Those communists in Voronezh really, really like Stalin. Last month, the Voronezh KPRF put up billboards of Stalin to promote the dictator’s great achievements. The local government demanded that the billboards be removed citing laws on advertising.
But the KPRF is undeterred. Spurred on by the OSCE’s recent resolution equating Stalin with Hitler and the local ban of their Stalin billboards, the regional KPRF office has decided to create pocket Stalin calendars to protest “against the discrimination of their party.” So far 20,000 copies have been printed with plans to produce a total run of 100,000. The calendars won’t be sold, only distributed through Party cells. However, local KPRFers don’t discount a few ending up in local kiosks.
The protest against Stalin haters worldwide doesn’t stop with pocket calendars. In the coming months, Voronezh communists plan on staging an motorcade rally to support the vozhd‘s positive image. As for any possible repercussions, Andrei Poerantsev, a KPRF representative in the Voronezh city council, seems unconcerned. “It’s possible that the protest will alienate some voters who have been convinced by TV propaganda and think Iosif Stalin as first and foremost as an initiator of repression,” he told Kommersant. “But we remember him first and foremost as a powerful leader who has no rival in modern Russian history.”
The calendar’s contents will repeat the general look of the billboards. Inside, the calendar will honor only one holiday: December 21, “the birthday of the People’s Father” with the date embossed in a red star. As Komsomolskaya pravda notes, “Apparently, holidays like New Year’s Day, March 8 (International Women’s Day), and even May 9 (Victory Day) don’t have any real meaning to the calendars authors . . .”
Nope. It’s Comrade Stalin unfettered and undisturbed. Day after glorious day.
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By Sean — 2 years ago
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By Sean — 8 years ago
Russian politics is a joke. I’m not being sarcastic. It really is funny. Perhaps in an effort to one up the inanity of American politics (as we all know Russians just want to be like us!), or because it has a fatuous dynamic of its own, what passes for the political over there often epitomizes the absurd. Take the most recent scandal involving the Anti-Soviet Kebab House, the Moscow Veterans Committee, the dissident Alexander Podrabinek, and Nashi. It was a publicity stunt within a publicity stunt. A narcissistic plea of “Look at me!” if I’ve ever seen one. A better political parody couldn’t have been concocted by the Kremlin’s best spin doctors. The sad thing is that the ensuing scandal would have been really, really funny if the joke wasn’t so bad.
Long story short: After a summer of renovations, the owner of kebab restaurant on Leningradskii prospekt decided to call his place “Anti-Soviet” to poke fun at the Soviet Hotel across the street. The name went well the the restaurant’s dissident theme of photos of “anti-Soviet” figures of the past. Plus the moniker was a “jokey name” used by patrons in the Soviet period. Vets, however, didn’t see the humor and complained to the local district administration, demanding the restaurant be renamed. The “anti-” in Anti-Soviet Kebab House, they said, hurt their feelings and denigrated their sacrifice in saving Russia from Nazism. Within days, the district’s “crusading environmental inspector,” Oleg Mitvol, paid the Anti-Soviet Kebab House a visit ordering the “anti-” be removed. The owners begrudgingly complied. “We took down the sign under pressure from the district authorities,” Alexander Vanin, the restaurant’s manager told the Moscow Times. “It was to avoid a war and attacks from the prefect, Oleg Mitvol.” Another bad joke bombs to the politics of the absurd.
But the inanity didn’t stop there. In fact, it was only beginning.
Enter Alexander Podrabinek, the famous Soviet dissident and now Putin foe. Having had enough of the “restoration of the Soviet past,” Podrabinek pounded out a diatribe “Letter to Soviet Veterans,” where he called the name change as “great pity” and lambasted the complaining veterans as “idiotic, base, and stupid.” He then went on to charge the vets as “the ones who served as whipmasters in labour camps and prisons, political commissars of anti-retreat units, and executioners at firing grounds.” According to Podrabinek, he and others who defied the Soviet regime are the country’s real heroes. The letter was published on Podrabinek’s blog and on the website of the liberal rag Ezhdnevnyi zhurnal.
The real pity however, isn’t so much that the Anti-Soviet Kebab House was muscled into changing its name. Nor is it the substance of Podrabinek’s rant, ridiculous as it is. It’s the fact that screaming about the “restoration of the Soviet past” is really all Russian liberals have as a political issue. It’s no wonder your average Russian, many of who probably sympathize with the veterans, can’t stand the liberals (assuming they know the liberals exist). Instead of engaging in a politics that, I don’t know, actually matters like the economic crisis, layoffs, prices and other issues, Russia’s liberal intelligentsia choose to dig up the old bones of the past, wave them furiously in the air, and use them to beat the citizenry over the head. The politics of the dead just doesn’t make sense when you could be engaging in a politics of the living. But oh no. Many Russian liberals believe that constantly screaming about Stalin is going to further their political agenda. Newsflash: It’s not.
Thus, what began as a joke that flew over the heads of some thin-skinned old-timers, only revealed the joke that is Russia’s liberal intellgentisa.
Sadly, the comedy sketch didn’t end there.
Enter Nashi. Nashi has been aimless since the election of Dmitry Medvedev. With “colored revolution” vanquished, a number of its chapters liquidated, and little need for mass street protests, the kids in Nashi don’t know what to do with themselves. They purport to have all sorts of programs to train the next generation of Putinistas, but none of that makes the headlines in the Russian or international press. This doesn’t mean that Nashi hasn’t found a niche in the Medvedevian Thaw. Every generation needs a war, and if you can’t provide a real one, then a virtual one will just have to suffice. Taking the “anti-fascist” part of their name waaay to seriously, Nashi has decided that anything that criticizes the integrity of Soviet past and the Russian present is “fascism.” So Nashi’s activities over the last several months have focused on publicity stunts to unmask Russia’s internal enemies supported by the “fascist” West.
As soon as Nashi joined the fray, what was already a political farce quickly turned into tragedy. Soon after Prodabinek’s diatribe hit runet, Nashi began mobilizing its apparatus of outrage. Members began pickets outside of Prodrabinek’s apartment, released his phone number and address on the internet, and vowed to run him out of the country. According to Nashi’s GenSek, Nikita Borovikov, all these actions are “of the most democratic in nature.”
Fearing for his life, Probrabinek went into hiding. Not because of Nashi, whose actions he considers a “propaganda stunt” and an “imitation of public outrage” (which it is), but because of “information from reliable sources” that “serious people” want him taken care of. That is “taking care of” in the bullet-in-head sense of the phrase.
More outrage ensued. Ezhdnevnyi zhurnal began an online petition in support of Prodrabinek, which now sports over 3000 signatures, a virtual who’s who of the Russian liberal intelligentsia. Not to be outdone, Nashi claims to have over 5000 signatures against Prodrabinek.
I just have to ask a number of questions. Are you kidding me? Hiding? Is this a joke? You do know that this is all because of a shashlik joint? Do you? Someone please tell me that this is part of some Russian version of Punk’d. Because if this is real then someone call Dr. Phil to mediate between the vets, Prodrabinek, and Nashi. There is a little to much of the “talk to the hand ’cause the face don’t understand” going on.
But apparently it is real or at least appears real enough. And always ready to jump on the latest scandal in Russia, the Western media and rights groups have hitched a ride on the outrage express. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists released a statement calling for an end to the harassment of and for the protection of Prodrabinek. Even the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner “contacted the relevant authorities to make sure [Prodrabinek] is safe.”
All for the name of a kebab restaurant.
But this is what passes for small-p politics in Russia. A bad joke produces outrage, which in the end exposes what utter jokes Russia’s liberals and Nashi really are. And the joke isn’t funny any more as the great Morrissey once sang. Because for Russians like the 27,600 AvtoVAZ workers in Togliatti waiting for their pink slips, the message is clear: Russia’s liberals and Nashi don’t care about you. Not when there are kebab restaurants and Soviet pride to defend.Post Views: 263
By Sean — 6 years ago
There’s a lot of ways to measure the economic health of a country: per capita income, wealth, inequality, employment, poverty level, etc. The list is virtually endless. Another way is by measuring the average amount of meat a person consumes. Yes, meat, that juicy, protein filled delight, the consumption of which is a testament to people literally living off the fat of the land. Sure meat consumption can’t be reduced to wealth. A lot of other factors go into it too–culinary culture, religion, geographic location, climate, to name a few. Still per capita meat consumption statistics do seem to correlate to a population’s economic status.
Slon.ru reports that yearly per capita meat consumption in Russia is 63 kilograms per person. A respectable number compared to the rest of the world, but a good 40 to 50 kilos behind other meat-centric peoples like the Americans and Western Europeans. But where Russia’s carnivorousness places in global statistics isn’t the real point. What’s more revealing is how they compare to past Russian consumption.
As Slon.ru notes, the Putin years have witnessed a meat boom. In 1999, Russians consumed an average 41 kilos of flesh a year. That has shot up by 20 kilos in the last ten years. In this sense, whatever one says about Putin, he has brought home the bacon. Nevertheless, there are important regional differences. Assuming that the statistics collected by the Ministry of Health approach an accurate estimate, regional difference can be quite stark. For example, a person devours 99 kilos of meat in Kalmykia, while only 31 kilos in Dagestan. Or while the Ministry of Health says that the normal consumption of meat is 70-75 kilos a year, only 16 Russian provinces meet this norm. Only four regions average more than 80 kilos: Kalmykia, Moscow province, Yakutia, and Sakhalin. Slon.ru has provided a province by province breakdown.
The statistic that I find most interesting, and revealing about post-Soviet Russia is that while meat consumption has increased dramatically over the last ten years, it still falls short of the USSR peak of 69 kilos in 1989. A few other interesting things to note are that meat consumption rose a dramatic 10 kilos from 1985-1989, the perestroika years. Also, there were no statistics between 1989-1995, a sure indicator of the collapse of the Russian state. But when measurement of meat was resumed in 1995, consumption had plummeted to 50 kilos per person. It bottomed out in 1999, after the Russian economy crashed and burned, to around 41 kilos. Finally, meat consumption leveled off in 2008 when the economic crisis hit Russia, but began to rise a year later suggesting a strong recovery on an everyday level.
And this is what I find so revealing about these statistics on meat consumption: they paint a picture of how the average Russian experiences the economy on an everyday level. In a world where we are fed abstract figures about GDP, stock market percentages, or monetary rates, the stats on meat are refreshing because they return the economy to where it matters most: people’s bellies.Post Views: 923