The Khodorkovsky Conviction – Don’t Let the Door Hit You In the Ass On the Way In

Uncle Volodya says, "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment"

As most everyone who was paying attention knows, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted yesterday on embezzlement charges. Sentencing has yet to take place, but the most he could get is 14 years on top of the time he’s already served, and I’ve seen suggestions the sentence will be 6 more years. Nobody really expected anything other than the guilty verdict that was issued, so it’s not a shock. However, here’s the odd thing about it – the western position appears to be that if Russia wishes to …let’s see, how did the New York Times put it? Oh, yes: “…take even modest steps toward establishing a real rule of law”, the court would issue a short or suspended sentence.

Let’s pause a moment to ponder that. The best way for Russia to convince its western critics that it has taken real steps toward establishing the rule of law would be to let a lawbreaker off with a slap on the wrist, or just not punish him. Justice, western-style.

Is Khodorkovsky really a lawbreaker? I think everyone agrees he is. Oh, some sources suggest his trial is “politically motivated” or that his really big crime was daring to cross Putin, but I haven’t seen anyone suggest he’s innocent. Well, except him, of course, since that was his plea in his original trial. Actually, to be completely accurate, 4% of Russians thought he was innocent. Interestingly, at least to me, most Russians opined at the time that the main point in a democratic process was the equality of all people in the eyes of the law. They believed the privatization of state assets in the 90’s under Yeltsin (and Boris Nemtsov) was unfair, which is a bit of an understatement. Most interestingly, Russians at the time tended to “see the YUKOS case as having a positive effect as the first step towards law and order, in particular, in the economy”. Oh, I don’t mean we should pay any attention to what Russians think exemplifies progress of the rule of law in their own country; everybody knows that’s for westerners to decide. But still. Interesting.

Anyway, even though the conviction wasn’t a surprise, and the sentencing seems to be the real cliffhanger here, I was encouraged by the authors at Shanghai Blueprints and RussiaWatching to do something on it. So here we are. I wandered over to La Russophobe to see what the reaction (spoiler alert – she didn’t like it) was, and was surprised to find her reference piece is from the Christian Science Monitor. Not only that, it’s so over-the-top and foamy that I actually thought she had written it herself. Well, that and the trademark sloppiness, such as being off by four years on the 2014 Olympics at Sochi. If I had to guess – and I do – I’d say the author is Fred Weir or Olga Podolskaya; or both, since they often work together, as they did on this nonsense. Who started the war in Georgia, they speculated. “Most of the world accepts key elements of the Russian version”, we were told then, “and very few contradict it”. Really?  Is that how you remember it, that most of the world just took Russia’s word for it? It’s not surprising that I found that article on La Russophobe’s site, or that Weir and Podolskaya are frequent team features there.

So I guess I should have known La Russophobe didn’t write it, in spite of the venomous tone. If at no other point, I would have clued in here; “…America’s most important long-term interest in Russia lies in helping that country adopt Western civic values. (That’s what the cold war was all about)”.  Again, really? That’s what the Cold War was all about? Helping Russia adopt Western civic values? Who believes that; show of hands? And are we to believe the cause of helping Russia adopt Western civic values is endorsed by La Russophobe, who regularly refers to Russians as pigs , animals and barbarians? Listen up, pigs; La Russophobe does it all out of love, and wants you to just adopt Western civic values!

Well, that was an amusing little diversion – oh, my ribs. But back to Khodorkovsky. All seem to agree he was a charter member of the Russian oligarchy, and all seem to agree they were and are criminals (at least, the ones still in Russia are criminals. Boris Berzovsky, for example, isn’t a criminal now because, even though he did do some criminal things while in Russia, he lives in England now, and says bad things about Putin). Therefore, there’s not so much discussion over why Khodorkovsky was arrested as there is over why all the rest were not arrested as well. Some say it’s because Putin laid it out for the oligarchs – stay out of politics, and yer can keep the swag, Ahrrrr. I doubt it was expressed quite like that, but it’s true that most of the oligarchs got to keep their ill-gotten gains. It’s also true that Khodorkovsky was warned a couple of times before his arrest that his behaviour was getting out of hand. Some of that was his financing of opposition parties, and his use of his vast wealth to attempt to redraw the Russian political map. However, I can’t see that as much of a crime from a western standpoint; wealthy people meddling in politics is as American as Mom and apple pie. Ever hear of George Soros? Well, okay, he’s not a very good example, because he supports Democrats, and that makes him a criminal in a lot of American eyes. All right; how about T. Boone Pickens? He makes a hobby out of interfering in politics, and he’s not a criminal. In fact, I can see America embracing Khodorkovsky as a hero for meddling in politics; it’s just what rich people who want to get a lot richer do. And few dispute that Khodorkovsky was more interested in getting rich than actually being in politics himself – in fact, Yeltsin offered him a place in government as a reward for his support, back in 1996. But Khodorkovsky declined in favour of the Banking Council.

But here’s another motive for Khodorkovsky’s arrest, as well as for Western embrace of Khodorkovsky as a favourite son and all-round hard-done-by political prisoner. Khodorkovsky’s second attempt at a merger of YUKOS and SIBNEFT (owned by Roman Abromovich, whom Russophobes like Julia Ioffe never tire of reviling as an oligarch) would have seen Khodorkovsky swap his shares in the new company (YUKSI) for Chevron-Texaco shares, giving the American company access to Russian oilfields. Not that the state never permits such transactions, but it likes to maintain control over who has access to national assets. Most governments would allow that was reasonable.

And if you really want to connect the dots to the arrest, there’s the classic eXile article by Mark Ames (thanks, Giuseppe), laying out the timeline from start to finish as Khodorkovsky went from getting a little impatient with the government to outright stepping on his own dick. Taken together, these pieces of the whole come together in a picture of a man who thought he was above the law, because he had been for so long – smart, rich, connected and used to getting his own way.

There’s probably a lot to the suggestion that he was singled out for punishment when many others got off free. So what? He showed every sign of intending to co-opt a national asset for his own personal benefit, and dared the country’s leaders to stop him. They did. Personally, I tend to think that financial crimes like embezzlement are not really criminal acts on the scale of, say, murder or armed robbery. But that’s not up to me; it’s up to the rule of law in the country where it occurred. The funny part is, the west keeps bitching that there is no rule of law in Russia – then complains when somebody whose game they appreciate is taken down just because he’s a criminal.

Khodorkovsky was the richest man in Russia, and absolutely ruthless when he chose to be. Are you telling me he couldn’t get off if he were actually innocent? Can anyone show conclusively that there’s no case against him? His platoon of lawyers has certainly tried. It’s not like the trial took place in secret; plenty of westerners followed it avidly. The judge will have to summarize the evidence prior to sentencing. But if there is no evidence, it should never have gotten around to the sentencing part. If there is no evidence, or if the evidence is all fabricated, western Khodorkovsky-watchers would scream the place down. As far as I’ve seen, reaction to the conviction is fairly subdued, except for hysterical screechy sites like La Russophobe.

This will be peddled – especially if the sentence is near the maximum – as a black day for the rule of law in Russia. But I think it’s something quite different. And if Khodorkovsky really did that much for Russia while he was still free, you’d think Russians’ shouts for him to be freed would be impossible to ignore – both Putin and Medvedev have shown themselves to be sensitive enough to public opinion as to merit its being cultivated. Hear any shouts?

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98 Responses to The Khodorkovsky Conviction – Don’t Let the Door Hit You In the Ass On the Way In

  1. 1. “Hear any shouts?” A few hundred protesters outside the courtroom. Some of them appear to be [removed link to pic as comment not going through] old ladies, parading with glossy, brilliantly-designed heroic posters of Khodorkovsky, with Medvedev and Putin darkly conspiring behind his back. I’m sure they did all that work with just their pensions!😉

    2. The standard argument of MBK’s PR-men goes something like: how could Khodorkovsky be guilty of embezzling $25bn, and from his own company, and especially considering that he’s already been found guilty of tax evasion? But that’s just begging the question; insinuations, not facts, and hence worthless in terms of serious analysis. While MBK *might* not be directly guilty of this, I’m sure the prosecutors have found some legal loophole or another to convict him. For instance, I can imagine a scenario where the proceeds from the tax evasion he was originally convicted for – if retained by MBK’s various LLC’s and holding companies, which they no doubt were – could also legally constitute embezzlement.

    Of course, the other arguments used by MBK fans is why pick on poor him? But not only are they forced into the unsavory position of defending a criminal on the basis that other criminals are free (analogy – can I hijack people, Juggler-style, into my basement, when the US does the same in Guantanamo and black site prisons?), they also fail to appreciate that MBK’s play was to reverse the reassertion of state control over the anarchism and oligarchy of the 1990’s that was such a disaster for ordinary Russians. He failed. Too bad for him, should have concentrated on buying foreign football clubs and luxury yachts with AA systems.

    3. The liberal intelligentsia loves yapping on about how Khodorkovsky’s “persecution” will lead to investors withdrawing their money, but I checked specifically for this and observed absolutely zero discernible effect on the RTS [removed link] when MBK was found guilty. Those guys live in a fantasy world.

    Note: Removed links as my comment was caught by the spam filter.

    • Yalensis says:

      Since link was removed, out of curiosity I checked the internet for images of the pro-Khodorkovsky demonstrators. I found one where a lady is holding a sign showing a very angry Putin pointing his finger and delivering the bon mot:
      “Кого хочу, того мочу!”
      Great slogan! It made me laugh.

      • Misha says:

        So-called “whatboutism”:

        Enough Grandstanding About Khodorkovsky, Ms. Clinton!
        http://www.counterpunch.org/ridley12292010.html

        The Demolition of the Yugoslav Tribunal
        http://balkanstudies.org/articles/demolition-yugoslav-tribunal

        Interview With Dr. Srdja Trifkovic
        http://rt.com/politics/interview-with-srdja-trifkovic/

        • Misha says:

          That’s: “whataboutism.”

        • marknesop says:

          Right on with the Clinton piece! Of course she’s obligated to say something due to her position, which may or may not reflect what she actually believes, and you don’t have to be much of a weathervane to read the wind of American political opinion. Americans – insomuch as such a diverse group can be discussed in generalities – are fairly kindly disposed toward super-rich oil tycoons, and don’t ask too many questions about how their wealth was acquired. To be fair, Khodorkovsky is not your average dumb thug, and made much of his fortune by his wits and by accepting some risks. Continuing with being fair, he took a lot of those risks with other peoples’ money.

          I had to laugh at the “serious questions about selective prosecution and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations” bit. It might be instructive at this point to take a look at the fall of an American oligarch – Kenneth “Kenny Boy” Lay, of Enron fame. Except for the nationalities, there are distinct similarities; briefly considered for the position of Treasury Secretary in the Bush cabinet (and if that doesn’t make your skin crawl, as the old trailer for the film “Black Christmas” went, it’s on too tight), “Kenny Boy” was politically connected. He was a principal architect of the deregulation from which he so generously benefited and, like Khodorkovsky, understood early the advisability of placing his own people in key political appointments. An excellent example is the former head (under Bush) of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a former Enron executive. Like the meteoric rise of YUKOS, which owed more to a public conception (carefully nurtured) of good governance than to actual development, Enron profited usuriously by gobbling up smaller energy and water companies in California, then hiking the rates as high as customers would bear. Enron was in the lead with the rolling blackouts and brownouts – which were later proved to have been contrived and not driven by circumstances – that held the entire state to ransom, and were used to push through enormous rate increases. Khodorkovsky didn’t make his money exactly like that, but he also didn’t have to actually invest anything or produce anything over and above what already existed to practically coin his own fortune.

          But that’s not the really interesting part. That lies in the indictment of Lay, which was exquisitely managed. He was indicted just before the election, allowing Bush to point to a politically useful law-and-order, anti-corruption success. However, the indictment was also timed to ensure the trial couldn’t be held until after the election, which would prevent constant reminders in the election run-up of Lay’s connections to the Bush family, and Bush’s own part in the push for deregulation that allowed Enron to become so powerful. Similarly to the “deal” allegedly struck with the Russian oligarchy, Enron didn’t have to give back any of the money it fleeced its customers out of. California energy companies didn’t even have to forswear future profits built into the energy deals, ensuring Californians would pay usurious energy rates for decades.

          • Misha says:

            Mark

            I agree with your overview of the Counterpunch piece. The other two links involve (what for a good number are) politically incorrect issues that nevertheless (IMO) relate well to the kind of hypocritically selective legal advocacy evident among Western neolib and neocon leaning foreign policy establishment circles.

            A highlight of the RT interview is Trifkovic noting the ICTY double standard of imprisoning Serbs on the sheer basis of “command responsibility,” which acknowledge no proof of some of these people supporting or physically participating in the abuses of civilians. Trifkovic notes the comparatively greater known culpability of people like Oric and the repackaged KLA leaders – who are free because of a stated lack of proof that they supported and/or participated in atrocities against civilians.

    • Eugene Ivanov says:

      “I can imagine a scenario where the proceeds from the tax evasion he was originally convicted for … could also legally constitute embezzlement.”

      Anatoly, I agree with you here. Reselling oil between “daughters” of the same “mother company” to maximize profits and lower taxes — a popular and widespread practice in Russia even today, as I understand it — could be qualified either as tax evasion or embezzlement. Either or. But not both. The question really is: why in 2005, K&L were convicted in tax evasion, but in 2010, the Judge is convicting them for embezzlement. Unless he proves that this was DIFFERENT oil — and there are no signs of it — it’s called double jeopardy, something that the Russian law doesn’t allow.

      Best Regards,
      Eugene

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        I don’t know the details of Khodorkovsky trials, but it is possible to do both tax evasion and embezzlement on the same oil. For example, company Y, where Mr. K has a controlling stake, sells its oil at below market price to an tax-haven based company fully owned by Mr. K. In this way Mr. K evades taxes and deprives other shareholders of company Y of dividends, which is a kind of embezzlement.
        @Yalelnsis
        Can you kindly translate “Кого хочу, того мочу!” for me?

        • kovane says:

          Giuseppe, it roughly translates as “I bump off whoever I want”, but it rhymes in Russian to boot.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            Thanks for the translation.

            • Yalensis says:

              @Giuseppe and @kovane, Thanks for translation, kovane! Is correct that this is cute saying, because double-rhyme: “kovO khochU tovO mochU”. There is also a bit of rude undertone, because Russian verb “mochit” means “to urinate”, and I believe there is an allusion to one of Putin’s famous earlier sayings about “pissing” his enemies down the loo. He was referring to Chechen insurgents at the time, I believe.

              • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                Thanks for the explanation, Yalensis. I’m still trying to figure out the details of the first trial, tax claims and this second trial.

                • Yalensis says:

                  Thanks, Giuseppe, we are awaiting eagerly, because we need much help in figuring this out. Anyone who is willing to research this mess is a saint!

              • Dmitry says:

                Not absolutely truly. Russian verb “mochit” means also to “kill”. In this sense Putin addressed to gangsters. He has told so: “… We will pursue terrorists everywhere. At the airport – Ok, let will be at the airport. You excuse me, in a toilet we will catch them – we in a toilet will kill ( budem mochit’ ) them, eventually…”

        • Eugene Ivanov says:

          Giuseppe,

          Good point! Let’s say we’ve got a serial killer serving life for 10 murders. 5 years later, police learns that the guy committed 10 more murders. There is every reason to open a new case to give the guy one more life or life w/o parole.

          But here, nothing new has been discovered. It’s the SAME oil, but in 2005, its theft was qualified like tax evasion, but in 2010, like embezzlement. It’s like saying to K&L: hey guys, we’re sorry, we gave you 8 for tax evasion in 2005; in fact, this was embezzlement, get 14 more to fix the mistake. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

          Regards,
          Eugene

          • marknesop says:

            You might be right Eugene, and doubtless we’ll find out in a couple of days when the judge must summarize the evidence before passing sentence. However, I’d be very surprised to see embezzlement stand as a charge if what was taken was a salable commodity such as oil. The world price of oil fluctuates steadily, and it would be difficult to put a value on it if it was diverted over a period of time. I’m not saying that’s not a crime, I’m just suggesting it’s odd to call it embezzlement. I’d expect a charge like that to show Khodorkovsky had used company funds that were not his own to purchase, say, other smaller companies where there was a degree of risk, or transferring company funds to his personal bank account. Perhaps he’s even allowed, as owner, to do that – I don’t know. However, I maintain that if the evidence were bullshit, we would have heard a totally different complaint from the White House than, “selective persecution with political elements”.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            I’ve searched RIA Novosti about the first trial, and to my surprise discovered that it wasn’t about oil tax. It was about the fraudulent privatization of fertilizer producer Apatit and a research center, and a tax-evasion scheme involving Apatit. The search returned tens of results, so I haven’t read all of them and something may have escaped me.
            This could explain why Khodorkovsky’s lawyer didn’t try the double jeopardy defense.
            Here a link to one of the relevant search results.

          • kovane says:

            But here, nothing new has been discovered. It’s the SAME oil, but in 2005, its theft was qualified like tax evasion

            As far as I understand, that isn’t so. Yes, charges of the first trial included tax evasion. But the scheme Khodorkovsky used made it possible to charge him with theft as well. UKOS (a stock-joint company) owned 100% of YuganskNeftegaz’s, SamaraNeftegaz’s and TomskNeft’s shares. These companies sold oil to offshores controlled not by UKOS, but by some individuals at transfer prices. So as a result, beside the obvious tax evasion, other shareholders of UKOS technically lost profit. All the prosecution had to do was to prove that Khodorkovsky controlled the offhores, and voila, the second sentence. But you are certainly right, that’s not the most convincing work of the prosecution, especially for such a prominent case.

            it wasn’t about oil tax. It was about the fraudulent privatization of fertilizer producer Apatit and a research center, and a tax-evasion scheme involving Apatit

            No, the first sentence was handed down on tax evasion charges as well.

            • marknesop says:

              Here’s a nice summary offered by commenter “free”, at La Russophobe.

              “Here are the facts;

              Yukos did establish several companies in reduced tax rate zones in Russia. These companies gained a lower tax rate illegally as they had no activity in the region. In fact the law required that these companies invested any tax relief in the area.

              Subsidiaries of Yukos sold oil at below market value to these new companies in low tax areas. These companies then sold that oil on at market value at a reduced tax rate. Yukos’s claimed that these companies were not affiliates and they received no income from them. In fact money from these companies seams to be missing hence hence the embezzlement charges against certain individuals.

              Even a monkey can see how this is illegal.

              The tax bill in question is in regards to Yukos, its subsidiaries and the companies it set up in low tax zones. Therefore it has to be taken in context with the revenues of all these companies not just Yukos as your suggesting.
              Yukos broke not only the law but the spirit of the tax free zones which where designed to encourage investment in regions of Russia not for tax evasion.

              Then there is the only Yukos was prosecuted again this is myth and untrue. LUKOIL paid its tax bill in 2001 in a very similar scheme. The 8 billion dollars Yuko’s offered as a settlement could not be accepted as it was offered at least partly as Sibneft shares who’s assets where in dispute at the time.”

              • kovane says:

                Yes, that seems to coincide with my version. I guess the matter will become clearer when the case material appears in the media.

              • Eugene Ivanov says:

                Mark, Giuseppe and Kovane-

                Let me make it completely clear: K&L got their first term for their deeds, period. My only regret is that the Russian law doesn’t allow to prosecute Khodorkovsky for the five murders committed by his subordinates and, I have no doubt, on his direct orders.

                But the second trial is a different matter. Khristenko and Gref testified that in their opinion, there was no “dissappearance” of 20% of YUKOS oil, in which K&L are accused. That implies that there was no theft. No theft means no embezzlement. Which brings us back to multiple REAL tax evasion schemes. But they are serving time for (most of) them already. That’s my problem. That’s what I mean by saying that I see nothing new in the prosecution’s claims.

                As for the first trial, I have a Word file with the legal opinion on the verdict written (in 2006) by a Peter L. Clateman, General Counsel, The Sputnik Group.

                Mark, if there is a way to share this doc here, let me know how. If no, guys send me email at eugene_ivanov@comcast.net, and I’ll send you the doc as attachment.

                Great discussion Mark, as usual!

                Cheers,
                Eugene

    • marknesop says:

      Sorry about that, Anatoly; it happens on occasion. I’ll eventually see and restore it, but in this case you’ve gone ahead without the link.

  2. Tim Newman says:

    …would have seen Khodorkovsky swap his shares in the new company (YUKSI) for Chevron-Texaco shares, giving the American company access to Russian oilfields.

    How would this have been any different from Conoco-Phillips owning 20% of Lukoil? Insofar as oil and gas developments are concerned, ownership and operatorship are two very different things.

    • Yalensis says:

      I think I understand the difference between ownership and operatorship. But if a company owns shares of another company, doesn’t that make them a part owner? Confused…

      • Tim Newman says:

        Yes, it does. So I’m at a loss to understand why Chevron owning some Yukos shares would be any different from ConocoPhillips owning Lukoil shares.

        • marknesop says:

          It wouldn’t, if ConocoPhillips owned a controlling interest in LukOil and was therefore the majority shareholder .But they don’t, and they’re not. Khodorkovsky owned Yukos, and could have given Chevron control of a Russian national asset.

    • marknesop says:

      “How would this have been any different from Conoco-Phillips owning 20% of Lukoil?”

      If Conoco-Phillips acquired 20% of Lukoil in a straight company stock swap that was carried out without the government’s blessing, I guess it’s not. Furthermore, Khodorkovsky had the shares to transfer a controlling interest in YUKSI to Chevron-Texaco, which I’m given to understand the state would never allow and as is not the case with the Conoco-Phillips stake.

      • Tim Newman says:

        Furthermore, Khodorkovsky had the shares to transfer a controlling interest in YUKSI to Chevron-Texaco…

        What’s your source for this?

        Besides, having a controlling interest in a company does not necessarily give it a controlling interest in the developments it is involved in. As I said earlier, ownership and operatorship are two very different things in oil and gas development. For example, in all of Total’s developments in Nigeria, the Nigerian government has a 51% stake, i.e. is the majority owner. But Total remains the operator, and in the case of the Usan development, it is only a 7% owner of the project with one of the other western partners owning 15% (and the Nigerian govt. owning 51%). If Russia didn’t want Chevron operating its fields, it only needed to pass a law preventing foreign companies operating developments, regardless of ownership, as is the case in Nigeria and elsewhere.

        In summary, I don’t buy the threat of Chevron buying shares in Yukos, or one of its sister companies, as anything like what it is made out to be. The rest of the world deals with such situations as a matter of course.

        • marknesop says:

          Well, you might be right. The eXile didn’t buy the conspiracy-to-dispose-of-Yukos-for-personal-benefit theory, either, but laid out a fairly believable timeline of Khodorkovsky steadily pressing on the China pipeline deal (which I understand is now going ahead without him, so it must have been a good idea after all) to the point he just became too pushy for the government to tolerate. I still don’t think Russia would be comfortable with an American company owning the bulk of their oil assets, but you know more about that world than I. In any case, being a charter member of the Russian oligarchy seems to be sufficient proof of guilt for a host of other rich folks still in Russia, according to the American press. What’s different about Khodorkovsky?

        • marknesop says:

          Looks like you are right on that. I can’t find a hard figure, but best estimates suggest Khodorkovsky personally controlled 44% of Yukos. Majority shareholder, but not a controlling interest if transferred to a western company. The same source suggests Khodorkovsky was in talks with both ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, with the intention of “opening up Russia to the west and western business practices”. Many – including those who are curious why the oil companies leap to raise their prices when the base price of oil goes up, but leave them untouched when it sinks dramatically – would argue that’s not necessarily a good thing, but we’re generally agreed it would be an improvement on the present way of doing things, and the state presumably would still own the asset.

          You win this time, Tim Newman……but I’ll be back (hollow evil laughter).

          • kovane says:

            No, Khodorkovsky controlled 61% of Yukos officially in 2006, and besides, who knows how many shares he or Chevron owned through dummy companies.

            • marknesop says:

              Have you a source on that figure? I couldn’t find anything solid that went higher than “about 50%”.

            • kovane says:

              Quote: “Основные акционеры НК «ЮКОС» владели ей через зарегистрированную в Гибралтаре офшорную холдинговую компанию «Group MENATEP Limited» (учреждена в 1997 году, ей на начало 2006 года принадлежало 61 % акций «ЮКОСа»). По состоянию на 2001 год бенефициарами компании «Group MENATEP Limited» являлись: Ходорковский М. Б. (контролировал 59,5 % её акций), Брудно М. Б. (7 %), Лебедев П. Л. (7 %), Дубов В. М. (7 %), Невзлин Л. Б. (8 %), Голубович А. Д. (4,5 %), Шахновский В. С. (7 %). Обычно хозяином НК «ЮКОС» считался Михаил Ходорковский.”

              This is from here. Sorry, that’s in Russian.

  3. alterismus says:

    Thank you, Mark, for pleasing me so! My ribs, too – had myself a hearty laugh! Well, I popped over to the enemy’s side for a bit today, received the ‘moron’ stamp right away and got out. How was it that you commented there for a while? The tone encourages nothing but spite, it all is really rather sad. And the bit about how the rest of the civilized world just wants us to adopt their civic values, ahem, so many problems I have with that statement – don’t even know where to begin. As a matter of fact, I think it might be morphing into something larger now…

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks for the idea, Marina! As I mentioned, I hadn’t been following the trial that closely, and although I knew the verdict was due I just never got around to following up.

      I stayed around as a commenter for a couple of weeks – give or take – under my own name, mostly by calling on her to obey her own comment policy vis-a-vis rudeness and staying on the subject. After awhile she got tired of that, and accused me of “spamming her blog” (although you can always count on faithful Robert to go off on an instant tangent about Chechnya, regardless the subject of the post; but he’s in the Circle Of Trust, because he’s a russophobe) and banned me. I used much the same argument as A.J. did here during his brief tenure – why ban me; the disagreement is generating a lot of comments and discussion, some of it quite useful. She banned me anyway. I changed to a different ID and kept that going for awhile, but she doesn’t like disagreement. She blocked me, so I switched to a VPN to hide my ISP (HideMyAss), which also worked for a few days. Then she put some sort of geographical filter on it or something, which I eventually couldn’t force through. I had started with a third ID, but she’s always saying to everybody who doesn’t agree with her, why don’t you go start your own blog, and see who reads it? I said OK.

      • Andy says:

        Great blog! The La Russophobe goon tactics are evident at a number of blogs thinking like it.

        At one of them, anti-Russian and Polish nationalist propaganda kept getting posted. Suddenly, submissions countering such misinforamtion haven’t gone thru.

        BTW, is anyone here familar at all with an authentically established writing of Gogol’s, which is pro-Ivan Mazepa and Polish – with the basis being an opposition to Russia? Without clear substantiation, this posted claim elsewhere appears to be a fraud, much like the suggestion that Poland between two world wars had great support among many non-Poles under its rule.

        While I’m here, let me note that the many Austro-Hungarian POWs taken during WW I by Russia didn’t meet the same fate as individuals arrested by Austria Hungary at the Talerhof concentration camp. The latter were arrested on the plausible suspicion of harboring pro-Russian sentiment.

        • marknesop says:

          Thanks, Andy; as to the authenticated Gogol work, I bet Mike Averko knows if anyone does. He drops by fairly regularly, but if you don’t want to wait you can reach him at afweb1@yahoo.com.

          • Misha says:

            Howdy!

            Thanks Mark. I’ll get back to you in a bit on your above comments, regarding the Counterpunch article I linked.

            I’m in the process of trying to substantiate the validity of Gogol supposedly lauding Mazepa and Poland as a positive offset to Russia. On the surface, this seems fishy, given Gogol’s established work dealing with such matter.

            On a related note, the Harvard tag isn’t 100% foolproof. Someone can hypothetically attribute false quotes to what someone else said.

            On a related note, I was informed of how in one instance, the Russian word for “region” was mis-translated as “nation”, in a way suggesting that Gogol had Ukrainian separatist (suppressed or otherwise) leanings.

            These comments shouldn’t be mistaken to second guess the post-Soviet independent status of Ukraine, inclusive of its Soviet drawn boundaries.

            • Yalensis says:

              Wow! If such a Gogol work did actually exist, that would be quite a bombshell in the world of Russian literature. Many Masters and PhD theses would have to be rewritten.
              As an ex-literature major myself, I would be very interested to read this alleged “alternative” Taras Bulba, in which Mazepa and the Poles are the good guys. Who has this manuscript, and where will it be posted? Also, are there other “alt” versions of Russian literary classics? For example, maybe there is an “alt” Pushkin “Boris Godunov”, in which False Dmitry wins war and becomes wise ruler of Russian state. Or maybe an alt Chekhov “Cherry Orchard”, in which Lopakhin recants and decides not to cut down orchard and build dachas after all?

              • Misha says:

                You aren’t the only one Yalensis.

                It has the appearance of being an attempt to politically re-write the past.

                On some issues, this is easier to do. There continue to be attempts to portray the Whites as not recognizing Polish independence which is FALSE. Instead, Pilsudski is spun as a tolerant and non-impeerialist individual. Actually, the Whites favored Polish and Finnish independence, as well as Estonian. Poland favored expanding its border where non-Poles were the majority and sought what would essentially be puppet states (like a Petliura run Ukraine, minus eastern Galicia – which was and became part of Poland between two world wars.)

                The Whites’ non-recognition of other parts of the former Russian Empire as independent states took into consideration pro-union with Russia elements in some of these areas and the prevailing sentiment among some at the time. Around this period, the British and French weren’t keen on giving up their imperial possessions. (Ireland was the exception for the British.)

                • Misha says:

                  Yalensis, see:

                  http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674022911

                  Note how the negatively used (at least by some) N word (nationalism) is used as a substitute for patriotism. As for the characterization of Gogol’s work, I stick to the reasoned overview that Gogol was someone who took pride in the region of the Russian Empire he was from, while seeing himself as a Russian. In at least one of Gogol’s works, he can be spun as taking a negative view of Ukrainians. I wouldn’t go that far. A number of comments can be spun in a given and questionable direction. Among Gogol experts, I’m given the impression of a literary genius who had a sarcastic side to him – which can be misrepresented.

                  If anything, one senses a motivation to mock Russian identity, while propping a mindset which is arguably in greater need of mocking.

                • Misha says:

                  Without looking over the details, someone just forwarded me this info. (links and notes included):

                  Here is the text of Mazepa’s Meditations.

                  http://feb-web.ru/feb/gogol/texts/ps0/ps9/ps9-083-.htm

                  Bear in mind that Bojanowska mentions in citing another critical work by Tikhonravov, that this fragment (or rather two fragments) was to be a piece in a larger work. Therefore thinking that Mazepa’s Meditations was somehow an expression of Gogol’s anti-Russianness without ever knowing the remaining contents of that non-existent work is improvising.

                  http://feb-web.ru/feb/gogol/texts/ps0/ps9/ps9-609-.htm?cmd=0&hash=%E8%F1%F2%EE%F0%E8%E8_%D3%EA%F0%E0%E8%ED%FB.2_7

                  Here are notes on the two fragments, I hope they can be of some help. That Tikhonravov book should be also quite useful.

                • Misha says:

                  So there’s no misunderstanding, I’m in the process of gathering info. on the raised particular which involves seeking something well established as authentically written by Gogol supporting Mazepa and Poland as an offset to Russia.

                  Keep in mind how one can be sarcastic. Like how some of us might refer to Russians as apes in a jestful response to others who make such comments.

                • Misha says:

                  The issue of clarifying Gogol’s views about Mazepa, Poland and Russia is continued further on down this thread.

                  As Yalensis notes later on down, there’s a thinning out process of line space, as a discussion continues by clicking into the same reply field.

      • alterismus says:

        “I had started with a third ID, but she’s always saying to everybody who doesn’t agree with her, why don’t you go start your own blog, and see who reads it? I said OK.”

        Haha, Mark, this is brilliant. I, for one, am sure glad you did!

  4. Yalensis says:

    “Putin laid it out for the oligarchs – stay out of politics, and yer can keep the swag, Ahrrrr.”
    I vote that for “best sentence in the blog”. It pretty much sums up the whole backstory, plus accurate trope with everyone as pirates. Also made me laugh. Good job, Mark!

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Yalensis; it probably sprang from watching (again) the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” with my Father-in Law the other day. I love Geoffrey Rush as Cap’n Barbossa, and he was probably the inspiration. On that subject, I see the trailer for the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” (On Stranger Tides) is out. It looks pretty good; check it out.

      http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi161323033/

  5. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    I’ve found some recent articles by Eric Kraus about Khodorkovsky. They can be read at http://www.truthandbeauty.ru

  6. kovane says:

    Eugene,

    But the second trial is a different matter. Khristenko and Gref testified that in their opinion, there was no “dissappearance” of 20% of YUKOS oil, in which K&L are accused.

    Even if Khristenko and Gref have different opinions on the embezzlement charge, that doesn’t mean there was no theft. Besides, they can be simply against the second conviction, supposing that it will damage the investment climate in Russia. But there were both tax evasion and theft, I can illustrate that. If the dummy companies – created only to minimize taxes – had been owned by YUKOS, or the total profit had been shown on YUKOS’ books, then that would constitute only tax evasion. Since a large part of the profit earned by these proxy companies was funneled to certain individuals, ordinary YUKOS investors were defrauded, and Khodorkovsky, as the main orchestrator, is guilty of corporate crime as well. I expect to see a qualified legal opinion on the second trial when more documents are released.

    BTW, why don’t you provide a link to your excellent blog when posting comments here?

  7. carpenter117 says:

    Great article, Mark – as usual!
    Several “it just bugs me” moments:

    1) Western obsession with Khodorkovsky, this “political prisioner of bloody KGB-regime!(tm)”… and West’s hypocritical silence about Platon Lebedev. Yeah, we all know very well, why Mr. KhoDORKovsky is a real darling of all Russophobes.
    He is educated. He is Jewish. And he is anti-Putin. Hardly anything else counts, risht?. But what about Lebedev? Why journos from “American Pravda/WaPost” or WSJ, or even CSM didn’t inform “concerned American citizens” about another victim of Putin’s criminal regime? Oh, wait! It turns out, that Mr. Lebedev was head of “Menatep” bank. Ask any Russian in any Russian family, who managed to “survive the 90’s” what does he think about this bank. Also, ask them how much money they lost to it. Well, it looks like that even journos working for the western propaganda machine are uncomfortable calling this man “”political prisoner” or “dissident”. And he is ethnically Russian, by the way.

    2) American commenters. I was pleasantly surprised to find out, that not all American citizens are brainwashed zombies from neolib/neocon camps. Some of them even wrote smth like “Putin for Sherriff! He gonna kick Madoff’s ass!”. Others pointed out correctly, that Khodor isn’t a saint at all – that he is crook, and a thief, and that he also broke an “accord” with Putin, when he started funding “opposition”. On the other hand, 20% of American commentrs still believe Russia to be a communist state which now controls their “traitorous Muslim-communist” president B. H. Obama. Well, duh, no surprise here – “Americans are Stupid” ™

    I was also shocked (in a good way) be the reaction of “the Guardian” readers:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/29/russias-oligarchs-on-trial

    Brits suddenly happened to be more balanced, knowledgeable and less russophobic, than yanks .

    3) I do not have the slightest objection to the fact that Khodorkovsky will spend next 6 years in prison. It is well known fact, that rich and influential people are hard to persecute of their crime – even in “democratic countries” they can escape justice thanks to dark legions of their lawyers. In that case, paradoxically, for Justice to triumph the Law should be put aside. We all, I hope, know, that Khodorkovsky is responsible for several murders back in 90’s – but Russian authorities can not prosecute him for this. So, they accuse him of economic crimes instead.

    PS. What common Russians (like me) think about Khodorkovsky? This:

    http://www.demotivation.ru/t3yb44vkprzfpic.html

    • marknesop says:

      Hey, Carpenter – thanks for the interesting links, and it’s great to see you back! I agree the mystery of western preoccupation with Khodorkovsky is no mystery at all; rich, Jewish and anti-Putin, but I hadn’t really given any thought to his co-defendant. Of course Khodorkovsky’s PR machine has already thought of that, and the organization is the Khodorkovsky – Lebedev Foundation or something like that, I’m too lazy to look it up. But the emphasis is clearly on Khodorkovsky. That’s a very interesting angle; I wonder if there’s anything in Lebedev’s background that would suggest he simply got dragged in because of his ties to Khodorkovsky? Probably no – as you say, he used to run Menatep, and many Russians have unpleasant memories of Menatep. Before Menatep’s collapse, it provided the basis for Khodorkovsky’s acquisition of Yukos. Check out this source: it appears to be only a blog as best I can determine, but it provides some interesting detail on Menatep’s government clients, and is the first I’ve seen to draw the astonishing conclusion that one of the biggest killers of Foreign Direct Investment in Russia at the time of its collapse was….Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his perceived ruthless financial behaviour. Odd to see some western sources now clamoring for his freedom, and a bigger political role for him in Russia’s further development. I wonder how a movement in Russia to have Jeffrey Skilling freed and given control over American policies would be greeted?

      America does include a lot of Russophobes, especially in the upper strata of the Republican party – but it also includes a lot of people who think as you do, that Khodorkovsky is simply a crook, and merits no sympathy as he would surely feel none for those he defrauded had he continued to amass wealth and power. The Russophobic element appears bigger than it is because it is noisier, just like it is with regard to Obama being a Muslim or an apologist for Islam. Most Americans are not that stupid, although it’s true the English are generally more pragmatic.

  8. Yalensis says:

    @Misha: Sorry, I had to start a new thread down here, because it was getting a bit narrow up there. Anyhow, thanks very much for the links about the Gogol issue, I read the “Mazepa Musings”, it is fascinating, but I’m still not sure what I’m reading. Was this a deleted chapter from “Taras Bulba”, or a fragment from a new work? Or a page from Gogol’s diary? Like you said, context would make a lot of difference how the fragment is perceived. Not that it really matters that much what Gogol’s political beliefs were: As a well-rounded artist, he could show all sides to the story. This fragment may represent Gogol “getting into the character” of Mazepa to understand his motives. Re. the references to Peter the Great: compare with Pushkin in “The Bronze Horseman”, his ambiguous attitude towards the tsar, as both hero and tyrant. Or like Shakespeare: when he portrays a conflict, he shows all sides and explains everybody’s motives. Sometimes things get so complex you don’t even know who the good guys are. That’s the hallmark of a great writer, and that’s the difference between a work of art and a silly piece of propaganda. So, really, if the Ukrainian nationalists want to claim Gogol as their own, let them! He can be considered a treasure to be shared by both Ukrainians and Russians.

    • Misha says:

      Yalensis

      Interesting follow-up you give and thanks for sharing. Your overview corresponds with the feedback I’ve gotten elsewhere. Gogol saying that Mazepa thought an alliance with Poland would be best doesn’t indicate the former being in agreement with that view. Clearly, Gogol’s recognized work on the subject indicates otherwise.

      As far as Mazepa goes, the timing of Mazepa’s defection to Sweden and its weaker Polish ally arguably seems calculated on a premise that Peter would lose in a war with Sweden and Poland. For years, Mazepa had been an ally of Peter, with a number of historians believing that Mazepa wasn’t such a good leader over his base of territory. In conjunction with that view is the notion that Mazepa greatly benefitted from Peter’s support. If Peter hypothetically lost to Sweden and Poland and there was a void to Peter’s rule, wouldn’t Mazepa be a potential successor to Peter and his entire domain (at least to a good portion of it)? In that case, how much was Mazepa really an early day Ukrainian separatist as opposed to an opportunist? Never mind the number of folks from the territory of what’s now regraded as Ukraine who sided with Peter over Mazepa. From a few years ago, I recall a poll in contemporary Ukraine putting Mazepa’s popularity in the high 20% to low 30% range.

      Awhile back, someone showed me a blip from the WW II period OUN/UPA denouncing Gogol as a traitor. Now, comes some flimsy Harvard based spin suggesting a different Gogol from the one known, while belittling Russian identity. Offhand, I don’t recall any Harvard based work getting propped which belittles either Polish or Ukrainian nationalism. Note how some Russia unfriendly advocates suggest a reflexive Russian nationalist attitude as if the folks making such a claim are the more objective.

      As you probably know Rusisa and Ukraine jointly honored the 200th anniversary of Gogol’s birthday. Minus distortions, I’ve no problems with that.

      • Misha says:

        Following up on the last two comments regarding Gogol:

        The attempt to cover different sides of a story, while expressing criticism of the preferred side can be taken out of context by those who aren’t so sympathetic to the preferred side in question.

        I sense that this issue is at play in how some have chosen to spin Gogol.

        • Yalensis says:

          @Misha, if I am understanding your point correctly, I think you are absolutely right. That is to say, if American scholars are trying to use Gogol against Russia, then they must be opposed. Using beautiful works of literature as ammunition in ideological war is nothing new to Americans. I remember reading once: There is an organization called American Association of Slavic Studies (appropriately acronymed AASS, and coincidentally operating out of Harvard University), which supposedly is scholarly body. But devoted many years to deconstructing all literature created during Soviet period and only extolling works of dissidents and samizdat. So furious was their hatred of Soviet writers, they even dissed great writers of the 1920’s such as Fedin and Furmanov. Anyhow, I read that shortly after Soviet Union disbanded, at AASS annual convention, keynote speaker (sorry, I cannot find out who this was) stood at podium to announce end of Cold War and trumpeted (to thunderous applause of audience): “We won!” Fair enough, but this was supposed to be scholarly bookworm types, not cold warriors. Only goes to show: American ideologues are so fanatical they will even subvert literary classics to their own ends. So yes, you are right: if this Gogol piece is new front of anti-Russian ideological war, then Russians must gird up and fight back. I wish I could help, but unfortunately I am not Gogol scholar, and I long ago left academia to take up software development.

          • Yalensis says:

            P.S. I forgot to mention, Misha, that I really like and admire the way you get so passionate about European history, and really get into all the details of these historical events…!

            • Misha says:

              Thanks Yalensis, although I respectfully note some caution on the “passion” reference. Some (not you) can take it to mean being overly emotional in a way that ignores reality. Comparatively speaking, I feel that the folks I’m rebuking are the ones more befitting of a certain passion which (at times) gets out of line from reality.

              It’s impossible to be well versed on everything. The good analytical mind is able to correctly sense when something isn’t quite right.

              One of your points brings back memories of a Carnegie sponsored panel televised on American CSPAN during the Yeltsin era. Strobe Talbott (who has been characterized as being “soft” on Russia) and Zbigniew Brzezinski were poking at Russia at a panel that included Vladimir Lukin and Sergei Rogov. I touched on it in this piece:

              http://www.inosmi.ru/world/20080410/240734.html

              http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/57965

              At that panel: out of the blue, the Talbott-Brzezinski tag team suddenly go gah-gah when one of them (I think it was Talbott) said that the US won the Cold war and that this is great.

              I understand our differences. I’m raised on a pro-Russian/anti-Communist upbringing which nevertheless tries to not get overly ideological. At that event, Talbott and Brzezinski didn’t seek to say something along the lines of: now with the USSR no more, Russia and the West can pursue better relations as was evident in the past.

              Some more on Talbott:

              http://grayfalcon.blogspot.com/2010/12/shared-values.html

              In the West, Harvard is by no means alone. I recall Richard Pipes saying in a not so positive tone how Russian studies in America was at one time (as he put it) more influenced by Russian emigres. He meant White Russian emigres. I don’t see Pipes saying anything negative of the one time Harvard and now Rutgers Polish academic who has been suggesting a new line on Gogol. IMO, the aforementioned White Russian academics (at least some of them, like the more well known of that group) are more objective than a good number of the non-Russian academics with roots in central and eastern Europe.

              I also periodically sense the view that the Russian character is what screwed up a politically left ideal. A politically incorrect thought: substitute Jew for Russian in that last observation and one will be singled out for negativity. On the other hand, it seems more acceptable to blame Russians for Soviet faults. Mind you, this is being said by someone of Jewish origin, who isn’t supportive of singling out Jews for blame. There’s plenty of fault to be found.

              That thought leads me to this show:

              http://rt.com/programs/crosstalk/crosstalk-new-anti-semitism/

              I’d like to see a well done RT show on anti-Russoism. Like I said: how Russia screws itself in a way that many don’t know or care to know is a tell all on what’s wrong with the coverage. Some really good source input continues to get slighted.

              HAPPY NEW YEAR

              • Misha says:

                From one of several admirers:

                I’m back home and saw some of the comments regarding Gogol-Mazepa “musings”, but have not seen any submitted originals (may have missed some of the discourse). From what I have seen in the discussions, this looks like a fragment – at best – of draft work on Taras Bulba (getting into the mind of a character), or another piece, such as A Terrible Vengeance, since Gogol’s anti-Polish thread is evident throughout his writing. At worst, it can be someone else’s “diary”, or other concoction, being passed off as Gogol. It could be Gogol’s speculation on Mazepa’s character as related to Pushkin’s work – they were, after all, contemporaries…

                It’s important to confirm via the authentic archives to best clarify this situation.

                I tried looking up: Gogol on Mazepa – in Russian search engines and came up with NOTHING to support what some are claiming. If you were supplied with any original work, please pass this along and I will take a look.

                On a prior point : “In the English language, a counterweight to Magosci is needed”., I agree, but we know the situation…

                On another note, an interesting development, where the Polish government reveal that the shooting attempt of Polish diplomats in Georgia (blamed, of course on Russia) was a Georgian set-up… now the one who leaked this is being punished… when looked at from a wider perspective, this is all part of the same anti-Russian strategy, in a variety of forms…

                http://newsru.com/world/31dec2010/gruztain.html

                • marknesop says:

                  Man – that guy. Saakashvili, I mean. He’s pretty much a one-note act, isn’t he? I can’t believe foreign dignitaries continue to visit there, knowing chances are good they’ll end up part of some government-sponsored provocation, or that certain interests and lobbying groups continue to push for NATO membership for a country ruled by such a hothead. I feel genuinely sorry for Georgians. Saakashvili is smart, but he’s totally uninterested in using any of those smarts for paying dues – he wants to cut straight to the bottom line. And if he can get Russia a little bad press on the way, so much the better from his point of view. How could anyone believe he’d make a good ally? He’d cheat his mother if that’s what it took to get what he wants.

                • Misha says:

                  Just received this regarding the matter of Gogol (Please excuse if the Cyrillic doesn’t get picked up):

                  Mike, I finally found time to review the links you sent. Many thanks to Leos and others like yourself seeking the truth! – they are proof positive of exactly what we all thought was the case (attaching a compilation with bold relevant passages). The “Musings of Mazeppa” are just that – the thoughts of a negative character in a creative work. Also proof that the now ex-Harvard but still hack indulges in falsifications, typical of her ilk.

                  I am only addressing the particular passage in detail further below, but the notes via some of the links include a lot more, such as Gogol’s research in Russian botany, economics and folklore in preparations for his works, such as Dead Souls, and quotes that would send shivers down the spine of all of these Russophobes. Gogol’s projects included an extensive Russian vocabulary, while he called work on Ukrainian expressions (used in main works taking place in “Ukraine) “Malorussian lexicon”, rather than dictionary… His work on Slavic and Russian history was extensive, and included South Russia (Ukraine) which he saw as an inseparable part of Russia. In addition, as he did more and more research he talks about how much more he had grown to love Russia. During his research work for Dead Souls he gets the idea of writing a “Living Geography of Russia” and writes: “In its (the book) success, I am relying not so much on my own strengths, but on my love of Russia, which, thank God, is continually increasing within me, on the support of all those who truly know her, for whom its future is dear, as is the upbringing of their own children”
                  В успехе ее я надеюсь не столько на свои силы, сколько на любовь к России, слава богу, беспрестанно во мне увеличивающуюся, на споспешество всех истинно знающих ее людей, которым дорога ее будущая участь и воспитанье собственных детей»

                  As for the Mazeppa topic at hand:
                  Gogol PLAINLY INDICATES his own attitude toward the “musings”: (translation, original below #1) “All of this was engrossing the criminal hetman (Mazeppa). To secede? To declare independence? To counter the awesome power of despotism with the power of unanimity, place the courageous rebuff on one selves? But the hetman was already elderly and rejected the thoughts which blustery youth would have impudently seized upon to fulfill. The autocrat (Peter I) was too powerful.” The entire passage ends with (translation, original below #2): “During such musings news that the Tsar broke the peace and is making war on the Swedes found Mazeppa” And this is being pathetically passed off as Gogol’s “Ukrainian Separatism!? About as relevant to Shakespeare’s opinions as the musings of Lady Macbeth…
                  # 1 Всё это занимало преступного гетьмана. Отложиться? Провозгласить свою независимость? Противопоставить грозной силе деспотизма силу единодушия, возложить мужественный отпор на самих себя? Но гетьман был уже престарелый и отвергнул мысли, которые бы дерзко схватила выполнить буйная молодость. Самодержец был слишком могуч.

                  # 2 В таких размышлениях застало Мазепу известие, что царь прервал мир и идет войною на шведов.

              • Yalensis says:

                Happy New Year to you too, Misha. Just 3 quick points:
                1.) Yes, of course I meant “passionate” in the good sense, as in somebody who is very interested in a topic and intellectually curious!
                2.) End of Cold War did show an interesting realignment of ideologies. Some Russians, including Whites and emigres, who hated Communist system but loved Russia, maybe assumed Russia would be accepted into Western community of nations after it became capitalist; then were maybe distressed to learn that West still hated them for being Russians. On other hand, people like me, from Soviet war veteran ancestry, liked idea of Soviet Union (not Stalinist, though) and unhappy with disintegration; but still finding they love Russia deep inside and don’t want to see it dismembered.
                3.) I am never one of those who blame Russian people for failures of socialist economic system. I think Russian people worked very hard and did the best they could with flaws of system. I also think Jews are great people, they contributed so much to Soviet/Russian economy and culture. I do not tolerate anyone blaming them for what happened.

                • Misha says:

                  Hi again Yalensis.

                  Within the White Russian community, there was guarded optimism when the USSR broke up.
                  Beforehand, many of them were aware of what can be called an “anti-Russian period” mindset which relates to this piece that I previously brought up:

                  http://www.russiablog.org/2006/04/yuschenkos_wife_and_the_ugly_h.php

                  Perhaps at some point, portions of the former Russian Empire and former USSR might have closer ties from what’s currently evident.

                  Touching on this point and Gogol, I’m in the process of considering a review of Pavlo Skoropadsky, who as you probably know was a Russian Civil War era Ukrainian political figure. I’ve come across some Ukrainian nationalist/anti-Russian leaning spin that sheds some positive light on him. I sense that this take is somewhat on par with what we discussed of Gogol. I note that Skoropadsky’s edict calling for an All-Russian Federation doesn’t seem available online in the English language and (for all I know) others. His edict is an interesting (IMO) overview of Russo-Ukrainian relations from an anti-Communist view. IMO, it also relates to the many Ukrainians on the left, center and right who aren’t like the typical Russia unfriendly Ukrainian views getting propped in English language mass media

                  Mark, regarding your comments on Saakashvili, I think you might be familiar with this WikiLeaks piece on Georgia:

                  http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/everything-good-the-us-good-georgia-vice-versa-4536

                  I think that he has weathered a storm (at least for now). For awhile, I was more inclined to think that he might be a post-Cold War version of Diem in South Vietnam. It can be politically and (in some instances) physically dangerous for the leader of a small country to fall out of favor with his superpower backer. For now, he appears relatively secure. Still, he should consider how Western neocons and neolibs can change their priorities, whereas Russia is in his neighborhood.

                  I leave with this just released piece from one of my favorite Brits:

                  http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2011/01/carl-thomson-getting-the-anglo-russian-relationship-back-on-track.html

                • cartman says:

                  It’s a can’t-win situation for Russia in the United States. Russians are not death-to-America jihadis that liberals seem to defend a lot. And conservatives are too stupid to realize that Russia is not communist, but really conservative itself. Also they could not locate Russia on a map.

                  Policymakers are beholden to financial, military, and energy interests only.

                • Misha says:

                  Bigotry has been associated with leaving out a specific group of people which would be otherwise accepted.

                  For example, at one time Blacks couldn’t play Major League Baseball, regardless of how great their talents were.

                  The US government officially sanctioned anti-Russian bigotry with the passing of the Captive Nations Committee Resolution and the official American holiday known as Captive Nations Week – which recognized every Communist country (including some Nazi creations) as “captive” with the exception of Russia. In this situation, Russia and Russians get depicted as brutally exploiting others. On that claim, consider the earlier point made at this thread about substituting Russians with another group and what the mainstream reply is to such a view.

                • Misha says:

                  Yalensis, upon quick glance it looks like I might’ve goofed in terms of not putting in order the latest submitted set of comments on Gogol, which is a little bit above this note.

                  I once again stress a Harvard propped source (linked at this thread) of a work that’s put mildly questionable .

                  In comparsion, show me a Harvard promoted work primarily questioning the claims of anti-Russian Polish and anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalist (albeit a monority of Ukrainians) views. (Not that the two always march lock step with each other.)

                  I once again recall propaganda about how Gogol supposedly was pressured to write a second version of Taras Bulba. As noted, the second work improves upon the love story and the background of the Cossacks. Instead of noting this, I recall commentary suggesting that the second version has terms along the lines of holy Russia in it. (My offhand understanding being that it occurs in a few as opposed to a significantly number of instances.) The suggestion being that Gogol was somewhow pressured into saying such. In actuality, it appears that Gogol on his OWN, becomes more attracted to his Russian identity – not that he was ashamed of it beforehand.

                  So there’s no misunderstanding, I’m not the one initiating some sort of culture war. Instead, I’m responsibly addressing what has been presented in a way that surprisingly if not shamefully hasn’t been done by others.

                  This thought again leads to the idea that Russian government involved media and PR efforts abroad have been lacking, when it comes to improving Russia’s image.

  9. marknesop says:

    I’ve posted the legal analysis of the first Khodorkovsky trial, from 2006. Since it was quite lengthy, I’ve given it its own page, entitled “Khodorkovsky Trial 1”, accessible from the navigation bar on the home page. Thanks, Eugene, for this very interesting document, and to Patrick Armstrong for originally providing it.

  10. Mark, congratulations!

    You made it into Inosmi and have already generated a stunning 409 comments!

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  12. Yalensis says:

    @Mark re. comment on Saakashvili, sorry had to start a new thread, no room to reply:
    That guy never gets boring, does he?
    Here are two other provocations, just off the top of my head, engineered by that madcap Gruzian hothead:
    1.) Lech Kaczynski, now deceased, at the time prez of Poland, was invited by his good buddy Saak to drive with him on inspection of Gruzian-Ossetian border. As they drove, they were shot at by “Ossetians” or “Russians” (actually Gruzian soldiers pretending to be Ossetian/Russians). Kaczynski was rightfully scared out of his pants, but was impressed how calmly and bravely Saak responded, looking death right in the eye and laughing at it. I think the purpose was to show that Saak was not coward after all; because he was still smarting from all those people laughing at him for his wussy You-tube show, in which he was seen diving screaming like a baby, thinking Russian drone was after him.
    2.) And please let us not forget the biggest provocation of them all, when grenade was thrown at George W. Bush in blatant assassination attempt during American prez visit to Tbilisi.
    You’re right, Mark: If I were foreign dignitary, I would stay as far as possible from Tbilisi, unless I were feeling suicidal that day.

    • marknesop says:

      Happy New Year, Yalensis! Yes, the first incident you mention is the one that’s the subject of the discussion, the one in which – according to the report Misha linked – Kaczynski was the “target” of an assassination attempt or some sort of ambush. That now appears to have been a setup, although there were many who thought so all along. I didn’t know about his whimpering dive for the ground, although now I’ll have to look it up.

      I don’t necessarily think Tbilisi is any less safe than any other city in the region, in terms of overall risk of terrorist or ethnic violence. It’s Saakashvili’s endless intrigues and manipulations that make it dangerous, because every visiting western politician is another opportunity for him to get his face in the western news, in the capacity of a heroic rescuer or brave warrior.

      • Yalensis says:

        Hi, Mark,
        I did quickie search on youtube with keyword “Saakashvili coward” and came up with many possible postings of the incident in question; here is one:

        The context: it is Gori, August 2008. Saak is inspecting damage caused by Russian bombings. Suddenly he hears buzzing sound overhead and panics. He breaks away from bodyguards and runs for his life screaming. Bodyguards are forced to chase after him and hunt him down, putting everyone around in danger.
        Now, these Russian drones are supposed to be silent. So, 3 possibilities:
        1.) There WAS NO drone, Saak delusioned it, and panicked;
        2) There WAS drone, and Saak has supernatural hearing, like a bat; OR
        3) There WAS drone, but it malfunctioned and made a buzzing noise. This is Russian technology, after all, so cannot be expected to work perfectly 😉

        Historical/cultural analysis: historically, Caucasian tribes were bold and warlike, their leader was supposed to be fearless warrior. Maybe this is all just stereotype, I don’t know, but anyhow Caucasians are said to respect only male, very macho leaders who are physically brave. Any sign of cowardice would disqualify as leader.
        Hence, once he had displayed such outrageous cowardice in public and been mocked all over world with these viral you-tube videos, Saak would have no choice but to step down in disgrace. UNLESS… he could redeem himself by displaying fearlessness in similar incident. Hence, the staged faux-ambush incident with a very duped Lech Kaczynski playing the role of second banana.

        P.S. Tbilisi is a beautiful city, I have visited as tourist and love it there. I don’t think it is any more dangerous than any other city in the world, UNLESS you happen to be a foreign dignitary! LOL

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          It wasn’t a drone, but a jet, possibly it was a Su-25. At the least, this is my recollection of the event.

          • Yalensis says:

            Oh, it was an Su-25? That makes sense, then, if Saakashvili heard a whooshing noise overhead. The drones are said to be so silent that the target is not supposed to hear a thing until that final moment when the flaming rocket would shoot up his ass.

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, that’s pretty comical. I remember reading something about it, but I’d never seen the video. It doesn’t beat the tie-eating extravaganza, but it’s close!

  13. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    Hi all, and Happy New Year.
    I’ve read most of the analysis of the first Khodorkovsky trial sentence provided by Eugene and now the situation is much clearer.
    Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were found guilty of various crimes related to the privatization of Apatit and of the research institute I mentioned before (NIUIF), of embezzlement of Apatit’s fund (with a damage to the state that was a shareholder of Apatit) made through the use of shell companies that bought from Apatit at prices below the market ones and then resold. Then there are the tax evasion charges, which involve two separate cases:
    1) Khodorkovsky and Lebedev got almost all their wages from Yukos/Menatep/Rosprom in the for of consulting services for these companies, thus obtaining a lower tax rate than that applicable to wages. This is a personal tax evasion.
    2) Corporate tax evasion by Yukos that used the well known scheme involving onshore shell companies located in low-tax area of Russia. However, the tax evasion is not about the price at which Yukos sold oil (from the analysis …the market price at which the shell companies bought oil from Yukos production companies was not “below market” in the market that existed at the time in the low-tax zone. Such an argument seems irrelevant to the charge since, as noted above, this charge was not brought on a transfer pricing theory and therefore the fair market price of the oil products sold does not affect the validity of the charge.), but on the legality of the shell companies tax management. In order to get the favorable tax regime the companies need to invest and be operated in the region, a requirement the shell companies lacked, because they were hollow shells. Also these companies payed some of the taxes with IOU and got tax refund in cash for tax over-payments in IOU. The former charge (paying with IOU) was dismissed at the appeal because it is a violation of the tax code, not of the penal code.
    These crimes took place between 1999-2000.
    I think most of the confusion stems from the fact that the investigations and the first trial took place at the same time of the tax claims against Yukos.

    • marknesop says:

      Happy New Year, Giuseppe!! I agree, the wording of the analysis sometimes implies that certain charges were superfluous or unnecessary, as their substance was captured in another charge. However, if Russia truly is “transitioning to the rule of law” (which I find a little patronizing, but we’ll let that go for now), I think you have to expect imperfections. The parts that jumped out at me were the judgment that Khodorkovsky’s and Lebedev’s personal testimony were not compelling and added little to the deliberation, and that both had hidden nearly their entire income for tax purposes. This, to me, suggests complete contempt for the rule of law, as nobody sensible was going to believe Khodorkovsky was simultaneously one of the country’s wealthiest citizens, and earning a low salary with no dividends. A lot of the oligarchs (Luzhkov among them, although he is not generally considered an oligarch because the wealth is his wife’s) lumped most or all of their income under the name of a spouse or family member.

      Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that those who argue Russia would do better with an intelligent, free-market liberal like Khodorkovsky at the helm, rather than Comrade Putin the “proud KGB spy”, might want to notice that Khodorkovsky has no regard whatever for the rule of law, and actively worked to circumvent what there was at the time. His PR machine is great at generating a smokescreen of democratic values and modernization, but Khodorkovsky’s actions argue that he cares nothing for those except where they affect his personal bottom line. An old saying has it that if you would know what people really are, see how they behave when they believe themselves unobserved.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        One of the impressions I got from reading the analysis, is that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev circumvented and violated the law in very “open” ways, or as the analysis put it “blatant”. For example, All of the work performed in preparing applications for K and L to receive status as entrepreneurs and fill out their tax forms was performed by Yukos or Menatep employees. They could have used and independent agency to do this work, just for caution. IMO, this sense of impunity was the result of the real lawlessness of the Yeltsin era, when Khodorkovsky and those like him felt comfortable.

  14. marknesop says:

    Without wishing to distract from the present discussion, an extremely interesting response was received in the post “Are Slavs Stupid?” (not one of my finer moments), from an Estonian. The response is directed to Sinotibetan, but would be well worth reading by anyone interested in demographics, the movement of peoples, languages and the blurring of ethnic lines (such as Yalensis and Misha). I mention it here because that’s an old post now, and although I see all new comments, others don’t and it might otherwise be ignored. The comment arrived just yesterday. See what you think; the commenter sounds extremely well-educated and interesting, like someone who could contribute much to ongoing discussions.

    • Yalensis says:

      Wow! “Ini-iite from Estonia” really seems to know their stuff. Must be an anthropology major, I am guessing. Impressive scholarship.
      “One can speculate that the asians are smarter because of the share of the recently discovered Denisova neanderthal genes, while europeans have some European neanderthal genes. African natives have neither. Neanderthals used to have slightly larger brains as well than early humans.”
      This is very possible. Neanderthal “Denisova” genes could confer many advantages to children of mixed human-Neanderthal “marriages”.
      Disagree with “Ini-iite” on one minor point: that speaking a particular human language can confer an IQ advantage (as opposed to genes possibly conferring selective advantage). See my comments above about refutation of Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Modern linguistics (and semantics) teaches that all human languages are functionally equivalent as variants of one single abstract symbolic code. Whether a language has a lot of consonants or a lot of vowels is irrelevant. Maybe true that it’s easier for the average Estonian to learn Russian than the average Russian to learn Estonian. But that is a purely cultural artifact. Maybe laziness, in part (or lack of motivation), because Russians were politically dominant for several generations and could count on smaller nations learning their language as regional lingua franca, so why bother learning a foreign language, which takes many years of study to master? Western Europeans in general seem adept and motivated to learn multiple languages. Whereas Americans of European ancestry, are very poor at learning languages. They feel they don’t really need to, since everyone in the world “should” speak English. Once again, lack of motivation or necessity. This isn’t necessarily a bad quality, except that it cuts them off from reading many literary classics in original tongues.
      @Mark: Re-reading old blog with new comments brings back nostalgic memories of my flame war against AJ. My personal favorite moment: When AJ commented to me: “Your bullshit-o-meter is broken, Asshole!” Ah, memories….

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