Oct 31, 2006

Кто мог бы быть президентом?

(Thanks Igor)

Happy Halloween (Thanks Igor)


"We appologize ladies and gentlemen, but the captain will keep the seatbelt sign on as we are still experiencing a little democracy."


Oct 30, 2006

Bottoms up

Following last week’s uplifting news that 140 Russians die every day from alcohol-related deaths, it is appropriate to note Russia and Moldova are now in talks to end the boycott of Moldovan wine. It seems the previous ban was dished out to punish Moldova’s “pro-Western” orientation.

And yes, in the time it took to write this post, 2 more Russians died from alcohol.

To health!

(Thanks ERN)

"Hello, Nakhodka, I'm listening."

Last week brought Russians their annual call-in show with Vladimir Putin. This is the highly scripted exercise whenby "average” Russians call-in to talk with Putin about important issues etc. The President always looks calm and in-charge, with a bevy of facts and statistics he seemingly knows off the top of his head.

Yet, so often in contemporary Russian politics, it is not so much what is said as what is left unsaid. As Jamestown noted, some issues were deemed so unimportant, they did not even merit a question. A few of the unimportant issues the Kremlin chose to ignore:

Russia’s chairmanship of the G-8
Declining relations with the United States and NATO
The situation in the Middle East
Iran’s nuclear program
Chechnya and terrorism
Russia’s delayed entry into the WTO

'It's Springtime for Russia and Vladimir....'

Oct 23, 2006


The sign reads, Georgian children are barred from attending the Russain school.

Oct 20, 2006

Poland Deports Freedom-seeking Belarusian Cows

Not even Belarussian cows can breathe free air!

On October 19, Poland began deporting 242 luckless Belarusian cows, which broke an electric fence on October 15 and swam across the Zakhodni Buh River to Poland. The illegal border-crossers then joined a herd of Polish cows. News reports say that Polish border guards and veterinary officials tried, but failed, to persuade the animals to swim back home. Now the Belarusian cows are being trucked across the border into their home country ruled by an authoritarian president.

The state farm, which owns the herd of border transgressors, will reportedly have to bear the cost of maintaining the heifers in Poland and delivering them back to Belarus. The manager of the farm insists that the herdsmen, aged 50 and 29, should be required to compensate the enterprise for the losses incurred in the incident.

No report on how the cows feel after their short taste of freedom.


Spelling in Ukraine

Washington Changes Spelling of Ukrainian Capital

U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said on October 19 that the U.S.government has changed the official spelling of the name of theUkrainian capital from "Kiev" to "Kyiv." Casey added that the new spelling is "in keeping with how the Ukrainians themselves pronounce the name of their capital."


I suspect this is just an attempt to confuse lost Russian tourists.
--“Which road takes me to Kiev?”
--“No, Kiev.”
--“Never heard of it...”


Oct 18, 2006

Spelling in Kazakhstan

Poor Kazakhstan. It seems as if they’ve mispelled the word "bank" on new 2,000 and 5,000 tenge notes. Rather than correct the error, the Kazaks have decided to circulate the notes anyway.

God bless you, Kazakhstan.

Oct 17, 2006

What is a Russian?

Following the spy-row with Georgia, President Putin came down with an acute case of xenophobia. As the CSMonitor writes, “Mr. Putin authorized a crackdown on Georgian-owned businesses, called for tougher curbs on immigration, and said non-ethnic Russians should be prevented from operating in the marketplaces.”

Yet, this raises a curious question: What exactly is a Russian?

Alas, the answer is decidedly difficult to answer. If Putin & Co. are going to ban them from the marketplace, shouldn’t we at least know who is, and is not allowed?

As any Mexican-American university student at MGU can attest, hair and skin tone are the most direct means by which the police profile prospective “document inspections.” Yet, a citizen from Rostov-on-Don is far more likely to be profiled than an illegal Latvian lap dancer living inside the garden ring without a Moscovskaya propiska.

The Russian language is one possible solution. But the Russian language is used widely throughout the former Soviet Republics and is the default language for intercultural communication. If Russian-speaking Georgians in the CD markets are still not Russian, how else do we tell the "Good" Russians from the unscrupulous foreign "imposters?"

And what about Jews? As recently as 2002, many internal Russian passports still listed “Jew” as a national identity, one wholly separate from “Russian.” In the eyes of the passport bureau, one could be a Russian, or a Jew, but never both.

It is equally difficult to link Russian identity to one’s birthplace. During the Stalinist period, the Kremlin deported whole communities of Georgians to the wilds of Siberia. Are these individuals Russian? They speak Russian. They were born in Russia. Yet, still, they would not be allowed to sell “ABBA’s Greatest Hits!” in a Moscow market as a result of their non-Russian heritage.

The answer, of course, is obvious. Any group or former republic which is out of favor with Putin is non-Russian, while everyone else is selectivly ignored.

This is an absurd precedent. But one which will have lasting consequences for the region.


Oct 16, 2006

Get Your Red On!

Ever wish you could go back to the "Good Old Days," when soldiers guarded the front, workers toiled bravely in factories, and life was an endless succession of Harvest, Celebrations, Holidays, and Memorials? Now you can, or at least, sing along and pretend...

Nostalgia, anyone??


(Thanks Igor!)

Politkovskaya Vigil (Thanks Teo)

In case you're interested, there will be a vigil for Anna Politkovskaya on Monday, October 16th from 6pm-7pm across the street from the Russian Embassy on Wisconsin Ave.

Oct 11, 2006

Five more years! (Thanks Chalmers)

Here's to 5 more years.

After winning a unanimous vote by the State Assembly of Bashkiria, President Murtaza Rakhimov extended his current 16-year electoral winning streak for another 5-year term.

What does one do after such a resounding victory for democracy? Well, you take Vladimir Putin down to the local brewery and buy him a beer. (I can't believe this isn't satire.)

As we all know, the Bashkirs are a cause near and dear to JCE's heart. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, in the mad scramble to sovereignty following the end of the Soviet Union, Bashkortostan remained the Land That Time Forgot. This psudo-state exists as a living museaum to the Soviet Union.

Elections in Bashkortostan were little changed from the good ol' days of the USSR. In fact, the OSCE was almost at a loss for words when describing Rakhimov's last election, saying only that it had all "the elements of basic fraud."

Cheers Comrade Rakhimov!


Seriously, we're dealing with a region of fake-ass democracies, people. You see that don't you?


Oct 10, 2006

Politkovskaya Update:

With friends like these.......who needs enemies?

The non-independent Russian news media went into high gear over the weekend, busy spinning the Politkovskaya murder with fantastic and bizare explinations.

It would seem, as the government-backed Russsian news explains, Politkovskaya’s assassination was ordered by her friends and supporters. Yes, Politkovskaya's death was simply wily plot to create a democratic martyr and prompt – wait for it -- an Orange Revolution in Russia.

Of course, this line of reasoning completely disregards Politkovskaya pending expose detailing accounts of torture carried out by the Kremlin-backed Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, or her scheduled appearance as a witness in a torture case, also involving Kadyrov. Disregard that Kadyrov and his backers in the Kremlin had the most to loose from Politkovskaya’s activities, let alone the fact that, from their perspective, this woman was becoming a really meddlesome threat that wouldn’t go away.

Thank goodness her friends killed her.

As the monotone news casters inform Russian viewers, they should really be concerned with Orange Revolutions and not Putin’s “Dictatorship of the Law,” a dictatorship which is rapidly becoming ill at ease with the facts, and even more discontent with those who ask questions about torture and corruption at it’s highest levels.


God Bless you Don King

Robert tuned us in to this little gem. It seems that US-Russian relations has a new Champion, of sorts. He is the tower of a man, and boxing title holder, Nikolai Valuev.

Better yet, Don King is promoting him as a bridge between our two great peoples. Bid farewell to Rocky V, with all of that passé divisiveness and jingoistic posturing. “I must break you.” Say hello to the new, kinder image of teeth-shattering, face pummeling, US-Russo relations.

From the TimesOnline: “Don King had gone from hello to full rhetoric in about 30 seconds. Now he was quoting Shakespeare, talking of uniting Russia and the United States, and all the while giving praise to a huge man who had just left the room and did not understand a word he said.

“’He defends the honor of women. No one can hurt his wife in the parking lot, he helps the old lady across the street, he grabs the little baby from under the car — he’s a man of the people, with pride, dignity, compassion and understanding,’ King said, hitting full flow. “Nicolay, Nicolay our new champion.’”


Even better, Nikolai Valuev bested Monte Barrett in the 11th round of their championship bout on Saturday night. More to come, we are sure.

God Bless you Don King.

Oct 9, 2006

Anna Politkovskaya is dead

Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated on Saturday. While a lone gunman was seen on the apartment surveillance cameras, his capture, or conviction, is as unlikely as it is important. Indeed, the assign's identity is far less important than the identities of those who paid for her death -- one of the last voices in Russia.

Anna Politkovskaya was the bravest women I'd ever met. Fearless and clear-eyed to the realities which beset Russia at the end of it's democratic period. In fact, she seemed to gain little interest or satisfaction from admiring Westerners, who called her "brave" and heaped praise upon her. What did the opinions of Westerners matter? She was a Russian journalist, who wrote for Russians, and believed in the lasting power of the written word.

Now she is dead. The technocrats and administrators who refused to answer her questions have outlasted her life, as has the Chechen conflict which cut short so many others.

Yet, the power of words is often greater than the life and spirit of the author. I hope that Anna Politkovskaya's intrepid spirit will have a lasting impact on the country and the conflict which consumed her. But there are few developments in Russia which lead to hope. Such is the state of things.

Goodbye Anna Politkovskaya. Our loss is great.

Oct 6, 2006

Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Just like the closed door sessions at the Kazakhstan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we can’t get enough of our favorite investigative journalist, Borat Sagdiyev.

But this brilliant mind said it best of all…

The begining of nothing

Some things are never finished, especially the thoughts of nit-wits, diplomats, and scoundrels.