A Russophobic Rogue’s Gallery, Act II

Uncle Volodya says, “A great many people believe they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

As promised, we’re going to move on with the remainder of our Rogue’s Gallery; having a look at their stock in trade, poring over their smug prognostications and speculating on what might make them so virulently opposed to people who have done nothing to them and who do not threaten their lifestyle or security.

Now, as at other occasions, it strikes me that no people are so burdened with the constant requirement to provide proof of their intentions, only to have it mocked or derided. Have you heard the expression, “A woman must do everything twice as well as a man in order to be thought half as good”? I’m sure all the women have. This seems to me to apply with particular emphasis also to the Russian people. If they say the economy is improving, the topic is switched to their life expectancy or some other measure in which they come off poorly. If they say an election was clean, all the attention is offered to dissidents who say it was not. If they complain that anti-ballistic-missile systems to be located close to their borders are designed to cancel out their nuclear deterrent, they are told that the systems are to guard against attack by an enemy who currently has no weapons that could reach the nations the systems are supposedly designed to protect, and they are scolded for not happily accepting those assurances. Nothing is ever good enough, and their behaviour is consistently portrayed as unreasonable.

Setting unrealistic standards that nobody else is expected to maintain is one thing – just making shit up is something else altogether. An excellent example of the latter is offered by Nicholas Eberstadt, whose report, “Drunken Nation: Russia’s Depopulation Bomb” quickly became a go-to reference for all the self-congratulatory pseudoacademics disposed to believe the nonsense in it. Mr. Eberstadt, by most standards of measure, is too smart for this kind of ignorance, being the holder of the Henry Wendt chair in Political Economy, Harvard-educated and a demographer.

Would you be a little disappointed if the computer tech you hired to reformat your hard drive came credentialed from MIT and had written a couple of books on computer repair, and then you came into your office to find him dressed in hyena skins, ululating at your hard drive on the floor while sprinkling it with handfuls of little painted bones? That’s the kind of gap between education and performance illustrated by Drunken Nation. Let’s take a look at it.

The current Russian depopulation” he writes, in 2009, “which began in 1992 and shows no signs of abating…”  In fact, what became known as “The Russian Cross” – that point at which births and deaths crossed into the net negative in 1992 – reversed in 2011, as was most knowledgeably discussed by Anatoly Karlin at Sublime Oblivion. You could excuse Mr. Eberstadt for not knowing that would happen, perhaps, since Seeing The Future is not on the curriculum at Harvard. However, suggesting the imagined “depopulation bomb” showed “no signs of abating” looks kind of stupid considering the Russian population grew by about 20,000 in 2009. I expect he was the laughingstock of Demographers Summer Camp 2010. This same reference adds that much of the growth is due to a falling death rate – how does a demographer with as many notches on his gun as Mr. Eberstadt has miss something like that? History offers no examples, he assures us, of of a society that has demonstrated sustained material advance in the face of long-term population decline. However, Goldman-Sachs economist Jim O’Neill forecast the following year that Russia’s economy could overtake that of Germany by 2029 and that of Japan by 2037. Did I mention Mr. Eberstadt is also an economist? Yes, I can see why you’d be surprised.

I don’t want to make this whole post about Eberstadt’s flailings, but I simply can’t overlook his extensive squeaking about the declining marriage rate, and how many Russians are born out of wedlock. No European nation, he once again assures us, that has embarked upon the same demographic transition as Russia’s—declining marriage rates with rising divorce; the spread of cohabitation as alternative to marriage; delayed age at marriage and sub-replacement fertility regimens—has reverted to more “traditional” family patterns and higher levels of completed family size.

That so? I beg to differ. The marriage rate in the UK is down to less than half now, at 48%, and has been declining since the 70’s. Last time I looked, the UK was in Europe. But if not being in Europe is not a showstopper, then this might be a good time to mention that the marriage rate in the USA is hardly better. That should not suggest that either country has “reverted to more traditional family patterns”, (quite the opposite, obviously) but nobody seems to have spotted their rapidly-approaching collapse, either, since nobody seems to think it’s worth an academic report. Remember, you heard it here first.

Next out of the chute, Tsarina of Sarcasm Miriam Elder. The article that accompanied the photo – speaking of marriage – is illustrative of her style. A romantic bit of whimsy that appeared in the Moscow Times, entitled “For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls“, it nonetheless cannot resist the opportunity to showcase how pedestrian Russians are compared to their racy, with-it American counterparts. Russian girls marry because they are raised to believe it’s what you should do, not necessarily because they want to. Perhaps that’s why Russia has the world’s highest rate of divorce, according to the UN. Dig on that a little, newlyweds. Hope I didn’t spoil your happiness.

Except, as the learned Mr. Eberstadt tried to tell us, above, marriage is critical to demographic stability. Forget for a moment that he seems to know as much about raising kangaroos in captivity as he does about demographics. He seems quite clear that not getting married is bad for the nation’s long-term stability. Is that important? Might be – because, as we’ve already established, half the couples in the United States are not married. Oh, and the divorce rate? I’ll take Ms. Elder’s word that the UN says Russia has the highest rate of divorce, because she doesn’t substantiate it. Maybe the UN is also guilty of passing along that trope, one of those urban myths that gains credibility through repetition. Because the highest rate of divorce in the world belongs to the United States, followed by Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. Territory. The USA is ahead of Russia by about a third. That’s according to NationMaster, which is recognized by the Harvard Business School and the American Library Association, and is sourced from the OECD, the UN, UNESCO, the CIA World Factbook and the World Health Organization.

Time Magazine‘s Man In Russia, Simon Shuster, seems to have twin obsessions with Putin and alcohol. Here he tunes up on Putin, suggesting the man who just got re-elected to a third term on the first ballot has a popularity problem – managing also to work in the word “Potemkin”, so beloved of Russophobes regardless of context. His coverage of the United Russia summit expresses dismay that there were so many United Russia supporters there, which causes him to be suspicious that they were all coached and choreographed to cheer for Putin. Some people had those little earpieces (call me crazy, but I imagine the Prime Minister and Presidential candidate travels with security), and Mr. Shuster speculates that those were used to coordinate the cheering. Putin is beginning to fall apart, he suggests, because – at 60 – he is entering his dotage and is “not the spry young populist he was when he took power 11 years ago”. His math, at least, is better than Eberstadt’s, but he seems oblivious to the fact that only 4 years ago his own country seriously considered electing a spry young populist of – at the time – 72. I’m not surprised he didn’t pick up on that, since it is obvious from his smirking over “the phalanxes of bureaucrats, the micromanaged crowds” that he has never covered an American Republican convention. As far as the security arrangements for the United Russia summit, does he not remember when Bush visited the German city of Mainz? Six major traffic routes were shut down, two rivers were closed to water traffic and airspace 60 miles around the city was closed to non-commercial air traffic. In the runup to the election, he relayed from fellow Russophobe Masha Lipman, “Putin will have little choice but to avoid the public”. Funny; NPR had him “running a vigorous campaign” and “speaking with martial fervor”. Never mind; there’s no penalty for being wrong as long as you’re supporting the opposition – nobody calls you a dunderhead or a fool, or wonders aloud why anyone listens to you when you’re so consistently wrong. “This is a telltale sign of absolutism,” says Evgeny Gontmakher, a Kremlin-connected pundit. “The circle of men around the leader strives to bring him good news but is afraid to show him the actual news, which is quite often bad.” The result, he adds, is a “gradual detachment from reality.” Except Gontmakher was not talking about Lipman or Shuster, but about Putin. You know; the guy whose next-closest rival got about 15% of the vote. Detached from reality, indeed.

And what’s this penchant for reporting about alcohol consumption as if Russians do nothing all day but drink popskull vodka and spend all night snoring drunkenly in preparation for the next marathon binge? For the record, Russia is not even close to the biggest alcohol consumer per capita, and is dwarfed in that department by the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Portugal, France, Austria and Germany – to name a few – according to the WHO. And naturally, he manages to get in a dig at Putin, for switching to a per capita financing system for schools, so that those which had too few students had to close. That this is happening all over the world as the population drifts to cities seems to have escaped him; more than 75% of the world’s population now lives in cities. And the people of Pskov did not simply evaporate – in “Russia’s demographic catastrophe”, as he colourfully puts it – they moved, likely to a city. But no amount of artistic license is too much, it seems, when the goal is making the folks back home feel snug and secure in their knowledge that they have a great life, as measured by the imagined misery of others. It must be such a comfort in the trailer park to know there’s a country full of drunks from which the best and brightest have fled, and which the liberal opposition is always just about to take over so they can release its bounty and reverse the decline caused by the reprehensible leader who cut its poverty rate in half and quintupled its per-capita GDP between 2000 and 2011, according to Citigroup.

Yes, that distinctive hairstyle – which invariably reminds me of Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons – belongs to Yulia Latynina. We’re not going to spend too much time on her here, because I just finished a post on her in which she castigated her own country for “invading Georgia”, and a quick stroll through her journalistic career reveals many elements of that strange duality we’ve been talking about in comments lately. Russia’s leader is so low he could dangle his legs off the edge of a kopeck because he “invaded Georgia”, but she cannot stop singing the praises of the country that invaded Iraq, did most of the donkey work and put up a great deal of the money to invade Libya and would have loved dearly to invade Syria. Russia’s arms industry should be lined up and shot because they were part of a deal (abandoned under western pressure) to sell missile systems to Iran, but thank God we have a beacon of freedom on this planet like the nation that sold Iran its Air Force and, during the Iran-Iraq War, sold weapons to both sides. The USA and Iran also cooperated in covert operations against the Soviet Union in Project Dark Gene and Project Ibex, in which American pilots flew Iranian-registered aircraft that officially did not exist (since Northrop had purged their serial numbers from its production records) into Soviet airspace. One of these aircraft was destroyed in a ramming attack by Soviet Air Force pilot Gennady Eliseev, who was killed in the attempt to prevent that aircraft from escaping. The crew of the “Iranian” aircraft – an Iranian Major and an American Colonel – survived and were released 16 days later. Fascinating stuff.

Suffice it to say that there is no Liberal boot Latynina will not lick, no level to which she will not stoop in deriding, ridiculing and undermining her country, no warning so hysterical that she will not shout it – such as the brutal manner in which Putin suppresses free speech, murdering all who dare speak their mind. And yet she remains in Russia, and yet she lives. Perhaps the Great Dictator continues to spare her because she evokes pity, like those you sometimes see who are wearing enough layers of clothing for the high Arctic even though it is summer, bedecked with crudely-scrawled signs announcing the imminent return of Jesus.

Editor’s Note: The section on Fred Weir has been removed at Mr. Weir’s request, owing to his energetic and strenuous defense of his position (see comments). Although serious differences remain with Mr. Weir’s position regarding Russia’s demographics and he seems far too willing to go along with the “brain drain” refrain, he has successfully refuted the charge of stupidity, and it is hereby withdrawn with my apologies. The original argument was based on a 2002 article which suggested Russia was losing a million people annually and that the decline was accelerating. Statistics simply do not support that, and such misconceptions contribute to a mistaken belief that the situation in Russia is irreversible and hopeless. In fact, Russia lost about 3 million people between 2002 and 2009, and has gained back a million since 2010. Similarly, a recent piece linked by Mr. Weir in his defense featured a speech by Mr. Putin that did say if a decline continued without intervention the Russian population would sink to 107 million by 2050. However, he also said that with solutions he intended to attempt, the population could rise to 154 million, which would be higher than the Russian population has been in living memory. In Mr. Weir’s piece, he described Mr. Putin’s projections as “between pessimistic and dire”.

Nonetheless, Mr. Weir presented his position in a gentlemanly and dispassionate manner, and while I don’t think he made any converts, I believe he won the respect of most for his sincerity. Others who believe they have been miscast as Russophobes are encouraged to engage.

Saving the best (looking) for last, we come to Julia Ioffe, gadfly journalist-at-large. We used to cross swords from time to time on her blog, but she scarcely has time for that any more in favour of paid work.

Julia is generally a very competent writer, and I admit I cracked up at her description of Gennady Zyuganov as resembling “nothing so much as a smooth woodcarving”. But as an American, Julia mostly follows the U.S. government default line: Putin is bad for Russia, and he must step down in favour of a liberal democrat who will implement sweeping reforms. It apparently does not matter that, as she cites in the linked article, advance polls by the non-partisan Levada Centre (who were even called to a meeting in the USA prior to the election, and can hardly be labeled pro-Putin) suggested Putin would get 66% of the vote. That’s almost exactly what he did get. But somehow the concerns of the protesters – variously characterized as “mass street protests” and “a wave of street protests” although the largest one constituted .001% of the registered electorate of about 110,000,000, and the protesters themselves were by no means all old enough to vote – are more important than the will of the majority, and Putin is an inconsiderate brute for insisting majority rule must be obeyed. Is that the way it works in western democracies? You know it isn’t.

Like most of the liberal-leaning western advisors of Russian public opinion, Julia would like to see a “progressive” liberal opposition leader like Boris Nemtsov in the driver’s seat. I don’t know how that could be expected to happen, considering he has never polled even half the vote achieved by Gennady “smooth woodcarving” Zyuganov and probably could not get elected if the voting were restricted to Homes for Unwed Mothers. That 5% or so of the population gets it, damn it.

Where Julia really stoops to meanness is in her dis-affinity for attractive Russian women. Putin’s personal photographer, because she is attractive, must be a slut. A Russian girl who won a beauty contest is an airheaded bimbo. Anna Chapman (no relation, I’m afraid) is a gold-digging tramp because she wore the wrong type of shoes for a photo shoot, in which most of the world probably did not notice she had feet.

I’m afraid that’s all the time we have right now, folks, and I ask your pardon for dragging you along for better than 3000 words this time around. I hope you’ve enjoyed our Russophobic Rogue’s Gallery, and perhaps it’s something we could do again in the future if the field changes significantly. If you are a Russophobe and I missed you, maybe you’ll make the cut next time.

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144 Responses to A Russophobic Rogue’s Gallery, Act II

  1. Moscow Exile says:

    Great stuff!

  2. fred weir says:

    Well, I’m usually open to constructive criticism, but don’t see any here. I’m intrigued that the only piece of mine you can find to criticize is one from 2002, which is quite accurate in terms of demographic projections at the time. It did turn around a bit with Putin stability, so easy for you to fire statistics of a decade later at it. You’re a genius. But here’s a more recent piece of mine on demography:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/2012/0214/Putin-vows-to-halt-Russia-s-population-plunge-with-babies-immigrants

    Tell me, what do you make of Vladimir Putin’s own projection that, despite all the relative stabilization of the past decade, Russia population will slump to 107-million by 2050 “if present trends continue?” What a Russophobe!

    Anyway, I do write several times a week. Have done so for years. I realize demography’s your pet thing, but I do interview leading Russian demographers when I venture to write on the subject. Who do you consult before churning out one of these brilliant blogs? Cheers, Fred Weir.

    • apc27 says:

      Oh please, if you really did interview the “leading Russian demographers” you would know that 107 million figure was the worst-case scenario projection, as likely to happen as the best-case projection of Russia increasing its population by tens of millions of people.

      Putin is a politician and, surprise surprise, just like any other politician he would spin the data and statistics to make his proposals seem even more necessary and the eventual outcome even more positive than it actually is. At the very least his motivation for highlighting the negative in this case is clear, but what is yours? You spent more than a decade on highlighting the worst aspects of Russian society and that approach is not only one-sided and biased, it is also plain wrong and it is very easy to illustrate it. In all that time, out of all the crap you predicted would fall on Russia, did ANY of it actually happened?

      • fred weir says:

        Well, you can’t be reading much of my work. I think I see the problem here. You imagine that when I sit down to write, I just make it up — the way you do — and then push the publish button. But I have to go through two layers of editing and fact-checking before they publish. My editors are always on me about sourcing every little thing. So, if there have been predictions made in my articles, they don’t come from me, but are quotes from experts. I believe you actually illustrated that in your diatribe above.

        So, what demographers say is that the situation ‘stabilized’ in the past decade or so, but the male death rate is still catastrophically high, birth rate low, and immigration policy too restrictive to solve it with the US/Canadian/European method of intaking large numbers of immigrants. Maybe Putin is just being a politician — with you being the only objective observer in this universe — but he’s taking his cue from Russian demographers. So am I. What is your expertise in this area, may I ask?

        • Dear Fred,

          I have just checked Putin’s article of 13th February 2012. It is still available on his website. Here it is

          http://premier.gov.ru/eng/events/news/18071/

          Putin’s comments about population come towards the end directly under the title “Conservation of Russia”. He does not say that Russia’s population will fall to 107 million “if present trends continue”. What he says is that according to the advice of experts if no new measures are taken Russia’s population will fall to 107 million by 2050 but if the right measures are taken it will increase to 154 million. Much of the rest of the article is taken up discussing what the new measures will be. Earlier in the article Putin discusses the success of previous measures upon which he intends to build. The tone of the article is positive not negative. The new measures include an across the board improvement in health and social provision not all of which incidentally is directly linked to population concerns but all of which fall squarely within the formula set out at the beginning of the article that Russia is a social welfare state.

          I think the difference in what the article says and the impression you give of it is important. Your formulation implies that Putin is fighting to reverse a deteriorating situation whereas to me the article comes across as optimistic but as warning against complacency and a laissez faire attitude. The latter is of course important because we know that there are some people in Russia who do believe that the way forward is through privatisation and laissez faire. It is against these calls that the article warns against,

        • apc27 says:

          None whatsoever, which is precisely the point. When I read articles written by “professionals”, I do not really know how they come up with them or WHICH experts they are choosing to quote and which to ignore (lets be honest, whether you choose to be positive or negative on almost every issue, there are always plenty of experts to back up BOTH sides) and nor do I really care. What I, and other uninformed readers, care about is being given an accurate picture of the present and, at least, a credible picture of the future. Do you honestly that you are doing that?

          The picture of the present in your writings is accurate, but it is also one-sided. I am not saying that all the negative stuff you describe does not exist, it does, but alongside plenty of positive developments, which are routinely ignored in your articles.

          As for the future projections… I do not know, quiet frankly, if I were you I would be embarrassed that an amateur like Mark turns out to be correct FAR more often than a supposed “professional” like myself. Lets compare what Mark wrote about Russian economy and what you did, what he wrote about the crisis and your articles. How about the recent protests or even, yes, the demographic situation in Russia? As time goes on, I an uninformed observer, read Mark’s articles and yours and what do I see? Do I see your “professionalism” stand triumphant over Mark’s amateur opinions and predictions, as the ACTUAL events in Russia prove time and time again that you were right and he was wrong? No, what I see is the exact OPPOSITE. So tell me, what am I supposed to think then of your motivation, your “professionalism” and your editors????

        • marknesop says:

          Now, there are two conditions that are exemplary of disconnect; one you have specified, and one you have not, but both of which purport to be facts. How is it possible for Russian immigration policy to be too restrictive when it has the second highest rate of inward immigration in the world, second only to the USA (which also leans heavily on immigration for population growth as its birth rate is below replacement rate, coincidentally)?

        • Hunter says:

          Please! You quote bullshit as your source and that somehow makes you better than others? Bullshit is bullshit, no matter what process you have to go through to publish it.

          It’s really interesting that you completely dodged his point that the 107 million figure is a worst case scenario and that the best case scenario involves a population increase of tens of millions. Perhaps you could provide some examples of your writings where you outline all the possible scenarios instead of only the doom and gloom ones. If you don’t have any such articles it might well be that rather than presenting a neutral view, you are in fact reflecting your own prejudices in your articles. I have to wonder what his qualifications have to do with anything when he can in one post talk about different population projections that you seemingly wish to avoid. Sounds like he would make a better, more balanced writer than yourself.

          By the way, next time you feel that something is amiss with a given doctor and that the treatment he may be prescribing may just be worse than the disease, apply your own logic to yourself and ask yourself what qualifies you to question the doctor.

    • marknesop says:

      Good morning, Mr. Weir; yes, I can see why you would be disappointed, and I wish I had had the room to critique more broadly – this does provide only an isolated example. But perhaps including so many people in the same piece was over-optimistic, and it began to run long; I could easily have devoted an entire piece to your work, and I may yet. You were mentioned earlier in another piece on demographics, specifically the canard that Russians are streaming out of the country and their numbers are plummeting. If you suggested you were not the only one to make such an error, you would be right, and I believe I have not only recognized this but been very forgiving, as I was to Mr. Eberstadt when I offered to cut him some slack because Harvard does not make you clairvoyant. In any event, the piece for which you were criticized there was the same one, because that was my source for it in this case.

      Not only is demographics not my “pet thing”, it’s a subject I don’t particularly care for, something it shares – for me – with economics. Math is something I was never good at and am still not. And, as I said, you have a valid point that mocking you for being wrong ten years later is easy. My point is, it’s easy to do that to everyone. You must have consulted with demographers then, too; you say that you did. If I was incorrect in assuming you simply took the projection you liked best, I apologize for that because of course there is no way for me to know what you did or thought ten years ago. But the fact remains that you consulted with whatever number of experts, and you were all wrong, whatever the size of the group. Therefore, consulting with demographers now is no more a harbinger of accuracy, is it? Again, it has that in common with economics – twits like Vladimir Mau and Yevsei Gurevich, despite their lauded education, have been repeatedly wrong with long-term predictions because it does not make sense on the face of it to say, “this is what the future will look like in ten years if nothing changes from present conditions“. If you’re ever looking for an example of willful stupidity, you need look no further than that sentence, because (a) nothing remains the same from one minute to the next, and (b) so many variables can have significant effect on population growth as well as economic growth or contraction. Look at the plunge in the U.S. economy over the span of a single political administration. And that’s something else I’d like to bring up, Fred (I hope you don’t find it presumptuous of me to address you by your first name although we have not been formally introduced). Leadership. The political leadership of that dreadful government is, unquestionably, the cause of that country’s present economic woes, while the relatively secure position, economically, of the Russian Federation today owes at least as much to the leadership of one man. You could reasonably argue that he has been lucky with oil and gas revenues, but the economists – who are simply the demographers of money – were all wrong, over and over again, when they predicted the measured and steady decline of energy revenues. Putin gambled that prices would stay high, and did not squander those revenues on stupid wars of aggression or stealing it for his personal enrichment. And the country prospered. Can a causal relationship be disputed? I think not.

      I realize you write a large body of material, and I hope you accept my explanation for why it was not all included here. However, in the pieces I have read, I have noticed a distinct tone of pessimism and schadenfreude. I’d be delighted to see that change in favour of more balanced reviews, such as, “This is really really bad; on the other hand, that has shown real progress”. Nobody’s asking you to make shit up; if there is truly nothing good about the country, then you’re under no obligation to gild the lily, as it were. But if that’s the case, it defies explanation why you choose to live there unless you are some kind of missionary.

      I will read your new piece (the one you linked) with great interest and will be glad to provide feedback.

      In answer to your final shot, there’s no magic to it at all. If I disagree with an opinion, I start researching for ways to prove it is unfounded or inaccurate. In the case of demographic predictions, it’s simple; either the demographer was right or he/she was not. The degree to which he/she deserves abuse for being wrong depends heavily on their tone of triumph at their calculation, especially if being right meant the result would be misery and destitution for many. That satisfied, I begin to look for information the demographer should have looked at which was broadly available and which would have told him/her that he/she was bucking a trend, such as increasing immigration and a falling death rate, in the case of predicting a demographic decline. You certainly don’t have to be a genius to see the potential for error there.

      • fred weir says:

        Now you guys are quibbling. Yes, I report, that’s what I do. And I believe I accurately reported on Putin’s social policy article — I focussed on the demographic part — and in the process consulted three demographers. Russian ones. The attitude of all of them is reflected in my piece. Putin was not warning against “laissez faire”, he was clearly saying that Russia needs to reverse some very dire population dynamics. Neither I, nor any of the experts I consulted, said this was impossible. They spelled out the difficulties; that’s what they do. What I do is report.

        By the way, yes, there often are “experts” on both sides of issues, and in most of my work I make a point of consulting a representative range. But on demography, the outlook ranges from pessimistic to dire. Rosstat figures tend to be a tad brighter than those generally used by Western demographers, but not enough to make a difference. Most of the criticism I get on this is for supposedly ignoring a few bright points of light, which I don’t. Every time I return to this subject, and get a Russian demographer on the phone, I ask, do the recent improvements in birth rates, the stabilization in death rates, uptick in population figures, spell a major turnaround? They always say, sometimes at great length, No. Every major academic study on Russian demography, Russian and foreign, says the same things. Come on, guys.

        You all seem to be saying there’s some sort of a pessimistic mood that I invoke, that’s the problem. Do you talk to a lot of Russians yourselves? There’s all like that. Sometimes I share the dark views of my friends and family, but I tend to be more optimistic than the Russians around me, most of the time. I’ve lived and worked here as a journalist for 25 years, have two children (both Russian citizens), and have no reason to wish the worst. By the way, you could have found all this out by reading my Wikipedia item.

        This term you’re employing, “Russophobe,” is just silly. It’s exactly the same brainless sense in which people used to intone “anti-Soviet”. Another similar expression, which ought to be dumped in the trash-bin, is “anti-American”. It’s all aimed at killing discussion by implying some kind of irrational hostility informs a point of view. It does not describe me, nor, I think, most of my colleagues. Cheers, Fred.

        • Dear Fred,

          I am afraid you read Putin’s article in a completely different way from me. The difference between us is not nitpicking. Rather it is one of a fundamentally different understanding of the purpose and meaning of the article. Frankly I think you are trying to use Putin’s article to prove the opposite point from the one that Putin was trying to make. Nor is it true by the way that every study I have read agrees with the picture of Russia’s demographic situation that you describe. I have read a wide range of studies ranging from the optimistic to the catastrophic and it is the optimistic ones that have consistently in the last few years proved to be right. Having said this I appreciate that you are committed to your view as indeed your comments show.

        • apc27 says:

          “Sometimes I share the dark views of my friends and family, but I tend to be more optimistic than the Russians around me, most of the time” and there in lies a problem. You know, just a simple fact that most of those around you are prepared to say that their country is a piece of crap should have been a clue that they are not exactly representative of the Russian people in general and trying to portray them as such is just stupid. Just think about what you wrote. You say that you are not really pessimistic, because those around you are even worse and that anyway the doom and gloom attitude is a norm in Russia? So I suppose then most Russians would think that their economy is getting worse, that they are dying as a nation, that their children have no prospects in that country, that Russia in general is hellhole? This is blatantly NOT true. Such views are only prevalent in a specific section of the Russian society, so instead asking Mark whether he spoke with a lot of Russians, I suggest that you should get out of your tight little circle at least ONCE in all of you 25 years there and speak with someone other than a member of Russian “intelligentsia”, that small and useless, but very vocal class of Russian society that had been described for centuries by numerous great Russians as nothing other than a “piece of crap”.

          • fred weir says:

            Excuse me Apc27, do you live in Russia? I have lived here constantly for a quarter of a century, and travel constantly. My work calls for me to meet lots of people, socialize, interview, etc. That’s what I do. On what basis are you telling me that I should get out more? Exactly? Where do you live, again?

            • Hunter says:

              What does it matter where he lives? And what he does? That’s the kind of bullshit that I was referring to. How do you know he doesn’t interact with Russians? And why does he have to live in Russia to determine that not all Russians are as pessimistic as you are making them out to be? I’ve interacted with Russians and far from your very crude generalization that they are all pessimists I’ve found them to come with a range of attitudes just like any other group of human beings. There is nothing intrinsically pessimistic or optimistic about Russians, Canadians, Nigerians, Chinese or Americans. I don’t subscribe to any stereotyping nonsense, but what you wrote skimmed awfully close to being as such. If one had changed your sentence by putting in a different group of people and a different attribute it could easily have been seen as downright racist (for instance “You all seem to be saying there’s some sort of a naivety that I invoke, that’s the problem. Do you talk to a lot of black people yourselves? There’s all like that.”). In addition to your very crude generalizations you seem to have a very elitist attitude as if the only people worthy of responding to you and critiquing you must have a Ph.D. in Demography. Well if that is your view, why are you even here? And if that is your view, perhaps you DO need to get out more and interact with people who don’t come from that self-imposed circle of being “good enough” to interact with.

              • fred weir says:

                Well, no. But if the subject is demography, then yes I do favor the guy who has a PhD in demography. Explain to me why I’m wrong in that preference, please? Are you one of these new counterfactual Republicans who think all acquired expertise is “elitist”? I don’t subscribe to any ethnic or religious determinism, and I’ve seen enough change in Russia over the past 25 years to be sure that Russians are as unpredictable and dynamic as any other people. Cheers, Fred.

                • Hunter says:

                  “Are you one of these new counterfactual Republicans who think all acquired expertise is “elitist”…”

                  Hahahaha! Oh God. Now this one had me rolling on the floor! Oh man. If all your guesses are as educated as this one I can see why your articles can be so easily critiqued like this.

                  I love the assumption that my use of the term elitist must equate me with a “counterfactual Republican”. Next thing you will be telling me how I voted in elections past. You do realize that Republicans (who I would NEVER vote for in their current incarnation if I could do so – they have fallen a far ways from the party of Lincoln and even Reagan) do not exclusively use the word “elitist” right? By the way, given your love of asking people to stick to what they know, what may I ask does a Canadian living in Russia for 25 years know of American politics to make a judgement on Republicans or any other American parties? Have you ever participated in American politics? Have you ever lived in America for any reasonable length of time for the past 25 years? Interacted with lots of Americans (not just politicians) who call themselves Republicans and Democrats? If not how is it that you can boldly claim that there are “new counterfactual Republicans who think all acquired expertise is ‘elitist’..”?

                  “I’ve seen enough change in Russia over the past 25 years to be sure that Russians are as unpredictable and dynamic as any other people…”

                  That’s funny, as your sentence in question certainly did NOT give that vibe.

            • apc27 says:

              I was born there and lived there for the first 15 years of my life. Of the subsequent 15 years around 5 were also collectively spent in that country. I have an enormous extended family there, not to mention friends and acquaintances, but that really does not matter. It also matters little that you spent 25 years there. Quite a few members of Russian “intelligentsia” would readily spew the type of crap even a pessimist like you would find ridiculous, and they would do that despite having been born in Russia and living there for decades longer than either of us.

              So what really matters is not your time there, but the company you keep, and what you wrote in you previous response led me to think that you have been keeping a very narrow company indeed. How else can can you explain what you wrote about those around you being more pessimistic than you, when even the Levada polls on the direction of the country (being negative there is hardly the same as the doom and gloom in your articles, but still) regularly show that most Russians think that their country is moving in a right direction? Either numerous polls by a reputable agency are flawed or the company you keep has a strong bias, do tell me which option do you think is more likely?

            • apc27 says:

              As for your Harding-like attempts to question whether those who dare criticize you are worthy of doing so instead of answering the questions they pose, I really wish you would stop. Apart from creating an unnecessarily heated atmosphere on this blog, it also hardly portrays you in a positive light and makes everyone less receptive to sensible parts of your arguments.

        • Hunter says:

          Wow! Imagine that. On demography the outlook ranges from pessimistic to dire. Yet apparently the range of projections ranges from a decrease to 107 million to an increase of tens of millions.

          And incredibly you talk about how terrible it is to use term “russophobe” yet you say “You all seem to be saying there’s some sort of a pessimistic mood that I invoke, that’s the problem. Do you talk to a lot of Russians yourselves? There’s all like that.” [Considering your children’s nationality you are doing them quite a disservice with that broad-brush labelling]. Maybe a more accurate description would “all the Russians I [Fred Weir] talk to are pessimistic” but then that might be because of the circle you keep. It’s funny how Rosstat’s figures tend to be a tad brighter yet somehow all Russians are pessimists. Doesn’t sound you talk to each and every Russian demographer out there.

          • fred weir says:

            It’s not worth replying to you.

            • Hunter says:

              It wouldn’t matter. Anyone who implies that his own children are doomed to be pessimist because all Russians are pessimists couldn’t have much worth to say anyway. You’re obviously going to be a great father you are.

              • fred weir says:

                I’ve been a father of a Russian for 23 years, and 11 years respectively. Thanks for your concern. Why don’t you stick to things you know something about?

                • Hunter says:

                  And I guess they are all pessimists then? If not then your previous argument is false. Either all Russians evoke a pessimistic attitude including your own children or they don’t.

                  As for sticking to things I know something about, how on earth do you know what I do or do not know? It’s that kind of elitist attitude that is really disturbing. As I said before, the next time a doctor wants to give you a treatment that might kill you and you feel uncomfortable about it, take your own advice and just “stick to the things you know something about” and take the medicine no matter what your misgivings. If we all took that attitude by the way then we would probably still be treating women for female hysteria since of course only experts (and current ones at that it seems) are supposed to talk about things they know and any misgivings or concerns on the part of laypersons is trivial.

          • fred weir says:

            Well, there you go, Hunter. You’re saying, how does a Canadian who’s lived in Russia for 25 years know anything about American politics? Good point. But then, you want to turn around and say you know Russia better than me, and all my experience is worthless. Which is it? Really. I do try to keep abreast of American politics, and am aghast at the anti-intellectual trends I see, going with “feelings” rather than facts. But isn’t that just what you’re doing, judging Russia from a distance? And, in answer to your implied question, no, I don’t think you’re a Republican, and I can see why you were so badly stung by my point. Think about it. Cheers, Fred.

            • Hunter says:

              Wow, you really can’t follow an argument can you? I’m not the one who is saying that your experience is worthless. You are the one that is saying anyone whose experience does not match or surpass your own is worthless with your constant admonishment of others to “stick to what they know” (which is something I would expect from a 12 year old by the way, not a grown man with grown children) when you yourself have literally NO CLUE what they do or do not know. I’ve been saying that you might be missing the woods for the trees with all your experience and that may have gotten caught up in a particular view point which when applied to Russia as a whole and Russians as a people is clearly at odds with the everyday experience of others whether they be Russians (like apc) or non-Russians (like myself). Mark, myself and others have basically been challenging you to take a broader view (which you claim to want to do but your words betray you in this regard). If you can’t follow that then no wonder your articles end up being proven wrong this easily. The fact that you missed my point entirely concerning your childish “stick to what you know” attitude clearly demonstrates how clueless you seem to be. I turned your argument around to show you how foolish it is and you have proven how silly it is by demonstrating that it is possible to “keep abreast of American politics” yet you are not American and do not reside in America. At the same time in your mind it is not possible apparently for someone who is not Russia nor residing in Russia to keep abreast of Russia.

              And here you are still talking about others judging Russia at a distance. So I suppose I need to physically be in Russia to interact with Russians who live in Russia then? What time is it in your world? Or rather, what year is it? It’s 2012 A.D. here, but it must be 1812 where you are living if that’s your view (it might also explain your subconscious stereotyping of entire nations). And what then of apc? I suppose the fact that he was born there and lived there for 15 years counts for nothing because he may not be there right this second, correct? And of course, having been raised there during his formative years doesn’t count as much as you living there long after you were a child right? Or maybe it is something magical in the land that gives you, someone there, a better understanding of the people than someone else?

              By the way, still no explanation on how a population increase of tens of millions can be considered as pessimistic outlook at best? You find all the time in the world to respond to everything else except that (and on a topic that you apparently report on professionally!). Why is this? Do you always ignore those facts which don’t agree with your world view? Isn’t that being biased? Perhaps you should re-read Mark’s “uncle volodya” quote for this blog entry.

              • fred weir says:

                Well, now Hunter, let’s take your advice first. I read a lot, I engage a lot with people of differing points of view — case in point right here — and try to see different perspectives. Indeed, I include them in my work. For example, if you read my foreign policy pieces, on the Russian view of what’s going on in Syria, the runup to war in Iran, you’ll see I almost exclusively quote Russian experts making a very eloquent case against Western arrogance. Why don’t you look some of this stuff up before spouting this preconceived sermon at me:

                http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0201/Why-Russia-is-so-opposed-to-asking-Assad-to-go

                http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0206/Russia-Why-the-fury-over-UN-veto-on-Syria

                But, I repeat, the difference between you and me is that you can tap out any opinion you like, and then hit the send button. Good for you, so you think, why should anyone have to stick to what they know? What kind of elitism is that? But covering Russia is my full time job, I have to source everything I say, and I go pretty much where the story leads me.

                So, once again on this demography stuff. The projections of demographers that show deep population decline are rooted in stubborn, enduring trends — such as high male mortality, low female fertility — that are projected into the future. They are scientific projections, like global warming, based on what we know now. That is not equal to Putin saying that if-we-do-such-and-such we could have tens of millions more people by 2050. I covered Putin’s article fairly, and quoted him saying that. Moreover, I hope it comes true. But all these things he suggests will have to happen, and work, before we see any fundamental turnaround. Even Putin knows that, and says so in his article. And, again, it is not “Russophobic” of me to report accurately on what demographers say, any more than it was Russophobic of Putin to concede that their projections are what’s going to happen without very vigorous social change and political action. That’s the story, see? If all Putin’s promises come true — and I hope they do — and we witness a major demographic turnaround in a decade or so, it doesn’t mean that I was “wrong”. See?
                Cheers, Fred.

                • Hunter says:

                  “Why don’t you look some of this stuff up before spouting this preconceived sermon at me”

                  You poor soul. You really don’t have a clue do you? I’m talking about the crap you wrote here. What does the rest of your stuff matter if we are discussing the stuff being critiqued and your foolish attitude in trying to exclude people who you don’t agree with and on the basis of “judging from a distance” (as if you actually know any of us in any way)? You don’t know the difference between apples and oranges do you?

                  “They are scientific projections, like global warming, based on what we know now. That is not equal to Putin saying that if-we-do-such-and-such we could have tens of millions more people by 2050. I covered Putin’s article fairly, and quoted him saying that. Moreover, I hope it comes true. But all these things he suggests will have to happen, and work, before we see any fundamental turnaround.”

                  Wow, you really are a bad journalist. So tell me something, when scientists make projections about climate change and global warming using scenarios involving actions that can be taken by governments and people are those projections not scientific? Because you seem to be implying that Putin’s projections are his own entirely (as opposed to having been researched) and that because they involve actions which have not yet been implemented but which are proposed they don’t qualify in some way and thus all demographic projections are still “pessimistic to dire” in outlook.

                  “But covering Russia is my full time job, I have to source everything I say, and I go pretty much where the story leads me.”

                  Good for you. Maybe you can provide a source that Putin’s projected figures of a population increase under certain conditions were not done by any scientist. Otherwise your statement that all demographic projections (which would presumably be done by scientists) are all pessimistic or dire is false.

        • marknesop says:

          I’d be quite happy, for my part, to drop the term “Russophobe” and never use it again – just as soon as sites that profit handsomely from heaping scorn on Russia (such as The Guardian) cease deleting comments with which they disagree, and disqualifying others under the implication of paid service to the Kremlin for expressing a positive view. I would venture to guess that if such ever happens it is extremely rare, and would further suggest my contemporaries are usually very good about sourcing their opinions. What do one’s sympathies matter in the face of facts? If you say immigration is down and I say it is up, and I cite a reliable, factual source that agrees it is up such as the World Bank or some statistician of similar repute, your “Russophobia” or my “Russophilia” are irrelevant to the purity of provable fact. My position is that you (not speaking of you specifically, but as value A) should not be permitted to present a concept as fact when it is demonstrably not, and to have that pass unchallenged. I’ve said before that my motivation is the fact that Russia is my wife’s country, and she’s proud of it, not some personal love for Vladimir Putin, although I am an admirer of his leadership and the benefits that can be shown to have accrued to Russia as a direct result.

          Let’s look at an example of demographic misrepresentation; we’ll use the one from this post as presented by Nicholas Eberstadt. He said the decline in the Russian population showed no signs of abating. But the figures for population growth/decline showed growth in the very same year he forecast its irreversibility. I imagine he consulted with demographers, too, quite apart from being one himself. What are we to think of “experts” who can’t even get it right in the present, never mind the future? Also, the death rate was indeed falling even then; it has demonstrably been in decline since about 2002. The same site reports poverty and unemployment declined steadily in the decade ending 2010 (which would mean they had been in decline since 2000) and that the middle class continued to expand. The birth rate showed a definite upward trend since about 2000, after falling off a cliff in about 1989.

          Demographers have access to these figures, Fred. Bakers have access to these figures. It’s one thing to point and laugh at somebody for making a prediction ten years after the fact and hoot like howler monkeys about how wrong they were. It’s another when a demographer embarrasses himself by saying the population is in a steep and irreversible decline when hard figures the very moment he makes that prediction show the death rate declining and the birth rate increasing. Simply taking a flyer on negative population growth without taking the time to observe which way it’s heading is irresponsible and stupid, and smacks of catering to a specific audience by telling it what it wants to hear. And if that’s not Russophobia, what would you like it to be called?

          • Hunter says:

            Perhaps Russophobia is too harsh a term. “Russoschadenfreude” might more accurately describe the attitude of some persons in the gallery; they don’t fear Russia, but take pleasure in misfortune happening to Russia.

            I still don’t know what to make of Fred Weir railing against the term “Russophobia” to describe his writings, but at the same time [and in the same post to boot!] he broadly labels all Russians as pessimists and talks about his own children being Russians and not wanting to wish the worst. Unless his post was edited, then logically he just implied that his children are doomed to have a pessimistic attitude as they are themselves Russians [again that duality is cropping up!] How one can apply ethnic stereotypes like that but fight against being labelled a bigot is beyond me. Sure there are pessimistic Russians. But I’ve encountered optimistic Russians on various blogs and other fora and I didn’t need 25 years to find them. Then again, there is that saying that birds of a feather flock together, so maybe Fred encounters a lot of pessimistic Russians because he himself might be generally a pessimist as opposed to an optimist or realist.

            • marknesop says:

              I couldn’t pretend to know Mr. Weir’s personal situation any more than what is available in public files, but I got the photo I used here, and it reports Mr. Weir lives in Russia (Razdori) year-round and that his children are Russian citizens.

              • Hunter says:

                Which is really sad since he said blatantly stereotyped all Russians as pessimists. We don’t need to know his personal situation in great detail since what he wrote was clear as day for all to see (perhaps a Freudian slip of the fingers?). He has said he lived in Russia for 25 years and that all Russians “are like that” (evoking a pessimistic mood). That’s enough said as far as I’m concerned. If in 25 years that is his conclusion it says a lot a more about him than he realizes.

            • fred weir says:

              I didn’t say anything of this sort ; who said pessimism is an ethnic trait of Russians? People everywhere tend to have a spectrum of views about their circumstances, and if you encounter a lot of pessimism, they tell you why. In Russia, it’s about endemic corruption, the arrogance of officialdom, abuse of power and a lot of other mismatches between the power system and very rapidly developing civil society. I talk with a lot of people, very often; tell me again why you think you know this stuff better?

              As for my reporting, all I meant is that I use almost exclusively Russian sources in my work, and I go to the top academics, political activists and civil society people for commentary on ongoing stories. I try to choose the best argument for different points of view, and quote that. This country is far from hopeless, there are lots of optimistic things happening and, by the way, I do write about them. I’m glad there is a spectrum of opinions out there, I’m a big fan of pluralism, but you’re not moving any debate forward with this kind of slurry, slandering rhetoric. Cheers, Fred.

              • Hunter says:

                “I didn’t say anything of this sort ; who said pessimism is an ethnic trait of Russians?”

                Please re-read your own words:

                “fred weir says:
                March 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm

                …..You all seem to be saying there’s some sort of a pessimistic mood that I invoke, that’s the problem. Do you talk to a lot of Russians yourselves? There’s all like that….”

                So if you didn’t say anything of the sort, then just what did you say in those 3 sentences above? That all Russians are like what exactly? Because you were talking about a pessimistic mood and then asked if Mark if he talks to a lot of Russians and said they were all like that.

                Either those 3 sentences are non sequitur or you were saying that all Russians evoke a pessimistic mood. Note, you didn’t say “most”, “some” or “a lot”. You said “all”. Which of course is completely incorrect since I’ve encountered Russians who do not evoke a pessimistic attitude and I’m sure others have too.

                “I talk with a lot of people, very often; tell me again why you think you know this stuff better?”

                Did you not read the parts where I said I’ve encountered Russians as well? Do you think the Russians you talk to and interact with are any more real than the Russians I or others interact with? Or are they simply more worthy of being listened to? Maybe for a minute you should stop and think about the possibility that you are viewing the picture way too closely from one perspective.

                I notice you still haven’t addressed apc’s point that various demographic projections range from a decrease to 107 million to an increase of tens of millions. How does that reconcile with your stated claim that “on demography, the outlook ranges from pessimistic to dire” (these are your exact words by the way from the same post). Since when is an increase of tens of millions a pessimistic outlook other than in the context of overpopulation?

                • fred weir says:

                  “There’s all like that”. hmmm. I must have been typing fast. Not like me, but usually I have editors to clarify and fix. Anyhow, there are a lot of Russians with a harsh view on their situation. But why do you assume that’s an ethnic trait? Is that the way you think? People forced to pay bribes every time they turn around, who have to move to the side of the road when some chinovnik with a migalka comes screeching by, who encounter outright fraud in their polling station, etc, often tend to take a dim view. I do write about these things, in considerable detail. I quote people who experience it, and also quote them expressing their feelings about it. That’s not in the genes, it’s in the mind. Or maybe I’m just a genetic Russophobe?

                • Hunter says:

                  “…“There’s all like that”. hmmm. I must have been typing fast. Not like me, but usually I have editors to clarify and fix. Anyhow, there are a lot of Russians with a harsh view on their situation….”

                  Nice attempt at a save there. I love how you backpedal and attempt to divert by now claiming “a lot” instead of “all”. Perhaps the original wording was like you in reality, but rather than a Freudian slip of the tongue it was a Freudian slip of the fingers?

                  “But why do you assume that’s an ethnic trait? Is that the way you think?”

                  No, but that is evidently the way you think. It’s interesting that despite my clear statements to the contrary you would even try to imply this, whereas you have a clear example of your own writing where you stereotype an entire nation. And apparently you need editors to ensure that you don’t do that (which makes me wonder just what one of your unedited articles would look like). You wrote those words while you were apparently typing fast. Which must mean you were thinking very quickly. So those words came from your subconscious since you were just typing as you the words came to mind without taking the time to rethink. That’s okay. Just remember that the truth rarely needs clarification and never needs to be “fixed”.

                  I notice you still have yet to say how populations estimates that can give an increase of tens of millions can be fall within a range of outlooks ranging from “pessimistic to dire”. For someone who writes on demography I thought you would be able to explain that. Guess you can’t hence your continued dodging of it.

              • yalensis says:

                Aw, c’mon, Fred, why don’t you just admit that you write anti-Russian propaganda on behalf of Western MSM because Russia is a geo-poitical rival of the West, and it’s your job to make Western public hate Russia, in case the two sides ever have to go to war? Just admit it, and I will respect you for your honesty.

                • fred weir says:

                  Don’t be absurd, yalensis. The author of this blog calls it “The Kremlin Stooge”, because he’s reasonably sure that only an idiot wouldn’t take it ironically. Indeed. Yet here you are thinking that people you don’t agree with must be paid stooges . . . of the West? Again, I report on Russia and, as I explained to Hunter above, my reporting often involves explaining Russian foreign policy to my audience, using the authentic voices of Russian foreign policy specialists. I try to promote understanding of the Russian position. What do you think you’re doing?

          • fred weir says:

            Mark, I can’t answer for the Guardian, or what they do with your comments. Sorry. But I’ve had this discussion with demographers. None of my stories deny the recent changes for the better, in death rates, birth rates and even Putin-era immigration. But short-term and long-term are different concepts. You can’t take a few short-term bright points and say that means the demographers — and the journalists who quote them — are getting the whole picture wrong. That’s what you’re doing. We need sustained change over several years. But the birth rates are already falling again. Male death rates are not dramatically improving now — 62 years is not a first world male life expectancy, though it’s better than it was a decade ago. These are just facts. I’m not trying to piss on Russia. In fact, I’ve done my own part to reproduce the population; my wife and I are at 2.0, better than average. It’s not Russophobic to discuss the long-term implications of this problem. Add to that the internal migration that’s hollowing out Siberia and the far east, and it’s a serious long term crisis. By the way, my own newspaper has a bias for good news — “To bless all humanity” — and they would prefer that I wrote nothing but good news stories from Russia. When I am able, I do oblige them. Cheers, Fred.

            • If you go by Rosstat (I hope you’re not like McFaul going to say they cook their figures) you will see that the TFR has increased steadily from 2000 (1.19) to 2009 (1.54) with only a small dip in 2005-06. Extrapolating from crude birth rates, the TFR has further increased to 1.57 in 2010 and 1.60 in 2011. Though one month is too short a time to make definitive judgments, this January saw an 8% rise in births from the previous one. So the “birth rates are already falling again” part is, quite simply, wrong.

              Life expectancy for males as of 2011, BTW, is 64.3 years, not 62. On average it is 70.3. This is of course very bad by current industrialized world standards, but it exceeds the peak indicators in the USSR.

              If you wish to have a look at what a good article on demography looks like, covering both the good and the bad with facts and arguments (as opposed to rhetoric and appeals to “expert” authority), you could do worse than look at Zhuravlev’s article.

              http://expert.ru/expert/2012/06/razvorot-russkogo-kresta/

              Here is an English translation.

              http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2012/02/23/reversal-of-the-russian-cross/

              BTW, for what it’s worth, I consider you one of the better Russia journalists. Though in all honesty that isn’t the highest bar to clear.

              • marknesop says:

                “…TFR has increased steadily from 2000 (1.19) to 2009 (1.54) with only a small dip in 2005-06. Extrapolating from crude birth rates, the TFR has further increased to 1.57 in 2010 and 1.60 in 2011. Though one month is too short a time to make definitive judgments, this January saw an 8% rise in births from the previous one. So the “birth rates are already falling again” part is, quite simply, wrong.

                Life expectancy for males as of 2011, BTW, is 64.3 years, not 62. On average it is 70.3. This is of course very bad by current industrialized world standards, but it exceeds the peak indicators in the USSR.”

                As always, I bow before the master…

            • Sergey says:

              Dear Fred,

              a couple of comments.

              First, you probably shouldn’t be saying “the birth rates are already falling again”, as the first months of 2012 saw 10.4% more births than the same period of 2011. Yes, I remember one Duma member who has pronounced exactly these words in early 2011 – but second half of 2011 has been very good in births department, so that the estimated TFR increased to 1.606, see here http://www.perepis-2010.ru/news/detail.php?ID=7021. The guy was correct since February 2012 to October 2012, but wrong ever since.

              Second, demographers in Russia are heavily concentrated around one particular point of view – doomish and gloomish one. They have been repeating this mantra for so long that entire professional careers have been built on this pessimism. It would do untold professional damage to them to start changing a message. You, however, are a journalist. You could look at the track record of people you are talking to, and make up you mind regarding whether you should trust them or not. As an example of totally failed forecasting, do consider this link: http://polit.ru/article/2008/02/07/vyshnevsky/. Remember that this particular lecture was delivered in early 2008 and used the data up to 2006 or earlier. Do contemplate the difference between almost all forecasts and the actual numbers, paying particular attention to graphs 10 (current population is 143 million, remember!), 17 (natural decline in 2011 was 132 thousand, not ca. 450 thousand as in those graphs; natural decline in 2012 could well be below 100 thousand, judging by the year’s start), 28 (do you really think that 64.3 years in 2011 – male LE at birth – is really continuing a dashed blue line, or that 76.1 in 2011 – female LE at birth – is a normal continuation of the red dashed line?)

              In a summary. Demographic discourse in Russia is greatly distorted. It is possible to peddle the same line for years and years after the trends have broken, because no one pays any attention to the data. If you simply repeat this line, you tend to mislead your readers, big time.

        • They always say, sometimes at great length, No. Every major academic study on Russian demography, Russian and foreign, says the same things. Come on, guys.

          I really should write these two up into formal papers.

          http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2008/07/21/editorial-demography-iii-faces-of-the-future/

          http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2009/12/07/myths-russia-demography/

  3. democratist says:

    Disapointed to have been left out. Also, you should do a “heros of Russian journalism” post. I’d love to hear who you think represents a “fair and balanced” perspective?

    • marknesop says:

      Good Morning, Democratist! As I hope I implied, I meant no insult to anyone’s Russophobic stature, and the fact that I do not have a picture of you influenced your being passed over more than your invective; if you would consider forwarding your photo, you would be given pride of place in any subsequent roundup. I also noticed some time ago that your blog was inaccessible – even the archives – and wondered briefly if anything was amiss. I’m happy to see you back and apparently in top form.

      Your suggestion is an excellent one, and you must have known it would prove a challenge, since this blog mostly presents a negative reaction to something that angered me. But yours is a great idea, and I will not only keep it in mind but will credit your with inspiration when I post it. At the moment I’m going to explore with Anatoly the possibility of my taking up the challenge Eric Kraus flung down on his blog, and see if he will let me have the Clover piece (as long as he has not already started a post on it). Meanwhile, I’ve received a few suggestions in past posts of articles the commenter felt were fair, even a shade positive. With the exception of Peter and his submission of the “Putin Fangirl” site, none were particularly laudatory of Putin or of Russia in general, simply cognizant of advances and willing to give credit where credit was due. I hope I do not ask more than that, and hereby solicit suggestions for such articles.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      Certainly not you mate.😉

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Dejevsky of the Independent, though since Lebedev’s purchase of that newspaper she seems to have been shunted off into a back room and replaced by Russia correspondent Shaun Walker, who certainly does not give balanced Russian stories.

      An example of Dejevsky’s balanced reporting:

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-litvinenko-files-was-he-really-murdered-819534.html

  4. Leos Tomicek says:

    Julia Ioffe, does she still run her Mogadishu… I mean Moscow Diaries blog?

    http://www.austereinsomniac.info/blog/2010/8/1/brave-girl-in-a-dangerous-world.html

  5. Leos Tomicek says:

    You should make a post on Ukrainian diaspora figures too. Here are some odious figures to check out:

    Taras Kuzio, Mykola Riabchuk, Lubomyr Luciuk

    When they are not writing about Ukraine, (usually about the bad Russian element in that country) they take shots at Russia. All of them write in English and have pictures of themselves available somewhere online…

  6. apc27 says:

    In answer to fred weir:

    “People forced to pay bribes every time they turn around”, what the hell do these people you are talking about do? Unless they are involved in something illegal, the likelihood that they are FORCED to pay bribes all the time is really quiet low. As someone who lives in Russia you should know that even the road police, the most hated bribe-takers in Russia, most of the time TAKE bribes, not DEMAND them. The people you mentioned, more likely than not, CHOOSE to give bribes to make their own lives easier by avoiding procedures which they would have been forced to follow in a Western country.

    This is the exact lack of depth and cliche thinking that is so infuriating in Western coverage of Russia. There are hundreds of articles on the corruption in Russia, but does anyone know at least one which deals with the awful readiness of the Russian population to give bribes? The corruption, lest we forget consists of GIVING and taking bribes.

    If people were really FORCED to pay bribes all the time, then their attitudes and outlook would indeed be much more dour… but they are not. The majority of them think that the country is going in the right direction, many indirect indicators are showing the corruption situation in Russia actually improving, while the current elections were the fairest in recent history (thought I do admit that the starting point was VERY low indeed)… am I the only one who looks at reality and the picture you are trying to paint and thinks that there may be a TINY bit of discrepancy there?

    • Hunter says:

      apc, don’t be too hard on Fred; remember he didn’t have his editors around to fix what he wrote, hence his use of the word “forced” instead of “choose”.😉

    • fred weir says:

      So now you’re blaming the Russian people, maybe it’s in their genes? Yes, there is a culture of corruption, but since I’ve lived here for 25 years, I do know how it works. There is a compact, between cop and driver, you’re right about that. Actually, most evidence suggests this low-level corruption has gotten better in recent years. Big-scale graft and corruption has grown worse, by most expert accounts. I’ve looked a lot into the Magnitsky case lately; so should you. Read between the lines of Putin’s pre-election pieces, and you’ll see even he isn’t denying it.

      Anyhow, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say, Mark. Are you frustrated that these facts are being reported, or just at the tone in which they’re reported? Do you think you know the whole truth about what’s going on in Russia, and we’re all idiots? That’s what it sounds like. But, in contradistinction to some of your sidekicks, I don’t think you’re that shallow. There is a debate about Russia, and I keep learning new things myself. I’m a frequent guest on RT, and Russian News Service, where I engage in spirited discussion, answer for my stories — most of which are translated and posted on INOSMI — and always come away feeling like a discussion took place. And there’s more to discuss. But this “Russophobia” crap is not a useful contribution to that discussion. Cheers, Fred.

      • marknesop says:

        I sense a bit of a thaw, Fred, and I welcome it. No, I certainly don’t think I know Russia better than anyone and that everyone else is an idiot – that’s why I substantiate what I say and stick mostly to things like demographics and economics, both of which I dislike intensely. That way, it’s not just my opinion against your opinion. I’m certainly always willing to learn, and I’m quite happy to admit Russia has faults. The kind of discussion I like to see is something that identifies a fault, and makes a helpful suggestion on how it could be fixed in a manner that fosters the impression the writer would actually like to see Russia succeed in bettering itself. Too much of it is just snide offering of the complaint du jour, followed by snickering and “whadidja expect? It’s Russia”. Too many generalizations, such as “Russia’s best and brightest are bailing in droves”. No, they’re not. You suggested in the article we were originally discussing that Russia was losing about a million people a year and that the rate was accelerating. In fact, Russia lost about 3 million people between 2002 and now, and gained back a million of those since 2010. In your more recent piece you suggested Putin’s initiatives to grow the population had been tried before, with limited success. What’s that supposed to mean – all is lost, don’t bother trying?

        Net migration from Russia has declined steadily since Putin took over. That’s not based on how many people told some survey that they were chomping at the bit to get out of Russia, it’s based on hard data on how many people actually left – which Russia keeps while more “progressive” western democracies like the USA do not. And what’s wrong with appealing for Russian expats to move back to Russia? That was indeed tried before, when Putin first came to power. Did it work? You tell me; I see a spike in the year 2000 that briefly took population growth back to dead even from about -.4%.

        I’ll defer to you on issues like corruption, which truly does benefit from being in-country and about which statistics are not particularly reliable. However, I would inject a couple of notes of caution: one, corruption is much broader worldwide than most are willing to acknowledge, and is most certainly not restricted to Russia, although it is often the designated whipping-boy for the problem. Two, corruption was always a problem in Russia; it was a problem in the Soviet Union, and nobody has been able to stamp it out entirely. The chances a broadminded liberal reformer would be successful are pretty close to zero, and it might even worsen under such conditions. So Russians are left with the choice – do we want to go with the guy who quintupled per-capita GDP and cut poverty in half, under whom corruption exists, or the guy who talks a good game but has no proven record, and under whom corruption would exist?

        But I’ll tell you what makes me curious: where did this Fred Weir go? Unlike the majority of Russophobes, you seem neutral-to-negative on Yeltsin, and believe “Russia’s best hope for democracy in our time died…in October 1993” with the ouster of Gorbachev. You were a Communist born and bred. But you admit Gorbachev’s perestroika was unsuccessful at reining in corruption, and of the Russian people you said, “It was through many such boisterous yet often deeply philosophical discussions with friends that I learned just about everything I think I know about Russia, not least of which was that these people were perfectly capable of running their own lives and, by extension, their own country.” You say that despite his high-minded intentions, Gorbachev’s attempts to implement a “workers democracy” merely added to the chaos. You speak of most of your acquaintances as “members of the educated elite”. This is precisely the group that despises Putin, because they prefer their idealized democracy to prosperity and would rather be churchmouse-poor and be able to say that they get the leaders they deserve because they vote them in than have stability. We don’t agree on everything, obviously, but that was honest, Fred. I liked it.

        • fred weir says:

          Thanks Mark. This Fred Weir wrote that piece in the Walrus quite recently. The difference is that was memoir, in my own voice, and covers a historic issue. As a reporter, I stick mainly to current news stories, and try to represent the spectrum of different views. You can see my reply to Hunter, above, about this demography issue again. Nobody denies there’s been a turnaround, but demographers say it doesn’t change the basic projection. Same with Putin, which is why he urges major social action to reverse the trends. As I told Hunter, I hope it works, but it’s mostly theoretical, to be seen — and reported on — in the future.

          By the way, there is no thaw here. It was you who called me “thick as a cedar stump” or something of that sort in a rather high-handed blog post without, apparently, knowing the first thing about me or having seriously sampled my work. If you were a journalist, I’d call that serious malpractice. For instance, I’d be fired for writing something like that, even if it flattered my editors preconceptions.

          Seriously, I know there’s a lot of bad journalism out there, and it has consequences. I often wince when I read stuff about Russia in the British press. (I have to remind myself that they write this way about their own royal family). But there’s also a lot of good journalism. You can find it in the NYT, the Wall Street Journal, a lot of places. Sorry if it sometimes rubs you the wrong way, but serious journalists go out, talk to people, follow events. They can get it wrong — I think lionizing the opposition and comparing Russia’s recent upsurge with the Arab Spring was mistaken — but that’s why we have pluralism. And that’s why I, for one, pay attention to feedback. But, I repeat, I don’t find your “rogues gallery” very useful or constructive, and this “Russophobia” label is malignantly dumb. Cheers, Fred.

          • marknesop says:

            The “Russophobia” label is mostly to counter the charges of “Russophile!!” any time one advances any view of Russia beyond a negative one, and was originally adopted proudly by La Russophobe, whose nonsense this blog was created to rebut. She’s packed that up now and moved on to a charming little signpost on the road to nuttiness called “Dying Russia”.

            I repeat, I could not include all your work in a short post that mostly qualified you for inclusion – although, as you say, it relied on the work of demographers who steered you wrong (and there is no reason to assume the turnaround is temporary; the fall-off to come inspired by the loss of much of the 1990’s cohort can be compensated for if it is foreseen, and it certainly should be), there were many instances in which you could have taken a balanced view and apparently chose the grimmest prognostications instead. The recent post you linked, in which you quoted Putin as offering a choice between bad and badder when in fact he made a perfectly believable suggestion that the population could grow rapidly – up a million since 2010 is not bad – is exemplary. It probably just is not very exciting to write that things might be bad, or they might be good.

            It’s true people sometimes get fired for what they write, but it’s rare and usually follows a public outcry. But the most outrageous mischaracterizations are permitted to prevail in both print and on television, and the station or paper usually stands by its reporter or says, “He misspoke”. The requirement to read all a person’s work before suggesting any part of it was prejudicial would be nice, but I’m afraid it still falls under “utopian”.

            In any case, although we still have serious differences, you’re right that a discussion such as this one would likely have resulted in none of the terms referring to stupidity being used, because you certainly are not stupid or thick, and I agree with Yalensis that you have defended your position energetically. I therefore apologize for suggesting you were either, and will amend the text to reflect it. I will read more of your work, although I have to say everything I have seen thus far – and I have read a great deal more than the “Rogue’s Gallery” suggests – ranges between gloomy and sarcastic wherever Russia is concerned. I don’t expect terminal sunshine or putting a good face on a bad situation; that’s not integrity, either. But the Russia I know and the Russia you know are far, far different, and just because you live there doesn’t mean you know it all – your circle of acquaintance informs your view inexorably, as does mine, and my family has better than 3 times your lifetime experience in Russia (although I have not, and have never lived there longer than a month at a time as permitted by a visitor’s visa).

            You have to give people some hope. No wonder Russians get the reputation of being gloomy, when all they hear is non-stop bad news from everywhere but the state, and the outside world tells them everything the state says is a lie.

        • yalensis says:

          Wow, thanks for that link, Mark, I had not read that “Walrus” piece before. Is real eye-opener. Now, THAT Fred Weir sounds authentic. He sounds completely different from the Fred Weir whose hackish amateurish pieces appear frequently in INOSMI.
          This Fred Weir really knows how to write well. He tells you exactly where he is coming from, what he believes, what he experieces, he describes brililantly the complexity of political forces at the time of the Yeltsin counter-revolution. Are you sure it is not 2 different guys, like the confusion with the 2 Luke Hardings?

  7. Meanwhile we are about to get another in the endless stream of books about Russia from members of Mark’s Rogues’ Gallery. The latest tome is called Deception and is by our old friend Ed Lucas. Suffice to say that its subtitle is “How Russia dupes the West”.

    • marknesop says:

      Occasionally I wish Ed Lucas was good at something, like carpentry or small-engine repair. It’d give him something to do that would pay the bills, and keep him away from writing. Hate and smugness are not a good combination.

      It’s refreshing at least to see him get away once more from the theory that Russians are incompetent bumblers who can do nothing right. According to him, the only smart people in Russia are elite liberal dissidents and the FSB – who are scary-smart, because every time something happens in Russia for which there is no obvious explanation, the FSB are behind it. So now, if Russia can “dupe” the west – who are also supposed to be scary-smart – then Russians must be pretty clever/ Oh, wait – is it the FSB who are duping the west?

      • Moscow Exile says:

        It’s that duality thing again, isn’t it?

        Same as Zigfeld goes on about Russia being a decrepit, clapped out shithole full of drunken degenerates who are rapidly facing extinction and who have an incompetent army with obsolete, useless weapons, whilst at the same time she maintains that the much more militarily, technologically, socially advanced and competent free world must be ever on guard from attack and being taken over by Russia, which, I believe, is that self same place that she describes as being a decrepit, clapped out shithole full of drunken degenerates who are rapidly facing extinction and who have an incompetent army with obsolete useless weapons.

  8. Dear Fred,

    I have read with interest your exchanges with Hunter and others. Let me say again that what I take issue with you is not your pessimistic view about Russia’s demographic situation. I don’t agree with it and I think the field is far more bitterly contested than you admit but that is a legitimate difference of opinion. Where I think you go seriously wrong and (forgive me for saying it) provoke concerns that doubtless in part explain Mark’s decision to include you in his list is when you try to enlist Putin of all people to support your opinion in the process transforming his words from a warning into a prophecy. I for one am pleased that you have responded on this blog. Think about what I have said.

    • fred weir says:

      Hi Alexander. Well, I brought up Putin only in order to illustrate that the dire population projections are scientific consensus, which everyone needs to start with in discussing this issue, and it can’t possibly be “Russophobic” to do so. That seems to be what this whole conversation has revolved around. So, what is your point? That Putin is a liar? I certainly never wrote anything of that sort. I’ve met the man, read and listen carefully to his speeches and press conferences, regard him as highly capable and knowledgeable. And when he weighs in on a subject such as demography, it’s newsworthy. Right? Cheers, Fred.

      • Dear Fred,

        Of course I am not calling Putin a liar. Obviously you have not read my comments properly just as frankly I do not think you are reading his article correctly. My point is and was that Putin nowhere in his article lends credence to your claim that “the dire population projection are scientific consensus”. On the contrary his article speaks of an improving picture which if expert advice is followed will improve even more but warns against complacency and calls for more work whilst making possibly alarmist warnings about what might happen if the programme he outlines is not implemented. Hardly an original approach for a politician running on his record and seeking re election!

  9. Dear Fred,

    Having made my previous point, perhaps in fairness I should set out my own opinion. This is that there was a disastrous demographical collapse in the 1990s but that over the last decade there has been a gradual and steady improvement reflecting improvements in both the birth rate and life expectancy as well as immigration all of which have their ultimate cause in the more stable economic conditions and pro active government policies that we have seen during the Putin era. Whilst I think it is universally acknowledged that the number of births will fall because of the imminent decline in the number of women of child bearing age caused by the demographic collapse of the 1990s, there is good reason to hope that this factor will in large part be mitigated by further increases in life expectancy, an increase in births by individual women and more immigration. The improvement in life expectancy that has taken place and the fact that life expectancy especially amongst men is still low gives especially good reason to think that provided there are continuing improvements in the population’s general health (a subject touched on at length in Putin’s article) this factor in particular will continue increasingly to make a positive difference. However the precondition for that improvement is the continuance and development of the stable economic conditions and of the health and welfare programmes that we have already seen and which Putin discusses in his article.

    I think this is a fair and reasonable position and one that would be accepted by most reasonable people looking at the facts and at current trends in an objective way. It seems to me also to be one that corresponds with the underlying tenor and premise of Putin’s article. Much has been achieved and the worst has been avoided but as Putin says himself more needs to be done and doubtless will be done.

    • fred weir says:

      Yes, Alexander, that’s a fair and reasonable position. As I say in my piece about Putin’s article, demographers agree that theirs is a tricky science, and that rational policies implemented today can have a huge impact on projections over decades. As a person whose whole life is invested in Russia, and whose children are Russian, I sure join you in hoping that all happens. But the social interventions will have to be much more vigorous than has been the case so far; what you’re expressing is more hope than science. For demographers, future projections are based on birth rates, death rates and immigration – emigration rates. Putin wrote a good piece, and the last decade has indeed been one of the best in all Russian history (Yes, I’ve written that), but the trends remain stubborn. I repeat, it’s not Russophobic to report that. Cheers, Fred.

      • Dear Fred,

        Here I am afraid we simply don’t agree. I don’t accept that my view is “more hope than science”. On the contrary I would argue that the facts clearly point to a steadily improving picture, which there is good reason to expect will sustain. Given that this is so I should say that I personally find it surprising that there are people who still deny it. Your comments in fact remind me of the famous observation concerning the reception of truth: first it is dismissed, then it is strenuously resisted, eventually it is universally accepted. In my opinion on Russian demographic questions we are now at the point where the truth (which is that the situation is improving) is being strenuously resisted. I don’t expect you to agree with me. Time will show who is right. Let’s leave it at that.

    • yalensis says:

      Good point, @alexander. To that I want to add that Russia’s continuing demographic improvement is contingent on stabilization and assimilation of North Caucuses. If the Navalnyites (and other nationalists) should succeed in their attempt to split off the North Caucuses from Russian Federation, then I think it goes without saying this would be demographic catastrophe on same level as collapse as Soviet Union itself.

  10. yalensis says:

    Some thoughts on the blog debate: Hunter in particular was super, made a lot of great debating
    points. I think Fred Weir defended himself very vigorously, he stumbled a couple of times, but in the end he made a good accounting of himself, especially with that “Walrus” piece. I think I have a better idea now who and what he is. I come from old Communist family myself, Great Patriotic War veterans and all that jazz, and even my father, an old Commie, had become been a bit deluded at the time, hoping that Gorbachev was going to bring about the triumph of socialist democracy while saving Russia from its own backwardness. Ha!
    Whereas the cynical old Stalinists turned out to be correct all along, that Gorbachev and the others were just another big capitalist plot against Soviet Union! Putin is a capitalist and came from the Yeltsin milieue, hence he is not my favorite guy. However, miraculously, unlike Yeltsin he balked at becoming an American marionette. Because he is a Russia patriot. He deeply disappointed the West. Who then unleahed their army of paid propagandists to attack him and Russia in any way possible.
    Say what you will about him, Putin saved Russia from complete destruction. Which is why majority of Russians like him, and their choice of him as Prez must be respected by the West. And once Western propagandists start bitching about “no democracy” in Russia, and how it is so difficult for minority parties to get any clout in Duma, then they need to re-read Weir’s piece on how Yeltsin shelled Parliament and beat up deputies.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      A lot of people made the same mistake about Gorbachev and what he was trying to do. I was one of them. I still think on balance that his motives originally were decent. The trouble was that like Medvedev he completely underestimated the implacable nature of the west and of its supporters at home. The result was that every time he made a concession instead of giving something in return they simply pocketed it and demanded more. Gorbachev’s response was to go on giving until the point was reached when his domestic authority disintegrated at which point the west and its supporters switched their support to Yeltsin, who unlike Gorbachev was in a position to go on giving them still more. The result was the collapse of the country’s domestic and international position.

      Though I cannot read their minds I think both Gorbachev and Yeltsin have had deep feelings of guilt and shame for what they did. In Gorbachev’s case he tries to justify himself to hiimself by pretending that what he did was right and necessary and good, which is why he has now gone over completely to the other side. This is bizarre to anyone who remembers him as he was when he was in power at which time as I well remember he was in bitter conflict with precisely the sort of right wing liberal oppositionists whose cause he now supports. Yeltsin’s response was a descent into violence, buffoonery and alcoholism peppered as it turns out with multiple suicide attempts.

      As for Putin I am going to nail my colours to the mast and say that in my opinion and based on what I have read and heard him say I think deep down he is a far more consciously left wing figure than is widely acknowledged or is prepared to admit. Contrary to what he repeatedly says I think the Eurasian Union most definitely is about reviving the USSR in some form whilst if one takes seriously the domestic programme he has outlined in his seven articles (which I do) then he proposes a programme that in west European let alone north American terms is so far to the left politically and so frankly socialistic as to be completely off the scale. The reason in my opinion why Putin does not say this straightforwardly is because he knows that if he did opposition to him would harden and multiply to an even greater extent than at present making his programme even more difficult to implement than it is already. In this if in nothing else I think his background as an intelligence officer and his knowledge of judo (with its emphasis on concealing one’s moves and intentions) have stood him in good stead.

      I would also say that the reason why Putin has been as successful up to now as he has and is as strongly supported as he is, is precisely because his instincts and policies (unlike those of Gorbachev and Yeltsin) go so well with the grain of Russian society (one of Yeltsin’s ghosted autobiographies was actually titled “Against the Grain”) whilst the reason the west and its Russian supporters are so intensely hostile to him is precisely because at some level they sense what he is really about.

      I appreciate that there is a lot of guesswork in this comment and many may not agree with me. Still I think most would agree that my guesses are well informed if they are nothing else.

    • Hunter says:

      I think Gorbachev had potential but as time went by the task was just too great for him and he let things slip out of control and as a result he had to throw his lot in more and more with the West which (surprise, surprise) didn’t share all of his interests (one of which was the continued unity of the Soviet Union). Putin seems to have learnt from that mistake – don’t let things slip. Ever. Because one events start to slide from your grasp it will take a miracle to get them back in your grip. That’s probably why he didn’t give the protesters an inch during the height of the protests. Instead reforms that had been planned had simply been presented on days outside of the protests and not in direct response to the protests while at the same time lambasting the protesters as western stooges.

      Gorbachev also tried to do too much, too fast. Had what he set out to achieve been done earlier (by say Kosygin, Khrushchev and Andropov) then perhaps the USSR would have been fundamentally different so that what Gorbachev attempted in the 1980s wouldn’t have resulted in the collapse of the state and the USSR could have evolved into a real socialist democracy.

      That said, it is pathetic now how Gorbachev still seems totally beholden to the West. Must be sour grapes (that Putin seems to be achieving what he could not) on his part which keeps him in league with them.

      • marknesop says:

        He did acknowledge in his memoirs, though, that they tried to go too fast (probably because the Harvard Boys were breathing down Yeltsin’s neck: faster, faster…) and that the transition from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation should have taken 20 to 30 years. And you’re right that it is pathetic he is now just a western mouthpiece, probably because they continue to flatter him as the Grand Old Man of Russian democracy and to lionize Yeltsin’s memory.

        • Hunter says:

          That’s strange though as I can’t imagine that his original intentions were really to transition from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation (a component of the USSR) but rather from a communist Soviet Union to a version of the Soviet Union like China today or perhaps like what the Russian Federation is like today.

  11. fred weir says:

    Alright, fine, guys. Let’s leave it at that. And next time you want to stick me in some kind of ‘rogues gallery’ and pour insults on me, at least survey my actual body of work and make direct reference to it. That would foster productive discussion, whereas linking my reporting with the former Bush administration’s lies about Iraq is the most specious kind of argumentation imaginable, and just gives blogging a bad name. Cheers to you all, Fred.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for interacting with us, Fred. It was good learning experience. Sorry if I hurt your feelings. Please don’t be too hard on bloggers, Mark is excellent blogger on Russian issues, he is more accurate and writes better than most professional journalists I have read. That is why I like his blog.

  12. Meahwhile the protest movement seems to be giving way to megalomania. I gather that at an unauthorised meeting in Pushkin Square that according to Novosti attracted no more than a couple of dozen people it announced its intention to hold a million march on the eve of Putin’s inauguration on 5th May 2012.

    The very highest estimates for the rallies that happened this winter do not put the numbers that turned up above 150,000, and I am sure those are gross overestimates. The protests that happened on 5th and 10th March 2012 were of course far smaller than this. The idea that the protest movement can call out one million people when it was unable to bring out more than a tenth of that number at its height is sheer fantasy. That the likes of Navalny, Udaltsov, Limonov and Nemtsov talk in this way shows how completely disconnected from reality they have become.

    I am going to make a prediction, which is that the protest movement far from marking any fundamental change in the country’s politics, will shortly be seen for what it actually was, a brief winter storm that broke out because of an unusual combination of factors that are unlikely to repeat themselves. I doubt that it will leave any substantial legacy behind it. I expect it to split and fragment with its various elements before long quarreling bitterly with each other and going their separate ways and with future protests confined to the same small hardcore of 5,000 or so activists we used to see staging protests before. I also predict that with the decline of the protest movement the Prokhorov bubble, such it was, will deflate and that the latest attempt to create a right wing party will go the way of all the others.

    PS: I gather that an attempt was made to stage some sort of protest outside the television station at Ostankino. Does anyone know what happened?

    • marknesop says:

      I agree it was a flash in the pan, but I would make a couple of observations; one, while the protest “movement” swung nothing like the weight the western press tried to attribute to it, it took place with significant western help and support. Nobody seriously thinks it just sprang up out of nowhere; the daily mood in Russia is carefully watched, and those who successfully “grew” the revolutions in Egypt and Libya perceived the potential for a wedge issue over the Duma elections, and made their move. This was short of a full-court press, but showed many indications of being coordinated. And it failed to gain ground, although I’m sure it will be nostalgically exaggerated in the years to come.

      The other is that it would be a mistake to make fun of it, because the organizers are desperately looking for an issue around which support might solidify. And ridicule is the last thing left.

      • Dear Mark,

        I completely agree. As I have repeatedly said, because this latest attempt at a colour revolution has been a failure that does not mean that the attempt was not made and that it will not be made again unless precautions are taken. On your previous post I outlined in a response to Kievite some of the things that must now be done. These include clearing out the Orange elements within the government, closing Medvedev’s disastrous Human Rights Council, prohibiting foreign funding of NGOs like Golos and re balancing the printed media and the Runet to counter the totally disproportionate presence the liberals have in these media (I am not by the way saying anyone should be banned or censored). Lastly the government should continue to work on improving the electoral system. Not only is this necessary in itself but such abuses as there are work to the advantage of the liberal opposition rather than the government.

        • yalensis says:

          Exactly. Just because this particular attempt at colour revolution did not succeed, does not mean Putin can relax his guard. He must always sleep with one eye open.
          As Mel Brooks’ Broadway Hitler remarks (in “The Producers”), as suitcase bombs keep exploding around him: “Oh, they keep trying… they keep trying…”

    • Moscow Exile says:

      There was a demonstration at the Ostankino TV tower today to protest against the NTV channel documentary “The Anatomy of a Protest”, in which allegations were made that “opposition” supporters in recent demonstrations in Moscow were given cash payments to demonstrate. The protesters at the TV tower today carried a banner on which was written: NTV, Pay Me the Money for Bolotnaya!

      The meeting was unauthorized and there are varying reports of the number of arrests made: over 30 arrests say some, whilst the newspaper Novaya Gazeta says that about 70 were arrested, including Udaltsov and Nemtsov.

      See:

      http://lenta.ru/news/2012/03/18/ostankino/

      http://www.dp.ru/a/2012/03/18/U_telecentra_Ostankino/gallery/6931/44634/

      http://top.rbc.ru/politics/18/03/2012/642233.shtml

      • kievite says:

        I already mentioned this in my post in the previous thread. The Anatomy of a Protest is available from YouTube:

        BTW, the fact that none of the people from USA embassy present on the March 5 meeting have had courage to identify themselves is really funny.

        • yalensis says:

          Yeah, that’s where the NTV video turns into real comedy. Those two shifty-looking Americans trying to slink away (around 28:00 minutes in). The Russian reporter attempts to question the chubby guy from the American Embassy, and he pretends to be a German: “Ich verstehe nichts…” Once again proof that McFaul’s Moscow Embassy is pure Amateur Hour.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            The man who cracked on that he was a German was positively identified as a US diplomat at the Moscow US embassy, which didn’t prevent dimwits in the British press trying to make out that the man in question must have been a German tourist/passer-by because he clearly answered in German, thereby proving yet again how dumb Russians are.

            Faultless logic! 😦

            Funny thing is though, I often say “Ich verstehe nicht” if approached by someone trying to bum money off me. It usually works, either because most Russians do not have the same command of German that they feel they have of English or because most Russians believe that Germans are all tight wads: probably the latter.

            In my experience, if “ich verstehe nicht” does not work, then a brusk “poshli otsyuda” usually does the trick.

            • yalensis says:

              When I lived in Petersburg, if approached by a bum or gypsy wanting $$$, I would pretend to be Estonian and not “govorit” so good.

              • marknesop says:

                When I lived in Vladivostok, if approached by anybody who looked like they planned to hit me up for $$$, I would pretend to be simultaneously insane, on fire and playing a Jimmy Page solo on air guitar. It worked quite well as long as I didn’t meet too many bums, because it takes a lot out of you.

  13. Moscow Exile says:

    The last link above says that there were “about a hundred arrests” and there were “several hundreds” of demonstrators there.

    I think that those numbers quoted above are what are termed in US vernacular English as “ball park figures”.
    🙂

  14. kievite says:

    Reading writings of people from Mark’s list really produces strong feeling that all those people suffer from (possible hidden) sense of inferiority.

    I have an impression on the personal level sincere and acute Russophobia (not to be mixed with Russophobia as a official line ) can be a compensation mechanism (classic Adorno). I am not talking here about ideological prostitution typical for MSM journalists.

    In this sense it is not that different from other national bigotry and the fact the USA/GB MSM serves as an Incubator of hatred toward Russia tells something very important about the US/GB government.

    I suspect that those who adopt Russophobia position not for money (let’s call them sincere Russophobe, and in Mark’s list they are minority) have a personality of sectants/fanatics in a very deep sense of this word. Or like Eric Hoffer called them “True Believers” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_Believer).

    For though ours is a godless age, it is the very opposite of irreligious. The true believer is everywhere on the march, and both by converting and antagonizing he is shaping the world in his own image. And whether we are to line up with him or against him, it is well that we should know all we can concerning his nature and potentialities.

    Very few entries in Mark’s list are people about which we can suspect that they are not profiting personally from Russiphobic nonsense they spew or profiting from it minimally. Some in a way sincere Russophob’s are almost extinct minority (but still can be found among Ukrainian nationalists😉. But what is common among all those people in the list is that they are far from the sharpest tools form the box. At best they are average (Belkovski might be an exception). So in a way we can view it as a survival tactic of people with mediocre talent in conditions of high competition. Similar displacement into obscure niches can be observed for mediocre people in other professions.

    • marknesop says:

      There’s something to what you say, although I’ve always thought of it as projection – attributing our own faults and shortcomings to others and thereby exorcising them from ourselves so that we can feel superior. But it seems significant to me that certain people are always nagging Russia about corruption when their own government is in bed with lobbyists to the tune of millions upon millions in wasted taxpayer money, for pet projects and earmarks that really benefit only a small and exclusive sector of society while increasing the politician’s cachet and personal power. Meanwhile, national institutions like education and infrastructure are crumbling and staggering under cut after cut. But if you mention the contrast, someone is sure to cry, “whataboutism!! That’s whataboutism!! Stay on the subject, we were talking about Russia, and you’re just trying to change the subject by bringing in other countries!! Is Russia corrupt, or is it not? Yes or No??” It reminds me how much I hate to even watch testimony in court under oath – smooth lawyers can obscure so much of a given story by preventing you from expanding on a particular point by not letting you say anything that might put it in a new light, and insisting you only answer yes or no.

  15. Moscow Exile says:

    “The only minus I saw is that people who marched for Prokhorov received money later. That’s bad. It throws us all in a bad light.”

    Sergei Udaltsov, 4th February 2012.

    Udaltsov was arrested on March 18th, 2012, for taking part in an unsanctioned protest against a documentary broadcast by NTV in which allegations were made that “opposition” protesters were given cash payments for taking part in demonstrations held recently in Moscow.

    See:
    http://www.station.ru/community/blogs/udaltsov/archive/2012/02/05/383486.aspx

    • marknesop says:

      That’s extremely interesting; as often transpires, there is some truth in accusations by the government despite instant ridicule by opposition leaders and the western press – can you believe what they’re saying? They’re saying we were paid to come out in opposition!! That’s so ridiculous, as if we would ever cheapen the purity of our cause; they must just be so desperate, trying to smear us that way. This just shows how much they fear us… And the western media cheerfully takes up the task of broadcasting the selfless and altruistic message.

      So much for the question if Prokhorov is serious about politics. He already has similar political views to Mitt Romney – if you want it, buy it.

      • Hunter says:

        “He already has similar political views to Mitt Romney – if you want it, buy it.”

        Well can you blame him?😛

        I’m sure if you got used to having a billion dollars and being able to buy just about anything you wanted, you would thing everything could be bought too.🙂 After all, what good is all that money if it can be used to buy what you want?

    • yalensis says:

      One of the comments to this article claims that the actor-casting website massovka-tv.ru was casting for actors for prior 2 weeks to attend Opp demos (playing the role of protesters).
      Unfortunately, I could not verify this claim, I checked the site, but their calendar of casting projects is now into March, and the prior month (February) stuff is already gone. I did notice, howver, that Ksenia Sobchak is casting for actors for her new project:, they must come for audition dressed in business attire:

      17 марта в ……”Прямой эфир” с Ксенией СОБЧАК
      метро Калужская сбор в центре зала.
      Деловой стиль одежды!
      С собой паспорт, мы вас встретим
      с табличкой желтого цвета Шипилова Наталья Михайловна .
      Звонить – записываться ненужно! До ….. – 400р
      Приходите сами на выше указанное место, приглашайте друзей!
      Не опаздывайте!!! Контактные телефоны: 8-916-311-55-70, 8-916-733-71-16

      Are you interested, Moscow Exile? Ever wanted to be in show business?
      .

  16. marknesop says:

    Has the time come ’round at last for the “Arab Spring” to spread to Saudi Arabia? Will the west let it happen? Gee, that’d be good for the price of oil (coincident with the U.S. tapping the Strategic Reserves for the second time in Obama’s presidency).

    If FT won’t let you see the story because you’re not a subscriber, use Cartman’s method; Google “Daring Saudi Tweets Fuel Political Debate”, bring it up in the Preview pane and then click on the story.

    Maybe Mr. Putin won’t have much trouble finding the money to cover his campaign promises after all.

    • Hunter says:

      I swear that the West seems to be involved in some kind of national-scale inter-governmental version of the Heaven’s Gate or Jonestown suicide pact. Or is that the ev0l and nefarious FSB, CCP and OPEC have infilitrated the top echelons of Western government with Manchurian candidates?😉

      Seriously though these moves make no sense. Cut Iran off from the world, push it into a corner and then what? Wait for it to lash out and send oil prices through the roof? So they can do what? Just bomb Iran and make its regime more popular with the citizenry as the average Iranian becomes angry at the West for bombing them back to the stone age?

      America is certainly not going to invade Iran and occupy Tehran so there won’t be any regime change unless the people themselves overthrow Iran and given Iran’s form of Islamic democracy that would be unlikely (sure the current lot might get voted out in addition to losing the support of the army, but they won’t be replaced by folks waving American flags and singing “Yankee doodle”). And with high oil prices, Iran is only going to get more money per barrel of the stuff while the West suffers.

      Supporting the rebels in Syria and Libya also makes little sense. In Tunisia it doesn’t seem to have made a difference and with Egypt there probably wasn’t much anyone (the West or the Rest) could have done anyway to prevent an Islamist majority in elections and the overthrow of Mubarak. Letting Saudi Arabia experience a Spring is a sure way to destablize the region and send oil prices to record highs and probably induce a global Depression in the long run. Maybe that’s the goal. But if so, why didn’t they just let the global economy tank the last time?

  17. Moscow Exile says:

    Dear Yalensis,

    No, I’m not interested. My wife, however, does go to such castings and, as a result, gets casual employment, usually playing roles in court room dramas, which are popular daytime TV viewing here on several TV channels.

    Well, it keeps the wolf away from the door – I suppose.

    I have been browsing through the sites linked in some of the comments made to that site which I linked above concerning Udaltsov’s Twiiter comment about Prokhorov supporters getting cash payment for supporting him. I found this Anti-Orangeist Committee site:

    http://anti-orange.ru/

    I also found this site:

    http://massovki.ru/

    in which there is a section “разбор полётов”, where I found this comment entitled ” ‘Venal People’ or ‘The Meeting of 4th February 2012’ “, In the comment there is written out this warning, allegedly given by the Anti-Orangeist Committee:

    Объявление группы:
    Уважаемые участники группы! Внимание!
    Активисты оранжевых движений рассылают участникам группы личные сообщения с предложением за деньги участвовать в нашем митинге. Это провокация! Не поддавайтесь на них и, по возможности, отправляйте жалобы на спам администрации Вконтакте.

    Translation:
    Group Announcement
    Dear Group Members, attention!
    Orange Movement activists are circulating personal messages to group members asking for money for participating in our rally. This is a provocation! Don’t fall for it and, if possible, submit complaints about spam to VKontakte administration.

    [VKontakte is a Russian social network – the biggest, I believe.]

    See:
    http://massovki.ru/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=75929

    The person that posted the Anti-Orange Committee warning announced at the beginning of his comment that he had found the VKontakte address of the official group organising the February 4th February rally at Poklone (http://vk.com/event34602633), but seems to think that the warning against the action of provocateurs is all a huge joke, for he adds:

    Ну что? Кто идет?
    Интересно как они хотят выловить всех этих людей…

    Translation:
    So what? Who’s going?
    I wonder how they want to catch all these people…

    He closes by giving his Vkontakte address. It seems he recruits those who have dreams of treading the boards.

  18. PvMikhail says:

    ok, guys, I know, this is a little offtopic. They main person, who should listen to this is A. Karlin, I know that he is interested in such things.

    this is LearnLiberty.org, libertarian propagandist site on youtube. They are full of sh!t, masters of distortion.

    this one lies about post-soviet economy, notice that the guy was Russian, turned to a paid propagandist…
    notice the split of communist countries for good boys: Poland and FREE AND NOT CORRUPT Azerbaijan (i could not watch this with straight face)
    and the bad boys: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan
    (Maybe Ukraine and Uzbekistan could be surprise for somebody. I think the main reason is Yanukovich in the case of Ukraine, and the Karimov’s reluctance to cooperate with americans back then in 2005 combined with a little trouble in Ferghana valley)

    I wonder why they “think” that Azeri growth is not the outcome of gaz wealth of Shah deniz field. I also wonder why they think that Azeribaijan (which has led by Aliyevs since 1991) has more freedom, than Russia, let alone Ukraine. But the message is clear.

    this one rejects the idea of peak oil:

    I think AK has some comments on this.

    I would be the happiest man, if we could destroy thier points one by one, and at least post some comments under their videos. Sorry for the off.

    • cartman says:

      I think if you compare the importance of SMEs in Russia and Azerbaijan, Russia compares very favorably. That section of the Russian economy is quite large, but hardly worth mentioning for AZ. Are Russians going to Azerbaijan to find work? No, but there are a lot of Azerbaijanis looking for work in Russia for remittances. So many, that if they were deported, the Aliyev regime would topple over.

      The oil money is clearly going to the Aliyev family, weapons for the next war with Armenia, and vanity projects such as the world’s tallest tower.

      • Leos Tomicek says:

        Plenty of Azeris are also to be found working in Turkey, and yet Turkey has no oil. I met one such type at a Bazaar in Eastern Turkey, and he told me that down there in his homeland, all the young go abroad.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        When, near Baumanskaya metro station, Moscow, a multistorey, designed and built in the USSR concrete market building collapsed a few years back, all the dead buried in the rubble were Azeris. There were very many of them.They were all illegals who slept behind the market stalls: that’s why they died when the roof collapsed in the small hours of the morning. I remember them shipping out the bodies from Moscow by train so that they could be interred in Azerbaijan.

        As regards Azeris working in Turkey, they are a Turkic people. A highly educated Azeri acquaintance of mine used to tell me that when he holidayed in Turkey each summer, the Turks used to ask him why he spoke such bad Turkish, to which question he always replied: “I’m not speaking bad Turkish: I’m speaking good Azeri!”

    • Thanks for the mention, but I have far too many things on my plate to be writing about than yet another libertarian quack.

  19. PvMikhail says:

    However this is what fully belongs here:

    http://en.rian.ru/society/20120319/172266525.html

    So opposition with the propaganda of “anti-deomcratic” state can go to hell.
    The situation has improved. People have spoken!

    • kirill says:

      Russians have never had a good grip on reality outside their borders. After spending a couple of decades in the west or more they would no longer give such nonsensical self-evaluations. If what Russia has now is not democracy, no such thing as democracy exists. Seems like the “better in the west” syndrome refuses to die and keeps channeling into an endless stream of self-underestimation and exaggeration of the negatives.

      But these sorts of polls are a rather silly too since no metric of democracy is offered. For people who put the west on a pedestal under communism and who have been bombarded by anti-Russian propaganda from outside and inside Russia’s borders since 1991, it is not surprising to see such results. But evaluating one’s own country with some sort of utopian metrics is nonsense as well.

      • marknesop says:

        Welcome, Kirill; I have been hoping you would stop by! Dreams die hard, indeed; for an example, look here, where United Russia’s popularity as a party is in steady decline.

        Is it? Not according to polls in the country where United Russia stands for election. I got the site from Anatoly’s blog. ER is up nearly 15% since December.

        • kirill says:

          I have been missing out on lots of board action, couldn’t resist🙂

          This point has been brought up in other posts here but should be highlighted: many of the anti-Putin, anti-UR protesters are around 20 years of age. So they were not even teenagers during Yeltsin’s rule. They rally around Nemtsov, a Yeltsin crony, and other neo-liberals who paint the 1990s as some sort of flowering of democracy in Russia (LOL) because they are ignorant. Putin and UR are victims of their own success. They have overseen the increase of monthly wages by about a factor 10 in dollar terms and the standard of living in Moscow, where most of the protesting was staged by far, is the highest. The malcontents do not look like people who are losing out from Russia’s prosperity. Their political extremism is obscene and a manifestation of the syndrome I mentioned before where delusional expectations are placed on the west and Russia can never live up to utopian standards.

        • Hunter says:

          But mark the first article contradicts itself with it’s own figures. It notes that the regime seems to have “got its clock cleaned” when United Russia’s candidate garnered 40.6% of the vote in local elections in March. But just later on in the article it noted that United Russia got 24.76% in the Duma elections in December. There’s that duality again! UR continues to slide in popularity even though it has experienced a jump in the poll ratings.

          Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m sure December 2011 came before March 2012 and that 40.6% is higher than 24.76%. Hence UR’s voting share went up by 15.84% since December (almost exactly matching the upsurge in support you noted from that polling site). Yet the author of the article doesn’t bring up this point which is in clear contradiction to the statements of two persons he quotes in the article.

          • marknesop says:

            Yes, in a way, I suppose, but the figure of 40.6% in this context refers to an election in a single district (mayoral, I believe, without checking). The author is quoting individuals who suggest the entire party’s ratings continue the downward trend from December, which is simply not happening. It’s not surprising that an “opposition” candidate here or there is going to beat the UR candidate based merely on superiority of individual campaign, local popularity or some other X factor. But it has nothing to do with the national popularity of the party on a national level.

            Western sources are determined to promote the fantasy of broad-based dissent using whatever tenuous examples they can find. This is why they sound so disappointed when sweeping revolution fails to materialize – it is their own fault for trying to make the points fit the curve.

            • Hunter says:

              Nope, the 40.6% refers to the same geographic area as the previous 24.76%. The 40.6% was for the mayoral election in Tolyatti and the 24.76% is how much UR polled in Tolyatti in December (they even mention that in the surrounding Samara Oblast, UR polled 39.37%).

              That said, you are right on the point about individual popularity versus party popularity. It is quite possible for an individual to be more or less popular than the party he/she belongs to.

              • marknesop says:

                Ahhhhh….then you are right; the figures are quite close to those for ER’s fortunes nationally, in which they were down in the 30’s in December and have since rebounded almost 15%. That was just laziness on my part. Anyway, yes; I’m sure liberal-advocacy sites would love to believe this is the thin edge of the wedge. But it isn’t.

  20. Moscow Exile says:

    This is off-topic as well, but I’ve just got to post it.

    Berezovsky has announced that at Easter he’s launching a political party that’s going to be called either (wait for it!):

    The Russian Christian Democratic Revolutionary Party

    or

    The Resurrection Party.

    In his blog, British citizen Berezovsky writes:

    “I propose calling our party the ‘Russian Christian Democratic Revolutionary Party’ or the ‘Resurrection Party’: ‘Christian’ because love and freedom are the foundation of our party ideology; ‘democratic’ because only a democratic political system can guarantee the realization of our ideology; ‘revolutionary’ because the transition from a godless mentality to a Christian one is a revolution; the ‘Resurrection Party’ because we shall announce the birth of the party at the time of the resurrection of Christ”.

    See:
    http://www.mk.ru/politics/article/2012/03/19/682942-na-pashu-berezovskiy-sozdast-partiyu.html

    Is this man serious?

    • cartman says:

      I am fairly certain that religion-based political parties are illegal in Russia.

    • yalensis says:

      Huh? I thought Berezovsky was Jewish. Did he get converted?
      And what makes him think Christ is going to resurrect on his political time table??
      Confused….

      • PvMikhail says:

        You know it correctly my friend. As the half of russophobes as well as traitors and oligarchs, he is jewish. However notice that as a jew you don’t have to follow any kind of religion. It can be an ethnicity, a mindset, a mentality. Believe me, he is not christian at all. This man does not respect neither God, nor people.

        What he needs, to clear his confusion, is a good beating by noble cossacks🙂

        • Dear Yalensis,

          You have made a very good point. Berezovsky is Jewish. Moreover he has obtained a British passport in a different Jewish name. He most definitely has not converted to Christianity. Were he to do so he would antagonise the Jewish community here in Britain. How he is going to reconcile the fact that he is Jewish with his plan to set up a Christian Democrat party beats me. Having said this nothing would surprise me coming from him.

      • Leos Tomicek says:

        I think he did make a conversion to Christianity in the nineties, for propaganda purposes probably. I do not think he ever was a practising Jew anyway. As far as I am concerned, I will not doubt his sincerity here, that’s between him and God to decide. As for what the public thinks about that, that’s another matter…

      • kirill says:

        Berezovsky is the clown who claimed he could make a monkey the president of Russia. This maggot has total contempt for Russians. That’s why the British establishment loves him. Another pirate to fight the Spanish, if you will.

  21. Moscow Exile says:

    I am sure this whole thing must have an ulterior motive if only because it is Berezovsky’s brainchild. I think the naming of the proposed party is intentionally highly cynical because everybody knows that Berezovsky is a Jew. Perhaps Berezovsky is hoping to play the anti-semite card somewhere along the line when word gets round that he is running a “Christian-Democratic” party. However, the fact that he says he intends to found a Russian political party at Easter, notwithstanding the fact that he is no longer a Russian citizen, that he does not reside in Russia, and that he is wanted on serious criminal charges in Russia, makes me think that his stated intent to found a Russian political party is a sham. He cannot really expect his party to become a legally registered one in Russia so why has has he announced his plans to do so in his blog?

    Berezovsky’s proposed political party must be some kind of provocation on his part, and the reaction to this provocation will enable him to make a move. But what kind of move?

    I have been wondering for some time now when the judgement concerning Berezovsky’s lengthy legal battle with Abramovich in London will be announced. I feel that judge is going to find against Berezovsky, and if that happens, he’s going to have to face immense legal costs. I also feel that he has been viewed for a long time as an embarrassment to different UK governments. Has this proposed party of his anything to do wih all of this, I wonder?

    • marknesop says:

      In Berezovsky’s imagination, Berezovsky is very clever and cunning. But in reality he is fairly ordinary, and would have lived an unremarkable life had he not been stinking rich. He had audacity and boldness when he needed it to make his fortune, and most everything he’s done since has been largely luck. He would have gone down a dozen times by now for his part in financing the Orange Revolution or for his part in Litvinenko’s death, or any of a dozen other schemes, if the British government did not shield him.

      But the political party thing is just crazy enough that it might make a believer out of me. We’ll see. I daresay his purpose will be revealed soon.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I do believe that the old argument that the British government does not shield him, that it is the British judiciary that determined whether his application for political asylum was valid, and valid it shall remain until overturned by another judgement, is wearing rather thin. It is true that after having arrived in the UK, Berezovsky was told to leave on the expiry of the validity of his visa, but the “businessman” then played his my-life-is-in-danger-in-Russia card and successfully appealed for political asylum in 2003. When later he started shouting his mouth off as regards his organizing the overthrow of the Russian government, the UK foreign minister at the time gave him a “stern warning”, threatening him with deportation. He’s still there though, in Merry England, where, clearly, he has proven to be a useful tool for the British secret service in the Litvinenko case and in both his and successful British government activities in besmirching the Russian state in general and Vladimir Putin in particular, whilst ably abetted by Russian traitor Gordievsky, the BBC, Scotland Yard and the British Crown Prosecution Service.

    • kirill says:

      The whole concept of this criminal organizing anything in Russia is absurd. Seriously. Ever hear of some convicted felon setting up a party in the west? Berezovsky would be doing hard time if he was in Russia.

  22. Moscow Exile says:

    Over 10 years ago I worked with two Russian citizens who had both been very well acquainted with Berezovsky and who both intensley disliked him. One was a mathematician; the other had formerly been employed by the TV channel ORT when Berezovsky controlled it.

    The mathematician once told me that he dilsliked Berezovsky because he was absolutely immoral. I asked him whether by that he meant that Berezovsky was amoral, that he had no moral values, whereupon my interlocutor replied that on the contrary, Berezovsky could differentiate between right or wrong, but such judgements played no role whatsoever in his sole objective, namely to amass wealth and enjoy the power that was concomitant with it. I could never find out why the other man disliked Berezovsky so much, but his wife once told me that she would greatly fear the consequences should her husband ever meet him again.

    • marknesop says:

      That’s pretty much the definition of a sociopath; able to tell the difference between right and wrong, but completely unaffected by either in decision-making.

      I personally have nothing against Berezovsky – indeed, I know nothing of him except what I read – except for his constant inveighing against Putin in an effort to bring him down. And that in turn is not because of love for Putin, but because I perceive that would be contrary to the best interests of the Russian people.

      • kirill says:

        I recommend the book “Godfather of the Kremlin” by Paul Khlebnikov. In my opinion Khlebnikov paid with his life for publishing this book. Berezovsky is Russia’s Al Capone but on a much larger scale. He ran his racket out of the Kremlin and not just some city.

        Berezovsky was involved in setting up the 1996 Chechnya war and the botched operation by his puppet Yeltsin. Berezovsky thought he would be king maker forever. But Putin ruined his plans. Being the gangster parasite that Berezovsky is, his vendetta against Putin is visceral.

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