Radicalization of the Russian Far Right?

Agents from the Adygei Department of the Russian Interior Ministry (MVD) announced yesterday that they have detained Viktor Milkov, 23, a student at the Adygei Technological University, as the source of execution video “An Execution of a Tadjik and Dagestani”. Milkov is a member of the National Socialist Party of Russia, and according to police, has been disseminating Nazi propaganda via the Internet for two years. Milkov, who goes by the handle vik23 on Russian Live Journal, has been identified as providing the first link to the video which has been the topic of heated discussion in the Live Journal community. Who created the video and committed the executions is still unknown but the group claiming responsibility of the act, the National Socialist Party of Rus has claimed to be a militant wing of the National Socialist Society. The latter group is known for participating in the “Russians March” and attacks on gay pride parades. It has denied any link to Milkov or the National Socialist Party of Rus. An MVD spokesman said that Mikov will be charged under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, “Incitement of National, Racial, or Religious Enmity” i.e. the extremist law. Conviction carries a sentence up to five years imprisonment.

The authenticity of the video and what it signifies has been a much debated topic in the Russian blogosphere and media. Among Russian authorities, the video has engendered questions about whether the internet requires regulation. The Russian state newspaper, Rossiiskaya gazeta assured readers that the MVD would eventually identify the makers of the video with the help of international law enforcement agencies from several states, including the United States. International agreements for the regulation of the internet were made during the last G-8 meeting for “cooperation in the control of the internet,” the paper said. But for Russia, immediate regulation is premature. Despite the much discussed and cited “extremist law,” “the internet is not recognized as mass media and the majority of laws that relate to it don’t apply.” Under the auspices of anti-terrorism, the Russia MVD has been urging the creation of laws to “directly prohibit the posting of similar sites” to those deemed extremist.

There has been increased activity among Russian fascist, ultranationalist, and skinhead groups in the last few years. For example, in May, Alexander Brod, director of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights reported that his organization tallied more than 70,000 skinheads in Russia, up from 50,000 two years before. “Nowadays, they could be found in each regional center, they are emerging even in small towns and villages. In big cities, the attacks happen nearly each day and murders [are committed] weekly. It shows the activity of skinheads has grown and the essence of their offense has become more aggressive and criminal,” Brod was quoted in Kommersant. The SOVA Center reported that 37 people have been killed in racially motivated attacks, a 22 percent increase from last year. In an article on the execution video, Novaya gazeta noted that its brutality points to a possible “sharp radicalization of Russian Nazis.” “It’s one thing when several people attack a immigrant worker. This requires no courage. But to commit murder in cold blood in front of a camera–this is something completely different. Real psychos are needed for such a display of murder,” a Moscow antifa activist familiar with fascist youth groups told the paper.

The video’s appearance, some might say, is a strange coincidence. Monday night’s bombing of the Neva Express, which injured 27 people, is now suspected to be the work of ultranationalists. A source close to the investigation told Interfax, that “the top lead” pointed to “representatives of extremist nationalist organizations were involved in this terrorist act”. The Moscow Times reports that investigators questioned members of Novgorod branch of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration. Police surmise a possible ultranationalist link because the bomb resembles one used to blow up the Grozny-Moscow train in 2005.

Whether there is a direct link between the execution video and the train bombing is impossible to say. The two incidents could be individual and uncoordinated acts that are part of a general escalation in ultranationalist activity. If anything, they two incidents raise questions about the strength and threat such groups pose to the Russian social order. Many have lambasted the Kremlin’s heavy response to liberal and opposition forces, citing that the extremist law was illegal applied to them. The recent case against Yabloko in Krasnodar is just one example. As is the Kremlin’s banning of the left wing National Bolshevik Party and cracking down on other radical leftist groups. But it appears that the real threat is coming from the far right. Yet despite this increase, few are asking where this spike in racial violence is coming from beyond blanket statements about some kind of inherent or culturally rooted racism. Couldn’t the roots also lie in the social-economic structure of Putinism itself? Could Putin’s success–stabilization, prosperity, and a strengthening of the Russian state–also be generating expectations from the young, male, Russian population who’ve received little benefit from Russia’s economic boom, but feel that they deserve to? Like most societies that experience increases in racial and ethnic strife, the disenfranchised majority tends to see its marginalization as the result of the Other’s benefit.

Granted, state rhetoric has stepped up of late against ultranationalism, and it seems that there are more and more cases where the extremist law is applied to Russian fascists. However, human rights activists continue to point to the Kremlin’s reluctance to crack down as hard on the right as it does the left. One wonders if last week’s verdict in a St. Petersburg court sentencing a 14 year old to 12 years in prison for the murder of an anti-racist activist is part of a change of course. In response to the verdict, Aleksandr Brod said, “On the whole, it’s a fair verdict. Judges are progressively awakening to the danger of growing fascist tendencies in Russia. In our view, a tough response from prosecutors and judges is one of the best ways to fight xenophobia and neofascism.” One can only hope that he’s right.

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162 comments on Radicalization of the Russian Far Right?

  1. Buster says:

    Sean, Thanks for an informative post that pulls together much from recent news of nationalist/right-wing developments in Russia.

    I’m very curious about your idea that the socio-economic roots of the right-wing upsurge, as I’ve been thinking a fair amount on this question of late. Your analysis is tempting, and I would like to see it more fully developed. But my mind also immediately runs to the chapter in Slavoj Zizek’s *Sublime Object of Ideology* (one of his last sane works) on anti-Semitism without Jews. And also to A. Appadurai’s more recent work on predatory majorities. In other words, I can’t but wonder if these developments are coming from actual disenfranchisement rather than the rhetoric thereof. I’ve been trying to think through this through a curious book I’m reading *Ne tadzhikie devochki, ne chechenskie mal’chiki* [Neither Tadzhik Girls, Nor Chechen Boys] that presents the whole “dvoinoi standardt” argument of ethnic Russian disenfranchisement, but it seems completely rooted in anecdote–as does much of this rhetoric that I hear “on the street.” Some day, hopefully soon, I will post on this over at my blog, but I’m still trying to puzzle out the appeal of the “dvoinoi standardt” line in Russian nationalism. My initial sense is that there is a phantasmatic element at play.

    And a small thing: is the National Bolshevik Party really left-wing? I always thought of Limonov as more, ummm, eclectic than that.

    And small corrections in third paragraph: “In an article on the execution video, Novaya gazeta noted that it’s brutality points to a possible “sharp radicalization of Russian Nazis.”” Should be “its,” no? And: “a Moscow antifa activists” should be “activist.” I can’t help correctin these things, I used to teach high school.

  2. Buster says:

    Oh jesus, last line should read “correcting.” And I mutilated the transcription of tadzhikskie. Color me embarassed. And just back from the bar…

  3. Sean says:

    Well at least you have a good excuse! I have none. I’ll get back to your comment when I get home and review Zizek. But you’re right about last sane book. His Organs without Bodies was atrocious. I have but have not read Parallax View. I do like his articles in the New Left Review and London Review of Books though. Oh and thanks for the edits. They have been corrected!

  4. W. Shedd says:

    The SOVA Center reported that 37 people have been killed in racially motivated attacks, a 22 percent increase from last year.

    One quick point that I’ll make regarding these SOVA statistics (and comparable statistics by other nations and groups, including in the US). We should be careful in drawing the conclusion that racially motivated attacks or murders are on the increase, as this data has not been compiled for long periods of time, does not have full cooperation or assistance from police agencies, and requires some increased knowledge and interpretation by authorities.

    In other words, you could see an increase due to a number of reasons, including more intreprid collection and screening of data each year by agencies like SOVA and the OSCE, increased awareness or identification of hate crimes by police agencies, and the possible increase of the crimes themselves. I know that SOVA has said that their hate crime data collected in Russia could be off by a factor of 2, 3, or more due to the difficulty in identifying and collecting the data.

    I had another source that cited 50 people killed in hate-related attacks in Russia, for example.

    I’m not trying to undermine your overall point, just trying to discuss some of the possible errors in such data, and how you could statistically show an increase in hate crimes, even without a real increase.

    My own personal sense is that violent hate-crimes are on the increase in recent years in Russia (and elsewhere). It is just difficult to quantify due to the lack of quality data.

  5. Sean says:

    Wally, I think you are right to question such statistics. On the whole, I think they are useful for illustrating possible trends than making any concrete facts. After all, the question I have is how a hate crime is categorized. Or the fact that such data is usually based on reported crimes. These two factors alone would account for disparity in data between organizations.

    A good question though: Are these racial violence on the increase in Russia, or is there simply more awareness, talk, and calculation of them? I have a tendency that both actual incidents of racial violence contribute to more discourse, and more discourse causes more anxiety about racial violence.

  6. W. Shedd says:

    Ya, I had done some bits of research on this topic of hate crimes in Russia vs. the US and walked away convinced that 1) Our U.S. is pretty fucked up with hate crimes itself, 2) The data for both countries is so incomplete and sketchy that comparison becomes hazardous, and 3) the definition of violent hate crime varies from person to person.

    On your points about incidents, discourse, anxiety of racial violence – I also think the poor, maladapted, social misfits, and disenfranchised can be drawn to hate groups and acts of racial violence. It is somewhat the same appeal as gangs in bad neighborhoods, a way to be part of something perceived as strong.

  7. Lyndon says:

    both actual incidents of racial violence contribute to more discourse, and more discourse causes more anxiety about racial violence.

    What I wonder is, do the incidents and increased publicity contribute to more acts of violence (and not just more anxiety)?

    Could Putin’s success–stabilization, prosperity, and a strengthening of the Russian state–also be generating expectations from the young, male, Russian population who’ve received little benefit from Russia’s economic boom, but feel that they deserve to?

    Sean, this is a very interesting argument. I have always believed that people in generally tolerant multi-ethnic societies start to hate their different-looking neighbors when times get tight and there aren’t enough resources (jobs, etc., or in more extreme cases, food) to go around. But the way you put it makes an awful lot of sense, and it seems to work when you think about the situation in the US: disenfranchised under- or unemployed Americans (and their self-appointed political protectors, looking to cash in at the ballot box), i.e. people who see the American dream as inaccessible to them, cry the loudest about illegal immigrants. My only question about your comments in that paragraph (and the phrase “disenfranchised majority”) is whether the disenfranchised are really a majority in today’s Russia – I guess it depends on how you define “disenfranchised.”

  8. W. Shedd says:

    Perhaps you only care about what you don’t have (material, power, influence, education, etc.) when your neighbor has significantly more.

  9. Sean says:

    Lyndon, I wasn’t being clear with the “disenfranchised majority”. What I meant was not that the majority of Russians are disenfranchised, (after all as Russians they are privileged compared to non-Russians) but that they, Russians, are the majority of the population and those among them who feel disenfranchised feel that as the majority they deserve better standards of living. Especially as Russia reasserts itself as a great power. One might say that the “Russian dream” as discourse has outstripped material reality as it is perceived by disenfranchised young men.

    Usually, as you point out, multiethnic societies experience heightened ethnic tension in times of political and social dislocation. There are numerous historical examples of this.

    But what about in times of prosperity? One explanation is that Russia’s prosperity is a myth, or that it is so concentrated around certain centers that it doesn’t leak out to more peripheral areas. Another would be that this prosperity is increasing competition amongst groups for the spoils that aren’t gobbled up by the elite. Yet another explanation, and I tend to favor this one (though the other two can exist alongside it and each other) is that “Russia” is undergoing a redefinition of itself. I think sovereign democracy is just the political tenet of this. It’s not the Soviet Union, as some would quickly say. It’s not the Imperial Russia of old. Both are a fantasy. It’s not a liberal democracy. At the moment Russia is somewhere within all of these. People like to compare Putin to Stalin. A silly assertion for sure. I’ve been thinking about this and I think that the best person to compare Putin to is Nicholas I. Putin’s “sovereign democracy” reminds me of Nicholas’ “Autocracy, Nationality, Orthodoxy”. But I digress.

    Basically one of the issues that is pledging Russia, in my opinion, is the tension between Russkii and rossiiskii. I’ve written about this before. For many Russians I think the two collapse into the same thing, forgetting that one can be rossiiskii without being russkii.

    Buster, can you elaborate more on this idea of Zizek’s? I would like to hear what you have to say about it as it pertains to the topic.

  10. W. Shedd says:

    I’ve often compared Putin to Theodore Roosevelt, for a variety of reasons. Both defined or usher in a new era for their respective countries.

    Both were/are created a sort of masculine ideal or image, related to the self-image of each nation. Both have a sort of exaggerated physical presence or image and supposedly sickly in childhood.

    Roosevelt was the “trust buster” president; Putin is known for calling the oligarchs to heel, making an example out of more than one.

    It’s an imperfect comparison, of course. Sort of like those corny Lincoln-Kennedy things.

  11. Buster says:

    On Zizek, I’ll give it a go, but I’m at a disadvantage not having read the book in a decade and being 7,000 miles from my library, or so. I’d be happy for corrections, elucidations, etc. if anyone out there would like.

    The argument in the second half of Zizek’s *Sublime Object of Ideology* is an attempt to explain the perseverance of anti-Semitism in Eastern European countrues in which the Jewish population had all but disappeared. While social scientific and criminological theories often focused on correlations of population, migration, and scarce resources, Zizek found these ideas wanting for the problem of anti-Semitism. The “leftover” theory also didn’t work as anti-Semitism indeed seemed on the rise, rather than in decline.

    The key innovation in Zizek’s work here is the substitution of the notion of the “symptom” over the “scapegoat.” A “scapegoat” assumes that someone, or some group, needs to be blamed for the failure of national (or other group) prosperity and assumes the possibility of harmonious national identity and nation-states, under the right circumstances (presumably determined by social scientists and policy-makers). In other words, the idea of a scapegoat re-affirms the myth of the harmonious nation-state.

    In contrast, the symptom is the problematic figure around which identities are organized. According to Zizek, national identities, like all identities, are in some sense always incomplete, always failing, and always in need of suturing. The symbolic is always interrupted by the real. The symptom is an element of the phantasy that a harmonious identity and national life would be possible, were it not for this one thing.

    In Russia, it seems to me–and this is a rough observation, not a developed idea–the foreigner/outsider (chuzhoi) has come to play such a role as Russians face the existential, philosophical, cultural and political problems of post-imperial redefinition. It surfaces in a variety of ways, from concerns over territorial sovereignty, economic well-being and cultural survival (t.e., demograficheskii kriziz).

    I am certain that I have done great violence to Zizek’s subtleties. But I hope I’ve gotten some of his idea across.

    (p.s. have I now earned my place back on your blogroll? I’m feeling a little jilted over here!)

  12. Jason says:

    A couple points:

    1. It seems to me that the Kremlin gave a green light to the “ultra-nationlist” tendencies of some ethnic Russians by the way it dealt with Georgia and Estonia, when each country got a bit uppity. If the gov’t is telling you its ok to despise people from these Georgia and Estonia, why stop there? Why not lump all foreigners together and treat them like scum.

    2. Unchecked immigration in any country where more people are coming in than going out is going to lead to problems. It can create a “tragedy of the commons” type of situation if not addressed. This doesn’t necessarily have to be about race and ethnicity, it can simple be due to the fact that all resources are finite over the short term. The distinction should be made between politicians and their electorate making sure that immigration continues to be a benefit to the country (good thing), and those who persecute immigrants because they are assholes (bad thing).

    3. Is there any data to indicate how many of the persecuted immigrants are muslim. Are skinheads equal opportunity haters, or do they target immigrants from traditionally muslim areas more often. It has always baffled me why the Kremlin didn’t respond more forcefully abroad, after the Nord-Ost and Beslan attacks. If these attacks were to happen in the US, and evidence showed that their supporters were camped out in Mexico, you can bet the US gov’t would be in serious talks with the Mexico gov’t on how to wipe out these terrorist support centers. Maybe it’s my ignorance of conditions on the ground, but it seems to me that Russia could have worked with Georgia to a greater extent to create a multi-nationalist counter-terrorist force to clean out the Pankisi Gorge. Russia could also be giving more assistance to other Caucasian and Central Asia countries to take care of their own Salafist/Wahabi Islamic sect problems. I guess I wonder if the Kremlin’s lack of follow-up after Nord-Ost and Beslan hasn’t increased frustrations within Russia that the threat from Islam is not being taken seriously, thereby causing people to take matters into their own hands.

  13. Sean says:

    (p.s. have I now earned my place back on your blogroll? I’m feeling a little jilted over here!)

    Still working out the kinks as you can see. Thanks for letting me know!

  14. Sean says:

    In Russia, it seems to me–and this is a rough observation, not a developed idea–the foreigner/outsider (chuzhoi) has come to play such a role as Russians face the existential, philosophical, cultural and political problems of post-imperial redefinition. It surfaces in a variety of ways, from concerns over territorial sovereignty, economic well-being and cultural survival (t.e., demograficheskii kriziz).

    Buster, you’ve got a good memory for having read the book 10 years ago. Interesting idea.

    If I understand you and Zizek correctly, then the “migrant” or “non-Russian” serves as the mask for the impossibility of total national cohesion within Russianess itself. Zizek says that this occurs through a process of displacement and condensation. First, because a nationalist could never admit that the national project is an utter fantasy because of irreconcilable class antagonisms, he displaces the source for these antagonisms onto an infection without: the migrant. Second, the migrant becomes a condensation of these antagonisms: he is both infection and exploiter; uncultured but seductive. Following Zizek, then, the displacement and condensation in the figure of the migrant acts as the symptom of the nationalist’s own inability to come to grips with the social and economic antagonisms which govern his daily life. Hmm . . . this idea deserves more contemplation.

    I would also add another big structure to the mix. Russia is undergoing post-imperial redefinition at the same time it’s integrating itself into neo-liberal globalization, a process which in and of itself challenges national cohesion as it relies on the nation state as the handmaiden of capital. It is here that Russia is not alone. I think that fact that the “immigrant problem” is the main concern of also the US and EU (of course that problem is rooted in very each regions own conditions) is quite telling of a more global phenomena.

  15. Buster says:

    “Russia is undergoing post-imperial redefinition at the same time it’s integrating itself into neo-liberal globalization, a process which in and of itself challenges national cohesion as it relies on the nation state as the handmaiden of capital. It is here that Russia is not alone. I think that fact that the “immigrant problem” is the main concern of also the US and EU (of course that problem is rooted in very each regions own conditions) is quite telling of a more global phenomena.”

    I’m with you on this. It’s always seemed to me useful to put Russia in pan-European perspective, though I think the US has a slightly different “flavor” in its mix of settler-society racism, nation and immigration. As you indicated. But that’s for another day.

    I’m also impressed with your ability to restate what I said with greater force and clarity. Apologies for my own rambliness.

    My short version was simply to question the notion of xenophobic violence as rooted in “real” disenfranchisement related to Putin’s policies. If anything, I think it may be more rooted in Putin’s (and others’) rhetoric and ideology. But again, for another day, another blog.

  16. Chrisius Maximus says:

    I think the issue is not _actual_ disenfranchisement, but _perceived_ disenfranchisement. Lots of Americans believe that the United States has the very bestest economic system in the world, at the same time as they have trouble paying their bills, and lots of people in the USSR in the 1950s believed that they had the highest living standards in the world. As long as you _believe_ you’re doing well, it doesn’t matter if you actually are.

  17. ivanov says:

    Sean on August 17, 2007 4:42 pm
    “after all as Russians they are privileged compared to non-Russians”

    Sean.
    Could you be more specific who is Russian and who is non-Russian in your terms?

    By my experience it’s more critical whether you are “local” or “outsider” (местные vs приехавшие).

    PS. I have never seen a “pure” Russian.

  18. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Actually that’s a good point ivanov. Russians (russkie) are definitely not a priviliged group in Bashkortostan or Tatarstan. At least the last time I checked the Bashkir elite were overwhelmingly ethnically Bashkir, despite being the third largest ethnic group in the region (after Russians and Tatars).

  19. Sean says:

    Could you be more specific who is Russian and who is non-Russian in your terms?

    and

    Russians (russkie) are definitely not a priviliged group in Bashkortostan or Tatarstan.

    @ivanov. First, I was thinking, perhaps incorrectly, of the existence of an type of overarching Russian privilege similar to white privilege in the US. Second, my fictive “Russian” and “non-Russian” are wholly abstract. They pertain more to the ideological fantasy of the nationalist more than anything. My apologies if this abstractness was mistaken for the concrete. And the fact that you have never seen a “pure” Russian is only testament to the fantasy that nationalism is: that there is some pure unadulterated “Russian” or “Russia” to be claimed and preserved. But again, following Zizek, this is where another ideological displacement occurs. The nationalist refuses to acknowledge or cannot reconcile the inner contradictions of “Russianess” itself, and therefore displaces them on another (i.e. the non-Russian) as the source for the former’s corruption. After all, to realize that a “pure Russian” doesn’t exist would undermine the national belief itself.

    In regard to Chris’ comment. I can see how the situation in Bashkir (Bashkirs have the power but are the minority) would further fuel the Russian nationalist’s ire. He might certainly feel the Bashkirs are undeserving and even a further violation of Russian purity and supremacy. That dominance might even generate the perceived disenfranchisement (and whether this perception is based in fact or not is unimportant) that you mention above and be a source for increased nationalist sentiment.

  20. Chrisius Maximus says:

    I think it’s interesting to think about how a great deal of the modern “Russian nationalist” ideological construct is a Western, post-Soviet, import. For instance, the casting of things in racialist terms, like skin color, which are a product of the European slave trade and its attempt to rationalise itself and so are alien to Russia. “Chernyi” as a slur, for instance, is (I think) a post-Soviet term — “we have blacks too!”

    I don’t know where to go with this, but I think it’s worth pointing out that Russia, unlike the US, has never had an ethnic underclass, unless you want to count Jews pre-1917. Also that Tatars and Bashkirs and Chuvash in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan and Chuvashia are not “aliens” in any sense — those are their traditional territories.

  21. Sean says:

    I think it’s interesting to think about how a great deal of the modern “Russian nationalist” ideological construct is a Western, post-Soviet, import.

    I was going to suggest a theory I have in my last comment which I think is akin to this, but held off. But it now seems appropriate.

    You are right that Russia has never had a ethnic underclass. It’s more of a strictly class society if we think of the old soslovie system. Some have even gone so far to argue that under Tsarism, the peasantry represented this underclass that approached an “ethnicity”. If memory serves me, I think Peter Kolchin makes this argument in his Unfree Labor. I’m not sure if I’m convinced of this because it expands the concept of “race” so far that it becomes meaningless.

    Anyway, my theory is as follows. Russian concepts of ethnicity have always recognized difference between groups. Here I would say that Russians’ view of difference between human groups is more cultural rather than biological. Though there certainly elements of the latter at work, they are just not determinant in the last instance like in American concepts of race.

    This seems to be changing. Perhaps because of the import which you mention. Now it seems that Russian’s concept of difference is more racial, that is based on skin color and ideas of immutable biologically based traits. Understandings of race and ethnicity in Russia appear now to be more binaried around a “black”/”white” divide. Hence the emergence of chernyi as a blanket racial slur.

    It is not that these didn’t exist in Russia before. I can point to some work on eugenics from the 1920s, not to mention the Soviets’ understanding that class was biologically inherited. I also point to a discussion in the Slavic Review (vol. 61, no.1, 2002) on whether the Soviets had a concept of race and practiced racial politics. It seems that the jury is still out on this.

    Nevertheless, it seems to me that the Russian concept of race is undergoing a transformation.

  22. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “Some have even gone so far to argue that under Tsarism, the peasantry represented this underclass that approached an “ethnicity”. ”

    As you may know, Soviet/Russian history’s eminence grise Lev Gumiliev, the big influence on modern Eurasianism (and Akhmatova’s son), believed that big ethnoi can be subdivided into subethnoi based on regional subcultures and differing modes of life. I don’t know where the relevant book is on my shelf right now, but IIRC he refers specifically to Siberians and Cossacks, and I think also to coastal fishing communities and some others.

    (The Soviets thought class could be biologically inherited? Really? That sounds Voelkish, not Marxist-Leninist. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I just never heard of it.)

  23. Sean says:

    Perhaps biologically inherited is too strong a statement on my part. But there were practices in the Soviet Union until Stalin’s 1936 Constitution that suggest that class was passed down from parents to children. I have numerous examples of youths being expelled for being sons and daughters of priests, White officers, traders etc. On the application to join the Komsomol in the 1920s, prospective members had to fill in a variety of information as to their parents class status before, during, and after the Revolution. Children of “non-toilers” had to get more recommendations from Party or Komsomol members than others.

    Granted, the Bolsheviks and their supporters had mixed views of these practices. As Sheila Fitzpatrick pointed out in her excellent essay “Ascribing Class” the problem was objective criteria for determining class didn’t exist in the 1920s. So the Bolsheviks had to use a combination of factors.

    But one telling example of how class inheritance was a widespread sentiment is the fact that Stalin had to state in a speech in 1935 that “a son does not answer for his father” and provisions against discrimination in the 1936 Constitution. But as we know, this didn’t matter in practice as in the next year these people were targeted for liquidation.

  24. W. Shedd says:

    Pretty difficult to be the son or daughter of someone without biology being involved. Seems to me you said it exactly right. Class is inevitably tied to whom your parents are.

    Despite the myth of the American Dream, study after study in the U.S. and abroad suggests very strongly that if you are born rich, you stay rich and if you are born poor, you remain poor. Children rarely improve upon the standard of living upon which they were raised, in the U.S. or elsewhere.

    I think even in more modern times in Russia, your parents profession dictates your social standing. I can think of several pop-cultural references to this in Russian and Soviet cinema, for example.

  25. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Speaking of Soviet cinema. they’re filming a sequel to Malenkaya Vera. It’s the same director, and the same actress playing Vera, 20 years on.

  26. ReluctantMuscovite says:

    Some of you have touched on a concept that’s rather well explored in social-psychology: relative deprivation. People experience relative deprivation depending on who their reference group is, and then they have a whole range of options on how to deal with that…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_deprivation

  27. daut says:

    As someone who lives in Bashkortostan I can say that there certainly is the perception by Russians, as well as Tatars, that they have less of a chance to get into a good university or get a corporate job in Ufa than a Bashkir. But it is really hard to say how much that perception is reality. And there aren’t any real racial or ethnic problems here, many families have intermarried, as much as there is just a kind of mild resentment among a certain segment of the population.

  28. ReluctantMuscovite says:

    To put things into perspective, here’s an interesting article from Reuters:

    Growth Spurt Is No Mask for East German Woes
    By Iain Rogers
    Reuters

    BRAND-ERBISDORF, Germany — Between the shelves of product catalogs on the wall of a Spartan office in an eastern German lighting factory sits a framed quotation, in bold black lettering on silver paper, from Winston Churchill.

    For GЯnter Errmann, managing director of the Narva Lichtquellen factory near Freiberg, the words of Britain’s former prime minister have been an inspiration as he helped salvage the business from the ruins of East German industry.

    “Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot,” says the Churchill quote in German. “Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is — the strong horse that pulls the whole cart.”

    Since the collapse of the economy that produced the Trabant car and the Praktica camera in the early 1990s, Narva has blossomed into one of hundreds of successful manufacturing firms, helping the five former communist federal states expand faster than the west.

    At 3 percent last year, the states’ combined growth rate was the fastest since the post-unification boom in the early 1990s, and higher than the 2.8 percent booked by Europe’s biggest economy as a whole. “We knew that our staff were willing and qualified and the machinery was in good working order so we decided we had to try to do something,” Errmann said.

    Like almost all firms left over from the communist German Democratic Republic, Narva went bust after the currency union between West and East Germany. It was liquidated by the Treuhand Anstalt, the organization charged with picking over the remains of the industry of East Germany after the Berlin Wall fell. “We had scarcely any products or markets, just a great deal of enthusiasm and a will to succeed,” Errmann said, pointing to the Churchill quote.

    Experts at the IW economic research institute in Halle expect growth in the eastern states to again outpace overall expansion this year, widening the gap to 3.3 percent against 2.6 percent for the wider economy.

    But while manufacturing in the east flourishes, Joachim Ragnitz, deputy director at the Ifo institute’s branch in Dresden, said there were deep and persistent structural problems that would take many years to address.

    At 14.9 percent in July, unemployment remains almost twice as high as in western Germany and particularly affects younger people. Emigration and a low birth rate are shrinking the population, social problems are rife and nationalist extremism has been on the rise.

    The number of people living in the east has dropped by 12 percent since 1988 and the region still relies on massive transfers from the federal government — some 1.5 trillion euros ($2.1 trillion) since unification and running at around 90 billion euros annually.

    Ragnitz estimates it will take around 30 years before income in the east reaches western levels. The gross annual wage per worker in the “new states” in the east was 21,340 euros (about $29,400) in 2006 — well below the level in the “old states” in the west of 27,615 euros. That compares with $45,563 in the United States and $44,974 in Britain, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2007 employment outlook. “Some regions will get there more quickly, but others will never make it,” Ragnitz said.

    “When the business cycle turns down again, the impact of the demographic changes will be fully felt,” he said.

    Recent surveys suggest the perceived divide between east and west remains wide. A Forsa poll for television station n-tv published earlier this month showed 60 percent of Germans think easterners and westerners are yet to become one people. And the share of easterners who think they are better off now than under communism has fallen to just 31 percent from 66 percent in 1995, n-tv said.

    Wolfgang Tiefensee, the Cabinet minister responsible for the eastern states, believes the services sector could be the key to solving the problems in the labor market in the east. As many as 1 million new jobs could be created in the region by 2020, Tiefensee said last month, citing a study he commissioned from the Berlin-based DIW research institute. The unemployment total was 1.28 million in July. “Many companies still see the east as an extended workbench, but we have to be able to develop sectors such as research, marketing or advertising,” he said.

    In Frankfurt an der Oder, a town about an hour by train east of Berlin, it is difficult to find anyone who shares Tiefensee’s optimism.

    Antje Behrendt had brought her grandson Simon, 16, to the local federal labor office branch to support him as he tried to get a foothold in the labor market. The teenager left high school with poor grades but said he was hoping to find a trainee position as a cook or with a manufacturer. “The prospects of him getting a full-time job after that are not good,” his grandmother said.

    Untidy blond hair flopping into his eyes, Simon Behrendt had other dreams as he waited to see an adviser. The office entrance hall was lined with brochures advertising jobs abroad — in Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands. “I’d love to move away from here for a few years,” he said. “I went to London on a school trip and it was amazing.”

  29. Aleks says:

    I would like to have your opinions on a couple of questions that regarding the so-called ‘fascists/neo-nazis’.

    1: Do we know how many of these are part-timers, i.e. who are holding down reasonable jobs and do it more or less as a hobby, neo/fascist-fashionistas if you will;

    2: Any ideas on proportion of full-time ‘fascists’ and how do they actually survive/live?

    3: Is there any evidence of direct financial corporate/political backing, regional or otherwise, and is it kosher (i.e. they’re just using the young’uns as a tool)?

    4: A kind of continuation of point 1; but how active are student/’intellectual’ members?

    5: Strangely, for all the reporting about fascism/neonazism, why haven’t we heard anything (or very little) about anti-semitism. I would have assumed that this would also be quite evident. This is v. strange, especially from the land of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’…

    6: Did the Putin administration, by holding back on critical investment into rebuilding the state (on a federal level of course) until they were happy with their humungeous ‘stabilization’ fund, aggrevate the situation?

    6: If the administration decide to take advantage of ‘recent events’ to try and put the genie back in the bottle (post election?), how successful do you think they would be?

    7: Are these reasonable questions? 😉

  30. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Levels of anti-semitism are just low in contemporary Russia, in my experience. Jews keep a low profile and the markets aren’t full of them. OK so it is true that the Mafia has a lot of Jews, but your average person doesn’t encounter them.

  31. daut says:

    It’s hard to pick a Jew out in a crowd is all. Central Asian workers, Caucasians and African students stick out more and tend to be poorer. If more Orthodox Jews walked around certain areas or rode elektrichkas, they would certainly become victims of attacks more often. There is plenty of antisemitic propaganda sold by the scrubby looking nationalist newspaper vendors on Manezhnaya Ploshad and on the internet.

    Do fascists have jobs? Of course, and many are students and live with their parents. Being a professional revolutionary is hard, and those that are, like Limonov, make money writing. Not that he can be lumped in with the nazis who go around killing, but he is a self proclaimed fascist, for what it’s worth.

    The government would have to take very repressive measures to put the genie back in the bottle. For example taking all of Format 18, the Mad Crowd kids and the RNE and shooting them in the basements and courtyards of the FSB buildings. Under any kind of democracy, they will just grow stronger.

  32. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “It’s hard to pick a Jew out in a crowd is all. Central Asian workers, Caucasians and African students stick out more and tend to be poorer. If more Orthodox Jews walked around certain areas or rode elektrichkas, they would certainly become victims of attacks more often. There is plenty of antisemitic propaganda sold by the scrubby looking nationalist newspaper vendors on Manezhnaya Ploshad and on the internet. ”

    Yeah, but are the people who read those papers or carry around the pictures of Putin wearing a Star of David the same ones, personally or ideologically, as those beating up inogorodtsy? I don’t know.

  33. W. Shedd says:

    It’s hard to pick a Jew out in a crowd is all.
    Are you kidding? Sometimes I think Katja can smell a Jew when they walk by. Time again while watching TV, she’ll pick out the ethnicity of someone. I’m always hoping that she’ll be incorrect, I’ll look up some actor or figure in the news on the internet and she’s always right.

    She isn’t the only Russian I’ve known with this ability. It is a common enough occurence that I’ve just taken it for granted that Russians ethnic radar is far more attuned than Americans (for sure) and probably most “Westerners” in general. I won’t even speculate as to the reasons why.

    Of course, Katja and her family are also sometimes suspected of being partially Jewish, due to certain facial features, manners, etc. She doesn’t deny the possibilty, doesn’t care if she is or isnt, but given history it is difficult to be sure.

    Anyway, I can say for sure that Russians are pretty sharp at this stuff. Katja even picked up that Johnny Damon is Asian (mother is Thai). I just thought he was somewhat funny looking, like caveman lawyer.

  34. W. Shedd says:

    Levels of anti-semitism are just low in contemporary Russia, in my experience.I might say it exists in some passive forms, in jokes or just knowing who is or isn’t Jewish.

    I’ve not witnessed anything blatant, ala Mel Gibson.

  35. daut says:

    Wally: Maybe some people do have jewdar, but as long as somebody has darker skin they are going to be the victim of choice for a nazi attack. Americans stick out too, but nationalists aren’t attacking them on the streets even they’re anti American.

    C.M.: Who else would buy xenophobic newspapers if not the people who either support attacks on immigrants or attack immagrants themselves?

  36. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “C.M.: Who else would buy xenophobic newspapers if not the people who either support attacks on immigrants or attack immagrants themselves?”

    Maybe the groups of people fixated on Jews and the people fixated on immigrants* don’t overlap. I think of anti-Jewish bigotry as kind of old-fashioned. 🙂

    Wally: Yeah, I was dating a Chuvash girl a few years ago and showed her my copy of Trotsky’s “Permanent Revolution,” which includes a photo of Trotsky. Her reaction was, “it’s a Jew!”

    I have met three ideological anti-Semites in the former Soviet Union, one of whom was an American tourist. I think the “Russians are anti-Semitic” stereotype comes from the fact that many Jews in the West came there fleeing the pogroms, and people have gotten stuck in time. It’s been 100 years.

  37. On that subject, there’s no excuse for what happened in the past and what remains in the present (though greatly diminished in the latter instance). When discussing Jewry in Russia, there’s often a lack of comparative insight. Russia NEVER came close to developing the systematic bigotry against Jews which developed in Germany, Austria and perhaps (no doubt) some other parts of Europe. As bad as the Imperial Russian era pogroms were, they were certainly not worse than what Blacks and Indians faced in America during the same time period. A European comparison of Jewish out of faith marriages will no doubt confirm that Russians have been among the more willing of Europeans to embrace those of Jewish background. Since the Soviet breakup, Russia has two prime ministers (a rough comparison to the American vice president) of Jewish background. In the 200 plus year history of the US, there’ve apparently been no American presidents and vice presidents of Jewish background. From 2003 to the present those leaving Israel for Russia is considerably greater than vice versa.

  38. “If more Orthodox Jews walked around certain areas or rode elektrichkas, they would certainly become victims of attacks more often.”

    ****

    In point of fact, Yankel Rosenbaum was murdered in New York City on account of his Orthodox Jewish look. Other Orthodox Jews in New York and elsewhere in America can testify to being harassed on account of their look. Julia Gorin’s Jewish background was recently slurred by some Croat nationalists. Israeli football (soccer) fans in the Muslim dominated portion of Bosnia were recently taunted with cruel Holocaust references.

    90% ethnic Slovenian Slovenia has problems building one mosque in its capital where none exist.

    Recall some past Turkish actions against non-Turks.

    All things considered, Russia and Russians have been quite tolerant.

    Wally:

    Some old school Russians have that certain knack you mention. I suspect it’s wearing thin with the younger generation. A young well educated/well travelled Russian media person who visited me last year, was somewhat shocked upon finding out that Mark Ames is Jewish.

  39. daut says:

    Don’t be so defensive Michael, I’m not La Russophobe and I’m not trying to paint Russia in a bad light. But these problems do exist and ignoring or downplaying them do more harm than good. Most Russians aren’t anti-Semitic, or racist for that matter but there is a vocal and sometimes violent minority. Why there are fewer attacks on Jews than on others has more to do with class I think. And what goes on in New York in Slovenia has no bearing on the discussion

  40. Oh yes it does Daut for the simple reason that Russia is being hypocritically put under the microscope.

    On the one hand, we’re told (whether suggestively or outrightly) that Russia isn’t as advanced as some others on any number of issues. On the other hand, Russia gets grilled in a way that those others don’t. It’s therefore appropriate to seek some balance to the discussion.

    Just how familiar are you with the Eng. lang. mass media coverage of Russia? It’s quite skewed.

    Ditto some Russian academic/media people who seem to get favored for spinning a line more complimentary of the Eng. lang. mass media biases. Like a Moscow based academician who recently spoke of how Russians say derisive things about Ukrainians without noting the flip side to that point (as an aside, he over-generalized, as even Taras Kuzio and Adrian Karatnycky have noted how Russians and Ukrainians aren’t hostile towards each other like Azeris and Armenians and some other groups of pairs).

    I never once mistook you at this thread for LR.

  41. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Who in this thread has put Russia under a microscope? Answer: no one.

  42. Michael Averko says:

    An example of someone missing an otherwise clear point about how this topic is presented in overall terms.

    BTW, I received at least one anonymous thumbs up from someone from this thread for providing balance to a recent mass media panel discussion on Russia where the discussion was tilted. The comparative approach was used on that panel. Why not? Michael McFaul and others use this tact to support their own respective views.

    It’s also very skewed when Russian government funded Eng. lang. projects promote a secret society of a discussion group which is blocked from open viewing. Such a policy only helps to nurture the image of a restricted Russian media. Meantime, that particular instance really involves the restrictive manner of the host (and perhaps some of his cronies) advocating such manner.
    I know several folks who agree with me on these points.

  43. Michael Averko says:

    From this thread, here’s an example of putting Rusia under the microscope (the below quoted is specifically referring to Russia):

    “If more Orthodox Jews walked around certain areas or rode elektrichkas, they would certainly become victims of attacks more often.”

    ****

    Hence the reference to what happened to Yankel Rosenbaum and what Orthodox Jews face in New York and other parts of the US.

    The author of the above quoted had previosuly stated the view of most Russians in earlier history having a collectively anti-Jewish outlook, without having noted what others parts of Europe had been like.

    A certain Moscow based pundit and his choice select cronies do a disservice in manipulating the Eng. lang. commentary of Russia.

  44. Chrisius Maximus says:

    This is “Sean’s Russia blog,’ not “Sean’s New York blog.”

  45. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “BTW, I received at least one anonymous thumbs up from someone from this thread for providing balance to a recent mass media panel discussion on Russia where the discussion was tilted. ”

    Actually, that was me. I was just fucking with you.

  46. Michael Averko says:

    This isn’t Untimely Thoughts/IMHO

  47. daut says:

    Wait a minute, when you say:

    “The author of the above quoted had previosuly stated the view of most Russians in earlier history having a collectively anti-Jewish outlook, without having noted what others parts of Europe had been like.”

    are you referring to me?
    Because I am not sure when I stated that most Russians in any point in history have “a collectively anti-Jewish outlook” You talk about bias a lot, but you don’t address the inital point. Am I wrong when I say that If more Orthodox Jews walked around certain areas or rode elektrichkas, they would certainly become victims of attacks more often? I mean, I live in Russia, I pay attention to what goes on around me, I watch the news and read. I used to even have National Socialist aquaintances and I know how they think, on what points they differ amongst themselves and I know exactly what they think about Jews and darked skinned people. And I know that when someone does get attacked its not by your avarage Russian, but by extremist terrorists who for some reason or another decided that killing is the right thing to do.

  48. W. Shedd says:

    Am I wrong when I say that If more Orthodox Jews walked around certain areas or rode elektrichkas, they would certainly become victims of attacks more often?

    Are synagogues targeted often in Russia these days?

    Or perhaps I have my mountain/mohammed confused. You might mean that if Jews were in areas frequented by racist assholes, they would be targeted more?

    You might have a point, but if there are anti-semetic assholes in Russia looking to give a few Jews a beat down, it seems to me they wouldn’t be either so lazy or stupid not to consider hanging a block away from a synagogue.

    Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t underestimate how lazy and stupid people might be. Just by writing this, I might be giving a pack of Russian neo-Nazi’s the idea to rush a synagogue. “Why did we never think of this?” they are saying. “Doh, we so stupid, Zhidi go to synagogues!” Emails will be flying across Russia. Tomorrow we’ll be reading about this butterfly effect, as synagogues across Russia are desecrated.

    Sorry, you are probably at least partially right in suggesting that people stay out of the wrong neighborhoods to avoid being beaten, and that Jews (or other minorities) in Russia (and probably parts of Europe and US) are best served by not making themselves and available target.

    Really you don’t even need to be a minority, just be in the wrong neighborhood. Pure white cracker that I am, I wouldn’t want to be in parts of Roxbury after dark.

  49. Lyndon says:

    Just to take issue with a minor point (in pursuit of Wally’s goal of another 100-comment post), I don’t think it’s correct that the use of “chornyi” (and variations such as “chornozh*pyi” or “chornomazyi”) as a slur for people of color is some sort of import from the West or post-Soviet development.

    As far as I know, these words were in widespread use during the late Soviet period and perhaps before as well. For example, the Russko-Angliiskii Slovar’ Nenormativnoi Leksiki (M: Astrel’, 2002) provides as its usage example for the entry on “chornozh*pyi” a passage from Sorokin’s Ochered’ (The Queue), which was first published in 1985. The word was also apparently used to denigrate non-ethnic Russians within the Soviet military, according to this anecdotal account.

    An apparently academic account of Russian ethnic humor mentions the use of these words as going back “at least four decades.”

    Both Elistratov’s Slovar’ Moskovskogo Argo: Materialy 1980-1994 gg. (M: Russkie Slovari, 1994) and Shlyakhov & Adler’s Russian Slang & Colloqual Expressions (Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s, 1995) define all three terms mentioned above and note that “chornyi” and “chornozh*pyi” are used to refer to “southern” people or people from the Caucasus or Central Asia. I know these books came out in the early ’90s, but it’s hard to imagine these usages originated out of thin air in a few years (though in the midst of the general coarsening of public discourse which took place once there was no censorship, it’s likely they became more widely or openly used).

    Obviously there was less public racism and next to no beatings, killings, etc., during the Soviet era (unless you count state-sponsored deportations), but people were very ethnically aware. And I do think that Soviet-era perceptions that people from the Transcaucasus (and perhaps parts of the North Caucasus) were economically privileged and helped out their own, as well as the not-unrelated perception (based on reality) of their disproportionate involvement in organized crime, along with stereotypes about ill-educated, backwater Central Asians, have all easily transferred into the 1990’s and – enhanced by economic privation, not to mention the animosity created by the Chechen Wars and terrorist acts in Russia – have metastasized into a free-floating dislike of all non-whites among a large portion of the population, and a serious problem for mnogonatsional’naia Rossiia.

    I had a couple of random thoughts on the white/black “binary” in Russia and in Russian – and I think I understand, Sean, that you mentioned this to suggest a recent (over)simplification of ethnic “categories” in the perceptions of Russians (though pinpointing an “average Russian” on this would be difficult), but correct me if I’m wrong.

    Linguistically, white/black is a good/bad distinction (and not at all a new one) in Russian as it probably is in many languages – for example, “belye liudi” is an old-school way to refer to high-class or elite people (mentioned, I think, in one of the books I liked to above, but I prefer to cite my father-in-law’s chuckling usage from the first time he let me drive his company car – “belye liudi na chornoi Volge”), whereas “chornyi” appears in various negative contexts in slang (e.g., “chernukha”) as well as in more literary words like “chornorabochii.”

    Also, I find it interesting that the abovementioned slurs (it sort of pains me to go on repeating them) are still used to describe Central Asians and “litsa kavkazskoi natsional’nosti” but not – as far as I know – members of some other non-lily-white priezzhie ethnic groups who have shown up as competitors to Russians for jobs in the post-Soviet period (e.g., Moldovans – actually, perhaps that’s the only example). This suggests to me that the categories were fixed at some point prior to 1990 and are not based solely on the concept of “newcomer to Russia” + “competition for jobs” + “dark hair/dark eyes/dark skin.”

    Apologies in advance if any of the links above don’t work – Sean, one of the only functions you lost upon your transition to WordPress was the ability to “preview” comments. But maybe that’s better – no “previews” means less considered comments, more shooting from the hip, and 100+ comments per post in no time 🙂

  50. Michael Averko says:

    Daut

    I wasn’t referring to you on that particular.

    All

    Many multi-cultural societies have all kinds of terms used to describe minorities. Reference the term “Moscolai” which can be frequently heard in Galicia.

    As per Wally’s point, from time to time, Jewish cemeteries and houses of worship in NY are known to get descerated with bigoted anti-Jewish grafitti. Ditto other parts of America. Yet, I think over all, the US is a reasonably tolerant place (by world standards)in clear need of improvement on ethnic relations. I believe the same is true of Russia for reasons previously expressed.

  51. daut says:

    Since people seem so interested, here is a list of Moscow synagogue attacks taken from http://www.jewishaz.com/issues/story.mv?060120+russian:

    There are five functioning synagogues in the Russian capital.

    Dec. 30, 1993: The old wooden building of the Marina Roscha Synagogue burned to the ground in what was considered an arson attack.

    1994: A hand grenade was thrown at the window of the Bolshaya Bronnaya Synagogue.

    October 1994: An explosive device disguised as a beer can was found and defused in the courtyard of the Choral Synagogue.

    August 1996: An explosive device went off outside of the Marina Roscha Synagogue. No one was injured.

    May 1998: Two people were injured when an explosive device went off near the Marina Roscha Synagogue.

    July 13, 1999: A knife-wielding youth entered the Choral Synagogue and stabbed Leopold Kaimovsky, a Jewish leader, several times.

    July 25, 1999: An explosive device containing 500 grams of TNT was found in the prayer hall of the Bolshaya Bronnaya Synagogue. It was successfully defused.

    April 2003: An explosive device was found and defused outside the Bolshaya Bronnaya Synagogue.

    This is just in Moscow, and may be more or less than in other large cities including New York or whatever. Actually, from reading the FSU Monitor, these kinds of things seem to happen more often in the Ukraine, so I guess Khokhly have a collectively anti-Jewish outlook.

  52. daut says:

    oh yeah plus the knife attack at the synagogue in Moscow on Jan. 11 2006.

  53. Michael Averko says:

    It wouldn’t surprise if NY has more such instances of Jewish cemetaries, synagogues and individuals attacked during the same period. Per capita wise, Moscow is probably worse.

    Awhile back, I recall reading in The Russia Journal about a non-Jew coming to the aid of a Jew who was being beaten for bigoted reasons. The non-Jew was injured in that skirmish. If I correctly recall, Putin visited that non-Jew in the hospital and gave him an award. This was aired on TV.

    In the past, some have spoken of the need to deal with real live instances. Well I can matter of fact tell you that much of the snooty wonk discussion abroad on such matter is horseshit.

    As a kid, I was beaten for being a “Kike” in NY, not Moscow. My ROC gtandfather married my Baltic German Jewish grandmother. He came from an Imperial Russian military family and fought on the White side during the Russian civil war. He remained in Russia after the civil war. My father married my mother who is 100% Greek Sephardic. I cherish my Jewish and ROC backgrounds. I’ve come across others with a similar background (ROC and Jewish) who feel the same. I’m in contact with many Russians throughout Russia. Among the so called “nationalists” (patriots if you may), I’ve known thru the years, most of them are quite respectful towards Jews.

  54. nabovka says:

    Wally wrote: ” Are you kidding? Sometimes I think Katja can smell a Jew when they walk by. Time again while watching TV, she’ll pick out the ethnicity of someone. I’m always hoping that she’ll be incorrect, I’ll look up some actor or figure in the news on the internet and she’s always right.

    She isn’t the only Russian I’ve known with this ability. It is a common enough occurence that I’ve just taken it for granted that Russians ethnic radar is far more attuned than Americans (for sure) and probably most “Westerners” in general. I won’t even speculate as to the reasons why.”

    I just wanted to throw out a basic comment on why Russians may be hyper-attuned to ethnicity, though I know that Lyndon already touched upon this slightly. My generalized speculation as to why:

    It’s an understatement to say that ethnicity was huge in the Soviet Union. One simple question (“Kto vy po natsional’nosti?”) could have a huge impact on any Soviet citizen’s life trajectory.

    And it must be noted that if you weren’t a “suspect” nationality, you could often times make great use of being a representative of a minority people. If you were a representative of a “suspect” nationality – hell, all the more reason to be hyper (or even “deceptive”) about your own or others’ nationality.

    Finally, let’s not forget that after the internal passport was introduced in late 1932, one’s ethnic identity was inscribed in his/her passport alongside one’s class and professional status (that is, if one was lucky enough to be issued a passport in the first place).

    Ethnicity was simply a crucial ingredient (for some, the most crucial ingredient) of one’s Soviet identity in the good old druzhba narodov.

  55. Michael Averko says:

    The USSR promoted national identity. The development of the Belarusian language and the linguistic Ukrainianization of the Donbas region and other historically Russian speaking areas several examples. This emphasis on national identity nurtured an awareness of the multi-ethnic dimension.

    Plenty of Russians and non-Russians advanced in the USSR, with plenty of others from those categories having less success.

  56. Michael Averko says:

    As per the last set of comments, let me further qualify by adding: promoted national identity in a way which conformed to the regime’s desires.

  57. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Lyndon, thanks for the linguistic commentary. I have been told by Muscovites that “chernyi” is post-Soviet, but I will believe the encyclopedia!

  58. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “members of some other non-lily-white priezzhie ethnic groups who have shown up as competitors to Russians for jobs in the post-Soviet period (e.g., Moldovans – actually, perhaps that’s the only example).”

    Ukrainians. The largest group.

  59. Chrisius Maximus says:

    I think the importance of nationality to rossiyane is to large part just a natural result of having a huge territory inhabited by different ethnic groups in distinct compact territories. I imagine it is much the same in India, which is, again, my favorite country to compare Russia to. There is no such ethnicity as “Indian.”

  60. daut says:

    Michael, if nationalist and patriot are synonyms to you than we are speaking two completely different languages.

  61. Michael Averko says:

    Daut:

    As previously noted at another SRB thread, in modern day Eng. lang. usage the “n word” nationalist, has a negative meaning unlike patriot. The traditional Eng. lang. dictionary definitions of the two reference the two as being synonymous with each other.

    All

    There’s a Russian ethnicity for sure which has regional differences. This shouldn’t be confused with the roughly 20% non-ethnic Russian citizens of the RF.

    As for “chernyi”, it has been used in some circles to describe people of dark complexion for quite some time (Moscow included).

  62. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “There’s a Russian ethnicity for sure which has regional differences. This shouldn’t be confused with the roughly 20% non-ethnic Russian citizens of the RF.”

    Missed my point.

  63. Michael Averko says:

    Without checking back, I recall your saying that there’s no Indian ethnicity, thereby comparing it to a kind of Soviet (if you may) description.

    Well, there’s a Russian ethnicity for sure.

  64. Michael Averko says:

    “I think the importance of nationality to rossiyane is to large part just a natural result of having a huge territory inhabited by different ethnic groups in distinct compact territories. I imagine it is much the same in India, which is, again, my favorite country to compare Russia to. There is no such ethnicity as ‘Indian’.”

  65. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Right. You missed my point.

  66. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Hey, I haven’t seen any comments as yet as to whether this is linked to Adygeya? Adygeya is an ethnic Republic, with the following population breakdown, according to Wiki:

    According to the 2002 Census, ethnic Russians make up 64.5% of the republic’s total population, while the ethnic Adyghe is only 24.2%. Other groups include Armenians (3.4%), Ukrainians (2.0%), Kurds (3,631, or 0.8%), Tatars (2,904, or 0.7%), and a host of smaller groups, each accounting for less than 0.5% of the total population.

    census 2002
    Adyghe 108,115 (24.2%)
    Russians (64.5%)
    Armenians 15,268 (3.4%)
    Ukrainians 9,091 (2.0%)
    Others 26,355 (5.9%)

  67. Michael Averko says:

    “Right. You missed my point.”

    ****

    WRONG. I got your point and corrected the faulty suggestion that Russian isn’t an ethnic identity unlike your description of Indian (from the country of India).

    As for republics/regions having less the advertised group in its name, there was/is the Birobijan (pardon any Eng. lang. misspelled transliteration), which has been presented as a Jewish autonomous republic.

  68. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Nope, you still didn’t get my point. Perhaps somebody will explain it to you. (Hint: what does “россиянин” mean?)

  69. W. Shedd says:

    Some excellent points and details.

    While I was raising the point in a somewhat light-hearted fashion, I think both Mike’s anecdotes and daut’s detailed dates/times validate the points that racism and bigotry exist in the U.S. and Russia. When you say it like that, it hardly sounds debatable, does it? It simply becomes a discussion of at what point are the bigots so organized and in such numbers as to be a greater social problem – what is the tipping point? And what can or should governments do to combat ignorance, bigotry, and hatred (other than pointing to LR and saying – “hey, don’t be like that!”)

    I believe that nationalism and patriotism are synonyms, although nationalism has a negative connotation – simply because of history. From dictionary.com (Random House dictionary is cited):

    1. national spirit or aspirations.
    2. devotion and loyalty to one’s own nation; patriotism.
    3. excessive patriotism; chauvinism.
    4. the desire for national advancement or independence.
    5. the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation, viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.
    6. an idiom or trait peculiar to a nation.
    7. a movement, as in the arts, based upon the folk idioms, history, aspirations, etc., of a nation.
    [Origin: 1830–40; national + -ism]

    Patriot and patriotism is the older word, having first surfaced around 1720-1730. Really, you could devote a whole history class to this topic of when our modern idea of nation and citizen’s interest or devotion to the state was born. The topic of when people stopped or lessened their identifying with primarily their religion or ethnicity and turned their attention towards the state is fascinating by itself.

  70. Michael Averko says:

    “Nope, you still didn’t get my point. Perhaps somebody will explain it to you. (Hint: what does ‘россиянин” mean?)”

    ***

    Au contraire, I clearly did for reasons already communicated.

    Wally & Co:

    Yiddish is considered a kind of dead language. Yet, words like shwartze (pardon misspell of transliteration of a used Yiddish word to describe Blacks) and shiksa (referring to non-Jewish women) are frequently enough used words in some circles. Some Italians use the Italian word for egg plant to describe Blacks.

    The point being that it’s so easy to load up on negatives (real and perceived) and say that it proves a definite reality.

    Collectively, I don’t see how Russians can be legitimately accused (suggestively or otherwise) of being among the most bigoted of Europeans.

  71. Lyndon says:

    Lyndon, thanks for the linguistic commentary. I have been told by Muscovites that “chernyi” is post-Soviet, but I will believe the encyclopedia!

    Chris, this may actually be somewhat true about “chernyi” (in the sense that it only became commonly used to refer to Soviet/post-Soviet people of color in the 1990s) – it’s a harder term to search for than “chernozh*pyi,” so I didn’t set about looking for uses of it as a slur. As an aside, I’ve found that the post-Soviet context turns on its ear the whole concept of “people of color” and other American “racial” categories – for example, what box would you think an ethnic Kazakh should check on a US ethnicity form? I’d guess Asian, but have been told otherwise by American HR professionals. And as has been discussed above by a couple of people, the simple correlation which seems to exist in the rest of the world between being a person of color and being disadvantaged was often not the case in the Soviet Union and is often not the case in Russia, if we look at some of the ethnic regions.

    The unfortunate thing about the Soviet promotion of national identity (in my view) is that it made a lot of groups feel entitled to their own patch of land (even as resettlement policies were pursued to dilute majorities of many ethnic groups), and in many cases it allowed nationalist “historians” to publish ridiculous claims about their nation’s past. The resulting legends (some of them no doubt “reality-based”) played into the Karabakh conflict (just to name one) in a big way.

    Chris, I think I missed your point about Adygeia – was it just that the titular nationality is often not actually the majority in “their own” region? Census numbers like that always make me think of the 1989 figures for Abkhazia – 17-18% Abkhaz (though this graph vividly illustrates the extent to which this may have been a result of Soviet-era resettlement policies), and even 15 years after kicking out 200,000 Georgians they still don’t seem to have a majority in their self-proclaimed republic (though based on various accounts it looks like they have a 40-45% plurality).

    me:

    “members of some other non-lily-white priezzhie ethnic groups who have shown up as competitors to Russians for jobs in the post-Soviet period (e.g., Moldovans – actually, perhaps that’s the only example).”

    Chris:

    Ukrainians. The largest group.

    Great point. Funny that I didn’t even think of them – I guess it just doesn’t seem possible (regardless of linguistic rivalry at the margins and recent political animosity) that Russians would ever start thinking of Ukrainians as “chernye.” It would be like Americans calling recently arrived Canadians “wetbacks.” They are just too close to home for such an epithet, methinks, and anyway, Ukie-hating Russians always have the Kh-word to toss around.

    Mike:

    If you’re going to keep making attempts to compare the situation in the US to the situation in Russia, at least pick comparisons that make your point. How can you really look at graffiti and overturned gravestones as comparable to arson, knife attacks, and explosive devices? As Wally says, racism & bigotry exist everywhere, but it seems like lately in Russia they make the leap from words to deeds more easily than one would like.

    Following up on nabovka’s good points, my own anecdote (since we’re breaking out the childhood stories) on nationality awareness in the USSR dates from about 2 months after we moved to Leningrad in 1984. My whole class at school had an excursion to the dentist’s office (universal healthcare…), and as we all marched down the street to the poliklinika I had very little idea what was going on, though my fear grew when I saw a couple of bloody wads of cotton on the clinic’s front steps. When I had trouble communicating with the dentist, she asked me not “Where are you from?” (which is what one would typically ask in the US in such a context, I think), but “Mal’chik, kakoi ty natsii?” I remember this well, because my rudimentary language skills at that time made me think she was saying I was a Nazi.

    Regarding patriotism vs. nationalism – thesauri aside, isn’t the distinction obvious and extremely important in the context of a multiethnic state? If you are a patriot, generally speaking, you support the betterment of or believe in the superiority of your country/state and all of its citizens, regardless of ethnicity. If you are a nationalist, generally speaking, you support the betterment of or believe in the superiority of your own ethnic group or “nationality” (I put the word in quotes because there’s a need to distinguish between the Soviet, ethnically based sense, which is what I mean here, and the int’l law sense, in which “nationality” wishfully = “citizenship”).

    Let’s keep up the chatter, gentlemen (are there any ladies here?) – 100 комментов не за горами! And after that, we can push for the all-time SRB record, which I believe is 413.

  72. Lyndon says:

    PS – Without wanting to antagonize, I don’t think anyone here has (“suggestively or otherwise”) accused Russians of being “among the most bigoted of Europeans.” It’s just that (as others have mentioned before) this blog happens to be about Russia, so the commenters here are concerned with Russia and things that happen there; hence the discussion of all things Russian, including some of the unfortunate things. It’s not that the situation with violent nationalism in Russia is necessarily worse in comparison to other countries which Russia considers its peers (i.e., Europe & the US), though I think it may be, it’s that the situation in Russia is objectively unfortunate and negative, and most of us are here discussing and lamenting these recent and not-so-recent unfortunate developments and trying to figure out where they came from and where they may be headed – or we’re at least bullshitting more or less on-topic. Various slurs used by Jews or Italians have little to do with this endeavor.

    Speaking of graffiti, one of my favorite bits of street art of all the ones I managed to capture in Moscow is this one – I guess one could call it anti-anti-Semitic, though I wouldn’t go extrapolating larger societal conclusions from one person’s creativity with spraypaint.

    Sean, your decision to go to WordPress looks ever more perspicacious – Blogger was down this morning for “brief maintenance” for far longer than the “few minutes” they said it would last…I guess you get what you pay for.

  73. W. Shedd says:

    Collectively, I don’t see how Russians can be legitimately accused (suggestively or otherwise) of being among the most bigoted of Europeans.

    I don’t remember that accusation. Maybe I need to scroll back through the thread.

  74. Sean says:

    I wanted to let everyone know that Lyndon’s above comments were inadvertently put in the moderation queue. I had my settings wrong.

    I just wanted to alert everyone to them because as always they are insightful.

  75. daut says:

    Wow, those posts about the Yelstin obit were harsh.

  76. W. Shedd says:

    If you are a nationalist, generally speaking, you support the betterment of or believe in the superiority of your own ethnic group or “nationality”

    I understand your use of it like this, particularly as we are discussing Russia, but I think historically that isn’t what nationalism means. Nationalism refers to a type of fervent patriotism. The classic discussion, in historical terms, was always World War I, which is often blamed on nationalism run amok, poor domestic situations with political leaders looking to distract the populace said problems, and mutual protection pacts among groups of nations.

    From that experience combined with WWII nationalism gained the negative meaning we associate it with today. But essentially it was always patriotism or a form of patriotism. Perhaps it’s been since been co-opted to mean your ethnic tribe within a larger nation, but I would never understand or use it that way myself. Generally, I see it as the potentially ugly side of patriotism.

    Perhaps that is too much time spent going over the language, but as a group we aren’t always speaking English as a first language and certainly aren’t of the same upbringing regarding use of English (regional US, U.K., elsewhere). So it might be useful when we go over out terms and language like this.

  77. Sean says:

    The problem with pushing the comments to 100, is that I can’t keep up! There is a lot to comment on, but first I’m quite impressed with the discussion (considering some of those in the past). It is clear that the race/nationality question is a hot one. Anyway, I’ll make a few general points and hope that they are relevant.

    On comparison. I think comparison of race/racism in other places can be fruitful, but not to say that one place is just as or less racist as other. This is quite a stupid game because it doesn’t say much beyond the fact that the pot and kettle are both black. Plus such comparisons elides a very important issue: that race works differently in different cultures, political systems, and histories. And I think that through comparison those differences can be highlighted. American and Russian views of race share certain base aspects, but I think that because of Russia’s long history of strong concepts of nationality, it doesn’t function the same way ideologically or institutionally as the American concept of race. Now what those differences are exactly, I don’t know, but I think that some have pointed to some issues that require consideration.

    I think it is important to define race and ethnicity/nationality since they can sometimes be conflated. I tend to see the former as reducing differences between certain groups to more biological factors–skin color, facial features etc. Those biological markers are certainly bound to culture but it seems that biology becomes determinant in the last instance. Racial qualities are immutable and more often than not “in the blood.” Race is applied across ethnic boundaries whereas ethnicity is based in differences between even biologically similar groups.

    That said here are my comments:

    1) The prevalence of nationality/nationalism. The fact that the Soviets (and to a lesser extent the Tsarist government through co opting local religious elites to govern their flock. See Robert Crews’ For Prophet and Tsar on this) promoted nationalism at the same time Soviet patriotism i.e. the whole socialist in content, nationalist in form problem. I think Lyndon makes a good argument between the difference between the two in the Russian case, though for Russian nationalists its possible that the two can approach being synonymous. I also agree that the Soviet promotion of nationalism created the entitlement that Lyndon points to. One theory of why the Soviet Union collapsed is because of the very nationalism it promoted.

    The existence of many nationalities within Russian space most certainly effects the configuration of race and racism. In fact, one can make an argument that it problematizes racism since the latter tends to reduce differences between people, while the former upholds them. An American example of this is racism toward Latinos which elides the fact that there are very real and contentious differences between groups within the Latino category. American racists, who are far less ethnically aware like my mother, instead only see “Mexicans”.

    But Russians seems to be able to tell the difference between many ethnic groups. I’ve been repeatedly amazed with the ability of some Russians to spot Jews, and identify the differences between Uzbeks, Tadjiks, Kazakhs, Bashkirs etc etc. This is not to say that Russians are more racist or race conscious, it means that their race consciousness has a different configuration.

    2) The localism of race/racism. As some have noted, certain nationalities dominate in particular geographical spaces. Sometimes they are the minority in numbers, but still have power because of korenizatsiia. Race relations are certainly effected by the local configuration of population and political/economic power. This also exists in the US. Race tends to be more black/white in the South, but more white/brown in the Southwest.

    3) Antisemitism. Russia as a long, long history of antisemitism that continues. My girlfriend, who is Israeli, usually experiences it in terms of “Jews are smart” or “Jews are successful”. Every time she gets into a cab in Moscow she gets a marriage proposal. The cabbies think that if their kids have Jewish blood they will be smart. A soft form of antisemitism for sure, but antisemitism nonetheless. But the point is not whether antisemitism is soft or violent (it is both) but its relationship to Russian understandings of race.

    The linguistic discussion is quite interesting. Thanks to Lyndon for adding so much to it. There is no doubt that the black/white distinction goes back. And it would be interesting to chart the emergence of variations of the word “chernyi” as a racial or ethnic slur. I’ve never seen it in archival documents from the 1920s, though that doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist. I do come across “yid” a lot. But in the 1920s, it seems that most epithets among youth are class slurs. I’ve recently discovered that meshchanka (a petite-bourgeois girl) can also mean bitch. Sometimes it was used specifically for a Jewish girl. Therefore it is also possible that these class slurs doubled as ethnic slurs. I’ll have to be more sensitive to such terms.

  78. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “Chris, I think I missed your point about Adygeia – was it just that the titular nationality is often not actually the majority in “their own” region? ”

    I just thought it was interesting that this Russian “National Socialist” was apparently operating in an ethnic enclave where, if one wants to look for “colonizers,” one would certainly find some in the Russians.

  79. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “But Russians seems to be able to tell the difference between many ethnic groups. I’ve been repeatedly amazed with the ability of some Russians to spot Jews, and identify the differences between Uzbeks, Tadjiks, Kazakhs, Bashkirs etc etc. ”

    I can do this too after living in Russia for 7 years. One becomes attuned.

  80. nabovka says:

    Sean wrote: “American and Russian views of race share certain base aspects, but I think that because of Russia’s long history of strong concepts of nationality, it doesn’t function the same way ideologically or institutionally as the American concept of race.”

    To (hopefully) add to this, and in only in relation to Soviet times, it definitely must be kept in mind that the nationality policy of the Bolsheviks was hinged precisely on the belief that minority people’s so-called “backwardness” was not biological, and therefore always potentially eradicable. If given the proper tutelage and self-help tools, it was believed, all “backward” minority peoples could be “raised up” to the level of the Russians and said “raising up” was the entire point. If national “backwardness” could be eradicated, supra-national, Soviet, socialist harmony could be achieved. (The entire nationality policy was, of course, clearly premised on the notion that all minorities were, in fact, “backward” in comparison to the Russians – this, despite Russian peasants being regarded as among the most “backward” of people living in late imperial/early Soviet space).

    This early (and even later) Bolshevik conception of nationality is a far, far cry from most Americans’ concept of race in the early 20th century.

    I do not believe that “race” and/or “racism” popped up magically in post-Soviet space. In my mind, this simply goes against reason, as does the simplistic notion that “racism” could be imported to Russia via crappy American movies and other “foreign” “contaminants” (I know that no one here has said this, but I’ve heard that one before). That being said, I don’t have a simple explanation for how “race” may have functioned in Soviet times or in imperial times (I don’t think “race” magically appeared in Soviet times either, although I assume it is a concept that has evolved over time in Russia as elsewhere). And my own lack of clarity on this issue vexes me to no end, so if someone has the answer, or part of it, I welcome your thoughts whole-heartedly.

    Thanks for the wonderful anecdote, Lyndon. I’ll remember that one. And also, you can count me among the ladies – are there others here?

  81. W. Shedd says:

    And also, you can count me among the ladies – are there others here

    Hard to tell, English doesn’t make that so obvious as does the inherently-sexist Russki yazik. (tongue-in-cheek)

  82. W. Shedd says:

    Forgive me for going back to an older comment in the thread. I was rereading this with Katja asking her opinion and translation of certain words. Unfortunately, she didn’t have much to add, she is rather apolitical. But it reminded me to comment on a couple of things.

    Well I can matter of fact tell you that much of the snooty wonk discussion abroad on such matter is horseshit.

    Mike, I have to say that I have a totally different take on your writing now that I know what your voice from that BBC radio program. You reminded me of Mike Francesa, so I half expect you to say “y’know what I mean, Dowg?” at the end of sentences.

    I say this light-heartedly, I realize you’re a BoSox fan and not a Mets or Yankees fan.

    I cherish my Jewish and ROC backgrounds.

    I’m probably foolish for not knowing this, but ROC is short for … ?

  83. Lyndon says:

    Wally:

    ROC = Russian Orthodox Church (among other things).

    nabovka:

    Apologies for not drawing the obvious conclusion from the “a” on the end of your name and for forgetting that you’re a lady, which as I now recall was mentioned in an earlier thread – I think you’re the only one here, perhaps you’ll keep us civilized (daut, I’m glad you checked out that record-setting post and saw how crazy it can get).

    If national “backwardness” could be eradicated, supra-national, Soviet, socialist harmony could be achieved. (The entire nationality policy was, of course, clearly premised on the notion that all minorities were, in fact, “backward” in comparison to the Russians – this, despite Russian peasants being regarded as among the most “backward” of people living in late imperial/early Soviet space).

    This early (and even later) Bolshevik conception of nationality is a far, far cry from most Americans’ concept of race in the early 20th century.

    Far from the American concept at that time indeed, but not so far from the colonial (I have the British in mind) idea of civilizing the benighted savages. The goal of “Soviet…harmony” was obviously where this diverged, but the orientalist viewing of the subject peoples and the noblesse-oblige-type sense of a responsibility to “civilize” these folks whether they like it or not… doesn’t seem inconsistent with what I know of the Brits’ approach back in the day (but I’d like to get a Brit’s take on this – Tim?), without even bringing in the Bush administration’s apparent desire to “civilize” the Middle East by spreading the seeds of democracy there.

    Chris:

    OK, I feel like an idiot for not getting your Adygeia reference, when the connection was mentioned in the very first line of the original post. I guess it just shows that I was simply responding to comments at that point and had forgotten some of the points of the original post. Whoops. And of course I had to try to drive the horse further off-course with my Abkhazia factoids.

    Sean:

    Your point #3 above (about “soft anti-Semitism”) is a very good one and is consistent with some comments I’ve heard – reflexive respect for Jews based on the “smart/well-to-do” stereotype, and it’s easy to see how this stereotype can lead to the attitude shifting swiftly to envy and resentment if one is feeling down on one’s luck.

    For a somewhat unexpected (to me, at least) story about ethnicity in Russia, check out this post from Window on Eurasia (thx to GVO for highlighting it). The post talks about the apparent trend of moskvichki marrying muslim priezzhie because they drink less, work to support their families and want to have lots of kids. That this is as common as suggested is a bit surprising (and encouraging), but on the other hand it just gives local ethnic Russian men a reason to get even more resentful of newly arrived southerners (and of course their cousins who may have been born in Moscow but look just the same to a drunk skinhead). For one example of something like fearmongering (a bit reminiscent of white fears of African-Americans going after white women), see this somewhat disturbing post (all the more disturbing because it seems to be a true story, and the writer’s reaction and unease is understandable), which as of this evening was one of Yandex’s top 30 (in the top 10, I think) posts in the Russian blogosphere.

    Oh, and another random thought about “chernyi/chornyi” in Russian – when used as a slur, it’s often translated as “darkie,” which may be quite appropriate (though it’s kind of a dated word in American English) given the use of “chorny” in Russian in e.g. the phrase that translates as “dark humor.” Another negative usage of a derivation of “chornyi” occurred to me – “pit’ po-chornomu,” which is how I’ve heard some rural people refer to folks who go on benders. But this also has more the concept of something dark and menacing than simply of a color. Apparently “chorny” is also used in some context as slang for “the devil” (“chort”), according to one of my slang dictionaries, although I’ve never heard this usage.

    And please excuse my unorthodox transliteration of the yo as “o” in this context – I just think it’s phonetically more correct. OK, I should really be devoting all of this comment-energy to my own blog, but we’re within spitting distance of 100 comments here! Why does this milestone intrigue me? Because it’s there. In the immortal words of Gen. Lebed’ (I used to find this quotation very useful in encouraging people to have another shot), “mozhno, znachit nuzhno.”

  84. W. Shedd says:

    ROC = Russian Orthodox Church

    Doh! I swear, even Katja didn’t know … and here we are, both with Russian Orthodox baptismal crosses around our necks.

  85. Michael Averko says:

    Wally:

    Sports journalism is far more honest than the stuffy wonk like stranglehold pertaining to the coverage of the former USSR.

    What I’m about to say reflects the kind of frankness allowed in sports journalism that’s very much discouraged in the politically slanted coverage of the former USSR.

    Lyndon as per your recent comments made about my points, you very much overlook numerous other supporting points I made regarding bigotry in Russia and abroad (America included). Russia, Russians and Russocentric thinking folks are hypocritically put under the microscope. Witness Ethan Burger’s asinine accusation at SL claiming that my work has “a strong anti-Semitic flavor”. Meantime, he has willingly contributed at http://rusophobe.blogspot.com. Your comeback was how some of my commentary has appeared at http://www.rusjournal.com. In comparison terms, the former seems more bigoted than what the latter could be legitimately accused of at the same level.

    I recently participated on a panel where I heard some of the most absurd psychoanalysis of Russians from a Polish journalist, two liberal Russian academics, a neocon Russian “dissident”, and a not so Russia friendly Ukrainian journalist. The psychoanalysis of non-Russians and Eng. lang. mass media preferred Russians in dispute with mainstream Russians is often either non-existent or is slanted with sympathy. This is much different from the kind of psychoanalysis done with Russia.

    The comparative approach I bring to this discussion is quite appropriate. The educated, but not so expert of Russia watchers have positively replied to this way of reviewing the situation. Their reply being along the lines of: you’ve a point, there’s hypocrisy. In turn, their view of Russia changes. Having two standards for viewing different countries isn’t an even handed an approach.

    America had its period of Rodney King, Yankel Rosenbaum, Abner Louima and others getting beaten and or killed for ethnic reasons. America is still far from perfect. This period in Russia will pass and it’s very much being exploited by not so Russia friendly forces who overlook intolerance elsewhere. There aren’t too many non-Slovenians in Slovenia to attack. That Slovenia has an issue building just one mosque in its capital where none exist is a tell all sign that Russians are collectively more tolerant than Slovenians.

    Sean, some Israelis and Jews at large have bigoted aspects as well. Yet, how often is that made a topic when discussing Israel or Jewry at large? Academic and media bigotry isn’t something to take so lightly. What your girlfriend said of some Russians is also true of some Americans and others. Like your girlfriend, you overlook the other supporting points to the contrary made earlier at this thread. Instead, choosing to clap for some trends that compliment the existing biases out there. The manner of Nazism, and the Spanish Inquisition never quite reached that point in Russia. Neither did the horrifically gross actions of the Ottoman Turks against the Armenians and others.

    It’s quite immature and hypocritical to hold Russia and Russians to standards that others aren’t.

  86. Michael Averko says:

    Some related supporting points of unchecked biases not getting replied to. All this plays into how Russia is spun on any number of topics like the one at this thread.

    http://markmackinnon.blogspot.com/2007/08/counter-revolution-starts-here.html

    Note the picture of the Asiatic looking Nashi young lady holding the hand of her more Russian looking counterpart. No highlighting of that. The “better story” is to write about Russian racists.

    As for the mentioned (at the above link) shutting down of the BBC in Russia:

    In the NY metro. area, on basic cable/satellite TV, one can get RAI, BBC, DW a French and Irish news outlet 5 times a week. The BBC is aired at three different times during the day, five times a week. It’s aired twice a day on weekends.

    In that same market, there’s no RTTV, as well as RTR, NTV and the other major Russian TV station with news. One has to go the high speed net route to get those stations.

    There’s no discussion of censoring Russian mass media in America. BTW, the BBC is far from objective in much of its reporting of Russia. That it’s better than most Eng. lang. outlets is an indication of the slant.

    Meantime, it’s not like the BBC is being totally blocked from the Russian market.

    ****

    http://markmackinnon.blogspot.com/2007/08/ukrainian-dj-vu.html

    The author gives carte blanche to the Orange claims of virtue. Upon being challenged on that point (in the comments section), he backtracks a bit.

    As for Nina Khrushcheva’s claim of Blue attempts to muzzle Tymoshenko, how about the Orange side succeeding to block Pridnestrivie’s Ukrainian citizenry from voting in the upcoming Ukrainian election? There’s no outrage about that because Pridnestrovie’s Ukrainian citizens overwhelmingly vote Blue. Tyomshenko’s bloc will be participating in the upcoming vote.

  87. nabovka says:

    Lyndon,

    I definitely think that the “civilizing mission” with all of is orientalist underpinnings is a characteristic that the Soviet empire shared with other 19th & 20th century European empires. An important distinction still holds: the “backward” even “savage” minority peoples of the Soviet Union were citizens. Most other 19th or 20th century European empires were quite deliberately not in the business of making citizens of their colonial subjects.

    I, too, though would be happy to hear what Tim might have to say on the subject of imperial comparisons.

    Speaking of civilizing missions, I can’t promise that my presence here as “resident lady” will lead to greater civility in these comments! I can at times be a rather snarky asshole – and sometimes without any regret! But I think Sean certainly has a point about ignoring the more insane among us.

  88. nabovka says:

    Just a quick caveat: I in no way meant to imply that I myself consider the minority peoples of the Soviet Union to have been “backward” or “savage,” and merely intended to reflect the Bolsheviks’ own thinking on the matter. My prose was a bit unclear.

  89. Michael Averko says:

    “I think Sean certainly has a point about ignoring the more insane among us.”

    ****

    A bit of Soviet psychiatry and a classic example how some Western (among others) reared folks aren’t so open minded to different views.

    Specifically put, some choose to not as directly reply to what others in disagreement with them are saying. Instead, offering general broad swipes that play on the permeating stereotypes out there.

    As someone once famous noted, it can get to the point when the insane can ounumber the sane.

  90. Regarding the personal experience of sean’s Israeli girlfriend with Russian attitudes of Jews:

    In high school and part of college, I worked for an upscale kosher caterer. The kitchen rabbi was from Vilnius when it was a part of Poland (where part of my family was from). At times, he displayed many of the anti-Russian attributes typically found among a good number of Poles. However, he stated that anti-Jewish sentiment among Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians is greater when compared to Russians.

    When discussing Russian Jewry, it’s “immature” to only highlight the negatives (as is frequently the case), while glossing over these previosuly stated points:

    Russia NEVER came close to developing the systematic bigotry against Jews which developed in Germany, Austria and perhaps (no doubt) some other parts of Europe. As bad as the Imperial Russian era pogroms were, they were certainly not worse than what Blacks and Indians faced in America during the same time period. A European comparison of Jewish out of faith marriages will no doubt confirm that Russians have been among the more willing of Europeans to embrace those of Jewish background. Since the Soviet breakup, Russia has two prime ministers (a rough comparison to the American vice president) of Jewish background. In the 200 plus year history of the US, there’ve apparently been no American presidents and vice presidents of Jewish background. From 2003 to the present those leaving Israel for Russia is considerably greater than vice versa.

  91. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Perhaps you should embrace your madness Mike, stare deep into the gibbering blackness that lies beyond your tenuous grasp of reality and let it feed your work. It worked for Sylvia Plath. You may become a Russocentric goth idol, a sort of faux-Slavic version of Antonin Artaud.

  92. Chrisius Maximus says:

    An important distinction still holds: the “backward” even “savage” minority peoples of the Soviet Union were citizens.”

    A member of one of them was even the Vozhd!

    (I would be very surprised if Soviet ideology viewed Tatars or Georgians as backward, by the way.)

  93. Chrisius Maximus says:

    See, Mike, I have redone “Russia’s Sane Position on Kosovo” so it reads more like it reflects your true nature. 1) It would attrect a wider readership. 2) It’s way better written than the original text. And 3) it lets the readers get to know the real you.

    The Tiraspol Times
    Russia’s Sane Position on Kosovo
    By Mike Averko

    TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.

    It is impossible to say how first the idea of writing about David Johnson entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved David Johnson. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his Russia List! Yes, it was this! His list had the soul of a vulture. Whenever I read it my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of David Johnson, and thus rid myself of the list for ever.

    Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded — with what caution — with what foresight, with what dissimulation, I went to work! I was never kinder to David Johnson than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night about midnight I turned the latch of his door and opened it oh, so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern all closed, closed so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly, very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb David Johnson’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this? And then when my head was well in the room I undid the lantern cautiously — oh, so cautiously — cautiously (for the hinges creaked), I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture Russia List. And this I did for seven long nights, every night just at midnight, but I found David Johnson’s Russia List always closed, and so it was impossible to do the work, for it was not David Johnson who vexed me but his Evil Johnson’s Russia List. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound Russocentric analyst, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

    (And so on in that vein.)

  94. nabovka says:

    Chris, you definitely have a career ahead of you as a ghostwriter for aspiring analysts.

    Yes, the Georgians and the Tatars were generally regarded as “cultured nationalities.” *** Quite interestingly, however, the Tatar population of the Soviet Union gave officials some reason to pause. On an “official list of ‘culturally backward’ nationalities” dated 1932, all Tatars who lived outside the ASSR were considered “culturally backward.” If you don’t believe me, check out Terry Martin’s _The Affirmative Action Empire_ page 167. He reproduces the list in its entirety.

    In my own research (focusing on a nationality that was most definitely considered “backward”), I often found reference to “backward” Tatar populations in Moscow, for example. Though, again, it was clear that they were seen as higher on the cultural gradient than certain, infinitely more “backward” nationalities.

    Terry Martin, by the way, also cites a 1932 Narkompros memo that singled out 5 fundamental characteristics of “backward nationalities.” To paraphrase:

    1. low literacy rates
    2. dismal % of children enrolled in school
    3. lack of written script / “modern,” literary language
    4. retention of such “backward,” “patriarchal” or “clannish” customs such as nomadism, religious fanaticism, the subjugation of women, etc
    5. “a complete lack or enormous dearth of national cadres in all aspects of soviet construction.”

    Again, see Martin, A.A. Empire, 166.

    Sorry for geeking out – I just love this stuff.

  95. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “Chris, you definitely have a career ahead of you as a ghostwriter for aspiring analysts.”

    Why thank you! That was just replacing some words on my part though. It took me a while trying to find a text online that best captured Mike’s particularly brand of insanity. Unfortunately I could not find “Zapiski sumshchedshego” in English, and with Lovecraft and Baudelaire I would have had to worry about the rhyme and meter, so I stuck with good old Edgar Poe. 🙂

    “Yes, the Georgians and the Tatars were generally regarded as “cultured nationalities.” *** Quite interestingly, however, the Tatar population of the Soviet Union gave officials some reason to pause.”

    I would imagine this is because the “Tatars” are actually a pretty varied, culturally different bunch — Tatars in Tatarstan and Crimean Tatars and Volga Tatars. (I’m not sure they don’t speak diffferent dialects??) I know this is a matter of internal debate among Tatars themselves — “are Crimean Tatars really Tatars?” and so forth. I have a book about Tatar national identity that goes into this, which unfortunately I have only skimmed.

    PS. when I say “Soviet” without qualification I am usually referring to the late Soviet era, i.e. Brezhnev time, not the Stalin period. Though I imagine their would be commonalities in nationalities policy.

  96. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “In my own research (focusing on a nationality that was most definitely considered “backward”), ”

    By the way, what nationality are you doing research on?

  97. nabovka says:

    цыгане!

  98. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Yup, that’s the backward of the backward! 😉 Isn’t there a цыгане theater in Moscow?

    I believe I have never actually met one. I suspect that a lot of the people Muscovites call цыгане are actually Tajiks.

  99. nabovka says:

    Yep, it’s located on Leningradskii prospekt and is, unless something recently changed without my knowledge, still up and running. It was established in 1931, precisely with the hope of “civilizing” via theatrical performances.

  100. Michael Averko says:

    Chris Doss (Chrisius Maximus), the shameless participant to a secret society of a wonk discussion group headed by an insecure individual (his friend Peter Lavelle), who on the one hand feels it okay to call Paul Goble “nuts”, but then wrongly tags legitimate criticism of his work as “abuse”. Talk about hypocrisy.

    No open viewing of that venue, unless you get approved. This scenario conjures up images of a restrictive Russian media. No major Eng. lang. news org. promotes such a venue. Meantime, it’s Lavelle’s own insecurity (and possibly that of some of the participants), independent of RTTV.

    There’s a likely explanation for its closed from open viewing route. When it was open, some absurdities were evident. It included cheap shots at Elena Kobyakina, who wanted to discuss women’s issues. It also included Gordon Hahn clearly suggesting that Condoleezza Rice is an Affirmative Action appointment. I used to be against AA until a thought kicked in. Prior to AA, mediocre Blacks didn’t get the nod over mediocre Whites. The US had a mediocre White female SOS in Madeleine Albright. Why not a Black one?

    Chris has yet to reference any articles of his on former USSR matters. He offers no criticism to a well received piece “Russia’s Sane Position on Kosovo”. This is the closest he comes to fame. Baseless attempts at “comedy” done with the obvious intent to divert away from his being unable to backup some of his claims.

    As for David Johnson, I’ve yet to see him come close to getting in the firing line of up front legitimate criticism of his manner, which was previously touched on in an eXile article.

  101. Chrisius Maximus says:

    So, how did that work? Did they use work by цыгане playwrites (were there any?). Material taken from цыгане* folktales? Or were they using non-цыгане sources as part of the social engineering attempt?

    *Am using Russian word to keep a certaing non-Russophone out of the discussion! 😉

  102. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “No open viewing of that venue, unless you get approved.”

    Mike, anybody can get approved. Anybody who’s not a dick, anyway. We have a no-dick policy. Hence, the approved list does not include you.

  103. Michael Averko says:

    Chris

    You and some others on it are the biggest dicks around.

    Such is your twisted state.

    There’s an obvious reason why it’s not up for open viewing.

  104. nabovka says:

    Yes, they performed plays written by novice цыганские playwrights (you can imagine) that were meant to instill audiences with Soviet values. Folklore was touchy because 1/ there was always a debate over ethnographic authenticity and 2/ because it was feared that folklore would only inspire people to revere their “backward” and “patriarchal” customs. By the late 30s – owing in large part to the return to “All things Russian are unabashedly great” – they started performing Pushkin’s “цыгане” and ultimately even other “classic,” albeit foreign (and I daresay “bourgeois”) tales like Karmen.

    Also, in the first couple of years, the performers spoke по-цыгански on stage. That did not last very long, however.

  105. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “There’s an obvious reason why it’s not up for open viewing.”

    Uh, yeah, it’s a private conversation.

    The madness is hypostasizing. I’m curious — is your insanity the result of some biological disorder or psychological trauma, or did you have an encounter with a Lovecraftian being of cosmic horror that opened your mind to vertiginous otherworlds of non-Euclidean Cyclopean architecture, causing your horror-shocked brain to reel with monstrous insights not meant for such an transient being as man, leaving you to gibber incoherent ululating curses against David Johnson at the bequest of Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos? That would be totally cool.

  106. Michael Averko says:

    No, the reason has to do with some of the stupidity posted there.

    Media people with such venues overwhelmingly have them open for viewing. That one just might be the lone exception.

    Are you in love with David Johnson or what? This is the second time you flippantly bring him up.

  107. nabovka says:

    Anyway, Chris, I gotta dash. If for some reason you’re still interested in my topic, just ask Sean for my email and drop me a line. I’ll be happy to satiate any further curiosity.

  108. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Nabovka, the theater is still in operation, correct? What’s their fare like nowadays?

  109. Chrisius Maximus says:

    I shall! Thanks.

  110. Chrisius Maximus says:

    You haven’t answered the question. Did you or did you not have an encounter with a Lovecraftian being of cosmic horror, the experience of which twisted your mind and soul into a parody of the human psyche, forever wailing into the void about the forbidden city of Kadath in the Cold Waste and the grim plateau that is Leng? If so, you’re way cool.

  111. Michael Averko says:

    I’m not into your side interests away from the subject matter.

    I suspect a good number aren’t as well.

    The pathetic likes of yourself help explain why society at large has some very ****** up aspects to it.

  112. Chrisius Maximus says:

    DID YOU OR DID YOU NOT HAVE AN ENCOUNTER WITH A LOVECRAFTIAN BEING OF COSMIC HORROR??????

  113. Michael Averko says:

    The po boy is one really hurtin ****.

  114. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Guess you didn’t then. Bummer.

  115. Some bigger bummers than that.

  116. Chrisius Maximus says:

    What do you think about the цыгане issue, Mike?

  117. цыгане

    Gypsies? If so, can you be more specific?

    Regarding Kosovo, they take the side of the Serbs because they’re more tolerant than the Albanians.

  118. If my translation is right, I should’ve said Roma in respect to what most people from that group seem to prefer.

    That’s one group which gets dissed by many in Europe.

  119. He obviously meant this:

    “Yes, they performed plays written by novice цыганские playwrights (you can imagine) that were meant to instill audiences with Soviet values. Folklore was touchy because 1/ there was always a debate over ethnographic authenticity and 2/ because it was feared that folklore would only inspire people to revere their ‘backward’ and ‘patriarchal’ customs. By the late 30s – owing in large part to the return to ‘All things Russian are unabashedly great’ – they started performing Pushkin’s ‘цыгане’ and ultimately even other ‘classic,’ albeit foreign (and I daresay ‘bourgeois’) tales like Karmen.

    Also, in the first couple of years, the performers spoke по-цыгански on stage. That did not last very long, however.”

    ****

    Not familiar with that work of Sasha’s. Will read up. The above quoted (reference to late 19 thirties)suggests a general view of Russians being chauvinist and intolerant of others.

    Not buying it one iota.

    The late 19 thirties saw unpopularity with the regime and the thought of a future war with Germany. Hence, the enhancement of more seemingly pro-Russian works.

  120. W. Shedd says:

    Mike, I say this as nicely as I can and hope that you’ll take this constructively: Sometimes your temper gets the best of you and errodes some of your better and legitimate points. Temper might not even be the right word – your strength of conviction combined with your fervent language and ability to attack people who disagree detracts from many of your valid points.

    For example, I think you are correct in citing certain biases and double-standards that we Americans have towards Russia. I can’t think of another group or culture that you can insult at will in the U.S. and receive, not condemnation or scorn, but outright praise for it. You can call Russians paranoid, drunks, lazy, backwards, murderers, greedy, communists, and any other number of insults and actually be taken seriously and quoted in the US (LR has proven this time and time again.)

    If you substitute Black, or Jew, or Mexican, or almost any other culture you can name into those same sentences, you would be quickly condemned. Russia and Russians remain the can that we Americans can kick and vilify at will. If the headlines say bad things about Russia, how they are repressive, returning to communism, controlling all news outlets, or are returning to a new “Cold War” – which are largely half-truths – newspapers fly off the newstands.

    So I think when you touch on this, you raise legitimate points. You have some other legit arguments also. But your fire and brimstone gets the better of you. You make yourself a fanatic and we are quite accustomed to not listening to fanatics. Hey, ask Lyndon Larouche.

  121. Lyndon says:

    Mike, if you’re not familiar with “The Gypsies” (“Цыганы”), I doubt Aleksandr Sergeevich would take kindly to you using such a familiar form of address. The original is available here; there doesn’t seem to be a full-text English translation available online at first glance, although it’s been translated into English (I recommend Arndt’s Pushkin Threefold – available used for cheap on Amazon).

    nabovka, have you ever been to Soroca? And is it true that Roma consider it to be their “capital”? That’s what people from there say (though of course people often talk up their hometown), and there are some pretty impressive houses there “v tsiganskom stile.” And the 15th C. fortress on the banks of the Dnestr makes the town worth a visit.

    By the way, before I went to Moldova the first time way back in 1999, I was expecting to encounter all kinds of gypsies there – it’s part of the traditional Russian image of the region (“wine, women & song” sort of sums it up, I think), based perhaps on the reality of Soroca and on Pushkin’s somewhat invented reality. What I found was that while my Russian friends talked about “tsygane” in Moldova, some Moldovans I met talked about “tsygane” in Romania! (and based on my limited experience you’re more likely to be harrassed by classic street gypsies in Romania – or in St. Petersburg, for that matter – than in Moldova) So I guess everyone likes to point the finger.

    And speaking of Pushkin’s poem/play, is Zemfira a common Roma name? I’m curious, because the most famous bearer of that name nowadays is a Tatar. Probably it means nothing, her parents just liked the name.

    Finally, because I can’t resist sharing a Roma-related link, although I’m sure you’ve seen it already, there’s a blog about “Roma issues” (yes, Mike, it’s one of those eeeevil TOL blogs). And my googling for Pushkin’s poem found me this internet curiosity – see item 25 on the list, though again, if you’re seriously involved in the topic, I’m sure you’ve seen it already.

    Wally:

    I can’t think of another group or culture that you can insult at will in the U.S. and receive, not condemnation or scorn, but outright praise for it.

    No offense, but you’re either not thinking very hard or thinking only within the context of the discussion above – Muslims/Arabs (and I know these categories don’t always overlap), anyone? If there’s an ethnic/religious can being kicked around in the US, it’s certainly this one (with immigrants from south of the border coming in a close second), and not the Russians, who most Americans don’t care much about any more. Who of any import takes LR seriously and quotes her/him (“time and time again,” no less)? And do you really think any stories about Russia make papers “fly off the newsstands”? While interest in the country is reviving as Russia itself revives and returns to a more prominent place on the world stage, I don’t think it’s a topic of central interest for Americans, even Americans who are interested in foreign affairs (who, I hope we can all agree, constitute a fairly small percentage of the population at large).

    There are certainly a lot of unfounded and negative stereotypes about Russia/Russians held by many Americans (I recall a Law & Order episode that might as well have been titled “Russian Whores” for the number of times that phrase was uttered about Russian & Ukrainian women in NY), but these are passive and ignorance-based. They do allow columnists in middle American newspapers to sometimes get away with saying some ridiculous things. I think among people who actually follow Russia professionally, you’d be hard-pressed to find many (any?) who throw around your litany of epithets. And people who do call attention to Russia’s problems (e.g., you mention “drunks” as a slur – but isn’t alcoholism in fact a huge problem in Russia, more so than almost anywhere else?) or point out that while money goes to saber-rattling or whatever you want to call it, rural Russia in fact remains “backwards” at least in some cases mention these facts and make critiques out of concern and affinity for Russians. Perhaps this is an example of a misguided “civilizing” urge, but I don’t think it’s intended in such contexts to be “scornful.”

    Actually, one of the people who’s done the most to “orientalize” today’s Russia and the post-Soviet space in American minds is Russian-American Gary Shteyngart – I have Russophile friends who really liked his Absurdistan, but the portion I read (in the New Yorker, I think) seemed to me more like an exercise in picking low-hanging stereotypical fruit for comic value.

  122. Lyndon says:

    OK, a bit of shameless self-promotion: I think some of you will find this post relevant to certain aspects of the discussion above. There’s sort of something for everyone – even a graphic confirming that the Soviets were much more diligent about spreading literacy during the pre-WWII decades in Tajikistan than the Brits were in India.

    Do I hear 200 comments, anyone?

  123. W. Shedd says:

    Actually, I think Muslims and Arabs are treated generally very well in the United States. Considering recent history, you would expect much worse.

    With Muslims in the US, it seems that as a culture we actively attempt to act against our most base instincts. Real acts of war or terror have been committed by fundamentalist Muslims against the US, and yet we go out of our way in newscasts and newspapers to show that all Muslims are not this way.

    With Russians, it seems the opposite is true. They are villanized beyond the reality of their nations and leaders actions.

    I think in most areas in the U.S., if you said “all those Arab rag-heads are ignorant dirt-farmer terrorists” people would have a more negative reaction than if you said “all those dirty pinko commie Russians are drunken cowards”. From what I have seen, one is considered a dangerous exaggeration and the other is regarded as a factual statement.

    If you want to prove the point, show me the New York Times headline that compares and villifies a Middle Eastern leader the way Putin is endlessly and pointlessly compared to Stalin. There are no such headlines.

  124. W. Shedd says:

    (e.g., you mention “drunks” as a slur – but isn’t alcoholism in fact a huge problem in Russia, more so than almost anywhere else?) I dunno. Maybe we should ask the Irish about this. Or Native Americans. Or Australian Aborigines. Can you get away with portraying or describing Irish or American Indians as drunks? I think Russia is further away, was a long-time “enemy” and as a result, you can get away with more crude comments and analysis.

    I agree alot of the imagery is somewhat passive, but I think it is much more corrosive than you are implying. I also think the headlines are much more inflammatory than for almost any other nation.

    You are right that among people in the know about Russia, we take these things less seriously. But we are a really small group, let’s face it. Among the broader populace, hatred of Russia plays. You couldn’t create a website that is quoted by national media or “mainstream” opinion blogs titled “I Hate Jews” or “I Hate Mexico” … but let’s face it, LR is doing that with Russian topics. And it is bigotry, plain and simple.

  125. Lyndon says:

    Actually, I think Muslims and Arabs are treated generally very well in the United States. Considering recent history, you would expect much worse.

    So, do you mean “they” are treated well given what “they” did on 9/11? Or do you mean that based on episodes of overreaction in America’s past you’d have expected them to be locked up in camps like the Japanese were after Pearl Harbor? I assume the latter, but I’m not clear which “recent history” you’re talking about.

    Anyway, weren’t we talking about stereotypes or images of groups propagated in the popular mind (as opposed to the actual treatment of people in the US)? Are we told about Russians that “they hate us because we’re free” and that we are engaged in a global war with them, as we are told about Muslims? I happen to think that what the gov’t says is more important (since it represents the opinions of at least a large segment of the population and it has the guns) than what the media says.

    With Muslims in the US, it seems that as a culture we actively attempt to act against our most base instincts.

    So, we don’t lock them up without trial on occasion, create “watch lists” where they predominate, or create new surveillance programs to monitor them? Oh, wait a minute, we do. And it seems that many of us supported our President in his Iraqi adventure, which seems to have been based in part on some combination of an anti-Saddam vendetta and contractor or oil-company greed. I’m not saying these things are done baselessly, but I’d personally much, much rather be Ivan Ivanov in today’s America than be someone with a generic Arab name.

    I think media (as opposed to regular people) are much more careful to be balanced in their portrayals of Muslims or minority immigrants, because no one wants to be accused of racism and there are watchdog groups out there. Maybe broad-brush, stereotype-based criticism of Russians (not that I see this often in the mainstream media, but you suggest it’s there – examples?) is easier to get away with because Russians are “white” and therefore there is less hesitation about being perceived as racist. Also, aside from Mike’s “Lying About Russia,” there aren’t a whole lot of watchdogs looking out for this.

    If you want to prove the point, show me the New York Times headline that compares and villifies a Middle Eastern leader the way Putin is endlessly and pointlessly compared to Stalin. There are no such headlines.

    Sorry, are we talking about individual leaders or about stereotypes of larger groups? And if you want convince me that comments critical of Putin should be of concern vis-a-vis American stereotypes of Russians, it would help if you first provided examples of what exactly has you so bothered (not counting LR) – have there even been NYT headlines comparing Putin to Stalin? Anyway, how much impact do you really think the NYT’s coverage of Putin has on the average American’s image of the average Russian? Hollywood has much more of an impact.

    This is why people still ask me about the “Russian mafia” all the time – I’m surprised you didn’t mention that in your list of negative images of Russia (that said, “Russian mafioso” is a less common stock character in American cinema over the past 15 years than “Arab terrorist”). Whereas Russians in Russia, of course, associate organized crime groups with Chechens, Georgians, etc., Americans meld this all into the “Russian mafia,” much like some friends still think my wife is from “Russia” even after I’ve explained to them where Moldova is. And of course I always expect the people who know where Moldova is to assume it was a green-card-based marriage. So yes, the stereotypes abound, but you seem to take them awfully personally.

    Back to your question, I don’t think it would be difficult at all to find mainstream media headlines or at least articles (and certainly op-eds) vilifying Ahmadinejad or Hamas leaders or ripping on the Saudi regime.

    if you said “all those dirty pinko commie Russians are drunken cowards”

    …my guess is that many people would shrug in indifference; some might chuckle stupidly; and people who know anything about what’s happened in the world in the past 20 years might point out that they left the commie thing behind awhile back, perhaps adding that they’re now all in the mafia. But you must have had encounters that you’re basing this on (do you commonly run into Americans who make comments leading you to believe that they think _all_ Russians are drunks?), so who knows… although I can’t say I’ve ever heard “coward” as part of the bouquet of misconceptions about Russians.

    Another thought on this – many stereotypes are pernicious because they have some basis in reality, and in the case of stereotypes involving far-away lands and people, there is a lag time between the reality and the image/stereotype – let’s say it’s a 10-year lag time (actually, it might be even longer: an American colleague of mine in Moscow used to comment – not entirely jokingly – about relatives at home asking him if there were still bread lines in Moscow – in 2003!).

    Yeltsin was the face of Russia for America in the ’90s, and he had a drinking problem which only enhanced the stereotype fed by vodka-pounding KGB officers in countless Hollywood movies; a stereotype that, as any Russian will tell you, is not true of all Russians but does have some basis in reality.

    Even the “Russian whores” trope has some basis in ’90s reality – there was a survey back in the day of Russian schoolkids, and a very high percentage of the girls said they wanted to become prostitutes. It seems laughable today, but takie byli vremena. And the mafia, bespredel, corruption, etc., of ’90s Russia made its way into enough Hollywood movies to ensure that this became the dominant image of Russia in the mass American mind.

    I think this is a very different phenomenon from the negative characterizations of Putin by elite-oriented media, but you seem to conflate the two.

    I think Russia is further away, was a long-time “enemy” and as a result, you can get away with more crude comments and analysis.

    I agree with you on this, and maybe this is why there is so much half-assed Russia “analysis” out there (no one editing it knows enough to call people out, or people are resigned to much of it being speculative), but I still think (and please don’t take this the wrong way) that you should re-read the part of your own comment above addressed to Mike on proclaiming decently founded opinions with excessive force.

    Among the broader populace, hatred of Russia plays.

    While “hatred” or (I’d say) negative stereotypes and images of Russia may be more acceptable for some of the reasons you mentioned, I don’t think they “play” for the simple reason that Americans at large don’t care that much about Russia. Hatred is much easier to gin up when people feel threatened, shafted or otherwise frustrated. I really don’t think such imagery sells newspapers or any other form of media, except possibly for fiction and movies.

    Some politicians may try to portray Russia’s resurgence as a threat to the US and then use their positions on counteracting that perceived threat as a selling point, but again, I don’t think that is an issue that gets a lot of traction with the American electorate. People are worried about things that happen close to home, so it’s much easier to score political points on (or play on hatred of) those guys who might start setting bombs off in shopping malls any minute now or those immigrants who might be taking your job next week.

    Negative stereotypes related to farther-away threats or American frustrations can come and go quickly – remember “freedom fries” and all of those people pouring their French wine into the gutter? I’m betting/hoping those people feel foolish today, but there haven’t been similar activities of mass repudiation directed against Russia, and “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” is not exactly a pleasant appellation. Recall that what I initially took issue with was your assertion that Russians are somehow the most embattled, put-upon, insulted-with-impunity group in America – I just don’t think that’s true.

    You couldn’t create a website that is quoted by national media or “mainstream” opinion blogs titled “I Hate Jews” or “I Hate Mexico” …

    Wait a minute – when has LR been “quoted by national media”? Is it possible that you’re believing LR’s hype? I haven’t seen it, but maybe I haven’t been following things closely enough. Anti-immigrant groups like the “minutemen,” on the other hand, get all kinds of media play – and they are actual groups of people doing things and gaining broad support, not just setting up websites.

  126. W. Shedd says:

    So, do you mean “they” are treated well given what “they” did on 9/11? Not sure why you are using quotations here – I guess to be cute. But yes, our government and our people have been very careful to NOT villify all Muslims.

    Are we told about Russians that “they hate us because we’re free” and that we are engaged in a global war with them, as we are told about Muslims? Yes, that is EXACTLY what we are being told in articles about Russians like this from the Washington Post

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/02/AR2007080202148.html?nav=rss_opinions

    So, we don’t lock them up without trial on occasion, create “watch lists” where they predominate, or create new surveillance programs to monitor them? Oh, wait a minute, we do. No Lyndon, we don’t.

    These programs are set up to monitor everyone based upon activities, and NOT based up racial or ethnic profiles. If Muslims predominate these lists, as you assert, then it is because of their associations. I guarantee you the greater Muslim community of Detroit is not being profiled and targetted for monitoring.

    Don’t believe me? Start talking to friends on your cell phone or via email about making a bomb and visiting JFK.

    I mean, really I get the feeling you haven’t been taken out of line at the airport to be searched. Profiling is out – government policy.

    You seem to be attempting to muddy the waters mixing stereotypes with government policy. I say both are decidedly negative towards Russia, disproportionately so to any threat or action Russia has taken against the U.S.

    You make some other points that I don’t have time to get to at the moment. I’ll come back these evening and hope to break down points further. I’m surprised you would challenge me on something like anti-Russian headlines, that is a slam-dunk. “Putin’s Russia does BLANK like Stalin’s Soviet Union” is a boilerplate headline or newspaper column these days.

    As for LR – “she” has numerous conservative mainstream blogs that use her articles and headlines. “She” was asked to appear on that BBC radio program a couple of weeks ago with Mike Averko, Nina Kruscheva, and others. Obviously couldn’t do that without revealing some identity, so that didn’t happen.

    I don’t think you really said or disproved anything about my larger point – that Russians are just about the only cultural group you can dump on in this country without anyone getting upset – but you sure wrote an awful lot about it.

  127. Lyndon says:

    Sorry if I was rambling (a bad habit) or unclear – I thought a lot about this, so I wrote a lot. The quotation marks were used in an attempt to highlight how silly it is to look at “them” as the perpetrators of 9/11, when in fact it was a relatively small group of people (I don’t think this is what you were implying, but what you wrote could be read that way).

    This isn’t really the place for a discussion of GWOT, and I agree with you that the intent of many of the anti-terror policies is to capture people based on activities and not on religion. It’s a valid point about Nation of Islam members not being targeted, but what I meant was foreign-born or Muslims But if you were looking for a job in the US or applying for a visa to the US, or even a gov’t security clearance, wouldn’t you rather be from Russia or of Russian descent than from one of the countries associated with Al Qaeda or born to parents from such a country?

    By the way, to a certain extent, the negative articles about Russia in the MSM are also based on activities rather than profiling. I understand that it sometimes seems like Russia can’t catch a break and the general tone of the coverage is negative, but it seems to me that you view every article critical of Putin’s policies as some sort of slur on the Russian people (your outrage seems to be at a combination of different things – newspaper coverage, LR, and stereotypes held by average Americans – things which are not necessarily related, though I understand how with enough saturation negative coverage could lead to or enhance negative stereotypes). I also don’t think that when a journalist writes a phrase like “Russia’s demographic problems are caused in part by problems with alcohol abuse,” that journalist is saying “all Russians are drunks” (which seems to be what you’re implying, but correct me if I’m wrong); or that reporting on government-sanctioned dissemination of anti-American myths is somehow problematic.

    “Putin’s Russia does BLANK like Stalin’s Soviet Union” is a boilerplate headline or newspaper column these days.

    I think it’s more true to say that it’s a boilerplate headline on LR. Once again, please provide an example of such a headline (one that includes all of those elements) from a mainstream media outlet. I understand that seems to be the tone, but – though I’m quite ready to be convinced otherwise – I’m not sure hed writers have become quite so simple-minded. Saying that some of Putin’s policies harken back to Soviet days does not automatically equate to comparing Putin to Stalin – and even such a comparison (while it may be invalid) certainly does not make any point about Russia or Russians at large, simply about the policies of the government.

    I really think you’ve been taking LR’s schtick too seriously. So LR was supposedly invited to be on this BBC thing – that doesn’t mean LR was “quoted” in the mainstream media, which I haven’t seen happen (did I miss something?). And apologies for not knowing – though I suppose I could have guessed – that LR’s work is picked up by conservative bloggers (the same ones that pick up the writings of lots of other crackpots), I don’t generally read blogs focused on US politics. Finally, haven’t you mentioned in the past that there are something like 600 documented hate groups in the US? Presumably many of them have websites, and I doubt any of them target Russians. So I think you’re making too much out of one loco blog.

    I don’t think you really said or disproved anything about my larger point – that Russians are just about the only cultural group you can dump on in this country without anyone getting upset…

    Well, as we all know, you can’t dump on Russians in this country without Mr. Averko getting upset – and he is definitely “someone.”

    And I hope you don’t think I avoided your point entirely – I tried to address it, but maybe I didn’t get it exactly. As for proving or disproving the point (obviously impossible if I didn’t grasp it, though I think I did), it seems to me like kind of an imprecise point, and therefore hard to prove or disprove.

    Don’t we have to define what it means to “dump on” a group in order to have a really precise discussion about this? You talked about newspaper headlines, and one incendiary and odious blogger, and then you talked about what an “average American” response would be to prejudiced statements. Leaving LR out of it (which I think is appropriate for a serious discussion), this mixes the public sphere, in which Americans are at the height of their political correctness (and you’re right that Russia gets criticized in this sphere by journalists and columnists), and the private sphere – Americans talking to their friends in their homes, bars, whatever – in which I think Americans tend to be considerably less politically correct (in that sphere, I would imagine there are many more rude statements about immigrants and Muslims than there even are conversations about Russia/Russians, although of course I can’t document this).

    You suggested I was “muddying the waters” by bringing in gov’t actions, but one of the things I found confusing about your initial comment was that it equated criticism of Russian gov’t actions with criticism of the Russian people (writing about the US, I noted that this extension seems more valid in the case of GWOT because most of the gov’t’s actions were supported by the majority of the people, or at least their elected reps – but now I feel like I’m talking in circles and have confused even myself).

    Anyway, I wasn’t trying to engage in some kind of bad-faith argumentation to “win” the point – and I’m certainly not trying to steer this in the direction of an old-school SRB cage match, we go back way too far for that. I think we probably agree on the basic points more than we disagree, I just don’t think all of the negative coverage is such a big deal, and as for LR-type commentary (which I think is limited mostly to that blog, happily), I don’t think serious people take it seriously, therefore where the policy rubber hits the road, hopefully cooler heads will prevail.

    Another thing – I’m not convinced they are “the only” group in this status of supposed victimhood. It sounds an awful lot like the arguments one heard 15-20 years ago when “multicultural” curricula were being introduced in high schools and colleges – “the only people it’s safe to criticize are the dead white men” – and Italian-Americans decried criticism of Columbus, etc. Incidentally, it’s interesting that Russians often poke fun at American-style “political correctness” – yet in a way it seems that you’d like to claim its protection for them. Sadly, though, I think that the same people who think of the peoples of the world in terms of stereotypes will do so with or without critical newspaper coverage or LR to stir the pot.

    Without wanting to be flippant, my other response to all of this is, who cares? Media coverage of Russia may be negative at the moment. So what? Are people getting killed because of it? On a more practical level, I go back to the question about a hypothetical job-seeker – are Russians in the US harmed by these stereotypes? I know that arguing in the alternative like this is an annoying, lawyerly tactic – “I don’t agree with X, but even if X is true, it doesn’t matter” – but I’m interested in learning why this media coverage bothers you so much. I’m not trying to be argumentative, but just to keep moving the discussion forward (200 comments!).

    It may be true that all of these stereotypes help Americans see Russians as “others” and make it easier for people in DC to pass policies hostile to Russia and prevent our two countries from really being partners – that would indeed be unfortunate, but I think it will depend more on what the US and Russia perceive to be their national interests than on various mistaken mass preconceptions. So, to the extent that LR-style hatemongering (which I don’t put anywhere in the same ballpark as legitimate critical commentary in the MSM, even if LR recycles a lot of that commentary) can have a negative impact on the bilateral relationship, it’s unfortunate – of course it’s also unfortunate because it’s hateful and contributes in general to the negative energy in the world, but one could say that about a lot of things on the internet.

    Whatever stereotypes Americans may hold about Russians, they certainly don’t seem to have results as serious as the nasty prejudices held by a small minority of Russians which lead to hate murders. All of LR’s bluster won’t lead to Russians being beaten on the streets of the US, and thank God for that.

    A final question – what is to be done? If there is indeed this problem with excessive criticism of Russia resulting in negative stereotypes, what action should be taken and by whom to fix things?

    …but you sure wrote an awful lot about it.

    Sorry I’ve once again written “an awful lot” – seems I’ve got diarrhea of the keyboard in these dog days of August, since I don’t have much else going on, plus these issues are quite interesting and close to my heart, so I can’t resist the chance to bs on about them.

  128. Lyndon says:

    Sorry, even with all of that verbiage, there was an unfinished thought in there – actually, probably several, but this one calls for a correction – in the second para, I meant to say the following:

    It’s a valid point about Nation of Islam members not being targeted, but what I meant was foreign-born or visibly “non-American” Muslims. But if you were looking for a job in the US or applying for a visa to the US…

  129. nabovka says:

    I was disappointed to seethis inexplicable plug of LR at Andrew Sullivan.

  130. nabovka says:

    Chris – so far as the tsyganskii teatr is concerned, it was still up and running in 2005 (last time I lived in Moscow). I attended several shows in the fall of 2004. Their entire repertoire is basically the same as it was in the 1950s – some of it the same as in the 1930s. The tickets, as you might expect, are probably the cheapest available theatre tickets in Moscow, and you of course get what you pay for.

  131. nabovka says:

    Michael Averko wrote, The above quoted (reference to late 19 thirties)suggests a general view of Russians being chauvinist and intolerant of others.

    I disagree with your characterization of what I wrote. No such view was expressed. Rather, I was referring to a certain ideological about-face that occurred in the mid 1930s in the Soviet Union. For almost the first two decades of Soviet rule, Bolshevik policy insisted that “Russian greatness” be downplayed. This was intimately related to their justifications for their early nationality policy. The Bolsheviks maintained that the Tsarist regime had chauvinistically advanced the Russian nation at the expense of minority peoples. This chauvinism, they argued, was to a considerable degree responsible for the “cultural backwardness” of “oppressed” national minorities. Around 1935 and in the face of the increasing threat of Nazi Germany, the Soviets began retreating from their former policy of downplaying “Russian national greatness” and instead began promoting the idea that the Russian people were the “first among equals” in the so-called Soviet “friendship of peoples.” This trend/phenomenon has been well-documented by historians of the Soviet Union.

    Might I suggest the following book: David Brandenberger, National Bolshevism: Stalinist Mass Culture and the Formation of Modern Russian National Identity, 1931-1956 (Harvard U Press, 2002)? You might just find it interesting.

  132. Lyndon says:

    nabovka – that’s indeed disappointing and really does almost constitute being quoted by the MSM. Thanks for pointing that out – I hadn’t seen it, and now I better understand Wally’s concern. Sad and a bit unbelievable that LR has become the “mainstream” face of blogs about Russia, but maybe I have too much faith in the marketplace of ideas and it’s actually true that simpleminded hate is more popular online than thoughtful discussion which acknowledges other points of view (though I guess snarkiness is often the only value that a blogger adds to MSM clips and links, and in a way what LR does simply takes snarkiness to a new and often inappropriate level). I do know that LR also blogs at Publius Pundit from time to time, which I think is also a fairly heavily trafficked blog, though not in Sullivan’s league.

    By the way, since we’re talking about baseless negative coverage of Russia, I might throw the recent first story by the new NYT bureau chief – a classic/cliched Moscow August story about the hot water shutoffs – into that category. But I think that one results more from a lack of creativity than from anything else. On the one hand, it’s a more interesting story in this year of Russian resurgence than, say, ten years ago, when everyone knew Russia didn’t have a pot to piss in. On the other hand, these types of stories were already award-winners in the eXile’s anti-awards for journalism about Russia many years ago, and my pet peeve is that they never mention that municipal hot water doesn’t even exist in the US, where everyone has their own hot-water heater; this particular story also didn’t seem to mention that a lot of people in Russia have now equipped their apartment with a “boiler” and so aren’t affected by the outages.

    Anyway, what about Soroca (see my comment/question now far above)? It’s not every day that I get the chance to ask a bona fide Romologist (or is it Gypsiographer?) about these things…

  133. nabovka says:

    Lyndon – thanks for the interest in my topic. While I’ve not been to Soroca, I have kept my eye on the Romantic blog that you linked in your comment above. Thanks also for the publishing link you provided.

    Speaking on publishing, in the mid 1920s the Soviet Union sponsored the creation of a cyrillic-based alphabet for the empire’s Roma (paying little attention to the question of Romani dialects) and subsequently published hundreds of didactic pamphlets and books in Romani. Publishing in Romani (as well as Romani-language education) ceased, however in 1938-39.

    As for the Zemfira question – I can honestly say that I’ve never come across the name Zemfira while doing my research except when it comes to Pushkin’s play, or when listening to today’s Zemfira (God, I love her Vendetta!) So no, none of the historical subjects I’ve become acquainted with in the archives are named Zemfira. My guess is that Pushkin – a true product of his times – chose an “exotic” name for his famously “exotic” tsyganka.

    The same offer extends to you as to Chris – if you want to write to me outside of the comments, please just ask Sean for my email.

  134. nabovka says:

    One more thing, Lyndon – in all my forays into the archives, I only found one document related to the appearance of “Moldovan Gypsies” in Moscow (and it was a good one). The Soviets were particularly perplexed, however, by Roma who had emigrated to Russia during WWI from Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. These were referred to as “inostrannye tsygane” as compared to “russkie tsygane.” But this is a long story!

  135. Lyndon, Wally & Nabovka:

    I’ve yet to see ONE person who is authoritative on everything having to do with former USSR studies. For me, Russian lit. comes behind such former USSR topics realting to foreign policy and history. I also try to stay up to snuff on sports issues. I’ll look more into this lit. topic on AP, who has been a very much revered figure in my family. From one of my trips to the old country, I’ve a bust of him. He was a blend of liberal and patriotic views. I know he can’t be bad given how Mary Mycio (a not so Russia friendly Ukrainian nationalist) blasted him.

    Lyndon, of late, I’ve been hanging out in Sunnyside Queens, which has a good sized Romanian population. As per TOL, if you think that Steady State blogger with the initials is reflective of better journalism than TTT, well….

    Nabovka, I’ll try getting hold of that book you mention. I agree with your characterization of the Soviets stated intentions. I just don’t want it to appear that this was something typically approved with Russian blessing. As per your Russian Empire point relative to how the Soviets depicted it: among others, Roy, Pankratov and yours truly have written about the positive multi-ethnic qualities of that order. The White Russian community included/includes a good number of those having Armenian, Georgian, Ukrainian and other non-Russian roots. Don’t be so shocked by Andrew Sullivan’s plug of LR and note how the former is plugged on the mASS media talking head shows. Also note how Publius Pundit props LR. Justin Raimondo is more preferable (IMHO) than Sullivan. Too bad Chris posts at Antiwar.com.

    Wally, you’re like my momz. Marry Russian and embrace Russia. On that note, the White Russian community did a good job at promoting this spirit. Many of them married into non-Russian families who developed that same manner.

  136. On Pushkin, another factor going against the racist Russia mythos is his own unique multi ethnic background. A number of so called Russian nationalists revere him. As noted at another SRB thread, Kasparov isn’t so much loathed by many Russians because of his Armenian Jewish roots from Baku. The overwhelming majority of so called Russian nationalists warmly embrace those of non-Russian or partial Russian background who subscribe to the former’s views over the more “pure” (if you may) of Russians, who tow more of an Eng. lang. mASS media line.

  137. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “Too bad Chris posts at Antiwar.com. ”

    If you mean me, I wrote them an email once or twice in 2001-2002…

  138. I saw a Chrisius Maximus noting who A. Applebaum’s hubby is.

  139. Chrisius Maximus says:

    That was at Taki, not antiwar.com. And that was a note of two sentences.

  140. Scuze me.

    JR is JR whereever he is and Antiwar.com is JR.

    Speaking of the latter Mr. Malic has a just released good one at:

    http://www.antiwar.com

  141. Ditto JR’s latest and that of Doug Bandow.

  142. Brandon says:

    Hi: long time reader, first time poster. Thanks to everybody for this fascinating, nuanced discussion of a difficult subject. Somebody mentioned Andrew Sullivan’s plug of LR. I sent the following email to Andrew and am very disappointed that I have received no response.

    Dear Andrew,

    Long time reader and fan here. I am a doctoral student specializing in Russian politics. I mostly come to your site for your insights on American politics. Your occasional posts on Russia, I have found, tend to borrow the worst-case assumption mentality and share the extreme paranoia of Russia that one finds elsewhere in most Western media. Don’t get me wrong, I detest Putin and his circle, particularly the way that they have eroded public accountability and fostered nationalist sentiments among the general population. But why sensationalize things that are already bad enough? The nuanced attitude you demonstrate in your insightful posts on American politics seems to fly out the window in your posts on Russia. It’s not worrysome enough that Russia is a dangerous place for journalists and
    that killers face impunity; let’s assume that Putin directly ordered the murders himself.
    Rather than discuss and analyze the institutional changes that have raised the barriers for smaller parties and augmented the dominance of the pro-Putin party, let’s just dispense with such analysis and say that Russia has already become a fascist state.

    The main reason I wrote is because of your mention of the La Russophobe site. I found
    your mention of it to be very indicative of the state of our media today. The Russian
    blogosphere is quite large, and there are many good sites that present quality analysis
    of news in the former Soviet region. The site you have referenced and found to be so
    insightful is basically the Fox News of the Russian blogosphere. It goes beyond
    criticizing Putin and makes outrageously insulting claims about the Russian people at
    large (check out his list of reasons to be a Russophobe –
    http://russophobe.blogspot.com/2006/06/why-is-lr-russophobe-why-arent-you.html). Notice
    that none of the posts have comments? That is because La Russophobe responds to even
    mildly critical posts with vitriolic, ad-hominen attacks. And contrary to your assertion, there are no translations from the Russian-language press, the Moscow Times that is so frequently cited is an English-language publication. Of course, I realize you are not a Russian expert and would not be aware of the intricacies of the Russian blogosphere, but I was trying to make a more general point about the way that the most hysterical,
    one-sided media sources are the ones that seem to reach the largest audiences, which
    apparently can even include highly intelligent people such as yourself.

    Many thanks for taking the time to read this, and keep up the good work.

    Respectfully,

    Brandon

  143. Sean says:

    Right on Brandon. And welcome! Please let us know if Sullivan responds.

  144. W. Shedd says:

    Wally, you’re like my momz. Marry Russian and embrace Russia. On that note, the White Russian community did a good job at promoting this spirit. Many of them married into non-Russian families who developed that same manner.

    My interest in Russian topics is a little more involved than that, I was learning Russian before Katja and I met (and actually my younger brother has a degree in Russian from the University of Texas), but I definitely believe in giving my wife’s native history, politics, and culture respect. To be honest, she has very little interest in politics and history. My mother-in-law and I chat about politics sometimes (she is fairly liberal and a supporter of Yabloko).

    I know I said I would reply to Lyndon’s worthy comments last night, I just run out of time and find myself quite busy today. I see there are a good number of other posts, seems others are adding commentary – even as we drift away from the threads original intent. I haven’t read everything, just a few notes and saw Brandon’s letter which was very interesting as well.

    I think the accuracy of Russian media reports (both inside and outside Russia) and characterization of problems within Russia is a very worthy topic these days. It envelopes almost any discussion about Russia, creates essentially a fog that we all try to penetrate, either through trusted sources, first hand knowledge or experiences.

    What I have found over the past 5 or 6 years is that the more I dig into any Russian topic, the more often I find problems with the typical western point of view and our presumed underlying rightness.

  145. It’s made all the more problematical by how the power structure discourages an honest monitoring of that flawed coverage.

    Witness how one rather mainstream pundit abruptly ended a short lived media critque feature without giving notice why. Upon its initial inception, he said that he received much support and regretted not having earlier initiated that feature.

    He then abruptly cancels it without explnation. Oh yeah, that same pundit privately lauded my work saying he’d promote me, only to backtrack upon learning how some of my commentary wasn’t welcomed by the elitny.

    Articles with titles like:

    Stephen Cohen: Mainstreaming for the Elites

    Human Rights as a Propaganda Tool Against Russia

    Soviet Style Journalism in the “Free Press”

  146. Chrisius Maximus says:

    There should be a hyphen between “Soviet” and “Style.”

  147. Has been presented differently in other instances (some of them on the formal side)and isn’t specifically related to the main points raised.

  148. Chrisius Maximus says:

    The first verb has no subject.

  149. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “He then abruptly cancels it without explnation. Oh yeah, that same pundit privately lauded my work saying he’d promote me, only to backtrack upon learning how some of my commentary wasn’t welcomed by the elitny.”

    So, was this the Lovecraftian cosmic horror the encounter with which triggered your descent in the cold embrace of madness?? Cool.

  150. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Stephen Cohen: Mainstreaming for the Elites
    By Mike Averko

    God! those carrion black pits of sawed, picked bones and opened skulls! Those nightmare chasms choked with the pithecanthropoid, Celtic, Roman, and English bones of countless unhallowed centuries! Some of them were full, and none can say how deep they had once been. Others were still bottomless to our searchlights, and peopled by unnamable fancies. What, I thought, of the hapless Russia pundits that stumbled into such traps amidst the blackness of their quests in this grisly Tartarus?

    Once my foot slipped near a horribly yawning brink, and I had a moment of ecstatic fear. I must have been musing a long time, for I could not see any of the party but plump Stephen Cohen. Then there came a sound from that inky, boundless, farther distance that I thought I knew; and I saw my old black cat dart past me like a winged Egyptian god, straight into the illimitable gulf of the unknown. But I was not far behind, for there was no doubt after another second. It was the eldritch scurrying of those fiend-born Russia pundits, always questing for new horrors, and determined to lead me on even unto those grinning caverns of earth’s centre where Ethan Burger, the mad faceless god, howls blindly in the darkness to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players.

    My searchlight expired, but still I ran. I heard voices, and yowls, and echoes, but above all there gently rose that impious, insidious scurrying; gently rising, rising, as a stiff bloated corpse gently rises above an oily river that flows under the endless onyx bridges to a black, putrid sea.

    Something bumped into me — something soft and plump. It must have been the Russia pundits; the viscous, gelatinous, ravenous army that feast on the dead and the living … Why shouldn’t Russia pundits eat an Averko as an Averko eats forbidden things? … The war ate my boy, damn them all … and the Yanks ate Carfax with flames and burnt Grandsire Delapore and the secret … No, no, I tell you, I am not that daemon swineherd in the twilit grotto! It was not Stephen Cohen’s fat face on that flabby fungous thing! Who says I am an Averko? He lived, but my boy died! … Shall a Cohen hold the position of an Averko? … It’s voodoo, I tell you … that spotted snake … Curse you, David Johnson, I’ll teach you to faint at what my family do! … ‘Sblood, thou stinkard, I’ll learn ye how to gust … wolde ye swynke me thilke wys?… Magna Mater! Magna Mater!… Atys… Dia ad aghaidh’s ad aodaun… agus bas dunarch ort! Dhonas ‘s dholas ort, agus leat-sa!… Ungl unl… rrlh … chchch…

    This is what they say I said when they found me in the blackness after three hours; found me crouching in the blackness over the plump, half-eaten body of Stephen Cohen, with my own cat leaping and tearing at my throat. Now they have blown up Exham Priory, taken my Nigger-Man away from me, and shut me into this barred room at Hanwell with fearful whispers about my heredity and experience. David Johnson is in the next room, but they prevent me from talking to him. They are trying, too, to suppress most of the facts concerning the priory. When I speak of poor Cohen they accuse me of this hideous thing, but they must know that I did not do it. They must know it was the Russia pundits; the slithering scurrying Russia pundits whose scampering will never let me sleep; the daemon Russia pundits that race behind the padding in this room and beckon me down to greater horrors than I have ever known; the Russia pundits they can never hear; the Russia pundits, the Russia pundits in the walls.

  151. He tries transfer his own **** up life.

    The “editor” who insisted that “there’re” isn’t valid shorthand for “there are”.

  152. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Hey, this is fun.

    Human Rights as a Propaganda Tool Against Russia
    By Mike Averko

    The aperture was black with a darkness almost material. That tenebrousness was indeed a positive quality; for it obscured such parts of the inner walls as ought to have been revealed, and actually burst forth like smoke from its aeon-long imprisonment, visibly darkening the sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping membraneous wings. The odour rising from the newly opened depths was intolerable, and at length the quick-eared Guillery thought he heard a nasty, slopping sound down there. Everyone listened, and everyone was listening still when It lumbered slobberingly into sight and gropingly squeezed Its gelatinous green immensity through the black doorway into the tainted outside air of that poison city of madness.

    Poor Tim Newman’s handwriting almost gave out when he wrote of this. Of the six men who never reached the ship, he thinks two perished of pure fright in that accursed instant. The Thing cannot be described – there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled. God! What wonder that across the earth a great architect went mad, and poor Guillery raved with fever in that telepathic instant? The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. The stars were right again, and what an age-old cult had failed to do by design, a band of innocent sailors had done by accident. After vigintillions of years great Ethan Burger was loose again, and ravening for delight.

    Three men were swept up by the flabby claws before anybody turned. God rest them, if there be any rest in the universe. They were Nabovka, Lyndon, and Wally Shields. Guillery slipped as the other three were plunging frenziedly over endless vistas of green-crusted rock to the boat, and Tim Newman swears he was swallowed up by an angle of masonry which shouldn’t have been there; an angle which was acute, but behaved as if it were obtuse. So only Briden and Johansen reached the boat, and pulled desperately for the Alert as the mountainous monstrosity of Ethan Burger flopped down the slimy stones and hesitated, floundering at the edge of the water.

    Steam had not been suffered to go down entirely, despite the departure of all hands for the shore; and it was the work of only a few moments of feverish rushing up and down between wheel and engines to get the Alert under way. Slowly, amidst the distorted horrors of that indescribable scene, she began to churn the lethal waters; whilst on the masonry of that charnel shore that was not of earth the titan Thing from the stars slavered and gibbered like Polypheme cursing the fleeing ship of Odysseus. Then, bolder than the storied Cyclops, great Ethan Burger slid greasily into the water and began to pursue with vast wave-raising strokes of cosmic potency. Briden looked back and went mad, laughing shrilly as he kept on laughing at intervals till death found him one night in the cabin whilst Newman was wandering deliriously.

    But Newman had not given out yet. Knowing that the Thing could surely overtake the Alert until steam was fully up, he resolved on a desperate chance; and, setting the engine for full speed, ran lightning-like on deck and reversed the wheel. There was a mighty eddying and foaming in the noisome brine, and as the steam mounted higher and higher the brave Norwegian drove his vessel head on against the pursuing jelly which rose above the unclean froth like the stern of a daemon galleon. The awful squid-head with writhing feelers came nearly up to the bowsprit of the sturdy yacht, but johansen drove on relentlessly. There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler could not put on paper. For an instant the ship was befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and then there was only a venomous seething astern; where – God in heaven! – the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously recombining in its hateful original form, whilst its distance widened every second as the Alert gained impetus from its mounting steam.

    Ethan Burger still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of stone which has shielded him since the sun was young. His accursed city is sunken once more, for the Vigilant sailed over the spot after the April storm; but his ministers on earth still bellow and prance and slay around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places. He must have been trapped by the sinking whilst within his black abyss, or else the world would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy. Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come – but I must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye.

  153. Chrisius Maximus says:

    Mike, I hate to bring this up, but I think you plaigarized a little in those two pieces.

  154. Chris, I don’t mind calling you a liar and noting how you didn’t backup that suggestion

    As per your Tim Newman reference, you’ve a way of bringing in others in lieu of your sorry feebleminded self.

    A more substantive digression from the Chris Doss version:

    The Montenegrin Precedent
    http://talk.guardian.co.uk/WebX?14@564.eTpGd8MxxMs@.77480649/2591

    Then there’s this beaut:

    “Russia-Ukraine on the Brink” 12/28/’05 UPI article

    Not easy finding a link to this one. Some journos seem to have a way of having their less desired work become not as accessible. In this one, the article’s author claims that Yanukovych is being bizarre for supporting Russia in the mentioned energy dispute. Never mind that most Ukrainians in fact blamed the Orange government for the development of the discussed energy dispute.

  155. Chrisius Maximus says:

    You wrote this in FRENCH originally? I’m impressed!

    Soviet Style Journalism in the “Free Press”
    By Mike Averko

    One day, woeful day, I had grown in beauty and innocence. Everyone admired the intelligence and goodness of the divine youth. Many a conscience blushed inwardly when it contemplated those clear features in which his soul was enshrined. No one approached him without veneration, for they had noticed in his eyes the look of an angel. But no, I knew only too well that the happy roses of youth would not flower perpetually, wreathed in capricious garlands, on his modest and noble brow, which all mothers used to kiss with frenzied devotion. It was beginning to seem to me that the universe, with its starry vault of impassable and tormentingly mysterious globes, was not perhaps the most imposing thing I had dreamt of. And so, one day, tired of trudging along the steep path on this earthly journey, trudging along like a drunkard through the dark catacombs of life, I slowly raised my splenetic eyes, ringed with bluish circles, towards the concavity of the firmament and I, who was so young, dared to penetrate the mysteries of heaven! Not finding what I was seeking, I lifted my eyes higher, and higher still, until I saw a throne made of human excrement and gold, on which was sitting – with idiotic pride, his body draped in a shroud of unwashed hospital linen – he who calls himself Ethan Burger! He was holding in his hand the rotten body of a dead man, carrying it in turn from his eyes to his nose and from his nose to his mouth; and once it reached his mouth, one can guess what he did with it. His feet were dipped in a huge pool of boiling blood, on the surface of which two or three cautious heads would suddenly rise up like tapeworms in a chamber-pot, and as suddenly submerge again, swift as an arrow. A kick on the bone of the nose was the familiar reward for any infringement of regulations occasioned by the need to breathe a different atmosphere; for, after all, these men were not fish. Though amphibious at best, they were swimming underwater in this vile liquid!…until, finding his hands empty, Ethan Burger with the first two claws of his foot, would grab another diver by the neck, as with pincers, and lift him into the air, out of the reddish slime, delicious sauce. And this one was treated in the same way as his predecessor. First he ate his head, then his legs and arms, and last of all, the trunk, until there was nothing left; for he crunched the bones as well. And so it continues, for all the hours of eternity. Sometimes, he would shout: “I created you, so I have the right to do whatever I like to you. You have done nothing to me, I do not deny it. I am making you suffer for my own pleasure.” And he would continue his savage meal, moving his lower jaw, which in turn moved his brain-bespattered beard. Oh reader, does not this last-mentioned detail make your mouth water? Cannot whoever wishes also eat brains just the same, which taste just as good and just as fresh, caught less than a quarter of an hour before in the lake – the brains of a fish? My limbs paralysed, utterly dumb, I contemplated this sight for some time. Thrice I nearly keeled over, like a man in the throes of an emotion which is too strong for him; thrice I managed to keep my feet. No fibre of my body was still; I was trembling like the lava inside the volcano. Finally, my breast so constricted that I could not breathe the life-giving air quickly enough, my lips opened slightly and I uttered a cry…a cry so piercing…that I heard it! The shackles of my ears were suddenly broken, my ear-drum cracked at the shock of the sounding mass of air which I had expelled with such energy, and a strange phenomenon took place in the organ condemned by nature. I had just heard a sound! A fifth sense had developed in me! But what pleasure could I have derived from such a realization? Since then, no human sound has reached my ears without bringing with it the feeling of grief which pity for great injustice arouses. Whenever anyone spoke to me, I remembered what I had seen one day above the visible spheres, and the translation of my stifled feelings into a violent yell, the tone of which was identical to that of my fellow-beings! I could not answer him; for the tortures inflicted on man’s weakness in that hideous red sea passed with their burning wings against my singed hair. Later, when I knew mankind better, this feeling of pity was coupled with intense rage against this tiger-like stepmother whose hardened children know only how to curse and do evil. The brazen lie! They say that evil is the exception among them! That was long ago; since then I have not spoken a word to anyone. Oh you, whoever you may be, when you are beside me, do not let any sound escape your vocal cords; do not with your larynx strive to outdo the nightingale; and, for yourself, do not on any account attempt to make your soul known to me by means of language. Maintain a religious silence, uninterrupted by the least sound. Cross your hands humbly on your breast, and lower your eyelids. I have told you this, and since that vision revealed to me the supreme truth, too many nightmares have sucked my throat, by day and by night, for me to have any courage left to renew, even in thought, the sufferings I underwent in that infernal hour, the memory which remorselessly pursues me. Oh! When you hear the avalanche of snow falling from the high mountain; the lioness in the barren desert lamenting the disappearance of its cubs; the tempest accomplishing its destined purpose; the condemned man groaning in prison on the eve of his execution; and the savage octopus telling the waves of the sea of his victory over swimmers and the shipwrecked, then you have to acknowledge it: are not these majestic voices finer than the sniggering of men?

  156. His way of apparently getting his rocks off.

    BTW, on a previously mentioned dick factor at a blocked from open viewing secret society, I know that there’re at least three people who got off that list because of the dick element. There’re several others on it who acknowledge that factor.

    Is EB still on it (not that I particularly care one way or the other)?

  157. It’s Wally “Shedd” and not “Shields”.

    The “editor” in need of editing.

  158. Chrisius Maximus says:

    “It’s Wally “Shedd” and not “Shields”.”

    It’s called authorial license Mike!

  159. It’s more like scrambled brains beyond repair.

  160. Sean says:

    It’s clearly time to close this thread.

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