Interview: Michael Averko

Mike Averko told me that interviewing La Russophobe wasn’t my finest hour. So, I interviewed Mike as well.

Mike doesn’t have a blog of his own, but he does make extensive use of the internet to express his strongly felt – some might even say controversial – views on Russia and the former Yugoslavia. Many people will know him from his Quick Takes email (see his email address at the end of this interview if you want to subscribe), but he has also recently written a number of guest articles for Russia Blog and Sean’s Russia Blog.

Never one to shirk controversy, Mike has used his interview to not only give us his opinion of Russia (look out for some interesting comments about the state of Russian media towards the end of the interview), but to give his opinion of a number of ‘name’ Russia bloggers and commentators as well.

Enjoy.

1. (As Mike doesn’t have a blog, in place of the first few standard questions I asked him to provide a brief introduction to his internet commentary and his goals).

I make it interesting eh? Interesting – is what’s required to positively enhance the coverage of the former USSR. Specifically, a constructive interesting, as opposed to sensationalistic stupidity, or flat out dullness.

Thanks for this 100% free form interview which permits me to say whatever I please. I became aware of this series when Johnson’s Russia List (JRL) posted your initial feature with La Russophobe (JRL posted directly from La Russophobe on Feb. 28). No disrespect Andy: I’m on record for protesting JRL’s posting of that interview. The reasons having to do with what JRL continues to censor like The Tiraspol Times (TTT) and the The American Journal of Russian and Slavic Studies (AJRSS). If La Russophobe/Oliver Bronsen is good enough for JRL, than so should TTT and the AJRSS. TTT is an excellent English language news and commentary source on Pridnestrovie (Trans-Dniester). I defy anyone to claim differently. The AJRSS has scholarly material and some views that are disagreeable to some. That last point hasn’t stopped JRL from posting La Russophobe/Bronsen, eXile and Edward Limonov. JRL is supposed to be an English language compilation of worthy former USSR related material.

All this relates to what I’m partly about. Improving the situation with common sense advocacy. That JRL sees fit to post La Russophobe/Bronsen, while censoring others is a reflection of its biases. JRL posted La Russophobe’s/Bronsen’s pathetic rant on Russian women’s tennis without posting any reply to it. My rejected reply received a thumbs’ up from several JRL subscribers who I’d solicited it to. The court appointed Russia friendlys dare not speak out against the JRL selection process for fear of losing their posting preference with that outlet (this has been privately confirmed to me by a few of them). Depending on the topic, these individuals aren’t always the best of sources. This isn’t said disrespectfully (I greatly respect some of them), but as a matter of fact. Meantime, JRL receives funding from Russian and American government funded orgs.

Those sharing my views that the English language mass media coverage of Russia is lacking should keep in mind which sources have been active parts of the process. The situation is improved by looking for other options and not clinging to an existing status quo. It’s unreasonable to expect the existing status quo to be completely overthrown. With the right prodding, it can be improved upon. This includes bringing talented others on board.

La Russophobe’s comeback of being widely viewed has been second guessed by others. Lately, I’ve been quoted a good deal of unsubstantiated claims of wide viewing audiences from assorted vendors. Just how accurate are some of those claims? If we go by ratings, there’s a good deal of regularly posted JRL material that could be considered as irrelevant. All of my Russia watching friends who read La Russophobe do so out of a curiosity for the bizarre. They’ve no respect for “her”. As an anonymous individual having had other pennames (Kim Betty among them), we can’t be so sure of his/her sex. Those unfamiliar with La Russophobe might see these thoughts as rude. They should go to his/her site and read what La Russophobe says about others, including yours truly. Not nice isn’t nice and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. As is, there’s enough bullshit being passed off as acceptable

Regarding your impressive site and interview series, I don’t exactly blog. I definitely have the quintessential blogger’s spirit. Besides the establishment venues (news talk radio as a guest and print/electronic media), some of my commentary has appeared at Russia Blog and Sean’s Russia Blog. Along with Siberian Light, those two blogs have been featured at JRL, which like it or not, has a good deal of influence within English language “Russia watching” circles. Some in your audience might be unaware that many “made” people blog to air out additional views which they don’t get to state in their other experiences. Hence, blogging has a definite universality to it. Many establishment venues have incorporated blogs to supplement themselves.

I don’t have an active blog because there’s a techy aspect to blogging. Something I’m not efficient at or particularly interested in. I’m an analyst and as such, it’s important for me to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Without a salary, I’ve received free offers for a state of the art designed web site and tech support. That’s not for me because it would involve more work on my end without a salary as part of the deal. There’re some fortunate people who are making a good living doing what I do great as a hobby. On a level playing field, I’d be in some of their positions. I’ve more than proven my worth at several venues.

My commentary at Russia Blog and Sean’s Russia Blog have received great feedback in terms of increased site traffic, posted comments and linked references from other venues. The principles involved with those two blogs have personally thanked me for increasing the traffic to their respective sites. This is something that can’t be legitimately denied by anyone.

As some others and yourself know, I’ve an email list known as Quick Takes (QT). It was recently featured at the Action Ukraine Report. Among others, The Economist’s Edward Lucas (himself a blogger) has acknowledged QT as a source well worth receiving. His stated approval on record isn’t exactly the most desired of recommendations and I in turn wrote a not so smooth rejoinder to it. After a somewhat rocky start, I sense a mutual respect between the two of us. He has given me good advice. Elements on the Russia friendly side are baffled by my positive expression towards him. He has done more for me than a good number of those on the Russia friendly side. A reason why there continues to be problems for Russia in the English language market.

My initiating QT had to do with my own issues with JRL. As previously stated, that source doesn’t always carry all of the best English language material on the Former Soviet Union (FSU). I attempt to provide what JRL doesn’t. I’ve a general interest in foreign affairs. Unlike JRL – QT regularly posts material dealing with former Yugoslavia and other non-FSU areas. Unlike JRL – I tend to focus more on FSU sports. Unlike David Johnson’s tact, I’ll comment on the articles chosen for posting. QT is non-partisan, in that it posts material I disagree with. It’s partisan in terms of my commentary. Other views are welcome. As someone having experienced censorship, I very much loathe its practice.

Sean Guillory (of UCLA and Sean’s Russia Blog), Wally Shedd (of the Accidental Russophile) Eugene Soukharnikov (a well traveled St. Peterburg, RF businessman) and Ajay Goyal (the principle of the one time Moscow based Russia Journal) have commented at QT by name. Others have done so anonymously. As a media savvy person, I value the spirit of keeping private conversations on a confidential basis.

On your very last comment, I don’t expect the not so Russia friendly side to like my views. The Russia friendly side has different degrees of friendliness. Some of them might be Russia friendly for the primary reason of their own business interests. There’s a politically unhealthy environment in the Russia friendly grouping. A worthy competitor of a like mind can be seen as a threat to one’s livelihood. This attitude isn’t to my liking. I’ve been on the receiving end of it.

2. What have been your best and worst experiences involving your internet activity?

The praise accorded to me by people in academia and media. Seeing my advice followed up on, albeit in an often unofficial manner (a point that somewhat perturbs me). Having some rather important people take the time to visit me at my home. All of this happened as a result of my internet activity. A bureau chief of a leading Russian TV network contacted me on guests for a feature on minority views in the Republican Party. Two of my suggested guests appeared in the televised segment. One of them (a “name” person in think tank circles) thanked me for the referral. I “coached” a non-Anglo-American with editing and submission suggestions, which helped place his article at a prominent English language vendor. I’ve successfully referred others to venues which posted their work. I get tickled when a “name” person asks me to post his/her material at QT. There’s plenty of additional work to be done. Poor decision making and back stabbing politics are hindering efforts to nurture a better product.

My views have won out over the highly promoted experts. Back in January of ’05, Adrian Karatnycky’s Newsday article likened Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to Nelson Mandela and other noted civil rights leaders. Newsday, ran my reply which gave an opposite view (the referenced hyperlink is an abstract and not the full text). In the present, it seems that most of Ukraine‘s citizenry agree with me on that point (Yushchenko’s popularity has sharply declined and was never over 50%). In early ’05, Taras Kuzio was brazenly declaring an end to “Blue” (the Ukrainian opposition to Yushchenko) and Russian influence in Ukraine. At the time, I am on record for stating otherwise. In addition to the mentioned Newsday letter of mine, there’s my March ’05 Intelligent.ru article on Kuzio, entitled “Soviet Style Journalism in the ‘Free’ Press“. When Russia invited Hamas to Moscow following the latter’s election victory, Russia Blog principles Yuri Mamchur and Charles Ganske sharply disagreed with my take of the invite. I correctly predicted what happened. After Hamas was diplomatically spanked in Moscow – Mamchur and Ganske adopted my stated view.

Of recent note, it has been a pleasure working with Sean Guillory of Sean’s Russia Bog. This isn’t meant as a swipe against other editors I’ve worked with (they’ve their definite strong points): Guillory is the best of them. He comprehensively reviews what he’s reading and follows up with some constructive suggestions. At the same time, he’s very open to other suggestions. The two of us recently collaborated on a feature about Andrei Vlasov. Guillory doesn’t over edit. Instead, he takes the: don’t tinker with the already well presented route. My last article at his site is edit free (one which received 91 posted replies). The Vlasov feature ended up with the two of us editing each other for a great end result. The posted replies below that feature and private emails confirm its quality. We didn’t edit out each other’s respective views. I wasn’t completely agreeable with Guillory’s “bloody” Nicholas reference in his introduction. My gut reaction was to not have it (not that it was exactly my choice, seeing how it’s his blog). To me, Russia‘s last czar lived in a bloody situation, as opposed to being bloody himself. I didn’t protest that detail because he put bloody in quotes and most importantly, he never censored my commentary when editing it. In the short time I’ve known him in cyber, Guillory impresses as an eclectic (non-doctrinaire) person of the left, whereas yours truly might be best classified along paleo-conservative lines.

Of a quick related note, I regret that http://english.intelligent.ru has been taken down from viewing. My commentary at that site was very well received (as is true elsewhere). My Sept. ’05 article “Personalizing News Issues to Underscore an Agenda” was by far the most read essay at that site. Regarding that essay, then Intelligent.ru Editor Sergei Roy might’ve set an editor’s record in the fastest time an editor posted an article upon its submission. The other Intelligent.ru articles of mine dealt with subject matter shunned in English language mass media. Among those articles: “Stephen Cohen: Mainstreaming for the Elites”, “Behind the ABC News NightLine-Russian Government Dispute” and “Human Rights as a Propaganda Tool Against Russia”. At present, all of those articles can’t be so easily hyperlinked, due to the site having been taken down.

The not so pleasant experiences haven’t stopped me because (as previously stated) I know that on a more level playing field, I will show myself to be a worthy contributor to those who are actively trying to block me from further advancement. I’m not so keen on ethno-religious stereotypes. I nevertheless sense that my Jewish (Greek Sephardic and Baltic German Ashkenazi) and Russian (Orthodox-Christian) backgrounds have probably nurtured a stubborn resiliency that keeps me going.

I touched on the existing neo-Stalinism given great editing powers. The source which banned eXile for a lengthy

period continues to act in this manner towards others and myself. Another outlet flat out told me that an article submission of mine was primarily rejected because of previous critical comments I’d made of its venue. As a comparison, some of the selected material at that site is definitely not of a superior quality. Mind you, that outlet has no problems posting critical commentary about Russian mass media (like Russian State Television). Numerous people know this politically unhealthy environment exists and dare not speak out against it, while privately disagreeing. That very same venue had earlier invited me on their panel discussion and accepted my submission for posting. Without notice, it cancelled my submission and hasn’t invited me back on any of its panel discussions. This sequence of events was obviously done in a calculated way to send me a “message”. My reply is that I will not be a subservient dupe to a far from perfect situation. Kowtowing to this behavior doesn’t lead to an improvement.

I’ve experienced sudden rejection by those who’d embraced me. This change having to do with what some influential others had said. Folks who never met me in person and obviously don’t believe in an honest and up front dialogue to air out differences. Unlike myself, these individuals have been a part of the imperfect process. Behind the scene, there’s the absurd Soviet psychiatry practiced by some in an effort to explain away their censoring ways. “The guy is a nut!” (I have my intelligence sources) How about, the situation continues to be ****** up and it’s time to bring the “nut” on board? How many ****** up people are actively involved in the process? There’s no legitimate excuse. I’m not violent, racist, anti-Western, terrorist or rude. On the rude point, there’ve been some disingenuous claims made. It’s not rude to steadfastly object to rude actions directed at oneself and others.

3. Which blogs about the former USSR do you most enjoy reading?

At the moment, Guillory’s blog, Russia Blog and yours top my chart. Among others, I like Wally Shedd’s Accidental Russophile which has been on an extended break. Shedd isn’t shy in participating at other venues. Earnest activity like his is appreciated. Orange Ukraine keeps one updated on what the not so Russia friendly view evident among some Ukrainians and others are thinking. I make it a point to read what the opposing side to my own is saying. It makes me a more informed person. There’re a few other blogs on the former USSR which I periodically peruse.

On the subject of former USSR blogs, does Dmitry Babich’s Russia Profile blog actually constitute a blog? The standard blog offers the reader to post comments. Initially, Babich’s blog accepted posted comments underneath his articles. This has since stopped. Why? Is it because of poor feedback? When earlier posted, there weren’t too many posted comments at his blog and two Russia Profile forums were cancelled for the obvious reason that hardly anyone was posting at them. In comparison to Babich’s blog, Chronicles Magazine and Front Page Magazine qualify more as blogs. The interactive “Comments” section typically found under a blogger’s (author’s) post allows for readers to express their views and carry on a discussion with the post’s author and other readers. Interactive journalism at its best or worst. Qualitatively, the participation ranges from great to poor. Regretfully, some blogs practice censorship, by politically blocking out some submitted comments.

4. What first sparked your interest in Russia?

My late father was from that land. He was a distant relation to the late Michael Karpovich, who in his day was one of the prominent American based Russian historians. Although a Columbia University educated political economist by trade, my old man often spent his leisure time reading books on Russia‘s history and foreign policy. At weekend family gatherings or those with his Russian friends, lively political discussion was the norm. Mother Russia was a frequent topic. This was my environment from the get go.

5. If you could recommend one book on Russia, what would it be?

Foo yuck on this one. There’re so many great books on Russia that I can’t give a direct answer.

For a quick check of basic Russian history issues, I periodically refer to George Vernadsky’s “History of Russia”. Dmitriy Lehovich’s “White Against Red” is my favorite book on the Russian Civil War.

My favorite books include those from authors who I don’t always agree with. In this category, two books come to mind. Konstantin Pobedonsotev’s “Reflections of a Russian Statesman” is a fascinating read on 19th century Russian conservative thinking. As it very much relates to Russia – Orest Subtelny’s “Ukraine: A History” is an interesting read.

Again, there’re many many great books on the subject of Russia.

6. What is your favorite place in Russia? Is there anywhere you haven’t been yet, but would love to visit?

Due to my family roots, I’ve a soft spot for St. Petersburg. Also, as a New Yorker, I’ve another soft spot for cities on the water like St. Pete. Cosmopolitan Moscow has similar qualities to New York City.

Of those places in Russia that I haven’t visited, parts of Russia‘s Fareast are a desired destination.

7. If you could invite three Russians, past and present, to a dinner party, who would they be?

Maria Sharapova, Sergey Lavrov and Catherine the Great. You said that the setting is a dinner party. From a distance, all three appear to be lively interesting sorts. I’m a bit of a fitness buff and would like to discuss training methods with Sharapova. Lavrov’s frank comments on foreign policy and other matters get my thumbs’ up. I gather that Catherine the Great was a great all around conversationalist.

8. On balance, do you think Vladimir Putin’s presidency has been good for Russia?

A resounding yes.

9. Do you think Russia will ever embrace the style of representative democracy now favored in most of the rest of Europe?

Not sure. As an American, please excuse me for addressing your question in more of a US (as opposed to European) context. For whatever my disagreements with Michael McFaul, I share his view that the cultural/historical experience rationale by many doesn’t lock a given country into an eternally set pattern. Right now, Russia is a representative democracy because:

  • most of the population is in general support of the government
  • in conjunction to that last point, in the last Russian presidential election, Putin could’ve been voted out of office.

There’s a yearning by elements in the Russian government and public domain to foster greater democracy. Putin’s political grouping is the dominant one. At the same time, Russia has a number of other parties having greater clout than those US parties outside of the American Republican/Democratic duet. A tandem that has been described as a one party system, subdivided in two. Of some relation to your question: contrary to what some believe, America isn’t so free and Russia isn’t so un-free.

10. Do you think the average Russian’s life today is better or worse than it was in 1989? Why?

If some quality of life gauges are lower than in ’89, it’s because of the lingering aftereffects of the last decade and before. Russia is definitely moving forward and in the long run, Russia will be okay as per McFaul and if I’m not mistaken (even) Zbigniew Brzezinski. Russia‘s rising middle class is a good sign.

11. If you could advise the Russian government to do one thing, what would it be?

Haah!! A different approach in its English language media/PR efforts. A hint of sorts (the answers to some of the below questions provide suggestions).

12. Russia has developed a much more assertive and confrontational approach to foreign policy over the past couple of years, particularly in its near abroad. From Russia‘s perspective, what do you think are the benefits and drawbacks of this approach?

Overall, Russia is acting quite responsibly in the area of foreign policy. The “assertive” characterization reflects a nation on the rebound. “Confrontational” is more in the eyes of the beholder. On the matter of the disputed former Communist bloc territories, I believe Russia‘s policy to be more reasonable than what’s evident with the Bush administration. Regarding Russia‘s near abroad, I think there’s more of a two way street than what’s typically depicted at Anglo-American mass media organs like The Washington Post.

It’s foolhardy for Russia to not act in its best interests. I don’t see these interests as fundamentally going against Western ones. As for pissing off many in the West, should Russia neuter itself and for what in return? I caught the end of a recent NBC aired McLaughlin Group segment on Russo-American relations. Along with Pat Buchanan, there’s an undertone of fairly prominent Americans cautioning against what John McCain and others like him have been advocating.

13. What changes in policy (if any) do you think the European Union should implement to deal with Russia‘s increasing dominance over energy supplies?

Hmm. As is true with some other issues, the EU nations aren’t always united on energy related matters pertaining to Russia. We saw how some in Poland characterized the recent Russo-German deal to build a sea pipeline overriding Polish territory. That agreement had a good deal to do with Russian and German apprehensions about Poland. On the energy front, there’s enough of a mutually understood need for the EU and Russia (which is a part of Europe) to seek common ground. They clearly need each other.

14. You regularly offer criticisms of Western media where you feel it’s deserved. What criticisms would you make of Russian media?

Similar to the criticisms of Western media. I recall former American Ambassador Alexander Vershbow acknowledging diversity among the top three Russian TV news networks. He added that the diversity isn’t as great as it could be. On a number of issues, the same can be said of the top three American TV news networks (ABC, CBS and NBC). The follow-up to that would be that Americans have other TV channels with news, as well as other news gathering sources (print and electronic). The same applies to Russia.

Another criticism contradicts what Andrew Kuchins said about Russian media. Concerning the last Valdai Discussion Group, a Moscow Times article by Andrei Zolotov uncritically cited Kuchins’ statement about Russian State Television being (as per Kuchins) one sided. The state owned giant Gazprom owns Ekho Moskvy, which is often biased against Putin and Russia. In comparison, the Moscow based non-Russian owned Moscow Times isn’t so forthcoming towards Russocentric views going against that outlet’s bias.

This leads to another observation about Russian media faults. Anglo-American mass media at large has done a great job at promoting Russian journalists/analysts who subscribe to the former’s views. In comparison, I don?t see Russian media outlets doing much for Western based Russocentric journalists/analysts.

The English language section of RIA Novosti can be easily improved upon. With an existing American staff, The Moscow News has great potential. Its being recently acquired by RIA Novosti is reported to have boosted its budget. Time will tell how that budget is used. My initial vibes are circumspect. As is true with RIA Novosti – The Moscow News would greatly benefit from American style punditry with a Russocentric twist. Their two lead writers Anna Arutunyan and Robert Bridge would be enhanced by what I’m advocating. Despite her being pitted against Yevgenia Albats (in a recent Ekho Moskvy exchange), Arutunyan isn’t a Russocentric journalist. Bridge is great at debunking some of the biases out there. However, he’s doing it from a common sense vantage point in contrast to a common sense Russocentric vantage point. The latter is what will bring added punch to The Moscow News. The Western Russocentric analyst has the advantage of knowing the Western biases and counteracting them with the Russocentric upbringing. Unless The Moscow News takes this advice, it will likely not be an effective political alternative to The Moscow Times.

For clarity sake, in 19 sixties America, the term “Afrocentric” was bandied about to mean a Black person’s self awareness with his/her identity. There were and remain wacky and reasonable approaches to Afrocentric thinking. This is no different with the Russocentric side. As per America, Russocentric relates to a Russian-American’s understanding ot the way Russia is negatively portrayed in many English language circles. With all due respect, the Russian born in Russia that spent most of his/her life there, can’t know the English language situation as well as an Anglo-American reared Russocentric person. Likewise, and again with no intended disrespect, the most well meaning of non-Russian Western sources often fall short in fully grasping the described Russocentric view. Of course, not all people of Russian origin are Russocentric. The extreme derisive analogy to that would be the “Uncle Tom” label put on some Blacks. In the Russian context, there’re a few different shades between the Russocentric and Uncle Tom. Vis-a-vis the current media situation, those in between shades aren’t reflecting “balance” because the Russocentric view is so grossly underrepresented in comparison to the others.

15. Do you think the Russia Today TV news channel is a success?

No, at least not yet. Given its young age, RTTV can’t be categorized as a failure. At present, I’d put it in the great potential, with room for improvement category. This is said from someone who enthusiastically supports its originally stated purpose of offering the English language community a different view of the news about Russia and other issues. RTTV hasn’t really cracked the American market. It recently made an inroad in the British market. Overall, I believe the British are better informed on Russia than Americans. America is the lone superpower. An effective English language Russian mainstream news network is most needed in the American market.

From what I’ve observed in conjunction with what I’ve been told by people familiar with RTTV – it suffers from a relatively low budget. I also sense that RTTV isn’t always getting the best advice.

16. You’ve previously mentioned that Trans-Dniester should become independent, but Kosovo shouldn’t. Negotiations have begun on the future status of Kosovo. What do you think will be the outcome of these discussions?

As of right now, I think the option is good for a scenario where Kosovo becomes a republic, with a constitution and monitored military wing, with the complete understanding that it remains a part of Serbia. This view is based on the current positions of Russia, Serbia and some other nations. As long as they hold firm, Kosovo independence is less likely to happen.

17. In concluding, do you have anything to add?

Very often, an interview ends with people having comments and-or additional questions. I can be contacted via mikeaverko@msn.com. There’s also your interactive Comments section which I will check.

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35 Responses

  1. Interviewing Mike Averko is not only not your finest hour, it’s your absolute nadir. It’s a pity you didn’t ask him why he feels it’s OK to say that his “commentary has appeared in the New York Times” when all they’ve in fact done is publish his letters to the editor. It’s statements like that which give the blogosphere a bad name . . . but wait, Mike doesn’t even have a blog, now does he? Gee, I wonder why . . . Pity, too, that you didn’t ask whether he’s been fired by Russia Blog and why. Intelligent.ru/propaganda is defunct, JRL can’t stand him . . . seems Mike’s not exactly flavor of the month, now is he?

    “The praise accorded to me by people in academia and media. Seeing my advice followed up on, albeit in an often unofficial manner (a point that somewhat perturbs me).” That’s the unsubstantiated statement of a psychopath. Care do document your claim, Mike? Or is that too much to ask?

    By the way, my viewership is documented by both Technorati and Site Meter and hasn’t been questioned by anyone. It’s also confirmed by the huge number of comments the post about me on this blog received. It’s libelous that Mike would make such a statement without sourcing it, and ought to be beneath the dignity of this blog to publish it. I’m offended and demand an apology.

  2. Michael Averko says:

    David Johnson’s favorite idiot strikes again.

    I addressed Oliver Bronsen’s/Kim Betty’s/Kim Zigfeld’s/ idiotic point about my New York Times Op-Ed presence in the second of a series of comments at this link:

    http://seansrusskiiblog.blogspot.com/2007/02/andrei-vlasovs-legacy.html

    As for “popularity”, American Idol is a highly rated American TV show. It has nothing to do with Russia. Likewise, Hitler was at one time very popular in Germany.

    As for disclosing some of the praise accorded to me – Bronsen/Betty/Zigfeld continues to hide under pseudonyms. The mentioned praise in the interview aren’t lies. I’ll respect the confidential nature of that praise. All of these folks are on my email list. This isn’t to be confused with B/B/Z.

  3. Alexandra says:

    Thanks for the email notice of this great interview Mike. Thank you Andy for hosting clear thinking thoughts that have been suppressed.

  4. Andrew Waller says:

    A different blog with the same excellent result. I will echo the rest of Sasha’s comments. The regular former Soviet blog contributor Lyndon can believe whatever he chooses to about us. He has his own issues.

    Mike is obligated to name the talk radio show because it is a matter of record.

    I can picture LR typing a frantic long winded rebuttal. LR would be smart to pretend that nothing happened here.

    Mike has not been beaten in his talking points.

  5. Michael Averko says:

    Andrew, Alexandra & Co.

    Some nice private email salutes to go along with the posted comments here.

    In answer to Andrew’s question, on two occasions I appeared as a guest on the Jay Diamond Show, when it aired prime time on the 50 thousand watt NYC based WABC 770 AM. I called him as a listener. He was so impressed with me that he had his screener take down my contact information. The next night I was on for a three hour debate with a Muslim cleric on the then Bosnian Civil War. I was on for one more Jay Diamond aired show on WABC. During the NATO bombing of Kosovo – I was on Jay’s show twice when it aired on WEVD 1050 AM in New York. That station number has since been acquired by ESPN. In one show, I debated the Albanian-American editor of Illyria, a NY based Albanian newspaper. On another show, I provided a 15 minute wrap up commentary to a show I produced. Jay asked me to get a feisty Serb and Albanian for a debate. On a same day notice I got two of them on for a good hard hitting exchange.

    I’ve had related experiences with a couple of other NYC based radio shows.

  6. James says:

    Might I be so brave as to say that I think it’s great you have interviewed such different bloggers/writers? I have some strong views on Russia, and I’m certainly not afraid of discusssing these opinions, but nevertheless, I applaud Andy for being so committed to the essence of the critical debates.

  7. Zhana Klimova says:

    Here, here.

    So, how about anyone challenging Mishka’s points? No, we see New York Times commentary termed as not important and personal attacks.

    Andy should be an editor at one of the top web sites. Many of the people at those sites suck.

  8. TinyTornado says:

    You should interview Lyndon.

  9. TinyTornado says:

    Actually, after Mike, you should definitely interview Lyndon, as his only ‘issue’ is that he knows what he’s talking about. That might be too much for some people to handle, but those people can stick to the letters to the editor in the NYT.

  10. Michael Averko says:

    Sorry TT, but I’ve appeared elsewhere besides The NYTs’ Letters section. Those other appearances include in depth articles at established venues. My NYT appearnces were overwhelimingly in the pre-internet era, when getting a letter published in The NYT wasn’t so easy. I did it 7 times within a two year span, with a total of 8. In comparison, a number of JRL promoted individuals have never appeared in “the paper of record”.

    Someone just sent me LR’s latest batch of misinformation. So that there’s no confusion, I was never “fired” by Russia Blog. In point of fact, Russia Blog’s Yuri Mamchur was the first to congratulate me on this interview. In that note he touched on a recent discussion about a Russia Blog article of mine and invited me to do an upcoming article for Russia Blog on Russian baseball.

    La Russophobe is Oliver Bronsen and Kim Betty. Kim Betty was listed on one of Kim Zigfeld’s email addresses which were sent to at least two other people besides myself. I understand that as Kim Betty – La Russophobe was banned from The Moscow Times’ forums for abusive manner.

    Around October of ’05, as Oliver Bronsen – La Russophobe sent out crankish emails to a number of Russia friendly JRL recipients. The prose and commentary was vintage LR. At the first of two failed Russia Profile forums, Oliver Bronsen posted the same kind of prose and commentary. Peter Lavelle should recall this. He was the moderator of that venue.

    What has since become of Oliver Bronsen? In his/her Russia Blog article on Maria Sharapova – LR ducked the Oliver Bronsen connection that was stated in the Comments section below that article.

  11. TinyTornado says:

    I think what really disappoints me, more than anything else, is that you don’t have your own blog. It would be a great place to link all of the places where your writings have appeared.

  12. Michael Averko says:

    The end of this article has hyperlinks to a good portion of my recent commentary:

    http://seansrusskiiblog.blogspot.com/2007/02/media-critique-on-recent-coverage-of.html

    What really disappoints me are those orgs., claiming to represent different views about Russia in the English language. I understand that some of them have shelled out good money to individuals who have either been disasters (and since fired) or continue to produce material that can be improved upon.

    As a comparison, I’ve done my share of top notch work. It’s high time for a return.

  13. TinyTornado says:

    Which begs the question, once again, seeing as blogs are free and require much less red tape than orgs, why you don’t have one of your own?

  14. TinyTornado says:

    I understand you are not ‘tech-oriented’, however sites like blogspot and even myspace.com make it easy enough for a 6 year old. I know this because my 6 year old niece created my blog for me.

  15. Michael Averko says:

    Oh really? Creating a blog isn’t the difficult aspect.

    I know a computer science Phd who teaches computer science at a major university. He had a bit of a struggle making edits to a blog and added that someone like myself would struggle even more.

    If I wanted to, I could get the hang of it. The interview explains my preference.

    High time for a $$$ return,seeing what the market is like vis-a-vis some of the paid (and well paid at that) folks.

  16. Andy says:

    I must confess, I’d love to see Mike publish his thoughts in blog format as well.

    While his emails are fascinating, I feel that the nature of the format means they lack interactivity and debate. And, although Mike does make extensive use of online forums, I personally find that, because they are scattered over a number of sites, I rarely have the time to keep up with them – or to find them in the first place.

    I’m sure Mike could get to grips with the blog format pretty quickly, and overcoming the editing problem should be relatively straightforward. Additionally, I think if all of Mike’s work were available from one centrally accessible site, it would increase your exposure.

    Having said that, the way in which people choose to communicate is entirely their own personal preference. If Mike writes about Russia because of his love of the subject, then what works for Mike is what’s most important.

  17. TinyTornado says:

    ummm….neither is maintaining it if you use pre-created templates like those at blogspot or typepad. I have several friends who received lucrative publishing deals (from books to regular magazine and journal columns) due to their blogs. And these friends don’t have PhDs in computer science, just simple (free) blogs and book deals, which is why I’m confused, even after reading your interview, why you don’t have one.

  18. Michael Averko says:

    I’ve been offered free web site designs with customer support.

    No salary comes with these offers. Meantime, others are working in the field who IMHO aren’t more qualified than yours truly.

    The bottom line being that I should have a $$$ offer.

  19. Michael Averko says:

    Andy:

    Sorry to have missed your last comments.

    Looks like David Johnosn cancelled my subscription from JRL. If so, this reveals the kind of person being given lucrative and influential powers.

    The man allows criticism of others at his venue, while censoring those of himself. I know him to have done this to others.

    I openly challenge him to a debate.

  20. Alexandra says:

    David Johnson of Johnson’s Russia List posts La Russophobe/Oliver Bronsen and censors Mike.

    Johnson’s Russia List as implemented should not be playing the kind of role it does.

  21. Andrew Waller says:

    Andy, to go along with having a cool first name, you seem like a very opened minded person.

    Is it not clear that Johnson’s Russia List is flawed in the way it posted LR’s interview but not Mike’s? Also keep in mind the other instance of JRL posting LR’s tennis rant (described in Mike’s interview) without posting any replies to it.

    Is there not an intimidation factor explaining why JRL is rarely criticized?

  22. Michael Averko says:

    I just mailed this out:

    Re: http://russophobe.blogspot.com/2007/03/tracking-sl-interviews-lr-sl-have-last.html

    The above linked chatter was forwarded to my attention and is being specifically addressed to Johnson’s Russia List.

    La Russophobe continues to cite questionable numbers to legitimize its existence. In this recent episode, are the number of posted comments to its Siberian Light interview. Of all the Siberian Light interviews, JRL only chose to post LR’s. This no doubt generated an enhanced feedback to LR’s interview.

    JRL’s posting of LR has to do with the former’s bias conforming to the views of LR. Note that LR has critiqued the JRL editor in a manner far more “personal” than what yours truly could ever be legitimately accused of. My media critiques are done in a point by point academic manner, as opposed to LR using such terms as “nut job”, “screwball”, and “loco” to describe those individuals who he/she disagrees with. The JRL editor known (by a good number) for lecturing on proper manners isn’t being so proper in his selection of posted material.

    Of a related note to JRL’s bias, there has recently been an article about Chechnya’s case for independence featured at the JRL home page http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson. It’s quite another story for JRL to feature a firm English language article showing how Pridnestrovie (Trans-Dniester) has the best case for independence among all of the disputed former Communist bloc territories (which Chechnya isn’t in a category with, since it’s firmly recognized as a part of Russia).

    On LR’s supposedly great hit numbers, how come so few people post comments at his/her blog? Even if we’re to believe LR’s self professed popularity, this should in no way warrant JRL promoting that venue which insults and distorts others in a way not evident at some really good Russia related material being censored by JRL. In addition to LR, note how JRL promotes some blogs with very little in terms of posted feedback and getting picked up at other venues besides JRL and the repeat JRL section at The Moscow Times influenced Russia Profile.

    As previously noted, hit numbers can reflect a desire for the bizarre, as many of those viewing simultaneously ridicule the viewed product. This factor definitely exists with LR.

    Seeing how JRL and LR toot their own politically partisan agendas, I’ll end by noting how my last four articles at Russia Blog and Sean’s Russia Blog respectively drew replies of 38, 35, 34 and 91 posted comments, in addition to being cited by other venues, but not by JRL.

    Once again, the English language media coverage of the former USSR continues to lack, with the same inadequacies being repeated.

  23. GER O'BRIEN says:

    Well said Mike. I’m glad someone is finally showing LR for what it is – a sideshow.

    As for posting comments, she banned critical people like me from commenting. Hence no comments, because I daresay there are very few except the ill informed who would agree with her spin on things. I say spin specifically because the articles themselves are from elsewhere. It/he/she whatever hasnt an original bone in its body.

  24. Andy says:

    Of all the Siberian Light¬†interviews, JRL only chose to post LR’s.¬† This no doubt generated an enhanced feedback to LR’s interview.

    Mike – I checked quite carefully through the incoming traffic statistics around the time of the LR interview, and David Johnson’s decision to include the full interview on JRL. I think it resulted in an additional two or three readers which, in the scheme of things, is not all that overwhelming. The interview was posted towards the end of the JRL email, if I recall correctly, so there may have been more inbound traffic had it featured higher.

    JRL has a role – a valuable one – to play in discourse about Russia. But, based on my experience, it isn’t a good forum for promoting websites, and shouldn’t be seen as such.

  25. Michael Averko says:

    Andy:

    It does promote web sites. Check its home page:

    http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson

    All of those sites no doubt gave JRL some $$$$.

    In a number of instances, JRL’s record in selecting material has qualititively hindered the Eng. language flow of news and commentary regarding the former USSR.

    There’s no legitimate excuse whatsoever for JRL to have censored in the way that it has.

    Points detailed in the above interview.

  26. Andy says:

    Mike, my point was that (based purely on my experience) having an article included on a JRL email doesn’t actually bring many additional visitors to a website.

  27. Michael Averko says:

    Ger:

    Sorry to have missed your last post. It’s politically unhealthy for some some to feel free to criticize The Wall Street Journal, while not doing the same with JRL, for promoting an ongoing imperfection which can be easily improved upon.

    Andy:

    Okay. There’s still no legitimate excuse for JRL’s track record.

    If we go by the LR posted comments, number of hits, cited elsewhere mode – I’ve done quite well, beyond a reasonable doubt. Unlike LR – my appeal is one that’s more academic, to go along with a pop mass culture enough level of being interesting for the masses.

    IMHO, that’s what good media is about.

  28. Alexandra says:

    Great discussion that connects the dots and successfully fills in the missing blanks.

    Boo JRL.

  29. Andrew Waller says:

    Andy, any little thing helps.

    JRL got someone I am familiar with a job with an indirectly Rusisan government funded Moscow paper. No one was picking up his articles. JRL was the only one. Media people covering Russia get JRL.

    JRL’s prejudices just might have screwed others from getting jobs. The Russian government funded media should be made aware of this situation.

  30. Michael Averko says:

    Andy and Andrew are both right in this sense.

    JRL has limits, but is still influential when it comes to Eng. language media folks covering the Russia beat.

    Venues like Siberian Light are providing a much added punch. One that needs to be further ignited.

    Unlike some other editors, I’m extremely impressed with Andy Young and Sean Guillory. Their respective knowledge level and non-politicization approach to the subject matter is refreshing from what’s typically present at the highly promoted/funded venues.

  31. GER O'BRIEN says:

    Mike,

    LR criticises everyone/thing that doesnt suit her flawed arguments. She operates on the opposite principle which scientists do -she selectively uses opinions(rather than facts) that suit her already-formed theories, rather than forming her theories from actual facts. She wouldnt be published in scientific journals. I should know I’m a chemist. Apart from anything else scientific papers have to be refereed by two independent anonymous experts and she’d struggle to find even one such person who’d agree with her. I have to say I know I’m well able to cause grief myself but i do wonder if she actually stirs up genuine debate or just trouble. Her blog is comment free and everywhere she goes she simply attacks. All the while actual issues arent discussed at all.

  32. Michael Averko says:

    Ger

    Something which was directly addressed to David Johnson of Johnson’s Russia List.

    In addition to some other points, he has so far done the turtle on this.

  33. Sean says:

    I have to second Andy’s observation that inclusion on JRL doesn’t necessarily produce an up tick in hits. I’ve had a number of articles listed on JRL and to my knowledge it hasn’t increased readership. I assume that if people do read an article on JRL they do so on email, and don’t go to the original source.

    As a whole, I accept Mike criticisms of JRL, but don’t exactly share them. It would be a mistake among any serious person interested in Russia to use JRL as the only source. I happen to use it a lot and find it valuable because it contains a lot of articles (even some in translation) about Russia. But it is by no means a one stop shop. As far as JRL’s influence, I have no idea.

    I don’t know why Johnson doesn’t include Mike’s work or other essential articles he claims are missing. It certainly could be personal, political, or something else entirely. Sorry Mike, I also don’t think Johnson has any obligation to include you and the publications you promote no more than I or Andy or even LR has an obligation to include anyone we don’t want to.

    On traffic, and maybe I should put this comment on the evaluating Russian blogs thread, but to my knowledge, a hit gets recorded on site meter even if a site comes up on a google search. I get hits based on a number of strange searches that deal with Russia. For example, I recently got a hit from someone doing a search for “grandfather stories during soviet repressions.” If a blogger, like LR, simply republishes articles from other news sites, the number of hits are bound to increase just based on google searches. But whatever. Hits are merely a one way to gauge readership. I happen to think that the real measure of being read at least on Site meter is “average visit length” and comments.

    LR is a shameless promoter and more power to her. We all are to some extent because we want to be read and by having a blog we feel we should be read. As Ger said here or on another thread (I can’t remember), blogging is about egoism.

  34. Michael Averko says:

    Sean:

    Points well taken up to a certain point.

    There’s no obligation for JRL to post me. It’s also clear that JRL isn’t reasonably fair in its selection process.

    Sean, Russian mass media isn’t obligated to run some of the horseshit stated by Politkovskaya (when living), Felgenhauer, Albats, Latynina and Gessen. Only some would call that “censorship”.

    JRL regularly posted from the now downed Intelligent.ru. Those postings didn’t include any of my Intelligent.ru material which was otherwise well received. Same experiences with Russia Blog and your site.

    The reasons are political. The JRL editor is against intelligently presented Russocentric views in the Eng. language. He also appears inacapable of an earnest intellectual discourse.

    A shameless promotion: In addition to this interview, I’m quite proud of my Intelligent.ru, Russia Blog, Tiraspol Times, and Sean’s Russia Blog articles and consider a good number of them to be far more worthy than some of the material regularly promoted by JRL. I know that I’m not the only one feeling this way.

  1. March 5, 2007

    […] Mike Averko doesn’t like La Russophobe, La Russophobe doesn’t like Mike Averko – Andy of Siberian Light interviews them both. Veronica Khokhlova […]