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... Read More
One thing that an observer of Russian politics can't help noticing is the sheer impossibility of appeasing the Russian liberals. Here are two recent exhibits from the Moscow Times. First, coming to the end of his Presidency, Medvedev pardoned some people in a list of political prisoners presented by the non-systemic opposition a few months... Read More
In the wake of Putin's article on national security for Rossiyskaya Gazeta, there has been renewed interest in Russia's ambitious military modernization plans for the next decade. I am not a specialist in this (unlike Dmitry Gorenberg and Mark Galeotti, whom I highly recommend), but I do think I can bring much-needed facts and good... Read More
Now that my initial triumphalism over Putin's return has faded a bit, it's time for a more analytical look. One of the main reasons I thought Medvedev would be the more likely person to be United Russia's Presidential candidate is that Putin was simply unwilling to return. As Daniel Treisman wrote in his book on... Read More
Иn the wake of the 2009 recession, declinist rhetoric has come to dominate discussion of Russia's economic prospects. Jim O'Neill, the founder of the BRIC's concept, has his work cut out defending Russia's expulsion from the group in favor of Indonesia, Mexico, or some other random middle-sized country. Journalists in the Western media claim its... Read More
The notion that Russian elections are systemically rigged to keep the "party of power" in, well, power is so prevalent and accepted in journalistic, political, and academic discourse in the West that it has little need of supporting documentation. Taking the 2007 Duma elections as an example, they were described as "not fair" by OSCE,... Read More
I have gone on record with the following odds on Russia's next President: Medvedev – 70%, Putin – 25%, Other – 5%. The first betting site to offer odds on the Russian Presidential election has other ideas. As of June 2011, the British online gambling site Stan James is offering the following odds: Putin 4/7,... Read More
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.... Read More
Can you tell your siloviki from your civiliki? MVD, FSB or GRU? The breeds of dog underneath those Churchillian carpets? If not, maybe this will help. In August 2010, I translated the introduction to political pundit Vladimir Pribylovsky's recent book ВЛАСТЬ-2010: 60 биографий (Power in 2010: 60 biographies). The resulting Phantom Tandem, Real Triumvirate and... Read More
As you may have noticed, posting has slowed down in the past few days, mostly thanks to a combination of (1) Kindle, (2) 中文 and (3) the natural periods of apathy that afflict most non-pro bloggers. I don't really see that changing until the end of the year... 1. Sayonara, Luzhkov. Props to Jesse Heath... Read More
This is a reprint of my article for the Sep/Oct 2010 issue of Russian Life magazine. It is a condensed version of Rosstat and Levada are Russophobia’s Bane. Enjoy! There is a Catechism that dominates American discourse on Russia today. Just flip through The Washington Post’s editorials, peruse American political science journals or listen (cringe)... Read More
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... Read More
Still no economic collapse. Still no anti-Putin bunt. Still no demographic apocalypse. As the years pass by, Russophobe canard after Russophobe trope is relegated to the dust-heap of history, only to rise back out of its grave, zombie-like, whenever Boris Nemtsov pens a brilliant indictment hysterical screed on the failures of Putinism or when the... Read More
I've been accused of being a "Russophile cockroach", an "amoral Putin lackey", and overall bad guy. Guilty as charged! Yes, I do like Russia and don't have much good to say about the Western media's coverage of it. Yes, I don't give much of damn for the moralistic posturing that any vapid idiot Kremlinologist can... Read More
This is a summary of opinion polls conducted by the Levada-Center, Russia's Gallup, since February 2009, and continues on from the first post. Along with the original post Lovely Levada, this series constitutes a unique English-language reference for social trends under late Putinism as expressed by the Russian people themselves, rather than the limousine liberals,... Read More
This is a list of common Russophobe myths about Russia and its people, and the successor to a March 2008 post on a similar theme. Please be sure to check the supporting notes at the bottom before dismissing this as neo-Soviet propaganda. Also partially available en français & на русском thanks to Alexandre Latsa's translation.... Read More
In April 2007 Peter Zeihan of Stratfor wrote a thought-provoking article The Coming Era of Russia's Dark Rider, which tries to pin down the metahistory of Russia's socio-political evolution and perhaps even inspired a book. The basic idea is that following its cyclical collapses (the Mongol conquest, The Time of Troubles, the Civil War and... Read More
In this blog, I have documented how a) corruption in Russia is similar to the average for middle-income countries and b) it has improved slightly under Putin. This is backed by data from the World Bank's Governance Indicators, Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer and World Bank statistics on problems with corruption and bureaucracy. Nonetheless, the... Read More
The most important development has been Medvedev's election to the Presidency with 70.2% of the vote. While it has not been squeaky clean (and as such, no different from any other Russian election under either Yeltsin or Putin), the more hystryonic claims of voter intimidation are to be treated with a pinch of salt -... Read More
I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.
One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.
Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.