Imploding Golden Billions

Five months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there remains a startling lack of understanding by many Western policymakers and commentators of the economic dimensions of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and what it has meant for Russia’s economic positioning both domestically and globally.

Far from being ineffective or disappointing, as many have argued, international sanctions and voluntary business retreats have exerted a devastating effect over Russia’s economy. The deteriorating economy has served as a powerful if underappreciated complement to the deteriorating political landscape facing Putin.

[…]

Source: Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian, “Actually, the Russian Economy Is Imploding,” Foreign Policy, 22 July 2022


Maxim Katz, “How the economy of Russia is dying,” 21 July 2022: “Today we’ll talk about the branches already affected by the upcoming crisis. We’ll talk about the automobile industry and real estate, cinemas, and air traffic. We’ll also discuss why China is not going to help Russia” (with English subtitles). Mr. Katz was declared a “foreign agent” by the Russian Justice Ministry on 22 July 2022.



For Russian President Vladimir Putin, a two-word phrase sums up the current state of world geopolitics: “golden billion.” Speaking this week in Moscow, Putin declared that the “model of total domination of the so-called golden billion is unfair. Why should this golden billion of all the population on the globe dominate over everyone and impose its own rules of behavior?”

The golden billion “divides the world into first- and second-class people and is therefore essentially racist and neocolonial,” Putin continued Wednesday, adding that “the underlying globalist and pseudo-liberal ideology is becoming increasingly more like totalitarianism and is restraining creative endeavor and free historical creation.”

For most readers in the United States or Europe, a “golden billion” probably means nothing. But in Russia, this phrase has been around for decades as a doom-saying shorthand to describe a future battle for resources between a global elite and Russians. And since February, the Russian government has been deploying the theory to argue that Russia’s isolation after its invasion of Ukraine was not because of its actions — but because of an inevitable global conspiracy against it.

These complaints about inequality may seem rich coming from a man who has led an invasion that could help partially restore an empire, who has clung to power for decades while banishing his biggest opponent to prison and whose personal wealth was once estimated to be $200 billion. But at least some members of the Russian government seem to sincerely believe in the ethos behind these theories. And it may not just be Russians who find the idea persuasive.

Putin’s vague allusions to a golden billion over recent months obscure a far more conspiratorial history. The phrase comes from an apocalyptic book published in 1990, just as the Soviet era came to a crashing halt. Titled “The Plot of World Government: Russia and the Golden Billion,” the book was written by a Russian publicist named Anatoly Tsikunov under the pen name A. Kuzmich.

Tsikunov described an end-times conspiracy against Russia, with the wealthy Western elite realizing that ecological change and global disaster would see further competition for world resources, ultimately rendering the world uninhabitable for all but a billion of them. This elite realize Russia, with its natural resources, immense mass and northern location, needs to be brought under their control by any means necessary for their own survival.

This thesis was a twist on the widely disputed fears about global overpopulation developed by British cleric Thomas Robert Malthus in the late 18th century. However, it’s been given a modern, Russocentric update. In his 2019 book “Plots against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy After Socialism,” New York University scholar Eliot Borenstein writes that the idea fits into a broader, paranoid history.

The golden billion “gathers together many of the most important tropes of benighted, post-Soviet Russia (the need to defend the country’s natural resources from a rapacious West, the West’s demoralization of Russia’s youth, destruction of Russia’s economy, and destruction of public health) into one compelling narrative, a story combining historical touchstones (the Great Patriotic War) with science and pseudoscience,” Borenstein wrote.

Tsikunov died in unclear circumstances a year after his book was published, only adding to the mystique. But his idea was soon popularized by the anti-liberal Russian intellectual Sergey Kara-Murza, who stripped away its stranger edges and wrote in the later 1990s that the golden billion meant the population of higher-income democracies like those in the OECD or G-7 who consume an unfair proportion of the world’s resources.

More than two decades later, the theory is everywhere in the Russian government. Despite its conspiratorial beginnings, high-ranking Russian officials like former president Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have repeated it in public settings since the Feb. 24 invasion.

[…]

Even wild theories can have tactical uses. When Putin speaks about a golden billion, he uses it to tie Western exploitation of Africa and Asia recently with the backlash to the conflict in Ukraine. Though Putin has long presented himself as a voice of global conservatism, the righteous anger of anti-colonialism is no doubt a more potent force globally.

“Of course, this golden billion became golden for a reason. It has achieved a lot. But it not only took such positions thanks to some implemented ideas, to a large extent it took its positions by robbing other peoples: in Asia, and in Africa,” Putin said Wednesday. “Indeed, it was like that. Look at how India has been plundered.”

In South Asia, Africa and Latin America, stories of anger against domination and colonialism find a receptive audience. And these are three regions where countries have so far failed to rally behind Western efforts to isolate Moscow.

But the contradictions in Putin’s logic could undermine his story. Another tale of colonialism and domination is playing out now in Ukraine, which Putin has suggested is rightfully Russian land. As The Post’s Robyn Dixon reports, Putin is moving rapidly to annex and absorb the parts of Ukraine it currently holds, “casting himself as a new version of the early-18th-century czar Peter the Great recovering lost territory.”

[…]

Source: Adam Taylor, “The apocalyptic vision behind Putin’s ‘golden billion’ argument,” Washington Post, 22 July 2022

A Completely Different Country

Would-be Young Pioneers in Novosibirsk. Gorky Palace of Culture in Novosibirsk/vk.com. Courtesy of the Moscow Times

This is a completely different country

This social media post about life in the late USSR helps to better understand where we find ourselves today.

The latest insane campaign to create some kind of children’s organization has everyone and their mother cursing their childhoods as Young Pioneers. I won’t do it. There was all kinds of stuff back then, both good and disgusting. 

All these conversations about how the USSR is being reincarnated right now are utter horseshit. There’s almost nothing now that resembles what I witnessed from my birth to 1991. This is a completely different country with a completely different state ideology.

Many of us were naive and lived a life of illusions. We were dazed and confused, sometimes dreadfully so, but we cheerfully scorned the authorities. Not in our wildest nightmares could we have imagined the insane public statements of support you see nowadays. Today’s archaic cannibals were mostly hiding out in their caves back then. And there wasn’t anything like today’s monstrous inequality. Although the costs were terrible, there was actual social mobility in many respects.

Yes, we lived much more poorly than now. The economy was a ridiculous mess, and the whole country worked for the defense industry, and there was all kinds of insanity. But people wanted a peaceful life, not a great empire at any cost.

I wouldn’t want to go back to the USSR for anything in the world. But what’s been built over the past thirty years is worse, way worse.

Source: Nevoina (“No(t)war”), Telegram, 20 May 2022. Translated by the Fabulous AM


Students in Siberia have opened a 50-year-old time capsule containing a wish for peace and international friendship from their Soviet peers, local media reported Thursday.

The Soviet students’ message of hope for a peaceful future was unearthed as Russia faces unprecedented economic and political isolation in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. 

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s founding, members of the Pioneers youth organization in the city of Novosibirsk sealed a time capsule in their school’s walls in May 1972 — to be opened by future students after another 50 years.

Those same Soviet students, now well into adulthood, helped open the time capsule at a ceremony Thursday.


										 					Gorky Palace of Culture in Novosibirsk / vk.com
Photo: Gorky Palace of Culture in Novosibirsk/vk.com. Courtesy of the Moscow Times

In a letter placed inside the time capsule, the Soviet middle schoolers recite the history of the Young Pioneers and boast of the engineering achievements of the U.S.S.R. before wishing their descendants peace and international cooperation.

“Life is so beautiful and amazing, and you have to make it even more wonderful, so don’t waste your time. […] Live your life the same way that the bright sun shines on everyone, so that your thoughts and deeds warm and delight everyone,” the message reads.

“May you have friends all over the world. May there always be peace!” 

The letter’s now-elderly authors read the message themselves on stage, Sibir Media reported

Russia celebrated Thursday the one hundredth anniversary of the Young Pioneers — the Soviet youth organization whose members ranged from age 9 to 15 — with events including costumed parades and speeches at schools.

Source: “Siberian Students Uncover Soviet Peers’ Wish for Peace in 50-Year-Old Time Capsule,” Moscow Times, 20 May 2022.

Decolonization

There are fewer than 2,000 Tubalars, a Turkic nation in the Altai, but they have effectively been collectively declared a foreign agent with the banning of their national cultural public organization, the latest abuse of a little-notice people far from the center of Russia.

As Ilya Azar of Novaya gazeta reports, “the Russian authorities, the Church, private business and even scientific and technical progress have consistently deprived the Tubalars of the[ir] accustomed milieu, their health and their national-cultural autonomy.” Labelling them foreign agents is the logical next step (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2022/03/22/inoagent-komarik).

In a 12,000-word article about one of the least known peoples of the Russian Federation, Azar says that Moscow banned the organization which unites almost all Tubalars as a foreign agent because it accepted money from the World Wildlife Fund and from other foreign groups to protect the cedar trees and animals that are the basis of Tubalar life.

But the Russian journalist reports that many Tubalars assume the call for this action came from others in the Altai Republic because in their view no one in Moscow knows enough about or cares what happens to them. Consequently, someone local is to blame, although that person still unknown is relying on Russian laws to gain access to resources the Tubalars control.

One likely consequence of this action by the Russian justice ministry is that the continued presence of the Tubalars on the list of protected numerically small nationalities is at risk. Without the aid they have received as a result of being included on that list, the Tubalars face a bleak future.

Their language is already dying out, their national traditions are under attack, and outsiders, predominantly ethnic Russians are coming in. Thus, for them, being labelled foreign agents is a sign that the passing of a people who have lived in the Altai from time immemorial is rapidly approaching. 

Source: Window on Eurasia (Paul Goble), 30 March 2022


The inimitable Benjaminian magic of social media: a screenshot from this blog’s Twitter feed, 30 March 2022.
Sources: Olena Halushka and Anton Shekhovtsov

Neither Putin’s speech preceding the invasion (where he stated that the very idea of Ukrainian statehood was a fiction), nor the invasion itself are something new or unseen – they are merely the next steps in a long history of the Russian colonial perception of Ukraine and Ukrainian culture as a threat that has to be destroyed.

Regardless of this, there are still numerous voices, especially among the “westerners”, calling for the separation of Russian culture from what they call “Putin’s aggression”. One of the most illustrious examples of such shortsightedness is the open letter by PEN-Deutschland, which explicitly states that “the enemy is Putin, not Pushkin or Tolstoy”, and in regard to the calls for boycotting Russian culture notes that “іf we allow ourselves to be carried away by such reflexes, by generalizations and hostility against Russians, madness has triumphed, reason and humanity have lost”. Thus, not only does this statement infantilize the whole of Russian society and redirect the guilt of warmongering onto a single person, but also, on a larger scale, it seems to completely ignore the fact that precisely Pushkin and precisely Tolstoy – among many others – were vocal promoters of the Russian imperial myth and colonial wars.

The historical lack of understanding of Russian culture as imperial and colonial by nature, and of its bearers as people who belong to a privileged group, along with the firmly engraved perception of Russian culture being more important in comparison with the cultures of neighbouring countries has resulted in the current Western belief that the suffering of Ukrainians, killed by Russian artillery and bombing, are largely equal to the inconveniences of Russian civilians. Through this lens, both Ukrainians and Russians are equally considered to be the victims of Putin’s criminal regime. And thus we see a rise in Western emergency residencies and scholarships for artists and scholars from Ukraine AND Russia. We also see plenty of panel discussions on the ongoing war where Western organizers invite participants both from Ukraine and Russia.

Moreover, the responses to sanctions imposed on Russia and the calls for boycotting its culture more and more frequently come with accusations of discrimination, “russophobia”, and hatred. Thus, a reaction directly caused by military aggression becomes reframed as unprovoked hatred of an ethnic group.

In a new music video by the Russian band Leningrad, today’s position of Russians is compared to the position of Jews in Berlin in 1940. To illustrate this comparison, people in the video wear traditional Russian kosovorotkas with makeshift Stars of David attached to them. Such an interpretation is a blatant insult to the memory of the victims of the Shoah. Moreover, the rhetoric of the band discursively coincides with the manipulative methods of Russian propaganda.

Source: Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev, “Not all criticism is Russophobic: on decolonial approach to Russian culture,” Blok, 29 March 2022. Thanks to Alevtina Kakhidze for the heads-up.

The Singuniversal Wages of Glocalism

“The Slavic peoples are like one family. I can’t bear the idea of fighting with Ukraine.”
— Man skating on Moscow’s “packed” outdoor ice rink, quoted on “PM,” BBC Radio 4, 20 December 2021

A still from the film Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018)

Beyond freedom and justice, peace on earth is the ultimate purpose of political action. Violence and aggressivity are among the instincts that our nature has equipped us with to achieve the purpose of peace via devious and costly ways. This is Kant’s thesis in Idea of a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View. I find it realistic, politically. Art is ridiculously powerless on the political level. Its domain is the purposiveness without the purpose. It places its bets on sensus communis, the faculty of agreeing by dint of feeling, as if it were an instinct, knowing well that the chances are great that it is merely an idea. My talk, I realise, is a plea for empirical pessimism combined with transcendental optimism, which is why I embraced neither the optimistic nor the pessimistic view of today’s glocal art world. I am the observer who reflects on the situation. But I am a militant when I claim that there is a difference between the expanding glocal communities involved by the various art biennials and the singuniversal community demanded by the aesthetic judgement when it is uttered as ‘this is art.’ The latter community is humanity itself, all of us.
— Thierry de Duve, “The Glocal and the Singuniversal: Reflections on Art and Culture in the Global World,” Third Text, vol. 21, no. 6 (2007), pp. 687–88

_________

On August 2, 2013, Russian Paratroopers Day, Kirill Kalugin, a Petersburg university student, took to the city’s Palace Square alone to protest the country’s new anti-gay laws. He was immediately set upon by reveling paratroopers (or as he himself suggested, by national activists masquerading as paratroopers), an incident captured on video by Petersburg news website Bumaga.

Kalugin returned to Palace Square this year on August 2 to protest Russia’s increasing militarism and imperialist misadventures in Ukraine. He was roughly detained by police some fifteen seconds after attempting to unfurl a rainbow flag emblazoned with the slogan, “My freedom defends yours.” Despite the fact that Kalugin held his anniversary protest right next to Manifesta 10’s provocative metallic Xmas tree, his protest has so far gone unremarked by progressive humanity (i.e., the international contemporary arts community) and the foreign press.

The interview below was published in August 2013 on the local Petersburg news web site Rosbalt three weeks after Kalugin’s first protest on Palace Square. Unfortunately, it hasn’t lost any of its timeliness, especially given the total absence of an anti-war movement in Russia and the singularity of Kalugin’s bravery and insight.
— “Kirill Kalugin: ‘My Freedom Defends Yours,'” The Russian Reader, 5 August 2014

_________

Alexander Hotz
Facebook
December 17, 2021

A Treaty on the “End of History”

Over time, it has become clearer why the Putin regime started rattling military hardware near the borders with Ukraine. It’s not only about the fear of “NATO expansion” and the struggle for a sphere of imperial influence, as it had seemed at first.

Putin’s “draft treaty” with the collective west is a more profound, existential document, reflecting the regime’s fear of the logic of history, which naturally pushes Russia along the path of European progress and demolition of the dictatorship.

A desperate Putin has offered the west something in the spirit of Fukuyama that would secure the “end of history” and guarantee that the “political system” of Putin’s Russia would remain unchanged. The belief in the power of a document that would stop historical progress is somehow touching in its naivety.

Fully in keeping with Saltykov-Shchedrin’s imaginary town of Glupov, where “history has stopped flowing,” the Putin regime does not propose ruling out “NATO expansion” as such. Rather, it dreams of consolidating the rejection of support for “color revolutions” in Russia, as if revolutions were fueled not by the system’s rottenness, but by the insidious west.

That is the funniest thing about the draft “treaty.” It transpires that it has nothing at all to do with NATO and imperial ambitions in the spirit of a “Yalta 2.” It has everything to do with humdrum fear for the internal stability of Putin’s political system. The deal proposed to the west is not fueled by imperial ambitions (although lip service is paid to them in the treaty, it is unlikely that its authors themselves believe that Ukraine can be returned to Russia’s imperial orbit), but by fear of impending revolutionary change.

It is especially comical that a whole paragraph of the preamble is dedicated personally to Alexei Navalny, his regional organizations, and the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK).

Navalny’s surname is not mentioned, but it sticks out of the draft treaty like a sore thumb. Putin demands “strict compliance with the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs, including refraining from supporting organizations, groups or individuals calling for an unconstitutional change of power, as well as from undertaking any actions aimed at changing the political or social system of one of the Contracting Parties[.]”

The Putin system’s fear of “individuals,” which has even seeped into the text of an international document, is impressive in its scale.

All is in order with the demagoguery here too. It is a con man’s clever trick to tear up the Russian Constitution through a “plebiscite,” change the political system, and then demand respect from the west for it. (Redraw the borders, grab Crimea, and then yell about the “principle of non-interference.”)

We are going back to the bad old Soviet Union in terms of international agreements. What kind of language is this? “Changing the political system”: as if we were not talking about democracy (something shared by Russia and the west), but about the struggle between two political economic formations — between capitalism and socialism.

It is no accident that the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” has wormed its way into the “treaty” in homage to the glorious Soviet past, for which the Russian kleptocracy yearns. In the 1970s, however, the Kremlin demanded that the west keep its hands off its socialist ideology. Today, the demand is different: “Keep your hands off our kleptocracy!”

The Kremlin stubbornly reproduces the worldview which collapsed along with the USSR a long time ago. Putin has not learned any lessons from history, however.

In fact, the whole draft “treaty” with the west is a desperate call to stop history, freezing Putinism’s collapse due to its internal depravity. It is an attempt to pretend that the reason for the failures of the “social system” is the west’s influence and support of Navalny. It was the same way in the USSR, which sought the cause of its own decrepitude in dissidents, “anti-Soviet agitation,” and “western propaganda.” But the cause was much simpler. Everyone was fed up with the Soviet regime: that was why it collapsed.

The “elites” of the “Pu dynasty” have learned nothing. They want everything to be as it was under “granddad” (Leonid Brezhnev), offering the west an immoral and anti-historical picture of the world in which there is no place for living history with its logic of progress, only for the “insidious influence” of secret services and foreign agents.

They have “Chekism on the brain,” as has been said. A fatal case of it.

But there is an upside to this ridiculous document and its proposal to put the “end of history” down on paper à la Ugryum-Burcheev. It gives us a glimpse of the finale awaiting a “political system” which has lost touch with reality and lives in a dream world.

If you don’t understand where history is headed, have a mystical dread of progress, and are nostalgic for the bad old Soviet Union, then ultimately you’ll get another “geopolitical catastrophe,” one for which you will be to blame, not Navalny or the United States.

Strange as it may sound, Putin wants the United States to subscribe to his version of history. This is not a dispute over spheres of influence, but over what kind of world we live in. The madman wants the doctors to recognize his hallucinations as the norm. (The doctors don’t know what to do with the patient yet: he is not alone in the ward and has a knife in his pocket.)

But regardless of how things turn out for the “crazy old man,” kudos to Alexei Navalny. It is not given to just anyone to be identified in Russian Foreign Ministry documents as the principal threat to Russia and its “political system.”

Thanks to Alexander Skobov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Situation in the Country

The enthronement of Metropolitan Joanikije of Montenegro and the Littoral will still take place in Cetinje on September 5, despite the flare-up of the situation in the country, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia told the Tanyug news agency. [TASS, 4.09.2021; translated by the Russian Reader]

Ethnic tensions flare up in Montenegro over church ceremony
Predrag Milic
Associated Press
September 4, 2021

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Protesters clashed with hundreds of riot police in the old capital of Montenegro on Saturday, setting up blockades of tires and large rocks ahead of the inauguration of the new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the small Balkan nation.

The ceremony planned for Sunday in Cetinje has angered opponents of the Serbian church in Montenegro, which declared independence from neighboring Serbia in 2006.

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters confronted the police in Cetinje and briefly removed some of the protective metal fences around the monastery where the inauguration of Metropolitan Joanikije is supposed to take place. Montenegrin state RTCG TV said the protesters broke through a police blockade at the entrance to Cetinje and threw stones at them, shouting “This is Montenegro!” and “This is not Serbia!”

Waving red Montenegrin flags with a double-headed eagle, protesters then set up road barriers with trash containers, car tires and large rocks to prevent church and state dignitaries from coming to the inauguration on Sunday.

Montenegrins remain deeply divided over their country’s ties with neighboring Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is the nation’s dominant religious institution. Around 30% of Montenegro’s 620,000 people consider themselves Serb.

Thousands protested last month in Cetinje, demanding that the inauguration be held somewhere else. The church has refused to change its plans.

Since Montenegro split from Serbia, pro-independence Montenegrins have advocated for a recognized Orthodox Christian church that is separate from the Serbian one.

Montenegrin authorities have urged calm during the weekend ceremonies, which start with the arrival Saturday evening of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Porfirije, in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital.

Porfirije is set to attend Sunday’s inauguration of Joanikije, whose predecessor as the church’s leader in Montenegro, Amfilohije, died in October after contracting COVID-19.

Illustrating the deep ethnic divide, thousands of people waving Serbian flags gathered in front of the main Serbian Orthodox church in Podgorica on Saturday to welcome the patriarch. Many were bused to the capital from Serbia.

The Serbian Orthodox Church played a key role in demonstrations last year that helped topple a long-ruling pro-Western government in Montenegro. The new government now includes staunchly pro-Serb and pro-Russian parties.

Montenegro’s previous authorities led the country to independence from Serbia and defied Russia to join NATO in 2017. Montenegro also is seeking to become a European Union member.

The emphasis is mine. ||| TRR

New Montenegrin Gov’t Maintains Russia Sanctions, Deferring to EU
Samir Kajosevic
BalkanInsight
December 14, 2020

Disappointing pro-Russian parties in the new government, Foreign Minister Djordje Radulovic says Montenegro won’t lift sanctions on Russia, as the country must respect European Union rules if it wants to join the Union.

Montenegro’s new Foreign Minister, Djordje Radulovic, said the country will continue with sanctions against Russia despite the demands of some parties in the new majority to lift them.

On Monday Radulovic said the government won’t lift sanctions on Russia because Montenegro must respect European Union rules if it wants to join the Union.

“I believe that sanctions against Russia hurt the sentiments of a certain number of people to whom Russia is close, rather than Russia itself. I fully understand those people, but they must know that by imposing sanctions, we are not declaring war on Russia,” Radulovic told the daily newspaper Vijesti.

“We are not enemies of Russia. I informed the Russian ambassador that the sanctions remain in force, but we will seek cooperation in all areas that do not violate our European strategic priorities,” Radulovic added.

In parliamentary elections held on August 30, three opposition blocs won a slender majority of 41 of the 81 seats in parliament, ousting President Milo Djukanovic’s long ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS.

Montenegro has long had close ties to Russia, dating back to the reign of Tsar Peter the Great when Russia agreed to take the small Orthodox principality under its protective wing.

But these have faded since Djukanovic steered Montenegro towards the West. In March 2014, the government backed US and EU sanctions on Moscow for its perceived intervention in Ukraine and for its annexation of Crimea.

This sparked criticism, especially from the Serbian Orthodox Church, SPC, and pro-Serbian political parties who cherish ties to Russia. In August 2015, Russia added Montenegro to the list of countries from which it was banning food imports in retaliation to the Western sanctions imposed on it.

On September 13, an MP from the ruling majority, Marko Milacic, said that lifting sanctions must be the first move of the new government.

The new Prime Minister, and leader of the pro-Serbian For the Future of Montenegro coalition, Zdravko Krivokapic, on September 16 vowed to rebuild bridges with Russia.

“The current situation is absurd. Imagine that, as a small country, you impose sanctions on a large country like Russia. We will establish good relations with all countries of the world, including, of course, Russia,” he told the Russian Telegram channel Nazigar.

According to the new Montenegrin governing constitution, the government has the power to simply lift the sanctions, even if the EU was not impressed.

Candidates for membership are expected to align their foreign policy with that of the EU, but there is no legal obligation. Serbia, for example, has refused to join the sanctions despite negotiating to join the EU.

The emphasis is mine. ||| TRR

Love Conquers All

The saw “Love conquers all” makes us disavow a violence that has always already conquered love.
—Frank B. Wilderson III, Afropessimism (New York: W.W. Norton, 2020), p. 325

Elena Vilenskaya
Facebook
December 31, 2020

Many people won’t like this, probably, but I cannot help but write it for the sake of many people’s memory. On December 31, 1994, I stopped enjoying the New Year. On New Year’s Eve, [Russian] federal troops bombed Grozny. That night, a lot of people of different ethnicities who had remained in Grozny died, and the conscripts who were sent there by the [Russian] authorities died senseless deaths. Forgiving and forgetting this would be impossible and wicked. That night, our family was unable to celebrate the New Year. I haven’t celebrated it since.

Still from The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1933). Translated by the Russian Reader

If We Don’t Talk About It, It’s Not Real

syrian observatoryImage courtesy of The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

One of the better ways to see what ails the Russian intelligentsia nowadays is to read what its leading lights write about goings-on in other parts of the world. Almost without exception, these meditations and interventions are so at odds with reality, so chockablock with rank prejudices and basic factual errors, that they shed no light whatsoever on these goings-on as such.

They inadvertently reveal other things, however. For one, it would seem that Putin and Co.’s massive, painstaking, long-term project for closing the Russian mind and making everything foreign, everything beyond Russia’s frontiers, utterly contemptible, alien, repulsive, ridiculous, and incomprehensible, has been a rousing success, a success all the more impressive in that it has been achieved at a time of unprecedented global integration and myriad possibilities for people all over the world, especially in relatively prosperous, well-educated countries like Russia, to get detailed, reliable information about events in other parts of the world.

For two, the new Russian “internationalists” are tellingly selective in the subjects on which they choose to pontificate. For example, the Russian military has been bombing Syria to smithereens for fifty-one months, but you would be hard pressed to find any of the Russian public intellectuals otherwise so eager to comment on matters such as Brexit and Trump’s impeachment even so much as mention their own country’s disastrous role in the Syrian conflict. It is as if they were completely unaware anything were happening in Syria, much less that their tax rubles have been funding a genocidal crackdown against a popular revolution to remove a murderous hereditary dictator and his wildly homicidal, repressive regime.

Hence their rhetorical vehemence when it comes to the rather persuasive allegations that their country’s government has been meddling in less obvious and less obviously destructive ways in the internal affairs of other countries. Utterly powerless (or so they imagine) to do anything about the Kremlin’s more outrageous crimes (genocide in Syria, ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine, the occupation of Crimea, etc.), they judiciously disappear Russia’s destructive neo-imperialist adventures from the public discourse, while violently denouncing the mere suggestion that Russia’s violent geopolitical ressentiment could have more “subtle” manifestations, such as disinformation campaigns and assassinations of “enemies” on foreign soil. \\ The Russian Reader

One Righteous Man

mokhnatkinSergei Mokhnatkin. Courtesy of the Moscow Times

Since it is my practice report all real Russian opposition to the Kremlin’s war crimes against the Syrian popular revolution, however rare and nearly invisible though it may have been over the past four years, I have to report the comments of the renowned Russian ex-political prisoner Sergei Mokhnatkin, a man who was put through the wringer by Putin’s fascist gangster clique for having the temerity to defend a woman being beaten by a riot policeman in Moscow.

If you are interested in the extraordinarily frightening details of Mr. Mokhnatkin’s case, his time in Russian prisons, and his equally extraordinary courage and fighting spirit, look him up on the internet. (His name can also be written as Sergey Mohnatkin, as on his Facebook page.)

Mr. Mokhnatkin writes, “I will go on smacking down anyone who directly or indirectly supports Russia’s bullying of Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria (the real Syria, of course, not the Syria of Assad, who is more of a cannibal than Kim Jong-un and Putin himself). I could not care less about how the people and governments in these countries view this bullying. The bully must be destroyed and punished regardless of what they think. The lack of a firm stance on this issue on the part of the [Russian] opposition and [Russian] human rights activists allows the bully to behave like a rogue at home and abroad. It encourages Putin, and he takes advantage of it. The current priority is defending these countries. If we succeed in doing this, it won’t take long to scratch Putin off and discard him.”

Hallelujah!

___________________________________________________

Sergey Evgenevich Mohnatkin
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July 3, 2019
Мочил и буду мочить всех, кто прямо или косвенно поддерживает агрессии России против Грузии, Украины и Сирии (естественно подлинной, а не асадовской, людоеда почище Ким Чен Ына или самого Путина. Мне наплевать как народы и правительства этих стран воспринимают эти агрессии. Агрессор должен быть уничтожен и наказан не зависимо от их мнения. Отсутствие жёсткой позиции по этому вопросу у оппозиции и правозащитников и позволяет агрессору творить беспредел не только внутри страны но и за рубежом. Это поощрение Путину, и он им пользуется. Сегодня первая задача-защитить эти страны. Удастся сделать это, и Путина сколупнуть будет не долго.

What Are You Waiting For?

800px-Flag_of_Georgia.svg

On Sunday, RBC reported that the well-known Georgian jazz singer Nino Katamadze had announced she would no longer perform in Russia because she regarded the country as an invader. Her boycott is, of course, a response to the latest attempt by the Kremlin to bring what it regards as a colonial vassal to heel while using the incident to spark a moral panic on the home front.

Actually, no one should perform again in Russia, including Russians, until Putin and his fascist clique clear out of Dodge for good. It’s just funny that tiny, virtually unarmed countries like Georgia and Estonia have the moxie to stand up against the Kremlin, while much richer, stronger countries like the US, the UK, and Germany try to avoid the topic.

This is not to mention Russians themselves, who, especially in the capitals, have more means at their disposal to oppose tyranny than their poor Georgian ex-countrymen, who still hold them in the highest regard despite getting the Russian neo-imperialist treatment now and in the recent past with hardly a peep from “liberal” Russians.

Twenty years of nonstop Putinism has done such a number on Russian brains that you wouldn’t believe it unless you had witnessed it up close and personal for nearly the whole time, as I did.

It’s worse than you can imagine and it’s much, much, much worse than most Russians can imagine since, apparently, all they can imagine is inflicting Putinism on themselves and the rest of the world till kingdom come.

Correct me if I’m wrong. Show me the two million people who were just on the streets of downtown Moscow. Don’t believe the hype generated by “flash mobs” that are mostly ghosts in the social media machine.

The regime will go when millions of Russians hit the streets in all the major cities and everywhere else, too. That means two million people in Moscow, one million in Petersburg, hundreds of thousands in all the other big cities. This is what “the opposition” should be organizing toward. Neither the country nor the world has any more time for the Theory of Small Deeds 7.0 or whatever version Russia’s beautiful souls have recently launched.

I see lots of my Russian friends going to great pains and putting themselves through excruciating intellectual contortions to separate themselves and their country discursively from the current regime and government. That’s a cop-out. They either have revolt for real or things will get much, much worse very quickly.

As if they weren’t beyond awful right now. There are TWO show trials underway in Petersburg right now. Isn’t that enough to boycott Petersburg and Russia until further notice?

What are we waiting for? What are you waiting for? {TRR}

Image of Georgian flag courtesy of Wikipedia