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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
May 19, 2016

Publication: Windows on Eurasia
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
A Real Novosibirskite Carries a Siberian Passport and Avoids Moscow, One of Them Says
Staunton, VA, May 19, 2016 -- One of the most important underlying factors in Russian life is that ethnic Russian identity is fragmented, with local identities often far more important for ethnic Russians than the Moscow-promoted “Russian nation.” But for obvious reasons, the central Russian media seldom discuss and pollsters avoid even asking the question.

That makes especially important statements emphasizing this fact by people in the regions of the Russian Federation invariably described by officials and commentators as “predominantly ethnic Russian”. One of those, from a blogger in Novosibirsk, appeared on the web this week.

On her LiveJournal page, Olesya Valger writes that “a Novosibirsk resident doesn’t feel himself to be a Novosibirsk resident because to be such is just as natural as to drink water, breathe air or walk on one’s legs and there is no need to call this natural condition by some sort of special word."

Her city, Novosibirsk, is “the default setting” for its residents, just “as Rome was for the ancient Roman.” To ask such a person to rank his or her city thus reflects “unenlightened ignorance” of reality. Novosibirsk residents never feel out of place because they carry within themselves “an inner Novosibirsk” – and the world recognizes that.

According to Valger, “the world is always to receive the gift of a part of that mythical Novosibirsk” where people are inventing new nuclear technologies and “every child learns the Mendeleyev table in kindergarten.”

She says that “the Novosibirsk resident is free from complexes. He never takes part in arguments about ‘the capital of Siberia’” because he is confident of where he lives and “all cities around are beautiful – Tomsk is no worse than Paris and Krasnyarsk no worse than New York” but “it is simply that none of them is the equal of Novosibirsk.”

Someone from Novosibirsk doesn’t want to be in Moscow, she continues, because life there seems closed in – narrow streets, shallow rivers and streets that end rather than stretch to the horizon. He or she feels somewhat less alienated in St. Petersburg and often travels to that city or through it on the way to Europe.

Moreover, people in Novosibirsk don’t understand prejudices. “To be a xenophobe in Novosibisk is approximately the same as criticizing spots if you are a giraffe.” The city’s residents are “settled nomads who only recently put their suitcase on the balcony and come from elsewhere “for thousands of reasons.”

Some descend from “hunters and merchants,” others from military groups and exiles, resettlers, travelers, “those who were repressed and those who did the repressing, immigrants from other countries, from villages, and from other Siberian cities.” But being a Novosibirskite is not about genetics; one can become one “immediately upon arrival.”

What is especially important, Valger says, is that the city’s residents are “autonomous” and believe that “the best government is one which they don’t notice” just as “the best house is one where one doesn’t hear one’s neighbors.”

“It is easy to recognize a Novosibirskite in an airport,” she continues. He’ll have “in his hands a white-blue passport ‘I’m Siberian’ and an apple green ticket” on any airline but Aeroflot because Aeroflot doesn’t pay taxes in his city.” And after a brief talk with him, Valger concludes, “it will become perfectly obvious: Novosibirsk is the best city on earth.”
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
1997 Treaty Gave Moscow Right to Send Army into Crimea Before Referendum, Chizov Says
Staunton, VA, May 19, 2016 - A senior Russian diplomat has just come up with a justification for Russia having sent 9,000 military personnel into Crimea before the Moscow-organized referendum that is likely to backfire on the Russian government in its relations with any country with which it has a military agreement.

Vladimir Chizov, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told Deutsche Welle that Moscow’s dispatch of these troops even before the vote that led to the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula as something it had the right to do under a 1997 treaty between Moscow and Kyiv.

According to that agreement, the Moscow diplomat said, “Russia received the right to a military presence in Sevastopol,” where its Black Sea Fleet is based, and to the presence “throughout all of Crimea “of not more than 25,000 personnel.” At the start of the Crimean “crisis,” there were only 16,000 Russian forces. Moscow thus had the right to send 9,000 more.

When these forces were originally introduced, however, they were dispatched without any indication of their nationality on their uniforms and became the notorious “little green men” that formed part of what has become known as Russia’s “hybrid” war in Ukraine. But it has been clear from the outset that these were Russian forces.

Vladimir Putin admitted as much in his April 2014 “direct line” program and even expanded on it in the course of the film “Crimea. The Path to the Motherland.” But in both cases, he justified his dispatch of Russian forces there not in terms of a treaty right but as a step made necessary by the need to “block and disarm” Ukrainian forces on the peninsula.

Chizov’s claim of such a right, the latest of the evolving set of Russian explanations for what happens, is disturbing because it suggests that Moscow may use treaties it has with several other post-Soviet countries about basing rights to introduce forces in this way to destabilize their governments or even seize territory.

His words are all the more likely to have such consequences because of his response to another Deutsche Welle question. Asked whether Russia had made mistakes in recent years, Chizov said that “no one is perfect.” But then he added in what some will see as ominous the following words:

“If one examines the post-Soviet period,” the top Russian diplomat at the United Nations says,, “then one of the mistakes which Russia committed or more precisely the Russian leadership of that time was that it has made too many concessions to Western partners.” That is “a mistake,” the Kremlin clearly wants to “correct.”
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Putin Admits Russian Media ‘Cooking’ the News, Zaidman Says
Staunton, VA, May 19, 2016 -- Last Friday, Vladimir Putin not only made an amazing admission of what he and his regime have been doing in the information sphere but also introduced an aphorism that is likely to survive him just as Viktor Chernomyrdin’s phrase “we wanted better but it turned out like always” has outlived him, Izrail Zaidman says.

In his message on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the All-Russian State Television Company, the Moscow commentator notes, Putin praised its staff for breaking “the information monopoly” that he said “certain of our opponents” have had in the world’s media.

The success of Russian television in that regard, the Kremlin leader continued, has prompted Western outlets to denounce everything pro-Moscow Russian media do as propaganda. But in a related statement at the branch of Russian television in Sochi, Zaidman says, Putin unwittingly admitted that such Western charges are true.

“What I especially want to note is the following,” the Russian president said. “First, your news tapes. They undoubtedly enjoy the great trust and interest of the people, above all because they are true, full of content and interesting. I imagine how difficult it is to do that – to work constantly and cook up these information blinis on the stove.”

On this point, the Moscow commentator says, Putin “was absolutely right.” Cooking up the news on a constant basis and “without leaving the stove “is not so simple.” But from his perspective, it has “a colossal advantage” compared to traditional journalism: “one can cook up any ‘information.’”

Others have done this on occasion in the past, Zaidman continues, “but only under Putin has it achieved its real breadth and aphoristic definition.”

“In dull democratic countries,” he says, “one has to search for, collect and sometimes unearthing information … but what you will find and how it will turn out for you is something you can’t know in advance. But in authoritarian regimes, as [Putin] has explained to us, information is cooked like blinis” by those which by inertia are still called “journalists.”

In such systems, “there are no surprises; everything is prepared to order.” That has been obvious since the start of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, Zaidman argues, with Russian “journalists” constantly putting out stories that had no basis in reality but were intended to mislead.

But Putin’s words last Friday raise a question: why has he suddenly decided to be so open? “Is it a sign of repentance?” Unlikely given his style. Or “perhaps it is the first sign of senility?” – but he is still relatively young. “Most probably,” the commentator suggests, “it is simply bravado,” the actions of “someone without any moral constraints.”

Anyone who has doubts that Putin has made an important admission, however, need only consult the story as carried by RBC. But one thing is obvious, Zaidman concludes, Putin has now introduced two new terms into the Russian language –“infoblini’ and “Putin’s infoblini” – that are likely to outlive him.
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Will the Kremlin Move Against Ekho Moskvy Next?
Staunton, May 19, 2016 - Over the last five years, Vladimir Putin has moved to rein in or even destroy a dozen of Russia’s formerly more independent media outlets, most recently RBC. And that prompts the question: whom will the Kremlin leader go after next?

While Putin sometimes appears to have acted or reacted to something this or that outlet released that he or his entourage did not like, in many cases, there has been a campaign by the opponents of that outlet that has sought to pressure the Russian president to take actions. Indeed, he often has been able to position himself as simply responding to the complaints of others.

Consequently, it is vitally important for those concerned about media freedom and the Putin regime to keep track of what such outlets known to be close to and to have influence on the Kremlin are saying because they may provide important clues and advance warning of what Putin will do next in “tightening the screws” on the media in Russia.

An article on Aleksandr Dugin’s Eurasian portal may be just such an alert. One of the influential Eurasian leader’s acolytes, Yevgeny Datsun, has written a very disturbing piece this week entitled “Whose Interests Does the Radio Station ‘Ekho Moskvy’ Serve and Why haven’t Measures been Taken Up to Now?”

As Russians become ever more united and consolidated around their leader, the Eurasian commentator says, there will always be people found who for one reason or another will seek to limit or even reverse that trend. Some are motivated by envy, pride, or ambition, but often it is because they have sold out to the West.

One can read on the Internet the explanation for some, he says, “’Yes, we are against Russia; yes, we are for the US and for the dollars’” we get. Anyone who doubts this is a factor need only look for himself, Datsun says. And the evidence of this betrayal is especially great in the case of the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

This institution shouldn’t be calling itself a radio station, he continues, but the fact that it calls itself “the echo of Moscow” is telling: “An echo, as a physical phenomenon, reproduces certain sound waves but as a rule distorts them.” That is precisely what Ekho Moskvy is doing in getting its directives from the West.
The best way to understand Ekho Moskvy, the Eurasianist argues, is to view it as “a black box” inside of which there is a certain “algorithm” paid for by Western money that ensures that when any event happens, the station will process it via that algorithm and put out a distorted version of reality.

It has done that throughout the Ukrainian crisis. It has done so in the cases of terrorism inside the borders of the Russian Federation. And it has done so on a wide variety of issues, Datsun says. This should not come as a surprise because it is “a black box” which has been created to “manipulate” the consciousness of Russians by “reducing critical thought” by putting out “absurd” arguments” and “distorted information.”

As such, it can’t be changed; it can only be broken up along with “the algorithm” supplied by the West, he suggests. One can only fear that Putin may be listening and won’t see that what Datsun is accusing Ekho Moskvy of doing is exactly what pro-Kremlin media are doing according to a different “algorithm” the Russian state has supplied.
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