Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day!

Today is Memorial Day - the day we stop to remember the soldiers that fought and died in defense of our freedom. I think it is just plain wrong that Obama didn't go to Arlington National Cemetery and pay tribute as other Presidents have in the past. I guess he got what he deserved when his little speech in Chicago was cancelled because of thunderstorms - someone must have been trying to tell him that they didn't approve of his unpatriotic stance.
I also think it is wrong how ordinary Americans celebrate the holiday. I understand that it is the unofficial start of summer and that people want to have fun, but why can't they just take a moment to stop and remember the soldiers who died so they could enjoy a carefree day. I did an informal poll on my Facebook account and out of over 100 of my friends (all people I have met in person) only a handful even mentioned Memorial Day or anything relating to it. The rest were just worthless, regular posts. That speaks volumes about ordinary Americans and how we view our country, its' history and those that defend our freedoms.

Israel In The Right

From USA Today:
"Israel's sea raid sparks international furor"

I have to side with Israel in this case. I have read numerous articles from world media sources and they all point to the same thing: that Israel had warned that it would stop the ships from trying to break the Gaza blockade. The ships came anyways and tried to use violence against the Israelis and so Israel took action to defend itself. The Gaza blockade is basically the same thing as the US embargo against Cuba and I'm sure the US would act in the same way if it was breached. One thing I do not understand is that countries (especially Muslim ones) say that it is only Israel who is blockading Gaza when it reality it is both Israel and Egypt. I guess the Muslim countries couldn't use their anti-Israel slogans and admit that Egypt is involved too.

Smokey Haze

From Yahoo News Canada:
"Forest fire smoke chokes Que., On., U.S."

This morning I let my dogs out to see a very thick smokey haze. I couldn't leave them out for long as the odor was very strong. Several hours later we were out under an Air Quality Alert under 2 am tomorrow. It is a very sunny, warm, beautiful Memorial Day and yet I had to spend it indoors.

Friday, May 28, 2010

UK Ending ID Cards

From the BBC:
"Identity cards scheme will be axed 'within 100 days'"

This just goes to show you what can happen when people do not like what the government in power is doing and use their vote to elect someone new. In the UK it got rid of the ID Cards that were too expensive and controversial. I only wish Americans will do the same (ie vote out the current government) in November - we may not be able to do anything with Obama until 2012, but we can do a lot at the local and State levels and also in Congress.

IRC Helping Taliban

From Yahoo News:
"Red Cross defends first aid courses for Taliban"

All I have to say is that this is no surprise to me. The IRC toured numerous Nazi ghettos, concentration and death camps during World War 2 and "didn't notice" anything wrong or do anything to help those suffering. It seems that the IRC always picks the wrong side to help.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

1,200 Soldiers To Border

From Yahoo News:
"Troops to the Mexican border: Obama to send 1,200"

This sounds exactly like what Pres. Bush did when he was office. I guess the increased violence that is now spilling onto the US side from Mexico is making Obama rethink many things with regards to the border. There was one quote I found hilarius.
"The Mexican Embassy said Tuesday it hoped the National Guard troops would be used to fight drug cartels and not enforce immigration laws. Mexico has traditionally objected to the use of military forces to control undocumented migration, saying such measures would criminalize migrants and open the way for potential abuse."
I find it very funny because illegal immigrants are criminals - they entered the country ILLEGALLY! Also no one mentions what the Mexican Government does to illegal immigrants in their country - they arrest them, abuse them and then deport them. I love the double standard with regard to illegal Mexicans in the US - where we are supposed to give them all citizenship.;_ylt=

North Korea All Talk

From Yahoo News:
"NKorea cuts ties with South, raises war rhetoric"

It is obvious that North Korea sunk the South Korean ship and the South has every right to impose whatever sanctions it wants to on the North. North Korea may talk tough, but they are in a very different situation than they were back in 1950 - when they invaded South Korea and started the Korean War. Back then they had the strong support and backing of both the Soviet Union and China. Nowadays, North Korea can barely feed it's own people, the USSR is long gone and so is China under Mao. I do not think that things will go the way they did back in the 1950s if the North were to ty and invade the South today. Hopefully other countries (like Japan, China, Russia, etc) will step forward in support of South Korea against North Korea.

A Mosque At Ground Zero!

From Yahoo News:
"NYC community board OKs ground zero mosque plans"

This is just plain disgusting. It is a slap in the face for those murdered (and their families) by the Muslim terrorists. In all of Manhattan they couldn't find another location to build their mosque? Maybe it was part of the terrorists' plan - kill thousands of innocent people, destroy several buildings all so a mosque could be built in the very spot. I have the feeling that people visiting the World Trade Center Memorial will spit at the mosque as they walk by. It is as if they put a center glorifying the Nazis right in the middle of the Auschwitz Death Camp. Everyone involved in building this mosque at Ground Zero is telling the world that they support what the Muslim terrorists did on September 11, 2001. I really hope that the people of NYC stand up for the memory of those killed and wounded on 9-11 and stop this mosque from being built.

Monday, May 24, 2010

US Raises Visa Fees

From The US Embassy in Moscow website:
"Nonimmigrant Visa Services"

Beginning June 4, 2010, worldwide fees for non-immigrant visa applications will increase. The majority of visa categories, including B-1/B-2, F, and J visas, will increase from $131 to $140. Petition-based non-immigrant visas, including H, L, O, P, Q, and R visas, will increase from $131 to $150. Fiance(e) K visas will increase from $131 to $350. All applicants with interviews on or after June 4, 2010 must pay in accordance with the new schedule of fees.

^ This has got to be one of the worse things the US and the US State Department can do right now. I thought charging $131 for a tourist/business (non immigrant) visa was too high and now they are going to raise it to $140! I also find it disgusting to charge $350 for a finance visa (especially considering it used to be $131.) I don't know what idiots thought up this "great" plan, but they have got to be the dumbest people around. I know the security checks and new technology for issuing visas cost money, but do not think that $131 or $140 is the amount to charge. If we want to allow legal immigrants into the country than we need to make the visa process friendlier and cheaper otherwise foreigners will take their time and money elsewhere. ^

New Russian Migration

From The Moscow Times:
"Migration Policy Raises Hopes, Questions"

If these new laws actually take effect I think they will do a lot of good for both Russia and foreigners. Every country has bureaucracy that people find troublesome, but Russia currently has one of the worst in the world (I am speaking from personal experience.)One of the issues I really like about this new law is that it will reduce the number of people who need to apply for a work permit and they won't have to register in every town within Russia (this is something that even Russians need to do.)Russia needs a modern, immigration system that both protects both its security and the foreigners who want to work/live there. The days of the USSR are over and hopefully these new rules will be a start to Russia showing the rest of the world that they understand that fact and are welcoming legal immigrants to their country.

Canadian Cargo Security

From The Globe and Mail:
"New cargo security measures at Canadian airports to be announced"

This is a good and much needed thing. I don't know why people (in Canada, the US and around the world)do not understand the importance of cargo security - at airports, at seaports, on the rails, etc. They are just as important as passenger travel. I hope that the US and other countries will start paying more attention to cargo security.


I read this book a while ago and just now am getting around to write about it. It is the next book in the "House of Night" series. I have to say that it is an alright book. It wasn't as good as all the others. It tried to introduce Gaelic folklore and tie it into the Native American folklore and it just didn't seem to mesh well. I know they are having another book coming out soon and I hope it is much better than this one.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears (1980)

After many years of hearing about this movie I finally got around to seeing it. The movie was made in the Soviet Union (in Russian it's called: "Москва слезам не верит.")
I was surprised by many aspects of the film. I expected to see the usual Soviet propaganda (from the supermarkets where you can walk down the aisles and touch things yourself and where there is no food shortage to the factory workers being the most productive in the world.)It didn't mention that supermarkets (even in modern-day Russia are few and in most stores you have to ask for an assistant to show you anything and everything as it is all behind the counters.
I was surprised at how open the movie was about a woman having a baby out of wedlock (and even talking about getting an abortion.) This part of the film took place in 1958 and even in the United States these topics would not have been openly discussed.
I am not really sure why everyone (especially when I was in Russia) always talked about this film. It was ok, very out-dated and very one-sided (ie very pro-Soviet/Communist) and full of propaganda. At least now I can say I have seen it.

Germany's Conscription Lowered

From Deutsche Welle:
"Bundeswehr conscription acts as internship for military careers"

^ Germany has decided to lower the time male conscripts must serve in the military (and its alternate service)from 9 months to 6 months. I think it is a step in the right direction, but do not believe Germany (or many other countries) need to continue to have a conscription military. The Cold War is over. The threat of a real invasion (for Germany, Western Europe, the US, etc) has passed.
Many major countries (the UK, France, Spain, Poland, etc) have an all-volunteer military. While the US has an all-volunteer military right now it still requires males to register with the Selective Service just in case the draft comes back.
It seems that Germany is abusing its conscription service as an advertising tool more than as a defence tool. Conscripts aren't sent into war zones and so they are only really being trained for a traditional war on German soil (which nowadays is highly unlikely.)
Some countries (Israel, South Korea, etc)have a real need for a conscription military as the treats to their personal security are real. As for the rest it is just a leftover Cold War relic that is no longer needed. I'm not saying these countries don't need a regular military, but they do not need to force its citizens to serve. ^,,5586566,00.html

Portugal Allows Marriage

From Wikinews:
"Same-sex marriage allowed in Portugal"

On May 17, 2010, the Portuguese President, Anibal Cavaco Silva, signed into law a bill that allows same-sex marriages, making the predominately Catholic Portugal the eighth country in the world where same-sex marriage is allowed country-wide. The law will become effective within a few days, after publication in the official gazette.

The new law removes the previous legal stipulation that marriage is between two people of different sexes. Gay rights activists note that the law does not include provisions for same-sex couple's parental rights, including adoption, for which they say they will continue to fight.

In 1982, homosexuality was decriminalized in Portugal. In 2001, "civil unions" were granted to same-sex couples and provided certain legal, tax and property rights. However, the União de Facto limited a surviving partners ability to inherit his or her partner's possessions or state pensions.

Portugal will become the sixth country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriages (after Belgium, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden). Canada and South Africa also have legalized same-sex marriage.

^ Along with the countries mentioned above gay marriage is also allowed in Mexico City and certain parts of the US (Washington DC, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont.) I don't see an issue with giving homosexuals the exact same rights (ie inheritance, adoptions, parenting, health care, insurance, etc) as a husband and wife have. Just because you want equal rights for gays and lesbians doesn't make you gay (or a lesbian) just like the Whites who helped fight for Black civil rights didn't make them Black. ^

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Ghetto Memorial

From Yahoo News:
"Poland unveils memorial to Warsaw ghetto fighters"

This is just more more way for Poland to recognize what the Nazis did to the Jews and how the Jews not only fought for their own lives (in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943) but also how their helped the Poles (in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.) The fact that many Polish Christians did not try and help the Jews, but the Jews did what they could to help the Christians is one more aspect of the Holocaust that isn't taught that often (and should be.)

Ash Closure Help

From Deutsche Welle:
"New flight rules ease ash restrictions in Britain"

I hope that this helps keep British and Irish airspace open (at least until after my trip there this June.),,5584233,00.html

Russian Bribes

From Yahoo News:
"Half of Russians believe bribery solves "problems""

I believe this article completely. It seems that every Russian I met had no issue with paying "under the table" to get things done. Whether it was for a guy to get a medical certificate from a doctor saying he couldn't join the draft to being pulled over by the traffic police and paying to not get a ticket. It seems bribes are an accepted way of life in Russia. I have heard that it was the only way to get things done in the Soviet Union and I guess it has just been carried over. I didn't personally bribe anyone when I lived there (I wouldn't even have known who to bribe or how to do it.) I don't know if I will ever visit a Russia that didn't rely on bribes.


I watched the season finale last Sunday, but didn't have Internet (we have since changed providers.) I knew that Colby was going to be voted out and that the final three would be: Russell, Sandra and Parvati. The questions that the jury asked showed that they didn't trust or like Russell. It was so great to see Russell's face when he not only lost the game, but didn't even get one vote. It is good to see that sometimes the cheaters and liars do not win.
I think Sandra deserved to win. She tried to get the Heroes to kick Russell out, but they didn't want to listen to her and so they slowly got voted off. Parvati was alright, but she did a lot of "wheeling and dealing" just like Russell.
They showed that the next season will be in Nicaragua. Hopefully, it will be a good season.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Germany, Pale Mother (1980)

I just watched this movie (called: "Deutschland bleiche Mutter" in German.)It is  a West German movie about one family during and after World War 2. I have to say that it was pretty boring. It showed all the aspects of life on the German home-front that we are taught in school (the air raids, the arrests of the Jews, fleeing a war zone and building again.) It is supposed to be the story of the author and her parents - the author was born during an air raid. I don't know if it is a true story of not. In either case it wasn't anything new or interesting.
I did find one scene interesting. The mother was making a blouse to wear for when her soldier husband comes home on leave and she runs out of red thread. She is told that the place she buys it from is closed and the owners "sent away" because they are Jews. Rather than showing any sympathy for the owners she goes to the store and gets her thread. That is the true story of the German home-front during the war. Even those who weren't in the Nazi Party do not care about the Jews or the others because they are the "Master Race" and they need their thread.
This film is one of those that you can skip watching. It doesn't make you pity anyone (except maybe the author who was a child.) The husband was the typical German husband - he wants what he wants right then and there and the wife was the typical German haus frau. They have problems (both because of the war and because of their marriage) and are made out to be the victims - which I don't buy.
If the movie had focused on the author and her experiences growing up after the war and dealing with what her parents and the older generations had done then the movie would have been much better.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Tonight's show was alright. Their family members came. Coby was acting like a stupid kid always shouting as his brother for no reason. I wouldn't think that Rupert would be married since he looked like a homeless bum even before the game started. Jerri won the reward and immediately took Sandra and Parvati which really got Russell mad - it was nice to see him not get his way for once.
Parvati won immunity. Sandra played the idol - which surprised everyone (especially Russell) since no one knew she had it. She didn't need it, but it was the last time she could have used it anyways. In the end Rupert was sent home. I'm glad that he is out. He just looks and acts like one of those sick mountain men who is very creepy. I would have liked to see Russell kicked off, but no one is smart enough yet to realize that.
This Sunday is the season finale.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


This week was the season finale. The teams flew from Shanghai to San Francisco. The models had a bad taxi guy (who couldn't seem to speak English) and so they weren't in the running to win. I thought it was funny at the end when they stood up to the lesbians who were just sore losers. The models may not be the smartest people, but they did come in third place. The gay brothers cheated and played the game badly, but in the end won (mostly because of their cheating.)It seems that in all the reality shows I watch the winners are usually the cheaters and liars.
The Cowboys played a great game. They had some pretty funny moments, but in the end they got most of the first place prizes along the race and did so in a way that kept their country respectability.The Star Wars challenge was good and showed (once again) how considerate the Cowboys are.They didn't need to liar or cheat and could use their intelligence and physical skills to play well. In my opinion they are the best overall team this season.

День Победы!

From Wikipedia:
"2010 Moscow Victory Day Parade"

The Moscow Victory Day Parade of 2010 was held on 9 May 2010 to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany. The parade marks the Soviet Union's victory in the Great Patriotic War.

The 2010 parade was the largest parade held in Moscow since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and saw 10,000 troops, 127 aircraft and helicopters, and the new Topol-M mobile ICBM missile, taking part. For the first time, the 2010 parade also includes military units from foreign countries who were allied with the Soviet Union during World War II, with representation from France, Poland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The 9 May Victory Day Parade in Moscow involved more than 10,000 troops marching, 160 military vehicles and 127 military aircraft, making it the largest parade to be held since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Twenty aviation groups of the Russian Air Force took part in the parade, which saw the Ilyushin Il-76, Ilyushin Il-78, Antonov An-124, Sukhoi Su-27, Ilyushin Il-80, Beriev A-50, Tupolev Tu-22M3, Sukhoi Su-25, Mikoyan MiG-29, Mikoyan MiG-31, Tupolev Tu-95 and Tupolev Tu-160 performing fly-bys. Also taking part for the first time were Yakovlev Yak-130 and Mil Mi-26 aircraft and helicopters. It was also announced that the mobile ICBM Topol-M missile will make its first appearance at the 2010 parade.

Foreign military
The 2010 Parade marks the first time that foreign soldiers have joined Russian forces on Red Square for the parade. The United States was represented by the 2nd Battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment. The United Kingdom was represented by a detachment from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and the Central Band of the Royal Air Force. Poland was represented by the Guards of Honour of the Polish Army. France was represented by pilots and aircraft from the Normandie-Niemen Air Regiment. Battalions from the armed forces from the Commonwealth of Independent States also marched on Red Square., with troops from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Ukraine among them. Upon request from the government of Turkmenistan, the contingent from Turkmenistan was led by an officer riding on horseback, with the horse being flown into Moscow from Ashgabat.

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation held a May Day rally in Moscow, at which several thousand protesters used the rally to decry the inclusion of troops from NATO countries in the Parade.

International dignitaries

World leaders present at the 2010 Victory Day ParadeMihai Ghimpu, the Acting President of Moldova stated in late April 2010 that after previously accepting an invitation from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to attend the celebrations, that he would not be attending, claiming "I have no ties with Moscow. Only the victorious are going, what will the defeated do there?" Concerns also arose that a Moldovan contingent would not be able to attend the parade due to financial difficulties in the country, but a Moldovan government source told Kommersant that this was only an excuse, and Ghimpu was choosing to improve Moldova's relations with Romania, which was not invited to attend the celebrations as it was a Nazi ally during World War II. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to remarks by Ghimpu, which also included the opinion that Russia should pay Moldova compensation for what he claimed was a "Soviet occupation", by urging Moldovan authorities not to use the occasion for political speculation. King Michael of Romania, the last chief of state alive from WWII, was invited by Russian president Medvedev to attend the ceremony.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed her attendance on 30 April,as did Acting President of Poland Bronisław Komorowski. Komorowski's attendance is said to be part of an effort to bolster Poland–Russia relations, which had seen improvement after the death of Polish President Lech Kaczyński in a plane crash near Smolensk in early April 2010. Kaczyński is said to have confirmed his attendance at the Parade shortly prior to the crash in which he was killed,[11] with reports in the week prior to his death showing that he was questioning his attendance.

Chinese President Hu Jintao confirmed his attendance at the parade on 3 May. The following day Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič's attendance was confirmed. Other world leaders to have confirmed their attendance include Czech President Václav Klaus, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Serbian President Boris Tadić, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, and Vietnamese President Nguyễn Minh Triết, Leaders from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mongolia and Slovenia are also said to have confirmed their attendance.

Both the United Kingdom and the United States had planned to send high profile representatives. Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was invited to Russia, but because of the UK general election was unable to attend; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office suggested Charles, Prince of Wales, instead. Barack Obama, the President of the United States, was also unable to attend, but offered Vice President Joe Biden instead. According to The Guardian, both figures were rejected by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, however, in what was percieved as a diplomatic snub to both countries. This was put down to poor British relations with Russia over the UK's continuing refusal to extradite Boris Berezovsky over Russian charges of embezzlement, and because of Biden's close relations with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is widely unpopular in Russia because of the 2008 Russia–Georgia War. The UK and US were instead represented by their ambassadors to Russia, Dame Anne Pringle and John Beyrle respectively.

^ As I said before, it is about time Russia did this (invited the other Allies to join in the celebration.)I only wish they had invited all the former Soviet Republics - like Georgia. It is 65 years since the end of the war and while time passes the sacrifices of all the Allied men and women does not. ^

Saturday, May 8, 2010

65 Years: V-E Day!

From Deutsche Welle:
"Defeat or liberation? Germany looks back 65 years to the end of WWII"

Today is the 65th anniversary of V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day.) Countries in Western and Central Europe celebrate either their liberation from German occupation or their victory over German air raids. Countries not in Europe (ie the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc) celebrate their part in defeating the Germans. Countries in Eastern Europe tend to celebrate Victory Day tomorrow.
After 65 years there are still many people alive who actively participated in the war (as soldiers, victims, workers in war factories, etc) and we need to thank those that helped end the war (some have called them the "Greatest Generation"), remember those who died in it and question those who started it. While no blame should be placed on those Germans that were born from 1928 onwards those that were born before 1928 need to openly come to terms with what they did and did not do during the war. Seeing bad things happen and doing nothing is just as bad as personally doing the bad thing.
I am curious to see how Germans today feel about the end of the war. Do they believe the Allies liberated them or that we defeated them (as the article above suggests?) I think this question is different for the different German generations. Those that were old enough during the war probably see things differently then all the other generations born after the war and have grown up knowing the whole horrors of what their country did.
V-E Day is the first major step in ending a war that killed an estimated 40-60 million people covered every part of the globe. While the Germans started the European war and actively strove to wipe out millions upon millions of people (an estimated 20 million in the USSR alone) we shouldn't forget that the Japanese also were involved - in the Asian war, but that is for another day (V-J Day.) Even though 65 years have passed and many people are trying to rewrite history to portray themselves as victims or just in a better light the facts are the facts and no one person or country can change them. The fact is the Germans started the war, occupied most of Europe, created concentration and death camps, bombed cities and towns and enslaved millions. The Allies (the Americans, British and Soviets) defeated the Germans and all the evil they created and liberated the world from the Nazis.,,5546769,00.html

Friday, May 7, 2010

Medvedev On The War

From Russia Today:
"Russian president gives his view on WWII"

Dmitry Medvedev gave his take on World War II in interview with Izvestia newspaper. The victory over Nazi Germany belongs to the people first and foremost, not the military commanders, the Russian leader said.

Propeller Izvestia: Mr. Medvedev, you probably remember how in the past they often said that every family in our country was affected by the war in one way or another. How did the war affect your family?

Dmitry Medvedev: You know, I think that it’s really a very accurate phase, pronounced not for the sake of beautifying the language, not just a figure of speech. The war really affected every Soviet family – some more, some less. For many people the war was accompanied by the loss of close people, for some by the difficulties which everybody who lived in that period in our country was to overcome.

My relatives, both on my mother’s and father’s side, naturally, were affected by the war too. Both of my grandfathers (Afanasiy on my father’s side and Veniamin on my mother’s) fought in the war, they both went through all kinds of trials during the war. When I visited my grandfather Afanasy as a little boy (he lived in Krasnodar), he told me stories about the war. It had a great impact on me. He always spoke from the heart, with tears in his eyes. He told me about things that no one really wrote about back then. He fought a lot, in different places, had a serious wound, and received many awards. His stories spoke to me. I really took them to heart.

My other grandfather Veniamin also told me a lot about the war and what he felt back then. I still remember him telling me how difficult it was to shoot at people, how awful it felt, how hard it was to do that, even though he knew that he was defending his country, his family, from the invaders who had come to our land, killing our people, burning down our towns and villages. It is a very personal thing. For some reason when I was little I didn’t think much about it. But as I grow older, I start to realize what it means – to be in the front line, to face the enemy.

My parents were evacuees. Mother, when very young, was in Tajikistan; she was just a few years old when the war started; she lived there together with my grandmother when my grandfathers were at war. The reminiscences about the past create a special atmosphere, when we mark the 9th of May. For example, I remember 1975, I was 10 back then. People celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War. The war veterans with decorations and medals looked so happy. The music played and they were hugging each other, and there were so many of them. Whenever we went – to the Victory monument, to the Piskarevskoe Memorial Cemetery – there were a lot of veterans, there was a holiday atmosphere. I’ll remember it for all my life.

I: You were born 20 years after the victory. For you the war is part of history, not part of your life. How have your views on the Great Patriotic War changed over the years and who influenced your views? Who influenced you in changing your attitude towards this war and how?

DM: My attitude has not changed radically. It’s the same on the crucial issues.
What was the Great Patriotic War for our country? A huge armada of invaders attacked our country, inflicting pain and death. No matter how many years pass, you cannot change this fact. Despite the fact that I was born a long time after the war was over, and that the current generation knows about war only from books, movies and war stories, this thing is absolutely clear for everyone who lives in this country. So of course, this war is part of history, but it’s part of recent history, and that’s my point.

You can talk a lot that these or those events could have taken a different course. But as for the Great Patriotic War, we still have many people who participated in it and witnessed it happen. It’s not what happened two or three hundred years ago, though there were global catastrophes too and there were great wars.

So, my views on the war have not changed radically. Of course, something changed, because we got access to many materials only in the late 1980s, when archives were declassified and published, and we gained access to some sources previously closed to the public. For a long time the war was portrayed only as a great victory of the Soviet people and the Red Army. But the war was also a huge number of deaths and immense suffering that the Soviet people went through together with other European countries. So, in this sense, I guess my views changed to a degree.

I: Not so long ago you declared war on history falsification and created a special Commission to Counter Attempts to Falsify History. What exactly prompted you to do this? Do you think it’s possible to write an objective history and avoid political and emotional interpretations?

DM: What prompted me was the disgusting conduct of some politicians who used pseudo-academic interpretations of those events for their own petty purposes, just to score some extra points in politics. But our main goal is not to respond to specific people. After all, God will judge them, so to speak. The main thing is our future. What memories will we pass down to the next generation? What will our children and grandchildren think about the war? What will they know about the war? What lessons will they learn from this war?

For our generation, for those of our age, for older ones, and for those who are younger, the words “fascism” and “Nazism” have a strong negative connotation. But, unfortunately, this is not true for everyone. For instance, in Europe, in many countries, fascists are being rehabilitated. Even in our country there are freaks who use Nazi symbols and hold all kinds of gatherings under Nazi slogans. So, this is truly important. But the main thing is, we need to tell people the truth. And what is the truth?

Our people – those who lived in our country at that time – had no other choice. They could either die or become slaves. There was no other choice. So that’s the first thing. And that is an irrefutable fact.

Second, there is the question of who started the war, whose fault was it. The answer, again, is totally obvious. It can be found in the Nuremberg Trials materials, it was documented. But the answer could also be found in the memories of a great number of people. The attempt to reshuffle historic facts looks like an evil design.

We need to promote the truth. It doesn’t mean that our job is to argue over different theories. Scholars can propose their theories, argue their points, but there are facts that don’t need proof, because they are either obvious or they were carefully documented by international agencies, I am talking about such materials as the Nuremberg Trials records. These are the issues we shouldn’t argue about, because these arguments lead us down a bad path.

If at some point we decide that our work is over here, the committee will cease working as well.

I: The events in the Baltic States, Ukraine, and Georgia tell us that the history of the Second World War is being interpreted for the sake of somebody’s political interests. But we have to take into account the fact that different nations have different memories. What shall we do so that everybody will remember those who died fighting against Nazism with gratitude?

DM: Of course, every country has its own history, and it doesn’t make any sense to try to convince everyone that what happened after the war brought only good to the liberated countries. We would not be totally honest if we said that. Of course we have to understand that if the Soviet Union along with its allies had not liberated Europe, Europe would’ve been very different today. Most likely, it would’ve been one big concentration camp, serving one state.

Most of the people who live in Europe today would not have even been alive. I recently talked about this when we celebrated Liberation day with our colleagues from Slovakia. But on the other hand, post-war events are another part of history, which is absolutely idealized; but it’s clear that the Soviet Union as a state was pursuing its own purposes. The Soviet Union was a very complex state, and frankly, the regime that ruled the country after the well-known events was definitely totalitarian. Unfortunately, this was a regime which suppressed basic rights and freedoms not only of their own people, some of whom were sent to camps after they had won the war. The same happened in the other countries of the socialist camp. We can’t cross it off from history.

But this is what historians should be able to do – separate the mission of the Red Army and Soviet state during the war from what happened afterwards. Yes, it is hard to draw the line in real life, but we have to do it, in order to emphasize again – if it were not for the Soviet Army and the ultimate sacrifice that the Soviet people brought to the altar of this war, Europe would have been different. Obviously, there would not have been this prosperous, safe, wealthy, constantly developing Europe. And only a deaf person will not hear this argument.

I think that we simply should not be ashamed to talk about it, to return to the events of those times to speak about it everywhere: in our country, in the countries of our European neighbours, and from the UN as well as during any type of meetings, and talks. We should not be ashamed to tell the truth about the war – the truth we have suffered for. I think this will be a most honest and truthful thing to do.

You’ve mentioned several countries, in which they tend to make heroes of the Nazi criminals. This is very sad. No one is trying to idealize the role that the Soviet Union played after the war. But we should never say that the executors were the victims. Those who say that our army played the same role as the fascist invaders commit a moral crime.

I only want to emphasize that Germans in this sense act with a lot more dignity than certain Baltic States, for example, even though it is a very sensitive issue for them. On the other hand there are some post-war decisions that cannot be reversed. I am talking about the decisions of the Nuremberg Trials, for example. That’s when crimes committed by the Nazis were qualified as crimes against humanity. There is no statute of limitation on these crimes, and people should be punished for them indefinitely.

I: But, Mr. Medvedev, when Nazis are being prosecuted today, when these very old men stand trial, questions are raised if there is any point in prosecuting them. Maybe we should just pardon all of them? Many years have passed; somehow they survived, but maybe it makes sense to not prosecute them, so that awful history doesn’t repeat itself…

DM: Do you mean the crimes for which the notorious Demyanyuk is standing trial? It’s not about names, but the thing is that such crimes have no statute of limitation, whoever we are talking about. It is the issue of our moral responsibility before the next generations, and if we turn a blind eye to these crimes now, feeling sorry for the criminals, then such crimes could be repeated in the future in one form or another, in one state or another. So it may sound harsh, but these crimes really don’t have a statute of limitation, meaning that those who committed them should be prosecuted and punished, no matter how old they are.

I: While Russian history books contain most of the details, in Western countries victory is attributed to the West – the Allies won, and the Soviet Union just participated. So it’s like we are losing our victory. Many people don’t know anything about the major losses of the Soviet Union in this war, they don’t know that it was the Red Army that entered and seized Berlin, and they don’t know many things. What can we do in order not to lose our victory?

DM: I think that in this country everything is more or less fine regarding this issue, despite various viewpoints – and that’s what I’ve mentioned already – on the whole no power can change our attitude to the victory.

The fact is that Hitler lost about three quarters of his army on the Eastern Front to the Soviet Army. About 70 per cent of all losses – material, ammunition – were inflicted by our soldiers. That is the truth. But of course you can make movies about that. And if you do it professionally, and we know that our partners are very good at making films, then you can make everybody think that this is where the war was won, and then the ultimate truth will be the movie “Saving Private Ryan”. It is a pretty good movie. But it doesn’t mean that it tells the truth. It’s a blockbuster about war, although its creator might have been pursuing some good purposes. But we should remember what was going there in reality. I would like to note that our cinema – both Soviet and modern – in this sense is at the highest level of quality, as it seems to me. Even taking into account the fact that in Soviet times our cinema contained a lot of ideology, and did not stand the test of time in some respects, the movies from the Soviet period are high-quality: “The Cranes Fly”, “The Belorussky Railway Station”, “They Fought for the Homeland”; even “The 17 Moments of Spring”, which was actually an adventure film. But at the same time, it’s a perfectly made film about war. The more we show such films, the better. And we also should make new movies, using new film-making technology. It’s not necessary to copy what we have already. I think there is room for experiment here. But the main thing is that they reach the aim to tell the truth. That’s what’s important.

Text-books in Russia are a separate topic. And we can talk about it later. I think that the attitude to war is really being formed by books, when people begin reading. In this respect, the mission of text-books and historic literature is absolutely clear. At the moment a lot of books on the events of the Patriotic War have been printed. They are being updated and edited: new research results are added, facts are proved, and topics for discussion appear.

But in my opinion the essence of this research should be written in text-books, taking into account the facts I’ve discussed with you – that the basic facts cannot be distorted. Children wherever they live – in Russia or other countries – are absolutely open to new knowledge. If they start receiving incorrect information from a young age, it will be hard to change their viewpoint later on. We know how hard it was for some of our people when after certain events they had to face the truth about some dramatic pages of our history related to activity of some of the leaders of our country.

I: Over the years the official number of losses of the Soviet Union in this war changed many times. When Stalin was in power, the official number was 14 million; under Khrushchev and Brezhnev, 20 million; under Gorbachev the number grew to 27 million – and the issue is still being researched. Do you think we will ever be given the final number and find out how many people we lost?

DM: It is a difficult issue. I remember very well, at the end of the last series of an epic movie “Liberation” there were numbers of losses in the Second World War. The numbers were awful. And the last line was about the losses of the Soviet Union. It was written: “Over 20 million Soviet people died in this war”. 14 million, 20 million, 27 million are huge, gigantic numbers. But we should not simplify the situation. We need to finish this work.

What is this work about? We need to determine what kind of losses we are talking about. There were losses during the war itself – people who were killed in battle, died of wounds during the war and after the war. And there are also those who were captured by Germans and died – died of starvation, died in air raids, died on occupied territories. All archives have been declassified, no problems there. The General Staff is supervising this work. There is a commission working on this problem. I hope they will finish this work. But we are to make it very accurately.

I: Lately you have been asked to share your opinion on Stalin’s role in this war. Our newspaper can’t help asking the same question from the following angle – yes, Stalin led the country in a very difficult time. Yes, Stalin ended up the leader of a victorious country. But what right do we have to turn a tyrant into a hero, only because he held the highest post at the time. If we look at Germany, Hitler solved the unemployment problem in the country during the Great Depression, built roads and so forth, but no one there is trying to turn this terrible person into a hero. There is no road named after him. And they do not hang his portraits around the country on holidays.

DM: There are several obvious things – our people won the Great Patriotic War, not Stalin, not even military commanders, even though their role was very important. But the people won the war, this victory cost them many lives and enormous effort.

Stalin’s role could be viewed differently. Some think that his role as Supreme Commander-in-Chief was crucial, others disagree. If we talk about the official position of the leadership of the state, then we can say that since the new Russian state was formed, this position has been clear – Stalin committed many crimes against his people. And even though he worked a lot, even though the country achieved a lot under his leadership, we cannot pardon what he did to his own people. That’s the first thing.

Secondly, people who like Stalin or hate Stalin have the right to feel what they feel. It is not surprising that many veterans, people from the victorious generation, like Stalin. I think they have a right to that. Every person has the right for personal attitudes. But these personal opinions should not influence the official position of the state, which is clear, and I just reiterated it for you.

Sometimes I think that this topic is overemphasized. If we talk about attitudes toward Stalin and some other leaders, then I can say that in the 1990s there were also many fans of this man, but no one talked about renaissance of Stalinism. Now all of a sudden it becomes an issue. Yes, historic figures could become idols that people worship. Sometimes it is the young people who do it, especially young people with leftist views. But it’s their business. Of course in the hearts of the majority of people in the world Stalin’s figure does not cause any warm feelings.

But we should not be saying that Stalinism becomes our every day reality, because we are going to use some of the symbols of the past, some posters, something else. It is not happening and it will not happen. There is absolutely no chance, and this is today’s state ideology if you will. It is my position as the President of the Russian Federation. So here I would draw the line between personal opinions and the official position of our state.

I: Mr. Medvedev, as a politician, can you find an explanation to the fact that Stalin had ignored all kinds of warnings about the coming aggression on the part of Germany?

DM: As you know I am not a historian, although as a politician and official, I know a lot about our history. I can’t take the liberty to state why he ignored them, though there are films and books about it. I think, he just wanted it to be like that. He believed that his agreements would be stronger than, for example, what Chamberlain and Daladier were counting on when signing the Munich Agreement. As we know they did not get what they had expected. There is a famous quote of Churchill that they were choosing between shame and war, but they got first shame and then war. Stalin was facing the same situation of making a difficult choice. He planned to postpone the grave results and must have figured out something wrong. But it’s evident that later he had to pay for those wrong assessments, and the price was very high – the lives of our people. It’s common knowledge that history does not know conjecture.

But it’s a very sensible topic. I would like to emphasize that it’s already not evaluating Stalin as the person who is responsible in front of the Russian and Soviet people, but it is gauging Stalin as the country’s leader of that period. He made both strong and weak decisions, including during the war. You can’t cross out any.

On the other hand it’s clear that our country could have prepared for the war against Hitler if not for repressions against military officials, if not for the theories that Hitler would not attack our country at that time.

I: Any war is, among other things, a hard lesson both for those victorious and those defeated. The future of the countries depends on whether the leaders have learned the lessons of war. What are the lessons of that war for you, the third president of Russia?

DM: The main lesson is that we must, together with other countries, with other members of the international community, do our best to remove such threats. Any attempts to appease an aggressor, a dictator, usually don’t yield a positive outcome, especially after this dictator has grown strong and got going. Therefore our task today is to create a reliable system of international security. What does it mean? It means to be in contact constantly and create international conditions for solving such problems.

Mankind drew serious lessons from the Second World War; we created a very important international instrument, like for example the Organization of the United Nations. We now have international judicial authorities. We have many international conventions on crimes against mankind, crimes committed by international criminals.

The current system of international security is not perfect, and I had to mention this more than once. That is why we came up with the idea to create a new European security structure – a European Security Treaty. The idea is obvious enough, even though it caused a mixed reaction. Some think it is a clever plan Russia designed to weaken NATO, to drive a wedge between the United States and European countries and play them against each other. I have mentioned more than once that this treaty pursues quite different goals. We must simply find a forum where we can address a whole range of various problems. We must find a way to resolve differences.

If we had effective institutions for European security, we could have definitely avoided the events of August 2008. There could have been an international arbitration between the parts of Georgia that wanted independence and core Georgia, international mechanisms could have been used. That did not happen. Another, sadder thing happened. People were killed. A military conflict erupted, and we had to resolve it.

Therefore, this task is not abstract or diplomatic; it is absolutely practical. I think that our predecessors were thinking about the same in the 1930s, but they did not have enough courage to make the corresponding decisions. The result is well-known – the gravest and bloodiest war in the history of the mankind. That is why we have to create modern international mechanisms.

We all remember pretty well that after the war, in 1975, the Helsinki Act of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe was adopted. But time marches on, and a lot of time has passed since then. What are we to do? We are to create new frameworks without rejecting previous experience, and use the current knowledge.

I: The post-war order in Europe and the transatlantic region was fully established by 1975, 30 long years after the war had been won. Quite soon after, in 1985, violations of the Helsinki Treaty started occurring. Since then, the political map of Europe has been subject to constant change. A lot of people think that was a defeat for the USSR and a demonstration of weakness on the part of the new Russia. What can you say about this?

DM: On any account, the events that happened 14 or 15 years after the Helsinki agreement had been signed helped to unite Europe. This is one point I want to make.

Secondly, that was what ended the Cold War. The Cold War was essentially a war with no winners. Everyone lost. So to put an end to it was a victory for everyone because the confrontation that was there before went away. The direct threat of military conflict ceased, the tensions in Europe were relaxed. People could at last talk to each other freely and visit each other’s countries. On the whole we are living in a different Europe now. It really is different. But of course the historical events of those times were quite dramatic for many European countries, including Russia. As part of the large Soviet state, we saw a dramatic period when our country was broken up and smaller sovereign states were formed. These states included modern Russia. It was a very difficult process.

Anyone is free to look at that period any way they want to. Some think it was humiliating for many of our people. Others see a positive side to it. I think only history can give us a final answer about that historical period. But no matter how we feel about what has happened those events were extremely dramatic.

I: Mr. Medvedev, after the Iron Curtain fell and our people began to travel around the world, one could often hear a bitter question: “Why do the defeated live in better conditions than the victors?” In twenty years, we have not heard a satisfactory answer.

DM: I wouldn’t take responsibility for everything that happened in Russia since the end of the Great Patriotic War, because I can only be responsible, legally and morally, for the period when I had the honor and responsibility to take charge of the country. But of course, as a person who lived in the Soviet Union and who now lives in Russia, I have a viewpoint on this. My position is as follows:

During the Great Patriotic War, during World War II, the Soviet Union achieved the most important goal: it defeated a very strong enemy, destroyed it and created conditions for Europe’s free development. It paid a huge price for that, at the same time helping all the people of Greater Europe.

After that, the Soviet Union took its own path. It maintained a very rigid social structure, totalitarian in essence, that suppressed a lot of economic processes. There had been repressions, victims and everything else usually associated with dictatorship.

This is why, regrettably, this period has not been fully taken advantage of (apart from the fact that we managed to restore the economy and create a very substantial foundation for the development of our industry). The country and its economy could have been developed in a slightly different way, and that is what we have been doing for the past 20 years. The post-war period was a time of great achievements, but also a time of great trials and great problems. I don’t believe that the economic system and the political system we had after the war were fit for normal development. Hence the difference in living standards and the way people feel. Indeed, it hurts and all of us have had these feelings, especially when we went abroad for the first time. At the same time, we were aware of the price we paid for Europe’s well-being – for all that material abundance, bright shop windows, well-to-do people and the smiles on their faces. And we did not have a definite answer as to why what we had was different.

I would not want to “blackwash” that period, however. Our fathers and grandfathers lived and worked at that time. Indeed we lived through a part of that period. There were many bright moments as well. But the fact is we failed to find solutions to a number of problems. And, this, by the way, is related to the Soviet Union’s break-up.

Had the Soviet Union been more competitive and had conditions for economic development based on modern principles, everything could have been different and the Soviet Union could have been more appealing to our people, and we could have avoided those dramatic events of the late 1980s and the early 1990s that eventually led to its disintegration.

I: A massive number of military archives are still not completely accessible to the general public. Perhaps it is time to digitize these archives? It would help a lot of people find out what happened to their grandfathers and learn the stories of their families if they could access, or at least request access to archives over the Internet.

DM: Not only is it time, we are actually working on it. You know, I’m a big fan of digital technology. It’s very convenient to store large amounts of data by digital means. In earlier days, if you wanted to put together any official document, you had to pick up a huge book, dig around in it and make notes. There were advantages to that too, you know, since a person, whether willingly or not, would go through a lot of interesting material that would be in that huge book to get to what he or she was looking for.

It’s easier today. All you have to do is load up a digital document to a storage site, then punch something in on the keyboard and you have your information. Very convenient! We have to use this, and do so openly, declassifying all kinds of documents from the Great Patriotic War. Enough time has passed – 65 years – the people have to know the truth about the war, and the events that occurred in the period of recent history.

Let us remember the pre-war period too, and the events that took place at the start of the war. The Katyn incident, for example. This is a very sad page in our history. A sad page that we never learned the complete truth about. In spite of the fact that all the archives have been revealed to the public, people are still seriously arguing about who made the decision to execute the Polish officers. I have seen these discussions myself. I’ve given an order to remind the people that the archives have been made public. But there are still discussions. Why? Well, first of all because the subject had been, at a time, classified and secondly because false information had been given to the public. This is a classic example of historical falsification. History is not only falsified by those who live abroad. We, ourselves, allow this distortion of history to happen. The truth has to be told, in the end, both to our people and to those foreigners who are interested in hearing it.
This is just one page of our history, but it could be very important. This is why the more archives we make public and freely accessible the better. I think this should ultimately result in a system of wartime archives that would allow any Russian citizen or any interested foreign citizen to freely access any non-classified document, and by now all the documents pertaining to that period should be declassified.

I: Mr. Medvedev, the anti-Hitler coalition united countries that seemed impossible to unite, and this union was effective: they defeated a powerful, well-organised enemy. The bloc system remained after the victory, with two giant blocs created. But the situation changed, and today our country is no longer a member of a big, powerful bloc. Of course, we are member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. Yet this bloc cannot be compared with, say, NATO. Does it make sense for Russia to join a military bloc today? If yes, which bloc should it join?

DM: As I have already mentioned to you, I believe the end of the Cold War and of bloc mentality helped unite Europe and produced a Europe where life is comfortable and interesting. I mean Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation. So, the bloc system is good for nothing, although some think that blocs provide balance. They say, “When we had the Warsaw Pact and NATO, everything was balanced. As soon as one of the blocs collapsed, conflicts and turf wars ensued.” It is a lopsided position, although it’s obviously important to have counterbalances in the world. The question is, what kind of counterbalances do we need? Should they be based on weapons only? Should they be based on a strategic deterrent alone? In my view, the answer is no.

This is why we talk about a multi-polar world. Otherwise, we have to make a conclusion that only one system of bloc security can provide security and prosperity on our planet. But that’s not true, and the events of 1990s – some of which, incidentally, happened in Europe – the events in the Middle East, in the Caucasus and other places have demonstrated that, unfortunately, no bloc can fulfil its purpose and maintain security at a proper level. Hence, we need to create mechanisms that would work outside blocs.

At the same time, we do have certain obligations to our partners. We have the CSTO – the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which comprises some nations that are very close to us. It’s not a military bloc in the traditional sense. It is an organisation that ensures security of its member states. According to the CSTO Charter, an attack against any of the member states is considered an attack against all, just like in NATO. But this does not mean that we should return to bloc mentality and turn the CSTO into a new Warsaw Pact, build up our arsenal and compete with NATO. We know what impact such competition had on the Soviet Union, how exhausting the arms race was for our country and what the outcome was: inefficient economy, no market, an endless arms race, and the collapse of the state.

At the same time, we surely should preserve our strategic capabilities. The world is complex, and a lot of countries are seeking nuclear weapons. From time to time, they threaten the world with a big nuclear stick, or threaten to produce nuclear weapons. They test new hardware. Considering this, we cannot forget about security. Therefore our strategic nuclear component is a very efficient element in protecting our national interests. We should not overestimate its significance, but we shouldn’t underestimate it as well—and the way it affects the balance of forces in the world. So we must improve our defense system and at the same time work out agreements with our main partners, which is actually what we did recently when we signed a new START Treaty with the United States. We set a certain limit, and we reached a compromise that allows us to protect our interests and allows the Americans to protect their interests without wreaking havoc. I think this is the best way.

I: During Perestroika when the people of the Soviet Union opened its doors to the world, you could feel that civilizations had grown up, the world order had matured and nothing like World War II would ever happen again. But 20 years later, the world is still torn apart by conflict. Do you think there is at least a hypothetic possibility of a military conflict that would be similar to World War II in scale?

DM: Unfortunately, such a conflict is possible, because there are all sorts of countries on our planet, and they have all sorts of interests. This planet has a huge amount of weapons, and there are people who still consider war as a means for solving their political problems. After all, accidents will happen. So we must be prepared. What do we need for that?

As I have said, we need to work within the world community, within the United Nations and the OSCE in Europe. We need new treaties similar to the European Security Treaty. We are currently working on all these things and we will keep on working.

Then, of course, we have to be ready to be strong. We have to be ready to face problems. This is invariable. No matter how much we love peace, we have to be prepared to defend our country. This means we have to maintain our armed forces, take care of the army and build modern weapons. This includes providing appropriate living conditions and salaries to servicemen. We need an efficient, well-trained army, compact but strong, composed of well-trained officers and soldiers. This is absolutely imperative, it’s a priority for us. As the supreme commander of the military, I have been and will remain dedicated to this to avoid being weak at a time of military threat.

I: In the Soviet era, the endless Cold War was seen as an unpleasant, but explainable phenomenon: two opposing political systems were fighting each other. It’s been 20 years without the Soviet Union, but it seems as if the Cold War is not over. Why do you think some in the United States and Western Europe still view our country with suspicion? And what should be done to dispel this suspicion?

DM: In fact, I can tell you more: people in Russia, too, are suspicious of America, other NATO members and even other countries that are simply major players on the international arena. Why is that? It’s because of our history, the way we used to perceive each other. You and I remember well what we had in the Soviet period. We had a set of stereotypes concerning each other. Just recall what they used to tell us at school about Americans and Europeans. This position was totally based on ideology. It pursued obvious goals—to make us consider people who lived there as our enemies. It was a way of keeping the government efficient and achieving certain political goals.

They had the same thing. In fact many stereotypes of the past are still here today, more or less. Perhaps it is particularly true in the West, because, frankly speaking, many of our people wanted a new life in late 1980s and the early 1990s. And there was a kind of romantic period in our relations with the West. We thought they would welcome us as an open, modern country that no longer threatened anybody. We thought we would quickly and easily be integrated with other civilised developed nations.

Something different followed though. First of all, we ourselves were not fully ready to do this quickly since there was a certain inertia to our thinking. The need to create a modern economy in our country remained, and remains up to the present moment. There is also the process of civil society institutions maturing. But the people in the West, too, were not fully ready to give up their stereotypes.

If you listen to what parliaments and political circles in other countries discuss, you may be amazed. There are all sorts of vestiges from the Cold War, some absolutely foolish things. For example, restrictions that were imposed on the Soviet Union long ago. Or their concept of how things work in Russia. Or even their idea of how we live in our daily life. You know, sometimes I watch Hollywood movies, and even though they have excellent actors, an excellent cast, perfect scene sequence and a big budget – the way they portray Russia today is just a bunch of absurd, ludicrous ideas. Russia is a country where it is always raining or snowing, where everything is bad, people are mean, all they can do is drink vodka all the time, they are aggressive, they like to fight, they can attack you any moment – you have to keep an eye on them, otherwise, they will stab you in the back. Everything is bad!

I understand that perhaps they don’t do it on purpose. It’s not like they want to create a conflict between our countries. But these stereotypes prevent us from understanding each other and poisons the atmosphere on our planet. This doesn’t go for Russia alone either. A number of our neighbours, major developing countries are stereotyped as well. I think we need to get rid of that sort of thinking. We have some work to do here as well. I would not want to be one to cast stones at Europeans or Americans alone, we harbour a lot of misconceptions too. But, as I see it, we have managed to make better progress in getting rid of them.

I: Russia and Japan haven’t signed a peace treaty yet. Japan refuses to sign the treaty before Russia returns the South Kuril Islands, and this story has been dragging on for 65 years. Do you think a peace treaty between Russia and Japan will be ever concluded? And what would be its terms?

DM: As you know, we are no longer at war with Japan after we signed a declaration in 1956. We have normalized our relations, and we are developing our political and economic contacts. There are problems, of course, including the well-known territorial problem, the problem of a peace treaty that Japan links to the territorial dispute. It is a very complex problem, but it does not mean we should not address it. We are working on it. We have our own ideas about how it could be resolved, taking into account, first and foremost, the interests of the Russian Federation. Our Japanese partners are doing the same.

I believe if we work actively and fairly, and if we abandon extreme positions, eventually this problem may be resolved at some point.

I: The title “City of Martial Glory” was established only four years ago. Over the four years it has been awarded to 27 Russian cities. With all due respect to these cities’ heads and defenders, one has to note that the “Hero City” title has only been awarded to 12 cities in the Soviet Union, six of which are in Russia. Is it really necessary to expand the list? Don’t you think it might devalue the concept of hero cities? If so, how do we avoid that?

DM: No, there will be no devaluation of that concept of course. Grand events occurred over the course of the war. Some of them were exemplary combat operations, some, such as the Leningrad Blockade, brought great suffering to our people. But there have been other events. They were less significant, but they ultimately affected the flow of very large-scale operations and helped our cause. If we talk about “Cities of Martial Glory”, the title is awarded not only to the cities that somehow played a role in the Great Patriotic War, but to all cities that have made a contribution to Russia’s history.

I recently awarded these certificates to five cities and it was not all related to the Great Patriotic War. Some of the cities’ histories were connected with the great Northern war, the War of 1812 and the overcoming the Time of Troubles. It is our history. I think it’s a very good thing, in any case, to return to the events of past times and address them correctly. This, at the same time, makes the inhabitants of those cities happy. They understand that their history is part to the unique history of our country.

I: Military and patriotic education was the base of any Soviet child’s upbringing. What’s important here is that “military” goes hand-in-hand with “patriotic”. How would you describe a modern Russian patriot, the new kind?

DM: This is a simple question. A Russian patriot is a man who loves his country, with all of her contradictions, in times of development and decline, in times of change, catastrophes and tragedies. It is a man who really, truly loves his country.

I: Today, May 7th, marks the two-year anniversary since you started your work in office as the President of Russia. The attention that has been paid to war veterans over this time, both those who fought at the frontline and labored at home. Providing new apartments for them and raising their pensions are the obvious achievements that have been made over these two years. What other indisputable achievements would you say have been made over that period?

DM: You know, it would be indiscreet and plain wrong of me to talk about achievements. A president has to have a critical approach to his own work. If we’ve done something good, that is a good result. But I have to say something I consider to be of prime importance about the veterans. On May 7, 2008, the day I took power, I decreed that the problem of veterans’ housing should be solved. We did it. Those who signed up for their apartments first will receive them in the nearest future. The others, who signed up on March 1, 2005, will be able to move into their apartments very soon too.

You know, some people say “I know why they decided to do this now – there are few veterans left. Why didn’t they do this before?” I cannot be responsible for those who worked on the problem before me. But I considered it my moral obligation to solve the problem. The fact that we did this now, at this time is, I think, absolutely positive.

Veterans are indeed being paid special attention. We are working on various programs to support them. Recently I paid a visit to a hospital for Great Patriotic War veterans. It was looking good. As of now, we have over 50 such hospitals in Russia. Funds are allocated to run them, to buy new medical equipment. We even organized a contest to help the doctors who work there with a little money.

I think we have managed to make the difficult life of our veterans a little brighter, if only by monetary means. It’s not a huge sum, but the fact that a Great Patriotic War veteran today gets paid about 23,000 rubles a month, including the various relief and security payments, I think this means that we have fulfilled a small part of our responsibility to take care of the veterans. We will keep working on it, of course. It is extremely important for our future, so that future generations have the right attitude towards future veterans. We need to do this in order to maintain the connection between generations and people, between today’s generation and the generation that brought us this precious victory.

I: Mr. Medvedev, there are a lot of monuments in Russia and other European countries depicting the events and heroes of World War II. Which of these monuments do you find the most impressive and why?

DM: I come from St. Petersburg, so, of course, that part of the country is special to me. As a schoolboy, and at a later time in my life, I would frequent Piskarevka. A lot of people are buried there. Not only do we not know their names and surnames, were still unable to ascertain their total number. There are no names on the tombstones, only plaques saying that this mass grave was dug in 1941 and the next in 1942. It is a very sad sight and it burns into your memory. The metronome that you hear when approaching the monument…

Besides that cemetery I have, of course, visited other memorial sites and I still visit them. I can’t fail to mention Mamayev Kurgan, absolutely epic. I visited it several times over the past few years. It is a unique place, not only for its role in the Great Patriotic War, but for its energy. When you come there, you feel like you are in touch with that historical period, with the events that took place there.

I have to mention one other event that happened fairly recently and that I personally participated in. I’m talking about the ceremony that marked the re-lighting of the Eternal Flame at the Unknown Soldier Memorial in Alexandrovsky Sad. The memorial had just been restored at that time. It was very personal, but the emotions were so strong that I have to mention it. You know, emotionally it must have been one of the most moving days in my life: I understood the huge responsibility and felt like I touched history. I will never forget that day.

I: Thank you, Mr. Medvedev, for the interview! Our best wishes on Victory Day!

DM: Thank you very much. I wish you and your newspaper all the best, and through your newspaper I would like to congratulate our veterans and our entire country, because this holiday is extremely popular among our people.

^ I find Medvedev's answers to be different from Putin's (during the 60th anniversary of Victory Day five years ago.) Maybe that means there is progress in Russia afterall. ^

Former Allies To March

From the Moscow Times:
"Allied Troops to Join 10,500 Russian Soldiers in Victory Parade"

More than 10,500 Russian soldiers will march for the first time alongside troops from the United States, France, Britain and Poland in a larger-than-life parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany this weekend, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said Thursday.

The Victory Day parade, which will start at 10 a.m. Sunday, will also include servicemen from nine other former Soviet republics, and 25 foreign leaders are to join President Dmitry Medvedev in the stands to watch the procession on Red Square.

The one-hour parade will feature six types of defense equipment for the first time — the Pantsir-S1 and Buratino air-defense systems, the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile, the Yak-130 trainer and the Mi-28 and Ka-52 helicopters, Vedomosti reported.

A total of 161 tanks and missiles will roll through the square, and 127 aircraft will soar over it, Serdyukov said.

Rehearsals for the parade have been going on for the past week, shutting down traffic in downtown Moscow for several hours every day.

“We see preparations for the parade as an element of our military preparedness,” Serdyukov said in an interview published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

The foreign troops are training together with their Russian counterparts.

“I think they are just as glad to take part in the parade as we are,” Serdyukov said.

On Wednesday, Defense Ministry officials presented the visiting servicemen with commemorative medals in red boxes for participating in the parade.

Serdyukov said the USS Blue Ridge and USS Kaufman warships would make friendly calls to Vladivostok and Murmansk on Sunday. The French anti-submarine frigate Latouche-Treville will also visit Murmansk.

Among the foreign leaders planning to attend are French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan will watch their troops march on Red Square. Kyrgyzstan will be represented by the head of the interim government, Roza Otunbayeva.

Creating a minor flap, the Defense Ministry first rejected and then approved an application by the Turkmen commander to lead his troops on horseback. The only commander to lead the troops on horseback previously was Red Army Marshal Georgy Zhukov during the first Victory Day parade in 1945.

Acting Moldovan President Mihai Ghimpu, whose government ousted a Russia-friendly regime last year, declined an invitation to attend this year’s parade, and his country will be represented by its ambassador to Moscow. Moldova earlier balked at sending troops to the parade, citing the cost, but will be represented by a contingent.

Troops from Belarus and Ukraine will also march, but their countries’ leaders opted to attend Victory Day parades at home instead of in Moscow.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who fought a brief war with Russia in August 2008, was not invited, Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko said.

In total, more than 102,000 Russian troops will take part in military parades around the country, Serdyukov said.

Streets near Red Square will be partly closed to traffic from 5 a.m. Sunday until the end of the parade, including Tverskaya Ulitsa, Novy Arbat, Novinsky Bulvar, police said.

^ I think it is about time that Russia officially recognized what the British and Americans did to defeat Germany. Tomorrow is the 65th anniversary of V-E Day around Europe (while Sunday is Victory Day in Russia.) I also believe it was poor taste for Russia to invite all the former Soviet republics to the Victory Day Parade in Moscow and they did not invite Georgia - it would have been a good way to restart relations between the two countries. ^

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Germany's Topography

From Deutsche Welle:
"'Topography of Terror' opens on site of former Gestapo headquarters"

This is the kind of reminder that German youths need. Even though they were not born and had nothing to do with the war or it's deaths visiting this museum will hopefully spark conversation between the youth and the older generations. They will see how ordinary Germans voted Hitler into power, sang at his parades, looked the other way as innocent people were deported and then tried to claim themselves as victims. Many of these childrens' grandparents and/or great-grandparents were alive during the war and while a few were true victims of the Gestapo and the SS the majority simply went along.
I visited a former Gestapo prison when I was in Dortmund once and while many horrible things happened there it still didn't have the same awful feel as when I visited Dachau (but it was still a place I wanted/needed to visit.) The Topography of Terror Museum in Berlin is at the former headquarters of the Gestapo so has a little more meaning. Regardless, I think the Museum will show new generations of the evils of dictatorships and passivity.
Along the same lines the horrible things that the East German Stasi did also need to be shown (especially since many of today's German youths' parents and grandparents were involved.) To me the Stasi and the Gestapo did the same basic, awful things.,,5545090,00.html


This week they voted two people out. First it was Candice. It was pretty funny because she didn't see it coming and thought that since she flipped to the Villains she was safe. The second person was Danielle. The first thing she needs to do is get a razor and shave her underarms (when they were on the hand challenge she looked like Sasquatch.) I thought it was pretty funny how Russell tried to get between Parvati and Danielle and then Danielle loosing it at Tribal and crying. I hope that next week Russell goes home - that would be the best blindside ever.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Identity Cards

After reading more on the Democrats' proposal for a National ID Card in the United States I thought I would look up what other countries' policies were.

Countries where it is Compulsory to have a National ID Card (with age):

At 18 years old:

Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Italy, Israel (fine of 1,400 NIS), Jordan, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malta, Morocco, Mauritius, Pakistan, Peru, Poland (fine: refusal of passport), Slovenia (or passport), Kenya

At Birth:

Argentina, Turkey

Between 1 - 17 years old:

Albania (16), Belgium (15), Bulgaria (14 - fine of 150 Euros), China (16), Croatia (16 - fine 1,500-2,000 Kuna), Cyprus (12), Czech Republic (15), Dominican Republic (16), Egypt (16), Estonia (16 - fine 50 Kroons), Germany (16 - or passport), Greece (12), Hong Kong (11), Hungary (14 - or passport), Indonesia (17), Iran (15), Lithuania (16), Luxembourg (15), Latvia (15 - or passport), Malaysia (12 - fine 3,000-20,000 RM or jail), Montenegro (16), Netherlands (14 or passport - fine 50 Euros), Portugal (10), Romania (14), Russia (14 - internal passport), Saudi Arabia (17 for males), Serbia (16), Singapore (15), South Africa (16 - refusal of passport), Spain (14), Sri Lanka (16 - refusal of passport), Thailand (15), Ukraine (16), Venezuela (10), Vietnam (14)

Age Unknown for Compulsory ID Cards:

Taiwan, Guatemala, Iraq, Mozambique, South Korea, Macau, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay

Pilot-Programs for Compulsory ID Cards:

India, Philippines, United Kingdom

Non-Compulsory ID Cards Available:

Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Iceland, Mexico, Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland

No National ID Cards:

Australia, Denmark, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, United States.

^ I will never understand why countries would require ID Cards of people from birth to 17 years old (especially within their own country.) To me that is ridiculous. What little kids are going to run out and play and remember to bring their ID Cards? I am not for Compulsory National ID Cards or internal travel restrictions. It is one thing to have a National ID Card that citizens can get if they want to - like in the European Union to travel without having a passport and another for a "free society" to force its citizens to have one or else face fines and/or jail. ^