The American Enterprise Institute – Clueless on Russia, Brilliant at Projection

Uncle Volodya says, "What you said hurt me very much. I cried all the way to the bank."

There’s something strange about the windows at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Every window you look out of, at any time of day, any day of the year, you can see Russia collapsing. If you stop by the meteorology section to check the forecast for Russia, it’s always “Overcast with heavy rain overnight, turning to impenetrable gloom by morning”. Kicking Russia is somewhat of a blood sport among the think-tanks of America, but AEI is in a class by itself. In short, if wishing could make it so, AEI would have been dancing on Russia’s grave since the mid-1970’s.

Consider this recent bouncy-in-a-suicide-note-sort-of-way prescription for depression from Leon Aron, of the American Enterprise Institute (which I received from Nils at RussiaWatchers; thanks, Nils). To hear him tell it, running a 4% national deficit is reason to run off the nearest cliff, the elitniyy are fed up with the Kremlin and must be appeased at once, and even amid the signs of economic recovery, Russians are despondent and miserable. And so they should be, because no matter how many positive aspects one chooses to cite, despair is evidently just around the corner.

It’s hard to overstate how misinformed this is, and it would be hard not to conclude that misinformation was its intent. In fact, we could probably simplfy the entire Russia-Watchers analysis and commentary process by asking authors, “What, in your opinion, was the most positive and upbeat period in Russia’s history to date?” If the author responds, “The nineties”, discreetly reach up under your hairline and switch your audio receiving circuits to “Off”. Anyone who thinks ordinary Russians were dancing in the streets during the years the country was spiraling hellbound with a drunkard at the helm has a funny understanding of “optimism”. Of course, many western analysts believe those were Russia’s golden days – the last, best chance for achieving western reforms. That’s because the country was tearing itself apart and people were seeing their life’s savings wiped out overnight – I was there in 1998, and saw children in the Far East trade their father’s military medals for a jar of peanut butter. Good times; my, yes. I don’t mean to suggest the west in general is ghoulish and wants to see the Russian people suffer; that’s not true, and the west includes some of Russia’s most ardent supporters. But some western institutions pray devoutly for Russia’s destruction, and many who should know better are absolutely convinced that unless Russia unquestioningly adopts western-style management and business practices by, say, tomorrow morning, they won’t last out next week. Those people worship Boris Yeltsin, because he talked the privatization talk they love so well, while offering the double bonus of wiping out years of Soviet wealth overnight.

The west has western-style management and business practices – how’s that working out for you, guys?

So, Russia is a gray and sad place where, no matter how they try, they just can’t seem to get it right. People barely glance at each other as they pass on the crumbling sidewalks, too lost in their own misery to acknowledge the misery of others.

Except for at the Rai nightclub in Moscow, around this time last month, when about 2000 revelers held a naked party to celebrate Putin’s popularity. Russia won the right to host the Olympics and its first Formula One race in 2014, and is the first Eastern-European country to host the World Cup, in 2018. Wages have risen steadily since 2000, and the country has a large cash surplus. The world is paying energy-dominated economies $110.00 a barrel for oil. Truly, the outlook is grim.

Naked parties held to celebrate the popularity of western leaders so far this year? Zip, I’m afraid. Naked parties held – ever – for Boris Yeltsin, The Great Reformer? I’m afraid not. It’s a good spring for Russia-themed parties; this weekend, worldwide celebrations will mark the 50th anniversary of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s history-making space flight in 1961. Russians are fond of celebration, and have observed 12 public holidays already this year. The USA has had 3. If Russians are gloomy about national economic prospects, Americans must be nearly suicidal – a poll this winter by international research firm Synovate, which surveyed 22,000 people from 22 countries, concluded Russians are 30% more optimistic about economic prospects than are Americans. Slightly more recently, American confidence has tanked.

But….but, but what about capital flight from Russia? Last year, $38 Billion left the country, Leon wants us to notice. So let’s take a look at that. For one thing, capital flight is exactly the same thing as capital outflow: capital flight is what you call capital outflow when you want to scare the shit out of people. Is it bad? Might be. Capital flight often occurs for a couple of bad reasons – money laundering, and panic over currency instability. Since the ruble was not unstable last year (in fact, it rose faster against the U.S. dollar than any other currency), money laundering is one possibility. But if that were the case, the Russian government would likely institute official control over capital movement, as the USA does to prevent capital flight (or outflow, if you’re getting tired of being scared). But capital outflow is just the movement of money; if your national economy is not on the rocks, you don’t necessarily have a lot to worry about. A net annual capital outflow of $38 Billion isn’t as much cause for alarm in an economy that has something like a $225 Billion cash surplus – and the third-largest cash reserves in the world – as, say a monthly capital outflow of nearly that much ($34 Billion) while you were running a deficit of somewhere between 53% and 85%  of GDP (depending who you ask and how it’s quantified) would be. Why, in such circumstances, you might find that even close friends were afraid to lend you money.

Maybe this would be a good time to take a little break, and talk for a minute about projection. I’m sure everyone has at least an idea what it is, but since it was part of the title, I’d feel better if we start with the book definition. According to Wade & Tavris’ “Psychology”, projection is “a psychological defense mechanism where a person unconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to other people. Thus, projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others have those feelings”. The authors go on to say, “An example of this behavior might be blaming another for self failure”. Is there anything you’d like to talk about, Leon? No? Please yourself, then. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, but come on – look at what you wrote. A 72% spike in new-car sales in Russia between January 2010 and January 2011 suggests “an awareness of hopes and promises unfulfilled–both economic and political.” Here’s a suggestion, Leon – when you’re trying to infer economic promises unfulfilled, pick something that’s actually done worse. Like new-car sales did in the USA, for example.

Well, if you look at Mr. Aron’s sources, you’ll see where he gets these ideas. Yes, that’s right; Novaya Gazeta. In fact, nearly all of his information on Russia’s mood and economic performance appears to have come from a single one-page article. If we could digress just for a moment, you’ll see Novaya Gazeta is cited, followed by four repetitions of “Ibid”. “Ibid” means the information was found “in the same place”, and if used correctly, the page number is also listed if that information was found on a different page of the same reference. The economist he cites is Vladimir Mau. If his name seems familiar, it’s because we just talked about him a couple of weeks ago. I suggested at the time that while he was as good as anyone else at analyzing economic events which have already transpired, he sucked pretty hard at forecasting.

Similarly, some day perhaps Finance Ministers will learn that they are just as clueless as economists when it comes to forecasting economics that fluctuate wildly based on current events. Alexei Kudrin might well have said in February that “economic growth based on oil has been exhausted”.  Except in mid-February the world oil price was $85.58. Barely a month later, the western powers imposed and enforced a no-fly zone over Libya, announcing their intent to depose Libya’s government and allow anti-government rebels to seize control of the oil-producing nation. Those who aspire to be economists – what happened? That’s right; the price jumped to $105.40. Let’s see…Russia pumps 10.2 million barrels per day….that’s $19.82 times 10.2 million…Wow. That’s $202,164,000.00 per day. How’s that for economic growth, Mr. Kudrin? And the very same month he got Mr. Aron all excited by seeming to be depressed about Russia’s economic prospects, he told everyone else that the deficit was already forecast at less than 4% (3.6%), and he fully expected it would be down to 2% in 2011. He appeared sufficiently confident that he said Russia could cut back on its borrowing. Bear in mind, that’s before he knew what was going to happen in Libya and bring in over an extra $200 Million a day. So he seems a little…confused: perhaps numbers really aren’t his thing.

Here’s the curious thing about Novaya Gazeta; while it typically is virulently anti-government (have you heard of Yulia Latynina?), it’s owned by Alexander Lebedev. What’s curious about that is the way the west (including, emphatically, AEI), can’t stand Putin and russophobes never get tired of referring to him as a “proud KGB spy”. Yet Mr. Lebedev was….a KGB spy. The west likes to refer to Lebedev as “the anti-oligarch”, which is what you call an oligarch if you want to imply he came by all his money through the sweat of his brow rather than stealing it like oligarchs do. So Putin’s career in government service made him sneaky and untrustworthy, while Lebedev’s made him bluff and hearty and full of good-humoured bonhomie. Yet they worked in the same capacity for the same employer.

Remember what we learned about projection?

Look, Leon; you can keep on with this if you like, but making up ridiculous claims about spreading malaise in Russia even as it grows wealthier and wages rise so that consumers have ever more access to consumer goods, while poverty steadily declines, is not going to make it happen. The gloom and apprehension you speak of simply does not exist on a widespread scale. Likely Russians nearing pensionable age do worry about living on their pension. Perhaps you could point me to a country where soon-to-be pensioners look forward to the experience? Here’s a tip – don’t bother about checking the UK. But Putin has steadily raised pensions, and another increase was announced only last month. Nobody is going to become an oligarch on a pension, but pensions in Russia see more frequent raises than western countries.

In summary, the great majority of Russians are either optimistic about the nation’s economic direction, or at worst not frightened it’s going to worsen. There still appears to be plenty of economic-growth punch in oil, and Russia recently signed large deals with BP and Exxon for exploration, so increases in Russia’s capacity are a definite possibility. The Russian government seems to be doing at least as good a job of looking out for its people as western democracies are, and Russia’s current government has popularity ratings western leaders fantasize about.

Most of what you said is simply not true. Stay away from the windows, will you?

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310 Responses to The American Enterprise Institute – Clueless on Russia, Brilliant at Projection

  1. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis,
    “I think eagle is anxiously looking to see from which direction invaders coming this time!”
    Probably should be a three-headed rather than two-headed eagle – one to watch the West/Washington-Brussels, one to watch the East/Beijing(I am sorry to say this -how I wish Russia and China could be true friends!) and one to watch itself – Russian Fifth Columns! The most dangerous is the fifth column. This one can weaken Russia internally to allow ‘intervention'(under the guise of ‘democratization’ by supporting liberal oppositionists)by the West and if sufficiently weakened, I don’t see why Beijing would not be interested to get her hands on the juicy natural resources so replete in Siberia. Then again, the West brooks no rivals and definitely wish to demolish China as well…so I think in the end the main dangers are the West and fifth columns. The following websites again are examples of an innate desire/dream within Western politicians/elites as to how China should become – a failed state to be a lapdog to Washington et al:-
    Sounds strangely similar to their ‘analysis’ of Russia, huh? The ‘analysis’ is actually their dreams, their wants – and the hope that someone within China(or Russia or any other ‘rival’/’enemy’ country) will have enough idealistic madness to stage a huge ‘revolution’ against ‘rival regimes’.
    “Personally, I don’t believe the Tatar “yoke” was nearly as horrible as sometimes portrayed. ”
    I agree.
    Russians are Europeans. Phenotypically and genotypically – European. No scientific basis at all for the ‘racist’ beliefs of European ‘liberals’. As for the inherent assumption of these ‘liberals’ that Asian people are inherently ‘slavish’ – again that’s another product of wishful thinking. I cannot say for the Mongolian people(although I think it would be similar as well) but generally East Asians like the Chinese and Koreans are mindful of civilization and order and authority. I think many Europeans(of the past and present) are like that as well. Even then, in our history, there are many instances of rebellions and the rise of dynasties by ‘commoners'(eg the Ming dynasty was established by a person from the ‘peasant class’) – so to say Asians are ‘slavish’ in psyche is certainly incorrect. Confucian ethics probably led to a people less verbose and willing to articulate their thoughts compared to say Americans. While I agree that there are differences in thinking between Europeans and Asians, none of those differences can be thought of in such negative sense. And I also believe that despite these ‘real’ differences, we all can cooperate if only politicians stop ‘dividing’ us.
    You are absolutely right that the Tatars of old were no less autocratic as the Western European sovereigns. “Democratic Western European States” is a very recent and modern entity and took centuries to evolve and it’s not so certain if such system of government can SURVIVE the centuries of challenges to come as yet. If only Western politicians can see that and stop being so ideologically dogmatic.


    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: Thanks for links about subversive intentions of Americans! In regard to American ideological attacks against China, I was delighted to see this article yesterday. China finally fighting back against intolerable hypocrisy! I wish Russia would too: all they would need to do is commission a lengthy annual report detailing all American abuses of human rights; maybe this would shame Americans into keeping their mouths shut on this issue.
      Re. Siberia: I am not worried at all about China having any designs on Siberian territories. Much of that land is remote and un-arable. Plus, I believe China still has plenty of relatively unpopulated lands of its own in the interior (since vast majority of Chinese population live in coastal areas; please correct me if I am mistaken in this). If it ever did come to the fact that China needed more land for agricultural development, I am sure a deal could be reached with Russia that did not involve conflict. Maybe a land purchase; or joint development.
      On “Fifth Column”: You are right, Russian eagle should have third head gazing nervously down at own belly…

    • marknesop says:

      China would do well to remember that the west will never deliberately weaken itself in terms of its access to a disproportionate share of global resources – therefore, if by some miracle liberal-leaning, western-friendly leaders assumed control in Russia, western attention would turn to how China’s growth might be managed and controlled. Although India has long been explored as a counterweight to Chinese power and influence, that policy might change rapidly if the west perceived a reliable and compliant ally in Russia.

  2. Misha says:

    Russia can also benefit by propping effective, not yet fully utilized, pro-Russian advocacy, with an understandong of English language mass media biases and how to best confront them.

    Russia shouldn’t rely on folks who don’t share their concerns, while being wary of opportunistic types.

  3. sinotibetan says:

    @ Misha
    “My own sense is that the Sino-Soviet dispute was something primarily motivated by differences between the leadership of the two countries.”
    I agree.
    Thanks for the ‘grayfalcon’ blogsite. One very interesting statement from that article:-
    “The Empire is notorious for throwing its allies under the bus, though, once they’ve served their purpose…”
    I see a Western ‘divide and rule’ policy for the Balkan statelets that have emerged. Interestingly we see statelets like Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia with not much capacity for ‘real’ independence(political and economic) especially Kosovo – being land-locked and devoid of anything that can lead to viable economic independence. I think the EU’s ‘long-term’ policy is for a ‘denationalized’ Europe – a Europe where the identity is a nebulous ‘Europe’ rather than German, Pole , Croat , Serb etc. Any form of ‘patriotism’ or ‘nationalism’ is anathema to the pan-Europeanists in Brussels. Hence, not only racists/ultranationalists are targetted but also those who are merely patriotic/nationalist(without the racist connotation). I read somewhere that European pre-occupation with soccer or the world-cup is partly due to this suppressed nationalism. Only in soccer can a German be German or a Serb a Serb rather than merely ‘European’. I know, many here may disagree with that. As for the Balkans, since the ‘threat’ of Milosevic is gone, the West has decided that ‘it’s time’ to purge Croat nationalists or even ultra-nationalists(of course in future, perhaps Kosovar Albanian generals or even Bosnian generals) so as to further the ‘process of European Integration’. Western powers in Brussels and Washington never learn from history that the Balkans is one area that can get their hands burned! Probably long-lasting ‘peace’ can only come in the Balkan states if the peoples there decide for themselves what form of governments they would have rather than ‘political prescriptions’ from Brussels and Washington.
    “Now, many Serbs are wondering about the benefit of doing what Western neolibs and neocons prefer.”
    To be honest, I am a layman with not that great a knowldege on political ideologies – but I’m trying my best to learn up slowly. I am not exactly sure ‘where’ to put Western ideologues as for now, but I have come to a position of opposing quite a number of Western ideas/dogmas without any formal training in political ideas. Probably those political dogmatists in the West have outdown themselves to the point that rather lack-of-formal training people like me has begun to see through their hypocrisy.

    @ Mark.
    A little late congratulations for being voted 1st in Anatoly’s blog for Russian-related sites. I have to sheepishly admit that I did a Medvedev – I abstained from voting. I must say, I hope to no offence to you and Anatoly(and in spite of my not commenting for some time in Sublime Oblivion) that I consider your site and Anatoly’s as ‘just as excellen’t, hence I could not ‘vote’. Thank you.


  4. sinotibetan says:

    1.) Thank you for the xinhua links! Yes, Russia too should chronicle America’s long list of human rights abuses – then it would add more weight and credibility to China’s. Reading through that xinhua article, I suspect that America has a lot of domestic troubles not being given due attention by the US government. Hence, the ‘interest’ of the American political elites to be nosy on ‘rival nations’. Easier to ‘create enemies’ (eg. Putin is ‘Sauron’, China is ‘unfree’, Lukashenko is ‘the last Stalin in Europe’ etc. etc.)for the consumption of the average electorate than to rectify bread-and-butter issues in the domestic arena.
    2.)I see your point about Siberia. Yes, you are right – Siberia is too inhospitable for the Chinese to ever want to live there. I don’t think Siberia is conducive for agricultural pursuits, even if ‘global warming’ were to occur – Russia and China would more likely work together in developing the natural resources. Such would probably be a win-win situation for the economically moribund regions of Heilongjiang and Jilin as well as resource-rich Krasnoyarsk Krai and Zabaykalsky Krai. You are right that most Chinese live in the coastal provinces. Apparently from 2025 onwards, China’s population will begin to decline as the TFR ~ 1.54 and might plummet further with ‘modernization’. So, the ‘need for more space’ will also decline.
    @ Misha:-
    Thank you for the links. I have to slowly read them as I think the Balkans is perhaps one of the most difficult region to understand! A question:
    “Among Western neolibs, the Serbs and Croats aren’t as positively viewed as the nationalist Bosnian Muslims and Albanians.”
    Why is this so?
    I completely agree that nationalists Croats, Serbs, Albanians and Bosnians have committed atrocities. Just that the Serbs are made the ‘bad guys’ and the others ‘white-washed’.
    “Although India has long been explored as a counterweight to Chinese power and influence, that policy might change rapidly if the west perceived a reliable and compliant ally in Russia.”
    Interesting comment. The West might overdo itself by trying to wreck Russia up especially IF Russia becomes a compliant and reliable ‘ally’. For that to occur, Western suggestions would have wrecked Russia up to be of hardly any influence in ‘containing’ China. The West lacks the imagination(probably due to its dogmatic attitude) to allow Russia to be strong and have an independent policy. An independent and powerful Russia, while not a compliant Washington lapdog, is not a 100% ‘ally’ of China as well. Like that, global geopolitical stability is preserved and no big power is too big to bully all the time. Such is lost to those higher-ups in Washington.


    • Misha says:


      My last two comments at this thread before this one should’ve been posted below your directly above set of comments.

      Instead, you can find them slightly above.

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: Re. xinhua article: It is totally true that USA has dismal human rights record. At the same time, I think the Chinese were “gilding the lily”, maybe exagerrating just a tad, to score a political point: “You criticize us, we criticize you right back.” But there’s nothing wrong with that, and I wish Russia would also engage in this type of “tit for tat” criticism, instead of just taking it on the chin.
      Note: I saw the xinhua article in INOSMI, where it was translated into Russian. Russian commenters made many pertinent points, as usual. Some scoffed at it as “what-aboutism”, on the level of old Soviet propaganda “Yes, but you lynch Negroes.” But most agreed with thrust of article, and added many points to the long list of American human rights abuses. For example, commenters pointed out that (1) more Americans died of hunger during Great Depression than Soviet citizens perished in “Golodomor” famine of 1930’s; (2) more Americans languish in American prisons than ever were inmates in Soviet Gulag; etc etc. On latter point, current American Gulag is a vast network of privatized jails; and there is much evidence that a whole caste of people (minorities, of course, and mostly NOT violent criminals) are unjustly syphoned into this giant machine in order to make profits for the owners of the prisons. Both China and Russia could usefully bring up this fact every time America criticizes them for tossing some dissident into the pokey.

      • Misha says:

        I came across material saying that “Golodomor” gets spelled as “Holodomor” for the purpose of suggestively giving that instance a linkage to the WW II era “Holocaust.”

        • marknesop says:

          I never heard that, but it does sort of have that effect, doesn’t it? I’ve never seen it spelt with the “G”.

          • Yalensis says:

            It never occurred to me that the odd spelling of “Holomodor” was done for political reasons. I just assumed they were trying to reproduce the dialectal pronounciation: In most western Russian dialects, including Ukraine, people pronounce the letter “G” like a breathy cross between a “GH” and a “R” type sound. My father used to prnounce the Russian word “GOROD” (city) something like “KHOROD”. Some students learning Russian have asked me why Russian dogs say “GAV GAV”, when they bark. They don’t. They actually say “RAF RAF…” because the “G” is pronounced almost like a breathy “R”. Muscovite dogs wouldn’t understand…

    • Misha says:

      Regarding your follow-up on this observation of mine (pardon my not initially picking up on this inquiry of yours):

      “Among Western neolibs, the Serbs and Croats aren’t as positively viewed as the nationalist Bosnian Muslims and Albanians.”


      Like the Ukrainian nationalist org. Svoboda, Croat supporters of Tudjman have been openly suspect of EU intentions. In turn Western neolib types are suspect of the two. Note that openDemocracy (oD) has run commentary critical of Svoboda. The manner of that criticism doesn’t include Svoboda’s anti-Russian stances. Also note that oD runs non-Svoboda, Ukrainian nationalist leaning commentary, that’s critical of Russia. Count RFE/RL as a venue with culturally biased articles against Russia and Serbia.

      During the Bosnian Civil War, Croats showed a willingness to prefer the Serbs over the Bosnian Muslim nationalists, who willingly accepted the support of Western neolibs.

      The Albanians have differences with the Serbs, which partly influences the Western neolib support of the former over the latter.

      Western neolibs prone to getting Soros grants don’t appear to like getting challenged in a relatively level situation. This mindset extends to countries with noticeable elements who don’t buy into neolib to neocon leaning slants.

      On former Communist bloc issues, there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference between neolibs and neocons.

  5. sinotibetan says:

    Dear PvMikhail,

    Somehow, your views and mine are quite similar in many issues! And we are separated by thousands of miles and different cultures and civilizations as well! I just had to ‘reproduce’ what you said about ‘democracy’:-
    “I think populism comes hand in hand with modern democracy and nobody can do anything about it. This is why I consider democracy as unnecessary and illogical. Stupid people who can be influenced by populist tricks – the majority – elects a government, which does whatever it wants, and nobody can do anything about it. Ok, you can demonstrate, so what? That doesn’t change anything. The minority, who have some kind of political knowledge and responsibility can’t influence government, because they are minority. The only thing they can do is spreading awareness, or enter the political stage. Corruption and then populist trick and corruption again. People will forget everything. So do elections have any meaning? questionable”
    You have hit it right on the nail and couldn’t have said it better! I feel frustrated too because in ‘democracy’, far too often manipulative, selfish and dumb politicians get elected by a majority that readily allow themselves to be manipulated.


    • Misha says:

      What area did the Magyars come from?


      • Yalensis says:

        Here is home movie of PvMikhail’s ancestor (Attila the Hun) rushing home from battle to meet his new son:

        • PvMikhail says:

          wow, strange movie 🙂 I am not used to these old pre-war films.

          • Yalensis says:

            @pvMikhail, this is a clip from (IMHO) the greatest film ever made, “Kriemhilds Rache” by German expressionist director, Fritz Lang. It is the second part of a 2-part epic based on Germany’s national epic, the “Niebelungenlied”. Part I is called “Siegfried’s Death”, and recounts Siegfried’s exploits (slaying dragon, winning treasure horde, defeating Icelandic queen Brunhilde, etc.) and his marriage to Kriemhild, sister of Gunther, ruler of the city of Worms. Gunther and his evil consigliore, Hagen, plot to kill Siegfried, then steal the treasure horde (which rightfully now belongs to Kriemhild, as her dowry). Kriemhild swears bloody revenge against her own brothers. End of Part I (3 hours). Next 3 hours (“Kriemhild’s Revenge”) concerns her trip to Hungary and marrying Attila, in order to unite the clans of Teutons and Magyars. Attila is head over heels in love with this gorgeous blonde Teutonic babe, but all she cares about is revenge against her brothers. Attila interrupts his conquest of Rome to rush home to his wife after she bears his son, Etzel Junior. Attila loves his family so much he promises Kriemhild any wish. She wishes that he would invite her brothers to his “palace” for a ceremonial feast. I won’t give the ending away, in case you ever see the film, but I think you can guess it does not turn out well for all involved….

            • PvMikhail says:

              thanks, I have to widen my knowledge base especially on the field of arts. I am not very experienced in “human” subjects. 😦 I am all out “real” person.

      • PvMikhail says:

        sinotibetan, Misha: strange enough, but I am sometimes an outsider here, so don’t try to judge an average Hungarian based on me 🙂 . My views are not so popular amongst magyar intelligentsia, which is more liberal leaning. (Maybe that is because I wasn’t born to a standard middle class family, but to a working class one. If I want to be objective even in view of myself, I have to consider this fact as a factor in my sometimes radical views.) In addition to that, if you look through magyar history, we always fought against tyrants for national sovereignty or liberal freedoms. In my opinion, magyars tried to become more Europeans than standard Europeans, and sometimes they succeeded in this. We always tried to forget our roots and this can be felt even today in the “european rhetoric”. The finn-ugor theory, which was encouraged by the Habsburg Empire, created an identity crisis, and some people feel ashamed to declare, that magyars were asiatic or at least have some Asian roots. I think this is wrong.

        Recently Hungarian non-racist right wing and far right wing nationalist forces like to underline our great history and Asiatic roots with an anti-European bias (the reason of their rhetoric is the negative effects of EU on Hungary). However far-right nationalists can quarrel with each other all day, because they can’t even decide on what is considered originally magyar. For example there are circles who are christian nationalists and there are others who prefer “original” paganism and hate christianity as jewish conspiracy or european yoke. Mainstream right wing populist forces stay with “European rhetoric”.

        In connection with populism: it can be unbelievably stupid sometimes. Viktor Orban (leader of right-wing populist Fidesz) is our Premier and the leader of EU for half a year. It is worth following that what he says in Bruxelles and what he tells us at home is two different things. He flames people with strong anti-EU statements at home, compares it to Habsburg Empire at the anniversary of anti-Austrian uprising of March 15. And then he goes to Bruxelles and considerably tones down rhetoric. The other frequently mentioned topic of Fidesz is system changing. They glorify themselves as one of the main authors of that process and they keep telling us that they didn’t finish yet. As militant anti-communists, they always label everything as communist and want to replace it with a new ideologically clean stuff. It’s just crazy. Their auxiliary party, the Christian Democrats proposes a bunch of dumb ideas, like to change our famous Statue of Liberty to Virgin Mary and to rename Moskva square after a pre-war historical figure. Very very boring. Meanwhile they named a square after Elvis Presley, come ooon, really! ROFLCOPTER

        • marknesop says:

          You seem to have gotten one hell of an education for a guy from a working-class family. Well done.

          • PvMikhail says:

            I think education depends on the person’s inner force to search for answers to questions and everlasting struggle for justice. You need an environment with full of stimulus (our Weimar-like Hungary is just fine in this context), because if you have no problems, you will not search solutions, that’s all. (My literature (and history) teacher told me, that there is no artist without problems, because people without problems will not do anything remarkable, they will only enjoy their fine life as it is.) For example a rich ruling class will always be interested only in preservation of status quo.
            Furthermore you need some good teachers. I think the class of your family is not so important as these factors. 🙂
            I also have to give a credit to our totally free education even at universities inherited from the communist system, although ruined by the last 20 years.

        • Misha says:


          On your opening point, I’m perfectly aware of that and appreciate your input.

          For sheer logic sake, I can’t be a racist. In my book, there’re plenty of Russian and non-Russian finks. I judge on an individual basis.

  6. Misha says:

    A Russian’s admiration of the Mongol Empire:

    Dunno about some of his other choices.

    A recent new reports says he’s thinking of playing in Russia if the Phoenix Coyotes move to Winnipeg.

  7. sinotibetan says:

    Dear Misha,
    Thank you for recommending the books for further reading regarding the Balkans. 🙂


    • Misha says:

      There’s much more Sinotibetian.

      The English language mass media coverage of the wars of the last decade in former Yugoslavia is horrid.

      This continues on with examples like RFE/RL and the Soviet like denial of Srdja Trifkovic’s attempt to enter Canada.

  8. sinotibetan says:

    To Misha, yalensis and PvMikhail,
    1.)Again, I wish to thank Misha for explaining Western neolibs’ more positive view of Bosnian Muslims and Albanians vs Serbs and Croats.
    2.)”What area did the Magyars come from?”
    “Here is home movie of PvMikhail’s ancestor (Attila the Hun) rushing home from battle to meet his new son”
    “We always tried to forget our roots and this can be felt even today in the “european rhetoric”. The finn-ugor theory, which was encouraged by the Habsburg Empire, created an identity crisis, and some people feel ashamed to declare, that magyars were asiatic or at least have some Asian roots. I think this is wrong.”
    As Mark has noted, I have some strange interest in cultures and ethnicity(actually ethnogenesis), hence I thought I’d like to give some opinion on this. I think yalensis has a formal degree in linguistics and would probably be better in this than I am. And I am sure PvMikhail probably knows more about his own people than I do. So, here’s my opinion:-
    a.)I don’t think that the Magyars were directly descended from the Huns. That some Hunnic ancestry might survive in present-day Hungary or eastern Europe(eg. the Szekely’s – maybe?), I speculate, is plausible. Huns have been said to be related to the Xiongnu who lived in Mongolia and northern China(but many have disputed this) , to a Turkic confederation, a Uralic confederation or some ‘unclassified’ confederation of nomadic central asian tribes. I suspect the Huns may be ‘Eurasiatic’ Central Asian peoples – as the urheimat of East Asians and Caucasoid peoples maybe in central asia in long ages past.
    b.)Magyar language is said to be related to the Ugric langauges of the Khanty and Mansi peoples in Western Siberia.
    c.)Genetically, modern day Hungarians are as ‘European’ as any other European nations close to Hungary.
    (compare Y haplogrups of Czechs and Hungarians, for example)
    d.)My speculation/hypothesis is that the ruling elites spoke Magyar language and via ‘language displacement’, peoples within the nascent Hungarian polity also abandoned their former langauges and spoke Hungarian. This is akin to the ethnogenesis of the Turks in Modern Turkey. Phenotypically and genotypically, Turks in Turkey are not so different from peoples living along the Mediterranean(especially southern Italy and Greece). However, the language is derived from that of the former ruling elites – central asian Seljuk Turks who have negligible genetic trace in modern Turkey. I read somewhere that there is a province in Turkey where the ‘original Seljuk Turks’ were less intermixed with the Hittites and Indo-European Anatolian tribes which precede them and they appeared ‘Asiatic'(they meant ‘Mongol-like’ perhaps?). However, judging from the heterogeneity of the phenotypes of modern-day nomadic Turkic peoples in central Asia like the Kazakhs and Turkman, probably the ancient Seljuks had ‘heterogenous’ phenotypes and genotypes as well. To sumarize: Hungarian languge is ‘Asiatic’ in origin because the ruling elites originally came from probably Asian part of Russia(Western Siberia maybe?) but Hungarian people of today are by and large European in appearance and genetics.
    3.)PvMikhail’s description of populist politicians in Hungary is interesting – I’d say it’s a global phenomenon in our ‘modern world’. Somehow, political-wise, there is a global mediocrity. I blame it mostly on the politically and culturally mediocre USA which ironically has the most influence ‘culturally’ the world-over.
    (Just compare the articles in National Geographic regarding cultural aspects in the USA [which is a must in all National Geographic issues, of course] vs cultural aspects in ‘older’ countries like those in Europe – the relative difference in ‘richness’ and ‘depth’ , in my opinion, is palpable)
    I am not trying to disparage the USA – Americans are entitled to create their own culture/way of life. I just wish they were not so influential or so insistent that other cultures are ‘judged’ through their lenses.


    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: Thanks, lots of good points and fascinating discussion about the complex relationship between ethnicity and language! On “Attila home movie”, aspect, I was just teasing pvMikhail a bit about his magyar roots. That particular film (which is one of the great classics of world cinema, by the way) portrays the Huns as “noble savages” . In reality, their society was probably not quite as barbarous as was portrayed in this interpretation of the “Niebelungenlied”. In defense of the filmmaker (Fritz Lang), he portrayed Attila as the most sympathetic character in the whole epic: not only a brave warrior, but also a devoted family man. Whereas the Teutons are shown as mindlessly courageous but also brutal and treacherous.

    • Misha says:

      National Geographic has exhibited some cultural and geopolitical biases over the course of time.

      There’re inaccurate suggestions of Tatars being in Crimea before Rus era Slavs and present day pro-Russian Cossacks unnecessarily taunting innocent Tatars. The current predicament of Crimea’s Tatars isn’t the one way street as depicted in a number of Western articles.

      I suspect the article in question might twist some quotes as well.

      • PvMikhail says:

        Leos Tomicek has already written about the crimean-tatar problem. Maybe it is just me, but these people are becoming the “chechens” of Ukraina. It’s time to put them in their place.

  9. sinotibetan says:

    “The English language mass media coverage of the wars of the last decade in former Yugoslavia is horrid. ”
    One reason why I was at a loss regarding the situation in the Balkans. However, Western media somehow might have ‘out-bad-mouthed’ the Serbs to the point that I could not believe that only the Serbs were to be deemed the culprit for the troubles in the Balkans and that Slobodan Milosevic and friends were the main ‘bad guys’. The propaganda was too ‘Superman comic book’ to be believable, if anyone has some sanity and sense left to sense it.
    Sorry I kept misspelling ‘language’/’languages’ in my last post. I assure you that I am not drunk and am sober…


  10. sinotibetan says:

    No worries! I suspected too you were just teasing pvMikhail.
    “Whereas the Teutons are shown as mindlessly courageous but also brutal and treacherous.”
    I think, in the end, the earliest ancestors of every ‘civilized’ people were like that movie’s depiction of the Teutons, wouldn’t you agree?
    Thank you so much for your weblinks and explanation regarding the Serbs. I think your last sentence summarizes Western bias against the Serbs the best:-
    “Miniature Russians to be trampled on.”


  11. sinotibetan says:

    A friend lent me some National Geographic magazines – since I love to read about anything!
    “National Geographic has exhibited some cultural and geopolitical biases over the course of time.”
    I was reading this article about the Serbs :-
    I can notice the bias – certain ‘types’ of people were ‘interviewed’ – and never those opposed to the intended ‘message’ of the magazine:-
    1.) “Nationalist thug turn ‘political participant'”:-
    ‘To me, each retelling made Nakalamic sound more like a nationalistic thug.’
    ‘So it was a surprise when I finally met him to learn—in a classic, mind-bending Balkan reversal—that this tough guy who bashed Albanians for crossing cultural lines has sided with them politically, joining their new government and defying Serbia’s in the process. ‘
    ‘To many Serbs, that makes Nakalamic a traitor.’
    2.)’Alavanja, a student in Florence, is the kind of liberal, internationally oriented Serb on whom Western governments pin their hopes. After Kosovo independence and the resulting riots, Serbian voters, in the spring of 2008, surprised the world by propelling into power a pro–European Union government that vowed to track down Serbian war criminals—evidence of a widespread belief that the country’s best hope for cultural and economic growth is with the West.’
    3.)’Srdja Popovic, a human rights lawyer who pursues accused Serbian war criminals’
    4.)’Dragoljub Micunovic, an oppo­sition figure during the Milosevic years and now a high-ranking Democrat’
    5.)’The slight twist, which those familiar with Slavic given names might have guessed, is that Tanic is himself a Serb. Like several thousand other Bosnian Serbs around Sarajevo, Tanic took up arms against the Serb forces that laid siege to the city soon after Bosnia declared inde­pendence from Yugoslavia in 1992.’
    ‘But he was in the minority.’
    ‘Sarajevo retains a patina of multiethnicity—Tanic and his Muslim-Croat wife, Sanja, are an example.’
    6.)”Stula had patted my arm consolingly when she learned my nationality, as if sorry to be the one to break the news. “America. Ne dobra. Ne dobra,” she said. Not good, not good.”
    The few sentences that seemingly is ‘impartial’. Yet, the context of the narrative is the ‘bad guy Serbs’. Stula is Croat, by the way.
    7.)And something that might strike a chord with pvMikhail – the words describing the last picture in that article:-
    “A family in southern Serbia rolls past a sign urging, “Srećan put!—Have a nice trip!” It could be a farewell wish for their Zastava car. Production ended last fall when Italian carmaker Fiat bought the plant—a step widely seen as a reward from the European Union after Serbia elected a pro-Western government. As the factory is retooled, Serbia’s people swing between bitterness over recent hardships and hope for a better future in a nation peacefully integrated into Europe.”
    If I am accused of cherry-picking, it’s because sadly National Geographic has cherry-picked those they interview. It’s interesting that in a supposedly well-reputed magazine like NGM, journalists don’t interview both sides of the story. Hence, I view this as a very biased reporting.
    In the same issue, a ‘feeling’ of what I meant with this:-
    “Just compare the articles in National Geographic regarding cultural aspects in the USA [which is a must in all National Geographic issues, of course] vs cultural aspects in ‘older’ countries like those in Europe – the relative difference in ‘richness’ and ‘depth’ , in my opinion, is palpable”
    Just compare:-
    I am not trying to appear smug or arrogant although it might appear to be so. How I wish the USA – being currently the lone superpower and most influential nation in the world – stop their arrogance and have a look at themselves first before they preach culture, morals, and freedoms to others.


    • Misha says:


      For sure on National Geographic.

      In addition to the Gray Falcon blog, keep an eye on Nebojsa Malic at:

      • Misha says:

        Serbia itself is subjected to a faulty media bias. For Sinotibetan’s sake, I re-post the following, which I’ve previously expressed –


        An excellent radio show has been taken off the air in Serbia as a result of politically motivated government intervention.

        In Serbia, there’re numerous outlets that are noticeably biased and run counter to the views expressed on the recently cancelled Atlantida radio show, which aired on Radio Belgrade. It’s not hyperbole when some refer to the Serb government as having Quisling like attributes. At the above link on Atlantida, note the referenced criticism of that show. Imagine a US official criticizing RFE/RL for bias, followed by the American government cancelling its funding of that station – said to be primarily responsible for RFE/RL’s continued existence.

        On a comparative point: in Russia, there’re a good number of media outlets which provide criticism of the Russian government and Russia at large. Such venues include RIA Novosti, Novaya Gazeta, Ekho Moskvy and The Moscow Times. At times, the stated criticism isn’t fair.

        In a truly democratic Serbia, it’s within reason to not see the politically motivated end of Atlantida. When covering Serbia, The WaPo and RFE/RL don’t seem to offer anything coming close to these points.

        On former Yugoslav matters, they’re prone to not running commentary like these:

        As I previously noted, criticizing folks like Paul Goble is limited when it doesn’t include criticism of the high profile venues propping certain sources over some others.

        It’s no small wonder why the coverage continues to lack.

  12. sinotibetan says:

    Thank you so much for all the weblinks. The bias against Serbia is very overwhelming indeed!


  13. gurmanyasha says:

    Тема конечно интересная,только вот почему-то комментариев мало. видимо большинсто коментов фильтруются как спам. Вам бы вручную модерировать Ваш блог уважаемый администратор 😉

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