Kim Kardashian, a “blonde in chocolate?”

I’m tired of being asked by Russians about Kim Kardashian.  Paris Hilton too for that matter.  To make matters worse, both are viewed as being each other’s friend so it’s a double whammy.

If you haven’t figured it out already, Russians love America and Americans.  They love to hate us too, and make no mistake about it, while for the average American it’s doubtful that Russia even exists, many Russians do go to sleep wondering what is happening now in America.

Take Kim Kardashian for example:  Why in the world is a major Russian news journal taking up it’s perfectly good paper pulp to devote large amounts of space for photos and gossip about her?  Okay, I understand that she’s Armenian and that gives her a certain amount of connection to Russia.

But on the other hand, she is Armenian, and that brings it’s own problems in white Russia.  Armenians are very dark complected and while they enjoy the status as being “not as bad as Georgians” in Russia, it’s not exactly a welcoming recognition either.

So wanna know what I think?  I don’t think it’s as much to do with her Armenian blood as the fact that she is American.  An American girl who dates black guys.  Okay, make that an Armenian-American girl who dates black guys.  Even worse to most Russians!

But then along came Barrack Obama who enjoyed a majority vote to win the US Presidency.  So, now there’s even more fascination for a culture transplanted from Europe where its okay for white skinned people to be accepting of dark skinned persons, and vice versa.  Wow, now we’re popping eyeballs all over Eastern Europe.

Or do you think it’s just her boobs?


No, I don’t.  Because there are Russian, Ukrainian, and Armenian women in the FSU even more beautiful than Kim Kardashian.  Don’t get me wrong, Kim is a very beautiful young lady. But the reason for the fascination goes beyond her “form” as Russians call it.  They can relate because she’s Armenian, but they’re fascinated because she’s American!

Just in case you have any doubt about the combination of fascination and at the same time dislike, take a look at this: Ким Кардашьян, тусовщица без определенных занятий и подружка Пэрис Хилтон, начала свои карьеру со сканджала. Когда Ким бросила своего парня Рэй Джей, младшего брата певицы Брэнди, ради другого, Рэй Джей обиделся, и теперь грозится продать их секс-видео. Учитывая, что Ким ничем и не была известна, кроме как соучастница делишек Пэрис Хилтон и любительница черных парней, ее можно поздравить. Для Пэрис обнародование подобной записи послужило началом ее карьеры мировой знаменитости. Ким повезло еще больше: ей, вообще, ничего не нужно было делать, судьба сама определила ее в ранг звезды… хоть и с сомнительной репутацией.

Brief translation: Considering that Кim is not known/talented for anything on her own, except for the friendship of Paris Hilton and “любительница” (a lover) of black guys, she is to be congratulated for finding stardom and celebrity by any means, even of a bad reputation.


Nor is this very complimentary: Американская светская львица, подружка Перис Хилтон и дочь известнейшего адвоката Ким Кардашьян – самая отвязная девчонка, ее жизнь сопровождается постоянными скандалами, один громче другого. Она аналог нашей “блондинки в шоколаде” Ксении Собчак… только она совсем не блондинка и масштаб ее похождений намного больше… да, и формы намного апетитней…

Brief translation: her associations with Paris Hilton have made both Kardashian and Hilton to be блондинки в шоколаде, “blondes in chocolate.”   That unfortunately, is a racial slur.


So, do they love her or hate her? 

Both.  Were she to wander around a Moscow street after dark half the population would wish to stone her and the other half would want to get her stoned and then…

It’s a love-hate thing.

It will be fascinating to see what Russians think of America the first time Mr Obama decides to travel to Russia.


(Photos and Russian comments, Komsomolskaya Pravda, 19 November 2008 edition.)



Back in the USSR

“Oh, show me round your snow peaked
mountain way down south
Take me to you daddy’s farm
Let me hear your balalaika’s ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm
I’m back in the USSR
Hey, You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the USSR.”   
(The Beatles)



That’s the increasing feeling one gets from watching events unfold in the not-so-former Soviet Union. Pardon the plethora of puns, but the most recent nuclear submarine accident was just the latest tip of the iceberg coming from a Russia hell-bent on sprinting head first to a return of authoritarian rule. 


You remember those Soviet days, don’t you?  After any international embarrassment the authorities would quickly single out an individual who ultimately was fingered as responsible for the mishap.  Disregard the woeful state of technology, the lack of training, or the bureaucratic bungling which always contributed to a disaster, and so it went that somebody was labeled as the fall guy and went down with the ship.


Just about any disaster, in any realm of Soviet life usually unfolded more of less like this:

1) Investigation announced.

2) Rumor of someone who has confessed, often even before the investigation has been opened.

3) Prosecuting the fall guy.

4) Official isolation and shunning of those directly involved with the incident, regardless of guilt or innocence.

5) Return to business as usual with no change in the system which caused the problem.


In regards to the recent accident at sea and the death of 20 persons on board a Russian submarine, naive Russia watchers will quickly point out that the “Nerpa” was a new and supposedly modern sub, outfitted with the latest Russian technology.


That is a very naive assumption, but for some the idea is plausible that the actions of one individual must somehow be responsible. Never mind that 208 people, that’s almost three times more than a normal crew, were on board a crowded nuclear submarine for this test voyage.  Disregard the fact that with so many observers on board there weren’t enough breathing kits (Freon gas was responsible for the deaths) for everyone on board.


Here is what we do know.  The K-152 Nerpa is an Akula II class nuclear attack submarine.  It uses Freon gas as a fire suppressant backup system to its first-option foam fire suppressant.  There is one case of a similar Russian accident in 1976 on a K-77 sub which released Freon into the wrong compartment.  The Nerpa uses the same fire fighting system as the K-77 subs did in the 1970s. So much for the myth of “modern Russian technology.” The deadly 1976 accident was due to the fire suppressant assembly being mislabeled at the factory.


Since the 1976 accident Russian subs have been modified to require someone in the Command Post to override and enable the controls so that the system could be operated manually at the local point of fire to pump Freon gas into a compartment, thus requiring more than one person to for such an action. Under such a system, unless it was one of just another in a long line of Russian failsafe systems which failed to live up to it’s purpose, the Russian claim that the accident was solely the work of one individual rings hollow.


So far the Russians have portrayed this as an ultra modern submarine out for trials and the accident was supposedly caused by one individual who has already confessed.  Well, that’s a nicely packaged story, but some fairly significant details are missing. 


What the Russians are less than keen to point out is that construction on the K-152 Nerpa began at the Komsomolsk-na-Amur shipyard in 1993 but lack of funds halted the work for a decade. The vessel was mothballed until 2004 when the Russian government agreed for the Indian Navy to take over the project to completion for eventual lease to the Indian Navy.  The Indians planned for an early 2007 launching but further Russian delays caused the Nerpa to be transferred to the Russian Vostok shipyard in the closed city of Bolshoi Kamen not far from Vladivostok for retrofitting. If the name Bolshoi Kamen sounds familiar, that’s the city where shipyard workers blocked the Trans Siberian railway until the Russian government paid back wages a few years ago.   





After its birth in 1993, the K-152 Nerpa was finally launched in October 2008 but almost immediately returned to the yard for further repairs because the metal seams were leaking!  At 15 years old and almost 2 years behind schedule for it’s handing over to the Indian Navy, the Nerpa had finally begun running sea trials in the Sea of Japan when the accident occurred on 8 November.


For such an accident to occur just prior to the pending lease of this sub to the Indians is a worldwide embarrassment for the Russian military infrastructure. The trials in the Sea of Japan were only a test of systems before the Indian government takes delivery with an Indian crew already training in St Petersburg.


The 20 deaths of 3 Russian sailors and 17 civilians certainly must give pause to the government in New Delhi.  The Indian government has already paid for the vessel’s completion and an additional $650 million over a 10 year lease is a lot to pay when it’s unclear about the true condition of what one is about to receive.


Meanwhile back in Russia the old Soviet patterns have begun to emerge:

1) Investigation announced.

2) A quick pronouncement that a sole individual has confessed.


Now begins the waiting game to see if Mr. Putin’s government will follow the familiar Soviet playbook as the rest of the story unfolds.