Germany & Russia

"Vergessen Sie nicht, daß Sie sich in Rußland befinden. Vergessen Sie das nie und trauen Sie keinem!" (Der Weg der Tränen, Oskar und Anita Iden-Zeller 1926)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

So what is it that thing with you and me?

German foreign policy towards Russia is a muddy water. The German government swings between taking a stand against Russian positions on Syria or domestic attempts to grow a political spectrum and guarantee free elections, but then again we hear a fluffy cloud from German Foreign Minister Westerwelle in a recent speech at the Bundeswehr (Army) University, Jan 14th 2013:

"Uns verbindet auch ein gemeinsames strategisches Interesse an konstruktiven Beziehungen zu Russland. Die Vollendung des europäischen Einigungsprojektes im weiteren Sinn ist ohne Russland nicht möglich. Dauerhaften Frieden und gedeihliche Entwicklung gibt es auf unserem Kontinent nur, wenn Europäer und Russen aufeinander zugehen. Wir sind auf dem richtigen Weg: Unsere Kooperation mit Russland ist heute breit und vielfältig. Niemals zuvor waren unsere Volkswirtschaften und Gesellschaften so eng miteinander verflochten. Auch für die NATO ist ihr Verhältnis zu Russland ein entscheidender sicherheitspolitischer Faktor. Die Zusammenarbeit in Afghanistan und bei der Piraterie- und Terrorismusbekämpfung zeugt davon, dass ein konstruktiver und kooperativer Ansatz im NATO-Russland-Rat positive Auswirkungen auf die Missionen der NATO hat. Wir brauchen Russland auch um eine Fortsetzung der nuklearen Abrüstung in Gang zu bringen. Wir wollen weitere Fortschritte auf dem Weg zu „Global Zero“."

Google translate - "We are connected by a common strategic interest in constructive relations with Russia. The completion of the European unification project in the broader sense is not possible without Russia. There is lasting peace and prosperous development of our continent only if Europeans and Russians converge. We are on the right track: Our cooperation with Russia today broad and diverse. Never before have our economies and societies were so closely intertwined. For NATO her relationship with Russia is a key factor of security policy. Cooperation in Afghanistan and in piracy and terrorism testifies that a constructive and cooperative approach in the NATO-Russia Council has a positive impact on the missions of NATO. We need Russia also bring about a pursuit of nuclear disarmament in transition. We want to move forward on the path to "global zero"."

Really? Well the Germans admit that they have at least different opinions on some issues, like Syria (and possibly now Mali?). Maybe the missile defence system in Europe did not go down too well either for the Kremlin. And then there are other things the German Foreign Policy notices:

"Die strategische Partnerschaft mit Russland schließt einen offenen und konstruktiv-kritischen Dialog über Meinungsverschiedenheiten (freie Presse, Menschenrechte) ebenso ein wie die Zusammenarbeit bei der Modernisierung, unter anderem in den Bereichen Recht, Gesundheit und Demographie, Aus- und Weiterbildung, Energie und Verkehr."

Google translate - "The strategic partnership with Russia includes an open, constructive and critical dialogue about disagreements (free press, human rights) as well as supplies cooperation on the modernization, including in the fields of law, health and demography, education and training, energy and transport."

Well, it is pretty easy. Let's do business but let's agree to disagree on literally anything else, as the Handelsblatt did put it in November, calling the Russian-German relationships "poisoned".

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lots of things to do

Well, what should we say. Zarema Sadulayeva, head of a charity for victims of the Chechen wars, has been found shot dead, along with her husband, Alik Dzhabrailov. This happened just a few weeks after the brutal murder of another Chechen human rights activist Natalya Estemirova.

As usual, there will be no traces of the perpetrators, no big outcry in mainland Russia, no disruption of public and political life in Chechnya. It does not help either that all victims were not really politically active but involved in human rights activities and charities.

They just helped disabled children and children from poor families.”, as Lyudmila Alekseyeva of the Moscow Helsinki rights group put it. So sad, so true.

So what to do, where to look? We decided to turn our head northward and look for guidance from Russia's president: On his webpage, the news section tells us that the president did ..:

Aug 11th
  • Dmitry Medvedev held talks with President of Finland Tarja Halonen
  • Dmitry Medvedev send his condolences to President of Slovakia
  • Dmitry Medvedev sent a message to participants of Great Patriotic War veterans' round table “No one is forgotten. Nothing is forgotten.”
  • Dmitry Mededev sent a message to Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko
Aug 10th
  • Dmitry Medvedev met with the leaders of political parties represented in the State Duma
  • Dmitry Medvedev submitted to the State Duma a draft law establishing a legal mechanism allowing the President to use Russian Armed Forces in operations beyond the country's borders
  • Dmitry Medvedev submitted to the State Duma a draft law providing for eligibility of candidates to local self-government bodies from the age of 18
Aug 8th
  • Dmitry Medvedev made a visit to North Ossetia
Aug 7th
  • Dmitry Medvedev held a meeting with permanent members of the Security Council
  • Dmitry Medvedev instructed Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and Presidential Aide and Director of the Presidential Control Directorate Konstantin Chuychenko to carry out comprehensive checks into the activities of state corporations
  • On the eve of the first anniversary of the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia, Dmitry Medvedev met with the authors of the film 'In August of 2008' and shared his recollections of the events in the night of the aggression and the response measures taken by Russia, as well as told about his recent visit to Tskhinval
Aug 6th
  • Dmitry Medvedev met with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill
  • Dmitry Medvedev held a meeting on traffic safety
Now, do not get us wrong. We understand that the Russian president is a very busy man.

Friday, March 13, 2009

German culture comes to Siberia

Today, the third Goethe-Institut in Russia opens in Novosibirsk. After Moscow and St. Petersburg, the decision to move the supply of German culture to where demand is high seems only logical. It is said that nearly 2 million individuals are currently learning the language of Goethe and Kant in Russia and that German is the second most important foreign language after English in the country.

At the same time a German-Russian culture festival starts its shows and events in Siberia, the sibSTANCIJA_09. Concerts, exhibitions and even a blogger party (for which we have not been invited!) will try to promote what actually needs little lobby in Siberia, German culture.
The blogger party can be tracked at Sibirskij-Blog, a temporary spinn-off from the portal

We are happy that both the Goethe-Institut and the festival happen, finally there are some positive signs from the Siberian province.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Karl Schlögel gets the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding 2009

We saw it coming. Karl Schlögel moves up the food chain of public recognition and finds a wider audience when being awarded the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding 2009.

In his book on Moscow around the year 1937 he puts the Stalinist repression in perspective to Russia's self understanding, culture and society - a blend of despotism gone national renaissance (watch a video interview with him by DW TV here). This comes at a time when Orlando Figes just published his account of the Sowjet terror in the book "The Whisperers", a protocol of private life and drama.

When checking the Russian News Agency RIA Novosti, you will find neither of the two authors mentioned - why are we not surprised at all about this?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Markelov & Baburova next journalist victims

(As seen in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the biggest German daily, end of January 2009)

The astonishing thing actually was the age. Almost 35 years old only and 26. And already on the hit list of Russian political assassinations. And again the same pattern as always - general attorneys who have no sense of injustice and whose pressure to find out about the facts of the murderers remembers one of gas pipelines deep down in Ukraine, a very mild public awareness and low attendance at the funeral (probably due to the fact, that the ordinary Russian hardly did get news about this), and most familiar a public outroar over the killings so loud you can actually hear a needle fall in the Kremlin.

And the most stunning fact of all is, as often said, that Russian officials and the government do not regard voices like Markelov and Baburova as the biggest assets this country has but still as a threat or a cough you have to get rid of. When will this synapse finally connect?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Endless talking and a hotspur

The 8th "Petersburger Dialog", a discussion forum on German-Russian relations happend in St. Petersburg a few days ago. The motto of this year's get together, which was attended by both Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Medvedev (albeit the meeting was kept rather short and Merkel did not plan to stay overnight, like during previous occasions), was "Russia and Germany in a global world - partner in modernization".
Das Logo des Petersburger Dialogs
(Nice logo, endless discussions. Courtesy of Wikipedia and PD Website)

The event usually is split between plenary sessions and guest speeches and breakout session of distinct working groups on topics ranging from "politics" to "culture". On the webpage we are given only few information on the actual speeches or transcripts and the papers or reports of the working groups. A bit more transparency would be welcomed.

Interestingly, there is an award that the PD hands out annually, the Peter-Boenisch-Gedächtnispreis. This award ought to be given to young journalists who reported on the German-Russian relations. The winners of 2008 are not published yet, so we have to look to the winner of 2007, who was Benjamin Bidder, a young German who wrote a reportage on young German adults who spend time in Russia on social projects and meet survivors of the Second World war. This story was published on "Spiegel Online" in June 2007.

Benjamin seems to be quite active these days. After having received the price he wrote articles on Russian Hackers who are targeting the political opposition, a new "Institute on Human Rights in Russia", the silly ideas of the Russian pseudo politician Vladimir Zhirinovski. Well, write on then young fella! :-)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Schloegel strikes again!

Karl Schloegel. A name like thunder. Well. At least a very active chronist and analyst of the German-Russian relations and of the history of the Soviet Union. Almost every year, Mr. Schloegel is issuing a new historical cornerstone analysis. His books on the "Russian Berlin" and on St.Petersburg have found wide applause and recognition. He lectures at the Viadrina university in Frankfurt/Oder.

(Big Schloegel is watching you. Courtesy of Viadrina)

Now a new volume stands on the shelf of bookstores : Moscow 1937 - Terror and Dream. The Deutschlandradio published a Podcast Interview with him.

During a time in which Russia develops a more revisionist perspective on its own history, publications like these of Schloegel would offer a true and revealing image on how oppressive the Stalin and Soviet times were. However we might see interested readers on Novy Arbat's Dom Knigi search in vain for such works.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Georgia blues in the deep south

Halleluja, it took us really long to come back but anyway, here we are again. Our hurting eyes still have to adjust to the new order that has emerged from the war in Georgia. But we do not want to discuss new orders or a new cold period ahead. No, we are still shocked by the pictures as seen on flickr from T. Tseradze and Technorati.

Two words strike us: tragic and unnecessary. This war was coming with an intensity again affecting hundreds of civilians and causing damage of civil infrastructure. It was probably completelly unnecessary from both sides, as it has only made things more difficult - not only for Georgia but also for Russia.

Who started first and which militia was first pulling the trigger - historians may one day find that out or we will never know. But again we have been proved that politicians both in Georgia and Russia were and are trigger happy instead of bringing the conflict to a peaceful resolution. In 2004, the International Crisis Group published a visionary paper titled "GEORGIA:AVOIDING WAR IN SOUTH OSSETIA". It obviously was not read properly in Tbilisi and Moscow. Tell this the victims on both sides now.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lufhhansa Cargo bullied by Russian state

How strange is that? Just when you thought there is no bolder move possible (besides the endles charades of presidential term prolongation, Georgian Rose-Raids or Weapons-Disarmament-Treaty-Leaving), you open the newspaper and read about Lufthansa Cargo being tried to be "hijacked" to abandon Astana airport in favour of Russia's Krasnoyarsk Yemelanovo airport.
How to do it? Well just let a permit to cross Russian airspace expire (for which you earn decent cash anyway), let the politicians "talk" about it and try to resolve the problem; then just "suggest" that your aiport is so much nicer.

(Well, maybe Borat's fellow countrymen will have to find other means of transport soon. Or not!? Courtesy of LH Cargo)

And now, whichever decision is made, it tells you a lot on how business is entwined with politics in Russia and how state officials "lobby" the economy. Following the discussion on of aviation industry experts across the globe, creates a clear picture. Russia probably shot itself in both feet with this LH Cargo stunt.

Well, a possibility might also to switch to Almaty, a move we would recommend strongly. And be it just to teach Russian politicians what not to do. The German daily FAZ speculated that the whole bullying has to do with Lufthansa's recent announcement of moving its Moscow passenger operations from Sheremetyevo to Domodedovo. Our recommendation: move even sooner. Sheremetyevo is a big mess anyway.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Finally a task for Russia's submarines

Russia's submarine fleet has finally reclaimed a national pride duty. At the beginning of August two smaller submarines descended on the North Pole underwater seaflor and planted a Russian flag there to cement the country's claim on the area oil and other resources.

The biggest agglomeration of Russia's nuclear submarine fleet is found in the Mursmansk area on the Kola peninsula. Zapadnaya Litsa is the most important naval station with its bases Andreeva Bay, Bolshaya Lopatka, Malaya Lopatka, and Nerpicha [Nerpichya]. All can be viewed openly on Google Earth (69°27'00"N 32°22'00"E).

As SIPRI points out in its 2006 yearbook, Russia has quite a fleet on the Kola peninsula.

"In 2005 the Russian Navy deployed 13 SSBNs with the Northern and Pacific fleets. Of these, six were Delta III (Project 667BDR Kalmar) submarines.26 Some experts suggest that the submarines of this class, which first entered service in 1982, may be retired during the next few years.27 The Navy continues to operate seven Delta IV Class (Project 667BDRM Delfin) submarines. One SSBN has been paid off and is currently being refitted as a special-purpose submarine. The six remaining SSBNs—Verkhotur’e, Yekaterinburg, Novomoskovsk, Tula, Bryansk and Kareliya—are based in the Northern Fleet."

Soon a new face will be seen up there the "Borei Class". We are already very impatient how this new class will be able to even more quickly plant Russian flags on the sea floor.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Luzhkov opens first Russian gay community centre in Moscow with German MP Beck!

Oh what joy and harmony! After years of struggling with with gay pride in Russia, the mayor of Moscow Luzhkov finally agreed to open the first Wowereit Gay Centre (a reminiscence to his Berlin counterpart in Berlin).

(Helpful Moscow policemen have to protect German politician Volker Beck from cheering, exhilarated Moscow gay fans who came to meet and greet the guests from Europe; Courtesy of DPA)

Well, ... yes in an ideal world this might have been possible. But not in Russia, not these days. Not on the 27th of May 2007, when gay activists from all over Russia and Europe gathered a second time this year to make their voices heard. Big respect should be paid for the politicians attending this march, especially Volker Beck (Green party Germany, MP), Sophie in't Veld (MP European Parliament), Vladimir Luxuria (MP Italy), Marco Cappato (MP European Parliament), Peter Tatchell (UK gay activist) and Nikolai Alekseev (Gay Pride activist from Russia).

Shortly before the new clashes, even Alexey Mitrofanov (Russian State Duma Deputy) argued to allow the march, because it could mean that:
"...we will loose all Strasbourg cases on this issue and then we will be surprised that sone persons or deputies will not get entry visas to the European countries".

Homophobic attitudes in Russia are not really new. Already in summer 2001, when the mayor's office was flooded with requests to allow a gay parade in the city the office stated that:
"...the government will not allow holding this march in Moscow on the Day of the City or on any other day, because such demonstrations outrage the majority of the capital's population, are in effect propaganda of dissipation and force upon society unacceptable norms of behavior.''
Luzhkov is in good company. When the Levada Centre asked Russians in April 2005:"

"Do you think homosexual relations between consenting adults should or should not be prosecuted in Russia?", 43,5% said they should be prosecuted (37,9% not, 18,6 don't know). But there is a glimmer of hope as a majority of Russians (42,8%) support a legal ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 36,1% of Russians do not think this is needed.

Gay rights are hard to achieve. Many western countries had similar difficulties in accepting gay communities. The Russian officials seem to be a few decades behind in achnowledging reality. Our advice: Attend the Christpopher Street Day (CSD) in June in Berlin. It is NOT satanic and definitelly a big economic cash generator. Maybe this is an argument for money man Luzhkov?

(Maybe a bit to chilly to do in Moscow yet (Scenes from Christopher Street Day in Berlin 2006; Courtesy "franky_of_berlin"

Friday, April 27, 2007

Our man in Moscow : Thomas Roth

The WDR, among Germany's biggest 1st TV channel (ARD) contributors, has a reputation of sending qualified correspondents to Russia's capital. Germany's picture of Soviet and Russian politics and people has been shaped in the past by such icons of German journalism as Gerd Ruge and actually Thomas Roth.

(Expecting to hear from you soon from Russia with loving critique. Courtesy by WDR)

His first professional ARD encounter with Russia was probably in 1991, when he joined the journalist group in Moscow. With some pauses (95-98), he committed himself to Russia until the end of April 2002, when he changed back to Berlin to become the head of the ARD "Capital studio".
Being in Moscow, he managed to arrange a trip from Lawrentija (at the Bering Street) to Kaliningrad with his camera entourage to broadcast in a couple of live sessions a vivid picture of the country, again following in the footsteps of similar ventures of Ruge and Sager(ZDF). We have cherrished to recently read a book he published in 2002 about that trip and found that he balanced well between an objective eye for the people and sharp observations of big and small Russian politics and psyche.

Now the WDR decided to send back Roth to Moscow and at the same time make them their "chief reporter" (whatever that means). He is also rumoured to move to New York in 2009, again for the ARD.
The work of ARD correspondents in Moscow is not without risk, as show the recent troubles and hits that Stephan Stuchlik (himself an ARD correspondent) was welcomed with when reporting about a demonstration (probably anti-Putin) in Moscow. There is a hell of a lot of work to be done for Thomas Roth in Russia. Dawaij dawarisch, pischite!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bum Bum Boris

When the putsch escalated in August 1991 in Moscow's streets, when demonstrators in Russia were not sure whether their protests had already gone too far, when Gorbatschow was under fire and Jelzin emerged as the man on top of the tanks speaking to an amazed crowd of soldiers, journalists and citizens,... I was sitting in a YMCA cafeteria in Kirkcaldy, Scotland watching TV news and thinking "why does always something happen when I am on vacation". I thought the same when I saw Sep. 11 planes crash into the twintowers live on Russian NTW (which had switched to CNN) in Omsk, Siberia in the summer of 2001.
Although the 9/11 incidents changed everyone's life in the aftermath, the events in Moscow in the summer of 1991, were not less dramatic for the ordinary citizen in Russia.

It took Jelzin only roughly 2 years to make the Russian White House in Moscow again the center of the world's attention, when in October 1993, "loyal" and "pro-democracy" tanks units were firing rounds into the building, trying to smoke out again a smouldering putsch. Something that probably could only happen in Russia.

In the wild 1990s Russia resembled a steeringless supertanker trying to park into a small yacht marina. Economic reforms were done by a few wild bunch economists, never before even having had the slightest idea of running a country, not speaking of how to cope with hyperinflation, privatisation or a financial policy. To be fair, probably no one had a proper idea at that time anyway for Russia, but a bit more consulting and international coordination would have saved probably many roubles of the ordinary man on the street. The years that followed were "challenging" times for everyone in Russia. The once proud industrial base - gone to smithereens, the bank accounts - pulverized, the democratic system - clueless in its infancy. If Jelzin's flamboyant spirit could do something well, it was probably the one thing he actually did: sweep aside the crumbling and rotten leftovers of the Soviet Union and its institutions and organs, seizing the long leash that Gorbachev offered (partly unintentionally) and brisk away critics, hesitant communists and backminded party officials. This is probably his biggest merit, maybe his only one.

Michael Thumann, wrote in the "Zeit" in early January 2000, that Jelzin probably changed Russia as profoundly as Lenin did in the 20th century. If this is right, we do not know, but we do know that Jelzin's final act as president of the biggest country on earth, the presentation of his heir Putin, was probably his biggest mistake ever.
To our understanding this was actually the biggest mistake he could do. Not because Putin in fact slowly "stabilized" the tilting supertanker Russia in his first presidency, but because it cemented the way from then on how "democracy" was meant to be in Russia, reminding the world more of governmental behaviour like it is currently visible in Nigeria's stooged election. Bringing in an ex-KGB boss as president of Russia, negotiating the sale of indusrial assets with oligarchs, tinkering with Putin his own and his family's immunity to legal prosecution, starting the first of 3 wars in Chechnya, failing to implement democratic reforms, a free press, a true multi-party system.... Again, like many before him and actually the one after him, the president of Russia in the 90s, defined himself more by what he did not do, or failed to do, than by what he actually did.

Helmut Kohl just commented the death of Jelzin on German TV today, by saying he was "a true and dependable friend of the Germans". Both Germany and especially the Russians could have benefited from other forms of friendship much more.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ryklin and Koenen

In early 2007, during the Leipzig Book Fair, two journalists/authors were awarded the Leipziger Buchpreis zur Europäischen Verständigung.
Koenen had recently published a book on the German perception of the "East" between 1900 and 1945; Ryklin a striking testimonial of the trial of the organisers and curators of the Moscow exhibition "Caution! Religion!" (Achtung Religion) in 2003. The exhibition had been staged in the Moscow Sacharow Center and had been destroyed 3 days after the start of the exhibition by religious vandals. Interestingly not the vandals were put to trial but the organisers of the exhibition. Ryklin's wife, Anna Altschuk, was among the accused.

(A nice couple. Courtesy of Anne Faden and Jörg Bauer)

In a highly interesting interview he gave with the German daily der Tagesspiegel in late 2006 he said about the trial:

"We spent five months in court, pretty much the whole time. At first the trial was against the perpetrators but the public prosecutor acquit them on a pretext. Then there was a trial against those who had been attacked. Against the director of the Sakharov Centre for "fomenting national and religious strife." The artists were threatened with prison sentences. The national Duma claimed before the attorney general that the artists had offended the sensibilities of orthodox believers. "

In the first chapter of his book "With the rights of the stronger" (Mit dem Recht des Stärkeren) he gave a very top line, but compelling explanation why things like the trial are possible in Russia today:

  1. A persitent obedience to authoritarianism (Csar, Sowjet, President)
  2. A pathological division between different social levels
  3. A strong nationalistic and conservative-religious tradition

Who could have summed it up better?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cold showers in Munich

The turning point in bilateral relationships between Russia and the rest of the Western world happened in Munich in February 2007. Well, actually it was not really a surprise although a few commentators wanted to make us think so.

"We are no longer in ideological conflict with the West," he said. "Russia is a totally different country," Putin said there.

How right he is. Nothing is as it used to be a few years back when the West was happy to get over the flamboyant and notorious Boris Yeltsin and the political vacuum he left at the turn of the century. A former KGB spy? Why not, if he is at least organized?

Today we face Russia and look at issues we would not have dreamed that could erupt:
  1. We openly worry about the future of the energy supply we get from Russia.
  2. We face increasing democratic hic ups in Russia's civil society.
  3. We are confronted with a rampant corruption in Russia with no signs of getting better.
  4. We see Russia openly selling arms to rouge states like Iran and even are not surprised if Russian arms that were shipped via Syria to Hizbullah are killing Jewish citizens.
  5. We witness Russia meddling in South Ossetia, Transdniestria and even Ukraine.
  6. We are not even suprised by Russia's human rights record any more, where politicians, journalists and citizens are killed, silenced or just blocked from elections.
Actually one could continue the list on topics such as international relations (Sudan, Syria) environemental issues (Kyoto, Nuclear energy and waste, water and air quality ->e.g. Norlisk Nickel), business (e.g. Sakhalin). Is there anything that is done right?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

21 and counting

The magazine Russia Profile published in their December 2006 issue a list of "murders of politicians and journalists in Russia since 1994". The list includes:

* Dmitry Kholodov (Commentator for Moskovsky Komsomolets, Oct. 1994)
* Alexei Baryshnikov (Head of department of transportation and communications in Moscow City, Winter 1995)
* Vladislav Listyev (General director of ORT TV, Mar. 1995)
* Andrei Ulanov (Chief Editor Tolyatti Segodnya, Oct. 1995)
* Anatoly Stepanov (Dept. Minister of Justice, May 1996)
* Nikolai Lapin (Ed. of Vse Obo Vsem Tolyatti, Jan. 1997)
* Mikhail Manevich (Dept. Governor of St. Petersburg, Aug. 1997)
* Galina Starovoitova (Duma member, Nov. 1998)
* Alexei Kotlyar (Dept. Governor Kamtchatka, Mar. 2000)
* Igor Domnikov (Ed. Novaya Gazeta, Jul. 2000)
* Sergei Novikov (Pres. Vesna Radio Smolensk, Jul. 2000)
* Sergei Ivanov (Dir. Lada-TV Tolyatti, Oct. 2000)
* Mikhail Sirot (Duma member, Feb. 2001)
* Valery Golovlev (Duma member, Aug. 2002)
* Valentin Tsvetkov (Gov. Magadan region, Oct. 2002)
* Sergei Yushenkov (Duma member, Apr. 2003)
* Alexei Sidorov (Ed. Tolyatitinskoye Obozreniye newspaper, Oct. 2003)
* Paul Klebnikov (Russian Forbes, Jul. 2004)
* Andrei Kozlow (Deputy Head of Central Bank, Sep. 2006)
* Anna Politkovskaya (Novaya Gazeta, Oct. 2006)

Not included on the original list are:
* Larisa Yudina (Editor of the Sovetskaia Kalmykia Segodnia, Jun. 1998 Source: Amnesty International)
* Yevgeny Gerasimenko (Saratovsky Rasklad, Jul. 2006 Source: UNESCO)

The Center to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued many warnings for Russia in the past. In 2005 Mosnews had reported CPJ's statment on Russia that:
"Russia has been named one of the “five most murderous countries” by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Murder is the leading cause of job-related deaths among journalists worldwide, and the Philippines is the most murderous country of all, a new analysis by the New York based CPJ has found. Iraq, Colombia, Bangladesh, and Russia round out CPJ’s list.
In Russia, contract-style killings pose a grave threat to journalists. The CPJ found that at least seven journalists died in contract-style slayings in direct reprisal for their work; it is still investigating the motives in four other contract killings that may have been related to the victims’ work.
Most of the victims were print journalists investigating organized crime and government corruption, while a few were broadcast journalists who had criticized the policies of influential local politicians. A politicized criminal justice system, crippled by corruption and mismanagement, has perpetuated a climate of impunity in Russia."

(Can't your read this?, UK NUJ Protesters outside Russian Embassy Courtesy of Tomroyal FLickr).

Did we say 21? The JRL prooved us definitelly wrong. What a mess.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I am not stupid, am I? - Ja ne durak!

The consumer electronics retail giant from Germany, Mediamarkt has finally arrived in Russia. Moscow, Rostov na Don, St. Petersburg. It sounds a bit like a frontline in the global war for retailing and in fact it is. Shoppers will find a haven for brand goods and affordable white goods as well as audio, video and PC equipment soon.

(Loved by valued customers around the world; courtesy of "nygus" on flickr)

The primary selling argument for Media markets is always variety and price, which sounds a bit like Wal Mart. Now that German consumers have had enough of "Closefistedness is phat" and turn increasingly to quality products and no longer base purchasing decisions only on price, Russian consumers can celebrate to face many years of cheap mostly Chinese and Vietnamese manufactured consumer goods coming their way (of course with a nice brand label on top). Also Media Markt has a special interest in bloggers, so we better shut up now and buy some more DVD recorders.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The shadows from the p(E)ast

Putin is back in Dresden. The place he learned his early KGB style. Along with his visit is another round of the "Petersburger Dialog" sessions, which had been initiated in 2001 to foster a dialogue on civic societies & rights, politics and press.

(Ah,.... it's good being back in the "Middle East" where it all began.")

Quite coincidently the dialogue had a huge subject, the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Just 500 forlorn people gathered in Moscow to mourn her killing on the weekend. The press attendance at the Dresden meeting might be just as high.
Journalists on both sides are still not sure what the brutal assasination will mean. The West is more and more disappointed about the poor political and civic track record of the Putin Gang in the Kremlin, the East is lamenting the West's bias to an unfair and one-dimensional coverage of the killing. One is fore sure, she was pressing the pain points of Russia, and one of these is still Chechnya and the human rights violations there.
In one of her last interviews with Radio Liberty she spoke about her final project, Kadyrow in Chechnya:

"Kadyrov is a Stalin of our times. This is true for the Chechen people. Many of our colleagues have gone out of their way to make us believe that this is a small percentage, that absolute evil can triumph today so that in some hypothetical future this evil can become good. This is absolutely not true. As for the admiration felt for Kadyrov, you know, the situation is as it was under Stalin. If you [hear someone] speaking officially, publicly, openly, there is admiration. As soon as you [hear someone] speak secretly, softly, confidentially, you're told: 'We hate him intensely.' This split is absolute in people's souls. This is a very dangerous thing."

Kadyrow Junior might be a big topic. He is just about to apply fully to become the president of Chechnya. He hands out bribes openly to religious leaders (who he says, he wants to get back out of the Wahabbist in the country), he builds water parks and huge landscape parks around his residency, all sponsored out of a "foundation" of his May 2004 killed father. Is this ever going to change? We think no,....

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sooner or later for Politkovskaya

Are we surprised? No. Actually we are, but in a different way. We wonder why it took the greedy undercurrents so long to get a hold of one of Russia's most brilliant political journalists. Now the mourning is big and people are asking themselves why and how this could happen.

(As always Russia is too late; Courtesy of TheStandard)

The answer lies within Russia, as always. In a country where murky business, state-authored is to be the norm, where journalists are always with one foot in jail or in the coffin, in such a country it was just sooner or later for Politkovskaja. In her book "In Putin's Russia" she gave impressive testimony on killings in Chechnya, or ridiculous legal systems and court behaviours in Russia. Albeit, no one inside Russia was really listening. Everyone was, as usual, busy in struggling on the individual daily fight. Just like everyday. The few people in Russia who actually read the book, I guess you must have looked pretty long in Dom Knigi on Novie Arbat to find it anyway (if it was ever translated in Russian at all), might just have said that, yes it is a pitty with the system and that Russia needs a strong hand to get things right. Just the ordinary nationlistic lines. This weekend Russia has not lost anything actually. It barely has anything to loose anyway anymore.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Putinland entertains the G8

So much has been expected of the G8 meeting in St. Petersburg and so little has been achieved. They have talked about energy security, about the global hotspots and the ever attention-hungry middle east and as usually not much than "on-the-spot-commenting" could be seen by the world. But what they have forgot to talk about is the most pressing subject: the ever so important and ever more distant transformation of Russian society. Nothing seems to change in Russia. No achievements in press freedom, no move to freer and more independent courts, no fightings against corruption, no cleaning up of the weird foreign politics (we just think of Iran and Syria) and ... and that is the worst of all ... an ever growing ignorance and indifference among the bigger part of the Russian civilization regarding the internal affairs of Russia and the staggering progress and steps back this country makes.

(What exactly were we here for, Wowa? Courtesy of AP)

In his Wall Street Journal Article from the 10th of July 2006, Edvard Radzinsky made a few interesting observations. Russia, he writes, saw 3 civilzations during the last 70 years; the Czars, the Stalinistic time (and communist era) and the post Gorbatchev time of the 1990s until today. Each time was characterized by strong autocratic (at-best) individuals who broke with their predecessors, Lenin with the last Czar, Stalin with Lenin, Jelzin with Gorbatchev and Putin with Jelzin. Radzinsky says: "You can imagine the chaos of ideas and beliefs in the hearts of the russian citizens".
What does this have to do with the G8 summit? A lot and nothing at all at the same time. The G8 summit has degraded to a mere afternoon tea talk. It has no powers and no real tools (its agenda and pre-summit meetings look like an ordinary provincial conference). And the world will probably not really continue to look at this event in the future, just like the average Russian will more or less stop to care about politics at all if the russian state continues to incapacitate its people and discourages participation in politics for the average Oleg and Olga . Putin is risking that his society will turn fully away from engaging itself in politics on a regional and local level. Maybe this is exactly what this show is all about. The Pew Global Atiitudes Project recently said that:

"Russians have been considerably less enthusiastic about democracy in recent years than they were in the early 1990s. Today, unlike then, when public cries for freedom were leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union, a majority believes that their country would be better served by a strong leader rather than a democratic government. And the latest Pew Global Attitudes poll finds the Russian people would choose a strong economy over a good democracy by a margin of almost six to one."

Try to tell this a russian citizen and (s)he will find nothing wrong about that.