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.

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Who Killed Alexander Litvinenko?

Alexander Litvinenko, date unknown.
Alexander Litvinenko, date unknown.

I read this fascinating article earlier this year (in the end of January), sent it to my mom in an email with extensive commentary, then very foolishly forgot to post it here on my blog. The article, which appeared in Newsweek—that’s a mainstream publication, mind you—is called Who Killed Litvinenko? Perhaps Not Russia After All.

(If you’re not familiar with the Litvinenko case, consider reading this Wikipedia article. It’s quite comprehensive, if a bit biased in certain places.)

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the Newsweek article. If you haven’t read it, you probably should or this post won’t make sense. 🙂

This is the only article I’ve ever read in the mainstream Western media that at least considers the possibility that the Russian state wasn’t involved in this. And the inconsistencies of the case are certainly interesting.
Continue reading “Who Killed Alexander Litvinenko?”

The Question Of The Week…

…is whether I should wade back into Russian politics again? Yes, I know I “retired” back in May, but I was rather bored today and thinking, maybe I should start doing that again. After all, I’ve been kind-of, sort-of reading about Russian politics during my lunch breaks during the past two months. Here are some of my random thoughts on the matter—thinking out loud, so to speak.

  • I think I have a pretty unique perspective on things, so why not share it. I mean, my opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s in the field, right?
  • Maybe I need to change my attitude towards the whole thing. I used to take my politics very seriously. It may be serious stuff, but one person like me probably isn’t going to be effecting change. If I approach it from a more casual perspective—as a neutral observer, maybe—it could be fun again.
  • Regarding all the negativity and hate from other people—well, as the saying goes, haters gonna hate. I’ll just ignore them. It’s not like other things I blog about don’t have their fair share of negativity, too. You’d think language blogging would be pretty innocuous, right? You’d be wrong. There have been some pretty nasty fights in the language learning blogosphere in the last couple of years. I just ignore the mean people and keep writing, as do a lot of the bloggers I read.
  • To continue that prior point, that means I’ll probably delete blog comments that have ad hominem attacks. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing, but you’ve got to back up arguments with actual facts. And yes, calling someone a “Kremlin troll” is ad hominem.* Saying “Your support of [the Kremlin/the Ukrainian government/Belarus/etc.] is wrong/based on flawed logic/etc.” is not.

What say you, wise and loyal blog readers? Let me know via the awesome poll embedded below.

*Personally, I think this term is ad hominem in any case. Even if you don’t agree with that, it is in mine specifically because the Russian government has never paid me anything, money or otherwise, to go on the internet and spout their point of view. First off, I criticize the Kremlin where I deem it necessary and second, I really doubt they know I exist. Though if they do: Всем привет!

Want To Read Anti-Kremlin News In Russian? It’s Possible.

A newspaper vendor in London. From here.
A newspaper vendor in London. From here.

Note: I was planning this post for today before I realized that it’s the eleventh anniversary of journalist Paul Klebnikov’s death. He was shot in Moscow in the evening of July 9, 2004. The publication he worked for, Forbes Russia, is on the list of anti-Kremlin news sources in Russian. Mr. Klebnikov produced some fantastic work during his life and I would highly recommend reading it.

I’m a big advocate of reading the news in the foreign language you’re learning. It’s okay if you don’t like political stuff. Pretty much any topic you can think of has news related to it. A lot of people like sports and entertainment-related stuff and Google News has sections for both of these in many foreign languages. Believe me, I’ve read my fair share of political news, and it does get old after a while, if you ask me.

Reading native media will also help you see what issues speakers of your target language deem important. For example, if you’re into sports, you can tell from reading the sports-related news in Russian that Russian people are REALLY into soccer (or football, for you European readers out there).

So anyway, I found this interesting link with the twenty most anti-Kremlin sites in Russian. For the record, many, many Russian-language news sites and pretty in favor of the current Russian government. At least, the more popular and well-known ones are.

Before I post the list, let me say this: if you’re learning Russian, I think you should read pro-Kremlin websites. If you’re pro-Kremlin, you’ll enjoy it, and if you’re anti-Kremlin—well, you know what they say about knowing your enemy.

That being said, I think it’s useful to know whether a site leans pro-Kremlin or anti-Kremlin. Based on an analysis conducted in March 2014 (which was a very politically contentious month), here are the twenty most anti-Kremlin websites.

1. Ekho Moskvy
2. Dozhd TV
3. Novaya gazeta
4. The New Times
5. Newsru.com
6. Radio Svoboda
7. RIA "New Region"
8. Slon.ru
9. RBK and RBK daily
10. Vedomosti
11. Snob
12. Rosbalt
13. Grani.ru
14. Yezhednevny zhurnal
15. Lenta.ru
16. Kommersant
17. Russky Zhurnal
18. Russian Forbes
19. Znack.com
20. Moskovskiye novosti

I’m pleased to say that I read Radio Svoboda (#6), RBK (#9), Rosbalt (#12), Kommersant (#16), and Forbes Russia (#18) on a regular basis. I read Vedomosti (#10) and Lenta.ru (#15) when I remember to, which varies from “often” to “not very much”. I listen to Ekho Moskvy (#1) podcasts and radio on a regular basis. Personally, I’ve never been much of a fan of Novaya Gazeta (#3) or The New Times (#4), as they’re a bit left-leaning for my tastes. As for the other sites on the list, I hadn’t heard of a lot of them before finding this list, so perhaps I will have to integrate them into my reading soon.

Needless to say, I read a ton of pro-Kremlin media as well. So don’t read too much (no pun intended!) into my choices. Mainly, I just want to learn as much Russian vocabulary as possible.

Alexander Bortnikov

While reading the Eurasia Daily Monitor yesterday (you can subscribe to it by email here), I came across this quote:

The visit of FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov to Washington in February (Newsru.com, February 20), the visit of Kremlin Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev to the North Caucasus the following month (Rbc.ru, March 11) and the recent visit of Sergei Smirnov to Tashkent all indicate that the Russian government is looking for a solution to the problem that the Islamic State organization poses for Moscow. As an ally of Bashar al-Assad, Russia isolated itself from all possible allies among the armed groups in the Middle East and from those countries that oppose the al-Assad regime. Moscow, therefore, is, forced to look for allies against a cruel and merciless enemy, and that enemy has now become the Islamic State.

I wouldn't want to mess with him! Found on the FSB website.
Alexander Bortnikov. I wouldn’t want to mess with him! Found on the FSB website.

I was surprised to see the bit about Bortnikov in Washington, as I didn’t remember seeing that in the news—but, as usual, the Eurasia Daily Monitor didn’t let me down. Alexander Bortnikov was indeed in Washington earlier this year. I’ve followed his career for a while—he’s head of the FSB, one of the post-Soviet sucessors to the KGB—and I can’t believe I missed seeing that he was here.

You can read more about his visit here, but the article’s in Russian. Basically, he was here for some anti-terrorism summit and said that as many as 1,700 Russian citizens may be fighting in Iraq on the side of the Islamic State.

Personally, I think this ought to mean increased cooperation with Russia, since we have a common enemy, but I’m guessing the people who actually make policy don’t see it that way. Oh well.

Putin, Nemtsov’s Murder, And The Russian Opposition

On February 27 of this year, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot and killed as he walked in Moscow near the Kremlin. According to this article, Russian investigators have said that Nemtsov may have been a “sacrificial victim.”

The first possibility, the Investigative Committee said, was that the murder was aimed at destabilizing the political situation in the country and Nemtsov was a “sacrificial victim for those who do not shun any method for achieving their political goals.”

This suggestion echoed comments by Putin’s spokesman and other Russian politicians that the attack was a “provocation” against the state.

The term “sacrificial victim” was also the same one Putin used three years ago when he warned that his political opponents were planning to kill one of their own and then blame it on his government.

This idea was so intriguing that I had to research it further. I found this article from February 2012, nearly three years earlier to the date Nemtsov was murdered.

Sounding as if he was quoting from a dusty KGB manual or a bad movie script, Vladi­mir Putin warned Wednesday that his opponents are prepared to murder one of their own so they can blame it on him.

[…]

“They are looking for a so-called sacrificial victim among some prominent figures,” Putin, a former KGB agent, told a gathering of the All-Russia Popular Front, a group organized to support him. “They will knock him off, I beg your pardon, and then blame the authorities for that.”

If you’re curious about other theories of who did it, this article has a summary of the five most popular. One of them has been discussed here. The other is that Putin did it. There are three other interesting ones on the list.

Basically, I find the idea that the opposition had him killed in order to discredit Putin to be so fascinating that I want to stick it in a spy novel that I someday plan to write. It may not be accurate at all in real life, but you can’t deny it makes for great fiction.

The Crimea Annexation Documentary

If you’re a Russia watcher, you’ve probably heard of the upcoming pro-Russian documentary film called Crimea: The Way Home [Крым: путь на родину]. The Russian TV station set to air it (as of now, there’s no air date) posted a short trailer on the internet this past weekend and the Russia-watching internet blew up (here’s one of many articles about this now-infamous documentary). You see, the trailer is basically just an excerpt from an interview with Putin in which he says that he planned to annex Crimea on February 22, 2014, after Viktor Yanukovych was deposed as president.

You can see the trailer (with English subtitles, hooray!) here. I’ve embedded it below, too, because it’s so important.

Why is it such a big deal that Putin planned the annexation from February 22? Because the actual referendum in which the Crimean people voted to join the Russian Federation took place weeks later.

The documentary looks really good. I’ll certainly watch it when it comes out. I’m probably one of the few people out there whose hobby is watching Russian propaganda films—but that’s why you read this blog, right?

Boris Nemtsov Feared Putin Would Order Him Killed

Nemtsov at a march in Moscow in 2013. Source
Nemtsov at a march in Moscow in 2013. Source

Prominent opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered late on Friday evening, right by the Kremlin. (Morbid and interesting fact: I’ve been to the very place where he was killed.) A little over two weeks before his death, he gave an interview in which he said he feared that Putin would kill him. The link is in Russian and the translation is mine.

She [Nemtsov’s mother] is completely against what is happening in Ukraine and considers it a catastrophe and complete nightmare. But Putin worries her more than Ukraine. Every time I call her, she says: “When are you going to stop criticizing Putin? He’s going to kill you!” And this is completely serious.

Unfortunately, her fears came true. Nemtsov is dead, shot four times in the back.

Вечная память.

Original text: Она категорически против того, что происходит на Украине, считает, что это катастрофа и полный кошмар. Но больше Украины ее волнует Путин. Всякий раз, как я ей звоню, она причитает: «Когда ты прекратишь ругать Путина? Он тебя убьет!» И это на полном серьезе.

Yuriy Sergeyev’s UN Speech

Remember waaaay back in March, when I asked if anyone had a video of the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN’s speech? Well, I actually found said speech on YouTube last week! No, I haven’t been looking for it ever since then. I forgot about it, then somehow followed a link and stumbled upon it. Here it is, if you’re wondering. It’s in English and Russian.

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Honestly, I’m weirdly thrilled that I found it. Also, Mr. Sergeyev speaks excellent Russian.