The Moscow Times’ Latynina Blows Her Wheels: Next Stop, Bellevue?

Uncle Volodya says,”You only know where the edge is after you’ve gone over it.”

As newspapers go, The Moscow Times is heavy on the outrage and light on the research. It employs a stable of colourful journalists, including Alexei Bayer – whose articles typically carry the byline “Alexei Bayer, a native Muscovite” although he emigrated to the United States in 1974 and has lived there ever since, lending his articles on Russia a certain authoritative cachet which relies on Russia’s not having changed since 1974 – as well as the begging-to-be-made-fun-of Nickolaus von Twickel, white-ribbon activist and inept strategy hopeful Vladimir Ryzhkov (who is not actually a journalist, but whose sarcastic mockery of the Russian government for warning in 2006 that Georgia intended to invade South Ossetia set a new benchmark for foot-eating; that was in the St Petersburg Times, which has the same owner), bipolar defense expert Pavel Felgenhauer, who probably would not recognize a tank if it was in his parking space when he arrived at work in the morning, and a cavalcade of assorted complainers who remind me of something Lonnie Anderson said once – as her character Jennifer Marlowe in the now-defunct “WKRP in Cincinnati” – “We employ some people who, otherwise, would not be able to get jobs”.

But the jewel in The Moscow Times’ crown is its flame-haired, fact-free fantasy factory, the Duchess of Distortion, Yulia Latynina.

The customary target of her spitting, speed-blinking invective is Russia’s current president, Vladimir Putin, and she often works herself into such a state that you expect her head to start doing creaking revolutions on her shoulders, like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. She will say – literally – anything, and as if being a journalist murdered by the Russian regime were a badge of honour, appears to regard Mr. Putin’s continuing disinterest in killing her both a personal challenge and a dare to hit even greater heights of hyperbole.

This time, however, her basilisk glare falls upon the beneficiary of the recent Georgian elections and soon-to-be Georgian leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili. This really has nothing to do with any particular offense Ivanishvili has committed, but is a furious and spit-flecked defense of his predecessor and Latynina love-object, President Mikheil Saakashvili (thanks to Moscow Exile for the link).

Those familiar with Latynina’s style know she likes to be always on the attack, and to leap to another subject while you are still unraveling the first. This is no exception, as she launches into an apologia – if you can believe it – for former Saakashvili Defense and Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaia. You remember; the guy who resigned in disgrace over videos that showed prison guards raping prisoners in Georgian jails with a broom handle. Why would he do that, if he was no longer Interior Minister in charge of prisons? Because, as his accuser specifically points out, the abuse began years ago, when Akhalaia was still in charge and after he had put his cronies in leadership positions. But of course he is not being charged with that, because there is no proof directly tying him to that incident. I point that out merely to show you what kind of guy has Yulia Latynina rushing to his defense – the same Yulia Latynina who took a shot at Alla Pugacheva (over the Pussy Riot affair) for “living in sin with a gypsy who has a daughter older than herself”. I’m a simple guy, but the message I get is that living in sin with a partner much younger than yourself is way up there on the scale of disgrace, in comparison with having a broomhandle shoved up your ass. Really? Bend over, Yulia. I want you to assist me with a social experiment.

Anyway, as I said, Akhalaia is not being charged for that. According to Latynina, who deliberately muddies the story so as to give her own hallucinogenic reasoning some semblance of credibility, Akhalaia was to be charged with an incident in which Georgian servicemen were imprisoned, beaten and starved, in 2010. Instead, she tells us, a smaller number of military officers was “given a tongue-lashing” by Akhalaia in his office last year, one was struck on the head with a knife handle, and then the group was taken to Vaziani military base where the officers were subjected to physical abuse in the presence of subordinates. This, Latynina assures us, bespeaks an instance in which officers have disgraced their uniform, and their punishment is therefore appropriate. Although she knows absolutely nothing about the case other than what she tells you here, she has concluded that Akhalaia was merely meting out appropriate punishment to “lowlifes” who had brought dishonour on their uniform, and Ahkalaia is some kind of patriot. He should probably have been given a medal for his conscientious and personal enforcement of discipline! She is further curious to know why the head of the General Staff and the Commander of the 4th Army are also implicated “simply because they were standing beside Akhalaia when it happened”, as if it is perfectly unremarkable in civilized military forces for the Defense Minister to physically strike servicemen while senior officers charged with their care look on. Would she be as defensive if former Russian Defense Minister Serdyukov struck a Russian officer in his office while Makarov and the officer’s Army commander looked on, speculate that Serdyukov had only been doing his duty in defending Russian honour, and conclude that the officer struck must have been a lowlife who had disgraced his uniform? I find myself groping for a suitable expression of incredulity.

Not that such a thing would ever happen in Russia, of course; in Russia – I can’t believe I’m hearing this – such repressive measures are not used against political opponents. You’ll want to bookmark that one, I suspect. Apparently Akhalaia is some kind of political oppponent of Ivanishvili, although he resigned some time ago. Just by the bye, I also suspect that while Akhalaia (and several other “high-ranking Interior Ministry Officials”) is in custody, the new government will want him to do some ‘splainin’ about the computer virus his department used to penetrate citizens’ computers and gather personal information; in the case of political opponents, used to discredit them.

Not that we expect much of Ivanishvili; after all, he promised to lower prices and triple pensions, and he’s been in office a whole month already and he hasn’t done it!! What?? Who voted for this hammerhead, anyway??

Sadly, Ivanishvili’s agenda is already crystal-clear. To Yulia, at least. He’s going to “destroy the state machinery that President Mikheil Saakashvili created and that had done such a good job of serving people’s interests. Second, he will have to find some way to distract Georgian voters who are waiting for him to fulfill his grossly exaggerated campaign promises.”

I’m pretty sure we’ve already taken a look – several times – at the impressive state machinery that Mr. Saakashvili created and that had done such a good job serving the people’s interests. But what the hell, let’s look again. Here’s a snapshot of Georgia in the rest of the world as the torch is passed to Ivanishvili, provided we can all agree that a month is not quite enough time for it to have moved to the head of the list. See it? Right down there, three slots below Congo. The ranking is based upon GDP. But hey, it’s really easy to set up a business in Georgia!! that must count for something. Well, let’s see. GDP, $14 Billion. GDP growth year-over-year, 7.3%; pretty good. All Saakashvili’s doing , of course. Really, 7.3% is excellent considering American growth is a sickly 2.3%; both Russia and Canada are doing better than that. I can’t help noticing, though, that Congo’s growth is only a tenth of a point lower than Georgia’s, and I haven’t seen too many articles singing the praises of Congo as an economic juggernaut with impressive state machinery that serves its people’s interests. GDP growth (back to Georgia) quarter-over-quarter is unavailable. Interest rate, 5.75%. Inflation, .10%. So far, so good. Oops. Unemployment, 15. 1%. Ladies and gentlemen, the impressive state machinery of President Saakashvili has just come to a shuddering halt.

How bad is 15.1% unemployment? Well, first of all, that’s only the rate the Georgian government reports. Once Ivanishvili gets a feel for where things actually stand, expect it to go up sharply, because the former Georgian government had some eye-wideningly creative ways of making unemployed people look employed; in fact, that will be a good test of Ivanishvili’s honesty, because if he says the unemployment rate has doubled since he took over, he’s going to take a lot of flak for it, notably from assrockets like Latynina. Anyway, back to how bad is 15.1% unemployment. Let’s look, in the context of who else is exemplary of horrible unemployment. Senegal, 12%. Gabon, 16%. Mali, 10.5%. Kyrgyzstan, 8.6%. Egypt, 12.6%. In fact, of all those countries listed – 150 in all – only 24 are worse than Georgia. The jobless rate in the poorest country in the world (Liberia) – in terms of GDP – is 3.7%.

We don’t want to spend a lot of time poring over boring statistics, but one I think is particularly illustrative of the fine state machinery President Saakashvili put in place to serve the people’s needs is the nation’s balance of trade. This records how much money Georgia makes on its exports balanced against how much it spends on imports. In a perfect arrangement, it’d be a strong net positive, indicating the country was accumulating wealth by not spending as much as it is earning on its exports. As you can see, the fine state machinery of President Saakashvili resulted in a staggering negative ($509 million at last count, only slightly less than its worst performance of $580 million in 2007 – reset the default start date to 2004 to see Saakashvili’s entire debacle), suggesting the country is in about 10 times the financial trouble it was when Saakashvili took over. Would you like to see what a healthy balance of trade, over the same period, looks like? Here you go. The Georgia balance of trade site helpfully points out that Georgia – under Saakashvili – “has failed to diversify its exports and relies heavily on agriculture and low value added resource exploration”. Meanwhile, the state borrowed heavily to finance President Saakashvili’s megalomanaical ambitions.

Which brings me to the accusation that Ivanishvili will “rule from his palace”. To begin with, I doubt very much he ever said that, or anything close, and I suspect Latynina simply made it up. But even if he did say exactly that – so what? It’s his house: he’s a billionaire, and he paid for it. It cost the citizens of Georgia zip, nada, nothing. Did Saakashvili rule from the counter at the Tbilisi McDonalds? Of course not – he ruled from the Presidential Palace, which he had built to his specifications and with the assistance of Italian architect Michel de Lucci (who also designed that ostentatious glass bridge Saakashvili had built, the man has a thing about glass). The immediately obvious difference is that the Georgian taxpayer footed the bill for Chateau Saakashvili, and which its tenant allowed had cost “a trifle” at GEL 13 Million. You have only to look at it – it’s several times the size of the White House – to know that is just another of the numberless lies out of Saakashvili’s mouth, but that’s as may be – even if it only cost $1 million, that’s $1 million more than Ivanishvili’s residence cost the people of Georgia.

There are other newsmagazines like The Moscow Times; you can find them anywhere. Usually arranged in gaudy review at the supermarket checkout, where you can catch up on what’s really going on – did you know, for instance, that Jill Kelly, Florida socialite at the eye of the Petraeus hurricane, is actually a Russian spy working for Putin? True story. Bet you were way behind the curve on the bombshell that Mitt Romney, grief-stricken at the implosion of his presidential ambitions, has left the USA and moved with his entire family (remember, he’s a Mormon, so that’s probably, what, a million people?) to the Cayman Islands. Remember, you heard it here first. Oh, and Kim Kardashian’s butt implant exploded when the plane in which she was a passenger had to go above 38,000 ft. to avoid turbulence. I’m a little skeptical about that one. Anyway, the point is that there are other outlets where you can just make shit up and never have to explain, or give vent to your journalistic creativity, depending on your point of view. I’m sure such outlets would welcome dirt on Vladimir Putin – perhaps one in which Putin was piloting the plane, on a secret mission to pick up girlfriend Jill Kelly, when Kardashian’s butt exploded.

Bellevue has a lovely facility, where I’m sure Yulia would be welcomed as a prestigious guest. And she’d be in wonderful America, where all things are possible, instead of stinky rotten Russia where everything is dirty and hateful and the stupid people keep voting for Putin. Only one thing in her life would remain unresolved, one tiny barrier standing in the way of blissful happiness.

Okay, then; they can hire a Putin lookalike to creep in and pretend to try to kill her. That will set her poor jellied mind at rest.

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716 Responses to The Moscow Times’ Latynina Blows Her Wheels: Next Stop, Bellevue?

  1. kirill says:

    There is something grotesque about this bimbo getting so much attention. I would rather focus on journalists who ran afoul of the mob in Russia. These are real journalists who paid the price for writing the truth and not retarded clowns like Latynina who make stories up and in an indirect way serve the interests of the mafias they supposedly are fighting. The Russian mob prospered under Yeltsin and the oligarchy of of Berezovsky, etc. And this was supposedly some sort of Russian golden era that Putin washed away.

  2. Dear Mark,

    The way to understand the way Latynina writes about Georgia is to understand that it is actually not about Georgia at all. It is in fact about Russia. Latynina’s infatuation for Saakashvili simply reflects her obsessive and really rather sick loathing not just of Putin but of Russia, which is of course her own country.

    Because Saakashvili was the declared enemy of both Putin and Russia he could do no wrong in her eyes. On the contrary she built him up in her imagination into a flawless hero. It follows that anyone such as Ivanishvili who overthrows this hero and saint and who, worse still, actually talks of the need for an accommodation with the Antichrist (ie. Russia) must by definition be a scoundrel. It also follows that anything Saakashvili and his associates do is good whilst anything a scoundrel like Ivanishvili does must be bad.

    Needless to say Latynina does not let minor things like facts stand in the way of this narrative. If they do she simply changes or ignores them or invents new ones.

    There is nothing to be done with people like Latynina, whose problems as I said before are ultimately psychological. What is very alarming is as you, Kirill and Moscow Exile have variously said, that such a disturbed fantasist is able to spread her venomous views not just in Moscow Times, a newspaper which as it is published in English can have little influence with the Russian public, but in Novaya Gazeta and on the Moscow Echo radio station. I gather she also appears on television quite a lot. As you quite rightly say there are any number of such people writing similar poisonous nonsense in the west. However in the west a person who wrote like that would be confined to the fringes of “alternative” newsmedia and websites. One cannot really say that Novaya Gazeta is fringe and Moscow Echo definitely is not. There is something seriously wrong with the media culture of a country that gives so much space to a person like this. At the very least it shows an absence of basic journalistic ethics and professionalism and a lack of proper regulation and editorial control.

    • marknesop says:

      You’re quite right as usual, and also have noted the phenomenon whereby Latynina is celebratory and supportive of any country that puts Russia in a bad light; for example, in one of her “articles” – in which she wished to highlight the lack of money spent on infrastructure in Russia – she suggested Russia had built “not one road” in a particular time period, while China had built x miles of new roads. To begin with, the claim that Russia had not built any roads was likely wildly inaccurate, and what Latynina likely meant was that Russia had not built any new roads where she lives or that she knew of without doing any checking whatsoever. Also, Russia and China have entirely different priorities – China is busily expanding, and also is sometimes growing simply to preserve the impression of unstoppable growth; witness the western criticism and mockery of the “ghost city” China has built on its coast, in which it is said nobody lives, so as to establish regional dominance in a territorial dispute. Westerners who like to fall about clutching each other in paroxysms of mirth over this would do well to notice China is using their money to build these cities regardless of their utility. But Russia is in step with the global drift of populations to cities, and outlying towns are drying up and emptying of their populations. What is the sense of building new roads that go nowhere? Russia could definitely stand to improve the roads it has, and sometimes old routes could be shut down in favour of new ones which take a more direct route where that is feasible, but I can hardly see Latynina cheerleading the road that is to go through Khimki Forest, for example, and if I looked I imagine I could find where she roundly condemned it. Latynina is simply a broadcasting device for criticism, and only praises a Russian initiative where it plainly apes a western one, so that in reality it is not praise at all, but mockery.

      The Anglosphere likely did not imagine at the time the value it would realize from decorating Latynina with a medal. She already idolized the west as the un-Russia, but while she despises Russia with every fibre of her being – and, make no mistake, she would still hate it to the marrow of her bones even if some westernizing reformer won the election and promised to change everything, then her criticism would be that it was taking too long or corrupt staffers were pocketing all the money, or whatever – she perversely refuses to leave it and move to the west. I think she has some kind of martyr complex where she believes this her ordained duty; to remain as rearguard in a place she hates because her railing against it is a service to the country that recognizes her talents and loyalties.

      If I had to guess – and I do, because I don’t know – I’d say Latynina is permitted to continue her snapping and drooling for joint reasons; one, because of western pressure for greater Russian press freedoms, so that to shut her down would invite further criticism, and two, because the free-assosciative impressionist bullshit she writes is so plainly not true that she discredits herself without any requirement for intervention. It appears that Russia cares less and less what the Anglosphere thinks of it anyway, and instead is bent on building friendships with nations that will take it on face value.

    • Misha says:

      Never mind a not so distant gig of hers in the US.

      Wonder who covered her expenses?

  3. marknesop says:

    I wrote once that Latynina is one of the few truly ugly women in Russia, but she wasn’t always that way. As recently as 2006 – if this photo was current at the time – she was actually quite pretty. What would possess her to go to that fright-wig look she now sports when she was once quite conscientious about her appearance is anyone’s guess, but that even the western press pokes gentle fun at her electroshock hairdo is sufficient to assume everyone notices.

    • Dear Mark,

      I think this is actually a serious point. Generally I think one should pay no attention to how a woman looks when assessing the quality of her work. I don’t know what La Russophobe looks like and I don’t care. However when an otherwise attractive woman goes out of her way to look as odd as Latynina does there is something very strange and rather worrying about it.

      • yalensis says:

        Well, all she really did was just grow her hair out. “Big hair” was all the rage in the 80’s, and I think it’s coming back into style nowadays.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Her yed fevvers an explosion in a mattress factory, as they would have said in my old neck of the woods.

        • marknesop says:

          Hair like that was never in style except for the Shakespearean play, and then only if you were playing one of the witches in Macbeth. The article I mentioned earlier is this one, which compares her unfavourably to Vogue‘s creative director, Grace Coddington – who was, if you can believe it, a model. Mind you, that’s perhaps uncharitable, as she is 71. Let’s see….Oh, my, yes. Grace Coddington was quite the knockout in her day. Here she is in 1962 on Vogue‘s cover, and as the author of the article correctly points out, her resemblance to Keira Knightley now is eerie.

          Anyway, it’s not just that. Here’s a good transition photo, of Yulia between the girl she was in 2006 and the freakshow she is now. The hair is heading in the direction of the explosion it is today, but she’s made some effort to control it, looks softer and more feminine, and actually has quite a nice figure. Now she seems to wear the same railway-hobo grey jacket all the time, dresses androgynously in ill-fitting and unflattering clothes and is almost never photographed smiling – on the contrary, she seems consumed by bitterness and fury. I don’t attach any particular significance to it, but it can’t be healthy.

          As sidenotes, I’d be interested to know how much that watch cost, which seems to be the one nod to vanity that has survived, since she is part of the crowd that likes to blast Putin for his expensive wristwatch collection along with everything else he does. Also, there is a link at the bottom of the first article I cited that claims frizzy hair is “the new fabulous”. I didn’t click on it, but I would point out that the article dates from 2 years ago, and I have not seem any evidence that a giant frizzy revolution is sweeping the boardwalks of fashion. It’s kind of a niche look that a few with just the right features and height can carry off successfully, but I wouldn’t say it had caught on – ever – and it certainly is not in vogue now.

        • cartman says:

          Someone should tell Latynina she looks more like Phyllis Diller than Staten Island working girl, if that is the look she wanted.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        As regards La Russophobe’s looks, in response to her immediately launching into an ad hominem attack upon him after his comment in the MT concerning Latynina’s Hitler comparison with Ivanishvili, someone addressed her as a “fat whore”. Whether this observation was based on fact, I know not, but perhaps La Russophobe’s MT protaganist was aware of the possibity that she has a fat arse after having read some 2007 Exile articles that debated this likelihood. See:

        The russophobic freak reacted, causing this follow-up Exile article:

        She went Lulu over this, writing many comments on her site about the allegation that she was in possession of voluminous buttocks, which, if I remember rightly, led AK to believe that Exile might have touched upon a sensitive point in La Russophobe’s perverse psyche and to the conclusion that she very well might be some overblown ghastly Russo-American immigrant that gorges herself on doughnuts, peanut butter and jello sandwiches and other such US cullinary delights.

        • marknesop says:

          There was also her post when her blog supposedly hit 2000,000 – which claim drew a bit of controversy – and which featured a bunch of people jumping in the air holding up cards which enumerate “2000,000”. This provoked a comment, “You look nice in pink, Kim”, referring obviously to one large lady in the group who appeared incapable of getting off the ground, which in its turn drew the rejoinder, “That’s not us, idiot”. Which it very well may not have been, since the same photo appears in a Google search for the term “2000,000”.

          La Russophobe was always claimed to be a team blog, but the writing style was always exactly the same and I think it was likely one person. The new blog, “Dying Russia”, is exactly the same although it seems to be enjoying much less popularity while it is every bit as nutty. The old blog, coincidentally, was my first acquaintance with “hero journalist” Latynina, and of course on that site everything that came out of her mouth was reckoned to be Pulitzer material.

          Anyway, yes, there was once a considerable effort to discover who La Russophobe is, which I imagine pleased her no end, but I don’t think anyone cares about it any more.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Anyroad, Latynina ain’t no “hero journalist” because according to Western lights, “hero” Russian journalists are dead ones, which always makes me think when reading her diatribes that she is a contradiction in herself, in that she is both alive and well after spending almost the past twenty years in Russia writing apparently whatever things come to her head as regards the Russian government, state and V.V. Putin in particular; all this taking place in a land where she herself, along with many others of like mind, lead Westerners to believe that there is no freedom of expression and that it is extremely hazardous for journalists in Russia to criticize the powers that be.

            If she is such a hero journalist as Washington and La Russophobe claim, then why wasn’t she bumped off years ago on the orders of the “Evil One”?

            All of this reminds me very much of what the brave, swashbuckling Napoleonic Wars French cavalryman and famed hellraiser Antoine Charles Lasalle once said, namely that any hussar who wasn’t dead by the age of 30 was a “blackguard”.

            • Misha says:

              The greater “hero journalism” is the type not getting the publicity.

              Kirill’s initial comment at this thread underscores one aspect of what’s wrong with the coverage.

              I’m all for walking and chewing gum at the same time, in the form of periodically replying to the Latryninas, meshed with addressing serious issues in a substantive way, that has been lacking at the higher profile venues.

            • marknesop says:

              I imagine it is a source of continued personal humiliation to her that her invective is considerably more provocative and goading than was that of either Politkovskaya or Estemirova, yet the Kremlin still declines to make even a token attempt to kill her to shut her up. It’s like they are not even taking her seriously, a tremendous insult for an investigative journalist. Especially one who keeps shouting the odds about how dangerous it is to be a journalist in Russia, while it is more obvious every day that Latynina risks a more likely death from being smothered in custard in a bakery explosion. It’s hard to keep talking danger when the enemy won’t cooperate by at least making a lunge at you that would give you bragging rights and self-respect. It’s like she is walking right up to the line and saying, “Try to kill me, I dare you”, and the Kremlin is replying, “I’m busy right now; come back in a couple weeks and I’ll see if I can spare you some time – what was your name, again?”

              • Misha says:

                So there’s no misunderstanding: not that’s very likely that the murders of Russian journalists are the direct result of orders from the top of government.

                There’s also the matter of Russian journos killed in instances not having to do with getting murdered.

                Without meaning to belittle life vis-a-vis getting murdered, how about those with outstanding journalistic traits who aren’t able to prosper in journalism like some others, who’re conformist with establishment preferences – an issue that’s evident in the West?

                This aspect is a form of murder, albeit far more preferable to the conventional understanding of murder.

              • kirill says:

                The problem is that eventually Latynina may be retired like Politkovskaya with maximal propaganda benefit extracted out of her. It seems not to matter to most western pundits and media that the “regime opponent” operated for years and did not have much impact. Somehow evil Putler still wants to kill them. Yet more of the grasping at straws when attacking Russia in the west. Give us some serious examples already and not these boutique cases that reek of frame up.

  4. marknesop says:

    On a totally unrelated subject, congratulations to Kovane for making it into Wikipedia as a reference. Well done. I noticed it when it came up as a referring site to this blog.

    Don’t get too cocky, though; one of the search terms today which – don’t ask me how – led some individual here was “embarrassing explicit sport pictures hamster”. I’m almost tempted to type in that search string to see what it comes up with that is on this site, but not quite.

  5. yalensis says:

    Excellent blog post! I particuilarly liked the bit about Kim Kardashian’s butt implant blowing up on the plane. That was funny!

  6. yalensis says:

    Ivanishvili is not getting much support from that bastard Rasmussen and the other European honchos:

    They are basically telling him he has to play nice with Saakashvili.

    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Ivanishvili during a visit to alliance headquarters in Brussels that any perception that trials were politically motivated would hurt the image of Georgia and of his government.

    Oh, I get it, new Gruzian government is not allowed to arrest people from Saak’s team who committed outrageous criminal acts, like torture and murder?

    I guess the wishes of the Gruzian people, who elected Ivanishvili to clean house, mean very little to the American/European/NATO axis? I wish Ivanishvili would tell them where to get off and stop meddling in the internal affairs of his country.
    Unfortunately, I doubt if that will happen…

    • marknesop says:

      Apparently the policy has been changed since Saakashvili “swept to power” and began repaying his former opponents with a rash of political prosecutions. Where was Rasmussen then? The release of Tsotne Gamsakhurdia from jail on what he said were politically motivated charges is one of what is described as “one of several high-profile prisoner releases since Saakashvili’s ruling party was defeated”.

      • This is the usual story. We oppose corruption provided our friends are not prosecuted for it, which is politically motivated. We support the rule of law, which means our friends have immunity for whatever they do and our enemies are guilty of whatever they are accused of. We support a country’s independence and sovereignty provides it aligns itself unequivocally with us. We support dialogue in other people’s countries, which means bringing people we support to power, but will not tolerate any appeasement of anti democratic forces, which means anyone in any way critical of us or who believes in putting the interests of his people and country first. And of course we support democracy, which is government by our friends, and oppose dictatorship, which is government by anyone we disapprove of or consider our enemy.

    • Misha says:

      Interesting when considering that Lincoln Mitchell, the one time Saak supporter turned pro-Ivanishvili has advocated Georgia charming Abkhazia and South Ossetia away from Russia – like that’s going to go far without Georgia acknowledging the independence desire of the two lands in question.

      Such Western action towards Ivanishvili can lead to another kind of charming.

      Like Taiwan and China – Russia and Georgia can develop dramatically closer people to people and trade ties, while agreeing to disagree on a key issue.

      • marknesop says:

        Russia is in quite a good position on this issue, because neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia will willingly consent to be part of sovereign Georgia again, while Georgia cannot be considered for NATO membership while it has outstanding territorial disputes which affect its borders. Russia, then, can play the go-between, and say, “let me see what I can do”, because there isn’t going to be any agreement anyway, and Russia would not seriously counsel either republic to accept Georgia’s offer in any case. But it can be seen to be cooperating with Georgia, and if the fractious republics refuse to cooperate, well, is that Russia’s fault? Meanwhile Ivanishvili and Putin can cultivate a positive relationship which may well result in a much better economic relationship between the two countries.

        • Misha says:

          On the flip side, who recognizes South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence?

          Granted, things can go on relatively well, as exhibited by the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized by only one country (Turkey) after a good number of years.

          In terms of comparative diplomatic clout and prestige, Russia doesn’t look so good, relative to the number of countries recognizing Kosovo’s independence.

          • marknesop says:

            True, but fortunately the example of Kosovo is available to highlight western hypocrisy on that issue, and there was an extraordinary lobbying effort put in by the leading western powers to ensure nobody would join Russia in recognizing the breakaway Republics. That’s unfortunate, but I don’t see it mattering much so long as their independence claims were not a result of pressure and intimidation by Russia, so that they might be encouraged to rejoin the Georgian fold now that it is perceived things will settle down a little. That is of course not the case, and their independence claims are the result of strong internal movements and common cause among the citizenry. Many would like you to believe that Russia was greatly embarrassed by the general unwillingness of the international community to follow its lead, but I don’t think it really bothered them all that much and it forced the west to do a lot of rallying the troops. I wouldn’t doubt there were a few favours exchanged for silence.

            • Misha says:

              As noted in that FPJ piece (which dare I say analytically blows away much if not all of what YL writes, as well as some propped others), there’re clear reasons for the independence recognition differential.

              I concur that official Russia at large isn’t too concerned with the difference, which isn’t in their favor.

              • marknesop says:

                However, as I have said before on a number of occasions, people who laugh at the clumsy way Russia went about it forget how Georgia itself gained its independence, which was exactly the same way. And they all lined up to cheer brave Georgia at the time, because it was splitting off from Russia. Of course everything is different now that pieces of Georgia want to be independent of Georgia itself, because Georgia is regarded as a western pet, a sort of protegee, and things are considered (from outside) to be so good there that people should be fighting to get in, not to get away. It doesn’t fit the narrative, so of course it is intolerable.

                • Misha says:

                  Concerning Kosovo, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Albanians in Kosovo were leaning for a separation from Serbia for quite some time.

                  In contrast, the Abkahz and South Ossetians only starting to speak of independence when Georgia sought to become independent, inclusive of having a nationalist president (Gamsakhurdia) who wasn’t liked by the Abkhaz and South Ossetians.

                  Western pets as such can periodically get disregarded by the perceived owner.

                  Regarding this excerpt of yours:

                  “Georgia itself, because Georgia is regarded as a western pet, a sort of protegee, and things are considered (from outside) to be so good there that people should be fighting to get in, not to get away.”


                  That view gets busted upon noting the lack of post-Soviet secession sentiment in Russia, coupled by a number of those outside that country who would like to become a part of it.

        • yalensis says:

          Well, i think the “smart” plan (smart from NATO POV) was to make an exception for Gruzia and take them in even with the unresolved territorial dispute. I think that was Ivanishvili’s plan. Behind the scenes he would concede that territorial integration was not going to happen, but never saying that out loud to his own people. NATO would play along, and they would arrive at some face-saving formula. The key was that NATO had to let Saakashvili go and concentrate all their love and attention on Ivanishvili..
          But now it looks like Rasmussen himself is screwing the whole thing up by inciting more conflict between Saak and Ivanishvili. In essence stabbing Ivanishvili in the back. I really don’t know what his (Rasmussen’s) game is, but whatever it is, it’s stupid (from his own POV, not from Russia’s).

  7. yalensis says:

    Meanwhile, the Coordinating Committee “Swamp” is starting to break up into cliques:

    This comes as a surprise, everybody believed that the unity and friendship of Navalny, Udaltsov, Yashin, Sobchak, Nemtsov and the others would last forever. A firm and unbreakable bond!

    So, here’s the dish: Sobchak and the other liberals are feuding with Udaltsov, they are bickering over the date of the next “action”. Udaltsov wants to hold his “March of Millions” on December 8, but the liberal wing of the “Coordinating Committee” say they weren’t consulted and won’t support it.
    Sobchak’s faction wants to do something on December 9 instead. This happens to be “Yuriev Day”, Sobchak thinks this would be a great signal because supposedly serfs were set free on this traditional holiday. Author of piece points out, however, that it wasn’t so much serfs being set free, as being allowed to move to a different master, having first to pay off all their fees and corvees to the old master.

    Along those lines, there is a familiar Russian proverb, «Вот тебе, бабушка, и Юрьев день!»
    My father even used to say it, and I never really knew what it meant. According to this piece, it has something to do with Saint George slaying that unfortunate dragon on that day. George plunged his spear into the dragon’s throat and then dragged its corpse back into town to show the townspeople.

    But personally I don’t think the proverb has anything to do with the dragon. I think the meaning is something more like: “You’re leaving me? Well, good riddance, you lazy shiftless peasant, and don’t let the door slam you in the ass on the way out!”

    • marknesop says:

      I’m sure you’re being sarcastic about the expectations for the Coordinating Council, because in fact many Russia watchers forecast that it was an attempt to paper over the differences between factions that were frequently contemptuous of one another, and an attempt that would end in failure. The opposition likes to complain that the lowering of the requirements for consideration as a political party (number of signatures) is a Kremlin plot to make them all squabble and cancel each other out (forgetting, evidently, the vociferous opposition bitching that the threshold was too high), and it is apparent they know their own weaknesses better than they care to admit, even if they deny them to one another.

      • Really Yalensis you astonish me. I was so sure that all the people in the Coordinating Council were such good friends.

        • yalensis says:

          Dear Alexander: The Coordinating Council motto comes from the 3 Musketeers: “One for all and all for one!” (I’m not kidding, that’s their actual motto.)
          Based on that, I expected them to be able to get along for at least one day!
          (P.S. I think Navalny believes that he is the D’Artagnan of this motley crew…)

          • Dear Yalensis,

            “One for all and all for one”! That’s utterly hilarious.

            Let’s take the parallel with the Three Musketeers a little further. Navalny as you say is D’Artagnan. Udaltsov is the rather dim Porthos. Nemtsov is the noble Athos. The devious Aramis is either Gudkov or Ponomariev. Ksenia Sobchak is obviously Constance Bonnacieux. The Queen of France to whom they have all sworn allegiance is clearly Hillary Clinton.

            As to the enemy, Putin is obviously the crafty Cardinal Richelieu. Bastrykhin is Richelieu’s villainous henchman, the despicable Rochefort. But who is Milady de Winter….?

  8. Олег Георгиевич Гончаренко says:

    Russia does not have any laws that criminalize bribing or paying commissions to foreign officials to promote them purchasing Russian arms. The payment of ten percent of the total sum of any given arms contact as a “commission to foreign intermediaries” is considered absolutely normal and legitimate, while sometimes the kickback may be much higher. In the case of the Iraqi “package deal,” the kickback, according to Russian experts, could have been $500 million or more (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 12). Cash down payments are often offered in advance as the deal is finalized and are backed by government financial guarantees that promote Russian high-tech exports.

    In Russia, cash kickbacks—known locally as “otkat”—are widespread and considered the norm in any state budget procurement as well as in private commerce. In effect, the otkat forms the backbone of present-day Russian business culture, and this is sometimes a huge advantage when competing with Western corporations in Third World nations equally riddled with corruption and the widespread acceptability of kickbacks. In Iraq, all seemed to work out well, but then came the big snag—the regime in Bagdad is a loose coalition of differing and publicly quarreling fractions, and a sweet deal with one of them does not guarantee the rest are onboard. Large sums of money are up for grabs, and this in itself may have created tensions, becoming the main reason the “package deal” with Moscow got disrupted. RIA Novosti quotes Faleh A. Jabar, head of the Beirut-based Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies think tank: “The deal could have been frozen over a disagreement among corrupt Iraqi officials over who would get the commission for the deal” (RIA Novosti, November 13).

    • Dear Oleg,

      I am sure what you say about kickbacks is basically true, though you might be surprised to learn that where defence procurement is concerned Russia and third world countries are not the only ones that do it. It is unfortunately fairly widespread in Britain and when it comes to foreign arms sales there seems to be no inhibitions about it. It is fairly well understood that big arms sales to Arab states are essentially a mechanism for recycling petrodollars, with large commissions paid to officials and middlemen of both the supplier and the recipient country and much of the weaponry when delivered going straight into store. Back in the 1980s Mark Thatcher who is the son of the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, became a millionaire out of commissions he received from the Saudi Al Yamama weapons deals whilst it is widely believed that the former British MP and cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken also made a substantial fortune by acting as a middleman in Arab arms deals. A dirty business all round.

      As for the Iraq deal, I too have heard what you say and that the problems with it relate to disputes inside the Iraqi government about who is to be paid commissions.

    • AK says:

      This “Олег Георгиевич Гончаренко” fellow is a shape-shifting troll who I ended up banning from my own blog under his various guises there. The reason for it wasn’t that he wrote things not to my liking but because he is a shameless plagiarizer.

      Incidentally, this – “Russia does not have any laws that criminalize bribing or paying commissions to foreign officials to promote them purchasing Russian arms” no longer true.

      • marknesop says:

        Yes, I remember; he used to counter-argue by copy-and-pasting huge blocks of text from someone else’s opinion articles, as if the fact that he could find someone who agreed with him and disagreed with you was somehow establishment of a new reality you had better get used to.

        Anyway, so far. no problem. I don’t mind arguing opinions with anyone as long as it’s their own and they put a little effort into it.

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    Уважаемый Олег Георгиевич Гончаренко!

    How utterly wicked those Russians are!

    Paying out kickbacks and there’s no law in Russia that would even deter them from doing so!

    How unbelievably corrupt those Russians are!

    In the squeaky clean West, however, there are most certainly laws against such corrupt practices, though judging by the following articles linked below, one would hardly think so:,3253672

    с искренним уважением,

    Английский изгнанник в Москве

    • marknesop says:

      “The world’s most corrupt deal”; you don’t say.

      The proper response by the Russian government – which I recommend it start practicing at once, so it flows smoothly off the tongue – when accused by the British government of corruption should be, “I know you are, but what am I?”

      Or perhaps they could be more subtle, and wear dove lapel pins or something like that, so their suggestion that they are prepared to make an issue of it would prevent the subject of corruption from even coming up. I’m not arguing that Russian corruption is okay as long as the Anglosphere also does it, but I’d submit the British government is in a mighty disadvantageous position for muck-slinging.

      As usual, it’s “Don’t do as I do, do as I say”.

  10. yalensis says:

    I am little confused about what is going on in Gaza. According to this piece, Hezbolla and Hamas are cooperating big time, and Hezbolla has even given Hamas a bunch of rockets:

    Как утверждает ливанская газета “Аль-Акбар”, связанная с шиитской террористической группировкой, сразу после начала операции в секторе Газа руководство ХАМАС и “Хизбаллы” наладили каналы координации совместных действий. Боевики ливанской группировки и подразделения иранского Корпуса стражей исламской революции были приведены в состояние повышенной боеготовности.

    “As affirmed by the Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar, which happens to be connected to a Shiite terrorist group, right after the start of the operation in the Gaza sector, the Hamas leadership and the Hezbolla leadership laid down channels of coordination and joint operations. Militants of the Lebanese group as well as units of the Iranian Corps of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution were brought into a state of heightened alert.”

    I find this confusing because I seem to recall that earlier, Hezbolla and Hamas were enemies and were on opposite sides in the Syria civil war, with Hamas (Sunni) backing the anti-Assad Islamists and Hezbolla (Shiite) backing Assad.

    Maybe things have changed. In any case, if Hamas and Hezbolla really are cooperating, then they might actually be able to defeat an Israeli ground operation. Hamas is not very good militarily, but to my knowledge, last time Israeli army went up against Hezbolla, they lost. Israeli army is not quite the crack organization that they used to be. They are demoralized and have low-quality recruits.

    • Misha says:

      A matter of how a shared adversary can bring some folks together.

      The BBC is using the word “disproportionate” to describe Israeli action, in a way different from the US State Dept. The latter has used that word to describe some other issues not dealing with Israel.

      The Israeli side is highlighting the view of who shot first, followed by the issue of civilian areas being close to those taking armed action. Note how that impression can get ignored when some others make a similar claim, relative to their own situation.

    • marknesop says:

      While “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is certainly a truism in international relations, and though it is quite possible Hezbollah is fronting Hamas a few rockets, they are the weapons that started the fight rather than those needed to sustain it, while the narrative that Israel is fighting on two fronts will make an awfully convenient explanation if this assault does not satisfy domestic goals. The last one, against Hezbollah, as you pointed out, could hardly be spun as a victory but was notable also as some international voices which usually can be relied upon to cheer for Israel went conspicuously silent, and it was really only the USA who was holding their coat.

      I doubt there is really any strategic-level cooperation between Hamas and Hezbollah, although Hezbollah’s sympathies are certainly not difficult to imagine, nor are a few footsoldiers joining the fray. But the weapons that will be most needed are anti-air batteries and anti-tank missiles. Only those would keep the IDF cautious anf far enough away to complicate their targeting. If they are only up against shoulder-controlled small arms the conclusion is forgone.

  11. kirill says:

    So Israel is basically trying to snuff out media in Gaza. Imagine of Russia bombed some media center in Tbilisi in 2008. The howling of western outrage would be deafening.

  12. Leos Tomicek says:

    FEMEN getting their asses kicked, literally…

    • kirill says:

      I wonder what “values” these “femenist” freaks are trying to push? It’s femenism to attack a soccer trophy? It’s femenism to stage obscene disruptions and to cut down memorial monuments? WTF.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        No to all your questions, fascist!

        The purpose of their demonstrations is to dislpay publicly their determination to express themselves freely on any topic, any time, any place.

        • marknesop says:

          I guess it would be OK if they wanted to sit around my kitchen table with no shirts on to express their opinion of my pancakes. But there’s a time and a place for everything, right?

      • Leos Tomicek says:

        Feminism today is just slut-walks and FEMEN. FEMEN is a more brave version of slut-walk with better looking babes, There is not much else to expect from feminism…

    • yalensis says:

      Nothing to cheer about here – the people doing the ass-kicking are homophobic retards. Instead of beating up propnents of gay marriage these devout Catholic bully-boys should focus on their own issues. Their sign should read “Non à la mariage des homosexualistes! La mariage c’est l’union d’un prêtre et d’un garçon de choeur!”

      • marknesop says:

        Yeah, I don’t care for the screeching harridans of FEMEN, but I don’t like situations in which they come off as the balanced and reasonable ones, and since they constantly try to adopt the mantle of both aggressor and victim, I hate to see sympathies drift toward them. I prefer to see them shown up for the cross-cutting attention-junkie windbags they are, and for their activities to be viewed with revulsion.

        • Ugly business. I am afraid I agree with Yalensis and Mark on this one. It is the anti gay protesters who quite obviously turned to violence. I no longer have much time or sympathy with FEMEN (I rather did once) but on this occasion it is their assailants who are unquestionably in the wrong.

          The one important point about this incident is that of course it happened in France. As Kirill said in another context, imagine the uproar if something like this had happened not in Paris but in Moscow or St. Petersburg or Kiev. The government would undoubtedly be blamed and we would be reading more pompous (and untrue) articles about the sinister alliance between the Russian or Ukrainian government, the Orthodox Church and the anti gay and anti feminist nationalist far right. Coming shortly after the Pussy Riot trial the criticism would be relentless. Because it happened in the City of Light and self proclaimed Capital of the Enlightment it has gone in the west unreported.

          For the rest, if FEMEN and Pussy Riot and their Ukrainian and Russian supporters think that unlike in the Ukraine and Russia in the west it is all broad minded feminism, gay pride, tolerance and brotherly and sisterly love now they should better.

  13. kirill says:

    “A bomb squad arrived within five minutes and determined there were no explosive materials in the watch, Nelson said. The checkpoint was closed while officers secured the area.

    McGann was taken to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin where he was charged with possessing materials to make an explosive device, sheriff’s officials said. He was still in custody Friday night and could not be reached for comment.”

    Perhaps those sanctimonious f*ckers in the US Congress and Senate should worry about creeping totalitarianism at home before bleating about Russia. Just imagine the fits of self-righteous indignation that Latynina and others would have if this happened in Russia. It would be “proof” of oppression. But in the “free” USA it is business as usual.

    • yalensis says:

      It’s true. Travel within USA is becoming a totalitarian nightmare. That’s one of the cited reasons why 100,000 Texans want to secede from the U.S.: they complain about TSA intrusions into their personal space and individual liberties.
      On the other hand, maybe that watch WAS a bomb? Who knows? The Al Qaeda terrorists are always coming up with something new…

      • marknesop says:

        What???? Aren’t they some of the most ardent conservatives, who said they were comfortable with the government doing anything it wished as long as it kept them safe? Because they had nothing to hide, and all?

        Who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.

      • kirill says:

        I am willing to be subjected to “rights violating” searches at airports. But in this case they charged the guy even after there was nothing there. The subjective opinion of some TSA drone is not a good enough reason to take away rights at airports completely. From what I have heard there was nothing about this wrist watch that was enough to merit this hysterical response. If they are so paranoid then nobody should wear any wristwatch since it can be packed with plastique enough to kill one or more other passengers and blow out a window. If they are going to arrest and charge people for such “offenses” then they should post warning signs everywhere to take off your underwear and enter the airport naked so as not to arouse suspicion.

        With enough effort it is possible to make the fabric of clothing into a bomb. You just have to have the bomb chemicals be properly covered by a thin film of plastic. And these bomb threads would be woven into the fabric or covered with a polyester sheath and then the whole piece of clothing is a bomb.

        • marknesop says:

          They said it could be used as a timing device for a bomb. A watch, used as a timing device – who would ever have thought of that? I usually use mine to comb my hair.

          It reminds me of a skit I saw once on Saturday Night Live, a million years ago, when Gilda Radner was still with us; damn, she was funny. Anyway, she and Laraine Newman were college students in a spelling contest, and the panel was all older men. Laraine Newman was dressed really slutty, with a tight clingy dress, cut low in front, a wanton hairstyle and lots of makeup. Gilda Radner was dressed like a nerd, with her hair jerked back in a ponytail, a baggy sweater and thick glasses. Laraine Newman kept getting words like “Far”, which she would spell with lots of wiggling, a syrupy southern accent and lots of delighted clapping when she was successful. Gilda Radner drew words like “Idiosyncracy”, and the judges would be poised to disqualify her at every letter, but she kept getting them right, which the judges reluctantly acknowledged. Finally, getting impatient, a judge interrupted her halfway through “glockenspiel” or something like that with a brusque, “No, I’m sorry, that’s incorrect – you were going to spell it wrong, I could tell”.

          They made a big deal also of his boots, which they said were extra-big with several layers of insoles.

          What purpose does it serve to make people afraid to fly all over again, I wonder.

  14. Misha says:

    A Russian legal comment on the ICTY freeing of two Croats

    I saw a cheery BBC reporter describing the release of the freed Croats.

    If by bizarre chance the released were Serbs, the BBC reporter would probably appear the opposite of cheery.

    Regarding anti-Serbia bias:

    Among the comments (stilted but appropriate):

    Just by naming this news with a “Pro-Serbian Activists…” You are making it of minor issue and presenting her almost like a victim here. I just wonder, if she said disgusting Jews or Muslims or Blacks would it be a new that you could call by it proper name? Would that be acceptable?


    Reminded a bit on how pro-Russian leaning sources are more likely (in some circles) to be categorized as such (pro-Russian, Russophile…) than the anti-Russian leaning opposite getting labeled – the suggestion being that the latter isn’t as subjective.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      I do not mind being called pro-Russian, or Russophile, because that is the case.

      • Misha says:

        As is the case of how some others aren’t as prone to getting categorized for the referred to reason of bias.

        I’m respectfully putting an emphasis on how such imagery is subconsciously influencing a good number.

      • Misha says:

        To further underscore this point, consider a hypothetical Western mass media feature introducing you as a Russophile activist, while simply referring to Motyl as a Rutgers academic. On top of that are the numerous mass media instances where Motyl is already ahead in terms of having his views heard (often uncritically) to a mass audience.

        Another beaut is a Tweet like note with a tabloid like message that says so and so is one of the few in the West who thinks the recent Russian presidential vote was free and fair – minus going into the specifics of what was actually said, inclusive of having a readily available link for reference sake.

  15. Leos Tomicek says:

    I posted this on facebook, but thought it may be of interest here:

    Look what I found: “Радио Свобода в изгнании/Radio Liberty In Exile” OMG WTF? They blame Gessen! ;-)

    • marknesop says:

      As well they might, since it was Gessen who proposed the lineup changes that resulted in some of the most pompous old post-Soviet dissidents being shown the door. They don’t have anything fresh to offer anyway, and if you’re not gaining readership – or listeners, as the case may be – your message is stale and unappealing. I doubt Gessen will make any more of a success of it, since she brings such bitterness and negativity to everything she does that it turns off all but a small social group, who just love to listen to trash talk.

      That is funny. I can’t see it going anywhere, but many – like Alekseeva – are too old and set in their ways to change, and besides, it’s a gig which probably attracts some western cash.

  16. yalensis says:

    Oops, couldn’t play Isaac Hayes/Shaft up there in narrow thread, so here it is again (very cool):
    (Still in keeping with theme of Big Hair, except Isaac is bald for some reason…)

    • R.C. says:

      It’s interesting how the self-styled ‘Black Moses” turned to Scientology during the last decade of his life.

      I guess stranger things have happened…………..

      However, he’s still the man.

      • kirill says:

        There is something peculiar about Hollywood and Scientology. Perhaps Scientology is throwing money around but I think it is more sinister. It’s some analogue of having to screw the manager to keep the job, but here actors have to adopt this monkey religion to keep their jobs and/or their money. I have heard very bad things about Scientology when it comes to regular people and not Hollywood stars; it’s basically a coercive cult.

  17. yalensis says:

    “Russia Today” TV channel (Arab-language) operating in Gaza was destroyed by Israeli rocket. No staff were hurt, thank goodness, they had managed to evacuate the building earlier:

    RT offices were on the 11th floor of a building that also contained Murdoch’s Sky News, ITV, and other media channels. Israel launched 4 rockets at the building, of which one landed right in RT office on 11th floor. RT has subsequently moved down to the 5th floor.

  18. yalensis says:

    This interesting blog refutes Opp claim that popular cartoon “South Park” supported Pussy Riot:

    Refutation consists of simply laying out the plot of the episode in question. (Which I haven’t seen, but sounds funny.)
    Author is making a point that people see some headline or snippet taken out of context, and jump to a conclusion that may well be the opposite of what is actually going on. In this case, Opps were spreading around the idea that “South Park supports Pussy Riot” without having actually analyzed the episode in question.

    • marknesop says:

      The Pussy Riot supporters were quick to see like-minded sentiment in any western mention of the “group”. And, to be fair, the vast majority of westerners who expressed an opinion were supportive, because what’s not to like – big, bad Russian government and Weirdo Religion on one side, brave but confused envelope-pushing young girls on the other. But South Park often does such satire; they did one on Al Gore once in which his character got to make all his usual arguments all over again, without interruption (except for the one about inventing the internet, I don’t think he ever actually said that), but the characters get tired of it very quickly and although some might have interpreted it as supportive of Gore, it is actually mocking him.

      • yalensis says:

        South Park is mockatory of everything. Apparently this one mocks people who wear plastic bracelets to support a cause, AND Jesus (who is accused of using performance-enhancing drugs to assist his miracles) AND Pussy Riot, all in the same episode!
        I didn’t use to like South Park, maybe because I couldn’t understand a word they were saying (in those slurred high-pitched voices). But then it sort of grew on me… My favorite episode was one in which they mocked ski resorts. I am an avid skier myself, but they totally had the resort sub-culture nailed!

  19. There is a report on Interfax that the “convicted Pussy Riot musicians” (?) have changed their lawyers. The report gave no details and I have not been able to find anything else to confirm this. Does anyone know anything?

    • Well here is a report from VOA that appears to confirm the story. It seems that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have now joined Samutsevitch in bidding Feigin, Volkova & Co goodbye.

      I can’t say I am surprised. No doubt having to wake up every morning to a breakfast of cold porridge or whatever prisoners are given in Russia has concentrated the mind wonderfully.

      • There is one point about this change that is from a legal point of view interesting. This is that the lawyer who will now be representing Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina will be Irina Khrunova, the lawyer who represented Samutsevitch in the appeal and who is still representing her. In other words once again all three defendants have the same lawyer.

        At the appeal however Khrunova argued on Samutsevitch’s behalf that her client should not be punished as severely as Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina because she does not actually participate in the “punk prayer” itself. As various people including Mark Adomanis and even Latynina have realised, this is very close to being an admission that the “punk prayer” was a crime that deserved punishment. This is not of course what Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have been saying up to now. One wonders whether their decision to instruct Khrunova (and despite what the VOA says the decision to instruct Khrunova and sack Feigin & Co can only have come from them) is because Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are also inching towards that admission as a way of getting out of prison. If not then Khrunova is going to find it difficult to act for all three.

        • Here is a photo of Khrunova, who seems rather more pleasant than Volkova, who in all the pictures I have seen of her always looks sullen and cross.

          I should say that Khrunova is not a Moscow based lawyer but comes from Kazan where Agora, the Law Centre to which she belongs, is based. Agora, which is a genuine non profit agency without an overt political agenda apparently specialises in cases involving freedom of the internet and mainly defends internet bloggers. The fact that it has managed to avoid becoming itself the story in the cases it defends suggests that it is doing a good job. Somebody (Samutsevitch’s father?) seems to have made a conscious effort to find a criminal defence and human rights lawyer outside Moscow.

          Incidentally I understand that the intended case to the European Court of Human Rights will only challenge the legality of the original arrests of the three defendants and the length of the sentence. It will not despiite Volkova’s threats during the trial allege that the conviction under Article 213 itself was wrong or allege that the trial was unfair. If that is true then from a legal point of view the case is finished.

          • marknesop says:

            Well, I don’t know if it implies the absence of an agenda or not, but non-profits must be funded as well to stay in business, unless the principals donate their time. Agora is no exception, and is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, the same sugar-daddies that fund Golos and a host of other human-rights organizations in Russia. Here’s their description of what their backing of Agora, to the tune of $80,000.00 a year, consists of; “To provide legal and informational assistance to Russian civic activists and organizations under pressure from the authorities. AGORA staff will investigate reports of harassment, help organizations and activists hire and pay for legal counsel, develop a public relations response, and provide legal representation for some victims of persecution in court, including in the European Court of Human Rights. AGORA will help NGOs improve financial security, information systems security, management security, and personal security of staff.

            Although it is at its core a human-rights organization, I cannot fail to point out that the target of its funding is “organizations and activists”. If you have been stiffed by your landlord or your grandmother got ripped off in her gas bill, I doubt you’d get much help from them unless you were prepared to take it all the way to the ECHR. This organization is about high-profile cases that can be used to influence politics.

            According to Agora’s portal, in the section entitled “Our Partners“, they are also associated with the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), USAID (moot now, in Russia, as they have been invited to leave), UKAID, the OSCE, France Diplomatie (administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and l’Assemblée Nationale, to name some.

            • kirill says:

              All these associations should be blacklisted. They have no business funding civil society in Russia and various political agitators such as Agora. The “NGO” fig leaf is transparent. If there is something to fix then it is the American electoral process. Let’s have them start at home if they claim to want to bring democracy to the people.

              • marknesop says:

                I promise you that I would have no problem with it if the goal of these organizations really were the creation of civil institutions that would be a benefit to the Russian people; a gift that should be received with thanks in Russia just as everywhere else. Russia does have need of strong civil institutions, and gaining them would be of immense benefit. However, that is not the goal, or at best it is an incidental, a nice-to-have. The real goal, since Gene Sharp wrote his playbook for the use of NGO’s to overthrow the government through fomenting discontent and championing the underdog, is political activism. NGO’s that truly desired altruistic construction of civil society would work with the government, to the extent it was possible, to develop institutions that would survive because they would have the blessing of the government; democratic governments rely on the strength of civil societies to help them govern by determining what the people want and identifying priorities. The Russian government mostly does this itself, but a degree of separation is necessary and this practice is not very efficient.

                However, western NGO’s in Russia often work to destabilize the government, to support the cries of malcontents in the hope that their cause will attain popularity, to fund the legal defense of the wronged if they are in direct conflict with the government and the case has a chance of becoming a cause célèbre, to train and support activists and protesters.

                That’s not to say everyone on the staffs of western NGO’s is a mole, working to bring down the government; most of them are not, and they are the real losers, because they are probably bitterly disappointed that all their good work has gone for naught when they’re kicked out of the country because the string-pullers from afar have overreached.

                • Dear Mark,

                  I take it as read that Khrunova is an opposition supporter and that Agora is a pro opposition NGO. Almost by definition an NGO that does the sort of work that Agora does is going to be anti establishment and the people who work it will have anti establishment views. This is true for example of the lawyers who work for the equivalent agency in Britain, the Law Centres’ Federation. From my personal knowledge of these people they are all without exception strong Leftists with strong anti establishment views who are well to the left of the British Labour Party. In Khrunova’s case the fact that she and the organisation to which she belongs are anti establishment is shown not just by the fact that she is now defending Pussy Riot but by the act that one of her partners in Agora is now also representing one of the individuals accused of disruptive behaviour during the May 6th Bolotnaya riot. .

                  Having said this I still think there is a big difference between Agora and Golos. What Golos basically does is usurp the function of the Central Electoral Commission. What it claims as a non state agency is to provide a better and more accurate statement of the results of elections than does the body that is officially and constitutionally set up to do this. Whatever one’s views of this, it is an extremely political act and for a foreign government to provide funding to an agency that does this amounts to a gross interference in Russia’s internal affairs.

                  By contrast what Agora does is provide legal advice and representation to individuals who for whatever reason are being prosecuted by the authorities. This is an essential activity always provided that the standard of legal advice and representation is adequate. As we have seen in the Pussy Riot trial from the Russian state’s point of view it is far better to have people it prosecutes properly represented in the cases that it brings than to have cases thrown into chaos by bungling amateurs and political poseurs of the Feigin and Volkova sort. Nothing strengthens respect for the law more than the appearance of a properly run criminal justice system, which in the end always strengthens respect for the state, which is itself a creation of law.

                  As you know I think a situation where Russian NGOs look abroad for funding is very bad since it inevitably discredits the work they do even when (as apparently in the case of Agora) they do it well. For that reason I support the new law. Ultimately however what matters about Khrunova and Agora is not whether or not they support the opposition or where their money comes from but whether they are good at what they do and whether they are good and real lawyers? The fact that they get so little publicity suggests that they are.

      • yalensis says:

        They have hired Khrunova, who is a much better lawyer than those other clowns. Smart money says there is a deal afoot for early release of the remaining 2 girls.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          They’d be out on good behaviour this coming Easter, I reckon.

          I could do their time standing on my head, as the old lags back in Blighty would say – especially in a women’s camp!

          • marknesop says:

            Early release???? They should be getting their sentences extended for all this frivolous to-ing and fro-ing and wasting of the court’s time. It’s already been established that they committed the offense, and all that keeps being dragged back into the spotlight is, is it an offense at all? and should they be punished??

            Maybe the court should offer a complete retrial, with the original potential 7-year sentence back on the table. See who wants attention then.

            • I too think (and hope) that the case is coming to a close.

              If a proper deal is done on Pussy Riot’s early release in return eg. for promises of good behaviour (which would be an implicit admission that the punk prayer was a criminal act) then Russia in my opinion (and I am sure in that of the international legal community) would have won a great victory in political, legal and moral terms. It would have shown that its legal processes are not susceptible to political pressure whether from inside or outside Russia and that the best way to deal with a case in a Russian court is not by trying to exert pressure for example by running an international media campaign but by instructing a good lawyer who defends the case properly on the facts and the law. As such it would assert the rule of law in Russia, which would also be a great thing.

              However disgusting the behaviour of Pussy Riot one should not lose sight of the fact that it is Russia’s enemies both within the country and outside who want them to remain in prison as bogus “martyrs” for their non existent cause. Remember Mark Adomanis’s bafflement and Latynina’s anger at Samutsevitch’s release. Also one should not punish people for the criminal negligence (to put it at its most generous) of their lawyers. What Pussy Riot did was bad. What Feigin & Co did was actually worse and they would (deservedly) be in prison for it in some jurisdictions that I know of.

          • yalensis says:

            Dear moscowExile: If you had to serve time in one of the women’s camps, you would have to learn how to sew! One of their jobs is to sew uniforms for the military. I am assuming they provide them with sewing machines, and not have to stitch by hand.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              No problem with that at all, old boy!

              Perhaps you have forgotten that I am a former guest of Her Majesty, formerly resident at Her Majesty’s Prison, Strangeways, Manchester. In other words, I am an ex-con – fully reformed, I may add. And I used to be a dab hand on the sewing machines there in the prison laundry. That was before I was shipped off to a British equivalent of a Russian “colony”, a former RAF camp, HMP Kirkham, near Preston, not a cockstride from where AK used to spend his formative English years. There I worked on the prison farm, which was a far more healthier environment than the “Strangeways Hotel”.

      • AK says:

        Yes, all true. Samutsevich spilled the beans in a Lenta interview.

        Not to mention Feigin and wife trying to benefit from the PR brand by registering it for themselves. Bearing in mind the stated values or PR/Voina themselves that was especially loathsome even by the low standards that one typically presumes for those people.

  20. Moscow Exile says:

    Here’s this morning’s Moscow Times story on the latest Pussy Riot development:

    Note how the erstwhile PR defence team make out that it is they who have chosen to gracefully bow out in the best interests of their former clients as a result of indirect governmental pressure.

    Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

    I wonder how Feigin’s wife’s little film-making enterprise is going on?

    By the way, on Violetta Volkova’s XXXXXL T-shirt it says: “Богородица, Путина прогони” – “Mother of God Drive Out Putin”.

    It seems, however, that they claim to have been driven out by the forces of darkness at the behest of the Evil One.

    • kirill says:

      Frankly, who cares what she wants. It’s what the Russian majority wants and not some malcontents who openly despise Russians. These loons belong in a psyhushka.

  21. Moscow Exile says:

    This morning’s Moskovsky Komsomolets gives the same twist to the story, in that Feigin and co. have Twittered that they have withdrawn their counsel for the imprisoned “punk rockers” because they were refused by the prison authorities to visit their clients the other day.

    What noble creatures are Feigin and pals!


    • kirill says:

      Have the PR twats covered a single punk song? They haven’t written any of their own music that’s for sure. Is every twit who does some air guitar now considered a real musician? The crap spewed at Russia is breathtakingly idiotic.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        According to MT thay are now “rockers”, a state into which they, according to that “newspaper”, transmuted several months ago.

        • In every jurisdiction I know a lawyer cannot simply walk away from a client in the middle of a legal case. The lawyer has to get the client’s agreement or the Court’s permission. Since the Court’s permission has not been sought I presume that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have at the very least agreed to the change of lawyers. Feigin’s explaination is hardly plausible – it would be outrageous if the authorities were preventing Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina from meeting their lawyers and resignation would be a criminally weak response to such an outrage – so I presume that the initiative to sack Feigin & Co must have come from Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina with Feigin’s explanation being concocted to save face.

          • marknesop says:

            I’m sure that every attempt to maintain the three “rockers” in the spotlight will be made, both during their incarceration and following their release, but really I cannot fathom why people are still talking about them as if they were important. I have to say I found the whole overnight-celebrities thing immensely annoying, and the willingness to let them proceed as if there are no rules both continues to annoy and teaches them nothing about the real world. What they learn is that there is a whole world out there (beyond Russia, of course) that is waiting to kneel to them and yield up its gifts, all because of their one galvanizing action. Is it like that for the average person? NO!! Why is it like that for these three – actually now down to two; Samutsevich is rarely spoken of any more except for her successful defense?? Because they are stars. Why are they stars?? That’s the part I can’t get.

            Just because it’s unheard of doesn’t mean it can’t be made to happen for Pussy Riot, the new high priestesses of the universe. And if the liberal media that has sprung to their defense could get all three released, leaving “The Kremlin” and its weirdo Orthodox Church holding an empty sack, what a triumph for freedom and democracy it would be!!! They’d be doing the victory dance in the end zone for the next 5 years. Once freed, Pussy Riot would become largely incidental, unless they stayed in Russia, which they would have no reason to do. And since they have no real discernible talent and the “values” of their chosen lifestyle hold working for a living in the highest contempt, I can’t see why anyone else would want them. Although I must admit the idea of them bringing their “art event” roadshow and, say, walking around Washington naked and covered in their own shit or some such edifying breakthrough is enticing. I’m sure it would be very well-received by all the art lovers there, and would generate loads of publicity. Why, it wouldn’t be long before people were talking about them running for public office.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              “Why are they stars?? That’s the part I can’t get.”

              In a world where there exists an air-guitar championship, anything is possible.

            • yalensis says:

              Why are they stars? Why is Kim Kardashian a star either? She doesn’t do anything, not even pretend to play an instrument.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Maybe Kardashian is a good shag and free with her favours?

                Just a theory, mind you.

                • marknesop says:

                  She’s certainly a great-looking woman, and being a multimillionaire probably does nothing to make her less attractive. She’s Armenian on her father’s side, with a dash of Dutch and Scots blood from her mother. Certainly makes for an attractive combination.

                  And there is every reason to believe both your proposals are accurate as well.

          • …..and here we have it, courtesy of Miriam Elder:


            Samutsevitch now finally publicly attacking the lawyers, saying that they were abusing their clients in their own interests and the lawyers retaliating by calling Samutsevitch (and by extension Khrunova) an agent of the Kremlin who did a deal to walk free.

            I suspect it’s going to go on getting nastier from now on.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              I see Elder couldn’t resist using the expression “the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent” just in case the Guardianistas may have let it slip their minds that to all intents and purposes the Soviet Union is again with us.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Further contrary statements made by the parties involved in the PR lawyers story as reported by Moscow News:


                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Here’s an article from Komsomolskaya Pravda describing Alekhina’s present residence in the Urals and her employment there sewing police uniform jackets. The article states that she has no complaints. She had low blood pressure on her arrival at the colony, but otherwise is in good health. She refuses to eat meat at the colony because she is a vegetarian and asks for nothing: “I am an unpretentious person”, she said, but she doesn’t want to eat prison food. The report says that the food at the prison is not so bad.

                  The prison was once a “hard labour” colony for murderers etc., but now it houses mostly drug offenders and thieves.

                  It looks remarkably similar to the students’ hall of residence at Voronezh University where I lived in the twilight years of the Soviet Union, although we weren’t locked up at night there but locked out if you you turned up later than 11 p.m. We also slept in the
                  same same type of bed, only four to a room in which there wasn’t enough room to swing a cat. The toilets, showers and communal kitchens etc. were just the same.


                • marknesop says:

                  Compared with getting fucked in the museum during open hours while the cameras capture it all for posterity, I suppose it isn’t much, but we must take our kicks where we can find them: roll with it, baby. It looks like an improvement on living in burned-out basements to me.

                • Dear Moscow Exile,

                  Thanks for this.

                  Without wanting in any way to minimise the harshness, I have to say that judging from these photos there are many far worse prisons in the world. In most of South America a prison like this would look like paradise. At least this prison is run by the authorities. In many countries including in Brazil and Venezuela the prisons are run by armed and violent groups amongst the prisoners.

                • It’s so good to see Polozov assessing his own performance as “brilliant” after his clients go down and smearing his own client as a Kremlin agent when she begs to disagree.

                  @ Moscow Exile, I noticed the point about Miriam Elder and her reference to the “Kremlin crackdown”. Notice also her rationalisation of Samutsevitch’s release, given on the authority of “analysts” (which “analysts”?). That Samutsevitch was released because her new lawyer acted like a proper lawyer is still not a truth Miriam Elder can face up to.

            • marknesop says:

              I’m not familiar with the phrase, “..have their lawyers’ status cancelled”: is she seeking disbarment?

              Wow. If nothing else will show onlookers that they are narcissists who will do anything to keep attention focused on themselves, that should do it. They will take anyone down with them if it serves their purposes, and lawyers thinking about taking up their cause should be warned. Don’t be fooled by that scared-little-girls-who-don’t-want-to-go-to-jail act. Tolokonnikova smirked and mugged all through the trial and her closing statement sounded more like a demand than an apology; she was obviously swept away by the tide of cheap international support by stars who will forget about them almost instantly, were themselves using the Pussies to get noticed, and do not have to worry about being locked up with them, and she let herself believe that the boots were on the opposite end of her legs. Now she knows differently, but the lesson is nothing like over.

              Not that I feel a bit sorry for that trio of posing numpties that “represented” them; as lawyers they are ambulance-chasers at the very best, and disbarment would not be inappropriate if ordered by a judge for their insolence and grandstanding. I’m sure they wouldn’t have to worry about going to jail themselves – in Volkova’s case, the state would not be able to afford to feed her – but punishment for their media-whoring would not be out of line. It just should not be solicited by their former clients, who do not have the legal knowledge to understand they were being misrepresented and who were perfectly content for their attorneys to be confrontational and insolent back when they thought that approach was going to work and the state would not dare hold them.

              I see also that Petr Verzilov is still determinedly keeping himself in the frame.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Yes, I’ve noticed that “Porky Pete” (yet another of his soubriquets on the Russian web) continues to butt in even though Tolokonnikova has publicly told him to butt out and has disassociated herself and PR from him.

            • yalensis says:

              Reading between the lines, Miriam Elder sounds like her sympathies are more with Samutsevich than with the lawyers. But it is hard to tell, because she tries to keep a more neutral tone than she usually has.

  22. says: More on the Magnitsky List and how Kashanov managed to embezzle millions of IMF money.

  23. Moscow Exile says:

    Perchance that wouldn’t be Mr. 2% Kasyanov (Миша 2%), would it?



    Kasyanov’s corrupt dealings notwithstanding, Yulia Latynina seems to have been rather supportive of Misha 2% according to a 2007 article of hers that has been kindly translated by the allegedly fat-arsed La Russophobe, no doubt because LR thinks dear Yulia is a “hero journalist”.

    The 2% that Latynina associates with the name Kasyanov is, however, something rather different than the 2% “service charge” that he levied and pocketed when handing out government contract tenders. He was prime minister when he was doing this.


  24. Moscow Exile says:

    Currently serving a 9-year prison sentence at low security U.S.Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island, Los Angeles, is another “percent man”, namely former Ukraine prime minister and person whom In 2004 Transparency International named as the eighth most corrupt political leader in recent history, Pavlo Ivanovych Lazarenko, one time best buddy of Yulia Tymoshenko, who is also now doing porridge.

    It was thanks to Lazarenko (and the payment of a hefty fee) that Tymoshenko, the faux-peasant braided “Jeanne d’Arc of the Ukraine” and native Russian speaker who now no longer understands Russian (whilst on trial at any rate), became the “Gas Princess” of the Ukraine.

    Lazarenko, however, did not charge 2% for his services: he apparently demanded 50% up front, and got it. Investigative journalists have estimated that Lazarenko controls a shelf company incorporated in Cheyenne, USA, that owns an estimated $72 million in real estate in the Ukraine through other companies: the shelf company is named Capital Investments Group.


    Lazarenko is scheduled to be released this month (November 2012). It is not clear whether he will be extradited after his release to the Ukraine, where the Prosecutor General suspects Lazarenko’s involvement (together with Yulia Tymoshenko) in the murder of Donetsk businessman Yevhen Shcherban en Olexandr Momot in 1996 and the assassination of banker Vadym Hetman in 1998; Lazarenko has denied involvement in all these cases.

    Somehow, I don’t think he will be extradited.

    Clearly, in comparison to Mr. 50% Lazarenko, Russia’s Misha 2% is only small time. Presumably that’s why he is not a “political prisoner” in Russia.

    And they say crime doesn’t pay.

    • Misha says:

      As noted in this piece, there’s an excerpt from a Reuters article, excerpting the selective use of who does and doesn’t engage in criminal activity:

      Pardon my linking it again at this thread. For whatever reason, some bush league site (having to do with posting an article without noting where it first appears, while offering no contact info) is hyperlinked under my hyperlinked name “Misha”, where “Recent Commnets” are shown. Upon clicking into that “Recent Comments” comment, the reader is drawn into another thread.

    • kirill says:

      And the EU dares to pompously posture about the “rights” of Timoshenko as if she is not an Al Capone variant but some democracy martyr. Same as with Khodorkovsky. And the local population is supposed to believe in the west and its claims about love for democracy in the wake of such rotten propaganda.

      • Misha says:

        Neo-Soviet Russia:

        In some circles, this news item will not get as much attention as (an example) highlighting the expression of pro-Stalin sympathy.

      • AK says:

        But the irony is that, much like Al Capone, she is really in prison for entirely different reasons than her mass thievery. :)

        • marknesop says:

          And, as was the case with Capone as well, the scale of her thievery is widely known. It’s just too hard to prove. This will do for now. Yulia will do well if the parallels with Scarface end there; he was originally sentenced to 11 years, and had his sentence commuted at 8 years because he was eaten up by syphilis.

          Her performances in prison suggest she has learned little from her experience thus far. That’s OK; she has lots of time, and prison is a great teaching environment for slow learners.

  25. Moscow Exile says:

    Yeah, Pereverzeva’s so hard up she’s had to take her clothes off and allow herself to be photographed for Playboy in order to earn a crust. She was a blonde then. See below (might cause offence):

    “Natalia Pereverzeva has caused outrage in her country by calling it ‘a beggar'”, says the article.

    That’s right! The metro was a-buzz with indignant outrage over this as I travelled about Moscow today and the TV and radio stations have not ceased discussing this great affront to Mother Russia.

    • You should attack her personally because I didn’t find her words to be ill-willed but rather she was just honest how she felt about her country. Of course she should not have said that publicly, but Russians are not known for their political correctness.

      • marknesop says:

        I wouldn’t have put it like that. For me, it’s more that Russians talk smack about their country and get away with it – with plenty of support from westerners, like you, for example – while any American that does it is immediately condemned as a traitor and invited to move to Russia if they like it so much. I would extend the same invitation to Pereverzeva; if you like somewhere else better, don’t let us keep you; you should be thinking about packing.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          I’m quite sure she has it in mind to up sticks and move to the Land of the Free. Anyroad, in my opinion, she’s not a patch on former Miss Universe Oksana Fedorova, who was offered lucrative contracts in the USA upon her winning of that title and had the opportunity to stay and live in the US. However, the delightful Oksana is a Russian patriot and returned home, where she presented the 15 minute-toddlers’ TV show “Good Night Kiddies” (a national institution from Soviet times) which is transmitted every evening at 20.45. I hardly ever missed a show when she was its presenter. Oh, and she’s smart as well: Ph.D in law and is a top cop. She hasn’t taken her clothes off for any glamour shots either.


          • Moscow Exile says:

            The novelty of Pereverzeva’s little speech is that she didn’t spout the usual gush like “I want to work with handicapped children” etc., but told them like it is about Russia; more exactly, she told them like they think they know how it is and constantly tell the whole world how it is, which is, basicly, that Russia is a shithole.

            In other words, she toed their propaganda line.

            I can’t remember who they were now, but I remember how a few years ago some US
            singers publicly condemned US policies at some awards ceremony; they immediately suffered the consequences of this from the Great Americn Public: their popularity tumbled and radio stations refused to play their music.

            Freedom of speech – but no slagging off Uncle Sam?

            However, the most bizarre PC statement that I have heard uttered by a beauty queen contestant when being interviewed on stage took place only a few days ago and at about the same time as Pereverzeva’s “beggar” speech. The statement was made by the current Miss USA last Sunday in answer to a Tweeted question from a member of the audience about transgenders taking part in female contests: Miss USA replied that the participation of a transgender would only be fair. She did add, however, that some may not like the idea.

            Well, what could she say without risking being smeared as a “homophobe”?

            I’m pretty sure the South-East Asia “Lady Boys” have beauty contests, but are we really going to have female beauty contests that have contestants with strapped-down cocks and breast-implants beneath the swimsuits?


            I think I’m getting to old for this world. :-(

            • yalensis says:

              There, there, dear Exile. This world is too much with us! (murmuring words of fake comfort…)
              Well, at least Russia doesn’t have (as far as I know) beauty contests for toddlers, which features things such as hair extensions for balding 1-year-old beauties; or a full set of dentures for gap-toothed 5-year-olds? LOL!


              • Misha says:

                Fighting hard against nurturing Dirty Dozen and old school Oakland Raider types.

                Reminded of how one periodically hears some complaints about how NY’s Times Square area has lost character since getting cleaned up.

            • marknesop says:

              “…a few years ago some US
              singers publicly condemned US policies at some awards ceremony; they immediately suffered the consequences of this from the Great Americn Public: their popularity tumbled and radio stations refused to play their music.”

              That was the Dixie Chicks, who actually received letters threatening their lives. Patriotism is a two-edged sword.


              I believe the “transgendered” issue refers only to those whose present gender is female, regardless what it might have been previously. I don’t think you will have to endure the type of beauty contest you describe in North America or Europe, and all participants would have the same plumbing. There is a distinct difference between a male posing as a female and one who has undergone “gender reassignment” surgery, although both may consider they should have been born women.

    • marknesop says:

      Hope all those who swooned in the Herald over her honesty and bravery and magnificent morals get a good look at those holiday snaps. It’s funny how every Russian who will shit all over it is immediately cheered as a hero in the west, although those who support her know nothing about her.

  26. marknesop says:

    “Analysts say her freedom provided a way for the politicised court to show leniency in a case that won attention around the world.”

    Here’s the takeaway, for me, from that story, and the point I originally intended to make (I left for a couple of hours, and see you guys have been chatting up a storm about this, to the point there was no room left in the thread).

    Russia will be damned no matter what it does, and I’m afraid I disagree that releasing the other two Pussies would result in a rush of respect for Russia’s deference to the rule of law, not to mention the skilled negotiation of a good lawyer. Instead, it will be spun as the state retreating with its tail between its legs – because it knows it was wrong to charge them in the first place – upon being confronted by the pure light of clean democracy and freedom as wielded by the hand of an attorney paid for and provided by the munificent Anglosphere.

    Not everyone will feel that way, of course, and there might even be one or two sober academic articles that grudgingly note progress in the fairness of Russia’s legal system. But the popular view will be that the west and Russia went toe to toe, and once again, Russia blinked. I’m afraid I see no upside to letting them go once they were found guilty, and as I said, I would offer a complete re-trial, with the condition that if there were no significant change in the verdict, the sentence would be moved back out to the maximum. The state already attempted to cater to western pressure by cutting the sentence back to less than half even if they were found guilty, and was spat upon and reviled for its pains.

  27. Misha says:

    Some just released pieces with the expected delivery:

    In The NYT piece, certain comments by Peskov are noticeably highlighted. Assuming they aren’t taken out of context, a different approach would’ve been arguably better, from the vantage-point of public relations.

    This is the third English language article I recall on the subject of promoting patriotism in Russia. (The other two being in RFE/RL and RT.) All three of them downplay a key factor for promoting a patriotically well educated Russian view, that’s short of chauvinism. The factor in question has to do with confronting biases like what’s evident in this piece:

    Condensed Excerpts –

    Russia occupied Poland for more than a century and dominated it during the Cold War, after World War II.

    * Late 1770s – Poland is partitioned, Russia begins over 130 years of occupation
    * 19th Century – Russia crushes Polish uprisings
    * Conflict with Russia continues after 1917 Bolshevik Revolution
    * 1939 – USSR and Nazi Germany secretly agree on new partition of Poland
    * 1940 – Soviet police kill some 22,000 Polish officers and other elite prisoners at Katyn
    * USSR turns Poland into a communist satellite state after World War II
    * 1980s – Solidarity union in Poland plays a key role in defeating communism
    * 2010 – Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others die in Polish plane crash near Katyn, in Russia; Moscow’s sympathy leads to warmer relations


    The above timeline is credited to

    To his credit, the British ESPN sportscaster of the Russia-Poland match was more objective, when he briefly noted that the two countries have histories of attacking each other.

    The above BBC piece omits:

    – the earlier Polish subjugation of Russia prior to the late 1770s
    – the close to 100,000 Poles who joined Napoleon in his attack on Russia in 1812
    – the tens of thousands of Russian POWs who died under extremely inhospitable conditions in Polish captivity, during the Soviet-Polish War.

    On a related note –

    • Moscow Exile says:

      And that it was Poland that attacked Russia inthe Russo-Polish War 1918-21.

      Nary a mention of the German-Polish Non-Agression Pact of 1934 in these articles about how wicked Russia allied itself with Hitler’s Germany, is there?

      • Misha says:

        Then again, that Polish-Nazi agreement didn’t have anything in it which led to the two taking on another country.

        The Nazi, Polish and Hungarian taking of Czechoslovak territory in 1938 has been presented as something that wasn’t coordinated. Rather, it appears that the Poles and Hungarians decided to jump in the fray after the Nazis had essentially set a precedent.

        The Nazi, Polish and Hungarians claims on the Czechoslovak territory they each took has a degree of similarity with what the Soviets did vis-a-vis present day Belarusian and Ukrainian territories which became part of post WW I/pre-WW II Poland.

    • kirill says:

      The “carve up of Poland” was actually the return of Belorussian and Ukrainian territories grabbed by Poland during the 1918-21 war. When someone calls these territories (and the Ukrainians and Belorussians living there) Polish they expose themselves as propagandists.

      Much is made of Stalin shipping grain to Hitler. Meanwhile US corporations were shipping oil (after 1939!) and industrial machinery before. Hitler’s rearmament was facilitated by western industrial investment. The policy of the west was to aim Hitler at the USSR but he ended up biting them in the ass as well. The poor dears.

      • Misha says:

        Keeping in mind that the US itself went to war with Germany until a period after 1939.

        In relation to some of what you said: not much fighting when Soviet troops enter that portion of territory in 1939, in contrast to what the Germans faced from the West. A point concerning how Poles were more willing to fight for Poland than a good number of non-Poles.

  28. AK says:

    Update on PR case.

    The lawyer Polozov published some letters from PR from March which show that at least back then politicizing the trial was expressly their idea

    Я, Толоконникова Надежда андреевна, 1989 г.р., желаю, чтобы моя защита на время следствия и суда осуществлялась максимально публично и полностью открыто.

    С момента заведения уголовного дела я была уверена в том, что оно нелегитимно, сфабриковано по политическим мотивам. Никакого признания вины, никакого сотрудничества со следствием, равно как и с властями.

    Мои адвокаты действуют исключительно согласно моей воле.

    –> I Tolokonnikova (cockroach girl) want my defend to be maximally public and completely open. From the moment the case was opened I was convinced the case is illegitimate and fabricated on political motives. No confession of guilt, no cooperation with investigators, just as with the regime.

    Я, Алёхина Мария Владимировна, 1988 г.р. желаю, чтобы защита меня на время следствия и суда осуществлялась открыто и максимально публично. Я абсолютно уверена в том, что данное дело является политическим, поэтому любую сделку с властью я лично воспринимаю как преступление. Я не хочу признавать вины в уголовном преступлении, т.к. я его не совершала и не хочу, чтобы защита говорила об этом деле как об уголовном, потому что, как было сказано выше – дело политическое.

    –> I, Alekhina, [same]. … so I view any deal with the regime as a crime. I do not wish to confess guilt to a criminal act, I did not and I do not want the defense to speak of it as though I did, because as was said above, the case is political.


    There are copies of the letters are attached. I do not think there can be any questions as to their authenticity.

    What I suspect happened is that in Tolok and Alekhina’s case, they were true believers and wanted to wage a political battle, but then got horrified at the prospect of a year in prison as it dawned on them that that was indeed what they had set themselves up for. Samsutsevich was perhaps less enthusiastic about the whole strategy from the start (no similar letter from her) so was first to bail for precisely these reasons, as opposed to the ridiculous smears the lawyers are circulating about her.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Yesterday (Nov. 20th) claims were made by “friends of Pussy riot” that Feigin had re-registered the site as part of his wife’s film company “Web-View”. It should be remembered that this company claims it has the rights to the PR story and to the marketing of PR branded products.

      All in the name of freedom and democracy and an end to “Putinism” of course.


      • It is lovely to see Polozov publishing in the newspapers the instructions he received from his client. So much for the confidential relationship that is supposed to exist between a lawyer and his client. I suppose I should be past the point where anything about this case would astonish me but invariably something happens which does.

        Any self respecting lawyer who received instructions instructions to politicise a trial should refuse to act on that basis. Such an approach is totally incompatible with a lawyer’s duty to act in his client’s best interests. Any communication between a lawyer and a client is covered by the doctrine of professional privilege. A lawyer is not permitted to disclose what his client tells him even with the client’s agreement unless he has first obtained the prior permission of the Court. I happen to know from a Russian acquaintance who is also a lawyer that that is the practice in Russia just as it is in every other country that I know aboutl.

        A strategy whose purpose was to discredit the Russian legal system has ended in acrimony. Instead of the Russian legal system being discredited it is the lawyers who pursued this strategy who are being discredited. That is what I meant when I said that Russia has won a great legal and moral victory in this case. Western critics of Russia can spin it anyway they like. I don’t give a sausage for their opinion and nor should Russia. It is the opinion of the Russian people that matters and (since this is a Court case) that of the international legal community. They are reading and hearing what is happening and they will reach the correct conclusion.

        • yalensis says:

          Dear Alexander: Is there anything the Russian lawyers associations could do to punish these guys for their violation of client confidentiality?

          • Dear Yalensis,

            To answer your question: I don’t know what the practice is in Russia. If the same thing happened in Britain because of the seriousness of the case the action would probably be taken not by the professional association but by the Court. Lawyers who behaved in the way Feigin, Polozov and Volkova have behaved would not only face permanent revocation of their licence to practice but would also be facing prosecution for contempt of court and breach of confidence with a strong possiblity of a prison sentence. Bear in mind that they have now made public that their intention all along was to discredit the Court. If that is not contempt of court then I don’t know what is. A lawyer has an overriding duty to the Court and if a lawyer deliberately works to discredit the Court then the lawyer is undermining the very legal system that created him.

            Those are criminal sanctions. Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevitch could also bring a claim against the lawyers for very substantial compensation. In my opinion it goes far beyond mere negligence. By politicising the trial the lawyers acted deliberately against their client’s interests in a way that maximised the possibility of a prison sentence. It is that which makes me most angry. I would have thought that lawyers who acted in this way should be ordered to pay their clients a sum of money by way of compensation. It goes without saying that they should also be ordered to repay to their clients any profits they are making from the case including any profits from registering trade marks etc.

            The sad reality is that because this is Russia I doubt that any of this is going to happen. If it did Feigin, Polozov and Volkova and their fellow travellers would immediately say that they are victims of a “Kremlin crackdown” that sought to punish lawyers who defend opposition activists. No matter. It is enough that they have so completely discredited themselves. In legal circles they will never be taken seriously again.

            • Dear Yalensis,

              I would just add that a lawyer’s duty to keep a client’s correspondence confidential is one of the most sacred duties known to law. Suffice to say that in 30 years of work including time as a very senior adviser in Britain’s highest courts I have never known it violated. The idea that it could be violated in this casual way in order to score a point off one’s own client is almost unthinkable to me. In Britain that would certainly be treated as a serious criminal act by any lawyer who did it.

              • marknesop says:

                Wow; in handwriting, no less. I agree there can be little doubt they are authentic.

                • “…in handwriting, no less….”

                  A fact which I find highly incriminating. Why obtain from one’s clients written instructions of this sort? Why were the instructions provided in handwritten form?. Even if Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina did not have access to computers or typewriters in prison the normal practice would be for the lawyers to get any document they wanted their client to sign typed up in their office so that the client could be asked to sign the properly typed or printed document during the next meeting.

                  I have to say that iall productions of these documents does is make me think that the lawyers knew all along that what they were doing was wrong and obtained these instructions in this form in order to cover themselves for when they were criticised as they must have known they might be. That I am pretty sure would be what a British judge trying the lawyers would think.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                News is out that the first Pussy Riot book is soon to go on sale on line. The authorship of the book is, however, in dispute. There are claims that Tolokonnikova has written it, but Verzilov has already got his nose into the action and has categorically denied this, saying the work is an anthology made up of blog extracts. The publishers refuse to comment one way or the other.

                I wonder who shall reap the profits? Feigin’s wife I should think, if it is true that they have patented the PR brand.

                It should make stunning reading. I shall have to order a copy now so as to avoid dissappointment.


        • AK says:

          Alex, I accept that all that might be true, but I still think you’re letting the PR duo (I don’t count Sammy to be in the same league) off too lightly.

          They had started spreading the idea that politicization of the trial was something the lawyers did for their own careers and status in opposition circles, even though as those letters prove this politicization was done on Tolok’s and Alekhina’s own express wish. But now they turn round 180 and even threatened to sue the lawyers and try to have them debarred. At an intuitive personal level I can see why Polozov published those letters in Echo, I can even imagine that the lawyers feel betrayed to some extent (though the feeling is surely mutual what with Feigin’s non-ending attempts to profit off the brand). Though of course from a purely legal ethical point of view it might well be unaccceptable and even illegal as you say.

          My conclusion is that with the possible exception of Sammy they are all scum.

          • marknesop says:

            I think they’re all opportunistic, arrogant narcissists, Sammy included. She hasn’t stopped running her mouth since she got out, trying to stay relevant – although, to be fair, she is probably besieged with requests for interviews. I don’t blame the shyster lawyers for trying to cash in on such greedy, arrogant clients, so obviously swept away with themselves and ready to believe the west supported them for their “art” rather than because they offered an opportunity to kick the Russian government and the orthodox Church. The lawyers are scum, too, of course. But if all of them end up making big rocks into little ones, I certainly won’t lose any sleep.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            The one associate with PR that intrigues me most and who is still dancing about on the sidelines is Verzilov. Disowned publicly by Tolokonnikova and Alekhina, he regularly pops up with comments as the sorry PR tale continues to unfold. I’ve tried to find out more about his background, but draw blanks. When did he emigrate to Canada and who with? He is said to have lived with relatives in Toronto. There are records of which school he attended there. Why did he return to Russia? He studied at MGU. How did he achieve acceptance there? He dropped out of university or was he ejected? I think the latter, as reports show that he was in no way an industrious student. Is he really married (registered) to Tolokonnikova or is she his common law wife? Where and when did they team up? Certainly before they began studying philosophy at MGU. She lived with him in Canada and received a residency permit there. Verzilov is a Canadian citizen – or is he? If he is, how come? How long did he live there? He can’t have lived there for long. What of Verzilov’s immediate family? Did they emigrate to Canada as well? Are they still there?

            • Dear Anatoly,

              On your assessment of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina I totally agree. I always thought (in fact I think said it in a comment on your blog) that revolutionary fervour would quickly dim when they found themselves in prison and no longer the centre of attention and with no sign of the revolution taking place. Even then I am frankly astonished that the turnaround has happened so quickly. They have only been in prison a few months. After all the brave words at the trial it is pathetic. Far from being heroic revolutionaries in the mould of Chernyshevsky they come across as nothing more than a pair of hideously spoilt and appallingly behaved naughty children who throw another tantrum when they aren’t given what they want. Scum describes them well.

              If I seem to let this ghastly pair off lightly it is not because they deserve to be but because the lawyers bear an even greater responsibility for this shabby farce. Without their involvement it could never have happened in the way it did. In order to make it happen the lawyers have broken pretty much every rule in the book. They should never have gone along with it and as for their present feelings of betrayal they deserve exactly what they’ve got.

              PS: I should say that even more responsible than the lawyers were the Guardian and Amnesty International. Both the Guardian and Amnesty International were very obviously working very closely with the defence. It beggars belief that the Guardian and Amnesty International did not obtain legal advice and did not know exactly what was really going on. As we know they did everything possible within their very considerable power to aid the defence in its destructive strategy aimed at discrediting the Russian legal system. Their conduct was nothing short of loathsome. Unfortunately nothing will be done about them. They will simply walk away.

              • Misha says:

                People can get so set in their ways. On the bratty children bit, that’s something which is often, if not always related to a lack of proper parental guidance. On an adult scale, the more educated of people can nevertheless be misled by not substantively looking at a full range of pertinent views to an issue – something that can happen as a result of being subconsciously duped by one-sided presentations on a subject that a given person isn’t so well versed on. Pussy Riot appear to have been influenced into taking a certain stand.

                A recent informal exchange involving an academic from an institute that has had some of the more Russia friendly of elements in the US and yours truly:


                “Blasphemy” – however one defines it – should never be considered a “crime” or a punishable offense in a modern free society. Unless, of course, one aspires to turn back the clock to a puritanical, religio-centric, pre-Enlightenment age, as religious traditionalists and fundamentalists do. Moreover, why should religious beliefs and practices alone be immune from criticism and satire when virtually nothing else is, at least in genuine democracies that prize freedom of expression above all else (a characterization that does not yet apply to Russia). Of course, I doubt that Putin gives a damn about what offended Orthodox Christians think – he’s simply sending a message that there are still limits on freedom of expression in Russia, limits that the government is perfectly willing to enforce, even in the face of international criticism.

                Neither Pussy Riot nor the maker of the dopey anti-Muslim film in the US should have been penalized in any way by their governments for expressing controversial, “offensive” views. Even though the filmmaker in the US was arrested for other legal violations rather than for exercising his freedom of expression, since his opinions are justifiably protected by the First Amendment, he probably would not have been arrested at that particular juncture had not that ridiculous controversy over his film surfaced. The real problem, of course, is that certain puritanical groups of people (especially religious fanatics, but also “politically correct” leftists) cannot tolerate any criticism or satire and have no sense of humor. No one else should give a damn what such people think, since they have no right to curtail anyone else’s freedom of expression. Free societies cannot allow the most hyper-sensitive advocacy groups and activists within a given society to determine what the boundaries free expression are. And it is unconscionable for those societies to allow fanatics and humorless puritans in other societies, e.g., Islamist extremists and large numbers of Muslims living elsewhere who are apparently unable to tolerate any criticism of Islam in the West, no matter how trivial or how fanciful. As far as I’m concerned, people who cannot tolerate “offensive” speech should be told to “f*ck off” in no uncertain terms. And Putin has been deservedly criticized for sending anti-establishment people who are engaged in peaceful (albeit disruptive) protests to labor camps.



                The “paper of record” (The NYT) with the line about having “all the news that’s fit to print” hasn’t offered a full unedited transcript of Pussy Riot’s comments in the chapel whose sanctity they violated, as in not having permission to do what they did there. Much of the so-called free press didn’t carry PR’s stated slop because its lewdness isn’t considered acceptable.

                This isn’t a freedom issue, as they could’ve and in fact did perform their “art” elsewhere without getting arrested. They were looking to make a splash and got it.

                Like I noted, Youssef didn’t go into a mosque uninvited to air his film.

                BTW, in the UK, people have been arrested for saying offensive things in Tweets. The Canadian government has denied some law abiding people from Western countries entry into Canada for purely political reasons.

                FYI, Putin didn’t arrest and sentence Pussy Riot. Like it or not, Pussy Riot aren’t sympathetic figures in Russia, for reasons which I find quite understandable. Prior to the sentencing, Putin and some in the ROC were of the opinion that a light sentence should be accorded. Given the disrespectfully pious attitude of PR and its legal counsel, the sentence isn’t indicative of an extremely oppressive state. In fact, Pussy Riot could’ve been given a heavier sentence.

                I don’t disagree that one can find double standards and other imperfections in Russia (as is true elsewhere). Then again, it’s generally understood that it’s behind Western countries in civil liberties. Yet, some seem to hold it to higher standards.


                Well, as a countercultural person myself, I personally have no problem with “lewdness,” being “offensive,” or shocking “squares,” especially if one is trying to make a social and political commentary, and to me it’s irrelevant where PR engaged in its provocative theatrical protest. If the police wanted to charge them with entering private property illegally or some other minor offense, that would be one thing, and it certainly wouldn’t have resulted in them being sent to a labor camp. But obviously that wasn’t the case.

                With respect to the limitations on freedom of speech and expression that have periodically been imposed in some European countries, I am totally opposed to those as well. In fact, I’ve long argued that European democracies should all institute something akin to the First Amendment, which makes it very difficult to punish someone for exercising what should be legal or constitutional rights. I’m also opposed to the attempts by PC types to institute “hate speech” laws in the US. The bottom line is that I’m a free speech maximalist who believes that everyone should have a right to say things they want about political and social matters, no matter how “offensive” other people (myself included) find them. There is no right not to be offended in a free society – if there was, it wouldn’t be a free society, since virtually any important and controversial statement or action someone might make is bound to offend certain people and vested interests. Every day all kinds of things people say offend me, but I would never try to limit their right to say such things.

                With respect to double standards in Western media coverage, we are in agreement. Nor do I think that Russia should be held to higher standards than any other country, Western or otherwise.



                I’m not against people having the right to do such.

                However, doing it in my house and without permission is quite another thing – especially when I don’t agree with the given take. Ethically and legally speaking, the matter of “rights” isn’t a one way street.

                With their pious attitude and questionable legal representation in court topping things off, that’s the crux of the issue with Pussy Riot, as opposed to their not having the freedom to express themselves.

              • kirill says:

                You see the true nature of these oppositionists. They are not real revolutionaries because there is no reason and no support for a revolution. They are a species of negative celebrity that serves the anti-Russian agenda of foreign regimes who deign themselves masters of democracy and human rights (as long as they get the loot). These clowns are nothing like the people from 100 and more years ago. They have no substance and no real cause. Doing what they did in the church is analogous to crapping on somebody’s dinner table. It is simple meat-headed hooliganism from nihilists.

            • yalensis says:

              AND… (to continue with the soap-opera list of unanswered questions)… is Pete actually the biological father of Tolok’s child? And, if so, can he provide the DNA to prove it? Inquiring minds want to know…

              • Misha says:

                Soap opera “Russia watching”.

                To each his own, in tolerant (up to a point) recognition that there’re different points of interest out there, whilr also recognizing a comedic aspect to discussing the likes of Pete.

  29. kirill says:

    I liked the comment to this article:

    “Mikhail1228 The same NGO law as in the USA!!!
    21:42, 20/11/2012
    The Russian NGO law that the media is wailing about was written virtually verbatim from the US law. Some background supplied by the FEC: The goal of the 1966 US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was to “eliminate foreign intervention” in U.S. elections by establishing a series of limitations on foreign governments and nationals. In 1974, the prohibition was incorporated into the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), giving the FEC jurisdiction over its enforcement and interpretation.According to the FEC, FECA “prohibits any foreign national or government from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals or governments violate the ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.”So I guess if the Russian law is draconian so is the US law it was based upon!”

    • marknesop says:

      I made pretty much exactly the same argument at Jesse Heath’s Russia Monitor, here,

      and was told that they are different because the Foreign Agent Registration Act spells out that “a prosecutor would have to show the principal-agent nexus – it is not simply presumed based on the existence of financial support. Yes, an organization could claim it was organized for benign reasons, receive money from abroad, and actually do the bidding of its foreign masters in secret. But this is precisely what the prosecutor must disprove beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. U.S. law doesn’t shoehorn any organization that happens to receive money from foreign sources into a default suspicious category. ”

      Jesse is a lawyer, so he should know, although I’m not aware of his area of specialization. Anyway, his argument is that the Russian law simply brands everyone who receives foreign money as a foreign agent, while in the case of the American law, you would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the organization was BEING DIRECTED by a foreign government or principal. Comments?

      Meanwhile, I notice in Jesse’s Twitter feed an item which reports that “Activists scoff at new NGO Law”. So I guess you can deduce from that that they are either not as terrified by the government as they pretend to be when it suits them, or that the law is really not all that draconian.

      I also notice Alexander Cherkasov of the Memorial human rights organization, while refusing to use the “Foreign Agent” designator, says “[We]…will use all legal means possible, both national and international, to oppose this law”. So, evidently, the west will once more be invited to offer its opinion and mix in where Russian law is concerned.

      • Dear Mark,

        You are right and Jesse Heath is wrong. He is making a distinction which does not exist. It is the prosecutor who decides whether or not an NGO is being directed or is acting in the interests of a foreign power. If a prosecutor decides that it is there is no realistic possibility of any Court disagreeing with him. How does the NGO prove that it is not acting in the interests or under the direction of the foreign power that is funding it if the prosecutor says it is? The Russian law actually provides an NGO with a greater degree of protection by setting out a list of permissible activities which do not oblige an NGO to register as a foreign agent. All a Russian NGO seeking to avoid registration as a foreign agent needs to do is to show that its activities fall within one of those permissible activities, which is by definition a greater deal easier than persuading a court that it is not acting in the interests of or under the direction of a foreign power when the prosecutor says it is.

        For the rest I see absolutely nothing sinister about the list of permissible activities that Jesse Heath complains about. I would guess that the great majority of NGOs that work in Russia fall within those permissible activities. I notice by the way that Jesse Heath singles out the Russian Orthodox Church (I wonder why?) when the relevant permissible activitiy simply refers to religion. Overall I find it striking that Jesse Heath appears to find sinister and symptomatic of Russian paranoia the very thing about the law (the list of permissible exceptions) that I find most reassuring.

        With respect to Jesse Helms I cannot see anything in this law that can by any definition be described as an attack on civil society. What has done damage to civil society in Russia is not this law but the behaviour of the US which as part of its “democracy promotion” activity has brought the entire NGO sector into discredit. If the US did not conduct “democracy promotion” then the damage would not have been done and the reason for this law would not exist.

        • Dear Mark,

          To get some idea of the warped nature of the discussion, notice that Jesse Heath refers to an “analysis” of the law done by the Bellona agency, which he says is an environmental agency. The NGO law however expressly says that environmental protection falls within one of the range of permitted activities. If Bellona is therefore a genuine environmental protection agency it is not engaging in political activities and is not required to register as a foreign agent under the law.

          I would just add one last point. Jesse Heath complains that the requirement to register as a foreign agent ignores the stated purpose of the NGO in its charter. Surely though the reason for this is obvious? It is obviously intended to prevent the law being circumvented by a foreign government giving money to an NGO that engages in political activity but which is able to avoid registration as a foreign agent by claiming that it is engaged in some other permitted activity in its charter.

          • marknesop says:

            Thanks for that, Alex; legal stuff is mostly over my head. But it seemed clear that the list of exemptions was also pretty much based on FARA, which includes exemptions from registration as well. And it’s difficult to imagine how you could prove direction by a Foreign government, since they would not typically send you an email (although there was something to that effect sent to Golos) or commit instructions to any form likely to be intercepted.

            • Dear Mark,

              Here in fact is the complete text of FARA. The list of exceptions is set out on pages 261 and 262.


              As you can see the list of exceptions in FARA is both much more vague and much shorter than the list of exceptions in the Russian law.

              As for “proving direction by a foreign government”, the short answer is that the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove it in the way that Jesse Heath leads you think. This is where Jesse Heath with his claims about “proving beyond reasonable doubt” is being misleading. Lawyers have an expression “bullshit baffles brains” and here we have a prime example of it. Obviously if the prosecutor had to provide 100% categorical proof that an NGO was acting in the interests or was being directed by a foreign power then this would almost always be impossible. However the same is true of proving almost anything. Very few things can be proved 100% and in the real world the law and the Courts do not work like that. What the prosecutor would actually do (and by prosecutor we of course mean the Justice Department bringing a claim on the basis of information provided by the FBI) is put before the Court evidence (eg. foreign funding) that it said showed that the NGO was being directed and was acting in the interests of a foreign power. At that point the burden of proof would shift to the NGO, which would have to show that despite what the prosecutor was saying and despite the evidence that the prosecutor was providing, the prosecutor’s contention that the NGO was acting in the interests of or under the direction of a foreign power was wrong. The difficulty in doing this is obvious. What it amounts to is a demand that the NGO prove a negative, which is extremely difficult to do.

              By contrast the Russian law provides a much fuller list of allowable exceptions. All a Russian NGO seeking to avoid registration would have to do is show that its work falls within the scope of one of these much more numerous exceptions. Since this amounts to proving a positive for which there would be evidence based on the work the NGO is actually doing the task would be much easier.

              The Russian NGO law clearly has to some extent been modelled on FARA. However as a much more modern law it is actually clearer and more straightforward and provides more practical safeguards than FARA does. Not for the first time it seems to me that the relevant Russian law is actually more liberal than the western law it is compared with.

              • I would just finish this cycle of comments by making again the obvious point that all the new NGO law actually does is impose greater transparency. Surely it is in the Russian public interest for the Russian people to know that an agency like Golos that assumes the right to “correct” published election results is being funded in whole or in part from abroad? Knowing this the Russian people are better placed to assess its activities. In what sense is providing the Russian people with more information an attack on Russian civil society? It is those who want to keep this information from the Russian public and to conceal from the Russian people the sources of funding of agencies like Golos that one should be concerned about.

          • kirill says:

            Bellona is a PAC and would hardly be an objective evaluator of this law. It’s stance on nuclear power makes its claims about caring for the environment a joke. While all these do-gooders engage in fear mongering over nuclear power the planet is going to hell in a hand-basket on account of fossil fuel burning induced AGW. Even with a Chernobyl every 25 years we would be infinitely better off electrifying transport and shutting down coal power plants completely. Bellona, Greenpeace, etc all engage in anti-nuclear propaganda by making ludicrous claims about the death toll from Chernobyl (e.g. over 100,000 and maybe 1,000,000). These numbers are simple nonsense, but it requires time and effort to understand this and most media consumers will not go through the bother. Coal power plants kill more worldwide (through health effects of poor air quality and cancer from the heavy metals and radiation they emit, the latter is from thorium and uranium in the coal) than all of the nuclear accidents since the 1950s.

        • kirill says:

          Thank you for a counter-balancing opinion. The law may be opaque to the layman, but there is logic underneath and the claims by Heath do not stand up to scrutiny.

          As with anything else pertaining to Russia, no facts stand in the way of outrageous claims. One has to wonder at this sharks smelling blood in the water mentality in the west. Do they really think Russia is so weak that some hate spew will destroy it? What’s the basis of this psychological complex? I can’t find anything in the western history books that would make Russia merit this sort of hate. Based on the west’s history it should be hating itself the most.

          • Dear Kirill,

            Thanks for this. I agree with you also on the subject of nuclear power and on the scaremongering and misreporting of the Chernobyl accident. The latter is a major scandal bringing together militant anti nuclear activists and western Russophobes in what can only be called an unholy alliance.

            I would just say that just as I think the Russian NGO law is a perfectly reasonable law so I think FARA is. The problem with FARA is not the law itself but the wholly arbitrary way in which it is administered. It is a continuing scandal that AIPAC, which works in the interests of and under the direction of a foreign power is not required to register as a foreign agent. Also Mark’s comment on Jesse Heath’s discussion thread that it is unfair to criticise as “whataboutism” a perfectly reasonable comparison between a Russian law and the western law on which it is based is also one I agree with.

  30. Moscow Exile says:

    And now for something completely different…

    Just happened upon this in today’s MT: Ben Aris’s take on the Great Patriotic War 1812, at the beginning of which he says Buonaparte was defeated by the Russian winter, whereas at the end he asks how did the Russian army win?

    So who won: the Russian winter or the Russian army?

    And he compares Alexander I’s Russia with “Putin’s Russia”, a “corrupt, disorganized, wasteful state” that is not a “normal country”.

    Clearly Aris has not read Domenic Lieven’s “Russia Against Napoleon” or a host of other books that do not follow the Russia’s-greatest-general-is-General-Winter line.


    Two weeks ago, whilst standing with my family beneath the soaring Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, I pointed out to my 13-year-old son that the names inscribed in the stonework were the places of all the Corsican tyrant’s victories. I told him that the French word for Moscow is “Moscou” and that he would find “Moscou” there somewhere or other. Puzzled, he asked me why “Moscow”. I told him that the Battle of Moscow is what the French call the Battle of Borodino.

    He went nuts and said “Ничего на хуй они не победили!”

    Unfortunately, I was shooting a video of him and the gang when he said this and it is now all recorded for posterity loudly and clearly. I say “for posterity” because I don’t want to delete it: I got some good shots, including a sweeping view of the Champs-Élysées.

    He must have picked up his bad mouthing off his mother.

    • kirill says:

      What some twat called Aris thinks is not worth much. He will claim that Stalin sent human waves to defeat Hitler and will also claim the T-34 was a piece of junk that only had an effect because it was mass produced unlike the vastly superior Tiger I. No matter what these retards say they will come off sounding like retards. What they are engaged in is a type of lying and lies tend to get convoluted and self-contradictory.

      I note once again the revealing pattern of western coverage of Russia which is totally anti-correlated with the facts on the ground. Now that we see a crack down on defense sector corruption in Russia we have various bleaters going on about corruption. When the corruption is dominating the country, literally, as in the 1990s we have deafening silence on the subject from these clowns. During the 1930s there was a strong chorus of praise for the USSR. That was when millions were sent off to the gulags and died from forced collectivization. After WWII and 1956 specifically, we had the cold war when the lives of Russians had become vastly more free and better.

      The notion of “normal country” is the same BS as “whataboutism” and “Godwin’s Law”. Little retarded talking point crutches for people who can’t prove their case.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        This takes some beating for ” Russian expert” gobbledygook:

        “[Putin] is preparing Russians for something else. Whatever this means is very difficult to say.”

        The “expert” quoted above is a certain Alexander Rahr, who attended the latest Valdai Discussion Club.


        Rahr is German. See:

        Key points for those who know little German:

        Alexander Rahr studied history at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitity Munich, was an analyst in the Radio Liberty and Rand Corporation [instrumental in defining U.S. military strategy] think tanks. Since 2012 he has been Senior Advisor at Wintershall Holding Ltd. [Welche Überraschung! This is Germany's biggest gas and oil corporation] and is an advisor to the president of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce. For 18 years Rahr has worked for the German Foreign Policy Association. He is an honorary professor at the Moscow School of Diplomacy and at the Higher School of Economics [Again - what a surprise!], Moscow. He is the author of numerous books about Russia, such as biographies of Mikhail Gorbachev (1985) and Vladimir Putin (2000). He is a member of the Russian Valdai Club and the Ukrainian network Yalta European Strategy (YES).

        Verdammter Arschloch!

        I other words, he sounds

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Las bit above was a lost cluster!

        • Misha says:

          Rahr has gotten mixed reviews. I’ll check his Wiki bio. I understand that he’s of White Russian background. Some of the off record comments on Rahr say that at times, he seems to do what can be termed as a bit of mainstreaming for the elites. If so, he goes a bit too much in that direction IMO.

          • I find that Rahr often writes about Russia in a reasonably intelligent way. By the abysmal standards of western analysts of Russia he counts for a reasonably good analyst. That is only a very qualified endorsement.

            As for Ben Aris’s article on the 1812 war, what is it if not the usual regurgitation of Russophobic tropes? Russia is corrupt, Russia is inefficient, Russia is poor (even though it is actually rich), its people are simultaneously bloody minded and apathetic, its leadership is ruthless and callous and self seeking and is indifferent to human life, Russia’s army is useless, its generals (Kutuzov of all people!) are idle and useless and if westerners are unable to understand Russia it is because Russian policy is irrational. Russia also never changes so it has been the same under Alexander I, Stalin and Putin and always will be until the end of time. If Russia wins its wars (which by the way it nearly always does) this is in spite of it being Russia and is purely because of extraneous factors for which the Russians deserve no credit such as the overwhelming Russian superiority in numbers (untrue), the harshness of the Russian winter (though Russians have to cope with the winter too) and the “enormous distances” of the Russian landscape (ditto).

            I am not going to bother to refute this nonsense. As Moscow Exile says anyone who wants to only has to read Dominic Lieven’s excellent book. Instead I would like to ask two questions (1) about what other country and people would it be permissible to write in this way without triggering (justified) charges of racism? and (2) why is such nonsense published in a Russian newspaper without people protesting about it?

      • Misha says:

        I saw a recent documentary on one of the two American cable TV channels, regularly engaged on military matters.

        In one segment on the WW II Western Front, a US Sherman tank vet gives the opinion that the German tanks were better but far too few to win on the Western Front.

        There’s something to be said about quality German weapons and military personnel, meshed in with what appears to be some rather stupid military planning – especially in hindsight.

        Categorizing the T-34 as junk is absurd.

    • Misha says:

      Peter Lavelle has done some gentle RT bits with Aris and Ellen Barry – the latter being author of the above NYT patriotism piece.

      I’m not suggesting these folks should be beaten. To use the ice hockey expression, there’s a basis for wanting to see some good clean hits.

      There’s no Gordon (pardon any misspell) Ramsey like show on media.

    • yalensis says:

      Dear Exile: Don’t you know your kid was quoting from a heretofore unknown verse of Lermontov’s famous poem. Censors had suppressed this verse for many years…

      Ничего на хуй они не победили…

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Right! I thought it sounded familiar. Iambic pentameter is it not?

        • yalensis says:

          И вот нашли большое поле:
          Есть разгуляться где на воле!
          Построили редут.
          У наших ушки на макушке!
          Чуть утро осветило пушки
          И леса синие верхушки —
          Французы тут-как-тут.

          Забил заряд я в пушку туго
          И думал: угощу я друга!
          Постой-ка, брат, мусью:
          Что тут хитрить, пожалуй к бою;
          Уж мы пойдем ломить стеною,
          Уж постоим мы головою
          За родину свою!

    • marknesop says:

      It is a matter of historical record that the strategy of drawing Napoleon deeper and deeper into Russia was established and settled upon more than a year in advance of the opening shots, when it became clear through discussions at Napoleon’s court that he was bent upon invasion. Likewise established as a matter of record was the plan to steadily retreat before Napoleon without allowing him to bring the Russian Army to an all-or-nothing battle, because to do so would invite defeat as that was Napoleon’s strength and his forces were formed around that strategy. Time after time he sought to pin the Russian Army and crush it, and he was unable to do so because the Russian Army followed the plan that was arrived upon well in advance. Wellington used the same tactic, to great success and acclaim, and the Russian strategy was largely based upon Wellington’s tactics. Strangely, nobody argues Wellington was a dolt and a retard, and that he fled like a schoolgirl before his enemies or that it was the weather that defeated them rather than Wellington’s brilliance.

  31. Robert says:

    The myth of General Winter dies hard. In reality Napoleon lost more men on the advance to Moscow than the retreat and the winter was relatively mild – it was the thaw that created the great crisis of the Berezina.

    • kirill says:

      The main battle of the Russian campaign was at Borodino and that was on September 7th ( Napoleon got defeated by General Fall who was a mercenary for the Russians :)

    • marknesop says:

      The average proponent of the General Winter theory doesn’t seem to grasp that Napoleon couldn’t make a lunge for Moscow in his armored vehicles, and decide the battle virtually overnight like the drive to Baghdad. The principal means of advance, for both cavalry and heavy guns, was the horse. Horses need to be fed and rested, and if they don’t get both, they die, at which point they’re only good for eating. By constantly fighting Napoleon’s forces but never allowing him the decisive, crushing battle he wanted, the Russians drew Napoleon through country already picked clean of food and forage by the retreating Russian Army.

      But the single strongest argument against “General Winter” was that the invasion began in June, and Napoleon entered Moscow in mid-September. By the time winter really took hold, Napoleon was already retreating; the retreat began in October. While it’s true the winter inflicted tremendous casualties, it took its toll of a beaten Army.

      The people who snicker that retreating is the coward’s way and that the Russians should have stood and fought are probably the same who sneered because the Republican Guard would not come out of Baghdad in parade order to meet the Americans, so they could be completely destroyed by air power. Fortunately, few of such people reach command of military forces and most have no military experience at all.

      • kirill says:

        If some dear western country used these tactics they would be hailed as brilliant. There is simply nothing honest about people who sneer this way. They are bile filled bigots who have a pseudo-racist agenda. The Russian untermenschen can never do right. So such people should have the same ‘tude thrown right back at them. You can’t debate history and science with a bunch of teenage-like snots who are not interested in facts or reasoned exchange.

        • marknesop says:

          In fact, as I pointed out, a western country – or what was to become a western country – did use those tactics: Wellington, for Britain. And they were hailed as brilliant, as is any strategy – no matter how pointless or stupid – which succeeds, as this is the only true measure of brilliant strategy. Alexander’s strategy was largely modeled on Wellington’s, a fact of which most British historians are acutely aware. I need hardly mention that the likes of Luke Harding are not historians.

      • Robert says:

        Spot on about the horses Mark. In fact Napoleon lost so many horses in the 1812 campaign that his logistics and reconaissance ability was seriously impaired from then on which made a significant contribution to his defeats in 1813 -14

        • marknesop says:

          The overall quality of the Russian mounts by comparison was also positively remarked upon by British observers of the campaign, who appeared to be making a dispassionate anaysis without favouritism.

        • yalensis says:

          “When we assembled in the morning, my company was 25 privates strong, and all companies were more or less of this size. The march went forth to the right from behind the eastern side of the city, and we moved past the city on the south. There were two bridges thrown across the river below us, and the smoke from the flames surged up behind us. Up on the heights past the bridge to the left of the road stood a cloister in which there was a flour storeroom where everyone fetched as much as he could carry. Beyond the bridge there was a cabbage patch where millions of cabbage heads were still standing; it pained me not to be able to take along even one of these heads, since I fully expected the utmost famine.”

          The suffering on the retreat is so well known that we tend to overlook the recent suffering on the advance: heat, hunger, exhaustion. We also hear about the plunder the army carried off from Moscow and that image overshadows what the men must have been thinking: ‘This march is going to be worse.’ Walter knows he will regret leaving those cabbage behind.

          At the Kaluga Gate
          Moscow, 19 October
          by Faber du Faur
          Faber du Faur wrote the following description to accompany his painting, “The Emperor had busied himself with preparations for our departure for a good number of days The sick and wounded were dispatched towards Mojaisk and Smolensk, those too ill to make the journey being place in the Foundling Hospital to be cared for by the army’s medical personnel. Dismounted cavalry, to the number of 4,000 men, were organized into four battalions. Army corps were passed in review by the Emperor; it was the turn of the Imperial Guard and, on the 18th, that of Ney’s divisions [IIIrd Corps]. As these latter were being reviewed, news arrived that Murat had been surprised and had sustained heavy losses around Vinkovo. The review was, it is true, completed, but, as we filed out of the Kremlin heading for our quarters in the German Quarter, we received orders to quit Moscow the following day. Thus it was that on the 19th we set out on the march that would result in the annihilation of the entire army. The troops were set in motion before dawn and, keeping the Young Guard and the four battalions of dismounted cavalry in the Kremlin as a rearguard under [Édouard Adolphe Casimir Joseph] Mortier, filed out of the city through the Kaluga Gate. The streets were crowded – in fact stuffed fit to burst – as corps ran into corps. Time after time the way was blocked by disorganized convoys, for 500 guns, 2,000 wagons, drawn by exhausted horses, and countless carts and vehicles of all types and from all nations, loaded with booty or supplies, accompanied the army and slowed it down.”

      • Jen says:

        Interesting that Napoleon’s retreat began in October because that month is when many people start experiencing winter depression blues or winter-based seasonal affective disorder. That would have hit a demoralised army short on food, clothes and medicines hard. Combine that with having to return to France the way they had come so the path already trodden would still be strewn with devastation. I daresay many soldiers’ deaths would have been the result of “slow suicide”.

        There was a mass grave of about 2,000 soldiers from Napoleon I’s army found in Vilnius in 2002 and evidence has been found that about one third of them died from louse-borne diseases.

        • marknesop says:

          I didn’t know that, although various forms of disease exacted many more casualties in those times than they do of modern armies, with (usually) a superior battlefield medical capability as well as (also usually) rapid evacuation to second-line medical facilities.

          The main issue of debate is the suggestion that Russia simply got lucky, and that Napoleon simply got unlucky – that had he not had to face the Russian winter, he would have won. The facts suggest otherwise, and strongly support a view that had the Russian Army met Napoleon in a winner-take-all battle as Napoleon wished, they would have been crushed and Napoleon would have been triumphant. The winter was very much secondary to Napoleon’s defeat, and in fact he was defeated the moment he offered terms to Alexander upon the taking of Moscow, and they were rejected. Napoleon could go no further.

          But it is certainly likely that disease and pestilence played a role on both the advance and retreat. This, incidentally, is one of the reasons for the massive land armies of the day – Commanders had to factor in massive losses from things we rarely have to worry much about today.

        • yalensis says:

          Most of these 2,000 soldiers died from hunger and even despair outside the walls of Vilnius. They had marched there in incredible pain and suffering, many of the skeletons were those of teenagers whose foot bones were fractured from the constant marching and pounding (no horses left). Vilnius was their last hope, they hoped to find warmth and food, and surcease from the constant torment of the lice. Instead, the townspeople of Vilnlius locked the walls and shut them out. With nowhere else to go, the youthful soldiers simply laid down and died en masse outside the walls of Vilnius.

          • Misha says:

            Offhand, I wonder what the ethnic demography was like there then?

            I’m sure there was a noticeable Slavic Orthodox Christian and Jewish element, meshed with some Poles who might not have been pro-Napoleon.

            Awhile back, a Russoscentic Ukrainian I know made mention of a painting depicting Jews, who welcomed anti-Napoleon Russian forces as heroes – a theme which isn’t so popular with certain folks who prefer propping a different image.

            • Jen says:

              Napoleon I’s army itself was made up of different nationalities drawn from the lands he conquered and held and might by a long stretch of the imagination be likened to NATO. Soldiers from Polish and German-speaking territories made up a large part of the army.

              No idea of what nationality or ethnic group people in the region crossed by the Grande Armée might have been but in the early 1810s, nationalism was not yet a very significant ideal in many parts of Europe. People tended to define themselves more by their religion than by what language they spoke. As an example, a Greek-speaking Orthodox Christian would self-identify as Greek whereas a Greek-speaking Muslim would self-identify as a Turk. I think for Vilnius at least in those times, a large part of the city’s population was ethnically Polish and Polish-speaking, and another part was Jewish by religion and Yiddish-speaking. There might have been German speakers and even some Tatars. Lithuanians were mostly peasants then and not many would have lived in Vilnius.

              Incidentally Kaliningrad wouldn’t have been very far away and that city, then known as Konigsberg, was mostly German speaking. The city changed over from German to Russian after the Second World War.

              I think also that Polabian, a language related to Polish, might still have been spoken in some areas in Prussia at the time. Parts of eastern Germany and what used to be Prussia were bilingual in German and a Slavic language (Polabian, Pomeranian) for several hundred years until the late 1700s / early 1800s. I am not sure but Lithuanian or some very old dialects of Baltic might also have been spoken in parts of White Russia (modern Belarus) at the time.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                I worked with a “Pole” once who said he was a Masurian.


              • Misha says:

                One of several pieces on the 200th anniversary in question:


                Prior to WW II, Vilnius had a substantial Jewish, Polish and (to an extent) Slavic Orthodox Christian population. In recent history, the Lithuanian presence in Vilnius becomes more noticeable after Molotov-Ribbentrop.

                There’s data on the very substantial non-French makeup of Napoleon’s Russian campaign army, which included tens of thousands of Poles – a figure that has been put in the 90,000 to just under 100,000 range.

                Someone recently suggested a likeness between Napoleon and the neocons.

                In contrast, why not liken Napoleon to Hitler? Some might be inclined to liken the neocons with the Nazis.

                There’s such a thing as an overly-stretched analogy.

                On the surface, Napoleon and the neocons had/have a view to get militarily involved abroad to influence change for the better (as they saw/see things).

                Unlike much of the lead neocon advocates, Napoleon came from a military background.

                Like the Nazis, Napoleon militarily attempted to conquer Russia by relying on a good number of foreigners. The neocons haven’t quite articulated such an advocacy.

                In short, the likening of Napoleon with the neocons doesn’t come across as a great intellectual thought that should be bowed down to with considerable acknowledgement.

                • yalensis says:

                  Napoleon was originally considered a lefty,and supported the aims of the French Revolution. He had a lot of Jacobin friends; even after the counter-revolution, and even after Napoleon made himself Emperor, he still had a soft spot for Jacobins. In fact, he provided them with protection against the extreme anti-Jacobins of the counter-revolution.
                  During his initial conquests, Napoleon carried on a more or less “left-wing” policy, freeing serfs, rewriting laws, modernizing, etc etc. He might have been a Freemason, I’m not sure about that. Needless to say, by the time 1812 rolled around, there was very little “lefty” left in him, and it is dubious that he had any intentions of freeing the Russian or Ukrainian serfs. In any case, it would be a mistake to call him a neo-con, because that term had no meaning at the time. The big dividing line then was pro-aristocrat vs. pro-bourgeoisie.

                • Jen says:

                  One of Napoleon I’s aims in conquering Russia was to “free” Poland in its old Polish-Lithuanian form as the Duchy of Warsaw. Of course the idea was to re-establish the country under indirect French control which would have included “modernising” the country with laws based on French laws.

                  Also Napoleon I had just come off a long and costly invasion of Spain and Portugal which sapped his army’s morale and left him looking bad in French public opinion at the time. The French campaign in Iberia overlapped with Napoleon I’s invasion of Russia so in a sense the French, like Germany in the 1940s, were fighting wars on two fronts. Also like Hitler as WWII dragged on, Napoleon I suffered health problems including obesity and his judgement must have been affected.

                  As an aside, just as Japan’s campaigns in WWII discredited British, Dutch and French colonial rule in much of Asia and encouraged colonised people to fight for independence more actively after 1945, so too the French campaign in Iberia over 1807 – 1814 led to Spain and Portugal’s colonies in Latin America making a run for their freedom when they saw their chance. Also the French invasion of Spain had one good effect: under French rule, the Spanish Inquisition was abolished. (After 1814, when the French were driven out, the Spanish king brought it back!)

                  While not intending to liken Napoleon I to neocons or the Project for the New American Century in my earlier remark, I note, and many others have too, that many “rebels” in the Free Syria Army have come from Libya and Iraq. Also if you Google Benghazi+consulate+Syria, the search engine digs up an astonishing number of websites linking the Benghazi consulate in Libya to arms shipments to Syria. So while NATO or the PNAC crowd haven’t officially articulated a policy of hiring foreigners to fight in Syria and to aiding them as well, they haven’t officially opposed such a policy either.

                • Misha says:

                  No small wonder why the French lost the appetite to support Napoleon, by the time the allied forces against him marched into Paris – when Russia established itself as the leading land power in Europe.

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear Jen: Good point about the Syrian “rebels” association with the Libya rebels and the Benghazi attack. This is one of those many cases of NATO neo-colonialists backing pseudo-revolutionaries (usually medieval jihadists) to further the geo-strategic goals of the West.

              • Misha says:

                There’s still a sizeable ethnic Polish population in Vilnius. As the Soviet Union was in the process of breaking up, it was reported that Lithuania’s Polish and Slavic Orthodox Christian population were by and large against Lithuania becoming independent. (I don’t have any actual data on this particular that’s immediately available)

                If true, that contrasts with the situations in Latvia and Estonia, where the Russian speaking non-Latvian/non-Estonian population generally favored independence. The post-Soviet era has seen Lithuania with less complaints of discrimination when contrasted with Latvia and Estonia.

                Estonians and Latvians appear less secure than Lithuanians. This seems to be greatly influenced by Lithuania having a more homogeneous population, which doesn’t feel as threatened.

                • marknesop says:

                  I still think Napoleon was one of the greatest – and most enlightened – military leaders of all time and certainly of his own time. He made a big mistake invading a country the size of Russia, but it could so easily have gone the other way and if he could have pinned the Russian Army against some natural feature – a mountain, a river they could not cross – (as he constantly sought to do) so that they had to stand and fight, he would most likely have crushed it.

                  He still lost, and lost big, but I think it puts paid to the cheap sloganeering of the French as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”.

                • Misha says:

                  I’m nevertheless glad that he didn’t prevail in 1812, in conjunction with the belief that Russia wouldn’t have been better off had he won.

                • marknesop says:

                  I quite agree. I just think some nations are prone to forget the past military greatness of others in their rapture over their own current greatness, and to airily dismiss or mock those others as if their current military dominance was less transitory and would last forever. That’s not a very sensible practice, when it costs nothing to be polite.

                • Jen says:

                  If Napoleon I had succeeded in defeating Russia and been able to replace Alexander I with a tsar under his control, then hypothetically Napoleon I could have been emperor across three continents (Europe, Asia, North America) since Alaska and Fort Ross (near where San Francisco now located) were part of the Russian empire at the time. This would have brought Russia, and with it France, into conflict with the United States which had acquired a whole slab of New France (territory extending from Louisiana and Mississippi river up to and including Montana state near the Canadian border) from Napoleon I in 1803.

                  Possibly under Napoleon I, Russia might have freed its serfs earlier than 1861, introduced a new legal code based on the Napoleonic Code and modernised its political structures, state bureaucracy and military. All hypothesis of course.

                  He was some feller, that Napoleon Bonaparte.

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear Mark: I agree with you about Napoleon, and I also don’t like when people diss the French. Sure, they lost a couple of wars, but so did the Germans, and nobody calls Germans “surrender-monkeys”. Hell, everybody has lost a war or two, even Russia.

                  (Allude to Russian national epic, “The Tale of Igor’s Regiment”, which is about one of Russia’s worst military defeats ever, at the hands of the Polovtsi.)

                • “…everybody loses wars….”

                  Including of course the Americans whose military record since the end of the Second World War has few clear cut victories to show and has seen several outright defeats.

                • Misha says:

                  On the idea of a Napoleon occupied Russia being possibly better for Russia (with one particular noting the serfs), perhaps a hypothetical Napoleon occupied US and some other areas would be a plus.

                  I lean with the Russian consensus on the matter of Napoleon. Imperial arrogance has included the notion that a given dominating power is more “advanced” (at times either hyped and/or misrepresented) than the territory/people it occupies. This way of thinking has been noted vis-a-vis Russia with Central Asia. The difference betwen that example and Russia-France is that Russia had a substantially greater success against the major powers than the not so united Central Asia, which (without meaning to come across as being chauvinist) didn’t exhibit a similar prowess.

                  Napoleon entered Russia on not so positive terms. In contrast, the Russian entry into Paris didn’t meet the same level of animosity. The reason for this comparison arguably relates to Napoleon’s shortcomings. Yalensis essentially noted two Napoleons, with the latter variant not coming across as being as positive.

                • marknesop says:

                  I did say I thought Napoleon was among the most enlightened leaders of his time, but it is also a fact that Russian officers were much in evidence at court in Paris, and were treated as every bit the equal of their native counterparts. Russia at the time was, at least among the aristocracy, among the most civilized and advanced societies of its day. It is actually no less so now, although some authors persist in portraying it as struggling to emerge from barbarism and savagery, and playing up the difference in the standard of living with western countries. I imagine if you carefully examined western societies you would find the proportion of poor among them as high or greater than in Russia, and poverty is poverty wherever it occurs. It makes little practical difference if your income equates to among the high middle class in Russia if the median income in your country is five times that, as your buying power is similar.

      • Jen says:

        Found this graph by Charles Joseph Minard in the Wikipedia article on the French invasion of Russia showing that the Grand Armée had lost over three quarters of its soldiers by the time Napoleon I reached Moscow.

  32. Moscow Exile says:

    It was the same with the German army in 1941: its tanks stopped literally in their tracks in the fall of that year. Furthermore, contrary to popular imagery of the “world’s greatest fighting machine”, the huge bulk of German army transportation in 1941 was done by horseflesh. As has already been pointed out: horses need forage, and there was precious little of it in the territory through which the Germans and their allies advanced during Operation Barbarossa, just as there was for Napoleon’s forces in 1812. Again and again I read this tiresome General Winter twaddle about campaigns in Russia and there is always this suggestion that Russians are not affected by sub-zero temperatures because they’re used to it, which supposition falls in line with the one that they are “not the same as us”.

    In Russia, the worst parts of the year are for me, without any doubt whatsoever, late fall and late spring. Russians call the latter “dirty spring”: in both cases there is mud and dirt and grime everywhere and the roads are almost unpassable, which fact I experienced only yesterday as I struggled to my dacha to do a final check on the plumbing before “General Winter” arrives very shortly with a vengeance.

    • wanderer says:

      “Again and again I read this tiresome General Winter twaddle about campaigns in Russia and there is always this suggestion that Russians are not affected by sub-zero temperatures because they’re used to it, which supposition falls in line with the one that they are “not the same as us”.”

      Thing is, they were not the same. Unfortunately for Russophobes, in 1941 they were better than the “advanced, civilized Western countries.”

      1) In 1941, two divisions of the Imperial Japanese Army sufficed to rout the numerically superior combined US-Filipino forces in the Philippines and capture the powerful naval fortress of Manila. Also in 1941, two divisions of the Imperial Japanese Army sufficed to rout numerically superior British Empire forces in Malaya and capture the powerful naval fortress of Singapore. In 1939, two divisions of the Imperial Japanese Army got enveloped and annhilated by the Soviet Army at Khalkhin-Gol.

      2) In 1940, the German Army was able to utterly crush or put to headlong flight Western armies numbering nearly four million in six weeks. Those Western armies were able to kill ~27,000 German troops in the process. In 1941, the 2.7 million Soviet troops in the border Military Districts killed over 83,000 German troops in the first 7 weeks of Barbarossa.

      • Dear Wanderer,

        These are very true points.

        The Germans were not prepared for the winter because no one (including the General Staffs of the US and UK) expected the Red Army to still be in contention beyond the summer. We now know that as early as August 1941 the German leadership was becoming increasingly worried that the campaign was going seriously wrong. Around this time Hitler began speaking publicly to his staff about Stalin being “a great man”.

        • Jen says:

          Dear Alexander,

          I think also that the German government believed that the Red Army would be a pushover as Hitler and his advisors were aware that the Soviet military had been purged of many of its senior officers in the late 1930s. The Germans probably thought they could catch the Soviets unawares before they had a chance to build up a new senior officer level in their army. This might have been the belief also among the US and UK General Staffs.

          • Misha says:

            The Soviet-Finnish War has been used as an example of Germany not thinking much of the Red Army. The Red Army eventually prevailed in that war, albeit with some problems in the beginning.

            Around the same time, The Red Army appeared more impressive against the Japanese.

            Likely factors:

            – taking the Japanese more seriously than the Finns
            – the military in the Soviet fareast might’ve (requires further study) not received the brunt of the purges – Zhukov was stationed in the fareast.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Hitler was nothing if not fixed in his ideas and the theories and opinions that he dictated and had published in the two volumes of Mein Kampf in 1925/26 had already been formed over a decade earlier when he was a Viennese bum and, later, a frontline soldier in WWI. The Russian Empire that collapsed like a house of cards in 1917 was the only Russia he knew of; the Russian military that got the run-around off the German army on the WWI eastern front was the Russian army that was permanently fixed in his imagination, hence his statement immediately prior to Operation Barbarossa: “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down”.

              Well it didn’t.

              As regards Russians being more tolerant to sub-zero conditions than Western Europeans are – something that some commentators seem endlessly to suggest whenever the failure of the Germans and their allies on the Eastern Front is discussed – Soviet troops certainly suffered from frostbite during the Soviet-Finnish War, but they learnt their lesson the hard way and were well prepared for winter offensives when the Germans and their allies attacked the USSR in 1941, which is further evidence that Russians are not that dumb and inherently disorganised and innefficient, another thinlly veiled suggestion that again often appears whenever the German defeat by the USSR is talked about.

              For a US military man’s point of view on “General Winter”, see the abridged extract in the linked site below:


              • Misha says:

                A Russian army in WW I, which nevertheless gave the Germans some problems as German sources reveal.

                Besides that, there were earlier Russian victories against the Teutons and Prussians. The film on Nevsky familiarized a good number on the former. Not much is known on the latter, on account of pre-Soviet Russian history being influenced on the idea of a stumbling/bumbling entity which can’t be given too much credit.

                In WW II, Nazi bigotry made it impossible for Germany to utilize anti-Soviet Russian opposition, along the lines of how the Germans in WW I utilized Lenin.

                The Rusisan Empire had a much longer period than the Soviet Union. As previously noted, I’m glad to see some of the ideoligically motivated anti-Russian Empire accounting go in the opposite direction in post-Soviet Russia – while also looking for balance in reviewing such matter.

                • wanderer says:

                  “In WW II, Nazi bigotry made it impossible for Germany to utilize anti-Soviet Russian opposition, along the lines of how the Germans in WW I utilized Lenin.”

                  Well after Russia’s military and economic defeat in that war.

                  Again, Averko, when the bakeries in your capital city have nothing in them except “No Bread” signs, it means you have lost the war, and this occurred long before Lenin left Switzerland.

                  “The Rusisan Empire had a much longer period than the Soviet Union. As previously noted”

                  Imperial Russia’s war record against advanced industrial opponents: 0-2.
                  Soviet Russia’s war record against advanced industrial opponents: 2-0.

                • Misha says:

                  Wandy, you again ignore the point of how catastrophic it would’ve been for the USSR to launch the kind of offensive into Germany in the earliest part of the Nazi-Soviet war regarding what the Russian Empire did in WW I.

                  The comparative point on how the WW I era Germany used Lenin versus Nazi Germany not having as great a geopolitical usage stance towards anti-Stalin Russians remains.

                  Your score keeping is of a certain ideological mindset that doesn’t give an accurate picture. America lost in Southeast Asia. That loss nurtured some American self analysis (of varying types), short of a dramatic revolution. On the verge of WW I, the Bolsheviks were nowhere close to coming to power. WW I and how Russia chose to fight that war created the conditions for their eventual takeover. Meantime, it’s sheer crock to unquestionably believe that Russia had to go Bolshevik or bust to advance itself.

                • wanderer says:

                  “Wandy, you again ignore the point of how catastrophic it would’ve been for the USSR to launch the kind of offensive into Germany in the earliest part of the Nazi-Soviet war regarding what the Russian Empire did in WW I.”

                  Hilarious, Averko. The attempted Soviet counteroffensive on day one of Barbarossa utterly dwarfed Samsonov’s and Rennenkamph’s offensives. Samsonov and Rennenkamph fought maybe a dozen German divisions. The Soviets fought 134 German divisions. More than ten times as many.

                  “The comparative point on how the WW I era Germany used Lenin versus Nazi Germany not having as great a geopolitical usage stance towards anti-Stalin Russians remains.”

                  Lenin had nothing to do with Imperial Russia’s economic collapse and military defeat. All he did was acknowledge the plain fact that Russia had lost the war.

                  “Your score keeping is of a certain ideological mindset that doesn’t give an accurate picture.”

                  Sure it does. Imperial Russia sucked at industrial-era warfare. The USSR was very good at it. That’s all the score says, and it’s also the truth.

                  “America lost in Southeast Asia. That loss nurtured some American self analysis (of varying types), short of a dramatic revolution.”

                  Not true. America still has no clue about how to effectively wage counterinsurgency. America learned essentially nothing from Vietnam.

                  “On the verge of WW I, the Bolsheviks were nowhere close to coming to power.”

                  Big deal.

                  “WW I and how Russia chose to fight that war created the conditions for their eventual takeover.”

                  I’ve never denied that.

                  “Meantime, it’s sheer crock to unquestionably believe that Russia had to go Bolshevik or bust to advance itself.”

                  Once Kerensky decided to try and stay in the war, the Bolshie Revolution was inevitable. It took the Bolshies to get Russia out of a lost war.

                • Misha says:

                  It’s more like you suck at fully grasping what has been said. Per capita, Tannenberg was far greater than anything the Soviet Union had evident in Germany in 1942 and prior.

                  Russia’s industrial development was a late process that was advancing with or without a Bolshevik takeover.

                  I’ve already answered your other points.

                • wanderer says:

                  “It’s more like you suck at fully grasping what has been said. Per capita, Tannenberg was far greater than anything the Soviet Union had evident in Germany in 1942 and prior.”

                  Hilarious coming from someone who thinks that the French didn’t attack Germany massively in the first days of World War one.

                  “Russia’s industrial development was a late process that was advancing with or without a Bolshevik takeover.”

                  And you have never answered the fact that the Bolshies greatly accelerated the process.

                  Just in time, too.

                  “I’ve already answered your other points.”

                  How have you answered the fact that you think the Imperial Russian offensives in 1914 were worse than the Soviet counteroffensive in 1941 when Imperial Russia attacked 12 German divisions in 1914 and Soviet Russia attacked 134 German divisions in 1941?

                • Misha says:

                  “Hilarious” (not really) in that you initially said that Russia first struck into Germany in 1916, while overlooking the matter of Tannenberg.

                  Dominic Lieven (on RT) as well as others elsewhere reasonably conclude that Russian socioeconomic progress wasn’t specifically linked to the Bolsheviks, who tookover a country which was in a process of advancement.

                  This one trick pony route of yours is has long since been played out.

                • wanderer says:

                  ““Hilarious” (not really) in that you initially said that Russia first struck into Germany in 1916, while overlooking the matter of Tannenberg.”

                  Provide the specific quote where I wrote that, Mike.

                • Misha says:

                  I’ve better things to do than go way back to that comment of yours.

                  In any event, this exchange has been played out.

                • wanderer says:

                  Ah, so you have better things to do than to substantiate your lie.

                  Good to know.

                • Misha says:

                  You’re the one lying here – not me.

                  I’ll try to make it a point to avoid your incessant trolling under an anonymous moniker.

                • wanderer says:

                  Mike, I have given you an opportunity to prove me a liar and yourself a truth-teller. All you have to do is to find where I wrote “that Russia first struck into Germany in 1916″

                  I have challenged the veracity of your claim.

                  But, as usual, Averko, you make a claim that you cannot substantiate, and your reply to that challenge is nothing more than “I’m rubber, you’re glue. What you say bounces off me and sticks on you.” Most of us got past that level of argumentation in kindergarten.

      • marknesop says:

        Besides which, even if Russians did use the seasons to destroy Napoleon – which did not factor into their planning since they could only know within a month or two when he would strike, by word of the advance of his army – how much of a tool must you be not to know when winter comes? Does it not come at about the same time every year? Granted, Napoleon probably could not have attacked much earlier, or he would have been bogged down in the spring rains, but still, winter should not have come as a big surprise. Probably he expected Alexander to capitulate when he took Moscow; we’ll never know what he thought. But he must have known he had a certain (massive) distance to cross, approximately his own speed of advance in good weather, and the strength of the opposition. The only reasonable justification for him pressing ahead with the attack in spit of those known variables was that he expected to bring the Russian Army to battle in a single massive action, in which it would sustain such losses that it would be finished as a fighting force. And that is almost certainly what would have happened if things had gone his way; the only reason they did not was because of Alexander’s plan of skirmish-and-retreat, which was not of course his plan but the advice of his military leaders, who had adopted the model from the successful actions of Wellington. Therefore, the winter was not ever really a consideration and its playing such a part was purely incidental.

        The only person I can recall who always seemed completely blindsided by winter was Sergei Darkin, when he was Governor of the Primorskye Region. He regularly failed to order enough coal for the heating plants in Vladivostok, and seemed just as regularly confused and bewildered when it was still cold in February but the city had run out of coal. But nobody could reasonably confuse Darkin and Napoleon. Maybe he got his act together later – since he just finished out his stretch as Governor this year – but I’m talking 2005, which was the last time I visited Vladivostok.

  33. Moscow Exile says:

    Alekhina in solitary – at her own request, because of “tensions” betweeen her and other prisoners.


    She’s “in solitary” but not receiving “solitary punishment” – bread and water and being held incommunicado: she’s just playing at being the prison Greta Garbo. You’d never guess that though by glancing at the headlines. In fact, she may have been put into single cell accomodation for her own protection.

    • kirill says:

      Looks like the proletariat isn’t too keen to follow these “revolutionaries” :)

      • Misha says:

        On the subject of prison: when referencing other parts of the world, Russian “liberasts” aren’t prone to making these observations:

      • cartman says:

        But I heard from either Miriam Elder or that Daily Beast reporter (the one who manages to take us inside Russia’s gulag system without ever leaving her Moscow flat) that PR would be hailed as heroes by the other inmates, who are presumably all victims themselves of a system that condemns the innocent with brutal efficiency.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          I should think a majority of her fellow inmates are victims of “cold turkey”.

          • That is the single funniest thing I have ever read.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Yep! As I thought: some of the other inmates of the colony have a “bad attitude” towards the smirking Alekhina and she has aked to have a private room for her own protection, where the poor, sensitive soul will be able, no doubt, to read her copy of Chernyshevsky’s “What is to Be Done” in peace and quiet.

            I wonder how Elder would explain the causes of that “bad attitude”? Perhaps Alekhina’s antagonists are all former Nashi members that fell into bad company and habits? Or maybe the Evil One has planted them there to torment the “freedom fighter”?

            And in the MT article linked below, there is the usual guff about harsh conditions.

            Alekhina and her fellow inmates can sleep in dormitories and have work at the colony. They are are not banged up for 23 hours a day, 3 to a cell that was originally intended to house one convict in an 1880-constructed city-centre gaol and with a bucket that serves as a lavatory for all three all day and which is slopped out down a sluice each morning at 7 o’clock by one cell inmate in turn at the landing at the end of the block. That’s what I endured in 1985 in HMP Strangeways, Manchester, in Merry England for breach of section 6 Public Order Act. And I was one of the very lucky ones, in that they gave me a job that alleviated the mind numbing monotony of being locked up for almost 24-hours each day.

            There were no “Free Moscow Exile” T-shirts either!


            • Dear Mark,

              I am glad you bring this up, This repeated description of the prison as “harsh” is starting to grate. Obviously we are not talking about a prison up to Scandinavian standards but by the standards of most prisons around the world including most prisons in the so called developed world the prison conditions Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have to endure seem reasonably civilised. Compare that with prison conditions in say Latin America as discussed here


              I would add that the other prisoners Alyokhina is mixing with are of course women.

              • cartman says:

                Prisons in the US actually make being a violent, hardened criminal very rewarding. I have seen some Russian prison colonies where the inmates are very isolated, and others that allow a lot of creativity (icon painting, for example. I think Russia is actually trying to undo many years of cultivating a prison culture. In the US, the attitude that getting locked up in a cell with a very big rapey convict is a normal part of a prison sentence is still there.

                This show is kind of shocking:

                • Dear Cartman,

                  This is very true. Any objective and unbiased observer of Russia will agree that the steady trend over the last decade is for the criminal justice in all its aspects including the prison system to become more humane. In the US and Britain the trend is the exact opposite.

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear cartman: That’s a very good point. The American prison system is barbaric. Anyone familiar with American culture knows that it is understood as a given that prisoners will be raped by other inmates, and ordinary Americans consider this to be a normal part of the punishment. It’s even joked about in movies and TV shows.
                  In reality, no well-functioning penal system would tolerate sexual abuse of inmates. Some bad things might happen once in a while even in the best system, but if it was happening on a routine basis, that is a sign that something is very wrong with that system.
                  Compare with Gruzia, where revelations of sexual abuse in the prisons sparked mass outrage and street demonstrations that almost brought down the government. What does this show? That Gruzians are more civilized than Americans?

                • Misha says:

                  American prisons have a reputation for nurturing a more hardened criminal.

                  At last glance, the per capita ratio of prisoners in the US ranks high among nations. More prisoners and the budget required for their internment becomes a greater political issue, related to seeking to limit prison costs; in a way that serves to make the prison experience more unpleasant. Efforts are made to offset this situation with prison work programs and the utilization of stray cats and dogs for the prisoners (at least some of them).

                • Jen says:

                  Dear Cartman,

                  I heard there’s been a documentary made on the War on Drugs in America and how it keeps the prison industry and the companies that profit from locking up more people in prison going. The film is by Eugene Jarecki (maker of “Why We Fight”) and is called “The House I Live In”. I don’t know if it will be released in cinemas near where you live or go straight to DVD or TV (probably public TV or cable TV). I read a review of the film in an Australian magazine and the reviewer noted that in many American towns the prison is the sole employer and that in a sense the War on Drugs has to keep on going because it’s an economy in itself: it keeps jails full, police officers are busy, lawyers have jobs, the courts and all the people they employ are going full tilt, security and surveillance films have clients, and doctors and psychologists have plenty of guinea pigs to experiment on.

                  In many urban communities the only people who have money and who can provide jobs are drug gangs or drug dealers, and even in rural towns and communities the only thing people make is crystal meth. Crystal meth is probably the biggest drug problem in the US – it’s widespread through the western states and the South – and most certainly the most under-reported.

                  Even here in Australia crystal meth addiction is a huge problem among rural communities.


              • Moscow Exile says:

                “Alekhina finds it very hard to get along with people and places herself above the rest.”

                Statement made to MK by former inmates of Moscow Remand Prison No.6, where Alekhina was previously held before the loss of her appeal.

                Moody “artist” perhaps?


            • yalensis says:

              Рахметов в 16 лет, когда приехал в Петербург, был с этой стороны обыкновенным юношею довольно высокого роста, довольно крепким, но далеко не замечательным по силе: из десяти встречных его сверстников, наверное, двое сладили бы с ним. Но на половине 17-го года он вздумал, что нужно приобрести физическое богатство, и начал работать над собою. Стал очень усердно заниматься гимнастикою; это хорошо, но ведь гимнастика только совершенствует материал, надо запасаться материалом, и вот на время, вдвое большее занятий гимнастикою, на несколько часов в день, он становится чернорабочим по работам, требующим силы: возил воду, таскал дрова, рубил дрова, пилил лес, тесал камни, копал землю, ковал железо; много работ он проходил и часто менял их, потому что от каждой новой работы, с каждой переменой получают новое развитие какие-нибудь мускулы. Он принял боксерскую диэту: стал кормить себя — именно кормить себя — исключительно вещами, имеющими репутацию укреплять физическую силу, больше всего бифштексом, почти сырым, и с тех пор всегда жил так. Через год после начала этих занятий он отправился в свое странствование и тут имел еще больше удобства заниматься развитием физической силы: был пахарем, плотником, перевозчиком и работником всяких здоровых промыслов; раз даже прошел бурлаком всю Волгу, от Дубовки до Рыбинска. Сказать, что он хочет быть бурлаком, показалось бы хозяину судна и бурлакам верхом нелепости, и его не приняли бы; но он сел просто пассажиром, подружившись с артелью, стал помогать тянуть лямку и через неделю запрягся в нее как следует настоящему рабочему; скоро заметили, как он тянет, начали пробовать силу, — он перетягивал троих, даже четверых самых здоровых из своих товарищей; тогда ему было 20 лет, и товарищи его по лямке окрестили его Никитушкою Ломовым, по памяти героя, уже сошедшего тогда со сцены. На следующее лето он ехал на пароходе; один из простонародия, толпившегося на палубе, оказался его прошлогодним сослуживцем до лямке, а таким-то образом его спутники-студенты узнали, что его следует звать Никитушкою Ломовым. Действительно, он приобрел и не щадя времени поддерживал в себе непомерную силу. «Так нужно, — говорил он: — это дает уважение и любовь простых людей. Это полезно, может пригодиться».

              (Chernyshevsky, “What to do?”)

              (Approximate) translation: When he was 16 Rakhmetov was a 99-pound weakling. He came from a family of effete aristos. Then, at the age of 17, he began a serious training in gymnastics. [He would have qualified for the Olympic Team, but they didn’t have the Olympics in those days.] Rakhmetov also undertook any type of proletarian physical labor that would build up new muscles. He had 6-pack abs. He even pulled barges on the Volga. He became huge. His diet was pure protein: very rare (almost raw) steaks. He was like a superman. “I need to do this,” he would explain. “It’s the only way to acquire the love and respect of the common man [who expects his heroes to be seriously cut]. Besides, I’m going to need this super-human physical strength [come the Revolution]….”

              • Crumbs Yalensis. You know What is to be Done was not translated in English until the 1970s? It was only from Russians that I realised it’s importance. I am sorry to say I have still not read it. Most English readers of Russian literature still do not know its importance.

                Anyway Tolokonnikova & Co (and Udalstov, Navalny and Khodorkovsky & Co) are certainly no Rakhmetovs.

                By the way I understand Razzvuzhaev refused a polygraph test on his torture claims.

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear Alexander: Yes, Chernyshevsky’s masterpiece was extremely important at the time. I have read it and studied it, obviously (and written term papers). It doesn’t translate well into English and comes off sounding stilted and silly. Please pardon my jokey translation above, I feel free to tease it because I love it. I hope Alekhina reads this work and studies it every day, the way some prisoners pore over the Bible. It can’t do her any harm, and might do her some good. (As opposed to the Bible, which can harm some susceptible minds, due to the bloody scenes of battle and genocide, not to mention all the sex and incest and so on…)
                  Little known fact: Lenin used Chernyshevsky’s work as a litmus test to recruit future Bolsheviks. If somebody (for example, Trotsky) read it and then tossed aside, saying, “This is philistine twaddle”, then Lenin didn’t trust him and didn’t consider him to be a serious revolutionary. Trotsky failed this litmus test (because he was more of a literary connoisseur and didn’t consider that the plot was well constructed). As a result, it wasn’t until 1917 and the Revolution already broken out, that Lenin finally forgave Trotsky and agreed to merge with him, despite their differences on Chernyshevsky’s literary merit.

                • yalensis says:

                  P.S. of course Razvozzhaev wouldn’t pass the polygraph test. That’s because he wasn’t really tortured. Oh, I believe him that the cops threatened and verbally coerced him. That’s what they do. But I don’t believe him when he says they wouldn’t let him go to the bathroom for 48 hours. His clothing was examined, and there were no stains. So, either they did let him go to the bathroom, or he has a HUMUNGOUS bladder.

                • marknesop says:

                  I too think Raz was stretching things a bit, but of course a member of the opposition needs only to suggest that his treatment was appalling for everyone in the English-speaking world to run with the torture story. I wonder, if Putin disappeared for a couple of days on a visit to New York, to reappear disheveled and saying he had been tortured by the CIA, how many people would believe him. Does the CIA have a record of torture? Yes, it does.

                  Still, from a legal standpoint, nobody may infer either guilt or innocence from an individual’s refusal to take the Polygraph test. It could mean anything, from an objection on religious grounds (hardly likely in Raz’s case) to simple distrust of the technology and a fear it would implicate him, which is quite possible in Raz’s case. In that he would be entirely correct, as it is no more reliable than flipping a coin despite what some people think of it.

    • marknesop says:

      Anything they can do to stay in the news cycle. And the press is happy to cooperate, so they can drag it all out again and say it was a “punk prayer” and call them rockers although they just called their music punk even though they don’t actually make any music and are not really a band in the traditional sense of the word; I guess “art collective” never really took hold. I like the part where it says, “Conditions in the prisons are said to be harsh”. Gosh; they are prisons. Harsh compared to what? I note Alyokhina was able to score a private cell – unlikely in Britain’s prisons, where overcrowding was so severe in 2001 that more than 750 prisoners in Birmingham were living two to a one-person cell and well over 1000 were inmates while the capacity was 732. Prison scandals erupt in England from time to time, then die down without anything very much changing, although the BBC feels comfortable taking up the cause of Pussy Riot. I repeat, put your money where your mouth is, and go on record with an offer to move them to London as guests of the British government as soon as their sentences are up.

      • Dear Mark,

        You are of course absolutely right that a polygraph test cannot be a measure of guilt or innocence and should not be used in a court to confirm or refute the truth of what is said. However Razvuzzhaev’s refusal of the challenge of a polygraph test will surely damage his credibility, which is why it the authorities challenged him to take it.

        My consistent view is that Razvuzzhaev probably was kidnapped in Kiev by the Russian secret service. As I think I have said already, the discrepancies between his account and his wife’s in my opinion arise because his wife tried to provide him with a cover story to conceal his escape. Unluckily for them the Russian secret service was already tracking him so the cover story instead of providing him with cover ended up by damaging his credibility. However though I think he was kidnapped in Kiev I have never been convinced he was tortured in the way he has alleged and I am afraid his refusal to take a polygraph test makes me doubt this part of his story even more.

        • marknesop says:

          That’s true, although I bet if the test were to be administered in Washington, Razvozzhayev would have jumped at the chance. He’s probably smart enough to know that it’s an extremely subjective procedure, and that the only person in the room who can interpret what the polygraph says is the polygraph technician, whose word is customarily law. He (or she) can make it easy or hard, can choose to pursue certain lines of inquiry or let them drop. But Washington would have a clear interest in Raz being truthful, while the Russian authorities would have a clear interest in him being a lying bastard.

          As I think I’ve said before, I have taken the polygraph, as well as what was then – about 10 years ago – its cutting-edge cousin, the Voice Stress Analyzer. I didn’t actually know very much about either at the time, but if I had been imbued with respect for the polygraph, that experience would have finished it. It is only useful to give an investigator the patina of science beyond your ken, so that you will believe he can read your mind, and to frighten you into confessing your guilt. That’s all very well if you are actually guilty, and it has proved a Godsend at finding out who among the Hilton’s maids was stealing soap and towels, but it has never – ever – caught a real spy. In fact, as I’ve also mentioned, it is no more accurate than flipping a coin – but it has had the effect of implying guilt, sometimes very serious guilt, on the part of people who were entirely innocent; this is known as a “false positive”, and it has caused a few high-ranking government and law-enforcement persons to lose their jobs because of suspicion that was totally unfounded.

          If the polygraph’s results are inadmissible in court, that’s for a reason, and it is time for the authorities to stop using this junk science. It is only useful in forcing a confession from the guilty who know they are guilty. If you’re sure enough of that to give them a polygraph test, surely there are other ways that are not so thoroughly discredited.

          • Jen says:

            Dear Mark, Alexander, Yalensis,

            I’m guessing that if a person can be taught to recognise signs of stress and learn to control his/her breathing and reactions with some simple techniques that involve concentration, meditation, mind focus or any combination of these, then that person could pass the polygraph test and fool the technicians at least 70% of the time if not more.

            @ Yalensis: The systolic blood pressure part of the polygraph test was invented by psychologist William Moulton Marston who is usually more famous for his comic book creation Wonder Woman and her golden lasso that forces people to tell the truth.

            • marknesop says:

              The most common technique, I read, of fooling the polygraph (and I should stress that I did not attempt it; in fact I did not know very much at all about the polygraph prior to taking the test and foolishly believed it would be impossible to be still an object of suspicion after taking it, because it would know all; I did a lot of research on it afterward, however) is to place a tack or crumb of glass in one’s shoe. When pressed upon with one’s toe, it will cause momentary pain which will blank all other responses. But Aldrich Ames, who was a double agent when he worked for the Russians for nearly 10 years while employed by the CIA, routinely beat the polygraph; CIA personnel are regularly tested. He was caught because he was spending way more than he was making – sometimes $30,000.00 a month – and CIA assets (that’s what you call them when they are patriotically working for you, and freedom and democracy. When they’re working for the other side, they’re spies and traitors) in Soviet posts had begun dropping off the radar at an alarming rate. Even with those blinking red lights, it took years for them to put two and two together, and the polygraph had nothing to do with it. Ames wrote an expose of the polygraph – ironically, from his cell – in which he debunked it as junk science that implicates innocent people and has never caught a real spy. While he is hardly a model for behavior and obviously was at least part of the time a tremendous liar, he is right about that. A few years later, Robert Hanssen was also caught; he had beaten Ames’ record by a considerable margin, having acted as an agent for both the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation for 22 years while working for the FBI. The CIA only became suspicious after they had arrested Ames and could not account for the disappearance of two agents, of whom Ames had not known or for other reasons could not have blown their covers. Even so, they focused on the wrong man and wrecked his career, placing him on administrative leave for 2 years and interrogating his ex-wife and children – you can bet some or all of them took a polygraph test. The polygraph is of little use when you have already been accused of something and are scared shitless; not because you are guilty, but because you can see your story is not believed.

              In the end, they caught Robert Hanssen by buying a recording of his voice as he was meeting with a Russian agent – from a former KGB agent whose identity is still not known – for $7 million. Hanssen, too, would have had to take regular polygraph examinations while employed by by the FBI. They might as well have tested him with the Cucumber Of Truth.

            • yalensis says:

              Damn, you’re right, I looked it up on the internet, and turns out Wonder Woman DID invent the lie detector!

  34. Misha says:


    Excerpt –

    “While some reactions on Twitter welcomed her advocacy of the ancient discipline, which is credited with improving strength, flexibility, and spiritual well-being, many said they were offended by her skimpy workout clothes and the prurient nature of some of the yoga poses, which they said overstepped the boundaries of propriety in her conservative Muslim country.”


    Offhand and without checking/thinking further, one wonders just how “conservative” a “Muslim country” is Uzbekistan? At this blog, it has been observed that many Russians associating themselves as Orthodox Christian aren’t regular church goers, in addition to not being so well versed on that denomination – something evident regarding other denominations elsewhere.

  35. Misha says:

    No surprise to see Robert Kagan’s suggestive support of Susan Rice:

    In contrast, the above linked article notes those with the valid claim that her undiplomatically exhibited manner is arguably problematical for the role of Secretary of State.

    On a somewhat related note, how well do Kagan and Rice take to getting substantively criticized in a high profile setting by a given pundit?

  36. cartman says:

    Anonymous hacker gets life in prison. And for some reason PR’s sentence is not fair, when compared with that:

    Judge Loretta Preska is also the wife of one of Stratfor’s clients.

    • kirill says:

      You are right, the double standards are nauseating. This hacker did no physical damage and his trespass was freedom of speech. If PR’s trespass is no big deal then neither is it in this case. And it does not matter what laws the Yankees have on their books. Justice is above the word of the law, usually written by idiots.

      • I’m not sure this is actually a case of double standards. On the face of it this looks like a very serious crime. Computer hacking is a serious business and it looks like the personal information of a lot of people was compromised. I doubt the defendant will get a life sentence but on the face of it this looks like a much more serious crime than the “punk prayer” and I would not be surprised if following conviction it ended in a long prison sentence. We must not fall into the error that critics of the Pussy Riot prosecution make of trivialising serious crimes because they happened in America.

        • kirill says:

          I guess I did not do enough reading on the background of this crime. Usually hackers are benign and it is crackers that are the criminals. Getting access to some STRATFOR information is not in the league of stealing credit card numbers or exposing CIA agents.

          • Misha says:

            Personal likes and dislikes periodically influence a lax attitude on inappropriate manner.

            Without getting into specifcs, a recent exchange revealed a glaring hypocrisy on the part of someone, regarding (among other things) the matter of Google bombs.

    • AK says:

      Those twats spilled my email out into the Internet and a couple of days later $200 vanished from my bank account on buying stuff like electronics and subscriptions to video sites (which the bank kindly recompensated)… all for the crime of being a Stratfor subscriber. I think a few years in the slammer is certainly warranted for that long-haired freak, but I can’t say I will be too sorry if its a life sentence either.

    • yalensis says:

      For Funniest Comment (on the hacking story in RT), the Oscar goes to:

      BlusteryDay (unregistered) November 24, 2012, 00:16 quote

      It’s so easy, even a caveman can do it!

  37. Moscow Exile says:

    Here’s an intriguing little tale that I’ve just come across in this morning’s UK Independent, which is, of course, owned by Lebedev (another former “proud KGB” officer as La Russophobe would say and the peron who assaulted a protaganist on Russian TV) and his son. The story concerns the “Conservative Friends of Russia Group”, an organization that I had never heard of until one hour ago, and a “smear campaign” within it to oust its chairman, a homosexual, Christopher Bryant, who is to stand for re-election. Despite its name, CFoR is an all party group. Its previous chairman was a member of the Liberal Party, who had a scandalous affair with a Russian woman personal assisstant 39 years his junior, and its present “smeared” chairman, Bryant, is a member of the Labour Party, yet it is called the “Conservative Friends of Russia Group”. See:

    The Independent article says that the founder of CFoR, Conservative Party Activist, publicist and lobbyist Richard Royal, the instigator of the “smear”, is also that organization’s present chairman: perhaps it is a typo and the article should have said founder:

    “The article attacking Mr Bryant’s chairmanship was written by Richard Royal, the chairman of CFoR, a professional lobbyist and Conservative Party activist best known as a spokesman for the Ladbrokes chain of betting shops. It was backed up by an email widely circulated by Mr Royal, accusing Mr Bryant of ‘incompetence’.”

    In the following paragraph, the Independent lets the cat out of the bag, as it were, as regards the appearance of the story in today’s issue:

    “Mr Royal’s email also referred to Mr Bryant’s work as a paid columnist for The Independent, which is owned by the Russian father and son, Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev, and his work with the PR company Bell Pottinger, whose clients include the exiled Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky”.

    Whatever, the thing that puzzles me is who is CFoR really working for? On the one hand there are suggestions that the all-party orgainization is too close to the Evil Empire (vodka and shashlyk with the Russian ambassador to the Court of St. James) and on the other hand that it has connections with self-styled London-na-Temze godfather Berezovsky.

    • Dear Moscow Exile,

      There are in fact two separate groups. One is the All Party Parliamentary Group on Russia. This is chaired by Bryant, has members from all parties and under Bryant’s leadership has become bitterly critical of Russia. It is this group which through Bryant has links with Lebedev and Khodorkovsky.

      The second group is Conservative Friends of Russia. This is a much newer and smaller group. All it’s members are Conservatives. It has been (weakly) trying to make the case for a more balanced approach in Britain towards Russia. Rifkind and Royal are associated with this group.

      Not surprisingly there is antagonism between the two groups. The article refers to a recent battle between them. Needless to say in his counter blast Bryant dredges up the usual paranoid stuff about “Kremlin agents” smearing Royal by implying he is one.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Dear Alexander Mercouris,
        The word “Conservative” caught my eye, of course, because the British Conservative Party and all things Russian seem, at first glance, to be like chalk and cheese. Yet there is the curious fact that Thatcher hit it off with Gorbachev (“We can do business with this man!”), though she may have been performing when she started to gush over Gorby, and then there is also the fact that arch Tory intellectual, academic, classicist and linguist Enoch Powell always maintained that the UK and Russia were natural allies, they being situated on the fringes of Europe, as it were, but never fully part of “the Continent”; always looking in but having their attention concentrated in the other direction: across the oceans in the case of the UK and eastwards as regards the Russian Empire. Powell was always an outsider in his own party, though: “too clever by half” for most Tories I should think.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Dear Alexander Mercouris,

        Thanks for clearing up my confusion.

        The second paragraph of the linked Independent article it reads thus:

        “The picture of Mr Bryant was posted on the website of a pressure group called Conservative Friends of Russia (CFoR), alongside an article attacking his chairmanship of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Russia”.

        In my haste in reading the article, I wrongly believed because of the juxtapositioning of the names of the two organizations that the CFoR and All Party Parliamentary group on Russia are one and the same organization, which was clearly illogical of me to think so because of the very term “all party”. Nevertheless, I thought that the dispute was an internal one in which Royal was trying to prevent Bryants re-election as chairman of CFoR.

        Too many late nights and too early rising is my excuse for my confused thoughts.

        I rest my case.

        • Dear Moscow Exile,

          You are absolutely right that British Conservatives tend to find it easier to work with Russians than Labour and Liberal people do. This was even true during the Soviet period. It has become notably more since the USSR collapsed. This is because traditional Conservatives tend to be foreign policy realists. By contrast more leftwing people seem more prone to hang ups.

          On the subject of the Conservative Friends of Russia group, I am afraid that I suspect its days are numbered. It has been the subject of relentless criticism ever since it got started with constant insinuations that it is secretly funded by the Russian government. As Royal has pointed out there are Conservative Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Pakistan groups, both countries that are highly controversial, that come in for nothing like the same sort of criticism. To get a sense of how unbalanced things are consider that Bryant has been able to persuade Malcolm Rifkind to resign his chairmanship of Conservative Friends of Russia by levelling at Royal allegations of homophobia but no one expects Bryant to resign his chairmanship of the All Party Parliiamentary Group on Russia because of his uncorroborated insinuations that Royal is a paid Kremlin agent or because of the connections of his group to Berezovsky and Lebedev that you discussed in your earlier comment. Nor apparently is anyone criticising Bryant for the way he helped overthrow his Liberal Democrat predecessor on the basis of a sex spy scandal that is now known to have had no substance. The truth is that anybody in Britain who calls for a more mature relationship with Russia opens himself up for immediate criticism and has a mountain to climb.

  38. Misha says:

    On the matter of an overbearing government:

    Recall the JRL promoted James Brooke of the VoA who suggested that Russia at large lacked recognition/gratitude towards the Western WW II role.

  39. yalensis says:

    Latest dish on Opps: Navalny/Sobchak wing of “Coordinating Committee” prevailed in the factional dispute over the next action. Udaltsov’s proposed “March of Millions” (Dec. 8) was voted down, in favor of Sobchak’s “Freedom March” (Dec. 15).
    Originally Sobchak wanted to have the demo on “St. George Day” (Yuriev den’) Dec. 9, but was mocked too much for this over the internet. As discussed above, Yuriev Den’ commemmorates the day that St. George slew a ferocious dragon that was terrorizing the townspeople and gobbling up all the best youth as part of his breakfast menu.

    Article mentions that Sobchak was positively gloating about her tactical victory over Udaltsov. Navalny has been appointed organizer of the demo. The slogans agreed upon are the following:
    (1) Freedom for political prisoners
    (2) We demand new elections
    (3) No to dictatorship!

    Meanwhile, an anti-Opp posted (on Navalny’s blog) a you-tube video showing Sobchak picking her nose in public, but I decline to re-post it, because that sort of vulgarity is beneath me.

    • yalensis says:

      If Griboedov’s Repetilov were alive today, no doubt he would be a member of Navalny’s Coordinating Council:
      “We have a club, it’s top secret, and secret meetings every Thursday…” LOL


      Поздравь меня, теперь с людьми я знаюсь
      С умнейшими!! — всю ночь не рыщу напролёт.


      Вот нынче, например?


      Что ночь одна, — не в счёт,
      Зато спроси, где был?


      И сам я догадаюсь.
      Чай, в клубе?


      В Английском. Чтоб исповедь начать:
      Из шумного я заседанья.
      Пожало-ста молчи, я слово дал молчать;
      У нас есть общество, и тайные собранья
      По четвергам. Секретнейший союз…


      Ах! я, братец, боюсь.

      (Грибоедов Александр Сергеевич
      ГОРЕ ОТ УМА)

      • Dear Yalensis,

        Isn’t it brilliant: instead of winning victories against Putin the members of the “Coordinating Council” prefer to brag over the victories they win off each other. Truly a case of the Judaean People’s Front versus the People’s Front of Judaea.

        I cannot imagine a vain peacock like Udaltsov putting up with this for very long. It can only be a matter of time before he and his supporters break away. I gather that the nationalists have already dissassociated themselves from the latest “Freedom March”. When the Leftists peel off Navalny and his band will be left to themselves. By then I doubt there’ll be enough of them left to fill a room.

  40. Misha says:

    Latest from Marc Bennetts, which prompts some additional thoughts:

    Among BRICs, don’t Russians generally have the better living conditions and/or top the list in several key socioeconomic indicators?

    By now, shouldn’t the likes of Udaltsov, KPRF and Pussy Riot have prompted a greater revolutionary opposition to the Rusisan government?

    The last question leads to the thought that although not completely happy, Russians are generally content enough to not significantly rock the boat. (A whataboutism noting this mindset in the US and elsewhere.)

    On another matter raised in the above linked piece, Russia doesn’t appear so monolithic on a number of politically related issues – socialism included.

    • Dear Misha,

      This is an adaption of an article Marc Bennetts previously wrote for Novosti. Odd that this article about a socialist revival in Russia should have appeared in The Washington Times of all places.

      Actually I think there is a constituency in Russia for socialist views. The parliamentary elections last year showed that there is and given the country’s history it would be remarkable if it were otherwise. The idea that Udaltsov of all people and his Left Front will ever lead this constituency or are at all representative of most Russians who hold socialist views is a grotesque fantasy as is the idea that the country is in a revolutionary mood.

  41. Here is an ominous article from Interfax on the state of the Georgian economy.

    The hostility to the new Georgian government is pretty manifest but the article does point to a real problem, which I discussed previously. Saakashvili was able to keep the show on the road because his friends in the west made sure that he was able to go on borrowing money pretty much without limit. Though much of the money was squandered on vanity projects it did at least enable Saakashvili to pay his bills. If this flow of money comes to a stop (as this article suggests may be happening) then given Georgia’s trade deficit and its very large debts it is only a matter of time before there is a currency crisis. Given that Saakashvili is still President and nominally head of the army it becomes quite possible to see how in that scenario he could pose as the saviour and launch a coup. Is that not what the likes of Latynina are inciting him to do?

    In my opinion Georgia is drifting. The new government understands that Saakashvili’s course is discredited and unsustainable but it is not prepared to make the total break with his policies that this requires. It continues to say it wants to restore Georgia’s economic and trade relations with Russia (which increasingly looks like the only long term solution to the country’s problems) but it cannot bring itself to face the political implications. If it does not act quickly it may find its window of opportunity closing fast.

    • That there are some people in Georgia who have a sense of reality and who are prepared to grasp the nettle is shown by this interview with a Georgian politician I have just read on Voice of Russia. The question is how representative of opinion within the Georgian elite is he? I get the impression not very much.

      • yalensis says:

        In general, I think that the best development option for Georgia is rapprochement with Russia. We had 20 years of relations with the US and what did we gain economically? Georgian economy is now falling apart – in the 1980s when it was part of the USSR it was the Union’s richest republic and now is the poorest with over 50% unemployment rate.

        Some Gruzian finally did the math – Amen!

        • marknesop says:

          Not to mention revealing the unemployment rate for the horror it is. What was the government claiming – 15.1%? I’ve seen a lot of suggestions that it was actually more than twice that, and I imagine it is around 35%, allowing for exaggeration on both sides.

    • marknesop says:

      Couple of things in there that interest me, quite apart from the obvious tone that foreign governments liked Saakashvili very much and are willing to let Georgia go into the toilet to support him, perhaps with a view to his eventual return. Besides that, though, foreign investment was generally unhealthy under Saakashvili despite his braggadocio about his financial genius and powerful friends, and it certainly didn’t keep pace with his borrowing.

      Here’s Georgia’s FDI under Saakashvili. Generally speaking, lame; best year was 17.2% of GDP , net. Not hard to see why – here’s Georgia’s balance of payments for the same period: hard negative in a big way. It’s pretty obvious there was a lot more money borrowed than money made. But the funny thing is, according to the article Georgia cannot survive without foreign investment – yet under Saakashvili, in its best year it was less than 20% of GDP and it has since fallen to horrible levels, making up only 6.7% the year they finally decided to give him the boot.

      Why, then, is the Chamber of Commerce now portraying the Saakashvili economy as a rousing success? It was nothing of the kind, and none of his grand promises came to fruition, although even the site I selected for a reference says Georgia was “one of the fastest-growing economies”. How do you figure, when most of the money coming in is borrowed and the debt just keeps getting bigger, while unemployment is so widespread and horrible that you have to lean on government-friendly agencies to cover it up?

      The article also points out that Ivanishvili has had control of the government for only a month. Yet when Yushchenko and Tymoshenko steered the Ukrainian economy onto the rocks so hard and fast that the IMF denied them a bailout loan, the west still inveigled hard as it could for another term for him, even dropping the Jackson-Vanik amendment for Ukraine just before the election. And that circus had already been in power for four years. Yet Ivanishvili is expected to turn Georgia around in a month. The west never, ever used a phrase like “driving the economy into the ground” for Saakashvili, although he was plainly doing just that and living the high life on borrowed money.

      Another thing. No ministers will answer their phones or their email? Is that implying that foreign investors were very interested, and just couldn’t catch anyone home? That’s not what the article suggests. It says, “Social instability and strikes are a poor signal to investors, Fady Asly, head of ICC Georgia, told reporters.” Strikes? Have there been strikes? That just sounds to me like somebody sending former Saakashvillains a signal: social unrest will pay dividends, and maybe Ivanishvili will not be able to hold on to the government.

      Besides, ministers almost never answer their own phones – that’s what they have staff for. Couldn’t find anyone at home, at all? Does that smell a bit, to you? Me, too.

      Lastly, the article claims “Few companies would risk competition with the government with all its money and power, he explained.” The government has a lot of money? Where? When it has at least 15% unemployment and probably more than double that?

      Anyway, it’s pretty clear that the western business world is not going to extend the hand of friendship to Ivanishvili or recognize his election as the people’s choice; instead, they’re keeping the hand of friendship behind their backs, waiting to extend it to a returning Saakashvili. All the more reason for Russia to start helping out a little, buying more Georgian wine and produce, perhaps cutting its rates a little on exports to Georgia, give Bidzina a bit of a break. Strike while the west is making the choice easy.

      • yalensis says:

        They are really not cutting Ivanishvili any breaks, are they? That answers a question I originally wondered about, whether West was secretly behind Ivanishvili and trying to push Saak out. Now doesn’t seem that way at all. I was disappointed that Ivanishvili responded to the international pressure by saying he would try to get along with Saak. I guess he still doesn’t get it, that he cannot be successful (or Gruzia successful again) unless he goes on a rampage and weeds out all the Saak elements. There are a couple of ways he could do that without assuming dictatorial powers, but they all involve mobilizing the masses, and maybe he is not prepared to do that.

        • Misha says:

          Still might be a bit too early to tell. Certain geopolitical matters have been somewhat murky. Look at Ukraine as one example.

          Saak was in fact losing support in the West, as evidenced by instances like openDemocracy featured commentary critical of him and politcal academic/one time Saak supporter Lincoln Mitchell going over to Ivanishvili.

          Russia has been selectively portrayed as having a heavy handed attitude towards some small countries. On the subject of big power treatment towards smaller nations, the same can be said of some trends in the West.

          • “….Russia has been selectively portrayed as having a heavy handed attitude towards some small countries….

            Dear Misha,

            You touch on a point that has always bothered me. Throughout the Cold War one used to hear ceaseless criticism of the USSR in the western media for its supposed habit of subverting the governments of other countries. To a very great extent the same is still said about Russia today.

            In reality I have great trouble iidentifying countries whose governments the USSR or Russia has internally subverted. The only clearcut case I can think of was the 1948 Czech putsch, which was itself a direct response to the formation by the US and its allies of a pro western government in western Germany in breach of the Yalta and Potsdam accords. In every other case where the USSR or Russia did engineer changes of government, eg. in parts of eastern Europe following the end of the Second World War, this was done through the direct agency of the Red Army, which was physically present in the territory of those countries. By contrast I have long ago lost count of the number of governments whose overthrow the CIA has engineered by instigating internal coups. I was a personal witness to one of these coups, the one which happened in Greece in 1967.

            I accept that subversion of this sort is only one form of heavy handedness and Russia is doubtless guilty of others. Still it makes one wonder.

            • yalensis says:

              Dear Alexander: Besides Czechoslovakia, the only other case I can think of where USSR used secret services to subvert other governments was Afghanistan in the 1970’s. Soviets may have done a coup or two there, in their attempts to control the situation.

              • Dear Yalensis,

                Actually Afghanistan is not an exception. The Soviets published most of the relevant Politburo discussions back in 1990 following the Soviet withdrawal. I read them at the time in Soviet English language military magazines. Because of their historical interest I have kept the relevant copies. The same material has recently been republished (with some surprising gaps) in a recent account of the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan by the former British diplomat Rodric Braithwaite. What these all show is that the Soviets were taken totally by surprise by the Afghan coups of 1973 and 1978 and were not in any way involved in them. In fact they were dismayed by both coups, which upset a status quo with which they were happy.

                To get a sense of what I mean consider that Russia has made no attempt to mobilise the pro Russian sentiment that must exist in the Belarus and Ukrainian armies even when it has been on bad terms with the Belarus and Ukrainian governments. Nor has Russia ever tried to stage colour revolutions or their like in these countries though the possibility to do so is presumably there. In its dealings with its neighbours the US has not been so forbearing.

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear Alexander: Thanks for clarification on Afghanistan. I hadn’t read those more recent documents. So Afghani players were doing coups on their own? That scenario actually fits more with the reality of overall Soviet foreign policy picture, which was (much like Russian foreign policy today) primarily a predictable rule-based game. (Which doesn’t always work well when you are up against an opponent, like USA, which does not play by any rules.)

              • Misha says:

                Czechoslovakia in 1948 and 68, along with Afghanistan in the late 1970s and Hungary in 1956. The situation in East Germany in 1953 involved Soviet military action in curtailing protests.

                • Dear Misha,

                  My point is preciselhy that the Czech coup in 1948 is different from all your other examples in that it was an internal coup carried out entirely by Czechs working in Czechoslovakia but acting under orders from Moscow. That of course is the pattern of CIA coups. It is however in terms of Russian foreign policy the exception.

                  By contrast the governments of Hungary and Czechoslovakia were overthrown in 1956 and 1968 through outright invasions of the two countries by the Soviet Army. There was no change of government in East Germany in 1953. What happened was that the Soviet Army helped the East German authorities suppress a workers’ rising. I have already explained that the Soviets were not involved in the coups that took place in Afghanistan in the 1970s.

                • Misha says:

                  Hello Alexander,

                  I didn’t say anything fundamentally different from your characterizations.

                  Big power intervention can take different forms. There’s the overt kind and the arguably presented more distant types, along the lines of what the US did vis-a-vis South Vietnam and Chile.

        • marknesop says:

          In a way, he reminds me a lot of Obama, who also appeared to be a hopeless idealist following his first campaign, and to really believe the other side would accept his victory because it was the people’s will. This view appears to ignore that the “other side” in both cases has gradually split itself off until it is a distinct society within its own country, and one which relies on the masses only when it needs their vote in order to legitimately gain and hold power. Otherwise, it has little use for them and casts them sops only when it must in order to shut them up so that the business of business can go on apace.

          Saakashvili was already living like a king, and shows every sign of believing he is one. His western allies appear top accept that image as well. As I suggested before, some overtures on Russia’s part might well seal the deal before the west wakes up and realizes its pique now that its champion has lost the confidence of his people is counterproductive, and that none of its goals – a self-reliant Georgia which is a vocal member of international organizations and a constant destabilizing irritant to Russia – will be realized by this petulant approach.

          It also suggests the Angloshere – or in this case, the west, since non-English-speaking Europeans seem to be following the pack – does not trust Ivanishvili because he is not like Saakashvili, which Georgians should instantly understand to be a tremendous compliment although the west does not see it that way. It staggers the imagination that Saakashvili’s buddies could cheer for Georgia while its unemployment rose, its leader ruled by fear, intimidation and bribery, its debts rose and its reserves bled away….and then release a specious and spiteful statement that the new government was driving the economy into the ground before that government is even fully formed and has only been in power a month.

          I see in this a distasteful echo of the west’s repugnant nostalgia for Yeltsin, and his wild-west economic policies that made a few people very, very rich, most people much poorer and brought the country to its knees.

        • Dear Mark and Yalensis,

          I think it is pretty clear that the west is not cutting Ivanishvili any slack at all. During his trip to Brussels he was warned off any prosecutions of Saakashvili’s supporters and was told to “work with” Saakashvili who let us not forget only a short while ago was saying Ivanishvili was a Russian agent and potential traitor. Now we have thinly veiled threats to cut off funds if Ivanishvili does not toe the line.

          Mark is of course absolutely right to nail the myth of the great investment surge that supposedly went to Georgia under Saakashvili. Saakashvili did attract large amounts of foreign investment but only for a very brief period around 2006 to 2008. Since then foreign direct investment has crashed. By the way though it seems counterintuitive I would not be surprised if much of the direct investment that went to Georgia between 2006 and 2008 came from Russia. An acquaintance of mine who visited Latvia told me that Latvia’s dependence on Russian investment is the dirty secret no one in Latvia wants to talk about. Anyway since the investment boom of 2006 to 2008 foreign direct investment in Georgia has slumped and the country has only been able to get by because Saakashvili went on a borrowing spree. It should not need saying that if Saakashvili had really carried out the economic miracle he credits himself with Georgia would not now be in a position where it is so vulnerable to a sudden cut off of funds.

          The fact however remains that Georgia is vulnerable to a cut off of funds but there is nothing to suggest that the new government has any plan to deal with it. This surely is because (as Anatoly Karlin has said) what has happened in Georgia is not a root and branch change but an oligarchic coup carried about by people who previously supported Saakashvili but who because of the megalomaniac nature of his personality subsequently fell out with him. What they seem to want is a continuation of Saakashvili’s pro western orientation and policies (though slightly moderated to make life easier for ordinary people) but without Saakashvili. At the same time they seem to think that by being a little less rude to Russia they can get Russia to pay for these policies by buying their wine and mineral water even though these policies remain fundamentally anti Russian.

          I am afraid that in this situation I take the diametrically opposite view to Mark’s. I don’t think Russia should cut the new Georgian government any slack at all. I am afraid if Russia did all that would do is is reinforce the disastrous assumption the Georgian elite makes that it can have it both ways Though it pains me to say because ordinary people in Georgia are going to suffer, it makes better sense in my opinion for Russia to put the Georgian elite in a position where it has no choice but to face the reality that confronts it. The interview with the Georgian politician on Voice of Russia suggests that there are some people within the elite in Georgia amongst whom reality is starting to dawn and I would not be surprised if Ivanishvilii as a practical man and a businessman turns out in the end to be another..

          • yalensis says:

            Dear Alexander: Your comment got cut off at the end, but I think I got your point, and I agree with you. Russia should play Realpolitik with Gruzia and just watch their economy collapse, if that’s what it comes to. No point in playing ball with Ivanishvili, if he can’t bring himself to make a clean break with the Saakashvili forces. If he found it in him to break with Saak and diss NATO (=highly dubious), then I would recommend rewarding him, otherwise not.
            One caveat: I wouldn’t want to see Russia do anything to harm the ethnic Gruzians (whether legal or illegal) who live and work in Russia, even if their wages are helping to subsidize the Gruzian economy. I would recommend to just leave them alone and go on doing as they are doing.

            • Dear Yalensis,

              You are quite right, I got called to the phone and I have now lost the thread of what I was going to say. However you’ve got the overall sense of it. I completely agree with you that Russia should not do anything to harm the ethnic Georgians in Russia. I would actually go further and say that Russia should do nothing to make conditions in Georgia any worse than they are. I am totally opposed to blockades and sanctions, which only make ordinary people suffer However I would take no step to further normalise commercial and economic relations with Georgia unless and until there is a fundamental change in attitude by the Georgian elite. At the minimum this must include giving up on Georgian fantasies of NATO and EU membership,

              • marknesop says:

                I would agree with that course of action except that I do not think that Bidzina Ivanishvili is a member of the “Georgian elite”. He is a recluse who pursued charitable projects of his own totally outside the orbit of both the Georgian oligarchs and the Georgian government, building various venues through his own companies and then donating them. The effect of not reaching out to him will be that he will be attributed all the blame for failure until he is voted out by the fickle electorate, who base their loyalty on concrete improvement and incremental progress. If Saakashvili can keep any such progress from occurring – and it appears to be working very well so far – it will not be difficult in a year or so of continued stagnation to imagine Saakashvili (or his groomed successor, Merabishvili) being welcomed back with open arms.

                There is no feasible way to reward Ivanishvili without also rewarding the Georgian elite; he doesn’t need more money, he needs credibility. And if he gets it, it’s possible the whores of the Georgian elite will pledge their loyalty to him instead – nothing succeeds like success.

                However, it would have to be done very delicately indeed, because the last thing he needs is validation of the campaign claims that he is a Kremlin stooge – hence my contention that he could not be rewarded without rewarding and supporting Georgians in general. But it looks to me like he is being offered the choice of being a western toady, or Georgian toast.

                • yalensis says:

                  I am not sure, based on these recent statements, that West is even giving him the option of being their toady. They’re basically telling him, “Saakashvili is our bitch, and you’re just warming the seat for him.” West is interfering in Gruzian justice system and protecting criminals who need to be arrested. Ivanishvili is being crowded into a corner and set up to fail.

                • The Financial Times has now joined in the anti Ivanishvili campaign with an editorial today published under the charming title “Georgia’s Bad Dream”. The editorial (which is behind a pay wall) warns off Ivanishvili from prosecuting Saakashvili’s associates saying it’s all a “witchhunt”.

          • Misha says:

            For a good period, Tito had a policy which essentially saw simultaneous Western and Soviet aid to Yugoslavia.

            Running counter to that situation is the all or nothing big power approach, along the lines of the termed: with us or against us.

            The Soviets weren’t particularly happy with a situation of a nation that went from pro-Soviet to a more non-aligned position. Conversely, they (for good reason) were more comfortable with a pro-Western regime becoming less pro-Western and a bit closer to Soviet positions. From the vantage-point of Western interests, that mindset existed in the West as well.

            For historical and cultural inter-relationship reasons, post-Soviet Russia has viewed Georgia and Ukraine differently from the Baltics. For spillover reasons, it’s not in Russian interests to see a “punished” (if you may) Ukraine and/or Georgia become too socioeconomically challenged.

            In contrast, the West is from a different neighborhood, thereby making it easier for that power block to suddenly lose a degree of interest in that area and concentrate on other matters.

            These thoughts lead to the reasoning behind a customs union involving Russia and some other former Soviet republics.

  42. yalensis says:

    Samutsevich interview at restaurant: She is quite upset about Verzilov and the lawyers, calls them parasites; very angry that Verzilov charges money for every interview. The cause shouldn’t be about money, she insists:

    • Misha says:

      Once with his daughter, Verzilov has been on Erin Burnett’s CNN show for at least two two softball segments.

      The same Burnett who treats the Occupy Wall Street Group like bratty bums.

      Upon being released, Sam was featured in a RIAN piece (previously linked at this blog), where she referred to Russia as one prison.

      Some prison.

      More like a freak show, where she along with Gessen, Latynina and a good number of other such like minded individuals get all kind of props.

      The situation in Russia could and should be constructively criticized.

      • Moscow Exile has made a very interesting point about Verzilov, which is that it is almost impossible to get information about him. I too have noticed this. Verzilov for example does not seem to have his own Wikipedia biography at least on English Wikipedia, which given how much publicity he gets is surprising. A man of mystery.

            • marknesop says:

              Speaking of Verzilov – he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page in English, either, although he comes up in hits associated with both his “world-famous Siberian” wife and Voina – here’s an insufferably smug article about him that I’m betting you can barely read without throwing it across the room. Petey Verzilov – who, “owing to his fluent English and media skills quickly became the defacto spokesperson for the band (not to mention his being free to walk around while the others are quite hard to interview in prison) – has been a staple on international news channels in recent weeks. Clearly relishing the spotlight, and the prominence it gives him that he would never be able to attain otherwise.

              Read on, as he jaw-droppingly compares his and other Voina members’ public copulation in a Moscow museum to erotic scenes that Hollywood stars take part in. He really does not see any difference, or pretends not to. He is likewise very casual about his wife’s time in the slammer, gratuitously volunteering that they “would have gone ahead with their performance even if they knew the consequences beforehand”. According to Pete Verzilov, “that’s the price you have to pay”, as he speaks movingly of “our struggle”. I don’t need to draw you a picture of how that contradicts the girls’ accounts in recent days. In fact, I doubt very much they would welcome Pete’s blathering on about what they would or would not have done even if they knew the consequences, which kind of makes it look like they could do two years standing on their heads, no problem.

              He segues smoothly into worldly patience; to people who were insulted, he says, “You know, Christianity is about forgiveness and love and the ability to find compassion for those who have insulted you.” Pastor Verzilov, Christian anarchist. Can’t picture him eating chicken that was just pulled out of somebody’s vagina right now, can you?

              I suppose I should celebrate and support him, since he is the biggest argument for the Pussies remaining in jail and having a hard time from the other prisoners while there (according to him, Tolokonnikova is so persuasive that “while there have been some negative attitudes in prison, after two or three hours of conversation, most people change their minds.” Is that so. Anyway, every time I see his smirky face, or hear any of that I-have-the-world-all-figured-out-and-I’m-only-25 claptrap, I just want to squish him in a giant vise, maybe a car-crusher.

              What do you want to bet that when he went to the front desk to see his wife, in the beginning of the article, that rather than the prison authorities canceling the visitation as he says, they actually told him she’s not interested in seeing him? Old Pete is obviously going to cruise on her name and get the most out of it before she gets out of the jug and shuts him down, by which time he probably will have established himself as their daughter’s custodian.

              • yalensis says:

                Now that Tolok has a new lawyer (=Khrunova), I hope the first thing she does is look into the custody issue of the kid. I predict that Khrunova will be able to get Tolok out early on good behavior, but then our modern Vera Pavlovna may emerge from her sewing circle only to find that Pete has absconded with the child. Before that is allowed to happen, they need to do a DNA test and verify that Pete is in fact the biological father.

          • Misha says:

            Based on two Erin Burnett CNN segments, the seemingly publicity seeking Verzilov doesn’t come across as a particularly interesting figure. He has been involved with propaganda that the more Russia unfriendly out there prefer.

            On a matter that involves a subject which the likes of Pussy Riot aren’t likely to comment on as follows:


            I showed it to someone in the ROCOR, who has ties to this particular church which played a role in bringing the ROCOR and ROC-MP together.


            In turn, that person showed it to someone in his/her church who noted an awareness of the site, which doesn’t seem to be sanctioned by any church institution; and is most likely an independent initiative by an individual or group.

            My ROCOR friend added these thoughts:

            Upon a quick perusal, most of criticism concerns other Orthodox Christian denominations (like the Orthodox Church in America and some Greek Orthodox bodies). There doesn’t seem to be anything negative about the ROCOR. It is curious that they chose a Russian word, Pokrov, which means protection/ shielding.

            Abuses and wrongdoing are evident within any relatively large sized denomination. One should be careful on posted internet claims that might not be so accurate.

        • yalensis says:

          Everybody and their grandmother has a wikipedia page, not always written by the subject himself. I understand that Verzilov would not write one himself, but surely somebody else would write one for him and put it up there. Only possible conclusion is a conspiracy theory: Wikipedia (both English and Russian versions) is being told (by mysterious men in black) to monitor and keep taking down his page the moment it goes up. Hm.. I just thought of an experiment: somebody who has a wikipedia account could write a simple stub page about Verzilov, just a few known factual facts, post it, and see if it is still there tomorrow. Misha, how about you? You could type up the bit about Verzilov’s American tour..

          • Misha says:


            Wikipedia has some suspect elements in a process that I’m not so familiar with. I detect a troll element there, which knows how to take advantage of having a greater knowledge of how to better influence things at that venue.

            IMO, too much of an emphasis on Verzilov is counter-productive. Should I comment about him, I think I’d be better off doing so in a formally presented commentary that stands a chance of getting picked up at venues like the History News Network, InoSMI, Pravda.Ru and Valdai Discussion Club.

        • Jennifer Hor says:

          English-language Wikipedia mentions Verzilov in its Voina article at

          The Voina folks seem to be distancing themselves from Verzilov by calling him a police stooge and Tolokonnikova and Alyhokhina have disowned him if these links are for real:

          The suggestion is that Verzilov is a police informant who infiltrated the group to discredit the members and get them in trouble.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Verzilov and his wife have long been ostracised by the true “artists” that make up the “official” (St.Petersburg) Voina. The dynamic duo have been accused by them of theft (a colleague-artist’s laptop from a flat where they had been dossing out) and of informing the cops of the identities of Voina members:

            Я знаю лишь одно. Когда администрация Химок в 2010 году была разгромленна и мы направились обратно в электричку всю акцию на камеры снимали различные
            журналисты. И только один мудак стал снимать уже после, внутри электрички, когда активисты стали снимать маски. Позже эта запись попала в интернет. Это был Петя Верзилов. Сука!

            [I know only one thing: When the Khimki authorities had been defeated in 2010 [ a reference to a successful Khimki forest protest action - ME] and we were heading back to the train, the whole action was recorded on camera by various journalists, but later on only one arsehole began taking pictures on the train after activists had taken off their masks. And then these pictures hit the Internet. That was Petr Verzilov. Bitch!]

            There’s more of the above here, but I can’t be arsed translating it all because I’ve got to go to work now. Winter’s arrived, and it’s been snowing here all day and I don’t want to go.


            I can see Peter one day being strung up in such a fashion that Putin wished that Saakashvili suffer.

            I really do hope so!

            • Dear Jennifer,

              Thanks for all this.

              Every time I look up the entry for Voina on Wikipedia it changes. This is not the same entry that I read previously. Someone appears to have gone to great trouble both to distance Voina from Verzilov and to distinguish the actions of the supposedly “original” Voina of St. Petersburg from those of the Moscow faction led by Verzilov. I would add that on the last occasion I read the Wikipedia entry on Voina it attributed the incident in which Madagascan cockroaches were released in a Court room in which Samutsevich was involved to the “official” or “original” St. Petersburg based Voina.

              Incidentally I notice that the website that purports to be the one connected to the St. Petersburg Voina has published in full the statement by Pussy Riot denouncing Verzilov even though Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich are supposedly connected to the Moscow faction and not to this group. Of course this could be just mischief making.

              @Yalensis, Moscow Exile: the fact that Verzilov does not have a Wikipedia entry either on English language Wikipedia or on Russian Wikipedia is extremely strange. He is not after all just “anybody”. He is someone who is continuously in the news and who is intimately involved in the most famous court case in Russia since Khodorkovksy’s trial. Also as Moscow Exile says it is not just Wikipedia that is not publishing his biography. It is impossible to find his biography anywhere else either. As Yalensis says someone has taken a decision to keep as much information about Verzilov as possible off not just Wikipedia but the whole internet. The influence needed to do that is very considerable and I wonder who it could be?

              That Verzilov appears to have influential friends is also suggested by the fact that though he has now been denounced in the strongest possible terms by both the St. Petersburg branch of Voina and by Pussy Riot (including by Tolokonnikova who is supposed to be his wife) he continues regular as clockwork to pop up and be accepted as Pussy Riot’s spokesman without the obvious questions being asked. This is totally bizarre. It seems unlikely that Verzilov is a full time police agent (which is not the same thing as saying that he has not on occasion been a police informer) since it is difficult to see how any of his actions have benefitted the police. My brother, who is every bit as much of a conspiracy theorist as Yalensis, thinks largely on the strength of his command of English that Verzilov’s connections are with western intelligence agencies. If that is so then they suffer from a grotesque lack of proportion if they are prepared to invest money and time in a person like that. Frankly until recently the theory struck me as farfetched. However it might explain a few things and if only for that reason I record it here.

              • yalensis says:

                Dear Alexander: Good points, just one clarification: I don’t THINK I consider myself to be a conspiracy theorist. Do I come off that way, sometimes? Ouch! I mean, sometimes there really are conspiracies, though. I think I am more of a spy buff, because I know that spies do exist. (As opposed to, say, UFOS or little green men – LOL!)

                • Dear Yalensis,

                  Apologies. I was being mischievous. The reason I said it was because I seem to remember that in a comment you made some while back you humorously described yourself as one (and said that most Russians are).

                  By the way, on the subject of conspiracies, they most definitely happen and anyone who says or pretends that they don’t is either dishonest or a fool.

                • yalensis says:

                  Ha ha! No apologies needed, Alexander, I knew you were just being mischievous! I like to think of myself as a puzzle-solver. So many puzzles, so little time! (And so few verified facts!)

            • Misha says:

              A thought that’s not meant as a defense for Verzilov: consider that a jealousy factor might be at play, inclusive of possibly meshing the instance of certain personalities not being able to get along well.

              On another particular raised, i doubt that Verzilov is some kind of a Russian government mole.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                He could be a police agent. Why was he arrested and then set free?



                I still do not understand why the chief protaganist of the Pussy Riot “punk prayer service”, Peter Verzilov, has not been prosecuted. It is known that this former small-time provocateur, cast into exile for his betrayal of the scandalous art group “War”, is the inspirer, ogranizer and co-author (if not author of all) Pussy Riot “events”. He, together with Tolokonnikova, organized the group, recruited to it “feminists”, and informed the media of their provocations.

                He went to Christ the Saviour Cathedral accompanied by the girls; he carried that same guitar that appears in the video (playing at least a small part in the event), and subsequently blatantly lied, saying that his “Pussy” wife had not been on the ambon [the sanctuary before the altar - ME]. He changed his tune, however, when the truth of the matter was revealed. He was arrested as one of the subjects but was released. Why?

                The strangest thing in this situation is that it has been established for certain that Peter Verzilov ( a Canadian citizen since 2005, by the way) is directly related to the so-called punk prayers. From the text of the police statement:

                [There follows a police statement concerning the results of a police search of Verzilov's residence. In it are listed the video files found in Verzilov's laptop of PR events and rehearsals for the cathedral performamce and of the performance itself and the text of the "prayer".]

                Now this “producer” quietly walks about in freedom, busying himself with the commercialization of the “punks”, such as Pussy Riot trademark registration, and giving interviews to the foreign CNN, where in perfect (native?) English he states that he would love to go to gaol instead of his wife.

                Let’s just say that Verzilov has no chance of becoming a political prisoner (you’ve got to be kidding!) but why was he smiling and beaming away on verdict day and not standing in the dock? As the key organiser and leader of this gang shouldn’t he have appeared before a judge?

                • Dear Moscow Exile,

                  This makes some telling points but I still think it unlikely that Verzilov is a full time police agent or provocateur. Such people for obvious reasons try not to draw attention to themselves – something one certainly cannot say about Verzilov.

                  Also I get the impression (and I admit it is only an impression) that the Russian police and security agencies have a strong aversion to the use of provocateurs (as opposed to the use of informers). I do not know of any important case in Russia where provocation tactics have been used by the authorities since the famous Trust Operation of the 1920s. I suspect that the reason is that the Russian security agencies have a strong institutional memory of the disastrous results of the provocation tactics used by the tsarist secret police the Okhranka before the Revolution. The Okhranka did use provocation tactics on an enormous scale but found it impossible to control the provocateurs it employed. One of them (Azev) became the leader of the terrorist arm of the Socialist Revolutionary party and was able to use his contacts inside the police to plan the successful assassinations of the Interior Minister and the tsar’s uncle. Another provocateur turned terrorist murdered Stolypin, the tsar’s Prime Minister. A third (Father Gapon) organised the workers’ demonstration that ended in the Bloody Sunday massacre. The net result was to weaken the government more than the opposition and the terrorists and I get the sense that the unspoken words within the Russian security agencies ever since have been “never again”.

                • Dear Misha,

                  You are absolutely right that one should not discount the importance of jealousy in things that the Voina/Pussy Riot collective (or “collectives”?) write and say about each other. Like all “revolutionary” microgroups this one seems to be riven with factions. For the same reason one should be very wary of assuming that anything they say or write about each other is true.

                  Having said this, whilst I agree that Verzilov is completely unimportant in himself, whether we like the fact or not he has been given an enormous amount of attention both by the international media and by the Russian press. Whilst he absolutely does not deserve this attention the effect of this attention is to make him important, not because of who or what he is or because of anything he has said or done but because of who or what the media say he is. Most people in Russia will have heard of Pussy Riot and will know something about the case and many (though not all) of them will have heard of Verzilov. Exposing him for the charlatan he is does therefore matter.

                • Misha says:

                  Hello Alexander,

                  With some degree of apparent validity, your comment on the Okhrana has been said of some of the anti-Russian government forces of that day.

                  On such matter, it’s important (for accuracy sake) to be sure of clearly established fact over a claim with some circumstantial evidence that might not be so clear cut. Not to be ruled out are instances of rogue elements acting on their own.

                  On another matter discussed the Pussy Riot star father/husband/whatever isn’t serving the best interests of the Russian government, when considering his CNN and BBC comments.

                • marknesop says:

                  That’s interesting; I had heard there were rehearsals for the cathedral performance, and they must have had an idea of the layout because they would have known they’d only have minutes to complete their “art event”. But I didn’t know the police had video evidence of these rehearsals.

                  As to Verzilov’s English, it is not native, but he had plenty of opportunity to polish it. According to his own account, he attended school in Canada for 5 years: Swansea Public and Humber Collegiate, both in Toronto’s west end.

                  The article says that the Washington Post reported Verzilov’s passport was shown on TV “as evidence he wants to tear the country apart”. What a dreamer. This rabble’s importance is consistently and determinedly exaggerated, as if they were some revolutionary partisan band. They’re just a bunch of kids who are too lazy to get jobs, and pretend not to do anything useful out of high-mindedness because they follow a discipline above the common herd. What a joke.

                  However, if you can bear to read to the end, it mentions that nobody is quite sure how Tolokonnikova obtained her Permanent Residency; a Permanent Resident must be physically present in Canada to receive the card, which Tolokonnikova is known to have, and she must live in Canada 2 years out of 5 in order to maintain it. So far as things appear as I’m aware, there are no long unaccounted-for absences in Tolokonnikova’s adult history – she has been a high-profile hellraiser in Russia. Mind you, members of Voina – and those who pretend to be – take pains to wear masks so you don’t really know who is who. In any event, if the Canadian government is bending the rules for this degenerate, there will be trouble.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Alexander Mercouris,

                  I am in full agreement about what you say concerning the unlikelihood of Verzilov being a police provocateur/informer, and as Mark has pointed out, that noisome individual’s command of English is not that of a native speaker, as suggested by the Russian author of the blog that I linked above and have partly translated. The fact remains, however, that Verzilov has not been charged by the police with anything, despite the fact of evidence of his having played a significant role in the organizing of “the event” that led to to two PR members being convicted to a custodial sentence. Apart from the provocation in the cathedral and Verzilov’s part in its conception and organization, what I find very strange is that he and others have not been arrested for their performance in the zoological museum in which he and other “artists” fornicated or appeared to fornicate in public and which “event” is still available for viewing on the web. What Verzilov and others did in that museum was an act of gross public indecency – a criminal act, no less a criminal act of gross indecency which a Voina member did with a frozen chicken in a public place. After the chicken stunt, that Voina member who performed it chose to go in hiding, as has the wife of the “official” Voina group’s co-founder and who has subsequently had an international warrant issued for her arrest. Yet Verzilov, otherwise known as “Pete the Pedo” or “Porky Pete”, still walks around free and pontificates to any willing to pay for the privilege of listening to his inanities. Has this happened simply because the authorities do not want to make a martyr of him, that his wife’s and her associate’s imprisonment and subsequent elevation in the West to the status of a “political prisoner” is already too much to handle, that the PR arrest and imprisonment has become such a PR disaster that the state prosecutor is wary of arresting this annoying individual? I should hardly think so.

                • Misha says:

                  The suggestion of Verzilov as a Russian government informer IMO serves to hype the significance of Pussy Riot.

                  He wasn’t in the chapel during PR’s stunt, which would seem to greatly explain why he’s not in the dock.

                  Putin’s apparent mishap of mischaracterizing PR as anti-Semitic is possibly due to the Russian leader confusing that group with something else – the result of his not really being interested in their activity.

                  At the same time, PR has been propped by some influential elements in the West, which leads to a reluctant discussion about them.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Misha said of Verzilov: “He wasn’t in the chapel during PR’s stunt, which would seem to greatly explain why he’s not in the dock”.

                  He most certainly was in the cathedral. There is a video – one of many on the web – where he can clearly be seen entering the building whilst carrying a guitar case and following his acolytes, all of whom are appropriately dressed but who all, having cleared security, take off their overcoats to reveal their PR outfit minus the masks, which they then don. Verzilov can also be seen hastening for they exit after the ambon has been cleared of the “feminist punk rock band”.

  43. Misha says:


    Excerpt –

    “Having come back from Russia recently, I would say that the Russian leadership is not putting forward a comprehensive and coherent program of cooperation with the United States. There are small things that they point out, such as the visa regime that has been improved by an agreement between [U.S.] Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton and [Russian] Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov. But overall after Russia received U.S. approval for joining the WTO, there is no major, positive list of priorities. It is all criticism; it is all negative. And this is very disappointing. Because, after all, the Russians need to develop their economy, especially beyond oil and gas. And the United States could provide a lot of assistance in terms of investment, in terms of developing the lagging Russian health-care sector, etc. So, I would say that both sides should be working harder to come up with a positive priority agenda.”


    Starts off with a noticeable and questionable slant with a last sentence which by itself is more objective.

    Excerpt –

    “If you go back over 100 years in history you find that in the late stages of the Romanov empire — the last quarter of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century — the regime was nationalistic and xenophobic. It was nationalistic and xenophobic, for example, compared to the more liberal regime under Aleksandr II, because it felt insecure. So, yes, there is a strong domestic dimension of anti-Americanism. It is to consolidate the society, to create what is called in Russian ‘vneshny vrag,’ the external enemy, and to boost the prestige of the intelligence services, of the military, of the state, of the commander-in-chief — the president. That is, indeed, a means to legitimize the current regime that feels, somewhat, weakened in terms of its popular legitimacy because it needed to take extreme measures to create an impression that the ruling party was legitimately elected to the Duma in the December [2011] elections.

    ​​​​But there is also a deep-seated suspicion and dislike of America for the rulers who come from the Soviet intelligence services and, unfortunately, believe their own propaganda. There is very little competition in terms of sources of information, in terms of competing world views in Russia today — even in comparison with the 1990s. There is one world view that is fed by the intelligence services and anti-Western — what they call anti-liberal — and anti-American values play a very significant role.”


    The aforementioned more liberal Alexander II period was taken advantage of by terrorists. This didn’t completely stop efforts to reform Russia along non-Bolshevik lines. The chaotic situation in 1990s Russia has prompted a mindset of cautious reforms. No mention made of the post-Soviet Russian efforts of reaching out to the West, which saw a limited payoff. Also downplayed are the ongoing anti-Russian leaning biases getting the upper hand.

    In Russia, there’s open discussion on what course to take. If I’m not mistaken, the interviewed Ariel Cohen had been at the recent Valdai Discussion Club gathering.

    • The Ariel Cohen article is a fascinating example of mischievous mirror imaging.

      Firstly it accuses the Russians of anti Americanism and xenophobia. I see no sign of any such thing. By contrast Russophobia is rampant in the US as we repeatedly see eg. McCain’s and Romney’s comments about Russia or the orgy of ugly commentary around the Pussy Riot affair last summer. Secondly it demands that Russia simply accept US poliicies that are hostile to it such as the placement of anti missile defences in eastern Europe (which are “of course” only targeted at rogue states) and the Magnitsky Law (which the Russians are supposed to welcome because it allegedly helps them with their anti corruption campaign!). It then complains that there are no pro American voices in Russia for the Russian leadership to listen to, ignoring people like Konstantin von Eggert or the Higher School of Economics (not to mention the likes of Latynina). As anyone (eg. Professor Stephen Cohen) with an ounce of objectivity will agree, it is in the US where there is a problem of a diversity of voices on US Russian relations. It then places the whole onus of seeking an improvement in relations with the US on Russia and ends with the flourish that Russia “needs” US help to modernise its economy. Yet as we have seen a Georgian politician has just complained that twenty years of close association with the US has brought Georgia nothing but economic disaster. If that is true of little Georgia how much truer would it be of Russia? Besides the US had all the opportunity it needed to “help” Russia “modernise its economy” in the 1990s and we all saw what happened then. Anyway I dislike talk about “helping” countries to modernise their economies, which implies that some sort of favour is being done to them.

      Ariel Cohen is of course a member of the neocon Heritage Foundation so one should not expect any better.

      • Misha says:

        AEI is the neocon to the Heritage being more conservative, with Brookings in a neolib mode. Regardless, these orgs. have some similarity when it comes to Russia.

        Putin readily accepts leaders like Bush (when he was president) and Merkel coming to Russia and state negatively inaccurate things about that country. The reciprocity of such manner lacks. Putin taking that stance on a visit to either the US and/or Germany would draw a look who is talking follow-up from the commentariat.

        Ariel Cohen is also involved wth the Valdai Discussion Club structure, that shows a greater diversity than a good number of the kind of events on Russia hosted in the US.

        Glad to see the Valdai Discussion Club feature my most recent piece in the foreign press portion of its home page. Seeing more of such commentary there and elsewhere serves the purpose of offering a greater diversity of valid opinions.

        • That’s exactly the point. Putin is the elected leader of Russia and Obama is the elected leader of the US. Both have their domestic critics though Obama’s are far more numerous than Putin’s. One only has to compare the coverage Putin gets in the US press with the coverage Obama gets in the Russian press to see where the real hostility and xenophobia is.

      • rkka says:

        “Besides the US had all the opportunity it needed to “help” Russia “modernise its economy” in the 1990s and we all saw what happened then. ”

        And not only to Russia. Looking at the European successor states to the USSR, the most enthusiastic “FreeMarketDemocraticReformers” have seen both the greatest population loss. All the Baltic States, and Ukraine, have suffered 13%-20% population loss since 1992. Russia has lost ~4% of her 1992 population, and Belarus, “The Last Dictatorship in Europe” has lost ~7%.

        • marknesop says:

          Excellent point. I didn’t know that, and I don’t know that anyone else has pointed it out in quite that way.

          • yalensis says:

            It is a good point, and it totally makes sense, since “free market economics” is all about consolidating banks and international finance capital, at the expense of regular people who do regular work.

  44. yalensis says:

    In NGO news:
    Alexeeva reveals that the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) NGO has enough $$$ from their past American grants to last until May 2013. What a relief!
    Recall that a few days ago (Nov. 21), the law went into force whereby Russian NGO’s have to register as foreign agents if they are receiving foreign $$$. MHG decided to NOT register as a foreign agent, and instead throw themselves on the mercy of Russian donors. For this purpose, they set up a website so that Russian citizens can donate $$$ to their cause.
    Realistically, Alexeeva realizes that the pittance she will receive from like-minded Russians is not enough to keep her in the style to which she has become accustomed. But she assures us that she has some $$$ squirrelled away from the American “President’s Grant”, and it will last her until May.
    As one commenter pointed out, Americans can beat the system in the following manner: They can secretly wire money to some anonymous Russian citizen, and then that guy can donate it to Alexeeva, pretending that it was his own money.
    However (this is my suggestion), Russian government could counter such a gambit by forcing NGO’s to post online an accounting of all their donations and their sources, and not allow anonymous donors to political organizations.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      The point people like Alexeyeva want us to forget is that she can go on receiving her mammoth grants from the US for as long as she likes. There is nothing in the law that prevents her doing so. What the law requires is that if she does go on doing so she register as a US agent. Given that by her ownn admission she gets most of her money from the US there is nothing unreasonable about that.

      On the subject of secret wire transfers to Russian citizens to circumvent the new law, that is straightforward money laundering. The law imposes careful accounting and disclosure procedures precisely to prevent that sort of thing happening, which would be obviously illegal.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Alekseeva is also a US citizen and has been so for a very long time.


        It cannot be because she lives in fear of her life here and that her US passport functions as a get-out-of-jail-free card or affords her security of mind. I hardly think that she has not rescinded her US citizenship because she intends to spend her retirement in the USA: she is well past her twilight years already and is long past the midnight hour of an average life span; it doesn’t seem that she wishes to be shipped off to the USA either in order to draw there her last breath in the balmy fresh air of “freedom”.

        I can understand why the likes of Gessen hangs on to her dual Russian-US nationality: she constantly writes such venom about Russia, the Russians and the Russian president in particular that it would come as no surprise to anyone – least of all, I daresay, to her – that at any moment she should get her marching orders from the Evil One. I can hardly think of any state in the world that would harbour a foreign national who has written such spiteful, mendacious garbage about its head of state as Gessen has of Putin, whom she describes as a dictator. And although Russia is her country of origin and she was born a Russian citizen, the fact is that she, together with her family, chose to leave Mother Russia in 1981 because of the alleged anti-semitism that they had to endure here. She returned to Russia in 1991 and applied for the citizenship that she, with her family, had been more than willing to reject 10 years previously – and she got her Russian citizenship back again, only to spit metephorically and continuosly into the face of the state that granted her its citizenship.

        Well easy come – easy go, as they say: I think Gessen’s Russian citizenship should be as easily denied her as it was so easily granted.

        Same goes for Alekseeva.

        • Misha says:

          On the matter of improving the coverage of Russia, Putin’s reported attempt to reach out to Gessen is counterproductive, when compared to what he could instead be doing – like reaching out to an earnest counter-advocacy (to Gessen) source.

          • Dear Moscow Exile,

            Thanks for reminding me of all of this.

            So Alexeyeva is a US citizen running an NGO in Russia which is funded (through the National Endowment for Democracy) by the US government. Yet she protests vehemently when she is asked to register as a US agent. What else is she though? Let us not forget that the National Endowment for Democracy was specifically charged by the Reagan administration in the 1980s with channelling funds that had once been channelled by the CIA.

            • marknesop says:

              People often forget that Alekseeva is an American citizen, and you are quite right that the same set of circumstances would never be given a free hand in the USA. However, I don’t think (without checking) that the funds her group received were a “mammoth grant”, although it might be worth finding out. I remember on NDI’s pages that most organizations received around $80,000.00 a year and some as little as $10,000.00 or so. Still, it’s American funding to an American citizen operating in Russia in direct opposition to the Russian government. America would never allow it.

      • yalensis says:

        Dear Alexander: Alexeeva admitted that she always had the option to register as a foreign agent under the new NGO law. She could have registered as an American agent and continued to receive the dough. But she decided she didn’t want to do that, I’m not sure why. So, now she has to try to make a living off Russian donors. Lots of luck with that, unless she can find herself an oligarch sugar-daddy!

        • marknesop says:

          “Lots of luck with that, unless she can find herself an oligarch sugar-daddy!”

          Berezovsky would have been first in line with his checkbook out, if he had any money left, but now he has troubles of his own. However, there are plenty of rich Russians who would like to get a lot richer and long for a return to the freewheeling late 90’s. Not to mention Khodorkovsky, who will be out of the jug pretty soon. I wouldn’t count on her going broke anytime soon, although of course she will squall like she is going broke.

          At bottom is the belief of these people that an American-style government would do so much a better job; there would be double freedom for all, everyone would be able to say and do whatever he or she liked, and everyone would be comfortably well-off into the bargain.The main things arguing against that are that it does not accurately describe social conditions in current democracies, and that the opposition has no plans at all for how to arrive at this Nirvana. It is therefore fairly safe to assume they intend to rely on outside advice once they achieve power. I don’t need to remind anyone, I’m sure, how that went last time. That is of course no guarantee it would go just the same on a subsequent occasion, but I would suggest it offers a disproportionately high degree of risk.

    • marknesop says:

      That scheme would fall apart very quickly if the government could discover the local source of the funds, because the government would legitimately want to know why it so greatly exceeded his/her declared income and whether he/she had paid taxes on it. Money always leaves a trail, and the efforts of the Russian government to keep track of it will doubtless turn up a good bit of national corruption as well, which is all to the good. Unless it were Ksenya Sobchak, who everyone knows keeps a million or so dollars lying around her flat in envelopes because she doesn’t trust banks.

      It used to be very easy to spirit money into and out of Russia; remember “The Money Plane”? At least $100 Million every weekday flown straight into Moscow to finance the Russian mob? How could that not empower lawlessness, and how can that article not be rubbed roughly in the faces of westerners – especially Americans – who now dare to speak snootily of corruption? Thanks to whom?

  45. Misha says:

    Awhile back, the Kyiv Post uncritically reported about someone being a “Russian killer”:

    In that piece, specificity is lacking on a reported statement in support of that claim.

    The “Russian killer” has since been transformed into something else:

  46. Moscow Exile says:

    Alexei Beyer (native Muscovite, though resident 38/39 years outside of Russia, having emigrated to the USA in 1973, when he was 17) at his best in today’s Moscow Times in an article entitled: “The First Post-Soviet Revolution”.

    He means the marches of “millions” that have signalled the indisputable (for him, at any rate) death knell of the “doomed repressive regime”, otherwise known as the present Russian administration that was elected by a majority of Russian citizens.


    • Alexei Beyer has taken umbrage about some of the things we have been writing about him but after reading articles like this I will say that for my part I take absolutely nothing back.

      This article is simply another variant of the Chubais thesis that the weaker the protest movement gets the more successful it becomes. We have already discussed the absurdity of this thesis. Comparisons with the revolutionary conditions of the late tsarist period are not so much farfetched as frankly ludicrous whilst the article repeats the common mistake about the fall of the USSR that it was the result of a popular insurrection when it was actually the result of a coup.

      It is simply not helpful to talk of revolution in Russia because a few generally peaceful and law abiding demonstrations happen there during an election season. Doing so simply confuses things and leads to misunderstanding of the situation there of which there has been far too much. More to the point, since there is no desire for revolution in the country (a fact repeatedly confirmed by opinion polls) what such talk does is make people nervous when they have no reason to be, which makes the country’s political evolution more difficult rather than less.

    • marknesop says:

      Dream on, Alexei. Exactly what forces have been “unleashed” by this completely “spontaneous” protest movement?

      He does manage to hit all the usual hot buttons; corruption, authoritarianism, repression, bla, bla. According to him, the authoritarian government is shaking in its bottinki because of the massive implicit threat of this movement, and is throwing “everything it has” at it to stop it. I don’t think Alexei wants to see everything the government actually has, and I believe the “movement” would be embarrassed if it realized just how little attention is actually dedicated to it. As usual, the coverage it gets in the Anglosphere is mistaken for a measure of its domestic influence.

      • Not the least fantastic aspect of Alexei Beyer’s article is the way he trivialises the events of 1905 in order to draw comparisons with the situation in Russia today. The reality of 1905 bears no relation to the minor demonstrations that supposedly never threatened the monarchy that Alexei Beyer writes about.

        In January 1905 the whole of St. Petersburg was in the grip of a general strike over the course of which a large workers’ demonstration was fired on by the tsar’s troops causing at a minimum 100 people to be killed (“Bloody Sunday”). Over the course of the summer of 1905 the entire railway system stopped because of a strike (referred to by Pasternak in Doctor Zhivago). In December 1905 there was a massive insurrection by the workers of Moscow centred on the Presnia district which could only be suppressed by troops brought in from St. Petersburg because of fears that the Moscow garrison might join in. At least 1,000 people are known to have been killed. There were mutinies in the fleet (eg. the famous one on the cruiser Potemkin) and massive unrest in the countryside, which obliged the authorities to despatch punitive expeditions there to restore order. Meanwhile all sorts of important officials were assassinated by revolutionary terrorists including the Interior Minister and the Governor General of Moscow who was also the tsar’s uncle. Even the dancers of the Imperial Ballet at one point went on strike.

        Tell me in what possible way does this bear comparison with what we saw in Russia over the course of the last year? How can one take seriously a journalist who pretends that it does?

        • Misha says:

          Between 1905 and the start of WW I, the situation in Russia had noticeably stabilized to the point of political analysis of that day reasonably seeing little if any chance of a Bolshevik victory, as a large country was in the process of change.

          To some degree, that view can arguably apply to present circumstances regarding United Russia, the other Duma represented parties and the significance of outside figures like Navalny, whose political popularity in Russia remains (put mildly) quite challenged.

          Short of a major world war type of scenario, a kind of repeat of the aforementioned past seems (at least for now) limited.

          There’s also the view that many Russians are more apprehensive about encouraging a dramatic upheaval out of a disagreement with the existing status quo.

          • Dear Misha,

            There was a certain stabilisation after 1905 but there is simply no comparison with the situation now.

            The first Duma elections in 1906 produced a strong anti government majority and the tsar was only able to reassert his control over the Duma by dissolving it illegally in 1907 and by breaching his own oath by calling new Duma elections under far more restricted franchise. Economic growth resumed but was underpinned by a heavy borrowing including a massive loan the tsar was obliged to raise in France in 1906, which had the effect of binding him closer to France at a time when he had been trying to gain for himself and Russia greater freedom of action by reaching out to Germany. The new Prime Minister Stolypin for a time ran an effective government, but eventually began to run into resistance from conservative court circles and was assassinated in mysterious circumstances by a man who was subsequently identified as police agent. No one who replaced him matched his stature and Dominic Lieven whose biography of Nicholas II is far and away the best describes a deeply dysfunctional government, a tsar who was unable to gain a grip or make proper decisions and who felt so insecure he could not even bring himself to employ a secretary and a court that was becoming increasingly demoralised in part no doubt because of the effect of the Rasputin scandal. Industrial unrest continued with violent strikes in Baku and in the Lena goldfields and at the time of the July Crisis in 1914 which led to the First World War St. Petersburg was again in the grip of a general strike. The situation was in fact so precarious that the former Interior Minister Pyotr Durnovo early in 1914 warned the tsar that the working class had been won over completely to the cause of revolutionary socialism and that the monarchy risked its existence in the event of a war with Germany, which should therefore be avoided at all costs.

            That does not of course mean that Russia was predestined for revolution or that one would have happened without the First World War but it bears no relation to the situation in Russia today.

            • Misha says:

              The point being (in a prior set of comments) is that it’ll likely take an extreme occurrence like increased suffering due to an instance like a major world war, coupled by foreign support of anti-government agitators to dramatically change the political situation in Russia.

              Russia wasn’t faced with an either Bolshevik Revolution or bust situation – something that Dominic Lieven clearly expressed in an RT segment.

              What happened after 1917 has led a good number to second guess the purpose of extreme change out of not being so happy about existing circumstances. The 1990s experience has also been linked to this way of thinking.

              A “whataboutism” of sorts notes some pretty radical instances in pre-WW I America. One example being the oligarch like dominance in Chicago, which heavy handedly wrecked proletarian attempts at better conditions, during a period that didn’t involve enhanced suffering as a result of war and/or foreign subversion.

              • Dear Misha,

                I didn’t say that the government arranged to have Stolypin assassinated. However it is an established fact that his murderer Bogrov worked as an informer for the Okhranka. The full circumstances of Stolypin’s murder were never clarified because the tsar closed down the investigation and after overriding protests from Stolypin’s wife had Bogrov hanged within ten days of Stolypin’s death. Needless to say all this has fostered suspicion that Stolypin was murdered at the instigation of reactionaries who were opposed to his reforms, a fact that gained further support when the tsar asked Stolypin, who was on his death bed, to “forgive” him (for what one wonders?).

                I should say that I personally do not think that Stolypin was murdered at the instigation of reactionaries. Bogrov was Jewish and though he had worked as an informer for the Okhranka I think he murdered Stolypin out of anger at what he perceived as the anti Jewish policies of the government. The same had happened some years before when the Okhranka agent Azev who was also Jewish organised the murder of the Interior Minister Plehve out of anger at the government’s anti Jewish policies. I understand by the way that Solzhenitsyn in August 1914 took a different view and came down on the side of those who think Stolypin’s murder was arranged by reactionaries. However I have never thought much of Solzhenitsyn as an historian and I don’t agree with him on this.

                For the rest I have no doubt that if Russia were attacked today the Russian people would support their government and would rally to Russia’s defence.

                • Misha says:

                  Petliura’s assassin was a politically left of center Jew who is said to have held the Ukrainian separatist leader responsible for the pogroms against the Jews.

                  I’d respectfully like to check on the suggested pogrom angle for killing Stolypin.

                  Meantime, there hasn’t been a direct connection established between a joint Bogrov-rogue Russian government plot that led to Stolypin’s murder.

                  On your last point, Lenin appears to have essentially rooted for the Japanese against the Russians. Regarding WW I, this mindset was evident in Pasternak’s Dr. Zhuvago. There’s a scene depicting Dr. Z’s half brother as a Russian soldier who wasn’t motivated to see Russia succeed in that war.

                • yalensis says:

                  Lenin most DEFINITELY rooted for the Japanese in the 1904 war. It wasn’t that he liked the Japanese very much, he didn’t care for them at all. But he left no room for ambiguity that he wanted to see Russia defeated in that war. His position (position of the Bolshevik Party) was that Russian proletarians should root for the Japanese army, and Japanese proletarians should root for the Russian army. It was sort like “A plague on both your houses.”
                  Lenin wanted to see proletarians of all countries ally together against all their respective governments. He saw mindless patriotism as a bourgeois ideology that kept workers in thrall to their local bosses.
                  Lenin also hoped that a Russian military defeat at the hands of the Japanese would weaken the Romanov dynasty and provide an opening for regime change, to the benefit of the proletariat. He proved to be right about that.
                  Lenin hated bourgeois patriotism. The only country in the world that he did have a slight sympathy for was Germany. Hence, he fervently hoped to see a strategic Russian-German alliance against the true enemy, Great Britain.
                  After the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin softened towards Russia and became somewhat more patriotic, now that he felt he actually had something worthwhile to root for. (I guess kind of like Michelle Obama saying she started to love America more after Barack was elected president.)
                  I guess the moral of the story is this: With the possible exception of a mother’s love for her child (and even that is highly dubious), there is no such thing as truly unconditional love. Love for country is no exception. It is conditional, and contextual.

                • Dear Misha,

                  It is impossible “to investigate the pogrom angle” to Stolypin’s murder because the tsar cut short the investigation by having Bogrov executed within ten days of Stolypin’s death before he could be properly questioned. This and the tsar’s last words to Stolypin strongly suggest that the tsar at least thought that important people in the government and the court including possibly members of his own family might be involved. The tsar responded in the same way in January 1918 when he had the investigation into Rasputin’s murder cut short when it became clear it was going to identify several members of his family amongst Rasputin’s killers.

                  However that the tsar may have thought what he did about Stolypin’s murder doesn’t mean he was right. Quite apart from the extraordinary risks any members of the government and the court would have been taking in arranging to have Stolypin killed, it is difficult to understand the motive since by the time of the murder Stolypin had lost the tsar’s favour, had been forced to resign and no longer exercised power. Why therefore go to all the trouble and take the extraordinary risks of having him killed?

                  That Bogrov acted out of anger at the government’s anti Jewish policies is only a guess but given that Bogrov was Jewish and given Stolypin’s reputation it is at least plausible. In my opinion far too much emphasis is placed today on Stolypin as a reformer. Stolypin did try to engineer changes in the countryside but his reputation at the time was less one of a reformer and more of a ruthless and unflinching supporter of the tsar’s autocracy. He was closely associated with the Duma’s illegal dissolution in 1907, the new restricted suffrage law and the government’s campaign of repression against the democratic and revolutionary movement. Not for nothing was the hangman’s noose called “the Stolypin necktie”. He also by the way introduced the closed railway carriages that were used to transport convicts to their prisons right up until the 1960s. In Finland where I have recently been he is also associated with the intensified policy of Russification that turned Finns against the tsar’s government in the years before the First World War.

                  Given this record it is not difficult to see why someone such as Bogrov might blame Stolypin for the government’s anti Jewish policies. Of course the great irony in that case is that as we now know Stolypin strongly opposed these policies. As Prime Minister Stolypin had wanted to end all discrimination against Jews but had been forced to drop plans to do this because of opposition from the tsar.

                • Misha says:

                  Re: Stolypin & Bogrov

                  These two books touch on some thoughts brought up at this thread:


                  Salo Baron’s book characterizes Stolypin as a progressive element among Russian officialdom, who didn’t exhibit animosity towards the Jews.

                  Massie portrays Bogrov as a revolutionary, whose ties with the Okhrana were along the lines of two extremes looking to use each other for different purposes – adding that one probability is that Bogrov independently planned the operation without the coordinated help/knowledge of some conservative Rusian government elements.

                  These two books make no mention of anti-Semitism as a motive.

                  Moreover, Massie details how the Russian government sent in a detachment of Cossacks for the purpose of preventing a pogrom, with the knowledge that a frenzy might occur. On a related note, I heard personal family accounts of a friend whose family relation from that era included an instance of being sent to an area to end a pogrom that was started for a reason that wasn’t attributed to Russian government instigation. Such violence wasn’t always related to those in the Russian government. There was a basis for others to see such violence as a means of enhancing a destabilization of the country.


                  Lenin’s aforementioned motive for rooting for the Japanese against Russia brings to mind another matter.

                  Vlasov in WW II sought an alliance with pro-Russian/anti-Communist German elements, with the hope of eventually creating better conditions for Russia. In retrospect, his stance might’ve been greatly motivated on the notion that the Nazis would prevail, with the chance of a more opened minded attitude at the higher levels of German governance.

                  In Nazi captivity, Vlasov got himself in a bit of hot water for making pro-Russian comments having to do with how Russian themselves needed to play a lead role in changing the situation in Russia.

                  Under difficult conditions, Vlasov didn’t crap on his country with negatively inaccurate comments in the manner of some present day Russians.

            • Misha says:

              BTW, at last notice, it hasn’t been clearly established that Stolypin was killed by a government operative. He had his opponents among elements on the left and right. The recorded wishy washy investigation of his death might’ve been out of fear that an element with ties to the government might’ve been found. Finding an anti-government left factor would serve to highlight that element. Ditto the suggested Machiavellian duo of a conservative and left anti-Stolypin plot.

              Suddenly reminded of pro-Petliura claims of an underhanded Soviet government role in the assassination of Petliura. There’s good reason to doubt that claim.

              On another issue brought up, at the very start of WW I in Russia, there was more of a rallying around the existing flag than sympathy/support for the harder elements of the anti-government left.

              Taking an early offensive into Germany proved very unwise. By 1917, the military supply situation appears to have improved, with morale having dramatically decreased – the latter greatly influenced by suffering heavy casualties and anti-government instigating, which the Germans became involved with.

              • Dear Misha,

                I don’t want to get drawn further into a discussion about Stolypin’s murder. As I said before the truth is now beyond us. No one can say for sure what Bogrov’s motives were or who if anyone he was working for. I have already said why I think it is unlikely the government or members of the court had anything to do with it.

                One thing I do want to say is that possibly out of an understandable sense of patriotism I have noticed before that you have a tendency to resist the reality of the widespread and officially supported anti semitism that undoubtedly did exist in the tsarist empire. The tsar himself was a virulent anti semite as were many of his officials and members of the court. Even conservative Russian historians like Katkov admit to the violent anti semitic outrages perpetrated near the front line by the Russian army during the First World War, carried out on the specific orders of the Russian High Command. These by the way are also mentioned by Pasternak in Doctor Zhivago. There is no doubt of the official encouragement behind at least some pogroms and of the tsar’s own support for pogroms and of his personal intervention to protect persons who engaged in pogroms.

                Stolypin was not an anti semite and was opposed to these policies though other than that I have never been able to see what was so “progressive” about him. Also as I have argued at length elsewhere (on Anatoly Karlin’s blog) the Russian people need feel no embarrassment about the anti semitism of the tsarist period because they were not responsible for it (Russia being an autocracy) and because as the Revolution showed tsarist anti semitism was something they overwhelmingly and categorically rejected. The fact remains though that it was an ugly reality of the late tsarist period which anyone writing about that time must face.

                • Misha says:

                  Alexander, in turn, I note how you periodically make broad comments that overlook other particulars, inclusive of looking to pick a fight with me when there’s not much disagreement.

                  One example is further up this thread on Cold War era Western era versus Soviet era intervention.

                  I’ve never denied discrimination and viollence against Jews in Russia whether during the pre-Soviet and Soviet periods. I’ve offered additional points which are valid.

                  i was brought up to be proud of my Jewish and Russian Orthodox Christian backgrounds, in a way that seeks to cut thru the kind of BS that has been evident.

                • Misha says:

                  On “ugly’ realities Alexander, the Russian Empire didn’t produce Hitler and the Nazis or the Armenian genocide. In short, the standards of tolerance back then and before were lacking elsewhere. Consider the wide scale violence and discrimination that Blacks and Indians faced in the US as one example.

                  On collective blame, Russians en masse shouldn’t be faulted for the ugly realities that occurred during the Soviet period.

                  It’s good to see official Russia and other Russians expressing these points.

                • Dear Misha,

                  Of course there is no comparison between tsarist era anti Jewish policies and the Nazi and Ottoman genocides. To suggest that there is would be absurd. As for your other point about the Russian people not being collectively responsible for Soviet era crimes, that is of course completely true and I have made that point often.

                • Misha says:

                  Hello Alexander,


                  Meantime, I understandably oppose the suggestion (direct and not so direct) that I’m someone inaccurately attempting to sugar coat past wrongs.

                  You brought up anti-Semitism as a possible reason for Bogrov’s assassination of Stolypin. With historical references, I reasonably second guess that claim, which doesn’t have the support of Baron and Massie. I also noted Massie’s reference to how the Russian government made efforts to prevent a pogrom in Kiev in the aftermath of Stolypin getting assassinated, inclusive of noting another related particular.

                  Perhaps you were confusing Stolypin’s assassination with Plehve’s.

                • Misha says:

                  Without meaning to go into an overkill mode, it’s overly simplistic to say that the Russian people can’t collectively be blamed for anti-Jewish sentiment because they overthrew the czar. The latter comprised different individuals at different times, whose views on Jewry weren’t so radically different from some of their Western peers. The record shows that anti-Jewish sentiment in the Russian Empire wasn’t something always motivated from the top. The Russian government as such was by no means as monolithic as some suggest. Consider some of those in different levels of American government vis-à-vis the issue of discrimination/violence against Blacks. As previously mentioned, there were times when the Russian government clearly made efforts to limit violence against Jews. Under pressing socioeconomic conditions. Russia’s last czar abdicated to a government led by a not so popular socialist, who in turn was overthrown by what some (including Peter Lavelle) describe as a coup.

                  Negatively misrepresenting my views, while propping sources like the one writing this piece doesn’t serve the best interests of improving the coverage:


                  The above piece starts off with the kind of preferred wise ass delivery that’s periodically noticeable in English language mass media/English language mass media influenced venues.

                  In the US, there has been a history of violence and discrimination against Blacks. If America can elect an African-American president, the referenced (in the above piece) poll findings should come as no surprise.

                  As for prejudiced views against Jews: over the course of time, I’ve heard my share of comments from within the Jewish community, which don’t list the Russians at the top of the chart of anti-Jewish attitudes. Never mind the numerous individuals of “mixed” (if you may) Russian and Jewish backgrounds.

                  Meantime, post-Soviet Russia has had 2-3 individuals of known Jewish background contrasted with how many American presidents and vice presidents of that ethno-religious grouping?

                • Dear Misha,

                  You have obviously taken my strictures very much to heart. However my point is really very simple: in 1917 the Russian people overthrew a government that was thought to be whether rightly or wrongly anti semitic and which institutionally discriminated against Jews and supported a revolutionary movement which opposed discrimination against Jews and which contained a disproportionately large number of Jews amongst its leaders. By “revolutionary movement” I by the way mean all the revolutionary parties that opposed the tsar’s government and not just the Bolsheviks. Whatever else this means it must mean that anti semitism cannot have been widespread or important amongst the Russian people.

                  Mark Adomanis’s article was discussed in Anatoly Karlin’s blog


                  You will see my comments in the thread. You will notice that in one comment I said that it is very doubtful that the tsarist government had a policy of using anti semitism to gain support but that if it did then the policy was a complete failure.

                  Lastly if you want to read a scholarly discussion on official anti semitism in the late tsarist era then the best book in English is probably “Fontanka 16″ by Charles Ruud and Sergei Stepanov, McGill-Queen’s University Press 1999. It discusses and discounts encouragement of the pogrom movement by the central authorities in St. Petersburg whilst acknowledging the universally admitted involvement of local police officials in pogroms, it discusses the authorship and motives behind the publication of the notorious anti semitic forgery “the Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and it also contains a full though necessarily inconclusive discussion of the Stolypin/Bogrov affair.

                • Misha says:

                  Dear Alexander,

                  Hello Alexander,

                  You took my comments to “heart’ with a comment that was personally directed at me in a not so positive and inaccurate way.

                  I’m well aware of Jews who played leading roles in pre-Soviet Russia which included instances like being given nobility privileges and other formal honors, while observing their faith.

                  Not everyone involved with Russian government and law enforcement were anti-Jewish. As mentioned, some of them made the effort to stop such manner which didn’t always appear to be government motivated. In other instances, the government involvement wasn’t so clear cut in that it would involve some government elements as opposed to others.

                  I consider my brief reply to the Forbes piece to be quite appropriate.

                  There’s no need for me to look over sources that negatively misrepresent my commentary.

                  You’re of course free to promote what you want to. I’ll do likewise.

  47. Moscow Exile says:

    “In December 1905 there was a massive insurrection by the workers of Moscow centred on the Presnia district which could only be suppressed by troops brought in from St. Petersburg because of fears that the Moscow garrison might join in.”

    Hence the huge monument showing men and women proletarian revolutionaries waving the red flag and unseating a mounted Cossack, which monument stands outside 1905 St. metro station, Moscow, in what is now called the Krasnopresnensky (Red Presnia) Disrict of Moscow. The next station to 1905 St. heading towards the city centre is Barrikadnaya (Barricade) station, which, as it happens, is the nearest metro station to the U.S. embassy.

    Yes, the 1905 revolution was so insignificant that it forced that dolt Romanov to call the first Duma. Of course, the Liberals buggered it all up in the per-WWI Dumas.

    • Misha says:

      Russia’s last czar is a prime example of absolute monarchy’s shortcomings. I wouldn’t call him a “dolt”, as much as someone who was misplaced.

      I’m glad to see Rusisan officialdom and Russia at large taking a different impression of the pre-Soviet and Soviet periods, from what had been generally emphasized in Soviet times.

  48. yalensis says:

    More Oppositionist highjinks:
    Once upon a time there was a guy named Dmitry Nekrasov. At one time he used to work as functionary in the Kremlin (presidential administration). Then he decided to become an Oppositionist. He ran for a position in Opps Coordinating Council (in their famous internet election), but despite spending a boatload of his own money campaigning for a slot, he lost badly, coming in 94th place.
    Nevertheless, more successful Opps Garry Kasparov and Dmitry Gudkov decided they would let Nekrasov climb into their treehouse anyhow, even though he lost the election. So they appointed him Treehouse Club Secretary. Certain members of the Treehouse objected to this, but they were defeated and on November 24, with Navalny’s support, Nekrasov took up his post on the Coordinating Committee.
    Navalny was then attacked by his former ally, Oleg Kashin, for using “Putinite logic” to cram Nekrasov down others throats. Even Evgenia Albats, who has nursed a hard-on for Navalny for many moons, criticicized her former idol, pointing out ominous historical predecents involving Party Secretaries and their propensity for power grabs, utilizing bureaucratic technologies rather than rank and file support to achieve their ends. (Could she possibly be hinting at Stalin?) “Now [some] Oppositionists are worried that this former functionary from the Presidential administration will seize power within the CC and carry out an internal revolution.” Oh horrors!
    Article concludes by pointing out that Nekrasov himself does not even define himself as an Oppositionist. So, what’s he doing there? Hm…. Can reality get any more ludicrous?

    • Dear Yalensis,

      Remember my comment about how the elections to the Coordinating Council replicated in parodic fashion the way the CPSU used to elect its Central Committee? So surprise, surprise we now have General Secretary Navalny appointing Nekrasov to the CC’s Secretariat on the recommendation of his fellow Politburo members Kasparov and Gudkov. Needless to say this has provoked protests from the splitters, namely Kashin and Albats, who complain at the “dictatorial way” the General Secretary is abusing his powers. Doubtless they will soon be purged unless they recant first.

      I am glad to see that the authoritarian character of this shabby farce is starting to get noticed even amongst those amongst whom one might not expect it. See the scathing comments about the elections to the Coordinating Council and the way the white ribbon oppositionists are stuck in “the discredited ideology of the 1990s” by a member of the academic staff of the Higher School of Economics as reported in this fine article by Voice of Russia.

      • yalensis says:

        Dear Alexander:
        I like the way Matveevich casually noted, “People are not interested in the opposition’s push for upholding human rights and the freedom of speech,” he added.
        Add to that the Opps current slogan, which will probably be the centerpiece of their next “Freedom March”, i.e., “Free Political Prisoners”. It is dubious the Russian people will pour into the streets and announce a general strike in order to free Razvozzhaev, or to uphold his right to seize Kaliningrad along with Givi Targamadze and NATO troops.
        Speaking of Givi… that reminds me of a theory to explain why West is suddenly turning a cold shoulder to Ivanishvili. There were some indications initially that West might throw Ivanishvili a bone. But the moment he was elected, some of the cruder henchmen from Saak’s regime (including Givi) started to flee Gruzia in a panic. This coincided with the Udaltsov tape and Razvozzhaev’s arrest.
        I can’t help but wonder if Western secret services do have a big secret to hide, like maybe they actually were plotting to seize Kaliningrad and stir up troubles in the Caucasus? Maybe they want Saak back in power so that he can keep Givi and the others safe, they who are privy to these unpleasant secrets?

        • Dear Yalensis,

          Viz Georgia I think you have hit the nail on the head.

          The one thing we know about the west is that it responds very aggressively to any action taken against its “friends” (or should we straightforwardly call them its intelligence assets?). Look at the completely over the top reaction to the prosecutions of Khodorkovsky and Tymoshenko. In the case of Georgia what makes the position still worse is that many western officials, politicians and businessmen are known to have accepted expensive presents and favours ( ie. bribes) from Saakashvili. Beyond this there must be all sorts of dirty secrets in Georgia eg. Georgia’s role in funnelling aid to the jihadi insurgents in the northern Caucasus, the part it played in CIA renditions, its intended role in any war against Iran ( there are persistent rumours of the presence of a big secret US base there), not to mention the part any US politicians and officials (including of course Condoleeza Rice and Bush himself) in instigating the 2008 Russia Georgia war. It’s not therefore surprising that the unexpected change in the government and the growing number of prosecutions of Saakashvili associates should be making the west increasingly nervous and angry.

          • Misha says:

            “The one thing we know about the west is that it responds very aggressively to any action taken against its ‘friends’ (or should we straightforwardly call them its intelligence assets?).”


            There’ve been other instances when the West (US in particular) will turn on its perceived allies when things are seen differently.

            Given the flaws within the Orange and Rose camps and the significance of Russia, there’s a basis to consider a shift.

  49. Misha says:

    A short news item:


    Regarding Brooklyn and Mikhail Prokhorov’s sister:

    Not as attention getting as Pussy Riot’s stunt.

  50. Moscow Exile says:

    Is there no end to this Western contumely?

    According to this Moskovsky Komsomolets report, Time Magazine is thinking of collectively awarding the “Person of the Year” title to Pussy Riot.

    “In a year when so many voices of liberty and dissent have suffered harsh retribution, the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot has paid a particularly steep price for provocative political expression” reads the Time nomination of these degenerate brats.


    See also RIAN:

    I wonder what sort of nomination US “punks” would get for flashing their crotches and screeching “Our Lord’s Shit!” in in the Washington National Cathedral?

    • Pussy Riot as Time People of the Year? They really do want to lose Russia in the US. Oh well, those whom the gods destroy they first make mad.

    • marknesop says:

      Oh, my God. Are you kidding?? So now how long you get sent down for what the western world believes to be nothing is a criteria for your being Person of the Year? I notice Steven Truscott, sentenced to death in 1959 for a murder he did not commit – for which he was acquitted in 2007 after spending his entire life in prison, did not make Person of the Year.

      Really, it is not a big deal; that the western press will say and do anything for money and attention – under the banner of being “controversial” and “sparking debate” – is well-established,. and Time is just interested in selling magazines and getting attention. It would make Saddam Hussein Person of the Year if the owners did not fear the public would raze the building to the ground, and none of the talk in the boardroom is about freedom and democratic values; it’s all about profit and loss and the bottom line. I used to be a regular reader of both Time and Newsweek, but I haven’t picked either up for years. It’s worth remembering, though, that Time’s Person of the Year for 2007 was Vladimir Putin.

    • cartman says:

      Its one of dozens of nominations. I think it will fail the “who gives a f***?” criteria.

      • Misha says:

        As well it should.

        A piece pertaining to an earlier raised issue at this thread:

        Killer Swarms: It wasn’t the Russian Winter that Stopped Napoleon

        • Misha says:


          Someone replied as follows –

          Thanks Mike for forwarding a very interesting piece.

          It was not just the Cossacks and swarm tactics which defeated Napoleon. There were also the matters of efficient conventional military strategy by a Russian army defending its country. Borodino was more of a tie than Russian defeat, with Tolstoy lauding the effort of the Russian army in War and Peace. There was also the instance of Moscow getting burned in a way that made Napoleon’s occupation of that city problematical.

          Note: Napoleon’s armies marauded in a way that included the deliberate destruction of Russian Orthodox churches and monasteries. Contrast that manner with how Russian forces carried on en route to and when reaching Paris. This comparison isn’t emphasized because it doesn’t fit the image of a comparatively more progressive Napoleon from Western Europe versus the barbarically backward Russians.

          Regarding the 200th anniversary of the Russo-French War of 1812, this news item mentions the initiative of Alexander I to rebuild the destroyed Russian Orthodox Church properties with government grants and private donations:


          Concerning the article on the Russo-French War of 1812, someone else expressed the opinion that the role of the Cossacks is overrated, relative to that of the Russian army.

      • Meanwile it seems I am being quoted on this subject by Robert Bridge on RT

        • marknesop says:

          Well done, you. I notice the tone of the article is distinctly disapproving as well, something I am glad to see and a perspective which is well supported by your analysis.

  51. Misha says:

    Interesting development that will hopefully not lead to greatly increased tensions:

    On a somewhat related note, the BBC’s Daniel Sandford had a recently (within the past 12 hours) aired piece on the situation in Tatarstan, where there’s some evidence of an extreme Islamic faction. That segment portrays a Tatarstan Muslim cleric as being “pro-government”. “Pro-government” as in being in the majority and opposing extremism.

    Concerning a recently posted (at this thread) RFE/RL link on the issue of Cossacks in Moscow:

    There’s some second guessing on the authenticity of some of the stated Cossacks.

    In the 1970s, Manhattan went thru a period of discontent with crime and a police force deemed as incompetent and corrupt. A vigilante group calling itself the Guardian Angels gained some publicity during this period.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      It’s just more of the stuck gramophone needle, a repetition of the same cliches and forecasts of doom: mafia state, corruption, brain drain, demographic crisis, more and more saying they would leave Russia, capital flight, oil only $100 a barrel, the Kremlin trembling with fear…..

      God! It’s hell on earth here!

    • cartman says:

      I like how he uses an online poll in Novaya Gazeta for his argument.

      • Quite. What is alarming is that the writer of this article was previously a senior official in the State Department. He is therefore probably representative of the advice about Russia that the US leadership is getting. No one wonder the US consistently gets Russia so completely wrong.

    • This is the usual wild overstatement. To deal with a few points:

      1. The Russian economy is not stagnating. Growth will probably be around 3.4-3.7% this year. By international standards at a time when most advanced economies are stagnating or even contracting it is a good result. Growth will be lower than last year , partly because of the low harvest but mainly because of the government”s very tight monetary and fiscal policies, specifcally a budget that is in surplus and (in contrast to the situation almost everywhere else) real positve interest rates (iie interest rates above inflation) but it is neither a crisis and nor is it stagnation.

      2. The country is not running out of money. On the contrary it has one of the lowest debt levels in the world and the third largest foreign exchange reserves. There is a possibility that the trade balance may in the medium term move into deficit as domestic demand continues to grow but this is hardly unusual in modern economies or particularly alarming and anyway is far from certain. Personally I think that the government rather than allow the trade balance to go into deficit will allow the value of the rouble to fall if the possibility of a deficit arises at all. It is not certain that it will because domestic manufacturing is growing fast (at an annualised rate of well over 4%), which should over time take some of the pressure off the import bill.

      3. The government was not idle in the period 2000 to 2008. The country in the preceding decade experienced a massive collapse. Quite correcly it focused during the 2000 to 2008 period in sorting out the mess of the previous decade. This meant first and foremost repairing the financial system, reforming the tax system and re establishing a viable state administration. Above all it also meant regaining control of the economy from the robber barons and oligarchs who had proliferated in the preceding period such as Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky. All of this was successfully accomplished. The government was preparing to move beyond this (thus the 2007 Putin Plan) but had to put things off because of the world financial crisis, which however it dealt with very successfully Now that the immediate crisis appears to have been overcome the government is once again moving forward with its plans, though it is still hampered by the uncertainty in the world economy, which obliges it to set aside funds and take a more cautious approach than in an ideal world it would probably want.

      4. The article whilst noting the comments in the World Bank report about the country’s effectiveness in contract enforcement and tax collection (which by the way suggests that corruption is nothing like as big a problem as is said) and discussing various further steps the government is taking, chooses to ignore what has been the main focus of government policy for the last two years. This is reducing the country’s inflation rate. This is all the more bizarre given that the government and most recently the Central Bank have made clear that reducing the inflation rate has a priority over growth. Inflation has been very high since the Soviet collapse and has become embedded, limiting real wage growth, eroding long term competitiveness and acting as a major disincentive against investment. The government’s and the Central Bank’s anti inflation policy has been successful with inflation to 6% last year and though it will be higher this year (because of the summer tariff increases and the poor harvest) the trend rate is definitely down and may soon fall to 5% or less.

      Overall the fundamental problem with this article is that it shares the common error of getting mesmerised by high growth rates and of treating anything less than this as “stagnation”. Given the extremely strong fiscal position it would not be difficult to push growth up by increasing government spending and lowering interest rates. Were the government to do this the capital outflow we have been seeing would disappear as money would rush back into the economy because of the high growth rate. A combination of higher tax revenue and capital inflow might also mean that despite the extra spending the budget might avoid for a time going into deficit. However there would be a serious risk of inflation taking off, the trade balance would almost certainly move into severe deficit and levels of both company and private debt would surge. At any time such a policy would carry serious risks and given the present conditions in the world economy it would be positively reckless. After a couple of years of euphoria it would all end in a crash. Rapid turbo charged growth at all costs is not what the Russian economy (or any economy) needs. Laying the groundwork for long term sustainable growth should be the objective and thankfully it is that which the government is doing.

      I would finish by saying that articles like this by Ben Aris (and there are many others) give me a strong sense of deja vu. Back in the early 1980s there were also demands for higher growth rates amid complaints that the economy was stagnating with claims like the ones we see in Ben Aris’s article that this higher growth could be achieved painlessly by all sorts of reforms that would supposedly release the entrepreneurial energies of the people and which were supposedly being blocked by Communist hardliners, statists and conservatives. The sensible point made by the people who were actually running the economy in Gosplan, the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry that what was needed was not higher growth but a fiscal and monetary rebalancing of the economy that would pave the way for higher growth later was thrust aside. Spending surged under the slogan of “acceleration” and sensible management was thrown to the winds under a blizzard of ill thought out and unnecessary “reforms”, which simply disorganised the whole economy when what it needed was not “reforms” but good policies. .

      • ….and here in fact is a statement by the Central Bank that appeared in Novosti a few weeks ago in which the Central Bank explained that its anti inflation strategy took precedence over higher growth.

        Needless the western media and Russian liberal commentators (including many economists) have simply ignored it. Ben Aris says nothing about inflation in his whole article.

      • Misha says:

        Perhaps he will be taken to task on these points, the next time the journo in question appears on RT.

      • marknesop says:

        In point of fact, the Russian government should send a Thank-You card to all the peddlers of such distorted fabrication. Since its biggest economic challenge purports to come from the English-speaking world, if that world believes its opponent is half-blind and flailing it is all to the good for Russia. If you planned to fight a champion from a neighbouring town, studied material which portrayed him as a palsied drunkard who could barely put his pants on right way round in the morning, and tailored your battle plan accordingly – then showed up to be confronted by a healthy young man sound of thew and keen of eye, you would be in a similar predicament.

        • Dear Mark,

          That’s a very good point. At the end of the day the people they are fooling are themselves.

          Here is a report from Novosti giving details of the HSBC manufacturing index for October, which showed a continued acceleration in manufacturing output.

          By contrast manufacturing contracted pretty much everywhere else in October including I believe China.

          • marknesop says:

            I note that new orders have risen for 13 straight months, and that new hires are up for the third straight month, although export orders have fallen slightly. As the HSBC analyst correctly points out, domestic demand is helping Russia “weather the storm”. This however, also suggests some other things that he did not say – that the government is continuing to deliver on promises to repair and upgrade infrastructure, that Russia has what it needs to continue modest growth without western help and that Russia’s use of state funds for reinvestment follows a more holistic approach than, say, bailing out the banks. This achieves more or less the same end effect, while incorporating other elements of industry.

            Those are just impressions, because the article does not specify what areas of the industry are showing the strongest growth, and it may be that manufacturing orders have nothing to do with infrastructure; the photo of construction materials that accompanies it may be just a coincidence. But I have heard from many other sources that construction of some sort or other seems constantly going on in Moscow. It is only Latynina and a handful of others who believe that if Russia is not building new roads constantly which lead to nowhere, it is sliding into neostalinism. At any rate, investment in manufacturing is the smart choice; it goes directly into the pockets of labourers, the banks still end up with a cut, and transport and raw materials producers also benefit. It makes infinitely more sense than simply releasing large amounts of state funds directly to the banks, who promptly sit on it until a more favourable investment climate develops that will allow them to profit, as the USA found out after the fact. Anybody can make a mistake, but you can include among the fools not only those that make the same ones twice, but also those who fail to learn from a powerfully negative example exhibited by someone else. I see no reason here to number Russia among the fools.

            The above musings are borne out in the performance of the Russian banking sector, which grew strongly in the first half of 2012, with retail leading the way; 18.4 % growth in the first half of this year compared to 11.5% at this point in 2011. Naturally, no forecast can be produced without the dire warnings of catastrophe to come – much like every article on Russia’s energy production contains hair-raising warnings of what will happen if oil prices fall to $50.00 per barrel, complete with a bullet from some bearded academic from the Moscow Higher School Of Economics who says they will – but there is no real reason to believe Russia will be subject to the same market forces that affect Europe and the west so long as it has significant cash reserves and does not make the same mistakes they do.

            • Dear Mark,

              As you correctly say, the report unfortunately does not provide a breakdown of where the highest manufacturing growth is. Possibly the information could be obtained from Rosstat. Unfortunately since its website is in Russian I can’t access it. At a guess I would say that the highest numbers are probably in the consumer goods and light manufacturing industries given that what seems to be driving the rise in production is domestic demand.

              However you are quite right to highlight infrastructure spending. Firstly according to a report Anatoly Karlin recently put up on his Facebook page housing construction is already back up to Soviet levels. As this was by international measures very high it suggests that investment in construction is very strong. Also the government has been talking a lot recently about increasing infrastructure spending with talk of bonds being floated apparently on the Moscow Exchange to finance it. According to a report I read a few weeks ago international investors are apparently very keen to take up these bonds once they are floated. Presumably they will be linked to the sections of the country’s infrastructure whose upgrade they will fund though the Finance Ministry has yet to announce its plans (they are expected around the beginning of next year). There are ambitious plans to upgrade the railway and air transport systems some of which are already being implemented. Of course the Sochi winter Olympics and the forthcoming World Football Cup competitions have already acted as a strong stimulus. However I get the impression that the major work on infrastructure upgrades is still to come. Infrastructure spending if properly managed has a big multiplier effect and when this properly gets going it could cause production and productivity to jump.

              Lastly there is of course the effect of the increases in military spending. The government has been quite explicit that this is as much intended to strengthen the industrial and science base as it to strengthen the country’s defence capacity. The big investments here,though apparently budgeted have still to come through.

              In saying all this it is important to add that manufacturing has been growing at a time when the country to all intents and purposes has full employment. This can only mean that manufacturing increases are being achieved not by bringing spare or unused capacity into production but through higher productivity. The endless criticism that Russia is doing nothing to modernise or diversify its economy is therefore obviously wrong. The economy is modernising and diversifying, it’s just that these things take time and in the meantime no one wants to write or talk about it.

              Turning to the subject of bank performance, I forgot to mention that one of the reasons GDP growth has softened in recent weeks is that the Central Bank has not just raised interest rates but has also taken other steps to rein in bank lending, which it apparently felt was growing too rapidly. In other words the Central Bank unlike some other Central Banks one can think of is behaving like a real Central Bank by acting to reduce inflation and taking steps to prevent the emergence of credit bubbles.

              It is all very Germanic – an emphasis on price stability and fiscal prudence to provide the groundwork for future high investment based on high savings secured bylow inflation to achieve high productivity and sustained growth. You are absolutely correct that the intention and increasingly the reality is to fund growth through domestic investment based on domestic savings. The government obviously does want to attract foreign investment (why wouldn’t it?) but Ben Aris and others are completely wrong when they say that present or future economic growth wholly depends on it and that the government has staked its future on attracting it. On the contrary based on what the government is actually doing (as opposed to some of the things some of its members sometimes say) creating conditions for high domestic capital accumulation to provide future investment is very much the priority. Given the very high savings rate with Russians routinely parking around 12% of their income in bank deposits Putin’s ambition of increasing investment to 27% of GDP looks quite achievable and if anything may be too modest. Chinese economic growth really took off after 1990 when the high inflation of the 1980s was overcome making high investment on the basis of China’s very high savings suddenly possible and attactive. Russia might be in for something similar though obviously to a lesser degree. A future growth rate in a few years of 5-7% would not surprise me and Klepach at the Economics Ministry recently predicted something similar.

              • marknesop says:

                Very well said, and I thank you for such a perceptive comment. You have provided my views a great deal more substantiation. You’re good at this.

              • kirill says:

                Ben Aris is obviously shilling for western financial and corporate interests. This so-called investment is in fact a raid. Letting foreign corporations buy up Russian productive capacity and then shut it down like in the case of Alcatel’s “investment” in Canada. Russia does not need lessons on reform and economics policy from the Ponzi scheme bubble-land west and its drones like Aris. It is self evident that the policy since 1998 and especially since 2000 is the correct one. Maybe it is not the best possible, but then Russia is starting from scratch on a lot of fronts. Writing articles as if Russia has had centuries of stable capitalist development and contriving evaluation criteria that can’t even stand up to basic scrutiny is simply pathetic propaganda. As noted above, this tripe only acts to delude its own authors. But then the western media is all about trying to turn wishful thinking into reality.

  52. Alexander Lebedev is going absolutely to town on Bill Browder’s behalf. His British newspaper the Independent is going into overdrive to try to spin a death of a Russian here as in some way connected to the Magnitsky. Needless to say there is nothing at the moment to suggest anything sinister about the Russian’s death despite the Independent’s insinuations and any connection with Magnitsky seems conjectural to say the least. Anyway the story has taken over the Independent’s front pages.

    Notice the unctuous flattery of Browder in the articles. I am sorry to see a British newspaper used in this way

    • marknesop says:

      The oligarchs love Browder because they recognize in him a kindred spirit; a ruthless taker who will let nothing stand in the way of his accumulation of wealth and who will stop at nothing to repay anyone who interrupts that accumulation. Browder had a sweet deal going in Russia, wrecking companies and leaving the government to straighten out the mess while he both pocketed a tidy sum and enhanced his reputation – in the west – as an altruistic reformer who deserved every penny he made. Unfortunately for him, he got simultaneously greedy and ovderconfident, and attempted to circumvent the law on foreign ownership of Gazprom stock. For some reason, stopping him from violating the law in the country in which he chose to operate – and in which his rich friends begged him to invest their money, too, because it was like a license to steal – somehow reflects badly on both Putin and Russia. A wise observer would note Browder never displayed the slightest sign of altruism before, and that Firestone Duncan – the company that employed Magnitsky – couldn’t even spell his name properly on the memo that announced his death. Every move Browder has made since his forced departure from Russia has been motivated by his desire to punish the country and, more specifically, the government that ruined his corporate-raiding scheme. And the west – notably, its oligarchs, is perfectly happy to burnish his image as a kind and fundamentally decent man who is just doing this to clear the name of his fallen colleague whom – to the very best of my knowledge – nobody from Hermitage Capital Management ever visited in prison before his death.

      The exiled and domestic oligarchs and the movers and shakers in western governments know perfectly well the way the land lies; otherwise, they would at least look at the material the Russian government has tried hard to present which they say substantiates Magnitsky’s guilt. Instead, they either refuse to even review it, or announce beforehand their intent to disregard it. Somebody will be sorry one day for that short-sightedness, and I promise you it will not be Russia.

      • kirill says:

        Indeed. These turdlets think they are dealing with some banana republic that can be smeared into submission because it is run by oligarchs who would be worried about the smearing. It is the Russian electorate that rules Russia (at least the people it elects are not removed by some judge using flimsy letter-of-the-law interpretations of the legal code like in Canada) and they are succeeding in pissing off the Russian electorate. The migration from pro-west opinions in the early 1990s to negative opinions today has been the main achievement of vermin such as a Browder and his patrons in the west.

        It is rather clear by the size of the liberast, aka western sycophant, community in Russia that it is a fringe of no political consequence. It’s ranks are not swelling with millions of people “disenchanted” with “corruption” and “Putin”.

    • yalensis says:

      My advice: Russian government press should prepare a symmetrical response (tit for tat propaganda war) by resurrecting THIS scandal and insinuating that Prince Harry killed the girl:

      • kirill says:

        This is what I was getting at in my post about ambassadors debating tabloid trolls on TV in tiny segments where there is no chance to establish context and properly rebut the hate spew. It should be Russian media, pundits and internet bloggers who should be ripping the western media a new one every time it opens its rotten, lying trap about Russia.

    • cartman says:

      Berezovsky also lives in St George’s Hill in Surrey where Perepilichnyy’s body was found.

    • Two extraordinary articles.

      The first one by Grigory Tumanov is a good example of how social problems when they happen in Russia become completely misrepresented in the most lurid and fantastic way by opposition supporters.

      The cases Tumanov lists are examples of cruel exploitation of people that have happened in Russia. By no stretch of the imagination can any one of the examples he cites be described as slavery. Slavery is a legal condition in which someone is the private property or chattel of another person and can be bought and sold at will. None of the examples Tumanov cites remotely approximate to that condition and it is ridiculous and deceitful to claim that they are. All such overblown assertions do is make it more difficult to deal with the very real problems of exploitation described in the article. In passing I would add drawn from my experience of working in the Royal Courts of Justice that every single example of exploitation that Tumanov cites as unique to Russia I have personally come across in Britain. For example i have personally seen the brutal conditions under which many immigrants and other exploited people in London have to work and live. The one exception is that of the army officer who had conscripts carry out private work for him. That is impossible in Britain because in Britain we have a professional army.

      The one other point I would make about the article is that the story of the conscripts abused by their officer is provided by Irina Khrunova of Agora, who is of course the same person who is now Pussy Riot’s lawyer (a fact the article does not mention). We were discussing a short time ago whether Khrunova was an opposition activist and the fact that Tumanov cites her in this article surely confirms that she is. I notice however that Khrunova does not make the claim that the incident she describes is slavery.. That is Tumanov’s own fantastic interpretation of the incident.

      The second article is even more interesting in that though it is written by a westerner it provides unequivocal proof of the disillusionment that is spreading within white ribbon opposition circles about Navalny. It seems that even amongst his core constituency his popularity and faith in him has crashed. It is clear that he is now damaged goods and the image of him as the great revolutionary leader who would sweep all before him is becoming discredited even amongst his former supporters. The article makes fascinating reading and I would advise Yalensis especially to read it.

      Incidentally I don’t believe that Navalny has saved the country’s budget $1 billion as claimed in the article or even a small fraction of that sum.

      • yalensis says:

        Thanks to misha for the Ben-Judah link, and to Mercouris for recommending the article.
        I agree is a very good piece. The author is completely honest about his own pro-Opp and pro-Navalny mindset and throws in a lot of propaganda memes, and yet he is honest and pretty much tells it like it is. To me it reads like a sympathetic insider’s view filled with longings and regrets along with constructive criticism of his teammates.

        Regarding the Mayakovsky quote, I am not sure it was fair to bring such a sad event into this, however I do appreciate author’s attempt at literary merit. Here, for the record, is Mayakovsky’s suicide note , it is very sad, his love for Lily Brik comes through very strong and wistful. He asks the government to take care of Lily and his family; and even pays his overdue taxes of 2000 rubles.
        Back to Navalny: I was inspired to leave a brief comment on the Ben-Judah piece (even though I dislike using Disqus), my comment reads thusly:
        Navalny says he HOPES for a child to be run over, so that this will spark the revolution that brings him to power?

        That quote really enraged me, because it says everything about the Gene Sharp imperialist revolutionary methodology these guys follow.

        • Dear Yalensis,

          I missed the significance of Navalny’s comment about hoping for a child to be run over. As you rightly say the cynicism is frightful.

          What the comment also shows is his utter bankruptcy (political as well as moral). He has no strategy except for waiting for something to turn up.

          • marknesop says:

            Shocking for a father of young children himself. I’m curious in a sort of detached way to see for how long the Anglosphere will go on describing him as an “anti-corruption blogger” and a “major opposition leader” even as he does no work but self-promotion and the opposition continues its decline.

          • yalensis says:

            The Gene Sharp playbook includes scenarios where young children are run over by government goons or shot by snipers, and this incites the enraged masses to swarm into the streets. Either this unfortunate event happens on its own; or Gene’s “revolutionaries” maybe nudge it along.
            Or maybe Navalny was alluding to that scene in Charles Dickens “A Tale of 2 Cities” when the aristo’s carriage runs over the peasant child, and this event helps spark the French Revolution.

            • marknesop says:

              And indeed there were similar incidents reported by western journalists from Homs and other Syrian cities, where supposedly people were afraid to leave their homes because of “government snipers” on rooftops who would “shoot anything that moved”, complete with a heart-wrenching tale of a child dying in the arms of the journalist because he had been shot and could not be evacuated.

              I’m not disputing that the incident actually occurred, but what possible advantage could the Syrian government have realized from stationing sharpshooters on rooftops with orders to shoot civilians, including children? People are almost never killed by accident by snipers – they are precision shooters who can see and recognize their target. Despite lurid tales of government forces firing heavy weapons, including antiaircraft guns, at peaceful protesters, no footage was ever produced that substantiated such claims, nor could government forces be proven to have deliberately killed civilians in situations where they could not have been firing at foreign mercenaries.

              On the other hand, the reports were consistently received from activists who had everything to gain by mobilizing and stoking outrage and demands for western military intervention.

            • Jen says:

              Dear Yalensis,

              It’s curious that you mention those scenarios in the Gene Sharp book; they reminded me of that Neda Agha Soltan shooting that happened just after the 2009 presidential elections in Iran. She was supposedly hit in the chest by sniper fire from a member of the Basiji (Iranian paramilitary). But there is a lot of Internet chatter about her death being a false flag stunt and her fiance being a film-maker who could have faked the videos of her death that appeared on the Internet. The autopsy apparently showed that she was shot in the back (or in the back of her head). Agha Soltan was also mixed up with another woman called Neda Soltani who had to leave Iran and go live in Germany because of the excessive attention she received over the shooting and you gotta wonder whether the mix-up was intentional to confuse people trying to find out more about the incident.

              • yalensis says:

                Dear Jen: That is interesting, indeed. The events in Iran at that time (2009-2010) were supposed to (from American POV) lead to a colour revolution and the emergence of a pro-American government. (Which didn’t succeed, though.)
                The Iranian revolutionaries carried a Green flag, which is ironic, because Green was also the colour of Gaddafi, who was overthrown by pro-NATO jihadists waving the Black Al Qaeda flag.
                One of the principles of colour revolution is that it doesn’t matter what the colour is, it is somewhat arbitrary. (In Russia the current crop of pro-NATO “revolutionaries” led by Navalny use the colour White and wear a white ribbon, but it really doesn’t matter, it might as well be red or orange or green or taupe or teal or mauve or …)
                The failed Iranian revolution was also known as the “Twitter” revolution, the dissidents and their western sponsors were testing out a lot of new scenarios, involving social media and instant upload of you-tube videos from smartphones. I don’t know what happened to Neda, obviously, but I highly doubt she was taken down by a government sniper. If it did happen that way, it would have been a ghastly mistake, an example of “collateral damage” which term Americans use to excuse themselves when they accidentally drone everybody in a wedding party.

              • yalensis says:

                Another example of the Gene Sharp playbook in action using highly incendiary accusations is what happened in Libya with charges of rape. At the time of the Benghazi uprising against Gaddafi, which was orchestrated by a motley coalition of Al Qaeda jihadists, Qatari special ops, Western intelligence services, etc etc etc, there was supposedly a rape of a woman named Iman Al-Obeidi. She accused Gaddafi’s soldiers of gang-raping her, this got everybody riled up and was played up in Western media.


                Eventually Al-Obeidi ended up leaving Libya and migrating somewhere to Western Europe, it is pretty clear that she was working for Western intelligence and the Benghazi gang all along, although I admit it is a dangerous game she was playing, there was no guarantee she would be allowed to just walk away from the turmoil she created. She was probably lying, it is dubious that she actually was raped by the soldiers. If she had been, it is dubious that she would have gone so public with it and emblazened her shame all over the front pages, more likely she and her family would have quietly taken the matter to her tribal court to seek justice against the soldiers. (Her name “Obeidi” is one of the most powerful tribes in Eastern Libya, so she would not have been lacking for some clout.)
                Other such accusations against Libyan army (like, they were juiced up with Viagra to improve their raping metrics) were debunked, even by some Western press.
                The actual systematic mass rapes were committed by the other side, the pro-NATO jihadists. They raped, tortured and murdered all of Gaddafi’s female army troops. Then also went on a rampage against ethnic Africans, raped, tortured, murdered, ethnically cleansed, etc.
                They even raped Gaddafi himself, when they got their hands on him, that’s the kind of people they are.

                • kirill says:

                  If she was gang raped she would have been murdered. Like in the west.

                • Jennifer Hor says:

                  Iman al Obeidi lives in the United States. Hillary Clinton arranged asylum for her. The woman has given a number of interviews to CNN and it seems her story keeps changing all the time.

                  You would think that if she had been gang-raped the way she describes, with her hands bound for a couple of days, she would be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and needing psychiatric counselling.

                • yalensis says:

                  Jen: That video embed didn’t work, it says because of copyrighted material. In any case, was interesting but not surprising to learn that Hillary Clinton arranged for al Obeidi to receive asylum in U.S. I am guessing Obeidi was CIA operative all along, and that her “rape” was faked, as part of the Gene Sharp type scenario they were playing.
                  And speaking of Obeidi tribe, they were also at the center of another scandal, namely the assassination of one of their own, General Younes, most likely at the hends of Al Qaeda leader Belhaj (who is also an American asset):


                • marknesop says:

                  Yes, even if you follow it back to its original link, here, you still get “this contains content from EMI, who has blocked it in your country for copyright reasons”. But there’s a little more of the story on that site. You can in turn follow it back to the author’s previous blog post on it, and while it is a little conspiracy-flavoured (like the site itself), it does contain some startling inconsistencies that suggest the entire story was faked. As I also did in an earlier post, the author cites the example of the Kuwaiti “nurse” – who turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the USA – and her tearful story of Saddam’s troops tearing babies from incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital, and of her having been comprehensively coached by an American PR firm under contract to the Kuwaiti opposition.

                  This story, too, seems to have followed a PR formula of identifying a galvanizing event and then building upon it to mobilize outrage and get the targeted countries to open their wallets and unleash their military forces in a burst of furious sensibilities. That they will move beyond analysis, and act instinctively, in other words.

                  The two situations have something else in common – the story of the trigger event is not expected to withstand detailed scrutiny, and there is every chance it will be blown – eventually. By then, of course, it will be too late and the country set up for overthrow will be in ruins with the opposition forces in charge. Then the narrative will move on to the soothing phase, and talk about healing and not pointing fingers or assigning blame. After all, it was done with the best intentions.

                  It’s a script. So far it has not worked in Syria, although we have seen efforts to unite the west behind stories of children shot by government snipers, government troops shooting into crowds of peaceful demonstrators with heavy antiaircraft weaponry, and the downing of a Turkish warplane that was presumably dropping flowers or free library passes, or something. But those were bush league. I’d like to think it was the audience getting more cynical, but there’s plenty of evidence that the rubes are just as gullible as ever. It seems more likely that the string-pullers are just getting lazy.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Sounds like another case of “war spin” such as this one, commented upon 9 years ago in the Grauniad:


  53. Misha says:

    Some comparative Russia-China political analysis that’s top heavy in terms of what’s not stressed:

    The Chinese Communist Party elects who is China’s head of state – something different from the situation in Russia.

    This leads to the “free and fair” elections point.

    The bottom line is that Russia appears to remain freer than China.

    China’s opposition doesn’t have it better than the Kasparovs, Zyuganovs and Navalnys.

    Among Russians, Putin remains the most popular figure to lead Russia.

    On the economic front, compare some Russia-China stats like per capita ownership of cars.

    This isn’t to say that Russia isn’t without significant challenges/flaws.

  54. Moscow Exile says:

    Another crock of shit from today’s Moscow News concerning the “feminist punk rock band”:

    “I don’t want to blame Pussy Riot for deliberately trying to cash in on anything. Samutsevich, I believe, is sincerely bewildered by what she’s gotten herself into. But inadvertently, every player in this postmodernist drama, where every layer reveals an underlying one, is getting rich via some form of capital, where even a jail term has an exchange rate. The ultimate source of that capital sits in the Kremlin”.


    So the Evil One is the root cause of all that has so far happened since the PR cathedral performance?

    And why is this drama “postmodernist”? What the fuck does “postmodernist” mean in this context – in any context for that matter?

    As soon as I hear the term “postmodernist, I reach for my gun.

    (No apologies to Nazi poet-laureate Hanns Johst. See:

    • yalensis says:

      “Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meinen Browning!”

      This often gets misquoted as “Mauser” instead of “Browning”. “Mauser” does actually sound funnier. Johst would have used the word “Mauser” if he had been a better writer on Brecht’s level and not such a Nazi dick.

      • So if it turns out that if the erstwhile revolutionary heroes, Pussy Riot and their lawyers, are simply corrupt and self seeking attention grabbers and exhibitionists that is somehow also Putin’s fault. Putin it seems is to blame for everything including the Opposition’s own failures.

        Actually I find the attacks and insinuations in the article on Samutsevich distasteful. Its thesis appears to be that if Samutsevich objects to the corruption of Feigin, Volkova and Polozov that must be because she is corrupt herself. No evidence for that is provided of course.

    • Misha says:

      “And Orthodox Russians I’ve spoken to are appalled not just at Pussy Riot for staging a ‘disgusting’ stunt in a church, they’re equally appalled at the government for giving the band members publicity by jailing them.”


      Put mildly, one wonders just how true is the above claim in relation to Orthodox Christians (Russian and otherwise)? The way the word disgusting is put in quotes is a tell all of the slant.

  55. Misha says:


    In the five minute trailer, where are all the Lenin statues on every corner as claimed in the interview? In Pridnestrovie (AKA Transdniester and closely related spellings), Suvorov is the preferred historical figure over Lenin. Reference Suvorov’s image on stamps and an image of him on a horse that has essentially served as a secondary coat of arms. That image of Suvorov comes from a statue of him in Pridnestrovie.

    In the trailer, note a large Christmas tree unlike statues of Lenin everywhere.

    Whether one agrees or disagrees with the continued use of the hammer and sickle, Pridnestrovie officially makes clear that the presence of that symbol isn’t intended to mark seeking a return to the Soviet period, when that territory was arbitrarily put into the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic in 1940. At last notice: in Moldova, the still influential Communist Party uses the hammer and sickle. In contrast to Moldova’s Communist Party, Pridnestrovie’s Communist Party is nowhere near as influential.

    The flippantly stated crime ridden charge on Pridnestrovie is an outdated 1990s throwback, propped by Moldovan government/anti-Pridnestrovie independence advocates. Moldova itself has issues.

    In terms of crime and ethnic intolerance, Pridnestrovie doesn’t appear worse than Kosovo, which has a much larger foreign troop presence.

  56. Misha says:

    Regarding Russian arms deals:

    There was a prior report somewhere which suggested that the not so distantly announced Russian-Iraqi arms deal is being hindered by inner Iraqi arguments over the implementation of that agreement.

    On the foreign influencing of arms deals, some years back, Felgenhauer had a Moscow Times piece which reported US government influence in getting the Israelis to walk away from a Russian-Chinese military aircraft project.

    Concerning the Iraqi situated Kurdish area:

    • cartman says:

      Iraqi Kurdistan overlaps with Iraqi Assyria. The violence against Assyrian communities is coming mainly from the Kurdish side, so I’m afraid an independent Kurdistan would encourage more ethnic cleansing.

  57. Misha says:

    RT falls short:


    From the Russian government funded 24/7 English language television news network, a worthy news item that suggestively and understandably makes it a point to express disappointment with Ukraine.

    As currently posted online, NOTHING is said of the Israeli position, which serves to underscore a seemingly relevant point, given the issue of Nazism, in conjunction with how Israel sided with Russia over the US on this particular UN resolution –

    • Dear Misha,

      Israel was bound to support a Resolution against the glorification of Nazism. It is disturbing that Ukraine did not. It shows that Ukraine is still trying to balance its policies with the west which conspicuously (and outrageously) refused to support it.

      • Misha says:

        Hello Alexander,

        From a newsworthy perspective, that RT piece missed highlighting how the often presented (in some circles) best ally of the US took the Russian position over America’s.

        Canada and the US also stand out. The previously mentioned Captive Nations Committee mindset remains in the US. Per capita wise, Canada has a greater post-WW II population from western Ukraine, Croatia and the Baltics than the US. Not that everyone from these areas think in a retrogressive way.

      • AK says:

        Ukraine is a disgustingly submissive state (to the West).

        I remember in the recent EU visa negotiations, while Russia insisted on reciprocity, the Europeans asked Russia why it couldn’t do like Ukraine did and just let in the Europeans without visas unconditionally.

        It emerges that Ukraine for all intents and purposes feeds their superiority complexes and makes life tougher for countries that wish to preserve their sovereignty.

        • marknesop says:

          It doesn’t help any superiority complex Ukraine might have, either – from the viewpoint of it being adjusted by reality – to have the west constantly praise it like a talented pet when in fact Ukraine is not doing very well at all. We’ve all heard the nozz about Russia’s calamitous population decline until our ears are numb, but I never realized that Ukraine and the Baltic Republics – all the “successful democracy experiments” – have experienced dramatically worse population decline than Russia and Belarus, until Cartman pointed it out. I’ll have to take a look at some figures, but sometimes it just takes a fresh pair of eyes to see a picture that’s been right in front of yours.

          • Misha says:

            Ukraine is no longer such a prized pet of the West as evidenced by the criticism its government receives, meshed with some (albeit guarded) acknowledgement that the Tymoshenkos and Yushchenkos have some flaws.

            Russia seems include the mindset that out of practicality Ukraine will have to seek a closer relationship with Russia – something that many in Ukraine support.

    • Misha says:

      Following up on a posted (a bit above) UN General Assembly item, the US has faced some recent diplomatic isolation:

      In these two instances, Canada and the Marshall Island are only two countries to have voted exactly like the US.

  58. Moscow Exile says:

    In my opinion, another mistaken move by the Moscow judiciary: the BBC reports today that a Moscow court has ordered that PR videos be removed from web sites. See:

    So all the bleedding-heart liberal apologists for the PR vermin will soon be howling out about yet another “Kremlin crackdown” on freedom of expression.

    Better that this “feminist punk band” performance in the cathedral be left for all to see and form their own judgement on the musical skills and political credibility and maturity of the “performing artists”.

    Furthermore, on some of the clips you can see that little shit Verzilov entering the cathedral carrying a guitar (Electric, no amplifiers: some bloody “gig”!) and as the PR “”artists” are being led out, one can hear an old man, a worshiper, comment: “Idiots!” whereupon Verzilov, who has just walked past him, replies off screen: “You’re an idiot yourself!”

    Off course, they never intended to insult anyone’s feelings in the cathedral. At least, that’s what they said in their defence in court. And they never said anything about Putin in the cathedral either: that was dubbed on later, as well the police know, they having seized all the files appertaining to the “performance”, including recordings of their rehearsals for the event, which files were in Verzilov’s laptop

    • yalensis says:

      Yeah calling these idiots “extremists” and banning their videos is giving them WAY too much credibility!
      Are Russian courts really serious about this “blasphemy” stuff and “religious extremism” and all that jazz? It’s bullshit!
      Almost on the level of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood issuing an arrest warrant for Pastor Terry Jones:

      • Dear Moscow Exile and Yalensis,

        I agree with both of you. We also now have a new blasphemy law working its way through the Duma, which I think misconceived to say the least.

        We can now see what the actual result of Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer” has been. Instead of initiating the revolution it has provoked an ugly and damaging cultural backlash.

    • Misha says:

      Not in favor of a formal ban on their performance not being viewed. That stance seems to be part of an across the board effort against anti-religious activity. I seem to recall a similar manner exhibited towards material deemed as anti-Muslim. There was also Putin’s recent comment to Merkel against anti-Semitic manner (regarding an apparent error in interpreting another performance attended by two of the PR three).

      Keep in mind that “the paper of record” (NYT) with “all the news that’s fit to print” and most, if not all of other major Western media essentially have a ban on giving a full translation of PR’s performance, while providing a disproportionate amount of pro-PR propaganda.

      Other censorship issues include UK arrests over obscene Tweets and the Canadian government preventing law abiding citizens/residents from Western countries from entering Canada for purely political reasons.

    • marknesop says:

      That’s what I’d like to see an accurate accounting for – everything that actually took place in the cathedral. It’s fairly well-known that there was no music in the cathedral (and not really any after it, either, although we have to be broad-minded as our parents were not on what constitutes “music”), just a lot of jumping around and the sound was preplanned to be dubbed in later, so the guitar was just a prop. But was there really nothing said about Putin in the videos?

      I only ask because that is the entire foundation of their argument; that it was a “punk prayer” against Putin motivated by Kirill’s “endorsement” of Putin before the election. Without pointed discussion of Putin during the course of their “performance”, their entire line of argument collapses.

      • Dear Mark,

        The Judge based on the unanimous evidence of the witnesses decided that there were no references to Putin in the punk prayer as it was actually performed in the Cathedral and that these were all added later to the video that was subsequently uploaded onto Youtube. Of course some people will dispute this (though interestingly I have not seen that the Pussy Riot trio themselves have done so). However as the judge pointed out there is no reason to think that the witnesses weren’t telling the truth. They appear to have all been fairly unsophisticated people. To assume that they were all lying about this would require that they all beforehand agreed together on a conspiracy to go together to the Court and lie there on oath on a crucial point in the evidence in the presence of the defendants, their lawyers, the international press and the defendants’ numerous and noisy supporters.. I have to say I think this is very unlikely and so did the judge.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        “Pussy Riot’s gig at Christ the Saviour took place on 21 February. Five members broke into the Moscow cathedral, performing a “punk prayer” from the altar. Their song “Holy Shit” is a condemnation of the Russian Orthodox church’s close ties to Putin. “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin,” they sang, “chase Putin out!” Three of them have been arrested for hooliganism and they could face up to seven years in jail.

        via Pussy Riot’s lawyer Mark Feigin

        Written under this you tube clip:

        I can only hear them repeatedly saying “Shit of Our Lord!”

        No music.

        No mention of Putin.

        Yet this sad event is described as a “gig”, that the PR members “broke into the Moscow cathedral” (I believe they walked in and while doing so, were checked by security, but “broke into” sounds more “heroic” I guess) and performed a “punk prayer”.

        A non-event if ever there were one, performed by spoilt bourgeoisie brats who think that they are oh so smarter than the mob, and hyped up for all it is worth by the Western rat pack. Just look at the names associated with the marketing of PR in the West, and on top of the pile is Goldfarb, Berezovsky’s former hireling who liased with the Western media in in the reporting of the death of another Berezovsky hireling, the pathetic no-mark Litvinenko.

        • Misha says:

          Was of the impression (could be rong) that another video with PR involvement added musical instrumentation, to suggest that it was evident in the actual performance – something especially insulting, given that such isn’t allowed during OC chapel servives.

          Regardless, they violated the sanctity of a leading ROC house of worship, which previously faced anti-religious destruction.

          A reasoned freedom allows for folks to perform in their own house (short of instances like late night noise pollution, which disrespects the neighbors) or another venue where they’re either invited, or at the very least isn’t the un-invited property of those who don’t approve of the given activity.

          PR were looking for publicity and they got it – a far cry from an oppressive dictatorship.

          • Dear Misha,

            You are quite right. There are lots of different videos of this “performance” currently circulating, some with music, some without, some with references to Putin, some apparently without. All of them have been doctored to a greater or lesser extent either by Pussy Riot themselves or by other people, which is why in making her decision the judge did not base it on any particular video but on the evidence of the witnesses who were actually there. Having said this I still find it interesting that Moscow Exile has found one video that has no music and apparently no references to Putin. One wonders whether this is the actual original video (what the Germans might call the ur video) from which all the other videos derive. If I have understood Moscow Exile correctly it comes from Feigin’s website. If it is the true original video the fact that Feigin was Pussy Riot’s lawyer might explain how he came to have possession of it.

            • I would add that this video not only appears to show the whole “performance” but also seems to show a great deal more resistance (or defiance) to the Cathedral staff than some of the other videos I have seen. One of the points Pussy Riot made at the trial and which is continuously made by their defenders and apologists ever is that they offered no resistance to the Cathedral staff. This video clearly shows the contrary. This fact also makes me think this might be the original ur video (or one of them – it’s always possible that more than one was made). Incidentally right at the beginning of the video there is a brief clip showing some young women being held back by a figure who looks like a nun. From the position of the camera it looks like these women were part of the group to which the cameraman or woman belonged. I wonder whether these young women form part of the group of Pussy Riot supporters who came to the Cathedral to film the performance and if so (given that they are not masked) whether the police have identified them.

              • Sorry to go on about this, but looking at the video again (which because of my eyesight problems I cannot see very well) it looks as if there is at least one other person rather obviously filming the performance with what looks to me like a camera who to me looks like a man. Possibly it is this person who is making the true ur video, in which case this video may have been made by an onlooker with a mobile phone. Regardless this looks like the most reliable video of the actual performance I have seen up to now and it is deeply incriminating. Thanks to Moscow Exile for finding it and I suppose one should thank Feigin for posting it.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Dear Alexander Mercouris,

                I think that the young women that you are referring to and who are being urged to leave the vicinity of the performance are more than likely worshippers. In any case, whether they are worshippers or not, they are following the dress code for women who enter an Eastern Orthodox Church, in that their no doubt delectable and nubile young bodies are appropriately covered so as not to allow weak men, such as I, to fall prey to the devil’s wiles.

                The “artists” performing in what would be described as the sanctuary in a Western church – that place in front of and around the altar and separated from the rest of the nave by altar rails -, namely the “ambon” in an Eastern Orthodox Church, that area between the iconostasis and the altar rails, are most definitely not following the strict Orthodox dress code as laid down for women.

                It’s the same in the Greek Orthodox Church, isn’t it?

                • “It’s the same in the Greek Orthodox Church, isn’t it?”

                  It most certainly is. By the way viz your comments about mosques, there are parts of Greece where anybody who tried to pull off a stunt like that would be lucky to escape a lynching. Even in cosmopolitan Athens anybody who did a thing like that would be in very serious trouble, more serious certainly than the trouble Pussy Riot have found themselves in. Quite apart from anything else they would have to be protected from the other prisoners once they found themselves in prison.

                  On looking at the video again I agree that the young women have nothing to do with Pussy Riot and are either worshippers or onlookers.

            • Misha says:

              Hello Alexander,

              Would’ve to check the court transcripts to accurately determine what if any effort the PR defense made in clarifying this particular matter in question.

              The immediate impression remains of a smug defense belittling the very matter of their getting arrested.

              Meantime: BS aside, PR’s chapel stunt and subsequent attitude in court led to their internment, as opposed to the issue of having a reasonable freedom of expression.

              • On the subject of the trial itself and what was said there, I discussed it at length in my second blog post where I also provided a link to the RAPSI day summaries.


                Whilst there are not obviously a full transcript of the trial they do give a good sense of it. You are quite right to say that the approach taken by the defence was smug and belittliing both of the case and the witnesses. In fact the word I use to describe it is arrogant.

                The one thing I would say, which is something I have never discussed and which I am not going to discuss because I do not think it at all important, is that there does seem to be some issue about the legality of the original arrests with some suggestions that they in some way breached procedures. That is the one issue that Samutsevich is so far complaining about to the European Court of Human Rights. If there was any violation of procedure this would be a purely technical matter, which would not affect the validity of the judgment though it might lead to an award of a small amount of compensation. As I said I don’t think the point is at all important. The only reason I mention it is because in your comment you specifically refer to the arrests.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Dear Alexander Mercouris,

              I posted a while back on another thread a PR video very similar to the one above, namely without music and where the only discernible words of their “prayer” again being “Shit of Our Lord” (срань Господня).

              That other video I found in Mosckovsky Komsomolets. The clip had clearly been shot on a mobile by a visitor/tourist/worshipper in the cathedral who had been standing some 50 metres to the left of the person who made the above video and therefore the ambon with its performers was viewed from a different angle as seen in the above video.

              In that previous video clip, Verzilov and his accomplices can be clearly seen entering the main area of the cathedral where worshippers stand during services; Tolokonnikova’s husband is also seen carrying a guitar case in that other video.

              When the “gig” kicks off in that MK video, you can hear people – and there are plenty of them there – saying: “What’s going on?”, “Why are they doing this?” “Idiots!” “Prostitutes!” And as the security finally start to hussle some of the “artists” out of the cathedral – albeit that some see that it’s time to make a dash for the exit, thereby admitting their full comprehension of the fact that their “performance” was at the very least unacceptable or a wrongdoing, Verzilov also quickly walks in front of the person filming as he hurries towards the side door through which he and the others had entered.

              That’s when somebody says “Idiots!” again and it is Verzilov’s voice, I am sure, that replies off screen: “You’re an idiot yourself!”

              Now, if the place of worship in which the artists had decided to “perform” had not been the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour but one of the large mosques in Moscow, I doubt that Verzilov and friends would have got very far from the place of performance – at least, not in one piece – for I think it possible that if his silly “feminist” associates had dared say in a mosque “Shit of Mohammed!”, Their empty heads might very well have been separated in short shrift from their bodies.

              • Dear Moscow Exile,

                I missed the previous video you posted. It is a strain for me to look at videos so I limit the extent to which I do.

                Anyway, to settle a point made by Mark, the absence of any reference to Putin in the punk prayer as performed in the Cathedral and confirmed both by witnesses and in the two videos you have found effectively demolishes the free speech/political protest defence under ECHR Article 10. It is impossible to see how that argument can now get past first base and if it is ever made to the European Court of Human Rights it will surely fail. That might be why Khrunova apparently is not making it.

                Secondly, the latest video you have posted not only shows much more resistance to the Cathedral staff than the defendants and their apologists have claimed but also conclusively resolves the question of how many people were present in the Cathedral when the punk prayer was performed. The defendants and their apologists say that the Cathedral was practically empty so that the punk prayer can have caused offence to only a very few people. Your video shows that this was definitely not so and that the judge’s assessment that there were around 50 people present is about right.

                Lastly there is the question of Verzilov. I am afraid because of my eyesight issues I would almost certainly not be able to recognise him if he did appear in one of the videos. However on the assumption that one of the videos does actually confirm his presence in the Cathedral as the punk prayer was being performed then it is very strange that he has not been prosecuted for the part he played in it.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Alexander Mercouris,

                  As regards Verzilov’s presence in the cathedral at the time of the PR “gig”, that is, I believe, irrefutable. I have seen on the Russian web video footage from CCTV shot above the side entrance and loooking down onto the table alongside which visitors/worshippers file past and onto which their bags etc. are placed for inspection by security men. And there’s your man himself, “Porky Pete”, and his electric guitar filing past.

                  This is where Samutsevich must have been barred entry. I don’t know why she couldn’t get into the cathedral (the others “broke into” the building, according to Feigin’s web site); I should think she arrived late or got seperated from the rest and after her pals’ stunt had already kicked off and the security men somehow suspected her as being part of the freedom-fighting team.

                  Furthermore, on his own admittance Verzilov was there. When his wife was accused of performing on the ambon, he denied this; when the video was made public, he changed his tune and admitted that she had been there. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it is Tolokonnikova who kneels down and crosses and prostrates herself: I say this only because of the physique of the woman that performs this mockery, as she is masked of course. In Verzilov’s laptop was the “Urvideo”, together with videos of rehearsal performances. This isn’t proof that he was there, but I’m pretty sure that it was Verzilov that shot the video of the “gig”.

                  As regards your claim that some Greeks might have assaulted the PR team if they had undertaken a similar scandalous act in a Greek church, the fact remains that nobody threatened any of the “performers” with assault in the cathedral during their childish tantrum. However, it turns out that Alekhina’s problems in prison are, according to Russian press reports, the result of threats made to her by prisoners who claim to be believers and who have become irritated by what their PR fellow prisoner has been saying to them. Newspaper reports here say that it is not uncommon for prisoners to seek solace in religion during their incarceration. I fully agree with this as I have witnessed this myself in UK prisons.

                  Jesus loves sinners – if they repent.

                  PR have not repented, though, which kicks into touch Verzilov’s hypocritical meanderings in TV interviews where he lectures on forgiveness being an an integral part of the Christian faith.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Alexander Mercouris,

                  This is what the liberal, free thinking chattering classes of the West who are steadfastly on the side of freedom and justice and mom’s apple pie think, or wish to think, was performed in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow:

                  And even if that had been the case, they still should have been prosecuted for breach of the peace, insulting behaviour and criminal trespass, which charges, I’m sure, would have been made against them if they had gone into Westminster Abbey, London and made a similar performance.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  And that dubbed version, of course, begins with: “Mother of God drive Putin away”; there is also plenty of :”Shit, shit, shit of Our Lord!” thrown in as well, which repeated line serves as a sort of chorus. No offence intended towards any Christians present, so they say, not that there were many there as stated in PR’s defence.

                  Such mind-numbing artistry!

  59. yalensis says:

    I saw this interesting piece, somebody compiled a list of all NGO’s functioning in Russia which are now considered to be foreign agents, along with source of funding (e.g., NED, USAID, etc.)

    • cartman says:

      I see Levada is on there. So is the Higher School of Economics and the European University at Saint Petersburg, although I am sure they are supported by more than just the MacArthur Foundation.

  60. Levada’s interpretation of its own results continues to bewilder. It says that Putin’s approval rating is continuing to fall and has supposedly been doing so continuously since 2008. However isn’t Putin’s approval rating of 63% in November almost exactly the same as the result he got in the Presidential election in March?

  61. kirill says:

    Watch this crap and see why Russian ambassadors should not engage in TV debates. The clown Gauthier Rybinski basically trolls the ambassador with a set of easily debunked talking points but the Russian ambassador is constrained from properly rebutting them since he cannot offend other states gratuitously and this includes Chechnya. Take the drivel about Syria. The ambassador is right, the FSA is not an ethnic self-determination movement and indeed South Ossetia and Abkhazia were not parts of Georgia de juro and de facto after 1991. Russia intervened to stop ethnic cleansing and massacres.

    • Misha says:

      Kirill, the very first portion within the first two miniutes starts off well. I haven’t yet seen the rest.

      I think it’s good for competent folks to go on such shows and tell it like it actually is in a clear and intelligent way.

      IMO, Churkin and Lavrov have been generally good in these situations.

      Regarding Rusisan government involved English language media efforts, there’ve been other instances where the effort can be easily improved upon.

      Less cronyism and better quality control will improve the situation.

      • marknesop says:

        I agree. Although Rybinski is indeed setting him up with “have you stopped beating your wife?” questions in which only one conclusion could be drawn regardless of the answer, Orlov comes out swinging for the fences, gently mocking Rybinski and referring to his questions as “almost a caricature of what is really happening in the Russian Federation” and “that just shows how ignorant you are, I’m sorry to have to put it that way, about what is really going on”. I think on the whole he did very well, coming off – in my opinion – as old-world diplomatic, courteous and restrained while Rybinski appeared a brash jackass. It sounded like one was reading from a sheet of talking points, and the other was responding thoughtfully and taking even silly questions seriously. I didn’t watch it all, either, but unless Orlov leaped out of his seat and punched Rybinski in the last 5 minutes or so, it looked to me like he handled the interview as well as anyone could have done, while Rybinski was clearly the provocateur.

        • Misha says:


          That’s how people can gradually get influenced.

          Regarding PR, I know quite a few well educated conservatives as well as some more liberal minded folks, whose interest in Russia is secondary to other concerns. Upon following up with me on PR, they approvingly said they suspected something fishy with the general coverage.

          Activism can serve to better encourage a desired result.

  62. Moscow Exile says:

    Further to the thread concerning the Corsican’s visit to Mother Russia in 1812, here’s an interesting little article from the BBC-TV World News site:

    I think Buonaparte exhibited a certain degree of petulance in his dealings with foreign powers, and in defeat, he, like Hitler with Paris, wanted to wreak vengeance on Moscow. It’s interesting to note that in his writings when in Moscow, Buonaparte always referred to St. Basil’s cathedral as “the mosque”, reflecting his Roman Catholic upbringing and his belief that the Eastern Orthodox church was heretical and that the Russians were “Tatars”. He also ordered that “the mosque” be destroyed on his army’s leaving Moscow.

    • Misha says:


      As posted earlier:


      Someone replied as follows –

      Thanks Mike for forwarding a very interesting piece.

      It was not just the Cossacks and swarm tactics which defeated Napoleon. There were also the matters of efficient conventional military strategy by a Russian army defending its country. Borodino was more of a tie than Russian defeat, with Tolstoy lauding the effort of the Russian army in War and Peace. There was also the instance of Moscow getting burned in a way that made Napoleon’s occupation of that city problematical.

      Note: Napoleon’s armies marauded in a way that included the deliberate destruction of Russian Orthodox churches and monasteries. Contrast that manner with how Russian forces carried on en route to and when reaching Paris. This comparison isn’t emphasized because it doesn’t fit the image of a comparatively more progressive Napoleon from Western Europe versus the barbarically backward Russians.

      Regarding the 200th anniversary of the Russo-French War of 1812, this news item mentions the initiative of Alexander I to rebuild the destroyed Russian Orthodox Church properties with government grants and private donations:


      Concerning the article on the Russo-French War of 1812, someone else expressed the opinion that the role of the Cossacks is overrated, relative to that of the Russian army.