Dec 21, 2007

A Hero of Our Time?

Remember this name: Arkady Babchenko, as we haven't seen anything like him since Lermontov. A bold statement, yes. But not since Hero of Our Time has there been such a gripping, haunting tale of a first-person Russian war in the Caucusses -- one told with the devastating honesty of Babchenko's pen.

No soapboxing. No agenda. Just the "confused, fear-ridden, despairing world of a young private and his buddies where the only goal is survival."

After the war, Babchenko drove a gypsy cab around Moscow, one of what he calls the "embittered, aggressive beasts hardened against the whole world and believing in nothing except death."

New Europe Plows Across the Border...sans passport

They were drinking like it was 1989 in Poland last the Schengen Treaty restrictions were lifted for most of Eastern Europe. Late to the party, Bulgaria and Romania are still shivering in the cold...for now.

What's Happening to Putin's Face?

Running an empire can't leave you much time for a rejuvenating dermal scrub. Either way, Medvedev may be the man of the hour, but Time Magazine has tapped Vlad as the Person of the Year. Go get em' tiger.


Pop the Champaign, the "Spam Block" is lifted.

Following several agonizing days of radio silence, Eternal Remont has returned!

Officially, we were flagged by unnamed sources as being a "spam blog." This kicked in a protocol which blocked all access to the site -- effectively shutting us down. But as Ern pointed out, it could have been least they didn't try dioxin poisoning.

The reason for the block? Too much "irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text." I'm not kidding. This actually quite funny, as there are some in the field who would agree with the accusation. But that's a different issue.

Rather than forcing us on a hunger strike during Christmas, calmer heads prevailed and has since removed its draconian censorship.

Lucky we didn't miss anything important.

Dec 13, 2007

Andrew C. Kuchins Considers the "Future," All Hell Breaks Loose

Igor writes on the blow up to Andrew C. Kuchins new report regarding "Alternative Futures for Russia to 2017."

First we start with today's Kommersant:

"Kuchins has an entirely different vision. He predicted that Putin will be assassinated at the exit of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior after midnight mass on January 7, 2008 (Russian Orthodox Christmas). The killer will not be caught and Russia will be thrown into immediate chaos. The stock market will collapse, mass strikes and demonstration will begin and, on January 20, a state of emergency will be declared. The murder of Putin will prevent a peaceful transfer of presidential power to Sergey Naryshkin, with Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister, and the enforcement bloc in the Kremlin will gain power, that is, Igor Sechin, Sergey Ivanov and Nikolay Patrushev."

It gets even better:

"As it continues, Kuchin's scenario starts to sound more and more like a suspense novel. After the imposition of the state of emergency, he posits, Vladimir Yakunin, now head of Russian Railways, becomes president and orders the shooting of striking oil worker in Surgut. St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov are sentenced to death for the embezzlement of billions of dollars. Nationalism will rise significantly along the way. But, after a series political and economic shakeups, there will be a happy ending in 2016, when Boris Nemtsov will become president with the help and funding of the again free Mikhail Khodorkovsky."

WOW. Apparently, all of this nonsense is in the new CSIS report called "Alternative Futures for Russia."

That's one hell of a future.

Obviously, as Lenta has already pointed out , this is clearly a fictional scenario (though one bordering on delusion, but this is Russia after all, so Kuchins just let loose his fevered mind).

Kommersant obviously prints this in all its anti-imperialist glory, of course. But a note to their editors: pssst, the American government does this all the time. Our beloved National Intelligence Council, in their Global Trends 2020 report, for instance, printed a letter from
Bin Laden's grandson to one of his relatives: "Oh, what confusion did we sow with the Crusaders. An almost forgotten word reentered the Western lexicon and histories of early Caliphs suddenly rose to be bestsellers on"

No, really, our tax dollars paid for that. Kommersant really missed out. Then again, Dmitry Sidorov never ceases to amaze me.

If you look at his smart, witty, and sharply critical essays in Ezhednevny Zhurnal, one is bound to be impressed that a Russian journalist (albeit, based in DC) can write so openly and freely. But then, when it comes to his own publication, the man becomes a walking National Inquirer.

Last year, the man did a James Bond on a Carnegie event with Voloshin (strangely enough, Kuchins was Carnegie's director of Russia program then) and outed Fiona Hill as a CIA agent (she was actually at the above-mentioned National Intelligence Council, perhaps penning that letter from Bin Laden's offspring).

"The Kommersant correspondent was able to see through the window of the first-floor hall that there were about 20 people present, including the former ambassadors to Russia and Ukraine Jim Collins and Steven Pifer. Fiona Hill, who was recently named CIA national intelligence officer for Russia, was also at that meeting."

I'm shocked he didn't notice Santa Claus in the corner, plotting Russia's downfall.

We did some checking. Our inside girl at CSIS swears that Kommersant is blowing this out of perspective. Here's the abstract.

Dec 12, 2007

Secret Option 3

AP: - "A man nearly died from alcohol poisoning after quaffing a liter (two pints) of vodka at an airport security check instead of handing it over to comply with new carry-on rules," Berlin police said.

It seems that airport security informed the man he'd either have to surrender the bottle or pay a check-in fee. The man opted for Secret Option 3. "He chugged the bottle down — and was quickly unable to stand or otherwise function," police said.

No word on where he was headed. But we suspect it was most definitely somewhere in E. Europe.

Getting to Know the "Candidate" Medvedev

Propaganda, anyone?

From JRL: "First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who has every chance of becoming Russia's next president - is a man of honor, a skilled professional and a modern type of person...Medvedev is a very up-to-date personality. He is keen for everything new - technologies, the Internet, high-tech things...The would-be president is fluent in English and is well familiar with youth slang that floods the world web...On the wall at the entrance to the antechamber of Medvedev' s office there is a portrait of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II. If one is to believe the daily Vedomosti, the best way of making Medvedev feel good is to say that he resembles the last Russian monarch."

"...His hobbies and favorite things comprise music - Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, books by Mikhail Bulgakov's that were banned under Joseph Stalin, and football club Zenit from his native St. Petersburg. In sports, its jogging and chess. Medvedev also swims 1,500 meters twice a day."

Dec 11, 2007


Looks like big news comes in buckets.

"Mr. Medvedev went before the nation today and declared that he in turn would name Mr. Putin as his prime minister."

This comes just as the world was digesting the Medvedev story. Prime Minister Putin also means that Eternal Remont will now collect on bets from all the unbelievers.

Anyway, here's yesterday's smart money on Medvedev, all of which looks slightly stale:

FT: "A silovik as president could be a threat to other siloviki. With a non-silovik in office, everyone sleeps easier in their beds."

NYTimes: "While Mr. Medvedev is clearly a Putin loyalist, Russia has never had leaders who have wielded decisive authority from the background."

State: ''I don't think we should blow this out of proportion. We have focused our policy on the policies of Russian reform and the policies of the Russian Government, not the personalities.''

Dec 10, 2007

Man of the Hour

Say it slowly: President Medvedev. Russia's man of the hour.
We still haven't decided if it's an honor to win a promotion because you are the least competitive candidate, and therefore less likely to challenge Putin. "I have known him very closely for more than 17 years and I completely and fully support this proposal," said Putin.
We bet you do.

Dec 6, 2007

Russia, meet YouTube...

Who needs the OSCE when everyone's got a video phone and a YouTube account.

Now, Eternal Remont has never served as an election monitor, but we're pretty sure you're not supposed to pull extra ballots out from you backpack and run them through the scanner, like this. Even the army is doing it's part of overfulfill the election plan, like this.

Dec 5, 2007

GazProfit? Not so much...

Gazprom's profits fell 25% in the Spring of 2007. This comes after the company pumped up prices to downstream customers in E. Europe.

Higher operating costs are the official reason for the $1 billion slide. We suspect Western-trained sabatours could also be to blame. They seem to be the reason for all of Russia's other ills these days.

Dec 4, 2007

God Bless You Bulgaria

It's been a while since we've had a Bulgaira story. Not too worry, the Irish have saved us.

"An Irishman broke into a furniture shop in Bulgaria's resort of Bansko on Sunday night just to have a nap on a sofa inside, Interior Ministry officials reported. The foreigner, who was quite drunk at the time of the accident, confessed he thought the shop was his room."

Our world is right again.

Could Not Resist

Thanks ellustrator!

A Pliable Successor?

Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- "With Russian opposition politicians planning long-shot presidential campaigns, Vladimir Putin is searching for a pliable successor..."