Ask Sophie and the Key2Moscow

•18/12/2014 • Leave a Comment

If you want to learn more about Russia or about learning the Russian language, just “Ask Sophie.” This popular feature continues to grow, and host Sophie Tupolev is providing great resources for adding to your knowledge on all things Russian.

We are very pleased that the popular “Ask Sophie” website has added the Mendeleyev Journal to their resources on learning Russian language, and about Russia in general.

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Sophie also writes a regular column for Moscow Expat Life magazine and she is the driving force behind the Key2Moscow blog which is a lively guide to just about everything happening in Russia’s capital city. The Mendeleyev Journal is adding several of her insightful features to our language and cultural resource pages.

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Russia: Constitution Day

•13/12/2014 • 1 Comment

On the Twelfth day of December, my true love gave to me a copy of the Russian Federation Constitution. Sort of has a ring to it, right?

It is the twelfth day of this month that marked “Constitution Day” in Russia. Russians call it день Конституции, and frankly most of them have never read it.

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The Soviet Union had a constitution too, and most of the Soviet populace understood that it meant little to their ordinary lives, so please do not be surprised that most have not read this current one, either. The document became the law of the land in 1993 after a nationwide referendum, and until the middle 2000s, the day was an official national holiday.

The Levada Centre has released a nationwide poll showing that most of Russia’s citizens believe that it is a good document, but most seem to have only a basic knowledge of the contents, nor have read it. That is hardly surprising, and we might guess that similar results could be said of any number of Western countries. The poll found that only 12 percent of those asked claimed to have a working knowledge of the contents.

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Levada reported an increase in the number of Russian citizens who trust the Constitution to enshrine their rights and liberties. Last year that number was 29 percent and has since grown to 38 percent in 2014. For many, the Constitution does not matter in everyday life. The same polling firm in April of 2010 reported that a majority of Russian preferred “order” over the concept of democracy, so perhaps such attitudes are to be expected.

2013 was the twentieth anniversary of the Russian Federation Constitution and at a gala celebration, President Vladimir Putin remarked that,“Our people made a historical choice in favour of the Constitution at the referendum on December 12, 1993. Russia got a directly effective document that allowed us to avoid the tragedy of the dissolution of our state, helped stop the devastating spread of civil confrontation, and prevented the nation from once again descending down the path of settling political accounts, as had already happened several times in our history.”

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Mr. Putin went on to say last year that The Constitution opened a new, constructive path to development on the basis of clear goals, intentions and values. And today, we have every right to state that all the constitutional norms and provisions are in demand. You can open any chapter or article in the Constitution to see this for yourself.”

The Russian Federation Constitution is made up of two sections which are divided into nine chapters.  Readers may click on any of the chapter links below for a English version of each chapter.

SECTION ONE

Chapter 1. The Fundamentals of the Constitutional System

Chapter 2. The Rights and Liberties of Man and Citizen

Chapter 3. The Russian Federation

Chapter 4. The President of the Russian Federation

Chapter 5. The Federal Assembly

Chapter 6. The Government of the Russian Federation

Chapter 7. The Judiciary

Chapter 8. Local Self-Government

Chapter 9. Constitutional Amendments and Revisions

SECTION TWO

Concluding and Transitional Provisions

Given the state of the world today, each of us should re-read our own Constitutional documents, and then demand that our respective leaders follow what they have sworn to defend. It would not solve every problem or cure every evil on the planet, but it might be a nice start.

We hope that this piece will educate readers about what is contained in the RF Constitution, including our Russian friends and neighbors. Perhaps each of us can learn something in the process.

Thank you,
Mendeleyev

Ukraine Celebrates Armed Forces Day With New Tanks

•07/12/2014 • Leave a Comment

This Saturday was the Day of Armed Forces in Ukraine. Many Ukrainians sent good-will wishes from across the country to troops stationed in the Eastern war zones. Some posted messages on social media sites, others did so in texts, and some sent their greetings by video.

The Ukraine – Russia Conflict in Social Media

•03/12/2014 • Leave a Comment

Never count out the power of social media as one of the most important propaganda tools at this point in history. The Russian security services have the edge in this battle as they’ve been at it longer than Ukraine.

The photo below bears the message that Russia and Ukraine is one. One people/nation with one history.

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History may grant them a brief nod, but in what matters–relationships–Ukraine has never been allowed to step out of Russia’s shadow. Call it a “Shotgun wedding” if you must.

For readers just joining the search for truthful information on this conflict, the flags of these two countries will help you understand the photos: Ukraine’s flag is blue/gold and the flag of Russia is white/blue/red.

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Russian propaganda wastes no time in reminding the world, and Ukrainians, that Ukraine is the little one (and therefore weaker), which of course explains why the weaker brother/sister is in need of constant protection from the bigger, and of course much wiser, Russia.

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Democracy is the real enemy, according to the Russians who feel immune from such silly Western ideals. Besides, if they do not need it, then neither do Ukrainians. Russians truly believe that they are protecting Ukrainians from the West.

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Oh, those silly and mindless Ukrainians. According to the Russian pig at the left, Ukrainians are traitors.

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Most Ukrainians yearn for democracy, for transparency in government, and the chance to live with European ideals of justice and economic freedoms. On the path to Europe (Европа), from their viewpoint the only thing standing in their way is Russia.

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Not to be fooled by a coup which was followed by a referendum at the point of a gun, Ukrainians are angry at Russia for stealing Crimea.

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As Russia continues to sent in thousands of troops to back up ethnic Russian terrorists operating in Eastern Ukraine, most Ukrainians want to sweep those invaders out of their homeland. (The stripped bugs represent Russian soldiers, wearing the stripes of the ribbon of Saint George–a Russian victory symbol from World War II.)

The caption above promises that cleanliness promotes good health.

(Mendeleyev staff/Moscow, Russia)

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Ukraine sings a new song

•01/12/2014 • 1 Comment

This is a very powerful song, especially when you consider the history of these two nations. It has been said that it took a powerful dictator to turn Ukrainians against Russia. That is for the reader to decide.

Our first experiences in Russia revealed a common feeling across the land that viewed Ukrainians, much like Belorussians, as “little brothers,” who needed the protection of a big and wiser brother. Often that has translated into unchecked feelings of superiority–and one can see that being played out in politics and the war in Eastern Ukraine today.

To be sure, there will be those who will say that this song was a project of the CIA, or the EU, or whoever. What naysayers cannot deny however, is the sad truth that the bonds of brotherhood between Russia and Ukraine have been broken by aggression and war.

That makes this song not only powerful, but sobering.

First Anniversary of Euromaiden Protests in Ukraine

•23/11/2014 • 1 Comment
Photo: Ilya Varlamov

Photo: Ilya Varlamov

It was a year ago, on the night of 21 November 2013, that public protests began on Євромайдан (literally “Euro Square”) in Kyiv (Kiev), ushering in months of demonstrations and riots in the centre of Kyiv. Citizens swelled the streets, but unlike the Orange revolution of years earlier, these protests took on a violent character.

Protesters demanded closer ties to Europe and an end to the massive corruption of both present and past leaders. These events lasted for months and were widely misunderstood both in the near abroad and in the West.

The Kremlin responded with an immediate and very effective misinformation campaign, much of it outright lies, by the Russian media. Moscow’s man, Yanukovich, was in trouble and the Kremlin needed Ukraine to further the “Customs Union” Eurasian economic space.

Most of the Western media did not do much better.

From the Russian perspective my fellow journalist Ilya Varlamov summed it up best. His comments once the scene in January are below:

“I came to Kiev. I came to see for myself what is happening here. Of course, an hour after arriving at Maidan, you begin to understand that everything what you’ve read in dozens of articles, saw in TV news reports is total crap. In the upcoming reports I will try to, as objectively as possible, to sort out this new wave of Kiev revolution.

Usually reporters try to answer the question: “Who came out to Maidan and why.” Depending on the political leaning, the answers are different. Some say it’s “fascists who came out to lynch the Moscali (Ukranian derogatory for Moscovites and Russians in general).”, some say “they’re bums and slackers, who’ve got nothing better to do” and “instigators on the government payroll.”

In reality, there is no answer. Those who came out are completely different. Remember, how a couple of years in Moscow there was a buzzword “angry townspeople.” Here you see football fans, retirees, office plankton. And everyone is standing together. A sweet, ol’ grandmother is pouring Molotv cocktail in a nationalists’ bottles; and a manager of a large company is carrying ammunition to the student.

And as it seems to me at this time, these people do not have a specific plan, nor idea of what to do next. Of course, individually, everyone has their own plan to “save Ukraine.” For some its “we need a couple of crates of AKs and grenades, we’ll sort things out here quickly.” Others “need to ask the world community for help and bring in the UN troops.” At this time there is no central idea of what to do, an idea that can unite and point in one direction the people at Maidan.

The only thing that is completely clear – people came out against Yanukovich.”

Media tent on Maidan. Photographer Ilya Varlamov planted a Russian flag inscribed "I am Maidan."

Media tent on Maidan. Photographer Ilya Varlamov beside a Russian flag inscribed “I’m for independence.”

By February 21 the riot police were in retreat and the parliament impeached Yanukovych. It is often ignored, but the parliament that impeached Yanukovich was his own parliament from the Party of Regions. Ukraine’s parliament installed an interim government until new elections could be held. They also ordered that political prisoner Yulia Timoshenko be released from prison.

For months the Kremlin denied any involvement in escorting Yanukovich out of Ukraine. When he at first surfaced in Moscow, the Kremlin pretended to be surprised and swore that they were ignorant of his whereabouts. Today, Vladimir Putin matter-of-factly will tell you that the Russian government sent operatives in to get their guy, and brought him to Russia.

The confusion in Ukraine played right into Russia’s hands. Using the false pretext that somehow fascists were in control of Kyiv, the Kremlin moved into Crimea and then the Eastern regions of Ukraine. The money saved by no longer paying rent for naval bases in southern Ukraine was a significant factor. The action was supported by most Russians who had felt that the Soviet Union (they predictably blame Nikita Khrushchev personally so as not to assign any fault to the CCCP) had been wrong to award the former centuries old Greek/Ottoman Turk territory to Ukraine.

Today, Crimea has been annexed to Russia after the democratically elected Crimea government was sacked in an overnight coup and replaced with a non-elected government that immediately called for a referendum on annexation.

Despite the signing of a cease fire in Minsk to end the violence in Eastern Ukraine, Russian troops and equipment continues to pour into the region. Will be fighting come to an end? That largely depends on whether Russia intends to carve out a “land bridge” to Crimea from existing Ukrainian territory.

(Photos and quotes by permission of Ilya Varlamov)

Russian Tanks in Ukraine

•20/11/2014 • Leave a Comment

Despite all the protests to the contrary, there are indeed Russian troops operating alongside rebel forces in Eastern Ukraine. The exact number is difficult to determine but there are several thousand, with some estimates as high as 15,000 or more. While they arrive across the border from Russia in unmarked tanks, armoured carriers, and modern trucks, it is clear that they are part of organized operations to assist Russian rebels in the dismembering of Ukraine.

Russian president Vladimir Putin left the G20 Summit in Australia early after encountering strong criticisms from his world counterparts. In typical fashion, he denied the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine, just as he had at first denied any Russian military presence in Moldova, Georgia and Crimea. However, the denial act is just that, an act, and it is getting a bit old. Nobody is fooled anymore, except perhaps those who would rather fool themselves.

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephan Harper greeted Mr. Putin at the G20, he reluctantly said,“Well I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine,” Harper’s spokeperson Jason MacDonald confirmed that the Canadian PM had only reluctantly extended a handshake to the Russian leader.

In that spirit, the British Embassy in Kyiv (Kiev) tweeted a handy guide on how to spot which tanks belong to the Russian army. The tweet was a jab at the Kremlin, and rightly so. The hashtag read “ still denying ’s troops & hardware are in . Here’s a guide to help the spot its tanks:

Guide to Russian tanks

Even with hundreds of videos posted on UStream,YouTube, RUTube and other social media sites such as vkontake, the Kremlin seems to think that if they deny their military presence in Ukraine long enough, at some point the world will accept a lie as truth. Nothing could be further from reality.

Here is a civilian video recording of an unmarked Russian military convoy entering the Ukrainian city of Donetsk on the first of November:

The presence of organized Russian troops in Ukraine has continually escalated since this past summer. This video was filmed by Ukrainian civilians riding a public transit trolleybus near Luhansk:

Will we see a further push by Russia to establish a land-bridge to Crimea by carving up more Ukrainian territory?

Only time will tell.

Follow the Mendeleyev Journal on Twitter at: Mendeleyev Journal@Russianreport

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