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Messages - tobik

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The Russian Revolution / Re: Future of the Russian Nation
« on: October 31, 2005, 04:27:21 PM »

These judges and lawyers claimed that because Amsterdam was not born in Russia he was automatically ineligible to represent Khodorkovsky, not a "real" lawyer, and so on and so forth. With all the blatant lying and the pompous officials in their ridiculous Soviet-looking uniforms, it was like a bizarre flashback to Communist times.   

This is not quite true.  Amsterdam never directly represented K. in court in Russia and never intended to, but was instead his legal representative abroad.  In Russia he was defended by Shmidt, Drel etc.

Amsterdam was visited in his hotel and his visa cancelled not because of any actions related to K but because he had not fulfilled the requirements of his visa.

Having said all that I am only nitpicking because we all know the real reasons for the visa being revoked.  It is just surprising they never had the courage to do this before but waited until the appeal was over.

And yes Russia while a long way off from what it was, does hark back far too often to Communist times as their central point of reference.  Prosecutor Vishnyakova for one would have done very well in the 1930's.

To live here (a bitter sweet pill if ever there was one) however one would say that things are getting better.  Moscow has a veneer of civilisation and appears relatively normal, but despite this I believe that Russia will hit another major crisis point in the next few years.  

Putin is, as has been mentioned the best that's available, but is a weak and ineffective ruler.  It will not take much to destabalise Russia.  Forget about the poor and the needy or the old Communists but look to the South and in particular to Makhachkala is you want to see where the greatest threat to Russia's future comes from.

« on: May 18, 2005, 02:00:09 PM »
Although I am not an (as offensively and xenophobically described by Katia) filthy rich foreign collector, the law against exporting all antiques above hundred years is ridiculous.

While I totally agree with the fact that extremely rare or exceptional items should be subject to an export ban, to ban export of all antiques is actually counter productive.

The presence of great examples of a particular nation's art abroad in foreign museums or collections is not detrimental to its cultural heritage, on the contrary it allows more widespread access accross the globe, increased scholarship, and consequently can only add richness of the of the respective nation's culture.

For the negative effect this sort of ban can have, look at look at Russia's great 19th century landscape artists or until recently the Russian avant garde.  Because there were so few examples of paintings from these periods abroad, there was little proper scholarship done and consequently the art was not properly appreciated or understood.  

How the banning of export of all antiques can be said to enrich a nation's heritage is beyond me...nevertheless I understand why the Finns would want the ring to stay, and in this case (it being an exceptional item) I agree.

News Links / Re: Putin Defends Stalin, Occupation
« on: May 11, 2005, 06:38:08 AM »
Hikaru, please forgive me, I have no intention of attacking the sacred commemoration of the Allied Victory over Fascism, I merely wish to point out that the celebrations would have been far more succesful, less controversial, and more respectful to the Russian people, if some acknowledgement had been made of Stalin's criminal actions that had been made both before (and this is where the repressions and Gulag must come in - remember Tukhachevsky etc) and after (and of course here I am referring to the Baltic States.)

This would thus have returned the spotlight of the great achievement of Victory to the people, where it ultimately belongs.  Moreover it would have given the celebrations themselves a sense of moral authority rather than this self satisfied whitewash that we got instead.

In response to your qn, yes, despite having to work, I did see a lot of the celebrations, and having heard so many veterans complaining that this was a holiday just for the government, I was particularly pleased to be able to go to Poklonnaya Gora and see the thousands of ordinary people relaxing and enjoying themselves.

News Links / Re: Putin Defends Stalin, Occupation
« on: May 09, 2005, 02:38:28 PM »

The world must never forget that the Soviet Army was the FIRST nation to rid the world of nazism.

Umm...hang on a sec but I think there's a few other nations who might object to this comment.  - While I am dumbfounded by the statistics and sacrifice made by all the countries of the former Soviet Union, we must not forget that this victory was only possible due to complete cooperation of ALL the Allied nations.  (See Ribbentrop's reasons for Germany's defeat and hundreds of other history books, not to mention the acknowledgement of Stalin himself for a more authorised view on this.)

The political pomposity and overtly celebratory tone of this year's Victory celebrations in Russia have struck a sour note for many, and while one is right to commemorate the Victory over Fascism, I agree with Silja that one cannot do so without acknowledging the moral ambivalence of the post WW2 world (i.e. the fate of the Baltic states) for which all the Allied nations carry responsibility.

With regard to Stalin, the praising of this vile dictator tells us nothing about the tyrant himself but everything about present day Russia.  His return to favour can only be understood if one takes into account the overwhelming importance of the Great War of the Fatherland for the Russians.  In short it is the overwhelming historical event in Russia's history, one etched deep in the minds even of the current generations.  

In these present troubled times when Putin increasingly looks for solace in the might of the past, WW2 looms large as the one pure moral victory that everyone can relate to.  To muddy the waters by suggesting that the man who led Russia to its greatest victory was a murderous tyrant would be an unthinkable thing to do for the current President.

I spoke to a great old guy called Joe last wk, whose father came over from SA in the thrities to help Stalin with the first five year plan.  He spent ten years in a Gulag for his pains.  How do you think Joe feels when the present government ****'s over the pensioners and then tries to commemorate the guy who killed his father and depriced him of a decent life.  

How can any right minded person agree with Putin on this?  I mean purrlease, no one disputes the role Russia played but why can't Russians just put aside their pride for one small moment and admit that there are serious moral ambiguities about Stalin and his corresponding role in Victory over Nazi Germany.

Imperial Russian History / Re: The Okhrana
« on: May 09, 2005, 01:42:57 PM »
A slightly random diversion on the subject of the Okhrana...

Okhrana means security in Russian, from the verb khranit' to protect.

Rob reccomends the bk,  Fontanka 16, a gd work whose title unsurprisingly derives from the address of their HQ.  In Moscow the equivalent address is Petrovka 38, which is indeed still the head of the Moscow Police.   It is address so well known to the Russians that even the current police website is!

There is an excellent little museum in Petersburg almost opposite the admiralty, in Dzerzhinsky's former office, which tells the story of the Secret Police from the Okhrana through to the KGB.  It has pix, uniforms, documents and oddities (signed letters by Cambridge Five etc.) but is unfortunately rather poorly known.

Forum Announcements / Re: Where do you come from?
« on: April 29, 2005, 01:51:35 PM »

I'm British, brought up in Oxfordshire now living in Moscow...for some unknown reason I'm yet to fathom!

« on: April 26, 2005, 02:54:32 PM »
There's an article in today's Moscow Times by Vladimir Kovalyov on restituting the Palaces in Petersburg.  Should be on their website.

News Links / Re: Stalin Statue 'Due to Go To Yalta'
« on: April 26, 2005, 02:51:00 PM »
A further follow up on this subject and a moral dilemma.

I saw the Tsereteli statue in the flesh this evening and was actually quite impressed with it.  Churchill's humour is especially well depicted, and while Roosevelt is perhaps a little stiff, Stalin is depicted in what can only be described as an evil manner.

The statue is no longer going to Yalta (they refused it) but possibly to Volgograd, though this is yet to be confirmed.  In any case this is not the issue - the issue is that an evil dictator responsible for the deaths of millions is now being comemmorated in a supposedly democratic country.

The issue of whether to display the statue should be a black and white one, but I have to confess to wavering a little.  Tsereteli said that the he sculpted Stalin in order to depict a historical event.  'What could I do, he joked this evening, 'leave Stalin's chair empty and call the sculpture, 'Waiting for Stalin!.''  

While Tsereteli avoids dealing with the moral issues in his answer, this commission was clearly not something he took on lightly - especially given that his own grandfather was killed in the purges in 1937.  Tsereteli is no neo-Stalinite and indeed he said that because of this family history he found it especially hard to depict Stalin.  Everytime he saw Stalin's eyes he could only think of his distraught grandmother.

Our appreciation of the past changes as the years progress, and while I pray for all eterniity that Stalin's crimes are not forgotten, I do think that our understanding of Stalin will eventually change to give a less hyperbolic assesment of his impact on the twentieth century, and will end up taking more account of his industrialisation of Russia and (accidental or otherwise) role as an Ally during the war.

It is this role as an Ally that the statue commemorates.  As Tsereteli said, this statue records a historical fact - i.e. the Big Three meeting in Yalta.  Stalin is there not because of  his virtues (or sins) but because he was head of the Russian nation at the time and consequently participated in that meeting.

I believe it would be equally dangerous to try and deny that Stalin (who is still seen, due to excellent propaganda after the war, as responsible for leading the Russians to victory) ever existed, or indeed was ever seen as an inspirational leader, as it would to commemorate his sins.

The issue of depicting Stalin is therefore less straightforward (in this case at least) than it appears, and I would be interested in knowing your opinions.  I for one find myself rather against my will, in favour of the statue.

The Russian Revolution / Re: The Return of Communism!?
« on: April 25, 2005, 03:00:59 AM »
Could you explain the 2008 handover deadline? Thanks

2008 is when the next presidential elections take place.  According to the Russian Constitution Putin cannot serve another term, though it is widely rumoured that he will try to change this to stay in power for another 4 yrs.

The Russian Revolution / Re: The Return of Communism!?
« on: April 24, 2005, 03:33:11 PM »
Sorry Rskkiya, looks like I was just behind you on that post.

Regards from another British expat,


The Russian Revolution / Re: The Return of Communism!?
« on: April 24, 2005, 03:31:11 PM »
Oh how wonderful it is to live in the glorious West, in the best of all possible worlds, where there are no demonstrations against leaders, no terroist attacks and the innocent are always protected.

Q&A and Interviews / Re: Travel to Russia  - Exeter International
« on: April 24, 2005, 02:41:07 PM »
To give the flip side of the coin it might be worth adding that despite some difficulties, independent travel to Russia is very possible even for those who don't speak Russian.  It may not be the taste of some people, but if you are even mildly adventurous you should not be put off this type of travelling.  It's not too difficult (all the hostels and hotels will help) to travel to the palaces, museums etc using local transport in Pete, and in Moscow the metro will take you just about everywhere you want to go.

The plus side of to independent travelling is that it is a huge amount cheaper than hiring a private guide car etc.  You can literally just get a visa and hop on a flight.

Visa-wise there are a lot of decent companies who'll organise a tourist visa invitation in a day for twenty bucks or so, which you can then take to the embassy to apply for a visa.

The most important thing is to take a decent guidebook - the easiest for Russia as a country is the Lonely Planet, though the best and most informative city guides to Moscow and Petersburg are the Rough Guide ones.  Eyewitness is ok if you like looking at pictures but not much depth to it - good for a short trip.

The Russian Revolution / Re: The Return of Communism!?
« on: April 24, 2005, 12:44:49 PM »
I see no immediate danger of civil uprising, at least not for a few years, though as Putin no longer commands the support of the middle ranking members of the army and security forces, if there were one, it might have fairly far reaching consequences.

I think we're likely to see problems nearer to the 2008 handover deadline, when ordinary people will have seen Putin for what he is.   Most importantly by this stage his policies will have started seriously impact on people's lives in a negative way.  It is then that they will start to demonstrate en masse.  Until that time things will remain by and large on an even keel - don't forget that Russians will not react unless they are directly affected by a problem.

Putin has been described by a couple of people as a tyrant.  He is not a tyrant, but a product of a specific background and upbringing that has inhibited his political outlook.  He genuinely does not want to be remembered as dictator but as a man who made Russia great again.  This wish to restore the prestige of Russia is key to understanding Putin.  To achieve this he is prepared sacrifice many things - the first being democracy.  

The problem with him is that he was a man promoted above his ability by a President (Yeltsin) desperate to deflect attention away from his corrupt and nepotistic regime. Putin's disastrous policies in Chechnya and the like, come not so much from a desire for power, but a lack of ability to deal with the multitude of problems currently facing Russia, coupled with a strong streak of stubborness.

I am no fan, but the overriding problem remains that there is no viable opposition in Russia, so if Putin were to go there would be noone to replace him...this the real danger facing Russia in the next few years.  The spectre of an ultranationalist leader is a very real threat and one that is likely to be trotted out as an excuse for Mr P to keep a hold of power for another four years.

Nicholas II / Re: Personal Attributes of Nicholas II
« on: April 24, 2005, 12:11:07 PM »
It should come as no surprise to learn that it is still the done thing to bathe naked in Russia.  If one goes to the banya (bath house) with friends or even with people one has not met before, one should always go naked.  There is something extraordinarily refreshing and honest about the whole practice.  

For those who are shocked by the site of a 'saint's' (!) naked bottom, I would suggest that they try to look at the world less through the prism of their own sensibilities, and more through the context of cultural circumstance.

News Links / Re: Stalin Statue 'Due to Go To Yalta'
« on: April 24, 2005, 08:31:22 AM »
Just a quick update on the Stalin Statue.        

There have been increasing calls for statues of Stalin to be erected in Russia in recent times, though as yet none have been erected.  

Apart from a few mosaic images in the Moscow metro, there are no statues of Stalin in Russia, (as far as I am aware) though there is indeed a statue of Stalin at his birthplace in Gori, Georgia.  

The 'Stalin' Zurab Tsereteli statue is of Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill and is not in fact too bad.  Compared at least with Peter the Great... Anyway in the words of Tsereteli the monument is not about Stalin per se but about an important historical event - i.e. the Yalta Conference.   It's due to go up in before the May 9th celebrations.

Tsereteli is Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's pet artist, responsible for many of the recent Moscow eye sores, from the glitzy Okhotny Ryad shopping centre to the painfully awful Pushkin monument on Bolshaya Nikitskaya.  In his defence however, I would say that he's a great, convivial chap and a much better painter than sculptor.

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