Voices from Russia

Sunday, 1 July 2012

YOU SAY “Помидор”; I SAY “Помідор”

The Wednesday Morning Fights (at the Rada, not the Garden)

Sergei Yolkin

2010

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This cartoon is from two years ago… “the more things change, the more they stay the same”… pass the jug…

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Last week, fists flew in the Ukrainian parliament over the latest attempt to grant the Russian language a measure of official status in the country. Fat politicians brawled with other fat politicians, whilst outside, an angry crowd protested. From her jail cell, former Prime Minister Yuliya Timoshenko denounced the bill as a “crime”. Earlier, she had characterised it as an apparently sacrilegious assault on “an issue that’s holy for many of us”. Timoshenko, who could not speak Ukrainian until she was 36, is a demagogue. Nevertheless, the word “holy” reveals the extremes of passion felt on this subject. Politically and culturally, language is a hot kartofel (or should I say kartoplia?) in the Ukraine and the “Russian Question” provokes defensive outrage from Ukrainian nationalists.

I witnessed Ukrainian language policies in action in 2005, when I visited Kiev. I confess that I thought it rather strange that many people were speaking Russian, but all of the signage was in Ukrainian. The apotheosis of absurdity came when I watched a Russian action movie, where the credits were in Ukrainian, but the language of the film was Russian. Pretentiously, there were English language signs on some government buildings, but nothing in Russian. I also recall a story about a town in the Western Ukraine, where some micro-fascists had banned Russian pop from the airwaves. The struggle to impose the Ukrainian language by force on the country’s large Russian-speaking population, about 30% of the total, has a long pedigree. In his fascinating book, The Affirmative Action Empire, Terry Martin details a barking-mad attempt in the early revolutionary period to compel everybody working in government administration to switch from Russian to Ukrainian in two years… a move that Moscow endorsed in order to defeat “Great Russian Nationalism”. It failed because it was a stupid idea, and ground to a complete halt when Stalin, a Russifying Georgian, came to power.

Of course, it’s natural that many Ukrainians feel anxious about their language. Russia is a powerful neighbour located right next door. The Ukraine has only been independent for 20 years, and nationalists fear that the use of Russian will divide the nation, and threaten its very identity. However, the country already has sharp divisions, and what, in fact, is that identity? It’s not as if all those Russian speakers in the Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea arrived last week to destabilise a hitherto homogenous Ukrainian culture. Most Russians living in the Ukraine were born there. The only reason the Russian-speaking Crimea is part of the country because Nikita Khrushchyov “gifted” it in 1954 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Ukraine’s union with Russia. The Russian Empire captured New Russia in the south-eastern Ukraine in the 18th century, and both Russians and Ukrainians settled there. For centuries, there was no border, and Kiev is the “mother city” of Russians and Ukrainians alike. Russian is also the lingua franca of most of the other long-established ethnic minorities in the Ukraine.

The millions of Russian speakers in Ukraine are hardly interlopers, then. Some are as “indigenous” as the ethnic Ukrainians themselves. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that many object to the policy of forced Ukrainisation, active since the 1990s, which has seen education in the Russian language largely eradicated and eastern and southern government offices conducting business in a tongue predominantly spoken in the western half of the country. Embarrassingly, the independent and democratic Ukraine is more oppressive in this regard than was Brezhnev’s USSR was in 1970. At that time, in the autonomous region of Tatarstan, 70 percent of schooling was conducted in Tatar, not Russian. By 1990, schooling in Tatar had dropped to 24 percent. By 2001, however, the figure was at 49.3 percent and rising. Thus, Russia… the Grand Villain of Ukrainian nationalism… grants its linguistic minorities more rights than the independent democratic Ukraine.

Perhaps, I’m more relaxed about language because although I’m Scottish, I speak Standard English, not Gaelic, and don’t feel any less Scottish for it. I freely admit that the Scots and the English are very similar, just as Ukrainians and Russians are very similar. Life is too short to dwell on the narcissism of small differences. Meanwhile, in Texas, I see Spanish language signs all the time, most often in big stores, because the politics of immigration aside, it’s good for business if your clientele can read the signs. Second-generation immigrants assimilate and become bilingual, because if you don’t learn English you’re doomed to a life of low-paying menial jobs.

Perhaps, if Ukrainian politicians could concentrate less on punching each other in the face and focus more on giving Ukraine a prosperous future, the language issue would become less contentious. Anybody with ambition who wanted to play in the big leagues would be motivated to learn the language of the unitary centre, which is Ukrainian and will remain so. Russian speakers might look over the border at their cousins and feel pity. They might even read a volume of Taras Shevchenko’s poetry by choice instead of as a legal obligation in school. Well, OK, that last one’s probably going a bit far. However, you get my drift.

1 June 2012

Daniel Kalder

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/columnists/20120601/173793426.html

IRNA Reports that Iran Threatened Israel with Missile Strikes in Retaliation If Israel Attacked It

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the Commander of the Aerospace Force of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution

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On Sunday, IRNA quoted Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the Commander of the Aerospace Force of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (also known as the Pasdaran or Revolutionary Guard), as saying that Iran would retaliate with new domestically-produced anti-radar ballistic missiles if Israel attacks the Islamic Republic. Speaking at a press conference in Tehran on Sunday, Hajizadeh said that Iran was in the final stages of producing new anti-radar ballistic missiles with a range of 300 kilometres, “able to target any radar centres on land or sea with high accuracy and destroy it several times faster than the speed of sound”.

Hajizadeh announced that Iran would start a three-day military drill on 2 July in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province that would include missile launches of various types. The drills are in response to an EU-brokered embargo on Iranian oil exports, which comes into effect on Sunday. On Sunday, Iranian state broadcaster IRIB reported that Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi downplayed the sanctions’ effect, saying, “These sanctions have existed for many years, nothing’s happened, so, one shouldn’t anticipate anything new”. Western nations suspect Iran, which is already under four sets of UN Security Council sanctions, of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons programme, but Tehran insists it needs nuclear power solely for civilian purposes.

1 July 2012

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/world/20120701/174346407.html

Editor’s Note:

The chance of any “October Surprise” centred on an attack on Iran grows dimmer by the day (conversely, such a Surprise focusing on domestic concerns becomes more probable). Now, with Russian and Chinese guarantees, the USA and Israel are left holding a bag fulla shit, and they look more ridiculous with each passing day. Interestingly enough, Wafflin’ Willy’s bellicosity is a sign that he’s desperate to fire up his base. Frankly, most Americans don’t give a hoot about the Iranian nuclear programme… it’ an Inside the Beltway concern. The danger’s past… once Lavrov appeared in public with Salehi, it put the kybosh on an attack.

There’s another reason why the Beltway Insiders hate the Pasdaran. In most militaries, the officers are from the bourgeois class, or, as college graduates, are imbued with its ethos. The Pasdaran’s officers, in the main, are men of the working class who came up from the bottom, and most of its senior ranks (both commissioned and non-commissioned cadre) are combat veterans of the Iran-Iraq War. That’s to say, they aren’t filled with the smirky godlessness or smarmy pseudo-religiosity of the West. I’ve met Pasdaran officers… they’re not ogres; they don’t have horns and hooves. They’re mostly men of modest background and means who haven’t forgotten where they came from; they fight for the people and their Faith, not for the profit of the One Percent. That’s the REAL reason why both the Interventionists and Neocons hate the Pasdaran and demonise them. Why, they refuse to kiss America’s naked bum at high noon in the public square… and that’s CRIMINAL!

Crack open a bottle… the bellicose yawping from Mittens and the GOP means that they’re weak… not that they’re strong. The ACA ruling put a torpedo in their guts (now isn’t the time to comment extensively on that… that’s fodder for a post of its own). The Republicans are beheaded chickens scampering aimlessly across the barnyard spraying all and sundry with their blood and gore.

That’s why there’s going to be no attack on Iran. Bet on it.

BMD  

1 July 2012. RIA-Novosti Infographics. Global Drug Trafficking

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29 June 2012

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/infographics/20120629/174244845.html

1 July 2012. Sergei Yolkin’s World. A Belgian Mojito with a Social Conscience

A Belgian Mojito with a Social Conscience

Sergei Yolkin

2011

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I’ve completed formatting all of the Yolkin cartoons to a common standard and have Photoshopped English texts in place of the original Russian. Can you believe that Yolkin takes up 2 percent of this site? Yowza! Click here to see Yolkin’s whole megillah (it’s a tag, not a link, so, its continually updated).

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We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them.

G K Chesterton

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The barmen at one of the clubs in Knokke, a seaside resort town on Belgium’s North Sea coast, prepard the world’s largest “mojito” cocktail. To prepare the mojito, barmen used a Plexiglas cocktail glass two metres (6 feet 7 inches) in height, with a diameter of 1.6 metres (5 feet 3 inches), containing 2,011 litres (531 gallons) of happiness. An official from the Guinness Book of World Records certified the Belgian achievement. Prior to this, the record for the world’s largest mojito belonged to an Italian group, which concocted a cocktail containing 1,300 litres (344 gallons) of fun. All comers could sample the mojito for 5 Euros (206 Roubles. 6.50 USD. 4 UK Pounds) a glass. Afterwards, barmen poured the remainder left into bottles for sale in retail outlets around Knokke, the proceeds of which will be channelled to support young families in need.

15 August 2011

Sergei Yolkin

RIA-Novosti

http://ria.ru/caricature/20110815/417720031.html

Editor’s Note:

How much you wanna bet that it was a sincerely-religious Catholic barman (or barmaid) who came up with the idea to sell off the remainder to aid the less fortunate? Christians have no problem with social drinking; all real Christians hold the point that it’s licit ad usque hilaritatem (to the point of hilarity). We’re not joyless Born Again sectarians… we’re not prunish Puritans. Beware all those who want to ape Radical Sectarians… they’re far from the Real Thing, and get farther away the closer they come to “Evangelicals”.

Pass the jug and cheer… now, THAT’S a point of unity…

BMD 

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