Erika Monahan is an Associate professor in History at the University of New Mexico. She specializes in commerce, corruption, and empire in early modern Eurasia. She’s the author of The Merchants of Siberia: Trade in Early Modern Russia published by Cornell University Press.
Tom Waits, “All the World is Green,” Blood Money, 2002.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
By Ger Clancy , the Irishman
One of football’s most endearing and at the same time frustrating qualities is its ability to propel the weak to the summit, send the great into ignominy and deny an expected victor its spoils at the death. The Russian national team tasted the latter on Saturday night in Tel-Aviv and, in keeping with recent disasters, were entirely responsible themselves for their misfortune. But fate alone didn’t create the events at Ramat-Gan. Not only did Russia play badly; they played terribly. Their performance was what one might have expected from Israel. But already having been eliminated from Euro 2008 in all but name, Israel played like a team on the cusp of dumping football’s old money out of the competition and earning a famous qualification themselves.
Tales of teams with nothing to lose collecting major scalps are nothing new in football. Israel has caused France, Switzerland, Croatia and Ireland serious problems in recent years both home and away. But Russia could have and should have known better. Their performance was weak, lifeless, tactically inept and worse of all they were beaten by two of the most basic attacking moves that teams at the most amateur of levels employ. Their passing was awful, their movement off the ball was non-existent and both center-backs looked on in admiration as Israel scored twice. This catastrophe was right up there with Filimonov’s 1999 disaster at Luzhniki against Ukraine or the twin capitulations in the space of a week in 2002 at Yokohama and Ibaraki. If Russian fans were angry, and I’m sure they were, they had every right to be. But fate had another twist in store for the Russians…
Four days later, England was proving they were just as capable as Russia at hari-kiri. At a rain-sodden Wembley, hopes were high and fans’ voices raised the roof in anticipation of a relatively easy ride and a football escape of astounding proportions which had seemed impossible before Russia went to Tel-Aviv. Croatia, however, were having none of it. In spite of early England pressure the visitors took the lead after eight minutes when Krancjar’s long-range shot slid underneath replacement goalkeeper Carson, and added a second when Olic rounded a static England defense six minutes later. The first half petered out miserably and suddenly Russia’s qualification looked alive again. To their enormous credit England stormed into the second half and were handed a lifeline after 56 minutes when Dafoe was pulled down in the box resulting in a penalty which Lampard converted. Crouch then equalized after a terrific cross from Beckham, and suddenly Russia were back in the hangman’s noose. England couldn’t hold on though. With 13 minutes left Petric steered a left-foot rocket across Carson into the corner to put Croatia back in front. On BBC TV one of the commentators, John Motson, remarked ironically “first we were depending on Israel for miracles, now we’re depending on Andorra. It says it all really.”
The miracle did not come. Russia won 1-0 in the Pyrenees, and in spite of their best efforts at self-destruction, qualified for Euro 2008.
Group E, like so many of the other Euro qualifying groups, has been astounding in its mediocrity. With the exception of Croatia, no team has even passed themselves off as being average, let alone near the standard needed to win the tournament next June. England blew it twice, in Moscow and last night at Wembley, and failed to take even a single point from the Croats. Russia tried their best to throw it away at Ramat-Gan, but England did it for them. It’s fair to say that neither team deserved to qualify, but Russia messed up less often than the English. Russia twice held Croatia scoreless and this more than anything saw them through. People will point at the drama of the group matches, but the nature of the games screamed ‘rubbish’. For Hiddink, there will be no plaudits from knowledgeable fans – its back to the drawing board for the Dutchman and a long winter of planning and plotting an escape from the first round of the finals next summer. This in and of itself will be a major achievement. Russia’s biggest problem—inconsistency—has scourged them since 1994 and has still not been addressed. The lack of team spirit and drive has been plainly evident in the last two games. With Australia and Korea, Hiddink had reasonably skilled but genuinely willing players who at the very least gave their all and totally bought into his philosophy. As evidenced in this qualifying campaign, he may have found neither of these traits in the Sbornaya, and, much like Sadyrin, Romantsev and Yartsev, he may not find them in the future either.
Still, Russia wins the first round of the New Cold War. Just about. And it sure wasn’t pretty.Post Views: 183
By Sean — 7 years ago
The Russian Federation is closed to you. The Russian Federation is now open to you, as long as you get your papers in order and apply for a new visa. This is the Russia Foreign Ministry response to the Harding Affair. It didn’t take long for MID to diffuse the situation and chalk it all up to bureaucratism.
Harding has had his fifteen minutes of fame. The Russian government got an additional fifteen minutes of shame. The Guardian got some free advertising for Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by insisting that Harding was booted for his Wikileaks reporting. And just so it doesn’t go unnoticed, Harding is a co-author of the book. In the age of total marketing, nothing wets publicists between the legs more than an international incident involving a percieved authoritarian state.
The theories will certainly continue to fly as to why Harding’s bureaucratic slip up was met with such intolerance. Certainly the brief row will be exploited by all sorts of opportunists. Speaking of which, Vladimir Milov has a theory. Harding’s expulsion was because he exposed Putin’s connection of Guvnor and even helped him and Boris Nemtsov on their anti-Putin screed. But this was way back in 2007 and while the Russian bureaucracy works slow, it doesn’t work that slow. But Milov is just being, well, Milov. Always hungry for press, always trying in vain to turn all eyes on his valiant campaign against the villainous Putin machine.
Nezamisimaya gazeta has another theory. How journalists are treated depends on Russian relations with their home country. Britain is at the top of the suspicious list and is journalists are treated different than say their German or Italian colleagues in a similar situation. After all, Merkel is good friends with Putin, and the latter is in a bromance with Berluscioni that rivals the celluloid shmaltz of I Love You, Man. Putin has no equivalent in London and therefore its journalists don’t get a pass when they don’t have their papers in order.
I don’t doubt Nezamisimaya is on to something. Yet I would insert another caveat. While the world’s press, including that in Russia, and numerous media watchdog groups came to Harding’s aid with all the outrage they’re known to muster, there is one minor detail that has gone unnoticed. In Julia Ioffe’s story, she noted, based on a Harding tweet, the interesting contrast in treatment between our hero and brown people:
Within minutes, Harding’s passport was confiscated and he was locked in a deportation cell. Being a journalist, he counted everyone in there. “There were four Tajiks, a Kyrgyz guy, and a woman from the Congo,” Harding told me on the phone from London. “She had been there for seven days and was half-asleep on a metal bench.” In another half-hour, Harding was on a plane, bound for London on the first flight home, his passport returned to him with a slip of paper marking him as a deportee.
Harding was on the next plane back to jolly ol’Britannia within a half-hour, the brown people had been languishing in a deportation cell days. Interestingly, I would expect that Harding, “being a journalist” and all, would have made more of the fact that while he was quickly sent on his merry way, and the Tajik, Kyrgyz, and Congolese were left to wallow in a deportation prison. The woman from the Congo had already been there fore seven days. For how much longer, who knows? I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re all still there. Hopefully, Harding has an upcoming story about this since he’s predicament has made him privy the way Russia deals with people they refuse entry to.
Whiteness has value in Russia no matter which country you come from. Belyi is always better than chernyi and being considered white is a powerful currency if your possess it. Everyone who’s been through passport control at Domodedovo or Sheremetevo knows the unwritten rule that if you get in a line behind a bunch of Central Asians, Arabs, Asians or Africans, or anyone with a darker shade of white, your wait will be that much longer. The passport controllers who often look as if they suffer from myopia when a white person approaches, suddenly regain their focus when a brown person reaches their box. They scan the foreigner’s darker face as if s/he are engaging in a craniometical analysis. The foreigner usually passes without incident, but I presume that if there was some kind of bureaucratic mistake, they wouldn’t get a pass, let alone be dispatched back to their home country on the next flight.
All of this makes me wonder whether the brouhaha over the Harding Affair has an unstated racial subtext. Sure he was refused entry all the same. Being a whitey didn’t save him from that. But did Harding’s whiteness play a role in the speed in which he was returned home and more importantly in the response his expulsion has garnered? And if so then who’s speaking out for his Tadjik, Kyrgyz, and Congolese cellmates?Post Views: 135
By Sean — 4 years ago
My article on the Biryulyovo riot, “How Russian Nationalism Fuels Race Riots,” is up on the Nation website:
On the surface, the riot in Biryulyovo, a working class district in southern Moscow populated by a heavy mix of Russians and migrants, reveals the extent of Russian racism toward migrants, especially Muslims, and particularly North Caucasians. But writing off this latest ethnic explosion as mere racism brushes over the complexities of Russianess in a country that has been ruled by a multiethnic state since its inception. To understand Russian nationalism, even racism, you need to realize that despite their political, cultural and numerical dominance, many Russians see themselves a nation without a state.
The multiethnic character of the Russian state has always precluded Russians from becoming the first among other ethnicities. During the Soviet period in particular, Russians were the unmarked Soviet people, their national identity suppressed, and at times, Russians were legally discriminated against. Non-Russian people, in contrast, had their own ethnically demarcated territories, organizations, and celebrated traditions. This persists today. Chechens and Tatars, among others, have their own autonomous territories, while there is no definable Russia for Russians. Historically, the state has been paramount, and this central rule, according to the historian Geoffrey Hosking, came “at the cost of Russia’s own sense of nationhood.” This legacy underlines today’s Russian ethnic violence.
The Biryulyovo riots should be read first and foremost as a protest against the multiethnic state. Through the hatred for the migrant, the riots represent a political demand that Putin’s state represent them as Russians against non-Russians. Many Russians believe that the police stand idle while migrants kill, rob, and rape Russians, either because they’re paid off or incompetent. Every Russian ethnic riot over the last decade (Kondopoga in 2006, Manezh in 2010, Sagra in 2011, and Pugachev earlier this year) was ignited by similar sentiments.Post Views: 150