Tag Archives: Putin

So what the heck are you doing over there?

It’s been a while since I last wrote about what I’ve been doing in Russia. And those posts were only about gross potato chips and an interesting police encounter—nothing too exciting. So it looks like I owe you a post about what I’ve been up to for the past week).

Saturday,I went to a Zenit soccer (football) game in Petrovski Stadium. Zenit, St. Petersburg’s team, beat Kuban Kransodar 2-0 in an exciting match on a day with perfect soccer-watching weather. Sunny and warm.

To get into Petrovski Stadium, you have to pass through three police checkpoints. At the first, they search your bags. At the second, they search you. And at the third, bunches of police officers, dogs leashed, check you over again to be really, really sure that you’re not dangerous. While this didn’t dim the mood too much for the rowdy crowd, it’s definitely a reminder that you’re in Russia.

Zenit is not as good as the team has been in years past, but that didn’t stop the crowd from cheering and waving massive flags. And it also didn’t stop the mildly intoxicated, shirtless, middle-aged Russian man sitting next to us from yelling thing that I’d rather not print in this blog. I’ll give you a hint though—some of them involved the mothers of the opposing team.

It was on the way back from this game that I got stopped by the Russian police officer, as I wrote about earlier.

Most of the week since has been filled with homework, making food, sleeping, and the other regularities of daily life in any place. Homework, in particular, took up a lot of time this week. We read a 4-page Chekhov story, At the Dacha, which took hours of dictionary-fueled deciphering.

Once I figured it all out, I got a good laugh out of the story (No, I won’t tell you why. Go read it.). But looking up every word in every sentence tends to drain the love out of reading.

We’ve also been delving into every Russian student’s favorite subject: verbs of motion. Russia has different verbs for going long and short distances, by boat, or by plane, which also vary if you’re leading, driving, carrying, or taking an object by vehicle. And then, each multi-directional verb also has a unidirectional partner (you use one verb if you’re making a round-trip, a related one if you’re going one way). If that’s not enough there are a bevy of prefixes that can be affixed to any of these verbs, adding meanings such as entering, going to a large number of different places, or going a short distance back from a specific location.

We’ve been practicing by using these verbs, mostly jokingly, to describe our trips around the city. “We went by foot to the metro. We crossed to the correct platform. We entered the train. We took the train three stations… and went to a Duran Duran concert.”

The Duran Duran concert is no joke though.

Some genius party planner decided that the best way to celebrate the start of the International Economic Forum—a high-level (think Putin and Medvedev) conference being held in St. Petersburg on business innovation and the Russian and global economic crises—is to throw a giant, beer company-sponsored, free concert in the center of St. Petersburg, right next to the Hermitage art museum.

And what better band to bring a bunch of politicians (there was, of course, a VIP section) and economists to than the English rockers Duran Duran? I mean, there’s nothing an economist loves more than an 80’s flashback.

Unfortunately, Duran Duran was greeted by cold and rainy weather. So while the band tried to get the umbrella-toting crowd dancing (yes, we went), they must’ve felt like a bunch of American economists (or Russian central bankers) cutting interest rates to try to get the economy movin’ (or in Russia’s case, because runaway inflation is easing).

That’s the last financial crisis joke. I swear.

We only stayed for a few songs at the Thursday night concert—basically, long enough to say that we had, indeed, been to a Duran Duran show in St. Petersburg. We even got to hear the smash hit “Hungry Like the Wolf.”

In touch with the ground
I’m on the hunt, I’m after you
Smell like I sound, I’m lost in a crowd
And I’m hungry like the wolf.

And no, I have no frickin’ idea what “smell like I sound” means either.

Suppressing dissent in a ‘democracy’

Somebody want to protest, and you just don’t feel like giving them permission?

Schedule a large event for the same time and place. And meet the demonstrators with cops. Lots of cops.

The Russian government followed this recipe to a T in dealing with a planned protest in Moscow by Eduard Limonov’s National-Bolshevik Party. NBP is a highly nationalistic party with few followers and little ideology, beyond a strident opposition to the current government.

Limonov has been accused of shifting his beliefs to attract media attention. At one time, NBP espoused pro-Stalin rhetoric. It is now more closely aligned with pro-Western groups.

But whatever Limonov’s beliefs, he has been devilishly effective in attracting media attention—though Sunday’s rally gone awry went little-noticed.

As the Associated Press reported, Limonov and at least ten supporters were arrested by Russian special forces (OMON) after attempting to protest against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The rally hasn’t been reported on in the English-language Russian papers I read, though the more sensationalistic MOSNEWS did report on the rally, adding a few details to the AP report.