Summer 2017 reading on Russia: 5 must-read books for those who seek to understand the country’s past and its present

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

By Pavel Koshkin (pkoshkin.russia.direct@gmail.com). Pavel Koshkin is a contributor for Forbes-Russia magazine and the deputy editor of International Desk at RBC Daily, a Russian independent newspaper. He is the former editor-in-chief of Russia Direct, an English-language analytical media outlet that suspended its activity due to various challenges. With Russia celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Revolution, here are five […]

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Russian Protests Don’t Threaten Kremlin Because There’s No Opposition in the Duma, Portnikov Says

Russian State Duma Building file photo

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, June 12, 2017) Both the Kremlin and the Russian people are afraid of a Maidan, but they needn’t be because for a Maidan to take place in Russia there would have to be something that does not now exist, a genuine opposition in the Duma ready and willing to serve as a […]

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Bridging the Red-White Divide Is a Home Run for Putin

File Photo of Revolutionaries Marching in Moscow in 1917, adapted from image at state.gov

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Maxim Trudolyubov – May 30, 2017) Maxim Trudolyubov, Senior Fellow with the Kennan Institute and editor-at-large with Vedomosti, has been following Russian economy and politics since the late 1990s. He has served as an opinion page editor for Vedomosti and editor and correspondent for the newspaper Kapita In an event infused with historical and moral […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Dissent Shakes the Foundation of the Kremlin’s Power” – Stratfor

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

… Most of the dissidence in Russia today does not come in response to a specific incident – such as the electoral fraud that incited mass demonstrations in 2011-12 – but to the country’s political system more generally. With a few exceptions, rather than targeting the president himself, the current protests are aimed at corruption or economic stagnation. … To […]

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A Message to Putin From 42 Million Dead; The Soviet Union’s World War II losses may far exceed the official count.

Battle of Stalingrad file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – May 10, 2017) Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru. According to official data, more than 800,000 people in Moscow alone, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, took part in Tuesday’s march to commemorate their ancestors’ participation […]

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Putin Regime Now Entering Its Fifth and Final Phase, Yakovenko Says

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, May 9, 2017) Vladimir Putin’s regime, which has always been authoritarian and kleptocratic, nonetheless has evolved over the course of the last 18 years through four stages and now is entering its fifth and final one, according to Moscow commentator Igor Yakovenko (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5910CBCC3CA63). The first period lasted from 1999 to 2003, having […]

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NEWS RELEASE & TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Military parade on Red Square

File Photo of Russian Tanks in Military Parade

(Kremlin.ru – May 9, 2017) Vladimir Putin attended the military parade to mark the 72nd anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. The military parade marking the 72nd anniversary of Victory in the 1941-45 Great Patriotic War. Defence Minister General of the Army Sergei Shoigu inspected the troops during the military parade. Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Land Forces […]

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Intefax: Differences in views, positions should be no impediment to protecting Russia in name of its people’s future – Putin

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

MOSCOW. May 4 (Interfax) – Russian president Vladimir Putin has urged to safeguard and protect Russia for its future regardless of differences in views and positions. “Today I want to say once again: we have just one Russia, and all of us, whatever our views and positions, must safeguard and protect it, make it our cornerstone the future of our […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Unveiling of monument to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich

Kremlin and Environs Aerial View

(Kremlin.ru – May 4, 2017) Vladimir Putin took part in a ceremony unveiling a monument to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich on the site of his assassination in the park by the Kremlin’s Nikolskaya Tower. Acting on Mr Putin’s instruction, the Russian Military Historical Society and the Foundation for Revival of Traditions of Compassion and Charity St Elizabeth – St Sergius […]

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NEWSLINK: “Stanford professor analyzes Russian Empire’s history in new book; Stanford history professor Nancy Kollmann discusses the establishment of the Russian Empire and how Russia’s past shapes its present” – Stanford News/ ALEX SHASHKEVICH

Kremlin and River

“The spotlight on United States-Russia relations has intensified over the past year to levels not seen since the Cold War, according to experts.  To understand Russia, it’s important to understand the course of its history.  Stanford history professor Nancy Kollmann provides insight into the rise of the Russian Empire in her recently published book, The Russian Empire 1450-1801. Stanford News […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting of the Pobeda (Victory) Organising Committee

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Kremlin.ru – April 20, 2017) Vladimir Putin chaired the 39th meeting of the Russian Pobeda (Victory) Organising Committee in the Grand Kremlin Palace. The main item on the meeting’s agenda was developing humanitarian cooperation with other countries at government and public level in the aim of promoting objective information about Russia’s history and present, including its role in the victory […]

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NEWSLINK: “Why the New Cold War Is More Dangerous Than the Preceding One; Questionable but orthodox Cold War narratives make actual war with Russia more likely than during its 40-year predecessor.” – The Nation/Stephen F. Cohen

Berlin Wall, Fencing, Barbed Wire, Women

“Nation contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen and radio-show host John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. …”

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NEWSLINK: “How the Tumultuous ’90s Paved the Way for Putin’s Russia” [Book Review of “WHO LOST RUSSIA? How the World Entered a New Cold War”] – New York Times/ Rajon Menon

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

“… So who lost Russia? Russia’s leaders, primarily Putin, who neither built democracy nor made Russia a partner of the West? Or the West, which was never serious about respecting Russia’s interests, let alone a partnership? Conradi doesn’t provide a clear-cut answer to his question. Given the complexities he grapples with, who can blame him?”

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NEWSLINK: INTERVIEW AND INTRODUCTION: “Yevgeny Yevtushenko – His Poetry Engaged and Enraged Readers at Home and Abroad [2017 reprint of 1987 Interview” – The Progressive/ Yevgeny Yevtushenko/ Katrina vanden Heuvel

Yevgeny Yevtushenko file photo, adapted from image at archives.gov

“Editor’s Note: Yevgeny Yevtushenko, internationally acclaimed Russian poet, novelist, essayist, playwright and film director died on April 1, 2017. He was 83. In honor of his tremendous work and legacy, we are sharing an interview he did with Katrina vanden Heuvel for our magazine in 1987. …”

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Deciphering a Revolution; ‘1917: Code of a Revolution’ is the first exhibition marking this year’s centenary

File Photo of Revolutionaries Marching in Moscow in 1917, adapted from image at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Andrei Muchnik – March 31, 2017) In 2017, Russia marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most crucial episodes in its history – the October Revolution. And what better place to hold the first in a series of exhibitions devoted to the centennial than the Museum of Contemporary Russian History – known until 1998 […]

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NEWSLINK: “Yevgeny Yevtushenko obituary. Rebellious Russian poet and author of Babi Yar, who became a celebrity in the west” – The Guardian (UK)/Robin Milner-Gulland

Yevgeny Yevtushenko file photo, adapted from image at archives.gov

“… Yevtushenko was from early on obsessed with travel, first within the USSR and then, as invitations came in from abroad, anywhere in the world he could manage to get to. By 1962 he had become a celebrity outside Russia, and featured on the cover of Time magazine. His many public readings in the west were packed, and a slim volume […]

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NEWSLINK: “The Best Moments in U.S.-Russian Relations” – Origins/Pietro A. Shakarian

Stylized Russian and U.S. Flags with Number 200, 1807-2007

“… Although the bad episodes are clearly what most Americans remember about the relationship, there were many friendly moments as well. These constructive episodes complicate a history that is often painted as invariably antagonistic. Keeping this complexity in mind, here are ten of the better moments in U.S.-Russian relations. …”

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Russian society must denounce Stalin once and for all – Federation of Jewish Communities

File Photo of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin

MOSCOW. March 28 (Interfax) – The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR) has called Stalin a Herod who was exterminating his own people. “Stalin must remain to generations a Herod who built the GULAG, BAM [Baikal-Amur Mainline], who expanded the railway and won the Second World War, the man responsible for mass deaths of his own people. Murderer!” Boruch […]

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Patriarch Kirill blames 1917 revolution on intelligentsia

File Photo of Revolutionaries Marching in Moscow in 1917, adapted from image at state.gov

MOSCOW. March 29 (Interfax) – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has put the main blame for the 1917 revolution on the intelligentsia. “What happened in the 20th century, that meat-grinder, which ground the entire intelligentsia, is it not an organic consequences of the horrible crimes that the intelligentsia committed against faith, against God, against their people, against their […]

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NEWSWATCH: “In defence of the Romanovs: the centenary of the February Revolution” – The Spectator (Australia)/Matthew Dal Santo

Romanov Family Photo

“A century ago today, as the Imperial Train sat impounded at a provincial station 180 miles from Petrograd, Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II (1868-1918), signed an act of abdication. The Russian Revolution was formally in motion. Slightly more than eight months later, the liberal republic that succeeded the Romanov autocracy had given way to seven decades of Communist dictatorship. … most […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Why Study Russian History?” – American Historical Association Blog/E. Thomas Ewing and Virginia Tech Students enrolled in HIST 3604: Russia to Peter the Great

File Image of Ivan the Terrible Etching, adapted from image at loc.gov

“… we often took examples from current news or recent history and established connections to the historical period covered . … Russian history from its founding in the ninth century until the beginning of the era of Peter the Great in the late 17th century illustrates how this emerging nation-state navigated complex processes such as building a national political order, sustaining […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Russia Revolution, A Century On” – The Interpreter (Lowy Institute for International Policy-Australia)/Matthew Dal Santo

File photo of Czar Nicholas II in Military Uniform Outdoors with Soldiers in Background, adapted from image at defense.gov

“A century ago today, Emperor Nicholas II, ‘Tsar and Autocrat of all the Russias’, pencilled his name to a document renouncing a throne three hundred years in his family’s possession, not only for himself but also his son and chronically ill heir, Alexis. The date, according to the old Russian calendar, was 3 March 1917. So definitively began, after days […]

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NEWSLINK: “From Russia with love – lessons for today from a revolution 100 years ago” – Ottawa Citizen/Paul Robinson

File photo of Czar Nicholas II in Military Uniform Outdoors with Soldiers in Background, adapted from image at defense.gov

“One hundred years ago this week, a protest about food shortages in the Russian capital, Petrograd, turned into the violent revolution that overthrew Czar Nicholas II and brought the Romanov dynasty to an end. The liberal-minded provisional government that assumed power did not last long, succumbing to another revolution eight months later, which inaugurated 70 years of Communist rule. It […]

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NEWSLINK: “Chrystia Freeland and the complexities of history [re: Ukraine]

“On March 8, the Globe and Mail reported that ‘Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has known for more than two decades that her maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the chief editor of a Nazi newspaper in Nazi-occupied Poland.’ … Her grandfather, Michael Chomiak, was a Nazi propagandist for Krakivski Visti (Crakow News), supervised by German intelligence officer Emil Gassert. Its printing […]

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NEWSWATCH: “CHARISMATIC LEGITIMACY” – Irrussianality/Paul Robinson

File photo of Czar Nicholas II in Military Uniform Outdoors with Soldiers in Background, adapted from image at defense.gov

“In pre-revolutionary China, the Emperor’s legitimacy was said to derive from the ‘mandate of heaven’. On the one hand, proof that an Emperor had such a mandate came from his success. On the other hand, if the Emperor was unsuccessful, that was evidence that he did not have a mandate from heaven, in which case rebellion against him was justifiable. … […]

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Yavlinsky Says 1917 ‘Detour’ Led Russia Into 100-Year ‘Dead End’

Grigoriy Yavlinskiy file photo

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Robert Coalson – March 5, 2017) “The past isn’t dead,” goes American novelist William Faulkner’s famous aphorism. “It isn’t even past.” As Russia looks back on the fateful events of a century ago, when a pair of revolutions overthrew a tsar and installed Bolsheviks, liberal politician and Yabloko party candidate for the 2018 presidential election Grigory […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Why Ukraine Is Dying A Slow Death (Literally)” – The National Interest/Nolan Peterson/Daily Signal

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

“Ukraine’s population decreased by about 170,000 people in 2016, the government reported … underscoring a demographic trend that began after the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and which threatens to derail the country’s political and economic development. ‘This is a serious problem for the country,’ Alex Ryabchyn, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, told The Daily […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Estrangement from history: 100 years since Russia’s February Revolution; In February 1917, the reign of the Romanov czars came to an end. This event was a precursor to the October Revolution later that year. In Russia, what went on in February is not widely known.” – Deutsche Welle/Volker Wagener

Romanov Family Photo

“It’s a date that cannot be ignored: February 23, according to the Julian calendar (March 8 in the Gregorian calendar). It is a date that forces Russian society to confront a part of its history that for many is difficult to reckon with. A 100-year anniversary usually involves state-organized events. But that’s not so for the February Revolution in Russia […]

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NEWSLINK: “Yanukovych Resurfaces; ‘Ukraine Has Become a Wild Country'” – Der Spiegel

Viktor Yanukovych file photo

“Three years after the Maidan insurgency, Viktor Yanukovych has re-emerged to express his views on the Ukraine conflict in a letter addressed to Trump, Putin, Merkel and others. DER SPIEGEL correspondent Christian Neef met with the former president.” [featured image is file photo]

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Putinism as Gaullism; There are limits of defining a regime by the name of its leader, but Putinism has the echoes of post-war France, and of its president.

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(opendemocracy.net – Marlene Laruelle – February 21, 2017) Marlene Laruelle is assistant director at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. She is also co-director of PONARS Eurasia, and the author of several books on Russian and Central Asian politics and society. The Russian state under Vladimir Putin’s leadership […]

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NEWSLINK: “Could Russia have avoided revolution in 1917? A century on from Nicholas II’s abdication, Dominic Lieven asks whether democracy was ever likely to take root.” – Financial Times

Romanov Family Photo

“When I began my academic career in the 1970s, the shadow of the 1917 Revolution loomed over the whole of Russian history. Historians of late imperial and early Soviet Russia, in particular, worked at the epicentre of the ideological conflict between democratic capitalism and communism that raged in the cold war era. …”

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NEWSWATCH: “After 100 years, his tsar is in the ascendant. A century after the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Putin is taking inspiration from opposing legacies – imperial authority and Soviet military might – to project his power.” – The Sunday Times (UK)/Robert Service

Romanov Family Photo

“Over the next few months, Russia will be marking the centenary of its revolution, and the country’s president,Vladimir Putin, will be explaining its meaning to his people. … a task … Communist rulers used to undertake on an annual basis. They stood in a grim line in Red Square and took the salute from a parade of troops, Communist Party […]

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President Trump’s Boris Yeltsin Moment

Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – February 15, 2017) Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru. President Donald Trump is irritated about the media furor surrounding the departure of his national security adviser. “The real scandal here is that classified information is […]

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Re: Findings of Bipartisan Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

Subject: Findings of Bipartisan Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2017 From: Andrew S. Weiss <RussiaEurasiaProgram@carnegieendowment.org> http://carnegieendowment.org/specialprojects/TaskForceonUSPolicyToward RussiaUkraineandEurasia/ Dear Colleague, The breakdown in U.S.-Russia relations in the wake of the Ukraine crisis threatens the entire post-Cold War transatlantic security order. As the new administration prepares to reengage with Moscow, what principles should […]

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Russia, the Catalyst of Change

File Photo of G7 Leaders and other Officials Around Round Table at the Hague, with Flags

(The Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – MAXIM TRUDOLYUBOV – January 30, 2017) Maxim Trudolyubov, Senior Fellow with the Kennan Institute and editor-at-large with Vedomosti Regardless of what one can prove in the complicated story of Russian hackers meddling in the institutions of the United States, there is still a story to tell about Russian influence on the West. It has […]

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NEWSLINK: “U.S., Russia: A History of Containment” – Stratfor

File Photo of White House with South Lawn and Fountain

“One of the United States’ greatest geopolitical imperatives is to prevent the rise of regional hegemons with the ability to challenge it. Russia’s historical dominance of Eurasia, the Soviet Union’s rise as a superpower after World War II and its resulting political, economic and military rivalry with the United States have long made Russia a target of Washington’s actions abroad. […]

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Putin’s War On The ’90s

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – January 25, 2017) Vladimir Putin wants to relitigate the 1990s. He seems determined to erase an entire decade. He wants a do-over. He wants backsies. And this, I believe, is one of the keys to understanding the Kremlin leader’s behavior. It explains Putin’s memorable comments that Ukraine, which like the rest of the […]

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NEWSLINK: “He dared to speak the truth: Alexey Yablokov, scientific hero of Chernobyl” – The Ecologist (UK)/Chris Busby

Chernobyl File Photo

“Alexey V. Yablokov (1933-2017) was a scientific giant of the post-Chernobyl age, writes Chris Busby. It was he who brought together the work of dissident Soviet scientists and revealed to the world, in English language, the true health impacts of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe. ….”

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Putin’s Authoritarianism Simply a Response to Archaic Localism of 1990s, Russian Analyst Says

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 28, 2016) Pavel Pryanikov, the editor of the Tolkovatel portal, argues that the current upsurge in authoritarianism in Russia is a response to the archaic localism separate from the state that emerged after the collapse of Soviet power in 1991, the latest turn of a cycle described by Russian philosopher Aleksandr […]

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Sharing The Foreign Service Journal’s Focus on the new #Russia at 25

State Department Building and U.S. Flag

Subject: Sharing The Foreign Service Journal’s Focus on the new #Russia at 25 Date: Mon, 12 Dec 2016 From: Shawn Dorman <dorman@afsa.org> This is Shawn Dorman, editor of The Foreign Service Journal, the foreign affairs and diplomacy magazine published by the American Foreign Service Association 10 times a year. One of our authors this month, retired FSO Louie Sell, suggested […]

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NEWSLINK Irrussianality/Paul Robinson: “A DIRE WARNING” [Re: Tsarist Russia]

Romanov Family Photo

“… In autumn 1916, as the political situation in the Russian Empire worsened, the Chief of Staff of the Russian Army, General M.V. Alekseev, penned a letter to Tsar Nicholas II, in which he wrote: Your Imperial Majesty, I consider the minute has come when I am obliged to report the true state of affairs to You. The whole rear […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin and Patriarch Kirill at] Monument to Vladimir the Great opened in Moscow on Unity Day

Patriarch Kirill file photo

(Kremlin.ru – November 4, 2016) Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia opened a monument to the Holy Great Prince Vladimir, Equal of the Apostles, and Christianiser of Russia, on Borovitskaya Square. The monument was erected at the initiative of the Russian Military-Historical Society and the Moscow City Government. It was sculpted by Salavat Shcherbakov, People’s Artist […]

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RUSSIALINK Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview for the Rossiya 1 television network documentary entitled ‘My mind is set: Yevgeny Primakov’

Sergei Lavrov file photo

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview for the Rossiya 1 television network documentary entitled “My mind is set: Yevgeny Primakov”, Moscow, October 31, 2016

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Welcomes Growing Wave of ‘Red Tourists’ From China. Nostalgia for Communist past as well as capitalist bargain-hunting draw more Chinese visitors.” – Wall Street Journal

Asia Map

Russia’s relations with the West have deteriorated amid the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and its economy has been battered by punitive sanctions and low oil prices. But the country is welcoming record numbers of Chinese visitors, who are taking advantage of a weak ruble, visa-free group travel, and the opportunity to retrace Communist history. … More than 1.1 million […]

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Putin’s Stalin Envy

File Photo of Vladimir Putin at Outdoor Rally with Microphone in Hand and Heavy Coat

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore -October 11, 2016) Vladimir Putin isn’t necessarily afraid of Josef Stalin, but he’s clearly haunted by him. He’s haunted by him because he knows he can never replicate Stalin’s accomplishments. He’s haunted by him because Stalin represents a standard Putin knows he can never live up to. Stalin resurrected the disintegrated Russian Empire in […]

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Russians’ Incomplete Transition from Rural to Urban Life behind Many of Russia’s Problems, Vishnevsky Says

Russia Regions Map

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, October 6, 2016) During the 20th century, large numbers of #Russians moved from villages to the cities, but as of now, many of them have not completed the psychological transition from rural to urban life; and that has given rise to marginal groups who represent a threat to the country, according to […]

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Putin Making the Same Mistake Hitler Did, Piontkovsky Says

File Photo of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler Riding in Convertible

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, October 4, 2016) After meeting with the leaders of Britain and France, Adolf Hitler concluded that he was dealing with non-entities and that he couldn’t possibly lose a war against them, forgetting not only that these countries could and would change leaders but also that the outcome of conflicts reflects not just […]

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Former Prime Minister to Become Putin’s Right-Hand Man

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Mikhail Fishman – September 29, 2016) Boris Yeltsin reportedly first spotted Sergei Kiriyenko, then a young businessman from Nizhny Novgorod, during a boat trip on the Volga River in July 1994. Nearly four years later, Yeltsin would shock the political establishment by appointing him prime minister. Plucked from relative obscurity at the age of just […]

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NEWSLINK Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization/Simon Saradzhyan: “Is #Russia Declining?”

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

Abstract: This article measures changes in #Russia’s performance in economic, technological, military, and human capital domains and compares this performance to those of five of the West’s leading powers, the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, as well as to the world as a whole (wherever possible), to test the hypothesis that Russia has declined versus its Western […]

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