black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             
“If Nadya Tolokonnikova wanted to abandon protest and flee Russia for a life of quiet exile in the west, it wouldn’t be so surprising. Although she was freed, by presidential amnesty, last December after serving 18 months in prison for participating in an anti-Putin punk protest, the Pussy Rioter remains under the close watch of the Russian state. Naturally, her emails are monitored; more disturbingly she recently discovered that state security agents dropped by a cafe she regularly visits to install bugging devices. She has been horsewhipped by police in Sochi and had green paint thrown in her eyes by plain-clothed officers in a regional branch of McDonald’s.
Many of her friends and fellow protesters have decided to leave, in a new wave of departures that she describes as “the emigration of disillusionment”. In the two-and-a-half years since Pussy Riot, in rainbow-coloured tights and balaclavas, stormed into Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral to sing their Punk Prayer (“Virgin Mary, mother of God, banish Putin! Virgin Mary, mother of God, banish him we pray thee!”), the optimistic exuberance of Russia’s anti-Putin protest scene has mostly faded to despair.
Tolokonnikova, 24, hasn’t stopped protesting and is not contemplating exile, but for the moment her protest has morphed into something quieter and narrower. Instead of dedicating herself to the overthrow of Putin’s regime, she has set up a prison-reform project and launched a news agency website, Mediazona.”
“Recently she has met her heroes Patti Smith and Noam Chomsky, spoken at Harvard Institute of Politics, and spent half the night following her talk protesting outside a police station at the arrest of a Harvard student for trespassing (he was later released). She is feted for her bravery, and gets rock star treatment everywhere she goes, but she says that she is always anxious to return to Moscow, to get back to work. She laughs at the notion of Federal Security Service (FSB) agents trying to wire up her favourite cafe, and says with the wry understatement that flows beneath most of her comments: “It’s obviously not very nice. It makes you realise that the conditions we endured in prison aren’t actually that different from the conditions we’re faced with now that we’re free.””
Nadya Tolokonnikova: ‘I suppose we have nothing more to lose’

If Nadya Tolokonnikova wanted to abandon protest and flee Russia for a life of quiet exile in the west, it wouldn’t be so surprising. Although she was freed, by presidential amnesty, last December after serving 18 months in prison for participating in an anti-Putin punk protest, the Pussy Rioter remains under the close watch of the Russian state. Naturally, her emails are monitored; more disturbingly she recently discovered that state security agents dropped by a cafe she regularly visits to install bugging devices. She has been horsewhipped by police in Sochi and had green paint thrown in her eyes by plain-clothed officers in a regional branch of McDonald’s.

Many of her friends and fellow protesters have decided to leave, in a new wave of departures that she describes as “the emigration of disillusionment”. In the two-and-a-half years since Pussy Riot, in rainbow-coloured tights and balaclavas, stormed into Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral to sing their Punk Prayer (“Virgin Mary, mother of God, banish Putin! Virgin Mary, mother of God, banish him we pray thee!”), the optimistic exuberance of Russia’s anti-Putin protest scene has mostly faded to despair.

Tolokonnikova, 24, hasn’t stopped protesting and is not contemplating exile, but for the moment her protest has morphed into something quieter and narrower. Instead of dedicating herself to the overthrow of Putin’s regime, she has set up a prison-reform project and launched a news agency website, Mediazona.”

Recently she has met her heroes Patti Smith and Noam Chomsky, spoken at Harvard Institute of Politics, and spent half the night following her talk protesting outside a police station at the arrest of a Harvard student for trespassing (he was later released). She is feted for her bravery, and gets rock star treatment everywhere she goes, but she says that she is always anxious to return to Moscow, to get back to work. She laughs at the notion of Federal Security Service (FSB) agents trying to wire up her favourite cafe, and says with the wry understatement that flows beneath most of her comments: “It’s obviously not very nice. It makes you realise that the conditions we endured in prison aren’t actually that different from the conditions we’re faced with now that we’re free.””

Nadya Tolokonnikova: ‘I suppose we have nothing more to lose’

NASA is paying Russia $71 Million for each ride to space and has bought six tickets for a total of $424 million through 2017.

However, Russia announced this week that it will cut off US access to the International Space Station over Ukraine sanctions, starting in 2020. 

"The Russian segment can exist independently from the American one. The U.S. one cannot."

Meanwhile, a Russian rocket carrying their most advanced communications satellite exploded after launch today. The satellite was worth $29 million. 

"In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia."
Putin claimed Crimea as a part of Russia today, “reversing what he described as a historical mistake made by the Soviet Union 60 years ago” in a searing speech to Russia’s entire political elite.
"His remarks, which lasted 47 minutes, were interrupted repeatedly by thunderous applause, standing ovations and at the end chants of ‘Russia, Russia.’ Some in the audience wiped tears from their eyes. …
Reaching deep into Russia and Soviet history, Mr. Putin said he did not seek to divide Ukraine any further, but vowed that he would protect Russia’s national security from what he described as Western, and particularly American, actions that had left Russia feeling cornered.
He cited a list of grievances that had humiliated Russia and left it vulnerable in a world with one dominant superpower – from the NATO war in Kosovo in 1999 when he was an aide to President Boris N. Yeltsin to the one in Libya that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011 on what he called the false pretense of a humanitarian intervention. Mr. Putin dipped into deep wells of emotion, starting with the baptism of Prince Vladimir, whose conversion to Orthodox Christianity transformed the kingdom then known as Rus, to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which left many Russians of his generation feeling that they had been stripped of their nation overnight.
“Millions of Russians went to bed in one country and woke up abroad,” he said. “Overnight, they were minorities in the former Soviet republics, and the Russian people became one of the biggest – if not the biggest – divided nation in the world.”
Assailing the West, he said: “They cheated us again and again, made decisions behind our back, presenting us with completed facts. That’s the way it was with the expansion of NATO in the east, with the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They always told us the same thing: ‘Well, this doesn’t involve you.’ ” …
"If you press a spring too hard,” he said, “it will recoil.” …
“Some Western politicians already threaten us not only with sanctions, but also with the potential for domestic problems,” he said. “I would like to know what they are implying – the actions of a certain fifth column, of various national traitors? Or should we expect that they will worsen the social and economic situation, and therefore provoke people’s discontent?” …
The authorities [in Simferopol, the Crimean capital] declared it a day off from work as officials announced that 97 percent of voters in Sunday’s referendum supported rejoining Russia. Legislators moved to complete the break from Ukraine, adopting a resolution declaring that the laws of Ukraine no longer applied to Crimea and that state funds and property in Crimea had been transferred to their new entity.”
Putin Defies the West, Once Again

"In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia."

Putin claimed Crimea as a part of Russia today, “reversing what he described as a historical mistake made by the Soviet Union 60 years ago” in a searing speech to Russia’s entire political elite.

"His remarks, which lasted 47 minutes, were interrupted repeatedly by thunderous applause, standing ovations and at the end chants of ‘Russia, Russia.’ Some in the audience wiped tears from their eyes. …

Reaching deep into Russia and Soviet history, Mr. Putin said he did not seek to divide Ukraine any further, but vowed that he would protect Russia’s national security from what he described as Western, and particularly American, actions that had left Russia feeling cornered.

He cited a list of grievances that had humiliated Russia and left it vulnerable in a world with one dominant superpower – from the NATO war in Kosovo in 1999 when he was an aide to President Boris N. Yeltsin to the one in Libya that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011 on what he called the false pretense of a humanitarian intervention. Mr. Putin dipped into deep wells of emotion, starting with the baptism of Prince Vladimir, whose conversion to Orthodox Christianity transformed the kingdom then known as Rus, to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which left many Russians of his generation feeling that they had been stripped of their nation overnight.

“Millions of Russians went to bed in one country and woke up abroad,” he said. “Overnight, they were minorities in the former Soviet republics, and the Russian people became one of the biggest – if not the biggest – divided nation in the world.”

Assailing the West, he said: “They cheated us again and again, made decisions behind our back, presenting us with completed facts. That’s the way it was with the expansion of NATO in the east, with the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They always told us the same thing: ‘Well, this doesn’t involve you.’ ” …

"If you press a spring too hard,” he said, “it will recoil.” …

“Some Western politicians already threaten us not only with sanctions, but also with the potential for domestic problems,” he said. “I would like to know what they are implying – the actions of a certain fifth column, of various national traitors? Or should we expect that they will worsen the social and economic situation, and therefore provoke people’s discontent?” …

The authorities [in Simferopol, the Crimean capital] declared it a day off from work as officials announced that 97 percent of voters in Sunday’s referendum supported rejoining Russia. Legislators moved to complete the break from Ukraine, adopting a resolution declaring that the laws of Ukraine no longer applied to Crimea and that state funds and property in Crimea had been transferred to their new entity.”

Putin Defies the West, Once Again

There’s a reason Ukraine is at the heart of the most significant geopolitical crisis yet to appear in the post-Soviet space. There is no post-Soviet state like it. Unlike the Baltic states, it does not have a recent (interwar) memory of statehood. Nor, unlike almost every other post-Soviet state aside from Belarus, does the majority population have a radically different language and culture to distinguish itself from the Russians. In many cases, for these countries, the traditional language suggests a natural political ally—Finland for the Estonians, Turkey for the Azeris, Romania for the Moldovans. These linguistic and cultural affinities are not without their difficulties, but they do give a long-term geopolitical orientation to these countries. 

Ukraine has this to some extent in its western part, formerly known as Galicia, which has strong cultural and to an extent linguistic affinities with Poland. But the country’s capital, Kyiv, has much stronger ties to Russia: Russians consider Kievan Rus, which lasted from the 9th to the 13th century (when it was sacked and burned by the Mongols), to be the first Russian civilization. Russian Orthodoxy was first proclaimed there. Most people in Kyiv speak Russian, rather than Ukrainian, and in any cases the languages are quite close (about as close as Spanish and Portuguese). On television, it is typical for any live broadcast—whether it’s news, sports, or a reality-TV show—to go back and forth seamlessly between Russian and Ukrainian, with the understanding that most people know both. Russians too often assume that these cultural affinities mean that there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian people. There is. But the closeness of the two peoples makes forging an independent path for Ukraine extraordinarily difficult.

Adding to this difficulty has been the Soviet legacy, which in Ukraine as everywhere else is always and everywhere visible. The Ukrainian historian Giorgy Kasianov has written that Ukrainians are forced to exist in several historical and semantic fields simultaneously: the roads they drive on, the factories they work at, the social relations they engage in—all are part of the Soviet heritage. As in the rest of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, this heritage is crumbling, but in Ukraine in particular it remains formidable. As a result, Ukraine has essentially been frozen in time since independence.”

Read on: Ukraine, Putin, and the West

[photos: NYT]

©2011 Kateoplis