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Making a Statement
For each metropolis there is an off-the-beaten-track village.
For each bottle of vodka there is a glass of kvas.
Opposition sees victory in defeat in regional elections
For each Gazprom there is a new startup.
Feature RBTH for Kids! Discover Russia with your children in our new section. Find it on the back page
For each of you there is a Russia of your choice.
P.08 Wednesday, September 18, 2013
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NEWS IN BRIEF
International As the United Nations General Assembly opens, one topic dominates discussion
Sochi preparations continue despite controversy In his first speech following his election on Sept. 10, new I.O.C. President Thomas Bach called the 2014 Sochi Games his“main task.”Bach declined to comment on the controveries surrounding the Sochi Games, saying only that the I.O.C. trusted the assurances it had received from Russian government officials that Russia would respect the Olympic Charter, including the provisions governing human rights. Bach is expected to visit Sochi in the very near future.
Thousands displaced in Far East ﬂooding
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On Sept. 17, the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly was opened with a strike of a hammer. John Ashe, who has long served as the permanent representative of Antigua and Barbados to the U.N., was chosen to preside over this year’s session. Ashe sees his main task as designing the global development agenda beyond 2015. His personal interest is in the relationship between man and the environment and the need for sustainable development. In a statement
chemical weapsons issue is likely to be discussed at a special ministerial meeting held by the Security Council. A source in Russia’s permanent mission to the U.N., who preferred to remain anonymous, said that this meeting may be a precursor to the anticipated Geneva-2 peace conference on Syria. Russia and the United States agreed to the meeting in May, but a date for the conference has not yet been set. The Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry have repeatedly reiterated that Russia’s position is not a defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but the “rules and principles of international law,” in the words of Russian PresidentVladimir Putin.
The priority for the session will be building the U.N.’s capacity to respond to existing world threats and prevent future threats from arising — an issue made more pressing by the situation in Syria.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 3
Russian gay men and lesbians navigate life in a society where laws against homosexual “propaganda” and adoptions by same-sex couples are supported by a majority of the population. PAUL DUVERNET
Is it possible to be gay and live a normal life in Russia today? “You have to be willing to make compromises,” said Yana Mandrykina, a 35-year-old partner in a real estate agency. “You have to hide your sexual orientation from your friends and family, and pretend to be somebody you are not. For some people, that goes as far as a sham marriage.” Everything about Mandrykina indicates a strong character with boundless energy. Smiling and relaxed, she considers herself successful in business and in her social life. She does not fit any of the stereotypes many Russians have
SPECIAL TO RBTH
Gay life in Russia became a global issue with the passage of an antigay propaganda law.
No sign of Snowden in Moscow Former N.S.A. contractor Edward Snowden has not been seen since being granted temporary asylum in Russia and leaving Moscow’s Sheremyetevo airport on Aug. 1. However, Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena gave an interview with Russian daily Moskovsky Komsomolets at the beginning of September in which he said that his client was learning Russian and spending time reading. Snowden has received several job offers, most notably from the founder of Russian social network VKontakte, but hasn’t made any definitive plans, according to Kucherena.
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Civil Rights What is life like for gay men and lesbians in Russia today?
“You Have to Be Willing to Make Compromises”
Read more about floods in the Far East and the government’s plans to cope at rbth.ru/flood_in_far_east
about gay men and lesbians . She is just another ambitious young businessperson. “My homosexuality has never prevented me from doing what I wanted to do — not me, nor my friends,”she said.“I would say that I have a circle of acquaintances of around 700 people. All of them are very well-adapted socially. They are successful in society and in their jobs, and they are high earners.” Besides their sexual orientation, what Mandrykina and her friends have in common is their willingness to ignore the rejection of an intolerant, or simply ill-informed, segment of the population. “Thanks to, or perhaps because of, our difference, we have acquired the ability to defend ourselves, to fight,”she said in a confident tone. Like many of her friends, Mandrykina comes from the regions and has made her own way in the capital. Living in Russia’s biggest city has been easier for her than making a life in her hometown. “I come from Tver [124 miles north of Moscow],” she said.“Obviously, it is easier to live freely in a big city like Moscow than in a small provincial town where everybody knows each other.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 3
OKSANA YUSHKO / RR
be building the U.N.’s capacity to respond to existing world threats and prevent future threats from arising — an issue made more pressing by the situation in Syria, where armed conflict has been going on for more than two-anda-half years. Although much hope surrounds a U.S.-Russia compromise plan for disposing of the Syrian government’s stock of chemical weapons, the overall situation in the country remains dire. The U.S. threat of force in the country remains on the table, and many are skeptical that a large-scale weapons removal plan can be carried out by the end of this year. Additionally, the agreement still requires action by the U.N. Security Council to be put into action. Syria’s future apart from the
Thousands of people in Russia’s Far East remain displaced after severe flooding struck the region along the Amur River in late August and early September. The damage from the flooding, which was heaviest in the Khabarovsk and Jewish Autonomous Regions along Russia’s border with China, is estimated to cost more than $1 billion. Nearly 100,000 people have been affected in an area that stretches more than 400,000 square miles.
What does the future hold for children of the Beslan attack? RBTH.RU/29679
made just after his appointment, Ashe called this agenda“the boldest and most ambitious project the United Nations has ever had to accomplish.” Sustainable development will not be the only item on the agenda for attendees of this year’s session, which will have its General Debate between Sept. 24 and Oct. 1. During that time, the body will consider more than 160 issues, ranging from the settlement of regional conflicts to problems of nuclear disarmament to the status of objects of cultural heritage that have been taken from one country to another. Presidents of 70 countries as well as 42 vice presidents and prime ministers are expected to take part in the session. The priority for the session will
Despite — or perhaps because of — its touchy bilateral relations with many member countries, Russia maintains that the United Nations is still relevant today.
Can Russia (and the U.N.) Save Syria?
Jazzman Igor Butman to play New York on Sept. 24 RBTH.RU/29703
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES
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Equality Women are poorly represented in Russian politics and there seems to be little impetus to improve the situation
Political Gender Gap Still Wide Russia is known for being a patriarchal country, and the gender bias seems especially prevalent in political circles, despite a few role models at the federal level.
NATIONALITY: RUSSIAN AGE: 49 © ALEXEY DANICHEV / RIA NOVOSTI
CURRENT POST: Elvira Nabiullina is the first woman to become head of the Central Bank of Russia. She assumed office on June 24, 2013. CAREER: Nabiullina graduated from
IN THEIR WORDS
OLEG PRASOLOV / RG
I don’t know whether the male-female ratio should be defined by the law. It’s important to appoint the most suitable person, based on their personal and professional qualities. However, there's definitely a lack of women politicians in the government.
1) Valentina Matvienko, head of Russia's Federation Council. 2) Olga Golodets, Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs. 3) Valentina Tereshkova, Member of Parliament and Russia's first female cosmonaut. 4) Alina Kabayeva, Member of Parliament and former Olympic gymnastics gold medalist.
The president’s opinion seems to reflect society’s views on feminism overall. According to a 2011 poll from the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), 14 percent of respondents thought Russia had too many female politicians, 37
that make women’s rights a part of their platform. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Women of Russia Party emerged, and initially had some electoral success. It won 8.1 percent of the vote and 23 seats in the 1993 elections. Howe-
"As yet, we don't yet have any mechanism to eliminate gender discrimination," said Tatyana Golikova.
The For Women of Russia Party positions itself as nonfeminist; it wants the “restoration of family values.”
percent thought their number should be increased, while 33 percent thought the number should stay the same. Half of the respondents supported the idea of quotas for women politicians, and only 5 percent strongly opposed the idea. Currently, Russia doesn’t have any prominent political parties
ver, the party is no longer a force in Russian politics and it hasn’t changed its political platform in a decade. Last year, the Russian Justice Ministry registered the new For Women of Russia Party, but the group positions itself as nonfeminist, instead promoting equal gender participation. The party
has about 100,000 members and promotes the “restoration of family values.” The Western feminist movement bypassed Soviet women and feminism has failed to gain much traction even in modern Russia. There have, however, been calls for the implementation of quotas for women politicians, and Deputy Elena Mizulina is one prominent figure who promotes the idea. Kryshtanovskaya, however, doesn’t believe in preferential policies for women. She says electoral rules should be equal for all, and adds somewhat ironically: “Russian men are dying out at rapid pace.” In 2011, Russia’s then-Minister for Health, Tatyana Golikova, announced at a meeting with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay that Russia was preparing a gender-equality bill. “Russia doesn’t have any gender-equality
legislation and, as yet, we don’t have any real mechanisms to eliminate gender discrimination,” she said. However, the adoption of the bill was put on hold, and when a similar bill was approved by the State Duma in 2003, it was blocked by the executive branch. Women politicians in Russia, as in many countries, are subject to sexist coverage in the mainstream media and blogosphere. Undermining them by ridiculing or unduly focusing on their appearance and making allegations about their sexual relations with male politicians is common. Former gymnastics star Alina Kabayeva is a case in point; at the time of her election to the Duma, she was linked in the tabloids to Putin himself, a rumor that continues to dog her. This has seriously undermined the credibility of those targeted, and dissuaded potentially viable candidates from taking part in the political process.
Irina Khakamada PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN 2004 AND PROMINENT OPPOSITION POLITICIAN
Women make up less than 14 percent of deputies in the Russian State Duma (61 seats out of 450). By comparision, there are 78 women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, out of 435 — a slightly better 17.9 percent of all representatives. In 2012, according to the InterParliamentary Union (I.P.U.), Russia was one of the lowest-ranked countries — at 96, along with Swaziland — in terms of women’s participation in politics and decision-making processes. As well as being limited in number, Russia’s women politicians aren’t portrayed as having a lot of influence, and none of them were listed in the Forbes ranking of “the world’s most powerful women”. Olga Kryshtanovskaya, an expert on the Russian political elite and former member of President Vladimir's United Russia party, says the patriarchal nature of Russian society is to blame for the low levels of women’s political participation. She says some high-profile male politicians have only “let in” women politicians who don’t have their own opinions, look good and are essentially puppets. However, Kryshtanovskaya believes strong and independently minded female leaders are starting to emerge in Russia. One recent example is Elvira Nabiullina, Russia’s former minister for economic development, who this year was hand-picked by Putin to lead Russia’s Central Bank. Nabiullina is the first woman to head a Group of Eight monetary authority. The Russian Federation has never been ruled by a female prime minister or president, but it’s not out of the question, according to Kryshtanovskaya, who thinks Valentina Matvienko may be a contender. The former governor of Russia’s “second capital”, St. Petersburg, Matvienko now chairs the Federation Council — the upper house of the Russian Parliament. This makes her the third-highest-ranking politician in the country after Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Unfortunately the body she leads has only 12 other female members —13 senators out of a total of 163; there are 20 women in the U.S. Senate, out of 50. Although Kryshtanovskaya is a prominent supporter of Putin and worked on his election campaign in 2012, she says that Putin himself is part of the problem. According to her, the president “is inclined to think a woman’s place is in the kitchen”.
the economics faculty of Moscow State University, where she also went on to do postgraduate studies. From 1992–94, Nabiullina worked in the economic policy directorate of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. Her next position was Deputy Minister of Economics. In early 2000, she was appointed Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade. In 2003, Nabiullina became president of the Center for Strategic Development, a nongovernmental think tank and the source of the managerial cadre for President Vladimir Putin's administration. In the last year of Putin’s second term and during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency, Nabiullina served as Minister of Economic Development. When Putin returnded to the Kremlin, in May 2012, she was appointed a presidential aide.
A woman, regardless of her status or qualities, will always be subject to mistrust. For 13 years, I've spent 70 percent of my time and energy proving that I'm a politician with equal rights to men; I only had 30 percent left to actually pass laws.
Elections A few surprises in regional vote give hope to opposition leaders even as the Kremlin’s man remains in power in Moscow
A Few Victories and a Victory in Defeat for Opposition Parties After taking nearly a third of the vote in Moscow mayoral election, opposition activist Alexei Navalny claims a new era. Elsewhere, a few losses for the party of power.
MARINA OBRAZKOVA RBTH
of Muscovites cast their votes for acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, allowing him to win in the first round.
© PAVEL LISITSYN / RIA NOVOSTI
Voters in regions across Russia went to the polls on Sunday, Sept. 8, to elect leaders at the regional and municipal levels. Governors were elected in eight regions and deputies to regional legislatures were chosen in 16 regions. News coverage focused on the Moscow mayoral race, where incumbent Sergei Sobyanin of the United Russia party faced off against opposition blogger and activist Alexei Navalny, who ran on the ticket of R.P.R.-Parnas. Sobyanin took 51.3 percent of the vote, just enough to avoid a runoff, but Navalny made an impressive showing with 27.2 percent. Winning the votes of nearly a
was the total for activist Alexei Navalny, who was optimistic for the future despite his loss.
Yevgeny Roizman, center, won a surprise victory in Yekaterinburg.
third of the capital’s residents gave Navalny a symbolic victory. At a rally that attracted several thousand people on election night, Navalny turned to the crowd after results were announced and asked
them: “Is this a rally of defeat or a rally of victory?”They responded with a cheer of “Victory!” Turnout was a meager 33 percent — down from the last election for mayor in the Russian cap-
ital, which took place in 2003, when just over half of eligible voters took part. Speaking about the turnout, Mikhail Vinogradov, head of the St. Petersburg Politics Founda-
tion, said,“Low turnout is a consequence of two factors: an inconvenient day for voting and voter apathy. Voters’ apathy has become apparent — not just that of the opposition-minded, but everyone’s. People think that nothing depends on them and do not go to the elections.” Officials had spent a great deal of time and effort preparing for the elections, including installing cameras and bringing local police out in force. Schools that doubled as polling places were closed for two days to allow for the preparations. The efforts paid off, as there were no public disturbances and across Russia, there were only 54 allegations of violations in the vote, including 17 from Moscow. Alexei Makarkin, vice president of the Center for Political Technologies, said that in his opinion, these elections were Russia’s cleanest yet. He attributes the improvement to the protests that took place after the State Duma elections in Decembet 2011, when people took to the street to protest election fraud.
Opposition wins The biggest surprise of the day was the election ofYevgeny Roiz-
man as mayor of Russia’s fourthlargest city,Yekaterinburg. Roizman, who ran on the ticket of billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s Civil Platform party, defeated Yakov Silin of United Russia. An opposition party, Russia’s Patriots, also surprised United Russia in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, where it won a majority in the regional legislature. In several regions, the Communist Party, which usually ranks second after United Russia, gave up its place to the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (L.D.P.R.) However, unlike Parnas, which backed Navalny in Moscow, and Civic Platform, both Russia’s Patriots and the L.D.P.R. are conservative nationalist parties. Said Makarkin, in general the elections indicate that different regions of Russia are living at different speeds.“On the one hand, there are regions that live in the old way: The ruling party shows great result, and elections are not much different from previous ones,”he said.“But there are also big cities where the situation is completely different. There’s another way of voting there. Opposition can mobilize their supporters. There, the people in power have problems.”
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MOST READ Is Russia’s “Gay Propaganda” Law Alienating the West? rbth.ru/29685
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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Mandrykina says that there is a large gay community in the capital that enjoys leisure activities, has meeting places and organizes social events. “There is plenty to do, ranging from beer and brawling nights to laid-back, romantic evenings,” she said, jokingly. According to Mandrykina, St. Petersburg — Russia’s “second city” — has an even more developed social life than that of the capital. “In the 2000s, we did not consider becoming activists or campaigning to defend homosexual rights,”she said.“We devoted ourselves entirely to being successful in our careers. We wanted, above all, to benefit from our youth and freedom.”
Why say it out loud? Last March, however, Mandrykina decided to abandon her anonymity. She came out of the closet along with 30 or so other gay men and lesbians. All of them openly declared their sexual orientation in the popular magazine Afisha in protest against a resurgent wave of homophobia in Russia. It was not an easy decision to make. “I was very frightened of revealing my orientation,” Mandrykina said. “As individuals, we were all frightened of rejection. I waited 35 years to get to this point. Up until then, my parents didn’t know. For my father, an air force pilot, homosexuality was taboo.” Mandrykina guesses that only half her friends have come out to their parents.
“More of us need to come out of the closet,” she said, while at the same time admitting that she fears for her safety.“I am frightened that some thug will attack me in the street. Homophobes do not hesitate to beat up women.” According to Mandrykina, it is not only lesbians and gay men who are targeted by what she calls the government’s shift toward ultraconservatism:“All the minorities are targeted — anyone who is different from the rest.”
Do his affected gestures give him away? “Perhaps a few of my work colleagues have an inkling,” Dmitry said.“Perhaps they whisper behind my back, but nothing
To live happily, let’s live in hiding
“I waited 35 years to get to this point,” said Yana Mandrykina about revealing her homosexuality. “My parents didn’t know. For my father, an air force pilot, homosexuality was taboo.”
Twenty-five-year-old Dmitry, who at first glance appears to fit more of the gay stereotypes than Yana with his high-pitched voice and propensity for working out, said: “My motto is, ‘Let’s live well — that is, live hidden!’ Only my mother knows my orientation. And my friends, of course.”
more than that. I take precautions. And if I am fired, it won’t be hard to find a job elsewhere. In any case, I’m going to start working for myself soon,” Dmitry said positively, adding “I’m pretty resourceful by nature, and I have lots of contacts. For exam-
ple: married men in the upper echelons of the administration!” Dmitry is not particularly interested in political activism and is not particularly concerned about the controversial law banning homosexual propaganda. “It won’t change anything for me. I am against gay parades. They just makes the population more strongly against us. The less it’s talked about the better,” he said. Dmitry often travels abroad on vacation or on business. He knows that the situation for homosexuals is different in other parts of the world, but he has no desire to emigrate. “I earn a good living in Moscow, and my lifestyle is no different from that of French or British homosexuals. Even over there, you sometimes need to be careful and avoid certain neighborhoods. Homophobia exists everywhere!”
DO YOU HAVE ANY GAY, LESBIAN OR BISEXUAL FAMILY MEMBERS, FRIENDS OR ACQUAINTANCES?
YES NO DON’T KNOW
World Syria’s civil war comes home for Russian expats and their children
Russia’s Family Ties to Syria’s Civil War The war in Syria has disrupted the lives of the thousands of Russian women married to Syrian men and complicated relationships with their neighbors and in-laws. MUNZER HALLUM
Russia has deeper ties to Syria than just weapons sales. An estimated 20,000 Russian women live in the country, mostly married to men who studied in Russia as part of Cold War–era educational exchange programs. The situation for these women has changed dramatically, first of all because of the war, but for some, also because of how their neighbors have reacted to Russia’s official position. Nadezhda, who has two daughters and lives in Latakia, said: “Syrians’ attitudes towards me have not changed, but life has changed dramatically. We are not focusing on life now, but on survival. At the same time I realized that I used to love the country, but now I have fallen in love with the people, who are fighting back
Nadezhda, with one of her daughters, remains in Syria.
against the evil that is trying to drag them into the abyss. If the government falls, there will be no future in the short term for me, for my family, or for the Syrian people.” Larissa moved back to Russia a year ago, but her husband and adult children remain in Syria. She said, “My relatives treat me the same as they always did. We
always by and large have had a warm relationship. They even understood when I had to leave the country. My relationship with our neighbors hasn’t changed either. The owner of the gym where I used to work out refused to take money from Russians because Russia vetoed all anti-Syrian resolutions. Different people have different opinions about what has
Yana Mandrykina: “More of us need to come out of the closet.”
What is the “antigay propaganda” law?
Russian attitudes towards homosexuality WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL FEELINGS TOWARDS GAYS AND LESBIANS?
A Life Built on Making Compromises
happened, so I did not talk about politics with some friends. But I stopped driving by myself to the city, at least to the Sunni areas. If the regime falls, I think my family would have to leave Syria, at least for a while until things calm down. I pray that it will be possible to leave, because my husband and adult children are still there.” Nina Sergeeva, who also returned to Russia from Latakia, was the chairperson of the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots in Syria. “The specific circumstances of individual women and the attitude of the Syrians towards them depend completely on the city and area of the city they live in, what position their husbands and his friends have taken in the conflict, and which side their adult children support,”she said.“Of course, it is dangerous if the neighbors that you have known for many years began to treat you with hostility. However, what if your husband or son starts to see you as a political opponent? Can a woman leave herself? I know stories of families where such conflict ended not only dramatically, but tragically: husband have killed wives, sons have renounced their mothers. And when you see this, it becomes clear that society is sliding into a bottomless abyss as it wages this civil war.”
The legislation passed in August specifically prohibits “the spreading of information” that aims to: (1) create nontraditional sexual attitudes among children, (2) make nontraditional sexual relations seem attractive, (3) give “a distorted perception about the social equality between traditional and nontraditional sexual relations” or (4) enforce information about nontradition sexual relations that evokes interest in such relations. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, of the Moscow
Helsinki Group, has called the legislation “a step toward the Middle Ages.” But Kirill Kobrin, journalist and historian at Radio Free Europe’s Russia Service, has a different take: “It was unthinkable to even discuss these issues 20 years ago in Russia,” adding that now L.G.B.T. rights are the focus of public attention. Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin, said that “unwise application” of the legislation could lead to “human casualties and human tragedies.”
U.N. General Assembly Opens With Focus on Syria Crisis CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Mikhail Margelov, special presidential envoy for the Middle East and the chairman of the Federation Council Committee for International Affairs, who will be a part of the Russian delegation at the General Assembly, described Russia’s position more fully in an interview with RBTH. Margelov said that Russia’s hesitance to accept the word of the United States on the use of chemical weapons in Syria is rooted in the assertions that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. At the time, lies about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s arsenal were the pretext for U.S. action.“Now,”said Margelov,“on the same shaky grounds there is a three-month operation against Syria being prepared, and in violation of international law, by the way. The core of Russian foreign policy consists of following this law, according to which military actions bypassing the U.N. Security Council are not acceptable.”Margelov added,“In recent history, no U.S. military interven-
tion, whether it be Iraq or Afghanistan, has resulted in peace or in democracy in any of these countries.” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will present Russia’s official position at the General Assembly. As part of his address, Lavrov is expected to reiterate Russia’s support for the U.N. as an organization, in contrast to those who have called it an institution of a bygone era that cannot respond to the world’s current challenges. Said Lavrov, “The quiet and harmonious work of the U.N. as a major platform for dialogue is a long-term vaccination against the virus of anarchy in international relations.” In general, the work of the 68th session of the General Assembly is likely to be as tense as ever, but for his part, John Ashe hopes that its outcomes will be significant. “In order to succeed, the General Assembly needs to be equally bold, ambitious and collaborative,” said Ashe. “Failure is not an option. Let us show the world that we can be bold and decisive in our actions.”
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES
MOST READ Free Russian Language Schools to Open Worldwide rbth.ru/28407
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Education Russian schools face the challenges brought on by technology with an education system still rooted in the Soviet era
Reading Pushkin, Writing Texts 3 During the Cold War, American students were told to study hard to compete with their Soviet counterparts. How does Russian education stack up today?
FACTS ABOUT SCHOOLS IN RUSSIA
SPECIAL TO RBTH
There are 1,457 regular public schools in Moscow, attended by 856,000 students in grades 1–11. By comparision, New York City has 1,100 public schools serving approximately 1.1 million students. Moscow also has 1,851 preschools attended by 423,000 children between the ages of 18 months and 6 years.
According to statistics from the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (O.E.C.D.) the average Russian school year lasts 164 days; the average for the United States is 180.
Nearly 30 percent of Russia’s schools were closed between 2000–2011 as a response to the country’s changing demographics. However, a small baby boom in the early 2000s resulted in protests last year over a lack of places in state preschools. Government officials who back school closings now may find themselves regretting the decision sooner rather than later.
Teachers in Russia confront a new round of educational reforms and students who would prefer to play on their phones than pay attention.
ability to apply what you know, to think, to conduct research and work on projects, this remains our weak spot. And we didn’t have it in Soviet schools, either.”
Biggest challenges for schools
Looking to the future, not the past
IN MAY, THE INDEPENDENT LEVADA CENTER POLLING AGENCY ASKED PEOPLE IN 45 REGIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO NAME THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING RUSSIAN SCHOOLS TODAY. RESPONDENTS COULD SELECT MORE THAN ONE CATEGORY.
age of seven and spend the first four grades with the same teacher and classmates. Primary education is considered strong in the fundamentals, but after students move into secondary school, the differences between the Russian curriculum and those of schools in other countries become more obvious. The Programme for International Student Assessment, carried out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2009, revealed that Russian 15-year-olds are not as capable as their counterparts in
Full of Ideas and Optimism on the First Day of School
The educational reforms that will make a clean break with the Soviet past have only just been launched, in the form of a new Law on Education, which came into force on Sept. 1. Under the new system, which will be fully implemented across the country only by 2020, high school students will choose some subjects for in-depth study and take other subjects as electives. Another part of the reform involves consolidating schools. The country’s demographic crisis has resulted in a lack of students in many places and between 2000 and 2011, nearly 30 percent of Russia’s schools were closed. Some small schools have been combined with several buildings sharing a single administration or, in the case of St. Petersburg School 685, where Svetlana Levkovets teaches, two schools have been combined into a single building. The new building is located near a busy highway instead of the leafy courtyard where her old school was located. But Levkovets remains positive. “It’s interesting to see how the new standard will work,” Levkovets said. “If worse comes to worst, everything will stay as it is now.”
other countries at solving problems in a real-life context and reflecting on the meaning of what they read. The results of the assessment were particularly striking because younger Russian students consistently appear near the top of international rankings. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study carried out in 2011 put Russian fourth and eighth graders in the top 10 in every category out of 57 countries surveyed. Abankina said the reasons behind these results are clear.“The
© PAVEL KOMAROV / RIA NOVOSTI
Svetlana Levkovets, a 49-yearold teacher from St. Petersburg, has grown accustomed to competing with mobile phones in the classroom. Levkovets says she tries to come up with homework that forces her students to work without technology.“Just give the kids assignments where they have to compare facts,” she said,“and the Internet will be of no help.” But today’s Russian teens have more up their sleeves than just their gadgets. In May, answers to the Unified State Exam, or Ye.G.E., which was intended to revolutionize Russia’s secondary education system by replacing the more subjective exams given to graduating seniors, were leaked to Vkontakte, the huge social network sometimes called Russia’s Facebook. Lilia Brainis, 24, who taught for three years at Moscow Lyceum 1535, often considered one of the capital’s best schools, said that there is no point in fighting the battle against technology. In an era when all answers can be found online, it’s the teachers who have to adapt, she said. Irina Abankina, director of the Education Development Institute at the Higher School of Economics, believes that the Ye.G.E. issues are a reflection of the lack of values in modern Russian society and that, all in all, education reform is moving in the right direction. According to data from Abankina’s institute, since the Ye.G.E. was introduced in 2009, the number of students who moved from one city to another for educational reasons increased by 16 percent. She attributes the change to the test. Previously, every university gave its own exam and students who hoped to attend had to go in person to the school to take it. As a result, many students went to college in the same town where they grew up. Before Ye.G.E., students living outside big cities “never dared to try” to enter some of Russia’s best schools, Abankina said. In another step to standardize education and make sure that the best students are on track for university, starting this past spring, all ninth graders had to pass an exam called the State Final Certification, or G.I.A., to continue on to the last two years of high school. Students who do not pass the exam will continue instead to vocational school. Despite these small changes, the educational system in modern Russia does not differ much from that of the Soviet Union. Children start school around the
For classroom teachers in Russian schools, as elsewhere in the world, the profession is both a serious responsibility and a labor of love. MARIA KORMILTSEVA RIA NOVOSTI
On Sept. 2, Darya Cherepanova, 23, stood in front of a classroom of fifth-graders at School 11 in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. Cherepanova, who teaches Russian language and literature, fell in love with this school after her first student teaching assignment. “I decided that I wanted to devote my life to teaching at this school,” she said.
Cherepanova’s students are in their first year of middle school, but the teacher still plays a big role in their lives. “For younger children, the buck stops here,” she said. “The principal is out there somewhere, the administration, but the teacher is something familiar.” She will quickly become familiar to her students; Russian language and literature is a class students take nearly every day. Cherepanova will teach six classes a day, 27 hours per week. Cherepanova knows she won’t become rich as a teacher, and she has heard complaints about the educational reforms coming into force in Russia, but she is optimistic about the future. “Russian pedagogy has long developed a good system of education, but the new standards give the teacher a wide field. And this school welcomes a variety of techniques. I have many ideas, innovative models of learning,” Cherepanova said, adding that she hoped to introduce some Montessori techniques into her classroom.
Russia an Attractive Destination for American Students Although the image of Russia leaves much to be desired in the United States, there has been a growing interest in Russia among American teenagers. PAVEL KOSHKIN RBTH
According to data from the American Councils for International Education, around 900 American university students come to Russia annually, while the total number of high school students particpating in exhange programs of more than one month is approximately 250. Of the approximately 30,000 students who study Russian in college, about 9,000 continue to study the language beyond four semesters and nearly 10 percent of these students continue their study of language and culture at Russian universities for a summer, semester or academic year. While there has been a slight decrease in the number of Russian students going to study in
the United States, this is not the case with American students going to Russia. Said Dan Davidson, president of the American Councils for International Education,“The U.S.bound Russian student numbers are down in comparison to 10 years ago. The American num-
High school students who study abroad are much more competitive when applying to colleges. bers to Russia have benefited slightly from increases in scholarship funding available to them over the past 5–8 years, through programs like N.S.L.I.-Y. [National Security Language Initiative for Youth], C.L.S. [Critical Language Scholarship] and Flagship.” Carter Johnson, director of the American Councils for International Education in Russia, noted
that political differences between the two countries have not affected bilateral ties on educational and cultural levels. “Government-to-government relations sometimes encounter difficulties,”Johnson said.“On the political level, relations undulate: You’ll have periods of strength and periods of weakness. [Meanwhile], the level of interest in Russia and these exchange programs remains quite consistent. Here you don’t see such fluctuations, and these exchange programs produce a bedrock of underlying relations and contacts that are both strong and enable people to understand what is going on beneath the political rhetoric.” According to Johnson, there are several trends in the U.S. that account for the growing interest in Russia. “Mainly, Americans who are coming to Russia are very passionate about Russian language, history and culture,” he said. “They hold a deep interest in trying to understand the country bet-
© SERGEY PYATAKOV / RIA NOVOSTI
Exchanges Despite more setbacks in U.S.-Russian relations, interest in Russia among younger Americans is steadily growing
American exchange students socialize over a meal in Moscow.
American university students come to Russia on exchange programs every year along with about 250 high school students.
U.S. students study Russian in college; nearly 10 percent of them continue their studies with a term abroad in Russia.
is how long the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program has been bringing Russian students to the U.S. for a year of study.
ter. These people are also, more broadly, just deeply curious about the world.” Another trend involves practical considerations such as academic goals and career advancement. High school students who study abroad are much more competitive when they are applying to undergraduate programs, Johnson explained.
Maria Chetyrkina, the N.S.L.I.Y. program manager in Washington, D.C., echoed Johnson’s view. “As our American students spend time in Russia and get to know the local population, they are able to provide insight about the U.S. and American culture to host country nationals, while, at the same time, they learn about Russia from their host families,
local youth, teachers and others.” Chetyrkina coordinates American high school students coming to Russia under the N.S.L.I.Y. program, which offers intensive language immersion around the world. Scholarships are available for students to learn seven different languages, including Russian. The program launched in 2006 and there are now around 2,500 N.S.L.I.-Y. alumni. “During summer 2013, approximately 90 American high school students studied for a six-week summer program in a variety of locations in Russia. The number of students who participate in the academic year program increases every year,” said Chetyrkina. When asked about new educational exchange formats, Johnson said that internships were a promising field. “I spoke with many Russian students who would like to have an internship at a U.S. company,” said Johnson.“And we have a lot of Americans who want to come and conduct internships here in Russia. This is a project that we hope to develop further. Regarding the places of internship, we can start with large, multinational corporations, media organizations and smaller companies, which see the benefits that come from having a young, American professional contribute to their working environment.” Read the full story and see a video interview at rbth.ru/29551
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Trade Hope for bilateral cooperation still exists, but outside of politics
But businesspeople and politicians alike argue that it doesn’t have to be this way. According to Evgeny Savostyanov, vice president of the Moscow-based media holding company Sistema, there are historical examples for good business relations even when political tensions were high.“Even in Stalin’s time, the United States was our No. 1 trading partner,” said Savostyanov. “It’s sad that we’ve fallen so far behind.”
The reset may be over, but business leaders hope that trade ties do not have to be completely dependent on the whims of Washington and Moscow. ARTEM ZAGORODNOV RBTH
Russian Innovation Week, which is taking place this week in Boston and in Silicon Valley, is the latest attempt by entrepreneurs to show that bilateral trade and business cooperation between Russia and the United States does not have to be held hostage by the political climate. The conference, which is being held for the second time, is a showcase and networking event attended by hundreds of businesspeople, politicians and entrepreneurs from both the U.S. and Russia. This year’s meeting features several panels encouraging cross-cultural partnerships in the tech industry and investment by American firms in Russia. Currently, bilateral trade and investment between the U.S. and Russia is exceedingly low. Figures from investment holding firm Finam show that trade with the United States made up just 3.9 percent of Russia’s total turnover in 2011, down from 4.3 percent in 2008. On the American side, figures from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative show that Russia is currently the United States’ 20th largest goods trading partner. Imports from Russia make up less than 2 percent of total U.S. imports, and these are mainly oil and oil products.
Said Anatoly Karachinsky, president of Russian tech holding I.B.S., “In the tech sector, everything is going great. Our company is preparing an I.P.O. on the NewYork Stock Exchange. We’re working with leading U.S. companies like Boeing, Citibank and Ford on everything from credit systems to building the car of the future. I have only good things to say about our work in America.” I.B.S. is following in the footsteps of other Russian tech firms that have I.P.O.-ed in New York, including search giantYandex and e-payment operator Qiwi. At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum this summer, Cisco C.E.O. John Chambers called the high-tech industry “a politically neutral sector.”His firm is expanding its presence in Russia, where it has an R&D facility at the Skolkovo Innovation Center outside Moscow. Mats Nordland, vice president of research programs at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, who spoke at Russian Innovation Week, is sure that cooperation between the U.S. and Russia can drive development. “Research thrives on diversity, different perspectives and different approaches. It is precisely for this reason that Russia, with its strong science traditions, and the U.S., with its innovation excellence, would both benefit tremendously from collaboration in the search for new knowledge and applications,” Nordland said. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul is doing his part to
“Even in Stalin’s time, the United States was our No. 1 trading partner,” said Evgeny Savostyanov of Sistema. Figures show that imports from Russia currently make up less than 2 percent of total U.S. imports. According to Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Federation Council (the upper house of Russia’s parliament) trade has the potential to drive U.S.-Russian relations.“We need to have a longterm dialogue between our governments grounded in something solid,” Margelov said. “I guess business ties are the way to go.” U.S. and Russian tech company representatives have a particularly positive outlook on the prospects for increased trade.
JARED BRICK, WWW.BHIMAGES.COM
Business Looks to Tech to Salvage U.S.Russia Relationship
Alexander Potapov of Russian Venture Capital (left) and Alexander Pirozhenko of Russia’s Agency for Strategic Initiatives spoke about Russia-U.S. cooperation in the tech sphere at Russian Innovation Week 2012.
promote high-tech cooperation. This month he began the second year of his Innovation Series, a series of events at his residence in Moscow that aims to highlight innovation as “a broad and underlying theme of U.S.-Russia cooperation,”as McFaul wrote on his blog describing the series. McFaul hopes to continue to use his position to facilitate connections between Russians and Americans, entrepreneurs and officials working in the tech sector. The end goal of the events, as McFaul wrote, is creating “a core group of opinion makers/shapers, young people, entrepreneurs and government officials who could use the series to deepen their connections with each other, with U.S. innovators and build a deeper knowledge of the innovation process.”
Teaching Tech to the Next Generation One of the latest examples in U.S.Russia tech cooperation is the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, which opened the doors of its temporary Moscow campus to students for the first time on Sept. 2. The graduate-level university, which is hoping to compete with the world’s leading science and tech institions, is being created by the Skolkovo Foundation in collaboration with the Massachusettes Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). The university accepted its first class in the 2012–13 school year, but since its campus is currently under construction in the Moscow sub-
urbs, this group of students spent last year studying at M.I.T., Imperial College London, E.T.H. Zurich in Switzerland and H.K.U.S.T. in Hong Kong. Students and administrators alike hope that the SkolTech students will benefit from M.I.T.’s unique academic culture in a way that will benefit Russia’s tech industry. Said Skolkovo Foundation President Viktor Vekselberg at a presentation of student work, “We’re building a new type of university, and you are its first generation. We’ll do everything we can to ensure that you won’t want to leave and take your potential out of the country.”
INTERVIEW OLEG BOYKO
Taking Risks with Russia and Hollywood Oleg Boyko, president of the Finstar investment holding, is 71st on the Forbes Russia rich list, but he believes that the commodity sector is not the only way to make money. The entrepreneur spoke with RBTH about where to invest in Russia, the risks associated with venture projects, and his forays into Hollywood.
finance, and also to retail. These are more difficult to develop and turn around, but this is much more interesting for me.
HIS STORY NATIONALITY: RUSSIAN
According to conventional wisdom, making a fortune in Russia is only possible through an oil pipeline. You prefer to develop businesses in other sectors. Why? I am consciously avoiding the oil industry. I dabbled in metals back in the day, but that was by chance. I swapped metals and mining companies’ bank debts for equity, and two years later I created the Evrazholding metals giant. I sold my interest in Evraz in 2004 to focus on developing other businesses because I prefer more intellectual games. I have been always attracted to sophisticated
How do you decide when to exit a business? Our investment holding follows
AGE: 48 EXPERTISE: I.T., FINANCE © VLADIMIR FEDORENKO / RIA NOVOSTI
How do you choose targets for investment? I am constantly analyzing various markets.The Web is hot today; Russia’s online retail market is projected to reach $50 billion by 2020. That’s why one of the areas that I have started developing involves telecommunications, 4G networks. We have also launched a number of media projects and invested in Web-based TV. The latter is interesting in terms of its out-of-the-box approaches to attracting customers and to creating marketing advantages for other Web businesses, such as finance, entertainment, retail and various services.
Oleg Boyko benefitted from the wild capitalism of the 1990s, but was never involved in the oil and gas sector. Today his holdings include a cosmetics chain, an investment firm and a lottery. He is an active philanthropist, particularly for disabled athletes.
the following pattern: We identify a segment with a high return potential and look for a small company that either enjoys a unique market position or holds some sort of a business knowhow. Then we buy between 51 percent and 75 percent of its equity; this range allows us to run
E-Commerce Russian fans of eBay now have more ways to pay
Bidding Up By Rubles PayPal now accepts rubledenominated transactions, making it easier for Russian consumers to purchase products from foreign online retailers. ROMAN ROZHKOV
PayPal, the world’s largest payment system, began trading in rubles on Sept. 17. Until now, all PayPal transactions in Russia were carried out in U.S. dollars. In an interview with Digit.ru, Vladimir Malyugin, the regional director of PayPal in Russia, explained that Russian users will now be able to pay for their purchases via PayPal in rubles and they will also be able to transfer funds to their PayPal accounts in practically any local bank. According to participants in the Russian e-commerce market, the true value of PayPal is first and foremost as a forum for crossborder trade, allowing consumers to make purchases in online shops overseas — most notably,
With PayPal’s decision to accept rubles, eBay Russia is set to grow.
eBay. Data Insight estimates that the total number of cross-border purchases made by Russians in 2012 rose by 50 percent and stands at around 45 billion rubles ($1.3 billion). In April, the head of eBay in Russia, Vladimir Dolgov, stated that eBay’s turnover in the coun-
try rose by more than 54 percent in 2012, up to $400 million. The online auction site’s global turnover is $75 billion. PayPal’s decision to accept ruble transactions will make trading on eBay itself easier for Russians. However, it is doubtful that this will strengthen PayPal’s position in the short term in Russia, where the system is in fourth place after Yandex.Money, Qiwi. Wallet and WebMoney. Industry analysts J’son & Partners estimate that the turnover for the local e-money market in 2012 grew by 72 percent, to 281 billion rubles ($8.5 billion). Malyugin reported that PayPal is in talks regarding introducing a payment system with the largest Russian online retailers, although he did not specify a list of potential partners. One source in the Russian e-commerce market announced that PayPal is asking for commission in the region of 2.5–3 percent of a transaction for use of the service.
the company at our discretion and to get the maximum return on our investment upon exit. Once annual growth rates fall below 20–25 percent, it’s time for us to exit. Your project portfolio includes a lottery. Are you a gambler?
It’s not a matter of my personal preferences, but of this particular business’s unique potential. I stumbled upon this sphere by accident when I was managing a bank in the 1990s. A company in the gambling business sought a loan from us, so we bought a stake and started working in gambling. I figured out the essence of this business pretty fast. After gambling was outlawed, we switched to lotteries. Russia accounts for just 0.13 percent of the global lottery market right now. Do you believe successful entrepreneurs should do charity? Yes, of course. For example, we were the first in Russia to actively support and develop programs of assistance to disabled athletes in close cooperation with Russia’s Paralympic Committee. The Parasport Paralympic sports support foundation serves three areas where we support Paralympic teams: Financial assistance, Para-
lympic movement development, and organizing ceremonies awarding athletes for sports achievements. Together with Russia’s Paralympic Committee, we organize the Return to Life annual ceremony where we celebrate and award not only outstanding athletes, but also coaches and doctors of our national team. You recently grabbed international media attention by announcing a Hollywood project with Scarlett Johansson. How is it going? I serve as a producer on Scarlett Johansson’s directorial debut, “Summer Crossing,” along with Barry Spikings and Sergei Bespalov. The film is based on the long lost first novel of the same name, written by Truman Capote. Production is slated to begin in the first half of 2014. Prepared by Elena Shipilova
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WHY THE U.S. STILL CONSIDERS RUSSIA TOO BIG TO FAIL Jeffery Mankoff RUSSIA DIRECT
ussia became a top foreign policy priority during President Barack Obama’s first term, but today it risks becoming an afterthought. The shift in U.S.-Russia relations from cooperation to indifference tinged with hostility is in part the result of individual choices, such as Moscow’s decision to give asylum to former N.S.A. contractor Edward Snowden. But it is also structural. The U.S.-Russian relationship remains essentially transactional and based around a narrow set of issues, mostly related to arms control and regional security. Despite the“reset”that was proclaimed in February 2009, relations were then as now based on a basic cost-benefit calculation. While in the post–Cold War era the U.S. has developed a range of international capabilities — military, humanitarian, economic, nation-building — Russia continues to rely heavily on traditional, military measures of power. Consequently, too much U.S.-Russian engagement focuses on issues of hard security. Obama and his advisers made a conscious decision to focus on Russia because they calculated that Russian support was critical to some of Obama’s most important foreign policy aims: cutting nuclear arsenals; stopping Iran’s march to nuclear weapons; and regaining the initiative in Afghanistan. Judged by these criteria, the reset was a success. Russia agreed to the new strategic arms reduction treaty, backed more comprehensive sanctions on Iran at the U.N. Security Council, and joined the Northern Distribution Network, allowing Washington and its allies to access Afghanistan, reducing dependence on lines of communication through Pakistan. None of this, however, altered the fundamentally transactional nature of U.S.-Russian relations centered on hard security. The problem with this transactional model of relations is that it is subject to constant re-evaluation, with neither side feeling any sense of long-term obligation. With Washington and Moscow on opposite sides in Syria, talks on missile defense cooperation deadlocked, and U.S. forces rushing for the exits in Afghanistan, Russia today seems a less important partner for the United States than it did in 2009. Though Obama seems well inclined to Russia personally (if not necessarily to the “bored schoolboy” Putin), he appears to have calculated that Russia can-
KREMLIN HEDGES ITS BETS WITH THE U.N. Vyacheslav Morozov SPECIAL TO RBTH
ussia’s attitude towards the United Nations is defined by two key concerns: status and influence. Being a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council is crucial for both. It justifies, more than anything else, Moscow’s claim to the status of a great power, whose opinion on global issues must be taken into account by the United States, the European Union and the rest of the international community. But more than that, the U.N. also ensures real influence: It is obvious, for instance, that the Syria situation would have evolved in a very different way if Russia, along with China, did not have veto power in the Security Council. Given that Moscow’s relative power significantly declined following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia is eager to make the most of the remaining resources — particular its privileged U.N. role. Even more important in the Russian view is the role of the U.N., and in particular of its charter, in securing the basic principles of international law. Mosc ow a d h e re s t o t h e m o s t conservative interpretation of the charter, which emphases state sovereignty as the cornerstone
of the international system. Russia interprets this concept as a prohibition of intervention in the domestic affairs of other states. Once again, this position is explained by the relative decline of Russia’s power in the recent decades. The Kremlin is seriously concerned about what it perceives as the overwhelming hegemony of the West in world
The Kremlin is seriously concerned about what it perceives as the overwhelming hegemony of the West in world affairs, particularly in defining the key norms of international society. affairs, in particular when it comes to defining the key norms and principles of international society. Russia’s leadership routinely accuses the West of imposing its interpretations of universal values, such as democracy and human rights, on other people and cultures. The principles of sovereignty and nonintervention, enshrined in the U.N. Charter, emerge in this context as the key defense against alleged Western interventionism. Many in Russia fear
that if these principles were abandoned, their country would eventually go down the same road as Libya. Defending sovereignty against such new norms as the responsibility to protect civilians becomes even more crucial against the background of Russia’s own recent domestic developments. Consolidation of the protest movement that arose after the 2011 State Duma elections along with Russia’s growing disagreement with the West about human rights and fundamental freedoms makes the country’s leadership ever more eager to embrace nonintervention. It is important perhaps not so much as a guarantee against the worst-case scenario, but as a means to delegitimize Western support of the pro-democracy movements in Russia. Other instruments of global governance are also viewed in Moscow through the prism of its opposition to the West. Thus, Russia suspects such institutions as the Group of Eight (G-8), the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) and the World Bank of being dominated by the Western countries. G-8 membership used to be important as a confirmation of Russia’s status as a global power, but it has recently been downgraded in importance, not least due to the fact that Russia has been repeatedly snubbed in the context of G-8 meetings.
Similarly, Moscow has been pressing for the reform of the I.M.F. in the hope to reduce Western influence in this institution. On the contrary, the G-20, the Brics and regional institutions like Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) are seen in the Kremlin as welcome alternatives to Western dominance in global affairs, or at least as forums in which Western influence can be balanced by emerging powers and other non-Western players. This is one of the reasons that Russia is enthusiastic about these structures and eagerly invests both financial and human resources in their development. These organizations are seen as buttressing the most important elements of the U.N.-based international system, not as alternatives to it. While in the West U.N. structures are often seen as being obsolete and inefficient, it is exactly these “out of date” and “suboptimal”elements that Russia is keen to preserve. It is simply a matter of perspective: From Moscow, they are seen as part of valuable legacy that forms the foundations of international order and stability and, as such, need to be cherished and maintained. Vyacheslav Morozov teaches E.U.-Russian studies at the University of Tartu in Estonia.
not or will not help advance U.S. interests to the same degree today as it did during his first term, and so will simply become a lower priority. Notwithstanding the current round of recriminations over Snowden, L.G.B.T. rights and the canceled summit between Putin and Obama, the fact remains that Russia is important to the United States. It is the major regional power in Eurasia and an important actor in regions as diverse as the Middle East, Europe and, increasingly, the Asia-Pacific. Like the U.S., Russia is both capable of projecting power far beyond its borders and willing to use military force to protect its interests. These great power aspirations have often been a source of tension with the U.S., but they also underscore why Washington cannot simply ignore Russia. Yet if Russia remains a major military power, it continues to lag in many of the other tools states like the U.S. use to promote their interests internationally. Its ener-
Russia is the major power in Eurasia and an important actor in the Middle East, Europe and the Asia-Pacific. gy dependent economy lacks the dynamism that makes others look to it as an important trading partner or source of investment. When U.S. and Russian aims converge, the two countries can work together well. But since U.S. and Russian perspectives on security issues tend to diverge as much as they converge, they do not provide a stable platform for building a more constructive relationship. If deeper security integration is not in the cards for the foreseeable future, one way to build a more lasting partnership would be to not only promote deeper economic ties, but also for Russia to become more capable of addressing the global, transnational challenges that face much of the world in the 21st century. Jeffrey Mankoff is deputy director of the C.S.I.S. Russia and Eurasia Program and a visiting scholar at Columbia University. Read more opinions and analysis from experts on Russia at our sister project, Russia Direct. Read more at russia-direct.org /category/opinion
RUSSIA HAS TO PLAY BY NEW RULES Vladislav Inozemtsev RUSSIA DIRECT
LETTERS FROM READERS, GUEST COLUMNS AND CARTOONS LABELED “COMMENTS” OR “VIEWPOINT,” OR APPEARING ON THE “OPINION” PAGE OF THIS SUPPLEMENT, ARE SELECTED TO REPRESENT A BROAD RANGE OF VIEWS AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENT THOSE OF THE EDITORS OF RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES OR ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA. PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR TO US@RBTH.RU
t has been a year since Russia formally joined the W.T.O. The country waited 18 years to join the world’s biggest trade club, but a year later, the milestone was noted only by those journalists with nothing else to report. Why? First, by the time Russia acceded to the W.T.O., the average import customs duty had dropped from 20–22 percent in the early 2000s to 10.4 percent. Under the terms of Russia’s accession to the W.T.O., it will eventually drop to 7.8 percent — a much less dramatic change. In addition, the cut in tariffs for the most overvalued goods, such as alcohol, has been postponed until 2016–2018, so consumers do not notice any differences as of yet. Second, the Russian authorities are already doing all they can to prevent imported goods from competing with domestic ones. The cut in duties on im-
ported cars has already been offset by the “disposal charge,” and the cut in alcohol duties will be balanced by a rise in excise taxes. And a reason to limit imports of foodstuffs can always be found. Third, consumer demand in Russia today is very high, so there is no serious reason to cut retail prices. In spite of the growth of imports in the first half of 2013 (by 5–9 percent for food and 12 percent for clothing and footwear), prices are not going down and will not do so in the near future. Today, it can be said that the only beneficiary of W.T.O. accession among economic sectors is retail trade. As of Sept. 1, import tariffs will be cut by a further 1–3 percent on more than 5,000 goods, a move which will bring extra profits of between $300 and $400 million to traders. But even that move is unlikely to make a difference to the majority of consumers. The other sectors of the economy have not yet gained much.
Today it can be said that the only beneficiary of W.T.O. accession among economic sectors is retail trade.
One important change, however, is that Russia will have to reckon with rules set in some place other than the Kremlin.
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Commodity exports are not regulated by its rules and the 100 or so restrictive measures with regard to Russian goods will not be lifted until 2015–2017. Likewise, there is no visible breakthrough in agriculture. To be sure, an undoubted benefit of W.T.O. membership is that it will increase competition on the Russian domestic market and, should the country’s windfall oil profits diminish ever so little, the process might drive prices down (to compensate for some negative effects of the possible crisis). Yet, as long as economic growth continues, that is virtually unnoticeable. One important and positive change, however, is that under the new conditions, Russia will have to reckon with rules set in some place other than the Kremlin. The first test is already looming: the E.U. has filed a lawsuit against Russia, challenging the legality of the 5 percent disposal charge on imported cars. Russia will almost certainly lose the
case and then consumers will feel for the first time that the government can no longer get away with everything. This is the only real benefit from the W.T.O.: it will teach Russia’s bureaucracy to play by rules different from those it sets itself. After all, the W.T.O. has long ceased to be the leader in promoting the ideals of free trade. Its place has been taken by the numerous regional integration organizations. Russia’s first year within the World Trade Organization is only the first step on a long journey. So far, it has made little difference to the majority of the population and even most companies, but it may induce the Russian elite to take a serious look at the limits of its own power. And that in itself is worth the price of accession. Vladislav Inozemtsev is a professor of economics and the director of Russia’s Center for Post-Industrial Studies.
TO ADVERTISE IN THIS SUPPLEMENT, CONTACT SALES@RBTH.RU. © COPYRIGHT 2013, FSFI ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ALEXANDER GORBENKO CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD. PAVEL NEGOITSA GENERAL DIRECTOR VLADISLAV FRONIN CHIEF EDITOR ANY COPYING, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS PUBLICATION, OTHER THAN FOR PERSONAL USE, WITHOUT THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA IS PROHIBITED. TO OBTAIN PERMISSION TO REPRINT OR COPY AN ARTICLE OR PHOTO, PLEASE CALL +7 (495) 775 3114 OR E-MAIL US@RBTH.RU WITH YOUR REQUEST. RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS AND PHOTOS.
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Uncovering the Source of Russian Punk
Cracking the Code of Russian Allusions
Vasily Shumov SPECIAL TO RBTH
RUSSIAN SOUL BY ATTEMPTING TO EXPLAIN WHAT EVERY RUSSIAN KNOWS
You’ve launched your “What Every Russian Knows (And You Don’t)” page on Facebook, posting a variety of links. Are you going to carry on with it? Certainly! The idea is to build a virtual community of Russophiles, and to exchange knowledge, experience and ideas. I think many links we post can be interesting for Russians (or people from the former Soviet republics) too, and there are some foreigners who are very interested in Russian culture, some to the point of being experts in a particular field. We get posts from people who are in love with Bulgakov, who played with Boris Grebenschikov in the 1980s, who know everything about Russian rock music. I certainly don’t see myself as a lecturer in this group,
rather as someone who stimulates discussion. Did you enjoy the experience of cracking the national cultural code? What did you discover while working on the book? I love cracking cultural codes. I love it when someone shows interest in Russia, and when I can help this person to better understand my country. Also, I lived in the U.K. for 10 years, and am now living in Spain, so I had to adapt to two different cultures. For a few years now I have been learning Mandarin Chinese and studying Chinese philosophy and traditional medicine, and the Chinese cultural code is very complex, and a challenge for an outsider. But I think the most important discovery I made, not even writing this book but just from life experience, is that it is actually incredibly easy to understand people of different cultural backgrounds. We all like the same things: respect, empathy and genuine interest towards our culture.
Could you tell our readers a little about the book and its structure? The book consists of 12 chapters, each one dealing with a particular touchstone of Russian popular culture. These include films, a novel, animated cartoons; the writer Mikhail Bulgakov; the singer-songwriter Vladimir Vysotsky; stand-up comedians Mikhail Zhvanetsky and Mikhail Zadornov; and a character from a fairy tale,Yemelya the Simpleton. As well as giving factual information about each subject, I also write about what they mean for me, and analyze how they fit into
Russian culture and how they reflect the Russian mentality. Do you have any plans for writing a sequel? Maybe. It is easy to think of another 12 touchstones of Russian popular culture, but it takes a long time to write a book! If you had to choose just one iconic book, film and joke that would illuminate Russian culture for a foreign audience, what would they be? Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” has an immortal set of Russian characters. As for films, I would choose Tarkovsky’s “Andrei Rublev.”And a joke – that “anekdot”: How do you make a Russian jump into the Seine River? Say that swimming there is forbidden. Prepared by Alena Tveritina
Irony, Russian Style OLGA FEDINA SPECIAL TO RBTH
New Year’s Eve in Russia, which is something like American New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve combined, can be a stressful day. Cooks are hoping not to be hit by a power outage just as they put the pies in the oven; young people are wondering how to both please their families and get to central Moscow in time for the street parties; businessmen are feverishly trying to remember whether they have confused their presents for their long-suffering wives with those for their 20-something girlfriends. The president is getting ready to persuade the people in his NewYear’s speech that the next year will be a little bit better than the one that is finishing. But one thing is certain: every year on Dec. 31 at least one Russian TV channel will show the three-hour long 1975 film “The Irony of Fate.” The film’s plot is this: It is New Year’s Eve in 1970s Moscow. The protagonist, Zhenya Lukashin, a 30-something doctor who lives with his mother, is for the first time preparing to celebrate the NewYear with his fiancée, a bossy and possessive young woman.The doctor is shy and scared of commitment, but it seems that now he is finally about to tie the knot.
This book hopes to reveal the essence of Russian culture.
However, he has other obligations. Every New Year’s Eve he goes to the banya with his friends. This is a tradition he cannot break, not even for his fiancée.
Russians still watch “The Irony of Fate” because the need for magic remains, although times have changed. In the banya, one toast follows another until the men get completely plastered. The two who have managed to stay conscious remember that one of the guys was supposed to be flying to Leningrad. But which one? They decide it must have been Zhenya, and get him on a plane. When he arrives, Zhenya gets
Punk culture was a natural attraction for Soviet kids with a high level of both intellect and anger. Something changed on the Russian punk scene at the end of the 2000s, when a new generation of punk bands emerged that condemned the commercialization of music. Then, Pussy Riot created a worldwide scandal. Nonconformity is back in Russian punk and the gloves are off! Read the full article and see music videos at rbth.ru/28995
Book excerpt New work helps highlight Russian cultural traits
According to author Olga Fedina, the first thing any foreigner who wants to understand Russians should do is watch the classic Soviet film “The Irony of Fate.”
supply store — especially Voentorg, whose outlets could be found across the Soviet Union. Official Soviet propaganda rejected the punk movement immediately. The degree of criticism toward punk music in the Soviet papers was much higher than in similar articles about the Rolling Stones a few years before. After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, however, punk went commercial. No one was protesting anymore, and Russian poppunk bands toured the country making good money by exploiting the punk lifestyle.
Have you received initial feedback from readers? Readers who I heard from have been watching the films and cartoon that are mentioned in the book; they are re-reading Bulgakov and comparing translations of Vysotsky’s songs. The Vysotsky Museum in Poland received a copy of the book, as did Trinity College Dublin and School of Slavonic and East European Studies [in London], among others.
ussian punk rock has come full circle in the last 30 years. Soviet teens of the 1970s, who had already grown tired of hardrock music and fashion as well as the“Love and Peace”lifestyle of hippies, embraced punk as a way to have their own identity, which was rebellious and different from that of their older brothers and sisters. Many Soviet youth understood well one of punk’s main mottos —“No future.”Punk culture was a natural attraction for Soviet kids with a high level of both intellect and anger. The main difference between British and Soviet punks in the late 1970s was that, in the U.K., punk was protesting against a conservative, upper-class establishment, while in the Soviet Union, everyone was equally poor. Soviet youth tried to imitate the look and style of Western punks. Shortages in every aspect of the ordinary Soviet citizen’s life, however, pushed people to find unusual ways to look like real punks. For example, Soviet youth replaced the heavy Doc Martins of Western punks with military boots that could be purchased in any military
IN HER NEW BOOK, OLGA FEDINA LETS FOREIGNERS INTO THE MYSTERIOUS
How did you decide on the rich cultural symbols you chose? I wanted to choose cultural references that proved to be the most long-lived, as I was interested in analyzing why these phenomena stay so popular while life in Russia is changing rapidly. One criterion was that they influenced the language, and [enhanced] contemporary Russian with those phrases that every Russian knows — and foreign-language students don’t. I also wanted a diversity of forms: movies, animated cartoons, stand-up comedy, literature and fairy tales.
THE SOUND OF RUSSIA
INTERVIEW OLGA FEDINA
Was there a trigger or moment when you decided, “This is the book I should write?” If so what was it? The first trigger was probably my personal experience in London. Someone once told me at a party that I reminded him of the Olive Oyl character from Popeye cartoons. Everyone knew what he was talking about, except for me. That’s when I thought: Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to read in one book about those cultural references that all Brits are familiar with, and we newcomers have no idea about. So, when I saw my students of Russian had the same problem with Russian cultural references, I got the idea of collecting a few of them in one book.
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in a taxi and gives the driver the address: 3rd Builders’ Street, block 25, flat 12. Zhenya arrives at his destination; the streets are lined with typical, endless, identical Soviet tower blocks. He could be in any Soviet city. He enters the building, the key fits in the lock, and the furniture in the flat is much the same as his. It seems only that someone has moved it around, but our hero is still too drunk to pay much attention. He gets into bed and falls asleep … only to be found and woken up by the beautiful Nadya, a schoolteacher preparing to celebrate New Year’s Eve with her serious, well-to-do and extremely jealous boyfriend, who, in her heart of hearts, she does not love, but … she is 34 and the years are flying by. This is how the story begins … And I will not say any more, because you must see this film. The film was a huge success with the public immediately when it was shown for the first time. And year after year, as families prepare to celebrate New Year, they watch this film. Russians who live abroad are very likely to have it on DVD. This film is a perfect Soviet fairy tale. The film not only makes fun of the uniformity of Soviet aesthetics; it also points out the uniformity of thinking, the grayness of day-to-day life where a miracle can happen only on New Year’s Eve. Today, Soviet uniformity is gone, but the need for New Year’s magic remains. This is why we keep watching this film.
Invisible Photographs Haunt an Early Memoir
HER STORY NATONALITY: RUSSIAN, BRITISH AGE: 40
SPECIAL TO RBTH
Olga Fedina grew up in Moscow in the turbulent late-Soviet and immediately post-Soviet years. She learned English listening to the songs of The Beatles and The Doors. While still a student in the journalism department of Moscow State University, she started working for the Russian capital’s Englishlanguage newspaper, The Moscow Times. The desire to get to know the world subsequently brought her to London, where she then lived for a decade, teaching Russian and doing translations and research for books on Russia. She later developed an interest in oriental medicine and studied acupuncture. Today she lives in Valencia, Spain, where she has a busy acupuncture practice.
Find out more online! Explore Russian literature through reviews, podcasts and multimedia. Read the full chapter at rbth.ru/29339
TITLE: A BOOK WITHOUT PHOTOGRAPHS AUTHOR: SERGEI SHARGUNOV PUBLISHER: GLAGOSLAV
ergei Shargunov’s first book translated into English offers an intimate portrait of recent Russian history. Not many 30-year-olds have written autobiographies. But Sergei Shargunov has already tried to run for public office, reported from war zones and co-founded the“Free Press” Web site, so he has plenty to write about. “A Book without Photographs” tracks the last few decades of Russian history through snapshots of the author’s life. His account of trying to break into politics presents an uncomfortable picture of contemporary Russia; he is told: “It’s in the interest of the state for you not to be here.” Shargunov was born in 1980. His father was an Orthodox priest with an underground printing press, so naturally he
grew up distrusting those in power;“anti-Soviet things — underground books, magazines, radio voices — attracted me,” he said. But he also felt the lure of their opposite: the communist world, forbidden in his family. As a journalist, Shargunov follows wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and revolution in Kyrgyzstan. As a child of the Soviet era, who witnessed conflict in Moscow in 1993, he represents a generation living through seismic changes. The book’s subtitle is “The Secret Album”; Shargunov often refers to missing or damaged photographs from the past. In a black-and-white photo of the Moscow barricades in autumn 1993, the teenage Shargunov, who has gone to watch, is hidden in billowing smoke. Many of the images he describes are lost, obscured or desecrated, accidentally or on purpose: his school photo, scratched by the cat; Lenin defaced with horns, fangs and four-letter words; the over-exposed film on his graduation trip; or his grandmother, shredding pictures of Hitler. The survival or destruction of photos becomes a powerful metaphor for the capriciousness of memory, the unpredictable past.
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Rivers The Volga carries tourists and cargo through the Russian heartland, from the hills of the Tver Region to the Caspian Sea
The Mississippi of the East
A river runs through it
Eleven of Russia’s 20 largest cities are located along the Volga — along with five major hydroelectric stations, numerous dams and power plants, and a number of nature preserves and national parks. GETTY IMAGES/FOTOBANK
First mentioned in the Primary Chronicle of 1113, the Volga River has played a crucial role in Russia’s cultural history and economic development. DARYA GONZALES, VSEVOLOD PULYA RBTH
With a length of nearly 2,300 miles, theVolga is the longest river in Europe and one of the longest rivers in the world.When the subtropical Volga delta lotus is blooming near the river’s mouth on the Caspian Sea, the residents of the village of Volgoverkhovye near the source of the river in the Valdai Hills, are just beginning to enjoy the first days of summer. More than 300 cities and towns inhabited by more than 20 distinct ethnic groups are located along the Volga. These cities, together with the Orthodox monasteries, hydraulic dams and a military test range along the river’s banks, offer insight into Russia’s history. The Volga is first mentioned by the Slavic people in the Primary Chronicle, the oldest surviving
history of Russia, written in 1113. The river became a major transport corridor in the 16th century, when the armies of Ivan IV (the Terrible) conquered the cities of Kazan, about half-way down the Volga, and Astrakhan, located near the Caspian Sea. Following the connection of the basins of theVolga and Neva Rivers near St. Petersburg in the 19th century, river traffic increased, mostly thanks to the labor of more than 300,000 barge haulers. The life of these men was immortalized in Ilya Repin’s painting “Barge Haulers on theVolga”and the well-known folk tune “Song of the Volga Boatmen.” Despite the prohibition of manual barge hauling by the People’s Commissariat of Transportation in 1929, haulers continued working on the Volga tributaries until World War II. The river’s economic value reached its height in the mid-20th century, when the Unified Deep Water System (U.D.W.S.) of European Russia was built. This series of canals linked the White,
Baltic, Azov, Black and Caspian Seas via the Volga. Today, coal, wood, agricultural projects and machinery, and cars are the main types of cargo transported via theVolga, according to Kira Zavyalova, an analyst at Investkafe, and the volume constitutes only about 3 percent of all goods transported in Russia.
economic relations of the Volga region,” Plyuschev said. Plyuschev cited many reasons for encouraging transit on the Volga, including job creation and cost effectiveness. The cost of maintaining a stretch of waterway is half that of maintaining a road or railroad of the same length. Additionally, the cost of transporting goods by river is one-
More than 300 cities and towns inhabited by more than 20 distinct ethnic groups are located along the Volga.
Life on the Volga in the 19th century was immortalized in Ilya Repin’s painting “Barge Haulers on the Volga.”
Dmitry Plyuschev, general director of Russian logistics firm Daymanta, would like to see intensive development of the river as a transportation corridor.“On the basis of state programs to develop Russia as a transit state, the country requires the construction and operation of river-sea cargo and passenger ships to ensure the expansion of trade and
eighth that of transporting them by rail and one-twentieth the cost of transporting them by truck. In the meantime, the Volga is increasing as a tourist destination. Eco-tourists can take part in canoe trips along the river, while trophy fishing enthusiasts travel to Lake Seliger and the Volga Delta hoping to catch catfish, carp and pike.
But most tourists prefer to take a traditional cruise. Cruises on the Volga are available from June to September and itineraries range from two days to three weeks. A 10-day cruise costs between 25,000 and 50,000 rubles ($800–$1,600), depending on cabin class. The price includes all meals, although drinks are paid for separately. Popular starting points for cruises include Moscow, St. Petersburg, Samara and Yaroslavl. Last year 13.6 million people traveled on the Volga, according to Investcafe’s Kira Zavyalova. Many towns along the river have reinvented themselves with cruise traffic in mind. A short distance from Nizhny Novgorod, the city of Gorodets is building an entire folk craft quarter, where it is possible not only to see the works of artists working in traditional mediums ranging from woodcarving to weaving, but to
decorate a plate in the trademark Gorodets style or to mold a cockerel whistle out of clay.“You get an excellent result,”said Alla, the supervisor of the Gorodets artists, as she fluttered over a group of tourists. “It only takes a little tinkering.” Many foreign firms offerVolga cruises, and for visitors who don’t want to take the whole journey but want to get out on the river, local governments often subsidize water taxis. InYaroslavl, one of the oldest cities on the Volga, a five-mile trip costs only 16 rubles ($.50).
DISCOVER RUSSIA TOGETHER is s. It door — the r i e th e) а ee-e open ssia n zna-n лассниц l u R e s к o y s о o o d r ( в ий s ac пер e sch hool нь Знан rning, a start th c s , 1 d Де t mo ept. ll) to On S day calle dge. Tha нок (be i о l e в l a ho f Know ngs a з o ri Day grader) t s (fir . year
Check out our new project, RBTH for Kids! Every month, find kid-friendly content about Russian life. Today, find out what it’s like to go to school in Russia — and tell your parents to check out our education report on page 4!
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Person of the Month
Find the following hidden words:
backpack, bell, class, firstgrader, hairbow, homework, pen, pencil, Russia, school, september, textbook, uniform, upperclassman, workbook.
Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837) is Russia’s most famous poet. All schoolchildren learn verses from his novel“Ruslan and Lyudmila.” He loved autumn and wrote many poems about this part of the year. In addition to poetry, he also compiled and wrote down Russia’s most famous fairy tales. They have been translated into many languages. You can find them at your library!
You can learn more Russian words — and hear them spoken — at our Web site! Find new words and interesting expressions at rbth.ru/blogs/russificate PRESS PHOTO
Have you heard of Alexander Pushkin? He’s our person of the month for September!
HAVE AN IDEA FOR RBTH FOR KIDS? WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A KID IN RUSSIA? WRITE TO US AT US@RBTH.RU!
ILLUSTRATIONS BY NATALIA MIKHAYLENKO
Balloon – воздушный шар (voz-doosh-nee shar)
ey Th ls. t co m or igh ol. nif or l cho u ar ite e s we wh f th s o ol , a ho ts em sc pan mbl n sia or e e us kirt th R s th t os rk wi m da est n e v s i lv nt invo nd a e a ud y St uall hirt s s u ed or
Russia Beyond the Headlines supplement ditributed with the New York Times in the US