Monday, February 11, 2019

A Baker’s Dozen of Russian Stories Too Strange Not to Be True

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 10 – Every day brings new stories from Russia that are too strange not to be true and that nonetheless reveal important aspects of reality there that more normal and mainstream stories fail to capture. Below is a very incomplete listing of 13 such stories from the past week alone:

1.      Jehovah’s Witnesses Want Brutal Punishments to Make Russia Look Bad. Russia’s leading “sect fighters” say that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are delighted with the tough sentences Russian courts are handing down because that allows them to make Russia look bad ( and

2.      In Russia, Bears Really are Coming Out of the Woods.  The authorities on Novaya Zemlya have had to declare a state of emergency because bears are coming into populated areas spreading havoc and fears among Russians living there (

3.      Officials Want to Kill Economics Textbook Because Its Examples are ‘Insufficiently Patriotic.’ Russian officials say that a school economics text must be withdrawn because the examples it uses to make its points are “insufficiently patriotic,” perhaps the best indication of just how far Putin’s hurrah patriotism has spread (

4.      One Russian in Five at Risk from Unsafe Elevators. In Soviet times, elevators frequently did not work; now, more of them may operate but in ways that put as many as 20 percent of their users at risk of life and limb (

5.      Russians Registered Abroad Said at Risk of Losing Patronymics. Russian nationalists are upset that Moscow is issuing passports to Russians living abroad in countries where official documents do not include patronymics are not putting patronymics in their Russian passports. The foreign ministry has promised to look into the matter (

6.      It Must be Something in the Water. Journalists have discovered that a large number of prominent Russian officials and businessmen come from a single village in Karacheyvo-Cherkessia, likely the result not of the water but of the importance of family ties (

7.      Female Prisoners Stripped of Underwear as Punishment in Mordvinian Camps. Ever more information about the inhuman conditions in some Russian prison facilities continues to surface. Among the worst comes from special camps for women where inmates are sometimes deprived of their underwear when put in punishment blocks (

8.      Russian Mint Shows Solovetsky Not as Church but as GULAG Prison on 500 Ruble Notes. Many Russians were pleased when the Russian mint put a picture of the Solovetsky monastery on the obverse of the 500 ruble bank  note, but their happiness turned to anger when they realized that the churches were shown without crosses, an indication that what is pictured right on the money is not a religious center but a notorious GULAG camp from Soviet times (

9.      Last Chechen Abrek Fought for 40 Years.  Russians who think the Chechens will lay down their arms at a show of force should be disturbed by a new report that a Chechen abrek, as some Robin Hood-type fighters were known there in late imperial and early Soviet times, continued to fight for 40 years before he was finally caught in the 1970s (

10.  Is Nothing Sacred? Three reports this week suggest that perhaps nothing in Russia is: first, to hide price rises, distillers are now bottling vodka in smaller bottles, 0.4 liters rather than 0.5 (; someone stole a picture of Vladimir Putin at an exhibition (; and a report has surfaced that Patriarch Kirill’s election as head of the Russian Orthodox Church was rigged in advance (

11.  Russian Roads Getting Ever More Violent. In an indication that there are more problems on Russian roads besides potholes, some long-haul drivers east of the Urals say that they are arming themselves to protect against attacks by those who may want to steal the cargoes they are carrying (

12.  Nearly a Third of Last Year’s University Graduates Couldn’t Find Jobs. According to the Russian government, 28 percent of those who received degrees at Russian universities last year have been unable to find employment, yet another sign of the economic difficulties in that country (

13.  ‘I am not rude: I am Russian.’ Many Londoners find the Russians who have moved there do not live according to English manners. The response of some Russians is simple, one Moscow outlet suggests. They must say “I am not rude: I am Russian” (

No comments:

Post a Comment