The Bald-Hairy Theory of Russian Leaders. I guess this is kind of like how every odd numbered Star Trek movie sucks. Anyway, this is courtesy of Veronica Khokhlova’s run down of Russian Live Journal reactions to Medvedev’s inauguration. It also seems that there are good and bad sides to Kremlin Inc. Sure they provide no space for any opposition and forces people to attend useless Dissenters’ Marches, but at least the inauguration briefly cleaned up Moscow traffic. Says LJ user dolboeb (Anton Nossik):
Dear Dmitry Anatolyevich,
Congratulations on assuming your new post. I hope you enjoyed the ceremony as much as I did. I thank you for providing me with a rare opportunity to see daytime Moscow without traffic jams. Please consider holding inaugurations once every week, preferably on Wednesdays. I think this could contribute to solving many traffic problems of the Russian capital.
Perhaps Kremlin Inc. can bring a few to Los Angeles?
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- By Sean — 11 years ago
Russian Election Day has come and gone. Finally. Nevertheless, the mandarins of the American media are dutifully filling column inches with reports about Russia. Sadly, like most reporting on the Slavic nation, one you read one, you’ve pretty much read them all. The Washington Post is a typical example of how little American newspapers editors understand about Russia. Here are a few examples:
The Kremlin has rounded up a collection of three losers for Mr. Medvedev to run against, including the head of the Communist Party and a buffoonish ultranationalist, while disqualifying the most serious opposition candidate, a liberal former prime minister.
By “liberal former prime minister,” they mean Mikhail Kasyanov, or as they call him in Russia “Misha 2%.” The editors from the Washington Post can’t get it through their thick skulls that the “head of the Communist Party” and the “buffoonish ultranationalist” are the only serious opposition simply because they actually have political constituencies. To suggest otherwise would be like saying Ralph Nader is the only serious opposition in the American election. The real sad part is that instead of allowing Kasyanov to run openly and uninhibited to show the world that Russians don’t care about him, the Kremlin’s minion in the Central Election Commission disqualified him for allegedly faking signatures. I believe this claim. But the election is all bullshit anyway so the way I see it you might as well let all bullshitters play. At least that way the whole process won’t be so goddamn boring.
So the benighted slag and drag is piling up highthis Russian Presidential election day. It’s no wonder that when Tim Russert asked Hillary Clinton “Who the next Russian President will be?”, she garbled her answer with “Med . . . um . . . Medeveda . . . Mededevda . . . whatever.” No matter Bush didn’t know who Pervez Musharaf was when he was running the first time. Hopefully for her, if she wins, which looks unlikely, she won’t discover Medvedev’s name in a similar context in which Bush had to learn Musharaf’s. You can see a clip of of Hillary’s verbal stumbling on Siberian Light. (Btw, Andy has also be doing some live blogging on the election.)
Luckily, there is one diamond amid the pundit zirconia, and even more surprisingly it’s from the chief mandarin of them all, the New York Times. Rather than turning to their editorial board to make yet another dull comment, the Times has enlisted Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin to give his assessment of Russia via a book review of Anders Aslund’s Russia’s Capitalist Revolution. More important than what Kotkin thinks of Aslund’s book is what he says about the election. “Dmitri A. Medvedev will be anointed president of Russia today thanks to the political handiwork of Vladimir V. Putin. But maybe the real winner is economic globalization.” Agreed. And this is what many Russopundits should understand. Putin may not be a liberal in the political sense, but he’s certainly one in the economic sense. This is the secret of the success of Putin’s Plan. Russia’s increasing integration into the global economy has produced enough trickle to enough Russians to build a middle class. Once you have that class as your political back pocket, how the poor live doesn’t matter. Especially since the uppity middle class despises them anyway. As Kotkin writes,
Most Russians do not love Mr. Putin per se, but they love Mr. Putin’s Russia. They love being middle class. They love planning for the future. It is no comfort to the politically persecuted, but average wages in Russia are leaping 10 percent a year, in real terms.
The growing millions of Russian homeowners, vacationers and investors may seem inclined to authoritarianism or just apolitical. But they certainly value a strong ruble, moderate inflation, affordable mortgages, access to higher education, satellite television, Internet connections, passports, foreign visas and — above all else — no economic shocks.
So as much as people like Aslund want to argue that Putin had nothing to do with Russia’s economic resurgence, the truth is that he and his circle are reaping the political benefits. Enough Russians see that things are good now and the man in office is Putin. This makes Medvedev’s win a no brainer even if the election was a shining example of the democratic process. Given this, perhaps the real farce would be holding an actual democratic election. That would certainly be the worst thing for Russia’s “liberals” because it would expose them for the politically bankrupt “opposition” that they are. Putin has unwittingly done the liberals a great favor. His Plan has all but buttressed their their self deluded right to exist.
Plus why pretend there is a contest when there actually isn’t one in real political terms? Dima is Putin’s man, so by that simple fact he’s also most Russians’ man. So instead of harping again and again on the obvious–Russia is not the democratic, liberal nation we all pray for–we need concentrate on why Russians may not love Putin, but they love Putin’s Russia. As Kotkin rightly says, quoting Dmitri Trenin, “There is a Russia beyond Putin’s.” True enough, though Mr. Trenin does not detail that Russia. Almost no one does.” True that.
- By Sean — 10 years ago
The people want to know is the eXile‘s demise the result of a government inspection or money? Well, you see, the two can’t be untangled. Already in dire financial straights, the impromptu inspection scared the paper’s investors away, leaving it in debt and flat broke. Searching for whether it was the chicken or the egg doesn’t say much here. I think for the eXile, government attention simply nudged it off the financial cliff. As Yasha Levine explained on the eXile blog, “News of the [polite chinovniks’] visit had our investors fleeing instantly.” Now broke, the eXile is now begging for money to keep its website’s server up.
Why the eXile has finally attracted the government eye is easy to explain. Limonov, it’s offensive articles, and its love of pissing in the face of anything and everyone. The big question everyone is asking is why now? After all, wasn’t Medvedev supposed to bring a thaw to Putin’s free speech freeze out? There is no easy answer to why the eXile got inspected at this moment. Was it the recent articles on the clan war? Was it Ames writing of the new President, “Don’t you just want to pick Medvedev up and hug him and squeeze him? Or zip him up in a squirrel costume and put him in a habittrail, then just watch him run around, gnawing on a salt lick or rolling around in wood chips? We do. And we’re not afraid to say it either.” I doubt it. They’ve said a lot worse in the last 11 years.
I don’t think asking why now is as important as asking from where. The answer from the latter is sure to shed light on the former. I doubt the order to inspect the eXile came directly from the Kremlin mount. Russia’s chinovniki are so obsequious to those above that I wouldn’t doubt one of them is make a little campaign to with hopes please the new boss. That or Russia’s middle management haven’t got the message to back off the media. Are they not getting Medvedev’s hints that he plans to “protect the media” and even going so far as to shoot down the proposed amendment to the media law?
Or did the order come one of Russia’s board of directors embroiled in a clan war. Ames has published a few articles on the matter. Did they finally prick the ears of the wrong silovik? Then of course there are the alleged complaints by some Russian citizens that they were offended by the eXile. At least this is what the chinovniki told Ames in their meeting. Could it be that the Federal Service for Mass Media, Telecommunications and the Protection of Cultural Heritage works like America’s FCC, which goes after “indecency” on radio and TV based on consumer complaints? Is the eXile Recession Penis merely the Russian equivalent to Janet Jackson’s nipple? Perhaps but unlikely.
Unlikely first and foremost because nothing in Russia seems to ever happen by chance or according to the rules. Conspiracy is always in the air and be sure there is always a Russian boyar plotting and pulling the strings. Given the long list of harassment and threats the eXile have gotten over the years, it’s hard to think that they recent salvo against has anything to do with chance.
Plus it’s not like the eXile is alone here. Over the last month, a number of media outlets have come under fire in what appears to be a larger campaign. In late May, the Novosibirsk nationalist newspaper Otchezna was closed by local authorities for extremism. Also in Novoskibirsk a TV show set in WWII called “Jeeps against Tanks” has been suspected of extremism. The fear is that the show’s popularity might inspire youth to wear swastikas. A little over a week ago, the largest Russian radio company, Russian Media Group, was raided by tax police. A week before that, the Moscow liberal paper Nezavisimaya gazeta got an eviction notice from the Moscow city government. Konstantin Remchukov, NG’s editor/owner, said the notice was retaliation for running articles critical of Moscow boss Yuri Luzhkov. Ingushetia authorities also moved to close down the opposition site Ingushetiya.ru for extremism. The site is still alive but only because its server is outside Russia. The Bashkir government adopted the “On the Working Against Extremist Activities” law. Finally, the Kursk Provincial Duma is seeking to “sharply strengthen” the extremist law.
It appears that alongside Medvedev’s anti-corruption campaign there is an anti-extremism campaign in the making. Just yesterday, Medvedev gave a speech calling for the media to help curtail extremism. “We will fight with these problems with all available means,” he said. These means include the security organs, the justice system, and the Russian press. I would assume that the 53 hate crime arrests the Russian authorities have made so far this year is part of this campaign. True enough Russia has a big problem with skinheads, nationalism, and racial violence. There are real extremists out there. But the extremism law is so elastic that anyone can be labeled as such if some lowly chinovnik desired it.
The crackdown on Russia media is a well worn story. The NY Times revisited the issue of media (self-)censorship again this weekend. Surprisingly the English language press which is always ready to point out the next tiptoe to Russian autocracy, authoritarianism, fascism, Stalinism or whatever is the political flavor the week, have been virtually silent about the eXile‘s travails. No outcry from the NY Times. No snarky editorials from WaPo. The London Independent, which two years called the eXile “a breath of fresh air” amid “tightly controlled and increasingly cowed Moscow media,” hasn’t made a peep.
Besides the Moscow Times, the Daily Georgian Times, and something called the Foreign Policy Passport, the English Language media either doesn’t know about the story (unlikely), doesn’t care (likely), and is in fact happy (most likely). In fact, the whole incident seems to have thrown people’s political conscious into contradiction with their emotions. As the Moscow Times reported, one American victim of eXile pranks would only speak to them “on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be quoted saying negative things about the newspaper as it was being shut down.” The anon-moron said, “[The eXile] never really called anyone to ask questions, and they made 90 percent of it up.” Translated: “I’m glad those fucks finally got what they deserve, but it’s not politically correct to say so.” I guess eleven years of farting in everyone’s face doesn’t exactly ingratiate you to the establishment. So there are no crocodile tears for the poor eXile. Oh well, I doubt Ames and the gang are expecting any.
Given the context, perhaps there is an answer, or should a say a theory, of why the eXile now. It is part of the overarching campaignism of Medvedev so he could establish his footing as boss. This is not to say that the eXile is more significant than any other Russian press organ. Their appearance on the radar is far more modest. The eXile as the sole English language forum for Limonov coupled with its own brand of uncompromising bile made it an easy target for the chinovnik looking to fulfill signals from above. Since the usual outcry from the English speaking Mandarins is unlikely to come (perhaps if they were some thieving oligarch they would get more sympathy), an irascible English language bi-weekly already teetering on financial collapse is an easy gnat to crush.
- By Sean — 11 years ago
Michael Idov’s ” The Hibertation” in the New Republic is a must read.
The New Republic
The Hibernation by Michael Idov
Meet Dmitri Medvedev, a docile president for a docile Russia.
Post Date Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Minutes after the polls closed on March 2 in the westernmost Russian city of Kaliningrad–certifying a blowout victory by presidential candidate Dmitri Anatolyevich Medvedev, handpicked heir to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin– the men of the hour made an appearance at a massive concert underway in Red Square. As broadcast by NTV, a television channel owned by Gazprom (where Medvedev chairs the board of directors), the scene looked like something out of Mission: Impossible. A low-placed camera tracked alongside Putin and Medvedev, dressed Kremlin Casual in a boxy leather jacket (Dima) and a parka (Volodya), as they strode, to a rock beat, across the convex cobblestone expanse of the square. The shot’s director, perhaps taking another cue from Tom Cruise movies, had removed background extras or anything else the eye could use to calibrate the heroes’ heights: Medvedev is 5’4″ to Putin’s 5’7″. The action duo climbed onto the stage, and Medvedev–a professed headbanger who had had a box reserved at the Led Zeppelin reunion show in London on the day Putin named him his successor–got to live out a rock ‘n’ roll moment. He grabbed the mic and yelled “Privet, Rossiya! Privet, Moskva!” (the Russian equivalent of “Hello, Cleveland”). The square went wild. His fervor subsiding, the president-elect segued into an anodyne victory speech about the need to “fortify stability” and “improve quality of life.” The crowd began chanting “Con-grats! Con-grats!”–an unusually impersonal choice of a mantra. Medvedev passed the microphone to his benefactor, and the chant immediately changed. “Pu-tin! Pu-tin! PU-TIN!!!” Medvedev politely smiled.
This episode is likely to repeat, in one form or another, throughout the first months and even years of Medvedev’s rule. If it seems as if Russia has elected a man nobody knows anything about, it’s because Russia, with a complacency easily mistakable for contentedness, didn’t really elect Dmitri Medvedev at all. It reelected Vladimir Putin, in the way Tibetan monks pick the same Dalai Lama each time, regardless of the human form he’s taken. The rubber- stamping of the Kremlin candidate illuminates a useful truth about Russian society: Putin’s stifling regime and the country’s oil-fueled prosperity are viewed not as unrelated phenomena but as cause and effect. Medvedev, even as he formally represents the end of that regime, is also its ultimate triumph.