Voices from Russia

Saturday, 31 March 2012

What the Brief Life of Anya Shkaptsova Can Teach Us

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I write a fluffy column about trends. I don’t want to write about child murderers. However, when the kind of domestic violence that leads to the death of a child is itself a trend… I can’t stay silent. The initial “disappearance” of 9-month-old Anya Shkaptsova shocked the town of Bryansk… and the whole of Russia. Anya’s 19-year-old mother, Svetlana, claimed that she left the child outside for a few minutes in her stroller in order to be able to visit a shop, and that when she came out, both the stroller and child were gone.

Ever since the 2010 disappearance of little Liza Fomkina and her mentally-ill aunt ended in tragedy in Moscow Oblast (the child and her aunt got lost in the woods and froze to death… the search effort was criticised for being poorly organised), the Russian public has reacted strongly to the issue of children gone missing. A volunteer organisation, Liza Alert, has helped reunite many kids with their parents. Therefore, when little Anya went “missing” on 11 March, both volunteers and the police mobilised quickly. Everyone with access to any kind of Russian media outlet became familiar with a picture of baby Anya in her pink jacket. Police reported that 20 unrelated crimes were solved as the result of the effort to find Anya (I don’t know if I have a lot of faith in the numbers the police throw out during times like these, but I like to retain some faith in the notion that sometimes people are honest).

Then, police discovered that Anya was killed “in the course of a family dispute”. Investigators said that her mother and her mother’s boyfriend had confessed. The baby died on 2 March, her body transported out of town and burned. They made up the fake kidnapping story to cover up what really happened. Neighbours told the prosecutor’s office that Anya’s parents performed repair work in the apartment, possibly to clean up the murder scene. There’s every reason to believe that Anya’s death wasn’t accidental. According to one report, Aleksandr Kulagin, Svetlana’s boyfriend, who may or may not be the biological father of the child, first beat up the mother, and, then, hit the baby so hard that it died from injuries a day later. Svetlana listened to Aleksandr, who demanded that she get no medical help for the baby. She listened to Aleksandr when he told her that they would cover up the crime together.

Once the initial shock passed, the wave of anger began. A lot of that anger is directed towards the mother. How could she? People scream. How could she? Yet, in our heart of hearts, we know that there are many mothers like Svetlana out there… growing up, they were taught that there is nothing too unusual about living with a violent man. They heard the saying, “If he hits you, it means he loves you”. They’re broken people, raised in broken families… and they go on to break their own children, or to watch, as their children are broken. Statistics say that one in four families in Russia experiences some form of domestic violence. I don’t know what the statistics are on women who remain loyal to their abusers… even when said abusers commit crimes as horrific as what Aleksandr Kulagin did… but I’m willing to bet they’re pretty high. The very nature of an abusive relationship often depends on a twisted bond that demands allegiance from the victim.

As the mother of an infant, I want to believe that Svetlana Shkaptsova had a choice. That she could have taken the baby and made a run for it. Nevertheless, would the neighbours have listened if she knocked on their doors? Would an ambulance have come if she called it from the street? Would the police have paid any attention to what was going on in that household before it was too late to save Anya’s life? Was there anyone that Svetlana could’ve realistically turned to? Yet, I’ve also listened to the taping of her crying over the phone, demanding to know “who could have possibly taken the baby”. It’s very well done, this crying. It’s convincing. It seems this young woman made her choice a long time ago. At 19-years-old, perhaps, she thought her baby was too demanding. Perhaps she didn’t see herself as a mother at all… and going to bat for the sake of her child’s murderer only seemed natural.

Moreover, what of the killer himself? What kind of a person takes his rage out on a helpless baby? Was he trying to teach Svetlana a lesson when he killed the child? Did he see the baby as an obstacle, a drain on his resources? People like Aleksandr Kulagin are beyond broken… and they often display warning signs that the people around them simply summarily ignore. It takes a crime of an enormous magnitude before anyone realises that, holy crap, the Kulagins of this world should not be allowed anywhere near children. The inventiveness with which Kulagin attempted to cover up the murder also leads me to believe that the guy has a cool head after all. He may have killed Anya during a fight… but he was probably hoping to get rid of her for some time. From everything I’ve read about this case, it seems that Anya was doomed from the start… both because of her parents, and because Russian society still largely treats domestic abuse as a “private matter”, as opposed to something criminal.

I like to think that this is changing. I see a lot of kindness around me, not the least via such organisations as Liza Alert. I want, I need, this kindness to keep growing… as we all do. Otherwise, what’s the point of anything at all? Liza Alert’s website was updated to acknowledge the fact that little Anya no longer needs volunteers to search for her. At the end of their message, there is a note… “Forgive the adults, little child”.

30 March 2012

Natalia Antonova

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/columnists/20120330/172492089.html

Editor’s Note:

Is there anything that I hate? Yes… I hate child abuse… I hate those who make excuses for child abuse even more… but most of all, I hate those who cover up child abuse “for the good of the Church” (or, to “protect” a clergyman). There’s a specially-cold corner of Hell for such people (with more than one mitred occupant, to be sure)…

I’m for protecting our children… now, THAT’S “Pro-Life”…

BMD

Gallup: the Top “Most Religious” and “Least Religious” States in the USA

A map showing levels of religiosity in the USA

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Gallup released another one of its trademark surveys, this time exploring which states are the “most” and “least” religious. Does it surprise you that Gallup found the majority of those identifying as “very religious” in the South (the “Bible Belt”)? Gallup’s Frank Newport wrote, “Mississippi’s the most religious US state, and it’s one of eight states where Gallup classifies at least half of the residents as ‘very religious’”. Of course, there’s an exception to the “Southern rule”. As we’re sure you’ve already noticed, and despite the fact that it’s surrounded by states that are either “average” or “below average” in religiosity, Utah’s the second most religious state in the country. Newport stated, “Coupled with the Southern states in the high-religiosity category is Utah, the majority of whose residents are Mormon… the most religious group in America today”.

Gallup’s Top Ten “Most Religious” US States (percentage identifying as “Very Religious”):

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, the “least religious” states in the USA are primarily located in New England. Does that surprise anyone either? Newport observed, “Vermont and New Hampshire are the least religious states, and are two of the five states… along with Maine, Massachusetts, and Alaska… where less than 30 percent of all residents are ‘very religious’”.

Gallup’s Top Ten “Least Religious” US States (percentage identifying as “Very Religious”):

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So how did Gallup go about putting together this report? That is, what does Gallup mean by “very religious” and how does one qualify as such? Newport explained, “Gallup classifies 40 percent of Americans nationwide as very religious… based on their statement that religion’s an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. Another 32 percent of Americans are nonreligious, based on their statement that religion isn’t an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining 28 percent of Americans are moderately religious, because they say religion’s important, but that they don’t attend services regularly or because they say religion isn’t important, but still attend services”.

Gallup’s Level of Religiosity in the USA by State:

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However, why is there a huge discrepancy between the Southern states and New England? Apparently, it has to do with “state culture”. The Gallup report stated, “Gallup research has shown that these state differences appear to be part of a ‘state culture’ phenomenon, and aren’t the result of differences in the underlying demographics or religious identities in the states”. It appears that there’s something about the culture and normative structure of a state, no doubt based partly on that state’s history, which affects its residents’ propensity to attend religious services and to declare that religion is important in their daily lives.

So, what’s the takeaway? What did we learn from Gallup? Their report observed, “America remains a generally religious nation, with more than two-thirds of the nation’s residents classified as very or moderately religious. These overall national averages, however, conceal dramatic regional differences in religiosity across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Of course, there are political implications”. Religion is related to politics in today’s America, and it is clear from a glance at Gallup’s map posted above that the “most religious” states in the union generally are the most Republican, whilst the “least religious” states skew more toward the Democratic Party. This means that the most divided states… and, thus, those where most of the heavy-duty campaigning in this year’s presidential election will be taking place… are the ones where residents tend to be neither at the very religious nor at the nonreligious end of the spectrum. That is, President Obama shouldn’t worry about winning over Vermont as much as he should worry about Ohio. Likewise, whoever the GOP nominee is, he probably shouldn’t waste too much time campaigning in Maine, and should focus more on, say, Arizona.

29 March 2012

Becket Adams

The Blaze

Yahoo News

http://news.yahoo.com/gallup-top-5-most-religious-least-religious-states-221709284.html

Editor’s Note:

This is a crook survey due to poorly-conceived questions and crank presuppositions on the part of the pollsters. To start with, it disregards the differences inherent in two planes. We have Christian vs Non-Christian standards, and Sectarian vs Normative Christian standards. For instance, in New York and California, there are higher levels of non-Christian believers, whose definitions of “religiosity” aren’t those of the Gallup Poll. In addition, “Catholic” (i.e. Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican) believers tend not to be weekly attendees, for normal Sunday attendance amongst “Catholics” tends to average out at one in six. What this survey shows in bold relief is not religion vs irreligion, but rather Normative Christianity vs Sectarian “Evangelicalism”. Every state in the Top Ten has a Sectarian majority amongst believers… amongst the Bottom Ten, some are secular (in the West) and New York/New England are more “Catholic”, thus, having fewer weekly attendees.

My submission is that Sectarianism has secular and political ramifications. Let’s look at a map below of state acceptance of corporal punishment in the schools:

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It’s interesting how the permissibility of corporal punishment and Gallup’s “most religious” status so often coincide. This is due to the tenets of Sectarianism (and these odd tenets do set Sectarians apart from Christians). To begin with, we have the strange idea of salvation current amongst Sectarians… that one “gives one’s heart to Jayzuss”… for a group that hollers so loudly about its adherence to Scripture, such a phrase is unknown to the Bible. Jayzuss is NOT the same as the Lord Christ worshipped by Christians. Jayzuss smiles at violence, Jayzuss hates all gays and degenerates, and his votaries are to attack all those who only seem “threatening”, not only all those who differ from them in doctrine, but in lifestyle as well. In states with Sectarian majorities, one finds over-permissive gun laws, and “stand your ground” laws.

This is due to the aggressive subculture of the original settlers of the American South, exacerbated by the Slave Culture of Antebellum Dixie. Evangelicalism is a religious apologia for racism, a vicious capitalism that would make Jay Gould blush, and a violent armed attitude to life. This isn’t “religious” in the least, and the fact that such people attend services weekly and “tithe” doesn’t redeem it in the least. If you want a key to the region, look at the history of Texas. Anglo settlers went to Texas and brought their slaves with them. When Mexico abolished slavery, the settlers refused to follow the law and revolted. Anglo society in Texas lionises these slave-holding insurrectionists to this day. These people don’t really believe in laws; they believe in personal revenge and “honour”, they would’ve refused to abolish slavery had it occurred via legislative fiat by the Congress.

Here’s another telling map… it’s of the regions that suck most on the Federal tit:

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From the top, let’s leave Alaska and Hawaii to the side… they’re special cases, requiring special outlays. However, do notice that Alaska is on the “plus” side of the ledger, meaning that Sarah Palin took all the federal bucks that she could lay her hands on… that does blow her “conservative” pretensions all to hell, doesn’t it? Do notice that the Sectarian-majority states with their rants of “personal responsibility” are first in line at the Fed’s slop chute. In short, they’re hypocritical liars and smarmy poseurs. That’s “most religious”… do excuse me, as I hurl!

Sometimes, even bad surveys serve a purpose, as does this one. For instance, there was a crook survey just published by the Ecumenical Patriarchate claiming all sorts of crank notions… I’m going to go after that one after I study an independent academic survey more thoroughly (for instance, it undercounted Native Orthodox in Alaska, and, probably, over-counted Greeks). It does have a good moment or two, though. To return to the Gallup Survey, it does show us where the Sectarians are strongest, and where the Radical Republican Redoubt will be after the Obama Landslide this fall. Make no mistake on it… the GOP’s now so heavily tied to Sectarian crazies that it’s becoming a regional and confessional faction. However, that’s another post…

BMD

Russian Painter Eduard Shteynberg Died in Paris

The Land of Fisa Zaitseva

Eduard Shteynberg

1989

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Dedicated to Rothko

Eduard Shteynberg

1999

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Russian art suffered a great loss. Eduard Shteynberg, an avant-garde artist of the “second wave”, died in Paris in the last days of March. Shteynberg once said, “I can’t say that I’m on the right track, but what’s truth? It’s a word, an image. Camus wrote a wonderful philosophical essay, The Myth of Sisyphus… an artist pulls a stone up a mountain, then, he falls down, but he raises the stone and drags it again… that’s the pendulum of my life”. One of the most famous Russian nonconformist-artists, Shteynberg didn’t receive a formal art education. He learned painting from his father Arkady Shteynberg, who was a poet and an artist, a graduate of the Supreme State Artistic and Technical Workshops. In 1937, the Chekists arrested Arkady on a charge of being an “enemy of the people”, and, after he returned from the camps, he settled in Tarusa, one of the centres of the unofficial counterculture in the 1950s. Shteynberg himself recounted that Russian avant-garde art, firstly, Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism, influenced his development as a painter, saying, “I didn’t discover anything new, I only gave the Russian avant-garde another perspective. What perspective? Rather religious. My spatial geometric structures are based on ancient catacomb wall paintings and, of course, icon painting”.

He didn’t approve of art that drew its inspiration from technology, from new media. He believed that a painter must work with initial elements of painting. Simple geometric forms, colour, and rhythm are the only things needed for creating harmony. In the 1960s, only a narrow circle of admirers of modern art knew of Shteynberg’s oeuvre… the official Soviet art world didn’t recognise his “abstract icon painting”. Not being a member of the Union of Artists, he didn’t have the opportunity to exhibit his works. Besides that, he didn’t have any hope for any government contracts. Sometimes, only foreign journalists and diplomats looked him up and bought his works. At that time, he couldn’t even imagine that, in forty years, he’d be an academician of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts, with his paintings exhibited in the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian Museum, New York‘s Guggenheim Museum, and in major galleries in Europe, and that his paintings would bring astronomical sums of money at sales at the world’s most famous auction houses.

In 1990s, he moved abroad. For some time, he lived in München, and, then, settled in Paris, but he never considered himself an émigré… he always had two addresses on his business card… in Paris and in Tarusa. He died on 28 March. Journalist and artist Galina Ackerman said, “He was seriously ill for many years, he had cancer, and he had several operations. All the time, he longed to leave the hospital. He celebrated his 75th birthday at home, and, in general, he lived the way he wanted until his last day. He even had time to dictate dialogues about his life in Paris; the book will be published soon. Only two days ago, he went to a café with a friend and they drank wine. That evening, he felt sick. Immediately, they transported him to hospital, and he died there in his sleep”.

 31 March 2012

Armen Aprisian

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_03_31/70249782/

Editor’s Note:

The Russian spiritual renaissance is so deep that it affected even the seemingly “unchurched” such as Shteynberg. In like manner, American secular godlessness is so ingrained that it affects even the so-called “religious”, if they don’t take a care. You can see it clearly in “Evangelicals” (INCLUDING Mormons, JWs, and SDAs) and rightwing Catholics such as Santorum. We’re infected, too, and we have quite a job to do. You can see it in the konvertsy set in the OCA… the Church is NOT a rightwing “Culture War” establishment! However, the people enmeshed in these delusionary movements can’t see reality… show tolerance to them whilst you show no mercy to the demonic ideology they spout.

Remember, God’s going to save whom He wills to, not those who demand entrée as a right! Think on that… honest people like Shteynberg will enter the Kingdom before the likes of smarmy poseurs such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (Rev Billy WILL make it for sure… he’s genuine)…

BMD

Is US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul in Danger?

 

McFaul should get real… for instance, invasive publishers like Rupert Murdoch aren’t in Russia, but they’re rife in the West. After one looks at the late News of the World and Fox News Channel, one realises that NTV was pretty tame. Get a life, Mikey… and stop instigating the local soreheads. If the Russian Ambassador did that in the USA, he’d be arrested… and rightly so.

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On Friday, the USA formally complained to Moscow about possible danger to Ambassador Michael McFaul, a day after he described Russia as a “wild country” and charged repeatedly that a state-run broadcaster there may be hacking his e-mail, spying on his telephone conversations, and tracking his movements. The US State Department said in a terse written statement, “We’ve raised our concerns about the Ambassador’s security with the Russian government”. On Thursday, McFaul, a key architect of US President Barack Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia, took to his Twitter feed  to charge that reporters with the Kremlin-controlled NTV television were stalking him and openly wondered how they obtained his confidential unpublished schedule. In a Tweet, he said, “Everywhere I go NTV’s there. Wonder who gives them my calendar? They wouldn’t tell me. Wonder what the laws are here for such things?” in another Tweet, he noted, “I respect press’ right to go anywhere & ask any question. But do they have a right to read my e-mail and listen to my phone?”

Also on Thursday, McFaul also made waves by engaging in a combative five-minute exchange in Russian with an NTV camera crew as he was on his way to a meeting with a human rights activist and critic of the Kremlin, Lev Ponomaryov. Agence France-Presse reported that McFaul said, “For me, this is a very serious question because this is against the Geneva Convention if you are going to get information from my telephone or my BlackBerry. This is a wild country, it turns out. This isn’t normal. It doesn’t happen in our country, it doesn’t happen in Britain, in Germany, in China. Only here, and only with you”. In the footage, a reporter seen on camera told him she heard of the meeting from “open sources” without specifying. McFaul later clarified his remarks on Twitter, saying, “Just watched NTV. I misspoke in bad Russian. Did not mean to say ‘wild country’. Meant to say NTV actions ‘wild’. I greatly respect Russia”. The incident came as Obama weathered a controversy over candid but caught-on-tape comments to President Dmitri Medvedev, promising he will have more “flexibility” on topics such as missile defence after the November election.

30 March 2012

Oliver Knox

The Ticket

Yahoo News

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/michael-mcfaul-u-ambassador-russia-danger-171747951.html

Editor’s Note:

Boo-hoo! Let’s all cry crocodile tears for Mikey McFaul! It’s news that the FSB follows the US Ambassador to Russia? C’mon… it’s gone on for years, and no other US Ambassador was a cry-baby about it. It’s no secret that the US special services watch the Russian Ambassador in the District, and that they watch selected UN delegations, too. Hell, everybody does it and its party-time at Langley big-time if they can “turn” an “unfriendly”. McFaul isn’t that stupid… so, why did he do it? It’s clear that Foggy Bottom shoved a rocket up his arse and lit the fuse… they forced him to make a public retraction of it all.

Oh… did His Holiness know of this contretemps at his meeting with McFaul on Friday? Cookie the Bookie will lay you even odds that he did… and I quite agree. His Nibs has FSB/SVR contacts, and he DID have contact with the foreign intel branch of the KGB in Sov times. Of course, he did, as a patriotic Soviet citizen… and after seeing the callous brutality and heartlessness in the West (“the race goes to the swiftest”, y’know), he had solid reason to help the Organs. This doesn’t mean that he aided the repressive side of the KGB… it was a large agency that included foreign intel and border control, not just repression. Many patriotic people worked in or with the KGB, but that didn’t mean that they were involved in evil at all. After all, Potapov works (or worked) for a Langley front-organisation, and no one says it’s bad. If it’s OK for him, then, what His Holiness did was fine, too. In fact, it was more innocent, as he merely passed on intel of interest to his country, he wasn’t a paid agent/official of the government, as Potapov is (or was).

Things aren’t so simple in the real world, are they?

BMD

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