Navy Day and a new Nuclear Submarine for Russia

Sunday was Navy Day in Russia, a national holiday in Russia celebrated each year on the last Sunday of July. The Russian Navy, recognized by the Symbols ВМФ (VMF) is a branch of the Russian Armed Forces and dates back to 1696 when established by Peter the Great.

Navy Day, 2012

The regular Russian Navy fleets are the Pacific (headquartered in Vladivostok), Northern (Severomorsk), Baltic (Kaliningrad), Black Sea (Sevastopol) and Caspian Sea (Astrakhan) . Many spectators of Navy Day events wear the traditional black/blue and white stripes, uniform colours of the Russian Navy.

Navy Day parade, Saint Petersburg.

In Russia’s northern capital of Saint Petersburg, hundreds of residents and guests lined Admiralty embankment to wave and cheer for Russian sailors. This week Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov, Russia’s top Naval Commander, announced negotiations with Cuba, Vietnam and the Indian Ocean island country of Seychelles about the establishment of Russian naval ports.

Naval parade, Vladivostok.

Russian Navy Day celebrations began in 1939. This year Russia and Ukraine shared joint celebrations in the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol, the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Navy Missile Cruiser, the Varyag.

In Naval cities across Russia, celebrations included laying flowers at monuments to sailors, parades of naval ships, picnics in parks and city squares, concerts in the evenings and capped off with fireworks displays. King Neptune and his entourage are often a part of Navy Day festivities.

Navy and Marine cadets.

In recent years the Navy has sent ships to more foreign port cities, including India and as far away as the Philippine Islands. Officials say that these visits are meant to strengthen existing friendly relations and enhance understanding and cooperation.

On Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin participated in the commissioning ceremony for the Knyaz Vladimir nuclear-powered submarine. The ceremony was held at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk. The president promised that by 2020 Russia would have eight Borei-class submarines in operation around the world.

New Nuclear submarine ceremony was held at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk with President Putin.

Knyaz Vladimir is the lead ship of the renewed Borei-A class submarines with improved nuclear-missile weapons: each submarine will carry 20 Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles. Sevmash is the only shipyard in Russia that constructs nuclear-powered submarines. Over the course of its history, the plant has produced 128 submarines for the Russian Navy.

New Nuclear submarine ceremony in Severodvinsk with President Putin.

The Borei class submarine is intended to replace the Delta III, Delta IV and Typhoon classes now in Russian Navy service. The class is named after Boreas, the North wind. Construction on the first of the Borei class subs (officially designated “Project 935”) began in 1996.

Navy submarine, Vladivostok.

The Navy holds a place of special honour in the hearts and minds of many Russians. It was the Baltic Fleet’s battles on the approaches to Leningrad and its heroic defense during the Great Patriotic War that demonstrated the courage and ingenuity of Russian sailors in defending the homeland.

“Нас мало, но мы в тельняшках!”




Modern and ancient Russia, intertwined

One of the things to love about modern Russia is that by simply walking 60 to 100 yards to the left or right one can step back into time by a few hundred or even a thousand plus years, and then continue back into the 21st century in plenty of time for dinner.

Russia, 2012

Russia is home to some of the most important rivers in Europe. The Volga is the largest and longest of all European Rivers, traveling thousands of miles to the Caspian Sea. On the Asian side the shores of Lake Baikal mark the largest freshwater lake in the world while deep in Siberia are enormous taiga pine forests.

Iversky Men’s Monastery, Valdai, Russia.

The country is blessed with beautiful and ancient churches of which many are being returned by the government to their communities to again be used for local worship.

The grandeur of Russia.

Russia embodies some of the most beautiful pieces of European and Asian history with many UNESCO World Heritage sites across this great land. Moscow is the historical and business capital while St. Petersburg is considered as the cultural capital of Russia.

Their parents grew up without God, now there is a quest for rediscovery.

Christianity came to Russia from Byzantium in 988, and over the centuries has remained a fixture of the Russian culture and life. The Russian Orthodox church is largest autocephalous, or ecclesiastically independent, Eastern Orthodox church in the world. Over 70 years of Communism did not snuff out the Christian faith, although it tried.

Young woman takes time from the modern world for her timeless faith.

Some readers are surprised to learn that Peter the Great wasn’t of the House of Romanov. He was the Tsar who expanded Russia’s territory and opened the country to European politics, art and culture.

The Church on the Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg.

World-class art is on display in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery and St. Petersburg’s Hermitage. Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway connects east and west from Moscow over the Urals, thru Siberia and on to the Far East. By the time your journey ends at Vladivostok you’ll have traveled one third of the way around the world.

Product knockoffs in the former Soviet Union

Knockoffs can be found in almost any part of the world and the FSU isn’t about to be left behind when it comes to stealing a good idea. Starbucks immediately comes to mind–a Russian company held the rights to the name and while Coffee House, McCafe and others were making a killing, Starbucks sat on the sidelines for years as legal cases slowly drug their way thru the Russian courts. Today Starbucks can be found in the FSU, but they’re a baby still due to so much lost time.

One of the most common knockoffs is McDonalds, МcДональдс.

Not quite McDonalds in Ukraine’s Yalta area.

There was a rumour for awhile that McDonalds was considering the purchase of one Russian ripoff, McPeak, but they haven’t done so as far as I know.

McD….wait, Mak Duck?!

Another blatant knockoff is McFoxy, the Ukrainian ripoff of McDonalds.

Here, have a coupon next time you’re in Ukraine:

McFoxy is Ukraine’s version of a McDonalds knockoff.

McDonalds is suing McFoxy in Ukrainian courts.

Speaking of McDonalds and lawsuits, Mickey D recently won a land mark case in Russia, a case which observers say will forever change the Russian fast food market. For those who say that the entire Russian judicial system solely favours the home team, you may wish to think twice.

The Moscow Oblast Federal Tax Authority had set tax rates at 18% for restaurants. McDonalds sued, and won, by convincing the court that it is not a restaurant but instead, a grocery store/market for prepackaged foods.

McDonalds attorneys were able to successfully argue that their chain of stores provides no traditional restaurant services. Instead they sell preprepared and packaged food, when customers come in to order it. They were able to prove that most of their food is prepared in advance and the final packaging is completed as it is ordered by a customer.

If that a ripoff to Russian consumers? Well not really as smart businesses generally pass along increased costs and that is one cost that will not be “on the menu” however other restaurants will benefit from the same ruling. Now McDonalds, McPick, KFC, McBlin, Burger King, Wendys and many other fast food restaurants will enjoy the 10% sales tax instead of 18%.

Just in case you’re wondering, traditional restaurants will continue to pay the 18%.

Hmm…it’s not McDonalds!

We leave this report with a flashback to the day in 1990 when the first McDonalds opened in Moscow, a Canadian venture, so for this report we go to the archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

53rd anniversary of the famous “Kitchen Debate” in Moscow

Flashback to 24-25 July 1959: A curious relationship during the cold war existed between Soviet leader Khrushchev and U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon.

Mr. Nixon had arrived in Moscow to open the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park and as Khrushchev and Nixon strolled through the exhibit they paused at the model of a suburban American kitchen and it wasn’t long before a heated dispute broke out between the two men. Elliott Erwitt, a press photographer captured this famous photograph of Nixon jabbing his finger at Khrushchev in the debate. Nixon supposedly said: “We’re rich and you’re poor. We eat meat, you eat cabbage“. Khrushchev, who had a hair trigger temper, is said to have responded with: “Да пошел ты на х*й!”

Khrushchev and Nixon, Moscow 1959.

The American exhibit was an entire house was on display. It was a simple but efficient model that most Americans could afford and inside were various labor-saving appliances as a display of the American consumer market. The famous debate was recorded using the brand new technology of color videotape, pioneered in the U.S., and Nixon made reference to this fact; it was subsequently rebroadcast in both countries.

Famous “kitchen debate” Moscow.

Both countries agreed to broadcast the debate however Premier Khrushchev was skeptical that his part in the debate would be translated into English for American viewers. The Americans and Russians agreed to air the debates on national TV on the same date however the Russians wanted to wait until the excitement over the exhibits had died down as American home products embarrassed the Russians. Back in the USA however the big three major networks, independent of government control, felt that a delay was unfair as the debates constituted immediate news and proceeded to broadcast the now famous “Kitchen debate” on 25 July.

The US networks translated Khrushchev’s dialog and they were broadcast in full as promised. However when the Soviets decided to air the Russia language version of the debates two days later on 27 July, Nixon’s remarks were only partially translated into English and the Soviet broadcast was delayed until late at night.

Russian red caviar flavoured potato chips

Are there any limits on a Russian’s love for caviar?

We’ve seen no limits, in fact can’t think of a single Russian or Ukrainian who doesn’t love roe. If one or two exists, they’re hiding it well. Okay, last year we showed readers the Lay’s CRAB flavoured version of potato chips. Now it is time to kick the chip up a notch!

Red caviar flavoured potato chips.

красная = red “kras-naya”

икра = roe (caviar) “e-kra”

красная икра = red caviar “kras-naya e-kra”

Syria: Even with Ramadan the fighting continues

Update: Russian Ambassador to France Aleksandr Orlov floated the idea that Syrian leader Assad may be willing to step down if the transition is civilized. As Russia is her main ally, even though the Syrian government is denying the report, one can expect such a trial balloon to come thru Russia.

Meanwhile a Syrian General who fled to Turkey says that the Assad regime is moving chemical weapons into positions held by government troops that surround opposition forces. It is unclear whether Assad would really use them against his people or if they’re a bargaining chip for a deal.

Photo: Syrian Free Press

Saturday was the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan but even so, the fighting continues.

Syria means that the Russian-American “reset” is for all purposes over.

Not that you didn’t know that already, but let’s bury that part of the recent past and see what can be salvaged in relations between the USA and Russia. On the one hand you have a strong-willed and stubborn Russian leader who can’t stand the sight or thought of the weak American leader. Across the pond we have an American leader who aside from slogans about hope and change wouldn’t understand reality if it was delivered with roses on a breakfast platter. Yet he somehow still holds onto hope that a US Secretary of State equally loathed by the Russians will somehow change something to make relations work somehow.

Lest we forget, there is also the matter of a new(er) American Ambassador who has done everything in his power, and then some, to alienate the Russians from the day he stepped off the plane. That is what political appointments get you, inept representation. Good Gawd, we might as well pack up and leave at this rate.

So last Wednesday when Presidents Putin and Obama held a conversation, the Russian press office made it abundantly clear that the call was on the initiative of Washington. Mr. Obama made the call and the two men spoke for a few minutes, mainly about Syria but during the conversation President Obama also extended condolences to the Russian people on the recent loss of life from flooding in Russia’s southern regions.

Likely Mr. Putin will reciprocate with a call regarding the tragedy in Colorado. We remember that after “9/11” President Putin was the first world leader to pick up the telephone and express his solidarity with the American people.

So what about Syria? After Wednesday’s little chat are we any closer to an agreement? Washington later labeled the call as substantial, you know, the standard hope and change bullcrap. Moscow was much more honest, honesty being something that is trending in Russia’s favour recently; but no, the call was nothing more than a discussion and no agreements were reached.

You could almost read the smirk as the Russian’s described the situation as “a trend toward exacerbation.” President Putin went on to say that “differences in opinion remain regarding concrete measures for achieving a settlement.” Mr. Putin, the community organizer in Washington only understands two words, hope and change, so you may wish to grant them some time to digest the meaning of “differences in opinion.” It may not seem that difficult to you but those three words represent a 150% increase in the official Washington vocabulary.

Russian Security council, Novo-Ogaryovo, Friday 20 July 2012.

As this is the first time in the new Putin administration that we’ve covered the Russian Security Council, we’ll introduce each member. Participants in the meeting included Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev seated at Mr. Putin’s immediate right. Council of Federation Chairperson Valentina Matviyenko is seated at Mr. Putin’s immediate left, and next to her is Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Ivanov, and then alternating sides down the table is State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov is last on Mr. Putin’s right and Foreign Intelligence Service Director Mikhail Fradkov is seen last at Mr. Putin’s left.

Domestic terrorism, possibly by Islamic extremists, took up a great deal of the meeting following the events this week in Kazan. In addition to evaluation of official reports, Mr. Putin sent his condolences to the heads of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslim of the Republic of Tatarstan, a federal subject (Republic status) within the Russian Federation.

Not that the Russian’s aren’t worried about Syria because they are concerned. Friday at the regular meeting of the President’s Security Council the Syrian situation took up a great deal of the discussion ending a strongly worded statement by President Putin that any attempts to bypass the UN Security Council will be ineffective and lead to undermining the authority of the United Nations. Frankly, that is a bit self-serving given the fear of the Kremlin of a similar revolution on Russian soil.

The Mendeleyev Journal agrees with the Russian position on Syria. From Europe to Iraq and Afghanistan, etc, every time the Americans rush in to topple some despot, we somehow end up on the wrong side of the issue. Middle East and European Christians, natural US allies, have suffered greatly with thousands being killed while the Muslim populations we’ve “liberated” invariably turn on us in short order.

Message to Obama: Stay out of Syria.