisory posts mainly as deputy Prime Ministers whilst the grizzled veterans of the previous government have been kept on as Presidential advisers not so that they can second guess or meddle in the work of their successors as critical comment has suggested but so that their experience can be called upon when it is needed.

    Nearly all Russian governments extending right the way back to the late nineteenth century have been made up in this way. Late tsarist era governments were formed in this way with most ministers being chinovniki who had worked their way up through the bureaucracy and the Table of Ranks. The few exceptions tended to be outside technical experts who were also recruited because of their expertise. This pattern also held true for the Soviet period when ministerial posts were nearly always assigned to experienced professional technocrats whose work was however supervised and directed by more overtly political figures in the Politburo and the Secretariat of the Central Committee.

    Like all governments everywhere particular individuals have particular ideas and connections However it is going altogether too far in my opinion to see these connections as forming factions or clans. I ought to add that the same assumptions that Kremlin politics were clan or factional politics used to be made about the Soviet period by so called Kremlinologists in the west (Michel Tatu's 1969 study "Power in the Kremlin" is the classic expression of this view). However information that has gradually come out of the Soviet archives showing how Soviet politics really worked does not seem to bear the assumptions that were made then out. I have to say that I am as skeptical about similar assumptions about the nature of Kremlin politics when they are made today as Kremlinologists perhaps ought to have been when they were made then.

    Dear Alex,

    Your remark brings up an interesting question: What percentage of politicians in Russia / USSR’s governments are or have been scientists, engineers and other people with technical qualifications? How does the occupational make-up of politicians in a government influence its policy-making?

    You may have heard that China’s government is dominated by scientists and engineers. CPC General Secretary and President of the Chinese People’s Republic Hu Jintao got a degree in hydraulic engineering at Qinghua University in 1965 and Premier Wen Jiabao studied geomechanics in Beijing and worked as a geologist in Gansu in the 1960s/70s. The current Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Central Committee includes a chemical engineer (Xi Jinping) and mathematician / economist (Li Yuanchao). Past members include a geologist (Zhou Yongkang) and engineers (Zeng Qinghong, He Guoqiang, Luo Gan).

    Whereas in the US, the dominant profession among Senators and House of Representatives members is law. Most past POTUSes have been lawyers as far as I can tell though Herbert Hoover was a mining engineer. Here’s an article from About.com on why it would a good idea to have more geologists in government:

    http://geology.about.com/od/geologyandculture/a/electgeologists.htm

    This would be a good topic for a future post: What impact do the occupational backgrounds of politicians have on government policy and decision-making?

    (@ Anatoly: I hope I’m not burdening you with this idea.)

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    I'm aware of this, but I don't have any plans to make a post on this because I don't have anything particularly original to say about it.

    My opinion is that having an excess of "soft" people (e.g. lawyers) in government because it can lead to an aversion to serious, technocratic governance - something we are seeing in spades in Cameron's Britain. On the other hand, having an excess of "hard" people is also dangerous because they also have foibles like poorer people skills (arguably), thinking in boxes and economism with an accompanying lack of inspirational vision.

    On that note, Russia actually appears to have struck a nice balance (as of 2011): 32% engineers; 19% lawyers; 25% economists; 9% humanities; 5% military; 4% medical; 4% math; 2% geologists.

    , @yalensis
    Having a lot of engineers in government is a Communist thing, since engineers were always considered the elite of the industrial working class.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • And mainstream, mainline, respectable D.C. think tank (Hudson Institute, in this case, a spin off of Rand nuclear scientist Herman Kahn’s RAND Corporation work) essays on transnationalism versus liberal democracy here:

    http://www.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication_details&id=1008

    http://www.hudson.org/learn/index.cfm?fuseaction=staff_bio&eid=FontJohn

    So again, there is acceptable criticism of transnationalism (intl criminal court BAD, UN in most circumstances bad) on the Right, and then there is unacceptable ‘fringe’ criticism (NATO subverting national sovereignty too, Panetta pledged allegiance to the same before Congress — if you say that, you are a Kremlin stooge/useful idiot blah blah). But again, most of the folks on the respectable D.C. Right like Fonte or the late Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington only start openly discussing transnationalism aka Davos Man as a serious ideological threat like socialism or Communism once were once they get too old to care much about their careers.

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  • One more oddball coincidence and grist for the conspiracy mill — the liberast Tweeters linked to a Daily Telegraph “story” (really a Henry Jackson Society op-ed) which claims the Russian-flagged ship which docked in Tartus carrying weapons was owned by none other than a conglomerate led up by Vladimir Lisin.

    Now Lisin topped the Forbes Russia list of the top billionaires after he purchased a complex of Siberian steel mills from…wait for it!…one George Soros, sometime in the last three years. How in the hell foreigner and someone with his history of cooperation with Washington agencies held on to such a juicy asset through the vicious ‘metal wars’ of the 1990s that felled many a would-be oligarch, I do not know. But there’s something odd about the juxtaposition, considering the accusations that Soros has been used as a CIA asset in the past for the Rose and Orange Revolutions. As if the whole Syria game were more complicated than just Russia versus the West. Like I said, without transnationalism and transnational interests getting involved, it is very difficult to make much sense of how guys like Soros (or for that matter, Deripaska whom the Telegraph published as meeting one Rothschild) could get involved in the anti-Kremlin politics they’ve spent millions on and yet own/hang on to so many juicy Russian assets.

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  • AK: “Those who want to topple Assad are radical Islamists and liberal enemies of Christian civilization. @ioffeinmoscow @MarkAdomanis @mbk_center

    I wouldn’t quite go that far, but there’s a troubling line running between the liberast embrace of Pu$$^ Riot’s provocations against the Russian Orthodox Church and the indifference or even (should I say it?) loathing of Syrian Christians who presumably will deserve their fate when a Saudi or Qatari-backed Islamist regime seizes power in Damascus. And that connection is all the more troubling by the fact that many of the Syrian ‘rebels’ (or more likely, foreign Arab mercenaries who would’ve previously been fighting Americans in Iraq and hence, Al-Qaeda) have openly been training in Kosovo, where the Serbs were kicked out. Thus the whole anti-Orthodox Christian conspiracy thing.

    One of the liberasts I used to waste time arguing with on Twitter before quitting that disgusting pit, @ReginaldQuill (who has characteristics of a real Pentagon-paid outsourced Cointelpro contractor) linked to a book on Bildeberg that traces it and other transnationalist groups back to the 18th century Freemasons. That is, this ‘mainstream’ book quotes a ‘mainstream’ professor from the Netherlands who’s studied the Bildebergers going back to their founding in Holland, and calls the Freemasons the first trans-nationalists. But model democrats, most of the Masons were not — and the Bildebergers are definitely not democratic. When I suggested that given his and a certain professor’s visceral identification of the Russian Orthodox Church with the state, despite decades of Bolshevik/Soviet persecution of the same, might be motivated by that Lodge anti-clerical Thomas Paine mentality, he just joked about ‘see you at the Lodge’. Yet I did hear from very reliable sources that former Mayor Luzhkov was quite the high-degreed Mason. Whether that contributed to his eventual ouster I doubt, but interesting nonetheless.

    Thus, the ‘Jedi mind trick’ is — we’ll discuss conspiracy theories, but only in terms of why you’re crazy for believing in them while we’re normal when we discuss them. And Bildeberg has gone from being a thing that didn’t exist to being a ‘force for good’ that only Kremlin payroll (cuz he’s appeared on RT now and then) nutjobs don’t like. Nonetheless, some of the trolling is starting to look quite pathetic, example here (from a Tucker Carlson hack):

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/ambush-attempt-on-alex-jones-at-bilderberg-backfires.html

    when crazy Brother Bullhorn Alex is a bigger story than a conclave of some of the most elite business and political figures in the world, you know it’s pretty lame. And they can’t do a damn thing about Drudge linking to him or the bemused Guardian reporter on the scene except bitch about it.

    The only thing I can think of that would be even more embarassing to these people would be Israel bombing Iran using Azeri air space with the Russians leaking that they told the Gabala crews to stand down. But hardcore Russophobes are so impervious to reality undermining their narratives that they’ve even got their talking points ready (so it seems) for THAT eventuality! In that case, suddenly Iran goes from being Russia’s eternal ally against the West to being a victim of Kremlin plotting to drive up oil prices and keep a competitor down. Hell, maybe they’ll even say Bibi is a SVR asset, since they already say that about Lieberman. See how easy Russophobic double plus good doublethink is?

    These people are nothing if not predictable.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    My own impression for what it is worth is that dividing up Russian government figures on clan lines may have made some sense in the 1990s but that this period ended in 2003 following Khodorkovsky's arrest when it was made absolutely clear to anyone working for the government that they were expected to put loyalty to the government first above any loyalty to sectional interests or outside patrons. Individuals like Kasyanov, Chubais and Ilarionov who did have outside loyalties were from that moment gradually edged out and I don't think any such figures exist today.

    As for the government we now have, it seems to me to be a typical Russian government. Russia has historically always given important ministerial posts to experienced and professional experts and that is what has happened. Most of the ministries have been given ministers with technocratic backgrounds though an attempt has been made to bring in some new blood. A small number of more political figures have however been appointed to supervisory posts mainly as deputy Prime Ministers whilst the grizzled veterans of the previous government have been kept on as Presidential advisers not so that they can second guess or meddle in the work of their successors as critical comment has suggested but so that their experience can be called upon when it is needed.

    Nearly all Russian governments extending right the way back to the late nineteenth century have been made up in this way. Late tsarist era governments were formed in this way with most ministers being chinovniki who had worked their way up through the bureaucracy and the Table of Ranks. The few exceptions tended to be outside technical experts who were also recruited because of their expertise. This pattern also held true for the Soviet period when ministerial posts were nearly always assigned to experienced professional technocrats whose work was however supervised and directed by more overtly political figures in the Politburo and the Secretariat of the Central Committee.

    Like all governments everywhere particular individuals have particular ideas and connections However it is going altogether too far in my opinion to see these connections as forming factions or clans. I ought to add that the same assumptions that Kremlin politics were clan or factional politics used to be made about the Soviet period by so called Kremlinologists in the west (Michel Tatu's 1969 study "Power in the Kremlin" is the classic expression of this view). However information that has gradually come out of the Soviet archives showing how Soviet politics really worked does not seem to bear the assumptions that were made then out. I have to say that I am as skeptical about similar assumptions about the nature of Kremlin politics when they are made today as Kremlinologists perhaps ought to have been when they were made then.

    I agree with your skepticism. A good test of this theory is to use the same method to analyze the US government. I expect similar correlations to hold. At the end of the day, correlation is not causation.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    well off course !!! unfortunately its quite the same everywhere, good old imperialism + privileged clans hidden behind democracy system
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  • My own impression for what it is worth is that dividing up Russian government figures on clan lines may have made some sense in the 1990s but that this period ended in 2003 following Khodorkovsky’s arrest when it was made absolutely clear to anyone working for the government that they were expected to put loyalty to the government first above any loyalty to sectional interests or outside patrons. Individuals like Kasyanov, Chubais and Ilarionov who did have outside loyalties were from that moment gradually edged out and I don’t think any such figures exist today.

    As for the government we now have, it seems to me to be a typical Russian government. Russia has historically always given important ministerial posts to experienced and professional experts and that is what has happened. Most of the ministries have been given ministers with technocratic backgrounds though an attempt has been made to bring in some new blood. A small number of more political figures have however been appointed to supervisory posts mainly as deputy Prime Ministers whilst the grizzled veterans of the previous government have been kept on as Presidential advisers not so that they can second guess or meddle in the work of their successors as critical comment has suggested but so that their experience can be called upon when it is needed.

    Nearly all Russian governments extending right the way back to the late nineteenth century have been made up in this way. Late tsarist era governments were formed in this way with most ministers being chinovniki who had worked their way up through the bureaucracy and the Table of Ranks. The few exceptions tended to be outside technical experts who were also recruited because of their expertise. This pattern also held true for the Soviet period when ministerial posts were nearly always assigned to experienced professional technocrats whose work was however supervised and directed by more overtly political figures in the Politburo and the Secretariat of the Central Committee.

    Like all governments everywhere particular individuals have particular ideas and connections However it is going altogether too far in my opinion to see these connections as forming factions or clans. I ought to add that the same assumptions that Kremlin politics were clan or factional politics used to be made about the Soviet period by so called Kremlinologists in the west (Michel Tatu’s 1969 study “Power in the Kremlin” is the classic expression of this view). However information that has gradually come out of the Soviet archives showing how Soviet politics really worked does not seem to bear the assumptions that were made then out. I have to say that I am as skeptical about similar assumptions about the nature of Kremlin politics when they are made today as Kremlinologists perhaps ought to have been when they were made then.

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    • Replies: @kirill
    I agree with your skepticism. A good test of this theory is to use the same method to analyze the US government. I expect similar correlations to hold. At the end of the day, correlation is not causation.
    , @Jennifer Hor
    Dear Alex,

    Your remark brings up an interesting question: What percentage of politicians in Russia / USSR's governments are or have been scientists, engineers and other people with technical qualifications? How does the occupational make-up of politicians in a government influence its policy-making?

    You may have heard that China's government is dominated by scientists and engineers. CPC General Secretary and President of the Chinese People's Republic Hu Jintao got a degree in hydraulic engineering at Qinghua University in 1965 and Premier Wen Jiabao studied geomechanics in Beijing and worked as a geologist in Gansu in the 1960s/70s. The current Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Central Committee includes a chemical engineer (Xi Jinping) and mathematician / economist (Li Yuanchao). Past members include a geologist (Zhou Yongkang) and engineers (Zeng Qinghong, He Guoqiang, Luo Gan).

    Whereas in the US, the dominant profession among Senators and House of Representatives members is law. Most past POTUSes have been lawyers as far as I can tell though Herbert Hoover was a mining engineer. Here's an article from About.com on why it would a good idea to have more geologists in government:
    http://geology.about.com/od/geologyandculture/a/electgeologists.htm

    This would be a good topic for a future post: What impact do the occupational backgrounds of politicians have on government policy and decision-making?

    (@ Anatoly: I hope I'm not burdening you with this idea.)

    , @yalensis
    @alexander made an excellent point, and I agree too. I don't know about every society, but In the Russian context, I am sure "clanology" is simply B.S., akin to the game "7 degrees of Kevin Bacon". If you play that game, it turns out everybody is connected to everybody.
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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...
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I appreciate your insightful article on the relationships among the power elite in the Russian Federation. Most importantly because the US media has a very shallow and useless way of portraying VVP and Medvedev. Most other folks I talk to still think Putin is a communist…. I’m personally abstaining from labeling him or anyone … however it is apparent that VVP is extraordinarily adept at managing fiscal capital in the market economy..

    The Corporate Capitalists in the US, i.e. our ‘Oligarchs,’ are equally as non-transparent as power structures in the Russian Federation or any other country in the world, IMHO. And I don’t disagree entirely with VVP’s apparent mistrust of too much power/influence being held by private corporations.

    I also appreciate the authors nod to VVP’s apparent “quirkiness,” Do you think VVP has the intellectual resilience, vision or desire to open up the political processes in the Russian Federation while at the same time establishing appropriate government oversight, regulations, and limits on corporate behavior?

    Kind regards

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  • One thing that strikes you, as you wander the shops of any Russian city, is the sheer cheapness of booze and cigs. As little as 3 years ago, one could buy a pint-sized bottle of beer or a pack of cigarettes for just $1, while a 0.5l bottle of vodka cost as little as $3....
  • I think the raising of taxes on alcohol is less dangerous than people make it out to be. The two most visible examples in Russia are the Gorbachev era, as mentioned, as well as a lesser known, but equally telling situation that occurred in the mid-2000′s.

    In about 2005/06, Russia embarked on an effort to better legitimize the alcohol supply by changing to a new labeling system. All hard alcohol had to be registered through a new system and to get a new type of label. The process was botched due to poor planning and a lack of labels. The majority of the hard alcohol supply was almost completely stymied for close to three months. I was living there at the time and was stunned at the sight of empty liquor shelves.

    As feared, many Russians took to desperate measures by drinking more moonshine and even perfume. Headlines sprouted up everywhere about the shocking deaths that resulted from it, causing hysteria and a demand to do something about it. In the end, the real statistics showed that during that short period, deaths from alcohol poisoning actually decreased. One must look past the media frenzy and notice that reducing accessibility to hard alcohol does make a positive impact.

    There are two other important forces that must be in place to put the final nails in the coffin to problematic drinking in societies: economic and cultural.

    In societies where economic opportunities improve, people have more to lose when they have good jobs. The price of showing up to work hungover gets too high. Hopefully, Russian prosperity will be an effective cure over the long haul. The other variable is the availability of other options beyond vodka. To me, vodka is nearly a poison, so as alternatives increase, like beer and wine, drinkers will at least be consuming something that is less toxic. Drinking levels in France, Germany, and Italy are not that far off from Russian drinking levels, yet they are usually drinking wine and beer which are far less harmful than vodka.

    The last nail is the removal of social acceptance of heavy drinking. Economics can’t cure everything. Statistics have even shown, much to Medvedev’s surprise, that despite improved prosperity in the last 10-15 years, alcohol consumption has not declined. Until the public stigmatizes drunkenness, the problem will still remain stubborn to remove.

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  • It’s a bit more complicated than merely bad living conditions during Soviet times which explains the alcoholism. Since the state ran the Vodka racket for centuries, Russians do not think beer is an alcoholic beverage but a soft drink. This cultural distortion means that getting together for an evening with your friends or family is to drink at least a quarter of a bottle of 40% proof alcohol. Peer pressure to consume hard alcohol results in addiction.

    This is a good post showing that alcohol is a primary factor in the short Russian lifespan compared to the west. At least with the fall of communism there has been some cultural change towards “soft” alcohol for socializing. It is time for western style sin taxes and bans on tobacco advertising.

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  • Mark says: • Website

    If it truly is Nemtsov behind this, I have to agree with you – the opiate of the masses is no longer needed now that most workers take home enough to buy appliances and minor luxuries instead of just enough to stay dead drunk on until the next paycheque.

    Take a look at western alcohol and cigarette prices. I can’t vouch so much for the USA (although both seem ridiculously cheap there to me, and you’ve always been able to buy Canadian Club cheaper in the USA than here where it’s made), but here every time the government gets ambitious or otherwise needs more money – yet dare not raise taxes – four things are going to get a sharp upward adjustment: gas, postage, booze and cigarettes.

    As hard as it is for me to believe now, I swore I would quit smoking as soon as they went over $1.00 a pack. When I joined the military, they were still around .95 cents per large pack (25) on the outside, but aboard ship they dropped to .30 cents, because they were duty-free. You could leave each day with two packs, provided one was opened. I finally quit in 2005, although they had gone far over $1.00 per pack everywhere by then (we lost the duty-free privilege years ago because civilians complained it was unfair, although you generally didn’t see any civilians lining up to go through the gas hut every year for refresher training, or volunteer to stick themselves in the thigh with an atropine injector during NBCD refresher).

    Anyway, pardon me that stagger down memory lane, but what I meant to suggest is that western prices for booze have zoomed in recent years, and it has caused absolutely zero upward mobility in the bootleg sector. Bootleggers cannot make booze that anyone besides a diehard juicehead would want to drink, and even then he’d get better results from melting down old Black Sabbath albums and straining the liquid through a sock.

    Russia was once in a very bad way, and staying smashed all the time was probably as good a way to dull the suffering as any. However, Russia is in a lot better shape now, and making some slightly painful adjustments for long-term good would makes sense now while high energy prices will soften the foregone-revenues blow.

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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...
  • [...] 60 биографий (Power in 2010: 60 biographies). (See Karlin’s comments and his original translation of the book’s introduction). The biggest update has been the replacement of Sergey [...]

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  • Kicking off the Watching the Russia Watchers interview series at S/O is the promising new blogger A Good Treaty. He is a DC-based foreign policy analyst who prefers a "good treaty with Russia" to only treating with a good Russia: as a foreign policy realist, he is averse to neocon (and neoliberal / liberal interventionist)...
  • [...] Treaty An anonymous foreign policy analyst based in Washington DC, recently honoured by being the first blogger to be interviewed at Sublime Oblivion.  A Good Treaty’s output includes plenty of original analysis, as well as some translation [...]

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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...
  • @peter

    I understand that this is your way to avoid making falsifiable statesment...
     
    No no no, unlike AK, you got it all wrong. I will explain.

    To evaluate a person's predictive powers you need to look at his(her) entire forecasting record. If this record is long enough to draw a meaningful statistical conclusion, then you can reliably decide if he(she) is worth listening two. 50% success rate is totally worthless, you could toss a coin instead. 75% is excellent, anything higher is insider trading. On the other side of the middle, 25% is as good as 75%: you just have to pick the opposite of what he(she) says... Are you still with me?

    Right, and predicting Zubkov as PM is more valuable because it was an unknown factor. Predicting Putin will stay on as president vs. Putin will choose successor is 50/50. I think an accurate prediction on Zubkov is much more impressive.

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  • Kicking off the Watching the Russia Watchers interview series at S/O is the promising new blogger A Good Treaty. He is a DC-based foreign policy analyst who prefers a "good treaty with Russia" to only treating with a good Russia: as a foreign policy realist, he is averse to neocon (and neoliberal / liberal interventionist)...
  • [...] At “A Good Treaty” is a fairly predictable fit of playground petulance inspired by this interview, in which AGT was invited by the interviewer  (Anatoly Karlin of Sublime Oblivion, another of the [...]

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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...
  • I just got back from living in Moscow for a year and I feel like you are seriously underestimating the level of corruption/ general incompetence in Russia in your posts. I have never seen an institution that functions more poorly than my university there with so many employees who clearly do nothing (besides the Russian police). I know Russian managers who complain about how bad Russians are as workers. Having visa renewals delayed for 6 weeks and then being given exit visas mere hours before returning home is absolutely unheard-of in many other developing countries, such as China. In fact, I think that if you compared corruption levels in China to those of Russia it would give readers a pretty good idea of how bad the problem is. China has a highway system as good as America’s at this point and is currently building an advanced light rail system connecting all of their major cities, parts of it are already in operation. After a year in Russia I could not imagine Russia ever being able to pull that off that kind of infrastructure development in the near future, especially considering that the highways connecting the two biggest cities, Moscow and Petersburg, are simply awful (yes I know that there is a new train from Germany that links the two cities, and as soon as I stepped on the train with some other westerners our first thoughts were: gee, this sure as hell wasn’t built by a Russian company).

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  • [...] of Bratskiy LPK, a paper mill. A recent taxonomy of the Russian oligarchic clans places Medvedev as a member of the pulp and paper oligarchy (h/t S/O). No doubt that Medvedev and his cronies–and yes, the elfin Medvedev does have [...]

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  • [...] of Bratskiy LPK, a paper mill. A recent taxonomy of the Russian oligarchic clans places Medvedev as a member of the pulp and paper oligarchy (h/t S/O). No doubt that Medvedev and his cronies–and yes, the elfin Medvedev does have [...]

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  • [...] Bratskiy LPK, a paper mill.  A recent taxonomy of the Russian oligarchic clans places Medvedev as a member of the pulp and paper oligarchy (h/t S/O).  No doubt that Medvedev and his cronies–and yes, the elfin Medvedev does have [...]

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  • @Giuseppe Flavio
    @Peter
    I continue the discussion here because there isn't a "reply" link under your last reply. I see that after the ineffective probability argument now we have another excuse under the guise of difference between early speculations and predictions. At least this lame excuses show that you are aware of how embarrassing it is for Pribylovsky to have failed the prediction on Putin's 3rd term. I suggest you to read the 2005 article, it's not about "early speculations", Pribylovsky was writing about the near future They have roughly a year to think it over. If they decide to change the Constitution to suit Putin or his successor, they need to start the process no later than early fall 2006.
    Here’s an early 2007 article where, surprise surprise, Medvedev is shortlisted among leading candidates to succeed Putin as president
    Perhaps it's surprising to you, but not to me or any casual reader of Russian news. By early 2007 it was widely reported in the press that Medvedev and Ivanov were the leading candidates for the presidency.
    I give up my hope to learn from you if Pribylovsky ever tried to explain his failure, it's clear he didn't bored to do so.

    … Pribylovsky was writing about the near future “They have roughly a year to think it over…”

    A year is eternity in politics. You’re just clutching at straws, aren’t you?

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  • [...] Another great translation from Anatoly Karlin explaining who’s who in the Kremlin Clan Wars. [...]

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  • @Peter
    I continue the discussion here because there isn’t a “reply” link under your last reply. I see that after the ineffective probability argument now we have another excuse under the guise of difference between early speculations and predictions. At least this lame excuses show that you are aware of how embarrassing it is for Pribylovsky to have failed the prediction on Putin’s 3rd term. I suggest you to read the 2005 article, it’s not about “early speculations”, Pribylovsky was writing about the near future They have roughly a year to think it over. If they decide to change the Constitution to suit Putin or his successor, they need to start the process no later than early fall 2006.
    Here’s an early 2007 article where, surprise surprise, Medvedev is shortlisted among leading candidates to succeed Putin as president
    Perhaps it’s surprising to you, but not to me or any casual reader of Russian news. By early 2007 it was widely reported in the press that Medvedev and Ivanov were the leading candidates for the presidency.
    I give up my hope to learn from you if Pribylovsky ever tried to explain his failure, it’s clear he didn’t bored to do so.

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    • Replies: @peter

    ... Pribylovsky was writing about the near future "They have roughly a year to think it over..."
     
    A year is eternity in politics. You're just clutching at straws, aren't you?
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  • [...] Another great translation from Anatoly Karlin explaining who’s who in the Kremlin Clan Wars. [...]

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  • @peter

    I understand that this is your way to avoid making falsifiable statesment...
     
    No no no, unlike AK, you got it all wrong. I will explain.

    To evaluate a person's predictive powers you need to look at his(her) entire forecasting record. If this record is long enough to draw a meaningful statistical conclusion, then you can reliably decide if he(she) is worth listening two. 50% success rate is totally worthless, you could toss a coin instead. 75% is excellent, anything higher is insider trading. On the other side of the middle, 25% is as good as 75%: you just have to pick the opposite of what he(she) says... Are you still with me?

    I correctly predicted Pribylovsky prediction on Putin 3rd term…

    Okay, since you insist, let’s take a closer look at your prediction of Pribylovsky’s prediction. You do realize that the article you linked is from 2005, right? You also realize the difference between early speculations and predictions, don’t you? Here’s an early 2007 article where, surprise surprise, Medvedev is shortlisted among leading candidates to succeed Putin as president.

    … when you fail an important prediction, you should try to explain the failure…

    Right, let’s hear your explanation of your failure to predict Pribylovsky’s prediction.

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  • @peter

    I understand that this is your way to avoid making falsifiable statesment...
     
    No no no, unlike AK, you got it all wrong. I will explain.

    To evaluate a person's predictive powers you need to look at his(her) entire forecasting record. If this record is long enough to draw a meaningful statistical conclusion, then you can reliably decide if he(she) is worth listening two. 50% success rate is totally worthless, you could toss a coin instead. 75% is excellent, anything higher is insider trading. On the other side of the middle, 25% is as good as 75%: you just have to pick the opposite of what he(she) says... Are you still with me?

    It’s not so simple. There are easy predictions and difficult ones. For example, I correctly predicted Pribylovsky prediction on Putin 3rd term after reading after reading his (Pribylovsky) short profile in AK post (the “ad hominem” attack). This is a very easy prediction.
    Then there are significant and not so significant preditions. Putin’s 3rd term prediction is much more significant than Zubkov as PM prediction. If you fail to acknowledge this difference, we can stop this discussion because we’re living in different planets.
    Lastly, when you fail an important prediction, you should try to explain the failure, not simply ignore it and use the same flawed model. So I ask again: did Pribylovsky explained his failure? Just with the probabilistic argument?

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  • @Giuseppe Flavio
    What part of “probabilistic” do you not understand?
    I understand that this is your way to avoid making falsifiable statesment, and that Mr. Pribylovsky didn't bored to explain his failure.
    And what exactly is “completely mistaking”?
    Probably predicting a third term for Putin in 2008 (and changing the Constitution).

    I understand that this is your way to avoid making falsifiable statesment…

    No no no, unlike AK, you got it all wrong. I will explain.

    To evaluate a person’s predictive powers you need to look at his(her) entire forecasting record. If this record is long enough to draw a meaningful statistical conclusion, then you can reliably decide if he(she) is worth listening two. 50% success rate is totally worthless, you could toss a coin instead. 75% is excellent, anything higher is insider trading. On the other side of the middle, 25% is as good as 75%: you just have to pick the opposite of what he(she) says… Are you still with me?

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    • Replies: @Giuseppe Flavio
    It's not so simple. There are easy predictions and difficult ones. For example, I correctly predicted Pribylovsky prediction on Putin 3rd term after reading after reading his (Pribylovsky) short profile in AK post (the "ad hominem" attack). This is a very easy prediction.
    Then there are significant and not so significant preditions. Putin's 3rd term prediction is much more significant than Zubkov as PM prediction. If you fail to acknowledge this difference, we can stop this discussion because we're living in different planets.
    Lastly, when you fail an important prediction, you should try to explain the failure, not simply ignore it and use the same flawed model. So I ask again: did Pribylovsky explained his failure? Just with the probabilistic argument?
    , @peter

    I correctly predicted Pribylovsky prediction on Putin 3rd term...
     
    Okay, since you insist, let's take a closer look at your prediction of Pribylovsky's prediction. You do realize that the article you linked is from 2005, right? You also realize the difference between early speculations and predictions, don't you? Here's an early 2007 article where, surprise surprise, Medvedev is shortlisted among leading candidates to succeed Putin as president.

    ... when you fail an important prediction, you should try to explain the failure...
     
    Right, let's hear your explanation of your failure to predict Pribylovsky's prediction.
    , @Jesse
    Right, and predicting Zubkov as PM is more valuable because it was an unknown factor. Predicting Putin will stay on as president vs. Putin will choose successor is 50/50. I think an accurate prediction on Zubkov is much more impressive.
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  • Sorry for the off-topic, but is anyone else starting to get really concerned about the current heatwave in Russia? Russia has never experienced anything like this, and the human and economic cost is going to become big unless Russia gets some cooling and rain.

    I just checked the weather forecast in different Russian regions and the current heat wave and drought is set to continue for at least one more week.

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  • Thanks, Anatoly – very interesting material and the discussion in the comments.(if asked to describe my impression, I would say that I have read about several time-lines in a multiple-reality world. The remaining question would be, of course, to find in which one we actually live..and whether it was listed at all :)

    (* perhaps, the “education:” in politics-related fields has its own specific, but, based on my ~15 years observations, in physics-related (natural )sciences a not-too-lazy Soviet Candidate eg. “Phys-Mat Nauk”, is closer to a typical “western” (Anglo-Saxon)-educated professor than to a “PhD” graduate :) *)

    Cheers
    Igor, AU

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    If Obama's advisors think they can drive a "wedge" between Putin and Medvedev by courting the latter, then they are idiots. There aren't many things I'm sure of in politics but this is one of them.

    I agree, why would Medvedev ruin a good thing? What “deal” can Anglo-America offer him that beats his current situation?

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  • Anatoly, thanks for the mention. True to my nome de plume, I was too lazy to look up the political history of this book’s author. As you say, his “Putin is tsar” idea could have been influenced by his dislike of Putin and by a rosy view of Western power politics. Sure, there are no tsars in Western politics, but there isn’t much democracy either. It’s not an either or thing. If the elites are somewhat diffuse, they’re still elites.

    On TV Medvedev does seem like he’s trying too hard to look like the boss. The puffing of the chest, the unnatural tone of voice. Both of his parents were professors and he’s a kandidat nauk (practically a Ph D), so the macho act looks unnatural for him.

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  • @peter
    Did you read my reply to the end? What part of "probabilistic" do you not understand? And what exactly is "completely mistaking"? If, say, you predict a 1-0 win for a narrow odds-on favorite but the match ends in a scoreless draw, is it a "complete mistake"?

    What part of “probabilistic” do you not understand?
    I understand that this is your way to avoid making falsifiable statesment, and that Mr. Pribylovsky didn’t bored to explain his failure.
    And what exactly is “completely mistaking”?
    Probably predicting a third term for Putin in 2008 (and changing the Constitution).

    Read More
    • Replies: @peter

    I understand that this is your way to avoid making falsifiable statesment...
     
    No no no, unlike AK, you got it all wrong. I will explain.

    To evaluate a person's predictive powers you need to look at his(her) entire forecasting record. If this record is long enough to draw a meaningful statistical conclusion, then you can reliably decide if he(she) is worth listening two. 50% success rate is totally worthless, you could toss a coin instead. 75% is excellent, anything higher is insider trading. On the other side of the middle, 25% is as good as 75%: you just have to pick the opposite of what he(she) says... Are you still with me?

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  • @Giuseppe Flavio
    Guessing a PM that lasted less than a year while completely mistaking the 2008 presidential election is hardly an impressive performance.
    Predicting a third term for Putin (changing the Constitution) was fashionable among western and western leaning "experts", but to my knowledge none of them ever bored to explain why they were all wrong. Which is not the behaviour of someone attempting to be a real expert, rather the behaviour of a propagandist.
    How did Mr. Pribylovsky explained his failure, if he actually bored to explain at all?

    Did you read my reply to the end? What part of “probabilistic” do you not understand? And what exactly is “completely mistaking”? If, say, you predict a 1-0 win for a narrow odds-on favorite but the match ends in a scoreless draw, is it a “complete mistake”?

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    • Replies: @Giuseppe Flavio
    What part of “probabilistic” do you not understand?
    I understand that this is your way to avoid making falsifiable statesment, and that Mr. Pribylovsky didn't bored to explain his failure.
    And what exactly is “completely mistaking”?
    Probably predicting a third term for Putin in 2008 (and changing the Constitution).
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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Well, yes, especially in politics. But the percentage of things you get right over time is fairly important. For instance, The Economist and Anders Aslund getting about 90% of their Russia-related predictions hardly endears them to me as perceptive analysts*. Do you know what kind of predictions Pribylovsky is making today?

    * This doesn't only apply to Russia, of course. That is also why I trust the "peakists" more than the "cornucopians" on future energy trends - all things considered, the former have a brilliant predictive record.

    Do you know what kind of predictions Pribylovsky is making today?

    That Luzhkov is going to lose his position as Moscow major, either in 2010 or 2011, it depends on the weather or the planet’s positions.
    Predicting Russia in 2010 (28/12/2009)
    Will Yury Luzhkov stay on as Moscow mayor?
    Vladimir Pribylovsky, Panorama think tank
    No, I think he will leave in 2010 – he has a lot of enemies in the Kremlin. He guaranteed loyalty from Muscovites, so they kept him under Yeltsin and Putin. But now that question has been decided and he may leave as early as February or March, but by the end of the year certainly. [There are] three likely successors: Oleg Mitvol, Igor Shuvalov or Sergei Naryshkin.

    Last tango for Luzhkov? (14/05/2010)
    It seems that the only factor that could help Luzhkov stay in power just a little longer is the 2011 parliamentary election. “Either Luzhkov will go this August or September, which is quite likely”, Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, told The Moscow News. “Or, he might stay until the 2011 parliamentary election, as he would be able to ensure support for the Kremlin.”

    A long drink in Moscow’s last chance saloon (29/06/2010)
    Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, told The Moscow News: “Luzhkov’s chances of being tossed out of the Mayor’s seat are higher than ever before, the best he can hope for is to last a few more months, and then it will be too close to the next election to change heads.

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  • @peter
    Pribylovsky is also the only one to have predicted Zubkov's appointment as Prime Minister in 2007, so what? Prediction is a probabilistic thing, one example or counterexample proves nothing either way. Right, AK?

    Guessing a PM that lasted less than a year while completely mistaking the 2008 presidential election is hardly an impressive performance.
    Predicting a third term for Putin (changing the Constitution) was fashionable among western and western leaning “experts”, but to my knowledge none of them ever bored to explain why they were all wrong. Which is not the behaviour of someone attempting to be a real expert, rather the behaviour of a propagandist.
    How did Mr. Pribylovsky explained his failure, if he actually bored to explain at all?

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    • Replies: @peter
    Did you read my reply to the end? What part of "probabilistic" do you not understand? And what exactly is "completely mistaking"? If, say, you predict a 1-0 win for a narrow odds-on favorite but the match ends in a scoreless draw, is it a "complete mistake"?
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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    How is recounting a Wikipedia biography an ad hominem? He is what he is. Or would you refrain from mentioning Nashi connections (if they exist) when discussing someone who sings sovereign democracy to the skies?

    Belkovsky is certainly a fine writer, but falls short in the evidence department. E.g., from your article:


    Что же остается Медведеву, чтобы показать, кто в стране хозяин?... Его правительство только одну операцию освоило: раздачу в единственно правильные частные руки последних финансовых РФ-резервов. Больше ничего не умеет. И не сумеет, если называть вещи своими именами.
     
    Surprising to hear that Medvedev was giving away Russia's "last" financial reserves in November 2008, when its international reserves never fell below $380bn $ during the crisis (CBR). But such are the ways of political "science" and Kremlinology, which rarely let facts get in the way of a good story. But языком масла не собьешь.

    How is recounting a Wikipedia biography an ad hominem?

    Should I have thrown in a smiley or something? Yes, technically, any attempt to “put things in context” is either ad hominem or red herring. And no, I obviously have no problem with either if used in moderation.

    … November 2008…

    Yep, it was the moment when oil was down to 60 from 140 in July and wasn’t showing any signs of stopping. To use the same trusted formula, had that trend continued, the Stabfond would indeed have been gone in no time.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Well, yes, especially in politics. But the percentage of things you get right over time is fairly important. For instance, The Economist and Anders Aslund getting about 90% of their Russia-related predictions hardly endears them to me as perceptive analysts*. Do you know what kind of predictions Pribylovsky is making today?

    * This doesn't only apply to Russia, of course. That is also why I trust the "peakists" more than the "cornucopians" on future energy trends - all things considered, the former have a brilliant predictive record.

    Oh no, don’t drag me into this Economist bashing. They don’t offer betting advice, their forecasts are more of the “if this trend continues we’re all fucked” variety. Which is of course true of most trends.

    Do you know what kind of predictions Pribylovsky is making today?

    It’s not season yet, the next elections are too far away.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Превед Медвед!
    Re-Litvinenko: I basically reprinted parts of The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko by Edward Jay Epstein. It raises many serious questions about the British version of events that have yet to be answered. (Incidentally, it was pointed out to me by Giuseppe Flavio here).
    I really don't know what to make of the apartment bombings. I've heard good arguments against the conspiratorial version (no linkies; just discussions I've had), but the whole FSB in Ryazan thing is hard to explain away. And the deaths of "diggers" into the affair. Probably the truth will come out, eventually, but if it's a bad truth, hopefully no sooner than a few decades.

    Anatoly, thanks for the Epstein link, it’s interesting stuff. Re. Litvinenko, sounds like there are two possible “truths”: (1) he was a shady polonium smuggler who got burned by his own product, or (2) he was a KGB defector who got whacked in revenge (because, as Vova recently pointed out at the biker rally, defectors ALWAYS end badly, either drunk or drugged, in an alleyway). Either theory is okay by me. Although, if (2), it would seem terribly irresponsible on the part of FSB to bring polonium into Europe and risk contaminating a bunch of innocent people just to whack one guy. Why not just slip digitalis into his martini, like in the James Bond movies?
    I care more about apartment bombings, and sad to learn no one has decisively debunked conspiracy theorists. I would really like to reject their reality and subsitute my own!

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  • Kicking off the Watching the Russia Watchers interview series at S/O is the promising new blogger A Good Treaty. He is a DC-based foreign policy analyst who prefers a "good treaty with Russia" to only treating with a good Russia: as a foreign policy realist, he is averse to neocon (and neoliberal / liberal interventionist)...
  • @A Good Treaty
    Thanks for the PDF link. I will read with great interest. Thanks also for the correction regarding my Kashin citation. I must have pulled the article from Kashin's LJ and not bothered to check the byline, which Kommersant annoyingly hides at the bottom of their articles.

    So who makes the top ten of your friendlenta? Let's have it.

    The inclusion of Krylov is interesting. I might be the only Anglosphere blogger who wrote about his work on culture at Diasporas and Barbarians.

    PS. Beware peter’s liberal bias. I’d also suggest:
    * Анатолий Вассерман is just brilliant
    * После смерти Махатмы Ганди поговорить не с кем! – that’s Filippov, he of the controversial “Stalinist” textbook.
    * Убийца Иллюзий
    * Теория заговора
    * АНТИРЕВИЗИОНИЗМ on history; see also Книга бревна in this department.
    * За вашу и нашу Свободу! – the archetypal blog of the Soviet dissident who hates Russia and worships the West… so good its a fake (Вассерман is suspected of being behind it)! ;)

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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...
  • @Alexander G
    I've been reading more lately about these so called "clan divisions" in the Russian power structure. There is also talk of split between Putin and Medvedev. I assumed that the recent cooperation between the Obama administration and Medvedev is an attempt to pull Medvedev closer to the US and Russian "liberals" (and away from Putin & Sechin)?

    Of course, all of these "divisions" and "clan wars" may just be theater produced by Putin, Medvedev, and Sechin to draw out their enemies within?

    If Obama’s advisors think they can drive a “wedge” between Putin and Medvedev by courting the latter, then they are idiots. There aren’t many things I’m sure of in politics but this is one of them.

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    • Replies: @Alexander G
    I agree, why would Medvedev ruin a good thing? What "deal" can Anglo-America offer him that beats his current situation?
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  • @peter

    The main differences with Pribylovsky’s (2010) version is that Putin’s guys are now Sechin’s.
     
    Nothing "now" about it, people remotely in the know have always seen Putin as an arbiter of sorts rather than "наше всё". Writes the ever-sarcastic Stanislav Belkovsky:

    ... при своей президентской жизни Владимир Владимирович не то чтобы очень сильно правил страной. В первые свои годы он, подобно монгольскому космонавту, делал все, чтобы не помешать правящей команде имени А.С. Волошина. Потом, лишившись наставника, очень стремился "не расплескать", хрипя, вопя и сопя главным образом вослед текущим событиям.

    Даже арбитром элитным, каковым его называли, Путин на самом деле был с огромным трудом: всем борющимся кланам говорил, как правило, нетвердое "да", уповая, что своими силами победит сильнейший, а президент всероссийский все равно останется при делах. (Что правда.) Когда же случались ситуации закритические (мы все их помним, не перечисляю) - В.В. и вовсе логически исчезал, доверяя решение Его Превосходительству Провидению...


    This is not an argument for or against...
     
    Right, it's not a valid argument, it's a fallacy called argumentum ad hominem... Well, seriously, Pribylovsky is well respected across the political spectrum for his ability to keep his facts separate from political sympathies. Just ask your френд semen-serpent (aka А. В. Филиппов).

    How is recounting a Wikipedia biography an ad hominem? He is what he is. Or would you refrain from mentioning Nashi connections (if they exist) when discussing someone who sings sovereign democracy to the skies?

    Belkovsky is certainly a fine writer, but falls short in the evidence department. E.g., from your article:

    Что же остается Медведеву, чтобы показать, кто в стране хозяин?… Его правительство только одну операцию освоило: раздачу в единственно правильные частные руки последних финансовых РФ-резервов. Больше ничего не умеет. И не сумеет, если называть вещи своими именами.

    Surprising to hear that Medvedev was giving away Russia’s “last” financial reserves in November 2008, when its international reserves never fell below $380bn $ during the crisis (CBR). But such are the ways of political “science” and Kremlinology, which rarely let facts get in the way of a good story. But языком масла не собьешь.

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    • Replies: @peter

    How is recounting a Wikipedia biography an ad hominem?
     
    Should I have thrown in a smiley or something? Yes, technically, any attempt to "put things in context" is either ad hominem or red herring. And no, I obviously have no problem with either if used in moderation.

    ... November 2008...
     
    Yep, it was the moment when oil was down to 60 from 140 in July and wasn't showing any signs of stopping. To use the same trusted formula, had that trend continued, the Stabfond would indeed have been gone in no time.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @peter
    Pribylovsky is also the only one to have predicted Zubkov's appointment as Prime Minister in 2007, so what? Prediction is a probabilistic thing, one example or counterexample proves nothing either way. Right, AK?

    Well, yes, especially in politics. But the percentage of things you get right over time is fairly important. For instance, The Economist and Anders Aslund getting about 90% of their Russia-related predictions hardly endears them to me as perceptive analysts*. Do you know what kind of predictions Pribylovsky is making today?

    * This doesn’t only apply to Russia, of course. That is also why I trust the “peakists” more than the “cornucopians” on future energy trends – all things considered, the former have a brilliant predictive record.

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    • Replies: @peter
    Oh no, don't drag me into this Economist bashing. They don't offer betting advice, their forecasts are more of the "if this trend continues we're all fucked" variety. Which is of course true of most trends.

    Do you know what kind of predictions Pribylovsky is making today?
     
    It's not season yet, the next elections are too far away.
    , @Giuseppe Flavio
    Do you know what kind of predictions Pribylovsky is making today?

    That Luzhkov is going to lose his position as Moscow major, either in 2010 or 2011, it depends on the weather or the planet's positions.
    Predicting Russia in 2010 (28/12/2009)
    Will Yury Luzhkov stay on as Moscow mayor?
    Vladimir Pribylovsky, Panorama think tank
    No, I think he will leave in 2010 - he has a lot of enemies in the Kremlin. He guaranteed loyalty from Muscovites, so they kept him under Yeltsin and Putin. But now that question has been decided and he may leave as early as February or March, but by the end of the year certainly. [There are] three likely successors: Oleg Mitvol, Igor Shuvalov or Sergei Naryshkin.

    Last tango for Luzhkov? (14/05/2010)
    It seems that the only factor that could help Luzhkov stay in power just a little longer is the 2011 parliamentary election. "Either Luzhkov will go this August or September, which is quite likely", Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, told The Moscow News. "Or, he might stay until the 2011 parliamentary election, as he would be able to ensure support for the Kremlin."

    A long drink in Moscow’s last chance saloon (29/06/2010)
    Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, told The Moscow News: “Luzhkov's chances of being tossed out of the Mayor's seat are higher than ever before, the best he can hope for is to last a few more months, and then it will be too close to the next election to change heads.

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  • Kicking off the Watching the Russia Watchers interview series at S/O is the promising new blogger A Good Treaty. He is a DC-based foreign policy analyst who prefers a "good treaty with Russia" to only treating with a good Russia: as a foreign policy realist, he is averse to neocon (and neoliberal / liberal interventionist)...
  • Mark says: • Website

    Anatoly and AGT – thanks very much for the plug; I deeply appreciate it, as I’m too much of a newbie to blogging to be on search engines yet (except yandex.ru) and depend on referrals for traffic. The interview was excellent, highly informative and humbling. I became interested in both blogs (AGT and SO) as source material to support my conjectures, because of the diversity and excellence of reference material. It’s astounding how many people to whom I happen to be ideologically opposed simply quote opinion columns, and do little to no research beyond.

    I’d be most interested to see the product of any collaboration that includes Mark Adomanis; he’s very funny and sarcastic, but you can be both when you’re right, and most of his conclusions are well-supported. Once again, thanks much!

    On a slightly unrelated note, “In Moscow’s Shadows” has a great new piece on the successor to the “Emir of the Caucasus Emirate”, Doku Umarov, who has apparently decided to “spend more time with his family”. Highly recommended.

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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...
  • @Yalensis
    Превед, Anatoly. I am new to reading your blog, so please forgive me if you have already covered the Litvinenko affair; if so, please just indicate link.
    You mentioned Pribylovsky's connection with Litvinenko. Has anyone decisively debunked his conspiracy theory about the Moscow apartment explosions? Or, in your opinion, is there anything to Litvinenko's charge? Not a Putin political supporter myself, however I kind of like the guy and want to believe he did not deliberately blow up innocent Moscow residents in order to further his own career. What is the preponderance of evidence, in your opinion?

    Превед Медвед!
    Re-Litvinenko: I basically reprinted parts of The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko by Edward Jay Epstein. It raises many serious questions about the British version of events that have yet to be answered. (Incidentally, it was pointed out to me by Giuseppe Flavio here).
    I really don’t know what to make of the apartment bombings. I’ve heard good arguments against the conspiratorial version (no linkies; just discussions I’ve had), but the whole FSB in Ryazan thing is hard to explain away. And the deaths of “diggers” into the affair. Probably the truth will come out, eventually, but if it’s a bad truth, hopefully no sooner than a few decades.

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    • Replies: @Yalensis
    Anatoly, thanks for the Epstein link, it's interesting stuff. Re. Litvinenko, sounds like there are two possible "truths": (1) he was a shady polonium smuggler who got burned by his own product, or (2) he was a KGB defector who got whacked in revenge (because, as Vova recently pointed out at the biker rally, defectors ALWAYS end badly, either drunk or drugged, in an alleyway). Either theory is okay by me. Although, if (2), it would seem terribly irresponsible on the part of FSB to bring polonium into Europe and risk contaminating a bunch of innocent people just to whack one guy. Why not just slip digitalis into his martini, like in the James Bond movies?
    I care more about apartment bombings, and sad to learn no one has decisively debunked conspiracy theorists. I would really like to reject their reality and subsitute my own!
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  • @Giuseppe Flavio
    This Kremlin clanology stuff is boring and utterly useless. All these "experts" do is to compile lists of Russian political figures and declare said lists "clans". I can do the same, and I'm not an expert on Russia politics, don't speak Russian and just stayed there for a couple of weeks 20 years ago. I just need to look at Wikipedia to get some name.
    There's a simple way to check what they write, i.e. see how many of their past predictions were right (for the most idiotic, simply ask them to point at Russia on a map). It's called the "experimental method". Let's check Pribylovsky. In a 2005 article he wrote
    It is theoretically possible to make Putin prime minister without changing the Constitution, but were this to happen, the oligarchs would need to find someone dependent and unassuming to become president. This someone would likely be Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov. Something along these lines was already discussed in the Kremlin, but it appears that the oligarchs have dismissed this option.

    Inevitably, the Constitution will have to be rewritten. The changes may be minor, such as allowing presidents to serve for more than two terms. They could, however, be significant and could shift the balance of power in favor of the prime minister. Yet there is also a third, far more radical option: Russia could adopt an entirely new Constitution in order to make Putin's next term count as his first, not his third.
    The Constitution was not changed and the President is the head of a clan => Pribylovsky fails the check.
    These guys should learn to avoid falsifiable predictions.

    Pribylovsky is also the only one to have predicted Zubkov’s appointment as Prime Minister in 2007, so what? Prediction is a probabilistic thing, one example or counterexample proves nothing either way. Right, AK?

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Well, yes, especially in politics. But the percentage of things you get right over time is fairly important. For instance, The Economist and Anders Aslund getting about 90% of their Russia-related predictions hardly endears them to me as perceptive analysts*. Do you know what kind of predictions Pribylovsky is making today?

    * This doesn't only apply to Russia, of course. That is also why I trust the "peakists" more than the "cornucopians" on future energy trends - all things considered, the former have a brilliant predictive record.

    , @Giuseppe Flavio
    Guessing a PM that lasted less than a year while completely mistaking the 2008 presidential election is hardly an impressive performance.
    Predicting a third term for Putin (changing the Constitution) was fashionable among western and western leaning "experts", but to my knowledge none of them ever bored to explain why they were all wrong. Which is not the behaviour of someone attempting to be a real expert, rather the behaviour of a propagandist.
    How did Mr. Pribylovsky explained his failure, if he actually bored to explain at all?
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  • The main differences with Pribylovsky’s (2010) version is that Putin’s guys are now Sechin’s.

    Nothing “now” about it, people remotely in the know have always seen Putin as an arbiter of sorts rather than “наше всё”. Writes the ever-sarcastic Stanislav Belkovsky:

    … при своей президентской жизни Владимир Владимирович не то чтобы очень сильно правил страной. В первые свои годы он, подобно монгольскому космонавту, делал все, чтобы не помешать правящей команде имени А.С. Волошина. Потом, лишившись наставника, очень стремился “не расплескать”, хрипя, вопя и сопя главным образом вослед текущим событиям.

    Даже арбитром элитным, каковым его называли, Путин на самом деле был с огромным трудом: всем борющимся кланам говорил, как правило, нетвердое “да”, уповая, что своими силами победит сильнейший, а президент всероссийский все равно останется при делах. (Что правда.) Когда же случались ситуации закритические (мы все их помним, не перечисляю) – В.В. и вовсе логически исчезал, доверяя решение Его Превосходительству Провидению…

    This is not an argument for or against…

    Right, it’s not a valid argument, it’s a fallacy called argumentum ad hominem… Well, seriously, Pribylovsky is well respected across the political spectrum for his ability to keep his facts separate from political sympathies. Just ask your френд semen-serpent (aka А. В. Филиппов).

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    How is recounting a Wikipedia biography an ad hominem? He is what he is. Or would you refrain from mentioning Nashi connections (if they exist) when discussing someone who sings sovereign democracy to the skies?

    Belkovsky is certainly a fine writer, but falls short in the evidence department. E.g., from your article:


    Что же остается Медведеву, чтобы показать, кто в стране хозяин?... Его правительство только одну операцию освоило: раздачу в единственно правильные частные руки последних финансовых РФ-резервов. Больше ничего не умеет. И не сумеет, если называть вещи своими именами.
     
    Surprising to hear that Medvedev was giving away Russia's "last" financial reserves in November 2008, when its international reserves never fell below $380bn $ during the crisis (CBR). But such are the ways of political "science" and Kremlinology, which rarely let facts get in the way of a good story. But языком масла не собьешь.
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  • I’ve been reading more lately about these so called “clan divisions” in the Russian power structure. There is also talk of split between Putin and Medvedev. I assumed that the recent cooperation between the Obama administration and Medvedev is an attempt to pull Medvedev closer to the US and Russian “liberals” (and away from Putin & Sechin)?

    Of course, all of these “divisions” and “clan wars” may just be theater produced by Putin, Medvedev, and Sechin to draw out their enemies within?

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    If Obama's advisors think they can drive a "wedge" between Putin and Medvedev by courting the latter, then they are idiots. There aren't many things I'm sure of in politics but this is one of them.
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  • @A Good Treaty
    One correction: the Defense Minister is Anatoly Serdyukov, not Aleksandr Serdyukov.

    Thanks!

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  • One correction: the Defense Minister is Anatoly Serdyukov, not Aleksandr Serdyukov.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Thanks!
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  • This Kremlin clanology stuff is boring and utterly useless. All these “experts” do is to compile lists of Russian political figures and declare said lists “clans”. I can do the same, and I’m not an expert on Russia politics, don’t speak Russian and just stayed there for a couple of weeks 20 years ago. I just need to look at Wikipedia to get some name.
    There’s a simple way to check what they write, i.e. see how many of their past predictions were right (for the most idiotic, simply ask them to point at Russia on a map). It’s called the “experimental method”. Let’s check Pribylovsky. In a 2005 article he wrote
    It is theoretically possible to make Putin prime minister without changing the Constitution, but were this to happen, the oligarchs would need to find someone dependent and unassuming to become president. This someone would likely be Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov. Something along these lines was already discussed in the Kremlin, but it appears that the oligarchs have dismissed this option.

    Inevitably, the Constitution will have to be rewritten. The changes may be minor, such as allowing presidents to serve for more than two terms. They could, however, be significant and could shift the balance of power in favor of the prime minister. Yet there is also a third, far more radical option: Russia could adopt an entirely new Constitution in order to make Putin’s next term count as his first, not his third.
    The Constitution was not changed and the President is the head of a clan => Pribylovsky fails the check.
    These guys should learn to avoid falsifiable predictions.

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    • Replies: @peter
    Pribylovsky is also the only one to have predicted Zubkov's appointment as Prime Minister in 2007, so what? Prediction is a probabilistic thing, one example or counterexample proves nothing either way. Right, AK?
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  • Excellent post, Anatoly. Clan fragmentation is very poorly understood, and very important in understanding the policy making process.

    It seems like everything has been hidden much further under the Churchillian carpet ever since the Tri Kita thing blew wide open … not to mention the long-forgotten confessions of Oleg Shvartsman. Probably much more going on than we know about.

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  • Превед, Anatoly. I am new to reading your blog, so please forgive me if you have already covered the Litvinenko affair; if so, please just indicate link.
    You mentioned Pribylovsky’s connection with Litvinenko. Has anyone decisively debunked his conspiracy theory about the Moscow apartment explosions? Or, in your opinion, is there anything to Litvinenko’s charge? Not a Putin political supporter myself, however I kind of like the guy and want to believe he did not deliberately blow up innocent Moscow residents in order to further his own career. What is the preponderance of evidence, in your opinion?

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Превед Медвед!
    Re-Litvinenko: I basically reprinted parts of The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko by Edward Jay Epstein. It raises many serious questions about the British version of events that have yet to be answered. (Incidentally, it was pointed out to me by Giuseppe Flavio here).
    I really don't know what to make of the apartment bombings. I've heard good arguments against the conspiratorial version (no linkies; just discussions I've had), but the whole FSB in Ryazan thing is hard to explain away. And the deaths of "diggers" into the affair. Probably the truth will come out, eventually, but if it's a bad truth, hopefully no sooner than a few decades.
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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Good post Anatoly.

    I especially like your take on Pribilovski’s commentary although like you, I think he’s done a pretty good job describing the Russian elite (judging by the introduction).

    After reading this, it’s a bit clearer to me why people like Kudrin and Chubais are still in prominent positions when they really should be spending quality time at some assorted Siberian “holiday camp”. Also it explains (somewhat) Russia’s schizophrenic foreign policy.

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  • Kicking off the Watching the Russia Watchers interview series at S/O is the promising new blogger A Good Treaty. He is a DC-based foreign policy analyst who prefers a "good treaty with Russia" to only treating with a good Russia: as a foreign policy realist, he is averse to neocon (and neoliberal / liberal interventionist)...
  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Just that using terms like "simulacrum" (the truth which conceals that there is none) to describe Russian politics is totally Wilson-like. (For a review of his book see this by Mark Ames).

    Thanks for the book and blog list. I'll be sure to check it out along with AGT.

    Well, I see, but I used “simulacrum” as a mere pejorative rather than a reference to Baudrillard and stuff. I doubt Wilson knows something you and I don’t, nor do I think that “virtual politics” is an apt term for what it is supposed to describe. For instance, check out this hysterical video televised phone conversation between the President of Russia and his Prime Minister. Is this politics, virtual or whatever? No, it’s ёбаный стыд.

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  • @peter
    No. Why?

    Just that using terms like “simulacrum” (the truth which conceals that there is none) to describe Russian politics is totally Wilson-like. (For a review of his book see this by Mark Ames).

    Thanks for the book and blog list. I’ll be sure to check it out along with AGT.

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    • Replies: @peter
    Well, I see, but I used "simulacrum" as a mere pejorative rather than a reference to Baudrillard and stuff. I doubt Wilson knows something you and I don't, nor do I think that "virtual politics" is an apt term for what it is supposed to describe. For instance, check out this hysterical video televised phone conversation between the President of Russia and his Prime Minister. Is this politics, virtual or whatever? No, it's ёбаный стыд.
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  • @A Good Treaty
    Back in February this year, Ron Asmus, a Clinton administration State Department official, published “The Little War That Shook the World.” a book based on interviews with Bush administration people stating that "President George W. Bush and his senior aides considered — and rejected — a military response to Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia."

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/32487.html#ixzz0v8I7tmCO

    During Russia-Georgia war of 2008 I recall seeing videos on you-tube depicting American contractors (probably Blackwater) working alongside Georgian troops on Ossetian frontline. American soldiers shot these videos themselves on own cellphones as souvenirs, but then a couple of days later were killed in battle. The cellphones were captured as trophies by Russian troops, and posted on you-tube. Russian troops also captured, as trophy, American hummer filled with communications equipment and used on battlefield, but abandoned by fleeing Georgian troops. I mention this just to point out that, even without blowing up Roki tunnel, American and Russian troops did actually clash on battlefield in 2008, first time ever, I believe, since Russian civil war.

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  • [...] Oblivion [Sublime Esquecimento] entrevista o autor do blog A Good Treaty [Um Bom Acordo], continuando a série de entrevistas Watching the [...]

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  • @A Good Treaty
    Thanks for the PDF link. I will read with great interest. Thanks also for the correction regarding my Kashin citation. I must have pulled the article from Kashin's LJ and not bothered to check the byline, which Kommersant annoyingly hides at the bottom of their articles.

    So who makes the top ten of your friendlenta? Let's have it.

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  • @peter
    Yes, Russian big politics is so perverse and nontransparent that Kremlinology is, for the large part, the only workable approach. As a practical advice, the first section of this book is a useful primer on who's whose in Kremlin, the rest of the book and the author's website are solid reference sources.

    As another remark, if I may, I find the ЖЖ part of your blog reading list a bit peculiar. All your picks are on my френдлента too, but if there was, say, a ten or twenty friends limit, none of them would've made the cut. Well, except Kashin of course. By the way, while we're at it, the article you attributed to Kashin is actually by Andrei "Я Путина видел" Kolesnikov.

    Thanks for the PDF link. I will read with great interest. Thanks also for the correction regarding my Kashin citation. I must have pulled the article from Kashin’s LJ and not bothered to check the byline, which Kommersant annoyingly hides at the bottom of their articles.

    So who makes the top ten of your friendlenta? Let’s have it.

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    • Replies: @peter, @Anatoly Karlin
    The inclusion of Krylov is interesting. I might be the only Anglosphere blogger who wrote about his work on culture at Diasporas and Barbarians.

    PS. Beware peter's liberal bias. I'd also suggest:
    * Анатолий Вассерман is just brilliant
    * После смерти Махатмы Ганди поговорить не с кем! - that's Filippov, he of the controversial "Stalinist" textbook.
    * Убийца Иллюзий
    * Теория заговора
    * АНТИРЕВИЗИОНИЗМ on history; see also Книга бревна in this department.
    * За вашу и нашу Свободу! - the archetypal blog of the Soviet dissident who hates Russia and worships the West... so good its a fake (Вассерман is suspected of being behind it)! ;)

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    peter, are you a fan of Wilson's ideas on virtual politics?

    No. Why?

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Just that using terms like "simulacrum" (the truth which conceals that there is none) to describe Russian politics is totally Wilson-like. (For a review of his book see this by Mark Ames).

    Thanks for the book and blog list. I'll be sure to check it out along with AGT.

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  • @A Good Treaty
    It's a fair point. Do you think it would be more effective or truer-to-life to conduct more of a Kremlinology-type approach, looking for figures in the administration and in United Russia, unpacking their personalities, and so on?

    I'm curious to know what you think could be an improvement, as I've been thinking about this myself.

    Yes, Russian big politics is so perverse and nontransparent that Kremlinology is, for the large part, the only workable approach. As a practical advice, the first section of this book is a useful primer on who’s whose in Kremlin, the rest of the book and the author’s website are solid reference sources.

    As another remark, if I may, I find the ЖЖ part of your blog reading list a bit peculiar. All your picks are on my френдлента too, but if there was, say, a ten or twenty friends limit, none of them would’ve made the cut. Well, except Kashin of course. By the way, while we’re at it, the article you attributed to Kashin is actually by Andrei “Я Путина видел” Kolesnikov.

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    • Replies: @A Good Treaty
    Thanks for the PDF link. I will read with great interest. Thanks also for the correction regarding my Kashin citation. I must have pulled the article from Kashin's LJ and not bothered to check the byline, which Kommersant annoyingly hides at the bottom of their articles.

    So who makes the top ten of your friendlenta? Let's have it.

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  • @peter
    The problem is proportions rather than scope. I will explain.

    As you surely agree, the current Russian political system is largely a simulacrum: Medvedev isn't really a president, Putin isn't really a prime minister, and Kasparov et al. aren't really opposition figures because there's no such thing as active political opposition in Russia in the first place. Hence, this whole Russophobe(phile) debate about evil (gorgeous) Putin vs. useless (useless) Medvedev vs. heroic (clownish) liberal opposition largely misses the point. Как-то так.

    peter, are you a fan of Wilson’s ideas on virtual politics?

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    • Replies: @peter
    No. Why?
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  • @peter
    The problem is proportions rather than scope. I will explain.

    As you surely agree, the current Russian political system is largely a simulacrum: Medvedev isn't really a president, Putin isn't really a prime minister, and Kasparov et al. aren't really opposition figures because there's no such thing as active political opposition in Russia in the first place. Hence, this whole Russophobe(phile) debate about evil (gorgeous) Putin vs. useless (useless) Medvedev vs. heroic (clownish) liberal opposition largely misses the point. Как-то так.

    It’s a fair point. Do you think it would be more effective or truer-to-life to conduct more of a Kremlinology-type approach, looking for figures in the administration and in United Russia, unpacking their personalities, and so on?

    I’m curious to know what you think could be an improvement, as I’ve been thinking about this myself.

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    • Replies: @peter
    Yes, Russian big politics is so perverse and nontransparent that Kremlinology is, for the large part, the only workable approach. As a practical advice, the first section of this book is a useful primer on who's whose in Kremlin, the rest of the book and the author's website are solid reference sources.

    As another remark, if I may, I find the ЖЖ part of your blog reading list a bit peculiar. All your picks are on my френдлента too, but if there was, say, a ten or twenty friends limit, none of them would've made the cut. Well, except Kashin of course. By the way, while we're at it, the article you attributed to Kashin is actually by Andrei "Я Путина видел" Kolesnikov.

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  • @A Good Treaty
    I appreciate the sentiment that T.I.'s results don't jive with popular notions or stereotypes, but I've still yet to hear much in the way of specifics about why this report's methodology is really flawed. I get it that you don't like the fact that comparisons are even being made, but let's focus on the idea that a monitoring group analyzed Russian transparency and gave it a low grade. In a vacuum, what are your issues with how they did this?

    I'm not asking you guys to go master quantum physics here. That PDF laying out their methodology (see link above) is literally just a collection of questions with quantifiable answers, put to businesspeople and professional experts/scholars.

    I think this discussion would benefit immensely from one of you discontents actually reading the thing.

    Glossy, thanks very much for that. I’d say you’ve certainly raised some doubts about the study. Thanks for your take on the matter.

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  • @A Good Treaty
    I appreciate the sentiment that T.I.'s results don't jive with popular notions or stereotypes, but I've still yet to hear much in the way of specifics about why this report's methodology is really flawed. I get it that you don't like the fact that comparisons are even being made, but let's focus on the idea that a monitoring group analyzed Russian transparency and gave it a low grade. In a vacuum, what are your issues with how they did this?

    I'm not asking you guys to go master quantum physics here. That PDF laying out their methodology (see link above) is literally just a collection of questions with quantifiable answers, put to businesspeople and professional experts/scholars.

    I think this discussion would benefit immensely from one of you discontents actually reading the thing.

    I just looked through it. They collate data gathered by 10 different organizations.

    “Not all sources rank all countries of the index.”

    “A country must be covered by a minimum of 3
    different sources to be ranked in the CPI.”

    The first two organizations listed are the Africa Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Obviously, the first must have concentrated on Africa and the second on Asia. A question immediately arises: when the respondents to the Africa Development Bank’s survey rated African countries, were they comparing them to the rest of the world or only to other African countries? I’m sure they were told to rate on an absolute, universal scale, but people often think in relative scales instead. “Well, by African standards, this is a 6″ and so on. If you look at the table of correlation coefficients on page 5, you’ll see that the Africa Development Bank’s data correlated poorly with data from other sources.

    Of course the above is just a guess of mine and the weirdness of the results could be due to other, unknown-to-me causes. And the results ARE weird. I’m looking at their 2008 list right now and Botswana is there at 5.8, while the Czech Republic is at 5.2. Russia is at 2.1, tied with Bangladesh, Kenya and Syria. Liberia is at 2.4. AGT, I’m curious, do you think that Russia is more corrupt or less corrupt than Liberia?

    I see that one of TI’s sources is the Economist Intelligence Unit, which “uses its panel of experts’ assessment on the incidence of corruption.” So the EIU doesn’t interview businessmen, it uses its own experts instead. OK. The Economist magazine’s political stances are well-known. I would describe them as libertarian and neoconservative. Fans of Putin they’re not.

    Again, this doesn’t prove anything and I am just trying to guess why the results look they way they do. Generally speaking, the most typical cause of survey results failing the face validity test is bad sampling. Are the samples representative of the population being studied? Here the relevant populations would be businessmen and journalists. I can’t answer that last question just by looking at a 10-page methodology booklet. All I can provide are guesses.

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  • @Glossy
    I agree with Anatoly here. When stereotypes clash with sociological data, there's usually something wrong with the data. Sociology isn't like quantum physics - it will never be able to tell us anything about the world that we didn't know already. Public stereotypes will always be the golden standard of accuracy in anything sociological. The fancy term for this is face validity. Stereotypically Russia is about as currupt as Italy, which is more corrupt than countries like Germany or Canada, but better than Saudi Arabia, Central Asia or most of Latin America. The Saud family appears to own the Saudi state. Sub-Saharan Africa is of course in a league of its own.

    I remember seeing a comparison of the numbers of billionaires created in Russia nad Mexico in the 1990s. Market competition had little to do with how any of those people got rich, so it was pretty sad to look at that list. In that decade Russia managed to be about as corrupt as Mexico has always been and still is, but I think things have gotten better in Russia since then.

    I appreciate the sentiment that T.I.’s results don’t jive with popular notions or stereotypes, but I’ve still yet to hear much in the way of specifics about why this report’s methodology is really flawed. I get it that you don’t like the fact that comparisons are even being made, but let’s focus on the idea that a monitoring group analyzed Russian transparency and gave it a low grade. In a vacuum, what are your issues with how they did this?

    I’m not asking you guys to go master quantum physics here. That PDF laying out their methodology (see link above) is literally just a collection of questions with quantifiable answers, put to businesspeople and professional experts/scholars.

    I think this discussion would benefit immensely from one of you discontents actually reading the thing.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    I just looked through it. They collate data gathered by 10 different organizations.

    "Not all sources rank all countries of the index."

    "A country must be covered by a minimum of 3
    different sources to be ranked in the CPI."

    The first two organizations listed are the Africa Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Obviously, the first must have concentrated on Africa and the second on Asia. A question immediately arises: when the respondents to the Africa Development Bank's survey rated African countries, were they comparing them to the rest of the world or only to other African countries? I'm sure they were told to rate on an absolute, universal scale, but people often think in relative scales instead. "Well, by African standards, this is a 6" and so on. If you look at the table of correlation coefficients on page 5, you'll see that the Africa Development Bank's data correlated poorly with data from other sources.

    Of course the above is just a guess of mine and the weirdness of the results could be due to other, unknown-to-me causes. And the results ARE weird. I'm looking at their 2008 list right now and Botswana is there at 5.8, while the Czech Republic is at 5.2. Russia is at 2.1, tied with Bangladesh, Kenya and Syria. Liberia is at 2.4. AGT, I'm curious, do you think that Russia is more corrupt or less corrupt than Liberia?

    I see that one of TI's sources is the Economist Intelligence Unit, which "uses its panel of experts’ assessment on the incidence of corruption." So the EIU doesn't interview businessmen, it uses its own experts instead. OK. The Economist magazine's political stances are well-known. I would describe them as libertarian and neoconservative. Fans of Putin they're not.

    Again, this doesn't prove anything and I am just trying to guess why the results look they way they do. Generally speaking, the most typical cause of survey results failing the face validity test is bad sampling. Are the samples representative of the population being studied? Here the relevant populations would be businessmen and journalists. I can't answer that last question just by looking at a 10-page methodology booklet. All I can provide are guesses.

    , @A Good Treaty
    Glossy, thanks very much for that. I'd say you've certainly raised some doubts about the study. Thanks for your take on the matter.
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  • @A Good Treaty
    Peter, I see your point, and I agree that it gets tiresome to discuss the headline-news figures over and over, but this was a fairly general discussion, so I'm not sure it would have been germane to have explored lesser known individuals here.

    The problem is proportions rather than scope. I will explain.

    As you surely agree, the current Russian political system is largely a simulacrum: Medvedev isn’t really a president, Putin isn’t really a prime minister, and Kasparov et al. aren’t really opposition figures because there’s no such thing as active political opposition in Russia in the first place. Hence, this whole Russophobe(phile) debate about evil (gorgeous) Putin vs. useless (useless) Medvedev vs. heroic (clownish) liberal opposition largely misses the point. Как-то так.

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    • Replies: @A Good Treaty
    It's a fair point. Do you think it would be more effective or truer-to-life to conduct more of a Kremlinology-type approach, looking for figures in the administration and in United Russia, unpacking their personalities, and so on?

    I'm curious to know what you think could be an improvement, as I've been thinking about this myself.

    , @Anatoly Karlin
    peter, are you a fan of Wilson's ideas on virtual politics?
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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    1. Methodology problem: using different, changing mixes of different surveys to gauge a fluid, opaque-by-definition social phenomenon ("corruption") that can mean any number of different things in different cultures, and claim one decimal point accuracy to boot.

    2. Ludicrous isn't only in the Russia = Africa department. To take another example, Italy (4.3) and Greece (3.8) are apparently comparable to Saudi Arabia, where corruption is institutionalized in the flow of huge oil rents to privileged members of the House of Saud. Another ludicrous. Venezuela (1.9) is the same as Equatorial Guinea (1.8), and worse than Nigeria (2.5). Now I don't doubt that Venezuelan bureaucrats pilfer a lot, but the Venezuelan state (neocon propaganda to the contrary) does provide middle-income country type social services and has greatly expanded them in the last ten years (i.e. the majority of money is not stolen). In contrast, Equatorial Guinea is almost the definition of oil kleptocracy - the President and his buddies rake in all the petrodollars to their Swiss bank accounts, normal people live in a squalor undifferentiated from their Cameroonian neighbors. Basically, it's all a matter of degree. A few discrepancies between an index and real life observations is understandable. But beyond a certain point it becomes hard to take the whole CPI enterprise very seriously.

    3. I haven't, of course, claimed that corruption isn't a serious problem in Russia, nor that it's the same as in the US. I agree with you that Mr. Intelligence Perception Index should start off by assessing himself.

    I agree with Anatoly here. When stereotypes clash with sociological data, there’s usually something wrong with the data. Sociology isn’t like quantum physics – it will never be able to tell us anything about the world that we didn’t know already. Public stereotypes will always be the golden standard of accuracy in anything sociological. The fancy term for this is face validity. Stereotypically Russia is about as currupt as Italy, which is more corrupt than countries like Germany or Canada, but better than Saudi Arabia, Central Asia or most of Latin America. The Saud family appears to own the Saudi state. Sub-Saharan Africa is of course in a league of its own.

    I remember seeing a comparison of the numbers of billionaires created in Russia nad Mexico in the 1990s. Market competition had little to do with how any of those people got rich, so it was pretty sad to look at that list. In that decade Russia managed to be about as corrupt as Mexico has always been and still is, but I think things have gotten better in Russia since then.

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    • Replies: @A Good Treaty
    I appreciate the sentiment that T.I.'s results don't jive with popular notions or stereotypes, but I've still yet to hear much in the way of specifics about why this report's methodology is really flawed. I get it that you don't like the fact that comparisons are even being made, but let's focus on the idea that a monitoring group analyzed Russian transparency and gave it a low grade. In a vacuum, what are your issues with how they did this?

    I'm not asking you guys to go master quantum physics here. That PDF laying out their methodology (see link above) is literally just a collection of questions with quantifiable answers, put to businesspeople and professional experts/scholars.

    I think this discussion would benefit immensely from one of you discontents actually reading the thing.

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  • @A Good Treaty
    Wow. Very cool!

    Pretty much a real-life Inglourious Basterd.

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  • @daut
    "The local Kremlin there, which hosts both an Orthodox church and a mosque, has a marvelous statue out front dedicated to the world’s proletariat."

    That's not the proletariat, that's Musa Cälil, Soviet Tatar writer and prisoner of the Nazis, and his story is far more interesting. Just check out Wikipedia:

    "Cälil joined the Wehrmacht propaganda unit for the legion under the false name of Gumeroff. Cälil's group set out to wreck the Nazi plans, to convince the men to use the weapons they would be supplied with against the Nazis themselves. The members of the resistance group infiltrated the editorial board of the Idel-Ural newspaper the German command produced, and printed and circulated anti-fascist leaflets among the legionnaires into esoteric action groups consisting of five men each. The first battalion of the Volga-Tatar legion that was sent to the Eastern front mutinied, shot all the German officers there, and defected to the Soviet partisans in Belarus."

    Wow. Very cool!

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    • Replies: @daut
    Pretty much a real-life Inglourious Basterd.
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  • [...] Oblivion interviews the author of A Good Treaty blog, continuing the Watching the Russia Watchers interview series that [...]

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  • @A Good Treaty
    Anatoly, thanks for setting me straight on my claim about Russia's ranking drop. I had not realized that the pool of countries doubled. This was sheer laziness on my part. Apologies all around.

    I wonder if you could be a little more specific about why you distrust the CPI's methodology. I understand that you think the results are far-fetched, but presumably it's how Transparency International arrived at its conclusions that we should scrutinize -- not its unappealing or hard-to-believe results. A detailed overview of their process is available here:
    http://www.transparency.org/content/download/47733/762810/CPI_2009_methodology_long_en.pdf

    If you can turn up something concretely "ludicrous," I would be interested to hear it. Honestly. (I don't mean that as some impossible challenge -- I'm just curious.) My impression at least is that these guys know what they're doing.

    I understand that people are offended by the idea that Russia is crippled by un-European-like levels of corruption. Perhaps I should have avoided making a comparison to Africa. This sort of language, after all, is meant only to be sort of 'shocking,' and I'll admit that it's a tad cheap. But my point is simply that Russia faces a very serious corruption problem that undermines its efforts to further develop and thrive. Medvedev has signed no less than seventeen presidential orders laying out anti-corruption measures (http://kremlin.ru/search?query=%D0%BA%D0%BE%D1%80%D1%80%D1%83%D0%BF%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F&section=2&order=&since=1.1.2008&till=1.8.2010&data_type=&rview=full&limit=20). And then there's the fact that the man himself came out and told the country that "significant successes in the battle against corruption have yet to come" (http://kremlin.ru/news/8341).

    I'm all for calling out Western observers for double-standards, but when I talk about the threat corruption poses to Russia, I'm not saying a word about illegitimate governance in the U.S. or in Sweden or in Africa, or anywhere but Russia. Let's be real here and realize that it's not Russophobic to discuss the Russian federal government's policy hurdles. If you walked into a meeting with Medvedev and the Legislators Council (where he made that aforementioned admission of failure) and you told everyone in the room that the world unfairly accuses the Motherland of suffering from endemic corruption, you'd be told to shut up and asked to start thinking up solutions instead of excuses. This is a paramount domestic policy challenge for Russia. There's no need to go into spasms of denial and start ranting about how America sucks too. So what if it sucks. We're not talking about America! (For once.)

    1. Methodology problem: using different, changing mixes of different surveys to gauge a fluid, opaque-by-definition social phenomenon (“corruption”) that can mean any number of different things in different cultures, and claim one decimal point accuracy to boot.

    2. Ludicrous isn’t only in the Russia = Africa department. To take another example, Italy (4.3) and Greece (3.8) are apparently comparable to Saudi Arabia, where corruption is institutionalized in the flow of huge oil rents to privileged members of the House of Saud. Another ludicrous. Venezuela (1.9) is the same as Equatorial Guinea (1.8), and worse than Nigeria (2.5). Now I don’t doubt that Venezuelan bureaucrats pilfer a lot, but the Venezuelan state (neocon propaganda to the contrary) does provide middle-income country type social services and has greatly expanded them in the last ten years (i.e. the majority of money is not stolen). In contrast, Equatorial Guinea is almost the definition of oil kleptocracy – the President and his buddies rake in all the petrodollars to their Swiss bank accounts, normal people live in a squalor undifferentiated from their Cameroonian neighbors. Basically, it’s all a matter of degree. A few discrepancies between an index and real life observations is understandable. But beyond a certain point it becomes hard to take the whole CPI enterprise very seriously.

    3. I haven’t, of course, claimed that corruption isn’t a serious problem in Russia, nor that it’s the same as in the US. I agree with you that Mr. Intelligence Perception Index should start off by assessing himself.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    I agree with Anatoly here. When stereotypes clash with sociological data, there's usually something wrong with the data. Sociology isn't like quantum physics - it will never be able to tell us anything about the world that we didn't know already. Public stereotypes will always be the golden standard of accuracy in anything sociological. The fancy term for this is face validity. Stereotypically Russia is about as currupt as Italy, which is more corrupt than countries like Germany or Canada, but better than Saudi Arabia, Central Asia or most of Latin America. The Saud family appears to own the Saudi state. Sub-Saharan Africa is of course in a league of its own.

    I remember seeing a comparison of the numbers of billionaires created in Russia nad Mexico in the 1990s. Market competition had little to do with how any of those people got rich, so it was pretty sad to look at that list. In that decade Russia managed to be about as corrupt as Mexico has always been and still is, but I think things have gotten better in Russia since then.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.