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The Morning Vertical, February 21, 2017


The way the Kremlin is planning to spin the centennial of the 1917 revolution is coming into focus. As an editorial in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (featured below) points out, the Russian Orthodox Church has begun its commemorations by assailing the events of February 1917, which led to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and brought the short-lived, liberal provisional government to power.

In other words, the bad Russian liberals of 1917 brought down the monarchy and the end result -- eight months later -- was the Bolshevik seizure of power.

And by laying the blame on the liberals of a century ago, the church is laying the groundwork for the Kremlin narrative -- which will be a not-so-veiled warning to the liberals of 2017.


Vitaly Churkin, a veteran Soviet and Russian diplomat who served as Moscow’s envoy to the United Nations as its ties with the West plunged to levels unseen since the Cold War, has died at the age of 64.

Germany's most prominent nationalist politician held talks with Russian lawmakers over the weekend, including senior members of President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, her office has said.

The Kremlin has dismissed a Ukrainian peace plan created by a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker and given to the White House, calling its provision on Crimea "absurd."

Hundreds of people gathered in central Kyiv on February 20 to commemorate the third anniversary of the bloodiest day of protests that led to the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

A military court in Russia has sentenced an Azerbaijani citizen to eight years in prison on charges of recruiting young people for the Islamic State radical group in Syria.

Russia defended its decision to recognize documents issued by separatists it backs in eastern Ukraine amid mounting criticism from Western governments that the move undermines prospects for peace in the region.

Russia's Defense Ministry says four Russian Army service personnel were killed in Syria on February 16 when a vehicle they were traveling in drove over a roadside bomb.

The widow of a Kyrgyz driver who was killed in a traffic accident involving a Russian diplomat says she will file a lawsuit against Russia's embassy in Bishkek.


Was 1917 Inevitable?

In the Financial Times, Dominic Lieven, a senior research fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, and author of the book Towards The Flame: Empire, War And The End Of Tsarist Russia, asks, Could Russia have avoided revolution in 1917?

1917? Blame It On The Liberals!

An editorial in Nezavisimaya Gazeta looks at how the Russian Orthodox Church is marking the centennial of the 1917 revolution and pushing a narrative that liberals were to blame for the Bolsheviks' rise to power. According to the editorial, Orthodox officials blamed liberals like Aleksandr Kerensky for "rocking the boat," a narrative that suits the regime's "current political interests rather than historical truth."

Lessons From The Red Scare

Writing in The Atlantic, Uri Friedman looks back at the Red Scare and the lessons it can teach us today.

Putin's Holy War

Marc Bennetts has a piece in Politico, Putin's Holy War, on the rising influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Spread Of Anti-Gay Ideology

Masha Gessen, author of The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise Of Vladimir Putin, has a piece in Harper's on the spread of antigay ideology in the former Soviet Union.

The Purge Of The Governors

In, Anastasia Yakoreva and Polina Potapova look at the Kremlin's recent purge of regional leaders and explain what a governor needs to do in order to survive.

And in, Andrei Vinokurov argues, citing Kremlin sources, that the firings of regional leaders will take a pause until September.

What Is To Be Done

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has a piece in Time magazine on what the United States needs to do about Russia.

Belarus In The Middle

Thomas de Waal has a short piece on the Carnegie Center-Europe's website on Belarus's balancing act between Russia and the West.

Grand Bargain, Raw Deal

In The Moscow Times, foreign-affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov argues that any grand bargain with Putin will be a raw deal for the United States.

The Nuclear Fallout Of A New Detente

Andreas Umland, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv, and Mariana Budjeryn, a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, argue in The Harvard International Review that nuclear Russia annexing part of non-nuclear Ukraine bodes ill for the Nonproliferation Treaty.

Alternative Facts About Nord Stream

Sijbren de Jong, a strategic analyst for The Hague Center for Strategic Studies, has a piece in EUObserver on "alternative facts" about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

Global Turbulence

The Hague Center for Strategic Studies has released a new report, Volatility And Friction In The Age Of Disintermediation.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on 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


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