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Tuesday, May 29, 2012
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Diplomacy Russian and British foreign ministers meet to discuss how to end violence in Syria
We must stick to Annan plan Foreign ministers Hague and Lavrov agree to stand behind Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria but disagree over who is to blame for the violence.
Peace mission: William Hague and Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, where they held a press conference
ocation”carried out by rebel forces ahead of the planned visit by UN peace envoy Kofi Annan to Syria on Tuesday. He also refused to rule out the participation of foreign special forces in the attack. The Kremlin has opposed attempts to impose UN sanctions on Syria, an ally where Russia maintains its only for-
eign military base, over what western powers say is the brutal suppression of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow, which continues to arm Damascus, says proposed UN resolutions on the violencestricken country are biased in favour of the rebels. But Russia has given its
full backing to UN envoy Kofi Annan’s faltering sixpoint peace plan for Syria, and Mr Lavrov reiterated on Monday that Damascus must show more decisiveness to end the violence. The British Foreign Secretary said the UK accepted that rebel forces bore responsibility for some of the vio-
Report by Ria Novosti
History Anniversary of Rust flight
Diamond Jubilee The Queen meets modern-day Cossacks
From the Kremlin to Windsor
The stunt that shook the world Hundreds of military chiefs were forced to resign after an amateur German pilot penetrated the Soviet air defence system 25 years ago.
Red tape cut for foreign graduates Degrees from 210 high-ranking foreign universities are to be recognised in Russia without extra checks being made, according to an order signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The universities, from 25 countries and including 30 from Britain, have featured on prestigious lists including the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Graduates from foreign universities not on the list will still have to undergo a fourmonth bureaucratic procedure to have their degrees officially recognised. The order, published on Friday in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, fulfils a pledge Mr Medvedev made in his state-of-the-nation address in 2009, when he said foreign degrees should be recognised to help attract foreign and expatriate researchers to work in Russia. Graduates of Russian universities face similar checks when they go abroad, despite Russia being a signatory to the Bologna Process, which was created in 1999 to make degree standards more comparable and compatible throughout Europe.
War drama wins honours at Cannes
The Russian wartime drama In the Fog has won an International Federation of Film Critics’ (Fipresci) prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It was chosen from the 22 films in the main competition. Directed by Sergei Loznitsa, above, In the Fog is set in occupied Russia in 1942 and tells the story of a Belarussian rail worker who is mistakenly suspected by anti-Nazi resistance fighters of collaborating with the Germans.
New agency to boost foreign aid A new, direct state-to-state international aid agency will make it easier for Russia to provide help to other countries. The agency, which will employ 50 people, will focus on developing education, health care and energy infrastructure, according to documents passed by the Finance Ministry to the government. Russia’s foreign aid commitments have risen from $100m (£65m) in 2004 to $785m in 2009.“We’re not talking about one-time charitable donations. We’re going to work on global problems,”said Sergey Storchak, the deputy finance minister.
SPECIAL TO RUSSIA NOW
The famed Kremlin Riding School provided much equestrian excitement for the Queen at this year’s Royal Windsor Horse Show.
and controls two more either side of them. The nimble Petr Ivashkov stands on one leg on the back of his sweeping black horse. All these virtuoso tricks are performed at up to 25 miles an hour. olga dmitrieva special to russia now In the final showstopper – With what could the Rus- and the most dramatic persians surprise the Queen formance – a young woman ahead of her Diamond Jubi- climbs to the top of a hulee? Let me guess… flying man-horse pyramid; she past her on horses in the most stands on the shoulders of spectacular way imaginable two horsemen and two per– this the Russians can do fectly sculpted pedigree horses carry the pyramid as if huvery well. Slim and athletic, Artyom mans and horses are merged Vladimirov – what would like centaurs. The horses are magnificent; Hollywood give for him – is famed as the “flying rider”. the national Cossack attire He stands on horseback, equally so, being designed to without a saddle, spreading resemble the uniform of the his arms like wings. It takes tsar’s imperial escort. This majestic display was your breath away. Andrei Nenashev rides part of the Royal Windsor four galloping horses at the Horse Show staged earlier same time – he stands on two this month, when more than
lence. “We are not arguing that all of the violence in Syria is the responsibility of the Assad regime, although it has the primary responsibility for such violence,” Mr Hague said. Both Mr Hague and Mr Lavrov insisted that Mr Annan’s peace plan was the only way forward. “We are very much agreed that
1,000 riders from 18 countries arrived with 700 horses in Windsor. For the Russian horses and riders, it involved an arduous four-day, 1,800mile trip through Europe by truck and ferry to congratulate the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee. And on whose orders were these ranks of fine cavalrymen dispatched to British shores? The Kremlin. It was Kremlin horses and Kremlin riders.The combined team
of the Presidential Regiment’s Cavalry Escort and Russia’s Kremlin Riding School was honoured with an invitation to display their horsemanship before the Queen. So, they naturally sent the crème de la crème to put on a good show. Almost everyone in Russia knows that the Queen is an excellent rider because almost everyone in Russia is continued on PAGE 4
Standardbearer: The Kremlin School leads the way when it comes to spectacular riding skills
Twenty-five years ago, on May 28, 1987, as the Soviet Union celebrated the Day of the Border Guard, a singleengined Cessna-172 plane flew through Soviet air defences and landed near Red Square in Moscow, just missing overhead wires. A tall 18-year-old in a red jumpsuit climbed down from the cockpit and, smiling in a friendly fashion, began signing autographs for members of the public who soon came running up to him. About 15 minutes later a militia car pulled up, and two men drove him away. That evening, the sensational news spread around the world. Mathias Rust, a West German amateur pilot with fewer than 50 hours’ flying experience, had taken off from Helsinki-Malmi airport
In this issue
Government forces and rebels share the blame for this weekend’s massacre in the Syrian town of Houla, according to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Testimony by United Nations observers indicated that both the authorities and the insurgents“were to blame for the deaths of innocent civilians,” Mr Lavrov said after talks with his British counterpart William Hague in Moscow on Monday. “There can be no doubt that the authorities used artillery and tanks,” Mr Lavrov added.“[But] guilt should be apportioned objectively… It takes two to tango.” Mr Lavrov also said “dozens of players”were involved in the current violence. At least 108 people, around a third of them children, were killed in the town of Houla, near the former rebel stronghold city of Homs at the weekend, according to UN observers. The UN Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent, veto-wielding member, unanimously condemned the Syrian authorities on Sunday for the “outrageous” attack. “We are insisting on the carrying out of an inquiry into what happened in Houla,”Mr Lavrov said.“We need to understand how this happened to make sure it will never be repeated.” Russian deputy UN ambassador Alexander Pankin told journalists that Moscow did not rule out that the killings in Houla were a “prov-
the Annan plan is the best hope for Syria,” Mr Hague said, adding that the alternatives were ever-increasing chaos in Syria, and a descent towards all-out civil war. Mr Lavrov said that Russia was applying pressure “daily” on Syria, but that it believed certain other countries were not fully committed to Mr Annan’s plan. Moscow has condemned western suggestions that regime change in Syria is the solution to the spiral of violence, and Mr Hague was keen to emphasise on Monday that President Assad’s immediate fate was not the main concern. “We have said all the way back from last August that finding a solution involves him standing aside,” Mr Hague said.“But the important thing is that the Annan plan is pursued.” Mr Lavrov agreed, saying: “The main thing is stopping the violence, and to create a political dialogue among the Syrian people. Everything else is secondary.”He added: “And if we want to stop the violence, we have to work together with the regime and the opposition. Kofi Annan’s plan is about consensus.” Mr Hague and Mr Lavrov’s talks came as Syrian opposition activists alleged that more than 30 people, including women and children, had been killed in the central city of Hama on Sunday by government shelling. More than 9,000 people have been killed in clashes between the government and opposition forces in Syria since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, according to UN estimates.
News in Brief
Fearless flyer: Mathias Rust
in Finland, overcome the“impenetrable’’ Soviet air defence system and flown for 530 miles before landing his plane at the heart of the Soviet Union. “A German boy has punched through the Iron Curtain,”screamed the headlines in the world media. The nation was shocked. It turned out that Soviet air defences actually had big holes through which a small aircraft could fly. Although this was just a stunt, the danger that such a flight could have caused soon became continued on PAGE 8
Fit for purpose
Why Putin must maintain his strongman image TURN TO PAGE 6
Politics & Society
Russia now www.rbth.ru
section sponsored by rossiyskaya gazeta, russia Distributed with THE daily telegraph TUeSDAY_MAY 29_2012
Russian observers go to Syria http://rbth.ru/15668
Media Survey suggests a growing number of Russians are choosing to go online for their information
Net gain as viewers turn off TV news Traditional state-controlled TV news networks are losing ground to new social media and independent sources on the internet.
Tom Balmforth special to rn
director of new media at the faculty of journalism, moscow university
irst of all there are Facebook and Twitter – new global players entering the market. Second, in Russia we have a booming industry of online media which are independent from traditional media.
THE numbers © vladimir pesnya_ria novosti
An abandonedVesti state TV van that angry protesters had splattered with milk, littered with plastic bottles and plastered with slogans was one of the most striking images of the protest on May 6 that ended in clashes on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow. It was a symbol of the mounting animosity between the internet-savvy opposition and the nationwide television networks, which have periodically aired critical documentaries about the Kremlin’s detractors. But it also pointed to a larger shift taking place: the widening gulf between two Russian media landscapes – on the one hand, the lively, independent online media that in part nurtured and united the opposition and, on the other, the state-dominated television networks that were brought to heel under Vladimir Putin’s first term in the Kremlin. In a country that traditionally gets its news from monochrome, pro-Kremlin television, the opposition was forced to rally and unite online. But analysts say that national television’s monopoly on the news is starting to crumble – and not just among opposition-minded groups. “They are fading, just like the American networks,”said Ivan Zassoursky, director of new media at the Faculty of Journalism at Moscow State University and founder of Chastnyi Korrespondent. “First of all there are Facebook and Twitter – new global players entering the market. Second, in Russia we have a huge and booming industry of online media which are independent from traditional media because in most cases they originated as independent publications. Most online media are free, supported by advertising, and are profitable.” In a sign of Russia’s changing media appetites, 24pc of Russians – up from 11pc in
Russia’s online media industry is mostly free, supported by advertising and profitable
In many countries, money and business dictate politics; in Russia, politics dictates business
the space of a year – told the Levada Centre poll last February that they now look to the internet for the latest news. The poll also revealed that 28pc do not trust what they see on television, although the same poll showed that 63pc do believe the nationwide television channels. “Traditional media are being eroded slowly but surely, although not completely – it is still enough to sway voters. These are the people who matter in politics,” said Mr Zassoursky. The trajectory of these shifting media appetites also poses a problem for the state and the country’s media moguls who wish to keep their grip on the levers of news
output. In Russia, the state owns the lion’s share of media – three national television stations, 89 regional television and radio stations and three newspapers. The rest is owned by individuals. But much of the so-called“independent”media is indirectly controlled by the state, according to Boris Timoshenko, analyst at the Glasnost Defence Foundation. The nominally private NTV channel, long seen as a tool of Kremlin spin by the opposition, in March aired a documentary called the Anatomy of Protest in which the channel alleged opposition activists were paid “money and cookies”to demonstrate against Mr Putin’s formal re-
turn to power. It also implied that foreign governments were behind the demonstrations, prompting criticism of the channel from its own journalists. Mr Timoshenko said the programme was aired at the behest of the Kremlin but said it was difficult to establish an overall pattern in the relationship between media ownership and its editorial line. NTV is owned by Gazprom Media, the media arm of the state gas giant, which also owns Ekho Moskvy, Russia’s respected independent radio station, often an outspoken critic of the Kremlin. Mr Timoshenko said that, while federal television stations have blacklisted prominent members of the opposition and often toed the government line, the authorities have allowed certain outlets with smaller audiences to be more critical. “We’ve long had the impression that the Kremlin delib-
erately leaves a small island of free press so that it can turn around and say: what do you mean we don’t have a free press – what about Ekho Moskvy radio station and Kommersant, Novaya Gazeta and a handful of other newspapers?” he said. “The other reason might be that they don’t want to anger those who don’t agree with what is happening in the country.” But even these leading outlets in independent journalism came under pressure during the protests that broke out in December, dramatically ending a period of seeming entrenched political apathy in Russia. The influential Kommersant paper, owned by oligarch Alisher Usmanov, appeared to come under editorial pressure in the wake of December’s parliamentary elections that saw Mr Putin’s ruling United Russia party suffer a
severe dent in popularity.The billionaire Russian fired an editor of Kommersant-Vlast magazine after he published a ballot paper cast against Mr Putin that was supposedly made void because it was defaced with an obscene anti-Putin slur. In February, Gazprom Media reshuffled the supervisory board of Ekho Moskvy in a move that the station’s editor-in-chief called an attempt to“correct editorial policy”. Mr Zassoursky said that the relationship between ownership and editorial line was nuanced. He said that, while in many countries money and business dictates politics, in Russia politics dictates business and money. “The media is always stuck in between,” he said. LifeNews, a Kremlin-connected online tabloid, in December published embarrassing phone-tap recordings of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov’s private phone con-
Pilot training to be improved, says minister Tougher rules on pilot training are to be introduced following this month’s Sukhoi Superjet crash in Indonesia, which was blamed on pilot error. Forty-five people died when the airliner flew into a mountain on a demonstration flight. Improving the standard of pilot training and bringing it in line with international standards was discussed in the State Duma last week. Deputy Transport Minister Sergei Aristov said that the changes would increase the efficiency of state control over the training and certification of pilots, bringing it in line with international standards. While big carriers have voluntarily adopted international safety standards, domestic carriers operate under old regulations that are less stringent.
Smoking ban on children’s TV
versations, in which Mr Nemtsov denigrated fellow protest leaders. Released in the wake of the largest opposition protests to have hit Russia in well over a decade, the phone tapping appeared to be a clear attempt to discredit and divide the opposition. A criminal investigation was launched, but nothing has been heard about it since March. It came as little surprise that Mr Nemtsov – who is seldom if ever seen on national television – had to go to TV Dozhd, an independent online television station, in order to publicly respond to the publication of his phone conversations. While investigations regarding the phone-hacking scandal in Britain continue, and many are being called to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, it remains to be seen whether the LifeNews phone-hackers will be called to account.
The depiction of smoking in television programmes, films and adverts aimed at children may be banned. The proposal is in a document submitted by the Health and Social Development Ministry to the government on May 20, according to Kommersant. Officials say a ban is justified because nearly 40pc of the Russian population smokes. Ministry representative Sofia Malyavina told Kommersant that children’s programming would be the most tightly controlled, but that artistic justification for smoking scenes in all other films would be required. If the legislation is passed, the Culture Ministry will not allow the release of programmes that promote smoking.
of Russians now look to the internet for the latest news (up from 11pc in a year) while 28pc do not trust TV coverage.
Tuning out: Moscow 24 is just one of 89 state-owned local TV stations
News in brief
Media New channel provokes funding debate
Travel Belt and shoe rules relaxed to cut queues
With a public TV channel planned to launch next year, some industry insiders have voiced dissatisfaction with its proposed structure.
Waiting times for passengers are expected to be cut by 25pc under new screening regulations for clothing and liquids.
Public TV raises private concerns Events during Russia’s recent parliamentary and presidential elections, and especially the protests that followed, highlighted the public’s demand for a public TV channel in the country. The fact that the pro-Kremlin media simply did not cover embarrassing events, such as allegations of vote-rigging at polling stations, caused an outcry among the information-hungry middle class. While the independent media, such as Dozhd (Rain) TV channel, do try to report on all events, their limited resources often mean they can’t do “due diligence” on them, which results in frequent mistakes on air. On the face of it, it would seem that the opposition’s demands for objectivity have not fallen on deaf ears. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree to create public television in Russia, set a timeline for its creation and outlined the plan for the new media outlet’s structure. But the detail of how the public television station will operate has enraged the opposition, which says it will be public in name only. In contrast with public TV services such as the BBC, where the director general is appointed by the BBC Trust, the director general and chief
A new TV format – and public TV is a new format in Russia – needs new and interesting projects short, we will get one more state channel.” Stanislav Shakirov, a member of the Pirate Party of Russia, expresses a similar view.“What matters is not so much the fact that public television will mainly promote pro-government views, which is a foregone conclusion, but that the authors of the idea do not yet know what kind of original content they will show viewers,” he says. “A new TV format – and public television is a new format in our country – needs new and interesting projects.” Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, believes that the station should be funded through a licence fee which
max de haldevang the moscow times
Points of view: Will public TV offer a plurality of opinions?
question about the quality of the content.” This view is echoed by state Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov, who proposes an alternative way forward. He argues that potential viewers should split the cost of creating TV programmes on the internet after deciding what exactly they would like to see. Russian bloggers have challenged this view, saying that if people get all their information from the internet, they do not need television. The architects of the Russian public TV channel point out that the main task of public television in Russia will be to provide a forum for an exchange of opinions. The content will then take care of itself. United Russia Duma deputy Sergei Zheleznyak denies that state funding will affect the content.
“Yes, the editor-in-chief will be appointed by the president,”he says.“But that does not mean that the state will decide what the channel will show.We will introduce a rating system to see what people like and form the schedule accordingly.” Russia did once have a channel called Public Russian Television, or ORT, which was established by a decree signed by President Boris Yeltsin in 1994. Following the murder of its director general and the resulting internal turmoil, it became Channel One. Now it is hard to imagine a more overt government propaganda channel. Whether the new project will manage to create a completely new format or whether it becomes another officious state-run media outlet remains to be seen.
Many travellers flying out of major Russian airports will no longer be required to remove belts and shoes at security, under new regulations. Rules on carrying liquids on board are also to be relaxed. But travellers heading for the United States and other countries that enforce stricter screening rules may still have to go through the more stringent checks. The new regulations, which are expected to reduce the time passengers spend queueing to clear security by 25pc, will come as a relief to many travellers. “It will make it a little bit smoother,”said Owen Kemp, an Austrian who has been flying in and out of Russia for two decades. However, not all passengers will be waved through the barriers, as there will be some exceptions to the relaxed rules, according to a Transport Ministry order. Shoes with soles thicker than 1cm (2/5in) and heels higher than 2.5cm (1in) will still have to be removed, while belts thicker than 0.5cm and wider than 4cm will also be subject to inspection. The rules on liquids, meanwhile, are to be relaxed in the autumn, thanks to new technology that is capable of analysing a liquid without the need for staff to open the
should be voluntary, and cost about 46 roubles (£1) a month per household. This would be cheap compared to the BBC licence fee, which works out at more than £12 a month, but then Russia’s population is more than double that of the UK. However, a fee in Russia may put off many viewers, and those that did pay would demand additional guarantees. However, Artyom Liss, news editor of BBC’s Russian Service, argues that because of the licence fee, the structure of the BBC is highly transparent.“You can look up at any moment the salaries of all the BBC’s employees, including the chief executive. I doubt that such an efficient system of public accountability is possible in Russia,” he says. Another flaw of the public Russian TV project, according to Vesna Pedchenko, editor-in-chief at RBC-TV, is the time frame for its implementation. She believes that the deadline given by Mr Medvedev (January 1, 2013) to create high-quality broadcast content is unrealistic.“I think initially the channel will produce three to four hours of air time a day. The rest will be filled with reruns or documentaries bought on the cheap. “The people involved in trying to create public television have only a vague idea of this medium and its methods. For them, carrying out the plan is the only thing that matters. Of course, with such an approach there can be no
editor of the new Russian channel will be appointed by the president, as will the members of the station’s supervisory board. And the channel will be financed by the state treasury and not by a licence fee. According to Oleg Kulikov, a member of the central committee of the Communist Party (KPRF): “The main criterion for public television is its plurality of opinions. It’s obvious that this channel will voice the views of only one political group. In
Airports to ease security checks
Body search: liquids will be screened by new technology
container. Currently, only 100 millilitres can be taken on board an aircraft. Flammable substances, such as vodka, will still be banned. Officials say that the revised rules will have no effect on the safety of passengers. Maxim Agarkov, a former Interior Ministry official who specialises in security issues, said: “Taking your shoes off in many different places does not really affect security at all.” Mr Agarkov added that the shorter queues as a result of the changes would leave fewer people exposed to the threat of an airport attack by terrorists. Russian airport authorities welcomed the relaxation of the regulations, saying they were pleased that life would be made easier for passen-
gers. However, they said they did not know how security staff would decide which shoes and belts were too large and would, therefore, still need to be removed. How the US and other countries might respond to Russia’s relaxed regulations is not yet clear. But the US, Britain and other countries have also been considering easing their own airport security rules, which were implemented after the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. In the US, children under 12 are now allowed to leave their shoes on at airports. Kip Hawley, a former head of the US Transport Security Administration (TSA) said that limits on liquids should also end soon. Mr Hawley told MSNBC television that the introduction of liquid restrictions was “supposed to be a temporary measure — only until we developed the software that would be able to go in the advanced X-ray machines to detect threat liquids.”Although the software was developed in 2008, the TSA is still debating whether travellers would be willing to stand in the long queues that would form if too many liquids tested falsely positive for explosives. A YouGov poll conducted in Britain this month revealed that 71pc of respondents were in favour of keeping the tight security checks – despite the delays they cause – with only 11pc wanting these security procedures to be relaxed.
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most read Georgia’s Stalin Museum reassesses its hometown hero http://rbth.ru/15704
section sponsored by rossiyskaya gazeta, russia Distributed with THE daily telegraph TUeSDAY_MAY 29_2012
Politics & Society OPINION
History People are still debating the issues surrounding Russia’s most controversial leader
Revered and reviled: Stalin’s difficult legacy Murderous tyrant or great statesman who built a prosperous country? Many Russians are ambivalent about the role of Stalin.
Hero worship: some remember Stalin as the man who dragged Russia into the 20th century
Vladimir Ruvinsky special to rn
There is a square near the Kremlin, where more than 20 years ago, hundreds of thousands of Muscovites protested against Communists and the Soviet regime. This spot is now occupied by Okhotny Ryad, an underground shopping mall, where actors dressed as Stalin and Lenin pose next to the windows of expensive shops. The lookalikes make money by having their pictures taken with tourists. “I am more popular and make up to 20,000 roubles (£400) a day,” boasts “Stalin”. He carefully imitates the iconic image created in Soviet movies: masterful yet benevolent, and wearing a generalissimo uniform. Visitors from Russian regions have more pictures taken with the lookalikes than other tourists. The lookalike believes Stalin is the most popular Russian figure and would win an election against any Vladimir – Lenin or Putin.
Our security concerns must be taken seriously Alexander Yakovenko
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Human Rights Council, which initiated the campaign. The council suggested that the last remaining archives should be declassified and memorials to the victims of repression should be established in Moscow and St Petersburg. It also proposed creating the National Institute of Memory. In other words, the council wishes to shift the focus from the condemnation of Stalin’s image to something that should, in theory, unite people: the commemoration of victims. But the Communists have vigorously opposed the initiative. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said: “Those who took this issue to the presidential administration are instigating a nationwide conflict.” Mr Fedotov believes that the future of the programme is unclear. “I don’t rule out that Vladimir Putin may say that there are more serious problems for society than our programme,” he says. However, he adds that the programme is likely to continue following the appointment of Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister. “Because presidential powers were being transferred, government officials had slowed the execution of the programme recently,” he says.
Public debate needed back in the Brezhnev era of the Sixties and Seventies, when condemnation of the crimes committed by the state leader failed to expose the failings of Stalinism as a system of governance. Opinions were also divided at that time, says Boris Drozdov, 78. His grandfather was shot and his father was sent to a prison camp.“Those who were unaffected by the repression thought of Stalin as a genius, but those run down by the repression machine believed that he personified evil.” This pattern was imprinted in the collective consciousness and has survived to our time. Human rights activists believe that the authorities contributed to the rebirth of the collective identity myth, using the Soviet achieveThe myth of Stalin When giving reasons for Sta- ments as their role model. It lin’s popularity, sociologists reached a point where guiderefer to the “Stalin myth”, lines for history teachers where people think of the published in 2008, by order leader as a heroic symbol of of the presidential administhe Soviet people rather than tration, presented Stalin as a specific historical figure. an “effective manager” and This is the image of the Sta- “moderniser”. The positive image of the lin who won the Great Patriotic War, which underlies dictator reflects a desire for the image of Russia as a order and the imminent punmighty industrial power, Mr ishment of wrongdoers.Victoria Sultanova of the PutinDubin explains. This myth was cultivated supporting Nashi youth high school pupils by Russia Now.“When I ask them about their relatives who were victims of political repression, they say that they are not sorry, because they were real criminals.” The authories, too, display a degree of ambivalence towards Stalin.“We should refrain from a general assessment,”Vladimir Putin said in an address to the nation in 2009. He admitted that the USSR had been transformed into an industrial country under Stalin, to his credit, but it had been at the cost of too many lives. Mr Dubin argues that the two images are inseparable, albeit with no logical connection; one or the other comes to the fore depending on the situation.
movement told Mr Putin last year: “This corruption, crime… there were no such things under Stalin, because everyone was scared.” She said this was a good reason for Russia to return to totalitarian rule. Mr Putin said then that it was a“dead-end track,”which“smothers creativity and free thinking”and leads to a country’s collapse. But Ms Sultanova did not seem convinced because she believed it was repression and prison labour that had brought industrial prosperity to the USSR.
Sociologists argue that in the 2000s, the Russian collective consciousness finally reconciled itself with the Soviet past. “But this happened by erasing the memory of the repressive nature of the totalitarian regime, mass murder, the Gulag, deportation of entire nationalities, to say nothing of the Holocaust, which is practically non-existent in the public consciousness,” says Mr Dubin. “In Russia, the memory of the Terror has been driven to a far corner, not least because there are no monuments, no memorial plaques, no museums – there is noth-
ing,” says Arseny Roginsky, head of Memorial, the international historical and civil rights society, which aims to rehabilitate the victims of political terror. Memorial notes that people are now less interested in discovering what happened to relatives who were victims of political repression than they were during a surge of interest in the subject in the Nineties. The Levada Centre assumes that the main trend of the past decade is the growing number of Russians who are indifferent to Stalin and his actions. The proportion of those who are indifferent grew from 12pc in 2001 to 47pc in 2012. “It is not really indifference, but the abandonment of any attempt to understand who Stalin really was,” Lev Gudkov, Levada Centre director, concludes.
The third attempt in the past 60 years to have a public debate on Stalin’s crimes took place in 2011, this time under Dmitry Medvedev.“This was essentially an attempt to perpetuate the memory of the victims of political repression rather than a de-Stalinisation crusade,”explains
It seems obvious that sooner or later the issue will have to be discussed in public.“No normal society can develop without a public consensus as to its core values,” Mr Fedotov says. “We have to remember this: totalitarianism is evil, because it is based on the idea that a human being is a means to achieve any objective of a regime.”The idea that man exists for the state, not the other way around, is still dominant in Russia. Mark Bochkarev, a teacher in a private school, feels free to discuss Stalin’s crimes with his students.“However, even they sometimes employ the image of Stalin the creator rather than Stalin the destroyer,” he says. “From my nearly 15 years of teaching, I have gathered the impression that Stalin is still seen as the central figure in Russian 20th-century history by the vast majority of students.” Mr Bochkarev’s own critical views of the Soviet dictator have obviously made an impression on some of his students, though, as one of them said: “Stalin is often spoken about in a half-bad, half-good light. But I think that Stalin’s Terror will be imprinted on people’s minds for a long time.”
‘The atrocities outweigh the services’ Boris Drozdov tells Russia Now how his father and grandfather suffered under Stalin, and why their stories need to be told. vladimir ruvinsky special to rn
About 10 years ago, Boris Drozdov, 78, began researching the fate of his grandfather, Alexei Drozdov, a lawyer and a Bolshevik, and his father, Pavel, an accountant who spent more than 10 years in the Gulag, the system of forced labour camps. Documents relating to them were scattered over the former Soviet Union, but Memorial helped him to find them. Like so many others, Mr Drozdov’s grandfather Alexei was accused of counterrevolutionary activities. In 1921, 18 days after his
The truth is that the number of Russians with a positive attitude toward the former Soviet leader has fallen slightly to 30pc during the past decade, according to a Levada Centre study. Asked whether they would like to live under Stalin now, only 3pc said yes. There is a perception in Russia that society is split into Stalinists and anti-Stalinists; however, those with an unambiguous attitude toward Stalin are in the minority. According to the Levada Centre, about 60pc of Russians have two seemingly incompatible images of the former dictator in their minds: the cruel tyrant who annihilated millions of people and the wise statesman who led the Soviet Union to prosperity. In Russian society, there is no rational understanding of Stalin’s role, says Boris Dubin, head of sociopolitical research at the Levada Centre. Any unequivocal assessment of Stalin’s role leads to conflict: a focus on the achievements of the USSR under Stalin is interpreted as an attempt to justify his crimes, while the emphasis on his guilt is seen by those Russians who want to be proud of their past as damaging their identity. “Many of my peers won’t believe the facts,”Alexander F, 15, writes of Stalin in one of the essays commissioned from Moscow
Pain of the past: Mr Drozdov researched his family history
arrest in the Crimea, he was executed. Mr Drozdov’s father, Pavel, started work at the age of 15. “He worked as a nurse and an errand boy, wherever he could find a job,”Mr Drozdov recalls. His father, too, was arrested in June 1924 on
the same charge, but instead was sentenced to three years in a labour camp. Released in 1927, he stayed on, like many other former prisoners, to build the local paper plant, where he worked as an accountant. Mr Drozdov was born in Moscow in 1934 while his father was living in the city. In early 1937, the chief accountant of the paper plant was arrested.“My dad was not arrested because somebody had to write the annual report. My father had beautiful handwriting and all of the reports were released in my father’s hand.” However, once his father had completed the job, he was arrested again and returned to a gulag in Kolya in 1938. “I learnt that my father was alive only in 1951,
when he was released.” The family travelled to the camp by steamboat to bring him home.“When we got off the ship, there were three men waiting for us. I asked my mother, ‘Which of them is my dad?’ I had not seen him for 13 years.” In 1956, three years after Stalin’s death, his father was rehabilitated.“The atrocities committed by Stalin outweigh his services,” Mr Drozdov maintains. “The construction projects were built on the bones of the convicts and victory in the war was won by the people. “I bear no grudge against the country or the people. But it is a pity that few victims of the repression are still around. There is no one to tell the young generation about it.”
Skolkovo Innovation Park aims for the stars Special report from one of Russia’s ‘secret’ cities
ecently, the British media have been describing Russia’s military-political policy as “aggressive” and threatening to the European countries that are planning to deploy elements of the American ballistic missile (ABM) defence system in their countries. All this attests to a one-sided view of the complicated and tricky issue and misleads the British public about the Russian position on the Euro ABM. I would like to clarify the situation concerning Russia’s position on ABM and tell readers candidly what has prompted our doubts and concerns. The inseparable connection between strategic offensive and defensive weapons has for many decades been an axiom for Russia and the United States. Military experts and politicians in the two countries have always assumed that an imbalance in this area was fraught with destructive consequences for international security and strategic stability. Russia welcomed President Obama’s 2009 decision to revise the plans for missile defence in Europe that would radically upset the strategic balance by giving the US substantial unilateral advantages. The decision helped to conclude the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) on April 8, 2010, which clearly states the inextricable link between strategic weapons and missile defence. However, while formally renouncing plans to deploy ABM, the US embarked on a new missile defence project in Europe as part of the “phased adaptive approach.” Russia finds this initiative equally worrying because it envisages the deployment of a capacity of interceptor missiles and other anti-missile facilities close to Russian borders and on waters adjacent to Russia. Russia has never denied the possibility of risks and threats arising from missile proliferation. The Russian initiative to create a joint European missile defence system based on a sectoral principle put forward at the Russia-Nato Council summit in Lisbon involved the formation in Europe of a common security perimeter with equal Russian participation. The Nato partners were invited to develop a concept and architecture for a Euro ABM that would be jointly controlled and proportional to potential threats without undermining strategic stability. Russia was prepared to develop its proposal on the joint Euro ABM taking into account the opinion of Nato partners, but on the condition that the equality of the parties is legally enshrined. Such an approach opened up unique opportunities for Russia and Nato to build a genuinely strategic partnership based on the principles of indivisible security, mutual trust, transparency and predictability. Unfortunately, the United States and other Nato partners did not show a serious commitment to moving in that direction. They do not
intend, at least for now, to take into account Russian concerns about the architecture of Nato’s Euro ABM. They refuse to give Russia a say in determining the parameters of the future European missile defence system, its concept and architecture. The main stumbling block is guarantees for the non-targeting of missile defence deployed in Europe against Russia and our strategic nuclear forces. We are being assured at all levels that the future missile defence system is not intended to weaken the Russian nuclear deterrent. But our proposals to make these assurances legally binding are rejected out of hand. Meanwhile, the creation of the Euro ABM is gathering pace. We are ready to discuss the status and content of such obligations, but they must be formulated in such a way as to enable Russia to judge not on the basis of unsupported promises, but on the basis of objective military-technical criteria how the US and Nato actions relate to their declarations. During the conference on missile defence issues held in Moscow on May 3-4, Russian experts presented comprehensive assessments of these criteria. But we did not hear an articulate statement on Nato’s position. We continue to assume that the creation of missile defence in Europe without Russia’s participation will inevitably conflict with the Euro-Atlantic’s ongoing search for com-
There is still time to reach a mutual understanding. Russia has the political will to do so mon principles of regional security. There will be the risk of a rollback to the times of confrontation and dividing lines. The formation of new security architecture in Europe will be called into question.There is still time to reach a mutual understanding. Russia has the political will to do so. But if this is to become reality, our partners must approach the task of taking into account Russia’s legitimate security interests in an honest and responsible manner. Failing that, Russia will have to act in accordance with the way events develop. Russia reserves the right to renounce further moves in the field of disarmament and arms control, although this would be a highly undesirable development. In addition, considering the inseparable link between offensive and defensive weapons, there may be grounds for our country’s withdrawal from Start. Russia is not shutting the door on dialogue with the United States and the North Atlantic alliance on issues of missile defence or on practical co-operation in this sphere. But the road to such work lies in the creation of a clear legal framework for co-operation that would ensure that our legitimate interests are taken into account. AlexanderYakovenko is Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United Kingdom. He was previously Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Follow him on Twitter: @Amb_Yakovenko
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Diamond Jubilee The linked history of the Romanovs and Windsors means the Queen has many Russian admirers who will be celebrating her reign
Nations united by ties of love, tragedy and friendship special to rn
As Britain celebrates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, there will be many in Russia wishing her well, too. Not only do many Russians fondly remember her state visit to Moscow and St Petersburg in 1994, but many are aware of the various connections between the Windsors and the Russian Imperial Royal family, the Romanovs. The royal love story between the two countries spans centuries, from the tsar who proposed to an English queen to the countless Russians today who love to watch the British Royal family on television. Katharine Starr, author of the The Devushka Diaries blog, wrote in April last year that“the royal wedding has captured Russia’s attention”. Starr attributed the phenomenon partly to historic links between the Windsors and the Romanovs and posts a remarkable photograph of Nicholas II and George V, who were cousins, looking identical in their twin sailor suits.
Ivan’s terrible courtship
Imperial relations between Britain and Russia started long before either of the families was on the throne, back in the days of Queen Elizabeth I. Ivan IV (better known as Ivan the Terrible), who was the earliest ruler to call himself a tsar, first established diplomatic and trading links with Britain in 1553. A letter written by the tsar to Elizabeth I in 1569 suggests relations were not all plain sailing. He called the queen’s
Mementos from Russia
One of the most striking pieces at the royal Fabergé exhibition at Buckingham Palace last year was Queen Victoria’s silver-gilt notebook, a present from Tsar Nicholas II, which was signed by all the European kings and queens who came to Buckingham Palace for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Among the many photographs of Russian and British royals is a well-known image of QueenVictoria with the Russian Imperial family at Balmoral Castle; Victoria is looking fondly at Nicholas and Alexandra’s ninemonth-old daughter Olga, who is sitting on Alexandra’s lap (right). Frances Dimond, a former curator of the Royal Photograph Collection, says that these old photographs show that there was “a European union that went on long before the EU. I like the idea that London was a meeting place for these people… it is fascinating to imagine them here, moving about among familiar places.”
Romance and tragedy
Elizabeth I may have rejected the tsar’s advances, but three centuries later, the two Royal families were connected through inter-dynastic
The Queen side-stepped all regulations and invited Gagarin to the palace for lunch marriages. Two of Victoria’s granddaughters – Elizabeth and Alix – married Romanovs; their stories are fraught with romance and tragedy. Elizabeth married the tsar’s brother, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, in 1884, though Victoria did not approve. Elizabeth’s younger sister Alix met the Russian crown prince Nicholas (Sergei’s nephew) at her sister’s wedding. The tsar disapproved of their relationship, hoping for a marital alliance with France, but Elizabeth and Sergei helped the young lovers write secretly to each other until finally, a decade after they had met, they were married. Alix converted to Orthodox Christianity and became Alexandra Feodorovna. Both met with a tragic end. After Sergei was assassinated in 1905, Elizabeth founded the beautiful Martha and Mary Convent in Moscow, before being mur-
One of the most entertaining commentators on early 20th-century politics was Ivan Maisky, Soviet ambassador to London in the Thirties and early Forties. In his diary, he describes the shock when Joachim von Ribbentrop, German ambassador to London, greeted George VI with a stiff-armed Nazi sa-
Guard of honour: the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were guests of Boris Yeltsin at the Kremlin in 1994
lute, almost knocking the king over, and a state banquet where the“food, unlike most English dinners, was tasty”.He recalled the young Princess Elizabeth, dressed in a light pink dress and clearly “terribly excited”.
Queen Victoria’s granddaughters – Elizabeth and Alix – both married Romanovs In August 1940, Maisky wrote that the King’s wife, the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, “has set herself the task of bringing popularity and splendour to the Royal family”.Maisky’s comments suggest that Queen Elizabeth set the pattern for today’s busy royal schedules: “She never rests… bazaars, hospitals, telephone operators, farmers… she visits them all, gives her blessing, graces with her presence.” The current Russian ambassador, AlexanderYakovenko, recommends Maisky’s diaries to anyone considering a diplomatic career.
Tsar Ivan IV wrote an insulting letter to Queen Elizabeth I calling her an ‘old maid’.
Mikhail Gorbachev meets Queen Elizabeth II. She took part in his 80th birthday celebrations in London last year.
Last year, a statue of the astronaut Yuri Gagarin was unveiled on The Mall in London. Gagarin became the first human in space in 1961 when hisVostok spacecraft orbited the Earth. When he visited London later the same year, he was greeted by cheering crowds. The most recent biography of Gagarin, written by the literary critic and former Russian Playboy editor Lev Danilkin, tells how Queen Elizabeth II “side-
dered herself by the Bolsheviks. There is still a statue of her outside the convent and another above the doorway of Westminster Abbey. Alexandra and Tsar Nicholas II were executed with the rest of their family by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
advisers “boors”who sought only “their own profit” and compared the Queen to an old maid. The letter backs claims that Elizabeth I rejected a secret marriage proposal from Ivan the Terrible. The historian Felix Pryor, author of Elizabeth I – Her Life in Letters, has called it“quite simply the rudest letter Elizabeth ever received”.
The many Russian connections with the British Royal family include a secret marriage proposal from Ivan the Terrible.
European union: Clockwise from top, Tsar Nicholas II, Edward, Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria and Alexandra Feodorovna (with nine-month-old daughter Olga) at Balmoral in 1896
stepped all regulations and invited the Soviet officer to her palace for lunch”, where she whispered advice about cutlery, joking that she was “born and brought up in this palace”and still didn’t know “in which order I should use all these forks and knives.”
Royal wedding fever
Last year’s royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton was watched with delight by many Rus-
sians. The fact that many of the invited guests had Russian origins because of the intricately intertwined European royal families, made the event all the more appealing to them. A Russian friend praised the way the Queen has carried out her duties over the past 60 years, saying:“She is the single most admirable image of England and a perfect ambassador for the Commonwealth. Without any ex-
aggeration, she does more work for the country than perhaps an entire ministry on the executive side of the government. She manages a very difficult family and she does that with considerable skill, too.” And as Starr concludes in her Devushka Diaries, in an attempt to explain the appeal of monarchy:“There’s a little part in all of us that still believes (or wants to believe) in fairy tales.”
continued from PAGE 1
interested in the British Royal family. I know this from my own experience as London correspondent for Rossiyskaya Gazeta. To report about the Queen too often and toо much is not an issue; there never seem to be enough Royal stories to satisfy the curiosity of Russian readers. It was Lieutenant General Sergey Khlebnikov, superintendent of the Moscow Kremlin, whom I have known for many years, who told me about the team of Russian riders getting ready to leave for Windsor. The general takes pride in having British guests – the Royal Artillery Band and 19th Regiment Royal Artillery (the Highland Gunners) – attend the international Spasskaya Tower military musical festival held in Red Square at the end of each summer. It was in Red Square that the British organisers of the Windsor festival spotted the team of Kremlin equestrians in 2010 and invited them to attend the show. All have taken a masterclass at Russia’s Kremlin Riding School, which was established more than five years ago by the Federal Guard Service of Russia and chairman of the board of Uralsib Financial Corporation Nikolay Tsvetkov.The president of the school is the Kremlin superintendent himself. So why did the Kremlin need a riding school in the first place? To restore the unique horsemanship skills for which Russia has been
known for centuries, specifically embodied by the tsar’s elite mounted troops, the Cossack regiments. Most riders could not even begin to imagine the outrageous exploits a Don or Urals Cossack was able to perform on horseback. In the heat of battle, and at full speed, a Cossack could pass out of sight, hiding under his horse’s belly. Or turn 180 degrees in the saddle to face the enemy – who did not expected a bullet or slashing sabre from that direction. Cossack tricks on galloping horses were called“spins”, because they left observers with a feeling of dizziness; these “spins” were designed to disorientate enemies on the battlefield. I heard about this from my great-grandfather, who served in a Cossack regiment in the Urals. It was the“Urals spin”that was seen as a particularly complicated manoeuvre. The secret of the Cossack riders’ skills – called dzhigitovka – was passed down from father to son. After the cavalry regiments were disbanded, the art of trick riding was almost lost, but modern Russian riders are rediscovering it using old documentary films and other archive material. The secret was not only the rider’s mastery, but the specially bred and trained horses. General director of the Kremlin Riding School Boris Petrov says that it is virtually impossible to use foreign horses for dzhigitovka. It seems the indigenous Russian breeds – Donskaya and Budenovskaya – carry the
From the Kremlin to the Queen at the gallop
Trick and treat: the Kremlin School riders thrilled the Windsor crowds with their astonishing feats of skill and bravery
ability to do this sort of work in their genes.“The Russians developed the breeds that could be sent into the heat
Cossack tricks on horses, or ‘spins’, were designed to disorientate enemies on the battlefield of battle, where shots are fired and sabres rattle”, Mr Petrov says. “The Russian market for horse-breeding is currently on the rise, and we hope that,
in about 10 years’ time, Russian-bred horses will be traded at auctions and enjoy a strong demand as breeds that are uniquely suited to trick riding. If a country wishes to produce a show similar to that brought to Windsor by our team, it will have to procure Russian horses.” The Russian programme at Windsor was unique, the Kremlin riders demonstrating horseback acrobatics and mastery of the cold steel that would have made their forefathers, the unsurpassed Cossacks, proud. Truth be told, the role of the enemy on the
Windsor “battlefield” was performed by a grapevine with a hat and bottle of water placed on top. However, if you think that slashing a vine is easy, think again. The blow must be delivered from the shoulder and the warrior should feel the sabre as if it were a continuation of his arm. If the blow is delivered with the wrist only, the sabre will not slice through the vine. This, along with many other techniques, is taught to would-be Cossacks at the Kremlin Riding School. First of all they are taught to ride
standing up on the horse; this is the fundamental skill to master. In fact, there are only a few riders who have mastered all of these skills; the Kremlin School students have to train eight hours a day to attain this mastery. The riders and their horses must be able to negotiate obstacles – some of which are set ablaze – engage targets at the gallop and throw knives and daggers at full speed. The Kremlin dzhigit trick riders use special Cossack saddles, because normal tack is unsuitable for stunt rid-
ing. The peculiar design of the Cossack saddle and sitting position is ideal for dzhigitovka. When riding in a Cossack saddle, the legs go down in a straight line. Because the legs remained straight, Cossacks never used spurs, but instead had a whip; today, spurs would be dangerous during trick riding. However, the horses of the Kremlin Riding School are so well trained there is no need for spurs, let alone a whip: they start galloping smoothly at their riders’ barely perceptible command. The riskiest stunts on the horses are carried out by the woman who stands on top of the human pyramid. Angelina Bragilskaya, 24, is said to be the greatest daredevil on the Kremlin team. “We have to cool her off from time to time, because she knows no fear”,Elena Kochetova, executive director of the programme, says of her friend. She openly admires Bragilskaya’s courage, though. And what will the fearless equestrian do after leaving trick riding?“I will stay close”, Bragilskaya smiles, nodding at her stallion. “I cannot imagine my life without horses. I guess I’ll always be around them.” Another star is 27-year-old Yulia Kalinina. A fabulous acrobat, Kalinina is a combat weapons master, showcasing her remarkable skills during dzhigitovka programmes. The audience is mesmerised by the petite performer, who spins on horseback like a gymnast on the bars to chop the “head” off her enemy. Kalinina is a pro-
fessional economist who started riding at an early age. She worked as an accountant in her native Volgograd before she came to the Kremlin Riding School. Coming from Cossack stock, it is no surprise that she preferred the horse and sabre to her calculator. Vladimirov, 25, who is famous for his “flying horseman” trick, creates complex stunts together with his coach – a forward somersault or backward somersault to the ground from the galloping horse.Vladimirov, who is from Khotkovo, near Moscow, trained at a private horse club before joining the Kremlin School. The school accepts children from the age of two. “Children come to their first lessons with their parents, and we train the child, the mothers and the fathers to help them cope with fear”,Ms Kochetova says.“So we have turned into a family school. As soon as they turn 12, they start training seriously to become riders.” It all sounds very impressive. But is the Kremlin School just a club for the Russian elite and their offspring? “Not at all”, Ms Kochetova assures me. “The school is open to everyone. Many children come from far away regions, and they are from ordinary families. “We are a not-for-profit organisation; all the money we make at shows is invested in further development. We do it for pleasure, sport and as a history lesson. We are reviving the traditions of which we are so proud.”
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Privatisation Shares will not be floated ‘for peanuts’
Energy firms dropped from sell-off plans natasha doff
the moscow news
The government’s privatisation programme suffered a blow last week when President Vladimir Putin announced that energy companies would be withdrawn from the sale because of market conditions. The announcement was seen as a U-turn after First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said only weeks earlier that a new “concrete plan” for the sale of equity in 10 state assets would be signed by the new prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev. Mr Shuvalov’s comments followed similar statements from Mr Putin, who called for the privatisation programme to be broadened and given greater priority in a pre-election manifesto published in Vedomosti. But following the signing of the decree removing energy assets from sale on Tuesday, the concrete plan seemed to crumble, resulting in investors fleeing Russian stocks and causing market turmoil on Wednesday. In an attempt to reassure investors on Thursday, Mr Putin ordered the government to approve a plan to sell assets held by state energy holding company Rosneftegaz in 2013-2015, pav-
Steady as she goes will keep business happy Ben Aris
special to rn
early 2011. This year, the government had planned to sell stakes in three major companies – lending giant Sberbank, the United Grain Company and Novorossiysk Seaport – but analysts say the size of the Sberbank sale may swamp the market. The placement of 7.6pc of Sberbank was postponed last autumn because of poor market conditions, which pushed down the bank’s share price. Share flotation: A 20pc stake in Novorossiysk Seaport on the Black Sea may be sold this year “The Sberbank stake sale is likely to happen this year, but agement of the individual We don’t want it is likely that other offercompanies due to be privathese companies ings will be postponed due tised. “If the companies are to be privatised for to the size of the placement,” interested in privatisation, as peanuts then resold Andrei Kuznetsov, a strateSberbank management seems gist at Citibank in Moscow, to be, then there is a higher for serious money told The Moscow News. chance the process will go “If the placement happens, ahead,”Natalya Orlova, chief say in the autumn, it will be economist at Alfa Bank, told The authorities hard for smaller companies The Moscow News. are likely to try to to sell their stakes due to convince the markets market supply,” he added. Getting the timing right that they are serious Analysts say in the short term at least, the authorities are about privatisation Ministers divided likely to try to convince the Mr Putin’s announcement right away for serious money,” followed hot on the heels of markets that they are seriMr Putin said. Using Ros- the new Cabinet being anous about privatisation, while neftegaz as a vehicle for ac- nounced last Monday. The holding back from taking acquiring state companies was former deputy prime ministion for as long as possible. source: the moscow news a way to recapitalise them ter, Igor Sechin, wasn’t given “Investors view privatisausing non-budgetary re- a new job in the Cabinet but tion as a litmus test to see if sources, and “nothing has has been made chief execu- many assets being sold at un- president, leads the camp of the government is able to rechanged with regard to pri- tive of oil giant Rosneft. Often acceptably low prices. ministers in the new Cabi- duce its presence [in the vatisation plans”. Like many other economy- net who want to speed up economy]. Even if we are only described as Russia’s energy tsar, Mr Sechin is a close ally related issues, the privatisa- privatisation to improve cor- talking about a minority of Mr Putin. However, his de- tion question has caused a porate governance and at- stake, the message for the Sell-off delays The privatisation programme, parture from the government deep divide between the fis- tract foreign investment. market is really important,” which was originally aiming last week was not a surprise cally conservative and the Other officials are in favour Ms Orlova said. “You can’t realistically talk to sell £18bn worth of state because of the past disagree- liberal-spending camps in of waiting until share prices assets by 2014, has been on ments he has had with Mr the new government. Prime have risen, in order to max- about reducing [government] hold since the first stake sale Medvedev. Mr Sechin had Minister Dmitry Medvedev, imise revenues from the sales control of the economy if you can’t even manage to priva– 10pc in the banking giant long sought to delay the sell- who initiated the privatisa- of state assets. Much depends on the man- tise 10pc of VTB.” VTB, which sold for £2bn in off, claiming it would lead to tion programme when he was ing the way for the sale of stakes in Gazprom and Rosneft, reported Reuters. But the president said Rosneftegaz could take part in auctions of state-controlled energy and power companies to stop them being sold to the private sector cheaply. “[These companies] are undervalued and we would not like them to be privatised for peanuts and then to be resold
The much anticipated £18bn privatisation programme faces a new setback after last week’s announcement by President Putin.
It’s business-friendly as usual President Vladimir Putin promised to create jobs, raise salaries, build roads and increase investment on his first day back in power. tai adelaja
Going for growth: the investment climate in the regions must improve, says Mr Putin
triotic War, 1941 to 1945”. Helping war veterans when presidents take office is becoming a tradition: when Mr Medvedev assumed office in 2008, he immediately signed a decree to provide housing for veterans. Another decree signed by President Putin ordered the new government to“increase the pace and sustainability of economic growth, increase
roubles (£100) is the maximum one-off payment for Second World War veterans and former inmates of concentration camps.
is the rise pledged for doctors and research workers in the regions by 2013. A 1.4- to 1.5-fold real wage rise for all is promised by 2018.
is where Mr Putin wants Russia to be ranked in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” indicator by 2018. It is currently ranked 120th.
the real incomes of citizens of the Russian Federation and achieve technological leadership of the Russian economy”. It also spelt out a number of economic indicators the new government should aim to achieve. These include increasing investment by at least 25pc of the gross domestic product by 2015 and by up to 27pc by 2018. Mr Putin also ordered the government to improve Russia’s “Doing Business” ranking with the World Bank from 120th in 2011 to 50th by 2015 and 20th in 2018. Other business-friendly directives in the decree include ordering the government to privatise the country’s nonoil sector by 2016 “with the exception of natural monopolies and defence-related companies”. It also says that by September 1, the government must submit a progress report on the efforts made by regional leaders to improve the investment climate. State guarantees for projects of medium-sized businesses working in the country’s nonextractive industries are to be established. Mr Putin also told the government to prepare a bill on the use of oil revenues and submit it to the
State Duma by October 1 this year. As infrastructure is important for attracting investment, the decree says that the government must establish a mechanism to attract foreign companies with advanced technologies to build roads in Russia. Mr Putin’s decree on the “implementation of state social policy” includes a wide range of measures designed to fulfil his campaign promises. They include a 1.4- to 1.5-fold increase in Russians’ real wages by 2018. He also promised to raise the level of teachers’ salaries and ensure a 200pc rise in the salaries of doctors and research workers in the regions by 2013. The government must also explore the possibility of raising the average salaries of social workers and health-care professionals in the regions by 100pc by 2018. Up to a third of funds saved by reorganising ineffective bodies will pay for these rises. Mr Putin has also promised to create 25 million jobs. In an attempt to reward only effective employees, Mr Putin wants to introduce a new system of performancerelated pay for public sector workers by December.
Stock exchange to play by global rules anna andrianova russia now
The newly merged Moscow stock exchange is encouraging more Russian companies to list there, and pushing for international companies operating in Russia to issue debt in roubles. Last month, the MicexRTS exchange hosted con-
ferences in New York and London called“Russia is not about bears” for fund managers and individual investors. The aim was to update participants on the merger and encourage investors to list on the exchange by telling them what the Russian market can offer. The merger of Russia’s two largest stock exchanges, Micex and RTS, in December 2011 has provided a onestop-shop for trading equities, bonds, derivatives, and currencies. It is part of Mos-
cow’s plan to become an international financial centre. The combined exchange has an estimated value of $4.5bn (£2.8m) and is reported to be planning an IPO in 2013. Micex-RTS president Ruben Aganbegyan said the exchange wanted to liberalise the issuing of securities and improve the market for companies to launch IPOs in Russia. The exchange is working with local legislators to bring procedures in line with international best practice.“We are trying to get
the country to move as quickly as possible to global principles of corporate governa n c e a n d i n fo r m a t i o n disclosure to investors, especially the most liquid ones,” said Mr Aganbegyan. “We are delighted at the strong interest the London financial community has shown in the reforms we are implementing at Micex-RTS. I am confident that, as these reforms come online, international market participants will be increasingly drawn to trading in Moscow.”
As reforming the legislation will take time, Micex-RTS is considering the example of the Brazilian exchange Novo Mercado, which issued its own set of rules that companies can adopt voluntarily in addition to the ones required by law to be listed in the new segment of the exchange. “The first stage is to attract companies with a business or investment in Russia. We’re not competing for global listings but for ones in Russia, so they will not go abroad,” Mr Aganbegyan
The plan, it seems, is to take revenue from natural resources and to spend it on big state initiatives But while the economics are doubtful, you can see why Putin wants to do it: negotiations on the West’s missile shield continue, and from the Kremlin it looks like a threat to national security. Other appointments are a mixed bag. Generally, we can expect more of what we had for most of the past decade: steady progress with reforms, but nothing to catch the headlines and plenty of mishaps in the implementation. While a dramatic change in the government would be exciting, so long as Putin continues to improve the quality of life, for the business community at least, steady as she goes is fine. Ben Aris is the editor and publisher of Business New Europe.
Markets Micex-RTS aims to attract international companies with a base in Russia to start trading in Moscow
The Russian stock exchange Micex-RTS is changing the way it works to make it easier to list shares and attract foreign investors.
hile popular reaction to the new government has been mixed, business leaders have praised the stability that the new Cabinet brings. Most investors want to avoid radical changes in government but it is clear that some change is needed. The steady-as-she-goes crowd have commented optimistically on a couple of the new appointments. The promotion of former presidential economic adviser Arkady Dvorkovich to the post of deputy prime minister for industrial and energy policy is seen as a big step forward for the liberal camp, as Dvorkovich, like his former boss German Gref, talks sense. Part of his brief will be to oversee the energy sector. The appointment of the relatively unknown Alexander Novak to oversee the energy portfolio came as a surprise, as Novak is not an oil man but comes from the Finance Ministry. At the same time, the departure of Siloviki top dog Igor Sechin shakes up the control structure of the energy industry. He will now head Rosneftgaz, the holding company that owns the state’s stake in the oil major Rosneft. It is assumed that Sechin will remain de facto in charge of energy. He will clearly be responsible for operational issues on the sector’s development. Massive investment is needed, and deals galore will have to be cut with foreigners to develop the Arctic, the Barents Sea gas deposits and
open up Eastern Siberia. Andrei Belousov, appointed as head of Economic Development, is a respected economist who is close to Putin and supports his preferences for state spending. The plan, it seems, is to extract more revenue from natural resources and spend it on big state initiatives to promote diversification and growth. The massive 20 trillion rouble spending programme on the military-industrial sector will be one of the main beneficiaries of the revenue, and Putin is committed to making this plan work. The wisdom is questionable – former finance minister Alexei Kudrin quit over the issue.
Investors pin hopes on Putin’s reform agenda
Legislation Putin backs Medvedev agenda with calls for growth and a better climate for entrepreneurs
Hours after he took the oath of office on May 7, Russian PresidentVladimir Putin was busy signing a raft of economic and social policy decrees, helping to project his image as an active, energetic and business-like leader. Before becoming president, Mr Putin had promised to continue the modernisation and business-friendly policies of the former president Dmitry Medvedev. The decrees outline Mr Putin’s ambitious plans to improve the business climate and speed economic growth. However, at a time when many public sector workers in Britain and other parts of Europe face pay freezes, Mr Putin also promised pay rises to Russian public sector workers. According to the news agency Itar-Tass, Mr Putin’s first act as president was to order a“lump-sum payment to a group of Russian citizens on the occasion of the 67thVictory in the Great Pa-
said. Micex-RTS was talking to several big international firms and planned to have them on board by the end of the year. Last year, Micex-RTS signed an agreement on cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to strengthen corporate governance in Russia. Mr Aganbegyan said the OECD had brought the experiences and best practices of other emerging markets to Russia.
specIAl to rn
s Vladimir Putin settles in as president of Russia, foreign investors will wonder what the future holds for them. The high levels of capital flight suggest local investors are unconvinced about the prospects for serious structural and economic reform under President Putin, which is widely viewed as essential if Russia is to maintain its current rate of economic growth. And their scepticism is not without foundation. The Russian authorities’ track record of reform has been chequered, with periods of very positive movement (notably 1992 to 1995 and 2000 to 2003) being the exception rather than the norm. This time things are different. A new range of external factors have cropped up over the past few years that will galvanise the Kremlin into real and transformative action. Not least of these is that it is unlikely that Russia will be able to rely forever on high oil and gas prices, which to some extent have underpinned its economic performance in the past decade. Already, there is a great deal of evidence that Mr Putin is this time taking personal responsibility for the reform agenda, which may indicate that things are going to change for the better. President Putin signed a decree “on the long-term economic policy”on the day of his inauguration.This decree contains around 30 major reform measures, including improving and simplifying business regulation and tax-reporting requirements, selling all state stakes in non-resource companies by 2016, allowing foreign companies to participate in bids for road infrastructure projects and removing the threat of criminal sanction from economic legal disputes. By strengthening the rule
of law and reducing the costs and risks of doing business, these reforms will go a long way to making Russia more attractive to investors. These measures follow other recent developments that suggest Mr Putin is taking the reform agenda very seriously. Recent big deals between the Russian oil company Rosneft and its US rival Chevron and the Norwegian Statoil were personally presided over by Mr Putin, which shows he is committed to working with foreign partners. This is a symbolic development for Russia, given how central its energyexporting sector is to its overall economy. Furthermore, recent announcements of investment in Russia by foreign companies including the car manufacturers Renault-Nissan, also demonstrate that the government’s attempts to
Putin wants to secure his legacy as the president who delivered a modern economy to Russia diversify away from natural resources might finally be starting to pay off. On foreign policy, the government has recently announced a new focus on facilitating visa-free travel between Russia and Europe, which would help reduce the costs and bureaucracy of doing business in Russia. Investors cannot be certain that all of these initiatives will be implemented and, given the government’s track record, there are reasons to be cautious. But this time, Mr Putin is under real external and internal pressure to secure his legacy as the president who finally delivered a modern economy for Russia. The stakes are high, not just for the president but for the millions of Russians who are looking for a secure economic future. Alexey Moiseev is head of macroeconomic analysis at VTB Capital, London.
Comment & Analysis
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it’s make up or break up I
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n the coming years, it’s likely that Europe will lose its status as Russia’s biggest economic partner and that Russia will form closer bonds with the East. Europe’s unwillingness to take Moscow’s opinion into consideration when it comes to strategic security matters, which became clear during the discussions of the future of the European missile defence system, as well as the economic troubles that the European Union currently needs to address, have prompted Russia to revise the exclusively western foundation of its international policy. An eastern orientation appears to be the natural alternative, given Russia’s geographical location. In recent years, Moscow has increased its efforts to establish a strong footing in Asia by promoting its economic interests in regional organisations. The feasibility of shifting the centre of gravity eastwards has been repeatedly mooted, but no practical moves have yet been made. However, Moscow has been promoting Russia’s Far East and building up its economic relations with China, Japan and the rising Asian“tigers”,while also pursuing stronger economic ties with Europe. But the situation has changed dramatically in the past few months. It is not even just the matter of the election of a new Russian head of state, who appears to be disappointed with the progress of Russia’s European policy. Furthermore, Moscow’s European partners are attempting to reduce their dependence on Russian raw materials and seek alternative energy sources. This instability, aggravated by the current financial and economic downturn in Europe, has been forcing Russia out of the increasin-
gly inaccessible western markets and into the increasingly available Asian ones, where Russia will be welcomed with open arms. Crucial internal factors are also conspiring to make the Russian administration revise its future economic strategy and factor in the rapidly expanding economic potential of the Asian countries. The change from the traditional role of Siberia within the framework of Russia’s western efforts to become the vanguard of its Chinese endeavour gives Moscow much more room for competitive manoeuvre. The only question is how to redirect investment and commodity flows from West to East smoothly enough to turn Siberia, the traditional source of raw materials, into a key modernised sector of the Russian economy. During the past few years, Russian politicians have discussed two main options for developing the economy of the Far East. The first option was to set up a state corporation to promote the region, and the second involved creating a special state ministry to manage economic development projects there. The new Russian government has opted for the latter and has established such a ministry for the first time. Viktor Ishaev, 64, the former presidential envoy in the Far Eastern Federal District, has been appointed minister for the development of the Far East of the Russian Federation. Russia has not given up on the idea of a state corporation to implement projects approved by the ministry. Experts agree that Ishaev’s appointment is just the first step in a much more ambitious project, which is currently being discussed in Russia. The idea is to create a socalled third economic capital of Russia in the Far East. During the most recent meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, a few cities were mentioned that have sufficient
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potential and favourable locations to make them candidates as the third capital – Ekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, and Khabarovsk. Moscow would remain the political capital and St Petersburg the cultural capital. Those advocating a redistribution of functions between the capitals refer to the successful international experience of sharing capital city roles in Brazil, Germany and Kazakhstan.Those political decisions gave a strong impetus to the development of the areas surrounding the new capitals. Russia transferred its capital city from Moscow to St Petersburg in 1712, when Peter the Great decided his newly built city on the Baltic Sea was more suitable as Russia’s capital. Russian researchers argue that it was mostly because of that deci-
sion that Peter managed to open a window to Europe, providing a major impetus to development of the country for centuries to come. There have also been more recent sharing of administrative functions in Russia – in 2006, the Constitutional Court moved from Moscow to St Petersburg and it is said one of the reasons for the recent dismissal of Navy Commander Vladimir Vysotsky was his refusal to move the Navy General Staff from Moscow to St Petersburg. Experts warn, though, that with all its obvious advantages, the creation of a third capital city beyond the Urals might have unpredictable social and political consequences. The new government does not currently have plans to transfer any capital city functions to a region that is much closer to Asia than
Moscow. However, the more complications that arise in relations between Moscow and Brussels, the more frequently the topic of a third economic capital, remote from Europe, will be discussed in Russian corridors of power. Europe still has a chance to alter the situation, but it seems that the European Union does not have the political will, the economic capacity or any fresh ideas to make a substantial breakthrough in its relations with Russia.This current lack of diplomatic impetus means that relations between Moscow and Brussels can now only progress through links forged long ago. Russia’s Asian partners, though, are coming up with new ideas and are ready to expand their dialogue with Russia in all areas. The Asian
partners do not impose their state systems as administrative models or impose political conditions on economic co-operation. Moscow has long been disturbed by the attempts made by members of the European Union to encourage it to follow western political models. The idea of punishing the West for its perceived arrogance, especially during the era of perestroika, for what Russia saw as its unwillingness to build equitable relations with Moscow, is deeprooted in Russian public opinion. If this punishment requires moving some Russian ministries beyond the Urals, a large part of Russian society may welcome this geopolitical decision. Yevgeny Shestakov is editor of the international politicsdesk at Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
strongman on a tightrope Fyodor Lukyanov
here are few statesmen today who can claim that their name has become a brand. Vladimir Putin, though, is one of them. As president and prime minister,Vladimir Putin has strode the political arena for almost 13 years; he has become not just a symbol of his country, but the personification of a certain type of politics. This is a product of an era of transition, in Russia and in the world. It’s a period when the long-established system of global political coordinates is in flux, many traditional ideologies have been shaken, and borders have become porous and blurred – while new and puzzling dividing lines are emerging. Against a backdrop of moral relativism, conceptual incoherence (“humanitarian” intervention is an example) and uncertainty about the future, there is a need for strong leaders capable of pursuing their course and casting aside traditional constraints. This is practically impossible in a developed democracy, though it has become almost commonplace to speak about the destructive inefficiency of this form of government in a crisis. But societies in transition can afford it: institutions limiting personal rule have not yet taken hold and popular belief in quick fixes is strong. If such a leader appears in a small country highly dependent on events beyond its borders, he or she tends to become at best an enfant
To preserve his image, Putin must maintain an even and balanced level of authoritarianism terrible (like former Hungarian president Pal Schmitt, who recently resigned); at worst an outcast (like President Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus). However, in a huge, powerful country with vast natural resources and nuclear potential that plays a leading role in world politics, a strong leader can offer an alternative model. Putin is an ideal embodi-
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ment of such a model. As leader, he is perceived in the world as stronger and more influential than the country he leads. While Russia is seen in the West as a shrinking petro-state and a declining kleptocracy, Putin has never been characterised as a dictator, although some radical elements of the Russian opposition would dearly like that to be the case. He is thought to be a wily, sophisticated – and therefore doubly dangerous – player who achieves his goals. The demonisation of Putin in the Western media and public opinion is the flip-side of the fascination with his personality. The reason is that Vladimir Putin is doing what
Western leaders cannot because of the institutional constraints they face. He makes no bones about being anti-ideological, which enables him to make abrupt turns in policy when necessary and to use any rhetoric to further his ends. He has no use for political correctness, which enables him to formulate certain priorities without mincing his words. His preoccupation with national sovereignty gives him a lot of leeway: Russia is one of the few countries not bound by commitments to an alliance and thus has a free hand, while being strong enough to translate that freedom into reality. He is guided by the principles of real-
politik, which is based on the balance of forces in which potential and not intentions count, while prestige is a material concept. The approach is often criticised as being old-fashioned but it is clear and understandable. Finally (and perhaps most importantly), Putin is (or is perceived to be) the undisputed master of his land who is able to do whatever he likes with it. All (or most of these things) are unattainable for Western leaders who are hamstrung by ideology (an approach based on values), alliance commitments (Nato), and the need to package their intentions in such a thick shell of propaganda that they themselves come to believe in the packaging and confuse it with the true goals. And they depend heavily on public opinion, their constituencies, interest groups and so on. Putin has another side to him that appeals not to the West but to the East. He is seen as a leader who can stand up to American hegemony and promote a multipolar world. That view is based not on objective reality (in practice Russia for many reasons cannot afford a confrontation with the United States) but on his willpower and an effective communications strategy. That is why the former Third World, including China and India, still sees Russia as a counterweight to America though Beijing, for example, could perform that function much more credibly now. Putin’s perverse kind of popularity in the world is a sign of confusion in people’s minds. It is a mixture of fear
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of a person who is able to act meaningfully in the midst of chaos and a sneaking hope that this dominant male can untangle a confused situation. Will Vladimir Putin be able to preserve this image and, consequently, his weight in world politics during his third presidential term? The paradox he faces is that to do so, he must maintain an even and balanced level of authoritarianism. Any tilt would destroy the balanced picture. But the political atmosphere in Russia is changing, and Putin will have to react to these changes and probably lean to one side or the other. A further shift in the direction of Lukashenko would make him a run-of-the-mill
If he misses his step, many would be only too glad to nudge him off the high wire autocrat. There have been many of those and they inevitably lose touch with reality and lose power. Liberalisation would remove the allure of a powerful leader who controls all the internal processes and with whom all deals and agreements should be made. Walking on a tightrope is difficult. If Putin misses his step there will be no shortage of people – inside and outside the country – who would be only too glad to nudge him off it. Fyodor Lukyanov is editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs.
hile the Western press was busy comparing the numbers of Putin’s men with Medvedev’s men in the new Russian government, Russians were looking at developments in the Cabinet from a wholly different angle. The new education minister, Dmitry Livanov, proposed cutting the number of students given higher education at the state’s expense by 50pc, which unleashed a storm in the popular press. But it went almost unnoticed by the major international news networks and by the Russian liberal press. Both were too busy determining the degree of liberalism of the new government, its openness to Western ideas and so on. Livanov’s proposal chimed with the popular Russian stereotype of top-notch economic liberalism. After 22 years of reform, the average Russian knows that if a boss talks of making a sector more “competetive,”he means cutting jobs and charging for services that were previously free – in short, making life harder and more expensive. Was Livanov’s suggestion indeed a liberal one? From an economic point of view, yes. Business has long been complaining about Russian education being too detached from real life and requiring too much taxpayers’ money, often for an education that is of no use to business – such as teaching young people good taste in art. From a pragmatic point of view, Livanov probably chose the right moment for his statement – the country is in post-electoral cycle. Now that the vote is over and Vladimir Putin is back in the Kremlin, one can safely start slashing free education places. Interestingly, this kind of reform had long been advocated by the experts from the Higher School of Economics (HSE) – a powerful breeding ground for Russia’s economic reformers, whose representatives can be seen in the government, in the Kremlin and among the speakers at anti-Putin rallies. Livanov was echoing the HSE when he said the change was needed to raise salaries for university professors – strangely, one of the most dispossessed professional groups in Russia. A similar reform was carried out by the Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili. Modern Georgia is often suggested as a model for Russia by western and Russian academics with a penchant for radical market solutions. Here’s the rub: Livanov’s reform is the exact opposite of what Putin’s voters cast their votes for during the presidential election. In one of his campaign articles, Putin promised to raise the students’ monthly allowances to a minimum subsistence level. Putin then also praised the fact that so many Russians had been through higher education, seeing it as an advantage, not a handicap. Then why is this man constantly appointing to various positions the men who do the exact opposite of his statements? Livanov is not the only example. Take Arkady Dvorkovich, the new government’s vice-premier responsible for fuel and energy issues. A year go, he made headlines by suggesting university students should not be paid an allowance. In Russia, where most of the population remembers when one could live on a stipend, such a statement was a public relations disaster for Dvorkovich. Yet somehow it didn’t kill his career. “The main problem of modern Russian politics is that Putin’s electorate is moderately left, but Putin continuously has right-ofcentre governments with
tight-fisted financial policies, requiring society to change at all costs,” says Boris Kagarlitsky, the director of the Moscow-based Institute for Globalisation Studies. Only a great connoisseur of Russian national psyche can explain this strange coexistence. Part of this paradox can be explained by Putin’s long-groomed image of a strict disciplinarian who can talk tough even to oligarchs of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s calibre, thus replacing real policy with a reassuring image. Part of it may come from a lack of alternative. The Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov or the social-democratic frontman of the Just Russia party Sergei Mironov, with their unrealistic promises of a return to Soviet-era freeof-charge social guarantees, are not seen by the majority as serious alternatives. This is not surprising: Igor Nikolayev, an expert at HSE, calculated that the electoral promises of presidential candidate Sergei Mironov would require six times the annual state budget to fulfil. A strategy of unlimited electoral promises might have worked at the end of the Soviet period, and it was widely used by the late Boris Yeltsin, independent Russia’s first president and most successful populist. But it does not work now when people do not believe in miracles, but expect a somewhat more generous social policy – something along the lines of Vladimir Putin’s presidential pro-
Dmitry Livanov’s proposed education reforms unleashed a storm in the popular press
Russians know that talk of being more competitive means cutting jobs and charging for services gramme. This programme, according to Nikolayev’s estimates, would require an additional investment of 50pc of Russia’s annual budget. But is there a political will to carry out this programme? This is the question that really bothers people, not the fate of a handful of protesters camping in Moscow’s parks under the slogan “Putin, go away!” It was not Putin who won the last election, it was the “budget-saving” likes of Livanov who lost it. But it does not mean the budget-cutters lost the sympathies of Russia’s ruling elite. Putin in fact acknowledges his old ministers’ efforts. It is not a coincidence that the most unpopular ministers of the previous Cabinet – social development minister Tatyana Golikova and education minister Sergei Fursenko – were both taken into Putin’s administration as advisers in their respective fields. Hence, part of the popular discontent is automatically passed on to Putin, since he is the main talking head on television, trying to explain the chronically unpopular reforms. So, the global angle of the western observers of Russian politics often plays a wicked joke on them, since they have to fit this complicated picture into the simplified matrix of “bad conservatives against nice reformers”.And the old issues of KGB affiliations or attitude to Soviet history do not play nearly as big a role with Russian voters as with western observers. But the mainstream global press just does not want to know this. Dmitry Babich, is a political analyst of the Voice of Russia radio station
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Eurovision The Buranovskiye Babushki’s traditional folk with a modern twist won hearts right across Europe
Grannies rock Eurovision The Buranovo grannies didn’t just sing for Russia in the Eurovision Song Contest, they championed age and a traditional way of life.
A thirst for life, despite its breathtaking bitterness
svetlana smetanina russia Now
Title: thirst Author: Andrei gelasimov PUBLISHER: amazoncrossing
It is not often that on finishing a novel the reader feels compelled to go back to the beginning and start reading it again. But Gelasimov, whose unadorned prose and youthful, troubled narrative has invited comparisons with Salinger and Hemingway, is that kind of writer. His novel Thirst sails quickly over half-glimpsed depths, making you want to go back and explore them more. This slim volume of 100 pages is a haven of both comedy and horror. The narrator Kostya (short for Konstantin) is a veteran of the brutal wars in the North Caucasus. He has been pulled from a burning tank and his badly disfigured face is unrecognisable. The novel starts with the hero trying to fit too many bottles into his fridge. We see him drinking alone, recalling his childhood, and travelling with fellow soldiers. Their quest is often pointless and confused, but there is an echoing sense of profundity among the routine profanities of his journey. Kostya’s neighbour uses him to terrify her little boy into going to bed. The story of Kostya’s gradual self-acceptance has some hallmarks of a coming-of-age story, but is tempered by a darker aimlessness that strays into the alcohollaced traditions of many Russian writers, from Chekhov to Venedikt Erofeyev. The thirst of the title relates most obviously to a speech by Kostya’s nurturing school director, who drinks vodka by the case and tells him:“I have a terrible thirst… my body craves liquids.” Insofar as he deals in metaphors at all,
Country life: The Buranovskiye Babushki plan to use royalties from their song to rebuild their village church, which was destroyed in the Soviet era
Swaying in their traditional birch-bark shoes with their wide toothless grins, it’s hard not to like them
The grannies are great ambassadors for older women in a world where youth and beauty dominate
the tactic didn’t pay off as Humperdinck came a disappointing second to last – but thankfully avoiding the“null point” humiliation with a score of 12 points. Swaying in their traditional birch-bark shoes and ornate peasant dresses with their wide toothless grins and welcoming arm gestures, it’s hard not to like the grannies. Their song Party for Everybody was sung in their native Urdmurt language with parts in English. Despite their success, the grannies don’t believe their group is anything special. “There are many people like us,”they say. Indeed, there are numerous vocal bands composed of war veterans and pensioners in Russian villages – what else is there to do on long winter nights but sing in choirs? However, the
Buranovo grannies have been lucky as they have a shrewd producer. In 2008, they became an overnight sensation after performing folk versions of songs by Russian rock legends Viktor Tsoi and Boris Grebenshikov. In 2010, they participated in the Russian national Eurovision selection, but came third. They made another attempt this year and won. No Russian participant in the Eurovision Song Contest has ever created such a buzz among foreign audiences. Since they became Russia’s entrant in the competition, reporters from around the world have flocked to their home village. By mid-April, Buranovo had welcomed journalists from the United States, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, the Czech Republic, Poland and Finland.
The local authorities were pleasantly surprised by all the commotion, and organised hiking routes to the huts where the babushki live, and tours to their cowsheds. The frenzy over the grannies has even reached the sphere of international relations – the Estonian culture minister called on his country’s people to vote for the Russian group. Given the rather cool relations between Russia and the Baltic states, the minister’s appeal seemed quite suprising. However, the Udmurt and Baltic languages belong to the same family, so the two peoples have a cultural connection. The grannies plan to tour several foreign countries soon. But when asked whether they would like to capitalise on their fame and move to Moscow, where there is running water and where you don’t have to stoke a furnace, the singers wave their arms in horror. In unison, they claim they feel sorry for the poor Muscovites, who have to suffer in traffic jams and stuffy offices all of their lives.
The grandmothers’ motherland Udmurtia is an Orthodox republic in the Volga region. Its capital is Izhevsk, which is famous for its industry: transport, mechanical engineering and metallurgy. It was founded as an industrial settlement in the 18th century. Burunova, the village where the grannies live, is a collection of wooden houses
18 miles from the nearest town. The grannies are not the only famous people to hail from this region. It is also home to Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of the AK47 assault rifle, the composer Tchaikovsky and Olga KnipperChekhova, actress wife of Anton Chekhov and an original member of the Moscow Arts Theatre.
“How can you relax there? It is totally different here. All you have to do is walk into a field or a forest and you somehow feel revitalised," they say. Far from wanting to leave their traditional lives, the Buranovo grannies want to improve them and plan to donate a portion of their royalty payments to help with rebuilding the church. Maybe this is all part of their popularity – they are championing a lesser-known, traditional side of Russia and extolling the simple life of subsistence farming.They are
also great ambassadors for older women enjoying themselves, in a world where youth, beauty and perfect teeth dominate public images of women. Both Humperdinck and the grannies were the oldest competitors in the contest. But the previously unknown grannies appealed to the voters far more than did the accomplished pop star. Maybe the BBC should take inspiration from the grannies for their 2013 entry and look for an act with a fun, warm and traditional appeal for next year’s contest.
Fiction A young writer is being compared to the likes of fright-meister Stephen King
The horror! The horror! Meet the new queen of scream Author of dystopian horror and apocalyptic fantasy novels Anna Starobinets talks about her terrifyingly successful writing career. Alexandra guzeva russia now
The writing of Anna Starobinets has been compared with that of a host of literary greats, including Edgar Allan Poe and George Orwell. Yet the young Russian author is still only 33. Her literary career was launched with a horror anthology called An Awkward Age. The title story features a little boy who was so fat and awful that he repulsed even his own mother. She finds a diary in the boy’s handwriting which reveals that a queen ant residing in his mind is lay- Just chilling: Horror writing comes intuitively to Starobinets ing bare her insidious plan: to capture the boy’s body and Stephen King or Philip K anese animation project of the then conquer all humanity. Dick. Despite the flattering same name) to futuristic dysThe readers are left guessing comparisons, Starobinets is topia The Living One, which as to whether the boy will not totally comfortable with was shortlisted for the Nabend to his new nature like this attempt at pigeon-hol- tional Bestseller Award in litGregor Samsa in Kafka’s Met- ing:“I believe no serious writ- erature in 2011. amorphosis. er can ever be defined by the “The Living One is a pure The horror genre came nat- genre he or she technically genre piece,”says literary crituarally to Starobinets. “I works in or even by another ic Lev Danilkin,“a classic andidn’t consciously choose hor- writer. I’m not Stephen King, ti-utopia, imbued with Zamror fiction in the sense that I Philip K Dick, Gogol or any yatin’s seriousness and never sat at my desk musing other writer that I have been Orwell’s acrimony, loaded on which genre to choose for compared with.” with the author’s sombre exmy writing,” she explains. Indeed, Starobinets’ horror pectations regarding man“Horror, mysticism, surreal manifests itself in a variety of kind’s future, masterfully conthrillers and so on just seemed forms, way beyond the devic- veying a sense of repulsion to be a way of packaging es used by Poe, Ray Bradbury towards worship of the wisthoughts, feelings, sensations, or HG Wells.They range from dom of the crowds.” and possibly even fears, that the mystical Asylum 3/9 In some of Starobinets’ stointuitively work for me.” (based partly on Slavic folk- ries, horror infiltrates man’s After An Awkward Age was lore) to the fantasy novel The unfathomable irrational published, critics labelled First Squad: The Truth, 2010 depths devouring his conStarobinets the Russian (named after the Russian-Jap- sciousness. In The Rules (one
of the short stories in An Awkward Age), a silent voice is constantly setting rigid rules for the main character: how to walk, how to arrange things on a shelf, and how to live. Here, Starobinets manages to penetrate an altered consciousness to deliver a compelling account of schizoid behaviour from within. While such experiments have proved detrimental to the health of some writers, Starobinets has no fears for her own mental state. She says: “I think a comparison with [Boris and Arkady] Strugatskys’“zone” [from Roadside Picnic] is appropriate here: a dangerous area filled with strange, unpredictable and evil magical items that
you can, nevertheless, sometimes drag out and put to some use – although definitely not for their intended purpose. Inside every person there exists such a zone and some “stalkers” – people of art – venture into it on expeditions. I would not overestimate the danger of such trips.” As well as English-speaking readers, Bulgarian, Polish, Italian, Swedish and Spanish readers can now shiver at the horrors provided by Anna Starobinets.“The Spanish edition of An Awkward Age, just been published, got a surprisingly large number of reviews, and discussions about it were fairly intense on forums and in the media,” she says. Along with other writers, Starobinets represented Russia at the NewYork Book Fair last month. When asked whether the Russian presence at the fair would help boost interest in Russian literature, she replied:“No exhibition of achievements can, by itself, turn Russia into a major producer of global bestsellers, or (as in the age of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) leading exporters of “big-idea” novels. We need to have our own JK Rowlings, and new Tolstoys and Dostoevskys.” At the same time, Starobinets acknowledged the value of book fairs in helping show Russian books to their best advantage to a wider audience. “Fairs increase the chances for Russian writers to have their works published abroad and to come under the spotlight,” she said.
Gelasimov explores a thirst for life despite its breathtaking bitterness. The author was born in Siberia in 1965 and trained as a linguist and theatre director. His literary career took off unexpectedly in 2001, when a short story he published on the internet started to win prizes. In a recent interview, Gelasimov said: “I was simply overwhelmed with grief… for the generation of students born at the end of Soviet era and doomed to redeem sins they never committed.” He said he was also influenced by his grandfather’s tale of fighting in the Second World War, but ultimately he came to believe that “all of us are tortured soldiers to a certain extent, including those who never saw any battle…” Thirst is told mostly in a simple vernacular. The narrator expresses himself through drawings, filling pages with beautiful women and therapeutic warscapes. One of the challenges that Gelasimov sets himself is to describe the world in the credible words of a character for whom words do not come easily. The award-winning translator Marian Schwartz has praised the author’s ear for dialogue. “The challenge of Gelasimov’s simple language is that it is so dead-on right,” she said. “There are few if any pretty metaphors to hide behind.” Schwartz recalls a meeting with poet and fellow translator,WS Merwin, when they talked about “hearing” characters and “that delicious moment when the translator knows what a character sounds like, what he can and can’t say”. This was a crucial issue in Thirst, which relies on pitch-perfect renditions of scarred adults and bewildered children. Schwartz will be translating more of Gelasimov’s novels for his publisher, AmazonCrossing. Phoebe Taplin
Film Industry ‘needs better marketing’ and more skills
Can Russian cinema be fashionable again? The film industry is demanding changes at home in order to boost its international reputation and create demand abroad. paul duvernet russia now
“Russian cinema has a dual handicap: a lack of demand from abroad and poor marketing,” said producer Yevgeny Gindilis during a roundtable discussion in Moscow last month. But Elena Romanova, the director of Fond Kino, the state body responsible for promoting Russian cinema, stressed: “We want Russian cinema to be shown to the foreign masses.” That ambition is still a long way from being achieved. However, the fact that the film In the Fog by Sergei Loznitsa won the FIPRESCI prize from a selection of 22 films at the Cannes Film Festival at the weekend is a great promotion for Russian cinema generally.The film, which is a throwback to the era of classic Soviet cinema, will now be distributed internationally. Apart from In the Fog and a few rare art and experimental films such as Elena or Faust which also won prizes at major international festivals and consequently enjoyed a wider distribution, Russian films are rarely seen in foreign cinemas.They tend to be confined to small screenings at Russian cultural centres, such as Pushkin House in London. Movies that are popular in Russia are often branded unexportable, and most art and
Having scored a highly respectable second place in the Baku 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, the now world-famous Buranovskiye Babushki will become legends in their remote home village of Buranovo in the Republic of Udmurtia. The grannies said they were very happy with their success and that their tears on the night were“tears of joy”. They can now fulfil their ambition to use the royalties from their song to help rebuild the church in their village that was destroyed in the Soviet era. The traditional folk singers, who range in age from 43 to 76, may initially have seemed an odd choice to represent a country with such cosmopolitan cities as Moscow and St Petersburg. At home, the grannies still use wells to get water and have to stoke the furnace to keep their houses warm or make dinner, which calls for substantial stocks of firewood. Every household keeps cows or pigs in order to support the family budget. In summer, local people work in their vegetable gardens, growing potatoes and other essentials for the table. Life is based on hard manual labour, and has hardly changed in the past 100 years. In Russia, the Eurovision Song Contest is taken very seriously. A competition is held to decide which of the 25 finalists will represent Russia in the big event. This year the grannies charmed the Russian public and were their firm favourite to represent the country. In Britain, the BBC simply makes a tactical choice about its entry based on what it thinks has the best chance of impressing a European audience. The logic behind choosing 76-year-old crooner Engelbert Humperdinck was that he is very popular in Europe. Last year he toured in Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Israel and Romania – all countries in the competition. But sadly,
Rare gem: the prize-winning Elena was shown abroad
experimental films fall under the radar of the international distributors. In an attempt to remedy this situation Fond Kino has launched several initiatives. A Russian Cinema stand was set up at the Cinema Market on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival this month which featured the latest Russian films, such as Dukhless, an adaptation of the Pushkin novel, The Queen of Spades (Pavel Lungin’s latest film), and BabaYaga, a Franco-BelgianRussian co-production in 3D animation. Another initiative, Red Square Screenings, involves inviting the main players in the international film industry to attend private screenings of Russian films in Moscow from October 15-20. The screenings will be held at
GUM, the department store facing Red Square.“Competition is very fierce, which is why we need to promote Russian cinema in an outstanding way,” said Mr Gindilis, who is helping organise the screenings. Key figures in the Russian film industry recognise that they have a lot to do at home before they can achieve their international goals.“We need tax incentives for producers and distributors,” says Ms Romanova, adding that the Russian industry receives less favourable treatment than those of countries such as Canada or France. Everyone stresses the urgent need for more professional training.“The current crisis was caused by a shortage of skilled operatives,” said Ilya Bachurin, directorgeneral of film studio GlavKino.“There needs to be many more exchange initiatives with studios abroad, and we need to encourage foreign films to be shot over here. We don’t just need finance, we need skills as well.” The film critic and historian Andrey Plakhov said: “There is no clear government policy. Look at what France is doing, for example, with the French Cinema Days in Paris; [film promotion agency] Unifrance is working very efficiently from a commercial point of view. “We need to create a fashion for Russian cinema, as the Koreans have done. The last time Russian cinema was in fashion was in 1990 with Pavel Lungin’s Taxi Blues.”
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Interview Natalia ishchenko
Football Team faces a tough challenge
Making a splash at the Games
the Russian synchronised swimming team are training hard with their sights set on gold Leader of the Russian synchronised swimming team Natalia Ishchenko tells Russia Now about life at the top of her sport.
and the only thing you can regret is that the element loses its uniqueness and turns into a beautiful yet very hard position. We should be allowed to patent our signature moves but, in our sport, they don’t give names to elements to celebrate the people who invented them, like they do in sports like rhythmic or regular gymnastics.
anna kozina special to rn
The Olympic qualifying round for the leading team in synchronised swimming seems too much, doesn’t it? The qualifiers have indeed caused some problems for us. We could have started working on our Olympic routines earlier, just like the Chinese and Canadian teams did as soon as they won the Asian
How do you combine your sports career with family life? My husband [Sergei Anikin, who won a silver medal at the European Diving Championships] is a former athlete so he understands very well why I have to stay away from home for months, why I get home tired after training or from the camp. His support helps me so much. Besides, we have telephones and Skype. When we train at Ozero Krugloe camp near Moscow, I have one day off every week and go home. There are no privileges for married women.
When Natalia Ishchenko was taken to a synchronised swimming school aged five, the coaches did not rate her chances, saying she was not flexible enough. They were wrong. Ishchenko, now 26, is one of the most technically perfect and successful synchronettes in the world. Ishchenko won gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing; she now has 16 world and seven European titles. In 2010, she became the first synchronised swimmer in the European championship history to win all four routines – solo, duet, team and combination. The Russian team are the reigning champions. The British team are not expecting to beat them, having come 14th in the Beijing Olympics, but they are hoping to finish in the top six. Natalia is the leader and face of the Russian team, used to working 24/7 at all major international competitions. But this year the burden on the Russian team leader and her colleagues has doubled,even before the start of the Games, as they had to take part in the qualifying round, too. Here, Ishchenko describes her team’s preparation for London 2012.
Golden moment: Natalia Ishchenko at the 2010 European Aquatics Championships in Budapest, where the team took the title
and Pan-American Games. Or the UK team, which enjoys the benefit of being the host nation. Although we won the world championship in Shanghai, which would be an automatic pass for us to the Olympics in any other sport, we had to compete for an Olympic licence again and prepare two routines – one for the qualifying round as well as one for the Games. Did you ever think about protesting to get the rules changed like the Spanish did? These are the approved regulations which you have to abide by. Because we couldn’t afford to participate at half steam, we decided to put our efforts into resolving the difficulties instead of fighting them. We took that tournament seriously and prepared
for it very hard. We increased the number of runs instead of the number of hours in the pool. We had to double our efforts, because running through the entire routine is the hardest thing to do. Do you think you have benefited from going through the qualifying round in London? On the plus side, we worked at an Olympic facility so we know what we’re in for. We saw everything, tried everything and found no defects. The London Aquatics Centre looks a lot like the one in Beijing – the pool, the stands.
once, at the world championships, so you can’t say it is an exhausted routine. It is very strong, both technically and artistically. We won the world title with it in Shanghai, and we hope it will bring us luck in London. But we have changed lots of things and added a few new elements. The only thing left is the swimsuits.
They are unique. Where do you get such masterpieces? The coaches and swimmers tell the designers what they would like to see on the swimsuits. They bring designs to us and we finalise them together. The suits are You have left last year’s duet tailored individually to fit free routine unchanged. Isn’t each swimmer perfectly. that a step backwards for There are some standards we leaders? have to meet – we can’t have We only showed “The Dolls” very high cuts for example.
Describe a typical day for you and your team members. Our morning training session starts at 8am and we have choreography lessons for oneand-a-half to two hours, followed by three-and-a-half hours in the pool. Then it is time for a massage, after which we sleep for two hours, like when we were children. The pressure is so hard that your body cannot sustain it and you simply pass out.You cannot have a decent night’s sleep, either – the night session ends at 10pm, then you have dinner, relax after exercise and go to bed, but you have to get up at 7am to be in time for the next session, and this goes on day after day. But we all know why we put in so much effort and spend so many hours in the pool. Our common goal is the to win at the Olympics.
Who will make the Russian national team at the European Championships ahead of the Olympics? We have decided that only two swimmers will go to the Championships in Eindhoven – Svetlana Romashina and I. We will take part in solos and duets, while the team perfect new routines. We will show our free routine for the first time. The Olympic duet will also include some new features. So are you trying to safeguard your unique features and lifts from your competitors? Well, we wouldn’t like to see our elements being repeated by another team; however, it makes it clear that you’re the leader and they use you as an example. They tend to copy the best combinations,
Russia sets a realistic goal for Euro 2012 Russia has the advantage of playing close to home this summer, but the odds are stacked against Dick Advocaat’s experienced side. ilya zubko
special to rn
Euro 2012, to be held in Poland and Ukraine this summer, will be the first football championship to be played in eastern Europe, and is a tournament in which Soviet and Russian teams have been successful. The Soviet side won the trophy in 1960 and were runners-up in 1964, 1972 and 1988. In Euro 2008, Russia were beaten 3-0 in the quarter-finals by Spain, the high point of Russia’s post-Soviet football history so far. Hopes are not high for this year’s tournament, however, and the Russian Football Federation has given manager, Dick Advocaat, the modest target of progressing beyond the group stage. Advocaat’s squad for Euro 2012, to be held from June 8 to July 1, shows few changes; the same players have formed the backbone of the team for many years. Advocaat tends to mistrust young talent and relies on experienced players, even if they aren’t in top form. For example, the Arsenal star Andrei Arshavin, currently on loan at Zenit St Petersburg, has not scored for the Russian national team in the past two-and-a-half years but remains captain. Russia is in group A, along with Poland, the Czech Republic and Greece, and is favourite to win the group. But the fact that they struggled to win against Macedonia and Armenia in the qualifying stages shows that their favourite status says more about the relative weakness
Still captain: Andrei Arshavin will lead Russia in Euro 2012
of the challengers than Russia’s strength. None will be a pushover, however. Greece won the 2004 tournament, and will offer a strong challenge despite their lack of success in the past eight years. As hosts, Poland will be dangerous rivals, especially considering the delicate history between the two nations. The same is true of the Czech Republic, which has had a variety of political scores to settle with Russia since 1968.The Czechs will send a young and promising team to Euro 2012. “We will try to win the Championship… try to achieve the maximum,” promised Advocaat, who has twice managed the Dutch national team. So why is the Federation so pessimistic? Well, the top two teams from group A will play the top teams from group B, which includes Germany, Holland, Portugal and Denmark. Getting past any of those sides to make the semi-finals would be a minor miracle. Then again, in football miracles do happen…
continued from PAGE 1
apparent – the pilot could have been carrying a dangerous weapon on board, such as a nuclear warhead or a bomb containing a toxic substance. It also became obvious that the enormous amount of money (officially up to 15pc of the state budget, but actually almost twice as much) that the country had spent on strengthening its security and enhancing the combat readiness of the Soviet armed forces had been wasted. This was the focus of the discussion held at an emergency meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (CSPU), where a decision was made to update the leadership of the armed forces. Three marshals of the Soviet Union and about 300 generals and colonels were forced to resign. Among them were Sergey Sokolov, marshal of the Soviet Union and minister of defence of the USSR, and Alexander Koldunov, marshal of the Soviet Union and commander of the country’s air defence system. Western media claimed that such a large-scale purge of the sen-
ior command of the Soviet Army had not taken place since the Stalinist purges of the Thirties. Colonel-General Igor Maltsev, chief of staff of the air defence system, was only saved because on the day that Rust crossed the Soviet border and landed near Red Square, he was in Tallinn attending a session of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR. Many years later, after his retirement, General Maltsev told how he was summoned from the meeting by Karl Kortelainen, chairman of the Estonian KGB, and told that an aircraft had landed near Red Square. “I did not believe him,” recalled General Maltsev. “We went to the air defence command post near Tallinn and listened to the operational duty officer for the intelligence centre. It turned out that the information was accurate – Rust had crossed the border over the territory of Estonia.” But how could such a supposedly powerful air defence system, of which at the time the leaders of the armed forces were very proud, have allowed the young pilot cross half of the country? The Gen-
eral explained: “First of all, the most powerful Soviet air defence system of the time was designed to guard against massive air strikes targeted at facilities and troops on our territory; it was not meant to fight against light aircraft. Second, after the incident with the Korean Boeing 747 [on September 1, 1983, a passenger aircraft that accidentally violated the Soviet border in the Far East was shot down], the USSR signed an
Soviet air defences were designed to guard against massive air strikes, not light aircraft annex to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which made it forbidden to shoot down civilian aircraft, regardless of where and why they flew over the border. “Following the signing of this annex, the minister of defence of the USSR signed an order banning the armed forces from opening fire on passenger, transport and light-engine aircraft. For some reason, no one seemed to remember this at the time, and even now no one remem-
bers it. Most probably the main reason the plane went undetected is because it didn’t have a ‘friend or foe’ warning beacon. Radar monitors all aircraft, but it can only identify the state or departmental affiliation of planes if they have a warning beacon installed. “No small aircraft – lightengine planes, that is, as well as agricultural aircraft – have such beacons installed. And yet dozens of small aircraft appear in the area of responsibility of one division of the air defence system on any given day. “Rust’s aircraft did not differ from the others on the radar and therefore was classified not as an intruder crossing a state border (we did not get any such information from the border guards), but as a violator of flight rules. His plane was spotted on May 28 at 14.10 near the Estonian village of Loksa, which is already over our territory. At 14.18, it was finally established that there were no Soviet civilian aircraft in the area. “The commander of the 14th Air Defence Division decided to classify the aircraft as a foreign intruder, and reports were sent to the
command post of the 60th Army of the Air Defence Division in Leningrad. All forces on duty were put on priority alert. A couple of fighters took off, but at 14.30 the target had been lost. This was because the continuous radar field of 100 metres only functioned in a narrow strip along the border, beyond it were dead zones, and Mathias Rust was flying in them. “At 15.30, when the aircraft could not be detected, the commander of the 60th Army reported to Moscow that the suspected aircraft was a dense flock of birds. Rust at the time was in the area of the Dno train station, but was only found at 18.30 above Khodynka Field 25 minutes before he landed.” General Maltsev expressed doubt that Mathias Rust could find his own way across Russian borders and territories without being detected by the Soviet military. However, there was no evidence of co-operation between the German and special forces or Nato. Neither an investigation nor the court which sentenced Rust to four years in prison could prove he did not act alone. And Rust himself, who recently appeared on television in connection
The teenager who flew through a hole in the Iron Curtain
Destination Moscow: Mathias Rust’s Cessna landed in the shadow of Red Square in May 1987
with the anniversary of his remarkable flight, denies anyone else was involved. Many experts believe that Mikhail Gorbachev, then Communist Party general secretary, used Rust’s flight as an excuse to purge members of the conservative leadership of the armed forces who did not support his re-
Catch the vibes of Moscow When I first arrived in Russia, I suddenly wasn’t as funny as I used to be back in the U.S. I needed to adapt if I wanted to get the ‘spotlight of laughter’ back on me. That opportunity came in the unexpected form of “KVN”.
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forms aimed at strengthening democracy, perestroika and glasnost. And analysts have also argued that from this moment on the collapse of the Soviet armed forces and the degradation of the country began. But it seems that both of these assumptions are exaggerated. The generals and
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marshals who replaced Sokolov and Koldunov were of the same breed as their predecessors. The degradation of the Soviet Union and its military apparatus had begun long before Rust’s flight.The reasons for the historical processes that led to the end of Communism were, in reality, rather different.
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