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 Herm├Ęs 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

Looks like they've run out of book titles...

The Economist's Edward Lucas seeks help in promoting his new book, due to be published in February 2008:


THE NEW COLD WAR: How the Kremlin Menaces Russia and the West

Not to be confused with Mark MacKinnon's book, published earlier this year:


THE NEW COLD WAR: Revolutions, Rigged Elections, and Pipeline Politics in the Former Soviet Union

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?