Dec 28, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake!

According to Azeri Report (whose tagline happens to be "Because Truth is Freedom") President Aliyev had a birthday on December 24 and to celebrate his birthday, "local executive authorities in Ganja once again descended to new lows in an attempt to earn the approval of the president Ilham Aliyev and his family."

What were these new lows? An enormous cake in the shape of a flower, 48 meters in length to mark the president's 48th birthday, and 11 tons in weight because that's how much a 48 meter long cake weighs. I don't really have a joke ready for this one. I just want to say, that this seems...excessive.

Dec 26, 2009

Sic Semper Tyrannis

And so we end the year of 70s and 20s – the anniversaries which marked the start of World War II and the end of communism.

Yesterday, we were busy opening presents and toasting the death of Nicolae Ceauşescu – broadcast live on Romanian and Bulgarian television, Christmas day, 1989. In commemoration of the very first realityTV show, here’s an amazing interview with the man who shot Ceauşescu.

"I fired 29 cartridges and three rounds. The first one hit Nicolae in the knees."

Dec 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Dec 23, 2009

Stay classy, Moldova

It’s hard to tell which is part of this story is worse. The mob of people who smashed a public menorah in Chisinau, or the subsequent statement by the Russian Orthodox Church:

“We believe that this unpleasant incident could have been avoided if the menorah had been placed near a memorial for victims of the Holocaust.”
Keep your Judaism to the holocaust and nobody gets hurt.

Late to the Party: Serbia in the EU?

The EU party may have ended years ago, but hey, Serbia was busy with stuff. Now, four years later, Belgrade is knocking on the door and ready to get it on.

“For the last ten years our main goal has been to bring Serbia into the European Union. Europe, for us, signifies values and tolerance, peace and mutual respect and commitment to lasting democracy,” said FYR President Boris Tadic.

Wait -- ten years? 1999? What happened to the NATO war?

If Tadic's math is correct, then this would represent the first time a country has ever fought a war with the entire NATO alliance while simultaneously trying to enter the EU and join members, um, of the alliance.

Let’s try nine years, Tadic. Because you can’t round in a situation like this.

Dec 22, 2009

Macho Macho Man

So is it just me or is Putin crazy about proving his manliness these days? According to YahooNews, this week he offered to join the national judo team after showing off his martial arts skills to members of the squad.

After bowing, the former KGB spy went onto the mats, throwing squad members half his age and even tackling the chief trainer, Olympic Gold medallist Ezio Gamba.

First of all, I gotta believe those guys took dives. Like the stories about divers attaching fish to Soviet leaders' hooks on various fishing trips. Second, is this about the "love child", Putin?

Yes, rumored mistress of Putin, Alina Kabaeva, gave birth to a son. What did she name him? She named him Dmitry. Oy. So is Alina not Putin's Baby Mama? And is the boy a Medvedevev? Who knows?

All I know is, Putin, we have the pictures of you shirtless walking through the wilderness, shirtless on horseback, pictures of you hunting, and several you tube clips of you judo fighting. We get it. You're a big manly man. Please stop now. It's starting to look desperate.

Baikal in Winter

Photos by Matthieu Paley, who has quite a tale to tell after snapping the overhead shot.

"They had forgotten me. I started running, then screaming. It was getting dark, and it was about to be 35 below. I freaked out..."

"Impudent, Arrogant Bastards"

Everyone’s favorite bodyguard, turned firefighter, turned professional wrestler, turned Bulgarian prime minister, Boyko Borisov, was on the radio over the weekend. The quote machine was in fine form.

Borisov on youth crimes:
“When ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ came out, everybody was learning how to rob banks.”
Sorry to split hairs here, but Ocean’s Eleven only taught us how to 1) rob a casino; 2) wear a tuxedo properly; and 3) win back the heart of Julia Roberts. A few good tips on robbing a bank would have been useful, however.

Borisov on kidnappers:
“These criminals are impudent, arrogant bastards who cut off people’s fingers.”
Amen, Brother Boyko.

Dec 21, 2009

It's Science: Vodka is Better Than Whisky

Science has spoken: "Drinking whisky will result in a worse hangover than vodka. The reason might lie in the number of molecules called 'congeners,' which it contains compared to vodka."

In related news, Aleksandr Nemtsov, a professor at the Scientific Research Institute of Psychiatry of the Russian Ministry of Health, just held a press conference to claim that the "alcohol marathon" (excessive drinking over the New Year’s holiday) will cost the life of 300,000 Russians this year.

300,000 deaths? Maybe. But who is going to argue with the Irony of Fate?

Ironiya sudby ili s legkim parom - MyVideo

Dec 18, 2009

"Spamovat Facebook se nevyplácí"

As we welcomed (and brutally deleted) our first Russian language spam post in the comment section, a curious question arose: has our beloved "spam" have been granted an "овать" designation in Russian?

Maybe. Yes it has! However, Eternal Remont's crack team of Czech linguist have confirmed that "spam" is most definitely an "ovat" verb in Czech. In fact, the online version of a popular Czech newspaper has devoted an entire article to the topic.

"To Spam Facebook is not worth your time."

A little love for the Czech speakers.

Dec 17, 2009

Headlines You Don't See Every Day

"France Concerned Over Nauru’s Caucasus Policy"

Sometimes, the headline is more interesting than the story.

Do we have the makings of a great new rivalry for the Winter Olympics?

(Thanks Igor!)

The Right to (Pay for) Information

Apparently the international community just took notice of a Tajik government decree that charges privately-owned media for access to public information. The decree was passed in October and put into effect in November.

The media were not consulted about the decree, which was not submitted to parliament and was not the subject of any debate. It concerns “all information in official documents” except state secrets and information involving individual citizens.

The decree violates international standards as well as Tajikistan's own constitution. Nice.

And it turns out, public information is not cheap. Since the decree took effect, privately-owned media have been charged up to 25 somoni (4 euros) for each page of information. I guess the government needs revenue from something. Information is in fact a commodity.

"Helicopter Diplomacy"

Quit complaining, start pushing.

That’s the message from NATO Secretary Rasmussen to the hardest working man in show business, Sergey Lavrov. If the Kremlin is worried about Afghanistan, Rasmussen has given them a grocery list: send helicopters and provide police training.

CNN: "NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is asking Russia to broaden its presence in Afghanistan with more choppers and expanded police training. 'I have proposed that Russia provide a helicopter package...I hope the Russians will consider my proposal positively.'
The good news, is that we’re about to see if any of this "reset" business is working. The bad news is that – wait –, did he just say police training?

Rassmussen, buddy. You really want Russian police officers to "train" their Afghan counterparts?

Is this the best idea of all time?

Dec 16, 2009

Rest Peacefully, Yegor Gaidar

The short, pivotal life of Yegor Gaidar has ended.

NYTimes: "Rising to power in a generation that first strove to reform the Soviet Union from within but instead wound up presiding over its collapse, Mr. Gaidar began his career in a branch of the Soviet planning bureaucracy...His tenure was brief, lasting until February, 1992, two months into the new Russia. But it was long enough to set in motion the economic reforms that dominated the following two decades."
He was 53 years old.

$50 Million

That's what it costs to recognize Abkhazia.

According to the New York Times, yesterday, Nauru, a tiny, destitute Pacific island nation, became the fourth country to establish formal relations with Abkhazia. In return, Nauru has asked Russia for $50 million for “urgent social and economic projects.” Meanwhile the Russian population gets its daily caloric intake from vodka. Money well spent.

Dec 15, 2009

"Hey, Love Crusader"

And yes, it's satire. An oldie but a goodie.

Do Russians Eat Like German POWs?

No, Russians are worse off.

According to analysis by Roman Kupchinsky and Paul Goble: "Russians currently consume [the] same number of calories daily that German POWs did in Soviet Camps in 1941." That's 2,550 calories ("below medical norms") if you are keeping score at home.

The figures are from Rosstat, and are one of the clearest signs yet that Team Putin might know how to execute a call-in show, but it's having trouble feeding the country better than German POWs.

Why are Russians worse off? According to the data, Russians are hitting the 2,550 threshold by substituting alcohol for fresh food. By the government's own analysis, even food in major cities is "of low quality, older than [its] use-by date, or 'simply dangerous' for consumers."

For anyone who has ever gone hungry, this is quite sad. But sadder still that Russians are no longer free to change the government that feeds them like prisoners.

Here's the full article, if you're day is just going too well.

Dec 14, 2009

Wikipedia: When Good Banner Adds Go Bad

File this under: law of unintended consequences; sub-topic: it seemed like a great idea at the staff meeting.

Poland By Air

Polish paraglider Kacper Kowalski has created an amazing collection of aerial photographs, taken over Poland during the winter. Check out the full gallery here.

How to Stop the Poppies

Moscow has repeatedly blamed the United States for failing to stabalize Afghanistan, and therefore, boosting the drug trade in Russia. Here's the new plan to fix Afghanistan:

Click to enlarge.

And So It Begins

Over the weekend, China's Hu Jintao was in Turkmenistan to inaugurate a 1,139-mile long gas pipeline to Uzbekistan. After watching Europe sit on its hands, China is buying Central Asia like it’s the home stretch in Monopoly.

Reuters: “In the windswept settlement of Saman-Tepe, festooned with Chinese and Central Asian flags, officials cheered and hugged after the four presidents symbolically turned the pipeline tap, injecting the first gas with a loud humming noise.”
By 2013, the pipeline will reach its full capacity of 40 bcm a year – one of several projects which have recently established China as Central Asia's biggest non-Russian Export market.

Suddenly, Russian’s properties on the other side of the board (the CIS, CSTO, the CES and EurAsEC) don’t look so hot. Oh, and how's Baltic Avenue working out for you, Europe?

Dec 11, 2009

Did the KGB Dump Hilter in a River?

According to an FSB archivist , the answer is yes.
CNN: "Gen. Vasily Khristoforov told Interfax in an interview published Monday that previously secret documents show that KGB chief Yuri Andropov, with prior consent from the Soviet Communist Party leadership, ordered a top secret operation to destroy the remains of Hitler, his wife Eva Braun, Nazi Germany's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels; and Goebbels' entire family."
Apparently, Andropov didn't want Hitler's secret gave in Magdeburg to become a place of worship if its location was discovered.

Interesting if it's true. Even more intersting if it's not.

Plagiarism or Flattery: Georgia’s “Simpsons”

Meet the Samsonadzes. They are a family of yellow-skinned, bug-eyed Georgians who love disco and walk a fine line between plagiarism and the shameless exploitation of someone else’s brand.

According to EurasiaNet: “Shalva Ramishvili, the show's producer and creator, says that his idea was to create a program that is reminiscent of The Simpsons,” but without getting sued by Fox.

Religious Intolerance, No Longer Extremist

For the first time ever, the Russian Justice Ministry has removed an item from the country's list of banned extremist materials. But wait – this is actually a bad thing:

The formerly extremist material “accuses Russian Hare Krishnas of selling drugs and weapons and being prepared to kill.”
Back in July 2008, Nikolai Nagorny, a United Russia activist with the Young Guard, distributed the pamphlets at a far eastern festival of Indian culture. Very classy, Nikolai. We’re sure your leaflets were quite popular.

However, Russian researchers like Galina Kozhevnikova suspect the item has been removed from the Justice Ministry's list “because of United Russia’s involvement in the case.”
If it’s from the Young Guard, it has to be good.

The Joy of Ukranian Elections


My fellow Ukrainians, here’s the deal
Make me the president of your dreams
And if you want protection from treason
Let me run a dictatorship for a reason

*A "poetic" translation from Ukrainiana.

Dec 10, 2009

When Good ICBMs Go Bad

By all accounts, these pictures are not Photoshoped. Taken this morning in Norway, they show a failed Russian ICBM test and not some super weapon designed to punch a hole in the universe. Thank God.

More photos here.

Dec 9, 2009

Luzhkov Shoots the Messenger

After promising Muscovites a winter without snow, Mother Nature dumped 13.5 billion cubic meters of the stuff onto the city. Mayor Luzhkov’s response: blame the weathermen.

Moscow Times: "Luzhkov, known for his attempts to control both the rain and the snow, lambasted weather forecasters Tuesday for failing to predict this winter’s first big snowfall, which caused traffic jams that even stunned drivers used to Moscow’s notoriously crowded streets. The mayor 'is extremely dissatisfied with the work of the [city] meteorological office, which was unable to make an exact forecast even on a short-term basis,' said spokesman Sergei Tsoi."
Poor Tsoi. He was about to add, "You know, in Stalin's day they'd all be shot," but somehow training and professionalism won out.

Dec 8, 2009

Ships of the Desert

Pictures of the Aral Sea never get old.

LOL Lenin

For the three people on the Internet who did not visit LOL Catz today.
(Photo credit: Nick Douglas)

Red Baron's Death Certificate...Found in Poland?

Just like moving a sofa in the living room, it’s easy to forget that Poland was moved 200 km to the west during the last century. And like a sofa, strange things surface when you move an entire country, like the Red Baron’s death certificate.

"Imperial regulations from 1879 required that" a soldier's death be registered at “their last residence before heading to the front...In 1914 Baron Manfred von Richthofen, then a cavalry officer with the 1st Lancers, was stationed in Ostrow Wielkopolski (now in Poland) and gave it as his last official address before going to serve on the eastern front.”

So that's where I left the Wii controller!

"The Russian Mafia Did Not Bomb My Car"

Everyone relax. Anne Applebaum is fine.

Her car did not blow up. Instead, it just lost power, caught fire and burned to a crisp. The wife of the Polish Foreign Minister (and dare we say, the best-looking Gulag historian since Solzhenitsyn's "tastefully done" cover of GQ) has survived. But no thanks to the Polish fire department:

"Someone called the fire department, which clearly didn't take my car problems very seriously," said Applebaum.
The Polish secret service, meanwhile, were a bit more attentive after Radek made a call. Crisis averted. No foul play detected.

This is all well and good but, Anne honey, blonde -- really? You will always be a brunette in our heats.

Dec 7, 2009

Moldova Isn't Happy

Turns out, you can only please some Moldovans some of the time.
BBC: Moldova's parliament has failed in its latest attempt to choose a president, increasing the likelihood of a third general election in less than a year.
After Moldova arrested a christmas tree last year, nothing seems surprising. However, the country's election process is now dangerously close to becoming a Groundhog Day parody.

Alas, the "Twitter Revolution" is so 2009, but the Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn Revolutions are all still avaliable.

Act now while supplies last!

How Not to Parent

No word if the parents are also teching the child to speak надцать, but it's still wrong on many levels.

Russian Press: US in Civil War "Before End of Winter"

This is classic agit-prop.

"Russian Military Analysts are reporting to Prime Minister Putin that US President Barack Obama has issued orders to his Northern Command’s (USNORTHCOM) top leader, US Air Force General Gene Renuart, to 'begin immediately' increasing his military forces to 1 million troops by January 30, 2010, in what these reports warn is an expected outbreak of civil war within the United States before the end of winter (Link to story and Russia Today interview)."
The pending civil war (or some other biblical cataclysm) even prompted a question to Putin during his call-in show: "Will Russia help the United States after its collapse?" Putin didn’t answer the question.

Now forget for a moment that such stories are intended for domestic Russian consumption. If America really was on the verge of civil war, we're going to rally behind whatever side Oprah supports.

Thou shall not upset Oprah.

(High five, Leopolis.)

Dec 4, 2009

Bulgaria's Andy Kaufman?

Time to meet Rosen Markov. He's head of the Party of Bulgarian Men, maybe the greatest performance artist since Andy Kaufman and a total faiulre at public suicide.

You see, Markov is deeply upset about Turkish-language broadcasts on Bulgarian television. He’s so upset, that Markov publically attempted seppuku in front of the Parliament building yesterday.

That’s right, ritual suicide by disembowelment on account of television. Oddly, Markov somehow managed to miss his stomach -- a miracle given the expance of real estate above his belt -- and police stepped in to stop the insanity before Markov could complete the act.

However, this isn’t his first attempt. Last month, police saved Markov from public self-emollition. That stunt wasn't nearly as cool as an old Rage Against the Machine album might lead you to belive. (Photos here, if you’re interested.) But it did get our attention.

Mission accomplished Markov. But is Turkish-language programming really that bad?

Moscow 1908

Newsreel footage of Moscow in 1908. A world that we'll never touch through the glass.

(Props to TYWKIWDBI!)

Dec 3, 2009

Behold: The Vodka Pill!

That's right kids:

"Russian professor Evgeny Moskalev of Saint Petersburg Technological University has evolved a technique that allows turning alcohol into powder and packing it in pills. The new technique can solidify any kind of alcohol, including whisky, cognac, wine and beer."
Like the nuclear bomb and the snuggie, we can't think of a single downside to this latest gift from science.

What could possibly go wrong with mixing pills and booze?

Putin TV

While Russia's actual President was in Rome on a state visit, the country's next president reprised his ever popular national call-in show. Indeed, Putin's pre-scripted questions were some of the best ever.

Q: "Will you run for president in the next election?"
A: "I will think about it, there is still enough time."
Curiously, the English language translation was far more direct, reading: "Are you the only person in the country who doesn't know this? I have no time for fools. Next question."

Putin was also unconcerned with the apparent gap between his government's "victory in Chechnya" declaration last April, and the worst terrorist attack in years over the weekend. Perversely, the train bombing will probably aid Putin's political ambitions, since the country will now require a return to strong leadership.

Fancy that.

Dec 2, 2009

"Wait, Someone Killed Me in Mafia Wars?"

Thanks Leopolis!

Arresting Santa, the Saga Continues

Before I dive right in, I will never get bored with this story. In in an effort to draw attention to Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code in Belarus, activists turned themselves in as an unauthorized Santa organization that engages in unauthorized Santa activities. God bless these activists, they have created a cartoon to raise more awareness of their cause. Enjoy!

Dec 1, 2009

Meet the Shoe Bath

For the girl who has everthing, how about bathing in an Italian designer shoe?

(Spotted in Moscow by an alert fan of Eternal Remont.)

Russia's GPS Spells Disaster for Santa

Santa is having a really rough month.

First, he was arrested in Belarus for being part of an “unregistered Santa Claus organization [and] participating in unsanctioned Santa Claus activities.” Now, the Kremlin-sponsored operators of the Glonass system (Russia’s attempt at GPS) are shamelessly using him for a PR stunt.

CNN: Late last month Moscow celebrated the birthday of Father Frost, the Russian iteration of Santa Claus, with a new-fangled announcement: Father Frost’s retinue would move through the holiday skies aided by Glonass.
Since Santa will now be using the Glonass navigation system, Russian children can follow his progress to make sure he delivers the right toys to the right boys and girls.

Nice stunt.

Unfortunately, Glonass no longer has enough satellites to cover the Russian Federation – let along the globe – something which the sponsors failed to mention. In fact, the system is so faulty, that if Santa really used the Glonass system he could just as easily get lost on his way from Tashkent and deliver everyone's toys to Kim Jong Il.

Sorry kids. Blame the Kremlin.

Back in 2007, [then] Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov promised Putin on live national television that Glonass would be fully operational by “mid-2008.” Since that time, Glonass has actually lost satellites – despite the infusion of $500 million in Kremlin funds during 2006-2007 and an additional $2.6 billion in 2008-2009.

So during this Christmas season, our hearts go out to Russia’s children. They are the true victims of the Glonass бардак.