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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Extremist Cossacks, American Hubris and Dance

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Don't Encourage Cossacks

In response to "Cossacks to be Recruited for Army," an article by Simon Saradzhyan on April 14.

Your article missed an important point. Nowhere was it mentioned that many Cossack organizations routinely incite hatred against ethnic minorities and at times engage in racist violence. This is especially true in Krasnodar and other regions in the North Caucasus, where local authorities have set paramilitary Cossack groups loose on migrants and refugees, most notably against Chechens and Meskhetian Turks. Just last month in Novorossiysk, an estimated 200 Cossacks converged on the city following a bar brawl with a group of Armenians, destroying their property and beating up several people. As usual, police did nothing to stop this violence, though local political leaders later interceded to calm the situation down.

I fully realize that most Cossacks are normal people who want to reconnect to their pre-Soviet traditions; in some ways they are the equivalent to Civil War re-enactors in the U.S. However, there is a definite lunatic fringe within the movement defined by extreme racist and anti-Semitic views and a propensity to solving problems through the use of force. The passage of this law, I fear, will only inspire more interethnic violence.

Nickolai Butkevich
Research and Advocacy Director
UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union of Councils

Estonia-Korea Connection

In response to "Guilty of Breaking and Entering in the Baltics," a column by Vladimir Kovalev on April 14.

Kovalev's observation of the Estonian documentary reminds me of the recently renewed altercations between Koreans and Chinese on one side and Japanese on the other regarding the latter's approval of school textbooks that apparently keep quiet about past atrocities and militarism. The Cold War conflicts that soon developed after Japan's surrender in the form of Chinese civil war and the Korean War enabled the defeated power and its people to better concentrate on economic rehabilitation without having to worry about the unpleasant memories of many Chinese and Koreans caused by their prior military aggression and occupation.

As Kovalev aptly points out, "Those who do not admit mistakes are wont to repeat them." Top Japanese government officials from time to time express formal, perfunctory apologies, which they hope serve to impress their neighbors. They do not, because the main purpose of such an apology is not to admit the country's mistake but to seek an understanding of circumstances under which such mistakes were committed. They point to the peace constitution effective for the past 50 years, which is under serious consideration for amendment. They say a normal government pays tribute to the war dead, those who have sacrificed their lives for the homeland; therefore, the prime minister has every right to do so at the Yasukuni where not only the ordinary war dead are enshrined but also such war criminals as Tojo Hideki.

Some Japanese elites compared their military aggression in Asia during the first half of 20th century to what other European imperialist powers did, saying that they were just getting on the bandwagon.

South Korea and Japan are supposed to amicably observe the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year, but the mood is overshadowed by a territorial dispute over the Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese) under the South Korean possession that flared up this month as the Shimane Prefecture legislature passed a resolution claiming Takeshima. Believing that such an action on the prefecture level could hardly have been possible without tacit understanding or encouragement from the central government, Seoul reacted strongly. But the nationwide protest in South Korea was dismissed as a cover up for domestic problems by Tokyo government.

Why such a sudden flare-up? One might find a clue to this question in the recent change in the political climate in Japan. With the leftist parties presently on the periphery for the first time since World War II, Japanese politics are entering an unfamiliar age of competition between the two conservative parties, namely the ruling Liberal Democratic Party being challenged by the rising opposition Democratic Party. They are cooperating on a constitutional amendment, but they are competing aggressively to grab ultraconservative votes.

Chiho Lew

Mysterious Modern Dance

In response to "Rag Doll Review," an article by Raymond Stults on April 8.

I just read Raymond Stults' article on Russian contemporary dance in the Golden Mask Festival 2005, and I can't help but wonder who Raymond Stults is.

In many countries the level of contemporary dance criticism seems to be far below what is written about other art forms. Why? I guess there are not many universities that include theory of contemporary dance in their curriculae.

The organizers of Golden Mask made the right decision: There is an important difference between contemporary dance and contemporary ballet, in the West as well as in Russia. Ballet companies nowadays tend to hire contemporary choreographers to add work to their repertoire, but this contemporary "image", doesn't yet create contemporary dance, which is much more defined by the originality of its movement language.

Most of the pieces presented during Golden Mask were dull, with not enough dance, while work coming from Europe and the USA is much more innovative, he writes. Do we want to see contemporary dance as a serious art form or is it the entertainment value which defines its importance? Anybody involved in the field knows that American contemporary dance has been in an artistic crisis for quite a while and that Europe, after a period of extreme conceptionalism, is desperately seeking new impulses.

The only piece in the festival Stults seemed to appreciate was by the group from Omsk. CheloVEK, however, is not a contemporary dance company but a visual theater group that presented a very entertaining piece.

What does it take to be a critic for contemporary dance? At least an interest in and knowledge of the fundamentals of the art form: the integration of movement, language and choreography. If we start defining contemporary dance in terms of a lack of narrative, a lack of recognizability, we actually make it into something that it is not, which I suppose no art critic would do standing in front of an abstract painting.

Russian contemporary dance is unique: Its main exponents don't come from the cultural center of the country, but from the provinces, the Urals. It is influenced by Western contemporary dance, but it does not imitate it. It is not a contemporary dance derived from the history of the art form, but born out of necessity, which didn't even happen in Western Europe. It must be sad to be a journalist and to realize twenty years later that you were there, but you didn't see it.

And by the way, Tatiana Baganova (Provincial Dances) received a Golden Mask three times and Olga Pona won twice.

Aat Hougee

A Baku Bribe?

In response to "No Compromise in Karabakh," a comment by Adil Baguirov on April 5.

A vast article about Nagorny Karabakh appeared on the pages of The Moscow Times. The author seems to be an Azeri patriot living in the United States. Patriots living far from their country concentrate their patriotism on territorial questions, ignoring other problems that face their homelands, from which they are separated by thousands of kilometers. Would Baguirov leave his home in the United States and go live in Karabakh, which he calls "the heart of Azerbaijan, if Karabakh became part of Azerbaijan again? Millions of Azeri live in Russia, in cities like Moscow. Some do business with Armenians here. Many are confronted with xenophobia. But very few of them would want to go live in Karabakh, or even in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. This is the result of Azerbaijan's internal problems, which Baguirov does not seem to see.

Baguirov wants to bribe Russia into supporting Azerbaijan in Karabakh by trying to attract Russia to its greatness and importance. It's hardly in Russia's interest to have a great and powerful Islamic state bordering on the North Caucasus.

As for the Karabakh problem, it's a Soviet problem, part of the Soviet heritage. All the internal administrative frontiers of the Soviet Union were marked by Stalin and his aides.

But since Baguirov seems intent on bribing Russia to get back Karabakh, and since he seems to think that it is the heart of the country, which makes Baku the periphery, perhaps the best bribe would be to give Russia Baku with its oil fields in exchange for Karabakh. After all, Russia made a great city and industrial center out of the obscure village that was Baku.

Karren Danielyants

Peace Is Not Power

In response to "The World Needs a Strong Russia," a comment by Alexander Vershbow on April 11.

If this article intended to appease Russia by solemnly stating the need for a strong Russia, it failed. The United States' arrogance and hubris is apparent, in that Russia has to make all the changes, but there is no admission of any failures on the U.S. side.

The U.S. authorities have interfered with Russian domestic affairs during the Yukos trial, and they and their allies have granted asylum to oligarchs calling for a revolution within Russia. They reject human rights advocates' conclusions about civilian casualties in Iraq but cut business deals with Saudi Wahhabists. The United States has unilaterally renounced international treaties and conventions. In my opinion, it should keep silent for a while and do some soul searching.

The world does not need power or more powerful nations. The world needs peace, cooperation and development. This is the message the ambassador should carry back to the policymakers in Washington.

Mounir El-Debs

Orange Spin

In response to "Beating the Blues, Keeping the Orange Faith," an essay by Mariya Rasner on April 13.

In her essay, Mariya Rasner shares the convoluted spin of her Ekho Moskvy employer. Rasner's vulgar anti-Russian caricaturing is not in sync with reality.

Note how Russocentric areas are described by her as poor and gloomy, unlike those which backed Ukrainian orange candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Never mind that many more individuals from Ukraine go to Russia than vice versa and that eastern Ukraine is socioeconomically wealthier than western Ukraine.

Tragically, Krasner's disingenuous propaganda has been readily accepted as reality in a Western mass media that blatantly ignored many particulars running contrary to the politically presented Potemkin village of free thinking pro-Western forces going up against sinister Moscow-backed Neanderthals.

As per the recent Ukrainian presidential elections, the Western election monitors mentioned in Krasner's article were overwhelmingly biased for Yushchenko and therefore not credible to serve as non-partisan observers. A good case in point being George Washington University Professor Taras Kuzio, who regularly gave one sided anti-blue (the color of the orange opposition) diatribes which at times appeared bigoted in the snide disdain shown for anything Russian or seen as being sympathetic to Russia. Kuzio served as an election observer for the OSCE. When appearing on the BBC and PBS, Kuzio and other like-minded individuals were rarely if ever challenged in the press, while the pro-Viktor Yanukovych view was politically censored in a Soviet manner.

Meanwhile, there was plenty of evidence showing orange fraud in Yushchenko strongholds. Besides CIS observers, those from the British Helsinki Human Rights Group and the Israeli based Study of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern Europe are witnesses of this much covered-up fraud.

I hope that Russia never experiences the sort of deviant influence evident among some highly politicized Western "non-governmental organizations," which very much corrupted the political process in Ukraine. Simultaneously, I very much desire for Russia to become more closely linked with Western Europe and North America. Western interests are not best served when the likes of George Soros and Zbigniew Brzezinski play leading roles in formulating policies relating to Eastern and Central Europe.

Michael Averko
Malverne Park, New York

The Political Sins of Youth

In response to "Nashi Vows to Fight Liberals, Bureaucrats," an article by Anatoly Medetsky on April 18.

Another shameful use of state power straight from the Kremlin has spawned the painfully misguided youth group Nashi. If these children want to return to a one party dictatorship, they couldn't join a more appropriate organization. It is typical of the thinking of the Soviet past to cast all political opposition in the role of enemy. The youth of Nashi are proving very skilled at this, and showing at the same time that they have virtually no understanding of how a democracy works.

Nashi's claim that outside forces want to weaken and gain control over Russia is not only wrong but plays the same card of paranoia and inferiority that drove the Soviet leadership for much of the last century. Russia has a golden opportunity to forge a new model of an open, free, and prosperous society which would be cheered by the entire world. But its leadership is determined to destroy that chance and have convinced the youth of Nashi to join them in the effort.

Hopefully, the great majority of Russian youth will, in the coming decade, come to understand that democracy is not just another alternative system of governance, but truly the only system that can be instituted among a free people.

For free people, having chosen to throw off oppressors and govern themselves, but still accepting that a system of laws must regulate society, have no choice but to vote for these laws. It is freedom that comes first, and then democracy becomes necessary to preserve it. Russians are still not free, and that's why democracy is being strangled. It is anathema to a fearful and controlling state.

Paul Shelton
Seattle, Washington