Dear Russia: Please Stop Fighting Poverty, We Liked You Better When You Were Impoverished and Dying

Uncle Volodya says,"At the funeral, they all said, 'What a shame; he died penniless. I don't know - to me, that sounds like perfect timing on a hell of a budget. "

Uncle Volodya says,”At the funeral, they all said, ‘What a shame; he died penniless’. I don’t know – to me, that sounds like perfect timing on a hell of a budget. “

In an unprecedented (for this blog) double shot of duplicity and dissembling, The Moscow Times is up for a second consecutive turn at bat.

Mikhail Dmitriyev and Svetlana Misikhina appear to have stirred up a hornet’s nest of spiteful fury with their “Good Bye, Poverty – Russia’s Quiet Social Revolution” article, released under the joint auspices of the Center for Strategic Research – of which Mr. Dmitriyev is President – and the Social Policy Center, the Institute of Applied Economic Research , of which Ms. Misikhina is Director. This upbeat article inspired a prompt and vindictive rebuke from Vedomosti, which was promptly picked up by The Moscow Times (thanks to Moscow Exile for the link), where they evidently like the cut of Vedomosti‘s jib – as they do that of anyone prepared to testify that Russian state statistics are just pre-rolled sunshine suppositories to be blown up the people’s asses, totally fabricated and manifestly unbelievable, and that the only agencies fit to assess Russian progress are American or British. And the default position of many of those is, there shall be no mention of “progress” and “Russia” in the same sentence unless that sentence reads, “Russia has made no progress”. Amplifiers such as “whatsoever” or “observable” or “worth noticing” are encouraged.

Funny thing, though. Just a few months ago, when Mikhail Dmitriyev co-wrote “Political Crisis in Russia and Possible Mechanisms of its Development“, he suddenly found himself with credibility up the wazoo – to quote respected Russia-watcher Eugene Ivanov, “All of a sudden, Dmitriev found himself in high demand: he became a frequent guest on political TV shows; his articles now are regularly published in both Russian and international print media.” The report was gleefully cited by Freedom House in its annual exercise in navel-gazing, Nations in Transit 2012, in which – you guessed it – Russia has made no observable progress whatsoever, in which corruption in Russia is growing faster than an expensive haircut and in which everything bad that happened, including the Domodedovo suicide bombing, is the fault of the country’s incompetent and flailing government.

Then, then, Dmitriyev had so much juice – as far as adoring western worshipers were concerned – that you could have squeezed his head and made yourself a credibility smoothie.

Now, apparently, Dmitriyev has blown all that off, and has turned into an idiot. Sad, really: he showed such promise, back when he insisted a political crisis in Russia was not only inevitable, unstoppable – in fact, it had already begun.

I’m sure I don’t have to draw you a picture. When the President of a Russian think tank co-writes a report that says the Russian government is in big trouble, and that a groundswell of public unrest is building that will surely sweep all before it like a cleansing wave, western analysts are comforted and satisfied, and pat him on the head – figuratively speaking – with benevolent pride, and shop him around the talk-show circuit so he can tell more people what a political dead man walking the Russian government is. The western media likes to hear that the Russian government is in trouble. When that same individual co-writes a report which says the Russian government has more or less eradicated poverty in Russia, according to benchmarks established and substantiated by the World Bank and adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), he is suddenly speaking a language nobody understands. Mouthpieces of Anglospheric policy like The Moscow Times are beyond disappointed – if Dmitriyev were an ice cream flavour, he would be Pralines and Dick.

Well, perhaps I’m being unfair: let’s take a look at it. Uh, oh. Right away, Pierre Avril pissed in the pickles when he suggested, “…Russians buy cars, luxury goods and food items as though they were unaffected by any economic problems at all”, in Le Figaro. I don’t suppose he realized at the time that it would cause a collective cerebral tipover at Vedomosti, but he probably ought to have known that westerners do not want to hear smack like Russians buying cars and luxury goods when there is a widespread economic crisis in their own countries and their governments are trying to make “austerity” sound like “good times”. In fact, they would probably rather it was most anyone else than Russia. And Vedomosti and The Moscow Times often specialize in telling westerners what they like to hear. Quod erat demonstrandum. Get a grip, Pierre.

Perhaps in an attempt to confuse the reader that the author of the report is not that Mikhail Dmitriyev – the bright up-and-comer who co-wrote that great report about political unrest in Russia – but is instead some federal drone alcoholic chowderhead who is just sucking up to the Kremlin, both Vedomosti and The Moscow Times credential him as Head of the Federal Center for Social Development. Social Development actually comes under the Ministry of Health, overseen by Veronika Svortsova; I could not find any Federal Center for Social Development in Russia, and Dmitriyev is clearly listed in the original article as President of the Center for Strategic Research.

While this Louis-Vuitton-grabbing, Hennessy-swigging orgy of consumerism might sound like things are going well, the Twin Talking Heads Of Disaster Pending (Vedomosti and The Moscow Times) want you to know that it’s all just another cheap facade, behind which lie misery and damnation. This epic of Caligulan excess is being fueled, we are told, by a massive increase in consumer borrowing, outpacing corporate borrowing by 300%.  Ominously (insert creepy organ music), borrowing rates like these were last seen just before the 2008 global financial crisis. Nothing good can come of this.

Uh huh. Let me ask you something: when was the last time you were in a bank, to get a loan? Know a bit about how banks work, do you? Now, I want you to imagine for a minute that you’re in a bank in Russia, and you want a loan. You’re going to have to see a loans officer, or some similar representative. He or she is going to want to know (1) how much money you want to borrow, (2) what you want it for, and (3) how much you earn, so the bank can decide if you’re a credible risk.

I should pause here to say we’re not talking about an American financial organization, where quite recently you could get a loan to buy a 4-bedroom house even though you couldn’t prove you had either a job or a fixed address. We’re talking about a financial institution in Russia, which has the lowest debt in the G20, the world’s third-largest cash reserves, and which bounced back from the global financial crisis like a rubber ball while its western rivals are groaning under debt loads of truly scary proportions, and trying to make austerity sound like fun.

Okay – back to the bank. I want you to look the loans officer in the eye, and answer, (1) $30,000.00 USD, (2) I need it to buy myself a new car, some Louis Vuitton luggage to put in it for my vacation, and a case of cognac to celebrate with my friends, and (3) I’m poor, and I can’t possibly pay it back.

Ha, ha. Whew, my ribs hurt a little.

Let me get this straight. The poverty problem has not actually gone away in Russia, people really are no better off, there’s just a pile of cash floating around that poor Russians are borrowing. Which is being lent to them by banks who have no hope of getting it back, but were hoodwinked by clever paupers who convinced them they had high-paying jobs which the bank never thought to check on.

Hmmm….I’m going to file that under “B”, for Bullshit. Or maybe “A”, for “As if”.

Agreeing enthusiastically with me is Natalya Zagvozdina, a commodities analyst at Renaissance Capital: ” The more credible explanation for the present upswing in consumer spending is that Russians are taking loans to buy high ticket items like houses, cars and furs, which they couldn’t afford while the crisis lasted…If Russian consumers will keep on dishing out cash, that in turn will keep the economy humming.” You remember Renaissance Capital; they were the biggest rivals of Bill Browder’s Hermitage Capital Management, and also the firm that Browder accused of being implicated in a similar tax fraud case to the one allegedly uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky. Except in this one the owners of the fake companies, who were Renaissance CEO Steven Jennings (the “Kiwi Oligarch” – God, I love how everyone the west wants to paint as a crook is an “oligarch”, while Browder himself is simply a “businessman” although his company was a thinly-disguised corporate raider) and Richard Olphert, former head of Merchant Banking at Renaissance Capital, simply stole the tax money back for themselves and hid it in front companies.

Anyway, let’s not go down that road, or we’ll be here all day. Poverty. Is Dmitriyev just making stuff up? Apparently not. Most readers by now will be familiar with the Gini Coefficient, which rates countries on distribution of income, from the poorest to the wealthiest. A figure of zero would imply perfect income distribution, and everyone starts out with the same disposable income – ergo, there are no rich, and no poor. A figure of 100 (or 1, for the national Gini Index) suggests one person has all of it; perfect inequality. So, keep in mind that a higher figure implies greater inequality.

According to the World Bank, Russia in 2009 had a more equitable distribution of income than the USA had in 2000 – Russia 40.1 in 2009, the USA – chief critic and self-appointed inquisitor of Russia – 40.8 in 2000. Russia has since made even greater strides toward reducing poverty. Has the United States? Not according to the CIA World Factbook. The Gini Coefficient for the USA grew to 45 by 2007, while Russia’s was 42 in 2010. But those figures don’t tell the whole story; going back for a moment to the Wikipedia table (figures from the United Nations Development Program), we see that the ratio of income of the richest 10% to the poorest 10% for Russia is 12.7, while it is 15.9 for the USA. The same criteria, for the richest 20% versus the poorest 20%: Russia, 7.6 – the USA, 8.4. Once again, this is Russia in 2009 versus the USA in 2000.

In fact, both poverty and income inequality are continuing to grow in the USA, and a powerful unequalizer in both instances is the U.S. Tax Code. Quite apart from being so complicated that it defies description, it is regularly manipulated by government to skew more tax breaks to the wealthy. This results in a national Gini Index (not coefficient) of .469 for the USA in 2010 – a figure which, according to the Center for American Progress, puts the United States in a disadvantageous position against Malaysia (.462) and Uganda (.443). In an example cited by the same reference, in 2007 the before-tax (federal) Gini index for the USA was .524. After taxes, it had decreased (improved) to .489, which represents a 7.2% reduction. The tax system has the power to reduce income inequality, but is not doing so to anything like the extent it could. The USA has made no observable progress whatsoever against income inequality, you might say.

After that, Vedomosti and its parrot, The Moscow Times, dissolve into farce as they cast about in a paroxysm of mean-spirited bitchiness for something negative that they can use to shore up their contention that Russians are still poor. The amount of space they live in, for instance; according to the article, this is “an accurate indicator of Russians’ real standard of living”, because if they were really doing that well, everybody would live in a big house. More than half of Russians, however, live in an average living space per person of only 7 to 30 m2. A few more are jammed in like sardines at home, says the Moscow Higher School of Economics, which I would not believe if they said their name was the Moscow Higher School of Economics, and would not trust to forecast the outcome of the War of 1812 today.

Let’s unpack that a little, as a blogger I admire used to say. First of all – which is it? 7 m2 is pretty tiny, but 30 m2 is more than 4 times the space, and is quite generous. Compared to Hong Kong, say, where the average is 13 m2 of living space per person, I’ve been to Hong Kong and Kowloon, and I have to say poverty was not my impression at all, although their living space is likely to get smaller, if anything. But according to Vedomosti and The Moscow Times, those folks might as well abandon all hope, because they are poor as churchmice. The government should be ashamed of itself. Likewise in the Czech Republic, where it’s only 14 m2 per person, or in Hungary, where it’s 20 m2, or Poland where it’s 24.21 m2 (nationwide average), according to Eurostat.

But forget that, because even if your living space in square meters really reflected how poor you are, Vedomosti and The Moscow Times are still shooting you a line. They offer nothing to substantiate their claims that “the level of ‘housing poverty’ has not changed appreciably in the last 20 years.” In fact, the average living space per person in the Russian Federation has risen every year since 1999 (when it was 19.1 m2) to the latest available figure, 22.4 m2 according to (the Russian Federation is number 220 in the table).

According to the Intelligent Energy Europe Program, (Section 6, Buildings) living space per square meter in the Soviet Union by the end of the 1950’s was only 4 m2, which had expanded to 15.8 m2 by 1989. The construction method used by policy in the Soviet Union, called large-panel construction, made it difficult to expand the living space of apartments without knocking down the whole building and starting over, and that construction method continued long after European countries had abandoned it because of heating inefficiencies. The same source reports 15% of the current dwellings in Moscow were built after 1998. Also, “Much of the construction is aimed at the new wealthier classes; a development which has been accompanied by a significant reduction in municipal housing. A new phenomenon appearing in a number of cities is the suburban district containing low density detached housing or luxury residential blocks. This style of urban living is particularly popular on the outskirts of Moscow (Boret et al., 2004)”.

I’m not even going to get into the cheap shot that “morbidity statistics for 2000 – 2010″ suggest a steady upward trend in illnesses, which supports the contention that poverty is widespread. Suffice it to say the source contends the “real illness rate is even higher when you take into account the shrinking population” when the population is not shrinking and is in fact growing. I imagine you could find some illnesses which were worsening, and quite a few which were reduced dramatically. As was quite knowledgeably discussed by Mark Adomanis at Forbes, based on Rosstat data – tuberculosis, specifically mentioned by Vedomosti, way down. Social diseases, way down. Hepatitis, nearly eradicated, all of these during the 2000-2010 timeframe. Diabetes, up. Cancer, up, although neither as high as the rate in the USA. HIV, up. Are any of these exclusively poor people’s diseases? If so, why are the rates higher in the USA (not including HIV, which is a serious problem in Russia because of intravenous drug use)?

Simply put, when things are bad in Russia, The Moscow Times crows in triumph and makes them sound worse, not to mention a direct result of government incompetence, even if the incident under discussion is a natural disaster. When things are good in Russia, The Moscow Times crows in triumph that they are actually bad, and invents supporting information which it expects you to take at face value. It caters to a western audience, and is a reliable spreader of disinformation as well as a go-to reference for Russophobes.

Strike two, Moscow Times.

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991 Responses to Dear Russia: Please Stop Fighting Poverty, We Liked You Better When You Were Impoverished and Dying

  1. Moscow Exile says:

    And the Moscow Times continues in today’s issue the prosecution of what it clearly considers to be its manifest duty, namely to inform the world of the parlous nature of the Mafia State, that criminal polity otherwise known as the Russian Federation.

    That ever popular topic of corruption in Russia is spotlighted in today’s MT lead story “Corruption Index Keeps Russia in ‘Zone of Shame'”.

    It’s those old Transparency International people from Berlin again, who, according to the MT article, have now rated Russia as the “133rd-most corrupt of 174 nations” and “on a par with Afghanistan, Iran and Honduras”.

    Not that there is no denying that corruption exists in Russia, that it is to a great extent institutionalised and all pervading – and I say this as someone who, during the course of almost 20 years of residence in the Evil Empire, has not paid one kopeck in the form of a bribe or “gift”. However, the message from MT is loud and clear: there is no hope for Russia; by all civilized standards, that benighted land is beyond the pale of all things that the “free world” loves and cherishes, and Russia should be shunned and treated as an outcast by all honest and true citizens of the “community of nations”.

    (By the way, as regards the location of Transparency international HQ, slush funds in Germany were tax deductable. Ask Siemens.)

    • kirill says:

      If Russia is as corrupt as Afghanistan then surely there have been cases of massive bank fraud such as that of Kabul Bank ( These Russia hating f*ckers can’t even provide specific examples to back up their claims and just invoke vacuous generalizations. This TI index is one of the most idiotic concoctions in the history of this planet. But that requires some IQ on the part of the media consumer. Unfortunately, most don’t have the attention span to notice the brazenly misleading nature of this concoction.

    • marknesop says:

      Perhaps Transparency International itself would bear looking into. I’ve checked their methodology before, and in some countries their sample group is extremely slanted. In Georgia, they just mostly let the government do it, and mostly government-friendly businesses were sampled. Now it looks like Georgia under Ivanishvili has suddenly become corrupt as can be imagined, but in reality it was so under Saakashvili, he was simply allowed to cover it up. But as I have said before, if Transparency International could overlook one nation directly funding organized crime in another to the tune of more money than all the rubles in circulation at the time – I’d have to check where the USA rated on the CPI during the 90’s, but I’d bet it was stellar – then their ratings are purely arbitrary and they need not ever get off the couch to write them up.

      • I have long since stopped paying any attention to the various rankings and indices that seem to have proliferated over the last twenty years which invariably find reasons to place Russia at or near the bottom. Bluntly I think they are largely rubbish.

        In relation to Transparency International suffice to say that they have apparently provided some sort of award to Magnitsky, accepting him as a whistleblower when such evidence as there is makes it unlikely that he was anything of the sort. Also I understand that Transparency International has admitted that it changes its criteria from one year to the next. In other words we have a set of constantly shifting goal posts, something which to my mind completely discredits and renders meaningless the survey.

        As for corruption, the most recent report from the World Bank rates Russia very high (up to north European standards) for payment and enforcement of contracts and above the US for rates of tax recovery. These are measurable criteria one can rely on rather than the gossip and innuendo that Transparency International seems disproportionately to base its assessments on. To my mind they utterly refute the idea that Russia is anywhere near as corrupt as is commonly supposed or as Transparency International says. In genuinely corrupt societies (and I speak here from personal knowledge) payment of contracts and their enforcement by the courts simply does not take place on any remotely quick or impartial basis but depends entirely for its effectiveness on personal (ie. corrupt) contacts. As for tax recovery, in genuinely corrupt societies it is a bad joke and is disproportionately skewed when it takes place at all against the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society who cannot evade payment.

        • AK says:

          In response to the CPI I usually just cite that they also think that Italy is more corrupt than Saudi Arabia and Venezuela is more corrupt than Equatorial Guinea. They’re not just deranged on Russia’s position.

          It’s total nonsense.

          That said, could you please link to the WB report? Being acquainted with the business practices of a couple of Russian small businessmen, I find it extremely difficult to believe it’s above the US in tax recovery. Though maybe it’s because in the US the financial mafia accounts for a large chunk of the tax evasion? In any case, I’d be interested in looking over it.

          • Dear Anatoly,

            Here you are. The rankings are as of June 2012.


            On paying taxes Russia is 64th and the US is 69th. On enforcing contracts Russia is 11th. To my mind these are far more accurate indicators of the true level of corruption than those you find coming out of Transparency International or most other surveys. Of the two contract enforcement is the more important since it points to the general honesty of business people in their dealings with each other and to the integrity of the commercial system. Compare contract enforcement in Russia with that in some southern European states not to mention certain Arab states where if you believe Transparency International levels of corruption are far lower than in Russia.

            From my own knowledge I can say that these rankings have caused quite a stir. Putin himself referred to them at a meeting on economic modernisation that was held in the Kremlin in October.

            The most likely explanation for the higher tax payment rates is the much simpler tax system in Russia though despite what you hear about Russia’s flat rate tax I understand that the total tax take from profits is about the same in Russia as it is in the US. Previous World Bank surveys suggest that there has been a sudden and significant improvement in tax payment rates. This is almost certainly due to a further streamlining of the tax recovery system and a trend to dispute resolution rather than use of court action which takes time and is expensive. Incidentally though I don’t have figures to give you I have heard that the great majority of tax cases that go to court in Russia are won by taxpayers, which if true also shows that Russian courts are not under the Kremlin’s thumb. Anyway according to some accounts I have heard the tax take this year has been around 10% higher than last year, which partly explains why the budget has remained in surplus.

            • ….and by an extraordinary coincidence here is a further action cracking on the whip on tax defaulters. I know that this sort of name and shame activity goes on in some other countries. Off the top of my head I think Sweden is one.


              • ….and here is a comparator from the World Bank showing the changes since the last survey.


                You will see that over the last year Russia’s paying tax ranking has improved from 94th to 64th ie. by no fewer than 30 places, leapfrogging the US along the way. The improvement is astonishing and is surely down to factors such as the streamlining of the tax system and the turn to dispute resolution that I discussed above.

                I would just finish this cycle by saying that Russia is just about the only country I know where the business community has also been lobbying to have the income rate on richer taxpayers increased. I understand the proposal, which is coming from business lobby groups, is to introduce in two years a higher tax band with a tax rate of 15% instead of 13%. Obviously this is still very low but it represents the first move towards a more progressive tax system in place of the flat tax regime that exists today.

            • kirill says:

              Thanks for the source. The progress since the 1990s has been spectacular. Naturally the 5th columnists don’t acknowledge this reality and they have the BS TI index to invoke to “prove” their claims. That is the ultimate function of these Mickey Mouse indices concocted in the west to serve their geopolitical ambitions.

              Also, we see that the old saying that the “fish rots from the head” is quite true. The rot that set in under Yeltsin simply couldn’t continue under Putin. Of course there is a very long way to go, but Russia is developing quite rapidly in this regard.

              BTW, for some reason I am not hearing much about corruption benefiting Putin’s family. This is a marked difference from Yeltsin and his children, who were being compared to Brezhnev and his family at the time.

              • Indeed so and of course I have not mentioned one other possible reason for the sudden improvement in tax collection this year which is Putin’s return to the Presidency. Who knows perhaps with Darth Vader back in charge Russian taxpayers might suddenly have become more motivated to pay? (PS: Facetious comment – please ignore).

              • marknesop says:

                What???? You’ve never heard of Putin’s string of palaces, and his ownership of majority holdings in all state energy corporations? Where have you been, in a time capsule??

              • yalensis says:

                Well, on Opps sites you see a lot of snide comments about one of Putin’s daughters supposedly studying or living abroad, supposedly in Switzerland. But it’s all rumor and gossip. Even if she was, so what? If I am remembering correctly, I believe Putin has 2 daughters, and he probably keeps them well protected and well hidden from his enemies.

                • marknesop says:

                  Not to mention the sons and daughters of the powerful and wealthy routinely go abroad to study, and getting at least part of your education in a foreign country is de rigeuer. It seems to have worked extremely well for China.

            • marknesop says:

              Well done, Alex; that’s impressive, and most astutely analyzed as well.

      • Jen says:

        Dear Mark,

        Elena Panfilova is the Director of Center Transparency International Russia and is on the Board of Directors:

        The link mentions that she teaches at State University Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

        She is a member of the Eisenhower Fellowships organisation whose Board of Trustees is currently chaired by Colin Powell:

        Past chairs include former US Presidents George H W Bush and Gerald Ford, and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger:

        At this point, I couldn’t bear to look into TI any more.

        • Dear Jen,

          Well I think you have provided a complete explanation for Transparency International’s Russia rating. Responsibilty for it on the ground is in the hands of someone whose affiliations suggest is an anti government liberal oppositionist.

        • marknesop says:

          Thanks for all the pick-and-shovel work, Jen! Indeed, so many of the western think-tanks and non-profits and pseudo-regulatory bodies are motivated by an anglospheric agenda and achievement of the conditions that favour western dominance – in policy, but often in business as well, and many are heavily supported by corporate interests. Transparency International is no exception.

          There’s nothing wrong with that, really; as the saying goes, you’re expected to dance with the one that brung ya. If you depend on private-sector or government financing, your impartiality is that much affected. Even that would not be too much of an impediment, but the final nail in the coffin is the determined attribution of weakness, instability and untrustworthiness to Russia because that is the line the sponsors prefer. The credibility of the organization plummets in the eyes of those who know differently, cynicism is the inevitable result, and the sponsors get an inaccurate picture on which they may base important decisions. Everybody loses, all for the sake of childish self-gratification.

      • AK says:

        Now it looks like Georgia under Ivanishvili has suddenly become corrupt as can be imagined…

        Georgia scored 4.1 in 2011, and 5.2 in 2012.

  2. Moscow Exile says:

    As regards my mention of squeaky-clean Germany’s anti-corruption standpoint, see No Place To Hide: Early Lessons from the Siemens Case.

    Whataboutism raises its ugly head again!!!

  3. PvMikhail says:

    Greetings people. I came across with this pile of sh!t:

    Mark, please, just tear this idiot Bennets apart….

    • yalensis says:

      Greetings, Mikhail, how is it going in Hungary?

      • PvMikhail says:

        In a nutshell: not well my friend… Our right-wing populist leadership implement some reasonable and some not-so-reasonable reforms using their 2/3 majority in the Parliament, and all the other parties and organizations (social-liberals/green-liberals) talk about authoritarian rule, democracy and such bullsh!t, and nationalist talk about minorities and international conspiracy (they are the most honest I must add). Noone seems to care about nothing else. Noone cares about record low birth rate from jan – jun this year, about social responsibilities. Record high emigration was caused by the liberalisation of working regulations in Germany and Austria. 40000 people left us to work there in 2011 up from the “usual” 15-20 thousand. I can understand their arguments, because I have experienced by myself, how hard to find a proper job. Politicians, who have already shown their incompetence, dare to challenge the recent leadership like Ferenc Gyurcsany and Gordon Bajnai. There are no new people, political landscape, people has been the same since 1990. Disillusionment is the general reaction of the general public. Everybody talks about politics, but young people don’t care any more. Banalities like “Every politicians are bastards” and “We should kick all of them out and start from the beginning” are common. My experience is that only people older than 50 care about elections or have preferred party or candidate. However the majority of them are blindly following their main ideology, there is no reasoning in it. For example: “I have socialist feelings and ideas of the left, so I must hate Viktor Orban above all, whatever he does” and “I believe in God, I am a Christian, I have some patriotic or even nationalist ideas, so I like Viktor Orban and Fidesz, whatever he does.
        The political establishment looks like:
        1. “For Viktor Orban” – Whatever Viktor Orban does it is better than nothing, therefore no criticism is allowed.
        2. “Against Viktor Orban” – Whatever happens, it is Viktor Orban’s fault, so if we go to abroad and discredit Hungary, subsequently the situation worsens and we will be right.
        3. Nationalist firebrands called “Jobbik – Movement for BETTER Hungary” – Jewish plot against Hungary, gypsies are to much weight, we must throw them off.

        1. and 2. hates each other and act exactly according to their ideology. So if 1. led government builds even a kindergarten, 2. will say it was planned by them in advance and 1. committed a lot of corruption. 1. usually just ignores 2. or warns public about the corruption, which 2. has committed when they ruled the country (plenty of it has been reported and tried, I must add). And finally 3. talks about jews and gypsies after which 1. and 2. joins each other and kick 3. into the teeth.

        Thus country is on the verge of a long and irreversible decline.

        • kirill says:

          Hungary offers an example why the EU should be called the EUSSR. The political discussion is not governed by local interests but by external interests.

        • apc27 says:

          Well, looks like Hungary finally understands what Western political culture is all about. Your elites wanted it for a long time and now they got it. Now you can join the ever-growing silent European majority whose overriding thought on anything connected to politics is very simple: “We are all screwed”.

          • Dear PVMikhail,

            This is all very sad. However it seems to me to be symptomatic perhaps in a more extreme form of what politics has now become in the west. Political leaders seem to spend all their time in endless games of tactical manoeuvring and point scoring whilst the problems around them mount. Though the problems may look intractable they are in my opinion by no means unsolvable if there was a proper will and determination to solve them. The trouble is that the political class has become so absorbed by its political games and is now so hidebound and doctrinaire that it no longer seems to have the understanding or the capacity to solve them.

            Over and beyond this I am very sorry for Hungary. I have never visited it myself but friends of mine who have speak of an exceptional country with a distinct and remarkable culture. One only has to look at Hungary’s past contributions to European culture to see that this is so. It is painful to think of a country that has contributed so much and which experienced so much having to suffer in this way.

            PS: We discussed Marc Bennetts in a thread on Mark’s previous post. I too have said that he deserves a good bollocking.

        • yalensis says:

          That sounds bad, but don’t give up hope. Things are bound to get better for Hungary and other countries at some point in the future…

        • marknesop says:

          I’m sorry to hear that, too, Mikhail, and I hope there will be some encouraging developments that will offer some hope although I don’t know the local situation well enough – beyond what you’ve said – to make any guesses on what that would be. If you like and if you have the time, maybe you could do a post on it; I’m sure everyone would be interested in understanding the political situation better. I’d be happy to tune the English for you, and post it here for you for comment. Hungarian politics has heretofore been a bit of a niche market, and you don’t see a lot about it in the news unless that’s what you’re looking for and you know where to find it. But politics in general is getting depressing, precisely because of the disappointing sameness Alex describes so eloquently.

          • yalensis says:

            What’s really depressing is how all these great countries got bamboozled into joining the rampant free-market model. Up until then, they all had thriving agricultural and industrial sectors, not to mention growing populations.

        • hoct says:

          So your politicians hate each other. Sounds like the one thing you have going for you. If you think things are bad now, wait until they start looting together.

  4. yalensis says:

    Excellent article, Mark. I think that was the definitive debunking of those pinheads at Moscow Times. Congratulations!

    I remember reading somewhere a jokey but wise saying that went something like: “The solution to poverty is to give people more money.”

    Not being an economist, but it seems pretty obvious to me that poverty is a function of wages. In Russia under Putin, real wages have gone up, ergo poverty has gone down. It just seems like common sense that when people have more money in their pockets, they are less poor.
    In the USA real wages have remained stagnant for over 30 years. Hence, poverty has gone up, although the effects have been mitigated by massive borrowing from China. Due to a combination of credit-card debt and the “Walmart effect” (consumer goods available at prices lower than their actual value), American consumers have been able to continue to buy the stuff that they need, including up-to-date electronics, while being forced to work for stagnant wages.
    The current Russian government, albeit highly capitalistic, has been pragmatic enough to avoid these neo-con policies, not to mention learning the important lesson that MONETARISM IS A BAD THING. Hence, Putin govt will not have to resort to austerity measures, while the rest of Europe and USA are doomed in future years to lives of painful austerity.

    • kirill says:

      The bleating about Russian consumers borrowing their way to a faux higher living standard is the ultimate hypocritical BS. Cheap credit to consumers has been the backbone of US, Canadian and European economics for the past 20 years at least. Many Americans have tens of thousands of dollars of deb on their credit cards. But I do not ever recall there being any concern that low interest rates to prop up the housing bubble and excessive credit card debt would undermine the US economy, for example.

      When it comes to Russia, different rules apply. What is good in the USA becomes magically bad in Russia. It’s quite an infantile propaganda spew. Reminds me of a tantrum by some spoiled pre-teen prat.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Yalensis! Much of the U.S. problem is caused by unbalanced tax cuts which shunt a disproportionate amount of the money to the wealthy, so that income inequality continues to grow. But no income inequality is not the way to go, either. I always remember a valuable lesson I learned in a discussion of pay raises for the Canadian military.

      The talk was about a “weighted raise”, which would push a higher percentage toward the junior ranks. The idea met with pushback from the senior ranks, and I was both a little surprised and a little annoyed. My viewpoint was that these guys are the workers; we rely on them not only to do their jobs, but to make us look good so we can be promoted, right? If you fight for them, you’ll get loyalty and better work, right? And who objects to the guys who make the least getting a bit more? Right? I was quite pleased with my position, and was prepared to argue it righteously.

      Ah, I was told: wait a bit. Giving the junior ranks – Leading Seaman and below, let’s say – more money, and then a progressively lighter raise up the chain has the effect of drawing the ranks inexorably closer, in terms of income. By and by, a Leading Seaman is making only a few bucks less than a Master Seaman – who has twice the responsibility, as in most trades the Leading Seaman is the top of the tradesman ranks, while the Master Seaman is where sailors must begin to develop into junior leaders and supervisors. When the Leading Seaman makes almost as much as the Master Seaman, but has to carry only half the responsibility….where’s the incentive to get promoted?

      Not every civil-society concept is compatible with a military model, of course, and the biggest difference is that the military is not a for-profit organization – rather, it does business by efficiently spending the amount allocated for its operation. But if you think about it, this is one of the basic reasons Communism failed, unless I am totally misunderstanding the philosophy: where’s the incentive to be a leader, and to have a hand in the decision-making, if all the workers make the same as you do, but only have to make tires on an assembly line, for example?

      My viewpoint was naive, and the others were right. If there’s no difference between you and the boss except he has a whole lot more responsibility, not one in ten people will ever aspire to go any higher. Of course it’s more complicated than that, but this is a fundamental concept.

      • yalensis says:

        Hi, Mark, yes, I agree that in a hierarchical organization (like the army, or government civil service), it does make sense to have differentials in salary and benefits based on rank. There is a saying, “Rank has its privileges”, and this does help to motivate the younger and lower ranks to work harder and claw their way up the ladder.
        Of course, in the army they have other incentives to excel too, like the ribbons and medals, and so on…


        В тринадцатом году мы отличались с братом
        В тридцатом егерском, а после в сорок пятом.


        Да, счастье, у кого есть эдакий сынок!
        Имеет, кажется, в петличке орденок?


        За третье августа; засели мы в траншею:
        Ему дан с бантом, мне на шею.

  5. kirill says:

    Nice roasting, Mark. This outright denial of reality by the 5th column media operating in Russia is thick and rich with irony. Their job was to make sure that Russia was trapped in the neoliberal toilet it was thrown into by the Yeltsin regime (and which would facilitate the looting of Russia such as was in full swing during the 1990s). They failed and are now screaming that it really, really, really is still in that toilet. They are now projecting their wishful thinking onto themselves to cover up for their failure.

    You are right, the main target for this drivel is the west as it’s just too laughable for ordinary Russians to read about how poor they “actually” are from some rags that offer no evidence to backup their accusations. That is why these 5th column rags should be resettled to New York or something. Being situated in Russia gives them a certain credibility that they do not deserve. And kicking them out will not make any difference to Russia’s image. It is has been smeared completely even though there are counter-examples such as these anti-Russian rags operating in Russia.

    • Misha says:

      Location alone doesn’t by default mean the best analytical insight.

      • kirill says:

        Of course, but I am thinking of the media consumer who is the ultimate target of all this propaganda. Anti-Russian propaganda originating in Russia sound more legit, at face value. If you give it some thought then it sounds like a psy-op but that is too much effort for the average media consumer.

        • Misha says:

          Imagine a JRL propped American based English language answer to the likes of The Moscow Times and Kyiv Post, that regularly gives non-restrictive and rock solid counter-replies to the propaganda which you mention.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks very much, Kirill. It wasn’t very difficult, because they trip themselves up from one sentence to the next. I just don’t get what reality-denying newspapers like these get out of it. I mean, they have a tiny audience; as Moscow Exile has pointed out more than once, The Moscow times keeps its circulation numbers up by giving away copies to hotels and other public venues known to be frequented by western businessmen, and its actual subscriber list is very small. Every time you predict something and you’re wrong – particularly when it goes against local conventional wisdom – you lose a little credibility, and if you keep on being wrong after awhile you are just background noise. And that’s all The Moscow Times is. It survives by maintaining a stable of disgruntled social misfits who write over-the-top outrage pieces laced with insults, in the hope of drawing a reaction. In fact, it’s an entire troll publication. It does well here in terms of getting attention because I’m not an academic and don’t go in much for the smoking-jacket-and-pipe analysis pieces. So it’s just fun cutting them up.

  6. Misha says:

    Doom and gloom hyperbole:

    Excerpt –

    “A mutiny at a prison camp in the Chelyabinsk region of central Russia has just shaken the country.”


    Just how has Russia been “shaken” by the aforementioned?

    Suddenly reminded of the 1970s “Attica!” chants which didn’t lead to a massive revolution in the US.

    • kirill says:

      They are grasping at straws. If some insane homeless bum starts ranting on the corner against Putin, then it is the heralding of the end of the “regime”.

      • Misha says:

        Such an insane homeless bum will enhance his/her chance at fame and fortune.

        Putting aside their anti-Russian government stance and stunt pulled in the chapel of a major ROC church, Pussy Riot wouldn’t rank high in talent and publicity among street performers.

        Not that they should be given a technically high talent rating with all of their antics considered.

  7. Dear Mark,

    This is indeed an excellent comment.

    To my mind the attack on Dmitriev shows the confusion within the opposition and the extent to which it simply cannot agree on a basic narrative.

    If you read Dmitriev’s article carefully it is clear that there is no contradiction between his latest article and his previous talk of a political crisis. Quite simply Dmitriev is the biggest proponent and to a great extent the originator of the thesis that Russia’s rising middle class are the shock troops of the revolution that is going to sweep Putin away. Consider for example the following comments he makes:

    “Earlier surveys indicated that in the beginning of the last decade traditional survival values, dependency culture, leftist redistributive political populism, and ethnic nationalism prevailed among the non middle class Russians. But the large scale sociological survey carried out by the Centre for Strategic Research in spring 2012 revealed that both the middle class and other social groups are now expressing a homogenous, non ideological and pragmatic demand for change focused on a narrow range of priorities. These priorities are related to human development (in particular to healthcare and education), personal security, the rule of law, and the quality of infrastructure services (especially in housing and utilities).

    Russian public is no longer as responsive as it used to be to unrealistic promises of leftist populists. It values fiscal prudence and rejects any form of political aggression including radical nationalism. The demands that unite all mass social groups currently prevail over those that divide them. Due to this change – more than to anything else – Russia is becoming a modern and politically mature society, ready for a more opened and accountable political system and capable to identify and support politically responsible leaders in a competitive electoral process”.

    When Dmitriev talks about “…traditional survival values, dependency culture, leftist redistributive political populism, and ethnic nationalism…” he is referring to Putin whose policies are mischaracterised by a certain type of Russian liberal (eg. Konstantin von Eggert) and western commentators in precisely this way. When Dmitriev says that the Russian population and specifically its middle class wants “a more opened and accountable political system” that is precisely the argument that became the orthodoxy amongst the western commentariat (including Fred Weir) during the protests last winter who claim that Putin stands for the opposite.

    The trouble with this line of argument, which ultimately derives from a vulgar version of the Marxism in which I suspect Dmitriev was educated, is that it is simply wrong. As I have argued at length and as world experience amply shows the more prosperous a middle class (and a population generally) becomes the more conservative it becomes as its stake in the system increases. The fact that Russians are becoming more prosperous makes them less not more willing to seek radical change and to the extent that they see in Putin the guarantor of stability and the status quo that makes them more likely to support him not less. That was decisively confirmed in the Presidential election, which Putin could not have won on the scale that he did without the support of the middle class. As Anatoly Karlin has shown even in the most affluent areas of Moscow Putin decisively outpolled Prokhorov, who was the closest thing to the sort of “politically responsible leader” Dmitriev talks about to stand in the election.

    Dmitriev’s analysis runs into the further problem that it also implicity concedes however grudgingly the spectacular success of Putin’s economic policies since 2000. That of course makes it completely unacceptable to the more hardline of Putin’s opponents such as the writer of the Vedomosti article, who cannot bring themselves to give Putin credit for anything. The result is that Dmitriev is now coming under attack for saying that the condition of Russia is good when the currently prevailing line within the protest movement is that it is very bad and that what will overthrow Putin is the anger of a population that is struggling to make ends meet.

    That line of course is even more wrong than Dmitriev’s and when taken to the extremes that the protest movement is now taking it tips over into outright fantasy. Over and above that however there is the further problem that those who insist that conditions in Russia are very bad still show every sign of wanting to believe in Dmitriev’s thesis that Putin is being challenged and will ultimately be swept away by a rising middle class. These two views are simply not reconcilable since Dmitriev’s thesis only makes sense in its own terms if economic conditions in Russia are good. By definition the situation cannot be both good and bad at the same time.

    The trouble is that the white ribbon opposition refuses to choose between the two. The result is that its message is completely confused so that it has nothing useful to say. Until it decides which of these two narratives it believes it is not going to get past first base.

  8. Dear Mark,

    Turning to the specific points you make in your article, I have little to add to what you say. I would say two things:

    1. Your point about the procedure for obtaining a bank loan is spot on. By definition the ability to obtain a loan in itself shows a certain level of affluence. Indian or Egyptian villagers do not have access to consumer credit. The fact that Russians do shows that they are much richer and live in a far more developed society.

    The prevalence of consumer credit (vital to a modern economy) also speaks of a sophisticated banking system. If one has to point to the single greatest change in the Russian economy over the last 15 years it is precisely the development and maturing of its retail banking system. The USSR by comparison had no such system but functioned almost entirely on a cash basis with Soviet savings banks unable even to process cheques let alone provide bank and credit card services. Even during the 1990s the Russian banking system operated in a primitive and largely corrupt and criminal way: thus the MMM and Bank Menatep scandals, which could not happen in the same way or on the same scale today. Indeed the development of the Russian banking system has now reached the point where leading Russian banks, Sberbank first and foremost, are starting to achieve a significant international presence. It is absurd to highlight the area of the economy’s greatest development and modernisation as its point of weakness.

    On this particular point I would add that as anyone who has any knowledge of such things knows, much of the most impressive and important progress in the maturing of the Russian banking system has happened in the last five years with the financial crisis providing the government with a good excuse and opportunity to clean matters up. Also as I have argued elsewhere, to the extent that bank lending was increasing at an undue level earlier this year, the Central Bank acted to rein it in within the last few weeks. The latest information is that the Economics Ministry is apparently supporting proposals to give the Central Bank more regulatory powers. As we have seen the difference between the Russian Central Bank and some western banks is that it actually uses such powers when it is given them and acts to stop the emergence of credit bubbles.

    2. On a shorter note, on the question of housing, the writer of the Vedomosti article also fails to mention that because of the widespread dacha culture Russians are far more likely to own or have access to second homes than people in most other countries. Though incredibly I have never been to a dacha I presume that this also means that Russians have a very wide access to the countryside and the outdoors. Since this is normally considered a good thing it is also something which surely should be considered in assessing Russian quality of life.

    • kirill says:

      Re 2: This is one of the European style of public transport of achievements during the USSR period. You can get on a electric commuter train and head for the deep countryside and not just the city suburbs. So you can get around the country and to your cottage without owning a car.

      But these days everyone and their dog needs to own a car and drive it in downtown St. Petersburg or Moscow.

      • Dear Kirill,

        Since I have never been to a dacha I have never had occasion to use an elektrichka though I have heard lots about them. By all accounts they do indeed provide an impressive service. By contrast here in Britain the suburban railway system (and indeed the railway system as a whole) has degenerated into a disorganised and extortionately expensive mess where it exists at all.

  9. Not that it matters but today was the anniversary of the protest last year which got the protest movement going. That was the one on election night when Navalny called on his followers to march with him to the Kremlin and called them cattle when they didn’t (getting himself arrested along the way). I gather that there was a commemoration meeting at Chistye Prudy and all of 300 people showed up. I don’t know if the Leader of the Revolution was himself there but I presume not.

  10. Moscow Exile says:

    A journalist has been murdered in an autonomous republic of the Russian Federation. It’s the first death of a “Russian journalist” reported to have taken place in the Evil Empire this year. No doubt rabid Russophobes and Western hacks will blame Putin for his death, and I daresay not a few hired Russian hacks as well.

    • Misha says:

      That item has made the global news gathering rounds on on Russia.

      It’s asking too much for (your earlier termed) “CIA Novosti” to offer a reasoned rebuttal to the actual status of “dissident” journalists in Russia and what constitutes that categorization. RIA Novosti’s English language commentariat section is top heavy with a certain slant and something that can be categorized as fluff, which I suspect a good number don’t find so appealing.

      Once again, the issue isn’t so much the likes of Latynina and von Eggert, as the forces regularly promoting them over different and valid perspectives.
      For example, JRL thought highly of a recent Arutunyan RIAN affiliated MN piece on Pussy Riot, which was critically brought up in the thread before this one at this blog. The relatively good sized RIAN grouping undoubtedly doesn’t always march to the same tune, which can partly explain how some periodically against the establishment grain pieces find their way at some RIAN affiliated venues.

      Also working against an improved situation is a crony factor evident among some of those purporting to represent something different.



      No mention of competing economic interests that include defense contracts – an arguably overrated aspect which should (IMO) nevertheless be addressed..

      Another factor to consider is the Cold War era time warp perception that some appear to have when analyzing some contemporary Middle East related issues.

  11. Moscow Exile says:

    To continue from the previous thread and give the latest update on the Moscow Times headbanger journalist Latynina’s rantings, here’s her latest on corruption and Putin etc.

    So she lists off a potted history of high profile corruption scandals that have taken place since 2007 and describes how these cases have been dealt with. Now, she says, instead of dealing with such matters “behind closed doors”, which she states was standard procedure in the past, there are occurring arrests, dismissals and prosecutions of senior government officials accused of corruption. She states:

    “The rules of the game have changed with blinding speed. Five years ago, every scandal like the current ones would have been dealt with behind closed doors. Putin would have been the only arbiter in every case, and no incriminating information would ever have been released to the public”.

    There she goes again! She says: “Putin would have been the only arbiter in every case” etc. How does she know? That statement about Putin is merely a supposition of hers; that “would” means that Putin, in her opinion, was hypothetically willing to do something. But where’s her proof? Where’s her evidence?

    As regards the “due process of law” now taking place in the prosecution of alleged criminals involved in corruption scandals, Latynina then states:

    “This is a major change in Putin’s behavior, and it is coming at a time when rumors are flying that he is experiencing health problems”.

    She is alleging, then, that this change in the way corruption amongst the siloviki is dealt with has come about because of changes in Putin’s behaviour: it is he, she maintains, that determines how the law is applied. What evidence has she to support this claim?

    And then, for some reason or other, she links the rumours that the Russian president has health problems (rumours, mind you, not facts) with these alleged behavioural changes of the president.

    What is she implying? That the Russian President is suffering some illness that is causing him major behavioural changes? That he is barking mad – like her? (My supposition based on the evidence of her writings.)

    I wonder how much MT pays her for writing such tosh?

    • marknesop says:

      Watch that “Putin is suffering from health problems” meme, because the western press is investing considerable effort in promoting it even though there is absolutely nothing to it. I see it everywhere now in the English-speaking press, and there seems to be a full-court press on to get it accepted as conventional wisdom, like endemic corruption and widespread poverty. Perhaps this is the latest attempt to establish a beachhead for political change in Russia. It’s funny that the western press and those who shill for it would know secret inside information that nobody else knows, considering Russian sources say nothing about Putin having health problems (except for the western bootlickers like Novaya Gazeta).

      I don’t see how it could do Putin any real harm, and it’s probably just typical idle malice, but there certainly seems to be a lot of effort devoted to making it grow legs and walk.

      • yalensis says:

        Well, the western press spent 40 years speculating how Fidel Castro would get old and sick and then die. Eventually he did get old and sick, so their predictions did partially come true. Although he didn’t die yet. But I suppose even that prediction will come true eventually.

        • Jennifer Hor says:

          Yes Fidel Castro is still alive despite the time, money and other resources the CIA wasted over the years thinking up over 630 (supposedly) different ways of killing him including giving him those notorious exploding cigars, placing explosive sea shells at a scuba diving site, lacing his food, drinks and personal items with chemicals or bacteria, or getting someone to “accidentally” jab him with a pen that contained poison. The best story I know of is the one about Castro’s honeypot lady trying to feed him a poison pill in cream but it fell into her face lotion instead and she gave up. Castro guessed she was supposed to assassinate him so, gallant gentleman that he was, he offered her his gun but she refused. Must have been the persuasive power of that beard that deterred her.

          • yalensis says:

            Wow, that’s a great story (about the poison in the face lotion), good thing for the assassin she didn’t need to moisturize. I like the exploding seashells too, I never heard of that one!
            I guess Fidel’s fans weren’t kidding when they said he was immortal!

  12. AK says:

    So in the past couple of days I’ve had to listen to a Swedish diplomat and a Croatian political science PhD on Twitter tell me things like “corruption in India is definitely a problem but on a much smaller scale than in Russia” and “Corruption of the kind we see in today’s Russia can’t be overcome any more, I think… Child malnutrition and poverty are terrible things. But they can – and will one day – be overcome. That’s my point.” From that they argue that this Economist’s “where-to-be-born index“, which rates India and Egypt above Russia, is actually accurate as opposed to some kind of joke.

    Because apparently India has a “functioning noncorrupt legal system. Good British heritage” whereas Russians “suffer under mobocratic rule.”

    I challenged both of them to find anything nearly equivalent to this in Russia in the past decade. There was no substantive response; just the sounds of crickets chirping, before they resumed their rhetoric.

    I will note that both revolve around if not belong to the European political elite class.

    • marknesop says:

      It is a genuine shame when even the toplofty academic Volvo-drivers begin to believe and to amplify a totally incorrect concept, and I submit there are very few parallels. You would get nowhere arguing that putting your bare hand on a hot stove would cause no discomfort whatever, and that pain is all in your head, for example, or that the capital of Myanmar is Yangon. But some things are just repeated so often that they become conventional wisdom, and that Russia is impossibly corrupt and steadily getting worse is one of them. La Russophobe would be proud; she’s dedicated her adult life to promoting it. Nobody makes any effort to do any research or to find out more, to test the conventional wisdom – it’s just accepted as a given, and anyone who introduces any disagreement is greeted with the mixture of pity and pained impatience normally accorded to someone who has vomited on themselves at a party.

      However, as I like to argue, there is a bright side. It makes competitors comfortable in their smugness, in the belief they have a ten-mile lead on those ignorant savages in VodkaLand, and eventually everyone involved in international trade is going to have to face up to some startling realities. Academics never will have to, and their pursuits are a lot like psychiatry in that you can be wrong over and over again and your reputation will suffer no apparent damage, because the situation is just so gosh-darned complicated. But since, with few notable exceptions, academics are self-congratulatory prats who are insufferably boring and focused on the one little concept they believe they know well like greyhounds are focused on the mechanical rabbit at the racetrack, I’m not overly disconcerted by what they think.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I’ll give all you a very recent example, if I may (not that many on this site really need one), of how years of never ending lies and misrepresentations concerning Russia has created a misleading image of all things Russian that many of my fellow countrymen seem to have.

        The other day I posted a photograph of me and my boy to an old acquaintance whom I had came across by chance whilst surfing only a few months back and whom I have not seen for 40 years or so. This acquaintance of mine is certainly no dullard (well, at least he didn’t seem to be one almost half a century ago) and is also very well travelled, although he has never been to Russia.

        The picture was taken outside an “English Pub”, the “John Bull”, near Smolenskaya metro station, Moscow. Above the John Bull’s door flutters a Union Flag – the red , white and blue superimposed heraldic crosses that represent England, Scotland and Ireland, namely the constituent kingdoms that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, albeit that most of Ireland has been a republic for almost 70 years. I had not noticed the presence of the flag in the photograph until I received a reply from my posting, in which my acquaintance enquired whether anybody had got into trouble for displaying the British flag in Moscow.

        I asked him in my letter of reply why he should think anyone would get into trouble for displaying that flag in Russia.

        I am still awaiting a reply to my enquiry.

        • Dear Moscow Exile,

          What you say doesn’t surprise me at all. However it can work other ways. A young British woman I know who has recently qualified as a solicitor was recently posted by her firm to Moscow. Having heard lots about Russia she was appalled and tried desperately to get out of the assignment. Before she went there I had a fraught session trying to calm her down. Her assignment has now ended and she is back in London. You won’t be surprised when I tell you that she is now doing everything she possibly can to be reassigned back to Moscow.

      • Well done on your response Anatoly. What do these guys really know about the Indian legal system? Have they any experience of it? Have they spoken to anyone who has? Do they have the least idea what an Indian prison is like? Do they know how the Indian police works?

        A friend of mine has just come back from Mumbai. She found a city governed on sectarian lines by a violent ultra nationalist party that controls the city through its connections with organised crime. A leading member of the party who is also a well known gangster recently died and whilst my friend was there his public funeral took place. She tells me that all the shopkeepers in the city were terrorised into closing their shops down “to show respect” and that it would have been death or worse for any that disobeyed. Mumbai is India’s richest city and one of its largest and is at the heart of the Indian “miracle”.

        I suppose the one thing one should say is what Mark (I think) recently said, that the people your Swedish diplomat and your Croatian political scientist fool ultimately are themselves.

        • kirill says:

          I would say that the Croat and the Swede are just spewing their anti-Russian bias. It’s Russians who have no bias against Croats and Swedes but not vice versa. Not all Croats, Swedes, Poles, Czechs, etc. are like this but I would say most are. They attribute the Cold War to Russia and not the USSR and its regime. So even though the USSR and the regime are gone, they still need to vent their bile at Russia.

          Yappy little Chihuahuas who haven’t progressed past the teenage level regardless of their credentials. In spite of how I sound on this board, I would never fob off a whole nation to “corrupt oblivion” based on no evidence. I would say that India will eventually progress past its corruption level too. But clearly these two clowns are thinking like bigots.

      • Mr. X says:

        “But since, with few notable exceptions, academics are self-congratulatory prats who are insufferably boring and focused on the one little concept they believe they know well like greyhounds are focused on the mechanical rabbit at the racetrack, I’m not overly disconcerted by what they think.” I would definitely include ‘Streetwise Professor’ aka Craig Pirrong in that description. Even on his preferred subject of PhD academic expertise, futures trading, he is woefully incompetent.

        For example he argues that the ‘flash crash’ was no big deal, high frequency trading is actually reducing the arbitrage in markets that crooked old hands in the pits once profited from:

        But the entire argument fails to consider whether HFTers like parasites have started to kill off the much larger host i.e. he overall markets, see this AP story on retail investors pulling out of stocks for the 5th STRAIGHT YEAR because they and their closing up shop brokers agree they have no chance against the computers of Government Sachs and JP”massivelyhortsilverifnotgold”Morgan:

        The historical corrosion and Depression generation’s example having somehow eluded Dr. Pirrong. But it doesn’t stop there. He also insists with a straight face that the ‘oil market is pretty damn clean’ except for those nasty judoka buddies of Putin’s trading oil VVP’s personal account at Gunvor. Somehow even OPEC doesn’t manage to manipulate crude prices even in 2008 when oil massively collapsed overnight following the election of a very Saudi-friendly President of the United States…

        And lastly of course are Pirrong’s more amusing, quirkier rants, for example where he compared supporters of Texas Congressman Ron Paul and other libertarians to the genocidal Khmer Rouge, insisted that Zerohedge which exposes the markets as fundamentally corrupt is a Bulgarian KGB project, and insisted that ex-Army and CIA experts who suggested that Benghazi was at the epicenter of a massive gun running operation from Libya to Syria were wrong because…well…um he just begged the question that the CIA was only there to collect nasty guns and MANPADs from Gaddafi’s arsenals not ship them somewhere else.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      I have been to an Egyptian village, and a Russian village. I’d choose Russian village over Egyptian village any time.

      • kirill says:

        The western anti-Russian propaganda is trolling us into comparing developing countries to what is actually a developed country, namely Russia. Russia did not regress to 3rd world levels during the 1990s and it did not establish a 3rd world culture as if it never had another. That is why it is economically and institutionally rebounding on the timescale of 10-20 years. In contrast, 3rd world countries likely need 50-100+ years to slowly evolve out of their morass under ideal conditions. The perceptions and expectations of the people are just too different in spite of all the mass media propagation of “western ideals”. It’s not so simple to shape a mindset with some bits of information, people learn selectively and in the 3rd world many people are simply too poor and ignorant to transform themselves into “westerners”.

        All the yapping about Russian corruption is ear wilting inanity. Russians do not like corruption and they do not think it is normal. The same cannot be said for places like India (where I have been an seen it first hand).

    • cartman says:

      British India functioned so well:

  13. It has not been widely reported but at a press conference yesterday in Dublin on the eve of her meeting with Lavrov Hillary Clinton said the Eurasian Union was a covert attempt by Russia to re establish the USSR and that the US was looking for ways to prevent it.

    Whatever one’s opinions of the Eurasian Union, it was set up peacefully and through consensus. The US has no legitimate grounds to object to it. Saying it will try to obstruct or prevent it is tantamount to saying that the US gives itself the right to sabotage the development of relationships between other states. Needless to say it has no such right and it recognises no such right on the part of others.

    • marknesop says:

      So much for it being “covert”, now that you told the whole world. Thanks, Alex. There will be some men in black coats and homburgs around to see you later.

    • kirill says:

      But the EUSSR is OK, right. I mean it started out as the EC and somehow became a political union with a whole new government layer in Brussels. I doubt the majority of people in Europe around 1991 knew about or wanted the EU.

  14. yalensis says:

    On his blog, Navalny and his neo-liberal friends are rejoicing at passage of Magnitsky bill in American senate. They are so delighted and grateful to benevolent Americans for protecting them against their own corrupt, tyrranical regime:

    A handful of dissident comments, like this one, from somebody ironically calling himself Vitya Yushchenko:

    Когда в детстве маленького Лёшу Навального папа наказал за шалость, Лёша не стал долго думать. Нет, он не пошел жаловаться маме, нет, он разбил копилку и тихо заплатил деньги алкашам из соседнего двора, чтобы они избили отца. Потом Лёша вырос и обиделся на свою страну…

    “Little L’osha Navalny was punished by his father for being a bad boy. L’osha didn’t even hesitate, no, he didn’t even bother running to his mama to complain; no, he broke open his piggybank and secretly paid the local drunks to beat up his dad. Then L’osha grew up and formed a grudge against his own country…”

  15. Misha says:

    H. Clinton’s propagandistic outburst:

    Some parts of the former USSR have had close relations for a period far exceeding that of the Soviet era.

    Hence: in addition to being undiplomatic, the above comments can be taken as being extremely ignorant.

    Does H. Clinton ever characterize German reunification as an attempt to re-Nazify?

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      The American geopolitical strategy is to prevent the re-emergence of a regional power that would be an obstacle to American hegemony. They call it it Soviet Union 2.0 because the Soviet Union is in the living memory of the people, but they might just as well call it Russian Empire 3.0 or something else. What they call it really has no bearing on the principle objective, which is the prevention of the re-emergence of a regional power through Eurasian integration.

      Reduction of Russia’s power should reduce Russia to a loyal lackey of the West, with a formal membership on the UN Security Council to rubber stamp any Western initiative put forth. Or so the thinking goes….

      • kirill says:

        The funny thing is that Russia is a de facto superpower still and without the burden of the USSR republics that were basically a bunch of leeches, sorry to say. This little outburst shows how detached from reality are the leaders of the US and NATO that they think Russia needs other states to become relevant. As if has no economic, military, and scientific resources of its own.

        They can bleat all they want. They clearly have no control over Russia, its near abroad and most of the world for that matter.

        • Misha says:

          The mindset leading to the Soviet breakup included the view among some Russians that Russia would be better off with a detachment.

          Ethnic Russians in Latvia and Estonia were known to haven’t been so against Latvian and Estonian independence.

          Others like Brzezinski have suggested that Russia itself should breakup. Also note what Navalny and some others suggest of the Caucasus.

          Russia doesn’t benefit from having poor unstable neighbors, which in turn leads to a greater liklohood of mass exodus to Russia and civil conflicts which could hypothetically spillover into Russia.

        • Leos Tomicek says:

          Russia is not better off with poor and at times hostile pseudo-states on it borders though.

          • Misha says:

            Hence a reasoned basis for a regional power like Russia to be understandably concerned with such a situation, in conjunction with the reality that a good number of non-Russian former Soviets aren’t so hostile towards Russia/Russians.

            Those non-Russian former Soviets who’re more hostile towards Russia aren’t by default in the right.

            It’s geopolitically convenient for some outside elements to seek mischief in former Soviet space. That group has other concerns to go along with their not being from that part of the world – something that Russia unfriendly former Soviets should keep in mind.

        • yalensis says:

          Well, I mostly agree, except I don’t think the USSR republics were leeches. Each republic and region contributed something valuable, be it agricultural products (like cotton, grain, fruits, etc.), or manufactured goods, or human capital. It wasn’t all just Russians doing everything by themselves.
          Rebuilding Eurasian union and allying with China is a good thing, it will add more people power and help Russia become stronger.

          • Misha says:

            Agree that the non-Russian Soviet republics had things to contribute – some more than others.

            That said, it’s erroneous to believe that the USSR was created fror the benefit of Russia at the expense of others.

          • kirill says:

            The important point and in contradiction to the BS spewed by “Cornuta” Clinton, the contribution of the various peoples of the USSR was not local to their Republics except for the developed cases of Ukraine and Belorus. Most of the multi-ethnic contribution was in the developed parts of the USSR and not places like Tadjikistan. Cornuta is singing the tuned that Russia needs captive nation slaves to get by, which is complete demented rubbish.

            In fact, in many ways the USSR did not disappear as the same multi-ethnic mix is participating in the development of Russia as during the USSR era. So I am not claiming that Russian ubermensch did all the work. But places such as the Baltic states were leeches and contemptuous ones at that.

            • Misha says:

              Explains why Soviet Central Asia wasn’t as gung ho in seeing the Soviet Union breakup as some other parts of that entity.

              Among Soviet republics, the Baltics (Estonia and latvia in particular) were known to have one of the hughest if not highest standards of living.

              On another Baltic matter, the US based Military History Channel just aired a documentary dealing with pro-Nazi sentiment among Lithuanians – something I keep in mind when recalling some establishment propped source of Lithuanian background, who flippantly proclaimed that Russia/Russians have a long history of anti-Jewish sentiment.

              Meantime, Jews seemed to have generally blended in better with Russians than Lithuanians. Not that I’m looking to caricature Lithuanians.

              • rkka says:

                “Among Soviet republics, the Baltics (Estonia and latvia in particular) were known to have one of the hughest if not highest standards of living.”

                Now the Baltics lead the USSR’s successor states in percent population decline since 1992, and in Latvia deaths in 2011 exceeded births by 1.5 to 1. In Lithuania it was 1.19 to 1.

                Estonia is doing something right though. 2011 deaths exceeded births by only 1.04 to 1.

              • Leos Tomicek says:

                The Baltic states are busy issuing a bill for “Soviet occupation”, I guess they find it hard to talk about the issues of the present, and perhaps need a convenient excuse to explain why things are so bad as of now.

            • yalensis says:

              I would have to agree about the Baltic states. They did behave like prima donnas a lot of the time. As my boss might say, “They were not team players.”

      • Mr. X says:

        Yep it’s all outlined here in this video about Z. Brzezinski’s the Grand Chessboard. That book has become so notorious even the British rock band Muse cited it in public interviews.

    • marknesop says:

      “Does H. Clinton ever characterize German reunification as an attempt to re-Nazify?”

      That’s actually an excellent point, and one that should be brought up every time she or anyone else in government or media raises the issue in those terms. I would do it, but I don’t comment on RFE/RL any more.

      • Dear Mark,

        Discussion of Clinton’s comment is now spreading all over the place. The Financial Times has carried a brief report about it and it’s been picked by news agencies and by parts of the Russian media. Peskov has also responded to it. I presume that puts me in the clear!

        Seriously though I don’t the comment was ignorant so much as paranoid. Clinton surely knows enough about Russian history to know that Russia’s historic borders predated the USSR’s. Rather it’s as Leos says, what Clinton objects to is the possible emergence of a strong regional rival to the US in Central Asia.

        What baffles me about this policy is that it is so self defeating. To the extent that Eurasian integration is a legitimate Russian national interest the Russian people and government have now been provided with a further reason to see in the US an enemy. This makes it more likely that any Eurasian Union that eventually emerges (and which the US may not have the power to prevent) defines itself against the US. Why wilfully make an enemy where you might have a friend?

        Incredibly at the same time that Clinton was making her comments about Russia and the Eurasian Union another US official was making hostile comments about China’s policies in Tibet, which have predictably enraged the Chinese.

        The US has no power to control events in Tibet so what purpose is served by comments like this? It is only a few months ago that you wrote a post about the paranoid fantasies of a US academic who talked luridly about an alliance of dictators cented on Russia and China. To the extent that Russia and China are allies why should the US find that surprising when it treats both countries in this way?

        • Moscow Exile says:

          “Clinton surely knows enough about Russian history to know that Russia’s historic borders predated the USSR’s.”

          I shouldn’t be too sure of that.

          • Jennifer Hor says:

            If Killary Klinton knew any Russian history, she’d know that the Russian empire once included Alaska and Fort Ross in California. Perhaps that scares her!

            • Moscow Exile says:

              It certainly scared former Alaska governor Sarah Palin so much that she believed she could see the Evil Empire creeping up on her.

              The Bering Strait that separates Russia from the USA is over 50 miles wide. Standing at sea level, the horizon can be seen not quite 3 miles distant by an average size adult. If Sarah Palin were to stand atop a hundred foot high tower at the point of US territory nearest to Russia, the horizon would still be about 12 and a quarter miles away from her point of observation, so it is just not possible at or near sea level to see Russia from Alaska – but it’s the thought that counts, I suppose.

              • Misha says:

                I saw someone go off on her recently:

              • rkka says:

                You can see Big Diomede Island from Little Diomede Island though. The maritime border runs right between them.

              • yalensis says:

                In fairness to Palin, I don’t think she even meant that stupid comment as a warning against a Russian threat. It was more in the context of “I am qualified to be VP because I have some geographical chops, I can point to some countries on a map…” something like that.

                • marknesop says:

                  However she meant it, it was immediately interpreted as testimony that she “got” Russia. It’s difficult to say because of her choppy delivery and inability to stay on one thought for more than a second, and listening to what she says when she is “speechifying” is quite a bit like listening to a recording in which the editor has removed chunks of sentences at random. But the actual quote from which it was extracted that she could see Russia was “you can actually see Russia from land, here in Alaska”. And I suppose you could, if you were standing on top of a really tall pole. But it is supposedly accurate that you can see Russia from offshore islands that belong to Alaska.

                  It really doesn’t make a lot of difference; it is fairly clear that she did mean to convey a sense of being on top of current affairs vis-a-vis Russia and the USA, from another statement; “As Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.

                  Her discombobulating changes between singular and plural make it difficult to get a sense of whether she meant Putin has multiple heads that can invade American airspace, or whether she meant to implicate the Russian Air Force – which does occasionally test the alertness of the USAF by probing the limits of American airspace. Probably the latter.

                  In any case, she probably would have brought a great deal of comedy to the office of Vice-President, and little else: McCain is plainly still alive, so if he had been elected he likely would have been still making the decisions throughout his term (unless the Republicans poisoned him to get Nutjob McPalin into the big chair) while Palin would have continued to be a laughingstock. But there was a real risk, because you can see for yourself that any time a bait was dangled in front of her, she went for it. It would have been child’s play to maneuver her into anything.

        • marknesop says:

          Perhaps Clinton is positioning herself for a Presidential run. I frankly doubt it; she’s too old, and she hinted that when she stepped down from her present position she would leave politics. I can’t imagine she and Bubba owe anything on their mortgage that speaking engagements would not pay.

          Still, if she were positioning for a presidential run, she likely would step down now so as to put her campaign organization together, and the intertubes are all atwitter with speculation that she will do just that.

          If so, it would explain why she is trying to confuse the Republicans by adopting Romney’s recent campaign slate in toto. Although, to be fair, she has always been antagonistic toward Russia since the plans to break it up into oligarchical fiefdoms under Boris The Drunk fell apart.

          Incidentally, for anyone who is interested, here is a fascinating and fairly sober analysis of Russia after Communism, written for “Economic Perspectives” by Andrei Shleifer of Harvard University and Daniel Treisman of UCLA.

          A couple of things about it interested me: as I said, it appears to be a mostly realistic, hardheaded analysis based on verifiable fact. It introduces – for the first time, for me – the observation that the plummeting drop in Soviet output in the early 90’s, with the beginnings of transition to a market economy, was nowhere near as bad as it was made to appear, because much of the output was imaginary in the first place. Under the Soviet system, manufacturers routinely inflated their figures to obtain bonuses: under a market economy, they promptly underreported production in order to avoid taxes.

          Although that is a fascinating concept that makes all kinds of sense once explained, I’ll ask you to note the source is Anders Aslund, whose academic contributions range wildly over the scale from epiphanous to profoundly stupid. Caveat Emptor.

          Another is the proposal that the collapse which brought Russia to the edge of the abyss was far less due to Yeltsin’s privatization schemes than it was simply a natural consequence of “the temporary dislocation that all countries experienced as their planning systems disintegrated”. As substantiation, it points out that most of the fall in both Russia’s GDP and electricity consumption occurred before 1994; before the significant part of the mass privatization was completed and before loans-for-shares was even contemplated.

          The overall tone is that what happened to Russia was unremarkable, and very much what happened to other countries/unions in similar circumstances.

          I would dismiss it as an attempt to whitewash history and perhaps even to exonerate Harvard for the part played by its luminaries in Russia’s catastrophe, were it not for the fact that it is so hardheaded and no-nonsense everywhere else, freely citing statistics from Goskomstat and other Russian sources rather than dismissing them as Kremlin fabrications, and frankly acknowledging the remarkable progress Russia has made – bear in mind, it was written in 2005.

          I still feel Yeltsin was largely responsible; the reference does point out that he kicked the legs out from under defense procurement, setting in motion the decline of Russia’s armed forces, tolerated the expansion of NATO and went along with intervention in the former Yugoslavia. However, challenges to conventional wisdom on both sides of the fence are welcome, and I’d be interested to know what the rest of you think.

          • Misha says:

            Yeltsin was dealing with a weak hand which he himself contributed. His motive for seeing the end of the USSR was to limit any Gorby and hardline Communist anti-Gorby/anti-Yeltsin opposition.

            This stance got him some support in the West and with the European Soviet Communist Party heads in non-Russian republics who became more nationalist for the purpose of having greater clout. There were also some (particularly in Ukraine) who thought they would be better off if independent.

            The Central Asian republics weren’t initially so gung ho on breaking up the USSR. In the Caucasus, the Abkhaz and South Ossettians only started to think about independence from Georgia AFTER Georgia took a separatist/nationalist path.

            Gorby had the basis for believing that a different and leaner version of a union of some former Sovet republics was necessary if a complete breakup was to be better averted. He didn’t play his cards right.

            After the Soviet breakup, one suspects that Yeltsin gradually saw how trying to reach out to the West saw a limited return for Russia.

            • Dear Mark,

              I am afraid the Harvard article though superficially using all the apparatus of objectivity and scholarship is in reality simply an attempt to whitewash the 1990s and (as you say) to defend Harvard’s role. In fact I seem to remember reading this article when it first came out and thinking as much.

              Anyway to go through all its points would take far too long. What I would say is that I have had dealings with Russians who are involved in Russian industry and in the economy (especially in banking, chemicals and light manufacturing) and they are under no doubt that the output collapse of the 1990s actually happened. In fact contrary to what the article says it may have been worse not better than the official statistics said. I remember that there were suggestions in the mid 1990s that the economy had stabilised. It now seems that this may not have been true and that the economy and output may in fact have been continuing to contract albeit at a slower rate right up to the second crash in 1998. The reason that crash happened was precisely because the endless contraction of the economy up to 1998 had so hollowed the economy out that when oil prices fell there was nothing else to fall back on so the financial system simply imploded.

              Notice how the article consistently minimises or excuses what happened in the 1990s: Khodorkovsky’s behaviour and that of the other oligarchs wasn’t really so bad (and was better than that of the companies that remained in state ownership), privatised companies were not asset stripped, the demographic crisis was not connected to the deterioration in economic and social conditions (what caused it then?), the elections of the 1990s including the Presidential election of 1996 were not rigged (Medvedev now says otherwise) and despite hyperinflation (which the article barely discusses) living standards were barely affected and held up well. Whilst the article makes the odd valid point here and there (for example that it was the sudden dismantling of economic controls rather than privatisation that precipitated the collapse) I doubt that most Russians who lived through the 1990s would recognise this picture.

              What is misleading about this article is first its false apparatus of scholarship, which makes it look objective and hard headed when it is really nothing of the sort, and the fact that it was written in the mid 2000s before Putin had become the hate figure he is now. At that time a part at least of the western commentariat still preferred to see Putin as Yeltsin’s chosen successor and as the contnuer of Yeltsin’s policies.and was still prepared to give Putin the benefit of the doubt (that finally ended following Putin’s 2007 Munich speech). The article does therefore give a more reasoned picture of the state of Russia in the mid 2000s than would be the case today though it does so without recognising that the affluence it talks about was largely achieved because Putin reversed much of what was done in the 1990s facing down fierce opposition in doing so.

              • marknesop says:

                Alex; that was pretty much my take as well, although vastly improved upon by your wonderful eye for detail. I recommend yours be considered the official response.

            • Dear Misha,

              On what caused the USSR to break up I agree with every point you make. The one thing I would add is that the single event that most created an atmosphere of crisis prior to the USSR’s collapse (and which is never mentioned in western scholarship) was Yeltsin’s decision in 1990 after he first became Russian President to withhold the Russian Federation’s share of tax revenue from the central Soviet government. Since Russia was by far the biggest republic that forced the central Soviet government to use up its financial reserves and resort to the printing press to cover its obligations. Since Yeltsin simultaneously embarked on a spending programme of his own the inflationary consequences for the economy and the country were dire.

              Yeltsin then made matters worse still when he set up his own central bank in competiton with the Soviet central bank (at that time called Gosbank) creating more confusion still. There then followed a disastrous period known as “the war of the laws” when the Russian government (and other republican governments taking their cue from Russia’s) started passing laws that they said overrode those of the central government and of the central Soviet institutions. Not surprisingly in conditions of inflation and chaos output plunged (though not on the disastrous scale that happened in 1992).

              To this day I am still not sure what Yeltsin’s reasons were (other than ambition and an extreme personal loathing for Gorbachev) but if he had deliberately wanted to destabilise his country then he went about it the right way.

              • Misha says:

                Hello Alexander,

                Shortly after the coup against Gorbachev, I recall Yeltsin and Gorby on an ABC News NightLine segment, followed by a Condi Rice mopup.

                Rice made it a point to note how both suggested a continued union state of some former Soviet republics living on, with a remark of what non-Russian former Soviets thought to the contrary – as she put it.

                IMO, Yeltsin seems to have been of two likely minds. Ideally, he wanted greater power for himself with a Russian influenced union of some former Soviet republics. At the same time, one gets the impression that he sought the support of non-Russian European Soviet Communist heads and the West to offset internal Russian opposition to him.

                This was a difficult dance to follow, given how some in the West and the non-Russian European Soviet Communist heads were to view things after the failed coup against Gorby.

              • yalensis says:

                It seems pretty clear that Yeltsin’s motive (and that of the entire clique he belonged to) was to destroy the Soviet Union and Communism (an ideology that they despised). They wanted Russia to be what they regarded as a “normal” independent European capitalist country, free of the “ballast” of Central Asia and other more Third Worldey republics.
                This compradore clique, which had formed during the late-Brezhnev period, saw America as a friend, not an enemy. They had bought into the Solzhenitsyn’s ideology and fake-historical analysis, lock stock and barrel. They thought Ronald Reagan was a great guy, and Margaret Thatcher a great gal. In their view, destroying Communism was such a noble end that any means were acceptable, even turning Russia into an American colony.
                This entire ideological package and world-view is still promulgated (but on a smaller scale and with less popular support) by the Navalnyites.

                • Dear Yalensis,

                  You are absolutely right in describing the attitudes of many of the people who were involved in helping Yeltsin destroy the USSR. I would add that these attitudes were not just those of liberals of that period but of several individuals within the party apparatus. Also there were a lot of outright opportunists. The one who stands out for me was the Ukrainian party chief Kravchuk, who switched from being a (nominal) Communist to becoming a pro independent nationalist after he was embarrassed by his implicit support for the anti Gorbachev August coup attempt. Misha describes him well as one of the nationalist inclined party leaders that saw their opportunity to gain influence in the European republics.

                  I am not so sure about Yeltsin himself. I have no doubt that he came round to thinking as you say by 1991. Whether he always thought like that or started out thinking like that I am not so sure. I remember when he became Moscow party chief in 1985 the impression he then gave was of a committed and even puritanical Communist. The trouble is that there is no proper biography of Yeltsin and there is unlikely to be one for a long time. Anyway it is a question that is purely one of academic interest. What he thought is unimportant. What matters is what he did.

                • marknesop says:

                  “The trouble is that there is no proper biography of Yeltsin and there is unlikely to be one for a long time.”

                  I’m afraid that’s not quite true. The “first scholarly biography” of Boris Yeltsin, entitled “A Revolutionary Life” was completed in 2000 by Dr. Leon Aron, of the American Enterprise Institute. That probably tells you all you need to know, but in case it doesn’t, there’s some more of his work listed on his “author” page. The bio is said by its reviewer to be “not adoring, but unabashedly admiring”, and Dr. Aron reportedly thought Yeltsin was “just what Russia needed”.

                  The first 100 copies sold came with rose-coloured glasses, but you’re probably too late to get one of those.

                  You likely know exactly who he is, but if you don’t, he was tapped recently as Russia policy adviser to presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who famously called Russia America’s greatest geopolitical enemy.

                  Dr. Aron actually left a comment here once (as Aaron Aron); he was incensed that I had initially spelled his name wrong in a post, here. I fixed it once he pointed it out to me. He declined on that occasion to rebut anything else in the post, and I always thought he was miffed because I called The American Enterprise Institute “clueless”. One of his acolytes, also once employed there, was Kevin Rothrock, AKA “A Good Treaty”.

                  That was a pretty good post for me; it also attracted the ire of La Russophobe, and I made my debut on her site. As the saying goes, an insult from a fool is a compliment. There were certainly plenty of them; I was a “hysterically ignorant, inbred buffoon”, “one of the stupidest and most dishonest Russophile bloggers who’s yet to appear in the blogosphere”. Ooooo; look – I am “invested” in lice; I hear the dividend split on them is most inviting.

                  As you may imagine, that was a high-water mark for me, as I joined Anatoly and Sean Guillory on Anatoly’s blog in reminiscences of tirades past directed at them by the same source. Kevin Rothrock came in for a flaying as well, before she knew who he was. But I didn’t include him, because he said we deserved each other (in the comments). I only later put it together that he was insulted by association because I had criticized his patron, as he had been incognito until shortly before that, and if I recall correctly it was considerably later that he mentioned he had worked at AEI. In any case, I did not know he had worked with Leon Aron until his “Global Voices” bio.

                • Misha says:

                  This aspect of history leads to a good deal of second guessing.

                  Gorby and Yeltsin faults aside, the Soviet Union faced problems. Solzhenitsyn was by no means all bad.

                  On another point, recall how quickly the Russia, Ukraine, Belarus initiated CIS came about shortly after the attempted coup against Gorby. It was reported that the Central Asian republics felt slighted by not having been an initial part of that process.

                • Misha says:

                  Will also add that Western stances like

                  – the first wave of NATO expansion (involving some heavy anti-Russian propaganda)
                  – lack of understanding of the problematical situation in Chechnya (S. Cohen IMO propagandistically commented on Chechnya as an anti-Yeltsin propaganda tool)
                  – an anti-Serb bias (mix of pro-Turkish, frustrated Habsburgite, German revanchist thinking and assorted non-Serb Yugo qualms)

                  didn’t help the desire of seeing better relations between Russia and the West.

                  These facets seem to best explain why the mood in Russia changed.

                • Misha says:

                  Kravchuk has danced to different tunes. Prior to Gorby, I understand that he was quite the Marxist-Leninist. When Gorby was elevated, Kravchuk starts to noticeably drift a bit in the direction of the more separatist minded of Ukrainians. During the attempted coup against Gorby, he seems to have taken an on the fence approach. He ran an overtly anti-Russian presidential campaign against Kuchma. During the so-called “Orange Revolution”, he wasn’t so gung ho pro-Orange.

                • Misha says:

                  Some folks continue to get waytoo much attention than what they otherwise deserve.

                  What RFE/RL chooses to promote and not promote serve as good indicators to me on the predominating biases out there.

          • rkka says:

            “It introduces – for the first time, for me – the observation that the plummeting drop in Soviet output in the early 90′s, with the beginnings of transition to a market economy, was nowhere near as bad as it was made to appear, because much of the output was imaginary in the first place.”

            Do they mention the sharply higher death rates reaching all the way to the 30-40 year old age cohort that were evident by 1994? Or the plummeting birth rates? The human impact of “FreeMarketDemocraticReform” was dire, no matter what their stats say. They note the overall drop in Russian life expectancy, but fail to mention the far more dire drop in male life expectancy, from ~65 years in 1991 to ~57 years in the late 1990s. The fact that female life expectancy held up pretty well helps them conceal how dire the situation was for men.

            “I would dismiss it as an attempt to whitewash history and perhaps even to exonerate Harvard for the part played by its luminaries in Russia’s catastrophe, were it not for the fact that it is so hardheaded and no-nonsense everywhere else”

            Since they gloss over the human catastrophe that occurred with the concentration of the RSFSR’s wealth and income into the hands of a very few, it’s still a whitewash.

            • marknesop says:

              Excellent. You are correct, and you could make a story like this say just about anything you like, depending on what statistics you choose to play up. Harvard might have a point that the economic tipover started well before the loans-for-shares program, which is really the most controversial argument it makes because it has been accepted as conventional wisdom by those who say the west deliberately ruined Russia in an attempt to render it a loose collective of warlord statelets under the oligarchs. However, the loans-for-shares program precipitated a second wave of bankruptcy, which was the millions of tiny personal bankruptcies of citizens and which followed the general collapse of the state, as people’s savings vanished and those fortunate enough not to have had their money in banks used up what they had left to live.

              The point about life expectancy was well-defended in “Shock Therapy; the Art of Ruining a Country (with some professional help from Sweden)” – the latter alluding to the enthusiastic participation of Swede Anders Aslund.

              Interestingly, life expectancy among less-educated white males is now dropping in the United States, having fallen by 4 years since 1990. It is specifically compared to what happened in Russia in this article, in that the decline for uneducated white women is even steeper.

              • Dear Mark,

                I found your article on the American Enterprise Institute outstanding and I am delighted and congratulate you on ruffling feathers. I am fully aware of Aron’s biography of Yeltsin. I said that there is no proper biography of Yeltsin because I don’t count it as a proper one.

                By the way, I recall that you once said that you found economics difficult. I have never found any evidence of this in what you write. On the contrary you show a far better understanding of economics than the vast bulk of the western commentariat that writes on Russian questions. Your article on the American Enterprise Institute is a case in point. You show a proper understanding of the fundamental difference between capital outflow (which is normal and often necessary in a healthily functioning economy) and capital flight (which is what Russia suffered from in the 1990s and 2008 and what Greece has been experiencing over the last year). This simple understanding of the basic difference seems beyond most people who write about Russia.

                • marknesop says:

                  Thank you, Alex; you’re very kind. I don’t feel I have much of an aptitude for economics because I despise it, and because I was never good at math. I don’t have any affinity for numbers; mine is for language, and beyond the simple conceptual stage, economics is enormously complicated. Nonetheless, I appreciate your compliment, for I value your opinion highly.

                  Also, although I have said it many times before, I cannot forbear from pointing out once again that Yeltsin went into a grim-looking re-election with a popularity rating that couldn’t have gotten him elected dogcatcher. A group of oligarchs who had become fabulously wealthy as a direct result of his policies threw their influence and wealth behind him; he monopolized state advertising, and banned opposition parties. And he was re-elected in “a landslide”.

                  I need hardly point out that Putin does not get away with even a tenth of such hijinks, and there is a never-varying refrain from the west what a blackguard, authoritarian lout and self-enriching despot he is.

                  But Yeltsin is feted with “not adoration, but unabashed admiration”, and was “just what Russia needed”. The one brought Russia within a hairsbreadth of utter ruin, while the other dusted it off and restored it to world-power status.

                  I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere, and I’m equally sure the great multitude will continue to learn nothing from it.

                • yalensis says:

                  Yeltsin was a pure windfall to the West, he (and his clique) basically threw themselves at America and begged, “Help me destroy my country and put me in power.” Even though West had been working for, and desiring, such a scenario for many decades, when it actually happened, they weren’t quite prepared for it, they didn’t have enough assets in place, and they and narrowly missed an opportunity to finish off once and for with the Russian historical entity.
                  I see Putin not so much as the savior of Russia as a kind of thesis-antithesis-synthesis guy à la Hegel, a restoring of balance. (Kind of like the Russian version of Napoleon Bonaparte, following period of Revolution-Counterrevolution.) Putin represents that portion of the Russian bourgeoisie that wants to maintain some semblance of sovereignty in the world.
                  West sees Putin as the emblem of their own oversights and lost opportunity to destroy Russia once and for all. They have been gearing up for years, learning the lessons of their past mistakes, and belligerently yearning for a rematch. Into this broader context fits their current rewriting of history and burnishing of Yeltsin’s reputation, as in, “Oh, the 90’s weren’t as bad as people say.”
                  In short, they want to do it all over again, and this time they want to finish the job. As Rambo liked to say, “Colonel, this time do we get to win?”

      • Moscow Exile says:

        It seems that Thatcher may have thought so: she certainly caused a scandal, at least in Germany, when it was revealed after the cessation of her British premiership that she had been dead set against Gerrman re-unification.

        Anyway, das Vaterland ist nicht wiedervereinigt!!!

        What about Schlesien und Pommern und Ostpreußen, the cities of Breslau, Stettin, Memel, Danzig und Königsberg?

        Kaliningrad mein Arsch!

        • Misha says:

          Regarding German reunification, some take it further with the Anshcluss mindset.

        • yalensis says:

          That’s all well and good, but did you know that Königsberg has 7 bridges, and that you cannot cross all 7 bridges without retracing your steps?

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Natürlich! The solution to this kant of a problem must have even baffled the wondrous mind of Königsberg’s most famous son, Immanuel Kant.

            • yalensis says:

              Yes, that whole bridges issue baffled that silly Kant, Put him in a mental tizzy every time he went out for his daily promenade. He would turn this way, that way, could never decide where to start or where to end. Finally, he would give up and return to his humble flat to scribble more philosophical ramblings about life’s frustrations.

              The good burghers of Königsberg waited long and patiently for their savior to arrive with a solution. Eventually, it took a more well-Euled mind (ha ha!) to solve the problem. Little known fact that Euler was actually Russian. (Not really, I made that up.)

              So here, finally, is the solution to what is now known as the Bridges of Kaliningrad problem. In a nutshell, you can go here, or you can go there, but you can’t go everywhere. Typical Russian solution.


              • Jennifer Hor says:

                I read somewhere that an 8th bridge was built in 1905 by the order of Kaiser Wilhelm II over part of the Pregel river where it branches. Legend has it that someone presented the problem to the kaiser, knowing full well he couldn’t solve it as is, but of course when you aspire to being Ruler of the World, you can do anything.

                Then World War II provided another solution: some of the bridges were bombed into oblivion. A bit of overkill, though: only one bridge needed to be bombed to solve the problem.

                A Google map of Kaliningrad now shows eight bridges over the two islands:Leninsky prospekt and Oktyabrskaya ulitsa run over four bridges, there are two other bridges to the east of Oktybrskaya ulitsa linking Moskovsky prospekt and ulitsa Bragationa, and in that pattern you can see two unnamed bridges running east-west:


                The problem is said to be solvable but you end up on one of the islands as a result.

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear Jen: Thanks for the update to the mathematics of the Kaliningrad bridges! I wouldn’t put it past the Kaiser to build another bridge, just so he could strut about bragging about how he solved Euler’s problem via “Gordian Knot” type methods.

                  Tying back to previous threads, recall that Kaliningrad is the city where those rascals Razvozzhaev and Givi Targamadze plotted to stage a pro-NATO insurgency. They probably planned to blow up the bridges as they retreated from Russian tanks, but then, due to their lack of topological savvy, they would have found themselves floundering around ineffectually on an island. LOL!

      • Misha says:

        Someone else rhetorically presented NAFTA subordinating countries such as Mexico.

        The first wave of NATO expansion included some harsh anti-Russian propaganda from among others John McCain, Bill Safire and C. Rice, before she became SoS. This included the historically inaccurate perception of Russia as a historically inherent threat to Russia.

        At one point, John McCain suggested that post-Soviet Russia was more about the Russian Empire legacy than Soviet variant. Never mind that post-Soviet Russia recognizes the independence of all of the former Soviet republics, including territories which would like to become a part of Russia if given a choice. The proposed Eurasian Union is along the lines of independent countries mutually agreeing to go along with an idea.

        Another person briefly portrayed Lenin as a spark plug for Russia uprooting itself from the West. Too broad an overview IMO. He reflected a historical period that’s no more, despite some continued influences.

        Not a Lenin fan. Along with the Western imperial powers, he rooted for Japan against his country. During WW I, the Germans used him as a tool against Russia. Some anti-Russian types play up Lenin’s comments about Russia as a “prison of nations” and cautioning against “Great Russian chauvinism.” From a point of view of what’s best for British imperial interests, Lloyd George favored limiting British support for the Whites on the notion that they better reflected Russian interests than Lenin. Pilsudski made what was then a secret agreement with Lenin to negate an anti-Bolshevik Polish-White alliance which could’ve very well have changed the outcome of the Russian Civil War. Pilsudski went along with this agreement because Lenin was more willing to (at least in private discussion) give up more territory (with Belarus in mind) historically linked to Russia than the Whites.

        I don’t mean to come across as a chauvinist – something that I oppose unlike being reasonably patriotic. Consider Lenin’s time period and how other great powers carried on. “Russification” is a more commonly used term than “Angloization.” Note how unccommon Gaelic is in Ireland when compared to Ukrainian in Ukraine. The Soviet period alone didn’t foster this comparative reality.

        The Soviet legacy partly includes some unfair slights against Russian identity, which include the propaganda poster of Soviet nationalities all wearing their folk clothing, with the exception of the represented Russian, who is wearing a modern business suit.

        Related articles:

  16. kirill says:

    On the theme of epic Russian corruption and the squeaky clean “west”. The above article is about corruption no matter how much spin might be put on it. This sort of corruption also happens in the USA and Canada in the case of doctors who are buttered up by the pharmaceutical industry to peddle their latest drugs at hefty prices.

    Corruption is an aspect of human society. In the developed world it has morphed into a more sophisticated form where cops don’t extort money from motorists, etc. This primitive corruption does not achieve anything and costs the elites in the long run. But US Congress style lobbying is a nice and polished way for private interests to basically control the legislature and suck at the public teat.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      Speaking of the Fukushima disaster, the conventional thinking goes that it was caused by earthquake and tsunami. But what I have heard at home (yes some of you may know that I have been outed) makes it an anthropogenic catastrophe. Simply put, the CEOs in charge forgot to invest into proper safety measures, in the name of greed, and hence the disaster.

      • kirill says:

        After Fukushima I lost most of my respect for the technological prowess of Japan. TEPCO was and remains a bureaucrat sinecure outfit. That’s rather primitive corruption since it was practiced in ancient empires as well. The plant was installed without any modification required for local conditions. They kept the vital backup generators in the basement as was done for US installations that had no chance of flooding. This is ridiculous, from Google Earth you can see that there was a high hill right behind the plant that would have been perfect to situate the generators. This rather cheap modification (all it needed was longer power cables that are waterproof by construction anyway) would have prevented the disaster.

        I know hindsight is 20/20 but you don’t just copy and paste a US plant design into a location with a radically different risk profile. You would think there are paid experts who deal with such installation issues.

  17. Moscow Exile says:

    “Russians need to feel the whip, or knout or the battogs, it is in their nature, so they love the strong man.”

    A comment from a russophobic reader of the British Daily Telegraph as regards an article entitled “From Russia with hate – are Russian assassins on the loose in Britain?” concerning the recent and unexpected death whilst out jogging of a Russian “businessman” who lived an extremely wealthy lifestyle in the London Home Counties stockbroker belt.

    If the reader had written “Africans” or “Negroes” or perhaps even “the Poles”, “the Irish” or “the Chinese”, this so typical of russophobes comment would have very likely not been published. Russians, however, seem still to remain Untermenschen in the eyes of many Western Europeans and most particularly of those that inhabit the anglosphere, where even the most outrageous of statements concerning Russian citizens as a whole may be expressed with impunity.

    I wonder what “battogs” are? Possibly a twee, British English public schoolboy slang word for an instrument used by a master to beat a recalcitrant pupil’s naked buttocks, thereby maaking a man out of him.

    • Misha says:

      With their upside down Russian flag (pointed remark with no disrespect intended), Cyrllic alphabet, Orthodox Christian faith and pro-Russian orientation, Serbs get it even worse, on account of not being a major power, coupled by a greater overall lack of knowledge pertaining to their POV.

      Regarding Serbs, consider the kind of remarks made by Biden, Holbrooke and Albright and the lack of outrage.

    • marknesop says:

      The story itself is a disgrace, and were it published by my country I would expect and not be disappointed by censure from other countries thought to be friends. It is, as you allude, like hanging around with an acquaintance who calls other people “niggers” just because he’s occasionally funny and always stands his round. Inquiries on the diplomatic level ought to be asking of Britain if it is aware of what a “Free Press” really entails, and whether they expect to be accepting editorials from Stormfront any time soon.

      • Not the least grotesque aspect of this story is that all the speculation about Russian assassins is happening before there is even confirmation of a murder. Needless to say if the eventual toxicology tests prove negative the whole story will be simply dropped. You can be absolutely sure that in that case none of the newspapers that have given so much publicity to the story (starting with Alexander Lebedev’s Independent) will give the news of the negative results of the toxicology tests anything like the same attention.

        For the rest Moscow Exile is absolutely right. It is permissible to indulge in public racism about Russians that would be inconceivable for any other ethnic group. The example Moscow Exile cites is as Mark says a particularly disgusting one.

  18. Moscow Exile says:

    Dear Alexander Mercouris,
    As regards to your above enquiry as to the whereabouts of the remaining Pussy Riot “punk prayer” participants that fled the scene last February and have still not been found, this article in today’s Komsomolskaya Pravda may prove to be of interest to you.

    Here is my quick translation of said KP article:

    Runaway Pussy Riot member: “We did everything right”.

    One of the performers wanted for the punk prayer has informed German television that she was not one bit sorry about the controversy and was even ready to repeat her “show” without a moment’s hesitation.

    It is no secret that the controversial event at Christ the Saviour Cathedral involved five girls and that there were only three of them in the dock. The other two were faster than their hapless friends and quickly vanished. Now, after almost a year, one of them has shown up – and not somewhere in a remote Siberian village, but on one of the most popular TV channels in Germany (ARD). And even in prime time!

    It might well have been her finest hour in the eyes of the European talk show fans. However, no one even knew the singer’s name. She had a nickname: “Cat”. Oh, and by the way, the face of this “Gyulchitay” [a reference to the sweet, kind hearted central Asian girl characters in the extremely popular Soviet film “The White Sun of the Desert”- trans. ME] was not shown: the girl went into the studio with her head covered à la Pussy by some stocking material. Moreover, she was so afraid of being recognized that she had even asked for her voice to be changed.

    And so the little girl in white stockings told German television viewers in her sad voice that she still believes that she was right. “Cat” said that Pussy Riot had done everything right and had nothing to regret; if she had to do something like that again, then she would not hesitate to take part again in a “show” and even in a more radical way than had happened on February 21 in the Moscow cathedral.

    The only thing that bothers Cat (pussy cat?) today is the fate of her two convicted friends: according to her, this is Pussy Riot’s primary task, namely to secure the release of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich [Error by Komsomolskaya Pravda! Samutsevich has, of course, already been released: it is Maria Alekhina who is now incarcerated in a penal establishment – trans. ME] through international courts. And for this, she says, the involvement of the international community is needed. In fact, she intends to appear on all sorts of shows to do this.

    “The situation in Russia, especially the merger of politics and religion, is so bad that you need to talk about it as much as possible, in order to make a difference”, said the runaway singer to “Tageszeitung” [“Newsday” – trans. ME].

    As regards this matter, “Cat” stated that Pussy Riot was not planning any new “actions” for the near future until the previous one had been “settled” by them.

    It should be recalled that in February of this year five members of the punk group Pussy Riot sang a prayer service in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Three of them were arrested (Ekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina) and then sentenced to 2 years in prison. Ekaterina Samutsevich, though, was later released.

    The other two have had a search warrant issued for their arrest, but as of yet law enforcement agencies have not found them. Criminal charges have been made against them.

    Meanwhile, many actively support Pussy Riot overseas: books have been published about them, they have been nominated for various awards, and their story has been shown in cartoons.

    End of translation

    I see the “international community” gets a mention, of which “international community” it is implied that Russia is not a part.

    One thing that is of interest: it seems that neither the Tageszeitung interviewer nor the PR member “Cat” made any mention of the event that took place in Cologne Cathedral and undertaken by PR “copycats”, who were duly arrested for disrupting a church service and infringing the German constitutional right of believers to worship unhindered in a place of their choosing. These German hooligans were subsequently charged under German law with offences that have a greater maximum sentence of imprisonment than the Russian PR attention seekers faced in the Evil Empire.

    • marknesop says:

      Maybe Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina can be cast in miniature in chocolate for the holidays!! Anything to keep them in the news cycle. Nobody of course knows if this suddenly-appeared girl is in fact a member of the famous pussies at all, or if it is just a strategically-injected event to keep them from being forgotten. They have proven to be a propaganda windfall for the west, and it is backing them all the way. No use going over the same old ground again about how none of these countries would think twice about granting asylum to the “group” if it meant the possibility it would immediately start agitating against the host government with a series of clever “art events”; it would not even be considered. They are only useful while they are in Russia or bad-mouthing Russia from afar. And an ideal way to manage a refugee pussy to ensure she did not turn against the German government and start up her own German cell to stage similar “art events” would be for her not to be a pussy at all.

      If a plague broke out in Russia that was killing people right and left, there would be western talk shows interviewing germs and praising their quest for freedom.

      • Dear Moscow Exile,

        Thanks for this very interesting information. I presume by the way that “Cat” was actually in Germany when she gave the interview.

        Incidentally Mark touches on a valid point. There is no reference to the German authorities having granted “Cat” political asylum. One wonders on what legal basis “Cat” is in Germany? Does she have a visa?

        As for the ostentatious disguise, what is “Cat” afraid of? That the FSB will kidnap her? That the Kremlin will despatch its agents to assassinate her? Even if she doesn’t have a visa she must know that after the hysteria of the summer it would be politically impossible for the German authorities to deport her back to Russia. It looks like more attention seeking.

  19. Misha says:

    Note the comments Albanian nationalists make regarding other countries:

    Not a peep from Hillary.

  20. Now that Assad’s fall seems more likely than ever Russia will face another international setback.
    Historically speaking, all USSR/Russia’s allies are on the loser side. From now on it is hard to see anyone allying with Russia because everybody knows that allying with Russia will give the West a green light to overthrow the government and Russia will just sit back and watch.

    • Sure Russia has done some yapping in the UN but that’s all. Russia has offered none concrete help to Assad to defeat the islamists. The West has armed and supported the foreign islamists from the start and the only Russian response has been yapping in the UN.
      I hope Assad will win because I believe it will benefit Syrian people more. Actually I have not been even disappointed by Russian inaction because I knew that Russia would withold from action. Georgia was a rare example of Russia using military force outside of it’s borders. Otherwise Russia simply refuses to do so even if Russia’s interests are at stake.

      • marknesop says:

        And when Susan Rice is prancing around in apoplexy at the UN, swearing about this being disgusting and that being unacceptable, I suppose that is not “yapping”; oh, no, that is portentous dialogue at the grownups table, right?

        I doubt you genuinely hope for an Assad win, but if you do, the only chance for an enduring victory is precisely this way – a reasoned argument rooted in international law. As you know well, it’s okay for the western powers to circumvent that law, at least it’s okay in the short term, but modern communications are making it more and more difficult for the victors to rewrite history. Libya was an international disgrace, and it will become harder for the “conquerors” to keep a lid on it the more violent and ruined it becomes – the only chance for it to be termed an inspirational example of democratization would have been for the victorious NATO powers to pour money into it and make it an overnight success. They didn’t do that for a couple of reasons; one, they can’t afford it. Two, they were impatient to get on to the next target.

        Russia is not going to march into Syria with all the armor it can spare and say “you dare not cross this line”. Of course that is exactly what the west is hoping for; it would offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to simultaneously vanquish Russia militarily, record it forever as an international pariah state on the wrong side of history, and accomplish the short-term objective of laying waste to Syria on the road to doing the same to Iran – it would be a gift that the western leaders could not pass up, whatever the cost. Offering such a juicy plum would be the height of stupidity, but that is exactly what you are advocating.

        On the other hand, the UN was established precisely for preventing such wars of aggression and conquest, and so far it is working although the west is pulling out all the stops in its efforts to bypass it, and only seeks the UN’s blessing when it wants to give itself the imprimatur of legitimacy. Russia and China have so far been successful in preventing that. It likely won’t last unless somebody begins covertly supplying Syria – and it would have to be untraceably covert – but it’s the only way to go if the aim is to deny the west a legitimate win.

        If the west were allowed to do just as it pleased, Syria would have been rubble months ago.

        • Well you are wrong that I don’t want Assad to win. I do. I have rooted for Assad from the beginning. It is getting tiresome to always be on the loser side and this is my way of getting the frustration out.
          I’m afraid that the saying “might is right” is true. The West may suffer a moral defeat for backing the islamists but they get a geopolitical victory and that’s all that matters really. They get Russia out of Syria and another puppet government in the Middle East. They will also weaken Iran which will be their next target.
          I don’t want Russia to engage the West military in a direct way, but Russia MUST do more the protect countries and governments that are friendly or at least neutral with Russia. If the West can give nukes to Israel there is no reason why Russia should not arm Syria and Israel in a similar way.

          • yalensis says:

            typo: you probably meant to say “arm Syria and Iran” (not Israel), and I agree with that. A major thing Russia could do is provide these beleaguered nations with the anti-air defenses against NATO bombs.
            One positive development is that the Iranians managed to capture an American drone, and there is some indications that they have been able to hack some of the electronics.
            I am still hopeful that Assad can win. It’s touch and go, agreed, but he still actually has a lot of factors in his favor. He just needs to keep a positive attitude and hang in there.

      • Misha says:

        “Sure Russia has done some yapping in the UN but that’s all. Russia has offered none concrete help to Assad to defeat the islamists.”


        This is at least the second and maybe third time you’ve initiated such discussion, with nothing changing in terms of replies.

        For the purpose of seeking new thoughts, it’s sometimes productive to bring up an earlier exchange.

        As noted in this exchange as well as the prior one(s), Russia and the West each have limits.

    • marknesop says:

      …and so Russia has two choices; commit its decaying forces to an all-or-nothing battle against the west with its massive military machine, or mutter and accept that is forever a second-rate power – or not even a power at all – and go along in surly compliance with the will of the triumphant victors. That about it?

      I envy you your world, Karl. Everything’s so neat and simple, so black-and-white Manichean, so smug and uncomplicated. I wish for you to live a long time, because you’re going to see some changes, and some of the chips may fall outside your vision.

      • Russia has a third option: Give Syria weaponry so powerful that nobody in it’s right mind will attack it. This is how the West empowered Israel. Give Syria a nuclear weapon and arm Assad properly to deal with the islamists and kill them all. The western media and politicians would go crazy with rage but I wouldn’t care.

        The same applies for Iran. They should have the nuke as well.

        • Would you consider becoming Russia’s Foreign Minister? Because I can’t wait to see how Russia will be handing out nukes left and right just in order to save Assad and Khamenei.

          • Well, what should Russia do instead?

            • What’s wrong with what Russia is doing now?

            • Exactly what it is doing now, which is stand by international law not rush to Syria’s defence in some Quixotic quest that can only end in disaster.

              Russia is not Syria’s ally as it has endlessly pointed out. Russia is under no obligation to defend Syria and has never said it will. When Russia does have obligations to defend a country it showed in 2008 that it fulfils them. However taking on commitments to defend countries Russia doesn’t have the poweror interest to defend is reckless and stupid and Russia is entirely right not to do it. As Mark correctly says the west would love nothing better than to have Russia rush to Syria’s defence so it can defeat and humiliate it. As Kovane also rightly says it would be beyond reckless for Russia to hand out dangerous weapons to people like Assad and Khamenei when Russia would have no control over their use.

              As for geopolitical gains and losses, where have you been over the last decade? All the geopolitical “gains” the west has achieved as a result of its various interventions have proved or are proving ephemeral. Iraq and Afghanistan have been unqualified disasters, Libya is starting increasingly to look like one (to the point when the US has just announced that it is deploying troops there to “stabilise” the situation) whilst in the Balkans the situation remains so unstable that it is only kept in check through the continuing deployment of NATO troops. Meanwhile western economies are in bad shape, the western powers continue to lose ground economically, Russia has strengthened its positions in its near abroad through the Customs Union and the Eurasian Union (provoking the angry comments from Hillary Clinton we discussed above) and Russia has deepened its de facto alliance with China, a country which no only is fully able to defend itself but which will soon be the world’s biggest economy if it is not so already (which by the way it probably is). There is no reason to think that Syria will in the end turn out for the west any better. If the western powers behave stupidly and contrary to their own interests there is no reason why Russia should behave in the same way.

              • cartman says:

                CSTO makes up all of Russia’s allies, and the limits of action have been well defined. In 2008 Russia did not ask for any help, and in 2010, there was no intervention during the unrest in Kirghizia. It has become very predictable and has no creeping mandate, unlike NATO.

                Syria is not an ally – only a customer for Russian weapons (and not very big one). Where Russia might lose out is if the (probably planned) pipeline from Qatar to Europe comes to pass. We know Washington is obsessed with bypassing and undercutting Russia’s exports in every way. They have intervened/meddled in everything including auto deals, though the only beneficiary of this interventionism has been China. But this may turn out to be another fools’ strategy like Nabucco. I can’t see Europe – particularly Germany – being thrilled with handing the keys to all of their industry to Uncle Sam, who may not like the idea of competition.

              • yalensis says:

                Dear Alexander: I actually think the western powers ARE acting in their own interests, in a bullying sociopathic kind of way. They managed to install puppet regimes in Iraq, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Now America can base its troops and own the air space pretty much anywhere in the Middle East except for Syria and Iran. Europe also came out ahead by stealing $600 billion in cash from Libya. In summary, West has won, and benefitted from, these wars; although one could argue that these are temporary, pyrrhic victories. I hope they are, but we don’t know that yet. If West succeeds in deposing Assad and installing Islamist government in Syria, that will be an additional notch on their belt, and still another geo-strategic defeat for Russia/China. It’s unpleasant to admit that unjust wars can be effective, but one has to be realistic.

                • Dear Yalensis,

                  What you say reminds me of something that used to be said during the Cold War about the different way the US and Russia conduct their diplomacy. What used to be said is that the reasons Russians and Americans don’t understand each other is that Russians play chess and Americans play poker.

                  In my opinion the comment was untrue. It is the Americans not the Russians who in diplomacy play chess. It is the Americans rather than the Russians who try to move around peoples and countries as part of some grand plan or strategy. What you say fits in perfectly with this way of thinking and may for that reason be true.

                  However that still not refute my point. What have all these strategic “victories” achieved for the US? After all these strategic “victories” who has actually grown stronger over the last 10 years – the US or Russia and China? Of what value is it to the US to gain Syria if its economy continues its decline? The Europeans did steal $600 billion from Libya (giving the whole venture the character of a pirate raid) but has that solved their economic problems? On the contrary they are getting worse. As for control of the Mediterranean coast, if that is the intention then the US is investing a huge amount of time and energy to obtain what it already has. Anyone who comes from a Mediterranean country will tell you that the Mediterranean is an American lake. The power of the US Sixth Fleet is totally overwhelming and there is simply no force or combination of forces in the Mediterranean that can match it.

                  My own view for what it’s worth is that the rationale for the attack on Syria (and the previous attacks on Iraq, Hezbollah and Libya) that its authors give themselves is to break the “axis of resistance” to the US’s ally Israel so that the US and Israel can impose their idea of “peace” on the Middle East. I stress the rationale rather than the reason, for in truth Israel is in no danger and these wars by destabilising the Middle East make the region more dangerous for Israel not less. In my opinion the real reason for these wars is psychological. The US senses its power is slipping away and conducts these wars first and foremost to convince its allies and itself that it is still strong. The psychology was explained best by the Arab historian and geographer Ibn Khaldun in 1377

                  “At the end of a dynasty there often appears some show of power. It lights up brilliantly just before it is extinguished, like a burning wick the flame of which leaps up brilliantly before it goes out, giving the impression that it is just starting to burn, when in fact it is going out.”

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear Alexander: Those are good points about the psychological motivation of (the Americans, in particular). The desire for dominance, refusal to compromise, and so on. Quite a lot of this is psychological, and not based on actual geo-strategic or monetary interests. Hence a possible weak point (an Achilles heel), for American’s enemies, if they can figure out a psy-ops plan to use America’s own narcissism against her.
                  I’ve had to deal with a couple of narcissistic sociopaths in my day (for example, my current boss – I’m not kidding!), and, really, the only way to deal with these types (if one doesn’t have enough power to simply pop them in the snout) is to carry on carrying on with one’s own ethical and highly rule-based behavior. Kind of like what Russia is doing in UN, I guess, except that I don’t completely trust to Putin to stand tough. I really wish Rogozin was in charge!

          • marknesop says:

            We are definitely on the same wavelength there, because I almost added in the last comment, “Thank God you are not Russia’s Foreign Minister”. In any case, if I have misjudged you, Karl, I apologize for my truculence.

            • yalensis says:

              Well, this is the first time that Karl has really opened up and explained himself. Now I find that I agree with a lot of his points. Before, it was just like cryptic sayings of the Oracle at Delphi, that could be interepreted in many different ways.
              Clarity, my friends, clarity! Lux et veritas!

              • yalensis says:

                P.S. If Karl WAS the Russian foreign minister, I think it would be hysterical, because the West would shit its pants, as they saw all their worst fears coming true. “OMG, he’s shipping 10 million nukes to Ahmadinejad, and another 10 million to Hugo Chavez!”

          • yalensis says:

            I think it was clever tactic of Syrian government to announce (admit?) seizure of chemical plant in Aleppo by Al Qaeda rebels. This was a clever (IMHO) response to western false-flag gambit to accuse Syrian govt of using chemical weapons, as pretext to send NATO bombers for R2P op. Clearly, USA intended for rebs to concoct some chemical attack and then blame on Assad. Hopefully this announcement will short-cut that provocation.

        • Jennifer Hor says:

          Well all Syria has to do is find another Soviet-era helicopter that needs new parts and send it to Russia. Russia fixes the helicopter with new parts and sends it back.

          The panel-beaters at the helicopter workshop can just say “oh, we fixed the blades, installed a new engine, replaced the windshields, oiled the doors and spray-painted a new colour” and then watch the Western press wet themselves over fantasies of newfangled spy equipment with UV and thermo-sensing capabilities and other things they imagine boffins in Siberian underground bunker lab facilities put into the ‘copter.

        • marknesop says:

          “Russia has a third option: Give Syria weaponry so powerful that nobody in it’s right mind will attack it.”

          How are they supposed to get it there? Fly it over, perhaps with Lavrov at the reins? And forget about building it there – you might recall an unpleasant incident in which a Russian cargo aircraft was recently detained in Turkey, ostensibly for “shipping ammunition to Syria” which probably turned out to be a box of distress flares or something like that. The USA and UK are so jumpy that the slightest pretext for an attack would be enough – it’s what they passionately desire, what they are looking for. A bevy of Russian nuclear scientists on a junket to Syria, toolboxes in hand, would stand out like a turd in a punch bowl. Not to mention radioactive material is somewhat difficult to transport without detection, and doubtless that is being watched for as well.

          You don’t seem to get it – Syria is doing nothing wrong. It is within its legal rights to act exactly as it is acting, to put down a domestic rebellion, and even calling it that ignores that the west is pumping jihadist mercenaries into Syria like poison and arming them into the bargain. All this is a matter of record. The very second Russia intervenes, openly and militarily, legitimacy for Syria flies out the window, and the west will pounce on it as an excuse to send in its own military. Why do you want to give them what they crave – the fig leaf of legitimacy? Do you think they will somehow bungle it? Blow the opportunity? They won’t – brutal military interventions are something the west does well, at least insofar as it wins, inelegantly or otherwise.

          There is a good chance Syria will go down, because its military can only fight so long without resupply, but bear in mind that the “victories” of the “rebels” are always exaggerated in the western press, whose narrative obviously dominates the English-speaking world. Of course they will say Assad is on the ropes, exhausted; it gives the “rebels” courage, and also encourages donors to keep pumping arms and money into the country in the hope of a breakthrough. They feel they must succeed, because they have already crossed the Rubicon by recognizing the hand-picked “transitional council” as the legitimate authority of Syria, just as they did in Libya. How foolish would they look if they had to re-recognize Assad? Nope, they’re in it to win it. And the very worst thing Russia could do right now would be to intervene militarily, and allow the west to claim they had to do it to wrest Syria from the hands of its evil dictator and the Red Menace that sought to back him up.

          The west must be held up as the villains they are in this play. Allowing them to pass themselves off as heroes would be the ultimate betrayal. If Syria is destroyed outside the rule of international law, international law is held up to be a farce, and in all subsequent actions in which Russia is criticized for lack of adherence to the rule of law, it can just laugh rudely and point to this example.

  21. Let’s take an example. Some tiny nation finds oil and wants to drill that, but lacks the knowledge and resources to do that. Rosneft and ExxonMobil offer them a deal. Rosneft’s deal is better for the country, but the country ends up choosing ExxonMobil. Why? They saw what happened in Libya and Syria. They know that by going with the Russians they will invite another islamic “uprising” and a “regime chance” to the country. So Rosneft is left without a lucrative contract because of fear of Western military interference and the knowledge of Russia’s inability to help it’s allies.

    • R.C. says:


      I understand your FEELING, but Russia really can’t do anymore than what it’s doing at present–and what they’re doing is following/respecting international law. Commiting it’s forces to Syria would invite disaster. It’s also dangerous because, as you know, NATO & Russia both possess thousands of nukes. Ask yourself: is Damascus really worth potentially losing Moscow, New York & London via nuclear retaliation? Russia no longer has the conventional military might to stand up to NATO, so such a move would leave Russia broken and isolated, just as Mark stated. Russia, China and the BRIC’s are working front and center to curb US dominance, but doing it through war would be disastrous.

      The US, NATO and their economies are GREATLY over-stretched and in collapse. You will soon see the end result of all the hubris and war-mongering the west has been waging around the globe since the fall of the Soviet Union. For example, look at how skillfully Russia rode out the econmoic crisis while Europe and America plunged into austerity. It’s more important that Russia employ the rule of law because they will then have the moral high-ground, eventhough the western MSM will always spin it otherwise.

      BTW, Georgia was a MUCH different situation because this was at their doorstep where Russian soldiers were killed. In that case, Russia did what any sovereign state would’ve done in that situation, but yet again, you had the western media spinning Russia as the “aggressors,” and even then you had kooks like John McCain screaming for military action against Russia–a suicidal proposition, as Russia definitely would not allow an attack against it’s territory by the US/NATO without massive nuclear retailiation. Naturally, Syria is different. I’m also a little skeptical of rebel “gains” and that Asssad will fall anyday now since the ‘rebels” are yet to capture a major city. They attack airports and bases but are unable to hold them, only to be run off by the Syrian army. They have no Benhazi type stronghold in the country, so all of this Assad “downfall” talk seems a bit premature to me. I could be wrong, but I don’t see the regime crumbling until they start losing major cities.

      • cartman says:

        Syria does have a 100,000 citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. Ukraine and Moldova do not care about their citizens as much as gaining favor, so some responsibility for intervention may fall into Russia’s lap. Syria could also see a de facto split, without any recognition at all.

        • marknesop says:

          I had not thought of that, but now you mention it, that could indeed be the outcome; a “free” Syria (run by al Qaeda rebels under Abdelhakim Belhaj) and a “Democratic Republic of Syria” under Assad or his successor. In such a case, the west would continue its efforts through its surrogates to overthrow the remaining non-compliant state, but this would realize two bonuses for Russia: it could continue to supply Syria – legitimately – with weaponry, while the west would have to continue to pour money it can ill afford into inveigling against it. The west is determined, but in every game there comes a point where the expense and effort are no longer worth going on. This effect is mitigated, unfortunately, because it is rich Arab sycophant nations who are kicking in most of the money and arms.

          Now that I think of it, that’s where Russia could do some real damage – by stoking unrest and regime change in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In Saudi Arabia, it’d stand a good chance of succeeding. It was only a couple of years ago Saudi Arabia went against the USA’s wishes and unilaterally started pumping an extra half-million barrels of oil a day because it needed the money for domestic handouts to mollify its restive population. And a revolution would smell right, too, because the Saudi monarchy is extremely repressive, especially toward women.

  22. Moscow Exile says:

    Well, according to the Guardian and other Western rags, that pompous twerp of a British Foreign Minister, Willliam Hague, has opted for the Tony Blair Iraq gambit, claiming that he has seen evidence of the Syrian government’s intention to use chemical weapons if necessary and has, therefore, begun to issue veiled threats against Syria.

    • It worked in Iraq. It gave them a causus belli for a war. Why not use the same tactic again if it works?

    • marknesop says:

      Change the record, Hague; this one’s getting old. If only the world’s masses interpreted this jingoism as the cynical contempt for their ignorance it is, instead of another noble call to arms. If only.

    • yalensis says:

      RT did a piece on Hague’s warning against Assad (“You better not use chemical weapons, boy”, I imagine Assad’s response is “What the f*** are you talking about?”), this piece resulted in some pretty hysterical comments from what I asume are British readers:

      Would you take your advice off an old soak like this? It’s no wonder he slurs a lot.
      Apart from that he is a barefaced liar and a failed politician. When the UK gov’t finally fall out with their EU neighbours we will find hague the vague on the ICC list. The UK people can’t wait to hand him, and others, over to them.

      Hague is a gay pedofile – he cannot leave little boys alone.

      I have evidence that Hague talks out of his a** –he opens his mouth.

      (And so on…)

      • Moscow Exile says:

        This is the 16-year-old William Hague speaking as a Young Conservative at the Conservative Party conference of 1977. Thatcher was reported then to have been in “raptures” over Hague’s speech:

        I remember that conference well: Hague was a little shit in 1977 and has developed into an even bigger little shit.

        In his adult years, having become a Conservative government minister, he boasted of his ability to drink 16 pints of bitter (highly hopped English beer normally served draught in pubs) a day when he was working as a driver’s mate delivering drinks from his dad’s lemonade factory to working men’s and miners’ clubs in Yorkshire, Hague’s home county. He said that after each delivery during his working day, he downed a pint.

        He was 16 at the time, so he was breaking the law: those who sold him the ale were breaking the law as well.

        I wonder how many he downed after having made his maiden party conference speech in 1977? Perhaps he had already had a wet before getting up onto the rostrum?

        Rumours have started going round that when Hague was Secretary of State for Wales he had the lid put on inquiries into a North Wales child abuse scandal that had allegedly involved certain Tory party grandees.

        This is what some no doubt British contributors to RT have been refering to in the article concerning Haig’s latest sabre rattling.

        • Misha says:

          He got an early jump on an ironic political path, given his selective approach on government intervention.

          Some foreign policy choices between the likes of Hague and Miliband.

        • yalensis says:

          So sad (I cry myself to sleep out of compassion), is obvious to everybody that young Hague was seduced and molested by a much older Maggie Thatcher. Such horrid and blatant sexual abuse turned the pitable lad into an alcoholic pedophile who lusts to bomb and conquer 3rd world countries. 16 pints a day, are you kidding me? His liver must look like a bloated wad of styrofoam after it’s been left out in the rain for 48 hours!

  23. Moscow Exile says:

    They had a march in the UK against Blair’s going to war in Iraq on his trumped up weapons of mass destruction charges and, unlike those much trumpeted in the West marches of “millions” in opposition to the present Russian “regime”, that “peace march” in London really was one of over a million people. And the British government took not one blind bit of notice of the mass protest. I don’t think the present pathetic bunch that makes up the British executive coud risk tagging onto US coat-tails again in like fashion in Syria as Blair’s govrnment did against Iraq: for one thing, the present British government is far less popular than Blair’s was after two years in office.

    • There is not really any risk for them because there is no country or a coalition in the world willing or able to do anything if they attack Syria. What were the consequences of the illegal invasion of Iraq for those people? Nothing. All of them are free men today. They can basically do what they want with inpunity.

      They are the undisputed rulers of the world until an opposing coalition powerful enough is formed to stop them. This coalition must have the ability and will to use military power.

      • Internal opposition in the West will never be strong enough to stop them either. They just don’t care because the wars are not fought at home and because the casualties are not that high.

        • R.C. says:

          I agree.

          The Libertarian editior of wrote a few days ago:

          “Having long ago ditched opposition to militarism and empire-building in favor of identity politics, much of the American left has been hornswoggled into supporting the Libyan and Syrian “revolutions,” in spite of — or, in some cases, because of — Washington’s backing. The Vietnam era peaceniks of yesteryear, who have long since joined the Democratic party and gone into real estate, are merely extending their do-gooding instincts internationally.”

          I sometimes wonder what happened to the “left” in the United States. Obama is so patently right wing in his policies, that this has left the Republican party with no where to go except the fringes—which they have done.. It’s absolutely jaw-dropping to see all the so-called “liberals” and “progressives” over at the Huffington Post advocating war – which they really LOVE, but only when a certain African American Democrat is doing it. It’s almost as if people in that country no longer have the capacity for independent thought or principles.

          • Dear RC,

            On this point I wholly agree with you and Karl. Here is a brilliant article on the betrayal of what passes in the west for “the Left” on this question by the dissident Belgian physicist Jean Bricmont that made a huge impression on me.


            • marknesop says:

              Thank God for cynics. Bricmont is of course absolutely correct that the western alliance has hit upon Responsibility To Protect, or “R2P” as the Harry Potter Cloak of Invisibility that will allow it to creep undetected past the tripwires of international law. Nonetheless, there is substantial evidence that this charm has lost its mojo; there were several instances already in Syria – Homs was probably the best example – in which a phony “massacre” exploded in the papers and the Greek chorus of intervention wailed “DO something!!! DO something NOW, and we can sort out the details later”. This, of course, is a tailor-made excuse for getting involved militarily in any capacity, after which mission creep will do the rest. And it failed. Every time.

              It is now unacknowledged common awareness that the west is “growing” the resistance in these countries, manufacturing its grievances, stoking outrage by fabricating tales of vicious crackdowns and trying for momentum with heart-wrenching human-interest stories of bakers and art students and bus drivers taking up arms against an evil despot. However, its contempt for the audience is revealed in its eagerness to repeat the production too soon after the last show, in Libya. Even the dullards are murmuring, “Hey; haven’t we heard this somewhere before?” And indeed, it was the same thing. Heartbreaking, really, because Gaddafi had made a lot of progress in Libya and the west destroyed it overnight; now it’s another failed state that will need constant handouts, support and policing not to deteriorate into tribal war. However, it at least served some purpose in functioning as a graphic reminder – this is what waits for Syria.

              • kirill says:

                The handouts will be tiny. NATO got its $600 billion of loot plus future oil production control and that was certainly a prize. In the case of Syria there is no oil and Assad likely has the money secured much better than was the case for Libya. The deciders could care less that Libya has been bankrupted and will be a failed state. The refugee flow control in the Mediterranean will be an extra boost to the EU GDP.

                But this “I don’t give a f*ck” arrogance will come back to bite them in the ass.

      • Dear Karl,

        They are not “the undisputed rulers of the world”. They cannot invade Russia or China or India or indeed many other countries and that’s their problem.

        • R.C. says:

          Right on Alexander………….

          And this very “problem” keeps people like John McCain and Hilary Clinton awake at Night. The only way they can directly harm Russia or China is by backing fifth columnists and assorted “dissidents” to sully Russia and China’s international reputation The problem is that most of the pro-western dissidents they back have very little support and ultimately do little more than anger the governments of Russia and China for meddling in their domestic political affairs. There’s nothing Hilary can do to stop a Eurasian union. Other than outright war, she’ll have to convince the countries involved in its creation why it’s in their interest to continue allowing the US Empire to bully and dictate the “rules of the game” to them.

  24. Misha says:

    Of possible interest, this article concerns how one country coped with the Soviet collapse and how some on the Western left have viewed it:

    More nationalist than Communist, as has been said over the course of several decades,.


    Forwarded to my attention, this piece makes mention of the opposition against the Russian Orthodox Church:

    Excerpted translation of V. Nikitin’s comments –

    “He also pointed out that many Communists are driven to reject the politics conducted by Zyuganov and other party leaders in regard to their implantation of Rusophilic sentiments and fraternization with the church, etc., while other leaders slowly, but surely are sliding onto nationalistic tracks.”

    Он также отметил, что у многих коммунистов вызывает неприятие та политика, которую проводит Зюганов и другие руководители партии “по насаждению русофильских настроений, по братанию с церковью и т.д.”. По его словам, Зюганов давно является ” открытым и агрессивным богостроителем”, а другие руководители “медленно, но верно сползают на националистические рельсы”.

    • So it looks as if Zyuganov has once again seen off his critics and his disastrous leadership of the KPRF is going to continue.

      That is the problem with Leninist “democratic centralism”. It makes it virtually impossible to remove a leader however ineffectual or incompetent he turns out to be. The Soviet Communist Party managed it only once when it got rid of Khrushchev in 1964. The Chinese Communist Party has never managed it. The French Communist Party clung on to the similarly disastrous George Marchais long after it had become obvious that because of his disastrous leadership its electoral support was collapsing. Democratic centralism was invented by Lenin to guide a revolutionary party that the tsarist authorities had banned. It works in revolutionary conditions when the leader is a genuine revolutionary and a political genius like Lenin, Stalin or Mao. It is wholly inappropriate for a party that engages in parliamentary politics in a system of open political competition.

      • Misha says:

        In the aforementioned News.Ru piece, Zyuganov is being chastised by some of the more ideoligically minded of folks for not being so critical of the Russian Orthodox Church and pro-Russian sentiment.

        One gets the impression that some if not most of these particular anti-Zyuganov views are sympathetic to the overly reported Pussy Riot stunt.

        Zyuganov can be reasonably criticized for a number of things. IMO, this particular criticism of him is more suspect.

      • yalensis says:

        Oi, so true! In a democratic-centralist party, just about the only way to get rid of an inadequate leader who clings to power, is to stage a factional split.

        • Jen says:

          This in fact was done to Kevin Rudd here in Australia before general elections in 2010. Once he lost the support of the majority of his Labor Party colleagues due to perceptions of his micro-managing / slave-driving leadership style, Julia Gillard mounted a leadership campaign and gained majority support in a caucus vote. Rudd was forced to resign the Labor Party leadership and with that, the position of Prime Minister.

  25. Suvorov says:

    I suppose the best way to summarize the above discussion would be with a quotation attributed to Benjamin Disraeli (no lover of Russia, btw):

    “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  26. I read perhaps on this website an article through a link that someone provided which I thought quite interesting but which I cannot now find (apologies to whoever it was who provided the link).

    This article suggests that there are now growing recriminations within the white ribbon opposition and debates about what went wrong. If the article is to be believed an increasing number of white ribbon oppositionists are now buying into Limonov’s argument that the opposition went wrong when it agreed to hold a legal rally at Bolotnaya Square on 10th December 2011 rather than take a revolutionary step such as for example putting the building of the Central Electoral Commission under siege. There has been particular venom directed at the individuals who agreed to the legal rally at Bolotnaya Square and conspiracy theories now seem to be running rife following the revelation that one of Medvedev’s senior aides attended the meeting between the opposition and the Moscow City Government at which the decision to hold the rally at Bolotnaya Square was agreed and apparently joined in a round of whisky with everyone present following the agreement.

    When the leaders of a protest movement engage in these sort of recriminations it is an infallible sign that even they have come to realise that their movement has failed.

    On this specific issue, what we see is a perfect example of an argument from hindsight. The revolutionary option never existed. The only reason why the white ribbon opposition briefly appeared to have momentum was because it was able to stage a rally at Bolotnaya Square on 10th December 2011 that attracted tens of thousands of people. If the white ribbon opposition had taken a revolutionary course and rejected an entirely reasonable offer of a legal rally at Bolotnaya Square only a few thousand people would have turned up at whatever alternative illegal meeting it decided to hold and the police would have quickly dispersed it. At that point the protest movement would have been over before it began. By now saying it was a mistake to hold a legal rally on Bolotnaya Square the white ribbon oppositionists who say it piss on the movement’s one achievement.

    • marknesop says:

      I remember the comment, too, and I’m pretty sure it was either Moscow Exile or Yalensis, but I can’t find it, either. In any case, you have reconstructed it quite well from memory.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Interfax, 12th December 2012: Limonov has suggested a “cleansing” of the opposition ranks.
        Moscow. December 7. INTERFAX.RU – The leader of the unregistered party “The Other Russia”, Eduard Limonov, said that it is imperative that the Russian opposition be rid of some people. “A cleaning of the ranks is imperative”, he said “It’s a question of about five or six people”, he told Interfax on Friday.

        According to him, the opposition needs to drive out those who agreed with the government to move the meeting of 10th December last year from Revolution Square to Bolotnaya Square.

        “If such a cleansing were to take place, then I would look at the supporters of the liberal opposition with greater affection. This would enable us to draw closer and overcome the split”, said Limonov.

        He did not go to the “march of millions” in late November and said he was not going to the “freedom march” which a part of the Russian opposition is to hold in Moscow on 15th December.

        “The mass protests began and ended on 10th December, 2011. All subsequent actions have had no purpose. They have all been permitted and are gestures of obedience towards the powers that be. I do not see any point in these actions: they have no influence whatsoever”, “Interfax” was earlier told by Limonov, who represents the left wing non-systemic opposition.


        • Moscow Exile says:

          Who might these “five or six” be, about whom Limonov is so critical?

          Now just let me think…

          • yalensis says:

            There’s a lot more than 5 or 6 a$$holes in the Opposition. Limonov himself is a Grade-A a$$hole, so who is he to judge the others?

        • marknesop says:

          Is Limonov by chance one of the opposition figures arguing for the rule of law in Russia? Oh, look; he is. But now his argument is that in order to be taken seriously, protesters must disobey the law. A novel position.

          Limonov is certainly a colourful character, to say the least. His papa was in the NKVD, and he himself once attracted the disparaging attention of Masha’s equally-Russophobic brother, Keith.

          I doubt very much the composition of the opposition is going to be substantially altered based on the advice of a hammerhead like Limonov, but it’s fun to imagine who he would eliminate. I would guess at a minimum that it would be Navalny – despite his occasional nationalist remarks, which would appeal to Limonov. Perhaps Sobchak. Not Udaltsov, though, who would probably be Limonov’s pick for leader. Navalny is most popular among western dissidents and their western backers, while his popularity with the domestic audience is greatly exaggerated. Sobchak would be perceived as a socialite elitist fluffhead who will fall apart at the first sign of real government pushback and who is far too conciliatory.

          I’m thinking of hiring myself out to the Russian opposition, because it is literally frightening to think how terrible they must have been at their previous careers, considering how they suck at their chosen one – politics – and have not the first clue how to go about it. You don’t have to be very politically aware to know that in a country in which the leader has done, all things considered, a reasonably good job with the economy, it would be a mistake to shout that he is evil and that all his policies reek of self interest, and that everything would change under your government. When things are going pretty well, people don’t want to think about a new government changing everything.

          Instead of their squalling and agitating, this is the speech they should be giving:

          “My friends; the President has done Russia a great service, for which the nation owes him its heartfelt gratitude. His economic policies have brought prosperity to many, although much remains to be done, and his firm stand in the international forum on Russia’s behalf has earned respect in some circles.

          However, his time is past, and the moment has arrived for new hands on the tiller of the ship of state. Mr. Putin is intensely disliked by most international leaders, which hampers his ability to advance Russia’s national interests in the world and places us at a disadvantage in trade relationships on the eve of our acceptance into the World Trade Organization. I am not interested in popularity with our western friends at the expense of integrity, and will not make concessions as your leader that would see Russia take a subordinate role – however, I think you will agree that it is now beyond the President’s capabilities to lead Russia into the next chapter of national power and influence.

          Not everything needs to change: I have studied the President’s policies over the years, and the remarkable work he has done for the nation’s economy will not be wasted. Some of the President’s ministers, particularly those who have consistently and successfully worked in Russia’s interests, will remain in their positions, and I look forward to working with them. It is in the arena of international relations that I intend to make changes, preserving a strong Russia that bows to nobody while offering a new approach to diplomacy that is firm but not hardheaded and stubborn; faults for which the President has been fairly criticized. Here my experience in (insert a bunch of bullshit about your education and whatever foreign experience you have; if you have none, embellish but stop short of lying) will prove an asset and, if you will permit me, an improvement on the old way of doing business.

          I ask for your help, not to build a new Russia, but to continue the improvements the President began but is now unable to progress further. I offer vigor, commitment and passion as well as a new and improved era in international relations. Will you help me?”

          They can have this one for free, but after that I’m going to start billing.

      • yalensis says:

        I think it was me, but I don’t remember the bit about them drinking whiskey.
        Whiskey? Really?

        • Dear Yalensis,

          It was whisky and moreover there was photograph of the bottle which showed it was Russian whisky.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Russian whisky?
            Ach, awa’ wi’ ye mon! :-)

            • marknesop says:

              I’d be interested to taste Russian whiskey, simply to assess the major influence on it. Canadian whiskey is a grain spirit, made from rye; much of American whiskey is bourbon, made from corn. The Japanese went to England to learn to make whiskey, and consequently theirs is a malt which tastes much like what we call Scotch; one of the most popular brands – Suntory – is almost indistinguishable from a good blend, such as Bells. Quite nice, I prefer Scotch myself, although I am not a purist and frequently drink it in a mixed drink, which would probably get me on some kind of Magnitsky list in Scotland. I’ve enjoyed Russian beer, vodka of course, and champagne, but I have never tasted Russian whiskey and imagined it to be not that popular.

          • marknesop says:

            Oops! I was confused, I’m afraid – I did remember reading it, but I thought it was here on this blog. In fact, it was not, it was here, on Global Voices. Ekho Moskvy’s Chief Editor, Alexey Venediktov, was the guy who supplied the whiskey that celebrated the agreement to transfer the protest to Bolotnaya from the more central (and closer to the Kremlin) Revolution Square. Medvedev’s Deputy Chief of Staff was also at the meeting. No mention of Navalny, who was really still pretty small potatoes until his fiery speech about taking the Kremlin. But I-am-so-a-real-revolutionary Vladimir Ryzhkov was there, as was Gennady Gudkov, although he now claims not to remember. That is a common affliction among political aspirants as well as long-serving politicians, I’m sorry to say, and it’s probably lucky they chose to do that instead of getting a paper route, as they might not be able to find their way back home every day due to short-term memory loss.

            Ho hum; another schism in the opposition. Unfortunately, not viewed with the same breathless excitement as the largely-imaginary “splits in the tandem” which pop up every week or so at The Power Vertical, and which keep Brian Whitmore employed if not flushed with joy of living each momentous day.

            • yalensis says:

              This is interesting, but not surprising. There are some among the “fiery revolutionaries” who accuse Opps leaders themselves of being Kremlin plants. I don’t know who is buying whom, but there is definitely a layer of Opps who are or used to be regular politicians. These are men who move about freely in both worlds (Kremlin politics and Opps).
              In fact, there are persistent rumors that Navalny enjoys “krysha” from none other than Medvedev himself. Medvedev is the guy to whom a lot of threads lead, within this tangled web.

            • yalensis says:

              P.S. I noticed on that same link, on the sidebar to the right, a pathetic story about this propaganda attempt to whip up support for Syrian “rebels” among the residents of Sofia, Bulgaria:


              This sounds to me like some of kind of NED project. I wonder, will they succeed in convincing the Bulgarian people that the Islamists and the TURKS are the good guys??
              Januarius MacGahan would be rolling over in his grave….


        • marknesop says:

          Maybe. Could you check the link again? It mentioned some of the protest leaders sitting down with city officials, and enjoying a drink. Yes, a bottle of whiskey was specifically mentioned and there was even a picture included, for everyone who does not know what a whiskey bottle looks like. But it is the fact that the protest leaders cooperated with city officials that turns Limonov’s teeth sideways; he seems to reckon they should have clubbed them all to death like baby seals, and then marched, steely of eye and firm of jaw, on the Kremlin itself.

          Guys like that love to claim the label “peaceful protesters” when John Law falls upon them and breaks some heads, but meanwhile he argues that peaceful protest is a whore’s protest; the dissident mooing of the cattle of the state. Revolution is built upon violence and disobedience. That’s why I think he and Udaltsov should get along well – they are kindred spirits. Udaltsov is just a little less crazy.

          • yalensis says:

            Recall that Navalny also tried to storm the Kremlin, along with about 10 other guys. The more cautious souls who balked at the outgate: Navalny cursed them and called them “sheep who got f*cked in the mouth!”
            Was Navalny physically courageous to do that stunt? Maybe. But I don’t think this foot soldier had a choice because his handlers (people like Givi and McFaul) had ordered him to go through with it and get himself either arrested or killed in the attempt. Right after that incident, Western propaganda specialists put out the meme that “Navalny entered prison in handcuffs, but he will emerge as the President of Russia.”
            Uh… that didn’t happen. But nice try, though.

            • marknesop says:

              I’m trying to think of a professional analogy for a lawyer who consistently and visibly breaks the law and encourages others to do so also. I got nothin’, but I imagine that those in other professions who so completely violate the ethics of their profession have a hard time putting food on the table. Perhaps that’s why he needs the support of the democratizers, and why he gets steadily more confrontational and mouthy. It’s probably better than reading boring law books all day, or writing living wills for ancient babushkas.

              • Dear Mark,

                Congratulations on finding the article, which is by your old sparring partner Kevin Rothrock.

                Just to say that the reason Navalny wasn’t present at the meeting was because at the time he was in detention following his arrest at the rally on 5th December 2011. I don’t know what role he has played in agreeing the venues of rallies since.

                On rereading the article there is something about it which I find extraordinary and that is the role of Venediktov. He is of course the chief editor of Moscow Echo and yet here we see him making the news upon which his radio station reports

                That Moscow Echo supports the opposition is of course no more than its right but if its chief editor is one of the opposition’s leaders then given the interest this gives it in the opposition’s success Moscow Echo owes it to its listeners to publicise the fact. This is of course similar to the conduct of the liberal journalists who attended and then reported on a demonstration in a way that upset Julia Ioffe.

                • PS: On the subject of Russian whisky, Anatoly Karlin wrote a post about the increase in whisky drinking in Russia. As I remember Moscow Exile made a pretty formidable contribution with a tale of someone he knew who distilled samogon that (almost) came to the standard of a Johnny Walker Black Label. As I said on the thread I don’t see why in time Russia should not make some pretty good whisky. It’s got all the right ingredients: good water, barley, grain and peat together with a long and expert distilling tradition.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Alexander Mercouris,
                  When next in Mother Russia you should try that Italian almond based liquor Amoretto. I remember how, in the ’90’s, those heady days of unfettered free enterprise whose passing is much lamented by many in the West, a Ministry of Booze or whatever report came out that stated that 90% of that liquor legally on sale in shops at that time was fake.

                  As I said in that comment I made earlier and to which you have referred above (or below or wherever), Russians are dab hands at making moonshine and passable copies of liquors and other alcoholic drinks. The fellow that knocked up a bottle of “Johnny Walker” for me was my ex-girl friend’s uncle. (I should add that he did this in only a matter of days!)

                  He was well known and very popular, for obvious reasons, in that part of Voronezh where I then lived. After having had a dramm of the real MacCoy that I’d fetched over from the UK, he told me that he could make it – and he did. My girl friend later told me that her uncle had invited me to take part in a degustation at his tiny Khrushchevka. What a night that was! His flat was an alcoholic Aladdin’s cave. He made a pretty good cognac as well.

                  One of the many Poles whom I worked with in the UK many years ago also made his own vodka. That was good stuff as well. Typical Pole that he was, though, he said he had been taught how to make samogon by Russians and blamed the introduction of vodka into Poland and its subsequent abuse there on Ivan, because, according to him, the Russsians used to part pay the workers there with booze. It was much later that I learnt that it was, in fact, the Poles that introduced vodka to Russia – or so the Russians told

                • marknesop says:

                  Yes, I drop by Global Voices from time to time, although more often rather than sparring with him I find myself defending Kevin’s reporting against La Russophobe, with whom he is consistently patient and polite. I am under no such constraints.

                  Kevin is a hard one to pin down. He’s very bright and has a good eye for detail, and he often picks up nuances and motivations others miss. When he was incognito as A Good treaty – during the time, I should mention, that he was working with Leon Aron – he seemed turned off by excessive Russophobia, and his was the defining narrative on the luncheon event (a benefit for sick children) at which Putin and Yuriy Shevchuk had a brief exchange which was pounced upon by the Russophobes (many, perhaps most of whom cannot speak or read Russian) as a shining moment in which Shevchuk spoke truth to power and bitch-slapped Putin into next week.

                  Kevin’s description of the event was measured and fair, and totally devoid of the ludicrous comparisons of Shevchuk to Bruce Springsteen which accompanied articles like La Russophobe’s on the same event. Springsteen always struck me as political more by accident than design, and reluctant to be partisan, while Shevchuk has made a career out of writing political songs. The Ukrainian-born Shevchuk and DDT were never anything like as big as Springsteen, and without taking anything away from Shevchuk – who is a talented artist in his own right – the comparison was just comical.

                  Anyway, the exchange which sparked such twittering excitement (before Twitter) in the blogosphere was the one in which Putin interrupted Shevchuk just as he was about to launch into full-on dissident mode, to ask, “Excuse me, what’s your name?” A shiver went through the ranks of the Russia-watching press, who whispered, “He hasn’t heard of Shevchuk!!!”.

                  The whole idea was patently ridiculous. For starters, is it necessary that in order to be taken seriously, every prospective Russian leader must be au courant on Shevchuk? But also, the photographs clearly showed that there were placecards in front of each guest which featured their name. Furthermore, Putin would have received a detailed briefing, just as he does prior to all public events, which would have included all the guests, name and bio. It is inconceivable an individual nobody knew would be seated just three place-settings away from the Russian president. As soon as he was invited to speak, Shevchuk stood and started to mick it up, without introducing himself: Putin’s interjection was a clear invitation for him to do so, and that it was understood as such was evident in Shevchuk’s response, unless his name is Yuriy Shevchuk Musician.

                  Amazingly, Kevin’s was about the only voice of sanity on the issue, as press luminaries and bloggers tumbled over each other in their eagerness to get the scoop on both Putin’s wooly-headed ignorance as well as Shevchuk’s dazzling political manifesto. I used Kevin’s material – although of course nobody knew who he was, then – as substantiation in my own refutations of the foolishness, that was back when I was just starting out.

                  Later, even before he “came out” as Kevin Rothrock, he got a bee in his bonnet about some of the Russian legal reforms and how they were a carefully-worded road map to repression and rigid control. For one thing, law by nature is about rigid control, and generally does not include codicils like “obey if it suits you”, but suffice it to say we began to disagree on things. Not always, although when we did he was much less patient with me than he is with La Russophobe, or Catherine Fitzpatrick on the occasions she showed up to blather on for several electronic reams. Maybe that’s a compliment; maybe he expects me to know better. Anyway, let’s say he is inconsistent; sometimes a reasonable defender of the Russian viewpoint, and sometimes not apparently interested in even looking at it. A bit of an enigma wrapped in an L.L. Bean shirt inside an establishment organization. But certainly not stupid.

                  It appeared from the article under discussion here that Venediktov probably came with the opposition leaders, although why he brought along a bottle of whiskey is a mystery. Perhaps there is a perfectly pedestrian explanation, such as he bought it for himself and was taking it home, but was inspired to crack it. Anyway, I got the impression that not even the opposition figures thought the compromise was such a big deal, and that it was just adults coming to a reasonable agreement; consequently, they were wrong-footed by the accusations of selling out and the cries for disobedient anarchy. Perhaps that was the first inkling, for some of them, that some people took the opposition role very, very seriously. For his part, Venediktov was likely just hanging out and hoping to get a story, although you notice he was not in any hurry to report his own role as drinks-all-’round facilitator of compromise with the ruthless jackboot state.

                • yalensis says:

                  Maybe Venediktov is simply a hopeless alcoholic cum extrovert, who is always looking for the opportunity for a bout of social drinking?

    • kirill says:

      What a collection of morons. They could only get the level of participation that they did by staging legal rallies. If they tried to pull a Limonov they would have had a few hundred “militants” running down the street chased by the cops.

      These people are certifiable. Adults should not engage in such silly make believe thinking. They have had a year already to see that there is no grass roots support for peaceful protests let alone violent ones.

  27. Misha says:

    A recent DC area event, which seems to downplay Tymoshenko and the the input of Kuzio and Motyl, while having some other preferred Western foreign policy establishment pundits like Aslund and Sherr:


    “The grand idea behind the Nov. 30- Dec. 1 gathering was not to discuss Ukraine’s problems, but rather to celebrate and promote the nation’s potential – the same potential that everyone has been talking about for 20 years, but which has never been realized.

    Despite the ambitious name, however, the event lacked high-profile leaders on both sides.
    The highest-ranking officials were two ambassadors – Ukraine’s Oleksandr Motsyk and America’s John Tefft. The head of Kyiv’s government, Oleksandr Popov, showed up.”

    But several ministers and Vladyslav Kaskiv, head of Ukraine’s investment agency, canceled their planned participation for the Nov. 30-Dec. 1 Leadership in a Global World conference.

    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko dropped by for a brief formal talk since he was in town anyway for bilateral meetings. His daughter, Oksana Gryshchenko, an adviser to Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko, unexpectedly appeared as a panelist on the energy topic.”


    According to the event’s program (listed at the above US-Ukraine link), there were some other high profile folks present besides Motsyk, Tefft, Popov and the two Gryshchenkosl.

    Sherr has previously lauded the Ukrainian government for not coming too close to Russia, while being critical of Tymoshenko’s internment.

    The stated “grand idea behind the Nov. 30- Dec. 1 gathering was not to discuss Ukraine’s problems, but rather to celebrate and promote the nation’s potential” is an arguably different way of perhaps saying that a certain reality has set in, which now tries to make the best of a situation, that’s by no means a tremendous loss to Western neocon-neolib preferences.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Most if not all of those whose names appear on the list will be held to be guilty before having beeen proven innocent I suppose, rather like many of the inmates of Guantanamo I should think.

      • Dear Moscow Exile,

        “….those whose names appear on the list will be held to be guilty before having been proved innocent”.

        You are absolutely right. Indeed this is such a grotesque reversal of the burden of proof then I am starting to wonder whether a Magnitsky law might actually be illegal especially in Europe where it might contravene Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights. That might explain why governments like the one in Britain may have shied away from copying it. Possibly they have been given legal advice that the Courts might strike it down. I am not enough of an expert in US constitutional law to be able to say whether the Magnitsky law could be challenged on the same grounds in the Supreme Court.

        Two points about the Moscow Times article:

        1. Of course (barring obligations under international treaties) a country is under no legal obligation to grant a visa to anyone it doesn’t want to. If the US government wants to prevent Russian officials from visiting the US or opening bank accounts or holding property nothing prevents it. What makes the Magnitsky law so offensive is precisely that it so violates the presumption of innocence. It is quite another matter when the US Congress passes a law declaring people guilty who have never been tried for anything.

        2. The Levada poll that says that 39% of Russians approve of the Magnitsky law is so counterintuitive that I strongly suspect that the result has been obtained by loading the question. As I said on the previous thread in connection to Levada’s claims concerning the supposed decline of Putin’s popularity I am finding it increasingly difficult to understand Levada’s interpretations of some of its results. The man who heads it is becoming an increasingly outspoken supporter of the liberal opposition and a critic of the government and thanks to the NGO law we now know that Levada is at least partially funded from the US. On this occasion I would not be surprised if the result has been obtained in order to lend force to the current propaganda campaign that the law is popular with Russians and is a “pro Russian” law.

        Russia can do all sorts of things in response to the Magnitsky law but far and away the best thing it can do is to conduct a proper trial to investigate Magnitsky’s allegations and to establish conclusively whether or not Magnitsky was a whistleblower as his supporters claim or a fraudster as the investigators say. It should do the same in relation to the circumstances of his death putting on proper trial anyone in any way guilty of causing it either through intention or negligence. Once courts have passed properly reasoned verdicts on these questions based on true facts and law the absurdity (and iniquity) of the Magnitsky law will become even more apparent. It is essential that this is done properly and fairly so despite the understandable wish to resolve this problem quickly it is better to take time on it.

        Lastly I should say that I agree with Eugene Ivanov (whose discussions of the Magnitsky law have been outstanding) that the Magnitsly law has nothing to do with Magnitsky and little to do with Browder and everything to do with US domestic politics. The US Congress had to repeal the Jackson Vanik Amendment once Russia joined the WTO but felt obliged for partisan and ideological reasons and for reasons of face to put something in its place. The result is this tawdry law, which violates one of the most fundamental rights the US pretends to uphold.

        • cartman says:

          Obama could just veto it, and he probably should since it clearly encroaches on his own powers and duties as President to conduct foreign policy. After all, how can the United States be taken seriously if the White House and Congress are both pretending to be in charge? Since his party overwhelmingly voted for it, I don’t think he has the spine to do it.

        • marknesop says:

          I would just add to that excellent summation that a Russian senatorial delegation has already tried to present evidence it is using in the Magnitsky case which they say proves he was involved in tax evasion on Browder’s behalf and was therefore liable to arrest. They were denied a meeting with Senator Cardin, originator of the Magnitsky bill, a spokesman for John McCain said the senator would review the material but “would not change his mind” – which begs the question why he would trouble himself to read it, and Prime Minister David Cameron likewise refused to even look at it.

          It is an understatement to suggest that’s not a very constructive attitude. What could it cost them to look at it? If it was all fabricated, they might have been able to discredit the evidence completely, thus lending weight of justice to the passage of the bill. Obviously, they will not look at it for other reasons, one of which might be that nobody will be able to claim later that they passed the bill despite being aware of exculpatory evidence.

          Interestingly for me, I did learn in researching the presentation of the evidence that both Hermitage Capital Management and Firestone Duncan were British firms; I had previously believed them both American, although I knew Browder was a British citizen (born American).

          • kirill says:

            These clowns clearly don’t understand that such an attitude will get them squat from Russia. They are throwing excrement wildly hoping it will stick and Russia will fall. They need to have their heads examined.

            Russia should play hardball with these haters. Russia does not need to suck up to the west to survive. But the west should learn that antagonizing it with such patently biased policies in some inane effort at blackmail has a price. The response should be to actively discriminate against US businesses in Russia.

            • marknesop says:

              “The response should be to actively discriminate against US businesses in Russia.”

              That would have been my first instinct as well, but I’m afraid that would be incredibly shortsighted and would afford only momentary satisfaction, like throwing something against the wall and breaking it when you’re really mad. Fortunately, Mr. Putin has a great deal more self-discipline than you and I have.

              On reflection, rather than having a blinding temper tantrum which would only confirm for a smug world what a hotheaded bunch of reactionary savages Russians are, a much more elegant solution would be to partner even more closely with existing American businesses in Russia, and to safeguard and maximize their profits to the extent it did not hurt competing Russian businesses (which in pretty much every case could be avoided)…but to refuse all further applications except in rare cases where no other foreign source could be found, and to give the selection of competing foreign firms broad publication while being sure to mention that this or that American firm had competed but had been rejected in favour of the successful firm.

              Nothing would chafe like seeing a few American firms reaping record profits, while others were left out in the cold despite there being no reason for their refusal except that their application came after the passage of the Magnitsky Law. The implication would be plain, but Russia cannot be forced – even by WTO law – to engage American businesses as long as other foreign competition offers a more favourable bid or there are verifiable reasons for selecting another company. This could be negotiated in the blind, directly with the company: “Listen, Hans, your bid is going to have to come down a little, not much but a little, in order to get under the American bid”. That, of course, would be illegal, and if Russian officials chose that path they would have to be extremely careful not to be caught or betrayed or set up. But it’s doable, and would be a very effective punishment while simply kicking all American businesses out would provoke a western counteraction, plus would let the west adopt its cherished mantle of righteousness.

              Russians want foreign goods, and Russian trade needs foreign partners. Why not let existing U.S. companies flourish and prosper, and serve Russian demand? Especially when the prosperity of those companies would serve as a constant goad and irritant to those companies who could not get a foot in the door?

              If you need an example, look at Renaissance Capital, Hermitage Capital Management’s chief rival. Renaissance has not been threatened with being expelled from Russia, enjoys good relations (to the best of my knowledge) with the Russian business community, and has posted enviable profits – even more so since Hermitage’s impromptu expulsion. Browder well knows that could be him and his company, but that he will not ever get a piece of that action again. Does it bother him? I guess it does – he is constantly bad-mouthing and agitating against Renaissance Capital, and insinuating they are in collusion with the Russian government. Did he ever do that before Hermitage got kicked out? No, he didn’t.

              • kirill says:

                Good idea and it achieves the same net effect of squeezing the Yankees where they are most sensitive. You are right, Putin isn’t going to throw a tantrum. He is continuously having to deal with western provocations and manages to keep Russia engaged with the world.

        • AK says:

          The Levada poll that says that 39% of Russians approve of the Magnitsky law is so counterintuitive that I strongly suspect that the result has been obtained by loading the question.


          Целиком положительно
          Скорее положительно
          Скорее отрицательно
          Резко отрицательно
          затрудняюсь ответить

          –> How do you relate to the law banning the entry into the US/blocking of bank accounts of Russian bureaucrats involved in the death of Sergey Magnitsky and violations of human rights in Russia (“The Magnitsky List”).

          Wholly positive – 16%, sooner positive – 23%, sooner negative – 11%, wholly negative – 3%, not answered – 48%.

          • Gosh thanks Anatoly!

            In my opinion this is a loaded question. It treats as fact that those affected are persons who were involved in Magnitsky’s death and who violate human rights. The way in which the question is made doubtless partly explains why so many – 48% – did not answer it.

            Overall I continue to think that Levada is the best and the most reliable polling agency working in Russia. However I am going to be increasingly careful about what it says in future.

            • AK says:

              I agree that it’s a loaded question.

              If flat out states that said Russian bureaucrats are guilty of HR violations and the death of Magnitsky. Whereas in reality it’s a set of accusations leveled against shady fellows by another bunch of shady fellows.

          • marknesop says:

            It is still possible to skew the results by sampling a group that is known to have a certain opinion – in the case of the USA, by disproportionately sampling heavily Democratic or Republican states, for example. I’m not saying that’s what happened, and I can’t even imagine how you could selectively sample the opposition, since they presumably do not all live in the same district. But I agree with Alex that the offered result is counter-intuitive; how could Russians possibly view positively a ban on travel of some 60 people supposedly associated with Magnitsky’s death, and the power to seize their assets abroad? Did it take 60 people to kill him? If not, how many are lumped in because they happen to be part of the system that allegedly had something to do with his death? And if that were the case, why not indict the entire Russian medical system? How could Russians approve of such a list without even knowing whose names appear on it? Unless, of course, the story that Sergei Magnitsky was a tax lawyer and whistleblower who discovered a massive tax fraud by the Russian government, and who was killed as a result of a massive government conspiracy to keep him silent – after he had already spent a year in detention – has broad credibility with the domestic audience. And I’ve never seen anything to suggest that is so.

        • yalensis says:

          Dear Alexander: I don’t know if the Levada poll is accurate or not, but I do know that at last some otherwise patriotic Russians support it, out of a mistaken belief that it is willy-nilly directed against oligarchs and corrupt Russian politicians. There is a belief that Matnitsky Law will force Russian politicians to keep their assets and loyalties within Russia instead of stashing their loot abroad. This might explain why the number supporting it might be as high as 39% (although I doubt that). The number of Russian citizens who are actively pro-American and anti-Russian is much less than that, more like only 5%.
          As to whether Magnitsky could be challenged in American Supreme Court, I think it could, but it is an arduous and low-probability process. First somebody who is an American citizen must present a complaint in a lower court and try to prove that they were harmed by this law. Then the complaint would need to wend its way up through courts and appeals. Eventually, after about 5 years, Supreme Court would have to agree to hear the case, and then 5 out of 9 judges would have to agree to strike down the law.
          Highly dubious.

          • Dear Yalensis.

            Thanks for this.

            I am afraid I am very ignorant of procedure in the Supreme Court. I was under the impression that the appeal process could be bypassed in certain cases (of which the Magnitsky case might be one) by applying for judicial review. However I am not sure of this. Also the US constitution seems to limit the rights it gives to persons living in the US or who are citizens of the US so I am not sure whether the right of due process which is set out in the 5th, 6th and 14th amendments can be invoked by Russian citizens in Russia. However I suppose it might be possible to argue that the Magnitsky law simply by virtue of the fact that it denies due process is simply unconstitutional in that which case presumably any US citizen even one with no connection to Russia could complain about it to the Supreme Court. It’s a tricky business and I simply don’t have the necessary knowledge to discuss it. Realistically, is it going to happen?

            On the Levada poll, as I have said already it does look to me like a loaded question largely for the reason that you say in that it supports without qualification an interpretation of the Magnitsky law which many people may hold but which is controversial and arguably wrong.

            • yalensis says:

              Dear Alexander: The whole Magnitsky/Browder case is very complicated. It takes intellects like yours and kovane to try to explain it, and other intellects to try to understand it. Hand it to the Americans that this is a very clever gambit, overall. One worthy of a true chess grandmaster. (Maybe Kasparov thought it up for them?)
              Anyhow, most Russians have not taken the time to read kovane’s article, or studied this in any way. They can’t see the deeper issues, or how this is a threat to Russian sovereignty that could affect their own lives in the future. They are approached by a pollster who asks them if they want to see corrupt murderers punished and stop them from looting Russian property any more, and they respond, “Of course I support that!”
              I have also read a lot of comments on blogs in which otherwise patriotic Russians express the thought that Magnitsky is an inadvertently good thing for Russia and will ultimately benefit Putin, in his struggle against oligarchs who hide their capital abroad. Like, it will force them to re-invest in Russia. I find that dubious, but it just goes to explaining people’s motivations. Actually, I have talked myself into thinking that 39% is remarkably low level of support for the Magnity Law, given all these factors that I just listed.

    • AM says:

      Why do you care if those guys are guilty or innocent? If they hold assets in the west there’s high probability that it come from corruption/stealing taxpayers money. So what if Magnitsky stole anything, he’s dead and these guys are free. Putin wanted similar thing, to forbid them to hold assets in the West, but we know now that this is never going to happen… the opposition was to strong even for Putin.
      Let them sit in Russia. Maybe then the anti-corruption campaign will catch up with them.

      • Dear AM.

        I have no problem with Russian officials being prevented from having accounts in the west. As I have said already, if the US wants to do it that’s fine and as it already has the power to do it it should just do it there being no need for another law. What I do object to is people being declared guilty before they’ve been convicted of anything and had a chance to prove themselves innocent. I care about that because I believe in due process and the rule of law.

        • AM says:

          I’m not a lawyer but I thought Americans (and other nations) are allowed to forbid whoever they want to come to their country on the grounds they deem suitable?

          • Dear AM.

            “I thought Americans are allowed to forbid whoever they want to come to their country”

            Of course they are! Read my comment (and Moscow Exile’s comment) above carefully. The question of the denial of visas or entry permission is a complete red herring since this is a power which as a sovereign state the US already has and which does not require a law passed by the US Congress for the US to exercise.

            What is wrong about the Magnitsky law is not that it prevents certain people from entering the US or from having accounts there but that it declares them guilty of crimes for which they have never been convicted by a court of law and for which until they are so convicted they must be presumed innocent.

            • AM says:


              I understand that, but I though there are more people who are forbidden to enter without necessarily due judicial process declaring them guilty of something (terrorists suspects, extremists, people deemed to engage in human right abuses from other countries… Magnitsky act was even considered for a while to apply global – not only to Russians). I might be wrong but this was my impression…
              And then, there has to be a pretext not to let somebody in.
              Russia should “symbolically” ban US human rights abusers, this would be fair.

              • Dear AM,

                In principle a government needs no pretext to deny someone a visa and needs to give no reason for refusing to give one. What you are probably thinking of is that quite often governments pass legislation saying how they will administer the grant or refusal of visas. This is done to give guidance to the border officials who have to deal with these questions. If someone is denied a visa contrary to the policies set out in the legislation he or she may in theory bring a claim for judicial review of the decision to refuse a visa in the court. However in practice all such legislation I have heard of gives the government wide discretionary powers to refuse to give visas to persons it considers undesirable without giving particular reasons so this right exists more in theory than in practice.

                • AK says:

                  The US has denied visas to a number of journalists in the past decade, there was no big outcry over that (not anywhere near what happened when Luke Harding got a temporary boot).

              • marknesop says:

                I believe the Magnitsky List is still being considered for expansion to other countries who are accused of being human-rights abusers. But since the list is secret and very few actually know who’s on it, American authorities could turn just about anyone away anyway, saying they were “on the list”; much like the infamous no-fly list, for which few even knew the criteria for getting on it and from which you could not get your name removed once you were on it, even if you could prove it was a mistake.

                Russia has said it will act in reprisal and that it will ban American officials it considers meet whatever criteria will dictate their listing. Like the Magnitsky list itself, it is mostly symbolic, as probably all those Americans will say “So what? I don’t want to go to Russia, and have no plans of ever going there”.

                A better reprisal would be the provision, if there is one, to seize the assets in Russia of American businessmen. But as I suggested earlier, it would be much more satisfying in a Machiavellian way to encourage success for American businesses in Russia pre-Magnitsky, but allow no more.

                • AM says:

                  And why on earth would you be denying American businessmen (who are not American officials) entry to Russia? People who actually want to invest here. Luckily Kremlin officials are not that stupid.

                • marknesop says:

                  Because the business community effectively runs the United States government, and has a marvelous way of making things happen when it is upset about being denied market share and opportunities for profit, through lobbying and pressure. A Russian ban purely of U.S. government officials would be largely symbolic, and the subject of scornful mockery in the U.S., where there are probably less than a half-dozen officials who really do need to travel to Russia, like the President and the Secretary of State. And they would doubtless be granted an exemption, just as Putin would – I doubt he’s on the Magnitsky list, although the USA keeps it a secret so they can use implication.

                  Squeezing the business community would have a real effect, especially with the announced intention to spend billions over the next decade on infrastructure improvements – plenty of money to be made there, for somebody. And Americans are good at infrastructure. Although at present America is a negligible investor in Russia compared with Europe, there are a surprising number of American businesses there already.

                  But I’m sure you have a better idea.

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear AM: It’s not that Russia would actually want to ban innocent and well-meaning American businessman. It would just be a mechanical tit-for-tat type move. For example, in the spy world: If one of your spies was outed and expelled by the other side (say, he was posing as a diplomat), then you have no choice except to expel one of their diplomats in reprisal, even if you knew he wasn’t a spy. You try to do symmetrical harm, even if unfair. It’s just part of the game. It’s called “deterrence”.
                  Unfortunately, it is true in this case that Russia does not have an adequate symmetrical response to Magnitsky Law, since there are not as many Americans who want to go to Russia, as Russians who want to go to America. So, in a circumstance like that, you just have to put on your thinking cap and try to come up SOMETHING in the way of payback, no matter how lame…

                • marknesop says:

                  But the beauty of having an energy-dominated economy, as the energy producer, is that so long as America relies on petroleum products for its energy – and it will for time immemorial if Exxon-Mobil and Chevron-Texaco and Conoco-Phillips have anything to say about it – America cannot retaliate in kind. It could limit the ingress of Russian businessmen…whoopty doo. But oil is an internationally-traded commodity, stateless and without origin. The regulatory effort to ensure none of it came from Russia would not only be stupendous and prohibitively expensive, it would have the immediate effect of driving oil prices higher. Ooooo….hurt me.

                • AK says:

                  On this occasion I agree with AM. Wantonly banning US businessmen from Russia is a classic case of cutting off the nose to spite the face.

                  I am not even talking of “fairness” but practicalities. A business community that is deeply invested into a country effectively becomes a lobby pushing for its interests there and that almost always translates into a demand for better relations. China is a classic example of this which isn’t criticized anywhere near as much as Russia even though it is an even bigger geopolitical adversary of the US and actually authoritarian, not just quasi-authoritarian like Russia.

                • marknesop says:

                  I said nothing about wantonly banning U.S. businessmen; in fact, I said existing U.S. businesses should be coddled so as to safeguard their profit. I also said no new U.S. companies should be allowed after the passing of the Magnitsky Law, unless they made a product Russia could not get anywhere else. There’s nothing to stop Russia from allowing European companies to set up shop, and they can make more or less anything U.S. companies can make, especially since the latter outsourced much of its manufacturing. There would be no overt discrimination – which would fall afoul of WTO rules – and American companies would be allowed to compete. There would simply be a policy that they would not be selected, and other international companies would be selected instead. There is nothing illegal about it unless the complainant can point to something in writing which mandates discriminatory practices. Russian officials could negotiate on the sly to ensure the preferred company’s bid came in under the American bid. Sure, it’s unethical, but the terms of the Magnitsky Law are constitutionally illegal, and Americans had no problem with that.

                  There is something, certainly, to what you say about companies invested in a country protecting their interests there and becoming a lobby for better relations – however, that function could be filled by American companies already there, while I believe companies remaining in the U.S. who were “frozen out” would constitute an even more energetic and effective lobby. And this belief is supported by the efforts of the American business community to stop the Magnitsky Law from passing or being included with the trade bill. I mostly agree with Eric Kraus’s position from this discussion, and note with interest that there is pressure to widen the Magnitsky Law so that “it becomes possible to punish those Russian government officials who may be responsible for persecuting the political opposition in Russia, including the leaders of Russia’s protest movement, such as Alexei Navalny.” It’s difficult to imagine a more egregious example of interference in another country’s national affairs, although I doubt such a modification would ever pass.

                  Let me be clear; I’m not advocating this, which is just an idle exercise anyway since Russia is unlikely to do anything like it, as a “best practice” for the conduct of international trade. I am advocating it specifically as a means of punishing America for ginning up and passing the ridiculously discriminatory Magnitsky Act. And a stupid visa ban on people who likely have no interest in traveling to Russia anyway is not going to cut it; it will probably provoke more mirth and ridicule in the USA than anything else. This plan would hurt, and it would hurt immediately, when juicy infrastructure contracts worth billions – expected to be enacted in the next 5 to 10 years – went to European and other international companies and no American companies got past the bidding process. Provided equal-or-better quality products and services could be bought from European companies – and I have included a specific allowance for taking on American investors in the rare cases they cannot – I see nothing impractical about it.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Funny thing is, should I wish to travel there, I may be denied admission to the United States, as is anyone with a criminal record, even for a minor offence.

              After visiting Eurodisney near Paris early last month, my children have been asking me if we can go to Disneyland in Florida next year. “Sorry kids”, I tell them, “they won’t let your dad into the US because he used to be a pirate”.

              Anyway, my possible refusal of admittance to the USA would save me a whole lot of money! :-)

              • marknesop says:

                A likely story – there are pirates in Disneyland, I’ve seen them.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  They are nice, kind, Disney pirates: I was a baddy.

                • marknesop says:

                  Couldn’t you tell them you’ve changed? America loves a story of repentance and atonement, especially from a pirate. You might even get your own reality show. Better strike before the hotness of the pirate theme which peaked with “On Stranger Tides” has passed away altogether, as the next hot thing is likely to be Cable-TV Repairmen who are secret cross-dressers, or something. Much harder to fake.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  As regards my possible barring of entry to the USA, Marknesop stated: “America loves a story of repentance and atonement” and asked if I couldn’t tell them that I had changed.

                  I’ve got a better tale of repentance that I could spill to the USA powers that be, and which would not only guarantee my entry to the Great Public, but also permanent residence in and citizenship of the Home of the Brave; it is an idea that I have been toying with for quite a while, considering that I am already of retirement age: I could tell them that I’m a reformed Kremlin Stooge and that having lived in the Evil Empire for 20 years, I now recognize the error of my ways together with the criminally corrupt nature of the regime and the the crackdown on dissent in Russia, together with the abuse of human rights there and the liquidation of political opponents, the murder of investigative journalists, the demographic crisis, the drunkenness etc., etc….

                  Oh what a tell I could tell, though I should always keep in mind Scott’s wise advice:

                  Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!

                • marknesop says:

                  And you would have been schooled for years by the best; tutors like Yulia Latynina and Lyudmila Alekseeva. That kind of education doesn’t come cheap. Well, it does, actually; it’s free, but you know what I mean.

                • Dear Yalensis,

                  The nature of fraud is that it is a very tangled web. One needs a clear head and lots of patience to untangle the threads in the way Kovane did it in the articles. That is why fraud cases take so long. There is still ongoing Enron litigation as we speak. However in my experience once the threads are untangled the nature of the fraud suddenly looks pretty clear.

                  The other thing to say about fraudsters (Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky being outstanding examples) is that they set out to confuse by distorting facts and inventing new ones to throw investigators and the public off the scent. In this they trade on the fact that when people are offered a choice between a lurid version of the truth and a simple one they almost always prefer the lurid one especially if it fits in with their preconceptions. That is why one should never trust anything fraudsters say and should be extremely careful before believing any “facts” or stories that can be shown to have their origins with them. Nothing so far has been proved against Browder but if it turns out he is a fraudster as the Russian authorities say then the rumour mill that’s been humming away in London grinding out stories over the last few days the one more improbable than the the other all supposedly in connection with the Surrey “murder” would be another example

                  PS:The basic story about the dead Russian businessman is that he is a gangster who was part of the gang that supposedly stole the companies from Hermitage Capital but that he had a falling out with the other members of the gang and fled to London where he turned informer on his buddies and handed over various incriminating papers to the Swiss police and to Browder. His former buddies therefore somehow arranged to have him murdered with a secret poison presumably to stop him squealing further and out of a desire for revenge.

                  This story reads like something out of a thriller and precisely for that reason I am extremely skeptical of it. It looks to me more like the invention of someone’s imagination than real life. Real life just isn’t like this. What sort of incriminating papers would a gang keep about itself that would prove that its members were guilty of conspiracy and robbery? How did this person get his hands on these papers? I am not going to even discuss the sheer improbability and extraordinary difficulties involved in murdering someone with a secret poison. Besides if the man was a criminal why assume anything he might have said was true? The Russian authorities say this individual had no connection to the Magnitsky case whatsoever and frankly that seems at this stage inherently more likely.

                  However if the story is an invention and is proved to be one when the toxicology tests come through then it will still have served its purpose in that it will have kept Browder’s version of the Magnitsky affair in the headlines at the same time as the Magnitsky law was passed.

                • marknesop says:

                  Not to mention that the reporters are Luke Harding and Miriam Elder. The story wants only for the addition of Julia Ioffe to make it a complete porridge of non-facts and wild suppositions.

                  The single salient fact is offered up front – the individual was found dead, in jogging togs, outside his home in the street, and nobody knows what killed him. All the KGB poisoned umbrellas and polonium-sent-by-email-flavoured nuthouse suppositions are just that; suppositions offered by individuals who have a vested interest in portraying Russia as a nation of glowering murderers and its state apparatus as a hooded executioner.

  28. There’s been a rather interesting development in the Magnitsky case.

    The Guardian has published another article co authored by Luke Harding amongst others about the recent death of the Russian businessman in Surrey.

    This is a rather confused article and it is not easy to make much sense of it or to grasp the implications of what it says. However if you examine the article carefully it is clear that Browder has made allegations against various people in Britain of involvement in the fraud he says Russian gangsters and police perpetrated on Hermitage Capital. The article however makes clear that the British police on examining these allegations found no evidence of wrongdoing by anyone in Britain.

    In other words the British police, like investigators in Russia, have rejected claims Browder has made against others. I wonder whether the British businessman named in the article is going to bring a defamation claim against Browder and the Guardian. If so that will be a case to follow.

    • marknesop says:

      My view on Russophobia has undergone a sea change of late. I used to think the most hysterically Russophobic people were Americans, but the Russophobic elements in the USA – with the exceptions of thalidomide poisoning cases like La Russophobe – are Russophobic through pragmatism, and gratuitously criticize Russia for economic or political reasons. The most hysterically Russophobic people are the British.

      • kirill says:

        Which is quite bizarre. There is no history of direct conflict between Russia and the UK. Crimea was an imperial adventure so the British can hardly be bitter with resentment over it. Same goes for any other colonial encounter, of which I can’t really think of any. Do the British resent the role of communism in breaking up its empire (via liberation movements in African colonies,etc)? That is a rather stretched excuse for a grudge since it wasn’t like Russians were rolling into Kenya and elsewhere and pushing the British out.

        • marknesop says:

          It is bizarre, but I put it down to the lascivious and florid nature of the British press – it’s not enough to just report a story, you have to sex it up a little, make the reader really feel he’s getting fair value for his attention. But it often makes me laugh to see someone like Hague or Cameron holding forth about Russian empire-building and subjugation of those it would colonize and exploit. Tell that to the Indians, the Africans and the Singaporeans. England’s own history is red in tooth and claw when it comes to empire-building.

          • yalensis says:

            England’s own history is red in tooth and claw when it comes to empire-building.

            Not to mention piracy. Initial accumulation of capital via piratic theft. Sir Walter Raleigh and all that? (Ties Mark’s comment back to thread in which MoscowExile becomes a reformed pirate.)

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Piracy is a long tradition amongst natives of offshore islands. I had a lovely Chinese colleague once (Chinese-Russian) who told me that her Chinese grandma and grandpa always maintained that the Japanese were only Chinese pirates that had interbred with other Pacific Islanders. Furthermore, piracy has often been legitimized by various states: England/UK is not the only state that has issued “Letters of Marque” and employed privateers against its enemies.

              People often forget that the population of England 500 years ago was only about 4 million and that only the Englishmen spoke English then. Englishmen and their tongue in Shakespeare’s time were like Estonians and their tongue now. So before the industrial revolution, apart from raising sheep and exporting wool and doing some fishing, piracy
              was a nice little earner for “Misty Albion”.

              Aaargh me lads! There’s the truth of it. Now where’s me grog!

              • Jen says:

                The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story about the Chinese woman pirate Madame Ching who commanded a fleet of over 1,500 ships and some 50,000 souls (men, women, children) from Macau to Guangzhou, taking in the Pearl River delta and quite a few offshore islands and peninsulas, no doubt including the one that became Hong Kong, from 1807 to 1810. The Qing Chinese navy and the Portuguese and British bounty hunters it hired couldn’t defeat or capture her so instead the Qing govt offered the lady an amnesty in 1810 which she took. As part of the amnesty, Ching surrendered about 130 men to the govt (they were executed) and she and all her other pirates received pardons and money. Ching then opened a casino with her payment and married her second-in-charge, her first husband having died in 1807. She died a rich woman in 1844. Not bad for someone who started out as a teenage prostitute in a brothel!

                I’m aware that in the dim mists of time Japan received cultural influences from Taiwan and points further south via the Ryukyu Islands and some modern Japanese actually look more like southern Chinese folks than like northern Chinese but I’ve never heard that pirate origin story before.

                • AK says:

                  I don’t believe there’s any indication in the genetic record that Japanese are actually Chinese. Sounds like something a crazy Chinese nationalist would claim. :)

                  The piracy part is quite real though. It especially flourished after the Ming Dynasty gave up on having a strong navy to focus their attentions on the army and repelling northern barbarians. This left the door wide for Japanese pirates to raid coastal towns and even mount expeditions down the Yangtze.

              • yalensis says:

                Aaargh ye scurvaceous scalliwag, I’ll keel-haul ye ere I’ll give ye any of me precious grog!

  29. Moscow Exile says:

    James Bond has a lot to answer for this British antipathy to all things Russian. He’s the average UK citizen’s version of Captain America. I remember “From Russia With Love” being a big box office hit and the enemy in that film was SMERSH. The KGB were clearly subhuman in that film – especially their female controller, played by Austrian Lotte Lenya of “Mac the Knife” fame and wife of Kurt Weil, who had a final set-to with Bond and fought really dirty with a concealed, poison-tipped flick knife in the toecap of one of her shoes.

    Such scenes leave lasting and deep impressions on dickheads.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes…..more of a sort of dimple, really.

    • Misha says:

      A book on the subject:

      It has been noted that among 19th century Brits, there was the concerns of Rusisans becoming engaged in India and Africa – things that were simply not on Russia’s radar of primary imperial interest at that point in time. Yet, the Russians are the ones who tend to get hyped as “paranoid”.

      The Japanese were British propped in part to offset Russian influence in Asia. On the left, Marx wasn’t a fan of Russia. Offhand, his views of Russia probably influenced some on the British left as well as elsewhere among the Western left. This mindset includes the emphasis of the Russian character screwing up a good idea, regarding what happened in Russia after 1917.

      Keeping in mind that there’re reasoned Brits, who I’ve had the pleasure of coming across over the years. Britain has been known as a historically Machiavellian power – the Britain not having allies but interests bit. As such, it has had differences with others including the French and Germans and for a good period the US.

      There’s a basis to believe that a generally changed attitude can eventually occur at some point.

      In North America, anti-Russian sentiment is very much influenced by some folks of non-Russian eastern and central European backgrounds, with definite slants, which aren’t always accurate/evenhanded. Pro-Russian advocacy in the West remains hindered by either not having great clout/money and/or the lavochka scenario, where a given clique is interested in only promoting along crony lines, as opposed to better assisting folks who substantively offer a difference making analytical insight that tends to get downplayed at the more high profile of venues.

    • Misha says:

      Regarding James Bond, I used to think that American Edgar Rice Burroughs was a Brit, based on the two Russian bad guys he portrays in his Tarzan book series. The aforementioned Russians are depicted as doing mischief making in Africa, which plays well to the previously mentioned (in my last set of comments at this thread) concern about pre-Soviet Russia having imperial designs on Africa.

      Towards the end of the 19th century, Britian and the US start seeing more eye to eye on geopolitical issues – thereby leading some to view the US as a kind of successor to Britain’s influence and interests.

      • On the subject of James Bond the early books (Casino Royale, From Russia with Love. Goldfinger etc) are Russophobic to the point of sickness reflecting Ian Fleming’s extreme right wing and Russophobic views. However Broccoli who was responsible for the films was unhappy with this and made a deliberate decision to make the secret criminal organisation SPECTRE James Bond’s enemy rather the Russians and SMERSH. Thus in the book of From Russia with Love the enemy is SMERSH but in the film the enemy is SPECTRE, which is playing the Russians and the British off against each other. In the book Goldfinger the villain Goldfinger is a SMERSH agent. In the film Goldfinger appears to be operating on his own though with some help from the Chinese (who provide him with a nuclear bomb).

        British thrillers and spy stories are generally speaking extremely Russophobic though in my opinion they are more a symptom of the pervasive Russophobia in British life than a cause of it (though some thrillers were undoubtedly sponsored behind the scenes by MI5 and MI6). However in my opinion the James Bond films are an outstanding and unusual exception as by the way are the spy novels of John Le Carre and Graham Greene, which function at a level of moral ambiguity rather than Russophobia.

        • Misha says:

          I recall some anti-Russian leaning post-Soviet commentary from Le Carre.

          • Dear Misha,

            You are absolutely right. One of the strange things about Le Carre is that he has become much more anti Russian since the USSR ceased to exist. He is a very strong supporter of the Chechen rebel movement for example.

            I do not know Le Carre’s politics but I strongly suspect that he is one of those (quite numerous) Left inclined people who were prepared to give the USSR the benefit of a doubt they never extend to Russia.

            • Misha says:


              I recall a pro-Georgian nationalist leaning position of his regarding the two disputed former Georgian SSR territories.

              On the subject of the former Georgian SSR:



              “The same holds for the main conflict involving the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Tbilisi realizes that there is nothing to discuss at present; one must accept the status quo as a given and try to sidestep the topic. At the same time, it hopes to see at least some changes in Russia’s position on the matter.”


              A Russian change on the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia isn’t likely in the foreseeable future. Despite a lingering major difference, mainland China and Taiwan have (over the years) improved their business and people to people ties. A somewhat similar scenario might very well become evident regarding Russian-Georgian relations.

              The recent Erdogan-Putin meeting highlights how the Russian government can put aside some differences, while simultaneously seeking to foster better ties with a given nation.

              On the matter of staying the course on an internationally unpopular diplomatic move, note Turkey’s ongoing lone position in recognizing the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.

              Related article:


              • marknesop says:

                The likelihood of South Ossetia and Abkhazia continuing to receive Russia’s backing for their de facto independence can be laid directly at Saakashvili’s feet. The Russian state is likely well aware that Ivanishvili could use a major success right now, and perhaps would even be willing to let him have it, but for the reality that another hotheaded nationalist western bootlicker like Saakashvili is only an election away.

                • Misha says:

                  Prior to Saakashvilii, the first post-Soviet Georgian leader Gamsakhurdia ignited the tense situations with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Russia.

                  The latter also forged good ties with the Russia unfriendly Chechen leader Dudayev – which is saying a good deal when considering that Georgian-Chechen relations aren’t known to be so great.

    • AK says:

      I don’t think they are especially or indeed at all Russophobic. I would even mention that in the film The World is Not Enough while the Russians appear to be the baddies at the beginning, eventually MI6 realize they were duped by a corrupt Azeri oligarch in league with a renegade Russian.

      And in yet another film, the one before this IIRC, one of the big villains was a West Ukrainian who had a grudge against the West for selling his parents out to the Soviets. Again pretty much the opposite of Russophobia.

      I think you guys should take care not to see Russophobia under every carpet. ;)

      • Misha says:

        Actually, the aforementioned big villain was presented as a Cossack along the lines of a Peter Krasnov grouping.

        Shorts of having a mixed background with Cossacks from the east, I’ve yet to come across a Cossack of Galician and Greek Catholic background.

        I gather such a mix isn’t common given that most Cossacks don’t seem to have an anti-Russian slant, in addition to being proud of their OC religious heritage.

      • marknesop says:

        I agree the Bond films are not the best example of British Russophobia – The Guardian and the hysterical screeching of Luke Harding and Miriam Elder are much better examples. The Bond films made the Russians as comically bad as Boris and Natasha in the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, except the Bond films were not cartoons, and were just meant to be escapist entertainment.

        Arabs are the group that is now jittery – actually, Muslims as a whole – about Muslims consistently playing the terrorists and other villains in action flicks, so the heat’s mostly off for the Russians now.

        • Misha says:

          With the end of the Cold War, Bond has concentrated on other bad guys. The American TV series MacGyver carried on in a similar way

          The Cold War Roger Moore era of Bond included some examples of Soviet-Western cooperation. Then again, the 1970s Detente period (offering a somewhat decrease in East-West tensions) serves to explain such.

  30. Moscow Exile says:

    The Russians played the British for suckers in t he 19th century as regards the British fears of Russian designs on the British Indian Raj. Whenever Russia was getting ready for a set-to with the Ottomans in the Trans-Danube provinces with a view to seizing the Porte, they made noises east so as to distract British attention from the Mediterranean. This tactic invariably proved successful. Noted for their chess skills are those dastardly Russkies!

  31. kirill says:

    An example of a politically correct and nonsensical categorization. The optics of this are just horrible but you can tell it refers to routine violations and criminal cases that exist in vast numbers in the west too. But they aren’t stupid enough to categorize them as “human rights violations” in the west.

    • Misha says:

      It never seems to end.

      For example, imagine highlighting a not so well defined list of killed American journos, which include those who died under natural causes, likely suicide or murder involving other issues, not having to do with their profession, to go along with a sheer trumping (from reality) of such a figure.

      This isn’t to say that some Russian journos haven’t been murdered for what they said/wrote.

      However, there’s a difference between a rogue element outside and/or inside government involved with such action versus encouragement/support from the very top. Never mind the considerable number of Russian journos who carry on writing/saying negatively inaccurate things about the Russian government.

      On another front, I just came across a recently released and skewed RIAN affiliated MN piece, which I’ll probably follow-up on in a short bit.

  32. Viz all of the above comments, I would say first of all that Russophobia is a pretty widespread European phenomenon. It is exceptionally strong in France for example. For some reason it is far less marked in southern Europe than northern Europe. It is nothing like as pervasive in Italy and Spain for example whilst for obvious historical and cultural reasons in Greece it is unknown. Back during the Cold War it was possible to find strongly anti Communist right wing Greeks and Italians who were also quite Russophile.

    Even allowing for this, it does seem to me that Russophobia in Britain is of an intensity and pervasiveness that simply does not exist elsewhere including the US (though some have told me that the extent of Russophobia in Sweden rivals it). I don’t understand the reasons for it because it is so completely irrational – Russia never having done anything to Britain that would remotely explain or justify it – and (a point that has been often made about me) I have difficulty understanding or explaining the irrational. However like Moscow Exile and Misha say it has very deep roots.

    About a year ago I read Orlando Figes’s book on the Crimean War. Figes comes across to me as the classic example of a British Russophobic writer and his study on the Crimean War is a case in point. I have major concerns both with the way Figes in this book diistorts or misreports certain facts and I entirely reject his interpretation of the events leading up to the war, which Figes reports in a way that is intended to support his thesis that the war was caused by the expansionist religious policies of Nicholas I. I think this thesis is completely and entirely wrong and I think an objective interpretation of the events leading up to the Crimean War (which Figes by setting out the narrative of events actually makes possible) shows that the country that wanted and was responsible for the war was Britain.

    Having said this, the most interesting part of Figes’s book is a chapter in which he discusses British press commentary and coverage of Russia in the decades leading up to the Crimean War. What is remarkable about this chapter is how even Figes is shocked by the the intensity of the Russophobia on display. Whatever else Figes is he is a trained historian and one thing that seems to have particularly shocked him was the willingness of anti Russian British writers of the period to resort to forgery to fabricate their case against Russia. Another thing that seems to have shocked Figes is how some fabrications about Russia (such as the so called Last Will and Testament of Peter the Great, which was fabricated by the French Foreign Ministry in the Eighteenth Century) that were used to justify the Crimean War continue to be made use of by British and American writers about Russia right up to the present day even though the fact that they are fabrications was recognised by all serious scholarship long ago.

    (PS: AK, Stalin’s “Politburo speech” of August 1939 supposedly explaining the reasoning behind the Nazi Soviet Non Aggression Pact is another example. It first appeared in a French newspaper in November 1939. Stalin himself denied all connection with it within two days of its publication and now that we have full access to Stalin’s personal files and papers it can be said conclusively that he had nothing to do with it. There is no serious scholar who any longer believes in the truth of this speech yet only a year ago I found it in all its glory in a book compilation of important twentieth century speeches that has just been published in London).
    I would add that someone in the Russian Embassy in London has also read Figes’s book with the result that his chapter discussing British press coverage of Russia was recently mentioned in a Russian Embassy statement on the subject of the Guardian’s campaign against the Conservative Friends of Russia group.

    • Misha says:

      Some academics have a way of fine tuning certain biases. The “buyer beware” line relates to “reader beware”, with the same issue of how the consumer can be easily misled.

      Upon further researching Pavlo Skoropadsky’s life, I noted that a full text of his edict for an “All-Russian Federation”, (inclusive of Russia and Ukraine) wasn’t available online. Instead, one found a highlighting of Skoropadsky having (as claimed) gone for bat for Nazi imprisoned WW II era OUN personnel (After being overthrown, the German born Skoropadsky lived the remainder of his life in exile in Germany). That highlighting came from academic circles associated with a historically slanted grouping that Andreas Umland uncritically promotes:

      Likewise, a very anti-Russian piece by the wife of Viktor Yushchenko wasn’t available online. She wrote that piece as the acting head of the anti-Russian/pro-Bandera Captive Nations Committee.

      Along with her skewed anti-Russian bit, making available online Skoropadasky’s aforementioned edict with fact based and follow-up analysis doesn’t accord the stature of “hero journalism”:

    • I would say that Finland and Poland are much more russophobic than Britain. I don’t think normal British people hate Russia. Unfortunately in Finland and Poland there is a genuine hatred towards Russia among regular folks.

      • Misha says:

        Somewhat surprisngly (given the Finnish-Soviet War and subsequent Finnish WW II alliance with Nazi Germany) not so much among Finns – although that element exists.

        The Polish situation is meshed with a Russophile element among some Poles (albeit comparatively limited to the Russia unfriendly mindset), coupled by recent attempts to seek burying the hatchet.

        • Misha says:

          Two major Russian based KHL teams are coached by Finns. In addition, Finns comprise a good % of non-Russian players in that league. The last point is significant when considering that Finland and Sweden have competetive ice hockey leagues.

          • I have just been to Finland and I know Poland quite well having friends from there. Both countries have extreme Russophobic, ultra nationalist minorities.

            In the case of Finland they tend to be people like Ahtisaari who were either born in Karelia or who have their origins there. Ahtisaari is in fact the Finnish politician most strongly identified with this group. The powerful Swedish community in Finland, which has disproportionate influence over the economy, is also intensely hostile to Russia. However outside these groups I would not say that Finland impressed me as a Russophobic country. What it would be true to say is that Finns are extremely conscious of living right up against the Russian colossus. That does sometimes make them feel nervous but I got little sense of outright hostility.

            As for Poland, here again there is a strong Russophobic element within Polish society. However to an extent that I think few people outside Poland understand Poland is in the grip of a culture war. Russophobia tends to be used by one of the parties in this culture war, the one which identifies itself most strongly with conservative Christian and ethnicist values and with the Catholic Church, against the other party that has a more liberal, progressive and secular world view. I do not get the impression that Poland generally is as Russophobic as Britain and at a personal level Poles and Russians seem to get on well with each other. As Slavs they have a lot culturally in common so that for example Russian actors and actresses occasionally appear in Polish films and vice versa and the younger people even seem to have some knowledge of each other’s pop culture. I understand that the news media in Poland is hysterically Russophobic but it is mainly foreign (especially US) owned and is not representative of the feelings of most people in Poland. One Russian commentator who appears to know Poland well and who also appears to be of my view is Dmitri Babich.

            By contrast Russophobia in Britain has become so engrained within the British political and media class that it is to all intents and purposes impossible to speak out against it. Unlike in Poland and Russia, which being physically and culturally much closer to Russia are therefore much more exposed to Russian economic and cultural influence, there is simply no countervailing narrative to the Russophobic narrative in Britain. The result is that whilst most British people obviously do not think about Russia most of the time very few dispute the Russophobic narrative that is constantly spoon fed to them.

            • Jen says:

              Dear Alexander,

              Are there very many ex-Russian aristocrats among the British and French political elites? I know of course that the British actress Helen Mirren is descended from a Russian aristocrat and many such people fled to the West after the revolutions in 1917. Nick Clegg also has some Russian aristocrat ancestry. The opinions of these people may have influenced upper class attitudes in Britain and France and if you have ever seen Jean Renoir’s film “La Regle du Jeu / The Rules of the Game” and Robert Altman’s “Gosford Park”, you realise the British and French upper classes in the 1930s were very similar in their attitudes and life-styles.

              • AK says:

                They and their descendants have lived nearly a century in the West. As Russians outbreed beyond their ethnic groups there are now very, very few who consider themselves Russian (except in the equivalent of the Plastic Paddy way) let alone retain traditions, manners of thought, the language, etc.

                That said there are some interesting exceptions such as a village in Brazil that was settled after the Revolution by an Orthodox sect, they recently resettled in Russia, it was interesting to observe the white cotton smocks, the flocks of children, etc. It’s as if time there had stopped since 1920.

                • Misha says:

                  “Plastic Paddy” isn’t always so fair and accurate a characterization.

                  National/ethnic identity isn’t so scientific, as it’s open to how people view themselves – not far removed from fans of sports teams.

                  Glad to know Soviet raised Russians and some others who seek pro-Russian perspectives, that weren’t so stressed in the USSR and among Western politically left of center circles.

              • marknesop says:

                I didn’t know that! I love Helen Mirren – my ex-wife (the Brit) and I never missed an episode of Prime Suspect. She’s an absolutely iconic actress.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Mironov, I think her grandfather’s name was. He was a tsarist officer in the UK on a weapons buying mission in 1917 when the October revolution took place, so he stayed in England and married a local woman. Helen Mirren was brought up in Southend-on-Sea. Her father was a taxi driver, if I remember rightly, and distanced himself from his Russian ancestry.

                  The most outstanding UK “Russian”, in my opinion, was the late Peter Ustinov, who was truly a
                  multinational figure and polyglot.

                  I always rememember his being interviewed on a BBC TV show years ago and the interviewer said something like: “Now your family managed to escape the Russian revolution and settled in England…”, whereuopon Ustinov very drily replied: “Yes, my forebears must have been an extremely prescient lot as they left Russia in the 1860s”.

                • Misha says:

                  In the US, Natalie Wood was very aware and proud of her Russian roots:


                  I recall her hosting a PBS aired cultural documentary on the Hermitage.

                  Along with Mirren, there’s a suggestion that Wood was of a Jewish background, which even if true is likely distant in both instances:



                  Also recall a Polish friend in college having been of the belief that she was Polish.

                • Misha says:

                  Last comment regarding Natalie.

            • yalensis says:

              Dear Alexander: I think you are right that ordinary Poles and Russians can get along very well even though their countries are enemies. For example, I have a Polish friend at work, we just clicked as soon as we met, and we really like each other a lot.
              At the artistic level, for example the dreamy Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecen bragged about how he and gorgeous Anna Netrebko work together so well at the Metropolitan Opera because they are both Slavs and really feel the music the same way. (Plus, they are both super talents.)

              • Misha says:

                For sure.

                At the same time, there can be an unofficial agreement to limit historical discussions on the understanding that there isn’t likely going to be an agreement on a number of key past occurrences.

                In other instances, it’s possible to have an open-minded dialogue, while remaining on good terms.

                The 1990s era “Russian Five” on the Detroit Red Wings were well accepted in the Motown area, with a good sized Polish population. All five of them were quite proud in expressing their Russian identity.

                A good number of Russian aristocrats had/have some Polish background. Conversely, the Pennsylvania Deer Hunter country has seen married Russian-Polish relationships.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  There was a report recently (I think I saw it mentioned in Austere Insomniac) that genetically the closest nation to Russians are Poles, despite the accusations off some Western Slavs that Eastern Slavs (Russians) are not “real” Slavs but more Tatar than anything. Many would think that Ukrainians are closer genetically to Russians than are Poles, but apparently that is not the case: in large parts of what is now “Ukraine” there is strong evidence, so it seems, of genes associated with Turkic peoples, which is hardly surprising, though I should think this would not be so evident in the north an east of that terrritory that once comprised the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

                • AK says:

                  ^ That is true. Russians, Belorussians, Poles, and Ukrainians all overlap and for all practical purposes are one “race.” Fascinatingly, however, there is a distinction between those and northern Russians who have had admixture with Finno-Ugrics and so appear midway between the East Slavs and Finns/Estonians on genetic maps.

                • Misha says:

                  Be wary of the overall accuracy of such studies.

                  Some anti-Serbs like to prop a claimed study linking a Turkish closeness among Serbs.

                  For accuracy sake, the Ukrainian, Polish and Russian comparison needs to be very detailed with a breakdown of regions.

                  It stands to reason that Galician Ukrainians might be genetically closer to Poles than other Ukrainians farther east.

                  On inter-ethnic backgrounds, Denikin was born in the Polish part of the Russian Empire to an observant Polish Catholic mother and an observant Russian Orthodox-Christian father. Although identifying with Russia, Denikin expressed sympathy for Poland, inclusive of not agreeing with some related Imperial Russian government policies.

                  Yet, he has been portrayed as being more intolerant than Pilsudski, which is sheer BS.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Going off on a tangent somewhat, I feel I should confess that very often Russians take me as being one of theirs. I first noticed this years go when I used to commute between the UK and Russia on Aeroflot and the stewardesses always mistook me for one of their countrymen. When I was taking my wife to England so as to proudly show her off to “the folks back home”, whilst flying to Manchester from Moscow (there used to be a direct flight then) I told her of this, but she wouldn’t have it. So I waited for the stewardess to start serving tea or coffee, and as she approached us down the aisle, she very politely said to each passenger: “Tea or coffee sir/madam?”. And she said: “Tea or coffee?” to my wife as well, but to me she simply said: “Чай? Кофе?”

                  They always do. (It happened again last month on our return to Moscow from Paris.)

                  My wife was gobsmacked.

                  She says I don’t look Russian, and in England they always say to her that she doesn’t look Russian either, which always prompts me to ask my countrymen: “So tell me what you think Russians look like”.

                  When I ived in Voronezh in the twilight years of the Soviet Union and in the early ’90s, word got round that I was the returned son of Russian emmigrés. This came about because, as I am named after my father, whenever I was asked to give my name and patrononymic, I truthfully replied: Денис Денисович. To compound matters, having found out the names of my mother and sister (Irene) and my nephews and nieces (Timothy, Katherine, Helen), alll my Russian acquaitances in Voronezh used to cry out: “They’re Russian names! Why have all your relatives got Russian names?”

                  I used to tell them that the names were Greek actually, but no matter: they were convinced that I was the returned progeny of russian emmigrés. And I remember how my first Russian landord in Moscow constantly asked me why I had a Russian name. He had great doubts concerning my nationality, chiefly because, in his opinion, I didn’t speak English as an Englishman should.

                  And so, veering back on topic as it were, I have to say that in the course of the near 20 years of my voluntary exile in the Evil Empire, I have not once experienced any animosity from the natives concerning my nationality. I think a major reason for this is that although, as an immigrant, I have come here and taken their work as well as one of their women, I have also chosen to live with them for one third of my life and have had the grace to try to learn their language and converse with them in their mother tongue:

                  I have also not only made a contribution towards alleviating the alleged demographic crisis in Russia, but have given my three children Russian names: Vladimir, Elena and Aleksandra.

                  Well, Elena and Aleksandra are Greek really, but Vladimir ain’t!

                • marknesop says:

                  It’s true East Europeans have a look about them, but I find that’s only true of the women. Russian men, particularly older men, just look like everyone else to me. But I can spot the girls anywhere; I think I mentioned that I was passing through Calgary Airport a month or two ago – on my way to Medicine Hat, Canadian Headquarters for MEGGITT, who make our targets – at the same time as a Russian sports team going somewhere else. Looked like gymnastics, but it’s hard to say. Mind you, they did have the double-headed eagle on the back of their warmup jackets, but the girl I saw first was facing me and I couldn’t see it. I only knew for sure she was Russian when I heard her speak, but I thought as soon as I saw her that she must be something like that – Russian, Polish, Ukrainian. Slavic. They look scrubbed and healthy, with finely chiseled features, maybe a bit aloof and arrogant if they don’t know you, as if they know they are something special.

                  But all that may just be a perception based on a few lucky guesses. I’ve though Brits had a look about them too, but I’ve only been right about 50% of the time and only with men: British girls don’t have a “look” about them that I can detect. Usually when you think you have nailed somebody’s origins based on the way they look, it’s because you have picked up some other subtle clue that your mind doesn’t register, such as that they remind you of someone you know who is Russian, or you overhear something they say although you’re too far away to catch what they said, but it just sounds foreign, something like that. I should also say that I have been completely oblivious of fellow countrymen – by which I mean North Americans, including Americans – in Russia; it’s always a complete surprise to hear them speak fluent, accentless English, because I assumed from their appearance they were Russians. So maybe I don’t have the James Bond Secret Eyeball after all.

                  After my first visit to Vladivostok, I declared to my wife (then a long way from being my wife; somebody else’s wife, actually) my belief that there were no unattractive or overweight women in Vladivostok, and perhaps not in Russia. That was a snap judgment based on visual saturation by more lovely women than I had ever seen all in one place before except perhaps for Montreal (lots of proud beauties among the French-Canadians, too, and none of your floppy track pants and oversize T-shirts, either; they dress like they know what they’re doing), and subsequent visits showed me I had been premature in my assessment. But there was still a disproportionately high number of attractive women among the Russians, and of every possible variation as well, except for redheads; I don’t think I ever saw a natural redhead, although there were plenty of the tomato-head dye jobs.

              • Jen says:

                Dear Mark,

                I used to know someone whose family left Russia decades ago and came to Australia via Harbin in China. Her name was Elena and I remember her hair was reddish-brown and her skin colour was an unusual dark tan. Her features were distinctive with an elfin profile. Since the Internet and Youtube came along, I’ve been able to watch videos of folk singers and dancers from different parts of Russia and realised Elena’s looks might be quite common among Russians of Mordvin, Karelian and Udmurt descent.

                • marknesop says:

                  A good example of the wide variation in appearance from the somewhat Nordic-looking blondes like Sharapova and Kournikova is Alsou Abramova; she’s a Tatar from Bugulma. But as you can see from the comments, she reminds people of the girls from Bulgaria and other countries, while in some shots she looks to me like Vietnamese or Thai.

      • AK says:

        I would say that the most Russophobic peoples are Letts and Estonians.

        Finns are decidedly sour and negative, of course, but there is little of that snarling, all-consuming small country hate that exists in the Baltics.

        Poles tend to either hate it or love it. They are emotional and make excellent Russophiles and Russophobes alike.

        Note that I’m not condemning this. People have a right to Russophobia, I for one am not going to snivel about it or try to make it into a “hate crime” offense. The appropriate response is ignoring them, factually rebutting their points if possible, and never apologizing.

        • At least Latvians and Estonians (and Russophobic Poles and Finns) have historic reasons (valid or otherwise) for disliking Russia. What reason do Britons have?

          @ Yalensis, I scarcely know of any Russian aristocrats within the British establishment. Helen Mirren as you correctly is part Russian and is descended on her father’s side from Russian aristocracy. She is very proud of the fact. Like most actors she is politically very left wing. She has visited Russia (including the town where her ancestral estate was located) and appears to like the country. I have never heard say bad things about Russia and she has notably held aloof from the periodic anti Russian campaigns that start up at regular intervals here. The same applies to the other famous British actor with a Russian background, Peter Ustinov, who we once discussed on this blog.

          British antagonism to Russia goes back very far, long before the Revolution and well before any Russian aristocrats came as refugees here.

          Lord Mountbatten who was a member of the Royal Family fell in love as a young man with one of Nicholas II’s daughter and wanted to marry her. He kept her photograph by his bedside right up to his death when he was murdered by the Irish Republican Army (the IRA) about 1980 (I forget the exact year). Understandably enough he was very anti Soviet and it’s possible that he influenced some members of the aristocracy against the USSR.

          A couple of years ago one of Tolstoy’s descendants (who always insisted that we call him “Count Tolstoy”) was also very active here. He was very anti Soviet though I don’t know whether he was a Russophobe (I doubt it). He wrote a notorious book in which he accused members of the British government of involvement in Stalin’s execution of Cossacks who had fought with the SS during the war. The book resulted in a defamation case which he lost and over the course of which the judge derisively called him a “pretend historian”. He nonetheless managed to avoid paying anything by declaring himself bankrupt. The book provided the theme for the James Bond film Goldeneye. Several right wing people took him up but they were more anti Communists than Russophobes and anyway I never got the impression that he was at all influential.

          By contrast the two Lieven brothers, Dominic and Anatole, who are also Russian aristocrats, are outstanding historians and commentators and write very well about Russia. A friend of mine knows Dominic Lieven well and tells me that he is very proud of his Russian background, He is also incredibly eccentric. For example he insists – humorously one hopes – in calling Turkey “Byzantium”. Neither brother can in any way be called a Russophobe.

          Overall I simply don’t think that the presence here of fugitive members of the Russian aristocracy has played any important role in shaping British attitudes to Russia. I doubt that his Russian background has any influence on Clegg’s opinions of Russia. Frankly I don’t know what those are. If any one ethnic or social group in Britain could be said to have contributed to British hostility to Russia it is not fugitive members of the Russian aristocracy but the immensely influential Jewish community, which still persists in seeing Russia through the prism of the pogroms. However even that contribution can be overstated since Britain became hostile to Russia well before Jews acquired any influence here.

          • AK says:

            To be fair there’s little love lost for Britain too. ;)

            (Well, outside the liberal comprador elites anyway)))

            • “To be fair there’s little love lost for Britain too”.

              Can’t say that surprises me!

              PS: Jen, the comment I made above discussing Russian aristocrats was actually intended not for Yalensis but for you. My eyesight is being particularly difficult today and I seem to be making even more mistakes and odd transpositions than usual lately. My long expected appointment at Moorfields Eye Hospital is next Monday so hopefully this should end soon. Apologies!

              • Moscow Exile says:

                I faintly recall that a Russian aristocrat and Oxford undergraduate played on the wing for the England Rugby Union team in the 192Os. Can’t remember his name though.

              • Jennifer Hor says:

                Dear Alexander,

                Not a problem, I found your earlier comment very quickly. Hoping your appointment will have a positive result.

                Curious to know why Dominic Lieven refers to Turkey as “Byzantium”. Does he call Hungary by its old Byzantine name “Tourkia”? That could cause him some problems in understanding!

                • Dear Jen,

                  I am afraid I don’t know whether Dominic Lieven calls Hungary “Tourkia”.

                  By the way, my friend has corrected me. It seems that Dominic Lieven does not just say he is going to “Byzantium” when he means “Turkey”. He actually sticks labels on his luggage which say “Byzantium” instead of Turkey! I wonder how much of his luggage gets lost.

                • By the way Lieven also apparently routinely calls Istanbul “Constantinople” and even “Tsarigrad”.

                • Jen says:

                  Dominic Lieven’s lost luggage is probably ending up at the Byzantium Hotel in Sultan Ahmed district in Istanbul, close to where the original city of Byzantium was located before the Roman emperor Septimius Severus destroyed it and rebuilt the city to his own specifications in 330 AD. The hotel is a short walk away from the Haghia Sophia museum and if you Google search on the hotel, you come across images of the hotel facilities that suggest four-star luxury. Perhaps Dominic is planning to retire there!

                  It’s a big gamble though as the luggage could also be arriving at the Byzantium Hotel in Kastoria in northwest Greece close to Albania!

                • Misha says:

                  Kastoria, with a one time noticeable pre-WW II Sephardic population, involved in garment making – a profession that’s still noticeably evident there.

                • yalensis says:

                  Sailing To Byzantium

                  That is no country for old men. The young
                  In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
                  —Those dying generations—at their song,
                  The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
                  Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
                  Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
                  Caught in that sensual music all neglect
                  Monuments of unaging intellect.

                  An aged man is but a paltry thing,
                  A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
                  Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
                  For every tatter in its mortal dress,
                  Nor is there singing school but studying
                  Monuments of its own magnificence;
                  And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
                  To the holy city of Byzantium.

                  O sages standing in God’s holy fire
                  As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
                  Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
                  And be the singing-masters of my soul.
                  Consume my heart away; sick with desire
                  And fastened to a dying animal
                  It knows not what it is; and gather me
                  Into the artifice of eternity.

                  Once out of nature I shall never take
                  My bodily form from any natural thing,
                  But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
                  Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
                  To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
                  Or set upon a golden bough to sing
                  To lords and ladies of Byzantium
                  Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

                  William Butler Yeats

              • yalensis says:

                Dear Alexander: Good luck with your eye appointment, I hope it goes well! In regards to Helen Mirren, I always thought she demonstrated an aristocractic bearing. But that could also be from her Shakespearean training. She is a great actress, I think she should play the role of Lady Gloster if they ever make a movie about the Berezovsky case.

                • marknesop says:

                  I got yer aristocratic bearing right here: Helen Mirren still looked pretty good in a bikini at 63. She wasn’t happy about this photo at all and complained she would never be able to live up to it because it isn’t what she really looks like, but obviously it is her, and she is capable of looking like that. Maybe not now, that was 3 years ago, but she still has great features, I’ve always thought she was attractive. Except she smoked like a chimney in “Prime Suspect“; I don’t know if that was just a character mannerism or if she really is a smoker, but that’s kind of a negative for me.

                • yalensis says:

                  I don’t think she smokes. She was probably just play-acting. If she smoked she wouldn’t have the stamina at her age to work out and keep her body so buff!

                • Dear Yalensis,

                  That is a beautiful poem by Yeats. I am sure Lieven knows it. Thank you.

                  On whether Helen Mirren smokes, the answer is no but I am pretty sure she did when she was young. She was always a great actress but in her youth she was pretty wild.

            • Misha says:

              On the brought up matter of Russian attitudes towards Britian, what’s more reasoned: exhibited British animosity towards Russia or vice-versa?

          • Misha says:

            Regarding N. Tolstoy:


            Agree, disagree or partially agree with him – he doesn’t come across as anti-Russian, in addition to having some admirers.

            Unsubstantiated name calling like “pretend historian” doesn’t serve as conclusive evidence.

            • Dear Misha,

              It was the judge who called him a “pretend historian” at the trial which examined his book thoroughly and after hearing what he had to say. The point was that Tolstoy in his book accused certain British ministers of being directly implicated in the execution of the Cossacks. He was unable to substantiate this claim at the trial in the way that a serious historian would be able to.

              • Misha says:

                Hello Alexander,

                Is that a matter of fact or opinion? Suddenly remided of osme of the second hand ICTY accounts.

                Upon a quick perusal, his book on the subject seems to be pretty well reseached, inclusive of primary source material, which identifies documents that weren’t immediately released. His boof alos includes the inpout of people who would fit the “serious historian” category.

                BTW, the gist of his claim is generally supported in an earlier released book by Nicholas Bethell, with an approving introduction by Hugh Trevor Roper, who I’m sure fits the “serious historian” category. Of the two books, N. Tolstoy’s (if anything) comes across as the more detailed in terms of providing documentation.

                • Dear Misha,

                  Tolstoy published a book accusing ministers of the wartime British government of complicity in Stalin’s execution of Cossacks. A surviving minister of that government who he specifically named in the book as one of those responsible brought a claim against him for defamation in the High Court. The case was heard by a judge and twelve jurors. The jurors after hearing what Tolstoy had to say decided that he libelled the minister who brought a claim against him and ordered him to pay the minister £2.5 million in compensation. The judge called him a “pretend historian” because he made claims in the book which defamed people and which he was unable substantiate.

                  Tolstoy appealed the judgment to the Court of Appeal but his appeal was dismissed. Tolstoy then tried to get the judgment set aside by complaining to the High Court that the British authorities denied him access to papers that were crucial to his defence and that the former minister had lied to the Court. The High Court dismissed his complaint. He then appealed the judgment to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that the trial was unfair. The European Court of Human Rights did not set the judgment aside though it did rule that the compensation of £2.5 million was wildly excessive and should be drastically reduced otherwise it would amount to a deterrent to free speech (NB: the European Court of Human Rights was undoubtedly correct. The jury imposed this impossibly high award undoubtedly in order to emphasise and punish what it saw as Tolstoy’s misbehaviour. This however is not an appropriate way for a Court to assess compensation).

                  The sequel is that Tolstoy did not even pay the very reduced amount of compensation the European Court of Human Rights ordered him to pay. He avoided payment by declaring himself bankrupt even though he shortly after received a substantial inheritance which meant that he could comfortably afford the payment. He did eventually make a nominal payment to the minister’s family shortly after the minister died.

                  If you want to challenge this line of judicial decisions feel free.

                • Misha says:

                  Hello Alexander,

                  With OJ in mind, as well as some other cases, you’re darn right I’ll question a given legal ruling as I see fit.

                  Your comments on what happened differs from what I’ve heard. I’m open-minded to reconsider and will gladly follow-up if I come across anything that’s noteworthy. Meantime, I don’t see anything particularly off the wall in N. Tolstoy’s book as regards to the main gist of it. Have you come across that book by chance?

                  According to at least one source, the case against him was about something not directly related to his book. Moreover, (again according to at least one source) N. Tolstoy only became a part of the lawsuit when he felt obliged to join the defendant in the given legal matter.

                  From Wiki:


                  Excerpt –

                  In 1989, Lord Aldington, previously a British officer, former Chairman of the Conservative Party, and then Chairman of Sun Alliance, an insurance company, commenced the libel action over allegations of war crimes made by Tolstoy in a pamphlet distributed by Nigel Watts, a man involved with Sun Alliance on an unrelated insurance matter. Although Tolstoy was not the initial target of the action, he felt honour-bound to join Watts as defendant. He lost and was ordered to pay £2 million (£1.5 million in damages and £0.5 million in costs). Documents subsequently obtained from the Ministry of Defence showed that under Government instructions files essential to the defence case had been withdrawn from the Public Record Office and retained by the MoD and Foreign Office throughout the run-up to the trial and the trial itself.[7] A full account of this complicated and convoluted trial can be found in Ian Mitchell’s The Cost of a Reputation. [8] Tolstoy sought to appeal on the basis of new evidence proving Aldington had perjured himself over the date of his departure from Austria in May 1945. This was ruled inadmissible at a hearing in the High Courts of Justice, from which the press and public were barred, and his right to appeal was rejected.[9]
                  In July 1995, the European Court of Human Rights concluded unanimously that the British Government had violated Tolstoy’s rights in respect of Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights, although this referred strictly to the amount of the damages awarded against him and did not overturn the guilty verdict of his libel action. The Times commented in a leading article:

                  “In its judgment yesterday in the case of Count Nikolai Tolstoy, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Britain in important respects, finding that the award of £1.5 million levelled against the Count by a jury in 1989 amounted to a violation of his freedom of expression. Parliament will find the implications of this decision difficult to ignore.”
                  Tolstoy refused to pay anything in libel damages to Lord Aldington while he was alive, and only until 9 December 2000, two days after his death, did Tolstoy pay £57,000 to Aldington’s estate.[10]

                • Dear Misha,

                  To answer your question I did read Tolstoy’s book though a long time ago. I was unimpressed by it. It struck me as essentially a rehash of what was already known spiced up with some emotional comments and unsupported claims. A great deal of such history gets written, history being a field that is free to the non specialist.

                  I am afraid you shouldn’t follow Wikipedia too closely. Tolstoy had no choice but to join the case because he was the author of the libel. Had he not done so the other parties would in time have joined him to the case as a matter of course. This is elementary procedure however the author of the Wikipedia article wants to spin it.

                  For the rest your account simply repeats what I told you: Tolstoy lost the case, tried to set the Judgment aside and repeatedly failed on appeal. That the High Court ruled his attempt to get the Judgment set aside inadmissible means that it didn’t agree with him and considered his claim that the papers he claimed had been withheld and that the person he libelled had perjured himself groundless. There is nothing sinister about the fact the public was excluded from the hearing. It happens often and for all sorts of reasons. Again this is simple procedure. The European Court of Human Rights did reduce the compensation Tolstoy was ordered to pay but not because it agreed with him about what he had said but because such a large award of compensation risked inhibiting free speech and was therefore an infringement of Article 10.

                  Tolstoy is a marginal figure. He was never taken very seriously by academic historians Despite Trevor Roper’s foreword neither was Nicholas Bethell. Since the libel action Tolstoy’s reputation as a historian, which was always rather shaky, has never really recovered whilst his frankly shabby treatment of the man he libelled (and the extraordinary disrespect he showed to the Court’s Judgment along the way) has not done his reputation much good either. I am frankly a little puzzled that you feel so strongly motivated to defend him. Obviously it’s your right but I would have thought you could find yourself a better cause.

                • Misha says:

                  Hello Alexander,

                  On the subject of being “puzzled”, that can be applied to yourself.

                  I’m not defending him as much as seeking to set the record straight. A broad comment like “pretend” historian” isn’t substantive unlike this earlier posted review of Tolstoy’s book, reprinted from The Journal of Historical review:


                  Likewise, this review on Bethell’s book doesn’t come across as some broad unsubstantiated and uncomplimentary aside:


                  Some academics as well as some others, have been known to have a snooty and petty jealousy side – especially when it comes to the release of some pretty good books which do better in sales than their own. I personally know some academics who readily acknowledge this aspect within elements of their profession. Hence, I quite reasonably don’t judge the true merit of someone on how popular they’re among a questionably select grouping, which can lack clarity on a given particular.

                  Among a good number of historians, Solzhenitsyn seems to have a better rep than anyone posting at this thread. I wouldn’t stress that point as a basis to suggestively demean anyone’s opinion at this thread. Rather, I’d focus on the facts and opinions directly related to the specific issue under discussion.

                  In Tolstoy’s well researched book on a pertinent subject, Lord Aldington’s name doesn’t come up in a lengthy index at the end of the book.

                  A number of folks seem to be of the reasoned impression that as implemented, British libel laws have an unjust censoring aspect to them. A wealthy person with time on their hands will feel freer to launch legal action over someone with limited income, who doesn’t want to risk going thru such an experience. Under a truly just system of tight assed accountability, terms like “pretend historian”, “genocide denier” and “kvas patriot” can be the basis for launching a successful lawsuit. I prefer not having that happen, along with not having the current status quo.

                  Here’s what some others have said of Tolstoy’s book:

                  “During the past few years, books have appeared about the repatriation, of which Nikolai Tolstoy’s is the most important.” Jack Miller, Glasgow Herald

                  Without quoting verbatim, his book gets high marks from the Irish Independent, Evening News, The Sunday Times and The Observer, as well as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

                  Mark recently commented on this thread against ideological purity. Perhaps the Western turnover of Soviet and non-Soviet citizens to the USSR at the end of WW II isn’t of particular interest to some.

                • Misha says:

                  On the matter of libel laws, I gather that Sarah would’ve a better case than Aldington if the following occurred in the UK, with Palin and Paul Mooney being UK citizens:

                  If Tolstoy is so insignificant, than why make such a big deal over what he said? At the end of WW II, there was complicity in turning over non-Soviet and Soviet citizens (inclusive of some Soviet citizens having the citizenship of other countries) to the Soviet Union. Shame on Tolstoy and Bethell for making this known with documentation.

                • Misha says:

                  Following up on the “most historians” bit, most historians as in all historians aren’t well versed on every historical matter. Without a clear poll, who really knows for sure what “most historians” think on matter like a book with documented accounting on the subject of sending some folks in the West to the Soviet Union at the end of WW II?

                  An example of where the “most historians” bit is flawed:


                  This is part of an ongoing RFE/RL propaganda campaign, which downplays the gruesome manner of the Croat Ustasha, while providing negatively inaccurate characterizations of Serbs/Serbia, including Draza Mihailovic and his forces.

                  An earlier RFE/RL anti-Mihailovic propaganda piece:


                  The comments section under both articles include coherent counter-points. That section isn’t exactly reflective of a free press. Rather, it shows that a paid journalist has a better chance of existing as such when he/she spins a certain line.


                  In the first linked article, note the utilization of Marko Attila Hoare, who pro-Bosnian Muslim nationalist propagandists characterize as a “world renown historian” (sic). Hoare has specialized in making bully pulpit attacks, well short of an evenly moderated point-counterpoint situation. He makes no mention of how the Croat Ustasha negatively treated shot down Allied airmen. His claim of Mihailovc’s forces turning over Nazi pilots to the Germans should be fact checked. The accounts of Allied airmen shot down over Yugoslavia seem to be exclusively pro-Chetnik.

                  Hoare describes the Chetniks as opportunists. The suggestively pro-Partizan Hoare makes no mention that the Chetniks fought the Nazis before the Nazi attack on the USSR unlike the Tito led Partizans.

                  An excerpt from the above linked RFE/RL piece –

                  “While some characterize Mihailovic’s trial as biased, most Western scholars — and many in Serbia — consider his dealings with the Axis Powers and his oversight of ethnic massacres to be incontrovertible facts.”


                  It was a Communist show trial, lacking any semblance of objectivity. The RFE/RL article deemphasizes the support accorded to Mihailovic in the West, as well as other issues like the Nazi wanted posters for Mihailovic. There’s also evidence of Partizan-Nazi collaboration – something that was acknowledged by people who were within Tito’s inner circle in later years. As used, “most Western scholars” is dubious given that most scholars aren’t well versed on this historical matter, with some others having questionable slants. A brutal war was fought with deaths on all sides. Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki aren’t referred to as “ethnic massacres”. The Serbs had nothing matching the Croat Ustasha run Jasenovac concentration camp.

                  For a more balanced perspective: as a counterweight to Hoare, RFE/RL could’ve taken into consideration the points noted in this book, which utilizes primary source material:

                • Misha says:

                  Concerning Aldington and N. Tolstoy, I came across this piece by Srdja Trifkovic upon further research:


                  This piece substantiates the Wiki characterization which includes linked source material.

                  Trifkovic notes that Aldington had been earlier referred to as Toby Low. Regarding what I recently said at this thread, the index at the end of of Tolstoy’s book makes mention of Toby Low, with a note that he later became known as Lord Aldington.

                • Misha says:

                  I regret finding out that in the post-Soviet period, Bethell apparently supported the political stances of Gusinsky and Litvinenko.

                  This point relates to the earlier brought up matter of ideological purity. How many people actually march lock step on every issue?

                • Misha says:

                  Bethell having died in 2007.

                • Dear Misha,

                  I have to say that I never imagined myself debating the merits or otherwise of Nicholas Tolstoy of all people, an individual of totally marginal importance who in Britain is now largely forgotten and in whom I have no interest at all. Having said this, since you insist on pursuing this question I suppose I must answer.

                  Where I think you are going wrong is that you think that Tolstoy’s writings are about Russia. They are not. They are about Britain. Tolstoy’s book far from being “well researched” struck me as simply a rehash of a story that everyone with any interest in the subject had always known, which is Stalin’s execution of the Cossacks who fought alongside Germany in the Second World War.

                  On the basic story of the murder of the Cossacks Tolstoy broke absolutely no new ground. What was new and incendiary was his allegation that the British government was complicit in Stalin’s crime. When however Tolstoy was challenged to prove this allegation in Court by one of the people he said was involved he was unable to do so. That is why he lost the Court case and why the Judge (correctly in my opinion) questioned his seriousness as a historian. It should go without saying that a professional historian does not make such an incendiary claim if he cannot prove it.

                  My opinion of Tolstoy’s book is that it is simply another example of the periodic witch hunts the British establishment conducts against those of its members who it sees as too close to Russia. The fact that the British wartime government was obliged to work with Russia is suspect to a British establishment that believes Russia evil. Officials of that government whose contacts with Russia were thought to be too close were therefore picked on by being charged with actual complicity in Stalin’s crimes. Thus the writings of Tolstoy, Bethell and others. It should go without saying that such politically convenient writings are guaranteed good reviews as the good reviews Masha Gessen’s books get today shows. If you read the review you cite carefully you will see that it is not actually a review at all so much as an advertisement.

                  These witch hunts are a fairly regular occurence here. One such is underway at the moment the target being the Conservative Friends of Russia group. These witch hunts are partly intended to punish and discredit their targets but are mainly intended to warn off anyone else in Britain who thinks that a civilised dialogue with the enemy (ie Russia) is in any way a good idea. That this is what Tolstoy was about is shown by the British establishment’s reaction to the Court case. Though Tolstoy lost completely outside legal and academic circles the British establishment closed ranks around him. Though he evaded payment of the compensation he was ordered to pay this was never held against him. Instead he continued to get supportive comments like the editorial in The Times you mentioned in an earlier comment (which I remember reading at the time).

                  The same also applies to Bethell. He too was not a professional historian. Rather he was a prominent Liberal politician and parliamentarian. The fact that Trevor Roper wrote a foreword to his book may not be unconnected to Trevor Roper’s well known connection to the British intelligence service which became public as far back as 1945 when he published what remains the official British account of the circumstances of Hitler’s death.

                  I would finish this comment (which will be absolutely my last comment on this subject) by saying that as I also remember the fact that Tolstoy and Bethell had little actual interest in Russia came to be well understood by several Soviet dissidents who found their way to Britain and who refused to have anything to do with either of them for that reason.

                • Misha says:

                  Hello Alexander,

                  Your reasoning is (put mildly) interesting given that Trifkovic, Solzhenitsyn, Wikipedia, N. Tolstoy and some others who support Tolstoy’s contentions appear more well known than Karlin (who you regularly promote as is your right) and yourself.

                  N. Tolstoy added insight to the subject matter at hand by directly referencing released documents which weren’t initially available. In addition, he conducted follow-up interviews.

                  FYI, it wasn’t only Cossacks who were turned over to the Soviets towards the end of WW II.

    • Misha says:

      “Back during the Cold War it was possible to find strongly anti Communist right wing Greeks and Italians who were also quite Russophile.”


      There’s a scene in the Costa Gavras film Z of Greek military officers looking forward to seeing a performance of a visiting Soviet based Russian dance company (might’ve been depicted as the Bolshoi), with the movie stressing the officers’ disdain of the Greek left.

    • Ruspos says:

      I live in Sweden. Swedes’ attitudes toward Russia are very double-sided. On the one hand there is a great amount of curiosity about Russia here, but on the other Russia’s image is very negative.

      There are many reasons for this, such as historical rivalry, Sweden’s “sphere of interest” in the Baltic region and kinship with Finland during the Winter War, but IMHO there is also a much more basic difference in values.

      Swedish society is a paradox where almost everybody acts rather conservatively at the same time as they profess very liberal values (in earnest, too, I don’t mean that Swedes are consciously hypocritical). This clashes dramatically with Russian relative conservatism and honesty.

      • Dear Ruspos,

        That is very interesting. It also chimes with things I have heard. About the conformism and simultaneous conservatism/liberalism especially.

        I have never been to Sweden. My parents went there at the end of the 1960s when it was at its peak as a Social Democracy. They were completely bowled over and came back saying that they had seen the future. This was the view of Sweden I for a long time had. It remains a very rich and successful country but I think it is more complex than I thought it.

        On the subject of attitudes to Russia in Sweden how far back do you think they go? I read an article some time ago which said that the Swedish and Russian navies were in a state of undeclared war in the Baltic during the Second World War and that a fair number of Swedes actually fought with the Germans against the Russians as volunteers. If that is true then it would suggest that the tradition of hostility to Russia (or at least to the USSR) goes back quite far.

  33. Moscow Exile says:

    And bang on form again in today’s Moscow Times we have an article by Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former State Duma and a political talk show host on Ekho Moskvy radio – that’s the same station that has as its leading light the incomparible balm pot Latynina, who waxes lyrical on her own political talk show there as well about the country that she despises with her whole heart, that most dastardly, vile, corrupt and criminal state in the world bar none: her Motherland.

    Ryzhkov is also an oppositionist with his own party: the Party of People’s Freedom, which is at least one up on the people’s favourite opposition leader (according to Western hacks, anyway), Navalny.

    Ryzhkov’s MT article, in common with virtually all such articles in that so-called newspaper, attacks Russia for something that is at first sight laudible.

    Last week MT used the apparent decline in poverty in Russia as a foil for yet another attack on the Evil Empire: in today’s MT, this Ryzhkov article leads with a description of the present “crackdown on corruption” in Russia – something which day in, day out the West has been demanding be implimented by the present “regime”. However, this “crackdown” on corruption is not, as one would expect, lavished with bountiful praise but used rather to point out the alleged reasons for this present anti-corruption drive: Ryzhkov namely points out that the “crackdown” on corruption has only come about in order to shift the focus of the oppresssed Russian masses from a very real crisis that is taking place in the former-Soviet Union:

    “The main reason for shifting the focus is the country’s growing number of serious economic problems. In recent years, economic growth has slowed and has fallen below other BRIC nations. In addition, capital flight has increased, and foreign investment has declined. The shortfall in the Pension Fund amounts to 1 trillion rubles ($32.4 billion) and is growing. According to the Audit Chamber, more than 1 trillion rubles were stolen last year from government contracts. As a result, there is a chronic shortage of funds for housing, education, health care, pensions and other key social sectors.

    Putin’s declining popularity is the second reason the Kremlin initiated its anti-corruption battle. Putin has realized what the opposition had been shouting about for years — that ubiquitous corruption has halted the economy, social services, infrastructure and any hope for modernizing the country. Russia has broken international records for its excessively high cost of building roads, bridges, stadiums, hospitals, schools and street underpasses”.

    Just like a stuck record, the same old line keeps clickingly repeating itself.

    But who reads this drivel; whom is it targetted at?

    Certainly not Russians.

    Harding of the Guardian likes quoting MT. There was a time when he wrote very much like an employee of that rag – word for word almost. And he quotes pieces from MT to add an air of authority, I suppose, to his usual gibberish about “The Mafia State”. He’s even been known to quote a certain MT columnist, Alexei Bayer, that 50-something year old Muscovite and renowned expert on all matters Russian who has lived in the USA since he was 17 years of age and earns his living there as a finance and investment consult or something like.

    I should dearly like to know who funds MT, though I have a very good idea who it might be.

    What a bloody rag!

    And I have it on good authority that they pay shit money as well!

    • Dear Moscow Exile,

      What is the point of endlessly demanding that the Russian authorities act against corruption and then criticise them when they do? In the case of someone like Ryzhkov so long he continues to associate with the likes of Kasyanov and Nemtsov I find it impossible to take anything he says about corruption seriously.

      On the subject of Russia’s growth rate falling below that of the other BRICS, that is simply not true. The BRICS country with the lowest growth rate over the last two years has been Brazil whose economy is currently at a (hopefully temporary) standstill. Incidentally critics who complain about the Russian economy’s failure to modernise or diversify would be making a more valid point if they made it of Brazil. The commodities boom appears to have led to overinvestment in Brazil’s export oriented agriculture and mining industries at the expense of domestic manufacturing, which by some accounts has actually declined. This by the way is a perennial problem with Latin American economies, which are too export oriented, which is why their occasional growth spurts tend to be ephemeral.

      India’s economy is also in some difficulties. Overall growth is higher than Russia’s (as it should be given that it is so much poorer) but it too has recently been falling and stood at annualised level of around 5% in the last few quarter with growing concerns that because of falling investment it may fall further. The country meanwhile continues to run trade and budget deficits and most seriously inflation at around 10% remains stubbornly high. Pressure to reduce interest rates and increase spending to kick start the economy suggests that inflation may go higher.

      • AK says:

        That is all true.

        However, I see this as a natural consequence of Brazil’s low human capital. Ergo for India. They simply can’t converge sustainably until they solve that (if it is even solvable to any real degree).

        This doesn’t apply to China or Russia where human capital is comparable to that in the developed world.

        Fortunately brains count for more than morality and aversion to theft and corruption, so Russia should continue outperforming Brazil over the long-term.

        • “,,,,a natural consequence of Brazil’s low human capital…..They simply can’t converge sustainably until they solve that (if it is even solvable to any real degree)”

          I am currently working here with a Brazilian engineer who tells me exactly the same thing.

    • marknesop says:

      You could have your teeth drilled while listening to Ryzhkov; he is as effective a numbing agent as Novocaine. He and the other toads in the opposition have fallen into the trap of oppositionists everywhere – nobody offers a plan for how things could be improved, because it’s so much easier to just criticize everything. If Putin does nothing about corruption, why, that’s wrong, because he’s giving the nod to dishonest practices and encouraging them to flourish by not attempting to stop them. If he does crack down on corruption – and I’m not convinced there’s any concerted effort to do anything of the sort, people are just riffing off the dismissal of Serdyukov and interpreting it as a broad-based push – why, that’s wrong, too, because he’s not going about it the right way. Fine, then, Ryzhkov – how would you do it? What’s the matter? Cat got your imagination?

      This is why they have their little westergenic following of malcontents and snubbed professors and economists who don’t know anything about economics and students along for the lark, and pretty much nothing else – because that audience tells them they are great and fierce and an inspiration to free people everywhere, and nobody else takes any notice of them at all. Then they end up with less than 5% in the elections, and wail that they were cheated. It seems to have escaped their notice that the election committee could have gratuitously given them 5 times the votes they got and they would still lose, because they don’t want to do the legwork and planning and campaigning it would take to win. They just expect to win because they are so good, and Putin is so bad. Voters should just be able to extrapolate from that point.

      By far the best account of Serdyukov’s sacking I have read is here, on Dmitry Gorenburg’s “Russian Military Reform”. You probably wouldn’t have expected to find anything like that there, since it’s not by nature a political blog, until it occurred to you that Serdyukov was the Defense Minister. Anyway, the tone of this is entirely different from the usual fluff, and introduces several facts and timelines I did not know. It comes out not looking particularly favourable for anyone. Highly recommended.

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, true enough, and I don’t care for Golts as he is too contemptuous rather than simply stating a shortfall and suggesting what might be done to rectify it, as well as occasionally mocking and yukking it up over some Russian test or other that went badly when the time for something to fail is in testing – has he taken a look at that F-35 that we’re supposed to buy lately? If you had to describe it in one word, would it be “expensive”, or “reliable”?

          However, he defended his regard for Golts’ work in a mild and logical fashion, so we just kind of agreed to disagree on Golts, whom I dislike, especially since La Russophobe is fond of trumpeting his conclusions.

          • Misha says:

            There’re some other instances which show DG to not be so free of questionable political slants.

            • marknesop says:

              That’s also true enough, but the alternative is gradually-increasing ideological purity, until nobody is engaged in conversation who has not already been vetted for their ideas and beliefs. I’ve had some very reasonable discussions about military matters with Dr. Gorenburg, and we just stay away from subjects on which we disagree.

              • Misha says:

                I’ve not had that same experience with him and know some others experiencing likewise.

                Agree with the premise that there shouldn’t be an ideological purity.

                Ditto crony propping, which has hindered the effort of putting out a better product at the more high profile of venues.

    • AK says:

      Just the other day I read in Kommersant that apparently the investigators have concluded that Serdyukov was a “victim of deception” by his thieving subordinates, the poor guy. Smallest violin playing in the world…

      While some call me a Russophile (including myself?) at times I can only shake my head and say, “What a rotten country.”

      Oh and practically all the commentators agree too.

      • marknesop says:

        I hope they have the good sense not to announce any such finding, as it will be met – deservedly – by the world’s biggest horselaugh. That’s not even close to true.

        • This is bad news. I am not in favour of witch hunts but even if Serdyukov was an innocent dupe (which actually I find hard to believe given that his girlfriend was so deeply involved) he has to be liable for breach of fiduciary duty at the very least.

          • Medvedev has given an interview in which he said that Serdyukov was a good manager. I cannot see how someone whose subordinates were involved in such a big fraud can be called a good manager even if he was personally innocent of the fraud. I understand that Medvedev’s comments have caused a great deal of offence within the Investigative Commission.

            • marknesop says:

              I’ve seen the same; it might even have been in that Gorenburg piece I cited. That’s as may be, but for my part I cannot conceive of somebody being a good military manager when the senior military officers loathe him. It’s not like running a department store; it’s a different culture, like the police, and neither is run with the goal of making a profit.

            • yalensis says:

              Medvedev appears to play the role of “krysha” for several crooks, both big ones and small ones. I still can’t figure out what his game is.

              • Dear Mark,

                I have read now read the article that sets out Golts’s opinions.

                It may be that I get a distorted picture of the Russian press because I can only read it in English. However there are times when it seems to me that the Russian press has simply switched from what was the mindless optimism of the Soviet era to a state of equally mindless pessimism today.

                I am no expert on military matters but even I can see that what Goltz says must be wrong.

                Since 1999 the Russian military has won two wars (against the Chechens in 1999 and the Georgians in 2008). What other major army can say the same? It has undertaken a major reorganisation replacing the divisional structure with a brigade structure and abolishing the old system of cadre formations and military districts. It has brought into service two new road mobile land based Intercontinental ballistic missiles (the Topol and the Yars). The US has not introduced a wholly new intercontinental ballistic missile since the Minuteman of the 1960s. It is putting into service two new sea based intercontinental ballistic missiles (the Bulava and the Sineva). The current US seaborne anti ballistic missile the Trident has its roots in the 1970s. It is currently testing yet another land based intercontinental ballistic missile. It has also brought into service a new battlefield guided missile (the Iskander), three types of anti ship missile (the Onyks, Kalibr and Uran of which the Onyks and Kalibr are supersonic – something no other country has so far been able to produce) and remains the undisputed world leader in anti aircraft missiles with the S400, Buk M, Tor, Pantsir and Igla all in production and service. Russia is building new generation early warning radars, has just introduced into service a new generation of radio communications sets, is building two new generations of nuclear powered submarines (the Borei and the Yasen) of which the first of each class is about to go into service after successful trials and is a major builder and exporter of diesel electric submarines. It is also building no fewer than four corvette classes, a new frigate class, a new generation amphibious warfare class and is about to start work on a new possibly nuclear powered destroyer class. It has started production and is taking into service two new classes of heavy transport aircraft (the IL 476 and the AN 70), a new strike aircraft (the SU 34), a new trainer aircraft (the YAK 130), two modernised fighter classes (the SU 35 and the MiG 35) and is conducting apparently very successful tests on its new SU T50 fifth generation fighter. Contrast this with the stop in F22 production and the shambles of the F35 programme. Lastly as we previously discussed it is working on three new families of armoured vehicles: the Armata, the Kurganets and the Boomerang. Here by the way are photographs of models that were shown to Rogozin at Uralvagonzavod. The heavy Armata tank is at the extreme left and is not to scale.


                Does this mean that everything in the army and the military industrial complex is well? Of course not! The pace of procurement is still slow, there is no doubt that the supply chains did indeed atrophy during the 20 year long procurement drought (how could they have avoided doing so?) and the country has fallen heavily behind in some types of weapons especially unmanned drones (though I sort of get the feeling that the boundless enthusiasm of a few years ago for drones has waned slightly). To say however that the military industrial complex is stuck where it was in 2005 and will remain there for ever is absurd, whilst to say that the only currently effective programmes are the new fifth generation SU T50 fighter and the Bulava is simply untrue. Also why should Russia look to the west for help in training its officers when it can show victories in two wars in the last 15 years and they can show none?

                It is not as if Russia is the only country to suffer problems with weapons development and production and with poor subcomponent and supply chains. The F35 debacle is too well known to need discussion but here is a recent article from the Guardian that describes the major problems that are affecting Britain’s new Astute nuclear attack submarine class.


                If the intention behind commentaries like those of Felgenhauer and Glotz is to demoralise the military and to reduce public and political commitment to the reconstruction of the country’s military then there may be some point to it though I would in that case question the patriotism and loyalty to the country of people who write in this way. However if that is the case then it is not achieving its purpose. What it is actually doing is fostering in the west an attitude of contempt and complacency towards the Russian military, which historic experience shows is always unjustified and always dangerous and which repeatedly leads to miscalculations like the ones the Chechens and Saakashvili made in 1999 and 2008 and the one that Hitler most disastrously made on 22nd June 1941.

  34. Misha says:

    Putin on H. Clinton:

    Note how “abrasive” is used in a way that doesn’t charcerize what H. Clinton said.

  35. Moscow Exile says:

    The ramifications of the Pussy Riot saga grow ever thicker! An article in today’s Moskovsky Komsomelets reports how Samutsevitch is trying her damndest to get her former defence lawyers debarred. There’s also a video doing the rounds that shows Violetta Volkova (former defence counsel for Samutsevich) touting for money off Samutsevich’s distressed father:

    From the MK article:

    Самуцевич также попросила адвокатскую палату дать оценку профессиональному поведению Волковой. После расторжения договора адвокат встретилась с отцом активистки. Эта встреча была записана участниками документального проекта “Срок”, а видеоролик выложен в интернете. “Чувства, которые вызывает просмотр этого разговора Волковой с моим отцом, сложно и больно описывать. Он вынужден выслушивать претензии адвоката и не находит, что ей ответить на фразы вроде “Мы не получили ни копейки!”, “Защита других будет невозможна, она утопит всех””,— говорится в жалобе. На вопрос отца участницы Pussy Riot о том, можно ли как-то исправить ситуацию, госпожа Волкова отвечает: “В принципе она может заново заключить со мной соглашение”. Самуцевич считает такое отношение “неэтичным и унизительным”.


    Samutsevich has also asked bar council to make an assessment of Volkova’s professional behaviour .After having had her contract terminated, the lawyer [Volkov] met Samutsevich’s father. Thhe meeting was recorded by those who participated in making the documentary “The Term” and the videoclip can be seen on the Internet. “It is is difficult and painful for me to describe the feelings that the viewing of Volkova’s conversation with my father has given rise to. He is forced to to listen to the lawyer’s claims and is unable to reply to phrases like “We have received not even one kopeck “, “The defence of the rest will be impossible and they will go under”, she complains. In answer to a question posed by the Pussy Riot participant’s father concerning whether the situation can be saved somehow, Mistress Volkova responds: “In principle she can once more conclude a new contract with me with me”. Samutsevich considers such an attitude “unethical and humiliating”.

    End of translation.

    At the foot of the MK article is a cooment from a reader that reflects exactly what I have said about the PR affair and which many Russians – white-ribbonists apart – hold to be true:

    Кто они? Это была провокация. Заметьте, песню про Путина добавили потом, наложив. А реальные съёмки с места действия, показывают, что они прыгают встав задницами к алтарю и визжат “срань, срань, срань” и орут оскорбления в адрес Бога. То есть провокация была сделана что бы разозлить верующих. А потом наложили политическую песенку и сделали вид, как будто бы они выступали против власти, а не просто пришли в храм поиздеваться над верующими. В записи, без наложенного звука почему-то про Путина слов не слышно.


    Who are these people? It was a provocation. Note that the song about Putin was added later. The original scene that was shot shows them jumping around with their arses to the altar and screaming “shit, shit, shit” and yelling insults at God. That is to say, the provocation was made ​​in order that it would enrage the faithful. And then a political song was made so that it appeared as if they were against the government and had not just come to the cathedral in order to make fun of Christians. In the recording, without anything added on, no words about Putin are audible.

    • yalensis says:

      I hope Sam is successful in disbarring these shylocks.

    • marknesop says:

      Obviously this video is just a fake made by the opposition to discredit lawyers.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      Goldfarb writes on the issue:

      Но объективно в результате деятельности Самуцевич, огромное количество народу теперь приняло версию, что девушки находятся в тюрьме из-за нерадивых адвокатов, а не из-за мстительности Путина и Кирилла. Это безусловно разрушило политический эффект их акции и поведения на суде внутри России и сильно подорвало кампанию за границей.


      But objectively, as a result of the Samutsevich’s activity, large number of people now believe in the version that the girls are in jail because of advocates who are not right, and not out of the revenge of Putin and Kirill. This has certainly destroyed the political effect of their action and their behaviour in court in Russia and seriously damaged the campaign abroad.


      • kirill says:

        My, what a great thinker. Stupid Russians would have accepted clowns crapping on their dinner tables, if only …. those clowns weren’t clowns and crapping on their dinner tables.

        The sneering contempt for Russians by these self-annointed “inteligentsia” is breathtaking in its obscenity and absurdity.

        • Leos Tomicek says:

          The so called “intelligentsia” always found Russians deficient in some way, mostly influenced by the opinions of outsiders. They wash themselves, they do not cross themselves like the Byzantines, they do not accept liberalism, they do not build communism the right way, they want to be independent, they don’t like to be told what to do, they dare even to exist. That’s nothing new.

      • yalensis says:

        Very interesting quotes. I would make a minor correction to the translation: “нерадивых адвокатов” should be translated into English as either “lazy laywers” or “negligent laywers”.

        • Leos Tomicek says:

          Typical me, I have written the translation in a hurry. I should have also translated the following bit about Madonna losing interest in the Pussy Riot case…

          • Misha says:

            Hipster trendoid types are noted for being very fashion conscious in a way that sees frequent style changes on their part.

            Even with artificial propping from influential venues, the subject of PR is due to to decline in discussion.

  36. Ruspos says:

    Long time reader first time commenter here. Speaking of human capital as regards BRIC etc.

    Russian 4th graders came in second (behind only Hong Kong) in the PIRLS international study of reading achievement. Also Russia along with Finland have the best scores in Europe for math and science among 4th graders and 8th graders in TIMSS, although the outstanding Top 5 consists of all East Asian countries.

    • Dear Ruspos,

      May i be the first in that case to welcome you as a commenter on this blog? Your first two comments have been very interesting. The one about the high scores of Russian 4th graders will be of special interest to Anatoly Karlin amongst others.

      • marknesop says:

        I echo your welcome, and I could have used that data when making up the post, “Are Slavs Stupid?”, which slid into disaster because I thought Estonians were Slavs. I have since learned – over and over – that while there are always disputes over the origin of peoples, Estonians are most likely Finno-Ugric. Anyway, of course no race or ethnicity is stupid right across the board simply because of their race or ethnicity, but supporting data like this would have been welcome.

        It is a curiosity to me what a warlike people the Swedes once were; about the only echoes you see of it now are in their hockey teams. In any case, a local source is a real treat anywhere, and I’m delighted to meet you.

        • Misha says:

          Ice hockey teams known for playing a skilled but not so physical game – albeit with some exceptions like the now retired Peter Forsberg (a blend of talent and hard play) and Ulf Samuelsson (considered by many to be one of the dirtiest if not the dirtiest of players during his playing days).

        • Jennifer Hor says:

          Dear Mark: My understanding is that Sweden gave up empire-building and adopted a “pacifist” stance after being beaten by Russia in a major war over dominance of the Baltic Sea region that lasted some 20 years and ended in 1721. The previous big shot had been Denmark which used to control entry to the Baltic Sea when that country owned both sides of the Skagerrak and Kattegat straits (which connect the Baltic Sea to the North Sea) and whose power and territory were whittled away by the Swedish. Defeat by Peter the Great didn’t stop Sweden from pursuing dominance in an indirect way: the country supplied bureaucrats who helped King Leopold II of Belgium rule his Belgian Congo colony as a slave-state in the late 19th century. The Swedes collaborated with Nazi Germany to the extent of allowing German forces access across northern Swedish territory to reach mines in Norway. (Although many Swedish soldiers did sympathise with their Norwegian neighbours and refused to work with the Germans.) In the 1980s some Swedish companies sold weapons to Singapore, knowing that Singapore would sell most of these weapons on to Iraq, and the Swedish government must have been aware of this trade.

        • yalensis says:

          Swedish women have a reputation of being beautiful.
          In fact, Swedish women were voted second most beautiful in the world, right after the acknowledged champions, Ukrainian women:

          • marknesop says:

            Ukrainian women certainly are beautiful, but I would caution that this “guide” rates only cities, and I would be willing to bet at least some of the voters are casting their ballots based on stereotypical conditioning – everybody thinks Swedish girls are uniformly gorgeous because of the mythical “Swedish Bikini Team”, which was part of a popular commercial.

            I was amused to see Canada rated as the “Bottom of the pile” when no cities in England were mentioned at all; for the love of God, Britain, get over yourself. But I cannot fathom why they would choose to exemplify it with a photo of Celine Dion, who is by no stretch of the imagination beautiful. Well, to her husband and family, she is of course the most beautiful woman in the world, and I mean no disrespect, but she is not conventionally beautiful whatever her talents as a vocalist. I sense typical indolent laziness on the part of The Telegraph.

            Quite often, and this is especially true in Canada, the stunners and the heartbreakers are Canadian only by citizenship, and were born elsewhere. A great example is this year’s Miss (Universe) Canada – Sahar Biniaz, from just across the water in Vancouver, but from much further away than that if her origins count: she is an Indian-born Iranian. Second was Majd Soudi, also a stunner and Canadian as they come, but born in Amman, Jordan.

            I’m afraid I completely lost my heart to the ravishing Jenna Talackova, but she’ll never win because she was born a man. Her genes are mostly Czech, from her father. Still, even if she doesn’t win anything, I’m keeping her in my back pocket for future occasions like The Telegraph’s silly ratings. Then I can say, “Beautiful? Are you joking? Why, some of our men are better-looking than that!”

      • AK says:

        Thanks Ruspos.

        I’m aware of those results and have even cited them at times.

        The problem is that those scores are kind of an outlier among other tests of intellectual ability. For instance, in the PISA Reading tests (which are harder to prepare for and more closely correlate to real life situations) Russia performs quite poorly at the level of about Israel and Turkey.

        I actually once wrote a long analysis of the various estimates of the Russian IQ. My conclusion is that it is currently at about 97, with a potential ceiling of around 100 (about equal to Poland) once they begin testing the post-1990’s generation which didn’t suffer from nutritional deficits in their youth.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      I left school half a century ago in the UK, graduated as a mature student in 1991. I now often work with some fellow countrymen who are 40 years younger than I am and who graduated this decade.

      From what I have observed amongst my fellow countrymen over the past forty years or so, there seems to have been a downward curve in British education standards since my school days. My wife also believes that education standards have fallen amongst her Russian countrymen since that time when she finished her education. She graduated as an engineer in 1986.

      However, having only become a father when I was 50, I now have two children who are still attending a Russian state school and one at kindergarten. I have no complaints about the standard of education in Russia and think it is on a par with that which I received in the UK over half a century ago,

      As regards Russian teaching methodology, however, I am sure that many Western pedagogues would hold up their hands in horror, as rote learning, for example, is not considered tabu in Russsian schools.

      My then 12-year-old son, for example, had to learn Lermontov’s poem “Borodino” by heart during this year’s summer holidays. Such school tasks are often set my two eldest. They also are given a considerable amount of homework to do every evening, though not as much as I was set in an English grammar school during in the ’60s. Such grammar schools have long ceased to exist in the UK: too elitist, they said

      • marknesop says:

        I had a bit of an epiphany the other day when I was watching a ballet video with my daughter (she’s 5, 6 in February). It was a DVD of her performance last year in the annual recital, and it’s a favourite of hers; not so much her own performance as some by the older kids. I was present at the actual performance, of course, but watching the video over and over reinforced my initial impression – none of them were very good. Even the ones who have been doing it for years. And do you know why? Because competition is not encouraged, being instead replaced by a culture of “good enough” and of inclusiveness. Kids who have trouble grasping the routines, or who make the same mistakes repeatedly are allowed to take part nonetheless.

        This is at odds with what I watched in music performances in Russia. I watched a girl who would have been maybe 13 play a 9-minute piece by Rachmaninoff with no sheet music, from memory. My stepson sang solo in front of a fairly substantial crowd when he was perhaps 6 or 7 (I didn’t know him then, I saw it on video) and he was really good. What I’m getting at is that kids who are not good enough to perform, whether solo or as part of a group are not encouraged to continue. Audiences really get into the kids’ performance, instead of just clapping tolerantly regardless what the show was like. Everything in western education is paced to the slowest learner, and the exception is found at the university level – for those who can afford it.

        Anyway, I see some parallels with education in general here. Teachers are worried about destroying a child’s self-esteem, and parents are often smotheringly protective. Pretty much any effort is acceptable.

        I don’t know what a constructive compromise would be. I’m not advocating a system so competitive that only the top 15% or so get a decent education while the rest are fated to make license plates for a living, but our existing system results in an effort to normalize the range of abilities until everyone is the same. That’s not much of a solution, either.

        • Misha says:

          Due to increased socioeconomic challenges in the US and elsewhere, I’m of the impression that more parents and children alike are becoming aware of the “practical” considerations pertaining to the concentration on a given study or other activity.

          This can partly explain the greater obesity problem in the US, which leads to the mindset of: if working out isn’t going to land a scholarship or pro-contract, then why do so, when it takes time away from the effort of seeking to make more money?

        • yalensis says:

          Mark: I have witnessed the same phenomenon you describe in the figure-skating subculture. I have personally witnessed some of the top Russian coaches in action, and they are all the same: If they are handed a group of children to coach, they very quickly hone in on the one or two who have actual talent, devote all their attention to these, and quickly lose interest in the others. The rigorous coaching and correction build excellence, but only works for those who were born with talent to begin with.
          There are obviously pluses and minuses to this approach. The plus is that it promotes excellence. The minus is that discourages those who don’t have talent but might benefit from participating anyway. (Not just in sports, but also music, dance, art, etc.)
          The compromise is to separate out the elite for special development, while still allowing less talented hoi polloi opportunities to participate in activities that they love, but are not particularly good at!

  37. Moscow Exile says:

    At last the Moscow Times reports that there has been an increase in the population here and that the president “is likely to reiterate that improving Russia’s demographic situation will be one of the key targets of his six-year term”.

    However, once again, it seems that faint praise in MT is an opener for condemnation. The main front page story in today’s MT appears under the headline: Experts Dismiss Population Rise as Momentary Blip

    • kirill says:

      “Momentary blip”. LOL. Population is just like the stock market with daily ups and downs, right? These “experts” are of the type that make up their own certificates and work at “institutes” they have “founded”. In other words, shysters. For people that pay attention it is clear that population dynamics is nothing like the stock market and there are no such things as blips unless you talk about war effects. Russia has gotten over the “blip” associated with the collapse of the USSR and that took 20 years. The current trend is going to be just as gradual and it is not plausible that in the next few years the trend will be negative again without some exogenous shock.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Anyway, as regards the claim of the “experts” that the population increase is partly a result of incentives promoted by the Evil One to encourage larger families, my wife received a nice parcel off the Mayor of Moscow the other week when it was the Russian version of “Mother’s day”. There were lots of goodies inside: buiscuits, cake, tea, coffee, sweets, etc. – there was even a jar off French face cream included – and a congratulatory letter off the mayor addressed to her.

        It’s because we’re classed as a multi-children family – we have a green passport type thing with our photos in it and details off our offspring. We can get discount on children’s goods by means off this document and any Moscow mother who has borne more than three children is praised to high heaven by the establishment..

        I said to her, “So they reckon you’re some kind of latter-day heroine of the Soviet union
        do they?”

        I never got nothing though, which is, I think, a little unfair: after all, I too contributed my
        little bit towards the fight against the demographic crisis.

        And she never gave me one crumb from her goodies box!


        • Moscow Exile says:

          Why the hell have I been writing “off” instead of “of”?

          And there I was earlier on complaining of declining educational standards!

        • kirill says:

          Sad to hear about the crumbs :)

          But these incentive programs are slow to manifest results. If it was so easy then every regime out there would pack some candy and they could get the millions of newborns that they want. The real story here is the drop in mortality and increased birth rates both associated with improving economic conditions. This ain’t no propaganda trick of Putler.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Exactly! We wouldn’t have had three if we had feared that a life of poverty for us all and a miserable upbringing for them would have been the result.

            • marknesop says:

              Which is exactly the reason the natural birth rate in the USA is well below replacement rate and is actually lower than that of France.

              American fertility reached its recent peak in 2007; its fall has coincided with the economic crisis that began at the end of that year. Recession seems to have reduced fertility through at least two channels. First, migrants often cannot find work and go back home. Since they tend to have slightly larger families than native-born citizens, this reduces fertility. It has happened in Spain in the past two years, and may be happening in America as Mexicans leave.

              Second, loss of income, compounded by the housing crisis, is causing young people to postpone marriage, the setting up of new homes, and having children. In 2011 the Pew Research Centre asked 18-to-34-year-old Americans about their reaction to recession: 22% said they had postponed having a baby and 20% said they had postponed marriage as a result. This reaction is evident in Europe, too, but the response seems to have been sharper in America.

        • The claims of these “experts” would be altogether more impressive if they had predicted the current population increase. Needless to say they didn’t. That it was possible to do so is shown by the fact that Anatoly Karlin (who they would presumably deny is an “expert”) did.

        • yalensis says:

          So, that’s how it is, eh? Ye breed like hamsters and get rewarded for yer efforts?

  38. Misha says:

    Posted in an eclectic spirit, this is a rare pro-Zyuganov Western based English language piece:

    No mention of United Russia.

    Another recent piece on Zyuganov and the KPRF:

    On the Russian patriotic theme bit, Putin has recently emphasized this issue as well.

    Two of Russia’s leading presidential options from different parties have a shared view of enhancing patriotism, while not marching lock step on every related issue. The preceding sentence is carefully worded in consideration of what the result might be in a hypothetical Medvedev-Zyuganov (or other KPRF candidate) presidential poll.


    No surprises given the sources:


    An eye caching prediction referenced in this piece:

    • What is amazing about this article from Bayer is that he cites as evidence of Russia’s irrationality Russia’s “unprecedented population decline”. This shortly after it was confirmed it has been reversed.

      It seems to me that if Bayer was to find examples of irrationality all he needs to do is look in a mirror.

  39. Moscow Exile says:

    He’s a Latynina clone, I’m sure.

    Some interesting comments off readers. (Three as I write, though LR has not appeared yet, as I’m sure she soon will.)

    I’ve noticed that more and more frequently readers’ comments have begun to query his sagacity.

    Must be more native English speaking Kremlin Stooges in Moscow than I had previously thought.

    • Misha says:

      Not directly facing the music (so to speak) with earnest point-counterpoint exchanges seems to be common with the high profile liberast leaning commentary.

      Say/write questionable things, while continuing to have a shielded slot appears rather normal.

      Don’t be fooled by the comments section. The unofficial message is that getting the comparatively high profile column comes with a certain mindset, unlike the less glamorous role.

  40. It looks as if the white ribbon opposition is now returning to the disruptive “revolutionary” tactics it pursued before the protest on 10th December 2011 and which some of its members now feel it should never have abandoned. It seems that it is intent on holding an illegal as opposed to an authorised protest on 15th December 2012.

    The “revolutionary” tactics pursued before 10th December 2011 were a flop and I expect they will be again. However it does create a real risk of violence on 15th December 2012. As has become pretty obvious, that is what Navalny and Udaltsov are counting on and want.

  41. There is a great deal that can be said about Putin’s speech today but one proposal he made certainly took my fancy. This is that he called for the revival of the Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky Guards Regiments. Being something of a history buff I love the idea. I think it will be good for the army too.

  42. It seems to be all over for Bashir Al-Assad. The US and the “Friends of Syria” offcially recognized the opposition groups/islamists as the Syrian government.

    • marknesop says:

      And….??? France already recognized the now-defunct transitional council as the legitimate government of Syria. Was it all over for Saakashvili when Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent republics? Hardly; most of the world just ignored it and refused to follow suit.

      It’s true that Canada and the UK and some of the European nations will likely be quick to jump on the bandwagon, to show their support for the United States, which they do in all things, right or wrong. They did the same in the case of Libya. This is going to mean it’s all over for Assad only if Assad also acknowledges the opposition is the legitimate government of Syria, and begs for terms. I don’t think that’s going to happen, because what it amounts to is that the western powers are simply trying to take his country away from him and give it to someone else.

      Also, China and Russia sat out the debacle in Libya. They have thus far shown no inclination to sit this one out, and to the best of my knowledge the USA has no power to simply gift the government of a sovereign nation to another entity.

      The NATO powers cannot now say they must use military force and march in to protect the integrity of the legitimate government of Syria, because Assad was the legitimate government of Syria until yesterday (and in reality, still is) and NATO did nothing to protect him.

      This changes nothing on the ground. Assad will continue to fight for as long as he can, while NATO will keep on gunrunning to the “rebels” in an attempt to overthrow him militarily. But the recognition is just a meaningless fig leaf, although it does speak to NATO’s confidence that Assad will be overthrown, because they obviously do not think they are going to have to backpedal.

      It is, though, disgusting. NATO is empowering a group of people as the Syrian government of which no NATO leader would allow them to be alone with their daughters in a room for 10 seconds. Abdelhakim Belhaj, the “great military leader” is an al Qaeda mercenary and there is nobody left in the west who does not know it. They will enable a “government” of mercenaries and fundamentalists who will straightaway hunt down and murder all the Alawites, and then settle down to turn another secular country into a strict Muslim theocracy. And the west will do its impression of “The Scream” and say, breathlessly, “We didn’t know!!! Nobody could have predicted this would happen!!!”.

      • I think this is getting slightly ahead of the facts. I don’t think the US has recognised the rebel Council as the legitimate government of Syria. What I think it has done is recognise the rebel Council as the legitimate authority in those areas of Syria it controls.

        Of course in reality the Council controls nothing since it does not control the rebels who are actually fighting on the ground. Anyway the objective presumably is to get the rebel Council to ask the US for “protection” when the Syrian military “attacks” those parts of Syria under its fictitious control. This is of course the repeat of the Benghazi scenario. It has the additional problem that the rebels so far have not succeeded in capturing any important Syrian town or city but no doubt a way will be found round that too.

        • marknesop says:

          I’m sure. And thanks for the bracer. But I do get irritated by this constant twittering about the inexorability of western pressure and its inevitable success. Perhaps it will be, but if so, only because it deserves it. And I don’t mean that as a compliment to its integrity, or its determination.

    • Misha says:

      Over the decades, there’ve been precedents of some countries recognizing an entity in contrast to what has been internationally established.

      Such situations provocatively bring greater attention to the given area.

      Assad has yet to be defeated. A recent media report says that forces loyal to him recently retook a key area.

      With all of the other problems in the world, one hopes that reason will prevail in the approach taken to end the Syrian conflict.

      From the vantage-point of international norms, Russia IMO (and that of some others) is taking a more neutral and practical stand than the countries formally recognizing the anti-Syrian government opposition.

    • yalensis says:

      It’s only over when the fat lady sings.
      And by fat lady, I mean a NATO no-fly zone.
      Unless they are bombed from the air, Syrian army can hold its own. Remember, they are a real army, and they’re fighting approx. 40,000 ragtag mercenaries who do not enjoy popular support.

  43. Two new economic numbers have just been published. The latest budget figures confirm that the budget will be in surplus this year and by a greater amount than was being predicted only a few weeks ago. This is the second year in a row that the budget has been in surplus when it was expected to show a deficit.

    Secondly annual inflation to the end of November stood at 6.2%. This suggests that unless there is a sudden dramatic increase in inflation this month inflation will be only marginally higher this year than last year despite the poor harvest. That confirms that inflation is on a downward trajectory. Given the high interest rates it could start falling significantly in about 6 months.

    On a separate issue the Finance Ministry, the Economics Ministry and the Central Bank are all at sea on their predictions for capital outflow. A few days ago Siluanov was saying it would be $60 billion (which would suggest that there has been a net capital inflow over the last few weeks) whilst the Economics Ministry and the Central Bank have given completely different and higher but arguably more realistic figures putting capital outflow at roughly $70 to $75 billion (only marginally lower than last year).

  44. Moscow Exile says:

    Dear Alexander Mercouris,
    Though the Preobrazhensky Guards were disbanded in 1917, they still play the Preobrazhensky regimental march, as can be heard here on a video clip taken at this year’s Victory Day parade across Red Square.

    The march is played at 6:45 into the video – ironically when the minister of defence Serdyukov makes his grand entry onto the square through the gates of Spasky Tower. (Notice how his pockets are bulging? :-))

    Nice tune, isn’t it?

    By the way, I don’t know whether you are aware of this fact, but “preobrazheniye” (преображение) means “transfiguration” in Russian, as in “preobrazheniye Gospodne” (преображение Господне) – “The Transfiguration of Our Lord”, as seen here in this icon.

    The reason why the regiment got its name was because, before he became tsar, Peter I played soldiers, as it were, with real soldiers in the neighbourhood of Preobrazhenskoye (преображенское) Village, namely “Transfiguration Village” outside of Moscow in “Holy Russia”. Those real “toy” soldiers of his (many of whom were young aristocrats) became the nucleus of the Preobrazhensky Guards regiment.

    Preobrazhenskoe Village is now a Moscow suburb and, as it happens, it is where I first lived as a student in Moscow in the late ’80s: my metro station then was Preobrazhenskaya Square (Преображенская – change in inflection since “square” is of feminine grammatical gender in Russian!)

    • Dear Moscow Exile,

      I knew none of this. What I knew about the Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky Guards was what I read about the role they played in the War of 1812 and in the ceremonies at the tsar’s court towards the end of the tsarist era. I also know that the Semenovsky Regiment played a key role in suppressing the December 1906 Moscow workers’ uprising which we discussed recently and that it became clear in 1917 that the tsar was doomed when it went over to the Revolution. I have also heard, though I have no idea whether it is true (and I have completely forgotten where I heard it), that by regulation all the soldiers in the Preobrazhensky Regiment had to be blond and all the soldiers in the Semenovsky Regiment had to be brunette. I had no idea that Peter I created these regiments or this extraordinary story of Peter I playing soldiers with real soldiers. Thank you for some truly fascinating informatiion

      As for the march, it shows you how completely ignorant of these matters I am in that though I have often heard this march (which I agree is amazing) and was aware that it was a Russian march I had no idea that it had any connection with the Preobrazhensky Regiment. There is a scene of Russian soldiers marching to in Palace Square in St. Petersburg in an early scene in the James Bond film Goldeneye. Also I have seen it played by Russian bands in two Russian films I have DVDs of: the 1955 version of Sholokhov’s Tikhy Don and Nikita Mikhailkov’s bloated but nonetheless interesting film the Barber of Siberia. However in none of these films is it identified with the Preobrazhensky Regiment. One learns something new every day. Any idea who composed it and when it was written? What’s the Semenovsky Regiment’s march like?

      Incidentally did you know that the British Army plays the march as well? It is regularly performed by the band of one of its regiments (I forget which). I wonder whether they giv it its correct attribution? Soldiers tend to be respectful of tradition including other people’s traditions so I would guess they do.

      • Misha says:

        This link directly leads to that march with a reference (at the right) to some others:

      • yalensis says:

        Yeah, it’s well known about Peter I playing at “toy soldiers”. He had to watch his back, due to vicious power struggles and assassination attempts. He couldn’t trust his own sister further than he could throw her. Hence, he had to do a Hamlet kind of thing and pretend to be eccentric, while secretly building up his private army.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          He had his own “toy navy” as well, a small sloop (there’s a replica of it somewhere in St. Pete – can’t remember where), whence the Russian Navy sprang. I think he used to go messing about in his boat on the Oka river, of which the Moscow river is a tributary: the Oka itself is a tributary of the Volga. Peter knew he needed a navy so as to oust the Swedes from their Baltic empire and the Ottomans from the sea of Azov and the Black sea littoral of what is now southern Russia, thereby gaining access to the trade routes of the aforementioned seas.

          As regards the composition of the Preobrazhensky and other 17/18th century Russian military marches, I’m sure they were all heavily influenced by the Prussian tradition, if not, indeed, written by immigrant Germans – and there were plenty of them when Peter was westernising Russia. It was the Prussians who were the Russian mentors at the time during the westernisation of the Russian army, hence the magnificent “goose step” that is still ceremonially performed by the Russia army (and is also “streng verboten” now in the land of its origin – too many bad vibes!)

          The Semyonovsky regiment (Семёновский лейб-гвардии полк), more exactly “Semenyovsky leib-gvardii polk” in full, “leib-gvardii polk” meaning “life-guard regiment” (see the German connection?), by the way, got its name in like manner as did the Preobrazhensky: Peter used to “play soldiers” with another of his real “toy” soldier regiments at the village of Semyonovskoye, which is again, now buried under the concrete of Moscow.

          The Semyonovsky regiment was disbanded in 1918.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          I should think it would have been quite easy for Peter to crack on to his half-sister and her motley and lethal crew of supporters that he was partly crazy because he had a half-brother who was mentally retarded. In fact, Peter jointly ruled with his half-brother until his sibling died young and, rather surprisingly for the Russian court, of natural causes.

        • Jennifer Hor says:

          What Peter I would have done had he been born a few centuries later … he’d have been the first Russian to fly solo from St Petersburg to Vladivostok non-stop before Aeroflot got started, the first to build and fly his own Sputnik into space and back to Earth safely, and the first to travel under the North Pole in his own one-man nuclear submarine, also built with his own hands.

          Might even have gone hang-gliding to guide the cranes on their migrations … hang on, Putin’s already done that!

          • Moscow Exile says:

            He was a man of many talents was old Pete. One of his little pastimes was dentistry. He used to extract teeth as a hobby, so to speak. None of his patients, I believe, refused his offer of treatment.

            One of the weirdest museums that I have ever visited is the Kunstkammer in St.Petersburg. This was set up by Peter and consisted of preserved exhibits of freaks of nature amongst other things, including
            human deformed human foeti.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                That brings back memories!

                When I was living in Germany, I lost a filling whilst chomping through some very tasty German rye bread. The dentist was rather pleased to have an English patient who he could practice his excellent, though attrociously accented German on. He was just like Olivier in the clip above – balding, same glasses – and as he approached me with his high speed drill in his right hand he beamed at me and said: “Zis von’t hurt!”

                My heart sank!

                Vee heff vays off making you talk, ja?

    • yalensis says:

      Yeah, Serd’ukov’s pockets are bulging so much with stolen loot that he is a bit wobbly and can barely stand up straight in his automobile! That would have been funny (in a slapstick kind of way) if he had fallen over and lay ineffectually thrashing on the floor of the moving car.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        There is a specially installed adjustable hand rail in those general inspection vehicles so as to prevent the Moscow garrison commander and the Minister of Defence from falling. You might just see it to the left of the general/politician in the video.

        I always think it would be far more impressive if they rode horses as did Marshal Zhukov and the rest of the staff officers present at the Victory Parade of 1945. I don’t know when they stopped using horses on parade in Moscow.

        The British and Household Cavalry still appear mounted in ceremonial parades in the UK, together with a mounted cavalry band that includes huge beasts with kettle drums on either side of their shoulders.

        The Queen of England used to watch the Trooping of her Colours on horseback – and sidesaddle to boot – until well into her middle age.

        She sits in a state landau now as she’s already 86.

        I reckon Putin wouldn’t be against charging horseback across Red Square Zhukov style. I shouldn’t like to do it though: those sets (“cobblestones”) can be really slippy at times.

        • Misha says:

          I recall the Turkmen military contingent having an officer do the white horse bit during a not too distant Victory Day parade.

          • Misha says:

            In Moscow.

            There’re other such parades in some other parts of the former USSR.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Yes! that’s right. I remember now. It was a stallion of the same breed as the one Zhukov rode. It was only a few years ago. I think it was the same year as when the Welsh Guards from the UK paraded there as well. But it was a Turkmen regiment that, like the British Guards, had been invited as guests of honour that year: it wasn’t a Russian army contingent. In fact, it’s only recently that they started having a mounted Russian cavalry troop at the Kremlin. They inaugurated this troop at the same time as they decided to have those awful chocolate soldier ceremonial uniforms for the Presidential Honour Guard. The cavalry troop are like trick riders and perform for tourists inside the Kremlin. They don’t do real cavalry parade manoeuvres as the British cavalry does at Horseguards, London: it’s more like a circus performance and quite pricey to watch as well.

            • Misha says:

              It was the especially big one that I think was attended by Bush.

              Upon seeing the Turkem contingent, I recall the former Soviet republic leaders present showing a chuckle.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                It was the 65th Anniversary Parade of the 1945 victory held only 2 years and 7 months ago in 2010.

                At 32:05 appears the mounted Turkmen officer. A little before the Turkmens are the Welsh Guards and a US detachment followed by a French contingent. There were Poles there as well that year.

                And below the YouTube clip you can see the following comment:

                “You realize that Germany was completely crushing Russia until America stepped in and sent Russia our equipment. If the united states never stepped in you would be calling all of Russia Germany”.

                Same every year: trolling masturbatory shits who believe they are so smart.

        • yalensis says:

          Horses look great, but unfortunately they can be inconsiderate and don’t clean up after themselves.

  45. Here’s a good demolition of the Magnitsky law by Paul Craig Roberts, who I would remind people was Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and has also been an editor at the Wall Street Journal.

    • marknesop says:

      It’s a little over the top for him, I’m afraid. He goes a little too far in exonerating Russia for Magnitsky’s death – in which if it were not complicit, there would have been no firings of medical authorities in reaction: meanwhile, he perpetuates the common wisdom that Magnitsky was a lawyer when he was not.

      He also underplays Russia’s response, which is anything but amusement. There’s no question but that Russia is angry, although it is not necessarily the fury of a bully who has been taken to task by the righteous as the Anglosphere portrays it, but more likely exasperation at having the evidence it presents that Magnitsky was himself part of the scheme – rather than a whistleblower oozing integrity and good old-fashioned truthiness values – ignored and refused even the consideration of a review. This is in itself telling: David Cameron refused to even look at it. The Russian senatorial delegation was refused a meeting with Senator Benjamin Cardin, co-writer of the Magnitsky Bill, and a spokesman for John McCain said the senator would look at the material (if he has time given his frequent appearances on the Sunday talk shows) but would not change his mind. This putting of fingers in ears and saying “Lalalalala I can’t hear you” from adults who are supposed to be leaders staggers the imagination with its immaturity. A poorly-constructed and non-substantive case against Magnitsky would be a priceless boon to the west right now, on the eve of the law’s passing; a thoughtful and public dissection of it would ease a lot of minds and harden a lot of American hearts against ridicule. Instead, the highest authorities act as if even offering evidence said to substantiate Russia’s case is some sort of insult. Which is why I think it does substantiate Russia’s case, and they know that. Once they have officially reviewed the material, they cannot claim to be ignorant of what it contains.

      Mr. Roberts is right that Washington is directly responsible for thousands of innocent deaths, and that it has lazily abridged the right of its prisoners not to be tortured in order to extract material the keepers believe, for no good reason, them to be concealing. This behavior is reprehensible and Russia has no recent history of carrying out any such depredations on anything like such a scale. However, the circumstances in which the USA was known to have done these things were quite different. Lost in Roberts’ outpouring of emotion are salient facts such as that Magnitsky was not a lawyer at all, that both the firm he worked for and the firm he represented were British and therefore it is none of America’s business at all, and that it was in no way in Russia’s interests for Magnitsky to die just as he was about to go on trial as the star witness.

      It sounds to me as if Mr. Roberts wrote this when he was extremely angry, and nobody is at their best when they are unable to reason with cold deliberation.

      • cartman says:

        It seems that Russia is responding already by halting imports of beef and pork from the United States:

        A couple of years ago, Russia’s ban on chicken cost Tyson 10 percent of its business, but the company held through hoping the WTO would help things. Since most of Russia’s imports come from South America (which has had no outbreaks of BSE), it won’t affect current exports very much. Still, the country is a major lost opportunity since incomes – plus the lack of religious dietary restrictions – would support their products.

        Magnitsky List means that Russia and the United States will be the only two countries in the WTO with negligible trade relations.

        • marknesop says:

          Oh, well; according to most Americans willing to commit their opinions to writing – including the legendary Catherine Fitzpatrick – big deal. Most openly scoff at the notion Russia could hurt America in a trade dispute, and think that any hitch in such trade will just be temporary until Russians work out their fit of pique and settle down to being good little consumers. Of course they want American products, and of course nobody but America can supply those products: after all, it’s not like you can buy them from Europe or something. Oh, wait: you can.

          If I haven’t said it in awhile, thank God Putin is in charge and not Medvedev. He’s a decent enough guy, but too squishy, and would have been running negotiation rings around himself by now trying to find a solution that made everyone happy, vastly amusing westerners in the process although they would have pretended to take him seriously in order to prolong the enjoyment.

          Many Americans associated with the political arena are of the belief that Russia desperately needs American investment, and that they can piss on Russia’s shoes with impunity because they will put up with anything to get those greenbacks. It apparently does not occur to them that (1) they live in a petrocentric economy which relies heavily on imports of oil and gas, which are internationally-traded commodities that are basically stateless, (2) anything they do to attempt to embargo Russian oil and gas so that the USA does not buy any will send the price through the roof, and (3) Investors are motivated by profit, and if they see they can make a lot of it in a growing economy will find ways to get their money in there and working. If you need an example, look no further than Dick Cheney when he was CEO of Halliburton, still dealing with Iran while it was under the strictest sanctions the USA could bring to bear, all the while bemoaning “partisan politics” that curbed Halliburton’s profit-taking opportunities.

        • marknesop says:

          Well, well; looks like you’re right. Not only is Russia the USA’s biggest customer for chicken – over three-quarters of a billion dollars in 2009, not too shabby – Tyson is also one of the companies which will be hurt by a pork-imports ban.

          I see Tyson employs about 117,000 people, and is the world’s largest meat-processing company. Lost sales of 10% is a little high, more like around 5%, but that was with a ban on chicken only.

      • kirill says:

        I don’t see where Criag tries to exonerate Russian officials. He just states the fact that Magnitsky developed an illness and died from complications related to it. He points out that there was likely inadequate treatment. The people claiming that his death was by torture are full of it. And as I have posted before this sort of incident is not unique to Russia. The prime witness against the Clintons in the Whitewater investigation (a real estate scam where key people got off) died in custody as well.

  46. AK says:

    Continuing with the Serdyukov case:

    One of the accused has been let go from pretrial detention, while another (under house arrest in her 12 room Moscow flat) has had her conditions of arrest improved, with Serdyukov now allowed to visit her and her allowed to make phone calls and emails to anyone she wishes at her own leisure (apart from others directly involved in the Oboronservis case).

    According to her lawyer she is apparently subjected to “cruel tortures constituting a thread to her life and health”, and is denied the “good and services essential of life”, among which are “a doctor, a cook, and a cleaner.”

    The lawyer also said the lack of food products raises the risk of “death from hunger.” When one of the journalists asked why he couldn’t bring her food, the lawyer replied, “Who do you think I am, a deliveryman?”

    I really struggle to make sense of this. Coupled with Medvedev’s recent statements about him being a good minister, not to mention the ridiculous line being trotted out about him being deceived, it would appear that the authorities not only desperately wish to exonerate him and his reputation, which would be bad enough, but to openly, brazenly, and impudently rub it in the faces of their Russian subjects.

    • AK says:

      При этом источники в оперативно-следственной бригаде уже дали понять “Ъ”, что по делу приняты определенные политические решения, поэтому громких результатов от расследования ожидать больше не приходится.

      Sources in the investigations brigade has already let Kommersant know that certain political decisions have already been made about the case, so one should no longer expect any loud results from the investigation.

    • AK says:

      And just now I read the following in the NYT:

      Mr. Putin did not announce major new policy vectors on Wednesday, instead focusing on values, an unusual topic for a Russian leader. He said that “many moral compasses have been lost” since the Soviet Union collapsed, and that Russia’s citizens had become hardened to corruption and offensive behavior.

      “This often takes disgusting, aggressive and provocative forms” that threaten Russia’s security, he said. “It pains me to say this, but I feel obliged to say this: Today Russian society clearly lacks spiritual ties: mercy, sympathy, mutual compassion, support and assistance.”

      Maybe La Russophobe was right after all.

        • Yes indeed about what? These comments seem to me largely innocuous and fairly typical comments for the sort of conservative politician Putin is. Besides having read that part of Putin’s address on his website which has so far been translated I don’t agree that he focused on “spiritual issues”. The great bulk of the speech was about practical bread and butter questions such as economic and social policy as well as education and health. If I remember rightly these comments of Putin’s about “spiritual and moral health” were made in passing during a part of his speech that focused mainly on demographic questions. He also discussed further changes to the electoral system and spoke of the need to combat ethnic chauvinism. Obviously he didn’t announce “major new policy vectors” because as he pointed out at the beginning of the speech he had already set out his “policy vectors” in immense detail in the articles he published during the election campaign, which we tend to forget only ended a few months ago.

          On the Kommersant piece I wouldn’t put too much on it. The sources are unattributed and it looks to me like the usual newspaper gossip. There have already been consequences to this affair in that Serdyukov has been sacked as have most of the people he brought to the ministry with him. Whether he goes to prison or not I feel fairly certain that some of his associates will. Besides I understand that several have already confessed.

          • Here in fact is the translation of the first part of Putin’s speech from his website.


            I cannot find the comments about “spirituality” so I must have seen them elsewhere. However the summary of the speech prior to the translation barely mentions them. Bluntly I think the New York Times is greatly over exaggerating their importance probably because the bulk of the speech dealing as it does with domestic matters is of scant interest to its readers.

            • marknesop says:

              It is also necessary, the President stressed, to strengthen the spiritual and moral fabric of society. Issues of secondary education, culture and youth policy take on special importance in this regard as they are responsible for shaping a balanced, moral and responsible citizen of Russia. It is essential to give every support to the institutions that have enshrined our traditional values and have historically proven their ability to pass them on from generation to generation.

              Is that it?

        • AK says:

          About the low moral character and slave like mentality of the Russian people.

          Mark (and Alex) I am not criticizing for what Putin says. Those things are self-evident truths and need to be said.

          It’s the underlying hypocrisy. At the exact time what he criticizes is happening with what I can only assume is his full knowledge, besides he (and Medvedev) have furthermore gone out of their way to stress what a good Minister Serdyukov was which can only be interpreted as a political signal not to prosecute him.

          And Russians seem to be quite fine with all this.

          • kirill says:

            Just what suckers are you looking for to buy into your BS that the Serdyukov case is singularly bad and completely unlike anything that has happened in the US or Canada or the EU. That somehow it is a reflection of the pathological nature of the ethnic Russian mentality. At least he and his direct or indirect associates are under investigation. In contrast:


            And that is just the tip of the iceberg. I wonder why all the Putin haters can’t find a single example of this.

            • Misha says:

              Marion Barry got re-elected after a much publicized scandal that he was involved in.

              After Watergate, a prominent think tanke came about under Nixon’s name. There’s another one named after Hoover.

            • AK says:

              Did Perry steal that money from the US Army?

              In any case this is an example of whataboutism, of the bad sort that gives it a bad name in general.

              • Misha says:

                The whatboutism example in question was in answer to the overly simplified suggestion that Russians stand out in not expecting accountability among corrupt officials.

                With that in mind, the Barry, Nixon and Hoover examples are appropriate enough.

                The “bad sort” has more o do with suggestively brash folks who carry on like they know best.

          • marknesop says:

            Referring to the original comment; I saw it last night, but was too tired to reply.

            “About the low moral character and slave like mentality of the Russian people….[a]nd Russians seem to be quite fine with all this.”

            Well, since that sounds pretty much like the kind of thing La Russophobe herself would say – and I imagine you are just trolling for a reaction because I’m sure you don’t believe that – let’s pretend she did say it, and what your reply to this comment would likely have been.

            First of all, a broad-sweeping generalization like that is immediately specious and provocative – you have absolutely no way of knowing what all the Russian people think of it, or even a majority. You personally know less than a thousand people in Russia, the papers demonstrably print what is editorial policy rather than what all their readers think, and you have not done a representative poll which would be reasonably accurate. I kind of mistrust Levada a little now, since they sort of “came out” for the regime-changing democratizers, but even that would be better than nothing.

            I am quite sure Putin does know what is going on – however, there is no certainty at this point that Serdyukov is not going to be charged, and I am quite confident he will be; the news of his corruption has been spread far and wide, and it’s not like it can be now covered up or made to go away.

            Consider, also: as soon as Serdyukov was sacked, an outcry went up from the western press that he had been fired because he was too good at his job, that he ruffled feathers by refusing to buy Russian crap and instead doing his shopping abroad, which is bad for Russia’s reputation as a mercenary arms marketer who will sell anything to anybody. I fully realize the USA does several times the business in arms Russia does and that it is no more careful who it sells to, but this is you responding to La Russophobe. The west has seized upon the opportunity to make a martyr of Serdyukov, so that even his dismissal is political, never mind the repercussions if he was flung into pre-trial detention and then marched into court.

            Is there a western precedent for this – as usual – although such cases are consistently ignored by a righteously accusatory western press? I’m glad you asked, because yes, there is. Ken “Kenny Boy” Lay, personal friend of President Bush and ramrod of Enron, oversaw the obliteration of $60 Billion in market wealth and thousands of jobs; he makes Serdyukov look like a complete piker. And he never served a day in jail for it. You could argue that’s because he died, but the point is that he was never made to atone in any way for his crimes, insisting up to the hour of his death (figuratively speaking, I don’t know what he actually said, if anything, in his last hour alive) that he was innocent when it was completely impossible that he could have been innocent. Newsies like the New York Times helpfully dissolved into simple piety on his behalf.

            Serdyukov, on his own, has zero juice. He was appointed by Putin, and powerful because of his marital connections. He has well and truly messed that bed, and can look for no sympathy or protection there. For what, pray, is he being preserved? A new government job somewhere down the line, after he’s pissed off everyone, including his very powerful former father-in-law, and the military is delighted to see him gone? And give the white ribbonists a cause to rally behind?

            Then I would no longer be able to argue that Putin is not stupid. Because that would be stupid. Serdyukov’s day will come.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              I find this very interesting:

              Anatoliy Serdyukov’s entry in the English Wiki.

              Anatoliy Serdyukov’s entry in the Russian Wiki.

              Compare and contrast!

              In the Russian Wiki there is this:

              “6 ноября 2012 года В.Путин отправил Сердюкова в отставку” – On November 6th, 2012, Serdyukov was dismissed from office by V.Putin.

              No mention of that in the much shorter English Wiki entry.

              In fact, in the English Wiki the description of Serdyukov’s career ends on September 14th, 2007. Then there is a little piece on his personal life, which deals only with his marriage.

              The Russsian version, however, gives details of Serdyukov’s mistress, chief of the Ministry of Defence purchasing department Evgeniya Vasilyeva, and her 13-room flat and how serdyukov was found there during a search of the premises.

              Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice used to say.

              • Misha says:

                Other such Russian and English language Wiki contrasts exist.

                On top of that, a Brit pro-English anguage Wiki troll (at a now downed forum) had the gall to suggest that the English version is superior.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Could these differences in the two Wikis on Serdyukov mean that nobody gives a flying f*ck about his alleged misdeeds in the West, or does it mean that one of the Evil One’s Orcs is busy all day editing out in the English Wiki all that has happened to Serdyukov since September 14th, 2007?

                Or maybe Evgeniya and Anatoli are busy little bees each evening, editing out of the English Wiki all the insinuations made there against them?

                • Misha says:

                  Someone I knew who was involved with English Wiki told me of an uphill battle on certain subjects including Ukraine.

                  At last notice, the Gogol and Taras Bulba entries are flawed. Ditto the one on Suvorov.

                  Opposing a power structure with troll like elements is problematical.

              • kirill says:

                Misha 2%, Novalny “the KirovLes grifter”, etc. became “opposition heroes”. It’s a pattern. Anyone who is tainted and/or is charged and goes to trial in Russia is the victim of political persecution by the evil Pulter regime.

              • yalensis says:

                To add to the intrigue: I follow Navalny’s blog fairly closely, although I miss might one of his masterpieces here or there. I could be wrong, but I can’t find where Navalny ever criticized Serd’ukov. Since Navalny’s shtick is “crooks and thieves” within the administration, you would have thought he would be all over this one like a cop convention on a bag of donuts..
                I suspect Serd’ukov enjoys some kind of sympathy in West, and hence among their creatures, the Opps?

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  That’s what I was thinking. Navalny’s line of thinking might be: The Evil One fired him, so Serdyukov can’t be all that bad. What’s more, he’ll hold a grudge against Putin, so he could prove useful to me and my controllers.

            • AK says:

              Again, I’m really honestly not concerned with Ken Lay, as we are discussing Russia here. Yes it is true that banksters in the West enjoy a lot of the same impunity as connected politicians do in Russia, where did I ever deny that?

              Now as for polls, I’m afraid I can’t for the life of me find the link to it, but it was quite reputable (Gallup of PEW). An international survey asking, “Would you report a drunk driver?”

              90% of Americans and Britons said they would.

              Only 50% of Russians (either the lowest or one of the lowest indicators of the dozens of countries sampled).

              And then they whine about how their rulers steal from them when it’s these very sovok attitudes that enable them. This is a indication of moral cowardice and lack of civic spirit if there ever was one. Or maybe it’s because 50% of them are regularly drunk behind the wheels themselves? (Having been on Russian roads that would not surprise me).

              In any case such attitudes indicate that they deserve the hell they create for themselves with corruption. Of course if you’re too cowardly or complicit to report it why on earth should you have the right to complain when it boomerangs back on you?

              And this is reflected in all other matters of life with the level of petty thievery, scams, impudence and crude rudeness, etc. that one observes at a very basic level on the streets or in markets in Russia being an order of magnitude higher than in any Anglo-Germanic country (maybe it’s similar in China or the Med countries, but I have not yet had the opportunity to be able to form first hand comparisons).

              I despair of ever solving it. I suspect to a large extent it’s just how Russians are coupled 80 years of attempts by commies and then liberasts to destroy the nation’s moral character. Maybe it can be mitigated somewhat by extensive indoctrination into Christian thought as in Poland.

              I also don’t know why you’re so pissed off by comments. These are my impressions, after all, none of them are directed against you personally or in fact anyone here. And as I’m speaking of “average Russians” it necessarily applies to me as well.

              I have never made much secret that I have a higher regard for Russia itself and for certain Russian individuals than for the Russian people as a whole. hoct can confirm LOL.

          • Misha says:

            The NYT own content doesn’t appear to be influenced by the print RBTH insert which (based on looking at several issues) isn’t like the online version. In contrast to its online version, RBTHs’ print insert in The NYT seems to have more fluff pieces (Again, this impression is based at looking at a few RBTH print inserts in The NYT).

            An RBTH online piece:


            Excerpt –

            “Many famous Russians, were in fact Jewish, even if they did not identify as such. Leon Trotsky – a brilliant but cruel revolutionary – was Jewish and propagandized as one, even though he called himself an internationalist and declined to help out the Jews as the Whites carried out pogroms during the Russian Civil War.”


            Trotsky wasn’t in a good position to help Jews in territory which wasn’t under Red control. Moreover, Russian Civil War era Red controlled areas weren’t (on the whole) effectively centralized and included instances of wanton violence.

            The above article makes no mention of the pogroms carried out by forces headed by Ukrainian separatist Symon Petliura. For most of the post-Russian Civil War period, the general consensus seems to be that Petliura’s forces were mostly responsible for the pogroms. Among pro-Ukrainian nationalist/anti-Russian leaning sources and those influenced by them, claims have been made that the Whites committed the most pogroms.

            Regarding this matter, consider the number of pro-Petliura/anti-White leaning sources over those reflecting more of a constructively critical White perspective. This book reflects the latter:

            The Whites had lower and some upper elements that were involved in the violence against Jews. There was no master plan for such activity, which included an unstructured manner; on territory where the pogroms had already been evident, during the prior period of control by Petliura’s forces. When Peter Wrangel became supreme commander of the Whites, the level of violence among White forces decreased.

            In exile, Petliura was assassinated by a Jew, with the motive said to have been pogrom related. The claim of a Soviet orchestrated hit job was never proven. Even if so, a revenge factor could’ve still existed.

            In exile, many Whites including Anton Denikin and Peter Wrangel lived respectable lives. During the Cold War era, Novoye Russkoye Slovo established itself as the largest English language newspaper in the US. Staffed with a good number of Jews, this paper reflected pro-Russian/anti-Communist views, inclusive of a respectful treatment of Denikin.
            —– Original Message —–
            From: Michael Averko
            Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 4:51 AM
            Subject: EDIT/Jewish museum in Russia


            Excerpt –

            Many famous Russians, were in fact Jewish, even if they did not identify as such. Leon Trotsky – a brilliant but cruel revolutionary – was Jewish and propagandized as one, even though he called himself an internationalist and declined to help out the Jews as the Whites carried out pogroms during the Russian Civil War.


            Trotsky wasn’t in a good position to help Jews in territory which wasn’t under Red control. Moreover, Russian Civil War era Red controlled areas weren’t (on the whole) effectively centralized and included instances of wanton violence.

            The above article makes no mention of the pogroms carried out by forces headed by Ukrainian separatist Symon Petliura. For most of the post-Russian Civil War period, the general consensus seems to be that Petliura’s forces were mostly responsible for the pogroms. Among pro-Ukrainian nationalist/anti-Russian leaning sources and those influenced by them, claims have been made that the Whites committed the most pogroms.

            Regarding this matter, consider the number of pro-Petliura/anti-White leaning sources over those reflecting more of a constructively critical White perspective. This book reflects the latter:

            The Whites had lower and some upper elements that were involved in the violence against Jews. There was no master plan for such activity, which included an unstructured manner; on territory where the pogroms had already been evident, during the prior period of control by Petliura’s forces. When Peter Wrangel became supreme commander of the Whites, the level of violence among White forces decreased.

            In exile, Petliura was assassinated by a Jew, with the motive said to have been pogrom related. The claim of a Soviet orchestrated hit job was never proven. Even if so, a revenge factor could’ve still existed.

            In exile, many Whites including Anton Denikin and Peter Wrangel lived respectable lives. During the Cold War era, Novoye Russkoye Slovo established itself as the largest English language newspaper in the US. Staffed with a good number of Jews, this paper reflected pro-Russian/anti-Communist views, inclusive of a respectful treatment of Denikin.

    • The single most disturbing thing here is that Serdyukov is being allowed (and one must presume is continuing) to visit this person. If she is Yevgenya Vassilievna (who I presume it is) then they are continuing with their affair in full public view even after she has been implicated in a major financial fraud. Not only is this behaviour totally brazen but it surely stretches the defence of Serdyukov as the innocent dupe to breaking point.

      Quite apart from anything else this is all politically extremely unwise. One thing the events of the last two years have surely shown is that corruption in Russia is an extremely sensitive subject. It is simply reckless to allow former officials to behave in public in a way that can only reinforce the image of the authorities as “crooks and scoundrels”.

      I did by the way wonder whether certain recent comments of Putin’s might point to a change in the treatment of the Serdyukov. In his recent meeting with his band of “trustees” Putin in sharp contrast to Medvedev’s foolish praise of Serdyukov was careful not to mention Serdyukov by name (he referred to him instead as “fhe former minister”) and pointedly said that the plan for the military reform went back to 2005 ie. to before Serdyukov’s appointment If these comments do signal a shift in position towards Serdyukov then they have come not before time though there is not much sign so far of them having any impact..

      • AK says:

        If she is Yevgenya Vassilievna (who I presume it is) then they are continuing with their affair in full public view even after she has been implicated in a major financial fraud.

        Yes, it is.

        “Сразу две крупные юридические победы одержали вчера обвиняемые по громкому уголовному делу о хищениях имущества Минобороны — экс-глава департамента имущественных отношений военного ведомства Евгения Васильева и бывший гендиректор центра правовой поддержки “Эксперт” Екатерина Сметанова. Первая добилась в Мосгорсуде улучшения и без того комфортных условий домашнего ареста: ей фактически разрешили посещать и принимать у себя близкого друга — экс-министра обороны Анатолия Сердюкова. Вторая заключила вчера досудебную сделку и готовится со дня на день покинуть СИЗО.”

        –> [Vasilieva] achieved improvement of her already comfortable conditions of house arrest: she is now allowed to visit and host her close friend [me: haha, how's that new liberal law coming along?] the ex-Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

        In his recent meeting with his band of “trustees” Putin in sharp contrast to Medvedev’s foolish praise of Serdyukov was careful not to mention Serdyukov by name (he referred to him instead as “fhe former minister”) and pointedly said that the plan for the military reform went back to 2005 ie. to before Serdyukov’s appointment.

        I don’t think this is much to go on. Putin has always rewarded and defended loyalists, much more so even than Medvedev. Or even those who don’t “rock the boat.” Case in point, Luzhkov, and the even more corrupt former Deputy Mayor of Moscow Resin (who wears a $500,000 watch) are still walking free.

      • AK says:

        How else would one call them?

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Nothing less than crooks and thieves it would seem.

          I am very concerned about this misplaced “loyalty” of “the regime” to a person or persons accused of very serious crimes and this “gathering of ranks” around them by the powers that be.

          I think Serdyukov is more than likely guilty of the accusations made against him. He should be charged, his trial should be expedited and, if found guilty, he should be made an example of. Likewise his floozy that has been ensconced in a 12-room flat at the expense of the Russian taxpayer and who is now living a life of misery as a result of her no longer having servants at hand and who is, therefore, according to her lawyer at least, at risk of starving to death.

          Curiously, the noise from the “opposition” seems to be remarkedly muted about this whole affair, yet such a massive fraud allegedly perpetrated by a government minister who was appointed by the president and about which accused party’s contribution to the governance of Russia the prime minister has spoken with respect, would threaten the continuance in power of many a government elsewhere.

          Despite the Navalny’s posturings and Udaltsov’s so called “Marches of a Million” – the next such march that is to take place on December 15 is to be called “The Freedom March” of all things – this government has taken all in its stride; now it could be in very serious trouble of losing what credibility it ever had with the majority of ordinary Russians – not the spoilt, pampered, bourgois, self-styled intelligentsia that sports white-ribbons, but with the majority of citizens that has given United Russia a mandate to govern – as a result of this scandal and, more importantly, because of the apparent inaction of the judiciary against Serdyukov.

          The “regime” is spitting in the faces of the peoplet because at least one “crook and thief” in the present government has almost certainly been exposed, yet it seems clear that Serdyukov is being protected from on high.

          Honour amongst thieves?

          And the vultures and carrion crows are eagerly awaiting in the wings ready for the feast to start once again, a feast that was rudely interupted on New year’s Eve 1999.

          • Indeed the failure of the opposition to capitalise on the Serdyukov is baffling. Could it be that they have so drilled the idea of “crooks and scoundrels” into people that when one of the authorities is exposed as a crook or at least a scoundrel they no longer notice or care?

            • In the meantime it looks as if Alexander Lebedev is giving up on Navalny. He’s dumped Navalny’s credit cards and says he is disillusioned with him. He’s even saying that any new credit cards should be Putin’s not Navalny’s. Wasn’t Lebedev Navalny’s biggest Russian financial backer?

            • kirill says:

              What’s there to capitalize on at this stage? He and his associates are still under investigation and or charged. Medvedev is the clown who should put a sock in his mouth. He should not be commenting about criminal cases in a way that prejudice the outcome or smear the system. He did the same thing with Pussy Riot.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                I agree. I think he’s trying to be everyone’s friend. He should keep his trap shut. Hasn’t he in the past never told his clients in as many words to do that? He’s acting strangely for a lawyer. Perhaps he’s never had any clients – not in criminal cases, anyway.

            • marknesop says:

              Could it be that the west has adopted him as a favourite son who was a great manager and a true reformer, who was sacked by Evil Putin because his reforms were cutting into the Russian armaments industry, by refusing – oh, the integrity makes one weep – to purchase Russian crap with state funds?

              We don’t want to get two conflicting narratives going.

          • AK says:

            Moscow Exile, an excellent comment and I agree with every single point here bar one: This will not lead to any real action or unrest on the part of “ordinary Russians” – this is very far from the first such case, of course (though surely one of the more egregious ones), and nothing big has happened previously. Indeed, it’s a defect of the Russian people themselves. Many quite simply expect their government officials to steal, and wouldn’t hesitate to do so themselves were they clever and/or connected enough to come to power. Hence the apathy as regards corrupt officials. I have come to realize that on average Russians just aren’t very nice people. This is what Putin talked about in his speech, the lack of moral values at all levels of Russian society.

            • Before we start losing our temper with this situation it is important to understand what it is which is wrong about it.

              It is not wrong that Vassilieva has had her bail conditions relaxed. Until she is convicted Vassilieva is a suspect and has the benefit of the presumption of innocence. A suspect has a right to bail unless there is a good reason to deny bail. Such a reason might be that there are good grounds to fear that the suspect might escape or flee abroad or go into hiding or tamper with evidence or might commit another crime whilst on bail. In contrast to the Pussy Riot trio (of whom there definitely was a risk that they might have escaped and gone into hiding or fled abroad or might have committed another crime if freed on bail) it is not immediately obvious how any of this applies to Vassilieva or what the grounds for refusing Vassilieva bail and keeping her in detention might be. There might be a possible argument for saying that she might try to interfere with witnesses or with the evidence but on the face of it given that fraud cases largely depend on paper trails that seems unlikely.

              Given that this is so, it is at least arguable that Vassilieva should be granted bail. Simply to deny her bail and keep her in detention might be a breach of her rights under ECHR Articles 6 and 8 and might give rise to an embarrassing claim against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights. In the event, presumably because of the seriousness of the offence, the Court has not simply granted her bail but has ordered her to remain in her flat. This is a significant deprivation of liberty even if she is free to make telephone calls, faxes and emails. Whilst the rhodomontades of her lawyer are absurd, it is not a free pass and on the face of it for this sort of offence it is neither an excessively harsh nor an excessively lenient bail condition.

              What is completely scandalous and also wrong is the fact that Serdyukov is visiting her. First of all he should not be visiting her because he is at the very least a potential witness in a case in which she is a suspect. More to the point Serdyukov and Vassilieva are continuing to see each other in a way that can only mean that they are continuing with their affair. This is nothing short of outrageous. Assuming that Serdyukov is not simply infatuated (which is preposterous) it implies that they are so confident of their “krysha” that they feel able to flaunt their affair in public in a way that can only be seen as sticking two fingers up not just to the Russian public (which is bad enough) but to Zubkov (to whose daughter Serdyukov is still married), to the Investigative Commission (who as the leak to Kommersant shows are understandly furious) and (most serious of all) to the military leadership who had to put up with a great deal from Serdyukov, Vassilieva & Co whilst Serdyukov was minister and whose property lest we forget it was that Vassilieva & Co are accused of stealing (NB: I leave it to Moscow Exile to explain what sticking two fingers up means. He can do it with a pungency I cannot match).

              If I was Putin I would be hopping mad with all this. I rather suspect he is. I think this probably explains the comments he made to his “trustees” which I discussed previously. It may also be behind some of the comments he made about greed and selfishness in his address to the Federal Assembly. The question is what if anything he is going to do about it. It may be that he genuinely does not want to or cannot interfere in the investigation or in the decisions of the Court. However it seems to me that he must at the very least make clear that Serdyukov is no longer his friend and that any ideas Serdyukov has about “krysha” are simply wrong.

              • …..and here care of the Daily Telegraph are photos of “the star cross’d lovers”.


                Vassilieva is clearly a handsome woman but she comes across in this photo as rather hard faced.

                • marknesop says:

                  According to this story, she can accept visits only from her lawyer.

                • Dear Mark,

                  It’s interesting you have said this because I have just read this comment on Itar Tass which made me wonder whether I might have fallen for a newspaper provocation:


                  The article appears to summarise what various (liberal inclined) newspapers are saying. What they are saying is that subject to checks by the police Vasilyeva can receive visitors including Serdyukov. However if you read the article closely (and I accept there may be issues of translation) it does not seem to say that Serdyukov actually IS visiting her merely that he CAN visit her. Of course if Serdyukov is not visiting her then the comment I made above is wrong. The newspapers would however in that case be behaving in a frankly mischievous and rather deceitful way, stirring up a scandal over something that is not in fact happening. Of course if the only person Vasilyeva can see is her own lawyer then not only is my comment wrong but the articles in the newspapers are also wrong and there would in that case be nothing objectionable to Vasilyeva’s bail conditions. Incidentally the fact that Vasilyeva’s co accused has apparently agreed to a plea bargain is also not in itself scandalous or sinister. It depends what the terms of the plea bargain are, which it is impossible to say from this article.

                  The question of Serdyukov’s own involvement and the fact that he has not so far been questioned or arrested remains a matter of serious concern but that is a separate issue.

                • marknesop says:

                  Well, it is The Telegraph. There’s about as much chance it could be wrong as there is that it could rain tomorrow in England. I’m certainly not defending the veracity of the claim based on what The Telegraph says about it. That just happens to be what they said; I have no idea how they came by that information, and they have frequently shown complete disregard for accuracy in the past. Meanwhile, we do not know Serdyukov has not been questioned – I would be very surprised if he has not. That he has not been arrested is not surprising if Russia is actually proceeding as the west would in a similar case, which it would be well-advised to do if it wishes to be given credit for following the rule of law; the case is barely a month old, and there is a lot to do before anyone should be thinking about charges. This is not Pussy Riot, and Serdyukov is unlikely to have obligingly videotaped himself in the act of committing a crime.

                • yalensis says:

                  She is a tough-minded barricuda.

            • AM says:

              I think it was Yevgenia Albats who said that if Putin doesn’t jail Serdyukov he’s corrupt authoritarian. But if he jails Serdyukov he’s a dictator (Stalin).
              Putin’s way of ruling is incompatible with building an accountable bureaucracy. :-(

              The problem is not with Russians … Russians are not different than Italians or Poles, or Greeks when it comes to finding ingenious ways of stealing taxpayers money or going around rules and regulation, not paying taxes, having a flair for cheating and crime.
              But all these countries have better institutions than Russia. Russian “bend over” for this government because they are afraid, they’ve been traumatized into indifference. coerced or they depend on this system too much. A lot of them are cowards, cynics and pessimists, that’s true.

              There is a silver lining of Bolotnaya protesters, but as Kononenko says, largely Russians are still apolitical.
              (it’s different in ethnic republics were imo people genuinely see no problem with “clan” rule )