UCLA's Professor Launches a Website on Russian Pop Music
David MacFadyen, Professor and Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, has created the only English-language site dedicated to new music from Russia. The portal is called "Far from Moscow" (the name of a famous Soviet novel and film) and covers all kinds of genres -- all the way from Dima Bilan's soothing melodies to vile noise. The website covers not only Russian music, but also gives snapshots of the Russian recording industry, providing information about Russian record labels and music portals.
This project is unique for several reasons. First, a Brit, not a Russian, is writing about Russian music, thus he brings attention to nuances that might be overlooked by a common Russian reviewer. Second, the website is frequently updated; every day it adds video, audio, and quick sketches of the artists. And, third... the UCLA Department's Chair himself brings his life-long expertise in Russian language and the arts to this unique outlet. UCLA Professor David MacFadyen is an author of multiple books and dozens of reviews and publications on Russian culture.
Crew members of the U.S. Navy's guided missile destroyer (not the presidential candidate!), USS John S. McCain, carry U.S. and Russian flags as they march during World War II victory celebrations in the far-eastern city of Vladivostok May 9, 2007. (Photo by Reuters)
Most Russians are indifferent to the U.S. presidential elections and don't expect better relations with America. One poll found that only 9 per cent of respondents think new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev should focus on improving the bilateral ties. Medvedev himself expressed desire to work with a "modern" U.S. leader rather than one ``whose eyes are turned back to the past.''
In the meantime, some Russian elites have voiced their support for Senator John McCain. This may seem surprising considering that McCain's Russia record includes warnings of "a creeping coup against the forces of democracy and market capitalism", accusations of Kremlin involvement in nuclear blackmail, energy imperialism, cyber attacks, as well as multiple calls to expel Russia from the G-8. Although the Arizona Senator has recently expressed willingness to cooperate with Moscow on nuclear issues, there is hardly any doubt that he remains one of the toughest (and most prejudiced) critics of Russia in the U.S. establishment.
Canada vs. Russia: Russia Takes Hockey World Title on May 18, 2008
Fans celebrating Russia's victory in the final of the World Hockey Championship on Manezh Square (Photo by AP)
Russia won World Hockey Championship for the first time since 1993 on May 18, 2008. The victory was overlooked by many in the United States due to local sports activities and also due to the fact that Russia has won too many competitions in May 2008; UEFA (soccer championship) on May 14, 2008, World Hockey Championship on May 18, 2008, and the Eurovision Music Contest on May 25, 2008.
"Ilya Kovalchuk's power-play goal in overtime for the 5-4 win in Quebec City, Canada, came just before midnight, but that didn't stop fans from holding an impromptu parade in the city center, where many had watched the final in bars..."
Please, visit the extended post to read the Moscow Times coverage of the event.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev poses for a group photo with students at Peking University in Beijing, capital of China, on May 24, 2008. Dmitry Medvedev delivered a speech at Peking University on Saturday. (by Xinhua Photo)
Medvedev visits. Medvedev made his first trip as president to Kazakhstan and China. Does this mean anything? Is it a statement of some sort? I don't know. Many countries have a tradition that the new leader visits his neighbours first. Putin, on the other hand, is in France.
Demographics. More signs that the situation is becoming less desperate: RosStat estimates the population as of 1 April to be 141.9 million. This is down 80,900 from the start of the year but this year's decline is rather less than 1st quarter figures from previous years (118,200 in 2007 and 200,800 in 2006). I am amused to note that some , even in the mainstream media, have started to notice the turnaround (although others have not).
A May 1, 2008 Washington Times article quoted CIA Director Michael Hayden saying that Russia's declining population will require them to bring in foreign workers which will increase racial and religious tensions. The CIA analysts failed to see a more interesting and dangerous (for the USA) scenario.
What if Russia decides to keep out third world immigrants and instead welcome Europeans from anywhere in the world. Right now few people would go, but if Russia improves its judicial system and infrastructure and if Europe and the US continue their demographic changes, Russia will look more appealing. Even now poor whites living in a big American city would be better off (socially if not economically) living in Russia.
PARIS, May 27 (UPI) -- An alarming new word has been born. It is "hypermortality," which might be defined as an extraordinary tendency toward death. It jumps from the first page of the U.N. Development Program report entitled "Demographic Policy in Russia."
"The Russian phenomenon of hypermortality comes to be observed primarily in working-age populations," it says. "Compared to the majority of countries that have similar levels of economic development, mortality in Russia is 3-5 times higher for men and twice as high for women." What this means, the report says, is that the size of the working-age population "will fall by up to 1 million people annually already by 2020-25."
Government. Putin has his new government. There are two 1st deputies: Viktor Zubkov and Igor Shuvalov (the latter will act for Putin in his absence); 5 Deputies: Sergey Sobyanin, Aleksandr Zhukov (a 1991 graduate of Harvard Business School who is fluent in English), Sergey Ivanov, Igor Sechin and Aleksey Kudrin. A "presidium" has been created of these plus the foreign, interior, defence, health and social development, agriculture and regional development ministers. In short: deputies, power ministers and national project ministers. Sergey Shoygu remains Emergency Situations Minister: he has held this position since 1991(!), through everything, and is consistently one of the most popular leaders in the country.
Speculation. The new government has sparked off effusions of neo-Kremlinology in which, as usual, commentators find evidence to support their pre-existing theories. I regard neo-Kremlinology as a waste of time for the following reasons. We do not yet know how the diumvirate will operate but their speeches all stress one thing: when Putin came to power I believe he saw his work in four main headings: tighten central control, improve the economy, improve Russia's standing in the world and introduce "rule of law" (more a "rule of rules" I think). He was reasonably successful in the first three but there has been little progress in the fourth. It appears to be the chief emphasis of Medvedev and Putin today, at least in their speeches.
In the last seven years, Russia and China have agreed to settle their long simmering border disputes, and bilateral trade has increased from $10 billion to $48 billion a year. To put this number in perspective, in 2007 Russia's total trade with Germany amounted to $52 billion.
To fuel its surging demand for electricity, in recent years China has become the world's largest consumer of coal, and air pollution has become a major problem in Chinese cities. Developing nuclear energy would help China to reduce emissions while continuing to grow its economy.
Most of the Western media coverage of Russian President Dimitry Medvedev's meeting last week with Chinese President Hu Jintao have focused on their joint statement, which criticized U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Europe. But as usual, the real action last week was not diplomatic, but commercial.
Avram Grant sympathised with John Terry after his missed penalty (Getty Images)
Click on the extended post to watch videos describing the match and results
In a battle of Great Britain's top two soccer clubs, on May 21, 2008, Manchester United beat Chelsea FC (the English team owned by Roman Abramovich, the richest man in Russia) in a Champions League final settled by penalty kicks in sudden death overtime.
The match was held at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium (a riverside venue built for the 1980 Olympics near the Vorobey Hills). In spite of the media hype about whether or not rowdy English football fans would get along with native Muscovites, the game and subsequent celebrations largely took place without incident.
Arizona Senator John McCain is the Republican candidate for President
Note to Russia Blog readers: This article was originally published earlier today in the Moscow Times. Dr. Edward Lozansky is the organizer of the World Russian Forum, which is now underway May 19-20, 2008 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. -The Editors
The three presumed U.S. presidential candidates rarely mention Russia. When they do, their remarks are critical -- possibly because they are hoping to attract a few more votes from the numerous and well-organized ethnic communities from Ukraine, the Baltics and East Europe.
Still, Senator John McCain stands alone. McCain, the Republican hopeful with a good shot of winning the election, has practically included Russia in a new axis of evil, along with North Korea, China and Iran. McCain's advisers are openly lambasting President George W. Bush for being too chummy with President Vladimir Putin and promise that Moscow will be treated a lot more harshly in a McCain presidency.
Don't miss the annual World Russian Forum. The 2008 Forum will be held at the US Capitol in Washington D.C. on May 19-20. Please, visit the Russia House website to find out more about the forum and register for the event. Also see the extended post for the event agenda. Yours truly, Yuri Mamchur, will be a speaker on the panel "Russian Diaspora in the U.S and Its Role in Bolstering U.S. - Russian Relations."
"WORLD RUSSIAN FORUM 2008"
RUSSIA - USA
Towards Economic, Political and Military Alliance
May 19-20, 2008 Washington, DC
United States Capitol
The title of the film (Cargo 200) is a reference to the zinc-lined coffins that brought the bodies of dead Soviet soldiers back from Afghanistan during the 1980s
One year ago, Alexei Balabanov's Gruz 200 was released in Russia to packed theaters and mixed reviews. While it did not prove to be a box office smash, considering its gruesome content, it enjoyed modest commercial success. The film's director, Alexei Balabanov, was previously known in Russia for Guy Ritchie-inspired shoot em' up crime flicks, such as Zhmurki whose ironic taglines, ("for those who survived the Nineties") reminded Russians of the chaos and humiliation their nation suffered in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But suddenly, with the release of Gruz 200, even The Wall Street Journal, which has tended to be overwhelmingly negative in its reporting about Russia, stood up and took notice of Balabanov's scathing depiction of life under Soviet Communism.
AND THE WINNER IS...ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG Russian Club Beats Rangers, Takes UEFA Cup
Warming up for the final. Zenit puts one of four past Bayern Munich keeper and heralded German national team veteran, Oliver Kahn. The semi-final win gave Zenit a ticket to face Rangers.
For only the second time in history, football's UEFA Cup belongs to a Russian club.
Despite facing a sometimes stout Rangers' defense, Zenit St. Petersburg controlled all but spurts of a game that saw Zenit win 2-0 against Glasgow's (Scotland) Rangers. The game was played in Manchester, England, at the City of Manchester Stadium.
Rangers fans, who reports say filled two-thirds of the stadium, watched in agony as
Igor Denisov and Konstantin Zyryanov, with goals in the 72nd minute and injury-time, respectively, sealed the victory for Zenit. Rangers, despite their many successes, including winning this year's Scottish League Cup, haven't won the European prize in more than three decades. Zenit St. Petersburg won the Russian league title last year.
This article appeared in the May 19, 2008 edition of The Nation, and is republished with The Nation's kind permission.
None of the remaining presidential candidates have seriously addressed, or even seem fully aware of, what should be our greatest foreign policy concern--Russia's singular capacity to endanger or enhance our national security. Overshadowed by the US disaster in Iraq, Moscow's importance will continue long after that war ends.
Despite its diminished status following the Soviet breakup in 1991, Russia alone possesses weapons that can destroy the United States, a military-industrial complex nearly America's equal in exporting arms, vast quantities of questionably secured nuclear materials sought by terrorists and the planet's largest oil and natural gas reserves. It also remains the world's largest territorial country, pivotally situated in the West and the East, at the crossroads of colliding civilizations, with strategic capabilities from Europe, Iran and other Middle East nations to North Korea, China, India, Afghanistan and even Latin America. All things considered, our national security may depend more on Russia than Russia's does on us.
Armored personnel carriers and trucks rehearse for Victory Day on Tverskaya near the Kremlin, April 29, 2008
For most international observers, the big story of Victory Day 2008 in Moscow is the revival of the Soviet tradition of parading heavy military equipment through Red Square. For most Russians, however, today is a well deserved day off, and it will be the most beloved holiday on the national calendar before Christmas and New Years.
Today, hundreds of thousands in Russia will be participating in public events across the country to thank surviving World War II veterans for their service, and to remember the millions who died to rid the world of Nazism.
Click on the extended post to read more thoughts and watch more YouTube videos about Victory Day.
Dmitry Medvedev during the inauguration ceremony in Kremlin
President Medvedev. Yesterday Dmitriy Medvedev was sworn in as President (watch the video and the photos). His speech, almost all domestically focused, hit the themes of economic modernization, social security and "legal nihilism". The tacit message was, as it has been, that continuity was assured. He did use the phrase "our great Russia" -- it will be amusing to see how many news outlets focus their attention on that.
Prime Minister Putin. Putin was confirmed today by the Duma (the Communists voted against him) and his speech too focussed on domestic matters: increasing the capital -- in all senses of the word -- of Russia. It is clear that Medvedev's and Putin's program is to concentrate on what might be termed qualitative improvements in Russia's domestic situation. Of course, in this sinful world, external events can arise ex nihilo and dominate the conversation.
Interview with Henry Kissinger on the Future of U.S.-Russia Relations
As U.S. Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977, Henry Kissinger negotiated arms control agreements between the USA and USSR and the establishment of diplomatic relations between America and mainland Communist China. In this video the elderly diplomat sits down for a twenty minute interview with Russia Today TV and describes his vision of U.S.-Russia relations in the 21st century.
This week Newsweek world affairs columnist Fareed Zakaria has provided the cover story for that magazine's issue: "The Post American World", with excerpts from his new book of the same title. Here are a few quotes from Zakaria's article "The Rise of the Rest" pertinent to U.S.-Russia relations in an era of unprecedented globalization and prosperity.
On the Need to Give the BRIC Countries a Stake in Solving Global Problems
"American parochialism is particularly evident in foreign policy. Economically, as other countries grow, for the most part the pie expands and everyone wins. But geopolitics is a struggle for influence: as other nations become more active internationally, they will seek greater freedom of action. This necessarily means that America's unimpeded influence will decline. But if the world that's being created has more power centers, nearly all are invested in order, stability and progress. Rather than narrowly obsessing about our own short-term interests and interest groups, our chief priority should be to bring these rising forces into the global system, to integrate them so that they in turn broaden and deepen global economic, political, and cultural ties.
"If China, India, Russia, Brazil all feel that they have a stake in the existing global order, there will be less danger of war, depression, panics, and breakdowns. There will be lots of problems, crisis, and tensions, but they will occur against a backdrop of systemic stability. This benefits them but also us. It's the ultimate win-win..."
Russian Federation Weekly Situation Report May 2, 2008
The transition. What seems to be happening is that governing powers -- formerly almost all of which were concentrated in the Presidential Administration these past several years -- are being reassigned. A draft law has appeared that will delegate some of the central government's responsibilities to lower levels of government and some powers are apparently being shifted from the Presidential Administration to the government.
Meanwhile there are personnel changes that look like some of Putin's people moving over the government side to be ready for his arrival. I reiterate that it is still too early to know what The Plan is, but all this seems to support the hypothesis that Putin (and company) are setting up a certain division of powers between the Presidential Administration and the government. If (and this is a big if) this works in practice, it would be a good step: separation of powers is one of the secrets of successful governments.
Peak Oil? Or High Taxes?. Two weeks ago I quoted a Russian oil executive saying that Russian production had peaked; this week the CEO of Gazprom Neft says that he expects Russian production to continue to increase until the middle of the century (assuming that the industry gets the tax structure he thinks it ought to have).