‘Look At Me When I’m Speaking’: A Fabulous Row In The UN

Meet Vladimir Karpovich Safronkov.

To become a Russian diplomat, you have to be physically imposing. That’s my theory, anyway. Source

Until recently, Safronkov was a little-known deputy at Russia’s UN delegation. A career diplomat who was born on March 29, 1964, he attended the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO), which seems to be a de facto prerequisite to have a career in Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Even after Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, passed away in January of this year, Safronkov didn’t exactly step right into the spotlight. I’d never heard of the guy until recently, and I don’t think I’m alone.

However, Safronkov made headlines last week when he angrily (and in my opinion, awesomely) told off the UK’s permanent representative to the UN. The British representative made some very pointed remarks about Russia’s stance on Syria—and Safronkov wasn’t having any of it. As my mom said about the photo below, if looks could kill…

Apparently you have to raise your hand to talk at the UN? Or maybe he’s just voting on some resolution.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in this case, we need to extend the metaphor and say that a video is worth a thousand pictures. (It sounded cleverer in my head before I typed it…) There are multiple videos of Safronkov telling off the British. I think this one from the Guardian is the best because it preserves the original languages of both parties. I’ve also embedded the video below—I’ve never embedded from the Guardian before, so I hope it works. The link above will also take you to the video.

[Edit, April 23: Sorry about the video embed, guys. I hear it doesn’t work. From what I can tell, my WordPress forbids this sort of code. I’ve embedded a video from YouTube below, which is a bit more extensive than the one from the Guardian. You can see the video from the Guardian on their website by clicking here.]

That video is just a small excerpt of what happened. If someone can find the entire thing with subtitles, I’d be happy to post it, especially since the video I have above leaves out the best part. Apparently Safronkov also said, “Don’t you dare insult Russia again!”

The video has raised quite a reaction in the media. Russians are talking about it. The British are talking about it. Even people over here in the US are talking about it. As you can imagine, there’s a split amongst people who have an opinion about it. Some think it’s amazing and others think Safronkov acted like a thug. My position is probably clear from this post, but in case it isn’t, I do think that British guy was a bit of an arse…

Also, the United States permanent representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, wisely stayed out of the kerfuffle.

April Fools’ Greetings from the Russian Foreign Ministry!

I found this excellent post on a blog I follow… Seriously, listen to the recording (there is English around 0:30 if you don’t speak Russian). It’s nice to know Foreign Minister Lavrov has such an excellent sense of humor! Also, to hear the recording, you’ll have to go visit the full post by clicking on the title below. I can’t figure out how to embed that in my own post, thanks to Facebook’s confusing interface!

Dispatches from the Asylum

Leave it to Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, for a little humor on this April Fools’ day.

(Skip to the 0:30 mark for English)

“You have reached the Russian Embassy. Your call is very important to us. To arrange a call from a Russian diplomat to your political opponents, press 1. To use the services of Russian hackers, press 2. To request election interference, press 3 and wait until the next election campaign. Please note that all calls are recorded for quality improvement and training purposes.”

Choice!

Photo credit:  I, Sailko [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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A Century After the Russian Revolution, Will Putin Bury Lenin?

So reads the headline of an article published at Royal Russia last week. Here are some choice excerpts:

The embalmed corpse of Vladimir Lenin, whose seizure of power following the Bolshevik Revolution sealed the fate of the Romanov dynasty and ushered in more than 70 years of communist rule, lies on view in a squat stone mausoleum just outside the Kremlin walls.

Amid intermittent calls from Russians to put Lenin in the ground, Putin — who is often described as pragmatic — may have been weighing the possibility for years. And 2017, the centenary of the revolution, would seem like the time to do it.

For one thing, burying Lenin could drive home the message that revolution is bad.

He criticized Lenin last January, accusing him of planting a “time bomb” beneath the state and sharply denouncing brutal repressions by the Bolshevik government. Putin went further when he denounced Lenin and his government for brutally executing Russia’s last Emperor along with all his family and servants. “Why did they kill Dr. Botkin, why did they kill the servants, people of proletarian origin by and large? What for? Just for the sake of concealing a crime,” Putin said during a meeting with pro-Kremlin activists.

Others have gone further. Natalia Poklonskaya, a Russian lawmaker and former prosecutor in the Russian-imposed government of Crimea, lumped Lenin together with Hitler and Mao Zedong as “monsters” of the 20th century. And ultranationalist Zhirinovsky has called for Moscow’s Leninsky Prospekt — Lenin Avenue — to be renamed after Ivan the Terrible.

In a reference to the Bolshevik Revolution during his state-of-the-nation address on December 1, Putin said that coups invariably lead to “the loss of human life, casualties, economic decline, and misery.” He warned against “speculating on tragedies that occurred in nearly every Russian family” as a result of the revolution — a warning, at least in part, not to try anything like it again.

There’s more to the article, so you can go read it if you want. Also note that the reference of Natalia Poklonskaya lumping Lenin with Hitler and Mao was discussed on this very blog last year.

As for my personal opinion, Lenin’s burial is long overdue. I’ve despised the man for years. They should cremate him and scatter his ashes in an undisclosed location as was done to Hitler’s body after his suicide in 1945. If that was good enough for Hitler’s remains, it’s good enough for Lenin’s.

(Do I think this is going to happen? Honestly, no. But I can hope!)

The Rehabilitation of Nicholas II By Natalia Poklonskaya

I’ve been a fervent anti-Communist ever since I was old enough to know what Communism is. This fact surprises some people, especially when they find out that I put years and years of effort into learning to speak Russian. I suppose they think that a love of the Soviet Union led me to study Russian. Even though it’s been gone for twenty-five years, it still looms large in many people’s imaginations.

The thing is, though, the Soviet Union was never what led me to Russian. It was imperial Russia—specifically, the imperial Russian family of the doomed last tsar, Nicholas II, and his wife and five children. They were what initially sparked my interest in the Russian language. (I feel like there’s a certain irony in that the form of Russian I learned is slightly different than what they spoke. After the Bolsheviks seized power, they enacted a wholesale orthographic reform of the Russian language. Certain letters were removed from the alphabet and the spellings of words were changed. Even some grammar was changed. As a result, I can read the pre-Revolutionary Russian, but couldn’t reliably produce it myself since I have never learned the spelling rules that were used at the beginning of the twentieth century.)
Continue reading “The Rehabilitation of Nicholas II By Natalia Poklonskaya”

7 Reads on the Radar

My friend J.T. has a fabulous new blog concerning books on Russia, which is one of my favorite topics. This is the latest post on said blog, concerning upcoming books on Russia. They all sound so interesting that I couldn’t help but reblog it!

Russia Reviewed

One of the “benefits” of Russia’s resurgence as a global power is that there is no shortage of new Russia book releases. Here are seven books scheduled for publication this year that I can’t wait to peruse.

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Review: Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia

Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia
Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia by Marshall I. Goldman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, this was a REALLY good book. I appreciated how fair and balanced it was towards Russia. Usually, books written by Westerners are so anti-Russian that they ignore facts. (See: Edward Lucas’ work and Masha Gessen’s work, among others.) This book was overall very fair and balanced.

In particular, I wish I could force every Russia-watcher to read Chapter 5, titled “Putin Takes Over: The Return of the Czar.” Specifically, the section starting at “The Attack on Yukos” is very, very informative and important. This section makes some important points, namely: 1) Pretty much everyone who got rich in Russia in the 1990s did so illegally, so in this sense Putin’s prosecution of Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky was unfair, and 2) Khodorkovsky certainly was not the angel he’s been portrayed as in Western literature. He stole people’s money in the 1990s when his Menatep Bank folded (I’ve had Russia watchers tell me this never happened, but it did. The author of this book, who is definitely not pro-Putin, agrees with me and cites actual sources.) He was probably involved in some contract killings—if not directly, then by turning a blind eye to his subordinates who perpetrated them.

The author also dis-spells the myth that Khodorkovsky wanted to reform Russian business and make it transparent and “normal,” for lack of a better term, as it is in the United States. Westerners think this means he was a good businessman, crusading against corruption. Not so, according to the author. Instead, he says Khodorkovsky embraced rule of law so that no one could do to his business empire what he did to acquire it (i.e. steal it). For reference, this passage is at location 2136 in my Kindle edition of the book. I don’t have actual page numbers, unfortunately. In a somewhat delicious irony, this didn’t help, and Khodorkovsky was arrested and his business broken up and sold.

Anyway, that’s just one example of many from this book that’s so fascinating. The author really does a good job of keeping balanced. To continue the Yukos example, he criticizes the Russian government for jailing Yukos lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina, which I don’t fully agree with either.

The only criticism I could mount is the author’s position about the 1999 apartment bombings that let to a re-ignition of the Chechen War. He gives more credence to the theory that the FSB planted the bombs in order to blame them on the Chechens than is warranted. I am familiar with the theory and think it’s completely wrong. I suppose the author and I would have to agree to disagree on this. It is because of this that I downgraded the book by one star—otherwise, I probably would have given it five stars.

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Russian Politician Suggests Burying Lenin’s Body

I kept forgetting to blog about this excellent news I saw at the end of last year, so here it is, a bit late. (But better late than never, right?) The Royal Russia blog (one of my favorite sources for all things Imperial Russia-related) has a story about a Russian politician who has suggested burying Vladimir Lenin’s body. Right now, Lenin’s embalmed corpse lies in a mausoleum on Red Square. Yes, it’s just as disgusting and gruesome as it sounds.

Russian State Duma Deputy Ivan Konstantin Sukharev – a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) – has introduced to the State Duma, a bill urging his colleagues to resume the debate on the burial of Vladimir Lenin and the transfer of his body to one of Moscow’s cemeteries. His bill also calls for the elimination of the cemetery where prominent Bolshevik and Soviet officials are buried near the Kremlin wall in Moscow.

According to Sukharev, the purpose of drafting the bill is necessary – “for the creation and promotion of the new symbols of Russia, reflecting the historical stage of unity, awareness of national identity of Russians building a democratic state, free from the domination of ideology – whose symbol remains Lenin’s mausoleum.”

“Russia cannot be considered a modern civilized state as long as a corpse remains in Red Square – the main square of the nation – the existence of Lenin’s mausoleum is simply unacceptable. Further, the misery and deprivation which Lenin’s actions and policies brought down upon his people and the state are incalculable,” – said Ivan Sukharev.

He also notes: “In my view, Lenin in the history of Russia is quite unique. We know that during the 22-year reign of Nicholas II, that Russia’s population increased by 60 million people. After Lenin seized power the nation experienced revolution and a Civil War, the population decreased by at least 30 million – clearly a very negative statistic in the history of our nation. ”

The bill also notes that many descendants of immigrants who wish to return to our country, are so far unable to do so, identifying the mausoleum of the Bolshevik regime leader that had brought so much suffering to their families.

“The proposal to bury the remains of Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) has long been supported by the hierarchs of the Church. Further, the existence of Lenin’s mausoleum is incompatible with the religious traditions and Russian society’s growing desire for Christian values” – is also stated in the draft law.

I for one fully support burying Lenin once and for all. Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen, though. This isn’t the first time politicians have talked about it.