Hit the Road, Jack; the L.A. Times Knows You Ain’t Comin’ Back No More

Uncle Volodya says, "Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you're a mile away, and you have their shoes."

When I was a kid, hardly a day went by when you didn’t get called a “retard” by someone, usually another kid. The slightest mistake was enough to get you branded a retard for a day or two; growing up was tough then, and it’s tough now. But the term “retard” was common then, and its use is anathema now (although the terms “conservatard” and “libtard” are still frequently bandied back and forth in political arguments on American media sites, presumably to convey the degree of stupidity vested in those who oppose the other’s ideology). I suppose we didn’t mean any harm; we didn’t know any better, and believed retards were regular people who, through some accident of birth or generations of inbreeding, were slower than everyone else. I know now those people were born that way and couldn’t help it; I also know a lot of the people who came under the retard umbrella were simply stupid, and most certainly could help it.

Exempting, then, those poor souls who are victims of God’s disfavour from birth, let’s imagine an intense concentration of retards who are retards simply because they choose to be stupid. There have been lots of sci-fi/horror  films about small towns affected by something in the water supply or some other localized mutating factor; let’s imagine something like that has resulted in stubborn, intellect-sucking obtuseness. Let’s further imagine that, rather than all living in the same town, they all work at the same newspaper.

By that roundabout route, we arrive at “Russians are Leaving the Country in Droves“, by the stubbornly stupid Los Angeles Times (thanks, Cartman), often a bastion of bedrock conservatism in an otherwise pretty liberal state. Certain media sources – excluding committed bloggers (some of whom should be committed) like La Russophobe and her latest effort, “Dying Russia” – who owe the public a duty to at least pretend objectivity are instead stubbornly slanted in their view of Russia, and consistently misrepresent the actual situation in Russia so as to make it appear catastrophic. The Los Angeles Times shares this category with the reliably Russophobic Time Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor and often the Washington Post.

Ever heard the expression, “Too stupid to come in out of the rain”? The Los Angeles Times can claim credit for describing this past summer as one in which “heat and aridity records were bested across the United States“, apparently unaware that California experienced its wettest summer on record. You’d sort of expect them to notice that, considering that’s the state they’re….ummm…located in.

I’d have been prepared to swear one of these, “the intellectuals are fleeing Russia” stories comes up every couple of months, they seem that frequent – but according to my research, it’s only this past year that the meme has reached a crescendo of crap. I did a post on the issue myself, last spring, on the occasion of yet another disinformation dump from the Siamese brains of Miriam Elder and Time Magazine‘s Simon Shuster, and the issue has come up as a discussion point in a variety of fora. That wasn’t exactly the same rubbish as this – Simon and Miriam were howling about closure of small towns in remote areas of Russia in favour of consolidation in larger cities: something that is taking place all over the world, but is naturally somewhere to the right of terrible when it happens in Russia.

Anyway, these “catastrophic exodus of Russia’s best and brightest” pieces do come up with annoying frequency. The earliest I found during the era of highest Russophobe interest – the “Decade of Putin” – was the Christian Science Monitor, kicking it off in 2002 with, “Russia’s Population Decline Spells Trouble“. According to none other than The Doofus Of Doom, Fred Weir, “The only obvious solution – to encourage youthful immigrants from  overpopulated Asian neighbors such as China – is so politically sensitive that Russian leaders refuse to even discuss it”. Well, that might have seemed the obvious solution to Fred Weir, but here we are nearly 10 years later, the population has shrunk by about 2 million from the 2002 census (although the current figure is estimated), and Russia is still just as Russian at about 80% Russian ethnicity. In 2002, there were about 30,000 Chinese, and Chinese are still somewhere in the 12% of the population identified as “other races”. So you were wrong, Fred. Get used to it; you did it a lot between 2002 and now. Oh, here’s a good one before we leave this piece of nonsense behind; “Demographic experts say that the country is losing one million of its population annually, and the nosedive is accelerating.” Were that actually so, the population of Russia would now be less than 133 million. Is it? Ha, ha…No.

Next came Nicholas Eberstadt’s “Drunken Nation: Russia’s Depopulation Bomb“, in 2009. Eberstadt, at the time a political economist at – surprise! – the American Enterprise Institute, would fit right in at today’s Los Angeles Times; whenever a figure doesn’t suit him, he says, “(insert state agency here) says the total is (whatever) – but the figure is surely much higher”. He’s also smugly in agreement that “Russia’s adult population—women as well as men—puts down the equivalent of a bottle of vodka per week.” Virtually every statistic quoted is “chilling” or “grisly” or “numbing”. This “study” remains a go-to reference for Russophobes, and smirking Washington Post popinjay George Will was happy to pick it up the same year. He was also quite taken with Woodrow Wilson Centre alumni Martin Walker’s term, “hypermortality” as applied to the Russian decline, and was happy to nod along with the bobbleheads who agreed that Russia “…is suffering a demographic decline on a scale that is normally associated with the effects of a major war.” Once again, the figure of a million per year came up. Finally, serial muckraking fabricator Paul Goble jumped on the bandwagon with “Depopulation Threatens Russia 10 Ways” (hint – one of them was increasing mental illness), and cited Olga Lebed of Moscow State University as his source for the fact that even with immigration, Russia’s population was shrinking by a million a year. The year Mr. Goble penned (or typed) that doleful epitaph, Russia’s population was 141,903,979. The following year it was 141,914,509. Quick – which figure is larger?

In fact, the year before Ms. Lebed’s pronouncement, the population of Russia contracted by 211,162, less than a quarter of her tally. The year of her feeding salacious stories to an eager Paul Goble (if in fact that was what she said at all, as Mr. Goble has been known to take artistic license with figures and to quote selectively) it contracted by 104, 859. The year after, as I mentioned, the population expanded. You have to wonder how someone who can’t add and subtract ascends to university tenure. And if it’s Mr. Goble who’s mathematically confused, then it doesn’t much matter what people tell him; he’ll just apply the Eberstadt Doctrine; “the result is this, but the real number is surely much higher (or much lower, if you were talking about something good)”.

Fast-forward now to this year, 2011. Blogging from darkest Staunton, Virginia, Mr. Goble – unrepentant as always for peddling twaddle – informs us the “Middle Class is fleeing Russia“, according to Moscow experts. Never one to back away from a challenge, Paul the Mathematician and Sometime CIA Intellectual doubles down, telling us 1.25 million of Russia’s middle-class earners have fled the country in the last 3 years. Keep that figure in mind, because that’s how many of Russia’s artists and intellectuals have left in the last 10 years, according to the Los Angeles Times. They’re plainly talking the same figure, they just adjust it to fit a different time period and social class. Paul Goble’s source is the New Times, run by Crackpot of All Trades Yevgenia Albats, who serves as Editor, Investigative Journalist, writer and Political Scientist. Charmingly crazy, Ms. Albats distinguished herself by demanding to be arrested during the “Dissenters March” in June last year – presumably so that she could write a feverish jailhouse rant about being roughed up and incarcerated as a prisoner of conscience when she was just minding her own business. Needless to say, news about Russia that originates with the hysterical New Times might just as well come from…well, Staunton.

Not to be outdumbed, the irrepressible Simon Shuster of Time Magazine chimes in with the inside scoop that 1.25 million young entrepreneurs and businessmen have fled Russia (literally; not bothering to sell their homes or property, but simply locking up and sprinting for the airport) within, you guessed it, the last 3 years. Allegedly, his and Mr. Goble’s root sources are Russian ministers and political figures. But during the last 3 years the population of Russia experienced a net contraction of 325,460. It would take a pretty wild leap of imagination to make that look like 1.25 million, especially when Ms. Lebed tells us that immigration in does not affect Russia’s dizzying losses at all. In fact, in 2005 Russia was second only to the USA in terms of inward migration, according to the U.N. Report, “World Population Policies 2005“.

Getting the picture? Even though official state census data and international reports paint a picture considerably less grim, Eberstadt brightly infers they’re full of it, and the nightmare is orders of magnitude worse than they portray. Paul Goble insists migration from Russia under Putin’s jackboot is spinning wildly out of control, but World Bank data show us not only that migration from Russia trended steadily upward since the 1960’s, but that its only sustained and steady decline has been under the leadership of…Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin. Simon Shuster points out the departure of the last desirable group of Russians, young entrepreneurs, leaving nothing behind in Russia but the mad, the old and the crippled – yet Intel’s Steve Chase endorsed Russia as a go-to source for complex programming (not a skill you’d expect of the doddering Stalin-loving octogenarian set), and its workforce is described in outsourcing sites as “abundant, sophisticated and well-educated, with high competency in science and mathematics”. Anatoly Zhuplev’s “Small Business in Russia – Trends and Outlook” concluded, “SME’s in Russia tend to demonstrate growth in the number of companies, the number of persons employed, the volume of sales and the number and share of female entrepreneurs (the latter is particularly evident in the service sector). This growth has been facilitated by positive changes in the taxation regime and streamlining of the licensing procedures…” although he cites bureaucracy and bribery as continuing problems (worsening, in the latter case).

Let me ask you this: what sophisticated, well-educated young entrepreneur with high competency in mathematics and/or science is going to lock his door and head for Europe or the west today? Hmm; Simon Shuster’s  entrepreneurial high-roller, Alexei Terentev, left a country (Russia) with an unemployment rate of 6.4%…to emigrate to a country (Czech Republic) with an unemployment rate of 7.9%. I guess that narrows down whether he was well-educated in mathematics, or science. Well, how’s the Eurozone faring, generally? Spain? The employment situation is grisly, frankly – 21.52% unemployment. What about France? Ooooo…numbing, I’m afraid; 9.6% unemployed, worse than India. Tak, never mind those losers; how about the UK? They love immigrants….Mmmm, sorry. A chilling 8.3% unemployed. Well, there’s always the good old U.S. of A. What? Unemployment is at 9%??? Are you kidding??

I shouldn’t have to tell you that a higher standard of living, higher GDP, PPP, ABCDEFG are going to mean bubkes if you live in a YMCA flat or a cardboard box under a bridge because you can’t get a job.

The Irtenyevs, mentioned in the Los Angeles Times‘ maudlin goodbye story (which could not have been told without including the obligatory bottle of vodka, in which it seems every Russian baby is baptized) were headed for Israel, where unemployment is a touch less at 6% than in Russia. The Los Angeles Times doesn’t mention if Mr. Irtenyev boasts other skills, but I hope so, as I imagine Russian poetry to be somewhat of a niche market outside Russian-speaking countries – although Russian is reasonably widely spoken in Israel. In a stubborn return to the Eberstadt Doctrine, the Los Angles Times just somehow “knows” the Irtenyevs are gone for good, even though they specifically say they are only going for 6 months. You can just tell, because they look sad.

But never mind all that. Let’s pretend the worst-case scenario is accurate, and that the Russian population actually has dropped by 1.25 million Russians in the past 3 years, even allowing for the balancing effect of inward migration, despite that notion being contradicted by a variety of statistical data. Pretend it’s true.

So what? People leave the country of their birth for a broad range of reasons, including education, reuniting with family and a sense of adventure as well as economics. Russia seems to exercise due diligence in keeping an accurate count of how many are leaving, which information is promptly quoted inaccurately to beat it over the head. The United States, by way of contrast, does not keep any official figures at all on Americans who have left the USA to live abroad, although the figures are estimated by the State Department to be somewhere between 3.7 and 5.2 million. Did they flee because the country is going down the toilet, or because they couldn’t grow their fledgling businesses under the repressive fist of the government? Usually not – most left for tax advantage. Some 336,000 Britons left the UK in 2010 alone, and that figure was the lowest since 2005: that equates to more than 1.68 million Britons leaving in 5 years. Is that a catastrophe? Not unless somebody can prove they were all from the U.K.’s entrepreneurial and business community; net immigration for 2010 was a gain of 239,000.

But let’s look at that a little more closely. People leaving the country is bad, the message seems to be, while building up the national population is a matter for smug pride and cockiness. That about sum it up?

Wha….what?? I don’t understand. According to today’s Daily Mail, immigration to the UK is “out of control”. “It means that David Cameron must more than halve immigration if he is to get anywhere close to the Coalition ‘aspiration’ of bringing net migration down to tens of thousands a year…A raft of figures published yesterday delivered a series of blows to the Government’s hopes of curbing the levels of immigration that critics say have distorted the economy and deepened poverty and benefit dependency over the past 14 years.” This seems to say that too many people is bad, that having a bigger population than your economy can support “deepens poverty and benefit dependency”!

Well, everyone knows the English couldn’t be sent to look for lettuce in a green salad; no use expecting them to be able to manage anything competently. We’ll surely get a lesson in how to manage a healthy, burgeoning population from our American friends, what? Let’s look.

Oh, my. In the Los Angeles Times‘ own city, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a tidal wave of mass immigration has resulted in a region whose “resources and environment cannot even sustain the current population, and the area has simply run out of room to accommodate the expected growthAlmost all the natural locations for urban development have been consumed…Los Angeles air basin remains one of the most polluted in the nation…mass immigration has hurt quality of life in the region and can be a source of social friction…”

Let me get this straight. Russia is an abject failure for creating a climate so grisly, numbing and chilling that  people can’t bear to stay there, but simultaneously the leaders of the free world are grappling with furious electorates who claim their economies cannot support the current glut of immigrants. Somehow the aforementioned grisly numbing chilling environment in Russia has resulted in steady growth, advancing prosperity and low unemployment, while Europe scrambles to pull back from the crumbling edge of a yawning pit of debt. The USA flirts with recession, and both struggle with unemployment figures that are half again higher than those of Russia. But Europe and the USA feel somehow qualified to lecture Russia on a demographic catastrophe that is largely in their own heads.

Uh huh. Okay, then. I’m glad we cleared that up.

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257 Responses to Hit the Road, Jack; the L.A. Times Knows You Ain’t Comin’ Back No More

  1. Here’s a question: do the people who write the articles discussed in this post believe what they are writing? If so where do they get their “facts” from? Could it be that they just regurgitate each other’s rubbish?

    • marknesop says:

      They appear to believe it, but Mark Adomanis had Paul Goble’s number when he called him (in an interview with La Russophobe, if you can imagine) a whore whose job it is to “studiously dig through rags like Novaya Gazeta, find the most unhinged anti-Putin rants he can lay his hands on, translate them, and then print them as “authoritative” sources.” Paul Goble – and the rest of the twits like Simon Shuster and Fred Weir – don’t look any further into a source than that it says what they want to hear, and don’t hesitate to fudge the numbers to suit their case, hoping nobody will notice. Eberstadt, as I mentioned, just ignores the numbers if they don’t say what he wants them to say, and reports, “the real number is much higher”.

      You’re quite right that they bounce off one another, and if one cites some out-in-left-field statistic that looks bad for Russia, others in the coven are quite likely to pick it up and run with it.

      What continues to puzzle me is why Russia is so important to the west that they must lie about it, fabricate stories against it and mock its every effort toward self-improvement. The west has never fought any kind of war against Russia, and it forgives its enemies with whom it has fought wars and who have killed western soldiers and even many, many European women and children and now makes nice with them as if they were the best of friends. Russia, a former ally, gets full-on hostility around the clock and non-stop efforts to undermine its government.

      The “other” argument offered using Star Trek as an example was extremely interesting and illuminating, but I still find myself at a loss to explain the west’s attitude toward Russia.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        Mark, I think that’s exactly one of the points. The west has never fought a real war against Russia that ended with the occupation of the country and the “re-education” of her population, like it happened in Germany, Japan and to a lesser extent Italy. Something like this was going to happen after the cold war, when liberals had the upper hand, but they didn’t last long enough. Hence the feeling of a “crippled victory” and the anti-Russian rage.
        In your previous post you mention the work of Mendelson and Gerber. Interestingly enough, they start their work by comparing Germans attitude toward Hitler with those of Russians toward Stalin. They equate Hitler with Stalin, so they find Russian ambivalence toward the latter disturbing. Besides, Mendelson and Gerber must be dumb, or play dumb, when they take Germans attitude toward Hitler at face value. In Germany being ambivalent toward Hitler, or worse praising him, is something that brings you a lot of trouble, including legal trouble; so a German won’t speak his mind about Hitler to a stranger, and even less to a foreign stranger. Russians have more freedom of speech than Germans about their past.
        I’ve mentioned before I have some relatives living in Austria and Germany. One of them married an Austrian woman, so he was no longer considered a stranger and got a glimpse of what Austrians think about Hitler. Like in Italy with Mussolini, many old people are ambivalent saying something like “He was good, but then he started (or entered) the war…”.

        • Sergey says:

          Well, I bought a book on life in Prague under the Nazi occupation a while ago. The book was published in Prague around year 2000. It starts with Hitler’s decision in 1939 to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia. One of the first lines of the book is something like: “If Hitler just stopped before that fateful decision which eventually led to WWII, he would have remained in German history as one of its greatest leaders”.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      Have you ever watched Kurosawa’s Rashomon? If you haven’t, I suggest you to watch it. Rashomon is about what people believe is the truth.

  2. alterismus says:

    A bottle of vodka a week? Hmmm… well, that sure is over the top. Although I do wish people did with a little less of it back home. Sick of the “Oh, you are Russian! Well, you must know how to drink then!” comment.

    • marknesop says:

      Hey, Alterismus!! Welcome back, haven’t seen you around in awhile!

      You’d have better luck getting my wife or mother-in-law to drink toilet bowl cleaner than vodka, and that goes for all her girlfriends in Russia as well. I imagine you could find some hard-drinking women in Russia, if you put your mind to it, not to mention the same in the USA or UK. Most of the guys I met in Russia preferred beer. And, once again, deaths due to alcoholism under Putin are headed down, not up.

      Not too many years ago, a bottle of rum a week was nothing for me, and I certainly didn’t consider myself an alcoholic; if it was there, I drank it. If there wasn’t any (like when I went to sea for several months), I went without, and I didn’t feel spiders crawling on me or talk to my dead relatives. Since my current marriage, I drink probably less than a case of beer in a year, wine even less and hard liquor hardly at all. I wasn’t prohibited from it; my present wife simply doesn’t drink, while my previous wife (British) was quite fond of it.

      • Evgenia says:

        “deaths due to alcoholism under Putin are headed down, not up” According to whom? You? The Rosstat? Seriously? As an actual Russian who has no illusions about how things are counted in Russia, and who, until recently, was living in Moscow while traveling to the provinces a lot, I actually take offence at what you wrote. Before making bold statements about a country, please travel around it first. Get to know more people than just your wife and her family. Get at least a semblance of a clue.

        • apc27 says:

          Again with the “how things are counted” crap… So an outside observer instead of relying on the ONLY relatively complete and objective source of statistics is supposed to rely on his own, inevitably narrow and subjective observations?

          If you do have ANY actual, substantial criticism of Russian statistics agencies, please by all means share it. I am sure that everyone on this site would be very interested in actually seeing SOME proof, for a change, of statistical manipulations going on in Rosstat.

          Failing that, may I humbly suggest that wishing for someone to get a clue, when you yourself offer no evidence of having one, mayyyyyyyyyyy not be the best way of convincing a person that you are right and he is wrong.

          • Evgenia says:

            Ох, назвался груздем, полезай в санузел, что называется..

            “the ONLY relatively complete and objective source of statistics” Based on what are you calling that source complete and objective? Coming from what, in my subjective opinion, is a very savvy, highly educated and experienced part of the Russian legal/academic/business/activist community, I remain EXTREMELY sceptical about such assertions.

            My experience, limited as it may be to dealing with a wide circle of people from various walks of life and pretty much all parts of Russia, shows that there’s nothing objective about the Russian official stats or the Russian government in general. And believe it or not, I never had to have the Russian govenrment tell me how many people around me were raging alcoholics or how many talented friends of mine were fleeing the country. And what I really don’t need is someone like you making snide and groundless remarks about the tragedies I witnessed everywhere I went in Russia, including my whole nuclear and extended family. Or am I wrong and you have so much more to offer here than snide remarks and info provided courtesy of the obliging Russian sgovernment, which somehow is more credible a source to you than anybody or anything else on this planet ;)?

            • marknesop says:

              Credentials, please. When you can offer some substantiation that you know more than the Russian government does about statistics or are more credible than Rosstat, you’ll get the attention you are due. If you’re merely basing your knowledge of the way things really are in Russia on projections of your personal experience, then you don’t know any more than anyone else. So far, I haven’t seen any offer to provide more accurate statistics, just claims that you have your finger on the pulse of Russia although you don’t live there. The number of deaths due to alcohol-related causes are reported by the medical system and coroners, and show a steady decline according to official records. The number of deaths overall is down, and unless you are arguing the statistics which show the population is growing are all fabricated as well, one conclusion supports the other.

              • Evgenia says:

                You don’t seem to have any credentials for supporting the Russian government’s claims with regards to alcoholism and yet you are adamantly supporting them. And yet it may please you to know that you’re even being cited by Russian sources as an authoritative source of information on the subject of not trusting the Western media and trusting the Russian government instead (not that I’m suggesting that the Western media never lies).
                Moreover, you didn’t live in Russia for almost 30 years until a year and a half ago, you don’t seem to have the background that I do of dealing with hundreds of Russians from different groups of society and different proffessional fields, including but not limited to the academia and the government. And yet you insist that my observations are automatically trumped by the Russian government, which, of course, will always have a lot more credentials than me. Unfortunately, according to your logic, anyone who believed the Soviet government’s data over their own observations was akin to a fool who chose to believe superstition over science. Even if you choose to not automatically believe everything I say (which is the path I would personally recommend), I would think that, in the spirit of remaining objective, you might want to also remain skeptical or agnostic about the info provided by the Russian government. For, while it might have the “credentials”, it might also have many reasons not to present facts exactly the way the are.

                • marknesop says:

                  Zhenya, darling, we seem to be talking past each other, and indeed to have lost sight of the original point of discussion with which you took issue – that deaths in Russia attributable to alcohol misuse are declining, not accelerating.

                  First, let’s establish a benchmark. According to a study conducted by an international team of researchers and published in 2009 in The Lancet, more than half the deaths of Russians between 15 and 54 in the years between 1990 and 2001 (inclusive) can be attributed to alcohol misuse. Dr. Murray Feshbach, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and a leading expert on Russian public health, called the study “very impressive, very substantive” and the overall methodology sound. Professor David Zaridze, who headed the study, estimated the leap in alcohol consumption which occurred when Gorbachev’s restrictions on alcohol sales collapsed cost the lives of 3 million Russians who would otherwise not have died. He also blamed the increased alcohol consumption on the social upheavals of the 80’s and 90’s and the poverty that resulted from them. He seemed to draw a direct connection between not only poverty and alcohol misuse, but also availability of alcohol and alcohol misuse, which offers a strong argument that curbing and regulating sales does indeed have a deterrent effect.

                  2000. Putin is elected President of the Russian Federation. He is reelected in 2004, serving until 2008. Following that he is Prime Minister, although many – mostly his detractors – insist he is the real power in Russia. That being assumed to be the case, let’s take a look at the death rate under Putin. The rate rose slowly – except for a spike in 2004 – and then leveled off in 2007 to remain stable since that time, according to the CIA World Factbook. Although it’s not always the best reference, it does point out that the death rate in most countries will eventually rise even if a decline in mortality is observed at all ages, as declining fertility results in an aging population.

                  As you can see in this 2011 study by Yury Razvodovsky, MD, of Grodno State Medical University, both per capita alcohol consumption and the suicide rate began to trend steadily downward around 2002; the former somewhat slowly and the latter sharply. Here’s a format that’s a little easier to read, sourced from the World Bank; it clearly shows the death rate overall for Russian males (the dominant cadre in alcohol-related deaths) declining steadily from around 2002. At the same time, life expectancy at birth for Russian males has trended steadily upward since about the same point. In order to prove that deaths due to alcohol misuse are up and not down, you would have to argue – convincingly – that people are dying at a much higher rate due to alcoholism now than in previous years, so that contribution to the death rate by alcohol-related causes has increased even as the overall death rate is falling. I haven’t seen you do anything like that so far. You would also have to argue that your observations are more accurate than international ratings.

                  I don’t doubt that you have known hundreds of people in your lifetime, and it is certainly possible some of them are academics or government figures. But do me a favour. Take a couple of hours, and write out a list of all the people you personally know with whom you’ve kept in contact more or less steadily for the last 5 years. I’d be very surprised if it were hundreds, not least because you just don’t have time to keep in contact with hundreds of people every day. Would you say, in your lifetime, that you have physically seen a million people- all different people, not counting the same people you see over and over? I frankly doubt it. If that is in fact the case, you have seen much less than a hundredth of the people in Russia, and are relying on the up-to-date opinion of much less than a thousandth. Yet you feel your perceptions are more accurate than international statistics. And your perceptions tell you alcohol abuse in Russia is on the way up, not down, which was our original point of disagreement.

                  I don’t recall suggesting alcohol abuse was not a problem in Russia, because it is. The death rate in Russia due to alcohol misuse is much higher than in most developed countries, and it continues to be a serious problem. However, heavy drinking seems to have a definite association with poverty, and you have agreed poverty in Russia has been sharply reduced. I said the trend was downward, not upward. You appeared to disagree. I hope this has addressed that to your satisfaction.

              • Evgenia says:

                I think it follows logically from my argument, but just to avoid confusion, it’s supposed to be: according to your logic, anyone who believed their own observations over the Soviet data was akin to a fool who chose to believe superstition over science.
                I apologize for that mistake.

                • apc27 says:

                  Look Evgenia, its really very simple. There were numerous NUMEROUS studies by reputable organisations which illustrated the discrepancies in Soviet official statistics. All we are asking is for you to site just one ONE study that does the same with modern Russian statistics.

                  (Kooks like Nemtsov and Co. who repeatedly and demonstrably pull numbers out of their backsides do not count).

              • Evgenia says:

                Mark, darling (I assume from the way you addressed me that you like this particular form of address ;))

                Thank you for taking your time to write such a detailed response.

                To return the favor at least in part, I’d like to quote the following summary: “Some of the market data contained in this document has been derived from the official data of Russian
                government agencies, including the CBR and Rosstat. The official data published by Russian federal,
                regional and local governments are substantially less complete or researched than those of Western
                countries. Official statistics may also be produced on different bases than those used in Western countries.
                Any discussion of matters relating to Russia in this Prospectus are, therefore, subject to uncertainty due to
                concerns about the completeness or reliability of available official and public information. The veracity of
                some official data released by the Russian Government may be questionable.” (http://www.russianipo.com/prospectus_files/273_Phosagro.pdf)

                While it may not mean much to you and others here, this is the kind of disclaimer, which, in accordance with the Western standards of disclosure, is frequently included in prospectuses of Russian companies selling securities internationally. The latter is done despite the Russian companies’ unwillingness to do so, for they´re always worried about the possibility of getting into hot water with the Russian authorities over making such unflattering statements about Rosstat. That’s the kind of behind-the-scenes info that you are not likely to find on the Internet, and yet it would corroborated by top-ranking securities lawyers in Moscow. Whether or not to believe this based on no my words is, of course, your call, but that’s the way it is. And while I´m expecting a response along the lines of ¨stupidity and lies¨ from you, you might just be able to surprise me😉.

                I’m now satisfied that you’re not basing your statements primarily on Rosstat’s data, but let’s take a look back. Let’s specifically look at the following comment, with which I did indeed originally take issue with:
                “You’d have better luck getting my wife or mother-in-law to drink toilet bowl cleaner than vodka, and that goes for all her girlfriends in Russia as well. I imagine you could find some hard-drinking women in Russia, if you put your mind to it, not to mention the same in the USA or UK. Most of the guys I met in Russia preferred beer. And, once again, deaths due to alcoholism under Putin are headed down, not up.”

                What I took issue with was the grounds, on which you were making the statement that deaths due to alcoholism under Putin are headed down, not up. The tone of your article and your comments made it seem like you’re making light of what, in my opinion, is no laughing matter. Also, I got the feeling that you might’ve somehow established an automatic causal link between Putin’s rule and a fall in alcohol-related deaths. Based on your most recent reply, you do indeed seem to derive causation from that correlation. That point I do actually continue to take issue with, for the mere fact that the statistics might show a downward trend in alcohol-related death, which coincides with the government’s anti-alcohol policy, does not, despite your beliefs, automatically equal causation in the world of science. And while the improvement in the Russian people’s economic situation since the 90’s may have reduced the incentive for Russians to commit suicide by drinking, this improvement might just have much more to do with the global economy and a very drastic increase in the average oil and gas prices, which coincidentally started trending steadily upwards from… 2002 (e.g. see here: http://www.wtrg.com/oil_graphs/crudeoilprice8198.gif , here http://www.wtrg.com/oil_graphs/crudeoilprice9703.gif, here http://www.wtrg.com/oil_graphs/crudeoilprice0105.gif and here http://www.wtrg.com/oil_graphs/oilprice0711.gif. Natural gas prices in Europe are tied to the price of oil)
                As far as I know (but very much look forward to reliable international sources showing otherwise), under Putin’s rule Russia has remained a resource-based economy, which heavily relies on sale of its oil and gas.

                As far as your skepticism towards my Russian experience goes, let’s by all means compare notes. Of course, I don’t presume to personally know millions of Russians, but the modest number of my 130 Russian vkontakte friends is comprised almost exclusively of my Russian classmates from various educational institutions I attended in different parts of Russia, all of whom I know personally, and doesn’t include coworkers, clients, friends and acquaintances, Russian alumni from non-school related organizations, etc., of whom there are in fact hundreds. But since you don’t seem to give any credence to my personal experience (although that leaves me wondering why you cited your personal experience in support of your statements, since you don’t consider personal experience at all relevant), I will not go into great detail describing it. However, I will say that I was very interested to find out that there might be a bit of substance to your argument. Your article and your previous comments certainly did not give that impression.

                Thank you again for taking the time to more fully explain your point of view.

                • marknesop says:

                  Good Morning, Zhenya; indeed I do like that form of address, I am a sucker for terms of affection. However, once is probably enough to establish the tone, and I did not intend to patronize you with its use – if it was so interpreted, I ask your pardon.

                  With the greatest respect, Phosagro is a phosphate rock fertilizer company. There is no reason to suspect they have an inside track on government statistical methodology, and their company offerings are sprinkled with qualifications of speculative terms such as “believe” and “may be” and “possibly”. The aim of the company in this case is to absolve itself of liability in the event you make a bad financial decision based on your interpretation of Russian government statistics. It has about the same relationship to national health monitoring or the prevalence of alcoholism or statistical models as Budweiser including a critique of Obama’s foreign policy in its company prospectus. If I wished to, I could go to the shop where you like to buy your shoes and put a cautionary note on each pair that read, “If you want to buy these shoes, please yourself. But I can promise you they will not fit very well”. It would not mean I actually know anything about women’s shoes, and in fact what I know about manufacture and sizing of women’s shoes – aside from the prominence of Italy in the field – would probably fit in your eye.

                  If you wish to find criticism of state statistical modeling, you can certainly do so, for any and all countries. For starters, the report usually does not come out until two or three years after the end of the period it measures: therefore, its information is out of date before it is even printed. Reports released in 2011 usually describe a period that finished with 2008 or 2009, and reports that release their data almost instantly are immediately suspect, because all that data crunching and establishment of connections and relationships takes time and study. Also, all governments lie. The aim of democratically-elected leaderships is to remain in power as long as the law allows, and delaying or suppressing the release of damaging statistical information that might affect that aim is routine. Exemplary of this is ShadowStats, a shadow report of official U.S. government statistics run by John Williams.

                  http://www.shadowstats.com/

                  Mr. Williams is a cum laude economics graduate and Business School scholar who has spent the better part of a lifetime as a consulting economist. He doesn’t sell fertilizer or run a flower shop. He observes that when the U.S. government does not like the direction of a trend, it changes the model by which the relevant statistics are evaluated or reported. A good example of this is the efforts of the Bush administration to reclassify the definition of “manufacturing” to encompass the process of putting together hamburgers and other products in fast-food restaurants.

                  http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-250_162-601336.html

                  While the report did not specifically order such jobs to be included alongside factory workers, it obviously argued for more leeway in what could be included under the umbrella of “manufacturing”. The purpose of this, statistically speaking, was twofold: to camouflage the truly horrific decline in manufacturing under that administration – much of it owing to pressure from business executive elites for more outsourcing in order to maximize domestic profit – and to make jobs in the service industry more appealing in order to quiet the bitching from those looking for work that such were the only jobs available.

                  As you can see by the statistical graphs that appear on the home page (and feel free to browse more deeply), ShadowStats contends that – for example – the unemployment rate in the USA is at least double the official government figures.

                  Of course I am not going to characterize your disagreement as “stupidity and lies” when it is perfectly obvious you are neither. In fact, your arguments are mostly logical and well-constructed, and I appreciate your passion and wit. I hope you have not seen any such crude attempts to suppress dissent here. Likewise, I do not find the problem of alcoholism in Russia at all amusing and am not arguing it does not exist. I am arguing that it is being exaggerated by the western media, such as the smug assertions of tools like Eberstadt that all Russians knock back vodka as if it were mother’s milk, and that it is used to unfairly beat Russia over the head as regressive and rudderless. It is neither. And whether or not there is a direct causal relationship between Putin’s leadership and the demonstrated decline in alcohol misuse – which I have not argued – does not impact the fact that the trend for now is decidedly downward while life expectancy is headed upward. However, I would point out that Gorbachev was unable to arrest the spread of alcoholism, Yeltsin apparently did not care and was a bit of a drunk himself, and the only current serious attempts to regulate and oversee alcohol sale at the state level have come from Putin and Medvedev.

                  Thank you also for your detailed and interesting reply.

              • Evgenia says:

                Mark,

                Pardon granted🙂.

                “With the greatest respect, Phosagro is a phosphate rock fertilizer company. There is no reason to suspect they have an inside track on government statistical methodology, and their company offerings are sprinkled with qualifications of speculative terms such as “believe” and “may be” and “possibly”.” I apologize for my assumption that no detailed explanation is required.

                Whether or not Phosagro has an inside track on government statistical methodology is completely beside the point. What matters is that Phosagro is not a flower shop, but one of the most significant Russian companies (minor Russian companies don’t conduct IPOs on LSE). The company’s management is very well-connected in the government and knows the industry and the official statistics on it very well.The management is also well aware about how the relevant statistical data are collected, processed, presented, and the management is willing to admit to FSA and SEC (the latter trying to protect US investors of companies listed on LSE), that the Russian statistics describing the industry are pretty much presumed to be unreliable. If you’re trying to say that it’s a standard practice for lawyers to include a provision casting doubt on reliability of the government’s statistics in a prospectus, you can’t be more wrong. It’s simply not done in Western countries. Why not? Because it’s just not necessary for lawyers to do in order to protect the company from lawsuit by the people who are relying on the statistical info provided in the prospectus. In Russia, however, it is very necessary because of an extremely high likelihood that the statistics are inaccurate (I’ll explain what that likelihood is based on later). And believe it or not, unnecessary provisions like the ones “including a critique of Obama’s foreign policy” aren’t included in prospectuses of comanies listing its shares on LSE🙂.
                In the meantime, our conversation has taken an interesting turn: you went from trying to argue that the Russian government’s statistics are trustworthy to arguing that the Western governments’ statistics aren’t. And while in your argument you keep focusing on statistics itself when drawing comparisons between the two countries, I believe we should actually be focusing more on a very different issue in trying to determine whose statistics may be more accurate and why. Yes, I completely agree with you that the US government is not above manipulating its statistical data, particularly to make the economy look more palatable. And yet I find it pretty unreasonable to assume that the US government is able to manipulate its statistics more or even just as much as the Russian government. Now, based on my observations, the levels of both efficiency and transparency of the US and Russian government are VERY different, the US government being much more transparent. Why someone would assume that the less transparent government will manipulate its data less or at least no more than a more transparent government is truly puzzling to me. Why do I assume that the less transparent government will manipulate its data more than a more transparent government? Because there’re always incentives to to do it, on the one hand, and a moral hazard, on the other. And if the Russian government is in fact disclosing accurate (to the best of its knowledge) information on its population, economic and political activity as well as other critical data (whose accuracy is hard to verify if you’re not the Russian government), why is it filtering all the negative information about itself out of every major news channel? Unfortunately, less accountability seems to result in more fraud in any kind of governance, which is why, based on my experience, fraud happens to be much more pervasive and much less reported in Russia than in the US. And since no reports means no record, and no record means no statistical data (and no statistical data means no problem exists ;)) the only thing which, I think, we can continue to discuss here is our experience. And it’s based on my experience that I’ve come to the conclusion that governance is much more transparent on all levels and in every area, be it business or actual government, in the US than in Russia. It’s also based on my experience that I’ve come to the conclusion that more transparency creates better conditions for getting correct information, which includes but is not limited to the government’s data about population🙂.

                • marknesop says:

                  Hello, Zhenya;

                  I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that I suggested the Russian government’s statistics are trustworthy while those of western governments are not, although I have seen that argument made. I have suggested that the Russian government’s statistics are no more untrustworthy than those of western governments. I have worded it in that manner for a reason; if we must accept that the Russian government makes up its statistics, we must also accept that western governments make up their statistics. And there is ample reporting to suggest the latter is accurate: from the Economic Policy Institute, staffed by economists (although, if you’ve read anything here beyond the piece with which you took issue, you will know that’s not necessarily an endorsement), compelling evidence that the U.S. government’s Social Security Accountability reports for at least 2001, 2002 and 2003 could not possibly be accurate. The current pressure to adopt Online Piracy legislation in both the USA and UK has its roots in giving the government greater discretionary regulation over the Internet; however, there’s a catch – the statistics on online piracy and its impact are totally made up, and are not supported by any studies; rather, the data are generated by the industry that is pushing for the regulation. From The Market Oracle, a suggestion that on the subject of jobs figures and unemployment, the media simply reads the figures handed them by the government. The U.K’s Mindful Money suggests a “very large proportion” of official statistics are “selected or interpreted to suit a particular agenda“.

                  I can buy that the Russian government skews its reporting so as to position itself in the most favourable light, to the extent that western governments do the same thing exactly. Therefore, either all statistics are reliable, or none are. You cannot have it both ways, so that the Russian governments are a bunch of liars while the U.S. government’s figures are transparent and accurate to a fault. You prefer to rely on your perceptions, but have lived in the United States for only a year and a half, and were a child when the Soviet Union folded up.

                  Let’s recall that this whole argument hinged on my contention that the rate of alcoholism in Russia while Putin was President and then Prime Minister is decreasing, not remaining stable or increasing, regardless of any causative link. You say otherwise, which leaves you only the position that the same rate is not decreasing or is increasing. Ignoring statistics, can we agree that high rates of alcoholism and decreased life expectancy are associated with poverty? If so, even Putin’s detractors are forced to acknowledge that poverty has been halved during his leadership, per-capita GDP risen steeply and pensions raised many times. Life expectancy at birth across the board is up, although you’d have to believe statistics for that one. Given that information, and acknowledging that your perceptions are based on observation of a very tiny cross-section of Russian – and indeed American – society, how defensible is a position that alcoholism in Russia is on the rise rather than decreasing?

              • Evgenia says:

                Mark,

                :))) You’re quite persistent in ignoring what my argument has been about so far. My argument has NEVER been that alcohol-related deaths are on the increase. My argument has NEVER been that alcohol-related deaths haven’t decreased. This whole time my argument has been that A.) alcholism remains an extremely dire problem in Russia B.) the Russian government’s statistics aren’t to be trusted.

                Granted that I’ve been satisfied that you’re not in fact making light of the problem of alcholism in Russia, somehow you keep missing my other point.

                Yes, you have cited plenty of data showing unreliability of the US statistics, not knowing, of course, that I’ve kept closer tabs on the US government’s shady dealings than most Americans and that none of the incriminating info you presented is actually new to me ;)). The fact that you and I, as well as the rest of the US and international public, have such easy access to volumes of good quality info on the subject of unreliability of the US government data says quite a lot. What exactly does it say? It says that the US government’s every move is not only open to public scrutiny, but tends to generate a strong public reaction with real power to alter the US government’s behavior. And because the US government knows that it can only test the public’s patience so much and for so long (and the US public isn’t very patient by comparison to the Russian public) the US government tends to behave in a much less underhanded manner than it probably would behave it weren’t at all accountable to the US public. Now, the Russian government isn’t accountable to the Russian public. There’re no checks, no balances, no separation of powers, no decent law enforcement against government officials. Any kind of SERIOUS activity aimed at monitoring the Russian government’s dealings is treated with the utmost suspicion and frequently doesn’t end too well😉.The officially disclosed information about the functioning of various Russian government agencies is very much at odds with reality. AND, what hurts most, there’s no independent judiciary to run to, when the government completely oversteps its boundaries.

                So, Mark, I’m truly amazed that you insist on defending the Russian government by claiming the US government is no different. Granted that maybe the US government wishes it could treate its public the Russian government treats its, it simply can’t. The rules of the game are different in the US, and the resulting game is very different too.

                It’s also puzzling to me that you keep inserting the name Putin in every sentence talking about improvements in Russians’ lives. And despite your coyness, the way you keep doing it does give the impression that you believe there’s in fact a direct causal link there😉. Of course, while I attribute the increase in the Russians’ economic well-being to skyrocketing oil prices, I have also noticed how many things have taken a turn for the worse in Russia, particularly in the area of government accountability and transparency. My parents, who are prominent defense attorneys in one of Russia’s regions, have also noticed a very dramatic increase in the level of judicial corruption and an equally dramatic decline in cvil liberties over the course of Putin’s rule. Is there a causal link between Putin’s rule and these unfornate developments? I can only guess😉. But these developments have definitely given me very good reasons to not trust the Russian government.

                About me relying on my perceptions, even though I “have lived in the United States for only a year and a half” and was “a child when the Soviet Union folded up”. :)) Funny how easy it is for you to just asume.. Okay, let me clarify: it’s been a year and a half since I finally immigrated – not since I first started dealing with the US ;)). My first experience of dealing with the US was when I came here for a year as a 16 year old exchange student, lived with lower-middle-class families and went to high school in North Carolina😉. My husband, who’s 14 years older than me, is a native born American, who’s spent a lot of time in both the US and Russia🙂. And yes, over the course of my short life I have had more first-hand experience of dealing with both Russian and the US bureaucracies than most Russians and Americans will probably have in their lifetime. Finally, aren’t you forgetting that my parents were all grown up by the time the Soviet Union collapsed ;)? Do you think that they and other older people around me kept some kind of vow of silence about their experience? I think, Mark, it’s about time you finally stopped assuming I can’t possibly know too much because of my age ;)).

                Finally, to make double sure you understand me this time, let’s recap. In concluding “Therefore, either all statistics are reliable, or none are”, you’re making a logical mistake. For the US statistics to be correct, the Russian statistics, of course, don’t have to be correct, and vice versa. What you actually seem to be trying to say here is that the US and Rusian governments must be the same, and, therefore, their statistics must be the same. Seems to me that you, like many other Americans and Russians, have been fooled by the sheer volume of quality info pointing to every problem with the US government, and a relatively small amount of quality info pointing out the Russian government’s deficiencies. Of course, the reason there’s so little quality data on the Russian government is because the Russian government hinders every convincing effort to collect and diclose such data, and the Russian society, unlike the Western society, is doing very little about it. Is that really so hard for you to fathom?

            • Sergey says:

              Evgenia,

              number of heavy drunkards around you isn’t proving anything, of course – it’s one limited observation. Why could it be flawed? The most obvious reason is that alcohol consumption, and even alcohol-related mortality, is much more widespread than what you think. Many “normal” people get into serious trouble if they are able to buy an extra bottle while drunk already – i.e., at night. They could get robbed and left for dead, get into a traffic accident, become unreasonably aggressive, etc. At the very least, they would be killing their internal organs at a much faster rate (damage is very high for extremely fast consumption rates, associated with consuming large amounts of hard liquor in a short time). So, anything that prevents large numbers of people drinking too much in a short period of time is beneficial. Restrictions on alcohol sales have been introduced in different Russian regions since 2006 at least – is it a big surprise deaths are falling?

              And a blank assertion “I don’t believe Rosstat because I see this drunkard and this brilliant emigree with my own eyes” doesn’t hold water any more than “I don’t believe that Earth revolves around the Sun because I could see the opposite every day”, sorry. You should do better in order to have an educated discussion.

              • Evgenia says:

                First of all, if you presume to know more about the subject than me, you must already be aware than in Russia standards for measuring, evaluating, recording and permitting things dealing with alcohol are very different than those in the West. For example, you probably know that the Russian government doesn’t treat beer as the rest of alcoholic beverages. And you know that, while there’s in fact a separate law imposing some restrictions on the sale of beer, those restrictions are very few. Furthermore, based on my experience, law-enforcement with respect to alcohol is very lacking, and while most stores do tend to observe the law on after-hours sale of what is considered alcohol, sores and restaurants very rarely observe the underage drinking laws.
                Secondly, while I don’t presume to know whether or not the number of alcohol related deaths has indeed been falling or rising, I simply don’t see the problem of alcoholism improving, based on what I see in Russia. Excessive drinking, both out of desperation and as the main recreational activity, is every bit as wide-spread now, among the many young Russian kids I know, as it was when I was growing up (I’m almost 30 now). Yes, these are subjective observations of a person, who was still living in Russia and traveling around its central part a lot until a year and a half ago, who stays in touch with hundreds of people via vkontakte, and who was revolving in a lot of social circles (with the exceptions of the very top and the very bottom) and among very different age groups, and who knows a lot of people from every part of Russia. But I don’t think that it would necessarily be a very educated move to simply dismiss and discard these observations in favor of the statistics presented by a government with extremely lax standards.
                And while I don’t presume to be able to give you accurate statistics on the subject, for I know of none, I have very little faith in the ability of the Russian government to evaluate, let alone address, the serious problem. That perception of mine is based on the high level of corruption and low level of efficiency of the Russian bureaucratic agencies, and on the way what I consider serious Russian problems (which incidentally are not limited to drinking) have been increasingly not solved, but rather swept under the rug over the course of the past decade. Russia has a lot of experience with its problems being swept under the rug under the communist regime, and, based on the facts I see, my feeling is that the current regime shows the same kind of trend. Seeing as the people here have already chosen to believe the Russian government statistics, it was not necessarily a wise move to try and contradict. But it did irk me a lot, when I saw the above post translated and reprinted in what to me is one of the sources of the Russian nationalist propaganda (here: http://sdelanounas.ru/blogs/9946/ , with a reference to in a different source of info of similar quality here: http://map1983.livejournal.com/12984.html ).

                • Sergey says:

                  Evgenia,

                  once again – what you are describing is a very high level of alcohol abuse. What the people are telling you is that the level is decreasing, which is reflected in falling mortality. Both stories are perfectly compatible with each other.

                  If you chose to not believe anything Rosstat says, based on vague referrals to communism – that’s fine with me. We all are perfectly well functioning in our own reality, protected by ability to filter out unpleasant facts that do not fit into our worldview. I can tell you that doubts on statistics (you might not believe me, but there are websites compiling alternative stats for the USA) are cast differently – you have to discuss methodology, find discrepancies between the parts and the whole, question seasonality adjustment procedures used, etc. Just dismissing it like you do won’t work.

                  On beer. It’s not purely the liters of alcohol that kill. It’s the amount of pure alcohol people consume in one sitting. It’s much easier to digest a lot while drinking vodka than wine; and getting drunk as a swine is certainly possible using 5% beer, but it takes so much time that body is capable of dealing with the poison rather efficiently, so that dying of alcohol poisoning becomes next to impossible. That’s why a rule of thumb is that life expectancy at birth for the same level of alcohol consumption is highest in countries where the dominant drink is beer, reduces by 3-4 years if it’s wine, and by further 3-4 years if hard liquors are dominant. Thus, just shifting population from vodka to beer could go a long way towards reducing alcohol-related mortality.

                  Finally, propaganda is in the eyes of the beholder. If you assign “propaganda” labels the way you conduct discussion here – without any real attempt of using arguments and data instead of personal anecdotes and cliches – then your designation is next to meaningless to me, I’m afraid.

              • Evgenia says:

                Sergei, I’m replying to this older comment, because a glitch in the system seems to be preventing me from replying to your last comment.

                I do agree that discrepancies between statistical data may be caused by differences in methodology.

                I do further agree that an increase in beer consumption may lead to lower alcohol related mortality.

                I do agree that alcohol related mortality might even be lower than it was in the 90’s.

                And yet I consider none of it relevant to the point I was making.

                First of all, all emotion aside, while statistics is a powerful tool in helping us analize the reality, its accuracy does indeed depend on a lot of factors, some of which statisticians cannot control. Thus, I think we all might agree here that any kind of information, whose conclusion rely solely on statistics should always be treated with a degree of skepticism. Now, if you do not consider personal observations a sufficient enough reason to remain skeptical about statistical data that don’t match these observations, THAT’S where we disagree.

                Secondly, my words “reprinted in what to me is one of the sources of the Russian nationalist propaganda”, are very telling, because I said “to me” and didn’t just generally label the sources as propaganda. According to my understanding of propaganda, any kind of information that claims in cannot be falsified by observation is in fact propaganda or religion.

                Let’s see how you characterize my skepticism: “if you chose to not believe anything Rosstat says, based on vague referrals to communism”. I think the explanation I’ve already provided above is very fitting here, so I’ll just copy and paste, if you don’t mind:

                “Unfortunately, according to your logic, anyone who believed the Soviet government’s data over their own observations was akin to a fool who chose to believe superstition over science. Even if you choose to not automatically believe everything I say (which is the path I would personally recommend), I would think that, in the spirit of remaining objective, you might want to also remain skeptical or agnostic about the info provided by the Russian government. For, while it might have the “credentials”, it might also have many reasons not to present facts exactly the way the are.”

                I’m completely willing to admit that the reason I don’t believe anything the Rosstat says is solely based on my observations of the Russian people and the Russian bureaucracy (which, in my experience, is a stark contrast to the US bureaucracy at its worst), which also includes observations of other people, whose judgement I feel I can trust. Now please let me ask you what is it that you’re basing your belief in the accuracy of the Russian government’s statistics on?

                • Sergey says:

                  Dear Evgenia,

                  on thinking about statistics. Yes, we do disagree here. Do yourself a favor, buy and read Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking: Fast and Slow”, and think about all the biases that our tendency to grasp a story and then filter only the facts (generated by a very limited sample, to boot) supporting the story introduces into our thinking. You might never change your mind, as long as there is some friend of one of your hundreds of friends who has drunk himself to death recently – or ever. That’s why using statistics to check the story from time to time is useful.

                  “According to my understanding of propaganda, any kind of information that claims in cannot be falsified by observation is in fact propaganda or religion.” I’m not sure what this supposed to mean within this discussion – are you talking about your observations that presumably falsify the “propaganda” on that website? Or is it something else? In our discussion, we aren’t talking about some nonexistence which could be falsified by a single counter-example. We are talking about tendencies in alcohol consumption and mortality, in which you or I cannot observe but a tiniest of samples.

                  On Rosstat. You seems to equate Soviet and Russian somehow, which looks puzzling to me. If anything, Soviet planners have had an incentive to increase (some of) the reported figures, while in Russia there are very strong pressures aimed at reducing them (think about profits!). Some Soviet statistics were much better than others, distortions were more prevalent in some geographical regions and at certain times, etc. You just put everything into a big pile and claim that if certain Soviet statistics was unreliable, all Russian statistics is unreliable as well. This is an example of an extremely lazy thinking by association, IMHO.

                  Finally, we probably had to deal with different layers of US bureaucracy. Accuracy of statistics isn’t really a function of how idiotic particular officials are, but of procedures used to collect the data. These procedures at Rosstat are continuously checked by IMF, OECD, Eurostat, World Bank, etc. – you name it. Again, your personal disdain isn’t a proof the statistics isn’t reliable to a certain degree.

              • Evgenia says:

                I think it follows logically from my argument, but just to avoid confusion it’s supposed to be: according to your logic, anyone who believed their own observations over the Soviet data was akin to a fool who chose to believe superstition over science.
                I apologize for that mistake.

              • Evgenia says:

                Sergey,

                Again, replying to your old comment.

                First of all, thank you for a book recommendation😉. In turn, I’m recommending that you read this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability.

                Secondly, I’m quite amused by your characteristic of me as someone who thinks that personal observation automatically overrides statistical data. If memory serves, I was only disputing the validity of Rosstat statistics. Based on what? Based on low level of confidence in the Russian government’s ability to present accurate data, especially when it deals with touchy subjects. Which, in turn, is based on what? Based largely on my personal observations, which are the result of my experience, which is not too shabby for an almost 30-year-old ;)). However, feel absolutely free to blissfully ignore any piece of empirical data that I can provide and that doesn’t support your thesis.

                “These procedures at Rosstat are continuously checked by IMF, OECD, Eurostat, World Bank, etc. – you name it. Again, your personal disdain isn’t a proof the statistics isn’t reliable to a certain degree.” Ah, yes.. my personal disdan… Mine and maybe some businessmen’s and lawyers’.. oh, and maybe the SEC… Oh, what the heck.. maybe the US government doesn’t ACTUALLY trust the info presented by the Russian government so much after all. I’ve actually quoted a not so personal source (whose sole purpose is to comply with the US government’s standards) above, which might give you a bit of a clue that some people who litterally mean business might have some concern about the accuracy of Rosstat data. Do not hesitate to show me evidence of how the financial organizations you listed are applauding the state of the Russian statistics and not calling it satisfactory at best.

                Thirdly, while some trends that the current regime is exhibiting do in fact resemble those that the Soviet rule was infamous for, I by no means equate the two. However, I can see at least one similarity. There seems to have been a drastic increase in strict government control over the mass media content by comparison to the 90’s. That desire of the government to present an idealized picture of Russia to the domestic and foreign public wasn’t something we saw in the 90’s, but is very much what we saw during the Soviet rule. It’s highly naive to expect that a government that is constantly trying to doctor its image will not doctor the statistics to make itself look better. And as far as the corruption and efficiency of bureaucracies are concerned, again, you’re more than free to blissfully ignore reality. I, unfortunately, have no such luxury. Having received my US citizenship while in Russia, over the course of the last four years I’ve applied for and recieved at least 20 major US documents for myself and family – and in different US states. Based on my experience and the experience of people I know, there’s an gigantic gap between the efficiency of the US and Russian bureaucratic machines. I could cite a lot of specific examples, for I have A LOT of material on the subject. However, since it seems like you’re simply dismissing my observations as irrelevant, I would love to ask: based on what information are you dismissing them as an exception and not the rule?
                “If anything, Soviet planners have had an incentive to increase (some of) the reported figures, while in Russia there are very strong pressures aimed at reducing them (think about profits!” The most vital companies in Russia tend to be government-controlled and are in fact trying hard to inflate the figures relating to production. Why? The government wants higher production figures, because that’s how it gets higher revenue and higher profits.The managers and owners (many of whom also happen to be members of the government or affiliated parties) want a higher share price, because their wealth depends on it, so they want to show higher profits, higher reserves and so on.
                Now about the figures: there’re Russian figures for petrolium reserves and there’ international figures. The Russian figures show higher levels or reserves and resources, whereas the international sources, which are based on either the Society of Petroleum Engineers of the US SEC, tend to show lower reserves and resources than reported by the Russian government.

                “Some Soviet statistics were much better than others, distortions were more prevalent in some geographical regions and at certain times, etc.” If what you’re saying here is meant to imply that the publicly presented Soviet statistics were overall not so far from reality, kindly refer me to a good non-Russian source of that precious information, which will hopefully explain why the CIA so grossly overestimated the Soviet economy based on the official Soviet data?

                That also leads me to repeating the following question (which, I assume, you simply forgot to answer): what are YOU basing what seems to be a firm belief in the accuracy of Russian statistics on? I’m very very curious.

                • Sergey says:

                  Evgenia,

                  a couple of observations.

                  On SEC etc. I see a lot of lawyer talk about data being less complete than in the USA, and perhaps collected at different bases. Well, anyone who deals with national accounts data or labor market data in Russia would tell you the same. For example, the “imputed rent” isn’t calculated the way it’s done in the USA, which lowers reported Russian GDP – bad, bad Rosstat! Of course, when Rosstat announced that they are switching to internationally compatible methodology, usual suspects assailed it for an attempt to pool even more wool over the innocent observers’ eyes. Unemployment rate according to the ILO definition wasn’t collected until several years ago. I could continue. You might be surprised to hear, though, that the way national accounts are collected in the USA is also different from the way most EU countries are doing this, and they way USA reports unemployment rate is also different. Even some European data is with each other, and European Commission has had to check and correct budget data for Greece and Italy, at least. Please do better next time. Accounting standards – well, give me a break. There’s a reason one could even get a PhD in accounting and be paid as a banker! And remember – Enron happened despite the fact all the “bases” were exactly correct, and the “complete and fully researched” federal, regional, and local statistics that is collected by the USA.

                  Oil reserves – yes, I know that Russian definitions are somewhat different from the internationally accepted ones. The last time I checked, though, oil and gas reserves weren’t affecting GDP or life expectancy at birth calculations. Just the book value of corporations.

                  On incentives of managers of state corporations. I would agree with you, but then I’d have to reduce sharply my subjective estimate of the corruption levels in Russia (which is very high). You need control over cash flows in order to be corrupt, which is a very strong incentive to reduce reported profits and value added. (In fact, it’s true for any entrepreneur who is minimizing taxes. Meaning, every single one of them). For the mechanism you describe to work, Russia should be much more transparent than it is now.

                  On some Soviet statistics better than the other – you again used output example. You probably understand that Soviet economic statistics, on top of being deliberately manipulated, was incomparable to the Western one because of a very different price structure. (People tried to do comparable numbers for a long time, and were hampered by the lack of data. Ex-1991, Rosstat was part of the effort to provide internationally comparable numbers for Soviet economic output). Well, guess what – that’s exactly why Russia is participating in rounds of international comparisons of GDP, starting from 1996. We are, actually, talking about life events statistics here in this blog, and I fail to understand why are you bringing output or profit discrepancies from many years back. Could you please switch the discussion closer to home? If I wanted to discuss Gerschenkron effect with you, I would be doing it in a very different venue (and yes, we would be talking price indices and methodology, not the mostly touchy – feely stuff you are throwing around.)

                  Finally, on Russia seemingly trying to present itself in a better light and this being somehow “Soviet”. Do watch CNN and see all the ads for Croatia, Malaysia, Romania, etc. Or read Georgian ads in WSJ and NYT. Everyone is doing that, period. Why exactly should Russia be different? If something like that wasn’t done in 90es – perhaps the guys in the government were just learning the ropes. Or maybe their incentives were different – asking IMF for a loan while paying for ads saying how great things in the country were wasn’t considered a good form?

                • Evgenia says:

                  Dear Sergey,

                  It’s very funny that you don’t seem to notice how much you’ve actually helped my argument.

                  What was my argument? That the Russian government’s statistics are not to be trusted. Granted that we seemed to have collectively arrived at the conclusion that the Western governments’ statistics aren’t too trustworthy either, you and I seem to actually agree that the Russian government is particularly corrupt. And while you may think the US government, for example, is every bit as corrupt (and that’s your cross to bear ;)), the point of the matter is: the Russian government is very corrupt and has every bit as much of an incentive to doctor data regarding its population as any other government with very little transparency. Oh, and please don’t even try to educate me on economics and business – especially not on population statistics allegedly having nothing to do with economic prospects of a country. The idea that high levels of mortality, alcohol abuse and brain drain aren’t a bad reflection on economic prospects of a country seems, at best, a very unlikely theory.
                  Now you’re telling me we shouldn’t digress. And yet you, for example, take my statement about the Russian government showing a similar trend in covering up its deficiencies, and launch into a vague discussion of the Soviet statistics. What exactly you were trying to prove there remains unclear. If you were trying to prove that there isn’t any kind of commonality between the two regimes’ treatment of population data, you failed. If you were trying to prove that the official Soviet statistics were accurate, you failed. The only thing you might’ve succeeded in proving was how different the Soviet statistics were from the Western systems. Of course, I never claimed they were the same, so it’s quite unclearly what exactly warranted such a lengthy discussion of this subject on your part. I merely pointed out that doubting the accuracy of the Russian government’s data seems to me a very wise move, because the current regime, much like the Soviet regime, is focused on hiding negative information about the Russian state of affairs . Why? Because while the Russian government has now more economic incentive for being more transparent with the outside world than did the Soviet government, it doesn´t always behave according to the Western expectations of transparency, which I do in fact consider very reasonable (and will talk more about below). The problem is that in Russia there’re very few mechanisms in place for preventing the government from covering up the extreme levels of corruption, inefficiency, as well for making the country’s social and economic prospects look as bright as possible in order to gain more political capital and economic rent. While the Western governments try to do the same things, they don’t get away with it nearly as much and nearly for as long as the Russian government does. Why not? Because, believe it or not, while all Western countries are different, most of them in fact seem to have MUCH higher levels of transparency and separation of powers, independent judiciaries, better law enforcement, and the most important thing? A MUCH higher level of what in Russia we call “политическая и правовая культура населения”, which has a direct impact on the ability of the public to keep the government accountable and honest. If you try to dispute these things, this conversation might just get truly interesting for me😉.
                  Finally, as far as the observable eerie similarities between the way important social info is presented on CNN and on any major Russian mass media channel, kindly reread my previous comment. I was very clearly referring to the way Russian affairs are presented in the Russian mass media, over which the Russian government has siezed full control. So, dear Sergey, you should probably NOT be comparing the way Russia is presented on Russian channels to the way foreign countries are presented on US channels. Rather, you should be comparing the way Russia’s presented on the Russian channels to way the US is being presented on the US channels. I’d even be willing to join forces in conducting a comparative analysis of news on main Russian TV channels and on main US TV channels to analize the two resulting pictures. The activity might just prove more productive in assessing the quality of official data being presented to us than our squabble over things we will clearly never be able to prove to each other’s satisfaction. Otherwise, let’s just end this conversation while the terms are still good enough🙂.

              • Evgenia says:

                To avoid confusion: “The problem is that in Russia there’re very few mechanisms in place for preventing the government from covering up the extreme levels of corruption, inefficiency and FROM making the country’s social and economic prospects look as bright as possible in order to gain more political capital and economic rent.”

              • Evgenia says:

                Sergey,

                The gibberish about marriage was way too much info, but at least it might’ve given us an important clue as to the actual source of your discomfort and frustration😉.

                You have a very quaint idea not only of marriage, but also of misrepresentation. Based on your logic, I’m misrepresenting because I dare insist that there’s no transparency in Russia. Dear Sergey, I dare insist that there’s no transparency in Russia, because my experience of living in Russia tells me so. And the experience of my parents. And the experience of my husband. And the experience of many of my friends. Part of my job in the corporate compliance department of a respectable law firm was to give kickbacks to government officials, for Christ’s sake and nobody saw a problem with that.. Not that there’s any sense in actually detailing my Russian experience. Why not? Because you people seem to have kind of formed a bit of cult here. Okay, you don’t want to believe that Russia as bad as it’s being painted. That’s fine. Actually sems like reasonable skepticism to me – the kind that I’ve encountered in a lot of reasonable people, who didn’t have quite the same breadth of experience as I did. But you guys are not just skeptical about the things you haven’t experienced. You believe those things to be a lie. You very fanatically believe that exactly THE OPPOSITE of everything bad that is being said about Russia is in fact true. You are a fascinating bunch – I’ll give you that😉.

                • Sergey says:

                  Evgenia,

                  yes, I do recognize the style of discussion you are doing. Sorry, no time to get into a textbook on obfuscation tactics to enumerate the points.

                  The fact is, your accusations of Russian demographic statistics as being not only unreliable, but manipulated in a specific direction as well, remain unproved. Moreover, beyond vague referrals to CIA, unnamed lawyers, etc., you didn’t even make an effort to bring in any evidence. The more words you spend trying to deflect the attention from this simple fact, the more glaringly obvious it becomes.

                • PvMikhail says:

                  I see we have a “Doubting Thomas, but only against Russians” kinda people here. Mark, skazhite menya pozhaluysta, who is this? I have a guess: Albats Ye. M.

                  Time will tell who was right…

              • Evgenia says:

                Sergey,

                Now that you’ve completely flipped your lid (CIA? I can only assume you’re on some kind of bad trip ;)), I think it’s time to finish what started more like a more reasonable conversation.

                But just out of curiosity: what kind of evidence could I provide to satisfy you that I’m telling the truth? Name the lawyers? Send you a copy of my Russian passport with my registration? Maybe a copy of my Trudovaya Knizhka too? Get some witnesses from Russia and have a Skype chat with you? Have my husband chat with you too? Seems like the only thing that could actually satisfy you would be if I stopped writing the things, which I know are true and which you have no way of disproving. You have the right to be skeptical about everything I say. But you claiming that I’m lying, just because there’s a possibility that I am, doesn’t exactly make you anything other than a frustrated jerk😉

                • Sergey says:

                  Evgenia,

                  a) CIA was introduced into this conversation by yourself, when you discussed unreliability of Soviet economic statistics (and how CIA has erred while estimating GDP of USSR). Kudos to you for trying to make me into a madman, but please try again – your words remain on this site, in plain English, for everyone to see.

                  b) you were given examples of things people do when discussing (un)reliability of statistics – repeatedly. For instance, I have told you that if you question statistics, you should discuss methodology, point our inconsistencies in different time series, etc. You continue to play a simpleton and offer me your trudovaya knizhka. I fail to see how it is going to be helpful, and continue to question your tendency of avoiding answering the questions asked.

                  c) I don’t think I used the word “lied” or “lie” with respect to you in any of my posts.

                  d) you could take points a) to c) above as examples of your misrepresentations. Others could be found, but they too numerous to lead to anything other than a tedious list continuing for page after page.

              • Evgenia says:

                Sergey,

                a.) Would be more than impressive if I haven’t slipped up once, while trying to fend off attacks of several people for hours and at this point days on end. One single mistake over the course of such a long discussion doesn’t make me someone who always misrepresents. Maybe according to your logic it does, but it is the logic of a madman. And no, you really don’t need my help with making you look like a madman. When all of a sudden out of the blue you started ranting about marriage, you looked like a complete maniac. Hard to still take you seriously after that.

                b.) You’re the only one who’s playing simpleton here. Or maybe you are one. I’ve already explained that the unreliability of the Russian statistics, in my view, has nothing to do with statistical methodology. The methodology that the Russian government presents to the outside world may be picture perfect, but in order for us to assume that the data that comes out of Rosstat is reliable, we have to assume that the data that goes into Rosstat is reliable too. Based on what do you believe, for example, that the numbers that the Russian government is using for calculating the number of drinkers are true? Unless an independent source double checked all the data that went into Rosstat, we now have to believe that the Russian government is trustworthy enough to do a good job collecting and not changing those numbers. And I don’t believe it is trustworthy. And I’ve already proved that I’m not alone in this by providing a very official and highly scrutinized document, where Rosstat was being referred to as an unreliable source of info by the management of a major Russia company via its lawyers. If you don’t believe that document, it’s your problem – not mine, since I’ve provided official corroboration of my words.

                I’ve even provided my explanation for why I think the Russian government isn’t a reliable source of any info. Because it gets away with a lof of fraud, about which those lawyers in major international firms in Moscow can’t talk. Because when you start to implicate the Russian government in fraud, you end up threatened and even prosecuted yourself. I know this from the experience of the people close to me, which is why I can’t prove it with documents. I have to speak in the general terms without naming names, because I don’t want to get in trouble by being a bit too open or get those people in trouble. I’ve already said too much, as far as I’m concerned. Both my parents and my husband think it’s dangerous for me to talk about these isues. Everybody in Russia thinks it’s dangerous to make waves, and people who try to expose corruption in Russia don’t get the same public support that they get in the West. As a result, the Western public doesn’t know a fraction of what is actually going on, and the way info is concealed at all levels. And here you are talking to me about methodology of the Russian statistics, when I know that the Russian government is involved in the kind of fraud you can’t even dream of. I’m potentially endangering myself here, and you keep harrassing me.You know what? If you don’t believe my words, just say it. But stop harrassing me about things that don’t necessarily determine the accuracy of the Russian government’s data.

                c.)you accused me of “misrepresenting” info. Lying and misrepresenting actually happen to be synonyms. Look it up. So, yes, Sergey, even though didn’t actually use the word “lie”, you did accuse me of lying, dear.

                d.)so point C having suddenly become evidence of YOU lying about me, you have only one single piece of solid evidence of my misrepresentation left. And no, there’s no more evidence of me misrepresenting anything, that’s why you had to make that pathetic vague reference to how “numerous” my misrepresentations are.
                e.)I have no interest in continuing this conversation with a pathetic joke of a man that you are. I’m actually pretty disgusted by you, as you can tell

                • Sergey says:

                  Evgenia,

                  I’m just trying to see whether the amount of words you produce is inversely proportional to the length of the post you are replying to. I stopped looking for coherent content in your produce, sorry.

        • Hunter says:

          You feel offended that someone is writing that alcoholism is on the decline in Russia according to official stats? So you would prefer if alcoholism was on the increase then??

          apc27, I think we can safely conclude that you won’t get a sensible reply from this poster. It sounds very much like Evgenia would also tell you that a majority really didn’t vote for Putin in the last election and (probably) that the liberals as represented by Yabloko could form a government if only all those millions upon millions of votes weren’t stolen from them (in other words Evgenia sounds prone to believing conspiracy theories). I would be extremely surprised if this poster provided any evidence whatsoever that Rosstat was pulling numbers out of thin air. At most what I would expect is some talk about how “everyone should know” that Rosstat lies and nothing Rosstat publishes can be believed and berating you for even thinking otherwise without citing even one example which proves that Rosstat fabricates its data.

          The fact that Evgenia would consider her personal observations as valid but refute Mark’s personal observations as being equally valid without having a clue where Mark has been in Russia and how often he has travelled; and that she would consider her personal, subjective observations (which are extremely unlikely to be representative of Russia as a whole given its size unless she has literally travelled to every town in every oblast and republic and visited every street and house in these towns) to be true and for the information presented by an official statistics agency with people employed to go out and record data in more places that Evgenia has likely ever been in Russia to be false pretty much says it all. She is unlikely to consider anything which doesn’t conform to her personal observations and beliefs to be anything but a falsehood. Of course, that kind of thinking is reminiscent of the time when people thought the earth was flat simply because they couldn’t observe that it was spherical. Or of the thinking that atoms don’t exist because they can’t be seen. It doesn’t seem to occur to her that Mark may well have observed low levels of alcohol drinking among the folks that he met and that her observations of high levels of alcohol drinking may well be because she has ended up frequently in areas with more alcoholics. It also doesn’t seem to occur to her that stating that alcoholism is on the decrease is not the same thing as saying that alcoholism has vanished or is at low levels. If 90% of people were alcoholic in 1995 and 80% of people were alcoholic in 2005 then alcoholism has decreased even though on an absolute level alcoholism remains high (and to someone just going about their daily business the difference would probably be imperceptible in casual observation since if you see on average 8 bums on the street with bottles of vodka you aren’t likely to notice that this is one less bum than you observed 10 years ago since the basic observation would be “a lot of bums on the street with vodka”). But maybe she was smart enough (and had enough time on her hands) to count the number of persons she observed drinking in her frequent travels and to count how many drinks they had and to compile this information over the years, thereby showing that the number of persons drinking and the number of drinks each individual consumed has remained unchanged or actually increased since the 1990s.

          • Evgenia says:

            “It sounds very much like Evgenia would also tell you that a majority really didn’t vote for Putin in the last election and (probably) that the liberals as represented by Yabloko could form a government if only all those millions upon millions of votes weren’t stolen from them (in other words Evgenia sounds prone to believing conspiracy theories).”

            Wow! Evgenia’s very impressed: what you lack in judgement you more than make up in imagination. Was that at least good for you – verbally masturbating to this incredibly “sexy” image of me you created ;)? And are you quite sure you want me to ruin your fantasy by describing what I actually look like ;))?

            • Hunter says:

              See apc27? Just as I predicted. Not one iota of proof that Rosstat is fabricating stuff. Only her personal experience with the state in general (and even then she offers no examples to substantiate the idea that “there’s nothing objective about the Russian official stats or the Russian government in general.”). And amazingly she avoids all the other relevant points brought up by yourself, myself and mark and zeroes in on essentially calling us fools for not believing her view of the world (without her offering proof) and going on about her personal observations. Interestingly she doesn’t seem to have actually turned her casual observations into stats by writing down the number of drunkards she observed over time and in various places. Again, this kind of thinking is akin to the flat earth theory or as sergey correctly pointed out, the idea that the earth is centre of the universe because (from the perspective of earth) it would appear that the sun goes around the earth and not vice versa.

              You kinda have to feel sorry for her in a way if this is how she genuinely thinks.

              • Evgenia says:

                While I did provide a detailed explanation of my reasons for mistrusting these statistics to the person, who actually sounded reasonable and logical, I will say to you the following:

                Guess what? You were very WRONG right off the bat, when your characterized me as someone who is a raging Russian liberal and who doesn’t believe in Putin being supported by the majority of the Russian population.

                After that comment of yours I got the feeling there was simply no point in trying to have a reasonable discussion with you personally. I will, however, continue to have this discussion with those people who are not exhibiting signs of paranoia. Feel free to fantasize wildly about me and/or feel sorry for me ;)).

                • Hunter says:

                  While I did provide a detailed explanation of my reasons for mistrusting these statistics to the person, who actually sounded reasonable and logical, I will say to you the following

                  Actually at the time of my reply you had done no such thing. Maybe you were fantasizing about it, but you certainly didn’t give detailed explanations. The most you wrote was some vague nonsense about there being “nothing objective about the Russian official stats or the Russian government in general” according to your personal experience but failing to provide a single example of this experience. Perhaps you expected others to read your mind.

                  As to Putin, I suggest you brush up on your English. Perhaps you are unaware, but when someone says “it sounds very much like” as I did when I made the speculation about you (go back and read it again), it was just that. Speculation. Based entirely on your style of writing and your apparent way of thinking (which hasn’t changed by the way – you’re still essentially writing the stuff of conspiracy theories). However speculation =/= characterization. Had I been characterizing you, I would have written in a definite tone that “Evgenia will also tell you that a majority really didn’t vote for Putin in the last election and (probably) that…” and not used the phrase “it sounds very much like”.

                  And with regards to having a reasonable discussion, well you’re pretty late when it comes to that realization. As I said to apc27 there is obviously no point in expecting a sensible reply from you and if one can’t get a sensible reply from someone, how can one have a reasonable discussion? Even now I note you still avoid the points I made that you basically attack Mark for writing based on his experience and the knowledge available to him and then proceed to the do the very same thing as some sort of counter-argument. Apparently in your reality it is okay for you to be able to write based on your experience, but the experience of anyone else is to be discounted. That’s not the kind of attitude one would expect from a person who is unbiased. In fact it’s usually the attitude displayed by bigots, who in general make a mockery of the concept of civilized behaviour. Now maybe I’m wrong, but I would definitely hope you were a civilized human being capable of not being insulted by others expressing their own views and discussing available facts and that you are not a bigot (or worse), but thus far you haven’t exactly been showering this blog with examples proving it.

                  Anyway, regardless of your actual character, I certainly hope you find peace in your life and that your days to come are good ones.

                • Sergey says:

                  Evgenia,

                  I must say I’m baffled by your ability to misrepresent. Your argument is very simple – the West is so much more transparent because – wel, because – and that’s why anything that could be bad is horrible in Russia. Ergo, Russian statistics couldn’t be trusted, unless they could be used to show how horrible things are.

                  I wish you good luck with such a standard of argumentation – it works somehow in many marriages, so you will survive, I guess. I also wish you luck in your newly adopted homeland – there’s always a large demand for emigrees telling each other stories about how lucky they were to escape. You are much more eloquent than the most such I’ve met in my life, so you’ll be successful.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Some daunting statistics here concerning alcohol abuse in Russia:

          http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/5199/do-russians-drink-as-much-alcohol-as-their-stereotype-suggests

          But is alcohol consumption now falling in Russia as compared to the amount consumed 10 or 20 years ago?

          I do a lot of travelling in Russia as well and also live in the country for three months or so each summer. Since 1989 I have seen neither a noticeable increase nor decrease in alcohol dinking: from what I’ve observed, it’s all seemingly remained at the same level.

          Year in, year out I still see roughly the same number of drunken bums hanging around the small settlement close to my dacha teritory; the same number, but different faces who regularly replace those who’ve had their very last drop, only in their turn to be replaced by new members of skidrow. And in my block at Taganka, Moscow, I have personally known three neighbours who have died through alcoholism during the past 10 years. They were all 35-55-year-old men.

          What I have noticed over the years, though, is slight and often short lived shifts in drinking habits: in the final perestroika years, when I lived in Voronezh, samogon and even, at times, eau de cologne satisfied the needs of the alcohol dependent; in the Yeltsin years beer drinking took off, as well as “cocktail” drinking from cans, e.g. “Hooch” and “Dzhin tonik”, which beverages until quite recently filled kiosks to bursting point around Moscow and whose sale was around-the-clock. I believe, however, that despite these apparent shifts in drinking habits, vodka consumption has remained a constant

          Now most of these booze kiosks have been closed and a minimum price has been fixed for vodka and its sale restricted to between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. For some reason or other, the powers that be seem to thiink this will reduce consumption. i can’t see how, myself.

          • kirill says:

            While shills and liberasts try to assign Russia’s alcohol problem to Putin, intelligent individuals will clearly see it as a cultural pathology. Your observations are consistent with it being a cultural issue. Even if every Russian was making $80,000 per year and voting for some utopian liberal parties in a “true democracy”, they would still bring out the bottles of vodka to any get together. People just don’t think that beer is the proper alcoholic beverage for such socializing. There is peer pressure to drink vodka and not pansy soft drinks like beer.

            This culture produces alcoholics independent of economic or political conditions. Obviously some fraction of the alcoholism is a function of these factors, just like in the west, but there is a baseline which does not respond to improving living conditions. Alcoholism is an addiction and not a political statement.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Drinking beer is a waste of time according to most male Russian drinkers that I have known – drinking beer only, that is: beer is just a “wet” before the real thing for them, or “the hair of the dog”, often after a 3-day vodka session. I well remember drinking beer all day Sunday with my student colleagues after having had serious vodka sessions on Saturdays.

              I remember when beer drinking really took off in the ’90s here and observers were saying the beer was going to replace vodka and how wonderful that would be, only to have their dreams shattered by the revelation that although beer sales had rocketed, vodka consumption had remained stable.

              The curious fact is, though, that beer is not even classed as an alcoholic drink in Russia, hence its ease of purchase around the clock at kiosks and why you can drink it in public – on trains, park benches, in the street etc. – with little or no hassle. As regards this matter, the law is now being changed. I well remember how my wife once announced in amazement how she had heard a doctor saying on the radio that you could become an alcoholic even if you you only drank beer. She found it hard to believe because beer was not hard liquor.

              I stopped dtinking alcohol 5 years ago, by the way. After 42 years of knocking it back, i just got bored with it. Much prefer kvas now.

              Bear in mind, there’s alcohol in that too…
              🙂

              • marknesop says:

                I don’t drink much any more, either, although I still like to have a couple now and again. Nobody else in my family drinks, and my wife doesn’t like it at all, so for lack of a drinking companion I more or less fell out of the habit.

                When I was in Russia, I quite liked Russian beer; Baltika was fairly popular (although likely it benefited from an aggressive and professional marketing campaign) and another that featured some bears on the label. That one, I think, was my favourite, although I can’t remember now what it was called.

                Unfortunately – for some – Medvedev did, I’m afraid, sign a bill in 2011 that classifies beer as an alcoholic drink, although new measures to severely curtail its sales do not come into effect until next year. And according to The Beeb, vodka sales did slump significantly (down 30%) in conjunction with the rising popularity of beer. The article is not sourced, though, and provides no substantiation for its figures.

                I would point out also that in the United States, the retailing of alcoholic beverages is delegated to the states, and state laws vary considerably. In California, the state I visit more often than any others, you can buy beer in the supermarket. And over half the population aged 18 and over in 2010 considered themselves regular drinkers, although that amounted to only an average of one drink per month, which is far from alcoholism by any measure.

        • marknesop says:

          So…if I wanted to take a trip to Ibiza, and I wanted to know what it offered for hotels, I should go there first and travel around so I knew what I wanted to know before trying to find out what I wanted to know? And before making bold statements about a country you allegedly know like the back of your hand just because you are an actual Russian, please provide some substantiation that supports deaths in Russia due to alcoholism behaving other than I described (ie: remaining stable or increasing). I’ll be waiting.

          • Evgenia says:

            Are you telling me that this is an actual parallel you’re drawing here? Are you seriously comparing obtaining the knowledge of a drinks menu in an Ibiza hotel with obtaining the knowledge of drinking habits of the society I come from, whose government’s been infamous for doctoring statistics since the the Soviet years ( kindly check out the state-controlled RT (http://rt.com/) to see how protective the Russian government is about the Russian image abroad). And please tell me you’re not American, because you are being both completely ignorant about other cultures and very obnoxious in demanding that I defend statements I never made.
            What my statement meant was that it deeply offends me as a Russian person when someone makes light of such very real Russian problems as alcoholism and brain drain, which I observed on more than a regular basis in Russia.

            • kirill says:

              You are a fraud. My relatives in Saratov have all experienced significant wage increases in the last 13 years, consistent with the statistics provided by GKS. Only a shill would go around claiming that “it’s all GKS lies” and that dramatic economic improvement for the average Russians means nothing in terms of alcoholism. In the US, liquor stores target the ghettos and poor neighbourhoods for the obvious reason that they get more business there.

              • Evgenia says:

                Funny story:

                I’m relying on personal observations of alcoholism among the hundreds of the Russian people I know personally and many more that I observed in Russia, all of which tends to show that alcoholism is every bit of a problem in Russia as, say, 10 years ago, and that the Russian government tends to misrepresent facts. That makes me a fraud.

                You’re relying on your relatives’ observations about wage increases in the last 13 years (yes, wages in Russia have increased since the 90’s, and so did the oil prices – only much more so than the wages).
                And that makes you the kind of person who can call me a fraud?

                • Dear Evgenia,

                  I have just been reading through your comments.

                  For what it’s worth I see no reason to doubt Russian government statistics on alcoholism or indeed Russian statistics in general. The alcohol statistics seem to correlate closely with the improving demographic picture, for which there is abundant independent corroboration, so I see no reason to doubt them. On Russian statistics in general I am going I suspect to horrify you by saying that they look a great deal more reliable to me than statistics in the US and Britain and moreoverthey have been doing so for a very long time now.

                  Putting aside that enormous subject, which I am not going to discuss here on this blog and which I understand has already been discussed far more fully than I am willing to do elsewhere, I am frankly puzzled by your very strong feelings on this subject. Also I am unclear as to what it is precisely that you are objecting to? Is it the statistics you worry about or the alcoholism? No one, not even the Russian government, disputes that alcoholism in Russia remains an immense problem, far more so than in any other developed country. Surely that should be the focus of your anger and concern? Do you have any suggestions about how the problem could be made better?

                • Evgenia says:

                  If somebody could fix the problems of no reply buttons after a comment, that would be the greatest favor they could do me.

                  My dear and obviously highly innocent Alexander Mercouris,

                  I believe I’ve more than answered all your questions as to why and how. My distrust of the Russian statistics is, as described above, highly rational and based on years of experience.

                  I´m not horrified. I´m amused. If you want to convince someone of the radical idea that the Russian government’s standards are somehow higher than both in the UK and in the US, you might want to direct your efforts towards someone who hasn´t worked with many-many US and UK lawyers in Russia. If you really want to see a horrified person, you´ll want to take a look at a seasoned US or UK lawyer who gets his or her first taste of the Russian legal system and the Russian reporting standards. Now that´s a look of horror you’ll never forget.
                  Bye-bye now! I’m seriously getting tired of responding to so many people after trying to talk to only one of them.

                • marknesop says:

                  Hello again, Zhenya. The absence of a reply button is caused by the setting of comment “nesting” at 8. This allows comment threads to appear in stacks of 8. I could change it, but I’m afraid it makes comments too awkward to read, especially if they’re long, because each succeeding comment becomes narrower. I apologize if the format is distracting, but there really isn’t a practical alternative and it is not a “system glitch”.

                  What most commenters confronted with having the end of the thread pulled out from under them do is simply start a new one. Just be sure to clearly identify what you’re talking about and to whom it’s directed; what most do is copy the relevant statement or paragraph from the end of the last thread, to which they wish to respond. Are you not a blogger yourself? I assumed you were based on the colloquial excellence of your English and your political engagement. If you are not and would be interested in starting one, I would be honoured to assist you, and it is really not difficult.

                  When the Soviet Union collapsed, you were 8 or 9 years old. I cannot imagine you were socially engaged to anything like the degree you are now, and therefore having “grown up” in the Soviet Union to the age of 8 or 9 – during which time you would have been almost completely under your parents’ or guardians’ protection – does not really invest you with the authoritative cachet you think. Most of your “growing awareness” years were spent in the Russian Federation, the majority of them under Vladimir Putin’s leadership. You may not like it, may well think it needs no end of improvements – but you really don’t have anything to compare it with.

                • Dear Evgenia,

                  I am pleased you were amused rather than horrified.

                  As it happens I know several Russian lawyers and several British lawyers who have worked Russia.

                  I think you have far too much trust in the competence and general honesty of the US and British authorities (a common Russian misconception by the way) but putting that aside and putting also aside our disagreement about the reliability of Russian statistics and my belief in their greater reliability than US and British statistics (in which I hold to my views) I would still be interested to know what you as a Russian woman think should be done to reduce alcoholism in Russia? Why is alcoholism such a problem in Russia and why has it been a problem for so long? Is it true by the way that it is largely a problem amongst men rather than women? If so would an improvement in the social position of Russian women reduce it or make it worse?

                • Evgenia says:

                  Mark,

                  Thanks for the detailed explanation of the problem and for the compliments. I have blogging experience on other platforms, but wordpress isn’t to my liking. Thanks for your offer of help, though.

                  As I have already made clear, in order for you to have any real basis for judging my experience, you would have to first find out more about it😉. Claiming that I can’t possibly have the relevant experience at this age makes you sound much too presumptuous. And being much too presumptuous increases the likelihood of you being wrong.

          • Evgenia says:

            Alexander,

            Looks like I finally have time and opportunity to respond to your comment.

            Well, considering that I worked with Russian, UK and US lawyers in Russia, my parents are Russian lawyers, and my husband is a US lawyer who spent a lot of his career in Russia, by all means let’s compare our info. Plainly stating that you know some British and Russian lawyers really doesn’t give us much to go on. Did the lawyers you know tell you that the Russian people enjoy better law enforcement? More government and business transparency? Better courts system, which enables Russians to get their due? What exactly did those lawyers tell you?

            The misconception you developed about me isn’t the result of anything I said, because I never claimed that the US and UK governments are free from sin. Your misconception is the result of a deep flaw in your logic. My claiming that the Russian government is much more corrupt than the US and UK governments to you somehow equals my lack of knowledge about government corruption in the US and the UK. You somehow assume that anyone who’s read a lot of info about instances of corruption in the US and the UK and/or has encountered such corruption personally, will inevitably come to the conclusion that the current Russian situation is no worse. As someone who can give you a run for your money on the issues of corruption and fraud in the US, I’ve come to a very different conclusion. Since I’ve already explained to Mark what I think makes the situation with the government corruption and fraud in Russia much worse than it is in the US, I will not repeat myself in this comment. However, I will be glad to answer any of your follow-up questions on what I see as an extremely high degree of social acceptance of the government’s untransparency, unaccountability, corruption and fraud in Russia, which results in, among other things, very poor record-keeping on these and other important issues, creating the false impression that the levels of corruption and fraud in Russia are comparable to the levels of corruption and farud in the West.

            Now, on the actual issue of alcoholism in Russia. Seeing how copious drinking, much like corruption, seems to be a major part of the Russian tradition, I don’t believe anything can realistically be done about it. With laws in Russia not having the same social foundation as they do in the West, the Russian government is not likely to achieve any appreciable results through regulation. The government is also very unlikely to significantly reduce the problem through economic stimulus. I believe someone has already pointed out here that heavy drinking is not so much an economic issue as it is a recreational activity for the majority of Russian men at every level of society. I concur with that opinion.

            And while I do believe heavy drinking is much more prevalent among Russian men than among women, I don’t believe a change in the social position of women will make any difference in this matter. One thing that makes the Russian culture completely different from the Western culture is that neither Russian men nor Russian women understand freedom in the same sense, in which it’s understood in the West. While demanding and achieving more freedom (in the Western sense) for more groups of society and the individual has been the Western tradition, power worship, with different social groups mostly aiming to assert dominance, has been the Russian tradition.

            • Dear Evgenia,

              What the lawyers I know tell me is that the situation was totally chaotic in the 1990s but has settled down since and works reasonably well now by international standards and much better than is widely supposed. This accords with a comment I recently read by the President of the European Court of Human Rights, the international court that has the most direct dealings with the Russian judiciary, who said essentially the same thing, that most Russian courts do a reasonably job and that Russians ought to use them more and that at the level of the two top courts, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, the standard of jurisprudence is up to the best international standards.

              Perhaps more pertinently I also know quite a few business people who work in Russia including a British woman who runs her own business there. They all say essentially the same thing, that it is possible to do business in Russia without getting involved in corruption and that the extent of corruption is greatly exaggerated. The British businesswoman tells me that she has never had to pay a bribe in the decade or so she has done business there.

              Having said that, if you read my comment carefully, you will see that I said that I do not want to get drawn into a discussion of comparing statistics and corruption in Russia and in the US and Britain. We are never going to agree about this so I see no point in doing so. What I did ask you as a Russian woman were some questions about why alcoholism is so entrenched and what can be done about it. Here I have to say I find your answer frankly unsatisfactory. It seems that Russia is corrupt because it is Russia and that Russians drink because they are Russians and because they “worship power” and that there is nothing anyone can do about it. I don’t have to tell you that I don’t agree with these despairing counsels, which to my mind explain nothing, or find them remotely useful and thankfully nor it seems does the Russian government.

              The one point I would make is that it seems that you do not live in Russia any more and have not done so for some time. The reported improvement in alcoholism about whose existence I personally have no doubt has been most dramatic over the last few years. Is it not possible that you are a little out of touch?

              • Evgenia says:

                Alexander,

                Unfortunately for you, you continue to make conclusions based on wrong assumptions, which is a very poor reflection on your judgement. For example, only a year and a half ago I was still living in Russia (which I’ve already disclosed several times on this blog), so I can hardly be that out of touch with the Russian reality. Based on the reports of the many people I know who are still working as lawyers in Russia, the situation has worsened and they’re making plans to leave Russia.

                The picture of Russia you painted has absolutely nothing to do with reality. I’ve already mentioned to Mark that my parents are prominent Russian defense attorneys, and based on their experience, for example, the system of justice was better in the 90’s and has substantially devolved since the early 2000’s, with courts having lost all their independence from the executive branch. My parents have been practicing law in one of the least corrupt region of Russia, and even they have seen the system of government in that region become increasingly more corrupt ever since the President has asserted more control over the Russian regions.

                To be completely fair to you, I can actually understand people who sincerely believe that the situation is improving in Russia. After all, my own husband, who held a prominent position at an international law firm in Moscow, used to think that Russia wasn’t so bad. Nothing I would say could change his mind. But when his colleagues and friends, who were also working as prominent lawyers in Russia, started to receive death threats from high-ranking government officials, he reconsidered his original stance.

                The fact that you don’t find my answers satisfactory doesn’t surprise me at all. With me having MUCH more experience than you of dealing with Russia, we’ll never ever be on the same page. I’ve given you the benefit of the doubt, and I must now say good-bye for good😉.

                • Dear Evgenia,

                  I agree this discussion does not seem to be going anywhere, which I think is a pity. Also i am disappointed that you have changed the subject from alcoholism to the quite separate topic of the legal system. I make no assumptions. I simply report what people tell me. You asked me if I know any Russian lawyers and US and British lawyers working (or who have worked) in Russia and the answer is yes I do and I have told you what they tell me, which accords with what the President of the European Court of Human Rights has said who as the western jurist whose court hears the greatest number of cases from Russia is I would respectfully suggest the person best placed to form an accurate judgement of the state of the legal system there.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Dear Evgenia,

                  Having read with great interest the thousands of words that you have recently written in correspondence with various contributors to this site, I should like to congratulate you on your command of the English language.

                  Your English has consistently been flawlessly written in the style that an educated US speaker of English would use. During the past week or so I have not spotted the slightest error in your English, which is amazing when one considers the fact that you are a young, native Russian speaker who as recently as eighteen months ago was still resident in the land of your birth.

                  In fact, were it not for your statement made at the very beginning of your lengthy correspondence with this site that you are a Russian, I should have thought that all the words that you have written had been penned by a person whose mother tongue was English.

                  Allow me to congratulate you once again on this outstanding linguistic achievement of yours.

                  Yours sincerely,

                  Moscow Exile

                  Moscow
                  The Evil Empire

              • Evgenia says:

                Alexander,

                I’ve actually answered your questions about my views on the problem of alcoholism in Russia. Instead of thanking me for taking the time to give you my opinion, you complained about not being satisfied😉.

                Now you’re also dissatisfied with me talking about the Russian legal system, of which you clearly know nothing about, if you consider the President of the European Court of Human Rights the person “who’s best placed to form an accurate judgement of the state of the legal system there”. The decisions of the European Court of Human Rights have meant less and less in Russia, for they don’t tend to be enforced. Most Russians have figured that out and stopped wasting their time and effort. I don’t see how it’s a good sign.

              • Evgenia says:

                Moscow Exile,

                Wow! Very generous of you! I’m feeling extremely flattered and deeply insecure at the same time… Do people here think I’m lying about my background, only pretending to be a recent immigrant?

                • PvMikhail says:

                  You have just received a compliment. Nobody said that you are lying. Otherwise they would not talk to you.

                  Listen, I would like to understand the people, who are on the opposite side, and you seem to be an intelligent person, who can answer some questions. I am just curious, that WHO ARE YOU? One of the columnists we know so well? Why are you here? Why do you feel the importance to represent the other side which is already represented by many?

                  I am a Hungarian engineer, who recently wants to enter job market. I am 23. Since my childhood, I have been interested in Russia and Russia related topics. I have enough of groundless anti-Russian propaganda of various types, which is present in various extent in every possible Western media coverage. Double standards, assumptions, viciousness and outright lies are everywhere. That’s why I became an amateur Russia-watcher in 2008. I don’t want to hide anything, because truth is truth and I am not paid by any agency. I want to seek solutions to the problems of this much suffered nation, discuss it with other people and watch If the government has the same intentions. My ultimate goal is to amend Russia. I did my part introducing myself, if a paragraph is enough for that.

                  Let’s suppose that you have proved your point about Russians being drunk, the trend is worsening and nobody can/want help that and the government does nothing. OK, let’s forget that. But otherwise who are You? What are your intentions? What are your goals? What are your solutions?
                  I just want to understand

                • Evgenia says:

                  PvMikhail,

                  I thought it would only be fair if I responded to your comment, before I left. I hope nobody here will take what I am about to write as an invitation to express hostility towards me.

                  As I’ve already mentioned several times, I don’t feel comfortable naming myself and the people I’ve associated with. However, I will tell you that I’m NOT a columnist nor am I the kind of blogger who writes about Russia. As a matter of fact, after leaving Russia, I’ve decided to try and make a clean break with it. Based on my experience of growing up and living in Russia as an adult, Russian systemic problems are far too toxic to dwell on for too long, especially by comparison to Western problems. So, believe it or not, I very rarely get engaged in the kind of conversations I got engaged in here, with my main focus having shifted to the problems of the Western civilization, in which I feel I belong much more than I ever belonged in Russia.

                  Otherwise, I’m just someone who spent close to 30 years in Russia, 20 of them in Karelia and close to 10 in Moscow (with me traveling to Karelia a lot over the course of those 10 years to visit my family and friends). Professionally, I come from the community of lawyers – both Russian and foreign working in Russia.

                  Similarly to you developing an avid interest in Russia, for the last 15 years I’ve had a great interest in Western cultures, particularly those of the English-speaking countries and of the Scandinavian ones. I grew up close to Finland, and when I finally got to go Finland several years ago, I almost broke down in tears over how civilized Finland is by comparison to my home region of Karelia. Even though Finland looks the same as Karelia nature-wise, it looks like a different planet civilization-wise. So, it’s not at all suprising to me that a lot of Russians I know personally have immigrated to Finland and haven’t looked back.

                  You mentioned the lies that are being spread about Russia in the West. Well, living in Russia, I was fed volumes of vitriol about Western countries, particularly about the US, and not that much negative info at all about the problems I saw in Russia. By the time I became an adult, the Russian mass media were already changing their content to pro-Kremlin. So, I had to rely a lot on my personal experience for real information about the functioning of the Russian government. And since my personal experience, unfortunately, involved a lot of interaction – both professional and non-professional – with various Russian government agencies at different levels, I found out about the Russian government corruption the hard way. By contrast, any time I interacted with the US government, it was a completely different experience. One example of that was when, without any connections or kickbacks, I got naturalized as an American citizen while still living in Russia (the provisions of the US immigration law allow for it under certain circumstances). The efficiency and humaneness of most US government workers I encountered in what was supposed to be a very difficult process was truly amazing to me, considering the ordeals and humiliation I had to go through every time I needed anything from the Russian government – no matter how small. And whenever I would actually stay in the US or in the UK (every now and then I took pretty long trips to the US as well as to the UK), I was amazed at how much of the discource on main news channels was devoted to the transgressions of their own governments. By contrast, the only transgressions I’d routinely hear about while in Russia were those of the Western governments – with that incriminating info derived from public Western sources – and hardly ever about those of the Russian government. It’s my belief that, by holding the people in power in their countries to very high standards through a lot of public criticism and pressure, the Western public have been achieving much better results much faster than the Russian public has been achieving through downplaying the flaws of its government.

                  And with the blogosphere as well as some select publications remaining the only sources to present the kind of information about the Russian government that matches my observations and the observations of other people around me, it’s very frustrating for me to see what Mark is doing in his blog. While he feels he’s helping to expose the Western fraud while, perhaps, making Russians feel a bit better about themselves, he might just be doing Russians a great disservice. Unfortunately, what he’s doing here might just be helping to thwart the efforts of those Russians who are trying to focus public attention on the corruption of the Russian government, thus achieving the kind of political and social discourse that Western countries enjoy and that Westerners like Mark seem to take for granted in their own countries. It is my belief that the situation in Russia will not improve, unless Russians start scrutinizing and pressuring their governments the way Western nations scrutinize and pressure theirs. As long as Russians keep up their habit of using the transgressions of the Western governments as a justification for not doing much about the transgressions of their own government, Russia will remain the kind of place it currently is.

                • PvMikhail says:

                  I will write a longer reply, if you are interested, but for now:

                  “Similarly to you developing an avid interest in Russia, for the last 15 years I’ve had a great interest in Western cultures, particularly those of the English-speaking countries and of the Scandinavian ones.”

                  I think, that arguing with a person like that (the alcohol topic with Mark) is pointless. You have a crystal clear ideological background, and nothing never will change you to the opposite, because it would be the denial of your life. I am similarly believe in my ideas. No Western-supremacist journalists will convince me, that Russia can do only wrong (despite the troublesome history between Hungary and Russia, I would like to remain objective) by definition and I believe, that they will never convince the majority of Russians with this method. Also the denial of any kind of advance or betterment is pretty unbelievable.
                  As a patriotic person, I just can’t understand, that how can a Russian-born person be indifferent to the attacks against not just the government (which is with Moskva-Vladivostok distance far from perfect/innocent as you wish), but against Russian civilization, Russian ethnicity and anything Russian-related in general. You can’t deny, this is happening. I know, if I were in the same position as Russians, I would be really frustrated.

                  Also an interesting idea: We are both children of the ’90s but from a different perspective.

                • Evgenia says:

                  PvMikhail,

                  Yes, I have indeed admitted that, given the differences in our backgrounds and philosophies, it was a mistake for me to get involved in a discussion with Mark.

                  As for the rest of what you wrote, I don’t like Russian nationalists any more that I like US or any other nationalists or supermacists. I don’t believe in supremacy of any nation or ethnicity. What I believe in is supporting such basic values as freedom, humanity and a life of dignity for the individual. I also believe that those values are much stronger in the West than in Russia, although I don’t believe that the West has the right to impose those values on Russians, just as Russians don’t have the right to impose the values of their culture on the West. And while we could continue what is about to become a philosophical debate about the foundations of our belief systems, I doubt there’s any point in that, for we’re very unlikely to agree on the first principles. If there’s anything I’ve learnt from my arguments, it’s that different people can have very different first principles, which they’re very rarely willing to change.

                • PvMikhail says:

                  I understand. It would have been nice to discuss that. But I accept your suggestion not to continue.

            • marknesop says:

              I should mention here that Alex is a Queen’s Court barrister and has been associated with the law for most of his adult life. I daresay he knows more about the law than you do from working with it from a non-attorney standpoint and sleeping next to it. I’m sure that won’t deter you, because you’re not the type to be put off by such trivialities, but just so you go into it with your eyes open.

              Regulation of alcohol sales is very likely to show an effect. As we’ve discussed before, heavy drinking and decreased life expectancy appear most definitely to be linked with a poor economy, and your only substantiation that it is not appears to be the repetition of the phrase, “no, it’s not”. How about a little evidence to back up your claim. You seem very bright, but not bright enough that you can just make the bald statement, “Russian statistics are all lies and not to be believed”. Surely if it is so clear to you, you will have something to rely on besides your spider-sense and a couple of lines in an obscure prospectus?

              As to the relative success of regulation, we’ll have to see who’s right. I believe heavy drinking will grow less and less acceptable and forgivable over the next 5 to 10 years, and that it will gradually be brought under control. Production of sources the government can’t regulate, such as samogon, will continue for a while, but much of it is dangerously high in alcohol content and impurities and will poison its users; similarly, drunk people are not very good at hiding their drunkenness, and backtracking them to their source of supply should not be difficult. Gorbachev was unsuccessful because he weakened, because he was perceived as a panderer to the west and because his reforms as to alcohol were unpopular as they verged on prohibition. Prohibition, as you’ll no doubt recall, was decidedly unpopular with Americans as well, although their work-arounds to obtain a continuous supply of both high-quality and street-produced hooch is now the stuff of legend and romance, just another example of that can-do exceptionalism.

              • Evgenia says:

                Excuse me, Mark! I studied law at the law department of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. I worked for a major international law firm in Moscow. And no, I’m not going to tell you which one, because you already know more about me and my family than I’m comfortable with and much more than I know about any of you guys. Strangely enough, the more info I give you, the more you collectively try to discredit me. And, honestly, I don’t enjoy your assumptions aimed to discredit me, especially when they have phrases like “sleeping next to it” in them.

                Everything you’re saying about the future development of the problem of alcoholism in Russia is just your theory. You have your theory. I have mine. In order for your theory to pan out, Russia will have to go through some major changes.. I don’t think such changes are possible, but I’m not rooting for Russians to fail, so I hope you’re right. Time will tell.

                Believe it or not, I was actually being very open-minded to Alexander. When I read Alexander the barrister’s writing to my husband, he just told me to stop wasting my time on such ignoramuses. I actually continued humoring him.

              • Evgenia says:

                Also, Mark, the experience of posting here has certainly been an interesting one, since never before have I been denigrated and highly praised at the same time. But I think you’ve crossed the line and got a bit too familiar with your “sleeping next to it” and “not too bright” remarks. I don’t care for being praised, but I certainly don’t care for being denigrated based on the personal info I provided. Bye now, Mark. Good luck with your endeavors to shape Russia’s image in the West ;))! You represent Russia perfectly :)!

                • marknesop says:

                  Please yourself, Zhenya, but I actually said you were “very bright”, which I would have thought was the polar opposite of “not too bright”. And you did mention a husband several times who worked for an international law firm; I don’t see anything particularly shocking about the possibility that you sleep with your husband. But perhaps all that shilling for the Kremlin has made me hedonistic. You are fond of describing others on this forum as being “coy” but if you have a legal background you did not mention it before. As for myself, I think I am fairly candid on my “About” page and use my real name. I don’t actually know anything at all about you beyond what you have revealed without prompting. But if you want to rush off in high dudgeon, of course you are perfectly free to do as you like.

                  I’d just say, though, that few who did not have an enormous ego would have their feelings hurt by the suggestion that a broad audience was not prepared to simply accept their word that they as an individual know far more about what’s actually going on in Russia than is revealed by official Russian government statistics. If you could show some examples of Russian (not Soviet, I could care less about the Soviet Union beyond a historical perspective) statistics being outright lies and fabrications, your case would be a good deal more solid. But you seem a little reluctant to offer any substantiations, preferring to rely on your perceptions.

                  I’d be also a little puzzled by the willingness to dismiss someone as an ignoramus based on such passing acquaintance, but once again, you live in the most free of free countries and can believe what you wish. But please don’t feel you’re being driven away by probing attempts to get too familiar or insults to your intelligence, as those seem to be largely in your head.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Evgenia,

                  What makes you think that I think I know a lot about Russia?

                  When did I say that?

                  What makes you think that I think I know a lot about you?

                  I only know as much about you as you have decided to reveal about yourself. You said that you are an advocate as were your parents. I simply stated that you are the bourgoise progeny of the bourgoisie. You then decided to go on about your and your parents’ low salaries.

                  So what are you saying – that you and your parents are/were horny handed sons and daughters of toil, that you have had a minimal education, that you have no cultural or aesthetic values and tastes, that you and they are members of the lumpenproletariat?

                  You said that it sounds like my life has been pretty tough for me. Why?

                  What makes you think you know more about my life than that which I have already told you?

                  You say that none of the expats that you know in Russia intend to retire here.

                  I was 63 last month and am now in the process of buying a grave in Moscow; it’s going to be my last resting place, and my wife’s – here, in Russia.

                  You say that you didn’t have a computer or anything like that. Neither did I – but as I have already said, I’m 63.

                  You say that your family couldn’t take trips abroad. Neither could mine. The first time I went abroad was in 1984, when I was 35: it wasn’t for pleasure.

                  By the way, we didn’t have a family car either. My father didn’t drive, nor did my uncles and grandfathers. They all walked to work, as did I, which was quite near to the company houses in which we were all billeted.

                  In fact, I don’t have a car in Russia. That’s because I have never learnt to drive. I use public transport and we all go to our dacha on the “elektrichka”. Do you think that my life is impoverished because of this?

                  You keep on referring to how embarassed you have been whenever comparing anything in Russia with what is similarly available in other countries, particularly in the USA: you were embarassed when comparing Russian Karelia with Finnish Karelia; you were embarassed when comparing your luxury Tverskaya flat with those available in the USA; you say that most Russian flats and dachas are NOTHING (your emphasis) to be proud of; you seem to have been embarassed by what appeared to be a sense of shock in your American hosts concerning what seemed to them to be the paucity of your possessions.

                  (By the way, I think it’s quite rude to comment on the apparent straitened circumstances of one’s guest. is this the American custom?)

                  It seems that for you the very fact that you are a Russian is highly embarassing.

                  Not to worry, though. You will soon be a US citizen.

                  You say that you would rather die poor and free in the West than live the life of a wealthy serf in Russia.

                  How do you define serfdom, in particular the Russian variant thereof, which, apparently, you believe exists?

                  Do you believe the previous US president’s oft repeated claim that the USA is “the freest country in the world”? If so, in what way or ways do you think US citizens are freer than, say, Dutch citizens?

                  In what way or ways do you consider me or my children or my wife not to be “free”.

                  Don’t forget, my wife is a Russian citizen, something which she has never been ashamed of. Furthermore, if she should wish to do so, she could apply for the citizenship of my native land if we should ever decide to up sticks and move there. We do not, however intend to do this. As I have said earlier, my children – the eldest two, at least, who are 13 and 11 years old; my youngest is 4 next week – prefer to live in Russia, as does my wife; and my wife does not wish to rescind her Russian citizenship.

                  As regards your accusations of hypocrisy on my part in that you say I have not applied for Russian citizenship, how do you know that I shall never do this?

                  You close by wishing me good luck in Russia and say “maybe your friends here will decide to join you in Russia and get Russian citizenships after all”.

                  Which friends and where is “here”?

                  I am not a US citizen. I have no friends who live in the USA.

                  I, however, have no cause to politely respond to your wishes of good luck that you have so kindly proffered to me as regards my life in that land of your birth which you have chosen to reject, because it is abundantly clear that you detest Russia and all things Russian so much whilst, on the other hand, firmly believe that the USA is all that Russia is not and even more.

                  Having set your sights on leaving Russia and settling in and becoming a citizen of that earthly paradise that is the USA, i should think it rather superfluous to wish you good luck as you have already achieved your life’s dreams.

                • marknesop says:

                  Hey, Moscow Exile; I’m pretty sure Zhenya meant that your friends here – on this blog – might like to join you in Russia and get Russian citizenships. Unless the holdover of that legendary British reserve after all these years requires you to keep people at arms length until they are on their deathbeds, you most assuredly do have friends here.

                  “If you like it so much, why don’t you go live there?” is one of those arguments people tend to pull out when they have run through their bag of tricks from amused contempt to pity and failed to achieve the desired effect. I am at present not interested in moving to Russia because (a) I don’t speak the language well enough, although I certainly could learn, and (b) my skills are not readily transferable unless I wanted to be a spy, which also does not interest me. But I’d have to work, because I have a family to support. My Mother-in-law and Father-in-law live with us in a suite, and they would much rather live here while we, for our part, love having them: not only because it offers a great opportunity for our five-year-old to grow up with at least one set of grandparents, but because they are so helpful and are built-in babysitters when we want to go out. They both appreciate the advantages of living here, but love their homeland. My wife has been here since 2005, and she, too appreciates the advantages of living here. She, too, loves her homeland and is proud of it. When they (she and my stepson) first moved here, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, she used to irritate me a little by saying things like, “the milk here tastes funny”, and “that’s not real kefir”, because I wanted her to be blown away every day by this great place to live. There were things she liked about it, and things she didn’t: obviously, the ones she liked outweighed the ones she didn’t.

                  Anyway, if you are forced, chastened, to admit you don’t want to move “there” to live, your argument is supposedly destroyed, and the accuser reigns triumphant. If you were really committed to the place, you’d want to express your commitment by the only real symbol of it – moving there.

                  It’s hard to describe how ridiculous a proposal that is. My work, as I’ve often alluded, takes me all over the world, and I’ve seen a lot of places that took my breath away. I wouldn’t want to move there, though. I used to be in and out of Honolulu several times a year. Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is my dream spot for a future vacation. I loved Hong Kong, and Singapore was the satisfaction of a lifetime wish to visit. New York was a blast, Southwick so quaint it was like a fairy tale with its ancient drovers’ cottages and two pubs, one on each end of the single street that makes up the town – the Red Lion and the Golden Lion. I wouldn’t want to live in any of them unless I could change my life completely and be independently wealthy. If that were the case, I am footloose and the world would be my oyster; I owe no place loyalty. Moscow? Sure; sign me up.

                  My present disinterest in moving to Russia in no way implies it’s a shithole that nobody would want to live in. But the intent seems to be to narrow one’s choices to either acknowledgement of being bested by a superior intellect, or admission that not wanting to move to Russia implies a lack of commitment.

                  I realize I’m repeating, in my opening lines, what Zhenya already said, but I’m picking up this unposted comment from yesterday at this point since I had to leave it unfinished. Yesterday was chaotic beyond belief, at least by my standards, and the rest of the weekend looks like being very busy as well, but it is evident you don’t need me to carry on a lively conversation.

                  Come here for a moment, Zhenya, could you? There are a couple of ladies I’d like you to meet. This is Marina, AKA Alterismus, an ethnic Russian currently living in Shanghai; the blog has by times been Alterismus, Shanghai Blueprints and is currently Kaleidoscopia – Marina likes to mix it up. She is extremely intelligent and independent, speaks at least 3 languages and has marketable skills that would allow her to work anywhere she chose; she frequently visits the USA on business, and likes it very much, but chooses to live in Shanghai because she just likes it better. She’d be a little younger than you.

                  Marina retains a warm affection for Russia, even though she chooses not to live there at present, and perhaps never again. Her associations with her childhood and upbringing occasionally reflect exasperation, but never bitterness or hate. She occasionally reacts defensively to some oft-repeated trope about Russia, such as that life expectancy is steadily falling or that the intelligentsia are bailing in droves, but doesn’t see the need to blow Russia’s trumpet unless it is unfairly attacked or unless sanctimonious moralizers who have plenty of skeletons in their own closets go on a preachy rant.

                  And this is Tatiana. A Russian émigré living in New York, she’s the polar opposite of Marina, and her picture is probably in the dictionary next to the word “bitter”. She also is very intelligent and generally well-spoken, and obviously speaks at least two languages. She loathes Russia with a passion, and loses no opportunity to shit all over it day and night. She despises me, and refers occasionally to this blog as a “nest of snakes”; I should say she did, on the occasion we had a disagreement over the Israeli intelligence service’s practice of adopting the identities of foreign tourists in order to carry out spying and sometimes assassination operations abroad. Like many American conservatives, she feels Israel is the victim and is entitled to take any measures it needs to in order to safeguard its security and expansion. I doubt she pays any attention to this blog at all now. But never mind that. Where Russia is concerned, she seems to feel – as you seem to also – that part of the price of shedding your skin as a newborn American is an exhibited willingness to express your loathing of where you came from. And it’s true a certain segment of American society loves that, can’t get enough of new immigrants ecstatically rhapsodizing, “what a country!!!” while venting their shame and hatred of their birthplace – it validates their belief in the United States of America as exceptional among nations, the greatest country in the world.

                  Which are you more like?

                • Evgenia says:

                  Mark,

                  The way you put Russia next to other tourist destinations you enjoyed around the world, combined with your unwillingness to see for yourself what Russia is really like, just show me how disingenuous you are. If Russia interests you so much that you want to know and tell the truth about it, then you should at least be willing to become a resident there and see everything for yourself. If it’s just another tourist destination, which happens to be your wife’s native country, then don’t pretend to be in a position to know what it’s really like to live and be a Russian citizen there, especially if your Russian isn’t good enough . Speaking of which, I was actually very surprised by your admission that you’re not fluent in the Russian language. You exhibited such confidence when talking about Russia and when completely dismissing my observations about it, that I assumed you were, in fact, as fluent in Russian as me. Of course, as a perfectionist, I know I would never feel particularly confident when talking about any country, unless I were completely fluent in its language. But that’s just me and my silly belief that one has to fully understand and speak the country’s language before they can even begin to understand the country’s society and politics, let alone try to educate others about it.

                  To answer you last question, I’m afraid, I’m neither one of those girls, Mark. As I’ve already mentioned, I don’t have a blog about Russia. Nor do I usually make a lot of comments about Russia (with my written Russian actually being much better than my written English, I tend to read much more in English than I write myself). Nor do I have a blog praising America. I like the US, but I saw too much my first year as an exchange student here and learned too much as an adult to consider the US heaven on earth. So, despite the way you and Moscow Exile choose to interpret my words, I don’t idealize or worship this country. I thought I made it obvious, when I referred generally to the West and when I spoke quite fondly of Finland. The US just happens to be the country I know best of all Western countries, so I can legitimately compare it to Russia. And based on my comparisons, the US is definitely a much better place than Russia, which, of course, doesn’t mean that the US is the best country in the world. I actually hope that there’re better countries, but it’s a whole different discussion, in which I do not wish to get involved here.

                  And as for what I’m more like.. Well, I’ll tell you a bit more: for example, instead of keeping a vitriolic blog like yours, I choose to keep a journal with daily posts featuring nothing but the many pictures I’ve taken in different countries. Unfortunately, I can’t give you the link, because my blog also has pictures of my family and me, and, as I’ve already made very clear, I’m not comfortable with dislosing my identity here. However, I think you should know that the pictures of Saint-Petersburg, Russia, that I took and posted in my blog fetched more than one compliment from my Russian and American friends, who know how I generally feel about Russia. No, I don’t hide how I feel about the Russian society and so in your blog on Russia I presented my honest opinions on various Russia’s problems, about which I feel very pasionate, because I was born, grew up and matured in Russia. The fact that those opinions of mine don’t match equally strong opinions of yours or your friends’, doesn’t automatically make me the kind of person who loses no opportunity to shit all over Russia day and night. In fact, based on the kind of blogs we both keep, you’re much more like the second girl you described, with the only difference being that, while that girl rants about Russia in her blog, you rant a lot about Americans in yours. And based on everything you’ve written, you’re actually a lot like some of those Americans you’re upset with, insofar as you’re trying to create a certain image of Russia without really knowing Russia.

                • marknesop says:

                  Good Morning, Zhenya; yes, of course, the two main qualifiers for being widely knowledgeable about another country are being fluent in its language and being a year-round resident. That’s why U.S. policymakers, and those of other countries, are fluent in every language and live in every country. Makes you wonder how they run the government in their own country when none of the leaders live there. I might not speak perfect Russian – which I likely would have to do to get a decent-paying job – but I daresay I speak it at least as well as Michael McFaul, and he apparently speaks it well enough to be your Ambassador to Russia. Senator John McCain is regularly invited on the Sunday talk shows to rage and scream on Russia and what the United States should do to humble it, and he doesn’t speak a word of Russian. Or live there. Can Mitt Romney speak Russian? I’m afraid not. Has he ever lived there? Not to the best of my knowledge. Yet he apparently feels he’s qualified to tell Americans that Russia is their most menacing enemy.

                  William Kristol of the Weekly Standard regularly publishes over-the-top rants about Russia. Never lived there, can’t speak a word of it. Robert Kagan wanted the U.S.A. to go to war with Russia over Georgia – can’t speak Russian, never lived in Russia. Glenn Beck, former-rodeo-clown-turned-conservative-commentator, has never lived in Russia and can barely speak English, never mind Russian. Yet he has his devoted following who lap up his advice on Russia. Will you write to all these people and suggest they stop writing about Russia because they know nothing about it? Of course you won’t, because people who bash it are always allowed a degree of latitude those who encourage reason on it are not.

                  You’ve told us all about how wonderful Finland is. Russian and English are immigrant languages in Finland, and the national languages are Finnish and Swedish. Naturally, you are completely fluent in both. If not, you don’t know shit about Finland, by your own standards.

                  Everything on here relating to suggested hypocrisy regarding Russia is supported by references. American squawking about Russians using fake diplomas to get better jobs? The USA is the world’s biggest market for and producer of fake diplomas, and the federal government refuses to outlaw it. Have you information that suggests that’s not true? America bitches about Russia’s human rights record and has tears rolling down its face over poor Sergei Magnitsky, even has a law pending to forbid travel by Russians and their entire families who are supposedly complicit in his death – after disgracefully torturing innocent Iraqis who had done nothing to death in Abu Ghraib and filming it for their own amusement. It’s not like I just make this stuff up, you know.

                  I am not a slavish advocate for everything Russia says or does. I agree it has serious problems and shortcomings. However, I approach its failings from the standpoint of wanting it to succeed and improve, while you apparently believe it should be punished forever for denying you the wonderful childhood you might have had, had you only grown up elsewhere. I like Russia with all of its faults – you loathe it in spite of its progress. I support my contentions with broadly accepted references, you insist statistics are all bullshit, and prefer to rely on your perceptions.

                  Everything I offer in substantiation of my views is merely more evidence to you what a know-nothing babe in the woods I am next to your cosmopolitan brilliance. You were right from the outset, when you suggested we will never find any common ground or basis for agreement on this subject, and that further argument is pointless.

                • Evgenia says:

                  Mark,

                  Thank you for referencing al those Americans, whose opinions, you apparently think, every American trusts, in a kind of senseless and self-indulgent rant, which didn’t make you look very intelligent.

                  And no, dear Mark, even near-native command of a country’s language wouldn’t automatically guarantee you the perfect understanding of its culture, but it would certainly be a good start for someone, who’s not modelling himself after Mitt Romney.

                  And I don’t need to be lectured on American politics by someone like you, because I actually devote more time on Facebook and Vkontakte to drawing the attention of my American and Russian friends to curtailing of civil rights in the US, beatings in Guantanamo, tortures in Abu Ghraib, killings in Afganistan and Iraq, and much more, than I do – to Russian power abuses. I do it, because I live here and not in Russia anymore, and because I feel more of a responsibility for what the American government does abroad than for what the Russian govenment does in its own country.

                  So, despite what you keep assuming about me based on your stereotype of the “typical American” who disapproves of the Russian government, I hardly fit your description. And unlike you, I’m never willing to turn a blind eye to human rights violation and corruption. The fact that corruption is not on the same scale in the US as it is in Russia doesn’t mean to me that we should stop fighting it in the US. Which is why, after your dismissive phrase about “poor Magnitsky” I find you completely irrelevant. Between my parents, who spent half of their lives visiting Russian prisons, my aunt, who was actually a head epidemiologist at the same prison where Khodorkovskiy is held right now, and my own experience of visiting and studying American prisons and witnessing US and Russian criminal trials, I think I have a pretty unique perspective on our two systems. That perspective aside, the difference betwen the two of us boils down to the simple fact that I’m openly discussing the power abuses in both US and Russia, with a focus on the US, on Facebook, while you keep dishing the dirt on the US, but not on Russia, in this blog, which is suppose to be devoted to Russia.

                  I don’t mind you dishing the dirt on the US. I actually applaud it and will be the first one to pass it on, if it’s brand new info, which I have yet to read here. But I highly doubt talking about the US problems helps improve the Russian society.

                  With that, I’m done. And I’m not coming back to what has completely devolved into you painting one ridiculous picture of me after another, and me explaining why the picture is purely in your head.

                • marknesop says:

                  Ahhhhhhh!!! Nooooooo!!! I’m COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT!!!!!!!!!!! Damn you, Evgenia, I won’t let your laser sword of relevance cut me down in my prime! Oooooo!! Ahhh!!! Getting…..weaker…I’m…shrinkinnnnnggggg *Bink!* (I disappear)

                  Seriously, Zhenya, whatever you have to do to let yourself walk out with your nose in the air and your dignity intact. For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re really gone; you seem to be the kind of person who has to have the last word, and can’t let an argument go until your opponent is stammering and weeping. I say that at the risk of additional accusations that I am obsessed with you and can’t leave the fascinating , complex puzzle that is Evgenia alone. But you might surprise me.

                  Well, since this is the end – and parting is such sweet sorrow – let’s recap, shall we? You started this exchange with your demand for substantiation that alcoholic mortality rates had dropped under Putin’s rule. There was only one catch: I was not allowed to use Russian government statistics, because they were fabricated and vastly inferior to your own perceptions, because you were under no illusions how things are counted in Russia. You followed up that devastating broadside with a gratuitous suggestion that I get at least a semblance of a clue. You weren’t having any of my nonsense, because you had observed both alcoholism and “brain drain” on a “more than regular” basis in Russia.

                  The next day, you said you could not provide any accurate statistics on alcohol misuse in Russia, because you did not know of any. However, you preferred to rely on your perceptions, bolstered by the number of social circles in which you moved in Russia while you were there and the hundreds of people with whom you stay in touch via Vkontakte.

                  Somewhere around there, I suggested to you that even if you knew a thousand people with whom you stay in touch on a daily basis – unlikely – your perceptions would still be informed by a tiny proportion of the Russian population. Later on you refined the number further, I’d have to look it up, I think it was around 150. But let’s say for argument’s sake it’s 200, and each of them knows 1000 people personally. That’s still only 200,000 people in a country of better than 140 million. But your figures are more accurate than those of the Russian government. I would echo your original question – based on what?

                  You also suggested we take note that the Russian government does not regulate beer the same way because it is not considered an alcoholic beverage. I’m afraid that’s not true, and hasn’t been for more than a year. In the same comment, you said you did not presume to know if the number of alcohol-related deaths was indeed rising or falling, but your perceptions tell you alcoholism is just as much of a problem as it was 10 years ago.

                  Later that same day, after confessing your distrust of government statistics is “solely based on your observations of the Russian people and the Russian bureaucracy” and the opinions of people you trust, which – given your angry reaction to any questioning of your reasoning – I submit means “people who agree with you”, you agreed that (1) discrepancies between statistical data may be caused by differences in methodology; (2) alcohol related mortality might even be lower than it was in the 90′s, and (3) the accuracy of statistics is affected by many factors, some of which are beyond the control of statisticians.

                  It would be hard for an independent observer to deduce, from this, other than that you really don’t know anything about the current status of national alcoholism in Russia, but simply prefer to insist you do. But hey, that turned out to not be the point after all – the point was that just because deaths due to alcohol misuse may have gone down under Putin does not imply causation in the world of science, of which you are presumably a part.

                  Next day, you went on to characterize a British barrister who has been in the legal profession for probably as long as you’ve been alive as “obviously highly innocent”, suggesting your experience as someone who has worked with many, many US and UK lawyers in Russia trumped his. A scientist and a legal whiz, my, my.

                  We were just hitting cruising speed regarding your comprehensive knowledge of American and Russian bureaucracies – with which you claim to have more first-hand experience at 29 than most Russians and Americans will have in their lifetimes, I certainly hope the U.S. Library of Congress has had the forethought to list you as a backup hard drive in the event of server failure – when things took an ugly turn because I got “too personal” and offended you by making a remark about you sleeping next to your husband. It must have been because this was part of a pattern of my incessantly probing for personal details to try and find out more about you, which I must have subliminated to the degree I wasn’t even aware of it and can’t find any instances of it in my comments. It certainly couldn’t have been the implied sexual subtext, considering the day you appeared you were gaily bantering with another commenter regarding his allegedly “verbally masturbating to this incredibly sexy image of you he had created”, complete with those cute little smiley faces.

                  I’m too tired to go on with this, although there was enough left over to fill a psychiatric handbook. So, if you’re really gone, hasta la vista, baby. If you’re not, I hope that wasn’t your A game.

              • Evgenia says:

                Mark,

                It wasn’t unreasonable of me to have a problem with the way you had phrased yet another assertion about me. I can even accept that you assuming I don’t have legal experience of my own could’ve been an honest mistake and was the result of something I’d done. And yet I can’t accept, based on the way you chose to phrase your assumption, that you didn’t intend to denigrate me. There were so many ways for you to word that assumption in the way that would’ve sounded perfectly reasonable. Yet, instead of emphasizing the more relevant fact of my deriving some of my info from talking to my husband, you stressed my sleeping next to him. Yes, I do sleep next to my husband, but it seems very much irrelevant, since it’s not through sleeping next to people that I get information from them.

                As to your statement “you’re bright, but not bright enough that you can just make the bald statement, “Russian statistics are all lies and not to be believed” that I took issue with… Thank you for clarifying that tyour statement was supposed to convery the “you’re very bright” message, and not the “you’re not too bright” one😉. Considering that I did in fact corroborate my statement with official information, it’s still not clear to me what is your basis for calling my statement about Russian statistics bald, even if you remain skeptical about the whole issue. And, most importantly, it’s not clear to me what you basis for calling the prospectus “obscure” is. You analysis of the prospectus revealed to me that you are not at all qualified to dismiss it. One may think that public statements about the unreliability of Rosstat in one of the key and highly scrutinized documents in a complex transaction might just be the evidence that my statement about the unreliability of the Russian statistics is not entirely without foundation. But you conceded no such thing. And if you’re so quick to dismiss as supposedly obscure a public document, which carries substantial legal liability for any misrepresentations in it, what is the likelihood you’ll actually give any weight to any other reports I can find (like this one, for example: http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?id=140341 )? Of course, to be completely fair, it’s highly unlikely that any reports, you or anyone else here would actually be able to convince me, based on any evidence you can possibly provide, that my experience in Russia was idiosyncratic and not at all indicative of what the Russian society and the Russian government are like😉. And since I believe that there’s no point in entering a conversation like this if you don’t at least allow for the possibility of changing your mind as a result of it, I will admit it was disingenuous of me to get involved in this discussion.

                So thank you, Mark, for you time. It’s not every day that I get to exchange views on Russia with people, some of whom have never lived or worked in Russia for an extended period of time, but will nonetheless completely dismiss my observations as irrelevant. It’s been fascinating. I wish I could feel comfortable with fully disclosing my identity in this circle, but, based on our conversation, a fuller disclosure, while potentially exposing me to risks, is highly unlikely to make anyone here less dismissive and more accepting of me. Hopefully, one day you, your friend Alexander and other people here, who are not already living in Russia, will be lucky enough to move to the country you seem so enamoured of ;)). And I certainly hope you see all your views and theories about the Russian government/society so completely validated that you will promptly validate the Russian government by trading your Western citizenships for the Russian one🙂. Now, THAT would really be putting your money where your mouths are, which would be a bit more convincing to cynical Russians like me than what you guys are doing now. And while I migth still disagree with you on what Russia is like, at least I would be able to think of you more along the “to each his own” lines😉.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  “And I certainly hope you see all your views and theories about the Russian government/society so completely validated that you will promptly validate the Russian government by trading your Western citizenships for the Russian one🙂 . Now, THAT would really be putting your money where your mouths are, which would be a bit more convincing to cynical Russians like me than what you guys are doing now.”

                  Well I for one have (almost) done that, in that I have lived in Russia for 17 years, the last 15 of which being wed to a Russian citizen who has borne me three children, all of whom were born in State Hospital №1, Moscow. My two eldest go to a state school and my youngest attends a state kindergarten. My wife is an engineer, having graduated from the Bauman Moscow state Technical University. She is now a “full-time housewife”.

                  I have a full residence permit for a foreign citizen, meaning that I need no visa to enter Russia. I have all the rights of a Russian citizen, apart from the right to vote. I pay my taxes and my standard of living is much higher than anything I ever experienced in my native country, where I lived for 40 years before finding work in Moscow.

                  I live in a three-room flat in the Taganka district of the central administrative district of Moscow and we also have a country cottage retreat situated some 50 miles west of the capital. I have only visited my native country five times in the past 17 years. My children don’t want to live there, nor does my wife.

                  I decided to keep my nationality so that my children could enjoy dual nationality: having my nationality widens my children’s scope for travel. For example, they, like me, are able to live anywhere in the EU if they should wish to do so; they also need no visa to visit the USA if their stay is no longer than 90 days. This visa waiver that is applicable to my children, however, is not applicable to me as such a waiver is denied to any who have been arrested, even if such an arrest has not led to a conviction. I am not unduly concerned about this, though, as I have never had any inclination to visit the United States.

                  Unlike you, however, I am not the progeny of the bourgeoisie: in my home country I worked as a coal miner – as did my father, my grandfathers, and my great-grandfathers. I arrived in Russia by way of Germany after having become unemployable in the land of my birth 25 years ago. I had no plans to settle in Russia: it just happened that way. I have no regrets about settling here. In fact, I enjoy living in Russia and on the rare occasions that I visit my homeland I always feel very much the foreigner there and yearn to return to my home in Moscow.

                  I earn 60 000 rubles a month here, which officially makes me “middle-class”.

                  The only thing I regret so far about my not having taken Russian citizenship is that without having such citizenship, I have been unable to vote in Russian elections. If I had been able to do so, I would have voted for Vladimir Putin in the last presidential election, as did my wife.
                  🙂

                • Evgenia says:

                  Moscow Exile,

                  Thanks for sharing. I feel very sad for you. Sounds like you life’s been pretty tough for you to be so happy with what you have in Russia. But let’s talk about my life a little bit more..

                  First of all, progeny of the bourgeouisie you called me? Think you know a lot about Russia and me, do you? Well, let me enlighten you: outside of Moscow and SP, most good lawyers don’t make big bucks in Russia. After practicing law for over 20 years, as the most sought-after defense attorneys in Karelia, my parents were still making less than most government officials make in that region. Most every other lawyer in their region was making much less than what my parents were making. As a matter of fact, by 2011 making $1000 a month each was considered phenomenal. Most months they made just a bit over $1000 combined. By Western standards, I grew up in poverty. In 2001 our food budget for the family of four was 100 rubles a day ($4 at most). M parents couldn’t afford to buy me new clothes (I would wear my mother’s old clothes ), let alone gadgets. I didn’t have a computer or anything like that. We couldn’t afford to take trips abroad. And the only reason I got to go to the US for a year as an exchange student was the scholarship I got as a finalist of a US taxpayer sponsored high school competition called FLEX. I remember the shock of my lower-middle-class American host family at the tiny size of my baggage. They’d had a lot of experience hosting exchange students from Western countries, as well as from Japan and Brazil, but never had they seen someone coming to them for a year with a bag that small. While in the US, I was not getting any money from my parents – the US government paid me a monthly allowance and my host families paid for room and board. Of course, because my parents were lawyers, everybody in the US always assumed my family was rich. Funny how that works, huh ;)?

                  Secondly, while, yes, thanks to my husband, I was lucky to end up in the top 10 percent of Russians, living in a 3-room apartment on Tverskaya, I can tell you right now: that apartment, while VERY nice by Russian standards, was an utter embarrassment by comparison to most homes I’ve seen in the West, including East Germany, UK with its small homes and especially the US. And yes, I’ve seen how other people live in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and Petrozavodsk and I’ve seen pictures of how people live in other parts of Russia. My husband’s ex-wife, for example, lives in what is considered a rich woman’s house on Rublevka, but her house is just okay by the US middle-class standards. So, yes, granted that I’m aware that most people are much worse-off in poorer countries of the world, most Russian apartments and dachas are NOTHING to be particularly proud of, if you compare them to the average home in any Western country.

                  Thirdly, all in all, I know about a hundred of expats from what I consider civilized countries, who have lived or are still living in Russia. Most of those expats are from the UK or the US, but some of them are not. Only a couple of all of those expats got residence permits, while NONE of them has gotten Russian citizenship. None of them plans to live in Russia after retirement either. If you were to be honest here, you’d admit you’re much more of an exception than you are the rule, as far as expats from civilized countries go in Russia. And I still say it’s a tad hypocritical that you’re in no hurry to get the Russian citizenship. If Russia’s so great and the West is so bad, why not subscribe to the life of a REAL Russian without the benefit of the visa-free travel, BUT with the benefit of voting for Putin ;)? It looks like someone wants to have the best of BOTH worlds, while bashing one of them and praising the other. And while we’re on this subject, I’m actually one of those rare Russians who’s in the process of giving up her Russian citizenship altogether, even though I don’t have to do it. I’m willing to burn my bridges with Russia just so I can have the peace of mind of knowing that I have no legal ties to that state whatsoever.

                  In sum, my year as an exchange student in the US was no bed of roses and I STILL wanted to move to the US or any Western country more than anything in the world. There’s no point in our arguing. We’ll never understand each other, for I’d rather die poor and free (and I’ve lived in poverty here, in the US) in the West than live the life of a wealthy serf in Russia (trade your EU citizenship for the Russian one to find out what it feels like to not have options in Russia).

                  Good luck to you and your wife! And who knows, maybe your friends here will decide to join you in Russia and get Russian citizenships after all ;))). All I know for sure is that you and I will never be able to understand each other.

                • Evgenia says:

                  Moscow Exile,

                  Hmm.. Interesting.. You claim I’m the “progeny of the bourgeoisie” based on what I “have decided to reveal about myself”, but somehow, based on what you’ve revealed about yourself, I can’t claim you think you know a lot about Russia… Okay. If you actually think you don’t know that much about Russia, I’m willing to apologize as well as congratulate you on your honesty with yourself and with others here.

                  No, I never belonged to the lumpenproletariat. Does the fact that my parents are well-educated and highly skilled though low-paid professionals make me the “progeny of the bourgeoisie”? And if higher education and high-skilled work automatically make you the bourgeoisie, I’m surprised the Soviets allowed not just lawyers, but also engineers, professors, doctors and scientists to exist in the Union.

                  As for my mentioning my parents’ salaries in support of my argument that I’m not the progeny of the bourgeoisie and you then launching into a discussion of my focus on all things material…. Weren’t you the one who brought your salary and the material things you own in Moscow into this conversation? Once you brought your material possessions and my supposedly “bourgeoisie” background into the debate, I thought it was very appropriate for me to talk about what actually constituted my material possessions when I was growing up.

                  And no, it’s not the American custom to be rude. The Americans in question were actually very embarrassed after they’d assumed I had more baggage. And as far as rude assumptions are concerned, you’d give any American I’ve met a run for their money😉. Not that I’m a polite angel myself.

                  My use of the word “embarrassing” with respect to the material aspect of life in Russia doesn’t mean that I’m personally embarrassed of Russia. Having wasted enough time on trying to clean up, fix and improve my Russian surroundings and having paid enough taxes to have others in Russia do their part, I don’t feel personally responsible for how dirty, uncivilized, unkept and uninspiring Russia continues to look to me by comparison to the Western countries I’ve been to. If you think that Russia is clean, civilized, kept up and inspiring by comparison to Western countries, it’s fine by me. I’ve realized that there’s no point in arguing about it with you or with other people here.

                  And yes, you are indeed MUCH older than me, which is why I will humor your attempt to compare the prosperity levels of our childhoods.

                  I’ve been a US citizen for three and a half years already. Moreover, in one of my conversations here I actually revealed how I’d gotten my US citizenship. It’s okay you missed that particular comment of mine, though. It’s getting increasingly hard to keep track of all the comments.

                  The fact that you’re going to have a Russian grave doesn’t make you the rule insofar as Western expats deciding to spend their retirement in Russia. Nor does it change the fact that you’re keeping your family’s options open by not giving up your EU citizenship.

                  When talking about your friends here, I was referring to the people you talk to here, some of whom seem to still live in the West while seemingly dreaming about Russia😉. I simply expressed hope they’d get to immigrate to what seems like the country of their dreams and see those dreams come true, seeing as you already have😉.

                  And as for the issue of serfdom.. I’ll just humor you again. After all, what else can I say to you, if you take my words “I’d rather die poor and free (and I’ve lived in poverty here in the US) in the West than live the life of a wealthy serf in Russia” to mean that I believe everything the US President says AND that I believe the US has more freedom than any other Western country? I suggest we agree to disagree and stop wasting each other’s time.

  3. kievite says:

    We should probably distinguish crazy prognostication of paid pen shills and the brain drain to countries with higher standard of living. Brain drain from Russian scientific and technological community does exist and is a problem. Almost every major US university has at least one xUSSR math professor. Percentage wise Russia lose less then Ukraine, Moldova and “Stans”, but still she lost substantial amount in the top layers of scientific community. Fossilized, feudal structure of the USSR Academy of Science also contributed to the problem (but in retrospect, this tendency of old scientists to build empires and to monopolize the control their branch of science long after their prime has passed is pretty universal)

    And that is part of the deal with adopting the capitalist model in 1991 and as such is irreversible until standards of living differ substantially (“sausage emigration.”). Also Russian fundamental science is starved for funds. That does not mean that they are finding things necessarily easy over the pond either in terms of opportunities or lifestyle. Hard to generalize in terms of who these people are — but that is indeed sad for Russia. See http://www.physorg.com/news205500597.html

    I think since 1991 from half million ro 800K (BBC estimate, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2055571.stm) well-educated specialists, especially scientists and programmers left xUSSR space. Europe, Israel, USA, Canada, Australia New Zealand were net beneficiaries. Sportsmen are another category. Hockey players, tennis players, figure skaters, etc.

    The other trend in Russia – getting second citizenship. It is fashionable among well off who try to educate their children abroad (Canada might be the easiest; practically anyone can become a permanent resident of Canada thru student visas in a Canadian college or university), UK considered the most prestigious. Cypress is also popular. Some, especially involved in criminal or semi-criminal dealings, often move families abroad.

    • yalensis says:

      @kievite: Good comment. Minor footnote on figure skaters: the brain drain (I guess you could call it “skate drain”) of the 1990’s and early 2000’s is slowly being reversed now, as new ice rinks are being built in Russia, and new generation of children atheltes getting the training they need. One symptom of this was the return to Moscow of veteran coach Tamara Moskvina, after she had spent several years in exile training athletes in New Jersey. (I have personally met her, by the way, she is quite a character!) Now Moskvina is back in Moscow, along with Alexei Mishin and others. Once again, as in so many fields, Russia has gathered these older Soviet-era veterans and put them back in harness. So, slowly but surely Russian figure skating program is being rebuilt from scratch, but please do not expect any miracles at Sochi games, it will take more time than that.

    • marknesop says:

      Quite right; my wife is still not a Canadian citizen, but a Permanent Resident, although her application for citizenship has been outstanding for some time (I think it takes more than a year now). A few years ago immigration introduced a modification whereby, if you were already in the country when your application for permanent residency was commenced (not received, but commenced processing), you could stay until a decision was rendered. With applications for parents/grandparents now stalled for around 4 years from the time they’re received until they start processing, there was little else they could do; immigration is simply swamped. I think for spouses and children they’ve got it down to around 6 months now; when we went through the process it was about 9 months average (although ours took much longer).

      Yes, the “brain drain” is real, but it’s rarely used to mock Russia, since the incoming scientists and athletes become features of pride for their host country – Maria Sharapova is a good example; according to her hosts, she learned to play tennis in America, so her success is American success, although her ratings say it’s a success for Russia. But academics can’t make anything like the money in Russia they can in the west, it’s true. Russia is moving in the right direction, but it takes time; if the country were simply catapult everyone to a western lifestyle and paycheque, the cash reserves would be wiped out and the country would have to borrow heavily, and probably wouldn’t be able to support it in any case. But it’s getting there. The western nut narrative is that Putin is wrecking Russia, that all under his rule has been woe and failure and that Russia is sliding back into dictatorship, but without the riches the dictators once controlled. That’s not even close to true.

  4. A. Peasant says:

    very enjoyable as always Mark.

    did you see the latest horrible thing Vlad did? he’s such a beast.

    http://en.rian.ru/business/20111121/168900956.html

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, APea, and thanks for the link as well! That dastardly Prime Minister – doesn’t he know 13 is an unlucky number? Actually, you’d have to be a billionaire in the USA to qualify for a 13% tax rate. But he’s right that it’s one of the lowest rates in the world.

      You can add taxation to the list of subjects I probably don’t know enough about to argue competently, but I’ve never been a fan of a flat tax in countries where everyone doesn’t have the same income. On the face of it, it seems fair, but 13% hits a lot harder when you’re making 25k a year than 250k. Here in Canada, your tax bracket moves upward with your income – theoretically, the more you make, the higher you’re taxed, although the real high-rollers are just as adept at tax writeoffs here as they are in any other country. When you’re making the real money, you can afford a whole legal section to help you pay less, and they must be worth it because if they cost more than the taxes they saved, rich people wouldn’t employ them.

      I just pay what I’m told to pay, and I think most of the middle class does so largely without complaint except for when the government is caught spending tax money on something egregiously stupid. I’m told Russian tax law, like a lot of bureaucratic documentation, is unnecessarily complicated, and reform is the right way to go.

  5. cartman says:

    I was unaware of the LA Times political bent. I saw that link at the Huffington Post and assumed it was a “liberal” paper. Google’s new news feature (which now has its own painful-to-use search feature that is worse than the old one) has links to only the preferred “liberal” news sites in English. There is a lot of the Guardian, whose Russia coverage is crude and biased, but Liberals have a feel-good attachment to despite its clearly pro-establishment positions. Note that I do not associate with either the liberal or conservative label since these days they belong to the same two-headed beast.

    One interesting thing came out of it:

    http://www.bsr-russia.com/en/law-a-human-rights/item/1982-new-book-turns-litvinenko-murder-case-upside-down.html

    Keep an eye out for Dunkerley’s book. From what I have read about the World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists, they do not sound like Kremlin stooges. They held their conference in Moscow a few years ago just to criticize the media situation in Russia.

    • The Guardian is, quite possibly, the sleaziest newspaper in the world.

      It pretends to be free and independent, but in fact censors truly contrarian viewpoints and serves the Establishment.

      Apart from their Russia coverage, with which we are all familiar, a case in point is their attitude towards Assange. They have an article out practically once every week smearing him, which is very damaging to his image seeing as it is viewed as a “progressive” paper. Petty and vindictive.

      What compounds the irony is that it was their people (David Leigh and our favorite Russia journalist / plagiarizer, Luke Harding) who exposed the Wikileaks passwords that unlocked the entire unedited cache. That didn’t stop them from putting the blame on Assange, a stunt that is simply stunning in its pure, unadulterated hypocrisy. Incidentally, and surprisingly, the only mainstream media outlet that challenged their version of events was the Economist.

    • marknesop says:

      Mmmm….look for Dunkerley to appear soon at a Russophobic site near you, quite possibly pictured with a set of buttocks bracketing his face. But still, without reading it, it seems thin.

      I think we can all agree Litvinenko is dead. Regardless the agent involved, the medical community seems satisfied he was poisoned, and that it caused his death. Considering no other patrons of the restaurants Litvinenko frequented keeled over because the establishments accidentally washed the cups in polonium, or some other radioactive toxin, it was likely meant for him. Further considering he had never expressed a fondness for tea that would permit other patrons to see your teeth through your cheeks like an X-Ray, it seems safe to assume he didn’t bring it along himself, and take it willingly. I’m happy to stipulate that he was murdered.

      I never thought Putin had anything to do with it. Despite the efforts of Russophobe nutjobs to seed the narrative with implications that Litvinenko was onto something big that was going to bring Putin’s world crashing down, there’s absolutely no evidence any such situation existed. If there was, it would have been simple to lure him back to Russia, and kill him there. Post-9-11 immigration is pretty tight in Britain, they say: but a couple of FSB killers – or even just one – close to Putin were able to slip in, do Litvinenko and slip out again without (a) Litvinenko mentioning a rendezvous to anyone via any medium at all (notes, phone call, day planner) and (b) any official notice of their ever having entered the UK? Come on. Litvinenko was a hysterical bumbler with a high sense of drama, and easily as much an embarrassment to the people he was supposedly working for as those he was supposedly working against. It’s as likely he was killed at the behest of one of the UK’s resident Russian oligarch community, since (as a member of the “murdered by Putin” club) he was more useful dead than alive.

      Besides, when did “proof” matter to the Russophobes and their media outlets? If they want to say “Putin did it”, a lack of proof has never constrained them before; they simply announce “Putin did it”. They never have any trouble getting people to believe it.

      • kievite says:

        Litvinenko was a hysterical bumbler with a high sense of drama, and easily as much an embarrassment to the people he was supposedly working for as those he was supposedly working against. It’s as likely he was killed at the behest of one of the UK’s resident Russian oligarch community, since (as a member of the “murdered by Putin” club) he was more useful dead than alive.

        That a very plausible scenario. But I think that “after the fact” tremendous value of the case for steering/reviving Russophobia and putting pressure on Putin was instantly realized and then heavy propaganda machinery was put into action. GB poodle is a well-trained doggie and does not bark without commands😉. The case has great similarities to Viktor Yushchenko poisoning case. Both were played brilliantly.

        • kievite says:

          Viktor Yushchenko has described the statement by the parliamentary interim investigation commission, which said his poisoning with dioxin was fabricated, as political speculations on the eve of the [presidential] election.

          Justin Raimondo proposed an interesting term ” Yushchenko Gambit” for such cases:

          http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2005/04/06/yushchenkos-gambit/

          Here are some links for those who want to know some deails of this famous case:

          Yushchenko Dioxin Level 6,000 Times Higher
          http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,141559,00.html

          FORMER YUSHCHENKO ALLY CALLS PRESIDENT’S POISONING CLAIMS A MYTH
          http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=33845

          Ukrainian President fabricated his poisoning – YouTube

          US trace in mystery poisoning of Ukrainian leader – YouTube

          Presidential poisoning puzzle

          Yuschenko’s Press Secretary Vannikova Refutes Reports Saying Ex-President Seeks U.S. Citizenship
          http://un.ua/eng/article/350834.html

          • yalensis says:

            @kievite: I studied all the various conspiracy theories about Yushchenko “poisoning” case. The theory that I believe has the most merit is the one in which Yush, while running for president, had experimental treatment done to make him look younger. Some kind of super-botox, maybe even stem cell injections directly into his face. The treatment went terribly wrong and messed up his erstwhile handsome visage. This would have made him unelectable, but his handlers decided to turn his new ugliness in their favor by portraying him as a victim of poisoning. Even with the sympathy vote, he still lost the election by a couple of percentage points, and so Americans had to launch Orange Revolution to reverse election, and then … well, you know the rest.

        • marknesop says:

          If you’d like a teaser that suggests his co-conspirators bumped him off, there’s this. I say it’s a teaser because the linked article no longer exists; the blog “Zhezhe.us” no longer exists. But student Julia Svetlichnaja was – allegedly – the last person to interview Litvinenko, and the final visible lines (after which there’s no more story) say, “The Alexander Litvinenko who talked to us in April and May was not the martyr to the Kremlin that he has been painted as since his death. Instead he was a little unstable, even threatening to blackmail his one-time associates for money.”

          A motive for murder? Perhaps. I figured Boris Berezovsky as a good fit, and so did RTR – but Berezovsky won a libel suit (in a British court) against the station and against his alleged accuser, Vladimir Terluk. The judge said – correctly – that there was no evidence to connect Berezovsky with Litvinenko’s death (although the two were supposedly friends for a considerable period, so they certainly knew each other), and that there was no reason to suspect him. I’d say the latter was stretching things a bit, as Berezovsky was also among the top suspects in the murder of Paul Klebnikov. Bderezovsky has worked steadily from the UK to undermine Putin, and accusing the Russian government of murdering Litvinenko got plenty of press interest. Berezovsky is certainly ruthless enough to have someone killed if their death would serve his interests; he was also a suspect in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. That seems unlikely to me, although once again the press made quite a meal of blaming Putin for it. Neither Litvinenko’s or Politkovskaya’s criticisms were even irritating to Putin; they didn’t affect his ratings, both were essentially dismissed as cranks by all but their most devoted followers, and Putin would have less motive to kill them than most anyone I can think of.

  6. kievite says:

    I just found that this blog post was translated to Russian and published on Inosmi site (which typically translates and re-publishes Russophobe articles from Western media :-):
    http://www.inosmi.ru/economic/20111123/178242876.html

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, it was published on a couple of other websites as well, and I noticed a complaint in one of the comments that the translation was “disgusting”. Is it, would you say? In my experience inoSMI is pretty good, but skills may vary. I don’t have anywhere near enough skill to translate my own posts, it’d take weeks. My wife could do it, but she’s normally not very politically engaged.

      All of the posts on the “Ha Pycckom” page are from inoSMI.

      • kievite says:

        In no way I would not call the translation “disgusting”. IMHO this is a quality, professional translation.

        I noticed a couple of errors.

        For example in

        often a bastion of bedrock conservatism in an otherwise pretty liberal state

        state should be translated as “штате” instead of “государстве”

        Also I would translate “retard” as “дебил” not as “тормоз”.

        But all-in-all I think the translator manages to preserve your style and this is a pretty impressive achivement.

        • marknesop says:

          Thanks very much – that’s good to know, and it’s a judgment I wouldn’t be able to make myself.

        • yalensis says:

          Maybe translator considered “дебил” too slangy? I never even heard or saw this word until it started appearing on internet. Overall, pretty good translation, though. And INOSMI comments mostly positive.

          • kievite says:

            May be. Funny that ““libtard” was correctly translated as “дебило-либерал” as if the original translation used “дебил” and then it was editied to make it less offensive…

  7. rkka says:

    Totally off topic I know, but the Russian government got the rest of the BRICS to line up against against further sanctions on Iran and Western intervention in Syria:

    http://www.mid.ru/bdomp/brp_4.nsf/e78a48070f128a7b43256999005bcbb3/89a37436a9b44bc2442579530024c8d4!OpenDocument

    • yalensis says:

      Good for them. I guess Russia + BRICS learned their lesson with Libya. Speaking of Libya, latest gossip: capture of Gaddafi’s son Saif has, in a paradoxical way, turned against the interests of the jihadist faction in the rebel government. Up until then, Al Qaeda warlord Abdelhakim Belhaj was set to get the juicy plum of Minister of Defense in the new government. Belhaj represents a Tripoli militia which is ultimately beholden to Qatar. Unfortunately for him, Saif was captured by a rival Zintan militia. Instead of tearing Saif apart, the Zintanis have hidden him away and protected him from the other militias. Videos posted on youtube showed the Zintani fighters soliticously caring for Saif’s wounds and listening to him with great respect as he lectured them about the follies of trusting the Islamists. NATO was so spooked by this (and worried that the Zintanis would turn against the “revolution”) that they rushed several high-ranking Europeans and even ICC chief to Tripoli to try to sort the situation out. As a result of some wheeling and dealing, Belhaj was pushed aside, and a completely unknown Zintani warlord got the Ministry of Defense job. Purely based on his possession of the prisoner Saif al-Gaddafi. Consulting my crystal ball, what is likely to happen now is a power struggle between the pro- and anti-Qatari factions, with NATO pretty much on the side of the Qataris, but Europeans acting very nervous now.

      • rkka says:

        “…but Europeans acting very nervous now.”

        Oh yes. The last thing the Euros need to go along with their spiraling financial collapse is a Libyan civil war delaying the reopening of oil and gas production there.

        You gotta wonder why Cameron and Sarko thought the Libya war was a good idea.

        • yalensis says:

          Why Sarko/Cameron thought Libya war was a good idea? Well, for starters, they still have their damn dirty thieving paws on over 150 BILLION dollars of sovereign Libyan pure cash and gold that was stored in European banks. Which Euros stole, I mean froze, and now refuse to give back. The cynic in me says the Libyans will never see that $$$ again, and it is actually enough to bail out Greece. Money is always primary motive for most crimes, no?

      • yalensis says:

        Addendum: here is the youtube vide of Saif with his captors, there are English subtitles, he warns them about any alliances with the Islamists:

  8. sinotibetan says:

    As election fever comes to Russia, Western media has started on their anti-Putin campaign…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15869047

    sinotibetan

    • kievite says:

      I’ve always had the impression that Western press in general and BBC in particular absorbed the best sociopaths from Soviet propaganda departments. And they, being skilled bureaucrats, now moved to the top or are pretty close to the top🙂.

      The level of falsifications in a typical “manufactured news” stream in MSM now probably far exceeds the level of falsification that was typical for the letters of “workers and peasants” published in the newspaper Pravda. Like they say only bad students can’t surpass their teachers…

      Here is an interesting tidbit from the past:

      In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.

      Back in December of 1996, Jane Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson, were hired by FOX as a part of the Fox “Investigators” team at WTVT in Tampa Bay, Florida. In 1997 the team began work on a story about bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial substance manufactured by Monsanto Corporation. The couple produced a four-part series revealing that there were many health risks related to BGH and that Florida supermarket chains did little to avoid selling milk from cows treated with the hormone, despite assuring customers otherwise.

      According to Akre and Wilson, the station was initially very excited about the series. But within a week, Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false and to make other revisions to the story that were in direct conflict with the facts. Fox editors then tried to force Akre and Wilson to continue to produce the distorted story. When they refused and threatened to report Fox’s actions to the FCC, they were both fired.(Project Censored #12 1997)

      Akre and Wilson sued the Fox station and on August 18, 2000, a Florida jury unanimously decided that Akre was wrongfully fired by Fox Television when she refused to broadcast (in the jury’s words) “a false, distorted or slanted story” about the widespread use of BGH in dairy cows. They further maintained that she deserved protection under Florida’s whistle blower law. Akre was awarded a $425,000 settlement. Inexplicably, however, the court decided that Steve Wilson, her partner in the case, was ruled not wronged by the same actions taken by FOX.

      FOX appealed the case, and on February 14, 2003 the Florida Second District Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the settlement awarded to Akre. The Court held that Akre’s threat to report the station’s actions to the FCC did not deserve protection under Florida’s whistle blower statute, because Florida’s whistle blower law states that an employer must violate an adopted “law, rule, or regulation.” In a stunningly narrow interpretation of FCC rules, the Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a “law, rule, or regulation,” it was simply a “policy.” Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.

      During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Fox attorneys did not dispute Akre’s claim that they pressured her to broadcast a false story, they simply maintained that it was their right to do so. After the appeal verdict WTVT general manager Bob Linger commented, “It’s vindication for WTVT, and we’re very pleased… It’s the case we’ve been making for two years. She never had a legal claim.”

      • marknesop says:

        Incredible. You sort of always hope it’s some kind of accident, or lazy research. I don’t know how I missed that story, but I’ve always loathed FOX News. I remember during some Republican’s trials and tribulation over being caught soliciting gay sex (it wasn’t Mark Foley, but around the same time, when a series of Republicans were laid low by sex scandals), FOX showed him with a “D” after his name, indicating he was a Democrat. There’s no depth to which they will not sink, and low-awareness voters are their target.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Dear kievite,

        WOW!
        Looks like Western media is corrupted to the core! And now I have a very different perspective of the ‘freedom of the media’ frequently touted by Western politicians. I.e. that ‘freedom’ also includes ‘freedom to lie and distort’. Remarkable! Even more remarkable is the court ruling….it’s like ruling in favour of a ‘technicality’ but not the ethical and moral nature of the incident.

        I am not too sure about the ‘Putin being booed’ episode. Almost ALL the mainstream Western media hailed the incident as significant – as a sign(or rather as their HOPE) that Putin might in the near future suffer the fates of Middle Eastern potentates like Gaddafi et al. disliked by the West. CNN, New York Times, Bloomberg, Financial Times etc. highlighted the incident(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-23/putin-gets-booed-as-russian-elections-loom-jeffrey-tayler.html; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/24/world/europe/amid-signs-of-dissatisfaction-in-russia-putin-seeks-tighter-grip.html; http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/015176aa-1689-11e1-bc1d-00144feabdc0.html?ftcamp=rss#axzz1etp3thvr etc.)

        Surprisingly, the Moscow Times(just as anti-Putin as the Western media) have a different take:-
        http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/why-putin-was-booed/448613.html
        http://themoscownews.com/editorial/20111121/189221420.html

        If it’s TRUE that Putin was booed, several conclusions can be made:-

        1. Russia is NOT a pseudo-democracy as Western media continuously proclaim as Russians DARE to boo any leader.

        2. That Putin-Medvedev better do some serious homework if they don’t want their support further erode.

        3. The West will NEVER stop nosing into Russian internal affairs. NEVER.

        4. Nationalist parties might form the new opposition.

        sinotibetan

        • sinotibetan says:

          Hmmm…..Are the Americans and Europeans ‘directly’ involved in trying to influence Russian elections from within Russia? Putin seems to imply it…

          http://news.yahoo.com/putin-warns-west-launches-presidential-bid-155259585.html

          (“All our foreign partners need to understand this: Russia is a democratic country, it’s a reliable and predictable partner with which they can and must reach agreement, but on which they cannot impose anything from the outside,” Putin told his audience…..
          He said Russia wants to develop cooperation with the West, but strongly warned the U.S. and Europe against paying too much attention to the Kremlin’s critics and providing them with financial support.
          “We know that … representatives of some countries meet with those whom they pay money, the so-called grant recipients, give them instructions and guidance for what ‘work’ they need to do to influence the election campaign in our country,” Putin said.)

          Reading the comments(I think mostly from the West) is sad….most are comments of the ignoramus. However I like this one:-

          “Masha Lipmann is just upset that her cousins didn’t get away with all of Russia’s goods under Putin, and they will have to wait awhile longer before they try to swindle them away again.”

          sinotibetan

  9. Evgeny says:

    1)
    Igor Irtenyev denies claims that he and his wife have emigrated from Russia:

    http://www.gazeta.ru/column/irtenyev/3840646.shtml

    (Kudos to Kirill Pankratov for bringing this story to a sight:
    http://neznaika-nalune.livejournal.com/719301.html?mode=reply
    )

    2)
    Article by Leonid Kaganov in which he explains that one should use the chance to vote at the election:
    http://lleo.me/dnevnik/2011/11/24.html

    • marknesop says:

      The article by Irtenyev is brilliant, Zhenya; thanks for it!!

      • Evgeny says:

        Mark, I don’t really deserve thanks — because I’ve learned of the article from Kirill Pankratov’s blog. That person is an expert in politics, although his major background is the technology. If the name is new to you — he used to be a contributing author to the old “eXile”, covering political topics regarding (mainly) Russia. Here you can read his political articles:

        http://exile.ru/authors/detail.php?ID=2433

        After the “eXile” became “Exiled Online”, he seemingly stopped contributing. I have no idea, why.

        • marknesop says:

          Thanks, Zhenya; I still would not have learned of it if not for your observation. I’ve added Kirill’s LiveJournal to the blogroll. Is “Kirill” a very unusual name for Russians? I was just wondering if he might be the Kirill who regularly comments at Sublime Oblivion. Anyway, I probably should add a few good links in the Russian language, even though I don’t read it well myself. Have you any recommendations?

          • Evgeny says:

            Mark, “Kirill” is probably not of the top twenty most popular Russian names, but it’s not uncommon, either.

            My reading preferences are very personal. I read more than 15 bloggers who discuss politics. But there’s even more of what I do not read. For example, I don’t read Mr. Navalny’s blog. I guess, Navalny is just too big a person for me. I also do not read the Livejournal community “ru_politics”, because I’m just not that much into politics.

            Let’s try to see if anything of my reading preferences could work for you:

            1)
            http://businessmsk.livejournal.com/

            An unofficial rep for the “Essense of Time” movement. This blog is valuable for the insight on Russian and world affairs. The “Essense of Time” is a political awareness movement and a fan club of Mr. Kurginyan (just kidding). Its official website:

            http://eot.su

            It’s a strongly patriotic movement, but not a nationalist one. They are independent (!!!). Economy-wise, they are new socialists.

            2)
            http://roizman.livejournal.com/

            A blog run by Mr. Roizman, an anti-drug activist. Sometimes it’s very scary to read.

            3)
            http://leko007.livejournal.com/

            A blog by Lema Gudaev. Lema Ramzanovich is the head of the (non-governmental) resource “ChechenInfo.ru”. Formerly he had a position in Mr. Kadyrov’s government, but resigned to lead a resource of his own. He is also a very nice person to talk to.

            It’s an independent patriotic blog.

            4)
            http://sajjadi.livejournal.com/

            Reza Sajjadi is an Ambassador of Iran in Russia. It’s an interesting blog, because its owner provides an unique insight into Iran and its society.

            By the way, I have commented on his blog on a couple occasions and got meaningful replies. But when I have commented on a couple occasions on the blog of John Beyrle (when he was an Ambassador of the U.S. in Russia), I got no replies. That’s why I respect Iran more, than the United Stated. Because they know how to work with Russians. (Just kidding.)

            Of course, that blog is not agenda-free. But yet it’s an important information source — mainly, because media coverage of Iran is so poor.

            5)
            http://kashin.livejournal.com/

            Of course, you could have Oleg Kashin on the blogroll. Prior to the attack on him a year ago, he used to reply on my rare comments. Now there’s a fan club of him in the comments.

            6)
            http://idiot.fm/

            When there’s Kashin, you could mention Maksim Kononenko. A (mostly) pro-Governmental independent blogger with an unique insight.

            7)
            http://dzecko.livejournal.com/

            Vladimir Glinsky. A few years ago he was working as a journalist for a regional Russian newspaper. A notable blog post from that time:
            http://dzecko.livejournal.com/29690.html?mode=reply

            His last occupation is as a translator of foreign press articles (English and Polish) for smi2.ru
            Smi2 is a resource with the idea of a “people’s newspaper”. Authors get paid according to the share of views of their articles.
            A notable Vladimir’s recent blog post: interview of Smi2 readers with Reza Sajjadi:
            http://dzecko.livejournal.com/272907.html?mode=reply

            8)
            http://may-antiwar.livejournal.com/

            A Russian opposition activist. A public figure — but I would avoid mentioning her name, because she doesn’t mention it in her profile. She is a “human rights defender”. Technically, she is a “Solidarnost” activist now, but in reality she is a member of an opposition group of their own. A nice person to talk to.

            9)
            http://arkhip.livejournal.com/

            Arkhip. A moderate Russian nationalist.

            ———–

            I’m not sure if you find my viewpoint interesting, useful or applicable. But hope this helps. If you have noticed, I made several comments that “a person is nice to talk to”. I did that, because I believe that following blogs is an interactive process. You do not simply read, you discuss — if and when you like. That’s the best of blogs.

          • sinotibetan says:

            Mark,

            Don’t think Kirill is that unusual a name for Russians. I thought Kirill is Russian of St. Cyril and St. Methodius fame – the two patriarchs cum linguists that came up with the Glagolithic Script in Old Church Slavonic.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Cyril_the_Philosopher

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirill

            I might ask, though, that perhaps a Russian with the first name ‘Kirill’ may sound ‘archaic’ or tended to be associated with the Orthodox Church?

            sinotibetan

            • yalensis says:

              Thanks, Sino-T. Yes, you are right, the Russian name “Kirill” derives from Greek “kurios” meaning “Lord”. From the adjectival form “Kurillos” (“Lordly”). (Not to be confused with the “Kuril Islands” in dispute with Japan — that’s just a coincidence!)
              A completely respectable Russian name, of Byzantine derivation.

              • yalensis says:

                P.S. Even Latin mass uses Greek expression “Kyrie Eleison” (“O Lord have mercy”). The case ending -e is the vocative, used when addressing someone (“O Lord”). Russian/Slavic used to have a vocative too, same ending -e not used any more except in expression “Bozhe” (O God!)

                • sinotibetan says:

                  Dear yalensis,

                  Thanks so much for all the explanations!

                  sinotibetan

                • Evgeny says:

                  Yalensis, it’s completely off-topic, but you will enjoy this stuff:

                  A few words about the band: “From the moment of their origin the band has declared their purpose as forming the new style, in which the most valuable and the most interesting achievements of the native musical tradition would be combined with the tradition of world rock music.” See orgia.ru for further detail.

          • Evgeny says:

            Mark, “Kirill” is probably not of the top twenty most popular Russian names, but it’s not uncommon, either.

            My reading preferences are very personal. I read more than 15 bloggers who discuss politics. But there’s even more of what I do not read. For example, I don’t read Mr. Navalny’s blog. I guess, Navalny is just too big a person for me. I also do not read the Livejournal community “ru_politics”, because I’m just not that much into politics.

            Let’s try to see if anything of my reading preferences could work for you:

            1)
            http://businessmsk.livejournal.com/

            An unofficial rep for the “Essense of Time” movement. This blog is valuable for the insight on Russian and world affairs. The “Essense of Time” is a political awareness movement and a fan club of Mr. Kurginyan (just kidding). Its official website:

            http://eot.su

            It’s a strongly patriotic movement, but not a nationalist one. They are independent (!!!). Economy-wise, they are new socialists.

            2)
            http://roizman.livejournal.com/

            A blog run by Mr. Roizman, an anti-drug activist. Sometimes it’s very scary to read.

            3)
            http://leko007.livejournal.com/

            A blog by Lema Gudaev. Lema Ramzanovich is the head of the (non-governmental) resource “ChechenInfo.ru”. Formerly he had a position in Mr. Kadyrov’s government, but resigned to lead a resource of his own. He is also a very nice person to talk to.

            It’s an independent patriotic blog.

            4)
            http://sajjadi.livejournal.com/

            Reza Sajjadi is an Ambassador of Iran in Russia. It’s an interesting blog, because its owner provides an unique insight into Iran and its society.

            By the way, I have commented on his blog on a couple occasions and got meaningful replies. But when I have commented on a couple occasions on the blog of John Beyrle (when he was an Ambassador of the U.S. in Russia), I got no replies. That’s why I respect Iran more, than the United Stated. Because they know how to work with Russians. (Just kidding.)

            Of course, that blog is not agenda-free. But yet it’s an important information source — mainly, because media coverage of Iran is so poor.

            5)
            http://kashin.livejournal.com/

            Of course, you could have Oleg Kashin on the blogroll. Prior to the attack on him a year ago, he used to reply on my rare comments. Now there’s a fan club of him in the comments.

            6)
            http://idiot.fm/

            When there’s Kashin, you could mention Maksim Kononenko. A (mostly) pro-Governmental independent blogger with an unique insight.

            7)
            http://dzecko.livejournal.com/

            Vladimir Glinsky. A few years ago he was working as a journalist for a regional Russian newspaper. A notable blog post from that time:
            http://dzecko.livejournal.com/29690.html?mode=reply

            His last occupation is as a translator of foreign press articles (English and Polish) for smi2.ru
            Smi2 is a resource with the idea of a “people’s newspaper”. Authors get paid according to the share of views of their articles.
            A notable Vladimir’s recent blog post: interview of Smi2 readers with Reza Sajjadi:
            http://dzecko.livejournal.com/272907.html?mode=reply

            8)
            http://may-antiwar.livejournal.com/

            A Russian opposition activist. A public figure — but I would avoid mentioning her name, because she doesn’t mention it in her profile. She is a “human rights defender”. Technically, she is a “Solidarnost” activist now, but in reality she is a member of an opposition group of their own. A nice person to talk to.

            9)
            http://arkhip.livejournal.com/

            Arkhip. A moderate Russian nationalist.

            ———–

            I’m not sure if you find my viewpoint interesting, useful or applicable. But hope this helps. If you have noticed, I made several comments that “a person is nice to talk to”. I did that, because I believe that following blogs is an interactive process. You do not simply read, you discuss — if and when you like to. That’s the best of blogs.

            • marknesop says:

              Good Morning, Evgeny; thanks for all the great links! All your messages went to the spam filter, as often happens when messages are long and contain a lot of links- it’s completely automatic, and I find them waiting there when I start up the next time. There were a lot of duplicates, so I hope I managed to capture all the ones you sent. I’ll have a look through them all and we’ll see what works; they all sound extremely interesting, and I like to make links available for others who may be interested even if I rarely or never use them myself. I find all viewpoints interesting, even those with which I disagree.

              • Evgeny says:

                Good afternoon, Mark. I thought there was a glitch in the wordpress engine, and continued attempts until I have seen my messages posted. There are two duplicates left, so far.

                By the way, have you ever considered creating a Russian language blog (preferably at Livejournal)?

                • marknesop says:

                  I don’t speak Russian well enough to do that, I’m afraid, and often I find that clumsy phrasing by foreigners in one’s own language merely irritates speakers of that language, like “who is this guy and why does he think he’s qualified to express an opinion?” Alternatively, it’s easy to dismiss the efforts of someone who doesn’t speak the language very well, as if their ignorance of the nuances of the language translates to a broader ignorance of everything.

              • Evgeny says:

                Mark, often people create LJ blog accounts simply to be able to communicate with bloggers of their choice.

                Then, if anybody reads your blog, it’s his/her choice. I guess, there would be a certain degree of tolerance towards grammatic issues. Also, as a blog owner, you are free to ban anybody who behaves ill.

              • Evgeny says:

                For example, I encourage you to have a look at the LJ blog of a Japanese translator from Russian:

                http://kojik.livejournal.com/

                That example proves that correct grammar is not a prerequisite for successful blogging.

          • hoct says:

            Let me bring to your attention one in English that you are missing but may appreciate: Russian History Blog. A joint blog of Russia history specialists featuring posts by such heavy-hitters as Lynne Viola and Steve Barnes!

    • cartman says:

      I thought Sergei Loiko was Russian, but lacking the willpower to factcheck his work. Turns out he is being deceptive. Maybe he is Ukrainian. Russia is mostly ultima thule to foreigners so it is easy to skew their opinion. It will be interesting once the World Cup arrives and it takes place in a bunch of cities most have never heard of.

  10. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis and rkka,

    Very interesting!
    1.)”Well, for starters, they still have their damn dirty thieving paws on over 150 BILLION dollars of sovereign Libyan pure cash and gold that was stored in European banks. Which Euros stole, I mean froze, and now refuse to give back. The cynic in me says the Libyans will never see that $$$ again, and it is actually enough to bail out Greece. ”
    Hmmm….will they ‘truly’ bail Greece out? Doubt so. Probably they will thieve on most of the monies(pocketed by themselves and their cronies) and ‘craft’ a situation to ensure that countries within the EU lose even more national sovereignty to be ‘sacrificed’ to the bureaucrats in Brussels.
    (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/28/us-eurozone-crisis-idUSTRE7AQ0CF20111128)
    There will be ‘nothing’ for the Greeks. I think in the ‘eyes of Western politicians’, Greece and other ‘non-Western European countries in Europe’ are supposed to be fiefdoms ruled by stooges(forgive the ‘pun’, Mark!) willing to listen to the ‘higher-ups’ in Berlin, London and Paris. That’s the price to pay for admittance into the ‘elite club’ of nations, the EU. You are ABSOLUTELY right….the Libyans will never see nor even smell that $$$ ever again.

    2.)”Consulting my crystal ball, what is likely to happen now is a power struggle between the pro- and anti-Qatari factions, with NATO pretty much on the side of the Qataris, but Europeans acting very nervous now.”
    There’s going to be civil war and chaos in Libya.
    Egypt is unstable and also has risk of civil war.
    http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2011/Nov-28/155389-egypt-braces-for-landmark-vote-as-leaders-grapple-over-power.ashx#axzz1exZMDx7Z

    3.) As another ‘side-note’…tension is brewing between ‘NATO ally” Pakistan and NATO/USA:-
    http://media.theage.com.au/news/world-news/pakistan-denounces-us-after-deadly-raid-2802351.html?&exc_from=strap
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/27/us-pakistan-nato-idUSTRE7AP03S20111127

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      A short-term result might be a marked reluctance on the part of such countries to place any money with western banks, knowing it is likely to be seized at the first sign of trouble and a cut funneled to the “rebels” to finance their takeover of the government. I wonder how exposed Russia is to such daylight robbery.

      • Evgeny says:

        “I wonder how exposed Russia is to such daylight robbery.”

        Pretty much?

        http://www.zavtra.ru/cgi/veil/data/zavtra/07/702/62.html

        “В России и других странах “нового капитализма” первоначальное накопление происходило с такими нарушениями законов и норм, что большинство капиталов имеет в глазах западной юстиции крайне сомнительное происхождение. А значит, обладатели этих капиталов изначально уязвимы для западных правоохранительных органов.”

        • yalensis says:

          Suggestion for Russia: For the love of god, take all $$$ out of Western banks, especially American and European. If/when Putin is elected, they will start color revolution in Moscow then freeze the cash. Instead, deposit all cash and gold in safe non-judgmental banks, like in China. (I hope somebody listens to me.)

          • Evgeny says:

            Yalensis, I can propose you a small audience. May be, 100 people. If you have an address to the Russian people in English, anything in the range from approx. 2 to approx. 10 thousands characters, feel free to send it me to: filatovev (at) mail (dot) ru, and I will make sure it gets the attention of Russians.

            • yalensis says:

              Thank you for your kind offer, Evgeny, but I think I will pass, for now. Besides, whenever I feel the need to rant, there is always INOSMI.

          • marknesop says:

            Sit down, Yalensis. Here, breathe into this paper bag….that’s right, in…..out….there’s a good fellow. Better?

            The west is not going to start a colour revolution in Moscow. For starters, they’d have to import most of the dissidents, since local beefcake boy Boris Nemtsov can rarely muster much over 200. For another, Russia supplies in the order of 60% of Europe’s gas needs. Western Europe is not going to involve itself in a coup attempt with the country that could suddenly cite sweeping pipeline maintenance requirements that, so sorry, forced it to turn off the gas for a couple of weeks. Similarly, the USA cannot afford to mess too overtly in the elections, lest a misunderstanding lead to consternation that the global energy supply was not safe, and send prices into the ozone layer.

            This is why Georgia was – and to an extent, remains – so important. It’s the only country through which the west could route pipelines from the Caspian Basin without going through Russia or Iran. If the west controlled such pipelines, it could offer Europe an alternative energy source independent of Russia – if the Caspian Basin produced levels such as the west hopes it could, it offers the potential of robbing Russia of one of its greatest sources of strength: its energy monopoly. This was recognized (although it was hardly a secret, being a part of U.S. energy policy since Clinton was president) way back in 2002. Without its lucrative oil revenues – which the west never tires of pointing out Russia relies heavily on for its bulging treasury – the government would be unable to carry out reforms or improvements or boost the living standard or increase pensions…and then the people really would have something to bitch about. Under such conditions, getting a colour revolution rolling might not be such a difficult proposition.

            Fortunately, there are at least as many geography students in the Kremlin as there are in the Pentagon.

            • yalensis says:

              Thanks, Mark, I was force-fed my Prozac this morning and I am feeling much better now….
              I recant my warning to Russian government about keeping its $$$ out of Western banks.
              Eppur si muove…

        • marknesop says:

          To a degree, yes, that’s true. But a good deal of wealth acquired under the terms described is now in the hands of oligarchs who no longer live in Russia, such as Berezovsky. The west would sooner offer free Balalaika classes to the world than seize money in the hands of oligarchs who are a thorn in the side of the Russian government, and if the west seized Khodorkovsky’s money (ha, ha, as if that would happen), it might mean his legion of lawyers wouldn’t get paid.

          I was thinking more of Russian government funds that are involved in daily transactions through organizations like these;

          http://www.kommersant.com/p829038/r_501/

          and the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. How many of them have significant funds sitting in western financial institutions? It’s reasonable to assume quite a few or perhaps all have, because all finance is international now and most countries have significant investments abroad – much of which (in Russia’s case) some sources like to characterize as “capital flight”.

      • Evgeny says:

        If I started talking about E. Kryukov… guess I should at least provide a single link to S. Kurginyan?

        http://www.izvestia.ru/news/505015

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for comment and links, @Sino-T. To add to the mix: civil war in Syria. That is to say, armed insurrection, on the Libya model. After losing a power struggle in Libya against the Zintani tribe (he wanted the Ministry of Defense job, Zintanis got it instead, thanks to their possessiono of captive Saif Gaddafi), Al Qaeda asset Abdelhakim is now pulling a “Che Guevara” and is off to Syria to stir things up there. Belhaj works for the Qataris, who are also in bed with the Turks now, for some reason. Their next target seems to be Syria, they want to pull off the same thing there that they did in Libya: overthrow the secular Baathist dictatorship and install Islamist dictatorship instead. So, Syria is next in line, even before Iran. (Another clue that Syria is the most immediate target: Qatari propaganda tool Al Jazeera has dropped Libyan coverage and is now focusing all its malign energy on Syria.)
      The difference here is that Russia (thank goodness) has finally drawn a line in the sand and told NATO, “No, you can’t have Syria.” I just read yesterday that Russian warships are heading to Syria ; turns out they even have a naval base there. (Obviously they would lose the base if NATO succeeding in overthrowing Assad, and they can’t let that happen.)

  11. sinotibetan says:

    Err…a correction:-
    “There’s going to be civil war and chaos in Libya.”
    It should be:
    “There might be civil war and more chaos in Libya”.
    I am no prophet so I don’t think I should be ‘so sure’! lol😉

    sinotibetan

    • yalensis says:

      That’s okay, Sino-T, you don’t have to be Nostradamus to see that Libya is still in for more troubles before they finally see peace again.
      By the way, you might be interested, my study of the Arabic alphabet is going pretty well. Slowly (because I don’t have much spare time), but pretty good. I started over the weekend and already learned to read and write the first 3 consonants (baa’, taa’ and thaa’), in their various guises with vowel markings, etc. I bought a book that teaches to write in cursive, and some tracing paper. You trace the letters initially, until you get more proficient, and learn to write in flow, with letters slightly changing form based on position in word. As a linguist I disapprove of calligraphy (because it confuses writing with art and makes it too complex for the masses to learn to write), and wish all languages would just pick simple block letters that never changed their form and were easy to learn. Still, I should count my blessings that I don’t have to learn Chinese writing. Since Arabic alphabet is fairly reasonable (only around 30 letters), this is definitely something I can do. As expected, the tiny dots and squiggles are a challenge because I am so near-sighted. Those medieval Arab scholars must have had excellent eyesight!

    • Evgeny says:

      Sinotibetan, it’s completely off-topic. But today there was an article in the Indian Express unveiling the diplomacy during the Sino-Indian War:

      http://www.indianexpress.com/news/our-battle-their-wars/881205/

      I’m ashamed to say that I’m entirely new to the topic. Do you believe it’s a reasonable article, or just some propaganda?

  12. Evgeny says:

    By the way, the latest LDPR televised advertisement is visually offensive:

  13. Evgeny says:

    What the goddamn circus…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/28/kremlin-ria-novosti-western-media

    The bastards do not understand what the “loss of face” mean. They can do whatever now, but they will have the stigma of a censored resource on them, forever. What the bloody, incompetent idiots…

    • marknesop says:

      The translator said he was ready to quit from the start, and the editor’s position that he was “spinning” the stories to suit his own ideology sounds plausible. This is just another case in which someone has decided to make the most of their story by running to the western media with it. I wouldn’t be too bothered by it – the west has believed for a long time that there’s no freedom in Russia, that it’s filled with grey-faced, starving people who always seem to be holding out something that their leaders want, so that they can wrest that last little shred of freedom from them every single day. Some people need to believe that, to make them feel better about their own lives. So let them – the worst will always be thought of Russia by the ignorant who have never been there and the spoiled who have, but found it was not enough like the west to suit them.

      Besides, remember Sibel Edmonds? She worked as a translator (Arabic) for the FBI. She reported several incidences of misconduct, and the FBI’s response was to fire her. One of the conversations she translated allegedly referred directly to the 9-11 attacks, a considerable time before they happened. The west doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to suppression of translations or skewing reports along ideological lines.

    • peter says:

      Censorship at InoSMI? Oh no, tell me it’s not true, Anatoly’s fragile little ego won’t survive the discovery that it wasn’t exactly his brilliance that got him published there.

      • Evgeny says:

        I need to say, that I’ve closely monitored Western press, as a scout for a volunteer translations resource. During most of the last year, Inosmi translated most everything from the mainstream media, that concerned or mentioned Russia. It’s only the last month or two, that they started to be “picky”.

        If they are honest, they should propose any independent media to interview their editor-in-chief about their policies in regards of selecting foreign articles to translate. However, I’m afraid, that some of their bosses believe that they do not have to play nice.

        • hoct says:

          During most of the last year, Inosmi translated most everything from the mainstream media, that concerned or mentioned Russia.

          That sounds like a terrible editorial policy (actually it sounds like they didn’t have one). If I were Russian I’d pretty pissed about having my tax money spent on uncritical re-publishing of Western mainstream reporting on Russia.

          • yalensis says:

            @hoct: No, no, no, you don’t understand! By revealing and making accessible to Russian-language readers all this garbage, INOSMI has effectively innoculated Russian public against Western propaganda and disinformation attacks. Otherwise they might be more vulnerable to the Russophobic blasts. Russian readers can read all this translated b.s. and then refute it in the forum with their caustic comments. It is is important that Russian readers feel they are getting the unvarnished and uncensored Western propaganda. Well worth whatever tax money was spent on it. (Plus, gave much-needed employment to hard-working translators.)

            • marknesop says:

              You know, progressives are their own worst enemy. One liberal in high dudgeon quits, martyring himself to the scandal-greedy western press (remember, the British press recently distinguished itself by hacking into the phone account of a murdered teenage girl, in search of a “scoop” – thereby inadvertently kindling hope in her parents that she was still alive. That wasn’t The Guardian, though), and everyone throws up their hands in grief and howls, “We’re ruined – RUINED!!!!”

              Put this in perspective. Herman Cain was actually in the lead for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. For a little while, anyway. Then a woman came forward, and said the candidate had come on to her and sexually harassed her. Herman Cain said she was full of shit. Then another woman came forward, with a similar story. Herman Cain, believing he had found the magic formula, said they were both full of shit, that it was just amazing how much shit you could squeeze into a person. Into two people, actually. Now a third woman comes forward, saying she and the candidate had a steamy affair that endured for years, and continued right up until a couple of months ago. Herman Cain said she was just about as full of shit as you could imagine. She produced emails and phone records, some as recent as September of this year. Herman Cain said “as long as my wife stands by me, I’ll be all right”.

              Okay, that wasn’t a very good example, because Herman Cain actually did do all those things, and putting on a brave face like he still has a political future is just delusional. It’s just fun to talk about it. But my point is, Herman Cain has resolve to burn. Progressives have none, zip, nada. One guy comes out with a story that he was pressured to spike stories critical of Putin, and you’re ready to fold the tents and go home.

              Where’s your fighting spirit? Is that how other countries do it? They do not. Right about now, if he worked for the Washington Post, staffers would be going through his tax records. Somebody else would be throwing together a story about how he was a pedophile who routinely kept his library books far past their due date. Yet another would remember that he made homosexual advances at the company Christmas party last year. By next week, the guy would be tripping over himself in his eagerness to get a retraction to press.

              If I worked at inoSMI, all those western stories about the poor jilted translator would be translated for review, with an editors note mocking him as well as any other dirt I could dig up. Instead, everybody on this side of the fence is treating it as if it were unvarnished, incontestable truth.

              • yalensis says:

                The really interesting thing about the Herman Cain situation is that Republican party stood by him staunchly while up to 4 women accused him of sexual harassment, they nudged and winked and gave him an “attaboy” for trying to coerce 4 women into having sex with him in return for employment in his wretched pizza company. Then a different story arises, of a sweet happy CONSENSUAL affair with a lady not his wife, and immediately he is toast within his own party. What this says is that Republicans are okay with extra-marital liaisons so long as they are coercive!

                • marknesop says:

                  Ha, ha! That’s an interesting conclusion, but I think it’s more likely what the Republicans are not OK with is a relationship which puts the candidate in a bad light in which the lady was wise enough to accumulate proof.

                  Lots of people in both parties are secretly contemptuous of sexual harassment policies, and believe they only empower women to get rid of a man they don’t like for other reasons (since sexual harassment guidelines are clear that it’s not what you think is inappropriate behavior that matters; it’s what the victim thinks is inappropriate). And in some cases that’s accurate; I know of one complaint brought against a man who was not even present when the inappropriate behavior was alleged to have occurred; he was on leave somewhere else. But generally speaking, harassment is in the eye of the beholder. Relationships in which the lady can provide phone records and email evidence are unambiguous.

                  The funny thing is, Cain might have weathered that one if it had come up first. Remember Mark Sanford, the Republican Governor of south Carolina? Once touted as presidential material, he disappeared for 4 days, leaving his minions to run the state, and nobody knew where he was. Once he showed up he tried a bogus story about hiking in the forest or something, but it soon fell apart and the media discovered he had fled to visit his girlfriend, whom he apparently could not live without. He blubbered in front of the camera about how he had done a terrible thing, taken leave of his senses, bla, bla, he just hoped his family would find it in their hearts to forgive him. The Republicans, party of family values and traditional marriage, considered it was just one of those things, no big deal, really. They staunchly refused to censure or punish him, although they did later – very grudgingly, censure him for misuse of state travel funds.

                  His wife high-sided it, leaving him very publicly, and that often seems to depend on the degree to which the woman has been made publicly to look a fool. If the content of Cain’s emails comes out and they’re full of gooshy love baby-talk or giggling over how clever he is, it’s bye bye, baby.

                  The lady who put a stake in the heart of Cain’s political career came forward because of the shabby manner in which he treated the other women who complained of his behavior. That’s why I say he might have weathered that one if it came up first, and he sobbingly confessed and asked him who was without sin to cast the first stone. Republicans love that stuff.

            • Misha says:

              It’s arguably even more important for Rusisans to know how to best reply to such commentary.

              Just making it more accessible doesn’t in itself make Rusisans better educated in knowing the flaws of such views. Of late, I’ve come across comments sharing my earlier contention that some at InoSMI might actually agree with the predominating opinions favored at venues like RFE/RL, The Guardian, Foreign Policy….

              Yes, InoSMI does offer the other side, which I maintain can nevertheless be given more attention.

              Democratist and Zigfeld aren’t such great sources to be given more postings than some others.

              • Misha says:

                Pardon misspells. Writing on the fly.

                The same can be said of RT. One RT show did a half hour feature on global anti-Jewish sentiment (a valid topic), while (to my knowledge) not having done likewise on global anti-Russian bias (also a valid topic).

                I’ve mentioned it before and do so again as someone seeking an improvement over the existing situation of bias and cronyism in media.

        • marknesop says:

          I can’t say I follow inoSMI closely enough to have noticed a difference, but articles from western newspapers that are sharply critical – even expressing hatred – of Putin and of the Russian government in general must be old news. Surely nobody believes that spiking articles that are critical of Putin will cause the widespread belief that there has been a sea change in world attitude, and that now the west regards him positively? And since when has the world’s opinion of their leader mattered to the Russian electorate?

          As far as I can see, this is a straight case of employee-employer disagreement. The translator says he’s being censored, the employer says not, and that the translator is not simply providing straight translations, but is putting a little of his own tone into them. If you read western news to get a feel for what the west is thinking, you don’t want to read instead what some Russian dissident thinks about what the west is thinking. I just think this is getting way overblown. If you approach inoSMI with the attitude that it is just about as reflective of truth and reality as any other news source, I don’t think you’ll go far wrong. If a news source reports real evidence exists that Obama was actually born in Kenya rather than Hawaii, and you don’t believe that, you’ll dig deeper to see if the source is credible. If a news source reports a plane has crashed and 320 people were killed, you tend to believe they probably have the facts right about the crash, and the casualty numbers are always shaky after a major disaster – they’ll firm up in a couple of days. But if even FOX News reports a plane crash, it’s likely true, right? Because that’s the kind of report in which ideology is not influential. On politics? Forget it. There’s probably no such thing as impartial.

      • marknesop says:

        I have to ask; did Anatoly sleep with your sister once, or disprove Archimedes Principle or something? You certainly seem to have it in for him to a far deeper degree than any other blogger with whom you disagree. That kind of hatin’s not good for you, Peter, and I’m just concerned about you.

      • kovane says:

        The story about INOSMI is pulled out of ass and blowed out of proportion, as usual. Their editor just was asked to be careful in posting the translation of material that violate the Russian pre-election law (such as ratings, polls data, etc.) Yes, it’s formally prohibited, and, naturally, other countries’ media doesn’t have to follow it And immediately, some freelancer editor threw a tantrum, which was gladly taken up by “progressive Internet community”. To anyone familiar with INOSMI, any claim about censorship is laughable – it diligently publishes all the bile that passes for free press in the West. Which, in effect, is what it makes it so effective – seeing the true colours of the West dispels any illusions one might have, save for, maybe, truly clinical cases.

        • peter says:

          Their editor just was asked to be careful in posting the translation of material that violate the Russian pre-election law (such as ratings, polls data, etc.)

          According to this screenshot, he was asked something quite different:

          А…: Привет! Только что получил указание от высшего руководства. Политических статей с жесткой критикой и провокоционными заголовками про “партию” и путина не брать. Поэтому я убрал с топа ббс.

          me: Привет.
          Что значит жесткая критика и что значит провокационные заголовки?

          А…: Если такие статьи уже переведены, то постарайся смягчать заголовки и конечно: на морду их не ставь..

          me: Высшее руководство – это Марина?

          А…: Нет, Кедровская и бурмистров
          ее начальники
          Я так понимаю, хотят чтоб не было критики по путину и едру.

          • It sounds like a hissy fit. He could have constructively challenged the new guidelines (especially seeing as they came not from the Boss but from people unknown to him). Or he was looking for an excuse to leave Inosmi anyway, and thought he might as well do it with a bang.

          • The essay was sent to translators, he said, “because you can’t just plug up the throat of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Guardian and other western media”.

            He added: “It’s an astonishing tale that will astonish nobody. I was ready to quit at any minute, since joining nearly a year ago. It wasn’t unexpected.”

            Yes. A liberal dolt, who clearly hates the Inosmi project and was just waiting for the opportunity to напакастить (make a petty smear) before he left.

          • kovane says:

            So, one knucklehead relayed what he understood was Burmistrov’s request to another (Я так понимаю, хотят чтоб не было критики по путину и едру), and the second one decided to kick up a stink. There’s no chance in hell that the former misinterpreted it, or acted too zealously?

            Besides, there’s a wonderful thing called editorial policy. If someone disagree with it, the doors are always open, and INOSMI is not the last place to work for. So, still not censorship.

            • peter says:

              There’s no chance in hell that the former misinterpreted it, or acted too zealously?

              I kind of know who you are, so okay, if you say Dubosarsky is a knuckleheaded zealot, who am I to argue?

              • kovane says:

                “Диалог Гриши Охотина (ИноСМИ) с неким сотрудником РИА :”

                I have no idea who Dubosarsky is. I was talking about this unknown employee of RIA.

                You know, your respect for authority is what I like about you, peter.

                • marknesop says:

                  Just one of the many things, I hope.

                • peter says:

                  I have no idea who Dubosarsky is. I was talking about this unknown employee of RIA.

                  Think, kovane, think, only two dots left to connect.

                  And you do know who Kedrovskaya is, don’t you? So here’s another screenshot for you:

                  From: Кедровская Ирина Александровна
                  Date: November 26, 2011 6:38:17 AM GMT +01:00
                  To: ***
                  Subj****жно!

                  Доброе утро. М***, А***, пожалуйста – не нужно пока ставить на сайт в предвыборную нежелю никаких политических текстов с негативом. Это просто огромная просьба….

                  I guess негатив is the internal codeword for “material that violate the Russian pre-election law (such as ratings, polls data, etc.)”, right?

                • kovane says:

                  More importantly, Google knows who Kedrovskaya and Burmistrov are, but the only Dubosarsky it finds is the artist.

                  Oh, peter, of course, in your interpretation, “негатив” is something bad about Putin and UR, right?

                • peter says:

                  … the only Dubosarsky it finds is the artist.

                  lmgtfy

                • kovane says:

                  OK, and what does this Dubosarsky have anything to do with our story?

                • peter says:

                  “This Dubosarsky” and that “unknown employee of RIA” are apparently the same person.

                • kovane says:

                  And you learnt this how?

                • peter says:

                  By looking carefully at the first screenshot.

                • kovane says:

                  Apparently, years near radiation turned you into a eagle-eyed mutant – all I managed to glean from the screenshot is that the erased name seems to be Alexei. But how you arrived at Alexei Dubosarsky is a kind of enigma to me.

                • peter says:

                  It’s in the address field of the browser.

                • kovane says:

                  I’m not so sure that the name in the query means the active contact, but it makes little difference anyway. It settled then – Dubosarsky is a knucklehead who might have been overzealous in executing Kedrovskaya’s request, take my word for it.

            • yalensis says:

              Бурмистров – кто?

        • hoct says:

          To anyone familiar with INOSMI, any claim about censorship is laughable – it diligently publishes all the bile that passes for free press in the West.

          Which would mean that while sporting the tagline of “Everything worth translating” it actually does the opposite and mostly translates stuff emphatically not worth translating?

          • kovane says:

            Well, worthiness is quite a subjective term, but,in my opinion, INOSMI does a wonderful job. Believe me, nothing stirs up a burning desire to kiss Putin’s portrait more than reading Guardian or the Washington Post. So whoever came up with the idea of creating it is one crafty fella.

            • yalensis says:

              Exactly! It’s what I’ve been saying — The best way to expose Western propaganda is to translate it as accurately as possible and expose it to a broader audience in all its glory. Rags like the Guardian condemn themselves with their own bullsh*t. That’s why it is important to keep INOSMI pure and free. Let INOSMI be INOSMI. I don’t care if it violates election rules, there should be made an exception, since this is essentially foreign media.

        • yalensis says:

          @kovane: A couple of days later, and looks like your original point was vindicated by, all of people, “peter”. The screenshots helpfully provided by him confirm your original point. All Kedrovskaya asked INOSMI editor to do was “tone it down” during pre-election week, here is translation of her memo:
          Good morning, M***, A*** please – no need to place on the site during pre-election week any type of political articles with “negativ”. This is a huge favor (I ask of you)…
          That’s it, nothing about Putin. A typical memo from a typical bureaucrat who doesn’t want to risk any issues with pre-election laws. I have made it clear I don’t agree with her directive, but I understand it, she is a bureaucrat covering her ass, and INOSMI don’t want political parties suing them after the fact for “unfair” coverage, etc. This is definitely not censorship, and even if it were, it is only for the period of one week.
          Next: The chat session between Alexei and Dubosarsky shows that “Alexei” is completely over-interpreting Kedrovskaya, putting words in her mouth (about Putin and United Russia) that she never said….
          Okay, for non-Russian readers, here is my translation of the chat session, keep in mind that chat sessions can be a bit asynchronous, with people typing their next comment before the reply comes in:

          A(lexei): Greetings: I just received an order from the higher-ups. Not to (translate) political articles with harsh criticism and provocative headlines about “the party” or Putin. Therefore I removed the BBC (article) from the top (banner).
          Me: Greetings. What do you mean by “harsh criticism and provocative headlines”?
          A: …If articles like this have already been translated, then just try to soften the headline and not so much in your face…
          Me: “Higher-ups”, you mean Marina?
          A: No, Kedrovskaya and Burmistrov. Her bosses. My understanding is that they don’t want any criticism of Putin or (United Russia).
          Me: Is Marina in Moscow?
          A: No, she’ll be back on Monday. Why, what did you want with Marina? Is there something I can help you with?
          Me: No, that’s okay. I’ll just continue my work as usual… I don’t know Kedrovskaya or Burmistrov, those names don’t mean anything to me. I guess you have access to the editorial staff so you can remove (my) articles if you need to.
          A: Kedrovskaya is the assistant director of (ORN), Burmistrov is the assistant director of RIA Novosti. Yes, go ahead and work in your usual mode. Just don’t place articles with the word “Putin” right in the face of the readers, or modify the headlines [to sensationalize them?]. I didn’t remove the BBC article, I just took it out of their face.
          Me: Alexei, I don’t feel comfortable working under those conditions….

          • peter says:

            “Putin” right in the face of the readers

            Ouch. Морда means frontpage here, not the reader’s face.

            • kovane says:

              peter, a question on a completely unrelated topic, if you don’t mind.

              You in a room with Anatoly, Averko and Putin. You hold a pistol in your hand, but it has only one bullet. Who would you shoot?

              • yalensis says:

                Ooooo oooooo! I think I know the answer to your question, kovane:
                Peter would ask them to line up very precisely one behind the other, then take careful aim so that the single bullet would pass through all three men.

            • marknesop says:

              But…I don’t understand. Is Putin standing for election to the Duma? I must have my dates mixed up, or something. I thought Putin was going to go for President. All the papers said so. And the Presidential election isn’t until March, I’m pretty sure. How is spiking stories or “softening headlines” for a week starting end-November going to covertly help Putin next year? Boy; I hope Putin doesn’t hear about this – he’ll probably confiscate everybody’s internet connections, or something.

              What a draconian editor, too – you can so see that our translator was afraid for his life; really, what else could he do? I mean, he wanted his article right up there in the banner, and nowhere else would do, although the editor does mention the article in question was not removed at all. Any western reporter who could not dictate editorial policy would quit immediately, of course. There should be some sort of journalistic award named after this brave young man.

              • peter says:

                But…I don’t understand.

                Let me clarify a bit. “me” (Okhotin) is not a translator, he is (was) a weekend editor. “A***” (Dubosarsky) is deputy editor-in-chief. The BBC article in question is (I guess) this one: Путин: не надо «расквашивать» парламент.

                • marknesop says:

                  Okay, that is helpful in terms of who is who. But I’m still not getting how this is blatant pro-Putinism to the point that the individual felt he had to quit – moreover, that his departure meets with broad western approbation. The article in question was not removed, but relocated. Insistence on having it in the banner is in itself partisanship, merely on the side of the opposition. Nobody is disputing that the association with Putin was thought to be prejudicial (or at least, I’m not), but what difference is it going to make by March?

                  And if it still smacks of political partisanship – whoopty doo. So what? How’s it so much worse than this

                  http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2011_11/romney_offers_a_hint_of_whats033651.php

                  that it attracts international attention? Mitt Romney, who hopes to become leader of the beacon of freedom and arbiter of fairness that is the United States of America, runs a television ad advocating his candidacy in which his opponent – Barack Obama – is heard to say, “…if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose”.

                  What he actually said, back in 2008, was “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’”

                  Dishonest? Partisan? You tell me. Reaction? Michael Gerson – former Bush speechwriter – commented, “…the truth often gets its hair mussed”.

                  http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2011_11/failing_to_appreciate_the_gops033772.php

                  The Romney ad would have been seen by more viewers in an hour than inoSMI gets in a year.

            • yalensis says:

              Thank you for correction of my translation, peter. I am not familiar with journalism slang. In my world “на морду” means “right in your snout”, so closest English equivalent is “in your face”. Obviously I hang around too much with gangstas and criminals….😦

    • yalensis says:

      NO! Say it ain’t so, Vova. Please do not touch my beloved INOSMI…..

      • hoct says:

        So for you Russian speakers, what would be a good Russian (or Ukranian) language website to bookmark if I’m looking for news, analysis and/or a discussion forum in politics, foreign and domestic? Lets say something like INOSMI but with original content? Not that I can actually read Russian, but at least I’d be able to see what are the topics of interest to the Russian media and public.

  14. Evgeny says:

    It’s ironic, because they could simply shut down Inosmi, and nobody would notice. The government doesn’t have to pay to translate foreign press articles. But they have betrayed the resource — and it’s worse than to kill it. God forgive them, for they know not what they do.

  15. yalensis says:

    Speaking of British tabloid rags, with a segue also to the issue of censorship:
    Just 3 days ago, there were hundreds of comments attached to this particular article on Libyan children being injured by leftover bombs . Now the comment section has been closed down (or at least made inaccessible). I think that is sinister, because they usually keep the comments going for at least a week before closing.
    For some reason this particular rag has consistently allowed reader comments (using the Disqus tool) on most of its Libya coverage over the past few months, and comments are overwhelming negative towards British involvement in Libya war, hypocrisy of NATO, etc.
    This particular article I read last weekend, and, as I mentioned, there were maybe 150-200 comments, vast majority of which mocking David Cameron and the rest of British government. With exception of a couple of patriots (“NATO = good, now let’s do Syria.”), most commenters blasted the fact that NATO dropped all these cluster bombs on Libya, and now are sobbing hypocritically about the poor kids who are playing with the remnants and blowing off their fingers. Now comments have been removed, you just see a little box at the bottom, with the word “comments”, but when you click on it nothing happens.
    I am guessing the editor (rumor has it paper is owned by a Russian oligarch, but I am not sure about that) felt the comments were improper because they are trying to present this like a charity thing: Dear Philistine Reader, donate some $$$ to help these poor Libyan kids, and then you will feel good about yourself, just in time for Christmas! Never mind that your government caused the damage in the first place… To the credit of the British public, majority apparently see right through this, I have never seen such cynical comments in my life, and I wish I had saved them before they closed it off.

  16. cartman says:

    Is this some loner wanting to start a Turkish attack on Syria?

    “Turkey’s NTV television reported that witnesses said they heard the gunman shouting that he was Syrian. Turkey’s interior minister later said he was a Libyan national, according to television reports.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204012004577069712924022578.html

    • yalensis says:

      @cartman: I don’t know about this particular provocation. It could just be random event. What is known for sure is that Syria is next on NATO’s hitlist. Libyan Al Qaeda asset Belhaj last week travelled to Turkey to deliver a bag of money intended for Syrian opposition. This was all over the news, I can find many links if needed. His trip was supposed to be secret, of course, but reporters learned about it when Belhaj was briefly detained at Tripoli airport (by rival Zintan militia) and they found that he was carrying a false passport and a bag of cash earmarked for Syrian opposition. Al Qaeda has also sent several hundred fighters to Syria to aid the armed uprising. Turkey is helping the Syrian rebels in every possibly way but word on the street has it they don’t really want to do this, they are being forced to by Americans. Don’t know if that is true or not. Meanwhile, Western media has started ferocious propaganda campaign against Syrian government, claiming that they have tortured hundreds of little children. This propaganda is of the same ilk as when they claimed Gaddafi troops were mass-raping women: completely untrue and just a pretext to start war.
      P.S. This will be one war that Russia simply cannot avoid getting involved in.

  17. I thought I would just sum a few points arising from this and the latest posts. Apologies if on occasion I am going off topic:

    1. According to the Financial Times negotiations are now underway between the Obama Administration and Congress to find a face saving way to repeal the Jackson Vanik amendment in the light of Russia’s forthcoming WTO entry. The Republicans in Congress are apparently demanding a formal “Magnitsky” law forbidding entry into the US of Russian officials involved in human rights violations as a quid pro quo for the repeal of the amendment. The Obama Administration feels this would be too inflammatory and wants instead to set up a foundation to “promote human rights in Russia”. Both proposals constitute grotesque interference in Russia’s internal affairs but amount to nothing more than what the US has already been doing for years.

    2. On the subject of Magnitsky, latest developments provide further proof that Russian liberals take no prisoners and that any attempt to meet them half way is invariably counterproductive. As part of his “liberal” image Medvedev seems to have packed his Human Rights Council with liberals. presumably in what was intended to be a conciliatory gesture. His reward was to have certain innocuous comments he made in the summer concerning economic crimes misquoted by the Chairman of his own Human Rights Council in what I suspect was intended to be the start of a campaign to bounce Medvedev into setting Khodorkovsky free. The Chairman’s misrepresentation of Medvedev’s comments was then uncritically republished by Novosti causing upset to various people including our friend and all round brilliant commentator on Russian affairs Anatoly Karlin. More recently the Human Rights Council has been busy spreading stories about how Magnitsky was supposedly tortured before his death, with a recent claim from one of its members that Magnitsky was beaten with rubber truncheons. The reports that I have seen of these comments provide no evidence for these claims, which do not seem to correspond with what I have heard about the actual cause of Magnitsky’s death. Regardless of this they render a fair trial of the unfortunate doctors and prison officials involved in the case all but impossible by blatantly pre judging its outcome. They also ensure (and are also surely intended to ensure) that if the charges of torture are eventually dismissed the trial can be written off as a whitewash.

    3. I have seen the film, which supposedly shows Putin being booed. In my opinion this is a non story. As far as I can tell the noise is simply the usual background noise one gets at sports events of this kind. I do not think it was directed at Putin or at anyone or anything in particular. I did not think that Putin at any time looked shocked and when he finished his comments there was a short cheer.

    3. Returning to the original subject of the post, I had an encounter with Luke Harding at the Tricycle Theatre in London last week. Having now spoken to him I can now answer the question I made right after this post, which is that he undoubtedly does believe all that he says. It was also clear to me that he has no factual basis for doing so but that he went to Russia with a whole set of already fully formed assumptions about the country, which nothing was ever going to shake. The whole encounter and indeed the event at which it happened had a distinctly surreal quality.

    • marknesop says:

      I envy you your opportunity to rub shoulders with the movers and shakers, even if Harding is a candidate for a padded cell in the Correctional Facility For The Imperturbably Self-Righteous. You never see anyone like that in this sleepy little backwater – Scott Ritter was here when the Iraq War was at its height, to argue it from the liberal (which means something entirely different here from what it does in Russia) viewpoint – apart from that, the most celebrity-intensive event I can recall was when Barbara Streisand was here with her yacht a couple of summers ago (a fairly frequent occurrence, actually), and earlier this year Gene Simmons (TV reality-show bigwig and former bass guitarist in KISS) was at a local casino signing autographs.

      I’d love to meet Luke Harding. I’m afraid I might be inspired to laugh uproariously at everything he said (assuming we were talking about Russia), but I’d try to be polite. Was he polite, would you say (making allowances for his apparent head injury)?

      • Living in London does sometimes have its pleasures.

        Self righteous is exactly the way to describe Luke Harding. He also comes across as someone who is incredibly pleased with himself. Also delusional. He came across to me as someone who is always ready to believe in that which he thinks he already knows. He said that Putin is the richest man in Europe and heading the most corrupt empire in the history of time. When I asked him where he got this from he told me it was all in the Wikileaks cables. I said to him that these were evidence of nothing at all. I am afraid the conversation went no further.

        The event by the way was the showing a film about “Thieves in Law” (ie Russian gangsters) which it became clear had been staged in order to give Luke Harding an opportunity to flog his book. As you know it is called “Mafia State” thought it is not about the mafia. It is not really about Russia. Rather it is mainly about Luke Harding and his adventures and assorted gallery of unlikely characters he meets along the way. I do not know if you have read it. It reminded me of another book detailed the adventures of an intrepid western reporter in Russia: Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. That of course is a work of fiction. Perhaps that is how we should read Luke Harding’s book.

  18. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis,

    I am sorry for this late reply. I had been awfully busy.
    1.)”By the way, you might be interested, my study of the Arabic alphabet is going pretty well….
    Still, I should count my blessings that I don’t have to learn Chinese writing.”
    That’s good to know!🙂
    I will be embarking on improving my Chinese writing abilities in the near future. Indeed, you can count your blessings! I guess I need to improve on that to read Chinese comments/views. Although I think Anatoly is probably far ahead of me in this area….😦

    2.)I finally managed to have just a brief talk with my Libyan acquaintance. Well, she was pretty non-committal with regards to Western intervention in Libya. I think(and I can understand her emotions)her primary concern is her family and how things are going to work out in her country. She thinks it will be a very unstable ‘transition’ ….I’ll try to find time to get more of her views and keep you informed. I mean…it’s probably just a personal view but I think coming from a Libyan – counts at least for something, don’t you agree? I still remember talking to her about Islam and al-Qaeda and the Israeli-Palestinian issue(she’s strongly anti-Israel whereas I support Israel[though not Zionism]) and she seemed to not be in favour of Islamists.

    3.)Anyway, NATO-Pakistan ‘ties’ are in trouble…
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/01/us-islamabad-idUSTRE7B00UH20111201
    http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/etn/news_content.php?id=1775278
    There are many pro-Islamist and pro-AlQaeda groups within Pakistan. I think that ‘the reign of generals’ in Pakistan might come to a crashing end in the near future and NATO’s ‘error’ and Pakistani regime ‘continuous’ cooperation with the USA/NATO might be costly to the ‘relatively secular’ Pakistan regime….and those groups will gain greater influence. Islamists with nuclear weapons. More dangerous than Islamists in Egypt, Libya or Syria even.

    4.)And as I have predicted long ago(though I am no Nostradamus)….Islamists are the winners in this Western-supported ‘Arab Spring’. I predict that the Islamists will one day threaten the West which currently supports them – IF they can unite and become powerful enough. Or most importantly build nuclear weapons. If Pakistan falls to Islamists…..hmmmm.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      Muslim nukes. Dig it. Pakistan is already a nuclear weapon power, and has been for quite some time. We’ll see if the crescendo of wind and fury reaches anything like that over Iran, which has no nuclear weapons at all.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, Sino-T. Pakistanis are furious at American right now, because President “Oh, bomb ’em” continues to drone them relentlessly, and even killed a dozen or so Pakistani officers/soldiers a few days ago. In retatliation Pakistanis are threatening to cut off re-supply to American troops in Afghanistan. Yeah, both Pakistan and India have nukes. Maybe everybody should have a nuke, it is all the rage now.

  19. sinotibetan says:

    yalensis….forgot to add the link to point # 4:-

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/01/us-egypt-election-idUSTRE7AR08V20111201

    sinotibetan

  20. sinotibetan says:

    Dear Alexander,

    Thanks for your comments. As for Putin’s ‘booing episode’ and the Mark’s current post… ‘Putin’s waning popularity’ [‘proven’ by the ‘booing of Putin’ and another ‘booing of Dmitry Kozak’] is the current Western media obsession. Adding to the other litany of ‘favourite topics’ – Russia’s ‘collapsing’ population, “tyranny and non-democracy” of Russia among others. A cursory glance of a google news search on ‘Putin’ gave a significant list of Western ‘analysis’ of this ‘much loved loss of popularity’ of their most hated Russian leader….

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/01/putin-support-russian-unease?newsfeed=true
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/putin-booed-by-russian-fight-fans-in-rare-public-show-of-disapproval/2011/11/21/gIQAxUOrhN_story.html
    http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Vladimir+Putin+losing+edge/5747337/story.html
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5idwQE3myT2SdljvbKADHNqbhepxA?docId=CNG.21966f8306024dbe0e9f12b742680d97.151
    And of course, Radio ‘Free’ Europe MUST have their say…
    http://www.rferl.org/content/putins_winter_of_discontent/24397812.html

    etc. etc.

    I don’t know if the booing was , in the majority for Putin or not. What I am sure is:-
    1.) Putin IS losing support. I think the Russian nationalists hate him and this group will be the one to look at as forming an opposition to Putin.
    2.) However, Putin’s loss of support is NOT as grave as Western media HOPE it to be. Wishful thinking on the part of Washington and Brussels that Putin will end up like Gaddafi and Khodorkovsky becomes President.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      When foreigners jump up in one of Putin’s press conferences to hurl their shoes at him, I’ll begin to worry that he might be losing popularity. Until then – yawn. I think the booing probably was at Putin, but I suspect it was directed at something he said rather than a general comment on his suitability to lead the country, which is seldom decided at a professional fight. It has not, in fact, appeared to affect his popularity standings in any significant way, and if they have been falling, they remain at levels that any western leader would consider a human sacrifice in order to obtain. The charismatic opponent who is simultaneously a fearless reformer with Richter-scale democratic shakeups on his/her mind (consequently, a “real candidate” in western eyes), and a brawny My-Rodina-Right-or-Wrong bare-knuckler who strums the heartstrings of the Russian electorate, regrettably, has yet to step forward.

  21. sinotibetan says:

    Dear Evgeny,

    I am sorry for this late reply! Had been very busy.
    Thanks for the link in Indian Express.

    Well, it’s partly propaganda but not entirely untrue, in my opinion. Wikipedia gives an account:-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Indian_War

    The main reason for the dispute was actually focused on Tibet. China(even till today) claims Arunachal Pradesh, a state in India, almost in its entirety as ‘part of China’ partly because that area was ethno-culturally quite related to Tibet as the inhabitants are predominantly sino-tibetan tribes(see http://www.rajsamandplus.com/wp-content/uploads/rekham-nishi-nyshi-tribes-dance.jpg
    These tribes are more akin to Tibetans and Chinese than Indians). Whereas India claims the Aksai Chin area as part of Indian territory….something the Chinese will never give in.

    Tibet is unfortunate to lie between India and China which costs its independence. Mongolia was fortunate enough to have a powerful Soviet Union during the Mao era and thus is now independent. India at that time(and Britain also) was not in the position to oppose(by military means) the invasion of Tibet by the PLA. Mao believed that China must incorporate areas ruled by the Manchurians during the Qing period thus encompassing ‘all Tibet'(including Arunachal), Inner and Outer Mongolia and parts of Southeastern Siberia. I think this is still the intentions of Chinese nationalists in China.

    I am Chinese but not from China and my opinion is : I don’t agree with present Chinese control of Tibet. I view the Tibetans as ‘brother’ people of the Chinese but as a distinct people with different history and culture(in fact, my nick ‘sinotibetan’ is based on this perception which many misinterpret as a ‘sign’ that I am some Communist China sympathizer or ‘spy’). Although I am usually not in favour of Chinese dissidents in China(partly because they are pawns used by Washington to sow instability in China), I also do understand the frustration of Tibetans who fear assimilation and loss of identity. I am more in favour of greater autonomy and self-rule for the Tibetans. It’s hard though for Tibet to become independent (currently) without destabilizing China. For me , in my mind, I am in a dilemma because I truly favour Tibetan independence yet worry that such would destabilize China. I am also very much against Chinese who want to claim parts of Siberia and Mongolia as Siberia is intergral part of Russia and Mongolians are NOT Chinese and a distinct people. I think though (thankfully) that Chinese with such views are not the majority.

    To be honest, although I am happy if China becomes a developed and powerful country, I am actually quite unhappy with the present regime in China – a topic which we may discuss in another time(if Mark permits!). Also, I do not wish China to follow the path of the USA to bully other nations. My views of a respectable power is one of power but great reticence to demonstrate that power and instead of bulldozing views or ideals, instead promote friendship and understanding instead. Actually I am FOR a ‘multipolar’ world…hence a powerful Russia to ‘check’ China and vice versa , a powerful India also to check China and vice versa etc. You know what I mean? No just one great superpower because absolute power corrupts.

    sinotibetan

    • Evgeny says:

      Dear Sinotibetan,

      Many thanks for the reply! The time doesn’t matter for me.

      I love your ideas about independence of Tibet, although I do not believe they are correct. For:
      1) The movement for Tibet independence would be greately influenced by the United States. There will be no power vacuum, not for a second.
      2) Despite all good thinking, nationalist elites in power in the would-be independent Tibet would have to care about their own position in the power. To improve their standing, they would launch an anti-Chinese campaign, aimed to “rewrite the history”.
      3) As a netto result, independent Tibet will become a pro-American and anti-Chinese country, with a strongly nationalist ideology.

      “Also, I do not wish China to follow the path of the USA to bully other nations. My views of a respectable power is one of power but great reticence to demonstrate that power and instead of bulldozing views or ideals, instead promote friendship and understanding instead.”

      I love this idea. However, how would you approach, for example, the author of the following warmongering piece?

      http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-boot-iran-20111201,0,6032838.story

      Not that we should abandon our views due to the presense of scum, but the presense of scum makes that task far more difficult.

      I also believe that Russia doesn’t need to follow the American way. First, for the reason that Americans do not really consider consequences of their actions. OR are performing a hideous plot in order to destabilize the world. Anyway, be it a lack of knowledge, or malicious intentions, the result is before our eyes.

      Yet, I would not like to see the destruction of the United States. They are not an enemy, they just have grabbed too much power. They need to be weakened, so that they keep mostly to their own affairs, like most countries do.

      ——–

      By the way, thank you for the link to the “Three Kingdoms” TV series. I’ve found a version with English subtitles here:
      http://www.phimtvb.net/2011/02/three-kingdoms-2010-english-subtitle.html
      I’ve watched 5 episodes so far. It’s very powerful, and captivating.

      Did you have any luck with getting Russian movies? (Need any help?)

      • marknesop says:

        Max Boot is a well-known conservative activist idiot and an unrepentant advocate for using military force to achieve nonmilitary national goals. He speaks many phrases as if they were established facts rather than his personal assumptions. The Islamic Republic of Iran was in fact formed because the people of Iran were sick and tired of having the brutal, dictatorial Shah Reza Pahlavi forced upon them by the west. The rise of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini was probably a mistake for Iran, but he offered at the time the best opportunity for getting rid of Pahlavi. What likely would have been best for Iran would have been the rule of the democratically-elected Mohammad Mosaddegh: but he was overthrown in a CIA-sponsored coup – and Iran got the Shah – because Mosaddegh intended to nationalize the Iranian oil industry. The British had a powerful controlling interest in Iran’s oil industry, and essentially ran it to suit themselves without having to account in any way to the Iranian government for their actions or show them any documents pertaining to their profits or expenses. The CIA helped them achieve the goal of crushing Mosaddegh. Later, in the 1970’s, the USA built Iran’s Air force into the most powerful in the Middle East, and trained its pilots in the United States.

        As Mark Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne conclude in “Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran“, the event was “A joint U.S.-British regime-change operation…that holds lessons for today”. The west has repeated the successful formula several times since. The authors go on to opine, “The joint U.S.-British operation ended Iran’s drive to assert sovereign control over its own resources and helped put an end to a vibrant chapter in the history of the country’s nationalist and democratic movements. These consequences resonated with dramatic effect in later years. When the Shah finally fell in 1979, memories of the U.S. intervention in 1953, which made possible the monarch’s subsequent, and increasingly unpopular, 25-reign intensified the anti-American character of the revolution in the minds of many Iranians.” Note also that the USA and Britain kept the Shah in power, although his own people loathed him and tried to assassinate him, for a period longer than Vladimir Putin will rule even if he is successfully elected in 2012 and wins a second term.

        Despite all the western alarmist screeching about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, it has to date not enriched uranium to the degree required for weaponization, and inspectors have found only the low-enriched uranium used – as Iran is entitled to do as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty – as reactor fuel. If you think the west is justifiably apprehensive about Iran acquiring higher-enriched uranium, it’s curious that the USA would broker a deal through Brazil that would see Iran swap about half its low-enriched uranium for higher enriched uranium from the west.

        Surprisingly, Boot was actually born in Moscow, to Russian Jewish parents, although he grew up in Los Angeles. That was as much a surprise to me as learning Fred Weir is actually Canadian. What an honour for us.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Dear Evgeny,

        Thank you for being patient with my late replies! Very, very busy nowadays!

        I appreciate your views on Tibet. You are right about what an ‘independent’ Tibet would be like. Yes, unfortunately, the Tibetans’ resentment of Chinese rule(which is , in my opinion, understandable) would be exploited by Washington and ‘ally’ the EU to hopefully cause internal unrest in China and ‘hopefully’ a ‘regime change’ such that a puppet regime kowtowing to the West is set up instead. One plausible ‘solution’ is for the Chinese government to proactively advocate true autonomous rule in Tibet once the situation is deemed possible. It’s a question of ‘sentiment’, in a way. How to put it? A win win situation such that Tibetans determine their destiny and it’s seen as the Chinese UNDERSTANDS this as a a normal and natural thing and at the same time a Tibetan government that is at least not hostile to Beijing. I know it sounds totally cliche and the task is easier said than done, but I believe it’s not impossible. I think there are just two main factors that prevent this idea from even being considered:-
        1.)Some Ultranationalist Han people/politicians in China who think of a ‘Great Han Empire’ and think of Tibetans as yet another ‘barbarian nationality’ to be ‘civilized’ and ‘sinified’ into the Han race. I am always against this type of racial supremacist thinking. As I’ve said, to me the Tibetans are China’s neighbouring people and should not be treated in such condenscending manner.
        2.) The West(i.e. Washington especially) will NEVER stop in figuring ways to destabilize any rival and China is seen as and is a rival currently. Perhaps Washington is not fixated and as nefarious towards China as it is towards Russia but if they can make China into a continuous source of cheap factory labourers AND a banana republic as well(to ensure a continuously subdued nation) they’ll do it with extreme glee. Chinese people are not ‘white people’ hence will be always considered ‘not the same’ to those political elites in Washington, unlike Russians who are considered ‘wayward whites'(i.e.in the eyes of Washington political elites: ‘our brothers’ who failed to become civilized and ‘free’ like us great Americans) who require their expressed ‘civilizational’ efforts – I think this may be the reason behind Washington’s obssession with ‘Americanizing’ Russia in ALL aspects(social, political, cultural etc.). They see the “Russian Liberals” as the ONLY kind of Russians worthy of their praise.

        Thanks also for the link about Iran by a ‘warmonger’. To be honest, I don’t actually view the Iranian regime favourably but I do agree that there is no reason to advocate or pick a war with the current regime in Iran. I believe that should the current Iranian regime truly become unpopular – repression or no repression – Iranians would one day affect a regime change and certainly that requires no unwanted ‘help’ from the likes of any military hawks in Washington(or their advocates). Similar for my past view against the second Iraq war during the Bush era. Saddam was a brutal and evil killer but I was totally against American meddling in that country. Whether it was Iraq or Afghanistan and now Libya – Western intervention had only increased instability and human suffering because the ‘intervention’ was not in the interests of the people of those nations but of those power-crazed politicians in the West. What is the use of calling nations ‘independent’ if ‘for the sake’ of so-called ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’, the lone superpower can ‘justify’ meddling of the internal affairs of other nations?

        “I also believe that Russia doesn’t need to follow the American way.”
        I completely agree with that. Russia is an independent nation and the word ‘independent’ means the Russian people should be truly free to pursue their own destiny. It’s ironic that the USA which prides itself as a ‘defender of freedom’ meddles with the freedom of other nations to choose their own destiny. In my eyes, the USA has tarnished its image as a ‘defender of freedom’ by doing just that.

        You know, in Chinese, the USA is known as ‘mei quo’ – literally it means
        ‘beautiful country’. Not many nations are given such well-esteemed names in the Chinese language(most are just syllables mimicking the pronunciation of those nations) – yet nowadays in my eyes USA has become ‘bu mei quo'(not a beautiful country) – if only the USA stops its bullying and condenscending attitude!

        I completely agree with your views about the USA. It’s not an ‘enemy’ nation. I agree that it has to be ‘weakened’ because it is too powerful that arrogance and corruption has gone into the heads of their political elites. I just wish that the USA stop meddling with the internal affairs of other nations.

        I am glad that you enjoyed the “Three Kingdoms”. Regarding downloading movies, I don’t usually do it because I have a 2003 computer(which I ‘bought’ the parts and asked a technician to fix them – hence not a ‘good’ computer) with extremely slow internet service here. I still hope to buy CDs with the movies you recommended. But I saved all the websites you gave. If I cannot purchase the CDs and have difficulty in downloading the movies from the websites you provided, could I ask for your help?(although honestly, I expect the answer to this question to be ‘yes’ and I know it will be.😉 ).

        That’s all I can say for now. Take care!

        sinotibetan

        • Evgeny says:

          Dear Sinotibetan,

          First, thanks for all your replies.

          I’ve discussed the current situation with a friend today. Our views were pretty much the same, but I enjoyed his wording: “Although I don’t like the way current regime behaves, to go to a street to protest means to invoke a Libyan scenario. That is, instead of getting the situation improved, it will result in the situation staying the same, but without hot water in houses.”

          “If I cannot purchase the CDs and have difficulty in downloading the movies from the websites you provided, could I ask for your help?”

          Please, write me to: filatovev (at) mail (dot) ru. I believe I could download some movies + subtitles, burn that to DVDs (your computer reads DVD-R discs?) and send you by mail. You will need to tell me your address — more precisely, what do I need to write on a mail for it to be delivered to you. I promise that I will keep that information at secret. With the only caveat that I am busy, too — there is only some limited amount of time that I can devote to such activity.

          Regards,
          Evgeny.

          • sinotibetan says:

            Dear Evgeny,

            Thanks for your reply and also for your contact should I need help with the CDs. I believe that I’ll probably need your help with some of the movies and I’ll definitely email you.

            sinotibetan

        • Evgeny says:

          Dear Sinotibetan,

          “Chinese people are not ‘white people’ hence will be always considered ‘not the same’ to those political elites in Washington, unlike Russians who are considered ‘wayward whites’(i.e.in the eyes of Washington political elites: ‘our brothers’ who failed to become civilized and ‘free’ like us great Americans) who require their expressed ‘civilizational’ efforts – I think this may be the reason behind Washington’s obssession with ‘Americanizing’ Russia in ALL aspects(social, political, cultural etc.).”

          It’s an interesting observation. Although it would be interesting to figure out just what much racist are the U.S. elites in the nutshell, I believe the reason might be different.

          Russia has “shown” that outer pressure works with it, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although the Soviet Union was not defeated, the U.S. elites clearly saw that as their victory. As a result, they view Russia as a defeated nation and treat it without respect.

          There’s a saying that Americans are like cockroaches. Once they have occupied some space, it’s extremely difficult to force them out.

          • sinotibetan says:

            Dear Evgeny,

            Your view is interesting as well. I thought also of something in addition to the view you put forth:-
            “As a result, they view Russia as a defeated nation and treat it without respect.”
            However, Russia is, in reality, NOT a defeated nation and when she stands up to Uncle Sam, it galls these elites that their ‘victory’ was not quite a true ‘sweet’ victory. Is that a possibility for their obsession with ‘taming’ Russia to their whims?

            I think many here have wondered this mad obsession of the American elites and many interesting views have been put forth. I suggest that perhaps the source/cause of the obsession is not one but perhaps a combination of many – to the closet racists in the USA, my view might apply, to the ‘superpatriotic’ American elites blinded(or is it ‘corrupted’?) by their own self-importance, your view might apply to them….and many other permutations that finally converge to the berserker American policy towards Russia in general. Do you think this view is plausible?

            sinotibetan

            sinotibetan

            • Evgeny says:

              Dear sinotibetan,

              Of course, as the American political elites are heterogenous, I am all for approaching each group inside the elites on individual basis. However, you would like to discuss these matters with an expert in the U.S. politics, who I am not.😦

              Regards,
              Evgeny.

    • yalensis says:

      @Sino-T: I understand your points about Tibet. I am not necessarily opposed to Tibetan independence, but I would be horrified if the Dalai Lamas took over again. Not only would they be Western pawns, but they were a horribly cruel and medievalist regime in their own rite. Current Lama is just a clown, but his ancestors were downright brutal. I don’t think it will be an issue, though. China is hardly likely to allow them independence.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Dear yalensis,

        I am so sorry that I can afford only a short reply as I’ve got to go off to work but I completely agree with you. I hope you’ll read my reply to Evgeny to have a glimpse of my views regarding the Tibet issue. Until then, do take care. I’ll try to squeeze some time to comment later!

        sinotibetan

  22. sinotibetan says:

    Thought of adding this and an interesting snippet of this article:-

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-01/russia-s-election-countdown-begins-jeffrey-tayler.html

    “What if such a revolt actually did take place? “What guarantee do we have that a revolution would install” such liberals as “Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Kasyanov and not” hard-line nationalists “Dmitry Rogozin and Vladimir Zhirinovsky?” wrote opposition blogger and radio talk show host Yulia Latynina in an op-ed for The Moscow Times. If the business “elite continue supporting the regime until the last possible moment, we will end up with nationalism and a gang of fascists in charge.”
    Latynina’s solution: The candidacy of anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny. “Voters like the way he exposes flagrant government corruption. Businesspeople admire the way Navalny, a lawyer by profession, manages to beat the authorities at their own game. By participating in the Russian March earlier this month, Navalny appealed to nationalists and to those members of the Russian elite who are fed up with leftist liberal multiculturalism and internationalism.” This means, she believes, that “not a single Russian public figure other than Navalny has any chance at all” of winning fair and just elections.”

    We know the West supports ‘liberals’ because these will wreck Russia. That they support Navalny makes this Navalny guy a suspicious figure.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      While the west does indeed love Navalny (at least as long as he looks like an alternative to Putin – a true anti-corruption icon wouldn’t last 5 minutes in the “New Russia” when multinationals worth trillions leapt in unison to secure control of the energy industry), there’s no real danger that he will break out of the LiveJournal niche he currently occupies.

      Being a big frog in a little pond seems to be enough for Navalny for the moment. AGT had an excellent piece recently in which he interviewed the author of PoliTrash.ru

      http://www.agoodtreaty.com/2011/11/06/interview-with-politrash-ru/

      which largely revolved around Navalny’s possible political ambitions. For me, this quote from “The Navalny Manual” suggests his support prevails mostly among the disaffected dissidents and limousine liberal fringe, and that he himself is little different from others who have entered politics – in whatever capacity – as white-hot zealots who became consumed by a sense of their own importance. Who are, moreover, as relentlessly partisan in their own way as United Russia.

      “If you see comments or articles promoting either United Russia or Putin, write that the author lies, that he’s one of PoliTrash’s hired trolls, and so everything is clear add a link to PoliTrash’s manual, where he’s already laid out all possible cliches. Let the author find excuses, but even if he’s absolutely honest and sincere in his thoughts, there can be no believing him.”

  23. yalensis says:

    Sorry, everybody, I had to start a new thread down here, it was getting too skinny up there.
    Peter the Troll has demanded examples for correct use of the Russian preposition “на” in relation to the noun “морда” (English = “snout”) As I mentioned to him, this is all covered in Russian children’s grammars (see the chapter on “Annoying Snouts and What to Do with Them”), but he was too busy to take that class. Hopefully, this visual demonstration will pacify him so, without further ado:

    • Evgeny says:

      Yalensis, you know, sometimes there are trolls and idiots who would say ugly things in the Internet. I am not a person like that. However, I’m tempted very much to cite a classic of Russian literature — Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn. I am sure that a humble quotation from the “Gulag Archipelago” will give your video an entirely new look:

      “But the most awful thing they can do with you is this: undress you from the waist down, place you on your back on the floor, pull your legs apart, seat assistants on them (from the glorious corps of sergeants!) who also hold down your arms; and then the interrogator (and women interrogators have not shrunk from this) stands between your legs and with the toe of his boot (or of her shoe) gradually, steadily, and with ever greater pressure crushes against the floor those organs which once made you a man. He looks into your eyes and repeats and repeats his questions or the betrayal he is urging on you. If he does not press down too quickly or just a shade too powerfully, you still have fifteen seconds left in which to scream that you will confess to everything, that you are ready to see arrested all twenty of those people he’s been demanding of you, or that you will slander in the newspapers everything you hold holy…. “

      • yalensis says:

        Well, what can I say? It all started off as a civilized grammar debate among mature adult professionals as to whether correct preposition to use is “в” or “на”. But then, unfortunately thngs got out of hand. The girl in the video, by the way, I think that is peter’s ex-wife. She got tired of all his carping criticisms and nit-picking.

        • Evgeny says:

          What can I say on the matter of the debate?

          From Mikhail Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”: “Кот снял с подзеркального стола очки в толстой черной оправе, надел их на морду, от чего сделался еще внушительнее, и вынул из прыгающей руки Поплавского паспорт.”

          From Bulgakov’s “Dog’s Heart”: “На мгновение он скосил глаза на морду Шарика, и Борменталь тотчас же сломал вторую ампулу с желтой жидкостью и вытянул ее в длинный шприц.”

          From Zhitinsky’s “Дитя Эпохи”: “Я успел повернуть ведро внутренностью к собаке и попытался надеть ей на морду.”

          From Sholokhov’s “Поднятая целина”: “И вот оно наступает мне прямо на морду.”, “Что ты на меня вылупился и только в глаза мне глядишь да на морду?!”

          Astafyev’s “Прокляты и убиты”: “Валерия для начала вышутила его — как и все неумехи, он пялил хомут на морду лошади книзу клячем.”

          Zoshchenko’s “Возвращенная молодость”: “Этому псу клали на морду, на кончик носа, хлебный шарик — и пес не трогал, покуда не получал разрешения.”

          • peter says:

            And your point being?

            • Evgeny says:

              That the entire discussion is an attempt to answer the question “what’s the correct pronunciation: Iran or Iraq”? Both “в морду” и “на морду” are possible uses, but they mean different things.

              Of course, your original suggestion (that “морда” is used as a slang term for a site front page) was correct.

              • peter says:

                Both “в морду” и “на морду” are possible uses, but they mean different things.

                Thanks, Captain Obvious, but no one is arguing that. What I do have a problem with is yalensis’ insistence that, I quote, “correct preposition depends whose snout we are talking about (elementary Russian 101).” I still don’t have the foggiest idea what he was trying to say, maybe you could help me out? Thank you in advance, Cap.

                • Evgeny says:

                  Peter, as a Captain Obvious, I can say only things which are obvious. While on your question, I don’t have a slightest clue.

              • marknesop says:

                The entire thrust of the debate, which wasn’t all that important to begin with, has broken down into skirmishes of quibbling over details. The original point was whether or not staff at inoSMI had been ordered by superiors to suppress news items that were critical of Putin during the run-up to the Duma elections. The discussion then narrowed to what is the appropriate way to say “in your face” in Russian. I’m quite happy to agree that the intent of the request was to make such politically-charged news items not so “in the reader’s face”. So? Nobody tried to suggest this was not so or to minimize the damage; in fact, Yalensis became hysterical and had to have some quiet time before he could continue.

                I don’t think the implication – that a translation service which prided itself on straight translation of the most crude and derogatory western criticism of Russia has devolved to simply another duplicitous tentacle of Kremlin micromanagement – holds water at all. What transpired seems quite clear; there was a request from senior staff to go easy on particularly venomous anti-Putin pieces for the week leading up to the elections. Putin is not a candidate in these elections. A junior editor of some description believed he was being censored because one of his pieces was moved – not spiked or suppressed, but moved – and he apparently seized on the occasion to express his belief, loudly and noisily, that any article placement other than the one he wanted was totalitarian censorship. So he quit. I noticed the sun came up the next morning, and saw no evidence that the sky had rained toads or blood during the night. If it wished, inoSMI could translate nothing but positive, sunny western pieces about Russia and Putin. A lot of people would be unemployed, since such pieces are few and far between, but inoSMI can dictate and follow whatever editorial policies it wishes. In my personal opinion, inoSMI is extremely courageous and unbiased in printing any translated articles that are critical of Russia – how many such services exist in the west, that specialize in translating into German or English or French articles which originally appeared in Russian in the Russian press, and which were critical of the national leader? Zip. A situation in which a western translator of Russian quit because his French editor suggested he relocate an article originally written in Russian that was critical of Sarkozy, I submit, would be without precedent. So what’s all the fuss about? That inoSMI exists at all is suggestive to me of freedom of the press. The western press is fiercely partisan itself, and in no position to look down its nose at anyone no matter what stunts they pull. I just don’t see what all the excitement is about. And my Russian grammar is totally inadequate to criticize anyone else.

                • marknesop says:

                  Apparently the ban on publication of opinion-poll results within 5 days of the elections is country-wide.

                • kievite says:

                  marknesop:

                  That inoSMI exists at all is suggestive to me of freedom of the press. The western press is fiercely partisan itself, and in no position to look down its nose at anyone no matter what stunts they pull. I just don’t see what all the excitement is about. .

                  As a reader of this blog I was often surpised about the level you produced in your blog posts. And actually reading Russian translation of this post helped me to appreciate more this post in English which is not my native languiage. But here you just demostrated really top polemical skills in a preety fuzzy “free press” area.

                  It really closes this issue.

                  My hat tip to you for this post. Bravo !

                • marknesop says:

                  Thank you, kievite; recognition from you is praise indeed. And your English is very accomplished for a second language. If I’m proud of anything, it’s the caliber of commenters the blog has attracted.

          • yalensis says:

            Wow. Evgeny, you are extremely well read in 20th-century Russian literature. I am impressed! To my shame I have not read any of the above authors, except for Sholokhov and Zoshchenko.

            • Evgeny says:

              Yalensis, very unfortunately, I’m not that well read. Don’t atribute to knowledge what you can attribute to googling…

              Although, Bulgakov is a must read; and I’ve really loved Zhitinsky’s “Потерянный дом или разговоры с милордом”. By the way, Zhitinsky runs a blog:
              http://maccolit.livejournal.com
              And it’s generally interesting.

        • marknesop says:

          Lucky Peter. She has marvelous legs.

          • peter says:

            There’s more on her youtube channel. I’m seriously worried about yalensis though. First this weird fantasy about killing three men with one bullet, and now it turns out he is a “little slave” of some “Sexy Princess Lacey”. Do something, Mark.

            • marknesop says:

              Hey, we’re going to see the Burgess Shale together – what do you want from me?

              • peter says:

                What do you mean together? You, yalensis and Sexy Princess Lacey?

                • marknesop says:

                  No, just Yalensis and I (see Sublime Oblivion comments to “Race to Collapse”). Since I’ve never seen the fossils in the Burgess shale and neither has Yalensis, I thought we could go together. Note that the schedule is quite loose, to take place sometime before we die. Sexy Princess Lacey was never part of the equation. Under ordinary circumstances a woman with legs like that would be a welcome addition to any sightseeing tour – but I find cruelty one of the least attractive traits in a woman. Cruelty to fruit is still cruelty, indicative perhaps of a very unlovely streak of sadism.

                  Would you care to come along? Or have you seen the Burgess shale already? The Cambrian remains are supposed to be quite spectacular. We don’t have to talk about Putin.

          • yalensis says:

            Yes, Mark, Peter’s ex-wife has awesome legs. All her life those shapely gams have been both a blessing and a curse to her. She believed she had finally found the man of her dreams. Initially Peter charmed her with his suave Western liberasti ways and his important job colliding protons in CERN, Switzerland. He treated her like a queen and every night there were lobster dinners, champagne, expensive jewelry and boxes of chocolates. But then everything changed … on their wedding night. She soon began to realize how annoying and OCD he is, especially when he forgets to take his meds. She regretted her decision to marry him, but by then it was too late. Peter started to criticize every little thing she did. If she placed a fork crooked on the table… a corner of the bedsheet not completely tucked in. If she pronounced a word with a slightly regional accent, or used the wrong preposition… He demeaned her in front of her friends and called her by derogatory nicknames, like “Captain Obvious”. His favorite weapon against her was sarcasm. Then, ominously, criticisms became blows. She had to wear dark glasses to hide her bruises. Desperate but resolved to win her freedom, she plotted her escape from this terrible, terrible troll. One magical day she finally met the right man. A sensitive intellectual type who appreciated her for her brains, and not just her dynamite killer thighs and sexy boots… The night before she ran away with her new beau she got Peter drunk on a very potent Hungarian vodka. As he lay supine on the floor, she slowly brought her boot down on his face. Just before he passed out stinking drunk, Peter was heard to mutter ineffectually “Ну кто же мне на морду наступил??”

            • marknesop says:

              Except for the Russian phrase uttered by the fictitious Peter and the mention of regional accents, this sounds startlingly like the plot of “Sleeping With the Enemy”.

    • peter says:

      What, no examples of how “correct preposition depends whose snout we are talking about”? Surprise surprise. I’m sure kovane too had a good laugh at your revolutionary theory of Russian prepositions.

      • Лицо у Петра-тролла,
        Похоже на морду бегемота.

        • peter says:

          Is this an attempt at a joke or you’re actually being serious? If the latter, then a) drop the comma and b) try to understand the question before answering. Not that I have any illusions though.

          • rkka says:

            “The entire thrust of the debate, which wasn’t all that important to begin with, has broke down into skirmishes of quibbling over details.”

            Which is the troll’s sole objective.

            He’s a self-identified waste of bandwidth.

            • yalensis says:

              I know! I graciously gave to him that he was correct about the “front page” slang translation. Instead of being magnanimous to me he then proceeded to quibble over a preposition. Now he even gets his heart-rate up about a single comma in Anatoly’s remark. I can’t believe Mark is going to force me to go hiking with this troll to the Burgess Shale. Will he start nit-picking about how asymmetrical the pre-Cambrian fossils are? Argggggg!

  24. France could be stripped of its triple-A credit rating before Christmas, raising new doubts about the survival of the euro, analysts have predicted.

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