Scott G. Frickenstein (USAF): The Resurgence of Russian Interests in Central Asia. From Gottingen Journal of International Law, a special issue on Russia and international law, from the North Pole to the Caucasus. From EJSS, Scott Nicholas Romaniuk (Carleton) and Joshua Kenneth Wasylciw (Calgary):Russia’s Authoritarianism in Strategic Perspective; and Помаранчева революція: The Disintegration of Ukrainian Political Identity. From History Today, three hundred years ago, Russia emerged as a major power after a clash of armies in the Ukraine — Peter the Great’s victory had repercussions that last to this day. Is Russia doomed to be always the part of the European jigsaw that doesn't fit or, to put it another way, to what extent is Russia part of Europe? Russia's new diplomatic strategy is cheap and counterproductive, but playing the pest is the only way for Moscow to claim relevance. Russia’s attempts to reassert influence over its neighbours are understandable and inevitable; such behaviour is hardly unique among former empires, including our own. From World Politics Review, a look at why Russia still matters in the Asian Century. An interview with Andrei Maylunas on books on pre-revolutionary Russia. A hidden history of evil: Why doesn’t anyone care about the unread Soviet archives? An interview with Lyubov Vinogradova on books from the KGB archives. Even before the first effects of glasnost kicked in, Soviet artists influenced by pop art but driven underground by censorship began to show new confidence as western collectors flocked to buy their work. Russia has been accused of abandoning its literary past after it emerged that the Kremlin has no plans to mark the centenary of Tolstoy's death, and an acclaimed film of "Anna Karenina" has failed to find distributors.
This singularly awful collection of links prompted me to write this little guide, just in case you are confused about what it all means. Why is there so much written about Russia, and why does it all sound the same? How can you tell reliable articles from unreliable ones? Interesting ones from uninteresting ones? Follow these simple guidelines and you're sure to succeed!
1. If the author's last name is Russian, don't read it.
All Russian who write in English about Russia are either a) shilling for the government, b) expressing their inchoate quasi-nationalistic intuitions with little English and even less sense of perspective, or c) angling for a cushy spot in a Western foreign-policy think-tank, where they will work the Russia beat to the bone, writing the same article over and over again, propping up their Bush Doctrine-era ideas (and just a touch of Realpolitik) with the "ov" or "vsky" or "in" at the end of their names. There is also a slight possibility that you're dealing with a bitter former hardliner or a bitter former dissident, although, God be thanked, alcoholism and senility are rendering this less and less likely as you read this. (The bitter current dissidents are either dead, in prison, or have sold out in some obscure but soon-to-be-revealed way.)
2. If the author's last name belongs to a former Soviet nationality, but especially Georgia (-dze, -shvili), Ukraine (e.g. -enko), or the Baltic States (-as, -is, something Finnish-sounding with lots of Us and Os), don't read it. This also goes for certain former Warsaw Pact nations, notably Poland (-ski).
All members of former Soviet nationalities hate the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire, and think that when Russia objects to their joining NATO, this has something to do with its imperial legacy. Who'd-a thunk it? In any event, the article is most likely just a thinly-disguised plea for more American military bases. The shortest route there is, apparently, always to paint a picture of the Evil Empire that would have George Lucas shitting his pants. EXCEPTION: Eastern Ukrainians. In that case, see a) and b) for Russians above.
3. If the author's capsule biography discloses an affiliation to a human rights organization, don't read it.
Come on, what are you expecting to get from this article? You already know about how shitty it is to be a dissident/Chechen/dissident Chechen. Nothing ever changes in the Amnesty world. Wouldn't you rather go have a beer or something? Oh, okay, fine. Here, sign this petition. I hope you're proud you made an effort.
4. If the author's capsule biography discloses affiliations to the National Review, Heritage Foundation, etc., don't read it.
These articles come only in two flavors. a) "Russia is trying to expand and protect its sphere of influence. What outdated, nineteenth-century thinking! We must expand and protect the sphere of influence of liberty and democracy by expanding NATO and building American military bases." b) "Communism was evil. Boy, communism sure was evil. Why doesn't anyone care? Communism! Evil! STALIN=HITLER! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!" (Naturally, this rule also goes for people whose cited books are subtitled "Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.")
5. If the spelling is British, or the article is published in a major British publication, don't read it.
All British writing about Russia will leave your metaphorical desktop drenched with the many, many salty tears it sheds for '30s intellectuals whose half-assed Orientalist alexandrines about Ancient Egypt no one has ever read or will read. If you drink a thimbleful of Zubrovka every time the word "gulag" is employed, you can be sure of one thing: by morning you'll wish you'd been sent to the White Sea Canal instead.
6. If the article uses the word "totalitarianism," don't read it.
This should knock out a good half of them. No matter how many times they invoke Hannah Arendt, just keep in mind: "totalitarianism" is the pseudo-scholarly equivalent of "Amerikkka" and "Micro$oft." And using it to refer to the era of Khrushchev and his successors--that is, half of Soviet history--is like calling Washington the Whig Occupational Government. So click the X if you know what's good for you.
For the remaining, more obvious giveaways, I have created a handy pictorial guide. Enjoy!
(In fact, you should probably stop reading Western reporting on Russia altogether.)