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Yasha Levine

A few weeks ago, I went to see a new Russian horror film called S.S.D. (the acronym translates to “Death to Soviet Children”) about a bunch of annoying Moscow urbanites who get slaughtered while shooting a reality TV show in an abandoned Soviet summer camp. I don’t usually get excited about new film releases in this country. I’ve been disappointed too many times and now try to avoid them as much as possible. But this time was different, this time I thought the movie couldn’t lose. It had too much potential. If you’ve ever spent time in a real Soviet pioneer camp, like I have, you’d be excited, too.

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Posted: October 8th, 2008

I was in Georgia last week researching a magazine story on the Russo-Georgian conflict, when I stumbled upon the shuttered Russian embassy in Tbilisi. The gated compound looked normal — no bullet holes or anti-Russian graffiti — but there was a mysterious pile of trash dumped right in front of the building’s main gate. There was a sign on the ground, too, that according to a Georgian security guard read something like this: “This is a Russian soldier’s toilet.”

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Posted: October 6th, 2008

Last summer, I grossed out a bunch of my guests at a small party I had at my apartment. We watched a gruesome beheading video that was posted on the Internet that day. The video showed two masked Russian skinheads performing a ritual execution of what appeared to be two Caucasian gastarbeiters. (more…)

Posted: September 18th, 2008

Yasha Levine -- Fear & Impovershment in Moscow

Last weekend, I was at an opening of a new Tibetan restaurant by the Red Square with a bunch of American expats. The new Cold War never came up, but that was because nobody wanted to ruin a good party with the obvious fact that life in Russia has been steadily worsening for foreigners for years, and it’s going to get still worse. Sure, expats might prefer to stick their heads in the sand and hope for the best, but with Cold War II practically at our doorstep, it seems like a good time to see how this will affect the Americans living in Russia.

When The eXile was shut down in June, I started thinking long and hard about going back home to California. I even started the laborious marriage process to marry my girlfriend and bring her back we me as my trophy Russian wife. But when I went back to visit my family and started scouting for a new job and a place to land, the horrible truth dawned on me: there’s no way I could go back. (more…)

Posted: September 16th, 2008

You probably didn’t know that CNN censored Putin for being just too darn sensible. Yep, it’s true. About two weeks ago, Putin gave the network an exclusive 30-minute interview. And you know what happened? Nothing. It was never allowed to air. CNN doesn’t know it yet, but that decision might have cost them their Russian broadcasting rights.

On August 29, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with senior political correspondent Matthew Chance for a CNN exclusive interview. “This was unprecedented access to Russia’s powerful prime minister, the former KGB spy now increasingly at odds with Washington,” an overly dramatic voice-over introduced the segment as Chance and Putin enjoyed pre-game banter and a walk through the courtyard of Putin’s palatial Sochi residence. Once seated, Chance didn’t waste any time with his provocative questions:

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Posted: September 10th, 2008

They drove like people to whom the motorcar was new. They drove as they walked; and a stream of Tehran traffic, jumpy with individual stops and swerves, with no clear lanes, was like a jostling pavement crowd.

—V.S. Naipaul

Naipaul wrote these lines about Iranian drivers in revolution-gripped Tehran in the late 70s. But he might as well have been writing about Russian drivers today. The drive as they walk; on the sidewalk, through red lights, bumping into pedestrians. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. See, while America’s auto sales have gone into a nosedive, Russia just surpassed Germany to become the largest automobile market in Europe this year. Russians bought as many cars in the first six months of 2008 as they did in the entire last year, 1.65 million to be exact. The luxury category has posted the biggest growth, adding hundreds of thousands of uber-expesive automobiles to Russia’s decrepit roads. (more…)

Posted: August 28th, 2008

Today, August 14, Dmitri Medvedev celebrates 100th day as President of the Russian Federation. What conclusions can be made about the new president? Well, not many. Other than the fact that Medvedev is trying really, really hard to be the best protege he can be. Sure, he’s a little shorter, a little meeker and much less manlier than his mentor, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t trying his best. (more…)

Posted: August 14th, 2008