Russia Roundup #56 (I’m Behind edition)

Juvenalia: Writing by a younger, less sophisticated me. Read on, but remember that this belongs to the old world. 🥚

Women, Power and the State – Some Observations from Soviet Cinema (Normalised Absurdity)

The other week I stumbled on a trailer for the film Seven Sisters, which features an overpopulated dystopian future in which the birth rate is controlled with the heavy hand of  an authoritarian state. Aside from being intrigued, my gender obsessed brain noted that in this future, the heavy hand of the state is personified in the intimidating female authoritarian figure played by Glenn Close. This image of an emotionless, utilitarian female leader of a dystopian society seems to be a mainstay of Western (or perhaps more accurately Anglo-American) cinema with films ranging from the likes of  Children of Men to Divergent opting to include this kind of character in their narrative. And certainly, personal political opinions put aside, the image of a cold female bureaucrat certainly did not help Hillary Clinton last November.  This picture of the dangers of collusion between women and the state perhaps a bit surprisingly hit very close to some of the themes that are prominent in my research material, Soviet comedies. This in mind, I wanted to take a moment to analyse this imagery of women with undue power from the state in the Soviet context to see whether I can find some parallels to more contemporary dystopian female despots.

Russian Roundup – July 2017 (Street Russian)

A one-month review of published life (Nicholas Kotar)

Exactly a month ago, I hit the publish button on a new phase in my authorly adventures. The Song of the Sirin was published. For those who are interested, I’ll break down some of my expectations and results following the first month after I entered a new phase of being published. As can be expected, there have been some surprises, some high points, and some disappointments.

Military Acceptance Day (Russian Defense Policy)

On July 26, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu presided over the latest “unified day of acceptance of military production.” The review (mostly) covered the second quarter of 2017. According to Krasnaya zvezda, the Ministry of Defense received 600 new and 300 repaired weapons systems and other equipment.

Navalny and the Left (Sean’s Russia Blog)

Yesterday, Jacobin published an article Ilya Budriatskis, Ilya Matveev, and I wrote on where the Russian left should stand in regard to Alexey Navalny. The Jacobin asked that I write it after reading my criticism of Alexey Sakhnin and Per Leander’s article “Russia’s Trump.” I approached Budraitskis and Matveev if they wanted to collaborate since the “Navalny Question” is being much debated in Russian left circles, and because they, not me, are on the ground in Russia and have to deal with the political realities and challenges Navalny’s movement presents. Also, I thought that leftists, particularly American leftists, would profit from hearing voices from Russia given the current toxicity between our two countries.

An Ordinary Conflict (Russian Defense Policy)

Some may have seen this picture of the aftermath of a massive brawl which occurred on August 2 between 60 Tuvan contractees and 100 soldiers at the Russian Army’s 437th District Training Center (v/ch 31612). The incident says much about the Russian military effort to recruit large numbers of volunteers to serve as soldiers on contract.

Are Russia and America Headed for a Showdown? (The National Interest)

The author, director of the Center for the National Interest’s intelligence program, writes that tensions between the U.S. and Russia are reaching a boiling point. In the U.S., a varied collection of government, military and intelligence officials “all view Russia as a common foe that has not paid a high enough price for its transgressions.” In Russia, the optimism following Trump’s election has given way to exasperation and now anger. “Each side has legitimate grievances against the other, but each also suffers from serious misperceptions of the other’s intentions.” The author argues that domestic pressure in Moscow and Washington will turn this normally manageable situation into one where exercising restraint will be difficult for both countries. Preventing escalation into military conflict would require expert diplomacy. The author notes that during the Cold War, it took the horror of the Cuban missile crisis to set both sides on a path toward a less volatile relationship. While the author notes that the situation may get worse before cooler heads prevail, he hopes such a crisis will not be necessary again.

U.S.-Russia relations six months into the Trump Administration (Brookings Institution)

The author, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes that dealing with Moscow will now again become the work of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson’s strategy toward Moscow is to “push back when Moscow overreaches or commits aggressive acts, cooperate where interests converge and strengthen strategic stability.” As such, the author recommends contacts between U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Russian counterpart, as well as channels of communication intended to avoid accidents in Europe. Additionally, the U.S. should work with the Normandy Format to end the conflict in Ukraine, while keeping in mind that this will require “that Moscow decide it wants a settlement.” Continued discussion on Syria without great expectations and strategic stability talks are also necessary. The “idea of a cyber working group” should also be reived, but with a clearly defined purpose.

Реестр блогеров прекратил существование через три года после создания (TJournal)

Роскомнадзор прекратил ведение реестра блогеров после подписания президентом закона, запрещающего использование средств обхода блокировок. Ведомство отметило, что «пользователи сети, публикующие авторский контент, обязаны соблюдать требования иных законодательных актов, касающихся сбора, обработки и распространения информации».

Russia Signals Tough Pragmatism toward the United States (The National Interest)

How will Moscow respond as the United States takes a series of retaliatory steps meant to punish Russia for its misdeeds in American domestic politics, Ukraine and the Middle East? Conventional wisdom in Washington holds that Russian president Vladimir Putin is a bully playing a weak hand; when faced with the realities of U.S. economic pressure, military might and cyber ingenuity, he will back down. But the signals that Moscow is sending through both words and actions paint a different picture. Understanding them will be critical if we are to avoid a dangerous escalatory spiral of action and reaction with Russia.

Washington’s Addictive Foreign Policy Drug (The American Conservative)

Congress has overwhelmingly passed legislation imposing new economic sanctions on North Korea, Russia and Iran. There was some speculation that President Trump might veto the measure, both because of concerns that it would prevent an improvement in America’s troubled relations with Moscow and because of stringent limitations imposed on the president’s ability to waive sanctions in the name of national security. However, the White House announced that the president would sign the bill—perhaps reflecting just how much proponents of a new cold war with Russia have intimidated the Trump team. The extent and virulence of anti-Russia sentiment has reached alarming levels. Members of Congress and other opinion leaders in both parties have branded the alleged Russian hacking of the 2016 election as an act of war, and one congressman even explicitly compared it to Pearl Harbor and 9-11.

Given such hysteria and the lopsided congressional vote in favor of the sanctions legislation, Trump’s reluctance to use his veto power was not necessarily a manifestation of political cowardice. Only three House members and two senators (Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders) cast negative votes. Even Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who usually is sensible on foreign policy issues, joined the legislative lynch mob.

Smart Policy: How Should Russia Respond to US Sanctions? (Valdai Club)

The expulsion of over 700 US diplomats from Russia has become the first tough gesture in response to the recent adoption of the bill on sanctions by Congress. No doubt, Congress will thoroughly monitor its implementation. Russia will not limit itself to the expulsion of US diplomats and the seizing of diplomatic property either. Despite the huge gap in potential, Moscow is fairly capable of disrupting life for the US government from time to time even at the expense of its own interests. All this raises important questions: what do Washington and Moscow hope to achieve with their sanctions? Can sanctions produce the expected results in both capitals?

Tracking Russian propaganda in real time (Meduza)

So that’s what Kevin Rothrock’s doing these days! Most handshakable!

Гугл-переводчик работал уже в 1944-ом (RU-KLUKVA-RU) [image]

Big Books 1 & 2: Slapovsky and Pelevin (Lizok’s Bookshelf)

It gives me no joy whatsoever to report that the first two Big Book finalists I’m done with weren’t very satisfying. It gives me even less joy to say that this pair left me so indifferent that I couldn’t bring myself to finish either one. I read most of Aleksei Slapovsky’s Неизвестность, which I guess I’ll continue calling Uncertainty, but could only get to page 41 of Viktor Pelevin’s Лампа Мафусаила, или Крайняя битва чекистов с масонами (Methuselah’s Lamp, or The Last Battle of the Chekists and Masons) before throwing in a frayed old towel. I know it’s time to quit a book when I don’t want to sit down to read.

The New Know-Nothings in Congress (The American Conservative)

A congressman once admitted to me that he and his colleagues know a lot of things, generally speaking, but their knowledge only “extends about one inch deep.” In other words, the briefings provided by staffers and in committees is intended to touch only on what is important to know to look well informed in front of the C-SPAN cameras without any unnecessary depth that would only create confusion. And the information provided must generally conform to what the congressmen already believe to be true and want to hear so no one will be embarrassed.

5 crazy Russian expressions (Street Russian)

My friend Тимур is always forwarding interesting articles about the Russian language. He recently sent this article:

10 русских выражений, которые сводят с ума иностранцев! 10 Russian expressions that drive foreigners crazy!

Haha, crazy? After reading through them, I agree!

Here are 5 expressions that I really liked.

Ask J.T.: Funding

You guys are trying to pass a sanctions bill against Russia? Cool story; I’m going on a little fishing trip in the meantime



(Also, aren’t you a bit old for this, Vladimir Vladimirovich?)

Side book #15

This week, I began Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure and Character Development by K.M. Weiland.

Your character is incomplete on the inside. He is harboring some deeply held misconception about either himself, the world, or probably both. As you’ll see in the next chapter, this misconception is going to prove a direct obstacle to his ability to fulfill his plot goal. In some instances, it may start out seeming to be a strength, but as the story progresses, it will become his Achilles heel.

And a quick language question

Is there an official Russian verb for “blog”? I’ve been using the made-up блогировать or писать блог to describe what I do.

5 thoughts on “Russia Roundup #56 (I’m Behind edition)

  1. “Is there an official Russian verb for “blog”? I’ve been using the made-up блогировать or писать блог to describe what I do.”

    Nope. Blog is “блог”. “Бложить” (to blog) didn’t catch up with the people (because it sounds similar to “блАжить”). Instead is used the expression “вести блог” (to maintain/write a blog). More catch-all terms for such activity – “постить” (to post), because blog’s content consists of separate blog-posts. Some words are just unadaptable for Russian. Not that it’s necessary a bad thing given that we adapted the “selfie” via “себячка”.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A couple of articles stand out for me.

    1) Women, Power and the State – Some Observations from Soviet Cinema (Normalised Absurdity)

    “The hot topic in terms of Soviet gender discourse in the 1970s was the twin phenomena of ‘masculine women’ and ‘feminine men’. Worried about the falling birthrate, Soviet sociologists looked for explanations within the home, and came to the conclusion that the roots of what they conceived as ‘improper gender alignment ‘ were to be found in the change of gender dynamics at home, i.e the fact that many heads of households were in fact women. Implicitly, this raised an interesting question of how should the state deal with the gender order.”

    That’s the first time I’ve ever heard this argument, and, naturally, my first reaction – “sources, please”. Names, dates, titles of works, statistical data, etc. Available statistical data does not support that there was a “falling birthrate” in 1970s. The overall population of the USSR increased from1970 to 1979 by 20.5 millions. For comparison – from 1927 to 1937 it only increased by 14 millions. In that period (mid 1920s to mod 1930s) the fertility rate fell by 40% BUT the mortality (especially among the infants) rate fell even more. What does the author base her argument upon here?

    “Scholars like Sarah Ashwin have noted the Soviet state’s tendency to tie women to itself rather than a male head of household by providing benefits based on motherhood.”

    You are trying to make this sound sinister, while that’s just a sound policy.

    “Especially in the context of Stagnation, a time period which saw many male workers’ ambitions of status or even just providing a living by frustrated economic difficulties and increased corruption”

    “Increased corruption”? Really? Any data to support that?

    “The Diamond Arm’s superintendent is more pure evil in human form.”

    WAT?! What “evil” you are talking about? Have you really saw the movie? Did you understand it?

    “The Soviet image of the heartless bureaucrat seems to be connected to certain generation of women as well as the loss of femininity through the replacement of the family by the state and conversely the loss of masculinity through the femininisation of public power.”

    And you base this claim on… what exactly? What, there were no portrayal whatsoever of the malignant/incompetent MALE bureaucrats in the Soviet literature/cinema? Have you seen other movies by Gaiday?

    “The emasculation in the private sphere of sexuality is shown to come from the emasculation in the public sphere.”

    Where is there an “emasculation”, may I ask?

    “However, I would argue they arise from the same source: anxieties over loss of femininity defined by the family, and the fear of erosion of patriarchal power if the state aligns itself with women”

    And how would you interpret the “Kuban Cossacks” movie, then? What hidden meanings would you discover there?

    “There seems to be a certain generational element involved with both images of the female despot, with these characters being played by middle-aged actresses almost exclusively. Almost always these female characters are delegitimised and revealed to be malicious, incompetent and easily manipulated, too.”

    You have provided examples from 2 (two) movies. And you extrapolate this on the whole? WHAT?!

    For me the most of the language used in the article was meaningless. Am I the only one here? If yes, then could someone explain to me this jargon in the layman terms?


    1. There didn’t happen a real discussion with the owner and propertitor of this one blog. She deleted my latest comment. Might delete others as well. Oh, well! I’ll repost my deleted comment here and be done with it:


      ” On the last comment I answered your points with reputable sources”

      – “The last comment”, as you claim, but not all of them

      – “Reputable sources”, but not quotes, links, evidence and proof that could be checked by someone besides you.

      Asking for proof *IS* demonstrating a real interest in the topic you were talking about. Completely agreeing with everything you’d said would be feigning interest. I repeatedly made overtures to you to make you explain yourself, so that even I could understand you. That’s an opposite to your claim that I’, “not interested in criticism but rather willfully in misunderstanding” you.

      You know what is scientific method?

      “None of my answers are ‘copy-pasta’ as you so elegantly put it that’s just genuinely how I write”

      Do you know what is “copy-pasta”?

      “So please refer to the previous answers again for your remaining questions.”

      Do you understand how does it look like from the outside? It looks like you are refusing to provide some easy answers, one’s, that you should be able to provide anyway, if you want to write a scientific paper in the first place. Either you do have proof and evidence, or you don’t – it’s that simple! And if you do – how about some sharing?


  3. 2) “The Jacobin” article and SRB’s blog post.

    Too clueless. Waaaaaaaaaaay too clueless both of them.

    “The Kremlin and the older generation of Russian liberal opposition were also surprised.”

    How did you call it, J.T.? Ah – “the closest thing to Putin’s fiction”!

    “Navalny quickly became the object of not only scurrilous attacks in the Russian state media but also criticism from a number of opposition pundits.”

    YES! Because OBVIOUSLY no one wrote or said about Navalny before this year – NOOOOOOOOPE!

    Now, all those accusations flinged against Navalny by various handshakable worthies – say me they are wrong and not a “populist” with “no vision for the future”?

    “Criticizing Navalny with such a specious comparison makes leftists outsiders to the movement, as if its future will have no impact on their prospects.”

    No, its siding with Navalny will be the equivalent of becoming a YouTube “hype-eater”, who descends to the level of 13 y.o. in the style and language. For the worthy authors of the Jacobin this is a path to victory. There is only one cats – 13 y.os. Do Not Vote. And they have no money – their parents do.

    “Many of these criticisms depend on the belief that Navalny will participate in next year’s presidential elections, but this outcome is far from certain.”

    It won’t happen. At all. And Navalny knows that – he just fleeces his hamsters for “donations”, and then welcomes the opening of the new Regional Electoral HQ from France (or, like his 2nd in command Volkov – from Cyprus).

    “For one, his freedom remains in jeopardy.”

    His freedom is soooo in jeopardy in France, Nice, Spain, Israel and USA! You know how so many Russians in the past were arrested on the trumped up charges of “hacking” and extradited to the US? Here you go! Truly, truly Navalny walks on a thin ice here!

    “The Russian state has already jailed his brother Oleg on trumped-up charges, effectively turning him into a hostage. Navalny himself is serving a suspended sentence — which Russian Federal Penitentiary Service officials have repeatedly asked to convert into real time — and faces other false corruption accusations.”

    Just believe us! Only Kremlin stooges will ask for a proof, anyway.

    “Navalny’s fate is intertwined within the opaque working of the Putin machine. There will be nothing democratic about next year’s elections: Putin is preparing to be triumphantly returned for another term.”

    We are not told why this is undemocratic. Because… Putin?

    This btw reminds me of an old anecdote:

    A Scotsman goes out with his pals to play cards. He loses everything. Tearful, he explains how he lost all of his money, that he now has nothing to feed his many children, how his wife will hate him etc. Touched by his plight, Scotsman’s friends decided to give him back all his lost money.

    “Thanks fellas! Hey, you know what would be great? If you give me some more money – then my wife will think that I actually won!”

    Opposition’s whining about “undemocratic elections” constantly remind me of that.

    “Since he’ll invariably be excluded from this performance, Navalny has tried to undermine it from offstage, by sparking politicization from below. Because the government is unlikely to allow him to run for election, Navalny will probably call for a boycott of the presidential elections instead.

    The Left should support this call. ”

    They offer for the Left to side with liberal-nationalist… That’s the equivalent to call for the political suicide. Oh, and they constantly talk about this elusive Russian Left without naming any organizations of parties… Hmm… I wonder why?

    “His main campaign slogans call for abstractly progressive changes: government transparency, support for small businesses, democratic rights — which include allowing the far right to participate in political life, permitting atheists to publicly declare their beliefs, and putting the right to gay marriage up for public vote.”

    The last one will, ha-ha, “win” him a tremendous support. Btw, since when did this elusive Russian Left became pro-gay? Oh, and Navalny has no plans to implement any of this things. Not at all. Why it’s okay and handshakable to diss Trump for his “We will build a wall and Mexico gonna pay for it!” but not the Saint Alexey Twice Convicted For Kirov-Les Affair?

    “At the level of declared values, Navalny shares little with Trump, who built his campaign on isolationism and xenophobia.”

    I remind you, this is the same Navalny, who called the Central Asians “chuchmeks” and who cried not so long ago “Stop Feeding Caucasus!” . No xenophobia, noooo!

    “Moreover, Navalny’s campaign has taken strong positions on the Russian economy. He criticizes government authorities not just for being undemocratic but also for creating a predatory system that only profits the top 0.1 percent. While we can’t call him a genuine social democrat, he’s certainly not Trump, whose tax plan greatly benefits the American counterparts of those Navalny attacks in Russia.”

    Russian Left must support Navalny because he is not 100% Trump… Oh, I got it! This particular branch of the Russia Left DO consist of 13 y.o. net-hamsters, right?

    “We must participate in street mobilizations, as activists from the Left Bloc and the Russian Socialist Movement are already doing.”

    Finally – some names!

    – Left Bloc (formed in late November 2015). Not a party, but a “movement” which anyone can join without leaving their previous organization
    – Russian Socialist Movement (formed in 2011) – an alliance of Trots.

    So… out of all non-incosiderable list of the Left-wing parties, movements and organizations, they named only two (2), one of which, RSM, is way too handshakable and toeing the international standards of “Leftism” (they are “in communion” with Trotskists “Fourth International” and French “Nouveau parti anticapitaliste”), and another one (LB) which is amorphous group of “activists” who are, really, non different than “street performers” from “Art-Group Voina” or “Pussy Riot”?


    They deserve Darwin’s awards!

    “Long-haul truckers have similarly been protesting for two years against the new transport tax, the collection of which Putin outsourced to the son of one of his billionaire cronies.”

    Can someone explain to me, why all the sudden the so-called “Left” of Russia supports truckers – members of petite-bourgeoisie? But given that our Trotrskist here suggest to close eyes (for a while) on the nationalist free market rhetoric of Navalny – why should anyone be surprised by this lack of principles?

    “The authorities’ attempts to crush these demonstrations — as during the recent protests against so-called housing “renovation””

    Here they simply lie. The authorities allowed the protest against renovation to take place. It was totally legal. No one crushed it.

    “They understand his program is a kind of neoliberalism. But despite all of this, the current political conjecture in Russia is such that Navalny’s anti-corruption message mobilizes thousands, particularly young people, to protest.”

    This is technically not untrue. The thing is – one might thing “hundreds of thousands”. While it is just “thousands”. And that’s across the entire country.

    Oh, and the last thing. Our dear Sean of Russian Blog has his own outlet on the pages of RFE/RL – “Power Vertical”. Surely, he is independent and totally unbiased, because he works on the US government funded media outlet while criticizing, regularly, Russia and its state funded media!

    Oh, wait…

    P.S. Earlier this week – Sergey Udaltsov was released from the prison, after serving 4.5. years. Back in Bolotnaya hey day, he, the leader of the Left Front, stood alongside Kudrin, Navalny, Ponomaryov, Gudkovs, Sobchak, Akunin, Shenderovich, Nemtsov and others. He compromised with them. He compromised his movement by alliance with liberasts and nationalists. He and other Leftists ended up in jail. None of his l “democratic” allies though. None one them. More so – none of them visited him while he was in prison or helped him fight his legal battles.

    After his release, Udaltsov in his first interview was… blunt: A) He recognized Crimea as Russia and expressed his support for the help to Donbass. B) He condemned ALL of his liberast buddies (to call Ksenia Sobchak “a Troyan Horse” was very apt and had a double entendre. C) He is still in opposition to the Government of Russia.

    It took him 4.5. years to see, that he and his Left movement was USED by the liberasts. Navalny’s hamsters now want a vanguard of lemmings for another battering rams. Lemmings will fall off the cliff – and hamsters will just shrug and go back to their comfortable aquariums, with plenty of food, water and a wheel – where they can ran all day, pretending to be running towards Victory!


    Trots from the Russian Socialist Movement use expressions “Putin’s Russia” and are against “annexation of Crimea” and “intervention in the East Ukraine”. Now, you see why the West likes them and why they want to gang up with Navalny?


  4. Addendum 1:
    Galeotti pens a review of a book I think I included in a booklist:

    Anyone who knows Kuzio’s indefatigable and passionate support of Ukraine and its independence, dating back to Soviet times, will be unsurprised by the core theme, that this is a book rooted in national identity, and Russia’s inability or refusal to accept that Ukraine is (or at least has become) a state and nation in its own right. It is hard to disagree.

    Also – it was self-published.


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