Journalist Anna Politkovskaya, killed in 2006 in what appeared to be a contract murder.
Political killings have declined in recent years in Russia, but still tend to blot Russia's image in the filed of human rights. Several recent contract murders have been tied to Chechnyan politics, where complex rivalries have been taken to Moscow in a violent manner.
I am skeptical of assertions that the Kremlin itself has backed such political terror tactics. But now--with a live suspect in police hands--is the time and the chance for the national government as well as the police to demonstrate their true resolve. It also is time for the international community to pay more attention to these matters.
If there is no domestic constituency that is offended, a gaffe is not treated as a gaffe. But Vice President Joe Biden's snarky remarks about Russia fall into the gaffe category anyhow. What is the point?
The United States is not the only country where the political leadership is attempting to throw its weight around with banks. Russia's system is different in many ways, but what seems to be familiar is Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's effort to strong-arm the banks to adopt policies he think would be most effective. What is interesting is that the banks are not taking the advice kindly. There is push back.
Russian Champ Fedor Emelianenko Still Looking for a Fight
Fedor Emelianenko of Russia puts down Matt Lindland of the U.S. during a mixed-martial-arts match in St. Petersburg Vladimir Rodionov / EPA / Corbis (Photo Source: Time)
You wouldn't expect there to be a lot of people standing in line to fight someone who, as described in American news magazine Time "possesses an assassin's glare and a face-denting right jab." As of Friday, that queue got even shorter when it was announced that a scheduled August 1 fight between American Josh Barnett and Russian Fedor Emelianenko is canceled because of Barnett's positive steroid test early last week.
Fight organizers (M-1 Global and Affliction Entertainment) said there wasn't enough time to find someone else to fight the former Russian army soldier who holds a 30-1 mixed martial arts (MMA) record.
Affliction Entertainment on Friday canceled its Aug. 1 mixed martial arts card in Anaheim because it could not find a suitable replacement opponent to fight Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.
MMA, which began formally in the 1990s, has become a billion dollar global business, with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) owning the promotion space. According to the Los Angeles Times, it "has 275 fighters under contract, its own reality television series and impressive revenue from events such as this month's UFC 100 in Las Vegas, which generated a live gate of $5.1 million and more than 1 million pay-per-view buys." As Time reported earlier this month, Dana White, UFC's president and "foul-mouthed ex-aerobics instructor" has said UFC will be "the biggest sport in the world in 10 years." White may end up being correct, but he might have to do it without the top fighter in the world.
Russia's Educational Perspective on Religion is Very Different from that of the United States or Europe
In Russian city of Tver a Catholic cathedral and an old Muslim mosque are standing literally across the street from each other. Christians and Muslims have lived side by side in Russia since the 16th century. (Photo by Yuri Mamchur)
A new Kremlin plan to teach students religion or secular ethics is meant to combat the aimlessness of youth. Perhaps it will--to some extent.
The approach is probably unique--teach what is again the dominant state religion (Russian Orthodoxy) as the one acceptable Christian faith, and also teach--according to student desires--Islam (the religion of a sizable minority, particularly in the South), Buddhism or Judaism, and give the students the alternative of a coarse in secular ethics. It will seem fair to many, maybe most, Russians. It is quite different, obviously, from the "scientific atheism" of Soviet days.
The program will get a lot of criticism, however. First, the most eager evangelists in Russia today are probably the various kinds of Christian pentecostals, and there is a sizable Roman Catholic population in certain ethnic centers. So the government apparently is starting a new struggle with these groups in schools, of all places.
Then arises the question of how smart it is to have Islam taught in state schools. Who is going to teach it? What is going to be taught? Might the government find itself trying to deal with hostile Friday mosque sermons because of the kind of Islam it promulgates in the schools? Where does that lead? How will populations in areas where Islam is a majority faith react to state school classes that offer instruction as well in other faiths?
Forget Me Not. Obama's Russian "Reset" Risks Alienating Eastern European Allies
Fresh from a widely anticipated foreign visit designed to "reset" relations with Moscow, U.S. President Barack Obama was welcomed on Thursday morning with a letter from former Eastern European leaders saying there is "nervousness in our capitals" with regard to a potentially redefined U.S.-Russia relationship.
We want to ensure that too narrow an understanding of Western interests does not lead to the wrong concessions to Russia. ... The danger is that Russia's creeping intimidation and influence-peddling in the region could over time lead to a de facto neutralization of the region.
The letter, signed by former Eastern European leaders and published in Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza urges President Obama to strengthen the U.S. relationship with the countries of Eastern and Central Europe. Explicit concerns about Russia stand out in the letter, although the signatories (which include Poland's Lech Walesa and the Czech Republic's Vaclav Havel) also write of other areas of concern such as weakened European Union-U.S. relations.
Another Look at Mikhalkov and the "Denikinist State"
Nikita Mikhalkov and Anton Denikin
Whether rightly or wrongly, some opinions receive more sympathy than others. As is true with other matters, this observation pertains to the English language mass media coverage of the former Soviet Union. Russian actor, producer and director Nikita Mikhalkov's sympathetic views of Vladimir Putin, Serbia and Russia's pre-1917 past, do not serve to boost his popularity, among folks leaning towards English language mass media sentiment.
For clarity sake, Mikhalkov's thoughts on Russia's pre-1917 past are not a call for Russia to go back to an absolute monarchy, with no elections or parliament. Were that the case, he would not be in support of Putin. For whatever its political imperfections and similarities to prior periods in Russian history, post-Soviet Russia is not governed in a manner replicating the Russian Empire or Soviet Union. Mikhalkov seems to be a reasonable proponent of the view that pre-1917 Russia had positive aspects, which have been downplayed in some circles. By default, this opinion does not deny Russia's shortcomings within that period.
The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism: Part 5 - Boris Yeltsin and the Struggle for Russian Democracy in the 1990s
Boris Yeltsin remains a controversial figure in Russian history
Editor's note: In this fifth part of his masters thesis, "The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism", St. Petersburg University graduate Kevin Cyron examines the chaotic conditions in Russia during the administration of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, comparing it to similar episodes in U.S. history. The Yeltsin era, with its expansion of NATO up to Russia's doorstep, and ethnic violence in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, paved the way for the current backlash from a resurgent Russia.
Click on the links to read previous installments in this series: I, II, III, and IV
Click on the extended post to read part five in the extended essay.
by Oleg Elshin
Executive Director, EastKommerts Investment Group, Moscow
A year ago I by chance witnessed a very unusual situation in a London street. Just next to the Bank of England around thirty Englishmen queued up outside a Northern Rock bank branch hoping to get their deposits back.
The event was indeed historical as it was the first classical bank run over 150 years in England. It is common knowledge that no bank ever survives and will definitely crash if all of its depositors, doubting the bank's stability, simultaneously demand to return their deposits. In the end only nationalization saved Northern Rock but its former shareholders lost everything.
Phillip H. de Leon is President of Trade Connections International, LLC in Washington D.C.
Comparing Russia with China is a futile exercise, as both countries do not compete on the same scale. Having been recently to regional cities such as Wuhan in Central China and Tomsk in Siberia and having visited the Wuhan East Lake Hi-Tech Development Zone and the Tomsk Special Economic Zone of Technological Type, I would like to share a few thoughts to see how we can make sure Russia is not left behind by drawing lessons from China's approach to become a global player in the outsourcing arena.
President Obama's Speech to the New Economic School in Moscow
Click on the extended post to read the text of President Barack Obama's speech to New Economic School graduates in Moscow on July 7, 2009. To read more about why President Obama chose the New Economic School for the third major foreign policy speech of his presidency, click here.
Obama in Moscow: True Reset or Just Walking in Circles?
Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow
MOSCOW -- for the past two days the city's downtown language was English. If you were grabbing a coffee or dining with friends, local waiters rarely bothered to switch to Russian, even with Russians. Obama brought an unprecedented 600 advisors, media, and assistants with him. Even as the American President had breakfast with the Russian Prime-Minister at Putin's house in the countryside, literally hundreds of white vans and black SUVs with American embassy license plates and "for hire" signs were lining up Tverskaya Street near the Ritz Carlton that hosted the Obamas. Private businesses and non-profits also chose the occasion of Obama's visit to host their personal meetings.
Now, one has to ask: What are the results of this American invasion of Moscow? Reduction of nukes? Meeting of Obama with Garry Kasparov, the virtual leader of a virtual opposition? Endless argument about the non-existent American missile defense system in Eastern Europe? If these dialogues constitute the promised "reset," then maybe the only real reset that occurred was the exchange of George and Laura for Barack and Michelle walking the plush carpets of the Moscow Ritz Carlton. Such a "reset" isn't worth all the American taxpayers' money spent on such an over-the-top, opulent trip.
But was there a possibility that the behind-the-scenes results were brighter? What did Obama really talk about with Putin during the two hour private breakfast? Maybe about none of the above, but about our countries' economic relations, about the state of human rights in Russia and, maybe, the new Administration's perceptions about the international situation--that is, about Iran, Israel, Afghanistan, and North Korea.
Have you ever considered the possibility that the Russians might secretly be conspiring with the United States against your government? I know it sounds far-fetched, but, after all, far-fetched is practically your middle name. (As, for example, your denial of the Holocaust. That is about as far-fetched as anyone can get.)
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's recent announcement of a government-sanctioned Historic Truth Commission to debunk myths about Russia's role in the Second World War has come under fire from critics in the West. Even many patriotic Russians annoyed with Western ignorance of the decisive role played by Russia in defeating Nazi Germany have argued that a state-sanctioned commission may do more harm than good. Irrespective of the ongoing arguments between Russia and its neighbors over who is distorting 20th century history for present political ends, there are some lingering myths about the Second World War that deserve to be debunked. Anatoly Karlin lists a few in the article below.
- The Editors
Ð—Ð° Ð½Ð°Ñ Ð·Ð° Ð²Ð°Ñ Ð¸ Ð·Ð° Ð´ÐµÑÐ°Ð½Ñ‚ Ð¸ Ð·Ð° ÑÐ¿ÐµÑ†Ð½Ð°Ð·! The Red Army was the single greatest contributor to the defeat of Nazi Germany sixty-four years ago, a truly evil empire based on slavery and oppression, and responsible for the genocide of millions of Slav civilians, Jews, Soviet POWs and Roma by poison gas, bullets and starvation. Yet ever since the first days of the Cold War, there has been a concerted campaign to whitewash the Wehrmacht of participation in war crimes and to rehabilitate the generals who participated in it as enthusiastically as Hitler and the upper echelons of the Nazi Party. This resulted in the promulgation of many poisonous myths about the Eastern Front that are only now being laid to rest.
I already wrote about several of these myths in my article Top 10 Russophobe Myths. In the service of historic truth, here are a few points to consider about how the history of the Second World War has been distorted by myths, particularly as they apply to the most brutal campaign in human history, the war waged between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1945.
A Volga Dnieper Airways (VDA) Antonov 124 cargo plane on the tarmac Photo by: Boeing
Next week U.S. President Barack Obama will meet Russian President Dimitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow. This week American and Russian negotiators reportedly reached an agreement to expand the transit of U.S. materiel through Russia in support of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Not coincidentally, Russia's military chief of staff announced that the U.S. and Russian militaries had resumed direct talks that had been cancelled last year when relations chilled following the August 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
U.S. Congressional Junkets: Who's Number 1, Russia or Georgia?
Congressional trips abroad paid for by U.S. taxpayers have increased 50% since 2006 and tripled since 2001, according to The Wall Street Journal
Russia and Georgia are in the news again this week before President Obama's first visit to Moscow. But the rumors of war in the Caucasus being promoted by certain U.S. pundits should probably take a backseat to a report published by The Wall Street Journal on American Congressional trips to the two countries. Accordng to the WSJ, last year Russia was the 10th most popular foreign destination for Congressional delegations funded by the American taxpayer. Georgia trailed as the 13th most popular destination, but still didn't do too badly, considering that it is a small country in the Caucasus with barely four million people. Not surprisingly, France, Switzerland, Germany, and the United Kingdom were well ahead, with only Kuwait, China and Israel proving exceptions to the overall Euro-Atlantic (and perhaps taxpayer funded Alpine skiing and wine and cheese tasting) bias.
Presidents Barack Obama and Dimitry Medvedev at their first meeting on April 1, 2009 in London, UK
There is no shortage of solicited and unsolicited advisors and pieces of advice for the upcoming Obama-Medvedev summit this week in Moscow. Some of the advice is pretty reasonable; for the most part it is best ignored. One's first instinct is to stay away from this cacophony and try to moderate one's expectations so as not to be hugely disappointed later.
However, the temptation to weigh in with one's particular advice is very high. Since both Obama and Medvedev are Internet users one does not have to send a letter to the White House or the Kremlin and wait for the routine answer from some clerk. Chances are that both or at least one of them will surf the Net on the eve of the summit and pay attention to some of the items.
The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism Part 7 - The Reforms of Vladimir Putin Economics, Demographics and Rule of Law
Christmas 2007 in Moscow
Editor's note: In this seventh part of his masters thesis, "The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism", St. Petersburg University graduate Kevin Cyron examines the major changes during the last eight years in Russia's economy, demographics, news media, courts, and civil society.
Click on the links to read previous installments in this series: I II III IV V VI
Click on the extended post to read part seven in the extended essay.
Russia Blog presents up-to-date news, facts and commentary on the state of events in Russia and the former Soviet Union. The blog is managed by Yuri Mamchur, Director of Real Russia Project. The blog is edited by Charles Ganske.