Monday, 28 November 2016

RBTH: Russians rediscover their Jewish identity

RBTH: Russians rediscover their Jewish identity: After decades of Jewish emigration from Russia, today a new generation of young Russians is learning about their past with the help of a number of cultural organizations. (Russia Beyond the Headlin…

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Mark Galeotti - Surviving the Trumpocalypse: first thoughts…

In the latest post on his "In Moscow's Shadows", the security expert Mark Galeotti offers his initial thoughts on the Trump presidency.   Following the widespread claims of Russian interference in the US election, the hacking of Democrat emails, and the apparent support in the Russian media for Donald Trump, one would think that that his victory would be welcomed in the Kremlin; this is what Mark has to say
The Kremlin’s glee (with Trump's election as US president) must be tinged with a degree of nervousness. Nonetheless, the Russians never expected Trump to win, and their calculus was based on trying to ensure a Clinton presidency was weakened from the gate. Yes, Trump has been bizarrely positive about Putin ... but much of the Kremlin’s geopolitical playbook has been based on it being the unpredictable, risk-taking party, relying on the West to be the responsible adult, the force for stability and reason. Trump’s friendship is hardly an asset on which to rely, and his balance an even less stable foundation. 
I have no idea how things will pan out long-term with US-Russian relations, but surely they cannot get any worse than what they have been on Hillary Clinton's watch.  They started badly with the crass and condescending offer of a toy red button, and relations have steadily worsened since then.  The toy red button, intended to "re-set" the relationship between the two countries, was labelled "RESET" in English and some other unintelligible word* in Latin script (rather than Cyrillic) purporting to be the Russian word for "reset".  Unbelieveable!

*The word was peregruzka, meaning "overload" rather than перезагрузка (perezagruzka) which means "reload".

Mark Galeotti is senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague and director of the consultancy firm Mayak Intelligence. Previously he has been Professor of Global Affairs at New York University, head of the History department at Keele University in the UK, an adviser at the British Foreign Office and a visiting professor at MGIMO (Moscow), Charles University (Prague) and Rutgers (Newark).

Monday, 7 November 2016

Russian Realism

Russian Realism: Expert view: Contrary to popular Washington speculation, the Russian foreign policy elite, including Putin, Medvedev, and Lavrov, have no real attachment to or interest in Donald Trump and likely f…

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Ya Heart Vladimir: A Visit to the Regions

Ya Heart Vladimir: A Visit to the Regions: (Kennan Institute – – September 22, 2016 – Mary Elizabeth Malinkin) Giant, Cyrillic block letters spelling “Ya Heart Vladimir&#8221…

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Will Russia’s Opposition Draw the Right Lessons From Electoral Defeat?

Will Russia’s Opposition Draw the Right Lessons From Electoral Defeat?: (Moscow Times – – Eva Hartog – September 20, 2016) The Russian opposition on Monday awoke to an electoral hangover – in some cases quite literally –…

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Putin Successfully Using New Political Technologies to Keep His Antiquated System in Place, Shevtsova Says

Putin Successfully Using New Political Technologies to Keep His Antiquated System in Place, Shevtsova Says: (Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, September 5, 2016) Vladimir Putin is with remarkable success using modern political technologies to keep himself and his increasingly antiqua…

Putin as Complex as he is Predictable

Putin as Complex as he is Predictable: Subject: Putin as Complex as he is Predictable Date: Mon, 5 Sep 2016 From: Dale Herspring Putin as Complex as he is Predictable Dale R. Herspring, a University Distinguished P…

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Stories of a Soviet Studier: My Experiences in Russia

Stories of a Soviet Studier: My Experiences in Russia: Subject: Stories of a Soviet Studier: My Experiences in Russia Date: Mon, 29 Aug 2016 From: Stephen D. Shenfield [New Book: Stories of a Soviet Studier: My Experience…

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Top 10 Healthiest Foods in Russia

Interesting article from the blog: Life In Russia, on the health benefits of various foodstuffs traditionally enjoyed in Russia.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

No, Russia is not preparing for all-out war

No, Russia is not preparing for all-out war: Russia’s snap military mobilisation drills are an internal exercise. But troublesome relations with the west could still have unintended (and unpleasant) consequences.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Boris Johnson 'bags' scene from The Russia House

Boris Johnson announced yesterday at a press conference that he will not run for leadership of the Conservative Party.  The shock announcement was made at St Ermin's hotel in the room which was used for a scene in the film The Russia House.  The room where the press conference was held is a function room which doubled as the interior of the Hotel National in Moscow.

Anyway, I 'bagged' it before he did.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Russian Champagne

This is taken from my old web site, written in 2000, which describes EU hypocrisy. One small reason to #voteleave #brexit. 

Russian Champagne 

"A bottle of champagne for every Soviet family" proclaimed a slogan in the sixties when scientists succeeded in rapidly mass-producing a form of sparkling wine allowing its cheap and wide distribution under the brand name Sovietskoye Shampanskoye.

However, production of the wine is now under threat as the French are planning legal action to prevent foreign manufacturers from using the word "Champagne" under a new offensive from the Institut National des Appelations d'Origine - the state-backed body that safeguards the use of regional product's names, 

Russian Shampanskoye was produced in Tsarist times and had been awarded medals in the Universal Exhibition of 1901 and hence, as the Russians argue, has long been accepted internationally.  The French have struggled for over a decade to prevent the Russians using the name. Armen Khomyakov a commercial manager at one of Moscow's leading Shampanskoye factories said, "It would be absurd to stop using the name because we have no other word for the product in Russian.  It's become part of the language."

Personally, I think that Sovietskoye Shampanskoye was a superior wine to the French crap, although the Bulgarian brand Iskra (Spark) has the edge over the other two.

Nowadays, champagne is a generic term and the French will just have to accept this fact, they can't have it both ways - under EU rules a British cheese maker was prevented from making a Greek-style cheese and calling it Feta cheese, however, the only Feta cheese I can buy in my local Sainsbury's is French!

February 2000

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Kremlinphobia, russophobia and other states of paranoia

Kremlinphobia, russophobia and other states of paranoia: The Russian government likes to regularly accuse the West of being ‘russophobic.’ They’re right, but not for the reasons they think.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Five foolproof ways to identify Russians on holiday abroad

Five foolproof ways to identify Russians on holiday abroad: I will not waste your time describing boring images of Russians squandering money and wearing tawdry outfits on vacations abroad. You have probably already read such tropes a million times. Here I&…

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Russia’s Military Budget Ranks Fourth Worldwide – Report – Johnson's Russia List

Russia’s Military Budget Ranks Fourth Worldwide – Report – Johnson's Russia List

USA - $596 Billion

China - $215 Billion

Saudi Arabia -  $87.2 Billion

Russia - $66.4 Billion

UK - $ 55.5 Billion

As the Soviet propaganda booklet from Novosti Presss Agency asks - Whence the threat to Peace? Is it really Russia?  US and NATO military expenditure far outstrips that of Russia, so to claim that the greatest threat to world peace in the world is Russia,  does not seem to stack up.  If you ask me, I would say it is either the reckless meddling of the US in the middle-east and Ukraine, or Saudi Arabia's military activities in Yemen, or both.  But what do I know - I'm just a useful idiot.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Akademgorodok: The last Soviet Utopia, or a new Silicon Valley?

Akademgorodok: The last Soviet Utopia, or a new Silicon Valley?: Why is Russia’s intellectual, spiritual and cultural strength concentrated in Siberia? What is happening today at this world-renowned research center? Why do people here refuse to believe in …

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Friday, 22 January 2016

Mark Galeotti: Park Pobedy (Victory Park) – a warrior state’s love poem to itself

"Victory Park, billed as a memorial to the people who fell defending the Motherland but, frankly, rather a monument to tsarist and Soviet regimes that comfortably allowed their people to be used as human ammunition, in the name of defending, asserting or extending its own power."

I visited this park in 2002 and was impressed with the scale of it.

I always find these places slightly unsettling - very moving, but at the back of your mind you question whether the real motive of such grandiose monuments is (or was in Soviet times) to distract the population from their current travails - a reminder of past glories and the huge detrimental effect of the Great Patriotic War on the economy (implying that current living standards remain affected).

And of course, you cannot help but contemplate the appalling loss of life as a consequence of regimes which "allowed their people to be used as human ammunition".  Nevertheless, Victory Park is very impressive and is a beautiful public open space in the spring and summer, especially when the rows of fountains are operational.

In the late eighties, I remember a programme about perestroika, which included (or was presented by) Vladimir Pozner, and included a feature on this monument.  At the time, it was a half-built, already decaying, concrete monstrosity on an abandoned construction site.

If I recall correctly, Brezhnev had commissioned the construction, but there were not sufficient funds to complete it.  Muscovites were beginning to resent the huge sums spent on grandiose monuments during the eighties (and I understand the Gagarin statue on Leninsky Prospekt, completed in 1980, was not well received) and the advent of glasnost allowed this resentment to be expressed more vocally.  I often wondered whether the monument would ever be completed.

10 common Russian superstitions

10 common Russian superstitions: Russians are a very superstitious people. According to a recent Russian Public Opinion Research Center’s (VTsIOM) survey in October 2015, 50 percent of Russians conform their behavior to thei…

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Russia without whom?

Russia without whom?: As the Soviet Union collapsed, a generation had just been born. The online journal Russia without us catalogues their struggle to find a place in today’s Russia. Interview. (…

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Cosmonaut's Exhibition - Science Museum

At precisely the time I walked into the Cosmonauts exhibition hall on Friday 15 January 2016, the small steps for me coincided with Tim Peake's giant leap into the cosmos - as Britain's first 'official' astronaut conducted his first space walk, or Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA), from the International Space Station.  A month earlier, Tim Peake launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Russian Sozuz rocket bound for to the International Space Station (ISS), on 15 December 2015, the coverage of which  was beamed live by the BBC from from the Science Museum in London.  This coincided with a major exhibition staged by the Science Museum celebrating Russia's achievements in space.

The Cosmonauts Exhibition opened in September 2015, having been announced at a press conference in May which was attended by Alexei Leonov not long after the 50th anniversary of the anniversary of his space walk - the very first such EVA in March 1965, and Valentina Tereshkova - the first woman in space.

I grew up with the excitement of the space race, especially the lunar landings, space shuttle launches as well as Skylab and the Sozuz-Apollo mission.  Like most kids I knew, I was obsessed with space flight and wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.  I had an old cine projector on which I would frequently watch a silent, black and white film of the first lunar expedition.  While us in the West were brought up on NASA's achievements in space during the 1970s, and we talk of Astronauts rather than Cosmonauts, I did have a collection of Brooke Bond tea cards which charted mankind's achievements in space - both American and Russian and was often puzzled at the odd lettering, eg CCCP, on the equipment.

Of course at the time, I had no idea as to the political realities influencing or motivating the superpowers during the space race.  I think I had the naive presumption that space was not primarily a military endeavour, but rather a joint exploration arising from mankind's curiosity.  This view was in part reinforced by the Soyuz-Apollo mission whereby Soviet and American modules docked in orbit (such cooperation occurred at the height of the Cold War).  Alexei Leonov, incidentally, was a member of the Russian crew for that mission.

Although the childhood obsession with space exploration waned over the years, some interest remains; the memories of the excitement of those times remain; long forgotten facts endure - locked deep in memory only to resurface when prompted by some external stimulation such as a well curated exhibition like the one at the Science Museum.

Now, I have probably seen many of the exhibits before in Moscow - at the Space Pavilion in Moscow's exhibition park VDNKh or the Cosmonaut Museum housed in the plinth of the titanium Space Explorer's monument near the VDNKh metro station.  However, this was well over 25 years ago, and the last time I was in the Space Pavilion, in 1993, it had been turned into a second-hand car lot selling US cars - such a disappointment, typical of the plunder of the country and cultural insensitivity by the US in the wild 90s.

Anyway, this was so long ago and I can barely recall the artefacts I have seen exhibitions.  The exhibits in Moscow  were so numerous - row upon row of satellites which had the appearance of the innards of a gas boiler bolted onto diving equipment and looking no more sophisticated - that it was hard to absorb any meaningful information.

This is the beauty of the Science Museum's exhibition.  It is a well curated exhibition, with carefully selected artefacts, presented in an imaginative, attractive, and informative way - it manages to capture the excitement of the early years of the space race and the impact it had on the rest of the world.  Of course, the enthusiasm and the knowledge of the volunteer guides adds to the overall experience.  For me, Cosmonauts did evoke memories, unearth long-forgotten facts, re-acquaint me with the familiar, as well as providing much which was new: Helen Sharman's spacesuit from the 1991 Project Juno mission to the Mir space station (Helen Sharman was the first UK-born person in space whereas Tim Peake is the seventh), Valentina Tereshkova's return module (Tereshkova was the first woman in space), lunar lander, lunar rover, space food, and memorabilia relating to Gagarin's 1961 flight and the world's reaction to it.

From the Science museum blog, one of the volunteers sums it up perfectly: "For me there is paradox at the heart of this exhibition. You look at the hardware and you can’t help wondering at how primitive it all looks, as if it was simply bashed together in a workshop. However, you look closer and you begin to see just how awesome and sophisticated it really is. I am captivated by the personalities and the stories, and when you match the stories with the hardware, you begin to understand what true pioneers these people were."

Exit through the gift shop

Last but not least, there was the gift shop.  I was almost as excited by this as I was the exhibition itself - there was a fantastic array of products for sale: posters, books, t-shirts, badges, hats, fridge magnets, even a replica Sozuz 39 cosmonaut flight suit jacket.

I could have spent a fortune.  I passed on the jacket and the Laika shawl, although I did get a t-shirt and a few other nick nacks.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Korolev died 50 years ago today

Sergei Pavolvich Korolyev - the "Chief Designer" was the head of the Soviet space program in the 1950's and 60's during the early years of the space race.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Happy New Year! С новым годом!

Happy New Year from Dave's Russia Page!

Here is how New Year was greeted in the Golden Ring City of Vladimir - some spectacular views of the city!