My first troll! (a mild rant of sorts)

I have an important announcement to make: my initiation into the “club” of Russia blogs is almost complete. Why, you may ask? Because I’ve encountered my first troll.*

This particular non-user, nicknamed after a certain firebird of myth, seems to spring into action every time I post anything about Putin – be it mentioning a book I am reading about him, actual reviews on Putin books, or links to articles about decisions he has made. He/she/it clearly hates Putin and always spontaneously appears to kindly remind me of how depressing Russia has gotten under him. (If it weren’t for the unsupported generalizations of phoenix, I would still be a naive little slave to Kremlin propaganda today!**) Heck, even the book recommendations phoenix gave me have to do with the horrors of Putin! He/she/it never comments on anything else I share – just when it concerns Putin and Putinism. Always one breath away from calling me a Kremlin shill, but always too afraid to commit.

Still not convinced that phoenix is some sort of troll? Well, a picture is worth a thousand words…so have two.


Phoenix appeared again on my post “Three controversial points from Putin’s ‘Direct Line’ call-in show”, as one of a string of about 11 comments posted in various places on my site within an hour.


Regardless of whether phoenix is a real person or an actual non-user, I hope he/she/it realizes that his/her/its presence on my site is annoying and ineffective.

You may be wondering, why bother creating a post on this at all? Well, I’m doing so because (a) I find this all incredibly amusing, (b) I am bored, or (c) it could be that I’m trying to troll the troll, which might be fun. (Or perhaps dangerous…those of you more well-versed in trollology might want to advise me here.) Regardless of which purpose is the real one (heck, it might be all three), I consider this to be a bit of a milestone as far as the development of a Russia blog goes.

So thank you, phoenix, wherever you are.

*My addition to the blogroll on Paul Robinson’s blog IRRUSSIANALITY is certainly important as well.

**I would like the record to reflect, however, that I am neither a Putin supporter nor detractor. Never have been, and probably never will be.



  1. I’ve gotten sucked in by a couple of trolls in the past. Usually the really sly ones start out acting as though they might be open to a dialogue, even if there is some disagreement. Then, after several rounds of exchanges, it becomes obvious that that was never the intent.

    Trolls like to either provoke or waste your time with such shenanigans. I was notified by email last night that “phoenix” had responded to one of my comments on one of your posts from about a week or so ago. I ignored him.

    In any event, it means you are getting traffic and have now been deemed important enough for a troll to attempt to practice their dark arts on you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oddly enough, I did receive a notice yesterday that my blog was getting more traffic than average: about 56 hourly reviews or so, at around the same time when phoenix’s comments started flooding in… I saw the comment phoenix made in response to the ‘Putin’s Golden Ticket ‘ post, the one about the clock turning back to ’37. I’m not even going to approach that.


  2. Dear J.T., to answer your question in other thread:

    Svidomite (ukr. “свiдомит”) is (usually) Ukrainian troll, with the terminal stage of phimosis of the head brain, resulted from the acute phase of racially Ukrainian “національна свідомість” (“national consciousness”). Other names – SALOfites, vyshi-VATNIKS, svinomites.

    Especially numerous among the direct descendants of the Ancient Proto-Ukrs (who have in past dug out the Black sea, domesticated pigs and invented all human languages… except Moskal’s untermenchen pseudo-tongue). Their centers of population are the ancient Ukrainian cities of Lviv, Ternipil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Zhmerinka and Rivno – plus extremely Net-active Diaspora from Canada.

    All svidomites immensely, BURNING hate everything Russian, Soviet and the Jews. At the same time, like to claim basically anyone rich and famous as their own, true Ukrainian (which increases their Feeling of Self-Importance, without making them, you know, actually work). One of their last victims was Whoopi Goldberg:

    Raison d’etre of any self respecting svidomite is true and final unity with the Civilized West. Usually, achieved by emigration and working the most inglorious jobs just for survival.

    There are several way how to deal with them on-line:

    1) Massive repressions with banning of the offending individuals.

    2) Counter-trolling. But this requires time, knowledge of their weaknesses and lack of any compassions, so that they won’t ever come back once whipped here. Like, pointing out that about 50% of words in the Racially Superior Ukrainian мова are actually borrowed words from the Polish, Russian and German Languages, and a lot of others – from Turkish or Tatar. Or that both Taras Shevchenko and Nikolay Gogol wrote exclusively in Russian. Or (and this is really cruel) ask them about successes (“перемоги”) of the latest Maidan.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey J.T.! That’s a downside of being popular! 🙂 But seriously, you should never feed the troll, meaning don’t engage in discussions. Simply ignore him/her/it.

    And regarding his/her comments on the starving people on the streets, I don’t know about that, but Russians now spend more than half of their income on food. Here are links on RIA and Interfax
    I haven’t looked for English translations, but I think Google Translate can help. This is official statistics and it simply mirrors what has been going on for quite some time. The prices are going up, while the salaries stay the same, or even worse — many companies cut down their expenses firing employees.

    I can personally attest that my usual expenses rose in the last year, and significantly. I keep the checks and it’s easy to compare. And as you can guess, the income did not increase. It’s foolish to ignore the new reality, and yet our state media channels, like Channel One Russia, manage to play the same tune as ever. We are strong, America is dying in fire (not my words!), Europe is going to drown under the swarms of refugees, and in our kingdom the emperor has new clothes. Argh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Olga! Thanks for the advice. I have no doubt that you know the situation on the ground better than I ever could, so I am very grateful for every anecdote you share. I agree with you when you say it’s foolish to ignore the new reality, and I’m sorry if in the troll-related comments I came across as trying to do just that. I see the same trend – in numbers at least – while browsing Rosstat and Levada polls (which I often refer to in my non-blogging research). What really bothered me about phoenix’s comments is that he/she/it didn’t bother to even include evidence to back up the claim, which should be fairly easy to do, given all the available statistics to cite.
      Funny how phoenix accused me of watching only Russian state media…in truth, I sometimes come across articles from state print media while researching online and even found Channel One in a city hotel once. I got similar impression to what you hold now. It seems that the state has created its own reality in which the temperature is always 98.6 degrees and the blood pressure is always 120/80, and then it reacts to the reality of its own making…
      Anyway, I hope you come out of the situation alright, though it looks like the recession is going to be around for a long time. And don’t worry about the links being in Russian – I’m actually fairly good at reading in Russian w/o a translator app 🙂
      Nice talking to you.


    • Ольга – я вас категорически приветствую!

      As it turns out, I’m also Russian – born, raised and resident – who can say a thing or two (or many) about the life in my country. It’s rather strange that a Russian resident like has to reference some statistical data to determine the verity of such simple statement “Whether or not Russians are starving on the streets”.

      The answer would be – yes, some are starving. Just like elsewhere in the world – including the Bastion of Democracy and its faithful allies. No one is hunting down hedgehogs, pigeons and/or beavers for meat though – as some always excitable UkroMedia (and their trusting fans among the so-called “Russian Free Press”) were happy to report.

      I don’t presume that you, Olga, is among those who were fired by those “many companies” (link to statistics, that there were indeed “many” of them, please). You strike me as a person that can afford a rather lavish lifestyle – compared to the most of your fellow Russians – and who is always having a quip or two to say about the “Regime”.

      Claim that “income did not increase” is simply false. You can’t seriously claim it while talking about the whole of Russia.

      I indeed watch state media of Russia, but only one channel – Kultura. It’s without commercials and of the top quality in its field. This doesn’t mean that I’m ignorant about the existence of other channels – I just usually don’t watch them (especially the “entertainment” ones). Still, I can say for sure that your characteristic of the Channel One is simply far away from reality, especially “America is dying in fire” part. Lets conduct an experiment? Today, this Wednesday, April 20, lets watch Channel One’s News at 21:00 (“Vremya”) comment and compare? I really want to find out, what is so awful and unspeakable there is in Russian news – compared to the Free and Independent Western Media ™.

      Or you prefer the “Independent Russian Media”? Them, who live in their own “little perfect reality”, where Russia is always on the brink of collapse, Russians are the scum of the Earth and the West is the Absolute ideal of Everything Imaginable?


      • Hello again Lyttenburgh. Like Olga, your status as Russian resident gives your argument greater weight than mine, so I’m sorry if my aforementioned comments about my experiences with Russian state media offended you. I will concede that my attitudes toward state media reflect a bias on my part; I’d heard of the Kultura channel only in passing, but given your description, I think I will investigate.
        And another thing – I wouldn’t be too harsh towards Olga. I don’t think she meant any harm, and from our conversations on other posts I can’t seem to find much evidence that she is a devout believer in the “Russian Free Press”. She just has a different opinion, that’s all.


  4. To Lyttenburgh, I’ll answer point by point.\

    1. “I don’t presume that you, Olga, is among those who were fired by those “many companies” (link to statistics, that there were indeed “many” of them, please). You strike me as a person that can afford a rather lavish lifestyle – compared to the most of your fellow Russians – and who is always having a quip or two to say about the “Regime”.”

    No, I was not fired. But some of my friends were. And it’s extremely hard to find a job in a current situation, as you may know. So yes, you can say I was writing about my own experience and my friends’ and relatives’ experience. I’m glad you see my lifestyle as “lavish”. Even though you have no info, but K.

    2. “Claim that “income did not increase” is simply false. You can’t seriously claim it while talking about the whole of Russia.”

    If you check my initial post, you’ll see that I wrote that I keep the checks and compare price changes for the things/services I bought, and I wrote about My income (and my family’s). Nowhere did I write about the income of the whole country. But for my personal income and for the income of my family members I can attest: there has been no rise. I hope I don’t need statistics to support that, eh?

    3. “I really want to find out, what is so awful and unspeakable there is in Russian news – compared to the Free and Independent Western Media ™.”

    I don’t watch Russian state TV every day. In fact, I don’t have a TV at home. If I need to, I watch it via their official sites or sometimes when I visit friends (if they have their TV turned on). That is enough for me to form my own opinion. I conducted several of the experiments trying to watch our state media, and honestly, it was quite nauseating. So no, thank you.

    As for my choice of the media, I try to form a more or less objective picture reading and comparing news sources from different countries. It actually saddens me that our country is now divided so much by the type of media someone prefers. Don’t you think it tells that state channels or “Independent Russian Media” are simply propaganda tools, if watching either of them makes you ready to put a label on a person?

    And finally. You wrote “You strike me as a person that can afford a rather lavish lifestyle – compared to the most of your fellow Russians – and who is always having a quip or two to say about the “Regime”.

    4. I believe we live in a free country and have a freedom of speech (guaranteed by the Constitution). Do we not? So it is perfectly normal for a citizen to “have a quip or two to say about the “Regime””? But nevertheless, I believe the previous comment was my second comment here at J.T.’s blog. So how do you make that conclusion? I’m simply curious.


    • Dear Olga.

      Thank you for your time and effort answering some of my questions. Now, if our gracious host J.T. doesn’t mind, I’ll offer some comments to your responses and further commentary.

      1) Let me start by quoting your own words:

      “The prices are going up, while the salaries stay the same, or even worse — many companies cut down their expenses firing employees […] And as you can guess, the income did not increase”

      That’s what you said. Nowhere did you add “Well, I think so, based on my personal experience or the words/experience of my friends or relatives”. No, you stated out it flatly as if it was some sort of truth. And some people, not too keen on checking the data, might even believe you – and even quote you as some sort of respectable sources: “See? Resident Russians are also painting the doom-n-gloom picture!”

      “Prices in Russia are going up. Water is wet. Pope is (hopefully, still) a Catholic. News at 11!”

      Prices in Russia were always growing to this or that extent. So what?

      2) Next, Olga, you write that “I’m glad you see my lifestyle as “lavish”. Even though you have no info…”. Oh, but I do in fact. You need only to click a link to your personal blog and then go to the “О блоге” page to see that. You write about yourself:

      “Меня зовут Ольга Тихонова, мне 28 лет, живу в Москве, люблю тёмный шоколад с миндалём. У меня гуманитарное образование”


      “Я не профессиональная переводчица, не литератор, не журналистка, не филолог и тем более не учительница литературы”


      “В блоге есть реферальные ссылки на книжные магазины: Амазон, Озон, ЛитРес, Лабиринт, BookDepository. Это значит, что если вы перейдёте в магазин по ссылке и купите книгу, небольшой процент от покупки магазин переведёт на мой счёт там (около 2-5%). Так вы можете поддержать БукГик.”

      That’s open info available to anyone. From this alone I can deduce that you:

      a) Can’t be really an apt representative of a significant portion of the Russian population.
      b) We, you and I Olga, belong to different classes of people. And, as your comments show it, stand on opposite sides of ideological spectrum.

      You write that you “like dark chocolate with almonds” and that you have “humanitarian education”. You know – me too! I also have Humanitarian Education (MSU, Hist. dpt, New and Modern History, International Relations). And I also appreciate “Babayevsky” dark chocolate – only pure, without any nuts or raisins. I don’t buy it regularly – never had actually. I also understand, that a lot of Russians probably have never tasted it in their entire life or buy it even rarer than I, but that they still, somehow, can live their life to the full extent and don’t complain about some fancy foods.

      I don’t know about your field of Humanitarian Education, but the fact that you’re, according to your own words, not a “professional translator, literature expert, journalist, philologist or the teacher of literature” I have to think really hard to deduce what kind of education did you receive. Sociology? Philosophy? Political Science? Because I was taught to be a historian and I’m a historian – albeit, one that moonlights as a translator of some massive technical manuals for this or that IT firm.

      But you are also having your own gesheft in the form of cutting 2-5% from the net-stores selling books that you are reviewing. I prefer my books in the dead-tree format, chosen and examined personally, while I’m paging though them in big book stores, like “Biblio Globus” or “Molodaya Gvardiya” – or in some minor stores, or even book “razvals” in some unexpected places.

      3) It’s really sad that you decided not to co-conduct an experiment, to determine how “brainwashy” is Russian state television. I had to do it on my own.

      So, the 21:00 Channel One news block – “Vesti” included the following items:

      – After his direct line with the people Putin gathers the government and tells them to take into account the most concerning complains of the people, namely: tardiness in the full payments of the salaries, the state of Russian roads, the increase of prices on the medicaments, the increase of prices on the foodstuffs, the quality of the milk produce, etc.

      – The second wave of spring flooding has arrived in Russia – its effect on the regions and how emergency services are combating the fallout.

      – The first NATO-Russia working meeting, after NATO’s cessation of all contacts 2 years ago.

      – Turkey sends out Russian and German journalists – the changes in the treatment of the journalists in Turkey. Also, with direct quotes from the Times articles, new facts of Turkeys border troops opening fire on refugees coming from Syria.

      – Video conference of Medvedev and Putin with regional representatives of the United Russia party prior to the primaries on May 22.

      – P.M. Medvedev on the deficit of the regional budgets and how to stop it.

      – A short report, that according to the recent Hague court’s ruling Russia is not obliged to pay $50 billion to “YUKOS” former shareholders.

      – Reportage from the site of Kerch bridge construction, which will unite Crimea with the mainland Russia

      – New president’s of FIFA visit to Russia.

      – Anniversary of Valeria Kislova, the chief director of the central Russian television for the last 30 years.

      – The story of 4 orcas trapped in the ice prison near Sakhalin and about their rescue. The youngest of these sea mammals got himself a name “Willy”.

      This goes quite counter to your rather maximalist take on the Channel One – a TV channel with its own target audience. I can’t say that it “ignores the reality”, or unjustly demonizes anyonem while claiming that “We are strong, America is dying in fire.., Europe is going to drown under the swarms of refugees…”.

      I also welcome anyone to compare it to analogous big news blocs from CNN or BBC.

      Usually, I don’t watch TV news programs at all. I also prefer multiple sources, even foreign media (thank you, InoSMI), but I don’t consider them superior to Russian counterparts. I guess this makes clear to you, that nothing – in our preference to media, at least – divides us. Can’t say about you, but I begin my day of consuming media reports from the visit on – and not to the DO\\\D’ TV, RFE/RL, Novaya Gazeta or Ekho Mosckvy.

      4) Finally, you write “I believe we live in a free country and have a freedom of speech (guaranteed by the Constitution). Do we not?”. Of course we do. In fact, in some respect our freedom of speech is even greater than in some “civilized countries”. We don’t have to self censor ourselves due to the most recent developments on the so-called “political correctness” for one. And for the most Russians this is what really matters.

      And, sure, Olga – you can criticize the “Regime” all you like. But the same freedom of speech doesn’t protect you from me (and others like me) criticizing you (and others like you) for what you say – because we also have a right to express our opinion.

      For too long in the West there was this widespread opinion, that every “Russian” encountered online must be urbanite intelligentsia from the capitals, who are very critical (and loud about it) of the “Regime”. All who doesn’t accommodate this mold, must be FSB (former KGB) agents, Olgino trolls and/or Kremlin-bot who are waging the Informational War against the Truth ™.

      I represent the (former, now not quite so) Silent Majority of Russia, which both the Western political, financial and ideological elites (plus their faithful followers within Russia) chose to ignore and write off. Russia made up from the people. Some categories of them might look more sympathetic to the Western observer, who will immediately feel a “class solidarity” with them – but they can’t speak or represent the whole of Russia. The tricky part here, if anyone in the west wants to learn about Russia something real and substantial – warts and all – is to make one accept that your interlocutors might be nothing you’ve imagined them to be. And that they have their own opinions and experience. And that said opinions and experience is shared by the majority of Russians.


  5. J.T. hi! Oh no, I’m sorry if I gave the wrong impression.

    I don’t post a lot of comments in English (or even in Russian, lol) on the Internet, so I can maybe sound harsh or too direct (in real life too, I was told :). Your comments absolutely did not come as trying to ignore the new reality. In fact, I enjoy reading your blog very much. You put a lot of thought in your posts, and it is extremely valuable.
    I rarely comment, because you see what happens when I do 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Olga. You have every right in the world to express how you feel, but I totally understand if you don’t want to. In fact, I can sometimes come across as too direct in real life too – it’s not that I’m confrontational or anything, I just like to call things as I see them. Commenting on the Internet, especially when on Russia, is a risky business which I am still trying to figure out. My strategy for now is to stay quiet, hear others’ points of view and ask questions when I can. And then try to synthesize what I’ve heard (read).
      Anyway, I hope you will continue to read the blog. Your presence here means a lot.


    • Dear J.T.

      This is your blog, and, ultimately, you are to decide what behavior is appropriate and what is not. If some of my answers sound too harsh, condescending or rude towards your guests (or even to you) – I apologize for that. I am who I am.

      And, just to close this issue once and for all – a few words about the newest meme of the “Russia is dying! Downfall of the regime is imminent!” ™ crowd, i.e. about “Russians now spend 50% of their income on food”.

      1) Let’s start with this piece with rather telling headline:

      No, Russians Are Not Spending 50% of Their Income on Food

      As the article points out, yes “Spending on food rose to 50.1 percent of all retail spending in February 2016”. But it doesn’t stop just at that – it tries to explain to the readers, what does it mean:

      “All GDP is income to someone, at some point. So, income is 100% of GDP. It’s also true that GDP is all production and or all consumption. That’s just what it means, those are the three methods of calculating it. Retail sales will be some part of consumption (or production if you wish). But it will only be some part of it. It will be, by definition, that part of our consumption that comes from buying stuff in a shop. And if you look around your own life you’ll see rather a lot of things you consume which don’t come from a store. Your house (whether bought or rented) did not come from a store. Your car did, the gasoline for it did, but your utilities do not come from a store. Your prescription drugs are retail sales but your hospital care and health insurance are not. Nor does your tax bill come from a store much as we’d appreciate someone like Walmart making that cheaper through efficiency. As it happens retail sales are a little higher as a portion of GDP for Russia than they are for the US (a little over 20% for Russia, a little less for the US and this is what we would expect between richer and poorer country) but they are around the 20% level of GDP all the same.

      What this report is saying is that Russians are now spending some 50% of that portion of their incomes which is retail sales (so, 50% of that 23 or so %) on food. Or 11 perhaps 12% of total income or GDP. Which looks about right. It’s more (for that Maslow reason) than in richer countries (the US generally reported number is actually higher, at some 12%, but that includes eating out which Americans do a great deal compared to Russians) and that’s about right. Because Russia is a poorer country. But if Russians were spending 50% of their total incomes on food then we’d be expecting the place to be as poor as Bangladesh and the like: and that simply is not true nor anywhere near it” .

      2) Russia does not exist in the vacuum – so how does other countries fare in the field of allocating a certain percentage of their citizen’s income towards the essentials?

      54 million Europeans must choose between eating and heating

      An estimated 54 million Europeans suffer from energy poverty, according to a European Commission analysis, which blames rising prices, low income and energy inefficient homes for forcing people to choose between eating or heating.

      You are in energy poverty if you cannot afford to heat your home at an affordable cost. Almost 11% of the EU’s population are faced with that reality, according to the Commission.

      Despite this, less than a third of the member states officially recognise energy poverty, and only a few define it in their national laws.

      Consumers spend on average 6.4% of their total consumption on electricity, gas, heating and cooling – up by 15% compared to five years ago.

      Fuel poverty is not about being poor, but about a combination of low-quality housing and high energy prices causing financial difficulties, and ultimately compromising health and well-being”


      “Bulgarians suffer the most

      Eurostat figures for 2014, the most recent year with complete results, showed that almost half of Bulgarians suffer from energy poverty.

      40% of its 6.9 million 2014 population – about 2.8 million people – can’t afford to heat their homes.

      The figures, obtained by, revealed that just over a third of Greeks (32.9%) – more than 3.5 million people – were in the same situation.

      28% of the Portuguese population, 27.5% of Cypriots, 26.5% of Lithuanians and 22.1% of Maltese are in energy poverty, according to the EU’s statistics service.

      Latvia (16.8%), Romania (12.3%), Hungary (11.6%) come next in the scale. Italy scores at 18% and Spain 11%.

      Energy poverty is particularly prevalent in southern and central European households but by no means exclusively so.

      The United Kingdom has a higher percentage (9.3%) of its total population – equivalent to about 5.85 million people – and more people suffering from energy poverty than Poland (9%).”

      3) Okay, but what about food? Surely, the civilized West must be much, much better off than the Wild and Oppressive Russia!

      Food bank usage at record high – and the true scale of hunger could be far greater

      “Food bank usage has continued to rise for another year, according to figures from the country’s biggest provider, as new data revealed that hunger is most common in areas with high levels of disability and long-term illness.

      Overall 1,109,309 emergency food packages were distributed by the Trussell Trust in 2015-16 – up slightly from last year. The charity, Britain’s leading food bank provider, said the figure was “one million too many” and urged the Government and the public not to accept the levels of food poverty in the UK as “the new normal”.

      The average number of visits per food bank user in the past year was two, meaning that the number of people who had to rely on the charity is likely to be around 554,000. ”


      ““Food banks have become a truly shameful symbol of a Tory Government that is failing to stand up for ordinary people. While those at the top are given tax breaks others are struggling to get by,” she said.

      “Emergency food aid should remain just that – food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society.””


      “David McAuley, chief executive of the Trussell Trust said: “Today’s figures on national food bank use prove that the numbers of people hitting a crisis where they cannot afford to buy food are still far too high. One million three day food supplies given out by our food banks every year is one million too many. This must not become the new normal. Reducing UK hunger will require a collective effort from the voluntary sector, Government, DWP, businesses and the public, and the Trussell Trust is keen to work with all these groups to find solutions that stop so many people needing food banks in future.””

      P.S. But, if you insist – here is 100500% not photoshepped image from the starving Russia:

      Only beavers and hedgehogs these days. We are out of the fish heads and crows, I’m afraid.


  6. Dear Lyttenburgh,
    Apology accepted. While your above comments could certainly be perceived as condescending, it doesn’t seem to directly violate any of the rules in the Comments Policy (though it may come close to breaking #4) and one cannot discount the solid evidence on which your argument is built. Know that I am not offended by your comments, but Olga may have been. I said before (on the Rollback of Democracy post) that they would be welcomed on my blog and I don’t plan to backtrack on that any time soon. I’d just try to tone it down, if possible – though I know you’ve stated that you are who you are.
    I think it’s time to close the comments.


Comments are closed.