Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year to you all! З Новим Роком! С Новым Годом! Mutlu Yıllar!

Wishing you tons of health, love, joy, fun and adventures...



P.S. I'm so sorry for not writing back to some of you. One of my New Year's resolutions, though, is to stop being so sporadic and start keeping in touch with friends properly! :)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Marta is acting really wild here, refuses to go to bed, keeps waking up at night, and I'm too exhausted to write anything now, don't really have anything to say, even though I do feel like saying something... So here are two pictures of today's rush hour in Istanbul:



Friday, December 28, 2007

Finally, two views from our balcony, and I'm off to bed:





Part of Aya Sofya on the first photo - and Aya Irini on both.





The first one is Sultanahmet Camii, the second one is Aya Sofya.

And some Turkish kids on a school trip, eating their lunches between the two landmarks.

But Istanbul may not be such a good place to take your teenage kid to: a "Westerner"-looking mama and son came up to me today and asked if I knew where McDonald's was. I only knew where Burger King was, and the boy had this tragic look on his face when I said so. "But I need a McDonald's!" He was almost crying when he said that, and it made me feel terribly sorry for his mother. Before this encounter today, I had never understood why a place like Istanbul - where they serve you REAL meat nearly everywhere - needed all those Burger Kings.

The weather's awesome.



There was no sun in Moscow for something like a month. And no snow. It was so depressing. And I really owe an apology to those New York Times and Washington Post people that I blasted in this post back in November: I'm now convinced that snowless winters in Moscow do deserve all the coverage in the world, especially if they manage to find some amusing angles, to cheer us up, please.

Anyway, when the plane took off and went through the clouds, it turned out that the sun wasn't all that far away: just 30 seconds or so of flying.

That made me reconsider the words I said to Mishah in the morning: Is a mere vacation worth such a sacrifice?

Because, you see, my fear of flying is such a torture, makes me even more insomniac, but that's not all: we also had to leave home five hours before our plane actually took off, to make sure we make it on time even if we get stuck in traffic on the way to Sheremetyevo.

But I felt it was all okay it the moment I saw the sun.

And in Istanbul, it's not just sunny.

It's warm.



First, about a month ago, I saw the word PEACE - МИР - written on the roof of a car parked down below. I thought it was rather ... well, rather peaceful for this part of the world.

Then, a few weeks later, I saw the word GAY - ГЕЙ - on this or some other car parked in the same area. I thought it was rather friendly, too, for this part of the word. What a polite neighborhood we live in, I thought.

Finally, a few days ago, there appeared the word I've been waiting for - the most common Russian swear word.

Maybe it's someone's conceptual art project.

I wish I had pictures of the other two cars.

Wordpress, a blog-publishing platform, is blocked in Turkey, and here's the note that opens in my browser instead of, for example, Natalia Antonova's blog:



It's very annoying.

And perhaps as efficient as hanging a curtain in the middle of your room, to help yourself pretend the rest of the family isn't really there, the way many people did back in the Soviet times.

Because I can still read Wordpress blogs through my Bloglines feed, right?

Here's more on the silly measure, in a Global Voices roundup by Sami Ben Gharbia.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

We're in Istanbul, btw. Arrived here yesterday, very happy to be back. More later, I hope.

Benazir Bhutto has just been killed. A very shocking news, despite everything.

RIP - to her and scores of others who were killed because of her, now and before.

Just like with Milosevic in 2006, until they're dead, it never occurs to me that they are mortal.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Politics, again.

Oh, Yulia, Yulia:

"We'll be working on it and will make it so that in our country both young people and children would want to become coal miners," said Tymoshenko.


Some of the comments from Korrespondent.net (RUS):

are:

I'll only believe in this when the President's daughter puts on a helmet and drags herself into a coal mine.

***

Guest:

It's simple: she'll make other professions so unappealing that children would rather hope to become coal miners than anything else.

***

Communist:

But this is exactly how it used to be in that great country that you destroyed! In the Soviet Union, children did dream about becoming coal miners, and their work was honorable and safe! Do you remember ever reading about coal mine accidents in Soviet newspapers?! No, because there weren't any!

***

Anna:

Our children are dreaming of being coal miners. Because in our town of Snezhnoye the mines have been shut and now there is no way to make any money at all. We are surviving on bread and water, and it'd be nice to leave, but where to?

***

Peter Pan:

Communist: "Do you remember ever reading about coal mine accidents in Soviet newspapers?! No, because there weren't any!"

Are you so sure? And Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm" didn't exist, either, right?

It was all there. In special depositories. As for points of view that were different from the "leading and guiding one" - you could only hear those on short-wave radio through the wailing of the jamming stations. As Napoleon (not a psycho!) used to say in a well-known joke, "If I had controlled the Soviet press, the world wouldn't have learned about my defeat in the Battle of Waterloo!"

***

Benya na Laden dyshit 2 Communist:

You better remember football broadcasts from Donetsk. The tracks around the field were packed with wheelchairs.

Then they banned these wheelchairs, too.

As for the accidents, no one was reporting on them in the USSR - well, perhaps they did once, when the plane carrying Tashkent "Pakhtokor" [football team] crashed. They had to somehow explain to the people where the old players disappeared and why the backup team members were playing instead.

They didn't report a word on what happened to the Komsomolets submarine, nor did they report on the nuclear accident in the Urals - while it was way worse there than in Chernobyl.

So much for you Communist USSR government.

***

Ъ:

Kids are going to dream of playing for "Shakhtar" ["Coal Miner," a Donetsk football club]. That's for sure.


I love the way this conversation is evolving - even though I hate what Yulia has said.

***

P.S. I've made a GV entry out of it - here.

I wish I could use this place more for random notes, but I can't, and also, whenever I have something to write about, I'm too busy to, and then when there's time, I'm too tired to or I've already forgotten what it was that I wanted to write about.

By random notes I mean stuff that's not directly related to Ukrainian and Russian politics.

Like a conversation I've eavesdropped on today, between two elderly men who looked like they'd vote for Valeriya Novodvorskaya rather than Putin or Medvedev (well, okay, I don't think I'm capable of writing a single sentence without squeezing some politics into it anymore). One said to the other as they were crossing this really wide and dangerous street and I was walking next to them: "So, first there was Babylon, then there was Rome, and now - wouldn't you agree? - it's Moscow?" I didn't quite catch the rest of it, as they walked straight on and I had to turn right at that intersection.

And a cab driver today, from Kyrgyzstan, who talked about Chingiz Aytmatov with me. I loved it. He said he was a student in Moscow - but I somehow doubted it, I thought he was driving a cab full-time, but I liked him and so I didn't ask for details. He also said that those few nice people one happens to run in in Moscow all turn out to be from somewhere else, not native Muscovites.

And another cab driver, who was listening to some vostochnaya music - either Caucasus, or Middle Eastern - but switched to some silly Russian pop on the radio as soon as I got into his car, and I was too tired to ask him to please turn what he'd been listening to back on, because I liked it better, etc.

Anyway, I apologize for sporadic blogging, thank you all for reading, and for writing me, and I'm wishing you all a very joyful and fun holiday season, and hope that the new year is going to be an extremely happy one for us all.

Love to all,
Veronica

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Marta in vyshyvanka a year ago, on Dec. 17, 2006:



And now, on Dec. 18, 2007:



Those sleeves are still too long for her... :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yulia is our PM again! I'm glad the vote went okay - it was a 'manual' vote, btw.

Plushch did not vote.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Two links - from Korrespondent.net, in Russian - for Andrey Slivka, who wrote this in his Kyiv traffic piece in the Washington Post:

Another peculiarity: Cars are really unnecessary here because Kiev's Soviet-built subway system is excellent.


- Dec. 11, 2007, 82 comments: They now have trambovshchiki at Livoberezhna, Darnytsya and Chernihivska stations - men who work from 8 to 9 AM, helping passengers to squeeze into subway cars during rush hours, by pushing them from, hmm, behind. From outside.

- Dec. 12, 2007, 127 comments: Kyiv subway authorities are asking passengers to avoid using subway from 7:30 to 9 AM, unless absolutely necessary, and use other means of transportation.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Masha Gessen on Shkola Zlosloviya with Tatyana Tolstaya and Dunya Smirnova - five clips at YouTube, in Russian:

Part 1 (9:49 min)
Part 2 (9:09 min)
Part 3 (9:49 min)
Part 4 (9:09 min)
Part 5 (4:23 min)

Three writers I admire, they spend the whole show discussing two subjects: adoptions and glossy magazines in Russia.

Interesting, informative, cozy.

Amazing how they manage to stay so focused: there's a whole mountain of subjects that they don't touch upon, stuff that they could have turned into a dozen more extremely interesting shows.

Funny, though, that they do talk about the possibility of Masha getting fired from the glossy she was editing at the time of the interview, recorded in mid-April. I think the magazine's September issue was already done without her. Or the one after that.

***

Masha's next book is due out in April 2008; here's a note from her publisher:

Blood Matters: From Inherited Illness to Designer Babies, How the World and I Found Ourselves in the Future of the Gene

In 2004 genetic testing revealed that Masha Gessen had a mutation that predisposed her to ovarian and breast cancer. The discovery initiated Gessen into a club of sorts: the small (but exponentially expanding) group of people in possession of a new and different way of knowing themselves through what is inscribed in the strands of their DNA. As she wrestled with a wrenching personal decision—what to do with such knowledge—Gessen explored the landscape of this brave new world, speaking with others like her and with experts including medical researchers, historians, and religious thinkers.

Blood Matters is a much-needed field guide to this unfamiliar and unsettling territory. It explores the way genetic information is shaping the decisions we make, not only about our physical and emotional health but about whom we marry, the children we bear, even the personality traits we long to have. And it helps us come to terms with the radical transformation that genetic information is engineering in our most basic sense of who we are and what we might become.


Bolshoi Gorod, of which Masha had been deputy editor, published an excerpt from the book, translated into Russian by Pyotr Favorov, along with an intro note by Masha.

The excerpt is about Masha's mastectomy - very painful reading.

Masha's other work, in English and in Russian, is stored at http://gessen.livejournal.com/; I also love reading her Russian-language blog about her kids - http://gessenyata.livejournal.com/.

Masha is currently at work on a book about Grigory Perelman - here's a 2006 item from Publishers Weekly:

Agent Elyse Cheney just sold North American rights to a new book by Ester and Ruzya author Masha Gessen to Harcourt’s Rebecca Saletan in a significant six-figure deal. Not yet titled, the book’s subject is Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman, who recently solved the Poincare Conjecture, one of the seven great mathematical mysteries of the century. He was subsequently awarded the Fields Medal for this achievement, but turned it down. Through Perelman’s mysterious life, Gessen, also Russian, will aim to tell a larger story of mathematics, genius, global politics and obsession. Saletan is also publishing Gessen’s Blood Matters, on genetics and intelligence, due out next year.


***

A lovely collection of Dunya Smirnova's writing, in Russian, can be acquired at Ozon.ru - here. Much of the stuff in it is wicked funny and wonderfully written.

When I first discovered Masha Gessen's pieces, she reminded me of Dunya, whom I had discovered a few years earlier, when she was still writing for the Moscow News (among other publications).

***

Tatyana Tolstaya is all over the place, and I'm too tired to look for links to her work. I love her stories - and it's so heartbreaking that she hasn't been publishing any new ones in a very long time.

P.S. I've just noticed that a collection of Tolstaya's short stories has been published in English this year.

I love the cover image - so dreadfully Soviet:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The second day of circus in Rada seems to be over. No work has been done again - all thanks to the Party of the Regions folks (RUS).

Yesterday, when I was searching for the Rada site, to look up some stats, I first landed at the page for another Rada: the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Instead of disbanding - and deputy head of TsVK, Mahera, thinks (RUS) it's not an unlikely option right now - our idiots could perhaps just rename themselves. Would be cheaper than having yet another election, and more honest.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yulia gets 225 votes instead of the 226 she needed to become Ukraine's PM.

NUNS/BYuT coalition's got 228 people in it.

Kyiv's ex-mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko (NUNS) says his voting card was broken.

He would've "misfired" sooner or later anyway. Yushchenko should've known better.

Update: Though who knows. Maybe he's not lying. Maybe it's the voting equipment that was broken, as some BYut deputies are claiming.

And speaker Yatsenyuk has failed to vote for Yulia during the repeat vote - because some folks from the Party of the Regions took away his voting card. Fucking awesome.

P.S. It wasn't a repeat vote - but "the vote on a re-vote" (more at Ukrainiana).

Another update: Vladislav Lukyanov (Party of the Regions) admits to having taken away Yatsenyuk's voting card.

A Korrespondent.net item on this (RUS) was posted at 2:37 pm - and has received 82 comments in the first 20 minutes.

This is really funny - I've just stumbled upon this photoshopped image of a United Russia campaign ad of the "Putin's Plan" variety - at Discovery Institute's Real Russia Project (aka Russia Blog):



Here's a quick translation for Charles Ganske, the man who mistook this for the real thing:

I smoked it.
It kicks ass!

Putin's Plan.
Tkachev's Plan.

By 2010 - 60 tons of weed from 1 ha.
Ha-ha...
BUA-HA-HA-HA!

FUCKED RUSSIA


'Plan' is one of the words for pot in Russian slang (more - here).

The last line doesn't translate too smoothly - it should be Yedinaya Rossiya (United Russia) - but it's Yebimaya Rossiya instead...

Anyway, great job, Charles! Учи олбанский!!! :)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

On Tuesday, Dec. 11, Yulia Tymoshenko may again become Ukraine's prime minister.

Or not.

Ukrainiana writes about "suspicions of sabotage from the would-be opposition" and some of the steps taken to not let it happen:

[...] Confronted with a hostile environment and a razor-thin vote margin, the Orange Coalition is offering the would-be opposition a cornucopia of political pacifiers, including the First Vice-Speaker post and control over key parliamentary committees. [...]


Ukrainska Pravda (UKR) and Korrespondent.net (RUS) have both picked up a LigaBusinessInform item (RUS) on the "enemy within" factor: this time, it's Vladislav Kaskiv, who - according to LigaBusinessInform's "reliable sources" - has recently had a surgery and is likely to skip Tuesday's vote. His absence would obviously make the already "razor-thin vote margin" even thinner.

Although Kaskiv's plans for Tuesday aren't a certainty yet, few readers at Korrespondent.net busy themselves with this consideration. Some are making guesses as to what kind of surgery he could've had - and here're their bets:

- circumcision (comment #8)

- brain removal surgery (comment #10)

- appendectomy (comment #25)

- zit removal surgery (comment #25)

- ingrown toenail removal (comment #37)

- hemorrhoids removal (comment #40)

- sex change operation (comment #55)

We here think it could have been liposuction.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Here are a few more flashbacks from 2003...

This United Russia ad across Nevskiy Prospekt from Moskovskiy Vokzal in St. Pete seemed way huge then - but compared to this campaign ad by Yuri Lutsenko at Livoberezhna this year, it looks pretty modest now...



"The President's Party" - not much has changed since then, they've just taken it one step further...



***

Although I already had this blog at the end of 2003, I wasn't really using it. I was on Fotopages.com instead, and here's a tiny entry that I did on Nov. 28, 2003:

So I decided to buy myself roses today, and I asked the woman at the store not to bother with fancy wrapping; a newspaper would do. At home, I glanced at the paper and realized that there was no way to escape politics: it turned out to be a campaign newsletter of Vladimir Yudin, one of the local candidates.

I saw his name before, sometime in October, when the whole YUKOS thing had just begun. "Yudin, hands off Khodorkovskiy" - read the writing on the wall then.

The paper is full of Putin vs. Khodorkovskiy stuff, and other oligarch-related issues. It also touches upon the problem of communal apartments and offers ways to spend some 240 billion rubles, together. It's in my garbage can now.

The roses are doing great.


And here're two pictures from the set that I posted that day - both have to do with this Yudin guy and Khodorkovsky:





***

Looking back at this, and at the 2003 notes that I posted yesterday, it sort of becomes clear that in this part of the world it hurts a lot to be an optimist - and it hurts somewhat less to be a pessimist.

Friday, December 07, 2007

As I said in that interview, it's hard to imagine anyone being surprised by the outcome of the Duma election this year - even though there are plenty of people who still care and may now be outraged or depressed. Or happy.

As for being surprised, we used up most of this emotion's reserves four years ago, when we spent half the post-election night glued to the TV, cursing the Russian opposition for their pathetic performance. This year, Mishah chose to be watching some movie instead, and I was translating Russian bloggers for GV.

I also unearthed an old notebook and read through the stuff I jotted down right after the vote of Dec. 7, 2003.

We were watching Savik Shuster's Svoboda Slova then - still on NTV, still in Russia, long before anyone could've imagined Shuster's move to Ukraine, together with his show, and his quick transformation into a Ukrainian mega-star. (Though, of course, it was also long after Shuster's dismissal from Radio Liberty, following Gazprom's takeover of NTV from Media-Most.)

- For Victor Shenderovich, it was the first appearance on NTV in three years that night - he did make some joke about it. He also said that the right-wing opposition had discredited itself, and it would be much better for them not to be represented in the Duma at all for the next four years: let "the new CPSU" - United Russia, obviously - bear all the responsibility, because when oil prices go down and Russia isn't producing anything, there'll be no one else but them to blame for the economic decline.

Oil prices have only been going up since then, of course.

- As of 6 pm, the turnout was less than 50 percent, and nearly 5 percent had voted against all candidates. Someone in the audience said that the non-voting folks would eventually join together and force this regime out.

- Someone noted that SPS' campaign ad about Europe didn't really sell in the Asian part of the country.

I'm not sure which ad they meant, but I do remember something about Irina Khakamada, Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov calling people to vote for them while aboard a private jet - an ad that wasn't well-received, either.

- Khakamada seemed to imply that the results of the election reflected what the people of Russia were like, and that those who voted for SPS shouldn't be too ashamed of their choice.

One of their conclusions: they should have joined forces with Yabloko.

- "Someone fat has compared Russia to a pendulum: in four years, he said, there'll be three parties in the Duma - Yabloko, SPS, and LDPR (the latter two just for fun), and today's rulers would be afraid to walk the streets."

Mishki, a pro-Putin kids movement:


A screenshot of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Dec. 6, 2007

Novaya Gazeta has a few photos from Bolotnaya Ploshchad, where the new movement's presentation took place.

Пиздец.

More: Radio Liberty story (RUS).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Chris Vallance interviewed me on the Duma election for BBC Radio 5 Live's Pods and Blogs show yesterday - here's the clip:



The rest of the show and show notes are here.

***

Just as the previous time - back in April, following Yeltsin's death - it was way too scary to know I was being recorded for the radio. I must've lost a few kilos - which, of course, would've been good, if only I had stayed away from those coconut cookies afterwards.

Marta was asleep this time and missed her chance of appearing on the radio once again.

It's been months since the last time I really spoke English, so I couldn't remember how to pronounce the word 'Apocalypse' and, as a result, Chris had to edit out the part where I was talking of some bloggers' attempt to outspam their 'Putinjugend' counterparts, by posting Bible verses all over LJ and thus chasing the 'victors' out of the Yandex Blogs Top 30. By way of consolation, Chris told me my pronunciation was perhaps much closer to the original Greek than the way they say 'Apocalypse' in English.

:)

***

There was some more election stuff that I wanted to write about, but it took me too long to figure out how to do an audio clip, etc, so this is it for tonight.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Roman Gruzov's piece (RUS) that conveys the atmosphere in pre-election Russia beautifully, but hasn't made it into the last issue of Bolshoi Gorod. Published on the blog of Bolshoi Gorod's editor instead.

UPDATE: Lyndon Allin's English translation of the piece is here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I've just noticed the news of the third explosion in two weeks at the Zasyadko coal mine.

Nov. 18 - 101 people dead; Dec. 1 - 44 wounded; Dec. 2 - 5 killed, 30 wounded.

How terrible.

I wanted to write so much more tonight, but Marta kept waking up and I had to run back and forth between her and my Global Voices translation, and as a result, it took me forever to finish it. Here it is - and that's it for now:

Russia: Duma Election Notes

According to the early official results, president Vladimir Putin's United Russia party has won a landslide victory in the Dec. 2 general elections.

Below is a tiny fraction of the recent election posts by Russian bloggers, translated from Russian.

LJ user brazzaville posts a joke:

Two people meet:

- Who are you voting for?
- United Russia.
- Oh, okay, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to.


In the last sentence of her post, brazzaville may or may not be revealing her voting preference, through what may or may not be an allusion to one of the contenders in this election - Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko ("Apple") party:

I'll eat an apple now and then go cast my vote.


LJ user maliar shares his plans for the post-election future:

When it gets unbearably bad, I'll move into my friend-lenta [LJ friends' feed]. There's civil society in here, and freedom of speech, and democracy, and the absolute victory of SPS [Nikita Belykh's Union of Right Forces].


SPS and Yabloko are not expected to get past the 7-percent eligibility threshold in this election.

LJ user lit_wonder posts this report from her polling station in Moscow:

Civil Duty

At the polling station, there's a line for cheap pastries. They are also selling silver and imitation jewelry there.

Observers don't look older than 18.

A woman is making a scene: "Why are you writing me down, you've written my number down and now you'll be able to trace down who I've voted for! I wanted to [vote], but now I'm not going to!"

No one wrote down my number - but I'm not making a secret of it: [I am] for Yabloko.


In a comment, LJ user vladimir_morf writes about who the observers are most likely are:

First- and second-year students. Paid 2,000 rubles [$80]. A bus takes them there and a bus takes them back. Food is included.


LJ user favorov explains his voting choice:

I'll vote for SPS, though it's not as easy for me as it was four, eight, 12, or 16 years ago (no matter what [SPS] was called then).

Because this is how I've always done. Because this is where [Anatoly Chubais] is. Because I do not see a better option. Because someone somewhere has completely lost it, and I'd like to drop him a hint.

As for the rest of it:

Lately, there's been one thing that's beginning to frighten me: logic has disappeared from the regime's actions. The logic that I can understand, that is - I disagreed with them on certain things before, but I could always understand their reasoning.

I don't understand why Putin is so scared, why [United Russia] is overreacting like this, why they are strangling SPS, who needs such an exaggerated image of the enemy.

The only possible - though not universal - explanation is that the West and [a collective Sechin], acting spontaneously together, have chased [Putin] into the corner.

I still hope - even though it's getting more and more difficult to have hope - that he'll leave. I'm positive that he wants to leave.

Something along these lines.


LJ user puschaev_y posts this comment to favorov's entry:

Don't you think that he really cannot leave [...] - and one of the reasons is that he needs guarantees that [Mikhail Khodorkovsky] will remain in prison. And he's the only person who can provide such guarantees to himself - and only if he stays, one way or another. Otherwise, he risks switching locations with [Khodorkovsky]. Basically, the year 2008 was predetermined by the year 2003 [the year Khodorkovsky was jailed].


LJ user mcmamus posts a photo of a rather huge United Russia's campaign ad, seen on the election day at Manezh Square in downtown Moscow. LJ user kuteev, in a comment, reports that such ads have not been taken down all over the Russian capital, in violation of the election law.

LJ user ervix shows off a smiley that he put in the United Russia box on his ballot (see photo).

LJ user karimova responds, in a comment:

Up until this moment, I did not believe in the existence of the people who vote for United Russia.


On her own blog, karimova writes:

I text-messaged the family we are helping and asked: "How is it going? Did you go to the polling station?" The head of the family replied: "Yes, we did. I've voted for United Russia, because I'm a member of this party and I'm obliged to."

Damn. They live a half-hungry life, their house is half-ruined, the state is throwing miserable bits their way. They are now re-registering disability status for their boy, and that's why they cannot count on getting pension money in the next few months. If it hadn't been for the volunteers with their humanitarian aid, I can't imagine how they would've survived.

The conditions they live in are nightmarish, a child with oncology should not live in such quarters. In addition to this, they've got a grandmother there who can't get up from her bed, and the toilet, please excuse me, is outdoors. I decided that we should somehow try to get them a new house next year. That we should write to the governor, demand something from the local authorities. I asked one experienced person whether it is true that the officials might respond that since the boy is severely ill and would die sooner or later, they have no reasons to give them a new house. Is it possible that they might respond this way? "Yes, they might." This is how they respond more often than not.

Why are they voting for United Russia? I don't understand this.

It's making me feel utterly discouraged. Volunteers and charity foundations have to mend the holes created by the state, and people who are suffering and need help don't even understand what's going on.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Some quick pre-election linking:

The text of Victor Shenderovich's Plavlennyi Syrok show, aired on Dec. 1 on Radio Echo of Moscow - it's in Russian, however, and there's no audio posted yet, but it should appear there eventually.

God bless Shenderovich, is all I can say.

Here's the wrap-up section:

And finally, about what matters most. In your letters, you often ask me who to vote for on Dec. 2. Unfortunately, the election is already tomorrow, and campaigning is prohibited, so I'll try to answer your question ... well, in the most general terms... Anyway, I think one shouldn't vote for the party headed by a hypocrite and a scoundrel. To the contrary, one should vote for the party that's the most articulate of all in calling this hypocrite and scoundrel a hypocrite and a scoundrel. Here, I guess I've answered your question without violating the law. Happiness to you all!


On his blog, on Nov. 26, Shenderovich revealed that he'd be voting for SPS (Union of the Right Forces). This post of his - also in Russian - has received 547 comments, which I haven't had the time to read yet.

Mama has told me today that they've planted new chestnut trees on Khreshchatyk, replacing some of the old ones that seemed to be dying. This is really good news.

The newly-planted trees are 15 years old, which means they'll be blooming as early as next spring. Hopefully.

For the past few years, Khreshchatyk looked kind of ugly not only because of the crazy parking lot in the middle of the sidewalk, but also because of the chestnut trees that grew depressingly rusty by mid-summer.

By the way, what we have in Kyiv, are they called chestnut trees or buckeyes? I think it's the latter, but I wasn't aware of this until a friend who studied at Columbus, Ohio, told me so.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Our birthday girl:

Beeline and Megafon, major Russian mobile operators, are promoting the Dec. 2 election by text-messaging all their subscribers, regardless of their citizenship.

Here's an sms that I have received today/yesterday:

2 ДЕКАБРЯ ПРИХОДИТЕ НА ВЫБОРЫ! ВАШ ГОЛОС ВАЖЕН ДЛЯ СТРАНЫ!!!


Translation: "Come and vote on December 2! Your vote is important for the country!!!"

:)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Here we go again: I'm removing Elmer's comment from the post he has made it on - and re-posting it here. Comment moderation is a pain in the ass - I keep forgetting to approve comments - but if Elmer again chooses to litter posts about my family with political discussion, I'll have to turn it back on.

This comment was posted on Marta's birthday reminder:

elmer said...

Just out of curiousity, and submitted only in the politest sense -

If you are a resident and citizen of Ukraine - why the Russian?

Why not the Ukrainian language?

8:42 AM, November 30, 2007


I'm not sure why Elmer is assuming there's no Ukrainian spoken in our family. There is.

There is also English, and, hopefully, there'll be a couple more languages in the future. Maybe I'll learn a new language together with Marta. Turkish, for example. Or French. I'd love to.

As for why I consider Elmer's 'polite curiosity' political, please have a look at this language issue discussion over at the wonderful Ukrainiana.

There's one point in La Russophobe's comment that I agree with - and it's the timing of the New York Times' Simachev piece:

[...] First, how you can justify diverting attention from the outrageous decline of democracy in Russia by publishing a piece that could easily have issued from the Kremlin itself is beyond me [...].


I cannot "justify" that. Even if there were no urgent matters to cover in Russia - and there are plenty, of course - one would expect them to run something on Ukraine or Belarus - coal mines, oil spills, you name it - before turning to Simachev, a relative non-newsmaker.

One of the results that a 'Ukraine' search at the New York Times site has landed me today is pretty symbolic:



Here's this brilliant, albeit a bit too laconic, piece:



So yeah, Simachev piece is indeed "diverting attention" - but I can't say I'm surprised: it's always been like this.

Take those "no snow in Moscow in December" stories.

Here's one, from the New York Times, published on Dec. 12, 1996:

[...] There has been no snow in Moscow at all this season, a fact so depressing to average Muscovites that they have trouble even speaking about it.

"It's wrong," said Vyacheslav Sesoyev, 65, the proprietor of a central Moscow sporting goods store. "It's not Russia if it doesn't snow. In the old days we would have thought the C.I.A. did it. The last time this happened was in 1938. I remember it well because my mama cried for the whole month of December." [...]


And here's another one, published in the Washington Post ten years later, on Dec. 20, 2006:

[...] The winter of 2006 has yet to arrive, however, and Muscovites are deeply discombobulated. "I want snow. I want the New Year's feeling," said Viktoria Makhovskaya, a street vendor who sells gloves and mittens. "This is a disgusting winter. I don't like it at all." [...]


As a Kyivite, I am biased, of course: I think it's unfair and wrong that the whole world seems to revolve around Russia, and that even when they do write about Ukraine, they manage to shift the focus to Russia in the end, one way or another, more often than not. Andrey Slivka's Kyiv traffic piece in the Washington Post is the most recent example of such coverage. Part of me thinks that relative obscurity may even be better than the kind of spotlight that's normally available to us.

***

As for La Russophobe's other points, I think it is barking up at least a couple wrong trees.

***

How strange: I've just run into another Simachev piece - published in the International Herald Tribune on Nov. 23, four days before the New York Times ran Natasha Singer's story.

Written by Nora FitzGerald, the piece - Moscow Has Hot Clubs - But It's a Cold Wait If You're Not On the List - is more about Moscow nightclubs than it is about Simachev, but still:

[...] At 33, Simachev is best known as an international designer and pioneer of Russia's fashion scene, with a standing place in Milan's Fashion Week. He has captured the imagination of the youth culture here with his ironic, nostalgic celebration of all things Russian - from oil-rich gangsters and absent-minded aristocrats to Soviet cartoons and communist style. A little over a year ago, he decided to open a club in his store and try his hand as a D.J. On Web sites and in alternative weeklies, it is frequently rated as one of Moscow's hottest nightclubs.

[...]

Finally, close to 1 a.m., Simachev arrives, creating a stir. His black hair is in a high ponytail with the sides of his head shaved, a look he said is inspired by the Chukotka people in Russia's far east. Hands stuffed in his oversized jean pockets, he greets his guests like a visiting dignitary and makes his way to the small stage. Soon, with a heavy-set security guard standing next to him, he remixes Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, then the Stereo MCs.

"I like to mix '70s and '80s pop with electronic music. My idea is to create a Russian salad," Simachev shouts over the club's din. Part of Simachev's appeal is his retro choices; he likes to mix David Bowie and Kate Bush. [...]


Again, the timing is excellent.

But when I think about it some more, I feel I finally get it: Russian politics is too depressing, pointless and hopeless right now - and drinking, dancing, and partying through this gloomy period may seem like an awesome idea. Hence, Simachev.

Or, how about this: what if Simachev is Putin's successor? And hence all this publicity? Wouldn't that be fun?

:)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This came in response to what I wrote at the end of the previous post:

Dear Veronica,

I am shocked by your grossly inaccurate statement about my blog and hereby demand an apology. It's amazing that you can be so hypocritical, calling for accuracy yet doing nothing to assure that you accurately characterize my post. Beyond that, your post is one of the most vapid and inane I've ever come across in the blogosphere, which is really saying something.

All my blog did was to re-publish the New York Times article, with no commentary at all of any kind, leaving readers totally free to draw their own conclusions. There is NO commentary in my post about Mr. Simachev WHATSOEVER. Our headline is aimed at THE PEOPLE OF RUSSIA who are embracing Stalin, and documentation that they are doing so is legion an indisputable, and the article is just one more indication of their egregious behavior. As for Robert Amsterdam, whose blog was just nominated for best of Europe (peeved that Global voices wasn't in the running, sweetie?), he needs no defense from me. Your haughty, arrogant dismissal of our blogs as "clueless" is pretty indicative of how seriously your own blog (with few Technorati links and little traffic) can be taken.

You clearly didn't spend any time at all reading our actual post, even as you dare to criticize us for not reading the Times piece. It looks for all the world that you were just waiting for some chance to attack us. If so, that’s pretty pathetic.

Having said that, your substantive analysis of the Times piece is deeply warped on two different levels (and I say this as no fan of the Times, which I've often mercilessly attacked).

First, how you can justify diverting attention from the outrageous decline of democracy in Russia by publishing a piece that could easily have issued from the Kremlin itself is beyond me, and it hardly seems consistent with your mission at Global Voices.

Second, your attempt to suggest that tourists buying souvenirs that they then shove in drawer is the same as rich Russians buying $600 t-shirts that they proudly flaunt to the world is simply idiotic. Dumber still is your suggestion that the Times is implying that because Putin and Soviet garb has become much more popular, it didn't exist before. There's no such implication, and the fact that this has been going on so long only makes it that much more outrageous. I don't know what planet you are from, but in New York City one doesn't see people marching about proudly with images of Vladimir Putin on their chests, surrounded by flowers -- or David Duke for that matter.

Do you have ANY evidence that Mr. Simachev has spoken out against the rise of dictatorship in Russia? Has he ever made any direct criticism of Putin? Don't you think it's even a LITTLE bit disgusting to have $600 t-shirts of Putin while he is crushing the life out of Russian democracy and becoming dictator for life? Doesn't Mr. Simachev have ANY obligation to civic responsibility?

It's obvious that you have just given vent to your own amazingly narrow-minded biases in this post. Would you have dared to write the same thing about a designer who was touting Hitler, or those who brought about the Ukrainian genocide? You know damn well you wouldn't.

You should be ashamed of yourself. If one were cynical, one might think that you are simply jealous of the fact that Robert and I dominate the Russia blogosphere while you are ignored. A bit more cynical, and one would conclude you are using crass Limbaugh tactics to generate traffic for your blog, hardly what one would expect from the holier-than-thou Global Voices ensemble.

Yours disappointedly,

Kim Zigfeld
Publisher
La Russophobe

The New York Times piece on Denis Simachev is amusing:

[...] Victoria Tirovskaya, 24, says she wears the designer’s clothes because they are chic and a bit audacious. “I have a classic blouse and shorts from Simachev but I also have a U.S.S.R. sweatshirt,” Ms. Tirovskaya, an interior designer, said. “Before Simachev, nobody dared to use the symbol of our country as a fashion icon.”

The designer’s rise as the commissar of Soviet kitsch neatly dovetails with Russia’s current embrace of retrograde politics and resurgent nationalism. A billboard just off Red Square advertises the results of the parliamentary elections, scheduled for early December, as if they were a fait accompli: “Moscow votes for Putin!”

After more than a decade of Westernization, in which international brands have flooded the Russian market and the Russian elite have taken to wearing designers from Valentino to Louis Vuitton, a “Back to the U.S.S.R.” movement among consumers seems a logical step, some social observers here say. [...]


"Before Simachev, nobody dared to use the symbol of our country as a fashion icon"?

Really?

How about all those "Western" tourists, who arrive in Russia/Ukraine and run to Staryi Arbat/Andriyivskyi Uzviz to stock up on hammer-and-sickle t-shirts and ushanki?

Folks like these three:



They are such a typical sight in touristy spots of Moscow, St. Pete and even Kyiv (this photo was taken in late August of 2003 in St. Pete), that some of Simachev's items seem like a cross between allusion and mockery.

His famous Putin t-shirts, by the way, have been around for a long, long time, since 2003 or even earlier - though the NYT piece may lead you into thinking that it's something new - "[...] one of the most popular fashion designers this fall [...]" - something designed specifically for the election that's in a few days, perhaps.

Also, these two passages shouldn't have been separated by about a dozen paragraphs - they do belong together:

[...] He insists he is no Communist — for one thing, his overcoats sell for about $2,100 and his T-shirts for about $600. His boutique is sandwiched between Hermès and Burberry stores on a pedestrian lane, Stoleshnikov, that is one of the capital’s most expensive shopping streets.

[...]

For now, the Simachev label appears to be attracting more attention than revenue. With Russians earning an average of about $550 a month, few can afford Mr. Simachev’s wares. [...]


In general, the piece is pretty readable, and Simachev doesn't sound like some terrible ogre at all:

[...] “Nobody wants to go back to Communism. But it had certain attributes and symbols which for younger people are not associated with the regime, but with our own personal memories.” [...]


I wouldn't mind it if someone gave me a t-shirt with this image for, say, my birthday:



***

More stuff from Simachev is here and here.

***

And here's an item from Simachev's 2007 collection:



I'm posting it here because some bloggers seem to have taken Simachev and what they believe his message is a bit too seriously - and I wonder if they bothered to look through his stuff before sitting down to write these titles for their blog posts:

La Russophobe: "Russians Find Dictatorship and Mass Murder Oh-So Stylish".

James, from Robert Amsterdam's blog: "Chekist Chic: Nostalgia for Soviet Fashion Is a Hit in Moscow".

Sorry, guys, but that's pretty clueless.

Marta has issued an audio reminder (RUS) today: her birthday is on Saturday - she's almost 2 years old!!!



I'm still without a camera of my own, so I'm sublimating by playing with video and audio - partly because I've always wanted to but never had the time, and partly because GarageBand and iMovie are really fun and easy to use. I'm not preoccupied with quality at all at this stage - I'm interviewing Marta with my cell phone, for example.

:)))

Monday, November 26, 2007

A few notes on Andrey Slivka's Washington Post piece on Kyiv's crazy traffic situation - Can't Stand D.C. Traffic? You Should See Kiev (thanks for the link, Mike).

I wonder if this figure is true:

About 60,000 new cars were registered in Kiev this October alone, according to the Unian news agency [...].


2,000 new cars registered daily?

Perhaps this is why we don't have the coalition yet? Because they were too busy buying new cars for the whole month following the election?

UPDATE: Petro of Petro's Jotter wrote this in a comment:

to answer your question. the 60k number for kyiv is not correct. Ukraine in total registered 60,482 cars in October. In kyiv 13,491 were registered in October. still a huge number.


***

Can't agree with this:

Another peculiarity: Cars are really unnecessary here because Kiev's Soviet-built subway system is excellent.


Kyiv's population has grown substantially since the Soviet times, and subway trains are jam-packed all too often now - because they aren't long enough anymore. Adding extra cars to fit more passengers isn't an option - because old stations aren't long enough to fit longer trains.

Also, those who live in places like Troyeshchina or Teremki - and that's plenty of people - aren't likely to call Kyiv's subway system "excellent" - because it doesn't reach to where they live, and getting there has always been a huge pain in the ass.

***

Walking here can be dangerous because the sidewalks are covered with cars, both parked and moving. That ritual of city life -- the promenade -- has become an adventure in the sort of defensive, serpentine ambulation with which the pedestrian makes his way through a strip mall parking lot. And it doesn't help that Ukrainian traffic cops know better than to stop expensive vehicles: It can be bad for their careers. Drive a Hummer or a Bentley here (Bentleys are common), and you can barrel through any red light and over any lawn or sidewalk.


Sigh...

And it's hard to believe now that just a decade ago they somehow managed to tame Kyiv's drivers into stopping to let pedestrians cross the street... It was such a "wow!" thing for anyone who was visiting from crazy places like Moscow...

***

But Ukraine, despite the aspirational rhetoric of some of its Western-looking politicians, isn't Europe. In a macho culture that has embraced conspicuous consumption, the idea of people taking to bicycles like the burghers of Amsterdam is inconceivable.


Alas, yes.

But perhaps winter that lasts half a year is as much of a factor as our "macho culture."

***

Quite predictably, this Kyiv-centric piece turns evil-Russia-centric by the end:

There is a geopolitical irony to all this: Ukraine, a poor and weak country with no oil of its own, is giving itself over to a car- and oil-based culture at a moment when that culture is approaching its limits. The global cheap-oil party is approaching its end even as Ukraine shoves its way into the rubbish-strewn foyer near midnight.

And while Ukraine may be spared $100 barrels of oil on the world market, that's only because it has a potentially bigger problem: It gets all its oil from or through Russia, an assertive power whose leadership resents seeing its old vassal persist in its delusions of independence. Russia has also proved willing to use the "energy weapon" against Ukraine, as seen in the 2006 European gas crisis, when Russia briefly shut off gas supplies to its southerly "little brother." And so every time a patriotic Ukrainian proudly fills up his new Prado, he's pushing his vulnerable country further into the arms of the hegemon to the north. It's yet another bleak historical irony for Ukraine that its giddy embrace of Western automotive culture may someday seal its ultimate submission to Russia -- and sever it from the West.


Hey, but could it be that we are so carefree because we know that a quarter of a million ethnic Ukrainians live and work in Russia's oil-rich Tyumen region alone? Like, we're "poor," "weak" and "vulnerable," haven't got any nice weapons, but instead we've got huge "sleeper cells" all over the "hegemon to the north" - and who knows what this could translate into "someday" - oil-wise, at least?

I'm kidding, of course, but still, it's pretty obvious that cars are choking life out of Kyiv, and it's such a pity that to keep this perfectly focused piece relevant for D.C. readers, the author has to turn around, face Russia, and start sounding like some Cassandra.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tonight's GV translation:

Ukraine: Holodomor


Last year's Holodomor memorial at Sofiyivska Sq. in Kyiv (Nov. 25, 2006) - by Veronica Khokhlova

This year, Nov. 24 was the day to remember the victims of the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine - Holodomor - and here is a selection of posts by Ukrainian bloggers.

LJ user diana-ledi (UKR):

[...] Shall I tell you about my grandfather, the first one in the village to join [Komsomol] - and the first head of the first [collective farm]? When it became clear that the famine was inevitable, here is what he did! One evening, he locked himself in with the agronomist and spent a long time calculating something. They discovered that sowing winter crop grain not as thickly could be the way out. No one would notice, and the grain that remained would help people survive winter. And that was what they did. But they did not distribute what remained among the houses, the way people were expecting. Because my grandfather knew that not every mother would tear a piece of bread from herself and give it to her children. Some [mothers] would hide [bread] even from their kids - my wise grandfather knew this.

And he came up with a dining hall, where every villager could get just one plate of that [soup] a day, with a few drops of oil floating in it and, sometimes, a few tiny bits of fried lard. And one piece of bread made of [seed coverings and small pieces of stem or leaves that have been separated from the seeds] - black bread of the hungry year. But thanks to that dining hall not a single person in the village died that winter. Think of it - not a single person! While whole villages were dying out all around, no one did in ours! They were swelling from hunger, yes, but they weren't dying. And every day, my grandfather would ride around the village [...], entering each house, checking whether they were alive, whether they were strong enough to survive - or perhaps they needed to be rescued by then. The weakest ones were given a little bag with "additional food allowance." Others were saying: "Move on, Anriyovych. We are holding on." When I was listening to this stories, I couldn't believe people were saying that. "They were," my grandmother would reply. "Because they knew that the family of the head [of the collective farm] was the hungriest of all at that time. My children and I swelled the most then."

And when spring came, someone from the rescued villagers reported my grandfather [to the regime] - for the thinned out winter crops. This is how my grandfather ended up in Siberia for the first time. Had he known that this would be how it would all end? Of course.

Or, perhaps, shall I tell you about my other grandfather? That one was a [kulak], the rich one. He escaped the purges miraculously, giving away his wealth to the [collective farm] in time and promptly joining the ranks of the Communist Party. And when the most horrible winter of the 1930s began, he left his family and went to his relatives at the rich farmsteads. My grandmother, surrounded by a crowd of hungry children, was sentenced "for a wheat spike," as they used to say then. For some grains in her pocket that she had collected from the road. Five kids were left on their own. One was 14, the oldest - 16. The aunts didn't desert them, came over and took them in ... the oldest two. Because these ones had grown up already and would be able to work around the household. "What about the younger ones?" I'd ask, horrified. "The younger ones were left behind - because the aunts had small kids of their own," they'd explain to me calmly. [...]

My father (aged 12) spent that whole winter feeding his little brother and sister (aged 4 and 6). What was he giving them? Here, listen: frozen vegetables found miraculously in other people's gardens; cats who were so trusting at first that they would jump into your arms; crusts of bread that he earned or asked people to give him. And as spring grew closer and there was no more of that "food" left, he discovered a hiding place inside the house. My grandfather was wild and ruthless - but in love with agronomy, and he had hidden some [high quality grains]. They were cooking it and eating - and survived thanks to that. When they were almost done with it, grandfather showed up at the house. He beat the children to near death, especially the oldest one, my father. Battered, my father ran to the train station, jumped into the freight train - and off he was to Tashkent. [...]

[...]

In 500 days (from April 1932 to November 1933), nearly 10 million people died of starvation in Ukraine. In spring 1933, 17 people were dying every minute, and 25,000 were dying every day...

... The regions that were hit the hardest are today's Poltava, Sumy, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr and Kyiv oblasts. Here, death rates were 8-9 times the average... [...]


LJ user otets-lisiy (UKR):

What do I know about Holodomor? I myself am from Cherkasy region, and it was my grandmother and grandfather who told me about this horror.

My grandmother told me how from her family of nine children only five survived. She told me how they ate [ocheret - reed] and rotten potatoes. How the Commies were taking away all wheat and farm animals, and how at night they gathered wheat spikes at the field and some of them survived thanks to that. She told me about the village cannibals and one person who ate her own child. She told me about the man who had lost his mind and was chasing them around with an ax, and how she had barely managed to escape...

It's a sad date today. Eternal memory...


LJ user alenka14 (RUS):

I talked to my grandmother about Holodomor today. She was 7 in 1932-33. She remembers a lot from that time. Even 75 years later she can't think about that time without tears. When I was little and refused to behave, refused to eat, she would tell me stories from that time, when there was no food and it was called 'holodomor.' I thought of her stories as some kind of a fairy tale then. My grandmother has also survived the war, was captured, but she can't talk about Holodomor without tears in her eyes. [...]


LJ user fantasma_ (UKR):

My great-grandmother used to call the famine of 1933 "holodovka" [starvation, hunger strike], when I was still 4 or 5 years old. I only remember bits from those stories, as I didn't really undestand what she was tlling me about... "the man lying just off the road was dead" ... "the post-war holodovka wasn't as terrible as the one in the 1930s." I only understood what she meant by this when I accidentally recalled these story bits in the 11th grade when we were studying the 20th century... [...]


LJ user essy-aka-tigra (RUS):

I've written about Holodomor before, more than once. I'm okay with having opposing views on politics with [the people I know online and offline] - it's not something that would keep me from staying in touch with them. But I can never remain calm when I think of Holodomor.

There's such a thing as ethnographic expeditions. Ordinary stuff for history students. A gang of young students arrives in a village and walks around the houses with tape recorders.

Old men and women spoke calmly about [raskulachivaniye - persecution of kulaks, collectivization], about the war, about DneproGES [Dnipro Hydroelectric Station] construction. No big deal, they were saying, it was tough, but it was a long time ago, and tears and grief tend to get erased from memory.

But as soon as you asked them a question about the Holodomor of 1932-33, these ancient men and women, who had seen lots of horrors, began to cry. Just cry. Some refused to talk - they had no energy to tell anything about it.

I've seen it. I grew up in a village, my ancestors are village people, too. I've read and heard about it since childhood.

I don't give a damn about bills and resolutions. I just know what the truth is. [...]

Friday, November 23, 2007

I'm looking through my old photos, and here's one from Komarovo, a dacha place outside St. Pete, taken in late August 22, 2004:



An example of how you can prevent graffiti hooligans from cursing on your new white brick wall. Or, a failed attempt to conceal the scope of your wealth from your neighbors and an occasional passer-by.

I'm stuck in my non-blogging vacation and have no idea how to get out of it.

I'm still reading and linking on Global Voices a lot, though.

I'm still reading Yulia Latynina's novel, and have gathered some links, and am planning to write a longer post once I'm done with the book. "Each side is playing poker with shaitan, hoping to win": this quote of one of the characters describes what the book is about pretty well. It's an amazing book, anyone who reads Russian and is interested in what's going on in Kavkaz should read it.

I'm addicted to Facebook, which explains my current inability to blog here to some extent. Facebook's got this very convenient feature that allows you to share stuff you read, view, etc. - if only I could post all those items here as well as there.

Marta is really funny now, so sweet: she makes perfect sense much of the time, as long as you understand her language or have someone to translate. Her teeth are really bad, though: caries on eight of them. One of the toughest jobs in the world must be that of a dentist who works with kids Marta's age. Lots of screaming and kicking to deal with.

Moscow is okay on some days and way crazy on others. The politics is really depressing, all that "playing poker with shaitan." The United Russia's campaign ads are all over the place - only the city is so huge and loud they don't seem as conspicuous as they would've been in Kyiv.

Ukrainian politics is depressing, too. Sickeningly so. It's hard to believe that there was so much to write about just two months ago - and then they went into their coalition-building mode again and suddenly it's all irrelevant, annoying and boring. When they decide to have yet another election, I hope there'll be enough people from all camps at Maidan to chase the elected bastards back into the Rada and force them to start working at last. Gas blast in Dnipropetrovsk, oil spill near Kerch, the coal mine tragedy: neither the media, nor the politicians can ignore these three, but then there's also the rest of the iceberg down there.

I'm considering doing a GV translation on the Eurasian Youth assholes who destroyed the Holodomor exhibit here in Moscow - but even though I've got enough quotes to show how wrong they are, I keep postponing it: the problem with genocides is that at some point it all evolves into political finger-pointing - while the victims get pushed backstage. I just don't feel that mourning and arguing can be done simultaneously. Especially when the "arguing" part involves a bunch of imbecile losers. I mean, it's good that there are people who can do both, but I'm not one of them anymore, I'm afraid.

That's it for now, I guess.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tom Waits - for my dearest Mishah - who is now 38:



When I'm lyin' in my bed at night
I don't wanna grow up
Nothin' ever seems to turn out right
I don't wanna grow up
How do you move in a world of fog
That's always changing things
Makes me wish that I could be a dog
When I see the price that you pay
I don't wanna grow up
I don't ever wanna be that way
I don't wanna grow up

Seems like folks turn into things
That they'd never want
The only thing to live for
Is today
I'm gonna put a hole in my TV set
I don't wanna grow up
Open up the medicine chest
And I don't wanna grow up
I don't wanna have to shout it out
I don't want my hair to fall out
I don't wanna be filled with doubt
I don't wanna be a good boy scout
I don't wanna have to learn to count
I don't wanna have the biggest amount
I don't wanna grow up

Well when I see my parents fight
I don't wanna grow up
They all go out and drinking all night
And I don't wanna grow up
I'd rather stay here in my room
Nothin' out there but sad and gloom
I don't wanna live in a big old Tomb
On Grand Street

When I see the 5 o'clock news
I don't wanna grow up
Comb their hair and shine their shoes
I don't wanna grow up
Stay around in my old hometown
I don't wanna put no money down
I don't wanna get me a big old loan
Work them fingers to the bone
I don't wanna float a broom
Fall in and get married then boom
How the hell did I get here so soon
I don't wanna grow up

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

How ironic -

The way Ukrainians and Romanians have both managed to convert their glorious past into the not-so-glorious cars:

From Zaporizhska Sich - to Zaporozhets.

From Dacia - to, well, Dacia.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I'm reading Yulia Latynina's latest novel now - The Land of War: Dar al-Harb - and it's a pretty hair-raising experience.

But I guess I'd recommend it to people like Vanessa Redgrave - those idealistic people who seem to regard Ahmed Zakaev & Co. as some poor but proud mistreated pets that are acting on behalf of the rest of those poor but proud mistreated pets.

I wonder if this book ever gets translated into English.

***

Lyndon of Scraps of Moscow wrote about Latynina the novelist back in 2005 - here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I really hoped Saakashvili would let them protest all they wanted, but he's an impatient guy, unfortunately, and so he ended up using some force today to get them out.

I haven't been following the situation in Georgia too closely, but BBC tells me "the protesters accuse President Saakashvili of corruption and of not doing enough to tackle poverty" - and I've no reasons not to believe them.

***

Here's what I wrote about Georgia four years ago:

Farewell to Shevardnadze
by Veronica Khokhlova

November 2003
Euro-Correspondent.com

It's getting seriously cold here in St. Petersburg, and I am desperately trying to fight off the urge to hibernate. The past few weeks have been a success, for all the wrong reasons. Stuck so relatively close to the North Pole, I've been watching the news from all those blessed, warm localities - Israel, Iraq and Turkey: every single day, so much shock and pain, so much bloodshed.

Saturday afternoon, another eruption, this time in Tbilisi, Georgia. At first, I cried. I just couldn't imagine that what I was seeing live on BBC and CNN could possibly disturb the current destructive pattern. Tbilisi wasn't new to violence, after all.

But within an hour or so, my pessimism was gone. The crowd was so united, and the roses were so not like guns, and the way in which Shevardnadze was ushered out of the parliament building was so pathetic, and the opposition leaders were so confident and astute. I feared something could still go wrong later - but it also looked like it most definitely wouldn't.

It all went smoothly and I'm so happy now. I'm so proud of the Georgian people. And I keep thinking of two minor episodes that to some extent seem to explain to me, a dilettante, what this "velvet revolution" might have been about.

One of my dear friends used to work in Tbilisi several years ago. In December 2000, she came to spend a few days in Kyiv before flying to the States for the holidays. We were at the airport to meet her and, as we moved away from the gate, still hugging and kissing and helping her with the luggage, we didn't notice how something dropped out of her backpack. Someone called after us - and my friend gasped and rushed back so speedily as if it was her wallet, or something as precious, lying there on the floor. It was a flashlight, an ordinary flashlight. "Oh, you don't understand," she told us with some abandon. "It's my most valuable possession, the most indispensable thing I own now." This is how I learned about the never-ending power shortages in Georgia.

Two years later, in October 2002, I was in a cab in Moscow, on my way to the Kremlin Cup finals. The driver was Georgian, and since he seemed interested, I decided to share some of the tournament's highlights with him. One was Russia's ex-president Boris Yeltsin, of course, who had spent over six hours cheering for a succession of this country's players on a previous day. No matter what one's political views might be, Yeltsin the Tennis Fan could be very amusing, even cute. The Georgian cab driver had a slightly different take on it. He shook his head in disbelief and fired out a curse in Russian so powerful and wordy that I think I blushed. Then he elaborated: "And look at our old fart, Shevardnadze! That's what he should be doing - retire and spend the rest of his life watching tennis! And instead, he is stealing and stealing and stealing, till nothing remains of the country!"

Shevardnadze has been ousted, beautifully. I now hope that besides political satisfaction, the Georgians will have heat and light restored in their homes. I also hope that there'll emerge enough new opportunities for the exiles like this cab driver and his family to return to their homeland.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Here's Kyiv, Ukraine:



And here's Tirana, Albania:


By Our Man in Tirana

***

More pictures and a discussion of the "Washing Line Building in Tirana" - here.

More pictures of Kyiv's Vidradne district - here and here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

One compares himself to Mahatma Gandhi, the other - to Abraham Lincoln.

But, if you compare one to the other - Putin to Musharraf-Busharraf, that is - the Russian president seems like a baby.

So far, at least.

[...] Just after midnight, General Musharraf appeared on state-run television. In a 45-minute speech, he said he had declared the emergency to limit terrorist attacks and “preserve the democratic transition that I initiated eight years back.”

He gave no firm date for nationwide elections that had been scheduled for January and said his current Parliament, which he dominates, would remain in place. He did not say how long the state of emergency would be maintained.

The general, dressed in civilian clothes, quoted Lincoln, citing the former president’s suspension of some rights during the American Civil War as justification for his own state of emergency. [...]

The New York Times

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's been roughly a month since the election, and I wonder if I'm the only one who's getting kind of impatient: where the fuck is the coalition?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An amazing story about a 64-year-old American woman whose donation helped the Chernobyl Children's Project International to buy medical equipment that "will save as many as 175 young lives a year" in Belarus:

[...] One of Judy's dreams was to swim Hood Canal. Not a natural athlete, she trained hard and found it difficult and monotonous. To spark her motivation, she went back to her dream book, and saw that one of her dreams was to help children with birth defects. She realized that she could accomplish two dreams with one swim.

Judy's friend Steve Cagan, of Restoring Hope Foundation of Southern California, had raised $20,000 in a Chocolate Festival last year, and donated those funds to Chernobyl Children's Project International for a life saving children's cardiac surgery program in Belarus. Hearing about this program, Judy found her inspiration. [...]


The initial reaction - "And here people are so different, lack altruism, etc., and that's why it sucks the way it does here" - gets interrupted with: "But this story is so much more about HERE than it is about OVER THERE!.." And then, somehow, it hurts even more...

(via MoldovAnn)

Peter Nalitch: the guy totally rocks.



:)))

(We're in Moscow already, btw.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Just ran into this video of Eduard Limonov chatting with Radovan Karadzic, then shooting at Sarajevo. Have no idea if it's the real thing.

But, even if it's not, I still don't understand how Garry Kasparov could possibly agree to team up with Limonov.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I've had a haircut today/yesterday - and now I've changed this blog's template. So revolutionary of me. Mama says it's full moon now, and I guess that could be the reason.

It'll stay messy here for I don't know how long - please forgive me. If something suddenly turns upside down, and if it stays this way for over a week, please do let me know.

:)

P.S. Ouch. It looks okay on Firefox, more or less okay on Safari - and truly horrible on Explorer. The text is green, for example. Is it the same for those of you who are on IE?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

To a recent visitor from Saudi Arabia, who came here looking for "sacking facking free wonen photos" - go "sack" and "fack" yourself.

Thanks to one good-looking but very dumb cop, I'm a pravoporushnyk now - a criminal, almost.

Anyone who loses his or her passport in this country becomes one and is subjected to a 17-hryvnya fine (nearly $3.5).

And it doesn't matter that my passport had been stolen - as long as there are idiots who can't or aren't willing to do the paperwork properly, I'm the one who broke the law, a pravoporushnyk.

Fighting them is a bit too time-consuming and a real pain in the ass.

So I hope they'll choke on my 17 hryvnias - and the asshole cop will never get promoted out of his shitty office somewhere at Rusanivka.

Maybe I'll write more about it later. Maybe not.

I'm really pissed right now.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thank you all for your warm wishes.

Here's a quick question - and then I'm back to my blogging vacation:

Serving Corona beer with a straw stuck into the bottle next to the lemon - it's one of those devushka things, right?

***

Two competing worldviews:

"I can't imagine drinking beer through a drinking straw."

vs.

"I can't imagine drinking anything straight from the bottle."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I'm taking a short break from blogging here. For a week, at least, and then we'll see. Maybe I'll post a thing or two, maybe not. I'm exhausted, and depressed, and worried sick about certain family issues, and about to move back to Moscow, which is both good and bad, for a number of obvious reasons. Writing in my Dear Diary would be the right thing for me to do now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wow. It appears that Yerevan is way crazier than Kyiv, traffic-wise...



(Two bloggers' reactions: Onnik Krikorian and Notes from Hairenik.)

Two posts from my today's GV reading:

- MoldovAnn on Chernobyl aid programs -

[...] I do believe aid organizations want to help people have better lives. But when I hear them talking about “we’re going to support this community because it’s not too far from Kyiv and we can easily visit it in a day during our short visit to Ukraine”, it’s hard for me to take them seriously. If they really want to help the most needy, the most affected, the most at-risk people, then they should go to the far away, isolated, hard-to-get-to places - precisely because no one goes there. [...]


- Window On Eurasia on the centenary of the birth of General Pyotr Grigorenko -

[...] The National Bank of Ukraine has issued a special commemorative coin in an edition of 35,000 copies. And the Tatars in Crimea itself, to whose return to their homeland Grigorenko made such an important contribution, reportedly are planning a small commemoration.

But elsewhere in Ukraine, few if any events are planned. [...]


Here are also two old New York Times pieces - one on Grigorenko's memoirs, the other on "the world of Soviet psychiatry" - both from 1983.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

First, someone landed on this blog via a Google search for "uzhgorod hostess and escorts." A few hours later, another person from another country stopped by in search of "uzhhorod prostitute."

And I was horrified.

Because, somehow, I've no problem with the fact that Kyiv is full of prostitutes and their clients. It's a big city, what can you do. I don't really care when someone comes here looking for prostitutes in Kryvyi Rih - mainly, because I don't care about Kryvyi Rih in the first place.

But Uzhgorod is sacred. It's my favorite Ukrainian town. I love to idealize it. It's like a tiny New York City. It's got a lot more than you expect to see and hear in such a small place.

And it's got prostitutes, of course. And they are cheaper than in the EU, obviously. And booze is cheaper there as well.

And I like to pretend that this parallel universe doesn't exist. Not in Uzhgorod.

And then some guys run through my blog and ruin it for me...

Three months since my father disappeared. I still haven't really found a way of dealing with his death. Nor has my mother, I'm afraid. There are plenty of distractions, Marta is the best of them, but very often nothing really works.

It'll always be the 16th for me. Not the 19th, the date that they put on his death certificate. It could've been the 18th or the 20th. With the 16th, there's no uncertainty. It's the turning point, and what was before and after it seems very blurry now. Which is sort of good, I guess, because when I attempt to focus, it gets unbearably painful.

***

And Ukraine, too, is mourning today - mourning the 15 victims of the gas blast in Dnipropetrovsk.

Monday, October 15, 2007

At last, the official results of the Sept. 30 vote are in, and it does look like the coalition between Yulia and Yushchenko/Lutsenko is actually going to happen, after all. Nice, very nice.

***

And, there's also this nice piece (UKR) in Ukrainska Pravda, by Kostyantyn Levin:

[...] We can, perhaps, assert that the anniversaries of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army's creation will be marked according to the same scenario every year - mass PR events by Vitrenko, Symonenko and Tyahnybok on the streets and squares of Kyiv, burning of the UPA flags in Crimea, some more local news from Lviv, Kharkiv, Frankivsk and Poltava, which, however, no one cares about.

[...]

But, in fact, we aren't talking about the official recognition of the Insurgent Army, nor is it about those who earn their political capital off the Cossack Glory holiday. It's not even about UPA. It's about ourselves. Because, if someone's forgotten, we are the Ukrainian people.

All our history is the history of fighting against inner opposition, and our every war [...] ends up turning into civil war.

Actually, all our history - if you look at it from a certain angle - is the history of UPA. Some are in favor, others - against, and the majority works [day and night] and drinks.

[...]

Why aren't we using all the heritage of our ancestors? The Crimean Tatars, by the way, also have something to tell about their past.

Ukrainian history is the history of suffering, interfighting and great blood. The history of rupture and scars that haven't healed since the times of Khmelnytskyi and Mazepa, that continue to rot, making it impossible to finish the process of consolidation of that one whole that we'll eventually call "Ukraine" - and won't be wrong.

And there are only two paths to follow: the path of mutual exclusion, of cutting off what doesn't fit the framework, what's not on the map and dressed in the wrong uniform - and the path of collecting.

Collecting the differences in one place, the path of recognizing our century-long fratricide as an inseparable part and even (why not?) the most typical feature.

So that next time we could avoid robbing our culture in the process of "cutting off" - and perhaps, as we take aim [...], we could even feel ashamed. And stand next to each other instead.

[...]