A quick note because I’ve been waiting for about 10 min. for a 1.41 MB file to download. The internet in Russia SUCKS!!!!!!!!! I’m currently at 38.6 kbps. That’s right, 38.6. With my DSL connection in LA, this file would have been finished 9 min. and 50 seconds ago. I don’t know how I’m going to survive. So please anyone reading this, do not send me any large files, attachments, ANYTHING that is larger than a regular email message. Russia is the poster child for capitalist uneven development . . . Finally, my file is finished.
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By Sean — 9 years ago
Hypochondriacs beware! Swine flu has officially landed in Moscow. According to Novyi region, two women have been hospitalized in the capital. “Both women are citizens of Russia. One of them arrived in Russia from New York yesterday, the second today. They had fevers and were admitted to the hospital by our insistence,” Gennadii Onishchenko told Interfax. Interestingly, in Russia doctors call the virus, which has damned the good name of the pig the world over, “California 0409.” That should make pigs feel better, but what of the sensitivities of us Californians?
Swine flu’s arrival makes Russia the fifteenth country to be infected. The global hysteria sparked by the pandemic has led to altering flights, calls for a mass slaughter of pigs, the quarantining of hotels at the first site of a Mexican tourist, and a whole host of other theories. In Israel, the deputy health minister Rabbi Yakov Litzman won’t even say the word “pigs.” He officially calls the disease “Mexican flu.”
Of course, Mexico, where about 12 people have died and over 300 cases have been identified, has turned into a real life version of Outbreak. Mexico as epicenter has of course inspired our American xenophobes into a fury of anti-immigrant hate. Fox News has predictably led the anti-immigrant charge with accusations that illness is part of some kind of viral conspiracy against America. It is only a matter of time they follow the Israelis in adopting “Mexican flu.”
Experts are still at a loss as to what to expect from the pandemic. It could simply fizzle out or up its body count. If all this really does worry you, I advise reading Anatoly’s breakdown of the disease at Sublime Oblivion.Post Views: 177
By Sean — 12 years ago
The Ukraine’s Orange “Revolution” continues to hover over Russian politics. In a speech given at Stanford University, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern about the growing number of Western NGOs in Russia. Given the influx of Soros money and the other financial backing of Ukrainian groups, especially the youth organization Pora, the Putin government has much to be concerned. For a while now, Administration officials have accused Western governments of funding Russian opposition forces. His comments, however, particularly targeted American NGO interference in Russia politics. As Lavrov told his Stanford audience:
“We appreciate that the USA has legitimate interests in the post-Soviet space, both in the field of combating terrorism and in accessing energy resources. These are entirely legitimate interests, which we do acknowledge, but we would want the methods by which they are realized to be understandable and transparent.”
“The number of non-governmental organizations in Russia is going up. The only thing we will not tolerate is for these organizations to be used to finance political activities, particularly from abroad. This would distort the national political process, thereby undermining the country’s development in the future.”
I can’t help relish the fact that Lavrov said this at Stanford, the traditional center of rabid anti-communism and to some extent, anti-Russianism. I also like Lavrov’s swipe at Stanford alumnus and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “I suggest she read extracts from Russian publications with criticism of the Russian Federation authorities.” This isn’t Lavrov simply posturing. If you read Russian, and Condi does, you will find a lot of criticism of the Putin Administration in Russian print media. Far more that you’ll find of the Bush Administration in the United States. You won’t, however, find that same criticism on Russian television. Most of the major networks are either under the control of or are voluntarily sympathetic to Putin.
In other news, Putin will answer callers’ questions on a live television broadcast next Tuesday. He has conducted these live question and answers shows since 2001. He used his December 2003 live show to announce his running for a second term. There is also speculation he will address whether he will seek a third term as Russian President. Such a move would require changes to the Russian constitution.
The London Guardian has a story of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Dagestan. The article is just another example of the rapidity the Chechen War is spilling over into neighboring provinces. Many have been pointing out that the increased bombings in Dagestan and the rise of militancy threatens to engulf the region.
The show trial of the Andijan15 is underway in Uzbekistan. The fifteen are accused of attempting to overthrow the Uzbek government in May 2005. The Uzbek government blames the uprising on Muslim extremists. According to independent investigations, Uzbek security forces massacred up to 700 people. The government claims only 187 people died in the uprising. Since May, Uzbekistan has prevented the return of Andijan refugees who are in UNrefugee campsin Romania and arrested and tortured scores of alleged “conspirators,” according to a recently released report by Human Rights Watch.
In an what I think is an unprecedented story, Boris Kostruba, a Russian metro officer has been sentenced to 9 years in prison for shooting a 20-year-old migrant worker from Tajikistan, Rustam Baibekov, as he tried to enter the Moscow Metro without paying. According to Mosnews, “Kostruba detained Baibekov, found he had no Moscow registration, started demanding money from him and after a refusal shot him in the mouth.” All I can say is: What the fuck!? Moscow Metro militsia are known as rather violent and corrupt bunch. The list of their activities include: bribery, hassling and beating non-Russians and tourists, and even raping young women as they travel home late at night. Usually nothing ever happens to them. So the surprise for this story is not the fact that Kostruba shot Baibekov in the mouth for skipping the metro fare. It’s that he was actually sent to prison for doing it.Post Views: 525
By Sean — 13 years ago
It is impossible to spend any length of time in Russia and not have something totally fucked up happen to you. The place is just too damn unpredictable. It lacks that well-ordered atmosphere that you immediately sense after stepping off a plane in Western Europe. No, Russia is wholly something else. If you’re not constantly jumping through the obstacle course of both official and unofficial bureaucratic hoops, you are constantly confronted by what you can only conclude as stupidity. And if that doesn’t get you, then the dilapidated state of buildings and the complete lack of safety will get you. I, and several friends, experienced the latter this Friday.
When there is a fire in Russia it is likely that people die. For example, on my first day in Riazan there was a fire down the street from where I was staying. An old woman and two children burned to death. While staying in my apartment near Profsoiuznaya metro in Moscow, I often wondered how the apartment buildings were evacuated if there was a fire. I was living on the first floor, which meant all my windows are barred with no means of opening them in an emergency. I couldn’t even climb out the windows. I was fucked if there was a fire in my apartment.
I was in a fire this Friday and I wasn’t fucked. Thankfully, everyone got out safely and no one was hurt. Given what I’ve stated above, luck was on our side.
This is what happened. . .
Since January, several of us foreign researchers have been meeting every Friday at a place called Kafe Bilingua for drinks. Bilingua is one of these interesting places in Moscow. It’s part bookstore/coffee shop, part bar, part restaurant, and part club. It’s a nice place to get something to eat and hang out and drink. Our group had a reserved table every week and our own waitress, Vika. Sometimes over 20 people showed up. Last week the bill was over 11,000 rubles ($350). They make a lot of money off of us and we make sure Vika is well taken care of.
So there we were, as usual, at Bilingua on Friday night. Everything was normal except that the crowd was less than usual. Around [11:30], Maya noticed smoke outside. At the same time, Vika went to open one of the windows behind our table. Of course at first we didn’t pay much mind to either the smoke or the opening the window. Next we heard fire extinguishers going off in the kitchen. Maya was surprised that they had fire extinguishers. I think most of us figured it was a grease fire. Even after the extinguishers, Maya smelled something burning. About two minutes later, the room where we sit filled with smoke. We grabbed out shit, scooped up the money, and got the fuck out.
The exit was quite calm. This was probably because we were never really told to leave. As Arch said after, “The funny thing about all this is that they never told us that there was a fire and that we should leave.” Instead, we were told to go into the dance part of the club. As we were leaving most of the people in the place were dancing. At the staircase Vika was waiting with the bill. I grabbed it and told her I would settle it outside. At that point, I didn’t know how bad the fire was and figured we’d be back next week. I didn’t want to screw over Bilingua, and I certainly didn’t want to screw over Vika. The bill was 6500 rubles and I wanted to make sure that at least Vika got her tip.
Maya and I counted all the money and figured out the tip. Collected a bit more from some people to cover the tip. The fire trucks arrived. Some people began clapping. I don’t understand this clapping phenomenon. I’ve also seen this on planes where the passengers clap when the plane lands. Isn’t safely landing a plane or, for firefighters, arriving to put out a fire their FUCKING JOB!? Clapping is like you’re surprised the plane didn’t crash or that the firefighters came at all. Maybe I’m the crazy one for taking such things for granted.
Everybody that was in Bilingua, including all of us–Maya, Matthias, Arch, Darin, Eric, Venera, Gayle, Jean-Francois, and me stood and watched the fire. Darin noted the appropriateness of “the roof, roof, the roof is on fire. We don’t need no water. Let the motherfucker burn. Burn motherfucker, burn” but attributed the song to the Bloodhound Gang. Their version was inspired by the Dynamic Three’s 80s dance hit. But in this postmodern world origins seem to only matter when intellectual property rights are concerned. I’m sure the Dynamic Three was adequately compensated. Wherever they are. But I digress . . .
It doesn’t take much to capture the attention of drunk people. We all stood there–Look at the pretty lights. Ooooh fire. Pretty fire.–watching the fire. I’m surprised I didn’t hear anyone make a Beavis impression. I began wondering the crowd looking for Vika to give her the money. At this point I didn’t care if she pocketed the 7500 rubles. She was now officially unemployed. At least for the foreseeable future. Jean-Francois joined me and as we wondered toward the back of the building, we noticed that the fire had spread. The roof of the stage area was ablaze.
We doubled back and noticed Vika standing down the street. I handed her the money. As you can imagine, she was worried about her job, but then sweetly said “Uvidimsia.” I hope so but I wouldn’t count on it.
Oh yeah, Arch never did get the veal he ordered. The theory is that the fire was all his fault.
I went by Bilingua yesterday to check out the damage. The whole staff was standing outside. It looked as if they had a meeting to figure out what would happen next. They were all no defacto unemployed. I saw Vika and began asking her how bad it was. The fire only damaged the roof and the kitchen. The place also has a lot of water damage. The owners planned to rebuild it. She said it would take around 2 months. Knowing how fast things go here, I say six. Luckily for her and her coworkers, another location was opening up in a month or so. So they won’t be unemployed for that long.
Like I said no one was hurt. The whole situation never even reached a panic. The big problem we have now is that we don’t have a place to meet. Everyone is shocked and bummed. An alternative will turn up. We already have some leads . . .
Matthias took a film of our “evactuation.” You can watch it here.
(Photo credit: Photo #1 J. Arch Getty)Post Views: 193