Russia at the WTO Gate: Locking the Status of a Raw-Materials Supplier, or Striding Toward a Modern Economy?

Uncle Volodya says,”Know why God created trade analysts? To make weather forecasters look good.”

Once again, kovane has been busy in his secret lair, this time researching and understanding trade relations, so you won’t have to. I’m being flippant because it’s all I know, but I have to say it is a very good primer on international trade relationships. It makes them easy to understand, which is a remarkable achievement because there’s a lot more to it than you might think, and there are strong opinions on both sides – some of them, unfortunately, accompanied by zero knowledge. I can’t promise this will make you an expert, but I think I can safely say you’ll come away at the end of it knowing a good deal more than you did at the beginning. Kovane?

Hello, everyone. On 23 July 2012, Russia at long last notified the World Trade Organization about the ratification of accession protocol. That officially means that after 30 days Russia will become a member – the 18-year journey is coming to an end.  But the sentiments in Russia are very far from unanimous support. Earlier, over 130 MPs filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court, contesting its accordance with Russian law. Polls data also show substantial ambivalence – 32% believe that the entry will be beneficial for Russia, and 18%, harmful.

The resulting change in tariffs and legislation will directly affect almost every Russian company and the economy as a whole. Some sectors will gain billions of dollars, others will lose even more. And as with all matters concerning such amounts of money, there’s no shortage of lobbying, hysterical advertorials and misinformation. These disagreements by themselves are nothing new – it’s the same old protectionism vs free trade dispute dating back centuries. In order to learn who supports or opposes the entry and why, a clear look at the inner workings of the WTO is required.

The precursor of the WTO came into existence during the post-war overhaul of international economic relations, along with the IMF and the World Bank.  The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was initially intended only as a stepping stone to the functioning organization, provided the regulation of international trade for almost 50 years. In 1994, it formed the core of the newly established WTO. What gave rise to GATT was a rethink of the Great Depression and reasons behind it. During its worst years, governments tended to raise tariffs in order to protect the domestic industry. This caused reciprocal measures from other countries, thus aggravating the world crisis.

The WTO’s stated goal is boosting the global economy by lowering trade barriers, thus helping poorer countries to develop their economies through export growth. It is achieved through a number of agreements which all the members are bound by. They set rules for international trade and intellectual property, define methods for resolving disputes, and encourage countries to adopt clear and unified laws. Through the agreements the WTO implements basic principles that lie at the foundation of trade between members.

The principle of most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment means that all members of the WTO can’t normally discriminate against their trading partners. Thus, any favourable trading condition granted to one country must be provided for all other members as well. The principle of national treatment obliges countries to treat imported and local goods and services equally. The principle of transparency ensures that every member maintains institutions that publish their trade regulations, presents them for review and notifies the WTO about any changes. And the principle of reciprocity prevents new members from getting all the advantages from the MFN status without making reciprocal concessions in tariffs and regulations. The list of these concessions is drawn up during the accession procedure as a result of negotiating with every interested party. All commitments made by a new member are binding in nature – the country can’t normally raise tariffs beyond the agreed level or has to negotiate compensation with its trading partners. Thus, the conditions of accession greatly differ from country to country depending on the outcome of the initial negotiations.

The WTO agreements go much further than that, of course, and deal in detail with many other aspects of international trade. Particularly, exceptions for trade unions – thus, the WTO entry is not an obstacle for the EurAsEC. Special measures for protecting domestic industry in case there is evidence that imports are actively harming it, like the temporary steel tariff the USA imposed in 2002. Clear requirements for non-tariffs limitations – technical or sanitary – that a country can place on imports. Any such limitations that don’t conform to international standards and appear to be imposed only to provide unfair advantage to domestic industry can be contested in the WTO dispute settlement system. Bad, very bad news for Gennadiy Onishchenko, indeed. Also the WTO differentiates between developed, developing and least-developed countries and practices a more lenient approach to economically weaker countries.

The basic premise of the WTO is David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage , which is almost 200 years old. It states that a country should specialize in producing those goods and services for which it has a relative cost advantage compared to other countries, export a portion of those goods and services, and use the proceeds from those exports to import goods and services for which it has a relative cost disadvantage. It’s certainly true – most economics textbooks usually prove it in the first hundred pages, and Nobel Laureate Samuelson hailed it as “both true and non-trivial”. But as with all assumptions, it ignores so many complex issues that it at times seems hardly relevant to the real world.

First of all, it treats comparative advantage as something inherent, set in stone. But it’s clearly not. China was known as a producer of cheap, shoddy goods and poorly-made knock-offs just two decades ago. But nowadays, while much of it still applies, most major companies don’t hesitate to locate factories there. So what happened? Obviously, China refused to embrace the comparative advantage of the time, and through active economic policy, changed it. Aggressive protectionism was its key element, following in the footsteps of the post-war Japan and Asian Tigers. Investment in education, the fixed yuan rate, the system of government procurement and the active support of small business created a favourable environment for local entrepreneurs and foreign investors. Owing to these measures, local companies were able to hold or even expand their markets, refine their technological process and implement staff training programs. And when China entered the WTO in 2001 they were not crushed by lower trade tariffs, but benefited from it. The results are pretty clear – the Chinese are much better off now than then.

Another consideration is the completely different nature of markets for different goods and services. For example, RosAtom holds the first place in the number of nuclear plants being constructed abroad and 40% of the world uranium enrichment market. With only one major competitor, Rosatom has considerable freedom in its price policy, and obviously gets extra profit from that. Considering the almost impenetrable entry barriers that exist in this business, it’s safe to say that the situation is very unlikely to change in the near future, and RosAtom will hold its superior market position. Meanwhile, it provides thousands of high-tech and well-paid (one would hope) jobs for Russians. A similar situation exists in the world arms industry, where Russia dominates the market along with the USA. Maybe the Russians have some kind of special knack for weapons and nuclear technology? While many jokes say so, the reason for these successes is quite simple. The USSR was among pioneers in the respective technologies and had to stay competitive there, as opposed to many other sectors. The same story of success applies to many Western companies in other sectors.

On the other hand, developing economies whose trade barriers have been breached by the WTO find themselves in a serious predicament. Having no chance whatsoever to compete with transnational corporations in most sectors, they are stuck with the “comparative advantage” imposed by the global market. The primary sector and labour-intensive manufacturing are basically their only options. And the market for those products is vastly different than the one RosAtom operates in. The multitude of producers makes it as close to perfect competition as it’s possible, meaning that the profit margin is quite slim.  In addition, the crippling feature of the primary sector is costs growing with the total output, as opposed to manufacturing, where costs fall due to the effect of scale. But this turns out to be the least of their woes.

The UNCTAD Trade and Development Report for 2002 shows that the massive growth in exports has not added significantly to developing countries’ income. The reason behind this is that developing countries lack technologies and money to develop their resources or build factories, and have to seek external help. The intense competition for FDI leads to a weakened bargaining position for them and, in the end, developing countries compete with each other on the basis of wage levels and special preferences for foreign companies. Moreover, profits from these sectors tend to flee the country as further investment opportunities are few.

There is another significant advantage that economies with high-tech sectors have. Technologies and specialists from them tend to flow into other sectors, increasing productivity or, sometimes, creating completely new products. For example, having a cutting-edge electronic industry can contribute to such a traditional sector as agriculture. Devices for soil-testing and complex sensors still look like an oddity, but more and more farmers adopt them into their day-to-day operations. On the other hand, biotechnology promises to revolutionize modern agriculture, and the lion’s share of profits from that will be reaped by countries that are leaders in that area. Not by ones with sweatshops and open-pit mining.

Yet another obstacle for developing countries is the WTO TRIPS agreement, regulating intellectual property rights. It is best exemplified by India’s pharmaceutical industry. In the 1970’s, the country adopted a quite lax patent law which allows generic medicines to be marketed there even if the product remains under patent protection. As a result, the burgeoning pharma industry now employs hundreds of thousands of people and makes affordable drugs for the poverty-stricken population. Since its accession to the WTO, India came under growing pressure to change the law. Moreover, when an Indian company launched a project for exporting a cheap AIDS drug to Africa, the USA intervened and threatened sanctions. Also, China’s frivolous treatment of intellectual property is a kind of open secret even today, so such a policy is practically a staple of successful catching-up development. Acknowledging the need for patent legislation, nevertheless, it’s obvious that the TRIPS only widens the already bottomless chasm between poor and rich countries.

All that being said, it’s extremely easy to portray the WTO as an agent of enslavement and colonialism, but that would be a gross oversimplification of the complex reality. However ugly some facets of globalization can be, sweatshops that are opened in third-world countries don’t lack workers. A 14-hour workday, the virtual absence of safety standards and child labour are surely a much better prospect than malnutrition, illness and death. No amount of tariff barriers alone can lift a country from poverty; the only way out is a sound economic policy over a period of several decades. And that task is a tall order for developing countries with weak government institutes, low human capital and squabbling elites. It is no coincidence that most instances of successful catching-up development occurred during the reign of authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regimes. The irremovable Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, Gaullism in France, and the two-decade dominance of the Christian Democratic Union in post-war West Germany – the list goes on and on.

Protective trade tariffs can be a boon or a bane, depending on the situation. Provided that they are applied in a timely fashion to sectors that have a potential to become competitive, tariffs give local companies both time and money in order to adapt to the world market. In time, the tariffs have to be gradually lifted, or the companies would have little incentive to develop. Consequently, the correct use of such a policy can bring a country’s level of industrial development to a completely new level. However, tariffs and other protectionist measures can be easily abused, especially where local businesses have excessive lobbying power. If, hypothetically, some clever entrepreneur opened a banana farm in Chukotka and managed to lobby a very high tariff on imported bananas under the slogan “Buy Russian!”, he could successfully compete with Ecuador and Philippines on the local market. But consumers would end up paying exorbitant prices for nothing. It’s obvious that no matter how much time the farm would have, it would never bring the costs down enough to an acceptable level. In essence, protective tariffs are nothing more than a transfer of money from customers to producers, and any government should be very careful when using them. History has demonstrated the perils of economic isolation countless times, and to forget it for former citizens of the USSR is doubly a sin.

What is extremely baffling about Russia’s accession is the way the government covered it. Such an important and controversial event that will affect the vital interests of virtually every citizen is routinely treated as a no-brainer. Details about the course of negotiations itself hardly got to the media, and in the end the government couldn’t allocate money to translate the entry conditions into Russian. As a result, they appeared as late as May of 2012, a whole 5 months since Russia’s application was approved.. It’s very hard to call such coverage something other than abysmal – many small and medium companies were faced with them as a fait accompli, without being able to express their views.  That, weak awareness of WTO rules even in business circles and the drastic lack of specialists on them gave rise to a number of bogeyman myths.

Unfortunately, arguments usually cited in support are of a declarative nature, such as “the WTO is an objective need”, “the WTO will bring more foreign investments”, etc.  Even Putin, who is rarely at a loss for words, fudged the direct question about what sectors will benefit from the WTO directly, referring to some “majority of experts”. A more or less good explanation was provided by Maxim Medvedkov, the head of Russia’s negotiation team, in his article.

According to the data of another poll, people who support the KPRF tend to view the WTO entry as harmful to the interests of Russia, while those who sympathize with other parties are more favourable to it. During the ratification in the Duma, the KPRF, the LDPR and “Just Russia” voted against it, representatives of the same parties disputed it in the Constitutional Court. Even more vocal in their opposition are sundry left political figures and activists – Delyagin, Kagarlitsky, Kurginyan, who don’t hold back on black paint when drawing the future of Russia in the WTO.

But however fiery the rhetoric of the opponents or however unconvincing the arguments of the supporters are, they are not a substitute for a detailed analysis. Fortunately, some interesting reports and resources are available as well, and they can help to shed light on this complex issue. A pro-WTO site, maintained by the Higher School of Economics – the true alma-mater of the liberal thought in Russia. The pro-WTO site of the working group on the WTO accession under the Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists. And two anti-WTO sites: WTO-inform and stop-WTO. The World Bank prepared a research paper at the request of the Russian government to assess the potential impact of Russia’s accession to the WTO. The Accounting Chamber provided an informative report analyzing possible measures for increasing effectiveness of trade regulations. Two comprehensive papers are of a particular interest – “The economic consequences of Russia’s WTO accession” and “The Industry analysis of Russia’s WTO accession”. Although both the papers are outdated, many points are still relevant today.

Even a cursory glance at the most radical arguments (like the Kurginyan center’s report) raised by the opponents causes a slight feeling of perplexity. First of all, the ranks of WTO members include 156 countries which control around 95% of world trade (with Russia’s membership). Secondly, the Marrakech Accords stipulate a withdrawal procedure, but so far no countries have opted for that path. So, should Russia find the economic consequences of the WTO membership completely unacceptable, it can always leave the organization. In general, it’s still unclear how such a harmful organization (according to Kurginyan) manages to stay so popular.

The number of inaccuracies and outright mistakes in the report completely distorts the perception of the WTO that the reader might get. Several references suggesting that the WTO will force on Russia some agreements that undermine its sovereignty or will deprive it of rights on natural resources run completely counter to the accepted rules of the WTO. All decisions are made in fact by a consensus of all members, and Russia will be bound only by those agreements that it accepted before the accession. The consensus principle applies even to the Dispute Settlement Body. A country can refuse to implement a ruling and then the DSB will try to negotiate compensation or will set the criteria for retaliation. This practice is unfortunately often abused by strong countries like the US, as was the case with the cotton subsidies. And moreover, it can’t veto a parliament’s or a government’s decision.

Considering the economic impact of the WTO on Russia, it is worth noting that its level of import tariffs is not very high to begin with. In addition to that, high transportation costs form natural trade barriers. But what’s much more important is the sad state of the Russian customs service. In 2011 Medvedev called the level of corruption in customs “exorbitant”, and he’s not mistaken (1,2). Unfortunately, smuggling and understating customs value are part and parcel of importing operations and that has a significant effect on Russian companies. In effect, for many markets effective tariff rate is much lower that the official rate, and Russian companies have been competing with imported goods on very unfavourable terms. While to expect that the WTO magically eliminates corruption in the customs service is naïve at best, implementation of WTO international practices can be a stimulus for change.

As it has been already noted, entry conditions vary greatly from country to country, and the effect of WTO membership mostly hinges on them. Russia has spent 18 years on negotiations, after all, and one would expect extremely favourable conditions, would one not? Well, comparing them (a short overview, a very detailed report) to those of other countries, they are much better than entry conditions of developed countries, but fall short of the protection level enjoyed by other BRICS members. Russia has to lower its average tariff rate from the present level of 10% to 7.8% by 2018. China, for example, is bound by an average tariff ceiling of 10.4%, Brazil 10.9%. Also, Russia managed to uphold some specific law and practices like internal gas pricing, the high export tariff on oil and gas and limitations on foreign presence in some sectors.

Kommersant prepared an excellent infochart demonstrating what changes lie ahead for different categories of goods and services. When assessing the impact of the WTO on a particular industry, both direct and indirect effects should be factored in. If, for example, a company gets some advantageous conditions, but the whole economy tanks, the total effect could vary. If the company derives most of its profit from export, then the advantage will be magnified, due to the falling costs and devaluing currency.  In case of orientation toward the internal market, the effect would be sharply negative. Also, it is important to take into consideration the sector cost level. By doing so, it’s possible to separate the wheat from the chaff – companies that will go below the break-even point from companies that are taking advantage of the high tariff barrier and are able to compete with imports on more even terms.

So what consequences will the WTO membership bring? The immediate and most obvious one is the decline in budget revenues due to the cuts in trade tariffs. The ministry of economic development’s estimates are 188 billion rubles in 2013 and 257 billion rubles in 2014. It’s not hard to guess where all that money will go – importers and trade chains. They are among the biggest winners of the WTO entry. Considering the relatively low level of competition, it’s safe to assume that consumers will see only a portion of this money and definitely not immediately.

The much-touted access to the WTO dispute settlement system that Russian companies will get is not likely to resolve all discriminatory measures against some products. The estimates for their extent range within $2-2.5 billion. Those among the most aggrieved are steel and parts of chemical industries. They are also considered the main force behind lobbying the WTO entry. The problem of discrimination was especially acute in the beginning of the 2000’s, but steel companies mostly found a way to circumvent those barriers. But having an official tool to deal with discrimination is undoubtedly very useful for any company planning on entering the global market.

And that’s it for the list of sectors that stand to gain something from the WTO directly. The explanation for that is very simple – the disappointing structure of the Russian export. More than 80% of it is comprised of natural resources, raw materials and production of low processing level. Such categories of goods are rarely discriminated against. More than that, developed economies are interested in their continuous flow, as without raw materials the factories and plants stop, and rearranging supply lines can be a tedious and costly process. The conventional wisdom is that the WTO is an organization for advancing production with high added value. Even the most optimistic experts acknowledge that the Russian government’s best bet is the expected improvement of laws and investment climate. Needless to say, this is a lot of ifs and maybes.

The main cash cow of the Russian budget – the oil and gas industry – will remain largely unaffected by the WTO membership. Gazprom may benefit from the accelerated leveling of internal gas prices for industrial customers, while the whole industry will be able to import machinery at lower prices due to the import tariff cut. Roughly the same applies to the energy sector. The extent of import-export operations there is insignificant, while the purchase of equipment comprises a hefty portion of the costs.

The market of financial services also expects some changes. The Russian negotiators managed to defend the limitation on foreign capital in the banking sector. Foreign banks will be still forbidden from opening branches in Russia. Their only option is a subsidiary bank, with a 50% limit on total participation of foreign capital in the banking system. The sector could use a little competition – long-term interest rates remain prohibitive and seriously limit investment options for Russian companies. Foreign insurance companies will be allowed to open branches after 9 years from accession. The telecommunication sector will be also opened for foreign investments – the existing limitations will be lifted.

Earlier, a group of companies addressed a collective letter to the government asking to revise the entry conditions. The make-up of signatories broadly reflects the sectors of the Russian economy for whom the WTO membership can bring only trouble. That’s various companies of mechanical engineering, especially producers of agriculture machinery, automotive industry, light industry, parts of the chemical industry oriented to the internal market, agriculture and food-processing industry. Babkin, the chairman of the RosAgroMash association, issued a sobering analysis of their plight. While far from being an impartial observer, he nevertheless highlights important points.

Sectors that are supposed to represent the modernization campaign so much extolled by the Russian government now face sharp reduction of import tariffs, loss of markets and, worse of all, uncertainty. The heavy mechanical engineering industry is plagued by a 50% degree of equipment wear, low workload and a 60% prevalence of imports. Even the delayed tariff reduction will be a serious blow to the industry, and WTO regulations will prevent the state from implementing direct protectionist measures. Taking into account a large number of companies that operated at a loss in 2009, the damage may be critical for the industry.

Very similar troubles will be experienced by the producers of agricultural machinery. With very strong foreign competition, imports constituted more than 50%. But in 2009, the government introduced a subsidized loan program for domestic machinery and raised the tariff from 5% to 15%. That and the devalued ruble resulted in the sharp drop in imports. The WTO accession will bring an end to this window of opportunity for the industry – the tariff is to be lowered back to 5%, and the program doesn’t conform to WTO practices.

For light industry, the defining characteristic is the extremely high level of counterfeit production – its share is estimated at 42% of the market . So even the appreciable decrease in the tariff on clothing – from 10-20% to 5-7% – and textiles won’t change the balance in any meaningful way. Only the most efficient companies were able to compete with “grey” imports before, and they probably will be able to do so after the WTO accession. Although for certain companies, it could become a definite turn for the worse.  The main potential loss is in the increased difficulty of realizing any state development programs.

The most controversial debates are raging about the agricultural sector. WTO opponents predict mass impoverishment, famines and Russia at the whim of Western capitalists. Traditionally, WTO negotiations on agriculture remain one of the most time-consuming and arduous parts. And Russia’s party managed to defend the existing quotas on pork, beef and chicken meat, although on worse terms. The quota sizes are to be changed, and tariffs both inside and outside the quotas lowered. The expected decrease of the tariff on live pigs from 40% to 5% will also appreciably affect the pork market. The tariffs on dairy products, cereal crops and fish will be lowered as well.

All this change will certainly put extra pressure on agriculture producers, and will affect the profitability of existing and planned projects. While large agribusiness will be able to withstand it, the WTO will push many small farmers past the breaking point. And their future will be determined by how well the state will soften the blow. Many existing state support measures and benefits will be overhauled in accordance with the binding concessions. In particular, Fertilizer pricing for farmers and preferential VAT tax rate will be reformed in the following years.

The total trade distorting agricultural support will be limited to $9 billion in 2013 and will be gradually reduced to $4.4 billion by 2018. The final level was determined by the average support for the several years preceding the WTO accession, that’s a standard WTO practice. At the same, time critics point out the absolutely incomparable level of support afforded by the EU, the US, China, Brazil and Russia. France alone provides about $15 billion to its farmers. The above level of support excludes indirect support defined by the WTO’s “green box policies” – they can be used without any limitation. Examples are research funding, environmental programs, disaster relief and infrastructure development.

Another sensitive issue for the Russian government during the negotiations was the automotive industry. Due to the existing obligations to foreign investors, Russia bargained for a prolonged transitional period. The final agreement includes the gradual reduction of the tariff from the present 30% to 15% in 2017. An especially hard hit awaits producers of commercial vehicles – the tariff on new trucks  will be reduced from 25% to 15%, and an even more dangerous threat presents in the potential inflow of used ones.  KAMAZ expects nothing positive from those measures and is already tightening its belt. Also, many initiatives such as the state procurement of only Russian-made cars will become a thing of the past.

The WTO accession promises no easy life for the aircraft industry as well. The tariff on airliners will go down from 20% to 7.5%, although many exceptions to the tariff were already in effect. The share of Russia-produced aircraft is very low – around 10% – and without state support the whole industry is doomed. Although the lowered tariffs on aircraft mean lower costs for airlines, the biggest one, Aeroflot, will probably lose the rights on flight royalties. According to Vedomosti, in 2010 they amounted to $117 million, or around 17% of Aeroflot’s EBIDTA. It’s highly unlikely that the state will throw its flagship carrier to the wolves, and it will probably come up with some compensatory measures.

Despite what many publications in the Russian media say, the WTO doesn’t prohibit all kinds of state support and subsidies. In fact, according to the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, only two narrow types of subsidies are explicitly forbidden – those that are contingent on export performance or import substitution. Most of other subsidies fall in the “actionable” category. That means that other WTO members whose economies experience a negative effect due to some country’s subsidy can challenge it in the Dispute Settlement System and negotiate compensation or implement a countervailing measure. The need to provide the proof of negative effect lies with the complaining member, and at times it can be a very time-consuming and difficult endeavor.

Probably, one of the most inspiring examples of successful subsidy application is the history of Airbus. In the 60’s, when American producers dominated the market, Germany and France joined forces to create Airbus. Through various state support measures, subtle or not, the consortium managed to survive the fierce competition and now equally shares the large aircraft market with Boeing. Meanwhile, Airbus employs 55,000 well-paid workers.

For Russia, a well thought-out system of subsidies can become the primary tool of the state-wide economic policy. The fact that so few sectors actually stand to gain something from the WTO also means that any countervailing measures can’t hurt Russia’s economy much. And therefore, the government can apply subsidies without looking back on possible retaliation from other countries. The main difficulty is in converting the existing state support measures in accordance with the WTO agreement without harming the affected sectors. And of course, the priority is to create such a transparent system of subsidies, so companies would receive strictly defined amounts of money for specific goals. Otherwise, any good undertaking will turn into an endless bonanza of state money for well-connected companies.

Another important factor in the mechanism of international trade is the interaction between a country’s balance of payment and  exchange rate. Even in the case of total absence of tariff barriers, the growth of imports is checked by the exchange rate. If the import growth is not balanced out by an equal growth of export or inflow of capital, the country will simply lack foreign currency, and its national currency will depreciate. Thus, any imported goods will become more expensive for local customers, and imports will stop growing. In effect, the exchange rate acts as a trade barrier. For example, depreciation of the ruble by 1% is equivalent to a growth of all trade tariffs by 0.92%.

Russia doesn’t have such a luxury as a fixed exchange rate, which the Chinese use. It makes it possible to keep the Yuan severely undervalued, thus giving the Chinese economy a strong level of protection. But the Russian government can also control the inflow of foreign currency in the country, albeit indirectly. By taxing the export of oil and natural gas and levying an export tariff on it, the government is keeping the ruble undervalued, directing part of the foreign currency into the country’s reserves. That’s why both China and Russia have such a high level of international reserves. According to the Economist’s Big Mac index, the ruble is 43% underestimated. Due to the obligation to lower export tariffs on many goods, in the future the tax on natural resources must become one of the primary tools in protecting the economy. Simultaneously, it will serve as a limitation on undesirable exports and an instrument for keeping  a favourable exchange rate. The problem here is the external debt of the Russian economy. Although its level is relatively low – 33% of GDP, China maintains it at 5%, Brazil 20%, India 22%. Any devaluation of the ruble will fall as a great weight on companies which borrowed money abroad.

Unfortunately, Russia doesn’t utilize to a great extent export support measures that don’t distort trade and therefore are allowed by the WTO. State export guarantees, insurance and credit are essential in advancing domestic goods on the global market nowadays, and Russia has only begun to master such instruments. In 2007, only 2 guarantees were issued to the amount of $119 million – that’s 11.9% of the total planned budget. Such a level is absolutely incomparable with the support provided by other countries, and should be addressed in the nearest future. Modern global competition also requires a close interaction between exporters, state agencies and trade missions, and Russia has much to learn in that area as well.

On the whole, the WTO makes a point of providing enough measures to protect the national economy, Undoubtedly, the profitability of many Russian companies will be negatively affected by the more open trade barriers. And it’s really up to the government if it will be able to effectively use them. However, the consistency of Russia’s economic policy doesn’t inspire optimism. The most indicting evidence of that is, probably, development strategies of various sectors, adopted in 2010. The WTO is not mentioned even once there, and many state support programs described there require revisiting. That basically means that in 2010 the Ministry of Industry and Trade had no idea about the state of WTO negotiations. Which is rather telling. A lot of concern is caused by Russia’s inexperience in dealing with the WTO dispute settlement system. An active implementation of state support measures will certainly be met with a stream of lawsuits. And the damage from the inept handling of them can be overwhelming.

The worst case scenario, many of Babkin’s gloomy prediction will come true. If the government fails to organize coordination with the sectors of economy that are in danger and back out of most of the state support programs, bankruptcy and economic recessions awaits many companies. Although the 4.4 million potential job loss voiced in the report seems a bit overboard, even half of that would cause a heretofore-unseen wave of social unrest. The remains of the high-tech industry will be swept away during the course of the transitional period and Russia will firmly become solely a supplier of raw materials.

However, this is a highly unlikely scenario. The Russian government seems to be full of resolve to use all instruments provided by the WTO in order to protect the economy. Moreover, recalling Pikalevo and the protracted support of AvtoVAZ that seemed redundant at the time, it is evident that true social unrest is one of few things that the government is very wary of. And the choice between a membership in the WTO and the potential backlash against poor economic performance is not a remotely real one, considering how only a few years Russia nonchalantly demonstrated that it could do without the WTO just fine. As described before, the state has a lot of leeway in using even the most outrageous support programs, and it has both money and incentive to do so.

The optimistic scenario, hailed by liberal economists, proclaims almost immediate benefits for everyone. Consumer will get lower prices on a wide range of goods, businesses will become more integrated into the world economy, and the WTO will improve Russia’s law system and investment climate. The World Bank’s research forecasts a gain of 3.3% of GDP in the medium term, inflow of FDI and the reduced cost of business services. Moreover, according to the report, 99.9 percent of the households will gain from 2 percent to 25 percent of their household income, poor households slightly more than rich ones. The influence of the WTO on particular industries is presented here.

This scenario also stirs questions. The experience of Ukraine and Georgia shows that any expectation of significant price reduction is somewhat inflated. As a consequence, the described gain of households will be significantly lower. The inflow of FDI due to the lowered administrative barriers is also a very bold assumption. The WTO accession is no magic elixir to such deeply-entrenched ills of the Russian economy. And Russia is certainly not the first choice of foreign investors. But the hope for improvement in the law system is not baseless, and Russia certainly could use it, especially in the customs code and accounting.

The WTO entry is a necessary step for any country aspiring to develop a modern economy, however the timing and conditions leave much to be desired. The problems encountered by Ukraine highlight the dangers of a rash decision to seek membership in the WTO no matter the cost and an inconsistent economic policy. But the Russian government has all means to deal with the challenges of a more open economy. And the way it will carry out the complete revamping of the economic policy will be a litmus test for the ability of Putin’s Administration to modernize the economy. However, the price of error here is very high, and all that remains for the common voter is to wait and watch.

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549 Responses to Russia at the WTO Gate: Locking the Status of a Raw-Materials Supplier, or Striding Toward a Modern Economy?

  1. cartman says:

    It seems that in Germany you can also get long sentences for what Pussy Riot did in the church. It would be easier to make a list of countries in Europe that do not have these laws. I kind of hope they get prison sentences. If the judge had succumbed to pressure, there could be a rash of incidents like these (for example, the blonde who chopped down the cross with a chainsaw). Then it is taken for granted that the law is also supposed to protect churches as well. Since churches are the sole target (we have yet to see anything similar in mosques or synagogues) this could easily qualify as a hate crime.

    • Misha says:

      Migranyan’s National Interest article (which I linked at this thread) brings up that point on mosques and synagogues.

      This occurrence has the making for a propaganda talking point along the lines of comparing the legal ruling against these protestors in a German church versus Pussy Riot (PR). Never mind the content of PR was more provocative than the German example – while also keeping in mind the restriction and/or prosecution of views in Great Britain and Canada as discussed at this thread.

      Of possible interest, this article contrasts from the anti-Serb propaganda regularly spewed at by Michael Dobbs:

      Excerpt –

      “The federation was from the start an unhappy marriage of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and Croats; the latter were ambivalent about being joined to the Bosniaks, whom they fought a nasty war against in 1993-1994 (one of the underreported aspects of the conflict since it did not easily fit the CNN version of events).”


      The reason given for underreported applies in some other instances.

      An additional point to the above excerpted notes that the Bosnian Civil War included instances of Serb-Croat cooperation against Muslim forces allied to Alija Izetbegovic. This Serb-Croat cooperation included Muslims allied to Fikret Abdic.

    • Misha says:

      Another counter to the kind of former Yugosaav (as well as former Soviet) commentary typically evident at some venues including RFE/RL and

  2. AK says:

    So peter, as you seem to have such strong views on Mercouris’ work on PR, what is your interpretation?

    Are they guilty? What are they guilty of? Why are they not guilty of 213 (if that is your opinion)? In what way does does what happened to them in Russia fundamentally differ from what would have happened to them in France, Italy, Poland, Germany, the UK, or the US?

    • I too would be interested to know Peter’s view.

      In the meantime here is an interesting article by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian which slams the hypocrisy of western reporting about the Pussy Riot case.

      • kirill says:

        The article is good until it gets to:

        “There is of course a difference between the liberties enjoyed in most western democracies and the cruder jurisprudence of modern Russia, China and much of the Muslim world.”

        LOLWOT. So Russia is not better than China and Saudi Arabia in terms of political and personal freedom? I am sorry but this is insane drivel. I guess nothing can be published in the western “free” media that does not cross the line into outright lying when it comes to Russia. I have noticed this pattern elsewhere: Noam Chomsky throws in the standard mischaracterizations of Russia routinely as well. It infer that if he did not he would have been removed on some pretext already.

      • AK says:

        That’s the thing with these folks.

        They start off by saying they aren’t all that different and then asserts, almost out of the blue, they they ARE in fact fundamentally different.

        The sad fact is this Simon Jenkins piece is actually considered pro-Kremlin propaganda by many of the commentators.

    • peter says:

      Borderline. Мелкое хулиганство at most. Article 213-б explicitly requires some sort of hatred/enmity as motive — not even close. They didn’t get a fair trial.


      • kirill says:

        What universe are you living in? Their words were quite hateful towards the Church.

        Once again, if they had staged their “protest” outside the Church gates they would not have gotten more than a slap on the wrist like on *all* the previous occasions. That they went out of their way to go into the cathedral and vent their bile speaks loudly to their malicious intent.

      • AK says:

        My view is that there was clear hatred/enmity for the Church and its values. The lyrics of the song alone are incontrovertible evidence. 213 applied.

        A totally different issue is whether the sanctions prescribed in 213 are merited, or even whether the clause should exist in the first place. My view is that even 2 years imprisonment (or the slightly more than 1 year that they will serve in practice) is far too harsh. As such, were I the judge, I would have convicted them on small-time hooliganism and given them 50-100 hours of community service.

        However, this is not the same as saying that 213 didn’t apply to them, or even that the trial was unfair.

        Nor should it mean I have any sympathy for them. There are millions of people even in the West who have been screwed far harder by various “unjust” but nonetheless actually existing laws than Pussy Riot; nor did all but a couple or three of them enjoy anything like the publicity earned by PR, who will be treated as cult figures once they come out of jail. They were the victorious party in this entire clusterfuck.

        • peter says:

          … there was clear hatred/enmity for the Church and its values.

          You totally misunderstand the word “motive”: it doesn’t matter how offended you or the Church feel, it only matters what the girls were thinking while planning and performing their gig. It looks like your upcoming post is going to be as epic a fail as Alexander’s.

          • AK says:

            Yes, they deny being “motivated” by hatred of the church. Of course they would. I wouldn’t want to risk doing up to 7 years time either.

            For obvious reasons it is impossible to actually get into their heads, nor is it possible to just take them at their word. It is up to the court to establish motive on the basis of the alleged infraction as well as past character. The lyrics constitute weighty evidence that the motive included hatred of the ROC (cue the references to golden epaulettes, venal priests, KGB patriarch worshiping Putin, crawling parishioners, etc, etc; as well as the general mockery of Orthodox ritual in their performance).

            Again, if they strongly disagree with the verdict, they are free to appeal all the way up to the ECHR.

            • peter says:

              The lyrics constitute weighty evidence that the motive included hatred of the ROC…

              он был порой несдержан на язык и в результате получил условный срок за разжигание вражды и ненависти к социальной группе «ебучие пидарасы».

              Even if we assume for the sake of argument that you’re correct here, there’s no such thing as “hatred of ROC” in Article 213.

              • marknesop says:

                Nor does there need to be. The legislation conforms fairly closely to international norms, and a complainant need not prove that the offending behaviour was directed at the Catholic Church, 1227 Spotswood Road, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, rows 6 through 8. It is hardly reasonable to expect legislation to be in effect prohibiting deliberately insulting behaviour or invective directed against each religion by denomination, merely that “a reasonable” person ought to know the behaviour would be offensive and insulting.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                “…он был порой несдержан на язык и в результате получил условный срок за разжигание вражды и ненависти к социальной группе «ебучие пидарасы»…”

                (…he was sometimes unrestrained with his tongue and as a result received a suspended sentence for inciting enmity and hatred to the social group “fucking queers”…)

                For those who may not know, from a work of fiction, “Pineapple Water for a Fair Lady” (2010), written by Vladimir Pelevin:





            • AK says:

              I’m not going to comment on your bizarre literary foray here.

              Even if we assume for the sake of argument that you’re correct here, there’s no such thing as “hatred of ROC” in Article 213. – peter

              All parishioners crawl to bow… – from the lyrics, with this verse explicitly referring to believers; there is no possible way you could possibly interpret it as referring to ROC.

              по мотивам политической, идеологической, расовой, национальной или религиозной ненависти или вражды либо по мотивам ненависти или вражды в отношении какой-либо социальной группы, – 213

              To me this is as clear-cut as can be.

              • peter says:

                No, that would be too easy. In Russian, “религиозная ненависть” means hatred fuelled by the hater’s religious beliefs — hence the judge’s weird theorising about feminism:

                “Мотив религиозной ненависти в действиях подсудимых суд усматривает в следующем: подсудимые позиционируют себя сторонниками феминизма, то есть движения за равноправие женщин с мужчинами”, – зачитывает Сырова, поясняя, что “хотя феминизм не является религиозным учением, его представители вторгаются в такие сферы общественных отношений, как мораль, нормы приличия, отношение к семье, сексуальное отношение”…

          • marknesop says:

            That takes the shiny thing for “most twisted squirming definition of ‘motive’ ever”. So the determinant factor in a criminal trial – leaving aside whether or not this should ever have been a criminal matter – is an unmeasurable quality to which only the alleged criminals could have been witness? What they were thinking while planning? Unless they are stupid enough to commit their thoughts to Facebook posts or other computer records, drop an incriminating written account of their plan at the crime scene or are implicated in the famous “jailhouse confession” by a stoolie planted in their cell, nobody would ever know what they were thinking when they did it. Anything the prosecution suggested as a case component which “goes to motive” could be blithely routed on cross by the defense: Ms. Tolokonnikova – when you shouted “God’s shit” in the lyrics of your “punk prayer” in the church, did you mean to cause offense to churchgoers and faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church? Why, no; we are just simple seekers after truth and understanding, we are not the enemy. Your honour, the defense rests.

            I can’t wait to put your theory to the test, because we have some fairly strict rules here on sexual harassment, and currently our delusional lawmakers have the temerity to suggest it does not matter whether you, the alleged harasser, think your behaviour or speech is offensive – it is completely how the object of your alleged harassment perceives it. Little do they know. Now I can just say to my female co-workers, “I can’t seem to get anything done today, I just want to stare at your tits and imagine how soft they must be”: their horrified reaction will be of no concern to me. Because, you see, it’s not how they take it that matters, it’s what I was thinking when I said it. And you can take it from me, I meant it only as an expression of the deepest respect. I am bulletproof.

            • AK says:

              Hilarious reply Mark. Kudos.

            • peter says:

              So the determinant factor in a criminal trial – leaving aside whether or not this should ever have been a criminal matter – is an unmeasurable quality to which only the alleged criminals could have been witness?

              Yes, Mark, you got it exactly right. Only in Russia. These joke of an article and farce of a trial would be comical if this wasn’t about real jail time for real people.

              • marknesop says:

                If it’s not too much trouble, could you provide a link to motive as it applies in Russian law, in which it says only the defendants’ thoughts while planning and carrying out the act for which they are charged are attributable?

                I’m curious because, for one thing, motive is generally not important in a criminal trial, with the express exception of hate crimes. Pussy Riot is not charged with a hate crime, but with hooliganism, although various media narratives have mentioned “hate crimes”. Otherwise, motive is a nice-to-have, and can be supported with evidence substantiating either its presence or its absence, but generally the court is only concerned with whether or not the defendant committed the act for which he or she is currently in the dock. I don’t think there is any doubt there, since the defendants helpfully recorded it on video.


                Note that the introduction of evidence is specifically mentioned. What evidence might be submitted which proved what the defendant was thinking at the time of planning the act? Come on; you know better. Previous behaviour is admissible as to motive, especially if the defendant committed strikingly similar anti-social acts and suffered no repercussions as a result.

                • peter says:

                  … motive is generally not important in a criminal trial…

                  May I once again kindly ask you to actually read Article 213? Please do pay special attention to пункт б).

                • marknesop says:

                  Oh, are you kidding me? “Motivated” is used there as a verb, in the sense of “under the rubric of”, “inspired by”, or “on the grounds of” (the latter being what comes out of Google translate). It most certainly does not mean that if you cannot prove motivation beyond a reasonable doubt, no crime was committed. How in hell would anyone ever be convicted under such a law? What would they offer as a reason for having committed the offense, which in this case nobody disputes that they did – that they didn’t realize where they were? That the devil made them do it? Nobody knows what the defendant was thinking while they planned and executed the alleged crime except the defendant.

                  If the writers of the legislation had chosen “inspired by” instead, would you expect to reasonably argue that the defendants could not be found guilty unless the prosecution proved they were inspired?

                • peter says:

                  It most certainly does not mean that if you cannot prove motivation beyond a reasonable doubt, no crime was committed.

                  Great, you’re almost there, just drop the “not”: It most certainly DOES MEAN that if you cannot prove motivation beyond a reasonable doubt, no crime (as opposed to an administrative offence) was committed.

                  How in hell would anyone ever be convicted under such a law?

                  AK, for one, disagrees: according to him, the words “All parishioners crawl to bow” in the lyrics are all the proof needed to establish the religious hatred motive (as he understands it) and thus secure conviction under Article 213-б… As his nemesis La Russophobe used to say, with friends like this, Russia needs no enemies.

  3. kirill says:

    The claim that Russia’s hooliganism law involves weapons is a crock. It applies to intentional affront as well. It is clear that PR zealots wanted to offend the Church as part of their anti-Putin campaign.

  4. Moscow Exile says:

    An extremely irksome thing for me concerning the reporting of the PR trial and convictions that appears both in the Western media and, of course, RT, is that the PR trial and conviction “has split Russian society”.

    According to Levada, only 6% of Russian citizens support PR, 51% condemn PR and the rest are not bothered one way or the other. Levada must have conducted a poll similar to one of peter’s questionnaires:

    Do you support PR?


    (a) yes;

    (b) no;

    (c) don’t know/haven’t a clue.

    The “leaders” of the “opposition”, with the possible exception of Udaltsov, do not condone PR’s behaviour, though they do, of course, criticise the severity of the PR three’s conviction: Hamster King Navalny has, in fact, stated on his blog that he would not be pleased if his daughter were a member of PR.

    This 50/50 split in Russian society so lovingly reported in the Western media only exists, I should think, amongst that section of the bourgeois chattering class in Russia whose opinions the West feeds on and takes as representative of the opinion of the whole of Russian society. (The Guardianista approach.) Indeed, amongst my middle-class Russian colleagues I have noticed that there seem to be as many against PR as are for them. Those that are against are not all devout members of the ROC: they simply object to anarchy and what is, in their opinion, degeneracy. Those middle-class acquaintances of mine who condemn the PR actions seem to consider PR “political activists” and others of their ilk as work-shy artistic dreamers. I should add that many of those middle-class acquaintances of mine that hold this latter opinion are certainly not all pro-Putin. The thing that my Russian middle-class colleagues do have in common, however, is that they work for a living.

    Amongst the great unwashed, those whom Latynina and others despise because they vote for Putin and should, therefore be disenfranchised, it is, I feel, a different story. There are very many amongst the hoi-poloi who felt severely affronted by the behaviour of PR in their cathedral. Remember, not so long ago there could be seen for several days a queue of Russian citizens that stretched out for a couple of kilometres or so along the embankment of the Moscow River, which citizens were waiting patiently in inclement weather simply to gaze upon what they believed was the girdle of the Mother of Christ. It was the Mother of Christ whose intercession PR obscenely beseeched in the cathedral of Christ the Redeemer in order that Russia be rid of its president.

    As regards those working class Russians whom I am acquainted with and who think religion is a load of tosh, namely most of my neighbours, they all describe PR as “sluts”. In describing PR they also often describe PR as “bourgois”, that term apparently still having for them the pejorative sense that it possessed during the time of the Soviet Union.

    However, when asked their opinion of PR, their trial and conviction, the opinion of the majority of working class Russians that I know would have to be classified in a peter-style questionnaire as:

    (d) never heard of them/don’t give a flying fuck.

  5. Misha says:

    Establishment promoted commentary:

    “Claim to be offended.”

    Another area where “The Russia Hand” doesn’t appear so expert.

  6. Moscow Exile says:

    Likewise the latest Duma proposal that laws be passed to outlaw “desecration” following a spate of protest vandalism, i.e. graffiti sprayed onto church walls around Russia, including some very ancient places of worship and architectural treasures, that has taken place consequent to the conviction of the PR three.

    Why not just clamp down on vandalism? Passing laws against desecration will be like a red rag to Western liberals.

    • Misha says:

      Reasoned point.

      At the same time, there’s a (as characterized by some) grossly overrated (in terms of placement) bratty jackass, manchild punditry, that periodically goes over the top in a way that reveals arrogance, ignorance and hypocrisy.

    • cartman says:

      That law would probably be very popular, which is why it might go through. Western liberals will protest, again demanding they should be the ones writing Russia’s law. In this day and age, the word democracy shifted to doing whatever they say with no consideration towards the people who are actually affected by the law.

      In fact, parts of the present Russian constitution were not written by Russians at all, and there has never been a legitimate vote to establish it as the law of the land.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Vandalized by PR supporters wall of 13th century St.John the Forerunner Cathedral, Pskov:

  7. marknesop says:

    “May I suggest you actually read the article in question?”

    I must have missed the part where it said, “shall not be deemed enforceable unless the group toward which the hatred or enmity is directed is specifically identified by denomination herein.” Is that your argument? That “religious hatred or enmity toward any social group” does not cut it because it does not specifically say “against the ROC”? Thereby implying that every religious denomination should be identified by name, and if it does not appear it’s gloves off for hatred and/or enmity?

    I think you need to lie down, Peter; I’m worried about you. First the sardonic physicist with the pitiless comeback (Try again, Junior”, “Not even close”, “Another epic fail”, etc…) who makes absolutely no allowance for error actually goes all squishy over the human rights of three foul-mouthed trollops who have exhibited no end of unacceptable social behaviour, arguing that they should be treated with lenience because they are young and foolish and impressionable (I’m paraphrasing here, obviously you did not say those exact words, but I am interpreting based on tone and what you did actually say, such as “Come on; she’s only 22”). That alone was enough to make me wonder if you were really Kurt Cobain, and that you just faked your death so you could indulge a passion for physics undisturbed by crazed fans.

    Now you appear to be arguing that Russian law should be made even more complicated and convoluted than it is. If hatred or enmity toward religious groups must be redefined specifically as to denomination, then either the statute will become so bloated it would take all day to read it, or you would need a separate and distinct statute for every religion. Ha, ha, you can’t arrest me – there’s no prohibition against hating Presbyterians. Come on. You’re better than this. I confess your razor wit gives the level of dissent here a certain je ne sais quois not available on many other blogs, where the disagreement often consists pretty much of moaning and slobbering. But this last couple of days you’ve sort of come across like you’re on a Strongbow Cider binge or something. If you need help, don’t wait too long to ask: we’re your friends.

  8. AK says:

    Yes, naturally the Kremlin is behind it – maybe even Putin himself, God knows he has little else to do but micromanage the Russian Othodox Church. It’s a mystery to me why you and La Russophobe don’t get along better, because lately you sound more and more alike. – Mark Chapman on Adomanis’ blog.

    Can’t say I disagree actually. Adomanis has been adopting liberal talking points for months now, and basically moralizing his rhetoric. Absent the informative graphs and his posts are becoming increasingly lackluster. I wonder how much of it is genuine – and how much of it is a sop to the WSJ-reading troglodytes who constitute the bulk of the Forbes readership.

    • Very true. I stopped reading Adomanis a while ago. Moralizing is one thing, but what was the deal breaker for me is his inability to acknowledge facts that don’t fit in his worldview. In my opinion, this is what separates a propagandist from a scholar.

      • keivite says:

        There is one concern that I share with Adomanis despite clear tendenciosity of his article:

        it’s pretty clear that the incipient revival of aggressive religious conservatism is both really dangerous and really bad.

        I think this revival of aggressive religious conservatism is a world-wide phenomena and can be felt in all major religions. Muslims probably can serve as a litmus test. But evangelicals in the USA are not far behind. It would be really sad if Orthodox Russians are now in the same game too.

        Deliberately or not PR show was the masterful provocation in which government proved to be predictably inept and allowed passions outstep the real case by several orders of magnitude. And there was a real society split along the atheist/religious lines, despite clear hooliganism of the case. Which is a clear sign of a masterful provocation.

        Part of the society who defends PR are actually concerned about rise of religious fundamentalism but due to clear hooliganism of PR actions can do nothing. That’s why they instisted on lesser sentence for those bimbos.

        This is what the Russian word “Mrakobesie” used in desecration of Pskov cathedral implies ( ) . Religious fundamentalists = “mrakobesy”.

        Also Russian are (somewhat more questionably) are concerned about clear corruption of church leaders who drive BMWs and Mercedices, and generally “enjoy the life” like a part of the elite (to whom they really belong).

        Here is another confirmation of Pr actions as a masterful provocation from an apt comment to the Guardian article referenced above:

        21 August 2012 8:45PM

        For the British and US governments to get on high horses about Russian sentencing is hypocrisy.
        The UK and US governments care not for freedom of expression, they are just pissed off that Russia is no longer led by a drunken fool a la Yeltsin ready and willing to hand over the country to the IMF asset strippers. A Saudi journalist gets illegally extradited from Malaysia and imprisoned in Saudi Arabia without trial or due process for tweeting honest thoughts about the prophet – silence from the West. Thai citizens legitimately criticizing their monarchy end up in prison – silence from the West.

        The hypocrisy is sickening and highlights how the UK and US care not for ‘human rights’ or ‘freedom of expression’ but use these memes as a tool to further their geopolitical interests and ferment unrest whilst remaining silent on the human rights abuses carried out in states that tow the line.

        • AK says:

          Better the Cross than the vodka bottle.

        • marknesop says:

          I don’t see much threat of a rise of religious fundamentalism in Russia, except in the Caucasus, and that has nothing to do with this case. I imagine Russian religious conservatives see an opportunity to capitalize on the anger at Pussy Riot and the rush to their defense by the west, and coincidentally an opportunity to increase the influence of the church. But I don’t know that the Russian Orthodox discipline contains sufficient ritual and demand for self-sacrifice to turn the people into a bunch of moonies. I mean, I don’t know; I’m not particularly religious myself, but I think the Christian religions already preach sufficient freedom and tolerance that it would be difficult to weld them into any kind of coherent force, like the American Evangelicals.

          Of course I could be wrong, and often am, but I see the whole religious thing as just another opportunity to cause social unrest and chaos in Russia and to stoke discontent. If so, it isn’t working very well thus far, as support for the “Free Pussy Riot” meme remains low – at least in Russia, which is the only country that need be concerned about it.

          Totally as an aside, I wonder what is going to be the effect of a prison sentence on Ms. Tolokonnikova’s citizenship status. Her husband has Canadian citizenship, but Ms. Tolokonnikova has not; she is a Permanent Resident. In order to maintain your Permanent Resident status in Canada, you must be resident in Canada at least 90 days of the year. I can see where that will become….complicated.

          I imagine the Canadian government will grant some sort of exemption, they always seem to be able to do that for someone who is World Famous, as the young ladies of Pussy Riot are, although that may be a seven-day wonder. But if so, that will create a resentment of its own among those who have to play by the rules. I wonder if that’s why John Baird is said by the Canadian press to be soft-pedaling the whole Pussy Riot issue.

          • kirill says:

            So that c*nt had her foot in the Canadian door already. I hope she permanently leaves Russia after she gets out of jail. I will guarantee that she will not stage any such stunts in Canada. These are Russia haters who don’t belong in Russia.

            • marknesop says:

              I hope they don’t win on appeal – a distinct possibility – and that she stays in jail. A star-spangled visit here with local politicos falling over each other to kiss her hand would make me vomit.

          • Misha says:

            A Canadian government that has banned some law abiding citizens and residents of Western countries from entering Canada because of the latter groupings’ political views – some of which are perfectly valid.

            I know this has been repeated before. It’s substantively worth repeating again. There’s a repetitious propaganda effort going in the opposite direction.

          • kievite says:

            The question here is not rise of Orthodox Christian Fundamentalism as such but attempts to replace Communist Doctrine with its corrupt high priests with Orthodox Christianity supported by state and with equally corrupt high priests. This is what is rejected by a large part of Russian society. Attempts to introduce the couse of Orthodox culture in schools, etc.

            That’s why positioning the church as a victim in this case caused an allergic reaction in a large part of Russian society (and not only Russian, the phenomenon with promoting religion as a substitute for failed Communist ideology is broader).

            As Misha aptly noted:

            The wealth of the ROC pales in comparison to the Vatican. In the US, I’ve known my share of rabbis and non-Orthodox Christian/ Christian priests who’ve done and said suspect things.

            The level of corruption pales as well as pedophile scandal in Catholic Church in the USA and elsewhere attests (a popular joke is that the US President put Catholics on notice: “Either you are with us or you are with the child molesters.” )

            So in a way here Orthodox church is a victim of unjust persecution …. My impression (may be wrong) is that PR action just put a knife into relationship of church and state. You need to understand the brilliance of the idea (may be accidental, may be not) of attacking Putin personally and the government in general by attacking the links between the (supposely corrupt and hypocritical ) church and the state. There are multiple semantic levels in the line “Bogoroditsa Putina progoni”.

            I think everybody understands that revealing unjust enrichments of priests is much more efficient for raising public indignation then the revealing unjust enrichment of public officials. I think that corruption of the church is what makes punishment of those female puppets symbolically unjust. Classic Russian question put by Aleksander Griboyedov arise “Who are the judjes?” and by extgention “Who are the accusers?”

            I wonder why Tolokonnikova case was not selected for a separate trial on the base of the whole sequence of her “adventures” and the fact that she is definitely more dangerous female psychopath then the other two. That would help to defuse this bomb. Cockroaches, Zoo museum, etc. Is this simple inaptness or something more.

            • AK says:

              The question here is not rise of Orthodox Christian Fundamentalism as such but attempts to replace Communist Doctrine with its corrupt high priests with Orthodox Christianity supported by state and with equally corrupt high priests. This is what is rejected by a large part of Russian society. Attempts to introduce the couse of Orthodox culture in schools, etc.

              Good to know that Britain is a theocracy then by your standards. 🙂

              (Mandatory religious studies lessons; prayers in assembly every day; 30 min church service every Wednesday morning).

              • kievite says:

                Not sure about theocracy, but that might help to explain world famous British hypocrisy and double dealings 😉

              • AK says:


                I do not think that has anything to do with British hypocrisy and double dealings. I was merely expressing the view that introducing the study of Christian religion into schools – the foundation of both Western and Russian civilization – does not presage some kind of descent into Taliban-like fundamentalism.

                In many ways one can argue that this is actually useful for imparting a good sense of ethics, building up social cohesion (something of which there is very little both in Russia and Ukraine), etc.

            • kirill says:

              You offer no evidence of Orthodoxy being the new communism. Talking about corruption in the church demonstrates no such development. I guess people can’t deal with Russian politics without getting hysterical and totally losing a grip on reality. In case you haven’t noticed the biggest ideology after 1991 and especially after 2000 has been *not to have an ideology*. Experience with decades of dogma was enough and the vast majority in Russia are sick and tired of *any* dogma, including the west’s “democracy”. That is why over 2/3 or Russians vote for personalities and not parties and their platforms. Western analysts routinely point to this as evidence of “absence of democracy in Russia”. No, it is absence of dogma.

              Talking about linkage between the ROC and the state in Russia is flimsier than claiming that the US is a theocracy because it mentions God on the money and presidents openly attend masses. There is simply no analogue of the evangelical infiltration of US politics in Russia. None of the parties is pandering to the ROC or Christian elements. The same cannot be said about the Republican party.

              • kievite says:

                You are mostly right in stating that Russian is much farther in neo-theocratic leanings then, say, the USA, where strong association of Republican Party and Christian right (especially evangelicals) is pretty much baked into the cake.

                That does not reject the possibility of the same trajectory for Russia from much more secular start. Some kind of “religious revival” is taking place in different forms in many societies now.

                The Republican-style neo-Christian charlatans typical for the USA might eventually emerge, may be on a new basis.

                But I think you are deeply mistaken stating:

                Experience with decades of dogma was enough and the vast majority in Russia are sick and tired of *any* dogma, including the west’s “democracy”.

                I think this is simply not true. Most Russians bought/were brainwashed (with gentle Western help) with the ideology of neoliberalism. It a sence it was neo-liberalism as an ideology that defeated communism. Now they face consequences althouth less severe then for, say, Ukranians.

                You can’t deny Latin-americanization of the country althouth, thanks to Putin this process never went as far as it went in Ukraine under Viktor Yushchenko.

                From Wikipedia

                Neoliberalism is a label for economic liberalizations, free trade, and open markets. Neoliberalism supports privatization of state-owned enterprises, deregulation of markets, and promotion of the private sector’s role in society. In the 1980s, much of neoliberal theory was incorporated into mainstream economics.

                Now neoliberalism is in deep crisis so is any society which it is accepted as the primary ideology. Unfortunatly that includes both the USA (what is Romney candidacy if not a manifestation of deep crisis of the USA elite?) and Russia (where a significant part of the top 1% represents compradors with capitals and families moved to the West).

                • Misha says:


                  Another undoubtedly influencing factor is what set of views offers more in terms of money.

                  On the ROC, from an objective standpoint, there’s penty of negative articles which can be written about the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Filaret led Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, as well as the Vatican at large.

                  There’s a definite geopolitical and cultural bias when a venue like RFE/RL singles out the Russian and Serb Orthodox churches for negativity.

                  I want to see a freer Russia that doesn’t discriminate against reasoned pro-Russian advocacy to the global audience in the English language.

                • yalensis says:

                  @kievite: Your analysis is very good, I agree with it, and I also think there is much danger of Latin Americanization of Russia. I.e., some kind of Pinochet-type hyper-capitalist authoritarianism backed by the full ideological power of the Orthodox Church. Putin was always set on that route, his saving grace is that he has a split personality: half of him looks out for Russian national interests, which is what got him so demonized in the first place. Now the Western demonization itself may be a blessing in diguise, as it helps keep him from getting too cozy with the West and pushes him into the arms of China. (“Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.”)

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Those who vandalized/desecrated the Cathedral of St. John the Foreruner in Pskov with graffiti clearly believe that religion is the stuff “of obscurantists” (мракобесов).

          I should be interested to know how these PR supporting vandals interpret the works of that organization that PR springs from, namely Voina (Moscow Branch) and also the works of that organization from which Voina (Moscow Branch) in its turn sprang, namely, Voina (St.Petersburg Branch).

          I mean, the “politicized” artistic meaning of some woman in a supermarket shoving a chicken up her vagina or of a group of people shagging in a natural history museum is pretty obscure.

          It is for me, anyway. I must be getting old.


          • kirill says:

            You are expecting too much rationality from these freaks. They are like internet trolls. No arguments or facts get in their way and they will say anything to provoke you.

        • Misha says:


          The wealth of the ROC pails in comparison to the Vatican. In the US, I’ve known my share of rabbis and non-Orthodox Christian/ Christian priests who’ve done and said suspect things.

          At the same time, there’re more earnest people involved with the faiths in question.

          I’ll say it again, had PR shown sincere remorse and respect to the ROC and judge, they probably IMO would’ve received something along the lines of community service – assuming that’s an option under Russian law. The self righteously disrespectful manner that PR and their legal counsel exhibited was a basis for a sentence – which IMO 6 months is sufficient. As is, the 2 year sentence is far from an extremely oppressive dictatorship

          One aspect not dealt with so much if at all is the mindset of the judge who from a distance comes across as someone who isn’t into PC BS, while wanting to show an independent mindset from Putin and elements in the ROC who sought a light sentence.

          • kirill says:

            Everyone is reading an unreasonable amount of information from the PR trial. It wasn’t a ROC lynchmob that decided to string them up from the nearest light pole. So this whole, reactionary ROC revival inference is nonsense. The opinion polls posted here and elsewhere do not show any fundamentalist revival in Russia, splitting society into atheist and believer factions. They show quite clearly that most Russians want these hooligans punished for hooliganism. It isn’t about the ROC or Putin.

        • kirill says:

          Evil Lord Putin is not going to boost the ROC to “stay in power”. Any revival of the ROC is natural and I don’t see the vast Russian majority turning into fundamentalist zombies at all. The Vagina Thug trial does not offer any evidence to support your concerns. You will have to provide opinion polls or some substantive analysis of Russian social trends to back it up.

      • Misha says:

        He showed signs along such lines for awhile. That he’s noticeably better than some establishment others is more a sign of lackluster propping than his being “fair.”

        The claim of being fair on account of getting criticized from two diverse perspectives doesn’t necessarily equate with being a truly well versed and competent pundit.

        One looks better on issues they know well. Conversely, some people get full of themselves to the point of making so-so (put mildly) comments on issues they don’t know much about.

        • Misha says:

          Above comments regarding “The Russia Hand”, who was “brave” enough to be “inteviweded” by La Russophobe, who punked out of a live one hour BBC panel discussion.

      • AK says:

        I decided to write an article on this.

        Do you have any examples of posts that particularly grated with the moralizing and/or not accepting facts?

        Mind you, I still think he’s better than 90% of the other Russia journos out there. Just no longer 99%.

        • Adomanis has several idees fixes that he likes to harp on: the ineptitide of “movement conservatives”, the nastiness and absurdity of the Russian Communists and the USSR, especially the Stalin period, and the insidiousness of the Kremlin. While I don’t care half a fig about Conservatives in the US, the other topics usually is the noticable source of his blinkers.

          The most obvious case I can remember is when I pointed out that Stalin abolished death penalty in 1946 and for several years the USSR didn’t execute anyone. Moreover, I provided links to the actual document, to the number of executions by every year. But Adomanis argued that this document doesn’t mean anything because the USSR was, like, totally lawless, and then resorted to his favourite tactics – flippancy and mockery.That was on True/slant and is unavailable now, I think. Now he continues to repeat some rubbish about executing millions and jailing 10% of the male population, and when I asked him to provide a credible source of this statements, he simply ignored it.

          Other than that, he’s more and more falling a victim to the standard side effect of Kremlinology – seeing the hand of the Kremlin/Putin in every minor event in the country, like with the Pussy Riot case (remember Mark’s comment) and being sure that the Kremlin will use laws that exists in many countries (NGO and public protest laws) to stifle freedom and fry dissidents.

          Add to that his adamant certainty that his moral views is “progressive” and the truth in the final instance (on gay rights, that Christians “should just grow a thicker skin” in the Pussy Riot case), and that’s it for his most apparent flaws that affect his credibility as an analyst on Russia (in my opinion. of course). Nevertheless, I agree that he’s better than 90% of other Russia specialists, but that’s unfortunately is the reflection of the Russian proverb “В царстве слепых и одноглазый – король”.

          • marknesop says:

            I would support that criticism – I loved it when he used to slag The Economist for its awful Russia coverage, and he has taken the odd academic to task here and there for glaring errors with a blood lust that was truly enjoyable to watch. Or read, I guess. Trouble is, you see that guy less and less – and more and more, even the most optimistic posts about the situation in Russia include a mandatory swipe at the government like, “naturally this positive outlook in (insert discussion point here) is tempered by the fact that the government is a bunch of thugs who do as they please”, as if trying to cater to both sides of the aisle by throwing a chunk of red meat here and there. Also, as kovane suggests, he appears to be relying more and more on sarcasm and flippancy in argument rather than blowing his opposition’s legs off at the knees with hard facts as he used to do. Gifts like that poor fool who suggested Poland and some other countries used to be part of the USSR are rare these days.

            All in all, a portrait of someone whose partisan zeal has been slowly eroded by more pedestrian concerns, like satisfying editorial suggestions. I couldn’t say if that’s the concern, but some kind of quality control is certainly having a detrimental effect, whether self-imposed or otherwise.

            • Misha says:

              Standard establishment line about Russia and anti-Jewish sentiment, in a way that reveals a good deal of ignorance for those in the actual know.

              Spoiled ignorant brat commentary on other subjects like the Olympics and Ukraine.

              Noticeably selective name dropping in a certain ass kissing to the top way.

              Getting “inteviewed” by LR while staying away from more intelligent discourse.

              • kirill says:

                Unrelated to this thread, but do you have any articles from 2011 and earlier that attack the ROC in the western commentariat? My memory is not so bad and I have the clear impression that the whole ROC is evil Lord Putin’s tool meme has been spun out of nothing over the past year. It seems that the Vagina Thugs were part of this propaganda effort.

                • cartman says:

                  I have heard before that Zbigniew Brzezinski said that after the USSR, the main enemy of the US was the ROC. That seems more like genetic Polish myopia than something to be taken seriously, but Carter, Clinton, and Obama were the ones using him as an adviser. Also Neocons (Trotsky acolytes) are in agreement about the religion.

                • Misha says:

                  As I previoulsy brought up at this thread, note the negative articles on the Russians and Serb Orthodox churches unlike others.

                  RFE/RL recently featured a piece on a Serb priest who (as stated in the article) abused his authority at a rehab center. That venue didn’t cover a Croat Catholic appointed official with (if I’m not mistaken) Croat government ties who recently belittled the mass murder at the Ustasha run Jasenovac concentration camp.

  9. Misha says:

    This piece brings the the CIA into the PR discussion:

    Shortly before, a former CIA analyst wrote this piece lauding PR:

    • Moscow Exile says:

      More PR madness:

      “With Pussy Riot being hailed across the world as Russia’s most recognized band, some suggest that the jailed members of the punk-rock feminist ensemble should be flying the flag for Russia at the next Eurovision song contest.

      ­’We have no doubt about the success of the band in Eurovision’, co-founder of Russia’s SEVER Production Konstantin Cherepkov has been quoted as saying.

      ‘Pussy Riot has become a new music phenomenon. The band has united musicians across the world under the slogan of freedom and change. Their nomination to enter Eurovision is set to affect the destiny of the punk-rock band serving as a good reason for the authorities to favor their release from jail. Bringing their prosecution to an end and their participation in Eurovision could help compensate Russia’s loss of reputation that stemmed from the case against Pussy Riot’, he added”.


      • yalensis says:

        @Exile: Pussy Riot representing Russia at Eurovision? Sure, why not? But that’s not enough! After sweeping all the musical awards at Eurovision, they need to be installed as the ruling Triumvirate in the Kremlin. (After The Revolution.) I was always curious to see what would happen if anarchists were put in charge of the government. (Lenin never gave them a chance to strut their stuff.) What could possibly go wrong??

        • hoct says:

          It’s difficult to see how they could have done any worse than the Bolsheviks. And as for Lenin, he desecrated many more churches than “Pussy Riot”.

          • kirill says:

            For now. Give these vermin the chance and they will be demolishing churches and sending millions to the gulags at the first opportunity. We had these “anarchist” maggots before and they still have the same agenda.

            • Misha says:

              You hit home on a point concerning why their action was especially offensive in a venue that previously experienced anti-religious persecution.

              It’s not like they didn’t have the freedom to express themselves elsewhere in Russia.

        • Misha says:


          Ideally, Eurovision isn’t intended to be a kind of flag waving nationalist event. At the same time, there’s a degree of national pride evident.

          PR doesn’t cut it in when it comes to patriotism and talent.

          Let some more deserving others represent Russia.

      • marknesop says:

        It’s ridiculous, of course, although all too symptomatic of the eagerness with which the popular press embraces the ridiculous these days – who remembers Katie Abram, the Republican activist who became an overnight sensation after challenging Senator Arlen Specter in a town hall meeting and suggesting he had “awakened a sleeping giant” (plainly a planted and rehearsed line)? By the next day excited GOP activists were already talking about her running for public office, but in an interview on “Hardball” she totally fell apart and indicated she did not even know her own family income (although more likely she simply did not want to reveal it).

        Musical fame is not in the cards for PR, but it’d be awesome if it were, because a totally different administration would take over their steering and it would be concentrating on selling music and making money rather than whipping up political excitement. The actual music audience for angry screaming is proportionally quite small, and it wouldn’t be long before their handlers would want them to do a ballad or two, sort of soften their image a bit a la Bananarama or The Bangles, and their angry-screaming fans would scream “sellout”, and it’d be all over but the puff of smoke. Unfortunately, we are going to have to put up with the silliness of their being cast as world freedom fighters for a bit longer, but in awhile something new and shiny will distract the media and it will move on.

      • Misha says:

        Having just come back from Manhattan, I was 3 for 3 in seeing/listening to street musicians who exhibited far greater talent than PR. They were also courteous in terms of where they placed themselves relative to the pedestrian street traffic. Sir Paul, Alicia Silverstone and Madonna would’ve a tough time spinning an award for PR over the aforementioned NYC musicians.

        One of the latter did a nice rendition of:

  10. yalensis says:

    Meanwhile, something mildly interesting going on within Opps movement. A couple of months back, Navalny (more likely,his American handlers) came up with the idea of Opps Internet Primaries (they use the actual English word “primaries” = праймериз). Purpose being to elect Opps leaders via internet voting and form the basis of a new “democratic” political party. (instead of doing it the usual way, with a party convention and delegates, etc.)
    Supporters of the ‘Primaries” approach = Navalny, Nemtsov, Udaltsov, Chirikova. Opposed = Ryzhkov. Not sure of Kasparov’s position, but I think he rides with Navalny’s posse mostly these days.

    • kirill says:

      Now all they need is some guerrillas like the FSA and the regime change is set to go.

    • Misha says:

      Re: Navaliny & the Western neolib, neocon, Soros leaning folks

      This venue is at it again:

      On the other hand, it has no problems uncritically referencing Mykola Riabchuk, who tends to get described along the lines of a “Ukrainian intellectual” as stated in an Economist piece.

      In this piece that was forwarded to my attention, Riabchuk speaks disparagingly of those in Ukraine preferring to speak Russian:

      Imagine the outcry if a similar characterization was used towards those preferring to speak Ukrainian.

      Riabchuk is refuted towards the end of this piece:

      Yes, oD has spoken negatively of Svoboda – in good part because that party appears suspect to Soros like intervention. On the other hand, oD has shown a clear slant for softer nationalist views that lean in an anti-Russian direction.

      Navalny has previously appeared in oD. That venue has allowed for the likes of Kuzio and Karatnycky to follow-up on oD material they don’t agree with. Of late, oD has run critical commentary on Navalny for being a “nationalist”. Along with the article linked at the very top of this set of comments, Riabchuk had such an oD piece as well. I’ve yet to see a firm and reasoned pro-Russian rebuttal at oD.

      There’s a definite wing in the West which is negative towards Navalny. A case in point is a certain anonymous blogger who punked out of a live one hour BBC panel discussion. The negativity concerns Navalny’s “nationalism”, which in reality is probably more indicative of how some shun anyone showing some Russian patriotic instinct. Unsubstantiated, I recall reading somewhere that Navalny isn’t on good terms with Kasparov.

  11. kirill says:

    Re: the PR farce from another forum post:

    “You stoop too low, my friend. Orthodox monkeys on crack??? You just going around insulting people on religious basis when you get upset or as a form of artistic expression? How did I demostrate “orthodox monkey(ness) on crack”??? Why the sudden turn to personal attacks once I posted an article? It does not appeal to you? Time after time, I have rationally shown various angles only to be jumped on by you in a final act of calling people “orthodox monkeys”. Who do you think you are?

    It is the same kind of irrational hatred frankly that these “art groups” posses. If you appreciate freedom, they you ought to appreciate that some people want to use their freedom to follow a religion of their choice. And just because you do not like it does not mean you can barge into anybody’s place of gathering and crap all over their religious observances. You have to be really thick not to get that. No matter how you may dislike the ROC, people have the right to like it and follow its rites and observances without your or anybody else’s disturbance. End of story.

    This has nothing to do with my religious affiliation. I have been to church several times in my life and that is it but I could be a Zoroastrian for all you or I care. Still you have to allow people to practice their religion. That is a part of their freedom. You do not chose that for them.”

    The second paragraph says it all. Why all the concern about the rights of PR and their “freedom of expression”. How about “freedom of religion” and the fact that the people attending the church have a right to worship in peace. Every space in Russia is not public. Your living room is not a public toilet for buskers and militant zealots spouting their dogmas. Neither is the interior of a church. So the charge of hooliganism is 100% correct. And I will repeat for the n-th time, if these zealots had staged their “performance” in a public space outside the cathedral, all they would have gotten is a $17 fine.

  12. Misha says:

    Picked these two news items items up care of

    It wouldn’t surprise if RFE/RL doesn’t pick up this strory. In contrast, that venue is full of negative imagery when it comes to the Russian and Serb Orthodox churches.

    On a lighter note:

  13. yalensis says:

    Latest news: PoliTrash “supports” Chirikova for Mayor of Khimki!
    According to Apetian, Captain Obvious predicts she will get 76% of the vote.
    After which, Khimki will secede from Russian Federation, implement Magnitsky Law, and invite U.S. 6th fleet to patrol. (Isn’t Khimki inland though?)

    As I mentioned before, Chirikova also needs to appoint Navalny her unpaid advisor to help increase lumber production in the Khimki forest. I call this a solid plan.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Have just read that Yabloko has given her full support in her candidacy.

    • marknesop says:

      I also support Chirikova for mayor (although I don’t get a vote), and while it will be spun by the opposition and the western media as a great opposition victory and a stunning, devastating blow to the Kremlin, bla bla bla, it will instead have the effect of keeping Chirikova far too busy fulfilling expectations that she is actually going to ring in big changes for her to have any time left over for political activism. If she doesn’t manage to dramatically improve the lives of her constituents, they will be disappointed and kick her to the curb in the next election, as well as being disgusted with liberals in general. The very worst thing that can happen for any of these career-sideline oppositionists is for them to be elected to office, because it is no challenge to criticize and preach how you would do it so much better when you don’t ever have to prove it.

      There’s always the chance Chirikova will do an outstanding job, in which case the constituents of Khimki Forest will have made a good choice and Chirikova will have proved she is capable of running something and getting results. There’s nothing wrong with someone like that being in office, whatever their political affiliation. Chirikova thus far seems to me like an idealistic airhead with a self-importance complex, but if she proved me wrong by being a tough political fighter who genuinely wanted to wring the last drop of government services for her constituents I would not be too disappointed.

  14. kirill says:

    Hilarious inanity. I bet there will be lots of noise and they will get community service. The west has to prove it is superior to Russia. What a joke.

    • marknesop says:

      This will be welcome news for lawyers – a rash of imitators who believe they are pushing the envelope of freedom into the world’s churches will run up against a brick wall, but they will be good cash cows. Of course they don’t have any money, but the government will foot the bill. If these Germans are actually prosecuted, keep an eye out for articles suggesting that Angela Merkel is actually driving the prosecution and actively colluding with it because she is an autocrat and a dictator. Of course, you won’t see any.

      It is pretty funny, but it’s good news as well, because the west has no empathy with Russia and consequently must learn the Russian percepective on domestic problems at first hand when they become domestic western problems. Everybody seems to think they are just being so hip and fresh supporting Pussy Riot, and now they will be dismayed and say, “these people are just disrespectful hooligans”. This will in turn bleed away their support and lessen their chances of winning on appeal, while putting their original sentence in context for westerners, who always seem to have to learn everything the hard way.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Frau Kanzler Merkel is also the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, so she’d better tread carefully if these German PR copycats have the book thrown at them, for she certainly won’t want to have accusations hurled at her that she’s bringing religion into politics.

      • kirill says:

        What gets me is what sort of lemmings these clowns are. They are led around by the nose by the media hysterics on this non-case and think that defending hooliganism in Russia is some sort of worthy cause. Out of all the real human rights abuse cases in the world today these morons choose to pick the PR case.

        Nobody who defends PR has a leg to stand on. They weren’t jailed for yelling obscenities in the street. They did it INSIDE the cathedral and aimed it at the ROC. Even if they aimed it at just Putin himself they are still abusing the rights of other people, aka hooliganism. Free speech does not trump all other rights. Everyone has the right to not be subjected to someone’s free speech. And you can’t claim that the parishioners should have left the building if they did not want to listen to the PR spew. That is like demanding you leave your house if some bum decides to move in and scream in your face.

        • marknesop says:

          I just left a similar thought at Anatoly’s Al Jazeera post; awaiting moderation.

          I could actually almost feel sorry for Pussy Riot, because they seem to have bought into the notion that the west will protect them simply because the western media is agitating on their behalf. The west in fact cares nothing about them or if they really are bold new defenders of freedom, so long as they stay in Russia causing trouble. Punishment is cumulative, so if they start right in again with their anarchist nonsense as soon as they get out, they might find themselves looking at a longish stretch. Russia plainly does not care what the west thinks would be suitable action in Russian legal matters, and it is likely Russia will not care in the future, either.

          • AK says:

            Hi Mark,

            Please feel free to repost the comment at my blog. In my experience, AJ isn’t very good at rescuing comments from the spam folder.

            • marknesop says:

              Nah. I didn’t save it, and can’t be bothered to reconstruct it. It was a response to that smart-alecky twit MarkJosephDavid or whatever, who wanted to know what makes people think they have a right to not be offended. I mostly just suggested that’s what all people say who forget how many times they are in a public place every day that is dedicated to a certain purpose which you are there to partake in – such as reading in a library, eating in a restaurant – in which a loud punk concert or a bunch of people screwing on the floor would be extremely unwelcome. I go to a restaurant to eat a meal, and some guy cleaning a carburetor on the table next to me would not be interpreted as him exercising his freedom. A bunch of weirdly-dressed women in balaclavas shouting about shit and bitches while I’m in the library trying to read, ditto. If I take a bus, I don’t want the ride interrupted by an orgy, not even if I am invited. I also pointed out that in a world of complete freedom, people would likely have simply beaten the living shit out of Pussy Riot rather than call the cops. Be careful what you wish for.

              That was pretty much it.

              If I’m sorry about anything, it’s that the verdict had to come out now and trample all over Kovane’s excellent post. I know we get a little off topic most days, but as soon as the stupid Pussy Riot verdict was out nobody wanted to talk about anything else.

          • yalensis says:

            @mark: PR wouldn’t be the first set of “dissidents” who were incited by Western propaganda, led to believe they would be rescued by American tanks, and then left to rot.

            • Misha says:

              I wouldn’t confuse PR with the 1956 Hungarian activists.

              In PR’s case, they’re likely looking at a bigger picture, which includes getting the best possible PR (from their vantage point), as in Public Relations.

              The sentence they received has made PR more well known in a way that can lead to greater prospects for them in the future.

              Their manner in court is in line with the “cruising for a bruise” term.

              The Russian legal system was caught in a Catch 22 kind of a situation.

              • marknesop says:

                If that’s their angle, I hope they’re putting their money on lucrative speaking tours, in which case they have a year and a half to learn English. Because if they were hoping for a big recording contract and a world tour as musicians, that’s going to evaporate as soon as westerners who know them only as “a feminist punk band” hear them play.

                • Misha says:

                  Seems like the choice of the chapel was a desperation move on their part to get greater publicity.

                  Had they done their “performance” like their others in more openly acceptable space (like what I mentioned yesterday regarding NYC street performers), their actual talent would come under greater scrutiny.

                • marknesop says:

                  Anyone who is as smart as the western press would have you believe these girls are would know their behaviour is unacceptable, now and in past stunts. All that malarkey about social conscience and reaching out for truth and understanding and freedom is just a cover for a group of people who get off on being obnoxious and on negative attention. Putin is just a convenient handle on which to hang their anti-social posturing, and he did not feature in their previous silliness except peripherally in the “song” on the roof of the remand center, in which they expressed the wish that Russia could have a revolution like Egypt. Egypt is now in the hands of an Islamic fundamentalist government, and has a per-capita GDP less than half that of Russia; I guess they didn’t get the memo, and believe Egypt is some kind of beacon of freedom.

                • Misha says:

                  You’re talking sense as some others cling to a blinded disdain of Russia.

                  Consider the Fox News conservatives (at least some of them) who’re simply treating PR as young misfits who were harshly dealt with by a menancing state.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      I saw their little copycat performance on Euronews (a France-based news channel) last week. The cathedral was full and a mass had started when the PR clones walked down the nave shouting “Free Pussy Riot” in German. They got about half-way down as members of the congregation looke on shocked, and then they were suddenly grabbed and promptly bustled out of the cathedral by attendants and outside, security men made sure they didn’t run away. There were others outside, not wearing balaclavas, who were carrying posters on which was written “Free Pussy Riot!” in English.

    • yalensis says:

      “Holy shit!”
      I just suddenly got the bi-lingual pun…

      • Moscow Exile says:

        “В Германии закон беспощаден к нарушающим порядок в церкви
        Католическая церковь Германии подала заявление на троих молодых людей, которые ворвались в прошлое воскресенье во время богослужения в Кельнский собор. «Спокойствие в Кельнском соборе было нарушено — этого мы не можем и не хотим допускать, — заявил газете Der Tagesspiegel декан собора Роберт Кляйне. — Право на свободу демонстраций не может ставиться выше прав на свободу вероисповедания и религиозных чувств участвующих в богослужении».

        Как отметил Кляйне, «это законно и, наверное, необходимо — протестовать против приговора, вынесенного в России, но делать это нужно в общественных местах. Есть границы, и не нужно нарушать права других». (Почему-то на Pussy Riot и Россию декан эти границы не распространяет. — «МК».)”

        [As regards a breach of the peace in a German Roman Catholic church, the law was ruthlessly applied to three youths who this past Sunday stormed into Cologne Cathedral during divine service. “The tranquility in Cologne Cathedral was violated: that we cannot and do not want to allow”, Cathedral Dean Robert Kleine told the newspaper “Der Tagesspiegel”. “The freedom to make demonstrations is a right that may not take precedence over the rights to the freedom of religion and religious sentiments involved in worship”.

        As Kleine pointed out, “It’s lawful and, probably, necessary to protest against the sentence imposed in Russia, but do it in public. There are limits, and there is no need to violate the rights of others”.

        (For some reason the Dean does not apply these limits to Pussy Riot and Russia . — Moskovsky Komsomolets.)]


        Don’t do as we do: do as we say?

        • marknesop says:

          I think there’s everything necessary in there to both substantiate the Russian sentence – knowing as we do that there were already numerous “happenings” staged by both Voina and Pussy Riot which were treated as disturbances of the peace, and which evidently taught them nothing – and show solidarity with it. “The freedom to make demonstrations is a right that may not take precedence over the rights to the freedom of religion and religious sentiments ..There are limits, and there is no need to violate the rights of others.”

          I don’t see any way that can be interpreted as support for anarchist behaviour or ambitions. A lot of the unconditional support the media breathlessly passes on is based on the limited information the ignorant get to read, which implies the action actually was some kind of “punk prayer”, as if they just sang a psalm or something, and that the big fuss is all because they were bizarrely dressed and complaining about Putin.

        • AK says:

          Hey guys apparently the German copycat action was an FSB provocation.

          • marknesop says:

            Of course it was not, but it might have been for how welcome it would be for the Russian government. It does not even need to formally make the argument “how would you feel if it happened in your country”, and presto! it happens somewhere else.

            “FSB provocation” seems to be the go-to explanation for western media when they don’t have another one ready. “Al Qaeda provocation” is second choice. What difference would it make who originated it? Germany has a golden opportunity to back up all the fluff the west is throwing about philosophers and visionaries and freedom fighters: rather than prosecute them for anything, it should immediately give them all supervisory positions on the clerical staff of the cathedral, and offer them a couple of opportunities a week to deliver “punk sermons” where they can scream and jump and kick and wallow in their own shit if they want to, for all who wish to come and worship, with the condition that they scrub the place out afterward. That’d be one in the eye for the dirty Russian dictatorship, what? Lead by example, Germany.

            • kirill says:

              The intellectual bankruptcy of this tin foil hat accusation is breathtaking. Even if the FSB got some loons to stage the cathedral protest, the fallout has nothing to do with the FSB and everything with German (and western) law. If there are legal consequences for the Cologne PR clones then why should there be no legal consequences for PR in Moscow? Alleged good intentions don’t override the law. Obviously they don’t in Germany.

              All of these PR hysterics demonstrate the general low level of public awareness (and intelligence). It’s good if somebody does something to evil Russia, but it is bad if the same thing is done to any western entity. We good, them bad. Total hypocrisy, moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

        • yalensis says:

          @Exile: I can sort of understand the draconian German laws. Germans went through a hundred years or so of actual bloody wars (Catholic vs. Protestant), so is somewhat understandable why they might regard either religion as in need of protection. Not sure, but is Catholicism the minority religion in Germany? In which case, maybe is seen as vulnerable group needing of protection. Slightly different situation in Russia, where Orthodox Church is dominant religion and in pretty tight with government now. So I personally don’t see why it needs extra protection, other than the standard laws against privacy and vandalism, and so on. Although, to be fair, some people still seem to be holding a grudge about Bolshevik excesses in their zeal to instill athetism in the population. (Which campaign was mostly successful, by the way, at least in ethnic Russian areas.)

          • Moscow Exile says:

            The RC/Protestant division in Germany is now roughly 50/50. I also think that about 5% of the population there consists of Muslim Gastarbeiter. There are slighty more RCs in Germany than Protestants. The divide is approximately north/south, with the RCs to the south, the River Main being a convenient arbitrary dividing line between the two. However, there is an RC majority that runs northwards up the Rhine valley, hence the Gothic pile of the RC Köln cathedral, where German supporters of the Snatch Shriekers annoyed devout German Catholics who were attending mass.

            German governments traditionally tread very carefully so as not to antagonize the RCs and Protestants. When, during the late ’80s, I was resident in the Fatherland before my upping sticks and moving to Mother Russia, I often use to think that Germans enjoyed so many public holidays because apart from the Christmas, Easter and Whit holidays that both RCs and Protestants celebrate, for every public holiday that was also a “holiday of obligation”, namely a day when RCs were obliged to go to mass, e,g, on the feasts of Saints Peter & Paul, Corpus Christi, the Ascension etc., the Lutherans were given a holiday as well.

            As an aside, I lived for a while in the Catholic Rhineland. At first, my landlord’s attitude towards me was somewhat cool but later it noticeably improved after I had decided one Sunday to put on my Sunday suit on and go to mass and receive Holy Communion. Both he and his wife’s eyes were popping out when they were watching me walking back from the altar rails. I almost gave them a little wave. Up to then they had both clearly believed that as I was an “Engländer”, I must therefore be Protestant.

            I had made the decision to make a grand appearance in the church where they both attended mass every Sunday because he had been giving me notification of an imminent increase in my rent.

            The rent never went up.

          • Misha says:

            The recent action by PR and anti-ROC biases abroad from venues such as RFE/RL should be a cause for some concern as these instances serve to encourage negative manner against the ROC.


            A retired NYPD officer told me that during his career in law enforcement, his precinct had an informally positive relationship with Black Muslims who had their version of neighborhood activity which combatted crime.

            Police departments the world over are stressed with budgetary limits, while trying to combat crime. When properly mannered, community watch groups (religious or otherwise) serve a positive purpose.

          • kirill says:

            “pretty tight with the government”.

            Care to back that up. To me it is rather clear that the ROC + Putin = new USSR oppression BS is a new meme being foisted on Russia by its enemies like “corruption” before. The “corruption” smear apparently has not gained much traction and failing to make Russians into a bunch of liberast monkeys. So now the same intellectual giants are trying to infect their brains with the notions that the ROC is (1) a force in Russian politics and (2) part of Putin’s evil regime.

            Sorry, but it is patently obvious that neither (1) nor (2) is true.

    • kirill says:

      The Daily Mail piece is good. But he should have appealed to the balance of rights and not just to the spiritual sanctum aspect. The bottom line that the western media is bending backwards to not bring up is that PR have zero right to do *anything* in churches, private homes, and other venues which Mark mentioned such as libraries and restaurants. They can spout their precious hateful opinions in *public* spaces like streets and parks.

      Russia should make explicit legislation to outline these boundaries. Like in the west, these basic facts are lost in the cracks and need to be rediscovered by judges on a routine basis. So we will not have the retarded bleating about whether hooliganism applies to these thugs. They should be charged for violating the rights of parishioners plus trespassing. The trespass was obviously malicious and not an innocent mistake. Such rights violations should carry jail terms and not just $17 slaps on the wrist.

      • Misha says:

        Many Americans including myself reluctantly lean towards permitting freedom of expression within certain confines. The reluctance pertains to the expressing of extremely vulgar views. That said, I’m at somewhat of a loss in fully agreeing with what has been evident in some Western countries including Canada and the UK.

        Touches on something that Moscow Exile brought up:


        Re: &

        One should be careful when making a comparison between Lenin and Hitler. Hitler did promote the idea of Germany doing good. In contrast, Lenin used such characterizations as Great Russian chauvinism and Russia as a prison of nations – imagery which is inaccurately slanted in relation to what the rest of the world was like during the period in question.

        • kirill says:

          I should clarify that I am not proposing that vulgarity be regulated and punished. People do have a right to offend as part of free speech but they do not have the right to such speech on every square millimeter of the planet. Society is about rules. Just like it is a bad idea to smack somebody in the face for no reason as you walk down the street, it is a bad idea to go into a Church and start screaming obscenities. I am quite sure that PR and Voina are total hypocrites when it come to protecting their privacy. So somebody setting up a protest camp in their apartments would be something they would not welcome with open arms. Just like being verbally accosted everywhere they go. That is why I hate this scum; they like to dish it out but don’t like to take it.

      • marknesop says:

        Unfortunately, that is part of the game – insist that current law does not specifically prohibit such activities, with the express intent of boxing in the government so it has the choice of allowing the activities to continue (win, anarchists) or rewrite the law so the activity is now illegal (Putin is crushing dissent!!!!). It’s a no-lose situation for the west, all for the cost of a little manufactured outrage. Neat.

        • kirill says:

          I agree but the western propaganda case is flimsy if it uses some law clarifying protest venue restrictions as evidence of suppression of dissent. I know the typical mass media consumer is a drooling, couch potato moron but to claim that having PR protest outside the cathedral (as opposed to inside it) is oppression is simply beyond retarded.

  15. Moscow Exile says:

    Another out and out lie about the “regime” in Russia in this morning’s UK DailyTelegraph in a story on the latest arrest of that Russian and United States citizen, Garik Kimovich Weinstein, aka Gary Kasparov, who was arrested outside of the court where the Screaming Cnuts were sentenced last week.

    It may be remembered that Kasparov allegedly bit the hand of one of the arresting police officers. The Telegraph now says that the former chess player now turned politician “could be charged with using violence against a state official, a criminal indictment that carries a maximum custodial sentence of five years, rather than the 15 days for the first administrative charge”.

    The big lie that the Telegraph slips into the tale is that Kasparov before his arrest was allegedly “shouting illegal slogans, such as ‘Russia without Putin'”.

    So there you have it: there now exist “illegal slogans” in Putin’s Evil Regime.

    It’s true!

    I read it in the paper!


    • kirill says:

      Naturally when people shout anti-Putin slogans in other public venues they somehow are not heard or seen. They can only be heard or seen if they do it in your living room, your church, etc.

      Repeat offenders get harsher sentences in the west. Kasparov is a repeat offender who crossed the line by assaulting a police officer. Does anyone honestly think this clown would have gotten off without any consequences in the USA, for example? Incredible how compartmentalized the brains of western media consumers appear to be. Assault on a police officer is a serious offense that is not mitigated by “political slogan shouting at the time”, etc.

      • Misha says:

        Before the PR disrespecting of the Moscow chapel in question, I recall RFE/RL and BBC segments showing PR performing.

        The aforementioned PR performances seem pretty much like the street performances one sees in NYC – albeit the latter often exhibiting a greater talent.

        • marknesop says:

          Sean’s Russia Blog also covered their performance on the roof of the pre-trial detention center. It just sounded like noise to me, but that’s how my parents used to describe the music I liked, so perhaps I’m not the best critic.

      • kirill says:

        Kasparov has gotten the soft treatment. Now we will see if his biting the cop gets him into any trouble,

        Note how RAIN makes it sound like some goons attacked him. If you are going to stage impromptu demonstrations at certain venues, you should expect to be manhandled and forcibly removed. This is what happens routinely to the “Occupy” protesters in the USA.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Kasparov gets the soft treatment regularly, I think. A couple of years back he was whinging on Fox News or whatever in his other country about his latest arrest. That was when he was showing up every couple of months or so for a confrontation with the authorities at Triumfalnaya Square – the “31 movement” provocation on the 31st of any month in protest over the denial of the so-called right to assemble wheresoever one chooses. He had been arrested and, as nearly always happens, was released from police custody not long after, in this case the following morning. He was bleating on the news show about how awful the food was while he was banged up. It was so inedible, he claimed, that he had to have food brought in.

          The poor little dear!

          Around my old haunts in the UK, the usual fare that one receives after spending the
          night in police cells is beans on toast, one slice thereof and about 20 baked beans in tomato sauce. I have never had reason to complain about the quality of a British police cell breakfast, but I can well imagine the response I should have received if I had asked for food to be brought in for me.

  16. Moscow Exile says:

    And from this morning’s Moscow Times there continues the never ending barrage of that so-called newspaper against the Russian government and head of state:

    “The case of the now-famous punk group has conclusively proven to the world that Russia is an authoritarian country led by President-cum-dictator Vladimir Putin and an active repressor not
    only of the political opposition, but also of freedom of expression and creativity…

    “…Putin’s goal is to intimidate the dissenting members of society and to frighten the growing wave of protesters into submission”.

    Well, yes: I suppose that growing wave of protesters (they regularly have marches of millions) throughout this vast land must be somewhat disconcerting to the Evil One.


    • kirill says:

      The Moscow Times is the newspaper version of Novodvorskaya. She hates Russians and Russia and smears them at every chance. You see, if you don’t do what she wants you are really, really bad. To think that the will of the majority in Russia has a chance to manifest itself in the form of two thirds voting for Putin is a horrible crime against the minority that would be kings.

      • Misha says:

        I once again note how the Kyiv Post (KP) slants in favor of nationalist views leaning in an anti-Russian direction.

        KP being a non-Ukrainian owned/Kiev based English language operation, with The Moscow Times being a non-Russian owned/Moscow based English language venue.

        • kirill says:

          It is rather clear that “he that pays the piper, calls the tune” when it comes to “free” media. Rupert Murdoch’s empire was and still is a pure reflection of his wants and desires. This was also the case for Randolf Hurst’s newspaper empire of the past. It must be some sort of cold war propaganda that obfuscated the basic fact that top management decides on the editors and the editors decide on the news content. There is no internet style independent blogger aspect to corporate journalism. The journalist has to do what his employers tell him to do and they hire and fire journalists based on their obedience. Of course, the editors are smart and don’t engage in gross interference so there is some “balance”. But at the same time it is clear that they do orchestrate propaganda campaigns, such as the PR hysteria, with willing journalists.

          Does anyone really think that other aspects in the PR case do not matter? The western media is not just complaining about the punishment meted out to PR. They are trying hard to make it sound like their arrest is some sort of gross violation of the law and their rights.

          • Misha says:

            The “paper of record” (NYT) has a self described slogan of “all the news that’s fit to print”. That description doesn’t include carrying a full unedited transcript of what PR said in the Moscow chapel.

            On such a particular, the latter is apparently (essentially) expected by some to be more tolerant than the former, despite the contrasting reputations of the two (socially conservative leaning ROC versus a liberal to neoliberal NYT slant).

  17. yalensis says:

    More on the atheism front: One of the commenters on Adomanis’ piece claimed that Russian atheist dissident Maxim Efimov had sought asylum in Estonia:

    If this is true, it is doubly disappointing to me. Both that Efimov left (giving Estonians a propaganda point against Russia), and also that he felt he had to leave. Efimov was persecuted for his atheistic beliefs, not actions: Unlike the Pusses in Boots, he did not actually commit any crime whatsoever, not even a petty misdemeanor.

    • cartman says:

      Good riddance to the Scientologist scammer.

      • cartman says:

        Maxim Efimov’s organization (Youth Human Rights Group) could be affiliated with something else, but my bet is that it belongs to the Church of Scientology’s Youth Human Rights International. The CoS has been in a long battle with the Russian government, which has fought other cults like Aum Shinrikyo (extremely dangerous – they tried to get nuclear weapons from Russia into Tokyo) and the deep-pocketed Evangelical churches. Of course, the ROC is one of the institutions against the crazy, violent, and usurious religions that flourished in the Gorbachev-Yeltsin period. It’s wealth and organization pales in comparison to the other religions.

        You may think Russia is non-religious and secular, but that is not true. The Soviets downplayed their atrocities against the Orthodox Church and its believers because obviously they never saw through their own dogma about religion. The pagan spiritualism left behind was completely unknown to them.

        • kirill says:

          Thanks for the information. This explains why he got the rough legal treatment. There is more at play than simply an individual and his personal opinions. All such agents of malicious organizations should have legal action taken against them. And these are malicious organizations posing as “churches” and “NGOs”.

        • Misha says:

          Reminded a bit of how Albert Speer had some initial success in re-inventing himself, until more info on his Nazi era manner became known.

        • yalensis says:

          I did not know Efimov was a scientologist. Are you sure about this?
          If true, then I officially withdraw my sympathy from him.
          (I realize he will be all cut up to lose my vote.)

          • cartman says:

            I tell if YHRG and YHRI coincidentally have the same name. He calls it the Karelian chapter, and the parent has an English name, so I doubt it is based in Russia or the former Soviet Union. The only source of funding he discloses is a grant from the US Embassy. It all looks really amateur.

    • kirill says:

      I actually support such ROC militants. Russia’s fifth column needs to feel some heat and not coddling to please the west. If they hate Russia so much then they should get the f*ck to the west and live in peace and freedom. Some of them can go to the local supermarket and shove chickens in their birth canals. It’s something normal people do and the cops will not be called, I assure you. They will also not face a psych evaluation either.

  18. kirill says:

    I think this article brings up some serious facts. I don’t support Alex Jones because a lot of his ranting is pure tin foil hat nonsense. Such as his whole “global warming is a scam” BS. But this article by Paul Craig Roberts stands on its own in spite of some obvious errors.

  19. Moscow Exile says:

    I’m bloody sick to the back teeth of reading about these middle-class, educated degenerates being described as punk musicians who bravely and defiantly voiced their political message through the media of performing art and music.

    Here are some real punks getting their opinion over loudly and clearly about Margaret Thatcher:

    They’re the Scottish band “The Exploited”:

    None of them studied philosophy at university – I think.

    • kirill says:

      Good example of what a real punk protest band can produce. Note some key features:

      1) They can play instruments and actually produced a real punk song.

      2) They have a real beef with Maggie and her neo-liberalism. So it is not just shouting insults at Maggie.

      PR do not demonstrate the above two features. Number (2) is of prime importance. PR clearly can’t make a case against Putin if all they do is just sling insults at him. They also attack the ROC for supposedly being Putin’s lackeys. They don’t offer any actual content in their protests/spew. How does the ROC prop up Putin? What has Putin done that merits the abuse? They can’t include any actual criticism in their spew?

  20. Misha says:

    *This article on PR was forwarded to my attention:

    The sender added this note –

    Ames isn’t exactly right right on some points, while being better than the mainstream.


    An example of cliché journalism:

    It’s not like there’re Lenin statues galore in Pridnestrovie (Transnistria).

    The ones up are largely ignored.

    In terms of being historically revered, Alexander Suvorov is a far more popular figure in Pridnestrovie than Lenin.

    What seems to be the best English language book written on Suvorov, who is credited with founding Pridnestrovie’s capital Tiraspol:

    Pridnestrovie’s flag is often displayed without the hammer and sickle. In Pridnestrovie, a statue of Suvorov on a horse has served as a sort of unofficial alternative coat of arms to the hammer and sickle. There has been discussion in Pridnestrovie about adopting a version of the Russian tricolor flag.

    In Pridnestrovie, the Communist party is nowhere near as popular as the Communist party in Moldova – the latter which features the hammer and sickle.

    In an arguably problematic stance, Pridnestrovie defines the use of the hammer and sickle as an aspect of history, unrelated to supporting a return to the Soviet past.

    BTW, Austria’s coat of arms features a hammer and sickle:

    • marknesop says:

      I used to like Ames; I liked his edgy writing, and while he was vulgar it usually was in support of a point, rather than just gratuitous profanity. But here we go again with poor Pussy Riot “falling under the Kremlin’s gunsights”. The west is determined to make the trial and the verdict political, because if it cannot make it about the evil empire crushing brave prisoners of conscience, it will be left holding the truth – the Kremlin actually played almost no part in it at all. Putin did not mastermind the arrest or the trial, there was no arrest until the ROC complained – as any church would do in the same circumstances – and the affair did not become overtly political until the west took up Pussy Riot’s banner and resolved to refashion them into superheroes.

      • AK says:

        Matt Forney on Ames:

        I liked Mark Ames before he sold out.
        And make no mistake, he’s a sellout and a hack now. When he was at the helm of The Exile, the only “alternative” newspaper in the world ever worth a damn, Ames was a smart reporter and an insightful social critic. He was disgusting, puerile, offensive and reprehensible to be sure, but he was never boring, and much of what he wrote was on target.
        “Boring” is the perfect word for Ames’ post-Exile career.
        Ever since he and his butt-boy Yasha Levine came home from Russia, they’ve been jockeying to become part of the left-wing pundit class. As a result, they’ve been recanting every evil, “misogynistic” thing they wrote in the decade that the Exile was published in Moscow—and lamely mocking everyone who points out their lack of integrity and slipshod journalism.

        • Misha says:

          To reiterate, Ames exhibited such traits well beforehand.

          It should therefore come as no surprise.

          He remains someone generally better than Western mass media, while having opinions which can be (put mildly) debated.

      • Misha says:


        In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve called things for what they’re well before some others have seen the light.

        Perhaps you can consider thatt the next time you do a “ratings.”

        Regardless, I’m by no means alone in knowing what the real deal is as opposed to what has been evident.

        • Misha says:

          Make that last part:

          Regardless, I’m by no means alone in knowing what the real deal is as opposed to some of what has been stated.

        • marknesop says:

          No disagreement there, but my ratings posts are so far always done the same way – by the number of visits to those websites from this one. I don’t have any other objective standard of measurement.

          • Misha says:

            I do.

            Who tends to gets things right versus those getting them wrong.

            Likewise with how well diversified the given person is on the subjects covered.

            Is the person in question simply rehashing what has been said elsewhere or is he/she (comparatively speaking) exhibiting more of an orginally thought out point of view?

            The ability to successfully defend a point of view is another factor. This brings to mind the bully pulpit types who lob their questionable shots from a safe distance without directly answering their nay sayers.

            Technically, there’s an objective enough of a way to judge these aspects.

            Establishment venues have an adavantage in attracting greater hits which isn’t always indicative of superior analytical insight.

    • marknesop says:

      It starts out ignorant, in its presumption right off the mark that PR’s “performance” has nothing to do with religious hatred and everything to do with Putin. But the more I read the more I liked, especially the less-than-subtle mockery of western luminaries who claim to “identify” with PR, and who demonstrate it by going to poetry readings in Manhattan where the words to their “punk prayer” are read out and rhapsodized over for their Joan-of-Arc-like resonance. The topper was the announcement of a costume protest march, accompanied by the cautionary note that unfortunately participants would not be able to show solidarity by donning PR’s famous colourful balaclavas – because the wearing of balaclavas is illegal in Manhattan. You go, girl: protest that wicked oppression in Russia. You can’t make this stuff up.

      • Misha says:

        An overall inaccurate hack job in how it premises a non-legitimate prosecution of the individuals in question.

        The insight offered at these threads (your truly) is of a superior quality, when it comes to covering all the angles.

        • Misha says:

          Should read as:

          The insight offered at these threads (including your truly) is of a superior quality, when it comes to covering all the angles.


          Not particularly into propping inferior commentary that’s establishment propped.

          More into promoting better options that (comparatively speaking) are downplayed by the more high profile of venues.

          Such advocacy serves to better improve the coverage.

  21. Moscow Exile says:

    Ames writes that Tolokonnikova for “her role in the “Fucking For Medvedev” stunt, the Pussy Riot girl was thrown out of MGU university, as were several other members of the Voina collective”.

    The Western news media, however, has been at pains in pointing out what a smart young thing the degenerate exhibitionist Tolokonnikova is, namely that she studied philosophy at MGU. This is only true in so far as it goes: as Ames rightly says, she studied at MGU but never graduated from there as she was sent down together with some others who had participated in the “orgy” event :

    “7 марта 2008 года Учёный совет философского факультета МГУ констатировал, что «акция в музее, в которой приняли участие несколько студентов факультета, является непристойной и оскорбительной. Участие в данной акции не совместимо со статусом студента МГУ, тем более факультета, дающего педагогическую квалификацию по ряду специальностей»”.

    [On March 7th, 2008, the Moscow State University Academic Council stated that “the event in a museum in which several students of the faculty took part was obscene and indecent. Participating in such an event is incompatible with the status of an MGU student, even moreso of a student in a faculty that awards specialist pedagogical qualifications”.]


    (I’ve not been able to find the Russian article that I read a few weeks back and in which her faculty boss also added that she and her dismissed colleagues had been performing badly and achieving inadequate marks and that they were in for the chop in any case.)

    Nevertheless, Tolokonnikova has often been labelled as a philosophy student or even as a “philosopher” by some journalists (as shown in the example linked below), as has one of her co-defendants, Samutsevich, because of the latter’s tendency to philosphize on the rare occasions that she spoke during the trial. Samutsevich, however, graduated from a school of photography: she does, however, like to to read philosophical works of Slavoj Žižek and Michel Foucault. (Quelle surprise!)


    Finally, to those that persist in claiming that PR only performed a “punk prayer” in a Moscow cathedral, I suggest that they look closely at the last in the set of four pictures linked below:

    Whether the person in the last picture is Tolokonnikova is debatable, although the person that posted it on a Russian blog thinks it is. Be that as it may, the person in question is not only “praying” at a “punk gig”, she is also wilfully displaying her “pudendum muliebre” to whomsoever wishes to gaze upon it. And I say “wilfully”, because either that is the case or she has simply forgotten to put on her panties or is not in the habit of wearing them.

    The caption above the set of pictures says: “Nadezhda Tolokonnikova – Art-Group Voina, Punk Group Pussy Riot”.

    The caption below the set reads: “Has she the right to bring up her child?”

    The blog is linked below:

    Below the main set of pictures it says:

    Надежда Толоконникова (Надя Толокно, Тролокно), Петр Верзилов (Петя-Пидарок, Поросенок Петр)

    Надя Толоконникова – недоучившаяся студентка из Норильска, Петр Верзилов – юный пройдоха с канадским паспортом в кармане, они были статистами на нескольких акциях группы, но не были авторами ни одной идеи. Все это не мешает им называть себя везде москвичами и лидерами группы.

    [Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Nadya Tolokno,Trolokno) ,Petr Verzilov (Pete the Bum-Boy, Piglet Pete)
    Nadya Tolokonnikova – failed student from Norilsk; Petr Verzilov – a young villain with a Canadian passport in his pocket. They have been extras in several of the group events but have never had an original idea. None of this has prevented them from referring to themselves everywhere as Muscovites and group leaders.]

    • kirill says:

      Eventually they will be whinging about their expulsion as evidence of discrimination and repression of dissidents. Facts never get in the way of western media spin on world events.

      We need better metrics of freedom. I no longer grant the west any sort of primacy on the democracy front. The west is democratic in theory and by self-description. But given the brazen lying of the western media and the treatment of protesters in the USA, e.g. the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and the G8/G20 police brutality in Ontario, it is difficult to objectively assert that Russia is less free. The PR and Voina are a case in point. They have engaged in serial trespass, property damage and theft. But they were never prosecuted like they would have been in the USA.

      All the anti-Putin hate is based on myths. Myths such as that he is some sort of dictator. This is clinical mental deficiency. PR and their ilk have no case and I have heard nothing from them that even begins to describe real cause for discontent. A lot of anti-Putinism is circular and vacuous.

    • marknesop says:

      For what it’s worth, I think Tolokonnikova is the one just to the left of the girl who is giving everyone a free show; the colouring (Tolokonnikova is slightly dark) fits, and she has Tolokonnikova’s slim, graceful arms.

      I can’t understand why the sympathetic west won’t adopt my solution in this and all similar cases – strike a deal with Russia. Say, don’t put them in jail, we’ll take them. Fast-track their immigration, and make them citizens.

      But of course they are only useful to the west as a stick with which to poke Russia in the eye, and for that, they have to be in Russia and preferably in jail, where they can adopt the comfortable Prisoner of Conscience label. The last thing the west wants is them leading a similar domestic movement and offering the same sort of shows in their country. For my part, I hope Tolokonnikova’s Canadian Permanent Resident status runs out while she is in the jug, and that further applications are denied on grounds of moral turpitude.

      • kirill says:

        In spite of not really wanting that freak to move to Canada, I expect her to be a tame little mouse once she gets here. Her job is attacking Russia’s duly elected government and not her western patrons. This whole radical feminist cum anarchist ploy is BS. It will disappear as soon as she lands at the airport.

        • marknesop says:

          I’m afraid I doubt that what she wanted would be very relevant; I imagine a flood of attention from the popular press would quickly remind her of her celebrity status, since she has become the face of Pussy Riot (being the most attractive among a not-particularly-attractive group). It is that I wish most to avoid – the impression that my country has Pussy Fever (so to speak) and is ready to throw itself at the feet of an anarchist. And that is how it will be spun, if it happens and if they manage to remain current while imprisoned. That’s assuming the decision is not reversed on appeal, and I’m backing off on that a little; I now think the sentence’s being upheld has a better than 50% chance. Look for another bounce in Pussy Riot jibber-jabber on the Intertubes regardless which way the judgment goes, although the international euphoria will be sickening if the sentence is struck down on appeal.

          To say nothing of the message it sends to would-be immigrants who have patiently waited their turn and have no tradition of exhibiting their naughty bits before the world in the most vulgar and gutter-like fashion. Citizens like that, we don’t need.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            One possibly negative effect on the outcome of their appeal will be the public reaction to the felling of crosses in Russia:



            • Moscow Exile says:

              It’s all the FSB’s work!


              • AK says:

                That’s the dominant theory over at Dying Russia (continuation of La Russophobe).

                • Misha says:

                  No small wonder why LR-DR punked out of a live one hour BBC point-counterpoint exchange. Some seem to prefer lobbing pot shots from the bully pulpit of blogs and Tweets, while some others prefer intelligently frank exchanges in a reasonably civil situation.

            • marknesop says:

              Again, I have the solution – why don’t the world’s governments listen to me? Find out who did it, (that’s the hard part, although in the case of those loonies of FEMEN, they usually televise their work) and bulldoze their home flat. If they live in an apartment, take down the building. Nothing like a little collective punishment to inspire a fever of self-policing. The Israelis do it all the time, with never a murmur from the international peanut gallery of do-gooders.

              No, seriously; obviously that is not really the answer, although it certainly would feel good. All things happen for a purpose, and these actions – disgraceful though they may be – serve the purpose of strengthening sympathy for the church, uniting believers against such acts of senseless vandalism, hardening their hearts against those who perpetrate such acts, lessening the chances Pussy Riot will be freed on appeal and strengthening resistance to the goals of radical feminism.

              I’m curious, though – where is the international Christian community on this? Amid the stupid outpouring of ignorant support for the anarchists and the nutjobs, where is the sympathy and empathy for the church? Where are the offers to come over and carve a new cross for the church to replace the one destroyed – surely the international display of unity would balance the loss of history? Where are the exhortations to the vandals to protest peacefully, but to remember the church is not the villain here? I keep hearing that Patriarch Kirill publicly supported Putin – how? Did he order all the believers to vote for him? Did he suggest anyone who did not would not be welcome in heaven, something of that nature? If it was just a bit of a nudge, get out the chainsaws and head for the USA, because such behaviour there is far from new. Oooooo, lookie here: hard to interpret “we are urging each of our nearly 600,000 members to get behind Ted Cruz in Texas, and Clark Durant in Michigan — both candidates seeking the GOP nomination in their respective states for the United States Senate” as something other than a political endorsement – go get ’em, FEMEN!!!. Actually, there’s no law, religious or otherwise, that prohibits it; the deal is that churches will stay out of politics or lose their tax-exempt status, which is where the separation of church and state comes in. And some of the loudest pro-Pussy Riot/FEMEN shouting comes from America, where churches endorsing political candidates for office is as much a national value as Mom and apple pie.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                “I’m curious, though – where is the international Christian community on this?”

                You’re forgetting something: the Russian Orthodox Church is a schismatic, obscurantist sect. The “international Christian community”, namely the Roman Catholics, the Protestants in all their diversity, but not the other Eastern Orthodox schismatics and the Coptic Church, are the real deal. In fact, the “Western church” regularly waged crusades against the Orthodox Slavs, the knightly, monkish German German Order being experts in this field, as indeed were the Swedes, Poles and Lithuanians.

                I remember reading a long while back of how the Lutherans once held a long synod in Malmö, Sweden, over the question of whether the Russian Eastern Orthodox church was Christian. In the end, they decided that it wasn’t. That synod took place towards the end of the 17th century. No surprise, of course, that at about the same time the Swedes were about to become engaged on a programme of imperial expansion into Russia Orthodox lands and, as a result of the Malmö decision they could kill Russians with a clear conscience owing to the fact the Russians weren’t Christians.

                In fact, Russians aren’t even Europeans, so how can the “international community”, aka citizens of the “Anglo-Saxon” world and its satrap states, feel any kinship towards them? Russians may look like white folks, but don’t you be decieved!

                In the early ’90s I had a US colleague who was a staunch Republican and who firmly believed that the only hope for Russia was its becoming United States territory. (I kid you not!) He was also in the habit of calling Russians “Snow Niggers”.

                • marknesop says:

                  Yes, that seems to be a colloquialism of which the American lexicon is particularly fond – all the Middle Eastern peoples are likewise known (to some, I should stress, not all) as “Sand Niggers”.

                  I remember the Anglican priest who married me the second time (I don’t mean I married a man, I’m sure you know what I mean to say) telling me that all organized western religions were branches of the Church Catholic if you traced them back far enough, including those who now are in bitter opposition to it, and he was a religious historian of some regard.

                  In any case, I have noticed the church is no different from other social groups in its willingness to claim as its own those whose alliances are politically expedient. The more puzzling, then, that it should now choose to align itself with anarchists who oppose all religions (this group includes Madonna, whether or not she chooses to proclaim herself an anarchist) and who rut in public like wild beasts. Truly, God was having an off day.

                • Misha says:

                  Moscow Exile,

                  The ROC is also typecast as a Soviet stooge entity. Downplayed, is how Stalin became more lenient with the ROC for the purpose of creating a better morale as Russia was being overrun by the Nazis. In the Communist bloc, every religion seeking an open operation was required to give some kind of reporting/disclosure to the state.

                  The émigré ROCOR agreed to merge with the ROC-MP. If the latter were such a neo-Soviet entity, the former wouldn’t have merged with it. The merger relationship involves a loos relationship akin with that of the MP affiliates in Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

                  On the stooge point, some have noted the somewhat ambiguous way the Vatican carried on with the Nazis.

                  On the Russia becoming a Western colony bit, I recall some Western analyst claiming that a Russian sought that for his country. This was during the early Yeltsin years.

                • kirill says:

                  Truman called Russians “Asiatics” as if that was some sort of insult. The west talks about individuality a lot, but there is way more conformity and lemming adherence to the mass media in the west compared to even the USSR of the 1970s. We noticed this when we immigrated back then. Some moron who can’t add two numbers calling Russians “snow niggers” just reveals his own lack of IQ. Us “snow niggers” always surprise the western ubermensch when they come to invade us. They have to run back home yelping about being defeated by “General Winter” who somehow attacks in fall and summer.

                • marknesop says:

                  There are a lot of Russians who do look Asiatic. There are also a lot who look European, or Arab. America was quite a bit like that, too, in Truman’s times as it is now. Probably the few Russians Truman saw looked Asiatic, and he assumed all the rest looked the same.

                  I’m reminded once again of the five blind men asked to describe an elephant. An elephant is like a thick rope, said the one holding the trunk. No, an elephant is like a tree, said the one who touched a foreleg. Don’t be stupid, said the third; an elephant is like a wall, as his hands explored its side. Each claims to be an authority based on nothing but his own experience and what he or she has read. But nobody feels ignorant.

                  “Snow Niggers” is a derogatory term used against the Innuit and the northern peoples generally lumped together as “Eskimos”. It would not typically be applied to European-looking white Russians.

                • cartman says:

                  I believe Kirill’s grandfather was a prisoner of the worst gulag, and an opponent of the schismatic ROC that was backed by the Cheka. Never mentioned in his biography. Just KGB agent.

                  There is always a much darker side to Swedes, btw. They seem egalitarian and happy, but they are capable of the worst things. WarNerd article about Sweden:


                  Remember the ferry from Estonia that sank in the Baltic in the 90s? Someone was smuggling Russian weapons on a civilian ferry, which exploded and took over 700 lives (mostly Swedes). Some say that it was MI6 or the CIA, but the Swedish government was the one covering it up. They immediately told everyone they were not going to recover the bodies, and started encasing the wreckage in concrete. Were they smuggling something more dangerous with those passengers? Hmm.

                • Misha says:


                  Good point and not about how other such info of prominent past and present key ROC-MP affiliated individuals mesh with what you said of Kirill.

                  How much of the ROC bashing is done by people with an astute knowledge of the subject? Moreover, how well does someone like the editor of JRL (among others) know the subject in question?

                  Moscow Exile might especially recall Mark Teeter’s comparatively silly (to some of what gets muted) Moscow News article on Mitt Romney that made JRL unlike some other commentary which doesn’t get the nod.

                  Call it what you want: revolution or counter-revolution.

                  Change the existing methodology for the purpose of actually improving the coverage.

                  The likes of JRL and InoSMI have clear limits, as many rely on these venues.

                • Misha says:

                  “Not” should be note and pardon any other misspells.

                  I sense that JI among some others would be better suited as a copy editor to correct such matters.

                  Like the baseball team with players playing out of position.


      • AK says:

        Bad idea. It’s very bad when a country has “emigres” like this especially if they are “artistic” types and not “biznessman” types like Berezovsky.

    • AK says:

      (I’ve not been able to find the Russian article that I read a few weeks back and in which her faculty boss also added that she and her dismissed colleagues had been performing badly and achieving inadequate marks and that they were in for the chop in any case.)

      That explains why they were dismissed from MGU and why they didn’t bother appealing.

      This suggests that Tolokna is well on the left hand side of the IQ bell curve of MGU students. Assuming the latter figure is about 130, as at Ivy League colleges, her IQ is probably around 1 S.D. lower, at 115.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        This isn’t the article to which I referred above: it’s an interview with the Vice-Deacon of the MGU Faculty of Philosphy that the MGU students’ club did.

        The Vice-Deacon says that Tolokonnikova had already dropped out from her studies several weeks before the “performance” in the cathedral (На тот момент Надежда уже не имела прямого отношения к факультету. За несколько недель до акции, в феврале, она пришла к декану и написала заявление об отчислении по собственному желанию), that her husband, another former MGU philosophy student, had also already droppped out by the time of the museum shag-in because of his lack of “academic success” (Ее муж Петр Верзилов, тоже студент философского факультета и один из организаторов арт-группы «Война», к тому времени был уже отчислен из МГУ за академическую неуспеваемость). However, as regards Tolokonnikova’s academic performance, he says that her efforts were “not bad” (неплохо училась), though he doesn’t seem all that impressed with her activities that took place outside of the university.


        • Moscow Exile says:

          That story I read about Tolokonninova being a poor student must have been spread around because of her dropping out last February. This article by one of her former tutors firstly defends PR against any accusations made by those who, having read an article written by the protodeacon of the MGU Philosophy Faculty, might be led into believing that PR’s only goal was popularity; secondly, the tutor claims Tolokonninova had been an outstanding student:


          The tutor claims to have known Tolokonninova for about 5 years and says towards the end of the article: ” I repeat once again that she was always quiet and polite…” (Я еще раз повторю, что она всегда вела себя тихо и вежливо).

          Well yes, she certainly seems to have adopted a quiet and polite demeanour whilst taking it from behind in public at the Timiryazevsky Biology Museum.

          • Misha says:

            That tutor feels free to express views that can be seen as positive of the most popular of the jailed PR – a far cry from an extremely oppressive state.

            Good student or not, gives her no excuse for carrying on the way she did.

            A 1960s American fugitive who lived near me came from a very good family. This person in question was/is (will try to check on her whereabouts) considered quite intelligent.

  22. Moscow Exile says:

    A touching appeal from Petr Verzilov:

    And here’s good old Pete waxing lyrical in his mother tongue:

    He and his chums are the ones who are, with your help, going to save Russia from entering another dark age.

    • Misha says:

      Just before the announced sentencing of the darling heroines, he brazenly said (in so many words) on the BBC that Putin was directly involved in the legal decision making.

      • kirill says:

        Every accusation against Putin and ROC is of this nature. Proof by assertion.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        He says so above as well:

        “…for that reason, my wife and two of the girls, who were also members of the Pussy Riot Band, they were sent to prison under the… under a direct order of Vladimir Putin…”

        [1:04 to 1:15]

        • Misha says:

          Horseshit galore.

          True investigative journalism would follow-up with the thought (whether put in the form of a question or otherwise) that Putin openly sought a light sentence – suggesting an independently minded Russian judge.

          The term “independent” is selectively approved as evidenced by how someone like Pavel Felgenhauer is received in some circles when compared to some others.


  23. Misha says:

    A Migranyan-Amanpour CNN segment discussing PR, Navalny & some other issues:

    Migranyan can do better. On a related note, not everyone is as good in live point-counterpoint situations when compared to formally written work and vice versa.

    As best as possible, one has to anticipate in advance what kind of questions and comments will be presented – especially when the person doing the interview slants in the opposite direction.

  24. Misha says:

    PR would benefit by having better talent in its whatever you want to call it:

    Let’s see how global this movement actually becomes. Will a hypothetical PR-UK and/or PR-US just focus on the evil Russian president?

    Be interesting to see how this all plays out in a few years.

    Not quite Manson like, but…

    • marknesop says:

      If they try to turn this into a big international we-are-the-world thing, it will lose its focus and collapse. If they try to make it as legitimate musicians with apparently very little talent, it will collapse. If they keep their focus as an angry feminist group of degenerate exhibitionists, to use Moscow Exile’s excellent terminology, they will be able to soldier on to a not-very-large niche audience. This is their zenith, and I don’t think they are smart enough to parlay it into anything bigger. Pussy Riot is no danger at all.

      • Misha says:

        In Amanpour’s CNN segment linked above this thread, she stressed that last point (of PR being no danger) to Migranyan as a basis to not dish out a noticeable sentence to the exhibitionists.

        Never mind how pious obstructionist behavior can lead to a relatively stiff time in jail in countries deemed as being among the most tolerant. Also noted at this thread is the matter of how just expressing a view (valid or not) can get a law abiding citizen prosecuted or denied entry into some Western countries – points that were downplayed in the aforementioned CNN segment, as well as other instances like what has been said by Foust and Gaelotti (pardon any misspells).

        “Ratings” don’t and shouldn’t be equated with necessarily indicating the most competent analysis.

        • marknesop says:

          Oh, I think the sentence they got was appropriate – it was heavier than I originally would have recommended if it were up to me, but that was before the great flood of empathy for them from the international non-Russian community. If they had said “Stop!!! this is not what we need right now; we are genuinely sorry for what we did rather than proud”, maybe I would have bought it, instead of their giggling and sniggering and long-winded soliloquies on how free they are even though they are convicted felons. Their experience in court has obviously taught them nothing, and they recognize no law – something their western fan club would do well to remember, against the possibility of their emigration upon serving their time.

          But whether or not someone is or is not a danger to society is no argument for leniency where a crime has been committed. If anything, your being a danger to society argues for a stiffer sentence, but there’s no reason the absence of such a danger should argue for leniency in cases where the criminals are so arrogant as to film themselves in the commission of the act and then deny they were there, trusting to their silly balaclavas to bestow immunity.

          I suggest they are not a danger to society simply to set them straight, because they obviously believe they are.

          • Misha says:

            Yes Mark!

            Well worth repeating (about their smug manner in court) what I’ve previously brought up. Some points are worth repeating.

            Ditto about reassessing what has been previously said of others. Using terms like “somewhat of an expert” to describe someone (ahem) versus uncritically calling SRB “legendary”. Meantime, the latter isn’t as well versed as the former on a number of key subjects.

            Hint: linking to oD unlike Leos and yours truly, while getting propped by RFE/RL and JRL should be a tell all sign. Ditto the former AEI staffer who behaved similarly at his venue, including instituting techy methods to block certain commenters with valid views.

  25. AK says:


    I have finally read this piece in its entirety and it is just as excellent and comprehensive as I expected it to be. Several questions and observations:

    But what’s much more important is the sad state of the Russian customs service. In 2011 Medvedev called the level of corruption in customs “exorbitant”, and he’s not mistaken (1,2)… In effect, for many markets effective tariff rate is much lower that the official rate, and Russian companies have been competing with imported goods on very unfavourable terms.

    Don’t understand this. Logically, high corruption in the customs service will raise the costs of imported goods, as I presume you would have to pay off the customs officials. This will also explain why say electronic goods in Russia are so damn expensive.

    Russia has to lower its average tariff rate from the present level of 10% to 7.8% by 2018. China, for example, is bound by an average tariff ceiling of 10.4%, Brazil 10.9%. Also, Russia managed to uphold some specific law and practices like internal gas pricing, the high export tariff on oil and gas and limitations on foreign presence in some sectors.

    The low gas prices are a huge competitive advantage. Surely they cancel out the extra 3% points eked out by China and Brazil?

    The heavy mechanical engineering industry is plagued by a 50% degree of equipment wear, low workload and a 60% prevalence of imports.

    I don’t think Russia has any hope whatsoever of remaining viable in this area. If you look at it globally, the machine tool sector is dominated by countries with the strongest manufacturing quality manufacturing traditions (pretty much the European Germanic and East Asian countries).

    For light industry, the defining characteristic is the extremely high level of counterfeit production – its share is estimated at 42% of the market .

    These industries are low-skill, low value added. I see no big loss here.

    Another sensitive issue for the Russian government during the negotiations was the automotive industry. Due to the existing obligations to foreign investors, Russia bargained for a prolonged transitional period… Also, many initiatives such as the state procurement of only Russian-made cars will become a thing of the past.

    This is more problematic, though I’m uncertain about the benefits of continuing to indefinitely please Avtovaz. It hasn’t exactly made much of its opportunities. As regards state procurement, I hope unofficial agreements can be made to use only Russian cars for such functions.

    And therefore, the government can apply subsidies without looking back on possible retaliation from other countries.

    Very good point.

    All in all, it seems to me that the main conclusion is that WTO won’t radically change anything. Both strong adherents and strong opponents are foaming at the mouth over something that will only have modest impacts, both good and bad (but in net terms probably more good than bad) on the economy.

    • Once again, thanks, Anatoly. Nothing like praise from authors I respect.

      Logically, high corruption in the customs service will raise the costs of imported goods

      Basically, there are two types of corruption. The first one is when someone in a position of authority approaches a businessman and demands a payoff, threatening to create problems otherwise.For customs it can be a threat to detain a shipment for a long period of time.
      In this case, the cost of imported goods indeed goes up. But this scenario leaves an extremely disgruntled businessman who can complain to the police, which is very dangerous. That’s why the second type is more common and popular. It is when, for example, customs help to smuggle goods, understate the value, or apply a different classification code. The loser here is the state, and the cost of imported goods goes down. And since the state is an impersonal entity and everyone is happy, such schemes successfully work for years, especially if participants don’t forget to share with important people.

      The low gas prices are a huge competitive advantage. Surely they cancel out the extra 3% points eked out by China and Brazil?

      There are plans to gradually level the gas prices for industrial customers, and the WTO entry conditions stipulate that prices shouldn’t be lower than the costs. As for the overall effect, it’s really hard to say, I’ve not seen any reports analyzing the total impact of the low gas prices on the competitiveness of Russian companies.

      I don’t think Russia has any hope whatsoever of remaining viable in this area.

      That’s not my impression. If you’re really interested in the prospects of Russia’s heavy machinery industry, I recommend to read the Development strategy. It provides a good analysis of the situation. There are companies that are quite competitive and successful already, companies that can potentially be successful in the future, and hopeless companies that have no chance at all.

      These industries are low-skill, low value added. I see no big loss here.

      Yes, I agree, but the important thing here is a social factor. Mono cities that are completely dependent on only one big factory are still common in Russia, and that is a major source of headache for the authorities.

      I’m uncertain about the benefits of continuing to indefinitely please Avtovaz

      AvtoVAZ is now shouldered by the Renault-Nissan alliance, and was quite profitable in 2010 and 2011. So it’s no longer a problem. As for state procurement, I’m sure that Russia will find the ways to circumvent the ban.

      All in all, it seems to me that the main conclusion is that WTO won’t radically change anything.

      That’s exactly my sentiment. The WTO is the sore point for communists and hyper-patriots like Starikov’s and Kurginyan’s supporters and gives them something to bemoan about. There’s a real danger to the economy if the government takes a careless approach, but the chances of this seem minimal to me.

  26. Misha says:

    *We’ve seen this before:

    Slowly but surely it seems like the two might very well get closer, given the limited other options.


    Regarding Chechen-Ingush differences:

    Touches on how former Soviet differences aren’t a simple matter of everyone against the Russians


    A wishful thinking kind of psyops or one that’s true?

    Even if he personally leans in that direction, Shevchuk has emphasized his serving the consensus in Pridnestrovie.

  27. Abby says:

    Undoubtedly, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with liberalizing the domestic economy and joining the WTO, but like-it-or-not Russia is now a WTO member. Shouldn’t the discussion now be about what Russia can do throughout the transition period to prepare industry to reap the most benefit from inclusion into the global trade system?

    There is a free event next week in Moscow being held by the Higher School of Economics and the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development discussing just those objectives with specialists in Russia and abroad – Medvedkov will speak. If anyone is interested:

    Althought I will be there, I am not associated with it in anyway.

  28. Pingback: My Piece On Pussy Riot At Al Jazeera

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