From Russia with Love

Field of

Posted on May 26, 2019. Filed under: From Russia with Love |

From Wikipedia –

This is the Center of St Petersburg, Russia …

Field of Mars

An aerial view of the Field of Mars, a large park in central St Petersburg, Russia, pictured in 2016.

It is named after Mars, the Roman god of war. The park’s history goes back to the 18th century, when it was converted from bogland and named the Grand Meadow.

Later, it was the setting for celebrations to mark Russia’s victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War. Its next name, the Tsaritsyn Meadow, appears after the royal family commissioned Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli to build the Summer Palace for Empress Elizabeth.

It became the Field of Mars during the reign of Paul I, becoming officially named such in 1805. Towards the end of the 18th century, the park became a military drill ground, where they erected monuments commemorating the victories of the Russian Army and where parades and military exercises took place regularly.

After the February Revolution in 1917, the Field of Mars finally lost its significance as a military drill ground and became a memorial area, used to bury the revolution’s honoured dead.

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Dostoyevsky …

Posted on February 9, 2019. Filed under: Books, From Russia with Love |

Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The Bard of a City in Ferment

Excerpted from Anjan Basu’s Write up in the ‘Wire’

The museum is an apartment block where Dostoyevsky lived twice: briefly in 1846, when The Double, which has intrigued and charmed critics in equal measure, made its appearance; and for the last two-and-a-half years of his life (October 1878 to February 1881), when he wrote his last major work, The Brothers Karamazov, – one of the landmarks of 19th century fiction.

The third-floor apartment he lived in last, along with wife Anna Snitkina and two young children, forms the core of the museum which now has three other sections as well – a spacious exhibition hall dedicated to the writer’s life and work, a set of galleries displaying contemporary art, and a theatre that regularly features performances by the museum’s partners including a puppet theatre group.

An extensive library, boasting over 24,000 books and periodicals as well as some original manuscripts, has also been put together over the years. The museum was inaugurated in November, 1971 to mark the 150th anniversary of Dostoyevsky’s birth.

The living quarters were lovingly recreated on the basis of memoirs left behind by wife Anna and some of the writer’s friends and the items displayed here came both from the family heirloom as well as from donors.

An excellent audio guide, available in all major European languages including English, helps the visitor around the museum.

Every year in November, the museum complex hosts an international conference with ‘Dostoyevsky and World Culture’ as its central theme.

Thirty-two years were always going to be a long time in the life of a person who died at 59. But the 32 years that separated Dostoyevsky’s two stints on Kuznechny Lane were as truly transformative for him as they were for Russia.

In April 1849, Dostoyevsky had been arrested by the Tsar’s police for ‘sedition’, his and his friends’ crime being that they were members of some kind of a utopian fraternity that read and discussed the works of Vissarion Belinsky, the great Russian liberal intellectual whose passionate indictment of serfdom had made him persona non grata in his homeland.

Incarcerated in Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Fortress for a while, Dostoyevsky faced an elaborate trial, was sentenced to death but was pardoned at literally the last minute when he was being marched out to be executed.

Four years of hard labour in Siberia followed, then a spell of compulsory military service. It was only in 1859 that he could return to Petersburg to pick up the threads of his literary career.

Life was hard, and the writer was often deep in debt, obliging him to move house often enough so as to steer clear of his creditors.

Indeed, Dostoyevsky is believed to have lived in as many as 20 apartments, all within a radius of two miles of Petersburg’s Sennaya Ploshchad (Hay Market Square) in the 30 years he lived in the city as an adult. The Kuznechny Perelouk apartment, close to the Griboedov Canal, is also no more than three kilometres from Sennaya.C

Even as Dostoyevsky resumed writing, and turned out, one after another, Notes from the House of the dead, The Injured and the Humiliated, Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment and The Gambler, momentous changes were sweeping across Russia.

In March, 1861, Tsar Alexander III passed the historic decree that finally emancipated Russian serfs from hereditary slavery. As the freed, but impoverished, villagers began to pour into the cities in search of a new life, Petersburg’s social structure was turned upside down.

Sennaya Ploshchad, once a sleepy town square, now swarmed with poor locals, petty thieves and prostitutes, ‘with derelicts, drunks and the destitute’ presenting a stark contrast with the elegant crowd promenading around the near-by Palace Square in Russia’s opulent capital city.

A copy of ‘Crime and Punishment’ in the museum gallery, with hand-written notes on the inside cover page.

This is how Dostoyevsky sketches for the reader of Crime and Punishment the locale of its protagonist, Rodion Raskolnikov:

Close to the Hay Market, thick with houses of ill repute, the neighbourhood crawled with a population of tradesmen and jacks-of-all-trades who clustered in those central streets and lanes of Petersburg, creating such a panorama of motley characters that almost nothing or nobody could cause surprise any more.

As the city’s population rose steeply, Sennaya Ploshchad grew steadily more chaotic, dirty and discordant while Dostoyevsky hopped from one rented apartment to another in the vicinity. Raskolnikov’s tortured existence so faithfully mirrors the travails of a life lived around Sennaya that Petersburg now has a walking tour built specifically around his narrative.

At 5, Stolyarny Perelouk, a five-story tenement building – Dostoyevsky himself lived in a building across the road when he wrote the novel – bears the following legend on a plaque:

Raskolnikov Building

Here is where Rodion Raskolnikov lived

The tragic fates of the people of this part of Petersburg served Dostoyevsky

As the basis for his pessimistic sermons on good for all humankind

A large bronze relief of the author, with a furrowed forehead and clenched hands, sits above this legend. Indeed, the walking tour is complete with: a peek into the tavern where Raskolnikov is supposed to have first conceived of the idea to kill Alyona Ivanovna, the elderly pawnbroker; a stop in front of the shop where he overheard the pawnbroker’s sister telling somebody that she would (conveniently for our hero) be away from Alyona’s apartment at the hour Raskolnikov had chosen for the murder; and of course a visit to the pawnbroker’s wretched and cramped apartment, the scene of the crime.

The yellow guardhouse, or the Police Bureau, where Raskolnikov is interrogated, exists and is functional till today. Dostoyevsky himself was held for two nights in the same Guardhouse after his arrest in 1849.A

The story of Dostoyevsky’s life bristles with many extraordinary episodes other than his return from death’s door.

For years, he was a compulsive gambler who often teetered on the brink of bankruptcy and yet, when both his (first) wife Maria and brother Mikhail died in 1864, he found himself as a single parent to stepson Pavel as well as the sole provider for his brother’s family.

He was perhaps the first major writer who engaged the services of a stenographer when he found it hard to meet deadlines on commitments made to publishers.

When Anna Snitkina, the able stenographer, became his wife in February, 1867, Dostoyevsky had no money with which to take her on a honeymoon. But eventually, when they did proceed on the honeymoon in Europe in April, they never returned to Russia till more than four years later, in July, 1871. 

The Idiot was published in 1869 when he was still in Europe while Demons (or, The Possessed), another major work, came out in 1872.

Dostoevsky had had epileptic seizures off and on since his youth, and Sigmund Freud later studied the writer’s symptoms in detail from extensive medical and other records.     

The writer’s desk, with the clock stopped at 8.36 pm on January 28 (February 9, by the Gregorian calendar), 1881, when Dostoyevsky died.

The roomy and comfortable apartment contains both usual domestic bric-a-brac and interesting period items such an attractive tea-service, framed photographs of prominent contemporaries, a miniature enamel portrait of Pushkin (in whose memory Dostoyevsky made his remarkable ‘Pushkin Oration’ only a few months before his own death) and some delightful toys which his little children (Lyubova was 11 and son Fyodor 9 when their father died) played with.

Part of the MS of The Brothers Karamazov are also on display here.

One particular detail is bound to stay with the visitor. When Dostoyevsky died in the evening of February 9 (January 28, by the Julian Calendar which was then in vogue in Russia), Lyubova scrawled the words ‘Papa died today’ on a matchbox.

The matchbox, with the child’s scrawl, is still preserved. Also on view is the wall-clock hanging in Dostoyevsky’s study when he died. 

Today, the clock can still be seen on a stool by the side of his writing desk, its hands frozen at 8.36 pm on January 28, the precise time of his passing.

Anjan Basu is a writer, translator and commentator living in Bangalore.

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Russian GRU’s Sloppiness …

Posted on October 5, 2018. Filed under: From Russia with Love |

Excerpted from the BBC –

It’s not hard to find the spot from where an alleged Russian spy set out to launch a cyber-attack in The Hague. Alexei Morenets kept the receipt for his taxi to the airport. At the address marked on it, there’s a young soldier in uniform guarding the entrance.

When I ask whether it’s a base for Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU – a cyber-warfare hub as Western intelligence agencies claim – the soldier makes a call and then tells me to leave the premises immediately. I don’t hang around.

But the suspected GRU agents just uncovered in the Netherlands left a trail of evidence online as well as on paper. Of the four men caught trying to hack the wifi network of the chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW, the BBC found two giving defence ministry buildings as their address on official documents.

One of those documents is a vehicle registration database. The Bellingcat online investigations team later found 305 cars listed there, linked to the same military facility.

“They could have used their home addresses but they wanted privileges – not to pay fines for violating traffic rules,” Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Moscow Centre explains. He calls it a symbol of “endemic corruption”.

“If you actually see the evidence [from Dutch intelligence], it doesn’t matter whether you support Putin or not, you are just embarrassed by the incompetence,” he argues.

As relations with the West have plummeted, Russia’s secret services have stepped up their activities. But GRU operations have been exposed, and failed, the most.

“I don’t think we should see them as the ‘Keystone Cops’ of spy craft,” argues long-time security analyst Mark Galeotti, referring to the hapless fictional police characters.

“The GRU has been extremely active, and inevitably some of those operations are going to be blown. That doesn’t mean they are fools,” he adds, suggesting that in the world of modern technology and security cameras, Russia accepts that keeping cover is difficult.

“Clearly the guidance they are getting is, within bounds, it doesn’t really matter. Don’t worry too much about the fallout,” Mr Galeotti says.

That approach partly explains the stray taxi receipt. “Our driver certainly wrote that receipt,” Benjamin Shaginyan, the boss of the taxi firm, confirmed to the BBC. “He can’t recall the exact journey as it was a long time ago. But it’s genuine.”

Some took to social media to mock the man who had clung on to such incriminating evidence. “Accounting for money on work trips is a nightmare!” one user said.

Led by the foreign ministry, officials here have brushed off the latest accusations in traditional style, as “spy mania”. They claim the co-ordinated allegations coming from Britain, the US and the Netherlands reveal a “stage-managed” campaign against Russia.

That’s also the line taken by retired Lt Gen Yevgeny Buzhinsky, even with four men caught red-handed in The Hague. “You say this is evidence. It’s not evidence to me,” he insists, particularly annoyed by talk of GRU incompetence.

“Russian intelligence was believed to be among the best in the world. Now you want to present a bunch of fools, absolutely incompetent, absolutely stupid, non-professional idiots? It’s insulting,” Yevgeny Buzhinsky says.

But some of the men just exposed have a considerable presence online for secret agents. Two are listed as players in an amateur Moscow football league along with their photographs. A team-mate at Radiks said the club once boasted multiple members of the security services.

“It was like that at the start, but times change,” Alexei Baklykov told me, claiming he had never met either suspect in person.

Another of the accused, Artyom Malyshev, sold several items online last year including an old acoustic guitar and a smartphone. Listed as “wanted” by the FBI this week for hacking, he has also registered on a dating website along with a profile photograph winking at the camera and some sporty action shots.

By naming these men, Western officials hope to halt further Russian attacks. But at a street market near the military complex housing Unit 26165 – the supposed command centre of cyber-warriors – public reaction to the accusations was mixed.

“I don’t know who to believe. It’s confusing,” said Valery at a stall stacked with pots of golden honey.

“It’s all nonsense,” a woman shopper protested. “Do you think our spies are total idiots? I think they’re wonderful.” So Russia looks set to ride this shame-storm out – uncomfortable, perhaps, but unlikely to change tack.

“Putin is not losing any sleep over this. The question is whether it moves beyond embarrassing stories, to more sanctions,” Mark Galeotti points out. “We are at war, and losing a battle doesn’t mean you surrender. I think that’s very much the view in the Kremlin,”

Alexander Gabuev adds. “Yes, we were defeated in this battle. But we go home, learn our lessons – and then continue.”

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Russia on the ‘Spy’ Offensive …

Posted on October 4, 2018. Filed under: From Russia with Love, Uncategorized |

Spying and Counter Spying – their Man is Master in the Kremlin …

https://www.wsj.com/articles/cyber-criminals-in-the-kremlin-1538685869

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Slice of Russian History …

Posted on August 21, 2018. Filed under: From Russia with Love |

Anjan Basu in The Wire …

While convalescing in an Oslo hospital in September-October, 1935, Leon Trotsky wrote the preface to the Norwegian edition of his autobiography, ‘My Life’, which he closed with the following paragraph:

“On the table where I am writing these lines lies one of the hospital’s bibles in Norwegian. Thirty-seven years ago, I had on my table in the solitary cell of Odessa prison – I had not yet reached my twentieth birthday – the same book written in different European languages.

By comparing the parallel texts I practised linguistics – the style of the gospel and the conciseness of the translations make the learning of foreign languages easier. Unfortunately, I cannot promise anybody that my new encounter with the old and well-known book will contribute to the salvation of my soul.

But reading the Norwegian bible text can nonetheless help me learn the language of the country which has offered me its hospitality, and whose literature I already in younger years learnt to treasure and love”.

This was a man who, six years previously, had been banished by a state he himself had helped create. The borders of the Soviet Union had closed to Trotsky for good in January 1929. He sought refuge in Turkey, which was welcoming, but for only a few years. France offered him asylum in 1933, but soon found him too hot to hold, with Stalin seeking his deportation from France relentlessly, remorselessly.

The Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance of May 1935 rang the curtain on Trotsky’s sojourn in the land of the French Revolution. Norway agreed to have him and the Trotskys moved to a friend’s home in Honefoss, not far from Oslo.

Soon enough, a clamour for throwing Trotsky out of Norway also started building up, with both the political right and left baying for his blood. Trotsky, ever the clear-eyed realist, had no illusions about his acceptability to any European regime and wryly observed in My Life that, for him, the earth was ‘a planet without a visa’.

December, 1936 would see his deportation from Norway: he and his wife were to be put on an oil tanker bound for far-away Mexico, the country where he would eventually die at the hands of Stalin’s agents.

Trotsky’s own future could only have looked bleak to him at the time. Weighed down by ill-health and anxiety about his younger son Sergei (who was in a Russian prison, tortured and awaiting death), he perhaps found his energy at its lowest ebb. Even more troubling for him were the shadows that were lengthening across the Revolution that was his very life.

And yet incredibly, Leon Trotsky utilised the hospital interregnum learning a new language!

Second only to Lenin among the leaders of the great October Revolution; chair of the Petrograd Soviet (which was the engine of the Revolution) both in 1905 and 1917; the first commissar of foreign affairs of the Soviet state; a peerless orator and a brilliant writer; the undisputed leader – indeed the builder – of the formidable Red Army and, above everything else, an outstanding leader of men, he yet could say, in all sincerity, that “…with a book in hand, I felt just as confident as … in the Smolny or the Kremlin”, or that “(i)n prison, with a book or a pen in my hand, I experienced the same sense of deep satisfaction that I did at mass-meetings of the revolution”.

E.M. Forster liked to think of himself as always standing ‘at a slight angle to the universe’. The same thing is true of Trotsky in large measure. He had been born to a Jewish Ukrainian family but, as a militant socialist, his parents’ religious faith or nationality meant nothing to him.

Indeed, in the official paper-work he was required to fill out in the many countries he visited, he often described his own nationality as ‘Socialist’. And yet, when Lenin proposed his name as the commissar of foreign affairs in the first Bolshevik government, Trotsky remonstrated, arguing that as a Jew, he should be left out of such an important position.

Trotsky’s concern was that, in the hostile capitalist world outside Russia, a Jewish foreign minister would excite far greater misgiving and antipathy than a non-Jewish one.

Lenin of course dismissed this suggestion and Trotsky duly became the first foreign affairs minister in the first socialist state in the world. A certain degree of ambivalence can be read into his political alignments also for a significant period of his life prior to October.

When, in 1902, he escaped from his first exile in Siberia and came to London, he found himself in the company of émigré Russian revolutionaries and was soon writing extensively for Iskra, the revolutionaries’ mouthpiece. Only 23 then, he was already an accomplished columnist and political analyst whom the 32-year-old Lenin, by then one of the leading lights of Russian Social Democracy, took under his wing.

To the consternation of the old guard at Iskra led by the formidable Georgi Plekhanov, Lenin soon proposed that the editorial-board co-opt Trotsky as its seventh member, because he was “unquestionably a man of rare abilities, has conviction and energy, and will go much farther”. In turn, Trotsky greatly admired Lenin for the exceptional clarity of his thinking and the single-minded energy he brought to his work.

He was miffed by the somewhat patronising manner in which many of the other veterans – whose lack of purposefulness in any case baffled Trotsky often – treated him. And yet, when Russian Social Democrats split into the Bolshevik and the Menshevik factions during 1903-04, Trotsky sided with the latter even though his intellectual/theoretical inclinations made him a natural ally of Lenin’s Bolsheviks.

Alienation from the Bolsheviks

His alienation from the Bolshevik group was to last for well over a decade, and he began to come closer to Lenin’s position only around May/June, 1917. In between, he had emerged as the hero of the Petrograd Soviet after the Revolution of 1905 and was acknowledged as the Soviet’s most eloquent, most steadfast champion.

His position had moved away from the Mensheviks’ as early as 1905, and in vain did he try to bring the two warring factions together. In the process, he found himself an outsider everywhere, both sides looking at him with suspicion, considering him untrustworthy.

The bitter polemical battles between the various groups left many scars – some of them permanent – on the protagonists and on their relations with another. Relations between Lenin and Trotsky were also frosty or worse.

Trotsky later came to be among the October Revolution’s most recognised faces, one of its two tallest leaders, and yet he had little real access to the inner-party power groups all of which remained – with the sole exception of Lenin – deeply sceptical about Trotsky’s Bolshevik credentials as also jealous of his monumental achievements.

On the Revolution’s first anniversary, Stalin wrote in the Pravda:

“All political work in connection with the organisation of the uprising was done under the immediate direction of comrade Trotsky, the president of the Petrograd Soviet. It can be said with certainty that the party is indebted primarily and principally to comrade Trotsky for the rapid going over of the garrison to the side of the Soviet and the efficient manner in which the work of the military revolutionary committee was organised”.

Stalin rapidly outgrew his admiration for Trotsky, however, and identified him as his own arch-enemy. No trick in the book was anathema for Stalin, no stratagem too ugly or too cynical, when it came to cutting Trotsky off the mainstream and barring all doors to him.

A sick Lenin observed Stalin’s manoeuvres with rising dismay and unease and, concerned about a possible split in the party, proposed to the politburo on September 11, 1922 that Trotsky be formally made Lenin’s deputy in the council of ministers – apparently to clearly delineate the chain of command and succession. While the politburo approved the proposal, Leon Trotsky – the man who always ‘stood at an angle to the world around him’ – categorically refused the appointment. His reason, which he declined to share with others at the time, was that he hated to be seen as a pretender to the party’s top-most position.

Unlike Stalin’s other potential rivals like Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev or Nikolai Bukharin who were liquidated systematically and ruthlessly through show ‘trials’ based on truly bizarre ‘confessions’, Trotsky was a giant demanding a more nuanced approach.

Hence Stalin’s decision to exile him, a decision he may have bitterly regretted later, as Trotsky, undaunted by the terrible odds he faced, waged an unyielding polemical war against Stalin’s domestic and international policies. Orders were passed on for destroying Trotsky. It was to be a cloak-and-dagger operation, so that it would be difficult to trace it back to the Kremlin.

Exile in Mexico

The Trotsky family had been welcomed into Mexico and put up with the well-known left-leaning painter Diego Rivera at his Coyoacan house. Trotsky felt at home and happy, and resumed work on the project then closest to his heart – the Fourth International that Trotsky fondly, if unrealistically, hoped would help resurrect the true spirit of October by freeing it from Stalinist shibboleths.

He continued to write prolifically, commentating on international issues, fascism, socialist re-construction and the great Moscow purges that Stalin had set in motion where Trotsky was now the main accused in absentia. His spirited reply to Stalin’s macabre allegations against him was presented to the Dewey Commission by way of an address titled I Stake My Life.

In April 1939, Trotsky moved out of the Diego Rivera home to a nearby house on Avenida Viena. War clouds loomed ominously over Europe and Trotsky’s own health was worsening steadily as his blood pressure kept rising.

By then, he had lost all his four children and his first wife had also been murdered in Stalin’s prison. He contemplated suicide but hated to think that it might be construed as moral capitulation. He had premonitions of his violent death at Stalinist hands. “Stalin would now give a great deal to be able to retract his decision to deport me,” Trotsky noted in his diary.

The first major attack on his life came on May 24, 1940, when assassins machine-gunned his home, wounding Trotsky’s 14-year-old grandson and abducting a young bodyguard who was later murdered.

Trotsky himself escaped with his life and, on June 8, wrote an article titled ‘Stalin Seeks My Death’. The next attack was not long in coming.

On the afternoon of August 20, Ramon Mercader, a young Spanish communist who had wormed his way into the Trotsky household by striking up a friendship with a house-maid, dropped in on Trotsky ostensibly to show him an article Mercader had written.

As the old man bent over his table preparing to read, the assassin rammed an ice pick-axe repeatedly into his head. Bleeding profusely, Trotsky was rushed to a hospital where he died the next day. Mercader served a 20-year sentence in a Mexican prison.

Joseph Stalin presented the assassin with an ‘Order of Lenin’ in absentia. And, upon his release from jail in 1961, he was awarded the title of ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’. Unbelievable, but true.

Six months before his death, on February 27, 1940, Trotsky wrote what later came to be known as his testament, a note of some 500 words which contained his parting message to the world.

He left instructions that the note be not made public before his death. In his testament, Trotsky speaks with great tenderness of Natalia (Natasha) Sedova, his long-suffering wife of thirty-five years, who had gone through so much pain and loss but had remained “an inexhaustible source of love, magnanimity and tenderness”. He goes on thus :

“For 43 years of my conscious life, I have remained a revolutionist; for 42 of them I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again, I would of course try to avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged.

I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist, and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent; indeed it is firmer today than it was in my youth.

Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere.

Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full”.

Even at his nadir, Leon Trotsky dreamt of the full human life.

xxxxxxxxxxx

PS – From Getafix7 “But How Many Men and Women had he ordered to be killed? This is in context to a responce of Lenin to a Western Reporter Friend, “What is a little Bloodshed during a Struggle for Power”

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Leningrad Symphony I and II – Suffering and Music …

Posted on August 12, 2018. Filed under: Books, From Russia with Love |

From The Wire – Anjan Basu –

For us Indians, August 9, 1942, will forever remain a date to look back to with awe and pride. On that day, with the launch of the Quit India movement, India’s colonial masters were served their final notice: get out or get shoved out. 

August 9 was supposed to have been a very important date in the Third Reich’s calendar as well, perhaps the most important date. In the end, it may well have been that, but in not quite the manner Adolf Hitler would have liked.

Indeed, in some sense, the day proved to be the tipping point for the Nazi campaign for world domination. Hereafter, it would only be a journey downhill, to disaster (though it did not necessarily look like that at the time).

This may sound somewhat far-fetched – after all, the Stalingrad offensive did not even start before August 22 that year, while the epic tank battle in the Kursk salient was nearly a year away yet – and so the story of that day bears retelling.

s://thewire.in/history/leningrad-symphony-siege-world-war-two-germany-russia

and

When a Long, Dark Night Lit up with Music: The Story of the Leningrad Symphony II

After the German invasion though, he was ‘mainstreamed’ again together with many other well-known personalities, Shostakovich started work on his Seventh Symphony soon after the war began, but it was well after he and his family had been evacuated from blockaded Leningrad to Moscow that he could complete, in December 1941, this monumental composition, requiring as it did nearly 100 orchestra hands, ran for over an hour-and-a-quarter, and touched high, repeated crescendos.

Its theme – war and the pity of war – resonated powerfully over Europe. It was premiered in Kuibyshev, near Moscow, and later in the capital itself in March 1942 to thunderous ovations.

“The Seventh Symphony”, a reassured Pravda now exulted, “is the creation of the conscience of the Russian people”.

https://thewire.in/history/leningrad-symphony-siege-world-war-two-russia

 

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Murky World of Assassinations …

Posted on July 24, 2018. Filed under: From Russia with Love |

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-44860698?ocid=global_bbccom_email_22072018_top+news+stories

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Real Politic – China, India, Russia …

Posted on May 29, 2018. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, From Russia with Love, Pakistan |

The Statesman – Pk Vasudeva 

According to RAND Corporation, Beijing may not have even wanted India to join the SCO. Russia first proposed India as a member mainly to contain China’s growing influence in the organization. Russia is increasingly concerned that post-Soviet SCO members ~ Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan ~ are drifting towards China’s geostrategic orbit.

As China gains more clout in Central Asia, Moscow welcomed New Delhi by its side to occasionally strengthen Russia’s hand at slowing or opposing Chinese initiatives. Indeed, during a recent visit to Moscow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “India and Russia have always been together on international issues.”

Going forward, this strategy is likely to pay rich dividends. New Delhi has a major hang-up related to the activities of its arch rival Pakistan ~ sponsored by Beijing at the 2015 SCO summit to balance Moscow’s support to India ~ and continues to be highly critical of China’s so-called “all-weather friendship” with Islamabad.

In May, New Delhi refused to send a delegation to Beijing’s widely publicised Belt and Road Initiative summit, which was aimed at increasing trade and infrastructure connectivity between China and Eurasian countries.

According to the Indian government, the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative ~ the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor ~ was not “pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Indian opposition stems from the plan to build the corridor through the disputed Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) region and to link it to the strategically positioned Pakistani port of Gwadar, prompting Mr Modi to raise the issue again during his acceptance speech at the SCO summit last month.

New Delhi is likely to continue criticising the corridor in the context of the SCO because, as a full member, India has the right to protest against developments that do not serve the interests of SCO members.

However, Beijing can play a balancing act to impart a measure of sobriety between the two warring countries by supporting the genuine demands of India on terrorism and counseling India on J&K for peaceful negotiations.

India-Pakistan tensions also occasionally flare up, and Beijing may have to brace for either side to use the SCO as a platform to mediate for an amicable solution. In the absence of a major incident, Beijing has admirably handled the delicate nature of this situation.

When asked in early June whether SCO membership would positively impact India-Pakistan relations, China’s spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “I see the journalist from Pakistan sit[s] right here, while journalists from India sit over there. Maybe someday you can sit closer to each other.”

Additionally, the Chinese military’s unofficial mouthpiece, Global Times, published an article suggesting that SCO membership for India and Pakistan would lead to positive bilateral developments. Even if that were overly optimistic, it would send the right tone as the organisation forges ahead.

Beijing needs to look no farther than South Asia for a cautionary tale. In this region, both India and Pakistan are members of SAARC. New Delhi, along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan, boycotted last year’s summit in Islamabad because it believed Pakistan was behind a terrorist attack on an Indian army base in J&K.

Even with an official ban on discussing bilateral issues in its proceedings, SAARC has been perennially hobbled by the intrusion of India-Pakistan disputes. Beijing can probably keep its close friend Islamabad in line at the SCO.

However, New Delhi would also have to fall in line. Another major issue for the SCO to contend with is the security of Afghanistan. An integral component of the organisation is the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, aimed at combating China’s “three evils” – terrorism, extremism, and separatism.

India, however, is likely to highlight the contradiction between China’s stated anti-terrorism goals and the reality of its policy. Most notably, Beijing has consistently looked the other way as Pakistani intelligence services continue to support terrorist groups in Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network.

Moreover, India being particularly close to Afghanistan, could seek to sponsor Afghanistan to move from observer status towards full SCO membership. This would give India even greater strength in the group and could bolster Russia’s position as well.

Persistent border disputes and fierce geostrategic competition in South Asia between China and India are likely to temper any cooperation Beijing might hope to achieve with New Delhi in the SCO.

On the one hand, mutual suspicions in the maritime domain persist with the Indian government recently shoring up its position in the strategically important Andaman and Nicobar island chain to counter the perceived Chinese “string of pearls” strategy.

It is aimed at establishing access to naval ports throughout the Indian Ocean that could be militarily advantageous in a conflict. Such mutual suspicions are likely to impact SCO discussions on military matters.

China has naval bases in the making ~ Gwadar/Pakistan, Hambantota/Sri Lanka, Chittagong/Bangladesh, Kyauskpyu/ Myanmar, Gan/Maldives, plus three ports, Iskander, Klang and Meluka in Malaysia. There is also a railway connection from its Malacca Straits/West Coast to East Coast South China Sea.

Although India may be an unwelcome addition and irritant to Beijing at the SCO, China does not necessarily need the SCO to achieve its regional objectives.

For instance, even though India rejected Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative overture, China remains India’s top trading partner and a critical market for all Central and South Asian states, leaving them with few other appealing options.

Regardless of the bickering between countries that may break out, Beijing is expected to buttress the importance of SCO, with due pomp and show of circumstances, at the next summit in June 2018, which Mr Modi is also likely to attend.

China as the host can emerge as a peacemaker in the continent if it handles the summit carefully by accepting the members’ genuine viewpoint and accepting their justified demands.

This is a golden opportunity for China to display its statesmanship by creating a peaceful environment where all disputes among the member countries are discussed, especially between India and Pakistan in order to arrive at a reasonable solution or a stage is set for further negotiations.

 

The writer is former Professor of International Trade. He may be reached at vasu022@gmail.com

 

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Suvorov – Soldiers General …

Posted on May 9, 2018. Filed under: From Russia with Love |

Russians have long cherished the memory of Suvorov as a great captain of the Russian nation – and for the character of his leadership. In an age when war had become an act of diplomacy, he restored its significance as an act of force.

Suvorov won 63 major battles – never losing any. He was seriously wounded six times – always being in the most exposed positions of the battlefield. He always shared the risks and discomforts af his soldiers.

He never wore warm clothing, different from his men during the cold winters and always slept on a simple bed of straw. He had great simplicity of manner and while on a campaign lived as a private soldier – sleeping on straw and contenting himself with the humblest fare.

Suvorov was adored by his men. He considered victory dependent on the morale, training, and initiative of the front-line soldier.

In battle he emphasized speed, mobility, accuracy and the use of the bayonet – in addition to detailed planning and crafty strategy. He abandoned traditional drills and form, communicating with his troops in ways clear and understandable.

He took great care of his army’s supplies and living conditions – dramatically reducing sickness. Forming a paternal relationship with his soldiers, he appreciated their courage and endurance and in return enjoyed the loyalty, respect and affection of his troops.

Suvorov’s guiding principle was to detect the weakest point of an enemy and focus a devastating attack upon that point. He would send out his units in small groups, as they arrived on the battlefield, in order to sustain momentum.

He emphasized accurate fire instead of repeated barrages from line infantry and applied light infantrymen as skirmishers and sharp shooters.

He used a variety of sizes and types of formations against different foes – squares against the Turks, lines against the Poles, and columns against the French.

According to D.S. Mirsky, Suvorov “gave much attention to the form of his correspondence – especially of his orders of the day. These latter are highly original, deliberately aiming at unexpected and striking effects. Their style is a succession of nervous staccato sentences – which produce the effect of blow and flashes”.

Suvorov’s official reports often assume a memorable and striking form. His writings are as different from the common run of classical prose as his tactics were from those of Frederick or Marlborough.

However his gibes procured him many enemies. He had all the contempt of a man of ability and action for ignorant favorites and ornamental carpet-knights.
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But his drolleries served sometimes to hide, more often to express, a soldierly genius – the effect of which the Russian army did not soon outgrow.
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If the tactics of the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 reflected too literally some of his maxims of the Turkish wars, the spirit of self-sacrifice, resolution and indifference to losses there shown formed a precious legacy from those wars.
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Mikhail Ivanovich Dragomirov (1830-1905) declared that he based his teaching on Suvorov’s practice, which he held as representative of the fundamental truths of war and of the military qualities of the Russian nation.                                                                                                                                                                            .

Suvorov considered Hannibal, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte to be the greatest military commanders of all time. His high regard for Napoleon is interesting because he did not live to see the Napoleonic Wars.

Suvorov is often compared to Napoleon, when they were on opposing sides  during the late French Revolutionary Wars. He desired to face Napoleon in battle but never did because Napoleon was campaigning in Egypt while Suvorov was campaigning in Italy.

Military historians often debate between Suvorov and Napoleon – as to who was the superior commander.

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Russian History of eliminating Double Agents …

Posted on March 7, 2018. Filed under: From Russia with Love |

Amanda Erickson –

This weekend, 66-year-old Sergei Skripal collapsed in a shopping center in the British city of Salisbury. He is now in the intensive care unit of the city’s hospital, being treated for “suspected exposure to an unknown substance.” In other words: officials think he may have been poisoned.

Skripal, a former Russian spy, was jailed in Moscow for sharing the names of undercover Russian intelligence agents working overseas with European authorities. He was released to the U.K. as part of a prisoner swap. Officials believe Skripal may have been attacked by Russian operatives.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman of Russian President Vladimir Putin , denied any involvement in the attack. “We know that this tragic situation has happened, yet we have no information about its probable causes, what this man has been doing, and what this is about,” Dmitry Peskov told my colleagues.

If the investigation does, in fact, reveal that Skripal was poisoned by his fellow Russians, it wouldn’t be the first time such an incident has occurred.

Russian intelligence officials have turned political poisonings into something of an art form. Experts have worked for many years to develop colorless and odorless poisons. Some testing was done on living prisoners, according to a 1954 interview with a KGB defector.

Some poisons of choice, like the nerve agent sarin, are fatal if inhaled even in low doses. Others, like cadmium, are lethal to the touch. A Russian banker, Ivan Kivelidi, died of cadmium poisoning in 1995. Authorities say the drug had been spread on his office telephone.

In 2008, a Russian human rights lawyer was felled by mercury found in her car. In one famous case, from 1978, a Bulgarian dissident was killed after being stabbed with an umbrella tipped with ricin on Waterloo Bridge. Other substances cause victims to suffer a heart attack.

The New York Times said, “No other major power employs murder as systematically and ruthlessly as Russia does against those seen as betraying its interests abroad. Killings outside Russia were even given legal sanction by the nation’s Parliament in 2006.”

These attacks happen in Russia and abroad. Poison was slipped into the tea of journalist Anna Politkovskaya on a flight to the Caucasus. She survived, but was later gunned down in Moscow.

But Russian emigres in the U.K. seem particularly vulnerable. Russia is suspected of having organized the killings of at least 14 other people on U.K. soil over the last two decades, according to an extensive BuzzFeed investigation. That’s thanks in part to geography: London is a hub for the Russian diaspora.

But there are other reasons too. Until recently, Britain has struggled to investigate suspicious deaths as assassinations. As BuzzFeed explained after an extensive investigation: “The reasons for Britain’s reticence, they said, include fear of retaliation, police incompetence, and a desire to preserve the billions of pounds of Russian money that pour into British banks and properties each year. As a result, Russia is making what one source called increasingly ‘bold moves’ in the UK without fear of reprisals.”

Here are some of the most famous cases of Russians killed in the U.K. under mysterious circumstances:

Boris Berezovsky: Berezovsky was found apparently hanged in his bathroom in 2013. Police ruled it a suicide, but U.S. intelligence officials suspected an assassination.

Many of his associates were also targeted over the years, including:

Scot Young: Young, amultimillionaire fixer to the world’s super-rich, worried for years that he was being targeted by a team of Russian hitmen. In 2014, he was found dead, impaled on an iron fence after a fall from a window in his home. At the time, police ruled the death a suicide and did not pursue a criminal investigation. But experts, including U.S. intelligence sources, suspect he may have been murdered.

A trio of Young’s business partners – Paul Castle, Robbie Curtis and Johnny Elichaoff – all died in apparent suicides in the four years before Young. According to BuzzFeed, U.S. intelligence agencies considered their deaths suspicious.

Badri Patarkatsishvili: A Georgian oligarch and business partner of Berezovsky’s died of an apparent heart attack in 2008, probably caused by a poison.

Yuri Golubev: Another associate of Berezovsky, Golubev was found dead in 2007 in London. The oil oligarch and outspoken Putin critic was a known enemy of the Kremlin.

–Other suspicious deaths include Stephen Moss, a 46-year-old who died of a sudden heart attack in 2003 and Stephen Curtis, killed in a 2004 helicopter crash. As BuzzFeed explained, the pair was suspected of helping Russian oligarchs funnel money into Britain.

As BuzzFeed put it after its investigation, “The story of this ring of death illuminates one of the most disturbing geopolitical trends of our time – the use of assassinations by Russia’s secret services and powerful mafia groups to wipe out opponents around the globe – and the failure of British authorities to confront it.”

Alexander Litvinenko: An outspoken critic of Putin, Livinenko died in 2006 three weeks after drinking tea laced with some kind of radioactive substance. A 2016 British public inquiry found that Putin “probably” ordered the killing of the former KGB operative. The two men accused of the attack, Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, denied involvement in the killing and suggested Britain was trying to stir up opposition to the government in Moscow ahead of elections.

Alexander Perepilichny: In 2009, Perepilichny fled Russia for London, where he provided evidence of high-level corruption to Swiss authorities, in the form of wire-transfer records. In 2012, the 44-year-old suffered a heart attack while on a jog. By all accounts, he was in excellent health. In 2015, his death was linked to gelsemium, a rare, poisonous plant grown in the Himalayas and known to have been used in Chinese assassinations.

 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-russian-dissidents-poisoned-20180306-story.html

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