Thursday, 24 December 2015

Moscow Metro Instagram Map

The Moscow Times has put together a map that shows each station as documented by commuters on Instagram:

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

What awaits Russia’s economy in 2016 – collapse or recovery? – Johnson's Russia List

What awaits Russia’s economy in 2016 – collapse or recovery? – Johnson's Russia List

Analysts have reacted to the latest collapse of oil prices with varying forecasts. Some believe oil prices are on their way down to the critical level of $35, which would keep the Russian economy in recession. Others, however, including Western analysts, are of the opinion that 2016 may see the first shoots of recovery.

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – – ANNA KUCHMA, RBTH – December 18, 2015)
I recall reading one of those pithy notes of wisdom you get on a desk calendar which said something along the lines of: Remember when you dreamed of earning the salary that you can't live on today
Back in the early 2000's, when oil prices had been languishing around the $10 per barrel mark, they suddenly began their upwards trajectory which would continue for more than a decade.  In 2003, they had reached the $30 per barrel mark, which was considered by analysts at the time to be a massive windfall for the Russian economy.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Former General Lord Richards talking sense again

More refreshing stuff from Lord Richards, the former chief of defence staff, on BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning.

I fear Lord Richards will soon be outed as a Russian internet troll, or one of the so-called "useful idiots" who are manipulated to spread Kremlin lies and propaganda, rather than a respected member of the UK establishment and an ex-military man.

He is proof that you do not have to be a Kremlin stooge, an avid RT viewer or a Putin apologist to express viewpoints which run counter to the anti-Russian sentiment so prevalent in western media.  

I’m sure Lord Richards would insist we maintain our vigilance in monitoring and countering the threat from a well-armed nuclear power who is not considered one of our allies; let’s hope his measured analysis is reflective of the assessments, by our military and intelligence services, of the actual threats facing the UK.

It’s not the first time he has come up with viewpoints favourable to Russia.  Here is what he said in the Times last year about Crimea:

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Russia House - Another location "bagged"

As the Russian saying goes "It's better to see once than hear about a hundred times" - Лучше один раз увидеть, чем сто раз услышать (, so with that in mind, I set off to bag another location used in the film The Russia House.

In the opening scene of the film, Michelle Pfeiffer's character, Katya Orlova, is seen walking across Red Square then onwards to the Hotel National opposite where she is attending an audio book fare. The scene showing the exterior of the hotel then its foyer and staircase were filmed on location in Moscow - at the Hotel National; but the book fair scene was actually filmed in St Ermin's hotel in London.

Last week, I was on a course in London and was staying in a hotel nearby in Victoria, and I thought: what an execellent opportunity to visit that hotel and see if I can get into that room.  So, I checked in to my hotel, unpacked my bags, then headed off to find St Ermin's hotel, which was a short walk away and close to St James's tube station.

When I got to the hotel, I wasn't sure where exactly the room would be, but on the hotel's website, it appears to be a dining room. With that in mind, I headed for the hotel's dining room / bar / restaurant in the wing to the right of the entrance.  It was clear that I was in the wrong location, so I headed back to the foyer.  I then spotted a corridoor, leading to some bedrooms, but along which I noticed that there were some large doors leading to a darkened room, so I decided to investigate.

This was it.  Smaller than it appeared in the film, and set up for a business presentation, nevertheless I was in the room where the book fair scene took place.  In the semi-darkness, I stood between the columns where the Abercrombie & Blair stand would have been, shut my eyes, caressed the columns and just breathed in the scene- bringing it to life in my imagination, and immersed myself in the scene.

-do you know Mr Bartholomew Scott Blair?
- Barley, sure I know Barley.  The old house of Abercrombie & Blair, publishers - drink or sober, a gent, one of the best.

Friday, 2 October 2015

I LOVE Ladas, Me!

From my collection of Soviet Postcards: a set produced by the Togliatti Car Plant.

Bridge from Russia to Crimea now complete

Russia is building a 19 kilometre long bridge from mainland Russia to the Crimean Peninsula which will bypass Ukraine altogether - peninsula’s only land border is with Ukraine - and will connect Kerch in the Crimea to the mainland.

Workers are building temporary bridges that will carry construction machinery and deliver materials to the Kerch bridge site - complete with its own concrete plant and a temporary village of worker's accommodation. Eventually there will be three bridges, but the "technical" bridge has now been completed and is in operation.

A suspension bridge is expected to open to the public in December 2018.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Putin's Speech to the UN: Transcript of Key Points

We all know that after the end of the Cold War the world was left with one center of dominance, and those who found themselves at the top of the pyramid were tempted to think that, since they are so powerful and exceptional, they know best what needs to be done and thus they don’t need to reckon with the UN, which, instead of rubber-stamping the decisions they need, often stands in their way.

We should all remember the lessons of the past. For example, we remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic consequences and caused degradation instead of progress.

It seems, however, that instead of learning from other people’s mistakes, some prefer to repeat them and continue to export revolutions, only now these are “democratic” revolutions. Just look at the situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa already mentioned by the previous speaker. Of course, political and social problems have been piling up for a long time in this region, and people there wanted change. But what was the actual outcome? Instead of bringing about reforms, aggressive intervention rashly destroyed government institutions and the local way of life. Instead of democracy and progress, there is now violence, poverty, social disasters and total disregard for human rights, including even the right to life.

I’m urged to ask those who created this situation: do you at least realize now what you’ve done? But I’m afraid that this question will remain unanswered, because they have never abandoned their policy, which is based on arrogance, exceptionalism and impunity.

Power vacuum in some countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa obviously resulted in the emergence of areas of anarchy, which were quickly filled with extremists and terrorists. The so-called Islamic State has tens of thousands of militants fighting for it, including former Iraqi soldiers who were left on the street after the 2003 invasion. Many recruits come from Libya whose statehood was destroyed as a result of a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973. And now radical groups are joined by members of the so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition backed by the West. They get weapons and training, and then they defect and join the so-called Islamic State.

In fact, the Islamic State itself did not come out of nowhere. It was initially developed as a weapon against undesirable secular regimes. Having established control over parts of Syria and Iraq, Islamic State now aggressively expands into other regions. It seeks dominance in the Muslim world and beyond. Their plans go further.

The situation is extremely dangerous. In these circumstances, it is hypocritical and irresponsible to make declarations about the threat of terrorism and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels used to finance and support terrorists, including revenues from drug trafficking, the illegal oil trade and the arms trade.

It is equally irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you’ll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them.

We consider that any attempts to flirt with terrorists, let alone arm them, are short-sighted and extremely dangerous. This may make the global terrorist threat much worse, spreading it to new regions around the globe, especially since there are fighters from many different countries, including European ones, gaining combat experience with Islamic State. Unfortunately, Russia is no exception.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Skateboarding on the roof of Moscow's Soviet era buildings

I would love to do this.  This photo is from  a collection called "Ride the Roof - The secret skateboarding paradise on top of Moscow's Soviet-era buildings" from the website of The Calvert Journal
"Post-privatisation, it feels like the only way to access the centre of Moscow is with money. For youngsters like us, climbing roofs, walking the tunnels of the Metro by dark, skateboarding restricted areas – they’re all ways of taking back the city. It’s our idea of freedom. "

The Calvert Journal is a guide to the contemporary culture of the new east: the post-Soviet world, the Balkans and the former socialist states of central and eastern Europe. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

KGB Poison found at Alnwick Gardens

When the KGB are not poisoning dissidents with green tea laced with Polonium-210 or Ricin coated pellets fired from umbrellas (OK, I know that was the Bulgarians - but they were helped by the KGB), their tipple of choice is Gelsemium Elegans - according to the guide showing me around the deadly plants growing in the Poison Garden - this is a fenced-off section of Northumberland's Alnwick Garden containing many intoxicating and poisonous plants.

I was at the Alnwick Garden on Saturday when the guide presented this information as if it were a well known, frequent and, more importantly, current practice of the Russian "KGB" when wishing to rid themselves of troublesome "dissidents". Now there was much to take issue with here, but my mind was struggling to make sense of what the guide was actually referring to; e.g. was this poison used by the KGB in Soviet times or did he mean the current Russian security service - the FSB; and against whom was / is the poison used?  Did he mean Soviet dissidents who had emigrated from the Soviet Union or those Soviet dissidents who had not emigrated and were not incarcerated in labour-camps or psychiatric hospitals?  Or was he referring to some other, more recent events?

I am not trying to be flippant here or suggesting that none of it was true, rather, I am offering an excuse as to why I didn't ask the guide to clarify what he meant. Anyway, we moved on to the star attraction in the garden - cannabis - before I had a chance to form a coherent question, so I thought I would just look it up on the internet on my return home.

It turns out that Gelsemium Elegans had recently been in the news (August 2015) at a pre-inquest hearing into the death of  Alexander Perepilichny, an exile living in the UK.  There was a suggestion that this poison had been used to kill the Russian businessman, and "whistleblower" into a massive tax fraud in Russia, who died in 2012 after collapsing when out running.

Nevertheless, it was a very interesting but brief tour of the deadliest plants in Alnwick Garden, I was taken aback by the fact that many of the plants in the garden were not necessarily rare or exotic plants, but some very mundane and common varieties found in the UK.  For example, Rhubarb leaves can induce a particularly horrible death if ingested.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Ukraine, Russophobia & The Death of Neutrality

I recently came across an interesting article by security and organised crime expert (and Moscow Times Columnist), Mark Galeotti, on his blog  In this article, he talks about, among other things, the death of neutrality.  The heightening of tensions in relations between East and West,  US, NATO vs Russia, an apparent return to Cold War footing and rhetoric,  has made it more difficult for objective analysts such to present themselves, or be accepted as truly disinterested parties. In particular, when considering the events in Ukraine - the article struck a chord with me.
"The death of neutrality. It is increasingly difficult not to be on one side or the other. We’ve already seen this over Ukraine (I’ve been castigated as a Kremlin stooge for not using the word “terrorist” to describe the rebels, and a Western shill for claiming that Russian troops are present, all for the same article!), but I think it’s also happening with Russia. Not to regard Putin as a murderous mafioso-fascist-tyrant-kleptocrat who kills for the hell of it is to be an apologist. To refuse to believe the State Department is actively trying to install Navalny in the Kremlin makes you a tool of Western “colour revolution.” Analysis increasingly, I’m sorry to say, takes second place to assertion of the world as the observer “knows” it to be." Mark Galeotti
I'm no apologist for the Putin regime, and have been supportive of UK and US policy, perhaps in the naive belief that Western democracies, led by the US, have generally been a benign, positive  force in the world, but I have been astounded at the outcomes we have managed to achieve over the last decade or so foreign policy adventures. I think this echoes the sentiments of British Journalist and Author, Peter Hitchens, who said this recently in his Sunday Mail blog:
"Perhaps, after years in which I genuinely believed that our Government and the Americans were a pretty straightforward force for good, I now find it harder to accept, having seen the wrong and foolish things we do in the Middle East and now also in Ukraine."
I have no axe to grind on this matter, but what we are being told about Ukraine and Russia is a crock of shit.  The US and EU stirred things up in Ukraine, encouraged the opposition movement towards a 'color revolution',  and played some kind of shadowy role in the overthrow of Yanukovich's regime in Ukraine - an apparent masterclass in "hybrid" warfare.  The result - a failed state, a collapsing economy, political turmoil and civil war - right on the borders of a nuclear state, Russia.

But those that assert this or question what what the mainstream media is presenting,  are branded a "useful idiots", deluded pro-Putin members of the awkward squad, Russian internet trolls,  or RT propagandists.

The rampant Russophobia, the anti-Putin and anti-Russian sentiment in the mainstream media of the West  has crowded out any kind of objective and measured analyses of the situation or, for that matter, alternative viewpoints.  As a consequence of this, the tragedy unfolding on Europe's doorstep, in the Donbass, and the Ukraine regime's substantial role in this, has largely been ignored by the mainstream media.  

Friday, 10 July 2015

Omar Sharif: Dr Zhivago dies aged 83

Egypt-born Omar Sharif who played the title role in David Lean's 1965 epic epic Doctor Zhivago, has died of a heart attack.  Based on Boris Pasternak's book of the same name, Sharif played the part of Yuri Zhivago - a married physician who falls in love with another woman, Lara.  Their lives are disrupted in the turmoil and upheaval of the Russian Revolution.

Yuri Dolgoruky watches over Yuri Zhivago in the laboratory

For the part of Yuri Zhivago, a Siberian, the actor had to disguise his Egyptian looks with a regime of hair straightening and skin waxing, as well as having to wear a wig to hide a band which pulled back the skin around his eyes to make them look more Slavic.  Sharif won a Golden Globe for this performance, as he did 3 years earlier in David Lean's 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Your own home - by your own hands!

I'm not sure of the exact translation of this poster is, or what exactly the viewer is being exhorted to do  "GIVE (help) MZhK! Moskovski Zhilikh Kvartali (Moscow Apartments) Your own home by your own hands".

I bought this poster back in 1989 from the huge book shop  - Dom Knigi - on Kalinin Prospekt (now Novy Arbat) in Moscow.  I had it on my bedroom wall for while when I lived at my parents, but probably chucked it out when I moved into my own place.  

I had a few other Soviet propaganda posters as well, but this was my favourite.  I had forgotten about it for 26 years until last month when my mate Steve, with whom I went to Russia in 1988 and '89, was having a clear out at his house and found this very poster.  He was going to throw it out, but fortunately he asked me if I would like it.  Well, I refuse nowt!  So it is now hanging in my kitchen. For how long - I don't know - but I'm sure it'll be gone soon if wor lass gets her way!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov at Science Museum London

Alexei Leonov, is in London Today at the Science Museum.  The 80 year old retired Cosmonaut, most famous for being the first man to walk in space, was at the museum's announcement of a forthcoming exhibition on Soviet / Russian space travel "Cosmonauts".  This year marked the 50th anniversary of his pioneering space walk:
Leonov also took part in another famous space expedition - 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission – Soyuz 19 – the first joint space mission between the Soviet Union and the United States.
The Science Museum's exhibition "Cosmonauts" opens in London on 18th September 2015.  This is the blurb from their website:
In 1957 Russia launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into space and just four years later sent the first ever human – Yuri Gagarin. Discover the dramatic story of how Russia turned the dream of space travel into a reality and became the first nation to explore space in this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.
Cosmonauts will reveal the most significant collection of Russian spacecraft and artefacts ever to be shown in the UK. Come face-to-face with Vostok-6, the capsule flown by Valentina Tereshkova, the first ever woman in space, and examine the fascinating gadgets cosmonauts need to live in space, including a shower, toilet, medical instruments and survival kits for crash landings. 
Explore the historical, cultural and spiritual context of Russian space travel, shaped especially by the turbulent early decades of the twentieth century. See poignant testimonies and memorabilia belonging to some of the biggest names in spaceflight and discover the deeply personal stories of the pioneers who kick-started the space age.
Opens 18 September 2015
Exhibition will be open until 22.00 every Friday 

Friday, 15 May 2015

McDonald's sanction busting restaurant opening

McDonald's has opened its 500th restaurant in Russia, 25 years after the company opened its first fast food restaurant in the Soviet Union.  The restaurant in Russia's 4th largest city, Yekaterinburg, takes the number of McDonalds to 12 in city close to the Ural mountains.

Obviously if you are a big enough US company, you can be exempt from the sanctions your country is imposing on Russia.

Its probably a good job, given the hard time McDonald's has been having in Russia of late.

Following the closure (temporary or otherwise) of a number of McDonald's in Russia, arising from failed hygiene inspections, the company has permanently closed a restaurant for the first time in its 25-year history in Russia.  

TASS reported in April 2015 that a McDonald's restaurant in the Belgorod region to the south of Moscow, was closed after they were unable to agree on rental payments with the property's owner.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Happy 70 Years Victory Day - s Praznikom Pobyedi

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Victory against Nazism and Fascism in Europe.  The Soviet Union and the Allies defeated Nazi Germany and a formal surrender was signed on 8th May 1945 (9th of May Moscow Time).

Race for Berlin - a Soviet Soldier raises the Hammer & Sickle over the Reichstag
To mark the occasion in my own small way, I bought a St George Ribbon from eBay.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Western Rejection Rains on Russia’s Victory Day Parade | Johnson's Russia List

Western Rejection Rains on Russia’s Victory Day Parade | Johnson's Russia List

In this article, the contrast with the celebrations a decade ago is striking.  Putin driving President Bush in a Soviet Era vintage GAZ car, a pro-Western president in Ukraine, close co-operation with the EU.

"Putin signed a statement on the creation of a Russian-Ukrainian intergovernmental commission with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who had been brought to power after a series of pro-Western public protests in Kiev just months before the celebrations."  

This begs the question: why didn't the pro-Western protests and the installation of a pro-Western President lead to civil war in Ukraine (and the creation of pro-Russian separatist movements) in 2004/2005 as it did in 2014?

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Russian Ships Invade Newcastle

Royal navy frigates have been scrambled to intercept Russian ships which been spotted sailing up the river Tyne this morning.  

Unlike the Russian bombers which have flew close to UK airspace, testing our defences, these Russian ships have penetrated deep in UK territorial waters and have actually berthed on the Tyne at Newcastle's Quayside.

The Russian ships are here on the request of Durak Aprelski, the leader of the Russian separatists who occupied Newcastle last year, as reported here:

Ok, I admit it, these pictures were taken in 1986 during the Tall Ships Race in Newcastle.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

BOOK REVIEW: “Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin” – an updated version | Johnson's Russia List

This is a compelling and authoritative book on Vladimir Putin by Fiona Hill and Clifford G Gaddy from the US Brookings Institute.

BOOK REVIEW: “Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin” – an updated version | Johnson's Russia List

I have a hard back copy and a Kindle version of the original edition of the book.  Surely, I'm entitled to receive the updated version for free!?

It's well worth a read as its cuts through all the crap spouted by Western Media, amateur psychologists, would-be Putinologists.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

1st Space Walk - 50 years ago

On March 18, 1965, cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first person to take a spacewalk when he, attached to a tether, spent 12 minutes floating outside the Voskhod-2 spacecraft. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Happy International Women's Day

It is a throwback from Soviet times but it remains a national holiday in Russia today.  It is the day when women are celebrated - with wives, girlfriends, daughters, mothers, mother in laws, grandmothers, aunts, etc, receiving flowers, chocolates and cakes from the men in their lives.  

I've been in Russia on two occasions when when this holiday has been celebrated.  Flower sellers on every street and metro entrance; Men carrying cake boxes with string handles and bunches of flowers wrapped in copies of Pravda; and people greet each other with 'S praznikom' (happy holiday, i think) - it is a happy occasion which is widely celebrated.

But as women say in Russia "1 day for women, 364 days for men" bemoaning the fact that their menfolk do very little the rest of the year to contribute to the household chores. Even on International Women's day they can get a raw deal - I was walking around Red Square on a bitterly cold night of 8th March 1988 when I spotted two women shoveling snow on to the back of a truck - back-breaking work; meanwhile, sitting in the warm cabin of the truck, was their male co-worker relaxing with a cigarette!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Eurozine - A farewell to Russia - Vitaly Portnikov

Eurozine - A farewell to Russia - Vitaly Portnikov

Ukraine has gained a whole world of sympathetic people who support the country in its fight for something that should in fact be just as much a necessity for Russia too: freedom
Yeah, great bunch of friends they turned out to be: they encourage you to overthrow your government, to turn your back on Russia, join the EU, join NATO.  They promise to support you financially and militarily, but then don't come up with the goods.  They have singularly failed to support you in your hour of need. Great friends.ну не наглость, друзья еще называются!

They were never interested in your freedom: NATO just likes to poke the Russian bear with a stick, whereas the great EU Ponzi scheme needs your cheap labour, land, coal, wheat, and access to Black Sea ports. 

Your freedom is Russia's freedom, but the actions of Ukraine (and its friends) have worked to strengthen Putin's regime and its popularity. Ukraine is still corrupt, as is Russia. Great Success!

Moving article, but deluded.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Chicken Kiev

If you had asked me any time before about 6pm today, from where did the dish Chicken Kiev originate, I would have confidently answered: it was a dish specially created by Russian chefs for the opening of the Soviet pavilion at the Paris World Exhibition in 1954.  It wasn't.  There wasn't even a exhibition in Paris that year.  I'm probably thinking of the Paris exhibition of 1947 at which the Worker and Collective Farm Woman statue unveiled. Such is the fallibility of memory - mine in particular, in seems.

A Google search reveals that there is a great deal of uncertainty as to the origin of the dish - much like the origin of the territorial split of Kievan Rus into Russia and Ukraine. Some say it was invented by Russian emigrés in Brighton Beach in the 1930's, others say that it was created by chefs in Kiev to welcome back a delegation from Berlin.  My 1990 Russian Cookbook by Seva Novgorodsev & Karen Craig states that the dish was created to celebrate the opening of the Moscow Hotel in Kiev in 1961.

Although taking the name from Ukraine's capital city, the dish is not Ukrainian.  Its name certainly has Russian (if not Soviet) origins, but it seems the dish was in fact imported from France.

Anyway, enough of this drivel! The reason I was thinking about Chicken Kievs at all was that I have just had my first crack at trying to make them.  I had got some chicken breast out for tea and was trying to decide what to cook with them.  I had some bread crumbs to use up, some creme fraiche, cheese and some spinach - all passed their use by date, and I thought "right, I'm gonna try to make Chicken Kievs, with a little twist.  The usual recipe involves wrapping garlic butter with chicken breasts and coating them with bread crumbs, then baking or frying them.  In my version, I combined the garlic with my out of date items.  The turned out great and the were delicious.

0/10 for presentation

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Viz Top Tip advice for FSB

Reading about the inquiry into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, which began yesterday, I am reminded of a Viz Top Tip of many years ago:

"INTERNATIONAL master criminals. Tell your guards to shoot James Bond in the head at the first opportunity. Under no circumstances give him a guided tour of your base, or leave him in the custody of attractive women in bikinis."

Similar advice could be given to would-be FSB assassins:

"shoot your renegade operatives in the head at the first opportunity rather than try three times to poison them with a cup of tea laced with expensive radioactive material which can be traced back to you door"

Alexander Litvinenko, a former officer of the FSB (the Russian security service) died from radiation poisoning in 2006.  He had left the FSB, where he specialised in organised crime, and fled to the UK where he became a fierce critic of the Kremlin and worked for security service MI6.  His wife's lawyer has described his murder as "an act of state-sponsored nuclear terrorism on the streets of London" and the blame for his murder being placed directly at the Russian state. 

It is beyond my capacity to comment on the murky world of espionage, organised crime and the nefarious activities of Russian oligarchs, but I reckon it was Boris Berezovsky.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Happy Christmas - c Rozhdyestvom -Russian Orthodox Christmas

Merry Christmas from Dave's Russia page and blog.

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates religious holidays according to the Julian calendar. Russia uses the Gregorian calendar for secular purposes since 1918, so today is Christmas day in Russia.