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Posts Tagged ‘lithuania

[LINK] “Putin’s Tanks Draw Cheers in Russian City Jammed Between NATO Nations”

Bloomberg’s Leonid Ragozin visits Kaliningrad during the celebrations of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany to find a population that is cautiously accepting official mythology.

Tanks and ballistic missiles lumbered past thousands of spectators gathered in Kaliningrad on Saturday to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe, an historic triumph for Russia that the Kremlin has used to whip up a new nationalist fervor.

“We need to show our enemies, who deem us guilty just because we exist, that Russia is a very peculiar woman—she can knock you down without a second thought,” said Aleksandr Sapenko, a 64-year-old history teacher, citing the U.S. and European Union as Russia’s main enemies. “Soviet soldiers saved them from the Nazi gas chambers, but they are barking at Russia like a pack of stray dogs.”

This Russian enclave was once the German province of East Prussia; the city’s Victory Square was known for centuries as Hansa Platz and briefly as Adolf Hitler Platz. On Saturday, when Russia and the former Soviet republics marked the anniversary of Hitler’s defeat in World War II, the square was awash in Russian and Soviet flags. Many people brought their children, whom soldiers encouraged to climb tanks and pose for photographs while wearing garrison caps and clutching tank-shaped balloons. Similar parades were held all over Russia, notably in Moscow, the capital, where more than 16,500 troops marched in Red Square.

In the postwar settlement, East Prussia was incorporated into the Russian republic of the USSR, its entire population deported to Germany and the province repopulated with Soviet citizens, primarily ethnic Russians. Nearly flattened by British bombers and Soviet artillery, the East Prussian capital, Koenigsberg, was rebuilt as a drab Soviet city and renamed Kaliningrad, after Mikhail Kalinin, a Stalin functionary who held the largely ceremonial post of Soviet president during the war.

[. . .]

At the rally, Nikita, a 21-year-old student sporting a red Soviet flag on his bicycle, complained about the hardware. “Why couldn’t they show the new T-90 tanks instead of the old T-72s?” he said, more satisfied with the state-of-the-art Platforma-M robot tanks. Nikita said such parades were necessary so that no one forgets Russia’s war sacrifice. “It is also important to show our military might, but it’s not to scare the neighbors,” he said. “They are not our enemies, and we should all be united.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2015 at 11:34 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about the good and the bad of freelancing.
  • Centauri Dreams wonders about the technical issues associated with the Encyclopedia Galactica.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper speculating on how Jupiter would appear if it was an exoplanet.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a paper examining the tumultuous planetological history of Venus.
  • A Fistful of Euros argues that Cyprus’ engagement with the Euro has been marked by the government’s willingness to hide shady behaviour at all costs.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the death of out 60s pop icon Lesley Gore.
  • Language Hat deservedly celebrates its author’s return to health and blogging.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig notes that sdhe has an online course on languages available.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the lessons of Uruguay’s José Mujica for the left, and suggests that putting populists on pedestals is a losing strategy.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe approves of the recent book Unruly Places.
  • Marginal Revolution shares a revisionist take on the 1943 Bengal famine.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw considers the role of community gardens in modern-day Australia.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer wonders if Grexit will be triggered over so little.
  • Savage Minds shares tips on better writing for students of the social sciences (and all people, really).
  • Window on Eurasia notes the shattering of the post-Soviet space, suggests further advances into Ukraine are unlikely, argues that Lithuania would be much more likely to face conventional aggression than Estonia or Latvia, and notes Russia’s outlook to the European far left as well as the far right.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Big Picture shares photos of aspiring K-pop stars.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly notes how being rich and being happy do not necessarily coincide.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post from Andrew Lepage looking at the potential habitability of more than two dozen exoplanets. (Three look good.)
  • Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin reports on the election in the Australian state of Queensland.
  • D-Brief notes the numerous surprises associated with the Rosetta comet probe.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that near-contact binary star system ZZ Eridani might have a brown dwarf in orbit.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Uranus’ moon Ariel is warmer than expected.
  • A Fistful of Euros notes the potential for change in Greece.
  • Language Hat links to an Irish Times essay arguing Ireland stayed much more Irish in language than people give it credit.
  • Language Log suggests in a guest post that the Chinese script is responsible for high levels of myopia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog features a report by Marc Rayman on the Dawn probe’s approach to Ceres.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer argues that the small Caribbean basin states which depend on Venezuela’s Petrocaribe can survive that corporation’s collapse.
  • Savage Minds recommends that writers should read more.
  • Spacing Toronto wonders what will be next for the TTC after the decision to let minors ride for free.
  • The Transit Toronto blog notes the expansion of wireless Internet across the GO Transit network.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at the growth of fascism in Russia, notes the politicization of the Russian diaspora, observes the launching of websites for Russophone secessionists in the Baltic States, and wonders about whether or not Putin distinguishes between lies and the truth.

[NEWS] Some Wednesday links

  • Al Jazeera captures the mood of Tunisia on the eve of elections, looks at the sufferings of ISIS’ sex slaves, reports on Kenya’s harsh response to American criticism of anti-terrorism legislation, and notes that Florida surpasses New York as the United States’ third most populous state.
  • Bloomberg reports on the absence of well-heeled Russian customers visiting Dubai, North Korea having been found guilty of the kidnapping of a Korean-American pastor, describes a European Union response on Ukraine’s financial needs, examines the entanglement of BP with Russia’s sanctions-hit oil and gas industry, outlines Chinese interest in helping Russia for a price, describes geopolitical rivalries of companies bidding for a South African nuclear program, notes Lithuanian interest in the Euro as a way to protect that Baltic state from Russia, shares listings of wonderful Detroit homes on sale at low prices, suggests the low price of oil means economic retrenchment in the Gulf states, and describes how a globalized Filipino village came to specialize in child porn.
  • Bloomberg View suggests Russia’s economic future is parlous despite the recent stabilization of the ruble, criticizes Russian military aircraft confrontations with civilian aircraft, suggests Russia wants a deal, argues the collapse of Vermont’s single-payer healthcare program shows the path-dependency of America’s medical industry, argues Japan should surpass China as a lender to the US, and describes North Korea’s high price for its apparent Sony hack.
  • The Inter Press Service notes a high dropout rate from school for Afghan refugees, suggests political turmoil in Spain might lead to a moral regeneration, describes the negative impact of falling oil prices on fragile African economies, comments on Pakistan’s renewed use of the death penalty, and argues Cuban-American detente will help stabilize the Americas.
  • MacLean’s wonders why the National Archives are being made inaccessible to visitors, describes the toxic CBC environment that enabled Jian Ghomeshi, and visits Yazidis returning to liberated territories to find mass graves of their people.
  • Open Democracy looks at Russian support of Central Asian governments which kidnap their dissidents on Russian territory, examines official misogyny in Chechnya, looks at constitutional turmoil in the United Kingdom, and studies the nature of Russian support for European far-right groups.
  • Universe Today describes how a newly-discovered dwarf galaxy satellite of the Milky Way can help explain the universe, looks at evidence for a subsurface reservoir of water on Mars, and examines the idea of airship-borne exploration of Venus.
  • Wired thinks the withdrawal of Google News from Spain will do nothing to change the underlying dynamics of the mass media industry, and examines the fascinating dynamics of volcanism in history on Mars.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the distribution of hot Jupiters that concludes, although they might be preferentially distributed around main-sequence singletons, there’s not enough information to be sure.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Ukraine has abandoned its non-aligned status.
  • Far Outliers notes the desires of the inhabitants of beseiged Sarajevo for, if not salvation, then flight.
  • Language Hat quotes George Szirtes on the advantages and otherwise of bilingualism.
  • Language Log looks for examples of the phrasing “end of the city limits”.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money anticipates the Nicaragua Canal.
  • Otto Pohl notes how heavily diasporic nationalities in the Stalinist Soviet Union tended to be subject to arrest.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at advantages in storing electricity produced by solar power, links to a paper suggesting that Mexico can survive low oil prices in decent shape, and notes that treaties enabling the Nicaragua Canal are also giving China a comfortable legal position in that country.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money shows why John Romita Jr is one of the best comic book artists.
  • Spacing Toronto commemorates the 25th anniversary of the terrible Rupert Hotel fire.
  • Strange Maps looks at how often “dude” and “bro” and like words are spoken across the United States.
  • Torontoist thinks Toronto should really learn from Paris’ efforts to hinder gentrification.
  • Towelroad notes the arrest of three people in The Gambia on the charges of homosexuality.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Ilya Somin makes the seemingly conventional argument that crimes against police and crimes by police should be condemned equally.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at changing ethnic and national identity among Russians in Latvia and Lithuania, suggests that Russia’s new policies on its Soviet-era border changes might destabilize the entire Soviet Union, reports a Crimean Tatar leader’s suggestion that Crimean Tatars should be recognized by law as an indigenous people of Ukraine, examines the consequences of border changes on church politics and jurisdictions, and observes Mongolia’s outreach to ethnic and religious kin in Buryatia, Tuva, and Kalmykia.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO notes that Toronto has placed ninth on a list of the best cities in the world to be a student.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a report examining the recent Russian naval deployment towards Australia.
  • Far Outliers notes the role of women in North Korea’s informal markets.
  • Language Hat comments on a haunting Hungarian-Polish phrasebook from 1940.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money continues an interesting debate on the American immigration amnesty.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests South Korea’s clean-up of its environment occurring within the past decade is indicative of China’s developments.
  • Justin Petrone notes one example of racial stereotyping of northern Italians versus southern Italians.
  • The Planetary Society Blog shares some recent Hubble images of Mars.
  • Savage Minds shares the reactions of some anthropologists to Ferguson.
  • Spacing considers if Uber is part of the sharing economy.
  • Strange Maps shares cartographic domestic propaganda from the First World War.
  • Torontoist suggests that, with Nijinsky, Toronto is playing an important role as the host of narrative ballet.
  • Transit Toronto reports on the #grumpyrider hashtag.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on Ukrainian military cooperation with Poland and Lithuania and suggests on Ukrainian alienation from Russia.

[LINK] “Illegally mining Russia’s ‘Baltic gold'”

Mansur Mirovalev and Denis Sinyakov’s Al Jazeera article takes a look at illegal amber mining in Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad. Faced with economic collapse locally, the mass export of Kaliningrad’s amber–legal or otherwise–is a tempting alternative even for professionals. The Russian state is involved in this.

Amber has become post-Soviet Russia’s “blood diamond” that has killed dozens of black diggers and enriched or impoverished thousands of craftsmen, smugglers and middlemen – amid an amber boom in China that sent prices up and redrew the world map of the “solar stone” trade.

Digger Alexander says his illegal job is his only chance to earn a decent living in the Montenegro-sized region of one million, where competition with European farmers made agriculture unprofitable, Soviet-era plants have been shut down, and rampant corruption stifles business.

“I have no other choice,” says the former schoolteacher who refused to provide his last name citing safety reasons. During a cigarette break, he climbs a hillock that overlooks a wasteland of dead grass, other man-made pools, and upturned soil that soak in the drizzle falling from the grey October sky. “Every third guy my age around here does the same,” Alexander adds.

[. . .]

After the 1991 Soviet Union collapse, amber mining – like almost any other industry in Russia – was rife with corruption and crime. Corrupt mine guards turned a blind eye to black diggers – who could get away with a fine of 500 rubles ($13) if caught, and who drove around in SUVs equipped with powerful pumps – or took part in the theft themselves. Hundreds of tonnes of amber were smuggled to Poland and Lithuania.

“There were bandits, crooks and thieves,” says Galina Spivak, a guide at Combine’s museum. Most of Combine’s 3,000 workers were fired and “resorted to what desperate Russian men do – drinking vodka and hanging themselves”, she adds bitterly.

In 2004, after a contract-style killing of a businessman who tried to wrestle control of the amber trade, a star was born. Viktor Bogdan, a former police sergeant nicknamed “Ballet”, monopolised the sale of Combine’s entire output to domestic and foreign buyers, and started calling himself “The Amber King”.

After the Kremlin’s intervention in 2012, Bogdan was charged with fraud and now awaits extradition from Poland. A new team headed by a former KGB officer was appointed to manage Combine and boost domestic production of amber.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 6, 2014 at 2:56 am


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