The Bolotnaya Politburo Lays An Egg

Uncle Volodya says,”Bandar Log, can ye stir hand or foot without my order? Speak! Good…come all one pace nearer to me.”

As readers are doubtless aware, this weekend marked the occasion of online “elections” in Russia which are supposed to fire up the opposition and elevate new leaders who will establish a “shadow parliament”. Quite often in this brave new world of interventionism, Job One is the establishment of a government-in-exile, usually composed of favoured political dissidents whose ideas meet the interventionist smell-test, which can then be conveniently recognized at the appropriate moment as the legitimate government. This quite often coincides with the outgoing government reeling and staggering from a barrage of bad press coordinated with a push by rebel mercenaries, at least in countries in which conflict in the political arena has escalated to outright violence.

Once it was feared that the kack-handed blundering about of the Russian liberal opposition marked a resolve by the west to overthrow and replace the Putin government,using a model which has become fairly popular among western conservatives and colloquially known as “the Arab Spring”. That has looked increasingly unlikely as time goes on and, while I wouldn’t go so far as to say the west is resigned to the Putin government or is no longer interested in seeing it collapse, the opposition movement in Russia looks steadily less propped-up by western interests.

Perhaps that is motivated by embarrassment.

Let’s look at an example; this weekend’s grimacing failure on the part of what Pavel Danilin first referred to as “The Bolotnaya Politburo”.

In order for us to grasp what a clanging disaster these online elections were, let’s go back a bit, and see what they were supposed to achieve. According to Brian Whitmore at The Power Vertical, these online “primaries” were to be nothing less than a model for free elections to be held in post-Putin Russia. An example of an alternate civil society where decisions are arrived at democratically. An important step in recognizing the legitimacy of the opposition. Even, God help us, a powerful sign that the opposition is serious and maturing. Although I didn’t see it specifically mentioned, an additional bonus likely was the contrasting of Russia’s hip, internet-savvy youth with the doddering technically-inept pro-Kremlin generation, and a bravura demonstration of how the technology tribe would simply go around the easily-duped electorate if it could not go through it. According to the BBC, the election may help decide who will lead the loose alliance of anti-Putin forces, and may offer an opportunity to turn the protest movement from a group of people defined by what they oppose into a group united by a positive and constructive agenda.

Lofty ambitions. But not unreasonable. The only fundamental reason Russia is led by the people who lead it is because it is the will of the people. This is something the opposition seems incapable of absorbing – it is not in charge because it has failed to convince the electorate that it would do a better job leading the country, because it has no plan beyond shouting that Putin is terrible and because it manifestly cannot even stop its members constantly bickering among themselves – how in hell is such a crowd of self-appointed busybodies and would-be martyrs supposed to come together to lead the nation?

Every time there is an election, the opposition dusts off its charges of ballot-stuffing – which it consistently claims to be able to prove and then shows video clips which don’t really show anything and claims they are proof – and carousel voting. However, every time the opposition loses in a landslide, it completely fails to understand why it lost. The opposition loses – every time – because of its failure to inspire the Russian electorate with its vision for Russia. It’s not even that it’s easy to portray the opposition as western-backed, because they are and if that fit with the electorate’s general ambitions for their country, nothing could stop the election of the opposition to power. Being western-backed is not a persuader these days, although once it unarguably was. Be that as it may, today’s liberal opposition in Russia runs the same campaign over and over, and seems repeatedly dismayed that it is again a failure – it’s time for Putin to go. Is it?? And then what??

Putin has been extremely successful in first rescuing the Russian Federation from going over the edge of the cliff to which Yeltsin had pushed it, then building it into a financial colossus and an energy superpower. But the electorate is fickle, and conforms its loyalty into a commodity bought and sold to the beat of Janet Jackson – What have you done for me lately? I can’t say it enough – an opposition with a powerful and resonant message of global inclusiveness, commerce on an advantageous footing and social reform would be an opposition that put Mr. Putin out of a job. It’s not God who keeps him there: God is extremely impartial about such things. Mr. Putin stays in power because he keeps delivering on his promises, and because the opposition doesn’t have a plan, choosing instead to run on a relentlessly-negative and elitist platform of getting rid of Putin.

So, what went wrong this time? A good place to start would be the candidates, which included let-it-all-hang-out exhibitionist Peter Verzilov and, if you can believe it, his swell-headed smirking common-law wife, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: the former a Canadian citizen, and the latter a guest of the Russian Federation’s state prison system for the next two years. What a proud moment for Russia, to be able to acknowledge such a couple as contributors to state policy! Vladimir Ryzhkov, perennial malcontent, whose Republicans barely cleared the 5%  required to participate in recent regional elections and won a single seat on the Barnaul City Council although “well-connected political strategist” Stanislav Belkovsky predicted Ryzhkov would easily win the governorship of the entire Altai region (according to reliably unreliable numpty Vladimir Kara-Murza). Incidentally, Kara-Murza does not shrink from ambitious predictions himself, forecasting gleefully back in May that restoration of direct elections spelled new trouble for the Kremlin.  My, yes; they sure have. Alexei Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov, both under investigation for serious crimes. TV presenter Ksenya Sobchak, who is probably the smartest and most compelling of the lot. Lots of other vanity candidates who appear to have been chosen solely because they create the appearance of getting up Putin’s nose – have I mentioned the weaknesses of campaigning solely as an opposer?

There’s another solid reason for staying away from this silly online posturing – Sergei Mavrodi. If any two words should strike terror into the hearts of those asked to offer personal and financial information in a public forum, those two would have to rank high on the list. Pathologically incapable of staying away from Ponzi schemes which make money from the unwary and the incurious, Mavrodi and his operatives have heavily infiltrated the voter registration lists, providing by Kommersant’s estimate as much as 30% of the body of registered voters. Of course Mavrodi’s bandwagon-jumping is not the fault of the opposition – in fact, since it has the effect of complicating the opposition’s mission, it was instantly blamed on the Kremlin, although there is no reason whatever to believe the Russian government would bring a pit viper like Mavrodi back into circulation just to wreck the lame opposition, and a moment’s reflection would clarify how stupid a suggestion it is. Sergei Mavrodi’s schemes are conspicuously subject to mission creep, and once he had destroyed the opposition there would be nothing to stop him continuing his predations on everyone else. Also, as long as the opposition continues to flail and to repeat stupid mistakes with metronomic regularity, there is less chance a strong and united opposition will emerge, so likely the current crop of posing halfwits suits the Kremlin just fine. But the complaint that this is a Kremlin provocation serves to camouflage the reality that the registration turnout -once stripped of Mavrodi schemers – is even more pitiful than originally imagined. Small turnouts don’t trouble the opposition, though, because they live in the fantasy that they enjoy broad popular support despite abundant evidence to the contrary. Alexei Navalny, for example, was quite chuffed about winning the title “Virtual Mayor of Moscow” after amassing about 30,000 votes of a total 67,000 in an online poll sponsored by Kommersant and Somewhere between 13 and 15 million people live in Moscow. His next-closest rival, comically, was “Against All Candidates”.

Sweetly ironic is Bloomberg’s contention that an online election which includes verifiable interference by the individual known as “The Russian Bernie Madoff”, whose MMM pyramid scheme cost millions of Russians their life’s savings, is “an honest election”, and recommends that “[i]f Putin were interested, the voting mechanism could be further developed to eliminate fraud and hold fair nationwide elections. He is not, so his opponents view the exercise as an investment in the future. They would rather build a working model of democracy than take part in what passes for it in Putin’s system.

Well, let’s look at that “voting mechanism” through the lens of its ability to realize the opposition’s dreams, shall we? Perhaps Putin is being a fool by not simply putting the opposition in charge of ensuring fairness in voting. First, as a model for free elections to be held in post-Putin Russia. I realize that’s a rather grandiose ambition, but even had it been stated more modestly I think we would have to acknowledge it was not in any way an improvement on the manner in which elections are conducted already. Not yet, at least. According to figures just becoming available from the chaotic weekend and even allowing voting was extended an extra day to make sure everyone got a chance to vote, only about 80,000 people were registered in accordance with the criteria established by the opposition leaders and their advisers. Only 80,000 people in a country of 140,000,000. I don’t think even Alexei Navalny would have the brass to argue that the will of 80,000 people, perhaps – as Yalensis suggests elsewhere – twice as many if you factor in those who were keen but were unable to navigate the computer complexities, should be held representative of the will of 140,000,000. As to the shrill accusations that Putin is responsible for denial-of-service attacks against the voting website, don’t make me laugh. Websites that experience higher-than-usual volume go down all the time for a variety of reasons, chief among them being it was not set up properly to handle heavy volume. We were told Internet genius Ilya Segalovich, co-founder of Yandex, helped design the site. How many protest movements get the benefit of a major electronics engineering technologist to help design their website? Segalovich has worked in software for more than 20 years, as a team leader for much of that. And he has Navalny, who is “wery good at Internet” to help him out, plus Leonid Volkhov – computer entrepreneur – and his team of 25 eager acolytes from among the smartest hipsters to help him out. Failure on this scale due to computer problems would suggest, I’m afraid, the advertisement that all the savvy young byte-crunchers in today’s Russia are lined up in ranks against the old ways and the grey old men of the Kremlin is a bit of a pipe-dream. More to the point, if Putin – who we are told basically ignores the internet – is a match for Navalny (who we are told basically owns the internet), how good at internet is Navalny, really? And to what degree does he enjoy the support of Russia’s hipster computer crowd?

Well, let’s move on. An example of an alternate civil society where decisions are arrived at democratically? I’m afraid I’m not sold. Only 30 seats on the 45-seat “Coordinating Council” are up for grabs based on a free vote; the remaining 15 are reserved in advance – 5 each – for the three major ideological blocs. Can you imagine what the opposition’s response might be to the suggestion that United Russia was going to reserve a third of all seats in regional elections for itself? I can. “Call that an election??” would likely be the collective shriek. No matter what might have been the altruistic motives of the planners when they dreamed that one up, keep in mind that it is how your actions are perceived by the voters that counts, not what you were thinking when you made the decision. I think this satisfies the relative accuracy of “an important step in recognizing the legitimacy of the opposition” as well.

Which brings us to “a powerful sign that the opposition is serious and maturing.” Anybody see that? No, I’m afraid I didn’t, either. Instead, I saw in Navalny’s continued angry accusations that Putin is responsible for all the problems the organizers experienced – after they smugly announced these were going to be the best elections evah – a return to the only formula he knows. In an environment in which the opposition is supposedly ground to powder under the ruthless jackboot of the state, its organizers and their western backers nevertheless gloated that “slick web clips have publicized the virtual contest and popular opposition-oriented cable-and-internet TV channel Dozhd has aired hours of vibrant debates among the candidates“. Internet penetration is steadily increasing in Russia, and apparently the opposition has its own TV station. Face it, gang; everybody in Russia who was motivated by a burning desire for deep and rapid political change knew about your elections. Those who didn’t turn up to vote, weren’t. Alexei, they’re just not that into you.

Of course the whole sad debacle will either be spun as a defining period in Russian politics or ignored as if it never happened. But those who were looking to this as the moment the opposition emerged as a coherent political blunt instrument that would smash Putin like a bug may as well go back to blowing up “Free Pussy Riot” balloons.

Much has been made of Mr. Putin’s reference to the Bandar-Log; the monkey-folk of Rudyard Kipling’s brilliant “Jungle Book” – from this, the chattering press concludes that Putin compared his opposition to “chattering monkeys” in the context that its message is smug and self-congratulatory, and not to be taken seriously. Serious devotees of Kipling would note, however, that the passage he chose to quote referred to the hypnotic thrall in which Kaa, the rock python, held the terrified Bandar-Log; that for all their squealing and poo-flinging while they felt themselves to be safe, when they were offered the opportunity to say it to the face of the enemy, they were struck dumb. Whether or not it was deliberate on Mr.Putin’s part – and I believe, from my totally amateur non-insider analysis viewpoint, that it was – it suggests the opposition likes to make a big noise about what it will do and to hint at great capabilities; but like monkeys hypnotized by a snake, when subjected to the cold and emotionless gaze of state power, it is both afraid to meet its eye, and unable to look away.

But since the image of chattering monkeys is not entirely inappropriate regardless the intention, here’s Boris, Ksenya, Ilya, Sergei, Alexei, Garry and Vladimir to sing us out with “The Road-Song of the Bandar-Log” (with apologies to Kipling);

Here we sit in a branchy row,
Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two:
Something noble and wise and good,
Done by merely wishing we could;
We’ve forgotten, but…..never mind:
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!
This entry was posted in Alexei Navalny, Boris Nemtsov, Government, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

760 Responses to The Bolotnaya Politburo Lays An Egg

  1. Moscow Exile says:

    Вас с Днем народного единства!

    And the so-alled Russian March is now under way in Moscow – all 25,000 of them, they hope. See:

    I wonder if Navalny will grace them with his presence?

    Somehow, I think not.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      According to ITAR-TASS only about 6,000 have turned up:

      some of whom, according to one report, have already been arrested for wearing black greatcoats adorned with Nazi symbols

      More political oppression!

      Der Führer lebt noch in Rußland!


      No sign of Великий вождь Навальный though.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        10,000 says Komsomolskaya Pravda:

        Why are there always so many discrepancies in the reporting of the numbers of demonstrators that attend these parades?

        • Moscow Exile says:

          I’ve just been watching the march on RT live: very orderly, bands playing patriotic marches, drums beating, crowds chanting “Glory to Russsia!”

          One group has a a black banner, in the centre of which is a cross and on either side of it are two words that make up the slogan: БУДЬ ТРЕЗВ, which made me smile. The adjective трезвый in this context means “sound” or “sensible”, but it more often than not means “sober” or “temperate”, so the slogan could be read as “Be Sober”.

          Some hope!

          Especially after the march.

        • kirill says:

          It’s the end of the large white ribbon protests. Without the nationalists and the commies there is simply not going to be more than a few thousand liberasts showing up. They never had the mass nor the support.

          Verily, Putin is shaking in his shoes and hiding under his bed in fear of the white ribbonists.

    • yalensis says:

      @Exile: For past couple of weeks some Russian nationalist commenters on Navalny’s blog have been persistently demanding him to state whether or not he would come out in support of the “Russian March”. Navalny remained silent. I still don’t know if he endorsed it or not. I think his heart is with the skinheads, but maybe his American sponsors are holding him back, out of some kind of strategic concerns?

  2. Moscow Exile says:

    “Русский марш” – форма вполне адекватная и совершенно не опасная.
    Я своей задачей вижу работу с лидерами с националистического движения.

    Алексей Навальный, 04/11/2011.

    “The Russian March” is totally in order and certainly not dangerous. I see it as my task to work with the leaders of the nationalist movement.

    Aleksei Navalny, 04/11/2011

    Somehow, I don’t think the US State Department is in full agreement with Navalny as regards those sentiments of his that he expressed towards the nationalists only one year ago.

    • yalensis says:

      Some comments from The Annointed One’s blog this morning:
      Jazator: Алексей, вы идёте на Русский марш или нет? Почему в журнале нет информационной поддержки? (Aleksei, are you going to the Russian March, or not? Why have you not given informational support?)
      Rom797: у Алексея грипп. (Aleksei has the flu.)
      Antyzhulik: Я иду! (I’m going!)
      Rom797: и это правильно. (Rightfully so.)
      Antyzhulik: Вернее хочу пойти! (Or I should say, I WANT to go.)
      Jazator: Грипп… а почему нет поддержки Русского марша от его лица в ЖЖ?
      #НавальныйЗассал с этим я больше теперь согласен. (Flu… then why no support of the Russian March in his Twitter feed?)
      Rom797: смешное обвинение. что только на навального не вешают. (What accusations do they not try to hang on Navalny?)
      Jazator: Это не обвинение, это факт. Раньше Навальный информировал о Русских маршах и поддерживал информационно, но не теперь. Это вас смехуёчки? (It’s not an accusation. It’s a fact. In earlier years Navalny kept us informed about the Russian Marches and gave informational support, but not now. )
      Boroda39: Чо, Ксюша Собчак не рекомендавала призывать на Русский марш?
      Чо ничо не написал про Русский марш? (What happened? Did Ksiusha Sobchak recommend to NOT to call on people to go to the Russian March? Why haven’t you written anything about the Russian March?)
      Toskapingvina: Эээ погоди. Я уверен Леха придёт на Русский марш. И КС весь свой с собой приведет, весь. (Just you wait. I am sure L’okha will go to the Russian March. And the whole Coordinating Committee along with him.)

    • yalensis says:

      Actually, I don’t see why American State Dept wouldn’t support Russian March. I hate to give the pindosi any ideas, but a Russian nationalist government would seem to fit in with their overall plans for disassembling Russian Federation. For example, Skinhead platform is “Russia for (ethnic) Russians”, and “Stop feeding the Caucasus” and so on. If carried out, their programme would result in a tiny Russian state, as Lev Natanovich jokes, stretching from Moscow to Pskov. This would hand over the entire Caucacus and everything else to NATO. If I were a podpindosnik I’d be backing the skinheads with all my might, while at the same time funding the jihadists in the ethnic areas. Like I said, I hate to give them ideas, but I am sure they have thought of all this stuff themselves. The only mystery is why they are ordering Navalny to stay aloof from the nationalists this time around. Maybe he really does have the flu…

      • Misha says:

        Interesting observation.

        The “nationalist” camp has different views.

        In an openDemocracy run article, Riabchuk has criticized Navalny for bringing up the Rus period as a suggestion for legitimizing (as spun by Riabchuk) Russian imperialism. Navalny hasn’t replied to that piece, which includes some negative naccurate imagery of Russia.

        If given a choice, some nationalists might be keen in seeing Russia lose some of its current territory in the Caucasus in exchange for some others like Belarus and Ukraine (at least a good portion of the latter).

      • AK says:

        Or maybe, just maybe, the evil AmeriKKKunz (aren’t I clever?) just aren’t all that interested in Russia’s breakup.

  3. Moscow Exile says:

    Here are the thoughts of the annointed and enlightened one as expressed in a Moskovsky Komsomolets interview on 30th October:

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Yes, it does seem as though the king-in-waiting is too sick to attend the march today: flu’s the reason given in various blogs. However, it also turns out that the chosen one may have purposely distanced himself from his nationalist chums, in that it is reported that after he had gone and got himself arrested at Lubyanka the other week, upon his release he met up with his brother Slav nationalists to discuss tody’s march and suggested that immigrants participate, which suggestion, I daresay, went down like a pork pie at a Jewish wedding:

      Известный оппозиционный блогер Алексей Навальный предложил группе
      нелегальных мигрантов – гастарбайтеров принять участие в Русском Марше, запланированном на 4 ноября этого года в Москве. Об этой инициативе своего товарища по протестной деятельности сообщил в своем Twitter`е Илья Яшин.

      [Prominent opposition blogger Aleksei Navalny has proposed that a group of illegal immigrant gastarbeiter take part in the Russia March, scheduled for November 4 this year in Moscow, his fellow protest activist Ilya Rashin has twittered.]


      If true, what a cunning move!

  4. Evgeny says:

    I believe that I should take a liberty to note that recent pathetic-beyond-measure piece by W. Browder in the Daily Mail regarding you-know-who:–chilling-truth-Russias-terrifying-gangster-regime.html

    • kirill says:

      I am sure every criminal in the west gets to write their own article in a major newspaper.

      Thanks to the Litivinenko frame-up job, Lugovoi lost money on various business ventures. But nobody cares. Meanwhile we have Browder screaming bloody murder for losing out in Russia. Cry me a river.

    • marknesop says:

      What a ridiculous load of rubbish. Browder’s pity-me-I’m-a-corporate-raider piety fits in very well alongside the week’s take of boobies-and-bums fascination with celebrities, donated sperm and Honey Boo-Boo that passes for news in Britain.

  5. Moscow Exile says:

    The only thing newsworthy concerning today’s Russia March is that some idiots fired off rockets at a police chopper overhead:

    Final attendance count – about 6000.

    And the Western media still continues to talk of unprecedented protests throughout Russia that have the Head of State cowering in his Kremlin fastness.

    • Dear Moscow Exile,

      Thanks again for being the man on the spot.

      So the great nationalist march in the end attracted only a quarter of the people it was supposed to. As I said previously I would have been surprised if the result had been any different. As I have also said before on several occasions the great ultra nationalist/racist groundswell in Russia is a phantom. Obviously there are a number of people who hold ultra nationalist views and straightforwardly racist views but as the march and their total lack of electoral impact shows their number and importance is massively exaggerated. There are many more liberals in Russia than racial ultra nationalists and both groups are dwarfed by the number of people who hold various sorts of socialist views. I think many people confuse Russian people’s strong feelings of patriotism with ultra nationalism and frankly I think all the talk one occasionally hears of a “brown tide” is wildly exaggerated and misplaced.

      @ Yalensis, I am very conflicted about the decision to allow this march (something unusual with me). On the one hand these people have a right to march and it would be odd to deny them their request to do so. At a practical level what the march has in fact done is expose their lack of numbers. Having said this I am uncomfortable at a national holiday being used as an occasion for such a march. It gives the impression that these people somehow think they own it.

  6. Misha says:

    From RFE/RL:

    Excerpt –

    “The National Unity Day holiday commemorates the expulsion in 1612 of Polish invaders from Moscow. The holiday was canceled during the Communist era but restored under Putin in 2005.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin marked the holiday by placing a wreath at a Moscow monument. He later praised the holiday at a Kremlin reception.

    ‘This is our youngest national festival. However, it reaches back as far as centuries ago and the events that played a decisive role in the history of Russia,’ Putin said. ‘Four hundred years ago, the Time of Troubles and the weakness of the state was finally put to rest. Any other outcome would have threatened Russia’s very independence’.”


    Following the events of 1917, Poland highlighted its past grievances (real and hyped) against Russia. The Leninist influenced USSR limited pro-Russian historical sentiment as touched on in the above excerpt. In place, were some disproportionate (in the comparative sense) comments like the “Russia prison of nations” bit that have served to prop such terms as “Russification”, never minding what was evident elsewhere prior to 1917.

    With this in mind, there’s a reasoned basis to promote the following:

    If properly implemented, this planned undertaking will offer something opposite of the extremes of a chauvinist element in contrast to a mass reasoned patriotic base, yearning for a better access/knowledge of coherent pro-Russian advocacy.

    • Dear Misha,

      Russia is free to choose whatever holiday it wants but I am going to be frank and say that I am rather cynical about this one. I have no doubt that the only reason this holiday was revived was so as to give an excuse to move the mid autumn holiday away from November 7th, which of course is the anniversary of the October Revolution, to a different day. If there had not previously been a holiday on November 7th I very much doubt there would be any demand for a holiday on November 4th.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Dear Alexander Mercouris,
        The first thing they did with the November 7 national holiday after 1991 was to rename it “The Day of Reconciliation”, which in my opinion was a bit of a bloody stupid title – “Sorry for the failed 80-year experiment, no hard feelings?”

        This business of the nationalists seizing this day as if it were their own is a serious one, I think. However, for many years English ultra-rightists used the English flag as their own whilst most patriotic English citizens waved the Union Flag: they did not want to wave about the flag of St. George lest they be thought neo-nazis. Slowly, however, those who were inclined to be English patriots slowly took back the English flag as their own. I think this happened in England when most people realized that the extreme right-wing in England were a very small minority. And I think that most that celebrate this holiday are far from extreme nationalists. However, in my my experience, the vast majority neither know the name of this holiday, nor would they care one jot about what happened in 1612 even if they did.

        • Misha says:

          Russians at large aren’t quite the nationalists that some rather ironically portray them as. I’ve mized views about that. On the one hand, I’m not into extremism. On the other, there’s nothing wrng with rock solid pro-Russian advocacy directly confronting the anti-Russian slants that often go unnoticed.

          There’s a small Anglican church near me which flies the English flag. That church is across the street from a much larger Catholic church in a pretty good sized Irish-American Catholic neighborhood. There doesn’t seem to be any tense conflicts whatsoever.

          Likewise in Deer Hunter country (western Pennsylvania), it’s not uncommon to see people of mixed Slavic backgrounds consisting of different church denominations in that area.

          Awhile back, a Serb noted to me that in the US, good sized pockets of Serb populations typically also include Croats and other former Yugos. That dynamic became strained in the 1990s – something that ewas also evident among former Yugos in Australia.

      • Misha says:

        Dear Alexander,

        I’ll return the frankness by noting something that the RFE/RL piece noted on how the 1612 holiday in Russia had been in existence BEFORE the Soviet period.

        The Soviet period comes along with the elimination of that holiday with the November 7 variant. Russia has a longer non-Soviet history than the Soviet variant.

        As I’ve previously said, the discussion on such matters is limited (censored) when it involves anti-Russian leaning folks, “sovok” leaning (if you may) individuals and others influenced by these two extremes.

        This point concerns my appreciating Vladimir Belaeff’s presence at the now defunct Russia Profile Panel of Experts.

        • Misha says:

          Should read as:

          The Soviet period comes along with the elimination of that holiday and the creation of the November 7 variant.

          • Dear Misha,

            I know the holiday existed before 1917 and that the Bolsheviks abolished it. However my point is that no one would have been interested in reviving the holiday if there had not been a desire to transfer the date of the November holiday away from November 7th. By the time the holiday was revived it was forgotten. That there was no popular demand for its revival is shown by the fact that opinion polls continue to show that a large number of people deny knowing what it is supposed to commemorate.

  7. kirill says:

    “Britain has invaded all but 22 countries in the world in its long and colourful history, new research has found.”

    Interesting fact. I am quite sure Russia can’t compete with this achievement. And the countries that Russia did invade were mostly aggressors who asked for it. This includes Georgia in 2008.

    • AK says:

      If I were British I would be proud of this.

      • kirill says:

        Makes Holodomor and other forced collectivization side effects pale in comparison.

        • AK says:

          Of course they’re incomparable. Russians are stupid enough to massacre themselves, whereas civilized nations do it to others.

          • marknesop says:

            How interesting!! Did you learn that at Al Jazeera?

            • AK says:

              Yes. The neocon Islamists indoctrinated me into poking fun at bizarre whataboutist comparisons.

              • marknesop says:

                Mmmm. So except for that spot of unpleasantness in the early 1860’s, the USA – by your standard of measure – is quite a civilized country. A couple of hundred years before that it was England’s turn to stray from the path of civilization, for just over 9 years’ worth of killing each other. Except for that, though, they stayed pretty happy together, killing foreigners. Or is that whataboutism?

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  As regards the English civil wars that happened a couple of hundred years before the US civil war, it is true that the English were killing each other then; the Scots were as well, for there were two civil wars in 17th century Britain that were fought against the attempt of the monarchy to go the continental European way towards absolutism: in the first the Scots were against the King and with the English parliament; in the second the Scots, after the trial and execution of Charles I by parliament, fought for the monarchy and the restoration of it. It was during this time of war that many chose to escape this civil turmoil by fleeing to the North American colonies. Just over one hundred years later, this civil war that was fought in Britain over the question of parliamentary restoration or monarchial absolutism was continued in the British North American colonies, where the inhabitants of said colonies were mostly British and were certainly British subjects, fought against themselves and the British armed forces.

                  The North American loyalists – the Tories – are often forgotten in popular histories, though it has been said that only one third of Btritish North American subjects fought for independence from the crown, one third fought against them for their king, and the remaining third couldn’t care less one way or the other. The vast majority of defeated Tories became what we now know as Canadians, after having migrated to “Upper Canada” around York, now Toronto. The other Canada being then what is now known Quebec province, the former “New France”.

                • marknesop says:

                  I was tempted to count that as a civil war as well, but almost none were Canadian except Indians; the main combatants upon the Plains of Abraham (a rather unremarkable area of low hills at the foot of La Citadelle) were the French and the English. Quite a few of Quebec’s present-day residents still figure the wrong side won.

                • Misha says:

                  Back then, the US attack served as a boost for uniting those of French, British and Indian background in Canada. US propaganda spoke of freeing those people from the crown. The folks there didn’t quite buy into that line – somewhat akin how Poles en masse didn’t accept the notion that the Reds move towards Warsaw (in 1920) was to liberate Poland.

                  Sentiment can change. At one time, the Galician region of Ukraine had a noticeably greater Russophile element.

                • AK says:

                  The problem begins with taking the 90% figure at face value.

                  It counts *all* military interventions, no matter how tiny or insignificant, launched over a millennium by Britain. It is also expected to be high given that for a big proportion of this time Britain had a very powerful navy and was in constant wars with other colonial powers like the Dutch and France which naturally took it to coastlines all across the world.

                  In particular, what Georgia in 2008 has to do with this is a mystery.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Before the German speaking territories, with the exception of Austria, were united into one Reich in 1871, Germans were pretty good at massacring each other as well. At the beginning of the 17th century they fought a War against each other (the Swedes joined in for a piece of the action too) that lasted for 30 years.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              I’m sure in War and Peace Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky the elder says something like “The Germans are only good at killing each other”, which observation, I should think, would have been commonplace amongst 18th century Imperial Russian diplomats such as Bolkonsky had been.

              • Misha says:

                Serves as an explanation for why the German states become one in the latter half of the 1800s.

                It wasn’t like there was an occupying power that hindered this development.

                Among Germans, there’re some noticeable regional differences.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Well, there was very often an occupying power somewhere in one of the myriad of German kingdoms, princedoms, bishoprics etc. and it usually was France, for it was French policy to keep Germany fragmented, as they realized the potential of a unified Germany. That’s why the French always sided with another German state, e.g. Bavaria or Würtemburg, against Prussia or Austria in the many “cabinet wars” of the 18th century, realizing full well that Prussia and Austria had their sights set on being top dog in the German lands and uniting them. In following this policy through, the French finallly lost out grand style in 1871 against a German alliance led by Prussia, that had knocked Austria out of the contest for number one German state in 1866: they got whacked in about 6 weeks, same as the Austrians had been only 5 years earlier, after which Germany became united and the King of Prussia became Kaiser of Germany: Austria was left out in the cold, though, much to the chagrin of a certain young Austrian wastrel
                  named Adolf.

                • Misha says:

                  “Well, there was very often an occupying power somewhere in one of the myriad of German kingdoms, princedoms, bishoprics etc. and it usually was France, for it was French policy to keep Germany fragmented, as they realized the potential of a unified Germany.”


                  Gave that thought credence after sending comments which prompted the above. True on the above – but weren’t a good number of the German states independent or pretty much independent for a fairly lengthy period prior to the unification?

                  On another point at this thread recently given on Germans in the pre-Soviet Russian army:


                  After the Russian Civil War, many of them settled in Germany. They often tended to be the more pro-Russian of elements in Germany.

                  This prick was an exception:


              • marknesop says:

                Although there were quite a few Germans among Alexander’s officer corps, some very high-up. Alexander’s mother, Maria Feodorovna, was the daughter of the Duke of Württemberg.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  The Imperial Russian army officer corps was full of Fritzes. They’d learnt their trade well during the endless inter-state rivalries back home, so they went off to Russia to play in the big leaugue, usually against the Turks. That’s what what the fictional rogue Baron von Münchausen was up to and that’s also why the Russian army still does a perfect Prussian goose step.

            • AK says:

              Aka they wised up.

      • hoct says:

        Yes, but then you’re a self-described “aspiring sociopath”. What a wise man is ashamed of, the fool takes pride in.

        • yalensis says:


        • AK says:

          Good to see the growth of my second hate club. You two will make an excellent complement to the SWP Hive-La Russophobe collective.

          • hoct says:

            I have no reason to hate you, I merely find you irritating at times.

            • AK says:

              Then you must also be a masochist for hanging round my blog (until your trolling and insults reached a critical point and I had to ban you).

              Anyhow, this will be my last comment to this thread. Feel free to carry on your little circle jerk with yalensis.

              • hoct says:

                You’re again too harsh on yourself. I admit your writing is a hit-and-miss affair, but I wouldn’t say reading it quite constitutes torture.

              • yalensis says:

                @AnatolyKarlin: I don’t hate you either, but I definitely think you need psychiatric help. That’s not a joke or an insult, just a sad statement. You’re clearly suffering from adult-onset something-or-other. You’ve spread yourself all over the internet mocking and cyber-bullying people you hate. And yet you are so thin-skinned yourself, the slightest criticism drives you into self-pitying paranoid belligerence. (For example, thinking people form hate clubs against you, which is silly, you’re really not that important.)
                Is not too late to try to fix your own brain, with a combination of drugs and psychotherapy. However, is probably too late for you to hope for an academic career, at least in the U.S. All the professors on the hiring committee have to do is google you, and they will see some of your politically incorrect classics pop up, like the famous “Mexican chicks are fat and ugly”, and similar шедевры. You really should have comported yourself more professionally, in your own blog. Hence, nobody will want to hire you for a pre-tenure academic position, no matter how great your thesis might be. I guess the best you could hope for is some kind of gig at a neo-con think tank, like, writing diatribes against affirmative action, or something along those lines.

                • AK says:

                  Love how you use my full name in an obvious (if futile) attempt to Google bomb. You are truly a slimey snake, Rodion.

                  While I did say I’d be out of this thread, I can’t help but clarify some things, so as not to keep you up at night worrying about my welfare. Rest assured I don’t and have never desired an academic career, so you can save yourself the trouble of preemptively emailing the hiring committees with links to my шедевры. They will think you are just weird, not an anonymous Pavlik Morozov come to save the day. That is because I have no desire for an office plankton job, coding and ranting about pindosy like you with only a break for a bowl of pelmeni, a wank, and some sleep.

                  No, I have much bigger plans, and you will not part of them. You will still be PC policing the interwebs while praising Lev Sharansky to the skies (on which note, even the Russian liberals are less ideologically incongruous than you are).

    • Misha says:

      Re: Britain has invaded all but 22 countries in the world in its long and colourful history, new research has found.”

      Interesting fact. I am quite sure Russia can’t compete with this achievement. And the countries that Russia did invade were mostly aggressors who asked for it. This includes Georgia in 2008.


      On the above, the Armenians and Georgians had sought pre-Soviet Russian protection against a perceived grerater threat.

      Other territories like Finland and the Baltics were occupied by non-Russian powers as strategically situated land.

      In historical terms, Poland can be considered as having initiated the extended Russo-Polish differences that included a series of armed conflicts – much of which involved a good deal of provocation from the Polish side.

  8. Moscow Exile says:

    Terrible sloppy use of the word “Britain”, which is the name of the largest of the British Isles. Now if one were to talk of England before the Act of Union with Scotland in 1707, and thereafter the United Kingdom, which after 1800 included the Kingdom of Ireland, which country became mostly independent of the UK after 1924, that would be nearer the mark. Furthermore, the European state that has waged most wars during its long history, and which also the best success by far when compared with other European states as regards the number of victories that it has enjoyed, is France, which fact surprises many if only because the story of France’s sudden defeat by German armies in 1871 and 1940 is still taught in school books and also because of the silly expression that some US citizens use when ridiculing the French, namely “cheese eating surrender monkeys”.

  9. yalensis says:

    This is interesting: The Politrash team claims to have actually COUNTED the number of participants in “Russian March” through a new technological innovation called the “manual counter” !
    Method was as follows: they positioned themselves at a strategic location and incremented counter every time somebody walked by who was wearing football paraphernalia or carrying a banner. Their final count = 6190 people, including photographers and journalists, but excluding uniformed police.

    • kirill says:

      I see none of the media is in a hurry to inflate the numbers by 5-10. There isn’t much momentum to demonstrate these days so I don’t see 60-100,000 nationalists coming out to protest. I bet the next march of millions is not going to be bigger than 10,000. But the media will make it sound like 100,000 came out to protest “against Putin”.

      The fact that the west bitches about Putin demonstrates that they have nothing of substance against Russia. They could have bitched about the massive gulag network or 3rd world living conditions or even thousands of political prisoners. But its Putin, Putin, Putin 24/7. With the occasional reference to Khodorkovsky who is supposed to be a political prisoner but that is so laughable that they don’t do it too much.

      • cartman says:

        “They could have bitched about the massive gulag network or 3rd world living conditions or even thousands of political prisoners. But its Putin, Putin, Putin 24/7.”

        You see this photograph of two women, clutching each other around the ruins of their home RAZED by the evil government. In the West it is called eminent domain, and the homes are not ones people built themselves with no acknowledgement of codes and standards on property they do not actually own. Here is what the Sochi do-it-yourselfers are actually doing:

        • kirill says:

          Facts and propaganda don’t mix too well. This part is funny:

          “He now lives in a house more than twice the size with his mother, wife and young child, surrounded by almost identical homes decorated with similar paintwork.”

          Gee, there are no subdivisions in the west where the houses are “almost” identical. This sort of article is truly pathetic in trying to turn everything but the colour of the sky into evidence of Putin’s despotism.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Wouldn’t happen in the West, would it? I mean – all the housing looking the same.

          Written about Daly City just south of San Francisco. Tens of Thousands of houses that used the same basic two story design built by Henry Doelger. These were massive subdivisions that cover entire hill sides with the same house design. Over and over and over again. The song was written as long ago as 1962. See:

        • marknesop says:

          Why, those….those BASTARDS!!! How could they do that; I mean, just smash down people’s homes to make room for the great dirty corporate penis of the Olympics??

          Oh, wait; it’s done all the time, in “civilized” countries. London destroyed the Clay’s Lane estate just this year – over the extremely vocal protests of the 430 residents, although unfortunately there are no pathos-oozing photos of any of them weeping in each other’s arms – to make room for the Athlete’s Village. All were promised equal or better housing, but this turned out not to be the case. The residents exhausted all their legal appeals, but the High court – unsurprisingly – ruled in favour of the compulsory purchase order by the London Development Agency.

          • yalensis says:

            In Texas it is called “Eminent Domain”. That is how the freeways were built, and lots of other stuff too. Even a title deed cannot save a person from the horrors of Eminent Domain.

            • marknesop says:

              It’s called Eminent Domain everywhere that speaks English, as far as I know. Your title to the land you bought – and it’s my understanding that at least some of the grieving homeowners in Sochi do not have title to the land in the first place – extends only so far as the moment the government determines it needs it for something that could be construed as in the public good; a highway off-ramp, a waste-management plant, a central Post Office… Usually the government tries to acquire new undeveloped land, but obviously it can’t always do that, and if improvements are required to make a two-lane highway into a four-lane, you have to build the two new ones alongside the two that are already there. One of my favourite Stephen King stories, “Roadwork”, is about one man’s fight against the law of Eminent Domain. Fiction, of course, but most popular stories are popular because they strike some chord in the human soul, and you wouldn’t have to look far to find people who don’t care for the government swaggering around and just taking stuff that doesn’t belong to them. Well, technically it does, but you know what I mean.

              When the government takes your house, they’re obligated to give you fair market value for it, and sometimes they will come up a little to avoid nastiness like an emotional appeal to the papers, especially if a vote is coming up.

              As usual, if it’s happening in Russia, it’s not only news, it’s another turn of the screw by a cold and emotionless government against a suffering people.

  10. Moscow Exile says:

    This morning’s Moscow News article on yesterday’s march, in which there at last appears an inflationary estimate of the number of participants: 20,000 came, says one of the organizers:

    Well he would, wouldn’t he?

  11. yalensis says:

    Interesting developments in Litvinenko case. If I am reading this right, British secret service might be considered an actual suspect in Lit’s death? Is that what they mean by “interested party”?

    • marknesop says:

      At first glance, I would have said not.

      “At Friday’s hearing, Hugh Davies, counsel to the inquest, said its scope could theoretically extend to an examination of “the possible culpability of the British state”, as well as that of the Russian state, “either (i) in itself carrying out (by its servants or agents) the poisoning; or (ii) in failing to take reasonable steps to protect Mr Litvinenko from a real and immediate risk to his life”.”

      But on further reading, I would have to say yes.

      I wonder if Berezovsky is getting nervous. He’s already had one swift kick to the center of his confidence in the last couple of months, and he has to be wondering – if he was in fact involved, and that’s not certain although it seems at least likely – if the free ride in the UK is over.

      • Hunter says:

        It would be hilarious if the inquest eventually found that there is much stronger evidence of Berezovsky being involved and possibly culpable while all this time the British government, media and prosecution having been making much ado over Lugovoi and Putin. I wonder how quickly then we will see newspaper articles outling Berezovsky’s “close links” to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government (even if such links all existed before the year 2000)?

        • I would be cautious about getting too excited about this.

          First of all naming someone an interested party in an inquest does not mean that they are a suspect. Litvinenko’s widow is an interested party but no one is suggesting that she killed him. Having said this if I was the Russian government I would be very wary of accepting the offer that it be made an interested party to this inquest. It might be construed as an admission that the Russian government was in some way involved in Litvinenko’s murder when it says it had nothing to do with it. If the Russian government really did have nothing to do with Litvinenko’s murder logically it is (like us) simply an observer of the inquest rather than an interested party in it.

          Secondly, a Coroner’s inquest is under a duty to explore all possibilities so saying it will look at the possibility that Berezovsky murdered Litvinenko or that the British authorities were in some way responsible for his death is simply saying that the inquest will do what it is anyway under a duty to do. Unfortunately it does not mean that it will actually do it or that it will do it in an effective way. Indeed saying that the inquest will look at these possibilities when it is actually already under a duty to do so could be a sign that they will not in fact be looked into seriously.

          The fact that we may be looking at a piece of theatre rather than a genuine investigation is also suggested by the title of the article. How does a British Coroner compel Russian spies to give evidence at a British inquest? The idea is on the face of it absurd and it looks to me rather like a device to accuse the Russian authorities of obstruction when various persons who the British say are Russian spies are called to give evidence and predictably fail to turn up.

          The British may have a good reason to play these sort of games because the Guardian article shows that it is in fact the British authorities rather than the Russian authorities who are being obstructive. They are still failing to produce the documentation they have been repeatedly ordered by the Coroner to produce. It is really quite astonishing and for me totally inexplicable that the single most important document in the case – the autopsy report – has still not been produced. That obviously was not obtained through spying and it is incomprehensible to me that it should be treated as if it was a classified document and should be held back six years after Litvinenko’s death and long after the start of the inquest case. Patrick Armstrong has speculated that it may show that Litvinenko received much higher doses of polonium than could be explained by the theory he was intentionally poisoned with it but I wonder whether a more likely explanation might be that the doctors who carried out the autopsy are having second thoughts and are unwilling to appear at the inquest to give evidence to confirm the results of the autopsy report and to be cross examined upon it as they will be required to do when the inquest eventually gets underway. The delay in producing the autopsy report might then be because efforts are still underway to “persuade” them to come round. Anyway making it appear that it is the Russians rather than the British who are being obstructive by calling Russian witnesses who can be predicted not to turn up would be the perfect diversionary tactic to divert attention away from the fact that it is the British who have been holding back evidence about the case not the Russians.

          Having said this one gets the strong impression that the British authorities would much rather there had not been an inquest at all and it seems it is only taking place because Litvinenko’s widow has insisted on it. There is always a possibility in a country like Britain that a legal process can spin out of control, which is why the British probably didn’t want to hold an inquest in the first place. Already the British authorities are being asked to provide documents they refused to provide to the Russians and which they obviously do not want to show. There must also be a concern that some of the people who will give evidence at the inquest like Berezovsky are proverbial loose cannons who could end up unintentionally incriminating both the British authorities and themselves. Lastly even a loyal and politically conservative Coroner will sometimes behave in an unexpected way as he tries to reconcile his loyalty to the British state with his sense of duty as a Coroner to the law and to the truth. Already one Coroner has resigned because of illness after demanding to see documents that the British authorities did not want him to see. There must always be a worry that even the most carefully vetted and selected Coroner might take it upon himself to try to do his job properly. It is too early therefore simply to write off this process as a sham. However it would be a mistake to have excessive expectations of it.

          • AK says:

            I agree with all this. I find it difficult to believe MI6 to be genuinely treated as a suspect. I can think of no prior case in which this happened and I certainly don’t think we are going to see a new precedent in this particular case.

            • marknesop says:

              Oh, I could see it, in the context of the quoted passage – to the effect that the culpability of the British state was a possible outcome inasmuch as they failed to protect Litvinenko’s life. They could stipulate to that and still blame Russia. But the best result for me would be to see something shake out of the investigation which would finger Berezovsky. I’m not too optimistic about that, though.

  12. Misha says:


    Note the suggestion that Russia benefits from a tense situation.

    Saakashvili played a considerable role in provoking things, to arguably bolster his suggested image as a staunch defender of freedom against Russia – in a move that also served to draw attention away from negatives attributed to his governance.

    The above linked article rehashes a prior neocon to neolib leaning geopolitical wishful thinking thought that was evident in at lease one earlier RFE/RL piece.

    Georgia making nice with South Ossetia and Abkhazia will not likely change the minds of these two to become a part of Georgia.

    If Serbia were to become noticeably chummy with the Albanian political elites in Kosovo, the latter aren’t likely to change their pro-Kosovo independence position.

    • kirill says:

      The west was quick to recognize the independence of Kosovo so there is no pressure on the Albanians in that province to return to Serbia. In the case of Abkhazia and South Ossetia the west is 100% pro Georgian territorial claims. These are obviously dubious given the role of the Russian Empire and the USSR in drawing Georgia’s borders. RFE/RL is just a propaganda mouthpiece of the NATO west and pushes its agenda. There are no coherent principles underlying the positions that such articles take. Promoting selfish NATO interests is not a principled position.

      • Misha says:

        In terms of drawn boundaries, I’ve been of the impression (could be wrong) that the formal Russian Empire territorial breakdown didn’t specifically list the lands of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as being a part of Georgia.

        The Georgian argument includes the pre-Russian Empire and Soviet situations, along with the overwhelming majority of nations not recognizing Abkhaz and South Ossetian independence. This Georgian position highlights the view that for a good period prior to Georgia becoming part of the Russian Empire, the lands which were to comprise the Georgian SSR (at least much of it) had existed as one unit.

        On Kosovo, the Albanian nationalists have been lobbying for an independent Kosovo for a longer period than the pro-independence positions vis-a-vis South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The combined geopolitical clout of the UK, US, France, Germany and Turkey is greater than Russia’s.

  13. yalensis says:

    More woes raining down on Navalny’s head than locusts onto Job’s:
    (1) KirlovLes conviction threatens him with up to 7 years in prison,
    (2) Bastrykin making noises about disbarring him from his attorney’s license, and now
    (3) A third Woe:
    Members of United Russia Party plan to sue Navalny for defamation, to the tune of 300 million rubles. Recall that Navalny patented the expression “Thieves and rogues” to describe United Russia Party.
    Now UR is fighting back, they are looking for 10,000 members of party to each submit a libel suit against Navalny, for 30,000 rubles apiece. Previously UR member Vladimir Svirin won such a suit against Navalny, and he is now organizing the effort to get everybody to join in the fray.

    As Yakov Smirnov (or Julia Ioffe) might say:
    “In America, you sue Party. In Soviet Russia, Party sues you!”

    • Dear Yalensis,

      Viz Navalny, a case of reap what you sow.

      Navalny had a good run whilst he was pretending to be an apolitical anti corruption blogger. Of course the pretence that he was “just a blogger” was totally bogus. Now that it has become apparent that he was always acting out a political role people are becoming more skeptical, questions are being asked and his project is falling apart. When he was just an “apolitical blogger exposing corruption” a defamation claim by United Russia would have looked like an attempt to silence him. When he is the “Chairman of the Coordinating Council” it merely looks like political retalliation (which it is).

      As any successful politician knows, authenticity is the most valuable thing in politics. If you are what you say you are people will respect you even if they don’t agree with you. If you try to act out a role people will eventually find you out at which point they trust in you disappears.

      By the way I think the same thing is happening to both Udaltsov and Chirikova. Udaltsov attracted some support as a Left Revolutionary and Chirikova as an environmental activist. When people see the supposed Left Revolutionary plotting with and taking money from a Georgian businessman who is also a government agent and the supposed environmental activist turning up to the US embassy to be received by the US ambassador belief and respect in them goes.

      • marknesop says:

        As always, Alex, you sum it up perfectly – you would have made an excellent teacher, as you have a gift for reframing complex issues in a way that gives them the quality of epiphany. Politics has become such a gutter game that is is little wonder it is so difficult to attract anyone reputable to public service.

        Speaking of that, today is the U.S. Presidential election. Go, Obama! And I say that more in regret than approbation, because I have been very disappointed in Obama after the promise he showed as a candidate. But Romney would be so much a worse choice we might as well not even be talking about the same election.

      • AK says:

        I agree with this… to a point.

        If Navalny is guilty of the KirovLes saga, beyond the very suspicious but not incriminating emails uncovered by Hell, then let him be prosecuted for it. As regards the proposed libel suits, how is that any different from what Singapore does to shut down political opponents? Even Freedom House does not acknowledge Singapore as a free democracy, let alone more objective democracy-measuring outfits. If Russia starts resorting to its methods, what then gives us the right to continue our (as yet justified) complaining about bias in those outfits?

        I have already given my opinion on Udaltsov. As regards meeting with the US ambassador, Chirikova does of course have a right to do that (and to suffer a backlash, as she might well have done in the Khimki elections). Besides, many political forces meet with the US ambassador; even representatives of United Russia, on a couple of occasions.

        • Dear Anatoly,

          In my opinion the libel claim is simply a mischief making stunt. I doubt that it will have any very great consequences. Its purpose is to put Navalny on the defensive and to further discredit him.

          The point I was making was that whilst Navalny pretended to be an apolitical blogger he possessed a kind of immunity, enabling him to throw mud at people without having to face any consequences. The moment he assumed a political role he simply became another politician so that his immunity disappeared with the result that he now faces retaliation from the people he previously threw mud at. Thus the libel claim which would surely not have been possible a year ago. Given the way he has acted he is in a sense simply being paid back in his own coin.

          Just a few quick further points:

          1. Navalny’s whole career has only been possible because of the incredibly low esteem in which politicians and business people are held in Russia and the resulting complete absence of any functioning libel law. This low esteem is itself a serious problem so that anybody who goes into business or politics is automatically assumed to be dishonest and corrupt and if successful in business is immediately labelled an “oligarch”. Of course there are genuine reasons for this, Russia being definitely much more corrupt than say Singapore where a career like Navalny’s would be impossible. However my own personal experience and those of other people I know who have done business in Russia is that the extent of corruption amongst business people in Russia is exaggerated and that the label “oligarch”, which is used so indiscriminately, is now out of date. I have no comparable knowledge of the Russian political class but I seem to remember that some years ago you reported on the experience of a young liberal intern who worked in the Duma and whose revelations of corruption there seemed to amount to nothing very much.

          It seems to me that if Navalny has achieved anything positive in the course of his career it is to draw attention to this problem of the excessively low esteem in which politicians and business people are held. This must be holding the country back because it must be putting off decent people who might otherwise want to go into politics or business and it must be effecting in a negative way the way politicians and business people go about their work. Whether beefing up libel laws is the right way to respond to this problem is another matter.

          2. Hell’s emails are indeed incriminating but the case against Navalny in the KirovLes affair rests not on those emails but first and foremost on the company documents which supposedly show a trail of false accounting. There is also of course the supporting testimony of the enterprise director. Incidentally he scandal that has brought Serdyukhov down also seems to turn on false accounting with Defence Ministry property apparently bought at an undervalue and then sold off at a private profit – exactly the allegation made against Navalny in the KirovLes affair.

          3, Of course Chirikova has a right to meet McFaul, but the way she went about her meeting and her response to the criticism she got after the meeting were a presentational disaster. Anyway my basic point about Chirikova is the same as the point I made about Navalny. Whilst she appeared to be simply an environmental campaigner she enjoyed a certain credibility. The moment it became clear that she is really simply another liberal opposition politician who uses environmental issues to achieve liberal anti government political ends her credibility vanished. Thus her debacle in Khimki.

      • yalensis says:

        Dear Alexander: I think you are right on target with your comment that “political retaliation” is the order of the day. Svirin openly said as much:

        Свирид считает, что большое количество исков “успокоит” Навального, который проявляет слишком большую активность. “Потому что сколько можно выслушивать его? На Болотной до хрипоты, на Сахарова до хрипоты. Тот, кто идет на оскорбление, – уже не политик. А то, что заказ Запада он отрабатывает, это видно невооруженным глазом”, – цитируют единороса “Известия”. Судебные разбирательства, по подсчетам Свирида, займут как минимум год.

        Svirin believes that the large number of law suits will “calm down” (i.e., “suppress”) Navalny, who has shown too much activity (nowadays). “He’s everywhere, on Bolotnaya (shouting) until he’s hoarse, on Sakharov (shouting) until he’s hoarse. The (man) who aims to insult is no politician. And the fact that he fulfills the orders of the West – that is clear even to the uninitiated eye,” as (Svirin) was quoted by “Izvestia”. The legal proceedings, according to Svirin, will take up at least one year, at minimum.

        The fact that Svirin is so blatant in revealing that this is a political “suppression” and not a spontaneous act of United Russia deputies with hurt feelings, is because he CAN be blatant now. Everything has changed, like you say. The Udaltsov case and the Coordinating Committee elections ripped everybody’s masks off.

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, I agree also that it would be better to back away from Navalny and simply let him implode. It is clear to all that he is no great leader and no real threat to the present government, and the current charges against him are enough. Even disbarment is not crossing the line, as an anti-corruption lawyer who is directly involved in corruption would be an easy case for disciplinary action. But class-action libel is a bit much, and merely keeps Navalny staggering along a little longer by adding the defense of political repression.

          Mind you, the west helped put him in that spot, too, with all the blather about his wonderful crusade of charging Bastrykhin with corruption for owning foreign property and so forth (RFE/RL is a good example, where everything Navalny does is a “tipping point” which is going to mark the unraveling of the Russian government and Navalny carried high on the peoples’ shoulders to his Kremlin throne). This just allows him to create the impression he is a victim of his own success. In reality, the Bastrykhin business went nowhere.

          • yalensis says:

            Yeah, I agree the libel stuff against Navalny is a bridge too far: is unnecessary and could create a slippery-slope precedent against free speech, which could be used in the future against more likable people.
            The disbarring thing, on the other hand, might be legit. There are some actual questions about Navalny’s license to practice law. I didn’t research this issue a lot, just saw a few things here and there when I was researching KirovLes. I think there was something like, he didn’t practice in the area long enough to meet technical requirements, or something like that. I can research it more, if it becomes an issue. Always fun to follow Bastrykin too, he is a colorful character.

    • marknesop says:

      I can’t believe that phrase didn’t catch on better – the Anglospheric press swore that it was on everyone’s lips in Russia! It’s “The party of crooks and thieves”, and they kept repeating it and always remembering to say, “Navalny invented it!!” like you would of a child who has brought home a clay animal from school. I suppose there are a lot of interpretations for the Russian word for “crooks”, but the one I have cited is the one the Anglosphere industriously marketed as Navalny’s “catchphrase”, like “Do you feel lucky?” for Dirty Harry.

      I always said it was a great deal more popular in the pages of The Guardian and The Moscow Times than it ever was in Russia.

      Defamation is once again a criminal offense in Russia, I believe, although Medvedev had it reduced to a misdemeanor or administrative matter during his tenure. Obviously Russia was not ready for that, as an element of the population immediately seized upon it as a means – straight out of the Gene Sharp playbook, I must point out again – of mocking and deriding the leadership so as to make them general objects of ridicule. It’s curious the way the west backs behaviors abroad it would find revolting and un-American or un-British at home, and tells its domestic audience that they are “the stirrings of democracy” and “freedom is on the march”. Americans at least have forgotten that the iconic Boston Tea Party was the casting off of the yoke of foreign government.

      • kirill says:

        Given the guilty-until-proven-innocent approach of British libel suits, I would say there is merit to making people put their money where their mouth is. Libel is libel and not “free speech”. Collective smear is the worst sort. Corruption in UR is not official UR policy but the responsibility of *individuals*. Interesting how the western media and governments completely forget to individual responsibility when it comes to Russia. Like with the Magnitsky black list law it is always collective guilt and guilt by association aimed at Russia.

        • Hunter says:

          Collectivization at work. 😉

        • yalensis says:

          That’s a very good point, @kirill. I have no doubt there are quite a few actual corrupt crooks and thieves in the United Russia Party, and that they should be exposed and prosecuted. However, looting and thievery is NOT, like you say, the policy of the party as a whole. (Navalnyites claim that looting is all that they do and their sole purpose in life.) Not being a UR symp myself, and I would personally like to see them swept out of power someday (because I don’t believe in their party ideology), but I have to admit they have been a successful ruling and political party in many ways (mostly thanks to Putin’s leadership, but also others). Not unlike any other political party in any other country. The fact that the West demonizes the entire party in this manner (the same way they demonized the Communist Party when they were in power) says more about the West than about Russian politics.

          • kirill says:

            Indeed. I am very disappointed in the state of the KPRF. It should have evolved with the times and not become the fossil plaything of that stooge Zyuganov. Then we would have had a powerful Russian party which could win power at the ballot box. Instead it is self-marginalizing thanks to its horrible leadership. Zyuganov visiting McFaul in the US embassy together with foaming at the mouth neo-liberals is too much to take.

      • AK says:

        ConDemn, Repugnants, Demons, Dumbocrats, Teabaggers, etc. Are these expressions un-American or un-British?

        • marknesop says:

          Did the mainstream press use those terms in everyday discussion of the political parties involved? Did they cite the individual who coined the terms and refer to him/her as a crusader for human rights, an anti-corruption icon?

          Politicians routinely lie, yes; right to your face and even when the lie is both easily disprovable and already shown to be a lie.

          If the Republicans made an open attempt to establish the Democrats as “The Party of Kenyan Secret Muslim Liars”, I’m pretty sure not only that the press would be extremely reluctant to back it, but that a defamation suit would follow shortly.

          Being able to find terms like “Dumbocrat” or “Repiglican” in comment threads is not the same as a National newspaper actively promoting them.

          • AK says:

            Come on, Mark, you usually argue better than this. The whataboutism here is both (1) irrelevant and (2) for that matter false – and what’s worse, if this type of argument were to be made on a wider forum, it would serve to give a bad name to whataboutism in general.

            (1) Irrelevant because the Russian “mainstream press” doesn’t refer to United Russia as the Party of Crooks and Thieves either. It only happens on liberal blogs and Twitter.

            (2) Wrong because no, the Democrats certainly would not sue the Republicans for describing them as “The Party of Kenyan Secret Muslim Liars”, because doing in so doing the Republicans will be making fun of themselves first and foremost. What’s more even if the Democrats were dumb enough to do that, the Republicans have the First Amendment (because the US is a more civilized country than Russia) and any judge would laugh the case out of court.

            To cite a rather more relevant example, how did Obama react to Donald Trump’s insane ramblings about birth certificates and the like? Did he sue him for slander? Did he order prosecutors to investigate irregularities in Trump’s business dealings? No, he reacted with flair, class, and humor, making fun of Trump at a journalist’s dinner that discredited him like none of the Stalinist tactics you guys are apparently so happy with.

            Now United Russia also knows how to be well-humored and classy, as proved by this election video which makes fun of the sobriquet applied to them. I would hope that such attitudes continue to predominate, instead of the gray corrupt apparatchiks who’d pick up a phone and tell a judge to imprison someone who offended them as in the Soviet Union and as is still the case in places like China.

            • marknesop says:

              I’m not talking about the Russian mainstream press; I’m talking about the American mainstream press. My contention is that they make heroic behavior of slurs cast against a government they do not like, as in major outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post lauding clever Navalny’s “Party of Crooks and Thieves” label and hyping it for all it’s worth. The Russian press does not enter into my argument at all. Navalny is painted as an anti-corruption crusader, and many articles note how influential (???) he is and how his catchphrase is wildly popular in Russia, which it appears not to be at all. There is almost no (I say “almost” because I haven’t seen any, but I allow there might be some) coverage of Navalny’s charge for corruption himself unless it is immediately coupled with an accusation that it is another “crackdown” and entirely motivated by a desire to shut him up because his arguments are getting uncomfortably close to toppling the leadership.

              I did not see any articles making a hero of Donald Trump, although you’re correct, and Obama did not sue him. I don’t know why he would, since his long-form birth certificate had already been released. It wouldn’t make much sense to sue a person for calling you a liar when everyone could see you are not.

              • AK says:

                In that case another obvious questions rears its head: Why on earth should Russia base its free speech and libel policies based on what media in a foreign country write about it? Moreover, in such an utterly odious and bizarre way that it actually proves those foreign media right?

                Nobody made a hero of Trump because he is so visibly insane and repulsive that no-one has any conceivable reason to support him. If, however, he *had* been sued for libel and had his businesses investigated by the Obama DoJ, then there would have been a scandal. Probably not as big a scandal as a similar one in Russia, but then again, double standards on Western and Russian wrongdoing is something I have never denied but to the contrary have written at length about.

                • marknesop says:

                  “…double standards on Western and Russian wrongdoing is something I have never denied but to the contrary have written at length about.”

                  Exactly. Although in this instance I am not arguing a double standard, simply that the Anglosphere – and mostly but not exclusively the USA – should treat Russia as it treats most other countries; by recognizing that the party and individual in power are so because of the people’s will as expressed by a majority, and to pay the bare minimum of courtesy in recognition of that fact. The USA smiles and says “Congratulations on your victory”, and mostly stays out of national politics, in any number of countries in which it intensely dislikes and disapproves of the leader; it chuckled in an amused fashion at Sylvio Berlusconi’s antics and skirt-chasing, and only assumed a scolding tone after he was driven from power and charged with corruption. But it has been inveigling against Putin since maybe his first two years in power, up to which point it appeared he might be poised to continue Yeltsin’s “reforms”. And the western press went through all manner of contortions to make a hero and dominant political figure of Navalny, who is apparently a crook.

                  I don’t think Russia bases its free speech and libel policies on what media in a foreign country writes about it. I’m sure you know more about the evolution of Russian law than I, but it was my impression free speech laws could only go in two directions; more, or less. As far as the domestic press goes, the Russian government tolerates no end of abuse and vituperation rained on it daily by outlets such as The Moscow Times, the New Times and Novaya Gazeta. That has not changed that I can see since the silliness with Pussy Riot, in spite of anguished howling about crackdowns and repressions. Libel was always an offense; it was simply decriminalized under Medvedev. It became apparent during the New Age of Protest that penalties were not stiff enough to deter lawbreakers – while at the same time the laws remained reasonable and broadly similar to those in the west – and so they were corrected the other way. Aside from this latest libel jape, there have been no high-profile libel suits that I’ve heard. And remember – an absolute defense against libel, in Russia as well as anywhere else, is that the accusation is true. If Putin really is planning to invade Georgia, and evidence to attest to that plan can be produced by Latynina, she has an absolute right to sound off on it all day long, for example. Similarly, if newspapermen or rival politicians or liberals can prove that ER is more a part of crooks and thieves than others of its type, it would be on solid ground, and a libel suit would be welcomed as the case would receive broader exposure.

    • Hunter says:

      Hmm…US$9.5 million eh? I think that might be his biggest woe yet if Svirin is successful in organizing a mass lawsuit.

      Doubtlessly this will be portrayed in western media as the evil United Russia using its corrupt court influence to fleece poor, innocent Navalny….or something along those lines.

      • marknesop says:

        It’s interesting, because I doubt the government would have dared do it last year; it seemed that Putin’s re-election closed the book on the Russian government’s trying to win western approval. Now it appears not to give a damn what the west thinks. Also interestingly, I don’t think we have seen a corresponding ratcheting-up of the media effort against it – it’s pretty much the same old anti-Putin background buzz that continued all the way through from his last Presidency, including through the years he was not President.

        The Russian opposition would be so much further ahead today if it could enunciate its goals for the state clearly, propose a plan that had broad appeal and was not just a rebranding of the way the government is already doing things, and was free from the taint of western intrigues. I blame the western press as much for that as anyone – if they would stop trying to make international heroes out of domestic misfits and petty crooks, solely on their perception as an irritant against Putin rather than any pretensions whatever to statesmanship, they would have a much better chance of backing a winner. Instead, whenever Navalny taps out something on his laptop they go into raptures as if he had just invented the computer, and it’s just so obvious that they are trying to create a folk hero from nothing. But even Navalny believed it for awhile. That suggests he will probably move to the west, since he will not want to let go of his fool’s paradise and will want to follow the bubble of heroism he was in.

  14. There has been a major shake up in the Defence Ministry with Serdyukhov dismissed (no euphemism about him having resigned) and replaced by Shoigu.

    Shoigu was of course recently appointed Governor of the Moscow Region. Presumably that means there will soon be a gubernational election there.

    Everybody agrees that Shoigu was an outstanding success as Emergencies Minister. The Defence Ministry is however a very different and far more complex ministry and of course is much older. We will see what Shoigu achieves there. Still on the face of it it looks like a good appointment.

    A few interesting things about Shoigu. His father is an ethnic Tuvan so his appointment and popularity provide further confirmation that it is possible for non Russians to rise to to high rank in Russia without this triggering resentment. He is a civil engineer, which is good training for an organiser, though apparently he also holds a military rank . The last engineer to hold the post of Defence Minister was Dmitri Ustinov who died in 1984 and who had previously been running the defence industries for many years and who I have seen referred to as the most outstanding Defence Miinister the USSR ever produced. Lastly according to the Shoigu’s Wikipedia entry he speaks 9 languages (!) including English, Japanese and Turkish and collects samurai swords (!!) having amassed a collection worth $40 milllion (!!!) (an exaggeration surely?).

    • AK says:

      Wow, this is big indeed.

      The dominant impression in the moderate-liberal media seems to be that when Serdyukov came in, he didn’t so much abolish corruption within the officer corps but centralized it and rerouted it to his cronies (intentionally or unintentionally). If so it would go a great way to explain why he was so hated by the men in uniform, even beyond his non-defense background and axing of half the officer corps.

      There may even be a prosecution then, though I’d still wager against it.

      • kirill says:

        That’s just one narrative that is not even self-evidently correct. The other narrative is that he was a hatchet man and has done his job. Now it’s time for a more neutral figure to take over.

        • kirill says:

          “Corruption allegations alone were not enough to cause the minister’s downfall because “the entire system is corrupt, starting from the very top” of the country’s leadership, said Anatoly Khramchikhin of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis.

          Russia was ranked 143th out of 178 countries in the Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International last year. Corruption in the military was estimated at 3 billion rubles ($95 million) in 2011, according to the Military Prosecutor General’s Office.”

          Yes, according to the state mouthpiece RIAN some BS index and the claim of some analist (sic) is proof that the whole system is corrupt. As they say in Russia: “the tongue has no bones”.

        • AK says:

          That is also valid, as Serdyukov is very unpopular.

          However, I strongly doubt that corruption scandals are made up to discredit, at least in those magnitudes ($100mn).

          It could be a combination of both.

          • On balance I lean to Kirill’s view on this one. Serdyukhov has been in post for some time now. He was more an accountant than a technocrat and his job seems to have been to bring order to the Defence Ministry’s budget and procurement process, which had slipped dangerously out of control. With that job done he has been replaced by a genuine manager and technocrat in the person of Shoigu whose job it will be to manage the massive re equipment programme that is now underway. Shoigu also provides an important technocratic balance to Rogozin. Rogozin is a politician not a manager and I can understand why Putin may feel given the size and importance of the re equipment programme both for the military and for the development of the domestic economy why a good manager like Shoigu to compliment Rogozin’s political skills is needed.

            Having said this the corruption scandals are obviously not invented. I have seen no evidence so far that Serdyukhov or anyone close to him was involved. What I think has probably happened is that the corruption scandals have brought to a head and made exceptionally urgent the subject of Serdyukhov’s replacement. If that is right then I expect Serdyukhov to be given a new post within the government as soon as one becomes available. The fact that both Putin and Medvedev has spoken of Serdyukhov’s achievements as Defence Minister points to this and suggests that he is not in disgrace. One of the secrets of Putin’s success is that he is exceptionally loyal to his team and Serdyukhov’s appointment to a new post would be consistent with this.

            • I would just finish by saying that the link Kirill has provided gives another example of the abysmal quality of much of what passes for political journalism and analysis in Russia. None of the people mentioned in the Novosti article are people I have ever heard of. Their qualifications to act as “experts” are completely unknown to me. Some of them are referred to as heads of institutes I know nothing of and which for all I know consist entirely of the “experts” who head them. The implication that Serdyukhov’s dismissal is evidence of some mighty power struggle as if this was happening in the USSR circa 1960 seems to me utterly groundless and completely farfetched. The claim that Serdyukhov’s dismissal cannot be because of corruption because the whole system is so totally corrupt is silly and begs the question.whilst the suggestion that the military reforms have been a failure is unproven and unsubstantiated and again begs the question. Frankly one gets far better and more knowledgeable analysis from reading a blog like this.

  15. Hunter says:

    He collects samurai swords? Now that’s cool.

    • marknesop says:

      He sounds like an interesting choice. I could see such a collection being worth $40 million, and that would have no basis on what he paid for it; a couple of amazing finds would be enough to rack up that kind of appraised value relative to what a collector would pay knowing their provenance. Still, it is an interesting hobby.

  16. kirill says:

    “The OSCE, which had 330 election observers in Belarus, said many prominent politicians “remained in prison or were not eligible to register because of their criminal record.” ”

    Well, gosh darn it, ain’t that just like the good old US of A.

    While I think that Belarus is not up to democratic standards, Lukashenko is right. The OSCE is a tool for discord and its reports are pre-written BS. The atrocious smear of the Ukrainian election confirms this. I bet the OSCE invoked the same “poor dear Timoshenko in prison” filter to attack Ukrainian elections. That Timoshenko is an oligarch crook known as the “gas princess” who happened to siphon billions of dollars of Russian gas exported via Ukraine at various stages over the last 20 years is of no concern to the “objective” OSCE.

  17. marknesop says:

    Report for car-washing duty, Private Yalensis. Obama wins a second term, just like I said he would.

    Over the weekend, I had planned to write up my next post; “Obama’s Re-election – What Will it Mean for Russia?”. But then I was stricken with laziness in the few free moments I had (weekends are busier here than weekdays, and that’s saying something), and I thought, ahhh, probably it won’t be much different anyway, although I planned to have it ready to go so I could post it before the results were announced. Needless to say, I didn’t do it. Anyway, congratulations, Mr. President. Now buck up, and get something done.

    • yalensis says:

      Ha ha! You WISH I would wash your clunker!

      When I predicted that Romney would win, that was based on the conditions at the time. Nobody could have predicted, and I cannot take responsibility for the fact, that a massive hurricane would come along at the last minute and help Obama. Who do you think am I, Baba Vanga?

      • kirill says:

        No shrieking by western media and pundits about Obama using administrative resources to win.

        • marknesop says:

          Perhaps because the Republican efforts to suppress the Democratic vote were so naked. John Husted’s ruling that Ohio voters must fill in a declaration stating what form of ID they showed election officials, or the vote would be disqualified, is in a class by itself. That is the clear responsibility of election officials, and Husted previously agreed to it; this was an eleventh-hour effort to suppress votes.

      • marknesop says:

        What are you talking about? Romney when you made that prediction was a political corpse; he had as much chance of being president as Joe the Plumber had of being Dean of Oxford. Since then his constant barrage of skin-changing and dissembling pulled him almost even with Obama. I don’t think there was ever any real chance of it “going either way”, since that was a smokescreen put up by the Romney campaign, but he was a lot more viable candidate yesterday than he was when you tapped him to win.

        The storm really was not a major factor; although some people cited the president’s response to it as a reason for their vote, New York was hardest hit, and it is a reliably Blue state anyway. Bush’s response to Katrina was horrible, but it didn’t get him thrown out of office. If Romney is smart – and no evidence so far suggests that – he will refrain from any bitter comments that the storm put Obama back in the White House.

    • yalensis says:

      P.S. For your next blogpost, just take that one you previously drafted: “Romney’s Victory: What it means for Russia”, then do a global search and replace (Control-H) replacing “Romney” with “Obama”.

      • marknesop says:

        Ha, ha!! You are deliberately ignoring that it was my intent to write it as Obama’s victory even before the vote. I wish now I had done it, although that must not be anything new because it is evident networks do the same – only one for each candidate – because full articles announcing Obama’s win were out within seconds of the presidency slipping out of Romney’s reach, far too quickly to have made them up spontaneously.

    • kirill says:

      Obama has a clear mandate with about a 2.5 million lead in the popular vote and of course the electoral college count above 270. I don’t like his entourage, but Romney’s was worse.

      • marknesop says:

        Agreed; I was very disappointed with Obama, especially his thickheaded pandering to bipartisanship in the first two years of his term when it was clear he was facing systemic obstruction. By the time he resolved to move forward without it, he had lost his majority and far less got accomplished while he had to make ridiculous concessions to the Republicans to get anything passed.

        • yalensis says:

          My biggest beef against Obama was (Libya + Syria = Hillary).
          Speaking of Hillary, I wonder if he will dump that monster, now that he doesn’t need the Clintons any more? (Obama needed, or thought he needed, Bubba out on the campaign trail…)

          • marknesop says:

            From your lips to God’s ears – indeed, Mrs. Clinton will be packing her bags (second segment). Talked about replacements include John Kerry (wouldn’t that curl Republican toes??) and even Scotty Brown. If we have anything about the Benghazi attack to be thenkful for, it sunk Susan Rice’s chances for Secstate, as she was the former front-runner for the spot until she botched the assessment. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is also leaving.

            • kirill says:

              May the door not hit her on the way out!

            • Hunter says:

              I wonder how John Kerry or Scotty Brown would deal with relations with Russia, China, Syria and Iran.

              • Misha says:

                There’re limits regarding what Repubs and Dems do.

                In the nationally televised Kerry-Bush foreign policy debate, Kerry went after Bush for being “soft” (sic) on Russia.

                The foreign policies of Johnson, Carter and Clinton weren’t so dovish.

                Obama has some Dem foreign policy hands with (IMO) counterproductive manner.

            • yalensis says:

              Re. Scott Brown:
              Maybe I misunderstand, but when I listen to that segment, what I take is NOT that Scott Brown is an actual contender for the Secretary of State gig, but that he is a factor in whether or not John Kerry would get the job. Reasoning is: Kerry would have to quite his day job in the Senate, then they would have a special election, and Scott Brown might run for it, and probably win. (Because he is still popular in Massachusetts, even though he just lost his bid for re-election to an even more popular candidate.) Hence, if the Massachusetts Senate seat switched from Dem to Repub, that would be a net loss for Obama’s party. Hence, to be taken as a factor in Obama’s decision.
              I am horrified to see that Susan Rice (aka the Liar of Benghazi) is considered a contender for the job!

              • marknesop says:

                I think you’re right; I found that segment confusing myself, and I was so excited to tell you Clinton was headed for the exits that I didn’t replay it. Naming wild-card Republicans to his cabinet would not be unprecedented for Obama, but there is nothing particular in Scott Brown’s brief career to indicate he would make a brilliant SecState, although he has overall made fairly good decisions – sometimes out of step with his party.

                I was horrified as well but unsurprised to hear Rice was the former front-runner for the post; Obama prizes her intellect and reasoning and appears willing to overlook her pugnacity and Manichean analysis in favour of the former. She would be, if possible, an even worse SecState than Clinton and I imagine there was a broad international sigh of relief to hear she had slipped up. That said, the post is not filled yet, and she could still get it.

                • In the US appointments senior appointments are often decided on patronage. In spite of her (to me) obvious inadequacies I would not count Susan Rice out. She has powerful patrons in Bill and Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright and in the NGO community from which she ultimately comes and as a black woman she will also have a lot of support from within the black caucus.

                  A lot depends on Obama. Having got himself re elected he may decide that he no longer has to appease the Clinton/Albright faction to the extent that he did in his first term. He did after all say to Medvedev that he would be more “flexible” after he got re elected. If so he might be prepared to risk a less political and less abrasive appointment outside the Democratic Party establishment. Or he could go for someone from within the Democratic Party but who is not connected to the Clinton/Albright faction, in which case John Kerry is a possibility. Personally I would prefer to see a neutral foreign policy professional, someone like Carter’s Secretary of State Cyrus Vance or Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Schultz. I have to say though that Obama comes across to me as a very cautious man and his political position still does not seem to me very strong so I doubt that he will be prepared to make a decision that powerful elements within the Democratic Party would be unhappy with.

  18. kirill says:

    Putin showed more class than Obama. Obama took a week to congratulate Putin. Putin got a clear majority that none of the other contenders approached and there was no fraud responsible for his win (i.e. he did not need it). But Hillary “Cornuta” Clinton called Putin’s election neither free, nor fair.

    • Dear Kirill,

      You are right to contrast the week it took Obama to congratulate Putin with Putin’s congratulations to Obama on the same day. Someone should remind the Guardian of this since its reporter Howard Amos still manages to insinuate that there was something tardy and rude about Putin’s congratulations.

      • kirill says:

        I guess Russia is supposed to act like a serf, grovelling at the feet its master.

        But the main thing is that reality cannot be created through wishes and will. All this inane propaganda from the west will not cause an implosion of Russia like the USSR. The USSR had issues and fell apart because of these internal problems. At the time the west had something to offer the Soviet citizenry. Today it has nothing more to offer than accusatory inanities that defy the everyday experience of Russians. My view, based on empirical evidence offered up daily, is that the collective IQ of western elites is not all that high. Clearly, they are trying to apply what they think worked in the past in a completely different context. This sort of solution capacity captured by the phrase “if the only tool you have is a hammer then every task looks like a nail”, which is pretty much brain dead.

      • yalensis says:

        Dear Alexander: 2 points:
        (1) I remember a couple of weeks before American election reading some international poll, apparently every country in the world preferred Obama over Romney EXCEPT Pakistan. (I guess Pakistan still holding a grudge about being droned so much….)
        (2) Guardian piece says Kremlin sent Obama congratulatory telegram. TELEGRAM??? They still use those old things? Was it in Morse code? LOL!

        • Dear Yalensis,

          I believe that one other country where opinion polls showed a preference for Romney over Obama was Israel. Presumably this is because Israelis hoped that Romney would take a tougher line with Iran.

          As you absolutely correctly say who uses telegrams nowadays? In Britain they no longer exist and I doubt they exist any more in the US or in Russia. I presume what Putin actually sent to Obama was a letter. In the Anglo American world a letter is a more polite way to congratulate someone than a telephone call though I believe Putin and Obama have spoken by telephone also. Anyway I am pleased Putin did not reciprocate the rudeness Obama showed towards him after he won his election last March..

          • Misha says:

            In Israel, there’s noticeable apprehension to striking at Iran.

            Some Israelis felt that Obama slighted their country by not having visiting it unlike other Middle East countries.

            Romney made it a point to highlight that aspect. In the US, being pro-Israeli doesn’t seem to politically go as far as in the past.

          • yalensis says:

            If it was Medvedev instead of Putin, he probably wouldn’t have sent a telegram or even written a letter. He would have tweeted something on his i-phone, probably something like:

            “Congrats 2U #obamawins call me soon gr8t times ahed ROFL”

    • yalensis says:

      Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev added that he was “glad” the victor was “not someone who considers Russia enemy number one.”

      haha! a not-so-subtle dig at Mitt!
      You know, thinking about it, Putin/Medvedev could have been gracious to the loser too, and invited him to Sochi Olympics. Poor old Mitt’s probably feeling so down in the dumps right about now, he could use a psychological boost!

      • Dear Yalensis,

        One possible reason for the rather euphoric comments Medvedev has been making is that according to some accounts I have heard Medvedev was the world leader with whom Obama got on personally best.

        That would not be surprising,. Medvedev and Obama are both lawyers with academic backgrounds so they already have that in common. Bear in mind also that Obama’s relations with European leaders are rather cool.

        By the way I like your idea of inviting Romney to Sochi. It would be a generous thing to do of the sort that always gives a good impression. It would be especially fitting in Romney’s case given his success in turning the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City round.

      • Hunter says:

        Well one can feel sorry for Mitt, but in a way he had it coming to him. Since 1945 control of the White House has changed hands at regular 8-year intervals excepting for 1977 to 1993 when Carter lost after only one term and the Republican candidates (Reagan and George H.W. Bush) picked up 3 terms.

        In that time period there were a unique set of circumstances it seems to cause the voters to break with their regular cycle and vote more in favour of Reagan in 1980 than for Carter (Detente not seeming to work, the Iranian crisis, the economy). But even so the Republicans only managed to take what essentially should have been Carter’s second term and then everything went back to normal with George H. W. Bush having only one term.

        Based on that regularity alone if I were Romney I would have declined the nomination this time around and aimed for 2016 when the chances of ANY Republican going into the White House would be much better.

        For that reason I sometimes wonder if Hilary Clinton would be smart if she really decides to run in 2016. She may get through, but she runs the risk by then of having the Republicans regroup and rethink their strategy and of the electorate in swing states just managing to get tired of a Democrat in the White House. Already we saw North Carolina and Indiana swing the other way this time around. If Ohio, Virginia, Florida and say…one out of Coloroda, New Mexico or Nevada were to swing the other way next time then Hilary would find she had chose her battle wrongly.

        • marknesop says:

          I doubt Hillary will run; she knew this time around (2008) that the Republicans had a tickle trunk full of ammunition to use against her, and they were devoutly hoping she would be the candidate. They were caught by surprise by Obama, and their attacks on him seemed petty and childish, but with Hillary they had Whitewater and Bill’s skirt-chasing and all kinds of other gems. Although memories of those have faded, they’re not gone and memories are a funny thing in American politics – scandals are rapidly forgotten for Republicans but not for Democrats.

          So far, meaning for the last two cycles, the Republicans have been unable to field an inspiring and credible candidate. Most American analysts say Romney could have won this time if he had repositioned himself to the center earlier; his favourability spiked as soon as he did, but it was too late. I don’t think so, personally, because he had reversed himself on almost every position by then and nobody had any real idea what his position was on any issue. But when you think he was the best of the field the Republicans could offer, that’s pretty sad. Santorum was like a biblical lawgiver with his positions on abortion, Perry was an affable dolt, Bachman was batshit crazy, and I can’t even remember any one else. They’re going to have to do much, much better. And part of the reason Romney waited so late to move to the center was the necessity of appeasing the base of older white men. The Hispanic vote went 70% to Obama, and older white men are a slipping demographic in America; the Republicans can never win, no matter how charismatic their candidate, if they continue focusing on that demographic.

          • Misha says:

            There’s talk of a Christie-Rubio ticket on the Repub side. Not so up on Rubio, who has said some neocon leaning foreign policy things.

            For the purpose of being “presidential” and his own health, Christie needs to go on a gradual and carefully planned diet and exercise program.

            Part of being a good president is to carry on like a leader. The weight issue aside, Christie has impressed as such.

          • AK says:

            But when you think he was the best of the field the Republicans could offer, that’s pretty sad. Santorum was like a biblical lawgiver with his positions on abortion, Perry was an affable dolt, Bachman was batshit crazy, and I can’t even remember any one else.

            Not even Ron Paul!? 😉

            There was actually a mini-discussion on the demographic elements of this election on my blog recently. The general conclusion is that Latinos are not monolithic; they are not natural conservatives (they are socially conservative but do not want small government); and the Republican strategy to court them has been a total failure.

            • marknesop says:

              Yes, I should have remembered Ron Paul; he certainly has his supporters, and he and The Mittster were the only two who spoke who actually sounded educated – Bachman sounded like she was home-schooled by some kind of cult. Aside from his odd fixation with taking the USA back to the gold standard, Paul came across as a gentleman (a rare find in politics these days) and at the very least open to any reasonable argument. He is at the same time unsurprisingly popular with his devotees and surprisingly unpopular with the mainstream voters; I couldn’t say why.

              Just as a general observation, not backed by sociology, I find Latinos more easily swayed by emotion than most other groups and more apt to vote based on perceived characteristics such as integrity or directness, rather than the depth and complexity of the candidate’s plan. This is not to say they are incapable of grasping complexity, just that they tend to be more trusting of the candidate based solely on sales pitch and gut instinct. But I think that’s what the Republicans relied on, and they were wrong, so perhaps I am too.

              • Misha says:

                With Slavs in mind, it’s not so easy to lump a good sized group with differences among themselves.

                For example and without looking at specific stats, Cuban-Americans could show a different voting trend from a number of other Latinos. For its part, the Cuban-American community is said to have become more diversified in outlook.

                I recall a recent comment that said Repubs did noticeably better with Latinos in some prior presidential elections. Bush Jr. came from an elected Texas background (with a large Latino population) and scored points by periodically speaking Spanish.

                Generally speaking, Romney simply didn’t connect well with the less affluent of Americans. Enter the Christie craze.

                Especially from folks on the left, Paul loses a good number on his libertarian economic views.

          • yalensis says:

            The Dems had better mathematicians, apparently they figured out to the last digit which states and which demographics they needed. Broadly speaking, Repubs got older white males, and Dems got everybody else. One of the reasons I thought Mitt would still win (with numerically fewer supporters) is because I cynically assumed the Repubs would succeed in suppressing “undesirable” voters (especially Hispanics and African-Americans). Who cares how many supporters you have, if they are kept from voting? But maybe the “suppression” fears turn out to be mostly Democratic hype? Somehow the riffraff still managed to shuffle their undesirable selves into the polling booths?

            • Misha says:

              They came, saw and conquered as some have put it.

              Some Repubs play up fears of some Dems voting more than once, with some Dems saying that some proposed voter checking scrutiny is an under-handed suppression.

              The popular vote was pretty close unlike the board game.

            • marknesop says:

              There were a lot of volunteers, and I think the OSCE mission still went ahead although it did not receive much publicity.

            • cartman says:

              I am sure they were mining every bit of data for every person they could find – especially through facebook and twitter – instead of passively trying to predict the outcome.

              Nate Silver and Baba Vanga have one point each for this election.

              • marknesop says:

                Here’s an extremely interesting take on it; the race is artificially made to seem “too close to call” to preserve the illusion that there really is a choice, and that in order to hype democracy as a model, the people need to believe it could go either way.


                In this case, a month prior to the election, polls stopped sampling Registered Voters (RV) and concentrated on Likely Voters (LV). This inevitably causes the race to tighten because the Likely Voter Cutoff Model understates the Democratic “take”, and makes the race seem closer.

                Similarly, in the 1998-2008 presidential elections, a sufficiently large proportion of the exit polls “red-shifted” to the Republicans that the probability – as is the author’s title of the post – is zero. I have not independently verified any such shift in polling, but the only presidential election in which I can recall any substantial noise about “something wrong with the exit polls” was in 2004, when it appeared that Kerry was supposed to have won and that Bush stole the election. Regardless how accurate this information is, I do believe control of exit polling is key to manipulating election results, and such control by western NGO’s has played a prominent role in colour revolutions.

          • Hunter says:

            Hmmmm….if Romney had repositioned himself to the centre earlier then he may have had to reverse himself on less positions actually (assuming that some of the positions he reversed himself on still developed while he was playing to the right during the primaries). After all despite the fact that nobody had any real idea what his position was on any issue he did manage a spike in popularity and did better than McCain in gaining electoral votes and in the margin of his loss (so far; losing by 2.8 million votes as opposed to 9.5 million votes). Perhaps he might have been able to get Florida’s electoral votes (which seem likely to go to Obama if they have not gone to him already). He is very unlikely to have won (again it would probably require a set of circumstances similar to what happened with Carter around 1978-1980) but he probably could have done a little better with an earlier repositioning to the centre.

            In 2016 though both the Democrats and Republicans will have to go through primaries (which is one of the reasons Romney had to delay a reposition to the centre) which would give a Republican a better chance of winning the national election itself since both parties’ candidates will have to delay having a message for the centre of the electorate in order to win nomination from their bases. Will the Republican challenger win? Not sure. I think so, though it will probably be very close. If the Republican challenger does lose in 2016 then 2020 might be the time when the Democrats experience a Reagan-Bush 3 term stay in the White House.

            • Misha says:

              Romney attempted to give a more moderate image of himself in the foreign policy debate with Obama.

              That stance did little if anything to benefit him. Many minds were already made up, with foregn policy not being a major concern of many Americans. A good number were inclined to view his comments at that last debate as a further sign of a flip flop artist.

              • marknesop says:

                Many minds were made up before the primaries even began, which is why there are only 5 or 6 swing states and why that’s where all the money and campaigning and advertising go.

  19. kirill says:

    “Russia’s Federal Security Service has identified members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is officially designated a terrorist organization, in the Russian capital, the FSB said on Wednesday.”

    This is probably what Givi was going to tap to destabilize Russia.

  20. Misha says:

    This JRL promoted piece makes a not well founded comparative observation:

    Excerpt –

    “In this heated atmosphere of anger and hatred, the first act of the next U.S. president should be to set aside a day for national unity and to lead the way by taking the first public steps toward reconciliation.
    This would stand in marked contrast to President Vladimir Putin, who took a lot of flak in 2005 when he created National Unity Day, a public holiday that commemorates the defeat of invading Polish fighters in 1612 and was remembered only by the most studious historians. Putin has done little to promote unity, and there is little doubt that he chose the Nov. 4 date for its proximity to Revolution Day, thus allowing him to discard the Soviet-era holiday on Nov. 7 while still giving people a day off from work.”


    What happens when media is influenced by political biases and cronyism.

    In the US, the Thanksgiving and Independence Day holidays have involved the theme of an American togetherness.

    As brought up earlier in this thread, the above referenced Russian holiday existed in pre-Soviet times. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of pro-American sentiment as well as a nationalist viewpoint (academically sugar coated and otherwise) that includes negatively inaccurate comments about Russia and Russians. This opinion concerns the reasoning for efforts like the one brought up in this piece:

    • marknesop says:

      Wow; that must be some kind of record. I replied to this comment;

      “what a crock of communist shit,the russians are the most hatefull society in the world just ask any georgian,armenian,chinese or whoever living in russia.”

      thusly – “Pop quiz – quick, which country has the larger population of expatriate Georgians; Russia, or the USA?”

      on the Moscow Times site. It lasted less than a minute before it was deleted.

    • kirill says:

      We are going to be subjected to this “successor” brainwashing for the next six years. A real succession is what you had in Azerbaijan where the son took over from the dad and several demonstrators were shot dead when the people expressed their disapproval. Russians will be picking from 4 or more candidates in the 2018 presidential election.

      Why aren’t Democrat or Republican candidates during US presidential elections labelled successors? They meet all the criteria. Ah, but there is a choice on the ballot will be the retort. As if that does not apply to Russia.

      • AK says:

        In the US, a party’s candidate is decided in the primaries. In Russia, United Russia just endorses Putin or whoever else he picks.

        You can quibble, but that still makes him a successor. Russians of course have the choice of rejecting that successor although the chances of that so low as to be negligible, like the risk of getting hit by lightning.

        • AK says:

          To clarify, that was the situation in 2008.

          In 2018, it’s quite possible that a party like Fair Russia or even the Citizen’s Platform could launch a credible challenge to the Kremlin backed candidate. Or maybe not. 6 years is an eternity in politics, all kinds of things can change.

          • Dear Anatoly,

            As you rightly say 6 years is an eternity in politics though I have to say that at the moment judging on news reports Fair Russia does not seem to be in good shape. Perhaps I am wrong but I sort of get the impression that its successful result in the parliamentary election last year merely delayed the process of the party’s disintegration, which appears to have resumed over the last few weeks with a vengeance.

            On the subject of Shoigu, on the face of it he seems a perfectly plausible candidate for the Presidency. In 6 years he would be 63, which would not be too old. This speculation however assumes that Putin will not stand in 6 years time. Having said this there are grounds for thinking that 2018 could be a more interesting and open election than the one we have just had. Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky will surely not be standing again and Yavlinsky will presumably have also left the scene so there’s at last a chance that someone genuinely new might come forward. A plausible and exciting new candidate with an attractive programme might be able to pick up votes which the tired veterans of the 1990s could not do.

            • AK says:

              I wouldn’t rush to write off Fair Russia yet. With the new laws on parties, those who had previously integrated into it like the Greens and Pensioners are splitting off to form their own parties. But this hemorrhaging process will not continue indefinitely. FR will have about 4 years until the 2017 elections to build itself up again, so I wouldn’t rush to write them off yet. If my thesis that Russia is now basically comparable to mainstream European countries of the 50’s and 60’s is in anyway correct, the emergence of a powerful social democratic party to balance center-right United Russia is all but inevitable. (The Communists are doomed in the long-term as the bulk of their electorate passes on, the LDPR is reliant on Zhirinovsky’s cult of personality, and even if the right liberals-Eggert types unite their efforts they will never pass 10% or so.

              The big problem with Shoigu as some Russians have insisted to me since yesterday is that he is non-Russian. According to them Russians may not be ready to accept a non-Russian, Buddhist President. I am not sure that is actually the case. Him being Tuvan hasn’t stopped him from being extremely popular. It is Caucasus Muslims who are troublesome minorities / oppressed victims of Russian chauvinism (depending on one’s ideological viewpoint), not the Buddhist peoples of Siberia. I suspect that he along with Rogozin and Shuvalov are being groomed for a potential Presidential candidacy.

              • I am not writing off Fair Russia. As you may remember I thought that the only candidate who was positioned to give Putin a run for his money in the last Presidential election was Sergei Mironov. That didn’t happen because the opposition refused to unite behind him causing his vote to become squeezed instead. However the same calculation still applies and may do so in 2018. Time will tell.

              • cartman says:

                They need to purge their party of charlatans like Ilya Ponomarev. There is no way that an oligarch defender/closet Stalinist belongs in a party for social democrats.

                I think Shoigu would have difficulty with Ukraine. Relations with the country are very important and are bound to become more complicated since racial ideologies seem to be getting a foothold there. The racist Svoboda party received over 10 percent of the vote in the last election.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  This thing about racism in Russia gets me. Sure, there are scumbags here that attack African/Asian students and immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia for no other reason but their ethnicity, but in my experience most Russians (more exactly, most Muscovites) are pretty easy going as regards “aliens” in their midst.

                  Of late there have appeared at Moscow metro station exits Africans who hand out advertising leaflets, and on the streets African sandwich board men have become a common sight. These Africans are all students here, it seems. This fact has been commented upon in the Russian press without any animosity directed towards the Africans whatsoever; in fact, the articles have stated that although these students are being exploited they are always happy and smiling. And Russian passers-by are reported to be either totally indifferent towards them or to like their presence because they add “colour” to their daily life. The Africans speak basic Russian and bad English. The ones that have approached me spoke Portuguese as their colonial tongue. I have not seen any reports of Russian racist gangs attacking these people.

                  It often goes unnoticed amongst Western visitors to the Evil Empire that although the majority of Moscow residents are Eastern Slavs, namely ethnic Russians (русские as opposed to citizens of the Russian Federation – россияне), Ukrainians and Belorussians, the second biggest ethnic group in Moscow is Tatar, but they go about unnoticed – to Westerners at least: this is probably because they do not resemble the slit-eyed members of the Horde as portrayed in Hollywood movies such as “Genghis Khan”, which khan was played by John Wayne of all people – complete with Asiatic eyes, of course, courtesy of the studio make-up department.

                  My neighbours are Tatar and my children call them “uncle” or, as the case may be “auntie”. They are good folk. And I’ve noticed how all my children’s playmates have no hang-ups as regards kids of other ethnicities. All the outrageous racist attitude and language that I have witnessed here has been expressed by drunken low-lifes.

                • Hunter says:

                  Hmmm….I think Shoigu’s biggest difficulty with Ukraine will be that in some pictures he bears a slight resemblance (note I said “slight”) to Viktor Yushchenko and we all know Ukrainians don’t like that man any more 😀

                • marknesop says:

                  That’s just like Ukrainians – harboring a grudge forever, when all Yushchenko did was wreck the country. Get over it, people: in a generation or so, all those loans will be paid back! Let’s turn that frown upside down, what do you say?

                  For anyone who wondered what Yushchenko’s doing now – after the spanking he got in the 2010 election; I’d just like to point out that his 5.45% of the vote in the first round was the worst result in history for an acting president – he’s naturally…..still in politics. You’d think he would have gotten an impression that maybe he wasn’t so good at this, but evidently the dioxin poisoning thickened his skin to that of a rhino. He bragged confidently that his new right-wing coalition would easily break the 5% threshold, when opinion polls at the time had his own Nasha Ukraina supported by only 1%.

                  The preferred positioning for slow learners is in the electorate, not in the leadership.

      • marknesop says:

        I think Putin will stand for another term, and – unless a pretty charismatic replacement comes to the surface – probably win. Either that, or someone whom Putin personally selects and then by a combination of over-the-top insulting them and running a bad campaign himself, gets elected.

  21. Dear Yalensis,

    I gather that those white ribbon oppositionists unhappy with the Coordinating Council elections are now going to set up a rival structure.

    I have a suggestion to make. Since Navalny’s group who set up the Coordinating Council are obviously the majority perhaps they should calls themselves the “majorityites” or in Russian “Bolsheviks” whilst the minority forming the new rival structure could be called the “minorityites” or “Mensheviks”.

    Or did that happen once before?

    • marknesop says:

      Oh no!!!! It’s the dreaded fallout the oppositionists predicted when the threshold for forming a political party dropped to 500 signatures!! The rash of parties will CANCEL EACH OTHER OUT!!!!

      Well, they would if they were real political parties instead of Mr. Dressup Make-Believe Clubs.

  22. Here is an interesting and sober article in The National Interest about the future direction of Georgia’s foreign policy.

    A detail that I found interesting is that at the top of page 2 it lists a number of Saakashvili’s associates who have fled the country to avoid prosecution. These apparently include the Defence Minister who fled whilst still theoretically in post. Of even greater relevance to our discussions is that Givi Targamadze also appears on the list as one of those who has fled. I wonder why that should be?

    • yalensis says:

      It is also very doubtful that Russia can bring Abkhazia back into Georgia—even if it suddenly does decide to show the world that it is ready to sell some of its allies down the river in exchange for acquiring a new one. Abkhazia has become so independent that its voters have even rejected a presidential candidate ostensibly backed by Moscow even though that candidate was as much for Abkhazia’s independence as his more successful rival. Imagine the reaction of the Abkhaz people if they learned that Moscow had suddenly decided that it is a good idea to make Abkhazia part of Georgia.

      This is what I have been saying: majority of Abkhazians truly do want to be totally independent nation, not a province of Russia. (As opposed to Ossetians, majority of whom want to be province of Russia).
      Re. Givi: article says he fled from Gruzia, but does not say whither he fled. What would be logical country for him to flee to? Poland? Estonia? Does anybody know?

  23. kirill says:

    “Russia’s extra-parliamentary opposition has grown in influence since last year, according to almost 70 percent of political analysts who contributed to the Valdai Development Index published on Thursday.”

    Another BS perceptions index designed to make wishes into reality.

  24. kirill says:

    “Bribes worth around €180 million are thought to have been exchanged between a network of companies and lobbyists working for EADS – which despite confirming the investigation and the raids, refused to comment further.”

    Oh my, corruption exists only in Russia and the 3rd world so this can’t be happening. Time for regime change!

    • marknesop says:

      Shhhhh!!!!!! They make my air targets (jets)!! Do you want to get me in trouble??

      Actually, they do – Cassidian, which is a subsidiary of EADS. I sure wish I had known they were tossing around big fat bribes, because I certainly didn’t get any. I know quite a few of their staff, although I doubt they’re involved in any way, they’re just technicians. Great guys. I did a post on corruption in other countries awhile ago, and I remember Germany came in for quite a hammering – seems to me it was a German company that paid the largest fine ever for corruption-related charges. I’d have to look.

  25. marknesop says:

    Yeah, here it is:

    The company was Siemens – and it was only the largest fine in Germany’s history, not of all time, although it was a quite respectable $2.5 Billion. Among many other things, Siemens is the builder of Russia’s Sapsan Bullet Train.

  26. kirill says:

    Another gem of apologia for western double standards from RIAN. Somebody should tell that clown Maria Young who wrote the piece that there was no universal free access to ballot stations in the US for international observers. This applies to Texas as noted by Mark. Ralph Nader is not the only 3rd party candidate in recent times to have been banned from the ballot in many states thanks to the Demo-Repub mafia, which dominates local electoral committees. Maria Young is not even being as open as the US media is itself about the shenanigans that went on during the last vote, in particular the nonsensical proof of identity rules implemented in Ohio just before the vote which were clearly designed to reduce the total turnout, which would be detrimental to Obama.

    • Dear Kirill,

      In fact if the OSCE wanted to be as critical of the US elections as they are of Russian elections there is plenty they could find to complain about. The absence of a level playing field is one. During the last Presidential elections in Russia there was one overwhelmingly strong candidate (Putin) but a wide field of other candidates who received almost equal attention (Zyuganov, Zhirinovsky, Mironov and Prokhorov). In the US the focus is overwhelmingly on the competing Democrat/Republican duopoly (Obama vs. Romney) with the other candidates barely noticed. There is of course nothing to compare in Russia with the grotesque way money buys attention in the US elections.

      Lastly I notice the rhapsodic way the head of the OSCE team talks about how people in the US are able to show how they have voted. I am not sure why that is a good thing. It is supposed to be a secret ballot after all. Which European countries where people are “afraid” to do this does he have in mind? If people in Europe or indeed Russia are so afraid to do this how do exit polls work? If visibility is what makes an election perfect why not rhapsodise to an equal degree about the installation of CCTV cameras in Russian polling stations? I notice also that the head of the OSCE team waxes eloquent about the queues and enthusiasm in the US elections but turnout in the Russian Presidential elections at 65% was actually higher than in the US elections where it was apparently around 60%.

      • kirill says:

        I am finding it hard to take these articles and these sorts of pronouncements seriously. It’s simply too much stress that does not achieve anything.

        They avoid talking about voter turnout in the US since it is not higher than in Russia and elsewhere (

        There is nothing to trumpet about the US political landscape. The country is split down the middle into traditional Democrat and Republican voting patterns. So people actually vote according to how their parents and grandparents voted. There is some slack but it really is a very stagnant system where farces such as Florida in 2000 can determine which party wins. At least in Canada the two dominant parties don’t totally dominate the landscape and during the last election there was a big swing to the third party NDP at the expense of the Liberals who dominate together with the Conservatives.

        • marknesop says:

          In fact voter turnout is much lower than in Russian elections, and in this past election it was lower than last time; a block of voters that could easily have put either candidate over the top – and perhaps even an independent were he/she on the ballot – in a popular vote simply stayed home. Forbes had a good pie-chart graphic of it. I blame at least some of that on the electoral college, which ensures there are only perhaps 5 or 6 swing states in which the outcome is in doubt. Republicans love the electoral college when it helps a Republican win in spite of losing the popular vote, but gnash their teeth and say it’s a rotten system that must be abolished immediately when it works against them. To be fair, I suppose the Democrats are the same, as there’s not all that much difference between them.

  27. yalensis says:

    Meanwhile, back in NavalnyLand:
    On his blog Navalny announced his support for a new political party, called “Narodny Alians” (People’s Alliance). This party was organized by two of Navalny’s friends, Vladimir Ashurkov and Leonid Volkov. Volkov, not coincidentally, was the guy who organized the internet election (Coordinating Committee), which Navalny won.

    Along those lines, the new People’s Alliance Party will focus mainly on internet membership. It will be funded (it claims) from membership dues, which are around 1100 rubles.
    Party plans to organize in the various regions, led by the following regional cadres:
    Party ideology is as follows:

    Мы не собираемся наклеивать на себя идеологические ярлыки – правые-левые, либералы-государственники. Мы хотим, чтобы наша партия стала альянсом оппозиционно настроенных сил гражданского общества, объединенных на самых общих принципах и ценностях: 1) Восстановление институтов обратной связи общества и государства (выборность власти, честные СМИ, независимые суды) и 2) повышение эффективности работы государственной машины и предоставления ею услуг населению.

    “We do not plan to pin on ourselves any ideological cliches: right-left, liberal-state. We just want our party to become an alliance of oppositionally minded forces from civic society, unified on the most basic principles and values: (1) Restitution of the institutions of society and government (electability of power, honest media, independent courts), and (2) to raise the effectivity of the work of the government machine and its delivery of services to the population.”
    In other words, no ideology.

    Party does not plan to run for any elections, either nationally or locally. Party says running for elections is pointless since the system is rigged. Therefore, Party plans to come to power outside of the regular electoral process.

    • kirill says:

      The system is rigged because they don’t have a chance of winning at the ballot box. If these clowns have a case then hire a private polling firm (it is possible to do that in Russia, e.g. Gallup) and show us the popular support numbers. This is not the 1930s and people will answer freely to poll questions so Navalny could make a case out of the next best thing to a vote, an opinion poll.

      • Yet another party, but one with no policy or ideology and which does not intend to participate in elections but whose sole purpose appears to be to get Navalny into power by revolutionary means.

        Why would anyone support a party without ideology or policies and which does not intend to participate in elections? Besides refusing to participate in elections because they are rigged is simply stupid. Lenin who openly and straightforwardly pursued a revolutionary course always insisted that the Bolsheviks should participate in Duma elections even though the restricted franchise rigged the vote against them. That is how a real revolutionary behaves. However, as Mark said, Navalny is a make believe revolutionary not a real one

    • marknesop says:

      Customarily, parties that plan to come to power outside the electoral process are called “Revolutionaries” rather than Oppositionists. And unless this party means to come to power through violence it is going to be just another sideline yapper making noises about ballot-stuffing and carousel voting in every election. There is already any number of NGO’s and media sources eager to do that, and if they were made to stand not less than 100 feet away from polling places as is frequently the rule in the U.S., it is difficult to imagine how those accusations are going to have any credibility.

      I’m having a hard time seeing why the west continues to invest such emotional capital in everything Navalny does because even the tiny niche of appeal he enjoyed is beginning to slip away in Russia. Sure, he could be a celebrity in America, the rawboned Russian revolutionary who is the toast of Washington, but how does that help the Anglosphere overthrow Putin? After all, he is president of Russia, not Washington.

  28. The change of the guard in the Defence Ministry goes on with Shoigu replacing Serdyukov’s people with his own. The General Staff has a new Chief who seems to be a well regarded serving officer who was apparently on bad terms with Serdyukov. It seems that many of the civilians Serdyukov brought into the Defence Ministry are also being replaced by military people. I gather that a lot of Serdyukov’s people were women with no military backgrounds and that this was bitterly resented. I would guess that the revelation that one of these women was corrupt was what did for him.

    I suspect that one other factor in causing Serdyukov’s downfall was the way the Defence Ministry under Serdyukov was constantly experimenting with purchases of foreign made equipment. I am not a military man or an engineer but some of this equipment (eg. sniper rifles, armoured vehicles etc) was of the kind that Russia not only already makes but seems to me to make well. I always felt that these purchases were principally intended to intimidate the military industries into lowering costs. However the practice must have made Serdyukov plenty of enemies and of course it is not impossible that someone with an essentially accountancy background simply looked for off the shelf equipment available at the lowest possible price without considering the importance of supporting the country’s military industries. Conceivably Serdyukov was also one of those people who simply assumes that western = better, which in terms of military equipment is certainly not the case.

    By the way I gather that the chief of the Airborne Forces is being promoted to Deputy Minister, which presumably means that the Airborne Forces will get their BMD4M after all.

    • marknesop says:

      Sometimes the purchase of military equipment is a quid pro quo – I buy some of yours, you buy some of mine. I never really thought about the domestic implications of scaring your defense companies, and in fact Russia does make a very good sniper rifle. But although Russia has not to my knowledge sold any military equipment to the USA – although they are eager to acquire it, particularly when it is secret – I just saw on RBTH that Russia has struck a deal to supply missiles to the Spanish Navy for its new patrol craft. This article suggests the deal is “one of the first” such instances, but except for the MANTA project also mentioned I know of no others.

  29. kirill says:

    The Guardian is actually good for something. CNN is indeed a de facto government mouthpiece.

    • marknesop says:

      I love Glenn Greenwald, but I can’t look at the phrase, “without an iota of skepticism or balance” printed in The Guardian without laughing out loud. That made my day, and it’s just starting, maybe it’s only going to get better.

  30. Moscow Exile says:

    Not noticed this story reported in the western media.

    The convicted man confessed to all the charges.

    No mention of torture.

    It is people such as he whose arrests are described as “political” by Navalny and co., which arrests prompted the recent “opposition” protests at Lubyanka Square, which token protesting by an estimated 200 people in its turn led to the arrests of Navalny, Udaltsov and other “oppostionists”, something that I suspect the “opposition leaders” hoped would happen.

    PS Not posted much of late as for the past week I have been in France. Fly back to the Evil Empire on Sunday.

    • yalensis says:

      You’ve been in France? Cool!

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I am still in France, mon ami!

        My children still cannot get over the fact that motorists here actually stop at road crossings for those who wish to cross over.

        There are other aspects of French finesse that have impressed them as well. They still remain Russian patriots though.


    • marknesop says:

      Contrast it with the case of Jose Padilla, who was arrested for planning to detonate a “dirty bomb” in the U.S. Although he was never charged with that crime, he was jailed and George W. Bush declared him an enemy combatant. He was held in the navy brig in Charleston, where he was subjected to sleep deprivation, stress positions and some of the other delights America learned during its Iraq Adventure. Even when he was taken to the dentist he wore sound-deadening headphones and goggles to ensure he could hear and see nothing. In May of this year the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that although Padilla’s treatment might have risen to the level of torture – which it agreed is unconstitutional – it was not so considered at the time it occurred.

      Padilla was arrested in 2002 and by 2005 had still not been charged with anything. When the South Carolina U.S. District Court ordered that he be charged or released, he was charged with conspiring to murder, kidnap and maim persons overseas. He was found guilty on all charges, none of which were part of his original indictment 3 years previously. He had previously been found mentally incompetent to stand trial by two psychiatrists for the defense.

      Padilla was a gang-banger when he was a young man, and there is no argument that he was an upstanding citizen. That in no way detracts from the facts that the legal proceedings attaching to his arrest and detention were a pile of shit, that he was arrested because of his association with other parties in whom the U.S. government was interested and that his original charges were completely fabricated in order to show the public that the government was catching terrorist bad guys.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        As regards the severity of the due process of law in foreign lands, I noticed a small article the other week about the Swede who founded Pirate Bay, the torrent download outfit, whom the Swedish government has been after nailng for a good while.

        Anyway, this dangerous criminal Swede had fled his native land a while back but was recently arrested somewhere or other and was taken back to Sweden.

        The article that I read about him concerned his mother’s lodging of an official complaint that since his return to “liberal” Sweden, her arrested son has been held in solitary.

        No allegations of torture though.

        And Hilary Clinton has made no comment about the matter.

        • kirill says:

          The ceaseless propaganda in the west about “human rights”, civil society and democratic laws with the west being painted as a paragon and other un-west countries being painted as abusers is a very effective tool to free the hand of western elites to abuse the rights their sock puppet media espouses.

          The typical westerner reacts like one of Pavlov’s dogs assuming that their home country could never abuse their so-called precious rights. That “due process” won’t f*ck them over royally. This propaganda-conditioned reflex has them believing every inane accusation about the un-west.

          The dystopia painted in “1984” is much more applicable to the west then the USSR and its present day fragments. At no point after WWII (before it was in a state of civil war including the collectivization mess of the 1930s) was the population of the USSR totally brainwashed into believing that they lived in a paragon society surrounded by evil inferiors. Ham fisted rule is not totalitarian thought control and in fact breed popular resentment. Having everyone believe that they are the best in the universe creates self-perpetuating loyalty to the system and secures the elites.

  31. cartman says:

    Interesting take on the idea to change Volgograd’s name back to Stalingrad. It does not mention at all the biggest reason they might want the name back. It is also Estonian, so a self-flagellating Russian would be described as a “thoughtful” commentator.

  32. yalensis says:

    An American Veterans Day Special Edition:
    More juicy gossip about the General Petraeus case. According to this, there were 2 “other women” involved in the scandal: Other woman #1 = Paula Broadwell, who was alleged to be Petraeus official mistress. Woman #2 = ? = [a second mistress].
    Allegedly when #1 learned about #2, she got very jealous and sent her (#2) a threatening e-mail out of Petraeus’ private email account. Maybe this is what alerted FBI. According to some reports, FBI monitored Petraeus’ private email for 6 months. I don’t know if they needed a court order for this, or if it is SOP for officials of such high rank.
    Even though it’s private email that doesn’t discuss state secrets, that’s still unacceptable behavior for a CIA director. (Because of blackmail considerations.) Back in the glory days of the Cold War, KGB would have had this guy turned and recruited in very short order! Only question is why FBI waited for 6 whole months before they blew the lid on him! In those 6 months he could have done a lot of damage to U.S. interests. (I mean, even more damage than he did with his disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
    Note the one comment at the end of the piece:
    сучки не поделили кобеля… (“Bitches didn’t want to share the male.”)
    Ah yes, one can always count on Russian commenters to reduce all of life to its basic principles!

  33. yalensis says:

    Limonov’s opinion on the Maxim Luz’anin case. Recall that Luz’anin was just sentended to 4 years for punching a cop in the Bolotnaya demo. Luz’anin is known for his strong physique and huge biceps. He admitted his guilt and did not contest the verdict.
    “In my opinion [this is Limonov speaking] it’s not fair to punish lads so severely (just) for fighting. Nobody died, or was hurt. All men are born to fight – boys will be boys….”
    Call this the Irishman’s defense! (Except that these guys weren’t drunk when they were fighting.)
    I think I actually agree with Limonov on this one. (Surprising to me that I agree with him on anything.) I always thought cops and soldiers, once they join such a macho profession, should be able to take it as well as dish it out. Like he said, nobody died or was seriously injured. A real man should be able to take a punch without running crying to his mommy.
    On the other hand, Limonov’s views are not completely unbiased, since he himself is well known for his street-fightin’ ways. He’s too old to fight now, but he used to send his youth group cadres into street battles on regular occasions, radical youths vs. cops. It was his specialty, and he knew every trick in the book!

    • yalensis says:

      On the other hand…
      Apparently this local superman (Luz’anin) was able to accomplish the following feats at Bolotnaya:
      (1) Threw a chunk of asphalt at a Junior Sniper-instructor from Ministry of Internal Affairs,
      (2) Knocked off a spets soldier: helmet, armored jacket, took away his rubber baton and gas canister,
      (3) Knocked another soldier down, hit and kicked him on the head, causing concussion
      (4) Also knocked down 3 more cops, then employed a choke-hold on one of them
      (5) Used porto-potties to build a barricade.

      Luz’anin was convicted on the lesser Article 318 (“employing force not dangerous to life or health against law enforcement officials”), and also on Article 212 (“participating in mass disorders”).
      Army should try to recruit this guy, sounds like he would make a terrific special forces soldier!

      • marknesop says:

        Ask any of the former students who are still alive who were at Kent State University in 1970. When the collective impression overcomes a group of people who have weapons that they are about to be overrun by people who have not, they will shoot. Luzanin could have biceps as big as Popeye the Sailor Man and they would not help him at all if a riot policeman shot him through the head. And any displayed tolerance on the part of the government for a certain amount of scuffling between the population and its law enforcement just means law enforcement is quicker to employ the tools that give it an advantage, like pepper spray and tasers. The west is already trying to get away from such cases, and western populations are generally law-abiding in public situations.

    • marknesop says:

      I’m afraid I’m going to disagree. There can never be as many policemen as there are demonstrators, and even though various articles squeal about Putin busing in platoons of riot policemen, there are rarely 20,000 policemen or soldiers for the same number of demonstrators. The police supply a physical presence to force you to obey the law, but in fact you are supposed to know what it is and obey without having to be muscled into it. Law and order is not about the law being whatever the guy with the biggest muscles says it is. Charges against those who physically resist law enforcement are not based on the extent of the injuries, ie: big strong man with a little ouchie on his forehead going crying to his Mommie, but on the act of resistance itself. Otherwise if you make your cops bigger and stronger, civilians simply organize at 5 to 1, or whatever.

      Police and military are generally fit because they are supposed to exemplify discipline, and that starts with self-discipline. If a cop is grossly overweight and walks about on patrol licking an ice-cream cone, it creates a bad impression. It’s not because they should expect a fistfight with civilians every time they have to put the come-along on some guy for breaking the law.

      If you have more police and military than you have civilians, you have a society that its own tax-base will not support.

  34. Amazing how hated Trump is now think of how 36 support him and know that is how many hate the GOP. Imagine how well the GOP would do if they earned the respect of those 36 back. checkout if you going to vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. we also have the biggest hilary clinton email dump here:, and we expose the excutive ordre made secret by obama here:

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