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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shades of Stalin in Neo-Soviet Russia

The New York Sun reports:

The use of police-state tactics against a senior British official in St. Petersburg, and the forced closure of British cultural offices, suggest that Russia is fast returning to the use of terror techniques against dissenting voices that were commonplace in Stalin's Soviet Union.

The British foreign secretary, David Miliband, yesterday expressed "anger and dismay" at the bullying actions of Russian secret police agents against the British Council chief in St. Petersburg, Stephen Kinnock, and accused President Putin's government of "blatant intimidation" and "harassment" of Russians employed by the British government.

The Russian ambassador to London, Yuri Fedotov, was summoned to explain his government's actions to Mr. Miliband at the British Foreign Office yesterday. On leaving, Mr. Fedotov declared, "Now we are really experiencing what can be called a crisis," adding that he saw no prospect of reconciliation in the near future. Mr. Miliband hinted at the sort of menacing interrogation techniques and thinly veiled threats used against British Council staff by the FSB, the secret service that replaced Mr. Putin's former paymaster, the KGB, in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. "Questioning ranged from the institutional status of the British Council to personal questions about the health and welfare of family pets," he told the House of Commons. "We saw similar actions during the Cold War but frankly thought they had been put behind us."

The harassing of British officials was "a stain on Russia's reputation and standing," Mr. Miliband said. The State Department expressed regret at the incident. The European Union president, Janez Jansa, who is the prime minister of Slovenia, said he was "very concerned" at the threats.

The hectoring of British officials in Russia and the forced closure of British Council offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg are the latest tit for tat actions against Britain in the wake of the 2006 murder in London of a former Russian spy and dissident writer, Alexander Litvinenko.

After the Russian authorities failed to agree a British request for the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, whom British police named the prime suspect in the poisoning of Litvinenko by nuclear material polonium-210, Britain expelled four Russian diplomats from the embassy in London. This was followed by the expulsion of British diplomats from Moscow. Mr. Lugovoi, a former KGB agent who last month was elected to the Russian Duma, denies the murder charge even though he left a radioactive trail wherever he went in London and met with Litvinenko on the day he fell ill.

Investigations by tax inspectors into British Council offices in Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Sochi, and Volgograd, forced their closure last year. Two new offices, in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, were reopened on Monday in defiance of Russian orders. The British government said it was against international law for Russia to outlaw the British Council branches, cultural arms of the British Embassy that foster an interest in British culture and encourage Russians to be educated in Britain.

The late night grilling of Mr. Kinnock and his staff ratchets up the scale of hostile acts by President Putin's administration against Prime Minister Brown's government. Mr. Kinnock, son of a British Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock, and husband of the Social Democratic leader in the Danish Parliament, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, was stopped by FSB agents while driving in St. Petersburg on Tuesday night.

He was taken for interrogation to FSB headquarters, accused of being drunk and driving the wrong way up a street, and detained for an hour. He refused to take a breath test and asked to be represented by the British consul in St. Petersburg, according to protocols for diplomats laid down in the Geneva Conventions. British officials yesterday denied all charges against Mr. Kinnock.

The same night, the FSB summoned 20 Russians employed by the British Council while Russian tax inspectors interviewed a further 10 staff in their homes, threatening their personal safety and that of family members and pets. The following day, the same British Council staff were asked to report for further interrogation.

The menacing late night interviews conjure the darkest days of Stalin's infamous rule of terror by KGB agents. The lawless communist regime kept Russians in a permanent state of fear lest they receive a knock on their door in the middle of the night and disappear into the gulag without a trial.

The British Council's chief executive, Martin Davidson, yesterday decided to close the two contentious branches, blaming "a campaign of intimidation against our staff" for his reluctant decision. "Our paramount consideration is the well being of our staff, and I feel we cannot continue our work without significant risk to them," he said.

Britain is now considering how to respond to the Russian actions. It has for the time being rejected expelling two cultural attachés in the Russian Embassy in London. Measures against Russia imposed by Britain last year, which include visa restrictions on Russian officials traveling to Britain, "will continue to be administered rigorously," Mr. Miliband said.

5 comments:

Alexander said...

What is the need for a response? What did the British exactly lose? There is no point in spending tax payers money to fund a mission in a country whose citizens frankly do not deserve. All that needs ro be done from the perspective of British citizen is that VISA restrictions need to extended to the entire Russian population, but that should have been done after the refusal to extradite the suspected murderer of Litinvenko, in order to protect British citizens.

Artfldgr said...

"We saw similar actions during the Cold War but frankly thought they had been put behind us."

Ah, may I ask who said they were left behind? The key here is “thought”, which denotes surprise, and is a condensed concept… but frankly we have been fooled into thinking or have thought on our own for some reason, that these actions were somehow in the past.

We are at once surprised that a leopard has not actually changed its spots. Investigators are looking at the use of MAC body paint being used to obscure the real nature of the other.

Reading the play by play is kind of like watching a protracted poker game where they can keep raising and checking and so forth.

The menacing late night interviews conjure the darkest days of Stalin's infamous rule of terror by KGB agents. The lawless communist regime kept Russians in a permanent state of fear lest they receive a knock on their door in the middle of the night and disappear into the gulag without a trial.

Actually this paragraph is an exaggeration. This is not the “darkest days” but actually the kinds of things done lightly!!! In the days of stalin if one were taken, talked to, let go, with just allusions to the family pets. One would consider themselves VERY happy and VERY lucky that it was nothing (but would then be compelled to fulfill whatever was the point so that luck will remain).

No, if these were the darkest days, the british would have came to work, and no one else would have showed up. the workers would have been taken in black moriahs to stay someplace else. if someone went to check on them, they might find a seal on a door. Taking them at night would be easy since every apartment had two doors, and there was a second back access for and so they would leave and no one would notice.

Asking anyone as to what happened would get a shrug and a nod, and that’s it. and the british could demand what they liked, but there would be no answers, and no way to compel any.

So no… its not indicative of even the dark days of Lenin… who opened the prisons… but it is like a drizzle before a rain. It is indicative of the future, as the same mental flip that allows that, allows a lot more without any modification of the point. In other words, in for a penny, in for a pound. When one is dirty, the question can’t be if one is clean or not. So once one is dirty, the question is only about how dirty will you get? as ideas of purity and such are forever gone.

Anonymous-ONE said...

Has anyone ever thought to send Putin a copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie?

Anonymous said...

To Alexander:

At the same time Great Britain refuses to extradite to Russia about 30 persons accused in terrorism, murders and embezzlements.

To Artfldgr:

""No, if these were the darkest days, the british would have came to work, and no one else would have showed up. the workers would have been taken in black moriahs to stay someplace else. if someone went to check on them, they might find a seal on a door. Taking them at night would be easy since every apartment had two doors, and there was a second back access for and so they would leave and no one would notice.""

I merely can't understand what you utter with such a pathos. Have you at least read what I answer on your quotes on the 'socialist realism'?

Artfldgr said...

At night, drunks are always dialing wrong numbers outside apartment buildings, waking people up, banging on doors and ringing buzzers, trying to get into buildings that are not theirs. They think they’re home; they’re not.

In Moscow, like so many places in the former Soviet Union, sameness is everywhere. Forgetting where you live is part of the national experience: One of the Soviet Union’s best-loved movies, “Ironiya Sudbiy (Irony of Fate),” is about a man in a drunken haze who mistakenly winds up in someone else’s bed in another apartment in another city.
--Peter Savodnik


first alexander i answer the other. i didnt get back to that yet. so i didnt read what you wrote. though i will suspect that it denies what i was pulling up from cinematographic studies and things. (otherwise, you would agree, and there would be no reason for you to say something here).

one only needs to put “Irony of Fate” "socialist realism" into google to spend a long time reading what not only those in the west said, but those who were at the time writing that way, and commenting on it.

however, i find a lot of people who didnt live through it, and are younger, denying that what it is, is what it is. (socialist realism is the new smirnov ad in the west)

despite that the people they are refering to dont deny that. its intersting as they often stand alone making assetions protecting those that arent even worthy of that.

here is a website on travel in russia that is a russian site.
http://travel.asia.ru/travel2russia/russia/culture/cinema/document3216.shtml
Under the Soviet system, the Socialist realism movement was fostered, which carried over from painting and sculpture into filmmaking.

Notable films of the era include Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, which was released to wide acclaim in 1925. One of the most popular films released in 1930s was Circus. Notable films from 1940s include Aleksandr Nevsky and Ivan Grozny. In the late 1950s and early 1960s Soviet cinema, beginning with films such as Ballada o Soldate Ballad of a Soldier that won the 1961 BAFTA Award for Best Film and The Cranes Are Flying. Vysota (Height) is considered to be one of the best films of the 1950s (it also became the foundation of the Bard movement).

The 1970s brought many fine films, including Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris; Seventeen Instants of Spring (Semnadtsat mgnoveniy vesny), which created the immortal character of Standartenf?hrer Stirlitz; White Sun of the Desert (Beloe Solntze Pustyni) (1970), a classic Ostern – the Soviet Union's own take on the Western genre.



later they say:

1960s-70s

The 1960s and 1970s saw the creation of many excellent films, many of which moulded Soviet and post-Soviet culture. They include:
-Seventeen Instants of Spring (Semnadtsat mgnoveniy vesny), which created the immortal character of Standartenf?hrer Stirlitz, and whose compelling and unbiased look at the life of a spy in wartorn Germany made the film popular in both the Germanies as well.

-White Sun of the Desert (Beloe Solntze Pustyni) (1970), a classic 'Eastern', although with dubious stereotyping of central Asians. It is ritually watched by cosmonauts before launches, and has contributed many quotes to the Russian language such as 'The East is a delicate matter'. Its theme tune became a huge hit.
-Solaris (1972)
-Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears (Moskva Slezam ne Verit)
-Ya Shagayu po Moskve (I am striding Through Moscow)
-Irony of Fate (Original title: Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром!)
-Pokrovskiye Vorota (Pokrovsky Gates)
-Gentelmeny Udachi (Gentlemen of Fortune) starring Yevgeny Leonov
-Operatzyya "Y" i drugie priklucheniya Shurika (Operation "Y" and other Shurik's adventures) and its sequel, Kavkazskaya Plennitsa (Captive Woman of Caucasus)
-Brilliantovaya Ruka (Diamond Hand). The latter four comedies, especially Diamond Hand, have contributed a lot of humorous quotes.

Soviet directors were more concerned with artistic success than with economical success (They were paid by the academy, and so money was not a critical issue). This contributed to the creation of a large number of more philosophical films. In keeping with Russian character, tragi-comedies were very popular. Soviet films tend to be rather culture-specific and are difficult for many foreigners to understand without having been exposed to the culture first.


the last sentene is very important... the young of the soviet union do not get a concordant history... no one has but the leaders... and so its hard for those who were not raised and taught the dialectics, to see and understand them the way that they were created then and not the way that they are seen in todays apologetic eyes.

ok.. now to your other points..