Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Baker’s Dozen of ‘Only in Russia’ Stories

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 17 – The past week featured not only a multitude of “only in Russia” stories but also ones that more than most are instructive about the way Russia is today.  Below is a selection of 13 of them: it could have been extended almost at will.

1.      In Moscow Version of “Alice,” the Red Queen Bans Everything. Moscow’s Taganka theater is showing a version of “Alice in Wonderland” adapted to Russian realities.  In it, among other things, “the Red Queen” bans everything (

2.      Just Like in World War II, Magadan Residents Making Sausage Out of Seal Meat. Residents of the Russian Far Eastern region are not able to get enough pork or beef from the mainland and thus must make sausages out of seal meat. They say it isn’t that bad (

3.      Even Regarding Pornography, Russia Increasingly at Odds with Former Soviet Republics. Pornhub has surveyed the tastes of various peoples around the world as to the kind of pornography they prefer. On that measure as in so many others, it reports, Russia and the former Soviet republics increasingly diverge ( In Russia, a background in porn is no longer a political liability: One adult star is now running for mayor of Murmansk (

4.      Russian Protests Slow Construction of Chinese Plant on Baikal. Anger at the possibility that China will take water from Lake Baikal has sparked protests that have forced officials to suspend its construction ( and Their anger has even protested one satirical site to suggest that Transbaikal residents plan to throw trash into the lake so that the Chinese will suffer if they take the water (общество/zhiteli-irkutska-sbrasyivayut-v-baykal-nechistotyi-chtobyi-zashhitit-ozero-ot-kitaytsev/).

5.      Putin Bans Avtorkhanov’s Works Like Brezhnev but Less Effectively. In Soviet times, Leonid Brezhnev banned the works of Chechen historian Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov, and now, Vladimir Putin has done so again. But Putin’s action is proving less effective as the texts of most are on the Internet ( and

6.      Was Support for Democracy a Fashion Choice for Some Soviet Dissidents? A Moscow commentator has suggested that some dissidents in Soviet times identified with democracy not because they understood it but rather because it was a way of showing their opposition to the communist regime which opposed it and solidarity with other dissidents (

7.      Pskov Oblast Girl Who Complained to Putin Threatened by Her Fellow Villagers. A young woman in a village in Pskov oblast wrote to Putin complaining about the closure of the village school and the low pay her mother received. Initially, officials helped but then turned on her. Worse, she started getting threats from her neighbors if she ever has the temerity to wash such dirty linen in public (

8.      Beria’s Favorite Restaurant, the Aragvi, Closes. The Aragvi, a storied Moscow restaurant that Stalin’s secret police chief Lavrenty Beria helped found and regularly visited, has finally closed, the apparent victim of rising rents in its neighborhood (

9.      Moscow Publishes Biography of George Orwell. The Lives of Remarkable People series has issued a new 462-page biography of George Orwell, the British writer who satirized the horrors of communism.  It is certain to be read by some as a warning but perhaps by others as a guide to action (

10.  Russian Officials Require Protesters to Register Balloons as Drones.  In yet another move intended to make demonstrations more difficult, Russian officials are now equating balloons with drones and requiring protesters who want to release them to register them in advance (  

11.  Only One Russian in 200 is a Practicing Orthodox Christian, Priest in Tatarstan Says. An archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate says that only one half of one percent of the population consists of practicing Orthodox Christians ( If that figure is correct, there are already far more practicing Muslims in Russia than practicing Orthodox. But one important Russian is giving a good impression of being among the latter: Vladimir Putin has promised to pay for an icon in the new cathedral of the Russian army (

12.  20 Percent of Russian Villages have No People in Them.  Twenty percent of the Russian villages designated on official maps have no permanent residents, the result of the flight of more than 2.5 million villagers to the cities and high mortality among those who have not over the last 25 years ( and ).

13.   Parents in Toliatti Upset Their Children Now Have to Pay for Toilet Paper in Schools. Pupils in the schools of Toliatti now have to pay for any toilet paper and soap they use, and their parents are outraged ( They are not the only people who are having a hard time in Putin’s Russia. An international comparison found that Moscow ranks 167th as a place to live for expats (

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