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Those Russians…

I’m reading the book The Rasputin File by Edvard Radzinsky, this mythical man made eternal by Boney M and the October Revolution.

Apparently it’s the ”remarkable biography of the mystical monk and bizarre philanderer whose role in the demise of the [last of the] Romanov [tsars]” whose blessings of the only son of Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna of Hesse led him into a power position where ”in all affairs of state he was the man to please”.

Edvard Radzinsky does give a more nuanced picture. He points to Tsarina Alix’s will to believe, her subsequent joining a monastery together with her daughters, and how not only Grigory Rasputin but also people around her manipulated her and her powerful position by, well, essentially sucking up.

Of course, Grigory Rasputin’s role in the demise of the Russian Tsar’s Autocracy seems marginal in comparison with the Russian 1905 Uprising which scared the Tsar into signing a new constitution, essentially giving up the autocratic Russian rule against the will of the Orthodox Church and the Tsarina (which is weird since the Tsarina had a ”distaste for Russian culture, whether it was the food or the manner of dancing”).

Grigory Rasputin did make a big fuss about being treated well in the Russian Court at a time where the Russian Court was intensely disliked by everyone who was in or around it. Aristocrats are probably by nature conspiring and petty individuals, ref. the murder of Erik XIV or the Grand Vizier of Aladdin, Jafar, and especially in a time of turmoil, like vultures they immediately fly over the assets they believe they can pillage from the crumbling houses of wealth (for example bank bosses unless there is a public outcry and threats of a customer boycott of the bailed-out bank.). But he was also from a poor farmer’s village and family. Poor farmers do not make outcries and apart from in the Duma the tsar wasn’t actually much disliked, just a rather distant character who didn’t affect them much. Father Grigory’s comrades in religious arms, Russian Orthodox Bishops, have outfits like the one on the left. A by no means luxurious or particularly note-worthy outfit. On the contrary, quite humble and en par with the wealth of the population at large. At the time, Russian farmers lived in inland, sub-arctic climate without central heating (for reference, Belgium has coastal climate with central heating and it’s still pretty cold here in the winter).

When Grigory Rasputin came to Moscow he made attempts at writing down his thoughts and teachings. Edvard Radzinsky points out several times that he was only semi-literature and that his hand-writing was wretched. Wretched is a word I would normally associate with old crones and I realise I am stingy about this but he was aspiring to be a cultural man of literacy and handwriting and has been villified for trying to remain in a position and environment where he had the opportunities to achieve as much. Because on the Russian countryside, in the beginning of the 20th century, this was not a luxury awarded to farmers. And there was absolutely no way in which Grigory Rasputin could have figured the Bolsheviks would have made education compulsory only 15-20 years later, and even then he would have been well into his 50s and older people don’t get educated since apparently you can’t teach old dogs how to sit.

I wouldn’t make any claims as to his handwriting being particularly aesthetic, or his poetic skills particularly refined, but it’s unfair to call it wretched, and it’s unfair to not appreciate that aspiration. Regardless of his assumed sectism (which may or may not have been inspired by the khlysts: ”They believed in a possibility of direct communication with the Holy Spirit and of His embodiment in living people [and] practiced the attainment of divine grace for sin in ecstatic rituals” apparently reasoning that forgiveness can’t be sought by the virtuous, and forgiveness and repentence is that which marks a true believer) I cannot help but sympathise. The Russians were converted to a Christian belief when the powers that be decided it would be convenient, and Khlystian secterism is one aspect of defiance against forced conversions. For other forced conversions, read about Hernán Cortés, this grateful, Christian saviour of Aztecs who in his quest for their moral salvation was very sałvage, or, and I hate to bring up the dark past of the Crusades but there I did.

Anyway, deep down we all want to believe in sinning.

Of course, you can see it in his photos the intensity of his eyes, these alluring, hypnotic eyes that so intrigued the ladies in a way we would never want to achieve in the 21st century by means of L’Oreal Mascara Triple Brush. .

I am a post-mortem converted follower. I think he is treated unfair by historians, he was mocked for his cultural aspirations by the aristocracy of Moscow who saw him as naught but a quaint, religious wanderer, he is still mocked by historians and artists and is considered to have cause the demise of an aristocracy that was already crumbling under itself and an insane Tsarina. GOOD ON YOU, HISTORIANS.

Put’em on a pole

[Courtesy of sandb]: The post has been given a substantial plastic surgery. There is nothing as weird as Vlad III the Impaler going on.

Apart from having become more civilized, why don’t we hang pirates anymore? Well. It’s cruel, of course. There are many good reasons for why not to hang people, and at that, many good reasons for not having a death penalty at all.

In 2008 the issue of what to do with, or how to punish, pirates caught in the Red Sea was, according to WSJ, uncertain. Now, they shall die! Horribly! They shall now be put in American prisons. For a life time. By American hands! That is certainly [a very] certain [sentence].

South Korea applies very capital measures against pirates. Which may or may not be worse, of course.

put'em on a pole

India, gracefully, just arrests 61 of them. A Seychelle courts has sent some to jail. European countries, it appears, also sentence pirates to jail.

Pirates have previously been sent to neighbouring country Kenya for trials. Kenya is now over-crowded with piracy cases and El País notes that talks of international courts in the UN Security Council are at the same time accompanied by criticism of calling this a war on piracy. They are wrong. Wars are very trendy.

Not only can you impose on Somalis capital measures. You can also capitalise on Somalis.

With recent American measures against African conmen, I wonder quietly what will happen with the Nigerian 410 scammers recently caught in Californa. Although they seem to have ran their operations from the US.

My hearts are extended to the losses for Pirate Families.

Med liv i skottlinjen längs gasledningen

Det finns ett uppenbart sätt man kan ha ihjäl människor på vid en gasledning: att spränga den. Det orsakar stor skada, och förhindrar leverans av gas till människor som troligtvis behöver den. Sådana attentat har bland annat varit vardagsmat i Irak sedan flera år tillbaka.

Ett annat sätt är att stoppa gasleveranser, så som ryska Gazprom har gjort efter flertalet dispyter med Ukraina, både på bolags- och nationsnivå. EU kan inte längre stå likgiltiga inför konflikten som drabbar gaskonsumenter i Polen, Tyskland, Bulgarien och Rumänien. Europakommissionen ska nu skicka observatörer, på Gazproms begäran, för att förhindra att Gazproms ukrainska motpart Naftogaz stjäl gasleveranser som är ämnade för de europeiska konsumenterna.

Bakgrunden till anklagelserna om stöld är den tidigare stormen, och fortsatta bitterheten, över att Ryssland 2006 kraftigt minskade prissubventionerna på gasleveranser till Ukraina. Smakar det så kostar det, sa Ryssland som tagit klivet in i marknadsekonomin. Det var bättre för Ukraina när Ryssland var solidariskt.

Det vore också bättre för Bulgarien om Ryssland var solidariskt. Deras brist på gas kommer eventuellt hota människoliv när sjukhusen inte längre kan ta hand om sina patienter. I Ukraina dog 2006 över hundra människor som resultat av den plötsliga prishöjningen.

Samtidigt som Ryssland absolut inte kan klandras för att bedriva handel på världsmarknadens villkor – det måste t ex Ukraina inse att Ryssland måste göra om de ska överleva som marknadsaktör – är förlusten av människoliv i ett land som Bulgarien, bara indirekt inblandat, högst beklaglig och oförsvarbar.

Andra liv som gått förlorade och förmodligen kommer fortsätta gå förlorade de senaste dagarna är det stigande antalet döda i Gaza under Israels besinningslösa attacker. De hårdast drabbade är kvinnor och barn. Dels dör de, dels dör deras män och söner som också är deras försörjare. I Israel, USA och EU odlas en beklaglig syn på självförsvar som innebär övermåttligt våld och tusentals oskyldiga döda varje år. Knappast försvarbart, och jag hoppas så innerligt att någon undertecknande tjänsteman med makt att sanktionera sånt här vansinne för eller senare vaknar med dödlig halskrupp och avlider i plågor.

Man kan demonstrera mot attackerna i Gaza på flertalet ställen i Skåne på lördag 10 januari 2009.

Update: Hurra!:Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek agreed Thursday on the conditions for deploying gas monitors in Ukraine, the Czech EU presidency said.