суббота, 31 января 2009 г.

31 of January-the official birthday of russain vodka

Speaking about the history of vodka and Russian vodka in particular, some sources state that the first drink of the kind was made by the Arabian doctor Pares in 860 for medical purposes. Others claim that for the first time spirit was extracted by Italian alchemists, who in the 11-12th cc. were looking for the elixir-stone and distilled wine’s essence, what they thought to be its soul, or spirit (SPIRITUS in Latin). Hence is the name of spirit.

The word «vodka» has been known since the 17th century and is most likely a derivative of «voda» (water). In the past, other names were also used for the drink: wine (bread wine), korchma or korchma wine, distilled wine, burning wine, burnt wine and bitter wine among others. It is thought that the drink itself, or rather its ancestor, a strong drink called aqua vitae (Latin for «water of life»), was first brought to Russia by Genoese merchants on their way to Lithuania. They travelled via Moscow, where the foreign guests had an audience with Prince Dmitry Ivanovich, called Donskoy for his victory over the Mongol-Tartar army on the Kulikovo Field by the River Don. Flattered by the hospitality of the Moscow governor, they presented him with vessels with the above mentioned spirit. However, our ancestors were not much impressed with this distilled fermented grape juice. Mead and beer were more popular in Russia at the time.

Time passed and in 1429, foreign visitors brought aqua vitae to Moscow once again; this time it was served as the universal cure. The liquid was appreciated at the court of the young prince Vasily the Second Vasilievitch, who later lost his eyesight in the feud with his relatives and got the nickname of «Dark». As the drink was too strong, it was normally diluted with water. It is likely that the idea of diluting alcohol (that is what aqua vitae actually was) with water was the starting point for manufacturing Russian vodka that was produced from grain, which was abundant in Russia. In the 15th century the monasteries of Russia began producing grain vodka.

For centuries Russian vodka was mainly made of rye. Rye grain as raw material for vodka production was its most characteristic feature up to the 1870s. After the 1930s wheat replaced rye in production of popular sorts of vodka; in certain period of economic dislocation and war vodka was made of potatoes even. Other grains are added in small proportions to rye as basic and indispensable ingredient for Russian vodka: oats, wheat, barley and buckwheat. Sometimes vodka can include fruit, berry, or spice additives.

As early as the beginning of the 16th century «burning wine» was brought not to Russia, but from it. It was the first experience of the Russian export of vodka that later would take over the whole world. It is worth mentioning that in the end of the 15th century the grand prince of Moscow and the Tsar of all Russia, Ivan the Third (who had an astute and strategic mind) introduced a state monopoly on the production and selling of vodka, as well as on all other alcoholic drinks.

In 1533, the first «Tsar's kabak» was opened, a place where various alcoholic drinks, including vodka, could be bought and consumed. In the times of Ivan the Terrible kabaks were rather widely spread. These places were mostly frequented by the Tsar's guards, who had no qualms at parting with their money earned with no significant effort. Moscow kabaks were mentioned in the diaries and travel journals of foreigners who visited the Moscow lands during the second half of the 16th century, calling kabaks them «Russian taverns». By the way, the word «kabak» is not Slavic by origin. Its origin is not known; the only thing that linguists are sure about is that it was brought to Russia from somewhere in the East. In kabaks, people drank, fought, played dice, but, unfortunately, did not eat. The kabak business was very profitable for the state; this is why the Rurikoviches, Boris Godunov and the first Romanovs did not only keep the state monopoly, but made it more rigid.

Ivan the Terrible

The 17th century was justly termed rebellious by the contemporaries since it was a series of revolts and all sorts of roguish activities. Alongside the «copper», «salt» and other revolts, there were also the «kabak» revolts which were caused by the kabak supervisors and their assistants' abuse of their positions.

Throughout Russian history, the manner of vodka production and sales has changed many times. The system of wine lease, the right to produce and sell vodka for a payment of a small percentage of income to the state, that made the leaseholders fabulously rich, was constantly being introduced and withdrawn. Peter the First combined leases with the state sale of vodka, trying to increase the income for the state to a maximum. During the reign of Peter the Great, the dynasties of Russian «vodka kings» started. In 1716, the first Emperor of all Russia offered the aristocracy and the merchants the exclusive right to distil wine.

In the middle of the 18th century, vodka was produced not only by state-owned distilleries, but also by land-owning aristocracy. Empress Catherine the Second, who favoured the nobility and granted it numerous privileges, made wine distillation the sole privilege of the aristocracy. The Empress's order of March 31, 1765 allowed only the nobility to distil wine and also freed them of all accompanying taxes. Rich merchants that made their fortunes at the time when anybody could produce vodka if he paid the «wine distillation tax» tried to share in the ownership of distilleries with aristocrats or use their names in the documentation. However, the government saw to it that the privilege of the nobility was kept and mercilessly punished those who disobeyed, confiscating such distilleries.

It is not surprising then that the largest part of vodka was produced in the estate of the nobility and the quality of the drink was unsurpassable. The producers attempted at high quality water cleaning and used natural proteins: milk and egg white.

It is also interesting to note that home-made vodka, unlike that of the state distilleries, was mostly flavoured. During the process of making home-made vodka, the alcohol was distilled three times, water and various plant flavours were added, and then the vodka was distilled once more for the fourth time! According to contemporaries, the tables in the estates of the nobility bore decanters with drinks that today we cannot even imagine! Sophisticated gourmets considered it a point of honour to have all sorts of vodka with flavours whose names started with all letters of the Russian alphabet. With cherry and pear, blackberry and acorn, caraway seed and dill, bird cherry and sage what a number of berries, roots and tree seeds was used for flavouring the traditional Russian drink! And, almost every landowner had his own special sort of vodka!

In the 19th century, beginning with the Patriotic War of 1812, the Russian treasury got less, the rouble underwent inflation, and the government introduced a state monopoly on vodka in the largest part of the Russian empire, except for Siberia, where it was useless to control the leaseholders, anyway. It is quite characteristic that after the war with Napoleon was over, Russian vodka was highly appreciated in France and it was not considered to be just one more exotic drink, but something noble and pure, brought to the French by those who defeated Buonaparte.

In Russia, the system of vodka production and sale kept changing. After the reforms, first, the excise system was introduced, then the ideas of the best way to sell bread wine were considered. Before 1885 vodka was sold only in buckets (12.3 litres); now bottles became more widespread.

The invention of this vodka is connected with the name of the famous chemist D. I. Mendeleev. The scientist had been searching for the ideal volume and weight ratio of alcohol and water for a year and a half and after having solved the problem published his findings in his doctorate dissertation «On Combining Alcohol and Water». Mendeleev's conclusions were appreciated and successfully applied in alcoholometry and vodka production. In 1894-1896 the national standard for vodka was established and the state monopoly on vodka that gradually spread all over the country was introduced.


The prohibition measures that were first introduced during the war with Japan of 1904-1905 are alone worth a separate detailed story. There is also the «prohibition law» introduced by the government of the Russian Empire on August 2, 1914 and officially cancelled by the Soviet government only in 1925. It is notable that the above mentioned monopoly on vodka led to a certain decrease in the number of alcoholics (anumber that was quite scary in the beginning of the 20th century). To a great extent this decrease was influenced by the regulations for selling vodka - in many regions vodka could be sold only before 8 p.m. However, this limitation did not work in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

It is not surprising then that in 1953 the «Moscow Special» was awarded a gold medal at an international exhibition in Switzerland. Among the items in the museum's collection, visitors will recognise the well-known «Stolichnaya» label without difficulties. This brand became very popular both at home and abroad as soon as it appeared on the market.

In May 1985, the beginning of Gorbachev's era, the sadly remembered document «On the Improved Measures Against Drunkenness and Alcoholism» struck a heavy blow to the national liquor and vodka industry. Although after 5 years time the absurd decision was considered erroneous, Russia can still feel the damage today.

On June 7 1992, the first Russian president, B. N. Yeltsin issued the Decree on the Abolition of the State Monopoly on Vodka. As a result, the country was flooded with low quality, very often fake, and therefore, hazardous product. The effect of this widespread fake vodka was so apparent, and the budget losses so noticeable, that in a year, on June 11, 1993, the new presidential decree was issued. This time it was called «On theReestablishment of the State Monopoly on Production, Storage, Wholesale and Retail of Alcoholic Products».

Sources:vodkamuseum.ru, russia-ic.com

пятница, 30 января 2009 г.

Russia, Cuba to sign loan, food aid deals

MOSCOW, January 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Cuba will sign an agreement on a loan and food aid to the Caribbean state during President Raul Castro's current visit to Moscow, a Kremlin official said on Friday.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier said Russia would provide $20 million to Cuba, which would be used to buy Russian-made goods.

"The visit will see a series of documents, including an inter-government agreement on a state loan and food aid to Cuba," a Kremlin official said, adding that 25,000 metric tons of grain would be delivered to the country "to ease an acute food problem."

Castro, the first Cuban leader to visit Russia since 1985, will have formal talks with President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday. Castro arrived in Moscow on Wednesday and is due to depart on February 4.

Thursday saw the two leaders enjoy a nostalgia-tinted meeting at the presidential Soviet-era country residence of Zavidovo.

Relations between Cold War allies Russia and Cuba declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, in recent years, Russia has moved to revive ties with Cuba, as well as other Latin American states. Medvedev visited Havana in November, holding talks with Raul Castro and his elder brother and the country's former leader Fidel.

Medvedev and Castro will discuss further economic, political and humanitarian cooperation at talks on Friday, a Kremlin official said.

Abkhazia says to sign deal on Russian military bases in months

MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Abkhazia will soon sign an agreement on the deployment of Russian air and naval bases in the breakaway Georgian republic, a spokesman for the Abkhazian president said on Thursday.

Russia and Abkhazia have agreed to establish a base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet at Ochamchira, a seaside town in the republic, which Russia recognizes as independent.

"The agreement is expected to be signed within the next few months. We need to iron out some technical matters," Kristian Bzhania said.

He said that the airbase, in Gudauta, would be deployed before the naval base, adding that both bases had been established in the Soviet days.

Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh said on Monday that the possibility of Georgian sabotage was a push for the republic to advance talks with Russia on a base for the Black Sea Fleet.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet currently uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine's Crimea as part of a 1997 agreement, under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced last summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease of the base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol beyond 2017, and urged the Russia to start preparations for a withdrawal.

The chief of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, said in November that the Russian military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia would be fully staffed with 3,700 personnel each by the end of 2009.

Russian businessman funds pro-God ad campaign on London buses

LONDON, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian TV producer said on Thursday he was launching a "There is God" advertizing campaign in London to counter atheist posters displayed on buses in January.

Posters reading "There is God. Don't Worry. Enjoy your life!" will appear on London buses in March, said Alexander Korobko, the head of the London-based Russian Hour satellite TV channel.

A campaign organized by the British Humanist Association (BHA), which has raised 140,000 pounds ($200,000) instead of the planned 5,500, put slogans reading "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" on 800 buses.

The campaign drew protests from religious organizations and believers, but advertising regulators said it was not in conflict with legislation.

"Who said faith in God does not allow us to enjoy life?" Korobko said, describing how his surprise at the posters had eventually evolved into an alternative campaign.

Korobko said his channel had signed a contract with CBS Outdoor to put "There is God" posters on 25 London double-deckers from March 9. The posters will have photographs of a Russian monastery on them.

He said he had discussed the idea with Russian Orthodox Church officials in London and Moscow and had received their approval.

"We are living in a difficult time, when crisis is being extensively 'promoted'... and people need some life-asserting message," he said, adding the campaign was financed by the channel.

Speaking ahead of the atheist campaign, BHA chief executive Hanne Stinson told the BBC: "We see so many posters advertising salvation through Jesus or threatening us with eternal damnation, that I feel sure that a bus advert like this will be welcomed as a breath of fresh air.

"If it raises a smile as well as making people think, so much the better," she said.

четверг, 29 января 2009 г.

Lost in translation: Putin’s ‘slapdown’ comment

Several media outlets have misquoted Vladimir Putin’s words which he said during the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Prime Minister allegedly referred to those of ‘limited mental capacity’.

The quote in question was Putin’s answer to Michael Dell, after the IT mogul asked how his company and other players in the industry can help Russia cope with the global financial crisis.

Some media quoted Putin’s answer as “We don't need help. We are not invalids. We don't have limited mental capacity.” Fortune called the reply ‘a slapdown’ aggravated by Putin’s description of Russian scientific traditions in mathematics, which, according to the magazine, implied any old fool can build a PC outfit. The Inquirer’s report on the episode is headed “Russia tells Dell where to stick his computers”.

Oh, my! Big bad bully Putin insults a man who has just praised his country for no reason! Or did he?

No, he didn’t. The quote was taken from the live translation of the event in Davos, and the interpreter was apparently a bit baffled by prime minister’s metaphorical language, which led to confusion.

Putin’s actual words were: “You know, the trick is we’re not someone in need of help. We’re not invalids. Help is something that you should give to poor people, to people with limited capacities, to pensioners, to developing countries…”

He added: “As for Russia and our partners in Europe, in the United States, in some Asian countries, there should be a partnership of equals.”

Hardly anyone will take a request for partnership as an insult, unless he feels superior in the first place. Or is it that stereotypes are getting in the way and making some people jump to conclusions?

Source:Russia Today

Russian acient legend about city of Kitezh

There is a legend under which the city of Kitezh resisted a Tatar invasion by submerging itself in Svetloyar lake. The lake is in the Nizhny Novgorod Region north-east of Moscow. I visited it recently. According to legend, Prince Georgy of Vladimir as he traveled about the Trans-Volga Region in the 13th century took a particular liking of a picturesque area on the Lyunda River and built there a city with a large number of white-stone golden-domed churches, boyar chambers and trading quarters. That was a fortress city, a monastic city and it was called Kitezh. The population was mostly believers, so the city was a sort of Slavic spiritual center and was considered holy.

In 1238 North Eastern Russia was invaded by Tatar hordes under the leadership of Khan Baty. Baty besieged the capital of the Suzdal principality – Vladimir. Despite fierce resistance from the population and army, Vladimir fell to the enemy and was plundered and burnt. Other cities of the principality were captured and burnt too. Prince Yuri of Vladimir and Suzdal retreated with the remaining troops to the woods and took shelter in Kitezh. Baty rushed to trace him but failed. He then ordered to torture all imprisoned Russians so that they would tell the hidden routes leading to Kitezh. The warriors kept silent, for they knew letting out the secret of the holy city of Kitezh would inflict an eternal curse on them and their descendants. Eventually the Tatars found a traitor, Grishka Kuterma by name, who led the enemy to the holy place. On seeing Baty’s hordes by Kitezh’s walls, the prince and his armed force started to pray to God ardently. God heard their heartfelt prayers, took a pity on them and saved the city from devastation. Khan Baty and his army watched in dismay the city of Kitezh submerge itself in Lake Svetloyar and disappear in its waters.
озеро Светлояр
«озеро Светлояр» на Яндекс.Фотках
"Lake Svetloyar"

In folk tales the city of Kitezh exists to this day but is invisible. The occasional church bells coming from the lake’s depths in the dead of the night suggest the city is alive. In the old days the pilgrims used to spend nights on end on Svetloyar in the hope to hear the bells. They prayed to the hills for they saw them as buried churches, set sail wood chips with candles attached to them and left alms for the city’s dwellers in a belief that their prayer to God was a fairly strong one. Mothers arrived to the lake all the time during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 to pray on their knees for their sons who fought on the fronts. The water of Svetloyar is healing and clears the body of disease and sin and the herbs that grow on its banks are medicinal too.

Scientists have long been struggling to explain the mystery of the lake from a scientific point of view. In their assumptions, Lake Svetloyar formed more than 1000 years ago as a result of a crack in the earth’s crust, is shaped like a saucer bottom up and is pointed downward. It is 340 meters wide, 453 meters long and about 30 meters deep. The water contains elements good for human health. But the mystery of the lake escapes people. God opens it to those worthy only. A local woman, Zinaida, knows it only too well.

“Ten years ago I and Father Yevgeny came to the lake to erect an oak cross in place of a ruined chapel,” Zinaida says. “The priests consecrated it and said a prayer. In the evening we came back to look at it once again. As we stood on the lake’s side we suddenly saw a big cathedral fenced by a serrated wall and the golden church domes reflected on the surface of the lake. I gasped. Father Yevgeny says quietly: “You keep silent and watch.” So we stood in silence for another ten minutes and then the reflection gradually vanished. I asked a psalm reader standing nearby whether he had seen the miracle of the invisible city of Kitezh as it got reflected on the water surface. But he said he had seen nothing of the sort. So God revealed the city of Kitezh to me.”

Lake Svetloyar and the city of Kitezh have got ingrained in the Russian soul as the symbols of purity, tenacity and immortality. The lake absorbed the city of Kitezh to the end of time and according to legend, it will emerge from it again before the end of the world and the army of the Russian prince will come out of the city’s gates to face Doomsday along with all other Christian souls.

Source:The Voice of Russsia

Barroso to talk ties, energy security with Putin next week

BRUSSELS, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso plans to meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week to discuss Russia-EU ties and energy security, a commission spokesman said on Thursday.

Amadeo Altafaj Tardio said the meeting would take place as part of a session between Russian government and European Commission officials. The session will also be attended by EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Russia's European Union envoy Vladimir Chizhov said on Thursday the session would be held on February 6.

The meeting will come in the wake of a bitter natural gas debt and pricing row between Russia and Ukraine that led to an almost two-week cutoff in supplies to Europe earlier this month as Russia accused Kiev of stealing its EU-bound gas.

The 27-nation European Union receives about a quarter of its gas from Russia, 80% of which is pumped through Ukraine. Disputes between Russia and former Soviet transit nations have made EU states uneasy about energy dependence on Russia.

Russia has been hard hit by the global credit crunch and falling oil prices and needs buyers for its natural resources.

Speaking at the opening of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine town of Davos on late Wednesday, Putin said the current financial crisis, which has already brought down energy prices, could lead to a global energy shortage.

Putin said the dramatic decline in oil prices could trigger cuts in investment in the sector and production, and as a result "uncontrolled price hikes" which could later hamper economic revival and pave the way to a new crisis.

He said "the only way of ensuring real global energy security is to build inter-dependence, including through asset swaps." He urged fair energy prices "cleared as much as possible" of speculative transactions.

The Russian premier also highlighted energy transit as a major problem threatening uninterrupted supplies. Putin proposed fixing free market-based transit tariffs and the diversification of supply routes.

The meeting with European officials will take place ahead of a third round of long-delayed talks on a new comprehensive cooperation pact due in Brussels on February 13.

Talks on the deal were repeatedly delayed, initially by Poland and Lithuania, and most recently over Russia's August conflict with Georgia. A decision to resume the negotiations was made at the Russia-EU summit in Nice in November, despite objections from Lithuania.

Moscow earlier said that some EU members had tried to use the treaty to pressure Russia.

Russian nuclear-powered warship visits Indian port

MARMUGAO (India), January 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser from the Northern Fleet has arrived in the port of Marmugao in the Indian state of Goa on an unofficial visit, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported on Thursday.

The Pyotr Veliky and the Indian guided-missile destroyer INS Delhi recently participated in a PASSEX type naval exercise in the Indian Ocean.

Marmugao is the only port on India's western coast that allows visits by nuclear-powered ships.

After a two-day visit and resupply of food and water, the Russian cruiser will head to the Somali coast to participate in the INDRA-2009 joint naval drills with the Indian Navy, which involves practicing joint anti-piracy operations.

The Pyotr Veliky will join up with a task force from Russia's Pacific Fleet, comprising the Admiral Vinogradov, an Udaloy class destroyer, a tugboat and two fuel tankers, which are carrying out anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

The Russian Navy said on Wednesday that the Admiral Levchenko destroyer from the Northern Fleet will also participate in the INDRA-2009 exercise.

Pirates have been increasingly active in the waters off Somalia, where over 110 ships were attacked in 2008, with 42 vessels seized and 815 crew members abducted. Up to 20 warships from the navies of at least 10 countries are involved in anti-piracy operations off the coast of the lawless East African nation.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution last December authorizing countries and multinational organizations involved in tackling piracy to "undertake all necessary measures in Somalia, including in its airspace" to prevent "acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea."

среда, 28 января 2009 г.

Gazprom to boost South Stream gas pipe capacity by 16 bln cu m

MOSCOW, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - The capacity of a gas pipeline designed to pump gas to the Balkans and other European states is expected to be boosted by 16 billion cubic meters annually, Gazprom Deputy Chairman Alexander Medvedev said on Wednesday.

The first deliveries along the South Stream pipeline are scheduled to start in 2013. The project, expected to annually pump 31 billion cubic meters of Central Asian and Russian gas to the Balkans and on to other European countries, involves Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Italy and Greece.

"We are not only planning to launch the Nord Stream with a capacity of 55 billion cubic meters and the South Stream with 31 billion cubic meters capacity, but also to increase South Stream's transit capacity by another 16 billion cubic meters," Medvedev said in an interview with the international TV news channel Russia Today.

The Nord Stream pipeline, which will pump gas from Siberia to Europe under the Baltic Sea, is being built jointly by Gazprom and Germany's E.ON and BASF and Dutch gas transportation firm, Gasunie, at an estimated cost of $12 billion.

The Gazprom official said this move was economically justified. "Demand is available and it is more economical to have a gas pipeline with a capacity of 47 billion cubic meters instead of 31 billion cubic meters," Medvedev said.

Gazprom is implementing the projects to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to pump gas directly to Germany and a gas pipeline under the Black Sea to pump gas to the Balkans and other European states to diversify its gas export routes, especially in the light of the recent gas row between Moscow and Kiev that saw gas transits to Europe suspended for two weeks.

вторник, 27 января 2009 г.

Metropolitan Kirill elected head of Russian Orthodox Church

MOSCOW, January 27 (RIA Novosti) - Metropolitan Kirill has been elected head of the Russian Orthodox Church, becoming the 16th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

Kirill received 508 votes, and the second candidate, Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk - 169 votes. A total of 700 ballots were cast in the vote, with 23 recognized as invalid.

The Local Council, which is a council of bishops, priests, monks and laymen, including political figures and businessmen, gathered in Moscow earlier on Tuesday to elect the new Russian Orthodox Church leader.

The 700-plus-member group convened for a session to elect a successor to Patriarch Alexy II, who died in December at the age of 79 after leading the revival of the world's largest Orthodox church since 1990. This was the first election of a patriarch since the breakup of the atheist Soviet Union.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who was the Russian Church's interim leader since the death of Alexy II, was the leading candidate on a shortlist that included two other hierarchs chosen in a secret ballot by the Council of Bishops on Sunday.

Kirill, 62, in charge of the church's external relations, has led dialogue with the Vatican, a sensitive issue for the two churches, which split almost 1,000 years ago. He is well-known in Russia through his weekly television program and frequent public appearances.

Kirill received the most votes, 97, in Sunday's ballot.

The other candidates on the shortlist were Metropolitan Kliment with 32 votes, and Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, who received 16 votes. They are seen more as traditionalists. Filaret earlier on Tuesday withdrew his candidacy, urging the electors to vote for Kirill.

The Church Council session is taking place in the sumptuous Christ the Savior Cathedral with clergy clad in ceremonial robes. Streets around the cathedral in central Moscow have been closed to traffic.

The new Russian patriarch is expected to be enthroned on Sunday and his term of office is lifelong.

The point of view:The many faces of the Holocaust

The many faces of the Holocaust
The mass extermination of Jews by Nazi Germany is one of the cornerstones of the current world order. This ugly page of history is read with grief, penance and speculation.

Jews were not the first people in history who faced persecution and death solely for their ethnicity. There was the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. The ill fate of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Australia or Africa, who were decimated by European colonists, was no less grave in terms of loss of life and suffering either.

Neither were Jews the only group whom Nazi deemed unworthy to live. Roma people, Slavs, and even fellow Germans who were unlucky to have mental illness or be homosexual suffered from the regime obsessed with racial purity. And while Nazi war crimes were grave and many, the attention paid to them largely surpasses that to the atrocities of, say, Japan in the Asian countries that they conquered during World War II.

Still many scholars consider the Holocaust as a unique tragedy of the Jewish people, the Disaster.

It’s true that Nazi leadership treated Jews with special hatred and wanted them wiped out from the world. And they did much to reach their evil goal, slaughtering Jews in pogroms, summary executions and death marches, starving them and in ghettos, creating a whole industry that existed only to kill people. An estimated six million Jews fell victim to the Holocaust, with up to 90% of the population wiped out in some countries like Germany itself, Poland or the Baltic states.

What makes the persecution special is the involvement of the winners in the war in these atrocities. In many countries occupied by Germany there was widespread anti-Semitism and too many people became willing accomplices to the Nazi. For instance the Auschwitz death camp was run by German officers, but many of the guards were Ukrainians. Collaborators assisted in hunting down Jews in occupied territories. While many of those involved in the crimes were prosecuted after the war, the scale of involvement was too large to simply dismiss it.

Many more people didn’t take active part in the Holocaust, but had good reasons to feel guilty for taking conformist stance and turning a blind eye on the crimes. When the true scale of the tragedy meticulously documented by Germans was revealed, it couldn’t help but leave a mental scar on millions of Europeans who lived under Nazi rule. Moreover, unlike the East, Western Europe didn’t witness many of the horrors of the war and was not prepared for this injection of the ugly reality.

The sense of guilt was one of the reasons why for so many nations the Holocaust became not just a war crime, but the war crime: the ultimate evil that history has ever borne witness to. The support that the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine had from Europe, despite the resistance from the Arab world, can be seen as an act of penance. Denying the Holocaust is a crime in Israel and in 12 European countries, including Germany, Austria, Romania and Poland – countries that were among the perpetrators. It’s no wonder that some people see it all as a Zionist conspiracy and claim the Holocaust is a hoax.

Perhaps in several generations the acute memory of the Holocaust will weather. Even now some politicians challenge Jews’ monopoly for the term while pursuing their agendas, like Hamas political leader in Damascus Khaled Mashal, who labelled Israel’s resent offensive in Gaza Strip a holocaust of Palestinians, or President Yushchenko who referred to the Holodomor – the mass famine in the 1930s that he claims was orchestrated by Stalin – as Ukraine’s Holocaust.

On January 27 the world remembers the victims of the Holocaust. On this day in 1945, Soviet troops liberated the remaining 7,500 prisoners of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The retreating SS troops were ordered to execute the prisoners, but it was never carried out.

Alexandre Antonov, RT

Filaret withdraws candidacy for Russian patriarch, backs Kirill

MOSCOW, January 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Filaret has withdrawn his candidacy for the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, declaring his support for Metropolitan Kirill, the Moscow Patriarchy said Tuesday.

"Metropolitan Filaret withdrew his candidacy. He called on those who voted for him at the Council of Bishops and wanted to do so at the Local Council to give their votes to Metropolitan Kirill," Patriarchy spokesman Father Vladimir Vigilyansky said.

A council of electors, which includes clergy, political figures and businessmen, gathered in Moscow on Tuesday to choose a new Russian Orthodox Church leader.

The 711-member group convened for a three-day session to elect a successor to Patriarch Alexy II, who died in December aged 79 after leading the revival of the world's largest Orthodox church since 1990. This is the first election of a patriarch since the breakup of the atheist Soviet Union.

Observers and some electors expect a new patriarch to be named as soon as Tuesday evening, as a vote was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Moscow time (14:30 GMT).

"This is the general feeling," said Bishop Ilarion of Vienna and Austria, a Church representative at European international organizations. "If the election takes place in the first round, we will know the new patriarch's name on Tuesday night."

The church's interim leader, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, was the leading candidate even before Filaret withdrew. The remaining candidate on the shortlist is Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk.

Sunken treasure with a Soviet past

A treasure-filled vessel discovered off the coast of Guyana may contain 10 tonnes of gold, 70 tonnes of platinum, 1 1/2 tonnes of industrial diamonds and 16 million carats of gem-quality diamonds, making it the most valuable underwater discovery ever.

According to a US-based marine research and recovery firm, Sub Sea Research, the merchant ship is located some 250 metres under water. The exact location of the World War II vessel which, according to preliminary reports, was sunk by a German submarine in 1942 has not yet been released in order to ensure that the ship’s cargo is brought to the surface safely. For the same reason, the vessel’s name has not been divulged, but, in the meantime, it has been nicknamed the “Blue Baron.”

“This British freighter had an extremely valuable cargo, and we decided there wasn’t a lot of point in leaving it at the bottom of the sea. This will definitely be the richest wreck ever,” the founder of Sub Sea Research, Greg Brooks, said in an interview with the “Daily Telegraph.”

So far, assessment has shown that the Blue Baron was on its way to New York from a European port, manned mostly by British nationals and bearing cargo for the U.S. Treasury. It was intercepted near the shores of Guyana by a German submarine, sinking with its goods worth approximately US$ 3.5 billion.

According to Sub Sea Research, claims to the treasures found on the ocean floor could cause controversy amongst several rival parties due to the sheer monetary value of the discovery. The fact that no government has yet stepped forward to make a claim demonstrates that the discovery is being kept as quiet as possible, according to Brooks.

The ship’s substantial cargo was primarily Soviet, with the rest belonging to the British side of the WWII alliance. Russia, therefore, has an evident chance to claim at least part of the riches discovered on the seabed. Nevertheless, laws concerning salvaging items from the ocean floor can be complex and experts say this could mean years of legal disputes before ownership of the wreck is attributed to any party.

Source:Russia Today

27 of January-The date of lifting of Leningrad blockade

This was undoubtedly the most tragic period in the history of the city, a period full of suffering and heroism. For everyone who lives in St. Petersburg the Blokada (the Siege) of Leningrad is an important part of the city's heritage and a painful memory for the population's older generations.

Less than two and a half months after the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany, German troops were already approaching Leningrad. The Red Army was outflanked and on September 8 1941 the Germans had fully encircled Leningrad and the siege began. The siege lasted for a total of 900 days, from September 8 1941 until January 27 1944. The city's almost 3 million civilians (including about 400,000 children) refused to surrender and endured rapidly increasing hardships in the encircled city. Food and fuel stocks were limited to a mere 1-2 month supply, public transport was not operational and by the winter of 1941-42 there was no heating, no water supply, almost no electricity and very little food. In January 1942 in the depths of an unusually cold winter, the city's food rations reached an all time low of only 125 grams (about 1/4 of a pound) of bread per person per day. In just two months, January and February of 1942, 200,000 people died in Leningrad of cold and starvation. Despite these tragic losses and the inhuman conditions the city's war industries still continued to work and the city did not surrender.

Several hundred thousand people were evacuated from the city across Lake Ladoga via the famous "Road of Life" ("Doroga Zhizni") - the only route that connected the besieged city with the mainland. During the warm season people were ferried to the mainland, and in winter - carried by trucks that drove across the frozen lake under constant enemy bombardment.

Meanwhile, the city lived on. The treasures of the Hermitage and the suburban palaces of Petrodvorets and Pushkin were hidden in the basements of the Hermitage and St Isaac's Cathedral. Many of the city's students continued their studies and even passed their finals exams. Dmitry Shostakovich wrote his Seventh "Leningrad" Symphony and it was performed in the besieged city.

In January 1943 the Siege was broken and a year later, on January 27 1944 it was fully lifted. At least 641,000 people had died in Leningrad during the Siege (some estimates put this figure closer to 800,000). Most of them were buried in mass graves in different cemeteries, with the majority in the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery, resting place to over 500,000 people and a timeless reminder of the heroic deeds of the city.


The documentary film by Sergei Loznitsa.Wartime actuality shots.Life in Leningrad during the siege.No subs needed.

суббота, 24 января 2009 г.

Drowning in debt? Call anti-collectors

Banks across Russia are reporting a rise in the number of people falling behind with loan repayments. The trend has opened a gap in the market for a new kind of business - debt agencies with a difference.

When a recession kicks in, those in debt are most at risk. It is not rare for people with loans to find themselves jobless and unable to meet their repayments.

Desperation sets in as penalty payments are imposed and the banks pile on the pressure, often using debt collectors.

This is what happened to Sergey.

”I had several bank loans but then I missed one of the payments and my fines and debts immediately started to grow like mushrooms. They started to put an unbearable pressure on me demanding their money back,” Sergey said.

Sergey got help from a law firm that specialises in this type of problem. They call themselves ‘anti-collectors’ - the opposite of debt-collectors.

Agency director Dmitry Polukarov says that in almost every case there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

”It's often the case that we make a deal with the bank prolonging the payment period and even canceling all the fines. And all that our client has to do is to pay off the clean debt in several even portions,” Dmitry says.

This kind of business started to appear in Russia just two years ago at the peak of the borrowing frenzy.

Their numbers multiplied as more and more people borrowed more than they could afford and fell behind with their repayments.

Companies like Dmitry’s give legal consultations to people who find themselves in trouble with bank loans. They often take on the negotiations with the bank and They go to court where necessary to prove that the law is on the side of the borrower.

Some banks are not pleased with these new players in the debt business.

”From the point of view of the bank, it's not a good activity because everyone must follow the agreements they sign. And the actions of these people that call themselves anti-collectors is not very good,” bank vice president Viktor Springel says.

Still, the anti-collector business is growing from day to day in Russia. Dmitry Polukarov had to expand his company recently, as new clients fall victim to the liquidity crisis.

Source:Russia Today

Post-Soviet security bloc to hold int. conference on Afghanistan

MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will convene an international conference on Afghanistan in late March, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

No concrete date was announced for the conference.

Alexei Borodavkin, a Russian deputy foreign minister, met with the Afghan ambassador to Russia, Zalmai Aziz, on Friday. The sides pledged to continue developing Russian-Afghan cooperation in politics, trade and economics, as well as in the humanitarian sphere.

The parties also noted the importance of the SCO, widely seen as a counterweight to NATO's influence in Eurasia, in "streamlining effective regional cooperation in countering the terrorist and drugs threat coming from Afghanistan," the ministry said.

The SCO comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The group primarily addresses security issues, but has recently moved to embrace economic and energy projects.

Russian oil consortium in Venezuela to expand to Cuba

MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian national oil consortium created to run oil projects in Venezuela will also cooperate with Cuba's state-run oil company Cubapetroleo, a memorandum signed between the two companies stated on Friday.

The deal was signed in the presence of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and Vice President of the Cuban Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas.

The oil and gas consortium of Russian companies to work in Venezuela, which was formed on October 8, 2008, includes Gazprom, Rosneft, TNK-BP, Surgutneftegaz and LUKoil.

The consortium of Russian companies is operated by Gazprom, while control of the Russian-Venezuelan oil and gas alliance is exercised by Venezuela's state-controlled Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).

Oil to be produced by the consortium will be exported to the United States, China and Europe.

Cubapetroleo announced in October last year that Cuba may have more than 20 billion barrels of oil in its offshore fields. Cuba currently produces 60,000 barrels of oil per day.

пятница, 23 января 2009 г.

Holy Synod meets in Moscow’s Danilov Monastery

Today Russia’s Holy Synod is meeting at Moscow’s St. Daniel’s Monastery to focus on the preparation of the election of a new Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch. The meeting is chaired by the locum tenens of the Patriarchal See Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad. The election of a new Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church is due next Tuesday through Thursday at the Local Council in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Taking part will be over 700 people from 64 countries, the clergy and laity alike.

Source:The Voice of Russia

Moscow slams Georgia's refusal to receive Russian inspectors

MOSCOW, January 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Georgia's refusal to allow Russian inspectors access to military installations on its territory will have political consequences.

Russia requested on January 19 and 21 that Georgia allow its experts access to Georgian military installations for evaluation and verification checks in accordance with a 1999 Vienna OSCE document on confidence and security-building measures. Georgia rejected both Russia's requests earlier on Thursday.

"This move made by Georgia contradicts the essence of the Vienna document and can not but have political consequences [in the future]," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also said that "Tbilisi has declared a 'force majeure' with regard to Russia for the period until Moscow has ended its occupation of Georgian territories including Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war last August after Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia in an attempt to regain control over the breakaway republic. In response, Russia launched a military operation to eject Georgian troops from the region.

Two weeks after the end of the war, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another rebel region, as independent states. Abkhazia and South Ossetia split from Georgia in the early 1990s, and most residents of both republics have had Russian citizenship for a number of years. Moscow and Tbilisi have not had direct diplomatic relations since.

Russia accused Georgia of receiving arms from foreign countries, including Ukraine, during the conflict.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree banning exports of military products and dual-purpose technology to Georgia. Under the document, effective through December 1, 2011, the Russian government is to develop ways to restrict military cooperation with countries supplying Russian or Soviet-made arms to Georgia.

Uzbekistan offers up to 31 bln cu m of gas to Russia

TASHKENT, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - Uzbekistan is ready to sell Russia up to 31 billion cubic meters of natural gas this year, the country's president said on Friday.

"We've offered Gazprom 16 billion cu m of gas for export this year, but we are ready to provide more," Islam Karimov said. "Considering LUKoil has been granted permission to increase gas production in this country, we can supply another 15 billion cu m of gas."

He stressed that Uzbekistan "sells gas to Russia, and to Russia only, while it is entirely up to Russia what to do with it next."

He added that Uzbekistan was ready for new gas pipelines to be built across its territory to increase gas supply and transit.

Gazprom's CEO said Russia and Uzbekistan were studying the possibility of building gas transit lines running parallel to the existing Central Asia-Center pipelines.

Alexei Miller said that Uzbekistan "is very important as a transit country, in particular in ensuring gas supplies from Turkmenistan."

четверг, 22 января 2009 г.

Bloody Sunday- 9 January 1905


On January, 8, 1905 in Aleksandrovsky palace the meeting has taken place in connection with intention of Gapon to head a demonstration to the Winter palace. Two main problems were considered:
1. All last year and till last days Gapon was loyal to Tsar also polices. He was successor of Zubatov and headed loyal «the All-Russia working assembly». It was the most numerous in Russia the organization of workers. Representatives of socialist parties could not be accepted in this organization. There were no problems prior to the beginning of January, 1905.
However, on January, 3-5 the police has found out, that some socialists-revolutionaries have appeared in the nearest environment of Gapon. They were known polices as potential terrorists.
2. Nicholas II has received on January, 7 a copy of "Petition" (from Gapon) which they were going to hand over Nicholas II on January, 9 on the Palace square. This was very big petition and it contained absolutely unacceptable requirements also. All requirements were offered to be executed immediately. Obviously, it was influence of revolutionary( of Rutenberg). Gapon has got under their influence unexpectedly for police.

Under these conditions Nicholas II could not accept Gapon in the Winter palace and meet people (with demonstrators) on the Palace square. Later (during the stay in Europe) Gapon has answered the question that would be if Nicholas II has left to people on the Palace square. Gapon has told: «Rutenberg and his friends would kill tsar instantly». Gapon himself in the beginning of January, 1905 wanted to become «a minister from people» in the government of Nicholas II.
Now some historians consider, that on January, 9 the first shots have been made of crowd by revolutionaries provokers.

At meeting on January, 8 (in Alexander palace in Tsarskoe selo) the decision was accepted, that Nicholas II should not leave Alexander palace on January, 9. He had no other variant of the decision.The Military Commander was Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, who was not there that day, and had left General Prince Vasil Chikov in charge. However,Nicholas II certainly,bears the responsibility for tragedy of Bloody Sunday as the authoritarian ruler of Russia.

According to official statistics on January, 9 there has been killed 76 person, wounded - 233. More likely, victims was more as their relatives have soon buried some killed, and separate wounded men, being afraid of reprisals, did not address for medical aid. Revolutionaries have taken advantage of a situation and have distributed hearsays, that actually was lost and is wounded about five thousand person...

The term «Bloody Sunday» was entered by English journalist Dilan.
All victims have been buried due to the state, widows have received pensions.
Certainly, Nicholas and Alexandra experienced this tragedy very much.


Murdered journalist may have tried to stop shooter - colleague

She turned 25 just over a month ago. Close to graduating from Russia's most prestigious university, with an interesting job and many friends, journalist Anastasiya Baburova had her entire life before her. So much to do, people to meet, places to see, wrongs to right.

But she never got the chance.

Leaving a press conference on Monday, she was fatally wounded by an assassin, who had just seconds before killed a prominent Russian lawyer
Doctors did all they could - but they needed a miracle to save her. And it just wasn't the day for miracles.

Investigators will now look through every scrap of paper she had, talk to every person she knew and try to figure out why Nastia was shot and who pulled the trigger.

But until they do - and possibly long after that - those who knew her will try to come to terms with her murder, and fight her battles in any way they can.

Ilya Donskih worked with Nastya for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. He was actually the one who helped her get a job there.

"We were acquainted from university. And one day, she came up to me and asked if I thought she could get a job with Novaya Gazeta. I told her I didn't think it would be a problem. Soon after that, she was hired as a freelancer."

She wrote mainly about various youth movements, focusing on Neo-Nazism. Because she worked freelance, and still studied at Moscow State University, she rarely came into the office, and didn't have a regular desk or favourite spot. But she was really liked, Ilya says quietly, and got along with pretty much everyone on the team.

"I know the editors were happy with her work. And I'm sure that she would have become a permanent member of the team very soon."

We talk long after the Novaya Gazeta issue dedicated to Nastia and Stanislav Markelov has been sent to press. It's late, and there are only a few people left in the offices of the paper. Ilya is tired, quiet, reserved. I can't even begin to imagine what I would be like if I were in his shoes. He tries to make sense of the tragedy - but how can you make sense of something so terrifying, so meaningless and final?

"Its the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me. I can't put it into words. Impossible or unfair doesn't even begin to cover it. It's like, with Anna (Politkovskaya), or even with Stas (Stanislav Markelov) it was always a possibility. I know that sounds horrible, but in a way, their jobs were very dangerous, and they weren't afraid to speak out. They knew of the dangers involved. And they've both managed to accomplish so much. Nastya....Nastya never even had the chance. It wasn't meant to be her time."

Ilya knows he, or anyone of his colleagues could have been at that fatal press conference instead of Nastya. It was just an editorial decision. She went - and is never coming back.

We sit quietly for a few moments. Then I muster the courage to ask him something personal again, something I know will be painful to say aloud, or even think about - but I must.

"Was it like her, to try and stop the shooter? Could she have gone after him?"

"It was. She was...brave. She was brave and strong, and I don't doubt for a second that she would have tried to do something. Standing by was just her."

He is both sad and quietly proud as he says this. Sad that she is gone - but proud of her, because she was like that. Brave, and strong. With a very firm belief of what needs to be done, what has to be done.

"Last time I spoke with her, it was the Christmas holidays in Russia. The paper's staff were all on holiday, people on vacations and celebrations, or even just a few days of peace and quiet. She phoned me up and said "I need something printed". I told her that it was the holidays, that no-one was working, but she wouldn't take no for an answer. "I have to do it, Ilya. It has to be seen. It just has to, you know?"

It was. And will be. Ilya says everything that Nastya was working on will be finished and published.

Because it, too, has to be seen. It just has to be.

By Katerina Azarova, RT

The man who tried to kill Brezhnev

Forty years ago, an army deserter fired at a motorcade carrying Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev into the Kremlin in Moscow. The assassination attempt failed and was hushed up, but the authorities could not conceal the extraordinary story.

The Kremlin has always been Russia's stronghold, a symbol of its power. For centuries the imposing red-bricked walls have protected its leaders.

But in the shadow of these walls, four decades ago, the life of one of the most important people in the world at the time – Leonid Brezhnev – nearly ended.

It happened on the 22nd of January 1969. As soon as the motorcade entered the Kremlin 16 pistol shots were fired at one of the vehicles. One man died in the attack and another was severely injured. Neither was the leader of the USSR.

A group of cosmonauts had come to Moscow to receive state awards that day. They were met by Brezhnev at the city's Vnukovo Airport and then headed for the Kremlin by motorcade.

Meanwhile, at Moscow's main airport, Sheremetevo, another uninvited participant, who would play a central role in the day's events, was arriving too. Army officer Victor Ilyin had fled his military base near St Petersburg with two fully-loaded pistols in his coat.

Airport security was not what it is today and Ilyin, also wearing a stolen police uniform, sailed through the airport, even though a hunt had already begun for the missing soldier.

We were already looking for the man but nobody expected that he would be wearing a police uniform. Everyone was looking for a man dressed as a military officer or a civilian,” Oleg Matveev, FSB historian, said.

Ilyin’s approach was straightforward. He simply walked into the Kremlin through a tourist entrance. It was a freezing cold day and he spent the next two hours, undisturbed, looking for the best firing position. He chose a place just a few metres from the entrance gate.

A KGB investigator says everything was perfectly planned for an assassination.

The man was obsessed with killing the head of the USSR - Brezhnev. He was ready to do anything. And he picked the best time possible,” Aleksandr Zagvozdin, KGB investigator, said.

The VIP motorcade swept towards the Kremlin, cosmonauts in the first two cars with Brezhnev himself in the fourth. As it entered, Ilyin took out his pistols and fired them together. But he picked the wrong target.

A bullet hit the second car, killing the limousine driver. It was a miracle the cosmonauts survived. Brezhnev was unhurt in the last car.

Another bullet hit Vasiliy Zatsipilin, part of the motorcycle escort that day.

As our car was on the way in I heard these banging sounds. I though it was fireworks or something. But then I realised my arm was no longer listening to me,” Vasiliy Zatsipilin said.

The assassin had just four seconds before he was wrestled to the ground by security officers. Three hours later, the head of the KBG and the future head of the USSR, Yuriy Andropov, was personally questioning the man:

Andropov: Why did you decide that you are a judge and can decide with a gun in your hands? Ilyin: Because a person should live not exist.
Andropov: What does that mean?
Ilyin: Now people try to survive by any possible means. Something is very wrong in our society.

After a long investigation, Ilyn was considered insane and placed in a mental hospital in solitary confinement for twenty years.

He was set free in the 1990s.

RT found him in St. Petersburg. He refused to be interviewed on camera, but told us that most of all he regrets that an innocent man died.

Source:Russia Today

Fate of U.S. airbase in Kyrgyzstan to be decided in February

MOSCOW, January 22 (RIA Novosti) - A decision on the future of a U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan, will be made before the president of the Central Asian country visits Moscow at the start of February, a Kyrgyz OSCE delegate said on Thursday.

The base at Manas airport, some 30 kilometers (17 miles) east of the country's capital, Bishkek, hosts over 1,000 U.S. military personnel and nine military transport and refueling planes.

"There are now two [foreign] military bases in Kyrgyzstan - one U.S., one Russian," Azhibai Kalmamatov said. "The issue on the future of the American base is now being looked at and will be decided before the president of Kyrgyzstan visits Russia."

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is due to visit Moscow in early February.

Several news sources have reported that Kyrgyzstan is planning to close the American airbase, which was opened in December 2001 under a UN mandate to support coalition forces in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

Last week, however, the head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, said a team of U.S. officials would arrive in Kyrgyzstan in the near future to discuss a number of projects that could expand and improve the use of the base.

The general said the base was worth some $63 million a year to Kyrgyzstan, including rent, service and maintenance contracts, and wages for Kyrgyz employees.

The U.S. government allocated an additional $25 million this year for assistance to the Kyrgyz military in the fight against terrorism, extremism and drug-trafficking, Petraeus added.

U.K. to host festival of Russian culture on March 1

LONDON, January 22 (RIA Novosti) - A festival of Russian culture, Maslenitsa, will be held in London on March 1, the event's organizers said in a statement on Thursday.

The festival will be instead of the annual Russian Winter Festival, which has been held in mid-January in London's Trafalgar Square since 2005. This year Russian Winter was cancelled for financial and organizational reasons.

Maslenitsa is due to go ahead from 13:00 to 18:00 GMT at Potters Fields, a park by the Thames, beside Tower Bridge and City Hall.

"The festival will include various music, dance and theater performances by well-known and promising Russian performers, as well as some local groups," the statement said.

Traditional Russian pancakes and other national food will also be available.

среда, 21 января 2009 г.

Russkoye Pole (Russian Fields). Dmitri Khvorostovsky

The CIA's secret triumph

MOSCOW. (Member of the Russian pen club Anatoly Korolev for RIA Novosti) - Under the rules of the Swedish Academy, the Nobel Prizes archives may be opened 50 years after the awarding takes place. Thus, the documents of October 1958 may be declassified in January of this year.

This is a notable date for Russian culture. That year, the Academy awarded a Nobel Prize in literature to Soviet poet Boris Pasternak.

Now that the archives have been declassified, the circumstances of the loudest scandal in the history of Nobel Prizes will be finally scrutinized.

The story of the Pasternak award was crowned with quite a sensation. It transpired that the CIA made a contribution to the award. It was the CIA that printed the first Russian version of "Doctor Zhivago" without which Pasternak's nomination would not have been discussed because the Nobel Committee only reviews fiction in the original.

Needless to say, Pasternak himself had nothing to do with intelligence. His genius was simply used as a powerful weapon in the Cold War between the West and the East. Until recently, this detective story has been couched in a thick veil of secrecy. It was solely owing to the persistence of philologist Ivan Tolstoy (from the famous Tolstoy family) that the secret was revealed and made public. It took him 20 years to resolve the enigma.

Boris Pasternak started writing his legendary novel soon after the end of WWII, in 1946. It took him ten years. Upon completing it in January 1956, Pasternak started to wonder what to do next. The novel that was eventually called "Doctor Zhivago" (the initial title was "The Burning Candle") ran counter to the principles of Soviet literature. Should he just shelve it until better times? But when will these better times come, if at all? Also, he was no longer young.

Pasternak decided to try to get it published. He took the novel to the editorial office of the popular literary journal Novy Mir. At the same time he gave a huge folder with its typed version to the young Italian journalist Sergio D' Angelo. A Moscow radio broadcaster, the Italian was looking for new Soviet novels for Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, a Milan-based ambitious young Italian publisher with communist views. Having found out about the new novel, the Italian journalist rushed to Peredelkino, outside Moscow, where the writer lived, and Pasternak handed it to him without any hesitation.

Having learned about this, Pasternak's wife Zinaida almost burst into tears. She had no illusions about the consequences - arrest, a labor camp, separation. The poet was trying to put a good face on the matter, and reassured his family but felt that the clouds were gathering over him. Nonetheless, he decided to go to the end and gave two more typed copies to another two foreign visitors - British essayist and philosopher Isaiah Berlin, and French specialist in Slavic Studies Helene Peltier.

At this point, secrecy cast its first shadow on the story. The CIA found out about Pasternak's novel. Its Russian section understood full well what political benefits could stem from the publication of a novel which was bound to be banned at home. It only remained to get the text. Here comes the most mysterious episode of the story. The aircraft carrying a passenger with a copy of the novel was ordered to land in the airport of Malta in the Mediterranean. The pilot apologized for the stopover. The annoyed passengers went to the airport's departure lounge, while CIA agents found the right suitcase, took out the text, and photographed it page by page. They put the text back into the suitcase, and two hours later the aircraft was airborne again. The passengers arrived at their destination. The owner of the suitcase was in blissful ignorance of what had happened with it.

Approximately at the same time the KGB found out that Pasternak's novel had been taken abroad. The events began snowballing into an avalanche. The Novy Mir journal rejected the novel, and reprimanded the poet for the inadmissible text; the KGB and the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee exerted pressure on the publisher from Milan through the Italian Communist Party, but Feltrinelli published the novel and demonstratively quit the party.

On November 23, 1957, the novel went out of print in Italian and exceeded all expectations. Its first edition of 12,000 copies was sold out in a matter of days. More copies were printed every two weeks but a boom did not subside. It became world famous, and was translated into English, German, and French. In the spring of 1958, Albert Camus nominated Pasternak for a Nobel Prize.

However, under the Nobel Committee's rules, the novel had to be in the original. Here the CIA-copied version came in handy. Every hour counted in what was a now-or-never situation. Through proxy funds, the CIA gave money to urgently publish the novel in Russian. To cover up the traces of stealing, the CIA made galleys from the photocopies and printed the Russian version in the academic publishing house of Muton in the Hague without any copyrights in the August of 1958.

The Swedish Academy had no more obstacles for awarding Pasternak, and on October 23, 1958 the Nobel cannon shot at the Soviet government. Pasternak received a Nobel Prize for outstanding merits in modern lyric poetry and for continuing the traditions of the great Russian novel.

Pasternak sent a reply cable: "Immensely thankful, touched, proud, astonished, abashed."

He naively hoped to go to Stockholm and receive his Nobel Prize from the hands of the King but the authorities twisted the arms of the woman he loved, Olga Ivinskaya. Stunned by such consequences and gripped with fear for his beloved, Pasternak turned down the Nobel Prize, and sent a relevant cable to Stockholm.

The CIA operation was a success. The Soviet Union received a tangible blow. The Pasternak story revealed the shattering power of anti-Soviet literature in the West. Pasternak paved the way to a whole series of anti-Soviet publications which were crowned with the sensational "Gulag Archipelago," for which the dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn was also awarded a Nobel Prize.

Third round of talks on new Russia-EU deal set for Feb. 13

BRUSSELS, January 21 (RIA Novosti) - The third round of negotiations on a new Russia-EU cooperation agreement will take place in Brussels on February 13, Russia's EU envoy said on Wednesday.

Vladimir Chizhov said working groups were already meeting ahead of the talks.

The agreement would replace the 1997 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which was extended for a year when it expired in December 2007. Talks on a new deal have been repeatedly delayed, initially by Poland and Lithuania and most recently over Russia's August conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia.

A decision to resume the negotiations was made at the Russia-EU summit in Nice on November 14, despite objections from Lithuania.

Moscow earlier said that some EU members had tried to use the treaty issue to pressure Russia.

Russia meets a sizable share of Europe's energy needs, making many countries uneasy about dependence on Kremlin-controlled supplies. For its part, Russia has been hard hit by the global credit crunch and falling oil prices, and needs buyers for its natural resources.

вторник, 20 января 2009 г.

Russia in photos (Taimyr Peninsula part 1)

Taymyr Peninsula is a peninsula in Siberia that forms the most northern part of mainland Asia. It lies between the Yenisei Gulf of the Kara Sea and the Khatanga Gulf of the Laptev Sea in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia.

Lake Taymyr and the Byrranga Mountains are located within the vast Taymyr Peninsula.

The peninsula is the site of the last known naturally occurring muskox outside of North America, which died out about 2,000 years ago.[1] They were successfully reintroduced in 1975.[2]

Cape Chelyuskin, the northernmost point of the Eurasian continent, is located at the northern end of the Taymyr Peninsula

Красные скалы на реке Котуй
«Красные скалы на реке Котуй» на Яндекс.Фотках
Red cliffs near the river Kotui

«Песец» на Яндекс.Фотках
Polar fox

Посмотреть на Яндекс.Фотках
The waterfall

Putorana is the vast basalt plateau almost not disturbed by civilization raising on the north of East Siberia to the north of the polar circle. The main part of the plateau is occupied by the Putoransky Reserve established in 1988. The Putoransky Reserve is one of the largest in Russia.

To science, firstly geology and geomorphology, this mountainous area gives classical example of the so-called trappean, or stepped relief (Swedish word trapp means stairs). It's a complex of high flat-topped mountain massifs divided by deep and wide stepped canyons. Such relief appeared here after elevation of ancient lava plateau generated during giant burning hot basalt mass outflow (between Palaeozoic and Mesozoic eras) which led to occurrence of giant tectonic faults. Due to different solidity levels of horizontal basalt and tufa layers, slopes of the generated gorges acquired stepped character. Lava layer thickness in the central part of the Putorana reaches 1500 m with up to 40 layers vividly seen at outcroppings.

With time tectonic fractures have been expanded by glaciers and occupied by rivers and deep narrow lakes (Lama, Keta, Glubokoye, Khantayskoye, Ayan, etc.) creating the unique appearance of the plateau. These exotic fjord-like lakes reaching 100-150 km in length and up to 400 m deep are considered to be Siberian largest after lakes Baikal and Teletskoye. Another adornment of the plateau are numerous waterfalls, including the 108 m high waterfall in Kanda river valley considered to be one of the Russia's highest.

General climatic border lines divide the Putorana plateau in two directions determining the biodiversity level unexpectedly high for this latitude. One border line divides northern taiga and forest tundra, the other divides the plateau into western and eastern parts and defines the eastern distribution limit of the western taiga vegetation.

Vegetation cover is presented by larch taiga, sparse forests and mountain tundra. The flora list of the reserve counts about 400 higher plants species, including several rare, relic and endemic forms.

There are 34 mammal species in the reserve. Here lays the migration route of the Taimyr wild reindeer population of over 500 000 specimen. The plateau is the only habitat of one of the most poorly known hoofed animal inscribed into the Red Book of RF - the Putorana bighorn sheep (Ovis nivicola borealis). Having been isolated from the main population about 15 000 years ago, it has formed a separate sub-specie.

About 140 bird species have been noted in the reserve. Main part of them is nesting here, including rare prey birds like white-tailed eagle and merlin. The number of their nesting-places at the plateau is especially high. Numerous water reservoirs are stopover points for thousands of migrating birds.

«Аян» на Яндекс.Фотках
The river Ayan

в Путоранах-4
«в Путоранах-4» на Яндекс.Фотках
Near the lake Lama

Бирюзовые воды Дулисмара
«Бирюзовые воды Дулисмара» на Яндекс.Фотках
Turqiuose waters of Dulismar



Since 2004, the Federal bureau of Investigations had been receiving signals on financial swindle, committed by Halliburton's top managers. Bunnatine Greenhouse, a former employee of the corporation – where she was responsible for distribution of the Corps of Engineers' orders – underwent several interrogations. In late October 2008, Ms. Greenhouse confessed that the corporation had received multi-billion contracts for reconstruction of Iraqi oil industry under non-bid conditions, i.e. contrary to the US legislation, and agreed to cooperate with the investigation. "The Bureau's officers interrogated the witness on all major contracts of the company and involvement of top state officials", said Ms. Greenhouse's lawyer Michael Cohn.

According to Ms. Greenhouse's testimony, she repeatedly addressed the company's leadership, asking why Halliburton enjoys privileges in distribution of Pentagon's orders. She received no clear answer, but her boss isolated her from the decision room.

Speaking to press, Mr. Cohn refused to name particular defense officials whose names surfaced in the lady's testimony. He insisted that those were not top-level names. However, AP found out from another source that Ms. Greenhouse subsequently provided additional information on distribution of orders, in which one top name was mentioned. Shortly thereafter, DOD auditors recommended that Pentagon abstain from disbursing new finances to Halliburton before the first results of the investigation were available.

The attorneys admit that during 2004, Halliburton was repeatedly exposed of overvaluation of contracts for delivery of fuel, victuals, and clothing to the US contingent in Iraq. It was also confirmed that VP Dick Cheney used his position for receiving contracts for reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry for a sum of $17 billion.

Halliburton's leadership admits that an internal investigation revealed evidence of intention of some members of a consortium, where the company was involved, to bribe Nigerian officials in order to get a lucrative contract in that country – namely, for implementation of a multi-billion project of a LNG facility in Bonny Island.

However, according to Halliburton, the fact of bribery was not confirmed. The company's spokesman emphasizes that the company's then-partner M.W.Kellogg hadn't yet been purchased by Halliburton.

In another case, Halliburton was subpoenaed over a contract signed by the company's subsidiary on Cayman Isles. The company denied any facts of financial transactions through this subsidiary.

Answering to the third complaint, revealing involvement of the corporation in Iran where US companies are not allowed to run any operations, Halliburton indicated that US laws don't forbid independent subsidiaries, staffed by local personnel, to work in Iran.

Thus, the Department of Justice is investigating today only the case of overvaluation of fuel in the abovementioned contract for supplying US military forces in Iraq.


The fact that VP Dick Cheney used the war in Iraq for his personal interests is undoubted. Could he have promoted the war campaign for relevant corporate purposes? An anonymous hacker, breaking into Pentagon's postbox, conveyed a curious exchange of messages to Time's author. The messages made clear that the VP was directly involved in signing a number of oil industry reconstruction contracts for the company in Iraq.

Contrary to Cheney's allegations that he had given up all the connections with his former job after being elected VP, an unidentified army officer reports on March 5, 2003, that he "does not see any obstacles for signing the contract (with Halliburton), as the issue is already coordinated with the Office of the Vice President". Other bids for the contracts were not even taken into consideration.

The subject of distribution of military contracts excited the US lawmakers. A report, prepared by the House Government Reform Committee, acknowledged that only during the last year, a multitude of contracts for a total of $107 billion were signed without an open competition, three fourths of them being related to Iraq, and most of them won by Halliburton.

Naturally, Mr. Cheney claimed that he knew nothing of his former company's contracts in Iraq. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then-Chief of Vice President’s Staff, said he was informed about the contracts but did not tell his boss about them: he would not like to maneuver the boss into an "awkward position". At one of the Pentagon briefings, Libby claimed that the VP's Staff would not get involved in Halliburton's activity. NSC member Frank Miller, who was present at the briefing, confirmed this fact to AP.


VP Dick Cheney has got enough grounds for getting into an awkward position. Testifying to the House Commission, several former employees of the company reported that Halliburton's contractors grossly overvalued services for US troops in Iraq. For instance, laundering of 7 kg of clobbers was priced at $100, while a $85,000-worth trucks were discarded because of a single blow out.

DOD's auditors eventually calculated that the amount of finances, overvalued or wasted by Halliburton in Iraq, reached $8 billion. The Department refused to pay the company the required $159.5 million for a major contract before the auditors check the price of food purchased by Kellogg, Brown & Root for delivery to Iraq and Kuwait. Military auditors estimated that KBR had overvalued food prices by 19%, while the terms of the contract allowed revision of the amount due.

When it was eventually found out that the purchased victuals were overvalued not by 19% but twofold to threefold, Halliburton's top managers refused to comment.


Two Democratic Reps have already accused Halliburton of deliberate overvaluation of gasoline prices, thus "profiteering for expense of US taxpayers". This scandal may flare up anew. After the almost complete destruction of Iraq's oil refining industry, the oil-rich country has to import gasoline from Kuwait.

Oil expert Phil Verleger, president of PK Verleger LLC, indicates that Halliburton's import of gasoline to Iraq is still paid twice more than that of two other companies. For instance, SOMO sells a gallon of gasoline for $0.96, and Pentagon's Energy Supply Center for $1.19. Meanwhile, Halliburton distributes gasoline for $2.64-3.4, though receiving the fuel directly from its subcontractor. "I've never seen anything like that", confesses Verleger. "This is privileged monopolist pricing, and there's no other name for it. Any US or European company would hypersalivate over such a contract".

Halliburton's officials explain the excessive pricing with high expenses for security and a "generally unstable situation in the area", complaining that the company has already lost 20 trucks, one driver killed and 9 injured. Observers argue that all the gasoline suppliers encounter those hardships but only Halliburton is allowed to trade under such terms.

Rep. (D) Henry Waxman has promised that the "odd" relationship between the White House and Halliburton will become a subject of a "most intensive scrutiny" of the Congress. "Americans pay wild money for buying gasoline for the Iraqi. That is unacceptable. But most disgustingly, all that is going on with the White House's approval", Waxman says.


A recent CBS report added more features to the portrait of Cheney's pocket company. Halliburton is reported to have dispatched its personnel to object with high risk of fatal diseases. James Gentry, a former guard of a sewage facility where toxic chemical substances were used, today suffers from a rare form of lung cancer. Journalists have found documents confirming that the company's bosses were aware of the hazard but did not inform the personnel.

Is the US justice so powerless to call the high-handed firm wasting US taxpayers' money to account? Or, maybe, DOJ’s power is long overridden by General Franco's principle "everything for friends, and law for the rest"?


Russia has no alternative to Sevastopol base - naval experts

MOSCOW, January 20 (RIA Novosti) - Establishing naval facilities in foreign countries will not replace Russia's Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol, former fleet commanders said on Tuesday.

Russian media recently reported that Russia was planning to set up naval facilities in Yemen (Socotra), Syria (Tartus), Libya (Tripoli), Vietnam (Cam Ranh), among other countries, in the next few years as an alternative to the Sevastopol base in Ukraine's Crimea.

"Even 10 Tartuses or Cam Rahns can't replace Sevastopol for the Russian Navy," said Adm. Viktor Kravchenko, commander of the Black Sea Fleet in 1996-1998.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine's Crimea, including the main base in Sevastopol, as part of a 1997 agreement, under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017.

Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko announced in the summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease of the Sevastopol base beyond 2017, and urged the Russian fleet to start preparations for a withdrawal.

Although the agreement for Russia's use of the base includes a possible extension of the lease, with Moscow repeatedly saying it wants to negotiate on the issue, Ukraine reiterated in October that it would not permit an extension of Russia's naval presence in the country after 2017.

"Sevastopol is a unique Russian base, which includes the entire infrastructure: piers, ammunition depots, food stores, roads, maintenance facilities, airstrips, etc," Kravchenko said.

At the same time, the admiral emphasized the importance of the network of Russian naval bases around the world, including in the Mediterranean, for the quick deployment of the Russian Navy in urgent situations.

Adm. Igor Kasatonov, commander of the Black Sea Fleet in 1991-1992, said the Mediterranean had always been an important region for Russia because it provides easy access to the Indian Ocean through the Suez Canal and to the Atlantic through Gibraltar.

"In this respect, bases in Syria can largely expand the capabilities and combat effectiveness of the Russian Navy. However, the facilities at Tartus, for example, will never be able to replace Sevastopol," the admiral said.

The Soviet-era Navy maintenance site near Tartus in Syria is the only Russian foothold in the Mediterranean.

Russian media reports have suggested the facility could be turned into a base for the country's Black Sea Fleet, which could lose its current main base in Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula in 2017.

About 50 naval personnel and three floating piers are reportedly deployed at the Tartus site, which can accommodate up to a dozen warships, and Russia is expanding the port and building a pier in nearby Latakia.

Meanwhile, the deputy chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces said last week that it was too soon to name any countries where the Russian Navy would like to deploy "basing points," but confirmed that the General Staff had backed the Navy command's proposal to develop naval infrastructure outside Russia.

"At this stage it is too early to talk about the geographic location of the basing points. Negotiations are under way with the governments of the countries in question. Any premature disclosure could have a negative impact on the course of these negotiations," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said.