Допинг-скандал: Кто не поедет в Рио? / The doping scandal: Who won’t be going to Rio?

Elena Isinbaeva, Russian pole vaulter

Audio content: Athletes and sports officials commenting on the exclusion of Russia’s track and field athletes from the Rio Olympics
Video content: leading athletes, coaches, track and field competitions

(Video embedded below)

Russian athletics has been caught up in a doping scandal of enormous proportions for the last year or more. A report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recently presented the results of their investigations. According to the report, Russian state agencies including the Federal Security Service (ФСБ, Федеральная служба безопасности) and the Ministry of Sport (Министерство спорта) oversaw the falsification of doping tests for Russian athletes in the years leading up to and including the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Over the course of several years, state agencies worked with the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory to simply reclassify positive tests as negative. Then, after the scheme was discovered, the Moscow laboratory was discredited by international organizations and its head, Grigory Rodchenkov, fled to the US in late 2015 and began sharing additional information about the doping system. The most sensational aspect of the scandal is the plot used to evade doping safeguards at the Sochi Olympics. Apparently there was a small hole in a wall between the secure room that stored athletes’ urine samples and an adjacent room that was outside the secure perimeter. In the middle of the night, Russian anti-doping officials would pass out urine samples to FSB agents in the next room, who would replace the tainted urine with clean samples that had been collected well in advance. Somehow the people involved managed to open and reseal the supposedly tamper-proof urine bottles without leaving a trace. Their efforts seem to have paid off: Russia won more medals than any other nation in the Sochi Olympics. See this article by the New York Times for more information.

After this state-directed doping scheme was revealed, the big question, of course, was whether Russia would be allowed to participate in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. In late July 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued its decision: Russians would be allowed to participate, but any athlete who had been caught doping at any time in the past — even if the disqualification period had expired — would not be allowed to participate. Also, the entire Russian track and field team has been disqualified due to an earlier decision by the international federation for that sport. This article by Meduza gives a quick overview of how the decision affects Russia’s Olympic teams in various sports.

So how has Russia responded to this situation? That’s the focus of today’s post,

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День защитника отечества / Defender of the Fatherland Day

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media / wreath on Defender of the Fatherland Day

Audio content: People expressing thoughts both patriotic and provocative on the occasion of Defending the Fatherland Day
Visual content: Images of Russian military pomp, political leaders from multiple parties and political regalia

In a week or two I’ll do a post featuring the remarkable marches in honor of Boris Nemtsov that happened last weekend. I’ve found lots of great video on that topic but need a chance to sort through it. Meanwhile, today’s post offers a multifaceted look at the Russian national holiday that was celebrated a week ago. On February 23rd every year Russians observe День защитника отечества / Defender of the Fatherland Day, which is the post-Soviet heir to holidays celebrating the Red Army. The holiday honors all who have served in Russia’s armed forces, but the day is also popularly viewed as a celebration of men in general, as it comes just a couple weeks before Международный женский день / International Women’s Day, marked on March 8th.

On this year’s Defender of the Fatherland Day, a number of interesting intersecting political currents were on display. Not all of them are apparent in this post’s videos, but they provide an interesting backdrop to what you’ll see here. The official state-supported celebration included parades, fireworks, the placing of a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier, public exhibits of military technology and family events meant to encourage national pride and promote interest in military service. But several notable non-officially-sanctioned events occurred on this day as well. Ilya Yashin, one of the leaders of the opposition party РПР-Парнас (which currently has no representation in the Duma), chose this day to present a report on Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov is the leader of the Chechen republic, an ally of Putin and an outspoken, aggressive enemy of opposition political movements. With the report, titled “Угроза национальной безопасности” / “A Threat to National Security,” Yashin accuses Kadyrov of cultivating a cult of personality, fostering rampant corruption and developing a local security force that operates without federal oversight. Yashin’s presentation at party headquarters was interrupted by bomb threats and the building was vandalized with bright paint.

Kadyrov, meanwhile, also made some notable statements on February 23rd.

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Крымчане готовы терпеть перебои с электричеством / Crimeans Will Put Up with Power Outages

Audio content: Residents of Crimea commenting on the energy dispute with Ukraine, plus a particularly defiant statement from the leader of Crimea.
Visual content: Images from the streets of Crimea including New Year’s decorations, images of fallen electrical towers, maps of the current power supply routes.

Video from Первый канал
1 January 2016

Residents of Crimea and Sevastopol have been struggling with an uneven power supply since late November. The troubles started when activists opposed to Russia’s annexation of Crimea blew up one of the main transmission towers that carried the power cables from Ukraine south into Crimea. The connection was partially restored in early December, then once again disrupted later that month when the electrical poles were vandalized. Russia did what it could to support the newly annexed territory, sending generators and bringing in a power line from the east, across the narrow Kerch Strait (Керченский пролив) that separates southern Russia from Crimea. The news segment claims that these measures have reduced power outages to a few hours a day at the most.

The latest twist in this saga arises from the fact that the power contract between Ukraine and Crimea ran out at the end of 2015. Ukraine offered to sign a new contract (and presumably restore the downed transmission towers), but only on one condition, one that it must have assumed Russia would reject: the contract was to include a statement that power was being supplied to Crimea as a Ukrainian territory. The Russian government then asked the main Russian polling agency, ВЦИОМ, to survey Crimean residents on this topic. Poll results indicated that 93.12% of respondents preferred to reject any contract that contained the controversial provision, and 94% were ready to tolerate occasional disruptions in the power supply in the event that no contract could be concluded with Ukraine. (Some independent news agencies questioned the specific methods of this poll, but pro-Russian sentiment is strong in Crimea.)

Reports from Первый канал / Channel One generally present the Russian government’s preferred interpretation of and attitude toward current events. Thus in this clip we see

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Авиакатастрофа в Египте / The Plane Crash in Egypt

In light of recent events it seems appropriate to bypass other potentially interesting topics and devote a few posts to the recent terror-related tragedies. This post presents material on the crash of the Russian plane in Egypt. An upcoming post will showcase an excellent video I found of Russians responding to the attacks in Paris. (Use the tool in the sidebar to subscribe if you would like to be notified about new posts.) The current post contains two videos. Scroll down to view the second one.

On October 31 a plane operated by the Russian charter airliner Kogalymavia / Когалымавиа (operating under the brand name Metrojet) crashed in the Sinai peninsula. The plane had just departed the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh for St. Petersburg. All 224 people on board died. Most were Russian tourists returning home from vacations. As of today the cause of the crash has not been officially established, but several figures involved in the multinational investigation have said it seems likely that a bomb exploded on board. The terror group ISIS (Russian “Исламское государство” or “ИГИЛ”) claimed responsibility for the crash soon after it occurred.


 

VIDEO 1 (above)

Audio content: Russians voicing sorrow and condolences; Patriarch Kirill leading a mourning service; Orthodox liturgical music
Visual content: Memorial sites in St. Petersburg with piles of flowers and candles; an Orthodox church service, church interiors, parishioners taking part in the service

Video from Первый канал

The opening images in this video are from the St. Petersburg airport Pulkovo. In Russia it is common to bring flowers, especially carnations, to a memorial site. Later in the video you will see shots of Orthodox memorial services in St. Petersburg and in Moscow at the resident church of the Muscovian and all-Russian Patriarch Kirill. Note the distinctive tall thin golden candles that are commonly lit in Orthodox churches, the heavily decorated walls and icon screen, and the head scarves worn by most women inside Orthodox churches.

Transcript

0:25-1:00

Мужчина: Это такая трагедия для Петербурга, и, я считаю, в целом, для всего города и для нас, мы не безразличные люди и специально приехали.

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Выступление Путина в ООН / Putin’s Speech at the UN

Visual content: Putin speaking to the UN General Assembly in New York
Audio content: Excerpts from Putin’s speech that illustrate some typical motifs of his foreign policy perspective

Video from Первый канал
28 сентября 2015

In late September 2015 Putin addressed the General Assembly of the UN at its 70th session–which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, a milestone that has been extensively marked in Russia. Putin’s speech was timed to occur during evening prime time in Moscow. This speech is a great illustration of Putin’s international relations outlook on so many levels. As usual, Putin exhibits finely honed rhetorical skills. He has an excellent knack for placing himself on the moral high ground (in words at least) while taking advantage of every chance to criticize the Western powers, and particularly the US, for any failings or self-centered evils of their own foreign policy (and, in other contexts, of their domestic policy, political system etc.). No matter what policies Russia is pursuing, Putin makes his approach sound humane, reasonable and high-minded. Throughout his speech, Putin never mentions the United States explicitly, but he is very clearly refering to the United States at many points during his speech. Also note that Russia began bombing Syria shortly after this speech was given, so one role of the speech is to explain and justify Russia’s upcoming actions.

In the first segment excerpted below, Putin stands up for the important role of the UN as international mediator and criticizes those entities who act without prior UN approval (as the US sometimes does–but of course Russia also ignores international consensus in its actions in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria).

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День победы / Victory Day

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media. Aerial view of the parade in central Moscow.

Visual content: Great images of the celebration of День победы.
Audio content: Numerous interviews with participants in the popular march, discussing their ancestors’ contributions to the war effort.

Video from Первый канал
9 мая 2015

This year’s celebration, on May 9th, of Russia’s  victory in the Великая Отечественная Война / Great Fatherland War (World War II) took place on a particularly grand scale with lots of patriotic emotion and extensive popular participation. Besides the usual parade on Red Square, cities around the country organized marches under the name “Бессмертный полк” / “The Immortal Regiment.” This event was first conceived by an independent television channel in Tomsk in 2012 and was then embraced and promoted at the federal level. The essence of the event is that people march while holding photographs of family members who served and perhaps perished in the war.


 

This clip is from Первый канал / Channel One. The first three minutes show shots of the day’s events mixed with archival footage, with the song “От героев былых времён” playing in the background. Note that many participants in the event, as well as the news anchor, are wearing black-and-gold striped ribbons. This is the Георгиевская лента / St. George’s Ribbon, originally a component of some military decorations and now widely distributed as a symbolic commemoration of the country’s sacrifices in World War II.

The rest of the video includes numerous interviews with participants in the Moscow march.

4:10 Boy in uniform:
“Мой дедушка снова в строю, от моего имени. Я этим очень горжусь. Я хочу, чтобы вы все, кто сейчас меня видит, слышит и понимает, помнили тех, кто подарил нам мирную жизнь.”
“My grandfather is once again in the ranks, on my behalf. I am very proud of that. I want everyone who sees, hears and understands me now to remember those who gave us the gift of a peaceful life.”
Girl in uniform: “Мой прапрадедушка, его очень сильно люблю, горжусь им, он работает пока, он умер в войне.”
“My great-great grandfather, I love him very much, I am proud of him, he works for now [?]… he died in the war.

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