Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the international community shouldn’t get hysterical over the two-year prison term handed to three members of the punk band Pussy Riot. Some European countries, like Germany, France and Austria, he argues, have laws that impose prison terms for antics offensive to believers.
I pity our esteemed minister. His job in this (and not only this) case, which has undermined Russia’s international prestige, is to find ways of justifying something that cannot be justified.
Pussy Riot struck at the sorest spot in modern Russia — which is why the group deserves praise, and not condemnation. The blow fell on the active merger of church and state into a single ideology, on the attempts to create a model of “Orthodox civilization” in Russia.… Seguir leyendo »
The inauguration of Vladimir Putin as president for the third time had the air of a bad Russian hangover. On one side there was the tolling of the Kremlin bells, the parade, the gilded halls, the secret transfer of the nuclear suitcase, the blessing of the Patriarch, the ringing applause — like a slap to the face — of the courtiers, lackeys and international lobbyists; on the other side, a gloomy day after a ruthless, bloody fight.
For the first time in perhaps all Russian history, the installation of the principal leader came the day after a brutal crackdown, as the police dispersed Putin’s opponents.… Seguir leyendo »
“I came, I falsified, I won” read an ironic poster with an image of Julius Caesar that I saw in the hands of a demonstrator who had come out to protest the rigging of the recent parliamentary elections. And there were tens of thousands of such demonstrators.
Incredible in scale, the mass demonstration last Saturday on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square, within sight of the Kremlin, can be called, without exaggeration, the Bolotnaya Revolution. It’s not just the name of the square (boloto means swamp in Russian). The fact is that for some years now we have been in a political swamp.
A swamp, of course, is better than the Gulag, but you still want to get out of it.… Seguir leyendo »
Russia took the news of Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin with total calm. Skeptics might even say indifference. Though the presidential elections will be held only in March, they’ve effectively taken place. Smiling joyfully, President Dmitri Medvedev passed the crown back to Prime Minister Putin, who, in turn, promised Medvedev the prime ministry.
Of course, there are people in Russia and elsewhere who are unhappy that the elections will be a formality. But then even if there were a free clash of candidates (including Medvedev), Putin would still win. Most Russians like Putin. He satisfies their idea of a strong president — a healthy man with a powerful torso, a sex-symbol of sorts, a tough talker who firmly defends the national interest.… Seguir leyendo »
The fate of Abkhazia has worried me ever since I first paid a visit here five years ago. A subtropical, citrus-scented paradise with snow-capped mountains, picturesque canyons and warm sea that can compete with the French Riviera, Abkhazia is also — politically speaking — an illegitimate child whose independence is not recognized by anyone except Russia.
Who in the world knows anything about Abkhazia? It can be compared to Kosovo, though perhaps more as an anti-Kosovo. Just as Russia is unwilling to recognize an independent Kosovo, the West won’t recognize Abkhazia. The 200,000 or so Abkhazians are caught between a rock and a hard place — Russia and Georgia.… Seguir leyendo »
Here in the Seychelles, they believe that a turning point in the war with Somali piracy occurred when the Supreme Court handed down a severe sentence of 22 years each to nine Somali pirates under a new “antipiracy” amendment to Seychelles law.
The pirates really had seized some Seychellois, so the mood in Victoria — the smallest national capital city in the world, with one traffic light — was good, both among officials and ordinary citizens. If we add to this that the United Arab Emirates had donated five patrol vessels to Seychelles, significantly augmenting the local coast guard (which until then had two patrol boats), it becomes clear why the military spirit of the Seychellois was high.… Seguir leyendo »
Leo Tolstoy died 100 years ago, on Nov. 20, 1910, and his name has become synonymous around the world with the greatness of Russian literature. But in Russia, Tolstoy’s philosophy — “Tolstovstvo” — with its calls for nonviolence and its free interpretations of the Gospels, still provokes fierce debate. In 1901, the Russian Orthodox Church excommunicated the writer; on the eve of this 100th anniversary of his death, the church declined appeals to reconsider.
Actually, it’s unlikely that Tolstoy would have been too upset by this: The force of his talent gave him a unique opportunity to go his own way and to celebrate life in all its manifestations.… Seguir leyendo »
If I recover from a bout of stomach illness by Sunday, I will cast my ballot in Russia’s presidential election. But there’s no need to rush to get well, because my vote will make no difference.
There was a day when it did seem that my vote mattered. In 1996, I found myself in Ireland on Election Day and made a huge effort to go to the embassy in Dublin and vote for Boris N. Yeltsin, because I feared that the Communists could return to power under his opponent, Gennadi A. Zyuganov, and I would again have serious problems. Mr. Zyuganov is running for president again this year, but I no longer fear him.… Seguir leyendo »