Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who is to come next after Luzhkov?

Oleg Grishenko to the right, Arkady Burulin — leader of Saratov gay community — to the left.

Yesterday President Medvedev dismissed almighty Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov. A mere year ago this would have seemed impossible. Yuri Mikhaylovich has lost his sense of harmony and his wish to play in the same league as the President and the Prime Minister finally let him down. Almost 18-year experience of governing the city, populated by 12 million people, with a budget of more than $30 billion, his own $4 billion fortune, more than just a mature age (74 years) and his unbelievable self-assurance have brought that heavy-weight politico to the logical final of his career.
            Having commented on the matter of Luzhkov’s dismissal, ex-Prime Minister and today’s popular oppositionist Boris Nemtsov tried to provoke Dmitry Medvedev to aggravate the Luzhkov-related crisis. Nemtsov, who was struggling against Luzhkov for quite a time now, called for President to finish his political opponent off by instituting criminal lawsuits due to alleged facts of corruption and the abuses of power at Moscow mayor’s office. Otherwise — according to Nemtsov’s opinion — Luzhkov may pose a serious threat to the power tandem at the coming State Duma elections in 2011 and at the Presidential elections in 2012 as well. I’m not a member of Luzhkov’s fan-club either, but that rather looks like dancing the jig at the enemy’s grave.
            It seems that there are still quite a lot of politicians in that weird Russian democracy, whose fate in the nearest future may be the same as the fate of Moscow mayor. For example, Saratov[1] mayor Oleg Grishenko did not only steal millions of rubles from the city treasury — as if he was trying to follow the example of his Moscow colleague (the scale, though, is surely incomparable). Unlike the former capital governor —who was known as an outstanding homophobe — he openly supports gay community of Saratov. Such excessive tolerance is not very welcome in Russia. Had Mr. Grishenko only been stealing, he might have kept his post (given the background of today’s Russia, honest mayor is a rara avis, you see). But a mayor who supports gays is a little bit over the top.

[1] Saratov is a capital of Saratov Oblast, Central Russian region

Sunday, September 26, 2010

«Lunatics from all over the world, come together!»

History of Akhmed Zakayev’s detention is growing at a steady gait in Poland. That is how Viktor Perov — member of Leningrad Oblast Communist Party (yes, such party still exists) from a small town of Slanzy — explained the attitude of his party on that issue:
            “Communists support Akhmed Zakayev’s detention in Poland but we don’t think that he will be extradited to Russia. Its as simple as that. He just has to be eliminated. As far back as in Stalin’s times a wonderful system was established: court was making its judgment in absentia and the security officers were executing the sentence abroad. That’s the way we’ve already punished Lev Trotsky, Stepan Bandera and numerous other traitors. There’s no time to whimper as long as we have to act quickly and decisively. I hope that the FSB authorities would hear our call…”
            Fine! The show is going on. After the Polish comedy it’s the time for the Russian ones. At that, Russian communists are supported by the Polish-mohair-berets kind of electorate.
            After the thorough analysis of this phenomenon one may come to think that Karl Marx was actually right and it’s the right time to create the International of the Lunatics

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Afghanistan: back to the "Great Game" again?

Part II. Obscure anniversary of the “Cyclone” operation

Osama bin Laden, who was dubbed the personification of the world evil by the Americans, this Frankenstein, whom they’ve created themselves in order to use him in their fight against the Soviet Union, turned out to be the nightmare of its own master. For 17 years (since 1979 until 1996 when Taliban seized the power in Afghanistan) the USA have spent about 4 billion dollars to support its future enemies, having made several fundamentalist leaders (including Osama bin Laden himself) very rich. Now they use their money to hire terrorists all over the world, who are killing Americans without an ounce of pity.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Polish comedy featuring Akhmed Zakayev

Old lady on the left is the said Pawlak's mother 

Scandal accompanying Mr. Zakayev’s visit to Poland makes me wonder if there’s still some common sense left in the heads of certain Polish politicians. I’m hardly interested in the destiny of central character in this play. And I’m also unwilling to dispute the decision of the Warsaw’s District Court. Especially if the European right directs every state of the United Europe to recognize the refugee status, given by one of them. Not being an expert in the field of European legislation, I cannot argue with the Polish court on the matter of Zakayev’s case. This issue, however, caused certain questions that I’d like my readers to get acquainted with.

The first question is: “Who is Akhmed Zakayev”?

            Polish printed media along with Polish politicians from various parties dub this man a chief of Chechen government in exile. With a deep regret I have to inform the Polish public opinion that there’s no such thing as the Chechen government in exile at all. In 2001 Zakayev was appointed to be a special representative of Aslan Maskhadov — former President of revolted Chechnya who died on the 27th of January, 2002. Therefore, he may really be a refugee. But having Prime Minister’s status? Surely, not. Zakayev is certainly not a “martyr of democracy” as well — like my dear Kurt Vonnegut once used to call him in his “Cat’s Cradle”. Having commanded the Mujahidin detachment during the Chechen war he inevitably stained his hands with blood of both Russian soldiers and those civilians, whom he called the national traitors.
The second question is: “Why Zakayev had come to Poland at all?”

            It seems that Zakayev got tired from his quiet life in the problem-free England — which cannot be called a cheap country to live in, by the way. It is yet unknown how he makes his living, but it looks likes virtuous Boris Berezovsky doesn’t pay him for doing nothing. So there was a need to make some move in order to remind everyone of his existence and to prove that he can work off the money invested into him. Zakayev’s arrival to Poland was exactly the kind of such move — making some PR scores. He played his part brilliantly as long as he appeared at the newspaper frontlines not only in Poland but in Russia as well. Thus, he reminded everyone of himself, of Chechnya and of Russian problems in the Ciscaucasia. Everything went off quite well — Zakayev deserved the applause. I’d like to mention that he is a professional actor and in 1981-1990 he used to work at the drama theatre in Chechen capital. Therefore, Russian school of acting, known all around the world as Stanislavsky’s school, is still the good one.

The third question is: “Why would Poles need this pain in the ass — the one that is hardly to improve their relationship with Russia”?

            My knowledge of the Polish history is thorough enough to understand the kind of emotional response born in the Polish hearts by the phrases “immigration government” or “government in exile”. But I treat the very fact of comparing Akhmed Zakayev to Władysław Sikorski as a blasphemy. Polish general was fighting against fascism for the independence of his Motherland, while Chechen actor is a separatist who rebelled against mother country for the separation of autonomous region with a population of 1.200.000 people that has never been a sovereign state and never been recognized by a single country. I wonder, how would the Polish government reacted had the leader of Basque separatists — wanted by the Interpol — suddenly come to Warsaw?  The most upsetting was the Prime Minister Tusk’ comment who told Gazeta Wyborcza: “Russians cannot expect decision, which would be suitable to them”. I understand that acting Deputy Prime Minister of Poland is Mr. Pawlak but his mother seemingly doesn’t work for the government. Let me remind you that it was this nice lady — character of the Polish comedy “Sami swoi[1]” of the same name — who told her son: “Let the judges judge, but justice itself should be on our side”, putting the hand grenade in his pocket while he was going to the court. Why such serious and reasonable politician — without doubt, Donald Tusk is definitely one of that kind — passes his sentence in this dubious case, rather than waiting for the court to decide? Gazeta  Wyborcza journalists Renata Grochal and Wacław Radziwinowicz — whom I respect very much — have named the article dedicated to Zakayev’s detention “Greek tragedy featuring Chechen”
            I don’t know where the tragedy in this case is, but anyway, thanks for inspiriting the idea of this text’s title.

[1] “Fellow-countrymen” (Pol.)

Friday, September 17, 2010


On the 1st of December 2009  U. S. President Barack Obama gave a speech to the students of a West Point military academy, declaring his intention to send other tens of thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan. Newly-fledged Nobel peace prize laureate has made it clear that he’s going to fight until the final victory.

Potential threats and real victims

      It’s a commonly known fact that invasion of the NATO troops into Afghanistan has started in 2001 as a counter-reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That was for the first time in the history of Northern-Atlantic Alliance when the clause №5 of the Northern-Atlantic Treaty — the one providing the joint defense efforts of the country-members in case of the aggression against any of them — was actually applied. On the 12th of September, 2001, exactly one day after the destruction of New-York twin-towers, Council of NATO has made a decision to start the “Endure Freedom” operation. Despite the fact that 15 of 19 terrorists that took part in the 9/11 attacks were natives of Saudi Arabia, it was Afghanistan that became the aim of the counter-attack.
      “Endure Freedom” operation started from the aviation bombings and the missiles attacks, which victimized 5 thousand civilians during the first two months of the warfare. Thus, even before the invasion and the beginning of the ground operation, number of killed Afghanis was bigger than the number of 9/11 victims. Prevention of the new possible terrorist acts at the U. S. and allied territories were declared to be the objectives of the NATO invasion to Afghanistan — i. e. in order to avoid the potential victims among the Western population, thousands of civilian Afghani residents were actually murdered.
      Ground invasion that followed the “non-contact” war seemed to be pretty successful at first. The forecasted war potential of the Taliban turned out to be exaggerated. Allies have managed to create a “pet” Afghani government formed out of the Afghani immigrants, who were living in Germany at the time. It was headed by Hamid Karzai, whose main advantage was his fluent English. In 2001 Bonn International conference delegated the power to him.
      However, soon it turned out that achievement of the goals that were defined by the Allies — destruction of the Taliban regime and the Western-like democratization of Afghanistan (designed to make this country safer for the West) seemed more and more unreal day by day. At the same time actions of the USA and its allies were disturbingly similar to the errors that Great Britain and the Soviet Union have made in this country during the last 170 years.

The Great Game

      That’s how Western historians call the Anglo-Russian struggle for division of the spheres of influence in Central Asia — the one that lasted almost a hundred years since the 1813. This catchy slogan supposedly belongs to Arthur Connoly, captain of Her Majesty secret service in this disquieted region, who had mounted the scaffold (quite literally) in 1842 at the territory of today’s Uzbekistan — he was decapitated there by the order of Bokharan emir Nasrulla. Common audience first met the “Great Game” term from the book “Kim” authored by Rudiyard Kipling who was known to be the “poet of the British imperialism” — the book was published in 1901 and described the adventures of teenaged spy, who had been stealing the secret documents from his Russian colleagues.
      In fact, the struggle of two empires was much more speculative rather than real — head-on clashes have never taken place. That is why Count Nesselrode, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russian Empire, dubbed this struggle “the tournament of shadows”. Everything started during the “liaison” between Emperor Pavel and Napoleon Bonaparte — the latter has managed to convince his Russian colleague in the necessity of their joint actions against the British Empire in India. Pavel was so inspired by this idea that he has sent 20 thousand Cossacks to Central Asia in January of 1801; they however were withdrawn back to Russia immediately after emperor’s death. Though, this was enough to create casus belli for the Russo-Persian war that lasted since 1804 until 1813. For the Persians, the casus itself was the joining of Eastern Georgia to the Russian Empire — initially, this decision was made by Pavel, and later was documented in his successor’s, Alexander I, “Manifesto of establishing a new government in Georgia”. The war ended with the signing of Gulistan Treaty that fixed a shattering defeat of Persia, which had to admit the transfer of Dagestan, Georgia, Abkhazia and the Northern Azerbaijan to the Russian Empire. Apart from that, Russia gained the right to have its navy at the Caspian Sea.
      Englishmen, of course, couldn’t like that course of events — that’s why they’ve secretly started to arm and train the Persian army. The Decembrist uprising of 1825 became the casus belli for another war — British and Persian men interpreted this as a display of pretenders to the throne competition, and, therefore, the weakness of the Russian Empire. Attempting to retrieve the territories that Russia gained according to the Gulistan Treaty, Iran declared a war against Russia in the 16th of July, 1826. This time the Persian’s misfortune was even greater. Splendid actions of the Russian Army made them surrender by the February of 1828. The Second Russo-Persian war was ended with signing the Treaty of Turkmenchay, which not only reapproved all the conditions of the Gulistan peace, but also brought Armenia into the Russian possession (Armenians from Iran were to migrate there) and imposed 20 million ruble indemnity on Shah of Iran.
      Increased Russian activity in the Central Asia and in Caucasus led the British to the thought that they can hesitate no longer. In December of 1838 about 30 thousand British soldiers invaded Afghanistan and brought their protйgй, Shah Shuja, to power in Kabul. However, in three years an anti-British uprising flared up, Shah was overthrown and the British were ousted from the country. During the first battle of this war — which later was dubbed the First Anglo-Afghan war — British squad of 16 thousand people was completely destroyed. The only survivor was Doctor William Burden, who had a narrow escape to Jalalabad that was still under control of the British troops.
      Joining of Khiva, Bokhara and Kokand — which inhabitants were constantly foraying Southern Russian provinces — to the Russian Empire became another reason to continue its competition with Great Britain. Russian forces, under the command of Turkestan’s governor-general Konstantin Kaufman, have conducted a large operation resulted in the inclusion of these territories into the Amu Darya province of the Turkestan territory. Reaction of Lord Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, to these events was his letter to Queen Victoria, where he tried to convince her that “the Muscovites were to be ousted from the Central Asia and drowned in the Caspian Sea”. Being under the pressure of the Prime Minister, Queen accepted the title of the Indian Empress — mind that Afghanistan was included to India. Disraeli brought the British troops into Kandahar and the Second Anglo-Afghan war began. Nevertheless, all the Afghan wars of last 170 years are as like as two peas in the pod: quick engagement of foreign troops, “blitzkrieg”, celebrations of the victory, then comes the guerilla war and the defeat of the “infidels”. That’s how the things went this time, too. Soon British army was blocked in Kabul by a one-hundred-thousand-strong army of the Afghan rebels and Disraeli was defeated not only at the battlefield, but at the parliamentary elections, too. His successor, William Gladstone, was forced to move the troops out of Afghanistan and conclude a peace treaty. That happened in 1880.
      Another aggravation of the military and political situation in Afghanistan took place in 1885. It is known in the history books as the Afghan crisis. And again there were no direct Russo-English confrontation. Russian army kicked the Afghanis out of the Merv oasis, having occupied a part of the Afghan territory. Englishmen protested against that but still avoided an armed conflict with the Russian army. This crisis ended during the battle at Kushka, when troops under command of General Komarov defeated the Afghanis soundly. That is how history of the Russian expansion at the Afghan direction is ended. 

                                                      (to be continued)