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Introduction: I recently spoke to a relative of mine who, due to her constant and voluntary exposure to the legacy AngloZionist media, sincerely believed that the three Baltic states and Poland had undergone some kind of wonderful and quasi-miraculous economic and cultural renaissance thanks to their resolute break with the putatively horrible Soviet past and their total submission to the Empire since. Listening to her, I figured that this kind of delusion was probably common amongst those who still pay attention and even believe the official propaganda. So I asked Michael Hudson, whom I consider to be the best US economists and who studied the Baltics in great detail, to reply to a few very basic questions, which he very kindly did in spite of being very pressed on time. Once again, I want to sincerely thank him for his kind time, support and expertise.

* * *

The Saker: The US propaganda often claims that the three Baltic states are a true success, just like Poland is also supposed to be. Does this notion have a factual basis? Initially it did appear that these states were experiencing growth, but was that not mostly/entirely due to EU/IMF/US subsidies? Looking specifically at the three Baltic states, and especially Latvia, these were the “showcase” Soviet republics, with a high standard of living (at least compared to the other Soviet republics) and a lot of high-tech industries (including defense contracts). Could you please outline for us what truly happened to these economies following independence? How did they “reform” their economies going from an ex-Soviet one to the modern “liberal” one?

Michael Hudson: This is a trick question, because it all depends on what you mean by “success.”

The post-Soviet neoliberalism has been a great success for kleptocrats at the top. They gave themselves the public domain, from key industries to prime real estate. But the Balts largely let their Soviet industries collapse, making no effort to salvage or reorganize them.

Much of the problem, of course, was that all the linkages to Soviet-era industry were torn apart as the Soviet Union was disbanded. With their supplier and final markets closed down from Russia to Central Asia, the Baltic economies had to start afresh – with a very right-wing tax policy and no government help whatsoever, as the government itself had become privatized in the hands of former officials and grabitizers.

Lithuania was marginally better in having some industrial policy. EU and NATO accession in 2004, along with easy credit, kicked off property bubbles in the Baltics, largely inflated by Swedish banks that made a bonanza off these countries that lacked their own banks or public credit creation. The resulting 2008 crashes were the largest in the world as a percent of GDP, with Latvia suffering the world’s biggest contraction.

The neoliberal western advisors who took control of these economies – as if this was the only alternative to Soviet bureaucracy – imposed crushing austerity programs to restore macroeconomic “stability” meaning security of their land and infrastructure grabs. This was applauded by Europe’s bankers, who thought the Balts had discovered a workable recipe allowing austerity governments to retain power in a seeming democracy. These policies would have collapsed governments anywhere else, but the ability to emigrate, plus ethnic divisions against Russian speakers, allowed these governments to survive.

It’s a historically specific situation, but Europe’s bankers promote it as a generalized model. George Soros’s INET and his associated front institutions have been leaders in subsidizing this financialization-cum-grabitization. The result has been a massive exodus of prime working age people from Lithuania and Latvia. (Estonians simply commute to Finland.) Meanwhile, their economies are buoyed by foreign bank lending, which sends profits back to home countries and can be reversed at any time.

Politically, the neoliberal revolution also has been a success for U.S. Cold Warriors, who sent over native Balts from Georgetown and other universities to impose “free market” doctrine – that is, a market “free” of domestic regulation against theft of the public domain, against monopolies, against land taxes and other income taxes. The Baltic states, like most of the rest of the former Soviet Union, became the Wild East.

What was left to the Baltic countries was land and real estate. Their forests are being cut down to sell wood abroad. I describe all this in my book Killing the Host.

The Saker: After independence, the Baltic states had tried to cut as many ties with Russia as possible. This included building (rather silly looking) fences, to forcing the Russians to develop their ports on the Baltic, to shutting down large (or selling to foreign interests which then shut them down) and profitable factories (including a large nuclear plant I believe), etc. What has been the impact of this policy of “economic de-Sovietization” on the local economies?

Michael Hudson: Dissolution of the Soviet Union meant that Baltic countries lost their traditional markets, and had to shift their focus to Western Europe and, to some extent, Asia.

Latvia and Estonia had been assigned computer and information technology, and they have found this to be much in demand. When I was in Japan, for instance, CEOs told me that they were looking to Latvia above all to outsource computer work.

Banking also was a surviving sector. Gregory Lautchansky, former vice-rector at the University of Riga had been a major player already in the 1980s for moving out Russian oil and KGB money. (His company, Nordex, was sold to Mark Rich.) Many banks continued to shepherd Russian flight capital via offshore banking centers into the United States, Britain and other countries. Cyprus of course was another big player in this.

The Saker: Russians are still considered “non-citizens” in the Baltic republics; what has been the economic impact of this policy, if any, of anti-Russian discrimination in the Baltic states?

ORDER IT NOW

Michael Hudson: Russian-speakers, who do not acquire citizenship (which requires passing local language and history tests), are blocked from political office and administrative work. While most Russian speakers below retirement age have now acquired that citizenship, the means by which citizenship must be acquired has caused divisions.

Early on in independence, many Russians were blocked from government, and they went into business, which was avoided by many native Balts during the Soviet era because it was not as remunerative as going into government and profiting from corruption. For instance, real estate was a burden to administer. Russian-speakers, especially Jewish ones, have wisely focused on real estate.

The largest political party is Harmony Center, whose members and leadership are mainly Russian-speaking. But the various neoliberal and nationalist parties have jointed to block its ability to influence law in Parliament.

Since Russian speakers are only able to “vote with their feet,” many have joined in the vast outflow of emigration, either back to Russia or to other EU countries. Moreover, the poor quality of social benefits has led to few children being born.

The Saker: I often hear that a huge number of locals (including non-Russians) have emigrated from the Baltic states. What has caused this and what has been the impact of this emigration for the Baltic states?

Michael Hudson: The Baltic states, especially Latvia, have lost about 30 percent of their population since the 1990s, especially those of working age. In Latvia, about 10 percent of the loss were Russians who exited shortly after independence. The other 20 percent have subsequently emigrated.

The European Commission forecasts that Latvia’s working-age population will decline by 1.6% annually for the next 20 years, while the birth rate remains as stagnant as it was in the late 1980s. The retired population (over age 65) will rise to half a million people by 2030, more than a quarter of today’s population, and perhaps about a third of what remains. This is not a domestic market that will attract foreign or local investment.

And in any case, the European Union has viewed the post-Soviet economies simply as markets for their own industrial and agricultural exports, not as economies to be built up by public subsidy as the European countries themselves, the U.S. and Chinee economies have done. The European motto is, “Give a man a fish, and he will be fed all day with your surplus fish and consumer goods – but give him a fishing rod and we will lose a customer.”

Readers who are interested might want to look at the following books and articles. I think the leading work has been done by Jeffrey Sommers and Charles Woolfson.

  • The Contradictions of Austerity: The Socio-Economic Costs of the Baltic Model (London: Routledge Press, 2014). Editors, J. Sommers & C. Woolfson. Foreword, J. Galbraith. ISBN: 978-0-415-82003-5.
  • Jeffrey Sommers, “No People, Big Problem’: Democracy And Its Discontents In Latvia’s National Elections,” Social Europe, October 17, 2018.
  • Jeffrey Sommers, “Decline of the Demos: Latvia, the Face of New Europe and Austerity’s Return,” in F. Jaitner, T. Olteanu and T. Spöri, eds., Crises in the Post-Soviet Space: From the dissolution of the Soviet Union to the conflict in Ukraine (Routledge Press, 2018) pp. 195-209. ISBN 9780815377245.
  • Jeffrey Sommers,Austerity as a global prescription and lessons from the neoliberal Baltic experiment.” Economic & Labour Relations Review. Keynote article, 25:3 (fall 2014) pp. 1-20. DOI 10.1177/1035304614544091. Co-authored with C. Woolfson and A. Juskaa.

The Saker: Finally, what do you believe is the most likely future for these states? Will the succeed in becoming a “tiny anti-Russia” on Russia’s doorstep? The Russians appear to have been very successful in their import-substitution program, at least when trying to replace the Baltic states: does that mean that the economic ties between Russia and these states is now gone forever? Is it now too late, or are there still measures these countries could take to reverse the current trends?

Michael Hudson: Trump’s trade sanctions against Russia hurt the Baltic countries especially. One of their strong sectors was agriculture. Lithuania, for instance, was known for its cheese, even in Latvia. The sanctions led Russian dairy farming to develop their own cheese-making, and agriculture has become one of Russia’s strongest performing sectors.

This is a market that looks like it will be permanently lost to the Baltic states. In effect, Trump is helping Russia follow precisely the policy that made American agriculture rich: agricultural isolation has forced domestic replacement for hitherto foreign food. I expect that this will lead to consumer goods and other products as well.

The Saker: thank you for your time and replies!

(Republished from The Vineyard of the Saker by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. Introduction: I recently spoke to a relative of mine who, due to her constant and voluntary exposure to the legacy AngloZionist media

    Ah, so you’re back with the usual stronk lede, but the body is still MIA, resulting in a weird Frankenstein vibe.

  2. Anonymous[188] • Disclaimer says:

    I wish British (English) nationalists had even a quarter of the self-belief in their right to rule Northern Ireland that many Russian nationalists have to rule over the entirety of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Most of them still seem to believe that THEY are the victims for the rest of Eastern Europe having the audacity to oppose them, now that is self-belief.

    Sadly England today is very self-critical and largely abhors nationalism and anything even bordering on colonialism.

    • Replies: @foolisholdman
    , @Dmitry
    , @WHAT
    , @utu
  3. Recovery and self-sufficiency since Yeltsin show the brilliance of the Russian people.

    If they continue their return to Christ, they will be the greatest nation on earth.

    • Replies: @ken
    , @AnonFromTN
    , @Gg Mo
  4. @Anonymous

    I wish British (English) nationalists had even a quarter of the self-belief in their right to rule Northern Ireland that many Russian nationalists have to rule over the entirety of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Most of them still seem to believe that THEY are the victims for the rest of Eastern Europe having the audacity to oppose them, now that is self-belief.

    Sadly England today is very self-critical and largely abhors nationalism and anything even bordering on colonialism.

    I have no knowledge of Russian nationalists’ feelings about the former USSR and or Russian Empire so I won’t comment on it. As an Anglo-Irish hybrid, I feel I can comment on the English attitude to NI. It is a right mess and it is England’s fault. The civil rights the we enjoyed in England were not extended to the Catholics in NI and were the basis for the “Troubles”. I can’t prove it, but I should think it highly probable that they were instigated by MI5. Certainly there were plenty of agents provocateurs active in them.

    Very few of the British who were active in the colonies are still alive today and looked at in retrospect, the things that the British Empire did to its non-British inhabitants looks much less appealing, honest, honourable than the League of Empire Loyalists, who dominated the propaganda climate of my childhood would have had you believe. The mess we left behind us, the monsters we left in charge as we left, are not things to be proud of. Rational self-criticism is not weakness but a source of strength.

    • Replies: @Wally
  5. Dmitry says:
    @Anonymous

    Normal Russian nationalists simply want to live in Russia without brown people and other nationalities flooding their cities. (Not that I agree with this).

    They do not want to “rule over the entirety of Eastern Europe and Central Asia” as you claim.

    Viewpoints in Saker’s weird posts, has no relation to Russian nationalism.

    Saker is some crazy man from Switzerland – he has no knowledge of Russia, and is rather living in his own fantasy world, which seems to be mainly inspired by Star Wars mythology (“The Empire”).

    • Replies: @Alfred
  6. PeterMX says:

    I am in Tallinn, Estonia right now. Just how good an economy is performing is often hard to determine by talking to people, because like economists, many people have different perceptions. I was just talking to a Russian-Estonian who was telling me how much better Lithuanians and Latvians are then Estonians at doing things and how much cheaper things are there. It is true that things are much cheaper in the other Baltic countries because Estonia (a tiny country of just over 1 million people) has taken off. Since the 2008 econmic collapse housing prices have shot up and in Tallinn there is building going on all over the city. But, my acquaintance is wrong about other things. Estonians do things very well and Tallinn is a very nice city, with beautiful cafes, clean and well kept streets and crime is very low. It is a very good city, except it is now very expensive, especially considering how much people make here. The weather is not nice, except for in the summer and there are friendly Estonians but they don’t have a reputation for being particularly friendly, even among themselves. I have not been back to Latvia yet, but when I was in Riga years ago, it was a gorgeous city, bigger than Tallinn too. I think they do things very well there too. The Russians I speak to here are often friendly and based on what I have been told, relations between Russians and Estonians are much better than when I was here in the early 2000’s.

    No offense is intended to Russians, but the Baltic countries had large German populations that played a key role in the development of the cultures and peoples of these countries. There were also many Jews here prior to WW II. By the time WW II had begun the German populations were much smaller than they had been and at the end of the war the Jewish populations were much smaller. Jews were targeted in Latvia and Lithuania and many Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians were shipped off to far off places in the USSR during the war. I believe the Jews were largely pro communist and welcomed the Soviet takeover of these countries in 1940, while the Latvian and Estonian peoples were pro German, thus explaining the hard feelings between Balts and Jews.. They wanted independence and formed legions to fight alongside the German army during WW II.

    These countries were very advanced before WW II, having engineering industries and the Russian Empire’s first auto company was formed in Riga before WW I. While engineering may have been restarted after WW II, these countries populations were decimated and they never returned to their former heights. Perhaps they still can.

    • Replies: @Anon
  7. GMC says:

    I’m assuming that these 3 East European countries are being bombarded with the same propaganda as the Ukies are, so Russian speakers and those intelligent enough to see the game being played will be belittled and isolated. But the Russian folks living in Russia have a birds eye view of what is going on in the west and their puppet countries. Russia TV and debate programs, just have to show the delinquencies that are daily happenings in the States, and Europe, in order to make the Ru people say – No Thanks to that way of life. As far as the new Russian cheeses that are now in the markets -lol – they make a lightly smoked gouda that is really good and is about 120-140 roubles a kilo. And, they are making more cheddar that is a white medium taste as well. No scarcity of good natural food in Russia and No POlice state. Spacibo Unz Rev.

  8. Anonymous[159] • Disclaimer says:

    The trade volume between Russia and the Baltic states has actually risen, despite the sanctions. The Baltics send food products and booze to Russia (and another 150 countries, food exports to Russia actually grew in 2016-2018). As well as chemical products and pharmaceuticals. Meldonium, btw, is made in Latvia and is still being sent to Russia (as well as 20 other countries), not for athletes, but for regular folks. Work is being carried out on a new generation Meldonium pill (the biggest market will be Russia).

    Growth in the Baltic states has been 3-4% in the last few years. GDP per capita, as well as HDI, is higher than in Russia. Foreign investment, including from Russia, has been growing (Russia was the second largest investor in Latvia in 2018). Savings rates are growing, too. After a relative quiet period after 2010, the number of Russian (and other tourists) has grown again.

    Estonia’s population stopped shrinking in 2016 and is now growing in fact. They’ve seen immigration from Finland, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, as well as returning Estonians.

    Emigration is a problem, of course, but this is partly because the Baltic states are the only former USSR republics whose citizens were even given work permits in the West, imagine what would happen if these permits were given to Russians from the regions.

    Neo-liberal policies are of course bad and certain types of investment should be controlled, but to say that there are no social services in the Baltic states is complete nonsense. Due to generous parental payments, birthrates have risen significantly since the 1990s – in fact, birthrates in the Baltics are now slightly higher than the EU average. Life expectancy is also growing. Latvia covers IVF treatments in full. There are free school lunches.

    Yes, it is true that some of the Soviet era factories should’ve been salvaged but the problem was they were not competitive globally at that time (and there was no capital to remodel them). The Soviet market was a closed one. However, some businesses were salvaged. There is local manufacturing (electronics, pharmaceuticals, etc).

    Not everything is ideal, but it is also not the kind of gloom and doom as you paint.

    • Agree: Dieter Kief
  9. Ahoy says:

    Saker does not touch the crux of the matter which is the Zig supremacist nationalism. At the present this monstrous nationalism is busy consuming America, See the article by Preston James and Mike Harris in

    https://www.veteranstoday.com/2015/03/12/shockwaves-part-iii/

    and in about the middle of the page you will read this

    [MORE]

  10. gotmituns says:

    The Baltic countries were correctly German allies during WW2. They should disengage from the EU and make their own way in the world – barter economy like Hitler did in the 1930s bringing Germany out of the depression.

  11. Jake says:

    If the Anglo-Zionist Empire comes to save you, you should expect to be raped: culturally and religiously as well as economically.

  12. GOD BLESS CHRISTIAN RUSSIA!!!!

    America is SATAN’S filthy dingleberry…It didn’t have to end this way……

  13. Anon[424] • Disclaimer says:
    @PeterMX

    Enjoy , take the ferry and go to Helsinki , ( it also has a beautiful russian cathedral , like Tallin ) . It is a one day excursion and it is worth it .

    The 3 baltic mini States are historically a crossroad of russians , germans and nordics , they always have been subordinated to germans , russians or swedes-finns

  14. ken says:
    @SeekerofthePresence

    They need to increase their TFR or it will be a not so great country inhabited by non-Russians.

  15. Lolli says:

    The author conveniently forgets that Baltic peoples were occupied by the USSR and subject to colonisation and an attempt of genocide. Millions were sent to gulags, whilst Russian speaking settlers flooded in the country, seizing the best jobs and flats.

    The Saker surely remember the old, good times, when Russian speakers enjoyed higher standards and loathed indigenous Baltics. And he is aware of the thriving nationalist right wing parties, who hate EU cosmopolitan frocks, as much as his beloved Russians.

    Reality is way different from what he writes.

    • Replies: @Ilyana_Rozumova
    , @WHAT
  16. onebornfree says: • Website

    Saker says:“Initially it did appear that these states were experiencing growth, but was that not mostly/entirely due to EU/IMF/US subsidies?”

    “Foreign Aid Makes Corrupt Countries More Corrupt”:

    “Any time a government hands out money, not just foreign aid, it breeds corruption… And there are few better examples than Ukraine – just don’t tell the House impeachment hearings. Counting on foreign aid to reduce corruption is like expecting whiskey to cure alcoholism…….If U.S. aid was effective, Ukraine would have become a rule of law paradise long ago…………. The surest way to reduce foreign corruption is to end foreign aid.”

    http://jimbovard.com/blog/2019/10/29/foreign-aid-makes-corrupt-countries-more-corrupt/

    “Regards”onebornfree

    • Replies: @Anon
  17. @Lolli

    Please do not speak nonsense.
    Lithuanians and Latvians populations are prevalently Northern Slavs Estonians are mostly Fins and Swedes.
    Through centuries these countries were alternatively under Polish, German or Russian control.
    In 1918 under Brest Litovsk peace agreement Russia ceded control of these countries to German empire. There were no millions of people sent to Gulags.
    After end of second world war these countries become federal republics of USSR.
    There was practically no resistance to Soviet rule as for example it happened in Hungary.
    There was certainty not even reason to send anybody to Gulags.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  18. Ruprecht says:

    “Trump’s trade sanctions against Russia hurt the Baltic countries especially. One of their strong sectors was agriculture. Lithuania, for instance, was known for its cheese, even in Latvia. The sanctions led Russian dairy farming to develop their own cheese-making, and agriculture has become one of Russia’s strongest performing sectors.”

    So, in other words, Trump cut the cheese?

  19. I accept many of Mr. Hudson’s premises, except this one:

    “Politically, the neoliberal revolution also has been a success for U.S. Cold Warriors, who sent over native Balts from Georgetown and other universities to impose “free market” doctrine .. against land taxes and other income taxes.”

    Taxes on income and land are theft.

    Tariffs and sales taxes on non-essential goods (anything other than food, medical care, fuel, telephones and books), should be the prime source of government revenue. Any people who, having purchased their land, must then pay “rent” on it to the government in the form of property taxes, or otherwise stand to lose their land to confiscation, are little more than serfs inhabiting a feudal state in modern habiliments.

    How sad to learn that the Baltic states are dying, with a majority of the population being elderly. It’s time for us to be kind to nations such as Egypt and Pakistan where the majority of their booming populations are under the age of 25. They will inevitably seek lebensraum in places like Latvia and Lithuania.

    Mr. Hudson blames the lack of government subsidies for the low birth rates in the Baltic states. Does he really imagine there are subsidies which sustain the demographic explosion in poor Muslim nations? The West’s population crisis is spiritual and psychological and only after those elements have been factored, economic.

    Thanks to the Saker for having Mr. Hudson share his considerable expertise. I continue to be appalled at the extent to which the former Soviet so-called “republics” suffered massive looting by Right-wing kleptocrats — and still do.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @anon
  20. Anon[424] • Disclaimer says:
    @onebornfree

    The EU gives every year about 2,500 million euros to the 3 Baltic countries ( 6 million people the three of them ) , and 9000 million euros to Poland ( 38 million people ) , plus more billions to other eastern members .

    Older members of the EU , spetially the UK which is going out , Greece witch was tortured ( again ) economically by Germany , and south Europe in general are not very happy about admitting so many ex-soviets countries en the EU and subsidizing them .

  21. Anonymous[159] • Disclaimer says:
    @Ilyana_Rozumova

    Lies. There was considerable resistance to the Soviet rule – many of those that resisted were simply murdered. You weren’t supposed to talk about them for decades.

    And, no, they are not Northern Slavs, but they are related.

    The size of the German minority also never exceeded 10% there.

  22. Anonymous[159] • Disclaimer says:
    @Michael Hoffman

    Thank you very much for caring so much about the Baltic states all of a sudden – you didn’t seem to care when they truly needed help decades ago. Why don’t you let them be.

    And the TFR has actually risen. It is not sufficient, but it is higher than many other European countries.

    You are right about the neoliberals, but they are the worst in the West these days. America is full of shanty towns, etc. That is not the case in the Baltic states.

  23. WHAT says:
    @Anonymous

    Lol, such desperate projections.
    Nobody in Russia needs Eastern Europe and her worthless impotent midgets, ditto for untermensch-filled *stans.

    • Replies: @Hegar
  24. WHAT says:
    @Lolli

    Reality is, russians literally built everything of value in those limitrophe shitholes.

    Now, since russians have left economically, there is no future there whatsoever, so their own polulations are running away.

    • Replies: @Hegar
  25. Hegar says:

    And here we get the typical propaganda for the Soviet Union and the Communist Party in China. Don’t you ever get tired?

    In 1992, after Estonia’s first free elections, Prime Minister Mart Laar from the Pro Patria party inherited a Soviet economy with more than 1000 percent inflation. Mart Laar privatized the economy and lowered taxes, which created a boom. They did not allow former Soviet bureaucrats to control the economy like in Lithuania.

    Estonia’s taxes are at 20%, a flat tax with “no hidden extras”. This is a great reason for its success. Employers pay a social and health insurance tax, which is 33% of the gross wage.

    As for the banks, which The Saker and Hudson claim are controlled by evil Swedes, Estonia has seven domestic banks – a lot for such a small country. And also Danish and Swedish banks. The bank sector is well developed and well regulated. The interbank money market is very small, so that problems in one bank don’t affect other banks.

    The loan burden ratio of the Estonian private sector is low.

    The deep-water port in Muuga is modern, with a high flow of goods. Well connected to the rest of the Baltic Sea. Estonia exports machinery and equipment, wood, agricultural products, minerals and miscellaneous other manufactured articles.

    The internet and other forms of electronic development are among the best in Eastern Europe.

    Estonia also invests in production in other countries, notably Cyprus, Lithuania and Latvia.

    Result:

    -Estonia is ranked 30th of 138 in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness index, 2016-2017.

    -The World Bank ranks Estonia 12th in its Doing Business in 2017 report.

    -The Bertelsmann Transformation Index in 2016 ranked Estonia as the most successful of 129 transformation countries in the world. In the status index, Estonia is second only after Taiwan.

    -Estonia’s economy grew by over 11 percent in 2006, doing better than France, Germany, Belgium, Ukraine, Russia and others. It was a top performer along with Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland.

    -In 2000-2008, Estonia grew on average by 7% per year, one of the top three in the UN.

    -Estonia’s GDP per capita increased by 45% of the EU27 average in 2000, to 67% in 2008.

    -Due to the international economic crisis, GDP fell by 14.7% in 2009. This was due to decreased international demand for Estonia’s exports.

    -But then the economy grew again. According to Statistics Estonia, GDP grew by 4.3% in 2012, by 1.6% in 2013, by 2.7% in 2014, by 1.5% in 2015, and by 1.7% in 2016.

  26. Hegar says:
    @WHAT

    Russia’s economy is smaller than Italy’s. But keep up the bluster.

    • Replies: @Simpleguest
    , @AnonFromTN
    , @Anon
  27. Hegar says:
    @WHAT

    “russians literally built everything of value in those limitrophe shitholes”

    Why do you feel the need to add “literally” in that sentence? It just shows you follow media directions on how to write without thinking about what you’re doing.

    And your claim is completely without facts. Russia caused a 1,000% inflation in the Baltic states. Almost everything in their economies has been built after they freed themselves from Soviet control. This is easily seen in the economic growth, which only took off in the 1990s after the disaster before that.

    But you are motivated by ideology and “Russia!!!” worship, not facts. No wonder Russia’s neighbors hate it, with people like you sounding like this.

  28. @Hegar

    “Russia’s economy is smaller than Italy’s.”

    According to IMF 2018 ranking, based on GDP adjusted to PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), Russian economy stands at #6, almost on par with that of Germany at #5.
    Italy’s is ranked at #12.

    • Agree: Robjil
  29. anon[113] • Disclaimer says:
    @Michael Hoffman

    Any people who, having purchased their land, must then pay “rent” on it to the government in the form of property taxes, or otherwise stand to lose their land to confiscation, are little more than serfs inhabiting a feudal state in modern habiliments.

    YES, YES, YES, YES, YES … and you only have to be an elderly person being taxed out of their home to realize this.

  30. @SeekerofthePresence

    Recovery and self-sufficiency since Yeltsin show the brilliance of the Russian people

    It’s not so much brilliance as sheer necessity to survive under sanctions. But some results were better than anyone expected. Say, food before sanctions used to be so-so in the provinces and downright bad in Moscow because of abundance of imported crap. Now the food is exclusively domestic, fresh and tasty. Russia never had traditions of making fancy cheeses. Now, to bypass sanctions, quite a few Italian and French cheese-makers started production in Russia, so in the last 2-3 years domestically made excellent fancy cheeses appeared in supermarkets. Arguably, Russian agriculture benefited by sanctions more than any other sector, but there are success stories virtually in every industry. Sanctions and Ukrainian stupidity served as a timely wake up call for Russian elites, who earlier wanted to sell oil and natural gas and buy everything else. Replacing imports after the sanctions were imposed had a significant cost in the short run, but in the long run it made Russia much stronger, economically and militarily. Speak of unintended consequences.

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  31. @Hegar

    Is that why we hear about Italy all the time in all MSM? Was it Italy that is accused of interfering in the 2016 US elections, propping Assad in Syria, China in the South China sea, Maduro in Venezuela, etc.?

  32. My mom is from Lithuania and I’ve been there several times. We have second cousins our age.

    Her father was a surveyor for the Republic in the 20s and 30s, charged with breaking up the manors and estates and the state distributing the land to the peasantry. It was near-feudalism. There was very little industrialization; that which existed were in a few urban centers. One interesting comment from her was that the “Jews were communists”. From what I’ve read they were the urban working class, but perhaps part of the socialist/Jewish Bund?

    There is no doubt that the Soviet period unleashed considerable industrialization and modernization. Lithuania had some of the best infrastructure in the USSR. Its traditional culture was really celebrated.

    When I first visited, not long after the fall of the USSR, there were enormous, vacant industrial plants. The collective farms were in the process of being sold off the western European agribusiness firms. One relative through marriage was from the Ukraine, with a PhD in Physics and had been employed in the military industries — she was cleaning houses thereafter.

    Any usable industrial enterprises were quickly sold off. The utilities are all foreign owned. Part of EU mandates are “open” electricity “markets”, which resulting in DC interconnections costing hundreds of millions with the west to import very high priced electricity. The EU has paid for “Via Baltica”, a highway running from Poland to Estonia; it is choked with trucks carrying imports and there are huge distribution and fulfillment centers along the highway. Such progress, huh?

    There had been good public transport in the earlier years of independence, but that has been replaced with personal automobiles — usually western European used cars that pollute a lot. Trakai is a commuter town to Vilnius with a medieval castle (restored in Soviet times). First time I went it was very pleasant. Second time in 2018 the place was choked with cars and not very nice at all.

    The impact of emigration cannot be over-stated. College educated young people leave by the hundreds of thousands. Those that remain are paid very low wages (e.g., 1000 euros for a veterinarian or dentist), but pay west European prices for many essentials. Housing is cheaper than the west.

    Last time in Kazlu Ruda there were huge NATO exercises in progress and even bigger ones planned for 2020. German units were billeted at an airbase nearby, rumored to have been a CIA black site. How fitting, as the Germans with the Lithuanian Riflemens Union exterminated a quarter of a million Jews in a matter of months (see Jager Report on Wikipedia). There is a Red Army graveyard in the town that has the remains of perhaps 350 soldiers killed in the area driving out the Nazis. I was frankly surprised it was still there.

    Lithuania hasn’t been independent since the days of the Pagans and Vytautas. It surely isn’t independent today.

    Anecdotal — yes. But based on personal observation.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Dmitry
  33. Wally says:
    @foolisholdman

    – Yet the NI majority supports links to Britain.

    – The former British colonies in Africa were better off under the British, just look at what they are now.

    – The people in charge of Africa were put in charge by Africans who voted them in and no one else.

  34. Who cares about Baltic statelets? Their populations decline:
    Latvia:
    https://www.politico.eu/article/latvia-a-disappearing-nation-migration-population-decline/
    Lithaunia:
    https://www.tudelft.nl/en/2017/bk/extreme-population-decline-threatens-stability-of-lithuania/
    Estonia:
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-20/europe-s-depopulation-time-bomb-is-ticking-in-the-baltics
    The decline in Latvia is faster than in Lithuania, in Lithuania it is faster than in Estonia, but so what? If they disappear, who’s going to notice? Russia is not interested in acquiring the parasites the USSR used to stupidly feed, their new masters are greedy… If someone attacks (which is doubtful), NATO is going to protect them exactly like the UK and France protected Poland in 1939. Let them fend for themselves.

    • Replies: @jpp
    , @ken
    , @Commentator Mike
  35. CIA and Deep State have been overthrowing governments and spreading disinformation all over the world. Now, they do it to America itself. It means US is turning into a Third World Nation. It’s no longer the case that CIA overthrows governments only overseas. Welcome to NWO.

    • Replies: @Robjil
  36. Robjil says:
    @Priss Factor

    It is ironic that the CIA is using a state that it did a notorious coup in 2014 to do it.

    If the overseas US ZCIA territory of Ukraine was really independent, it would not go along with this impeachment charade.

    There is not one peep from the “independent state” of Ukraine countering what the Democrats are doing.

  37. I remember hearing about how post-independence, Lithuania had the world’s highest suicide rate. I wonder if this is still the case.

    • Replies: @jpp
  38. jpp says:
    @Hapalong Cassidy

    Lithuania also accounts for the largest mass suicide ever recorded (or probably something close to that, depending on how one measures), at Pilėnai. Suicide is an integral part of its culture.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  39. jpp says:
    @AnonFromTN

    As a factual correction, Estonia’s population growth, miraculously, seems to have recently reversed itself. It is not, I think, too quixotic to believe that urban centers like Riga, Kaunas and Vilnius might in due time hold as bulwarks against population decline too. It is telling, for instance to pit the general population decline in Lithuania over the past thirty years against the population decline of Vilnius/Kaunas and to note the distinctly flatter slopes of the latter. Same thing for Latvia / Riga.

    But to your main question, one answer might be: because these places possess interesting/unique languages and cultures which enhance the broader firmament of European heritage. The highly archaic Lithuanian Language, for instance, is by various metrics the most conservative of living Indo European tongues, sharing myriads of cognates with Sanskrit and revealing deep clues into the origins of proto Indo European. Why wouldn’t we want to preserve it?

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  40. ken says:
    @AnonFromTN

    Of course Russia’s population is declining also.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  41. Anonymous[159] • Disclaimer says:
    @Kazlu Ruda

    Its traditional culture was really celebrated.

    The traditional culture was only celebrated as a prop. In reality, much of the real Baltic culture was forbidden, and you could go to prison for displaying the national flag.

    The utilities are all foreign owned.

    The main electricity companies, Lietuvos Energija and Latvenergo, are state owned.

    choked with trucks carrying imports

    The trade balance has indeed been a problem but it is slowly improving as exports grow.

    There had been good public transport in the earlier years of independence, but that has been replaced with personal automobiles — usually western European used cars that pollute a lot. Trakai is a commuter town to Vilnius with a medieval castle (restored in Soviet times). First time I went it was very pleasant. Second time in 2018 the place was choked with cars and not very nice at all

    The public transport is of course still in place and it is well run. Yes, there are more personal automobiles. The last few years, starting from around 2016, have seen a rising influx of tourists. A lot of them, especially from the neighboring states and Germany, come in their private cars. This maybe takes away from the romantic charm of Trakai, but it certainly is good for all the surrounding businesses (if you’re worried about pollution, the Baltic states are some of the cleanest states that way in Europe). There are also more tourists from Russia and China and it is really a matter of perception – do you want a more authentic environment, but less money and fewer folks moving through, or more folks and a higher cash flow.

    When you mention that the medieval castle was “restored in the Soviet” times, well, who do you think did the building work there? It was mostly Lithuanians themselves, as was the case with many enterprises there. Besides many Baltic youths back in the 1970s and 80s had to go into other parts of the Soviet Union to do work for other republics (for free or very low paid). This was a requirement back then. Not to even mention the use of Baltic soldiers for the Soviet imperial gains. So, please, when you start doing the tally about who built what and did what for who, just keep that in mind.

    there were huge NATO exercises in progress and even bigger ones planned for 2020

    There will never be a considerable Western troop presence in the Baltics as it is not politically feasible. This is why Lithuania and Estonia have recently re-established compulsory military service.

  42. Anonymous[159] • Disclaimer says:
    @jpp

    It has to do with one of the pagan cults that doesn’t place a taboo on suicide when it is about honor. The cult of Birute (which might be similar to the Indian Sati?).

  43. @AnonFromTN

    I don’t know much about the Baltics but it seems to me they are a few of the whitest nations still left. I sure hope they stay that way and solve their own problems. But considering the ways of the EU …

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  44. utu says:
    @Anonymous

    Most of them still seem to believe that THEY are the victims for the rest of Eastern Europe having the audacity to oppose them, now that is self-belief.

    Russians seem to have a deficit of being loved so they get angry when the subjected people opposed them. Russians take it personally. Probably because they are deluded with belief (mostly of Soviet origin) that their empire brings superior civilization which could have been true when it came to some Siberian tribes but not in case nations of Eastern Europe which had longer history of statehoods and culture than Russia. While Russia is stronger and bigger Russia can do nothing to change centuries old sense of contempt and superiority for them by Eastern Europeans.

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  45. @ken

    Russian population fluctuates, but there is long-term trend of growth:
    http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/russia-population/

    • Replies: @ken
  46. @Commentator Mike

    In the USSR they used to be virtually 100% white. Now, as recipients of EU financial “assistance” Baltic statelets were strong-armed into accepting non-white “refugees”, despite wide-spread resentment of the locals.

  47. @jpp

    You may be right about regional differences, but overall population of either of the three is way below its 1991 level. As for languages, Lithuanian language is recorded and studied, so the info would remain regardless of the survival of the people speaking this language.

    As far as I am concerned, I wish them to survive. But their compradore elites are doing their level best to destroy them. Baltics represent a textbook example of the notion that it is much cheaper to buy the elites than the nation (even a tiny one). Their EU and US overlords don’t give a hoot about the survival of their languages or cultures. They are in graver danger than they ever were in the USSR. I wish them strength to weather this storm, hang their thieving elites, and change the course of their countries to something sensible.

    • Replies: @Jpp
  48. Jpp says:
    @AnonFromTN

    Sure, and I mainly agree with that. But one wildcard I’m still curious about is how intraeuropean emigration impacts the long term demographic outlook. Baltic folk who emigrated to, say, Chicago in 1910 could essentially be crossed off of the list. Returning wouldn’t have been practical even without wars / communism and their grandchildren were essentially destined to become Coca Cola slurping, football watching Americans. But consider today an educated Balt who becomes a software engineer in Berlin or gets a white collar corporate job in London. Can we permanently write this person off? Might he eventually retire to his homeland? Even returning for vacations and short spells is eminently feasible. Ergo there might be hundreds of thousands of Baltic people living in Western Europe who still might ultimately end up transmitting their national culture to the next generation in a real sense.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  49. @Jpp

    Having personal experience (I was born in Russia and live the last 28 years in the US, although I spent a few vacations in Russia), I have my doubts about the value of expats in preserving culture. I believe that things like culture and living language either survive in situ, or are lost.

  50. Dmitry says:
    @utu

    Yes, as we all know, how Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – are known for their superiority in culture.

    Who cares for Pushkin and Lermontov, Tchaikovsky and Scriabin? – just read the writers of Lithuania, listen to the composers of Latvia, and watch the famous films of Estonia… if such things exist.

    • Replies: @jpp
  51. Dmitry says:
    @Kazlu Ruda

    My parents were on holiday in Lithuania last year – they thought it was a very nice country, and that it appears (superficially to tourists) to be wealthy and economically developed now.

  52. Dmitry says:
    @AnonFromTN

    results were better than anyone

    If you want to pay…

    https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4141418

  53. jpp says:
    @Dmitry

    I would put forth Henrikas Radauskas as a highly underrated modernist lyrical poet, capable of throwing punches with the likes of Rilke and Mallarme, and of whom Joseph Brodsky was mightily impressed. I would easily rank him above any of Russia’s highly overrated silver age poets. I might also put in a plug for the prose of Tammsaare, which in my view compares favorably with that of Thomas Mann, Lev Tolstoy or Jospeh Roth. I might also mention the composers Helena Tulve and Onute Narbutaite, to whom I was first acquainted by means of a glowing review from the esteemed critic Richard Taruskin ( who is in some sense the Harold Bloom of American academic musicology over the past half century).

    And there remain many other treasures for the curiously inclined. Your philistinism will not do!

    • Replies: @Dmitry
    , @AnonFromTN
  54. L.K says:

    How about the Saker man up and interview Prof. Hudson and/or Dr. Roberts about Neoliberalism in Russia??
    For those interested I highly recommend the following articles by both authors:

    Is Neoliberalism Killing Russia?
    PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS AND MICHAEL HUDSON • MARCH 1, 2019
    http://www.unz.com/proberts/is-neoliberalism-killing-russia/

    Will Russia Reject Neoliberalism?
    PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS AND MICHAEL HUDSON • AUGUST 11, 2016
    http://www.unz.com/proberts/will-russia-reject-neoliberalism/

  55. Dmitry says:
    @jpp

    The only composer I could think of was Arvo Pärt (he is Estonian).

  56. ken says:
    @AnonFromTN

    Hardly a sunny outlook for Russian demographics.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  57. @jpp

    To the best of my knowledge, poetry cannot be translated adequately. But prose can. Are there English translations of Tammsaare? I am curious about him and would like to judge for myself: very few people write better than Thomas Mann, even fewer write better than Tolstoy. Also, is music by Helena Tulve and Onute Narbutaite available in the US? The reason I am asking is that I’d prefer to judge myself. In fact, a lot of recent compositions are promoted as great (say, by Living American program on Sirius XM), but in reality these are mediocre or worse. BTW, the opinions of musicologists are usually worthless: music is supposed to talk to your soul, not to the soul of a musicologist.

    • Replies: @Dmitry
    , @jpp
  58. @ken

    Yes, the outlook is the same for all European nations – below replacement fertility among whites and East Asians, much higher among others. But while the outlook for Russia and most EU countries is not sunny, the outlook for Latvia and Lithuania is downright gloomy. Estonia is in between.

  59. Dmitry says:
    @AnonFromTN

    It’s recommended to try listening a bit to Arvo Pärt, who is a Estonian composer- half of his compositions sound the same as each other, but it’s still quite good.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  60. jpp says:
    @AnonFromTN

    AnonFromTN. I don’t quite concur with your ideas regarding translation; I happen to enjoy Sándor Weöres just fine even though I do not speak Hungarian and George Trakl just fine even though I do not speak German. Unfortunately, I’ve only ever read Tamsaare’s “Truth and Justice” in my semi-native (well, I did grew up in America) Estonian, though I’ve heard that Lisa Trei’s English translation does the trick. Actually, I’m not really sure off the cuff how many translations there even are or if there is even more than one broadly available. If you’re seeking well translated prose, and a trip, I would also commend Elizabeth Novickas’s translation of Ricardas Gavelis’s masterful Lithuanian novel ‘Vilnius Poker’.

    As Baltic musical recommendations go, Peteris Vasks and Arvo Part are quite popular but I personally find them to be tiresomely bland. Simply by means of Youtube search one can access a variety of alternatives. Hence, I might recommend from the adventurous Latvian composer Andris Dzenitis “Duality. Liepaja Concerto No.1”. From Estonian Helena Tulve, a student of Ligeti’s, who bears at least a little bit of resemblance to her vastly more popular Finnish counterpart Kaija Saariaho, I might recommend “Extinction des choses vues” and “Anastatica”. From Sarunas Nakas, I might recommend “Merz Machine”. From the polyphonic minimalist Bronius Kutavicius I might recommend “Clocks of the Past”. From Onute Narbutaite I might recommend “Vijoklis” or “Was there a Butterfly”. From the Messiaen influenced Balakakauskas I might recommend “Ostrobothnian Symphony”. If you’re allergic to any musical modernism and can only handle Tchaikovskyesque sweetness, I might recommend Balys Dvarionas’s folksy romantic ‘Violin Concerto’.

    Not all of the above pieces are masterpieces on par with Messiaen’s “Quartet for the end of Time” or Bartok’s “String Quartet IV” (though I think Tulve at her best is quite formidable), but I do submit that there some unique and at times finely expressed ideas to be found therein, which are not copying those of anyone else.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
    , @AnonFromTN
  61. @jpp

    Thanks for the suggestions, I will try them.
    My opinion about poetry translations is based on my experience with a few English and Russian poets I can read in both languages. In most cases translation is a lot worse than the original, with the exception of Shakespeare sonnets in Russian translations by Marshak, where the translation is by far superior poetry than the original. BTW, I think that Shakespeare was an outstanding playwright. I enjoy his plays staged by good theater companies, like Royal Shakespeare Company in London, where, if you are fluent in English, you even forget that it is old English.
    In contrast, I know quite a few truly outstanding translations of prose: many Faulkner novels and very demanding James Joyce were translated into Russian at the same literary level as the remarkable originals.
    Luckily, music does not need any translation – it speaks to the soul directly, bypassing language. All humans with souls have a lot in common.

    • Replies: @anon
    , @Dmitry
  62. @Dmitry

    Thanks, will try.

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  63. @jpp

    Neither Amazon nor their Abebooks that sells used/out of print books has Truth and Justice available. What other novels by Tammsaare are representative?

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  64. anon[113] • Disclaimer says:
    @AnonFromTN

    /My opinion about poetry translations is based on my experience……/ It is, I’m told, only possible to really experience the Koran in the original language.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  65. Dmitry says:
    @AnonFromTN

    Shakespeare’s text are so dense with crazy visual metaphors. Even if it can be only translated perhaps half of his metaphors in a coherent way, the resulting translations can still be unusually rich and wildly creative texts.

    With such source material, even an incompetent translation can be a masterpiece.

    For example, you can find any random paragraph of a play of Shakespeare. I recently read when Romeo is taking the poison in Capulet crypt, believing Juliet is dead. And in such one random paragraph, are so many strange images (” death is an amorous lean abhorred monster”, “palace of dim night… With worms that are thy chamber-maids”, etc).

    Ah, dear Juliet,
    Why art thou yet so fair? shall I believe
    That unsubstantial death is amorous,
    And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
    Thee here in dark to be his paramour?
    For fear of that, I still will stay with thee;
    And never from this palace of dim night
    Depart again: here, here will I remain
    With worms that are thy chamber-maids; O, here
    Will I set up my everlasting rest,
    And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
    From this world-wearied flesh.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  66. Dmitry says:
    @AnonFromTN

    I recommend to buy his ECM CD of his 4th Symphony (“Los Angeles Symphony”). Just as a funny warning, his 4th symphony is dedicated to the freedom of Mikhail Khodorkovsky who was in prison.

    Also this old 1980s ECM CD called “Tabula Rasa” is quite cool.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  67. @anon

    That may be true. Never tried and likely never will.

  68. @Dmitry

    I get bored when I try reading his plays, but I like to see them staged. I meant sonnets, which are a lot less rich in metaphor in the original and, if anything, richer in Marshak’s translation.

  69. @Dmitry

    The fact that he “dedicated it to the freedom of Mikhail Khodorkovsky”, a proven mega-thief and murderer, just shows that he is either dumb or uninformed. In and of itself that does not disqualify him as a composer.

  70. @AnonFromTN

    Funny thing is, there are lots of offers of Tammsaare’s Truth and Justice in Russian translation (https://yandex.ru/search/?lr=21329&text=%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%BC%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%20%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%B4%D0%B0%20%D1%86%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B0). I guess I get one of those.

    Yet another correction: it’s all available in Russia, where you can get used copy of Truth and Justice in Russian for under $2, but none in the US. Here you can only buy it in Estonian. Sorry, jpp, but on my list of languages to learn Estonian did not make it into the top 100. I have only one Estonian friend who now lives in Finland and bitterly complains that, despite popular perceptions, Estonian is too different from Finnish.

    • Replies: @jpp
  71. jpp says:
    @AnonFromTN

    Forsooth, AnonFromTN? Not even the top 100? I would have thought that it’d at least make, say, 87th place. Since I’ll be off of the computer for a few days, my comments here are pretty much done and over. The main contention I’d like to sign off with is that the smaller cultures in the approximate orbit of Europe – be they Basque, Mordvinic, Lithuanian, Estonian, Georgian, or other- while more provincial than the cultures of the mainstream powerhouses, do admit some occasionally brilliant representatives whose work tends to be nursed from a perspective exterior to this mainstream. Deep dives therein may well remunerate. Happy listening / reading.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  72. Smith says:

    Best of luck to the Baltic states!

    Strong and brave people that stand up against the russians, just like the ukrainians. They should rely less on NATO’s protection but more on themselves.

    Politics has shown that you can’t rely on umbrella protection because empires (USA, Russia, China) always play with each other and crush the small kingdoms (the Baltic states, Vietnam), so they gotta protect themselves.

  73. @jpp

    You are preaching to the choir. I know that gems can be found anywhere. My favorite example is a Kyrgyz writer Chinghiz Aitmatov, who wrote top-level prose, even though there only 6 million residents in Kyrgyzstan (some of which are actually Uzbeks and Tajiks). Luckily for me, he was bilingual and wrote everything in Kyrgyz and Russian, so I read him in Russian. Many a lot more populous nations don’t have writers of his caliber. Another example is from even a less populous nation, Abkhaz Fazil Iskander. His was no Leo Tolstoy or Thomas Mann, but his Sandro of Chegem is a great read.

    I am pretty stubborn, so I will get Tammsaare Thruth and Justice in one of the languages I am fluent in (Russian, Ukrainian, or English). My research so far suggests that only one (out of five) books of this novel was ever translated into English, but all five were translated into Russian years ago, so I will most likely read Russian translation. Music is less problematic, I just need to find time to listen to it.

    As to languages, my next target is Spanish. I know that based on the number of speakers, I should have gone for Chinese, but their writing system scares me. Even though I usually have a post-doc or a grad student from China, who can help, their hieroglyphs are still scary, even their simplified mainland version, not to mention Taiwanese (classical) writing. The same applies to Arabic – their writing looks too foreign. So, I’ll stick to Indo-European languages, where after Spanish there comes French, German, Portuguese, etc. Maybe Estonian would be ~87th, but I don’t expect to live long enough to get to it.

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