Mother Russia ☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭☭

Wolak editing note: Make sure posting partner is ID'd and that they give a write up and analysis of how these links tie to our lenses of focus -- political, social, economic or culture....You DO NOT have to keep the "Man like Putin" CD cover if you don't want.

Complete History of the Soviet Union

Political Life in Russia...for now...

Russian Economy on the Rise?

Putin or No Putin? That is the Question.

Taylor's Section

Echo No More?

When a journalist asked a question on the rights of journalists, the Russian Government responded by sniping his dog and sending him and his family to a vodka plantation in Siberia
Since Putin took over Russia has been one of the worst places for journalism . Since the year 2000, 14 journalists have been murdered because of their work. Since Putin was elected television stations lost their independence and became controlled by the state. One radio station that is not owned by the state is called Ekho Moskvy which is a liberal radio station where many individuals who were blacklisted by the state television can freely speek out. One may wonder why the government would want to control the media outlets so tightly. The main reason for this is so that the people of Russia can continue to trust in the government. If they do not hear any bad news about their government, they will not know that anything is wrong with it. By having the government censor the media they can place a positive spin on their ideas which causes people to continue to support them. Censorship by the Russian state is not just political, but rather, it has ramifications over all of Russian society.

Russians rally for Vladimir Putin- and 2 days off work

As Putin runs for his third term as president in March he is almost certain to win, but he is facing a strong  challenge to his authority from a large crowd of protesters. Many of the participants are those who are payed by the state and others attended because they received 2 days off work and $67. This group of 30,000 to 130,00 protesters rallied because they do not want Putin to be president for another term, but Putin discredits the protesters as being paid agents of the U.S. trying to weaken Russia. He also states that many people want him to return as president because of the economic boom that occurred during his presidency. With an approval rating of 81% of 2007, it is difficult to believe that thousands of people would gather to protest against him. This protest was not the first one caused by Putin, on December 4, 2011 many Russians protested against electoral fraud that was being committed by Putin. Also, there have been several protests involving the anti-democratic control of the media outlets in Russia. This shows an interesting part of the political culture of Russia. Many Russians are now demanding a more fair government, rather than simply being happy with stability.

Vladimir PUTIN: international pen thief

Moscow surrounded: Holding hands 'for fair elections'

After a week of rallies, this flash mob surrounding Moscow is peaceful with only a few raised voices. The people at this rally were protesting for fair elections. Even though they many political parties were represented in this flash mob it remained peaceful. In the 2008 Russian election, some believed that Putin had won unfairly. Accusations of campaigning next to polling stations, transporting of voters, and intimidation of voters. Politically, the allegations of election fraud are beginning to hurt Putin's prestige, since many people now assume that the election was a forgone conclusion.

Russian Flash Mob: Artist's Interpretation

Putin Speaks for Investment in Defense

Russia has always struggled with its economy. Recently, Vladimir Putin has decided that an investment into the defense sector will help the economy. This is quite different from what previous presidents have done. For example, Yeltsin has used shock therapy which  refers to the sudden release of price and currency controls, withdrawal of state subsidies, and immediate trade liberalization within a country, usually also including large scale privatization of previously public owned assets. He also used "bottom-up" privatization, in which new private firms are established and grow. These economic measures do not always work, and in the case of Yeltsin, they lead to a new class of plutocrats, yet it is clear that Putin does desire to see an improvement in the Russian economy, even if it is only so that he can remain popular.

Tyler Spears

Old Habits Die Hard? by Tyler Spears
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, preparing to assume the presidency once again, has been warning the public of plots that may soon come to light, such as opponents of the long time unopposed leader plotting to kill a top opposition leader or stuff the ballot boxes and claim that it was Putin himself. Being called a KGB style conspiracy, the former KGB agent could very well be covering his own tracks, already repeatedly accused of election fraud, Putin would be able to pass off possible election fraud on the opposition with an announcement like this. This is typical of Russia politics as corruption runs high. Other opinions on the matter can be difficult to discern due to the one sided media coverage in the Russian Federation.

The Gay Say Won't Stay by Tyler Spears
The Russian Parliament recently passed a law which banned the "...dissemination of generally accessible information capable of harming the health and moral and spiritual development of minors" that discusses the LGBT community or that which promotes it. This is similar to many laws that have been springing up in the most conservative areas of the world such as the Middle East. This is, however, not in line with the much more liberal approach to the LGBT community within Europe which accepts the LGBT community pretty readily. This again calls into question Russia's identity as it struggles to define itself as Western or Eastern. This trampling of human rights again raises the cultural question: what is Russia exactly and what will they do with its people?

Russia in the Red by Tyler Spears
The new president of Russia, likely Vladimir Putin, will face new budget woes and decisions going forward in their six year term. During his years as Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin was able to double government spending while keeping the budget out of the red. Putin has made several promises for increased spending, especially in terms of social programs and going forward Russia is likely to face trouble like a miniaturized Greek crisis, making the country a risky place for investment and exacerbating the problem. Little has been done to create more government revenue and all these must be considered as the new president goes forward.

The last time Russia was in the Red

Best Friends: Russia and Georgia by Tyler Spears
Georgia recently eased the commerce between Russia and Georgia by eliminating the need for a visa to travel between the states in order to encourage investment in the small state. Often considered a near-abroad state by Russia, relations have been tense between Russia and Georgia culminating in a military action taken in 2008 by Russia. A key to good relations is good economics and this is a good move towards normalizing relations between Georgia and its former Soviet masters. However, it remains to be seen if the mere suspension of a need for visas will increase economic investment in Georgia or normalization in foreign affairs.

Russians: Not using visas to enter Georgia since 2008

hi I'm Nick, let me tell you about Russia

Putin Refuses to Budge on Syria Issue
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently remarked that "I strongly hope that the United States and other nations will learn from the sad experience and won't try to resort to a forceful scenario in Syria," in regards to efforts by the United Nations to stage an intervention of Syrian President's Bashar al-Assad brutal repression of protests on by the Syrian people. Putin's decision to block UN intervention is motivated by political concerns, as Syria is one of Russia's only allies in troubled region. Russia can not be seen to abandon her allies easily, for then it will be harder for her to win over new ones.

Putin Survives Third Assassination "Attempt"
It was recently reported that an accidental bomb explosion in Chechnya had Putin as the target. Those responsible had allegedly intended to detonate the bomb near Putin's motorcade and kill the current Prime Minister. This marks the third time shortly before an election that Putin has escaped death at the hands of an assassin. Some Russians have denounced the story as an attempt by Putin's propaganda machine to boost popular support for himself for the upcoming election. 
Noted Chechen Rebel Joz Wilkovon Boothokorvsky

New Political Structure in Russia Upcoming?
The former finance minister of Russia, Alexei Kudrin, has expressed belief that in the next ten years, Russia's political structure will experience a drastic change, mainly as a result of a bill passed by the Russian Parliament that makes it easier for political parties to register. He believes that this will lead to a large increase in political parties, but it will take some years for the full effects of this bill to manifest. In the meantime, it remains to be seen just how much the people of Russia will take advantage of this new change. Given how most of Russia is claimed to be a "silent majority," and that only a vocal few are truly discontent with the current political system, it is entirely possible that this bill will lead to very little change.
 Prokhorov Decides He'd Rather Be Partying
Russian presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov decided to leave the hard work to his assistants so that he could take a trip by helicopter to his estate in the French Alps. Prokhorov's aids said that after the difficult campaign, he needed time to relax. Prokhorov also mentioned that he believed the Russian president needed to come from the elite. In a nation commonly called an oligarchy and where most of the population is worse off than they were under the Soviet Union, this is probably not the most effective campaign strategy. In fact, Prokhorov embodies many qualities the Russian people hate and have hated for centuries now - members of the rich elite that throw money around like they don't care tend not to earn the respect of the poor. It should come as no surprise then that many political analysts believe that Prokhorov has little to no chance of winning the election.

Prokhorov's proposed modification to the Russian flag was equally poorly received by the Russian people, despite being endorsed by New Jersey Governor and state stereotype Chris Christie

☭☭☭☭☭ Comrade Khan's Russia Report ☭☭☭☭☭
Putin the Peacemaker
Americans tend to see the world as two-sided. There is a good side: the world of capitalism and liberal democracy lead by the USA and her allies. And there is a bad side: the world of cronies and tinpot dictators, motivated by self-gain, haters of freedom. Americans typically lump Putin in with the latter, painting him as friends of such men as Hugo Chavez or Ahmadinejad. That, however, is not the truth. The truth is that the world is very complicated, and so is Vladimir Putin. Putin is a pragmatist, and is concerned with maintaining his power. He knows that as the leader of Russia, he must seem strong, and that is why he rants against the US and flaunts the EU. If he didn't, he would be seen as a weak foreign stooge, like his predecessor Boris Yeltsin. However, he also realizes that he can only hold power in the long run if he does bring genuine improvements to Russia, and he knows that he can only do that with the cooperation of the west. Our simplistic world view prevents us from realizing this. We focus our efforts on the rising dragon - China - effectively putting all of our foreign policy eggs on one basket, despite the fact that Russia has the most nuclear arms and the most resources of any nation and the fact that China's economic future looks just as shaky due to the one child policy. The US should increase our cooperation with Russia for the good of the Russian people and for the good of our nation. By doing so, we will likely end up politically and economically bolstering Putin, but that is a fair price for improving the lives of the Russian people.


Putin: Opposition to Stuff Ballots,0,4730123.story
While Russians and much of the West are keen to accuse Russian PM Vladimir Putin of rigging the election for the presidency of Russia in his favor, Putin has gone on the offensive to claim that the opposition is doing just that. While at first this seems like a ridiculous statement, in reality it is a calculated attack by Putin, who rarely speaks without thinking (in many ways, he is the anti-Joe Biden). While many Russians of Moscow and St. Petersburg are against Putin, who they see as corrupt and authoritarian, many outside of the urban zones see Putin as a strong leader and the last defense against corruption and the chaos of the 1990s. By claiming that the opposition will be the ones stuffing ballots, Putin can instill a sense of fear in these people, who value the relative stability that Putin has brought to the Russian people by being the most effective Russian leader since Khrushchev. This social cleavage between the well-off Muscovites and the rest of Russia could remain a wedge in the future, especially if Putin declines to run again after his upcoming term as president.

What Will Russia's Next President Do?

GOP Candidates or KGB Plot to bring down America?

It is clear to almost everybody that PM Vladimir Putin will be the next president of Russia. What is unclear is what he will do with this power. Putin could claim a democratic mandate, and use it to squash the anti-government protests that peaked in December and January but have persisted ever since. Or, he could introduce reforms, token or real, to placate the protestors in an attempt to keep his hold on Russia strong. Personally, I expect him to do the latter. Putin, in my opinion, is a cut above amateur dictators like the late Muammar Gaddafi, Robert Mugabe, or North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un. Russia has been described as a "Saudi Arabia with Snow" (or nukes, depending on who you ask) and I expect Putin to follow the Saudi royal family's playbook on how to deal with protestors. Like the Saudis, I expect Putin to attempt economic and bureaucratic reforms to increase the revenue brought in by the government from the result of the sale of oil and natural gas. With this revenue, he can initiate a new wave of social programs: infrastructure, health screenings, education reform, et cetera. The Saudi government has done this time and time again. And its not just the Saudis. Besides the inarguably insane Gaddafi, no oil-rich nation in the Middle East was touched by the Arab Spring, despite the weaknesses inherent in many of them, such as Algeria. They managed to spend their way out of trouble, and I expect Putin to try the same. How effective he will be, however, remains to be seen. The Arab oil states often have small populations concentrated in a small number of areas, and thus are easier for their rulers to monitor. Russia is a vast expanse, full of greedy local politicians, mob bosses, tycoons, and others who would seek to stir up trouble. Russia's political culture is one in which many of the people are less concerned about rights and more concerned about being able to get by, as seen by the communist nostalgia present in many areas.

Belarus = Russia's Pakistan
Russo-Belarusian relations are shaky at best and volatile at worst. Belarus is often described as the last true dictatorship in Europe, and the dictator in question is Alexander Lukashenko, a nomenklatura farm manager during Soviet Era turned despot. Lukashenko's grip over Belarus makes Putin's hold over Russia look weak - Lukashenko doesn't bother with any notions of democracy. On the other hand, he has spared Belarus from the instability that has plagued the former USSR, and Belarus today has the highest living standards in the Commonwealth of Independent States, the group of nations (including Russia) that once made up the USSR. At the beginning of the 2000s, he enjoyed strong relations with Putin, but for the past few years the Kremlin has distanced themselves from the leader that they view as unreliable and self-interested. Russian state tv even produced a documentary comparing him to the Nazis. However, lately tensions seem to have thawed a bit, perhaps due to mutual reliance on resources and mutual distrust of the EU. Nevertheless, Belarus is to Russia as Pakistan is the the US, sort of. Like Pakistan is to the US, Belarus is historically allied with Russia and can be very useful, but the relationship is soured by politics and ethnic tensions. Russia seeks to reign Lukashenko in, just as the US seeks to have some control over Pakistan's generals, but the fate of both relationships is yet to be determined. Socially, however, most Russians and Belarusians do think that they should have a better relationship, which puts the pressure on their governments to do so.


Gaddafi's Ghost Haunting Vladimir Putin Claims Russian Dissident
Alexei Navalny, noted Russian blogger and dissident who was featured in our Russia packet, has claimed (presumably symbolically) that the ghosts of Libyan leader Gaddafi are haunting Putin. Navalny is noteworthy for being one of the few strong opposition figures to Vladimir Putin, and by referencing Gaddafi he is showing his desire to depose Putin, just as the Libyan people got rid of Gaddafi (with much western help). Navalny also claims that Putin is corrupt, greedy, cunning, and responsible for the mismanagement of Russia's resources. Navalny has emerged as an opposition leader through the use of technology (he has never held office), a factor that shows the changing social and political culture in Russia as it adapts to new technology.
Ghost of Colonel Gaddafi: Artist's Interpretation

USA - overstepping its bounds
In the run-up to the Russian presidential election, PM Vladimir Putin has written a "7,500 word opus" about his beliefs, mainly on foreign policy, for a Moscow newspaper. The opus includes sections on the UN, Egypt & the Arab Spring, North Korea, and Iran. Putin claims that the UN must make sure that member nations don't overstep the provisions laid out by UN resolutions, in a jab at America, which Russia perceives as going beyond the UN by not just enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya but also pushing for the removal of Colonel Gaddafi. When talking about the Arab Spring, Putin is quick to note that its results are chaos and sectarian violence. Putin himself does not want an Arab Spring in Russia, and thus has to argue against the Arab Spring elsewhere. When discussing North Korea and China, Putin emphasizes cooperation and accuses the United States of being too antagonistic. All of this rhetoric is written to make Putin seem tough and independent of the US, and hopefully win vote for him in the upcoming election. Grandstanding and nationalism are quite potent political tools in Russia, and a leader who is seen as weak doesn't have much of a future.


North Korea, which is under the leadership of Kim Jong-un after Kim Jong-il's death, has recently announced that it would halt all new nuclear weapons tests in exchange for food aid and a renewal of the Six Party talks. The Six Party talks are the talks that involve the six nations most concerned about the Korean peninsula. Both South Korea and North Korea are there, as well as the People's Republic of China, the United States of America, Russia, and Japan. Russia, like the People's Republic of China, supports North Korea but does not want to see a nuclear war on the peninsula, nor does it like all the crazy musings of the North Korean leaders. Russia, thus, is in favor of anything that keeps the status quo, which the Six Party talks will most likely end up doing.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Russia's refusal to cooperate in finding a solution to the Syrian crisis is "frustrating" and "troubling". The US and the EU are in favour of intervention in Syria. Not necessarily militarily, like in Libya, but intervention in the forms of aid, pressuring al-Assad, and potentially arming the rebels. Russia and the People's Republic of China vetoed a draft resolution calling for the removal of Assad in the United Nations Security Council recently, which is in line with the policies of Russia and the PRC of not infringing on the national sovereignty of certain states. Russia wants to win allies, and if they claim to support sovereignty, they many third world dictatorships will be more willing to support them than the US, which sold out its second largest ally in the Middle East - Mubarak's Egypt. Russia also has economic connections with Syria, mostly through the trade of arms.