Kudrin to Mildly Reprove Russia
Fifteen friends of the former minister will meet at Davos to teach Putin how to live
Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is to head an expert council on Russia at the next International Economic Forum in Davos in 2013. A group of economic experts, meeting today, has decided to come up with fresh ideas for the Russian authorities including how to: carry out organizational reforms, encourage innovation, develop human resources and more. The big question is whether the recommendations will be up-to-date or not.
Kudrin’s council will be made up with 16 experts, including the former minister himself. Among them are: Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseyev, Russian Economic School professor Konstantin Sonin, well-known Russian businessman Yan Yanovsky, Basic Element deputy director Andrei Elenson, Russia’s representative to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development Denis Morozov, RIA Novosti chief editor Svetlana Mironyuk, Institute of Modern Development board chairman Igor Yurgens, Gaidar Institute of Economic Policy laboratory head Sergei Drobyshevsky, well-known Russian economist Yevgeny Gavrilenkov and others.
Russia’s upcoming presidency in the Group of 20 in 2013 will be the only more or less new topic among those to be discussed. So far, the Russian authorities are looking to focus the G-20 on the sustainable economic development of its members and countering the crisis. Perhaps the experts will find original solutions to these two problems for this country. They are certain to be the main economic highlights of the coming year.
The other subjects planned for discussion by Kudrin’s colleagues at the end of January in Davos are not anything new. Some of them (innovation, for example) were promoted by the Russian leadership almost every day during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency. Others – like organizational reforms and the development of human resources – are being waved aside as the ravings of a madman.
Judging from last year’s forum, top government officials pay little if any attention to anything that comes from these events. Perhaps it is the “loose” format of the forum that is to blame. Just recall the declaration by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov that he would like “to see amnesty for Khodorkovsky,” or the words of former presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich about pressing for economic reform. Perhaps we will also hear Alexei Kudrin’s familiar but endearing comments on Russia’s outdated political system.
Orthodox Activists Ask Prosecution Authorities to Punish Bloggers for Extremism
The Union of Orthodox Citizens, a pro-religion public association, has called on prosecution authorities to “protect believers’ feelings” following anti-religion and sacrilegious statements by the founder of Vkontakte.ru.
The latest religion-related scandal was sparked by web designer Artemy Lebedev’s squealing “F*** god” on his LiveJournal blog. Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s largest social networking website, commented on Twitter that he agreed with outraged Orthodox activists who immediately targeted Lebedev because he should have capitalized the word “God” in that sentence.
Valentin Lebedev, the Union of Orthodox Citizens leader, told Izvestia that such stunts insult believers and the Church and cannot go unpunished.
“The Church is the only institution in Russia that safeguards morality. We’ll file a complaint with the Prosecutor General’s Office and take those in the so-called ‘creative-class,’ who destroy everything holy, to court,” Lebedev said.
But people like Durov and Lebedev should not only be punished, the activist added. They should be called on to re-embrace morality through the media and social networks. Orthodox organizations are hoping that a law on protecting believers’ feelings will be adopted soon.
“The Russian Orthodox Church needs protection. The new law will make it possible to fine and even jail people for sacrilegious behavior. Punishment is absolutely necessary to make people think twice before they attempt any stunts against believers or the Church,” he said.
Incidentally, Durov said before this incident that another extremist video, the infamous Innocence of Muslims, has been removed from Vkontakte, contrary to the company’s previous statement that they would not delete anything without a court order.
On Wednesday, reports said that another Orthodox activist, Dmitry Enteo and the Association of Orthodox Experts, who were active in the Pussy Riot scandal, want to take Artemy Lebedev to court. Lebedev’s studio is well known for designing the Yandex home page.
In response to the news that a bill requiring criminal punishment for insulting religion was to be brought before parliament, Lebedev posted an obscene statement about God on his blog.
A source close to Lebedev suggested the blogger has failed to raise enough money for an upcoming project, and that his stunt was aimed at promoting his blog commercially. His successful LiveJournal blog takes in sizable revenue from advertising.
Lebedev said on his blog that his disregard for religious feelings went back to his high school years and that this is how he was taught.
His mother, author Tatyana Tolstaya, declined to comment on his stunt or whether he was baptized. However, she said in a recent interview that she believed in the immortal soul and in a higher wisdom despite her atheistic background. At least she seems more considerate of believers, while her son describes the Bible as “2,000-year-old Middle East folklore” “full of nonsense about a carpenter’s son.” Tolstaya wrote disdainfully in 1991 about many Russians who have the urge to defile churches – about the time her 16-year-old son was in high school.
Russia’s Future Elite Will Be Loyal to Authorities
Valeria Kasamara, head of the political studies laboratory at the Higher School of Economics, and junior researcher Anna Sorokina polled Russian and French students about what makes an ideal president.
You polled students at the leading Moscow and Paris universities who stand a good chance of becoming part of the political elite. What will the future Russian elite be like?
Kasamara: Surprisingly, MGIMO students said they should avoid involvement in suspicious activities because they intend to make a career in government. We also had problems with polling students at Moscow State University. That could be a consequence of this year’s protest rallies or the Homo Sovieticus instinct. I think the future elite will be quite loyal to the authorities, almost the same as the current one.
But didn’t Homo Sovieticus become extinct 20 years ago?
Sorokina: No, he’s still alive. We expected to see critically thinking young people, or at least capable of substantiating their political positions. Instead, we heard stock phrases straight from the Soviet era.
Kasamara: I recently discussed George Orwell’s Animal Farm with freshmen, and for the first time in my eight years at the HSE I was shocked to hear them say: “How did he, a foreigner, dare to mock the Soviet Union?” It would have been more acceptable for a Russian author to do so, but still, why did he only write about bad things? There were also good things such as space flights and victory in WWII. I told them that Animal Farm is a political satire, an anti-utopia. They argued that it is defamation. They are ready to cast a critical eye on the political situation in America or the French elections, but claim that doing the same with Russia is unpatriotic.
Do they think that charity and volunteer projects are patriotic?
Sorokina: We asked French students in which volunteer projects they had participated, and saw a sea of hands. It’s normal practice there, an expression of one’s civil stance. In Russia we asked a group of about 100 students if any of them was a member of an NGO, and saw only two raised hands. But what else can we expect if social science textbooks for school leavers say that the goal of civil society is to support the state, while the state needs to control civil society.
Putin, Medvedev and Sarkozy
A MGIMO student, 18 years:
“I like Putin, because I grew up when he was in power and I thought that everything was just right.”
An MGU student, 18 years:
“If Putin stays, the generation of the mid-2000s will grow up in a period of stagnation, and stagnation breeds revolutionaries.”
A MGIMO student, 19 years:
“Medvedev is hardly a politician, because no reasonable politician, let alone a president, would give up power without a fight.”
Sciences student, 25 years:
“Sarkozy did not understand how the state institutions of the Fifth Republic operate. He talked about reforms a great deal, but very little has been reformed.”
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The main event of the third day of the 11th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi was the closing session with President Vladimir Putin. The atmosphere was calm and open, despite the current political tensions and the Russia-West confrontation. The Russian president said that it corresponded to the spirit of the Valdai Club.