I was recently honored to be invited to the World Russia Forum 2012, an annual event organized by Edward Lozansky that aims to promote US-Russia cooperation. You can read Eugene Ivanov’s write-up on last year’s forum here. The theme for this year will be ”the role of NGOs, Public Diplomacy, and Media in formulating the agenda for US – Russia cooperation.” Below is a list of round-table participants; some of the names will be familiar to blog readers and sundry Russia watchers.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
10.00 AM – 5.00 PM with Lunch Break: Remarks by Round Table Participants
Although I have my own ideas on how to influence the generally woeful Western media coverage of Russia for the better, I would still appreciate suggestions from readers. The forum is open so you may alternately show up in person to give your two cents.
Today I had the pleasure of meeting up with Nick Eberstadt, an analyst at the AEI who specializes in Korea and Russian demography. He was dropping by SF and we had drinks at the excellent Samovar Tea Lounge.
As readers will know, we do obviously have manydisagreements on Russia demography, with Eberstadt representing the “pessimistic” side and myself, the more optimistic one; and his assumptions and methods have at times been objects of criticism at this blog. If I may be so bold, recent data – population growth since 2008, and perhaps even a natural increase this year – has, at least thus far, favored the “optimistic” variants more than the “pessimistic” ones (though one can validly argue that the “echo effect” of the 1990′s baby bust has yet to make its play).
Nonetheless, I should emphasize that he is a deeply knowledgeable and conscientious scholar, who is receptive to new data and convincing counter-arguments, and a very interesting and entertaining conversationalist in person. It would be good for Russia watchers in general to meet up more often, as online interaction just isn’t the same thing. If you’re ever passing by the Bay Area, feel free to drop me a line.
So I was looking through my “Incoming Links” today and came across this comment about yours truly:
typical us-living russia-lover/us-hater. expect him to be hired by russia today tv channel.
thing is – i can understand if people hold these views in russia – they are brainwashed. but someone living in the west espousing them makes me think he’s a scumbag or has brain issues. People who I personally know who held similar views had problems adjusting to life in the US, so associated Russia to be great by comparison.
This is hardly the first time I’ve had the anti-America rug thrown at me, so hey, let’s do this democracy thing to settle this. [AK edit: All polls were lost in the transition to the new site]
I can’t be bothered writing a serious post on the recent Khodorkovsky news (prosecution seeks 14 year sentence, he makes a speech that would be awe-inspiring if it had any truth to it, etc). (Not as if I have anythingmoretoaddanyway). I think an account of how I trolled the liberasts would be far more entertaining.
A week ago, Andrey Sidelnikov – the co-organizer of the Strategy-31 Abroad protests with Alex Goldfarb, Berezovsky’s PR man – posted a propaganda tract from Khodorkovsky on Facebook, Reform must, and will, come to Russia. Unable to suppress my trolling instincts, I wrote: “He suffers from lack of free speech so much, this Khodorkovsky, he’s a true martyr of the Putin regime”(1). I honestly wondered if they’d get the sarcasm. (Based on my prior trolling, Russian liberals aren’t good at recognizing humor. A few of them had “Liked” one of my older comments about the necessity of destroying the “bloody regime” and “liquidating the Chekists”, in response to some liberast talking point about the supposed illegality of dispersing the (unsanctioned) Strategy 31 protests.)
Sidelnikov himself was the first to respond, citing the “Love it then go there” Argument (“Why aren’t you living under the Putin regime? I mean you like it so much.”) It’s a logical fallacy, but fair enough, it’s not as if this is a serious argument. I was trolling him after all. Nonetheless, I decided to go in with a serious, and rather important, question – “Regardless of your views on the “Putin regime”, why do you choose to associate yourself with the likes of Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky, etc? Not only does it hurt your approval ratings, but there are no shortage of other, more deserving, victims and causes in Russia. I’m really curious, why do you liberals regard a billionaire who got his wealth through shady connections as your main hero?” And this is when the party really got going…
At certain venues, “Russophiles” take a lot of flak for holding the beliefs and worldviews that they do. Many of their “arguments” can be predicted in advance based on prior experience. I’ve compiled a list of quick rebuttals to some common Russophobe accusations and insinuations so that we don’t have to waste our time formulating unique responses. It’s not quite as good as my idea for a machine that could automatically write refutations to standard Russophobic tripe, but it’s a start.
“Real Russia” Arguments
Have you ever lived in Russia? Clearly not, because you do not understand what real life is like there. As such, your opinions are ignorable.
Frankly, where I live and for what reasons is none of your business. In any case, I fail to see the necessity of living in a country to have a valid opinion on it, provided said opinion is founded on facts and logic. If anything, missing out on participation in a nation’s social and cultural life also implies bypassing its specific national passions and blinkers, enabling one to bring a more nuanced, dispassionate and comparative critique to the table.
But for the record, I have been to Russia numerous times and I’ve known and talked to many Russians. It is clear that many live hard lives, and that the prevalence of material poverty is much higher than in the developed world – but exactly where did I claim otherwise?
Here is a 100% subjective list of the best (and worst) designed blogs in the Russia-watching blogosphere.
My main criteria for a well-designed blog include: ergonomics (fast load, little clutter, efficient search and archives); utility (easy navigation, explanatory information, contact, social network integration) and aesthetics. I will do my best to discount ideological bias.
This is a celebration of the efforts of individual bloggers, or at most small groups of bloggers, and as such I am excluding bigger organizations, or their affiliates, like Russia Today, Other Russia and The Power Vertical. Though they do not have to focus exclusively on Russia, it certainly must figure prominently – this is after all about the Best Designed Russia Blogs. Sorry, Registan. Finally, they must be alive and contain a substantial body of work, which rules out blogs like The Parallax Brief with its minimalist elegance.
That is all. Now clear the catwalk for the beauties…
As of today, it’s been exactly one year since I started the Da Russophile blog. Although I have been aware of hostile or condescending Western attitudes towards Russia for a long time, reflected in its mass media, I was finally provoked into joining battle by a particularly annoying and dishonest ‘editorial’ on the La Russophobe hate-blog.
This was and remains its motto:
Their Thesis: the Western media tells us Russia is in a death spiral,
its economy is one giant oil bubble, suffers from endemic corruption,
inequality and lawlessness and is presided over by a KGB kleptocrat
dead-set on resurrecting the USSR and launching Cold War II.
Our Antithesis: Russia is a normal country with a booming non-hydrocarbons
economy underpinned by a well-educated and secular workforce.
The Putin administration has affirmed democratic values, worked to improve
human rights and pursued Russia’s national interests abroad.
I started off by writing serious ‘core articles’ on Reading Russia Right and Towards a New Russian Century, to demolish some common bearish stereotypes and illustrate how its inherent strengths (natural resources, a well educated population, etc) stood it in good stead for a twenty-first century characterized by economic convergence, technological growth, climate change and resource depletion.
As long time readers probably know, I’m a bit of a sucker for statistics, and I’ve recently found a site that I’ll no doubt be sucking dry from now on. Levada Center is Russia’s foremost polling company (equivalent to America’s Gallup), and releases a poll or two every workday. However, unfortunately their English language version is quite limited, so I’ll be using the Russian. I present…