Letter From the Editors: Oct. 16 - 22, 2017

Author: Laurence Bogoslaw

Curzon, Carnivals and Carousels: The Merry-Go-Round of Russian Domestic Politics Takes New Turns.

In May 1923, Lord George Curzon, the British foreign minister, wrote a memorandum to the Soviet government demanding that it cease hostile actions toward the British Empire and stop the persecution of its own people. On the official level, the Soviets gave a lengthy answer to the "Curzon Ultimatum," alleging that all of Europe was set against the fledgling nation; on the unofficial level, cartoons and satirical prose (including by Ilf and Petrov) made fun of Curzon and showed Bolsheviks rallying against him.

Looking at this week’s news, it seems that Moscow is still spouting its "answer to Curzon." For example, at the annual Valdai Club forum, Vladimir Putin spent over three hours telling Western political experts that Russia will not be pushed around. Boris Yunanov writes: "To hear the [Russian] president tell it, the improving domestic situation allows [Russia] to respond ‘in kind’ on all foreign fronts. .. Russia has a record-low inflation rate of 3%; unemployment is below 5%; Russia has a positive trade balance, and. .. thanks to Russia’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia, oil is over $50 per barrel." But what about NATO’s military drills near Russia’s borders? Putin’s response: "We are not worried about this. Let them do their exercises. Everything is under control."

Putin was conspicuously silent about his plans for the 2018 presidential race - which Yunanov takes as a sign that here, too, Putin feels everything is under control and he will run as expected: "The question about his personal future plans is a no-brainer."

Or is it? Just before the Valdai event, socialite and TV celebrity Ksenia Sobchak made a media splash by announcing her own candidacy. Her platform, which she unveiled in an open letter, is a ringing manifesto of opposition politics, decrying the ossified regime, rampant corruption, the ...

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