The Farcical Nature of Russian Politics: Putin Rides a Motorcycle Edition

There is no denying that Russian politics, especially on the national stage, are mainly a farce. Putin and Medvedev in the months leading up to an election, tour Russia demonstrating their virility through the political equivalents of arm wrestling. Last week, Russia watched as Putin went scuba diving for buried treasure in southern Russia, while Medvedev unveiled a new battle flag for the Eastern Military’s 11th Paratroops Brigade. Yesterday, Putin pulled ahead in this year’s Russian Leader Machismo Contest when he hopped on his Harley and led the Night Wolves Motorcycle Club around Novorossiysk. Can you imagine Obama kicking off his re-election campaign by leading a pack of Hell’s Angels to the Iowa straw poll…?

Barack on a Bike

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if we had these types of virile displays from Obama. Maybe I would use them to say “Hey, look you naysayers, Obama will squash your opposition not through reason and logic but through sheer strength” as the video of Putin leading the pack of motorcyles seems to suggest. What examples of Obama we do have, however, when juxtaposed with displays by Putin and Medvedev, make him appear like some sort of hybrid Mr. Miyagibaby whisperer (the latter video being one of my all-time favorites of Obama).

Now if only that fly was Gaddafi and that baby was Congress then maybe he would start seeing approval ratings similar to Medvedev’s…

Note: The Danger Room is one of my favorite blogs on foreign affairs and usually one of the first sites I go to each morning. I highly advise you to add it to your bookmarks and make it part of your daily routine too!


Test Your Russian Knowledge

This will be a regular feature where I throw out a trivia question to test your knowledge of The Russian Federation and see how your peers stack up. I’ll start the questions out easy but will make them progressively harder as the year goes by. It is my belief that Russia is greatly misunderstood in a lot of ways– due mainly to naivety. Hopefully these quizzes will shed light on that sometimes nebulous thing called Russia.

No cheating!

Answer: Dmitry Medvedev. Putin is the current Prime Minister and former President. Yelstin was the first President of the Russian Federation from 1991-1999. 2012 is an election year in the Russian Federation where we will see Medvedev and Putin face off for the title.

ReadingList: In Siberia

My current read is In Siberia  by Colin Thubron, a travel writer who has traveled extensively in the USSR and Russia. I’ve only just begun– he’s only made it as far into Siberia as Novosibirsk– and I’m already itching to lay out my game plan for travel across Siberia via the Trans-Siberian Railroad. He’s inspired me to always challenge myself while abroad to talk to as many people as possible and experience every opportunity presented.

Check back tomorrow for brief ruminations on the history and culture of Siberia!

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

These photos were first sent to me last year and blew me away with their intensity and beauty. It is an amazing collection of photographs by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii of the Russian Empire taken between 1909 and 1912– just years before the Russian Empire as known by the previous 200 years of history would cease to exist. The collection gives some insight into the unfathomable diversity in the Russian Empire’s cultures, architecture, ethnicities and geographies.

For more information on how Prokudin-Gorskii took color photographs in the early 1900s I will refer you to his Wikipedia page…

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For the entire collection, please visit the following

Round 2: Another Go at Russia

Almost a year ago today, I got on a plane headed for Russia without a visa– not an action I recommend. It was a character building experience and gave me the opportunity to both see Stockholm and nurse my wounded pride. Now, having spent the past year gallivanting around in New York City and letting my aspirations pass me by, I am making a second attempt at a life in Saint Petersburg. Today marks one month until my  September 29th flight.

In the approaching days I have found my anxieties creeping up on me, consuming my thoughts at my most vulnerable times; mainly while lying awake at 5am, unable to sleep and thinking “what the hell am I about to do.” But this time everything will go smoothly. I have all the elements for my visa in order: formal invitation from the Russian Foreign Ministry, enough consecutive blank passport pages, an HIV test and a tenacity to finally set foot in that city.

For the next month, I am going to be consumed with brushing up on my subpar Russian, updating this blog, teaching myself to take professional quality photographs and becoming a social media maven. All in order to provide the most accurate, intelligent and engaging dispatches from the Russian Russian Empire.