Weekly Russia Blog Roundup 6 November 2010

It’s been another bumper week for blog posts about Russia.  So good, in fact, that I had to bring forward my original publication date of Sunday, for fear that there would be more good posts tomorrow and I’d run out of space.

Seriously – this is an epic edition.  You might want to go grab a cup of coffee before you start reading!

Let’s kick off with an in-depth exchange between Vadim Nitkin of Foreign Policy’s Russia Blog and Anatoly Karlin of Sublime Oblivion, who are doing their best to raise the standard of Russia blogging by engaging in honest to goodness in depth debate.  Over the Kuriles and Khodorkovsky no less.

  • First, Vadim provided his take on events in Khodorkovsky = Kurils, arguing that Russia’s stubborn refusal to do the sensible thing is, in each case, holding it back.
  • Then Anatoly weighed in with his rebuttal – essentially (I think, and I’m probably grossly oversimplifying) arguing that it’s lunacy to give something away for nothing.
  • Vadim bounced back with his brilliantly titled Kurilous Case of Khodorkovsky (although I suspect I may not be alone in being disappointed that Case was not spelled with a ‘K’…)
  • Anatoly has (so far) the final word with an updated to his rebuttal post – scroll to the end of his post to read the update

If that’s not enough on the Kuriles, check out Streetwise Professor’s take – like Vadim he’s wondering just what on earth Russia is doing tweaking Japan’s nose like this.

“It wasn’t as if Medvedev just dropped by on his way to the store, or something. The efforts needed to make the visit truly were extraordinary.  The weather over the islands is usually appalling, and bad weather forced Medvedev to abort an earlier trip.  As it was, he had to fly to Sakhalin, change to smaller plane (no airport in the Kuriles being capable of handling his normal aircraft) and risk getting marooned there for an extended period by a bad turn of weather–which almost happened, in the event.  In other words, he had to work very, very hard to deliver this facial to the Japanese.”

On a related theme, Robert Amsterdam diverts himself from the Khodorkovsky trial to talk about this week’s Alexander Lebedev raids:

“It’s the new legal nihilism:  it looks like reform, it smells like modernization, and it’s nothing but good news for all the smiles, handshakes, and champagne from Washington to Paris and Berlin.  Who, at this point, is the one acting like a nihilist?”

Also this week:

Well, that’s it for this week.  I’ll leave you with the news that Birdbrain has a new look.  She’s wearing a variant on the delightfully styled 2010 Weaver theme, also on display here on SL, and over at Sublime Oblivion.  It seems that Anatoly is a becoming bit of a blog style guru…

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4 Responses

  1. Tim Newman says:

    I’d agree that it would be stupid for Russia to give back the Kuril Islands. They are the de facto owners, and there is nothing to gain and much to lose by letting them go.

    But I’d be interested to know what the Kuril Islanders think. In fairness, they would probably want to remain Russian (the handful I knew in Sakhalin were very much Russian and not much Japanese). But one thing Russia’s ownership of the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin Island does is show the staggering difference in governmental competence between Russia and Japan. On almost every measure, Sakhalin is a complete shithole where they can’t even manage such simple concepts as drainage and road repair; Japan, some 50km away, might as well be on another planet. If I was the Russian president, I’d be embarassed to visit Sakhalin and the Kurils.

  2. Andy says:

    I think you’re right – they’d probably want to remain Russian.

    But, as a thought experiment, it’d be fascinating to a group of Kuril Islanders them to Japan, tell them that they to could have a rich lifestyle, and then ask them again. Would national pride triumph over material self-interest?

  3. Tim Newman says:

    A similar experiment took place for real with the Sakhalin Koreans of the first and second generations. A lot of the older generation went back because they could get a much better life, but most of the younger generation stayed because Korea was, quite literally, a foreign country for them. My guess is most Kuril Islanders would struggle to adapt to Japanese life and culture, even if they could get a better standard of living.

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