Category Archives: Russia

Want to see some real fascism?

The other day, I wrote an article on the question of the “neofascist peril” in Ukraine and in Russia.

Well, here’s an interesting sidebar, or postscript, as it were.

This is a video of a song by Zhanna (Jeanne) Bichevskaya, “Kulikovo Field,” which she performed on Russia’s TV1 (the main, state-run TV channel). I’m not sure about the date of the broadcast (the video was uploaded in 2010). The title refers to the location of a 1380 battle between Russian forces and the armies of the Golden Horde, which began Russia’s liberation from Mongol rule.

The lyrics speak for themselves. Here’s my verse translation, which alters a few words here and there for rhythm and alliterative rhyme but is very close to the original.

By the way, note the bolded stanza.  As one Russian blogger quipped, the Turks and the Israelis should be getting nervous.

Our ancestors remembers, our grandfathers remember,
And our Church remembers, in the Almighty’s name,
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

Through the morning mist here come the holy banners,
Soon, the rage of combat will shake the very earth.
The field of Russian Glory, the field of Russian battle,
The field of Russian life that triumphs over death.
The field of Russian Glory, the field of Russian battle,
The field of Russian life that triumphs over death.

But how is it, brothers, that so low we’ve fallen?
Russia’s groaning under black oppressive hordes.
Then it’s time for Russians to take up their weapons,
Then it’s time for Russians again to draw their swords.
Then it’s time for Russians to take up their weapons,
Then it’s time for Russians again to draw their swords.

The anti-world is starting great new conflagrations,
Once again, our Moscow is ravaged by their fires.
And there are new Europes menacing our homeland,
And new Khans who threaten, and the new Khazars.
And there are new Europes menacing our homeland,
And new Khans who threaten, and the new Khazars.

But our Holy Russia will be free and mighty;
Let the Devil tremble at this Russian might!
Once again, the rightful Tsar will lead his army,
Kulikovo Field will be our common fight!
Once again, the rightful Tsar will lead his army,
Kulikovo Field will be our common fight!

Then, the praying voices will arise and triumph,
Russia’s hour of glory will thunder through the world.
In the Savior’s name will stand the Holy Army,
A new Kulikovo for us has been foretold.
In the Savior’s name will stand the Holy Army,
A new Kulikovo for us has been foretold.

In the hour of reckoning, we will frown in anger,
And will sweep the vampires from our country’s path.
There will be no camps then, there will be no prisons—
All of Russia’s enemies will be put to death.
There will be no camps then, there will be no prisons—
All of Russia’s enemies will be put to death!

We will track the enemy and we will destroy him,
Tear them all to pieces, may the Lord be praised.
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

Russia will reclaim her Russian Sevastopol,
And Crimea will be Russian once again,
We’ll retake the Bosphorus, our Constantinople,
And the sacred city of Jerusalem,
We’ll retake the Bosphorus, our Constantinople,
And the sacred city of Jerusalem!

And, defying masons and all other villains,
Those who toward the Christians seethe with vicious hate,
We’ll regain the memory of Kulikovo Field–and
We will be united by this holy place.
We’ll regain the memory of Kulikovo Field–and
We will be united by this holy place.

Anywhere I go and anywhere I travel,
In my Christian heart, my country’s fields I bear.
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

(For those unfamiliar with Russian code words: the “new Khazars” are Jews.)

No, Bichevskaya does not speak for the Russian government, but it’s noteworthy that she is the recipient of several awards from the Russian Orthodox Church. She was a guest on Soyuz, the Church’s TV channel, last December.

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March 25, 2014 · 7:55 pm

Odessa humor for our time

Odessa, a port city in Ukraine–mainly Russian-speaking but very multi-ethnic–has a long tradition of unique, quirky (primarily Jewish) local humor; there’s a whole genre of Odessa folklore including jokes and humorous songs.  One sample of it in response to current events has made the rounds recently — a video clip (subtitled in English) in which Odessa residents call Putin and ask him to go home.  (I tried inserting it here but it didn’t work for some reason.)

And now, a new Odessa joke I saw on Facebook today (in Russian).

Two friends run into each other in the street.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Shhh…. I’m trying not to speak Russian in public.”

“What, are you scared the Ukrainians might beat you up?”

“Naah, I’m scared the Russians might decide to come and rescue me.”

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Virgins for Putin

Dusting off this blog to showcase an incredibly tacky, and very revealing, Putin campaign ad.

Text:

Fortune teller [0:01]: Now we’ll see, my beauty, whom fate has intended for you.

Young woman [0:06]: I’d like it to be for love.  You see, it’s my first time.

Fortune teller [0:17]: The cards will tell the truth.  [0:20] I see that it will be for love, and with no deception.

Young woman [0:28]: It’s him!

Fortune teller [0:32]: You’ll be happy with him.  He’ll protect you like a fortress.

After that, we see the girl approaching a building with a sign that says, “Voting precinct.”

Tagline: “Putin.  The first time, only for (heart symbol).”

(Via Buzzfeed.com.)

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Post-summit analysis: a couple of links

Obama is not the messiah.  Or a dupe for the Kremlin.  (My RealClearPolitics.com column on the Moscow trip.)

Cheney (not that Cheney) slams Obama for supposedly too pro-Russian in his comments on the Cold War’s end in his speech at a Moscow university.  Here’s why I think she’s wrong (article on TNR.com’s The Plank).

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Post-summit Moscow report: Business as usual

In my Weekly Standard article before Obama’s trip, I said that the most likely outcome would be “business as usual.”  And, evidently, so it is.

The latest news:

Russia will not agree to tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program in exchange for a new nuclear arms cuts deal with Washington, Interfax news agency quoted a foreign ministry source as saying Tuesday.

A Kremlin source told Reuters that the exchange of remarks over START and Iran did not indicate any change in the overall atmosphere of Russia-U.S. contacts.

Pretty much the textbook definition of business as usual.

In other, little-reported news, Medvedev reiterated right after the summit that Russia still plans to deploy (not-yet-existent) missiles in Kaliningrad if the U.S. goes ahead with the missile shield installations in Poland and the Czech Republic (plans that remain intact, though still under review for effectiveness, according to a July 10 briefing by Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley; see the video here at 13:26).

Of course, this renewed crude saber-rattling actually makes it harder for Obama administration to scrap those sites if the review finds them less than effective, because then Obama will be seen as giving in to Russian blackmail.  Of course, it’s entirely possible that the Kremlin junta, with its “foreign policy” of tantrums and grievances, would much rather have those missile defense installations in place and be able to scream about being threatened and disrespected by the Americans.

So much for the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

(Cross-posted to RealClearPolitics.com)

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Obama in Moscow: From the department of bad parody

Obama and Putin meet for breakfast at Putin’s Novo-Ogarevo residence.

The Obama Putin breakfast meal was served indoors on an open terrace, with some tables covered with blue, white and red tablecloths in the style of classic Pavlovsky Posad shawls.

The menu included smoked sturgeon with pancakes and cranberry sauce, eggs with black caviar and sour cream, and quail pelmeni, Russian dumplings filled with minced meat.

Homemade ice-cream and cherry kisel, a sweet sauce, were served for dessert.

Obama also got the opportunity to drink tea made from water boiled in a samovar, a traditional Russian boiler containing hot coals. A waiter in national dress, including a red embroidered tunic, used a leather riding boot to fan air through the coals to boil the water.

A folk ensemble played traditional Russian songs during the breakfast.

There’s kitsch, and … there’s this.

Words fail.

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Obama in Moscow, cont’d: A strange appointment

So, we now have a bilateral presidential commision, to be coordinated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

It includes 13 working groups headed by corresponding high-level Russian and American officials (e.g., Health: Tatyana A. Golikova, Minister of Health, and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services).   One of the pairs is rather eyebrow-raising (brought to my attention by Dmitry Sidorov, the Washington, DC correspondent for Kommersant, writing on EJ.ru):

Civil Society: Vladislav Surkov, First Deputy Chief of Staff, Presidential Administration, and Michael McFaul, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia , National Security Council

Say it ain’t so!  On one side, Michael McFaul, a strong opponent of Russian authoritarianism, a champion of the “color revolutions,” a passionate believer in democracy who takes pride in having been a part of Russia’s democracy movement in the 1980s and ’90s.  On the other side, Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin’s Putin-era ideological enforcer, creator of the term “sovereign democracy” (which seems to be shorthand for “we’ll define democracy as we damn well please, and everyone else should keep their nose out of our business”) and of Nashi, the thuggish “youth movement” launched with the express purpose of thwarting grass-roots democratic activism of the kind that brought about Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution”).  The same Surkov who just recently rejected the idea that the crisis should be an incentive for the Kremlin to loosen its iron grip on political life within Russia.

Putting Surkov at the head of a commission on the civil society is a bit like putting Bernie Madoff at the head of a commission on business ethics.  Or Britney Spears at the head of a commission on marriage and the family.

At Obama’s meeting with the Russian opposition today, according to Grani.ru (in Russian), Sergei Mitrokhin of the semi-loyalist Yabloko opined that “Russian-American relations must be developed in such a way as to involve the Russian political and military elite into common projects, which will contribute to the development of democracy in our country.”  If that’s the idea here, the notion of McFaul trying to teach Surkov democracy is darkly hilarious.

Later, at the Russian-American NGO forum where Obama appeared for about half an hour, Russian participants including veteran human rights activists Ludmilla Alexeyeva, Lev Ponomarev, and Sergei Kovalev asked Obama to replace Surkov.  That, of course, would be quite a slap in the face to the Russians; it will be interesting to see how this impasse will be managed.  One has to wonder what McFaul, also present at the forum, was thinking — he must have seen the makeup of the commission ahead of time.

Kommersant‘s Sidorov believes that the Surkov appointment signifies “the triumph of ‘realism’ and, simultaneously, the rejection of the principle of support for democratic transformation and civil society in other countries.”  I hope he’s wrong.  Nonetheless, it is a rather alarming choice, seriously at odds with Obama’s pro-democracy statements in his Moscow speech.


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Obama’s Moscow speech: A-

First, there was the Cairo speech to the Muslim world.  Now, Obama speaks to Russians at the graduation ceremony of the New Economic School.

It was a very, very good speech that hit almost all the right notes.   The right amount of flattery for Russia as a “great power” and for its cultural and scientific achievements (and I’m glad that, in mentioning the great 19th Century Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, Obama resisted the temptation to claim kinship with Pushkin due to the latter’s African ancestry, as a few Russian commentators semi-facetiously predicted he might).  Recognition of Russia’s enormous sacrifice in World War II, a very big topic in Russia these days (though with a major missed opportunity to remind the audience that Russians repelled a foreign tyrant and butcher only to be re-victimized by a domestic one).

Also on the plus side: there were no apologies, no genuflection toward the official Russian point of view on NATO expansion or the missile shield.  On the contrary, Obama once against emphasized that neither is a threat to Russia.

Obama strongly reiterated America’s commitment to democracy and freedom as universal, not just American values, devoting a prominent portion of his speech to “America’s interest in democratic governments that protect the rights of their people.”

By no means is America perfect. But it is our commitment to certain universal values which allows us to correct our imperfections, to improve constantly, and to grow stronger over time. Freedom of speech and assembly has allowed women, and minorities, and workers to protest for full and equal rights at a time when they were denied. The rule of law and equal administration of justice has busted monopolies, shut down political machines that were corrupt, ended abuses of power. Independent media have exposed corruption at all levels of business and government. Competitive elections allow us to change course and hold our leaders accountable. If our democracy did not advance those rights, then I, as a person of African ancestry, wouldn’t be able to address you as an American citizen, much less a President. …

So around the world, America supports these values because they are moral, but also because they work. The arc of history shows that governments which serve their own people survive and thrive; governments which serve only their own power do not. Governments that represent the will of their people are far less likely to descend into failed states, to terrorize their citizens, or to wage war on others. Governments that promote the rule of law, subject their actions to oversight, and allow for independent institutions are more dependable trading partners. And in our own history, democracies have been America’s most enduring allies, including those we once waged war with in Europe and Asia — nations that today live with great security and prosperity.

Moreover, in discussing Russia’s “rightful place” as a great power, Obama also delivered a devastating indictment of the Putin regime’s vision of the world — the vision that has been force-fed to the Russian public for the past decade by Kremlin ideologues.

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Obama Moscow update

ObamaMedvedevPutin

So, there’s an agreement on nuclear weapons cuts.  Is that such a step of major importance today, when the once-terrifying prospect of all-out nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States is of far less concern in the public mind (and rightly so, I think) than a stray North Korean or Iranian missile?  Since the fall of Communism, disarmament has become a ritualistic ballet that mainly flatters the Russian ego because it makes Russia feel like a fellow superpower.  (The cuts benefit Russia in other ways as well; its nuclear arsenal is badly in need of an upgrade, and the country can ill afford a new arms race.)   Has Obama agreed to link stratetgic arms reductions to the issue of missile shield installations in Eastern Europe?  Obama says no (and his chief Russia advisor, Michael McFaul, says no even more emphatically); Medvedev seems to think he has, because discussions of “defensive weapons” are to be included in the talks.  There’s also a statement about “cooperation” on missile defense.  Whether any of this is meaningful remains to be seen.  Russian policy expert Dmitry Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center writes that the way out of the impasse is for the U.S. to agree to a joint missile defense with Russia, a decicion from which Trenin says “the U.S. has little to lose” even if it ultimately doesn’t work out.  The problem is that, as Trenin admits, Moscow does not want a joint ABM defense system if the U.S. also proceeds with missile shield installations in Eastern Europe.  Dead end.

There is a deal to allow the transit of U.S. weapons and military personnel across Russian territory (and airspace) to Afghanistan to help the U.S. and NATO military effort there.  As Russian military analyst Alexander Golts notes (Russian-language link), “While Moscow presented this as a concession, in reality it is obvious that the Americans’ war effort in Afghanistan ensures Russia’s security.”   Golts believes that this deal was the only useful part of the Obama-Medvedev talks, otherwise no more meaningful than (in his colorful metaphor) the chatter of extras on a movie set who must maintain the background noise of conversation.

There was, however, an interesting reference to Georgia. Continue reading

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“Just call them ‘gentlemen’”: An American expat’s advice to Obama

Mickey Berdy, an American living in Moscow where she works as a translator and interpreter, comments on the Obama visit:

“Putin” is easy to pronounce, but “Medvedev” is a mouthful for English speakers. Happily, you can avoid their last names and address them as господин президент (Mr. President) and господин премьер-министр (Mr. Prime Minister). If you’re not sure who’s in charge, don’t worry: No one here knows either. If you wind up in the same room with them, you might look in their general direction and address your comments to господа (gentlemen).

Here in Moscow, it’s hard to tell which official statements are: for internal consumption and can be ignored; for external consumption and should be noted; or blurted out on a bad hair day. So who knows what you’ll hear at the negotiating table. Heck, for all I know, you guys just crack open a couple of beers, kick back and get down to some good-natured horse-trading.

But you might hear the oft-repeated phrase, мы встали с колен (We’ve gotten up off our knees) as if Russians had crawled their way through the 1990s. I recall those years well, and I don’t remember anyone on their knees in humiliation. To the contrary, at the time, they were impressed by the aid we were giving them, especially considering that they still had all their nukes pointed at us. In any case, we gave billions to them so they could get on their feet, and now they say they are — so we’re copacetic, right? проехали (Moving right along … )

Another theme is: Нас окружают враги (We’re surrounded by enemies). This one’s easy. If it comes up, just ask: Есть у вас карта? (Have you got a map?) Then you show them that their country is one-seventh of the world’s land mass.

Go here for more.

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