Tag Archives: Russia

Moscow Unveils Ukrainian Nationalist Monument in Response to Poland’s Removal of Soviet Memorials

MOSCOW- A 10-meter tall statue of the nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA in Ukrainian) leader Roman Shukhevych was unveiled in Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin on Monday. According to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the new monument is just one of the many “asymmetrical measures” his government promised in response to the Polish government, which recently announced its intention to remove Soviet WWII memorials on Polish territory.

“The Polish Second Republic, which occupied Ukrainian territory prior to the war, oppressed its ethnic minorities,” Lavrov said at a press briefing in the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

“This monument shows our respect for a resistance leader who stood up to Polish chauvinism, the same way we are now standing up to Polish chauvinism today.”

However, critics say the move is controversial, pointing out that Roman Shukhevych served Nazi Germany’s military from 1941 till 1943, first in an army battalion known as “Nachtigal” and later in an Auxiliary Police battalion engaged in anti-partisan warfare in Belarus. Both units have been accused of committing atrocities against Jews and other civilians in occupied territory. In 1943 the UPA engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Poles from the region of Volyn. Shukhevych was nominally in command of the insurgent movement at the time, and the event has been a source of controversy between Poland and Ukraine in recent years.

roman

Roman Shukhevych, commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)

Lavrov responded to critics of the new monument by dismissing all accusations against Shukhevych and his men as “Soviet propaganda,” and alleging the existence of a decades-long international conspiracy to slander Roman Shukhevych and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, of which he was a member.

“I believe every people has a right to its own heroes,” Lavrov told reporters.

“Brutal times called for brutal measures. I won’t get into specifics of what those brutal measures were, but if anyone does they’re probably lying and repeating Soviet propaganda. Also what about Jozef Pilsudski, Michael Collins, or Menachem Begin? Were they angels? I don’t think so.”

Lavrov also dismissed the issue of Shukhevych’s collaboration with Nazi Germany by pointing out that the Soviet Union had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact, which he called an alliance between the two states. When one reporter pointed out that unlike Shukhevych’s movement, the USSR had a history of opposing Nazi Germany with force prior to the pact and after the German invasion it went on to destroy the Third Reich, Lavrov said such details were “Ukrainophobic” and called the reporter a “sovok.”

Reactions in Ukraine have been noticeably sparse, although the move was greeted with great enthusiasm from the head of Ukraine’s Institute of National Memory, Volodymyr Viatrovych.

“This shows that Russia has finally broken with its Soviet past,” Viatrovych said.

“Russia has long insisted, like I do, that all Ukrainians idolize Shukhevych and the UPA. On that we were always in agreement, but until now the Russians had never given my- er…our heroes the respect they deserve.”

Viatrovych said that he was most pleased with the size of the monument, noting that Ukraine has nothing comparable. He also added that every attempt to memorialize Shukhevych and other Ukrainian nationalist leaders in Ukraine has typically been met with controversy and opposition. By contrast, the decision to erect a monument was made within a few days, by President Vladimir Putin’s personal decree. According to Viatrovych, this shows the Russian president’s system is far more efficient.

“I now see the wisdom and true leadership ability of Vladimir Putin, I recognize the superiority of the Russian World, and I will assist in any way that I can,” Viatrovych said.

When asked why he would embrace the nation that annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and started a war that has so far killed over 10,000 Ukrainian citizens, Viatrovych said such questions were “Ukrainophobic.”

So far the Polish Foreign Ministry has declined to comment on the new memorial. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov promised that his country’s retaliatory measures would continue until Poland halts its destruction of Soviet WWII memorials.

“This is only the beginning,” Lavrov said. “We’re already talking about renaming Tverskoy Boulevard after Stepan Bandera, and we might even name one of our upcoming metro stations after Roman Shukhevych as well. We’ve even got a monument to the Ukrainian Insurgent Navy planned for St. Petersburg. GLORY TO UKRAINE! GLORY TO THE HEROES!”

However, when Lavrov was asked if he felt any solidarity with authorities in Kyiv who recently proposed renaming a major street after Roman Shukhevych, he strongly condemned the move and said that Ukraine was under the control of “Nazis.”

BREAKING: Batman fights drug dealers in Moscow suburb!

I don’t normally do breaking news here but what I have just learned is unprecedented. Prepare to witness the greatest thing in 21st century Russian history. This may very well be the salvation of Russia. Today he fights minor criminals on the streets. Tomorrow he may go after the criminals in the Kremlin. He is vengeance. He is the night. He is…BATMAN! 

No I’m serious. There’s a guy beating up drug dealers in the Moscow suburb of Khimki and he’s dressed as Batman. Here’s an excerpt from Meduza:

“Law enforcement officers told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets that, earlier this month, a taxi driver in the Khimki area witnessed a man dressed as Batman exit a building that later proved to be a drug den. The taxi driver says the Batman threw some kind of fire bomb at the ground and then disappeared into the shadows (see the video below). Police officers soon arrived, entered the building, and soon walked out escorting two men in handcuffs.”

He even uses smoke bombs, as you can see in the video:

 

This is simply awesome. In fact, on this occasion it might be good to talk about Batman’s relations with Russia. First of all, Batman in Russia is approximated as Бэтмен, which would sound something like “betmen” in  English. This is interesting because the actual word for “bat” in Russian is летучая мышь (lyetuchaya mysh’), meaning literally “flying mouse.” Obviously they went with “Betmen” because it sounds better than saying “Flying Mouse Man” in Russian, whereas Spider-Man is known as Человек-паук (Chelovek pauk) or “Man spider.”

The prospects of a real Russian Batman are quite interesting indeed. After all, in the past few years the kind of crime once associated with Russia’s “Wild 90’s” has started to rear its ugly head once again. Not only that, Russia has a perfect rogue’s gallery of supervillains for Batman to battle on a regular basis. Here’s a few I just thought of off the top of my head:

Mr. Big: His nickname being a subtle joke about his tiny stature, Mr. Big is the head of the Kremlin Kriminal Krew (KKK). His skills in judo more than make up for his lack of social skills and generally bizarre demeanor. Over the years Mr. Big has become more and more disconnected from material reality, blaming all his problems on gremlins he calls “foreign agents.” Often unable to appear in public for unknown reasons, Mr. Big often prefers to speak through his press secretary Dmitry “The Mustache” Peskov.

The Joker: Originally a TV host named Dmitry  Kiselyov, working for Putin’s regime caused him to undergo a psychotic breakdown. Now he is obsessed with fighting what he calls an “information war,” and to that end every week he assaults Russia’s television audiences with lies so ridiculously hilarious they can actually cause rational people to laugh themselves to death.

The Rotenberg Gang: Two brothers, two partners in crime. Thanks to their relationship with the biggest crime boss in Russia, these two oligarchs are able to rob the whole country blind without jimmying open a single door or pulling a gun.

Mesmerizer: The secret alter-ego of ex-railroad magnate Vladimir Yakunin, the Mesmerizer can stun and totally disable people by lecturing them about convoluted Western conspiracies against Russia.

Ms. Two-Face: The Joker’s female sidekick with a passion for culinary arts and whataboutery. She runs Russia’s foreign language media empire with the help of her gang of ludicrously overpaid expats. Flips a coin to decide whether to claim her TV channel is “no different from Western networks” or “more objective than the mainstream media.” Her only weaknesses are accurate TV ratings reports and financial accountability.

The Worst Person in the World: Born Pavel Astakhov, The Worst Person in the World AKA Captain Cocksplat defends domestic abusers, condemns disabled orphans to woefully underfunded facilities rife with abuse and exploitation, and defends polygamous marriage of teenage girls to middle-aged men.

The Mountain Wolf: The only man in Russia that strikes fear into the heart of Mr. Big. So much fear, in fact, that Mr. Big routinely pays the Wolf millions of dollars from the state budget. The Mountain Wolf is a flamboyant villain, sporting gold-plated pistols, flashy cars, and an incredibly expensive cat.

Gummy Bear: By day he’s mild mannered Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. By night he…sleeps. Sometimes he plays badminton. He likes his iPhone.

As you can clearly see just from this preliminary brainstorming session, Russian Batman will have his hands full with these and dozens of other villains who belong in Arkham Asylum, or failing that, the bottom of an abandoned mine somewhere near Vorkuta.

I’m sorry but I just can’t go on writing anymore- this is simply too awesome.

Russian Batman. He’s the hero Russia needs.

 

 

BREAKING NEWS! Someone compares contemporary Russia to a non-Russian historical precedent!

I’m quite certain I’ve said this before at some point, but one of the most irritating cliches when it comes to Russia coverage is the unspoken rule that modern Russia can only be understood through its own history. We get inundated with articles debating whether Putin is a new Tsar and if so, which one. Is he Andropov? Is he like Brezhnev? Is Kadyrov following in the footsteps of Ivan the Terrible, or could he be a new Stalin-like figure on account of his Caucasian heritage? Is Russia’s current economic situation reminiscent of the 90’s, Perestroika, or the Brezhnev stagnation?

The same rule applies to potential solutions.  Russia needs a Peter the Great to re-open relations with the West! Who will be the “Gorbachev” that re-introduces “democracy” to Russia? And so forth. In fact, the rule is often adhered to not only by Western observers, but also pro-Kremlin people as well. After all, Russian chauvinists shudder at the idea that their country, so unique, esoteric, and utterly mysterious, could ever be compared to another nation at any point in history.

Well guess what- someone actually ventured to break the cycle, and how! In this article, Sumantra Maitra dares to compare Putin to Aurangzeb, the last Mughal emperor of India. You may disagree with the analysis, but they deserve credit for daring to suggest that no, Russia is not so ridiculously unique that we can’t find better explanations by looking at other historical precedents in other countries. Personally I’ve always found Putin to be more of a Mobutu than a Russian Tsar or Soviet premier.

Sometimes I wonder how people would react if we applied this rule to other countries, specifically Western European nations, the UK, or the United States. You say Trump is like Hitler or Mussolini? Preposterous! Go find an American analog. Off the top of my head I’d say George Lincoln Rockwell, assuming you’re married to the whole Nazi comparison. Comparison that liken the American experience in Afghanistan to the Soviet one? Impossible! You must choose something American, like the Seminole Wars. It doesn’t matter how different these situations actually are, all analysis of American politics must be based on American history and no other country is comparable!

I hope I’m not a lone voice suggesting that firstly, not all analysis of Russia should be based on finding alleged parallels in Russian history, and secondly, comparisons should be based on what really fits, not what happens to be the closest historical parallel in Russia’s history. Some might claim that since the Kremlin leadership seems to have a similar worldview, whereby history is used to explain every action, it makes sense to use the same technique. That’s credible for sure, but to be fair the historical knowledge of Putin, Lavrov, and other assorted Kremlin cronies is horribly incomplete. They focus on “Russian” victories of the past while ignoring the key defeats, and especially the reasons for those defeats. If observers do the same, I think there’s a danger that their analysis will inevitably suffer as the whole practice starts to resemble a trivia contest.

So just a humble suggestion- maybe it’s time for some journalists and analysts to follow in the footsteps of Maitra and expand their horizons, looking for parallels outside the narrow focus of Russian history.

Russia Watcher’s Phrasebook

Anti-Russian: Anti-Kremlin

Pro-Russian: Guess…

Russophobe:

1. Disagrees with Kremlin line.

2. A person who is just as much an asshole as a pro-Kremlin chauvinist, but from a nation that has a historical beef with Russia.

Russophile: A person who loves Russia and the Russian people so much they extol the superiority of Russian culture while simultaneously telling everyone how Russians are innately backward savages who require a strong hand to keep them in order.

The Western (mainstream) media:

1. Any news outlet that criticizes the Kremlin’s policies at home or abroad.

2. An obscure blog being cited as a source by Russian media. May possibly be linked to the Russian media or government.

The Polish media: Obzervator Polityczny.

Whataboutery: The go-to argument for Kremlin defenders everywhere.

Moral equivalence: Used by defenders of Western status quo when an argument isn’t actually whataboutery and is in fact an apt comparison. Basically means: “Yes we do that but it’s different because we have better intentions, or something.”

Soviet Union: Russia.

RT: A satellite TV network that could have been a respectable alternative media outlet but ended up turning into a propaganda mouthpiece because some idiots decided they were fighting an information war.

Sputnik News: Because RT’s still too objective to fight a proper information war! Expensive too. Be careful on Twitter; Sputnik News is often indistinguishable from its own parody accounts.

Russia Insider: Because even Sputnik News turned down your writing.

Euromaidan Press: Ukraine’s equivalent to Russia Insider.

I was so inspired by Euromaidan! THE STRUGGLE IS REAL! I must fight for Ukraine's freedom from the comfort of my suburban home in Canada!

I was so inspired by Euromaidan after I saw a viral video about it on my news feed! I must fight for Ukraine’s freedom from the comfort of my suburban home in Canada! THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!

CNN:

1. The single source of all negative information about Russia. Everyone in America who does not pay attention to Russian media watches CNN, and it’s all lies! There are no other sources on Russia in the West but CNN.

2. American cable news network known for repeatedly rearranging the borders of Europe and other geographical features via their graphics department. The network serves as an alternative to muzak in doctors’ offices across America.

ukraine-map3

Ukraine, or possibly Belgium, according to CNN.

Kremlin Whore: Oops! You wrote something critical of Ukraine’s government, didn’t you? Or maybe you tried to garner sympathy for Russia by writing about how kids with cancer receive tragically sub-par care while the nations’ leaders and bureaucrats live it up in luxury, exactly the type of propaganda that will generate sympathy for the Kremlin! Enjoy your blood rubles, presstitute!

State Department/NATO shill: How dare you write about corruption in Russia and the concrete consequences this has for the Russian people!

Fifth columnist/Foreign agent: Russian citizen who tries to fight or expose corruption, which of course doesn’t exist in Russia. Okay well it exists, but it exists in every country! Okay it’s much more prevalent in Russia compared to other countries but that’s because the government and bureaucracy is filled with sixth columnists!

Sixth columnist: Nameless politician or bureaucrat who cuts off utilities, cuts salaries, lays off state workers, closes schools, clinics, etc. No doubt paid directly by Obama. Putin has no idea who these people are or how to stop them. He is a great leader though, the only man who can lead Russia!

Russophrenia: The inability of a person to discern distinct, individual news outlets outside of Russia and their diverse range of pundits, analysts, and journalists. Further explanation here.

Political analyst: Dude with a webcam appearing on RT.

Western political expert: Someone who writes for Globalization Research.

Neocon: Anyone who criticizes Kremlin policy.

Anti-War activist: Someone who opposes war and militarism, unless it’s Russia, in which case militarism and war are just fine because uh…NATO encirclement!

Bandera:

Controversial Ukrainian hero Steve Banderas.

Controversial Ukrainian hero Steve Banderas.

1. The unit of currency of Ukraine, according to Life News (code: UAB).

2. Someone a lot of pundits suddenly heard about in late 2013/early 2014, thereafter scrambling so as to make it look as though they knew what they were talking about when discussing the subject.

3. A person who’s really not such a big deal in Ukrainian history BUT DON’T YOU EVER CRITICIZE HIM OR HIS REHABILITATION IN UKRAINE, OTHERWISE YOU’RE CLEARLY A KREMLIN WHORE WHO WANTS TO START A NEW HOLODOMOR! Stepan Bandera was the only liberal democratic nationalist in all of Central and Eastern Europe in the interwar period, and he championed anti-racism, feminism, and LGBT rights! Unless you’re a conservative who doesn’t like those things, in which case he was a fervent defender of conservative traditional values, but DEFINITELY NOT A FASCIST! 

4. Eternal president of post-Maidan Ukraine, according to some Russian press.

5. If you write for other corporate media outlets, you must refer to Bandera as a “controversial” figure and treat both sides equally. Who are you to judge? You just heard about the guy last year.

KGB propaganda: Any and all criticism of Stepan Bandera or the movements associated with him, whether they come from Americans, Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, the CIA, other Ukrainian nationalists including those who worked with Bandera, etc.

Fascism:

1. According to Russians, anyone who opposes Russian authority or hegemony.

2. According to Ukrainian nationalists, Russians.

Europe: According to Russian press, nothing but gays and Arabs.

wtf

THIS IS WHAT RUSSIAN PATRIOTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE.

America: Sinister country which uses its agents to force Russian bureaucrats and politicians to skim money out of state budgets, demand bribes, and generally rob their nation so they can fork over all the ill-gotten proceeds to American banks, real estate markets, and universities.  American agents also routinely sabotage and destroy Russian roads and other infrastructure with pickaxes.

obamasmoke

Patriot: Asshole who is probably stealing something.

Zrada: A Ukrainian word which roughly translates into “I’m really angry because everything isn’t going my way!” See explanation here.

zradacollection1

Sanctions: Unfair, totally pointless economic measures that will in no way harm Russia’s economy. In fact, they are actually helping Russia! They are so absurd and ridiculous the West should totally remove them as soon as humanely possible. Please.

Import substitution: Get ready for cheese made from 80% palm oil. You don’t even want to know where we’re getting the meat from.

Dill: A Russian biological weapon introduced to targets via food.

DNR/LNR (Donetsk People’s Republic/Luhansk People’s Republic): What? What are you talking about? Those are clearly territories of Ukraine! Where did you get the idea that we were engineering a separatist movement to join Russia or become a pseudo-state like the various other pseudo-states Russia has created over the years! We have nothing to do with those states! We just really think that Ukraine needs to be a federal state, even though we actually aren’t, and we constantly talk about not interfering internal affairs of other countries!

Novorossiya: Now what are you going on about? We never said anything about Novorossiya? What does a colonial territory created in the time of Catherine the Great have to do with Ukraine in 2015? Why did you even bring this up! Ukraine should be a federal state! Don’t interfere in the internal affairs of other nations! If you’ll excuse me I left something in my car.

Boris Yeltsin: 

1. Great visionary democratic leader who had absolutely nothing to do with Putin, his rise to power, or the increasing authority of the president in the Russian government. (Please ignore crushing of dissent with tanks and several bloody conflicts)

2. Pathetic drunk puppet of America and the Judeo-Masonic reptiloids who has absolutely nothing to do with the heroic savior of Russia that is Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin: 

Russian president who reminded foreign journalists that there were actually serious problems in the Russian government. Putin is the savior of Russia, and the only possible leader for Russia in spite of being abandoned by his family, apparently unaware of massive, endemic corruption in his country for 15 years, and in spite of failing to produce a single possible successor in 15 years of his tenure. Without Putin, all Russians will kneel before the United States and accept colonial rule. This is thanks to his wise and great leadership!

Dmitry Medvedev: A great visionary who presided over a golden age in post-Soviet Russian history. Ignore him.

The Internet: A dastardly CIA project designed to overthrow governments.

Moscow Expats: A Facebook group which is essentially the equivalent of Yahoo! Answers. Famous for numerous “How is babby formed” style questions, spam, and bizarre arguments.

ISIS: Anything a Russian bomb hits in Syria.

Cheerleader: Insufferable self-righteous asshole “fighting” for a cause on the internet, typically outside the country they’re supporting, who demands the right to determine what is acceptable support for “the cause.” More info here.

The Russian Soul: A magical deus ex machina that allows one to avoid inconvenient arguments. e.g. “Oh but you see…You don’t understand the enigmatic Russian soul!” It is recommended that the speaker wave his or her arms in front of the listener’s face and make ghost noises after mentioning the Russian soul.

Vatnik: Putin’s main target demographic.

The Russian Press: A special investigative organ of the Russian state tasked with finding and archiving footage of gay pride parades and gay pornography and reviewing it for Russian viewers at home.

Somewhat reasonable: Applied to someone whose writing or arguments somewhat agree with your own. Wherever there is agreement, this is where your opponent is being “somewhat reasonable.” Be sure to tell them so!

Why don’t you ever write about the West?!: Yes, why is it that you, a correspondent working in Russia or someone living in Russia, dealing with Russian issues on a daily basis, possibly with family members in Russia, and having a personal stake in the future of Russia, regularly write about Russia instead of say, the United States? What? You do write about the US? Okay why don’t you only write about the US, in spite of living in Russia for years? Why do journalists even cover Russia at all?

Multi-polar world: A world in which other leading nations treat Russia, a country with an economy just under that of Italy, as though it were some kind of 19th century great power and allow it to have its own sphere of influence for no known reason whatsoever.

Sovereignty: The right of dictators to rob their own nations blind without any interference or even criticism from abroad. Null and void if you’re one of Russia’s neighbors. A nation’s sovereignty is called into question if it enacts any policy the Kremlin doesn’t like. Only by deferring to the great Russian superpower in all matters can a nation truly be considered sovereign.

Geopolitics: An outdated, nihilistic, 19th century worldview that has been adopted by out of touch pseudo-intellectuals who think global politics is basically a game of Risk.

If you think this is a guide to foreign policy, call RT right now for a guest spot!

If you think this is a guide to foreign policy, call RT right now for a guest spot!

Geopolitical expert: It’s kind of like being a World of Warcraft expert, only more obscure and less useful.

A reaction to Tom’s theories on Geopolitics

The Great Patriotic War: The most terrible war in history in which tens of millions of Soviet citizens of all nationalities perished, many of them exterminated solely for their ethnicity or religion, thousands of villages and cities were razed to the ground, and cultural wounds still felt today were created. Russia commemorates the solemn event of Victory day by totally monopolizing the Soviet struggle, making state-funded films which are insulting to veterans and actually make the Germans look better than the Red Army, dressing up little kids in soldier uniforms from a war they know nothing about, making body art, putting on a WWII-themed dog show and various other bizarre spectacles, and of course- selling shit. Russia reserves the right to lecture any other country on the topic of the Great Patriotic War, in spite of the fact that Russia is nothing like the USSR and the values of its modern government are far closer to those of Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy than the Soviet Union.

Hey I thought fascist symbols were banned in Russia!

Hey I thought fascist symbols were banned in Russia!

Vladimir Lenin: An evil German/American agent who destroyed the Russian empire, murdered the Holy Tsar and his family, and worst of all, invented Ukrainians and their language…BUT DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH ONE OF HIS STATUES YOU BANDERITE SCUM! 

Josef Stalin: A deeply religious, conservative Russian nationalist leader who put right the wrongs of Lenin (except he still inexplicably believed in the existence of Ukrainians for some reason, possibly American related) and turned the USSR into a new Russian empire in preparation for a long struggle with the American Judeo-Masonic underlings of the Reptiloids from the planet Nibiru. Stalin won WWII because of his deep faith in Russian civilization and he lit candles in St. Basil’s Cathedral every night.

Dmytro Yarosh: Fuhrer of Ukraine. Has crucified so many Russian speaking kids he made the road between Slovyansk and Kramatorsk look like the Via Appia after Spartacus’ revolt. It is believed that Yarosh stepped down from his position in Praviy Sektor so as to convert to Islam, join ISIS, and carry on the jihad against Russian children in Syria. He is now believed to be going by his new name, Damir ibn-Anatol Al-Ukrayiini.

So THAT'S who left all these dishes in the sink!

So THAT’S who left all these dishes in the sink!

Objective, impartial investigation: Any investigation that absolves Russia or its proxies of all guilt. Preferably carried out by the Russian government.

Provocation: What you call it when you shoot down a civilian airliner or shell civilian territories in the course of a war you started. Essentially, it means cowardly accusing the other side of committing the deed in question, even if this would mean deliberately shelling or murdering their own people, without making a direct accusation.

9 Year Anniversary Extravaganza

9 YEARS IN RUSSIA!

How this country has changed in just a couple years.

How this country has changed in just a couple years.

In honor of the 9-year anniversary of my move to Russia, I present my readers with…This long political rant:

Oblivious

These days there’s this idea that Russians miss the Soviet Union, as though they are Communists, as though this is what they actually wanted. Obviously when given the chance, the Russian people, like people in the other union republics, utterly failed to put up any fight to preserve either the union itself, just as they failed to do anything about the system which had long since ceased to be anything remotely resembling socialism in a Marxist sense. In reality the rising Soviet nostalgia, nurtured by the state media and state-connected organizations, is totally disconnected with socialist politics or even the actual Soviet Union itself. Instead, the Soviet Union has been reimagined as another Russian empire, and the message of the state is that Russian imperialism is just and right. This has great appeal for a population living nearly a quarter of a century under humiliation, especially when post-Soviet Russia shows little capacity for achievement in recent years.

Yet while we must not nurture modern Russian fantasies about how the collapse of the Soviet Union wasn’t their fault, or that they were wholly unaccountable for what happened next, we also need to stop doing things like what former US Ambassador Michael McFaul did in this tweet today:

Now I don’t mean to sound like Mark Ames here, but the fact is that while Russia and other Soviet republics were already suffering in the throes of Perestroika, the 90’s, especially the early 90’s, were no picnic for Russia and other former Soviet republics, to say the least. In fact, when Ames talks about the crime, violence, corruption, and prostitution of the 90’s, he’s not wrong nor lying. The only problem is that he used all that to build a career for himself, and then shits on anyone who wants to deal with Russia’s problems now, many of which are rooted in the 90’s.

I apologize for the digression but the point here is that McFaul’s comment is akin to the sentiments of many a clueless Westerner, who expect Russians to celebrate the destruction and humiliation of their country. I am not speaking of the break-up of the Soviet Union here; I’m talking about the literal destruction of the Russian Federation, what can best be described as Russia’s “rightful territory” (though that’s debatable).  Obviously some of these Westerners visited or lived in Russia at the time, and some of them might have been here even earlier, during Perestroika. These types might tell you that “it wasn’t so bad,” well that might have been the case- for them, and perhaps the well-to-do Russians they knew. The fact is that for millions of ordinary people, it was total chaos. All the while the economic advice from the West was neo-liberal to the core. Privatize everything as quickly as possible. Suffering be damned! Let the market decide everything, even if most of your majority population has little to no knowledge about markets and capitalism. No time to teach them!

Then you also have Western politicians and many journalists turning a blind eye to the violence of Yeltsin’s regime. I’m not just talking about the organized crime ties of his backers, but literal violence against his own people. For before he initiated a campaign of butchery in Chechnya which would later catapult Vladimir Putin to prominence, he used tanks and snipers against his own people in his own capital, all for the sake of defending his violation of the constitution. By comparison, the police response to the 2011-2012 protests don’t even register; they were even more reserved than Berkut during Euromaidan.

I could go on with more examples but I think the point is clear. This kind of behavior is precisely one of the reasons why you hear Russians say things like “The West only likes us when we’re weak! Better for them to fear us!” It’s not a paranoid Russian fantasy that foreign media coverage of Russia seemed to immediately change in tone once Putin was in charge. Putin was trying to project the image of a strong Russia, and the Western media was happy to oblige him, telling us how we should fear what he was doing.

The same phenomenon explains the renewed interest in the Soviet Union and Stalin, who has been stripped of his Marxist credentials and made into a Russian Orthodox nationalist. The thing about Russian liberals, almost from the beginning, is that they seemed to love talking about the horrors of “Stalinism” more than anything else. When people were suffering, not knowing where their next meal would come from, when their daughters were disappearing abroad into sexual slavery- the liberals and their foreign backers want to talk about the purges of 1937. It’s not hard to see where this leads in a country dominated by the politics of opposites. “If these same people constantly talk about Stalin, then Stalin must be the anti-liberal! He represents everything they hate, and they represent everything we hate! Glory to the Great Orthodox Russian Nationalist hero, YAROSLAV (Just you wait.) STALIN!”

This is how rudimentary politics is in these parts; it’s not just Ukraine. You attribute certain things to your opponents and then you automatically take on the opposite of everything you perceive to be on “their” side. There’s no middle ground, there’s no underlying principle or ideology guiding your decisions or choices. Take the outrage at the toppling of Lenin statues in Ukraine. Most Russians don’t know jack shit about Lenin, and even less about his ideology or what “Leninism” is (HINT: It’s largely related to organizational methods for Communist parties). Many Russians actually curse Lenin as a German agent, even an American agent, who destroyed their wonderful empire. Lenin is blamed not only for things such as the execution of the royal family, but I’ve even heard Russians claim that he “invented” Ukrainians, and gave them some of the best “Russian” territory. Incidentally, that territory was called “Novorossiya,” and if they were going by ethnic maps of the era Ukraine could have been a lot bigger today, including such cities as Voronezh, Belgorod, Kursk, and possibly the Kuban. Incidentally Lenin’s nationalities policy that is so-hated by Russian neo-imperialists and vatniks alike today was inspired by the work and arguments of none other than…Josef Stalin, but I’m digressing again. The bottom line is that you have this surreal situation where most Russians think nothing of cursing Lenin for the destruction of their empire, church, etc., but a Lenin monument gets smashed in Ukraine and suddenly their butts emit more thrust than the N1 moon rocket.

With Stalin it’s a bit different, largely due to the WWII cult, but the fact is that Russian love of Stalin is highly exaggerated. For one thing, the rabidly anti-Communist, anti-Stalin books of Viktor Suvorov (real name: Vladimir Rezun) are easily found in virtually any Russian bookstore, something I’ve noticed since I first moved here. Other works commonly found in bookstores big and small are the memoirs of various German generals and officers from the Second World War. These books seem to have gained quite a following in Russia, largely because to their audience here they seem like new, forbidden knowledge. I’ve even found works of the Holocaust denier Joachim Hoffman prominently displayed in some of Moscow’s biggest bookstores, including his book honoring Vlassov’s Russian Liberation Army.

What can explain these bizarre disparities, whereby Russians curse Ukrainians for toppling statues of the man who supposedly created Ukrainians? Simple- Ukrainian nationalists are Banderites, and they hate Lenin and the Soviet Union. Ergo statues of Lenin and Stalin are the polar opposite. Maybe more importantly, they enrage Ukrainian nationalists, who are the only Ukrainians worth considering at all, from a Russian point of view. In fact, you could almost say that this is really just trolling politics. Many Ukrainians only tolerate or wave UPA symbols because they know the reaction it will get from vatniks in Russia. They know nothing of the real history of that organization. By the same token, vatniks know that Stalin and Lenin are tools with which to troll their Ukrainian opponents. Thus the memes go back and forth on the internet, interspersed with numerous pornographic images (I’m not even kidding here).

Lastly, one needs to understand that a lot of the darker aspects of Russian politics stem from the kind of ideological garbage that poured into the country from the outside during the 90’s. Russian nationalist groups trying to create a synthesis between ethnic nationalism and the Soviet Union as a Russian empire actually pre-date the fall of the USSR, but after that fall, pretty much every reactionary, right-wing ideology or conspiracy theory flooded into the country. Again Westerners didn’t help. “Throw off all the vestiges of Communism! Bring back the old Tsarist flag! Yes! More religion! Build more churches! The Communists suppressed the poor persecuted church!” and so on. I’ve always found it odd how Western writers seem so perplexed about the prominence of far right ideas in Russia and Eastern Europe. Excuse me, but for roughly 40 years we bombarded them with propaganda that portrayed every Nazi-collaborating fascist as a tragic “freedom fighter” who really fought “against Stalin and Hitler,” sometimes in the ranks of the Waffen SS, no less! The rush to portray anything and everything associate with Communism and socialism as the ultimate evil also led to people questioning the original ideals of Communism, such as anti-racism, internationalism, secularism, science, and women’s rights. If you were led to believe those things were associated with Communism, and Communism is the worst evil imaginable, why would you have any regard for those values under liberal capitalism? Every fascist the world over, from the very beginning, sees such values as creeping Communism.

Monument to Nazi collaborator Andrei Vlassov in...New York. Note the symbols associated with the ROA. Keep that in mind when someone tells you that the Ukrainian flag or trident(It's a BIRD, goddammit!) are

Monument to Nazi collaborator Andrei Vlassov in…New York. Note the symbols associated with the ROA. Keep that in mind when someone tells you that the Ukrainian flag or trident(It’s a BIRD, goddammit!) are “associated with fascism.”
To their credit, Vlassov’s army did actually turn on the Germans to help the Czech resistance liberate Prague. Very different from Bandera, whose forces collaborated with the Germans after he had been arrested and imprisoned by them.

If Westerners want to actually help the situation, there are a few things we can do in discussions with Russians on these topics:

1.      Do not do what McFaul did. Acknowledge that Russia, like many other countries, suffered greatly due to the collapse of the Soviet system. This is not a defense of the system, which was already moribund at that point. It’s not about questioning the independence of any former Soviet republic either. The question of the economic and political system is separate from the question of independence of union republics.

2.   Don’t let Russians off the hook, letting them blame all their problems of the 90’s on a handful of “traitors” and the West, but also acknowledge that the West did play a role in the horrors of the 90’s. A lot of it was neglect- lack of concern or criticism over Yeltsin’s actions, giving him a blank check to do as he pleased. This didn’t just hurt Russians. It actually hurt a lot of foreign investors who wanted to do business in Russia.

3.   Again, it must be understood that celebrating the humiliation of Russia doesn’t mean you can’t say it’s good that the USSR broke apart. The humiliation in this case was not exclusive to Russia. Sure, today the vatniks long to be feared and to push smaller countries around, but that’s because the original humiliation was never solved, in the right way. That could have been solved if Russia had transformed into a proper democratic state, with separation of powers, rule of law, and most of all- a strong welfare state funded by its vast natural resources. The potential of this state would have been immense, and if it existed today I doubt any Russian would give a shit about Ukraine signing an association agreement with the EU or the fact that it had the Crimea, something Russia only gave a shit about in 2014. Countries that do well, whose governments provide their citizens with a high standard of living, generally don’t harbor dreams about recovering lost territories.

Fight the myth that “The West only likes Russia when it was weak!” First of all, Russia is weak today. Yes, yes it is. It’s economy is smaller than that of Italy and falling fast. It has no plan for what to do after Putin, lynch-pin of the system, is gone. Its attempts at sabre-rattling have only led to catastrophic air crashes and billions of wasted rubles. At best it can intimidate its much weaker members, and that’s about it. To the rest of the world it’s essentially a laughing stock as it babbles on about WWII, “historical justice,” and the so-called BRICS alternative while investing even more in US treasury bonds.

Second, it’s not that people in the West, particularly America, liked or hated Russia during the Yeltsin period- they didn’t care. Nobody cared. So much historical revisionism has taken place in modern Russia that they’ve deluded themselves into thinking there is some 150 year history of animosity between the United States and Russia. This is sheer idiocy that ignores tons of historical evidence to the contrary. Real hostility towards the Soviet Union, apart from Wilson’s intervention and a lack of recognition until 1932, didn’t begin until after 1945. During the interwar period the USSR was not seen as a threat. How so? Well the two main concerns for the US military during that period were Japan and…”The Red Empire,” a military designation for the United Kingdom. Yes, Great Britain. Perfidious Albion. Old Blighty. And I might add that part of the increased hostility during the Cold War stemmed from the fact that unlike the interwar period, the USSR actually gained the ability to strike the USA, and vice versa.

Most of all, Russians seem to have totally forgotten that this was an ideological conflict. Sure, plenty of Cold Warriors would sometimes use “The Russians” or “The Russkies” as shorthand for the USSR, but their real animosity was towards Communism. This is why they spent so much time attacking domestic dissidents and opponents as Communists. The House Un-American Activities Committee wasn’t trying to determine if people had hidden Russian ancestry, but rather if they were Communists or associated with Communists.

Lastly, it was not the US that weakened or humiliated Russia. It was people like Yeltsin and people who benefited from his system. Many Russians were complicit in this. Nowadays its Putin and his elite.

4.  Support and spread the truth, that a strong Russia doesn’t mean an empire that bullies other countries. Japan and Germany are both “strong” today. So are Norway, Sweden, Finland, or Austria. Strength can be measured in what the country produces, how the government treats its citizens, its living standards, etc.  It’s hard to say whether we’ve hit a point of no return here, but Russia still has a potential edge in two fields- IT and space exploration. Imagine where it would be were it not for boondoggle projects like Skolkovo and someone stealing $127 million from the space program.

5.  Stop insisting that Russia adopt the new European-contrived (for lack of a more concrete term) version of history. For one thing, it’s not accurate and rewriting history is bad no matter who does it. Worse still, it sends a message to Russians that it is perfectly fine to rewrite history to legitimize political goals. To this end, stop looking the other way when countries like Ukraine engage in this practice. Just because someone is the underdog in a fight doesn’t mean we should rewrite human history for their benefit. And might I add on that point- if you criticize people like me who prefer Ukrainians to take a particular position on Bandera and the OUN, who are you to insist that Russians adopt every point of your historical narrative? After all, do they not need to build a narrative for the sake of cultural cohesion? In truth the Russian identity isn’t that much more solidified than that of Ukraine. Technically there is no “Russia,” if you think about it. So is anyone ready to apply Anne Applebaum’s logic, that this is fine if it builds national unity, to Russia? I sincerely hope not.

Readers and other writers often talk about how shocked they are to see educated, seemingly worldly Russians mouthing the Kremlin’s line as of 2014. This is due to numerous factors, but one factor is the complete failure at setting up a real dialog in all these years. From my observation there as been a lot of reluctance to accept any Russian argument (not necessarily pro-government arguments either) on any subject, particularly when it comes to history. This is often contrasted with a willingness to pick up and disseminate some of the most egregious examples of historical revisionism when they come from other countries. The lack of inconsistency and the refusal to actually listen leads to a sense of exasperation: “They oppose everything we say! They must really hate us!” That, in turn, has led many of these people, who are quite valuable, to side with the Kremlin. If it isn’t that alone, it’s certainly a contributing factor.

In short, anyone who’s actually interested in supporting democracy and generally improving Russia needs to learn to stop being oblivious to this reality. We cannot get sucked into the politics of opposites, where we choose a camp and any criticism within that camp is taken as treason. Russians, even quite liberal ones, have always complained about being lectured to. And let’s be honest, there are some who have certainly been doing a lot of lecturing. So much lecturing, in fact, that they forgot to really explain what the democratic position truly is. This has left many prey to a system that is adept at the tactics of populism.

Russia prepared to recognize upcoming Tatarstan referendum

Tatarstan_flag_Kazan

MOSCOW- Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov announced on Tuesday that his government was prepared to recognize an independent Tatar state in the event of a yes vote in that territory’s upcoming referendum. The referendum on independence was announced on Monday after armed men calling themselves the “People’s Liberation Army of Tatarstan” seized key government buildings and police arsenals in and around the regional capital of Kazan.

“Obviously we believe in self-determination and the preservation of language, which are two of the demands the rebels have mentioned,” Lavrov told reporters at a press conference held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“It would be ridiculous for us to support measures such as the referendum in the Crimea or the federalization of Ukraine while denying those same ideas in our own country,” the minister added.

The uprising in the Russian Federal subject of Tatarstan started one week ago in Kazan and quickly spread to other cities. Local Tatar TV stations showed videos of cossacks and Russian nationalists holding rallies in Moscow, claiming that they would soon be on the way to Tatarstan to “Russify” its institutions and population. In response, the Tatar-speaking population formed “self-defense” groups and started raiding police and military depots in the region. Some Russian sources have repeatedly alleged that Turkish special forces personnel have been arming and training the rebels, a claim which Ankara has repeatedly denied. Russia’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that it was satisfied with Ankara’s explanation.

Tatar rebel in Kazan.

Tatar rebel in Kazan.

President Putin has yet to comment on the uprising, but Dmitry Peskov did field reporters’ questions at an impromptu press conference held on Monday.

When asked about the possibility of a Russian military campaign to put down the rebellion, Peskov called the idea “preposterous.”

“You must be confusing us with the Ukrainian government,” Peskov said. “We are not going to mount some kind of punitive military campaign against our own people even if they start an armed uprising with the help of foreign military forces and outside funding, all for the purposes of separating part of our country or at best, radically changing our constitution.”

Meanwhile in Kazan, the self-proclaimed “Khan” of the provisional government, Marat Abdullaev, announced that the referendum on independence would be held in three weeks.

“Soon we will make our voice known as one people,” Abdullaev told reporters while holding a Turkish license built G3 rifle. “We shall decide whether we wish to become a part of the Turkish Republic, or if we want full independence with the option of joining Turkey at a later date.”

Some sources have alleged that these are actually Turkish special forces troops rather than local militias. Both Ankara and Moscow agree that there are no Turkish troops in Tatarstan, and that the armed men in this photo bought their uniforms from local surplus stores.

Some sources have alleged that these are actually Turkish special forces troops rather than local militias. Both Ankara and Moscow agree that there are no Turkish troops in Tatarstan, and that the armed men in this photo bought their uniforms from local surplus stores.

Meanwhile spokespeople from the US State Department could not be reached for comment, but a receptionist told our correspondent that upon hearing the news numerous US diplomatic officials began drinking heavily, having “existential crises,” and “generally questioning the very concept of reality itself.”

When asked to comment on the State Department’s strange response to Russia’s reaction, Lavrov told reporters that he was surprised by it.

“What is so strange about our response to this crisis in Kazan? It’s almost as if they are shocked that Russia’s position could be so consistent, and I find that personally offensive.”

BREAKING NEWS! Putin announces new sanctions against EU/US, says Russia will no longer export long-winded, hypocritical moral lectures about traditional Christian values to the West.

A recent export ban announced by the Kremlin will make it impossible for the US and its EU allies to receive moral lectures on the failure of their democracy from people like those shown here.

A recent export ban announced by the Kremlin will make it impossible for the US and its EU allies to receive moral lectures on the failure of their democracy from people like those shown here.

MOSCOW- In a recent press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will forthwith cut off all exports of self-righteous, hypocritical lectures. The full list is said to cover such subjects as “speeches about how the West has turned its back on traditional Christian morals and is on the path to destruction,” “self-serving speeches about Russia’s spiritual values and its historical mission,” and projections that “the West is doomed to collapse soon due to its tolerance and lack of traditional values.”

“It’s none of my concern as to where they get their self-righteous, hypocritical lectures from,” the president was quoted as saying when asked what this would mean for the nations targeted by the embargo. “Maybe Iran will have pity on them and pick up the slack. I frankly do not care.”

Foreign policy experts predict worse is to come as the open-ended presidential order leaves room for expansion in the future. Richard Bennett, head of the Passive-Aggressive Russian Rhetoric department of Columbia University, explained why this could mean trouble on the horizon.

According to Bennett, “Putin has the ability to expand these measures at his own discretion at any time. This means that we could see more items added to the ban list. In that case the West might face a total loss of inaccurate comparisons, chest-beating tirades about how Russia has “risen from her knees,” and public oaths to defend Russian soil from a potential NATO invasion made by teenagers whose parents bought their way out of the army.” Bennett’s calculations about the impact of further additions to the ban list were even more grim. “Some nations might find that their entire source of rants about same sex marriage and gay parades will dry up overnight. This could lead to hoarding and black market activity, not to mention the total ruin of firms whose entire business model relied on importing those products.”

TEXT: "Ukraine for European Values!" According to experts, should the ban list be expanded, nations targeted by the measures will no longer have access even to comics such as this one which reduces "European values" to same sex marriage.

TEXT: “Ukraine for European Values!” According to experts, should the ban list be expanded, nations targeted by the measures will no longer have access even to comics such as this one which reduces “European values” to same sex marriage.

 

Bennett went on to explain that absent this flow of embarrassing, impotent rage, both the US and EU might have to “go shopping” for new sources of utterly ineffective, passive-aggressive hostility. Immediate reactions pointed toward China, but when asked about the matter, Chinese president Xi Jinping gave a categorically negative answer.

“China will never replace Russia’s role as an exporter of hypocritical rants and passive-aggressive angst to the West,” the Chinese leader told reporters during an interview which happened to coincide with Putin’s recent announcement. “Here in China we are far too busy with trivial matters such as improving our economy, building our infrastructure, and raising people out of poverty by the millions. We cannot possibly take up Russia’s mantle in that sphere.”

Responses from US president Obama and EU leaders have been sporadic at best, but the White House did issue a statement assuring American citizens that if need be the United States has virtually “limitless reserves” of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. In the event that it becomes necessary to rely on those reserves, federal agencies have announced outreach programs to the nation’s Tea Party organizations and fundamentalist Christian churches, aimed at consolidating and stockpiling their hypocritical, self-righteous diatribes in order to offset any losses caused by the Russian ban.