Karl Marx in Moscow

•22/07/2015 • Leave a Comment

Despite all the changes, some things remain the same in Russia. A few years ago the term “democracy” was amended to “managed democracy,” the government’s way of sugar-coating the scrapping of direct elections for regional leaders. Today, the term “democracy” is considered to be a four-letter word.

While capitalism, still very much the wild West style, rumbles on for those at the top, the country continues to find itself with one foot in the old ideology of Marxism-Leninism, and the other foot in the race to make more and more money for those with the right political connections.

Despite all the talk of change, the grand statue of Karl Marx remains standing across from the Bolshoi Theatre, near the Teatralnaya Plaza and Metro station, and opposite the Plaza of the Revolution.

Karl Marx monument, Moscow.

While the monument to Marx has stood at this location since 29 October 1961, the first monument to the discredited theorist was unveiled by Vladimir Lenin on 7 November 1918, commemorating the first anniversary of October Revolution. Lenin’s “Program of monumental propaganda” was touted to replace statues from the Tsarist era.

The original statue was nearby, on Revolution Square, which had just been renamed from its former title of Resurrection Square. The first monument featured Marx and Engels together, and due to the design quickly led locals to dub it “Two in a Bathtub.”  That statue, made of plaster of Paris, collapsed a year later, and so a new marble stone was set at the present location to show where a new monument would be constructed.

Communism wasn’t exactly the economic engine that Marx had prophesied, and so construction languished–for decades. The single marble stone at the new site read: “First stone of the monument to the great chieftain and teacher of the world proletariat.” It would be in 1957, long after Lenin’s death, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced a competition to complete the monument, and the job was awarded to Lev Kerbel, a favoured Soviet realism sculptor.

In 2009, officials with Moscow’s Committee for Monumental Arts proposed that the monument be removed from such a prominent spot in the centre of the city. The committee argued that the founder of communism had no place in Moscow since he had never visited during his lifetime.

Others have suggested that a life size statue of Vladimir Putin would be more appropriate at that site, but at least for now that idea has been tabled. Engineers say that the monument is one of the heaviest in Moscow, and therefore very difficult to move.

On the statue is an inscription reading: “Proletariat of all countries, solidarity!” At least some of the proletariat, in the form of local birds, visit the spot daily and are clearly united by showing their respect in the form of droppings on his head. It is as if the only human workers who remain united with Marx are the city maintenance crews who are dispatched to clean the statue daily.

Given the substance of his ideas, perhaps it would be just as well to allow the bird poop to accumulate.

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Russia: Buying or Selling a Home

•16/06/2015 • Comments Off on Russia: Buying or Selling a Home

In recent weeks, several readers have inquired as to real estate prices in Russia, and specifically in relation to the ongoing economic crisis in Russia. The housing market is depressed, and in the words of real estate investors, it is a “buyers” market at the moment.

To give some perspective, we snapped this photo while riding on the Moscow Metro last night.

Moscow Jun2 2015 Z 1113 ed To give some perspective, we snapped this photo while riding on the Moscow Metro last night. Granted, this is not a development in the centre of Moscow, but it is a brand new development just outside the Moscow Ring Road–a very popular place to live in the Moscow suburban areas.

Amenities include a gated community, 24 hour security on-site with swimming pool, golf privileges nearby, and fitness facilities. There is a supermarket adjacent to the development and a kindergarten already built inside the development. These homes feature large kitchens, playgrounds for children, plenty of green space including a park with trees, and a parking space assigned to each apartment. Brand new brick construction with modern insulation will make these homes to be energy efficient.

Price: 2,9 million rubles (just under $53,000 USD).

The ruble continues to struggle, having dropped another 1.9% over the past three days. We are guessing that this price will torpedo the notions of big money for some who hope to sell an older flat. On the other hand, it will perhaps encourage some readers to invest at this time of low prices for homes.

Metropolitan Jonah Released From the OCA to ROCOR

•16/06/2015 • Comments Off on Metropolitan Jonah Released From the OCA to ROCOR


For our readers interested in the Orthodox Church in America, this is good news.

Originally posted on Orthodox in the District:

His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, then Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in St Catherine's, the OCA podvorie in Moscow, with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate. His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, then Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in St Catherine’s, the OCA podvorie in Moscow, with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate.

Dear friends in Christ,

It is with a glad heart full of rejoicing that I share with you that earlier today Metropolitan Jonah received a signed letter of official release from Metropolitan Tikhon and the Synod of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) releasing him to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), First Hierarch of ROCOR, has been notified that the OCA Synod has, at long last, made good on their promise to release Metropolitan Jonah. Vladyka Jonah is thus received into ROCOR’s jurisdiction as a retired Metropolitan.

This means that, at long last, Metropolitan Jonah will be free to serve wherever he is blessed…

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The Future of Russia’s Neighbors

•11/06/2015 • Comments Off on The Future of Russia’s Neighbors

A lot has been made of the “reverse sanctions” imposed by the Putin government against Western, and specifically Western European, food products. The nation of Belarus has and continues to be a large supplier of agricultural products to Russia. In spite of many attempts, the Russian agricultural sector continues to lag behind even smaller former Soviet republics.

While one can hear many complaints from the government about banned food gaining entry to Russia via the Eurasian Customs nations such as Belarus and Kazakhstan, the complaining is in reality for show. Those products help keep the inflation of food costs from rising even more rapidly and keeping a ready supply on store shelves.

Moscow 10 June 2015 189 ed

These are carrots imported from Belarus and were purchased yesterday from a large Russian supermarket.

Not only are they very tasty, but are of very nice size. In fact, the quality and size strikes this writer as being even superior to many Western vegetables.

In traveling the Russian countryside, the main source of farm tractors are generally manufactured in Belarus. It is a somewhat backward country in many ways, but one with great agricultural potential in spite of its small size. Belarus, along with Kazakhstan, is one of the Eurasian Custom Union’s founding members.

What do you think about the future of Russia’s closest neighbors?

70th Anniversary of Victory Day in Russia

•10/05/2015 • Comments Off on 70th Anniversary of Victory Day in Russia

Victory Day logo v

It felt different. It looked different. It was different. The Moscow observance of Victory Day has historically been the trendsetter for other regional celebrations. Not this year, however. Sure, there were bands and the parade with tanks, there were speeches and salutes, veterans were given flowers and there was the festive atmosphere in city parks and squares just like all the other years.

Victory parade 2015 air

But, this year was different. Lively but at the same time muted, and perhaps even a little deflated. Russia has isolated herself from most of the Western world and the collegial atmosphere and shows of good will from other nations, even neighboring states, was nothing as in the past.

Victory parade 2015 Red Square

As for size of the parade, it was larger than normal and that was to best expected for the marking of the 70th anniversary. It was the largest military parade in the history of Red Square, with 16,000 servicemen, 194 units of land-based military equipment and 143 aircraft and helicopters employed in the parade.

Victory parade 2015 helos

To make up for the non-shows by many usual world leaders, Moscow invited some 2,000 veterans, more than usual, to sit in the parade stands on Red Square.

Victory parade 2015 Asian vets

This year’s most honoured guest was Xi Jinping, president of China who was accompanied by his wife. Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army of China marched in the parade. Other world leaders who attended included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Raul Castro of Cuba, and President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Victory parade 2015 China pres

After the parade,Russian president Vladimir Putin laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden. In some previous years the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers has taken place prior to the parade.

Victory parade 2015 b

Victory Day in Russia, Prelude

•09/05/2015 • Comments Off on Victory Day in Russia, Prelude

Aside from the growing list of world leaders who will not be attending the annual Victory Day celebration on 9 May, and besides the embarrassing breakdown of one of Russia’s heralded new generation tanks during a practice run on Red Square, the lead-up to the official day of celebration has been fairly routine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow, 8 May 2015.

Chinese President Xi Jinping with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow, 8 May 2015.

Of consequence is the fact that Chinese leader Chinese Xi Jinping is the honoured guest this year, a marked change from previous celebrations. Russia and China are cooperating more closely for two simple reasons: China has money to lend, and Russia needs to borrow.

On 8 May, a meeting of the heads of CIS states was held at the Kremlin, and while billed as just an informal gathering, it was anything but informal. In his remarks to those gathered, Russia president Putin accused the West of rewriting the history of the second world war, although he offered no basis for that assertion.

Meeting of CIS states, Moscow Kremlin, 8 May 2015.

Meeting of CIS states, Moscow Kremlin, 8 May 2015.

This year’s president of the CIS is President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who recently won reelection in Kazakhstan. He garnered some 96% of the votes according to the Kazakh Election Commission, and is in reality Kazakhstan’s president for life.

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.

During the day, leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union agreed on goals and set a common agenda for 2015–2016. The countries pledged to continue the creation of a common electricity market in the Eurasian Economic Union, and changes to standardize motor trucking services across member states. Members announced a free trade agreement with Vietnam and additional financing contracts for funding from China.

At the close of the meeting, Kyrgyzstan became the latest Eastern nation to join the economic bloc.

Meanwhile Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met with several veterans group. He paid a special visit to one veteran, Ilya Kalashnikov Krasnoseltseva. Russia is still fulfilling a decades old promise to provide adequate housing for veterans of the war.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during a visit to veteran of the Great Patriotic War Ilya Kalashnikov Krasnoseltseva.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the home of veteran Ilya Kalashnikov Krasnoseltseva.

Russia’s full celebrating of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war with Nazi Germany will be celebrated on Saturday, 9 May.

Victory day May 2015 a

Nazarbayev Reelected in Kazakhstan

•29/04/2015 • 1 Comment

(From http://www.eurasianet.org)

The results of the April 26 presidential election in Kazakhstan offer a good illustration of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s aversion to what he described last month as “forced democracy.” He won reelection with almost 98 percent of the vote.


The election victory for the 74-year-old Nazarbayev, who in addition to the presidency also holds the official title Leader of the Nation, came on a record turnout of 95.22 percent, according to preliminary results released by the Central Electoral Commission the morning after the vote.

“Kazakhstan has demonstrated its high political culture and democracy to the international community,” Nazarbayev told supporters during the evening of the election.

At a subsequent news conference, the president professed to be embarrassed by the Soviet-like level of voter support for his reelection. “I apologize that for super-democratic states such figures are unacceptable: 95 percent participation and more than 97 percent [of ballots cast for him]. But I could do nothing. If I had interfered, I would have been undemocratic,” said Nazarbayev, who has led Kazakhstan since before the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Nazarbayev trounced two little-known challengers – Turgun Syzdykov of the government-loyal Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan, who received 1.6 percent of the vote, and Abelgazi Kusainov, a member of the ruling party led by Nazarbayev, Nur Otan, who trailed with 0.7 percent.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement released on April 27 that a “lack of genuine opposition limited voter choice.”

“The incumbent and his political party dominate politics, and there is a lack of a credible opposition in the country,” Cornelia Jonker, the head of the OSCE mission, stated. There were also “significant restrictions” on freedom of expression and the media environment.

Nazarbayev has regularly cautioned that the democratization process in Kazakhstan needs to be carefully managed in order to preserve domestic stability. Nazarbayev has defended Kazakhstan’s democratic record in the past: once remarking that in terms of democracy, “our glass is half or three-quarters full, and we have to fill it up.”


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