Boris Nemtsov, Habitual Lawbreaker

Uncle Volodya says, "A lot of people confuse a short memory with a clear conscience."

Probably everyone has heard of Voltaire, the great French author and philosopher. What you might not know is there was really no such person as Voltaire; it was a pen name adopted by Francois Marie Arouet, who assumed the nom-de-plume while doing a stretch in the Bastille for insulting the French government.

Maybe you think this is where the Boris Nemtsov connection comes in: political prisoner for pissing off the government. Nope – the reason I brought up Voltaire is because he authored perhaps my favourite quote ever.

“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one. ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous’. And God granted it”

Yes, considering he lived in an age when grown men walked around in public wearing jackets that had a skirt attached to the bottom, and wore their hair down over their shoulders – and had prissy manners, to boot – he was a pretty witty guy, as funny as Chris Rock.  Taller, too; but grown men wore high heels then, too, so that probably doesn’t count.

Make my enemies ridiculous. Maybe God only grants a prayer like that once every century or two, but this seems to be my lucky century. My muse at La Russophobe is, once again, ridiculous. Consider this story, if you will. “Neo-Soviet Russia Goes Berzerk”. Uh huh. Leaving aside for the moment that “berzerk” is actually “a multidirectional shooter video arcade game released in 1980 by Stern Electronics”, while the word that suggests “in or into a state of violent or destructive rage or frenzy” is actually spelled “berserk”, I hesitated to get into yet another story about Boris Nemtsov. Why? Because he’s as boring as watching the process of time-lapse photography. Writing about him – again – only plays into his hands, because he wants attention. That’s why he keeps getting arrested.

But the post I referenced is just too good to let pass, just too….melodramatically hero-worshiping, saccharine-coated comical. Give it a read, then we’ll get started.

Ready? OK, let’s begin at the beginning. Poor Nemtsov is trapped in a tiny concrete box that is…just about the same square footage as a comparable cell in the U.S. Nice of them to let him take his tape-measure in, too. Not to mention a pen and paper to write a note; I don’t know if you noticed the comments to the referenced post, but the first one – by someone named casasa – is pretty funny. It was still there the last time I checked, and reads, “He is in a concrete box, 1.5 by three metres, without a window and without even a mattress. A bare floor and that’s it. And then … he finds a piece of paper and a pen to write a note and … finds the way to smuggle it out of his jail cell (perhaps through non-existing windows?). What a romantic story!” Although the ever faithful Bohdan (the very one who gave this blog its name) rushes to La Russophobe’s defense with the suggestion that Nemtsov probably had the pen and paper cunningly hidden on his person before his arrest, that would presuppose (a) he wasn’t searched before being put in what sounds like a holding cell, before being assigned to more long-term quarters (even in Russian jail, you get a bed) which is unlikely, or (b) he knew he was going to be arrested. If the latter is the case, he intended to break the law. Which would suggest he’s exactly where he belongs. People who break the law – repeatedly – go to jail. That’s what’s called the rule of law. While we’re discussing that, how did he get his note smuggled out? A sympathetic guard? In a situation where anyone would have to know it would be immediately published, followed by an investigation into how it got out, and suspicion would immediately focus on the guard? Or maybe a bribe? Hey – wouldn’t that be illegal?

Nemtsov was not, repeat not, arrested for “publicly criticizing the Putin regime in a permitted demonstration”.  He was not bothered in any way while taking part in the permitted demonstration. When he attempted to leave it and join an unsanctioned demonstration nearby, he was immediately arrested. The Moscow mayor had announced prior to both demonstrations that protesters taking part in unsanctioned demonstrations would be liable to arrest. The Russian constitution says if the demonstration is bigger than one protester, you have to have a permit. That forms the basis for the law. Boris Nemtsov continues to deliberately break the law while shouting for reform and rule of law. Would he have defended such a practice while he was Deputy Prime Minister?

Mr. Nemtsov had to stand throughout his four-hour trial. Sorry, but so what? That’s not even impressive. Who says so? The former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, says so. “I stand for 8-10 hours a day”, says he; “why is standing limited to 4 hours?” Take that, Boris Nemtsov, you moist-eyed chorus girl. When Donald Rumsfeld wrote that in 2004, he was 72 years old. You’re 51.

Let’s move on. Mr. Nemtsov, we’re told, is accused only of “speaking too harshly about the Kremlin’s crackdown on democracy”. Again, sorry, but I’d need to see some substantiation of that, because that’d be one hell of a charge. Other published information says he was charged with smarting off to police officers – never a wise policy, including in the USA. Oh, and taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration, which he was specifically warned not to do. Several times, including previous sleepovers in jail, which would make you wonder if maybe he’s not as bright as he’s made out to be.

The piece closes with the bemusing suggestion that the President of Russia should have “protected people like Nemtsov and Khodorkovsky from further abuse”. Really? Let’s see, as usual, how the leader of the free world sets the example. What happens if you protest – by way of civil disobedience, which is precisely what the 31 protesters are doing – in America? Simple. You go to jail.  How about massive corporate fraud, which is what Khodorkovsky is being punished for? As we’ve already cited by way of example in the Khodorkovsky case, Ken “Kenny Boy” Lay, former honcho of Enron, looked likely to get 20-30 years in one of those little concrete boxes we spoke about earlier. Unfortunately, he died before serving so much as a single day of his sentence. Or so they say, although rumors persist that he isn’t actually dead at all, and is living it up on some island somewhere. He could certainly afford it, with the money he swindled his investors out of. Did the president intervene to “save him from further abuse”? He did not, even though the two were old friends.

Once again, the double standard – do as I say, not as I do.

This entry was posted in Boris Nemtsov, Government, Khodorkovsky, La Russophobe, Law and Order, Rule of Law, Russia and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

226 Responses to Boris Nemtsov, Habitual Lawbreaker

  1. Yalensis says:

    Increasingly distressed by looming possibility of Putin returning to presidency next year, Americans (or at least a group of Americans, led by John McCain and Michael McFaul) are grooming Nemtsov to take power away from Putin, probably by some kind of Orange-type coup d’etat. I believe these Americans are being delusional: Putin will return to power, and there is nothing they can do about it. Nemtsov has no support in army or police, not to speak of public at large. Still worrisome situation, though, because Americans are capable of causing much mischief.

    • Misha says:

      A respectful notation of some Americans, particularly among neocon/neolib leaning types, within the foreign policy establishment.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      I think that Nemtsov and his kind happen to be the only representatives of Russian opposition which people like McCain and McFaul are able to find common language with.

      I do not think they have high hopes for these people making an Orange-style revolution though.

      • marknesop says:

        I agree completely, Leos; Nemtsov does not appear to be a hot prospect for a Colour Revolution. However, I’m sure it doesn’t stop boobs like foreign-policy expert John “Iraq and Pakistan do so have a border” McCain from dreaming. Nor, I imagine, does it stop oil movers and shakers like Dick Cheney from dreaming about controlling the Caspian Sea, since Russia is influential in a large energy sector it does not actually own.

        Nemtsov is exciting to Russophobes because he will say anything about Russia, just as if he didn’t owe the bulk of his $6-million fortune to it. As I’ve remarked before, though, Americans who will go to Russia and say bad things about America are not regarded in quite the same heroic light.

      • Misha says:

        A bit of a distinction between someone like McCain versus the likes of McFaul and Rice.

        With McCain, I sense an especially unsympathetic and unfair view of Russia, that’s very much influenced on arrogance and ignorance.

        Rice and McFaul appear more even-handed, while realizing what’s the more politically convenient line to follow.

    • Nils says:

      I think that Putin will not return in 2012, I think Medvedev will continue unless there is a major political threat/conflict.

      I am really getting sick and tired of the “prisoner of conscience” and his Boris Nemtsov show. The guy is NOT an alternative, does NOT have a good political plan other than “Putin sucks” and “let’s get back to 1998” (right, you know, when Nemtsov was PM and 50% of the Russians were facing severe consequences because of the crisis). Many of Nemtsov’s colleagues of whatever-liberal-opposition-group-it-is-called-now have condemned the Boris N. show by the way.

      Conclusion: why keep mentioning the man? I would also say that “free” elections in Russia, like those in the West, would lead to the same result as it does now: Putin and Medvedev will remain popular. It is a missed chance for Nemtsov because a lot of Russians are critical on the current situation in Russia but the “Putin is evil” and the “everything has gotten worse” idea is foolish. In addition, I think the Russian police should stop bashing Nemtsov and thus prevent him from getting attention. Everything I read about this, it is an incredible PR failure even though people like me and on this blog have a pretty good idea of who he is but let’s face it: the majority of the folks in the West don’t. So, VVP, stop bashing the guy nothing to fear.

      • marknesop says:

        I agree, Nils; if Nemtsov has an appealing political platform, he’s keeping it a secret. I also agree wholeheartedly that his best friend is media attention, which is why I was reluctant to do another post on him; but the sycophantic slobbering was just too much to pass up.

        I can’t figure out why he keeps beating his head against these 31 protests, unless it’s purely to get attention. There are any number of instances in which the constitution of any country and its national or regional laws modify one another. Article 31 does say demonstrators can assemble provided their behavior is peaceful, but the law says if there’s more than a single demonstrator, the group must get a permit. So what? We’ve been over and over the fact that America’s most progressive cities do not allow demonstrations without a permit and/or prior notice. And if he were successful in forcing the government to let him and his demonstrators protest with no restrictions at all, what would that achieve? Does he visualize everyone simply dropping what they’re doing to go and chant with him when the present government has the backing of a solid majority? If they were no longer protesting not being allowed to assemble without a permit, what would they protest? The fact that Khodorkovsky’s in jail? Please.

        It should be obvious to all that Nemtsov is deliberately provoking the police in order to get arrested. Their alternative is to let him disobey the law, thus making it unenforceable. How’s that for an aim for a politician/activist who’s always wailing that Russia needs to be a country of laws?

        I agree Putin will not be interested in another stint as President, although I think he may be interested in serving another stretch as Prime Minister and will likely have some sort of political role until he retires or dies.

        • John says:

          The only time I met Boris Nemtsov he was drunk. It was his birthday and he had persuaded his publisher to foot the bill for a junket in a Moscow dance-club/ restaurant to launch a book under his by line. As he swilled down the cognac he told me he was so pleased to have his three ex-wives, his children and his current mistress all celebrating with him.
          At one point a teenage girl came up to us and joined the table. I thought it was a daughter. It was the mistress!
          This is the buffoon that would have the Russians believe he is a viable alternative to Putin?
          Let’s get real.
          With a bit of luck he had a sober two weeks in jail. His liver should be grateful.

      • Yalensis says:

        Hi, Nils, excellent points! I agree with you Putin should probably just allow these clowns to run wild in the streets and show the world how lame they are. But I do understand the other point of view too, the people who want him to ruthlessly enforce the law. Basically, these Russian dissidents and their American handlers are, I believe, attempting to blackmail Putin and put him in a no-win situation where whatever happens looks like his fault. Like, “If you arrest us, you look like a tyrant. If you don’t arrest us, you look like a weakling.” They are attempting to checkmate him. But I have faith in Putin: I believe he is no less a grandmaster than Garry Kasparov!

      • peter says:

        I would also say that “free” elections in Russia, like those in the West, would lead to the same result as it does now: Putin and Medvedev will remain popular.

        I agree, but this begs another question that you’ve probably asked yourself already: if proper elections pose no threat to Putin and Medvedev, what’s the point of not having them? I have my answer but I’d like to hear yours first.

        • Nils says:

          Because the “liberals” are not their competitors, their competitors are the nationalists that is whom they fear. In addition, one of the main foundations of Putin and Medvedev is the “not-to-return-to-the-chaotic-90’s” idea. The Kremlin (and many Russians) are afraid that crash reforms will bring back social and political turmoil in Russia.

          • peter says:

            … their competitors are the nationalists that is whom they fear.

            Now I’m confused. First you say that Putin/Medvedev’s victory in “free” elections is a sure thing, now you say they fear competition in the shape of some unspecified nationalists. I’m not sure how you square these two statements.

            … The Kremlin (and many Russians) are afraid that crash reforms will bring back social and political turmoil in Russia.

            Ditto. If Putin/Medvedev’s victory is a sure thing, what “crash reforms” are you talking about?

            • Nils says:

              Simple.

              Although the nationalists would not win immediately their influence in the country will gain with each election. Currently, they have Zhirinovsky to counter that problem but if they loosen up you can bet that nationalists get an important saying in Russia’s political landscape and that is something nobody wants.

              It IS a sure thing because Putin’s era is seen as stability, Russians look more to the future etc. etc. With political reforms (like making it a lot easier to register political parties) they do make Russia’s political landscape a lot more plural and there is a risk that Russia will fall back in the anarchy of the 90’s.

              • peter says:

                … if they loosen up you can bet that nationalists get an important saying in Russia’s political landscape and that is something nobody wants.

                Now I’m even more confused. If “nobody wants” nationalists to “get an important saying in Russia’s political landscape,” how are they going to get that saying? You can’t win free elections if nobody votes for you, can you? Do explain.

              • Leos Tomicek says:

                Nationalists are divided along the lines of outright Paganistic Nazis, Radical Orthodox and other groups. Their views differ so much that they are only able to march in a demonstration together, turning this rabble into a coherent political force is another thing.

                While Nationalists are more popular than Liberasts, they are still fringe.

                • kovane says:

                  Bravo, Leos. Excellent understanding of Russian politics. Couldn’t say better myself.

                • Misha says:

                  Concerning Russia, there’s periodic commentary in Western media about a “Red/Brown” alliance of sorts, which seems to make for a nicer story, as opposed to being a viable political force.

                  On the N word (nationalist), be wary of its over-use in relation to Russia. Leaders and the political trend evident in some other countries escape the N tag. (In some modern day usage, “nationalist” is a negatively used substitute for “patriot.”)

                  Responsible patriotism shouldn’t be confused with chauvinism. On this and some other points, there’s a certain sense of irony regarding some of the claims that are directed against Russia.

              • Nils says:

                Right. Like I have seen you ever make any useful comments. Instead of “not understanding” my point maybe you care to make a point yourself???

                Instead of attacking everybody.

                • Misha says:

                  Mark, hope your brief trip was a good one.

                  I’m right eh?
                  😉

                • marknesop says:

                  I’m still away; tons of snow and we’re having a great time. I just pop by from time to time to see what’s up.

                  Honestly, the sole occasion I can recall the Nationalists even making the papers was some years back when they wanted the government to buy one of the early KIROV class cruisers that had been laid up for quite a while, and was in such a state that reactivation looked like it would be too costly. The Nationalists wanted it turned into a state museum exhibit. Since the KIROVs were nuclear powered, that might have been too risky. In any case, it was my impression that they didn’t have very much domestic clout at all, and that their position on any given issue was fairly predictable.

                  Without necessarily disagreeing with Nil’s analysis, I don’t see the conditions for a Nationalist party steadily making power gains. A nationalist message resonates when there is major discontent with the existing government (and I submit there is not), and when a looming foreign threat or tremendous injustice is perceived on behalf of the population at the hands of a foreign government. The government at present has the benefit of a large cash surplus and continues to pursue an economic and foreign policy of outreach, optimism and international ambition. I see no fertile ground there for a nationalist upswing.

                • peter says:

                  Touchy touchy, aren’t we? My “attack” is nothing compared to what you are going to get from those pesky peer reviewers — if you ever get that far.

                  Now, theory-man, may I kindly repeat my question?

                  On the one hand, you say that Putin/Medvedev are overwhelmingly popular — and such titans of Russia-watching as Leos and Misha rush to confirm that Russian Nationalism is indeed only a fringe force, while Nemtsov et al are not even worth talking about. On the other hand, you say that Putin/Medvedev don’t risk free elections out of fear that the nationalists’ “influence in the country will gain with each election”. But you can’t have it both ways, can you? If most Russians think that Putin/Medvedev are doing the right thing and “nobody wants” nationalists, how on earth can free elections change that?

                  Thank you in advance for answering.

                • marknesop says:

                  Russia has had democratic elections since 1991. The nationalists haven’t gotten in yet. I don’t see them getting in in the foreseeable future, either, although that supposes everything will stay more or less the same as it is now, and anything certainly could happen.

                  I suppose the next domino to fall will be, “but elections in Russia are hardly free and fair, old chap”. I hope so, because a conversation on vote-caging, phone jamming and purging of voter rolls in countries whose democratic process meets with universal approval might be fun.

                • peter says:

                  I suppose the next domino to fall will be, “but elections in Russia are hardly free and fair, old chap”.

                  Wrong thread Mark, this one started with the assumption (by Nils) that Russian elections are not free “like those in the West”. If you want to challenge that, let’s start over… (continued in the main thread)

  2. sinotibetan says:

    Talking about the USA, I was talking to friends about the looming economic problems there. And someone mentioned – that America is in trouble economically is dangerous for the world. Will America try to ‘destabilize’ and further ‘demonize’ states she views as ‘rivals’ so as to diverge the attention of the average Americans elsewhere? I shudder the thought!
    Yet I agree with yalensis that supporting Nemtsov will not bring the ‘results’ that those political elites hope for. To me, Medvedev can be the problem for Russia….not Nemtsov, Kasyanov, Kasparov etc. However, I think that perhaps Vladislav Surkov has ‘wisened’ up not to use Medvedev as a ‘proxy’ in a ‘shadow war’ against the Sechin siloviks. I hope this ‘Kremlin ideologist’ realises that a Medvedev-Putin dichotomy not only spells disaster for Russia but that would spell political doom for him as well.
    By the way: To Mark and yalensis – I have finally commented(albeit ‘partially’ only) on ini-itte’s comments in ‘Are Slavs Stupid”. You might want to view my comments, if they be of any interest.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      It’s true that economic trouble for America spells economic trouble for the world, because America is still the world’s largest market (although China is forecast – assuming conditions remain roughly the same in both nations – to overtake it in 2015). But the U.S. market will likely recover, is already showing some signs of trending upward slowly and pulling out of recession. The looming problem of the moment is far-right Republicans who say they will not support a raising of the debt ceiling. They will likely be prevailed upon to change their minds, but for now they are insistent. Were the vote to fail, America would be forced to default on her debt, for the first time in history. It’s not a confidence-builder, and recovery from such a blow might take time, although Russia recovered quite quickly and paid down all its outstanding debt, owing to high energy prices. We’ll see. I’m betting the vote to increase the debt ceiling will pass easily, because even neoconservatives acknowledge the alternative would be unacceptable.

      Anyone who thinks Nemtsov is some kind of economic genius need look no further than the debacle that occurred while he was Deputy Prime Minister. I imagine his plan would be to privatize everything, which likely has his western supporters licking their chops, but it wouldn’t be a good deal for Russia. Anyone who thinks it would should look at a list of western businesses that have majority Russian ownership. I’m not suggesting nobody would make money – I’m suggesting very few of them would be Russian.

      • Tim Newman says:

        Anyone who thinks it would should look at a list of western businesses that have majority Russian ownership. I’m not suggesting nobody would make money – I’m suggesting very few of them would be Russian.

        I can think of three:

        1. Chelsea FC. UK based, Russian owned. Makes its owner oodles of money.

        2. Sakhalin Energy Investment Company. Bahamas based, majority Russian owned. Makes its owners oodles of money.

        3. London Evening Standard. UK based, Russian owned. Probably makes its owner the same it was making its previous owners: nothing. But if it does start to make money again, the Russian owner will be the one reaping the rewards.

        Which companies were you thinking of?

        • marknesop says:

          Chelsea FC is owned by Roman Abramovich, whom Julia Ioffe witheringly describes as the worst kind of oligarch. I doubt that’s the sort of example you want to cite, because it trends much closer to my way of thinking; a few major corporations and capital-rich foreigners would scoop up most of the profits. The owner of the London Evening Standard is also a Russian oligarch and former member of the KGB. Also not a good example. Again, I’m not suggesting nobody would make money if Russian resources were thrown open to privatization. In this particular case, we were speaking of Boris Nemtsov and the mysterious manner in which he seems to have convinced his western followers that he has the chops to make a great future leader of Russia. He would be, for people like Abramovich and Lebedev and their western counterparts. He presided over the massive selloff of state assets that made Khodorkovsky owner of Yukos, and the aforementioned oligarchs wealthy enough to buy football clubs and foreign newspapers. That’s probably great for those individuals, but I don’t think it’s a good deal for the ordinary people of the country.

          I’m not a communist. I understand some people will always have more money than others, and that some will come by it honestly or by taking tremendous personal risk, while others will not. I understand that local employment by a foreign owner is good for the economy, when the company operates responsibly instead of running a smash-and-grab operation. I’m just not convinced Boris Nemtsov is the man to oversee the Russian economy, and that’s based on his track record, not personal dislike. I think the west likes him for precisely that reason.

          • Tim Newman says:

            Oh, if your point was that the people making money from Westerners setting up businesses in Russia would be corrupt, well-connected semi-bandits instead of ordinary Russians, then I couldn’t agree more. But you seemed to doubt that those making money would be Russian. In my experience from living and working in places like Russia, Thailand, and Nigeria the people making by far the most money are the local elite.

    • Yalensis says:

      Dear sinotibetan:
      Yes, I have read your comments on “Are Slavs stupid?” in reply to ini-itte. I am hoping this intelligent Estonian student returns to Mark’s blog for more discussions on this fascinating topic! When I was young I briefly thought of applying to university as anthropology major, since I find the whole story of human origins and migrations so fascinating. However, in those days, that was before they had decoded the human DNA, and so the study of physical anthropology consisted mostly of analyzing old skulls, which I would have found boring. Now it seems a lot more interesting, and students like ini-itte have these modern tools, they can look at actual chromosome markings, etc., in their quest to discover the history of human wanderings. I did disagree with ini-itte on some minor points involving linguistics (a field in which I do actually possess a degree, so I believe I have some credentials). I am guessing that ini-itte is an anthropology major but has not yet taken the required classes in basic linguistics, since he (or she) made some basic erroneous statements about language that someone would not have made had they taken the first-year class in structural linguistics. (My understanding is that Estonia possesses excellent institutions of higher education, especially in the humanities and social sciences, and I am assuming an anthropology major would also be required to take a double-major in linguistics.)

      • marknesop says:

        Why couldn’t Estonians just have been Slavs? Everything would have worked out so well then. For me, I mean. I agree their higher-learning system is excellent, although I’m only going by the evident results rather than a detailed knowledge of their system. I, too, hope Inne-Ite returns, and that his/her interests are broader than simply anthropology, because he/she offers just the sort of rational, reasoned and interesting discourse that I learn best from.

        • Yalensis says:

          Mark: Still beating yourself up about that understandable error? Forget about it! Estonians are not Slavs, true, but Finno-Ugric peoples and Slavs have lived side by side for centuries, with the occasional little war, usually conducted on skis. Hence, the invention of the biathlon!

          • Misha says:

            Some anti-Russian/Ukrainian nationalists overplay the Finno-Ugric linguistic and other influences in Russia as a means of attempting to exhibit greater differences between Russians and Ukrainians.

            On this particular, some informed and reliable sources confirm my sense of a bunk factor.

            • Yalensis says:

              This is true. The ultra-ultra Ukrainian nationalists are a scary breed, with their fake history and fake linguistics. At one time they were even trying to push the idea that the word “Ukrainian” came from some imaginary ancient Slavic ethnic group called “Ukrs” (as opposed to the standard etymology “u-kraina” or “o-kraina”). What can do you? Some people are just terminally ignorant… As for the Finno-Ugric peoples, well, I HOPE they had a lot of cultural influence over the Slavs, because they seem like a decent bunch, for the most part.

              • marknesop says:

                Speaking of the Finno-Ugric peoples, there were a couple of further posts from Inne-Itte on “Are Slavs Stupid?” He or she does not seem interested in other subjects, and sticks pretty much to that forum – but it was quite a while ago, so if I didn’t tell you, you might not know.

              • Misha says:

                At Leos’ blog, this link is to a thread which among other things discusses such matter:

                http://www.austereinsomniac.info/blog/2011/1/9/haroons-little-hagiography.html#comments

                Among the erroneous claims being that the Tatars are “indigenous” to Crimea (a way of belittling the Russian presence there) and the opinion that the Veche system carried on in Ukraine for a longer period than in Russia.

                It’s important to counter such fallacies. The Nazi concept of the big lie is predicated on leading folks in a wrong direction.

                As an honorable mention to combatting politically motivated misinformation:

                http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1F8O9FFXE962Y/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview

                On questionable claims, someone communicated these thoughts to me –

                There is some stuff published these days in Russia that is as outlandish as you can imagine on Russian history, religion, etc… One claim is that the Russians and other Slavs are really descended from Atlanteans – the Black Sea being the real Atlantis (when the Mediterranean overflowed) and present an entire dynastic mythology to “support” this. One of my favorites is from someone who says: “Of course, we know who the Etruscans are – their name says it all ET – meaning “eto” or “this” RUSKI (need no translation)” – in Russian they are called that – ETRUSKI = instead of Etruscans – you get the idea.

                • Yalensis says:

                  Sheesh! Every person with even a minimal education knows that “Etruscan” is the same word as “Trojan”, as in “Helen of Troy”. As for the Atlantis connection – no words. A sad commentary on the modern education system. British schoolboys of the 19th century knew Greek/Latin history by heart, and studied learned their languages. Are Russian schoolchildren now becoming as ignorant as their American counterparts?

                • Yalensis says:

                  P.S. I should have added (putting on my cap as a linguist) that the addition of an additional vowel (such as “E”) at the beginning of a word starting with a consonant cluster (in this case “TR”) is very common in many languages. For example, “Spain” vs. “Espania”, etc., when newer (or foreign) speakers are unable to pronounce an initial consonant cluster. Hence the initial “E” in “Etruscan” when the original word began with “Tr–“.

  3. sinotibetan says:

    Also, if it is of any cheer, many Asians have come to know the truth about such cheats like Khodorkovsky, Nemtsov et al. We are no longer so easily deceived by American ‘news’ agencies and neither do we swallow uncritically what these propaganda machines splurt out. The following website(view some of the comments) seem to bring me some cheer:-
    http://www.hindustantimes.com/Khodorkovsky-ruling-confirms-Putin-s-dominance/Article1-644843.aspx#

    sinotibetan

    • Evgeny says:

      Sinotibetan, fortunately, we, folks of the developing nations, have the willingness to listen to each other. That’s important, in fact.

  4. Yalensis says:

    Sorry, back to previous topic on Polish-Gruzian relations and shooting incident against Gruzian/Polish convoy near Ossetian border in 2008:

    http://www.regnum.ru/news/polit/1362753.html

    Summary of facts: On November 23, 2008 a convoy containing Mikheil Saakashvili and Lech Kaczynski made an inspection of the Akhalgori (Leningori) region of the Gruzia-Ossetia border. Some shots rang out. Saak/Kacz blamed Russian soldiers on the Ossetia side of the border. (Target practice?) Later Polish investigation in Polish newspaper Dzennik pointed finger at Gruzians:

    Спустя год газета Dziennik опубликовала выдержки из рапорта польской спецслужбы ABW, согласно которому стрельба по кортежу президентов Грузии и Польши была провокацией грузинской стороны

    “A year later Dziennik published excerpts from the official report of the Polish special service ABW (?), according to which the shooting at the cortege of the presidents of Gruzia and Poland was a provocation from the Gruzian side.”

    Согласно польским спецслужбам, о том, что по кортежам стреляли сами грузины, свидетельствует тот факт, что после первой серии обстрела грузинская охрана вообще не отреагировала. Более того, президент Грузии Михаил Саакашвили в момент инцидента был “расслабленным и улыбался”.
    “According to the Polish special sevices, evidence that the cortege was shot at by the Gruzians themselves is the fact that after the first series of shots, the Gruzian bodyguards did not react at all. [Well, maybe just lazy – my comment..] Furthermore, Gruzian President Mikheil Saakashvili at the moment of the incident was ‘relaxed and smiled’.” [See, he’s a crazy Braveheart type who laughs at death! – yeah right….]
    Further developments:
    This report was leaked to Polish press, and the leak horrified the Polish government. Individuals accused of leaking might have to go to jail. Poles are supposed to be investigating the incident, but are not receiving needed assistance from their Gruzian colleagues!

  5. Leos Tomicek says:

    I have not followed Nemtsov’s arrest (nothing that would thrill me) but I wonder if Alexeyeva got busted as well. I bet this was not the case. Here is something on Nemtsov’s crime:

    Владимир Лукин звонил в мэрию Москвы, а ему там сказали, что Немцов призывал перекрыть Тверскую и идти на Красную площадь. Вздор…
    http://newsru.com/russia/01jan2011/mhg_print.html

  6. Yalensis says:

    I have never been in Russian jail слава боху – curious, do you get your own private cell, or do you have a roommate? Can’t help but notice from his facebook page that Boris Nemtsov is really buff, ripped abs, the whole 9 yards. I guess he works out a lot, this probably helps him to defend himself from other zeks.

    • marknesop says:

      What else has he got to do? Besides attending demonstrations, getting arrested, starring in La Russophobe’s fantasies and doing celebrity tours of the USA, it’s not like he has a job or anything. He probably has lots of time to work out. Since planning an alternative course for Russia doesn’t appear to occupy much of it – I have yet to see the Nemtsov manifesto: his existing works, to the best of my knowledge, consist of complaints about how the present government is doing everything wrong.

  7. grafomanka says:

    So Nemtsov wants the attention, so what?

    To criticize Russian liberal opposition for staging illegal protests only to get arrested and get ‘talked about’ is a little bit unfair, because what we see coming from Russian leaders is a constant stream of PR, what with Putin shooting a whale or Medvedew having a twitter exchanges with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Besides as TV journalists Leonid Parfyonov admitted recently Russian TV works like self-censoring, PR machine.
    When I saw pictures of Nemtsov’s ripped abs it occurred to me that he wants to send a message ‘I could be an alpha dog too’.
    This is what political debate has been reduced to under current government, Putin doing PR stunts and opposition bravely fighting the regime by … PR stunts, for the lack of any other debate platform.
    Because what other chances has Nemtosv to get attention? He would have to mobilize enough activist to visit every living room in Russia (this is unlikely not only because of liberal’s low popularity but also because they have no money to do so, as I understand there’s no chance of alternative political party getting a rich Russian sponsor).

    I think we should be concerned with what this people stand for, whether somebody comes to a protest also because of self-promotion is secondary.

    • marknesop says:

      “What we see coming from Russian leaders” is often what the press chooses to report. Putin and Medvedev would not be the first leaders to wish they were taken more seriously, if that’s indeed what they feel when the press goes front-page with Putin driving a racing car or a Harley trike. Granted, he wouldn’t do those things if he expected them to remain private, and I’m sure he does them to get attention, but I imagine most politicians wish their efforts toward legislation and reform got as much press as when they trip on their way to the podium, or similar such moments.

      • grafomanka says:

        Mark, tabloid-press like sensation, this is undoubtedly true.
        The frustrating thing is with this kind of censored news coverage, we have no idea how efficient or useless the government is, and the ‘kremlinology’ is reduced to speculation about the Putin-Medwedew relationship (which has become really boring).
        There is also a possibility that Putin himself gets just the self-censored news, hope this is not the case. Supposedly Kremlin listens to Echo of Moscow.

        One of the wikileaks cables concerned itself with ‘Questioning Putin’s Work Ethic’: US diplomats related some Kremlin gossip how apparently Putin doesn’t like coming to work, works from home quite often, but at the same time nothing gets done when he’s not in the office. It’s just rumors, but as they say ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’

        • marknesop says:

          Quite a few of the old chestnuts endure without the need for modernization – “A fool and his money are soon parted” is as true today as ever it was. Ditto “Marry in haste, repent at leisure”. However. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” has been kind of turned into a whore for the networks and the gossip mills, lending its legitimacy to allegations that are often pure smokeless invention. Nowadays, people like to say careless and irresponsible things like, “Barack Obama was really born in Kenya; they say he’s supplied a copy of his birth certificate, but he won’t let anyone see the original – and you know, where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. Or, “Hey, I saw Grafomanka with that new girl from accounts; they were having lunch together. Might be nothing, but you know – where there’s smoke, there’s fire”.

          I apologize in advance if the latter example is accurate. But a style of journalism has emerged in the last decade – and appears to be gaining in popularity – whereby you simply invent something you would like to be true, pass it along as rumor, and wait to see how the target defends against it. He may fumble the rebuttal, thereby incriminating himself, or simply be too busy to respond. Non-responses have evolved into a sort of confirmation in politics; if you don’t say “I didn’t do it”, or “it isn’t true”, it’s assumed that while the original charge may not be wholly accurate, there’s definitely something there. Quite often, there’s not, but it’s effective because it keeps the target tied up with defensive explanations and swamped by yammering journalists. It goes without saying that such a tactic is irresponsible and demeans the profession of journalism – which hasn’t too far to sink before the ooze closes over its head, in my opinion – but it is often effective. That has become the standard; did it work? If so, it’s valid.

          “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” would benefit from an update that goes something like “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire – but check to make sure it’s not just burning garbage”. It’s important also to remember the Wikileaks cables are merely glimpses into what was often unvarnished opinion. It’s nice to know what people thought that they wouldn’t have told the whole world, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect anything that wasn’t already known. It also doesn’t necessarily reflect fact.

          • grafomanka says:

            Mark, I see, I was unlucky to use this idiom🙂

            I dismissed most of Wikileaks Russia ‘revelations’ because they were based on US diplomats impressions, meetings with
            Western colleagues, business execs, journalists, opposition politicians, research institutes – they presented analysis you can easily find in Russian press. It is clear that US embassy staff has no access to Putin’s inner circle.
            But the info in this particular cable I mentioned refereed to rumors coming from within Russian political class. From New York Times “There are consistent reports that Putin resents or resists the workload he carries,” it [the cable] said, citing Mr. Putin’s “fatigue,” “hands-off behavior” and “isolation” to the point that he was “working from home.”
            I think this was interesting, and worrying, exactly because this can’t be dismissed as another wild speculation.
            Of course this refereed to some time in 2009, so things probably changed since then.

            Besides I didn’t aim to discuss Wikileaks, merely used this to illustrate the point about how Putin’s public image differs from whatever really goes on.

            • Linda says:

              I remember reading this precise cable and thinking it was strange. I think if anything,Putin is usually criticised for being too “hands on”! If you remember that period, then “hands off”,”resisting his workload”,”fatigue” and “working from home”are all very inconsistant with what we’ve seen from Putin. So I share Mark’s opinion that it’s indeed rubbish since the actual facts points to the contrary, but I also think these “revelations” have been made with some purpose behind them,like ” he resents his job of premier,he wants to be president again” or ” he’s too tired and old, he should leave his position”.

              • peter says:

                I think if anything,Putin is usually criticised for being too “hands on”! If you remember that period, then “hands off”,”resisting his workload”,”fatigue” and “working from home”are all very inconsistant with what we’ve seen from Putin.

                There’s no contradiction here per se. Whether or not it’s true of Putin, we all know the type: an out-of-his-depth control-freak boss whose hands are always on when they should be off and vice versa.

                • grafomanka says:

                  Maybe between Mr Putin the Effective we See and Mr Putin the “out-of-his-depth control-freak” there is Mr Putin who is brilliant at foreign policy but at home has become something of a hostage to his own system.😉

    • kovane says:

      grafomanka,

      while I’m tempted to dismiss your argument on the grounds that your judgment is clouded by the sight of Nemtsov’s ripped abs, unfortunately, it wouldn’t constitute proper rebuttal.🙂 There’s a fine distinction between Nemtsov’s public stunts and, say, Putin’s latest antics. If “green” tiger or whale hunting is certainly an affront to good taste, at least it’s legal, as opposed to inciting unauthorized actions of the crowd. Besides, Nemtsov’s close affiliations with certain US senators are a kind of an open secret, and one of the main reasons of his misbehaviour is providing fodder for a regular damning article in the Guardian. I think you’re not right when saying that there’s no suitable debate platform for the opposition. The most popular channels are certainly off-limits to Nemtsov and his friends (I remember him demanding a televised debate with Putin right before the 2007 elections), but there’s many places where he could push his eye-opening agenda, like Ren-TV, newspapers and the Internet. Provided that he has something meaningful to say, which I’m afraid is not the case here. And a spot on national television is not a God-given right, even if you have luxuriant curly hair.

      • marknesop says:

        Ahhh, Kovane…. I too must have been bewitched by Boris of the abs that ripple like a mountain stream, he of the gypsy curls. Otherwise, rather than defend the position that just because you aspire to high political office, the population does not owe you free advertising (although that is certainly the more defensible for being true), I would have thought to point out that Boris the Abinator is also Boris the multimillionaire. He can certainly afford to throw a couple of his own millions into his campaign, if he really feels all that drawn to the pitiful struggles of the common man to be heard – especially on the last day of months that have 31 days, and forget the permit. Mitt Romney thought nothing of fronting his own campaign, and threw a couple of million straight down the toilet. Hillary Clinton chucked a lot of Clinton coin into her campaign, too, although sympathizers started a website for donations so she could recoup some of her losses through the kindness of strangers.

        Gee…. I wonder why he doesn’t do that? I wonder why he needs the support of the western media at all, or senators like Grampy McCain, who have absolutely zero pull in Russia and whose association might even be a large negative with the Russian voters. Could he be hoping that some kind of western-supported thrust will make him president without having to spend any of his own money?

        Because he can certainly afford advertising. The Moscow Times goes swimmy-eyed and dewy-thighed with lust at his most banal offerings, and gives him copy inches (or centimeters) for free, but I’m quite sure they’d gladly endorse him for the right price. Like Norm Peterson once said on Cheers; “Sir, I cannot be bought, and I cannot be threatened. But you put the two together, and I’m your man!”

        • Yalensis says:

          “Gypsy curls… dewy thighs… The Abinator…”
          Wow, Mark, you and kovane are in full form here! It’s like reading a finely crafted romance novel…
          P.S. People are sayin’ that my man Putin hunted a whale? Please say it ain’t true! The Putin that I know would NEVER harm an animal, even if it was Moby Dick himself.

        • Misha says:

          Norm!!!

          One of the better American TV sitcom characters IMO.

      • peter says:

        … as opposed to inciting unauthorized actions of the crowd. Besides, Nemtsov’s close affiliations with certain US senators are a kind of an open secret…

        Gotcha! You’re the hottie in this pic, kovane, aren’t you?

      • grafomanka says:

        I despise Nemtsov exactly for his affiliation with hostile to Russia US senators. Otherwise I heard he was a good governor of Nizhny Novgorod (tho his economic policies have won Margaret Thatcher’s approval which I’m not sure is a good thing😉
        But displaying his ripped abs … facepalm. It just too Putinesque.

        However I have to defend a little the right to this type of direct action. Is this not in the tradition of Ghandi style non violent civil disobedience?
        The bottom line is: people wanted to protest on Triumfalnaya , the government(city council) sais ‘no’ . Yes, there is a lot to be said about permits, public safety, other events happening there at exactly the same time. But the constitution guarantees people some liberties which were being routinely broken (the permit being routinely refused).
        Nowadays it’s okay to protests but, as I understand, there’s still a strict, and rather small, limit of how many people can gather on the square. Imho this is a measure taken to discourage people from protesting (same with possibility of being jailed for 15 days? who can afford to go and protest if you can be jailed for 2 weeks).

        • kovane says:

          I heard he was a good governor of Nizhny Novgorod

          I’m afraid that you heard it wrong. Although, it’s open to debate nevertheless

          But displaying his ripped abs

          Well, then brace yourself🙂

          Is this not in the tradition of Ghandi style non violent civil disobedience?

          Not even close. Ghandi struggled for clear defined values, that were shared by a large portion of the population. And he was deprived of any other way to do it. So I think the parallel between him and Nemtsov is a bit of a stretch.

          people wanted to protest on Triumfalnaya , the government(city council) sais ‘no’

          That’s not the whole story, they were always offered alternatives, but the liberal opposition opted for a violation of the law, which promised to bring more attention. And I agree that was a stupid move on the authorities’ part, apparently having something to do with Luzhkov’s personal quirks.

          I understand, there’s still a strict, and rather small, limit of how many people can gather on the square.

          Alekseeva asked for a limit of 1500 men, but was granted only a 1000. And they have the problem to come up even with that number. Nobody was arrested, except for Nemtsov and Yashin – they were trying to join the unauthorized demonstration. All the people who come to the authorized gathering are safe, and nothing discourages them from doing so.

          • Misha says:

            In fairness, was there an arguably different and more politically virtuous Nemtsov evident BEFORE privatization started taking full swing?

          • grafomanka says:

            No, Nemtsov is definitely not Gahndi (LOL at the picture you have linked to) . It’s unclear if he was really joining an illegal protest when he was arrested, supposedly people refused to disperse and then Nemtosv was taken.

            But what about the philosophy behind Strategy 31 movement. Is Alexeyeva not struggling for clear defined values? Whether those values are shared by the majority of population is another question, but I would venture a guess that respect for RF Constitution is a value shared by majority of Russians.
            That’s not the whole story, they were always offered alternatives, but the liberal opposition opted for a violation of the law, which promised to bring more attention.
            I supported Alexeeva’s protest, because it seemed the authorities interpreted the constitution as ‘freedom of assembly, but only at the designated [by authorities] place’. Luzkov’s government used notions of law to consistently reduce the space for this freedom. Because of all this Triumphalnaya has become a symbol of civil opposition.

            As for illegal protests bringing more attention, obviously this is true. I realized this while participating in London student protests earlier this year, student had an agreed by the authorities route, and some strayed from it taking the protests to nearby streets, police violence follows (very harsh, with some students sustaining serious head injuries ). I will not elaborate on reasons behind the protests but I think sometimes when government blatantly disregard the people direct action is necessary (obviously this is open to debate, and not everyone will agree😉

            • marknesop says:

              Presumably if freedom of assembly without any restriction at all were a desirable goal, mature democracies would practice and encourage it. Do they? They do not. Have a look at what is required in the way of obtaining a permit to demonstrate in, say, New York. You even need a modification to your permit if you intend to use amplifiers for your demonstration, because there’s a fine line between your freedom to protest perceived injustice and free-for-all blanket permission for you to harangue and harass local residents or disinterested bystanders who have no interest in your demonstration, but must be in the area where it is staged. Do their rights to peace and quiet matter less than your right to demonstrate?

              Also – although this is likely much less common in Russia – public safety remains a legitimate concern. If your unrestricted assembly blocks traffic, and a furious motorist injures a demonstrator with his car, who is the injured demonstrator going to sue? He or she might well initiate a lawsuit against the motorist, but you can bet the city will be a defendant as well, for failing to safeguard the demonstrator’s safety.

            • kovane says:

              But what about the philosophy behind Strategy 31 movement

              Yes, nobody can accuse Alexeeva of not having a clearly defined goal. As scary as it is to admit, she is one of the most sober-minded members of the liberal opposition, and that sure does say a lot. But that brings us to another important aspect of civil opposition. A goal must be not only clearly defined, but achievable as well. And you can’t possibly live in the UK and not know that unbridled freedom of assembly exists only in Alexeeva’s fevered imagination. If you’re closely following news about Russia, you must remember numerous aborted attempts to organize a gay pride march. And guess what, every time gays gathered, a larger crowd of people appeared, intending to explain to them that Moscow is not a place for gays. With their fists. And if violence had ensued, who would have been to blame for it? Yes, the police that failed to prevent it. And how could they have guaranteed security to the participants, if the gathering had been completely without notice? Speaking of Nemtsov, he has some kind of primal urge to organise a spontaneous exalted march to the Kremlin from Triumfalnaya, blocking off Tverskaya street in the process. Something that is not taken kindly by car drivers. Why must Moscow have unrealistic laws regarding freedom of assembly, that other large cities don’t have? Because Alexeeva wants so?

              I think sometimes when government blatantly disregard the people direct action is necessary

              I agree, open protest is a powerful tool, but it must be applied correctly. Take the recent protests in Moscow caused by the authorities’ sloppy handling of the Sviridov murder case. Protesters had clearly defined and achievable goal. And the authorities immediately listened to them. Putin and Medvedev are definitely very flexible politicians and they try to defuse any tensions before it’s too late. While I’m not exactly content with the notion that the crowd can interpret the Code of Criminal Procedure, that’s a fine example of effective public action. Even with all incidental bad things, like violence and xenophobic slogans.

              • grafomanka says:

                Why must Moscow have unrealistic laws regarding freedom of assembly, that other large cities don’t have? Because Alexeeva wants so?
                You are right, Moscow should have (and in principle has) reasonable laws on public gatherings. The core of the issue was that by repeatedly forbidding the liberals from gathering on Triumphalnaya authorities were in effect restricting those laws. Of course this is up to debate how reasonable or unreasonable Luzkov’s decisions were in this matter. I think Alexeeva explained on her blog that she’s not breaking the law, because it’s not a protest, just a meeting, they don’t bring the megaphone and placards, they just put a sign ‘31’ on their clothes…
                It comes down to whether the law is interpreted in favor of protesters or in favor of authorities, discussing this is like walking in circles 
                A agree, open protest is a powerful tool, but it must be applied correctly. Take the recent protests in Moscow caused by the authorities’ sloppy handling of the Sviridov murder case. Protesters had clearly defined and achievable goal. And the authorities immediately listened to them.
                Well, far from being a non violent civil disobedience, this protest had turned into a ‘pogrom’ ( at least that’s what the news said).
                Something that authorities would be stupid to ignore, or perhaps something they can’t afford to ignore. Obviously this protest was effective but not sure this should be hailed as fine example of effective public action.

                • marknesop says:

                  I think you’d be surprised how liberal opposition leaders’ positions on violation of laws they don’t like would reverse if they actually did seize power. Then it’d be more like, “look, I know you don’t like that law. And maybe we’ll get around to changing it, I don’t know. But in the meantime, you can’t just break it whenever you like – my God, we’d have anarchy! The law is the law”. And that’s precisely what a majority would expect. If you don’t like the law and your concerns are based on something other than personal dislike, protest within the constraints of the law is the way to go.

                  I ride a bicycle to and from work nearly every day, but on the relatively rare occasions I drive, I always notice the speed limits are set unrealistically low for even the most unusual road conditions. My fellow drivers notice, too, because anyone attempting to drive the posted limit is treated like some kind of deliberate traffic-impeding retard, as echelons of angry drivers pull out to pass the unfortunate law-abider while directing looks at him that suggest his mother made a terrible mistake letting her pregnancy go to term. Should we all be allowed to drive 10-20 kph above the posted limit because we are experienced drivers, and supremely confident that our actual speed is perfectly safe?

                  The suggestion that you can get a bunch of people together in a public place wearing a provocative political slogan on their clothing, and it’s a meeting rather than a demonstration is an interesting one. Would it also apply if a similar number of “meeting attendees” assembled just across from the 31’ers wearing shirts that read, “Beat the shit out of 31 protesters”? After all, they’re not specifically advocating for anything; it’s just a meeting.

                • kovane says:

                  this protest had turned into a ‘pogrom’

                  Now, that’s not true, since not a single Jew was harmed🙂 Speaking seriously, you’re right, it’s kinda hard to stuck those events into the “non violent civil disobedience” category, but it certainly fell short of pogrom too. 25 people were hospitalized that day, but as a result of fights that flared up after the prostest on Manezhnaya throughout Moscow. But that’s not what I meant when I called the event a fine example of effective public action. While certainly unacceptable in form, it can be hailed as an exampled of a defined and achievable goal, something that authorities understand.

          • Leos Tomicek says:

            Sweet article there on Nemtsov’s Nizhniy Novgodorod governance. It is even better because of the citations of pre-Putin era sources so is less assailable from usual suspects for that matter.

            As for the numbers of Liberast protestors, they are beefed up by the presence of large number of journalists.

  8. peter says:

    (continued from here)

    To begin with, here’s a 2010 quote from one Gleb Pavlovsky:

    Режим Путина (плебисцитарный, если угодно) был выстроен броском революции «через плечо». Это не мы – это революция, разнуздав стихию выборов, не дала ей осесть в законные берега. Помню, выбирали даже заводских директоров. Выигравший демократические выборы в трудовом коллективе переводил свой завод (вариант – регион) в личную собственность, а соперников заказывал киллерам для отстрела. Команда-99 приняла народную игру в тотальные выборы, но обратила выборы в референдум, в вечный плебисцит – «за» или «против» Владимира Путина, за власть нового образца. Безальтернативная власть 2000–2008 годов – власть, которая без чрезмерного применения силы приводит к состоянию, где ей нельзя легко бросить вызов. Цена вызова слишком дорога. Команда 99-го года превратила рейтинг путинского большинства в свидетельство общей воли, в фактор легитимности власти. И в стране настал мир, грязный и компромиссный, как любой мир на свете.

    Discuss.

    • marknesop says:

      Politicians, their parties and their sponsors do whatever it takes to win elections, all over the world, because the first lesson in politics is that you get to introduce zero legislation as the opposition, and the first thing a politician elected to his/her first term thinks about is a second term.

      Therefore, turning elections into referendums is hardly worthy of remark; it is merely one of many ways and means to manipulate public opinion. Similarly, as I’ve mentioned before, neither the electorate nor the incumbents owe challengers free airtime or a platform gratis to tub-thump and sell their version of leadership. Sad? You bet. But the big question for me is why dirty electoral tactics are only remarkable in Russia.

      As I mentioned in the reference cited, John McCain (whom I don’t particularly care for, but nonetheless) was himself the victim of a vicious and dirty smear campaign that cost him his own state in an election, even though he’d been favoured to win. Why didn’t he counter it? He couldn’t afford it. He could now, but that was before his beer-heiress days. I don’t remember a single news source or political blogger of the time suggesting it was a dirty shame that candidates weren’t given free advertising so they could fight back against the moneyed class that always seems to come out on top.

      • peter says:

        … turning elections into referendums is hardly worthy of remark…

        Wow, just wow. Pavlovsky, of all people, admits in a rare bout of honesty that democracy in Russia has been long abandoned in order to make any challenge to Putin’s regime virtually impossible — and your reply is “big deal, let’s talk about McCain and stuff instead.” I wish I could rant like you, but that’s not quite what I mean by “discuss”.

        • marknesop says:

          “Wow, just wow”

          Should I get the smelling salts? Do you need to lie down? Come on, Peter, stop acting like I just chased you around the desk trying to grab you or something. You know very well what I meant, or else I didn’t explain it very well. Let’s break it down to basics – every democratic election in every state, province or country is now turned into a referendum – on the opponent’s integrity, voting record, infidelity, professional or personal associations, offenses committed by family members, even the kind of car he or she drives, I could go on and on. What did you mean by “discuss”? Agree with you?

          I am of the opinion that democratic elections in the west could be held up as examples of dirty politics, character assassination, cronyism and muckraking. The Founding Fathers of the Great American Democratic Experiment would go white with horror at what democracy has become since the age of civil discourse, when political opponents rarely even raised their voices and a man’s word was his bond. I have supplied examples to substantiate my opinion. Go ahead ; show me how Russia is undemocratic – ballot-box-stuffing, intimidation, monopolization of mass media. Name it: I’ll counter with an example of the same or worse from the democratic west, Beacon Of Freedom. None of that is meant to suggest Russia is a great example of a democracy; rather, it is meant to suggest Russia is no worse, while being constantly reviled as a cutthroat empire where the frail seedlings of democracy are repeatedly trampled by the jackboot of oppression. There’s a word for that, and it describes what comes out of the north end of a southbound bull.

          Physician, heal thyself.

          • peter says:

            What did you mean by “discuss”? Agree with you?

            By “discuss” I mean discuss the particular point made by your opponent, in this case Pavlovsky. Do you know who he is and where he comes from politically? Do you understand what he is trying to say? Do you agree, half-agree, or totally disagree with him? Why?

            … every democratic election in every state, province or country is now turned into a referendum…

            No, certainly not in the sense of the word “referendum” as it is used by Pavlovsky.

            Go ahead – show me how Russia is undemocratic…

            If Pavlovsky’s explanation is too cryptic for you, try this popular article by Maxim “Паркир” Kononenko. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it — especially the part about Nemtsov.

            • marknesop says:

              Peter, we appear to be talking apples and oranges here. The Pavlovsky reference does indeed mention him, as the subject of a study, but does not suggest a candid outpouring of honesty about the democratic process in Russia. I’m not disputing that he said what you suggest; just not here. Kononenko’s piece is amusing, and he is dead-on regarding the therapeutic value of schadenfreude to those in misery. Likewise, his candor regarding Nemtsov is refreshing, although it would motivate me to defend Nemtsov. I’m sure his qualifications, educational and ambition-wise, would make him a likely candidate even if he had no connections coincident with governor’s positions going begging. I just don’t care for the shameless whore he’s become, either convinced his maudlin theatrics are winning him working-class kudos, or so cynical that he carries out the pretense with a straight face.

              However, it doesn’t matter to me whether Pavlovsky is a living epiphany about Russian democracy; a close Kremlin advisor, a janitor or a busboy. I’ll reserve judgment on his accuracy in inferring that the dice are loaded in favour of Putin’s party forever until I read his opinion, but that isn’t really what I’m getting at, either. Nobody right now – at least no major western power – has any business squealing about the quality of democracy in Russia until they get their own house in order. When you’re a good example of a democracy, ascendest thou to the pulpit and preach.

              Assume the suggestion that the Russian system is weighted in favour of Putin’s party (Medvedev’s, really, but never mind that) is accurate. How is that any different than Karl Rove’s unabashed and open planning for a “permanent Republican majority” in the U.S.? Yet the United States is perceived as the model democracy, and its russophobic elements howl like scalded cats about the sick rottenness of Russian democracy, when they even acknowledge it exists.

              The institution of democracy is so debased in most of its adherents that it is scarcely recognizable. Therefore, nobody (except perhaps for Finland or some other smaller and peaceful democratic nations) has any credibility when riffing on Russian democracy while they consider their own countries to be democratic models. One cannot claim the democratic high ground when one plainly does not know where the high-water mark is.

              • peter says:

                … just not here.

                I’m confused, what’s not where? The quote in question is in the comment of “January 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm” above, the article it’s taken from is here (the part entitled “Защита от дурака с дубиной”), and a short info for those who might confuse Pavlovsky with Pribylovsky is here.

                • kovane says:

                  peter, I’m confused too. I think I mix up Pavlovsky and Pribylovsky with Panikovsky. Can you explain the difference please? The article you linked is somewhat fuzzy on the subject.

                • marknesop says:

                  And what? It says he “turned the election into a referendum”, without further elaboration. A referendum on what? Corruption? Crime? Loose tea?

                  As I’ve attempted to explain and substantiate, “turning elections into referendums” on various subjects such as I’ve already described is so common as to be not worthy of remark, unless it might be, “I wish everybody would stop turning elections into referendums”. I’m just a little fuzzy on why Putin and Russian politicians should have to abandon it as a tactic while everyone else is allowed to continue.

                  I think you’re getting hung up on a narrow definition of “referendum” as a form of direct democracy; a “direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal.” That’s not what Putin did in the case you referred to, either. A more common tactic that is described as “turning the election into a referendum” is attempting to isolate a wedge issue that will polarize the electorate, select a position that puts you with the majority, and describe your opponent as firmly favouring the opposite. Lots of these are simply “gotcha” moments culled from opponents’ speeches, such as Sarah Palin and John McCain attempting to “turn the election into a referendum” on gun rights and religion. Republican David Vitter’s opponent, Charlie Melancon, attempted to “turn the Senate race into a referendum” on family values because Vitter advertised himself as a bastion of those values while using the services of prostitutes. A referendum has evolved to mean an issue that can be exploited to capture voters’ interest while not necessarily being central to the election, or even accurate. In the context of deliberate manipulation of broad public opinion, it is indeed very common in democratic systems.

                • peter says:

                  It says he “turned the election into a referendum”, without further elaboration. A referendum on what?

                  A referendum on, I quote, “«за» или «против» Владимира Путина.” It’s not the same as your “referendum on the opponent’s integrity, voting record” etc. etc. — in Pavlovsky’s case there is no “opponent” in the first place.
                  “Безальтернативная власть” as “защита от дурака с дубиной”, as simple as that.

                  … Sarah Palin and John McCain…

                  This is getting ridiculous. Two prominent pro-Kremlin commentators are telling you that Russians elections are non-competitive by design, and try to explain why. Both agree the current political farce is a temporary lesser evil, neither feels any need to roll out the tried and trusted but-you-Americans-lynch-Negroes argument. Why do you think is that?

                • marknesop says:

                  ” It’s not the same as your “referendum on the opponent’s integrity, voting record”.

                  Was there a direct vote held, by the entire electorate, on that issue and no other? If not, it was not – by definition – a referendum at all. If Pavlovsky is claiming Mr. Putin ran unopposed, and the question on the ballot actually was “Are you for or against Vladimir Putin?” and Putin won under exactly those conditions, then he is correct. The election was turned into a referendum. Otherwise, you cannot claim that an election in which there was more than a single candidate was turned into a referendum in which the question was, “are you for or against Person X being chosen to lead the country?” When you are in the voting booth, about to mark your ballot, what do you ask yourself? Who am I going to select as my personal choice to lead the country. Or state, or whatever, depending on the level of government in question. If there are no candidates challenging the sole choice – regardless whether they feel they’re competing on an equal footing – then it’s a dictatorship. Otherwise, it’s not. If the aim of the democratic process is to ensure scrupulous fairness to each candidate, then qualifications such as experience or familiarity with the issues must not be brought into consideration at all, and we must assume all candidates have the same qualifications. In fact, it would be fairest of all if we did not even know who they were – if they were identified only by letters, and had their faces obscured.

                  But if it will make you happy, Russian elections are non-competitive by design. This is in direct contrast to western democratic elections, in which the opponents treat each other fairly, and strive to ensure the bad traits of each are overlooked while making sure the voters are aware of all the opponent’s good points which might make them preferred. When western democratic elections are concluded, all agree they were fair, and losing candidates never claim they were cheated or denied a chance to compete fairly on a level playing field.When Boris Nemtsov or some other western-friendly liberal who takes his cues from abroad is running Russia, that’s the way it’ll be in Russia, too. That pretty much cover it?

                • peter says:

                  Was there a direct vote held, by the entire electorate, on that issue and no other? If not, it was not – by definition – a referendum at all.

                  Right, Mark, you’re finally getting it. Indeed, Pavlovsky uses the word “referendum” outside its strict meaning — and so do you of course. The problem is though, you and him stretch that meaning in rather different directions — hence all this confusion. So, let me try once again to explain how I understand the quote in question.

                  I’ll start from afar. I’m a bit younger than Pavlovsky, but still old enough to have voted in the Soviet times. It was called elections, but there was only one party running — so for all intents and purposes it was “a referendum, an eternal plebiscite” — “for” or “against” our beloved Party and its wise leader Leonid Il’ich Brezhnev. Needless to say, he was so hugely popular that the result had invariantly been 99-plus percent “for” — but I digress… Fast forward to now, what Pavlovsky is basically saying is “Welcome back to the USSR”, no two ways about it. Granted, he stops short of calling United Russia the КПСС Reloaded, but Kononenko does it for him: “всё, что делают Сурков и «Единая Россия», выглядит как попытка удержания власти и построения страшного КПССного авторитаризма.”

                • marknesop says:

                  “Referendum” is not a common word in my vocabulary, and the reason I use it “outside its strict meaning” results from having googled the phrase “turned election into referendum”. Oh, I don’t mean I don’t know what a referendum is – I just wanted to see what would come up, because I suspected there would be instances in which it described western elections. And, sure enough, there are: quite a few.

                  The thing is, Peter – an election is a referendum. The question put before the electorate is, “Do agree Mr. X should lead the country (or state, or whatever), or do you disagree?” It’s a simple yes/no question, and the only difference from a referendum on sovereignty, or secession or anything else is that – if you disagree – you cast your vote for a different candidate instead of checking “No”. I’ve lived through a couple of sovereignty referendums on the part of Quebec, and the framers tried to make the question as ambiguous as possible so as to stack the odds in favour of a “Yes” vote. But in the end, it’s always “Do you agree….” and yes or no.

                  No election in which Vladimir Putin was a candidate was a referendum outside this context – that every election is a referendum, because the USSR and candidate Putin never coexisted. In order for the election to be a referendum such as your references describe, the question would have to have been, “Do you – yes or no – support the return of the Russian Federation to the governing model of the USSR?” And there was no such question, although they’ve done their best to suggest, okay, that’s not what was said, but that’s exactly what was meant. If there had been such a question, the referendum would have failed, because nothing like a plurality supports the return of Russia to communist rule. That’s not airy-fairy imaginings; actual elections in which the Communist Party was a candidate prove conclusively that support for such a government is fringe-party low.

                  A lot of westerners see communists under the bed and behind every bush, but there are a few Russians who do as well. Such Russians are beloved of the western press, who love to quote them and suggest they are the next Solzhenitsyn or Sakharov. Yury Shevchuk is a good example – if he’d decided to write commercial rock and roll rather than angst-riddled protest songs, nobody would even know who he is outside a few curious collectors. He should write a song called “We had an election, and Zyuganov’s communists polled less than 18 percent”.

                  Nobody is arguing that Russia under Brezhnev was undemocratic. In fact, it was closer to a monarchy, and all movement was based on patronage and appointment; the electorate (so called only for form’s sake) had nothing to say about it. But that’s certainly not the way it is now. And as I’ve tried to point out, considering western elections are exercises in trying to narrow the choice for the voters to “choose me, or somebody who’s soft on national security and guarantees to raise your taxes”, Russia is becoming more like the west rather than less.

                • kovane says:

                  peter,

                  the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan was in power for more than 54 years. Does that mean it’s simply the KPSU in disguise and all that time Japan suffered under tyranny? What do you think?

                • peter says:

                  The thing is, Peter – an election is a referendum.

                  Step forward, two back. The main point of Pavlovsky’s quote is that “Team-99 … turned elections into a referendum, a perpetual plebiscite,” so he obviously doesn’t think they are the same thing. Let’s leave semantics for another time and concentrate on the intended meaning of his words.

                  No election in which Vladimir Putin was a candidate…

                  No, no, you’ve got that wrong too. Nobody’s talking specifically about the presidential elections, we’re talking about all elections at all levels being effectively reduced to the single issue of faith in Putin and His Plan.

                  the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan was in power for more than 54 years. Does that mean it’s simply the KPSU in disguise and all that time Japan suffered under tyranny?

                  No. Why?

                • marknesop says:

                  Okay, yes or no – did Team 99 present the question to the electorate, “Do you agree Vladimir Putin should lead Russia for as long as he lives”? Obviously, there’s no such thing as a perpetual plebiscite, any more than there is perpetual motion, so we’ll stick with his lifetime for now.

                  Every politician, and the team who supports him or her, makes such efforts as lie within their power to narrow the voters’ choice to only themselves. I don’t know why I can’t make you see that, or that it easily crosses over to democracies. You freak out every time I mention any other politician but Putin, but every one of them tries to narrow the field of choice as much as possible. Saying, “you could elect me – or you could elect so-and-so, who’d probably be just as good” is an invitation to the voters to elect someone else.

                • peter says:

                  Okay, yes or no – did Team 99 present the question to the electorate, “Do you agree Vladimir Putin should lead Russia for as long as he lives”?

                  No.

                • marknesop says:

                  As recently as the beginning of this month, Maksim Kononenko argued there was no alternative (speaking of the present and absent any emerging leaders) to Putin and Medvedev.

                • peter says:

                  Correct. He says “Есть Путин, есть Медведев, а больше как бы никого и нет,” and in the (second) next sentence explains: “Власть сейчас устроена так, что смена власти без политического кризиса невозможна.” Which, of course, is exactly the same as what Pavlovsky says in the quote that opens this thread: “Безальтернативная власть 2000–2008 годов – власть, которая без чрезмерного применения силы приводит к состоянию, где ей нельзя легко бросить вызов. Цена вызова слишком дорога.” And so we’re back to where we started, aren’t we?

                • marknesop says:

                  I suppose – but the context in which he says it in the more recent reference is not “the people are forced to accept Putin’s leadership”, but “there is no choice because the opposition is such a bunch of wet ends”, specifically mentioning Nemtsov, Milov and Yashin. There’s quite a bit of difference there, and your original tack was that Putin (and the 99 Team) had engineered his own dominance to the point that there was no valid alternative. That’s not what Kononenko says here at all; he says the opposition is uninspiring. What kind of electorate would deliberately vote for an uninspiring candidate, just to showcase its independence and freedom of choice?

                  Kononenko’s argument here is that there is nobody better than Putin and Medvedev. This is not a compliment to Putin/Medvedev, but a slap to the opposition – buck up and field credible candidates who don’t patronize the electorate, and you might have a chance.

                • peter says:

                  You’re correct to an extent: it’s not clear from this interview alone whether “смена власти без политического кризиса невозможна” because “eсть Путин, есть Медведев, а больше как бы никого и нет,” or it is the other way around. However, Kononenko’s other texts, including the one linked upthread, leave little doubt that he, like Pavlovsky and just about everyone else, thinks it’s a bit of both: Nemtsov is a пидарок of course, but on the other hand Surkov has overdone it a bit with his “managed democracy” and pushed decent people out of politics.

          • Tim Newman says:

            I am of the opinion that democratic elections in the west could be held up as examples of dirty politics, character assassination, cronyism and muckraking.

            So am I. But the difference between democracy in Russia and say, democracy in the UK is one of degree, not form. To insist that one country must be faultless before criticising another is a handy method of ensuring no country ever gets criticised (which, I suspect, is why you only here this requirement coming from certain quarters: certainly, by way of example, I’ve never heard a British politician demand a French politician creates utopia before being allowed to criticise something in the UK).

            Sure, to criticise one country when doing much the same yourself makes one a hypocrite, but IMO hypocrisy is not the worst of all sins. Show me a parent of a teenager, and I will show you a hypocrite. But that doesn’t mean the parents should not be telling their teenage son to stay off the weed.

            Russia needs criticising, as do all governments.

            • peter says:

              … the difference between democracy in Russia and say, democracy in the UK is one of degree, not form.

              Well, yes, the degree of potential trouble in case of incumbent’s defeat is very different indeed: unlike Cameron, Putin might still end up like Chaushesku.

            • marknesop says:

              I’m not insisting a country must be faultless before it is permitted to criticize another. I’m saying nearly every democracy incorporates deliberate and unethical practices to sway the vote – practices the framers of democracy would deplore, that the losing candidates regularly portray their loss as a cheat of indescribable proportions when that is almost never the case, and that those with the greatest control of media resources reliably monopolize them to broadcast their own message. But only in the case of Russia is there widespread insistence that it be stopped, at once. Where are the Koreaphobic blogs shrieking for the overthrow of Kim Jong-Il? The cries for Robert Mugabe to be thrown out of office? Crickets.

              What is it about Russia that inspires the clamour from the west that a leader who is popular with his own electorate, and who has made significant gains in improving their lives, must be driven from power to make room for an opposition leader who was an active part of the ruination of the Russian economy – but who now loudly espouses liberal values and courts russophobic western political figures?

              • Misha says:

                Mark

                As you know, there’s criticism and constructive criticism that meshes with the bias some exhibit when analyzing certain countries.

                If Russia is so behind others, it stands to reason that it shouldn’t be hypocritically put under greater scrutiny.

              • Tim Newman says:

                But only in the case of Russia is there widespread insistence that it be stopped, at once. Where are the Koreaphobic blogs shrieking for the overthrow of Kim Jong-Il? The cries for Robert Mugabe to be thrown out of office?

                Mark, I think you’re making a huge mistake in thinking Russia is singled out for criticism by pretty much anyone. I have read as much criticism of Kim Jong-Il and Robert Mugabe in blogs and the media as I have read criticism of Russia. When I lived in the Middle East the Arabs who objected to criticism of the ugly truths about their rather peculiar way of life used to howl that they were being unfairly singled out: they weren’t. Russia gets no more criticism than anyone else, its just that your own personal interests has led you to identify criticism of Russia more easily than that of other places. Go on Thaivisa.com and you’ll see all sorts of criticism about Thailand, for example.

                • Igor says:

                  >Russia gets no more criticism than anyone else

                  Hm. If you were a “Russian” living in one of Anglo-Saxon countries, I am sure you would have been of a different opinion.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              I’ve never heard a British politician demand a French politician creates utopia before being allowed to criticise something in the UK
              Have you heard a Russian politician doing so? I’ve heard Putin’s “that’s the pot calling the kettle black” point about the arrest of Assange and the furious reactions in the US, but it hardly qualifies as demanding utopia. Unless hoping that Assange doesn’t end in Guantanamo or isn’t killed is utopia.
              You have a point when you write that “hypocrisy is not the worst of all sins” but there are different degrees of hypocrisy. One thing is the parent that says to his son not to use weed, although he enjoyed it in the past, another thing is the parent saying the same thing while smoking weed.
              From the reaction of US conservatives to Wikileaks, I think they’re using something much more effective (or destructive) than weed.

  9. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    IMO, Nemtsov isn’t really interested in being heard in the domestic political arena, he simply puts on the “political dissident” show for the western press. The same goes for the other liberast leaders, while I think that the bulk of the protesters are just useful idiots. So, I don’t expect Nemtsov will ever spend his money on political campaigning.
    On the contrary, I suppose that he makes some money with the show, besides getting a lot of attention in the West.

    • marknesop says:

      To be fair to Mr. Nemtsov, I expect the “Political Dissident” label was coined for him by the western media. On the other hand, he seems to do nothing to disabuse them of that notion, or to set the record straight. He may even have committed the all-too-common error of believing his own press. The problem is, real political dissidents often have broad support among the downtrodden masses, while they are feared and hated by the government. Does that accurately describe Mr. Nemtsov, do you think? I may have it wrong – wouldn’t be the first time – but my impression was that the masses in Russia do not consider themselves particularly downtrodden, while the government mostly ignores Nemtsov when they’re permitted to do so. Which means except when he gets himself arrested again, to the accompaniment of western violins and choked-up reporters.

      There’s no shame in seeking publicity from international sources – who wouldn’t thrill to see their name in the New York Times (unless it said “pedophile” or “DUI” next to it)? The problem arises when artistic license results in an untrue impression – in this case, that Boris Nemtsov not only wants to lead Russia out of its benighted, shame-ridden and oligarchy-dominated past, but that he has an actual plan to do so. If he has, he’s guarding it like Keith Richards keeps on breathing despite myriad indicators that suggest he should have died somewhere back in the seventies. Which is to say, grimly.

      What staggers me about the western press is the way they keep pushing Nemtsov (and Khodorkovsky, but he’s already had his turn) as some kind of saviour who would reform Russia faster than you could say “Samovar”, if only given the chance – moreover, the premise that Russians in general must be stupid if they can’t see the great deal Nemtsov offers. They have to create that impression, otherwise they have to acknowledge his broad non-support. You’d think they (not to mention he) would see that western adulation is detracting from his legitimacy as a candidate, not increasing it. Nothing surprising about that – look at American reaction to international suggestions that the voters must have been drunk when Bush got in for a second term. I think it was something like “mind your own business”, but it might have been shorter and less polite.

      • Misha says:

        Imperfect analogy to a degree: the Soviets had Gus Hall and Angela Davis.

        The underlying point being that human nature the world sees a tendency to inflate certain matters from what they actually are.

  10. Yalensis says:

    On the topic: INOSMI picked up Washington Times piece by noted Russophobe Ariel Cohen, see here . Russian commenters to blog did not seem overly impressed with his arguments.

  11. grafomanka says:

    Oh it’s the 15th so comrade leader Nemtsov should be free.
    Might be of interest regarding media coverage of Mensh riots, Alexey writes in the Guardian ‘We, Russians are not racist, but…’
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/14/russians-not-racist-fair-treatment-nationalism?INTCMP=SRCH

    • Misha says:

      Thanks for mentioning.

    • marknesop says:

      That’s an excellent article. I’ve never been to Moscow, so I couldn’t vouch for its level of violence or racism or anything else – but I totally get his sense of outrage based on his personal experience. Quite often, a detractor labeled an “expert” is speaking of a bad experience inside a very narrow scope of knowledge. The hotel in Moscow damaged my suitcase, and the table service at the restaurant was horrid – ergo, Moscow hotels are sloppy and careless with guest’s property, and Moscow restaurants stink out loud.

      My own approach is similar, based on narrow personal experience, and there are a great many places in Russia I’ve never been. But I never claimed to be an expert, and most of my rebuttals consist of citing references that suggest the negative assessment is broadly inaccurate.

      • Misha says:

        If anything, the advocates for the Russians are racists mantra are the (comparatively speaking) more bigoted. At the very least, this is true with a good number of them. I’m not into PC bullshit, which speaks out against intolerance towards some groups, while rationalizing such manner as a basis against some others.

        Many Russians are of multiethnic backgrounds, while having an internationalist attitude, not necessarily having to do with a politically left of center perspective. Through the years, I’ve experienced this with Russians of varying ages and education backgrounds who come from different parts of Russia and the rest of the former USSR.

        Regarding racist Russians, consider the motivation some have in making them a primary focus. Russia is a multiethnic country that has some glaring socioeconomic problems. In this kind of situation, the conditions are apt for exhibiting greater tensions not as evident elsewhere. In contrast, I don’t sense a greater tolerance among some socioeconomically better off and more homogenous countries.

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3590841.stm

      • Yalensis says:

        I read the Guardian article and the comments. Unpleasant, but interesting, discussion. As ethnic Russian myself, I do feel Russians deserve some criticism in the area of “verbal racism” and “attitudinal racism”. Some of the examples given by readers made me cringe with shame. Russians could definitely use some education and polish in the area of “political correctness”, “polite speech”, showing of respect to other ethniticies, etc.
        On the other hand, I think it is hypocritical for Westerners, and ESPECIALLY British, to criticize others for ethnic insensitivity. These were the nations which colonized most of the world, exterminated native peoples, etc. Russia was never a colonial power, and had nothing to do with the extermination of native populations in far-flung areas of the planet. According to one estimate, before arrival of Europeans, as many as 100 million native Americans populated what is now the territory of the United States. In other words, the land was NOT sparsely populated, there were almost as many native Americans as there are now Russians living in Russia. Where did all these people go? They were murdered by the European settlers. So, please, Europeans, do not preach to others about racism.
        Mark: suggestion for future blog: you could follow your famous “Are Slavs Stupid?” with “Are Russians racist?” I am betting would generate quite a discussion!

        • marknesop says:

          That’s a great idea!!! You should think about writing it yourself. You are literate and well-spoken, and obviously have an interest in the subject. All you need is to research some sources that support your message. Please consider it, and if you decide to do it I’ll give you whatever help I can; I’m sure Kovane would be glad to give you a hand from the local perspective as well.

        • Misha says:

          Yalensis

          Consider how “Russification” is a more popularly used term than “Angloization.”

          Touching on an earlier point at this thread, a La Russophobe entitled blog is apparently more okay than one entitled La Judeophobe. This is noted without approving of the latter.

          Like yourself, I note a less PC attitude among a good many Russians. Keep in mind that the PC situation has in some instances led to a covering up of the kind of bigotry that’s otherwise evident in the West.

          I once again post these thoughts:

          If anything, the advocates for the Russians are racists mantra are the (comparatively speaking) more bigoted. At the very least, this is true with a good number of them. I’m not into PC bullshit, which speaks out against intolerance towards some groups, while rationalizing such manner as a basis against some others.

          Many Russians are of multiethnic backgrounds, while having an internationalist attitude, not necessarily having to do with a politically left of center perspective. Through the years, I’ve experienced this with Russians of varying ages and education backgrounds who come from different parts of Russia and the rest of the former USSR.

          Regarding racist Russians, consider the motivation some have in making them a primary focus. Russia is a multiethnic country that has some glaring socioeconomic problems. In this kind of situation, the conditions are apt for exhibiting greater tensions not as evident elsewhere. In contrast, I don’t sense a greater tolerance among some socioeconomically better off and more homogenous countries.

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3590841.stm

  12. Yalensis says:

    http://www.rosbalt.ru/2011/01/15/808869.html
    Yeah, apparently yesterday they released Nemtsov (and Limonov) from the slammer.
    “Nemtsov was met by a handful of journalists and supporters…” (loosely paraphrasing).
    WTF! No huge mobs of supporters?
    Oh well, Golden Boy had 15 days with little to do, but probably no gym in jail, so he would have to do a lot of push-ups to maintain those superb abs…

      • Yalensis says:

        I need to get involved in that — poor me, my arms are like noodles!

        • Misha says:

          Throughout many parts of the US, there has been a dramatic increase in fitness venues – top notch ones at that.

          Yet, the population at large has become more out of condition – regardless of whether the area in question is poor (with limited quality food available and fitness options) or wealthy – albeit the latter having it much better.

          Barring joint/tendon issues (particularly in the elbow area), arms are relatively easy to build up – with simple dumbbell exercises serving as a good start.

          Concerning the subject at hand, this commercial is a riot:

          • Yalensis says:

            Ha ha, that’s pretty good! “I lift things up and put them down…” Sounds like a plan…
            P.S. On Anatoly’s blog, he recommends something called “kettlebells”, says it builds up arms and rest of body way better than dumbbells. See, maybe this Nemtsov fellow has inspired us all after all … just not in the way he hoped.

            • Misha says:

              Yeah, I heard about that:

              http://www.russiankettlebells.com/

              There’re other forms of it. The concept being that traditional weight training exercises are of a limited motion. The most traditional of weight training enthusiasts acknowledge that different excercises for the same given muscle group leads to better all around strength and conditioning.

              In a pickup basketball game awhile back (with an emphasis on awhile back), I physically man handled someone bigger than me, who (at least at the time) could out arm curl, bench and shoulder press me.

              After the game, we concluded that the reason was related to the matter we’re discussing.

              When Soviet teams first went up against NHL squads, the former exhibited the same kind of strength.

  13. Tim Newman says:

    If you were a “Russian” living in one of Anglo-Saxon countries, I am sure you would have been of a different opinion.

    Yes, that is my point. If I was a Chinese living in an Anglo-Saxon country I would think China gets disproportionately bashed by the western press (see the comments on any Economist article on China, for example); if I was an Arab living in an Anglo-Saxon country I’d think the media singled out Muslims and Arabs for criticism; the Nigerians think the western press gives them a bad name; etc.

    • marknesop says:

      Hi, Tim, sorry for the tardy reply, but I wanted to take time to check Thaivisa.com first. Yes, it’s true there is considerable criticism of Thailand, some of it against the government. However, it all seems to be from Thais. The article, “When is the Thai government going to start governing?” is from a citizen, and those on crime are from the local papers.

      By way of contrast, probably the larger part of criticism directed at Russia is from Americans, some of whom are cold-war relics who have never been there. Others are bitter emigres from Russia who were born there and may have lived there a few years, but are loyal to their new country (usually but not necessarily the USA) to the exclusion of all else, and often unaware of changes in the political scene and living standard in their former home.

      Most of my resentment of criticism directed against Russia comes from its being at odds with my own experience, which is admittedly not broad. I’ve never visited major population centres like St Petersburg or Moscow, and there’s probably much about Russian life I don’t know. However, I’m less out of touch than rabid russophobes who have never set foot in Russia, but hate everything about it. In those cases, I look for contrasting opinion that is at least as reliable as the original. I also look for political motivation; the Moscow Times is a good example. Many of its critical articles are written by westerners who are either stringers or Moscow residents with a vested interest in changing the government for a more liberal, western-oriented model. Some of them are both journalists and affiliates of western think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute or the Jamestown Foundation.

      I try not to be too resistant to criticism of Russia from Russians, but if I see an article from some tool in Magadan who rips into Putin because there was no bus service and he was late for work, I’d be tempted to ask, “where’s your municipal government, dummy???”. A good bit of criticism directed at the highest ranks of government is based on perceived failures that are not its direct responsibility. If David Cameron had to fly to the scene every time there was a strike in Newcastle, he’d get nothing else done beyond sorting out people’s petty grievances, and would be totally unable to get on with governing the nation. Much of the time critics shout, “where the hell is Putin when this is happening??”, it’s for things that are several levels of government responsibility below Putin.

      Maybe there are niche blogs that go off on Kim Jong-Il all the time owing to his dictatorial rule. But I’d put money on Russia being dominant in criticism by major American outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and especially rabid Russia-hater the Washington Times. Many of those critics couldn’t answer the simplest questions about the country, name three ethnic dishes or six major cities outside Moscow and St Petersburg. They just know they hate its leader and everyone else is a bunch of commies who want to destroy America because they’re jealous of Americans’ freedoms, not to mention their ability to buy jeans.

      • marknesop says:

        Tim: off-topic, but this is your field. There is yet another scathing post at Streewise Professor, suggesting BP will lose its shirt, and damned well serves them right for being so foolish as to invest in Russia. Also, see Jennifer’s comment in the previous article, which directed SWP’s attention to the subject. I’d be interested in your opinion.

        • Tim Newman says:

          I’m not too sure about this one. I agree to a point with SWP, that BP needs to do something big in order to maintain its reserves and recover from the Deepwater Horizon incident, and that its determination to proceed in Russia probably reflects that it doesn’t have too many alternatives. And I also doubt that any project will reach the construction phase, from what I keep hearing about Shtokman projects in Russia are a case of one step forward, two steps back.

          That said, Russia is so important in that it has such enormous reserves, is non-OPEC, and represents one of the most accessible large unexplored regions that the major oil companies are always going to be interested, regardless of anything. Even after the Sakhalin II debacle, Shell remained interested in future developments for the simple reasons that 1. they still make tonnes of money and 2. it’s still worth it. Exxon, Total, Shell, and BP are either engaged in or actively pursuing projects in Russia, and I doubt that this will ever change short of a civil war.

          That said, I don’t think this necessarily reflects well on Russia. Oil companies will go pretty much anywhere, and the fact that oil companies are interested doesn’t mean anyone else is. Take Nigeria for example, most people would be insane to invest there, but oil companies do because they are the only ones with the clout to make it pay. However, I think it any supermajor will be thinking very carefully before committing money to the construction phase of a project in Russia, and it will be interesting to see how these pan out and what guarantees and assurances will be required before they do. I don’t rate BP as a company, but they probably learned a bit from the TNK-BP debacle, and will be keen not to repeat their mistakes. I don’t rate Shell much either, and I expect they will blunder into the next project having forgotten all about Sakhalin II. I expect the Russians will be reluctant to pick a fight with Exxon and I’d be surprised to see any future projects with them, and I think they’d not want to upset Total too much because (I think) they can bring greater political clout to bear if need be (in other words, upset Total and you’ll find France voting against you in the UNSC! Maybe.)

          Anyway, we shall see. But it’s pretty easy to sign bits of paper, less easy to actually execute a projects. Certainly BPs ventures in Sakhalin came to nothing, so I’ll not get too excited about this latest news just yet.

          • marknesop says:

            As you say, we’ll wait and see. But these folks seem confident Russia really means to modernize this time, and to make a serious effort to align itself with modern business practices – out of necessity rather than any real desire to placate its critics. I’m quite heartened by this article, and its author (Chris Weafer) is admirably credentialed in the fields of finance and management.

            According to Mr. Weafer, Russia must modernize because the government is aware it is too dependent on oil, and using his figures, the price of oil must remain around $90.00/bbl in order to balance. That’s still pretty good compared with every industrialized nation in the world, considering Russia’s low debt and cash surplus. But it also suggests a looking to the future. Once more according to Mr. Weafer, “Russia needs the investment capital and the expertise of Western companies if it is to break the stranglehold of oil. That is why the modern-day economic glasnost is real and will be sustained.”

            They likely will still be very wary of anything that looks like giving away the store, and western companies love to laugh at how they landed amongst the yokels and fleeced them left and right. But I am optimistic that a genuine overture with sensible profit-sharing implied will be met with favourable opportunities for all.

            • Tim Newman says:

              …and western companies love to laugh at how they landed amongst the yokels and fleeced them left and right.

              Can you cite any examples of this? From my experience, these days companies fall over themselves to precisely NOT give this impression.

              • marknesop says:

                Well, it was my impression; I must have gotten it somewhere, and it’s certainly not because I hate the west. I’ll see what I can do by way of examples, but I imagine it’s not the sort of thing that would be committed to writing on the internet.

                • Tim Newman says:

                  It’s a common perception all right, but it seems to come from an assumption that companies operate like colonial powers, an assumption which has probably been utterly wrong for at least the past 2-3 decades. International companies spend millions on cultural sensitivity, anyone going into a foreign country nowadays would be insane to express an opinion that the locals are getting fleeced for the precise reason that, again going against common perception, the locals hold all the cards.

                • marknesop says:

                  Maybe you’re right. I hope so; I’d like to see this work, for both sides. BP is certainly entitled to a profit – there wouldn’t be much sense in doing it as a public-relations exercise, what? I likewise hope the rush to suck on the money tit by Russian contractors can be confined to what one would reasonably expect to clear in the honest-day’s-pay-for-an-honest-day’s-work category; that must still be pretty good money, surely? If everyone could be made to realize that this deal is in some measure serving as an example of how future investment visions might come about, or even if they will, perhaps all concerned would take it seriously. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that the alleged government interest in “playing it straight” and gaining valuable experience, as well as a healthy partnership, is not just words.

                  By the way, if anyone’s not seen it, Tim has an interesting post up on the subject, here.

                • kovane says:

                  International companies spend millions on cultural sensitivity.

                  Ha-ha-ha! And what? Does it help?

                  anyone going into a foreign country nowadays would be insane to express an opinion that the locals are getting fleeced

                  You’ve got that right, but it’s just part of today’s decorum. You know, it’s kinda too brazen to skin locals alive and simultaneously rub that fact in their faces. The real attitude – from my experience of talking to expats in Russia – would make Kipling blush; this air of superiority is excellently demonstrated, for example, by the recent scandal in Goldman Sachs (although relating to clients from the US). Alas, humans are very prone to haughtiness, and there are too few exceptions to that. Come on, Tim, when closing the door of your hotel room in the evenings, you and your colleagues immediately start praising the great Nigerian culture and pouring out your thanks to locals for the wonderful chance to work in their country?

                • marknesop says:

                  Well, don’t put me down as a believer in the business model just yet, but this excerpt from “A History of U.S. Monopolies” (scroll down to “The Benefits of a Monopoly”, Standard Oil’s case study) suggests a giant company often causes less environmental damage and is able to take on major projects that a group of smaller, competing companies would make a mess of, or not even touch because of a lack of resources. That’s not to suggest I completely buy the “poor BP” line concerning the environmental damage in the Gulf, which I’d say was considerably worse than portrayed, and it was certainly the company who strung along the U.S. government for quite a time by swearing the spill was in hand or that the quantities escaping were much less than they actually were; 5 minutes of watching TV clips will tell you that. Obama in fact got a good deal of criticism for taking their word on containment efforts for too long.

                  Granted, Standard Oil’s case is based on their performance within its own country, because there was still plenty of oil in the USA before Standard Oil was broken up. This case study may not provide realistic guidelines for a megacompany’s behaviour in another country. But I’m willing to believe BP would do no more environmental damage than would ROSNEFT itself in the extraction and waste-treatment processes. As to profit-taking, large companies sometimes take on projects that otherwise would not be attempted; thus, no money for the big company, ha, ha, but no money for the region, either.

                  Companies like Halliburton, for all their alleged cultural sensitivity, are perceived as having set a horrible example in places like Iraq – overcharging at the slightest opportunity (EVERYBODY, including their own government) and employing security firms that shot up Iraqi traffic for the fun of it. I’m not convinced every big company is like that, although of course they want to maximize their profit, and I can see sometimes regional concerns would take a back seat to dividends. Especially since the project is temporary and none of the workers plan on living in the region afterward. There’s little incentive to worry about environmental damage or pissing off the locals if it’s a quick smash-and-grab, and you never plan to come back. However, I can’t imagine too many extraction operations are like that any more.

                  We’ll have to see, but I hope it works out – it’s kind of a second chance at recovery for both. I’m all in favour of more direct investment in Russia, and the government must know it can’t expect to get it if the foreigners aren’t going to make any money.

            • Tim Newman says:

              I’m quite heartened by this article, and its author (Chris Weafer) is admirably credentialed in the fields of finance and management.

              I’m sure this chap knows what he’s talking about, but he works for a bank trying to get people to invest in Russia, so it’s hardly surprising that he’s penning articles talking up the investment climate in Russia. I’m not saying he’s wrong, but the source is hardly objective.

      • Misha says:

        The bias against Russia is arguably greater than the other mentioned biases and is partly related to what can be termed as a PC cultural slant:

        This article partly touches on this point:

        http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9908/opinion/karatnycky.html

        The above linked piece suggests that the biases against Russia concern others with the same religious upbringing. At RFE/RL and some other venues, the bias against Serbia is greater than what’s directed at Russia. A plausible explanation for this concerns how greater strength is often given more respect.

        Neocon to neolib leaning circles have elements prone to “reaching out” to the so-called “Muslim street,” when the given issue (like Kosovo’s status) isn’t so near and dear to Western sentiment. In these circles, one hears the argument that the West should support Kosovo’s independence on that premise. Talk about a reactionary Crusades like mindset. Until recently (still might be true – haven’t checked), the EU has been more gung ho on Kosovo’s independence than the considerably larger in membership Organization of the Islamic Conference.

        On the discussed biases, some related thoughts:

        https://marknesop.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/selling-krazy-by-the-kilo-the-disturbingly-irrational-anne-applebaum/#comment-2307

        http://theivanovosti.typepad.com/the_ivanov_report/2011/01/pravda-on-the-potomac-22-what-the-washington-post-wrote-about-russia-in-december-2010.html?cid=6a00d834524a2e69e20148c740e69b970c#comment-6a00d834524a2e69e20148c740e69b970c

  14. Misha says:

    Another not so pro-Russian highlight (there’re many) was the first televised Bush-Kerry presidential debate, which dealt with foreign policy. The subject of Russia was given more time than China and the Middle East, with Kerry (seen as a relative moderate on Russia) suggesting that Bush was “soft” on Russia.

    The US government approved Captive Nations Committee Resolution led to the official holiday known as Captive Nations Week, recognizing every Communist country (including China as well as some WW II era Nazi creations) as captive – with Russia as the lone exception. Thec spin behind this project suggested that Communism was Rusisan aggression in disguise – suggesting that Russians collectively benefitted at the expense of others.

    The biased/bigoted situation explains why during the Cold War people of Russian origin in the US (White Rusisan included) were more likely to be called Commies, unlike people of Cuban, Chinese and other backgrounds from existing Communist countries.

    For clarity sake, this subject isn’t so well known on account of the predominating sensitivity factors out there. RT doing a half hour show on anti-Semitism is valid. There’s also validity for doing a show on the not as well known but otherwise evident anti-Russoism. To my knowledge, such a show hasn’t been aired.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Mike; that’s interesting, I hadn’t heard of the Captive Nations holiday. It does seem Russia was prominently excluded. This reinforces my contention that russophobes suggesting they are against the Russian government only, while having a soft spot in their hearts for the Russian people, is rubbish. This legislation seems cast in the same mold. That said, I don’t suppose Russians would be thrilled with the notion of being viewed by Americans as prisoners in their own country – so in that context, perhaps it’s a compliment! I’d take it as such.

      • Misha says:

        Mark,

        I respectfully reply as follows:

        Consider the “you’re what you eat” quote that can be loosely analogous to the thought of: you’re what you spend your time on reading, listening and watching.

        Concerning this issue, English language mass media can only be faulted so much.

        A previously posted link on the Captive Nations Committee:

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

        Awhile back, someone with a track record of hypocritically biased stances against Russia belittled the Captive Nations Committee/Captive Nations Week point by noting that the holiday in question was never popular in the US.

        With the exception of when a global issue gets out of hand, foreign policy issues are often not so popular. The views having the inside track among high level circles are at a greater advantage once a given foreign policy issue becomes popular.

        Within North American and some other Western academic circles, there’s a noticeably influential and biased slant as well.

        All of these factors relate to what’s being discussed.

    • Yalensis says:

      @Misha, your remarks gave me a sudden epiphany: I had never understood before why all the Russian emigres I met who had emigrated to U.S. during Soviet period were so super-patriot and pro-American. Whenever I had discussions with these types, I argue something like, “Please, criticize Communism all you like, there is so much there to criticize, but how come you love America so much?” And they were all so uniformly rah-rah USA and so right-wing that I would end up dismissing them as hopeless. Now, your remark made me realize that living in U.S. they would have had to constantly prove their loyalty to their new country in a way that, as you point out, Cuban emigres don’t have to. Because Americans would be suspicious of them just for being Russians, and the word “Russian” was used interchangeably with “Commie”. Confirms my suspicion that Cold War was only halfway about Capitalism vs. Communism and the other half is just simply America vs. Russia. (Like Rome vs. Carthage?)

      • Misha says:

        Yalensis, another explanation has been given, which I don’t completely buy. This reason notes that a good number of the transplanted and especially pre-1990s now former Soviets are ethnically non-Russian. As such, it’s suggested that it’s somewhat easier for them to trash Russia.

        I assure you that not everyone in Brighton Beach is of a Gessenesque view. Not that I’m a Zhirinovsky fan:

        http://www.indypressny.org/nycma/voices/34/editorials/editorials/

        I can’t 100% vouch for the author’s comments. The article’s significance nevertheless relates to my Gessenesque point. On a person to person basis, I’ve run into my share of transplanted former Soviets who don’t live up to the imagery. This includes a good number of Ukrainians. The issue is what does and doesn’t get propped and those whose views are formed by such imagery.

        A Russia Profile article noted what was presented as a surprising stat on the number of Ukrainians with favorable views of Russia. It’s “surprising” because of the kind of Ukrainian views often getting the nod in English language mass media. What irks me a bit about that article is its claim that Russians have a low opinion of Ukraine because of their reliance on Russian mass media. The article in question was written during Yushchenko’s presidency. That article (which I can link on request) wasn’t as equally pointed towards the English language mass media’s presentation, as noted in this set of comments. As for Russian perceptions of Ukraine (especially during that period), there were ample reasons to be negative of the situation in that former Soviet republic.

        On your last point, there’re different categories. Without meaning to inaccurately simplify:

        – anti-Communist/anti-Russian

        – anti-Russian from a vantage point that’s left of center

        – anti-Communist/pro-Russian

        – some on the left who aren’t anti-Russian

        In North America, there’re reasonable pro-Russian views which haven’t been put to the best of use.

        • Misha says:

          This discussion reminds me of a thought expressed by some (stress some) 1970s/ 1980s era Soviet arrivals to the US:

          Life in the US isn’t as good as we thought it would be and life in the Soviet Union wasn’t as bad as we thought.

          ****

          I recall a right of center political studies professor explaining this as a simple matter of how sudden freedom over certain security isn’t easy to handle.

      • marknesop says:

        I still don’t understand it, because the few I can readily identify as Soviet emigres are so bitter toward Russia and so over-the-top patriotic about wherever they live now, it’s like they haven’t a single nostalgic memory of their former country. To me it is strongly reminiscent of the situation in which a man takes a woman away from her former husband. He congratulates himself on having been simply the better man, without ever thinking, “if she flipped that easily, what’s to say she won’t again as soon as the next better opportunity comes along?” I’d be suspicious of anyone who was such an enthusiastic “new citizen” in the same way I’d be suspicious of a divorced man who hadn’t a single good thing to say about his former wife. Nobody’s that bad. I know a few Russians in my community, and none of them make a habit of spouting criticism of Russia; one or two act like they’re doing us a favour by living here. No matter how well they speak English, they’re delighted by the opportunity to speak Russian.

        The United States is a great country, and the trials and tribulations of government seldom penetrate small-town America, where people are often welcoming and generous and accepting of strangers. The hyper-partisan atmosphere of Washington and some of the blogs and foreign policy think-tanks should not be taken as exemplary of America or American attitude, because it’s not. There’s nothing at all wrong in believing – and saying – that you’ve bettered your personal situation by moving there, because it’s probably true; the USA ranks high among best places to live and raise a family. But a willingness to spit on your birthplace makes you all the wrong kinds of friends.

        • Misha says:

          Not if you’re considering a greater chance at fame and fortune.

          Note the kind of Russian views getting top billing at some venues.

          This point highlights an underlying reason why bigotry is stupid.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        IMO there is another, more subtle reason that applies to emigrants irrespective of the home/host countries. I’ve noticed in Italians emigrants a similar behavior to that noticed by Yalensis and previously by Kovane, although much less extreme.
        The emigrant left his home country to escape misery, then he found himself in the lowest social class in a foreign country. Even without discrimination, this is a painful and humiliating condition. The emigrants endure these sufferings, but after a while he mostly reaches an acceptable social condition. At this point he still imagines his former country as the hellhole he left and may think that the sufferings he endured were worth it. Still, he may feel like a boy that was abandoned by his parents.
        The problems start when he goes back to his former country and discovers it’s no longer the hellhole he remembered. He thought to brag about his “macchina ‘mericana” (american car) with people still riding donkeys, but finds that everyone owns a car.
        His sufferings appear useless, and he realizes that he made a big blunder when he decided to emigrate. Which isn’t true most of the time, but not everyone understands it. Now the emigrant feels like a boy that not only was abandoned by his parents, but whose brothers were spoiled. The reaction to a reality we don’t like is often to imagine that things are different, that is to say the emigrant will start boasting about his material well-being while belittling everything he sees in his former country. Something like “Yes, you have a car, but it’s small, it looks like a toy! Mine is big, an american car, you know”. The emigrant talks big, but you notice that his pocket is small. Instead of renting a car, he asks to use your car, and when you see him driving you wonder if he really has ever drove one. Not to mention that you’ll find the gas tank empty, gas is too expensive and it’s another proof you live in an hellhole.
        This is a behavior I’ve observed in the ’80 in a large part of Italian emigrants to Australia, some of them are relatives, others family friends. Most of them came back for holidays.

        PS. There is a nice movie that describes the mentality of the Italian emigrants.
        PS2. I’ve noticed that Iranians emigrants reach the same extreme level of Irano-phobia of the Russians.

        • Yalensis says:

          Thanks, Giuseppe, very perceptive description of Italian emigres. I suppose being an emigre is almost always a sad thing in and of itself, regardless of which country. In a perfect world people could travel and live wherever they wanted, to find a good job, or nice wife, etc., and still be allowed to return home someday, if they wished. Soviet emigres had to make a hard choice, because once they had decided to leave, they could never go back. Nowadays is not so drastic, can leave, change mind, go back, etc., and that’s certainly a good thing.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            because once they had decided to leave, they could never go back
            Are you sure? I remember the case of a Soviet man that emigrated with his family to the US in the early ’80 that after a while returned to the USSR, but his sons, one of which was a minor, decided to stay and US authorities sided with the underage boy. At the time this caused a scandal that reached the Italian press.
            I’ve to admit that my recollections of the event may be wrong, it happened a long time ago.

            • Yalensis says:

              @Giuseppe: Yes, you are absolutely right, there was such an incident, although I cannot find references to it online, cannot find the name of the family, and don’t recall what year this took place. This was the precursor to the later “Elian Gonzalez” scandal. I believe this family was Russian-speaking Ukrainian. They emigrated to U.S. (I believe Chicago or somewhere in Midwest where many Ukrainian emigers), but parents were not happy in America and wanted to return to USSR. Soviet government allowed them to return (maybe humane reasons: Brezhnev was not such a monster; plus propaganda bonus to show that life in America not so great after all!) This family had a 12-year-old son who had become Americanized and wanted to stay. After legal wrangles, the boy did stay (moving in with relatives), and the rest of the family had to return to USSR without him. A very sad family story. There were implications that the family was dysfunctional, perhaps the boy was abused. I cannot think of any other reason why a 12-year-old child would not want to be with his parents. American press portrayed this as a political choice on the part of the child (“loves freedom, hates Communism, etc.”) much as Cuban right-wing press later claimed that little 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez was political crusader for American way of life! I believe the follow-up was that the boy grew up in America and had decent life. There may have been some reconciliation in later years with parents. I hope so.

              • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                Hi Yalensis, looking the Wikipedia page about the Elian Gonzalez affair I found a link about the incident involving that Soviet family.

  15. Tim Newman says:

    Ha-ha-ha! And what? Does it help?

    To a point.

    The real attitude – from my experience of talking to expats in Russia – would make Kipling blush;

    If you’re talking about expats in Russia boasting about how they have financially fleeced the locals, I’m afraid I simply don’t believe you.

    Come on, Tim, when closing the door of your hotel room in the evenings, you and your colleagues immediately start praising the great Nigerian culture and pouring out your thanks to locals for the wonderful chance to work in their country?

    No, I loudly declare that the place is a shithole. But an individual worker expressing his dislike for some local aspect is somewhat different from a company rubbing in the fact that it has hoodwinked the locals in some business deal.

    • kovane says:

      If you’re talking about expats in Russia boasting about how they have financially fleeced the locals, I’m afraid I simply don’t believe you.

      Yes, at present, not so many opportunities to fleece locals are left in Russia. For instance, how could IKEA possibly make a killing in a relatively competitive market under the undying watch of salivating bureaucrats? And still, when a suitable opportunity arises, even biggest concerns, like Mercedes, doesn’t shun a chance to screw over the Russian budget in order to earn an additional dollar. But that pales in comparison to the bonanza that happened in Russia’s finance sector during 1995-2005. You might want to check my next article, regarding the adventures of Hermitage Capital and Renaissance Capital in Russia, and boy, was there boasting. And I even don’t try to remeber the sweet 1998 default times.

      I loudly declare that the place is a shithole.

      And I bet that view is shared be an absolute majority of Total’s employee, up and including top executives. And given this attitude, I very much doubt that they pass upa chance to reap additional profits by giving a bribe, like Halliburton did. And of course you’re right that no company is crazy enough to admit participating in shady dealings in a quarter report or an official press statement. Doesn’t mean that they didn’t do it though.

      PS: Mark, have you received my article?

      • marknesop says:

        “Mark, have you received my article?”

        Not yet, but I haven’t checked my email, and can’t from work. I’ll find out when I get home in a couple of hours. I was going to ask you when you might have something new ready, and hey! I forgot all about Hermitage Capital. As I recall, Igor wrote a dynamite piece about their bragging, although it might have been more a general self-congratulation on their technique (spreading rumours about company insolvency and corruption until it toppled, then buying it up for a fraction of its worth) than ripping off Russians. I’ll see if I can track it down.

        Thanks for fixing the Russian page header!

  16. Tim Newman says:

    Yes, at present, not so many opportunities to fleece locals are left in Russia.

    Right. So who are these expats you’re talking to? Or did you invent them after reading about the antics of the likes of Hermitage 10-15 years ago?

    And I bet that view is shared be an absolute majority of Total’s employee, up and including top executives.

    It’s a bet you would lose. Some like it, some don’t. Same as the expats in Sakhalin, some loved it, some hated it.

    And given this attitude, I very much doubt that they pass upa chance to reap additional profits by giving a bribe, like Halliburton did.

    So you think companies like Total bribe people in order to make additional profits? That can be your little secret.

    • kovane says:

      So who are these expats you’re talking to?

      Those who were part of the scene then. That’s not 10-15 years ago, but 5 at most. And the stories are really worth bragging.

      Or did you invent them after reading about the antics of the likes of Hermitage 10-15 years ago

      Tim, I though we had covered this – I don’t venture outside much and conjure all my stories up. No need to needle my sore spot once more.

      It’s a bet you would lose.

      Oh, so I see. You’re the grumpy one. Others don local tribes’ garments much?

      So you think companies like Total bribe people in order to make additional profits?

      Let’s see. Mercedes gives bribes, Halliburton does, Total doesn’t. Oh, that’s right, both Mercedes and Halliburton did it for fun’s sake, not to earn more money.

      • Tim Newman says:

        Others don local tribes’ garments much?

        Some do.

        Let’s see. Mercedes gives bribes, Halliburton does, Total doesn’t. Oh, that’s right, both Mercedes and Halliburton did it for fun’s sake, not to earn more money.

        In places like Nigeria, you need to pay bribes to get absolutely anything done. I found myself having to bribe the housekeeper in my hotel to clean the room properly. That you should cite Halliburton’s bribery charges as proof that companies fleece the locals is laughable. Even more laughable is that you think the payment of bribes is related to how the company or its employees view a place.

        • kovane says:

          In places like Nigeria, you need to pay bribes to get absolutely anything done.

          Yes, poor Total, bullied by every Nigerian officials and refusing to participating in bribery to the last! But OK, Total’s goal to drill oil, not to improve the state governance in Nigeria, so whatever works. Can you explain then who held Mercedes at gunpoint forcing them to give kickbacks on a state contract (i.e stealing Russian taxpayers’ money). Was that a do-or-die kind of situation? The whole fate of the company depended on if it would earn 75 million euros?

          Quote:”The Justice Department uncovered documents that said Daimler was over-invoicing the customers and paying the excess back to top government officials to secure the contracts. These kickbacks were accounted for as “fees” or “special discounts.” Daimler’s Russian sales totaled 1.4 billion euros in 2000-2005, with state agencies accounting for 5% of all Mercedes vehicles sold. The kickbacks paid on these contracts reached 3 million euros.”

          • Tim Newman says:

            Can you explain then who held Mercedes at gunpoint forcing them to give kickbacks on a state contract (i.e stealing Russian taxpayers’ money).

            As far as I can make out, Mercedes gave gifts of cars in order to win contracts. How this equates to stealing Russian taxpayers’ money I don’t know.

            But in any case, in places like Russia (and I speak from experience) a kickback is often a requirement for a contract to be awarded, regardless of whom it goes to. The person who awards the contract will expect something in return for it being awarded, and this will be communicated to the preferred tenderer in advance of contract award. So, although nobody is forcing anyone to give a kickback, any company wanting to do business must either play the game or leave. It is therefore a certainty that any company doing major business in places like Russia, Nigeria, or the Middle East (plus a million others) will be paying bribes. Some companies, especially American ones, refuse to work in such places. Others do. But those who are doing the ripping off are not those that pay the bribes, but those who are demanding them, and in every case they are locals. The companies themselves would much rather not have to pay them, and this is evidenced by the likes of Mercedes not being handing out gifts of cars in places like the UK, France, and Australia.

            As somebody who writes articles on corruption, you seem awfully ill-informed about how it works in practice.

            • kovane says:

              How this equates to stealing Russian taxpayers’ money I don’t know.

              Finance is not really your strong suit, is it? Kickbacks on state contracts – irrespective of the payment form – don’t lead to the loss of state’s money? That’s new.

              a kickback is often a requirement for a contract to be awarded

              I’m more than I would prefer aware of this reality. But Mercedes could have worked only with the private sector, staying out of blatant corruption. Instead, they willingfully chose to go a little further, bribed state officials and, thus, earn an additional buck (just 5% of their sales). So your pretence that someone forced them because it’s just the way of doing business in Russia is nonsense.

              As somebody who writes articles on corruption, you seem awfully ill-informed about how it works in practice.

              Can we leave my alleged ignorance out of it? I don’t meet your opinion about the oil industry with booing and the shouts “He doesn’t know a thing about oil”.

              • Tim Newman says:

                Finance is not really your strong suit, is it? Kickbacks on state contracts – irrespective of the payment form – don’t lead to the loss of state’s money? That’s new.

                Well, it would be new to somebody who in all likelihood has never partaken in a state contract, but limited himself to reading internet articles about them. A kickback for a contract award only costs the state money if it results in the contract representing worse value for money than an alternative. Given that in almost all cases where a kickback occurs there is no alternative (with a kickback being given regardless of who won) then it can hardly be claimed that a company giving a kickback costs the state money. What could be argued is that the system of demanding a kickback from a winning contractor costs the state money, but the blame for that lies with the local officials and not with the western company. So, no, finance is not my strong suit but my knowledge of state tendering practices is likely a lot broader and deeper than what you have gleaned reading about them on the internet.

                So your pretence that someone forced them because it’s just the way of doing business in Russia is nonsense.

                Well, it would be, were I pretending that. I’m not defending Mercedes, I am just pointing out that the conditions of doing business this way are laid out by the Russian officials for Mercedes to either take or leave, not the other way around. So any accusations that it is western companies who are ripping off Russians do not withstand scrutiny.

                Can we leave my alleged ignorance out of it?

                No. You choose to come on a public forum spouting off about corruption whilst appearing to be almost entirely ignorant of the subject as it works in practice. For instance, you seem entirely ignorant that the terms and conditions under which the corruption occurs are set by the locals, not the westerns companies that partake in it. Therefore, the behaviour of the companies is a symptom, not a cause. Yet for all your scoffing at Total and Mercedes, you have yet to acknowledge that the root of the problem lies with the corrupt locals, and the companies would much prefer to deal in a more transparent manner.

                I don’t meet your opinion about the oil industry with booing and the shouts “He doesn’t know a thing about oil”.

                That’s because you’d be required to demonstrate that I am speaking from ignorance, which you would be unable to do. Let’s not pretend you are refraining out of politeness, eh?

                • kovane says:

                  No. You choose to come on a public forum spouting off about corruption whilst appearing to be almost entirely ignorant of the subject as it works in practice.

                  That’s laughable. But I’m not laughing and not going to let that slide. Show me exactly where I showed ignorance discussing corruption.

                  I’m not defending Mercedes, I am just pointing out that the conditions of doing business this way are laid out by the Russian officials for Mercedes to either take or leave, not the other way around.

                  And that was my whole point. Having a score of other ways to earn money Mercedes chose to “take” it. And you’re conveniently looking another way.

          • Tim Newman says:

            Quote:”The Justice Department uncovered documents that said Daimler was over-invoicing the customers and paying the excess back to top government officials to secure the contracts. These kickbacks were accounted for as “fees” or “special discounts.”

            This sounds far more like Russian officials ripping off Russian taxpayers with the help of Daimler than Daimler ripping off Russian taxpayers. I would be willing to bet Daimler’s cooperation in the scam was a requirement of their winning the contract.

            • kovane says:

              I would be willing to bet Daimler’s cooperation in the scam was a requirement of their winning the contract.

              That’s a pretty safe bet, but it doesn’t change a thing.

              • Tim Newman says:

                Well, it does. It makes your claim that Daimler is ripping off Russians to be somewhat weakened, as it is in fact Russians that are demanding that Daimler behave in this manner in the first place.

                It looks to me that you will do anything you can to portray Russia as the eternal victim against evil, manipulative corportations. Russians have long played the victim and pointed the finger at outsiders to explain their perpetually lousy predicament, I suspect because it is a lot easier than having to admit that your own people are fucking you over on a grand scale.

                • kovane says:

                  Tim, I’m compelled to ask you the question I’ve heard Bush asked your Queen, do you speak English?

                  It looks to me that you will do anything you can to portray Russia as the eternal victim against evil, manipulative corportations.

                  Where did you even find that bullshit? Russia’s sad state is the result of the Russians’ actions only, nobody else’s, I’ve always maintained that.

                  own people are fucking you over on a grand scale.

                  Did you read my article on corruption in Russia or what? That’s the whole point of it, and if I remember correctly I didn’t mentioned any foreigners even once there.

                  And what I’m trying to convey here is that the Westerners always adopted the worst Russian practices and sometimes were even better at them than the Russian themselves.

  17. Tim Newman says:

    And of course you’re right that no company is crazy enough to admit participating in shady dealings in a quarter report or an official press statement.

    And, lest we forget, nobody is denying companies engage in shady dealings. What I am contesting is the notion that companies boast about fleecing the locals.

    • kovane says:

      the notion that companies boast about fleecing the locals.
      Companies don’t. Employee do, unofficially. So it becomes yesterday’s news to everyone involved.

      • Tim Newman says:

        Right, so you listen to expats bragging about how they ripped off Russians in a business deal, and their stories are authentic?

        Heh.

        • kovane says:

          Oh, just you wait for my next article.

          • Tim Newman says:

            About how fund managers got rich and bragged about it? Aye, I can’t wait. It will no doubt be rivetting in its originality, I mean, fund managers bragging about their wealth? Unique to Russia, surely.

            But I’ll not be holding my breath for anything which could be described as original research, or an insight into how ordinary business is carried out in Russia, or how the degree to which Russians fleece each other renders any activities on the part of westerners insignificant.

  18. Tim Newman says:

    That’s not 10-15 years ago, but 5 at most. And the stories are really worth bragging.

    Give me an example of a westerner fleecing the locals in 2005-2006. I’d be really interested to hear it.

  19. Tim Newman says:

    That’s laughable. But I’m not laughing and not going to let that slide. Show me exactly where I showed ignorance discussing corruption.

    Okay:

    And that was my whole point. Having a score of other ways to earn money Mercedes chose to “take” it. And you’re conveniently looking another way.

    And herein lies your ignorance. As I have told you already, any company doing major business in somewhere like Russia has no choice but to engage in corruption. So no, Mercedes did not have opportunities to make money in Russia without engaging in corruption. And neither am I looking the other way, indeed I have rather consistently acknowledged that Mercedes, and other companies, engage in corruption. But what you are refusing to acknowledge is that the very nature of the Russian system, set up by Russians for the benefit of Russians and Russians only, forces western companies to engage in corruption if they wish to do business at all, and this corruption makes Russians rich at the expense of other Russians. The participation of the western companies is a symptom, not a cause.

    So no, western companies do not come into Russia boasting of how they ripped off Russians. Instead, they come in looking to make money any way they can and find themselves face with the choice of either a scandalously corrupt Russian way of doing business or leaving.

    • kovane says:

      And herein lies your lie.

      So no, Mercedes did not have opportunities to make money in Russia without engaging in corruption.

      Quote: “Daimler’s Russian sales totaled 1.4 billion euros in 2000-2005, with state agencies accounting for 5% of all Mercedes vehicles sold.”

      If Mercedes had “left” the opportunity of doing business with the state, it would have still had 95% of its profits. You are a liar, Tim.

      • Tim Newman says:

        No, in your ignorance you are assuming that the remaining 95% of its profits were obtained without engaging in corruption. And this assumption is almost certainly wrong, hopelessly so.

        So, not a liar, just better able to understand a given situation.

        • kovane says:

          So when I’m buying a car in a Mercedes dealership, Mercedes is still engaging in corruption?

          You’re not even a convincing liar.

          • Tim Newman says:

            Heh! So clueless are you that you insist somebody is lying when the most obvious of facts is pointed out.

            Yes, when Mercedes sells somebody a car in Russia, somewhere along the way they have engaged in corruption, probably of a value equalling about 10% of the purchase price of the car. Customs officers would have been bribed, the permit to start the business would have taken bribery to obtain, the local authorities would have been bribed in order to operate the showroom and the list would go on for a thousand pages and more. This is so blindingly obvious that it is highly amusing that somebody who claims to understand corruption in Russia so well he feels confident to write articles on it repeatedly accuses somebody of lying when it is pointed out. I’m actually looking forward to your next article now, it should be worth a laugh.

            • kovane says:

              This starts dragging on for too long, so this is my last message in the tread.

              Yes, Mercedes most likely had to give bribes just to maintain its operation in Russia – although most of it’s just cutting corners and could have been easily avoided – I’m not arguing that. But there’s probably no country in the world where it’s possible to do that without paying a single dollar in bribes, it’s just a matter of scale, Russia’s being much greater than others’. I don’t know what advanced business school you graduated from, but here, in ignorant Russia, a kickback is always theft of buyer’s money. And in case of a state contract – theft of taxpayers’ money and a grave crime. And Mercedes could have stayed out of it without any serious impact on the profit. But decided to engage nevertheless, just to earn more.

              Quote: “The deals took place in Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, Iraq and at least 16 other countries between 1998 and early 2008.”

              Take note that Mercedes didn’t do anything of the kind in the USA nor in Germany.

              I’m actually looking forward to your next article now, it should be worth a laugh.

              Well, then my shameless self-promotion didn’t go to waste! Mission accomplished!

              I bid you farewell, Tim.

              • Tim Newman says:

                Yes, Mercedes most likely had to give bribes just to maintain its operation in Russia – although most of it’s just cutting corners and could have been easily avoided – I’m not arguing that.

                Firstly, the necessity of giving bribes in Russia is not merely a matter of corner cutting which can be avoided. As I have pointed out to you several times, paying bribes on a hefty scale is essential in Russia for any major business, that you should continue to believe that the payment of bribes is merely corner cutting demonstrates yet again that you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

                I don’t know what advanced business school you graduated from, but here, in ignorant Russia, a kickback is always theft of buyer’s money.

                Yes, but it is not the company that is engaging in the theft, it is the official receiving the kickback. I’ve explained this already, but you still refuse to acknowledge it.

                And in case of a state contract – theft of taxpayers’ money and a grave crime.

                Maybe, but it appears to be a grave crime only so long as it is westerners engaging in it. If it is Russians, then it appears not to be a crime at all.

                And Mercedes could have stayed out of it without any serious impact on the profit. But decided to engage nevertheless, just to earn more.

                Mercedes engaged in corruption the minute they set foot in Russia. They had no option to stay out of it short of leaving altogether, and it is your inability to understand this which makes your writings on corruption worth a lot less than you think they are: they are simply not supported by the facts on the ground.

                Take note that Mercedes didn’t do anything of the kind in the USA nor in Germany.

                Yes, I believe I already pointed out in his very thread that Mercedes didn’t pay bribes in the UK, France, or Australia. Which tends to suggest it is not the companies which bring about the corruption but the officials of the country in question.

                • kovane says:

                  You know, Tim, reading your comments makes me want to quote Goebbels, something that I don’t do that often.

                  Quote: “The English are well known throughout the world for their lack of political scruples. They are experts at the art of hiding their misdeeds behind a facade of virtue. They have been at it for centuries, and it has become such a part of their nature that they hardly notice it any longer. They carry on with such a pious expression and deadly seriousness that they even convince themselves that they are the exemplars of political virtue. They do not admit their hypocrisy to themselves. It never happens that one Englishman says to another with a wink or a smile “We don’t want to fool ourselves, do we now.” They do not only behave as if they were the model of piety and virtue — they really believe that they are. That is both amusing and dangerous.”

                  Of course, like with any blanket statement on race, religion or nationality, it’s off base. But you fit this profile seamlessly.

                  And this last comment of yours is just spectacular, because it’s wrong absolutely completely.

                  Firstly, the necessity of giving bribes in Russia is not merely a matter of corner cutting which can be avoided.

                  It is. It’s just much harder to do it that way and far less profitable.

                  Yes, but it is not the company that is engaging in the theft, it is the official receiving the kickback.

                  Yes, but it’s the company enabling the theft and transferring money to the official.

                  They had no option to stay out of it short of leaving altogether

                  It’s just something you want to believe in.

                  didn’t pay bribes in the UK, France, or Australia

                  You really do believe that, don’t you? Boy, that Goebbels was a perceptive fella.

                  I’m done with you, Tim. I just don’t waste my time arguing with someone who will deny anything that goes beyond his hollier-than-thou creed.

          • marknesop says:

            C’mon, guys. You’re stepping past the point where you’ll be able to be friends after. I know you respect each others’ opinions, and until we see some substantiation, that’s all they are. Let’s try and bring the intensity back a little, we don’t need to be enemies. Please.

            • Misha says:

              As de Custine’s comments about Russia/Russians are okay with some.

              Nothing wrong with a carefully worded role reversal like point to underscore a bias.

            • Yalensis says:

              I don’t even understand what kovane and Tim are arguing about. To my simplistic “sovok” mind, they are both saying the same thing: Capitalists fleece people for the same reason that a cat licks its own private parts: BECAUSE THEY CAN. Nostalgically, I liked it better in Soviet times when industrialization took place without capitalists, foreign or otherwise. So, I don’t see it as Russians vs. foreigners, it’s really capitalists vs. regular people. I mean, the super-rich Russian bourgeoisie aren’t even Russian any more, they’re barely human, they’re like a different species, almost. I mean, Tim is correct that the Russian capitalists are particularly rapacious, and Western European capitalists maybe a tad more refined. But underneath, they’re all the same. Everyone, please re-read the final chapter of Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

              • Misha says:

                Perfection at its ultimate on such matter has yet to be completely found.

                What you mention is prevalent among a good number of the so-called nouveau riche in the West as well.

                In Russia. the mix of nouveau riche, combined with the worst attributes from the Soviet period can especially lead what you’re referring to.

  20. Tim Newman says:

    Where did you even find that bullshit?

    In response to my assertion that neither companies nor employees get away with fleecing locals in Russia or boasting about doing so, you said:

    You’ve got that right, but it’s just part of today’s decorum. You know, it’s kinda too brazen to skin locals alive and simultaneously rub that fact in their faces.

    So, presumably you think that the metophorical equivalent of skinning locals alive is happening to Russians at the hands of western companies. It isn’t.

    And what I’m trying to convey here is that the Westerners always adopted the worst Russian practices and sometimes were even better at them than the Russian themselves.

    Which would come across as utter nonsense to anyone who has done business in Russia, especially if they had the experience of working for both Russian and western companies.

  21. Tim Newman says:

    It is. It’s just much harder to do it that way and far less profitable.

    No, it is impossible. Every single Russian business larger than a kiosk has to pay bribes of some sort to remain in business. I did wonder if your articles on corruption in Russia were based on experience, but it is quite clear that you’ve read some stuff on the internet and then extrapolated it to reach conclusions which are laughable to anyone who has actual, hands-on experience of the subject.

    Yes, but it’s the company enabling the theft and transferring money to the official.

    Right, but for some reason your criticism seems reserved for those who enable the theft, not those who set up the system and benefit from it. Of course it is easy to link to reports of a US court charging Merecedes with bribing officials in Russia. But where was your interest, let alone condemnation, of those Russian officials who not only received the bribes but ensure the system will still be paying them handsomely even as the verdicts in the US are handed down? Your silence on this point is defeaning, yet you leapt at the first opportunity to condemn a western company for partaking in corruption in Russia.

    I just don’t waste my time arguing with someone who will deny anything that goes beyond his hollier-than-thou creed.

    This would carry more weight had you not already wasted your time demonstrating that you don’t really know what you’re talking about. There is nothing holier-than-thou about acknowledging that companies pay bribes in places like Russia largely because they have to, and faced with the choice they would much rather work with a transparent and corruption-free regime. What is a classic example of a holier-than-thou approach is to condemn western companies for partaking in corruption in Russia whilst offering ne’er a mention, let alone a condemnation, of the Russians who insist that all companies operate this way and benefit handsomely from it. Your article on corruption in Russia correctly identified the various levels, but you appear to be hopelessly ignorant of the respective roles of Russian officials and western companies and the principles of cause and effect as it applies in this case. It is not western companies that are a problem in Russia, it is mind-bogglingly corrupt Russians who operate an equally mind-bogglingly corrupt system. Your attempts to portray western companies as the problem whilst completely ignoring the role your own countrymen play is a far better example of holier-than-thou preaching than anything I’ve said thus far.

    • Igor says:

      companies pay bribes in places like Russia largely because they have to, and faced with the choice they would much rather work with a transparent and corruption-free regime

      So, Tim, actively seeking an opportunity to give a bribe is not the crime a “western” business is ready to commit in Russia for a 300% of profit (to quote yet another German)?

      mind-bogglingly corrupt Russians who operate an equally mind-bogglingly corrupt system

      I agree that it is easier to rob a Buddhist church than a fortified stronghold of a gang of fellow robbers (re. what environment the companies would prefer) 🙂 . They are your fellow businessmen, those Russians in the law enforcement, courts & governments. Their ultimate goal is not to produce something in their line of “business”, but to maximize their personal profit (in the limit – to do nothing, just collect money from others). They are not afraid to do so because they are the law enforcement, prosecutors , government etc. So it seems you are simply arguing for a higher profit margin for a competing business (i.e. for the “western” companies).

      Polemics aside, you were, probably, saying that currently the total (monetary + social) cost of giving/paying a bribe in Russia is set too low🙂 …. At least, it is lower than in, say, US. Unfortunately, as long as “businessmen” in the Russian law enforcement, prosecution, courts & various levels of government are everywhere and at every level, it is “market” which determines the level of bribery. You need “communists” – or other species alien to “capitalists” there to change the situation.

  22. Tim Newman says:

    You know, Tim, reading your comments makes me want to quote Goebbels, something that I don’t do that often.

    That you know Goebbels well enough to quote, and apparently have done so before, is enlightening.

  23. Tim Newman says:

    Actually, that you consider Goebbels to be an authority worth quoting is equally enlightening. Is there anyone else from the Nazi leadership whose words of wisdom you apply in the course of debating online?

    • Yalensis says:

      I just did a quick google and found some interesting quotes from Hermann Goering at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/h/hermann_goering.html
      For example:
      Goering on education:
      “Education is dangerous – every educated person is a future enemy. “
      Goering on nutrition and fitness:
      “Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat. “
      Goering on the … er… Jewish issue:
      “I herewith commission you to carry out all preparations with regard to… a total solution of the Jewish question in those territories of Europe which are under German influence. “
      Goering on war and peace:
      “Of course people don’t want war. Why should a poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best thing he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? “
      A more tender side of Goering in his protective role:
      “Shoot first and ask questions later, and don’t worry, no matter what happens, I will protect you. “

      And… my personal favorite: Goering on culture:
      “Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning! “

      • Misha says:

        Yalensis

        Seeing how some of these discussions narrow when the same reply prompt is incerasingly clicked, I’m following up here on a Rome-Carthage point you made – relative to the aforementioned Cold War era treatment of Russian-Americans versus those of Cuban and Chinese origins.

        In some influential circles, it’s academically fashionable to go back in history and cherry pick a variety of particulars in a way to suggest a Russia at historic odds with the West – as well as a Russia with a certain set of negatives over a prolonged period.

        The West has often not been united and Russia has been allied at one time or another with leading Western nations. Hence, there’s no clear pattern of a continuous Russia-West collision course.

        The Russia haters overlook this. Berandine Bailey’s “The Captive Nations” is a pro-Captive Nations Committee/Captive Nations Week book which carefully omits instances of cooperation and good relations between Russia and the US.

        In the US, a common view among actively pro-Israeli politicians is premised on their claim of being pro-Israeli because it’s in America’s best interests.

        Using the same line of reasoning, I’m pro-Russian because it’s in America’s best interests.

      • marknesop says:

        I would have figured Goering for a Luger man.

        • Yalensis says:

          Yeah, I think that quote might be inaccurate. I read a different version once, where he would reach for his Mauser.

          • marknesop says:

            Wasn’t he the Air Marshall? The Air Force is usually not allowed anything harder or sharper than a chocolate bar. He probably wouldn’t know which end of a Mauser had the hole in it.

            • kovane says:

              You’re confusing Goering with Goebbels. The former was Hitler’s propaganda minister and stood out among other Nazi leaders by being an intellectual and university graduate. Also he probably was the most rabid anti-Semite among them, but it was his job requirement – he had to maintain his power after Hitler’s rise to the post of Fuhrer.

              • marknesop says:

                Well, I’m not – I was definitely talking about Goering. Somewhere along the line the talk turned from Goebbels quotes to Goering quotes. But I can believe what you say about education differences; Goering’s quotes make him sound like a tool.

                I finished with your article and will send it off to you poste-haste as soon as I get home, for your final edits. Sorry I cannot get Igor’s substantiation, his blog (Unpublished Notes) is dead and gone, not even archives left.

                • kovane says:

                  Why wait when you can upload the file into WordPress media library? I remember reading Igor’s material but have completely forgotten its content.

                • marknesop says:

                  I could have done that, but if I dumped it into the blog the font would all be the same colour and you would not be able to pick out edit recommendations unless you reread it word for word to compare. I sent the draft to you and you should have it now.

                  I’m almost positive Igor’s piece on the subject cited Browder giving some sort of talk in which he bragged about the “Hermitage Method”. In fact, it’s the type of thing I was thinking of when I mentioned western companies bragging about fleecing the locals. I should have clarified, when I said that, that I didn’t mean those companies do it in the host country or on a network monitored in the host country. Tim’s quite right about company efforts dedicated to sensitivity in that respect, and even somebody in management who did that would be fired or – at the very least – reassigned. I’m talking about once they’re back home strutting about how much money they made, perhaps at a businessman’s dinner or similar event. Anyway, if Igor had any background for that it would have made a good citation. Maybe I’ll email him.

                • Igor says:

                  Ah.. the entire (or close to it) blog had been transferred to WordPress http://zed244.wordpress.com/

                  The “Browder” is at
                  http://zed244.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/%E2%80%9Cnashi%E2%80%9D-chicago-style-updated/

                  and the interview with Browder at

                  Cheers

                • marknesop says:

                  Thanks, Igor!!!! And it’s good to know your blog survived.

                • Yalensis says:

                  @Mark: why the talk turned from Goebbels to Goering? Tim had requested quotes from a different Nazi, and I was just trying to be helpful! ROFL.

  24. Yalensis says:

    P.S.
    Mark, when you call Goering a “tool”, you are being simply adorable. I mean, the guy was a fucking monster!

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, I guess so; although, to be fair to Goering, they were all such monsters that he didn’t really stand out to more than tool status. What I meant is that other ministers used to snicker behind their hands at “Fat Goering”, and speculate that it would have to be one hell of a big plane for him to get in the cockpit (since he was the Air Minister, and technically was supposed to maintain active flight status). Curiously, his official photos uniformly reflect a man who was at most mildly overweight, and one photo I saw of him dead (suicide) certainly was not a fat guy. I don’t believe he was in prison long before he was sentenced to be executed, and killed himself the night before.

      I’ll always remember our instructor on the standard issue cold-weather and sea survival wear (the Mustang Floater Jacket , except ours is the “original” and not fluorescent green as pictured here) – which was designed to research conducted by University of British Columbia (UBC) – telling us that much of the empirical data on cold-water survival internationally was based on research conducted during WW II by Germany. Most of that consisted of sticking a rectal probe in prisoners to collect data on body-core temperature, and freezing them to death in seawater. While we can be grateful for the research results which have saved many lives, I can’t think of anyone who would applaud the manner in which it was collected.

  25. Misha says:

    Louis P. Lochner’s “The Goebbels Diaries, 1942-1943” and Hugh Trevor-Roper’s “Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels” are good reads.

    http://rationalrevolution.net/special/library/goebbels_diaries.htm

    http://www.amazon.com/FINAL-ENTRIES-1945-DIARIES-GOEBBELS/dp/184415646X

  26. Tim Newman says:

    Tim had requested quotes from a different Nazi…

    No, I had not.

    • Yalensis says:

      Yes, you did (your quote from 18 Jan 2011 9:14):

      “Actually, that you consider Goebbels to be an authority worth quoting is equally enlightening. Is there anyone else from the Nazi leadership whose words of wisdom you apply in the course of debating online?”
      To be sure, you were talking to kovane, not to me, but, once again, I was just trying to be helpful….
      Oh, never mind… if I have to explain my “clever” joke, then I guess it wasn’t so funny after all…..🙂

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  28. bannman says:

    Your assessment is complete nonsense.
    America “grooming Nemtsov”.? Hardly. Anyway, the authoritties have obviously been reading your bilge and taken it seriously, as they have now banned his party from elections.
    Only comedy figures such as Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky (and who knows, maybe even Limonov) will be allowed to stand fot eh presidency, and only other pseudo parties such as “Fair” Russia and Medevedev’s cabal will oppose pseudo-party United Russia. But, odd as it may seem, that’s the way most Russians like it. The “smack of firm government”, cheap vodka, and lack of the need to think for oneself, no matter who in power is robbing you blind.

  29. Pingback: Link utili online, critici su Putin, ma pure non critici (ed Isil) | Blog Materiali dell’Associazione Federigo II Svevia

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