The Kremlin has finally posted a full English translation of Putin’s February 1 press conference. It has also provided audio and video. The video also contains simultaneous English translation. I hope to have some commentary on it sometime this week. In the meantime, I would like to get people’s impressions in the comments section.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
Nalchik has rightly dominated the news this week. But a lot of other newsworthy events have occurred. Here is the brief weekly rundown of some of things that I found interesting.
, a Peruvian student was a killed and two other foreign students were injured in an attack by skinheads. In response, 200 Voronezh students rallied this week to denounce racism and xenophobia. This is just coming over Interfax: on Friday, a group of skinheads recently attacked a group of Muslim prayer house in Sergiyev Posad in Voronezh and brutally beat up leader of the local Muslim organization Arsan Sadriyev. Moscow
—It seems that the
U.S.government is trying to save face after being thrown out of . As I reported last week, Condi Rice dropped Uzbekistan from her Central Asian trip. Now she says that the Uzbekistan U.S.doesn’t need those bases anyway and bases in Afghanistanand can pick up the slack. She also vowed to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that the Kyrgyzstan U.S.won’t seek to build more bases in Central Asia. This all may be true, but the fact of the matter is that may not need a military base, but it won’t refuse one either. Now it seems that the new Kyrgyz government is questioning the necessity of a U.S. base in its country. U.S.
—Corporate criminal Mikhail Khordokovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were sent to prison this week to serve their eight year sentences for fraud and tax evasion. The past few weeks have further revealed the State’s heavy handedness when dealing with them. Khodokovsky’s appeal was thrown out. His lawyer’s offices were raided by the
police. There is speculation that more charges will be filed against him. There are charges that prison guards mistreated Lebedev. Interfax is reporting that a source from Khodokovsky family says that he will be sent to Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region and Lebedev will be in Chita Oblast. Russian officials have denied this news, saying that both will serve their term in a prison around Moscow . Moscow
—Russian Profile has an interesting article about Russians and sex. Though
Russiahas been bombarded with images of sex since the collapse of the Soviet Union, they still remain in dark when it concerns sex education. A recent survey revealed these facts about Russians and sex:
“The 2003 Durex global sex survey, which interviewed over 150,000 people in 34 countries, reveals some startling facts about Russian sexuality. Out of all the countries surveyed, Russia had the highest percentage of respondents who said they would sleep with a new partner on the first night (39 percent) and Russians were more likely than any other nationality to have had sex with their best friend’s partner (18 percent).
was also the country with the lowest average age of first sexual contact.” Russia
So Russians are doing it and doing it a lot. However, sex education continues to be seen as too controversial to be taught in schools. This has led to many Russians to go on believing in a number of rather dangerous myths:
“A survey of over 4,000 young Russians from 10 Russian regions, undertaken by Focus-Media Foundation in February, found that only 33 percent of sexually active respondents had always used condoms for sex over the preceding six months. Twenty-two percent did not realize that unprotected oral sex carries a risk, and over a quarter agreed that “if a person is fated to contract HIV, a condom won’t help.” The survey also revealed that 95 percent of young Russians felt they would like to know more about safe sex. With as many as 1 million Russians estimated to be HIV positive, simply ignoring sex education does not really seem like an option.”
Further, the article notes that while
Russiaremains a very homophobia society, things are changing according to Dmitry Gubin, editor-in-chief of FHM . He points to the emergence of the Russian “metrosexual” and the opening of more gay clubs as a positive indication. As if we didn’t have enough metrosexuals here in Russia . . . Los Angeles
—Finally, Russia Profile has reprinted an interview from Novaya Gazeta with Alexei Levinson from the Levada Center Polling Agency on the issue of Russian civil society. The question of civil society is a long standing one. Many historians blame the rise of revolutionary politics and the Bolshevik revolution on the lack of a liberal civil society in late 19th century
. I personally don’t subscribe to this idea of the Russian sonderweg, but the issue persists to inform how people think about Russian political society now. Some of Levinson’s more interesting comments is the following. When asked if “civil society” is merely a phantom, he had this to say: Russia
“The civil society people dreamed of 10-15 years ago doesn’t exist in
today. We’re seeing an entirely different process: a passive society which may simply be termed “the population” is generating interest groups that bear some resemblance to civil society structures. But this process isn’t following the paths known from the history of other countries. In Russia , the first societal groups to emerge and take shape have been those known as criminal structures. They became aware of their goals and formulated them, and now they are pursuing those goals politically, sometimes even via parliamentary channels. Russia
The people believe that the big organized crime groups have their own laws and abide by them. “Look, there’s more order in organized crime than in the bureaucracy” – that’s an opinion I’ve heard hundreds of times from poll respondents.”
Not much, it seems, has changed in post-Soviet
from the mafia governance the Communist Party provided in Soviet Russia. Such a view doesn’t give much comfort to those hoping, no, praying for a liberal Russia . RussiaPost Views: 641
By Sean — 11 years ago
In my younger days, I used to hang out with a group of SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) skinheads from El Monte, California. We used to go to clubs, drink, share our appreciation for punk and ska music, and our mutual hatred for racist skinheads. SHARPs came in a variety of political shades. Some were self-identified communists, socialists and anarchists. Others, at least the ones I befriended, were Latino youths who, instead of getting mixed up in traditional gangs, gravitated to a more political variant. They would get into street fights with racist skinheads or would vandalize known skinheads’ houses and cars. They were a rough bunch. I remember one night after clubbing, a bunch of them went searching for a local Armenian gang with baseball bats and steel pipes in hand. That night, the Armenians beat up one of their comrades and they were looking to extract some revenge.
Years later, I had another friend, a socialist and pacifist, who used to be a SHARP in
. In the 1980s and 1990s, Fontana, California was known as a hotbed of Klan and skinhead activity. One day I asked him why he got out of it. He told me that, every SHARP he was friends with was now in prison for assault, vandalism or other crimes. But his conversion away from SHARP was much more personal. He told me that one night at a party, a racist skinhead pulled a gun on him and his girlfriend. Thankfully, neither he nor his girlfriend was harmed, but the incident provided him much reflection. He realized that despite their antithetical political views, he and the racists were no different. Violence made them an inverted reflection of each other. Fontana
Still, knowing the different between fascist and anti-fascist skins can be a matter of life or death. How do you tell the difference? After all, both have shaved heads and wear bomber jackets, Dr. Marten boots, and jeans. So how do you tell? Look at their shoe laces. If they are red, they are anti-fascist. White means fascist. Other symbols might give you clues. Pins, patches and tattoos were other symbolic markers for where they stand.
I was reminded of all this while I was reading Il’ia Donskii’s article “I Recognize My Love by the Stripes: What Differentiates Fascists from Anti-Fascists? Almost Nothing,” in this week’s Novaya Gazeta. Donskii notes that the differences between Russian facist and anti-facsist youth are so slight and symbolic that they are virtually undetectable to the untrained eye. They look the same: jeans, bomber jackets, and combat boots. Sometimes they even can’t tell the difference between each other:
Take for example the fight after the Nekondishn concert at the club “Archeology” on 15 September 2006. Then two guys (probably young Nazis) were severely beaten and received multiple stab wounds. As usual, the authorities at first accused anti-fascists of the crime. Then because there were several incontrovertible contradictions (first, anti-fascists never use knives, and second the attackers cried, “Death to anti-fascists!”), the Nazis themselves recognized that it was a misunderstanding and one right wing gang attacked the other. Dmitrii Demushkin, the leader of the openly fascist organization “Slavic Union” (usually abbreviated SS) spoke about this and added, “No one can tell the difference because the clothes are all the same–fascist or anti-fascist. They simply kill.”
Donskii explains that the difference between Russian fascist and anti-fascist youth is literally in the numbers. Fascists love the number “8” because in the Latin alphabet, the letter “h” is the the eighth letter. So “88” means “Heil Hitler”. “18”–Adolph Hitler, and “14” stands for the Nazi slogan, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”
But not all self-identified Nazi skins know about the substance of “14” or really anything about Nazi ideology. “14” is just a symbol to identify themselves. There is even a word for these ideologically ignorant–Karlans. These are usually fascists younger than 16 new to the skinhead subculture. But be sure, they may not know the intricacies of fascist thought, but they do know the symbols that differentiate themselves from the anti-fascists. The problem is that these symbols of difference work best when the skins travel in packs. The mistake the two Nazis above made was not traveling in the group.
Anti-fascists play their own symbols game. Many wear red handkerchiefs or shoelaces, just like my SHARP friends, to denote left wing or anti-fascism. And while their fascist enemies like the number “8”, they like “46”–“destroy fascism” and “69”–“Remember the spirit of 69”, that is 1969, when the skinhead movement was founded in Britain. Many forget that skinheads were originally anti-racist and heavily influenced by the black Caribbean communities in London.
What is facsinating about all of this is that while Donskii, you, I and many others may see the differences as “almost nothing”, they are in fact enormous. Wearing red shoelaces means life or death, depending who you come upon first. But despite the enormity in meaning, the minutia of difference can sometimes produce a disorientating symbolic cacophony even among its practitioners.
Post Views: 147
By Sean — 11 years ago
The Moscow Times and Kommersant are reporting that Manana Dzhabelia, 50, a Georgian woman who was being held in a Moscow detention center for living illegally in Russia, died from a heart attack, and according to friends, was refused medical care. Dzhabelia is now the second victim of Moscow’s anti-Georgian and immigrant campaign.
As Kommersant reports,
Manana Dzhabelia was a refugee from Abkhazia, and lived in Moscow since 1990. She was seized in the process of a police raid on the Domodedovskii market on October 4—in the heat of the anti-Georgian campaign. The Nagatinskii court of Moscow made a decision about her deportation to Georgia because for expired registration. However, the state was not successful in deporting Mrs. Dzhabelia from the country—she challenged the decision in Moscow City Court, claiming that she could not get registration because her passport was at the Georgian Consulate in Moscow.
Two days before Mrs. Dzhabelia died, the Moscow court ruled in her favor, but word did not reach the detention center in time.
The horrors of immigrant detention are not just found in Russia. Last week, a riot broke out in Harmondsworth Immigration Reception Centre in Britain. According to reports, the reason for the outbreak was detainees’ fear of abuse by detention staff. These views are corroborated by a report on the conditions of the Hamondsworth Centre which stated that “44% of detainees said they had been victimized by staff; 60% said they felt unsafe,” including a frequent use of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement was used 129 times during the first half of 2006 alone. “This is undoubtedly the poorest report we have issued on an immigration removal centre,” the report stated. Riot police had to be deployed to regain control of the center.
In Australia, three reports were released that criticized the condition of 20 detained immigrants. The criticism focused on 10 detentions that involved children and nine involving the mentally ill. The reports come on the heels of Government suggestions to tighten immigration and stiffen citizenship tests on language and “Australian values.” The problem with this is exactly as Peter van Vliet states, “The problem with trying to define “Australian values” beyond democracy and the rule of law is that they are not necessarily agreed values. Pluralism, or the right to hold different values beyond the acceptance of democracy and the rule of law, is arguably one of the most important values in a multicultural society and effectively rejects a detailed list of agreed values.” Interestingly, Australia’s discussion about what constitutes “Australian” parallels the discussion about “Russian” in Russia.
The United States government is getting the reputation of detaining and deporting children. According to a report on NPR’s All Things Considered, there are 8,000 “illegal” immigrant children in US detention centers, up from 4500 in 2000. Their treatment was so harsh in these centers that a 2002 court ruling placed them under the Department of Health and Human Services. Yet, as the NPR report states, “the system is a study in contradiction: Immigration officials still work to deport these children, even as HHS operates a growing network of shelters to care for and educate them.”
The problem of immigration is not relegated to any particular region or country. Immigration is a global problem where Russia is one of the many offenders of immigrant rights.
Mrs. Dzhabelia’s death in Russia, the riots in Britain, the detention of mentally ill in Australia, and the immigrant children in the United States are the horrific results of the category “illegal”. Because a person doesn’t have the proper papers attesting to their status, they are detained, and the only way they can prove their “legality” is providing the proper documents. It is incidents like this that remind us that the supposed inalienable rights proclaimed by Enlightenment thought are paper thin. The laws of nation state, itself a product of Enlightenment, is the final arbiter of who is a “legal” and “illegal” human, making our human rights simply provisional.Post Views: 264