Wherever there is censorship, book-burning, and propaganda, there are people behind the scenes who think they know better what you should be thinking, reading, and discussing, than you do yourself.
It is still possible to find a broad range of news sources and inside thinking, and later we will give some examples. First we will look at the internet, and which nations work hard to prevent a free flow of ideas over that medium.
Powers that be will try to control public opinion — but where do they go the farthest?
Russia is not the worst offender, although the propaganda budget and censorship budgets are some of the last to be cut when hard economic times hit the Kremlin.
The Russian government enacted a law to crack down on all online media which criticized the Vladimir Putin’s policy toward Kremlin without any judicial oversight. Three major news sites were blocked within six weeks as a result of this law.
… The draconian ‘bloggers law’ passed by the Russian government in May 2014 increased government surveillance of social media users by making it mandatory for anyone having sites or pages which draw more than 3,000 daily views to register with the telecommunications regulator.
__ Internet Under Threat
In Russia, Nigeria, Vietnam and elsewhere the government is paying people to blog and comment in support of government priorities, a tactic China started in 2005 with its “50-Cent Party” of web commentators for hire. Belarus, Ethiopia, Iran and many others are believed to use “deep packet inspection” to look into internet users’ communications for subversive content, aided by hardware from, among others, China’s Huawei and ZTE. Obligingly, internet users who know they are being watched are more likely to exercise self-censorship in the first place. __ Economist
No, Russia is not the worst. But it is in some very bad company, as it tends to be on most issues relating to lack of opportunity and oppression of its people.
Where Can One Go For Russia News that Attempts to Avoid the Censors?
Here are a few sources that have proven reliable in providing Russian news and opinion that the Kremlin censors attempt to block and which the Kremlin propagandists attempt to shout down:
Meduza was forced to relocate outside of Russia by Kremlin bullies, censors, and tough guys.
Meduza is run by a team of around 20 journalists who resigned from their jobs at Lenta.ru following Galina Timchenko’s unexpected removal from her post by the website’s owner and Vladimir Putin ally, the oligarch Alexander Mamut. There are no Latvian journalists in the project.
Timchenko told Forbes that the decision to base Meduza in Latvia was made since “right now, establishing an an independent Russian language publishing house in Latvia is possible, while in Russia it is not.” Russian businessman and former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and telecommunications magnate Boris Zimin had been considered as passive investors; however, they parted ways “for strategic and operational reasons”. __ Wikipedia
A new report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) alleges that high-level, elected officials at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) knew about and colluded with Russia over its coverup of mass doping. Ecological center Dauria is the latest non-government organisation to be labeled a ‘foreign agent’, after taking part in a joint programme between Polyus Gold and a UK-based charity. ‘Obviously it was unbecoming for the region not to have its own foreign agent, and they really had to find one,’said the organisation’s head. Authorities in the Komi republic burnt more than 50 books published by the Soros Foundation, on the grounds that they contained ideas that counter ‘Russian ideology’; the Culture Ministry immediately distanced itself from the act, calling it ‘totally unacceptable’ and noting that the act drew ‘strange historical associations’. Under a new rule, prisoners in pretrial detention centers will be bannedfrom speaking to guards or to each other in ‘fenya’, a traditional prison slang laden with curse words. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin is being hounded on social mediato keep his promise to give his tooth if the Vostochnd cosmodrome was not operational by the end of 2015.
Gazprom will publish its third quarter results today; they are expected to be weak thanks to a stronger dollar and the decrease in crude prices. Central Asia and the Caucases are both dependent on remittances from Russia, and both have seen significant drops over the past year as migrants’ incomes are affected by the falling rouble and there being less money to spare, reports The Economist. Investment banks’ earnings on Russian corporate deals fell to 2002 levels last year. Imports into Russia dropped 36.4% last year.
Relations between Russia and Israel, under President Vladimir Putin, are the best they’ve ever been, says Reuters. Russia has replaced Israel as Turkey’s biggest threat, according to a Turkish university poll. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko vowed to defend Ukraine’s interest in court if Russia’s files a lawsuit over its outstanding $3 billion debt. Ukraine will only restore Crimea’s hard-hit electricity supply if Ukrainian sovereignty is restored.
- Putin Equated with Shiite Saints. Some Syrian Shiia have equated Vladimir Putin with Shiite saints, yet another way in which the Kremlin leader’s intervention in Syria may come back to haunt him given that 90 percent of the Muslims in the world and in Russia are Sunnis (riafan.ru/494574-lev-pustyni-putina-v-sirii-sravnivayut-s-shiitskimi-svyatymi).
- ‘Human Rights Aren’t Everything,’ Duma Deputy Says. Ivan Nikitchuk, a KPRF Duma deputy who has introduced legislation banning any public manifestation of homosexual relations in Russia, defends his position by saying that “human rights aren’t everything” (meduza.io/en/feature/2016/01/14/human-rights-aren-t-everything).
- Russian Official Sells Off 50 Kilometers of Highway Pavement. Russia, it is often said, suffers from two misfortunes: roads and fools. But increasingly they are coming together: News outlets report that an official in the Komi Republic has sold the pavement of 50 kilometers of highway there and pocketed the profits (bbc.com/news/world-europe-35312492).
- Russians Want ‘Day of Nuclear Arms.’ A group of Russians has proposed another Russian holiday, “the day of nuclear arms” (m.rg.ru/2016/01/12/den-anons.html). The Russian government is keeping up with this idea by announcing that it plans to double ballistic mmissile production in 2016 (echo.msk.ru/news/1691518-echo.html).
- For First Time, Sales of Smart Phones Fall in Russia. Every day, Russians and those who watch Russia focus on the falling price of oil and the declining exchange rate for the ruble. It is sometimes forgotten that related to these figures are others that may have an even more immediate impact on Russians. Among the plethora of such figures are the following: Last year, for the first time ever, Russians bought fewer smart phones than the year before (meduza.io/news/2016/01/14/v-rossii-vpervye-upal-ob-em-prodazh-smartfonov), the number of Russian businesses fell to “no more than one million” (apn.ru/publications/article34540.htm), Russia’s trade with China fell by a third last year (rufabula.com/news/2016/01/13/trade-volume), Russians aren’t buying new cars and so the average age of cars there is now over ten years (opec.ru/1914070.html), Muscovites increasingly are again having to pay for apartments using hard currency rather than rubles (realty.rbc.ru/articles/14/01/2016/562949999136281.shtml), the duty free shops at Sheremetyevo airport are closing (macos.livejournal.com/1222017.html), Moscow’s city government hopes to make money by charging people to use crosswalks with signals to stop traffic (yurayakunin.livejournal.com/3620781.html), and schools in Russian regions are now being forced to provide children with breakfast or lunch but not both (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5693680E3FF34).
- Everyone in Russia Speaks More than One Language – Except Russians.Moscow’s language policies mean that everyone in Russia speaks more than one language – except for Russians who can speak only their own (erzia.saransk.ru/arhiv.php?n=5365&nom11=464). But the situation may be changing: Some Duma deputies want to insist that bill collectors use the languages of debtors even if it happens to be other than Russian (nazaccent.ru/content/19021-kollektorov-rossii-zastavyat-govorit-s-dolzhnikami.html), and just as many non-Russian regions are demanding that Russians study their languages if they live there, one Russian region Yaroslavl says that when Russians come there, they must speak the Yaroslavl dialect rather than the Moscow one (m.progorod76.ru/history/view/86).
- Bashkirs Protest Ufa’s Decision at Moscow’s Insistence to Break with Turksoy. Four of the six Turkic republics within the Russian Federation have broken their relations with the Turkish cultural organization Turksoy. Two, Tatarstan and Sakha, have not, and their resistance is inspiring activists in the others to protest as has now happened in Bashkortostan (kyk-byre.ru/1912-blagodarya-ministru-kultury-rb-shafikovoy-bashkiry-byli-otrezany-ot-tyurkskogo-kulturnogo-mira.html).
- Election Officials Replace Lawyers with Milkmaids as Election Monitors. To make it easier for the powers that be to falsify voting, election officials in several regions are replacing the lawyers who had served as poll watchers with others who have less knowledge of or experience in challenging whatever officials do (ura.ru/articles/1036266755).
- Alaska Should Be Called ‘Eastern Rus,’ Nationalists Say. The Orthodox Russian nationalist site Russkaya liniya has published a long list of places in Russia and neighboring countries that were renamed either in Soviet times or by other states that it says should have their original names restored. Among them is “Eastern Rus” as the designator for the US state of Alaska (rusk.ru/st.php?idar=73814). In a related development, some Russians are now campaigning to put a monument to the destruction of the native peoples of North American in front of the US embassy in Moscow (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5696029347A62).
- 70 Percent of Muscovites Say They’re Not Against Annexing Buryatia, a Republic that is Already Part of the Russian Federation. A street survey in the Russian capital found that 70 percent of Muscovites said they weren’t opposed to annexing Buryatia, even though that republic is already part of the Russian Federation (ulanmedia.ru/news/byuriatia/01.12.2014/404934/zhiteli-moskvi-viskazalis-za-prisoedinenie-buryatii-k-rossii.html?_utl_t=fb).
- New Russian Imperial Style to Include Wooden Houses and Wooden Watches. A group of Russians argue that their country’s “new imperial style” should feature the gingerbread wooden houses found throughout that country in tsarist times (evrazia.org/article/2812). In Siberia, one entrepreneur has taken this idea a step further: he is now producing wristwatches made entirely of wood (globalsib.com/derevyannye-naruchnye-chasy/).
- Israeli Arrested on Russian Train for Reading Hebrew. An Israeli who was reading a Hebrew-language book on a Russian train was arrested after overly vigilant Russians assumed that he must be a foreign agent of one kind or another (echo.msk.ru/news/1691498-echo.html).
- Kadyrov Launches a Real Witch Hunt in Chechnya. Ramzan Kadyrov has called for going after all extra-systemic opponents of the Putin regime because they are in his words “traitors to the motherland,” a suggestion that many have called “a witch hunt.” But in Chechnya itself, Kadyrov has already launched a real witch hunt to weed out Chechen officials who supposedly routinely consult witches before making decisions (asiarussia.ru/news/10676/).
And two more from Ukraine, a country adjoining Russia:
- Ukrainian Language Knowledge ‘Most Powerful Defense’ Against Russia. A Ukrainian writer argues that if one examines where the Moscow-backed militants in the Donbas were able to advance and where they were stopped, it becomes obvious that “the most powerful defense” of Ukrainians” Ukraine is the Ukrainian language (apostrophe.com.ua/news/society/culture/2016-01-10/izvestnyiy-pisatel-nazval-samoe-moguchee-orujie-ukraintsev/46547).
- Can’t Find Nazis in Ukraine? Use Pictures of Them from Moscow. A Russian television story purporting to show the rise of fascists in Ukraine in fact broadcast pictures of Nazi-oriented Russian March in Moscow (stopfake.org/rossijskij-telekanal-proillyustriroval-natsizm-v-ukraine-fotografiej-russkogo-marsha-v-moskve/).
3. Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir, Why fear of war weighs heavily for Russians in the New Year. The Russian public is worried about a full-on conflict with the US, fed in part by a drumbeat from the Kremlin and in part by US and NATO foreign policies.
4. Government.ru: The 7th Gaidar Forum.
5. Russia Insider: Patrick Armstrong, One-Pager on Latest Developments in Russia.
6. Interfax: Putin urges government to be ready for any economic scenario.
7. http://www.rt.com: Russia to cut social spending in 2016.
8. TASS: PM Medvedev: Cabinet of Ministers to cut costs and scrap projects.
9. Moscow Times: Russian Ministry Predicts More Recession, Lower Incomes and Less Employment.
10. Forbes.com: Mark Adomanis, Amidst A Deepening Recession, Russia’s International Reserves Are Stable (For Now).
11. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Prime minister, president criticized for “silence” amid economic crisis. (Mikhail Rostovskiy)
12. http://www.rt.com: ‘Ruble won’t be in free fall forever.’ (Vladimir Rozhankovsky)
13. Vedomosti: Sources differ over prospects of ex-minister Kudrin’s return to power.
14. Dances With Bears: John Helmer, ALEXEI KUDRIN PLAYS AMERICAN BALL – STRIKES OUT, AGAIN.
15. TASS: Investment stimulation as key task for Russian economic growth.
16. Moscow Times: Russians Increasingly Pessimistic About Job Prospects – Poll.
17. Forbes.com: Rapoza, Strong Dollar Crushing Russia’s Gazprom.
18. The Daily Telegraph (UK): Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Glimmers of hope for oil as Russia poised to slash output. RBC Capital Markets said the changes in Russia could pave the way for an implicit accord with Opec but huge hurdles remain.
19. Washington Post: With oil prices plunging, Russia looks ahead to grim 2016.
20. Gazeta.ru: Russian study predicts upswing in protest activity during 2016 Duma election.
21. Moscow Times: Russian Culture Minister Says Burning Books ‘Completely Unacceptable’
22. TASS: Russia concurs with outcome of WADA doping inquiry – sports minister.
23. http://www.rt.com: Six months till Olympics, IAAF still playing games with Russia.
24. Moscow Times: China’s Economic Turmoil Ruins Russia’s New Year.
25. Russia Direct: How Russia can help the Chinese economy. Fears of a Chinese economic slowdown are leading to new thinking about the trade and investment partnership between Russia and China, according to participants at the Gaidar Economic Forum.
26. Interfax: New Russian security strategy views use of military force as “extreme measure”
26. Interfax: New Russian security strategy views use of military force as “extreme measure” 27. Interfax: In Russia’s updated national security strategy NATO not named a ‘threat’
28. Timothy Stubbs: Re: 2016-#7-Johnson’s Russia List/Mercouris re NATO.
29. Vedomosti: Analysts see economic problems as driver of Putin bid to “make peace” with West.
30. CNBC.com: Putin takes on disarming tone with West as oil prices plunge.
31. Wall Street Journal: Russian Intervention Emboldens Syrian Kurds. Moscow’s operations allows fighters to ignore U.S. concerns and gain ground against other rebel groups.
32. The Guardian: Mary Dejevsky, Exiling Assad to Russia isn’t as crazy as it sounds. The problem of who would succeed Syria remains a huge one, but this idea raised by a German journalist is worth including in the upcoming talks
33. Sputnik: Seymour Hersh: US Military Recognizes Russia’s Success in Syria.
34. The National Interest: Maxim Sushkov, Russia’s Plan for the Middle East. After an explosive 2015, Moscow looks to the year ahead.
35. Russia Insider: Deena Stryker, Is it Really Russia that’s Isolated, Mr. President? Obama’s State of the Union as an exercise in national denial.
36. Reuters: Josh Cohen, Vladimir Putin is the closest thing to a friend Israel has ever had in Moscow.
37. Los Angeles Times: Lev Golinkin, Heinous, ideological enemy? The U.S. has been there before.
38. http://www.rt.com: Public opinion of Stalin improves over past few years – poll results.
39. Russia Insider: Alexei Pankin, Is Stalin Really Dead? – Poll Shows Support for Uncle Joe on the Rise. China, without repenting for Mao’s crimes, has achieved more progress than Russia, though it has been repenting for over 60 years.
40. Wall Street Journal: ‘War & Peace’ Review: Tolstoy in the Bedroom. This small-screen adaptation tries to spice up a cornerstone of Russian literature.
41. http://www.thedailybeast.com: Anna Nemtsova, Putin’s $300 Billion Brain Fart. While Russia’s Economy Crumbles, Putin’s in Wonderland.
42. Washington Times: Ted R. Bromund, Russia’s insecurity strategy.
43. New York Times: Ivan Krastev , Why Putin Loves Trump. __ http://russialist.org/russia-ukraine-johnsons-russia-list-jrl-2016-8-friday-15-january-2016/
In the west “useful idiots” for the Kremlin, such as the duplicitous grad students, Dmitry Orlov, etc. attempt to skew how westerners view the dying bear and its suicidal pact of leaders. Among those who scour behind the scenes for multiple ideas and sources of information, such useful idiots have little — if any — impact.
In his June 2015 investigation into pro-Russian “troll farms” for the New York Times, journalist Adrian Chen uncovered a number of suspicious Twitter accounts posting from a tool called “mass post.” This, he found, also pointed to add1.ru, a site originally registered to St. Petersburg IT specialist and coder Mikhail Burchik. He was also listed in documents leaked by Anonymous International as the executive director of the Internet Research Agency, the alleged “troll factory” based in the same city.
Interesting interview with Michael Flynn in “Russia Behind the Headlines.” It is very useful to scan a wide range of news sources, to find things that one’s own national media is trying to hide.
Remember: Everything you think you know, just ain’t so. That is true not only for gullible Russophiles, Sinophiles, Islamophiles, lovers of leftist multicultural political correctness, and others that are often skewered on more enlightened websites.
It is also true for you and I.
This is why we must work so hard to sort the probable from the improbable, the dark from the light. It is why we should often seek truth in untraveled and unlikely places. It is why we should constantly seek out the exhilarating experience of “changing one’s mind,” when it is truly justified. Some people go through virtually their entire lives without having had the pleasure. 😉