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

Syrian Woodpecker Migrates To Moscow

Dear Readers:

Today, even though it’s Sunday, I decided to waive my usual Bible reading and just go for a cute animal story.  In this case, a Syrian woodpecker.  And no, I swear to God there is no double meaning here, nor Aesopian moral, nor snide undercurrent of pro- or anti-war propaganda.  Nope.  Sometimes a woodpecker is just a woodpecker.

Here is the story that I saw in VZGLIAD:

A Syrian Woodpecker Migrated To The Bitsevsky Forest

“He is very similar to the Great Spotted Woodpecker that we are accustomed to, but at the same time he looks a bit different.  For example, his black “moustache” does not join together with his black collar, his tail feathers are paler and don’t come up as far on his belly; and he also has dapples on his sides,” it was communicated on the site of the Moscow Mayor.

A Syrian Spotted Woodpecker

A Russian Great Spotted Woodpecker, male.

The spotting of this Syrian woodpecker [near Moscow] indicates that this species may be expanding their habitat further North.

Bitsevsky Park and Forest, near Moscow

The [bird-watchers] also noted that the bird in question was young, which means it could have even been born in the Bitsevsky Forest.

Usually these types of woodpeckers build their nests in the hollows of tree trunks, at a height of one to three meters.  Around half of the diet of a Syrian woodpecker consists of plants, especially seeded fruits.

The Mayor’s site also noted that the Syrian woodpeckers have calls that are higher (in frequency), softer and not as sharp as the [Russian] Great Spotted Woodpecker, and usually they [the Syrian birds] just emit a monosyllable “kik”.  On the other hand, the drum-beating pecking of Syrian woodpeckers lasts twice as long [as their Russian counterparts].

Posted in Animal Rights | Tagged | Leave a comment

What Ukraina Has Become – The Diary Of A Kiev Resident

Dear Readers:

Well, I reckon it’s “Ukraine Week” here at the Avalanche.  Following my 2-parter on the Malorossiya Founding Document, this piece from the Komsomolka actually fits in nicely as a sort of coda; one could even call it the Russian version of the American slogan “Why we Fight”.  The piece was published on the same day as Zakharchenko made his announcement of the Malorossiya project, which aims to do away with Banderite Ukraine once and for all.

Also recall that Zakharchenko’s project aims to move the capital of the new entity, Malorossiya, from Kiev to Donetsk.  Rather as symbolic punishment of the former; and inevitably, after a period of time, I reckon the capital would move back to Kiev; but not before Kiev has stood in the corner and really thought about what it has done.

“New” Ukrainians celebrate pathological murderer, Roman Shukhevych.

The Komsomolka reporter, Polina Orlovskaya, writes about the full-on Nazification process going on in Kiev, as Rump Ukraine morphs into a totalitarian state where only one political view is tolerated — namely, the pro-Shukyevych point of view.   Well, Nazis plus Gay Pride parades, and there you have our modern “European” and utterly revanchiste Ukraina.

Even more disheartening are Polina’s anecdotes of what has happened to the people of Kiev.  Nobody expected them to rise up and resist, that’s neither feasible nor realistic, given that the pro-EU Nazis control the government, the army and the police.  Still, one would hope that the majority of people would maintain a rational attitude, a thinking mind, some common sense, and a silent mode of dissidence.  Attributes which are very difficult to measure.

Here is my translation of Polina’s piece:

Let me explain to those who don’t get it

why there will be, after all, a Shukhevych  Prospekt [Avenue] in Kiev.  People can say what they like, that there is the possibility of a change in the situation, but this won’t help.  I know, because in 1941 the grandfather and grandmother of native Kievan Zoya, were handed over to the politsai (Ukrainian police serving the Nazi occupation) for the sake of a bottle of vegetable oil.  The pair were subsequenly sent [to be shot] at Babiy Yar.  Go ahead and try to disprove my thesis.  Two days ago the socialists attempted to organize a flashmob to protest the renaming of Vatutin Avenue to Shukhevych Avenue, and were severely beaten for their efforts.  There were only around 250 of them [the socialists], but the “Azov” militants beat young and old alike — so severely that several of them had to be hospitalized.  Then we learned from social media that the doctors [in the hospital] were even unwilling to provide medical assistance to the victims of the beatings.  The police didn’t intervene [in the fracas] and retained a neutral attitude towards the Radicals.

Bogdan Chervak, leader of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists

O Europe!  The leader of the Ukrainian nationalists, Bogdan Chervak, who is, at the same time, both a (Parliamentary) Deputy and also the Assistant to the head of State Radio, has declared that Shukhevych Avenue WILL BE, and that anybody who doesn’t agree with this is free to emigrate to Moscow or Jerusalem.  Old men, heroes of the Great Patriotic War, and even simple Ukrainians who consider themselves to be pro-Russian, find themselves in a situation far worse than being gay:  They can be beaten, threatened, mocked and humiliated.  The 3,000 participants of the Gay Pride Parade were guarded by 5,000 policemen in Kiev!  And the gays were protected by the police, so that the LGTB March actually took place relatively peacefully, despite all the threats and fuss surrounding this event.  Whereas people to whom the St. George Ribbon and Vatutin Avenue are more important than the rainbow ribbons [of Gay Pride] — are considered outlaws.  They can be beaten with impunity.  Not only that, but the new Ukrainian government will seriously punish them with fines and even criminal liability.

“We would have been drinking Bavarian beer…”

Once I happened to overhear, not far from my house, two men chatting, they were around my age, just a little over 50.  The weather was grey and windy, cloudy.  There were quite a lot of people drinking and getting drunk.  This conversation of the two men was accompanied by beer-drinking, it was a brief conversation but highly emotional, and concerned the war that occurred 75 years ago.

German troops on parade in Kiev

“My old man [=my dad], in the year 1980, burned all his war literature, because he didn’t believe anything that was being written then, in the USSR.  In 1941 he was just a boy, and [his family] lived in Kiev.  He had tons of such books:  about his hero, Georgiy Zhukov, about Vatutin, his bookcase was stuffed full with war memoirs.  When the Germans marched into Kiev, they didn’t touch anyone, they were very polite and cultured people, they didn’t bother anybody and they restored order everywhere.  Well, the streets were renamed into Strasse, but still…”

“They brought discipline,” the [other] middle-aged Kievan offered his version of history.

“That’s right,” the other agreed.  “My aunt worked at a canning factory, she was 15 years old us, and she would recount how the Germans left out for them tons of food to eat after work, and how nobody was forced to work too hard.  She even learned to speak decent Germany over the course of 4 years.  She would Sprechen “How are you today?”  [In those days] nobody would bother the people of Kiev, nobody beat them, nobody punished them, and everybody worked they way they were supposed to.”

“Just so.  If only Stalin hadn’t driven them out, then we would be living like them now, probably.”

“Probably.  Who knows?” his friend agreed with him.  “We’d all be drinking Bavarian beer.  Yup…  It turns out that Ukraine wanted to be a European country, even back in 1941.  That’s something I just realized recently…”

The Anti-Nazi Professor

It has to be said, that Kievans are still agitated by such conversations regarding historical events of the most horrible war in human history.  Recently I heard from friends who went to march in the “Immortal Regiment” on May 9 at the “Park of Glory”.  They told me that a man from Donetsk who participated in the event, and who ripped up one of the Right Sektor flags, has been fired from his job [in Kiev].  He was a professor, and the Nationalists came to the faculty where he taught, and started to threaten his management, demanding that they fire the man from his job.  The professor [subsequently] wrote a resignation letter of his own will, leaving his job as Dean of the Faculty.  When a gang of “patriots” in masks bursts into an institution of higher education, waving clubs, then the “cadre problem” resolves itself instantaneously.  In today’s Kiev it is possible to fire a person for his “incorrect views” just based on somebody’s routine denunciation.

Most Russians despise the “stukach”, or stool-pigeon type.

“Yes, it has become common among us to “stool-pigeon” each other [denounce to the authorities],” one of my acquaintances complained.  “But isn’t it true that people stool-pigeoned and wrote denunciations back in 1937?  In Germany people also denounce each other to the police.  It’s easier than simply confronting other people in public [and talking things out].  I can’t say that it is a nice thing to do, but it’s something that we need to get used to.  After all, we live in Europe now.”

Well, you can’t argue with that.  Ukrainians have been accustomed to denouncing each other, they do it with gusto, and excuses are always found.  A man in Dnipropetrovsk [taking the bus] saw another man sitting on the next seat, immersed in his iPhone, and that he was using “VKontakte” [=the Russian version of Facebook].  The man called the police and demanded that they ticket [the other man] and send him to the SBU [=Ukrainian Security Service, successor to the Soviet KGB].

It so happened that the police released this user of the Russian social media site, which is banned here [in the Ukraine].  But meanwhile, Ukrainians continue to snoop on each other while, in the center of the city, local Nazi groups roam the streets; and also foreign Nazis in their black baseball caps with eagles and swastikas, with shaven skulls; and also in red-black caps.  These [foreign Nazis] speak English among themselves, and nobody stops them or questions them.  After all, they do not wear the forbidden St. George ribbon!

Posted in Friendship of Peoples, Human Dignity, The Great Game | Tagged | 9 Comments

Malorossiya Constitutional Act – English Translation – Part II

Dear Readers:

Alexander Zakharchenko: a Russian leader tested in battle.

Today, as promised, completing my translation of the Constitutional Act announcing the new state of Malorossiya.  Please recall:  A couple of days ago, Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) elected leader Alexander Zakharchenko announced a project to replace the current state of Ukraine, which fell into the hands of Ukrainian Nationalists, and subsequently fell apart into 4 pieces, –, with a new entity called “Malorossiya”, which means “Little Russia”, or perhaps “Russia Minor”, the traditional name for this territory in Tsarist times.  The new entity would gather back together 3 of the 4 pieces of the former Ukraine and have its capital city in Donetsk.  Which, just coincidentally, is Zakharchenko’s home town!

This news came as a whammy in the international press, with most Westie media piling on to condemn and/or ridicule the announcement.  Understandable, since Westie governments are heavily invested in their Banderite Ukraine project and can’t tolerate the idea that they failed very badly in this arena.  Very few Westies actually bothered to read the Malorossiya document, let alone translate it (as far as I could tell).  Therefore, I took it upon myself to read and translate into English, to bring to wider audience.  Yesterday I got about halfway done, and today I will finish.

Ukrainian Nationalists destroyed a once-thriving nation.

In my opinion, I don’t think this announcement is as radical as it sounds, at first blush.  In essence, Zakharchenko’s plan is to reunite the former-Ukraine (minus Crimea) around a government of newly built [something like] Party of Regions, but without Yanukovych, and without the oligarchs.  A careful reading of the document shows that many of the bullet points are repetitions of old debating points, such as EU vs. CIS, etc.  These are political and economic debates which  never got properly resolved in the Ukrainian Parliament nor the corridors of power, despite attempts of Ukrainian Nationalists to resolve these debates by force of violence alone.  If the Ukrainian Nationalists, after their coup, had built a strong nation and army, then they would have won the bully’s debate.  But since they ended up destroying the economy, army, navy, and statehood of Ukraine, in the short space of just three years, then all the debating points are still on the table.  And the Malorossiyans have every right to point and say, “I told you so!”


While preparing the new constitution we consider it obligatory to rely on the following basic principles:

An independent, sovereign state.

Territorial integrity; while recognizing the legality of the choice (Referendum) made by the people of Crimea [to reunite with the Russian Federation].

A neutral non-bloc military status.

Reliance on the traditional values of our peoples, which are based on the Orthodox view of the world.

Equality of all traditional religions and faiths, while opposing Schismatics and totalitarian sects.

In the economy:  a multi-vectored approach, becoming a “bridge” between East and West, North and South.

A renewal of the activities of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, Russian СНГ), and ratification of the membership of Malorossiya in the CIS.

A course towards uniting with the Allied State of Russia and Belorussia, while still retaining independence and sovereignty.

Renewal of cooperative ties with Russia and renewal of cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union; conducting of tripartite talks in the format Malorossiya-Russia-European Union, in order to harmonize our mutual relationships in the general [European] system.

Retaining a non-visa relationship with the EU (assuming the EU agrees).

Rebuilding of the industrial potential of the country;  creation of state enterprises in key sectors of industry.

Development of the system of public (social) control of the economy and in the political sphere; among other things, in the area of the fight against corruption.

Fighting against corruption as a key indicator; strengthening of accountability (including criminal liability) for crimes of corruption; monitoring of legislation with the goal of liquidating corruptionist loopholes.

De-oligarchization, including on the legislative front.

Rejection of political parties as the subject of politics, and a transition to the “personal” principle of representative government.

Introduction of the elements of direct democracy.

Being the legitimate and legal heir [government] of pre-Maidan “Ukraine”.

Will not pay the debts incurred by the Maidan government.

Will not raise the pension age.

Freezing of (price raises) in communal fees and attempting to lower them again.

Guarantee of a job for each graduate of a higher education institution.

Right to bear arms.

Systematic de-Nazification.

Administrative and criminal liability for the propaganda of neo-Nazi ideas, and for the heroization of Nazis and their assistants (Bandera, Shukhevych, the OUN-UPA, etc.)

Administrative and criminal liability for attempts to revise the history of the Great Patriotic War [World War II].

Rehabilitation of the Soviet heritage.

Restoration of the state holiday 9 May as Victory Day.

Posted in Breaking News, Russian History | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Malorossiya Constitutional Act – English Translation – Part I

Dear Readers:

The big huge news yesterdays in the Russian World, was the proclamation of the new state of Malorossiya, to replace the incumbent (and failed state) Ukraine.  Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the Separatist Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR), declared the Malorossiya project open for business.  There will be a 3-year transition period, at which point a new constitution will be written.  This story is all over the news, and you can read about it anywhere, for example, here is the Reuters piece foaming at the mouth and calling this a “sick fantasy”.  And there are many more in this vein, in all Westie and English-language media.

Map of Malorossiya

What I couldn’t find (after a quick scan) was an English translation of the “Constitutional Act“, or founding document, of this project. Therefore, I took it upon myself to provide it here.  If at any point I notice that somebody else already did it, then I’ll stop.  Because straight translation is hard work, and very time-consuming.

A quick linguistic note first:  Most people reading this probably know by now that “Malo-“ is the Russian root for “Little“, and that “Malorossiya” means”Little Russia”, which was the traditional name for this region in Tsarist times.  A better translation is “Russia Minor” as opposed to “Russia Major” (=”Great Russia”) which is the country we now think of as regular Russia.  These terms were by analogy to, say “Graecia Magna” vs. “Graecia Minor” (Greece Major vs. Greece Minor) and are not meant to be derogatory, just geographical in nature.  In fact, the “Minor” area is considered the core of the nation, just as many consider Kiev to be the Mother of All Russian Cities.

Ukrainians show their “gratitude” to their Founding Father.

Back in the day, Bolshevik leader Lenin was firmly opposed to what he saw as “Great Russian chauvinism”, and he championed the cause of Little Russians, who spoke a different dialect called surzhuk.  Lenin helped to bring about the new nation of “Ukraina” or “Ukraine” as part of the October Revolution package.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in recent years Lenin has been rolling around in his mausoleum.  Even he would probably agree that it is time to put an end to this Banderite farce.

Some pro-Russian internet commenters have complained that the root “Mal-“ has bad connotations in European languages.  Like I said, “Mal-“ just means “Little” or “Minor” in Slavic, but in Latin languages it means “bad”, as in, say, “Mal-aria” – “bad air”.  Pro-Ukrainians have already picked up on this and call the new state “Mal-icious”, “Mal-eficent”, and other such trollish witticisms.

New flag of Malorossiya

Also eyebrow-raising is the unveiling of the new flag of Malorossiya, which is the old Hetman Bohdan Khmelnitsky banner.  Fortunately, the Seps made sure to remove that part of the symbology which pledges allegiance to the Rzeczpospolita, or Kingdom of Poland!

With all of that preamble out of the way (for now), let us proceed to the translation (from Russian into English) of the Founding Document, which is quite long and (I have to say) well thought out, which indicates this project was secretly in the planning for quite some time!


Malorossiya is a multi-ethnic nation, the [two] state languages are Malorussian [aka Ukrainian] and Russian, with all the preservation of the rights of [other] regional languages.

Malorossiya is a federative state with broad autonomy of the regions.  In the competence of the central (federal) government must remain issues of the federal budget, which is formed at the expense of a set percent [of levies] from every region; the army and special forces; customs authority and the Central Bank; tax policies and the ecology.  Fundamental issues of education (standards) and medicine must also remain in the competence of the central (federal) organs of the government, yet allowing a regional component.  We start from the premise that the Donetsk Peoples Republic (along with the Luhansk Peoples Republic) remain the only territories of the former “Ukraine” (not counting Crimea) which preserve the legitimate government.

Our reasoning on this point:

In February 2014 an anti-constitutional armed rebellion took place in Kiev.

Donetsk did not recognize this coup or (any of its) “legal” ramifications.

Under these conditions where there was practically no government left on the territory of the Donetsk Oblast, a referendum was held — the most democratic form of allowing the people to express their will.  On the basis of this (referendum), a legitimate government was elected by the people; both branches of government – legislative and executive.

[Ukrainian interim President] Turchinov was appointed by the Supreme Rada in violation of the Constitution.  The election of Poroshenko and of the Supreme Rada itself in 2014 were (also) illegitimate, because, in addition to massive violations and political terror (beatings of candidates, terrorizing of the voters), several millions of voters (Crimea, Donbass) did not even participate in these elections; the participation of which was declared by the Central Election Committee in Kiev.

On the basis of the above, the Donetsk Peoples Republic declares itself within full rights to initiate a reconstruction of that state formerly known as the “Ukraine”.    The Donetsk Peoples Republic calls upon representatives of the regional elites and civil society of the former “Ukraine” to unite in order to put an end to the increasing chaos, the civil war of “all against each”, and also the resulting process of the nation’s disintegration.  The DPR is ready to take upon itself a coordinating role and secure the safety of all participants of the constitutional process, by the forces of its own army and police.

To this end we propose that all regions elect representatives to the Constitutional Convention, according to the principles of the (old Russian) Peoples Councils, at which the new nation of Malorossiya will be founded, and the new constitution will be adopted.

[to be continued]

Posted in Breaking News, Russian History | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Biography of Bolshevik Leader Lev Kamenev

Dear Readers:

In the year 2017 the Russian press is celebrating and re-living the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, one of the most momentous events in 20th-century history.  In revolutionary terms, we are up to the July Days.

Recall that Bolshevik Party leader Lenin had returned to Russia from exile in April 1917 with his “April Theses”.  Lenin had a bold plan for resolving the  crisis into which Russia had plunged, following the abdication of the Tsar and the dissolution of the Russian Empire.  By April there were two competing governments in the country:  The Parliamentary Duma on the one hand; vs the Soviets, or local  councils, of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants.  Lenin’s political slogan, one of the most concise and most effective political slogans ever, consisted of:
(1)  Pass governmental powers to the Soviets (i.e., disband the Duma); (2) Peace to the Nations (i.e., pull out of the war);  (3) Land to the Peasants (i.e., expropriate from the big landowers); (4) Factories to the Workers (i.e., nationalize industry).

One of the Lenin’s comrades in the leadership of the Bolshevik Party was a man named Lev Kamenev.  I was very interested to see Ria do this biographical piece (written by Petr Romanov), about this little known but quite interesting socialist politician.  What follows is my straight translation of the piece without additional commentary on my part.

Lev Kamenev, Main Debater of the Russian Social-Democratic Working Party (Bolshevik Faction)

Lev Borisovich Kamenev was an Old Bolshevik.  He was an instructor of the first Party School in Longjumeau near Paris where the Russian Social-Democratic Working Party (RSDWP) trained cadres out of the working class.  Kamenev managed [the newspaper]  “Pravda”, was several times subjected to arrests, and served out a term of exile in the Turukhansky District.  Kamenev was one of the Old Guard who was not afraid to have his own opinions.  And even to debate against Lenin.  For those who didn’t “get it” (or didn’t want to get it) that the situation really changed when Stalin assumed the leadership, an uneasy fate awaited them.  Kamenev was one of those people.

Kamenev edited the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda.

After the October events Lev Kamenev occupied several prominent positions;  yet his main legacy was in fact what he accomplished between between February and October of 1917.  During this time (ironically), out of all the authoritative ideologues of the Party, Kamenev was the most consistent opponent of Lenin.

After Ilyich had returned from emigration with his “April Theses”,  Kamenev did not quit the Party, like some others did; but rather he stayed and used all his persuasive powers to attempt to convince his comrades of the folly of instant proletarian revolution.  Once he commented ironically that Lenin, out of impatience, wanted to leap into socialism on an airplane.  Lev Borisovich argued against an uprising.  “Given the correct tactics,” he would say, “we could receive a third, and possibly even more, seats in the Constitutional Assembly.”  At which point, the inevitable sharpening of the situation would cause the SR’s [Socialist Revolutionary Party] and Mensheviks to seek an alliance with the Proletarian Party.  As a result of this, [Kamenev prognosed], “our opponents will be forced to concede to us at every step.  Together with the Left SR’s, the non-party peasants and others, [we will create] a ruling bloc which, in the main, will carry out our platform.”

Kamenev and Lenin: Good friends, in spite of everything

Lev Borisovich was a highly literate Marxist, but as a human being his character was soft.  He did not crave power.  His opponent, Lenin, did not find him irritating; on the contrary, Lenin found him useful.  Lenin used Kamenev like a honing instrument, to sharpen his own debating skills.  Only one time did Lenin get seriously mad at him:  That was on the eve of the October Revolution when, in Maxim Gorky’s “New Life” [magazine], Kamenev, along with [fellow Bolshevik Party leader] Grigory Zinoviev, laid out his arguments against the uprising.  Lenin regarded this as an act of betrayal and demanded Kamenev’s expulsion from the Party.  However, Lenin was voted down on this (such were the times), and soon enough he cooled off.  Technically it wasn’t a betrayal anyhow, since it was stated in the article that the Party had not yet made a decision whether or not to have the uprising, it was still in the discussions phase.

Russian troops in World War I

“Two tactics are under discussion,” Kamenev wrote.  “The tactic of conspiracy; vs the tactic of believing in the Russian Revolution.”  By “conspiracy” of course, Kamenev meant Lenin.  He saw Lenin as a conspirator, and himself as a “believer”.

Lev Kamenev ideologically parted ways with Lenin many times.  Usually agreeing with Lenin on tactical issues, but disagreeing with him on strategy.  Ideologically speaking, Kamenev inhabited a neutral region somewhere between Bolshevism and Menshevism.  During World War I he came out against Lenin’s “defeatist” position, considering the slogan “Down with the War!” to be senseless.  Or, more precisely, as Lev Borisovich explained in his usual polite manner, “devoid of content”.

Returning from exile while continuing to edit “Pravda”, Kamenev called for supporting the Provisional Government “so long as it continues to fight against the relics of the Old Regime”, at the same time applying pressure on the government via the Petrograd Soviet.  That was in March, before Lenin’s return, and the Russian Bureau of the Bolshevik Party agreed with Kamenev’s position.

A meeting of the Petrograd Soviet in 1917

During that time, by the way, Lev Borisovich himself was a member of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet; in fact he was voted to this position by an overwhelming majority of votes.  The reason is simple.  Kamenev, even when debating with his opponents, was always polite and maintained normal human relations with them; which was a rarity among the Bolsheviks.  Lenin was relentness when cursing out the class enemies; and the other Bolsheviks took their (behavioral) cues from him.

Speaking of which, Stalin, who was also working in “Pravda” during that time, after returning from his exile, completely supported Kamenev in this debate.  It was these two men (Kamenev and Stalin) who, while publishing Lenin’s first “Epistle From Afar”, edited out Lenin’s harsh criticisms of the Provisional Government.  And the subsequent Epistles they decided not to publish at all.  Stalin changed his views only after Lenin showed up in person, in Russia.  Kamenev did not change his views, though.

A meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee, to discuss possible uprising

After the July crisis, when the Bolsheviks were subjected to repressions and Lenin had to escape to his hut (in Finland), Kamenev declared that he was ready to stand before a judge and voluntarily submit himself to the authorities.  There was also some discussion whether Lenin should give himself up.  However, Stalin, on commenting on this variant, remarked that the Junkers could not be trusted to deliver Ilyich safely to the jail.  Stalin was probably right.  If the Moderate Kamenev could be jailed (not for long, to be sure) in the “Kresty” prison, then the Radical Lenin most likely would not have been delivered to jail in one piece.

In September, Kamenev’s views once again did not coincide with Lenin’s.  At this time the so-called “Democratic Assembly” was meeting and working to create a “single-threaded Democratic government” to replace the coalition Provisional Government.  Kamenev, representing the Bolshevik faction, came out as being too “soft”, according to Lenin.  Ilyich believed that instead of just criticizing the government, it was time to prepare for the uprising.  However, a session of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik faction, under Kamenev’s leadership, condemned as “completely unacceptable” any speeches (agitation against the government), ordering the members of the Central Committee to take measures ensuing calm and tranquility in all the barracks and factories.

Bolsheviks storm the Winter Palace.

And thus did Lenin and Kamenev, both members of the leadership of the very same political party, approach October with completely opposite positions.  Lenin was enthusiastically preparing an uprising, while Kamenev was attempting, unsuccessfully, to prevent it.

None the less, after the storm of the Winter Palace, taking a deep breath, Lev Borisovich not only remained in the Party, but even, for the course of a week and half, became the Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee; in other words, he was formally the Head of State.  History has preserved Kamenev’s utterance:  “We did a stupid thing, we seized the government — and now we must form a cabinet.”  And … once again diverged in views with Lenin, demanding that a coalition government be formed  with the Mensheviks and SR’s.  And when the Leader (=Lenin) did not agree with that variant, Kamenev resigned [from his government post, not the Party].

Later, Kamenev was to occupy not a few positions:  Chairman of the Moscow Soviet (1918-1926); and from 1922 onward, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Peoples Commissars, Council of Labor and Defense, and after Lenin’s death, as Chairman of the Council of Labor and Defense.  Not counting his full list of Party duties as well.

Stalin in 1926: Tightening the noose…

Kamenev’s fall began in 1926.  The classic scheme was used against him:  First a campaign of denigration, then he was removed from his posts, he was sent abroad as an ambassador, he was implicated in one conspiracy, then in another.  The noose around his neck was tightened, then loosened, then tightened again…

Kamenev was expelled from the Party (several times):  In 1927 he was expelled, then reinstated in 1928, then expelled again in 1932, resinstated in 1933, expelled for the final time in 1934, and then prison…

Readers: Make note of the fate of each of these 23 men and 2 women of Lenin’s Central Committee — how many died of natural causes?

Although the name of Kamenev figures in the various political combinations of that epoch  — initially he and Zinoviev, along with Stalin, formed a Triumvirate that was directed against Trotsky; and later he and Zinoviev combined against Stalin –, the fact is that Lev Borisovich never played a key role [in these combinations].  Which is understandable, giving his non-militant personality.

Kamenev and Zinoviev at a monument to Karl Marx

There are people who possess the courage to have their own point of view, but don’t have the will to fight for it, firmly and to the bitter end, if needed.  At the (Party) Congress of 1925 Kamenev declared:  “Comrade Stalin is unable to fulfill the role of Uniter of the Bolshevik camp.  We are against the theory of one-man rule, we are against the notion of creating a Leader.”  But to seriously do battle with Stalin? [Kamenev didn’t have it in him.]

If Zinoviev, head of the Leningrad Soviet, was constantly flexing his muscles for the political fight, and was collecting people loyal to himself; then Kamenev, head of the Moscow Soviet, could not even imagine engaging in such a struggle.  The two men perished together, they were shot in 1936, as part of the “Case of the Trotsky-Zinoviev Center”.

They say that Kamenev held himself up well, as they were being led to the execution, he even tried to bolster a depressed [and fretful] Zinoviev:  “Stop it, Grigory, let us die like men.”  Kamenev, the intellectual Bolshevik did not want to fight, he did not know how to fight, but he knew how to die bravely.

Posted in Russian History | Tagged | 4 Comments

“Life” – a movie with a positive Russian character!

Dear Readers:

This is a movie review, if you will induge me.

WARNING:  There are tons of SPOILERS ALERTS, so don’t continue reading one more word if you don’t want to know!  First go see the movie, and then y’all come back here and read my review, got it?

“Life” is a movie within the general species of “Horror/Slasher” film, of the subspecies “Space Monster”.  The horror consists of watching likable people get killed off, one by one, and wondering who gets it next.  All we can know for sure is that the sole survivor at the end will be the plucky Final Girl.  Right?

In space nobody can hear you scream.

I like to watch space movies, particularly ones with positive Russian characters.  Which are all too rare in American cinema, in this new Cold War climate that we live in.  I don’t demand that the Russian be the central hero — if it’s, say, an American movie, then American audiences want to see an American action-hero, and that’s okay — only that the Russian not be denigrated.  Or ignored, as in that Hollywood abomination “Gravity“, which couldn’t bring themselves to admit that it was mostly Russians who had built the International Space Station.

Olga Dihovnichnaya suits up with Director Daniel Espinosa.

In “Life”, which takes place in the not-too-distant future, could actually be tomorrow or next week, the 6-member crew of the ISS includes a positive Russian character.  Her name and title are Mission Commander Ekaterina Golovkina, played by Belorussian actress Olga Dihovichnaya.  If this were a Hollywood movie, then Golovkina would be a beautiful but drunken prostitute, that’s the only way that Hollywood knows how to portray Russian women.  Ignoring the fact that it was the Russians/Soviet who in fact sent the first strong-female character into space.  And I don’t know if it was by design or just happy accident, but Dihovichnaya physically resembles Tereshkova.  Unlike Tereshkova (who is still alive and kicking at the age of 80), Golovkina, a calm and heroic presence, dies heroically (I told you there would be spoilers!), allowing herself to drown in her own spacesuit rather than allow The Monster to endanger ship and crew.

The script writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, along with Director Daniel Espinosa, sat down to pen a standard Space Monster/slasher film, and yet very cleverly inverted several Hollywood stereotypes, as we shall see.

The Janet Leigh Moment

Director Espinosa was rightfully proud of his technical achievement in the opening minutes of the film.  In this interview he explains how this thrilling sequence was done in a single continuous shot.  The sequence, which involves a lot of gravity-free bustling around, introduces us to the American action-hero, Flight Engineer Rory Adams, played by actor Ryan Reynolds.  Adams is handsome, brave, smart and wise-cracking, we fall in love with him immediately, and assume he is going to make it to the end, or at least penultimately (knowing that the final survivor has to be a girl).  But no…..  Adams is actually the first of the crew to die.  When asked in this other interview about killing off his most charismatic character early on, Espinosa responded:  ” I thought to myself, to pursue this noir idea, I have to have my Janet Leigh. Ryan became my Janet Leigh.”

“Norman, is that you? CALVIN!???”

Okay, and just to get this out of the way, in my own little Janet Leigh moment, let me blast out all the spoilers in one fell swoop.  Including that last plot twist at the very end which was done so cleverly that even I, a veteran movie-watcher, didn’t see it coming!  So, here is a list of the seven carbon-based victims and the order and means of their respective deaths at the hands, er, tentacles, of the monster named Calvin:

  1. Ratty McRatface, the Lab Rat – Calvin just consumes him alive in one gulp, whiskers and all.
  2. Flight Engineer Rory Adams – Calvin does a Greg Louganis down Rory’s throat and consumes his organs from within.
  3. Mission Commander Ekaterina Golovkina – Calvin crawls into her space suit and rips one of the pipes, causing her to drown in her own coolant.
  4. Exobiologist Dr. Hugh Derry – Calvin munches on his beefy paraplegic thigh, sending the doc into cardiac arrest.
  5. Engineer Hiroyuki Sanada – Calvin just grabs this token Japanese astronaut and eats him unceremoniously, like a big chunk of human sushi.
  6. Quarantine Officer Dr. Miranda North – was supposed to be the “sole girl survivor” but just dies alone and screaming in deep space, having ironically quarantined herself.
  7. Medical Officer Dr. David Jordan – actually he doesn’t die, he survives at the end, but not in a hip-hip-hurray kind of way….

Calvin’s Biography and Biology

“Calvin” acquires his name when cute children from an American school (who are adorably interested in, and following, the news on the Space Station) decide to name this Martian organism after their school.  Which, I am guessing, would be Calvin Coolidge Elementary or Middle School.  The backstory is that a robot digging around on Mars discovered, in a core soil sample, what appears to be a fossilized single-cell organism.  The sample was placed in a probe and sent to the ISS for analysis.  That whole business with the opening sequence involved the probe almost being lost after hitting space debris, and everybody having to scramble to rope it in in a single camera shot.  See, otherwise, the probe would have flown off into deep space, and Calvin would have never been brought to life.  And then the movie would only be 10 minutes long, but at least everybody would still be alive.

Actor Ariyan Bakare portrays the Space Station screw-up.

Meanwhile Dr. Miranda North, the Quarantine Officer, is tasked by her bosses back on Earth with a single task:  Under no circumstances is she to allow this alien life form to escape its sealed lab environment, let alone make it all the way back to Earth.  Because the consequences would be … unforeseeable…

Initially Calvin is just a little chap, a single ovoid cell in a petri dish.  He is so tiny that the astronauts have to coo at him through a microscope.  For millions of years, Calvin was lying dormant and possibly even dead, in the frozen Martian soil.  ISS Exobiologist Dr. Hugh Derry, who is an African-British kind of guy, plus he’s a paraplegic, so I guess you could call him a twofer — tenderly and maternally interacts with the alien organism.  Calvin is placed in a hermetic glass tank kind of thing, in a nutrient bath and environment with an “early Mars” kind of theme.  It’s one of those biocontainment type tanks, where Derry inserts his gloved hand through one of those gasket thingamodoodies.  That way, there is no chance in hell that Calvin can possibly escape his sealed environment…  Well, like every monster movie, from Godzilla to Jurassic Park, unfortunate events get set into motion by human hubris and human folly.  And by the way, just as a friendly suggestion, the ISS needs to have a self-blow-up switch, like the first Starship Enterprise did.  You know, just in case this sort of thing should happen in real life….

Anyhow, at this stage in his development, Calvin’s signature feature is the thickness of his cell wall.  The astronauts coo and marvel:  “Why, the little guy has such a thick cell wall!”  All the better to grow up big and strong and eat all of youse, my dearies.

Baby Calvin crushes Dr. Derry’s hand.

But he’s not quite alive yet.  For the longest time Calvin just lies very still.  He is either dead, or pining for the Martian fjords.  Then, with everybody watching him intently, he suddenly twitches.  Everybody goes:  “Ah!  It’s alive!”  Mary Shelley’s ghost shakes her head sadly.  Under Derry’s TLC, Calvin really perks up.  Next thing you know, single-celled Calvin is multi-celled Calvin.  He buds a tiny little pink flagella type thingie, a proto-tentacle.  And everybody coos:  “He’s so beautiful!”  They’ll soon be eating their words.  Literally.  Derry puts his hand through the gasket to affectionately pet Calvin with his gloved index finger….

Chekhov’s Rat

Anybody who ever took a writing course knows the famous dictum of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, as he explained to wannabe writers the concept of “precursoring”.  Namely, if you have a major scene and plot point in which your lead character suddenly grabs a gun and shoots himself — well, then, as a writer it was your duty to have shown and discussed this gun in an earlier scene.  You should be subtle about it, not ham-fisted, but the audience does need to know that the gun was there all along and not suddenly brought onto the stage as an afterthought:  “Oh lookie here, I just happen to have this gun.”

Ratty is the first major character to die.

Along those lines, “Life” precursored the rat’s ghastly death.  Several times.  At odd intervals in the editing process we were shown this large rat straining at his harness in what appears to be (I’m still not sure about this) an open cage right there in the space lab.  Frankly, I found this image more disturbing than anything else in this movie.  Why such cruelty to an animal?  What was this rat even doing there in the first place?  And why the harness?  What kind of sick people are these astronauts?  Some kind of space-faring Christian Grey into Rodent BDSM… ?

On a second viewing with a friend, it was explained to me that (1) The rat is there probably as a control for their experiments with Calvin; possibly also as a bellwether for oxygen levels; and (2) the harness is necessary so Ratty doesn’t go floating away.  Space station, low gravity, duh?

When Calvin gets bigger, he isn’t as cute.

Be that as it may, Ratty becomes Calvin’s first victim, once the latter escapes from his impregnable containment tank.  Within seconds of eating Ratty, Calvin doubles in size.  Seems like he has the ability to absorb and transform organic matter instantly.  He’s not like some python who takes a month or so to digest his meal.

See, aside from sprouting tentacles at the drop of a dime, Calvin’s other main biological feature is that he has a genetic predisposition to put on weight – everything he eats is instantly converted to fatty tentacle.  In his defense, Calvin burns a lot of calories, zipping all over the ship, buggering up ventilation shafts and getting into every crevice, like some demon cat.  But still, his appetite is so ravenous that we soon come to understand why there is no life left on Mars:  Calvin ate everybody else!

And, Dear Readers, I know that you have the same question that I do:  Now that he has made it to Earth, where a giant Smorgasbord awaits him, is Calvin going to … er… how can I say this delicately? — reproduce?  And if so, how does he actually … er… do it?  And will Dr. David Jordan be playing some kind of (ugh) role in said process?

These are all valid questions, inquiring minds want to know, but I reckon we’ll just have to wait for the sequel….

[THE END  — of “Life” as we know it??]

Posted in Friendship of Peoples, Popular Culture, Space, Science and Technology | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Russia Adopts New Citizenship Oath

Dear Readers:

Yesterday the big news in Russia was the adoption (by the State Duma) of an oath of citizenship.  Prior to this, people could become Russian citizens without taking an oath, I think they just had to sign something, and eventually somebody tossed a Russian passport at them.  But getting to that point was a difficult process, as they were forced to obtain the permission of their current country of citizenship.

A committee in the Duma has been working on this oath for several months now.  There were several variants of the proposed oath; each political party, of course, had their own proposed variant.

Gosduma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin

And since we’re on the topic of the Duma, a brief civics lesson is in order:  The current structure of the Russian government was introduced in 1993 following the Yeltsin-Gorbachov coup and subsequent constitutional crisis.  Following the model of most bourgeois democracies, two houses of Parliament were introduced, an Upper and a Lower.  The Upper (the “Federation Council”) is sort of a Deep-State type shadow government to keep the rubes in check.

The Lower House aka the Russian State Duma (abbreviated as Gosduma) is the one we’re talking about in this piece.  The Chairman of the Gosduma, who is also known as the Speaker, is a man named Vyacheslav Volodin.  Volodin announced back in June that a committee was working feverishly on the oath, and he invited anybody who was interested, including from the broad public, to provide input.  A key individual working on this committee was Pavel Krasheninnikov, a deputy of the governing United Russia Party.  Krasheninnikov’s vision was to create an oath that reflected the individual’s personal responsibility as a citizen, as well as make the oath a binding legal contract.  He also specified that the oath should be laconic and easy to understand.

Pavel Krasheninnikov

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also suggested that the citizenship-granting process become more of a ceremony, like in other countries, and not just a casual “here you go…”

Taking these notes into account, the Gosduma has come up with an oath and a suggested ceremony.  Here is my English translation of the text of the new oath:

“I, [Name-Patronymic-Surname] voluntarily and consciously accepting citizenship in the Russian Federation, do swear:  To uphold the Constitution and the laws of the Russian Federation, the rights and freedoms of her citizens; to fulfill the obligations of a citizenship of the Russian Federation for the good of the state and society; to defend the freedom and independence of the Russian Federation; to be true to Russia, to respect her culture, history and traditions.”

According to Krasheninnikov, there were over 90 possible suggestions (coming from Duma deputies as well as common people)  of which the above wording was hammered out in committee.  Pavel is proud of the laconical wording of the oath.  It packs all that is needed in there without a lot of frippery.  Compare, for example, the flowery and insidious Citizenship Oath of the United States, which every naturalized citizen must take:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

The American oath is much more totalitarian, as one can see at a glance.  Putting aside its religious requirement (“So help me God”) which would seem to disqualify atheists from citizenship, it requires new citizens to serve in the Roman Legions American military at the will of the potentate.  The Russian oath is so much more liberal, it doesn’t mention God, and doesn’t even specify that you can’t serve a foreign prince or potentate.  And, by the way, most members of the American government are in clear violation of their own citizenship rules, since most of these politicians serve the House of Saud, and if he isn’t a foreign prince and potentate, then the word has no meaning.

Who Wants To Sign Up?

Be that as it may, Russia now has a citizenship oath.  And just in the nick of time…  As this other piece from yesterday reports, there are over a million Ukrainians (not necessarily ethnic Ukrainians, just people currently holding Ukrainian passports) who seek to acquire Russian citizenship.  These people, a combination of political and economic refugees from the Ukrainian government coup and civil war, have been waiting a long time to resolve their status and are starting to get desperate.

Ukrainian refugees arriving in Russia

According to our old friend, Pavel Krasheninnikov, the Gosduma wants to make it easier for these refugees to acquire legal status.  “We are proposing the following scheme:  Ukrainian citizens will sign a piece of paper stating that they renounce their Ukrainian citizenship.  This document will be notarized, one copy will remain in the Russian Immigration Service; a second notarized copy will be mailed to the Ukrainian government.”  The nice thing about this idea is that the refugees themselves won’t have to work their way through the Ukrainian bureaucracy, as previously they were forced to do, in order to relieve themselves of their previous citizenship.  This will help them acquire legal status in Russia without all the wear and tear on the old nervous system.

Previously it was like a nightmare for these people.  First they had to endure the horrors of Ukrainian totalitarianism; followed by an impenetrable wall of red tape once they arrived in Russia.  According to Olga Kirillova, who heads the Committee on Migration Policies for the Russian government:  It was written into Russian law that a person seeking Russian citizenship needed the consent of the foreign government they were renouncing!  One can see at a glance how this would not work out so well, if that foreign government is a hostile one, which sensible people are fleeing in droves.

Again, according to Olga:  Prior to 2015, the Ukrainian government used to more or less let people go if they wished to.  But in the past year or so, the Ukrainians hardened their hearts and stopped letting people go.  A measley 156 people were allowed to leave.  Given that a million ex-Ukrainians want to be Russian citizens, something had to done.  The new system described by Krasheninnikov sounds like a good way around this conundrum.  Olga again:  “A million human beings who happen to be Ukrainian citizens have been waiting for this decision.”

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