Archive for the ‘Russia’ tag
I’ve said it a number of times that I love when literary review send a reporter to conflict areas and let them be verbose and thorough in their impressions. Ukraine’s recent history and near-term reality is explained clearly and vividly by Tim Judah for the NYRB. His conclusion, though I encourage you to read it if you have the time:
But while it will be hard to agree on a date, it is already easy to say what is happening in people’s heads. Six months ago everyone here just went about their normal business. They were worried about the things that everyone worries about, and here especially: low salaries, scraping by, collecting money for all the bribes one has to pay, and so on. And then something snapped. The rotting ship of the Ukrainian state sprung a leak and everything began to go down. In people’s heads a new reality has gradually begun to take shape and, in this way, everyone is being prepared for war.
I’d always wanted this map but not realized it. This map plots the difference between the exact time of solar noon and when the clock registers it. China’s rather famously off for enforcing Beijing time throughout the country, but Eastern Russia is actually as bad and worse — which I’d never have guessed.
(via /r/MapPorn, where there’s a pretty good discussion of it as well)
EDIT (28 Feb 2014): Added link to source, found via Kottke.
Peter Pomerantsev’s profile of Russia’s current politics and public culture is great. The details of the biggest Russian biker gang are fascinating. A subculture triply foreign to me: I’ve never had first-hand experience of syncretic mystical religions, Russia, or bike gangs. And the gang’s on Putin’s payroll:
There are five thousand of them in Russia, five thousand Beowulf-like bearded men in leathers riding Harleys. It’s Weitz who has done most to turn them from outlaws into religious patriots. For the past few years, Vladimir Putin has posed for photo-ops with them, dressed in leathers and riding a tri-bike (he can’t quite handle a two-wheeler). They defended the ‘honour of the church’ after the Pussy Riot affair, roaring in a cavalcade through Moscow bearing golden icons of Mary the Mother of Christ on the front of their Harleys. The Kremlin gives them several hundred million rubles a year and they work to inspire loyalty across the country with concerts and bike shows that fuse flying Yamahas, Cirque du Soleil-style trapeze acts, Spielberg-scale battle re-enactments, religious icons, holy ecstasies, speeches from Stalin and dancing girls (there are booths for go-go girls next to the great crosses).
The easiest way I found to get reasonable pictures of the gang was this tag archive on a blog.
Amidst most of the hubbub that came in the wake of the Edward Snowden story is the awkward reality that the man himself now faces. Amy Knight’s explanation of the problems that confront him, whether you consider him a true asylum seeker taking the only accommodation he could procure or an eager Russian accomplice, in his new existence.
But Snowden will nonetheless feel isolated and tightly controlled by Russian authorities. His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, who Snowden selected from two names offered him to by the Russian border police at the airport, is known to have close ties with both the Kremlin and the Federal Security Service (FSB), which controls the border police.
Fascinating review from Stephen Holmes of Luke Harding’s book on Russia. To the extent that this portrait has been painted elsewhere, I’ve never seen it. A minor example:
Because ‘never show weakness’ is the most pressing imperative of any chronically insecure regime, the Putin government decided to do what took minimal effort: seize control of the principal platform on which the government’s many shortcomings could be displayed. The Kremlin has monopolised nationwide television news not in order to impose a party line or because it hopes to persuade a cynical and disillusioned public to swallow the official version of events, but because it fears what might follow if the regime’s critics are seen to get away with disclosing the criminality and ridiculing the folly of the country’s ruling circles on national TV.
Perhaps you’ve heard it:
The Americans spent millions of dollars developing a pen that would write in space; the Russians just used pencils.
Thing is, that’s not really a good explanation of why Space Pens were invented, or how human have written in space. I long suspected these facts, but I never actually bothered to confirm them, which io9 has conveniently done.
None of this properly surprised me, but I’d never put it together in quite the way Anne Applebaum has here:
Here was the man who had launched glasnost and perestroika, who had presided over the dismantling of the Soviet empire and then the Soviet Union itself, one of the founding statesmen of modern Russia — and yet his birthday gala was held in the Royal Albert Hall, in London, among people who hardly knew him.
This was not an accident: Twenty years after the dissolution of the USSR, Russia is ambivalent, at best, about Gorbachev. Far from being hailed as a hero, he is mostly remembered as a disastrous leader, if he is remembered at all.
(via The Browser)
Quite a story told by Robert Krulwich — most noted on the internet for his work on WNYC’s excellent Radiolab — about the death of a cosmonaut all but condemned to take a flight that was expected to fail. This isn’t one of the incidents overheard by those Italian brothers (LB) but the similarity did strike me and the event is mentioned in that story.
Aside from hiring Kal Penn, President Obama recently reached an agreement with the Russians about arm limitation. I found Slate’s explanation of the logic behind the agreed target sobering.
U.S. military planners dream up a variety of hypothetical conflicts with other nuclear powers and determine how many warheads would be required to destroy all the most important targets in each scenario.