Apr 262013

Um, “cult of personality” is a term that Khrushchev used to criticize Stalin without criticizing the system that created him.  It’s not as though Putin hasn’t been hard at work creating his own personality cult, anyway.  And I presume that even in Putin’s Russia it’s illegal to steal votes to win an election.   But he’s probably right that there aren’t any labor camps to be seen these days.  Beating and torturing difficult opponents in prison, yes, but labor camps, no.

“I don’t see any elements of Stalinism here. Stalinism is linked to the cult of personality, massive legal violations, repressions and labor camps.” (URL)


 Posted by at April 26 2013 01:36
Sep 032010

A couple of items in today’s news show that the love of learning has not completely disappeared in today’s society:

1. Vladimir Putin’s police conducted a raid on the offices of the New Times, an opposition magazine in Moscow. It’s part of what are called “investigative actions.” This desire to investigate could inspire a higher degree of intellectual curiosity than has been shown thus far by Barak Obama’s administration, which has been content to do no more than badmouth and marginalize its opposition news organizations.

2. Diana West reports on how back in 2003, Allen West, who is running for Congress in Florida’s 22nd District, fired a pistol near the head of an uncooperative Iraqi in order to get him to share his knowledge about assassination plots and ambushes directed against U.S. troops. He apparently realized that you can’t create an intellectually stimulating environment where you don’t have a free and open exchange of ideas.

Jun 122010

Does this mean the FSB can prevent the murders of people like Alexander Litvenenko and Anna Politkovskaya by locking up government officials who might “cause or create the conditions” for such things to happen?

From KyivPost:

MOSCOW, June 11 (Reuters) – Russia’s parliament on Friday voted to boost the powers of the successor to the Soviet KGB, allowing it to summon people it believes are about to commit a crime and threaten jail for those who disobey its orders….

The bill, which would allow the FSB to issue a legally binding summons to anyone whose actions it considers as “causing or creating the conditions for committing a crime,” was passed in the first of three required readings in the State Duma.

Apr 212010

The ruling class worries that peaceful demonstrations might incite broader unrest? They want protestors to work without fanaticism?

No, this isn’t the American ruling class trying to maintain its hegemony against the rise of tea party activism. These are Russian rulers who are afraid of motorists who are protesting against special road privileges for VIPs.

Just the same, the Russian government could use the services of our Bill Clinton. He knows how to deal with these types of people, if you know what I mean.

His step to the national stage brought police surveillance and a mix of pressure and courtship by officials worried that his horn-honking activism might ignite broader unrest. He recalls the swift reaction when a participant on his group’s online forum suggested setting a car on fire in Red Square. Within minutes, Mr. Kanayev was summoned to Criminal Police headquarters. “It was just a joke,” he says he told his interrogators.

A Kremlin political operative approached, he says, and promised time on state-run television if he would stop the caravans. Another official, Sergey Shishkarev, who heads parliament’s transport committee, says he has offered to shape some of Mr. Kanayev’s ideas on tax and safety issues into legislation but warned the activist “to work without fanaticism.”

WSJ link here

Apr 102010

News item: “Russian President Dmitry Medvedev named Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to head the commission to investigate the crash…”

That would seem like a big task for a man who, despite having the resources of the FSB at his disposal, couldn’t find the killers of Alexander Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya. Maybe Medvedev would have done better to outsource the job to someone else.

Apr 022010

Vladimir Putin says he’s going to scrape the subway bombers from the bottoms of the sewers. His sidekick says they are going to be harsher and crueller in going against them.

That’s fine, but these claims would have more credibility if Putin had shown the same diligence in going against the killers of Alexander Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya, and dozens of other Russian journalists who have been murdered. The experience would also have given him an opportunity to develop the law enforcement skills needed to bring the subway bombers to justice.

Nov 082008

People who think Sarah Palin isn’t very bright ought to take a look at Representative Ellen Tauscher of California. From

Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.) dismissed recent comments by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev about redeploying missiles as primarily for his country’s “domestic consumption.”

Of course Medvedev’s remarks were meant for domestic consumption. Remember when the left was complaining (rightfully) that George Bush was taking us to war without having the country behind him? Every head of state throughout history, good or bad, has understood that you need to have the country behind you when you go up against an enemy. Abraham Lincoln understood it. Joseph Stalin understood it. But George Bush thought he knew better.

So of course Putin/Medvedev make their comments for public consumption. That doesn’t mean those comments aren’t a message to us, too.

The election of Barack Obama was recognized around the world as a positive step, said Tauscher, who leads the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. “The only person who didn’t get the memo was President Medvedev. It was an unfortunate tenor and an unfortunate speech. But it is something we can work with.”

Why does Tauscher think Medvedev isn’t aware that Obama was elected? Why does she think other countries wanted him elected, if it wasn’t for their own self-interest. And what better time than now for Putin/Medvedev to test our administration to see if it can be bullied. We’ve got an outgoing, lame-duck administration, a hostile Congress, and a naive rookie coming in with very little experience of the real world. That’s the perfect time to make a move.

If the leader of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee says she can work with that, that’s valuable information for people like Putin and Medvedev to have.

Aug 222008

Mark Ames at The Exiled sets himself up as a target of The Reticulator with his article, “South Ossetia: The War We Don’t Know.”

Five days after Georgia invaded and seized the breakaway separatist region of South Ossetia, sparking a larger-scale Russian invasion to drive Georgian forces back and punish their leaders, Russia surprised its Western detractors by calling a halt to the country’s offensive. After all, the mainstream media, egged on by hawkish neocon pundits and their candidate John McCain, had everyone believing that Russia was hellbent on the full-scale annihilation and annexation of democratic Georgia.

Actually, this is not true. There is nothing surprising at all about this. When Russia has accomplished its objective, why wouldn’t it halt the military offensive? And I suppose you could find some “hawkish neocon” who believed Russia was going for annihlation and annexation, but most of the alarmist articles I read were more nuanced. The word “finlandization” was used a lot.

Up until now, this war was framed as a simple tale of Good Helpless Democratic Guy Georgia versus Bad Savage Fascist Guy Russia. In fact, it is far more complex than this, morally and historically. Then there are two concentric David and Goliath narratives here.

Er, no, this war was not framed as such a simple tale by most people. Most of the people who are alarmed about Russia’s action also realized that Georgia started off with a big mistake.

If Mr. Ames wants people to understand the subtleties and shades of gray with which the historical origins of this war should be understood, he needs to show some understanding of the subtleties and shades of gray with which it has been discussed in the American press, too.

Aug 182008

News item: “Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has promised what he called a shattering blow to anyone threatening Russian citizens.”

It would have been nice if he had been around to offer those protections to Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya and a couple hundred other journalists who were Russian citizens.