An Independent Russian Investigation from WIF

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 Ways that Russians

are Misunderstood

Around the World

Today, Russia is arguably one of the most controversial countries on the planet. Much is said about them one way or the other (primarily due to Vladimir Putin), and very few countries have as many stereotypes (especially negative ones) floating around about them. While it’s understandable for many Westerners to be worried about Russian influence on their governments or people, it’s also important to be able to separate the Russian people and culture from their government, and to understand who the Russians really are — and not just what we know from crude and often demeaning stereotypes… or potential meddling in United States politics.

10. Russians Don’t Look At Governance The Same Way Many Westerners Do

Many Americans and other Western countries have trouble understanding Russians’ idea of government, because Westerners cannot imagine a life where they could have so little personal freedom. To Westerners, personal freedom — or at least the appearance of it — is practically a life or death matter. Now, Russians see things differently. It isn’t that they are naturally submissive or something, but the Russian people have never really had anything like the Democracy that many Western countries enjoy… and the Russian people go back a very long way.

When you haven’t ever had something in the first place, you’re hardly going to find yourself missing it greatly or fighting for it. For this reason, personal freedoms are a much lower priority for many Russians, and they don’t entirely understand why so many countries are worried about those issues. Particularly when they haven’t fixed other problems yet. This doesn’t mean there’s no one in Russia interested in Democracy, but by and large, you aren’t likely to find many willing to risk prison for something they’ve never even had to begin with.

9. Russians Look European, But Are Also Sort Of Asian

Perhaps one of the things that makes it so difficult for Westerners to deal with Russians is that they look so similar to many of us, despite thinking so drastically differently. This likely stems from their cultural origins. The larger portion of Russia is, geographically, essentially in Asia, but the more populated part is in what some call “European Russia” — a portion of Russia that’s still considered part of Eastern Europe. This is all quite confusing, and borders are all, of course, man-made to begin with, but the overall issue is that the Russian people hardly fit in any normal cultural box.

Even the ones from “European Russia” are still much farther East than most people who are considered to be from Europe, and this likely changes their thinking. They’re also part of a country that has much of its territory in the actual continent of Asia, which means many people from the European part will still have their culture influenced by the more Asian part. For this reason, some in Russia have said they felt they have a more unique identity, which is actually part Asian and part Eastern European.

8. Napoleon Made Them Incredibly Paranoid Long Ago; Now Others Think Them Aggressive

Americans Tchaikovsky’s Overture of 1812 well, and some even confuse as being in reference to the American War of 1812. However, at that same time in history, there was a war going on basically all over the world because of a little guy named Napoleon. This titchy fellow had been stirring up the nest all over the place, and had even pushed his way into Russia. Now, today many people look at this as a folly of Napoleon, and talk about how Hitler later repeated the same mistake: Attacking the hardy Russian people during the harsh winter.

However, the truth was that Napoleon came far closer, at least in the Russians’ minds, to completing a successful invasion than they were comfortable with. They were absolutely terrified, and never forgot it. Well over 100 years later, the term “Bonapartist” would still be a fairly common term in Russia. They feared the idea of a warrior general rising up and going on a rampage so much that they immortalized Napoleon’s name with a specific word for his little invasion attempt into their country. Many people today think the Russians are just aggressive, but this near-miss so long ago drove them to shore up their borders, and it’s primarily for this reason they’ve been so hostile to those closest to them since. The truth is that the Russians only won with scorched earth tactics and great losses. Napoleon scarred them forever.

7. Russian National Pride Goes Back A Long Way, But Has Clashed With French Culture

Some people don’t understand why Russians are willing to forego so much comfort for the good of their country, and many people like to claim it’s Soviet propaganda. But the Russian people have been behaving this way for some time now. Considering the country of Russia is really one of the oldest surviving countries and cultures in the world, it’s not surprising that they have a gigantic wellspring of national pride, whether the situation warrants it or not. They also have a history of dictatorships, which means they’re used to simply being proud of their country and letting others run it.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Russians have always remained truly proud and obsessed with Slavic culture. A situation that still exists (to a smaller extent) today — but blew up shortly after the time of Napoleon — is the fight between the Slavophiles and the Francophiles. The Slavophiles wanted to keep Russia Slavic and focus on Slavic cultures, traditions, dress, and customs. However, enthralled and enraptured by the French, many young people were now dressing in French fashions, taking up their customs, and studying their culture and language. This has changed the Russian people even further over the years and, if anything, has made them even more incomprehensible to the rest of the world.

6. The Russian Concept of “Poshlost” Explains Why They Often Think Of Wealth Differently

These days you have people who like to make fun of people like the Kardashians, or joke about how they became famous for doing literally nothing at all. However, at the same time, many of those same people view being in a position like the Kardashians as something to aspire to. Now, despite misconceptions, the Kardashians still have a lot of work to do to maintain their empire of nothing. But many see their lifestyle as an aspiration because it’s perceived as a life where they can just chill and enjoy the finer things while not having to work or do… well, anything. In many ways this almost makes them the ultimate American dream, but Russians would find the whole thing ridiculous.

While there are some Russian billionaires today, and Russia has a lot of corruption, those who are at least in business or working are given a great deal of respect by the common person regardless of their ridiculous wealth. It’s only the playboys, who don’t really work or do anything, that get the true disrespect. In Russian literature, there’s a concept that many of the greats like Pushkin, or Lermontov, wrote about called “Poshlost.” Poshlost has been called untranslatable, but we will try our best to explain the concept: it’s used to refer to outer beauty, or empty wealth that is flaunted, while the individuals behind that wealth spend most of their time lounging, trying to look important, and contributing nothing of value to society at all. In a way, it was a backlash to the fashionable trappings of high society brought forth by the Francophile fad.

5. The Idea Of Struggle Is Entirely Embedded In The Russian Cultural Ethos

One of the things many people in America, in particular, understand least about the Russians is their willingness to accept a life without a lot of particular luxuries, and without a lot of options in general. This isn’t because the Russians are just masochistic and enjoy taking punishment, or are trying to prove some kind of specific point. Nor are the Russian people necessarily taking one for the team in order to advance the cause of the current government. The biggest reason most Russians are okay with things being that way is because, within in their ethos, the idea of struggle is deeply embedded.

In many ways, it may by their most important cultural value: Working hard and muddling through to get by is seen as extremely important. For a culture that’s often had to deal with poverty and want, even under their most benevolent leaders, this was something they had to learn as a people very early on. In many ways it has defined them, and explains why they are willing to accept what many in Western culture would consider unacceptable. They are simply far more accustomed to hardship, so they don’t act like everything is out of sorts when things get difficult.

4. The Origins Of Their Language, And Its Structure, Give Them A Unique Perspective

The Russian language, and most Slavic languages, use the Cyrillic Alphabet; however, the origin of their written language is rather strange. The people of the region had mostly used spoken-word and wrote little down when two Catholic missionaries named Cyril and Methodius traveled to the region. These two decided to help create an alphabet and written-word system for the language spoken by the people of the region, and something similar is in use today in most Slavic Countries. Now, this gives them a rather unique language structure and perspective.

The language itself was formed entirely by natives of the region, but the written form was made up mostly by outsiders who didn’t entirely understand their thinking. This has created a language system where the written word (and, as they’ve evolved together, sometimes even the spoken word) are hard to articulate the way the writer would want. Many writers like Pushkin took the written form of Russian to its limit to extract as much wordplay as possible, but they could only go so far, despite their genius.

3. Russians Are Generally Thought Of As A Drunk Country – But There Is A Lot More To It

One of the most famous stereotypes about the Russians is that they are huge drunks, and may even be bigger drunks than the Irish. People talk about teens using mouthwash, hand sanitizer, and other awful things, but in any country with poverty and bored children, things like that aren’t uncommon. And while people like to act like the average Russian just pounds alcohol like there’s no tomorrow, even among the heavy drinkers there are customs to drinking, and it’s only when you ignore them and actually do start pounding for no reason (which is relatively rare) that you have a real problem.

In Russia, drinking is a big social thing, but it is accompanied by lots of little bits of food, toasting to friends, and good conversation and camaraderie in general. Russians like to toast to things while drinking so they have a reason to imbibe, and it’s custom to eat a bit of food after each shot or drink — both for your health, and to avoid a hangover later. Many Russians will simply not drink if they don’t at least have a little bit of bread so they can have a little bite with each drink.

2. Internet Pirates Are Often Russian, But Due To Poverty – Not Inherent Cultural Dishonesty

The Pirate Bay, and other popular torrent sites, have always had a huge amount of torrents coming from Russian hackers. Many who pirate a lot are all too familiar with their written “Russian Accent” and have noticed that many torrent-ed movies have Russian subtitles. Now, some people have noticed this and come to the conclusion that Russians are inherently dishonest or thieves, but this is not really the case.

For starters, an incredible amount of Westerners use torrent sites — even middle class Westerners — so it’s a little bit hypocritical to brand Russians as thieves. However, more to the point, many common Russian folk feel compelled to do these things because they are desperately poor, and simply cannot afford the content otherwise. In many cases it may not even be available for legitimate purchase within their country, so they have to resort to piracy in order to get past government censorship. Russians aren’t generally a bunch of horrible cyber thieves; well, at least not any more-so than most other modern countries and people. Also, while Russians aren’t more dishonest, necessarily, they are better educated than many countries when it comes to IT.

1. The Russian People Usually Know Full Well When They Are Being Fed Propaganda

A lot of folks think that the Russian people are easily fooled, and that Ol’ Putin completely has the wool over their eyes. They believe that Putin’s propaganda machine has managed to get people under his spell, and that they are basically putty in his hands. However, the situation — and the Russian people by extension — are a lot more complex and complicated than that. The Russian people are well aware of the concept of propaganda, and have a word called “Pravda” (which some of you may be familiar with) due to the ironically named Soviet Propaganda paper of the same name.

Now for those who aren’t aware, Pravda means “truth,” but it can also mean a lot more (or less) than that. Some know that Pravda was used sarcastically as a phrase to subtly disagree with Soviet propaganda, but most Westerners don’t know how long this phrase has been in use, or how many things it can mean (and it can mean dozens of things). After all, Russians may not have as many words as some languages, so they often use the same word to mean many things.

Pravda can mean actual truth, but it can also mean that you know you aren’t being told the truth, and are very slightly sarcastically saying “Oh yes, of course I believe that,” when you both know it’s a lie. And this is the funny thing about the Russian propaganda machine: It often knows it isn’t really fooling anyone, and the people often know they aren’t being fooled, but everyone pretends the propaganda is working anyway in order to avoid any kind of confrontation with the government.


An Independent Russian Investigation

from WIF

Russia – Enough Said

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We Should

Be Scared

of Russia

 

Russia has been talked about in the news a lot in the past several years, and has garnered an incredible amount of attention in the USA of late. They have been accused of hacking a political party’s files in order to favor one over the other. They have been accused of blackmailing our politicians and planting their own agents. They have been accused of spreading a huge amount of fake news throughout our country, in order to change the course of the general election.

 On top of that, some in Europe believe that President Vladimir Putin was pushing for Brexit to weaken the EU, because he would like to take back more of Eastern Europe. While it would be nice to consider this alarmism, he has already taken Crimea, half of Ukraine, and doesn’t seem interested in stopping anytime soon. Below are 10 reasons why we should keep a careful eye on Russia and their actions over the next several years.

10. They Shut Down Estonia’s Internet Infrastructure For Almost a Month

Estonia is an Eastern European country near the Russian border, and they are actually quite unique when it comes to any country in the world, because they rely on the internet for almost everything. They use the internet for paying parking fines, voting, paying utility bills and taxes, and almost anything else you could imagine. Children in Estonia are taught to use the internet properly in school at a young age, and it is considered one of the most tech savvy countries in the world.

That’s why, in 2007, Estonians understandably freaked out when their internet infrastructure was hit by a cyber-attack that managed to keep the entire system down for three whole weeks. Estonians are understandably worried that it was a test for a possible Russian invasion down the road. Estonia was once part of the Soviet Union, is seeded with ethnic Russians so Putin could attempt to pull something similar to Crimea, and with their infrastructure down, it would be hard for them to resist the chaos Putin could create. With the recent aggressive moves by Russia both in terms of cyber-crime and their continuing ventures in Ukraine, Estonia fears they may be next and is preparing for war.

9. The Russian Mock Invasion That Would Take Key Islands From Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden

Some may think that Russia would never dare go that far into Eastern Europe, or really keep pushing at all much beyond Ukraine. However, people back during WWII said that Hitler would stop after he took the Rhineland, and they were very, very wrong. The truth is that Putin has no reason to stop unless someone makes him, and he has already taken Crimea and roughly half of Ukraine. While some may be skeptical, back in March of 2015, Russia conducted a mock set of invasions that were set on the rather insane and clearly made up idea that the West was trying to physically overthrow Putin and pull off some kind of coup.

In response to this fake threat, the test invasion conducted would have them take away key islandsfrom Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, making it almost impossible for the NATO allies to come to the rescue. While the Russians tried to give a flimsy pretext that it was in response to a Western based attack, that doesn’t really hold water, because the real strategic value of those islands is that it would cut off the Baltic States from NATO. This means that Russia would be able to easily take Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia and force them back into the Soviet Union, and it would be almost impossible for NATO to provide any kind of proper support or help. The fact that Russia put so much time and effort into practicing such an attack is troubling, to say the least.

8. With the EU Increasingly Weakening, Russia is in a Stronger Position to Invade Eastern Europe

When the Brexit vote occurred, Putin tried to remain indifferent on the surface, but many experts believe he was very excited. The main thing that stops Putin from taking back the former Soviet States is a strong European Union and a strong NATO, which kind of coincide in a lot of ways right now. Unfortunately, both NATO and the European Union are in historically weak positions, and it seems like that problem is only going to increase as time goes on. With the United Kingdom out of the EU, it is possible more people could leave, and it may be much harder for the Western Europeans to mount any kind of proper defensive support if Putin rolls into Eastern Europe.

This also hurts the sanctions put on him by the United States and the European Union, as the sanctions are only as strong as the united front the countries performing them keep up against the Russians. If the European Union continues to dissolve, Russia will have more negotiating power with individual states, and will find it easy to bully small European countries with their comparatively large economy. In the end, both in terms of potential invasions and in terms of negotiating power, the Russians win big whenever Europe becomes weaker. To make matters worse for the Eastern Europeans, we have a US president who knows little about NATO and campaigned, in part, on it being obsolete (though he’sfinally coming around on its importance), and cares about our agreements to protect small countries even less.

7. Russia Today is Kremlin Controlled and Russian Fake News Propaganda is a Global Machine

President Putin tries to dance around the issue, so it isn’t quite as obvious to everyone, but the truth is that Russia Today might as well be Putin’s personal blog. It is funded, owned and operated by the Kremlin – in other words the Russian government. The government claims that it is not totally government controlled, but Putin also admits that it should kind of be expected that they will say things that are positive about the government and its agenda. While not saying it outright, it is clear the purpose of Russia Today is simply to spread the Kremlin’s propaganda all over the world. It is perhaps one of the most unreliable sources on the planet, but many people who see Russia Today in other countries do not realize just how unreliable it is.

To make matters worse, a lot of fake news regarding the US election was traced right back to Russians, and there is reason to believe many of them were even paid trolls. Despite America’s best efforts to handle its own elections, it is scary to think how easily the Russians have managed to manipulate emotions and decisions simply by posting fake stories. If that wasn’t enough, there is reason to believe that a lot of similar propaganda is being spread in Europe as well, in order to weaken support for the EU and bolster the image of Vladimir Putin around the world.

6. We May Call Putin a Tyrant, but He’s Extremely Popular in Russia

Putin may be a man who is very interested in conquest, and he has some very grand plans. For this reason, many people like to put him in the realm of comic book villain, and look at him as a truly evil individual. While he does support a lot of draconian laws, especially against gay people, the truth is that Russia has always had very fascistic laws and very little freedom. The Russian people are fairly used to hardship, rationing, and not having a particularly strong say in government. When it comes to being a fascist, if anything Putin is lenient compared to some of the leaders of the past. What this means is that while he is dangerous to us, when we act is if he is horrible to the Russian people and posit the possibility of them one day rising up against them, it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of our Russian rivals.

We assume that they have the same priorities we do, but they simply don’t. Americans are more concerned with individual freedoms and don’t particularly care about refighting old battles. However, when Putin took back Crimea, it came with a great surge of popularity back home, because he was bringing back a certain amount of Russian pride as well. The Russian people felt stronger, and better to know that Putin was bringing back the old Soviet Union. Many of them now see him not as another politician, but as a transformational figure that has helped bring Russia back to what it once was. Russians still complain about politics and the country in general, but Putin still keeps his approvals in the low 80s, and even watchdogs from other countries believe the polls are at least mostly accurate. We aren’t saying Putin is a nice guy, but it is important to understand the people you are up against. We may not like Putin, but the fact that he is popular at home is not just Russian propaganda.

5. Putin Has Consolidated Power and May Very Well be President for Life

One of the things that makes it harder for a country like Europe or the United States to deal with threats from dictators is that the dictator has the advantage of remaining in power forever, consolidating his holdings, making him capable of carrying out truly long term plans. On the other hand, countries like the USA have regular elections that change our governmental leaders, which means we constantly have to refresh our policies to deal with the latest threats. Every president will have a different idea on how to deal with our foreign enemies or rivals, and that means an entirely new road map. In the meantime, someone like Putin can remain in office for nearly two decades, ensuring he can slowly work on his goals.

Putin was first term limited, then made a new position for himself that was above the president to get that problem out of the way. Then, he managed to become president again after taking care of the pesky term limit issue. And, while he hasn’t said he will run yet, many expect him to run again next year, and with his popularity, it would be hard for him to lose unless something catastrophic happened to Russia to completely tank his poll numbers. And with calls from some within the

Russian government for Vladimir Putin to remain president for life, it seems clear that has been the plan for quite some time now.

4. There’s a Possibility They Have Blackmail Material on the US President

While we know that Donald Trump has business dealings in Russia, which have been the subject of much suspicion and rumor, and that many in his campaign were said to have contacted Russia during the campaign, which has led some to believe that there is far more to the story. According to a dossier of information, much of which is hard to verify, Trump visited Russia as part of a beauty pageant, and while staying in a hotel room, he got up to some antics that were quite risqué and embarrassing. Heallegedly had prostitutes pee on a hotel bed that had once been used by Barack and Michelle Obama.

And according to the dossier, the Russians had been monitoring this room, and now have incredible dirt on Trump. Due to his many business dealings with them, and this blackmail they had, they decided to push him toward politics, and did their best to help him succeed, because they believed that they could use their blackmail to get sanctions lifted or other pro-Russia policies put in place. Of course, there is no proof that this blackmail exists, or that the event occurred as alleged, but the thought that they have blackmail on our president is very troubling. And even if they do not have that kind of blackmail, the fact he once admitted to having a large amount of business dealings with Russia, and would not disclose his taxes, still makes things suspicious for other reasons.

3. The Gay Concentration Camps Currently Operating in Chechnya

Right now in Chechnya, a region which is now part of the Russian Federation, gay people are being rounded up like dangerous animals and either tortured for days on end or killed. These men are being held in what are essentially being described as concentration camps for gay people. Bounties are being paid for gangs of mercenaries to round up gay men wherever they can find them. This includes their homes, secret gay hangout spots, and they will even perform sting operations to find gay people.

There are reports that they are receiving beatings and electric shocks, and are sometimes even being released simply so they can be re-caught for sport, and so that the hunter can double dip on the bounty for the captured gay person. Some are blackmailed and threatened with much worse torture or death if they don’t pay large sums of money – because being gay is illegal in Chechnya, these men are all too eager to agree to avoid even worse punishment. Unfortunately, the only group that really has the power to stop this is the Russian government, and they are denying that there is any purge going on. Considering their knowledge of what happens in their territories, it boggles the mind that they do not know. And when you look at their own reputation when it comes to gay people, the sad truth is that the Kremlin likely understands what is happening and approves of it – gay people are not welcome in Russia.

2. Russia Currently Has the Largest Active Nuclear Stockpile in the World

When most people think of the most powerful nuclear country, they tend to immediately think of the United States. But the truth is that Russia actually has a slightly larger stockpile of nuclear weapons than the US does – this includes both stockpiled warheads and those that are fully operational and ready to go. The United States has close to 7,000 nuclear warheads, but Russia has over 7,000, beating the US by a small margin. They also have about forty more active nuclear warheads than America does, with both countries having close to 2,000 that they are ready to launch. Some may think China is close, but they actually don’t have any operational warheads at the moment. The next closest countries are actually France, with a few hundred, and the United Kingdom, with a little over 100 in terms of operational nuclear weapons.

For this reason alone, Russia has to be respected. With one of the largest economies, areas of sheer territory, and that many nuclear weapons, they are a very strong force to be reckoned with. A ground invasion of Russia has already been proven to be all but impossible, and a serious air battle would lead to them threatening nukes against the US. In the meantime, it is hard to prevent Russia from taking back countries in Eastern Europe without starting some kind of full blown war, or threatening the use of nuclear weapons – an empty threat because we know Russia could respond in kind. Due to being such a strong nuclear power, apart from fighting proxy wars over the ground Russia is trying to occupy, there isn’t a lot we can do to slow them down.

1. Military Service is Compulsory for Young Men, so Nearly All Russian Males Have Military Experience

The Russians are also dangerous because nearly every male of any decent health has at least a few years of military service under his belt. The Russians have made it compulsory for young men between the ages of 18 and 27 to serve in the military so that every capable citizen will be ready if necessary, and also to keep the military strong, full, and well-disciplined at all times. Now, draft dodging is fairly common for this reason, as not everyone wants to join the military, but it can actually be quite hard to do. Without a legitimate medical reason, you often need to pay thousands of dollars for fake documents to forge your way out of it. And you may still be caught and forced into service anyways, especially if you try tricks like staying at a different address than the one you put down officially.

And despite the draft dodgers, this means Russia still has a very, very large portion of its healthy young men learning the ways of the military lifestyle, and how to fight and die for their country if needed. With a percentage of men with military training much higher than that of other countries, they have a very large pool of capable people to pull from if they end up in any extended wars or conflicts spread throughout the world. Some countries near Russia, such as Sweden, have recently added compulsory military service in order to prepare for the potential threat they see coming down the road. The world has to be very watchful of Russia, and those who live in Eastern Europe have the most to fear.


Russia

– Enough Said

I’m Radioactive! – WABAC to Chernobyl

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Put on your HAZMAT suit Sherman My Boy & let’s head to 1986 Russia.”