USA invades Russia!

We used to laugh at Vladimir Putin’s insinuations that the USA was preparing to invade Russia. Look, if you can’t defeat Afghanistan where the fighters are untrained third-world Poppy seed growers, then anyone with a brain knows better than to challenge Russia.

But, guess we were wrong. Yesterday the USA invaded St. Petersburg. They came rolling in on pink bicycles. Correction: He came rolling in on a pink bicycle.

A car with one of those popular dash cams caught the invasion maneuver across the street from the former Palace of the Soviets in St. Petersburg.

There has been no word yet of any declaration of martial law so perhaps he came for some blini or to see the local girls. The pink bike is a pretty clever disguise–no one would see the invading troops until it was too late.

Anapa, Russia

Ah, Anapa (Ана́па), the quiet town of just over 50,000 in Russia’s Krasnodar region along the Black Sea. The water is moderate and comfortable this time of year and a great place to relax, sunbathe, swim and enjoy the water.

Anapa centre
Anapa is a Greek city dating back to the 6th Century like so many other towns along the water in nearby Ukraine.  Anapa is serviced by a small local airport, rail service and bus service to other Russian destinations.

Anapa does have one thing the other more popular spots don’t: sandy beaches. Anapa is one of those rare beach areas along the Black Sea that has sand on the beaches instead of small pebbles.

Anapa to Ukraine

As you can see from the map however, getting there is an issue. Thousands of tourists visit the nearby Ukrainian Crimea area and Anapa would be in high demand were it more easily accessible. There is a ferry with daily service from Kerch but the schedule seems to change daily and any hint of bad weather means you are stranded until skies are clear. Once on the roads, they aren’t the modern highways tourists enjoy in the West and foreign tourists traveling from Crimea to Anapa need a Russian visa.

Prices here are modest because accommodations are modest. I suppose that someday the world will discover Anapa and when it does, the modest prices for the admittedly modest hotels will skyrocket with development. Local cafes are decent but this is decidedly a Russian vacation spot, lacking amenities commonly desired by Western tourists.

Anapa hotel cruz

Local apartments are often available during the summer for short stays and hotels seem to vacancies if you do some reasonable planning. Judging from swimsuit sizes in the photos there must be a McDonald’s nearby.

 

Study in Russia?

In 2013 some 250,000 foreign students will travel to Russia to study in one of 750 universities. While many will come from CIS countries, former Soviet Republics, many will come from the “near abroad” such as China and India. There are American, British, Canadian and Australian students too.

Moscow State University was founded in 1755. (Photo:  Ilona Zimina)
Moscow State University was founded in 1755. This is the main campus, overlooking Moscow. (Photo: Ilona Zimina)

Hoping to increase these numbers, Russian Educational authorities are trying to make the educational system more compatible with the West and to make the processes of application and testing more transparent and easier to administer.

The foreign students already in Russia represent some 150 countries and the Russian Ministry of Education and Science hopes to soon establish additional science and cultural centers where prospective students can do testing, receive counseling and apply for admission.

Downtown Moscow location of Moscow State University.
Downtown Moscow location of Moscow State University.

According to education officials, some 40,000 students receive financial aid to study in Russia. The majority of foreign students enroll in courses such as Engineering or Medicine.

Can Russia survive authoritarian rule?

We’ll begin by acknowledging that a weak leader would certainly lead to the demise of Russia as we know her.  A Jimmy Carter or Barrack Obama type of weakling would be a disaster for Russia just as Mikhail Gorbachev was for the Soviet Union. To Gorbachev’s credit, he was up against two masters–Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and few Communist leaders would have survived given the bankrupt condition of the CCCP (USSR) at the time when facing that sort of competition.

But does Russia need an authoritarian ruler to survive and prosper? No.

These are the realities of life for modern-day Russia:

– It covers 1/6 of the earth’s surface but is populated by only 143 million people.

– At ten o’clock in the morning in Moscow it is already five o’clock evening in Russia’s far east, making governance difficult.

– 51% of Asia sits inside Russia’s borders yet her Asian neighbors China to the south has 1.4 Billion people living in a smaller area as does India with a 1.2 Billion population. World history is filled with stories of empires invading others from the desire for more living space.

The photo below shows a chess game with China making a move onto Russian territory in the East.

Siberia china chess game height=332

– Russia’s two most important and strategic cities are in the 48% of the European continent that sits inside her borders. There are vast expanses east of Moscow that are near uninhabited or sparsely populated at best and many of those inhabitants are of Mongolian or Chinese ethnicity.

– Since 2011 there has been a working committee in the Duma (parliament) on ideas to move the capital to Siberia. Sergei Shoigu, governor of the Moscow region (massive area outside city limits) has suggested that the capital be moved to Russia’s third-largest city of Novosibirsk which is the capital of Siberia.

Siberia capital move Kremlin height=322

As reported on Russia Today television “In general, to be frank, many people are discussing this and I am probably one of them,” Shoigu said in an interview with the Russian News Service. “I hold that we must move the capital somewhere further, to Siberia.

– Sergei Karaganov of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics has argued that the capital should be moved to the opposite end of the country, Vladivostok, in order to be a part of the dynamic growth boom in that part of the East.

– In recent years Kazakhstan moved its seat of government from Almaty to Astana in order to be more centrally located and not allow the capital, which sat along the southern border, be so easily exposed to potential invaders. The economic growth generated by that move has been nothing short of incredible.

As part of Mr. Putin’s anti-West campaign is the idea that Western countries want to invade Siberia and cut Russia off from the East.

Siberia map future height=310

This map is a cartoon but it does reinforce the idea that others want to take territory away from Russia. In this illustration you see China (green), India (yellow), Armenia (gray), the USA (blue), Japan (purple) and even Canada (light blue).

There is are elements of truth in each portrayal as Russia and Japan do have border disputes in the Far East, Canada and Russia have border disputes in the Arctic, China formerly possessed wide swaths of Siberia, and the USA with forces from England and Canada controlled much of northern Siberia during the Russian revolution until Leon Trotsky’s Red Army drove them out. In that area of Russia there are small cemeteries dotting the landscape where American, British and Canadian soldiers are buried.

– Chechnya, Tatarstan and several other Muslim republics might like to break free. Tatarstan has a history almost as old as Russia itself and enjoys a healthy oil producing economy. Losing the Republic of Tatarstan with her over 1,000 year old capital, Kazan, would be a blow to the Russian economy.

That being said does not however mean that Russia needs absolute authoritarian rule to survive and prosper. Whether or not the capital is moved, it is imperative that Russia invest in the middle and Eastern portions of the country else she will lose them by neglect.

President Putin has continued the work that then-president Medvedev began on infrastructure projects and the development of resources in Siberia however he has placed severe restrictions on who can participate. The public stance is that investment participation is limited for purposes of maintaining sovereignty, but the reality is that only those companies that are a part of the Kremlin inner circle are welcome to participate.

Along with free and independent courts, open and free investment would go a long way to stabilizing Russia’s position in the centre and east. Absolute rule and the concept of a national “strong man” always leads to stagnation eventually. It never grows an economy, especially the kind needed to lift such a large geographical country to the next level where the main source of wealth is generated by selling off its natural resources and thus a few become wealthy while the rest can only watch in hopelessness.

Unfortunately the idea of a healthy and growing middle class just isn’t compatible with authoritarian rule. A strong and vibrant middle class would help Russia in repopulating as well as developing and protecting her southern border areas.

Working within Russia’s legitimate framework of the rule of law and free elections, we’re hopeful that President Putin will guide the country in ways that free her people, offer them opportunity and hope, and encourage international investment to create a Russia that is independent, strong, and prosperous. The world needs a strong and free Russia to play an important role in balancing the sometimes misguided interests of the West.

Russian summer chicken salad

This is a delicious summertime chicken salad featuring simple but hearty ingredients like beans and cheese.

chicken salad
Ingredients:

– Boiled chicken fillet – 300g
– Kidney beans (boiled or canned) – 200g
– Cheese (hard) – 150g
– Corn (canned) – 400g
– Pickles – 3-4 pieces.
– Black bread – 3 slices
– Garlic – 1 clove
– Salt, mayonnaise, a bunch of parsley

Preparation:

– Peal and grate the garlic. Cut slices of bread into cubes but not until they’ve been rubbed with garlic and salt.

– Place the bread into an non-oiled pan to lightly brown.

– Cut the chicken into small pieces.

– Cut the cucumbers into cubes then drain the corn before putting into a mixing bowl.

– Cut the cheese into strips or cubes.

– Rinse and then finely chop the parsley.

– In a salad bowl mix the chicken, beans, cheese, corn, pickled cucumbers, parsley and garlic bread.

– Add mayonnaise and stir.

New paint for Moscow borders

It’s all part of the summer tradition in a land were summer is short and winter is long; tasks like repairing streets and the painting of public fences, street and parking lot markers. For many years that tradition has included the colours of green and yellow.

The best answer we received for the choice of colours was safety related. We were told that green and yellow was good for everyone from distracted drivers to drunks to those suffering from colour-blindness.

Green and yellow outside the Mendeleyev Journal parking lot.
Green and yellow outside the Mendeleyev Journal parking lot.

Okay, in the absence of logical information we’ll accept those answers for the time being. This is Russia, after all. Besides, Moscow is busy putting on her cosmetics as the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will be here before you know it and the primary destination for those traveling to Sochi is via Moscow.

This may be the last of the traditional yellow-green borders as Central Administrative District director Viktor Fuer has decreed that after this year neighborhoods can elect to paint borders gray, and fences black.

This year crews are busy sprucing up Moscow. (photo: The Village)
This year crews are busy sprucing up Moscow. (photo: The Village)

However, changes must wait until after 2014. For now, we must make ready for the Olympics and so the bright green and yellow will continue for now.

Navalny to remain in race for Moscow mayor

Yesterday the staff of the Alexei Navalny for Mayor campaign were closing up shop due to the conviction and sentencing of Navalny on what most rational people suspect were bogus charges.

Navalny mayor race kiosk

After the judge ruled that Navalny can remain free on bail pending his appeals, the kiosk are reappearing and the Navalny campaign is back in business.