Saturday, July 31, 2004
Dog grows onions in tub,
rags hang from the uppers
of a birch-bark shoe. Shoal of Baltic herring approaches
the horizon – be on the lookout, thin moon, the distance
looks like a magpie’s breast, the one with a sense
for thaws and children
who laugh – like me, like the one who is me.
What is white in a face, from there
comes laughter, one grasps.
Take the hoe, make
holes in the ground, many long ones. I hear
in there it murmurs before one hears other
sounds. Lets some summer come, grass grow everywhere.
Up on the hill, yes, I see you now. The ears,
the eyes, the happy sprout of the tail, like something that is just
beginning to grow. If you are sitting
there, yes you are the one. Filling your breast.
The one who coaxes out warmth
and puts right wrong and reverse. You are sitting there, yes,
now I see you, you lick me in the face,
the face of my small spirit that must not
must not harden.
Fortune-hunting is done with toe-sprint
If you stop now –
when find come up,
to trees with forests in their tops.
Thunder fuse just hides,
must seek long days,
comes out at new
districts, lands of the soul oh, bright sands,
shores long and short.
What does one do when one flies.
Falls, forgets, yes, that’s it.
That, downwards, but with upwards-stretched.
Yes, hands and clouds that lift.
Sails then out among stars
like that with little
pig in one’s arms,
How hen makes
the summer pass, she
smiles as so many times before.
Forgets old wounds and sorrows, yes
forgets string that is supposed to hold
her pants up, but not sister swallow
and brother trough – or be tired,
rest on the food
or sing for sun-cats that
with dazzling hearts long
for new fields
and invisible bread in invisible cottage.
—Is now pregnant
with bunny rabbit.
says she wants to go home
to stars oh, distant distant boats
that come ever closer while small
bush – what is that, small rowans
united in joy.
half, the rest twigs and horsehair,
not much more than that.
Yes, green fur coat with green braces,
lives in apple grove. Dresses in sack
with broom against haversack.
Freshly kissed cheeks, parting in hair.
But now goe out to the rock,
you who breathe fire –
To become ever greener among green,
to become a minion of the trees, a shadow merely,
happy to love them all.
Sleeps inside tree
with head against
what is not yet
woodchips. Wild bon vivant in nightshirt
with spruce root about waist.
Neck is trumpet,
Cannot be other,
than brass flower,
against the journey of these expanses
can do nothing but hoarsely shout –
Scratch makes gangway
more beautiful, for the one who owns nothing
has nothing to miss –
Sailor, listen: Smiles are food for
the one who sets off on a voyage with them.
But what do you see, I asked him
who was I? – See little dog, yes…
clear-cut ears, small, small and sunflower,
vessel ready to be used. And see
some poking fun without reason
while others travel with
joy. Who was it, you sat in
hall fallen asleep, in your arms a puppy
slept already. The one who is many,
old cloud men turning
drops on his backside. Now it’s a question
of keeping one’s chest warm
on the journey, oh all my dog-hair sweaters
on at once! Just carry a little bed
in your mouth, it weighs nothing. Yes,
and though slumbering be happy, not wait
to flow, to rush, or more –
just travel from forest to forest,
where cow is sun,
the heart moon
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
EUROPEAN OFFICIAL SAYS PUTIN IS TRYING TO DESTROY YUKOS... European Commission Director General for External Relations Eneko Lanaburu on 27 July charged that the administration of President Vladimir Putin is intentionally pursuing a policy of destroying embattled oil giant Yukos, RosBalt and other Russian and international media reported. "We interpret this as a decision of President Putin to destroy an
economic empire that had certain strategic goals of political influence," Landaburu said. "What's happening is essentially a settling of accounts." Putin stated in June that the government does not wish to see Yukos bankrupted (see "Russian Political Weekly," 18 June 2004). "The Moscow Times" reported on 28 July that Yukos shares fell by a further 15 percent on 27 July to $3.60, the lowest price since October 2001. The company has lost $5 billion in capitalization in two days, the daily reported. Writing in "Novaya gazeta," No. 53, columnist Yuliya Latynina refuted the notion that the Kremlin planned to destroy Yukos. "In general, I don't believe the people surrounding the president are capable of strategic thinking," she wrote. She
concluded that "judging by the means being used to take over Yukos, the president has lost control over his entourage." RC
...AS POLICE STEP UP INTERNATIONAL EFFORT TO ARREST MAJOR YUKOS SHAREHOLDER. Meanwhile, the Russian bureau of Interpol has asked all Interpol member countries, including Israel, to locate Yukos major shareholder Leonid Nevzlin. The Prosecutor-General's Office on 26 July issued a second arrest warrant for Nevzlin, who lives in Israel and has Israeli citizenship, on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2004). "If we didn't plan on capturing Nevzlin, we wouldn't have sent this instruction," an unidentified spokesman at the Russian Interpol bureau told Interfax. "We are waiting for an answer from [the Israeli Interpol bureau]." The trial on murder charges of former Yukos security official Aleksei Pichugin resumed on 28 July, newsru.com reported. Defense lawyers asked the court to transfer the case to a jury trial, noting that it is unclear why the case has been officially labeled "secret" and why prosecutors have asked defense lawyers to sign statements promising not to reveal state secrets. RC
LONGTIME PUTIN ALLY SELECTED TO HEAD OIL GIANT... Rosneft's board of directors on 27 July selected deputy presidential administration head Igor Sechin as its new chairman, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Sergei Oganesyan, director of the Federal Energy Agency, and Yurii Medvedev, acting deputy director of the Federal Property Agency, were tapped as deputy chairmen. Sechin is a longtime associate of
President Putin, having worked for him for the past 13 years (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 2 April 2004). "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July that the business community is interpreting Sechin's appointment as the first step in the creation of a state energy company that, "in the future, will define the rules of the game for Russia's most important market." Sechin is not the first government official to be a chairman of Rosneft's board. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref held the post, as did Igor Yusufov when he was energy minister. Sechin's appointment is significant because it takes place against the background of a redistribution of property in the oil sector, "Vremya novostei" reported on 28 Jly. JAC
...AS ANALYSTS PREDICT INCREASED STATE CONTROL OVER OIL SECTOR. In an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 July, Yukos shareholder Mikhail Brudno speculated that Rosneft has enough money to purchase the major Yukos subsidiary Yuganskneftegaz. Even if Rosneft is short of such funds, Brudno said, the Central Bank has enough for any purchase. Metropol analyst Yevgenii Satskov told the
daily that Sechin's appointment shows that the Kremlin "plans to strengthen state control over a strategic branch." Analyst Stanislav Belkovskii, who is considered close to Sechin, commented that the new appointment is "the first step in the formation of a large energy-holding company, based on Rosneft and Gazprom." Earlier in the month, Belkovskii made a similar prediction, saying that the Kremlin will implement a plan promoted by Sechin to create a new holding including Gazprom and Rosneft, which together will acquire about one-half of Yukos's assets (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 15 July 2004). Rosneft ranks sixth in terms of oil production in Russia.JAC
MOSCOW HOLDS LONDON RESPONSIBLE FOR WATCHING BEREZOVSKII, ZAKAEV. The Foreign Ministry on 27 July issued a statement saying that London bears responsibility for the actions of self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii and Chechen spokesman Akhmed Zakaev, both of whom have been granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. The statement came in response to a 23
June statemen by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that was distributed to members of parliament. The Foreign Ministry statement noted that Straw's letter explicitly states that the status of political asylum does not protect Berezovskii and Zakaev in the event that they are found to have committed any illegal activities. "Now we have the right to expect from London effective measures to prevent possible actions by the aforementioned people that could conflict with Great Britain's international obligations, first of all as a member of the international antiterrorism coalition," the Foreign Ministry's statement said. Such measures would "reinforce the spirit of mutual understanding and trust in the dialog between Moscow and London," it concluded. RC
PUBLIC, JOURNALISTS FAVOR IMPOSITION OF 'ETHICAL-MORAL CENSORSHIP.' Seventy-one percent of Russians and 41 percent of Russian journalists favor the introduction of government censorship of the media, according to a recent public-opinion poll by ROMIR-Monitoring, Interfax reported on 28 July, citing ROMIR General Director Andrei
Milekhin. Thirty-two percent of citizens and 6 percent of journalists said censorship is "absolutely necessary," while 39 percent of citizens and 35 percent of journalists said it is "most likely necessary." "Vremya novostei" reported on 28 July that ROMIR analysts believe most respondents most likely had a type of "moral-ethical censorship" in mind. The daily quoted a ROMIR spokesperson as saying those respondents favor "a filter that would protect media consumers from gratuitous sex and violence and pornography." The daily noted that according to the survey, 42 percent of the public and 78 percent of journalists said they are concerned about the state of press freedom in Russia, indicating that they oppose the introduction of political or ideological censorship. Writing in "Novoe vremya," No. 30, journalist Tatyana Kuzmina blamed journalists for being too tolerant of state encroachments on freedom of speech. "Freedom of speech is dying in Russia. Television program after television program is being closed down," she wrote. "Is Putin to blame? Is he
the only one?" RC
CIVIL RUSSIA OFFERS TO DEVELOP SHUTTLE REPLACEMENT JOINTLY WITH UNITED STATES... Moscow has proposed to the United States that the two countries jointly develop a spacecraft to replace the U.S. space shuttle, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 July, citing Federal Space Agency Director Nikolai Moiseev. "What the Russian side has in mind is the new manned shuttle Clipper, which is being designed at the Energiya corporation," Moiseev said. "The U.S. side could participate in the Clipper project, above all, financially and scientifically." Moiseev said that Moscow is aware that yhe United States plans to conclude its shuttle program by 2010 and that "some sort of project must take its place," strana.ru reported on 26 July. RC
...AS RUSSIAN BUSINESSMAN SLATED TO BECOME NEXT TOURIST IN SPACE. St. Petersburg businessman Sergei Polonskii is scheduled to become the third tourist in space, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 July. Citing an unnamed "informed source within Russia's space structures," the news agency said Polonskii will spend one week at the International Space Station in October if he completes the necessary training this
summer. According to the source, Polonskii will pay just $15 million for the trip, instead of the $20 million that the previous two space tourists paid. Polonskii is the general director of the Stroimontazh construction firm, which he created in 1994. Lenta.ru reported that Polonskii underwent training for a space-station mission in 2002, but was unable to come up with the money necessary for the trip. RC
VORONEZH STEPS UP SECURITY. Law enforcement officials intensified security measures in Voronezh on 27 July following the city's third bombing incident this year, NTV reported. Explosions occurred at bus stops in different parts of the city on 19 February, and 19 and 26 July, Interfax reported. In the first attack, two people were injured; on 19 July, one woman was killed; and in the latest explosion a woman was wounded. The mayor of the city has ordered the removal of all shrubs and tall grass near bus stops in the city as a preventive measure. When asked about whether the bombings were the work of Chechen extremists, Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman for Voronezh Oblast Roman Panevin told "Moskovskii komsomolets" of 27
July that Voronezh "featured on a list of cities where acts of sabotage were planned" by Chechens. Meanwhile, former Foreign Intelligence Service Major General Yurii Kobaladze told the daily that Voronezh bombings have a different signature than most terrorist attacks. "As a rule, the most crowded locations are chosen and at the busiest times," he said of terrorist attacks. Kobaladze continued that "it cannot be ruled out that this is the work of local delinquents" whose purpose is to give the population a "fright." JAC
POLICE IN MOSCOW ROUGH UP MORE DEMONSTRATORS. The Yabloko press service reported on 27 July that two members of the party were taken to a hospital following a rally outside FSB headquarters in Moscow, Ekho Moskvy and Interfax reported. The two injured, Irina Vorobeva and Aleksei Kozhin, are members of the party's youth wing, and one of them is reportedly in serious condition. According to Ekho Moskvy, a detachment of Interior Ministry special forces (OMON) personnel initially detained 10 journalists who were covering the event and later released them. An unspecified number of Yabloko activists were also detained and are reportedly being threatened with 15 days' detention. According to Interfax, the demonstration was not sanctioned by authorities. Last month, police reportedly used violence against demonstrators in another unsanctioned protest in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004). JAC
I would just like to thank all of you for your interest in my post. I truly appreciate the insightful (and perhaps inciteful) comments!
Regarding the Guildhall Summer School, I'm afraid I played down the real point, which is that there is such widespread interest in jazz strings. I salute all of you who have taken the time and effort to organize such programs.
I'd like to clarify one thing: my comment about bass ensemble music was not intended to reflect my experience at ASTA (which I thought was a blast, and again I was welcomed at every turn), rather it reflects my experiences with chamber music in academic/institutional settings, which in my case were few. I know with certainty that there are, in fact, many chamber music coaches who are happy to accomodate bassists and are familiar with the plethora of chamber repertoire involving at least one bass part. I just never met one! ;)
Regarding the fact that the bass is and has been an intergral part of the jazz scene for ever (while the violin has been only on the fringe at best, jazz cello is a rare anomoly, and jazz viola is virtually unheard of in the mainstream), I was trying to point out my desire for the bass to be accepted more as a melodic instrument rather than a rhythm instrument. Several posts addressed this issue in detail; I found several comments very enlightening.
I guess the obvious issue for "bass as melodic instrument" is that of range. It is an elementry aspect of orchestration: low notes, especially mellow ones, just don't speak out, and other players/instruments (whether in jazz, symphonic, or whatever) have to step aside when the bass [part] is featured. And I don't know that there is a solution for this, or whether it is even a problem, except in the minds of some bass players who need the attention (e.g., myself). I tend to get on my high-horse sometimes when there's no threat of [whatever people get on high-horses for].
One thing I intend to do is check out some of the available arrangements for string orchestra and study how the bass and rhythm functions are handled/distributed. Meanwhile, I've nothing to complain about in real life. My friends and fellow musicians always cheer me on when I take arco solos, even if they sound like humback whale calls. And when I get tired of playing the low notes, I go get my fiddle.
Thanks again for everyone's input. Y'all are good! (I intend to email a few folks directly regarding their observations.) I'll keep thinking on this.
Basest of Bassists
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
I'm sorry but I have to bring up a sore subject here. In David's posting Re: Guildhall Summer School, he points out that "All instruments - violin, viola and cello - were represented..." Hello? There is a fourth instrument in the string family. The double bass. Does anyone consider this a stringed instrument? At my experience at the ASTA convention in Dallas last March, I was astounded at the lack of bass presence. I just completed a master's degree in double bass performance, and the attitude seems pervasive there as well: we have the strings, and then there are the basses over there. Why is this, do you think (open question?)
I played cello for 6 years before beginning my study of double bass, and I taught strings in public schools for eleven years, and I feel proficient on the upper strings as well. Some even say I'm a decent fiddle player. My own thoughts on the subject are twofold: On one hand, bass players have been on the forefront of the jazz scene from day one (at least after the tuba), so perhaps the feeling is that they don't need additional attention or nurturing in the jazz idiom. For string players, I think the attitude of bassists being "othered" results from the string quartet tradition: "Lo! We don't need no frickin' bass players! Let 'em go play bass ensemble music! (We'll call one if we want to play Dvorak 77.)"
As a bassist, I always feel the odd one out. In jazz, I'm primarily a rhythm player, and when I do solo, everyone else has to all but stop playing to hear me. In classical music, I feel almost like a necessary evil in the orchestra sometimes, something to be tolerated, and again there are the string quartet people. In short, the bass as a soloist is still taken as a novelty, regardless of genre.
So, sorry to rant, but my point is this: More bassists should be brought into the realm of melodic playing. It doesn't sound bad (listen to some Jimmy Blanton arco work), and I think the other strings could benefit from the experience a bass player could bring to the table in terms of playing in jazz ensmebles. I have spent a lot of time developing my arco jazz technique, and I look forward to a time when I'll be accepted as an acutal string player. I know many of you don't intend to be exclusive toward bassists, and in fact at ASTA I felt very, very welcome. But when I read the phrase "All instruments - violin, viola and cello - were represented...", I just flew off the handle.
My two cents.
Maddie Dietrich, Loose Cannon & String Player
Tanya Kalmanovitch's intervention is also right on the mark, in my opinion:
Madeline's timely point should be well taken! Bassists trained exclusively in the western classical tradition fall through the cracks when it comes to jazz performance. They often lack the necessary tools and experience to participate in jazz performance, but have a limited presence in the "jazz string" community.
As Nina mentioned, there's a good reason for this -- bassists are well served in jazz education as it stands. A bassist at the Guildhall course last week (a course for jazz and rock instrumentalists and singers, not a string-specific course) could have taken daily instrumental instruction from bassists, learning approaches to rhythm section performance, harmony,instrumental technique, and approaches to soloing (arco as well as pizz).
Like classically trained string players, though, classically trained bass players wishing to learn jazz are often in an awkward position where there instrumental abilities far exceed their jazz vocabulary and experience.
Further complicating the picture, I'd argue that the bassist' is the most important role in the jazz ensemble. Bass students (and cellists wishing to function as bassists) therefore have different responsibilities to violinist and violists, and different education needs if they are to function effectively as jazz musicians. (Of course, I think all jazz musicians -- especially upper strings -- should know how to construct bass lines, but that's another post.)
All music students (even so-called "traditional" jazz instrumentalists) have special needs that are best served by the intelligent management of student educational plans on an individual basis. An awareness that some classical bass players might be slipping through the cracks is important and timely.
P.S. My class at Guildhall was open to all string players, including bassists. David mentioned the arrangements I wrote for the string ensemble: I wrote those specifically for the students enrolled in my class at Guildhall, burning a bit of last-minute midnight oil in the process to be sure that late enrollers were accomodated. Had there been a non-improvising bassist involved, she would have been welcome to join us and I would have written another bass part. That player would have been welcome to solo as any of the other players did -- arco or pizz, as she pleased.
[m] +353 87 951 5200
Monday, July 26, 2004
What is slightly less reassuring about Alderman's approach to the issue of Livingstone, however, is his determination to dig up old inter-communal hostilities, particularly the hostility felt by some in London's black and Asian communities towards Jews. Writing about the "alliance of convenience" forged in London after the Tory victory of 1979 "between unrepentant socialists, angry trade-unionists, disaffected black and Asian minorities, and elements of the pro-IRA London-Irish", he adds:
It is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that black antipathy towards Jews constituted one element of this alliance. I can recall meeting (as part of my research) a black group in Tooting and being shocked at the ease with which my hosts articulated familiar anti-Jewish stereotypes. It is equally true that anti-Zionism formed a significant element in the doctrinal canon of these malcontents.
Later in the piece, we read:
Livingstone brazenly compared the alleged sufferings of Northern Irish Catholics to Holocaust victims. In December 1984, he apparently overruled his own chief whip in permitting County Hall to be used for a bizarre rally (“Black People’s Solidarity with the Miners”) in which the PLO and Sinn Fein took part, and which paraded outspoken speeches against Israel. In an interview with the Israeli Labour Federation’s newspaper, Davar, Livingstone accused Jews of “organising here in London and throughout Britain into paramilitary groups which resemble fascist organisations.” As far as I’m aware, he has never apologised for this outrageous statement.
While many of Livingstone's actions and statements during this period were without question indefensible, it seems to me that in the manner of his condemnation of a leftist alliance that is now in the past - mercifully, part of history - Alderman is in some sense attempting to suggest that the past may be repeating itself, and that the same alliances are now at work in our society.
I think this is a mistaken approach: the period Alderman is describing - that of the early 1980s - was also a period that saw the last major attempt by the mostly discredited "International" led and funded by the Soviet Union and its satellites (mainly the DDR) to influence public opinion in the West, using labour issues. separatist conflicts (such as Northern Ireland) and the "nuclear threat" as levers. At this time, the USSR still pretended to be the champion of African liberation movements, and the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow still paraded itself with cynical hypocrisy as an institution that combated racism and racist oppression around the world. Livingstone's GLC was undoubtedly manipulated by the communists at this time - but we are no longer living in such a world.
While some of the hostility Alderman describes may still exist in London's ethnic communities, the notion that black people pose a threat to Jews in our society seems to me off the mark. In particular, the rise and growth of the Black Church in London, with the moral and spiritual guidance it offers, has tended to marginalize extremists of the kind mentioned in the article.
By all means let us condemn Ken Livingstone's misguided views on Israel, the Middle East, and international politics in general - but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater by suggesting ethnic tensions where few exist.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
This year's strings seminar was even better attended than last year's, and it looks as though this highly enjoyable event is set to become an annual fixture.
Further information at http://www.guildhallsummerschool.com and http://www.tanyakalmanovitch.com
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Fellini made the greatest film about the 1960s before the 1960s began. La Dolce Vita makes supposed classics such as Blow Up (1966) and Darling (1965) look derivative, just as his 1950s films like I Vitelloni ("The Overgrown Calves", a raw portrait of shiftless youths) puts British imitations from Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) to This Sporting Life (1963) in the shade. More to the point, these British films are period pieces; La Dolce Vita is not. It tells you everything you need to know about the way we live today.
Jones is also right on the mark with his assertion that
The great American film-makers of the 1970s never made a secret of their debt to Fellini. Coppola paid homage by hiring Fellini's music collaborator Nino Rota to compose the score of The Godfather. And Woody Allen has practically made a career out of quoting him. But it's not just American directors who drank deep from Fellini's Trevi fountain; so did the Italians. All of them ended up assimilating something of Federico. In Blow Up, Antonioni made swinging London look like Fellini's Rome.
Fellini predicts our culture of universal voyeurism. Everyone is staring - at celebrity, at glamour, at themselves. At the end of La Dolce Vita a group of dissolute revellers see a giant fish on the beach. Its huge, empty eyes are wide open. "But you see, it's still looking," someone says.
Given how acutely Fellini described the voyeuristic, celebrity-obsessed, almost weightless culture we inhabit, it seems extraordinary now that he was ever accused of rejecting realism for vapid fantasy. But Fellini was a politically embattled film-maker. Or rather, he fought a battle not to make political films, of the kind that would satisfy Italian film critics.
The whole piece is worth reading.
This 10 per cent of Frenchmen who are of Muslim heritage are not monolithically violent Islamists in solidarity with the human bombs of Hamas - far from it. The preachers and the thugs who seek to bring the intifada to France and beat up the Jews are a tiny minority among this famous 10 per cent - which is reassuring. But this tiny minority allies itself with other currents of anti-Semitism in Europe - which is worrying.
A left-wing anti-Semitism rages on French campuses (and European, and American ones) that, under the pretext of anti-Zionism, turns the Palestinian into an emblematic figure. He replaces the proletarian from the recent past as a symbol of all the oppressed on the planet, spearhead of the struggle against imperialism, capitalism, globalisation, and so on. For the funky rebels, "Arafat Out of this comes the delegitimisation of a state that lets itself be ruled by a Nazi. Israel’s right to exist is thus called into question by numerous academics, militant environmentalists, anti-globalisation activists, or more simply by the paleo-Marxists searching in vain for the next revolution.
At the same time, a traditional anti-Semitism, shameful and repressed since the days of Vichy, Petain and the collaboration with the war-time occupation, is sneakily rearing its head again - in particular within the old establishment and among French conservatives. A few slips here and there reveal that the Quai d’Orsay sees Israel as a weed planted in the heart of the "Arab world". One can recall the outburst of a French ambassador to London, Daniel Bernard, about that "shitty little country ... Why should we be in danger of World War III because of those people?" This former spokesman for Francois Mitterrand’s foreign minister was cornered by the British press, but never apologised. His comments were not considered "unacceptable", as Mr Sharon’s are today. Mr Bernard finished his career as the French ambassador to Algeria, a choice posting, and a strategic one.
Paris would shed few tears were Israel to disappear, but that’s difficult to realise because of the alliance between Washington and Jerusalem. Here, anti-Semitism, the hatred for "perfidious Albion" and anti-Americanism, appeared long before Ariel Sharon, Tony Blair or George Bush.
Sadly, the reality of the day is that these three potent ingredients - the rogue Islamists, the rising global Left and the traditional anti-Semitism of European conservatives - are mixing together in a dangerous cocktail for the Jews.
The Islamists are warmly welcomed by the good souls of the anti-globalisation movement. It’s as if the politically-correct protesters had found in the home-grown intifadists a kind of proletarian avant-garde, an ersatz of the workers that they never won over. In the same way, the gangs from the poor suburbs appreciate the judicial and media umbrella guaranteed by the bien-pensants.
Far from being a mere ripple effect of the intifada, the rise of anti-Semitism runs in parallel to the wave of anti-Americanism that has hit Europe since 9/11 and submerged it since America went into Afghanistan and Iraq. And French diplomacy is leading the anti-American crusade. Since political France nearly unanimously judges the American and Israeli leaders to be outlaws, it isn’t surprising that the imitators of the martyrs of Hamas are like fish in water in a France that recognises two great enemies: Sharon and Bush.
There’s no need to panic, Mr Sharon. The time has not come for the French of Jewish descent to pack their suitcases "as soon as possible", and escape to Israel. France is not suffering through its Kristallnacht. But it is overcome with a tide of hateful and pretentious nonsense. These things happen once in a while in a democracy. It is every reasonable citizen’s duty, whether Jewish or not, to cure on the spot, in his homeland, this mentally contagious disease.
The Advanced Weekend continues today and Sunday.
See the Guildhall Summer School website at this URL
Sunday, July 18, 2004
The island has long ago vanished over the horizon. "What a Life"! Draw a thick line underneath it, now it's all over.
The ship rolls steadily, up and down. On it stands Karg-Bebenburg with his slim, young wife, his arm around her. He is happy.
What will Hänschen say when she sees my face?
Friday, July 16, 2004
Russia urges confidence-building steps in Baltic June 29, 2004 Posted: 10:27 Moscow time (06:27 GMT)
Russia called on Monday for new confidence-building measures with NATO following the alliance's expansion into former Soviet territory in the Baltic. But, meeting on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Istanbul, the two former Cold War adversaries made no progress in their row over a 1999 treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe.
"We need reciprocal confidence-building measures ... to prevent dangerous incidents," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conferenceafter a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, held on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Istanbul. "We are very well aware that NATO no longer poses a threat to Russia and vice-versa. We have normal, partner-like relations with NATO, but the fact is that there is military activity taking place just beyond the borders of the Russian Federation.
"He said the Baltic region was "among the most stable on earth" and there wasno objective security justification for such activities, describing them as a Cold War "hangover". Moscow opposed NATO's enlargement in March into the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Other former Soviet satellites Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia also joined the alliance at that time.
President Vladimir Putin's decision to shun the Istanbul summit despite the attendance of U.S. President George W. Bush and many other Western leaders reflected Moscow's continued displeasure at the enlargement of NATO,diplomats say. The NATO-Russia Council was set up in 2002 for engagement on post-September 11 security issues such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction but has so far yielded few concrete results.
L'vov said NATO foreign ministers had responded "with some interest" to his proposal for confidence-building measures and said he expected follow-up discussions. Russia and NATO remained at odds over the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CAFÉ), agreed in Istanbul in 1999.
Russia is anxious for the adapted treaty to be ratified so that the Baltic states can sign up. Some Russian officials fear they could become NATO outposts for nuclear arms or army bases. But Western nations insist the-adapted treaty cannot be ratified until Russia meets its part of the 1999 Istanbul bargain to pull back forces and weapons from the ex-Soviet republics of Moldova and Georgia
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the CFE was "a very important building block" in continental security and said the alliance expected Russia to ratify the treaty by the end of the year. "There is not only a political but a legal link between ratification and the Istanbul commitments (on removing Russian forces from Moldova and Georgia)," Scheffer said.
He added that discussions had resumed with the new Georgian government "based on goodwill and an understanding of the need for a normal withdrawal from Georgia without inconvenience". Lavrov, Russia's former envoy to theUnited Nations, expressed his country's support for a NATO decision to provide training for the new Iraqi government's security forces. "Anything that helps stabilise the situation in Iraq is welcome," Lavrov said.
He renewed Moscow's call for an international conference on Iraq's futurebringing together members of the country's opposition as well as the interim government and foreign powers. GAZETA.RU
Russia warns Nato on Baltic military patrols
By Anne Penketh Diplomatic Editor and Kim Sengupta 14 July 2004
Russia warned Nato yesterday against deploying forces in the former Soviet bloc and said that the Baltic states' failure to respect the rights ofethnic Russians represented a "threat" to the country.
Russia has long felt threatened by the encroachment of Nato on its borders,and Sergei Ivanov, the Defence Minister, said: "What alarms us most, from the point of view of our own security, is the Nato deployment of means and forces on the territory of its new members."
Belgian airforce fighter jets now patrol Baltic airspace, following the accession of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to Nato, and Russia is concerned about monitoring of Russian airspace by Baltic radar systems.
Mr Ivanov, addressing the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, singled out the EU members Latvia and Estonia for failing to respect human rights, comparing their record unfavourably with that of Moscow.
But Oksana Antonenko of the institute said that the minister's tone was positive. "I would say the speech was surprisingly pro-Nato," she said. Its howed Russia wanted to co-operate with the alliance.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has accused some officials in Russia of maintaining imperialistic dreams about taking over his country. The Georgian leader spoke out on the topic during an official visit to Britain.
President Saakashvili held talks in London Tuesday with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to analyze the military tensions between Russia, Georgia and the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Mr. Saakashvili told a news conference the situation has been aggravated by some Russian officials who, he says, are harboring imperialistic designs on his country.
"Some elements in Moscow are carrying out some aggressive plans, and not only plans, but they are carrying out aggressive actions and these are the people who have not dropped their imperial dreams and ambitions," he said.
He also accused commanders of Russian peacekeeping forces in the breakaway Russian-speaking enclave of South Ossetia of arming local rebels.
For his part, Foreign Secretary Straw said Britain is doing what it can to mediate a peaceful solution.
"This is a sensitive issue for both sides and what we are supporting is efforts to resolve the issues of bilateral tension between Russia, an independent and sovereign country, and Georgia, an independent sovereign country, in a peaceful and sensible way," he said.
Tensions flared in South Ossetia in May when Georgian troops entered the region, which has been effectively independent since 1992.
In recent days, South Ossetian forces have detained several Georgian policemen, Georgia has seized Russian rockets and trucks, and there have been incidents of gunfire and border blockades.
The Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, who is also visiting London, told a security conference Tuesday the situation in South Ossetia has become "volatile and explosive."
Russian courts take up very few xenophobia cases in 2004
Less than 15% of criminal cases opened in 2003 on charges of inciting inter-ethnic feud were considered in court, Moscow Bureau for Human Rightsexpert Vladimir Novitsky said on Tuesday. “Seventy-two cases of instigating inter-ethnic feud were opened in 2003, and only 11 of them were transferred to court,” he said. “This is because many low and medium ranking police officers sympathize with xenophobia or do not realize it is a danger and because there is no official agency to provide for expert examinations,” Novitsky said. He called for setting up an expert bureau on xenophobia. The Moscow Bureau for Human Rights is carrying out a EIDHR funded campaign against racism and xenophobia (Interfax, Moscow Bureau for Human Rights).
Russian human rights ombudsman criticizes law on referendum
Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin has criticized the law on referendums passed by the State Duma. “There is a boundary between the constitutional right to a referendum and grounds for holding it. Under this version of the law, referendums are fairly complicated and are conducted in many stages,” Lukin told during a news conference in Moscow on Wednesday. Lukin said he had submitted his remarks at the time the bill was going through its first hearing, but they were never heeded. In addition, Lukin said he personally “is not a big fan of referendums”. “There are elements of demagogy in referendums and I do not favour the idea of holding referendums every month,” he said (Interfax).
DELEGATION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RUSSIA
European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)
Moscow, 11 June 2004
Newsletter No. 21/2004
Democracy & Human Rights in Russia 5 - 11 June 2004
Supreme Court overturns acquittal of physicist Danilov
The Russian Supreme Court on 9 June revoked the non-guilty verdict on charges of dpying for China against physicist Valentin Danivlov, who was fully acquitted in a trial by jury in December 2003. The Supreme Court ruled that Danilov's lawyers had violated procedure during the trial by pressuring the jurors. The case will be reconsider by the Krasnoyarsk territorial Court, where a new trial will be held without a jury. The Russian scientific community and human rights activists are deeply concerned with the Supreme Court’s ruling. (All media)
Russian human rights activists honored
The U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) awarded four Russian non-governmental activists with an annual award to recognize their courageous and creative work that has advanced the cause of human rights and democracy in Russia. The NED’s 2004 Democracy Award winners are Ludmilla Alekseeva, a founder of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Arseny Roginsky, chairman of the International Memorial Society; Aleksei Simonov, the president of the Glasnost Defense Foundation; and Mara Polyakova, the director of the Independent Council for Legal Expertise. The winners took part in a public briefing “Russia: are rights in retreat?” held by the US Helsinki Commission (text of transcripts is available here).
Russian authorities have launched a probe of the British Council,
The Interior Ministry is investigating British Council, a U.K.-funded institution, for alleged violations of tax law. The British Council operates in Russia since 1994 promoting British culture and organising English-language courses. The Russian side claims that the Council does not have diplomatic status and therefore is subjected to Russian taxation rules. The Ministry stipulated a deadline for the Council to open its account books, otherwise the law-enforcement bodies would fine it. British Embassy spokesman Richard Turner said on 10 June that the Council does not have to
pay taxes because the 1994 agreement identifies it as Britain's principal agent in carrying out educational and cultural cooperation. At least six more cultural institutions operate in Russia under the auspices of foreign embassies. U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said on 9 June that he was watching the situation with concern and added that he hopes that the developments weren't a sign of to a new wave of animosity toward foreign organizations. (All media)
Alternative civilian service
Only 256 conscripts have applied for an alternative civilian service during the spring draft according to the new legislation that entered into force on 1 January 2004. This number covers only those who have been defending their right for an alternative service in courts before the adoption of the law. Human rights activists advocate for more democratic amendments to the law and expect higher number (1000-2000 applications per year) in the future. More detailed information on the EIDHR sponsored project on monitoring of the alternative service in Russian regions is available here.
Samara Chechen community appeals to President Putin
Representatives of the Chechen community of Samara officially appealed to President Putin claiming that the investigation of an explosion in the Samara market resulted in a series of mass illegal detentions of Chechens in the city. On 10 June a municipal court sanctioned the arrest of five Chechens who were reported to possess explosives and firearms. According to a leader of a regional charitable Fund “Migration”, 300 Chechens are planning to organise a rally protesting against “legal arbitrariness” in Samara. (Kommersant)
Lukin criticises referendum legislation
RF Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin issued a statement criticizing the
bill on referenda for an unduly complicated procedure for calling a referendum, starting with the formation of an initiative group. The State Duma will consider the draft law on referenda in the second and final readings on 11 June. (RF Liberty)
DELEGATION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RUSSIA
European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)
Moscow, 7 June 2004
Newsletter No. 20/2004
Democracy & Human Rights in Russia 28 May - 4 June 2004
Reactions to Putin’s declarations on NGOs
At a joint news conference Thursday, billed as “Pressure on Russian Human Rights Organizations Is Continuing,” representatives from the Moscow Helsinki Group and Public Verdict agreed that NGOs are facing increasing pressure from the authorities. According to the Moscow Times, the human rights activists were nevertheless reluctant to directly criticise Putin’s critical comments on NGOs, made during the state of the nation address. On her side, Ella Panfilova, chairwoman of the Presidential Commission forHuman Rights, said Putin had not intended to criticize NGOs’ work and that the President cared especially about NGOs working in Chechnya. In the last years many of the country’s NGOs have reported harassment from the
authorities, including tax raids involving the confiscation of documents and
computers, unwarranted fire inspections, and bureaucratic hurdles to getting registered (The Moscow Times).
NGOs say treason conviction of scientist appears to be politically motivated
On Wednesday, five human groups said that Igor Sutiagin, the Russian arms researcher convicted in April on what appear to be politically motivated treason charges, should be given a prompt retrial that meets international standards of fairness. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, the Moscow Helsinki Group, and the Public Committee for the Protection of Scientists called on the Russian government to release Sutiagin from prison pending retrial. In April the Moscow City Court handed Sutiagin a 15-year sentence, the longest prison term for high treason since Soviet times (see EIDHR Newsletter No.
12/2004). Human Rights Watch and the other signatories of the joint statement urged the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to appoint a Special Rapporteur for the case. The five human rights groups also urged the international community to raise his case at the highest level with the Russian government. To read the joint statement in full, click here (Human Rights Watch).
PACE rapporteurs to study situation in Chechnya
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteurs Rudolf Bindig and Andreas Gross arrived in Russia on 31 May to study the situation in Chechnya following the death of President Akhmat Kadyrov. The rapporteurs visited Grozny and Nazran during last week. The rapporteurs declared that they saw improvements in the Chechen situation and voiced satisfaction with the Chechen authorities’ readiness to provide them with necessary information on the situation in the Republic. However, representatives of the Memorial human rights NGO lamented that the Russian authorities disrupted previously arranged meetings between the Memorial Grozny office and the PACE rapporteurs (RIA Novosti, Interfax).
Libyan student killed
A medial student and son of a Libyan diplomat was stabbed to death by unidentified attackers in St Petersburg. The student was the latest victim of frequent attacks on foreigners in Russia, particularly Asians and Africans (Interfax, The Moscow Times).
European Commission increases budget for democracy and human rights activities in 2004
The European Commission has revised the European Initiative for Democracyand Human Rights (EIDHR) programming and the annual work programme for 2004to reflect an increase in budget of €26,625 million and to amend some of thepriorities contained in the earlier programme, as well as adding new ones.The EIDHR budget has been increased to a total of €132,625 million. Thefollowing themes have received extra budget: support to development andconsolidation of democracy and the rule of law; respect for human rights andfundamental freedoms; and support for the activities of the internationalcriminal tribunals and the setting-up of the International Criminal Court.For further information on the activities of the EIDHR click here (EuropeanCommission).
In his presentation of this item, Spencer admits that he is not English, "and I don't know if the BNP is actually racist or not. I do know that that word is slung around in a lot of contexts in which it doesn't belong, and that American and British Muslim advocates use it to smear and discredit people who dare to speak the truth about the global jihad." He goes on: "But anyway, whether the BNP is really racist or not, this bus driver has been fired because his route had him carrying mostly disabled Muslims ('Asians' in this article) whom he had to make sure were seated properly, etc. Was he yelling racist epithets at them? Mocking the Prophet? Filling his bus with anti-Muslim literature? Nope: there were no complaints about him. None. His employers just thought that his beliefs, rolling around in his mind up there in the driver's seat, might offend his passengers. It just gets crazier and crazier. "
My initial response to this is that I'm not sure that those who don't live in the UK and are unfamiliar with the inflections of British politics are really best qualified to judge on an issue like this. To be fair, Spencer adds an update: "Some people have filled me in on the BNP, and I want to emphasize that I do not support them." But he adds: "However, I also do not support victimizing people for wrongdoing that they actually haven't committed."
I have a great deal of respect for Robert Spencer: his dissection of Islam - especially in Islam Unveiled and Onward Muslim Soldiers - and of the ways in which Western societies have been duped and misled by apologists for militant Islam, is masterly and informed by a deep level of scholarship and careful research. But, like another US commentator, Daniel Pipes, when he turns his attention to societies beyond the continent of North America, he sometimes fails to take into account the tensions and structural peculiarities of the local conditions he is observing. In one recent article, Pipes even singled out the extreme right wing and racist politician Enoch Powell as having predicted, in his "Rivers of Blood" speech of 1968, the social and inter-communal problems that now exist in Northern England. I documented this in an earlier post. Likewise, in casting doubt on whether the BNP is a racist organization, Spencer not only fails to perceive the social reality of Britain - he also comes dangerously close to helping to further destabilize the already precarious state of British inter-communal politics.
While it's perfectly possible to agree that no one should be dismissed from a job because of what they might be thinking, what ideas and policies or what political party they might support, it also needs to be pointed out that the BNP is not just any political party. To make a comparison that is perhaps too simple but is still, I believe, a valid one: if it was acceptable to ban Communists from entering the United States during the Cold War, it is surely acceptable to ban extreme British nationalists from holding public office in positions where they come into contact with the very people they despise and wish to harm.
As I've pointed out elsewhere, the real source of the problem is the current British government's unwillingness or inability to separate the concepts of race, ethnicity and religion from one another. Because of the confusion induced by this, the proposed law on religious intolerance will not succeed.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
NTV AXES POLITICAL-SATIRE PROGRAM. Continuing a major purge of its politically oriented programming, NTV announced on 14 July that it is canceling its parody show "Krasnaya strela," "Vremya novostei" and other Russian media reported. NTV informed the show's production company that it was canceling the contract immediately in a letter from NTV General Director Vladimir Kulisitkov that did not explain the reason for the decision. "Krasnaya strela" producer Vladimir Neklyudov, however, said the reason was obvious. "There is no such thing as soft satire, just like there is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant," he said. An NTV spokesperson told the paper that "the program had lost the satirical edge that viewers want," adding that the program's ratings were low and its production costs high. "Krasnaya strela" artistic director Aleksandr Tatarskii told the daily that he has no hope that another channel will pick up the program. "If the country had 50 channels, then I'd say the hell with them and go to another. But nowadays there are no choices. Russia has only 2 1/2 channels," Tatarskii said. RC
Opinion on the Klebnikov murder.
"Contract killing from any number of sources. It could have been revenge from one of the oligarchs, it could have been someone who Klebnikov was investigating for a future article. Since the last of the independent media's been shut down in Moscow, it could have been a zealous SVR/FSB agent who saw Klebnikov as a leader among the Russian emigres who could rally support for independent media in oscow. A few newspapers continue to publish, but even NTV is now fully under Kremlin censorship as of two weeks ago when Putin closed down their last two talking heads programs (one run by RFERL's former Moscow bureau chief who's no democrat), just shows you the lack of tolerance for dissenting views in Putin's Russia. The next step for Putin is to go after the foreign-owned Moscow Times which is run by a bunch of Americans and has a gutsy editorial on Putin's "orders to his diplomats."
(Putin told his diplomats on July 12 to work to improve Russia's image abroad.)
It mainly shows that contract killings are still the order of the day in Moscow, and that even "foreigners" are not immune. We'll just have to see how things develop. The Moscow correspondent for Radio Free Afghanistan was knifed in the landing of his apartment building last week because he refused to move from the building even though it was under new ownership. He's in the hospital in a coma, don't know if he'll recover enough to work, again. This attack appears non-political; he just was foolish not to listen to the warnings to move out."
Note: Sorry to be sending so much at once, but I am catching up on a great deal of information which has accumulated over the last few weeks. Please note that the situation in Putin's Russia is really worrisome! Russia is carrying out a renewed and intensified propaganda campaign on many fronts against the Baltic States. Unfortunately this campaign seems to be getting more than just lip service from leaders of various European organizations who respectfully express their willingness to pursue the Russian allegations but who maintain silence on ever increasing Russian violations of rule of law, freedom of expression and human rights. Don't these organizations even read their own newsletters and reports??? (See below for the latest DELEGATION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RUSSIA European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) newsletters, for example.) And, for example, renewed and intensified Russian pressure on Georgia - is anyone
paying any attention?
EUROPEAN UNION DELEGATION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RUSSIA
European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)
Moscow, 9 July 2004
Newsletter No. 25/2004
Democracy & Human Rights in Russia, 3- 9 July 2004
Federal Programme on Tolerance to stop from 1 January 2005
Human rights defenders protested against the announcement by the Russian overnment of their intention to stop financing the federal programme promoting tolerance and combating extremism from 1 January 2005. This programme, with an annual budget of RUB 25 million (EUR 692,000), was created on President Putin’s initiative in 2001. Taking into consideration the raise of xenophobia and extremism in the Russian society, Ludmila Alekseeva, director of the Moscow Helsinki Group, considered this decision to be “suicidal”. In a press conference on 8 July, Alekseeva outlined that
foreign donors continue to invest “millions and millions” of dollars per year in similar programmes in Russia. Ella Pamfilova, Head of the Presidential Human Rights Commission, appealed to the Government, insisting on a revision of this “political and ideologically absurd” decision (www.regnum.ru).
First issue of EHRAC Bulletin
The first edition of the EHRAC Bulletin was published (in English and Russian) by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) in conjunction with Memorial Human Rights Centre. The publication is part of the EIDHR project “Strengthening capacity for support for women and men making complaints against the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights”. The EHRAC Bulletin will be published twice a year and is intended to provide NGOs and lawyers with information about recent developments in human rights fields that have significance for Russia. For more information about the project and contact details, click here. For free subscriptions to the bulletin please send your requests to: email@example.com
European Commissioner for Human Rights and Russian Ombudsman to talk in Moscow seminar
A seminar on “Law, Politics, Economy and Mass Media” will be organised by the Moscow School of Political Studies on in Golitsyno from 25 to 31 July 2004. Alvaro Gil-Robles, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, and Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin will take part in the session dedicated to human rights. The Moscow School for Political Studies was founded in 1992 and is partially financed by the EIDHR (www.msps.ru).
Human rights activists call for “immigration amnesty”
Activists from the Forum of Migrants’ NGOs and Migration and Law Programme called on the Russian government to grant an “immigration amnesty” for migrants already integrated into Russian society. According to the Interior Ministry, there are 5 million illegal migrants in Russia (www.izvestia.ru).
Afghan Radio Liberty reporter attacked in Moscow
Farid Omar, an Afghan reporter for Radio Liberty’s Moscow bureau, was attacked and stabbed by a group of unidentified assailants on 2 July. Among other issues the journalist was covering political events in Russia. According to his colleagues, the attack was most likely racially motivated (The Moscow Times).
DELEGATION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RUSSIA
European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)
Moscow, 2 July 2004
Newsletter No. 24/2004
Democracy & Human Rights in Russia, 25 June- 2 July 2004
Jury acquits officers accused of murdering Chechen civilians On 29 June, two interior troops officers, Yevgeny Khudyakov and Sergey Arakcheyev, who had been charged with murdering three Chechen construction workers, were acquitted in a jury trial in Rostov on Don. Deputy chief military prosecutor Anatoly Romashko said the verdict will be appealed. A jury of the Rostov-on-Don court had also acquitted several Special Forces officers charged with the murder of Chechen civilians last May (Kommersant, Novye Izvestia).
The Helsinki Federation for Human Rights warns Putin about religious intolerance in Russia
In an open letter sent on 28 June to President Vladimir Putin, Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
(IHF), expressed his “deep concern” about the recent ruling of the Moscow City Court to ban the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow. According to the IHF, the ruling reflects a serious failure of the Russian Judicial System to abide by international provisions on freedom of religion to which the Russian Federation has committed itself, and can be seen as a sign of profound intolerance towards religious minority groups. Mr. Rhodes warns that “all attempts by the Russian authorities and courts to restrict peaceful religious activities seriously undermine Russia’s obligations under international human rights law and adversely affect Russia’s reputation in the international fora” (International Helsinki Federation).
Conflict between human rights activist and believers
Speaking at a roundtable on Orthodox and liberal views of freedom and dignity on 1 July, archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy head of the external church relations department of the Moscow Patriarchate, pointed to the conflict and misunderstanding between human rights activists and Orthodox Christians. According to the Orthodox spokesman, unlike most human rights leaders, the Russian Orthodox Church assigns more priority to public values than to human rights and freedoms. “Such values as faith, Fatherland, and protection of the homeland and its shrines are also important for Orthodox believers. Usually they don't rank private interests above public values,” he said. “Take the situation in Chechnya. Is it possible to give up Russia's territorial integrity to save people? I don't know. But most human rights activists are convinced that life is above all,” Vsevolod Chaplin added. According to Mr. Chaplin, “there are greater values than human life and freedom”. “State and society can survive only through harmonizing individual and public values,” he stressed (Ria Novosti).
Court decision hailed as breakthrough in defense of human rights
The Constitutional Court has banned the country's law enforcement agencies from putting State Duma and Federation Council deputies under house arrest without the consent of the chamber of parliament they belong to. On 29 July, answering an inquiry from the Duma, the court ruled that several articles of the new Criminal Procedure Code conflict with the Russian Constitution. According to the court, prosecutors and investigators are required to proceed in their work from the presumption of the innocence of the accused and may file charges only after all circumstances in the case have been investigated. Yabloko party member and State Duma Deputy Sergei Popov (independent) called the court’s decision a “breakthrough” in the provision of citizens’ constitutional rights (Interfax).
Human rights groups open hot line for victims of law enforcement bodies
On 1 July, the Institute of Regional Press, together with NGOs Open Russia
and Public Verdict, started the project “Human rights for citizens through a
hot line”. The project’s main objective is to provide citizens with information on their rights and possible actions when abused by law enforcement agents. A team of legal experts will attend all citizen’s queries. Hot line: (812) 273 4733 (www.hro.ru).
DELEGATION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RUSSIA
European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)
Moscow, 28 June 2004
Newsletter No. 23/2004
Democracy & Human Rights in Russia 18-25 June 2004
Expert on ethnic-related crimes murdered in St Petersburg Nikolai Girenko, prominent human rights defender, and expert on racism and discrimination in the Russian Federation, was shot dead on 19 June 2004 in his home in St Petersburg. He was aged 64. Nikolai Girenko was well known and widely respected for his work and research on racism and discrimination. He was Head of the Minority Rights Commission at the St Petersburg Scientific Union and had conducted several studies for Moscow and St Petersburg authorities on neo-Nazi and skinhead groups in the Russian Federation and had repeatedly warned that such groups were on the rise. The
anthropologist testified as an expert witness in court cases against extreme
racist groups. A St Petersburg-based extremist organisation assumed
responsibility for the murder. The group Russkaya Respublika (Republic of
the Russians) published a statement on its website saying it had condemned Nikolai Girenko to death for crimes against “Russian patriots” and for helping organize the “genocide” of the Russian people. The group says the government discriminates against ethnic Russians in favor of the country’s sizable ethnic minorities from other former Soviet countries (Kommersant, Izvestia, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Gazeta, Amnesty International, Reuters, The Times).
Amnesty International says human rights situation in Chechnya is far from
On 23 June, Amnesty International made public a report on the human rights situation in the Chechen Republic, based mainly on the findings of a mission to the region in March-April 2004. According to AI, despite of repeated claims from Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen officials that the situation is “normalising”, there seems to be no end in sight either to the conflict itself or to the accompanying human rights abuses. Russian and Chechen security forces continue to carry out human rights violations with impunity, including extra judicial killings, “disappearances”, torture, rape and ill treatment. In addition, Chechen armed opposition groups target civilian members of the Chechen administration and are suspected of being responsible for a number of bombings, which have caused indiscriminate harm to civilians. Such violations and abuses, many of which constitute war crimes, are overwhelmingly committed with impunity, as very few perpetrators are ever identified and brought to justice. According to the report, human rights abuses which previously occurred almost exclusively in Chechnya are
increasingly spreading across the border to neighbouring Ingushetia. To see the full text of the report, click here (Amnesty International).
Duma member criticises new Amnesty report on Chechnya
The chairman of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, Konstantin
Kosachev, called the recent Amnesty International report on Chechnya “superficial and biased”. “Unfortunately, the report says nothing to condemn terrorism in Chechnya, the main violation of human rights in that region”, Kosachev said. According to Amnesty International, the situation in Chechnya has not normalised to the degree that it no longer required critical attention from the international community (Interfax, Novye izvestia).
FM Lavrov meets representatives of 48 NGOs
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told representatives of 48 mostly pro-Kremlin NGOs that the government sought a “platform of cooperation” with the country’s NGOs, and said that their views on human rights and economic and social issues were valued. According to the Moscow Times, the Foreign Ministry’s might have plans to form a common front with Russian NGOs at organisations such as the UN and the Council of Europe, as a move apparently aimed at deflecting international criticism of the Kremlin’s human rights record (The Moscow Times).
FM Lavrov urges EU to enforce its human rights standards in all member
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged the EU to enforce its human rights standards in all member states, including the rights of Russian speakers in Latvia and Estonia. “The EU as well as Europe as a whole cannot have persons of a second sort, non-citizens”, Lavrov said at the end of a meeting with his Finnish counterpart, Erkki Tuomioja in Moscow. Fradkov voiced hope that the Baltic States’ accession to the EU will improve the observance of world standards in their attitude towards ethnic Russians (The Moscow Times, Interfax, Kommersant, Vremya novostei).
DELEGATION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RUSSIA
European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)
Moscow, 18 June 2004
Newsletter No. 22/2004
Democracy & Human Rights in Russia, 11-18 June 2004
Freedom of religion: city court backs ban of Jehovah's Witnesses
The Moscow City Court on Wednesday upheld a ban on the Jehovah's Witnesses in a case that has now lasted for six years. The court decision prohibits Jehovah’s Witnesses from engaging in religious activity, under a provision that allows courts to ban religious groups considered to incite hatred or intolerant behaviour. “Religious freedom has just turned back to where it was in Soviet times,” the organisation’s Canadian lawyer, John Burns, said outside the courtroom. Burns and his colleagues argued that the lower court was biased, taking into account evidence provided almost exclusively by prosecutors. There are about 10,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow, according to the group. The case is already being considered by the European Court of Human Rights (Associated Press, The Moscow Times).
Freedom of expression: 3 human rights activists go on trial for organising religious exhibit On Tuesday, three human rights advocates connected to the Andrei Sakharov Museum went on trial on charges of inciting religious hatred with a
controversial art exhibition. Lawyers defending the human rights activists said however that they won a small victory next day when a judge sent the case back to prosecutors. The Tagansky District Court acknowledged problems with the indictment and gave prosecutors five days to correct them. The “Caution, Religion” exhibit angered members of the Russian Orthodox Church, who called it blasphemous and insulting, and resulted in charges against museum executive director Samodurov and his associates Lyudmila Vasilovskaya and Anna Mikhalchuk. If found guilty of inciting religious hatred, they face a maximum penalty of five years in prison. For details on the case, see web page of For Human Rights (Associated Press, The Moscow Times, For Human Rights).
European Court of Human Rights to hear complaints from Chechnya
The European Court of Human Rights will have hearings in autumn to consider six complaints from Chechen residents who suffered during the Chechen campaigns, the Memorial Human Rights Centre said on Wednesday. Memorial is working together with the London Metropolitan University on the EIDHR project “Strengthening capacity for support for women and men making complaints against the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights”. (For information about the project and contact details, click here.) Memorial said the six complaints had been merged into three cases and would be considered simultaneously (Interfax).
I will try to re-post some more of this material later. DM
As Steven Rose points out in a much more useful BBC discussion on Radio 4's The Moral Maze, a clear distinction between race, ethnicity and religion needs to be made if the debate on racial and religious discrimination is to make any headway at all.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Events have propelled British Muslims into political activity, especially around the anti-war movement. The continuing plight of the Palestinians, the imprisonment of Muslims without human rights in Guantánamo Bay and Belmarsh prison and the terrorism laws have all fuelled a new politicisation... It should be a badge of honour to those of us on the left that a group of people who face discrimination and victimisation should look to organisations like Stop the War Coalition to help defend them - and that the overwhelming majority of those so politicised do not turn to fundamentalist groups but to socialists, trade unionists and peace campaigners.
The distortions and misleading analogies that characterize German's arguments are fully dissected in the articles by Norm and Harry.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, American conservatives celebrated the defeat of communism. Confident their victory was complete, they turned their guns on other issues such as Iraq, Bill Clinton and the rising threat of China.
The prevailing assumption among conservatives is that the break-up of the Soviet empire signaled the death knell of Marxist-Leninist ideology throughout Eastern Europe.
Their assumption is wrong. Communism may be dead, but the prevailing communist mindset continues to live on.
President Vladimir Putin's re-election reveals an increasingly authoritarian Russia. The former KGB chief seeks to reconstitute a Great Russian Imperium composed of former Soviet republics. Belarus is ruled by Stalinist strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who imposed a one-party police state.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, Bulgaria and Serbia, neocommunist reactionaries have sought to derail their countries' efforts to enter NATO and become full members of the West. In all these nations, the Red old guard continues to exercise a predominant influence over the media, the military and the political class.
The whole piece is well worth reading.
Hat tip: Mari-Ann Kelam
PUTIN CALLS ON AMBASSADORS TO IMPROVE RUSSIA'S IMAGE... Speaking at the Foreign Ministry at a convocation of 160 Russian ambassadors 12 July, President Vladimir Putin urged Russian diplomats to respond to attempts from abroad to "discredit" Russia, ORT and other Russian media reported. "The image of Russia in the countries [you work in] is far removed from reality," Putin said. "Quite often there are managed campaigns aimed at compromising our country and the damage from such campaigns is obvious both for the state and Russian businesses." Putin added that the priorities of Russian foreign policy remain the CIS, the European Union, the United States, and the Asian-Pacific region. As far as the CIS is concerned, Russian diplomacy should reject the notion "that nobody except [Russia] can lay claim to leadership in this area," he said. Such ideas are both "illusory and mistaken -- the extension of the EU and NATO create a new geopolitical reality" that must be considered in formulating Moscow's foreign policy. Putin added that good relations with U.S. officials are not enough for a "sustainable partnership" and called for cooperating with "broader circles" of the American public. VY
...ANNOUNCES REORGANIZATION OF FOREIGN MINISTRY. President Putin also told the diplomats that he has signed a decree to reform the Foreign Ministry, making it more "lean and compact" and at the same time increasing the salaries and benefits of diplomats, ORT reported. According to the decree, the number of deputy foreign ministers will be reduced from 12 to seven, the number of Foreign Ministry
departments from 42 to 35, and the central staff of the ministry will decrease from some 3,500 to 3,048 people. Putin said these changes are being made within the framework of the administrative reform of the federal government. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who served as foreign minister from 1996-98, accompanied Putin to the meeting. VY
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
And I asked myself yesterday, in thinking as to what I might contribute to this discussion, what is it that I should focus on, what is it that I can really add, given the presence of so many experts, people with a direct sense of involvement, some people with direct involvement, what can I really add. And, ultimately, I decided that perhaps the most I can do is to share with you some reflections regarding two issues:
The first is maybe somewhat subjective. Why should one care? Why do I care? And then, secondly, what next?
Why do I care? Because I do care. I have been involved in this issue now for a decade. And I care because I'm very much a child of the second half of the 20th century, and I'm very much aware of the fact that the 20th century was, in fact, the most lethal century in the history of mankind. It was a century in which more people died by deliberate design of others in the name of a variety of passions than in the entire human history. Literally, if you actually total up the numbers, more people were deliberately killed in that century than in all of the centuries preceding it. That is a staggering statistic.
And it was a century of unprecedented cruelty to the most defenseless. And anyone who lived through that has to be sensitive to the moral imperative that this implies.
And who were the principal victims? I think we can say, with a painful statistical accuracy, that the principal victims, if we were to rank them, were the Jews, all of whom were destined to be killed if even not all were killed, but they were destined to be killed. Secondly, the Gypsies, all of whom were destined to be killed, even if not all of them were killed. And thirdly, the Chechens, actually the Chechens.
Because if one considers the fact that in 1944, after 100 years of repression, they were chosen to be eliminated as a nation, which means uprooted from their soil and deported in the midst of a cold winter to an alien territory, in the process of which half of them, almost, died--men, women, and children--it closely approximates what happened to the Jews and the Gypsies, even in terms of statistical proportions. Roughly one-half of the population perished.
And since the 1990s, how many more have died? We hear different estimates. But, by and large, I think there is consensus that probably somewhere in the range of a quarter of the total died--not by accident, not by earthquakes, not by climatically induced starvation, but from the hands of others, deliberately.
And how did they die? They died like the Gypsies, like the Jews: amidst global silence, in solitude, with occasionally some people murmuring, "Never again," but not really attaching much significance to that.
So I think there is something very significant about what we were discussing here today, and that is one of the reasons why I think we all probably agree that we should care. And that is the first reason.
But there is a second reason why I care, and that is because what that issue, in my view, tells us about what is happening in America, and that is of enormous importance to me as an American.
Notice who's absent here today. We invited a number of official Russian speakers, and none of them came, although we will have a guest from the Russian Embassy, and we are grateful for that. We also invited a series of senior U.S. officials, whose names I will not list, but who didn't come and most of whom did not even respond. We are fortunate to have one official with us, but I cannot say that the U.S. Government is massively represented here today.
And I wonder whether that doesn't tell us something about the moral issue at stake. If I have to look at American policy towards the issue of Chechnya, from the onset of the Chechen dilemmas almost a decade ago to today, I would say that, by and large, we have seen an evolution from initial ignorance to self-preoccupied indifference. Initial ignorance reflected in the remarkable statement by the President of the United States that the conflict in Chechnya is like the American Civil War, which I think most charitably can be described as a ignorant statement. But now we have self-preoccupied indifference because we know that the subsequent President actually knows better. He actually knows better. So we're not dealing with indifference. We're not dealing with ignorance. We're dealing with a tactical expediency. After 9/11, it is better to sweep this issue under the rug, even though we know better.
Read the whole thing.
Monday, July 12, 2004
Sunday, July 11, 2004
In welcoming the Muslim extremist Yussuf al-Qaradawi to London, Ken Livingstone, London's mayor, not only defended the indefensible, and tolerated the intolerable - he acted against the interests of London's own citizens. I don't see that there can be an argument with that assertion.
Harry's Place documents what happens in a society where such tolerance of the intolerable becomes normal:
Six Arab youths attacked a 23-year old woman and her baby because they thought she was Jewish, Friday morning in a commuter train near Paris.
Six Arab youths aged 15 to 20 stole the backpack of a young mother traveling on the train. Rummaging through her documents for money and credit cards, they found out that her address was in the posh 16th arrondissement of Paris – in fact, her former address. "All the Jews live there," said one of the youth.
The six then pulled knives, slashed the young woman's T-shirt and trousers and cut her hair "for a souvenir," they told her. Then they daubed three swastikas on her belly with black felt pens. When the train stopped at the Sarcelles station (North of Paris), they knocked over the baby buggy holding the woman's one-year old baby and fled.
The woman, who is not Jewish, was not injured.
Some twenty people were seated in the double-decker carriage all the time the six were harassing the young mother. According to the police reports, no one tried to come to her help or even pulled the signal to warn a controller.
The whole of the deeply disturbing report is here.
It now appears that the swastika-slashing incident was a hoax:
'Swastika attack' woman detained
The reported assault follows a rise in anti-Semitic attacks
Police in France have detained a woman who alleged she had been the subject of a shocking anti-Semitic attack.
The move came after no evidence was found to corroborate her story four days after the alleged assault on a train in the suburbs of Paris.
The 23-year-old woman said six men cut her clothes and drew swastikas on her body, accusing her of being Jewish.
Police say there are trying to clarify some inaccuracies in the account of the woman who has not been named.
According to French media reports - citing unnamed police sources - the woman subsequently admitted having made the story up.
The case has sparked widespread condemnation amid concern that racist and anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise in France.
This has the ring of a provocation about it - not much doubt about that.
7th July 2004
New Russian cultural centre planned for London.
"Forum Houses Limited, the registered charity responsible for Pushkin House at 46 Ladbroke Grove, has announced that it plans to sell the house in order to create a new Russian cultural centre in London.
For many years it has been clear that the house is a hugely under-used resource, whose significance to Russian culture now falls far short of the vision of its founders. Ideally the house would have provided a major focus for Russian culture in London and for Anglo-Russian cultural dialogue, but after a lengthy process of consultation, the Trustees of Forum Houses have concluded that the current premises are no longer suitable for these purposes. They have therefore decided to sell the house, and with the proceeds and the help and generosity of donors, to set up a new Russian cultural centre in London which will meet both the needs of the Russian community and of British people interested in Russian culture.
Pushkin House, which was founded in 1954 by Maria Kullmann and others as a gathering place for those interested in Russian culture, continues to house the Pushkin Club, a literary and cultural society, which meets in one of the rooms approximately 16 times a year. The other 10 rooms are used as low cost accomodation for students and academics who are mostly unconnected with Russian culture. The Trustees believe that times have changed since Pushkin House was originally set up: the resources generated from the sale of the House will be used to promote Russian culture in London on a far larger scale.
The Trustees wish to make it absolutely clear that they are and remain deeply committed to the ideals of Pushkin House and to serving Russian culture in Britain. Their sole aim is not to squander the heritage of Pushkin House, but to create a new Pushkin House worthy of that heritage. The vision of a Russian cultural centre in London is not new, but has never been achieved. The sale of the house provides an unparalleled opportunity to turn this vision into a reality. The Trustees very much hope that this important initiative will have the enthusiastic support of the Russian community and of all who love Russian culture.
The Trustees include Bishop Basil, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain (Moscow patriarchate) and Simon Franklin, Professor of Russian Studies at Cambridge University. Irina Kirillova MBE and Kitty Stidworthy who were co-founders of the House and the Club along with Maria Kullmann are also Trustees.
The Trustees will be intensifying the consultation process with the Russian and British communities and would welcome inputs and contributions from individuals and organisations interested in becoming involved in this exciting project. Please contact the Trustees by emailing Simon Franklin on firstname.lastname@example.org or Brook Horowitz on Brook.Horowitz@Business-Interchange.com."