Streetwise Professor

August 9, 2010

Pretty Pathetic

Filed under: History,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:23 pm

Two stories, pathetic in different ways, out of Russia.

Story 1 is that one of the Russian spies exchanged last month, Mikhail Vasenkov a/k/a Juan Lazaro much prefers being Juan:

But the senior spy among them says no thanks. In a plot twist rare in the annals of espionage, he wants his Juan Lazaro fake identity back.

There’s only one problem. The real Juan Lazaro died 63 years ago in Uruguay at age 3, a relative says. The spy used the dead toddler’s birth certificate to build a persona.

From a Moscow apartment where Russia’s government has him lodged out of public view, the veteran agent has sent word that he and his wife, deported together in the spy swap and separated from their 17-year-old son, want to use their Peruvian passports to return to Peru in the coming weeks and rebuild their lives as the Lazaros.

“He doesn’t want to stay in Russia,” says his American lawyer, Genesis Peduto, who talks to him on the phone.

“He says he’s Juan Lazaro and he’s not from Russia and doesn’t speak Russian. He wants to be where his wife is going, to her native country, where it will be easier for Juan Jr. to visit” from New York. “His family comes first.”

I recall reading (can’t find the article) that one of the spies was quite militant and proud of his actions during his pleading–I thought it was Lazaro/Vasenkov, but maybe I was wrong.  Whatever, he ain’t militant now.

I would agree that a future in Russia would be pretty bleak.  As Lazaro, he cut a somewhat macho figure.  Not quite the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World,  but “Latin” and a little exotic and romantic.  He lived in New York and could travel.  The idea of growing old in a land that is now foreign to him, speaking a now unfamiliar language, far from his beloved son, would be extremely oppressive, I’d think.  Karaoke with Putin is small compensation for that–especially in the knowledge that it’s all downhill from here.  Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

Update (8/10/10 1548) h/t Mossy. Yes, my memory was correct: “Lazaro” had made a militant statement to the FBI:

He also said that his house in Yonkers, outside New York City, had been “paid for by the ‘Service’ and although he loved his son, he would not violate his loyalty to the ‘Service’ even for his son,” according to the document.

That didn’t last long.  Maybe he was posing for some reason, such as trying to get on the good side of the SVR figuring that it would stand him in good stead in the event of a swap.  Or, maybe he meant it when he said it, but now he recognizes the reality of the situation.  I sense that he believes that “the Service” has betrayed him, and is discarding him now that he is worse than useless to them–that he is an embarrassment.  The Chekist karaoke, and Putin’s promise of a bright future, look even more like propaganda now.  It’s also worth noting that “Anna Chapman” is royally peeved at the loss of her UK passport.  Living on the SVR’s dime in the US or UK makes it easy to be “patriotic”: living on your own in the RF, not quite so attractive.

Story 2 is about a famous seed bank in Russia, the Pavlovsk Experimental Station.  A seed bank that 12 scientists starved to save during the horrific Siege of Leningrad.  But now the bank stands in the way of real estate development.  It sits on state property, which has been granted to developers.  The tale is incredibly Orwellian.

Orwellian feature #1:

On December 25, 2009 the Federal Agency for Public Estate Management under the Russian Ministry of Economic Development issued two resolutions (Orders No. 2058-R and No. 2061-R). They sanctioned termination of perpetual (irrevocable) tenure over lots 2 and 18 granted to VIR’s Pavlovsk Experiment Station and conveyance of this land to the Federal Fund of Residential Real Estate Development no later than in three months.

Uhm, how to you terminate “perpetual (irrevocable) tenure”?  Not so irrevocable or permanent, I guess.

Orwellian feature #2.  The Station is trying to contest its eviction in court.  The real estate developers have advanced a novel argument to fight the claim:

In what appears Kafkaesque logic, the property developers argue that because the station contains a “priceless collection”, no monetary value can be assigned to it and so it is worthless. In another nod to Kafka, the government’s federal fund of residential real estate development has argued that the collection was never registered and thus does not officially exist.

It is priceless, so it is worthless.  Wrap your head around that enigma, riddle, puzzle combo meal.  It’s been there for 85 years, survived the most horrific siege in modern history, has an unparalleled collection of genetic material, and an “irrevocable lease,” but because some piece of paper was not filed, it doesn’t exist.  And how do you give a perpetual lease to something that doesn’t exist?

I wonder who got paid how much to make this happen.  The whole episode is truly revolting.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Craig pirrong, Craig pirrong. Craig pirrong said: Updated my SWP blog post: Pretty Pathetic ( ) […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Streetwise Professor » Pretty Pathetic -- — August 9, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

  2. SWP, the crypto-Marxist, scribbles:

    It is priceless, so it is worthless. Wrap your head around that enigma, riddle, puzzle combo meal. It’s been there for 85 years, survived the most horrific siege in modern history, has an unparalleled collection of genetic material, and an “irrevocable lease,” but because some piece of paper was not filed, it doesn’t exist. And how do you give a perpetual lease to something that doesn’t exist?

    I wonder who got paid how much to make this happen. The whole episode is truly revolting.

    Karl Marx scribbled:

    That which is for me through the medium of money – that for which I can pay (i.e., which money can buy) – that am I myself, the possessor of the money. The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money’s properties are my – the possessor’s – properties and essential powers. Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness – its deterrent power – is nullified by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame. I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest. I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever people for himself, and is he who has [In the manuscript: ‘is’. – Ed.] power over the clever not more clever than the clever? Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary?

    If I have no money for travel, I have no need – that is, no real and realisable need – to travel. If I have the vocation for study but no money for it, I have no vocation for study – that is, no effective, no true vocation. On the other hand, if I have really no vocation for study but have the will and the money for it, I have an effective vocation for it. Money as the external, universal medium and faculty (not springing from man as man or from human society as society) for turning an image into reality and reality into a mere image, transforms the real essential powers of man and nature into what are merely abstract notions and therefore imperfections and tormenting chimeras, just as it transforms real imperfections and chimeras – essential powers which are really impotent, which exist only in the imagination of the individual – into real powers and faculties. In the light of this characteristic alone, money is thus the general distorting of individualities which turns them into their opposite and confers contradictory attributes upon their attributes.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 10, 2010 @ 12:55 am

  3. Well Sublime Oblivion (may you find it soon), your pathetic rants show that you are pretty ugly on the inside mate.

    As for calling others “crypto-marxists” your constant defence of the USSR and its vile inheritor state, Putin’s Russia would more likely make you the crypto-marxist.

    Comment by Andrew — August 10, 2010 @ 3:02 am

  4. Russia is not the USSR, alas. She has simply reverted to the pre-USSR state.

    Comment by So? — August 10, 2010 @ 3:36 am

  5. Really interesting about Juan. He was the one who said something like “My loyalty to the service is greater than my love for my son.” I guess a couple weeks and Moscow changed that! BTW, I think the FBI also had taped him saying something like “They want to know where this information came from,” and his wife said, “Oh, just write some politician’s name.” It sounds like they had some extra money coming in and didn’t take their responsibilities all that seriously. I have to say, the fascinating part of this story is the psychology of those guys and their kids, who I do feel very sorry for. I knew some children of older generation Soviet spies. I did not envy them.

    On the property — this sort of thing happens all the time. First there were “raids” on apartment owners, but in that case, lawyers got very good at fighting them off. Now it’s land and harder to fight. The new genplan for Moscow — which makes Moscow and investors’ heaven and kind of forgets about us poor mortals who live here — is being contested. I have some small hope that it will be rescinded, but then I’m just a hopeful kind of gal.

    Comment by mossy — August 10, 2010 @ 5:02 am

  6. @S/O–you must be way into yoga, because that was sure a stretch. What was crypto-Marxist about what I wrote? Or pretty much anything I write? One minute you bitch at me for being a neocon and a liberal (classical), the next I’m a crypto-Marxist. Whatever. And as for the Marx quote (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, correct?–that was from memory, BTW). It’s been making dreamy undergraduates swoon for years. Dreamy undergraduates, and Nancy Pelosi (“Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have Health Insurance.”)

    @Mossy–That was what I was trying to remember! Thanks. I’ll update the post with a h/t.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 10, 2010 @ 9:06 am

  7. Mossy, you are a she?! (That’s one disadvantage of the English language – hard to tell narrator’s gender. OTOH, song lyrics can stay the same, and the language is so much simpler.) My condolences, this summer you’ll have to go without Putin’s torso. He’s busy fighting fires.

    Comment by So? — August 10, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

  8. SO?:

    Given the fact that Russia is a brutally, barbarically sexist country where one woman is murdered by her husband every 30 minutes or so, perhaps the weakness is in the Russian language?

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 11, 2010 @ 3:47 am

  9. LaR,

    As always you step in it.

    Comment by So? — August 11, 2010 @ 5:30 am

  10. Putin’s naked torso doesn’t do a thing for me.
    I like — well, never mind.

    Comment by mossy — August 11, 2010 @ 6:13 am

  11. @mossy–I’m still amazed that Putin hasn’t stripped to the waist and posed as a firejumper. But there’s still time!

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 11, 2010 @ 10:03 am

  12. What difference does it make if this Lazaro chap is a native Russian or a native Peruvan?

    First of all, Peru is one of those nasty Latin American countries that’s been critical pf President Bush and the peace-loving American foreign policy. And it i sa pity that citizens of this Peru aren’t rotting in jail.

    Whether he is a Peruvan, a Russian or a Nicaraguan, he is a SPY! Here is proof:

    Spy Case: Meet the Russian 11

    A look at the suspects:

    Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro, Yonkers, N.Y.

    Who they are: The married couple lived in Yonkers, outside of New York City, with their son, Waldo Mariscal. Pelaez is Peruvian born. Mariscal told The Wall Street Journal today that the only connection
    his mother had to Russia was a passion for Tchaikovsky.

    Alleged cover: Pelaez was a well-known columnist with El Diario/La Prensa, one of the country’s oldest Spanish-language news outlets. Lazaro was a professor at Baruch College in New York.

    The kicker: Lazaro’s students told The New York Times he was a fan of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and vehemently disagreed with U.S. foreign policy.


    This scum lived in USA and vehemently disagreed with U.S. foreign policy! This is as treasonous as living in the USSR and and vehemently disagreeing with Comrade Stalin’s foreign policy!

    Second, the real target of the FBI arrest was not he, but his wife. According to the free and objective American press including ABC’s Nightline, she is a a treasonous journalist who conducted investigative reporting (i.e., spying)! And a lover of Russian classical music to boot!

    I know that the arrests of American journalists shouldn’t start with second-grade enemies like Vicky Pelaez. The first traitors to be arrested should be Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, Bill Maher, MSNBC filth, and all other Cuban-Russian-Venezuelan spies that make fun of the great Fox News. But this will be done when Sarah conquers the White House in 2012. Until then, the FBI should limit itself to imprisoning only foreign born American journalists who are critical of our Great Government.

    Palin in 2012! Duke in 2016!


    Comment by Laszlo Tooth Jr. — August 11, 2010 @ 10:40 pm

  13. @Laszlo. Seek help. And don’t think of making a career of satire.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 12, 2010 @ 7:18 am

  14. Methinks you have a bad case of Obama Derangement Syndrome / ideological fervor. What’s not funny about the idea of a crypto-Marxist bourgeois reactionary?

    I’m not a crypto-Marxist. I’m the real deal!
    PS. Getting lonely at LR?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 12, 2010 @ 1:35 pm


    “crypto-Marxist” does not mean “not real.” It means secret. One can be both real and a crypto. One does not exclude the other.

    If you are suggesting that you are openly Marxist, that is repeatedly proclaiming yourself to be so, it is an absurd lie and indicates it is you who are “deranged.”

    Time to go back to school — or go the first time.

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 12, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

  16. “crypto” does not exclude hidden from even yourself.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 12, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

  17. A person who adopts and practices all the principles of Marxism but does not realize he is a Marxist is far more “real” than one who thinks he is a Marxist but acts like a capitalist. You obviously learned to “think” in Russia. That of course is beside the point, which is that there is no exclusivity between being “real” and being “secret.” Some might argue that a secret philanthropist, for instance, is far more real than a public one.

    But you do offer one real insight — you’ve explained why you spend so much time commenting on this blog, because you are bored and lonely on your own!

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 13, 2010 @ 6:40 am

  18. So Sublime Oblivion admits to being a marxist eh?

    Not at all surprising that an amoral person such as yourself would aspire to identify with the founding ideaology of both Nazism and the Bolsheviks.

    You do realise that you worship an unworkable system that was based on racism and genocide don’t you?

    Comment by Andrew — August 13, 2010 @ 8:23 am

  19. I’m a Nazi Bolshevik. You’ve totally figured me, dude.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 14, 2010 @ 2:32 am

  20. @LR,
    1) How do I act like a capitalist?
    2) I didn’t know Marxists had a behavior code. Care to expound?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 14, 2010 @ 3:13 am

  21. Marxist behavior code:

    Terrorism, revolution, followed by the murder of people because they are educated, support democracy, own a business or farm, employ other people, wear glasses, are from the wrong race/class/religion, have the wrong political view.

    Followed by corruption, both moral and financial, gulags, re-education camps, etc, etc, etc.

    Plus rampant hypocrisy, envy and hatred of those who work hard, that sort of thing.

    Sounds like you in a nutshell Substandard Moron.

    Comment by Andrew — August 15, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress