Welcome!

Dear Readers:

Welcome to Awful Avalanche, here is my blog concept and what I do:

I scan online newspapers from Russian-language press, in search of interesting stories and political topics.  These are stories which Russians themselves are reading and commenting upon.

I translate or at least summarize into English the content therein.

My target audience:  Russophiles, or anybody else who is interested.

I pick stories and analysis which interest me, generally from the following categories (this might evolve):

  • Breaking News,
  • Celebrity Gossip
  • True Crime,
  • Cat Fighting,
  • Human Interest Stories,
  • maybe even some Cute Animal Stories too!

Sincerely yours,

yalensis

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Free Speech Under Attack: The Miroslava Berdnik Story – Part II

Dear Readers:

Here is still more continuation of the Miroslava Berdnik story.  Yesterday I provided some background on the Ukrainian nationalists and their never-slaked desire to extract revenge for their defeat in WWII.  Their elaborate plan for revenge has stretched out over the years and decades, leading to a vast diaspora of pro-Banderite families and the establishment of secret clubs of Ukrainian nationalists all over the world.  Clubs which plotted with powerful and sinister world leaders to bring their guys back into power.  Just like in some crazed Dan Brown novel, except that it’s all true!

The Albino and the Cookie Monster. Even Dan Brown couldn’t imagine something this sinister.

What these nationalists failed to realize, is that even a Nazi victory in the war would not have brought them much — like I mentioned, the Germans had zero intention of establishing a sovereign Ukrainian national state.  For the Germans, this whole area was just prime real estate that needed to be cleansed of the local inhabitants.  Like spraying a house for bugs so that the real people can move into it.

BerdnikBook

Berdnik wrote a book.

Returning to the Miroslava Berdnik story….  Where we left off she had been arrested and charged with Statute 110 of the Ukrainian criminal codex.  Because she had the gall to write a book exposing the ludicrous history of Ukrainian natinalism.  Full disclosure:  I have not read Berdnik’s book.  But I don’t need to read it, to know that she has the right to write it.   Allude to the pseudo-Voltaire quote.

Here is what Miroslava herself had to say about her own book, which is entitled “Pawns In Another Man’s Game:  The Secret History of Ukrainian Nationalism“:

“This is a book about the history of Ukrainian nationalism, beginning with the lead-up to the first World War, and on into our own time.  My book is based on documents from the Ukrainian archives.  Therefore it is very difficult for me to understand, how the publication of historical documents can be considered an attack on the territorial integrity of the Ukraine.  However, it is extremely symbolic, how my books are being banned by the very same people who, in Soviet times, banned the books written by my father; who, by the way, was shot in the back during the war by Ukrainian nationalists when he was working to de-mine an area in Western Ukraine — he was removing mines from objects, necessities of life, which had been rigged up by the Banderite guerrillas, whose collaborationist essence I expose (in my book).”

Even prior to the official banning of her book, Berdnik was forced to flee from Kiev and take refuge with her relatives in Zaporozhie.  She was hiding from Ukrainian nationalists who had obtained her address in Kiev and probably meant to harm her.

Miroslava’s Family

As Miroslava mentioned, her dad was also a writer.  His name was Oles Berdnik.  During the years 1943-1945 he participated, as an ordinary soldier, in the Great Patriotic War.  Miroslava mentioned that he had been shot in the back by Banderites; however he apparently survived, because in Soviet times, the 60’s and 70’s Oles went on to become a science-fiction/fantasy writer.  Towards the end of the 70’s Oles became a political dissident and joined a “human rights” organization, becoming the founder of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group.  [yalensis:  probably not realizing that this movement was funded by one and the same shadowy éminences grises who also funded the Banderite diaspora and other “captive nations” type organizations, but I digress too much from Miroslava’s story…]

Oles Berdnik

Because of his activities in the Helsinki Group, Oles Berdnik was repressed by the Soviet government.  He was convicted of “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” and spent several years in prisons and labor camps.  In 1991 Oles ran for President of the new independent Ukraine.  Apparently he did not win, but apparently he is still alive, because he has some kind of web site, and I don’t see a date of death.  If Oles is still alive, then he must be pretty old by now, but presumably he is proud of his daughter for standing up for what she believes in.

Miroslava has her own daughter, a young woman named Irina Bessmertnaya, who is of college age and who was also taken to SBU headquarters to be interrogated.  According to a family friend Alexander Chalenko, a journalist who writes for UKRAINA.RU:  “Irina is a student in one of the Kiev colleges.  She was spending the break with her mom in Zaporozhie.”  Chalenko speculates that the timing of the detention of mother and daughter might have something to do with the recent events in Crimea, where the Russian army captured some “diversionary” special-forces types sent by the Ukrainian army to stir things up.  Perhaps, speculates Chalenko, the Ukrainian government decided to get even by arresting the few remaining-at-large “pro-Russian” journalists and activists.  There is also the fact that Zaporozhie, located right next to the Donbass, is on the front lines of the Ukrainian civil war.

Ukrainian political writer Vladimir Kornilov is worried about Miroslava, because “she is a very sick person.  She has a chronic illness and during the past two years had several operations.  She needs special medications.”  Kornilov also points out how another dissident, 60-year-old journalist Sergei Dolgov, had been dragged into that same Zaporozhie SBU HQ, and nothing has been heard of him since.

Berdnik’s Blog

When last we heard, Berdnik is still alive if not well.  Most likely because of the international attention her case has received.  In her new blog, for example, Berdnik posts this piece from the Italian press, about her case.

In this other blogpost, Berdnik posts a very moving re-telling of the story of Jesus and his physical Transfiguration.  Berdnik tells the Christian story with religious and philosophical feeling, as of one who fears for the future but hopes for the possibility of salvation and physical transformation.  (Making me think that perhaps I was wrong when I speculated that Berdnik is Jewish, not that it matters.)

Here is Berdnik’s retelling of the Jesus Transfiguration story

Once Jesus told his pupils that among them are those “who will not taste death but will live to see the Kingdom of Heaven”.  And six days later He went to pray at Mount Tabor (588 meters high, 9 km away from Nazareth), and he took with him John, Jacob, and Peter.

Saint John of the Golden Mouth

While Christ was praying, his apostles, exhausted by the long trip and the ascent up the mountain, fell asleep.  And when they awoke, they saw their Teacher transformed:  His face shone like the Sun, and his garments had become white and glowing, like the snow in the sunlight.  Moreover, Jesus was not alone, he was conversing with the ancient prophets Elijah and Moses.  His pupils overheard fragments of the conversation — about the suffering and death awaiting the Savior.  But at that moment the apostles were overcome by a feeling of unusual joy.

As soon as the prophets had departed, the apostles were covered by a light cloud.  From the cloud boomed the voice of God the Father:  “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.  Listen to him!”  In terror the apostles fell onto the ground.  But Jesus touched them and said:  “Stand up and do not fear.”  When the pupils got up, they saw him once again in his usual form.  And Jesus commanded them not to tell anybody what they had seen, until the day when he should arise from the dead.

But why were the apostles so joyous?  For one main reason:  They were given a “premonition” of the Kingdom of God.  John Chrysostom writes, to be sure, that the Lord only revealed a tiny part of the truth to them about his Divinity — just enough that they could handle.  But it was enough that Peter could exclaim in rapture:  “Lord!  It is so good to be here!”

Raphael: The Transfiguration of the Lord

Jesus shone like the sun while still preserving his human features.  Apparently this is what happens to the righteous, and these are the kinds of bodies acquired after the resurrection of the dead.  Indeed, even before his ascent onto Mount Tabor Jesus had remarked that “the righteous shall glow like the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father.”

The first historical references to the Holiday celebrating the Transfiguration of Jesus, are found at the beginning of the 4th Century A.D.  Since ancient times, the blessing of vineyards has been connected with this holiday.  In those places where grapevines do not grow, other types of fruits are blessed.  (For example), in ancient Rus this day came to known, among common people, as the “Apple Easter”.

Posted in Breaking News, Human Dignity, Russian History | Tagged | 12 Comments

Free Speech Under Attack: The Miroslava Berdnik Story – Part I

Dear Readers:

Here is a continuation of the Miroslava Berdnik story.  Recall that this Ukrainian journalist and writer was arrested by the Internal Police, the SBU (successor to the Soviet KGB).  She is charged with (literally) thinking and writing the wrong kinds of thoughts and writings.  This is an absolutely blatant case of free speech under attack, in an increasing totalitarian country (=Ukraine) whose government has the full support and blessing of all the Western powers.

Banderites fought on the losing side of WWII but always dreamed of revenge.

One of the charges against Berdnik, as the headline points out, is that she was in possession of brochures concerning the “Great Patriotic War”, known in the West as WWII.  Recall that this immense conflict consisted of two main sides:  Nazi Germany and its allies; vs. the Soviet Union and its allies (which included at the time Great Britain and the United States).  In the end, the Soviet Union and its allies won the war.  The United Nations was formed on the ruins of the world, and the UN itself was composed of two sides:  the “victor nations” (led by the United States, England, and the Soviet Union) and the “vanquished” or loser nations (consisting of Germany, Italy, Japan, and their allies).  The victor nations included the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.  The majority of the Ukrainian people fought courageously, and on the winning side, to defeat the brutal Nazi psychopaths.  As an important victor nation, the Ukrainians received a seat of honor at the United Nations.

Satirical, obviously, but not wrong.

Left to fester, however, like a thorn in the side, was a minority of Ukrainians who had fought on the wrong side of the war, alongside the Nazis.  These renegades are known as Banderites, and they self-identify with the losing side of the war, and not as victors.  Their hero, Stepan Bandera, attempted to curry favor with the German Nazis, in the hopes that the latter would grant an independent Ukraine, a nation allied with Nazi Germany.  A nation based on the political ideology of fascist authoritarianism and Ukrainian nationalism.  Bandera’s “legitimate” political program, apart from just mindlessly murdering Poles and Jews, can be summed up in a few sentences:  Not denying the class struggle, but sublimating it under the rule of elites, and all subordinate to a single dominating national dictator (Guess Who?).  Suppression of ethnic minorities and banning of other political parties, especially socialist/communist ones.  None of this nonsense mattered, of course:  The Germans had no intention of allowing a sovereign Ukrainian state, they were just playing the nationalists like a violin; and in the end all these murderous clowns lost badly anyhow, their side was defeated by the Soviet Red Army, and their asses kicked all the way back to Berlin.

Bandera rises again…

Unfortunately, the end was not The End.  Just like in a bad Hollywood horror movie, the dead fist bursts defiantly from the grave.

Even in the victorious West, especially the U.S., the war had barely ended, I think it was, like the very next day after the tickertape parade, when revanchist forces started their big campaign to roll back both the geo-political results, and the ideological lessons, of the war.  The ensuing ideological and geo-political conflict was called the Cold War.  There was a concerted propaganda effort, over the years and decades, to blur the lines between victor and vanquished, and to whitewash the Nazi crimes.  But the public mind had to be worked over in stages.  In the order of ideological progression:  (1) Communism and Nazism are both totalitarian philosophies, and it doesn’t matter which class forces are represented by the sides, or what are their actual formal manifestoes and political platforms, since the behavioral similarities are greater than any ideological differences, (2) Communism is just as bad as Nazism, because both systems kill people, (3) Communists are worse than Nazis, because they killed more people in the final tally.

Hence, in this new ideological equation, Nazism, an openly racist ideology which promotes the “white race” and calls for the extermination of Jews; was alleged to be fairly benign.  And even a positive force, since it opposes Communism.  Whereas Communism, an ideology based on the ideas of humanism, racial tolerance, and the glorification of labor, was said to be more vicious than Nazism because (allegedly) it killed more people.

And no time here to go into all the falsifications of history, and how the tallies of dead souls were exagerrated for political effect.  I’ll leave that debate to historians.

Diaspora Ukrainian leaders promote anti-Russian foreign policy.

The Cold War began, as I mentioned, the day after the victory parade (or possibly even before!).  The victorious nations, the U.S. and Canada, made haste to rescue Nazi bigshots and even ordinary schmucks such as low-life concentration camp guards who were under danger of being brought to justice for their crimes against humanity.  Mass quantities of pro-Nazi collaborators, along with their families, were spirited out of Europe, settled in the diaspora and given very fine living conditions in which to flourish.  They were portrayed as victims of Communism and they eagerly helped to promulgate anti-Communist propaganda in its most virulent form.  Children of the diaspora were told that their parents fled from Stalinist famine and political repressions.  They were taught to carefully conceal their actual political beliefs and wear the mask of democratic values.  The masks only came off in private Ukrainian clubs, where the aging “legionnaires” shared their war stories and mourned those who lay buried under the sign of the German Iron Cross.

The classic Ukrainian diaspora joke:  “Uncle Bohdan is coming to dinner tonight.  Whatever you do, please don’t mention the war.  Uncle Bohdan lost his brother in Auschwitz, and it’s a very sore point with him.”  “That’s awful, what happened?”  “Terrible tragedy.  His brother got drunk one night and accidentally fell off the watchtower.”

Ukrainian Banderites, flourishing in the diaspora, were a big component of the Cold War propaganda campaign against the Soviet Union.  Fast forward a few decades, the Soviet Union disintegrates, the Cold War is replaced by the Great Game.  In a blatant coup sponsored by Western powers, an openly fascist and Banderite government comes to power in Kiev.  (2014).  Assisted by the American government, and stocked with members of the foreign diaspora.  This government self-identifies with the vanquished Nazi nations of WWII, with the Aryans, and not with the victors, whom they regard as Communist scum and racially inferior “Mongols and Mongrels”.  All of this backstory in the nature of explaining why Berdnik was arrested for owning a brochure about the Great Patriotic War.  A brochure which praises the victors and doesn’t call them Mongol scum.

As a thought experiment for an American citizen:  Imagine that you own a book about WWII which includes a chapter on Nazi crimes against humanity.  The FBI break down your door, accusing you of promoting communist propaganda.  You are arrested in front of your college-aged daughter.

Which is exactly what happened to Berdnik.

What Are the Charges?

The VZGLIAD piece quotes SBU spokesperson Elena  Gitlyanskaya, whose name sounds a lot like “Hitlerian”:  “In the framework of an open criminal case we are examining her role in promulgating out of her Live Journal blog, materials which call for the violent overthrow of the government [yalensis:  which is pretty rich considering how this particular government came to power by violently overthrowing the previous. Party of Regions, government, including ferocious armed attacks on the police and army] and of the constitutional order.  It has already been established that this destructive activity [of Berdnik] has been coordinated with her Russian patrons, from which she has received organizational support.”

Berdnik’s computer and brochues, seized by the secret police

Fortunately for Berdnik, the international outcry concerning her arrest has helped to shield her, somewhat, from Ukrainian government reprisals.  Hitlerianskaya goes to to demur, that Berdnik is NOT currently in detention.  Even as the investigation against her proceeds, Berdnik continues to blog on a new site, here, and my thanks to commenter Pavlo Svolochenko for posting this link.  In my continuation of this piece, I will share some of my own thoughts about the content of Berdnik’s new blog.  Which has a lofty and sad philosophical tone to it.

A month ago the Ukrainian government put on its list of banned books, Berdnik’s work called “Pawns in Another Man’s Game:  The Secret History of Ukrainian Nationalism”.  This book was published a year ago, in Moscow.  In Ukraine today, the dissemination of this book is punishable under Statute 110, namely, “Attempts on the Territorial Integrity of the Ukraine”.

[to be continued]

Posted in Breaking News, Human Dignity | Tagged | 6 Comments

Female Circumcision in Dagestan – What’s Up With That?

Dear Readers:

As promised, here is the piece on the female circumcision scandal which recently rocked Russia.  Since this controversy was also covered somewhat in English-language media, then technically you don’t really need me to translate it from Russian.  Except for Berdiev’s actual quote.

Clap if you believe in God!

Basically, the gist of it is this:  the Russian Federation includes several predominantly Muslim republics in the North Caucacus, including Dagestan.  Since the break-up of the Soviet Union (which was an officially atheist state), the role of religion has increased throughout Russian society.  Just as Christianity has waxed in power throughout the Slavic part of Russia, so too conservative varieties of Islam have grown in strength in the Muslim regions of the country.  Including Wahhabism cultivated by Saudi clerics.  I hasten to add that Wahhabism in and of itself has almost nothing to do with female circumcision, an ancient and barbaric custom which predates Islam.  However, it certainly does not help a struggling society when religious fanatics gain sway.  As with all religions, the bearers of the “sacred doctrines”, namely the priests, muftis, what have you, gain in power and influence as a direct function of the economic and psychological stresses of the people.  Their supposed position of being the intermediary between Man and God, puts them in a position of extraordinary power.

The recent controversy erupted when Mufti Ismail Berdiev, a religious buffoon leader of the North Caucacus, declared that female circumcision was being practiced in Dagestan; and that this is a good thing, which should be happening everywhere.

Here is the raw meat quote from Berdiev, translated from Russian:  “In several populated area of Dagestan, female circumcision is being practiced.  This is a good thing because it helps to reduce lusty feelings among women.  In fact, if this practice were to be applied to all women, that would be a very good thing.  The Almighty created women in order to bear children and to raise them.  (Circumcision) has no effect on that role, it does not prevent women from bearing children.  All it does is reduce the level of vice and degeneracy (in society).”

Is It Really Happening?

Russian journalists and other critics immediately pounced upon Berdiev, pointing out the many errors in his utterance.  For starters, is female circumcision actually being practiced in Dagestan?  Is that even a true statement?  Nobody can cough up any actual numbers of even anecdotal evidence.

Is female circumcision actually being practiced anywhere in the Russian republics?  To my knowledge (and admittedly superficial research), the Russian legal codex is completely silent on this issue.  Which means either (1) that the practice is silently condoned, or (2) that this has never been an issue in Russia.  A google search on “circumcision in Russia” only conjures up stories about male circumcision.  Including that old amusing chestnut when Putin (Russia’s presumably Un-Cut leader) invited an annoying French journalist, one of those who shed tears about the plight of the Chechen jihadis,  to come to Russia to get himself cut:  “If you want to become an Islamic radical and have yourself circumcised, I invite you to come to Moscow,” Putin said.  “I would recommend that he who does the surgery does it so you’ll have nothing growing back afterward,” he added.

“I was only joking”

Male circumcision, barbaric enough in itself, I reckon, is more the source of jokes among men; but very few people, excluding the Mufti of couse, have the fortitude to joke about cutting up the private parts of little girls.  Even the people who believe in, and carry out, this practice, do it with a serious attitude and not in jest.

Meanwhile, this source discusses legal prohibitions worldwide against female genital mutilation (FGM).  Among “industrialized nations”, twelve have passed laws crimininalizing this custom.  Namely, in alphabetical order:  Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States.  These countries were forced to pass laws because the practice became an issue, especially with immigrants from more backward countries.  Russia is not mentioned.  Either because Russia yawns at the practice; or because it was never an issue there to begin with.

Putin and the Mufti: Uncut and Cut

Now, granted, it is possible that the mufti is telling the truth, and that the disgusting practice is being carried out, on the sly, in the heart of Dagestani villages.  I suppose that’s possible.  But we still need numbers and concrete cases, before we start to believe that this is really happening.

Especially since the Mufti, after all the outrage erupted from his gaffe, then proceeded to do a vigorous back-stroke inside his bowl of Caucasian Beef-Ball soup.  “I was only joking,” Berdiev protested.  “It was just a little joke about how female circumcision would reduce the level of vice in society; and next thing you know, the journalists twisted my words to say, allegedly, that the Mufti wants to cut women.  This is absurd,” he concluded.

Is it Shariat?

The next part of the controversy concerns the Mufti’s knowledge, or lack of knowledge, about Islam itself.  Smart people pointed out that female circumcision is not a component of shariat law, a point which the Mufti had to concede:  “No, this isn’t even included among the tenets of shariat, and the practice has no effect on the character of an individual.”  Of all people, the Mufti should not have confused people in the first place about shariat law, since knowing this stuff is actually his job.

This wiki entry shows the prevalence of the practice of female circumcision worldwide.  Russia is not even mentioned.  Again, maybe it really is happening there, but nobody knows it’s going on, and nobody has any numbers or facts to report.

As everybody knows, this quaint custom is prevalent mostly in Africa.  Immigrants have brought the custom to Europe, and even to Canada and the U.S.  Quoting wiki, the section concerning the United States:

The Centers for Disease Control estimated in 1997 that 168,000 girls living in the United States had undergone FGM or were at risk. Khalid Adem, a Muslim who had moved from Ethiopia to Atlanta, Georgia, became the first person to be convicted in the US in an FGM case; he was sentenced to ten years in 2006 for having severed his two-year-old daughter’s clitoris with a pair of scissors.  Performing the procedure on anyone under the age of 18 became illegal in the U.S. in 1997 with the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act.  As of 2015, 24 US states have specific laws against FGM. States that do not have such laws may use other general statutes, such as assault, battery or child abuse.The Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act was passed in January 2013, and prohibits knowingly transporting a girl out of the U.S. for the purpose of undergoing FGM.

Shariat: When things are written down, at least you know where you stand.

In conclusion, I remember reading somewhere that people should not confuse Islam with female circumcision, as the Russian Mufti apparently did.  (Before being corrected, and having to retract.)  Far be it from me to apologize for Islam, but from what I understand, Islam actually came as an improvement for many peoples and tribes, especially those dwelling in North and Central Africa.  The customs predating Islam were much, much worse.  Barbaric practices that would turn one’s hair white just to think about.  The introduction of shariat law was an improvement because it tamed and regulated many of these earlier and lawless practices.  For example, instead of nailing somebody to a tree to die, to punish for theft — under shariat you would merely cut off their hand but allow them to live.  Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

Similarly, shariat did not introduce such practices as female circumcision, or even the male variety, to be sure, but merely regulated what was already taking place.

Posted in Human Dignity, Medicine and Health | Tagged | Leave a comment

Efimova Switches to the Backstroke

Dear Readers:

Today I a had a choice between 3 or 4 interesting stories, including one on (alleged) female circumcision in Dagestan.  So I probably shouldn’t do Efimova again, but I will anyway, because (a) she says she was misquoted, and (b) Petr Akopov makes some interesting points in his essay.  But don’t worry, I’ll get to the circumcision story eventually, maybe tomorrow.  Or it could be the one on tractor output and the amazing Russian harvest expected this season.

Russians expect record harvest this season.

But first, back to Yulia Efimova.  The issue raised by Akopov in his essay, is Russians living abroad, when is this a good thing; and when is this a bad thing.  And what is the nature of Russian patriotism?  All very interesting questions.

Just in the last few days, Yulia has passed in rapid tempo through 3 stages of historical development:

Stage I:  Efimova was the victim of a classic Cold War bullying campaign at the Rio Olympics.  “This was a real war,” she stated.  “It was like a nightmare.  I love to compete, but this was more like a war.  It was horrible.  I don’t hold a grudge against the Americans for what they said [about me], but I took offense on behalf of Russia.  Everything was stacked against [Russia].  This was a global injustice.  It was like everything was planned this way.  For example, the way they picked on meldonium  [as a banned substance] because it never leaves the organism….”

Stage II:  CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh, smooth-talking mouthpiece of The Empire and seasoned veteran of the Great Game, scored an unexpected (probably even for himself) coup right there on camera.  The interview started out as just a routine propaganda drill, whereby a struggling strawman is presented to the American public, flounderingly struggling to explain “the other side of the story”.  To be fair and balanced of course, before being shot down unceremoniously.  Walsh:  “So, you’re saying this is all political?”

And then:  an unexpected gambit.  The villainesse du jour, Efimova, after feebly and incoherently (with her stilted English) trying to defend Russia against such stereotypes as “everybody drinks vodka and beer and dopes up” suddenly turns about and starts sucking up to her tormentors right then and there on camera.  And throws in some even worse stereotypes against her country:  How everybody lives a hard life and nobody smiles.  This sort of thing is music to American ears; it confirms the couch spuds in their feelings of god-given superiority over all other peoples on the planet.

Nick Paton Walsh: Seasoned veteran of The Great Game

Stage III:  Back home, the Russian equivalent of couch spuds are shocked and dismayed.  On their own side of the propaganda war, they had invested quite a lot of psychic energy portraying Efimova as the Cinderella-like innocent, tormented by her wicked, loud-mouthed and pudgy American step-sisters.   And now revealead as a superficial kreakl who disses her own country in return for a bowl of lentil soup and a cheap shot at prime-time fame.

After the fuss and outrage which her remarks stirred up back home, Efimova had to quickly switch her sport from breast-stroke to back-stroke, as she tries to walk back her CNN interview.  “I was misquoted,” she claims.  “The Russian media twisted my words in the CNN interview.  I only said that I was returning to the U.S. to collect my things.  I have an apartment there [in L.A.] which is paid up for half a year, and I have to go back to get my stuff.  And after that, will be the World Cup, and after that I have to decide where I am going to train — in Russia, Europe, the U.S.  Or maybe I’ll just open my own club.”

Misquoted?  Well, er…. There is the CNN interview right there, you can click on it and see for yourself.  And granted that Efimova is speaking in a language that is not her native tongue, and struggling a bit with her words, but still…  It’s pretty clear what she is saying, and her intent is also clear:  To ingratiate herself with the Americans.  Perhaps in the hope that they will take her back and allow her to continue her training in sunny LA?  In which case, the CNN interview was probably not the best choice for such a gambit.

Akopov’s Musings

Here is what Akopov has to say about all of this, and the rest of this is just straightforward translation from his essay:

There is really no reason to condemn Efimova.  She had been trained in the States, and now it is her decision whether to return there, or back to Russia.  Even her words about aggressive Russians and smiling Americans can be written off to her personal experiences.  Born in Grozny, raised in Taganrog, then spending the last five of her 24 years in the U.S., this young girl no doubt did experience quite a tough life in the Rostov Province, and then a comfortable one in California.  Out of her personal experiences she made a lot of far-flung generalizations.  May God be her judge.

The real problem here is Russian society itself.  How do we relate to those of our fellow countrymen who live abroad, especially those who bring fame to Russia?  It goes without saying that Efimova’s medals are her contribution to “Russian victory”, and she deserves our respect for this, if nothing else.

It is understandable that we would wish for all our Olympic champions, our talented mathematicians, our opera singers, and so on, should live and work in Russia.  This is a normal patriotic feeling.  But for this to happen, it is necessary that this particular champion, laureate, or all-around talented person, should feel the same feeling.  If he feels no love for his country, then you can’t keep him here.  It’s another matter altogether when you cannot offer him adequate working conditions, be it scientific research facilities, or training facilities, in this case you place even the most patriotic Russia-lover in an unseemly choice.  A choice that each will make, based upon his personal value system.

It goes without saying that our country must create the kinds of conditions where all citizens can develop their talents, not just Olympic athletes or nuclear scientists; and yet special care must be taken for such elites.   Such conditions did not exist for the generation of the 90’s, or the 00’s, but slowly but surely they are being created nowadays.  All the same, there are some glaring holes, for which there is simply no choice except to live abroad.

Self-portrait of Raphael

And even so, there is no point in forcing everybody to work in Russia, it wouldn’t be right to lock people up in a fortress-country.  If there is a desire to make our country better and equal in every way to the (best) foreign countries.  Both in quality of life, as well as creativity and work.  It is this ambitious desire which makes people wish that Efimova would train in Russia.

The world, naturally, has become small and global, and even just for simple experience it is useful and interesting to work in different countries.  Especially when there is something important to be learned.  And frankly, even in earlier years Russians never sat at home.  Otherwise we would not have been able to construct the largest nation in the world, we would not have stretched out all the way to California and Afghanistan.  In the past great Russian (personalities) traveled to Baden-Baden or Rome, in order to write their great books.  Not because they disliked being in Russia, but because it was interesting to get out and see how life is elsewhere, to see the works of Raphael, or to be cured by famous doctors.  The entire post-Peter (the Great) Russian elite was nurtured in the European spirit, and regarded Europe as the culural and civilizational compass, although already in the 19th century, as a result of closer acquaintance, started to understand the depth of the differences [between the two civilizations].

Nowadays everything is both simpler and more complicated, at the same time.  Simpler, because Russia is experiencing a restoration of feelings of self-worth and uniqueness (of culture).  More complicated, because, like the rest of the world, Russia is experiencing the extraordinary pressures of the supra-national, global “culture”.  In these circumstances one can be the biggest Russia-phobe in the world and live right in the center of Moscow.  Or one can remain a complete Russian person while living on the banks of the Thames.  Everything depends upon the views and feelings of the specific individual.  And one can work for Russia’s interests — for her might and glory — while living at any point on the planet.  And I am not just talking about spies either!

[as Akopov concludes his soaring essay with a silly joke]

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Yulia Efimova Decides to Return to the U.S.

I saw this story, in the Russian press, about Russia’s swimming athlete  and silver-medalist Yulia Efimova (100-meter breaststroke) who has decided to return to the U.S. to live, and to continue her training.

Recall how the Rio Olympics were marred by poor sportsmanships, one of the more egregious stories being the public attacks on Efimova.  American swimmer and gold medalist Lilly King came in for much-deserved criticism for her un-Olympic behavior.

Efimova and King

If real life were a Reality Show, and the rivalry between these two swimming ladies were portrayed as pure catfight, then the Referee calls would go something like this:

  • Round 1:  Efimova wins the Semi-final, raises her index finger in the traditional boasting-athlete sign indicating “I am #1!”  Pride goeth before a fall.
  • King takes offense and vows revenge.  She misunderstands the “I am #1” signal as something else, namely finger-wagging.   As if Efimova is dressing her down for something.  King strides off the deck, refuses to congratulate the Russian girl, and proceeds to mouth off to the press, accusing Efimova of doping, while praising herself as the model of clean living.
  • A day later King wins the race, defeating Efimova (who takes the silver, which is not so shabby).  King gloats and glories in her win, continuing to play geo-politics by insinuating that all the Russians are dopers and she is the only clean one on the deck.  She gets even with Efimova by wagging her finger, as if to chide the rival girl for her cheatin’ ways.
  • American press goads on the catfight.  Sports pundits and the American public fully match up to every stereotype and requirement of the strutting gloating bullies which the world has come to know and love.
  • Lilly plays into every stereotype herself, even tossing in some raw meat about how she is swimming “for her country”.  One recalls how every Olympic bully, not even excluding Tonya Harding herself — she who plotted to break the bones and cripple the legs of her figure-skating rival, falls back on raw patriotism when under attack for having a rotten and criminal character.
  • The Russian press in its turn picks up the story and vilifies King, portraying her (deservedly) as the typical “ugly American”.  Some pundits take the “ugly” too literally and make grandiose (and unchivalrous) insinuations about King’s physical appearance, like, maybe she is too pudgy, and maybe she resents the sleeker and more attractive Efimova, that sort of thing.  Almost as if forgetting that this is not the swimsuit portion of a beauty pageant, but rather, a sport in which strength, power and endurance trump physical beauty.  With the Cold War being fought in the swimming pool, sheer nastiness ensues.
  • When some of the dust had settled, King emitted an apology to Efimova.  One of her handlers probably told her to do this.  So she can get her pudgy face plastered on a box of Wheaties (?)

And now that the Rio games are over for the lovely Efimova, who walked away with 3 medals (again, not too shabby for someone who almost wasn’t allowed to compete), we see that reality is never quite so black and white as pseudo-patriots of both camps believe.

Life Is Easier In America

And thus, Yulia, proving once again that elite athletes have, well, more choices in life than the average person, announced in an interview on the American CNN channel, that she has decided to return to the U.S.  Where she has been living and training.  Yes, the very God Bless these United States of America which vilified her and held her up as a Russian catspaw.  Conveniently forgetting those American mouth-breathing mobs who greeted her with boos and catcalls every time she strode up onto the deck of the pool, “In America everybody smiles,” she told CNN.

Efimova: LA girl and overall Hot Chick

Efimova has her heart set on the Tokyo Olympics, her main goal in life right now is to continue training and win the gold in Tokyo.

Swimming coach David Salo uses science to train his athletes.

In her CNN interview, Efimova went on to criticize her own fellow countrypeople, sounding almost like a kreakl in her desperation to suck up or make news friends:  “Russians live a very harsh life from the earliest years.  From day to day.  Which is why they are so aggressive.  America changes people.  America has changed me.”

Yulia used to train with American coach David Salo in the Athletics Department at the University of Southern California.  However, she was forced to leave Salo’s team due to a school policy that he was not allowed to take in foreign athletes who had been previously banned for doping.

Yulia is not sure where she is going to train now, after Rio.  She has few fans among other American swimmers:  Michael Phelps dissed her.  Salo can’t take her back.  Will the Russians disown her for her anti-Russian remarks?  (Probable answer:  No.  They would take her back.)

In short, who is going to coach her?  All I can say is this:  Yulia better find herself a good coach if she intends to win the gold in Tokyo.

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Ukrainian Journalists In Danger: Add Miroslava Berdnik

To the list of Ukrainian journalists in imminent danger, add the name Miroslava Alexandrovna Berdnik.  PolitNavigator reports that Berdnik was arrested yesterday around 8:30 AM (Kiev time) by Ukrainian security forces.  Berdnik latest book “Пешки в чужой игре”  (“Pawns in Another Man’s Game”) was placed on the list of forbidden books by the Ukrainian secret police.  The legal statute being applied to these forbidden thoughts and writings is “Attempt against territorial integrity of the Ukraine”.  Such books are forbidden to be written, read, sold, or disseminated.  Defiance brings about a visit to SBU Headquarters, which is apparently what happened to Berdnik yesterday.

Journalist and writer MIroslava Berdnik

The Navigator piece goes on to say that Berdnik has been holing up in the Zaporozhie region of Ukraine in recent months, being treated for some illness and also hiding from the Ukrainian nationalists.  Their threats had forced her to flee from Kiev.

Since early 2014 Berdnik has stood tall as an opponent of the Kiev junta and the Banderite political parties which came to power.  For example, in March of 2014 she gave a speech to the Israeli Knesset regarding the crimes of the Ukrainian nationalists.

Here is Berdnik’s wiki page written in Ukrainian.  She was born in 1958, the daughter of a Soviet dissident sci-fi writer named Oles Berdnik.  Miroslava was trained as a biologist and botanist; however, in 2004 around the time of the Orange “Revolution” (the first Maidan), Miroslava decided to become a journalist.  Berdnik was inspired and horrified by the rising tide of Ukrainian nationalism.  She became a dedicated anti-fascist publicist.

I cannot find information about Berdnik’s ethnicity;  I am only guessing, based on her name and the fact that she spoke to the Knesset, that she is Jewish.  Which doesn’t mean much anyhow, because many prominent Jews, including Ukrainians, have given their support to the fascist Kiev junta.  In the end, this conflict is not about ethnicity, but about worldview overall, not to mention geo-politics and the Great Game.  A Game which eats ups individuals and sacrifices mere pawns for the greater glory of the world’s top 2%.

Be that as it may, Berdnik’s body of work show that she is a prolific writer and journalist who has unwaveringly criticized the Kiev regime and the Ukrainian nationalists.  She has defended the rights of the Russian-speaking minority, spoken out for the necessity of friendship between Ukraine and Russia; opposed the crimes of the Kiev junta; and yet, according to friends, has always portrayed herself as a Ukrainian patriot.

Who is now in imminent danger not because of anything that she did, but because of things she thought and spoke out loud, and wrote down, living as she does, in an increasingly fascist and totalitarian state, where people can be punished violently for their political views.

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Russian Turnkeys Dish Gossip on Savchenko

This piece from Navigator quotes from the Russian weekly “Argumenty i Fakty”, but I can’t find the source article right now, so I’ll just quote from the secondary.

The city of Novocherkassk is in the Rostov Oblast of Russia.

‘Tis a bit of gossip from Nadia Savchenko’s stint in a Russian jail:  The Ukrainian celebrity prisoner served time in Penitentiary Isolator #3 in the city of Novocherkassk.  The “Argumenty i Fakty” correspondent was able to gain an exclusive interview with a couple of  the turnkeys whose job was to take care of Nadia.  And it seems their efforts were not in vain.  Nadia entered the prison an aggressive foul-mouthed rebel; but walked out two years later as a humanist and statesman.  She has emerged as, oddly, one of the more reasonable voices in Ukrainian politics, calling for an end to the war in Donbass, and for Ukraine to forget about joining NATO.

Colonel Alexander Kolganov described to the AIF reporter the problems he had getting Savchenko to eat:

Russian tvorog is similar to Italian ricotta cheese, but not quite the same texture.

“As with many of our prisoners, we had some problems with Savchenko, the main one being, in her case, the hunger strike.  Nadezhda Viktorovna declared a hunger strike, in her attempt to blackmail the government of the Russian Federation.  We had to baby her, trying to convince her to eat something.”

Kolganov went on to say, that the menu in the prison is quite a good one.  Rations include tvorog, butter, milk, fish and meat.  Reminiscing about the old days:  “When I served in Soviet times, they did not feed us as well as they do now.  Bottom line:  When Nadezhda entered our establishment, she weighed 72 kilos [approx. 160 pounds].  We released her in approximately the same dimensions.”

Kolganov goes on to gossip, how Nadia loved to watch the news on TV Channel “Russia-24” and frequently would enter into discussions of the topics with the management of the prison.  He added that nobody was particularly interested in “working her over” or debating with her about her views.

Prison at Novocherkassk

Another prison employee, Retired Major Alexei Vasik, was interviewed.  Vasik is a long-time veteran prison employee.  Retired and on his pension now, he continues to work part-time as a prison librarian.  Asked about Savchenko’s recent peace-loving political pronouncements, Vasik explains that many former inmates of the Novocherkassk Isolator have been successfully rehabilitated, sincerely repenting for their past crimes; and have gone on to walk a truer path.

“There was a young man who was here for eight years, for robbing a bank.  I recently met him out in the world, he has forgotten his prison life, he has a family now, children, he has started a business manufacturing safes.”

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