Wednesday, 31 December 2014
Thursday, 25 December 2014
Thursday, 18 December 2014
"Russia is never as strong as it seems, but at the same time, it's never as weak as it seems"
Thane Gustafson, Capitalism Russian-Style.
I think it is worth remembering this quote when considering the turmoil currently affecting the economy and financial markets in Russia.
In his 1999 book "Capitalism Russian-Style", tells how the Soviet system was dismantled and the new market society was born, and examines the prospects for a Russian economic miracle in the twenty-first century. He describes Russian achievements in building private banks, companies, stock exchanges, new laws and law courts; and looks at the role of the mafia, the new financial empires, entrepreneurs, business tycoons, and the shrinking Russian state.
Following the hyperinflation, economic dislocation and infrastructure collapse of the post-Soviet period in the early nineties, the Russian economy then survived the 1998 crisis, and again in 2008 following the global financial crisis.
Given the "windfall" oil receipts its has enjoyed over the last 14 years, I m sure Russia is better prepared than before to weather the current storm.
Sunday, 14 December 2014
It is 25 years since the death of Andrei Sakharov - human rights activist, nuclear physicist and father of the Soviet H Bomb. Following his work on developing is work on the hydrogen bomb, he became increasingly concerned over the use of nuclear weapons. His famous 1968 essay "Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom" was distributed underground "samizdat" in the USSR and smuggled out to the west. This propelled him into the public sphere (in Russia and abroad) and set him on a course which would set him against the Soviet authorities. Having become convinced that the goals of peace, progress and human rights were inextricably linked, he became an active campaigner and defender of human rights in the USSR.
His international recognition and status as Hero of Socialist Labour, afforded him some protection from the full repressive force of the authorities , suffered by other "dissidents", nevertheless he was exiled in 1980 to the closed city of Gorky (off-limits to foreigners), now Nizhny Novgorod, following his vocal opposition to the 1979 invasion of Afganistan.
Gorbachev allowed him to return to Moscow in 1986, as a consequence of the policies of perestroika and glasnost,
In March 1989, Sakharov was elected to the new parliament, the All-Union Congress of People's Deputies and co-led the democratic opposition, the Inter-Regional Deputies Group. He remained a thorn in the side of the authorities - at the December session of the twice-yearly congress, Gorbachev berated nuclear physicist and human rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov in a televised debate in which Sakharov was demanding a true multi-party system. Andrei Sakharov died the next day of a heart attack aged 68.
Since Soviet times, Russia has made real progress in the development and protection of human rights. However, the increasingly authoritarian nature of the Russian state, curbs on freedom, closure of non-governmental organisations, harassment of the independent press, and attacks on protesters raise concerns over human rights and suggests that much work is still to be done in this area.
Russia still needs a Sakharov.
A mourner at his funeral held a banner stating "life without Sakharov is bitter!" which is a play on the Russian saying "life without sugar is bitter" (sakharov being the genitive plural for sakhar - sugar). Ironically, the word "bitter" in Russian is "gorky".
Tuesday, 9 December 2014
Tuesday, 2 December 2014
On 2 December 1989, the official end to the Cold War was declared at a summit between President George H. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in Malta on 2 December 1989. Has anyone told the Western media?