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Russian Society
Culture, Demographics, Politics
February, 2009

The following resource is meant to quickly introduce the reader to everyday life in Russia: how Russians live, study, relax, and worship. This news review is part of SRAS's monthly "obzor" publications. For more reviews, see the newsletter for this corresponding month.

To receive the free monthly newsletter and obzori by email, simply sign up.


Art, Film

Bob Van Ronkel, Hollywood's Man in Moscow
My job is definitely a fantasy, and it's a business I knew nothing about before moving to Russia. Imagine: anytime your phone rings it could be Steven Seagal, Mickey Rourke, Pamela Anderson, or one of your other friends from Hollywood.

Moscow Art Fair Postponed as Russia's Rich Curb Purchases
"Art Moscow", one of Russia's biggest contemporary-art fairs, has been postponed to September to tap a crowd headed for a larger exhibition, as falling oil prices and squeezed credit quell art purchases among the nation's rich.

Inhabited Island's director in dire straits
Fyodor Bondarchuk, director of the recently released domestic blockbuster "Obitayemy Ostrov" ("Inhabited Island"), and his company Art Pictures are facing financial problems, Ekho Moskvy radio station reported.

Art house's plans on show
The New Tretyakov Gallery is displaying its own redevelopment plans in the form of an exhibition. As part of the presentation, registered local residents and neighbourhood workers are invited to express their opinions about the planned changes.

Cruise launches movie in Russia
Actor Tom Cruise said on Monday his role as a WWII officer in the new thriller Valkyrie, based on the 1944 plot to kill Hitler, had given him the chance to fulfill a childhood dream of visiting Russia.


Civ Society

Beset By A Million Bureaucrats
In establishing the Kremlin's control, we lost our freedom of the press. Now the challenge is to expand democracy.

Boozing pilots and bad PR
A furore over whether an Aeroflot pilot attempted to fly a flight to New York while blind drunk proved good fun for the Western media, but showed how badly some Russian companies handle their PR.

Putin's "Power Vertical" Doesn't Leave Other Ties to Keep Russia Together
Not unlike the case of the USSR, the current economic crisis threatens to bring already badly strained internal ties to the breaking point.

Khodorkovsky back in Moscow for new trial: court
Russia has transferred oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to Moscow from a Siberian prison, officials said Tuesday, ahead of a new trial his defence fears could keep him in jail for two more decades.

The street turns left
While many thousands of protesters took to the streets in cities across Russia last weekend, their bewildering array of causes, tactics and popular support varied wildly.

On the streets with Russia's protesters
With all signs pointing to protracted hard times, Russians have begun taking to the streets. On Jan. 31, thousands of Russians demonstrated against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev in Vladivostok, Moscow, and other cities.

Russian "prisoner of conscience" facing dismissal
A Russian school teacher described by Amnesty International as a possible prisoner of conscience said on Thursday she had been ordered to resign her job as punishment for opposing the Kremlin.

The Danger of Downloading
In reality, it is almost impossible for the average computer user to not violate some copyright law every time he is on the Internet.

Russian parents complain about singing anthem in school
Parents of schoolchildren from the town of Lobnya some 27 km (16 miles) north of Moscow have complained about children being made to sing the national anthem in school.

How We Assess Civil Society Developments
Recent assessments of Russia's civil society development have been universally negative: when Vladimir Putin was president, he is alleged to have squashed civil society as part of a "rollback" of democracy.

If Conditions are So Bad, Why Are So Few Russians in the Streets?
More than 100,000 Russians took part in demonstrations over the weekend for and against Moscow's economic policies, but in the case of most of these actions – except those organized by the pro-government party "United Russia," there were, in the words of one observer, "more journalists than participants."

Tariff Protests in Eastern Port Rattle Kremlin
The car dealers' demonstrations in Vladivostok in the past two months have drawn thousands of people, more than events sponsored anywhere in Russia by liberal opponents of Vladimir V. Putin.

Al Evans: Comment on civil society
Most serious problems of NGOs in Russia are not imposed by the government, but result from economic conditions and the attitudes of the population.

Russians Should Ask Themselves 'Who's Paying Whom?'
Should Russians embrace President Dmitry Medvedev's hints at liberalization, or demand more?


Russia's Medvedev Slams Prosecutors After Politkovskaya Trial
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Wednesday slammed prosecutors for poor work with juries, after they failed to convict four men accused of organizing the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Prosecutors vow to catch Politkovskaya killers
Russian state prosecutors vowed on Tuesday to catch the killers of journalist Anna Politkovskaya despite a court's acquittal last week of the only three men so far charged in the 2006 murder.

Politkovskaya suspect says he was asked to lie
The alleged organizer of the 2006 murder of reporter Anna Politkovskaya claims investigators urged him to falsely incriminate either Chechnya's president or a prominent Kremlin foe, according to a defense lawyer at the trial.

Politkovskaya murder hunt reopens
A Russian judge has ordered a new investigation into the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, following the acquittal of three men.

Fear and Mourning at Novaya Gazeta
The dead loom over the morning editorial meeting at Russia's leading investigative newspaper. Novaya Gazeta's staff is trying to plan the next issue and editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov is in an understandably foul mood.

Defendant in Politkovskaya case retracts statement
A former Federal Security Service officer charged with revealing the address of journalist Anna Politkovskaya to her suspected killers has retracted his earlier statement in court, claiming he was under pressure.

Politkovskaya Suspect "Pressured to Lie"
The alleged organizer of the 2006 murder of reporter Anna Politkovskaya claims investigators urged him to falsely incriminate either Chechnya's president or a prominent Kremlin foe, according to a defense lawyer at the trial.



Russia releases draft health-care plan
Last month, the Russian Government drafted a health-care blueprint for the next 12 years to reduce the country's punishing mortality rate and increase longevity.

Russian Authorities Back Pro-life Center Plan
Government wants to see more births.

Experts Unveil Program for Healthy, Affordable Nutrition
As the global financial crisis shows little sign of abating, the Russian Nutrition Research Institute and Russian Consumers' Watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, have developed a new "economical" nutrition program for different age groups of the population.

For migrant workers, crisis is hitting hard
The economic crisis has led to the halting of construction work on sites across Moscow and the rest of Russia, forcing the unemployment of tens of thousands of migrants from the poorest countries of the former Soviet Union.

A match made in…Russia
But what… an American woman, for instance, finding a Russian husband and whisking him westwards or a foreign woman coming to Russia for her man?

Russia's Recession Squeezes Migrants
Millions of foreigners, lured by oil boom, now face bias in ethnic backlash.

Love takes a beating in crisis-hit Russia: poll
The global financial crisis has officially arrived in Russia: in the country of Pushkin and Tolstoy, fewer men and women admit they are in love this year, and only one in five are dating.

Newborn Death Rate Now Five Times Higher in Russia than in Europe.
Even as the Moscow trumpets an uptick in the number of births in 2008, Russian medical experts report that illness among Russian newborns increased by five percent over the same period, that only one Russian newborn in ten is fully healthy, and that the death rate among them is now five times that of this cohort in European countries.



Only for Those With a Calling: A Career in Teaching
Teachers' mistakes are less noticeable, but ultimately cost people as dearly as those of doctors.

More than 100 Languages in Russia at Risk of Disappearing, UNESCO Says
The UN projections for the situation in the Russian Federation are truly disturbing, and they have attracted the attention of the Moscow media and, one hopes, the Russian government.

Dmitry Medvedev on Higher Education
My first proposal is to expand and develop the student loan system. We have already drawn up a normative document setting out provisions in accordance with which student loans can be accorded to students who show good results in their studies and display a normal level of knowledge.



Former ambassador discusses Cold War
Former Ambassador Jack Matlock had sharp words for recent U.S. policy toward Russia.

Afghanistan: Lessons from Soviet Withdrawal
According to Russian general, force will accomplish nothing in Afghanistan, and increasing or decreasing troop strength will only bring a negative result. The best way to deal with Afghans is to reach an agreement with them.

Lincoln and Alexander II ­ the two liberators
On Thursday, the U.S. celebrates its 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, known for abolishing slavery in the country. Halfway across the globe Russian Tsar Alexander II also dreamt of freedom for the serfs.

Moscow again eyes Afghanistan 20 years after retreat
Fearful that US failure there could unleash the Taliban and other Islamist insurgencies, Russia may help NATO open a supply line through former Soviet territory.

Russia still haunted by Afghan ghosts, 20 years on
Russia on Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan, haunted by its catastrophic war against Islamists and convinced the trauma harbours lessons for Western forces today.

The Andropov Perestroika: A View from Below
An excerpt from Sergei Roy's unpublished work, Collapse of the Colossus. Its publication is pegged to the 25th anniversary of the death of Yuri Andropov, the Soviet leader in 1982-1984 ¬ according to some, one of the most mysterious Soviet rulers.

Medvedev orders precise Soviet WWII death toll
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered officials to determine the precise Soviet death toll in World War II as the nation marked the 65th anniversary of the battle that broke the Nazi siege of Leningrad.

Reagan, Gorbachev and Bush at Governor's Island
Previously Secret Documents from Soviet and U.S. Files On the 1988 Summit in New York, 20 Years Later.

Battle For Russia's Past
The case has more to do with the country's history than with Memorial's own story. Why did the security services want to punish Memorial?

Author claims political pressure behind cancellation of Stalin book
The company said it was shelving plans to publish a Russian translation of the work due to "the present economic situation".



Dangerous words
Journalism and its discontents in Moscow

Despite murders, campaigning newspaper hopes to soldier on
After several years of the authorities doing little or nothing to protect journalists' safety and prevent hate crimes, the Kremlin meeting was a welcome surprise.

Over 150 journalists have been murdered in Russia during the past 15 years
A commentary on the recent interview by Major-General Gribakin.

Russia's Free Press Hoax
What's the hoax here? It's the idea that there was actually a free press to stifle or kill. In reality, there was none.

Jury acquits defendants in Politkovskaya murder
A jury acquitted three men on Thursday of involvement in the murder of a journalist whose shooting underlined the risks Kremlin critics face in Russia.

Going Beyond the Mainstream Media's Agenda
The mainstream media's inordinate focus on blaming these murders on the Kremlin and Putin personally, means alternative explanations and prospective suspects will largely be ignored by our media.

Politkovskaya murder trial postponed until Feb. 3
A RIA Novosti correspondent reported from the courtroom that the adjournment is due to a jurywoman failing to appear in court because her child had a routine medical checkup.

Ignored in Translation
It always surprises me how little attention the Russian press pays to the Western world



Kremlin plans to hand over property to religious groups
Russia plans to change the ownership structure of property used by religious groups, a move that could make the Orthodox Church a major real estate owner and cut budget spending.

Contact With Pope Uncertain
The next head of the Russian Orthodox Church will only meet the Roman Catholic Pope if tensions between the two faiths are resolved, the front-runner to become the new Russian patriarch said.

Kirill's Vision of a Great Russia
Russia is a conundrum. On one hand, it is a profoundly secularized society in which traditional religious practice is sporadic and often superficial. This abandonment of the country's traditional Orthodox faith is in part due to the period of state atheism from 1918 to 1991 and the subsequent 18 years of nihilism in which idealism is as out of fashion as religious belief. But on the other hand, Russian society longs for political idealism and religious faith.

New Patriarch Targets Youth, Unity
Patriarch Kirill, the new leader of the world's 160 million Russian Orthodox, pledged at his enthronement on Sunday to keep his church united, recruit the young and open up to dialogue with "sister churches."

The Impossible That Is Real
Here is a humble request for the new Holy Patriarch. Please talk to the people, and not just the religious ones, about the fact that we cannot go anywhere without this faith. Breathe the air of creativity into them. Show them an example of unfading hope.

Speech in Honour of Senior Clergy
This election of a new Patriarch found the Church strong, having restored its integrity and canonical unity.

Russia's ambitious new Patriarch
So what of Russia's new Patriarch Kirill? The man behind the Church's extraordinary overseas revival since the fall of communism is complex and contradictory, says Geraldine Fagan. But that is what's needed to lead the Russian Orthodox Church.


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