Month: July 2008

Seven Years on the Front Line

Via, a remarkable and highly intelligent documentary film (with English subtitles) about the last few years in the life of Anna Politkovskaya. The director is Masha Novikova, and the film features many sequences in which Politkovskaya herself explains the nature of her work as a journalist who was really a soldier in the struggle for truth and civil society in Russia. Although it was the focus of her activity, Chechnya was only one of the elements in the central task she aspired to: the bringing of truth, reconciliation and justice to Russian society as a whole. As one participant in the film points out, itĀ  was her willingness to name theĀ culprits that led to her death by assassination.

The film contains many harrowing scenes of violence and brutality, together with interviews with victims and their relatives, and documents some of the worst of the crimes committed by Russian federal forces and their commanders during the second Chechen war. What it underlines most of all, however, is the fact that in some ways Politkovskaya’s aims have been fulfilled, at least in terms of international comprehension: for the evidence of the crimes that were sanctioned and authorized by Russia’s leaders is now so detailed and so extensive that those leaders cannot present themselves to the civilized world and expect to be received as part of it. They are international pariahs.

In Denial

In the wake of several crushing defeats at the polls, and a movement against Labour that’s reminiscent of the turning of the electorate against the Conservatives in the years immediately before 1997, Britain’s Prime Minister talks of “getting on with the job”. His often-repeated promise to “listen and learn” sounds distinctly hollow, as his real purpose seems to be to ignore the growing chorus of voices urging him to call a general election.


Via RFE/RL (Robert Coalson):

Moscow has repeatedly defended its antidemocratic domestic policies by arguing Russia has its own “path to democracy,” and that all nations must build democracies that are unique to their cultural heritages.

While some observers expected this sort of divisiveness to be toned down after Dmitry Medvedev — who rarely misses a chance to point out that he is a lawyer by training — became president, it has in fact been ramped up in recent weeks. Moscow has renewed its calls for phasing out The Hague war crimes tribunal, saying it is fatally “biased.”

Perhaps most importantly, the quasi-official Russian Orthodox Church last month adopted its Basic Principles of the Russian Church on Human Dignity, Freedom, and Rights. The document, which was partially drafted by Kremlin insider and Eurasianist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin, called for a “reexamination” of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It says Western notions of human rights do not apply to Russia and should be replaced by Orthodox principles. It also asserts that civilizations “should not impose their lifestyle patterns on other civilizations.” The document clearly prioritizes the rights of society over the rights of individuals.

A “Difficult” Situation

Radio Free Europe notes that after the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, Russia called for the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to cease its activities. An Academy of Sciences representative, Artyem Ulunyan, is interviewed on his view of the matter:

RFE/RL: What’s the reasoning behind Russia calling for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to cease its activities?

Artyem Ulunyan: Russia doesn’t want it to be possible for former high officials to be tried in foreign or international courts that are not under Russian control.

RFE/RL: But isn’t the ICTY only concerned with crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia?

Ulunyan: What we seem to be talking about here is a precedent for the tribunal to be used by organizations not under its control. Russia most likely sees this as dangerous.

RFE/RL: What will Russia’s position be regarding the trial of Radovan Karadzic?

Ulunyan: I think this will be multifaceted. On the official level, there won’t be any actions or announcements. But at the semiofficial level, Russia’s dissatisfaction will be made clear. Pro-Kremlin youth organizations will be mobilized. Sections of the public will be fed propaganda arguing that Karadzic himself was not right, but his ideas were.

Read the whole thing here.

Saint Stalin

Via the Telegraph:

The Communist party in St Petersburg has petitioned the Orthodox Church to canonise Josef Stalin if he wins a television poll to nominate the greatest Russian in history.

Stalin last week surrendered a narrow lead to Nicholas II in the contest, which is based on the BBC’s Great Britons series.

But with a result not expected until the end of the year, the country’s Communists are convinced that Stalin will still emerge the victor.

While the poll, conducted by the state run Rossiya channel, has been criticised for allowing multiple voting, there is little doubt that Stalin has undergone a remarkable renaissance in recent years.

Opinion polls regularly name him Russia’s greatest post-revolution leader after Vladimir Putin, the prime minister.

Karadzic arrested

Radovan Karadzic has been arrested in Serbia.

Via BBC:

Richard Holbrooke, the US diplomat who brokered the Dayton Peace Accord for Bosnia in 1995, told the BBC that “a major, major thug has been removed from the public scene”.

“One of the worst men in the world, the Osama Bin Laden of Europe, has finally been captured,” Mr Holbrooke told BBC World News America.

The End of the Post-Cold War Era

In the Washington Times, CSIS New European Democracies director Janusz Bugajski discusses Mr Medvedev’s “big Europe”. Excerpt:

In reality, it is not Atlanticism that is effectively over but the post-Cold War era as the West and Russia are embroiled in a new strategic confrontation. Russia is reasserting its global reach by opposing further expansion of the Euro-Atlantic zone and reversing the United States’ global role. The Kremlin believes the U.S. has passed its zenith as a global power and Pax Americana is crumbling. This provides an invaluable opportunity for a resurgent Russia to extend its interests in nearby regions, particularly throughout the wider Europe.