Quotes: Navalny in Court

“No matter how much [Putin] tries to pose as a geopolitician, his main resentment toward me is that he will go down in history as a poisoner. There was Alexander the Liberator and Yaroslav the Wise. Now we’ll have Vladimir the Poisoner of Underpants. The police are guarding me and half of Moscow is cordoned off because we have shown that he is demanding to steal underwear from opponents and smear them with chemical weapons.”

Closing remarks from Alexi Navalny, from rolling Moscow Times coverage of the court session in Moscow underway now.

Quotes: Guess the Country

Have a guess what large, cold, former-Communist Eurasian country this quote comes from:

“Different statements about someone being afraid of someone else are absolutely nonsense.”

Where They Welcome Climate Change

Here’s a nice, long story about climate change in the Russian Far East, from ProPublica.

Belarus Today

The pace of events quickens as an air of crisis surrounds President Lukashenka, who was roundly booed while speaking in public yesterday, a previously unthinkable moment that recalls the final days of Nikolai Ceaucescu in Romania.

For English speakers, Meduza has opened a live blog this morning. The Moscow Times has a dedicated section, Unrest in Belarus. RFERL has one too, under the banner Crisis in Belarus. And the Baltic Times has a range of articles.

If you can speak Russian, try tut.by Belarusian portal, or if not, Google can roughly translate it for you.

Might Happen?

Best laid predictions, well, sometimes they aren’t all that well laid. In spite of my last, curmudgeonly post, a video posted to RFERL today of protests in Minsk is just thrilling. It shows political engagement we’ve just never seen before in post-Soviet Belarus.

Please watch it. And this:

I’ll hold to my original thoughts for now. But it would be fun to be wrong.

Ain’t Gonna Happen

With their breathless talk of crisis, protests and turning points in Belarus, pro-democracy pundits are making their most common mistake, namely, prematurely declaring victory over authoritarianism because they want it to be so. In the Belarusian protests it’s particularly important to consider the position of Vladimir Putin, for whom a functioning democracy on Russia’s border is utterly impermissible.

Note that after he took in the fleeing Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovich (tour Mezhyhirya, Yanukovich’s former residence outside Kyiv here), as he doubtless would Lukashenka, Putin found it necessary to seize Crimea and disrupt the Donbas, in order to be able to upend the larger Ukrainian political situation as he sees fit, at a moment’s notice, until further notice.

Kudos to the Belarusian people, credit to their bravery, and a paean to the heart’s indomitable spirit. And apologies for my cynicism. I may be wrong, and it would be nice if it turns out that way, but in this case it’s hard to imagine the Russian president permitting free elections, leading to something close to democratic rule, in his fellow Slavic, White Russian buffer state.

Soviet Photoshopping

A fun article about Soviet Photoshopping in the days before Photoshop, from RFERL.

Nice Photo Documentary…

… of the Arctic Russian Kola Peninsula here in the Calvert Journal.

Hey Kids! Who Wants Sea Paste!?

Menu, Vyborg, Russia.

Photo: Restoran Круглая башня, Vyborg, Russian Karelia

Atmospheric-looking place, from a quick visit to Vyborg, Russia in June: