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An end to Moscow’s gypsy cab culture?
The fraught process of adopting Russian orphans.
All the city’s a stage, and ablaze, with festivals.
Politics & Society ITAR-TASS
This pull-out is produced and published by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) and did not involve the news or editorial departments of The Washington Post
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
NEWS IN BRIEF
Culture Russia’s premier art-house director garners international recognition
“Right Cause” Party Reached a Dead End Oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the New York Nets and Snob Magazine, resigned dramatically from the Right Cause Party this month, effectively ending speculation that he might join or break up the tandem of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Prokhorov had lashed out at Kremlin Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov, but then seemed to recant in his blog: “There was no personal conflict with anyone ... in the end it was a conflict of ideologies. ... At this stage the conservatives won. I wanted change, but the system was not ready.” Read about the latest political developments at rbth.ru/elections
YUKOS List Goes to U.S. Senate
Following his mentor Andrei Tarkovsky, Alexander Sokurov became the fourth Russian director to win the Golden Lion with “Faust.” GALINA MASTEROVA SPECIAL TO RN
Alexander Sokurov’s much anticipated “Faust,” inspired by Goethe’s classic interpretation of the legend and filmed in German, was a popular winner at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month. It was the highest recognition for a filmmaker who long deserved a place at the table of great Russian film directors, said critics and colleagues. “There are some films that make you cry, there are some films that make you laugh, there
are some films that change you forever after you see them; and this is one of them,” said Darren Aronofsky, director of “Black Swan” and head of the festival jury. Accepting the award, Sokurov said it was an “emotional” moment for him and noted that “serious, deeply felt auteur cinema is becoming more and more difficult” without government support. He should know, as his film never would have been made without an unlikely supporter—Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. It has been a long journey for Sokurov. His early films were banned in Soviet times, and the first three films of his trilogy, which Faust completes, although highly praised, were
mostly ignored by the international festivals. “He has been aiming for this award all his life,” said producer Andrei Sigle, who said he had to convince Sokurov to enter the film in the competition after previous disappointments. His trilogy of films about dictators—Lenin, Stalin and Emperor Hirohito in “Moloch,” “Taurus” and “The Sun,” respectively—together form a prequel to “Faust,” the archetypal deal-with-the-devil story. His biggest success before “Faust” was with “Russian Ark,” filmed in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in one continous take, which wowed the international art-house crowd in 2002. Sokurov, a figure whose in-
ability to compromise has seen him feted more abroad than at home, did not receive any funding from the Ministry of Culture to make this film—and for that reason it might not have been made. But money appeared after Putin spoke out in support of the filming of “Faust.” Why Putin supported the film is still a mystery to Sokurov, who met with the prime minister and acknowledged the importance of his support. The fact that his film is about Faust, he thinks, was an important factor, the director said in an interview. “I’m not sure if [the film] will be interesting for him, although he knows the German language and German culture is close to him,” he said. “I don’t under-
stand why such help was given; I am not a supporter of those who support the political culture in Russia.” Sokurov’s candor regarding his lack of love for Russian politics is typical: The director is known for saying what he thinks. His early films were banned by Soviet authorities, which in a way brought him more international attention. Sokurov says his serial obsessions with dictators and “Faust” itself, which is the culmination of the quartet of films, goes back 30 years. “It’s amazing that there is so little attention paid to Faust,” he said. “If any politician reads ‘Faust,’ everything is there.”
Sokurov’s Deal With the Devil Epic Takes Top Prize Johannes Zeiler (left) portrays Faust and Isolda Dychauk (right) is Margarete in Alexander Sokurov’s film.
After a summer of discontent over the Magnitsky List and a controversial resolution by American lawmakers, Russian human rights campaigners have handed a new blacklist of Russian officials to the U.S. Senate. The campaigners, including Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Lev Ponomaryev, want 305 Russian officials to face sanctions in America for their role in the conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. Tom Washington, THE MOSCOW NEWS
Russian Films for D.C. Students Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak has teamed up with Washington, D.C. philanthropist Susan Lehrman and American University to launch the Initiative for Russian Culture to promote cultural relations between the United States and Russia. Ambassador Kislyak has made cultural exchange a focus of his tenure, and especially works to generate cross-cultural interest in Russian film. The Russian Embassy will host screenings of Russian films in its theater for American University students. The project will be launched on Sept. 30 at the Library of Congress by Susan Lehrman and Peter Starr, dean of American University. More details at www.american.edu/cas/irc.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 6
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Safety Russia’s flight record is once again under scrutiny
Crash Killing Hockey Team Raises Ire The sport of hockey lost 44 players, from Russia, the NHL and Europe, to a senseless air tragedy in a Yak-42. How can domestic flying be safer? TOM BALMFORTH
It looked like President Dmitry Medvedev would chalk up political points at the recent Global Policy Forum in Yaroslavl, showcasing his plan to turn Russia into an innovation economy. Instead, it became a damage limitation exercise as the nearby wreckage of a Yak-42 passenger plane, which crashed on Sept. 7, offered a powerful symbol of the obstacles the Kremlin faces in modernizing Russia. The crash, which killed 44 people, including most players from a top-level hockey team, has once again put the spot-
See a video tribute to the team at rbth.ru/13394
Lokomotiv was one of Russia’s popular hockey teams, coached by Canadian Brad McCrimmon, who also died.
light on Russia’s deplorable flight record, which has been explained by lax safety observance, cost-cutting on maintenance, corruption and the country’s aging Soviet fleet of planes. Aleksandr Shokhin, president of the Union for Industry and Entrepreneurs, was in attendance at the Yaroslavl conference. He told RFE/RL’s Russian Service that “all the contradictions of modern Russian society collided in Yaroslavl. I think this [illustrates] the two-sided nature of our politics,” he said. “On the one hand, we dream of becoming a great empire, while at the same time we haven’t sorted out elementary problems in basic technology in many sectors. This is a reason to ponder what type of modernization we really need.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 3
Khabarovsk: a Baltic dream in Russia’s Far East www.rbth.ru
Controversial Guard Change in Space RBTH.RU/13428 KIRILL BYCHKOV
Tula Porridge Sets World Record RBTH.RU/13434
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Business Sergei Petrov went from a pool of drivers to a dealership empire and survived
Driver Turned Billionaire one and helped the clients carry their cases,” Petrov said. Petrov obviously got on very well with his clients, because when he approached the head of Mitsubishi Russia for a soft loan to expand his fleet, he was instead given 40 new cars imported from Finland with no down payment and no collateral; a loan he was able to pay off almost immediately as the business flourished. A year later, the newly established Rolf won a tender to become the first official Mitsubishi car dealer in Russia.
A former taxi driver shows that it is possible to make money by appealing to Russia’s growing middle class. BEN ARIS SPECIAL TO RN
INTERNATIONAL YAROSLAVL TOURISM FORUM “VISIT RUSSIA” OCTOBER 20–21 YAROSLAVL, RUSSIA
“We had to be strong and competitive, and we civilized this business,” Petrov said.
Rolf dealer center in Moscow.
and made multimillionaires out of fast-moving businessmen overnight. “Luxury goods was the only stable market then. The fish were there—mainly high government officials, oligarchs and mafia,” Petrov said. “The rest of society, about 80 percent of the population, had nothing.” However, as the economy began to pick up, the car market slowly expanded, and by the late 1990s, Rolf had made Mitsubishi the best selling car in Russia outside the luxury segment. The 1998 crisis was another blow, but it hurt Rolf less than its competitors, as Petrov had already built up several business lines. In addition to retailing
Russia’s Emerging Car Market
Taxi Entrepreneur Perestroika and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union forced everyone in Russia to rely on their own resources. Petrov had been running the driver pool at Moscow construction company Mosinzhstroy, but left in 1991 to set up his own company providing drivers to many of the international companies moving into Russia. “We had a fleet of cars and the international companies needed reliable drivers. I drove
Despite the economic chaos and hyperinflation wracking the country at the time, Rolf grew extremely fast. Not everyone had been ruined by the collapse of the old system; Rolf’s first customers were high government officials and the newly minted “Russian mafia,” mostly traders capitalizing on the mismatch between Soviet-era valuation on goods and assets and those in the international markets. “We earned enormous money [in the early 1990s],” Petrov said. “After Yeltsin introduced trade exemptions for charities as way of funding their work, we were approached by one and imported the cars under this scheme without duties. We had to pay a third of the duties and were making about $20,000 per sale. It was a lot for a small company like ours.” The first half of the 1990s operated on this huge arbitrage
Sergei Petrov cuts a diminutive and modestly dressed figure in the midst of the crowd in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton hotel in central Moscow. That’s at first impression surprising because Petrov is the founder of Rolf, Russia’s biggest car dealership. He is probably the richest man in the room by far, and Russians are hardly known for understatement when it comes to displaying their wealth. As a taxi driver who built a car dealership empire, its not only Petrov’s clothes that buck the trend. He grew rich from selling cars, one of Russia’s most corrupt businesses, but he worked at making the business transparent, concentrating on quality of service rather than nefarious schemes. “We had to be strong and competitive, and we civilized this business,” Petrov said. “In 1992, importing cars was little more than a smuggling operation, and people didn’t know how to make real money. But we always tried to do it legally; later other companies followed us.” Today, Rolf has 27 showrooms in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Business is flourishing. The 2008 crisis hurt Rolf along with everyone else, but in 2010, the company’s turnover was already back to $4 billion, even if profits were halved. Petrov is a poster boy for the potential for business geared toward Russia’s rapidly growing middle class. “Is Russia better today?” he asked rhetorically. “Yes, things are better than when we set out on this path 20 years ago, but we hoped for much more.”
NATIONALITY: RUSSIAN AGE: 57 CIVIL STATUS: MARRIED
Born in the city of Orenburg near the Ural mountains in 1954, Sergei Petrov became a military pilot; he was forced to quit in 1982, after the KGB accused his unit of “anti-communist activities.” He moved to Moscow and re-trained at the Soviet Trade University, graduating in trade relations in 1987. In 1991, he set up his own company providing drivers to many of the international companies moving into Russia. In 1991, Rolf company was founded and became the first official Mitsubishi car dealer in Russia.
cars, the company sold them wholesale to companies, serviced them and had a secondhand sales unit. Competitors concentrating solely on importing were forced to slash costs, but Rolf could sustain itself on its other businesses to absorb the losses from devaluation. Fear vs. Greed During the first six months of 2008, Russia briefly became the biggest car market in Europe, selling 1.65 million units to overtake former champion Germany. Then the latest crisis hit. Despite the widespread economic problems, sales of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles were up 30 percent in 2010, according to David Thomas, chairman of the Association of European Businesses (AEB). The uplift continues this year, and Russia is set to take back the crown in 2015, according to industry experts. As it already represents many of the world’s leading brands— including an increasing number of domestically produced foreign brands such as Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen—Rolf will ride this wave. But building up the business has not been easy. First, the company has always been forced to grow using retained earnings. “We’ve never gone to the banks for finances. The cost of money is so high that if you take loans there is no
profit,” Petrov said. “The only financing we have ever taken was from Mitsubishi, when we started importing more than 100,000 cars a year in 2007.” Second, there is the bureaucracy, especially in the import business. Petrov’s solution to this snafu was to build his own car import terminal in St. Petersburg, which takes all logistics out of the hands of the customs service, leaving them only to carry out inspections. This smooths the supply of product to his dealership network. However, Russia’s lawlessness has been the biggest obstacle. Organized crime reportedly controlled Russia’s car distribution networks throughout the 1990s, and imports arrived via schemes designed to avoid what were crippling import duties. However, Petrov declares that he stuck to his principles and insisted his cars were brought in legally. “It was a battle of greed vs. fear—and fear won,” Petrov said. “When we started selling Audis my sales staff were demotivated. Other dealers could offer a $2,000 discount on any car compared to our prices.” However, when Vladimir Putin took over as president and threw oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky into jail for tax evasion, Russian companies started to “go white.” The message to business was clear: pay your taxes or else.
Transportation Expats and Russians alike found reassurance in the freelance driver fleet
Tail Pipe Dragging, It May Be the End of the Gypsy Cab Era New regulations are in effect to help rid Moscow of gypsy cabs, but some hope they will not be enforced.
The taxi industry tries to go legit
DARIA KOSTINA LARA MCCOY ROSLOF
It’s official: Authorities have been given the job of clearing “gypsy cabs” from Moscow’s streets, according to city legislation enacted this month. But the new law has been the source of frequent, heated debate. The law requires private taxi drivers to have a permit, and for their cars to be equipped with a meter, an orange light on the roof and checkered stripes painted on the side. The cars will also have to undergo an inspection every six months, and each region has the right to require all taxis to be painted the same color. The driver must have at least five years’ driving experience and must fill out a receipt or a report form for each journey. Under the new law, taxis will be regulated by traffic police inspectors (GIBDD) and Rostransnadzor, Russia’s transport safety regulator. They will attempt to catch unofficial taxis by posing as passengers and filming transactions. Moscow’s official taxi companies are strong supporters of the law. “The anarchy caused by private cabs operated by people with no driving experience and no knowledge of the
A passenger negotiates the price with the gypsy cab driver.
40 thousand “gypsy cabs” are currently driving around Moscow, but new laws may reduce the numbers.
9 thousand legal cabs can’t compete with the freelance drivers, who are flexible and often cheaper, but sometimes don’t have enough driving experience and knowledge of the city.
“Most taxi drivers will find it easier to work illegally,” Stanislav Krivosheyev said.
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Russian language or the city will come to an end,” said Felix Margarian, general director of the New Transportation Company, which operates taxis under the Yellow Taxi brand. But the law’s critics argue that it ignores the interests of entrepreneurs. “The list of requirements and documents to be submitted by carriers is still to be approved. Putting checkers on the side of the car and a lamp does not cost much. But a taximeter is a different story. Some say the device can be bought for $48, others say you can just install a program on the navigator. “If color restrictions are introduced, thousands of carriers will have to repaint their cars. That is expensive,” said Yaroslav Scherbinin, chairman of the Russian Union of Taxi Drivers.
According to private taxi drivers, the main problem with the new law is that licenses will be issued only to those who own their own cars. Drivers who use cars under a power of attorney will not be allowed. Addition-
“Knowing Russian is an absolute must if one has to use gypsy cabs,” said expat Tamara Smith. ally, it is not clear what the medical check up for drivers and the vehicle safety inspections will entail, nor where these tests will take place and who will administer them. Almost all unofficial taxi drivers think the new law will be ineffective.
Alexei Krikunov, who has 20 years’ experience as a gypsy cab driver and has no plans to become legal, said it is impossible to catch an unofficial cab. “I often take passengers who are going my way,” Krikunov said. “If a traffic cop stops me, I can always say I am driving a relative.” Even passengers that take taxis infrequently do not think that increased regulation will cut down on illegal fares. “Half the cars that stop to pick up illegal passengers now are legal cabs,” Anton Zaborov said. “The driver is working for this or that company getting orders from the call center, but he still is tempted to get some more rubles by taking an undocumented passenger. I cannot imagine how new laws will change that.”
Nevertheless, Stanislav Krivosheyev, leader of the All-Russia Movement of Taxi Drivers and editor-in-chief of the web portal Taxi News, has decided to go legit. “Getting a license in Moscow took less than 20 minutes, the car was not inspected, I simply produced the papers,” he said. “I chose a taximeter, a certified software utility, and installed it on the navigator. All the procedures took a month and a half and cost me 10,000 rubles. I went about this business purposefully and thoroughly. But I think most taxi drivers will find it easier to go on working illegally.” The law may have a side effect of improving Moscow’s image as a business and tourism destination. Some foreigners in Russia have found the lack of official taxis in the city to be a problem. But some foreigners have found taking gypsy cabs to be an adventure. Tamara Smith, an American who has lived in Moscow for seven years, said that she began using illegal taxis out of necessity, despite her initial misgivings. Overall, she has enjoyed the experience: “We have met many interesting people who pick up passengers to make ends meet— surgeons, scientists and even the choreographer for the trapeze at the Moscow Circus! Riding with them has been a great way to get the inside scoop on how locals feel about current events,” Smith said. But she is not opposed to the reform. “Knowing Russian is an absolute must if one has to use gypsy cabs—so a system more like those of New York or London would be much more desirable and safer.”
The participants of the Forum are representatives of authorities of Russian regions and towns, investors, heads of touristic companies, trade unions and associations, developers, Russian and international experts. The participants will discuss the issues of Russia’s integration into global tourism industry; the ways to attract tourists and investment to Russian regions; creation of tourist clusters as an instrument of innovative development; event and business tourism development; and experience in tourism brands creation. Guests include Christoph Kiessling, founder and director of Siam Park on Tenerife, Canary Islands, and Jonty Yamisha, Managing director in FTI’s Strategy Consulting practices, USA. › www.visitrussia-yar.ru/en/
4TH INTERNATIONAL ENERGY WEEK OCTOBER 24–25 WORLD TRADE CENTER, MOSCOW
This year’s Forum will focus on how new technologies can improve energy infrastructure in Russia and other countries. The event is supported by the Russian Ministries of Energy, Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources and Ecology and will include representatives from the International Energy Agency (IEA), Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Energy Ministries of many countries. www.ros-con.ru/
4TH NANOTECHNOLOGY INTERNATIONAL FORUM RUSNANOTECH 2011 OCTOBER 26–28 EXPOCENTER, MOSCOW
Russia’s nanotechnology giant Rusnano will host guests from around the world to discuss topics including solar and atomic energy, pharmaceuticals, bio-technologies, consumer goods, chemical production, health care, energy-efficient construction of roads and housing and efficient light bulbs in a series of panels. A special venue will be dedicated to young scientists and their inventions, and a major exhibit will feature Rusnano’s accomplishments and future projects. A major focus will be made on the institutions necessary for developing an innovation-based economy. The Forum’s participants include top Russian politicians and the CEOs of major companies involved in innovation. › www.rusnanoforum.ru/eng/
NYSE RUSSIA BUSINESS AND INVESTMENT SUMMIT 2011 OCTOBER 27–28 NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE CENTER NEW YORK, NY, U.S.A.
The Summit will offer a series of panels and one-onone meetings with institutional investors, allowing attendees and speakers to explore investment expectations. Topics will include key trends of policy making, the regulatory environment and investment valuations. The summit will feature around 30 of the most prominent Russian companies, allowing its participants to discuss strategic opportunities with global market leaders and U.S. investors. › www.irtinc.org/NYSE_RBIS
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MOST READ Politkovskaya Suspect Held rbth.ru/13324
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Politics & Society
Women’s Rights Gender matters in Russian politics
Women’s Place is in the Duma Female politicians with any power are few and far between in Russia, but a new NGO hopes to change that. VERONIKA DORMAN
Can a treaty between Russia and the United States help match qualified American parents with Russia’s specialneeds orphans? SOFIA IZMAILOVA VLADIMIR RUNIVSKY SPECIAL TO RN
Russian-born U.S. citizen Tatyana and her American husband decided to adopt a child from Russia. “My relatives in Russia objected almost with one voice, right from the start,” she said. “Our American relatives, on the contrary, were unanimously in favor.” The couple wants to adopt a child with health problems. Russian rules give priority to Russian would-be adoptive parents over foreign ones. Tatyana, who does not want to disclose her real name for fear of sabotaging the adoption process, said she and her husband “wanted, from the start, to adopt a child with health problems, because we thought such children would have less chance of being adopted in Russia.” Adopting orphans, including sick ones, is part of American culture. The head of the Russian office of an accredited American adoption agency said, on condition of anonymity, that “the children passing through our agency are all sick, seriously sick.” State Duma deputy Nina Ostanina admits that “children have better health and rehabilitation opportunities there than here in Russia.” Tatyana said that Americans adopt special-needs children for simple reasons like traditional Christian values of helping one’s neighbor; people with disabilities in America are regarded as members of society and are less isolated. Yet the number of adoptions from Russia has been falling in recent years. Russia does not have a single body in charge of adoption, so one has to produce various certificates for different Russian agencies. Even so, in 2010, Americans adopted 1,082 children from Russia. Pavel Astakhov, the Russian children’s rights ombudsman,
of Russian orphans are “social orphans,” that is, their parents are alive but are alcoholics, drug addicts or serving prison sentences.
Russian children were adopted by Americans in 2010. Americans adopt children with needs who are not adopted by Russians.
children have been adopted and taken to America over the last 20 years, and 17 of them have died at the hands of their adoptive parents.
agrees that “Americans adopt many children with health problems.” But the trouble is, he said, that the adoptive parents are not always fit to bring them up. So, adoptive parents, motivated by good intentions, have only a vague idea of what they are letting themselves in for. Sometimes, of course, many things cannot be foreseen. There are latent diseases not yet diagnosed when adoption takes place in Russia. The head of a
(FAS), which causes nervous disorders and behavioral problems, including marked aggression. “If a child is in an orphanage from an early age, say, before three, the child often develops reactive attachment syndrome (RAD),” said Dr. Lucine Vardanyan, an obstretician in Moscow. “If there is no [one loving] adult around, the child will never learn to trust people. It will come to regard surrounding people as objects for manipulation.” She warned that “the child provokes aggression in other people. … No matter how much the adoptive parents love such a child, it is simply unable to reciprocate.” Over the last 20 years, about 60,000 children have been adopted and taken to America, and 17 of them have died at the hands of their adoptive parents. Some adoptive parents blame their behavior on persistent aggression on the part of the adopted children caused by their illnesses. This was the case when the adoptive mother of Artyom Savelyev sent him back to Russia like an unwanted package. The lawyer of the couple accused of murdering Vanya Skorobogatov refers to “a serious brain disorder” afflicting the adopted son. “A child’s medical problems cannot justify abuse by the adoptive parents,” Astakhov said. According to Astakhov, some adoptive parents misled the Russian guardianship agencies by producing fake certificates or by withholding psychological information. The new treaty on adoption signed this spring between Russia and the
The adoption treaty cannot reduce the number of sick children in Russian orphanages. Russian office of an American adoption agency confirms this view “I know of many such cases. They are connected especially with genetic diseases that surface five or six years after adoption, sometimes at the age of 10 or 12. The disease may be very serious.” He said that, in such cases, “the adoptive parents soldier on,” doing everything they can to cure and support such a child. According to the Ministry of Education and Science, about 80 percent of the 770,000 Russian orphans are “social orphans,” that is, their parents are alive but may be alcoholics, drug addicts or serving prison sentences. It is not difficult for Russian parents to permanently lose complete parental rights. If a mother abused alcohol while pregnant, the child develops fetal alcohol syndrome
Special needs adoption is not well accepted in Russian culture.
United States now makes vetting parents easier. Russian agencies have the right to visit the house of the adoptive parents. U.S. authorities are in the process of creating a centralized database of adopted Russian children, and the Russian side has the right to verify adoption documents and, in extreme cases, reverse the decision. Most importantly, the treaty bans agencies not accredited in Russia and adoptive parents will be obliged to take special training courses and undergo mental health checks. These measures complicate the procedures for qualified parents, who now have to seek approvals from 19 Russian agencies. “The question must be raised of creating an authorized institution in the Russian Federation to handle adoption of our children,” Ostanina said. So far, bureaucrats have been reluctant to do this. Tatyana said that she and her husband have taken mandatory classes for adoptive children and have thought carefully about what diagnoses they would be willing to accept in their child. They will consider “whether there are programs in support of a certain disease nearby, whether there are hospitals where they can treat it well, whether our living conditions are good enough for this disease and whether we are emotionally ready to cope with any given diagnosis,” Tatyana said. The Moscow-Washington treaty protects the rights of Russian orphans, but does not reduce the number of sick children in Russian orphanages, said Boris Altshuler, head of The Child’s Right, a nongovernmental organization. Russian relatives wonder why Tatyana and her husband, who have other children, want to adopt; the couple hopes to adopt more children in the future. “It is difficult to wait,” Tatyana said. “I mentally move the clock to Russian time many times a day and think: what is the child doing at this moment, what is he eating, what he is playing at and how does he sleep. I can’t wait for the process to be over so we could start living a normal life, not one split in two by time and distance.”
Only 14 percent of the deputies in the State Duma are female.
goes against the current; she must make herself be noticed. She must be extraordinary.” Although 14 percent of the deputies in the Russian Duma are female, not all of them are role models. “They are not politicians in the true sense of the word, with an ideology and a broad vision, but rather hired professionals,” Kryshtanovskaya said. Some women, however,
Women Defying the Odds
“Women are capable of negotiating and cooperating,” Svetlana Zhurova told German press. ko has always resisted talking about herself as a woman in politics. At her final press conference as governor of St. Petersburg, Matviyenko said that she always thought questions about women and politics “lacked sense.” But other women in politics say they spend a lot of time trying to reform people’s opinions about them. “A woman, regardless of her status or skills or qualities she possesses, will always be subjected to a level of distrust,” said Irina Khakamada, a former Duma deputy and 2004 presidential candidate who has now retired from politics. “For 13 years, I spent 70 percent of my time and energy proving I am a politician with equal rights. I only had 30 percent of it left to actually pass laws,” she said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio. Nevertheless, Khakamada is opposed to quotas, which she considers another form of discrimination. “We must reform minds and the environment,” Khakamada said. “Politicians in Russia are often insignificant, because the system works for them. They can be completely uninteresting, yet be leaders. A woman
The Fairer Sex
Fixing Foreign Adoption
Family Couples who adopt children need vetting and support
SPECIAL TO RN
During the Soviet era, Vladimir Lenin’s famous saying, “every cook must learn to govern the state,” was used to justify quotas for women in government positions. But in today’s Russia, female politicians are few and far between. In fact, there is only one woman on the national political scene—Valentina Matviyenko, former governor of St. Petersburg and speaker of the Federation Council of Russia, the upper house of parliament. After Soviet quotas were abolished in the early 1990s, women disappeared from politics in Russia; today, a traditional view of gender roles has replaced the Communist ideal of gender equality. According to Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist who focuses on politics at the Institute of Sociology at the Russian Academy of Sciences, women trying to make it in politics fall into one of two categories: Those who have been placed there by a man who wishes to look at a pretty doll, and those who have achieved their positions by talent and hard work. Kryshtanovskaya considers Matviyenko representative of the latter category. “She is the only one with real political stature—a vision—she is an extremely experienced and effective manager,“ Kryshtanovskaya said. For her part, Matviyen-
Olympic speed skater Svetlana Zhurova was elected to the Duma with no expectations. manage to exceed expectation. When former Olympic speed skating champion Svetlana Zhurova was elected to the Duma, most had low expectations for her, as she seemed to continue the trend of young, attractive women backed by powerful men. “At first, people said she would be just another cute athlete who will make up the numbers [of women],” Kryshtanovskaya said. “But she proved to have real political skills.” Zhurova belongs to the Duma committees on family, education, culture, physical education and youth, but she is also the deputy speaker of the Duma and a member of the Olympic committee. “Women are capable of negotiating and cooperating, and looking at the impact of their decision on a real person,” she said in an interview with the German magazine Neue Zeiten, encouraging her female colleagues to participate more actively in major decisions. Irina Khakamada is a member of the Other Russia coalition and is depicted as being in moderate opposition to the status quo. Her father defected to the Soviet Union from Japan in 1939. Khakamada was a rising star in the 1990s, but when she ran for president, her own party did not support her. In recent interviews, she has suggested she is done with politics. As for Kryshtanovskaya, the sociologist is not only developing theories on the role of women in the corridors of power, she is putting her thoughts into action. Since 2009, Kryshtanovskaya has been a member of the United Russia party and is now president of a new nongovernmental organization, Otlichnitsy (roughly translated as “first in the class”), whose goal is to see a woman elected president of Russia in 2018. But the organization is fighting an uphill battle. A recent study by state polling agency VTsIOM revealed that a quarter of all respondents believe there are already too many women in politics.
Yaroslavl Plane Crash Raises Old Safety Issues Medvedev, who altered his timetable to visit the site of the crash on Sept. 8, ordered a dramatic reduction in the number of domestic airlines, in a bid to weed out Russia’s many budget carriers inclined to dangerously skimp on costs to maintain tight profit margins. But for many observers, the high frequency of plane crashes in Russia points to a systemic problem tied to the legacy of the Soviet Union and its aging infrastructure. “I think what is happening is far from coincidental,” said Ruslan Grinberg, director of the economic institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “We are not just talking here about the human factor when there is a lower degree of professionalism,” he said. “There is also dilapidated infrastructure.
We can bemoan that or not, but this industrial landscape was created, and now it is beginning to fall apart of its own accord.” The crash of the Yakovlev marks the 13th serious plane accident or incident in Russia this year, according to the online Aviation Safety database, which it said makes the country the most dangerous place to fly in 2011. The latest air disaster comes on the heels of the crash of a Tupolev Tu-134 plane on June 20 in Russia’s Karelia region that killed 47 people. Another major air disaster was narrowly averted on July 11 when the left engine of an Antonov-24 passenger plane burst into flames in midair. The pilot managed a crash landing, although six members of the crew were killed. Medvedev issued an order
grounding some older Sovietera planes pending safety checks, with a view to phasing them out of use completely. But the deadly June crash was eventually found to be due in part to pilot error.
High frequency of plane crashes points to the Soviet legacy of aging infrastructure.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Rescuers work at the crash site of a Yak-42 jet on the Volga.
The Yak-42 is reported to have crashed after it was unable to gain enough altitude when it took off from Tunoshna airport near the city of Yaroslavl 155 miles northeast of Moscow. It exploded on impact. Russian investigators have said they believe the crash was caused either by faulty equipment or pilot error, since weath-
er conditions were excellent. Interfax news agency reported on Sept. 9 that a preliminary investigation shows the engines were working from take-off, but they may not have been correctly serviced before the flight. Investigators suspect the plane failed to gain enough speed before taking off. However, further investigation has been stalled as the black boxes recovered from the wreckage on Sept. 8 need to be dried out before they can be properly analyzed. As Medvedev delivers another directive on rescuing the country’s ailing air industry, analysts say that the president has suffered a blow ahead of the upcoming presidential and State Duma elections. “The plans for modernization reflect an understanding of the need to bring the country out
of crisis,” said Sergei Rogov, director of the US and Canada Institute, a Russian think tank. “But the way these plans are realized has us wishing for it to be better, to say the least, since very often these things are not carried out. “This is probably linked to the nuances of the political system that has taken shape in this country and the immaturity of democratic institutions and processes. “This awful catastrophe is the latest reminder that we have to haul ourselves out of this quagmire.” This was first published on rferl.org. Copyright (c) 2011, RFE/ RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., NW WA DC 20036.
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CAN RUSSIA LEARN FROM STEVE JOBS?
SPECIAL TO RN
he announcement last month that Apple CEO Steve Jobs felt compelled to resign due to ill health was met with sadness by industry experts, who rushed to praise Jobs as not just the driving force behind a company which this summer briefly became the most valuable in the world, but also as a visionary in the sector and even the greatest industrialist of the last 20 years—or ever. But are the paeans justified, or is it all just hype? Apple certainly stands out compared to companies such as Bill Gates’ Microsoft and the omnipresent Google, which are also highly successful, but have never won people’s hearts and minds. In fact, outside the business world, they have never even come close to creating a cult of their CEOs or their products. They might be respected, even feared, but never loved. That is the big lesson to be learned from Steve Jobs and Apple, both for other companies, and for countries such as Russia, which is now trying to jump onto the innovation and high-tech bandwagon. But for all their technical expertise, many in the industry are woefully ignorant of history and are far too young to have
The public has developed a keen desire for what Apple is making.
Russia’s brightest are leaving. Some 40,000 Russians work in Silicon Valley alone. experienced anything else firsthand. In fact, many modern products are by no means as revolutionary—or as good—as they seem to be. Take the iPod. The BIG breakthrough in personal music on the move was the Sony Walkman. Before that, the choice was between ghetto blasters, bulky cassette decks and tinny portable radios. The title of Deep Purple’s classic 1972 live album, “Made in Japan,” was a dig at the lousy quality of electronics from the Far East. How times have changed! The Walkman was a quantum leap forward due to its astonishing sound quality, and I still prefer the weight and feel of my old clunky Walkmen to the sleek and austere design of my two iPods. Of course, the
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Reactions to RUSSIA NOW The interest I developed in Russia when I studied the language some 40 years ago is still within me. The August 31, 2011, issue of “Russia Now” was like an old friend coming to visit. The several articles on the twentieth anniversary of the August 1991 revolution were excellent social commentaries. Marc Collard LEWES, DELAWARE
Dear Editor, Perhaps, according to Russian standards, there may have been some relaxation of attacks both
physical and psychological on journalists; by American standards there is still a considerable distance to cover. The unexplained deaths of a number of critics of Russia, including many known and admired journalists, certainly does not encourage freedom of press nor speech. Russia for the most part remains a society that is less than free in its ability to express diversity of opinion without the threat of punishment. Nelson Marans SILVER SPRING, MD
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Ian Pryde is founder and CEO of Eurasia Strategy & Communications in Moscow.
THE THIRD ANGLE
MIDDLE EAST MISCALCULATED Konstantin von Eggert SPECIAL TO RN
am still baffled: Why did the Kremlin commit such a gross error of judgement that led to such a visible humiliation? From the moment Russia chose not to veto the United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 that effectively allowed NATO military action in Libya, Moammar Gaddafi’s game was up. He had the world’s most powerful military alliance against him and hardly any support even among fellow Arabs. Moreover, Jordan, Qatar and United Arab Emirates supported militarily the allied operation in the Libyan skies. I think Moscow could have even supported the resolution and sent a symbolic frigate or two to Libyan shores, thus securing a place of honor
Russians worship sovereignty because they saw their own country, the Soviet Union, disappear. among future winners. Still abstention gave Russia a free hand to adjust its attitude later. And of course it was quite clear from the beginning that resolution 1973 gave a green light to the allies to root out the Gaddafi regime. No other outcome would have satisfied them. But instead of being consistent and keeping a distance, Moscow nearly immediately rushed to condemn the NATOled operation and, implicitly, support Gaddafi. It soon found itself in a particularly bad position: The Libyan dictator did not trust Russia after the United Nations abstention; the rebels felt it was working against them. President Dmitry Medvedev’s special representative Mikhail Margelov flew to have talks with the Transitional National Council in Benghazi in June. Sadly, the Russian leadership did not follow his promising mission with any concrete steps. Moscow had to recognize the rebels as Libya’s legitimate government when it was too late. So why did Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and their foreign policy advisors miscalculate? I personally think the roots of this mistake lie in Russia’s internal situation and mentality. Post-Cold War humiliations, some real and some perceived, created an ideology based on anti-Western attitudes, as well as denial that values and ideas, as opposed to naked interest, play any role in interna-
tional relations. For values read “Western values.” Moscow decisionmakers and the Russian public view global politics as a zero sum game, where someone’s gain is always someone else’s loss. It is the consequence of Russia’s peculiar and tortuous post-Communist transition. The country is neither here nor there, neither a Soviet empire nor a global superpower. And it is not yet a fully fledged nation state. This makes the Russians uncertain and defensive. They worship sovereignty, understood as a sort of pre-World War I right of governments to do whatever they want within their national boundaries, because they saw their own country, the Soviet Union, disappear overnight. They are unable and unwilling to accept such concepts as “humanitarian intervention” and “responsibility to protect,” which underpinned the intervention in Libya. This leads to a recurring situation in which Russia finds itself on the wrong side of history trying to bail out dictators long past their expiration date. This happened with Slobodan Milosevic, the deposed Yugoslav leader; Iraq strongman Saddam Hussein; and Gaddafi. One wonders if it will occur with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Global politics today are an interplay of interests and values, opportunism and idealism. Missing this very real point leads the Russians to believe that any event over which they have no
They are unable and unwilling to accept concepts such as “humanitarian intervention.” control, such as the Arab revolutions, is by default a sinister conspiracy, usually a Western one involving oil. This belief is by no means an exclusively Russian phenomenon. But among the G-8 nations, it is only in Russia that such attitudes are as widely spread among politicians and top civil servants. It might take quite some time for my people to start adapting to the 21st century reality. It is in the power of the Russian leaders to speed up the process and finally get real. Konstantin von Eggert is a commentator and host for radio Kommersant FM, Russia’s first 24-hour news station. He was a diplomatic correspondent for Izvestia and later BBC Russian Service Moscow Bureau editor-inchief. He was also once vice president of ExxonMobil Russia.
IN PURSUIT OF QUALITY Vsevolod Pulya RUSSIA NOW
ne of the favorite sayings of the new generation of global Russians is ,“Speak English, dress Italian, drive German, kiss French, be Russian.” In spite of the fact that, like the rest of our global village, we have to replace some of these with “Chinese,” the passion of Russians for having the best of everything cannot be overestimated. When the Apple iPhone first appeared on the market, before anybody could predict that it would capture one-third of the mobile market in most developed countries, Russians created one of the biggest “gray” markets of iPhones in the world, carrying them in suitcases from the United States and Europe. The first iPhone has yet to be officially sold in Russia, but three months after the launch in 2007, analysts estimated that there were at least 400,000 Apple handsets in our country. And four years later, a Russian man was the first to get the shiny iPad 2 after standing in a long long line on Fifth Avenue in New York. This is only one sign of Russian passion for the best products. But it wasn’t always like that. In the Soviet Union, people didn’t have foreign products
Management (DRM) on firmer footing. But in a classic case of agency capture, legislators throughout the Western world bought into the geek argument that the Internet must be (a) free for all. Instead, they should have been doing their jobs properly and protecting the livelihoods of those who produce the music, films and books we all enjoy. The idea that copying and distributing film and music digitally is somehow different from photocopying books and re-recording music on cassettes was fallacious from the start and has also led to huge feelings of entitlement, with results that are becoming ever clearer, such as the vast quantities of junk education and news now polluting the Internet. And it is ironic that Western governments support companies’ bitter complaints about the rampant piracy in China, and yet have fallen short on protecting intellectual property rights at home. Still, it is very hard to argue with Apple’s phenomenal success. It makes sexy, high-margin products bought by millions the world over, and ultimately, that is what business is all about. Copying this trick is hardly easy, even for world-class firms, and leadership can pass very quickly from one company—or country—to another. Russia is now trying to mod-
iPod is self-contained—you no longer need to carry around spare batteries and cassettes, and the latest 160GB iteration of the iPod Classic can store 40,000 songs. But for real music fans, the top-of-the-range Walkman had two major advantages over the iPod: They came with excellent headphones and had a better frequency response, which includes the inaudible overtones vital to the full enjoyment of music. The Walkman Professional of the early 1980s took things to yet another level and was beloved by hi-fi fans and journalists for its astonishing reproduction, recording quality and sturdiness—I dropped mine onto solid concrete twice and it suffered no ill-effects. Sony stopped its production only in 2002. Another thing the iPod—and most computers—cannot do is to replay instantly a passage of music or speech like you could on most old tape recorders by pressing “rewind” while in play mode. This is invaluable for musicians and for journalists transcribing interviews, but try it with a digital recording on a computer, and you can hear the hard drive chugging away, trying to cope. Apple’s real revolutionary product was not the iPod, but iTunes, an innovation that saved the recording industry from extinction and put Digital Rights
ernize and is hyping its Skolkovo project just outside Moscow at home and abroad as the country’s answer to Silicon Valley, but there is massive skepticism domestically and internationally. Russia has precious few firms outside oil, gas, metals, mining and banking, and hightech companies are conspicuous by their absence. Instead of fixing this by proper reforms at the national level, as usual, the approach to Skolkovo is Soviet—a governmentled project approach that pumps in large financial and other resources. The Russian oligarch and TNK-BP shareholder Viktor Vekselberg has said that Skolkovo had received a promise of $3 billion in government funding over the next three years. The aim is to raise the same amount from private sources, including major multinationals—Siemens, GE and Nokia-Siemens have said they would build research and development centers in the heart of Skolkovo and invest up to $50 million each. But Russia’s brightest and best are leaving the country in droves. Some 40,000 Russians work in Silicon Valley alone, and about 300,000 young Russians emigrate each year, accrding to estimates, and the number is growing. And outside the tech sector, it’s also worth remembering that developing just one new drug costs half-a-billion, so $3 billion or even $6 billion won’t go far. Nor do Russia’s leaders understand science and technology. Both President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have said, for instance, that money invested in research and development should produce results and not be wasted, but risk is the name of the game. There can never be any guarantee of success, and scientific and technological progress often results from sheer serendipity—it cannot be planned. Russia has wasted years since the Soviet Union in its still unsuccessful search for a national vision, so it is just learning to “talk the talk,” but “walking the walk” across the board will be much harder. German Gref, a former minister of economy and now head of Sberbank, Russia’s official savings bank and biggest financial institution, said on Vladimir Pozner’s late-night talk show that a domestic car industry would take at least 15 years to create. At the end of August, AvtoVaz, one of Russia’s biggest car makers, made a small step forward by hiring Steve Mattin as its chief designer. Mattin has previously worked at MercedesBenz and Volvo; he will start work in October. It will be fascinating to see if he can divine Steve Jobs and transform AvtoVaz into a sexy, high-tech car company.
Russians can’t believe in the quality of domestically produced products right now.
because tyrannical Soviet leaders wouldn’t allow them to leave the country. A few Soviet products were known for their unique mix of Constructivist design and pragmatism, but many were the butt of jokes—like the water dispenser with a single glass cup for all. Unfortunately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a lot of production lines in Russia were
stopped. And now we have to start most of them from scratch. This work has already started. Despite not having a decent Russian make of car, decent Russian computer brand and decent Russian soccer team (the worst of all!), we have become one of the world leaders in making sophisticated industrial lasers (IPG Photonics), an-
ti-virus software (Kaspersky lab), nano-microscopes (NT-MDT), optical character recognition systems (ABBYY software) and so on. To make people’s lives easier, we have to start producing everyday products of good quality. And Russians can’t believe in the quality of domestically produced products. Russian advertising is rife with phrases like, “German quality,” “Italian style” or “American traditions” labels. It will be tough to overcome the stereotype that Russian products equal bad quality in the minds of Russians, let alone in the minds of foreigners. But the mission is not impossible. My dream is to dress Russian, drive Russian, eat Russian and have an “iRussianPhone” without feeling that it’s lacking the quality of foreign products. In order to change something, you have to start with yourself. Young global Russians should WANT to have everything the best, and we should also hope to MAKE everything the best. Vsevolod Pulya is executive editor of online content at Russia Beyond the Headlines and a graduate student in the journalism department of Moscow State University studying sociology and convergence journalism.
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PASSIVE VOICE CAN ALSO BE A WORLDVIEW GAMERS’ HARRY POTTER
Svetlana Babaeva SPECIAL TO RN
Phoebe Taplin SPECIAL TO RN
ussians and Americans are far apart on so many issues, and many choose to see them as opposites. Certainly, Russians add to the picture their own peculiar pessimism, while Americans with their irrepressible optimism take a more rose-tinted view. Yet both countries stretch across vast territories—a crucial factor in their development. Both have emerged rather isolated in contrast to tightly interconnected Europe with its compact co-existence that influences all its politics and culture, and even mentality. On the way to the seacoast, a European may cross three countries in a few hours, which fosters a new interpretation of sovereignty and mutual liability. Unlike Europeans, Russians and Americans had in the past little opportunity to comprehend a worldview outside of their own, and so have nurtured a more self-focused, insular view of life, and, by extension, a more distorted perception of others. For centuries, Russia faced much more formidable and incessant external threats, while Americans were sheltered between two oceans. The remoteness of the United States from the center-of-the-world clashes gave the nation opportunity to emerge and join the world stage fully equipped to gain from others’ losses, while Russians had to deter potential aggressors throughout their history. However, our differences often hamper us in our efforts to understand each other. Here are three striking illustrations of our differences—sources of distrust and misunderstanding when Americans think and talk about Russia:
The Media First, state-owned media is taken for granted in Russia. Russia’s extensive network of stateowned TV and newspapers is inconceivable to Americans. To them, it sounds like an oxymoron (either government or media). Most Americans jump
Americans are astonished to find truly professional and critical Russian media coverage.
Ideas and attitudes should be presented in active voice; that’s the American vision.
to the conclusion that the Russian government suppresses ‘its’ media and what is reported cannot be considered true or independent. The conventional wisdom is that Russian media, out of subordination or fear, would never put out a story that undermines the government. But a daily reader of the Russian press knows that just isn’t true. Still, Americans are astonished to discover truly professional and critical Russian media coverage, particularly regarding the government. In reality there is a problem and it runs deeper than stateowned media; it concerns the whole society. Russians either are too jaded to make a stand or have no real means to do so. Courts, NGOs and community groups are weak and, less well understood in the United States, distrusted by the pub-
lic. People do not even trust one another, and this, in turn, prevents social networking from taking root. As a result, people avert their eyes from the problems and put up with life around them as it is, which leads to the next phenomenon that is inexplicable for most Americans.
Appointments from Above The second difference is the fact that in Russia, the Kremlin appoints governors. “Appointed by whom?” Americans ask in surprise on discovering that regional leaders in Russia are not elected. “Appointed by the president.” – “So, does the president decide who will govern a region?” – “Officially, a party that wins the elections in a region recommends a list of nominees to the president, who then
GOODBYE, MY NIZHNI NOVGOROD Novgorod’s 16th-century architecture, was blown up in 1931. The grave of Kuzma Minin, the hero famous for raising a volunteer army and saving Moscow from Polish invaders, was moved out of the Kremlin. For decades, original architecture had been torn down to make way for gray, Soviet-era apartment blocks. But not since the Mongol invasion has there been so much destruction to Nizhni Novgorod’s wooden architecture in a single year. The regional authorities took 76 architectural monuments off the city’s historical register, making it possible to re-build or demolish them. The
Anna Nemtsova SPECIAL TO RN
s my taxi crossed the bridge over the Oka River, passing over a steep, picturesque river bank, we rolled into the sleepy center of Nizhni Novgorod. I looked around in dismay at my hometown. The city seemed deeply scarred: The remains of burnt wooden and brick merchant mansions from the 19th century, once the pride and charm of the old town, were hidden behind garish billboards. Dozens of homes in the middle of the city looked like war ruins. Some of the abandoned old houses had graffiti on them, drawings of crying faces. Monstrous glass and concrete cubes dominated once tranquil and shaded streets; I could still picture them, with my eyes closed, as they once were. This is not the first time bulldozers arrived to demolish a 790-year-old city that was once Moscow’s most reliable military fort against the Tatars of Kazan. Both Czarist and Stalinist developers demolished a dozen 13thand 15th-century tent-roof and gold-domed churches in and around Nizhni’s Kremlin. It was not the city’s fate to get destroyed in war: Houses fall here in peacetime. Nizhni has long had a penchant for self-destruction. To clear space for the House of Soviets, the Transfiguration Cathedral, the pearl of Nizhni
It was not the city’s fate to get destroyed in war: Houses fall here in peacetime. list includes the city’s Evalanov house, a graceful classicist home built in the beginning of the 19th century. A pearl of local baroque, the mansion of A.R. Batashev’s mansion, has been gutted and the developer is planning some kind of pastiche reproduction to replace it. City officials have told me that nothing can be done to
chooses one and sends this decision to the state legislature for its approval.” Since 2004, when then-President Putin abolished the gubernatorial elections, legislatures have rubberstamped their approval. The Russian public is ambivalent about this. According to the latest survey conducted on this subject a year and a half ago, only 54 percent of Russians favor the idea of a return to direct voting in regional elections, down from 81 percent a year after the elections were cancelled. The “voters,” hence, are more accustomed to this disenfranchisement, which is completely beyond the American scope. In fact, it’s sad for Russia. Over the long run, a country of indifferent onlookers has a troubled future. “Yes we can” would never have arisen in Russia.
Passive Voice The third illustration of our differences is closely related to the two preceding examples, and even this very sentence reflects a national way of thinking: Namely, in Russia, passive voice is widely used. The elections
stop the process, arguing that many of the buildings are in such bad condition they cannot be preserved. But it seems that Nizhni Novgorod authorities simply do not embrace the idea of restoration and preservation—office buildings have even appeared inside the ancient Kremlin walls. The region’s governor, Valery Shantsev, was deputy to Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov at a time when he oversaw the swift destruction of hundreds, more likely thousands, of historic buildings. Now Nizhni is Moscow-on-the-Oka, a playground for the developer’s bulldozer. Decades ago, my father, then a “Pravda” newspaper reporter, wrote an article called Heritage, criticizing the Soviet state plan for reconstructing the city center by demolishing its older buildings. A delegation from Moscow arrived in response and my father was called to the local authorities in the Kremlin. “What part of the city would you like to preserve?” a
were conducted; governors are appointed; the candidate for the next presidency will be chosen and announced. “By whom?” – Americans are puzzled again, and the reality is that it’s almost impossible to convey the essence of this decision-making process to those whose social practices are so different from the outset. A popular language Web site that explains the difference between passive and active voice notes that passive is used widely in two cases: first for scientific objectivity, and secondly, for politics. “Politicians often use passive voice to intentionally obscure the idea of who is taking the action,” explained Mignon Fogarty, author of a grammar Web site. Decisions were made, a nominee is about to be chosen, the plan is approved. Ideas and attitudes should be presented in active voice; that’s the American vision. Otherwise, nobody notices them. And eventually your concerns will be disregarded. Svetlana Babaeva is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief of Ria Novosti.
Moscow bureaucrat asked my father, pointing at a large city map spread across a table. The architecture lover and reporter climbed on the table and lay down on the map, covering the entire city with his body. The development was cancelled. This year, activists in Nizhni Novgorod have tried various tactics to try to save their town. Dozens of protestors came out to stop the construction of an 18-floor tower on Kavalikhinskaya Street, but private security guards clubbed protestors. The local state television channel aired a documentary detailing the old town’s disappearance, block-by-block, alerting authorities to stop before it was too late. But houses continued to disappear. Some caught on fire at night, which was one way to avoid the paperwork of having them condemned. Some defenders of local architecture are restoring homes against the odds. Lidiya Davydova–Pecherkina lives in an unusual 19th-century house topped with a tall round tower. She restored the building by studying archives. But restoration didn’t stop developers from tearing down the house next to her, blighting the street. She vows never to leave her home. Elena Karmazina, an architect, has already restored one mansion. She has now moved into a magnificent, if rundown, 19th-century house on Studenaya Street, which she also plans to restore. “If all city architecture lovers move into the older buildings and try to fix them, we might save something,” Karmazina said. I hope they succeed in preserving the best of what is left of our city’s heritage, but our hometown is almost out of time. Anna Nemtsova is a Moscow correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast.
t’s no surprise that there is already a computer game of “Metro 2033.” Dmitry Glukhovsky’s dystopian novel, with its episodic shoot-outs and faceless mutant enemies, sometimes feels more like the product of an X-Box joystick than a literary imagination. But this post-apocalyptic, underground adventure, set in the disused tunnels of Moscow’s famous metro, also mixes action with occasional bouts of philosophy to keep more reflective readers happy. Twenty-year-old Artyom, whose quest to reach the legendary Polis is the creaking mainspring of the Odyssean plot, reacts to his experiences along the way. In the subterranean nightmare that now passes for existence, bullets have become the main currency; Artyom wonders if Kalashnikov was really proud of his invention, rather than driven mad by the ensuing carnage. Artyom falls in with a group of Jehovah’s witnesses and, instead of being converted, becomes even more convinced that life is chaos. Dmitry Glukhovsky spent many years as a journalist. The novel, “Metro 2033,” started life online in 2002. It has since had phenomenal Internet popularity. It has also been a huge commercial success, but only recently made it into paperback in English. Natasha Randall, who has translated literary greats like Lermontov and Zamyatin, handles the crucial changes of register well. One of the more chilling moments involves Artyom’s temporary companion, Bour-
bon, suddenly switching from his usual casual speech (“you couldn’t see for shit”, “it’s full of garbage”) to halting proclamations: “the great darkness… shrouds the world and it will… dominate eternally.” Despite this stylistic control, there is often something a little stilted about the dialogues. Like many Russian books in translation, “Metro 2033” has inconsistencies of transliteration, especially in rendering of metro names and lines, but these may bother only fellow metro nerds. There are parallels with Sergei Lukyanenko’s blockbuster “Night Watch” series, where the forces of light and dark do battle in the streets of Moscow. Glukhovsky also explores distinctively Russian extremes: corruption is still rife; faith and superstition coexist with atheism. There are also moments when “Metro 2033” reads like an underground Harry Potter, as the young, orphaned hero is flung semi-willingly from encounter to encounter. The hypnotic sound of dead voices in the pipe system is reminiscent of the basilisk’s menacing hiss in the “Chamber of Secrets.” The comparison actually highlights Metro 2033’s weaknesses of style and structure. There is little of Rowling’s flair for characterization or engaging sense of purpose, and female characters are virtually non-existent. Ultimately, Glukhovsky’s novel struggles to rise above its aimless format, despite moments of poignancy. Its success must surely lie in its appeal for serious gamers. Yet when a book has this many fans, any critic who cannot see its charm is clearly missing something. “Metro 2033,” Dmitry Glukhovsky, Orion Publishers
THE BODIES POLITIC Jennifer Eremeeva SPECIAL TO RN
oth the United States and Russia are gearing up for a presidential election in 2012, and nothing brings out the contrast between my native country and my sometimes-if-they-give-mea-180-day-visa adopted country like the differences between our political processes. While I love getting caught up in the hoop-la and intricate minuteby-minute politico.com approach of the American model, there is much to admire in the clutter-free minimalist approach of the 35-minute Russian electoral cycle, where they waste no time on extraneous stuff like: 1. Candidate-branded bumper stickers, lawn signs and baseball hats: Branded items are for winners only, and since the electoral cycle is so very short, and, of course, no one in Russia actually has a lawn (that the public can see anyway), what’s the point? 2. Philadelphia Cheesesteaks: Ever since Boris Yeltsin’s ill-advised boozy boogie on the tarmac became the primary postperestroika image, Russia’s leaders have avoided anything overtly physically sloppy or messy. Food consumed on national television is limited to the traditional bread dipped in salt, which is much easier on the tie and shirt collection. 3. A hit television series: Lasting through two presidential terms, a blockbuster series that details the inner workings of a fictitious presidential administration, in which the actor playing the president enjoys an actual approval rating significantly higher than that of the real sitting president can be terribly confusing. Puh-leeze. There is enough controversy over who is really running the country
without putting Martin Sheen into the mix. 4. C-SPAN: “God is too high, and the tsar too far away,” runs an old peasant saying, and that’s the way the current Kremlin crowd intends to keep it. No need for raw uncut sausage factory detail—the sitting Russian government is hard at work, a message reinforced each night on the news. The scene: ornate inner Kremlin office. Minister X perches uncomfortably across from either the prime minister or the president. He mumbles his set piece, which includes at least one set of statistics, peeking out from under his bushy eyebrows nervously at the boss, who leans back in the slightly condescending manner of a headmaster, finally nodding and saying “Yes, that’s right.” Flashbulbs pop. 5. Sexual scandals: Russians are genuinely baffled by the prevalence of sexual scandals like the Monica Lewinsky “episode” toppling the political careers of powerful men. What is wrong with us? HRH (my “handsome Russian husband”) could not make head nor tail of the Senator Larry Craig foot-tapping scandal, no matter how many times Velvet, our daughter, and I explained it to him. The data went in, but his brain refused to fuse it together. He couldn’t link “gay” with “senator,” or “senator” and “at” with “public airport bathroom.” “Public airport bathroom” and “gay overtures” didn’t make sense as a pair, and he kept going back to “senator” and “public airport” as a dubious match, and was finally defeated by “gay senator” and “reinstatement.” Total data scramble. Tech support please. Jennifer Eremeeva is a longtime resident of Moscow. She blogs at www.rbth.ru/blogs and www. dividingmytime.typepad.com. She is currently working on her first book.
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Tourism The city festivals are increasingly sophisticated and international
In Moscow, All the City’s a Stage See multimedia at rbth.ru/13470
Cultural Calendar INTERNATIONAL HANDCRAFT FAIR AT IZMAILOVO UNTIL 15 OCTOBER
Souvenir, clothes and honey fair, workshops of craftsmen. › www.kremlin-izmailovo.com
THE FOURTH MOSCOW BIENALE OF CONTEMPORARY ART SEPTEMBER 23–OCTOBER 30
Contemporary Art Festival brings 64 artists and 14 groups from 33 countries. › www.4th.moscowbiennale.ru
THE FIFTH WORLD FESTIVAL OF CIRCUS ARTS ITAR-TASS (2)
SEPTEMBER 30–OCTOBER 2
ALENA LEGOSTAEVA SPECIAL TO RN
Moscow. Red Square. One hour before midnight. A wind orchestra from the Italian town of Lecco is surrounded by a dense circle of spectators. The men in the orchestra wear hats decorated with huge black feathers, throw up their instruments and, to the crowd’s delight, play another few songs by the metro entrance. The evening program of the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival finished half an hour ago, but no one wants to go home yet. And at either end of Red Square you can still hear the sounds of bagpipes, trombones, drums and applause. The fourth Spasskaya Tower Festival in September featured more than 500 musicians from 15 countries. The festival in-
cluded all kinds of military, folk and pop music, weapons demonstrations and parades, a laser show, bikers and pyrotechnics—on Red Square, lasting five days. Cannons were fired from the Spasskaya tower, giving the event a special sense of ceremony. The Cavalry Honor Escort of the President’s Regiment, the Russian Horn Orchestra, the Presidential Orchestra all added to the event. The Jaguares de la Tamayo marching band and the Tenochtitlan Folk Dancing Company from Mexico infected everyone with their Southern optimism, and National Presidential Orchestra of Ukraine surprised the audience with their jazz numbers. Sergei Shpilko, chairman of the city’s tourism committee, is convinced that a new culture and tourism project, a Medieval Festival “Times and Eras,” which also debuted in Moscow this month, will become an annual fixture on the festival scene that “in time will become no less prestigious than, for exam-
“Times and Eras” military-historical festival
Moscow opens its streets and squares to performers, artists and musicians over the next month to draw tourists and brighten the mood of locals.
The Palace of Russian Dining in the Izmailovo Kremlin.
ple, the Venice Festival or the Brazilian Carnival.”
Moscow Showcases International Art Certainly the Moscow Bienale of Contemporary Art, which draws many international artists and patrons since it began in 2005, is an example of how sophisticated Moscow festivals
The first in a series of festivals dedicated to different periods in Russian history took place in Moscow’s nearly 1,000-acre Kolomenskoye Park earlier this month. This year’s “Times and Eras” event was dedicated to the 9th through the 11th centuries in Russia, and hosted guests from the United States, Germany, Sweden and many other countries. Spectators could visit a Slavic village, see a Viking landing from the Moscow River and dine in authen-
tic taverns from the Middle Ages. In accordance with Russian customs of the time, the opening ceremony included a fist fight among the actors. The feedback from the first festival was very positive, except some rain dampened the costumes, though not the spirits. However, some craft vendors found linen tents to be poor protection from the rain.
have become in recent years, finally competing with cities like Edinburgh and Venice. This year, the festival is titled “Rewriting Worlds” and includes 64 artists and 16 artistic groups from 33 countries. In 2005, the Bienale helped launch the career of Russian provocateurs Blue Noses, who opened the show with their installation,
“Lenin Turning in his Grave.” Russian artists remain a significant draw to the festival, and this year will include Olga Kisseleva and Igor Makarevich among many others. The Bienale opened Sept. 23 and closes Oct. 30. In the middle of the Bienale showcase, the traditionally grey Moscow autumn will be bright-
See photos, in Russian, at historyfest.ru.
Art Ilya and Emilia Kabakov Finally Land in D.C.
In a Soviet flat, Ilya Kabakov explored escape and utopia. His career has soared in his post-Soviet partnership with Emilia Kabakov. NORA FITZGERALD RUSSIA NOW
In “The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment,” an installation from the 1980s, Russian artist Ilya Kabakov created an environment intimate and full of longing. In the work, a plank straddled two simple wooden chairs below a trampoline harness; above the harness something has blown out the ceiling, and the viewer has missed the event. The walls of the apartment are covered in so many colorful Soviet-era posters that it has the appearance of an archaeological site. The work is ironic but also exists in a universe where magical realism—a man rocketing out of a harsh reality, Soviet or otherwise—seems plausible. Ilya Kabakov is a master of the art-installation. He could tell a story with some paints (he was a children’s book illustrator) and broken furniture (he became a conceptualist) long before he broke the milliondollar mark. Since 1989, he has been working with his artistic
partner, Emilia Kabakov, who became his wife in 1992. Both were born in Dnepropetrovsk, in the Soviet Union, now Ukraine. Ilya was born in 1933, and will celebrate his 80th birthday in 2013. Emilia was born in 1945. Known as “The Kabakovs,” they are a force field on the international arts scene, traveling and showing their installations all over the world. “Ilya Kabakov attracted the attention of the Western art world, inspiring collectors and scholars to learn about the entire world of Soviet/Russian art,” said Natalia Kolodzei, a prominent collector of all the Russian Noncomformists, including Kabakov. Kolodzei also runs a nonprofit arts foundation with her mother, who befriended Russian artists when they were poor, underground and tightly knit as a group, like a family living in a prison. When many left Russia and went into exile in the 1980s, the atmosphere changed, and they became more dispersed. Currently, HEMPHILL, a Washington, D.C., gallery, is the host of “KABAKOV: Ilya and Emilia Kabakov,” through October. The exhibit features scale models of their larger work, including “Ship of Tolerance,” a project that includes building a ship;
The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment
Ilya Kabakov went from underground, to exile, to international acclaim.
“The goal is to make cultural connections to different cultures” through a ship, Ilya Kabakov said. meeting with children in a workshop setting to discuss the concept of tolerance; then launching the ship with children’s drawings as the mast. The exhibit offers a scale model of the ship made of bamboo
($150,000) and a silkscreen on canvas of a mast ($60,000). The ship has already been created in a few harbors, including Siwa, Egypt, and Miami, Florida. “The goal, of course, is making connections to different cultures,” Ilya said. The ship is a “romantic” medium traveling across boundaries, he said. The D.C. show opened on the eve of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, in the midst of a solemn nationwide mourning. Was the timing of their exhibit
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a coincidence? “Nothing in this life is coincidence,” said Emilia. George Hemphill, the owner of the gallery, said there is a social relevance to showing the Kabakovs’ work now. “This is not a time of tolerance here on Capitol Hill,” he said. Also on view at the show is a scale model and drawings for “The Large House of Humanity,” a 1998 project for D.C. that was never realized, perhaps in part because it was to be higher than the Washington Monument. The D.C. show is just one of more than a dozen exhibits, installations and projects slated for this year. The Kabakovs, with their children and grandchildren, claim to be slowing down, since he is almost an octogenarian, but it’s hard to see. They are passionate about their legacy projects, like the educational component of the “Ship of Tolerance,” where they go to schools and sometimes offer children their first class in drawing. The Kabakovs live on Long Island and say they consider themselves American artists, and their Soviet preoccupations have become more universal. But to the world, they are Russian, from their explorations of utopia and use of fantasy and science to the way they make poetry out of the banal. (Check out the meditation called “Toilets.”) It all identifies them as Russian to the art world. They have been asked by Russia to come to Moscow for Ilya’s 80th birthday. “We would like to celebrate in America,” Emilia said, “because we are American artists.”
INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF LIGHT OCTOBER 20-23
Held for the first time in Moscow, light and music installations at the main historical sights and monuments.
THE BIG ANIMATED FILM FESTIVAL OCTOBER 28–NOVEMBER 7
450 animated films from 22 countries, including Great Britain, the United States, France and Japan, will be screened at 12 locations in Moscow as part of the international animation festival. The program will also include lectures, master classes and exhibitions. › www.multfest.ru
Sokurov Takes Top Prize CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Ironically, Sokurov was vehement about his dislike of the festival experience before going to Venice. “I don’t like being there. I don’t like the system of competition,” Sokurov, 60, said while sitting on a park bench. “How can you say that I am better? Directors with a name should not compete with young cinema people.” Sokurov is outspoken on all fronts, and has long been a campaigner for the preservation of his home city’s historical architecture, and has been fiercely critical of the St. Petersburg government, so critical that an opera he was staging at the Mikhailovsky Theater was shelved after he signed a letter attacking city policies. He is also at the helm of the campaign to save Lenfilm, the second most famous Russian film studio after Mosfilm. The studio may be taken over by the media holding of the huge conglomerate Sistema Financial Corp. Sistema’s promises to preserve the studio have been met by disbelief by a number of Russian directors, who have spoken out against the move. Sokurov began his film career at Lenfilm after he received a recommendation by seminal director Andrei Tarkovsky, the
Can the heroes of the Khimki forest preserve the Black Sea coastline?
More details about the Spasskaya Tower festival at www.kremlin-military-tattoo.ru
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ly lit in blazing colors, and the center of Moscow will turn into one big art installation. The director of the famous Fete des Lumieres in Lyon has been invited to set up the first International Festival of Light. The magnificent light show will be projected around 15 sights right in the city center, including Red Square, Bolshoi Theatre, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Historical Museum and Manege Square. Tourists can also pick up souvenirs at the International Handcraft Fair at Izmailovo until Oct. 15. This fairy-tale, mostly outdoor exhibition space features Russian rural skills and arts, and includes creations of both independent craftsmen as well as businesses from Moscow and Russia’s regions. The crafts range from birch baskets to fur hats. It all takes place in the romantic ambience of the colorful Izmailovsky Kremlin.
Tenochtitlan Folk Dancing Company from Mexico performing on Red Square at the Spasskaya Tower International Festival.
World-famous legends of the circus ring and all the talented newcomers to the circus scene will gather in Moscow and show off their best acts at the Luzhniki Olympic Complex. Passions run high, as the program is traditionally competitive and winners are awarded with gold, silver and bronze medals.
Alexander Sokurov holds his Golden Lion in Venice.
author of “Andrei Rublyov” and “Solaris.” Lenfilm in St. Petersburg has long had a reputation for being more supportive of art-house directors than its rival Mosfilm. But Lenfilm makes a few films a year and is in dire straits. There were some doubters among critics at Venice who found Sokurov’s art-house style deliberately obscure. But Sokurov doesn’t like critics either. One of the few exceptions is the late Susan Sontag, who he said added to his own understanding. “No one is going to be harsher than me in criticism,” he added. “I know what I wanted to do and what didn’t work better than anyone.” Read more at rbth.ru/13386
Published on Sep 27, 2011