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No life for a woman marked as a terrorist

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George Cohon explains the Russian market



From Big Macs to the Circus

One Black Widow


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Advertising Can the city transform Moscow’s visual blight?

Turn Left at L’Oreal, Right at Toyota, Straight on Intel

Biden Nearly Endorses Medvedev No U.S. official has explicitly backed President Dmitry Medvedev for re-election in 2012, but U.S. Vice President Joe Biden came within a hair’s breadth of giving Medvedev his endorsement in a series of blunt messages during his visit to Moscow earlier this month, according to The Moscow News, Biden reportedly suggested to a group of opposition leaders that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should not run for president. Earlier, Putin moved to discuss a visa-free regime between the countries. Biden said the presidents should discuss the matter.

Moscow Bets on Quake Diplomacy


Twenty years ago, a sign on top of a building was an exhortation to work harder. But today even advertising executives wonder about the visual chaos.

The building’s facade is sheathed in an advertisement for a Sochi ski resort, covering most of the early 20th-century Constructivist building on two sides. The ad, which shows two skiers on the mountain, has the appearance of Soviet nostalgia. Just across the street, another building is shrouded on two sides with an advertisement for Chanel. Huge neon ads top buildings around the square. Twenty years ago, a sign on



It looks like a Moscow evening from inside the TGIF restaurant on Pushkin Square, even though it is daytime. There are plenty of windows, yet something stops the sun from coming in.

top of a building was a Soviet exhortation to work harder, but Moscow has taken advertising to such an extreme that even business executives say the city has descended into “visual chaos.” Moscow is drowning in its advertising—legal, illegal—on roofs, on sidewalks, straddling streets, down the sides of high-rises and pumping neon day and night. How to Reform Visual Blight The new city government,

which took over after longterm mayor Yuri Luzhkov was fired last year, has vowed to reduce the amount of outdoor advertising in Moscow by 20 percent by the start of 2013, and city officials want much of the historical center to be completely cleared of ads. “Historical buildings should rule, and not ad constructions in the central postcard area with its panorama views,” said Konstantin Mikhailov, an advocate with the architectural

preservation group Archnadzor. “It is all because of a desire to get the most money out of every square foot in the city.” Pushkin Square could be Moscow’s equivalent of New York’s Time Square or London’s Piccadilly Circus. But the ads are so ubiquitous that traveling through the center feels like going from one Time Square to another.

Even some marketers feel Moscow’s advertising boom is out of control.


Society The struggle to develop tourism in the North Caucasus

Tourism Where Terror Struck Life in the Caucasus is known for violence, not tourism. But in North Ossetia, local efforts may yet pay off. ARTEM ZAGORODNOV



The road from the airport into Vladikavkaz, the regional capital of North Ossetia, passes by the graveyard in the village of Beslan and the monument to over 330 people, most of them children, killed during the tragic 2004 school siege that shocked the world. “A horrible tragedy, several of my relatives are buried here,” said Oleg Karsanov, the 43-year-old local minister of tourism, walking by the graves on a misty afternoon. Yet Karsanov, who earned his MBA in London, is determined to reimagine his native North Ossetia and turn the mountainous republic into a magnet for tourists despite some deep skepticism that the turbulent region can attract large numbers of visitors. Karsanov, an amiable but somewhat stoic character, has been cultivating tourism for four years, long be-

The monument to the victims of the 2004 Beslan school siege (above), a tragedy that occurred in the picturesque North Ossetia (below).

fore the federal government’s recent involvement in the region’s tourism. “We have gone from under 30,000 tourists a year to about 100,000 a year, thanks to the work that’s been done,” he said. Soon his initiatives will be supported by an ambitious federal development plan revolving around Mamison, a $1 billion ski resort about two hours southwest of Vladikavkaz that is currently under construction. The resort will have more than 60 miles of slopes of all difficulty levels at altitudes between six and ten thousand feet. “Mamison will offer our countrymen the opportunity to experience world-class skiing without leaving the country,” said Karsanov, who noted that the government also plans to build hiking trails through the surrounding mountains, which offer dramatic beauty. The ski resort is part of a broad $15 billion federal program to develop resorts across the North Caucasus, an effort that has drawn a few arched eyebrows because of the threat


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Russia’s first lady Svetlana Medvedeva presented Japanese Ambassador Masahuro Kono with flowers. As the catastrophe in Japan unfolds, officials in Moscow are seemingly setting their hopes on earthquake diplomacy, a term coined when earthquakes led to unexpected rapprochements. Officials now say they hope for such a result with Tokyo as Russia focuses on sending humanitarian aid to its eastern neighbor. “Grievous events sometimes show us what is important and what is not,” said Arkady Klimov, deputy chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee and a member of United Russia. Japan and Russia are suddenly silent about the dispute over a chain of islands Russia calls the Southern Kurils.

Fort Ross Inspires Film Effort Fort Ross has been nearly abandoned more than once. In 2010, the Russian outpost purchased from Native Americans and built by Vologda immigrants in 1812 almost closed for good. An outcry from the Russian diaspora and intervention by the Russian government convinced thenCalifornia governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to keep the park open. In the hopes of keeping the Fort Ross legacy alive, Russian director and producer Yury Moroz and executive producer and script writer Dmitry Poletaev are creating both a documentary and a feature film about the subject. The team said they will begin shooting the films this spring.

IN THIS ISSUE OPINION of terrorism in the region. Russian officials hope the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, which lies to the west, will revitalize this area of Russia as a ski destination, both for Russia and foreigners. But terrorism is still a threat. In 1999, Vladikavkaz’s central market was rocked by an explosion that killed 62 people. In 2010, a smaller attack hit the city. The region’s reputation as a tourist destination remains damaged. “It all sounds a little utopic to me,” Galina Gokashnavili, a teacher in Vladikavkaz, said of the tourism development. Officials are aware of the degree of difficulty they face. “When people look at a map and see we’re only millimeters away from places like Chechnya, they are discouraged,” said Oleg Kalayev, first deputy prime minister of North Ossetia. “But when we had Western experts examine the location ... they said the potential was there.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 3


Black and a Foreigner Jonathan Fianu talks about race in Russia. TURN TO PAGE 4


“How I Conquered Russia While It Conquered Me” New Book by Lennart Dahlgren BIBLIOPHILE PAGE 5



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News in brief

Inverview A father-and-son team shares their success story, from fast food to high-flying entertainment

From Big Macs to the Circus

Top Ranking for Yandex and Kaspersky

The Cohons brought McDonald’s to Russia. Now they are launching a $57 million entertainment venture. RN talks to the pair who quintessentially define the term "bullish on Russia." artem zagorodnov


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George, 73, and Craig Cohon, 47, have their eyes set on the Russian entertainment market after already bringing McDonald’s and Coca-Cola to the "Wild East."

The Cohons’ new project is the first venture between a Western company and the Kremlin. “It’s a handshake market,” Craig Cohon said of doing business in Russia. months to get Cirque de Soleil rolling," George Cohon said. "I think that's a good barometer for the ease of doing business here."

Risk Friendly

The Cohons have been outspoken advocates of doing business in Russia and are dismissive of the concerns of more risk-averse entrepreneurs. "I was here when tanks shot at the White House in 1993," Craig Cohon said. "We continued business. I signed the latest deal in the Kremlin in January half an hour before the bomb went off at Domodedovo [Airport]. That's just a part of life. "I could easily picture myself as a Russian investor in the United States saying, 'I was here during the Oklahoma City Bombing, 9/11 and the Arizona shootings, and we continued business,'" he said. "Business is often far away from dramatic political events," commented Dmitry Butrin, business editor at leading daily Kom-

ical component if you want to be taken seriously. "You’ve got to do charity," he said. "A lot of my friends wanted to come to the opening of the first McDonald’s here. I said, 'Okay. You pay for your own airfare, hotel and meals. And then you cut me a check for $10,000.' All that money went to the first Soviet charity for kids. Now we've got our own charity that converts unused rooms in children’s hospitals to apartments so parents can stay with their kids. It's good stuff."

mersant. "As long as an owner is physically able to continue running a store or restaurant, he will do so even in the bleakest times. This is true for all countries."

Keys to Success

Craig Cohon said the key to success in Russia is three-pronged: First, a commitment to the long haul for real returns; second, cultivating personal relationships; and third, not managing from afar. "It’s a handshake market," he added. The Cohons said they have never been asked for a bribe, a common complaint of both Russian and expatriate businessmen. "It could be because we have maintained our core principles from the start," Craig said. "We hire locals and we help develop other sectors like agriculture. People who complain [about corruption] could be the ones who were burned because they came for the quick buck." Butrin's opinion on why the Cohons have not encountered corruption stems from the brand and business. "McDonald’s is a franchise and is essentially selling a financial and logistical model in Russia," he said. "They are also selling an established brand that has been in Russia for a very long time. I wouldn’t expect them to encounter corruption for those reasons. And there are businesses that don’t pay any bribes." George Cohon emphasized that philanthropy is another crit-

All in the Family

At the end of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Craig Cohon’s two children, ages 10 and 12, participated in the ceremonial handover to the Russians organizing the next Winter Games in Sochi. "I think that's the perfect archetype for the last 30 years of my life," Craig said. The Cohons’ latest project, the deal with Cirque du Soliel and the Kremlin Palace Theater, is sure to be a high-profile spectacle. The show will open at Radio City Music Hall in New York before moving to its main stage in the heart of Moscow. "We'll try it in New York and then take it to the Kremlin," George said. They have also struck a deal to bring Cirque's main traveling show, 'Saltimbanco,' together with the Theater, to four major Russian cities in 2011. Cirque has invested close to $50 million in Russia since 2008, and the company’s founder spent $35 million to

McDonald’s in Russia The average McDonald's in Russia, at 850,000 visitors, is twice as busy as any McDonald's in the United States, according to The New York Times. It all started when the restaurant came to the U.S.S.R. in 1990. George Cohon hired a young Chechen as the manager of the first Pushkin Square McDonald's. The manager position was no easy job in Moscow; 80 percent of the products had to be imported. A proprietary factory called the McComplex was built to make the 300 ingredients for each store as the chain grew. In those days, there were no private suppliers. Today, 80 percent of the products are made by local suppliers and Khamzat Khasbulatov, "the young Chechen," is the president of the entire Eastern European division. The chain

Pinkberry Enters Russian Market


ria novosti

In 1976, George Cohon, an American transplant to Canada, ran into a Soviet delegation to the Montreal Olympics. This was perfect networking for the chairman of McDonald's Canada, who had an idea to bring the brand to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. He did not anticipate it would take him 14 years of cajoling a skeptical Communist bureaucracy to open one McDonald’s. When his first restaurant opened on Pushkin Square in the heart of Moscow in 1990, more than 30,000 people came on the first day, clamoring for a taste of capitalism, and they had to be held back with police barricades. Years later, some Muscovites still recall the event fondly. (Russians have a habit of saying they hate McDonald’s, but just try getting in line on a Sunday afternoon.) From the beginning, Cohon had the instinct to make it a people’s burger joint, triggering his own Russian revolution in service, cleanliness and, more controversially, fast food. "There were these restaurants back then that had long lines for customers with rubles and practically no lines for people with [dollars]," 73-year-old Cohon recalled recently over lunch at the glitzy Ararat Park Hyatt hotel in Moscow. "We didn't do it that way. We put the 'rubles only' sign outside to emphasize the point." Cohon now has 280 restaurants in Russia and 25,000 employees. Eighty percent of what he sells is domestically produced, an inconceivable statistic in Soviet times. "We even export the odd pie to Germany," he said. Cohon’s son, Craig, worked as a top executive for Coca-Cola during its introduction to the newly opened markets of Eastern Europe in the 1990s. The two have more recently moved from fast food to big-stakes entertainment. Their newest deal, the $57 million Cirque du Soleil show Zarkana, is an ambitious production scored by none other than Elton John. "It took 14 years to bring McDonald's to Russia, four years to set up Coca-Cola distribution and production and eight

be a space tourist with the Russian space program. "Cirque du Soleil is amazing," said Craig. "It'll be in New York, it'll be in the Kremlin. We're the first Western entertainment company to partner with [the Kremlin]." Both men say they are optimistic about Russia’s future and insist that Western critics of the country’s democratic development could be a little more patient. Said Craig: "By 2030, I see four key points of development:

Web-search company Yandex and anti-virus software developer Kaspersky Lab fly the Russian flag in a 2011 ranking of the world’s most innovative companies. The Moscowbased companies are both new entrants on the list, released by U.S. business journal Fast Company. The news will cheer bloggerin-chief President Dmitry Medvedev, fitting neatly as it does into his model to transform the Russian economy. The Russian pair sits proudly in The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies above global giants of the genre such as Microsoft, Cisco and Samsung. Yandex, which holds a 65 percent share of the Russian Internet search market, ranks at 26, with Fast Company praising it for being one of the few around the globe to fend off Google, which sits sixth on the list. The company’s real-time traffic maps, alerting Muscovites where the worst of the city’s jams are waiting to ensnare them (as well as those in other major centers) are singled out.

currently operates 280 restaurants in Russia, some in previously remote locations like Tyumen and Siberia, and continues to expand rapidly. McDonald’s celebrated another milestone last year when it closed its McComplex outside Moscow upon outsourcing the last ingredient—hamburger buns—to a local company. French fries are imported due to the lack of a market for frozen potatoes—Russians still prefer to buy them fresh.

the middle class learning to defend its rights via the evolution of strong political parties; business moving away from raw materials and investing into manufacturing and high tech, which is already happening; culture developing with a local base as opposed to being imported from the West; and Russia becoming a leader in antiterrorism efforts, together with the U.S. and India." George, smiling, said he was looking forward to it all. "I'll be 93 then," he said.


U.S. frozen yogurt chain Pinkberry became the latest American franchise to set up shop in Moscow this month with the opening of a restaurant in Moscow’s business district. A study conducted by the company determined that Russians are increasingly conscious of healthy eating, convincing management to enter the market, The Moscow Times reported. The steady growth of American snack and coffee shops will continue for the next several years, Deutsche Bank chief economist Yaroslav Lissovolik said. “The Russian consumer is ready to graduate to the higher level of consumption,” he said. Other recent arrivals show that Russians are interested in fast food as well; they include Dunkin’ Donuts, Cinnabon and Chili’s, with Wendy’s expected to open this year.

Investment Chinese investors explore resource-rich Far East

China’s insatiable demand for raw materials is driving infrastructure development in Russia’s remote provinces. Rachel Morarjee

Business New Europe

Serving up Chinese food with lashings of mayonnaise for his Russian clients, restaurant owner Liu Yanzhao is one of many Chinese hoping to make money in Russia’s Far East. “In the old days, Russia was like China’s big brother,” said the 26-year-old owner of White Nights restaurant in the Russian border town of Blagovechensk. “We all looked up to Russia but

now the relationship has changed.” Liu is one of the many Chinese businessmen who are hoping to make money in the resource-rich expanses of Siberia. With thousands of miles of unexplored forest and tundra, Russia’s Far East is sparsely populated. But what the Far East lacks in people it makes up for in natural resources that China needs to feed its hurtling economic growth. Chinese investors have already come to places like the Amur Region and the Primorye and Khabarovsk territories, as well as in the Jewish Autonomous Region, investing $3 bil-

lion in various projects. That compares with less than $1 billion in direct state investment allocated for the same areas by Moscow in 2011. The Russian government has said that it wants to invest $100 billion to develop the region over the next five years, and China will be a key partner. “We know that Russia needs to cooperate with another country to open up the Far East, and the natural partner is China,” said Boris Krasnojenov, metals and mining analyst at Renaissance Capital. Though not all Russians are pleased with the developments. “The growth of China so close


China Drives Development of Russia’s Border

Miners work at an open-cast coal mine in the Khabarovsk region.

to our borders is really frightening,” said Svetlana Ivanova, a secretary in Blagovechensk. “I know they want to invest, but many of us fear they will want to control things here.”

However, the Russsian government is moving forward with cooperation, and the K&S iron ore project in the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobijan is a good example.

The Kimkhan mine, which is the first stage of the K&S project, is currently producing about 1.2 million tons of ore that is now being exported to China, with plans to export 10 million tons a year to China. “This area is a hugely exciting one for companies like us, and we would welcome new companies in the region, which would increase investors’ comfort,” said Jay Hambro, executive chairman of Hong Kongbased mining group IRC Limited. The region’s key challenge, in common with other isolated mining projects from Africa to Mongolia, is infrastructure, said Krasnojenov, and China has the funds to solve the problem. The economic crisis of 2008 made China look hard at ways to diversify its supplies of raw materials from iron to coking coal, much of which it imported from Australia and Brazil. Russia was a natural alternative. The economic crisis also made Russian companies aware of their need for foreign investment. “Chinese investment is quite welcome in this area,” Krasnojenov said.

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Kremlin Hires Wall Street Bankers President Dmitry Medvedev’s plan to turn Moscow into a global financial hub took another stop forward with the formation of a 27-member advisory board consisting of major Wall Street bankers like Goldman Sachs Group chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and JP Morgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon. Only eight members of the group are Russian. A number of major problems, including red tape, infrastructure and corruption, prevent Russia’s capital from joining the ranks of New York, Tokyo and Frankfurt. Blankfein has already singled out grinding traffic jams as a major impediment to Medvedev’s goal, Deputy Finance Minister Dmitry Pankin announced. Medvedev has made economic modernization and a call for “modernization alliances” with major international players a cornerstone of his presidency and foreign policy agenda.

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Tourism Where Terror Struck CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1


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Zaira, a widowed mother of two, prays at home.

In Dagestan, Marked as a Terrorist Those labeled “black widows” find it impossible to go on with their lives.


Indeed, several new hotels are under construction, the infrastructure has improved, and some Russians are already coming to ski and take in the local hospitality. “It’s been fun,” said Alyona, who came as part of a tour group from St. Petersburg. That kind of endorsement is priceless, local leaders say. “We have to change the image of the North Caucasus in the long term,” said Taymuraz Mamsurov, president of North Ossetia. “We can’t do this through a barrage of advertising. That will only have the opposite effect. What we need is for people to come, have a good time, and recommend it to their friends.” Regional observers agree that building up tourism is a legitimate way of injecting money into the local economy and boosting other sectors such as construction and the service industry. “But it won’t resolve the problems it’s designed to fix,” said Nikolai Petrov, a scholar in residence at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Moscow. “Even if jobs are created, they most likely won’t be suited for the local population,” he added. Most people in the region do not have the experience to provide high-quality services, according to Petrov, which most likely means a lot of the talent may have to be imported. An alternative is to open a local school for tourism and hospitality to train local youth, analysts have suggested. In North Ossetia, it falls to Karsanov to get the word out and people in. He is relying not just on mega-projects but on his small-scale toursim efforts that are centered on the local population. With the average salary at around $500 a month, locals don’t mind the opportunity to make extra cash. “I’d be happy to open a guest house or store right along the road here,” said Elbrus Elkanov, 51, a local farmer who does construction work on the side. Elkanov lives along the valley road outside the village of Fiagdon, about an hour’s drive west from Vladikavkaz. “But right now there are too few incoming tourists.” “There’s good potential here,” Suslan, his 40-year-old brother, chimes in. “For us, a guest is sacred.” Another half hour west lies the abandoned 14th-century farmers’ village of Tsemeti, a cluster of stone temples and roads perched atop a hill a few hundred feet above the valley



Oleg Karsanov sees huge tourism potential for North Ossetia.

floor. “It’s a great place to make an ethnic village for tourists,” Karsanov said. “Most of these stone buildings are in pristine shape. I want to convince a few locals to move in seasonally, accommodate guests and raise livestock like they did hundreds of years ago.” Karsanov stops for lunch at a newly opened roadside café

That too is an important part of the plan. When pressed about who would have the funds and confidence to build hotels in the mountains, Karsanov replied: “We have a huge diaspora abroad and in Russia ... A lot of successful businessmen from Ossetia live in other parts of Russia and want to invest in real estate here.”

“There aren’t that many Ossetians in the world. We’re all family,” Oleg Karsanov said.

“There’s good potential here. For us, a guest is sacred,” Suslan Elkanov said.

and restaurant, where an individual dining room stands on four wooden pillars above a stream. “We catch the trout right out of the water and serve it to you,” our waitress explained. All of the cheese and meat come from local animals. On the drive back to the capital, Karsanov points out the small wooden house by the side of the road where his mother was born. “There aren’t that many Ossetians in the world. We’re all family,” he said.

Rostilsav Khortiev, 50, a native Ossetian businessman, returned three years ago to open a hotel complex southwest of Vladikavkaz. “I invested about 80 million rubles, and overall I’m statisfied with the project, but the federal government still hasn’t built all the infrastructure that was promised to me,” he said. “It will only become profitable once an important road is in place. I currently employ about 35 locals running the hotel, cottages and skiing and

Zaira, a petite woman living in Makhachkala, the bustling capital of the Russian Republic of Dagestan, recently gave birth to a boy. But many think of her as a potential killer, not a mother. On a recent trip to a grocery store, she said, customers pointed and said, “Here comes the martyr.” The young woman said she prefers to stay “locked between the four walls” of her apartment rather than confront the accusing looks of strangers in this largely Muslim region of southern Russia. What has turned into a nightmare for Zaira began last spring after two women blew themselves up on the Moscow subway, killing 40 and wounding more than 100 passengers. Like Zaira, their former husbands were slain insurgents from Dagestan who had battled Russian forces. Because a number of suicide bombers targeting Moscow have been the wives of dead rebels, they have been dubbed “black widows.” Newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published the photographs of 22 actual and potential “black widows,” with personal information. The first portrait on the list

fishing packages that we offer. Tourists come from all over Russia ...The local government helps a lot by not interfering with what I am doing. This is very rare in Russia. I haven’t paid a penny in bribes.” “The Sochi Winter Games in 2014 will help,” Karsanov added. “Not only will they show southern Russia in a more positive light, but more Russians will become interested in skiing ... This will bring more tourists here.” But even the president of the North Caucasus does not connect peace directly with tourism. In other words, officials realize they can’t fight terror with development, but they can build the place up with hope. “The younger generation, which grew up during the most difficult of times, has proven itself remarkably adept at adjusting to new realities, utilizing its talents and maintaining honorable values,” Mamsurov said. “This youth will lead us to a prosperous future ... I hope that by 2030, Ossetians will live in one of the most prosperous, open, stable and dynamic territories of Russia.”

was of one of the Moscow Metro bombers. The headline said: “One thousand widows and sisters of Dagestan guerrillas help terrorists.” Zaira’s picture was among the 22, an unmistakable accusation that she was a potential suicide bomber. She lost her job and had to take her older son out of public school. “How reckless of them to put me on that list!” said Zaira. “If I wanted to commit a terrorist attack, I would have not lived openly in Dagestan’s capital. I would not have enrolled my son in school.” Russia’s security agencies tend to label all fundamentalist Muslims—called Wahhabis by the police, even though they do not always accept that term themselves—as terrorist suspects. And the police have engaged in sometimes brutal tactics in an attempt to suppress a violent insurgency, according to human rights activists. “Your house gets burned, and you and your family may “disappear” or be murdered,” said Tatyana Lokshina, of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch. “Brutal methods and the lack of tolerance for religious views push youth into the underground.” But police insist they are fighting a deadly enemy across the Caucasus. Recently they arrested Fatima Yevloyeva, 22, a

sister of Magomed Yevloyev, the suspected suicide bomber who recently struck at Domodedovo airport, killing 36 people in the arrivals area. Investigators said Yevloyeva had traces of explosives on her hands. Fatima’s husband, a suspected insurgent, was killed last summer. Last year, 68 people died and 195 were injured in 112 attacks in Dagestan. Human Rights Watch reported 20 abductions and 8 murders of fundamentalist Muslims by the police in Dagestan in the last six months of 2010. According to Ivan Sydoruk, deputy prosecutor general, there were twice the number of terrorist attacks in 2010 than in 2009 in the entire North Caucasus. “The development of civil society institutions that would protect human rights is the solution to Dagestan’s partisan war,” Lokshina said. Gennady Gudkov, a member of parliament and the security committee, complained that parliament has no control over the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, the agency charged with leading the campaign against terrorism. “We deputies are not allowed to investigate the Committee’s work,” he said. “So it is a big secret what methods they are using to fight terrorism. We have no idea.”


The senses are also bombarded by huge video screens and rows of banners that cross over streets, creating a tunnel of ads for traffic just underneath. “Advertisements have conquered civilization,” Albina Kholina wrote in a Russian literary journal. She compared the banners to “knickers drying on a balcony.” And many of the ads are illegal. Last January, the city took down 33 of the “pirate” ads, but the lack of concrete action against those who put them up has fueled more suspicion of city corruption. Maxim Tkachev, the head of News Outdoor, one of the biggest players on the market, said he and other companies have the “feeling that the city is not interested in transparency and

order” in outdoor advertising. “The flagrant breaking of federal law, Moscow rules and selective application of them has created the visual chaos that we see now,” Tkachev wrote in a comment sent to Russia Now. He pointed to the fact that one of the ads that appeared to be illegal was situated exactly opposite the Moscow City offices. News Outdoor said that a crackdown on illegal ads would cut advertising by 20 percent on its own. The previous city official in charge of supervising outdoor advertising was arrested and charged with corruption. His case is still ongoing, but he has been replaced under the new mayor. One expert who follows the market was optimistic about the city’s plans under Sergei Sobyanin, the new mayor. `”The first

step has already happened around the Kremlin and the Novodevichy cemetery,” said Andrei Beryozkin, head of EsparAnalitik, which analyzes outdoor advertising in the city. But it is an ongoing battle. Last summer, even the ground was covered with ads as companies used graffiti-style tactics to cover sidewalks. Legislation has been proposed in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to impose large fines to stop the pavement ads. Apartment Dwellers in the Dark Officially, two thirds of an apartment building’s residents must give permission before advertising can drape their home, and the money made from renting out a facade is supposed to go to building repairs. When residents of a building



on the elite street Kutuzovsky Prospekt found their light blocked by an Infiniti car ad, they were not compensated. “Our flats are in semidarkness during the day and a bright electric light flows in the window at night,” residents wrote in a letter to President Dmitry Medvedev last year, which claimed that the advertisers were paying $1 million a year. Residents in that building— where Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev lived in the 1970s without any neon light disturbing his sleep—succeeded in getting the ad removed. But pity any flat owners near Smolenskaya Square, where the Golden Ring hotel turns its 23floor facade into a hyperactive neon light show every night. “It’s tacky, annoying and it can’t be good for the environment,” said Masha, a resident.


Turn Left at L’Oreal, Right at Toyota, Straight on Intel

Can the new city administration rein in the visual chaos?


$837 million is the value of Russia’s outdoor advertising, up 18% from 2009.

The city vowed that future funds from ads will go toward repairs and restoration of the buildings they are hung on. “The problem is not just the ads,” Mikhailov said. “It’s the fact that the city does not have a concept for how the city should look.” There is an official city artist, an official architect and committees ostensibly responsible

for city planning, but there is no visual plan for development, he said. “I would just like to see the city that I live in,” wrote Kholina, who said the change in the city becomes apparent when a Moscow resident gives directions. “Turn left after Toyota, there you will see L’Oreal, and after Pepsi turn right … for the house where Sony is.”



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Black and foreign in Russia

well-liked, he is a naturalized citizen and he has done a lot for the community with his own money. He is Russian. Why does the color of his skin make his election so strange? Because old stereotypes about Russia are not in line with the current reality. I feel honored that I am able to

dispel these views with stories from my own experiences. In my experience, Russians are some of the most welcoming and accepting people around. As a black person in Russia, I have not only gone about my business unaffected, I have been embraced, welcomed and treated exceptionally well—even on par with being a celebrity in the smaller towns. Many people do not know this, but African students have been coming to study in Russia for decades. In fact, there is one in Chistopol, where I live. One day, I was speaking to one of the directors in the local Vostok watch factory and he affectionately told me how he sold watches to this gentleman, who was training to be a doctor, and how he has been accepted. Of course there are incidents of racism in Russia. I can say with certainty that they do occur, although I have not experienced any myself. I have experienced only one racist encounter, and that was when I was at university in York, in the north of England. There are pockets of racism everywhere, and I believe that Russia should be given the chance to be viewed on an equal plane. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pressed the reset button between the United States and Russia some time ago, and this was a brilliant gesture. People outside of

cupation of internationally recognized sovereign territory of Georgia.” What complicates the efforts of the Obama administration to defend its Russia policy from Ros-Lehtinen, McCain and the like is the lack of an effective pro-Russian lobby in the United States. So far, the Russian government has shown no interest in hiring professional lobbyists to represent its interests in Washington, a practice routinely employed by about 100 foreign countries from around the

world. Too bad. Russia finally needs to realize that many past and present issues complicating its relations with the United States—the difficulty with the ratification of New START; the opposition to the 123 Agreement; the Jackson-Vanik amendment; the negative image of Russia in the American mass media—don’t arise by accident. Instead, they are purposely created by the powerful anti-Russian interests in the United States. The best way to neutralize these harmful activities is to

have its own functioning proRussian lobby. By recently calling to end American financial aid to Israel, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, might have committed the deadliest, perhaps even fatal, mistake of his young political career. RosLehtinen and McCain have no reason to worry—regardless of what they do against Russia.

volumes of “War and Peace” into a manageable 15 pages. But at that time, students hid these study aids away and read furtively to avoid sneers and embarrassment. Ten years later, nobody bothers to hide their ignorance. Cliff Notes have become the norm, while those “wasting time” trying to read and understand the great works of classic literature are the odd ones out.

their limited time on activities they were not exposed to in their more malleable years. Childhood and adolescence are the times when a person is not yet molded to fit a particular specialization and follow a chosen path, which inevitably cuts out everything that does not contribute to career development. Today, Russian bureaucrats want to put young people on

Due to a lack of inspiring public leaders in Russia, poets and writers had taken their place.

Today, Russian bureaucrats want to put young people on their career tracks as early as possible.

incantation that the world has changed and we live in a digital age where classic literature has become simply obsolete. But what such statements really imply is that “classic literature is too complex and makes people more sophisticated, while we do not need a sophisticated public with hard-to-predict motivations.” History shows that the fear of reading always stems from the fear of thinking. Perhaps that is why 15 years ago, along with book summaries, Russian bookstores were flooded with volumes of readymade school essays. A concise rendering of a literary work reads easily and quickly, but it does not prompt any ideas.

The proponents of new education standards have their arguments well prepared: How can a 16- or 17-year-old glean meaning from Tolstoy’s prose? Why force teenagers to do something they are not yet capable of? Let those young people grow up and mature first, and then, perhaps, they will feel the urge to read the classics. They won’t want to. With very few exceptions, people entering adulthood do not spend

their career tracks as early as possible, using hypocritical and flawed arguments. The ability of a young mind to understand and enjoy Tolstoy can be questioned only by those who fail to grasp his message even well into middle age. People who love and appreciate classic reading know that each age tends to rediscover familiar authors and see new meanings in their work. Now we commonly hear the

Jonathan Fianu

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Special to Russia Now

ecently, a reader of my blog, “Brave New Russia,” wrote me an email asking what life was like on the ground for a black person in Russia, and if there was any truth to some of the stories about rampant racism she had heard in the United States. Her son had studied Russian and was very interested in visiting Russia, but she was concerned about these issues. I knew that the issue was important; after all, it is normally the first question that pops into people’s head when they hear that I work in Russia. But usually they ask something else. This particular question is generally left unspoken, or rather unasked. I know people are thinking about it, and I know people want to ask me, but they rarely do so. It might be the reserved nature of my English friends and colleagues, but I think it goes beyond that. It is viewed as bad form to come out and ask it directly. Fortunately, I am generally upfront about such things and usually address the topic myself; Once this Pandora’s box has been opened, a whole host of other topics come up. One of these is the story of Jean Gregoire Sagbo, the African councilman in Novozavidovo who became the first

As a black person in Russia, I have not only gone about my business unaffected, I have been embraced.

elected black politician in Russia this summer. His story echoes another that recently came to my attention—that of Peter Bossman, a Ghanian doctor who became the mayor of the small seaside town of Piran, Slovenia. Bossman has been called the “Obama of Piran,” and

Sagbo also acquired an “Obama” catchphrase, but these nicknames are only relevant in the sense that these men also represent a changing reality. Sagbo has lived in Russia for more than 20 years; he is married to a local woman, he is

Russia should also press the reset button in their minds when they think of Russia in terms of cultural acceptance. Russia is doing its part. With the Sochi Winter Olympics, the recent Formula One deal, and now the 2018 World Cup, Russia is making sure it takes advantage of as many opportunities as possible to show the outside world its level of modernity and open-mindedness. Whatever your color or creed, I believe Russia holds as much promise as any other country. I believe there will be more people like Sagbo to come, and in case you think this is not possible, consider how many people of color are in the British parliament. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin touched on stereotypes about Russia in his speech in Zurich after his country won the right to host the 2018 World Cup. He said something to the effect that there are still a large number of Soviet-era stereotypes prevalent in the minds of people in the West, and once these people have the opportunity to visit Russia, they will see Russia for what it is: A welcoming country that is continually modernizing. I have worked with Russian companies since 2006 and I have lived in Chistopol, near Kazan, since 2008. All I can do is speak for myself and comment on what I see from a cultural perspective, and I not only see change, but I realize that it was there long before I arrived. Jonathan Fianu is director of the CIS Division for Blue Sky Laboratories Ltd, a U.K.based start-up incubator.

Eugene Ivanov


Special To Russia Now

here is a new mood of fiscal austerity that has set in on Capitol Hill following last year’s congressional elections. A small army of freshman Republicans inspired by the Tea Party, sleeping on their air mattresses in their offices, descended on Washington, D.C., with one overriding goal in mind: to reduce the U.S. national debt (currently approaching $15 trillion) by mercilessly cutting government spending. To them, the money the United States spends outside its borders seemed one of the most obvious targets. As a result, Congress is now planning to reduce by at least $16 billion the amount of money the United States allocates for foreign aid. The $70 million in annual spending that goes to support NGOs and

human rights organizations in Russia is suddenly looking very vulnerable. While sending shock waves through Russia’s human rights community, this turn of events is likely to cause quite a few folks in Moscow to nod in approval. They will interpret the decision to cut the “democracy promotion” assistance to Russia as a sign of a “new realism” in Washington, proof of America’s diminished interest in Russian domestic affairs. (It may even give a new life to the oncepopular argument in Russia that the Republicans are “better” than Democrats for U.S.-Russia relations, a notion that was so violently shattered by the eight years of the George W. Bush administration.) In fact, the idea that the new composition of the U.S. Congress will make it less attentive, and, by virtue of this, less hostile, to Russia has little ground in reality. True, the new Repub-


Russians Fewer feel hostility toward different nationalities

Despite growing fears of extreme nationalism due to recent riots, Russians generally have become more tolerant, a recent FOM (Russia’s Public Opinion Foundation) survey concluded. The number of Russians who did not feel hostility increased from 65 to 76 percent between 2002 and 2011, while those who did decreased from 32 to 10 percent.

Letters from readers, guest columns and cartoons labeled “Comments,” “Viewpoint” or appearing on the “Opinion” and “Reflections” pages of this supplement are selected to represent a broad range of views and do not necessarily represent those of the editors of Russia Now or Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Please send letters to the editor to

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lican members of Congress are as ignorant and inexperienced in international affairs as they are passionate for “small government.” The problem is that when it comes to foreign policy decisions, including Russiarelated ones, they are not going to abstain. Instead, they will delegate the decision-making to the “old guard” of congressional veterans, many of whom received their foreign policy training during the heyday of the Cold War. Take, for example, Ileana RosLehtinen, the new chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Ros-Lehtinen doesn’t even try to hide her disdain for the Obama administration’s policy of “reset” with Russia. She opposed the ratification of the New START treaty and called the civil nuclear cooperation agreement between Russia and the United States (the “123 Agreement”) a mistake. Granted, Ros-Lehtin-

en’s position doesn’t allow her to affect U.S. policy toward Russia directly, yet by virtue of her ability to hold committee hearings (usually featuring rabid critics of the Kremlin as invited guests), she does have the potential to seriously poison the newly acquired positive tone in U.S.-Russia relations. In the Senate, Ros-Lehtinen finds her mate in U.S. Senator John McCain, who is rapidly becoming a restless advocate of a tough approach vis-à-vis Russia. Barely a month goes by without McCain making yet another anti-Russian statement. Back in December, he gave a speech in which he questioned the very utility of dealing “with the current Russian government.” (McCain obviously voted against the ratification of New START.) Just a few weeks ago, McCain used his address at the annual Munich Security Conference to blast Russia for what he called “the illegal oc-

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Eugene Ivanov is a Massachusetts-based political commentator.

Beware of books Tatiana Shabaeva Special to RusSIA NOW


any years ago, when the acclaimed Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko said: “A poet in Russia is more than a poet,” he was not so subtly applauding himself for the strong social message of his verse. His observation was very true all the same. Due to a lack of inspiring public leaders in Russia, poets and writers had historically taken their place. For many years, reciting verses by heart from Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin,” Tvardovsky’s World War II epic “Vasily Tyorkin” or verses by Alexander Nekrasov or Alexander Blok had been the undisputed hallmark of a proper education and an integral part of cultural identity for all educated people—regardless of whether or not their profession had anything to do with literature. Alas, this may all soon become part of the collective Russian memory. Today, Russia is widely debating revised standards for national education, under which literature is no longer a high school requirement. Back in 2008, the Russian Ministry of

Education abolished literature as part of the compulsory high school graduation examination, saying it was too hard to formalize and quantify it for the recently introduced multiplechoice test. Why are education officials keen to downgrade the study of literature to an elective? The authors of the proposal to kick the literature habit argue that young people have no time to read all those books! Apparently, Russia’s youth do not need to waste their time on Dostoyevsky anyway if they intend to specialize in chemistry or mathematics. Many of the tomes in the conventional reading list are too big and not suited for nurturing engineering talent. Even Anton Chekhov’s more compact writing takes some time to digest. So young Russians clearly need help to focus on what really matters. Let them have the right to pass through their high school years without the hassle of having to read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov or Gorky. At least that is the prevalent thinking. When I was in high school, the first signs of bibliophobia began to show in the form of book summaries that could aptly condense four formidable


Russia Now’s book coverage on these pages is inspired by this year’s London Book Fair, the nexus of meet and greet for novelists, non-fiction writers, agents and publishers. This April, contemporary Russian literature will be a focus of the fair. Fifty leading Russian publishers will participate. The fair will also put a bigger spotlight on Russia’s new, lesser known authors. For more, see “A New Wave of Authors” at

most read Discussions with Yevgeny Shestakov: Freedom of the Internet


Addicted to Russia

Special TO Russia Now

Parfyonov’s Russia One of Russia’s best-known television journalists, Parfyonov is a master of the documentary series, weaving insightful history with closely glimpsed cultural trivia and, often enough, hilarious commentary. For the past few months, he has also become known as an open critic of state control over his craft. He has also been working on a five-volume series, titled “Our Era,” an encyclopedic exploration of the last five decades in Russia. Parfyonov became an international sensation late last year when he accepted a national prize on Russian television and said that “national television information services have become part of the government. Journalistic topics, like all life, have been irrevocably divided into those that can be shown on TV and those that cannot. … This

Svetlana Smetanina

Special to RN


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They Might Be Giants In a year especially prolific in nonfiction, the top national literary award in 2010, The Big Book prize, went to Pavel Basinsky’s emotionally profound biography of Leo Tolstoy, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the legendary author’s death. The immediate and sustained public interest in “Flight From Paradise” is all the more remarkable considering the lack of any officially sponsored high-profile events. Basinsky received high critical praise for his work, which will be published in English. The Limbus Press Literary Agency in St. Petersburg published a thought-provoking collection, offering a refreshingly new look at the life and work of literary giants. Poet and critic Dmitry Bykov wrote the section on Maxim Gorky, novelist Lyudmila Petrushevskaya wrote about poet Alexander Pushkin and artist and novelist Maxim Kantor wrote about satirist Mikhail Bulgakov. The list goes on with another 40 authors. Fortunately, the upcoming English translations of these articles are likely to be selective. Thus revised, the book may prove to

isn’t information anymore, this is PR or anti-PR by the authorities.” Russian pundits called his speech a renewed perestroika manifesto. The author is now at work on the fifth volume of his opus, “Our Era,” an all-encompassing guide to the Soviet Union and modern Russia. Each volume covers a decade of Russian history. Parfyonov does not lack passion, his audience has discovered, and he has a ravenous appetite for his subject. Though he is also known to wander from Gagarin’s space flight to the assassination of President John Kennedy, from the Warsaw Pact troops being sent to Czechoslovakia, to the Vietnam War. Parfyonov writes about the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, Russians hooked on the soap opera Santa Barbara in the early 1990s, nationwide Ponzi schemes and the craze for imported chocolate bars. As with any decent encyclopedia, “Our Era” is illustrated with high-quality, vivid and relevant photographs, which help the emerging Russian reader with the content.

be even a more entertaining and focused read. The Enchanted Pilgrim Peter Vail emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1977. He lived and worked as a journalist in the United States and then in the Czech Republic. He was a passionate globetrotter even at a time when the U.S.S.R. was still secluded behind the iron curtain. When it collapsed, Russians eagerly flocked to foreign lands that had been tantalizing but inaccessible for about seventy years. While some were content with shopping trips and sea resorts, many sought more sophisticated discoveries, which is where Vail comes in. His travel columns and books published in Russia and swiftly gained enormous popularity, breathing the balmy air of faraway lands. Vail gave people the impression he had seen all the cities and provinces in the world, and could talk about them with esoteric aplomb. Peter Vail died in late 2009. In 2010, Moscowbased Astrel Publishing House came out with “The Word en Route.” In his last work, Vail takes the reader on a post-Soviet journey with the same exceptional


Special TO RN

t has become commonplace to claim that Mikhail Gorbachev, who turned 80 this month, is highly regarded throughout the world but is still not appreciated in Russia. When people ask him what he thinks about this, he says that he feels no resentment and, moreover, can understand people since the transition to democracy has been a difficult experience for millions of Russians. Gorbachev also does not deny his share of responsibility in the whole process and acknowledges the mistakes and failures of the perestroika period. I have known Gorbachev for many years now. I suggest that the reasons for the gap in how Gorbachev is perceived in the country and the rest of the world cannot be explained without taking into account certain aspects of the Russian national character and the country’s history. When Gorbachev came to power, everybody wanted change. But the overwhelming majority of people were not quite sure what kind of change they wanted. The Russian people’s traditional hopes for “a kind master” and “a good czar” prevailed at the time. Virtually any decisive or drastic actions taken by the country’s new leadership would appear to the people as the beginning of change. It is not true that Gorbachev “did not have a choice.” A kind of “shadow ideology,” which

combined elements of Russian nationalism with imperial geopolitics, had become popular among the party leaders at the time. An even more obvious option would have been to “strengthen discipline” and “put the house in order,” which would have gradually led to the Soviet regime morphing into a Ceausescu-like one. Gorbachev wanted perestroika; he wanted to empower millions of people. He tried to implement this plan within the existing system, but two or three years later came to the idea of democratization. He was able to push this through a new Politburo, but one, as it soon turned out, that was still unprepared for the painful changes, surprises and instability that are inevitable when real reforms begin. Having been granted more and more freedom, the people continued not to rely so much on themselves as on a miracle, a “strong hand” and a “decisive leader,” which explains Boris Yeltsin’s rise in popularity. In the heat of celebration, the new leaders found it easy to prematurely split up the Soviet Union, even though no institutions of democratic policy, civil society or market economy had yet been formed in any of the republics. Twenty years later, it is clear that this premature dissolution of the union did not accelerate, but actually slowed down the formation of such institutions. This led to the emergence of regimes that wield uncontested power and only imitate democracy. Few people

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Gorbachev at home and abroad Pavel Palazhchenko



Tatiana Shabaeva

ussia, a country frequently defined by its epic novels, has witnessed a recent prolific surge in nonfiction. A few literary and journalistic giants have taken to writing in a visual, documentary-like style. With titles like “Verbatim,” “Our Era” and “The Word n Route,” writers tell stories, sometimes off the cuff, of the Russia that’s true for them. Perhaps the most touching link between the authors of recent non-fiction books is the connection between journalist Leonid Parfyonov and Liliana Lungina, who died in 1998. Lungina, a translator, bore witness to Lubyanka, Stalin and the Thaw. Before her death, she told the story of her remarkable and spirited life, one in which she gave safe haven to many persecuted writers who had been abandoned by friends and colleagues. Her story became a documentary and then a book called “Verbatim.” However, for 11 years, there was no interest in her story until Boris Akunin and Leonid Parfyonov got involved and pushed the project. The resulting documentary series based on her recollections was so popular in 2009 that it became a book, “Verbatim,” which has resonated deeply with readers this past year.


Russia NOW

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Gorbachev began reform, but Russia needs another effort at developing a real democracy. are willing to admit this, however. For the people of many former Soviet republics, the hardships of the previous two decades have been offset by feelings of national pride, resulting from their newly found independence. This, however, is not the case

in Russia, for it is the only former Soviet republic where most people view the disintegration of the union as the loss of a great country that was theirs. Gorbachev is criticized for not using his power to suppress separatism. Others claim the Soviet Union could have been preserved if Gorbachev had transferred power to Yeltsin following the attempted coup in August 1991 (I heard this from one of Yeltsin’s former associates). People are now using the rights and freedoms they acquired during the perestroika

talent for being genuinely surprised, kindly ironic and sincerely involved. Safe Haven Lungina’s “Verbatim,” published by Astrel Publishing House, is among the most powerful of these works. Lungina, the mother of beloved Russian director Pavel Lungin (“Taxi Blues” and “The Island”), was a widely famous and popular fiction translator who introduced Soviet readers to the masterpieces of Astrid Lindgren, Heinrich Böll, Boris Vian, Henrik Ibsen and many others. She befriended many leading Soviet writers and foreign authors whose works she translated. Her friends fell victim one by one to the terror and were crushed or killed in Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s camps. She began to know fear, but she believed it was her duty to overcome it. Her house became a safe haven for the persecuted and the penniless, and she became a guardian and witness to their fate. Tatiana Shabaeva is a Moscow-based journalist and translator.

years. The freedom to engage in private business, practice religion, travel abroad and, to the degree allowed by the authorities, speak out and assemble. Still, one hears criticism: In the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “Gorbachev’s glasnost ruined everything.” Solzhenitsyn was not alone in failing to notice the contradictions between the impatient demands of the early 1990s and the blame Gorbachev received after leaving power. Even Gorbachev’s stepping down saved the country from even more severe upheaval. (Recall that the leading roles in Russian history were played not by Alexander II, the czar who freed the peasants, but rather by Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great and Joseph Stalin.) National character changes slowly. But we cannot even address the problem if we do not recognize it. The disparity in how Gorbachev is perceived in Russia and in most other countries is undoubtedly a problem—not Gorbachev’s problem but Russia’s. Closing the gap with the rest of the world in the assessment of this man’s role in history would be a huge step in Russia’s integration with the global community. But it cannot happen by itself. Russia needs another attempt at building real democracy. The leader who takes this step will have a difficult time, but his task will be much easier than the one faced by Gorbachev, who initiated these reforms. Today, we are searching for the path to democracy along with dozens of other countries and hundreds of millions of people. And having traveled this path, we will be able to properly appreciate the person who gave us this chance. Pavel Palazhchenko was a personal translator to exSoviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.

ussia has never received especially rave reviews from those intrepid travelers who journeyed here from the West. Their memoirs are rife with epithets like “wild and barbaric,” or “mysterious and strange,” “a bizarre country,” this “utterly unknown society.” “People in the West know astonishingly little about Russia,” wrote Sweden’s Lennart Dahlgren, who worked for close to a decade in Russia as the head of IKEA. Dahlgren, too, published a memoir: “Despite Absurdity: How I Conquered Russia While It Conquered Me.” Its value is in its efffort to explain why one would do better not to approach Russia with any myths or standard expectations. Like most of IKEA’s managers, Dahlgren began with a distinctly negative attitude toward Russia. Business was not smooth sailing. IKEA managed to launch stores in Russia only on its third attempt. The first try was derailed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the second try by the war between the Russian government and Parliament. The third time around, just as construction was about to begin on the first IKEA store in Russia, the ruble collapsed. You would think that a person had better not do business with a country like ours. Western logic, however, doesn’t work in Russia. But the old saying does: “Nothing ventured, no champagne.” Almost half of his book is devoted to the long-running tugof-war between IKEA and local authorities in the Moscow region. The company was sup-

posed to build a bridge over the Leningrad Highway so that customers could get there more easily. First they received permission to build the bridge, then that permission was rescinded. Soon traffic on the Leningrad Highway was backed up and the on-again, off-again bridge was back on again, but in the wrong direction. Dahlgren does imply that the problem could have been solved with bribes. IKEA did not give up, and here is the result: Thirteen gigantic malls opened in 10 cities, along with an enormous distribution center and three manufacturing complexes in operation. “Where else could you achieve such impressive results over such a short period?” exclaims Dahlgren. Incidentally, it was in Russia that IKEA tested its new business model. In Russia, IKEA began opening not just furniture stores, but enormous shopping and entertainment complexes. Their success exceeded all expectations: The first megacomplex became the most visited in the world, with 50 million visitors. Having lived in Russia for a decade, Dahlgren found an explanation for Russia’s negative image in the West: “I noticed fairly quickly that many Western businessmen in Russia lead a merry life full of affairs with Russian beauties and wild drinking sprees ... There is a huge temptation to live as one pleases, and then to attribute any failures to the ‘horrors of Russian reality’: the mafia, corruption, pressure, threats,” Dahlgren wrote. “I know for a fact that I will always miss that crazy space full of love, without fully understanding why,” Dahlgren wrote. “Russia is a drug and I’m addicted to it.” Now that’s love —Swedish style!

EXPAT files

A Reluctant Pony Mom Jennifer Eremeeva

Special to Russia Now


ordelia is distracted during our weekly bowl of garlic soup. “Are Russian schools off this

week?” “Not that I know of,” I confirm. “I played tennis in the morning rather than the afternoon, and the entire club was taken up by Russian children being screamed at by Russian tennis coaches. Shouldn’t they be in school?” “They probably are,” I hypothesize. “Except the parents have paid off the school so they can skip history and foreign languages, which no one in today’s Russia needs, so they can put in five solid hours to become tennis prodigies.” “How barbaric,” Cordelia says. “Nonsense,” I insert, “this is a global phenomenon: Bullying kids to succeed—like that lunatic woman Amy Chua.” “Who?” “Cordelia, are you the only person in the galaxy who hasn’t heard of the book, ‘Battle Hymon of the Tiger Mother’?” “God, I hope so,” she said. The liberal uber moms, while publicly horrified by Chua’s bestselling book, wonder if threatening to auction off the stuffed animal collection to exact mastery of a complex piano piece might just be the way to go. They’re wrong. My 13-year-old daughter, Velvet, is an exceptional equestrienne. She’s always coming home with blue ribbons. The Olympics have been mentioned as a realistic goal. Everyone wants to know how I, who seldom take on anything that I can’t do in my pajamas, managed to produce an athletic prodigy for one of the

world’s most elite sports. No one believes me when I just shrug my shoulders and say, “Honestly, I did nothing.” Velvet is a typical product of successful “indifferent parenting.” This is the way I was raised, by two 1960s WASPs. They took great care never to expose my sister and me to anything in which we could win a medal of any kind. “Field hockey,” my mother said pursing her lips. “Why don’t you go out for Big Chorus?” I assume we did our homework at some point, because one day we were both packing our trunks for prep schools, from which we both matriculated to the Ivy League. Primed by parental assurance that the fusion of Glee Club, AP Latin, most improved JV Soccer player and a backstage solo in “Jesus Christ Superstar” was exactly the skill set that prepared one for The Real World, I was ready to be a model of indifferent parenting when Velvet started to display a single-minded determination to excel. When she wanted Breyer horses, I gave her an American Girl Doll. I countered her plans to spend 12 to 14 hours bailing hay with a two-week Shakespeare camp. I refused to buy a horse. I made it clear that I was never, ever going to haul anything behind my Subaru. I developed an extreme allergy to horsehair and hay, producing notes from doctors to prove it. This is what the Russian Bear Mamas don’t get. Fire the 18 tutors and put your manicured feet up. Don’t push your kids toward anything. Push against everything. Really. Jennifer Eremeeva is a longtime resident of Moscow; she blogs at and www.dividingmytime. She is currently working on her first book.



MOST READ Best of Russia on Display



Anniversary Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, remains an inspiration to young people half a century after he completed his mission

Gagarin Opened the Heavens The Russian Federal Space Program’s budget in 2011.

Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin gets a kiss from his daughters.

The young pilot died in an aircraft crash while training for another mission in 1968. U.S. agency had its manned moon and Mars mission hopes trimmed by the Obama administration, Russia keeps those long-term plans on the drawing board, hoping to establish a moon base by 2030 and stage

Volunteers Organize After Recent Tragedies A wave of volunteer movements in Russia, initiated by the young and the virtually connected, is taking everyone by surprise. GALINA MASTEROVA



Volunteers put out a fire near the village of Kovrigino.

Volunteerism is clearly on the rise in Russia, where a young, Internet-savvy generation of homegrown activists is emerging. These volunteers represent a new middle class interested in fighting social problems and willing to react swiftly to those in need. Grassroots organizations, started by Russians, are replacing the Western-funded model. And the coordinated fight against the fires marked a new sophistication in the culture of philanthropy.

The year Russia’s first interplanetary space mission since the failed Mars 96 probe.

Russia’s Mir space station orbitted the earth from 1986 to 2001.

Charity How can we help each other?

Marina Litvinovich, 36, a popular opposition blogger, was surfing on her computer this summer when the wildfires swept through forests in the parched countryside. She noticed two types of comments accumulating on different Internet sites. “On one they were saying ‘We are burning, we are burning,’ and on another, ‘How can we help? How can we help? The two needed to come together and that’s what we did,” she said. “I wrote a blog about how villages and houses were burning and that the emergency services ministry and the fire services were not coping.” The response was phenomenal. Within a few days, Litvinovich and a number of other volunteers had set up a Web site; they used a computer program, Usahidi, that had been used in Haiti after the earthquake there to allocate aid where it was most needed. Hundreds of volunteers offered their help.


Multimedia at

hour, he whistled a popular Soviet patriotic song over the radio, the first two lines of which are, “The Motherland hears, the Motherland knows/Where her son flies in the sky.” Within a few hours, word of his feat had sped across the globe, and a new era had begun. However, the competitive vigor of both programs began to tail off in the 1970s after a series of U.S. moon landings. The hot space race effectively ended in July 1975 when U.S. and Soviet crews docked their Apollo and Soyuz capsules in orbit. Following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow and Washington pooled resources in missions to Russia’s Mir space station, which after 15 years of operation was scuttled and fell into the Pacific Ocean in 2001. Meanwhile, assembly of the ISS began in 1998, and the permanently manned complex now comprises 14 pressurized modules. More than 500 men and women from 38 countries have

During the fires, “there was a big wave of volunteering, people helped collect goods and then got in their cars and fought the fires,” said Maria Chertok, director of CAF Russia, a nongovernmental charity aid organization. Other charities such as Miloserdie, a Russian Orthodox charity whose name translates as “Kind Hearts,” also joined in. Unlike in the West, where people of all ages actively volunteer,

Gagarin on a momentous trip.

a Mars mission shortly after, according to Anatoly Perminov, Roskosmos space agency chief. “And then the life’s dream of Sergei Korolyov will be fulfilled,” Perminov said in a recent interview, referring to the former inmate of Stalin’s labor camps who became the Soviet program’s chief designer and driving force until his death in 1966. Meanwhile, both countries are keeping an eye on China

the members of the volunteer movement in Russia are generally young. “Most are under 40 and have blogs on livejournal, they are not members of a party, not of any organizations,” Litvinovich said. A blogger volunteering in a convalescent home drew attention to terrible conditions there. Local officials were sent to check the home, and the publicity brought in new volunteers. But the movement is both spontaneous and chaotic; Russia’s Public Chamber, an advisory committee to the Duma, met recently to discuss more coordination among state services and volunteers. There is little precedent for charity in Russia: Before the revolution, there was a form of volunteerism, but it was wiped out when the Bolsheviks came to power. But there are responsibilities with this new trend, including a great need for training. Podari Zhizn (Gift of Life), based in Moscow, helps children suffering from cancer and other serious diseases. It is also introducing a training program to help volunteers improve their skills with sick children. Anastasia Severina, 23, has a passion for volunteering. “When you are in that sphere, you meet good, nice people who are easy to get along with,” she said. Severina said she had tried to work in business and for the state but felt herself drawn back to charity work and volunteering. Her most recent good deed was a call out for a husband and wife with seven children in Ryazan who appealed to her for help. Severina wrote about their most pressing needs on her blog, and food and clothes were sent to the family immediately. “I can tell people about them and we can try and help them cope.”

and India as they pursue their own cosmic ambitions. The Chinese made a third launch of their Shenzhou VII spacecraft and also their first spacewalk in 2008, while India is planning a manned flight by 2014. It is all a far cry from the heady days of the Vostok-1 mission, when no one knew if the young Gagarin would even make it home alive. Either in jubilation or to cover his nervousness while orbiting the planet at 17,000 miles per

Philanthropy Former PepsiCo head bolstered Mariinsky

Russia Honors American Patron Former PepsiCo head Donald Kendall is the first foreigner to be awarded Russia’s Order of Honor for his philanthropic efforts. russianow

Union. The company began to produce Pepsi Cola in Novorossiysk, a city in southern Russia. Alexei Kosygin, then the head of the Soviet government, granted Kendall the right to sell Stolichnaya vodka in the United States. In 1959, Kendall treated Nikita Khrushchev to a Pepsi Cola at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, under the skeptical glance of Marshal Kliment Voroshilov. Legend has it that the Pepsi Khrushchev had was not cold enough. “In Russia, PepsiCo is a Russian company,” the ambassador said in an effort to explain Kendall’s enormous success. The company currently has nine plants in Russia. In recent years, Kendall has focused his efforts on charity.


A colorful, tough-minded U.S. businessman and beloved philanthropist, Donald Kendall is now the first foreigner to be awarded the Russian Order of Honor for his support of the arts in Russia. The ceremony, timed to coincide with Kendall’s 90th birthday, took place at the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.; the medal was awarded by Sergei Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States. Kendall received the medal for his efforts in support of Russian music and the Mariinsky Theatre, which has experienced a resurgence as of late under conducter Valery Gergiev, producing some of the finest musical events in recent years. Many luminaries attended the event. Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker described Kendall as “vigorous, tough and mean.” Baker, who used to hunt with Kendall in Wyoming, also describd Kendall as thrifty. “Look, he is wearing the same tuxedo he had when he started working with Russia,” Baker said. During the height of the Cold War, Kendall, then the head of the PepsiCo corporation, began doing business in the Soviet

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flown in space, but with the ISS alone expected to cost more than $100 billion over 15 years, space exploration remains a hugely expensive and also dangerous activity. After 30 years of service and 135 launches, NASA’s shuttle fleet made its final run to the ISS last month. When the shuttles are fully retired later this year, the station will be dependent on smaller Russian craft to ferry crews and supplies until a new U.S. space taxi is produced. Shifting the transport burden boosts the role, prestige and income of the Russian space agency, which suffered so acutely from underfunding in the 1990s that it had to film commercials on Mir and later send tourists to the ISS to raise money. As Russia forges ahead with partners, the vision for space exploration comes into focus. “The future lies in cooperation,” Roskosmos head, Perminov, told Radio Golos. “Space exploration of the future means automated industrial facilities for mining and processing minerals on the satellites of our solar system; it means electric power stations that feed the space industry as well as the Earth. Consequently, industrial production will be transferred from Earth, and our unique planet’s biosphere will be cleansed and restored.” Half a century after he beheld the spectacle of our precious and fragile world from above, Gagarin would surely have applauded such a lofty goal. “Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is,” he said after touching down. “People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it.”

He founded the White Nights Foundation of America to support Russian music and the Mariinsky Theatre. Valery Gergiev, artistic director of the Mariinsky, addressed Kendall in a video message, calling him “the symbol of America.” It was thanks to Kendall’s support that the new Concert Hall at the Mariinsky Theatre was built, Gergiev emphasized. Other guests were Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state; U.S. Librarian of Congress James Billington; Dan Russell, deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for relations with Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus; as well as the chief executives of several American companies operating in Russia.



Fifty years ago this April 12, with a rousing cry of “Let’s Go!” (Poekhali), cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin raced skyward on a Soviet rocket to become the first human in space. Launching in the Vostok spacecraft from Kazakhstan at 9:06 a.m. that sunny day in 1961, the 27-year-old son of a carpenter circled the Earth once on a 108-minute space flight before parachuting safely to the ground in the Saratov region of the U.S.S.R. Driven by the Soviet Union’s quest to assert technical superiority over the United States, Gagarin’s flight became one of the 20th century’s most significant achievements. This short but epic foray into the heavens inspired millions of people around the globe and fired up a Cold War race between the superpowers that was not explicitly geared toward mutual destruction. “Not one psychologist, not one politician could predict what effect Gagarin’s flight would have on the world,” Alexei Leonov, another member of the original 20-man squad of Soviet cosmonauts, told Russian Now. “This was the finest competition the human race ever staged; who could build the best space craft, the best manned rocket … No one suffered from this. On the contrary, people were busy perfecting this equipment rather than creating weapons.” For more than two decades,

$3 billion





the sides pitched their finest engineering minds against each other. The American moon landing in July 1969 eclipsed all other achievements, but it was the Soviet Union that generally led the race in the preceding years and often afterward. Space exploration has become increasingly cooperative since the end of the Cold War, especially with the ongoing assembly of the 18-country International Space Station (ISS). But on April 12, Russians everywhere honor the space-faring legacy embodied by Gagarin. The young pilot tragically died in an aircraft crash in 1968 while in training for a second space mission, and his remains are interred near Lenin’s tomb on Red Square. But even in a day of megastars, he retains his iconic status: In a recent survey, 35 percent of Russians named Gagarin as their prime role model, “an ordinary person of this world but also the finest of our nation, our first envoy into space, a star of a man,” as Leonov described him. Now, as in the past, Russia’s new resolve to explore space comes right from the top. “Space will always remain a priority of ours,” President Dmitry Medvedev told the ISS crew in a radio link-up on last year’s April 12 Cosmonautics Day. “This is not just somebody’s interpretation, it’s our official state position.” In pure financing, Russia’s $3 billion annual space budget cannot compete with NASA’s almost $19 billion. But more funding has been allocated to space in recent years as oil and gas revenues also surged. Russia is a world leader in the commercial satellite launch market, which further helps to propel its space industry. And while the


A half century after Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, firing up a Cold War race, Russia accelerates its own exploration and cooperation.

Donald Kendall at the Russian Embassy.

“The high profit expectations are often coupled with suspicious attitudes towards the Russian legal system, which, together with political factors, often outweigh the perceived benefits of investing in Russia’s rapidly developing economy.” “What I can’t shake is the image of Prince William as the Winkelvoss twins, with Putin in the Zuckerberg role during the negotiations.”

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Russia Now in WP #3  
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Russia Now supplement distributed with the Washington Post