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Tuesday, September 07, 2004

the news in russia

also another quick note regarding content here. eventually i'd like to write more about russian politics and the political climate here, but my language facilities aren't really where they need to be yet for that. izvestia's editor was just forced to step down after critical coverage of the beslan crisis, which i find worrisome as at least elements of the print media have remained relatively independent of government interference (virtually all russian tv is either government friendly, or self-censoring at this point).

as an aside, however, i think the beslan crisis has shown that putin has weak points despite united russia's dominance in the government and the fractionalization of opposition parties and even despite his continually immense popularity with many russians. his timid reaction to the two airplane explosions (ie the fact that the government was so slow to conclude that it had been terrorism that downed the planes) struck me as surprising and also telling of the fact that putin is worrying that russians might start critically judging his ability to bring security and some reasonable end to the chechen conflict. when the editor of a major paper is forced to step down (regardless of the official reasons...here i think readership complaints were probably cited rather than government intervention...) because of what is deemed to be detrimental coverage, it belies an a certain lack of self-confidence from the kremlin. i haven't seen a lot of that since putin took office in 2000, but if that's indeed what it is, the repercussions for civil liberties, the war in chechnya, and the elections in 2008 could be considerable.

my guess is that things won't be carried too far, as putin is too clever to make those old mistakes. but we'll see.