Feb 28, 2007

Soviet Cola

That's right, they had it, and through amazing powers of animation, we can now see how they actually made "Soviet Cola."

Behold (and notice the nice exposition of the concept of the "Soviet man" as well).



(Sorry the Embed Video didn't work.)

If Anne Frank had survived...

WARSAW (Reuters) - When Miriam Schmetterling left Poland in 1946, she had no idea if she would ever see her home country again or meet the people who saved her life during the Holocaust.

"Jozefa played the piano each time visitors came to make sure they couldn't hear noises which came from the attic. She knew we could have all died."

(Thanks Vika!)

Casinos into libraries?

What next? Strip clubs into hospitals?! That's not the Moscow I fell in love with!

From RFE/RL: Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has called on the city's gambling halls to eventually be turned into libraries. "More than 2,000 gaming halls were opened in a short time in Moscow and we are now actively closing them down. Let's make book clubs out of gambling centers," AFP quoted the mayor. The measure is seen as part of an effort to increase falling reading rates among Muscovites. A city official today cited statistics that show that half of the city's residents do not purchase books, 40 percent don't read books at all, and 60 do not subscribe to any publication. Under legislation passed last year, thousands of Russian casinos and gaming halls are to be shut down and moved to four special zones in different parts of the country, all outside cities. Gambling venues will begin closing this summer and continue through to 2009.

This really says a lot about Russia...

I semi hope its a midget...


Feb 27, 2007

Bakiyev's "Victory for Democracy"

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev rebuffed the World Bank's offer to write-off nearly $1 billion of the country's external debt through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) . The deal would have put an end to the pervasive system of state-sponsored corruption in Kyrgyzstan. Bakiyev is spinning it as a victory for democracy.

Man on Fire

No, really, an Armenian man lit himself on fire...to make a point...I guess... From RFE/RL:
A man has immolated himself in front of the Armenian government building in Yerevan. Djivan Hakopian made antigovernment statements before dousing his body in gasoline and lighting himself on fire on Yerevan's Square of the Republic today. Doctors say Hakopian, 44, is in critical condition. His respiratory system was damaged and he reportedly suffered third-degree burns on 80 percent of his body. Armenian government officials said Hakopian had not filed any formal complaints before the incident.

Forget a Return to the Cold War

We're going back to 1917 and even 1905, according to Solzhenitsyn. From RFE/RL:

WRITER WARNS THAT SOCIAL PICTURE RESEMBLES 1917. Nobel Prize laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn believes that Russia is rightly reasserting its legitimate role in international relations, but that growing social inequalities at home are a cause for alarm, his wife Natalya told a Moscow press conference on February 26, Russian and international media reported. She spoke on behalf of her husband, who is 88, to announce that he will express his views in a new introduction to his previously published essay on the February 1917 revolution, which will appear in full in the state-run daily newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on February 28. She stressed that her husband is "basically provincial and really feels the misery of those living outside the capital. The authorities do not see it, or choos enot to." She said he believes that the wide social disparities that obtained in 1905 are still present today and "is deeply worried by this gap. It's necessary to pay attention to that. If the government fails to do so, consequences would be grave." PM

Feb 26, 2007

Kangaroo Court

The ruling is in: "Serbia has not committed genocide," said the UN International Court of Justice. The ruling absolves Serbia of any guilt in the slaughter of 200,000 Bosnians during the 1990s. The ICJ did, however, suggest that Serbia could have done more to report the Srebrenica massacre.

The UN demonstrated the same kind of moral courage when it stood by and watched the slaughter of Bosnia in the first place. But since the ICJ has determined that Serbia did not commit genocide, then the UN can not be responsible for allowing the genocide to occur.

The ruling means little to the dead. But the outrage is more than enough for the living. Next on the docket? Indicting Condoleezza Rice for war crimes.

Old School ДДТ -- by request

It's hard to imagine that Russian videos once looked like this. But we figured, what the hell.

"Operation Successor" Part 2

We can't stop laughing. (Thanks Igor!)

Proceed with caution....

"Operation Successor" Part 1

The NYTimes Magazine took a look at the Kremlin's American Idol search (dubed "Operation Successor") to find the next Putin. But in the surreal world of Putin politics, all of the inside candidates who really want to be president -- AND stay out of jail -- fall over themselves to proclaim how much they really, really don't want to be president. Nobody wants to not be president more than St. Petersburg Governor Valentina I. Matviyenko and Sergei Ivanov -- and hence, should be considered leading candidates. (Thanks Sofia!) Read it here...

Why Bulgarian Dumbo Is Presumed Dead...

Seriously, how did Bulgaria get into the EU? From "The Sofia Weekly":

Bulgaria's Police in Search of 30 Tons of Missing Poisonous PeanutsA total of 30 tones of poisonous peanuts have disappeared from a warehouse in Bulgaria's seaside village Kamenar on February 12, Darik News reported. Three analyses showed the nuts are poisonous if consumed and contain alpha toxins more than 60 times than the average level. Alpha toxins cause cancer in the human body, experts said. The peanuts were imported from Gambia in 2006 and were stored in the warehouse of the Varna Company BulPack. After a check, officials found out the whole 30 tons of the poisonous nuts were missing.The company that owns the warehouse denied knowing anything whatsoever. The case was sent to the local Prosecutor's Office and police are investigating the case.

Feb 23, 2007

Turkmenbashi vanishes from oath!

This is a sad day. What will they do next? Take away the Rukh nama? It's madness!
From RFE/RL: State-controlled Turkmen newspapers appeared on February 21 bearing on the first page a new version of the oath of loyalty that does not refer to the late President Saparmurat Niyazov, the opposition website Gundogar reported the next day. The oath previously read, "If I should betray my homeland, Saparmurat Turkmenbashi the Great, may my breath stop." The new version replaces the reference to Niyazov with the word "president." DK

Coming soon to the military of Kazakhstan...

...prostitution and mental illness. From RFE/RL:

Kazakh Defense Minister Daniyal Akhmetov announced on February 22 that Kazakhstan and Russia will jointly develop a plan to modernize Kazakhstan'sarmed forces, zonakz.net reported. "In the near future, we willdevelop a joint program to reorganize the country's forces," Akhmetov said. "This is a joint program with Russia. In about a month, the program will be developed, and it will allow us by 2015 to change significantly the image of Kazakhstan's armed forces."

Feb 22, 2007

Russian Driver's Ed

How cool would it be to have a job at traffic control in St. Petersburg. If it was my job to watch this television screen all day, I'd bring pop corn.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying....

Amid all of the distraction over the Anna Nicole coverage, Eternal Remont figures it should at least mention the IAEA report detailing Iran's failure to act on UN nuclear resolutions. The short answer: the mission to "end Israel" continues unabated in a heavily bunkered underground enrichment site.

White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe pried his eyes of the live coverage of the Anna Nicole hearing long enough to mention he was "disappointed" with Iran.

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey promised to look into "next steps."

French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy shrugged and suggested a second UN resolution, while the German Foreign Minister winked and said that was "one of the options."

The Russians? Well they have no idea what anyone is talking about.

Neither do the Iranians for that matter.

A Dedication to Shrub-ya and Vlad, BFFs!!!

"Your Eyes"

(Credit: Ellustrator)

Oh Sweet Lord

From the NYTimes: "U.S. Tries to Ease Concerns in Russia on Antimissile Plan"

"Angela E. Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University, said the Bush administration had 'already been reassessing our policy toward Russia, as we have understood at least since January of 2006 or even before that there is a newly self-confident Russia, a Russia that is awash in petrodollars and a Russia that really feels it can say no and pursue its own interests.'

"Ms. Stent said the Bush administration was well aware that the Russian agenda on Syria, Hamas, Venezuela and a number of issues parted with Washington’s. But she said it was worth seeking cooperation, in particular on counterterrorism."

This from the beloved star who warmed our hearts with hits such as "Russia and Germany Reborn," and the soulful melodies of "From Embargo to Ostpolitik: The Political Economy of West German-Soviet Relations 1955-1980." God bless you Angela. (PBD, whoot to Jen for the Heads up!)

1/3 of Russian conscripts are crazy

Makes sense because 1/3 of the Russian population is crazy. From RFE/RL:

ONE-THIRD OF CONSCRIPTS SAID TO BE MENTALLY UNBALANCED. Russian Air Force Commander in Chief Colonel General Vladimir Mikhailov said recently that of the 11,000 young men drafted into the Air Force in 2006, over 30 percent are "mentally unstable," the daily "Gazeta" reported on February 20. He added that 10 percent of the conscripts have drug or alcohol problems, and that 15 percent of the total were in poor health or underweight. He noted that 25 percent of the conscripts never knew their fathers, 3 percent never knew their mothers, and an additional 3 percent grew up without either parent. The daily quoted Colonel General Eduard Vorobyov as saying recently that he has long argued "that we should abandon conscription. By drafting the dregs of society, we are only creating an illusion that all is well" in the military.

Lukashenka Goes to the Sudan

The crazy dictators of the world are really getting good at networking...From the Sudan Tribune

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is going to pay an official visit to Sudan in the near future. Official sources quoted the Belarusian president as saying this at a meeting with the speaker of the National Assembly of Sudan, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, on 20 February.
Lukashenka said at the meeting that the visit by the Sudanese delegation to Belarus will contribute to boosting relations between the two countries. "Sudan occupies a certain place" in Belarus’s foreign political and economic strategy, the Belarusian president stressed.

Lukashenka also said that Belarus is closely watching the situation in Sudan and processes taking place in there. And you'll do what exactly Mr. Lukashenka? I'm dying to know what new levels of crazy can be attained!

"Dutch Disease" Gets a Monument

Mark this moment, for this is when the real insanity begins.

Unsatisfied with their monolithic fortress of the future, Gazprom has decided that it will erect a 300m steel and glass monstrosity on banks the Neva, in St. Petersburg. Higher than the Eiffel Tower, twice the height as the Peter and Paul Cathedral, and three times higher than St. Isaac’s and Smolny Cathedral, many of the city's residents complain it will "bring irreparable damage to the fragile skyline of the city." Yet, even if Peter's architectural aficionados are up-in-arms, they don't, if you will, have a leg to stand on. Gazprom gets what Gazprom wants. This is an energy state on steroids.

Gazprom's latest fashion accessory is symptomatic of a malicious disease which has wholly consumed the Russian state. We are witnessing "Dutch Disease" in it's most acute, and terminal, manifestation.

This morning, the Russian government reported that it now holds $311 billion dollars in foreign currency reserves. That's $311 billion cash, more than the entire GDP (PPP) of Malaysia, Sweden, or Austria (God bless you CIA factbook). This stratospheric rise in wealth has set off a boom in Russia's construction and luxury goods markets, yet all the while the rest of the economy (unrelated to energy) withers on the vine.

In essence, Russia is all bling, and no substance. It has become the Kevin Federline of world economies. With more money than talent, it doesn't matter that you don't have talent -- at least until the money dries up. And it always dries up.

Yet, all of this lingers far off in the future, when the paint will once again crack and chip on the Winter Palace, the grime will return, and the Gazprom tower -- then empty or struggling for tenants -- will still disfigure the horizon of Russia's magical northern city. The tower will be a lasting monument to the brutal vanity of our time.

(Peter D.)

What to Do About this Pesky Constitution...

...The wizards diplomatique at Le Monde consider the possibilities in "Tsar Putin's Russia."

I love the comparisons to 1990s levels of GDP and inflation (we all know those stats were wrong anyway) to other dictators (Chavez, “Mussolini of Moscow”) and the 4 November celebration of independence from Poland. “I served with Mussolini: I knew Mussolini; Mussolini was a friend of mine. Premier Putin, you're no Mussolini.” -Jen

Tatarstan Gets No Love

Whoops! RFE/RL reports that the Russian Federation Council has rejected a power-sharing agreement between the federal government and the Republic of Tatarstan.

"The approval of this bill and this agreement would create a dangerous political precedent in violation of the constitutional principle of equality of Russian Federation constituents," said Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov.

Did Putin have a change of mind? He signed the thing in 2005... so what is to become of our precious autonomous republics? Shaimiyev must be pissed, pissed, pissed. This could really be Moscow ending a precedent (why worried about it now and not a year and a half ago?) or it could be some good old fashioned squeezing, to get some nice business deals or political good from Tatarstan. If anyone has suggestions, I'd like to hear it. (Chalmers)

"I fought with Kim Jong-il"

In what can only be interpreted as a reaction to the utter failure that was last week's North Korea nuke deal in Beijing, Novye Izvestiya ran an interview today with famous Russian film director Sergei Soloviev, titled "I fought with Kim Jong-il".

As it turns out, Soloviev's father helped put Kim il-Sung (Kim Jong-il's illustrious ancestor) into power, when the latter served as a battalion commander in the Soviet 88th Special Rifle Brigade. Kim "The Guiding Light" Jong-il himself can freely apply for a Russian passport, having been born in a village outside of Vladivostok, where he was lovingly christened as "Yuri Irsenovich Kim".

According to Soloviev Jr., humanity could've been spared at early stages:

"During the times when my father was at the podium next to Kim Il-sung at military parades, I was allowed to play with his son, who was three years older than me. The son spoke Russian well – which was unsurprising, since he was born in a Siberian village. We even fought. It was clear that he was the stronger one, but I was craftier. And as far as I can remember, I was once able to throw him into a fountain and hold him under water…"

Well, Monsieur Soloviev, why didn't you drown the bastard then, before he became the beady-eyed Dr. Evil with obnoxiously large goggles? If you had more temerity back then, the northern part of the Korean peninsula could now potentially have the same obsessed hordes of youth touting the virtues of a conglomerate-controlled democracy as its southern neighbor.

Having said that, every cloud has a silver lining. Because of Kim Jong-il recalcitrant efforts to bring nuclear Armageddon to those "decadent" Western societies, top US nuclear negotiator and assistant secretary of state Christopher Hill can easily get laid in Beijing any day


Feb 16, 2007

The "Mafia Don"

Check Out Krauthammer's Bitch Slap to Putin. (Ern)

Title: The Putin Doctrine
Author/s: Charles Krauthammer
Publication: The Washington Post
Date of Pub: 2/16/07
Year: 2007

"There is something amusing about criticism of the use of force by the man who turned Chechnya into a smoldering ruin; about the invocation of international law by the man who will not allow Scotland Yard to interrogate the polonium-soaked thugs it suspects of murdering Alexander Litvinenko, yet another Putin opponent who met an untimely and unprosecuted death; about the bullying of other countries decried by a man who cuts off energy supplies to Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus in brazen acts of political and economic extortion..."

Nonetheless, Putin's aggressiveness does not signal a return to the Cold War. He is too clever to be burdened by the absurdity of socialist economics or Marxist politics. He is blissfully free of ideology, political philosophy and economic theory. There is no existential dispute with the United States. He is a more modest man: a mere mafia don, seizing the economic resources and political power of a country for himself and his (mostly KGB) cronies.

Is Russia Becoming America?

They certainly are lazy enough...(Ern)

Excerpts from the NY Times, "Will Russia Bet on Its People or Its Oil Wells?", by Thomas Friedman

The Moscow Times recently reported that only two Russian colleges — Moscow State and St. Petersburg State — are listed among the world's top 500 universities.

Noting that Russia today spends far less of its G.D.P. on higher education than Europe or America, Sergei Guriyev, rector of Russia's New Economic School, wrote in The Moscow Times, "Russians simply are not prepared to pay the taxes that would be necessary to finance science and education at Soviet-era levels, and no incentives have been created to attract more private funding."

So here's my prediction: You tell me the price of oil, and I'll tell you what kind of Russia you'll have. If the price stays at $60 a barrel, it's going to be more like Venezuela, because its leaders will have plenty of money to indulge their worst instincts, with too few checks and balances. If the price falls to $30, it will be more like Norway. If the price falls to $15 a barrel, it could become more like America — with just enough money to provide a social safety net for its older generation, but with too little money to avoid developing the leaders and institutions to nurture the brainpower of its younger generation.

That's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to You

I refuse to believe that any leader could be better for Turkmenistan, than Turkmenbashi! (Ern)


TURKMEN PRESIDENT DECREES EDUCATION REFORM... Newly elected Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov issued a decree on February 15 rolling back his predecessor's curtailment of the country's educational system, turkmenistan.ru reported. The decree will increase grade-school education from nine to 10 years, and university education from two years of study and two years of work to five years of study. The decree sets up a task force with representatives from various ministries to draw up plans for the reform within three months. The reforms will go into effect for the school year starting in September. Education reform figured among Berdymukhammedov's presidential election-campaign promises.

Feb 15, 2007

Place Your Bets...

Ivanov has to be in everyone's Tri-Fecta for PM. Eternal Remont has him Across the Board and Wheeled in the Quiniela, just to be safe.

MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin promoted hawkish Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov to first deputy prime minister Thursday in a move that strengthens his position as a top contender to replace the Kremlin leader in next year's election.
(Thanks Chalmers)

Persona Non Grata

What happened to the days of starving them out? Russia is really half-assing it these days. (Ern) From RFE/RL:


"Volodymyr Kornilov, director of the Ukrainian branch of the Institute of CIS Countries, told journalists in Kyiv on February 14 that he believes Moscow has a blacklist of Ukrainian politicians who cannot enter the Russian Federation, Interfax-Ukraine reported.

Kornilov was commenting on an incident last week in which Ukrainian lawmaker Petro Poroshenko, former secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, was declared persona non grata and barred from entering the Russian Federation at an airport in St. Petersburg. Russian Foreign Ministry officials said the move was a retaliatory measure against Ukraine's entry ban on a number of Russian politicians and political analysts in the past year or so. "

Armenia is for Lovers

Given the previous article about male prostitution in the Russian army, what do you think modernizing a military base could mean in Russian terms? (Ern) From RFE/RL:


"Arriving in Yerevan on February 14 for a three-day visit, Russian Air Force Commander in Chief Colonel General Vladimir Mikhailov said a gradual reequipment of the Russian military base near Giumri has already begun, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He did not divulge any further details."

Feb 14, 2007

Putin: Back in the USSR

In today's LATimes, Max Boot from CFR published a stinging analysis of Putin's exercise in verbal bomb throwing at this weekend’s Munich Conference on Security Policy. He writes:

"At a superficial level, [Putin's] remarks might sound like the standard complaints from Western liberals about American 'unilateralism'...But coming from such an illiberal leader, these comments had a different mien—sinister and absurd at once...Or consider Putin’s claim that the U.S. was starting a new 'arms race' by deploying missile defenses to Eastern Europe. This from the largest exporter of arms to the developing world, with clients that include such charmers as Syria and Venezuela." (Read it here: "Putin: the louse that roared")

In fact, Putin's recent flirtation with Cold War rhetoric forced President Bush to offer his best Adlai Stevenson impersonation during this morning's press conference in the White House East Room, saying, "It's a relationship in which there are disagreements, but there's also a relationship in which we can find common ground to solve problems. And that's the spirit -- that's the spirit I'll continue to work with Vladimir Putin." Not that the President could have said anything else or risk elevating tensions even more. This is only the beginning....PBD
(Credit: Ellustrator)

Goin' Down to the River

During his whirlwind trip through the Mid-East, where the agenda included discussions for a renewed peace process and the creation of an "OPEC for natural gas," Putin had time to visit the place of Christ's baptism in the River Jordan. Eternal Remont has confirmed that, during the photo-op, a cloud did not appear over Putin's head, nor did a voice boom from the sky, "This is my son, the beloved." We are much relieved.

Silly Monkey

Yes, my name is Putin. I dress like this to throw off American...I mean...NGO spies. (Vika)

Bulgarian Crazieness Part 3

Soft porn for bus passengers? (JenB) From Ananova:

Bus passengers in Sofia are being shown soft porn films on giant videoscreens at night. During the day the plasma screens in the Bulgarian capital show bus times,but the night shift now has the porn films on view. A spokesman for the station management said: "We wanted to give thepassengers something to take their minds off the cold and to pass the time while waiting for a bus, and there are unlikely to be children around that time of night."The move however has angered many, including mothers with young children, who say the movies are a disgrace. They also claim the security guards have stopped patrolling for trouble-makers, and spend their time watching the giant screens instead.

(Eternal Remont has consulted our in-house Bulgarian expets, who question how plasma screens could exist in the central bus station. "Forget the porn. There's no way they could instal plasma screens in the bus station...the gypsies would steal them in five min. flat.")

"Unauthorized Construction"

Today's Russian leaders just don't have Stalin's dramatic flair when it comes to things like this. Where are the explosions and the pools to replace this houses of worship/opiate of the people factories? (Ern)

Forum 18 reports a recent trend in local authorities across Russia calling for the demolition of certain churches and mosques based on technical reasons of "unauthorized construction" and fire safety, despite a lack of a clear motive. Religious congregations of various confessions, in places as far apart as Abakan, Kirovo-Chepetsk, Kaluga and Tyumen (click for maps) have all encountered such problems, resulting in fines, closure, and in some cases demolition notices. In at least one case, the Russian Supreme Court has upheld the demolition notices.

How Does One Kill a Cossack?

He got shot three times in the head and was "injured" !?!? (Ern) From RFE/RL:


An unidentified attacker shot Andrey Khanin, leader of the local chapter of the Terek Cossacks, three times in the head as he was leaving a gym in hishometown of Novoaleksandrovsk in Stavropol Krai late on February 13, skavkaz.ru reported the following day. Mikhail Serkov, leader of theStavropol Terek Cossacks, said Khanin began receiving threats after he launched an investigation into suspected violations by a localfood-processing plant of environmental legislation.

Such is the State of the Russian Armed Forces

Jesus Christ, Russia. (Ern) From RFE/RL:


Activists with the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers said in St. Petersburg on February 12 that an unspecified number of male soldiers there contend they were forced into prostitution by senior officers, "The Moscow Times" of February 13 and news.ru reported. The daily added that the list of clients whom the young men were given include an unnamed retired general in the Federal Security Service (FSB) and a former colonel. The activists said that the young men were beaten if they did not comply. Military prosecutors said they are investigating the allegations. Interior Ministry spokesman Vasily Panchenkov rejected the charges, saying that the activists' aim was not to "defend the rights of military personnel but to discredit the armed services." This is not the first time in post-Soviet Russia that accusations of forced prostitution of conscripts have been made.

Feb 12, 2007

Bulgarian Crazieness Part 2 (Ern)

Bulgaria's Ski Resort Suspects Rivals behind Bomb Scare

Businessmen and officials from the top resort of Bansko suspect rivals on the tourism market to have hatched the bomb threat plot, which incurred them huge losses over the weekend.

"The bomb threat has nothing to do with the protests at Natura 2000 network. I am more willing to suspect investors' interests to be behind it. I have my suspicions, but have no evidence to pad them out," Bansko mayor Alexander Kravarov told Darik News.

The ski runs in Bansko were closed on Friday after an environmental organization claimed to have planted a bomb there. The explosive device aimed to set off an avalanche, the bomb scarers said in a letter to the media and the environment ministry. The claimed to have set the bomb in a protest at the unbridled and illegal construction works in the mountain resort.

No explosive device was found on Sunday and life in Bansko returned to its normal pace with the re-opening of the ski runs.

Local businesses and the ski runs' concessionaire, Yulen, are still estimating the amount of the losses.

Bulgarian Crazieness Part 1 (Ern)

I can just imagine a hoard of Bulgarian Abe Simpsons...

Rioting Pensioners Storm Bulgaria's Cabinet Building

Hundreds of angry retirees, who gathered in downtown Sofia for their traditional protest against low pensions, attempted to break into the building of the cabinet of ministers. SNA reporters say several grey-haired people managed to force their way through the police cordon but officers were quick to cut short their advance. Clashes erupted between police and protesters, but no blood was shed.

Chanting "Mafia", "Resignation" and "Murderers", the protesters vowed to persist in their demands for higher pensions.

A few young people mingled with the crowd, just as instigators would do, SNA reporters suspect.

Police sealed off the streets in the area near the buildings of the presidency and the cabinet of ministers, bringing about hellish traffic jams.

The riots left a few foreign tourists, out on a sightseeing tour in the capital, nothing but stunned, SNA reporters said.

The leader of the ultra-nationalist party Ataka, Volen Siderov, was quick to turn up at the rally and declare his support for the pensioners' demands.

After three hours of rallying, the crowd started to disperse at 1.30 pm.

Bulgarian pensioners have been relentless in their protests for better life. Living on as meagre an average pension as BGN 100 (about EUR 50), Bulgarian pensioners are forced to lead a miserable life, which they say, no one deserves.

Raising the pensions by 10% was simply mockery, the protesters claimed, enraged that even those menial percents would be added as late as July 1.

Putin on History (PBD)

Ern's post below got me thinking...Is Putin correct when he says, "Russia is a country with an over 1,000-year-long history and has almost always been privileged to pursue an independent foreign policy."

The phrase "almost always" is the kicker.

First, it is difficult to argue that the Riurykide princes had anything approaching a modern conception of "independent foreign policy" in 882.

Then, there was that little business of the Golden Horde which, shall we say, severely curtailed any independent foreign policy agenda from 1240 to 1480.

And we will certainly have to ignore the Polish interventions during 1018 and 1598-1613, the latter being a time of troubles in which the Russian state was certainly in no position to look outward, when it's own survival was so much in question.

This leaves us with 865 years in which a foreign power was not directly orchestrating Russia’s "independent foreign policy." In fact, Russia will have to avoid foreign intervention until the year 2142 AD – before it can rightfully claim a 1,000 year history of "independent foreign policy."

Not bad as far as history goes. But who’s counting, Vladimir Putin.

Maybe this is an American bias...

...but can Russia even promise democracy for Russia? I mean that's sweet, democracy for all, adorable really, but come on, they don't even have freedom of speech. And they've always pursued an independent foreign policy? Really? There were no treaties or pacts or alliances in recent history? And far back, the Mongols gave them free reign? Really? (Ern)

PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIA WILL DETERMINE ITS OWN FUTURE. President Putin said in Munich on February 10 that Russia will determine her place in the world by herself, and will strive for a well-balanced and "multipolar world," kremlin.ru and state-run television reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," January 24, 2007). He also warned other, unnamed countries against lecturing Russia about democracy, saying that they should better learn it themselves. He stressed that "Russia is a country with an over 1,000-year-long history and has almost always been privileged to pursue an independent foreign policy. We do not intend to give up that tradition today, either.... We would also like to deal with responsible and also independent partners, with whom we could work to build a just and democratic world order, ensuring security and prosperity not only for select countries, but for all."

Feb 9, 2007

Putin is the New FDR?

Ern: I wonder what the motivation is for comparing Putin to FDR. Could the Russian government be preparing us for Putin's third term? From RFE/RL:


On February 8, Vladislav Surkov, who is one of several deputy heads of the Kremlin's administration and an exponent of the theory of "sovereign democracy," told a Moscow conference marking the 125th anniversary of the birth of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt that "in the 20th century, Roosevelt was our military ally, and in the 21st, he is our ideological ally," RIA Novosti reported.

President Putin's chief ideologue noted that Roosevelt understood democracy as granting power to the people and not to oligarchs or bureaucrats and added that "Russia is slowly moving in the right direction." Surkov argued that "like Roosevelt during his presidency, Putin has to consolidate administrative control and use presidential power to the maximum to overcome a crisis....

(Third term? Hell, this is our chance to swap Kevin Federline for Alexander Pushkin. And even if the reality of either comparison is little based in fact, the Russians do love their FDR. It must be all of those trucks and pairs of long underwear he shipped over during the war. Oh yeah, and the ability to look the other way Yalta...PBD)

America: A Pirate Civilization?

Chalmers: This is from the transcript (last item) of the JRL #31... so this guy's talking about Topol Ms and things, and I'm feeling it, and then he comes out with the best thing ever - he tells me I'm basically a pirate. Yo, ho, buddy! Piraty 20-ogo veka!

"So, this is where the struggle between the US and Russia is underway. They want to make sure that Russia would not restore its national identity, its cultural and historic genotype and the like. Let me tell you that any civilization has itscode, its set of values. The code of our civilization -- no matter what you call it, Eurasian or Orthodox or Slavic -- is conscience.

"For Anglo-Saxons resting on Protestant ideology,the code is benefit. Conscience and benefit are incompatible.This is our main contradiction and then comes the fundamental law of geopolitics: endless confrontation of land and sea. Russia is the center of the continental civilization with its mentality, its traditions, while the US is the center of the merchant, sea, pirate civilization."

(Crap. If that's true, what the hell are we going to do with all of these Stepan Razin mouse pads, coffee mugs, posters, t-shirts and Stepan Razin Beer?)

Belarus: Dude, Where's My SSR?

Ern: Does Belarus hear itself when it talks? Because she's just not making any sense to me. From RFE/RL:


Anatol Rubinau, deputy head of the Belarusian presidential administration responsible for ideological issues, said at a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences on February 7 that Russia's recent increase of energy prices for Belarus was neither friendly nor honest, Belapan reported. "Now our products will become more expensive and won't be able to compete with Russian ones," Rubinau said, adding that Moscow wants to drive Belarusian goods out of the Russian market and effectively "strangle our economy." Therefore, Rubinau continued, Belarus should have been granted the same access to Russian hydrocarbon resources as the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic enjoyed in the Soviet economy. JM
(Because the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics still exists, exactly. PBD)

So the Russian government is officially Homer Simpson (Ern)

"Hey Russian NGOs, remember how we passed those laws making it almost impossible for you to do your work or even exist, now we need a favor." From RFE/RL:

FOREIGN MINISTER TELLS NGOS TO HELP IMPROVE RUSSIA'S IMAGE ABROAD. Foreign Minister Lavrov urged Russian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) at a Moscow gathering on February 7 to help improve Russia's image abroad and work to fight extremism and xenophobia, news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 1 and 7, 2007). President Vladimir Putin and other top officials have said in recent months that Russia is the victim of an orchestrated campaign to tarnish its image abroad, particularly over some well-publicized killings of his critics and Russia's energy conflicts with some of its neighbors. PM

(I chuckle at this, as "extremism and xenophobia" are the code words for "Estonians, or anyone else who's grumpy we siezed their country by force." PBD)

Feb 6, 2007

Microsoft and Gorbachev (Ern)

...just because you destroyed the Soviet Empire doesn't mean you can take down a US corporate empire.

From RFE/RL:

Microsoft rebuffed an appeal by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev for its chairman, Bill Gates, to intervene in a Russian court case against a schoolteacher charged with software piracy. "[He] is threatened with detention in Siberian prison camps for up to five years if convicted," wrote Gorbachev in an open letter.

In response, Microsoft said in a statement on February 5 that "Mr.Ponosov's case is a criminal case and as such was initiated and investigated by the public prosecutor's office in Russia. We are sure that the Russian courts will make a fair decision."

Feb 5, 2007

The Gay Blade


Hitchens on Conquest on Hitchens

FYI, Chris Hitchens has a fantastic interview with Robert Conquest and the latest revision of his masterpiece, The Great Terror. Well worth the read, as both men are masters of their art.

"Mr. Conquest's devastatingly dry and lethal manner, expressed in the softest voice that ever brought down an ideological tyranny."

Read it here.

Kyrgyzstan Wants More Money, Again

It was bound to happen. Kyrgyzstan's Parliament Speaker Marat Sultanov announced, once again, that the government wants to renegotiate the Manas air base. "The situation is different now,” he said.

How on earth is it different than four months ago?

Well, there was that incident when a Kyrgyz passenger jet hit a US tanker on takeoff. And then an American soldier did shoot a World Champion Kyrgyz knife thrower after he was, well, threatening people with a knife. This, it seems, is enough to warrent yet another increase in fees.

Truth is, things haven't changed so much since Septemeber 2006, as they have since September 2001.

The Kyrgyz government would rather be rid of the Americans. This bussiness of renegotiation will continue until they leave.

Russia's Caviar Economy

The numbers are in and the Russian economy is looking predictable. At first blush, it’s all gold-plated Hummers and rare French Champaign, but just below…

Oil: Down from $75 per barrel to $50-55 range, this is 25% lower that the level of oil prices used as the basis of the 2007 state budget.

Construction: Showed the greatest growth last year, but all the oil profits are really just looking for a place to park and should be considered with a heavy discount.

Investment: It bloomed to a record 13.5% last year, but falls far short of the 20% growth needed to sustain the “Russian Economic Miracle.”

Not that any of this really matters. The treasury is flush and Putin won’t be around to catch the flash-back of a long-term decline.

Besides, it’s time to order another round of beluga, for two please, and more champagne.

Feb 2, 2007

Someone StillLoves You, BorisYeltsin

(Thanks Marta! We Luvov you.)

Considered but
Discarded Names
for the Indie Band
Someone Still Loves You,
- - - -
"Put Your Damn Shoe Back On, Nikita Khrushchev
Those Are Some Pretty Boss Eyebrows, Leonid Brezhnev
Not Everyone Remembers You, Yuri Andropov
Don't You Die Too, Konstantin Chernenko"

There are two s's in Rossiia?

MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- Bureaucrats in a Russian region have been sent back to school to improve their spelling and grammar.

Two thousand officials in Russia's Volga River region of Ulyanovsk -- the birthplace of Bolshevik leader Lenin -- had to take a special test on spelling, punctuation and spoken Russian on Thursday after the local governor grew tired of seeing documents full of mistakes.

Said Governor Sergei Morozov, "I've just had enough of bad grammar...I am fed up with mistakes in documents ... if you do not know enough, you have to learn."

Does Russian MS Word not have spellcheck and grammarcheck? (Ern)

Putin: FSB Will Safeguard Elections (Not Satire)

The Vangaurd of Democracy?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish satire from reality in the final days of the Putin era.

Case in point: On January 31, Putin issued a directive to the FSB instructing the agency to "combat nationalist and extremist ideologies" in the upcoming election cycle.

This is worrisome, given the government's habit of including human rights defenders and liberal democrats as the proponents of "extremist ideologies."

But wait, there's more. Putin then treated the FSB to a fascinating dissertation on the importance of democratic governance: "Elections are a very important democratic instrument for forming the state authorities, authorities, which are responsible and elected as a result of a sound political competition," he said.

Except in Ukraine.

Azeri viewers: “I want my ORT”

The Azerbaijan television wars continue. First it was the BBC, then Voice of America, RFE/RL, and the Turkish Kanal D. Now Baku is set to pull the plug on Russian television.

"Which channels will we watch now?" complained Sanubar Allahverdiyeva. "The quality of Azerbaijani television leaves much to be desired."

Of course, the ban on Russian TV comes with a not-so-subtle escape clause: “Russia can allow Azerbaijan’s state-run AzTV to broadcast free-of-charge within Russia, and the same courtesy will be extended to ORT and RTR-Planeta.” Better yet, Russian broadcasters can sign on with an Azerbaijani cable provider and Baku will make the problem go away (EurasiaNet).

Meanwhile, satellite dish providers in the country are primed to make windfall profits, as it is hard to find anyone in the country who wants to watch government-owned or influenced programming.

Feb 1, 2007

Kyrgyz Parliament Votes to Keep Dachas and Limos...

...In the Process, They Elect a New Prime Minister

His name is Azim Isabekov. His appointment notes the end of the president’s cozy relationship with ex-PM Felix Kulov. Here's the kicker:

"Despite Isabekov’s obvious weakness, members of parliament opted to approve any candidate that Bakiyev proposed in order to forestall their own dismissal. Had parliament turned down Isabekov, it would have to resign."

It's a victory for democracy, we guess.

Life After Gazprom Redux (Igor)

Igor returns to his favorite topic of late, this time in the WashTimes.

Energy imperialism or no energy imperialism, Ukraine's done well to counter Gazprom's challenge...

"Instead of harming Ukraine, the rise in energy prices has actually acted as a catalyst in reforming Ukraine's economy. Thus, what clearly seemed a curse, has turned out -- in some respect -- to be a blessing. "

Read it all here.

Savage genius that he is, Igor has been one of the few people to beat the drum on this issue.

Andrei Zatoka is free...(Ern)

...and it's all due to Ern. You're welcome, Zatoka.

Out of the clink, he's now back at is home in Dashoguz.

The implications for his release are still unclear.

Read it here.

"A Highly Effective Responce" (Thanks Vika)

Eternal Remont welcomes our newest contributor, Vika!

So apparently Putin has actually discovered the 'magic...in this case...missile'? The man is seeming a bit paranoid these days. If he would just be quiet, Bush would probably forget he exists as anything other than a provider of oil...not that this is a SMART Bush thing to do, but I could see it happening.

This would then leave Putin open to do all sorts of things while smiling and whistling with his hands hidden behind his back.

Read it here.