The Name of Russia votes are in. The project, which started on June 12, allowed voters to decide who are the most important political, cultural, and historical figures. According to the Name of Russia website, 44,569,665 people voted. Here are the top ten Heroes of Russia:
1. Aleksandr Nevsky 2,011,766 votes.
The great Novgorodian prince who successfully repelled German and Swedish invaders in the 13th century. Could there be a better indicator of the Russian political unconscious? Once again Russia feels embattled by Western invaders and its people look for a defender of nationality (even before nationalism and Russia as a unified political entity existed) by going old school.
2. Aleksandr Pushkin 1,781,863 votes.
3. Fedor Dostoevskii 1,678,083 votes.
4. Peter I 1,511,367 votes
5. Vladimir Lenin 1,356,281 votes
6. Aleksandr Suvorov 1,271,345 votes
7. Catherine II 1,365,784 votes
8. Ivan IV 1,216,812 votes
9. Petr Stolypin 1,165,377 votes
10. Aleksandr II 1,066,896 votes
11. Dmitrii Mendeleev 1,044,897 votes
12. Iosif Stalin 1,039,488
Update: Well, the Name of Russia was not without controversy. Especially when it came to Comrade Stalin’s place on the list. Organizers, human rights activists and intellectuals freaked when Stalin quickly shot to the top spot when voting began. The dictator fell from his perch only after a campaign to boost Nicholas II, reports the Wall Street Journal. But Stalin, tenacious in memory as he was in life, still hung around in second place. That is until the Name of Russia organizers practiced some Stalinism of their own:
Stalin kept his high position, dismaying human-rights activists and delighting Russia’s enfeebled Communist party.
That changed Wednesday when organizers announced the 12 finalists, from an original list of 500. They said Stalin had fallen from second to twelfth place after they had “adjusted” his tally because of what they called “an information war” by malicious hackers. In mid-August, the contest’s site gave Stalin just over two million votes; Wednesday he had just over one million.
One of the organizers, Alexander Lyubimov, told reporters that hackers chose Stalin as a mascot to stir up trouble.
“It caused a reaction in the press, the intelligentsia sighed, and the international media said that the Russian people had chosen Stalin,” as their favorite figure, he said. “Obviously hackers liked this.”
With those “just over two million” votes would have put Stalin second or maybe first. In the end, Stalin still made the cut of the Twelve Heroes of Russia by coming in twelfth place.
As Comrade Stalin was famous for saying, “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do.” Indeed.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Thanks to the widely-held view that Russia’s regional parliamentary elections held on Sunday were a “dress rehearsal” for December’s upcoming Duma elections, the former have received a considerable amount of attention from Russia analysts. One particularly interesting discussion that has emerged is the question of whether we are seeing the emergence of a two-party system in Russia, as the “Just Russia” party has recently been born to serve as a center-left counterweight to United Russia.
Most analysts recognize the fact that Just Russia is, like United Russia, a Kremlin creation and will not truly play the role of an oppositional party as understood in the western democratic sense. It is for this reason that it is misleading and dangerous (from an analytical standpoint) to speak of the creation of a two-party system, as the term implies true competition for power. It also implies that the parties provide distinct policy alternatives. As such, in a true two-party system, once in power the majority party implements its desired policies while the minority party tends to oppose those policies, working instead toward their own policy goals. Joseph Schumpeter and the followers of his intellectual tradition rightly recognized that electoral competition for power is the essence of democracy. Using the term “two-party system” to describe Russia runs the risk of leading readers to believe that such competition exists or will exist in the future, when in fact it does not and will not for the foreseeable future.
What then, is the meaning of Just Russia and the December Duma elections? It seems likely that the Duma elections will be a carefully-staged production whereby all the major actors have memorized their lines and their stage directions, and are prepared to carry out their assigned roles. The directors of the production will have worked tirelessly to pull off a flawless show that has all the glitz, glitter, and glamour of a democratic election, complete with parties competing for power. But because the director has not only selected which actors are allowed to perform, what emerges is not actual competition but the illusion of competition.
One might go so far as to surmise that in this sense, the Duma elections are themselves just a dress rehearsal for the presidential elections of March 2008, whereby two candidates will compete in what will look like a fairly balanced and competitive election. In fact, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the contest between Medvedev and Ivanov looks downright democratic. But one cannot overlook the immense power of the casting director, for both these candidates have been carefully auditioned and approved from above, while remaining hopefuls are shut out of the performance or pushed off to the side. Thus, by carefully planning the production ahead of time, it is once again possible to put on a “democratic show,” albeit one where the choices available to the audience have been determined by the director.
Perceptive observers might question whether the American system of candidate selection before the introduction of the primary system was any better. After all, weren’t presidential candidates selected in smoke-filled rooms by party leaders? Does that make Roosevelt’s selection just as managed as Ivanov’s. There are two important reasons why we must draw a distinction. First, candidates in that era were selected by the elites of their respective parties, parties which were in opposition with one another. As such, the occupant of the White House did not select both the Republican and Democratic candidate.
Furthermore, and this is a far more important point for Russia’s case, the political science literature on political parties has identified several functions that western parties perform, the most important of which is the aggregation of public opinion and the communication of that opinion to the state. When diffused and scattered, public opinion has little ability to influence state policy. When aggregated through political parties sharing a common ideological platform, public opinion becomes a powerful tool to influence policy. To return to the U.S. example, we can thus posit that even though candidates were selected by a handful of elites, those elites were still selecting candidates that would be appealing to the party base which would have to be mobilized in the general election.
In Russia political parties (perhaps with the exception of the KPRF) do not really function in this way, as the links between the citizenry and the parties are largely lacking. For an insightful discussion of the role of political parties in Russian politics, see Mankoff, J. “Russia’s Weak Society and Weak State: The Role of Political Parties,” Problems of Post-Communism, 50:1. January-February 2003, p. 29-43.
The failure of parties like United Russia and Just Russia to serve as aggregators of public opinion and their lack of strong ties to the grassroots level leads to several important implications for the Russian political system.
First, it implies that party platforms do not originate within society, but are rather top-down creations which run the risk of being detached from the needs and desires of the public.
Second, it implies that parties themselves are not accountable to the electorate once they gain power. Because parties are not accountable to the people that elect them but rather to the powers that allow them to exist in the political sphere, there will likely result a disconnect between the words of the campaign and the deeds of holding power. This fact only enhances the spectacular democratic show previewed above. It is likely that United Russia and Just Russia will carry out a campaign complete with the rhetoric of opposing political parties, each presenting their own visions for the future of Russia. Thus, like Democrats and Republicans in America, Russian voters will drift to the camp that comes closest to sharing their views. By all appearances, a convincing contest between political parties with different platforms will have occurred, determining the overall distribution of seats in the new Duma.
But what happens on the next day? Parties and their leaders understand Russian politics all too well. While voters may have determined the number of seats they won (the audience’s applause, if you will), they know that it is really the director to whom they owe their career and their future ability to act on the stage. After all, they are his creation. Thus, it will come as no surprise if much of the oppositional rhetoric of the campaign is quickly dropped as both major parties line up in support of the Kremlin. The lack of ties between parties and citizens, along with the apparent passivity of the Russian electorate, will ensure that the parties will not be held accountable by the people for their practical homogenization.
As such, Russia will be left with not a two-party system, but simply a system. It is a system where actors play the role of parties and perform those roles quite convincingly when the audience is watching at election time. But once the play is over and the lights are dimmed, the costumes come off and they go back to their normal roles as functionaries.
Nor should this situation even be considered a one-party system, as that implies the presence of a dominant single party that wields hegemonic power over the political sphere, as did the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Such a party does not exist in Russia, for while United Russia is the overwhelmingly largest party in parliament, its power and the power of the Duma is relatively weak compared to the power of the executive. That is why the most powerful man is Russia is the President, who belongs to no party, and not the “General Secretary” of United Russia.
Until Russian political parties begin fulfilling the functions traditionally performed by parties in democratic political systems, it is unlikely that they will be independent political agents carrying out the will of their members. To return to our theatrical metaphor, in a democracy the citizens should be the directors who give direction to the “actors,” parties. Until this arrangement takes hold in Russia, competition between parties will be relatively meaningless and unlikely to have a significant influence on policy outcomes. Whether United Russia wins more votes or victory goes to Just Russia, the outcome will be the same because they both answer to the same director.
It seems that Russians are more or less content with their current political arrangements, satisfied with the stability, order, and prosperity that the last 7 years under Putin have brought. Let us suppose for a moment what might happen if this satisfaction should erode, either because of economic downturn or a rising middle class that begins to bristle under an overly restricted political system. What might the future hold in that case?
Because political parties are not meaningful agents of political action, it is likely that political action will take to the streets, where mass demonstrations will perform the function of aggregating and amplifying citizens’ voices. The recent oppositional rally in St. Petersburg is an indicator that the streets are the only places where political opposition can be expressed in a way that authorities can hear. In the long term it is possible that the parties themselves will evolve and eventually build mass constituencies, developing into political parties along the western model. But this evolution implies that eventually the wishes of the party base, as carried out by the party, might one day clash with the wishes of the Kremlin director. Whether party development would ever be allowed to reach such a state is difficult to say.
Neither of these developments – mass protest or evolution of the nature of political parties – is likely to happen anytime soon, as there seems to be little dissatisfaction among most Russians with the status quo (don’t forget the 141,997,000 Russians who weren’t protesting in St. Petersburg).
After all, what could be more pleasant that a night at the theater?
N. S. Rubashov runs the blog Darkness at Noon. His article “Separate but Unequal: The Duality of Free Speech in Russia” was published on La Russophobe.Post Views: 388
By Sean — 11 years ago
If you want to understand what is happening among the political elite in Russia and why Putin making the moves he’s making, read Mark Ames’ “The Kremlin’s Clan Warfare: The Putin Era Ends“. Here is an excerpt:
What is happening?
I’ll repeat: It’s the End of the Putin Era as we know it. The struggle is on.
Here is how I see the current situation, from reading the various Russian reports and talking to people.
Putin had hoped or lulled himself into believing that he’d really set up the stable regime everyone thought Russia had become. The alleged stability had a kind of narcotic effect, convincing Putin’s supporters that he’d done good, and his detractors that he’d gone Fascist or neo-Soviet. In fact, these two filters have led all of us to completely misunderstand what is really happening in Russia, and how potentially unstable the political power is, including Putin’s own position.
There has been factional infighting all along, between various silovik clans, oligarch clans, and, to a lesser degree, Western interests. The infighting has been kept under control until recently by Putin’s undisputed power, which he wielded to try to ensure some measure of balance. However, just as the Banker’s War of 1997 showed, competing clans are never happy with their share of the “balance.” As this autumn election season loomed, the two silovik clans’ internecine war started breaking out, Putin, who may have wanted to step down from power and retire from glory, understood that things were potentially slipping out of his control as the clans battled for position and worked to weaken the other. Given Russian history, and given the high scary-factor of the two silovik clans, Putin should have every reason to worry about how badly he’s going to sleep once he leaves the Kremlin. If power passed to one or the other clan, then London or Siberia or the untraceable-poison intensive care ward are all serious possibilities. The people poised to take power after Putin are pretty much guaranteed to make a lot of his detractors miss him.
It seems to me that Putin’s recent moves–appointing Zubkov, setting up the new Investigative Committee, announcing his plan to head up the United Russia ticket, appointing his own man to run the Transneft pipelines (remember, it was over pipelines that Khodorkovsky and Putin went to war)–are all designed to ensure his power. It’s hard to tell to what degree he is controlling the takedown of the Cherkesov clan or the Patrushev-Sechin clan, or if he even can control their battle. The fact that the two sides have taken their war to the media suggests that they’re less afraid of upsetting their master than they used to be.
In short, Putin is already weakened. That’s why he’s scrambling to strengthen his position and weaken the other clans. Every move he makes from here on out is fraught with danger. If he runs for parliament, appoints his man Zubkov as president, and then becomes the prime minister of a new parliamentary republic–basically following the playbook of Khodorkovsky’s plan to take power–then he’ll subject himself to the uncertainty of whethor or not the new president will really hand over power to Prime Minister Putin. There could be a long tug-of-war and new factions will very likely emerge. He might get some of the power, but not all of it. Jealousies, greed, ambition, and the general mess of transition all mean that Putin could find himself locked in a serious and dangerous battle, if he already isn’t in it.
His other option is the Kazakhstan Scenario. This year, Kazakhstan’s dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev passed laws allowing him to remain in office for life, quashed what little remains of the opposition, and then held elections which turned his parliament into a single-party rubber-stamp committee. He managed this all with the West’s collusion: when Nazarbayev announced legislation making him president for life this past May, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called it “a step in the right direction,” leading to outrage among Kazakhstan’s beleaguered pro-democracy movement. When the rigged elections this summer gave him a one-party parliament, the OSCE hailed it as “welcome progress.” Kazakhstan has for the past couple of years been the darling of Dick Cheney and the neocons.Post Views: 412
By Sean — 14 years ago
Let me tell you about the ‘invalids.’ The invalids are young men who ride the Moscow metro begging for change from passengers. Begging, however, is really not the right word. What they are really doing is collecting a payment. A payment of a few rubles from all the passengers who either fought in Chechnya and returned physically unscathed (though mentally, who knows) or those who were lucky enough to be a woman, too old, weren’t sent there during their two year, mandatory military service for all men over 18, or were able to pay to get out of their service. See, these men lost their limbs in the war in Chechnya. Sometimes it’s an arm (these are the lucky ones), sometimes it’s an arm and a leg. The most frequent of late have been those missing both legs. These men are only torsos. They are propped in a wheelchair or worse on a plank with wheels, which they propel themselves forward with their arms.
The sight at first glance is one of horror. But for the majority of passengers, their glance is filled with guilt. You can see it in their eyes; in how they bow their heads in shame, in how some slowly turn their heads toward the walls, or in how some act like the invalid isn’t there. Now matter now matter how much you pretend that this half-man is invisible, he’s there. His silent message is clear: For you. For security. For Russia. For, what? A tithe of a few rubles is made so maybe this former soldier can live, and perhaps if he is lucky get prosthesis. Many people give, but is it enough? Can a few rubles, even from hundreds of people, perhaps even thousands of people who fill the Moscow metro everyday, repay a man for half his body? I’ve started carrying my coin rubles so I can also pay. . .
I don’t know much about the Russian military system. I don’t know how well they take care of their soldiers. I don’t know what kind of medical care they get. But, I think that the invalids’ presence in the metro plays a function that goes beyond money for daily bread. The invalids are a reminder of a forgotten war, an invisible war that has been waged off and on for the last 12 years. I think it is simply a war to exterminate the Chechens and to mentally and physically decimate a generation of Russian men. At first, however, the war in Chechnya was to prevent the Chechens from breaking with Russia and establishing their own state. Now, Putin’s government claims the war is part of a global war on terrorism. Recall the Pushkinskaya metro bombing, the apartment bombing, Nord-Ost theater hostage crisis (where most died because the Russian Security Forces gassed the theater), the slaughter of hundreds of children (by both Chechen hostage takers and Russian Security Forces) in Beslan, the blowing up of two airliners, and the more recent bombings in the metro. Despite all this, the reality of the war is a forgotten one. The greatest irony is that while one can see images on Russian TV of American soldiers fighting house to house in Fallujah, raiding people’s homes and forcing women and children to the ground at gun point, or Iraqi civilians fleeing their homes after the U.S. bombed their neighborhood, thereby making this forgotten, American war real, similar images of Russians in Chechnya are missing. To make matters worse, the Russians seem to respond to any mention of Chechnya with a face of disgust. Not for the senseless war there, but for Chechnya itself, its people, the whole matter. I call it a disgust of apathy. This apathy, like so many other emotions and opinions, turns to guilt at the sight of an invalid. You can’t pretend anymore with an invalid in your presence. The half-man before you is a reminder that there is a war and this is what it does to your OWN youths. The future of Russia is one built on a generation of dismembered bodies.
The invalid is the living symbol for modern war. Gone are high death numbers for states like Russia and the United States. These are only reserved for their enemies and the civilians that surround them. Gone are the wars were the participating societies are devastated by destruction, death, and disease, like the so-called glorious wars, WWI and WWII (the U.S. escaped the destruction the Europeans experienced in these two wars). For Russian and the American soldiers modern war resembles pre-modern wars. Like the peasant warriors of the 16th century who had their limbs hacked off, similarly our warriors also experience a hacking of sorts to the blunt precision of road side bombs. Our boys in uniform don’t lose their lives, they lose their livelihood. They are physically marked for life. Even if they are able to expunge the psychological nightmare of war, the physical reminder will always be with them. The pre-modern frequency of amputation is the face of modern war. The invalid is a testament to this.
Americans shouldn’t view the Russian invalid as yet another opportunity to sing the praises of American society. It would be sheer blindness, if not immoral, to claim difference, let alone superiority. As of this morning, 51 American soldiers have died in Fallujah. This is only going to increase as more men are further killed in battle or die from their wounds. The American casualty numbers from Fallujah and this means not only deaths but injury in battle, are in the hundreds. So far, if I remember correctly (I don’t have exact numbers in front of me) total American deaths since the beginning of the war have probably reached the 1,200 mark. According to investigative reports in the Christian Science Monitor, total casualties fall somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000, and by some estimates even up to 17,000. How many of these are ‘invalids’? It is hard to get an exact number, reporters claim, because the military restricts access to casualty numbers, military hospitals, and military transport of soldiers from the battlefield to bases in Germany. The fact that we can’t even see the shipment of coffins because (officially) it might upset some families (unofficially: remind us of how many of our OWN are dying), makes exactness on this question more a dream than a reality.
No, we can’t claim superiority over the Russians because our media doesn’t show anything about the war either. All we get are military press releases that use the terms ‘victory,’ ‘liberated’, and ‘pacified’ it seems almost everyday. These same press releases are the ones that claim that the U.S. air strikes in Fallujah are on ‘hideouts’ and ‘safe houses’ of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I honestly believe that this man does not, and perhaps never has existed. You have to be a complete idiot, or worse immoral to continue to believe what the military and our government are telling us the truth about Iraq. I don’t profess to know the truth, but I know that the story we are getting from out government is not it.
One could say that at least we don’t have to experience the horror of the invalid. At least our boys are “taken care of.” If you ever been to a military hospital you will know the increasing falseness of this. If you know about how the government has been steadily decreasing veteran’s benefits, you have to at least wonder. Plus, recognizing the invalid through his invisibility is like lumping him with the other ‘invisibles’ in our society: the homeless, the addict, the mentally ill, and the disabled. The invalid’s invisibility might bring us comfort, but does it make us more human? Is the placebo of invisibility better than the pain of guilt, of the reality of war? Is our society any better with the invalid hiding in their homes or in the dark corners of our cities, shameful of their dismemberment? Isn’t it us who should be shamed. At least the Russians are forced to face theirs in the dismembered body of a human being, even if this guilt passes with the next metro stop.
Every time I see one of these men on the Moscow metro, I can’t help thinking that we are only two years into our war. Despite assurances, it doesn’t look like an end is in sight. This is compounded by the fact that what “we” are fighting for keeps changing. First it was “weapons of mass destruction”, then it was “to liberate the Iraqi people,” now it’s a mixture of “it’s better to fight the terrorists there than here,” and “so the Iraqis can live in freedom and hold elections.” What will the reason be in five years when our invalids begin to make their way into our daily commute? Will the discomfort they bring be assuaged with the tithing of a few dollars? More importantly, will we feel guilt because of their missing limbs or because we didn’t stop the madness that took them sooner?Post Views: 478