Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Baker’s Dozen of Other Russian Stories from the Last Week

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 20 – Day in and day out, Russia continues to generate remarkable stories that taken together help to form a picture of that country as it is rather than how many would like it to be. They point in various directions, reflecting the enormous diversity of all kinds there. Below is a selection of 13 instructive stories from the last week alone:

1.      Lenin Making a Comeback in Yekaterinburg. Most of the stories about monuments in Russia concern the demolition of Soviet-era ones or the erection of memorials to those the Soviets would never have honored. But this week, in the center of Yekaterinburg, a city most associate with Boris Yeltsin, officials announced plans to erect three memorial centers in which Lenin will figure prominently (

2.      Two-Thirds of Russians Don’t Believe You Can Do Business in Russia Honestly. More than 60 percent of Russians say that it is impossible to do business in Russia and remain honest and almost exactly the same number declare that they have no interest in going into business as a result ( and

3.      Russian Soldiers Banned from Using Smart Phones. In the name of national security, Russian commanders have banned soldiers from having smart phones with which they might take selfies or pictures of military equipment (

4.      Highest Paid Russian Rector Paid 370 Times What Lowest Receives. Income inequality has hit Russian higher education at least as hard as other sectors.  According to a new survey, the highest paid rector in the country, in St. Petersburg, currently receives 370 times as much as the lowest paid, in the provinces (

5.      Two Russian Cultural “Ties” for the Price of One. An enterprising alcohol producer has come up with a way to offer Russians two “ties” of their national life together all at once. In Krasnoyarsk, he is selling vodka in church-shaped bottles, to the anger of some in the church but to the amusement of many others who see this as an oblique comment on the church and on Putin’s talk about cultural “ties” (

6.      Environmental Contamination in Russia has Soared Under Putin. Ecological activists say that the level of air, water, and land contamination in Russia has soared under Vladimir Putin with dangerous chemicals now to be found at levels several orders of magnitude higher than before he came to office (

7.      Fearful Russians Increasingly Turn to Fortune Tellers for Reassurance. As Russians have lost confidence in the future, ever more of them are turning to fortune tellers to provide them with some reassurance that the future is not as uncertain as they feel it to be (

8.      A Statistic a Stalinist Could Love: 97.5 Percent of Russians Weren’t Ever Repressed. Defenders of the Soviet dictator love to argue that only a very few people were actually victims of Stalin’s repressions. The latest offering in this regard is by one who insists that 97.5 percent of Soviet citizens weren’t ever repressed or related to anyone who was.  That isn’t true – the real share of victims was far higher – but it is the kind of statistic that tends to have a life of its own ( 

9.      KPRF Wants Law Punishing Officials for Insulting the Population. In response to a United Russia drive to impose penalties on those who criticize the government, the KPRF has come up with an alternative proposal: it wants a law banning any criticism by the authorities of the Russian population (

10.  Stavropol Police Set Up a Bordello and Make a Fortune. Russian investigators have finally caught up with a group of policemen in Stavropol kray who are supplementing their income by operating a bordello. They have done so well, one can guess, because unlike others who operate such facilities, they can be sure there won’t be any police raids (

11.  Head of Academy of Sciences Wants Russians to Take IQ Tests When They Get Physicals.  Aleksandr Sergeyev, the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says that IQ tests should become a required part of the medical examinations Russians normally undergo (

12.  More than Half of Russians Say They’ve Been Threatened with Offensive Pictures of Themselves Online. The spread of the Internet in Russia has created a new class of victims in that country: more than half of Russians say that they have been threatened with the posting of offensive pictures of themselves unless they meet the demands of those making the threats (

13.  Grozny Now a Medical Mecca for Russia’s Muslims. Ramzan Kadyrov may choose to go abroad for treatments, but over the last few years, officials say, some 1.5 million Muslims from various parts of the Russian Federation have made their way to the Chechen capital to get medical care (

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