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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Russian Language Tips

•20/11/2014 • Leave a Comment

Russian language

One of our favourite tasks at the Mendeleyev Journal is to help aspiring students learn more about the Russian language. That being said, we invite readers to take advantage of our resources here at the Journal:

- The Cyrillic alphabet.

- Russian grammar.

- The Mendeleyev Journal directory of Russian language resources.

- Learning to read Russian signs.

- Learning Russian words and phrases.

- Learn all about Russian names.

Another great way to gain understanding of the Russian language is via localized sources and in this edition we turn to Sophia Tupolev. Sophia is a Russian-American, a seasoned expat in Moscow, and founder/director of the Russian Conversation Club. The club meets each Sunday, by advance invitation, and gives participants the opportunity to practice using the language in a friendly setting.

Sophia is also the Russia representative for American Citizens Abroad, an expat rights group, and most of all she is a fluent speaker of the language. We really enjoyed her recent article in the Moscow Expat Life magazine titled, Five Key Russian Words to Unlock the Soul.

Sophia suggests that the five words to unlock the Russian soul include Ремонт (pronounced reh-mont) meaning ‘renovations.’  Завтра (pronounced zavtra) means ‘tomorrow.’ Можно (pronounced mozhno) means ‘May I’ or ‘You may.’ Дача (pronounced dacha) meaning ‘country house” and the fifth word is Maмa (pronounced mah-mah), the woman who brought you into this world.

Sophia explains these terms and their unique place in Russian language, and the mysterious Russian soul. You may read the full article here.

If you’d like to know more about the Russian Conversation Club, check out the video below:

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Ukraine Elections: Voters Continue to Turn West

•28/10/2014 • Leave a Comment
Ukraine elections

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko spent election day with troops in the East.

From the Guardian Liberty Voice:

Ukrainian voters continue to look west, choosing to elect a new parliament that gives President Petro Poroshenko the opportunity to form a government committed to continuing the process of looking westward, as much of the country seeks to adopt European standards and values. Exit polling on Sunday indicated that Poroshenko will be shed of the former Party of Regions dominated parliament of ousted ex-president Viktor Yanukovich.

Ukrainian voters also rejected the idea of a majority of hard-line nationalist leaders, preferring instead to allow those minorities to have a place in parliament, ut without control. Polling data indicates that the People’s Front party of Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, a Poroshenko ally, also did well in the voting. Ukraine’s parliament is called the Verkhovna Rada, or Rada for short, a single-house legislative body with 450 seats.

Most of the three million residents living in the contested Eastern republics claimed by pro-Russian rebels were not allowed the opportunity to vote.

Read the entire article here.

As preliminary numbers began to emerge, President Poroshenko made a statement thanking Ukrainians for participating in the election, saying that he had asked citizens to vote for a democratic, pro-Ukrainian, reform-minded and pro-European majority. He thanked voters for hearing him and supporting his call.

Poroshenko had flown by helicopter to the town of Kramatorsk, a city recently liberated from pro-Russian rebels. He inspected two polling stations after first visiting fortified installations where members of the Ukrainian army are still fighting to liberate Ukrainian citizens in the area.

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First snow of 2014 – Первый снег

•19/10/2014 • Leave a Comment

first snow a In some Russian traditions, the first snow is delivered by angels; special angels sprinkle the first snow over a town or area. So, it was a pleasant exchange yesterday when a reader sent along a “first snow” greeting from Saint Petersburg.

To outsiders it may be difficult to understand why Russians welcome the beginning of winter weather. Oh, to be sure, we lament the ending of pleasant summer weather and the activities that we can enjoy in summer. But, the first signs of winter remind us that before too long the New Year will arrive. The New Year celebration is our favourite holiday.

Then today another reader, this one from Kirov, announced their first snow. A few hours later a reader from Nizhniy Novgorod informed us of snow there. Just before our publishing deadline we received reports of snow in Murmansk, Yaroslavl, and Astana. Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan. So, with this many reports of Первый снег, could this be the start of a trend?

For readers who study Russian language, this is a good time to acquaint you with some key Russian winter phrases:

Русская зима = “Russian winter” and sounds like Rus-skaya zi-MAh.

Первый снег = “First snow” and this sounds like pyer-viy synek.

Another favourite tradition is to thoroughly clean house rugs with the first good coat of snow. A common practice is to gather up those small rugs from inside an apartment, and take them outside to be cleaned in the snow. Some housewives hang their rugs out to catch the snow, but more often you can see rugs being laid  face down on the show, and then a good “beating” with a broom is administered. While this may seem superstitious to some, the snow that was under the rugs does get quite dirty in the process–so perhaps there is some logic to the practice.

With that, we will join the refrain and wish you С первым снегом (with the first snow!).

 первым снегом = "first snow."

первым снегом = “first snow.”

 

 

Photo: Olga Strakhova in Nizhniy Novgorod.

Photo: Olga Strakhova reported the first snow in Nizhniy Novgorod.

 

More Russian Orthodox Media Choices

•06/10/2014 • Comments Off

moscow 2 237 edIt is nice to see that the number and quality of Russian Orthodox media choices is growing. To serve readers, we have updated our page on Orthodox media and invite you to visit–and listen!

The Mendeleyev Journal Orthodox media page is here.

Are Sanctions Against Russia Working?

•02/10/2014 • Comments Off

Putin

A common question is whether the sanctions against Russia are working. So, are they? In a word, yes. During a Moscow investment conference in Moscow on Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin told attendees “…conditions have become more complicated, but, as I have already said, this stimulates us to concentrate our resources and choose the best solutions, to achieve our goals in the shortest possible time and to work more efficiently in all areas.”

When Mr. Putin says that conditions are more complicated, even he is admitting that sanctions are having an impact. As to inflation, at least in part caused by retaliatory sanctions that Russia has levied against the West, Putin tried to deflect the issue by saying that inflation was really only in the food sectors and therefore very limited. His own admission on inflation however, is revealing: “…by the end of the year it will be around 7.5-7.6, about 8 percent, which is higher than last year (it was 6.5 percent in 2013).”

Certainly one can read forums and articles in which so-called experts claim that Russia will be just fine, and that the West will be the real loser at the end of the day. Wrong. Fools are born every minute, and some have the titles or positions of experts, but that does not change their foolishness. Most of those “experts” have spent little time in Russia.

When one looks at the issue of agriculture and food, in some sectors Russian dacha owners still give professional farms a run for their money. In the month after many European and North American food products were banned, the average Russian shrugged it as if they could survive without those things. They can of course, but over time we are sensing that they do not want to do without certain things in life.

But it is not just food that has been impacted, as rising monetary inflation is felt by every Russian, but as of yet has been left largely unspoken. The loss of purchasing power is having an impact as the government has made a conscious decision to use its only real assets against Europe: oil and gas. The Ruble has fallen over 20 percent this year against the dollar. That impacts every aspect of life from a trip to the market, to a trip overseas. Inflation or currency devaluation have the same net result–chipping away at the purchasing power for consumers.

Putin

The Russian government claims that sanctions will drive the economy to become more independent. Self reliance from the West was the same sad song during the Soviet period, and that didn’t work out too well then, either. The definition of insanity remains the same–the idea of doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result. Russia could well develop a more robust agrarian economic sector, but Russia must fundamentally change in order for a truly grassroots economic base to develop and mature.

It was the American founding father Thomas Jefferson who said that farmers are “the most valuable citizens.” Jefferson understood that hard work, unconstrained by a suffocating government, was the best way to build a self-reliant and sustainable local economy. It is a lesson that our Russian friends have yet to learn.

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