Talk about a script writing itself! Sony and Warner Bros. who are both developing films about the Alexander Litvinenko murder might just get their third act after all. Johnny Depp won’t need to look too deep to get inspiration for his role as Sasha the Spy. The shooting, ahem . . . carjacking, or is it mugging, no wait, shooting of Paul Joyal has revived a case that by all appearances seemed all but closed. Last week, Paul JoyalLitvinenko acquaintance, security expert and “a longtime critic of the Putin regime,” was shot in his DC suburban neighborhood shortly after he uttered these words on Dateline NBC: “A message has been communicated to anyone who wants to speak out against the Kremlin: ‘If you do, no matter who you are, where you are, we will find you and we will silence you — in the most horrible way possible.’” Talk about prescience!
Of course speculation immediately turned to the Kremlin, whose fabled long reach is not just about ice picks and radioactive substances anymore. However, that assumption was quickly questioned when police told the Washington Post that “Joyal was driving a Chrysler 300, a vehicle sought by carjackers, suggesting that the assailants might have followed Joyal home rather than waited there to attack him. Police have described the suspects as two black males.” The police officers claimed that Joyal was robbed of his wallet and briefcase.
Hey, I’ve seen that episode of the Sopranos! You know the one from the first season where Uncle June learns that Tony is going to a shrink and moves to whack him. He also hires “two black males” to make Tony’s murder seem like a “carjacking.” And I thought this all sounded too Hollywood before! Can we expect Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin™ to get writing credit?
But now Joyal’s wife claims that her husband was neither robbed nor carjacked. Though, “She did not say what happened to the items or how she knew they were not taken.” Okay . . . Well, at least it appears that Joyal is in good condition from the bullet in his belly. We can expect his version of events any day now. I suspect that Berezovsky’s public relations people are on a plane right now to coach Joyal into giving us the necessary hyperbolic twists this unfolding script needs.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Wednesday was the 13th Anniversary of Boris Yeltsin’s military suppression of the Supreme Soviet. On October 3-4, 1993, Yeltsin sent tanks to the White House, which is located on “Free Russia Square”, to shell the rebellious parliament led by Alexandr Rutskoi and Ruslan Khasbulatov. The incident was a mess of events. Yeltsin decreed to disband the parliament, the parliament voted to impeach Yeltsin in defiance. Pro-parliament municipal leaders then barricaded themselves in the Ostankino television studios. There is no doubt that Yeltsin’s move can be considered undemocratic. But at the time, it was justified as a way to prevent the Communists and Nationalists from reversing “democracy.” This was the logic that the Clinton Administration used when it gave its full support to Yeltsin’s use of force, a move that cost 123 lives. The direct result was the creation of a strong presidency in the Russian Constitution that Putin now enjoys.
A small demonstration was held outside of the Ostankino studios on Tuesday to commemorate the events. Unfortunately, the act of memory went unnoticed.
That doesn’t mean that there is no memory of the incident. According to polls conducted by the Levada Center and All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), Russians have disparate, even confused views on what happened 13 years ago. The first interesting statistic is that 61 percent of those polled think that Yeltsin use of the military was a mistake, while only 19 percent think that his actions were justified. In 1993, only 30 percent and 51 percent respectively held these views. At the same time, most believe that neither side was right in the conflict. What is more, there seems to be a collective amnesia about the events. In a poll conducted in 2003, 51 percent of respondents had no opinion or couldn’t remember the events; 72 percent said they forgotten who headed the Supreme Soviet. 7 percent simply gave incorrect accounts of events. Such amnesia isn’t surprising and we shouldn’t expect Russians to have no less a short term memory than people in other places. However, what is now remembered and how it is remembered is still interesting.
As Alexei Levinson from the Levada Center told Kommersant, the public’s collective memory about the events in 1993 have become intertwined with those from 1991. The reasons for this is nothing less that a nostalgia and reevaluation of the Soviet Union and its collapse:
The collective consciousness has formed a positive myth about the USSR, and this defines attitudes to the events of 1993: they have merged with the August coup attempt, and are regarded as one stage in the deliberate destruction of the USSR. Revealingly, when asked about the chief causes of the 1993 events, 28% of respondents attribute them to “the irresponsible policies of Yeltsin and his associates,” while 35% attribute them to “the general collapse of our country, initiated by Gorbachev.”
It’s equally revealing to note that current assessments of the first coup attempt in August 1991 are strikingly similar to assessments of the October 1993 events. Citizens don’t regard either side in the coup attempt as being right or wrong, and don’t see any historical context: 27% of respondents describe the events of 1991 as a tragedy that destroyed our country, 7% describe them as a democratic revolution, and 53% describe them as just another incident in the struggle for power.
Kommersant concludes that this is because “Russian citizens have simply decided to forget all the convoluted paths of their country’s history from the second half of the 1980s to the end of the 1990s; it’s all been overshadowed by one enormous myth about a Great Country. Not that they remember much about that country either.”
I think that there is something to this but still it seems insufficient. Kommersant is oversimplifying things here. The 1980s and 1990s appear as a muddled haze to most Russians because in their eyes there are very little good things to remember. The late 1980s and 1990s are not associated with democracy as many do in the West, but with chaos, decay, crime, and instability. Currently there is a growing nostalgia among Russians for the, albeit moribund, stability of the 1970s. Yes, the Soviet Union was stagnant then, but it was still a great and independent country. The same can be said now. Despite what anyone says about Putin, even poor Russians prefer Russia now than what it was when Yeltsin was lobbing shells at the White House. Plus Putin has made it acceptable to appreciate the good things that came out of the Soviet system without being shamed and without it meaning you necessarily want the USSR’s return.Post Views: 41
By Sean — 12 years ago
You haven’t seen Moscow until you’ve taken the metro. Despite its need for modernization, the system is flawless. You can be almost anywhere in the city in 45 minutes. The stations are palaces. The metro is such a part of Moscow culture and aesthetics it is hard to imagine going there and not take it. Not so, however, for many government officials and Novye russkye who have taken to car culture to avoid the swarthy hordes that dwell underground.
Moscow Times editor Mark Teeter tells us that the descent into Moscow’s underworld can cause surprise even shock to these officials and New Russians. Take the chairman of the Federation Council, Sergei Mironov for example, who one day decided to ditch his limo for a ride on the wild side of Moscow life. According to the Izvestia article Teeter cites, Mironov was
“shocked — shocked! — to discover that the metro was “overused.” The trip had not been at rush hour, yet a short ride on the dark blue line proved “more than enough” for the chairman to get the picture. “You get pressed up against the wall, and people tromp on your feet, not noticing that you’re the chairman of the Federation Council.”
Not noticing that you are the chairman of the Federation Council! Oh my word! How could such ingrates not know that!? I mean the Federation Council is such an important office in Russia . . .it provides council to the Federation . . . it . . . what the hell does it do again!?
I mean sweet mother of Jesus. As Teeter rightly notes, the real point of all this is elsewhere. “The first, clearly, is that Mironov could be shocked by what he saw — as good an illustration as you’ll find of the disconnect between government and governed. Being in power means never having to use the subway (among other things) ever again — and forgetting entirely what it is like.”
His follow up point is much more telling,
“Which is a shame, as the metro provides a sobering and invaluable sense of context. In a city chock full of pretend institutions — a pretend parliament, a pretend judiciary and now the Public Chamber, a great big pretend NGO — the Moscow metro is utterly real. It does a real job under really difficult circumstances and does it, for the most part, really well. And it has real problems, too, one of which is the second point here. Mironov correctly observed that the metro is overcrowded; what he didn’t observe (or admit to observing) is that in the view of many users it is overcrowded by the wrong crowd.” [Emphasis mine]
Yes the metro is overcrowded by the “wrong crowd” and this makes it a microcosm for how Moscow is divided by race/ethnicity and class. One of the things I noticed there is how there are virtually no old people in the center of the city. The humpbacked babushka, the symbol for the downtrodden of post-Soviet Russia, has been relegated the outskirts, only to pass the through the center by metro car or perekhod. After all, there is nothing for them in the center, and Luzhkov’s kiosk crackdown has made it harder for them to sell goods around the metro entrances. They rarely see the light until they are outside the kol’tso. The same could be said for Russia’s ethnic minorities. They have to pass through militsia document checks come above ground in the center. The only reason why Russia’s immigrant workers from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan find themselves in the center is as cheap labor for its hundreds of construction sites. Besides that they better not venture closer than Tyeplyi stan. It seems, the only unwashed beasts that get a free pass are the packs of stray dogs, who not only use the metro for transporation, but use it so well that they show the uncanny ability to perekhod!
But seriously, Moscow cannot be understood without taking the metro into large account. And Teeter’s conclusion is right on in this respect:
“The metro is not a metaphor for Moscow, the metro is Moscow, its present and its future. It is a permanent flash point, the no man’s land between two wary and untrusting cultures, a zone both must use every day and at close quarters. In it you see the great ethnic-nationality problem as it appears in real life: not the “swarth-enhanced” actors of the Rodina ad (throwing watermelon rinds in front of baby carriages) but many kinds of people trying to get around the city to make a living, all forced to do so in an ever-increasing proximity and at a rising level of discomfort.
Instead of closing down NGOs, State Duma deputies should each take a weekly subway ride and then strike a real blow for civil society by rendering the city’s underground society more civil: With more trains, more stations and more personnel in the system, its long-suffering, harried passengers would be more likely to tolerate each other better — first inside the metro and then above ground, in the Moscow the Duma members actually do see. And the Duma members would win, too. One reason Boris Yeltsin became a genuine popular hero here in the late 1980s was that people saw him coping as they did: “He takes the bus to work.” Has any Russian politician done the equivalent since — or even thought of it?”Post Views: 45
By Sean — 11 years ago
In what Moskovskii Komsomolets calls “an echo of the explosion at the Cherkizovskii market,” five Moscow militsia officers and a police dog named Steve were injured by a homemade bomb intended to kill 20 year old antifascist activist Tigran M. According to newsru.com, Tigran’s problems with local nationalists started after he went to Saint Petersburg for slain activist Timur Kacharava’s funeral. Soon after that, graffiti reading “Tigran, tell Timur we said hi” appeared on the wall of his podyezd.
On Friday as he was leaving his apartment, Timur noticed a swastika drawn on the wall and a sign on the heater outside his door that read “Black assed khachi (a derogatory word for people from the Caucuses) live in apartment 231″. He was about to remove it, when he noticed that it was attached to a plastic bottle filled with liquid and powder. He called the militsia, who soon arrived with the dog. The militsia didn’t follow standard procedure of immediately calling an ambulance and informing the MChS, so they may face charges once released from the hospital. The theory published in most of the articles is that Steve brushed the bottle and set off the explosion. MK further reports that the explosive device was made with the same chemicals as the bomb placed by Russian nationalists at the Cherkizovsky market last August that killed 13 people. Whatever the case, at least two of the officers most likely permanently lost their eyesight.
If this made the evening news, I missed it, but the Russian Live Journal community was abuzz, with nationalists claiming “ provokatsia.” One post by antifascist LJ user Maskodagama received 890 comments. The news reports were initially contradictory, which gave the nationalists ammunition to dismiss the whole thing, but no one can dispute that there was an explosion and five militsia officers and a dog ended up in the hospital. Tigran had his own LJ account, although Maskodagama hasn’t released his nick. The FSB has confiscated his computer.
An event perhaps even more similar than the Cherkizovsky bombing to the attempted murder of Tigran happened in the late nineties. In podmoskovy, a woman found an anti-Semitic sign on the side of the road which exploded when she tried to move it. While that was most likely a random act of violence, no one other than Nazi sympathizers doubts that Tigran or a family member was the intended victim of the bomb. Nationalists find nothing ironic in writing in their Live Journals about the “myth of Russian fascism” while posting anti-Semitic and racist diatribes under 3 rd Reich inspired avatars. They’re also experts at red herrings, strawmen and lying. I remember reading, I think it was Sevastianov, claim that the swastika carved in the rifle used to kill Lanzar Samba was backwards and the word “skinhead” was spelled wrong. I’ve seen pictures of the rifle and the swastika is in the right direction and whoever wrote “skinhead” spelled it correctly.
An article by Lidia Chakalova about the bombing appeared in Utra.ru, along with a photo of what at first appears to be a yellow bomby-looking thing with a black swastika painted on it. But keen eyed internet users pointed out that it was just an amateur homemade radio antenna with a swastika photoshopped on. Nazis presented this on the ru_politics LJ community as proof that the whole story was made up.
Suspects in the bombing case are 18 year old Roman S, and Denis L and Konstantin T, both of whom are 17 years old. All are members of a nationalist group.
According to Kommersant, the crime will be prosecuted under Part 2, Article 213 of the criminal code of the Russian Federation. To anyone who has paid attention to the recent rash of racist attacks in Russia it will come to no surprise that this is the article on “hooliganism.”
Daut currently lives in Ufa, Russia.Post Views: 35