The Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections, In Pictures

You know what they say: a picture’s worth a thousand words. That’s why I’m sharing some photos I’ve found online for elections posters from the recent parliamentary elections in Ukraine. All photos are from this article (in Russian).

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The text on this one reads: “Arseniy Yatsenyuk. A strong team – a strong premier. People’s Front.”

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The photo is Vitaly Klichko, former boxer and current mayor of Kiev. The caption says: “The will to be free. Glory to Ukraine!”

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“Union Samopomich [Self-help; this is the name of the party]. Take it and make it! Andrey Sadoviy, leader of the party, mayor of Lvov.” Note the Yatsenyuk poster photo-bombing this one.

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“Opposition Bloc. Peace, Stability, Rebirth.” This is the party with lots of former Party of Regions (i.e. Yanukovych supporters) people. The slogan on the poster is the party’s current platform [link in Russian].

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Now this one is truly appalling. This the ever-violent and scary Oleg Lyashko. I don’t know what’s worse: that he exists, or that almost eight percent of the people voted for him. The poster says: “We govern our native land and will not give it to anyone!” Notice how one letter of his last name is stylized as a pitchfork.

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And finally, Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchina [Fatherland] party. It received just over five percent of the votes, which isn’t very much. The slogan is the best, though, in my opinion: “Don’t give up! Ukraine will be victorious!”

Any favorite posters, everyone? Apologies for the poor translations on some. My brain does not want to work in translating mode right now, I’m afraid.

Harvard Researcher Publishes Flawed Study, Congratulates Himself

Sigh. This article is proof that even at a so-called “top university,” foolishness and anti-Russianness reigns. From Voice of America, we have an article called Harvard Study Shows Russian-speaking Ukrainians Backing Kyiv.

A new study conducted at Harvard University suggests that Russian-speaking Ukrainians may be significantly more supportive of Kyiv’s standoff against Moscow and the pro-Russian separatists than has previously been reported.

The study, authored by researcher Bruce Etling at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, is one of the first serious explorations of Russian-, Ukrainian- and English-language social media content regarding the turmoil there over the last 11 months.

“Our general reading of newspapers and traditional media about the protests was that Russian speakers tended to disapprove [of the protests] and Ukrainian and English speakers tended to approve, and that would then just bleed into social media,” Etling said. “We wanted to see if that was what really happened.”

This study is flawed from the start. The research has failed to consider one important point: the sorts of people who use social media, who write blogs, who go on the internet a lot, are young people. These young people are a lot more likely to hold liberal, pro-European views (and therefore support the current government in Kiev), no matter what language they speak, than other age groups in Ukraine. Coupled with the fact that there isn’t consistent electricity (and therefore limited internet and social media access) in some parts of Eastern Ukraine that are pro-Russia and you can see that we are not getting a decent cross-section of the population. It’s certainly not statistically valid and doesn’t allow us to draw meaningful conclusions.

It’s sad that this sort of shoddy research actually passes for scholarship.

Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections Results

I know I said I was going to live-blog the Ukrainian elections today, but that plan kind of fell through. First, I got up too late, as I didn’t account for the time change. I got up around 9:00 local time, but by then, the day in Ukraine was practically over. Second, the result was stupid and predictable: Poroshenko’s bloc won the majority, with Prime Minister Areseny Yatsenyuk’s in a close second.

As votes are counted, President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc looks set to win the most, with PM Arseny Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front party a close second.

Mr Poroshenko thanked voters for supporting what he described as a call for a reformist, pro-European majority.

About 3m people in two eastern regions ravaged by conflict did not vote.

Pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions plan to hold their own polls next month.

Another 1.8 million people in Crimea, annexed by Russia in March, also did not take part.

Now, this result would be a lot more impressive for President Poroshenko if two things weren’t true:

  1. The Party of Regions, usually the main challenger to these foolish, allegedly pro-Western blocs often headed by shady oligarchs, did not take part in these elections, as it did not recognize them as legitimate.
  2. As noted in the BBC article I quoted, some of the areas that would have been staunchly against Poroshenko’s and Yatsenyuk’s parties/blocs didn’t even take part in the election. The Crimea and the Donbass region, among others, are among the most pro-Russian areas in the country.
Poroshenko voting in Kiev, from here.
Poroshenko voting in Kiev, from here.

As an analogy, it’s useful to consider this: what if an election were held in the US between the Democrats and the Republicans, but only the states of California, Seattle, Oregon, Massachusetts, and New York voted. And then the Democrats went and triumphantly proclaimed that they won and had the support of the people. Any American can see that such a result isn’t very valid, as those states mentioned skew towards the Democratic Party anyway!

So yes, I am disappointed in the Ukrainian elections. Based on what has happened in Ukraine in the past decade, I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before the people get tired of the government. (For example: remember the euphoria of the Orange Revolution in 2004, and then how Yanukovych’s Party of Regions swept the parliamentary elections a mere two years later, in 2006, which led to Yanukovych’s appointment as Prime Minister. Then, Yanukovych himself went on to win the presidential election in 2010, which was free and fair.)

Party of Regions
Party of Regions

Oh, well. Better luck next time to my comrades in the Party of Regions!

Also, an unexpected silver lining: Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchina [Fatherland] party came in last, according to exit polls! (Link in Russian, from Poroshenko’s Twitter.)

My Guest Post At The Mezzofanti Guild: How To Get Started Learning Russian

A little while ago, Donovan, the intrepid blogger behind the excellent blog The Mezzofanti Guild, approached me about writing a guest post for his blog about learning Russian. Donovan loves Arabic as much as I love Russian (he studies it constantly and speaks it really well), but he’s also lived in Russia and speaks Russian, too. Anyway, I really like how the post turned out and you really should go read it, like right now.

And, of course, a big thank you to Donovan for letting me write something for his blog! Hopefully this is one of many guest posts I will write, both for his blog and others. :)

If Putin Wants Sweden, Let Him Have It!

So, you may have heard of the mysterious, probably Russian submarine that’s roaming around Swedish waters (to the extent that a submarine can roam, of course). RFE/RL says:

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that “there have been no irregular situations and, even less so, accidents involving Russian naval vessels.”

But the respected Swedish daily “Svenska Dagbladet” has reported that a damaged Russian submarine is at the center of a search by Swedish boats, troops, and helicopters for an unidentified submarine that began on October 17.

The newspaper says the Swedish military had intercepted a distress signal in Russian that was sent to a naval base at the Baltic seaport in Kaliningrad.

The Swedish military has refused to comment on the newspaper’s reports.

Putin's interlocutor, Sergei Ivanov, currently Chief of Staff for the presidential administration.
Putin’s interlocutor, Sergei Ivanov, currently Chief of Staff for the presidential administration.

Now, the title of the post is supposed to be a joke—a joke, I repeat, so don’t leave me indignant comments about me being a lawless Russian imperialist. I’m just having a very fun time imagining the conversations taking place in the Kremlin about this incident. Here’s the scene:

President Putin paces in his office. Sergei Ivanov, a fellow ex-KGB man, but one who is more cautious (and possibly cleverer) than Putin, urges restraint.

Putin: How dare they accuse us of having a submarine there! As if we would ever want Sweden.

Ivanov: But Vladimir Vladimirovich, we do have a submarine in Swedish waters.

Putin: Never mind that! Do those stupid Swedes remember what happened after they tangled with us? It may have been in the eighteenth century, but we trounced them! And remember the Battle of Poltava?

Ivanov: Mr. President, they probably don’t remember that.

Putin: If we invaded Sweden, they’d capitulate in a day! Or even less!

Ivanov: That may be so, but it would be unwise to invade Sweden, as it is an EU member.

Putin: The EU? Tell me, Seryozha, how many divisions has the EU? None, of course!

Ivanov: As true as that may be, it still would be unwise.

Putin stomps out of office to chew out Viktor Chirkin, commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, leaving bewildered Ivanov behind.

Like it? I totally should be a playwright, right?

On a more serious note, Russia certainly has been engaging in more and more military provocations. Smart countries and their intelligence agencies ought to keep an eye on this.

The first commenter who finds the veiled Stalin reference in my little Putin scene wins… something. I’m not sure what, but I’d like to think my reference is well-concealed, so anyone who spots it has my respect.

Russia, Lenin, And The Battle For Modern Ukraine

Graphic from here.
Graphic from here.

It won’t surprise any long-time readers here that I was not a supporter of the recent “Euromaidan” revolution in Ukraine. I have written on the unconstitutionality of the election of President Poroshenko (this article landed my blog on the Google News homepage!), a follow-up to that article, an epic article by a former Czech president concerning Ukraine, and maybe some more stuff I’m forgetting. I appeared on the BBC earlier this year, in February, to provide a counterpoint to the plethora of Euromaidan supporters interviewed. And yes, I have a recording of the interview, which I’ve been meaning to upload for a while.

Given all those facts, you’ll probably be surprised to know that there’s one consequence of the “Euromaidan revolution” that I heartily support: the destruction of Lenin statues. Lenin statues are an unfortunate remnant left over from Soviet rule. I traveled throughout European Russia five years ago and only saw one statue (plus the creepy mausoleum on Red Square). I’ve only been to one city in Ukraine (Kiev) and I didn’t see a single statue there. However, both Russia and Ukraine are vast countries, and I’m sure I missed out on many statues simply because there wasn’t time to go to cities that have them.

Lenin statues are a disgrace because Lenin was a blight on European history. Few people have wreaked more havoc, sowed more destruction, and caused intense misery to such large numbers of people. I never was a Lenin supporter, even when I was taught a mildly positive view in school, and I think everyone should read Dmitri Volkogonov’s magnificent biography of the man.

Anyway, anti-Russian Ukrainians are tearing down these statues as a symbol of protest against Russian rule. These people want to be free to choose a “European path” free of that nasty Putin’s overbearing Russian influence, the media tells us. Yet the ironic thing about Ukrainians’ dislike for Lenin is that Lenin was actually the founder of modern Ukraine. Here’s an excellent article on Russia Insider concerning Lenin and Ukraine:

Lenin was a founding father of modern Ukraine. He created Ukraine as a republic which has kept its current borders (minus Western Ukraine and few other regions). He gave away the territory of Novorossiya, which historically never belonged to Ukraine.

Later, the Soviet leader Khrushchev gave a similar present to Ukraine – Russian Crimea.

[...]

Some would argue that Stalin is guilty for the perversion of Soviet system and that if Lenin remained alive it would be different story. The truth of the matter is that Stalin did not think up anything that was not there under Lenin: mass executions, hostage taking, gulags (Soviet style concentration camps) and all the rest.

The article is much longer and quite good, so go read it. It goes on to list the numerous bad things Lenin did for Russia: coldblooded murder of the Tsar’s family, giving away territory to end Russian participation in World War I, outright stealing of property that did not belong to him, murder of people just because he had the power to kill them, and more.

I’m also going to bookmark that Russia Insider website, as it looks quite interesting.

Constructed Slavic Languages

The flag of Interslavic. I don't know the significance but I like it.
The flag of Interslavic. I don’t know the significance but I like it.

I’m too tired to write anything substantial tonight, but I wanted to post a bit about something cool I found: a constructed language called Medžuslovjanski jezyk, or Interslavic. The most well-known constructed language is probably Esperanto, which I’ve never felt the urge to learn. I used to think constructed languages were silly and that no one spoke them. The second point may very well be true—not that many people speak them—but I don’t think they’re silly anymore. I actually really like the idea of this Interslavic and want to explore it more.

Do you speak a constructed language? Would you consider learning one? Why or why not?