Archive for the ‘Useless Rants’ Category

Denazification, or the story my divorce from russian culture

Friday, November 4th, 2022

This is another story that I simply had to write. It may be fun to seek parallels between this and free services of a certain privacy-invading company but the only common points there are that I stopped using them out of disgust and the company helped to make the process easier. So far no matter what it did it hasn’t done even a minuscule amount of harm russia did (and does) to Ukraine and the rest of the world.

So I’m finally writing about russian culture not in general but applied to me. Short summary: I grew up in both russian and Ukrainian cultures and I didn’t hate either, yet there were always some things in russian works that rubbed me the wrong way and I had been slowly drifting from it even before russia demonstrated what a loaded deal it is.

A bit about Kharkiv

Let’s start from my birthplace. I was born and spent two thirds of my life in Kharkiv, the large cultural centre of the East Ukraine. It was founded about four hundred years ago in a territory of border Cossack forces called Slobozhanshchyna (the word comes from the word “freedom” BTW). Kharkiv grew up a large trade and industrial city. First private bank in russian empire was founded there and the best known Soviet tank (along with several others) were designed and produced there, to give just two random examples. It was equally powerful scientific and cultural centre as well—all three Ukrainian Nobel laureates studied at Kharkiv University (which is over two centuries old), and a plethora of people who made great contributions to the Ukrainian culture, from from Kvitka-Osnovianenko to the group known as Executed Renaissance to the modern ones like Serhiy Zhadan (I have actually seen him once at our Literary Museum). There were people living in Kharkiv who later moved elsewhere to make great contributions to russian culture as well (actors, singers and even the scriptwriters of the best Soviet comedies).

As you can see, my home city had a lot to offer. And I sampled a lot of it like visiting a six dozen of different theatres (half of them repeatedly) but more about it later. The main negative property of Kharkiv is being located in less than 50 kilometres from the russian border (and it shows).

My early years and language

Anyway, let’s move to my childhood. I was born in a russian-speaking family, everybody was speaking russian and we had just one topic in school taught in Ukrainian (which is, not surprisingly, was Ukrainian language itself). Side note: during that time the Ukrainian grammar was reformed to make it closer to the actual Ukrainian language instead of russian, for example the letter “ґ” was reintroduced back into Ukrainian language (it’s called “Wallachian g” and used mainly in loanwords that have a sound different from real Ukrainian ‘g’). Yet despite all that people had nothing against Ukrainian language, I used to listen to the radio station “Промінь” that had various kinds of music in Ukrainian (and some retro music in russian as well), I read children magazines in russian or Ukrainian depending on in which language an issue was available (you can guess why Ukrainian periodicals often had versions in two languages; the same applies to books). It was the same in my university years: mostly people spoke russian and we had only two subjects taught in Ukrainian (Ukrainian history and Ukrainian language for business letters). So I could observe it myself that most of the time people spoke russian but nobody was against Ukrainian language (only complaining about not mastering it). The only time I heard somebody saying that she hates Ukrainian language was in Luhansk region…

I had relatives in Luhansk region, my grandparents were from Borivske village and they lived in Lysychansk. Of course I stayed with them in summer and heard different stories about the region. For example, during German occupation in 1940s German soldiers had better attitude to the locals than collaborators (my grandmother remembered how one of them commented it in broken language—”a russian beats brother, what idiot”). My grandpa was involved in building Sieverodonetsk Azot (the large producer of nitrogen-based compounds that became infamous this spring). He said that it started as a German chemical plant that was dismantled and rebuilt in two several sites, namely Sieverodonetsk and somewhere in east russia (maybe Kemerovo but I can’t be sure). Later it was expanded using an equipment bought abroad, so my grandpa worked with prisoners who were laying bricks for the future production sites and with Japanese experts overseeing other construction works. It seems to be a common story when russian or Soviet industry is built by foreigners and prisoners (sometimes they’re the same people). And it demonstrates the problem planted by USSR: since all those large construction works in Donbas area were performed mostly by prisoners, those prisoners had to be brought from somewhere (which means russia) and they were left there afterwards, creating an alien element. That is why this region had the population that refused to speak anything but russian and well-developed criminal culture culminating in yanukovych, the fourth president of Ukraine who still had manners and jargon of an ex-con, and his cronies from Donbas who helped him to rob the country—and a bang in 2014 when Ukrainians got finally tired of this and russia showed its true colours by occupying Crimea and sending people to start an uprising in Donbas. And yes, the pretext was oppression of russian-speaking population (which is probably was a need for them to learn even a bit of Ukrainian). Mind you, that person who said that she hated Ukrainian language was not speaking the perfect russian either. This reminds me also of French language attitude but I’ll leave comparisons of France/French and russia/russians to another time.

The slow move from different kinds of russian culture

That was all mostly about the language itself, what about the other aspects of culture: books, music, plays, mass-media? I’ve written already about radio station I’ve listened to but what about the rest?


As for TV, I watched mostly humour shows (in russian, Ukrainian and even surzhyk which is a mix of both). One of my favourite shows was КВН (“a club of witty and clever ones” which grew out of student sketch shows and competitions where people asked random questions and others tried to answer with a witty response), which had a lot of Ukrainian teams as strong competitors and they even were winning tournaments more than once (two of those teams had a guy who became a famous and comedian, you might’ve heard about Volodymyr Zelensky). In the mid-2000s though the show degraded as it was no longer possible to joke about politics and everything in the show now essentially belongs to the host and his family (not just a trademark, broadcasting rights and the building where the shows are performed, teams wanting to perform in the show have to sign a contract making them virtually slaves)—and considering that this guy is over 80, tries to pretend to be young and shows no desire to leave, it feels like a history of modern russia in a nutshell.

Back in the day Ukrainian TV features a lot of russian soap operas (half of them being the local version of telenovelas and another half being about cops or criminals) and a good deal of them was shot in Ukraine because it was cheaper (in the same way as iconic American movies were shot in England). Once I’ve caught a bit of it while switching channels and acting was so bad that it made me want to puke. So I haven’t missed anything good by not watching them either.

Anyway, I’ve stopped watching TV completely around 2005 out of disgust. Advertisements may be annoying but when the same programme is interrupted with advertisements in five minutes after the first time, it’s too much. So I turned TV set off and haven’t regretted that since. I suppose I should thank certain Ukrainian TV channel for that.


As for the music, I prefer instrumental music that is couple of centuries old (German baroque music played on harpsichord or organ is the best). I heard enough russian composers but I didn’t like their music (except for Glinka for some reason). Ukrainian traditional music, played on bandura, kobza and dulcimer, somehow resonates with my soul though (it was performed sometimes at our philharmonic). And out of many theatres I’ve visited, the russian drama theatre was the one I liked the least (not the repertoire though but the attitude to the watchers). So I’m mostly into classics yet there’s one Ukrainian song from my home city that I know by heart (and it sounds equally good both in russian and Ukrainian).

See, I haven’t had to stop listening to russian music because I haven’t listened much to it in the first place.


It’s not that I like reading, it’s more that I can’t live without it. We had all kinds of books at home, from russian classics (including two or three complete sets of works by Pushkin) to modern science fiction (including both books by Strugatsky brothers, works by foreign authors and even some science fiction in Ukrainian by local authors). Later I learned other languages and I’ve read a couple of books in each language I know (and probably couple of hundred books in English). I value content and ideas over the presentation so I can forgive some problems to a book if it’s an interesting reading (and not written by a completely illiterate person). Books in russian are plenty and easy to get access to in electronic form for free (and not even via means of piracy) so no wonder I mostly read those. The problem is that many of those books have issues with quality and they get worse every year.

One of the main problems is declining literacy: while the books are still being written, they’re written used poor language (limited vocabulary, primitive sentences, words used at random, lack of punctuation) and the topics are not good either. And it’s increasingly hard to find decent books among the thousands of mediocre and outright bad ones (yeah, like with the information in Internet).

Here’s a short review of the most popular russian genres of fiction (the ones I’ve heard of, most of them I’d rather never touch but reading comments on such works was sometimes entertaining):

  • “ironic detectives” (it’s ironic to call them detectives)—pulp fiction oriented at women and produced in bulk (I still remember when you could rent such books for a nickel per day at some stalls). Considering that the best known author (allegedly) wrote over 250 books in two decades, you can guess how good they are. Pass;
  • “female fantasy” (again, a genre of its own). Comes in three flavours: a young woman gets to study at some magical school where she marries a dean or a prince; a woman in fantasy world gets what she wants (often marrying a prince) by chutzpah; a woman is a wealthy heiress or possess special qualities which makes several powerful males (not necessarily humans or elves, dragons are popular too) compete for her hand. Pass;
  • action—often features weapon porn (where a good deal of book is dedicated to the weapon specifications and what accessories are attached). The stories are usually primitive as it’s more about the amount of enemies killed and women courted with. Pass;
  • popadanets genre (or isekai if you prefer it)—stories about somebody from one world transported/teleported/reincarnated into another (or the same but in different time). By itself it’s a good tool to show a conflict of traditions and beliefs for somebody put into an alien environment. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is still being read today and Futurama is still fun to watch. The problem is that in russia it degraded into two template stories: a Marty Stu with extraordinary abilities grows riches and harem or somebody gets into the past and does whatever needed to prevent russian empire from collapsing/taking losses in World War II/USSR dissolution. There’s even a saying that every popadanets should warn Stalin about German attack, invent intermediate cartridge and two-hatch version T-34 tank, and sing Vysotsky songs (yes, it’s that formulaic). There were some interesting books there but it’s very hard to find them among the rest;
  • alternative history. The same notion as above: something in russian history does not happen (or happens differently) which leads to russia (in either form) to grow even stronger and larger and to take revenge on real and imaginary enemies. Pass;
  • fantasy in boyar-anime stylistics. This is very alternative history with a setting involving russia staying in feudalism with boyar clans keeping power by having large magical talents (like shooting lightnings or sending storms on their opponents). You can guess from the name where they got some of the ideas. Pass;
  • various “historical” “research” books trying to convince the reader that Stalin did not plan to wage a war and the fact that Soviet Union had very large forces concentrated near its (newly created) borders in June 1941 is just a coincidence. Yuck;
  • the literary RPG genre of (sciency) fiction. The settings are usually either virtual reality MMORPGs where characters spend most of their lives (or even serve their prison sentences) or even “real-world RPGs” where something (nanomachines, son!) re-creates the system with RPG characteristics, levels and skills in the real world. Few adequate books are buried under the tons of usual Marty Stu fantasies and books mostly full of main character game logs and stat sheets printed after each update;
  • there were also series based on a predefined setting of two games, namely S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Metro 2033 but it’s best to be left to the equivalent of Star Wars Expanded Universe fans.

I’ve missed something for sure (like books in more traditional genres) and there are exceptions but here are the reoccurring themes that turn me off even in more reasonable books:

  • jabs at other nations, sometimes not merely chauvinistic but gratuitous too—it’s one thing when a brave russian protagonist uncovers a plot by evil Britain against his country and another thing when a brave russian protagonist encounters some Ukrainians without any reason and they start insulting him, still without any reason, and when this episode ends it gives absolutely nothing to the story;
  • normalised prison traditions. I’ve written before that it seems to be the only natural part of russian culture (and the rest was invented to bind the empire together), a lot of people in russia believe that you’re not a Real Man™ unless you’ve been to prison, so of course it gets reflected in the literature. It’s not that uncommon to see protagonists enjoying speaking prison argot, to give one example;
  • resentment and revanchist feeling (just look at how many books are about fixing something with the russian past);
  • and finally, the attitude to plagiarism. For example, protagonist has some knowledge (technical or art), passes it as his (or her) own inventions/writings without having any regrets. Bonus points for having such protagonist offended when somebody else does the same with his (or her) stuff. I dropped reading one of the books in disgust after the author copied a well-known humoristic piece verbatim without giving credit.

Again, previously I could write these deficiencies off to the skewed views of individual authors. Now russia demonstrated to the whole world that chauvinism, resentment and thievery are the main virtues there. So why should I even attempt to read new russian books that cause only revulsion and disgust? Why should I read older russian books if they’re either the same or about the topics I have no interest about (i.e. russia and russians). And considering that most of the russian classics were imperialists and chauvinists why should I read them too? Fun fact: back in 1930s during Ukrainisation movement (started by Soviets to make their rule accepted by local population and cut off when it was no longer required) those classics were against their works being translated into Ukrainian (probably culminating in intelligentsia from Leningrad protesting against “traditionally russian” operas being performed in Ukrainian, including Aida). As for the foreign books translated into russian, considering the usual poor quality of the translation it’s better to find and read the originals.

Books were my main connection to russian culture, and this connection is being cut mostly without any efforts on my side. At least there’s enough good literature to replace it. If this makes you think about Nord Stream pipelines, it’s only because there might be something in common here.


russian movies suffer from the same problems as russian literature. Additionally since shooting a movie is not cheap (in general), one of the important parts of the process is securing funding and finding distributors. Because of certain peculiarities of russian political and economical system it essentially devolved into a system where a cabal formed from large studio owners (that may also act as directors and producers) “help” russian ministry of culture decide which movie to sponsor (usually one of their own). And they use their connections to advertise those movies in prime time on state media channels (or in some cases convincing that the movie should be mandatory to be watched by e.g. children from elementary schools and the orders are made at the ministry of education). The rest of the movies are usually something targeting lowbrow audience to be commercially viable.

As somebody put it, Hollywood movies are for making profit and all about the box office and russian movies are all about securing funding. Unlike Hollywood accounting where the idea is to make movie bring profit without paying taxes, here it’s like in The Producers—make a flop so nobody questions where money for production really went to. That’s why pitching the movie, actors lying how fun it was to shoot and exaggerated advertisement claims are usually the best part of those movies.

Are there exceptions? Yes, but most of those movies are either about criminals or depressing life, sometimes both. And the remaining couple of movies that are clever satire on russian reality I’m not going to re-watch because it’s still about russian reality.

Video games

I don’t play games much and when I find time for them it’s usually adventure games. I’ve made a short review of the games I’m aware of (or played myself). Some of them were actually decent (as they were made before the time when they started make and publish any garbage) but I’ve not played them for a long time and it won’t be hard not to play any them at all.

Internet media

Here the situation is rather simple: most of the sites I visit are in English and at the start of the war a lot of russian sites I visited closed in protest (some may have reopened since but I’ve learned to live without them). The main loss is a webcomic called Depth of Delusion (a deep passionate parody on popular movie franchises with toucans on top). Its author was from Chernihiv so in the best case he simply lost any desire to write it on a russian site (as he said in his last post) and in the worst case he lost his live during the initial state of the 2022 invasion.

As for the videos, I had no interest on what their bloggers can tell me about the russian lifestyle. I watch mostly the videos with humorous reviews of the movies or TV series (so I both be entertained and keep informed about what’s going on). Due to sanctions some of them went to greener pastures (i.e. video hostings that still pay money in russia), others disappeared entirely, yet another one made claims that made me stop watching them out of disgust (those claims may be either outright nationalistic or weaselly shifting the blame from russia). So the amount of channels I’m willing to watch is shrinking steadily and will reach zero eventually. Another thing is that considering the current situation I’m not eager to learn about new russian movies and how awful they are (I’ve explained above why they are) and I can find out stuff about foreign movies from native reviewers.

Meanwhile there’s a vast amount of channels in English offering content good enough for me. And there’s this catalogue for Ukrainian channels which helped me a lot.


There’s a phrase from Soviet times: I’ve not read Pasternak but I condemn him. My situation is opposite: I grew up in a multicultural place with a strong dominance of russian culture and have learned a lot about it. Nevertheless, I had alternatives to choose from and since I have some tastes (I’m not going to claim they’re all good, but they’re there) I don’t mindlessly consume everything but rather pick what I find interesting or entertaining and while I try something new in order to escape filter bubble, there are some things that would make me reject them immediately. And russian culture is one of the things the more you know about the more revolting it is.

As I wrote before, russian culture is an artificial thing created to bind the empire (be it called empire or USSR, doesn’t matter). Initially it was enforced by power (by both suppressing local cultures, including Ukrainian, and leaving the opportunities to work only at russian narratives), later by money (Ukraine has lower reserves of oil, so a lot of Ukrainians moved to russia to get significantly larger payments for their work as actors, singers, writers or even producers). It would be understandable but the imperialist agenda never left it (even in Soviet times they dreamed about uniting the whole world under the wise rule of The Party and praised the leading role of Soviet Russia). So it turned into a mental poison that tries to convince the whole world that Ukraine, Ukrainian language and culture do not exist.

Previously I could ignore those narratives and pick up the better bits, but in 2022 russia demonstrated that those idiocies about defending oppressed russian culture are actually their guidelines and if you do not purge it from your country there may be russian tanks and missiles coming next to “defend” it (again, it’s russian-speaking part of Ukraine that suffered and suffers the most from russian invasion). Taking all this into account, consuming russian culture is like drinking from a spring in Makiivka (this source of potable water at occupied Ukrainian territory got viral a couple of months ago after somebody took a dump into it; considering that this is a thing a russian soldier would do, it’s a very appropriate symbol indeed). Maybe I’m not so smart to cut all possible ties earlier but I can take a hint.

Visiting multimedia grave

Monday, October 31st, 2022

When people ask why I call the search division of Alphabet Inc Baidu, I answer that I do it in spite to muddle their search index and mostly because they remind me of a Chinese totalitarian company. And recent news only reaffirm such views.

As you should remember, Baidu is famous for its graveyard for the killed projects—it even has a separate alley for the messenger apps. And looks like it prepares a plot under a concrete duck for burying some multimedia formats (which makes it interesting to me).

The history of multimedia formats at Baidu essentially started with the purchase of On2 and releasing VP8 in WebMKV format. Then VP8 was mostly buried since VP9 was created (some of it remains hidden inside WebP format), VP9’s turn is near since VP10 is here to succeed it (under the name of AV1).

In the recent news though it turns out that Chrome is deprecating its support for JPEG XL, a format developed mostly at Baidu and the only one properly standardised. But as we all know, Chrome currently controls the Web and removing support for it means that the format will remain obscure. Kinda like in a Soviet joke where a foreign tourist asks in a shop why there’s no caviar and hears that there’s no demand for it—and as he observed for a whole day nobody asked for it indeed (in case it’s not obvious people in the USSR didn’t ask for caviar at the shops because they knew it would not be sold there; see also Baidu Stadia).

And because it was not enough, people spotted that WebP2 has changed its status to experimental, meaning that it won’t be supported either.

So we have, VP9 buried in favour of AV1, JPEG XL being buried in favour of AV1F, WebP2 being buried in favour of AV1F (which is AV1 still frames in MP4) and the original WebP is likely to follow the suit. Now consider that AV1 is recommended to be distributed inside MP4 instead of WebMKV and you’ll fear about the future of that container as well.

I guess now all is left for them to do is to adopt Baidu Lyra as non-experimental codec to purge Vorbis and Opus not created by them and then bury it in favour of AV1-based audio compression. That would make a nice collective grave of formats killed by Baidu to make space for AV1.

So, do you know when AV2 should arrive?

Model of man and social/economic systems

Thursday, October 6th, 2022

Here’s some random thoughts about how some subjects should’ve been explained at school to make understanding it easier. Or maybe they were and I was unlucky.

German PEGs

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

Having said everything I could on the current political situation, I returned to looking at random codecs and I found one with a curious name.

The name is DPEG and it’s used in at least one random game I’ve never heard of. It turned out to be a rather simple tile-based codec with raw intra frames and inter frames that employ RLE and motion compensation.

So nothing interesting but then it struck me: wait a bit, I remember REing a codec with almost the same name, block-based RLE coding approach and also from a German company (a different one though).

And there’s this Fraunhofer society involved in MPEG Video and MPEG Audio (different branches though)…

So what’s the German fascination with naming codecs [A-Z]PEG and how many out of 22 possible codecs are really implemented?

Why it’s pointless to expect anything good from russians

Monday, September 26th, 2022

So we have two major events going in parallel in two deeply undemocratic countries: Iranians having enough of their leaders and russians fleeing mobilisation. I can’t even pretend to have any knowledge on Iran so IMO the uprising there may lead to something or may be squashed like the previous ones, yet Iranians still have my respect for doing that. As for russians, even if I’d be not from Ukraine but know their history and current events, I’d still not expect anything good from them.

Here I’ll try to give a short review on russian history, culture and society to show how artificial it is, how those parts do not connect with each other, and why the population of russia mostly remained inert.


russian propaganda often claims that other countries (usually those having misfortune to border it) are artificial while in reality russia is the one artificial country more than any of its neighbours. If you look at e.g. Ukraine, Kazakhstan or Baltic States, the countries are formed around the nations which had been living in the corresponding regions since ages. If you look at russia, you’ll see a lot of territory grabbed from the natives by the invaders (the same applies to the USA but there are certain differences mentioned below that make them sufficiently different).

If you look at the origin of Ukraine, you’ll see that it formed itself on the trade route “from the Varangians to the Greeks” (i.e. from Scandinavia to East Roman Empire) and spread naturally around it assimilating various Slavic tribes living nearby. russia, on the other hand, takes it origin from a remote outpost on a completely different trade route in a territory populated by Finno-Ugric tribes (fun fact: Moscow originally was just a town in the principality of Suzdal and you won’t get an answer when it actually became the capital). For a long time it was a part of the Golden Horde (another fun fact russians don’t want to know: until XVIIIth century russia paid tribute to the Crimean Khanate, the successor of the Golden Horde, as its client) until it decided to become independent.

You probably have heard the title “czar”, some of you probably know that it comes from Caesar’s name but how many of you know that it was a self-proclaimed title not supported by anybody else? For comparison, Kings of Galycia-Volyn (now Western Ukraine) got their title from Pope Innocent IV as any other European monarchs did at that time. The ruling of the first czar Ivan IV was the example that set the course for russia since then: self-proclaimed titles (and history retconning), creating puppet states recognized by nobody else, limiting personal freedoms, hiding behind nominal figurehead, oprichnina, territorial conquests (and wars to squash democracies and gain seaports) and so on. This topic deserves at least a separate book so I’ll leave it at this.

To sum up the following centuries, russia behaved like an empire with the colonies being attached to it instead of being located overseas (because they could not control overseas colonies, that’s why they sold Alaska and Californian colonies for a rather measly sum). And running the empire required a lot of trained professionals—which usually were Ukrainians and Germans (usually from Baltic States area). Fun fact: even the transition of Myscovy Kingdom to russian empire was invented and proposed by a Ukrainian. So here’s one difference from the USA already: USA has not tried to pretend that it was a successor of British Empire or that its history spawned millennia.


Modern russian language is invented mostly by Ukrainians and sustained by Germans. Yes, russian empire started to invent russian language culture in XIXth century and had to rely on non-russians for that (before that elites spoke in French and russian-speaking common folk had various dialects closer to modern Ukrainian than to modern Russian; that’s why it’s easier to understand older russian or Old Slavic language if you know Ukrainian or Belarusian). And of course they tried to strangle down Ukrainian culture (the Valuev Circular and the Ems Decree are the most notorious examples) so that talented Ukrainians would have to write in russian in order to achieve anything. So when russians criticise Ukrainian language for being not as developed as russian it’s like mocking a person that you hit in a knee that he is lame.

It was no better in Soviet times: Ukrainian culture was developed by enthusiasts and the official government cared mostly about curbing the development. For example, there was a Ukrainian grammar developed in 1920 (so-called Skrypnykivka) which was less than a decade later replaced with something closer to russian language (and with subsequent reforms to make it even closer, many of those coincident with famines). Ukrainian movies were quite often forbidden to be released or were re-dubbed in russian before release (and Ukrainian originals were lost in the archives). And stealing things from the other cultures while passing them as their own is a very russian thing.

Of course borrowing is a normal thing that enriches culture. But when you take something not belonging to you, pretend that it’s your own and try to get rid of the original creator—that’s definitely bad (and only Di$ney is allowed to do so, just read the story about Kimba the White Lion). Fun thing is that is you look at any symbol associated with russia you’ll find that it’s been stolen from elsewhere with no credit given (except for the original words of USSR anthem).

Overall, russian culture is created for the needs of uniting the empire instead of coming from the common folk and thus it’s rather artificial one that still does not connect with the people (for the reasons clear from their society structure). So whatever is presented for the export is what you call classics (“something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read”) while what is popular is of a completely different type. The main source of their culture seems to be prison, so virtually everybody knows at least some of prison argot and traditions, and шансон (or блатняк) is their unique genre of music universally loved there (it’s about criminals as you can guess and quite often about them getting to prison too). Side note: while American culture is not that great either but at least it’s not ashamed about its burgers, rap and typical Hollywood action movies as they’re both consumed internally and exported worldwide.


Anyway, now it’s time to talk about their society structure. As I said in the beginning, the principality of Suzdal was founded by Slavic people on Finno-Ugric lands which meant not so good treatment for the locals. The same applied to other conquered nations and no wonder that serfdom was common (and if it’s not slavery it’s pretty damn close). You had all varieties of serfs—private serfs (belonging to some landlord), state serfs (belonging to the state which was not much better) and even industry serfs (serfs that were supposed to work at some mine, fabric or plant without a right to leave it). By some estimations by 1861 three quarters of the russian empire population were serfs of some kind. After “emancipation” their state has not improved much. There was a great divide between elites (who spoke French before 1812 like in many other European countries), literate people living in cities and illiterate peasants (with legal barriers preventing them from getting higher education). Returning to the culture, no wonder that whatever citizens and rich landlords created was not sticking to the majority of the population.

Additionally there’s a theory that russians living on not very fertile lands had to create a community, but it was a kind of community where everybody had nothing (except for something you’ve managed to hide) so it could be a very dynamic community to which members belonged or not depending on the current goals. That’s why a russian may expect a help from a stranger since he’s included him into his community (while the stranger usually did not). That’s why they can claim they don’t leave their own behind while actually leaving people behind—they’ve been excluded from the community.

During Soviet times there was an attempt to build classless society of the future, so it was mostly the society of workers and peasants, a strata of engineers, scientists and teachers/librarians/whatever (who earned less than workers for more skilled work) and nomenklatura (people occupying high posts in The Party who managed everybody and everything else). Of course the ideology ruled everything so almost every unpopular decision like rising prices (there was no inflation in the USSR!) were justified by “the popular demands”. And the protests were put down in rather secretive way (Novocherkassk massacre is the best known example). So people lived in the nice state of doublethink: while they saw that not everything was good they were believing it’s just them and the rest of the country was fine. And of course state propaganda claimed in all possible ways (there’s an expression “from every [electric clothes] iron” to describe exactly how ubiquitous it was) that people were living in the best possible country with the best possible order of things and minor deficiencies are caused by enemy countries that are envious of the Soviet way of things. Of course decades of such brainwashing stuck to many people, especially poor ones.

And it’s worth noticing that there was a process of divorcing reality from the reports. Since Soviet Union had plan economy, on the one hand there was a shortage of goods demanded by the population (because they were either not put in plan or the quantity was mispredicted) and on the other hand the plants and factories had to meet the plan and go slightly over the top (you’d get punished for failing to deliver the demanded amount of goods and if you do too well the plans for the next period would be increased which might be an even worse punishment). So people started to build a parallel economy based on personal connections and bartering (e.g. you know somebody who works at shoe shop, he can reserve a nice pair of shoes for you when they’re available for something he can’t easily buy himself) with the various forms of theft and forgery required to cover up for the goods sold illegally (like diluting milk to have the required amount after your friends got couple of litres of fresh fat milk) and organisations started to lie in their reports about the amounts of goods they produced (because they were rewarded or punished based on the reports).

Plus during Andropov times there was an inflation of KGB and police numbers (my grandpa told once that back in his youth they had one policeman and he was formidable, later they had dozens policemen and they hardly got any respect), and those KGB/police personnel who had to maintain internal order were bored and started to get connections with illegal manufacturers or goods, smugglers and such leading to the famous fusion of criminals and law enforcement (especially in the 1990s). Other institutions were decaying as well, in the army soldiers were used as a free labour to build houses for the commanders and lying there was ubiquitous as well (for example, many memoirs and recollections tell how it was more important to make an impression of doing something big instead of doing something small properly; it is also said that a plane escaped USSR because anti-air defence reported plane movements after its regular schedule, i.e. always giving the same numbers instead of actually looking at the radar).

Modern times

After dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the situation was grim for many post-Soviet republics because of the destroyed economical ties (and the fact that most of the goods produced were acceptable only inside of the USSR and only for the lack of the alternative). In either case, 1990s in russia are nicknamed the cursed nineties and people don’t want to realise those were the times that made russia stronger and wealthier. But considering how the first president of russia had to protect himself and certain people around him from possible (well-grounded) legal persecution, he passed the post in semi-democratic way (i.e. there were elections but with mass media under proper control and virtually no time for the other candidates to prepare) to the selected successor, who was a former KGB agent and a member of Tambov Gang. During his rule all strategic companies were put under control of his friends, cronies or underlings. And of course since the führer missed USSR, he tried to reboot it including switching to the different economic model where everything important belongs to the state (i.e. his people acting in his and their own interests) and the rest of people live essentially in trickle-down economy where oligarchs get money from the state usually by being allowed to mine and sell natural resources or to fulfil state contracts, other companies get their share of money from serving those oligarchs, other companies get their money from doing work for them and so on. And law enforcement forces get their share for turning blind eye to it or directly participating in the illegal activity.

This of course corrupted people as they see the quickest way to get rich is to either have proper connections so you can participate in cut-and-kickback scheme or to join law enforcement (or some safety inspection) and get you money from bribes and “protection” money. Doing business in such condition is possible only if you have right connections to protect you from the people above (though people protecting you might want to take your business for themselves if it gets profitable enough). And if you’re too poor you just have to rely on the pity sustenance provided to you by the state (which paradoxically makes you love it).

So what are russians and what to do with them?

And that is how you get russians—not a real nation but rather a gathering of people (if you can call them people) who care only about themselves. Even with the current protests against “partial” mobilisation you can see that protesters in Moscow do nothing for the others and let them be detained while in e.g. Dagestan protesters fight against the police to prevent people from being arrested (similarly to the current Iranian uprising or Ukrainian Euromaidan of 2014). Similarly russians have never protested for defending their freedoms, there were several uprisings in the past but they were mostly a way to tell the czar that their living conditions are bad (or sometimes it was against a reform introducing something new).

Thanks to their imperial past they feel superior to other nations and despise them while still being afraid of any real nation—like Ukrainians or their Caucasian nations (Dagestani, Chechen and so on). This probably happens because of their disunity since they know nobody will fight for them while others may get help from their compatriots. And of course such people would be worse than professional executioners if they get a chance to get even on somebody else. The findings and testaments from places like Bucha, Yahidne or Izyum prove that. Similarly there are many accounts when russians hearing about mobilisation are outraged by the fact it affects them as they’d prefer somebody else to die instead of them, especially national minorities (“russian tank driver from Buryatia” has become a meme during the first phase of this war in 2014 already).

Probably another affect of their disunity is their volatility and unreliability. In the past centuries they’ve been trained well enough to support whatever is forced unto them by the authorities (either out of fear or in faint hope of reward) but they do it half-heartedly. That is why after the parade with photos of fallen WWII heroes (or whatever passes for them) as their current state religion demands all those photos gets thrown away to the nearest garbage heap. That is why they were putting half-swastikas onto their cars after the start of the war and that’s why they’re removing it after hearing the rumours that those wearing it would be drafted first (all while complaining “I’m a patriot so let all those prisoners and traitors fight instead”).

That is why I don’t think that accepting russian “refugees” (especially in large quantities) is a good idea neither from the strategic point of view (as those troops won’t make a large difference anyway, modern wars are fought not by large masses of unequipped people) nor for the receiving side. Thanks again to the imperial past, they hate other nations and refuse to learn local language let alone to fully integrate—Baltic states can tell a lot of stories and here in Germany it’s no better. Diaspora by itself is not a bad thing at all, but not respecting a host country while still expecting it to provide for you is. Now “good russians” (an oxymoron IMO) point at Mongolia offering Buryats a refuge and saying other countries should do the same but in this case we have a country offering a shelter to an oppressed national minority with a culture similar to its own and not somebody fleeing from the mess he helped to create (or she, if they start drafting women at large too). It’s like the saying I heard here that Austrians consider Austria to be the first victim of Hitler while Germans say it’s Germany (but guess who voted him to power).

I’m not a nice man and I believe that you should not try to save adults from their own mistakes. Of course it’s different for children but that’s exactly because they don’t know much and don’t realize what consequences their actions might have. If you’re a legal adult you don’t have such excuse and you should bear full responsibility. Giving those fleeing russians a shelter won’t stop the war, won’t eliminate the risk of a deranged dictator using nuclear weapons as the last resort and it won’t help russians to realize that what they’re doing is wrong. The opposite will probably have the same effect but would require significantly less efforts and resources. Save them for the occasion when you can finally make difference by teaching them that their ideology is bad and why. It had worked for the West Germany after all.

Why I’m not excited about RISC-V

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

So while russia is trying to commit political suicide by recognizing its war officially and making it a criminal offence to evade it (or disagreeing with the official course in general), here’s a text I wanted to write for a long time but finished only recently.

In general I’m eager to look at some computer architecture and see how multimedia software can be run there (even if I’m no Måns). For a long time my primary development machine was PowerPC-based (before I could buy some decent x86_64-based laptop), I played with ARMv7 and NEON years before Raspberry Pi was created (but who remembers Beagle Board nowadays?), I had two laptops with Chinese MIPS inside (and tried optimising for Loongson 2 SIMD too), I own ARM64-based box too (and did some work on it as well). I’d like to try RISC-V hardware but the state of RISC-V gives me no excitement and here I’ll try to explain why.

russia and friends

Monday, September 12th, 2022

I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time and the russian terrorist attack on Sunday was the last straw.

There a saying: tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are. Of course it’s not always true but it hints on the usual way of choosing friends to have a lot of common with you. The same stands true not just for people but for whole countries as well and you can guess which countries we’re going to look at today.

First, here’s a list of countries that support or openly befriend russia (the list is composed from the countries that russia openly called friends or those behaving in that way):

  • Afghanistan
  • Belarus
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Chad
  • China
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Guinea
  • Hungary
  • Iran
  • Mali
  • Myanmar
  • North Korea
  • Serbia
  • South Africa
  • Sudan
  • Türkiye
  • Uganda
  • Venezuela
  • Zimbabwe

So what’s common between those countries? They can be divided into two major groups—former colonies with a dictator ruling it (or demokratur, see that post for the explanation) or leftovers of former empires that dream of restoring their old glory (and have about the same government). The first group befriends russia mostly for the benefits (the same way many African countries befriended USSR), the countries from the second group usually went the same way as russia itself and thus they have some class solidarity, though it does not prevent them from (ab)using russia to their own benefit. Now let’s look at them closer.

Negotiable affection friends

Afghanistan. If you haven’t forgotten yet, this is a country where a corrupt weak government was forcefully replaced by a terrorist organisation recognized in the whole world (even russia, which led to a rather funny situation where they invited Taliban representatives to various forums and diplomatic talks while still not lifting a status of terrorist organisation). So you have the same terrorist mindset to keep them close. And in somewhat recent news they asked for a large oil shipments in return for something undisclosed. Considering how good Afghanistan is economically and that russia won’t be able to mine for natural resources there effectively it looks like typical Soviet-African friendship.

Belarus. A former Soviet colony (sometimes called “most Soviet of all Soviet republics”) with a dictator ruling it since 1994. Lukashenko had been using russia for his own benefits (like buying oil cheap from russia and selling petroleum not-so-cheap to Europe or even getting non-returnable loans for various purposes) for a long time, usually under pretence of making Union State something different from a bureaucratic fiction. But after the coup against Belarusian people in 2020 he has to rely on russia for everything and that’s why Belarus serves as a large military base for russian forces and that’s why he makes various bellicose claims (while not actually trying to engage his own forces because they’re more likely to turn against him).

Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe. I can’t say I know much about those countries so let’s look what’s common there. Former colonies (mostly French ones)—check, rather poor countries—check for many of them, dictatorship/demokratur—also check for many of them (or military junta like in Myanmar). So it seems to me they’re friends with russia because they behave the same or just use it to get cheap resources or military equipment.

Myanmar.—this country seem to go the same route as some African countries: former colony, low quality of life and civil war, recent military coup (after which it befriended russia).

North Korea

I think this country makes a category of its own. On the one hand it enjoys benefits from “befriending” russia as it can sell its resources there and send workers to earn good money (by their standards), on the other hand it’s russia that tries to resemble DPRK. And let’s not forget about the recent news about russia buying artillery munition from it (there are unverified claims that in the first months of war russian minister of war went there to beg for other Soviet equipment like missiles). Though the dynamic between North and South Korea reminds a lot about the current situation including the constant threats of using nukes to destroy Americans (in South Korea).

Countries resembling russia

China. This country has history resembling russian one a lot. Having an long-running proud history that’s mostly fake—check, being conquered by Mongols—check, getting rid of an emperor in the beginning of XXth century—check,this event being followed by creating a Western-type government that was deposed by communists—check, communist terror—check, reforms that tried to make the country more open to the West —check, a dictator who wants to bring country back to the glorious past—check. Territorial claims for the (pieces of) neighbouring countries—check. Rather passive population that does not care about anything—check. Not keeping their word, taking whatever businesses they like from the foreigners and not allowing them to de facto own anything—check (yes, China does it in a more refined way but you should remember how your business there should have at least 51% partnership by Chinese and how the stock of Chinese companies traded overseas is not actually a right of ownership in a company and what had happened to ARM China). And of course copying or stealing ideas and design from the West while pretending it’s their own (again, China is doing it much better and actually develops on it). Here’s a personal story: my great-grandfather worked at a local locomotive-building plant (mostly famous for creating the T-34 tank) which was founded by a French society (a fact not often mentioned in the USSR) and in 1950s he was sent to China to help them build their own industry (a fact not mentioned often in China).

Though you should not forget that some of the territories that China wants to return are those taken by russian empire. And you should not forget that China acts pragmatically so when russia threatened to sell its natural resources to China instead of Europe and make reserves in yuan, it essentially made itself dependent on China which can now dictate the prices for oil and gas (and doing operations with yuan also requires an approval of Chinese government). Currently China pretends to not support russia because Western sanctions hurt. But we’ll see if this stops them from attempting to conquer Taiwan.

Hungary. Former Kingdom of Hungary, later part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Current regime relies on the same principle as russia—praising “traditional values” and hating everything not from the country. And of course they want to get back territories “lost” after 1918: you should remember how orbán asked for Croatian port and pipeline during the European sanctions discussions. And they’ve been giving away Hungarian passports to Ukrainians living in Subcarpathian Ukraine for years along with trying to dictate what Ukraine should do in its region (russia had been doing the same in various places that later it turned into puppet states like Abkhazia).

The related thing is that how the government tries to gloss over its wartime atrocities (for example, this, even if the English version of the article does not mention them) and have installed a hypocritical monument to Hungary being a “victim” to Nazi Germany (being its willing ally until 1944 does not count apparently). The same way russia always accuses Germany attacking it in 1941 while not mentioning that it happened in the Poland which both of them occupied in 1939 (and their co-operation went further than that).

And of course you should not forget that Hungary gets most of its energy from russia: oil, gas and even fuel for nuclear power. Seeing how Hungary sells Serbia gas from an unknown source and then their minister going to Moscow to beg for increased shipment of gas is disgusting. Seeing how a plane delivering nuclear fuel from Moscow lands at NATO base in Hungary or how Hungary allows russia to build a new nuclear power plant right after what they’ve done to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is revolting.

Iran. While I have not heard about them having claims on trying to restore an old empire (which would be some extremely old empire in their case), they’ve been trying to conquer their neighbours (at least Syria) and destroy certain state for purely ideological reasons. They also have nominal democracy (i.e. you can vote for public officials but it’s certain people with religious authority who decide what will be done) and their rhetoric is the same as in russia (at least when russia does not repeat the speeches from Nazi Germany). And considering the recent news about their battle UAVs shipped to russia and a good deal of them being broken right from the start, Iran manufactures the goods (and lies about their quality) about as good as russia.

Serbia. This is a rather sad case. On one hand russian empire was seen there as the defender of Slavic nations in different lands (which has started the World War I among other things) and their historically significant territory Kosovo turned into Kosova. On the other hand Yugoslavia (both kingdom and SFRJ) was a mix of nations with significant differences (mostly in the religion) and typical highlander character that makes peaceful resolving of the conflicts less possible (just look how well various nations in Caucasian nations get along). So when the external pressure that kept them together was gone, the internal tensions made dissolution of Yugoslavian Federation a very bloody process that required an internation intervention to make the bloodbath end more or less. And yet Serbia seems to train its army for invasion instead of defence and considering recent moves on Kosov(a/o) and fuelling tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina there may be yet another tragedy brewing.

Türkiye. To condense its history, first there had been Ottoman Empire that grew around the Mediterranean Sea plus Central Europe and Mesopotamia, but after WWI it collapsed and was succeeded by Turkey, a country where army made military coups in order to preserve democracy since Mustafa Kemal himself (but sooner or later people elected autocrats anyway). (The) last coup in 2016 has failed and now we have Erdoğan trying to restore the old empire (and since he demanded to change the official country name to Türkiye I’m using it to denote the country under his rule and not the previous state). Of course he also wants to be a sultan and bring back the various pieces of land lost since 1922, from Albania to Yemen.

It’s hard to call him a complete friend of russia as he’s mostly using it for his own needs, but while he had closed Bosporus for their military ships and Turkish airspace for their military planes (mostly because he wants them out of Syria and to stop protecting Armenia as well), at the same time he does not support sanctions against russia and enjoys being an offshore. Recently it was agreed by two dictators that Türkiye will help russia to evade sanctions by allowing russian money in Turkish banks and russian oil to Turkish refineries (so later you can’t track the origin of oil and oil products). It is obvious that he’ll break any agreement with them as soon as it stops being profitable to him—but russia would do the same so they’re a perfect match.

South Africa. This one I can’t tell about but from random news I hear about it, it sounds a lot like russia—a corrupt government, main wealth coming from natural resources, and hardly any of this wealth reaches common people that have to live in shitty conditions.

Venezuela. Another country that resembles russia (and even more it resembles Soviet Union). You have corrupt non-democratic government that stifled all of the opposition, you have wealth coming from the natural resources (oil and gold) and thanks to the mismanagement the population is extremely poor and depends on the dole their government gives them.


I’ve not mentioned sympathisers like France or Italy that receive only russian tourists and oligarchs buying villas and yachts there so they don’t want to do anything against them and would rather have some peaceful solution, those countries are like a lighter version of negotiable affection friends. I’ve not mentioned current Germany that enjoyed cheap oil and gas for its industry and the position of main russian gas distributor for Europe and how this corrupted it on the border with high treason. I’ve not mentioned Armenia that has to be friends with russia because it “defends” it from Azerbaijan (while russia shipped weapons there as well). I’ve not mentioned Georgia that has a government elected on the idea “if you don’t elect us there will be a war with russia again, and here’s a bribe to make you feel less miserable”. I’ve decided to concentrate on the countries that are helping russia willingly (even if that will is compensated).

As you could see, most of russian friends are the countries expecting something (or a lot) in return for their friendship and (with one exception) none of them can be called prosperous. Misery loves company or birds of a feather flock together?

Nazism and russia

Saturday, August 6th, 2022

First of all, I’d like to say that xenophobia is a natural state of human beings introduced by evolutionary mechanisms (you never knew what to expect from a stranger after all) so it takes some nurturing to overcome it and teach you that you should not fight any unknown person right at the spot. It’s like there’s nothing wrong with defecating per se but you’d normally do it only at designated areas for a variety of reasons, most of them being social and neither being physiological. The problems with racism start where the society not merely abandons the duty of telling why you should not hate people that are different from you but rather starts encouraging hating certain groups of people.

Back in the day it was perceived as normal (and even helped to define the state): we are the beloved children of our god/land/world and any foreigners are just pathetic beasts not worthy of living here. Later it was discovered that foreigners might be useful for something (like trade or providing the skills your people lacked). A millennium or two later a good deal of people finally accepted the idea that all people are equally worthy of something, a couple of centuries later people even agreed that slavery is a bad idea. And yet less then a hundred years ago Germany showed that it’s not something that should be taken for granted and that people are easy to believe in their exclusivity. The lesson has not been learned at all, not even by Germany.

The term “Nazism” comes as an insulting shortening of “National Socialism” but it was socialistic in the name only. People forget that that in Bavaria the favourite first name for males was Ignaz with a diminutive form being… So “Nazism” sounds “an ideology of Bavarian peasants” which is an appropriate thing for self-entitled superhumans. In reality this ideology was based on an idea of racial superiority (and you should know which race was considered superior) and a need to “resolve the problem” that certain “impure” races still exist. And you know what? The chief ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg, came from russian empire when he was over 25 years old (and completing his studies in Moscow). So how was it there at that time?

russian empire was rightfully called the prison of nations (and Soviet Union was not much better either) as it spanned very large territory with many very different nations and they all had various limitations imposed on them (some sources claim that at some moment about 80% of the empire were serfs, after 1861 emancipation reform hardly anything changed for the majority of the population). And it had the famous Pale of Settlement: in the end of XVIII century as large territories (of modern Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Lithuania) were captured, the empress decided that Jews from those territories should not be allowed to move to the other parts of the empire; that ruling remained in action until the dissolution of the empire. And of course russian language gave the world the word pogrom. What’s interesting there is that those actions against them were not driven by any previous events—there were not so many Jews living in russian empire before to blame them for anything and expel (like it was common in Medieval Europe). In Ukrainian history there’s a sad episode that many Jews were massacred during Khmelnytsky uprising but it was not because they were hated just because they existed but rather because they often were the people hired by Polish nobility to run their estates and businesses and thus they were representatives of the oppressor (it was still wrong to kill them anyway). But whatever happened in russian empire was some ideological anti-Semitism and finally it was exported to Germany as well…

Of course after 1945 Soviet Union pillaged Germany and they took the enriched ideology back (giving such nice examples as “rootless cosmopolite”). Meanwhile the Soviet ideology praised the Soviet man as (ideologically, not biologically) superior to anybody else (and for some mysterious reason it was usually synonymous with russians, just look at the first stanza of the Soviet Anthem), while in reality there was some kind of racial hierarchy with russians on top and various East and Middle Asian nations at the bottom. There’s a rather famous chastushka (a short verse often with a comical meaning):

It’s good that Yuri Gagarin
Is not a Jew, nor he’s a Tatar
Not some (pejorative term for Middle Asians)
But rather he’s our Soviet man.

And it was a common practice to appoint some russian (or, for the lack of those, some Ukrainian or Belarusian) as the second party secretary in each Soviet “republic” so that he could oversee the actions of the first party secretary appointed from the titular nation (I wonder why that term was used almost exclusively in socialist countries).

In the eighties there was a rather curious society called Pamyat formed in Soviet russia. While normal nationalist organisations wanted to have their countries freed from the Soviet yoke, this one wanted to free russia from “Ziono-Masonic plot”—and it kept existing in more or less open form until the dissolution of the USSR. Not a reassuring sign.

In the (formally) post-Soviet russia the structure remained about the same from the Soviet times: there’s Moscow and St. Petersburg that are the only decent places to live, there are regions where common folks live and there are immigrants from Caucasian region and Middle Asia that should not be allowed, especially to Moscow. The longest-running mayor of Moscow is mostly remembered by his hate for those people and introducing special restrictions for people wanting to move to Moscow. A lot of what currently passes for politicians in russia had nationalistic ties as well, for example the former head clown of russian space agency made a political advertisement back in the day with a motto “Clean our cities from trash” alluding to non-russian people.

And of course since the war with Ukraine started they showed their true colours. Top people saying good things about Hitler and Goebbels, using the same terminology as NSDAP like “traitors of the nation”—and that’s between 2014 and 2022 when the war was in the cold phase. After the second phase had started, the whole country was starting to use accidentally created half-swastika everywhere, various writers started praising the war with suspiciously familiar words (one writer actually praised their dictator as the true successor to Hitler who should finish the eternal struggle against the Anglo-Saxon world by winning at last against them). And if you look what they do at war it’s not just genocide of Ukrainians in various ways (massacring Ukrainians, destroying Ukrainian culture at occupied territories and deporting Ukrainian children to russia to raise them in russian “culture”) but it’s also a genocide of various minor nations living in russia. From the statistics I saw their losses were over eighty people from Dagestan and over hundred people from Buryatia to one man from Moscow region (which has larger population than those two regions combined). People from the puppet states at occupied territories of Donetsk and Lughansk regions are also used as cannon fodder and they complained that despite having the same culture and being very closely related to russians (a lot of those people there are descendants of russians moved there in Stalin times) they are treated as inferior to them.

And yet russia accuses other countries of harbouring Nazism and having Nazi population (including Israel). If you look at the tell-tale signs of Nazism you’ll see only two countries conforming to it: russia and Hungary (though Hungarian prime minister said after his speech on Hungarian racial purity that Austrian chancellor thinks the same). So how do you explain the discrepancy between observed Nazism of russia and the countries that russia called so? The answer is simple: russia holds the trademark on it so it decides to whom it shall apply. After all, whom should you believe—your own eyes or their claims?

WWIII as the test of political systems

Sunday, July 24th, 2022

As I wrote previously, I have all reasons to consider what happens now to be World War III and today I want to rant on the political systems of participating countries and how it affects them. For the better understanding of it you should know two terms (both coming from Germany for some reason though it’s disputed for the latter term): finlandisation and Demokratur (literally “democratorship” from democracy+dictatorship, also known as “hybrid” democracy or controlled democracy, i.e. where the system is formally democratic but in reality it’s just a show; for example in GDR any party could exist as long as it was in the alliance with the ruling party so it did not matter for whom you were voting in the end, in North Korea there are two or three parties and all of their members are also the members of the ruling party; all the cases where it does not matter how you voted, only how the votes were counted, and where you have clauses like “a person running for a president in Belarus must have at least five years of experience as a president of Belarus” all fall into this category).

Anyway, let’s look how it all went for the various participants.

The first group is post-Soviet countries. When Soviet Union was dissolved, the republics it was formed from split into three categories: Baltic states that did not want to preserve the communistic past and moved on to the democratic future (which was a right step), countries that were essentially privatised by their rulers (just look at the personalities of first “presidents” of Georgia, Kazakhstan, russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan who were heads of those states at Soviet time and remained in power for decades after that, often passing the post to the personally appointed heir) and countries that were stuck in the middle by replacing the initial ruler after first couple of years but preserving a lot of the Soviet legacy and later either stagnating or falling outright into dictatorship (for example, lukashenko might be the only president of Belarus but the post has been established in 1994, exactly when the first Ukrainian president had resigned).

The second group are various European countries (plus USA) that are mostly democratic except for a couple of democratorship countries (like Hungary). Mainly I can describe them as bureaucratic democracies, with the idea is that the heads of the state are like hired managers that are supposed to serve people’s interests. And, as in large companies, they mostly serve their own interests while making people disinterested in changing things. One of the consequences is that those “managers” stay in power longer than normally elected presidents should (local example: Angela Merkel served as the chancellor for 16 years while it feels for me that ten years should be a limit). Another consequence is that they stifle their opposition (related local example: there was no prominent politician left in the Merkel’s party to be her successor) and they can do what serves them better (we’ll talk about it later when it’s time to say something about gas affecting European politics and finlandisation happening because of it). A related thing: because of the rigidity and bureaucratisation of the political system (most things you can do need to be approved by various committees and other political organs), those heads of the states usually can’t make any drastic domestic policy changes so they resort to foreign politics (just ask any Boris Johnson).

The third group is various non-democratic countries like mainland China (the real China on Taiwan demonstrates how it can be done differently), Iran (people hardly remember it has a president), Syria (is there any reason to comment?) and Türkiye (I call it this way to distinguish newly forming sultanate from the somewhat democratic Turkey and the old Ottoman Empire).

So, how the war affected those political systems?

Bureaucratic democracies showed their slow reaction and ineptitude. Plus it showed how far the process of finlandisation by cheap natural gas went. Of course there’s Hungary that rather honestly says that it won’t survive without cheap fuel from russia (yet it sold Serbia some gas recently) and repeats what kremlin wants it to say (the stuff about sanctions not working, that the war should be ended with talks because 1938 Munich agreement worked so well and so on). Germany is much more disgusting: on the surface it pretends to care, in reality it’s been corrupted (Gazprom Schröder is just the most prominent example) since after 2014 when russia tried to blackmail Europe with gas for the first time and the EU started to develop rules for creating common grid and energy independency, Germany kept sabotaging those efforts and even sold some of its strategic infrastructure to russian gas monopoly (including gas storage facilities); it promised but hasn’t given Ukraine any heavy munition (beside some PzH 2000 which was a big surprise) and blocked other countries from giving Ukraine their Germany-made tanks; recently it specifically lifted some of the sanctions to return compressor turbine to russia after its blackmailing. In my opinion all those current and former higher-ups should be put to prison for corruption and betraying national interests. There’s somewhat similar story with the Switzerland that tries to remain so neutral that I joke it’ll revoke licenses to all its military equipment the instant a country that bought it goes to war. At least some other countries are not that bad and are not willing to close eyes to anything in exchange for cheap gas and oil.

Demokratures are doing more or less fine (China, Hungary, Türkiye and even Belarus) with the one notable exception (you can easily guess which one).

Ukraine is actually doing better than before 2013 (in political sense, whatever happens on its territory is horrible) since the war forged and tempered the national identity (many nations really started to exist only after a freedom war). It also showed what the real enemy is and that Ukraine should purge remains of communist and russian culture (after all, if one of the first things the invaders do is reinstating Lenin monuments that means it’s that’s how they mark their territory and all such markers should be removed from the territory not belonging to them—along with their dead bodies if required). Actually starting from about 2018 a lot of people were tired of frozen conflict and soon newly elected president Zelensky actually tried to downside army somewhat. And then russia accused Ukraine of trying to take occupied Ukrainian territories back and went to occupy even more of Ukrainian territories (and to prove that all ties with it should be severed). But unlike russia, Ukraine is built on traditions of people respecting freedom (maybe even too much, hence the saying that two Ukrainians would make three hetmans) and despite the lack of communications between the Ukrainian troops and their commanders in the first days of war they were able to act on their own. Such country deserves a future.

russia, on the other hand, has never been a democratic land. Kievan Rus’ had democracy, various Hanseatic league members (like Novgorod or Pskov republics) had democracy, even Golden Horde had some democracy. Suzdal principality (where Moscow was built and which later expanded into what we see now) preferred to follow East Roman Empire and to get rid of all possible freedoms. It conquered the aforementioned republics, it eliminated the right of serfs to change their landlord (they could do it once a year before late XVIth century but not in the following three hundred years). Later it conquered large territories and almost always changed the life there for the worse (after conquering Ukraine and part of Belarus it introduced serfdom there and also pale of settlement; whatever happened to Uzbekistan after it got conquered is a sad tale as well). There’s one characteristic feature there—russia preferred to turn its own territory into colonies as it was afraid to manage overseas colonies (that’s why Alaska and Fort Ross were sold to the USA, it’s probably the only case when russia ceded some of its territory voluntarily).

When this rather inhuman regime was replaced with another one in 1917, not many things have changed. There was just one party in the country and you had to belong to it to make any career, there was propiska system where you essentially had to obtain a permit before you could move somewhere and at collective farms (before 1950s IIRC) you had to obtain a permit from the head of that collective farm in order to get an internal passport so you could get propiska and move to a town. As for the politics, there was “the bloc of communists and non-partisans” which created a term “Soviet choice” where you can freely choose from one thing. And all unpopular measures (like rising prices) were provided under the pretext that the working class had asked for it themselves.

So what followed this nice country? Something not that different: the first president of RSFSR co-signed a treaty that dissolved Soviet Union, became the first president of russia and remained at that post until 2000 when he essentially transferred it to the appointed heir. One could argue it was a democratic time when there were more or less free elections but during that time the democracy was destroyed too, mostly under the pretext that if you give people a right to choose then communists will return to power and nobody wants that. So they moved from the usual trickery with rigged voting to getting oligarchs’ support by giving them away state property (essentially the Central Bank decided to store state money in various private banks belonging to certain people who used that money to buy state property or to get it as a collateral for credits they gave to the state with the state money they got) and essentially taming the opposition making it official (unlike USA where two major parties sometimes change positions, in russia the official opposition always remains the official opposition but always votes in favour of the legislation that the dictator or his people tells them to vote for; it got especially obvious in the last decade let alone this year). So when Yeltsin decided to retire, he tried to ensure that he and his Family (daughter, son-in-law and couple of oligarchs around them) remain unpunished, so he appointed a certain guy and oligarchs (who owned all media) ensured that he was elected. Thus an even sadder part of their history began.

The reign of the current dictator started with the Second Chechen War which was won by wiping all what they could. One of the remarkable things at that time was FSB fabricating terrorist acts itself (either to shift blame to Chechen terrorists or to report some cases they managed to “prevent”). One such case got nicknamed “Ryazan’ sugar” after FSB agents leaving a sack of “sugar” in a basement of one living building in Ryazan’. Nobody got punished for that and it set the tone for all the following events (both committing war crimes and blaming them on the others and not punishing underlings for neither failures nor crimes, because that would be treated as a sign of weakness before public. Very democratic). And that’s how it ended in the current state where everybody lies to cover the failures and nobody gets punished for it (essentially only disloyalty gets punished).

This system can exist only in an environment rich of resources where you can waste most of them (because corruption will eat most of it) and yet what remains is enough to sustain the lavish lifestyle of the elites and there’s something for the common folk as well. But they decided to start a way which has cut their income significantly and caused an internal struggle for the dwindling resources (just search the news for how many top managers of large russian companies have died recently), the common folk is ignored as it always has been. So how it can end for them? I see three alternatives (not counting the MAD one): russia dissolves further into smaller states that might not become better but at least they can be forgotten about; russia becomes yet another North Korea—a Chinese colony where almost everything belong to the state (and to the army), everybody works for peanuts, they blame America for their bad life and they do not see or desire any other way of living; or russia might remain a terrorist state like any such state around Israel that russia is friends with—in this case Ukrainian live will be rather similar to Israeli one with regular attacks that are mostly annoying and show their hate. In either case I don’t see it winning since you can’t win by constantly lying to yourself. And showing that how little you honour any agreement as soon as it stops benefiting you is not a good way to make businesses work with you (China does the same thing but it does it much smarter and using point strikes, so it gets a pass for now).

To summarise my long incoherent ramblings in one sentence, this war shows that not all democratic regimes are really democratic and that almost all of the regimes are holding fine except for the one built on lies and incompetency. I expect it to fall apart suddenly, the same way as its predecessor did (even if the war was cold back then).

World War III: origins, short history, possible outcomes

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022

Every generation has its own war. That’s what my granddad used to say. Before 2014 it seemed like a rather pessimistic thing to say but sadly he turned out to be true.

What happens now is World War III even if formally only three countries are “directly” involved—the rest of the world is fighting a proxy war (somewhat like Spanish Civil War was an excuse for certain countries to exercise their troops and test their weapons before WWII officially started).

This is yet another post on the topic I’m not so eager to discuss but the one I can’t stay silent about either. So here are my views on how and why it started, how it went and how it might end for the whole world.

WWIII origins

Usually it’s hard to pinpoint all reasons behind a large war but usually there are some large tendencies making a war possible (usually it’s some ideas, state of the countries and such) and actual trigger that gives a pretext to start it.

For instance, World War I happened because there were large empires not satisfied with their state (not enough territory, powerful neighbours not allowing to grab more territory and so on) but the actual trigger was Black Hand—a Serbian terrorist organisation responsible for a coup in Serbia and the assassination of the archduke Franz Ferdinand (so the war started because Serbia refused to let a proper investigation to be conducted; I’m pretty sure that if they did the war would start regardless but maybe a bit later).

World War II happened because of the resentment in at least two ex-empires (German and russian) let alone several existing empires still striving for more power and control (like Japan). Yet I’d rather name Turkey as the trigger: it demonstrated the whole world that you can commit genocide unpunished (and a certain Austrian guy has learned from that). And we should not forget the role of macrons of their time who pressured Czechoslovakia to cede Sudety in order to save the same Austrian face.

World War III happens because of the resentment in an ex-empire and because other non-democratic country also wants to bring back parts that never belonged to it and take more power and control over the world from the decaying United States and Europe. And in this case it was triggered by three factors: one mad russian dictator, one People’s Republic of China that encouraged and supported him (plus demonstrated that if you deliver cheap goods you can get away with a genocide) and macrons of our time who decided to pretend that nothing has happened in 2008 and hardly anything important has happened in 2014.

An abridged history of war up till now

Essentially the war started in 2014 triggered by political instability in Ukraine (caused by the decision of then acting president to join russian economic union instead of European one—because russia gave him bribes while EU didn’t). As the result Crimea was taken by russian troops that were secretly accumulated there (and for a while russia denied their presence during the events) and Donetsk and Lughansk region were half-captured by bands of local and russian criminals under informal control of russian authorities. And when Ukrainian forces started to push those people away, destroying their weapons (“you can buy those in any shop”), russian forces that had “definitely” nothing to do with the situation (if you don’t count sending “volunteers” and weaponry) had attacked Ukrainian army across the border (Ilovaisk is the best-known example but not the only one). Yet after some time the situation came to a stalemate: Ukrainians had made a fortified line after which they could not pass (both for the lack of weaponry and because unlike russia Ukraine values its people lives). And it remained like this until 2022…

In late 2021 there were rumours going about russia going to occupy Ukraine but nobody could tell for sure if it’ll happen and when. Personally I saw russian military exercises and their usual way of bargaining for something and started to worry only when they officially claimed they’re pulling those forces back (it’s the same principle as with the lawyers—you can recognize that they’re lying by their mouth being open). But nobody had predicted what had really happened.

On February 24th russia had started the next phase of war exactly the same way as German invasion of Soviet Union in 1941—in early morning, without a warning, by bombing cities. The invaders quickly occupied a significant part of Ukraine, both Northern and Southern parts (but not so much success in the East because it was the expected direction and there’re good fortifications there). Fun fact: captured documents show that they planned to start operation couple of days earlier, during the Winter Olympics in China but unlike 2014 they’ve decided to wait until it’s over (and China has nothing to do with it at all, right?).

After the initial couple days of panic Ukraine started to show resistance and the invasion was halted. Since russia has amassed significant forces it was hard to defeat them, but Ukraine has two good allies that helped it: russian incompetence and russian corruption. Because of those two factors russian army had a lot of barely functioning vehicles that broke down before arriving anywhere, and that’s why they moved in columns using roads—which made it much easier to block them and destroy. In those days about a thousand of russian soldiers was killed every day compared to measly 100-150 soldiers killed daily now. And before you say it’s not humane to wish for their deaths, remember that those “people” shot at working nuclear power plants, killed fleeing unarmed civilians and Bucha was not the worst example of what they did in the occupied towns at that time. You really need to work hard to lose the title of human being and they worked hard on that indeed.

Then, when they realized their plan has essentially failed, they withdrew most of the forces to concentrate them in one place in order to have at least some victories (just look how long it took them to overtake Mariupol and Azovstal). They called it “a gesture of good will” like they had anything good in them (also see above how to spot that they’re lying). At least this allowed Ukrainian forces to free Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy regions and part of Kharkiv region.

So the invaders concentrated their efforts on conquering the remaining parts of Lughansk and Donetsk regions. They tried to cut off the region by crossing the Siversky Donets river near Bilohorivka and failed spectacularly. They tried to capture Sieverodonetsk and it took them over six weeks while they suffered heavy losses and it allowed Ukrainian forces to perform counteroffensive in the direction of Kherson.

What’s next?

It is hard to predict how long and how intensive it will go. Most likely scenario IMO is that it will keep going the same as it does now—Ukrainians slowly reclaiming their territory while russia wastes its forces trying to achieve some non-military goal and trying to kill as much of Ukrainians as possible with its missiles—until one day it ends suddenly for some internal russian reason (probably a lack of something like missiles or vehicles).

In Ukraine most people don’t doubt the war will end by Ukraine reclaiming all of its territories but nobody know when it will happen. Unlike russia in Ukraine president is elected and has to listen to the will of people, the officials said it before that if they’d decide to stop the war before its logical conclusion then people won’t understand that and keep fighting anyway.

Characteristics of the war

It can be called a war mostly because there are military forces involved and war crimes are committed. russia refuses to call it war (they have special legislation for people who “defame the russian armed forces” so saying or even not saying anything can give you prison time). In theory after first two world wars it was decided that war should be conducted in civilised manner: you do not target civilians, you do not use certain kinds of weapons and other things mentioned in the Geneva Conventions. And there you have a country that tries hard to violate every article of those and other conventions. Using forbidden weapons like anti-personnel landmines, cassette bombs and phosphor bombs? Check. Deliberately targeting civilians? Check. Deporting civilians, forced labour, keeping them as hostages? All check. The worst thing is that it’s not some atrocity committed by a random band, it’s done systematically and by the official orders. russia is committing genocide of the Ukrainian people and looting the Ukraine, it’s war only by a formal definition.

But what makes it a world war instead of a local conflict? Despite formally having just one participant (russia performing its “special operation”), there are significantly more countries involved:

  • Ukraine—even if russia does not really believe there’s such country;
  • belarus—a semi-involuntary ally of russia that provides its bases for russian troops and places to launch russian missiles at Ukraine;
  • Türkiye—it controls the entry to the Black Sea and pursues its own interests even if it does not fight itself;
  • Syria—both an ally and a burden. Russia tried to recruit people there to fight for them and had to withdraw some troops stationed there (to support local dictator). Türkiye was so amused that it forbade russian military planes to fly through its airspace to Syria;
  • People’s Republic of China—while pretending to be neutral it supported its fellow dictator. I heard rumours that it even made clones of Soviet equipment which russia could use and pretend it’s from old reserves but I’ve seen no confirmation of that. Recently it seems to reduce support though;
  • European Union—some countries provided substantial support (military equipment and even bases) for Ukraine, some countries are corrupted by cheap russian gas and try to do nothing that angers it. And there’s Hungary which of course supports its fellow dictator;
  • the UK and the USA—provide substantial military aid that helps destroying russian invaders.

Additionally since the way the wars are fought has changed, cutting off access to the technologies and finances is a very important part of it since the best specimens of russian technology are made using Western parts and technologies.

And I think it’s worth expanding my thought about two main Ukrainian allies. russia is essentially a state run by criminals using criminal approaches. So everybody with a bit of power uses it to extort money in some way—steal money on governmental projects, steal companies producing something valuable, becoming an unnecessary middle man, or simply taking “protection” money from businessmen. Usually it’s organised as a system where you have to share with higher-ups and honest people are expunged. This way stealing becomes a norm and nobody sees anything wrong with it (but it’s easy to get rid of a person later if required). Similarly if you’re loyal to your higher-ups you won’t be punished for lying to other people (or if it makes it easier to steal and you don’t forget their share you can lie to the higher-ups as well).

In result everything works ineffectively and the only visible outcome of “perspective” military programs is usually some villas on remote tropical islands. That is why a lot of their tanks and other vehicles could not reach the destination—they broke down on the way there or were inoperable right from the start (either being used for spare parts or unmaintained for a long time). That’s why their super-advanced laser weapons announced a month ago have no following mentions. That’s why their super-advanced passenger planes still don’t have domestic engines. Essentially all the stuff they’re really using was either made in the USSR or is a modernisation of that Soviet stuff.

There’s a downside though. It’s claimed the second phase of war started in 2022 because their minister of “defence” and his people got under investigation for embezzling of extraordinary scale (we’re talking about billions or even tens of billions USD) so he urged the dictator to start a war as an attempt for both delaying the investigation and writing off stolen money as used for e.g. munition that was shot in full during the conflict. During Chechen war it was common to give money for rebuilding something e.g. a hospital or a school, reporting that it was blown up during fighting insurgents and ask for more money to rebuild it again (actual rebuilding is not necessary).

Equally they don’t care what their missiles hit, you can be a Texas sharpshooter and claim that whatever you hit was a legitimate military goal or a hide-out of Ukrainian forces (because a mall full of civilians in Kremenchuk hundreds of kilometres from any front line is definitely one of those).

What will be the aftermath?

On 24th of February I said “welcome to the new world” in one IRC channel and indeed the world has changed. One country demonstrated that it does not consider itself bound by any rules, another country demonstrated that it’s not as weak as others believed it was, NATO demonstrated that it failed its mission of protecting democracy in Europe (there was a joke that if russia would invade Estonia then NATO would react in minutes and revoke Estonian membership; the fact that Türkiye is a dictatorship yet still a member of NATO blocking Finland and Sweden from joining is not very reassuring either). Europe demonstrated that it’s mostly spineless and full of corrupt politicians (just look at Gazprom Schröder, his party and the decisions they’ve made throughout these years; essentially it began to change only when russia started to cut down gas for Germany). PRC tried not to demonstrate that it sees it as a model of what happens if it tries to conquer Republic of China.

So what I expect from all of this:

  • Ukraine wins this war;
  • Ukraine will eventually become a member of the European Union;
  • there will be changes and shifts of power in the EU as the consequence of the current actions (maybe SPD will lose its position, maybe unanimous decisions won’t be needed because appeasing Hungary is humiliating and there’s a faint hope that the politicians who enabled russia will be tried for corruption and state treason);
  • the same applies to NATO;
  • Winnie the Xi will either have to rethink the invasion of Taiwan or rush it or get eaten alive by other party members;
  • various Asian countries (those ending with -stan) will fall from russian sphere of influence and come under Chinese and Turkish influence (some like Kazakhstan has done that already);
  • Armenia might get it the worst as russia won’t be able to defend it and Türkiye and Azerbaijan don’t like its existence at all so it’ll be worse for them than in 2020. Asking for russian protection was a worse decision than plans for urban development of Spitak;
  • as for russia, I see three possible outcomes:
    • nuclear suicide. They’ve been talking so long about nuking other countries that they might finally believe in their lies and attempt to do that. For the two reasons mentioned above it’s not likely most of them would work but it should be enough to have a reason to retaliate and put an end to that shame of a country. Or they might apply their usual strategy and attack some NATO/EU country to divert attention from their current war—but looks like everybody is fed up with them already and the outcome will be the same;
    • terrorist country. They might withdraw the remaining pieces of their troops and declare victory (anybody who doubts it will be prosecuted). The rest of the world will treat them as DPRK or Iran—a terrorist state that they don’t want to deal with (and for China it’s a resource colony). Considering the history of that country I don’t expect it to improve and get accepted back in the following decades at least (maybe ever). Israel demonstrates how to deal with such neighbours though;
    • the best scenario for everybody. The “federation” dissolves creating many independent states. Some of them may turn into shitholes, others may finally get a chance to develop. Currently everything is done through Moscow and both money and power are concentrated there. With many independent states people might finally be able to elect their own leaders (in some regions at least) and develop it according to their own wishes. And those states will pose less threat to the rest of the world too (the question of nukes can be resolved since there won’t be russia to sign a new Budapest memorandum in that case).

P.S. I write this post as russia increased the number of missiles it fires daily. Yet somehow it feels like an agony when a mad führer orders strikes to have at least some semblance of victory. Ukraine will survive, as for russia—one wise guy said that when they say “but you’ll have to deal with us when it’s all over” the only proper answer is “why do you think you’ll be there to deal with?”. russia has done enough to sever any ties with it so I hope Ukraine will get reparations from it in one way or another and we will forget about its existence. And it won’t be too soon!