Officially Russia prides itself on being a diverse, multicultural country.
So it seemed appropriate when 18-year-old Elmira Abdrazakova — the daughter of a Russian mother and a Tatar father from frigid Kemerovo Oblast — was crowned Miss Russia 2013 on March 2.
But the online reaction was enough to wipe the smile off Abdrazakova’s face. Within hours of her victory, an avalanche of thousands of hate messages filled with ethnic slurs came in from people espousing Russian nationalist views, forcing Abdrazakova to shut down her social-media pages.
One person wrote that there should be a law barring “Tatar women and also highland and lowland ethnic Shors” from participating in beauty contests.
Another wrote that “a gypsy woman cannot be the face of Russia.”
The reaction prompted Abdrazakova to shut down her page on the popular social-networking site Vkontakte.ru “in order to avoid further provocations,” as she told the Russian News Service. She said that the comments were motivated by “racism or some kind of nationalism” but added that people in the public spotlight have to expect negative reactions.
She said she expects to put her page back up in the near future.
Nationalist Russian legislators have introduced a bill to hold back a tide of foreign words, specifically English ones, which they claim is swamping the Russian language.
A bill submitted by the minority Liberal Democratic Party would impose fines of up to $1,700 on officials, advertisers and journalists who use foreign words rather than their Russian equivalents.
Their main gripe appears to be with English words that have crept into Russian since the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to the broadcaster Russia Today.
“They specifically mention the Russian words that ended up as ‘dealer,’ ’boutique,’ ‘manager,’ ‘single,’ ‘O.K.’ and ‘wow,’ ” RT said on its Web site.
…The tendency of languages to adopt foreign words is scarcely a modern phenomenon. Russian itself has a multitude of borrowings from languages as diverse as Mongolian and Latin.
Borrowings often reflect concepts or linguistic nuances that do not exist in the native language. English borrowed “mammoth” and “sable” from the Russians as well as the more recent “agitprop” and “gulag.”
Alina Sabitova, writing for the Russkiy Mir Foundation, which promotes Russian language and culture, acknowledged that proscriptive laws in countries such as Poland and France were rarely observed in practice.
That cast doubt on the claim of Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, the Liberal Democratic Party leader, that “all major countries have purged foreign loan words from their national languages.”
(There’s quite a bit more at the source.)
Ukraine leader vows hold on gas prices in TV talk with people
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich pledged on Friday to keep down the price of gas in the home, using a four-hour, televised question-and-answer session to counter an image of being out of touch with his people.
Yanukovich, expected to seek a second term in power in 2015, made a series of promises - to fix bad roads, improve grim conditions in industrialised eastern areas, build new sports facilities and improve social benefits like medical insurance.
“For me, all citizen people are equal - those who voted for me or those who did not vote for me,” he said.
“I ask you to collect all your complaints and I promise that I will look at them all personally and will give you an answer personally with my own signature.”
…The boldest of Yanukovich’s promises was not to raise gas prices, a pledge which may complicate another round of talks next month with the IMF over a new $15 billion loan.
The IMF, which is in talks with Kiev over a new stand-by loan, insists Ukraine raise heavily-subsidised gas prices to cut its budget deficit and make state finances sustainable.
“You can be certain of this. We are not going to raise gas prices for the population or for industry,” Yanukovich said.
Ukraine relies on gas imported from Russia but the high price paid - $430 per thousand cubic metres - hurts its economy.
“Yanukovich now seems to be closing the door on gas price hikes, and an IMF agreement, and moving back towards trying to cut a deal with Russia,” Standard Bank analyst Timothy Ash said.
Yanukovich’s government has tried unsuccessfully to persuade Russia to lower the price of gas, fixed in a 10-year contract brokered in 2009 by the Tymoshenko government. Yanukovich said: “I think we can revive normal relations with Russia in the gas sector and we are working on this. We are not losing hope.”
Infrasound data collected by a network designed to watch for nuclear weapons testing suggests that today’s blast released hundreds of kilotonnes of energy. That would make it far more powerful than the nuclear weapon tested by North Korea just days ago and the largest rock crashing on the planet since a meteor broke up over Siberia’s Tunguska river in 1908.
“It was a very, very powerful event,” says Margaret Campbell-Brown, an astronomer at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, who has studied data from two infrasound stations near the impact site. Her calculations show that the meteoroid was approximately 15 metres across when it entered the atmosphere, and put its mass at around 40 tonnes. “That would make it the biggest object recorded to hit the Earth since Tunguska,” she says.
As much as I’d like to stay up and follow the meteorite story, it is (past) bedtime. For liveblogging, I recommend RFE/RL’s liveblog, which includes this intriguing (but improbable) tidbit:
The leader of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky says that the meteorite shower was actually a new weapons test by the U.S., and that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to warn his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, but he couldn’t get in touch with him.
I’m seeing reports on twitter that the number of injured is now more than 400 people, in six different towns. I haven’t heard of any fatalities as a result of the meteorite, though. Here’s hoping it stays that way.
A meteor streaked across the sky above Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass.
Fragments of the meteor fell in a thinly populated area of the Chelyabinsk region, the Emergency Ministry said in a statement.
Interior Ministry spokesman Vadim Kolesnikov said 102 people had called for medical assistance following the incident, mostly for treatment of injuries from glass broken by the explosions.
Kolsenikov also said about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof at a zinc factory had collapsed.
Reports conflicted on what exactly happened in the clear skies. A spokeswoman for the Emergency Ministry, Irina Rossius, told The Associated Press that there was a meteor shower, but another ministry spokeswoman, Elena Smirnikh, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying it was a single meteorite.
Amateur video broadcast on Russian television showed an object speeding across the sky about 9:20 a.m. local time (0320 GMT), leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash.