I've survived the LRB Russia text. I can't say I've enjoyed it or learned something I couldn't live without.
One thing I wanted to say from the very start:
The text begins with an account of Anna Politkovskaya's disgracefully hushed funeral. Then, there's this:
In Ukraine, the discovery of the decapitated body of a journalist who had investigated official corruption, Georgi Gongadze, was sufficient outrage to shake the regime, which was brought down soon afterwards.
As a Ukrainian, I should probably feel proud. But I don't. Because, first of all, the Gongadze murder case hasn't been resolved. This alone speaks loads of the current regime's inadequacy. And there's so much more to it, of course.
Ironically, another death and another funeral took place around the time the LRB piece appeared: Yevhen Kushnaryov, Yanukovych's close ally, got accidentally shot to death during an illegal hunting trip. I'm not in Ukraine now, but I heard the funeral was a really big deal and there was talk of renaming one of Kharkiv's main streets - Sumskaya - after him. Which is incredibly ridiculous - and such a disgrace.
So perhaps citing Gongadze case isn't the smartest choice in this context.
But this is Ukraine's fate, I guess, to be reduced to one sentence in a 19-page text about Russia: we used to be nothing but Chernobyl, and now we are nothing but those wonderful two months in 2004.
A better way to have Russia blush would have been by writing about Hrant Dink's funeral in Istanbul - which also took place around the time the piece appeared and which drew tens of thousands of people. It was something that Anna Politkovskaya's funeral should have been like - and definitely "a better historical comparison" than today's Ukraine.
On a completely different note, it's Grigori Chkhartishvili, not Chkartashvili (aka Boris Akunin).