Feb 27 2006

This week in the Former Soviet Union: 02/20/06 – 02/26/06

by in Uncategorized

I said I would make this a weekly thing…and I’ve actually kept my promise so far!
Moscow stung by US warship gaffe
The authorities in Moscow have hastily removed posters congratulating Russian war veterans which mistakenly showed the American warship USS Missouri. The posters were taken down on Wednesday – just hours before Defender of the Motherland Day.


Also…MSNBC: Russia’s Red Army Day blunder, MOSNEWS: Russians Perplexed By Military Day Billboards Featuring US Battleship
WWII in Color: Soviet Union Military
A great collection of rare color photos from World War II.

Putin to modernise army to help spur economy
Russia’s $770 billion economy earns more than 60% of its export revenue from oil and gas. Economic growth is expected to slow to about 6 percent a year in 2006 through 2008 from more than 7% a year in 2004 and 2003, finance minister Alexei Kudrin said on Feb. 9. Defence minister Sergei Ivanov said in May Russia will buy more arms than it sells this year for the first time in a decade. The country plans to spend 188 billion rubles ($6.8 billion) on weapons this year, compared with about $5 billion it earned from arms exports in each of three previous years.
Design starts on Russian oil line to Pacific
The first stage of the project calls for construction of a 2,400-km oil pipeline from Taishet in Eastern Siberia to Skovorodino near the Chinese border and of a rail oil terminal at the Perevoznaya Bay at a cost of $7.9 billion. The second phase, depending on the development of Eastern Siberian oil fields, involves construction of the further link between Skovorodino and Perevoznaya on Russia’s Pacific Coast.
China looks to import as much as 30 million tonnes/year of crude if a pipeline spur is built from Skovordino to Daqing, while supplies along the Skovorodino-Perevoznaya route would come to 50 million tonnes/year, with exports mostly aimed at Japan.

Second, January’s “gas war” prompted by Gazprom’s aggressive pricing policies appears to have revived interest in the currently frozen Trans-Caspian pipeline project that was strongly supported by the United States. The project’s objective is to link Central Asia’s vast gas reserves to the West while bypassing Russia. The plan was abandoned due to disagreements between the project’s participants over the prices for Turkmen gas and quotas for Azerbaijan to use the pipeline’s network. But now, with Brussels joining Washington in the determination to break Gazprom’s monopoly on the deliveries of Central Asian fuel, the Caspian venture may finally get off the ground.
The recent Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis that left many European states worried about their future gas supplies led the European Union to take drastic actions to diversify its energy supply routes. The EU views the Caspian region and trans-Caspian projects as one of the major components of Europe’s diversification policy.
The 50th Anniversary of Khrushchev’s “secret speech” at the 20th Party Congress:
Russia turns its back on the man who denounced Stalin
The only official commemoration is a tiny exhibition in the Historical Museum, featuring a few documents and memorabilia including Khrushchev’s embroidered Ukrainian shirt. Russian state television has cancelled a planned documentary on the subject, and a growing number of academics and journalists are portraying the “secret speech” as an act of revenge or a cynical ploy to avoid sharing blame for the bloodshed of previous decades.
Stalin, meanwhile, is enjoying a revival; several statues are planned in his honour and a museum is being opened next month in the city of Volgograd, previously named Stalingrad.

Stalin’s light is shining bright in Mother Russia
In the past decade, 200 books and films about Stalin, some eulogies, have appeared. Polls show that 18 per cent of Russians believe he was their best leader since 1917, while almost 50 per cent view him in a positive or very positive light.
In May the first major museum dedicated to Stalin in half a century will be opened in Volgograd by his three grandsons. Among the exhibits will be telegrams from Stalin to Churchill, a model of the train he lived in after the 1917 revolution and his famous cap.

The man who stood up to Stalinism
But it is also a good time to ponder this question: What are we to think of a leader whose great deeds do not bring about the consequences intended? It is a question that all leaders – particularly Khrushchev’s current heir, Vladimir Putin, who has tried to bring his nation into the 21st century by wielding the autocratic hand of a 19th-century czar – ought to consider whenever they set great projects in motion.
The speech that shook the world
The speech Russia wants to forget
It was a speech so shocking that even 50 years on, Nikolai Baibakov refuses point-blank to describe what he heard that day – a devastating attack on the man he worshipped above all others.
The retired Communist Party official, now 91, can reel off scores of statistics of industrial production and oil extraction in the 1950s.
But he tries every stratagem to avoid recalling the cataclysmic event to which he is one of the very few surviving witnesses.
It was the secret final session of the 20th party congress on 25 February 1956, at which the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev demolished the reputation of his predecessor, Joseph Stalin.
Eventually, between gritted teeth, Baibakov concedes: “Maybe there were individual incidents of repression, but what Khrushchev denounced Stalin for, that never happened… Khrushchev just said those things to try and give himself more authority as a leader.”

U.S./Euro-Russian Relations:
Russian Relations Under Scrutiny: U.S. Concerned About G-8 Talks With Putin as Host

“He’s basically in the more critical camp,” said one person familiar with the vice president’s thinking, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions. “You have this tension between the Putin lovers and the democracy lovers in the administration. And the president himself and Condi seem to be balancing between these forces.”
Putin has rejected criticism from the West in tough terms, dismissing it as a Cold War mentality. “There are devoted Sovietologists who do not understand what is happening in our country, do not understand the changing world,” Putin said at a news conference last month. “They deserve a very brief response: ‘To hell with you.’ “
Russia’s obvious lust for G8 status not shared by all club members
In the days before the meeting, though, some prominent voices were questioning whether Russia even belongs in the G8, as its nominal gross domestic product ranks 15th or 16th in the world and its government’s values appear to be drifting away from those of the G7.
“Russia today is neither a democracy nor one of the world’s leading economies, and I seriously question whether the G8 leaders should attend the St. Petersburg summit,” U.S. Senator John McCain said during a speech in Munich.

Russian-Georgian Relations:
Lipstick and liberty
An amusing spectacle greets the traveller arriving at Tbilisi airport in the capital of former Soviet Georgia: citizens of the EU, the US and Canada are gaily waved through by passport officials, most of them women with heavy makeup and cheeky grins; but Russians flying in from Moscow are forced to join a miserable queue for visas outside a tiny office on the concourse.
In a calculated insult to their former comrades, the Georgians have printed the visa application forms in English and their own language. Most Russians do not speak English – and to the untutored eye, while beautiful to look at, Georgia’s curling, hieroglyphic script is as incomprehensible as Arabic.
The lipsticked ladies in their kiosks are thus provided with an endless source of laughter as they contemplate the line of humiliated Russians grimacing and peering at their mysterious forms.

In that resolution’s aftermath, Kremlin consultant Gleb Pavlovsky — speaking on Gazprom-owned television — implied that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ought to be assassinated: “The cost of a single bullet being lower than the cost of war” (NTV, February 18). Other Russian state-controlled media aired provocative statements by Igor Giorgadze, the Moscow-based former Georgian state security chief suspected organizer of the 1995 assassination attempt that wounded then-president Eduard Shevardnadze.
Oh, those Russians:
Girl in Moscow Zoo Loses Finger Stroking “Cuddly” Leopard
A snow leopard in the Moscow Zoo bit a finger off a girl’s hand and ate it when she tried to pat the animal that she thought looked cuddly.
A19-year-old student, Elena, was walking in the zoo with her friend, Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported on Sunday. Passing the big cats section, she was delighted to see the beautiful snow leopard, or ounce. The animal looked so peaceful that Elena decided to touch it through the cage, and showed her fingers through the grid.

New Zealand Vodka Ad Featuring Slavish Russian Wives Enrage Local Russian Women
According to the Stuff.Co.Nz website, the advertisement of Stil vodka made by 42 Below company said “let me tell you, those Russian women are awesome, they don’t care if you watch cricket on Valentine’s Day, hell they don’t even care if you’re short and fat. It’s almost too good to be true.” It also included an image of a blonde scrubbing a floor. The competition offers $8000 or a return trip to Moscow with spending money, to join a “find-a-bride” tour.
On Podiums and in Parties, Russia Is Red-Hot
For decades, Russian and Soviet Union athletes represented a cold, intimidating delegation at the Olympics. But in Turin, there has been a turnabout.
Here, it is hip to be Russian.

This just in: Russians throw great parties:
And the parties held at the place they call Russky Dom, for Russia House, are filled with Russian dignitaries, movie stars, directors and pop stars. The athletes come to party, too, including those who have won some of Russia’s 16 medals in Turin. (That is sixth on the medals’ list.)
“We have the best parties because we made Russia House look like our motherland,” said Olga Yudkis, a spokeswoman for the Russian luxury clothing company Bosco di Ciliegi, which sponsors Russia House.
At those parties, which happen nightly, a Russian polka/rock band plays. Borscht is served from huge vats sitting on an outdoor fire. At several bars, vodka drinks are served, some with syrupy black currant juice, others with orange rinds that bartenders set afire before dropping them into a martini glass.

Mmmm…big vats of borscht.
Living with race hate in Russia
Interesting article about the problems that African students face while studying at Russian universities.
Larry Summers’s Ghosts
After the World Bank job and before the Harvard presidency, Summers was a Clinton man. At the Treasury Department, he was America’s architect of economic policy toward Russia, at a time when that nation was struggling to emerge from its Soviet past, and looking to us for guidance.
Summers used his position to sing the praises of the so-called “energetic young reformers” – a phrase Boris Yeltsin helped coin that these days is rarely spoken in Russian circles except as a sarcastic insult.

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3 Responses to This week in the Former Soviet Union: 02/20/06 – 02/26/06

  1. From Pavle Milekic:

    Blasted Georgians and their visas…
    On a related note–
    Until very recently the “migration card” handed out to travlers before landing/arriving in Russia was printed in Russian and English.
    A few months ago some beaurocrat in Moscow decided that that wasn’t patriotic enough.
    It only exists in Russian now…
    Where’d you get all the links? I confess there were some up there I hadn’t read yet…

    Posted on March 1, 2006 at 6:04 am #
  2. From El Capitan:


    Posted on March 1, 2006 at 4:20 pm #
  3. From Lindsay:

    Pavle, wow, that’s hilarious about the migration cards. I never knew what the hell was going on with those things anyways…I think they instituted them a few months before my second trip to mother Russia, but upon arrival to the airport they were nowhere to be found. Eh, typical Russia. I get most of my links from various e-mail newsletters I subscribe to: Kommersant, google alerts, Alexander’s oil & gas, Eurasia Daily, etc.
    And pozhaluista, Kapitan

    Posted on March 1, 2006 at 6:30 pm #

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