I read a book recently called Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century by Sergei Kostin and Eric Raynaud. It was really, really good, as is the excellent film that is loosely based on it (L’affaire Farewell). The book was translated from French and unfortunately, the translation leaves a bit to be desired in certain sections, but overall it is very interesting.
One of the main things I remember from this book was the KGB slang I learned. (Yes, there is such a thing as KGB slang.) The term I learned was мокрое дело (mokroe delo), which translates to “wet affair” – i.e. an assassination. (If I’m not mistaken, this term exists in English, too.) I’m not sure what this says about me as a person that one of my favorite aspects of the book was learning this slang. It probably just means that I am way too obsessed with spies and Russia, but we already knew that, right?
Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, you definitely should watch L’affaire Farewell. It’s available on DVD with English subtitles and is amazing because Emir Kusturica is in it. Emir Kusturica is one of my favorite filmmakers and actors ever. And now that I’m thinking of him, I am reminded of the fact that he speaks Serbian and I want to speak Serbian so badly and so I’m going to publish this blog entry and go study random Serbian words.
Happy Victory Day! I hope everyone will take a moment today to remember those who died in World War II.
If you’re interested, there’s a video below of the parade at Red Square. As usual, Russia’s leadership wanted to show off its military might. I think my favorite part of the parade was at the end, when the airplanes with colored contrails flew. I have no idea how they color those contrails, but it looks so cool.
The most famous photo of World War II. Aleksei Yeremenko in 1942. He was killed in action in 1942, right after this photo was taken.
Victory Day will be celebrated tomorrow in Russia, as it is every May 9. Even in this era, World War II is a really, really big deal in Russia and many former Soviet countries. I’m not really sure why that is – perhaps it’s because of many years of Soviet propaganda, which was necessary because the Soviet Union really didn’t have many other accomplishments (aside from oppressing people, if you know what I mean). Continue reading →
I have been reading so much Russia-related stuff since last Friday, when Chechnya (and therefore Russia) burst onto the national stage in this country due to the revelation that the Boston marathon bombers were Chechen.
Where is Russian spoken? Official language (dark blue) and unofficial (light blue)
I’ve encountered the idea occasionally that learning Russian is a useless endeavor because it is a “dying language”. Proponents of this thesis allege that since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian has been in decline because no one outside of Russia is forced to learn it anymore.
And then there are the cases of other post-Soviet countries, such as Belarus and Kazakhstan. In both of these countries, Russian remains an official language. (In fact, in Belarus, the majority of the population speaks Russian in their daily lives.) In Ukraine, Russian is not an official language, but it is very, very widely used and understood. Continue reading →
The Runet (an affectionate portmanteau for the Russian-speaking internet) is blowing up. Famous oligarch Boris Berezovsky has died today in London (where he’s lived for the past thirteen years). I’m not sure if the news is officially confirmed yet, but it appears to be real. A few links (all in Russian) below:
The Kremlin, center of Russian politics since Soviet times
I used to be a hardcore Russia watcher. I started a blog in high school and after starting university, it slowly morphed into a Russia-watching blog, where I wrote about news concerning Russia and expressed my many opinions relating to the country and its neighbors. Writing that blog was fun, but then something happened. I was far away from home, on a year-long study abroad, when I realized I didn’t want to write that blog anymore. I wanted a fresh start, so I started a new blog (and lost the vast majority of my readers – I still feel a bit bad about my sudden abandonment of the old blog, but I wanted to make a clean break). Continue reading →
This is where the family lives, in the middle of nowhere.
This may be the strangest (and creepiest, and saddest) story I’ve read in a long time. Basically, the Lykovs, a family of Old Believers (a Russian Orthodox sect persecuted under both the tsarist regime and the Soviet regime) retreated into the wilderness during the purges of the 1930s – and stayed there, alone, for over forty years. Soviet geologists discovered them in 1978 and – this is the sad part – only one of them, a woman named Agafia Lykova, is still alive, and she still lives out there in the wilderness.
I know some people post Friday link reading list of sorts on their blogs, so I thought I’d join in, at least for this week. I read two outstanding articles this week (and many more that were not so outstanding), so I will share.
Nearly twenty years ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski famously said, “Russia can be either an empire or a democracy, but it cannot be both. . . . Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.” Uninterested in becoming a democracy, today’s Kremlin has not given up the hope of regaining a facsimile of its old empire, with Ukraine at its core. To be sure, the Kremlin today is pragmatic enough to understand that it can’t revive the corpse of the USSR (though Georgians may beg to differ), but it would like to create the Eurasian Union—a new version of “satellites along its periphery.”
Of all the states in Eurasia, Ukraine is the most important test of the Kremlin’s neo-imperialistic longings and of Russia’s readiness (or not) to be a modern state. It is also is a test of the West’s interest in expanding its normative principles eastward, which can best be advanced if Ukraine itself demonstrates a desire for deeper integration based on a democratic path.
I’d highly recommend reading the entire thing.
Second, some advice for college students interested in foreign policy. Harvard professor Stephen M. Walt writes what students of foreign policy ought to study. A fascinating list, no doubt, but four years too late for me! Of the top ten things, I am most lacking in statistics (and economics, to an extent, but I have learned quite a bit of that subject outside of school). I suppose I ought to start learning statistics soon…
There are two things you will learn about in this post: I absolutely adore spy novels and I am incredibly jealous of author Christopher Reich.
I first saw Reich’s novel Rules of Vengeance last December when I was home for Christmas break. After all, how could I fail to notice a book with such a simple, yet fabulous cover? I was too cheap to buy it, though, and I forgot about it, until last night. Last night, I remembered that I have a $40 credit on my Amazon account, thanks to Amazon trade-ins (I got rid of three course books I despised when I traded them in), and I decided to buy Rules of Vengeance on my Kindle. (It was only $7.99!) Continue reading →
As you’ve probably heard, Russia’s second president, Vladimir Putin, was sworn in on Monday, May 7, for a third presidential term that will last six years. Here are some interesting news articles I found relating to the subject.
Russian stock futures climbed as Vladimir Putin returned to Russia’s presidency for a third term promising to forge ahead with state asset sales and improve the nation’s investment climate.
Futures expiring in June on Moscow’s dollar-denominated RTS Index added 0.6 percent to 143,745 in New York trading. American depositary receipts of OAO Gazprom (OGZPY), Russia’s biggest company and the world’s largest natural gas producer, rallied from their lowest level this year, while OAO Mobile TeleSystems (MBT), the nation’s biggest mobile-phone operator, gained the most in more than a week.
Putin, whose first eight years in the Kremlin saw average economic growth of 7 percent as oil prices rose fivefold, signed at least a dozen decrees after being sworn in yesterday and said the world’s biggest energy exporter was beginning a “new stage” in its development. Russia’s Micex Index has tumbled 20 percent since Putin passed on the presidency to Dmitry Medvedev in May 2008 because of term limits….