Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: Russia's Thought Police

He's keeping an eye on the Internet.
He's keeping an eye on the Internet.

Retweeting a Twitter tweet or liking a Facebook post that the Kremlin doesn't like can now land Russians in prison.

And salty language in theater performances, films, and the media can now lead to stiff fines.

The stated goal of the former is to combat extremism. The purported objective of the latter is to promote traditional values and preserve the "purity of the Russian language."

But few doubt that the real point of both is to tighten the Kremlin's control over discourse -- and therefore, over politics.

Will it lead to an Orwellian nightmare? Or a Kafkaesque theater of the absurd?

On this week's "Power Vertical Podcast," we discuss these trends. Joining me are co-host Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert on Russia's security services, and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows"; and Merhat Sharipzhan, an analyst with RFE/RL's Central Newsroom.

Also on the podcast, we discuss a recent report about a Russian hacker group targeting Western energy firms.


Power Vertical Podcast -- July 3, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- July 3, 2014i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 03, 2014 19:09
Most of Russians cannot speak Russian,
Just the two hundred words of a drunken.
Presume Putin meant the ruling Prussian:
"Muter Volga Russkiy rechka dlya Fritzen"
Like Miller, Greff and he, the Shtirlitz-Putin.

If he mean Russians, what is pure Russian?
If he mean vulgarities of modern languages,
I agree, but what about old slang vulgarities?
They are part of a classic Russian-Prussian:
"Kak pozhivaete, Gusen-Fritzen-Ga-Ga-Ga?"

If they wants continue noble-size the Russian,
As did Peter the Great, how to get red of "y"?
It will solve one problem, "My ne tyrdy-byrdy!",
But that can make it as beautiful as Ukrainian,
Or as Georgian, Solgenitcin would say: "YYY!"

Don't pay attention to my jokes, brother Tatars,
"Y" mean not in language of horsemen of Steps
The same that Russian "Yyy, narisovalsya, obidno,"
Simply dry meat diet with little water pronunciations.

In Response

by: Ian from: New Zealand
July 08, 2014 22:06
In Regards to Konstantin, I am a New Zealander who has spent more than 20 years working in Russia, Russian is a beautiful language as it should be spoken. It appears that your spoken Russian is probably about as good as your bad English as above, you cannot even write steppes in English. !!
In Response

by: jojnjo from: Dublin
July 14, 2014 01:43
Stop nit picking, Ian, he's doing his best.

Me, I'm Irish & try to give people leeway...as regards steppes you could write it also as степпес, couldn't you? Oh I say, "what a love view".

by: Christopher from: USA
July 05, 2014 18:04
Interesting, but I would like to hear a podcast about the gangs of Kiev including the Right Sector too.
In Response

by: Mamuka
July 07, 2014 11:32
I'm sure you can find such material at RT
In Response

by: Jan from: Czech republic
July 07, 2014 16:10
You mean that little small minor party that hardly got any votes in pres. elections?
Eh, why not.

by: Mamuka
July 06, 2014 00:49
It may be reassuring to western liberals to say that imposing laws to control the internet and speech show the "weakness" of Putin, but if the mere existence of such laws impacts behavior (as the panelists suggest), how can we say they are weak?

By the way, I recall once watching an American action film on Russian TV, where the audio is dubbed into Russian but you can still hear the English. The American actor addressed his enemy with a string of foul obscenities, but in Russian all you heard was "eh, koziol."
In Response

by: jojnjo from: Dublin
July 14, 2014 01:48
Well then...what you heard was censorship.

I repeat, эх, Koziol ".

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 09, 2014 09:12
Modern Russian language Russians understand and use:

There is an opportunity to help the World and rectify problem even more.
I have a better syntheses of Ideas to help Ukraine and European Union.
Do not let it be plagiarized, thought, to anybody, including yourself.
Europeans must build part of "South Stream" - without Russia,
Only western part, starting with Balkans, using the same
Plans and investments of non-Russian participants,
Connecting it to Sea Terminal that can be used
In case of any emergency, like aggression.
Also, restore "Nabuko" project through
Georgia, also ending it, depending on
Prospects, with Sea Terminals, until
It would be economically feasible to
Connect both systems. A Stage-like
Economic estimate will help with the
Dynamic approach, the construction
And the changing of World situation.

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From the always insightful Sean Guillory

"Novorossyia is just a cinematic project to rile up the population anyway. The “heroes” have always been actors in a larger drama, and when this series jumps the shark, its production set will be folded up and the stage will be prepared for a new theatrical work to dazzle the spectator. The cinematography deployed to turn Russia into “war state” is all just the tactics. We shouldn’t so quickly substitute smoke and mirrors for reality. Putin’s real strategy is to hobble Ukraine and humble the West, and on that he’s doing pretty damn well."

As usual, Paul Goble already a lot of great content up at his Window on Eurasia blog. Does that man ever sleep? As I've said before, Window on Eurasia is one of the best resources available in the English language for Russia watchers. The volume of material -- not to mention the quality -- is amazing. Does this guy ever sleep? 

A couple things that immediately caught my eye today:

A post about how Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka is "quietly purging" a "pro-Moscow 'Fifth Column'" in his regime. 

"Concerned that Moscow might engineer a regime change in Belarus as a follow on to its actions in Ukraine, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been purging pro-Russian officials from his regime – but in a very quiet way lest he provoke Moscow as a result."

The piece cited reports in "Nasha Niva" and "Obozrevatel

There's also a piece, citing the web portal "Novy Kaliningrad" that looks at whether Kaliningrad's Muslim community might rebel against Moscow. 

"The 100,000-strong Muslim community of Kaliningrad is running out of options in the Russian legal system to secure land for the construction of a mosque in that Russian exclave and consequently will now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, according to their lawyer Dagir Khasavov.

But meanwhile, continuing opposition by regional officials to a mosque, Irshat Khisamov, head of the Muslim community in the oblast, says, is having “an extremely negative” impact on the members of his community. And many of them believe the governor there wants 'a Maidan like the one in Ukraine.'"


And now for the most Orwellian quote of the week (so far, that is).

When reputed mob boss Sergei Mikhailov, leader of Moscow's Solntsevo crime group, boasted on his website that Vladimir Putin gave him a watch, it raised eyebrows. RFE/RL's Carl Schreck has the story here.

But what was really eye catching was not just the Kremlin's denial, but the wording of that denial.

"It's fake," Dmitry Peskov told RFE/RL, though he said the Kremlin would not contact Mikhailov about the claim on his website.

"Why would we?" Peskov said. "We haven't [publicly] said anything about this, which means that it didn't happen."



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About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or