Elephant Valery and donkey Sister voted at a Californian zoo. The animals probably have no clue that they betrayed their parties...
The Russian news media covers American elections in almost greater detail than the American media does. Russian readers can find plenty of information about both American presidential candidates, the scandal involving Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, an alleged murder conspiracy against Obama, Sarah Palin's love for fine clothes and hockey, and Barack's infomercial blanketing of American TV channels. However, the Russian mainstream media also gives a fair amount of coverage to minor party American presidential candidates, who, somehow, are largely ignored in their own country.
"Debates in a Margin of Error" by Gazeta.ru (Russia's most popular online news source) describes the debates between independent candidate Ralph Nader and constitutionalist candidate Chuck Baldwin. According to Gazeta.ru, the debates took place at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. and were attended by "journalists and students of the Washington University." The presidential candidate of the Green Party, Cynthia McKinney, and the Libertarian candidate Robert Barr did not attend the debates because of their "conflict of schedules." The correspondent for Gazeta.ru was disappointed with the lack of contention between the two debating candidates. Basically, both Nader and Baldwin agreed that the bi-partisan system is old and ineffective, Americans need "change", and the free market can do a better job than the government.
Continue reading "Russians Get News on American Elections that Even Americans Don't Get" »
The current economy presents unprecedented challenges for Russian entrepreneurs.
An opinion poll conducted by "Business Russia", a group that represents Russian medium-sized businesses, shows desperate results. These businesses are preparing to lay off employees, lower production output, and face reduced demand and higher interest rates.
65% of the Russian entrepreneurs polled do not expect to grow their businesses in 2009. They believe that sales will either stay at the same levels or will drop as soon as the fourth quarter of 2008. 39% percent of business owners surveyed are pessimistic. The main reason for these negative sentiments is a lack of liquidity for daily operations. At this moment, debt makes up 20% of the portfolios of 35% of the companies; for 30% of the companies the debt amounts to 21-40% of their total balance sheet. Most of the companies need more credit which is not available. Many Russian banks are raising interest rates or refusing to give them loans at all.
Continue reading "Russian Entrepreneurs Facing Tough Times in the New Russian Economy" »
Download the PDF version of the report Real Estate Market in Russia, China, and America: Trends and Opportunities
Moscow International Business Center at night. The Federation Tower will become the tallest building in Europe, rivalring the Mercury City Tower (also in the Moscow IBC).
Summary of contents
Continue reading "Real Estate Market in Russia, China, and America: Trends and Opportunities" »
Russia has witnessed a lot of terrorist attacks in the past, including bombings of passenger airliners. These tragic events have led to very tight security measures and low passenger tolerance towards potential hijackers.
In the last 10 days, Russian airlines witnessed two new "attacks." The first one happened on October 15, when a passenger on a Turkish Airlines A320, travelling from Antalya to St. Petersburg, passed a note to the pilots demanding to land the aircraft in Strasburg. Otherwise, he threatened to detonate explosives and take down the airplane with all of the passengers. When the "hijacker" tried to approach the pilots' cabin, he was tackled and beaten by the passengers. The plane landed, as originally planned, in St. Petersburg. The investigators found no explosives on the now thoroughly beaten hijacker. He was a leader of a non-existent self-proclaimed political party who simply wanted to "gain the media attention." He gained more than that; little attention, but plenty of injuries and jail time.
Today, on October 24, one of the passengers on a Russian Sky Express Boeing 737, travelling from the resort city of Sochi to Moscow, passed a note to the pilots. He wanted to go to Vienna, or else... the usual threats. The pilots landed the plane in Moscow where the FSB, ambulances, police, and counter-terrorist SWAT teams were ready to storm the plane. The "terrorist" happened to be a drunken passenger who had been recently released from a mental institution. In 2002, Oleg Vasyanovich, the self-proclaimed "terrorist," killed his own mother. The court found him mentally ill and sentenced him to mandatory psychiatric treatment. Mr. Vasyanovich was released on Friday from the psychiatric institution where he was undergoing therapy. He immediately bought a plane ticket, got drunk, and decided to become a terrorist. It is unclear at this moment whether Mr. Vasyanovich will have to return to the mental institution, or if he will face up to eight years in prison.
Cars carrying members of the Russian delegation leave an isolated manor house in Vantaa, outside Helsinki, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008. (Photo by AP)
The meeting was organized at the request of the Russians and held at the KÃ¶nigstedt Manor along the Vantaa River, just outside Helsinki. The talks were organized without any urgent reason, and were devoted to the discussion of the mutual concerns and interests. American Admiral Mullen said: "Even in our darkest days of the cold war we were talking to each other -- and I think we need to continue."
Obviously, the United States and Russia should be talking about military relations--and many other issues, too. So, good for the Bush Administration and the Medvedev/Putin (or Putin/Medvedev) government in Russia. But just as obviously, this sort of thing should have been going on already. Russia and the United States are not natural adversaries, unlike the old days. But the potential for real misunderstandings and miscalculations is huge. The Russian-American relationship deserves intensive rebuilding efforts.
The New York Times has the detailed story.
Continue reading "US, Russia Held High-Level Military Talks" »
Democrat Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden's remarks at a fundraiser in Seattle that an Obama Administration will be tested by an international crisis have drawn criticism from Republicans
Senator Joe Biden, Barack Obama's vice presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket for President, has never shied away from speaking his mind in public. At times this has led to ambiguous remarks, such as Biden's odd statement last year during the Democratic primaries that his future running mate Obama was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy". More recently, it has led the Delaware Senator who prides himself on being an intellectual to commit an embarassing gaffe, declaring that President Franklin Roosevelt appeared on television to reassure the American people after the stock market crash of 1929. In reality, FDR wasn't elected until 1932 and television only came online a decade later, in 1939.
On October 19, Biden appeared before 10,000 supporters at a campaign rally in Tacoma, then spoke at a reception for Democratic donors in Seattle in the evening. At this fundraising dinner, Biden warned Democrats and the American people that an Obama Administration would be tested by an international crisis within the first six months of 2009.
"Mark my words: It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Watch, we're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."
Continue reading "Was Joe Biden Talking About Russia in Seattle?" »
While the financial crisis continues around the globe and in Russia, we offer you a joke sent to us by Bohdanna Diduch, a reader from Ukraine. We hope it will help you relax from the financial headaches and enjoy the cultural references. -- The Editors
A lawyer and a Ukrainian are sitting next to each other on a long flight. The lawyer is thinking that Ukrainians are so dumb that he could get over on them easy...So the lawyer asks if the Ukrainian would like to play a fun game.
The Ukrainian is tired and just wants to take a nap, so he politely declines and tries to catch a few winks. The lawyer persists, and says that the game is a lot of fun. I ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me only $5; you ask me one, and if I don't know the answer, I will pay you $500, he says. This catches the UkrainianÊ¼s attention and to keep the lawyer quiet, he agrees to play the game.
Continue reading "A Lawyer and a Ukrainian" »
Crystal chandeliers and golden toilet seats might become part of Moscow's decadent past instead of present thanks to the global financial crisis
Two articles, one from the U.S. Washington Post and another from the UK Telegraph do a fair job describing the severe consequences of the global financial crisis for the elite club going life-style of Russia's extravagant rich.
The Washington Post raises the issue of Russian oligarchs losing their fortunes and the Medvedev-Putin government's dilemma of either bailing out Russia's super rich in an unpopular move to shore up the economy, or seize an opportunity to legally nationalize their businesses. It's no secret that many oligarchs enjoyed a successful "head-start" on building their vast fortunes by stealing state assets in the early Nineties, during the so-called privatization of Yeltsin's reforms.
The Telegraph describes the half-empty rooms in The Most, one of Moscow's most glamorous clubs and shops [the Telegraph story was picked up by an expat blog called Moscow Doesn't Believe in Tears, which mocks the ludicrous excess of the Moscow clubbing and fashion world]. The $40,000 private tables, $1,000 shots of liquor, SWAT-team-like feis kontrol bouncers, and toilet seats made of gold in Moscow night clubs seem to be shifting from a nightly routine in the world capital for billionaires into a bizarre but amusing page in Russian history books.
Please visit the extended post to read the articles.
Continue reading "Financial Crisis Hits Moscow's Wealthy and Fancy" »
A Russian tank next to a Georgian military base, August 2008
Fred Weir, a longtime correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor in Moscow, writes in this week's edition of the German magazine Der Spiegel that many middle and upper middle class Russians (his own friends included) express frustration over the way Russia is portrayed in the West. Weir emphasizes that his circle of friends includes academics with liberal leanings and middle managers working for large Western corporations operating in Russia -- professionals who enjoy access to the Internet and direct contact with Westerners and yet nonetheless feel "betrayed" by the West.
Weir's friends and acquaintences seem to have experienced rising personal incomes and careers in the past several years, with some going from poverty to affluence in less than a decade. However, the fact that Russia's economic growth story (unlike, say, that of China) seemingly has not earned "respect" from America gnaws at these successful Russians. They resent what they perceive to be Washington's double standards and support for governments in Russia's "near abroad" that are hostile to the Kremlin.
We are not endorsing this view, just reporting it. One does notice that "respect" is an emotional term and that "Washington" jumps out as a surrogate for "the West" as a whole.
Click on the extended post to read an extensive excerpt from Weir's article.
Continue reading "Der Spiegel:
Russian Patriotism Unleashed by Georgia War" »
A Russian battleship depicted in the historic drama Admiral
Russia Blog's review available here.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox International-distributed Russian film Kolchak (The Admiral) dominated the international box office in Russia and Ukraine with a take of $12.8 million from 1,088 screens; Russia was the key driver with $11.4 million. The only other movie that came close was the DreamWorks/Paramount thriller Eagle Eye ($10.7 million from 36 territories) -- thanks to 11 new openings and a screen count of 2,969.
The Admiral is Russia's most ambitious blockbuster to date with a price-tag of 20 million dollars, produced by the same team that had tremendous success with the fantasy horror films Night Watch and Day Watch. While the film's budget does not sound big to a U.S. audience, Russian filmmakers have proved once again that they can outpace Hollywood's production with a tenth of a Hollywood film's budget. Also, unlike Hollywood, most of Russia's blockbusters are historic novels put on film. The historical epic Admiral hit screens last week with a rousing call to national pride and a popular revision of the Bolshevik revolution, with the good guys clearly on the losing side.
The dedication of the admiral by the White Russian forces
Visit the extended post to read the film review and watch the trailer.
Continue reading "Kolchak (The Admiral) Reviewed
Russian Historic Film Dominates World Box Office" »
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow
This is the second article in the Russia Observed series. Also, read the first part, St. Petersburg and Veliky Novgorod.
We entered the Moscow area around Klin (a town where Tchaikovsky once lived) and saw the road turn first into the Tverskaya shosse freeway, and then into the elegant Tverskaya ulitsa. This is where most of the name brand stores congregate in Moscow.
Russia, it seems, is full of odd traffic rules, and at each intersection the ways you can or cannot turn are different. As a result, we had to do a few circles and one u-turn to get to our hotel. Russian street maps, which are similarly confusing, diagram major intersections as to which way you must go into and out of them, without a lot of logic. It made me wonder if there is a Russian translation of the American phrase "You can't get there from here!" It is also nearly impossible to drive for any length of time without getting some kind of traffic ticket, which is paid in cash, on the spot. I suspect that the cash doesn't find its way into the public treasury. I'll self-drive in any EU country, but I'd throw a fit and be clapped in irons if I had to drive with any frequency in Russia.
Continue reading "Russia Observed Part Two
Moscow and Beyond" »
Putin's new DVD Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin has been surprising the world with a unique, unexpected, entertaining, and somewhat bizarre series of events. All of them seem to be innocent and welcomed by the global news media. This week, Putin announced the release of a DVD titled "Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin." This privately produced DVD is the product of collaboration between Putin -- a black belt -- and other judo enthusiasts, including former World and Olympic judo champion Yasuhiro Yamashita. On Tuesday, Vladimir showed off his favorite 56th-birthday present -- a young tiger cub. Just a few weeks ago, Vladimir Putin was filmed shooting a wild 5-year-old female tiger with a tranquilizer dart, petting the animal, and putting a GPS-tracking collar on her. He was visiting a wildlife preserve in Russia's Far East and participated in a federal program to track the rare cats, also known as the Siberian, Amur, or Manchurian tiger. In 2004, Mr. Putin co-published a book "Judo: History, Theory, Practice."
Putin and his tiger cub (Photo by AP)
Follow the extended post for pictures, videos, and articles describing the recent doings of the Russian Prime-Minister Vladimir Putin.
Continue reading "Vladimir's on a Roll" »
Barack Obama and John McCain
On Tuesday night Democrat Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona met at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee for the second presidential debate. As expected, the main topic in the town hall style question and answer forum was the global economic crisis, followed by government spending, taxes and energy policy.
At one point, in response to a question about his priorities as president, Senator Obama declared that the U.S. could no longer afford to annually transfer billions in wealth to major oil producers abroad, specifically mentioning Russia, Venezuela and Iran in that category. Obama then touted his ten year plan that he says will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and promote alternative energy technologies.
Click on the extended post to read more.
Continue reading "Russia in the U.S. Presidential Debate" »
French and Russian Presidents Nicholas Sarkozy and Dmitry Medvedev delivered key speeches during the World Policy Conference in Evian, France, on October 8. The Russian President publicized his concept of international security. According to Medvedev, a new treaty needs to replace the 1975 accords reached at the Helsinki conference and unite the Euro-Atlantic region under one "game plan."
The outlined concept consists of five rules (posted below) that follow the Kremlin's desire for a more "multi-polar" world. The bottom line is that there should be no single nation with exclusive rights for providing security in Europe, and that military intervention will be avoided as a tool of solving problems or as a response to a threat to countries linked by a mutual defense agreements. The Medvedev address was followed by Sarkozy's speech, in which the French President supported Medvedev's idea of fundamentally changing the Euro-Atlantic security structure.
Continue reading "Sarkozy Supports Medvedev's Proposed Reform of European Security" »
Israeli Prime-Minister Ehud Olmert and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow (Photo by Itar-Tass)
The sale of S-300 surface to air missiles by Russia to Iran has not been confirmed either by Moscow or Teheran. However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urged Russia against selling weapons to Iran in his meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday and Tuesday. The best version of the S-300 system, known by NATO as the SA-20, can track 100 targets and fire on planes 120 kilometers away. Hours before Olmert's arrival, Rosoboronexport, the Russian arms export agency, said that it had no information on Russian plans to deliver the SAM system to either Iran or Syria, reported Russia's Interfax news agency.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said: "Iran's defensive might is based on our indigenous capabilities, and whatever action that helps with expanding and strengthening our military and defensive might, we'll look into that. We have good defense cooperation with the Russians. One example would be anti-aircraft systems. We have had good cooperation and we continue to cooperate with them."
Continue reading "Olmert Meets with Medvedev;
Israel Presses Russia on Arms Sales to Iran" »
A space elevator would tether an orbital station to the Earth via a lifting cable
Science fiction fans rejoice! At least one of the concepts from Arthur C. Clarke's novels, first proposed by the Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895, is now closer to becoming reality, according to Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.
As incredible as it sounds, one of the cheapest ways to get cargo into orbit would be to hoist it on a cable suspended in a stable orbit from space, rather than the traditional launching of expensive chemically-fueled rockets. Japanese engineers now believe that with ultra-strong lightweight carbon nanotube technologies a working space elevator is possible. A reliable space elevator could make lifting satellites into orbit as routine as commercial airline flights are today.
Much like the proposed tunnel under the Barents Strait between Alaska and Chuhotka, the project has not yet been proven feasible from an economic perspective - especially in a difficult period for the global economy. $10 billion though, still seems like small change to achieve the greatest engineering feat in human history.
Click on the extended post to read this interesting article.
Continue reading "Japanese Pursue Space Elevator Concept
Invented in Russia" »
Photo by Reuters/Gazeta.ru
On Monday, October 6, the Russian market experienced perhaps the worst day in its history. Despite several trading pauses, total market losses equaled to 19 percent. Some Russian blue chip stocks lost nearly 40 percent. Declining oil prices didn't help the markets either. The dollar-denominated RTS index dropped to 867 points, while the ruble-denominated MICEX halted trading when its index dropped by 18.66 percent, closing at 749.66 points.
Russian companies saw their equity value evaporate on both Moscow and London exchanges. In London, shares of Russia's "Norilsky Nickel" lost 44.28%, VTB -- 36.18%, "Tatneft" - 45,23%, Â«UralkalyÂ» -- 47,78%, RosneftÂ» --39,77%, LUKoil -- 36,09%, Â«SurgutneftegazÂ» -- 31,25%, Ð¥5RETAIL -- 26,12%. In Moscow, "Norilsky Nickel" plummeted 37.67%, "Rosneft" -- 27.41%, Gazprom -- 24.42%, LUKoil -- 24.16%, "Surgutneftegaz" -- 22.92%, MTS -- 21.21%, Sberbank -- 16.32%, VTB -- 24.5%.
Click on the extended post to read more
Continue reading "Russian Market Leads World in Losses" »
Cathedral of the Holy Blood (Church of the Savior on Blood) - Photo by Charles Ganske
St. Petersburg is often called the "Venice of the North", but historically it is the Amsterdam of the North, since Peter the Great chose to model it after that city. But, like either Amsterdam or Venice, one can take a boat trip through the canals, at least in season, and one should.
A westerner notices that there is something intentionally non-Russian about many aspects of the city. The "cathedral" of Our Lady of Kazan doesn't look Orthodox at all. Instead, with its neoclassical dome and curved colonnades, it looks like an imitation of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. (The Russian word sobor is generally translated as "cathedral," but it does not mean "cathedral" in the Western sense of the seat of a bishop.) St. Isaac's Cathedral looks pretty classical too.
Continue reading "Russia Observed
St. Petersburg and Veliky Novgorod" »
Beginning tomorrow, Russia Blog will post a series of writings and observations by Howard Ahmanson, his wife Roberta and his son, David on their recent trip to Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. The first installment covers the Ahmanson's visit to St Petersburg and its environs.
Ferrari cars are displayed just outside Moscow's Red Square to mark the opening of the new Ferrari and Maserati showroom in the Russian capital on Saturday, April 28, 2007, with some of the Red Square landmarks in the background. (Photo by AP, Comment by Daylife).
Download the PDF version of the report Luxury Goods Market in Russia
According to a recent study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Russia is home to the world's third largest concentration of billionaires (after the United States and Germany) and over 100,000 multimillionaires who have a combined $300 billion of cash on hand.(1) According to Associated Press, "Moscow is home to more rich people than New York."(2)
Rising consumer demand for new and better products and increasing incomes have given rise to an expanding middle and upper class that "have caused an explosion in all types of consumption."(3) The Russian capital, Moscow, is now internationally considered a Mecca for buying and selling the highest of the high-end.(4)
Continue reading "The Luxury Goods Market in Russia" »
Another interesting insight that appears, instructively, first in Europe, not the U.S.
Grozny in 2000...
...and Grozny in 2008.
It's Over, and Putin Won
Chechnya is being rebuilt with Russian oil cash and its leader obeys Moscow. Separatist ideas are on ice
By Jonathan Steele in Grozny
Originally published on September 30, 2008
No corkscrew. That's the first surprise about Chechnya. Unlike in Baghdad today or Kabul during the Soviet occupation, planes don't arrive high above the airfield and then dip one wing in a steep and terrifying spiral so as to reduce the risk of ground fire as they land. In Grozny they glide in over woods and villages, apparently confident there are no resistance fighters lurking in wait.
Surprise number two is the amount of reconstruction in the Chechen capital. Five years ago when I last visited Grozny it still looked like the ruins of Dresden or Hiroshima, street after devastated street. Now new nine-storey blocks of flats, shops, and cafes flank the main streets. In the central square workers are laying the last paving stones outside what is described as Europe's largest mosque, a concrete replica of Istanbul's Blue Mosque, financed and largely built with Turkish aid and Turkish engineers.
Continue reading "The Guardian Reports on Chechnya, Terrorism, and Wahhabism " »
The article in the International Herald Tribune by two prominent Republican secretaries of state, Henry A.Kissinger and George P. Schultz (LINK), is likely to be read closely in Washington and Moscow alike. Isn't it interesting that it ran first in Europe?
Finding Common Ground
By Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The crisis over Georgia raises an issue familiar from history: In 1914, an essentially local issue was seen by so many nations in terms of established fears and frustrations that it became global in scope and led to the First World War.
There is no danger of general war today. But there is the risk that a conflict arising out of ancestral passions in the Caucasus will be treated as a metaphor for a larger conflict, threatening the imperative of building a new international order in a world of globalization, nuclear proliferation, ethnic conflicts and technological revolution.
Continue reading "Cold Warriors Kissinger and Schultz Scope Out Today's Russia" »