This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Archive for the category “Russia”

Run It Like A Business, Part 2: The Myth Of The For-Profit Democracy

Mikhail Kostin, "In Stalin's Factory" (1949)Part 1

One of the justifications that Trump supporters invariably offer for putting a bunch of business executives in charge of the country is that the US needs to be operated like a for-profit business.  Who wouldn’t like America’s governance to resemble the Trump Organization?  I suppose your average well-to-do Trumper dreams of the days when this whole land will be a Trump golf course, and assumes he’ll be among those who tee off in goofy outfits, and not one of the grossly underpaid, ill-treated staff.

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Lenin’s Tomb (A Halloween Post)

lenin-mausoleum_1Here is a perfect story for Halloween: the story of how I got to see Lenin’s mummy on the occasion of being inducted into the Young Pioneers.

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Letters From Russia: The Story Of (Nearly) Forgotten Murders

Britt Reints, "A Butcher's Stall" (2011)

May you live in interesting times.

~ old Chinese curse

On an unknown date in 1988, the Soviet Union executed Tamara Ivanyutina (maiden name Maslenko), a former school dishwasher, pig farmer, wife, daughter, sister and serial poisoner. She became the last woman executed by the USSR and one of only three executed in the post-war period.* As per standard Soviet practices, her execution was not announced beforehand, and it is not known how her body was disposed. The notification of her death was sent to her unincarcerated next-of-kin — who happened to be one of her victims, and the child of two additional victims. Not surprisingly, he did not bother to hold a memorial for her. The lack of ceremony or mourning surrounding her death was particularly ironic in light of her personality and motivations. Unwept, unhonored and unsung** — such was the ignominious end of a woman who was propelled on her life path by a powerful conviction that the world did not treat her with due respect. Read more…

Great Expectations

Horace Vernet, "Barricade rue Soufflot" (1848)First, a disclaimer. There is no question that the recently enacted Russian law against homosexual “propaganda”, which not only makes it illegal to be openly gay in Russia, but in fact bans any public mention of homosexuality, is vile. It is a shocking assault on human rights and a prime example of the Russian government’s attachment to tyranny.

That said, I have to take issue with the protest at the New York Metropolitan Opera on September 23, 2013, whose participants demanded that the visiting Mariinsky Opera troupe dedicate their opening gala performance of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin to LGBT people and denounce their government’s action from the stage. Read more…

The Cadaver Synod

Jean Paul Laurens, "The Cadaver Synod" (1870)If you are in the mood for some really creepy obscure trivia from the Dark Ages, how about this little tidbit: circa 897 A.D., pope Stephen VI (VII) had his predecessor, Formosus, exhumed and put on trial for perjury and various vaguely defined offenses, such as doing priestly things “while being a layman”. The rotting corpse, still in its papal vestments, was propped up on a chair, and wires were attached to the dead man’s jaws. A deacon crouched behind the defendant’s chair, and as the corpse was being asked whether he admits his guilt on each of the charges, the deacon pulled on the wires to move Formosus’ lower jaw up and down and answered “yes” in a voice meant to imitate Formosus’, like a bizarre ventriloquist act. Surprising as it may be, the trial culminated in Formosus being found guilty of all charges, stripped of his papal robes, mutilated, and dumped in a communal grave for foreigners. Later, he was dug up again and cast into the Tiber. The current pope and his advisors reasoned that this would be a good way to show everyone what a bad guy Formosus had been and how righteous his successor was. The effect, of course, was the exact opposite. In fact, the whole episode proved so damaging to the Catholic Church, it outlawed posthumous trials in the aftermath of the debacle.

But alas, the most important lesson of history is that people do not learn from history. Read more…

The Long 1950’s … Behind the Iron Curtain

Yuri Pimenov, "A Wedding on Tomorrow's Street" (1962)As someone who grew up in a totalitarian Communist state, nothing infuriates me more than the incessant conservative droning-on about progressives being “communist”, “socialist” and “Stalinist”. People who say these things use such words as mere slurs, not much different than calling someone an asswipe, and of course, they betray both a profound ignorance of history and a great deal of contempt for it. But more than that, they’ve got it completely backwards. Truth is, American conservatives have remarkably a lot in common with Russian communists: the same obsession with ideological purity, the same irrational intolerance towards loyal dissent, the same prioritizing of ideology over practicality, the same preparedness to sacrifice liberties, human dignity and lives for the sake of ideological totems, the same clash-of-civilizations thinking, the same pretensions at worldwide cultural and political hegemony. And of course, the modern American conservative and the Russian communist of the bygone era share a deep and abiding dislike of people having unauthorized sex in pursuit of “instant gratification”.

Enter Congress’ resident comedian, Rep. Louie Gohmert, because of course he doth enter, for how could he not? After all, it’s only been a few hours since the last eruption of stupid from the right-wingers, and we haven’t heard from Gohmert in, like, days. With a name that sounds like a practical joke and every word coming out of his mouth worthy of an Onion editorial, he provides an endless parade of stupidity and ignorance, which is probably why he was elected in the first place. His latest installment revolves around the idea that teaching school children about human biology and reproductive health would turn us into the USSR. Read more…

Religious Fervor Is A Gift That Just Keeps On Giving

And so is Russia. Put the two together, stir, and you’ve got yourself a portal to medieval Muscovy and the blessed times of the oprichniks — albeit with cars and cell phones, this time. Which, as scary as it is to contemplate, may be just what the majority of today’s Russians actually desire.

I apologize to the reader that I can’t find an English-language source to link here, as this development apparently hasn’t yet made its way into the Western media’s field of vision. In any event, as reported by a number of Russian sources, including Argumenty I Fakty (AIF), volunteer bands of Russian Orthodox religious enforcers, organized by the fundamentalist movement “Holy Russ”, have begun patrolling the streets of Moscow. Read more…

Add This To The List Of Reasons Why I am An Atheist

I have written previously that in my experience, religion has a special appeal to the worst of humanity and brings out the worst in its followers. No one is more obsessed with sex, more perverse in their sexual thinking than the self-righteous nitwits who cry about the “hook-up culture” and the “homosexual agenda”. (I know a bunch of you are reading this post, and the only thing you are going to take away from it is “nipples to the right of the first paragraph!! somebody call the police, civilization is about to crumble under the onslaught of slutty nakedness!!”) No one is more cruel, more vicious than those who go on and on about God’s infinite mercy. No one swindles so blatantly, so copiously, so cynically as those who do it in the name of their god.

This past weekend, I got into an unexpected argument with a certain couple (who identify as Russian Orthodox), concerning the fate of Pussy Riot, an all-girl Russian punk band that briefly took over the Cathedral of Christ the Savior to deliver a humorous song highlighting the unholy (for lack of a better word) alliance between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Putin regime. Read more…

A Letter From Russia


On May 19, 2008/9, Roman Suslov, a twenty-one-year-old conscript, left his native city of Omsk to join his unit in Bikin, a small town on the border with China, in the province of Khabarovskiy Krai. At the crowded train station, he said his good-byes to his mother, his fiance Oksana and his infant son.

For the first three days after his departure, Roman sent Oksana upbeat text messages, but when she phoned him on the morning of the fourth, he muttered that he was in fear for his life.

“They will murder me or cut me,” he said through the crackle of his dying cell phone battery.

“Who?” she asked.

“My lieutenant,” he replied — and then his phone went dead.

A few hours later, Roman called Oksana from a different cell phone, one he was able to get from a friend. He told her that he had been segregated from the other men for some reason. He was also being denied food and water, and guards escorted him whenever he went to the bathroom. The call ended abruptly, and when Oksana dialed back the number, the owner of the cell phone picked up.

“I don’t understand what’s going on,” he whispered. “We are all frightened.”

The next day, an officer from the Bikin base called Roman Suslov’s mother and tersely informed her that her son had hanged himself in a public restroom. Read more…

Potemkin Villages

In 1783, the Russian Empire scored a major victory against the Ottoman Empire: it conquered the Crimean Peninsula. Although nominally independent, the Crimean Khanate had essentially been a client state of the Ottomans, fellow Muslims (even when Crimea was formally allied with Russia). Once the lush peninsula was annexed, the next order of business was to do something about the vast steppes which separated it from the Russian heartland and the Turks to the southeast, smarting from their recent loss. The momentous task of settling and fortifying what came to be known as Novorossiya (“New Russia”), fell to Prince Grigory Potemkin, the lover and favorite of Catherine the Great.

About this, they — as in, the shadowy “they” who sit invisible at the table of every conspiracy, “they” who hide under every bed where an illicit affair is being consummated, “they” who are predominantly flamboyant 18th-century diplomats — they tell the following story: Read more…

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