Boris Yeltsin, on top of a tank in Moscow, declaring an end to the Soviet regime in 1991
When the featured article was being written, the author and the Iranian people still had hopes to find leadership to their quest for freedom. Unfortunately, Mir Hossein Mousavi has not appeared in front of the protestors since the elections of June 12, and yesterday rejected another vote recount. The recent activities in Iran are, undoubtedly, a huge step forward in fostering democracy in this majority Muslim nation. However, they will result in nothing without proper leadership. Russia and China did not have to recognize, much less defend, Ahmadinejad's victory as soon as they did, but perhaps they knew the painful truth ahead of time: the Iranian opposition has no leader, and a leader is what is so desperately needed at this historic moment.
Charles Krauthammer's article published over at Townhall.com on June 26 does a great job of describing the difference between Russia's 1991 and Iran's 2009: "They need a leader like Boris Yeltsin: a former establishment figure with newly revolutionary credentials and legitimacy, who stands on a tank and gives the opposition direction by calling for the unthinkable -- the abolition of the old political order." Most Russians remember Yeltsin as a despot, a drunk, and a sometimes embarrassing grandpa. World history will remember him as the man who ended 70 years of an Evil Empire, permanently curing Russia's infection of Communism. Hopefully, four years from now, an Iranian Yeltsin will stand up on a tank and prove that innocent protestors did not die in vain.
Visit the extended post to read the full version of the discussed article.
Continue reading "Iran: Desperately Seeking Yeltsin" »
Fans grieve Jackson's death in downtown St Petersburg (image from NTV news report)
Today, undoubtedly, the biggest world news is the unexpected death of Michael Jackson, the only true King of Pop. It was night time in Moscow when the news reached Russia, and the sad event dominated the news reports around the country all day long since early morning. All Russian news channels, including the state-owned Rossiya and the First Channel, started their news reports with the details of Michael Jackson's passing, his career, his visits to Russia, and tribute of his fans around the world and in Russian cities. Many finished the news with a "no comment" music video tribute to the singer. Gazeta.ru wrote that "only a lazy paralyzed person didn't throw a rock at the idol in the last few years," however they agreed that his death brought out the true feeling about the star in Russia and around the globe: unreserved love and admiration.
Among many Russian leaders, the president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov said "I deeply grieve with the musician's relatives, friends, and fans because of the untimely passing of the outstanding man, unmatchable singer Michael Jackson, whose death ends the entire epoch of the world music culture."
Michael Jackson was a household name in the countries of the former Soviet Union. During his visits to Moscow in 1993 and 1996, he was greeted as a head of state. Radio Free Europe writes that "his live concert in Moscow in 1993 sparked near-hysteria among scores of Russians hungry for a taste of Western culture." One of my brightest personal memories from the Nineties is attending Jackson's History Tour concert at the Dynamo stadium in Moscow in 1996. Today, hundreds of fans laid flowers and toys near the American Embassy in Moscow and in downtown St Petersburg to honor the idol. We all deeply grieve the untimely passing of the musician who influenced our lives and cultures.
View the extended post for additional images
Continue reading "Michael Jackson Deeply Mourned in Russia" »
Then President and now Prime Minister Putin at a Russian Orthodox religious service
Editor's note: In this eighth part of his masters thesis, "The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism", St. Petersburg University graduate Kevin Cyron examines the historically close ties between Russia's national leadership and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Click on the links to read previous installments in this series:
Click on the extended post to read part seven in the extended essay.
Continue reading "The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism:
Part 8 - The Return to Security
Orthodoxy, Leadership, and Russian Identity" »
Russian health official checking passengers' body temperature onboard a flight from Atlanta to Moscow upon its arrival in Russia.
The World Health Organization announced that the pandemic of swine flu (H1N1 influenza) is unstoppable; but so thought Napoleon and Hitler about their offensives against Russia... "The world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic in the 21st century," said WHO's director-general, Margaret Chan, "further spread [of H1N1] is inevitable." Russian border and health officials think differently. If you are flying from the United States to Russia (as I did just two days ago), be prepared to fill out a form with your basic personal information and list all the geographic locations you visited in 10 days prior to your arrival to Russia.
While in flight, we were informed that no one would be able to leave the plane until Russian health officials checked everyone's body temperature! If a single passenger had high body temperature, all of the passengers would have been put into quarantine until the doctors found out the origin of the disease onboard. A long flight and free servings of wine produced multiple jokes about the way our body temperatures would be checked.
However, upon the landing, we were truly concerned: How long would it take to check the body temperature of over 200 passengers onboard the Boeing 767 airliner? We expected to see people in white uniforms with a lot of little appliances taking an hour to complete the testing. Our suspense expectations were crushed when a young gentleman in casual clothes (in the picture) went around with a Star Trek tricorder-looking device, pointing it at everyone from far away. Upon exiting the plane, there were half a dozen officials to collect our forms. The temperature testing of the entire plane took less than five minutes. Coincidental or not, but only three swine flu cases so far have been confirmed in Russia.
Iranian protesters confronted by basij militias on the streets of Tehran
Over at Discovery Blog, Ambassador Bruce Chapman is writing about the current upheaval of popular discontent against the Islamic Republic regime in Iran. Nearly three years ago, Discovery Institute hosted Amir Abbas Fakhravar at its Seattle offices. Mr. Fakhravar is a former head of the Iran Student Confederation who was previously jailed and tortured for his opposition to the Islamic Republic regime. You can read Mr. Fakhravar's blog here.
So far, Russian diplomats have maintained a firm "no comment" policy concerning the ongoing power struggle inside Iran. [UPDATE: The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement concerning the post-election revolt today, not over the weekend when this story was written]. But since Russia has already been mentioned in passing in some analysis of the crisis inside Iran, it's worth looking at the facts surrounding the complicated relationship between Tehran and Moscow.
Continue reading "Russia and Iran's Winds of Change" »
A famous photo of a Red Army soldier in World War II
Today is the 68th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. For a roundup of previous Russia Blog posts on Russia's role in winning World War II, click here and scroll down. To watch a Russia Today video on the solemn commemorations that took place across Russia to mark this day, click on the extended post.
Continue reading "Barbarossa: 68 Years On" »
In the Eighties, lots of folks who regarded themselves as true Reaganites often said that The Washington Post should more properly bear the title of "Pravda on the Potomac". Indeed, the paper's vicious anti-Ronny rhetoric, as well as its views on some other policy issues, were stylistically pretty close to Pravda in its heyday.
Ironically, with the collapse of Communism "Pravda on the Potomac" became a common epithet for The Washington Post not only among the people on the right but on the left and center as well. A recent Google search on this entry provided 13,100 links including articles and sites representing practically the whole spectrum of American politics.
Continue reading "Pravda on the Hudson" »
by Anatol Lieven
Anatol Lieven is a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation.
Over the last several days, two pieces attacking the realist approach to Russia were published in prominent media outlets in the United States and Russia. One, co-authored by Lev Gudkov of the Levada Center, Igor Klyamkin, vice president of the Liberal Mission Foundation, Georgy Satarov, president of the Russian NGO the Indem Foundation and Lilia Shevtsova, a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center was featured on the editorial page of The Washington Post.
[Editor's Note: This article is titled "False Choices for Russia", an excerpt of which was republished on Russia Blog earlier this month in the post "What Can Save Russia's Liberals" by Ambassador Bruce Chapman]. The other, by Andrei Piontkovsky, a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, was released in the Moscow Times.
I read these pieces concerning the moves to improve relations between America and Russia with a profound feeling of depression.
Continue reading "Russia's Limousine Liberals" »
By Anatoly Karlin
American Enterprise Institute demographer Nicholas Eberstadt's recent article on Russian hypermortality was titled "Drunken Nation"
Editor's Note: This is a succinct summary of the article "Rite of Spring: Russia's Fertility Trends" previously published by Russia Blog on April 29, 2009. To find more articles on Russian demographics, click here.
In 1992, for the first time since the Great Patriotic War, deaths exceeded births, forming the so-called "Russian Cross". Since then the population fell from 149mn to 142mn souls. Ravaged by AIDS, infertility and alcoholism, Russians are doomed to die out and be replaced by hordes of Islamist fanatics in the West and Chinese settlers in the Far East...or so one could conclude from reading many of the popular stories about Russian demography today.
Continue reading "Through the Looking Glass on Russian Mortality" »
Kendrick White speaking to ICANN, the International Community Organization of Nizhny Novgorod
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared May 4, 2009 on Kendrick White's blog at the Marchmont Capital Partners website (www.marchmontnews.com).
I had such an interesting set of meetings last week. After long preparations and much organizational work, I finally had an opportunity to meet the CFO of a large industrial group with 10 factories spread across Russia.
While I could find little info on this group to prepare myself, one of our partners assured me that this was a very serious group with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales. They made big metal things with lots of electronics inside, nothing secret in their production, but you know, they had really serious owners behind this group "very well connected" as they say.
Continue reading "Compare and Contrast" »
by Philippe Der Megreditchian
Editor's Note: This feature article was originally published on the Marchmont Capital Partners website, www.marchmontnews.com, on May 22, 2009
The recent financial crisis has sharply changed the financing options for mid-market and developing companies as the market balance has been driven from one side of the pendulum to the other. In 2008, cash stockpiles from easy credit and windfalls from high natural resource prices created hungry buyers allowing sellers able to dictate terms unthinkable in more rational times. The sale of a solid mid-market company in a western country would generate dozens of bidders and less attractive businesses still had ample options. Normally cautious and even conservative investors, such as private equity funds had to either invest or return funds to their shareholders, found themselves accepting terms never considered in the past.
Continue reading "Twenty-First Century M&A" »
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left) and U.S. President Barack Obama (right)
Last week Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA), the number two Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, compared President Barack Obama to Russian leader Vladimir Putin in an interview with the Associated Press. Cantor did not mean the comparison in a flattering way.
While criticizing the Obama Administration's handling of the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler, Cantor declared:
"They said, 'Set aside the rule of law, let's strip secured creditors, bondholders, of their rights. Take them away outside of the bankruptcy process and give them to the political cronies and the auto workers' unions...it's almost like looking at Putin's Russia...you want to reward your political friends at the expense of the certainty of law?"
Continue reading "Cantor Compares Obama to Putin
Pravda Turns Paleocon Against Bailout USA" »
"Don't bother pushing the ambiguous Reset Button; just replace the whole operating system." That's the advice offered President Obama and President Medvedev at the 28th Annual World Russia Forum that took place 27-28 April in Washington. Since 1981 the Forum has been organized by Edward Lozansky's American University in Moscow (AUM). Of late, Discovery Institute of Seattle, Eurasia Center of Washington, the Congress of Russian Americans, and Aeroflot airlines joined this effort at people's diplomacy to improve US -Russia relations.
The Forum attracted a powerful array of speakers, such as former US Ambassadors to Russia, Thomas Pickering and William Burns; former National Security Adviser (under President Reagan) Robert McFarlane; and Russia experts professors Marshall Goldman of Harvard and Robert Legvold of Columbia University. The Russian side was represented by Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, Dr. Igor Panarin of the Russian Diplomatic Academy, and Dr. Sergey Rogov, head of the Institute of USA and Canada, among others. (View the photo report).
Continue reading "World Russia Forum 2009
Summary and Assessment" »
Russia Day (June 12, annually) is one of the newest state holidays in the country. It commemorates the 1990 act of endorsement of the Declaration of Russia's State Sovereignty by the first Congress of People's Deputies of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic. The day was originally known as the Independence Day, but many Russians, who no doubt enjoy federal days off, perceived the word "independence" as an offensive joke, as Russia liberated itself from the territories that originally had been part of the country for hundreds of years.
Since early Nineties, the general public has warmed up to the June 12 holiday, welcoming the opportunity to head to the dachas and catch up on sleep and gardening. The ceremony for presenting the 2008 Russian National Awards for outstanding achievements in science and technology, literature and the arts, and humanitarian work took place at the Grand Kremlin Palace (visit the official Kremlin website to learn more). However, Russia Day will never become as important to the Russian people, as, let's say, the Fourth of July is to the American nation. The main patriotic holiday remains Victory Day (May 9). Come back to Russia Blog in the nearest future to learn why this military parade and celebration of Russia's liberation from Nazi Germany and defeat of Fascism are hardly a portrayal of Russia's military might (as it is often described by the Western press), but truly are celebrations of the country's independence and the accomplishments of older generations.
View of the Capitol dome in the sunrise from room 902 of the Hart Senate office building.
Due to extended travel I only recently had the chance to go through pictures taken during the World Russia Forum 2009 in Washington D.C. on April 27 and 28. Please enjoy the overdue photo report from the annual event!
Continue reading "World Russia Forum 2009 Photo Report" »
An afternoon at the Moscow's Victory Park (photo by Yuri Mamchur)
Yesterday, The Washington Post published Mr. Lev Gudkov's article "False Choices For Russia" (see below). This article is more an attitude than a program. It doesn't really say what Russians or Americans should do to promote "democracy" in Russia. But I have an idea for the Russians: the liberal parties and politicians should stop fracturing and running assorted parties and come together in one party with one agenda that has a chance of actually getting people elected to office. Sitting on the outside with a tiny percentage of the vote split several ways--and then whining about it--is not the pathway to success.
Even in the United States no one listens to the little parties. A liberal national party with a chance of success would have to have a combination of groups and interests, some willingness to compose differences among them and then a clear reform agenda that had appeal to the common man and woman. Then they would have a chance of success.
Read the previous Russia Blog article about the issue and read the original article in the extended post.
Continue reading "What Can Save Russia's Liberals?" »
Last week President Dmitry Medvedev formed a government commission on analyzing and suppressing falsifications of history to the detriment of Russia. Some have rushed to portray this move as an "Orwellian Truth Commission" dedicated to official propaganda of the historical facts that fit the government's interpretation of history. Indeed, one may be tempted to form such a conclusion simply by looking at the commission's appointees. What is Medvedev likely to accomplish by forming this commission? Is this the right way to approach this issue, or are there more subtle ways to deal with the problem? -- Dr. Vladimir Frolov
One should wait, of course, for the commission to undertake some specific actions before criticizing it, but knowing how bureaucracy works, one could safely assume with high probability that whoever came up with the idea to create a "Commission on Analyzing and Suppressing Falsifications of History Detrimental to Russia" did not do a good service to his country or to president Medvedev, for that matter. Leaving aside its dubious name, this commission will do more in creating controversy than in helping Russia to withstand the information warfare conducted by its foes. Instead of taking a high road and leaving the word battles to historians and experts, the Kremlin set itself on a par with those ill-wishers who try to use history for political purposes at the pundit or state level.
Continue reading "Russia's Orwellian Truth Commission" »
Editor's note: In this sixth part of his masters thesis, "The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism", St. Petersburg University graduate Kevin Cyron examines the changes ushered in by the Putin Adminstration, and Russia's progress in the past eight years.
Click on the links to read previous installments in this series: I, II, III, IV, V
Click on the extended post to read part six in the extended essay.
Continue reading "The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism:
Part 6 - The Reforms of Vladimir Putin
Strengthening Security and Governance" »