May 01, 2014

This Just in From Ukraine...


This Just in From Ukraine...

Today is the 401st anniversary of the crowning of the first Romanov Tsar, Mikhail, in 1613, and the end of the "Time of Troubles." This of course has nothing to do with the present day. Just thought I'd mention it in passing. 

A few things have caught my eye of late while trying to keep on top of the ever-changing, often contradictory and usually incomplete coverage of events in Russia and Ukraine. 

First, Russia (which, by the way does not have a demographic problem, says Forbes' Mark Adomanis) has assured the US that it will not invade Ukraine. Really. Double promise, cross-our-hearts, spit and shake on it:

"Secretary of Defense (Chuck) Hagel spoke today by phone with Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu (and) Shoigu reiterated his assurance that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine." [AFP, 4/29/14]

Whew. That's a relief. I feel so much better now.

Oh, and during that conversation, Shoigu also apparently "called on the US to tone down its rhetoric on the Ukraine crisis." Hm... Interesting you mention that, Seryozha, I was just going to point out...

Second, Moscow has been tossing a lot of rather, well, insulting epithets in Ukraine's direction. You know, stuff like "Nazi" and "fascist" and "Fritz" – basically not the sort of terms one generally uses among polite company ("Excuse me you fascist Fritz, can you please pass the artichoke spread?"). But then, these are dangerous times, and when there is a real threat to life and liberty, you can't be too.... Wait, what's that? Really? I see... Ahem... Apparently the folks at Israel's respected paper Haaretz have judged Moscow's slanders to be "outlandish," "inflammatory" and, well, "dangerous." And, well, one gathers they know from Nazis...

Showing how the propaganda effort began during the Maidan demonstrations, Haaretz notes that the tactic has been rather effective, mainly because images of WWII are rather potent for unification of public opinion. But of course it also has another potency: 

Russian news media regularly distort information to make it fit the black-and-white World War II mindset, condoning vigilante violence.

Third, apparently the US has been listening in on some people's conversations (!) and has found – surprise, surprise – that Eastern Ukraine's Free Radicals are being directed by Moscow. US Secretary of State John Kerry announced this shocker in a speech at Washington's Trilateral Commission the other day, according to the Daily Beast:

"Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language. We know exactly who's giving those orders, we know where they are coming from...

Who knew Kerry, with his busy schedule, had time to study Russian? Or maybe by everybody being able to tell the difference in accents, idioms, etc., he was just using the Royal We?

Fourth, today saw the first May Day celebratory march through Red Square since the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, that's a reset!

Perhaps the best way to make sense of all this is with Stephen Colbert's interview with former Ambassador Michael McFaul.

 
 
Photo: Landov, The Daily Beast.
Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
The Little Golden Calf

The Little Golden Calf

Our edition of The Little Golden Calf, one of the greatest Russian satires ever, is the first new translation of this classic novel in nearly fifty years. It is also the first unabridged, uncensored English translation ever, and is 100% true to the original 1931 serial publication in the Russian journal 30 Dnei. Anne O. Fisher’s translation is copiously annotated, and includes an introduction by Alexandra Ilf, the daughter of one of the book’s two co-authors.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
The Little Humpbacked Horse

The Little Humpbacked Horse

A beloved Russian classic about a resourceful Russian peasant, Vanya, and his miracle-working horse, who together undergo various trials, exploits and adventures at the whim of a laughable tsar, told in rich, narrative poetry.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955