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Bryan MacDonald has covered PM Mikhail Mishustin’s new Cabinet in detail at his RT blog, so I’ll avoid repeating the listings there and widely available elsewhere.

***

Despite the heavy import of Putin’s proposed Constitutional changes, the actual change in the Cabinet has been negligible. Sergey Shoigu, Sergey Lavrov (contra initial rumors), and Vladimir Kolokoltsev (see my translation of an interview with him several years back) remain in Defense, Foreign, and Interior Ministries, respectively. So no change in the three most important “power” positions in the Cabinet after the PM.

Anton Siluanov stays as Finance Minister, even if replaced as First Deputy PM by Andrey Belousov. The latter is harder on Russia’s comprador oligarchs, constantly coming up with proposals to tax them more. But he is no Sergey Glazyev, who is a genuine Soviet nationalist. Reminder that monetarist hardliner Elvira Nabiullina remains chairwoman of the Russian Central Bank.

And as I have also pointed out, Mikhail Mishustin is himself – in addition to being a wise investor who appears to have honestly become a millionaire in the 2000s, and a skilled technocrat – an economic liberal. He rationalized the land registry system in Russia before taking up his long stint as head of the Federal Tax Service, and in a recent interview he came out against abolishing the flat income tax in favor of progressive taxation on the grounds that the latter are “inefficient” and irrelevant in Russia’s context.

So I don’t know in what world this is some kind of handover of power from “Atlanticists” to “Sovereignists” as some have described it.

It’s not the converse, either. Two notable people who left include Vladimir Medinsky and Olga Vasilyeva, the Culture and Education Ministers, respectively. (As well as the hapless and scandal-wracked Deputy PM and former Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko). They are outspoken, in the case of the former often comically so, conservatives. Contra Bryan MacDonald, they are not nationalists; they don’t call themselves such, neither do actual Russian nationalists. Even so, Medinsky – who has also had his share of scandals, including a plagiarized PhD dissertation – is being replaced by a direct protege, Olga Lyubimova (right)*. Who had been responsible for doling out money to pro-Orthodox films. Meanwhile, Medinsky himself becomes Putin’s cultural advisor, so it’s hardly a major demotion.

Vasilyeva’s replacement is Sergey Kravtsov. He is not a conservative hardliner like his predecessor (though nor is he a liberal), but what he does have is some major real world successes, having played a central role in suppressing cheating in the Unified State Exam, closed 1,500 higher education institutions that functioned as degree mills, and – as will surely be welcomed by many readers of his blog – has pushed Russia to play a more active role in international standardized tests such as TIMSS/PIRLS, PIAAC, ICCS, and PISA.

So no major change in the center of gravity towards “liberalism” (or whatever) either.

***

Here’s a simpler explanation – who stayed, and who went, was significantly dependent on their actual… performance. There are two polls I could find on this topic, though unfortunately both are a bit dated. They are a FOM poll from June 2018 (at the beginning of Medvedev’s Second Cabinet) that asks people whether the Minister in question did a good job or not; and a series of VCIOM polls asking people to give each Minister a score out of 5, although unfortunately that series only runs up to 2017.

Nonetheless, assuming that the relative assessment scores/rankings haven’t changed cardinally since then, and assuming that popularity in opinion polls proxies performance…

People who stayed:

  • Defense Minister Shoigu: 50% positive, 2% negative = +48% (FOM); 4.58 (latest VCIOM poll)
  • Foreign Minister Lavrov: 44% positive, 3% negative = +41% (FOM); 4.65 (latest VCIOM poll)
  • Interior Minister Kolokoltsev: 6% positive, 5% negative = +1% (FOM); 3.59 (latest VCIOM poll)
  • Energy Minister Alexander Novak: 4% positive, 4% negative = +0% (FOM); 3.68 (latest VCIOM poll)

Demoted:

  • Finance Minister Anton Siluanov: 4% positive, 9% negative = -5% (FOM); 2.99 (latest VCIOM poll)

People who left:

  • Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova: 5% positive, 13% negative = -8% (FOM); 3.22 (latest VCIOM poll)
  • Education Minister Olga Vasilyeva: 4% positive, 8% negative = -4% (FOM); 3.31 (latest VCIOM poll)
  • Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky: 3% positive, 7% negative = -4% (FOM); 3.24 (latest VCIOM poll)
  • Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin: 2% positive, 7% negative = -5% (FOM); 3.06 (latest VCIOM poll)
  • Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov: 1% positive, 4% negative = –3% (FOM); 3.04 (latest VCIOM poll)

Well, you get the idea.

I know this sounds really radical, but perhaps the perceived performance of Ministers in office plays some role in whether they stay on or not, as opposed to how Atlanticist or Sovereignist PUTLER feels on any particular day.

***

Incidentally, the biggest discussions and memes on Runet about the Cabinet reshuffle have centered around orthothot Olga Lyubimova, who has a rather interesting background.

Photo from 2008: “Who are you people? What do you need? I don’t know you. Go fuck yourselves.

As a waifu, perhaps quite Poklonskaya tier.

But very low genetic load regardless. Great great grandfather was the governor of the Vologda Governorate under Alexander III, while her great grandfather was the legendary actor Vasily Kachalov.

She also perhaps blogged too much in her youth, including one particularly powerful post from 2008 where she admits to hating museums, opera, ballet, and classical music. Sounds like an excellent qualification for the Ministry of Culture, but some beg to differ.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Opinion Poll, Politics, Russia 
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500+ confirmed cases and closing on 20 deaths as of today. It seems to be highly virulent, much more so than SARS, which took 4 months to spread out of China vs. a couple of weeks with the Wuhan coronavirus. It’s already in the US, and, from today, in Russia.

Live updates here.

The nice thing is that cases seem to be underestimated by an order of magnitude (Imperial College saying 4,000 cases), so the true mortality rate should be well under 1%.

So, about as contagious as the Spanish Flu, but ~10x-100x less morbid. And likewise ~10-100x less morbid than SARS, though much more virulent.

Hopefully it doesn’t mutate into a much more morbid form.

Also the Chinese should really stop consuming what man was not meant to consume.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Disease 
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While we wait for the last data to trickle in to update Russian Demographics in 2019 for the new year, I would note that Rosstat released a new demographic forecast at the end of December.

Here is the TLDR on what they project for 2035:

  • As usual, there is a Low, Medium, and High scenario.
  • Population will change from 146.7M in 2020, to:
    • L: 135.2M
    • M: 143.1M
    • H: 149.8M
  • Numbers of annual births, deaths, and natural increase will change from ~1.5M, ~1.8M, and -0.3M, respectively, in 2019, to:
    • L: 1.1M – 2.0M = -0.9M
    • M: 1.3M – 1.7M = -0.4M
    • H: 1.4M – 1.4M = 0.0M
  • These estimates are reliant upon the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) increasing from a projected ~1.50 children per woman in 2019, to:
    • L: 1.37
    • M: 1.58
    • H: 1.74
  • … life expectancy going from 73.4 years in 2019 (note: In reality, it was already at 73.6 years as of the first eight months of this year), to:
    • L: 75.4
    • M: 79.1
    • H: 81.7
  • … and annual net immigration going from ~250,000 in 2020, to:
    • L: 15,000
    • M: remaining stable
    • H: rising to close to 400,000

Assessment

1. I am actually reasonably optimistic that the Medium-High scenario will be achieved for life expectancy by 2035.

Since I released my Russia demographics model in 2008, Russian life expectancy has consistently tracked the High variant. My High variant correlates to somewhere in between Rosstat’s Medium and High scenarios, reaching an LE of just a bit over 80 years by 2035. I am almost certain that, barring some humanitarian catastrophe, Russia’s LE will be way higher than 75.4 years by 2035.

That said, life expectancy has by far the least impact on future population trends relative to fluctuations in TFR and net immigration.

2. Predicting fertility trends is much more of a risky undertaking than life expectancy. That said, I have argued that there is good cause to think that Russia’s long-term TFR should recover to at least 1.7 children per woman, the dip from 2016-today regardless.

At any rate, I expect Russia to hew closer to the High scenario than the Medium one, while the Low scenario – which has TFR plummeting to a trough of 1.28 by the mid-2020s – a number that would return it to its 1996-2002 nadir, when the country was in the midst of a comprehensive socio-economic collapse – strikes me as highly unlikely.

3. Obviously, immigration is the toughest of all to predict. Even the authorities can’t assess it properly except during Census time (in 2010, it was discovered there were 1M more Russians than expected). That said, many Central Asians are now going to South Korea instead of Russia, some are even going to the EU (encountered a Kyrgyz Uber driver in Warsaw), and by the 2030s, potentially, maybe even China would start becoming a cheap labor magnet. Few of them are actually settling in Russia. Meanwhile, the stock of Russians in the f.USSR who are willing to emigrate to Russia has dwindled, as everyone who was ever going to come back has largely already done so. The main avenue for politically-uncontroversial demographic growth through immigration now lies with enticing Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Moldovans to emigrate to Russia. And steps on that are already being taken.

Will it be enough to cancel out the flood of repatriating Russians from prior years? Much will depend, of course, on socio-economic and political trajectories in the Near Abroad, especially the Ukraine. As well as on Russia’s own economic success or lack thereof in coming years. My conservative guess is that net migration will hover between the Low and Medium scenarios. Though perhaps the Federal Migration Service’s tendency to undercount will push that number up closer to the Medium scenario.

In summary, my expectations are:

  • Life expectancy: Medium-High scenario
  • Fertility: Medium-High scenario (sooner High)
  • Net immigration: Low-Medium (sooner Medium)

***

Obviously, I don’t have access to the Rosstat model, so there’s no way for me to play around with it. That said, there are a few observations I can nonetheless make:

1. I would set a floor on the Medium scenario, i.e. a population of ~143M+ in 2035. I.e., neither rise, nor freefall.

2. The main divergence from Rosstat’s High scenario that I expect will be in the sphere of net immigration. The total difference in net immigration between these two scenarios through to 2035 constitutes 1.6M. These will be young people, so assume they produce some children to get a figure of ~2M. Subtract that from 149.8M, and one gets 147M-148M. That is broadly where I actually expect Russia’s population to be at come 2035.

3. One further thing we can do is look at past demographic projections from Rosstat:

Russian statistics agency Rosstat forecasts 140.9 million in 2025, the High version being 146.7 million…

This was from 2011. Current population is 146.8M, subtract ~2.5M to account for Crimea to get 144.3M. So, actual result was about midway between the Medium and High estimate.

Meanwhile, it was the High scenario from Rosstat projections in 2000 that ended up coming true by 2011. (In fairness, this was at the end of a decade of very negative trends).

Still, based on the past Rosstat predictive record, weighing one’s bets between their Medium and High projects is hardly a risky or radical idea.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Demographics, Futurism, Russia 
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Gebremedhin, Samson. 2015. “Multiple Births in Sub-Saharan Africa: Epidemiology, Postnatal Survival, and Growth Pattern.Twin Research and Human Genetics: The Official Journal of the International Society for Twin Studies 18 (1): 100–107.

The rate of multiple births in Sub-Saharan Africa is 1.7x that of European levels (h/t Emil Kirkegaard):

The multiple birth rate in SSA (17/1,000 births) appears to be higher compared to the level in other developing countries where the magnitude is unlikely to be affected by ART. A study reported that in many South and South-East Asian countries, including China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan, the twinning rates remains below 10/1,000 births; likewise, the incidence in Latin American countries is similarly low (less than 9/1,000 births; Smits & Monden, 2011). The rate is also higher than the 1980s pre-ART multiple birth incidence in England and Wales (9.6/1,000 births) and several other West European countries (less than 10/1,000 births; Pison & D’Addato, 2006).

Multiple birth rates appear to vary substantially across the 25 countries included in the study. In general, the rate was higher in Central and West Africa countries and lower in Eastern and Southern Africa countries. The lowest (12/1,000 births) and highest (25/1,000 births) figures were reported in Ethiopia and Benin, respectively. The disparity can be likely due to genetic differences as variations in risk factors of multiple pregnancy (e.g., age and parity) across the countries are unlikely to be substantial.

One more piece of evidence for J. Philippe Rushton’s theory of a Negroid < Caucasoid < Mongoloid hierarchy in r/K life history strategies, as having bigger broods is more r-selected.

I noticed that twinning rates seem to be lower in the higher quality Sub-Saharan African countries, e.g. Kenya (highest on SACMEQ), Ethiopia (most impressive history/successful current development), Rwanda (Paul Kagame).

And Ethiopia being lowest here is perhaps not surprising, given them being evolutionarily closer to Eurasians than West Africans and historical admixture with Arabs.

Quick correlations between the twinning rate and other measures:

  • HDI: 0.07
  • IQ (Lynn 2012): 0.54
  • IQ (Lynn 2012, but including countries without data given as neighbors’ average): 0.44
  • SACMEQ (international standard test, like PISA): 0.61

Not rigorous by any means, but there’s probably something here.

***

Data table

Twins (/1,000) SACMEQ IQ IQ (proj) HDI 2018
Angola 15.7 71 0.581
Benin 25.1 71 0.515
Burkina Faso 19.7 70 0.423
Burundi 13.0 72 0.417
Cameroon 21.4 64 0.556
Comoros 20.5 77 0.503
Congo-Brazzaville 20.2 73 0.606
Ethiopia 11.7 68.5 0.463
Gabon 21.3 69 0.702
Guinea 22.3 66.5 0.459
Ivory Coast 23.9 71 0.492
Kenya 13.3 562 74.5 0.590
Lesotha 15.7 448 66.5 0.520
Liberia 19.5 68 0.435
Madagascar 14.0 82 0.519
Malawi 23.1 434 60.1 0.477
Mozambique 19.1 530 69.5 0.437
Niger 17.7 70 0.354
Nigeria 17.6 71.2 0.532
Rwanda 14.9 76 0.524
Sao Tome & Principe 21.7 67 0.589
Senegal 20.6 70.5 0.505
Tanzania 16.9 517 73 0.538
Uganda 16.4 506 71.7 0.516
Zimbabwe 13.5 72.1 0.535

 

 
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Richard LynnRACE DIFFERENCES IN PSYCHOPATHIC PERSONALITY (2019)
Rating: 5/5

TLDR: Global survey of racial differences in psychopathic personality confirms the standard Rushtonian pattern of Negroids < Caucasoids < Mongoloids on the r/K life history scale.

You can access all of my latest book, film, and video game reviews at this link, as well as an ordered, categorized list of all my book reviews and ratings here: https://akarlin.com/books


Richard Lynn, the doyen of research on national differences in intelligence, once published a book called The Global Bell Curve, in which he extended Murray and Herrnstein’s classic analysis in The Bell Curve beyond the United States to demonstrate that the Negroid < Caucasoid < Mongoloid hierarchy in intelligence was a global, not just an American, pattern. However, in the course of that work, Lynn noted that while average IQ explained much of the difference in socioeconomic outcomes between racial groups in the US – crime, poverty, welfare, single motherhood – there was still a large differential even after adjusting for demographics and IQ. For example, an American Black of the same age and IQ as a White would be much more likely to commit a crime. Could this differential be explained by an additional factor of psychopathic personality?

This is the topic of Lynn’s new book, Race Differences in Psychopathic Personality, which was published last year.

Psychopathy is treated as a continuously distributed personality trait that can be clinically assessed, and proxied by a wide variety of measures, such as epidemiological studies of psychopathy; self-assessment on tests like the Psychopathic Deviate subscale of the MMPI; r/K life history proxies, such as sexual precocity, promiscuity, and prevalence of STDs and teenage childbearing; Minkov’s K factor (the importance that parents attach to thrift, obedience, and responsibility in their children, as measured by opinion polls); and other covariates of psychopathic personality, such as crime rates (esp. homicide rates), corruption, conduct disorder in children, cheating in sport, pathological gambling, inability to delay gratification, drug abuse, child neglect, low anxiety, and lack of altruism (as assessed by rates of organ donation and charitable giving). Unsurprisingly, men are considerably more psychopathic than women (~0.5 S.D.).

Over the next twelve chapters, Lynn carries out an exhaustive survey of racial differences in psychopathic personality around the world. The regions/groups covered include: The US; Canada; Europe; Sub-Saharan Africa; South Asia; The Caribbean; Australia; New Zealand; Pacific Islanders; the Inuit; Latin America. There is also one chapter that analyzes international differences. On this basis, a hierarchy of racial differences that matches J. Philippe Rushton’s classic r/K schema is revealed: Northeast Asians < Europeans < Hispanics & South Asians < Native Americans < Maori < Sub-Saharan Africans < Aborigines. Accounting for psychopathic personality in addition to intelligence provides a much closer explanation of racial differences in crime rates than IQ just by itself.

Lynn makes the point that psychopathic personality is significantly heritable (~0.5 according to various studies), as is propensity towards crime and psychopathic personality sub-characteristics such as impulsivity, age at first intercourse, drug use, and hyperactivity conduct disorder. He also mentions the MAOA gene (popularized by Nicholas Wade in Our Troublesome Inheritance); people with the 2-repeat allele have 13x the likelihood of having stabbed or shot someone in the past year. In interracial comparisons between men, it was present in 0.00067% of Mongoloids, 0.1% of Caucasoids, and 5.5% of Negroids.

The global nature of this racial hierarchy in psychopathic personality, its significant heritability, and emerging findings of racial differences in the incidence of alleles that correlate to psychopathic personality all suggest a major genetic component to racial differences in psychopathic personality.

In the last chapter, Richard Lynn extends Cold Winters Theory to explain the racial hierarchy in in psychopathic personality. First, colder climes necessitated stronger male-female pair bonding, to ensure that children remained cared for. Second, they encouraged selection for gratification delayal, due to the necessity of storing food over the cold winter months (whereas in the tropics, plant and insect food sources are available year round, which diminishes the utility of long-term planning). Third, they selected for the ability to maintain cooperative social relations due to the greater emphasis on big game hunting. Fourth, they selected for a reduction of sexual promiscuity, since hunters who are gone for days at a time need some reassurance that the guys who stayed behind aren’t banging their partners back at the base camp. These selective forces acted to different extents on the various races of Man, with Negroids in the tropics less affected than Caucasoids in the temperate regions, who were in turn less affected than Mongoloids in the taiga.

This is not a “popular” book, so on purely that account, I cannot recommend it for the casual reader. However, it is a worthy addition to the library of any evolutionary psychologist, criminologist, HBD enthusiast, and people working in adjacent fields.

 
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I have long advocated that Russian political historiography should de-emphasize combatting the Visegrad/Baltic assault on the Soviet interpretation of history (“we liberated Eastern Europe“) and move towards counter-guilt tripping them.

It’s probably not going to happen soon, because Russian officialese is too invested in its WW2 narrative. That is because Victory is the main legitimizing force of the modern Russian state.

So e.g. Polish kvetching about the Stalinist occupation is going to be rigidly answered by counter-claims that the USSR saved from Nazi barbarism, which is true in a narrow sense (the Nazis would have exterminated most Poles, the Soviets exterminated a small part of their elites and saddled them with Communism for 50 years) but is ultimately a defensive reaction and one that has any number of obvious rejoinders (e.g. loose paraphrase of an argument that commenter AP uses a lot: a victim should not be expected to be grateful to a rapist robber saving her from a mutilator-murderer).

Same goes for attempts to defend say the Nazi-German Non-Aggression Pact by appealing to the Munich Agreement, or Poland’s own friendly relations with Germany in the mid-1930s, aggression towards Czechia in 1938, etc.

While this might be superior to outright denialism of Soviet crimes – it is basically impossible to deny any genocide/massacre and come out of it looking sympathetic, and thankfully the Russian state (if not individual sovoks) have long since moved away from “powerful takes” on issues like Katyn – it’s not optimal either.

Instead, I think a more promising approach is focus on making the following points:

  • The common contribution of practically everyone in Eastern Europe to imposing Bolshevik tyranny on recalcitrant Russians in the first place.
  • Noting that the Bolsheviks, of course, did far more damage to Russia than to any of the East European polities that subsequently had Communism imposed on them by the Red Army (even Poles agree with this, in my experience). E.g., Katyn: 15,000. Great Purge: 600,000-a million.
  • There are examples of this for virtually any nation there. While the Latvians are best known in this respect, one can also identify Polish “contributions”: Dzerzhinsky; general overrepresentation in the early Cheka; the heavy involvement of the “Red Warsaw” revolutionary brigade in suppressing the Yaroslavl uprising in 1918; Pilsudski signing a peace agreement with the Bolsheviks in 1919 just to screw over Denikin, allowing the Bolsheviks to save Moscow.
  • In this context, the subsequent imposition of Communism can be framed as karmic retribution for past misdeeds, which forces Poland et al. onto the defensive.
  • The Pivot: “When will the Poles [Latvians, etc.] have the courage to take responsibility for their complicity in imposing the Bolshevik tyranny on Russians?” As opposed to conflating us with an ideology that you helped force on us.

This approach is probably not going to make Russian many more more friends in Eastern Europe than the current approach. But at least it’s internally consistent, and will put them on the defensive.

This Latvian, at any rate, strongly endorses it, calling it a “great trolling method” – an ultimate accolade if there ever was one.

And, best of all, it’s not even an exaggeration.

***

 
• Category: History • Tags: Communism, Poland, Propaganda, Russia, World War II 
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The Chinese describe the concerted campaigns to identify and shame various malefactors as a “human flesh search engine.” In China itself, it has been used to identify corruptioneers, sadists, or merely people who have been too outspoken about their dislike for China. In the West, it seems that this role is largely played by the /pol/ crowd (e.g. a nurse who claimed to have OD’ed Trump-supporting boomers) and of course the SJWs/antifas hunting down Charlottesville participants and racialist crimethinkers.

Anyhow, all of this is now going to get turbocharged, with the development of companies such as Clearview AI, which was recently profiled in the NYT (article available on /r/Futurology without paywall). These companies scrape billions of images from social media and other websites, set AIs loose to train upon them, and use pattern recognition to immediately link any IRL person to the mass of information available on him/her in their ever growing database.

Incidentally, I can personally confirm that the technology works very well, and has been been doing so since at least mid-2019, when someone involved in the project offered to test it out on me (capturing me on a cell phone camera immediately brought up the photograph of me with the sword, a bunch of other photos, and a biographical profile of myself). This was certainly very cool, creepy, and cyberpunk. At the time, I recall immediately thinking about the impact of this when we finally get working smart glasses and link up the two technologies, allowing us to immediately pull up masses of information on any stranger we come across.

As Emil Kirkegaard predicted back in 2017, this is going to be the end of anonymity in the crowd:

Given sufficient measurement precision, all humans have unique genomes and fingerprints, but also faces and voices. The first two are well known and somewhat difficult to measure. However, the last two are very easy to measure, even at a distance. In the next few years, massive datasets will be built of public, semi-public and leaked private data linking people between all services with available data, for all available time periods. This first and foremost includes social media like Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, but also Youtube, and every dating and porno site. There are a host of voice-only services like SoundCloud that currently handle anonymous users, which is also true for Youtube and porno sites. All these people will be automatically identified and linked in the near future. It will not be possible to take part in a public demonstration without a mask (illegal in many places) which cannot later to matched to you. It will not be possible to take part in amateur or paid-porn without a mask and maybe without being silent (even moans can be matched in all likelihood).

Now think what you could do with that, and drones… and tracking systems for mountable gun barrels… let your imagination run wild.

Yet despite the potential for cyberpunk/dystopian scenarios, most uses will be prosaic. Obviously, crime control will be the big one. Many people esp. autists will want to increase the efficiency of their human interactions. The fact that relatively small companies can now master the technology (as opposed to just giants like Google several years ago) means that there will also be many suppliers to serve the large demand. So there’s no stopping this tech now that it’s out of the bag.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: AI, China, Privacy, Surveillance 
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Some people on here and Twitter were sure they’d succeed. But they seem to have vanished off the radar in the past couple of days. Few news stories, no updates on /r/worldnews. What happened?

In reality, as I pointed out, they were almost certain to fail. To get a color revolution going, you need a mass movement, some degree of elite defection, and preferably both.

Iran had neither, as perusing the main stories even at the height of the protests several days ago showed:

So, that’s basically just students and some professionals in the big cities, i.e. what are usually the most disaffected groups towards “sovereignist” regimes.

To slide in a Russia analogy, many of Russia’s state institutions, including those viewed as “propaganda bullhorns,” are staffed by crypto-liberals. (Liberals are more intelligent than “vatniks”, so any state needs them to staff its organs to some extent, so that they function at some level of competence). I can’t imagine it’s much different in Iran. There’d be differences, too. No risks to “defecting” for a Russian state journalist. While that Iranian anchorwoman might face consequences (though I don’t know Iran well enough to be sure). So it’s probably a more meaningful act.

And I’d guess velayat-e faqih is even less appealing to the high IQ than Putinism, which would make those protesting classes even angrier. (Actually, if I was Iranian, I’d guess I’d be against it, since the Islamosovok theocracy is actively hostile to Iranian nationalism as opposed to Putinism’s merely ambivalent relationship towards it).

Still, these are irrelevant details, in the big picture. The polls show that the Islamic Republic enjoys a groundswell of popular story, while the only major semi-independent force are the even more radical IRGC. You’re not going to get anything that’s to the liking of the neocon/regime change crowd out of that stew.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Color Revolution, Iran 
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In my previous post, I wrote about the broad outlines of the constitutional changes proposed by Putin, but without speculating too much on their import. I will do that now in more detail.

***

Personalization to Institutionalization

Putin is looking for a retirement plan that guarantees the security of the system he has built, but in a way that it manages to operate on its own without his active management. As I have long thought, Putin’s end game is to transition into an overseeing “elder statesman” role, along the model of Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore [see 1, 2, 3], and this would appear to confirm it.

Some analysts interpret this as Putin creating guarantees for himself and his elites from future prosecution, since a less powerful President would be less likely to put them on trial/expropriate them. I suppose that’s one way of looking at it, though that’s hardly going to happen short of somebody like Khodorkovsky becoming President and settling scores. And these types are only popular amongst the think-tankers who generate such analysis.

I would submit there’s a more credible interpretation. This is perfectly in line with Putin’s own political philosophy, which closely mirrors that of emigre White philosopher Ivan Ilyin (see Drozdova, Oksana, and Paul Robinson. 2019. “A Study of Vladimir Putin’s Rhetoric.Europe-Asia Studies, May, 1–19). Although a supporter of strong institutions, Ilyin realized that the Bolsheviks had destroyed any innate Russian capacity for institution-building (“consciousness of law”), and any attempt to hastily reintroduce democracy would lead to yet another round of looting. The 1990s proved him right. The solution, then, was to have a strong state incubate those institutions under a period of conservative authoritarian stability under which Russians were to develop a sense of civic consciousness. With this process now in its mature stages, Putin may believe it is time to start planning for that next stage.

Russia’s political system will remain Presidential (just not super-presidential as it is today), even if the Duma acquires more powers such as confirming PMs and Ministers. However, the greater bounds on the President’s powers from both the Duma/parties and, prospectively, the State Council – as well as an explicit clarification that he cannot serve more than two terms, period – would crimp the possibility of the emergence of another Putin-like “father of the nation” figure.

***

The State Council

The State Council of 1901 by Ilya Repin (Russian Museum, own photo).
PS. Try to find Ivan Durnovo, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, and other historical characters by zooming in. Here’s the key (in Russian).

The State Council will be raised in profile from a merely consultative body to one with greater roles that are explicitly spelled out in the Constitution (they are currently undefined). However, what is clear already is that one cannot speak of it as a Politburo, or an Iranian-style Guardian Council, which are the comparisons some have raised; according to Meduza’s sources, Putin’s own plans involve him merely retaining the ability to influence government processes, but not to “preserve the whole breadth of his power.” The President will retain supreme executive authority.

The other popular comparison is with the Security Council of Kazakhstan, which had its remit greatly expanded before President Nazarbayev retired into it in 2019 as permanent “elder statesman.” However, it is a very narrow body (seven permanent members, and a few temporary ones) that is exclusively concerned with the military and national security. This doesn’t parallel Putin’s vision, in which regional representatives also play a very large role.

It so happens that we have a model for just such a structure from Russia’s own history: The eponymous State Council from the period of the Russian Empire. Half of its members were appointed by the Tsar (mostly distinguished bureaucrats and military officers), while the other represented the regions as well as separate social/professional classes (nobility, clergy, scientists, businessmen)*. Its chairman was appointed by the Tsar. This made it into a very useful repository of accumulated knowledge and experience.

It is plausible that we could see something something along this framework, though the chairman’s role – if Putin indeed plans to take it up himself – would presumably need to be independent of Presidential (Tsarist) appointment.

***

The Successor

I don’t think new PM Mikhail Mishustin himself is in the running on account of being highly untelegenic, low charisma, and his being quarter Jewish being potentially politically troublesome. However, I wouldn’t rule him out entirely, since he’s a great bureaucrat, 14 years younger than Putin, high IQ, and hasn’t openly displayed any political ambitions (the latter is something that Putin values in particular). Nonetheless, I think what’s likelier is that in addition to his primary role of continuing liberal economic reforms and ensuring the success of the national projects, his other function would be to vet various deputy PMs for the successorship (e.g. much like Dmitry Medvedev and Sergey Ivanov competed for the successorship under PM Fradkov in the mid-2000s).

We will need to closely look at the identities of the deputy PMs. One widely rumored potential successor, at least back in 2018, was Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev (son of Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council, and noted ideologue of silovik supremacy). If the new Cabinet sees him “upgraded” to a deputy PM position, as well as a set of other dynamic “youngsters”, this would be a strong hint that we’re looking at just such a contest.

***

Ensuring Continuity of Ideology

This is clearly the goal of the bans on PMs, Ministers, governors, and some mayors and judges, from having second citizenships and foreign residencies, as well as the requirement that Presidential candidates should have been resident in Russia for 25 years (previously 10 years) and never had a foreign citizenship or residency permit. At a stroke, this rules out a bunch of Atlanticists (e.g. NGO types, oligarchs) and crypto-Atlanticists (e.g. the “globalized” children of the sovok boomer nomenklatura, such as Peskov’s Francophile daughter) coming to power. (Replicating mechanisms that China has in place by default).

More practically, this rules out both Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Swiss resident) and, perhaps, Alexey Navalny (does a student visa count as residency?), the two least incredible candidates for the future figureheads of a post-color revolution Russia.

One thing that needs to be ironed out: The status of Crimeans, who – it would formally appear – would all be banned from running for the Russian Presidency. Evidently, exceptions need to be cleverly made.

The clarification that Russian law is supreme over international law also insulates Russia from emerging neo-Bolshevik tendencies in the West (e.g. when is consuming meat going to become a war crime against the environment?).

***

* It is perhaps telling that a highly diverse group of people have been tasked with developing the needed amendments to the Constitution: “The body would comprise 75 politicians, legislators, scientists and public figures. Among the group’s members are Rusfond charity organization’s President Lev Ambinder, Ataman (head) of the Kuban Cossack society Nikolay Doluda, former pole vaulter and two-time Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva, Head of the Union of Theatrical Figures of Russia Alexander Kalyagin, Kaspersky Lab co-founder Natalya Kasperskaya, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sergei Katyrin, renowned pianist Denis Matsuyev, actor Vladimir Mashkov, Director of St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky, internationally acclaimed pediatric surgeon and President of Research Institute of Emergency Pediatric Surgery and Traumatology Leonid Roshal, Head of the Russian Union of Journalists Vladimir Solovyev, State Tretyakov Gallery Director General Zelfira Tregulova, Mosfilm studio Director General Karen Shakhnazarov, President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin and others.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, Russia, Vladimir Putin 
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The data points keep getting better and better. We now know that 10/11 missiles hit (up from the initial estimate of 6/11). The damage they did has also been upgraded, with a Danish soldier speaking of many helicopters destroyed (as opposed to the US claim of one damaged) and 11 US soldiers reported injured.

More importantly, the very low CEP (~12m) has been more or less conclusively confirmed.

This means that Iran has developed precision ballistic missile targeting years ahead of schedule. Commenter Annatar has dug up some thinking from strategic arms expert Michael Elleman:

Assuming the Fateh-110s were aiming for the center of the airfield, the spatial distribution of the impacts indicates a CEP of 800–1,100 meters, depending on the calculation method employed. ”

“It will require very different technologies to the Fateh-110 to achieve the design objectives. Adding a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, or the Russian, French or Chinese equivalents, to the inertial navigation system to provide precise updates will only improve Emad’s accuracy by about 20–25%, not enough to alter its military utility. To achieve the precision needed to destroy military targets consistently and reliably, Iran must develop a post-boost control system and terminal guidance capabilities. With terminal guidance and control, missile warheads can be maneuvered to the target just before impact. Based on the time other countries took to develop precision-guided ballistic missiles with a range greater than 300 km, Iran is not expected to possess an arsenal of accurate medium-range missiles before 2025. Extensive foreign assistance from China or Russia could shorten the timeline to a few years, however.”

And here his Iran’s Missile Priorities After The Nuclear Deal from 2018:

The Fateh-110’s CEP of 800–1,000 meters is on a par with that of the Shahab-1 missile. The lethal effects of a missile warhead weighing 500–1,000 kilograms is limited to about 50 meters, making it easy to understand why the missile is not expected to land close enough to kill or destroy a specific target. As with the Shahab-1, the Fateh-110 is unlikely to succeed, unless the target is very large, like an airfield or military base. Iran will likely need many more years and scores of flight tests to reduce the CEP to below 200 meters, the minimum accuracy requirement for a missile to have a reasonable chance of destroying a specific military target.

In reality, they were developed by 2019, in precisely that year, since accuracy during Iran’s missile strikes on Islamic State as late as October 2018 were pretty low:

Mini Sputnik moment? Could the sharp US stand down after this be connected with the generals realizing that war with Iran would be far costlier than they expected, and communicating this to Trump and Co? It was at any rate quite interesting how Trump went from being very aggressive to friendly soon after the missile hits, as well as his difficulties with speaking the next day. Perhaps the real impact on that day was that the people in a position to know – military analysts, generals, the civilian leaders they briefed – realized that a war with Iran would be far, far costlier than had previously been assumed. Assuming Iran has hundreds of these Fateh missiles, with CEP = 12 meter accuracy, that would put them in a position to reduce Saudi oil infrastructure and US military bases across the entire region, whereas before they were only in a position to cause some minor damage to Saudi and Israeli cities. As Annatar points, this means Iran has its own version of a “Samson option” now.

To be sure, the US can still fight (and even win) against Iran if it was really determined to:

Fixed bases are not a sine qua non of warfare. You can conceal planes and drones. Troops can be billetted amongst civilians, as has been practiced since times immemorial. And, of course, the launchers and missiles can be themselves targeted. Though this will not be trivial, since Iran is big and has a lot of mountains and hardened underground bases, where it has been accumulating missiles for decades.

But wars of choice are politically fickle things. The Arabs no longer seem to want to go along with American adventures, and even wussified Western militaries might balk at this.

US troops sheltered in Saddam-era bunkers during Iran missile attack:

“I don’t wish anyone to have that level of fear,” he said. “No one in the world should ever have to feel something like that.”

Danish soldier after Iranian attack: I felt powerless:

Psychologists are now on their way to Kuwait to help the Danish soldiers recover from the experience.

There are also consequences to this that stretch beyond Iran. We now also know that even a country with a moderately large population and modest average IQ – if with a sizable smart fraction, albeit a brain drained one – that is committed to its sovereignty (but not at the cost of Best Korea-like levels of militarization) can develop capabilities that make US intervention a nightmare. E.g., what Iran can accomplish now, a Bolivarian Venezuela may potentially accomplish in another decade. Especially considering the fruitful relations between these countries.

Some further questions:

1. It is unlikely that CEP was so low with just inertial guidance. Were the Iranians reliant on foreign SatNav? If so, who’s? There is debate over this, with it being possible that Iran’s own milsats were sufficient.

2. Could targeting be made dynamic (to also threaten warships, esp. aircraft carriers). I imagine this would be much harder, but not impossible, the Chinese at any rate seem to be getting there with the DF-41.

That said, the more logical route would probably be to go for swarms of cruise missiles. Anyone know what the status of development is there?

I had assumed Iran would be largely powerless against USN, since AFAIK most of their anti-ship missile arsenal is composed of antiquated Chinese C-802s (a Hezbollah-fired missile did damage an Israeli corvette in 2006, but it had its countermeasures turned off at the time; the USS Mason (DDG-87) shrugged off a volley from Yemen fired by the Houthis in 2016. However, if Iran has more capable anti-ship missiles in respectable numbers – and this particular surprise should make us raise the chances of that being the case – then the calculations would change. It seems to have some numbers of Sunburns, though no Bastion systems.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Geopolitics, Iran, Military Analysis 
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Major announcements in this State of the Nation speech on Jan 15, 2020.

Here is a very brief summary to get the conversation started.

Immediate politics:

  • The Medvedev government has resigned
  • The little-known Mikhail Mishustin, former head of the tax service, has been appointed as PM. He is an AI-loving technocrat who reduced uncollected VAT from 20% to 1%.
  • Source tells me FM Sergey Lavrov rumored to be permanently retiring.

Constitutional changes:

  • Parliament, not President, to now name the PM and Cabinet. The President won’t have veto powers.
  • President limited to an absolute two terms, ruling out a “Putin after Putin.”
  • Increase the role of the State Council and enshrine its advisory role in the Constitution.
  • Constitutional changes to be confirmed by referendum.
  • Russian law now formally superior to international law.
  • Ban PMs, Ministers, governors, some mayors and judges, from having second citizenships of foreign residencies; moreover, Presidential candidates should have been resident in Russia for 25 years (previously 10 years) and never had a foreign citizenship. (This rules out a large proportion of Atlanticists and crypto-Atlanticists).

Demographics:

  • Putin bemoaned continued fall in Russia’s fertility rates to 1.5 children per woman this year (up from post-Soviet peak of close to 1.8 in mid-2000s), setting 1.7 children per woman as the new target for 2024.
  • Reaffirmed demographics as the first national priority.
  • Maternity capital to be increased by further 150,000 rubles and constitute 616,617 rubles (≈$10,000) for a family with two children, to be annually indexed.

***

Some very tentative thoughts:

(1) I have long thought now that Putin’s end game is to transition into an overseeing “elder statesman” role, along the model of Lee Kuan Yew/PAP in Singapore [see 1, 2, 3]. This appears to be the final confirmation that this is happening.

(2) Questions about the succession revolved around (a) The Belarus variant, in which it effectively constitutes a new state with Russia, allowing Putin to become the supreme head of that state; (b) A constitutional reshuffle such as the one we’re seeing here. This question has also been answered.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, Russia 
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The Witcher (Wiedźmin) is a fantasy series by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski that was mostly written in the 1990s. It is set in a European-inspired continent riven between constantly feuding kingdoms, ruled behind the scenes by a cabal of mages, while monsters from Indo-European folklore reive on the hapless, mudfooted peasants. A class of specially-trained mutants were created to hunt down these monsters; these “witchers” now roam the kingdoms, taking coin for their services. The story follows the adventures of one such witcher, Geralt of Rivia.

No exaggeration, but The Witcher is probably Poland’s most successful cultural export since the end of Communism. Although the books sold well throughout East-Central Europe, what really put it on the map was the series of eponymous video games created by Polish studio CD Projekt Red. Their phenomenal success (e.g., The Witcher 3 has a 9.4/10 user rating on Metacritic) has propelled CD Projekt Red into the ranks of global leaders in their field. Their upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 is probably the single most awaited PC game in 2020.

The Witcher became such a popular phenomenon that Netflix produced a series about it, with the first season coming out last December, and a second season planned for this year.

***

Several days ago, I binge watched the eight episodes of the first series (naturally, not through Netflix).

Pros: Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) was perfectly cast, and his part of the story is up to par. In fairness, I think quality did increase with each new episode, though perhaps it me getting acculturated to its slapstick format. Although I have yet to seriously play any of the Witcher games, a friend who did tells me that the things they did right are much more easily appreciated if you have previous knowledge of the Witcher universe.

Fringilla Vigo, the main antagonist by the end of the season.

Cons: Weak dialogue, with many cringe moments. But what really killed of all immersion was the gratuitous blacking.

The demographics of the Witcher world, as interpreted by Netflix’s writer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, resembled that of the United States in 1950. Not the US today, because 90% white/10% Black. As with #OscarsSoWhite, the diversification imperative doesn’t extend to Asians.

We wuz dark mages.

***

So why am I writing about this particular bit of pop trivia?

To start off with, let me just note that in Poland right now, about every fifth billboard and monitor – no exaggeration! – is advertising the Netflix Witcher.

It’s on the streets…

… in the Warsaw metro …

… even visible from the top of the Palace of Culture and Science (the Stalinist skyscraper in Warsaw).

Some canvassers even handed us Witcher necklaces while we were walking about in Krakow.

Oops, not related… though come to think of it, quite fitting. Indeed, #BlackFilmsMatter.

***

As you can see, Netflix is evidently making a major push into the Polish market, and it is using The Witcher as its icebreaker.

But it is not just a capitalist process, but a social process. The multicultural realities of the present-day West are being projected into the past, because if the past can be made to be multicultural as well, then the diverse present and ever more diverse future can be portrayed as the world-historical norm. The BBC now uses British taxpayer funds to tell us fascinating and hitherto unknown facts about the vibrancy of Roman-era Britain. And they are gradually spreading their geographic scope, with Czech studio Warhorse Studios coming under SJW pressure for not including any Negroes in 15th century Bohemia. Their chief developer sent them packing.

But will this remain true for the new generations that grow up watching blackwashed Witchers and the other cultural products that come part and parcel with American soft power hegemony?

As I have observed on several occasions, Poland seems to be the most ripe of any of the V4 countries – if not all of the former Soviet bloc – for going into multiculturalism mode. It is the weak link in the chain. And some significant percentage of the four billion Sub-Saharan Africans projected for 2100 will be migrating somewhere; the Mediterranean Sea is much narrower than the Atlantic, or the Indian Ocean. It almost seems as if there is a kind of world-historical logic to a blacked Witcher.

 
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To do a color revolution, you generally need:

  • Significant proportion of the population going out into the streets (not just university students and office plankton).
  • Some degree of elite defection.

Trump’s bombast regardless – congratulations to him on learning Farsi and becoming an Iran expert in the past 48 hours – I don’t see either being true. As I noted in December 2017, the (mostly emigre and Anglophone) Iranians (as well as Chinese, Russians, etc.) on Twitter or /r/Iran are not “normie” Iranians. For instance, Soleimani had an approval rating of 82% as of August 2019. I don’t see how whacking him would have made them more sympathetic to the US.

Some more highlights from the latest polls in 2019:

  • ~75% oppose ending nuclear enrichment
  • 38% blame foreign sanctions for Iran’s economic decline, vs. 55% who blame mismanagement and corruption (but there’s no different amongst the two groups on the nuclear question)
  • 86% negative towards the US… so Trump getting involved isn’t going to do the protests any good
  • 64% approve of Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, “the conservative candidate for president in 2017″… above the “liberal” Rouhani.
  • 81% of Iranians think the IRGC have “have made Iran more secure.”

The only elite faction that may have a chance of implementing a coup are the IRGC… indeed, Soleimani himself reportedly threatened to do that unless the government put down student protests in 1999. Needless to say, an IRGC-led Iran can hardly be expected to be more amenable to US diktats than the mullahs.

Finally, the reasons for the recent protests strike me as uniquely lame and unconvincing. The US took 8 years to compensate the victims of the Iranian airliner downed by the USS Vincennes in 1988 (without ever acknowledging formal responsibility). Iran acknowledged its guilt within 3 days. Considering that you need to make split second decisions in air defence, it is tragic but not altogether incomprehensible that one SA-15 battery faltered. Considering who began this escalation, the US must be considered at least equally culpable for the downing of PS752.

And from what I can tell, the protesters, such as they are, are 9% university students where they are not 90% astroturfed. It would be very surprising if it was otherwise, given the above polls. And the fact of America’s implacable hostility to Iran under Trump.

I certainly don’t expect anything interesting to come out of them except a new round of atrocity propaganda (anybody seriously believe the figure of 1,500 killed in the recent protests?).

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Color Revolution, Iran 
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The Iran War has been called off for the time being, but the threat of a renewed crisis and future escalation remain. The Iranian missile strikes on two US bases in Iraq provide updated data points on how such a clash will go.

1. The most important adjustment we need to make is that Iranian SRBMs are much more accurate than conventional wisdom expected. Satellite analysis of the strikes show their CEP is <20m.

This is a major milestone. Forget Scuds being tossed about willy-nilly. Three decades since the War of the Cities, and the rise of cheap electronics, even decidedly mid-tier Powers now have access to accurate targeting. An area that was previously the exclusive preserve of the superpowers (US – since 1970s; USSR – since 1980s).

This will certainly complicate the US position in the Middle East, as it makes its military bases much more vulnerable to Iranian attack than what I had previously thought. At least assuming Patriots remain iffy. There was no test of that two days ago.

I don’t think it’s a complete game changer. Fixed bases are not a sine qua non of warfare. You can conceal planes and drones. Troops can be billetted amongst civilians, as has been practiced since times immemorial. And, of course, the launchers and missiles can be themselves targeted. Though this will not be trivial, since Iran is big and has a lot of mountains and hardened underground bases, where it has been accumulating missiles for decades.

2. Conversely, there’s nothing positive to report about Iranian air defense.

It is now clear that PS752 was accidentally brought down by mistaken fire from Iranian air defense. (Considering the improbability of a civilian jet catastrophe – something that happens just 1-2 times in any one year – coinciding with the sharpest Iran-US clash to date, this was always the likeliest version).

The friendly fire came from a Tor missile system (SA-15). This is a fairly modern system, so the fact that its operators – who, admittedly, must have been panicky and on edge – confused it for a hostile doesn’t speak highly to their training.

This is admittedly not much of a data point, but it does reinforce the existing, generally negative view of the Iranian IADS. It was less dense and more outdated than Syria’s even before Russia started upgrading it from 2016. As of a decade ago, most of it consists of outdated American and Soviet systems and some Tor batteries, although it has since been augmented with 4 S-300 batteries, 4 S-300PMU2 batteries, and 12+ Bavar-373 batteries (a supposedly improved adaptation of the S-300). Their performance is still mostly a black box.

There is very little in the way of an air force apart from a few creaking F-14’s that soldier on and MiG-29’s (with unupgraded avionics). Ideally, an IADS needs to be complemented by modern fighters, which would require that any strike missions against SAMS be accompanied by air-to-air escorts and lower the sortie rate. Iran doesn’t have anything of the sort, and it needs to wait until the expiration of UN sanctions later this year as well as years and billions of dollars of purchases before it can mitigate this shortcoming.

My guess, at this point, is that the problems posed by Iranian air defense will be comparable to that posed by the outdated Serbian air defense to NATO fighters in 1998: Enough to create a present and lingering threat that negatively impacts on the effectiveness of bombing sorties, but nowhere near enough to result in the loss of significant numbers of enemy airframes. The Iranians, on their side, have the benefit of a nicer geography and probably a smaller technological gap (much will depend on how good the Bavars are). OTOH, they probably also have poorer training and worse human capital than the Serbs.

Obviously, if Russia was to get involved – by provisioning S-400’s, providing training, perhaps even the crews for them and a fighter screen – Iran’s situation improves radically.

 
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The opinion polls in the US show broad based support for escalation with Iran amongst the Republicans (84%), despite their drift towards “America First”.

Although some marginal libertarians, paleocons, and Alt Righters (such as Richard Spencer) may have stridently opposed this, all of this is perfectly compatible with mainstream Republican voters, including the nationalist/America First elements (as reading the standard Alt Liters like Ari Fleischer, Posobiec, Ian Cheong, Andy Ngo, Paul Joseph Watson, etc. will quickly reveal).

In contrast, it is the hard left in the US that takes the most consistent stand against escalating in Iran. The popular leftist subreddit /r/ChapoTrapHouse upvoted “seditious” calls to side with Iran to the top throughout the crisis.

But at least the US has some genuine beef with Iran (if for retarded reasons), and it is Europe that will bear most of the consequences (e.g. refugee outflows) from a large Middle East war. In fact, the more aggressive and cynical American nationalists may consider weakening Europe – and, potentially, China, should the Strait of Hormuz be shut down – as feature, not bug. But nationalists in Europe have no such excuse. Logically, then, it should be the national populists who are most opposed to it. Right. Right?

Well, not in Italy, at any rate…

UgoGaudino: “Most of Italian politicians call to make every effort to avoid further escalation after #Soleimani’s death. #Salvini tweets his wholehearted endorsement of #Trump air op and disappoints sections of his sovereignist followers, who condemn the #Usairstrike

And I do suspect it might reflect underlying voter preferences. For instance, as I pointed out during the last major crisis in 2017, Front National voters in France were as hawkish as Macron supporters on Syria:

62% of Front National voters and MLP supporters supported the strikes – that is virtually the same as those evil “globalist” En Marche!/Macron supporters.

Ergo for Fillon/conservative voters. Hamon supporters were 50/50, while Melenchon voters were actually opposed, at 45% to 55%.

This raises a disquieting scenario. Assume Marine Le Pen was to get into power by some miracle, and were to find herself hobbled by the universal hostility towards her populist-nationalist program from within and without.

What could she then do to break the deadlock?

Well, if the Trump experience is anything to go by, why not bomb some brown people in the Third World in the wake of the next round of dubious atrocity propaganda, with the quiet approval of her own electorate and the jingoistic cheers of the “moderate” centrists, who will go on to reward her “Presidential” actions with a few weeks of support before digging in their talons again.

OK, perhaps these views are based on arcane Galaxy Brain calculations that the refugees a new war will bring will be what finally tips the electoral scales in their favor.

But I suspect the more banal reality is that such people are just pretty low IQ, more bloodthirsty, and as susceptible to propaganda (of the Ziocon variety) as the “normies” they otherwise mock.

What makes this all the more ironic is that even purely ethnonationalist considerations aside – many of these people, of course, are culturalists and/or Christian nationalists of the Bannon variety, not racialists – these are generally the only political groupings that make a big deal of the plight of Christians in the Middle East. But it is Iran, and men like Soleimani in particular, who have played an inordinate part in safeguarding at least some Christians in Iraq and Syria, while it is what Iranians call the Great Satan and the Little Satan who had been most assiduous about sponsoring their jihadist tormentors. But when the Good (Persian) Samaritan comes in conflict with that Synagogue of Satan, it appears that all too many European “nationalists” consider it just swell to plump for the latter.

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I was hoping that Russian nationalists are at least more based, since at least (a) they have more reasons to resent the US than most European nationalists, and (b) a US-Iran war, at least assuming it remains contained, should be good for Russia in a way that it will not be good for most Europeans. Oil prices will go up, the refugees will go to Europe, not Russia (where they will galvanize European nationalists), and there’ll be more freedom of action in the Near Abroad. That’s a cynical way of looking at things, sure, but it’s not like nationalists have much of a reputation for being nice anywhere.

And they are more based… but not by that much.

According to an n=216 poll in a Russian nationalist chat on Telegram (there are several such groups on social media like Telegram and Discord):

  • 27% sooner support Iran
  • 13% sooner support the US
  • 38% wish a “pox on both their houses”
  • 22% for “peace in all the world”

The US supporters (13%) tend to be low information people who unironically believe Trump is championing the white race against the Mohammedan terrorists (or occasionally more esoteric/”powerful” reasons, such as avenging the Griboyedov murder of 1829).

There were twice as many (27%) who would presumably agree with the following take:

Vile Varangian: “The Iranians never sponsored liberal NGOs in my country. The Iranians never armed the Kiev regime. The Iranians never bombed Russian warriors in Syria. The Iranians didn’t hold Maria Butina as a hostage for two years. The Iranians aren’t waging an economic war on my country.

The majority hold to varying degrees of negative or positive neutrality. The former can be justified through cynicism/Realpolitik, while the latter is justifiable on ethical grounds. But unironically shilling for the US is so many levels of cucked for any Russian, let alone a Russian nationalist.

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Believe it or not, but there are MIGA fans even in Serbia.

On Jan 8, a Serb nationalist friend wrote to me, “Mentioning this on the brink of an all-out war between the US and Iran may sound trivial, but there are some Serbian alt-right Trump fanatics that are actually supporting him in this madness, their reasoning being Quds supported Muslims against Serbs in Bosnia.

Very big brained take to be sure.

Admittedly, it’s pretty funny that American far leftists are principle be more opposed to US imperialism than Russian or Serb nationalists.

***

This is all pretty depressing and blackpilling, since it’s just one more example of the Right’s acute human capital problem. At least the Americans have some excuse, but what about the Europeans? Not to mention the third of Russian nationalists with a non-neutral position on the US vs. Iran question??

Perhaps they deserve to keep losing to GloboZOGoHomo, over and over again?

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Alt Right, Iran, United States 
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PS. Events overtook my writing of this blog post. Looking forwards to a resolution of the Stealth Question and the Aircraft Carrier Question.

How would an Iran War be fought?

I already addressed this question on several occasions, most notably on The Road to World War III (see 2.c. The Persian Gulf), as well as here and in a few other places.

Quick overview of different scenarios/strategies in approximate order of severity:

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Iranian Strategies

I certainly don’t expect military miracles from a (largely brain drained) 90 IQ nation with largely obsolescent military technologies. It will need outside support from the real Great Powers – that is, Russia and China – to hope to come away with something better than a Pyrrhic victory (at best).

Regardless, Iran does have the capacity to make life hard for the US.

Cyberwar: Advantage = low cost, but will nonetheless likely invite US retaliation, even though the US has been waging cyber war on Iran for years (Stuxnet). I also don’t see it accomplishing much.

Resumption of nuclear program: This is a no brainer at this point, though – if the declarations are seriously followed through upon – they will almost certainly invite eventual Israeli/American strikes. OTOH, Iran has had many years to harden its nuclear facilities. I assume it didn’t sit on its hands during this period, and making blast-resistant concrete is one of the few (only?) areas in which Iran is a world technological leader. If successful, can achieve lasting security, though the end spurt will be fraught with severe dangers.

Attacks on US troops in Iraq: Continuation/intensification of existing policy. The Shiites now hate the US again, enough for them to vote to eject them out of Iraq (with the US apparently refusing to do so while making noises about sanctioning Iraq if it does). So this makes this than even easier option.

Increase support for Houthis: Presumably will happen, though don’t know if they can do much more than what they are already accomplishing.

Missile attacks on US bases: Coffins will make for a visceral show of vengeance, but won’t kill many US soldiers, consolidate the US against them, and will invite a devastating response.

Missile attacks on Israel: Bombing Tel Aviv is very based, redpilled, and powerful (see right), but what happens next? You’ll kill a couple dozen civilians – maybe 100 if you get lucky and get a square hit on an apartment block – but you will now be at war with both Israel and the US with nothing to really show for it. Those missiles would probably serve more productive uses elsewhere. Besides, Iran has Hezbollah to do the heavy lifting in this theater. Too bad for Lebanon, but oh well.

Missile attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure: Oil infrastructure is actually surprisingly resilient to missile attacks (oil and gas pipelines aren’t hard to repair). Iranian IRBMs aren’t very accurate. Perhaps relying on special forces will be more effective, or even better drones, as we saw last June. Of course point defenses at these installations will be strengthened and low hanging fruits will be rapidly picked off. That said, I don’t believe Iran has any chance whatsoever of making a major dent in Saudi oil production even over the medium term.

Close Strait of Hormuz: I have written about this at length before (see links above). This is Iran’s current most feasible “nuclear” option, so long as it doesn’t have actual nukes. I’ll just quote in extenso from my April 2018 article:

Anti-ship missiles: The bulk of the Iranian arsenal is based on Chinese C-802 missiles, which are similar to Harpoons and Exocets. Unless fired in salvoes, the USN can probably deal with them, though they would pose a credible threat to passing oil tankers – enough of a risk, possibly, to get insurers to stop covering the Strait of Hormuz route (which is ultimately what really matters). Ironically, at this point, many of them might start using the Northern Sea Route.

Mines: Iran’s naval mine stockpile is opaque, though its possible that it would be even more of a threat to shipping. It would be helpful to begin mine-laying operations before open outbreak of hostilities if at all possible, since doing so would become far harder afterwards. (However, since the US will be very much on the watch out for this in the wake of its destruction of Syria, a covert mine-laying operation will not stay secret for long).

One solid option would be to keep most of the anti-ship missiles in reserve, and use them primarily to attack US mine-clearing ships (which are less well defended than its capital ships, and far more fragile than double-hulled, multi-compartment oil supertankers). This might even force the US into launching ground operations on the Iranian coast, which will add body-bags to economic pain and possibly plunge it into political crisis.

Major problem – even back then US oil production had reached record highs, and has continued soaring into the stratosphere throughout 2019, so that it now produces more than 50% as much as Russia and Saudi Arabia. In a stunning refutation of the peak oil thesis, it is now close to self-sufficiency in petroleum and other liquids production. The North American continent as a whole would not be in overall surplus.

Of course oil is a globally traded and highly fungible commodity, so while an oil shock would be great for shale oil producers it would still be ruinous for the US economy. However, self-sufficiency opens the possibility of closing off the American or North American market, mitigating the price shock at home while making it even more acute abroad… and tanking the Chinese and European economies in the process. Which would admittedly be a pretty nice side benefit!

Ironically, exercise of Iran’s nuclear option may well actually be much worse for its putative (if fair weather) friend China than for its American nemesis.

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US Strategies

US goals seem to consist of some combination of the following elements, although they are implemented in a somewhat haphazard fashion.

  • Contain Iran’s potential as a Shiite hegemon in the Middle East.
  • Even better, regime change it into a US ally and alternative gas supplier to Europe vs. Russia.
  • Avenge the Holy 52.
  • Assure Israel’s security in the Middle East, esp. as the sole nuclear power there.

Obama’s policy pursued the more modest objections, containment and denuclearization. The Trump regime’s objectives are more maximalist and have been aggressively pursued, up to and including outrageous human rights violations such as depriving Iranian gamers of League of Legends, as well as much more minor things such as destroying their economy and whacking their generals.

Should they step up their game:

Aeronaval campaign: My take is that modern automotive infrastructure basically annulls air power’s capacity to really cripple an economy (roads are quickly repaired, and there are millions of trucks). Serbian SAMs, despite being heavily outdated, continued posing a threat to NATO fighters to the very end of the campaign. Iran has ten times as many people as Serbia, and 20 times the land area. It is a good bet that Iran is not going to be subdued through pure air power.

Limited occupation: Strait of Hormuz clash is unpredictable IMO since it will test US naval capabilities against Shkvals, Bastions, etc. Geography favors Iran, since there’s plenty of islands and inlets for the Bastions to shelter behind, and the shallow seas will maximize the effectiveness of its three diesel subs. Also depends on whether Iran can get the jump on the US. May have to undertake limited occupation of Iranian southern coastline to put an end to it, especially if Russia provides support.

Occupy Iran: The US would need at least half a million troops – more likely a million – to effect a wholesale occupation of Iran. This is more or less flat out impossible short of a draft.

Relying on contractors is one thing. But average Americans themselves are not what they once were. The one really nice thing about the “Great Awokening” is that it crimps US capacity to fight imperialist wars.

At this point, it will be politically extremely unpopular and may topple the US into unrest if not insurrection.

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Chinese/Russian Strategies

Although Iran is hardly an ally or even a good friend of either Russia or China, neither can afford it getting vassalized by the Americans. So we will likely see limited involvement from both of them in support of Iran.

Chinese involvement: Iran’s ability to threaten the Strait of Hormuz presents it with another possibility. China in particular has been recalcitrant about standing up for Iran against the US, e.g. forbidding Kunlun Bank from handling Iran payments (as it did with the pre-JCPOA sanctions). The implicit threat of closing down the Strait of Hormuz may encourage China to play a more cooperative role, especially with respect to financial support, perhaps weapons supplies, etc.

Incidentally, there were already rumors of big deals in the works several months ago:

Among other benefits, Chinese companies will be given the first refusal to bid on any new, stalled or uncompleted oil and gasfield developments. Chinese firms will also have first refusal on opportunities to become involved with any and all petchems projects in Iran, including the provision of technology, systems, process ingredients and personnel required to complete such projects.

“This will include up to 5,000 Chinese security personnel on the ground in Iran to protect Chinese projects, and there will be additional personnel and material available to protect the eventual transit of oil, gas and petchems supply from Iran to China, where necessary, including through the Persian Gulf,” says the Iranian source.

In reality, as pointed out by an Iranian commenter, this was very likely a leak by the Iranians to signal to the Americans that they have options should they refuse to drop sanctions and the Europeans make no effort to mitigate them. Now sure, this would not be optimal from Iran’s perspective, since it would basically make them into an economic colony of China. But they’d hardly have other chances in the event of a “warm” or outright hot war with the US.

Russian involvement: Russia would be stupid to avoid making a US air campaign against Iran even harder, so it would probably support Iran by default. This would presumably involve helping Iran with oil exports (selling its oil as its own), providing weapons, training crews, and perhaps even going head to head against American fighters under conditions of plausible deniability (as during the Korean and Vietnam wars). At the narrow level, this will hone skills and provide access to American miltech. At the broader level, it will create an opening for exploring geopolitical feasibilities elsewhere in its Near Abroad.

Involvement in Iran is not entirely riskless, since Russia’s position in Syria remains vulnerable. But they are substantially mitigated by Russia’s ability to escalate outside that theater (e.g. the Baltics).

***

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Geopolitics, Iran, United States 
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I am not an Iran expert, and will not pretend that I have magically become one in the past few days. Nor do I see much point in a detailed chronicle of the latest developments and Tweets – for that, there is, say, /r/SyrianCivilWar.

Instead, I think it would be more productive to highlight a few things that may have perhaps gone under-reported.

***

(1) Obviously, this presents a major escalation on America’s part. And to date the US shows no signs of stopping, with Trump threatening to destroy 52 Iranian “cultural sites” (presumably the neocons will be as pleased with bombing ancient mosques as their Bolshevik predecessors were with blowing up old Russian Orthodox churches), Michael Pence now retconning the Iranians as the masterminds behind 9/11, and barring the Iranian Foreign Minister from the UN.

It really does seem that they are aiming for war, though this was – in retrospect – clear as early as last May when the US presented its unfulfillable demands for lifting sanctions.

(2) What is remarkable is the extent to which the US is prepared to flout international norms in pursuit of this aim. I remarked that the US seems to be reverting to quasi-medieval behavior in its international relations (e.g. seizing the family members of foreign tech oligarchs as hostages). Luring Soleimani to Iraq on the pretext of negotiations and then using the US military in the geopolitical equivalent of a gangland murder is an order of magnitude more “powerful” still. This is being rationalized by Republicans/Alt Lite on account of American exceptionalism – the Democrats are generally against it, but the brunt of their arguments revolve around how Trump is going about it (e.g. not consulting them), not with the general principle. And those same people will doubtless be outraged if/when that same refusal to accept that other nations have legitimate interests that are at odds with their own is weaponized again them.

(3) One concrete example of how this is rationalized by the MIGA/neocon crowd on account of the US assassination of Soleimani enjoying popular legitimacy, e.g. Pompeo: “Iraqis are dancing on the streets celebrating freedom. They’re thankful General Suleimani is no more.” The videos of the mass gatherings at his funeral give the lie to that, at least one would think – though at least one MIGA personality has claimed that all those millions only attended the funeral at the barrel of a gun – but it’s worth noting that we also have concrete numbers about Iranian opinion on the matter:

Iranians supporting Soleimani assassination will either be:

  1. At best, very unrepresentative, prob. emigres in most cases;
  2. Officer’s daughter” type propagandists (famous case of Ukrainian male infowarrior forgetting to login & posting as anti-Russian woman in Crimea).

There is also a certain moderate/neoliberal kind of person – they mainly seem to be technocrat types from outside the US – who speculate that the Iranian elites are themselves secretly pleased at the US having gotten rid of a potential populist challenger – or perhaps even colluded in his assassination. I saw a Tweet to that effect from a female Russian finance/econ person, though I can’t locate it ATM. I think that the most that can be said is that they speak (or project) for themselves.

(4) Americans strongly dislike Iran according to all the polls. This is evident even on “dissident right” website such as this very one. This might be a blackpill to some, but conflict with Iran is not going to be unpopular, at least within the timeframes that matter. With less than a year to go, it shouldn’t hurt Trump and may well even help him. According to Election Betting Odds, Trump’s chances of winning in 2020 remain at 50% and haven’t budged since the start of the current crisis. So I would not rely on American “war weariness” holding the US back. Just look at the replies to people like Michael Tracey or Max Blumenthal on Twitter… quite unlikely that they are all MAGA bots.

(5) So here’s what we have now.

USA – The boomers have been triggered into reliving their 1979 psychological traumas and the Ziocons are at a peak state to offer them relief (no matter how short-term and ineffectual). On the plus side, there is more anti-war sentiment than in 2002-3. However, at the end of the day, even now 43% of Americans approve of the Soleimani assassination (vs. 38% who disapprove) and the propaganda spigots haven’t even been turned on, so there isn’t much scope for confidence in that regard. Finally, and this might be quite critical, one point I haven’t seen anyone make is that the US is now almost self-sufficient in oil production. This largely insulates it against Iran’s only feasible “nuclear” response.

Iran – Their economy is in the doldrums from American secondary sanctions (it is one thing when just the US refuses to trade with them; it is something entirely else when they leverage their position as the world’s financial hyperpower to prevent even Chinese or Russian entities from trading with Iran). The conditions for their removal are basically across the board capitulation, more radical with Austria-Hungary with respect to Serbia in 1914. They have no had their equivalent of McCain or Petraeus (in terms of social position – no intention to sully Soleimani by association) whacked by the US while on a diplomatic mission in a third country. So not responding at all might well be more dangerous, even in absolute terms, so far as regime stability is concerned.

The risk of an Iran-US war this year must is therefore decidedly untrivial. 40% sounds about right. How would such a war look like?

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Geopolitics, Iran, United States 
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Warsaw by Night.

Happy New Year to all my loyal readers!

Just returned from Poland. Will have an extensive writeup (see Romania) soon, though you already saw glimpses of my impressions at the comments to the previous Open Thread and on Twitter.

While in Poland I had an interview with South African expat Radio Hussar (part 1/part 2). Follow him on Twitter.

For those of you who know Russian, my classic article on the basics of intelligence research for Sputnik & Pogrom has been made into a video.

 

 
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I was in Saint-Petersburg this November 18-25, and I thought I would round off the trip by stopping by the historic towns of Tver and Torzhok on the way. Thanks to the new High-Speed Rail infrastructure, this is pretty easy, and this along with the urban beautification campaign launched by its new, HSE-educator mayor Alexander Menshchikov (see this Bloomberg article), has made the city more liveable and even helped it start drawing back population away from the overcrowded metropolis of Moscow. The city had multiple information boards with local lore and maps alerting visitors to nearby places of historical and cultural interest. The local administration is obviously seeking to develop tourism.

Like many middling Russian cities, the population plummeted after the Soviet collapse, falling from 455,000 in the early 1990s to a minimum of 404,000 by 2010; since then, though, it has sprang back up to 421,000 (for comparison, Bryansk, which I reviewed last year, fell from a very comparable 461,000 in the early 1990s to 405,000 by 2019, in a decline which has slowed down but shows no signs of stopping or reversing).

While I was only there for one full day, I got the impression that culturally, it was in the middle between Veliky Novgorod and Moscow. This makes sense. After all, though it was founded by Novgorod merchants as a trading post around 1335, it would become its own principality in 1246 before becoming absorbed into Muscovy in 1485 after an ill-fated alliance with Poland-Lithuania.

Today, it is a rather typical industrial-historical city of the Russian North-West, with average salaries by the standards of the region (similar to Veliky Novgorod) and, along with Pskov and Novgorod, the lowest life expectancy in European Russia (along with elevated alcoholism, suicide, and murder rates – all of which are correlated). One interesting coincidence is that these are also three of the five regions to have had the most drastic population declines in the 20th century; whereas Russia’s population as a whole increased by 55% between 1926 and 2010, it declined by more than 50% in Tver oblast, a legacy of out-migration and the German occupation.

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Tver Streets

“Welcome to Tver.”

Constructed in 1845-48, along the Moscow-SPB route – Russia’s very first railway – it was also one of the Empire’s first railway stations.

Tver was called “Kalinin” between 1931 and 1990. The monument to this Soviet functionary, who primarily served as the early Soviet government’s token peasant representative, occupies pride of place on the station.

This is the subway connecting the railway station to the city proper. Clean, looks new, with illustrations of the area’s points of interest to whet tourist appetites.

Railway station is in front, shopping mall to the left, and the Church of Saint Alexander Nevsky on the right.

It is a story that you are no doubt already used to if you read my Russia travel reports. Originally constructed in the late 19C, it was converted into a bakery in 1929 and demolished in 1983 to make way for an expansion to the railway station. It was reconstructed in 2009-13.

The view from my budget “Turist” hotel. This commieblock scenery is typical of the prole outskirts of Tver, or indeed of the vast majority of Russian cities.

This is an unfortunately disused tram track outside my hotel.

Monument to Saints Cyril and Methodius outside the Philological Department of Tver State University.

I notice that the lampposts here are very similar to those used in areas of Moscow recently renovated. Wonder if it’s the same company.

The central thoroughfare from the train station to the center could do with some more renovation.

Once you get to the mall – that ultimate symbol of the Putin era – there begins the nice, historic area of Tver.

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This is central Tver. As one might see, it has been transformed into a pedestrian zone, and there are signs of SWPLification.

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Chicken House

Always amusing to compare local adaptations of fast food chains. The Chicken House (lit. Чикен Хауз) chain is based in Tver, and obviously competes with the Colonel’s joint.

The only two Blacks in Tver are, of course, to be found in the Chicken House. (And there are still big brained nibbas who deny the reality of HBD).

Fries much better than at KFC, though a bit short of McDonald’s. Chicken sandwich better than at KFC, juicier. Ice cream is basically a copy of the McDonald’s offering.

Here it is directly competing with KFC.

This chain has branches through the region, here is one from Torzhok.

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Goat Museum

One of the most fascinating “sights” is the Goat Museum (Музей Козла) in central Tver, which has an average rating of 4.8/5 on Google Maps. Definitely check it out.

If your name is somehow goat-themed (e.g. Kozlov), then you get free entrance.

The people of Tver have traditionally been proud of their goats and the city’s unofficial emblem features the ruminant animal. The museum’s director Vladimir Lavrenov has made it his life’s work to accumulate all the most exotic artifacts linked to goats. According to him, the term “Tver goat” dates to the 14th century and used to have positive connotations, such as stubbornness and independence (as opposed to sheep, which are a conformist herd animal). It was only in the USSR that the term goat (козел) came to have negative connotations, largely on account of the Soviet zek (criminal) subculture. However, as Lavrenov pointed out, only people who believe that the country is 30 years old or 70 years old could be expected to honor that redesignation.

You get a prize for counting the number of goats in this display correctly. I am not going to “spoil” this beyond saying that it’s between 100 and 200.

The two goats stirring the pot is Tver’s unofficial emblem.

The museum features a few “surprises” and practical jokes that I won’t spoil either.

The variety of the artifacts is astounding. There are even authentic coins and other items from ancient civilizations dating to before the birth of Christ. (Copies of originals are clearly labeled as such).

Goat smelling a rose (China 1970s).

Large list of sayings and quotes relating to goats on goatskin.

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Tver Central

Walking past the pedestrian SWPL area, we are now going to make our way to the waterfront, which features the bulk of Tver’s state institutions and monumental architecture.

The obligatory monument to the Great Bald One.

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Looks like the New Year decorations are already being set up.

This is the main central city park, which leads to the waterfront.

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The Tver State Museum was closed for renovations.

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The Transfiguration Cathedral of Tver… no points for guessing by now that the original late 17C construction (though older churches had stood here back to 1285) was dynamited by the Soviets in 1935.

Reconstruction started in 2014 and is currently in its final stages.

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The Tver Oblast Art Gallery is on the site of an 18th century palace constructed for its central location between Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. It was renovated in the mid-2010s.

I decided not to visit it, because ultimately this is just a regional picture gallery and I was only in Tver for one day.

The Grand Lobby. Some of the columns still bear scars from Nazi shelling.

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The Tver State Medical University.

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The Monument to the Victims of Political Repression, installed in 1997, when such things were in vogue.

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The Island of Memory

The vast majority of Russian cities, especially those that were occupied and/or were on the frontlines during World War II, feature an assemblage of monuments dedicated to it. Tver is obviously no exception.

This is the Obelisk of Victory. Behind the Obelisk is a Suvorov Military School, a boarding school for war orphans formed in 1943 on the suggestion of aristocrat turned pro-Soviet Alexey Ignatiev

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Church of Saint Michael of Tver.

Monument to Vasily Margelov.

War monument to local Soviet soldiers killed in conflicts after World War II.

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Tver Waterfront

Apologize for, perhaps, the excess of photos here… but I really like these icy cityscapes.

Monument to the Fisherman.

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View from the Old Bridge (originally the Volga Bridge), constructed in 1905.

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Monument to the Submariners.

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Parus Boathouse Cafe.

Must be really nice here in the summer.

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Many people seem to enjoy feeding the ducks.

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Afanasy Nikitin is a 15th century Russian explorer from Tver who left a very readable account of his travels to the Middle East and India during 1469-72. Contains many funny un-PC observations.

Amusingly, this 1955 monument emphasizes that his visit to India carried a “friendly aim”.

Here is a very readable text about it from RBTH.

Link to the original text, as well as a 1950s Soviet movie about it.

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Museum of Tver Life

The house belonged to the Arefyev merchant family during the late 19C-early 20C and gives an insight into the life of the late Imperial bourgeoisie in Tver. It’s hard to track down what happened to them after the Revolution, but the patriarch of the family Mikhail (1862-1930s?) seems to have been repressed.

The study of Mikhail Arefyev.

Piano.

Singer sewing machines virtually always appear in these reconstructions of the fin de siècle era. They dominated the market during the time and even today one can come across many of them that survived as family heirlooms.

Incidentally, the Singers owned a famous house in Saint-Petersburg, which now hosts a prominent book market and VK’s offices.

The wife Elizaveta bought this chair on a trip to India.

School records of Anastasia, their daughter, from the Tver Women’s Gymnasium. They seem to have been mostly 5’s (top marks), with a few 4s.

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If you have any interest in the institution of the Russian samovar, then Tver is the place for you. The exposition in the basement covers the history of the samovar from its origins as a sbitennik in the 18th century to the electric samovars of the 20th century.

19th century kettle and sbitennik for making sbiten, an old East Slavic sweet drink (recipe in picture).

Traveling samovar kits c.1900 for picnics.

Russia’s major center of samovar production was in Tula, which was also the Empire’s main center of munitions production. There were 120,000 samovars produced there in 1850, rising to 660,000 by 1913.

They were mainly sold at large village fairs outside the towns. They also enjoyed some degree of export success.

Teahouses started opening up in the mid-19th century, with the very first one apparently appearing in Tver guberniya. They did not serve alcohol, so they enjoyed support from sobriety societies. Some teahouses doubled as restaurants and notarial offices.

This unique samovar trundled across the table when the water started to steam.

Russia didn’t market its tea-drinking traditions to Westerners searching for the exotic like the Japanese successfully did, but that did not mean it didn’t exist. “The tea was poured by the mistress of the house or her oldest daughter… The samovar was put at the center of a special samovar table. It was forbidden to blow on the tea or to pour it onto a plate. An overturned glass or cup meant the end of the tea-drinking.

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Unfortunately, apart from the Arefyev house and the samovar exposition in the basement, the great bulk of the museum was closed for the winter. It is much more active during the summer.

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Tver Night

The view from Tver Bridge.

I assume that this gated area is for the local well-to do.

The electric cabling could do with some work.

Monument to the Firefighters (dated to 1649 when the first such institution was set up by Alexey Mikhailovich in Moscow).

Saint Catherine’s Convent.

Martin’s House (1910).

Mildly known for its unusual architecture, though it is behind a fence so getting a good glimpse of it requires scaling some walls, which I passed on given that it was night-time and probably requires trespassing.

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Monument to Mikhail Krug, a famous local singer of criminal chanson. Like any self-respecting representative of this genre, he was murdered in a mafia scuffle in 2002.

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• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Russia, The AK, Travel 
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.