Oleg Kashin’s Manic Depression

 

"I know what I want, but I just don't know..."

In Russia these days, the sky seems to be falling even more than usual. In mid-March, INSOR (the Institute of Contemporary Development) came out with its annual report on Russia’s political future, advocating its patented brand of Medvedevian liberal reform. This produced the usual bubble of chatter, and would likely have faded into oblivion soon thereafter had TsSR (the Center for Strategic Studies) not released a similar study affirming the same findings. TsSR’s report matters more because, in Liliia Shevtsova’s words, it’s “people in the system going against the system.” When asked if his organization was ‘pro-Putin,’ Sergei Belanovskii (one of the TsSR authors) told Ekho Moskvy that he was just following the sociological evidence. (The evidence, it’s worth noting, apparently says that Russians demand an entirely new leader in 2012 — a third candidate!)

Now skip ahead to April 5th. Blogging at Bol’shoi Gorod, Oleg Kashin writes a bizarre, dreamy piece on Aleksei Navalny. The post is partly a nostalgic reminiscence about the simple old days, when Navalny was still tooling around for a movement or an issue to which he could hitch his wagon. (It turns out to have been RosPil and procurement corruption, not Narod and illegal construction.) Next, Kashin tosses out a Yeltsin analogy to explain how Navalny has become “the most popular non-establishment politician since 1989.” However, Navalny’s success will end soon, Kashin declares, arguing that ‘nobody really backs him’ because “nobody really backs anyone” (никто ни за кем не стоит). Navalny’s supporters will gradually turn into a sect, and newspapers will stop reporting on him. “Maybe they’ll send an intern,” Kashin offers charitably.

The next day, Kashin gave a lecture at Tsvet Nochi (a Moscow bar/club/restaurant place), where he told listeners that he expects the imminent territorial collapse of the Russian Federation. And, despite some seemingly absurd jokes about Siberia becoming an independent nation, it appears that Kashin was being serious.

The title of Kashin’s lecture was “Russia for Russians,” the slogan of Russian nationalism and a renewed subject of debate after last December’s ‘race riots’/pogroms/civil unrest at Manezh Square. People in the audience probably expected Kashin to try to parse the liberal/conservative tensions on the ‘nationality question.’ (Olga Allenova and Yuri Krupnov quarreled about this last year, when the latter tried to turn a blind eye to race and interpret the slogan to mean “Russia for Russian [citizens]“.) Kashin, however, dismissed the threat of nationalism in Russia outright:

“If tomorrow all police disappear from the streets and there began a day of open murders, it’s unlikely that these killings would proceed on ethnic grounds; the conflicts wouldn’t be interethnic but, more likely, interclass.”

The events at Manezh? A Kremlin plot: “Without the goodwill of the authorities, we wouldn’t have witnessed anything like what we did see at Manezh.”

The startling success of Dmitri Rogozin’s party in 2003? A Kremlin sideshow: “Quite artificial and not related to the real agenda of the day.”

As is often the case with Oleg Kashin, it seems like it was a different person authoring his work five years ago. In a November 2005 article for Vzgliad (titled “Moscow for Muscovites,” no less), Kashin was alarmed by the race riots in France. Though he was skeptical about the Rodina project, he warned that “[i]n three or five years, Moscow, and later all of Russia, will still have to face the [nationalist] problem.”

The Kashin who now forecasts Russia’s collapse is the same man who wrote in March 2005 that “the expectation of change is the main sensation of the year.” This, of course, was back when Kashin was still ‘for the first time’ reporting for Kommersant. (He’s back at that publication again, but there were several ‘dark years,’ when he flirted with more establishment-friendly newspapers.) “Ready for A Fight” is an article Kashin wrote at the height of his bromance with Ilya Yashin. (If Yashin had become as successful as Navalny is today, one has little doubt that Kashin would now be blogging about how ‘nobody backs Ilya,’ the ‘new Yeltsin,’ etcetera.)

The March 2005 piece is all about the politicalization of Russia’s youth. This was the era of color revolution and Nashi scandal. Indeed, Yashin and Kashin even infiltrated an early Nashi conference, using false names. When they were discovered, some Nashists even roughed up Yashin (Kashin wouldn’t get his for another five-plus years).

Ah, what could have been...

In November 2010, after the infamous attack on Kashin, Yashin published on his blog a post titled “Today We’re All Kashins.” He recaps the 2005 Nashi incident to implicate Yakemenko in the 2010 plot, but equally interesting is his characterization of his friendship with Oleg in the 2005 period. He tells the story of them parting ways politically, of Kashin attending Seliger and warming to Gleb Pavlovsky. Then followed blogging tit-for-tat tiffs. (Yashin violated Kashin’s privacy, and then Kashin betrayed Yashin’s trust. Blah, blah, blah.) There was a fateful meeting at a pizzeria, where the two men reached a cordial but not terribly friendly truce.

Kashin has had two popular LiveJournal blogs. His current blog, kashin.livejournal.com, has been active since 2002, but there are no public entries between 2003 and 2008. His other LJ account, another-kashin.livejournal.com, has a smattering of entries between 2007 and 2009, but most are not available to non-friends. The entries used to be public, but Kashin switched on the privacy settings at some point — probably during one of his not infrequent identity crises.

What is the meaning of all this? I’m not sure, but — to borrow Kashin’s own willingness to make grand assumptions about Russia’s ‘path’ — perhaps this political schizophrenia is representative of something national? Russia’s bastard democracy drives most anyone to a sort of civic manic depression. One moment, the angels of a color revolution are assembling overhead, and, the next minute, it seems like the system is either terminal or invulnerable. It’s enough to give anybody mood swings.

54 Comments

  1. Kevin, when I was a child, there was a popula joke:

    Идет чукча, на нем кепка с четырьмя козырьками. Его спрашивают:
    “Чукча, ну, козырек впереди и козырек сзади, это понять можно, но зачем козырьки по бокам?”
    “Однако, чтобы лапшу на уши не вешали!”

    One of the ideologists of territorial collapse of Russia is Konstantin Krylov:
    http://krylov.livejournal.com/

    One of the people who seem to believe in that collapse is Dmitry Olshansky:
    http://d-olshansky.livejournal.com/

    Once you have read all of that… just think with your own head.

  2. Yes Kevin, read all of that and “just think with your own head”, perhaps then you’ll understand Russia like we (the great but doomed) Russians do. Nay, a foreigner could never. Умом Россию не понять :)

    Good post.

  3. It wasn’t enough for Kashin to be mauled by the Kremlin’s thugs. Now he has to be mauled by pro-Kremlin American bloggers in digital form.

    “Russia’s bastard democracy drives most anyone to a sort of civic manic depression. One moment, the angels of a color revolution are assembling overhead, and, the next minute, it seems like the system is either terminal or invulnerable. It’s enough to give anybody mood swings.”

    What a disgraceful, cynical and malicious comment. Why isn’t this man free to change his mind? Why can’t he simply have a blog and if you find it useful, fine, and if not, fine? He’s performed a certain brave civic service for his country standing up for the people trying to save the forest and writing some brave pieces. That’s more than you’ve ever done. I don’t demand that brave people be saints and be perfectly rational — perfectly cynical? — all the time.

    I’m never depressed by the fits and starts of Russian democracy. I am depressed by haters like you abroad — that’s the real awfulness.

    It’s as if these people fail by failing to be perfect stand-ins for you, going through the paces in the way you think Russia should be fixed. Isn’t enough merely to study Russia and try to be helpful and critical when it’s obviously needed? After all, it is not our country. And that means we don’t have to be gingerly about it, and while not worshipping people who stand up to the thugs in the Kremlin or idealizing them, we can respect what they’re doing.

    • Kashin is perfectly free to do or say what he likes. The quality of his journalism is also, undoubtedly, a civil service. That’s why, on AGT, I’ve translated some of his work about Kaliningrad and the Strategy 31 protests.

      That said, he does change his mind and his political alliances fairly often — and quite dramatically. That, I think, is worth some attention, which is what I’ve tried to do here. As for my tone, I’m afraid it is what it is. I doubt Kashin would feel “digitally mauled,” if he were ever to read this post. His skin is a bit thicker than that, I’d wager.

  4. Maybe he’s the sort of journalist that has to identify with his subjects when he writes about them. If he changes his affiliations, he’s no different than lots of Russians and following the process is interesting. Who would have known that the gay party boy and art lover of the 1980s we all knew so well in New York, Edik Limonov, author of “Eto Ya, Edichka,” would not only go back to Russia, but head up something called the National-Bolshevik Party.

    It happens. Yes, I imagine Kashin’s skin is a lot thicker than yours.

  5. Do you even understand the reference to “Day of Open Murders”? It was a short story by the dissident writer Yuli Daniel:

    http://knol.google.com/k/joshwepman/this-is-moscow-speaking/u5nvyhwht3th/5#

    And indeed it was a story about how the form the revenge would take would not only be against ethnic groups but classes. And it was written at a time when the Soviet Union was starting to emerge not from a day of such open murders, but decades of them.

    And yes, your tone is objectionable but it becomes a problem because it leads to in fact errors of analysis. The brutal attack is referred to as “infamous” — as if there was something wrong with everyone talking about and denouncing the fact a journalist was put into a coma with his arms broken by thugs with crowbars because of articles he wrote about some people trying to stop a forest from being cut down for a super highway. Shifts in his assessments about what he writes about, shifts in his opinion become “an identity crisis” and “schizophrenia” — is this of that Soviet type that is latent, without symptoms or what? And why this nastiness? Because he seems to predict Russia’s collapse? What’s wrong with doing that? Perhaps it may disintegrate further; perhaps not. It’s ok to look at different hypotheses.

    And he’s right to ask questions about Manezh and look for the long arm of intelligence or some government grouping there.

    BTW, I’d have to go look at the context, but никто ни за кем не стоит doesn’t mean ““nobody really backs him” but means “nobody really backs anybody”. “kem” isn’t the instrumental for “him” but for “anyone”.

    As you seem quite willing to make grand assumptions about “Russia’s path,” I fail to see why he can’t. But I guess I don’t seem him making them (I’m not on the secret journal read list, I guess).

    • Didn’t realize the Yuri Daniel reference. Thanks for the link. I don’t see how this changes anything I said, but it’s interesting background, all the same.

      The attack is “infamous” because it was widely reported, heinous, and there is mystery surrounding why it happened. The three theories Kashin himself has suggested are (1) Khimki forest, (2) Andrei Turchak, and (3) Yakemenko and Nashi. You seem to be pretty convinced that it is the first scenario, though Kashin has indicated that he blames Nashi above all else.

      Nothing is wrong with predicting Russia’s collapse, or questioning the origins of Russian ethnic violence. I never said anything of the sort. I’m only pointing out certain inconsistencies in Kashin’s work. That’s all.

      I think his political shifts qualify as noteworthy, and that’s why I wrote this post. When I write that Kashin has “political schizophrenia,” I am obviously employing a bit of hyperbole. Also, when I write that Russian politics “drives most anyone to a sort of civic manic depression,” I don’t mean that everyone in Russia is mentally ill. It’s a literary device, not a Soviet-type scheme.

      You’re correct about the translation note. I provided the Russian because I was tweaking the English a bit. If I distorted Kashin’s message, then it’s my mistake. (I don’t think I did.) In any event, I’ve clarified in the text above, and linked to your comment.

      • Regarding this translation issue: I’ve noticed the inconsistency while reading (“nobody backs him” vs. “никто ни за кем не стоит”), checked the source, and realized that your version was consistent with the sense of the article:

        “Еще год назад я думал, что как обидно будет, если окажется, что за Навальным кто-нибудь стоит. Сейчас — наоборот, хочу, чтобы за ним кто-нибудь стоял, хотя уже прекрасно понимаю, что никто, конечно, ни за кем не стоит.”

        While the latest part does translate verbatim as “nobody backs anyone”, the meaning of the entire passage is, clearly, that nobody backs Navalny.

        That’s why I hadn’t report the perceived linguistic issue — because there were no.

      • I’m not a linguistics grad, but IMHO, concluding the article with “никто, конечно, ЗА НИМ не стоит” would have been a stylistic error: “за Навальным… за ним… за ним…” is a wrong style, because the same object is referenced thrice within a short passage. Replacing the last “за ним” with “ни за кем” does not alter the sense of the passage, but improves its style.

  6. Look. I’m not the obsessive student of either Kashin or Navalny that you are, because they don’t irritate me the way they do you, I take them pretty much at face value. I’m not thrown into a rage because they’re covered perhaps a bit too enthusiastically by the Western media, like you are. Perhaps I’ve put out a tweet or two, I made one defense of Navalny as a live human being running an anti-corruption website that I thought was more relevant and useful than having the trendy opensource fetishism of the moment, Ushahidi, do the job auto-magically with “crowd-sourcing” on another Russian site, but that’s another subject.

    But you don’t have to be an obsessive reader of Kashin to see that you’ve totally tendentiously skewed what he wrote in this blog because you’re viewing him and the dissenters in general through a scrim of hatred.

    You make it seem as if Kashin is snottily dumping on Navalny — the way you might — and seizing the disparagement of one writer you don’t like to arm yourself against another. It was completely wrong to translate the text as “nobody is backing him” and use it to imply as if Kashin was making a pointed and nasty remark about Navalny per se — as if he had concluded that he was a fake.

    That’s a total misreading of the text, however. The entire post of Kashin’s starts with the fanciful notion of tweeting about Navalny supposedly being a “project” of the FSB planted in Yabloko, and what fun that would be to tweet, and then moves on to talk ruefully about the times when he could laugh about notions like this with Navalny himself, and then goes on to try to really consider the thesis. What if Navalny (and it’s clear he thinks Navalny, even if he seems to be behaving like a politician running for election, is a good thing) were really backed by the FSB? What if hundreds of people were really working to make this anti-corruption project happen as a social force?

    He then concludes very ruefully — “but no one is backing anything”. Groups in the government or the society aren’t backing things like this. They don’t have a social following and they don’t have their government backers, either. And isn’t that sad. And *most importantly*, that’s why we just had the “extremely unpleasant” decade we had. You left that out! And no accident, comrade.

    Let’s look at the whole paragraph:

    И вот, наверное, поэтому я и хочу пошутить по поводу того, что эта история началась десять лет назад, когда молодого чекиста Навального прикомандировали к ап­парату партии «Яблоко». Это даже не шутка, это мечта, замаскированная под шутку — как было бы здорово, если бы это только казалось, что он одиночка, а на самом деле в проекте «Навальный» участвовало бы до сотни людей. Психологи, маркетологи, политтехнологи, специалисты по безопасности, за которыми стоит какая-нибудь большая и таинственная сила, хоть ФСБ, хоть какая-нибудь башня Кремля, хоть Америка, хоть мировой сионизм, хоть марсиане. Чтобы эта сила, применив весь свой волшебный ресурс, привела Навального к власти и отомстила бы за все, за все эти десять лет. И за Ходорковского, и за «Единую Россию», и за «Программу максимум», и за Химкинский лес, и за движение «Наши», и вообще за все, что заставляет нас относиться к этим годам как к крайне неприятному периоду.
    Еще год назад я думал, что как обидно будет, если окажется, что за Навальным кто-нибудь стоит. Сейчас — наоборот, хочу, чтобы за ним кто-нибудь стоял, хотя уже прекрасно понимаю, что никто, конечно, ни за кем не стоит.

    Hardly a manic depressive; maybe he just is too far over your head. In fact, he’s a thoughtful writer who explicates the sorrow of the times in Russia, and actually explicates his own dual attitude toward them. You don’t share that sorrow at the failure of various liberal projects, but you can at least represent it correctly.

    • Kashin doesn’t say he’s a fake, but he has pointed out that Navalny is as opportunist as any politician, for better or for worse. This is from the Q&A of the lecture:

      2-й зритель: А какие реальные факторы российской политики, по-вашему, существуют?

      О.К.: Коррупция. Успех Навального свидетельствует о том, что она оказалась той болевой точкой, которая находит отклик среди любых людей. Я наблюдаю Алексея Навального как политика уже лет восемь, и я видел, как он пытался нащупать то ключевое звено, потянув за которое можно вытянуть всю цепочку. Вначале он боролся с точечной застройкой в Москве, может быть, даже и удачно, но это не выстрелило. Потом он пытался быть националистом, создавать движение «Народ», и оказалось, что эта тема тоже не востребована, потому что есть у нас Крылов, который пишет в ЖЖ о том, что русских людей обижают, собирает там свои сто комментов, но это не есть фактор политики. А коррупция оказалась фактором политики, потому что все видят на всех уровнях, какое происходит воровство, все видят феодализацию России, всех это раздражает.

      Questions about Navalny’s krysha aren’t new, and, in the BG post, Kashin isn’t really engaging the subject seriously. Instead, he writes vaguely and facetiously about the lack of any “social following” with real oomph. ‘If only the FSB were behind it all, then we’d have a chance,’ he jokes. I like his style. But I don’t understand why he draws the Yeltsin analogy, if he thinks Navalny isn’t going anywhere. If he’s so popular, why are his supporters doomed to become a sect? And why will Navalny’s press soon die out? Isn’t his stardom growing every day?

      Kashin used to have a lot more faith in this civil society stuff. In 2005, all it took was a young girl leaving a bag of tangerines on the FSB’s doorstep to prompt a heap of ‘change is in the air’ sentimentality. Now his old buddy is debating university professors and establishing alliances with federal monitoring agencies, but he’s still down in the dumps.

      Maybe he has this thumb on the pulse of the nation, and knows that it’s all about to come crumbling down. Maybe he’s prone to hipster clique wars, and tires easily of anything once it’s ‘played out.’ As I said originally: I don’t know.

      On a separate note, I’ll ask you (for the first and last time) to spare me the offensive tone. I’m happy to discuss issues with you here at AGT, but there’s a limit to my patience, when it comes to rude language. If you honestly have such little respect for me, then I think you should just go away. This is fair, is it not?

      • “If he’s so popular, why are his supporters doomed to become a sect? And why will Navalny’s press soon die out? Isn’t his stardom growing every day?”

        IMHO.

        You’ve answered your question yourself. The key is that supporters are “his”. Supporters of a person, not supporters of an idea. Any personality cult is after all only a personality cult — be it in favour of Putin, Navalny or whoever. There’s a need of an organization, for which Navalny could be a spokesperson. Like Putin and United Russia. Today, politicians attract people’s attention, but it’s organizations that are subjects of big politics. Like, Zhirinovsky is a funny guy, but what matters after all is the number of votes for LDPR.

        On a personal note, that’s why I’ve joined the “Right Cause” and Inoforum. I completely lack of political skills, I don’t want to lead anybody, I have an engineering job I love, etc. There’s possibly only 1% of my life that I can waste on being slightly political. But whatever small moves I do to support the organizations I’ve chosen to join, won’t be wasted, but will be accumulated with the rest of the joint effort.

        Big politics IS about organizations and ideas professed by them. The role of a bright individual politician is limited to being a spokesperson, “a human face” of a political organization. Putin is a smart guy, because he became a “human face” of the “United Russia”, and created that form of symbiotic relationships with that organization.

        • (1) What about RosPil? This seems like a good institutional/organizational foundation for further success by Navalny and anybody like him who wants to build on the anti-corruption work…

          (2) Navalny is a young guy. Even if his success is built on a “personality cult,” there’s no reason it can’t grow into something mass. Stalin had a personality cult, too, and the guy had at his disposal one hell of a “sect.” If the argument is that the authorities will sabotage or suppress Navalny’s rise, that’s one thing. But Kashin seems to be arguing that a general lack of initiative (by both the public and members of the elite) will be Navalny’s downfall.

          Navalny is going to crash and burn because ‘nobody backs anybody,’ but ‘Tangerine Karisha’ is enough to cue ‘The Times They Are A-Changin”? Seems to me like somebody lost his faith in humanity.

          • In Russia, cults of personality have been shaping the nation since time immemorial (I suspect a connection with the high power distance index). I sincerely hope that Russia of today and tomorrow will be more objective in choosing when to follow or not to follow its contemporary leaders. Such hopes aside, I wouldn’t dismiss any nascent or existing personality cult as a temporary or inconsequential phenomenon with no long term impact.

            IMHO, Kashin’s “dreamy piece” is indeed an expression of fatigued frustration with the lack of progress in achieving meaningful political and societal changes. It’s a midnight poem written after a few drinks and much brooding over disappointments of the past decade.

            To translate and paraphrase what I see as the primary sentiment of the piece — “A year ago, I believed Navalny could come to power and feared this might be a play of some powerful and opaque force. Today, I think there’s a great risk that he’ll remain an outside player to the end, and his appeal will fade and supporters disperse until only a marginal sect remains. Today, I fear nothing will change, and I find myself wishing that there indeed was some great force behind Navalny, even if it’s FSB or aliens, so long as it would put him in charge and avenge the blights of the decade past. But, of course, there’s no such force. [So we're doomed! DOOMED!]“.

          • Kevin, I can understand why are you asking, but I’m afraid I’m not any much of a help here. Why don’t you talk to Kashin or Navalny? Can’t choose which one to interview? :-)

            (1) Sounds like a plausible proposal, although I don’t know any much about RosPil.

            (2) May be Kashin is correct. I would like much more to see Navalny as a head of the “Right Cause”, than Shuvalov (although that’s yet to be a party decision). I also believe we lack of enough communication even within a single country.

            (3) “Seems to me like somebody lost his faith in humanity.”

            May be he had his reasons for that.

    • Catherine:

      “but no one is backing anything” is most certainly a wrong translation. “Кем” is instrumental for “who”, not for “what”. It’s crucial, trust me as a native Russian. :-)

      • No, Evgeny, no.

        Let’s go over again what I wrote because you’re deliberately distorting what I wrote — it’s called “trolling” in your parlance.

        First, I wrote this, see above at April 9, 2011 at 8:02 pm:

        “BTW, I’d have to go look at the context, but никто ни за кем не стоит doesn’t mean ““nobody really backs him” but means “nobody really backs anybody”. “kem” isn’t the instrumental for “him” but for “anyone”.

        Your friend AGT even corrected himself and linked to my April 9 post. So I thereby established that in fact, duh, I know what “kem” is, and it means *anybody* — in the instrumental.

        Second, I wrote this in the later comment:

        “It was completely wrong to translate the text as “nobody is backing him” and use it to imply as if Kashin was making a pointed and nasty remark about Navalny per se — as if he had concluded that he was a fake. That’s a total misreading of the text, however…”

        Indeed, it is.

        Third, while summarizing what was being said by Kashin, I literally said “anything,” yes, that is literally true — but that’s because I was *summarizing* the point about a list of things that included things and people. The accent is on the “any” — it isn’t about “thing” or “one” but ANY. Can you grasp that?

        I had already established that I understood the Russian and translated correctly, not tendentiously as AGT did.

        It isn’t valid to pounce on my later use of “anything” as somehow indicative of my “bad translation” when I’ve already established what it meant above and even AGT conceded that point.

        You know it, and I know it.

        BTW, your ceding of political judgement to big powerful Kremlin-backed groups makes me shudder.

        This isn’t about emotions; it’s about morality.

        It is not “emotions” to respect a journalist who was beaten savagely by Kremlin-backed thugs; it is not “emotions” to portray what he’s written accurately.

        It’s emotions not to do so.

        • Oh, god damn it.

          1) Nobody _accuses_ you of anything. I did not.

          2) I do not view AGT’s translation as tendentious. It’s legit the way he used it. Kashin did make a point that nobody backs Navalny.

          3) I am free to respect people of my choice.

          I believe that Kashin is an excellent investigative journalist. But whatever beating he got doesn’t relegate him to a godhood status.

          • It’s funny how *I’m* the one accused of insults and uncivility when it’s others using swear words!

            AGT definitely manipulated and skewed the text. That’s obvious to be seen. Kashin’s column was not the slam on Navalny he was trying to make it out to be. Fortunately, we can read Russian and see for ourselves at the link.

            I don’t accord Kashin godlike status. I view him like all journalists on the “dangerous assignments” list — more than a little vanity and hubris driving them, and that’s what it takes. I respect him and think he deserves basic respect, and that even if someone wants to denounce him as weeping liberal, they can do so without distorting what he said.

            He definitely said “nobody is supporting anybody,” i.e. there is no big government or social force to support any of these liberal projects, his fantasy about this for Navalny was dashed by cold reality.

            You falsely implied that I somehow made a translation error when I didn’t. You’re deliberately doing this merely because you wish to support AGT and heckle me.

            You’re welcome to have the last word because this conversation isn’t worth continuing, you’re not a valid interlocutor approaching texts in good faith. There’s a lot of that here.

            • Catherine, you’re definitely the one using the most insulting language here. I’d ask you again to give it a rest, but I’ll just delete anything too offensive, if you decide to ‘speak truth to power’ again. Advance apologies for that tyranny, but them’s the breaks.

              I understand that you believe I mistranslated Kashin’s statement about Navalny’s backing in order to “quote one liberal [talking out] against another liberal.” I’ve already explained why I don’t think it’s an egregious mistranslation, but let me explain plainly that I don’t think Kashin was “against Navalny” in this statement. I called Kashin’s post “bizarre” and “dreamy,” not a “takedown of one liberal against another.”

              The whole point of my post is to argue that Kashin has become depressed and pessimistic (or “rueful,” as you put it) about the prospects of today’s Russian liberalism. This is a major shift from his previous politics of (a) color revolution, and (b) flirtation with the authorities. I don’t think there is actually any disagreement about the significance of Kashin’s statements on Navalny. “Nobody backs him” or “nobody backs anyone” — the point is still sad hopelessness. That’s what’s important.

              As you say, the Navalny experiment seems to be “failing, too,” according to Kashin. I don’t understand why he says this. By every indication, RosPil and Navalny grow stronger every day. The recent fight over procurement legal reforms (FAS-MER-HSE) suggests that Navalny is working either in league or parallel to some very powerful figures indeed.

              Also, a small point: Kashin isn’t an investigative reporter. His isn’t a “dangerous assignment,” or at least it wasn’t until someone beat him within an inch of his life for writing ‘xyz.’ It’s perhaps nitpicking to highlight this, but I offer it as a clarification, anyway. Nobody is disputing that he’s a brave motherfucker, and one hell of a talented writer. The guy just happens to change his mind a lot. That’s the subject here.

              • I see your overweening need to be right.

                Kashin is indeed an investigative journalist when he smuggles himself into a Nashi congress and when he takes on the Khimki story. He’s not just a blogger, and he’s not just reporting on the PTA meetings. That’s not to say that all his work is investigative, but on some stories that description fits him. It’s not important to label him in order to state that yes, he has taken on the “dangerous assignments” which is tackling any sensitive political topic. Why is that so hard to admit?!

                I still don’t feel that he has “changed his mind” alot so much as identified with his subject, in the gonzo journalism sort of way that people do in this business. That’s all.

                And I’m more forgiving of his trajectory because I don’t have any need to debunk the liberal wing of Russian dissent, and no need to hound liberals.

                First he was “manic depressive,” now he is “depressed” — oh, truly, it’s overkill. He’s just a journalist writing on some pretty sensitive topics and that can get you beaten severely or killed in Russia precisely because a) the Kremlin’s in on it some times b) when they aren’t, they create a climate of impunity that enables others to beat journalists at will and c) they do nothing about local corruption and thuggery because it’s part of their whole thuggish system. You don’t see it that way; it’s pretty evident, however.

                I don’t have the loathing for colour revolutions that Putin and you do and I don’t become snide about Western backing of them, either.

                It’s quite a tarantella you’re doing from arguing first that it really mattered that it was “no one is backing him” to now zooming out and saying philosophically “it doesn’t matter whether it’s just him or anybody, it’s still all about hopelessness”.

                Well, he may be hopeless — with good reasons. I’m not.

                Let History Judge.

                • This from Oleg Kashin himself:

                  I don’t mean to compare myself to Anna Politkovskaya or Paul Klebnikov, journalists who were killed probably because of their investigative work. But in a way the attack against me is more disturbing. Unlike most of the reporters who have been attacked in Russia in recent years, I have not engaged in any serious investigations into corruption or human rights abuses. I have not revealed any secret documents or irritated influential figures with embarrassing material.

                  This is all I wanted to point out.

                  You say Kashin identifies with his subjects. Who among his subjects has been preaching doom and gloom about Navalny? Who among them has been forecasting the territorial collapse of the country? Yours is an interesting theory, so let’s put it to the test!

                  I said Kashin’s politics resemble manic depression. The 2005 period was a manic episode, and today’s “rueful” tone is a depressive period.

                  I never said that “it really matters” that nobody backs Navalny. I asked why Kashin wrote this, when Navalny is clearly doing so well. I also asked why Kashin is so pessimistic in general, given his eagerness to get excited about much lesser civic activism in the past.

                  • You would never know what you originally wrote here, Kevin, so much have you now backtracked regarding Kashin — you’ve written a virtual character assassination, yet in the comments you make it sound as if you admire him and simply wish he were more consistent because you would so like to believe in crusades for the good of Russia yourself!

                    You began by telling us snarkily that “the sky is falling,” i.e. the panikyory are at it again in Russian. You mocked the usual suspects over the usual predictions of liberal reforms, and then you tackled Kashin, writing about Navalny. You fasten on Kashin’s use of a Yeltsin analogy. Boo, Yeltsin! You gloat over Kashin predicting that Navalny’s “success will end soon” (although he doesn’t quite say that). You then bang on Kashin for doing this terrible thing, predicting the “imminent territorial collapse of the Russian Federation”. You pause to give a big clap on the back to the odious Rogozin by characterizing his party as having “startling success”. And then you circle back to bang on Kashin some more, acting like he was a “different person” when he wrote about race riots in France — as if it wasn’t possible to be upset about race riots in France, and yet not think that if people could legally murder in Russia, that it would be more about class warfare than ethnic warfare.

                    The undertow here is that somehow, somewhere, Kashin might be a racist or a nationalist or…something. But at the very least, he’s a flip-flopper.

                    Oh, and of course, you grabbed opportunistically his phrase “no one backs anyone” and converted it to “him” so that Kashin could appear to be making a particular attack on Navalny — you then hypothesize that if Yashin were more “successful,” Kashin would bash him too. You recapitulate the Nashi infiltration story, but you snarkify it by calling his friendship with Yashin a “bromance” and forget to explain why they “broke up” — because Kashin was accused of violating Yashin’s privacy when he was trying to get a job at Vedomosti. You say it would be five years before Kashin “would get his” and describe the brutal attack as “infamous” — two renderings that make us wonder if in fact you think Kashin deserved to be beaten up for infiltrating the Nashi congress — or at least, you are pragmatic and not outraged about it (and think it’s gotten way too much attention, besmirching the lovely reputation of your lovely Russian government by casting aspersions on the Kremlin).

                    You then try to make it seem like Kashin is a slacker for not keeping up his LJs, and then finish this trouncing of him by accusing him of “political schizophrenia”. The colour revolution concept gets an extra kick to the groin by snarkily being described as “angels of a colour revolution are assembling overhead” — and you’re done, having trashed Kashin and to boot, implied that Navalny could be trashable too..

                    Oh — and it doesn’t seem as if Kashin has ever described the system as “invulnerable,” even if being pessimistic about the liberal project, but you accuse him of this extremism.

                    Then, in the course of numerous exchanges, you engage in just such mood swings yourself:

                    o you assure us that you have the utmost respect for this journalist Kashin even though you’ve written an uber snarky piece about him
                    o you insist that he isn’t an investigative journalist and even cite his own posts, despite the fact that yes, he has done investigation sometimes — he’s not merely a desk writer.
                    o you argue strenuously for the right to interpret “no one is backing anybody” to just refer to Navalny — you are harnessing Kashin in the service of your own wish to imply something disreputable about Navalny — AND simultaneously and opportunistically use Kashin’s possibly wrong judgement about Navalny (in case Navalny turns out to be backed by the Kremlin!) as an extra reason to bash Kashin
                    o you swing back to accuse Kashin now of writing “vaguely and facetiously”
                    o you bang on him again as being giddy with “faith in this civil society stuff” with a sentimental image of a young girl leaving a bag of tangerines on the FSB’s doorstep, etc.
                    o you — out of thin air — claim that Kashin is arguing that Navalny somehow suffers from the public’s and elite’s “general lack of initiative” although he hasn’t really said that — he’s in fact most of all implied in his piece that Navalny is behaving like a politician, like Yeltsin did, playing the populist card, if you will, but it won’t work because corruption is too deep-seated and the powers-that-be too invested in it
                    o you then sound as if in fact you are for Navalny after all. Is that because maybe you’ve decided that in fact there *is* some powerful force behind him that you admire?! You cite evidence that shows “Navalny is working either in league or parallel to some very powerful figures indeed”.

                    So what’s the problem? Is it that Kashin is just come to an epiphany about all this earlier than you have and realized it’s all fake but you’re not ready to yet? Or is it that you’re mad that Kashin has dumped on someone you now view as a comer?

                    o you say he flip-flops — when I say he identifies with his subjects, what I mean is that when he seems to flirt with certain powers that be or popular figures it’s that he is writing about them intensively and empathising with them.
                    o Having faith in something and then becoming disillusioned isn’t a symptom of “bipolar” mental disorder, it could be the sign of maturity.
                    o Gosh, with the New York Times and the New Yorker crowing about Navalny, that evil Western media with that evil anti-Russian agenda, are you *sure* you think Navalny is doing so well!

                    My own uninformed take on this is that “corruption” and “transparency” were blessed as certain flavours of the month by Surkov and other influencers last year, and certain groups like the Russian representatives of Transparency International, and certain anti-corruption campaigns, do have official blessing as a way of channeling youth, innovation, dissent, whatever, in ways that one part of the apparat can harness a social movement to harass another part of the apparat it doesn’t like. It’s more simulation of civil society and it’s more managed democracy. So Navalny may not have started as an FSB project, but he may end as one, and it may not even be so obvious even to himself. Who isn’t against corruption? The Soviet Politburo was always fighting corruption. The struggle of the various agencies with each other is what creates freedom for the ordinary mortals at times. So, too, will the Kremlin control the anti-corruption game, like all other games.

                    And you’re going to pretend that’s not the case?

                    What is the net effect of your analysis here? To bash Kashin, to set up Navalny to be discredited by using Kashin’s remark, but leave the door open in case in fact he is backed — and then you’ll be on the right side of “history”.

                    • Catherine, I’m worried about you. I’m troubled by the amount of time and emotional energy you’ve put into this discussion. I hope you find a worthier cause than arguing over what amounts to semantics with people who fundamentally share your values, if not your interpretation of language, approach to debate, or method of human interaction.

                      I hope whatever trouble you’re going through will end and you’ll soon find peace and joy. I’m sincere in this — you’re clearly a passionate and good person. Maybe outside of such discussions, even gentle :)

                    • I don’t gloat about Kashin’s pessimistic outlook on Navalny’s chances. I was just genuinely curious why he is so down in the dumps about them. I don’t like or dislike Navalny. I think he’s certainly a fascinating guy. The same goes for Kashin, whom I do genuinely like, despite what I see to be “manic depressive” professional development.

                      The same goes for “the usual suspects” and the “usual predictions of liberal reforms.” (Let me point out, though, that TsSR isn’t a “usual suspect.” Belanovskii makes Yurgens look like Kasparov. TsSR’s report is important precisely because it’s not from the usual suspects.) As for mocking the results of these studies, I hardly touched on them! Analyzing the findings of these reports (by either TsSR or INSOR) isn’t what this post is about. I meant only to tie in their mood with Kashin’s, in order to set the background for today’s malaise. This isn’t a normative judgement, it’s just a description of the current doom and gloom. (Doom and gloom is eternal, of course, whether or not there’s anything to it.)

                      Rogozin’s success was “startling” because it was scary. Nationalism is scary. People die over it, donchaknow.

                      Yes, Kashin was writing about the race riots in France, but he concluded the article by discussing race relations in Russia. The bit I quoted isn’t about France.

                      If Kashin’s “gonzo style” results in him “identifying” with his subjects, you still haven’t explained who in his recent work might have “influenced” him into this pessimism about Navalny or the country’s territorial sovereignty.

                      You recapitulate the Nashi infiltration story, but you snarkify it by calling his friendship with Yashin a “bromance” and forget to explain why they “broke up” — because Kashin was accused of violating Yashin’s privacy when he was trying to get a job at Vedomosti.

                      Actually it was Yashin who was accused of violating Kashin’s privacy. Kashin’s the reporter, remember? He’s the one who wanted to work at Vedomosti. Kashin, in turn, revealed some said-in-confidence remarks by Yashin about his troubles with the Oborona movement. This was the squabble, as Yashin describes it.

                      You then try to make it seem like Kashin is a slacker for not keeping up his LJs

                      I don’t think you’ve understood me. Kashin did keep up his blogs. He simply activated privacy settings to hide former periods of blogging life, after the fact. I don’t know if this is because he migrated into a new social circle, or because he lost pride in his past politics, but the fact is that he has made whole years of his blogging invisible to the public.

            • It’s fine with you to respond or not to, as you feel fit.

              Basically speaking, isn’t personal freedom the thing you liberals aspire to? Then HOW does your demand for showing respect to Kashin relate to your ideal of political liberties for everyone?

              I do not owe my support and respect to anybody and anyone. I believe, it’s pretty much understandable that it’s my sole decision on about who does deserve respect in my opinion.

              My respect can be gained, it can be lost, but you certainly can’t make me to respect a person simply by demanding me to. And I do not care if that person is beaten or murdered or whatever.

              Life is hard, I know.

    • Catherine, Catherine – wasn’t it you who said as soon as you put any restrictions on criticism, it is “an oppression of intellectual freedom”? But now, readers must treat Kashin as a “thoughtful writer who explicates the sorrow of the times in Russia”, at risk otherwise of being branded too dimwitted to grasp the subtlety of his message? Opinions that see him differently, as you say, are not required to be constructive to be valid.

      Anyone who lives in Russia and is willing to say it’s a shithole is promptly venerated by the western press, and bloggers like you. Anyone from the west, by contrast, who’s willing to say America is a shithole (which I am not saying) is a filthy traitor. You don’t see a double standard there?

      • It’s an old forums ploy, Mark, to pretend that just because someone has expressed a view contrary to the original poster, and urged intellectual freedom instead of silly chasing after imaginary “trolls”, that they are somehow for abrogating that person’s freedom of expression, or for mandating that everyone accept *their* view. Nothing of the sort. I’m defending my perspective, and urging it as a moral position. Obviously people are free to find their own sliding scale of morality where they wish. I haven’t made any claims that anyone is “dimwitted,” although of course, your keen sensitivity for such things is admirable, so I will re-direct you down the page further where I am accused of “ignorance” and “obnoxiousness” etc. I’ve also not implied — my, you exaggerate horribly! — that anyone who criticizes America is “a traitor”. That would be preposterous. What I’ve said is that you don’t *have* to genuflect first in the temple of political correctness and bash your own country and be totally myopic about the real grave oppression in the world elsewhere, before you are entitled to criticize Russia. I’m for 24/7 criticizing of Russia — or anywhere else — without having to cross myself three times and mention Guantanamo first. I’ve mentioned enough; we all have. Things in Russia are far worse. It’s ok to say that. In fact, it’s not a double standard, dear, it’s a universal standard we are all bound by, and which then clearly reveals where the more graver violations of human rights are located — in Russia.

        I’m curious how you come by these strangely distorted views about the relative merits of your own country, or the West if you aren’t in the US, and Russia? And why do you feel it necessary to exaggerate so obviously? Is this a function of being raised on the Internet?

        Anyway, all these threads have become so busy they are hard to follow productively.

        • I did not mean to imply you personally had expressed the view that anyone who criticizes the west is a traitor to the west in neoconservative eyes. However, that’s the way it is.

          http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2001/10/16/susans

          Those who celebrate the Russian liberals like Boris Nemtsov wouldn’t spit on Noam Chomsky if he were on fire. What’s different? They’re both criticizing aspects of their own nation’s policies that they don’t like. But the notion Nemtsov might be deliberately undermining his own government is of a necessity a good thing, because neoconservatives don’t like the Russian government.

          Ditto Kashin. The man is a saint, because he forecasts the destruction of the Russian Federation; a neoconservative dream.

          Similarly, anyone from the opposite political camp who changed his philosophy as often as Kashin has would be branded a “flip-flopper” and charlatan who has lost the facility to compel belief.

          • As for what Susan Sontag said at the time of 9/11, I actually liked her slogan that went something like “Let’s all grieve together but let’s not all be stupid together”. But her European-style analysis (and I heard it from Austrian, German, and Dutch at exactly the same time she was saying it) did sure feel awfully nasty at a time of national tragedy. The sheer anti-American hatred and spleen I heard from those European lefties at the time who would call me up and whine about “too much media coverage” when I was still smelling that awful mixture of burnt dead bodies and plastic out my window in NYC and looking at ash piling up on the window sill — well, it was disgraceful. Susan was always contrarian. You’re forgetting her famous Town Hall meeting when she broke ranks with the communist left to defend Poland’s Solidarity and chastised those who claimed they stood for workers for not doing so. So she’s more like Nemtsov than Chomsky.

            But…Fetching up a story about Susan Sontag being called a traitor when she criticized America right after 9/11 is hardly proving your hysterical thesis, that “anybody who criticizes America is called a traitor”. Um, did you see Bill Keller call Glenn Greenwald a traitor? Ok, you saw some anonymous youtuber call him that? Or what’s your point?

            I don’t find any equivalence, moral or political, between Nemtsov or Chomsky. And I get to say that, because not only did I once actually sit on a panel with Chomsky at the Socialist Scholars’ Conference back in the early 1980s and used to read him, I also went with a film crew to Nizhny Novgorod to film then-young governor Nemtsov in 1991. They are completely different kinds of critics. Chomsky is extreme, shrill, brittle and tendentiously ideological, and he lies — for example, with his fake claim that the U.S. deliberately withheld wheat deliveries in Afghanistan before the invasion — absolute nonsense easily disproven by just staying tuned and reading the next issue of the New York Times — the sort of thing he leaves in books to infect thousands of young minds forever and never retracts. I can’t have respect for someone spending his career undermining the democratic state of Israel deliberately and ranting endlessly about perceived U.S. crimes that are utterly dwarfed by the far more egregious crimes of Russia, China, Sudan, Iran, etc. that he rarely crosses the street to look at.

            To be sure, if Chomsky were on fire, I’d go and get a bucket of water to douse him, but I’d be forgiven if I tripped over the bodies of Russian journalists on the way — Russian journalists, because there aren’t bodies of American journalists in America, see. That’s why we’re different, hello? And if there is the body of a Reuters journalist *in Iraq, in a war zone*, despite the manipulative ministrations of the anarchist Assange, you will not get us to believe that this was a *deliberate* killing of a figure that the soldiers thought was carrying a weapon. And…it was a war zone. Was Anna Politkovskaya’s apartment building a war zone?

            As for Nemtsov, he’s a normal Russian liberal. It didn’t use to be surprising that such people got at least some percentage of seats in the parliament. That they are utterly blocked from parliament isn’t a sign of *their* extremism or irrelevance, but of the hysterical neuralgia of the extremists in the Kremlin who cannot tolerate even a tiny dollop of liberalism.

            Just because Chomsky criticizes America and Nemtsov criticizes Russia doesn’t mean they are alike at all or morally equivalent. Chomsky may be fashionable because Marxist professors on our campuses pump him up artificially, but most liberal commentators and politicians don’t reach for his dire and extreme memes that belong to the yesteryear of SDS, not even DSA politics. The equivalent to Nemtsov might be Jesse Jackson — but it’s silly trying to find equivalents in societies that aren’t equivalent and have different political cultures and structures.

            You don’t have to be a neoconservative and “dream” of Russian disintegration to treat it as a legitimate topic, given everything (the break-up of the Soviet Union, the break-up of Georgia, the wars in the Russian Caucasus). It’s a legitimate topic, even if it doesn’t fit *your* particular Russian imperial dream. I’m also not certain that those neoconservatives that look for this breakup in fact wish Russia ill; they more likely wish that it would stop warring against its minorities. What does it mean, anyway, when a country like Turkmenistan deals directly with Tatarstan and buys vehicles from Kamaz and bypasses Moscow? The map is being refashioned economically if not politically.

            Again, I’m just not persuaded by the claims of the Kashin flip-flopping but I await the “scientific” proof.

  7. A note to readers: Ms. Fitzpatrick did author another comment in response to my note at 10:44pm, April 9th, but it was another collection of personal attacks, so I spammed it. As I told her in an explanatory email, she’s welcome to submit another comment, if she ditches the invective. I’m happy to discuss differences of opinion with readers, but I’ll visit the local DMV if ever I feel the need to be insulted by strangers.

  8. No, Evgeny, you’re wrong, and you can be as native Russian as you like, but here, you’re simply trolling to be contrarian against me — and then using sleight-of-hand to suggest I said “anything” when in fact I wrote *anyone*.

    We all get that “kto” means “who” and not “what”. It says “No one is backing anyone”. You can’t convert it into “him” merely because before this, Kashin talked about Navalny.

    The contact at the end, however, is NOT “no one is backing him” with the focus on Navalny; the context is “nobody is backing any liberal projects like this at all”. Read the Russian again, it’s obvious:

    И за Ходорковского, и за «Единую Россию», и за «Программу максимум», и за Химкинский лес, и за движение «Наши», и вообще за все, что заставляет нас относиться к этим годам как к крайне неприятному периоду.

    Еще год назад я думал, что как обидно будет, если окажется, что за Навальным кто-нибудь стоит. Сейчас — наоборот, хочу, чтобы за ним кто-нибудь стоял, хотя уже прекрасно понимаю, что никто, конечно, ни за кем не стоит.

    He wouldn’t mention that entire list of cases where liberals did not prevail if he meant *only* Navalny.

    It most certainly does NOT say “no one is backing *him*”. That’s the point. The argument isn’t about whether it says “anyone” or “anything” but whether it says *him specifically* or speaks about “anyone”. AGT tried to convert this piece into a slam on Navalny by another liberal; he refuses to understand its eloquent and rueful context, as do you, simply because you don’t like Russian liberals evidently.

    My posts aren’t “insults” but perfectly reasonable and normal arguments, and apparently when people feel they are losing the debate, they start blocking.

    • Catherine, the bitter fact is that the following is your own words:

      “He then concludes very ruefully — “but no one is backing anything”. Groups in the government or the society aren’t backing things like this.”

      So, I haven’t invented anything.

      Also, I’m ready to discuss politics, but only when there are no emotions involved.

  9. Catherine,

    You’re clearly unable to distinguish between civilized, academic debate and vitriolic ruckus. Your angst and despair over the failure of “liberals” in Russia has my sympathy, but I do not believe lashing out like this helps their cause or bodes well for Russia, where there’s already too much of that.

    Secondly, your interpretation of “никто, конечно, ни за кем не стоит” is not well substantiated, in my opinion. I agree with Evgeny, it’s a straightforward stylistic choice. In this passage, Kashin confesses to a change of sentiment about Navalny: a year earlier, he would have been disappointed if he learned that Navalny is a pawn of some powerful and sinister player; now, he wishes that Navalny was indeed a pawn but realizes that, of course, there’s no one behind him. In the paragraph prior (that you included in the quote above), Kashin enumerates events that, in his view, are most tragic and stark examples of Russia’s political and social problems; they are not, as you suggest, “cases where liberals did not prevail” that he then somehow alludes to at the very end of the following paragraph.

    Finally, I believe the author of this blog was much to patient with you and should have blocked you much earlier. Your tone and argument techniques are as offensive to bystanders such as myself as they are to the target of your aspersions. Stating “when people feel they are losing the debate, they start blocking” doesn’t convince people that you’re winning; rather, it’s a pretty good indication of quite the opposite.

  10. Dmitriy,

    “Vitriol” is always what you snarky, malicious lot backing the Kremlin and harassing critics accuse those who push back against *your* vitriol of having. It’s pretty self-discrediting and obvious.

    There’s nothing “vitriolic” in my normal criticsm. There was nothing “insulting” in the posts deleted — unless of course you’re abnormally thin-skinned but even there it would be a stretch.

    I find it outrageous that you’re willing to pervert language in your quest to bully and silence Kremlin critics, however. Kashin was not singling out Nevalny and not targeting him as someone who “has no backing” — something Kenneth wanted to gloat over. (He pounced on it because it’s always best in attacking liberals if you can quote one liberal against another, eh?) But Kashin was making a general and rueful pronouncement on the failure of liberal projects, not bashing Navalny per se.

    Kashin confesses in fact to having a kind of child-like fantasy that he wished the government *was* changeable and *would* gather its big fist — all its marketing and political manipulators — and use it for good for once (although that’s self-contradictory). It’s not that he slams Navalny as a liberal — as you and Kenneth do — he laments the fact that there aren’t sufficient liberals to back this liberal.

    From the beginning, Kashin lets you know that the notion of Navalny as a FSB project is a conceit — worthy of tweeting, no more. You’ve acting as if he somehow really believed this.

    And of course it’s a list where liberals did not prevail — Khodorkovsky and Khimki most notably and things Kashin himself covered with perhaps a bit of faint admiration for their power like Nashi — although we know from Yashin’s LJ entry that the two had infiltrated the Nashi founding congress and got caught out and bounced, so AGT’s thesis that Kashin supported what he covered and then flip-flopped doesn’t quite hold up. The list isn’t just a list of “Russia’s problems” — it’s a list where liberals did not prevail, and now this latest one is failing, too.

    Funny how you feel so motivated to turn even a rueful declaration of defeat of liberals that is rooted in support for their ideals, by a man whose had his arms and legs broken by thugs, into something it isn’t, even twisting “anyone” into “him”.

    If you aren’t losing the debate, comrades, then you have no need to silence speech.

  11. Kevin, your intuition is correct – the reason why Kashin is saying “nobody backs anyone” instead of “nobody backs Navalny ” is because it gives an additional sense of sadness, a deeper feeling of hopelessness to it. It’s what’s called “авторский приём” to convey the mood.
    Now I’ll try to contemplate few of your questions that you’ve posed regarding Kashin. They are not that easy to answer in few words.

    “I like his style. But I don’t understand why he draws the Yeltsin analogy, if he thinks Navalny isn’t going anywhere.”

    Just because his popularity ( in a way) is of the same kind that Yeltzin had back in the nineties – sort of “народный герой” – not more and not less; not because he is going anywhere. And the reason he is not going anywhere, is precisely because he is not quite Yetzin, or rather the times have changed. Yeltzin ( back in those times) was appealing to a much larger social base then Navalny today and that’s the main reason that Navalny isn’t going anywhere.

    “If he’s so popular, why are his supporters doomed to become a sect? And why will Navalny’s press soon die out? Isn’t his stardom growing every day?”

    Yes and no.:) His supporters are mostly the internet users and that’s not the kind of support one needs in order to become an influential power in Russian politics. I have to remind you the explanations that I gave once to Mark about the discontent of “liberals,” ( Nemzov et al,) regarding the “freedom of speech.” Internet doesn’t cut it – they’d like to have an access to *hearts and minds* of people who can take to the streets, and they are not the ones that use the internet. Vladimir Vladimirovich knows it very well by the way, that’s why Russian general population gaze at his lovely face few times a day on TV. And that’s why Navalny is doomed in the same way as Nemtzov and Co, although his fight with corruption should have united Russians as Kashin would hoped. Alas – the plight of “ROSPIL” and the woes of “minority shareholders” don’t strike cord with Russian general population. Even the fight for Khimki forest didn’t do it, as rightful and tense as it was. Russian province with decaying buildings and dying economy can’t relate to the problems of over-development in Moscow.
    That’s why Kashin is becoming so desperate and pessimistic. In essence, he is part of Russian intelligentsia, that can’t get connected to his own “народ,” and without such connection, without the support of a social base, both him and Navalny with their liberal ideas are doomed to “кануть в небытиё.”
    Sad, innit?:)

    • Even if Navalny did come to power, would he be able to replace the entire bureaucracy across mother Russia with incorruptible, intelligent public servants? Of course not. So would he able to effectively run a government full of corrupt politicians in a country with a corrupt culture? I don’t know, but I do know it’s a much more difficult undertaking than the coming to power itself, as difficult as that may be in Russia’s “bastard democracy” and its highly fragmented society.

      Russia has a long way to go in evolving culturally, economically, politically, and socially. It takes decades to achieve meaningful changes in such things, especially culture. Best we can hope for is slow, incremental progress. But inspirational leaders and vivid examples of change in action do foment progress, and I think Navalny succeeded in that way at least. Kashin should prepare for the long haul, as should we. (I’m about to move back to the motherland and actively stocking up on patience and perseverance…)

      • May I have my two cents here? Navalny’s place is not at an executive position, but somewhere where he could be in a position to investigate corruption, etc, without any much trouble. I.e., his place is in the national Parliament. It’s not only about Navalny — it’s about what our parliament should look like.

        I believe his situation is somewhat similar to Evgeny Roizman. Roizman’s fighting drug-related crimes, while Navalny opposes corruption.

    • The Russian intelligentsia or the Russian liberals (they aren’t coterminous necessarily) don’t need to “connect to the people” or “go out to the people”.

      They *are* the people.

      The issue is merely that the people aren’t one. There are many people. Peoples plural.

      It’s a big country.

      It’s ok not to be one monolith.

      • “The Russian intelligentsia or the Russian liberals (they aren’t coterminous necessarily) don’t need to “connect to the people” or “go out to the people”.

        They *are* the people.”

        Oh Lord….

        Don’t project American stereotypes on the rest of the world; apparently this discussion is not for your intellectual level, no matter how much you try.

        Please don’t turn this place into garbage can with your ignorance and obnoxiousness
        (Although quite honestly I suspect by your tenacity and the number of words your are spouting per minute that the problem is far more serious.)

          • “I don’t have to project American stereotypes. The Russian people themselves demonstrate their diversity all on their own : )”

            You don’t have to project American stereotypes, but that’s exactly what you do.
            If Russian people would have demonstrated “their diversity” as you сlaim, they wouldn’t have been practically unanimously united behind Putin for the last 10 years or so. So as you can see, no “diversity” on behalf of Russian *people* that you claim here. What Russians DO have, is diversity of ideas, that are expressed by few intellectuals – be that Limonov, Navalniy, or Yavlinsky. None of their ideas however have strong support among the *people*. *Народ* is not interested in them for different reasons, however *народ* was united behind Putin ( or at least didn’t support so-called “liberals”) for long time for one and one reason only – because of the pain and suffering ordinary Russians went through in the nineties, that you personally consider to be not a big deal. The fact that American involvement in internal Russians affairs during the nineties didn’t pass unnoticed, contributes directly to the popularity of Putin’s anti-American rhetoric, that Russian people support practically unanimously. These are the same reasons why Russian *people* don’t want anything to do with American darlings such as Nemtzov or Kasparov.
            When you project your American stereotypes on Russia and use the word “people” in the same sense as you’d use it in “we, the people” in US, then Navalny and Kashin automatically become a part of *Russian people,* where according to Russian standards THEY ARE NOT. Navalny and Kashin in this case are part of ESTABLISHMENT, as much as Nemtzov and Yashin, where Russain *narod* is disenfranchised and poor. The strong presence of “middle class” was never a case in Russia historically, unlike in Western cultures. It practically didn’t exist in Tzarist Russia, it didn’t exist through the Soviet times, and it definitely didn’t flourish in post-Soviet society. So such statement as “Russian people themselves demonstrated diversity” simply doesn’t make sense. What makes sense in this situation is to say that “русский народ” practically unanimously hates so-called liberals and doesn’t trust US government for the reasons mentioned above. And if this is not understood, then one might waste a lot of pixels to support theories that don’t make sense.

  12. Again, I’m not the obsessive student of Kashin that you are. I’ve read some of his articles and LJs over the years but I don’t religiously read him. Even so, I dont’ think you’ve made the case for his “schizophrenia” or “bi-polarity” merely because he had a trajectory over six years since 2005 from more hopefulness about the liberal reform prospects, to perhaps some flirtation with regime-sponsored movements, to the disillusionment that is the lot of many Russian liberals — or…whatever it is we’re supposed to call them. That just seems like a normal course to me.

    What you mocked was the claims that sky is falling, Russia is breaking up, etc. Again, perhaps I’m more hardened to these things than you are I see them as sort of totemic placeholders in a debate and don’t take them literally. I belong to a Facebook group that seemed at first a spoof but seems to seriously discuss having Siberia break off and seek to join the United States (!) with Pryblovsky in it — and in fact is likely still an elaborate pose. Yurgens could never “look like” Kasparov to me and I didn’t read Belanovsky in this fashion but again, I’m not a deep student of Russian think tanks, being more preoccupied with other subjects these days. I imagine I won’t come to the same conclusions as you do for any number of reasons.

    I don’t believe “anyone” has “influenced” Kashin. Does everything have to be a function of some plot in Russia?! I think it’s just his assessment from where he sits. Maybe he’s wrong. But it’s unlikely any popular figure will get far if not backed by the Kremlin or tacitly exploited for some purpose to settle scores with some enemies of the Kremlin.

    While I don’t think Russia will unravel tomorrow, it has very real strains, and one of the unanticipated byproducts of the Kremlin agitating for a concocted independence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which they started laying the groundwork for a decade ago by giving out Russian passports in defiance of the OSCE’s and UN’s admonitions, is that the analogy will start to hold for the Russian Federation itself. I’m glad you draw the line at Rogozin.

    As for Kashin and Yashin, they have mutual recriminations as Yashin’s piece illustrates, and yes, I accidently flipped the who-did-what-to-whom in these two rhyming last names, but it’s obviously able to be checked in the story linked so I “get it”:

    Потом я совершил поступок, о котором жалею. Узнал о переговорах Кашина с газетой «Ведомости» и написал об этом, нарушил приватность, что сорвало трудоустройство Олега.

    Of course I understood that Kashin kept up his blogs *secretly*. I can read, duh. But you slammed him not just for keeping them up but for keeping them secret to a closed list, which you implied was bad because it wasn’t open to the public. For all I know, he has a huge secret readership on this closed list which he closes so that anklebiters like you don’t harass him endlessly in the comments. I see no evidence that he “lost pride” but perhaps he merely moved on. Russians I know, when describing Kashin, say “he wrote about the youth movements like Nashi” and go on to describe his terrible beating, and they see him as *just writing about* those movements more than they see him as somehow “flirting” with them. Perhaps Russians are more forgiving than you are.

    Again, you seemed determined to pillory this man, and that is suspect. There is no serious reason to pillory him. His trajectory is one a number have followed.

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