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Russian Society
Culture, Demographics, Politics
May, 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.


Arts & Culture

Russian circuses need government help to survive
Russia's famed circus tradition is in danger of disappearing unless the government gives it more support, the country's top circus official said in a newspaper interview published on Friday. Mstislav Zapashny, director of the Russian State Circus Company, told the Izvestia daily that circuses "were counting very much on government support" to help them modernise and retain visitors amid changing tastes.

Russia's Winter Olympic vision for Sochi earns IOC praise
The International Olympic Committee today warmly praised Russia's preparations for the 2014Winter Olympics at the Games, to be held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, would be completed to the "highest standard."

Behind Moscow's Eurovision extravaganza, a less harmonious Russia
Two very different Russias, the paradoxical outcome of nearly 10 years of relative prosperity dubbed "the Putin era," were on full display. One Russia, keen to excel in all forms of international competition, opened its collective heart to participants of the 42-nation Eurovision contest, which climaxed Saturday night with a boisterous, standing-room-only extravagant finale in the 80,000-seat Moscow Olympisky Stadium.

Russians celebrate May Day with rallies
Workers rallied Friday in European cities to mark May Day, with tens of thousands of demonstrators across Russia supporting or slamming the government amid growing unemployment and economic troubles.

Popular Russian Ballet Dancer Dies
Prominent Russian ballet star Ekaterina Maksimova has died at the age of 70.   Maksimova was very popular in Russia and former Soviet republics for decades. Many called her the most gracious ballet dancer of the Soviet Union and later Russia.

Russia world champs in ice hockey
Russia has won the world ice hockey champs beating Canada 2-1 in Berne, their second successive final win over the same opponents.  Russia won 5-4 in overtime last year.

From Russia, With Self-Loathing
Vladimir Putin's tenure as Russian president was defined, among other things, by the parade of "It Girls" catapulted from local to global fame under his watch: young women whose unofficial job was to broadcast the exuberance, the strut, the sexual prowess of a reviving superpower.

Modern Dance and Art Bring a Burst of Color to a Gray City
But the art curators from Moscow who have embraced this military-industrial city see the setting differently: as a quirky backdrop for modern dance.

Know Thy Rulers Comment by Alexander Arkhangelsky
Having reacquired the Cinematographers' Union chairmanship, film director Nikita Mikhalkov seems to have begun taking revenge on his enemies.

Artistic Freedoms Under Fire In Russian Trial
A Moscow museum director and a prominent curator seeking to protest Russia's renewed censorship could face up to five years in prison in a criminal case that international human rights group.


Civil Society

Grassroots Effort Emerges to Fight Russian Corruption
A group of private Russian citizens is seeking to establish a network of corruption victims as a means of advancing President Dmitri Medvedev's plans to battle the country's oppressive bureaucracy and courts.

Russian lesbian couple denied marriage license
Supporters considered it a historic moment: two radiant women applied for a marriage license in a Moscow government office, claiming to be the first same-sex female couple to try to marry in Russia.

Russian Social Advertisements Campaigns Achieve Little More than Boosting the Public Mood
Russia, like many Western countries, has public awareness advertising campaigns aimed at the wholesome improvement of society. Dating back to the Soviet times, these "social ads," as they are called in Russia, have included themes from army conscription to promoting big families.

Woman appeals ban on female metro drivers
A young Russian woman will challenge regulations that ban women from driving trains on the metro after the Supreme Court rejected her legal case.

Russian official warns of dangerous growth of race-hate groups
Extremist groups in Russia including neo-Nazis are actively using the Internet to spread propaganda and recruit new members, contributing to the current rise in racist violence.

State of the World's Human Rights: Russia
Amnesty International 2009 Report on various factors impacting the state of Human Rights in Russia.

Sorry, Kids: Russia Says "Be Home By 10"
The Russian government has recently made it illegal for minors under the age of 18 to leave their homes between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. without an adult.

Woman appeals ban on female metro drivers
A young Russian woman will challenge regulations that ban women from driving trains on the metro after the Supreme Court rejected her legal case. 

Medvedev gives go ahead for 'curfew' law for under 18s
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has approved a law that could see minors effectively barred from leaving their homes without being accompanied by an adult after 10:00 p.m.

Foundation Closes International Offices
The Ford Foundation announced that because of the severe decline in its assets, it was closing its offices in Russia and Vietnam. Staff members received notification.

Russia's NGOs: strangled by red tape
On 18 April 2006 the "new law on non-commercial organisations" came into force. This involved significant changes to the activities of non-government organisations (NGOs).

The rise and rise of Russian nationalism
There have been a number of threats to Russia's security in recent years, from Chechen terrorism to the country's worrying demographic decline. But according to sources close to the Russian security services, what the authorities fear most in these times of economic crisis is the very thing that many Russians see as the country's saviour - nationalism.


Crime and Corruption

Russian officials ordered to reveal annual incomes
Russia's civil servants must now publish their yearly incomes, according to a series of decrees signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday and aimed at uprooting corruption. Those applying for public office must also reveal their incomes.

The Most Brutal Defenders
When Major Denis Yevsyukov went on a shooting spree in a Moscow supermarket late last month, the political shock waves were so severe that President Dmitry Medvedev fired the head of Moscow's police force.

Anti-Corruption Efforts In Russia Fall Short
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has made fighting corruption one of his top priorities But critics say Medvedev's pledge is only for show. They say corruption is so rife among law enforcement and government officials that Medvedev couldn't tackle the problem even if he really wanted to.

Russia's Bloggers Stand Up To Police
You see two main types of reactions in the comments to Shumm's post: One amounts to calls to take the law into his own hands and the second advocates giving the matter the maximum publicity and doing everything possible within the framework of the law.

The Russian Racket
As the newspaper reports, kidnappings among the Russian business elite have been booming in recent years, almost approaching the levels seen in the lawless days of the 1990s.

Corruption-related crime in Russia doubled in 2008
Most of the Russian officials jailed on corruption charges in 2008 were working for the police. Additionally, 1300 Russians were sentenced for accepting bribes in 2008.

Overall crime in Russia falling, organized crime rising
The number of crimes registered in Russia in 2008 (as received) is falling: it fell by nearly 10.5 per cent last year, says a report by Russian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Chayka on the strengthening of law and order in the Russian Federation in 2008.

A Mobster Trial, and a Flash of a Violent Past
Mr. Barsukov is on trial in Moscow, charged with illegal corporate raiding, extortion, fraud and attempted murder, among other crimes. His arrest by itself appears to be a victory for Russian authorities over a remaining vestige of the powerful criminal clans.



Crisis bad news for Russia's shrinking population
State-sponsored posters call for Russians to do their duty and have big families. One lining the Moscow metro shows a woman juggling three stout babies, another preaches "love for your nation, starts with the family".

Russia's Demographic Resilience
Russian demographic data for Jan-Mar 2009 and argue in more depth that the economic crisis is unlikely to have a very major negative impact on short-term fertility, or any but a very minor impact on long-term demographic trends.

Speech at Ceremony Awarding the Order of Parental Honour to Parents of Large Families
The President noted that in recent years Russia has regained its position as a major grain exporter and has become one of the top three wheat exporters in the world. Mr Medvedev stressed the importance Russia attributes to regional cooperation in this sphere, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Russia's Demographic Disaster
The current depopulation, which commenced in 1992 and is still ongoing, differs from Russia's earlier population declines in that it was precipitated by a largely bloodless event (the collapse of the Soviet Union). But the current depopulation has also been underway far longer than any previous population drop in Russian memory.

Russia's Labor Tribulations Cast Shadow Over May Day Festivities
Workers at Russia's Molot arms plant haven't seen their salaries in nearly six months. Unable to meet payroll, management has resorted to passing out food parcels to its increasingly angry and desperate employees.



Meeting with Students from Pacific National University
Excerpts from Transcript of Meeting with Students from Pacific National University.

Russia Faces a New 'Scissors' Crisis
Russia today faces a new "scissors" crisis because its economy needs more highly skilled laborers while its educational system is producing a flood of specialists with "pseudo-higher" degrees, a situation that must be addressed not only to overcome the current crisis but also to modernize the country.

Moscow's plan: Teach students to see through Kremlin spin
In Russia today, there appears to be little relief in sight for dissidents trying to break through the solid wall of Kremlin-spun news coverage.



Russia adopted climate doctrine
The Russian government has adopted a climate doctrine, which is likely to commit the country to a number of climate-friendly measures. Climate change will affect Russia more than other countries.

New Moscow Climate Doctrine Focuses on Reacting to Rather than Preventing
Russian and European environmentalists are concerned that a new Russian climate change doctrine developed without comment and now awaiting promulgation by President Dmitry Medvedev.

Russia makes major shift in climate policy
Russia's government has quietly made a drastic change to its policy on climate change, accepting that anthropogenic global warming poses severe risks and requires immediate action to limit carbon emissions.



Russian commission to guard against false history
Russia announced Tuesday it has created a commission to fight what President Dmitry Medvedev says are efforts to hurt his country by falsifying history - part of a campaign to promote the Kremlin's views and silence those who question them.

The Power Vertical  Forty Years In The Wilderness
Forty years ago today, on May 20, 1969, the human rights movement in the Soviet Union took a bold step forward. A group of 15 brave individuals – scholars, writers, historians – announced the formation of the Initiative Group for Human Rights in the USSR and sent an open letter to the UN Human Rights Commission. Eleven of the 15 were eventually arrested and imprisoned.

Russian history 2.0
The Kremlin announced the creation of a special 28-member panel tasked with examining and combating examples of "historical revisionism" that harm Russia's image.

On Great Patriotic War, Historical Truth and Our Memory
A new video blog from Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

Russia still searching for WWII dead, six decades on
Every spring, when the ground thaws, searchers fan out across Russia's vast swamps and forests armed with metal detectors, shovels and long metal probes, scouring for bones.

Rights group slams Kremlin history commission
A prominent rights group is criticizing a new government commission set up to fight what the Kremlin claims are efforts to harm Russia by rewriting history. The rights group Memorial warns that the commission could violate the Russian constitution's ban on compulsory ideology.

Russian Defence Ministry article blaming Poland for WWII condemned
As the Kremlin presses a campaign to recast Russia's 20th century history in a more favorable light, a research paper published Thursday on the Defense Ministry's Web site blamed Poland for starting World War II.

Russia Profile Weekly Experts Panel: Russia's Historical Truth Commission
Last week President Dmitry Medvedev formed a government commission on analyzing and suppressing falsifications of history to the detriment of Russia.

Speech at Opening Ceremony of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library
Today, as St Petersburg celebrates its City Day holiday, we are here to open the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library.

Access granted: log on to Russia's past
The new digital library in St. Petersburg is said to be without comparison in the world. It houses scanned copies of the entire Russian state historical archive.

Ukraine Asks Russia For Classified Documents On 1930s Famine
Ukraine's State Security Service (SBU) has officially asked Moscow to provide classified archival documents on the famine of the 1930s in Ukraine that killed millions.



Russian media decry commission against historic 'falsifications'
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's order to form a commission to defend Russia from historical "falsifications" was a throwback to Soviet times when dissent was not tolerated.

Kremlin Launches School of Bloggers
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently made a foray into Web 2.0 with the launch of his own blog. Now it looks as if the Kremlin's embrace of social media is tightening.

Facing up to an unpredictable past
We decided to do the exact opposite at The Moscow News' re-launch presentation on Friday April 24: to look at the paper's unique and often troubled past squarely in the eye - good and bad - as a way of freeing ourselves and our readers from the baggage of the past.

Freedom House Report on Russian Media
Although Russia formally elects its president, it lacks many features that are considered standard for a democratic government. Since its adoption in 1993, the Constitution has given excessive power to the executive.



Russian Shamans Vote For First Nationwide Leader
A flat in a 12-story building in Tekstilschiki, an industrial Moscow suburb, is an unlikely place for an election headquarters -- and an even unlikelier one for the hub of a shaman election. But today, shamanism is experiencing a revival in some communities, where shamans retain a privileged position as people who can speak with the spiritual world, heal others, and perform rites and rituals.

Moscow Students Invited To Work As Missionaries In USA
Metropolitan Iona, the head of the Orthodox Church in America, has invited Moscow students to work as missionaries in the United States.

Widespread protests at new Inquisition
Widespread protests by Russian religious communities and human rights defenders followed the appointment of "anti-cultists" and controversial scholars of Islam to a state body with sweeping powers to investigate religious organisations.

Russia's Knotty Policies on Islam, Mirrored in Trial
Almaz Khasanov stood up to a microphone in the green-painted cage where he and his co-defendants sit and made a statement that sent a wave of anxiety through the cramped courtroom here.

Who runs the Soviet Church? The Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church has always been a central institution for the Russian nation, never entirely losing that role, even under an official atheist regime that persecuted priests and destroyed places of worship.


Science and Space

Tensions Brew in U.S.-Russian Space Partnership
In the near future, the fate of America's manned space program rests, in part, at a massive, hangar like building outside Moscow.



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