Thursday, September 30, 2010

Governance in the Russian Federation

This is simply a series of links for those who care to read them to give you an insight into "Sovereign Democracy" as then-President Putin described it.  The difference between  Democracy and Sovereign Democracy being the difference between a chair and an electric chair as some wag put it.  The trigger for this blog is the recent firing of Moscow's Mayor Luzhkov by President Medvedev. 

During the Yeltsin years, mayors and regional governors were directly elected however Putin put a stop to that in 2004.  He has been criticized by the West for this as "undoing democratic reforms", however these regional people tended to be elected using their own version of Sovereign Democracy.  They created their own private fiefdoms which they used as power bases and pillaged at will.  They were answerable to no one and accountable for nothing.  At least now they are accountable to Mr. Putin, whose authorization was undoubtedly needed for Luzhkov's termination. 

I leave you to draw your own conclusions about Luzhkov's business dealings, his wife's real estate billions and the whole issue of corruption in Russian politics. 

The last two links concern those who have attempted to investigate corruption and Human Rights abuses.  You may also want to Google Anna Politkovskaya and Natalya Estemirova. 

Medvedev sacks Luzhkov -

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov sacked by President Medvedev - BBC

Analysis - Moscow mayor's messy exit is no Medvedev triumph - Yahoo News UK

 Sacked Moscow mayor fears return to Stalinism - CNN

In shift, Kremlin reopens cases of Russian reporters' unsolved murders - Christian Science Monitor

Russian journalists face violence, intimidation - Christian Science Monitor


From Abakan to Antalia in 20 Minutes by Edith Bunker

As recounted in two previous blogs, I now have a Russian Visa but no contract yet.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.  But we edged out our competitor and now just wait for the BIG boss to get back next week late.  ALL power is concentrated at the top of any Russian or Ukrainian organization.  This is a carry-over from Soviet times when there was only one ladder to climb and competition was cut-throat.  If you delegated, you would likely find your desk in the hall some day.

I'm running out of time if I am to get anything done in October so today Tanya checked out train and plane schedules on the computer and on the phone with KiiAvia in Krivii Rih.  Moscow to Abakan flies Monday and Thursday.  No tickets to Abakan on Monday Oct 4th so we would fly 11:30 pm Thursday Oct 7 and arrive 5:30 am on Oct 8 and leave on Monday Oct 18.  Ten days is a nice visit with family but too short to get anything useful done even if the contract was signed.

We could go Oct 4 via Krasnoyarsk and arrive in Abakan Oct 5 after a grueling 8 hour bus ride. I'm all for going anyhow and letting the chips fall, just to visit her family and lay some ground work for the project.  Tanya has the tickets booked and we are driving into Krivii Rih with Andrei and Tanya to pay for them (about $1800 USD).  My Tanya points out that a) she is a bad daughter and doesn't want to go to Abakan and visit her family until next year, b) it is no holiday for her regardless and c) if there are two moons in the sky and the contract is signed, our employer can send their agronomists and we can go in the spring and stay until the project is complete.

Tanya calls the travel agent in Krivii Rih.  Forget Abakan, Siberia.  Do they handle all-inclusives to Antalia, Turkey?  They do.  We are going for two weeks to Kemmer near Antalia, leaving Oct 10.  Cost for the two of us a total of $1100 USD. 

The Russian visa?  Written off by your scribe as education - I need to learn to LISTEN to my wife.

Lee Hart Says Kind Words about Our Medical System

Lee Hart is an Ag columnist.  I know his writing shows up in Grainews and maybe other places too.  His blog covers odds and sods on the Ag front but for the past two months has also told of the recovery of a young man who suffered a severe head injury in an ATV accident.  Today's blog recounts the replacement of a palm size piece of skull bone in the boy's head and credits the Canadian health care system.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I hab a code

Sids yedsterday, I hab a terrible code in my node.  By sinuses are rudding and I caddot breed (oh, shud ub). Doday wads Lenaz birdday so we wed to deir blace for 10:00 am brudch.  Do ob her frieds cabe from her hobe villadge.  We drag beddy toads ad by nood by code wadth fide.  I wed hobe ad slebt for siggs hours.  Dow I hab a hedegg ad a code.  Nodding meggs seds eddy bore.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Night Train to Memphis

Yesterday was the second 24 hour road trip this week and today I am tired.  I napped from 3:00 pm until about 8:00 pm.  I have my Russian visa now but still no contract between my employer and the client in Khakasia.  I wish I'd had the project from the beginning myself but Agro-Soyuz found the client and I am stuck with them at the moment.

Friday is NOT a good travel day as every student and family is going home or to visit Babushka somewhere.  Our friend Kostia got me a ticket from P'yatikhatki to Kyiv.  Wagon 19 again, Bunk 04.  Except it was Bunk 40* which is at the far end of the car, over the window.  Not a bad bunk if you are 1.5 meters tall (5') and somewhat simian in nature.

The Attendant on duty, a petite brunette named Svetlana, came to my rescue and sold me her bottom bunk in the attendants' little room for 100 UAH ($14).  I'd have paid her triple if she had asked.  I made up the bed, kicked my shoes off, turned out the light and pulled the sheet over me.  A few minutes later the off-duty attendant, a blonde whose name I didn't catch but it could have been Mindy, slipped into the room and climbed up onto the top bunk.  Short skirt and all.  Thankfully, it was dark or I am sure even with my eyes shut tight, I'd have been struck blind.

Two nights previous the train was impossibly hot.  Thursday night the little room was colder than a Mother-in-Law's kiss.  The wind whistled in around the window and I was freezing.  The blankets are on a shelf above the top bunk.

Imagined conversation:
Excuse me, Miss Mindy, but I am freezing.  Could you get me one of the blankets on the shelf above you?
I have a better idea; let's pretend we are married.
Sounds interesting; what do you have in mind?
Get up and get your own &#%$#@ blanket and don't bother me again.

I got up and got a blanket.  They were easy enough to reach.

*I often misread because I do not read carefully enough and I often scramble letters and words.  Like the old joke about the Dyslexic Agnostic Insomniac who lay awake at night wondering if there really was a Dog.  The other day, I misread my sister's Facebook recipe for Greek Chicken as Geek Children.  Sounded like a good idea and the recipe did look delicious but...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Apple a Day

Tanya and Lena are picking apples today.  Tanya asked me to take some pictures of our apples to send to Ky but I figured I'd post them instead.  These are of our two very tall apple trees where we "grow fruit in the heavens" as Tanya's niece Sveta says.  We have several others but not as impressive as these two trees.  All our fruit trees yielded incredibly good this year.  The apples were so heavy on the branches that, combined with high winds, wee will have lots of pruning problems in February.  There are a great many broken branches that will have to come off.

The grapes are also ripe and ready to pick.  We have been eating them off the vine for a week or so already.  I'd like to make grape jam and jelly with some at least.

24 Hours from Tulsa

A one-day round trip to Kyiv by train takes me 23 1/2 hours door to door.  Yesterday I applied for a Russian visa from the Consulate in Kyiv.  Left the house at 11:30 pm on Tuesday, Andrei took me to the station at P'yatikhatki where I caught the 0040 train to Kyiv.  Top bunk and hellishly hot so I didn't sleep much if at all.  My ticket was for a bottom bunk but the old Babushka and her young grandson needed it worse than I as she could never have climbed into the top bunk which was supposedly hers.  The trains are full these days for some reason.

Got into Kyiv at 7:00 am and went to McDonald's at the station to grab a couple of Egg Mcmuffins and kill 3 hours using their WiFi.  Was lucky to get a seat near a plug-in as the computer battery is so old it won't hold more than 45 minutes charge.  Took the Metro to within 1/2 block of the consulate and had the application paperwork all done by 11:30.  Cost varies with turnaround time.  I needed 48 hours so it cost me $225 USD.

Getting a Russian visa is not simple.  It requires an ORIGINAL letter of invitation, which unless you are a tourist, must be issued by the Federal Migration Service or Ministry of the Interior or some super important agency.  This takes time, which we don't have as I need at least two or three weeks in Khakasia for this project and must be out of Russia by Oct 20 OR delay the entire process six weeks while I get a new passport and a new letter of invitation.  Theoretically the letter of invitation must be requested by the client in Khakasia and issued by the appropriate office in Khakasia.  Takes too long, so the client called in some contacts and my letter of invitation was duly issued by...The Olympic Committee of Russia in Moscow.  Doh.

Went to TGI Fridays for lunch.  Buffalo wings, fries covered in melted cheese (not quite Poutine but...), Hot Fudge Brownie Delight (sounds perverted to me) and two pints of Murphy's.  The latter cost me $6.50 each which I didn't realize when I ordered them.  Flown in from Ireland, I guess. 

Now I needed tickets to come back Friday to get my passport and visa.  Friday is a BAD day to travel.  Our taxi driver friend Kostia was enlisted to help me get tickets.  Got one for the night train same as before but nothing to return unless I stay over.  Kostia knows people and will meet me Friday morning at the station with a first class ticket on the evening express.  I pay him well.

Caught the 5:45 Kyiv-Dnipropetrovs'k Express and was in P'yatikhatki Stikova station by 10:00 and home by 11:00.  I leave again tonight at 11:30 pm to repeat the process Friday.  Two full days of my time* to get a visa for a project that does not yet have a contract.  More Doh.

*A traveling salesman is walking down a country road, and passes a farm. In the middle of the field he sees a farmer, standing under an apple tree. The farmer holds a pig in his arms. The salesman stops and watches as the farmer walks around the tree with the pig, and holds it up so that the pig can eat an apple right off of a tree branch. Amazed, the salesman sees the farmer lift the pig so that it can eat about four apples in this manner.
“Mr. Farmer,” yells the salesman, “wouldn’t it take a lot less time if you just put the pig on the ground, and let him eat the apples that have fallen off of the tree?”
The farmer pauses in his work, turns to the salesman and says, “Well, maybe, but really, what’s time to a pig?”

A Gift of Love

Tanya let the dogs out yesterday for a run.  In appreciation they brought her a chicken.  A dead chicken.  A very very dead and sun-ripened chicken.  Since she seemed less appreciative of their gift than they had perhaps hoped, they kept it themselves and played keep-away at top speed through her flower beds.

I am always happier when Tanya lets the dogs out.  When I let them out and they break her flowers, it is my fault.  When she lets them out it is just the dogs being playful.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Khakasian Khlimate

The climate in Khakasia, from what I could gather off the internet is no different than home.  Continental, which is hot and dry in summer and cold and dry in winter.  Well, OK, dry was not a word applicable to this summer at home in dear old Saskatchewan but you get he picture.

Precip is a bit different in pattern as they get more in July through October than we do and much less in winter, though I only have one data source.  Once I get there I will have data from several villages where it is kept religiously but does not appear on official internet weather sites.

Mean Monthly Temperatures Khakasia and Saskatchewan
Mean monthly precipitation Khakasia and Saskatchewan
It would appear that the winters are even milder than Saskatchewan in some locations in Khakasia and summers slightly warmer.  These are 30 year averages.  Now when you get to Chita on the east side of Lake Baikal, there it gets COLD.  Summer temps same as Sask but winter temps are 10C colder on average.  Chita was where the Tsar banished the surviving Decembrists of 1825.  Lenin was also supposed to go there but was able to use his influence to get reassigned to Sushenskoye in Khakasia.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beautiful Khakasia 2

Here are some landscape pictures of Khakasia which Tanya and I took back in early June of 2006.  It has everything - mountains, foothills, rugged hills and rocky outcroppings and flat land between the hills.  No great sweeps of flat land like the prairies, though. 

Horse bands likely belonging to native Khakasians
Herefords of Canadian breeding grazing early pasture
Cropping is 50:50 summerfallow to conserve moisture
with all the salinity problems to go with it
Flat plains always end at a ridge of hills, they don't go on forever
Small fields among trees and grass
Good grazing and rugged hills
Light soil, lots of sandy areas
Village outside Turim
Turim was a "company town" beside a huge copper mine.  When the mine gave out, so did the city.  It is pretty much deserted now.  You could buy a 5 floor block of flats for a dollar, I expect.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What if Edgar Allan Poe had used a computer? ...

Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and vision bleary,
System manuals piled high and wasted paper on the floor,
Longing for the warmth of bedsheets, Still I sat there, doing spreadsheets:
Having reached the bottom line, I took a floppy from the drawer.
Typing with a steady hand, I then invoked the SAVE command
and waited for the disk to store, only this and nothing more.

Deep into the monitor peering, long I sat there wond'ring, fearing,
Doubting, while the disk kept churning, turning yet to churn some more.
"Save!" I said, "You cursed mother! Save my data from before!"
One thing did the phosphors answer, only this and nothing more,
Just, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

Was this some occult illusion? Some maniacal intrusion?
These were choices undesired, ones I'd never faced before.
Carefully, I weighed the choices as the disk made monstrous noises.
The cursor flashed, insistent, waiting, baiting me to type some more.
Clearly I must press a key, choosing one and nothing more,
From " Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

With my fingers pale and trembling, Slowly toward the keyboard bending,
Longing for a happy ending, hoping all would be restored,
Praying for some guarantee Timidly I pressed a key.
But on the screen there still persisted, words appearing as before.
Ghastly grim they blinked and taunted, haunted, as my patience wore,
Saying, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

I tried to catch the chips off-guard - I pressed again, but twice as hard.
I pleaded with the cursed machine: I begged and cried and then I swore.
then I tried in desperation, sev'ral random combinations,
Still there came the incantation, just as senseless as before.
Cursor blinking, mocking, winking, flashing nonsense as before.
Reading, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

There I sat, distraught, exhausted; by my own machine accosted
Getting up I turned away and paced across the office floor.
And then I saw dreadful sight: a lightning bolt cut through the night.
A gasp of horror overtook me, shook me to my very core.
The lightning zapped my previous data, lost and gone forevermore.
Not even, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

To this day I do not know The place to which lost data go.
What demonic nether world is wrought where data will be stored,
Beyond the reach of mortal souls, beyond the ether, in black holes?
But sure as there's C, Pascal, Lotus, Ashton-Tate and more,
You will one day be left to wander, lost on some Plutonian shore,
Pleading, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

One day you’ll be left to wonder, data trying to restore,
“Will I see it nevermore?”

Author unknown.  I found this link and the version was better than the one I had, but I kept the last two lines from mine, as well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cranberry Stuffed Chicken Breast

Tanya watches cooking shows and this one yesterday caught her attention as simple and easy so nothing but she would try it today.  The measurements are not exact. Spoons should be taken as gobs more than leveled amounts.

Three large boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced in almost half for stuffing and slightly pounded, she says.  Stuffing is three spoons of whole cranberries slightly crushed, two spoons of honey and a shot of cognac.  Roll them up, pin them together with toothpicks and coat in bread crumbs.  Brown them in a hot frying pan for a couple minutes a side and throw in the oven at 180C (350F) for 20 minutes.

The sauce is 1 cup crushed cranberries, four spoons of honey, two shots of cognac and a cup of water.  Boil for a minute or three, then add a spoon of starch to thicken, bring to a boil and remove from heat.  Pour the sauce over the chicken at serving.

It tasted delicious, nice and tart.

Of course, since she was cooking the main course, she wanted me to make dessert.  She loves fruit crisp pudding.  Well, mostly the crisp, which she calls casha or porridge.  So I made 1.5 times the fruit and double the topping.  She will eat the topping and some fruit and syrup.

Fall Flowers

The hot weather has cooled off and we have had some rain.  Tanya's flowers are struggling back.  Even her roses are blooming again.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

I've heard the expression all my life, know what it means and where it came from but had never actually seen it until today.  Tanya let the dogs out for a run.  They headed to the marsh for some hunting and flushed a big yellow tomcat, likely a distant relative of Kuchma.  The cat made a run for it across Lucia's garden patch and up one of our three big walnut trees.  The dogs were very excited and pleased with themselves, jumping and barking around the tree.  Then we noticed Volk jumping and barking at the tree beside it.  No cat up that tree.  We looked.  Seems he had forgotten up which tree he chased the cat.  Dumb as a hammer, that boy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Utility Rates

Our gas rate went up about 30% this fall, so I checked what we are now paying against good old Saskatchewan Crown Corporation rates.  By the way, I am proud of our government owned utilities, found their prices and service far superior to neighbouring free enterprise Alberta.
Regina gas and electricity prices are based on total paid out over two years divided by consumption and include monthly service charge, utilization charge and taxes so it is comparable to what we pay ie it covers the total bill. The house was an average comfortable, well insulated bungalow with basement.  (Informant can identify themselves if he or she chooses).

Gas - Regina $0.45/m^3 Ukraine $0.15/m^3
Electricity - Regina $0.14/kwh Ukraine $0.0327/kwh

We have nothing to complain about for utility fees if only the economy would allow people to earn a living so they could pay them

Who Ya Gonna Trust

Would you let this person out of/ in to your country?


Thursday, September 16, 2010


Tough to find anything to blog about lately.  Politics wears a bit thin after a while.  I'm hoping that the bumper sticker "PALIN-BECK 2012 It's a no-brainer" wins the competition.  But other than that, nothing very cheery if you care about the state of the world.

Tanya was at the market on Sunday and brought home sweet farm cream so thick it doesn't pour.  Also fresh farm cottage cheese.  She mixes this together with farm honey we just got and eats it with tea.  This is died and gone to heaven fare.

Speaking of, she is hard at fall flower gardening.  Yesterday she planed about 300 bulbs of various sorts and today again.  Tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, lilies. She is also transplanting again.  Her flowers need not ever feel too settled in their beds as they are apt to be relocated when the season is right.

Kuchma thinks it is fall.  He is getting fat and sleeping in the house as much as he can get away with.  He committed an unpardonable in the corner the other day instead of meowing to go outside and was banished for three whole days.   Today I let him back in and he wasn't yelled at, so it was safe.

The dogs are enjoying their freedom for a few hours each day now.  they hang around usually though once in a while they take off for somewhere.  the other day I walked outside and they were sooo glad to see me, jumping up at me and bounding around.  Took a second to realize not only were they muddy and wet, they had rolled in something joyful and the fumes would bring tears to a glass eye.

I'm in process of applying for new passport as mine runs out in 7 months.  One cannot go anywhere with less than 6 months on a passport.  Got my picture done today, will pick it up tomorrow and try and find a guarantor that fits the requirements.  Doesn't say they have to know English so we'll likely go with our lawyer friend Tanya and fill in everything except her signature.

Monday, September 13, 2010

For my rancher friends from Beef Magazine

A rancher is walking through his pasture one day and stumbles on a lamp. He picks it up and, just like the other stories, out pops a genie. The genie thanks the rancher for setting him free and grants him three wishes – one per year.  The rancher thinks for awhile before deciding that it’s been so dry the past few years that he wants lots of rain and belly-deep grass. Sure enough, the rains come and the grass is the best ever.

A year later, the genie returns and asks the rancher for his second wish. The rancher remarks that his current calf crop is the biggest, heaviest and stoutest he’s ever weaned. So he wishes for a six-weight market of $1.35/cwt. Sure enough, the market rallies and six-weight calves shoot to $1.35.

The third year, right on schedule, the genie appears to grant the rancher’s final wish. Without hesitation, the rancher asks for $1.35/cwt. calves again. The genie is perplexed and asks the rancher: “Why would you wish for the same thing as last year?”

Looking sheepish, the rancher squirms around a bit before admitting that he hadn’t actually sold his calves for $1.35. “I held out for $1.40,” he says.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shades of Putin's Russia.

I will attempt to explain why  the Ukrainian KGB, for that is who they are, arrested a historian in L'viv last week and confiscated his research, charging him with possession of "State Secrets".

Controlling history is critical in controlling people.  For a far better explanation of that than I can give, I suggest you read Margaret MacMillan's "Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History".  The following are from the Amazon review:

Governments and leaders use history to invent tradition and subvert the past.  (They) distort it and ignore inconvenient facts.  History has present meaning—not always constructively: in providing a sense of identity for groups, as a basis of nationalism or national pride, as a tool for redress of past wrongs and as an ideological tool. History is more than presenting facts, it is about framing the past.

Bad history tells only parts of complex stories, is selective, misleading and can lead to the creation of national 'myths' that hold their own dangers. "It can be dangerous to question the stories people tell about themselves because so much of our identity is both shaped by and bound up with our history."

And so it is with the former soviet Union. In Soviet times history was very carefully controlled.  History was written by the Party.  Stalin himself wrote much of the history texts for the schools.  Nationalism was greatly feared, so history of the different nationalities which made up the Soviet Empire was crushed. In Mongolia, for example, all historians who studied Genghis Khan were murdered and their work destroyed.  Any mention of Genghis Khan was forbidden.

Russians had 10 years under Yeltsin in which the study of their history was possible.  Putin slammed the door shut and the serious study of history is now almost impossible.  The Kremlin has written and approved the history taught in the schools.  In rehabilitating Stalin, Putin has made certain that the Russian people do not know the truth about their past.  Historians are harassed, imprisoned, their research confiscated and destroyed.

Ukraine was the most important part of the Russian and Soviet Empires.  Under Stalin, dekulakisation followed by the Holodomor resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians.  Ukraine claims it was a genocide carried out against Ukrainians with the intent of destroying any remaining vestiges of Ukrainian nationalism.  Russia blames it all on famine, disputes the number of deaths and says at any rate it wasn't confined to Ukraine but also occurred in the Kuban area of Russia (which incidentally had a large number of Ukrainian farmers).  Russia refuses to declassify any material related to this period of time (along with most other material related to Stalinist Terror). 

Our current president, Victor Yanukovych is very sensitive to Russian feelings, it seems, and perhaps Zabily had access to still secret documents or perhaps the documents to which he did have access, put him dangerously close to the truth.  Either way he had to be stopped before uncovering something that the powers that be in Ukraine and Russia, do not want uncovered.

Ukraine - Back to Police State-hood

To The President, V. Yanukovych
The Prosecutor General, O. Medvedko
The Head of the Security Service, V. Khoroshkovsky

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and Kharkiv Human Rights Group demand that the Security Service of Ukraine stops its persecution of historians

At 7.30 a.m. on 8 September on his arrival in Kyiv by train from Lviv, Ruslan Zabily, historian and Director of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” in Lviv was detained by six (!) officers of the Security Service [SBU] and taken to the SBU building on Volodymyrska St.

In detaining him, none of the officers identified themselves or showed any documents. Mr Zabily was simply asked to “come to the car”. Nor was he told the reason why he was being detained. The SBU officers had no detention order. Mr Zabily was not informed of his rights when being detained, not allowed to make any phone call, except to his wife, and his request for a lawyer was also ignored.

The interrogation last fourteen and a half hours, being carried out by SBU officers who did not identify themselves or show any documents. Such actions by the SBU are a clear violation of Article 29 of the Constitution and criminal procedure legislation.

During the interrogation, without any legitimate grounds, the SBU officers tried to persuade him to voluntarily hand over his laptop and two external hard disk drives. These had copies of historical material and his academic research. The historical material comprises 16 thousand archival documents declassified in 2009 which have already been passed to public computer libraries, for example, the Kyiv Mohyla National Academy and the Lviv Ivan Franko National University. These documents have thus not been classified as secret for a long time.

Having failed to persuade Zabily to sign a document agreeing to voluntarily hand over his laptop and disks, the SBU officers, without any court order and with numerous infringements of legislation, drew up an act of confiscation of the laptop and two hard disks. Neither the laptop nor the disks were sealed making it possible to insert any information on them.
Zabily now has grounds for fearing that they could add any information to his computer needed to persecute him.

It was only after the news of his detention was made public on 9 September that official information from the SBU appeared. “The Security Service has initiated a criminal investigation over plans by an SBU employee to divulge information which is a State secret, i.e. over elements of the crime set down in Articles 15 § 1 and 328 of the Criminal Code. It has been ascertained that SBU employee R.V. Zabily collected information which constitutes a State secret without authority in order to pass it to a third party. On 8 September 2010, he was detained on his arrival in Kyiv from Lviv with this information.  At the present time the circle of people for whom the said information was intended is being ascertained.

Such reports must be viewed as an infringement of the presumption of innocence since they assert, before any court ruling, that a specific person has committed a crime.

There was also extraordinary speed in coming up with the assertion that they had found material on Zabily which are state secrets. Have they really carried out an expert assessment of several gegabytes of information removed and established that these documents are state secrets?

On 9 September it was also learned that instructions had been issued by the Head of the Lviv Regional Department of the SBU to not allow the Directorate and employees of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” to their work places and work computers. In 2009 the SBU handed over the premises of the former KGB prison for the creation of the museum.

UHHRU and KHPG are concerned by the overt disregard for criminal procedure legislation by SBU officers whose actions are more reminiscent of those of the KGB in Soviet times.
UHHRU and KHPG believe that further harassment of historians, removal of historical documents and the retention of “secret” classification on a considerable percentage of such documents is a step towards a totalitarian future, where a history is artificially constructed with no basis in real facts and historical events. It is inadmissible that what constitutes the history of our country should be determined by the Security Service and politicians, and not historians and researchers.

The 16 thousand SBU archival documents declassified in 2009 are only a small percentage of the overall number of documents held in the archives. Millions of documents held there have yet to be declassified although for many of them the maximum term envisaged by law – 75 years – has long passed. For example, there is no access at all to the Ministry of Internal Affairs archive which contains hundreds of thousands of archival files of those subjected to “dekulakization” in 1930-1931.

Ukrainians remain a people effectively without their own contemporary history since access to its sources is closed. In light of this, such “special operations” against historians seem like barbarism, all the more so since we are talking about documents classified by a country which has long not existed – the USSR, which in this way simply concealed its crimes against the Russian, Ukrainian and other nations which had the misfortune to live under its jurisdiction.
In view of this, we demand:
  • - That the President carries out a check of the lawfulness of the actions of the SBU officers, and also of the grounds for suspending the work of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” in Lviv;
  • - That the Prosecutor General check whether R. Zabily’s detention was legal and his right to liberty and personal security observed; whether procedure was followed during his interrogation; whether his right to defence was ensured; whether it was legal to remove his laptop and two external hard drives and warranted to initiate a criminal investigation;
  • - That the SBU carry out an internal check of the legality of the SBU officers’ actions, as well as returning the laptop and two hard disk drives removed;
  • - That the SBU fully restore the activities of the work of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” in Lviv.

Volodymyr Yavorsky,
Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Yevhen Zakharov, member of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group and Member of the Board of the International Memorial Society

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pyotr Romanenko 1954-2010

Pyotr Romanenko passed away September 9, 2010, at the age of 56 years, after a lengthy illness. He suffered for many years from heart disease and diabetes. He leaves to mourn him his partner of six years _______, a daughter Larissa and a son Roman and step-son Andrei from previous marriages. Pyotr was born and raised in P'yatikhatki Raion, Dnipropetrovs'k Oblast, Ukraine and received his education from the Krasnoyarsk Agricultural University in central Siberia, Russian Federation. He worked for a number of years as a production manager at the government packing plant in Zhovti Vody. Funeral service will be held September 11 at 11:00 am at the _________ Russian Orthodox church in Zhovti Vody and interment will be in the old cemetery on the south edge of the city.

Tanya said Pyotr came from a good family whom she knew well and with whom she is still on very good terms. When they lived in Siberia he was a good man, a good husband and a good father. When they returned to Ukraine 20 years ago, things seemed to fall apart for him. Alcohol in excess has been the ruin of many a good man in this country and it claimed another victim.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bumper stickers for women


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One convert at a time

There is a certain streak of fatalism in Slavic males that if it is their time to die, they will die anyway.  So they drink in excess, drive like fools, and of course, don't wear seatbelts.

Two of Andrei's friends, husband and wife,  were in a terrible accident, rolled and demolished their car. . . and are unhurt because they were wearing their seatbelts.

Andrei is now a believer, at least on the highway, and was nagging his mother to buckle up.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

10 Signs It is Fall Time in Marianivka

10. The temperatures are going down to +10 at night and reach +20 in the day.
9. We put a blanket on the bed.
8. We packed away our summer clothes and dug through our storage to find our winter clothes.
7. Apples are almost ready to pick and crows are eating them off the trees.
6. I was cold all day.
5. Kuchma thinks he should be in the house all day.
4. Tanya is yelling at me to wear slippers in the house.
3. Hot soup at lunch tastes really good and warms me up.
2. I put away my cream coloured summer shoes and got out my black winter shoes.
1. Tanya has begun planting fall bulbs and transplanting perennials which will keep her busy until winter.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ancient and Historical Khakasia

The Asian grasslands, which includes much of Kazakhstan, Mongolia and central Siberia were settled long ago and have a very rich archaeological history.  Khakasia is no exception. I always maintain the reason that the Asian steppes were the progenitors of so many modern peoples is that there was nothing to do there but fight and flirt and in winter it was too cold to fight.

When Tanya and I were there in 2006, we did a one day tour of sites with the head of the Archaeology Department from the University, a native Khakasian.   Igor Tashtandinov had been born in Tanya's village of Kalyagino and his mother was best friends with Tanya's mother, though he and Tanya had never met.

Igor and Tanya 2006
Archaeological sites go back 10,000 years at least.  The most  recent peoples were the Kyrgyz who were over run by the Mongolians some 800 years ago and most drifted to modern Kyrgyzstan.  Today's Khkasians are decendants of the Kyrgiz who stayed behind.

10,000 year old rock drawings
More 10,000 year old drawings
Sketches of rock drawings in Abakan Museum

3,000 years old.  Food offerings were poked into the hole in the rock.
Over 200,000 kurgans dot the plains and hills of Khakasia
A large mound kurgan
Kurgan cross section, Abakan museum
Early people of the Steppes
Female fertility stele
Male strength stele
Archaeological dig of a palace, possibly of a Chinese general from the Han dynasty era who defected to the Xiongnu
Model of the 2000 year old palace, Abakan museum
I'll post some landscape pictures next time.

I Gotta Quit Reading this Stuff

BBC rotate reporters through different countries, including USA.  Part of their job is to blog about what they see and hear from a Brit's perspective to play to the folks back home.  Mark Mardell is the current  BBC correspondent.  He picked up on the Vanity Fair op-ed about Sarah Palin that I linked to yesterday and questioned whether she would run in 2012.

One of the comments on Mardell's blog reads:

The sad truth is that America is becoming a nation of ill-educated reactionaries. That IS the demographic that candidates will need to consider in the next election.

I work at a public high school where students told me yesterday that the Declaration of Independence was a 'peace treaty' and that of the two men who traveled east to west and 'discovered' much of the territory, one was Christopher Columbus. Oh, and the students also told me that multiplication is the opposite of addition, and that they had never seen a Roman numeral before.

These are the kind of people who don't vote at all, or who will vote for a Tea Party ticket based on emotional spin and no facts whatsoever.

Well, now we know where Teabaggers and Palin supporters come from.  If there are enough of them to elect her, JD Rockefeller who famously said "I don't want a nation of thinkers, I want a nation of workers",  will see his vision fulfilled.  He almost made it with Bush but not quite.  They had to fudge a bit in Florida in 2000 and again in Florida and Ohio in 2004

Palin is releasing her second book soon. As Pierre said about Margaret, "Well, that is one more than she has read".

Now to go take a blood pressure pill.  Demeur, why do I do this?  I don't know.  American politics is a gigantic sit-com, if as you said, I don't have to live there.  Other than it has devastated so many people in USA and around the world and has the potential to destroy us all.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Today's Headlines

It is after 9:00 and I know I have to blog something today as I did not yesterday.  Not much has happened around here worth noting.  "The stupid dogs chased the cat up a tree again" is hardly news.  They do it every day.  And circle.  And yap.  Masha did not have a good day at school yesterday, refusing to listen to her mother or the teacher.  If she didn't want to do it, she didn't.  Her Babushka had a little chat with her last night and today went better.  She was all smiles tonight and talking about starting to learn English and her new friends and so forth.

I've been working on preparing a possible beef cattle consulting project that will take Tanya and I to Khakasia, which we are looking forward to, though it is certainly not without challenges.

At the same time I have been trying to catch up on the news.  One headline leads to another and my Idiot Meter and Blood Pressure both keep Red Lining.  I'm just plain tired.

Here are a few for your consideration:

Sarah Palin: The Sound and the Fury

Yes, and one last thing.  Right wing churches in the USA are warning people not to have anything to do with churches which promote social justice as "it is just another word for communism". 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Masha Begins Second Class

Today was the first day of school here in Zhovti Vody.  The ceremony was pretty much the same as last year, welcoming the First Class, other than it was cut a few minutes short by rain which is still falling as I write.  There were three rooms of First Class and judging from the Preg-os and the Preschoolers, there will be lots of First Classes in the years ahead.  Masha was with her Second Class group over on one side and not nearly as excited as she was last year.

Somebody just shoot us, please.

"Why should I smile", Masha said.

Dad, Mom and Masha
Proud grandparents
Please, Mom, can I go to school too?  Can I, huh?  Please, can I?
First Class Moms