Reading on Russia Roundup #10

Lazy J.T. forgot to schedule this for 6:00AM like she usually does, and then decided to wake up late. But it’s okay, the Roundup’s here now, and it’s long.

VCIOM press releases. I found two of them interesting: one on the starting conditions and public demand before the Parliamentary elections taking place later this year, and the other on the fears and realities of crime. According to the first press release, the three most pressing issues among potential voters are the economy (17% of those polled), low salaries (15%) and unemployment (13%). Their main fears are falling savings rates and military conflicts, but March saw a decline in their relevance. That’s just some of the press release. In the crime-centric one, most people appear to be afraid of attacks, bank card/internet scams, and car accidents.

More Russia Direct Analysis. This article asks “What did Putin pray for on Mount Athos?” but does not answer; it just talks about how Russia is again at a strategic crossroads. This one says the the most likely explanation for the timing of the Savchenko swap is that the Kremlin hopes that the release of the controversial prisoner will convince European leaders to end economic sanctions against Russia. Not because of pragmatism, apparently.

Poland. According to Gilbert Doctorow, it’s militarizing and becoming more authoritarian.

Mirror reflections.Rank stupidity” at a hearing in the Moscow City Duma. Meanwhile the Center for a New American Security released an equally ignorant report (this time on foreign policy) that is unimaginative, predictably U.S.-centric, and a recipe for failure.

My hopes go unrealized. For those of you who, like me, hoped that Tolokonnikova (of Pussy Riot fame) would fade quietly into irrelevance, here is yet another piece of evidence that she probably won’t. She appeared at the Login tech festival in Vilnius, Lithuania looking for an audience and financial backers who can turn her news outlet MediaZona into “a full-blown contender on Russia’s media scene”. Not sure how well that will work out, since the site mostly focuses on stories censored by the Russian state — stories about courts, prisons, arrests, convictions, riots in facilities and political criminal cases. Plus, as mentioned in the article, MediaZona will have difficulty competing with its more established incumbent in the independent media world: Latvia-based Meduza, which also covers courts, arrests, convictions, corruption and political criminal cases. She may want to try for the Western market instead – it’s where she’s been selling ever since her Punk Performance anyway.

I’m cheating a little bit – the next link’s a podcast. Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor discuss the “return of Stalinism” to Russia. I haven’t actually had the time to listen to it yet, so you’ll have to listen for the conclusion yourself.

News-Paper

And to finish up the roundup, an image taken by me while hunting for stories:

whateven

“Its”? I’m hoping this is just a lazy translation of an article not originally written in English.

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8 comments

  1. Cohen’s podcast on Stalin.

    – They were JUST in 1.35 min of the show when the host absolutely nonchalantly passed a ball (as if this is something “that everybody knows” ™ ) of “Rising Russian Nationalism”. I expect SOOOOO much objectivity of this show right now! But in the same breath he uses such phrases as “Russian response to the so-called NATO threat”.
    – They are quoting that daft Norwegian survey?! Gevalt-gevalt…

    – Cohen admits that those “anti-missile sites” are in fact dual-purpose installations, capable of launching missiles to Russia itself. Well, kudos to him
    – [6:42] “Nationalism is on the rise EVERYWHERE in the Western world”. Well, at least Cohen has courage to tell obvious things on the Western media space. A rare trait nowadays.
    – It gets more amazing! Cohen admits, that instead of calling it “nationalism”, the US calls it “patriotism”. I mean – I’ve been telling this all these years! Cites as examples Trump and Budweiser renaming itself “America” for the summer (note: not in Russia, though).
    – Still, it’s sad that Cohen sticks to the word “nationalism”, and goes on to talk about “strong Soviet nationalism”. It was a “patriotism” – love for one’s country, not one’s people. There was no “Russian” nationalism, because the USSR was not a Russia. And all “proper Russian nationalists” served in Hitler’s army, and were, mostly, dealt with after the war. So, Cohen is wrong when he says “For Russians living in Russia the Soviet nationalism was Russian nationalism, for Ukrainians it was a Ukrainian nationalism, for Uzbeks – the Uzbek nationalism, etc.”. No.

    – Now – the main part. [8:40]. Cohen speaks that with “Russian nationalism” also rises “resurgence of pro-Stalin sentiments”.
    – [8:53]. “You know, he was a monster”. No, he wasn’t. But that’s the thing you are supposed to say in the Free and Independent Western media and Academia and no one will require any proof, right?
    – [10:20]. Cohen admits, that this is actually not the first time when this “resurgence of pro-Stalinism” happens. Here he is also quite incorrect. Instead of talking about such “resurgences”, let’s better talk about at least 4 attempts of de-Stalinization launched within USSR/Russia, that ultimately failed – and find the reasons why.
    – [12:57] “Stalin was a tyrant who ruled by terror. Tens of millions of people… died as result if his terror, his collectivization.”. Aaaaaaannnnd here goes my last vestiges of respect for prof. Cohen. Sure, why needs real statistical data, when you can scare your easily impressible (and very ignorant) listeners with big numbers and clichés? “I lived among the people who were Stalin’s victims”. Gee, no wonder that you have just one-sides view on the things! But why pass it as a truth? And the simple truth is – the absolute vast majority of the USSR citizens at that time were NOT victims of “terror”.

    – [14:40] Cohen compares Stalin debates in Russia with slavery and the Civil War debates in America
    Achievement unlocked: New depth to fall.
    – [15:57] “Perestroika was… anti-Stalinist revolution”. More like – Menshevik counter-revolution. But nice to admit that what he did was a roll back.
    – [17:00]. Admits, that in 1990s (long before Putin) according to the polls on the street the support for Stalin was on the rise. Once again – it’s not a “resurgence”. It’s a return back to norm.

    – Once again, Cohen is insincere, when he says that “Although people like Stalin, no one wants to live in his era” due to “famine, mass terror and not knowing whether you will wake up tomorrow” (more clichés). Some people might also like the American Revolution and the Founding fathers, greatly so – but they will be also not so eager to come back in time and live in that era. Because we are all humans – we cherish our little comforts, like running water, indoor plumbing, central heating systems, cars, TVs, iPhones, fast and unlimited Net and the fridge fool of food. Our ancestors would, in fact, be glad that their toil and strife in our countries past rusted in the fact that their descendants live better than them.
    So the lack of desire to “time travel” is hardly a viable argument here.

    – [18:12] “We are told, there are taxi drivers with pictures of Stalin attached to their mirrors”. Uhm, so what? Oh, I constantly forget – you think that Stalin was a monster, do you? And you find it monstrous that Russians (people most impacted by Stalin) don’t share your sentiments? Indeed – why Russians are not the part of the Western Hive Mind!?
    Note: I’ve never seen Stalin pictures in taxis. Probably, because I use them rarely. But in the public transport in gypsy cabs (“marshrutkas”) it’s mostly icons of the Saints. Seems the drivers believe they have more power to protect them on Russian roads than anyone else.
    Later, Cohen says that he saw it during his years in “Russia” (can’t bring yourself to say the Soviet Union, do you, Stephen) in 1976-82, and from ’85 onward. Naturally, Cohen saw it as “mean of protest”. But if it was a form of protest, well, it was protest against bellowed by the West Gorby and his Perestroika – and against the ineffectual gerontocracy of later Brezhnev period. Which our good prof glosses over.

    – [22:00]. Nowadays, continues Cohen, you can but Stalin themed merchandise everywhere, while in the Soviet era those pics of Stalin were not mass made, hence their importance as a statement of private protest. He, of course, lies, saying that “in the course of the week you can see 2-3 pro-Stalin movies”. Or, what, all Soviet-era movies about the Great Patriotic War are now pro-Stalin?
    – [23:20]. Cohen enters full Mythbusting mode.

    Myth 1 – “Russians don’t know their horrible history”. Actually, he admits, all has been published (then where does your tens of millions killed by Stalin come from, prof Cohen?). [24:56] “There is no censorship on Stalin era”.
    Myth 2 – “There is Stalinism in Russia”. Again – false.
    Myth 3 – “Putin is pro-Stalin”. “Zero evidence”, – says Cohen. Like, you know, there are zero evidence about “tens of millions” (hey, why not go full Solzhenitsin and claim 170 millions? Billions! Trillions!) of murdered by Stalin.
    In fact, Cohen points out, it was under Putin when a GULag museum was opened in Moscow (“very popular” place, I say!). Also he admits, that Putin has to somehow present a “consensual history” otherwise all different proponents of various periods of Russian history will tear down the country and society.

    – [27:30]. Cohen quote one of the arguments of pro-Stalin people in Russia (he admits, that there are many of them): “Under Stalin we were strong, there was order and no one brought missile systems to our borders”. He in the next sentence calls such a statement “wrong”. How so? What is wrong in it?
    – Cohen is also perceptive enough, to see what was all the “Putin’s attack on Lenin” earlier this year all about. He tried to shift a blame from Yeltsin (and himself, as Yeltsin’s successor) and other people responsible for the break up of the Soviet Union on long dead Lenin who “placed an atomic bomb under the Russian state” (c). And it backfired on Putin. Also, he should have remembered that people were fighting and dying for either preserving or toppling the statues of Lenin throughout the Ukraine for the last 2.5 years.

    – Once again – like a broken record, prof Cohen repeats [33:48] that Stalin killed “hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who have noting to do with the bureaucracy” – while quite the opposite was true. All calls he “genocidal” – does he know the meaning of the word?
    – [34:03]. Okay, Cohen once again exaggerates while saying, that not only the corrupt bureaucrat would be arrested and charged and persecuted – but also his family. This is, we are told, horrible. Okay. This was the Western intellectual anti-Sovietist perspective
    Now – Russian perspective. In my country its really a no brainer for the rich/corrupt people to insure or write off their bank accounts, yachts, private property, luxurious suits in newly built high-rises – everything to their spouses, children (no matter how young), siblings, parents, relatives, mistresses – and, yes, nurses, bodyguards and chauffeurs as a mean to appear “clean” before the law and pay no taxes. All those people – the corruptioner/fat cat included – benefits from this system of things. No one of them objects to that. No one of them goes “Pavlik Morozov” style. So all of them bear the guilt. None of them is innocent. And I feel no remorse to them.
    This is what happens now in “super corrupt Putin’s Russia”.
    The fact that the Westerners and Russian shy and modest intelligentzia feel it though speaks more about them, than about me.

    – [35:00]. Cohen is just of his depth when he says that the victims of “Stalin’s brutal collectivization of 25 millions of small peasant farms”. That’s a truly Solzhenitsian proportion we have here – the more the merrier! BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! LIES TO THE THRONE OF LIES! WAAAGGGHHH!…

    Ahem, sorry, Got carried away by the bat-shit insanity of the argument that is made by the supposedly “pro-Russian” professor who studied the USSR all his life.

    My last year’s article about the history of kulaks and the process of de-kulakization provides an exhaustive and rather different picture than the narrative that professor Cohen tries to push here. Lets start that the number of kulaks was about 2 millions tops and sometimes their “farms” were anything but small.

    – [36:02] Cohen admits that although he doesn’t know much about the economics, he like to think that “evolutionary way” (whatever it means) was much more preferable to the collectivization.

    ***

    I’m disappointed. Is this the best the Western academica can offer to the World? Supposedly the crème de la crème Unis of the entire world produce this as their best professors?

    What shallow arguments! Don’t they understand that the previous 4th waves of de-Stalinization in Russia utterly failed and why did they fail? In all cases we talk about a state policy aimed at the people of the SU/Russia. This rotten edifices can’t stand much both against the people’s memory and simply facts – especially what its built on the foundation of “Stalin was a monster” and “tens of millions executed by Stalin”.

    Not everyone’s ancestor was urbanite personal apartment dwelling intilligent, professor Cohen! In 1917 my grand-grand parents were kids of Ural peasants – who’s families welcomed the October revolution and supported the Reds in the Civil War. In 1937 they and their big family lived more or less decently, because the grand-grandfather Alexander Georgievich was a foreman in the factory. They could give their children not only decent – but also absolutely free education, so that most of them will become after the War doctors, teachers, engineers and factory managers. Despite having 6 kids none of them died in childhood – as was the norm in the “blessed” Czarist times. All thanks to bloody Bolsheviks and their easily available medicine which was also (wait for it!) absolutely free.

    No one in my extended family suffered from the “terror”. No. One. Because, why would they? OTOH, 21 men from my big family fought in the Great Patriotic War. Only 2 survived. Should I blame Stalin for that? Should I blame Stalin that one of my grand-granddads, military school graduating strarshina, Sverdlovsk native, died in November 1941 during the battle for Moscow, alongside his entire platoon? Should I blame Stalin’s regime that the village of one of my grandfather was completely annihilate, and only he and his elder brother escaped, joined the hundreds of thousands of refugees who were successfully evacuated to Ural? And that after the war he will marry my grandma, will become the schoolteacher like her, than – the principal, than the head of city’s district educational board?

    It is them, anti-Sovietist and Russophobes both in Russia and beyond who effectively “censor” any meaningful discussions about Stalin’s period. It is them who deliberately ignore all improvements of life that affected the absolute majority of the Soviet citizens in that time. After the 1932-33 famine the USSR suffered a famine only once – in 1946-47, right after the war. Turns out, the “brutal collectivization” managed somehow to feed the entire country after all. And what about all new factories, cities, railroads, shipyards etc. built under “brutal dictator Stalin”? People in Russia look around and see that in “blessed 90s” it was all squandered and only now we take baby steps to restore and build anew. Of course the comparison goes in Stalin’s era favor!

    What is professor Cohen is blind to (mostly because he associates with “handshakable” crowd of Russias kreakls, intelligentsia and various Smerdyakov-type pro-Western flunkies) is that the Russian people is not against the repeat of 1937. That the government needs purges from harmful elements. That oligrachs are too shamelessly rich, corrupt and flaunt the law. That its time to apply the full weight of the Law on them, with confiscations and severe prison terms for them and their accomplices (who, yes, often include their family and friends).

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    • It’s great to hear your perspective on the podcast. Not that I’d be able to add much to the discussion – Cohen’s position on Russian Stalinism lines up pretty neatly with what I hear in the RUSHIST111 class. We (students) are not only taught the actual historical facts, but that Stalin was BAD BAD BAD, that he was a disaster for his country, и т.д. And of course, we occasionally hear that Putin and Stalin are the same thing, really. Why the need to politicize this?

      By the way, I found this article on PolitRussia. Apparently, DO///D’ is facing severe financial and staffing problems, caused – if the article is to be believed – by its American and European backers withdrawing monetary support.(I feel like you’ve mentioned DO///D’s financial problems in the comments on another post.) It looks like the “Optimistic Channel”* is going to need more than just optimism to get through this.
      *Why the heck is it called that, anyway?

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      • 1) I read Ilya Ukhov’s investigations about international funding of our “Free and Independent Media” ™. Here his investigation of the EU money in DO///D coffers.

        The thing is – we are seeing what happens when a large group of unsupervised scoundrels gets hold on large sum of Other People’s Money ™. They present themselves as “Hey! We are doing important and dangerous work here, okay? Risking your life daily in Putin’s Russia and all this jazz. Of course we need to buy expensive cars, clothes, yachts and cocaine! Oh, all that pressure…”. Instead of actual journalism they are engaged what is widely known in Russia as “simulation of activity”. What, their handlers thought that they are “different” from the deceitful masses of pro-Putin’s masses? No! They also live by the principle that “If they give – take; if they are tying to beat you – run” (rus. “дают – бери, бьют – беги”).

        None of them was a principled “democratic” journalist, ready to sacrifice one’s life in the name of the Cause. Epsecially not anyone from the Do///D’. They were into that because of easy money. The same goes for the “non-systemic opposition”. The fact that FINALLY their handlers see that and that they start little by little to put a tap on their Fountain of Eternal Gesheft (for media) also bodes nothing well for the liberast opposition, especially after their latest screw up with PARNAS primaries (which they could blame on Putin) and the epic level “duel of insults” and blackmail between Alexey Navalny and his cultists on the one side and Max Katz, Varlamov Moscow’s tight ranks of hipsteriat and young urbanists on the other. The conflict was so serious and loud in liberal media (Do///D’ probably thought their subscription rate will go up… it didn’t), that everyone one kinda forgot that with PARNAS primaries dead and forgotten, Mikhail Kasyanov wrote down his own list of candidates. His “special friend” Natalya Pelevina was #3.

        Ultimately, it’s the greed that dooms both so-called liberal media and so-called liberal “politicians”. There is only so much their handlers can put up with the excuse that “Okay, they are bastards… and incompetents… But they are our bastards! If we betray them – we will betray the Cause of Spreading the Democracy”. The West had long ago chosen as its go-to experts various snake-oil salesmen of Kremlinology. Now they don’t know a thing about Russia, can’t predict its moves – and this scares them.

        So they are lowering their support for the “established brands” of “resistance to the Regime”. Only means that they will funnel these funds into something else – like nationalists (some of who, in fact, sympathize with Ukrainian nationalists) or will try to stir up the local “separatism” (as of late the American embassy personnel began visiting Yekaterinburg and Sverdlovskaya oblast all too often…)

        2) “We (students) are not only taught the actual historical facts, but that Stalin was BAD BAD BAD, that he was a disaster for his country, и т.д. And of course, we occasionally hear that Putin and Stalin are the same thing, really. Why the need to politicize this?”

        Because the system of education is a fine tool to shape the mentality of your future citizens. Easy! There is, probably, no such thing as “apolitical education”. Especially when it covers history and other humanitarian sciences. You not that in you education a certain agenda is presented when covering a particular subject. How many, do you think, would have a second thoughts about that? As everywhere in human society – a minority. And not because they are “stupid” or something – maybe their interests lay in something different and they are already good at that. So, they will carry out for the rest of their lives that “Stalin = Hitler. Putin is like Stalin. That’s how I passed my exams!”.

        What I find eternally amusing, is when the Free and Independent Western Media ™ experiences yet another fit of “outrage” at how Russian state schools “brainwash” the children with “whitewashing of the history” and not teaching enough about “progressive authors” at literature classes. The fact that Russian language still has rules and, you know, is too difficult for the collective Punditry of the Free to master is also a crime against the Humanity.

        Which reminds me – Happy Russian Language Day, everyone! It’s celebrated on Alexander S. Pushkin’s birthday!

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    • Actually one of my great grandfathers spend 2 years in jail curtesy of Great Purge. Same Red Jewish Commissar™ I mentioned someplace earlier. Still he got out in time to fight through whole war and finish it in Germany. And be the only one who survived it from men of his generation in my family.

      Anyway I largely agree with everything you say. And for me it is insane not to recognize great positive changes in Russia brought by bolsheviks including Stalin. Yet prof. Cohen is man of older generation of Cold Warriors (he calls himself that periodically). He grew up and spend his life in atmosphere of Cold War propaganda and Soviet “destalinization” so it is way too much to expect from him different view on this subject.

      As for purges and support of such actions by people I think one of the greatest examples is popularity of “Выбраковка” by Oleg Divov. This book (have you read it?) perfectly captures public opinion on the matter. Especially what it was back in the end of 90s. And that even though book itself is rather cautionary then embracing.

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      • I know about “Выбраковка” by Divov. No, I didn’t read it – yet. It was written in – 1999, right? It managed to capture the zeitgeist of later Yeltsenite period topnotch. Since that time the expression “только массовые расстрелы спасут Родину” entered the net- and everyday slang.

        The thing is – Russia has a moratorium on the death penalty. I.e. – we don’t line up people against the wall and then shoot them. But a significant (and ever growing number) number of people want the death penalty to return in Russia. And who’s is going to criticize us for that? USA? Saudi Arabia? Turkey?

        I was growing up in ordinary, normal (i.e. without problems within) provincial intelligentzia family. At evening when family gathers for diner the TV news were always playing. It would be no use for me to list all instances when such phrases like “These [*** ]should be executed instead of going to prison!” or “Сталина на них нет!”. The later, btw, had been said most of all about the governmental officials. And this coming from my family, which at that time were pitying “poor Khodorkovsky and even considering to vote for liberal parties.

        The thing is – in late 90s nearly everyone thought about Russia – “Well, that’s it. Good night, sweet prince”. The West and the liberals were awaiting with trepidation the final dissolution of This Country ™, while absolutely desperate people from various political backgrounds were calling for executions and terror, and the people… “the people was silent” (c).

        Could I have imagined that in less than decade I will know English to a level, which would allow me to communicate freely with people from all across the world in a relative comfort of cosy flat? Who’d imagine that Putin will manage to pull back Russia without mass executions?

        Is life in “Putin’s Russia” ideal? No. Was the life in Stalin’s USSR ideal? Nope, again. But till the advent of the communism/Second Coming of Christ/Invasion of benevolent hypno-toads from outer space no life will be ideal, so what’s the point of the constant “kvetching” and complaining?

        Alexey – I don’t deny that repressions ever happened or that there were no innocently persecuted. There were – this fact had been admitted by Stalin’s bloody regime itself, hence the first wave of rehabilitations (courtesy of bloody ghoul Beria, no less). Two of my friends come from kulaks. The family of the first one had been exiled to Kazakhstan. They managed fine in the end – in fact, very well. Unfortunately, since the break up of the Soviet Union – and before Nazarbayev managed to bring back the order there – they lives became threatened. So they had to sell all of their things and get into Russia. And you know that your life sucks, if you willingly go into Yeltsin’s early 90s Russia.

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        • My main problem with Cohen is that while he often makes good points, he occasionally does say something loopy or factually incorrect. This podcast may be one of such instances.

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  2. Yes, this novel is from 1999 and although it is weak on language (even author akcnowledges it) this is truly great book. Great temptation and great cautionary tale. Antiutopic utopia and utopic anti-utopia at the same time. Really recommend it though no garantee you gonna like it.

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