Sean’s Russia Blog received its 10,000th hit this morning at 4:53:02 am PST. I placed Site Meter at the bottom on the page about a year ago. The hits are calculated from web searches and people who come to the site. From the site stats I estimate that 1/3 of those hits were from people who actually visited the site. The 10,000th reader’s IP address came from
Once again, thanks to all.
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Arkady Ostrovsky’s article “A Difference in Class” in Sunday’s Financial Times proves to be an interesting read. Ostrovsky, who left from the Soviet Union as a youth only to return years later as FT’s
Moscowcorrespondent, ventures out to discover what has and hasn’t changed in his native . Sixteen years of capitalism has made Moscow look like another planet. All the shops and homely d?cor that stir in Ostrovsky’s memory are long gone. “The bakery with its smell of freshly baked buns for 3 kopecks” he writes “is now an Asian fusion restaurant, charging 50 cents for a slice of bread. The cafeteria on the ground floor of a Stalinist building where my mother took me after my music classes to drink sweet, milky coffee has undergone several transformations, often accompanied by mafia shoot-outs. The ice-cream parlour is now a beauty parlour and the restaurant we used to visit as a family has been bricked up.” Determined to find some semblance of his past, Ostrovsky set out to check up on his former secondary school. But still, that even proved to produce a sense of time displacement. “I was stepping into my past – but I was also walking into Moscow ‘s future.” Russia
“A Difference in Class” is not some lament of a
Soviet Unionlong gone. Nor is it some kind of Marxist nostalgia cum class analysis. For Ostrovsky, Marx’s (and Lenin’s) specter is as absent as the Soviet regalia that once adorned the school. No, Moscow Grammar School1543 in the South West (formerly known as Ordinary Secondary School No 43 named after Yuri Gagarin) is now a public school for ’s elite. Middle class Muscovites clamor pay 500 rubles a month (the rest is paid by the state) for their children, who are selectively picked out at age 11, to attend. Moscow
Instead of the communist ideology Ostrovsky learned as a member of both the Pioneers and the Komsomol, capitalist ideology seeks to shape students like Andrei Martinyuk and Artem Streletsky into the archetypes of the New Capitalist Man. These lads are cosmopolitan, liberal, individualistic, well traveled, and armed with the dyad of middle class entrepreneurialism and the intricacies of global pop culture. Concepts like “business,” “banking,” “economics,” and “real estate” roll off their lips as easy as “socialism,” “internationalism,” “class,” and “dialectical materialism” probably once did off of Ostrovsky’s. So much so that the school’s director, Yuri Zavelsky estimates that “that some 20-30 per cent of the school’s alumni end up living abroad,” presumably to take advantage of the opportunities in the West. Yet Andrei and Artem want to stay despite the fact that they worry that one day Putin’s behemoth of a state might interfere in their prosperity. Still like the sons and daughters of the Soviet elite, there is a consciousness that in many ways they are the state. “I like this country because I was born here and if we don’t pull this country up who will? We, the graduates of this school, are the elite,” Andrei tells Ostrovsky.
1543 in the South West may look and feel different, but perhaps one should a bit hesitant to allow the content to sublimate the form. Moscow Grammar School
The Committee to Protect Journalists have released their annual report Attacks on the Press, which documents the killing and imprisonment around the world. The study, of course, includes a section on Europe and Central Asia. The report reads:
Ukraineto , 46 journalists have been murdered in the former Soviet states over the past 15 years, with 90 percent of the cases unsolved, according to CPJ research. The message from the authorities has been clear: When it comes to journalists, you can get away with murder. This has had the intended chilling effect on media coverage of sensitive issues of corruption, organized crime, human rights violations, and abuse of power in countries such as Turkmenistan Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and , CPJ research shows. Turkmenistan
Shielded by institutional secrecy, authorities make little effort to track down the killers. CPJ has documented case after case in Europe and
Central Asiawhere investigators ignore journalism as a motive. Instead, they classify the killings as common crimes and label professional assassins “hooligans.” Prosecutors open and suspend investigations, rarely informing victims’ relatives and colleagues, who have to scramble for information or do their own forensic investigation. Detectives sometimes fail to study the dead journalist’s notebooks, computers, and tape recorders. They fail to interview all witnesses, then ignore the testimony of those they do interview. Investigations are closed “for lack of suspects” despite glaring evidence to the contrary.
Among those nations listed above,
is characterized as “the worst record of impunity among countries in the region” and “the third deadliest country for journalists worldwide.” “Only Russia Iraq, and when it was riven by civil war, outrank it,” the report reads. The highest profile killing of a journalist in Algeria in 2006 was, of course, Novaya gazeta investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya. Russia
The condemnation of
didn’t stop at official figures. In the report’s introduction, written by CPJ executive director Joel Simon, Putin was lumped with Hugo Chavez (the Latin American section is almost solely dedicated to him) as representatives of “a generation of sophisticated, elected leaders who have created a legal framework to control, intimidate, and censor the news media.” Simon even posits a new term for the Putins and Chavezs of the world: democratators. Russia
The rise of “democratators”—popularly elected autocrats—is alarming because it represents a new model for government control of the press. These leaders stand for election and express rhetorical support for democratic institutions while using measures such as punitive tax audits, manipulation of government advertising, and sweeping content restrictions to control the news media. The democratators tolerate the fa?ade of democracy—a free press, opposition political parties, an independent judiciary—while gutting it from within.
OpenDemocracy.net has its “Bad Democracy of the Year Award” available on its site for readers to weight in on who is the biggest abuser of democracy. See Tom Burgis’ introduction on the purpose of the award. The candidates include:
George W Bush
Lee Hsien Loong
The Israeli Defence Forces
The results so far, put the United States’ George W. Bush at the lead with 32%, followed by his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin with 19%.
Go to the site and cast your vote!