Did the Soviet Union break up prematurely?

Russia Direct, a propaganda arm of Kremlin owned media, recently issued a five-page talking points paper on control of Ukraine. Maxim Kharkevich, a professor from Moscow State Institute of International Relations, explains how the Cold War never ended properly, and thus the Soviet Union was broken up prematurely. In his five points, he hints that some countries really should never have been sovereign states at all. Kharkevich seems to follow the Kremlin line of thinking that had not the CCCP come to a premature end, Ukraine (and other states) would still belong to Russia.

Kremlin towers Moscow 1036 ed sm

The author cites the Yalta-Potsdam agreements as an example of how the world powers came together and divided up Europe. He, and he speaks for the Kremlin by virtue of this publication, appears to believe that since there was no “Yalta-Potsdam” agreement at the end of the Cold War, that the Soviet Union really didn’t break up officially. Instead, the boundaries of what is Russia, and what is no longer Soviet, remains an open question to the Kremlin. Naturally, only Russia knows best how all that territory should be divided, and since in his view the world court did nothing to stop the breakup of Yugoslavia, there is no legal authority to decide such disputes. To which, he writes that “Russia has taken upon itself the role of gatekeeper of the post-Soviet space.”

Therein lies the rub: Russia knows best, and any former Soviet Republic that desires to link with Western institutions such as the EU, or even NATO, is violating international norms, or at least the wishes of Moscow. What the author never acknowledges, and the vast majority of Russians are blind to this fact, is that there are compelling reasons why many of the former Soviet pact states no longer desire, or even fear, being under the thumb of Moscow. Naturally, a part of his argument is that NATO must be frozen and prevented from any further Eastward expansion.

The author also believes that the G20, not the UN or world courts, will be the eventual arbitrator over such territorial disputes in the future. He glosses over the many post-Soviet accomplishments of trade between Russia and the USA, opting instead to insist that trade agreements took too long to develop, and as such part of the territorial disputes could have been apparently been avoided by more aggressive free trade strategies. He ignores that much of that work was done proactively by the USA, and in spite of continued Russian state corruption and graft.

There are so many holes in his reasoning that if one folded up the paper and tried to create a paper airplane, the thing likely would not fly.

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Putin Prays for Soldiers

Putin ( Guardian Liberty Voice) Russian president Vladimir Putin took a few minutes during his day last Wednesday to pray for the souls of Russian soldiers who have died in the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Putin visited Moscow’s Church of the Holy Trinity, a church in the “Sparrow Hills” area of southwest Moscow, in the vicinity of Moscow State University.

Putin was in Moscow to greet former Prime Minister of Japan Yoshiro Mori at the Kremlin. Mori was visiting Moscow while participating in a Russian-Japanese Forum. The Russian leader normally works at the official presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, a Moscow suburb. The Moscow Kremlin is used primarily for state and diplomatic functions.

Putin’s visit to the Sparrow Hills Church was brief, just long enough to light several candles, and say a prayer for the souls of Russian soldiers who had died while fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

Putin told reporters that he lit candles for “those who died defending people in Novorossiya.” The term Novorossiya (Новороссия) means “new Russia” and is a resurrected term from the days of Russian imperialism. Putin has recently hinted that he views Ukraine not as a state, but as a territory of Russia, and some say this means that he believes Ukraine is subject to being reclaimed.

Read the entire article here.

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Russian blogroll sharing

From time to time we come across really good blogs, and most of the time we add them to our blogroll along the right column of this page or to one of the other useful link categories.

Moscow is a big place, the second largest city in Europe, and keeping tabs on everything here is fun, but even more fun when there are other great voices about Russia, Moscow, and Eastern Europe. So in this edition we will share with you a couple of great blogs, run by great bloggers, that might be worthy of a read from time to time.

Russian blogroll


If you love food, meet http://www.moscovore.com where editor Jennifer Eremeeva, a veteran expat and committed Moscovore, leads her readers on a journey to find, cook and celebrate great food in Russia’s capital!



Russian blogroll

Our next blogroll share is at http://www.mustseemoscow.com where you may just learn some shocking facts about Moscow and the Russian culture. What to do, where to go, what to see, what to be careful about, cool places, culture shock…



We are working on a piece about the ceasefire in Ukraine and hope to have that published soon.

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Hillary Clinton on Vladimir Putin

We generally enjoy the thoughts of Jedediah Bila on just about any topic, and especially appreciated her recent thoughts on Hillary Clinton vis-à-vis Vladimir Putin.

She began her blog with a recent article from The Hill, which reported:

In a CNN interview scheduled to air on Sunday, the possible 2016 front-runner and former secretary of State said Russia “bears responsibility” for arming and supporting Russian separatists in Ukraine.

“I think if there were any doubt it should be gone by now that Vladimir Putin – certainly indirectly through his support of the insurgents in eastern Ukraine and the supply of advanced weapons and, frankly, the presence of Russian special forces and intelligence agents – bears responsibility for what happened to shoot down the airline,” she said on “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

Vladimir Putin So, Jedediah Bila posed some questions for Hillary on her blog. Here is a sampling of her questions:

1) What happens if Europe doesn’t take the lead on sanctions? Would a strong American policy stance inspire a strong European policy stance?

3) Should the United States be placing Pentagon advisers in Ukraine right now? What about military assistance to the government in Kiev?

4) The Daily Beast recently reported that “Kiev last month requested the radar jamming and detection equipment necessary to evade and counter the anti-aircraft systems Moscow was providing the country’s separatists.” Your reaction?

Jedediah’s last question is the most important, given the coming 2016 elections:

6) If you were President today, what would you do with respect to Russia and Ukraine?

Jedediah Bila is co-host of “Outnumbered” on Fox News at 12pm ET. She is an author, columnist, and Fox News Contributor. Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila.

Read Jedediah’s blog at jedediahbila.com.

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Death Toll Rising in Metro Crash

Moscow Metro

(Moscow) Moscow city officials are reporting that at least 16 people have died and 120 injured in the Metro’s subway crash that happened around 8:35 local time this morning. The crash came in the midst of the morning commute as thousands of riders were traveling to work, causing traffic jams and long delays in getting around the city.

The crash took place between the Park Pobedy (Victory Park) and Slavyansky Bulvar (Slavic Blvd) stations Tuesday morning. Officials say the initial cause was a sudden loss of electric power causing a train to suddenly decelerate. Trains are often spaced only 90 seconds apart during Moscow’s heavy rush hour commute.

Moscow Metro

Emergency personnel say that over 100 ambulances and several emergency helicopters were used to evacuate the injured. The Slavyansky Bulvar and Park Pobedy metro stations are part of the city’s Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line, commonly known as the Blue Line.

Emergency Situations Ministry officials shut down the Slavyansky Bulvar station so that rescuers could attend to the victims and give investigators time to determine the exact cause of the crash. Making the rescue work difficult was the depth of the system–at 84 meters, that is 275 feet, Park Pobedy is the deepest of Moscow’s 194 metro stations.

Slavyanskiy Bulvar station opened in 2008.
Slavyansky Bulvar station opened in 2008.

The packed train was traveling from the north of the city toward the center and some 200 passengers had to be assisted in evacuating according to emergency workers. Dozens of injured commuters were treated outside for smaller injuries. Prosecutors have launched an official inquiry to determine the cause of the derailment.


New Ambassador to Russia will be John Tefft

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s senior foreign policy advisor, Yuri Ushakov, has signaled to Washington that Moscow will agree to the appointment of John Tefft as the next Ambassador to Russia. Although cautious, Ushakov in an interview with the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS called Tefft a “professional diplomat” with previous experience in Moscow.

New Ambassador to Russia will be John Tefft

Still ahead are the US Senate hearings once the Obama administration makes the formal nomination. Confirmation shouldn’t be a problem as Tefft is no stranger on Capitol Hill, with foreign service experience dating back to 1972. Most recently Mr. Tefft was the US Ambassador to Ukraine from 2009 to 2013 and he has served previously in the Moscow Embassy under deputy roles. From 2000 to 2003 he was the US Ambassador to Lithuania and the US Ambassador to Georgia during 2005 to 2009.

The nomination of Tefft , who speaks Russian and Ukrainian, is likely to be well received in the Senate after the debacle with the inexperienced Michael McFaul in the position. The Russians say that the Obama administration made the initial request regarding Tefft in June and their announcement of acceptance came while Russian President Putin was in Cuba as part of his diplomatic tour to Latin America.

The annexation of Crimea and the continued fighting in Eastern Ukraine have left relations in tatters between Russia and the United States, some going so far to call the chill a new “Cold War.” Adding to the tension is the suspicion that Tefft’s appointment is due to his experience with so-called “color revolutions.” He served in Ukraine at a time of regime change and he was the US Ambassador to Georgia during the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

Pravda wrote this week that Russia could not afford to trust Tefft regardless of his prior experience in Russia. Andrei Kortunov, of the Moscow based New Eurasia Foundation, was quoted in Pravda saying that the Tefft appointment would not automatically signal a renewal of open dialogue with Russia. Kortunov pointed to the failures of the McFaul ambassadorship and current tensions regarding Crimea and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

Both countries must approve Ambassadorial appointments and foreign diplomats are received when the incoming Ambassador formally presents diplomatic credentials to the host nation. Traditionally foreign ambassadors present their credentials to Russia’s president and foreign minister during ceremonies held in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s the Alexander Hall.

June 2014 reception of new Ambassadors in the Grand Kremlin Palace.
June 2014 reception of new Ambassadors in the Grand Kremlin Palace.

Of interest to some is that Tefft’s wife will join him in Moscow. Many Russians didn’t understand why previous Ambassador Michael McFaul chose to leave his family in California while trying to make the 9,000 kilometer weekly commute fit his Embassy schedule.

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Duma seeks to expunge Western words from Russian language

The Russian Duma’s Committee on Culture is recommending that Parliament pass a bill that would ban foreign words from being used in public speech or advertising.

Lawmakers representing the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party) want to protect the purity of the Russian language, making it a crime to utter foreign words in public or for companies to use them in advertising.

Choc milk coffee

According to the Moscow Times the law, if passed, would make the use of ‘linguistic imports’ punishable by a fine of up to 2,500 rubles ($73) for ordinary citizens, and up to 50,000 rubles ($1,460) for companies or organizations. What is unclear at the moment is whether the intent is to ban words and phrases such as “fat free” and “ipad” or “iphone” and branding for Western companies such as Coco Cola, McDonalds, etc.

Some linguists estimate that as much as twenty-five percent of the Russian vocabulary consists of cognates, borrowed words, and thus we doubt that the purpose of such a law truly targets foreign words as much as it seeks to ban foreign ideas. According to documents posted on the Duma’s public website, efforts to eliminate banned words would include the confiscation of books and other publications containing foreign terms.

Many of Russian language borrowed words are French such as "toilet". Even "Cafe" as seen here in Russian Cyrillic spelling is a borrowed word.
Many of Russian language borrowed words are French such as “toilet”. Even “Cafe” as seen here in Russian Cyrillic spelling is a borrowed word.

The list of foreign or borrowed words in Russian is extensive, easily in the hundreds. Terms such as журналист (journalist), видео (video), меню (menu), секс (sex), экзамен (exam), директор (director), aлфавит (alphabet) and hundreds of others would have to disappear if the law were truly about protecting the Russian language.

If true that the real intent is to ban Western influences, then the question also looms over what would happen to hundreds of thousands of street and Metro signs that have English tranliterations in Russia’s drive to attract more tourism. Will lawmakers ban those too?

Metro floor stickers b ed

One of the most beloved features of large Russian cities and especially in places like Moscow is the famous transportation system knows as the Метро (Metro). That too is a foreign term. Would such a law cause the Metro to be renamed? No, we already know the answer to that question.

We suspect that the bill has less to do with language purity but instead is yet another thinly veiled piece of anti-Western legislation driven by the current insane frenzy of nationalistic zealotry. In fact some critics of the legislation inside Russia admit that the motivation is an attempt to isolate the Russian people from Western ideas and also to punish Western companies who do business in Russia in response to Western sanctions over the annexation of Crimea.

Just last year the same Duma committee had refused to advance similar legislation saying then that there was no need to protect the Russian language from foreign words and phrases.

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