Sep 28, 2007


Peter Ackerman and Michael Glennon take a look at Russia in the time of the autocrats in the American Interest.

"It is tempting to dismiss the likes of Hugo Chávez and Alexander Lukashenko as small-time opportunists destined for the dust-bin of an increasingly democratic history. This would be a mistake.

"The autocratic offensive against democracy and its promoters is a serious challenge and should be a high priority, especially for any American administration espousing a Freedom Agenda as its central theme.

Igor: And you gotta love the group shot of the Three Stooges.

Bulgaria: Fat Ballot, Small Box

There will come a day when Bulgaria won't make the news, but not today.

SOFIA (Reuters) - "So many candidates are running in Bulgaria's local elections next month that ballots stretch to 2 metres (6-1/2 ft) and won't fit into the country's largest envelopes...Administration Minister Nikolai Vassilev was quoted by local media as saying Bulgarian-made envelopes are just too small and ballot boxes may be too small, too."

Giuliani Loves Kazakhstan

Seems like everyone wants a piece of the energy bonanza. Thanks Jen!

Giuliani Fund Raising Reaches Into Kazakhstan (WSJ)
"Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's campaign is looking for political cash this week in an unlikely place: Resource-rich Kazakhstan...

"A fund-raising event tomorrow in Almaty, the commercial center of the former Soviet republic, will mark the campaign's third foray overseas for cash...The candidate will appear at the Kazakh event by videoconference, campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella said. She declined to say how much the campaign expected to raise in Kazakhstan.Only Americans may donate to U.S. campaigns."

Sep 27, 2007

Karma's a Bitch II

In a follow-up to last month's story on problems with the Nord Stream project (File Under: Karma's a Bitch), the Estonian government has declined a request to let the pipeline cross it's Baltic seabed.

"In an official communiqué, Estonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted the high sensitivity of the Baltic maritime environment and advised that an overland route for the gas pipeline would be preferable to a seabed route....Schroeder scheduled a lobbying visit to Estonia on the project’s behalf. But after rehashing Moscow's anti-Estonian barbs in a speech to a German audience, Schroeder was informed by Tallinn that he would not be welcome there." (EDM)

Yes of course, the maritime environment....that's it.

Meanwhile, officials in Poland are practicing how to say "Transit Fees" in Russian.

70 Years Since the Great Terror

Oh, how I yearn for the "Golden Age".

YahooNews: Gorbachev warned Russians on Wednesday of the risk of a rebirth of Stalinism, saying the country was in danger of forgetting its tragic past. "We should remember those who suffered, because this a lesson for all of us," Gorbachev told a conference marking 70 yrs since the start of Stalin's Great Terror. "We must squeeze Stalinism out of ourselves, not in single drops but by the glass or bucket," Gorbachev added. "There are those saying Stalin's rule was the Golden Age, while Khrushchev's thaw was sheer utopia and Brezhnev's neo-Stalinism was the continuation of the Golden Age."

During the Great Terror, 1.7 million Soviet citizens were arrested between August 1937 and November 1938, of whom 818,000 were executed, the human rights group Memorial said. Historians estimate that up to 13 million people were killed or sent to labor camps in the former Soviet Union between 1921 and 1953, the year Stalin died.

Sep 26, 2007

Whoa Baby!

YahooNews - A Siberian woman who gave birth to her 12th child -- doing more than her fair share to stem Russia's population decline -- was stunned to find that little Nadia weighed in at a massive 7.75 kg (17.1 lb). Nadia was delivered by C-section in the local maternity hospital in the Altai region on September 17, joining eight sisters and three brothers.

The Guinness World Records lists a 10.2 kg baby boy born in Italy in 1955, and a 10.8 kg baby boy who was born in the United States in 1879 but died 11 hours later. The average weight for most healthy newborn babies is around 3.2 kg (7.06 lb), according to World Health Organisation figures.

Mehmet in Today’s Zaman

Turkey’s influential Today’s Zaman has published an op-ed by our very own Mehmet Kalyoncu on H.R.-106, a.k.a. the “Armenian Genocide Resolution” currently before the US Congresses.

“Not necessarily the entire Armenian diaspora in the United States, but the militant groups within it, label any language or conversation that calls to investigate the allegations regarding to the so-called genocide a form of an outright denial.”

The text of the bill does include some findings of fact that are either difficult to source or openly disputed. And so the ethnic-cleansing/genocide/adventure tourism debate rages on....

Go get em' Mehmet.

Sep 25, 2007

Ode to the Crappiness of Lada

Pretty damn, funny. Oh British humor.

It's Our Fault

Writing in the Moscow Times, Fyodor Lukyanov offers his take on Russian foreign policy, arguing that, "Western principles, which seemed as if they were universally correct after the end of the Cold War, have failed...Quite a number of problems that have arisen over the last 15 years were caused by the implementation of these erroneous policies."

Eternal Remont agrees, and takes personal responsibility for the invasion of Chechnya, the anti-constitutional consolidation of the private economy under state control, the spread of HIV, the de-population of the regions, and of course, the proliferation of narcotics, and the popularity of t.A.T.u.

Especially that last one.

Russian Ambassador: "Georgia will disappear"

Looks Russia is ramping up its efforts to "reach out" to Georgia. Here is the RF Ambassador to Georgia, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, speaking from the heart yesterday, in best traditions of Russian diplomacy:

After pointing out that only 3 million Georgians actually live in Georgia, the ambassador explicitly said: "You have turned into relict and dying-out nation. Russia is an enormous state, it is able to digest demographic difficulties, but you, the Georgians, won't get through this problem, you will disappear."

(Thanks Igor)

Sep 24, 2007

Why do the British always encourage emigration?

Crazy Puritanical? Try Massachusettes
Catholic? We set up Maryland for you
Poor? Move to Eastern Europe already

The Sofia Weekly: Britons who want to reduce their cost of living have been advised to consider relocating to Bulgaria. The Metro newspaper said the eastern European country had much lower prices than the UK in many areas, such as its property market. As an example, the publication said that people could purchase a two-bedroom flat in Sofia for approximately GBP 22,000. Furthermore, the price of enjoying leisure activities such as eating out was also highlighted. The Metro stated that customers at a restaurant could expect to pay less than GBP 6 for a typical meal, while a litre of beer was said to cost 35p. This contrasts with a recent report from Zagat which found that the UK capital London had the most expensive restaurants in the world. According to the study, an average meal in London costs over GBP 39, more than in cities such as Paris, New York and Tokyo.

Sep 21, 2007

Chernobyl Get's A Dome

Jen: Looks like Yushchenko watched the Simpsons Movie...
The authorities in Ukraine have approved a giant steel cover for the radioactive site of the world's worst nuclear disaster - Chernobyl. (BBC)

Another Reason Not to Go to School in Uzbekistan

Slavery has been around in some form or another for a very long time - and it appears to be making a comeback in Uzbekistan. IWPR reports that in the run-up to the long awaited elections in Uzbekistan the government has cracked down on cotton harvesters, including the compulsory participation of students in gathering the crop.

"A new system is in place where harvesters are organised into groups which have a policeman and someone from the prosecution service attached to them to ensure they do their work. Students and schoolchildren have always been used as free labour for the cotton harvest, but while the police presence is nothing new, the deployment of SNB officers is. A student from Andijan told that policemen were collecting people like him and sending them off to the fields. “They have special people with them who photograph us to ensure no one skips off work. Bogus sick-notes don’t help any more,” said the student."

If ensuring the harvest by any means is Karimov's way of maintaining support for his regime, the coming elections in December will mark nothing more than a continuation of authoriatrianism.

Sep 20, 2007

Nashi to Guarantee "Calm and Order" for Elections

Did you see that? Russia just had a primary for the presidential election. You missed it? Don’t worry, only one person voted.

“MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin said five people stood a real chance of succeeding him and identified three of them as Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, said a U.S. professor who spoke with Putin. Putin, however, did not mention acting First Deputy Prime Ministers Sergei Ivanov or Dmitry Medvedev until he was prodded on the sidelines of a meeting with foreign experts, said the professor, Marshall Goldman of Harvard,” The St. Petersburg Times reports.

Meanwhile, Nashi has begun "electoral patrols" ahead of parliamentary elections. "We are convinced that our professionalism and training will guarantee citizens calm and order on the streets of our cities," Nashi said.

Calm as a morgue.

Perhaps Stalin Never Made the "Transition"

Yeah, I went there. I could have easily went with a myriad of racist Georgian jokes, and I purposely chose to mock Stalin. It's only a matter of time before I am made persona non grata.

NY Time: The discovery of 4 fossil skeletons of early human ancestors in Georgia, the former Soviet republic, has given scientists a revealing glimpse of a species in transition, primitive in its skull and upper body but with more advanced spines and lower limbs for greater mobility. Until now, scientists had found only the skulls of small-brain individuals at the Georgian site of Dmanisi. They said the new evidence apparently showed the anatomical capability of this extinct population for long-distance migrations.

Sep 19, 2007

Turkmenistan’s "Mystery" Illness

This week seems to be developing a sad theme:

"A mysterious illness, featuring flu-like symptoms, is sweeping across two of Turkmenistan’s most populous regions, Ashgabat and Dashoguz. Some health care professionals quietly link the outbreak to cotton cultivation, which requires the heavy use of defoliants, pesticides and other toxic agents.

"Doctors and clinic workers say they have been instructed to diagnose the illness as an upper respiratory ailment. But a health-care official in Ashgabat, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted that the epidemic is not caused by the spread of germs, but is instead an allergic reaction. And many experts are convinced that chemicals used in cotton cultivation are the culprits." (Eurasianet)

Thanks Hill!

Sep 18, 2007

World's Worst Polluted Places 2007

We should all take pride in the fact that our region is well represented. Hotel rates will never be better for that vacation to Sumgayit (pictured).

1) Sumgayit, Azerbaijan
2) Linfen, China
3) Tianying, China
4) Sukinda, India
5) Vapi, India
6) La Oroya, Peru
7) Dzerzhinsk, Russia
8) Norilsk, Russia
9) Chernobyl, Ukraine
10) Kabwe, Zambia

Sep 17, 2007

Mr. Polonium is Running for Parliament

Pretty soon, he'll be the Hon. Andrei Lugovoi. That's right, Mr. Polonium himself wants to be a member of the Duma. Along with his state-subsidized dacha and armord Mercedes (with driver), Lugovoi will conveniently enjoy immunity from prosecution. The LDPR just got classy.

Sep 14, 2007

Andrei Piontkovsky On Trenin's Book

Dmitri Trenin' new book, Getting Russia Right, highlights all the positive news from Russia's regions. Amb. James F. Collins, now at Carnegie, sent out an invite for a Sept. 20 cocktail reception and discussion.

WashPost reports: "One person Collins invited, Andrei Piontkovsky, who writes very cynical, satirical op-eds about Putin and the Federal Security Service...and whose last little book provoked the Russian government to try him for extremism -- e-mailed his regrets. 'Thank you for your kind invitation,' he wrote. 'Unfortunately, the day when insightful and optimistic Mr. Trenin presents his objective analysis, I have another obligation. I'll be in Moscow facing FSB charges of 'extremism.' Please pass Mr. Trenin my fascination with his sense of historical optimism and his intellectual flexibility."

Zubkov, Zubkov Everywhere

Zubkov on running for president: "If I get something done here, in this post of prime minister, I do not exclude that." Um, that's six months from now.

The UK's Daily Telegraph noted, "It seems unfathomable that the new prime minister, due to be approved by Russia's pliant parliament today, could have made such a bold declaration without the approval of Mr Putin and his inner circle." Adding, "As a man of advancing years - Mr Zubkov will be 66 tomorrow, an age that exceeds the average Russian male's life expectancy by a decade - he is seen as a one-term president."

Meanwhile, some Russian youth thought it best to light themselves on fire to share their thoughts on the successor issue...Eternal Remont will stick to the blog.

Sep 13, 2007

So that's what Rumsfeld has been up to...

The Daily Show Coverage of the Stories We Already Covered

Sep 12, 2007

Schroeder’s Got a Book

With the Kremlin showing off their 1950s technology, and Putin re-invigorating everyone's favorite cocktail game on the Russian presidency, one story nearly escaped the unblinking eye of Eternal Remont: Gerhard Schroeder’s memoirs (published in Russia by Gazprom.)

From the looks of it, his final 're-programming' sessions at Nashi summer camp were a bang-up success, or maybe it was all the money he made from the Nord-Stream deal.

Speaking on the future of the EU, Schroeder warned that the Union was about to “fall hostage to the nationalist anti-Russian interests of certain member countries. The EU must reject such narrow-minded nationalist interests in order to avoid damaging the development of its relations with Russia. It sometimes is in Europe’s interest to forget about the interests of some individual countries,” he said.

That means you Poland!

And this certainly is on the up and up...

From Today's Washington Post: Putin Dissolves Russian Government and From Gazeta: Не Фрадков, а Зубков

President Vladimir Putin dissolved Russia's government Wednesday in a major political shakeup ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections, the Kremlin said. The dissolution is expected to result in a new prime minister, who will be seen as Putin's choice to succeed him after he steps down next spring.

Fradkov said he asked for the dissolution of the government because with elections approaching, Putin needed to have a free hand to make decisions, including those concerning appointments.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Dec. 2, followed some three months later by presidential balloting. "You might be right that we must all think about how to structure the government so that it better suits the pre-election period and prepares the country for what will happen after the parliamentary and presidential elections," Putin said.



Hey, That's Not Scary

(Ern bites knuckle) And they've considered the environment in their attempt to destroy America. Hooray. (Ern bites knuckle again)

Yahoo News: The Russian military has successfully tested what it described as the world's most powerful non-nuclear air-delivered bomb, Russia's state television reported Tuesday. It was the latest show of Russia's military muscle amid chilly relations with the US. Channel One television said the new weapon, nicknamed the "dad of all bombs" is four times more powerful than the US "mother of all bombs."

Unlike a nuclear weapon, the bomb doesn't hurt the environment, he added.

The U.S. Massive Ordnance Air Blast, nicknamed the Mother Of All Bombs, is a large-yield satellite-guided, air-delivered bomb described as the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in history.

Sep 11, 2007

How Now Capitalism?

Aslund has a new book out: How Capitalism Was Built.

He opens with a full broadside. "The main struggle of postcommunist transformation stood between radical market reformers, who desired a swift and complete transition, and rent seekers, whose desire was to make money on a prolonged period of market distortions." Oh crap. See, Anders, this is just going to piss people off.

BTW, the book is word for word from his lectures at Georgetown.

Belarus Wants To Go Nuclear

The Russian purchase of Belarus' state energy transporter was supposed to offset the higher cost of gas imports. But all that money seems to have vanished in the last six months, and the country is again on the ropes. The solution: make Belarus a nuclear powerhouse, literally.

The government wants to build a massive nuclear power generator. It just doesn't know how, where, or what to do with it once the thing is operational.

"Belarus lacks qualified builders and planners, particularly people with a specialized education and hands-on experience, as well as licenses from the IAEA."

Licenses? We don't need no stinking licenses.

Sep 10, 2007

Spears is Losing the 2nd Cold War for Us

Владимир Владимирович™: Однажды Владимир Владимирович™ Путин сидел в своем кремлевском кабинете и смотрел по президентскому телевидению выступление американской певицы Бритни Джин Спирс на церемонии вручения наград MTV Video Music Award.
- Ерунда какая-то… - бормотал Владимир Владимирович™, глядя на неловкие движения американской певицы, - Даже песни у нас стали лучше… че ж еще сделать-то?
И Владимир Владимирович™ задумчиво посмотрел на потолок своего президентского кабинета.

The British Are Going to Bulgarian Dentists

It might explain a lot...

The Sofia Weekly: Dental tourism is an increasing trend with more and more Britons, who combine a holiday to Bulgaria's Black Sea coast with a visit to the dentist. Bulgaria, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Croatia and Thailand are cashing in from a growing number of Britons who cannot get treatment on the NHS or cannot afford to pay huge bills for going private, the Finance Market online edition reported.

The medical search engine,, has revealed that 35,000 Britons a year travel overseas for dental work and nearly 60,000 searched online for information on dentists. The company declared that Britons can save up to 70% by travelling overseas for dental treatment - before accommodation and flights are taken into account. Bulgaria is a preferred destination due to the low-cost, high-quality dental care. Prices that local dentists charge are about seven times lower than those in Great Britain.

Sep 7, 2007

Starbucks Makes It to Russia

Democracy held up in customs.

With the hiss of an espresso machine and a note in Russian explaining the meanings of “tall,” “grande” and “venti,” Starbucks opened its first coffee shop in Russia on Thursday in a mall in this city near Moscow. The opening sealed a victory for the company in a fight with a trademark squatter who had kept Starbucks from coming to Russia for more than three years, just as a coffeehouse culture was emerging here. Starbucks refused to pay the squatter to yield the Starbucks name in Russia and eventually prevailed in court.

The menu of basic coffee drinks is the same as in the United States, and indeed everywhere in the world, Ms. Pucik said. The sandwiches and baked goods are adapted for local tastes. The Russian shop, for example, offers a mushroom-and-cheese sandwich.

Sep 5, 2007

Russian Mayor Instills American Work Ethic


YAHOO NEWS: The mayor of a Siberian oil town has ordered his bureaucrats to stop using expressions such as "I don't know" and "I can't." Or look for another job. Alexander Kuzmin, the 33-year-old mayor of Megion, has banned these and 25 other phrases as a way to make his administration more efficient, his spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Sep 4, 2007

I always knew the Green Goblin lived in Moscow...

VOA: A man known as the "French Spiderman" has been detained by authorities after he climbed the outside of a Moscow skyscraper. Police say they detained Alain Robert briefly after he finished a bare-handed climb to the top of Moscow's Federation Tower, which is 242 meters high. Robert will be charged with breaching safety rules in an area under construction.

This is not Robert's first brush with the law. He has climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building in New York, and many other buildings, often without permission.