Anyway, Anatoly has his own ranking system, and I don’t know any of the details, but it appears to be simply opinion. I mean, he can’t know anything about each blog’s daily traffic or that sort of parameter. So he seems to make his selections based on what he likes and finds either diverting or informative.
I thought it might be fun to get in on the ratings game myself – but I’m going to be a little more scientific, so put on your thick industrial-frame glasses and get out your clipboard. WordPress (here’s a free plug for you, WordPress), as well as being extremely easy to use, has a feature (Summary Tables) whereby you can view which blogs visitors went to from yours by the day, week, year or all-time, using it as a sort of springboard from your blogroll. Referring to that and using “all time” (since I started in July this year), I can see who got the most visits from readers here.
For several reasons, it’s a limited study; there are probably lots of great Russia blogs that didn’t get a position because they’re not on my blogroll. That’s a big reason for this post – to see what I’m missing, solicit recommendations for additions to the blogroll and to see who else I should be reading. Also, the hate blog La Russophobe will appear disproportionately high in the ratings, because it is often the reference for posts on this blog, which directs readers to it by link. It’s therefore not a very good reflection of how popular it is. Most of the other clicks, though, seem to be driven purely by reader interest. I can’t rank this blog, because as the host, it doesn’t appear on the list. Let’s see how they shook out.
1. A Good Treaty – This mirrors Anatoly’s top ranking, and came in at 149 clicks; the clear leader. AGT is a smart, witty and provocative blog whose author has a graduate degree in Soviet History and has lived in Moscow. He works in the research community in Washington, DC. Topics are driven mostly by the news cycle, with occasional composite pieces and features from other than Russia – such as what a terminally stunned buffoon Mitt Romney is, or international reaction to the latest START treaty. Punchy, aggressive writing that should strike terror into the hearts of fools and pretenders everywhere, regardless their nationality.
2. The Ivanov Report – Coming in at 113 clicks, Eugene Ivanov’s “The Ivanov Report” is a classy site with an experienced, objective author. Unless you went to the “About” section, you probably could never divine from reading the content that Eugene has a PhD in Genetics, and is a Republican. I mention that last because the Republicans are such twisted wrecks this year, with barking-mad loonies like Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle making the party look like a class reunion at an insane asylum. By way of contrast, Eugene is thoughtful, introspective and a natural writer. An Estonian by birth, he has lived and worked in Russia, France and the USA. Eugene is a politics junkie, and his analysis of various topics reflects his sharp, restless mind as well as his old-world courtesy.
Addendum: Eugene has requested the following clarification. “I’m an ethnic Russian (to be more precise, a half-Ukrainian) born to Russian/Ukrainian parents in Tallinn, Estonia (back then, still part of the Soviet Union). I left Tallinn to study in St. Pete, but Tallinn is still one of my favorite cities in the world.”
3. La Russophobe – A russophobic hate site presided over by a dazed, narrow-minded lunatic who never has anything good to say about Russia, often picking on the most childish and irrelevant topics. LR despises Russians, except for the liberal opposition figures who trip over each other to see who can act more American – which is the Gold Standard for LR. Irredeemably poncy beefcake coverboy Boris Nemtsov (whom I must admit does look good for his age) is a perennial favourite, and his most confused meanderings are always good for a gushing, preorgasmic post. Other candidates for the LR wall of fame are Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Garry Kasparov, Boris Berezovsky and Oleg Kozlovsky. However, there’s always room for anyone who has something nasty to say about Russia, whether or not they know anything about it. Obviously a keen follower of the news, judging from the quick notification of current happenings, the site nonetheless is so hopelessly slanted in its views that it is not a reliable source of what is happening in Russia despite its boastful claims. As I mentioned, the site ranks fairly high at 108 clicks because of direct links to it as a reference.
4. Sublime Oblivion – In any objective rating, this blog’s coming in behind La Russophobe (at 72 clicks) would be a bit like a Ferrari Testarossa coming in behind an AMC Pacer. A personal favourite, this is a hip, full-tilt-boogie site whose author’s mind seems to charge ahead almost faster than he can commit the material to type. Among the Russia blogs, this one is the most unafraid to live in the future, and make bold predictions based on patterns that few others discern. Anatoly is interested in everything that goes on in the world (except maybe for stupid fluff like Hollywood and entertainers), including politics, but frequently moves far beyond the political. Military strategies, scientific advances, trends and demographics, economics, the environment – there’s plenty here to keep you busy and intrigued. Anatoly is a Russian who has lived in Russia, England and the USA, and has been described (by himself) as “a rootless cosmopolitan”. Clever, edgy and always over the line, this is a great blog.
5. The Moscow Diaries – Julia Ioffe’s blog, which – as Sublime Oblivion pointed out – appears to be secondary to her other journalistic efforts. Julia is a professional journalist who usually writes like one; her wide-ranging and excellent vocabulary allows her to get her point across in a manner she tailors to the subject – witty, dispassionate, serious or playful as the subject dictates. Russian-born, she is bilingual beyond mere fluency. Julia was way out in front of the pack on the issue of Yury Luzkhov’s recent firing as Mayor of Moscow, agitating for just that and predicting it when the general analysis by everyone else was, “Yeah….that’ll happen. Not.” I find her writing, while excellent in quality, a little gratuitously contemptuous of Russia’s leadership; there doesn’t seem to be anyone she likes, and it sometimes skates right up to the edge of russophobia. Very attractive, judging from her picture. That probably shouldn’t matter, and it doesn’t where her writing is concerned. I just like attractive women. She got 70 clicks.
6. Austere Insomniac – Author Leos Tomicek, as far as I can make out, is a multilingual Czech with wide-ranging interests in religion, politics and feminism. The site has a vaguely brooding, moody atmosphere; while I wouldn’t want to suggest Leos is not the humorous type, there’s not much of the prankster in his writing, which sometimes smokes with hopeless fury. His research is often superior to any other I’ve seen, and I can’t begin to imagine the digging it must have taken for him to come up with some of his sources. I love this site, but frequently feel up against such a powerful intellect that I’m a little out of my depth. Leos often brushes the conventional aside with undisguised contempt, and his views on feminism likely raise some hackles. That said, his explanations are rational and thought-provoking. Coming in at 57 clicks, this is another excellent blog with an underground feel, and perhaps the most comprehensive blogroll in the genre.
7. The Power Vertical – A joint effort by Brian Whitmore and Robert Coalson, this blog is a semi-journalistic news site under the umbrella of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. I don’t really have a lot to go on, not being a long-term follower of this blog, but of the posts I’ve read so far I find the authors distinctly different. Both appear well-educated, well-read and articulate writers. However, Brian Whitmore’s material appears the more pragmatic and realistic, while Robert Coalson often comes across as gratuitously sarcastic. You’d think sarcastic bastards such as I would appreciate it in others, but I don’t. Coalson’s material is frequently russophobic, granting none of the slack to President Medvedev’s and Prime Minister Putin’s efforts toward improvement that western politicians get and instead keeping up a monotone of failure and despair, with a soupcon of mockery. He might have upbeat, optimistic articles, but I haven’t seen any. Nonetheless a really good barometer of current events in Russia, it got 42 clicks, which is good considering it’s a fairly-recent addition to my blogroll.
8. Poemless – This blog, in a tie at 41 clicks, is authored by a Chicago librarian. I wasn’t able to find where she learned Russian, which she appears to speak and read fluently. I’d like to see it updated more often, but to be fair, her posts are generally longer and more involved than mine, and are probably more work. Poemless appears very intellectual, but cuts through bullshit like a Husqvarna chainsaw. She’s an admirer of Putin, but that doesn’t prevent her from being critical of Russian policies when they are counterproductive or ineffective. A sometimes ethereal read, it appears to pursue whatever subject spontaneously interests its author. However, she seems acutely aware of current events in Russia, whether writing about them or not. Also another wicked blogroll. Highly recommended.
8. Sean’s Russia Blog – This blog is authored by Sean Guillory, a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Northern Illinois University. It staggered a bit for awhile, probably due to Sean’s being too busy with his move, and that was about the time I came on the scene, so it appeared to me to be a dead blog. Happily, that’s not the case. Sean is a blogger of long standing, and has instant street cred from having written for The eXile. This blog is critical of Russian policy when it merits it, but equally irreverent in dismissing uneducated twit russophobia. It’s still regaining momentum, but the prospects look excellent.
9. American Chronicle – This isn’t actually a blog at all, but a placeholder for independent foreign policy analyst and media critic Michael Averko. In another tie at 40 clicks, the site lists Mike’s articles for the American Chronicle, as well as referencing other pieces for such diverse publications as Counterpunch, The New York Times, Eurasia Review, Siberian Light and InoSMI. This ranking can probably be attributed to Mike’s frequent commenting on this site, including interesting and provocative hyperlinks. Mike appears to have gotten a few backs up with his confrontational style, but he is obviously very experienced and knowledgeable about the entire region. I find him an informed defender of Russia’s policies without being a pie-in-the-sky stooge (if you’ll forgive the term) for everything the Kremlin chooses to dish out. A realist above all, Mike’s cached articles on the subject site are recommended reading, and I use a good deal of his referenced material.
9. Russia: Other Points of View – A compendium of news stories from the blogosphere and the other half of the tie, this site features articles by various authors, including favourites Eugene Ivanov and Anatoly Karlin. The “Contributors” page also features many impressively-credentialed professionals ranging from a retired U.S. Army Colonel to Professors of Political Science. Dedicated to unspinning the mainstream news, this site is a great first stop when blog crawling, to sample the subjects of the day.
10. Birdbrain – Tenth at 34 clicks, Natalie’s (I did know her last name, but I forget right now, and since I don’t see it obviously published on her site, perhaps she’d rather it remain unknown) blog is an eclectic mix of Russian poets and poetry, politics, news and regional issues. The chosen title, rather than an insult, actually refers to how efficient birds’ brains are for their size. I added Natalie to my blogroll after seeing her come in for a truckload of hate as a commenter at La Russophobe, and I’ve never been sorry. Currently a foreign student at Oxford University, England, Natalie provides interesting and often unconventional commentary. Although our politics are greatly different, I’m a fan.
As I mentioned at the outset, there are lots of great blogs that aren’t featured because I don’t currently have them on my blogroll, they were such recent additions that they didn’t rate high enough, or I don’t even know of them yet. Some that deserve honourable mention are;
The Russia Monitor – An excellent and authoritative source of information and discussion on Russian policy, government and lifestyle, Jesse Heath’s blog provides well-researched opinion and reliable analysis. Even if I did once confuse it with The Moscow Diaries and make a mildly insulting remark that I intended for Julia Ioffe (and to be fair to myself, it was a fairly ditzy post for Jesse), the two sites are nothing alike except for the obvious intellect of the authors.
Natalia Antonova – Even those who despise feminism and feminists would have a hard time arguing with the logic often expressed at Natlia’s blog, and as a writer her gift for imagery is difficult to describe. I loathe feminists who blame every man for the accumulated evils man has done to woman since forever, but this site is much more pragmatic than you-have-a-penis-so-you’re-a-woman-hating-disciple-of-Beelzebub. If you take the time to read about practices like “upskirting”, the fun little pastime of sneaking in close to snap a cellphone pic of a woman’s underwear – usually without her awareness and definitely without her permission – you’d probably want to kick that guy’s ass all the way down the escalator. Did you know that’s why almost all cellphone cameras now make a mandatory shutter sound? I didn’t.
Dissonance – Alexandre Latsa’s great blog probably gets far less attention that it deserves, because it’s mostly in French. Still, it brims with razor-sharp analysis of Russian politics and European issues, and some articles are in either English or Russian. As usual, the French don’t get no respect.