Category Archives: Russia

Izvestia crosses into Der Stürmer territory

You may recall the Russian writer Alexander Prokhanov, the notoriously anti-Semitic, Stalinist ultranationalist who has of late migrated from the margins of Russian public life to the officially approved mainstream. He caused something of a stir back in March when he opined on Russian state TV that the Jews were “bringing a second Holocaust on themselves” by backing the Maidan revolution in Ukraine (prompting the host of the program to remark that “they brought on the first one, too”).

Well, now he’s at it again, this time in the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, with a surreal article about the common struggle of Donetsk and Gaza as “hero cities, martyr cities, twin cities”–“two stumbling blocks in the path of universal evil.”

Universal evil, apparently, has a rather specific character:

Netanyahu and his spiritual brother Kolomoisky, both stiff-necked, merciless, obsessed with a monstrous messianic idea, are incinerating mosques and churches, hospitals and maternity wards.

It’s rather remarkable that Prokhanov pairs Netanyahu with Kolomoisky–not a head of state but merely a regional governor, and not even the governor of the Donetsk region, who plays no role in the anti-insurgent operation. Why not Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, or Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Prime Minister? What do Netanyahu and Kolomoisky have in common? If you’re thinking “they’re both Jews,” you’re correct: Kolomoisky is the most prominent openly Jewish Ukrainian politician. (Actually, Yatsenyuk has a partly Jewish background, but he identifies as a Christian and downplays his Jewish origins.)  A later paragraph does mention Poroshenko, but again in conjunction with Kolomoisky, whom Prokhanov evidently regards as the real leader of post-Maidan Ukraine.

The rest of the article is a bizarre ode to “the heroes of Hamas and the warriors of Donbass,” concluding with a gloriously demented vision of “the day when the people of Gaza and the people of Donbass reunite at a victory celebration, clasp each other in a fraternal embrace, and glorify God’s truth in their verses and songs.” There’s even a mention of red and white roses. But what’s most remarkable about this rhapsody is the virtually undisguised stench of anti-Semitism in an article published in a leading, quasi-official Russian newspaper. Apparently, “Jew-haters of the world, unite!” is an acceptable slogan in today’s Russia.

 

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Welcome to Putin’s Russia, land of the tinfoil hats

According to Russian historian Boris Sokolov, writing for Grani.ru (an independent website that has been blocked in Russia since March by orders of the prosecutor’s office for allegedly promoting “extremism”), the other day Russia’s TV-1–the country’s main channel–marked the anniversary of World War I with a documentary titled “Alternative Version: The First Shot of World War I.”

Its thesis: Archduke Ferdinand’s real assassin was not Gavrilo Princip but a British sniper, a Freemason acting on behest of the international masonic conspiracy which had set out to start a world war in order to gain world domination. Later on, the same masonic conspiracy engineered the Russian Revolution so that Russia would not emerge as one of the war’s victors.

Who knew that the old adage about lunatics running the asylum could come true quite so literally?

 

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Russia: strange bedfellows, stranger degrees of separation

Remember Alexander Dugin, the Kremlin’s crazy (like a fox) ultranationalist guru? The one who sees Russia as the bulwark of “Eurasian” civilization, locked in eternal conflict with “Atlanticist” powers, and the country destined to lead global resistance to “Western liberal hegemony” which seeks to force its values of “the free market, free trade, liberalism, parliamentarian democracy, human rights, and absolute individualism” on other cultures? Alexander “Fascism has never been properly tried” Dugin? The favorite Russian of American white supremacists? (I wrote about him here, here, and here.)

Alexander Dugin speaks at a rally in Moscow yesterday urging a Russian invasion of Ukraine. The banner over his head says “FOR RUSSIA-IN-DONETSK!” and “RUSSIANS FOR RUSSIANS!” Photo by @EvgenyFeldman.

Well.

It turns out that I kinda, sorta know Mr. Dugin’s ex-wife and the mother of one of his children.

But wait.

It gets better.

Dugin’s ex, Evgeniya (Genya) Debryanskaya, is a pioneering Russian LGBT activist who also has a long history of activism in the pro-democracy movement. She co-founded Russia’s first gay rights advocacy group, the Association of Sexual Minorities, in 1990; she was also a co-founder of the Russian Libertarian Party and was involved in the Democratic Union, the small party led by Valeria Novodvorskaya (the remarkable Russian pro-freedom activist who died last month, and about whose life and work I wrote here). I met Genya in 1990 on a trip to Moscow, while doing interviews for an article on women in Russian politics. I think we met twice. The second time, she gave me a letter to her American girlfriend to mail in the US, not wanting to entrust it to the Soviet postal service. (She also asked to borrow $50, promising to repay it on her upcoming trip to America. “She’ll never pay it back,” said a Russian friend who knew her. “Consider it your donation to the Russian gay rights movement.” The friend was right.)

I’m not sure exactly when Debryanskaya and Dugin were married, but they have a son born in 1985, named Arthur at birth and christened as Dmitry in the Russian Orthodox Church. (Amusingly, Dugin’s bio on his website gives the date of his son’s birth but makes no mention of the mother’s identity; the only marriage mentioned in the bio is his second marriage, in 1987, to philosophy professor Natalia Melentieva, with whom he has a daughter.)

Debryanskaya later drifted away from politics, though she was arrested at a gay rights protest in Moscow in May 2006. (According to an article in the Russian edition of Newsweek, she and her fellow protesters shared a police van with several counterprotesters from Dugin’s Eurasian Youth Union, who were also arrested; when one of the “Eurasian” boys began to grumble about having to “ride together with these stinking fags,” Genya rendered him speechless him by mentioning that Dugin was her former husband.)

But here’s the latest twist. When I tried to find out what Debryanskaya has been up to lately, I was stunned to learn that she has caught the ultanationalist bug, big-time.

In March, she wrote on her Facebook page, “If Vladimir Putin returns Crimea to Russia, he will write his name into HISTORY, thus justifying his third presidential term. If not, he will be remembered as the head of a gang of corrupt scumbags and a destroyer of freedom.” While it appears that she later deleted this post, her page is filled with exhortations to fight “fascism” in Ukraine (on April 16, she shared a post asserting that “Russia today has turned out to be the sole  guarantor of resistance to fascism”; a May 3 post laments, “Putin would need a couple of days to drive all this fascist scum to the other side of the Dnieper, so what are we waiting for?”). She has even reposted a TV interview with Dugin.

Gays for homophobic nationalists?

To quote from the Slavophiles’ favorite 19th Century poem by Fyodor Tyutchev: “You can’t grasp Russia with the mind.”

 

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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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Filed under Barack Obama, kitsch, Russia, Vladimir Putin

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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