This is a (continuously expanding) list of the articles that any serious Russia-watcher has to read if they wish to become acquainted with the Russophile worldview. I have hi-lighted the most important ones.
But first, the sources of reality-based, high quality information about Russia. Sublime Oblivion, by yours truly. And now, in no particular order… Eugene Ivanov runs a deeply informed, incisive and humorous political blog on Russia and the US at The Ivanov Report. Another excellent blog is Sean’s Russia Blog written by Sean Guillory – humorous, wide selection and eminently readable. He is an academic currently researching Soviet era youth groups.
Konstantin at Russian Blog and Fedia Krikov at Russia in the Media ran entertaining blogs dedicated to debunking Russophobic drivel, but unfortunately both seem to have died out due to ennui. Investor and published on the Truth and Beauty (…and Russian Finance) newsletter, Eric Kraus, is THE guy at economic and financial ground zero. Timothy Post is an American entrepreneur in Krasnodar, the Russian Riviera.
Nicolai Petro is a very insightful academic who sees evidence that Russia is forging its own democratic culture. Robert Hanh and the other folks who run Russia: Other Points of View make heroic efforts to, well, make other points of view available on Russia in the Western media’s culture of manufactured consent. Peter Lavelle is a highly original and eloquent journalist (not to mention a high paid propaganda master) working for Russia Today. The President of the Russian Federation, or False Dmitri as I like to call him, has a really cool motorcycle on his blog’s header. Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic who is published on numerous blogs.
The eXiled Online is extremely funny and irreverent in a wet fish around the face fashion, but aren’t focused on Russia like the old eXile. In La Russophobe Exposed, Steve J. Nelson explores the murky connections and financing deep within that hate blog’s reptilian layers. Stanislav Mishin’s blog Mat Rodina is a bit too hardcore Orthodox for me, but there is no doubt he is a great Russian-American patriot. Winthrop360 is a fine blog.
That’s it for the blogs. Now for the articles…
Please take a look at the Best of Sublime Oblivion section in the sidebar for the (IMO) best material on this site. That said, I won’t be talking about my own stuff here.
10 Western Media Stereotypes About Russia: How Truthful Are They? – not very, according to the Real Russia Project. Also check out this other Top 10 list about Russian myths.
A Normal Country (Andrei Shleifer & Daniel Treisman, Foreign Affairs, Mar/Apr 2004) – old but no less relevant for that.
Summary: Conventional wisdom in the West says that post-Cold War Russia has been a disastrous failure. The facts say otherwise. Aspects of Russia’s performance over the last decade may have been disappointing, but the notion that the country has gone through an economic cataclysm and political relapse is wrong–more a comment on overblown expectations than on Russia’s actual experience. Compared to other countries at a similar level of economic and political development, Russia looks more the norm than the exception.
Russia through the looking-glass (Nicolai N. Petro, openDemocracy, Feb 2006) – a refutation of the Western party line on Russia’s media environment, Chechnya and alleged deterioration in the rule of law.
A true understanding of developments in Russia challenges the distorted perceptions of western governments, media, and human-rights organisations.
Petro is a perceptive and prolific Russia analyst, and it would certainly be worth your while checking out the articles on his website – a sample could include The Medvedev Moment (challenges the notion Medvedev is a Putin puppet), Needed: Better Western Coverage of Russia (detailing the Western media’s worrying ‘erosion of the crucial distinction between objective reporting and advocacy when it comes to Putin’s Russia’), Russia at the Crossroads (accounts of his participation in the Valdai Discussion Club), Russia’s New Cyberwarriors (warning of Russians’ creeping disillusionment with the West) and Russian rights and Estonian wrongs (Western double standards on human rights in Russia and Estonia).
Talking about Estonia/Baltics, the linguistic oppression against Russophones that goes on there is well documented. Check out Linguistic minorities in Estonia: Discrimination must end (Amnesty International, Dec 2006), Discrimination against the Russophone Minority in Estonia and Latvia (London School of Economics, Feb 2005) and Russian-Speaking Minorities in Estonia and Latvia: Problems of Integration at the Threshold of the European Union (European Centre for Minority Issues, 2004).
Russia’s booming economy – this article illustrates the bankruptcy of several conceptions about Russia’s economy, including a) its hydrocarbons dependence and b) supposed stagnation in investment and manufacturing. (It also proves that the Economist ignores its own Intelligence unit, as I demonstrate here). In a similar vein, see Russia’s Surging Economy and my comments on it. For more information, take a look at Rosstat (Russia’s statistical agency, available in English), the World Bank’s Russia Economic Reports and the Nikitsky Fund’s Truth and Beauty monthly installments about Russian finance and more. For more technical matters, such as the question of whether Russia suffers from Dutch disease and how it could take advantage of its resource endowments, consult Diagnosing Dutch Disease: Does Russia Have the Symptoms? (Nienke Oomes & Katerina Kalcheva, IMF, 2007) and How to sustain growth in a resource based economy? (Rudiger Ahrend, OECD, 2006).
Fedia Kriukov’s Russia in the Media blog is well worth reading, being densely argued and rigorously sourced. In particular see A Charmed Profession (about a BBC poll that kills two birds with one stone by demolishing the myth that a) Russians are oppressed and b) the Western media is balanced), An Audit of the Committee to Protect Journalists (or should it be the Committee to Propagandize Journalists?), A Brave Kremlinologist. Too bad for him (exposing the lies and red herrings of quackademic Michael McFaul), A Kremlinologist in Dire Need of Econ 101 Textbook (exposing Stephen Sestanovich’s economic ignorance) and On the Follies of Extrapolation from a Small Sample (Luke Harding’s pathetic efforts to prove life in Russia is getting worse by interviewing an alcoholic in some Godforsaken village). (Speaking of Luke Harding, his plagiarizing exploits have been covered by the eXile here, here and here).
Dreaming with BRICs is the seminal paper in which Goldman Sachs predicted that Brazil, Russia, India and China will come to dominate the world’s economy as their average incomes converge to Western levels, as was the case in pre-industrial times. Note, though, that Russia is the only member who’s GDP per capita is expected to catch up to the leading countries’ in the foreseeable future. How Solid are the BRICs? expounds on this, evaluating each country’s ability to sustain growth by constructing a Growth Environment Index.
Now Comes the Tough Part in Russia, Putin’s legacy is a Russia that doesn’t have to curry favour with the west, Don’t rush to judgment, The west’s new Russophobia is hypocritical – and wrong, Putin’s Reaganesque Victory, No Wonder they Like Putin and Unconventional wisdom about Russia are all very perceptive articles (by the standards of Western coverage of Russia), albeit they’re all based on the assumption Russia is semi-authoritarian at best. I am impressed with Andrew Wilson’s arguments in “Virtual politics” in the ex-Soviet bloc (the methods of political manipulation that elites throughtout the post-Soviet use to remain in power) – however, as an eXile review of his book argues, the West hardly has moral superiority in this department.
Why the Council on Foreign Relations Hates Putin (Mike Whitney, Counterpunch, Dec 2007) – despite its anti-globalist and NWOish tinges, it manages to get to the heart of the matter, namely, how influential neocons have subverted Washington’s foreign policy, united against the idea of close West-East co-operation and launched a comprehensive, double-standards laced propaganda campaign against Putin.
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Economist‘s Russia coverage here, here and here. Their star Russia reporter, Lucas, deserves special mention – check out his nuanced and balanced coverage here and here (with friends like these, Russophobia needs no foes – talking of which, Fedia has a theory that he’s actually a Kremlin propagandist). His magnum opus is reviewed here, here and here.
The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism – PhD thesis by an American graduate student at the University of St.-Petersburg makes a forceful argument that Russia has decisively shed its authoritarian past and is engaged in building up stable long-term democratic institutions.
UPDATE APRIL 2009: Obviously Russia and the world has changed quite a lot since then. Please take a look at the Best of Sublime Oblivion section in the sidebar for the (IMO) best material on this site.
In More Questions than Can Be Answered, Patrick Armstrong points out the wisdom of the old saying that “one fool can ask more questions than ten wise men could answer”, and the lessons Russophobes drew from it.
On the South Ossetian War of 2008, see the Spiegel article Saakashvili under Pressure from EU Probe and the sources in my piece The Corpse Stumbles On for the belated Western recognition of the facts of Georgian aggression against South Ossetia and Russia (I criticized their initial propaganda here), as well as Patrick Armstrong’s writings on the chronology and Mark Ames on how the news media set about mendaciously covering their tracks after lying to us again in How to Screw Up a War Story. Watch the films War 080808: Art of Betrayal and What really happened in South Ossetia? for heart-wrenching evidence of Georgian war crimes.
Stratfor has an interesting take on Russian geopolitics, claiming it is one of Permanent Struggle to avoid collapse and consolidate its position in Eurasia. Other good articles are the Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power, Russia and Rotating the US Focus, The Medvedev Doctrine and American Strategy and the Six Pillars of Russian Strength.
For the war nerds here, check out Surviving the Modern IADS System, Assessing Russian Fighter Technology and stuff about the Sukhoi Flanker fighter from Air Power Australia (or visit Defpro.com for less technical summaries). Their conclusions are that Russian military technology improved rapidly in the 1990’s and 2000’s as it gained access to Western information and electronic technologies (even despite the funding collapse), and that new systems now being developed threaten the primacy of the carrier battle group and US aeronaval dominance. If you read Russian, check out the Rian Novosti “Arsenal” series of articles on Russian weapon systems.
UPDATE 2009: Those Russian Bastards – an indictment of the Western media’s double standards regarding Russian and Western neo-imperialism by Jon Weiler; The Great Transformation: How the Putin Plan Altered Russian Society – an appraisal of Putin’s consolidation of Russia, the first of two steps in the Putin Plan to make Russia into an affluent, liberal nation.