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 — 13 years ago
Well, well, well. It looks like Grigory Grabovoi might get his due. The cult leader who has seduced mothers of Beslan and others with promises to resurrect their children, claims to finding a cure for AIDS, immortality, and predictions of the future has been detained for “fraudulently obtaining money from parents of the [Beslan] victims,” reports the St. Petersburg Times. For Russian readers, you can read all about it in Kommersant, complete with photos of his arrest. Prsecutors opened a criminal investigation of Grabovoi after several Beslan residents filed complaints that he swindled them.
According to Moscow prosecutors, police detained Grabovoi during a s?ance at the Komos Hotel in Moscow. He will probably be charged with fraud in the coming days. I hope they send this charlatan up the river.
By Sean — 13 years ago
The votes are counted. The winners declared. Now comes the fun part: the analysis. There isn’t much to say about the Kazakh Presidential election which isn’t already evident. There was no colored revolution. There wasn’t even an attempt at protest. The ballots were certainly stuffed. As “Presedatel’ Mike” pointed out in his post, President Nursultan Nazarbaev is truly loved but this didn’t prevent making sure he received 91 percent of the vote. Hence, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) statement that “Despite some improvements in the administration of this election in the pre-election period, the presidential election did not meet a number of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections.” We all know democracy in the CIS states is a sham, but the question, as posed by RFE/RL reporter Daniel Kimmage, is about the long term viability of “managed democracy.” On this, Kimmage writes,
“Political upheaval in
Georgia, Ukraine, and in 2003-05 highlighted the risk of catastrophic failure that comes with “managed democracy,” in which ruling elites accept elections as necessary for legitimacy but do everything in their power to predetermine the outcome. But what happens when the system avoids catastrophic failure? Does it tend toward gradual reform? Or does it degenerate, ensuring ever more splendid victories for the status quo even as it undermines competitiveness and thus retains the risk of an eventual catastrophic failure?” Kyrgyzstan
All important questions and their outcome remains to be seen. Now as before reforms to the Kazakh system lie in Nazarbaev’s will to push them forward. And despite his assurances that reforms will proceed, there is no telling when they, even if remotely genuine, will eventually contradict the personality cult of Nazarbaev himself has created.
Analysis of the short and long term meaning of the Moscow City Duma elections are also coming in. I first want to comment on today’s LA Times editorial. As I’ve noted before, my home paper does some really good reporting on Russia. However, this quality doesn’t extend to the editorial pages. Today’s edition features yet another broken record plea for the Bush Administration to tackle the problem of Russian “democracy.” The problem with the Times’ editorial is not that it argues that Russian democracy is faltering. The problem is how this analysis implies that there was once a democracy to falter. The title “CPR for Russian Democracy” suggests just that. Considering past LA Times’ editorials on this subject, the implied meaning is that before Putin there was democracy, but since his arrival it needs resuscitation. Can they surely be so na?ve to think that the Yeltsin regime was more democratic to even suggest that Russian democracy is “nascent”? By that definition, democracy should be seen as flourishing in say Venezuela, but you won’t find such statements in the Times. So where does this nascent before and authoritarian after come from? From what I can gather from this and past editorials, it comes from the fact that during Yeltsin’s presidency Russia was acting in the interests of the United States and now it has the gall to act in its own interest! After all why would Bush need to put pressure on Putin to change “authoritarian” ways when Bush surely has no problem when his allies in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are doing far worse? Yes they are right. The US government should stop referring to Russia as a democracy. Then we can finally stop beating that dead horse and see Russia for what it is and not what we want it to be.
If you want some good analysis of the Moscow elections, I suggest turning to today’s Moscow Times. Two articles stand out. The first is an analysis of what parties received Rodina’s votes. The conclusion is that Rodina’s ban from participating only benefited the Communists, whose nationalistic platform is almost indistinguishable. But this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Rodina was created by the Kremlin to siphon nationalist votes from the KPRF so it is only logical that with Rodina dropped from the ticket sympathetic voters would swing back. The question is then, if Rodina’s ban came from “above” as many suspect, what did United Russia have to gain from it? If anything it would have been better if Rodina stayed on the ticket. Instead, the KPRF, which is United Russia’s most serious political rival, surged to capture 17 percent of the vote and gain four seats.
The second article, an editorial by Nikolai Petrov, looks at the factors that gave the elections their importance, of which he names four: 1) the first election after the passage of electoral reform, 2) a test where the political parties stand, 3) a preview for the 2008 mayoral elections, and 4) establishing new campaigning models for the 2007 parliamentary elections.
The first was mired by what Petrov and others call “dirty tricks”—voter fraud on various levels, multiple voting, stuffing ballot boxes. This according to Petrov made the post-reform electoral system “far worse.” For the second, Yuri Lukhkov’s and United Russia’s political dominance was confirmed, especially for the former, who will undoubtedly be able to hand pick his successor and well be consulted in choosing a suitable presidential heir.
Perhaps what benefits United Russia in the polls is not the corruption, but the fact that it stands for nothing. Its power is based on the popularity of both Lukhkov and Putin, Russia’s perceived prosperity, and stabilization. As Petrov notes, United Russia, unlike its foes, has no ideology. And for an electorate that grew up in a society where ideology was everything, this might be its most appealing factor.
The ruling party’s anti-ideological or perhaps better, apolitical strategy won’t bode well for Russia’s future. There are serious issues that need addressing in Moscow in particular and Russia in general, and like Kazakhstan much of their mending lies on the backs of a few political personalities. And given the path that Russian politics is taking—between the fanaticism of the far right and left, to the ideology-light of the center—there is little hope that these will be addressed in the near future.
By Sean — 12 years ago
Here is a sad statistic. As reported in Kommersant,
According to INSI [International News Safety Institute] ,
Iraqleads with 138 murders and unexplained deaths of reporters occurred from 1996 to 2006, 88 reporters perished in Russiaand 72 in over the period. The global news media toll exceeded 1,000. Columbia
The alarming trend is the rising number of news media deaths. The death toll was 103 in 2001, but it widened to 117 in 2004 and to 167 in 2006.
, the problem of reporters’ safety is really grave, said INSI Director Rodney Pinder. Another incident of this kind happened in Russia one of these days, Pinder said, reminding about the unexplained death of Kommersant journalist Ivan Safronov. The INSI director also mentioned the recent murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Moscow
is not the only country that has a deplorable record when it comes to journalists. The survey, “Killing the Messenger,” demonstrates the global disregard for journalists. Some of its overall finding are Russia
- One thousand news media personnel have died trying to cover the news around the world in the past 10 years*.
- Only one in four died in war and other armed conflicts.
- The great majority died in peacetime, covering the news in their own countries.
- Most of those killed were murdered because of their jobs; eliminated by hostile authorities or criminals.
- Nine out of 10 murderers in the past decade have never been prosecuted.
- The news media death toll has increased steadily since 2000. The last full year covered by the report, 2005, was a record with 147 dead. It has since emerged that 2006 was even worse, with 167 fatalities, according to INSI’s annual tally.
- The Top 21 bloodiest countries over the past 10 years have been Iraq (138), Russia (88), Colombia (72), Philippines (55), Iran ** (54), India (45), Algeria (32), the former republic of Yugoslavia (32), Mexico (31), Pakistan (29), Brazil (27), USA (21), Bangladesh (19), Ukraine (17), Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone & Sri Lanka (16), Afghanistan, Indonesia & Thailand (13)
- Shooting was by far the greatest cause of death, accounting for almost half the total. Bombing, stabbing, beating, torture, strangulation and decapitation were also used to silence reporting. Some men and women disappeared, their fate unknown.
- In war, it was much safer to be embedded with an army than not – independent news reporters, so-called unilaterals, accounted for 92 per cent of the dead.
- Overall, armed forces – regular or irregular – police and officials accounted for 22 per cent of killings.
- The death toll was evenly split between press and broadcast. But news agencies, which are fewer in number, were relatively badly hit with six per cent of the total.
- Most of those who died were on staff — 91 per cent against 9 per cent freelance — and one-third fell near their home, office or hotel.
*INSI’s researchers counted all news media personnel — journalists as well as support workers such as drivers, translators and office personnel, whether staff or freelance — provided they died because of their work gathering or distributing the news. All causes of death were included, from murder through accidents to health-related.
‘s figures were swollen by one air accident in December, 2005. A military aircraft carrying news teams to cover exercises in the Gulf crashed in Iran , killing 48 journalists and media technicians aboard. Tehran