Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The daughter of one of my dearest friends turns 10 years old today. Last year, on her ninth birthday, she wrote this to her mother:

Dearest mama,

Congratulations on your ninth child!

You'll find it strange, but each year it's a new child.

I'm wishing you to have as many children as possible!


This note is so incredible I keep citing it to everyone. Last week, I asked my friend if she remembered it - and she didn't! She said her daughter wrote something as crazy and full of depth regularly, and she kept storing these notes religiously...

Happy Birthday, Yulia!

Khodorkovsky has just been sentenced to nine years minus 583+ days that he's already served and will have served by the time all the appeals have been considered.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Sometime after the election, my friend's 9-year-old daughter was assigned to write a "folk fairy-tale" that ended with Yushchenko's victory. Later, the teacher assigned the kids to compose a poem praising Yushchenko.

During the election, the same teacher asked the kids who their families were voting for - and everyone raised their hands and yelled, 'Yushchenko!' My friend's daughter abstained and, when asked, replied that they weren't voting for anyone. The teacher told the girl to tell her parents to make up their minds fast.

Instead of going over to the school and kicking the teacher's ass, my friend is blaming Yushchenko. She's even compared him to Stalin once - but then admitted that it was somewhat of an exaggeration.

Post-apocalyptic rhetoric on Moscow's TVTs Channel today:

Young Leninists Avenue has been divided into a zone of dark and a zone of light. [...] Among the hostages of the situation are those who work at one local beauty salon. [...]

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A blackout in Moscow and I'm not there to take pictures...

Our New York friends are visiting right now - Mishah says they're excited to experience it all over again...

Monday, May 23, 2005

I do have a bunch of new photos and stories but am too busy to post them all now. Actually, there's a pretty unorganized selection of new shots on the photo page, which I didn't bother to announce at all. There'll be more, though.

Here's my favorite today's photo: a Ukrainian interpretation of Che Guevara - he's wearing a shirt with the traditional Ukrainian embroidery and the star on his hat has been replaced with the Ukrainian coat of arms, a trident, tryzub. I saw this at Trukhaniv Island today, where they had the Eurovision tent camp...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Eurovision on Khreshchatyk:




There are so many people on Khreshchatyk these days that there's a pile of shit and some TP on our staircase and urine in our elevator.

This is one area of Ukrainian life where the president - good or bad - is totally irrelevant. (By 'Ukrainian' I, of course, mean this part of the world, which includes Russia, too...)

Somehow, I expected this Eurovision thing to be something like a mini-summer in St. Pete: the city drowns in tourists then - all those foreigners who know how to smile and be carefree, and who don't have enough imagination to use other people's staircases as toilets.

Friday, May 20, 2005

I read the statement of Nasha Ukraina about Zvarych in Ukrainian - and it sounded so unforgivably Soviet.

I then read the same statement in English - and it turned out to be so badly translated that all I could do was laugh...

[...]

Roman Zvarych is not a pupil of Soviet system, he is not used to the blind fulfillment of leadership directives or wishes of certain colleagues. Such a behavior of an official is unusual for many people and came for somebody as an unpleasant surprise. But if we are on the way to Europe, we will have to get used to new approaches. In a civilized world it is normal when an official acts according to the law.

That's why initiators of this scandal will not reach their goal. Let them aim their forces at state well-being.

We also appeal to the media to be weighed and follow professional standards, not to grab 'hot news' and be used but to try to find a person who is interested in this scandal.[...]


Abdymok has more on this here.

I'm in Kyiv. Yesterday was lovely and warm, but today it's cold and rainy, and I have nothing to wear in this weather...

I spent most of the day yesterday chatting with mama and hanging out with friends. I talked so much that I had a pretty bad sore throat by the end of the day...

Also, for an hour or so, Mishah and I dealt with a certain state entity - but I hope to write a lot more about it in a few months.

Kyiv is totally beautiful, the chestnuts and the lilac and all - I hope the Eurovision crowd is having fun. To fully enjoy the city, though, it's important to get your ass uphill and away from the Khreshchatyk mess - this is why I didn't get to have a good look at the people yesterday. I've seen a few Pora tents on Khreshchatyk, but the scene is a lot more remindful of a routine Kyiv weekend than of the Orange Revolution times.

Funny but I heard a U2 recording played real loud yesterday - at the exact same spot on Khreshchatyk where I heard it back in November. It was 'Faith (In the Name of Love)' then - and it was 'The Real Thing' this time... I still wish Bono would come here some time...

Yanukovych supporters were walking around with their flags but I didn't bother to come closer to them because who needs all their bitchy energy thrown at you on such a wonderful spring day. Later, I watched them on the evening news - and again I was happy I hadn't been in the mood for taking pictures.

I saw this t-shirt on Khreshchatyk yesterday:



I watched a little bit of the Eurovision semi-final on the TV at night, realized that a really cool Moldovan band, Zdob Si Zdub, is here somehow, decided to vote for them but fell asleep before the show was over. This morning, I was happy to learn that they've made it into the final!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I wonder if this blog looks any better now... Helpful suggestions are very welcome!

I've just changed the template because the blog looked real bad on some browsers - I've known that for a long time, actually, I've seen what it looks like myself, from a computer in Istanbul, and was quite horrified, but thank you so much, Don, for reminding me again - and I apologize to everyone who had to struggle through this ugliness!

Man, it was scary, to push the Republish button...

So now it'll take a while before I get the links back and fix the rest of the stuff... Sorry!

***

P.S. I know this is not related to the change of the template - but I'm so technologically-challenged that when things begin to go wrong, I always feel it's some kind of conspiracy: two minutes ago, the TV suddenly went static, every single channel, and a moment later I heard Mishah cursing in the shower - turns out the water disappeared, too, at the very same moment... Almost disappeared. Now I've asked him to please grind the coffee beans real quick, before electricity disappears, too... And Mishah has asked me to see if Gazeta.ru has anything on this chain of little disasters, a terrorist act or something, but there's nothing, of course.

Update: The elevator's not working. Water, TV and elevator. But the electricity's there.

I've been getting lots of German spam for some reason lately - but it's some weird kind of spam: it's about the news, not Viagra. Today, I've found this in the inbox:

From: findslct@vya.dexclusvs.com
To: e_smtp@yahoo.com
Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 05:13:12 UTC
Subject: Armenian Genocide Plagues Ankara 90 Years On

Full Article:
http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,353274,00.html


And, you know, it's some pretty harsh stuff to wake up to...

Typhoid, the Russians, imperialism and Kaiser Wilhelm II in far away Berlin -- all were responsible for the mass deaths of Anatolian Armenians. At least that's the case if you read the official Turkish history books. According to the Turkish version, the only group that didn't bear any responsibility were the Ottomans, the great-grandfathers of modern-day Turkey, which is now on the cusp of joining the European Union.

[...]


Good morning.

Mama has told me about it on the phone today/yesterday - Ukrainian tennis players barely escaped violence in Andijon, where they were taking part in a tournament.

Oleksandr Yarmola, Serhiy Yaroshenko and Orest Tereshchuk (the best-known of the three), they all lost in the first round of the event - and for once must have been happy about it...

***

Tashkent used to be a very popular junior tennis destination in the Soviet times - and although I've never been there (unfortunately!), I remember papa taking kids to Tashkent every once in a while and always bringing back those amazing, huge, sweet cantaloupes...

***

The screwed-up Andijon tournament seems to have been big news in Britain...

Here's a BBC piece on it:

Tennis players caught in unrest
May 14, 2005

British tennis players have been driven by armed guard away from trouble spots in Uzbekistan to safety in the capital.

Richard Bloomfield from Norfolk and Arvind Parmar from Hitchin, Herts, were taking part in a tournament in the city of Andijan where clashes broke out.

Others are: Jamie Delgado (Berks), Dan Kiernan (Cleveland), David Sherwood and Jonny Marray, (both Yorks) and coach James Trotman and referee Carl Baldwin.

Government forces fought with militants on Friday and 200 are reported killed.

The players, coach and referee are being driven to the British Consulate in the capital and they are due to fly back to the UK on Monday.

They had been competing in the Andijan Futures but were caught up in the mass civil unrest in the city in the east of Uzbekistan.


And a report in the Times:

Britons fear for safety as violence erupts
By Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent
May 14, 2005

THE sound of gunfire was frighteningly audible down the phone line. James Trotman, the LTA coach, was huddled together yesterday with six British players at a tennis club in the strife-torn city of Andijan in Uzbekistan waiting for the word that it is safe to pack up and get out of the country as fast as their transport will carry them.

[...]

“We still don’t know what’s going on, to be truthful,” Trotman said yesterday evening. “We have been hearing conflicting messages all day, but as far as we know, a team from the British consulate is arriving to assess our situation and see when it is safe to leave. As of now, we have been told to stay at the club and not move. Some other guys have left, but we were told the roads were all blocked and that was too dangerous.

“The trouble is, we’re not sure what to do. Some people tell us it’s under control and then we hear how many people have been killed. It’s pretty bloody scary, to tell you the truth. It’s been horrible from the day we arrived. Three guys, including myself, have been sick with the food and we are staying in a place where most of the windows are smashed.”

Confusion spread to the event itself when initial reports that the tournament was to be cancelled were overruled and Marray went out to play his semi-final yesterday morning. “There was a 90-minute delay, but then the tournament director told us to get on with it,” Trotman said. “Jonny lost, it was not a good performance, but I don’t think that was uppermost in any of our minds. We just want to get out of here as quickly and safely as we can.

“I know none of us has experienced anything like this in our lives. There is so much uncertainty, no one really knows what is going on and every few minutes for the last six hours or so we’ve heard really loud gunfire from what seems to be a few hundred yards away. There are said to be a lot of snipers on the roofs around here.”

The British players were facing a five-hour car journey to Tashkent for next week’s challenger event in Fergana. “All we want to do is get home in one piece,” Trotman said, as another loud crack of gunfire was heard in the distance.


And a piece from some local British paper (the Suffolk Evening Star or something):

Suffolk tennis coach in riot
May 16, 2005

RELATIVES of a national tennis coach from Suffolk have spoken of their ordeal after he was caught up in civil unrest in Uzbekistan.

James Trotman, 26, a former junior Wimbledon doubles' champion, was working with a group of British tennis players in Andijan in the former Soviet republic when violent clashes began at the end of last week.

He has told of being surrounded by loud gunfire, while the players spent a night huddled together in a tennis club before escaping the mass panic under armed guard.

Mr Trotman has sent two text messages to his family in Tuddenham St Martin, near Ipswich, to assure them he is safe – but his mother Linda said she was still waiting to speak to him and would be relieved when he arrived back in England. The group are due to fly home today.

[...]

Last night, Mrs Trotman said: "On Friday, we thought he was going to fly out on Saturday morning, but they could not leave Andijan because there was a curfew.

"They missed their flight on Saturday and there was not another flight until Monday.

"We heard on Saturday that they had left with an armed guard from Andijan and that was a relief. They went to Tashkent and I do not think there is any trouble there.

"I have not spoken to him but we have had a couple of text messages from him and he said that he is okay and we have been kept informed by the Lawn Tennis Association."

[...]

A joke I've just stumbled over at one of the Russian-language livejournals:

[President] Putin, [Prime Minister] Fradkov and [Parliament Speaker] Gryzlov are at a restaurant.

Waiter: What would you like?

Putin: I'll have meat.

Waiter: And what about the vegetables?

Putin: The vegetables will have meat, too.

More of my photos from Monday are here.

A few faces from the Russian/Soviet opposition's old guard: Lyudmila Alekseyeva and Valeriya Novodvorskaya...






And a few from the emerging generation: Nastia Karimova (Karisha) and Irina Vorobyova (the girl with a flower in her hair)...






And Garry Kasparov, the legendary chess champion turned opposition politician...



***

A Russian-language story about opposition kids (by Kommersant's Oleg Kashin) is here, in March 15 issue of Bolshoi Gorod.

***

Karisha is just back from Kyiv - please note a Ukrainian "Pora" yellow badge on her jacket!

Irina Vorobyova and others wait for their friends outside the police department; some 30 people were detained earlier that day.

Alex(ei) of the Russian Dilettante's Weblog sums it up nicely, too:

Reports of this "brawl," oddly perhaps, have affirmed my conviction that Putin's junta must go. I'm not sure about Putin himself, but the people he brought in to work for him in the Kremlin -- mostly from St. Petersburg and the KGB -- have been consistently displaying two qualities that are deadly when mixed: belligerence and patent, unprecedented incompetence. Yeltsin's kleptocratic lieutenants seem efficient and sophisticated in comparison.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Karimov thinks it's all NTV's fault.

"I wonder who pays these TV journalists their salaries," he said.

Tomorrow marks the 61st anniversary of the deportations of the Crimean Tatars by Stalin.

Here're a few passages from a very good RFE/RL interview with Mustafa Cemilev (Jemilev), the Crimean Tatar leader (thanks for the link, Dan McMinn of Orange Ukraine):

[...] [As for Ukraine], we’re still waiting for a law that would restore to the Crimean Tatars all their rights. There is still no official document that says the Crimean Tatars have regained all their rights. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) last summer voted a bill called the "Law on the Rehabilitation Of Peoples Deported On Ethnic Grounds" that deals only with the Crimean Tatars’ social rights. However, former President [Leonid] Kuchma vetoed this bill. We’re now working with the new president, [Viktor Yushchenko], so that he lifts [Kuchma’s] veto and signs the bill into law. On top of that, there are a number of other legal issues that have still to be solved. Should Ukraine continue to consider the Crimean Tatars an ethnic minority group, there would never be an end to our problems. We believe that Crimean Tatars should be considered as an indigenous people of Ukraine. Unlike other ethnic minority groups, the Crimean Tatars have no historical motherland outside Ukraine. Unfortunately, this question remains in abeyance.

[...]

RFE/RL: Most of those Crimean Tatars who have returned home live in poor conditions. Statistics show that more than 60 percent of them are unemployed. Would you say this is the result of discrimination on the part of regional authorities?

Cemilev: Although [Crimean Tatars] account for around 13-14 percent of the peninsula’s population, they represent no more than 4 percent of those employed in self-government bodies. In some institutions -- such as the Security Ministry, the Customs Committee, or the Finance Ministry -- this percentage is equal to zero. Of course this is discrimination. The consequence is that the unemployment rate among Tatars is much higher than the average for Crimea, or even Ukraine. Concerning this 60 percent figure, this does not mean that people do not work. Some people have set up their own small businesses, buying and selling things. Of course this is not enough to allow for a stable source of income and, as a consequence, the Tatars' living standards are slightly below the average for Crimea.

RFE/RL: Did you receive firm assurances from Yushchenko that he will lift Kuchma’s ban on the draft rehabilitation bill passed by parliament last year?

Cemilev: We talked about this with him. He received us on 28 February, and our talks focused on this particular issue. He had asked the Justice Ministry to check whether he could, as Ukraine’s new president, lift the veto imposed by his predecessor and sign this bill into law. Our legislation is not clear on this point. Some legal provisions say he has the right to do so. But others say he doesn't. We will therefore probably come to the conclusion that he should lift the veto and that the Rada should re-examine the bill. We would like this to happen before 18 May, which will mark the anniversary of the deportation. However, the first session of the Rada will take place only on the 17th. So I don’t know whether we will have enough time.

[...]

Whenever clashes broke out between representatives of the Russian-speaking population and Crimean Tatars, only the latter were blamed. When, to draw the public’s attention to the illegal purchase of lands by the son-in-law of the former speaker of the Crimean Parliament and Communist Party leader [Leonid] Hrach, six young Tatars took these lands by force before clashing with the Russian Cossacks who had been sent against us, they were sentenced to up to nine years in jail -- although there was not a single casualty. By comparison, a few months earlier an entire Tatar family -- including three small children -- had been assassinated and their murderer was sentenced to eight years in jail. In another case, one Tatar had been beaten to death in a police precinct and his torturer had been sentenced to eight years in jail. This gives you an idea of how authorities treat us. A significant part of Crimea’s law enforcement agencies work hand in hand with local criminal rings. But we hope this will change under [Yushchenko].


I've actually found all of the interview quite quoteworthy - so do read the whole thing.

***

My translation of parts of an earlier Jemilev interview is here.

Abdymok sums it up nicely:

100 days later

the president and his top national security advisor are talking about a "conspiracy" involving unnamed individuals to descredit justice minister roman zvarych, who lied for more than a decade about graduating from columbia university.

two police officers have confessed to murdering journalist georgy gongadze. they are in jail, but no one knows the names of their lawyers, when - or if - the case will go to trial.

there has been little or no progress in the tapegate, feldmangate, and other related -gate investigations.

the dollar has been devaluated, gasoline is hard to find, etc.

weather has gotten a lot better. warm, sunny days.


But an evil Soviet in me keeps whispering: It could've been much, much worse...

I'm going to Kyiv tomorrow night, for a very brief visit.

I didn't have the time to go to Meshchanskiy Court today - but the latest news is that all those who were wearing Khodorkovsky t-shirts got detained by the police.

There haven't been too many of them - neither today nor yesterday - and at first I was wondering: why would Putin want to give them so much publicity? I don't agree with those who seriously think he's scared and that's why employs so much force. Without these arrests they would've been more or less invisible, right? But Mishah explained to me that this is being done to scare the shit out of the more timid citizens, the zombified majority. And also, I guess, to give more material to the zombified Nashi movement...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Ilya Yashin, leader of the youth wing of Yabloko, and Sergei Mitrokhin, Yabloko's deputy head, were among those detained by the police today following a rally in support of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in front of the court building.

Watching them being dragged to the police bus from just a few meters away wasn't nice.

A lot more on Khodorkovsky's case and the trial is here.

And here're some really lousy pictures I've taken today (my camera doesn't know how to focus fast so I've missed most of the stuff...):


Ilya Yashin



Sergei Mitrokhin



Some other guy



The bus they're all in

For once, Belarus seems to be doing something right...

Russia's Eurovision song - Nobody Hurt No One, by Natalia Podolskaya - is hurting some people's feelings:

Hello sweet America, where did our dream disappear?
Look at little Erica, all she learns today is the fear
You deny the truth, you're just having fun
'Til your child will shoot your gun

Nobody hurt no one
Nobody hurt no one (anybody)
Nobody hurt no one
Nobody hurt no one (e-e-e-e)

She didn’t wanna go to school, didn’t wanna face all this pain
Mammy, can I stay at home, I am scared the boys are insane
Don’t you dare to say, her reaction’s dumb
Cause she had no place to run.

[...]

You deny the truth, you're just having fun
'Til your child will shoot your gun
Don’t you dare to say, her reaction’s dump
Cause she had no place to run.


Ukraine's entry by Greenjolly is nostalgic - and is sure to make some people quite allergic:

WE WON’T STAND THIS – NO! REVOLUTION IS ON!
'CAUSE LIES BE THE WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION!
ALL TOGETHER WE’RE ONE! ALL TOGETHER WE’RE STRONG!
GOD BE MY WITNESS WE’VE WAITED TOO LONG!

[...]

WHAT YOU WANNA SAY TO YOUR DAUGHTERS AND SONS?
YOU KNOW THE BATTLE IS NOT OVER TILL THE BATTLE IS WON!
TRUTH BE THE WEAPON! WE AIN’T SCARED OF THE GUNS!
WE STAY UNDEFEATED, 'CAUSE TOGETHER WE’RE ONE!

[...]


But Belarus' song fits the Eurovision format perfectly - here's Love Me Tonight, by Angelica Agurbash:

I WISH YOU COULD BE NEAR ME
I SEEK YOUR EYES TO THRILL ME
SO TAKE YOUR CHANCE AND FEEL ME
I AM READY NOW!

[...]

I DREAM OF YOU BY MY SIDE
MOVE CLOSER BABY
YOU’VE GOT A PLACE IN MY MIND
I’M WITH YOU BABY
DO IT TO ME ONE MORE TIME
I’M WAITING BABY
GIVE ME THE TIME OF MY LIFE!!!

[...]

LOVE ME TONIGHT
AND I’LL LOVE YOU FOREVER
IT’S NO SIN, IT’S NO CRIME
THAT I WANT YOU MINE
LOVE ME TONIGHT
I NEED YOU MORE THAN EVER
YOU CAN MAKE ME FEEL RIGHT
JUST LOVE ME TONIGHT

I’VE GOT NO HESITATION
IT’S MY INFATUATION
YOUR TOUCH IS AN OBSESSION
I’M ADDICTED NOW

[...]

LOVE YOU FOREVER
AND WE’LL BE TOGETHER
SO JUST STAY WITH ME FOR THE NIGHT
LOVE ME TONIGHT

Olesya Ryzhova, Uzbekistan editor of Thinking-East, describes what the events in Andijon look like from Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent (via Registan.net):

I do not have much to say regarding the issue because we have been blocked from accessing foreign websites and TV channels that are broadcasting news from the ground.

I have been trying to access Ferghana.ru and Lenta.ru (as well as dozens of other Russian sources) for three days now from different places and also asked different people about what they thought about the whole thing but they all would say the same - no information can be obtained from either the internet or even cable/satellite TV.

No CNN, no BBC, no Russian TV, etc. It's good that at least some of the English websites are not under attack yet since I've been able to read accounts from Registan.net and the like.

[...]


People outside the country know more than those who are stuck inside. Fucking incredible.

And so similar to 19 years ago - the Chernobyl situation.



I missed Nashi's Our Victory rally itself but spent a few hours walking around as the kids were boarding the buses to go back to their home towns.

Sixty thousand kids and lots of buses - from places like St. Pete, Voronezh and Saransk, in addition to Moscow. It was taking them forever to gather everyone and take off, and I heard a few kids curse like adults: they were exhausted and hungry. Many were smoking, many sat on the sidewalks, eating canned food, many (both boys and girls) were taking trips to the nearby bushes to pee...

If I had a kid, I wouldn't want her/him to be there.



But overall, they didn't appear aggressive or political at all. I had expected them to be somewhat like those paranoid Yanukovych supporters - but they are just a huge herd of kids who'll soon turn into a huge herd of adults.



The rumor is most of them have been paid $5 to attend the rally - plus a free t-shirt with the text of the Russian anthem on the back...



***

Masha Gessen's old Moscow Times piece on the Nashi bullshit movement is here, on her livejournal page.

"Official" pictures from the rally are here, at Nashi website.

***

I've just posted 51 photos of the Nashi kids on my photo page - more than anyone would ever need...

Very typical of Moscow:


Super Action!
Buy an apartment and get a [free] baseball hat!..
From $1,600 for a square meter...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A story about Ferghana.ru on NTV: three people run today's main source of information on Central Asia - two of them are husband and wife. Their office is located in an old factory building in Moscow, they have three computers and pay $340 a month from their own pockets to maintain the site. Daniil Kislov, Ferghana.ru's editor-in-chief, grew up in the Fergana Valley region; he relies on a network of Central Asian correspondents, voluteers and personal friends who seem to be providing most of their reports by phone. Amazing.

ORT is showing some footage from Andijon (today's, not yesterday's): crowds, soldiers and the bodies. It's horrible.

The town's green and clean - as long as you ignore the people and stains of blood on the asphalt.

Karimov's no Akayev, of course. He's calm as if nothing whatsoever happened. A tough guy.

A mind-blowing series of Hong Kong photos by Michael Wolf: Architecture of Density (via Carmen Mirada).

I found Wanderlustress through Registan.net yesterday: Nathan's account of Dee Warren's evacuation from Andijon and her earlier writings from the town offer a really good perspective on how unexpected the violence has been and how one's circumstances affect one's views...

Dee Warren, a Peace Corps volunteer in Andijon, wrote this about the events in the neighboring Kyrgyzstan a month and a half ago:

Tinchlik

Back in Andijon and all is peaceful ("tinchlik"), and Uzbeks like it this way.  General opinion surrounding the Tulip revolution next door was that "hooliganism" was causing all the chaos and government propaganda was successful in leading most to believe that American-backed institutions (specifically Soros) paid people to protest.  But no one could answer my question as to how much would it take them to stand up against the government, the riot police, and the militia.  I would not let them win the argument that it was all money and no heart.  Where I lose the argument is when they say, "At least it's peaceful here."  If that is the way they prefer things to be, then who am I to even suggest that my ideals are better?  At least the dialogue is there and that is enough for this American harbinger of democracy...

[...]

Life is peaceful, and generally good.  It certainly goes on...people have found a way to circumvent the closed borders to enter Kyrgyzstan to carry on their trade with the Korasu bazaar, internet cafes are sprouting like crazy and prices have lowered by half in the competition, and my NGO just signed a five year agreement for a UN project.  Tinch.


Here are the two pictures that Dee took from her balcony a month or so ago - and a description of what 'peace' could be like in Andijon:

Sumalak

It wouldn't be spring in Uzbekistan without making Sumalak.  Made by boiling a caldron of fresh wheat sprouts over wood fire, it produces a thick, sweet spread, to be eaten with non (actually, everything is eaten with non).  These ladies spent the entire morning stirring and adding wood to the fire, right below my balcony...


And here's what Dee has written today:

Stirred Not Shaken

After the excitement of leaving Andijon yesterday, I woke up feeling sad for everyone I know there.  Sad that they may be in danger, sad that it had to come to this, sad that its possible to bruise their battered morale even more.

It would be "reductionist" to interpret this as a purely religious movement, or a drive for democracy.  I maintain that the worsening economic situation for the general population, coupled with increased taxation, systemic corruption, and a host of other factors converge into a force of disobedience that leave no other choice, no other outlet for people who need to find a way to improve their lives, even if it means risking it.  There's not much else to lose...


Finally, Dee's account of her evacuation from Andijon yesterday is here:

[...]

Finally, a call came through saying that despite the diplomatic plates on the vehicles and diplomatic passports, that they were not allowed to enter the city.  Apparently, events had escalated while they were enroute and it was decided that we would be removed from the city as a precaution.  Since two Andijon volunteers were already in Tashkent, and the other two lived outside the city limits, I was the only one to be removed from within the city.  After getting through three city limits check-points, they could not get passed the last blockade to reach me.  They tried other check-points without luck so I suggested that I walk out to the first check-point since it was only about 100 metres from my apartment building.  I could sense that something was seriously wrong when we were walking towards each other only 50 meters apart and they still called me on the cell phone asking if I could see them walking towards me.  As soon as the Peace Corps staff reached me, they flanked me on both sides until we got near the vehicles.  Only then did I become aware that there had been shootings there just 30 minutes before.  In addition to Peace Corps staff, there were two American looking men on cell phones, one of whom told Peace Corps staff that I was to get into their "amored vehicle" (bullet proof and probably other things-proofed).  I asked who he was and was reassured that he is the Assistant Army Attache to the Defense Attache Office of the American Embassy.  Coincidentally, they were in the region, too, and only hooked up with Peace Corps in our efforts as part of their protocol to check on all American citizens in the area.  Only those who wanted to leave were to be assisted.  Surprisingly, American staff of an international NGO decided to stay, four adults and five kids.  We then drove to pick up the two other volunteers who were outside of the city limits and drove to Ferghana City where we will spend the night.

[...]

For regular Uzbekistan news roundups please visit Lyndon Allin's Scraps of Moscow.

***

It's terrible to realize that something we all feared would happen in Kyiv last year is taking place elsewhere - for the second time within such a short period...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Oh. Peace Corps is among those evil foreign NGOs on Nikolai Patrushev's list...

A poignant little piece on Diane Arbus and her subjects, then and now - in the New Yorker. Somehow, stuff like this makes me miss New York terribly...

Populated by hundreds of nameless characters, Diane Arbus’s portraits conjure infinite imaginary biographies. Ever since the Metropolitan Museum opened its retrospective of Arbus’s photographs, in March, her subjects have been turning up to give their own versions of their lives, an occurrence that is as illuminating and curious as a man in a red turban surfacing at a Van Eyck exhibit. There’s the peroxided wife, for instance, in “A Family on Their Lawn One Sunday in Westchester, N.Y., 1968," who has been in touch with the museum and is planning a visit. “Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C., 1962,” is living up to his excitable reputation: numerous people have come forward, claiming to be the boy in the picture. “Identical Twins, Roselle, N.J., 1967,” still dress alike, but their once black hair is permed and tinted strawberry blond. They’ve taken to haunting the galleries, answering questions and posing in front of the photograph that Arbus made when they were children. [...]

A wonderful text about Vladimir Voinovich and this part of the world - by Gary Shteyngart, in the New York Review of Books (once again, via the wonderful 3 Quarks Daily):

[...] The complicity between the ruler and the ruled is one of the major themes of Vladimir Voinovich's fiction. At a point roughly equidistant between the death of Gogol and the birth of the Internet, Russia endures the greatest tragedy a nation has ever inflicted upon itself. The tragedy was personified by one man, Stalin, but his crimes were abetted by thousands and tolerated by millions. Whether they admit it or not, most Russians will have a great-aunt or a great-uncle who wept upon hearing of Stalin's death. The film clips of Soviet citizens lining the streets and displaying a near-religious agony after the death of "the people's father" do not lie. Voinovich's best fiction offers both a humorous and scorching look at the lives of such people, and while he may be best known as a humorist, his work is serious in asking the question: "How could it have happened? [...]

According to Gazeta.ru, Nikolai Patrushev, head of the FSB (Russia's Federal Security Service), said this at the Russian Parliament today:

Foreign intelligence services are becoming more and more active in using non-traditional methods in their work - they are using educational programs of various NGOs to promote their interests, and they gather information this way in the former Soviet Union.


Patrushev also said that the FSB had info on one Western NGO that forwarded $5 million to Belarus to fund a velvet revolution there.

I wonder if those FSB folks can somehow link last year's Orange Revolution in Ukraine to the fact that in 1994, using the money from one of those evil educational NGOs, I took a modern dance class taught by the wonderful Claudia Gitelman at Rutgers University - and really, really loved it...

Someone mentioned Professor James Mace and reporter Walter Duranty in a comment to one of my previous posts - so I decided to put up more info on the two men and the issues surrounding them. (Note: unlike the comment's anonymous author, I do not see any connection between Professor James Mace and the Minister of Justice Roman Zvarych.)

Professor James Mace died unexpectedly a year ago and was buried in Kyiv. Here's part of his obituary:

Professor Mace spent most of his professional career researching and writing about Ukrainian history. He strongly advocated the fact that the Famine in Ukraine during the early 1930's was an act of genocide orchestrated by Joseph Stalin. Together with Robert Conquest he wrote the book “Harvest of Despair” dedicated to the innocent victims of the Stalin totalitarian regime-masterminded devastating famine of 1933. From 1986 to 1990 Professor Mace was a chairman of the commission, organized by the US Congress and President that was meant to investigate the Great Famine in Ukraine. Commission submitted to the US Congress the report on its investigations and produced three volume work "The Oral History of the Commission on the Ukraine Famine”, containing the evidence that irrefutably proved the Great Famine of 1933 to be an act of genocide.


And here's from one of Mace's texts on the Famine, accompanied by four eye-witness accounts - Soviet Man-Made Famine in Ukraine:

The Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933 occurred within the context the so-called "Stalinist Revolution from Above," a violent experiment social transformation in which state-orchestrated paranoia about and external enemies was used to blame shortcomings on the of class enemies. Like Naziism, Stalinism attempted to explain the world as a struggle between different categories of people, some of whom were considered inherently deleterious and whose elimination was an essential requisite toward the attainment of a new and better state of affairs. As degenerated offshoot of Marxism, Stalinism attempted to explain by using class categories rather than the racial ones employed by the Nazis. But what Hitler and Stalin had in common was a dualistic view of human society as composed of two implacably hostile forces, the "good" force destined for victory (Aryans for Hitler and the proletariat for Stalin) which could only liberate itself and achieve its destiny by destroying utterly the forces of evil (for Hitler, Jews and Gypsies, which he considered racially polluting elements, and for Stalin, representatives of "exploiter classes").


***

Walter Duranty covered the Soviet Union for the New York Times and won a 1932 Pulitzer Prize "for his series of dispatches on Russia especially the working out of the Five Year Plan." He is considered an apologist for Stalin's crimes by many, and members of the Ukrainian Diaspora communities have launched a protest campaign to revoke his Pulitzer.

Here's more about Duranty and one of his books, I Write As I Please (1935) - Walter Duranty: Liar for a Cause, by Taras Hunczak:

Duranty tells the reader that as a journalist he tried, from the very beginning "to lean over backwards in being fair to the Bolsheviks." Indeed, he pursued this line of reasoning so consistently as to become, ultimately, the apologist for the crimes committed by the Communist Party. Duranty was a great admirer of the first Five-Year Plan (adopted in 1929) which, according to him, "succeeded far better than anyone abroad expected." Discussing the plan, he says that in "the final issue the crux of the struggle came in the villages where an attempt was being made to socialize, virtually overnight, a hundred million of the stubbornnest and most ignorant peasants in the world." One should note that Duranty does not speak about collectivization. To him "socialization" is a much more acceptable term. Also, in the best Bolshevik tradition, Duranty refers to the peasants who resisted collectivization as "kulaks." (pp. 280-283).

A reader who is familiar with the period would note that there is not one word about the 1932-1933 Famine in Ukraine. He reports that on his way to Moscow he stopped in Ukraine where he observed "less evidence of damage, [damage from what? - T.H.] but there were empty cottages in the villages that are usually so crowded, and marked scarcity of animals and poultry." (p. 324).

Surely, he knew why the cottages were empty. Talking with William Strang, a representative of the British Foreign Office, about the same trip to Ukraine, Duranty not only discussed the problems (privately) in some detail, but expressed the opinion "that as many as 10 million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year." (1) His report to American readers, however, was considerably different. Obviously, responding to a request for a clarification of the situation, Duranty responded that "there is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition." (2)

No wonder Stalin, whom Duranty met on Christmas day in 1933, expressed his approval of Duranty's performance when he said to Duranty: "You have done a good job in your reporting of the USSR." (p. 166).



I first heard about it on NTV (in Russian) yesterday: the Poles decided to boycott the Bolshoi's performances after Putin had failed to mention Poland's role in the WWII - but then it turned out that the Bolshoi wasn't touring Poland at all...

Here's yesterday's statement on the impostors from the Bolshoi's press service (in Russian):

The Bolshoi Theater Did Not Organize the Polish Tour

Due to a large number of media reports about the problems related to "the Bolshoi Tour" of Poland, the theater's directors are forced to make this statement:

The last tour of Poland by the Bolshoi's opera troupe took place in December 2002. The Bolshoi Theater performed Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina and Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges in Warsaw, and the shows earned great acclaim from the Polish audience and critics.

The Bolshoi Theater neither planned nor organized tours of this country ever since. And the current tour, which the media call "the Bolshoi Theater Tour," is, in fact, not related to Bolshoi. A series of concerts, in which opera and ballet soloists from Moscow's musical theaters take part, are somehow being carried out using the Bolshoi's brand and the Theater's old logo that hasn't been used in the last two years. The responsibility for this lies solely with the organizers of the concert tour.

It has been a personal initiative of certain Bolshoi soloists currently on vacation to participate in the concerts in Poland.

The Bolshoi Theater's press service

Wow... Hard to believe but there're still plenty of places in the States where you could be fined and thrown to jail for living with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Or you could lose your job (via Jane Keeler):

There are some 144,000 unmarried couples living together in North Carolina, and they are all breaking the law - a statute that has been on the books since 1805.

The law against cohabitation is rarely enforced. But now the American Civil Liberties Union is suing to overturn it altogether, on behalf of a former sheriff's dispatcher who says she had to quit her job because she wouldn't marry her live-in boyfriend.

Deborah Hobbs, 40, says her boss, Sheriff Carson Smith of Pender County, near Wilmington, told her to get married, move out or find another job after he found out she and her boyfriend had been living together for three years. The couple did not want to get married, so Hobbs quit.

[...]

North Carolina is one of seven states that still have laws on the books prohibiting cohabitation of unmarried couples. The others are Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and North Dakota. North Carolina appears to be the only state where the law is being challenged. [...]

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Zvarych blames it all on the fact that he never reads about himself: if he had, he would've issued disclaimers a long time ago.

Here's what he says about his degree (quoted in Ukrainska Pravda, in Ukrainian):

[...] I don't have a master's degree from Columbia University. Instead, I have a degree that corresponds to a master's from Columbia as well as from any other scientific institution. If I didn't have this level of scientific knowledge, I wouldn't be able to get an invitation from New York University to teach there.

When I was asked right after my move [to Ukraine], "What's your degree?", it was hard for me to explain and draw analogies. I explain it this way: "I have a bachelor's degree. But I've also taught and had a professor's title at New York University." They ask me: "Wait, and what was your scientific level that allowed you to teach at New York University with such a degree?" And I explained that my degree equaled a master's degree. [...]


I wish someone explained to me what kind of a degree Zvarych is talking about. Maybe it's something untranslatable - but he could at least have named it in English...

So... According to today's statement by Roman Zvarych (in Ukrainian), the minister of justice has a bachelor's degree in an undisclosed discipline from Manhattan College and has also taken classes at Columbia University's School of International [& Public] Affairs and at Ukrainian Free University in Munich. Zvarych claims that the education he received at Columbia and in Munich "equals" a master's degree, and that he was planning to write a Ph.D. dissertation on Plato's ethics.

I'm still pretty confused about it all - and the fact that Zvarych has refused to show his education certificates and other documents to the media isn't making it easier.

But the way the media are covering the scandal is kind of funny, too: someone at a place called Obkom wrote that Zvarych had received his legal education from a Californian academy that didn't give out info on its alumni.



That's bullshit because, first, Zvarych did admit to having no legal education, and, second, he hasn't mentioned any West Coast institutions in his statement. Still, it must've been very tempting to allude to "proFFessor" Yanukovych once again (Yanukovych claimed to have a degree from some fake "Californian academy"), and so the guys probably decided to change Columbia to California. (Similarly, I once saw Madeleine Albright renamed into Margaret by a Ukrainian paper - in order to make the comparison to the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher more striking, I guess...)

It wouldn't have been a big deal, though, if only Channel 5 - "The Channel of Honest News" - hadn't picked up this piece of misinformation and posted it on its website. They are too serious, of course, to make silly jokes about Yanukovych, too professional and straightforward - hence, simply a "Californian academy", with no parallels or allusions. They took the piece off the site later, before I had time to make a screenshot - but here's the same item from Channel 5's livejournal page:

The historical synagogue in Malakhovka, a village outside Moscow, was looted this past Sunday - and set on fire today. The 1932 wooden building did not survive the fire.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Victory Day Freak Show near Belarusskiy Train Station in Moscow: 63 photos on my photo page.




Sunday, May 08, 2005

An amusing piece on Yushchenko's visit to Boston (via Abdymok) - The good, the bad, and the ugly - A retrospective look at the Yuschenko visit to Boston, by Prof. Peter T. Woloschuk.

The main point is this:

For the past 125 years the Ukrainian community of Boston has been plagued with bad leadership and one crisis after another and has continually lost or alienated people of talent and ability. As a result, although there are more than 75,000 people of Ukrainian ancestry in the Boston area, fewer than 1,000 belong to any of the local Ukrainian organizations, including the churches, and most refuse to have anything to do events sponsored by them.

With the advent of the post-Orange Revolution government in Ukraine and its desire to be open to the west, it is more imperative than ever that Ukrainian-Americans and their communities act as interpreters, lobbyists, and bridge-builders.

Unfortunately, events like the Yuschenko visit to Boston show that community leaders still aren't mature and that they still don't understand the task at hand. They continueto conduct business in the same old ways that clearly didn't work in the past. As long as selepky are in charge, Ukrainian-Americans will continue to wonder why the have no voice…why no one pays attention to them.


Yushchenko's staff and the Ukrainian Embassy folks do get their share of criticism, too. Among other things, some of them communicated in Russian:

[...]

The Ugly

[...]

- The members of the Ukrainian presidential staff and security team who exclusively spoke Russian amongst themselves and used it in all of their radio transmissions. One perplexed Kennedy staffer was heard to ask, "Why are they still speaking Russian after the Orange Revolution and after all that Putin and Kuchma tried to do to them?" [...]


That's funny - a little bit like being surprised that the Iraqis continue to speak Arabic after all that Saddam Hussein did to them...

All 205 photos from Istanbul are now online...

Saturday, May 07, 2005

This is also one of my favorite shots - I made it very near to the Armenian Patriarchate in Kumkapi (there was a funeral there at the time so I didn't get to go inside):

The World has two of my photos on its website, alongside Andrew Sussman's story on the U.S.-Russia relationship.

That's nice, even though I'm not credited and the caption is somewhat silly: "Russian security forces prepare for the arrival of President Bush in Moscow." In fact, only God would know who they are preparing for, since way too many people are coming over on May 9 in addition to Bush (like, leaders of 53 states or something).





I took these two on May 5 and I'll post more from that walk as soon as I'm done posting all my Istanbul photos.

We've just watched a very good film about the war - Svoi (2004). Very sad, very intense, beautifully done - picture, acting, music, all... The story's realistically complex - not the ubiquitous schematic war bullshit. Bohdan Stupka, an amazing Ukrainian actor, is in the film and is wonderful, as always.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I'm posting my Istanbul pictures right now. These two are my very favorite from this trip:




Thursday, May 05, 2005

We're back from Istanbul but, as usual, I'm not fully here yet, so it'll take a while before I start posting regularly. I'll have some pictures pretty soon, though.

Istanbul is the best city in the world.

***

So much news - Zvarych, Ukrainians detained in Belarus, Victory Day, Piskun and the Gongadze case - and I don't know what to begin with.

Okay, the most recent item: Yushchenko has changed his mind and will probably be coming to Moscow on May 9, not May 8, according to Tomenko and Ukrainska Pravda (in Ukrainian). He'll watch the parade here and then fly back to Kyiv right away in order to be present for celebrations there. Politics is so pointless.

At the Sheremetyevo airport and on the way downtown there are so many Victory Day posters of all styles, colors and content that I was feeling really dizzy by the time we got home yesterday, after digesting most of them. It must have cost a fortune to get all that stuff printed - what a waste.