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by inoljt

What Flags Do Russia’s Protestors Use?

9:01 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Russia has recently had a number of protests against President Vladimir Putin. The protests constitute a challenge of urban Russians against Putin’s rule.

If you’ve ever seen pictures of these protests, one interesting thing stands out. This is the fact that the protestors don’t wave Russia’s national flag. Instead, they always wave different flags:

What are these flags? What do they represent? I’ve done a bit of digging to get at these answers.

Nationalists

One common flag in the protests is this one:

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Obviously, this flag is not the national flag that Russia uses. It looks a bit darker – dare I say more threatening – than the white, red, and blue-striped official Russian flag.

Apparently this flag was one of the two flags that represented the Russian Empire before the revolution (the other is the current official flag). It seems to have been much less popular than the other flag.

Here’s another picture with these flags:

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In the center there’s a standard of a bird with two heads. This type of standard also often appears in these protests. It seems to be a version of this flag:

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This was the imperial standard during the Russian Empire.

These types of flags are often used by Russian nationalists. They seem to be a symbol of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, a Russian nationalist party (which some describe as ultranationalist).

For a person without deep knowledge of Russia, it’s somewhat concerning to see these flags of the Tsar. It seems to imply that the Russian Empire and the Tsar were good, or imply a type of nostalgia for the Tsar.

Communists

There’s another type of flag that’s very prevalent in these protests against Putin. See if you can recognize it:

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The good old flag of the Soviet Union.

Interestingly, there are a lot of variants of communist flags. For instance, this picture there are several red flags with a red star outlined in white and two Russian phrases stamped on top of the red star. This “red star” flag seems to be very popular and has been waved in a lot of protests. Puzzlingly, this doesn’t match the standard of Russia’s official communist party.

Here’s another variant of the pro-communist flags waved in these protests.

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In this picture there are a lot of blue and white flags with a red star and sickle-and-hammer. Again, I can’t find where this flag comes from (although it’s certainly obvious what it represents).

Communism seems to be quite popular amongst Putin’s opposition.

Liberals

There’s a final type of flag in these protests. They’re the orange flags in the two pictures above.

Here’s another photo with these orange flags:

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These flags seem to represent liberals in the protest movement. The orange flag is a symbol of Solidarnost, a group of liberal Russian organizations.

In the picture there are also a number of red-and-white flags with a red-and-white sun. I have absolutely no idea what these flags would represent.

Conclusions

It’s very interesting how Putin’s opposition has very little passion for Russia’s national flag. Instead, they wave their own flags – flags representing communism, liberalism, and nationalism. This seems to be a sign that the Russian flag as a national symbol is still relatively weak. Of course, Russia isn’t the only country where this occurs.

It’s also pretty concerning when one sees just what flags Putin’s opposition likes to wave. There are a lot of flags of the Tsar and the USSR in the protests. Not quite what most people in the West are hoping for.

–inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

A Revealing Story About Russia’s Mind-Set

3:10 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Sometimes the least noticed things show something quite revealing.

Such is the case with a recent Times story. This story, titled “Russian Official Suggests Weapon Caused Exploration Spacecraft’s Failure,” was one of those stories which people read and then forget in a few days. It didn’t deal with an important event, it wasn’t followed up by any other stories, and it didn’t involve an issue that tugs at people’s emotions.

But the story is very interesting nonetheless, because it suggests something very insightful about the mindset of Russia’s elite. The story is basically what the title says. Russia launched a spacecraft to explore Mars, which unfortunately failed. Then Russian officials did something very curious: they blamed the failure on an American weapon. America, in this view, purposely used a weapon to destroy Russia’s probe.

The Times does note that the accusation might be more for domestic politics than anything else. Russia’s officials might not be too serious in their accusation.

Yet even if so, it reveals a lot that this accusation is perfectly acceptable within Russian domestic politics. Firstly, Russian officials have absolutely no understanding of America if they actually think this. Destroying a Russian scientific spacecraft just for the kicks is something that not even the most rabid anti-Russian neoconservative would suggest. The concept is so far out of there that it’s absurd.

Secondly, Russia is really paranoid. Putin, if reports are believed, actually thinks that the protests against him are a foreign plot. Which is ridiculous; the United States has no such power.

This is very dangerous, however. Fundamental misunderstandings like this do not lend well to international harmony.

– inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

The BRIC Fallacy

3:10 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

(Note: BRIC refers to Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Created by a Goldman Sachs economist, the BRIC countries supposedly are rapidly growing developing countries.)

China is a place with massive regional inequality. A recent feature by The Economist magazine, titled Comparing Chinese Provinces With Countries, found a stark divide between the rich coast and the poor hinderland. Some of my previous observations about that feature can be found here. In Shanghai and Beijing GDP per person is over $20,000 (as of 2010) - roughly equivalent to a high middle-income country.

In rural Guizhou GDP per person is almost seven times lower. Guizhou is the poorest province in China. It is the part of China the media does not visit and that China tries its best to hide. There are no skyscrapers in the rural parts of Guizhou, just decrepit stone houses dating back to the Maoist era (or earlier).

But there is something else very interesting about Guizhou: as of 2010 its GDP per person was almost exactly equal to GDP per person in India. That is, a person living in the poorest part of China is about as well off as the typical Indian. This fact says something about the constant comparisons between China and India – China is generally far ahead.

Let’s take a look at Brazil. Brazil is a typical Third World country, in the view of many Westerners. Surprisingly, while Brazil is infamous for its massive inequality, its regional inequality is not as great as that of China’s. Nevertheless, there are still vast differences of regional wealth in Brazil. As of 2008 GDP per person in the rich Distrito Federal (of Brasilia) was $25,000; in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro the high incomes of its wealthy elite raise the number to a respectable number as well.

In contrast, almost everybody is poor in the northern coastal parts of Brazil, populated by the descendants of plantation slaves. In the northern state of Alagoas GDP per person is a mere fraction of that in the capital. Alagoas is the third-poorest state in Brazil. It is characterized by a juxtaposition of beautiful beaches and violent gangs. Favelas of ill-built wooden structures dot Alagoas.

There is something very interesting about Alagoas as well: as of 2008, its GDP per person was almost exactly equal to GDP per person in China. A person living in the third-poorest province of Brazil is about as well off as the typical Chinese. So much for the Chinese dragon; the typical Brazilian is far better off than the typical Chinese. And let’s not even start comparing Brazil to India.

These comparisons put a stake through the heart of the BRIC acronym: the concept that Brazil, Russia, India, and China have much in common other than their high economic growth rates. And even the assertion that all four BRIC countries are growing at high economic rates is questionable; Russia certainly isn’t right now.

Indeed, the differences between the richest member of the BRICs (Russia) and the poorest member (India) are stunning. Just look at the map at the beginning of this post; almost everybody is literate in Russia, while literacy rates in India are comparable to those in Sudan and Nigeria.

Or think about hunger. Hundreds of millions of people in India are not getting enough food to eat; India has the highest number of malnourished people in the world. In Russia, on the other hand, everybody gets enough to eat. The last time large numbers of Russians didn’t get enough food was more than half a century ago, which had something to do with a man named Hitler. Check out the difference between google results for Russian malnutrition and Indian malnutrition.

All in all, the differences between living standards and relative global power of the BRIC countries are vast. One could say that the United States and Russia have more in common than Russia and India, with respect to living standards (or many other things, in fact). BRIC is a fallacy.

–inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

Reforming the U.N. Security Council?

10:55 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

"United Nations General Assembly"

"United Nations General Assembly"

The United States has permanent membership in the Security Council along with the China, France, Russia, and United Kingdom. Each of these countries may veto any resolution they desire to.

There have been occasional calls to reform the Security Council. The most discussed option has been adding Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan as permanent members.

Let’s take a look at each of the current Security Council members:

China – China has the world’s second-largest economy and – probably – the world’s third most powerful military. Its relative influence, however, is still limited. China today is far more of a great power than it was in 1945 (indeed, in 1945 it probably didn’t deserve to be labeled a great power). Moreover, China is indisputably becoming stronger.

France – France has the world’s fifth largest economy and a very modern and powerful military, probably in the world’s top five. On the other hand, its influence is somewhat limited outside the former French Empire. Compared with 1945, France is substantially less of a great power, having lost its empire and fallen under the American umbrella. Indeed, like most of Europe it has been in relative decline ever since 1918 and looks set to continue to decline in relative terms. This is because the Third World is slowly catching up to the First World, rather than any fault of France itself. Read the rest of this entry →

by inoljt

A Russian Perspective on the Russian-Georgian War

5:59 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

In the summer of 2008, although many people have forgotten, Russia and Georgia fought a brief war. The war began when Georgia launched an invasion of its rebellious province South Ossetia. South Ossetian resistance was bolstered when Russia launched a massive intervention. Georgian and Russian forces fought for several days, ending in a resounding Georgian defeat.

The American perspective of the war reflects American suspicion of Russia, dating from the hostility of the Cold War. Georgia, most grudgingly acknowledge, did start hostilities. But Russia’s response was extremely disproportionate and, in this view, deserves to be condemned. On the other hand, the war has revealed that Georgia is definitely not ready to join organizations such as NATO or the EU.

This article, by Mikhail Barabanov of the Moscow Defense Brief, provides a fascinatingly different perspective. It is from the Russian point-of-view, specifically a military one. Mr. Barabanov begins by celebrating the quick victory of Russian forces:

Initially, Georgia’s attack on the capital of the self-proclaimed  Republic of South Ossetia on August 8, 2008, seemed like it would lead  to yet another bloody, drawn out Caucasus war. However, the quick,  energetic, and sustained intervention of Russia (the guarantor of peace  in South Ossetia since 1992) escalated by August 11 into a powerful blitzkrieg against Georgia proper. Commentators who until recently described the  Georgian Army as the “best” in the post-Soviet space were at a loss for  words.

He then paints a picture of the situation that stands at stark contrast with the usual Western perspective. America’s media generally describes Georgia as a reforming country moving towards democracy and rule-of-law.
Read the rest of this entry →