Come on people – let’s make it work. Stop spamming each other in email newsletters. Refrain from creating thousands of off-topic comments on blog posts that will get lost in the Internet’s recesses as soon as the next blog post comes along. Have your arguments and debates in a place and format – that is, the forum – that is specifically designed to host arguments and debates.
Its failure is so stark that I hardly need post a notification on the actual site. To the extent that I visit it nowadays it is mostly just to clean spam, which is just depressing. It has not achieved critical mass, despite the initial incentives on offer, and in my experience if a forum fails to get going early on then any exisiting participation rapidly collapses.
In all honesty I half-expected this anyway. It would have probably taken off had it gone online in 2006/2007, at the height of the so-called “New Cold War.” Nowadays, in these days of “Reset,” Russia just doesn’t command the interest it used to.
Thank you for all the people who tried to get it going.
Of particular note: Alcestis Eshtemoa, Alexa M, Alexander Mercouris, Alex Bond, Bellum, hoct, mls13, Moscow Exile, Ombrageux, owenpolley, Patrick Armstrong, Sevan, SWSpires, Vostok.
Barring a miraculous splurge of (genuine) acitivity in the coming weeks, the forum will be going offline at the end of September.
To forumers – Please look through the archives and save anything you wish to save of your posts for future use elsewhere.
To everyone – The future of The Russian Spectrum is solid and promising; be assured it is not going the way of the forum anytime soon. Do not mistake a relative lack of posting in the past two months as a sign of trouble – to the contrary, it is because the time I previously used for translating there is now taken up by serious discussions of funding and partnership with major media outlets.
This June I had the pleasure of once again attending and speaking at the World Russia Forum. The event now happens twice a year, in Washington DC and Moscow, and is intended to draw together Russian and American experts, academics, journalists, and policy-makers in an effort to improve relations between these two nations. An account of it, and the subsequent reception at the Russian Embassy to mark Russia Day, follows below:
It was raining with near monsoonal intensity when I disembarked off the train*. I have no complaints; these downpours dispel the sultry oppressiveness inherent to a city originally built on swampland, so far as I was concerned the more rain the merrier.
The Qataris sure know how to get their message out!
Four of the WRF’s speakers in the hotel dining room. From left to right: Pamela (Patrick’s wife); Martin Sieff; Patrick Armstrong; William Dunkerley; your humble servant.
I’m writing this from an Internet café in Seattle, so I’ll be brief.
(1) Congratulations to SWSPires – the winner of the promised $25 Amazon gift certificate for participating in The Russia Debate during its first month! Incidentally, he was only the sixth member to be drawn by lot from the members pool; it’s just that the others had no posts (as of yet) to their names. And to be in the running, you needed to have made at least one post, in addition to registering.
(2) If you are a Russia expert (or just curious), please feel free to join the 2013 World Russia Forum in Washington DC this June 11th. It will be located at The Russian Cultural Center:
1825 Phelps Place Northwest
Washington, DC 20008
The theme for this year will be “the role of NGOs, Public Diplomacy, and Media in formulating the agenda for US – Russia political, educational and cultural cooperation.” That is, soft power, which we’ve discussed here of late. The Russian Spectrum ties in with this well and will be the main focus of my representation.
(3) Speaking of The Russian Spectrum – I’m on a “working holiday” of sorts, so I will not be doing any translations until I return on June 25.
I’m now quite happy with the site as it exists and functions, and I’m sure its “base” is now firm enough to support significant scaling up. That is not, however, within the capabilities of one person. It needs at least one more editor and regular contributors for it to start offering something resembling comprehensive coverage, from all slivers of the spectrum. And for that it needs financing.
That is going to be my priority orientation for the next weeks and months.
But it is finally here. The Russian Spectrum – translating everything worth translating from the Russian media.
I’ll keep it brief.
(1) We need translators! If you can proficiently translate from Russian into English, I will be very happy to have you on board.
First, the bad news:
- You’re not getting paid, as I’m currently running the site out of my own pockets and spare time.
Ouch! That’s pretty bad. What’s the good news, then?
- Each post has the translator’s name attached to it, allowing you to quickly build up an online portfolio of your work (e.g. here’s mine).
- Hundreds of daily readers from the get go! Vast publicity! Or at least more publicity than they’d get if you post your translations in various discussion threads with hundreds of comments. (you know who you are…)))
- As I’m not paying the piper, you get to call the tune: Translate what you like, when you like, however often you want to.
- Let the world know about the diversity of the Russian media, and points of view that are ignored in the Western media.
- Get paid after all! Well, as soon as I get funding, which I honestly think is more likely than not. Loyal, reliable, and competent volunteers will get first dibs on any paid positions.
If you are interested, please contact me and I will make you a Contributor account at The Russian Spectrum. You’ll be ready to go in no time.
(2) Explore the site! There are already 36 translations of the site. Some of them you will be familiar with from here, but almost half are unique to The Russian Spectrum. Furthermore, my aim is to add at least two translations a day, with output set to expand if volunteers join in.
(3) While I don’t like to beg, and usually don’t – at least not on my regular blogs – I will make an exception for The Russian Spectrum. To ensure the reliability and security needed to foster its smooth growth and development, I decided to go with the best hosts and software for a small media organization. Total projected costs for a year at its present scale are on the order of $400.
Another day, another Internet project.
Or more specifically, reviving an old project – the “English Inosmi” concept of translating articles and blog posts from the Russian media for a Western audience. The only problem was that I was perpetually dissatisfied, even if at a subconscious level, with the name: RossPress*. An elementary problem which I had somehow overlooked was that the double “s” is simply incorrect. And “RosPress.com” is already taken.
But apart from that, I was focusing my efforts not so much on translation, as on getting funding. Which isn’t all that easy for some random guy with a blog. It’s much easier if you also have a random NGO, but setting up said NGO is quite a lengthy procedure. So while that’s in process I thought I might as well restart work on the site and even offer a few translations. At the least, it would tie in well with The Russia Debate**.
But I still need a good name for it.
The RussoSphere: Solid, distinctive name – less than 2,000 Google hits on it, amazingly. Logo can be of a “sphere” with images of Russian newspaper front pages wrapped around it.
The Russian Spectrum: Another solid name that sounds respectable as a newspaper name, while at the same time alluding to its mission – translations from a wide variety of ideological viewpoints***.
Right now I’m slightly leaning towards The RussoSphere.
* Sorry Craig.
** You don’t know what is The Russia Debate? It’s a forum for discussing Russian politics and history. Come, comment, conquer!
I submit that the Russia watching community has no shortage of opinionated blogs, mercenary “information projects,” and warring factions of ”CIA jackals” and “Kremlin bots.” What it greatly lacks, however, is a neutral, well-moderated meeting ground where a diversity of voices could engage in free and vigorous debates about all aspects of Russian politics, economics, and history.
In other words, it needs a forum, and as nobody else seems willing, I am happy to step step up to the plate with The Russia Debate.
Getting a forum going isn’t the easiest thing in the world, so just in case the excitement of political debate and settling in virgin online territory isn’t enough for you, anybody who makes at least one post at The Russian Debate throughout the rest of this month will be placed in a random drawing for the following prizes:
- A $25 Amazon gift certificate.
- Five separate vouchers for a free copy – in print or digital – of my upcoming book THE DARK LORD OF THE KREMLIN (scheduled for publication this October).
So, go ahead, check it out, create an account, and start populating the boards with your arguments and ideas. There are already ongoing active discussions about the Israeli strike on Syria and the May 6th rally. Looking forwards to seeing you there!
Just to confirm that progress on DARK LORD OF THE KREMLIN is in full swing, with about 40% of the first draft done. I am aiming for publication around October.
Here are the chapter titles to whet your appetites – as you can see, I spare no tired trope when writing about the Putin kleptocracy. :) If it’s 40% done, that also means four of the ten chapters. Try to guess which ones.
Intro: “If It’s About Russia, It’s True”
1. The KGB Colonel
2. Mafia State
3. Kremlin Media
4. Potemkin Russia
5. Caviar Roads
6. The Dying Bear
7. Neo-Soviet Revanchism
8. Stalin Worship
9. Crimes of the Regime
10. Russia and the West
PS. It will also need a front cover. I’m thinking of something flippant like Putin riding a shark Nazgul steed in front of the Kremlin. If you have graphic design moxie please feel free to contact me, we can discuss price.
Russia Voices is good because it powerfully hints at what the project is all about: Giving the Anglo-sphere some sense of what Russians from all sides of the political spectrum are saying. But downside is it’s similar to Voice of Russia (a radio station), and besides, the more “intuitive” RussianVoices.com has already been taken.
RossPress is succinct and powerful; my innumerable thanks to the glorious Craig J. Willy for suggesting it. Only downside is that many Westerners don’t know that Russia, in Russian, is Rossiya.
I can’t say I’m 100% happy with either choice but c’est la vie. This issue should be gotten out of the way sooner rather than later.
|Russia Voices (RussiaVoices.com)||17|
Only vote “Other” if you really hate both of them (preferably provide an alternative in that case). Thank you all for your participation.
Finally, I’d like to note that today I have translated the first two articles ever specifically for RV/RP. They are:
- Please Answer, Gérard!… (An Open Letter To Depardieu) by Gleb Razdolnov writing for Echo of Moscow.
- Oligarchs, A Comparative Analysis by Yulia Latynina.
I have chosen to translate liberals because to date I have mostly only translated “patriots”, conservatives, and Putin supporters. This is to demonstrate and affirm that the site will be a non-partisan affair to the maximum feasible extent possible.
Edit 2013/2/2: As there is strong support for both options, I will test them out via Google Adwords and come to a decision by next week (which is when I plan to launch the site anyway).
As long-term readers will be aware, I am working on two big projects: A book on myths about Russia, and a website specializing in translating articles from the Russian press into English.
(The idea being that even if it does nothing else, Western institutions will no longer be able to credibly say Russia’s level of media freedoms are on par with Zimbabwe’s).
While the preliminary name I’m going with before the site is unveiled is “Russia Voices”, this is far from set in stone. First, it would sound better as “Russian Voices.” Second, a Voice of Russia already exists. Maybe there is a better alternative? I would appreciate it if you could vote on and provide feedback on other possible names for this site.
Update: Guess there’s no longer a need to keep the poll running. It’s already clear that Russia Voices is the only one of the original suggestions with any support. The majority of you think that it needs to be something else.
|Russia Voices (russiavoices.com)||4|
|Russian Points of View (russpovs.com)||2|
|Press of Russian Federation (pressrf.com)||1|
Please feel free to make your own suggestions. Note that the .com hyperlink has to be available for a name to be seriously considered. Thanks.