English language blogs on Russia and the CIS suffered a major setback last week. After almost two years of providing news and commentary on all things Russia, Andy from siberianlight.net has called it quits. This is a loss for us all. There was some indication that this might happen when Andy took a short leave of absence to recharge. It was nice to see him return albeit briefly.
I only recently discovered siberianlight.net a few months ago while searching for blogs to link to this site. To my delight I found Andy’s site. It became an instant source of information and inspiration. For those who don’t know (and I doubt many reading this blog are unfamiliar with siberialight.net), Andy’s site provides probably the most comprehensive collection of links to Russian and English language blogs. Andy says that he will keep the site up for a while. This is good news because even if he won’t be making posts, it will serve as a vital resource.
Though I don’t know Andy personally, I want to thank him for his work. His kind mentions have pointed many readers to my blog. His posts were always opinionated, informative and balanced. To his credit he often commented on the quirky aspects of Russian life and news that seems to escape many blogs on Russia, including this one. Most amazing is that many of his posts were done with brevity, something that I myself can’t seem to master. I only hope that he reconsiders and finds the time and energy to start anew. Siberianlight.net will be sorely missed.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
I’m fascinated by Eduard Limonov and the controversy surrounding him. In
Moscow, I bought his Limonov protiv Putina to get a better idea of his thought on under Putin. Time has not permitted me to read the book. I hope to get to it soon. I also purchased B. G. Yakemenko’s denunciation, Limonov o Limonove i ne tol’ko, of the National Bolshevik leader as a fascist. Yakamenko is one of Nashi’s main ideologues. My own analysis of the National Bolsheviks can be found here. Russia
Anyway, the point of this post isn’t so much about Limonov as it is about pointing to his recent article, “Putin’s Dirty Game in Georgia” published in this week’s The Exile. Here is an excerpt:
For the last month
‘s society is shaken by anti-Georgian epileptic fit. Federal television stations are translating criminal stories of exclusively “Georgian” crimes committed on Russian territory by ethnic Georgians. The Russian political class turned against Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, numerous articles are written, and interviews are given in order to portray Saakashvili as traitor to Russian interests and worst, as an American agent. Russian police is busy hunting Georgians at metro stations, at market places, as well as on the streets and in the trains. Even popular personalities of Russian public life, such as writer Boris Akunin (Tchkhartishvili) or sculptor Tsereteli, or ex-intelligence officer Kikabidze, are under attack: Internal Revenue Service is checking their revenues and paid taxes. Thousands of Georgians are deported. Russia
As nothing of sort can happen in
without permission of Vladimir Putin, President, I should believe that President of Russia at least is agree with persecutions of Georgians. Even more, I believe that all that hysteria is created by President of Russia. I believe that simple personal conflict is hidden behind anti-Georgian campaign in Kingdomof Russia . Russia
Young, stout, big, wine drinker, gourmand and bon-vivant Saakashvili, husband of a pretty foreign wife, is drastically opposite type than ascetic, tiny, puritan, square Putin. That couple is predestined to be the enemies.
Another distinction between Georgian and Russian presidents — Saakashvili is public politician, he started his career as a disciple of Shevardnadze, who he has defeated by personally leading “Rose Revolution.” Exuberant, mocking, scornful, good speaker — Saakashvili feels great at parliament, and public places. He is street politician. While President Putin is at his best when working hidden in his office. He is introvert, he hates to face the crowds. Vladimir Putin is appointed leader, appointed by Yeltsin, Putin is a maitre of hidden intrigue. Putin is bureaucrat. They probably hate guts of each other, those two.
It is known that Putin is revengeful person. Old hand of his administration once told me that sudden hike in price of natural gas to
wasn’t result of premeditated plan, but happened after President Lukashenko committed slip of tongue during televised interview, said few unpleasant words about Putin. Putin was enraged, he murmured, “He didn’t respect, he didn’t respect me…” In order to punish Lukashenko, he gave order to rise price of gas for Belorussia . Nobody told me that President Putin was enraged by Saakashvili, but I believe that my analysis is absolutely right, no matter what other analytics said. Psychological structure of Russian leader is dictating foreign and internal policies of contemporary Belorussia . Russia
As far as whether Limonov is making any creditable sense, I’ll let you decide.Post Views: 45
By Sean — 12 years ago
—This item is from two weeks ago and slipped under my radar. The League of United Youth, or LOM has become reality. The September 27 edition of the Moscow Times reported that the coalition, which includes the youth organization Rodina; the Communist Youth League, Red Youth Vanguard; National Bolshevik Party; and the Yabloko youth group Oborona, or Defense, announced its formation.
—This week the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court nullified its overturning of a lower court’s ban of the National Bolshevik Party, ordering a retrial. NPB spokesman Alexander Averin charged that “the decision was made under pressure from the Kremlin.”
—It sounds like a chill is developing with another of America’s allies on the “war on terror. Mosnews is reporting that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cancelled her stop to Uzbekistan as she visits Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan on October 10 – 13. Mosnews writes:
“The reason of this cancellation was that the United States is concerned over clashes in the Uzbek city of Andijan in May and over the current policy of the Uzbek authorities. [Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, Daniel] Fried said. “We are very concerned over Andijan, not only the very incident but the reaction as well,” he added. Fried said the U.S. administration is worried over other aspects of Uzbek activities, such as “pressure on non-governmental organizations, reduction of exchange programs, the entire atmosphere of fear in the country.”
This still surprises me because it seems that the Uzbek government is doing everything right by U.S. standards. It was reported this week that a Muslim imam, Shavkat Madumarov, died of torture in an Uzbek prison. Madumarov was serving a seven year sentence for ties to Wahhabis. The Uzbek government of course claims that he died of “an HIV infection and anemia.” Um, yeah, right.
—The drama in the Beslan Mothers and Grigorii Grabovoi controversy continues. Lisa Vronskaya provides an interesting analysis of why some of the mothers had gravitated to the cult leader. It seems that the devotion of some of its members is causing a lot of tension within the Mother’s group, causing increased speculation that Grabovoi is really an agent of the Kremlin. I seriously doubt this and just speaks to the tendency to see conspiracy emanating from above to squash the legitimate concerns and complaints from those below.
Vronskaya adds that there is a deep cultural reason why many are willing to accept Grabovoi’s claims:
“Russia has an ancient tradition of belief in the supernatural. Despite the country’s early Christianization, Russians continued to worship pagan gods for centuries. The Soviet regime proclaimed Russia a secular state where all religions were all but outlawed, and ordinary people again turned to mystic and supernatural cults. In the 1990s, ’healers’, albeit widely condemned as charlatans, were allowed to cast their spells on nationwide television.”
It is true that you can open any Russian tabloid and see all sorts of classified ads for a variety of kolduny and koldun’i, znakhari, mystics, soothsayers, palm readers, and “authentic” peasant women who can apply herbs and read chicken bones. Not to mention the popularity of astrological and other supernatural books. And it is also the case that there is a long history of religious sects in Russia. The strangest being the secretive Skoptsy, an odd group that split from the Old Believers and practiced castration as well as other extreme dietary and bodily regulations, about which Professor Laura Engelstein of Yale has written. But to take this particular case to the universal seems a bit much. I maintain that while strange and tragic, it is not hard to see why some of the Beslan Mothers have embraced Grabovoi. He offers them the impossible at a time when they are obviously still in shock.
—The Moscow News is celebrating its 75th Anniversary with an interview with the paper’s former editor, Yakov Lomko. The paper began in 1930, was haulted in 1949 after its editor, Mikhail Borodin was shot, but revived again in 1956. The Moscow News served as only foreign language newspaper published in the Soviet Union. When asked about pressure from the KGB, Lomko has this to say:
“Unlike editors of Russian-language Soviet papers I had a convenient excuse: “The foreign reader will not understand this.” After that they would leave me alone. We had an opportunity to speak about our problems more frankly and openly than Russian-language papers. Neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Central Committee dictated us what to write or censored us. We did not get instructions from the KGB, and had no contacts with them. Everything related to the publishing process was discussed by our editorial board.
The paper never was a “troubadour of ideas of Marxism-Leninism.” In the supplement intended for speeches of party leaders we published Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s story One Day of Ivan Denisovich. All this was “swallowed” by the upper echelons, the main thing was to persuade them. But, of course, to go against the “general line” was impossible. We worked for the interests of our country, trying to get close to common human values, believing this the only way to win the trust of the readers.”
—Probably one of the most important news items of the week is that 13 years ago Russian President Boris Yeltsin sent tanks to break opposition led by Chairman of the Supreme Council Ruslan Khasbulatov and Vice-president Alexander Rutskoi to his dissolving of Parliament and the Russian Constitution. I already pointed out how at the time the NY Times and the Washington Post lauded Yeltsin’s use of the military as progress for Russian “democracy” and “reform.” That being said, I find Nikolay Troitsky’s reflection on the event interesting:
“Early in the morning October 4, 1993 the White House was encircled. What happened next some people still call “execution of the parliament”. It was much talked right after the event, and the talks still continue today, that there was some armed resistance, that “defenders” of the House of the Government allegedly seized too much weapons. There probably were weapons but many witnesses of the events did not see them at all. There was General Makashov (he is now representing the Communist Party in the Parliament) with a Kalashnikov gun and three cartridge belts, but the general never shot.
On the day when the House of the Government was stormed, about one hundred of strange men wearing Cossack caps settled in the windows of the building with double-barreled guns or hunting rifles. The men incurred the inimical fire and spoiled the whole of the interior. At that those who fired the House of the Government did not look better than the “defenders”. Among them there were strong athletic men who jumped out of armored troop-carriers with better weapons and fired the building. Nobody knew where the people came from. It was suggested that they were probably engaged by Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, young Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other bankers who afterwards financed the Yeltsin Family. It is astonishing that 12 years after the events, Mikhail Khodorkovsky himself arrived at the parliamentary republic ideas that pushed Khasbulatov and Co.
The storm of the White House was in fact the mixture of senseless outrage and obvious sloppiness. Majority of people sitting in the building – clerks, cleaners, barkeepers – were rather peaceful and did not want to fight the regime. But none of them was allowed to leave the building. Instead, firing of the building began without warning.”
Troitsky ends hid discussion with this lesson of the 1993 “civil war”: “that it is dangerous in Russia to take armed people out in the streets to fight the regime.”
On that note, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin turned 53 on Friday.Post Views: 178
By Sean — 11 years ago
Exact Russian military casualties in the Chechen War have been hard to pin down. The problem is that the Defense Ministry is known to keep such figures guarded from public scrutiny. According to Mosnews, the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces claims that 3,826 troops were killed, 17,892 were wounded, and 1,906 were missing in action in the first Chechen War, 1994-1996. For the second war, 1999-present, casualty figures are “unclear and often contradictory.” The only official figure given was by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in December of 2002. He reported that total losses of federal forces were 4,572 killed and 15,549 wounded. No official update has since been given.
But even the above figures have been met with scrutiny. The human rights groups Prague Watchdog and the Union Committee of Soldiers Mothers of Russia have both raised skepticism about the reliability of the Kremlin’s figures.
Compounded with the Russian’s lack of transparency in casualty figures, is the fact that more than one Russian and Chechen security forces operate in the region. In addition to the standard military, police, FSB, and Ministry of the Interior (MVD) troops as well as Kadyrov’s squads also engage in what is now called “anti-terrorist activities.”
According to a short article by Vladimir Mukhin in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the chaotic and deadly situation in Chechnya continues. Nothing says this more than the high casualty rate Russian MVD forces are still sustaining in the region. Based on Russian Defense Ministry figures published last week, Mukhin writes,
In July of this year six servicemen were killed in the course of fulfilling their service duties in Chechnya. And it is noted that all of them fell in battle. These were members of the elite spetsnaz (special-purpose forces) group that was fired on at almost point-blank range on the highway near the settlement of Avtury on 4 July. A further 15 soldiers and offices were wounded during that battle. According to ‘s sources in the military department, a subunit of troop unit No. 54607 from near Tambov fell into an ambush. It is not ruled out that the emergency visit by Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov to Chechnya on 11 July was prompted by this tragedy.
Russian Federation Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliyev is also concerned about losses among his subordinates. In Makhachkala the minister drew attention to the fact that about 200 police officers and Internal Troops servicemen have been killed in Dagestan in the past four years. In 2005 alone there were more than 100 attacks, as a result of which 60 personnel were killed and more than 120 wounded. According to Nurgaliyev, since the beginning of this year 22 police officers have been killed and 59 wounded as a result of terrorist acts in Pakistan.
The statistics show that one police officer or serviceman is killed in the North Caucasus nearly every day. Although there are as yet no complete figures on this. Only the Russian Federation Defense Ministry continues to give reports of losses on a monthly basis. In all, since the beginning of 2006 42 Defense Ministry servicemen have been killed in Chechnya, and one is missing. From the beginning of the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya (1999) to the present day, 3,588 Russian Federation Defense Ministry servicemen have been killed in the course of their service duties and 31 have gone missing. The losses in MVD structures are as follows: In 2004-2005 236 people were killed from among representatives of the law-enforcement agencies, and 279 from among servicemen of the Russian Federation MVD Internal Troops. As of today there are no official figures on losses among police officers and Internal Troops servicemen in Chechnya in 2006.
All of this comes with another article written by Mukhin on how the idea of a Russian contract army is failing. Mukhin writes,
It follows from the documents drawn up in the General Staff that at the present time the Armed Forces are suffering from the massive breaking of military-service contracts by soldiers and sergeants. Thus, according to the chief of a group of analytical subunits in the Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate (GOMU) of the General Staff, Col Yevgeniy Shabalin, in 2005 12.9 percent of servicemen who became professionals prematurely stopped military service (that is, they broke their contracts). In the case of the 42nd Motorized-Rifle Division stationed in Chechnya and operating, as is known, under combat conditions, almost every third professional broke his contract early.
The RF Armed Forces expects a similar trend in 2006, although in smaller proportions. This does not even worry Col Shabalin so much as the fact that a significant number of servicemen who signed a first contract do not intend to extend it.
According to the RF Defense Ministry’s Sociological Center, only 15-19 percent of professionals of the RF Armed Forces are ready to sign a second contract. Thus, over the next 2-3 years, the troops may lose the backbone of professionals who signed contracts in 2004-2005 (the document is signed for three years) and now constitute the foundation of the so-called permanent-combat-readiness forces. It is understandable that this will affect the quality parameters of the country’s entire national defense, since the significant shortfall caused by leaving professionals will have to be restored by other people recruited from civilian life and from among other young soldiers. They will have to be trained again, subunits will have to be coordinated, etc. And this, of course, will cost money, since almost half the army will have to be retrained in accordance with the professional programs. According to the information of GOMU chief Col-Gen Vasiliy Smirnov, it is planned to have 40-45 percent contract soldiers in table-of-organization positions in the Armed Forces in 2008. Here the professional sergeant layer is to exceed 50 percent.
Of course, the Defense Ministry is undertaking measures to change the situation: it is working harder with military commissariats and on the quality of contractor recruitment, increasing moral incentives, and intensifying indoctrination work in the troops. However, this is plainly far from enough, since the motivation of professionals for the work, as the polls of military sociologists show, depends primarily on the material incentives determined by the state. Some 29 percent of the professionals surveyed did not want to continue military service because of the absence of conditions for rest and leisure (clubs, sports facilities, etc). In the past the Finance Ministry has significantly cut expenditures for these items, although the government has approved a federal targeted program (FPTs) for changing the troops over to a professional basis. Some 27 percent of the contractors intend to leave the Army because of low pay. This is completely explainable. On average, a professional receives very little even by average-Russian standards — from 7,000 to 9,000 rubles. True, this figure amounts to 15,000 rubles in Chechnya. But even this money is not a sufficient incentive today. Next year the 42nd Division in Chechnya expects a mass exodus of contractors. Some 26 percent of those polled explained their upcoming departure from the army by the failure to solve the housing problem. This is again connected with the federal targeted program: the government skimped on money for small-family construction, and the majority of contractors now live in refurbished barracks.
It appears that the Russian military’s own failures at improving soldiers living conditions and compensation has killed any hope of establishing a professional army in Russia for the foreseeable future.All translations of Russian text are from Johnson’s Russia ListPost Views: 290