Translation: Did Navalny Fail to Reach an “Understanding”?

Izvestia’s Sergey Podosenov queries political experts as to why a new case has been launched against Navalny. The concensus is that he is becoming too popular, or violated informal understandings.

Navalny Violated Informal Arrangements

“Izvestia” sources talk about the background of the Prosecutor General Office attack upon the opposition leader.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky is known to have asked the prosecutor’s office the other day to check the sources of Alexei Navalny’s campaign funding. The Liberal Democrat opposition leader suspects about 20 million rubles have been raised, including money received from abroad. The Prosecutor General’s Office has confirmed that some of the money transferred on the internet by Navalny’s associates using foreign IP-addresses.

“Through the electronic payment system ‘Yandex.Money’ more than 300 foreign legal entities and individuals, as well as anonymous donors from 46 countries (including the United States, Finland, the UK, Switzerland and Canada) using 347 IP-addresses have transferred to Navalney’s electronic wallet as well as to those of his campaign staff N.N. Lyaskina, K.S. Jankauskas and V.L. Ashurkova money for Alexei Navalny’s election campaign as candidate for mayor of Moscow”, said Minister Yuri Chaika.

Since the law prohibits the anonymous and foreign funding of political activity, the investigation results were sent to the Interior Ministry in order to determine whether a criminal charge be made.

Navalny himself responded by indicating that the foreign IP-addresses of senders does not say anything about their citizenship. A similar opinion was expressed by the ‘Yandex.Money’ press service:

“We cannot understand by what parameters the Prosecutor General’s Office drew the conclusion that foreigners are involved … For example, if you are on holiday in Italy and are sending money from there, you still remain a Russian citizen: the ruble transfer is considered to be a domestic one.

“Be that as it may, having become involved in a matter involving the foreign funding of Navalny’s campaign, the Prosecutor General will see the matter through to the very end, namely in court”, said a Kremlin source. But Navalny will not be granted such a gift as being withdrawn from the election: that, according to the source, would not be in Sergei Sobyanin’s interests, who has already done much so as to ensure that his opponent will be able participate in the elections.

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Translation: Vladislav Surkov – “I Was by a Great Man’s Side” (part 2)

The continuation of Surkov’s interview (2/2) with Andrei Kolesnikov, in which he expounds on the meaning of friendship, leisure, love for the fatherland, and life itself. See part 1 here.

Vladislav Surkov: “I Was by a Great Man’s Side” Part II

Russian Pioneer’s regular columnist Vladislav Surkov has, at the request of RP’s editor in chief Andrey Kolesnikov, broken his three months of silence after his retirement from the Vice Prime Minister position, and told us what constitutes life.

AK: Did you find a job?

VS: So far I’ve been freelancing.

AK: You said that you want to write a political comedy. How is it going?

VS: It was just a joke.

AK: What are your creative plans?

VS: My way of life is changing. There’s a lot of creativity in that.

AK: Has anything of other people’s creative works made any impression on you these past three months?

VS: Just recently I was greatly honored when they showed me Fedor Bondarchuk’s movie “Stalingrad”, as they say, “on the cutting desk”. It’s not completed yet. But what I saw was awesome. If the sketch looks like that, I have a foreboding of a masterpiece. For the first time, in the modern movie language, Russia will tell you the story of its pain and of its invincibility. You can make a movie like that when you have love. When you love yourself, your people, and your country. And there’s compassion, there’s rapture. Well, I can talk about it longer than the movie itself… You have to watch it.

AK: What about books? Exhibits?

VS: Dubovitskiy’s “Mashinka i velik” — I think it’s the last book that I read in my life. I won’t read anything else. I can’t. I start, then I stop. The others don’t compare. I’ve been like this for two years now. It ran me over, it turned me inside out. But really, maybe I’ve done enough reading already? Am I supposed to keep reading for the rest of my life? Maybe I should quit it? Like I quit smoking. So I can only recommend “Mashinka”. It’s about everything. That is, it’s about love. I can recommend it to anyone whose brain has cracked. As for exhibits, what about them…? I was in Hearst’s house. Hearst is still good. [tl note: No idea who he’s talking about, it’s my best guess at this point]

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Translation: Vladislav Surkov – “I Was by a Great Man’s Side” (part 1)

In which the “gray cardinal of the Kremlin” Vladislav Surkov waxes philosophical about Putin’s holiness, the nature of freedom, and why mistakes are good in his first interview (1/2), conducted with Andrei Ivanovich Kolesnikov, since leaving office. See part 2 here.

Vladislav Surkov: I was by a Great Man’s Side

Russian Pioneer’s regular columnist Vladislav Surkov has, at the request of RP’s editor in chief Andrey Kolesnikov, broken his three months of silence after his retirement from the vice prime minister position, and told us what he thinks of Vladimir Putin, the opposition, his retirement, and what constitutes life.

AK: You once said that God sent Putin to Russia. Now that he has dismissed you, do you still think that way?

VS: On the divine scale my dismissal hasn’t changed a thing. So there is no reason for me to think otherwise. Yes, God. Yes, called upon him. To save Russia from a hostile takeover. He was a white knight, and a very timely one at that. At the last hour, you might say. And he dismissed me at my own request. Just another time he treated me with respect. I’m grateful.

AK: You promised to tell of the reasons you left when it would become appropriate. Has that time arrived? What were the reasons? Do you regret leaving? Some believe that it was simply an emotional decision, connected to some momentary problems.

VS: I left at my own request. That’s what the President’s decree says. That’s how it was. Naturally, the decision was emotional, like all serious decisions made by normal people. The emotion lasted for two years. So there was nothing momentary about it.

AK: Then what was it?

VS: The reasons were of an absolutely personal nature. Based on entirely personal, extremely subjective ideas of what one can tolerate, and what one must not.

AK: And what was it?

VS: That is not interesting. Because it’s too subjective. And to complete the answer to the long question, no, I don’t regret it.

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Translation: When do Russian Officials become Democrats?

When they are fed to other bureaucrats. Or so argues Mikhail Rostovsky in an op-ed for Moskovskij Komsomolets, in analyzing the resignations of Surkov and Alexei Chesnakov.

Surkov for Breakfast, Medvedev for Lunch, and where do Russian Democrats come from?

Solve this riddle. What does it mean when you hear the clatter of plates, knives, and forks, loud chomping noises, and the desperate shrieks of the devoured: “I’m leaving the party! There have appeared some serious ideological differences between us!”

You haven’t guessed? Shame on your bald (and not so bald) heads! This is the acoustical accompaniment to the Russian political process – or to be more concrete, the process of the change of command at the top of the Russian vlast.

In our not so distant past, there was in Russia a fairly important official, the right hand man of the “king of public politics” Vladislav Surkov – Alexei Chesnakov. He served, this official of ours Chesnakov, and he served well, promptly implementing all the directives of “the party and the government.” But then, a new time came upon us. Neither Vladislav Surkov, nor his team remain in the Kremlin. And they “slighted” Alexei Chesnakov – they didn’t allow him to get elected to the Senate. And our model public servant Chesnakov “saw the light,” so to speak, and left United Russia, explaining the move by referring to ideological differences.

“I have accumulated some baggage of stylistic disagreements with the party. I do not agree with some of United Russia’s legislative initiatives, including those concerning regulations of the media space and the Internet. Apart from that, most bills aren’t discussed at all by the party’s regional structures, which stymies a full debate,” as Chesnakov said in his own words.

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Translation: Was Surkov Fired for Bolotnaya Sympathies?

Based on multiple interviews with high-placed sources, Vedomosti’s Lilia Biryukova, Maxim Glikin, and Maxim Tovkailo compile four major theories to explain Surkov’s resignation last Wednesday: Was it a simple matter of under-performance, or are there deeper currents to the story?

Surkov May have been Fired for his Bolotnaya Sympathies

On Wednesday, President Putin acceded to the resignation request of Deputy Prime Minister and Chief of Kremlin Staff Vladimir Surkov. His functions as Vice-Premier will temporarily be fulfilled by another Deputy Prime Minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, while the current Deputy Chief of Staff Sergei Prikhodko will for the time being replace him as Chief of Kremlin Staff.

The President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov sid that the resignation followed on from the results of a progress meeting on the implementation of the President’s decrees. Surkov himself said that he drafted his resignation letter back on 26 April, which was confirmed by the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman Natalia Timakova.

It was not the first time that Surkov has lodged a resignation request, according to a member of his entourage. The first time it happened was last December and, of course, had no relation to the decrees; it is just that now Putin has decided it is time to lay him off.

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Triumphs Of Kremlinology

In 2008, Commissar of Transitionology Michael McFaul and his lab assistant Kathryn Stoner-Weiss wrote: “The myth of Putinism is that Russians are safer, more secure, and generally living better than in the 1990s—and that Putin himself deserves the credit… In terms of public safety, health, corruption, and the security of property rights, Russians are actually worse off today than they were a decade ago.”

Fedia Kriukov already called them out on it more than four years ago. The “authoritarian model” thesis was factually wrong from the moment it left the printing press (perhaps this wouldn’t have happened if Stoner-Weiss was more interested in getting things right as opposed to obsessing over how “women authors are evidently less important than male authors” and “Putin’s control of the media has spread to bloggers from just TV”).

Today their errors are clear and stark as snowblind, yet the core assumptions of the “authoritarian model” remain largely unchallenged in Western journalism and Kremlinology. Indeed, one of the authors is today the US ambassador to Russia.

Visualizing The Kremlin Clans

Can you tell your siloviki from your civiliki? MVD, FSB or GRU? The breeds of dog underneath those Churchillian carpets? If not, maybe this will help.

In August 2010, I translated the introduction to political pundit Vladimir Pribylovsky’s recent book ВЛАСТЬ-2010: 60 биографий (Power in 2010: 60 biographies). The resulting Phantom Tandem, Real Triumvirate and the Kremlin Clan Wars is a useful, if a tad obdurate, primer on “who’s who” in today’s Kremlin.

In collaboration with A Good Treaty, we have created three tables listing the biggest players in the “Kremlin clans” according to Pribylovsky (to the extent they exist: see my comments to the original translation). There have been few changes until today, January 2011. The biggest was the replacement of Sergey Bogdanchikov by Eduard Khudaynatov as President of Rosneft.

We hope that it will be of use to all Russia watchers, amateur and expert alike.

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The Kremlinologist Catechism

This is a reprint of my article for the Sep/Oct 2010 issue of Russian Life magazine. It is a condensed version of Rosstat and Levada are Russophobia’s Bane. Enjoy!

There is a Catechism that dominates American discourse on Russia today. Just flip through The Washington Post’s editorials, peruse American political science journals or listen (cringe) to a Joe Biden interview. It goes something like this:

In the past decade, Putin’s Russia has forsaken Western values and returned to its authoritarian past. Ordinary Russians, bribed by the Kremlim’s oil largesse and misled by its controlled media, expressed only apathy at this development. Granted, the regime may enjoy superficial support (given Putin’s strangely stratospheric approval ratings), but the accelerating population decline proves that Russians are discounting the nation’s future with their loins. And so should we, for what’s the point of taking a “Potemkin country” ruled by a “kleptocratic thugocracy” seriously?

There’s only one problem – many of the underlying assumptions of this Catechism are unsupported by any facts, figures or statistics.

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