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,


Posted in Uncategorized | 38 Comments

Sexual Harassment Case Rocks Russia

Dear Readers:

Until recently, Russians didn’t hear much about sexual harassment in the workplace.  In the past, either such harassment did not occur very often; or perhaps it occurred but people just didn’t know about it.  Possibly such incidents were hushed up or swept under the rug because they were too embarrassing or explosive to talk about.  But nowadays, Russians are more aware of these matters and speak more freely.  At least, the Russian press does.  Or maybe these incidents are just happening more often now.  Without hard numbers and reliable statistics, who can say?

In the past couple of weeks, the Russian media has been all over a case of violent workplace rape in the city of Ufa.  My main source for this story is this piece from the Komsomolka, by reporter Elvina Aparina.  She calls the 23-year-old victim “Guzel”, which is not her real name.  The Russian police are trying to keep the case as under wraps as possible while they continue their investigation; but, like, I said, the media is all over it and hungry for more details.

Starting with the basic facts about where when who, etc.   An ancient settlement dating back to Paleolithic times, and known in its time as a major center of the Golden Horde, currently Ufa is the capital city of the Republic of Bashkortostan, a constituent republic within the Russian Federation.  Ufa is a large city, with a population over 1 million people.  The ethnic composition is half Russian, a quarter Tatar, and the rest mostly ethnic Bashkirs.  The identity of the vic is not given, but based on the photos, she appears to be a young Tatar or Bashkir woman.  Blurring out her eyes in the photos doesn’t really conceal her facial features that much.

We know that the vic is a policewoman.  Possibly a rookie.  She was allegedly raped by three of her colleagues, fellow (male) cops, much senior to her both in rank and age.  In demographic terms, it is unlikely that the vic’s ethnic background had much, or anything, to do with her rape; but her gender most certainly did.

The vic

According to the vic, she had just finished her working day, when she was summoned to the nearby Migration Division by her senior colleagues.  This was around 19:30 in the evening (for American readers:  7:30 PM).  She walked into the office, and found a Happy Hour in progress.  The guys were drinking strong drinks, and invited her to join them.  Which she did.   [Big mistake!]

Some time passed while they drank, then suddenly the three males in the room started to come on to “Guzel” very persistently, touching her with their hands.  The vic objected to the touching and tried to leave the room.  Whereupon the males quickly subdued her with several blows (of their fists) to various parts of her torso.  Having subdued her physically, they proceeded to strip off her clothes.  After which each of the three men took turns raping her and forcing her to perform oral sex on them.

The alleged perps, left to right: Yaromchuk, Galiev, Matveev

The vic passed out and only came to around 5:00 in the morning.  Immediately she rushed off to the prosecutor’s office and filed a complaint against the three men.

The alleged perps have been identified as follows:  51-year-old Colonel Eduard Matveev, who heads the Police Department of the Ufimsky region; 50-year-old Colonel Salavat Galiev, who heads the Police Department of the Karmaskalinsky region; and 34-year-old Major Pavel Yaromchuk, who is in charge of the Migration Division.  Presumably it was in Pavel’s office at Migration that this incident occurred(?)  [Readers out there:  Who wants to accept bets that all three of these guys are married?]

Because the vic was so prompt in filing a complaint, it only took two days (October 30) for the rapey trio to be fired from their jobs and placed in detention.  Where they sit now, cooling their heels.  A criminal case has been opened against them by Roman Deev, who heads the Internal Security organs of Bashkiria.  All three alleged perps have been supplied with attorneys.  The attorneys affirm that their clients were all in back in their homes by 23:00 (11:00 PM) the night of the alleged rape.  I can only imagine the subsequent conversations with their wives:  “Honey, I’m home!”  “You’re late!”  “I had to work late.”  “Oh really?  You smell like a brewery…”

Seeking more background info, Aparina interviewed former employees of the Ufa Police.  They told her they were not at all surprised by this story, and that incidents like this have happened before.  The only unique thing about this incident, is that the vic went to the trouble of filing a criminal complaint.

Actually, it sounds like this vic, “Guzel”, did everything right except maybe going to the party itself.  [In retrospect, maybe she should have thought up some excuse not to go…]  After filing her complaint, she even submitted to a medical rape-kit.  Subsequently it was leaked to the Russian press that traces of Pavel Yaromchuk’s DNA was found inside her.  (Well, he is the youngest of the three perps, so maybe his sperm was the strongest.)  Additional credence to the vic’s version of events, is given by evidence of multiple tears to her “tissue”, presumably of her vagina.

The Napoleon Code is the foundation of Russian law.

Still another leak to the press alleges that “Guzel” is the daughter of a highly-placed official in the Russian Federal National Guard!  If true, then this trio of sad-sack rapists obviously picked the wrong chick to f*** with.  And seems probable that her accusations will be taken seriously by the criminal investigators.  One also needs to remind, especially American readers, that Russia is a “law and order” state, governed by Napoleonic Law and not Common Law.  Like the French legal system, upon which it was originally modelled, the Russian legal system is “Inquisitorial” in nature, with all benefit of the doubt going to the Investigators and to the Prosecution.  Which sucks if you are an innocent, wrongly accused.  But is great system for putting away actual violent criminals!  Hence, one can expect that these three will be put away to serve their time in the Gulag; and don’t expect too many courtroom shenanigans, like about the “hot dress” the vic was wearing, or the alcohol she consumed, or any of that nonsense.

Although…  One wonders if it is accepted practice in the Ufa Police Department to hold Happy Hour in somebody’s office?  Shouldn’t they have gone to a pub instead?  Then maybe none of this horror would have happened.

Posted in Breaking News, True Crime | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Have we frozen yet?” Ukrainian cities are dying – Part III

“The root cause of poverty is a deficiency of money.”  (Anon)

Dear Readers:

Today finishing our review of this story by Alexander Lesnykh.  The Ukraine has been in the grip of infrastructure crisis for 3 decades now.  Pundits explain how the 5% of towns which are currently without heat and hot running water, is just the tip of the iceberg, no pun intended.  Metaphorically speaking, Ukraine is either the iceberg that nicked the Titanic, or the Titanic that dinged the iceberg.  Either way, this is a nation in a rolling crisis.  Just like in that Disney cartoon, once the Big Freeze works its way to the capital, which will happen sooner or later, maybe not this season, maybe next season — then the Maidan Orange Dynasty will fall ingloriously.

“If you’re cold, then you should wear gloves.”

The Maidan government, although composed of lying, thieving Idiocrats, knows well that it has to do something to avert the final catastrophe.  These crooks might even be willing to put a temporary pause on their own looting of the post-Soviet carcass, in order scrape up and allocate more money to keep the municipal services going.  What prevents these sleazy capos from doing so are their strict obligations before the Capo di CaposThe International Monetary Fund.  The IMF gives not a whit for the lives of ordinary Ukrainians, it only wants its pound of flesh!

Four years ago, the Ukraine obligated itself (to the IMF) to raise prices on gas and other municipal services.  As in any welfare state worth its salt, the government used to subsidize these services.  And continued to do so, for political reasons, until the IMF finally put its foot down and said No!  The people must freeze!  A couple of months ago, this past September, the IMF sent some bigwigs to Kiev to meet with Prime Minister Groisman.  And gave him the ultimatum:  Either you raise prices, or we cut off your loans altogether.

Mosiychuk sporting his Nazi tee-shirt

The Ukraine currently owes the IMF almost $33 billion dollars — yup, that’s U.S. dollars, not hryvnas nor rubles!  It goes without saying that the Ukraine, one of the poorest nations in the world, will never in a million years be able to pay off that debt.  Groisman understood that the government he heads is on the verge of default.  In desperation, he was able to move the deadlines back a bit and agreed to raise consumer gas prices by 23%.  In the next 2 years, prices are planned to go up by 60%.  It seems the IMF will not be satisfied until every Ukrainian has died out for good, like an elderly Innuit grandma left out on the ice floe.  [cultural stereotype]  In retrospect, Groisman should have never had dealings with cannibals like the IMF.  He should have gotten his loans from Sharkey the Mobster instead.  Who only whacks your kneecaps, but leaves your grandma alone.

What will happen to such a country, Lesnykh asks rhetorically, which is ruled by such talent?  The politicians themselves do not mince on words.  Rada Deputy Igor Mosiychuk admitted that the nation is under the “external rule” of the IMF and trans-national companies:  “Poor Ukrainians will become ever poorer; emigration will increase; even without this, Ukraine has lost 10 million citizens, who left to find work elsewhere,” Mosiychuk admitted in a television interview.  Mosiychuk is one of those low-IQ Nazi Idiocrats who came to power in Kiev with an assist from international institutions, Europe, and the U.S. government.  And proceeded to make one bone-headed decision after another, until the situation was way beyond fixable.  Like they say in America, “ya gets what ya pays for.”

Posted in Economics, Russian History | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

“Have we frozen yet?” Ukrainian cities are dying – Part II

Dear Readers:

Today continuing with  this piece from RIA, by reporter Alexander Lesnykh.  And I also have this piece from VZGLIAD, by reporter Alexei Anpilogov, along the same theme.  Today I want to start with Anpilogov, who reports that massive protests have begun in Ukrainian cities, complete with the burning of tires, etc.  Not for warmth, but for effect.  The Russian blogosphere is a tad Schadenfreudistic about this, and you will see comments such as:  “Let them jump up and down until they are warm.”

City of Krivoy Rog in a state of emergency

Which I think is unfair, because the people protesting NOW are not the same people who jumped on the Maidan.  The people who jumped on the Maidan got the cushy government jobs, and they are doing just fine.  The people who are out in the streets now are just ordinary citizens.  And they — this is an important point — HAVE PAID THEIR UTILITY FEES and taxes to the government.  These are not dead-beats demanding a hand-out.  They paid their utility fees, and yet their radiators are still icy cold.  Why?  We started getting into that yesterday, the issue being the bankruptcy of the regional gas companies.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman assures the citizens of the Ukraine that “everything is fine”, since 95% of the Ukrainian cities ARE getting heat in their pipes.  The problem is “only” in the other 5%.  But, as Anpilogov points out, the root causes which pushed that 5% into crisis are still rippling, unsolved, along the various fault-lines of the Ukrainian economy.  And the rest of that iceberg is bound to collapse sooner or later, if nothing is done.

For example, as of today, the crisis has “only” touched the cities of Smela, Shepetovka, Krivoy Rog, Pavlograd, Severdonetsk  and Kirovograd.  But standing in line and suffering the same root causes, are a series of other cities, on up to, and including, Kiev!

Ostrovsky’s hero sacrificed his health, and his nervous system, to build the railway.

Yesterday, in the city of Shepetovka, an important railway junction and the setting of the classic Soviet/Communist novel “How the Steel Was Tempered“, the municipal authorities summoned the people of the town into a “veche” or street meeting, and asked them to help decide what to do about the crisis.  (As if ordinary people could have any bright ideas other than “Keep the gas turned on!”)

Apparently the gas company said, “Can’t do it.” Chuckling like Ebenezer Scrooge, the gassy bigwigs reached for the valve and demonstratively reduced the gas pressure down to zero.  Just before a night where local temps reached -4 degrees Centigrade.  (For Americans, that’s around 25 degrees Fahrenheit.  That’s still not so bad, but darned unpleasant if you are trying to get some sleep in that cold, cold bed!)

The regional gas company is “Shepetovka EnergoInvest”, which owes the national monopoly Naftogaz around 60 million hryvna (just over 2 million American dollars).  This debt has been mounting for four years and cannot be paid.

Same thing in the other crisis towns.  Local authorities do the same thing, calling the people to meetings, threatening demonstrations, etc.  It’s almost reaching the point of “bunt”, where local officials and residents alike are starting to block roads and highways, just because there is nothing else, really, that they can do about this.

In Krivoy Rog (a major city with a population of 630K people), demonstrators showed a more intelligent approach:  Breaking into the regional office of Krivorozhgaz, the rioters made a beeline for the valves and turned the equipment back on. Criminals wearing balaclavas also joined into the fun, setting fires and breaking windows in the offices.

KievEnergo motto: “Let it be warm and bright for the people of Kiev!”

As mentioned, even the capital city Kiev is not immune from this rolling crisis.  City authorities there attempted to implement a switcheroo whereby they dissolved the old bankrupt and indebted company KievEnergo, replacing it with a brand new gas company called KievTeploEnergo.  This company, newborn as a virgin with no debts, was given a dowry of all the boilers and other equipment, not to mention the hard-earned utility fees of the hard-working population.

Naftogaz was not impressed with this cunning scheme.  However, they could not bring themselves, for political reasons, to shut off the gas to Kiev households.  Hence, Kiev radiators are still warm, although many households (as noted in earlier posts) do not have hot running water from the taps, only cold water.  Still, I reckon people can survive without hot running water, so long as that radiator is nice and toasty at night.

“Yeah, I’m talking to YOU, Naftogaz!”

Nevertheless, as Anpilogov notes, it is only a matter of time before KievEnergo’s debts catch up to the people of Kiev.  Naftogaz clearly does not follow the teachings of Jesus, who demanded, “Forgive us our debts!”  Anpilogov compares Kiev to the Titanic which is currently at the stage where it just got nicked by the iceberg.  Further developments are awaited.

And unfortunately, this systemic problem does not have a clear solution.  Ordinary Ukrainians blame various families, clans, oligarchs — and yet it’s not even them, really!  It’s the whole system.  It’s the system of public utilities, of the ever-rising fees, the galloping tariffs, the increasing poverty of the population which cannot pay these burdensome taxes.  And we’re not just talking about gas heating, this affects ALL municipal services:  Garbage collection, electricity, water treatment, canalization, etc.  At risk is the entire urban infrastructure of the Ukraine.

Anpilogov ends his piece with this philippic:

The Ukrainian population is excessive for any [future] role as an agrarian-craft economy.  This is the reason why the current Ukrainian elite are so beloved in the West:  After all they unconditionally and without a murmur fulfill the program of “reforms”, while killing off their own economy, culture and social sphere, dooming their own people to inglorious flight abroad.  And if the residents of Smela, Shepetovka, Pavlograd or even Krivoy Rog should flee from their freezing and impoverished cities, then who cares?  Even in Kiev people can’t point to these towns on the map.  Let alone in London, Paris, or Washington.

Next:  The real culprit is the IMF!

[to be continued]

Posted in Economics, Russian History | Tagged | 2 Comments

“Have we frozen yet?” Ukrainian cities are dying – Part I

Dear Readers:

Today I have this piece from RIA, by reporter Alexander Lesnykh.  The title (Ще не вмерзла? – “Did we freeze yet?”) is, of course a pun on the opening words of the Ukrainian national anthem: Ще не вмерли України ні слава, ні воля – “Ukraine is not yet dead, neither her glory nor freedom…”  Which, in turn, is a borrowing from the Polish national anthem:  “Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła” — “Poland has not yet perished”.  Both of which anthems have a Monty-Pythonesque flavor, because, when you declare to somebody that you are not quite dead yet, the logical assumption is — that you soon will be!

The Ukraine is not dead yet, but is surely in dire straights this winter, with many towns literally freezing their asses off.  Rada Deputy Igor Mosiychuk appeared on Ukrainian TV accusing the Ukrainian gas monopoly Naftogaz of freezing the Ukrainian population while siphoning off their profits to offshores.  Such populist accusations, while probably true, do little to help Ukrainian families get through this cold winter.  Presumably those families, if they have any political consciousness, will remember that Mosiychuk and his Fascist cronies were the very people who caused this dire situation.  Ukrainians were not exactly rich before, but at least they had heat in their homes and schools.  Then the Nationalists violently seized the government and imposed a brutal policy of de-Russification, whilst offering themselves to Europe for colonization.  This policy is the root cause of the economic melt-down and what is happening now.

Currently in the Ukraine, 10 cities are completely without heat.  The schools have closed, but the children are not much better off freezing at home, than they would be freezing in the classroom.

Post-Soviet governments such as Russia and the Ukraine typically face this challenge every year.  See, the Earth tilts on its orbit, the Sun moves around in the sky, and — like magic, every year, Winter suddenly appears!  It gets cold, Father Frost appears, and freezes the trees with his magic scepter.  After many millennia of this same thing happening, year after year, people started to figure out that they needed to plan ahead…  And then Ukrainian Nationalists seized the government, and all that ancient knowledge was lost, once the nation found itself in the grips of an Idiocracy.

Drink Brawndo! It will keep you warm, cause it’s got Electrolytes!

In an earlier post, I reported how Kiev Mayor Klichko thought it was a big fat joke that Kiev residents wouldn’t get hot water any more out of their taps.  And he blamed the situation on the Soviet-built infrastructure of urban central heating.  Which depends on a network of well-maintained and well-supplied underground pipes.  Klichko’s suggestion was to tear down that infrastructure and have people just individualistically purchase their own boilers and electric heaters.

Now, the issue of the Soviet-style central heating of cities… that is a worthy debate to have.  Should it be replaced by a different system?  There are economic pros and cons.  There are political pros and cons.  There are personal pros and cons.  The thing is, that the right time to have this debate is not TWO MONTHS BEFORE EFFING WINTER!!!  Like, start the discussion in the heat of summer, and then give people 5 years or so to switch infrastructures and complete the project, if that’s what they decide to do.

Take Yo Broke Ass Home…

Anyhow, according to Mosiychuk, the Ukrainian cities that are currently suffering from frostbite include important ones like  Severodonetsk, Smela, and Krivoy Rog.  Even though it’s only November, night temperatures are starting to dip below zero, and this mysterious white stuff is starting to flutter down from the skies.  In the city of Smela in the Cherkassk oblast, 68,000 residents do not have heat.  The local government is preparing to issue a State of Emergency.  The reason for the crisis is simple, and very typical of current-day Ukraine:  The local gas company EnergoInvest, which is licensed to supply the gas for the central heating infrastructure, owes Naftogaz over 200 million hryvna (just over $7 million U.S. bucks).  EnergoInvest couldn’t pony up the cash, so Naftogaz cut them off.  See, along with other ancient knowledge that was lost, Ukrainians in recent decades have also forgotten something that all our ancestors knew very well:  If you can’t pay your bills, then you can’t have nice things.  Like heat.  The ancient Chinese civilization even as early as 7,000 years ago coined a wise saying:  “No tickee no shirtee.”

In Krivoy Rog the situation is even worse: 300,000 residents are without heat; 78 schools; 75 kindergartens; 22 hospitals.  The children have been sent home from school.  The issue is the same one:  the local gas company KrivoRozh-Teplo-Central owes Naftogaz 370 million hryvnas (around $13 million U.S. bucks).

Meanwhile, the big boys at Naftogaz do not appear to be suffering any ill effects.  Even with all the money owed them, they are not exactly walking around in rags.  Somehow the “top managers” of Naftogaz managed to clear millions (of Euros) in bonuses and export their loot out of the country…

[to be continued]

Posted in Economics, Russian History | Tagged | 10 Comments

Uglich still reeling from unsolved murder of Dmitry Ivanovich – Part VII

Dear Readers:

It is time to end this sad story of the Tsarevich Dmitry Ivanovich.  While admitting that we still have not solved his murder.  When starting this series, I had some personal fantasy of solving the crime and thus becoming the toast of the blogosphere.  Alas, if anything, there are even more suspects than before.  Including Giles Fletcher the Elder[That last, a joke, of course.  There is no indication that Giles ever visited Uglich, the closest he ever got in his travels was Yaroslavl.  Although, when it comes to English meddling in Russian affairs, I really wouldn’t put anything past them!]

In his final paragraphs, after discussing all sides of the issue, Sidorchik comes to the conclusion that there are points supporting both main theories of the death:  That it was an ordered assassination; and that it was an unfortunate accident.  The true crime is that the Uglich mob took the law into their own hands and tore apart the very “suspects” who could have given the best eye-witness testimony; and thus muddied the waters to this very day.

Which will not stop me from presenting my own hare-brained theories…

Video proof of the crime: Assassin grabs on to Dmitry’s halo while cutting his throat.

Please recall one important clue from the Giles Fletcher “Murder Book”, namely the fact that Dmitry’s “nurse” or “nanny” allegedly was poisoned: “The nurse that tasted before him of certaine meat (as I have heard) died presently.”  This nanny was assigned to eat Dmitry’s food and test it for poison.  A method which, obviously, is only effective if the poisoner is a crude type who doesn’t know how to use slow poisons.  But still, this preventative method is better than nothing.  So, anyhow, this loyal nurse ate something from Dmitry’s plate and died promptly.  Upon which, and here is the untold story, Dmitry got a new nanny.  This one named Vasilisa.  And Vasilisa is the gal who got herself torn apart by the angry mob on that fateful day 15 May, 1591.  The mob was sure that Vasilisa worked for Boris Godunov and had been inserted into the household.  Which raises the question:  Perhaps the real target of the poison attempt was the first nanny!  The point being to get her out of the way and insert their own spy.  Which also implies that the poisoners deliberately used a quick poison, and that Dmitry was not their target!  Or perhaps Dmitry himself poisoned his first nanny — probably with wild mushrooms — because she was too strict with him!  The second nanny, Vasilisa, is known to have been more permissive:  She is the one who allowed Dmitry to wear his pretty new necklace and go for walkies on the square; hence Dmitry had a valid motive to dispose of his first nurse.  Cui bono, indeed!

The Real Murder Book

All joking aside, Sidorchik writes that the documentary materials produced by the official investigation (which, as you recall, was headed by Prince Vasily Shuisky) have been preserved to this day and available to historians!  Shuisky’s commission interrogated 150 people who were either participants or eye witnesses to the event.  (Again, it is quite unfortunate that so many potential witnesses were torn apart by the angry mob, thus hindering a proper investigation.)  The Commission then published their official findings.  The fact that the committee was dispatched by Boris Godunov himself, that Boris did not know the outcome of the investigation but felt he had nothing to fear from it; and that Boris sought a completely objective outcome, speaks to Godunov’s innocence in the murder, according to Sidorchik.

Fact:  Tsarevich Dmitry suffered from the disease of epilepsy (in Russian, “the black weakness”).  Which, by the way, would exclude him from Sainthood, since epileptics are not permitted into the pantheon of Russian saints.  Dmitry had his last known episode on 12 May, that is, three days before his death.  After which he got better, and on 15 May, after the noon mass, his mom permitted him to go out for a walk in the inner courtyard.

Shuisky’s Investigative Committee established the identities of the 6 (or 7?) people who accompanied Dmitry as his posse for the walkies:

  1. Dmitry’s nanny Vasilisa Volokhova, she is the one who replaced his earlier nanny who died of poison;
  2. Dmitry’s wet nurse (кормилица) Arina Tuchkova [er… Dima was almost 9 and he still breast-fed??]
  3. Dmitry’s chamber-maid (постельница) Marya Kolobova;
  4. Three (or four?) boys around Dmitry’s age, his assigned play-dates.  One of these boys was Marya’s son, Petrusha Kolobov;
  5. Another boy named Ivan Krasnensky;
  6. Another boy named Grisha Kozlovsky;
  7. Either a seventh boy, or (Ivan or Grisha) was the child of Dmitry’s wet-nurse.  Which means that, if both boys were still breast-feeding, then the Tsarevich would have had to share his snack with his friend.

The 4 or 5 “mischievous boys” were playing a vigorous game called in Russian в тычки, which is basically a knife-throwing game.  The Investigative Committee established, probably from the testimony of the boys, that, when it came Dmitry’s turn, the Tsarevich was holding a large knife or sharpened nail in his hand.  He was just getting ready to throw it, when he suddenly had a fit of epilepsy.  He fell to the ground, accidentally stabbing himself in the neck.  Sidorchik points out that (according to modern medical doctors), in the case of an epileptic fit, the boy would be more likely to simply drop the knife than to stab himself.  But there is always the possibility that the nurses or playmates may have aggravated matters and inadvertently caused more injury when they rushed to help the epileptic.  It could have all just been a ghastly medical error committed by the first responders.  The sort of thing that happens every day.

Russian boys playing a knife-throwing game.

The final conclusion of Shuisky’s Investigative Committee:  Tsarevich Dmitry Ivanovich died an accidental death.  Patriarch Job confirmed and certified the verdict.

Other possible theories:  The Investigative Committee did not consider the possibility that Dmitry might have been trying to stab his breast-mate, in the hopes of getting all the milk for himself!  And perhaps the latter was able to successfully deflect the knife back onto the aggressor.  Or perhaps a local farmer, tired of watching his chickens die at the hands of the Tsarevich, now sitting and whittling on his front porch, suddenly saw his opportunity and stealthily hurled his whittling knife.  So fast that nobody noticed…  All of these things are possible and even likely!

In the end, Tsarevich Dmitry was buried in Uglich.  But Vasily Shuisky soon saw the need to have the body of the now-Saint moved to Moscow.  This moving of the body was a project in and of itself.  Tsar Fedor organized a new Special Commission, this one headed by Metropolitan Filaret.  Who happened to be the father of Mikhail Romanov, the future founder of the new royal dynasty!

“How dare you murder my meal ticket!”

With all the cameras rolling, Filaret opened the coffin… revealing a young corpse that had not decayed in the slightest, and even smelled fragrantly good!  In his tiny fist the boy clutched his nuts… no, wait, that didn’t come off right in English… Dmitry was clutching a frond of actual nuts, like the nuts you gather from trees.  This to add credence to the version of the murder, according to which the assassins grabbed the boy when he was playing with his nuts… again!  that did not come off right…  The boy was playing with some kind of actual nuts (игрался орехами), like the kind you take from a tree and eat.  So much for the knife-tossing play-dates!

Sidorchik mentions, very delicately, that Russian historians are forced to tiptoe somewhat around this story, given that Dmitry Ivanovich is an official Saint in the Russian Orthodox Church.  Therefore, it is a type of sacrilege to joke about him.  (I, on the other hand, being an atheist, have no such constraints!)  Or to question the manner in which he attained his sainthood.  In which case, it is crystal clear that the sainthood was a ploy on the part of Shuisky to discredit False Dmitry #2.  Sidorchik also hints that some trickery was at work, when it came to uncovering the “un-decayed and fragrant-smelling” corpse of Dmitry.  (An un-decayed and non-smelly corpse are requirements of Russian sainthood.)  According to one conspiracy theory, Metropolitan Filaret purchased a boy who was around Dmitry’s age, killed him, and placed him, still fresh, in the coffin.  Presumably disposing of the original corpse.  Such parlor tricks are well known in Russian history.

In any case, the remains of the Child Martyr were triumphantly carried back to Moscow and re-interred in the Archangel Cathedral in the Kremlin.  One cannot help but wonder, if the remains are still there; and if so, could somebody please do a DNA analysis!  Unless they are scared what they would find .. heh heh!  Who knows?  Maybe the Real Dmitry still walks among us, still clutching his little nuts, and waiting for the day when he will finally ascend the throne.  And will restore Law and Order to this lawless nation of Rus!

Posted in Russian History, True Crime | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Uglich still reeling from unsolved murder of Dmitry Ivanovich – Part VI

In time the strong and stately turrets fall,
In time the rose and silver lilies die,
In time the monarchs captive are and thrall,
In time the sea and rivers are made dry;
The hardest flint in time doth melt asunder;
Still living fame in time doth fade away;
The mountains proud we see in time come under;
And earth for age we see in time decay;
The sun in time forgets for to retire
From out the east where he was wont to rise;
The basest thoughts we see in time aspire,
And greedy minds in time do wealth despise.
Thus all, sweet fair, in time must have an end,
Except thy beauty, virtues, and thy friend. 

(Giles Fletcher the Elder, Sonnet XXVIII in his Licia cycle)

Dear Readers:

Continuing my detour through the treatise by Giles Fletcher the Elder, his report of his Ambassadorship to Russia.  Although Fletcher dedicated the book to Queen Elizabeth, he also intended it for the public, so it was a disappointment to him when the book was censored and suppressed in 1591.  No reason is given for the suppression.

Fletcher’s muse, Lucy Harington, the Countess of Bedford.

Fletcher organized his book into 6 main sections:

  • Cosmographie of the countrie
  • Policy 1:  The ordering of their state
  • Policy 2:  Their judicial proceeding
  • Policy 3:  Their warlike provisions
  • Policy 4:  Their ecclesiastic state
  • Oeconomie or privat behaviour

All of which was “need to know” stuff for the talented diplomats of Her Majestie.  Who, by the way, were head and shoulders above the ridiculous jackanapes that we see today in the British Foreign Office.  After a brief (and probably erroneous) summary of Russian pre-history, Giles proceeds to the current state, with Russia’s current borders and domains (as of 1588).  He notes Russia’s recent annexation of large chunks of Siberia, “where the people, though they be not natural Russes, yet obey the emperour of Russia, and are ruled by the lawes of his countrie, paying customes and taxes as his owne people doe.”  This confirms, by the way, what I have always maintained about Russia, namely that its absorption of indigenous peoples in the Far East was never anything like the genocidal treatment of the indigenous peoples on the American continent, at the hands of European colonists.  Siberian indigenous peoples were integrated into the rest of the Russian people as more or less equal subjects of the Tsar, while still maintaining their own identity.  Which proves another point that I made in an earlier blogpost, namely that the concepts of biological racism and ethnic nationalism are simply alien to the Russian mentality, despite some recent attempts to import these duplicate poisons into Russia from Europe and the U.S.

Fletcher was impressed by the mighty Volga River.

Giles next proceeds to the “Soyle and Climate”, in which he notes that the Russian core geography is “a very fruitfull and pleasant countrie, yeelding pasture and corne, with woods and waters in very great plenty.”  This would have interested the English, who were avid traders of every type of commodity.  Giles does take note of the fierceness of the Russian winter:  “Many times (when the winter is very harde and extreame) the beares and woolfes issue by troupes out of the woodes, driven by hunger, and enter the villages, tearing and ravening all they can finde..”  but contrasts it with the beauty and charm of the countryside in summertime.  When, presumably, the bears and wolves are on better behavior.

A Fruitfull Land

Giles reports that Russia is rich in “fruites” such as apples, pears, plums, watermelons, cherries, berries of every sort.  For veggies, they have cucumbers.  For grains, they have wheat, rye, barley, oats, peas, and buckwheat.  He reports that grain harvests are bountiful, and wheat is cheap in the market.  Whenever there is a “dearth”, as in the recent rye dearth, Giles notes that there is usually an anthropogenic cause, “the practice of their nobilitie that use to engrosse it”, and not an innate problem of the land itself.

A Russian fur merchant

Next Giles gets to a key point point of England’s keen interest in Russia:  The Fur Trade!  He lists the chief commodities here:  “blacke fox, sables, lusernes, dunne fox, martrones, gurnestalles or armins, lasets or miniver, bever, wulverins, the skin of a great water ratte that smelleth naturally like muske, caliber or gray squirrell, red squirrell, red and white foxe.”  Russia produced enough fur to clothe all its people, with enough left over to export to Turkey, Persia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia “and some other of Christendome, to the value of foure or five hundred thousand rubbels, as I have heard of the merchants.”

After furs, Russia’s second major export is wax.  And the third is honey.  (Both of these products deriving from bees.)  Giles reports that the Russians use honey to make their own brand of mead.  [Note:  Vodka was not imported until later, under Peter the Great.  Prior to that time, Russians only drank mead and beer.]  According to Giles, the Russians drink the lower-quality mead themselves, and export the higher-quality product.

Russians also consume much tallow, in their candles.  Of which they consume quite a lot, not just for utility, but also for religious holidays.  And yet Russia is so rich in tallow that they are still able to export something like 100,000 “pood” of tallow yearly.  Or at least were, until they recently lost the port of Narva.

Another principal commodity comprises the hides of cows and elks (which he calls “losh”).  Goat skins are also exported.

Another principal commodity is seal oil, which comes from the annual seal hunt.  Giles describes how the hunters go out in small boats, then ambush and brutally club the seals, while the latter are sunning themselves on the ice floes.  The hunters operate like a communist collective, sharing the seal corpses equally among the boat parties.  “And so they flay them, taking from the body the skin, and the lard or fat withal that cleaveth to the skin.  This they take with them, leaving the bodies behind, and so goe to shore, where they digge pits in the ground […] and so taking the fat or larde off from the skinne, they throw it into the pit, and cast in among it hoat burning stones to melt it withal.  The uppermost and purest is solde and used to oyle wooll for cloth, the grosser (that is of a red colour) they sell to make sope.”

The Beluga Sturgeon: How can such an ugly creature produce such a delicious product?

Next moving on other major exports such as beluga caviar (traded mostly to France and the Netherlands, some to Italy and Spain, a smaller amount to England); other types of lesser caviar; flax and hemp; Salt of course; Tar made from fir trees.  In the case of these, and several other valuable commodities, Giles mentions that the quantity exported has gone sharply down in recent years, namely after the Swedes took the port of Narva away from Russia.  The wars with Poland are also having a negative effect upon foreign trade.  But the overall impression is still that of a wealthy country, fully involved in international trade, teeming with natural resources and an abundance of the human skills required to harvest those resources.  It is not the comic-book version of Russia that Westies expect.  Well, maybe that bit about the harsh winters and the ravening beares…  Ordinary Russians, clearly, were people who worked hard, produced commodities of high value, and paid taxes to the government.  This was before the entrenchment of serfdom.  Which, by the way, was also a European import, but that is a story for another day…

The chiefe Cities of Russia

Fletcher describes Moscow as a “ring city” even at the time, albeit with only 3 levels of walled rings.  Moscow and Novgorod are the two main cities of the Empire, the others pale before them.  Although Yaroslavl [yalensis:  which also happens to be my favorite Russian city!] gets a special shout-out, with its beauty and its envious position on the Volga River.  “The other townes have nothing that is greatly memorable…”

Giles describes how the Russian people build their houses of wood, with moss insulation, which totally makes sense, and keeps them toasty warm in the winter; the only drawback being the frequency of house fires.

The Russian Elite

And now we get to the juicier stuff, namely the dynasties and the royal histories.  Queen Elizabeth already knows what great stuff Russia produces; now she needs to know exactly whom she has to deal with, to get her regal hands on that lucrative trade.

Giles ditches the gossip, to those who need to know, that the current Russian dynasty (which for some bizarre reason he calls the “House of Beala”) is on the verge of extinction, as the Emperor is bound to die without progeny:  “For besides the emperour that now is [=Fedor Ivanovich], who hath no childe (neither is like ever to have for ought that may be conjectured by the constitution of his body, and the barennesse of his wife after so many yeares marriage), there is but one more, viz., a childe of sixe or seven yeares old [=Dmitry Ivanovich], in whom resteth all the hope of the succession, and the posteritie of that house.”

Giles does not go into detail about why Tsar Fedor’s very physical appearance speaks to his impotence, one’s curiosity is aroused (was he, like, all twisty and stunted?)  Just keep in mind that Fedor’s “barren” wife was the sister of Boris Godunov, in whose interest it was for her to not be with childe, just sayin’…

“Do you like my pwetty necklace? I use it to stwangle chickens!”

Giles goes on to dish the gossip about how Ivan the Terrible killed his eldest son, the best of the three, and then spent the rest of his life suffering the pangs of remorse:  “Wherein may be marked the justice of God, that punished his delight in shedding of bloud with this murder of his Sonne by his owne hand, and so ended his dayes and tyrannie together, with the murdering of himselfe by extreame griefe, for this his unhappie and unnaturall fact.”

One may speculate that this passage, perhaps, is what led to the censorship of Fletcher’s book?  Perhaps the discussion of domestic violence within royal households cut a bit too close for Elizabeth’s comfort (?)

Then follows the passage that I quoted in my earlier post, about the Great White Hope for the Rurik dynasty:  Giles Fletcher never met the child Dmitry Ivanovich in person, yet has heard some strange rumors about him.  How this young menace is a serial-killer in the making, who likes to watch animals getting slaughtered, and delights in beating up chickens, out there in the boondocks of Uglich.  In Dmitry’s defense (if there is one), this kid grew up in a state of terror, and probably learned, at a young age, about his Papa’s killing of Elder Brother.  Plus, his mom was probably always egging him on, telling him he had to be strong and cruel, if he was to survive this Scorpions Pit into which their family had been cast.

“I dream that someday I shall grow up to be a Pretender, and wear a tall Beaver-skin hat!”

Fletcher ends this section of his book with a propaganda treatise, bewailing the unhappy lot of the Russian people, and offering a pious hope for “regime change”, that sounds like it could have been penned just this morning by the British Foreign Office:

“Thus it standeth with the imperall stock of Russia of the house of Beala, which is like to determine in those that now are, and to make a conversion of the Russe estate.  If it be into a government of some better temper and milder constitution, it will be happy for the poore people, that are now oppressed with intolerable servitude.”

Once again proving how Westies project their own complexes onto Russia.  Always have, always will.  Never ever changes, does it?

[to be continued]

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Uglich still reeling from unsolved murder of Dmitry Ivanovich – Part V

Dear Readers:

Yesterday we learned about an important English diplomat named Giles Fletcher the Elder, from whose accounts we know much fascinating information about Russian history of the late 16th century.  Today’s post is a bit of a sidebar from the main material, but I decided it was worth the effort to read, and include a quick review of, Fletcher’s book.  (Which I was able to download from amazon, for just under 5 bucks, believe it or not!  The original manuscript lies in a vault somewhere in London, and is probably worth a fortune.)

Russian-English relations of the 16th century are a whole field of fascinating research, probably the subject matter of a hundred phD theses! It is fair to say, that since the time of Mary Queen of Scots, the English have maintained an extraordinary interest, and engagement, with Russia. An engagement sometimes benign (like, just wanting to trade stuff), usually critical (English posing as morally superior and lecturing the Russian barbarians), and often predatory (like, seeking to colonize, to meddle, or influence the political elite). Loyal readers will recall my earlier “Griboedov Murder Mystery” project, with the allegation that the British Special Services were behind the murder of Russia’s greatest playright!

English-Russian Trade of the 16th Century

The Muscovy Company was founded as early as 1555, in London, under the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.  Her royal counterpart in Russia being Ivan the Terrible.  This was the prototype of a Chartered Joint Stock Company, a model which went on to elevate England to Ruler of the World.  The company enjoyed a monopoly of trade between England and Russia.  The English ships generally took the Northern route via the Barents and White Seas, to Arkhangelsk (=Archangel), which had just recently been attached to Muscovy.  What the two nations traded in included high-ticket items like wool (from England), and furs (from Russia).  The English company was also extremely interested in whaling in international waters.  Anybody who has read Moby Dick knows that whale oil was the Liquid Gold of its era.  Whale oil lit every lamp in Europe and America; and whale bones kept trim the waistlines of aristocratic ladies.

Mary Queen of Scots: Needed more whale-bones for her corset.

In 1571 Ivan the Terrible got ticked off with the English traders and revoked their right to sail freely down the Volga River.  The English, with their typical hubris, had demanded that the Russian Tsar stop trading with anybody else, for example, the Hanseatic League.  But Ivan wanted to keep his options open.  Some wheeling and dealing went on, then Ivan, who was under a lot of pressure at the time, partially restored Muscovy Company privileges a year later; but relations between Russia and the Muscovy Company remained cool.  After Ivan died, the new Fedor-Godunov administration took a decidedly anti-English slant.  It was under these conditions that Queen Elizabeth, who had just recently ascended the throne after murdering her cousin, dispatched Giles Fletcher to Moscow, in an attempt to patch things up and improve relations.

Giles (he won’t mind if I call him Giles) published his Treatise “Of The Russe Common Wealth or Maner of Governement by the Russe Emperour (commonly called the Emperour of Moskovia) with the manners and fashions of the people of that Countrey” in 1591, in London.  Recall that 1591 was the very year that Dmitry Ivanovich was killed in Uglich (May 15), but Giles wrote his treatise before this event happened, probably during the years 1588-1591, when he was travelling around Russia, gathering data for his report.

Tsar Fedor I: Had a series of business meetings with Giles Fletcher.

Like I said before, Fletcher’s purpose was not to write a comic book, but to write an accurate investigative reporter’s account to be read by grown-ups.  And yet the cloyingly flattering Dedication shows, right out of the gate, all the talking points ever used, and used to this very day, by the English government against the Russian government:

Most gracious soveraigne, beeying employed in your majesties service to the emperour of Russia, I observed the state and manners of that country.  And having reduced the same into some order, by the way as I returned, I have presumed to offer it in this smal booke to your most excellent majestie.  My meaning was to note thinges for mine owne experience, of more importaunce than delight, and rather true then strange.  In their manner of government, your Highnesse may see both a true and strange face of a tyrannical state (most unlike to your own) without true knowledge of God, without written lawe, without common justice, save that which proceedeth from their speaking lawe — to wit, the magistrate, — who hath most neede of a lawe to restraine his owne injustice.  The practice hereof, as it is heavy and grievous to the poore oppressed people that live within those countreyes, so it may give just cause to my selfe, and other your majesties faithfull subjects, to acknowledge our happines on this behalf, and to give God thankes for your majesties most prince-like and gracious government; as also to your Highnesse more joy and contentment in your royall estate, in that you are a prince of subjectes, not of slaves, that are kept within duetie by love, not by feare.  The Almightie stil blesse your Highnes with a most long and happy reigne in this life, and with Christ Jesus in the life to come.

Your majesties most humble subject and servant, G. Fletcher

[to be continued]

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