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Yasha Levine

Six Apart, the company behind the popular TypePad blogging platform, just went Marie Antoinette on us all. With all the jobs being cut in the paper industry and increasing numbers of reporters stuck with nothing to do but moan, the company decided to help out. Introducing the “TypePad Journalist Bailout Program”: a free TypePad Pro blog account for every unemployed professional journalist!  A media famine is afoot, journalists don’t have papers to work for. So…”Let them blog!” For free, of course. All of which helps Six Apart’s bottom line…

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Posted: November 19th, 2008

Last weekend, a Russian anarchist revolutionary art group called War pulled a fast one on Prime Minister Putin. Or at least they thought they did. Russian revolutionaries sure do fall far from the tree these days.

On the night of November 7, a group of them set up a laser on top of a building across the river from the Russian White House — that’s the place where the prime minister carries out daily his business — and projected a 150-ft. wide toxic green skull and bones on its facade. But the protest didn’t end there. (more…)

Posted: November 10th, 2008

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The Russkie dream of buying out America’s economy might have tanked, but the Russians are increasingly sneaking across the border and making their presence felt in the U.S. media. Here is this week’s Russian-American video roundup.

1. Love Song For Sarah Palin

First, we got this viral video created by Russians in America of a simple young gopnik professing his love for Sarah Palin (more…)

Posted: October 17th, 2008

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

Russia got into the social networking game a little late. The industry still isn’t very hi-tech and doesn’t have all those dorky Facebook plugins that people in the West are used to. But Russia’s got a natural resource that Facebook’s dumpy audience can never provide: people (as in chicks) that you actually want to get to know (as in biblically).

Take a look at our cultural exhibit. It shows how the girls on Russia’s premier social networking site, Odnoklassniki, compare to their American counterparts. (more…)

Posted: August 19th, 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

I woke up to discover a weird link to a Digg post sent over by a friend of mine. It was a poll conducted on CNN’s website asking readers:

Do you think Russians actions in Georgia are justified?
1) Yes — it’s peacekeeping
2) No — it’s an invasion

Surprisingly, 92% of readers thought that the Russians were justified. Taking into account CNN’s boneheaded and overwhelmingly pro-Georgian coverage, the poll didn’t make any sense. Were sheepish CNN viewers actually using their brain? It didn’t seem likely. Well, the poll no longer appears on the site. It was taken down after charges of manipulation started surfacing. Apparently, Russian bloggers circulated the poll and called on Russians to let their voice be heard. And if there’s one thing CNN doesn’t like doing, it’s hearing what those damn Russkies have to say.  CNN had no idea that this seemingly innocuous poll would demonstrate the huge rift in opinion between the West and Russia and underline the importance that information warfare has played in this conflict, not to mention show whom CNN was really rooting for. (more…)

Posted: August 13th, 2008

On August 30, on the same day that President Medvedev announced his support of small business, an insane story appeared on Russia’s evening TV news about a corporate takeover raid in the city of Tula, just south of Moscow. Russian television was ablaze with amazing footage of a gangland battle scene straight outta the 90s—as if the 90s never ended.

A battle for ownership of a local cable TV station called Altair led to an armed daylight attack on the company’s offices. The raiders brought in two busloads of armed goons—some decked out in full OMON battle gear and toting AKs, handguns, and tear gas; others dressed in jumpsuits and carrying bats, 2X4s, wire cutters, and pellet guns—and the two goon platoons launched a full-on assault on the building. (more…)

Posted: August 6th, 2008

You know how Russia’s threatening to start sending nuke-carrying, long-range bombers to Cuba? Well, meet the Few, the Proud, and the Wasted of Russia’s VDV, the country’s elite Airborne Troops. Look at these faces long and hard, folks. And then look at them again. Chances are they’ll be parachuting into your backyard, striking camp and taking liberties with your young daughter. (more…)

Posted: August 4th, 2008

While the whole world has been focusing on Prime Minister Putin’s brutal slaughter of the Russian economy, a whole slew of other lesser, but oh so much more graphic, crimes have crept by undetected. We’re here to put a stop to that. The launch of EXILED ONLINE has put the gore sleuths of the infamous Death Porn Bureau back in business. Oh, gone are the good ol’ days. We’re not as well staffed as we once were and can’t have our coffee brought to us by one of our lovely DP girls. In fact, I’m the only one left. I won’t have time to cover all DP happenings that cross my desk, but it doesn’t mean I won’t try.

For this historic relaunch, we’re going with a DP classic that never gets old: the good ol’ vodka-fueled murder spree. And in these hot and humid summer months, there’s a lot of them to go around. As every seasoned DP hand knows, mixing 100-degree weather with 100-proof spirits makes for one hell of a bloody masha cocktail.

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Posted: July 30th, 2008

Sergei Gorshkov, the political blogger who’s in it for the money, not the politics — and isn’t afraid to say so

It was a freakishly warm February morning in Moscow, eight days before Russia’s 2008 presidential election. Green army trucks packed with bleary-eyed soldiers crawled through the city streets, a sign of a paranoid government mobilizing itself against an election-eve revolution. (more…)

Posted: July 23rd, 2008

View of Ulyanovsk from my 20th floor hotel room

On a Sunday evening in Ulyanovsk, after the Give Birth to a Patriot ceremony, I found myself in a movie theater watching Wanted, the new Russian-directed Angelina Jolie flick, with a 19-year-old prostitute named Katya. At least she said she was a prostitute. I met her while doing man-on-the-street interviews during the ceremony, and we ended up getting sloshed at an Aztec-themed nightclub a couple miles from Lenin’s birthplace. (more…)

Posted: July 22nd, 2008

Gov. Sergei Morozov baptizes a UAZ-Patriot, the grand prize for one lucky newborn’s family.

ULYANOVSK, Russia—On a humid Sunday afternoon in late June, about 100 couples clutching newborn babies filed into the Lenin Memorial overlooking the wide banks of the Volga River. This mammoth concrete slab of Soviet constructivism was erected in Lenin’s hometown to commemorate the leader’s 100th birthday and now houses one of the city’s many Lenin museums, but the families had not come for a lesson in Soviet history; they were there to pick up their prizes. (more…)

Posted: July 16th, 2008

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Klein on Columbian TV a few months before his arrest in Moscow

Two weeks ago, while all eyes were focused on the case of international arms dealer Viktor Bout, I spent about five hours at the Moscow City Court watching the appeal case of another accused arms smuggler, Yair Klein. Known as Israel’s most famous arms smuggler, Klein has been fighting extradition to Colombia, where he was tried in absentia in 2001 and sentenced to a 10-year prison term.

Klein was arrested in Moscow last August on an Interpol warrant as he boarded a plane to Tel Aviv. Now he stood just one court decision away from being shipped off in cuffs to Bogota, where he’d rot away in some mosquito-swarmed dungeon. (more…)

Posted: March 28th, 2008

Day 1. My 14-hour drive from Moscow to Pskov starts with a nice road and picture perfect weather. I find myself worrying, Could this be a sign of Russia's economic resurgence?

This article was first published by The eXile in March 2008

Two weeks ago I sat in a GAI patrol car drinking whiskey with an on-duty traffic cop. The pudgy officer had flagged down my friend’s Nissan for a routine “document check,” but decided not to pursue the bribe when he spotted me in the back swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. I was immediately invited to his idling car for a drink and a chat. (more…)

Posted: March 10th, 2008