Streetwise Professor

July 24, 2014

The Stamp of Authority: Definitive Proof that the “Separatists” Are Truly Russian

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:24 pm

Stamps. That’s the proof.

Russians are obsessed with stamps. Nothing is official unless it is stamped. The most trivial document must be stamped. Preferably several times.

Stamps have magical power. They transform a simple piece of paper with dry, nondescript prose into something talismanic.

Consider this from a long (and horribly written and edited) WSJ piece on the process of brokering a deal between Malaysia and the mouth breathers of the Donetsk People’s Republic to obtain the black boxes from MH17:

Just after 1 a.m., Col. Sakri signed an agreement with a top separatist official confirming the handover of the black boxes.

The stamp of the National Security Council of Malaysia is misspelled, “Sekurity,” suggesting a hasty effort to fulfill bureaucratic protocol by having the stamp made locally.

I know exactly what happened. The deal was painstakingly negotiated over hours. Then the time for signing came. And the mouth breathers said: “It’s not official unless it is stamped.” The Malaysians looked at one another, then replied: “Stamped? WTF?” “It must have your stamp.” So the Malaysians scrambled around, desperately seeking someone who would make them a stamp. They found Ivan the Stampmaker, who of course would pronounce “c” as “s” and spell a hard “c” with a “k”. ┬áBut the mouth breathers didn’t know any better-indeed, they might have been suspiciously of a “c”-and were satisfied. They had their stamp. The deal was well and truly official.

It is absurd. It is Kafkaesque.

It is Russian.

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  1. its actually both way, asians dont make much of stamps. I worked in importing company and in my case s.koreans treated stamps as redundant

    Comment by erik — July 25, 2014 @ 8:54 am

  2. Of course they are Russian, that’s what they call themselves. know plenty of Ukrainians in Vienna none of whom speaks a word of Ukrainian.

    Maybe to put your rants somewhat into perspective…

    Comment by Viennacapitalist — July 25, 2014 @ 9:21 am

  3. I greatly enjoyed David Stockman’s recent book, but Pat Buchanan’s analysis is seriously flawed. However, Buchanan has shown for many years now a very odd perspective of foreign policy and history. His book on World War II is likewise seriously flawed. His historical analogies are flawed. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union in 1930; and Hungary in 1956 was a part of the Soviet Empire. In both cases, the US and the world saw it as an internal matter much like Russia’s actions in Chechkya and the northern Caucasus.

    Prior to Euromaidan, Russia made no claims to Crimea, the Donbas, or any other part of Ukraine. Despite Putin’s repeated statements that Ukraine was not really a state, that was never policy of the Russian government. Putin’s actions are a result of him not liking what happened in the internal affairs of Ukraine.

    As much as Putin dearly wants the world to accept Ukraine is a vassal state that lacks sovereignty, that is not the position of the US or the world, nor has it been since 1991 when Ukraine peacefully obtained its independence. Therefore, it is not the US upsetting the apple cart, but Putin. Therefore, the issue is how does the US respond to it. It can either resist in some way, either the inadequate and half-hearted way it has been doing it or more robustly, or meekly accept it. In fact, Obama and Europe did meekly accept the Crimean annexation, but that did not end Putin’s ambitions, but embolden him in the Donbas.

    We know Putin’s claims do not end there. It is not just the Donbas, but Kharkhiv and the old Novorossiya. Russians have also made mention of the Baltic states. Therefore, if Ukraine does not fight in the Dobas, they will be forced to fight elsewhere because Putin will not rest on his laurels but continue to push. What is at stake is the entire international order in Europe as it currently exists.

    Comment by Chris — July 25, 2014 @ 10:52 am

  4. A thought experiment for anyone so inclined.

    Imagine if the allies had won WWII to the extent that the Third Reich would be dismantled and German Federation reduced to its current borders, but nothing more than that. No denazification would be conducted, the allies would content themselves with supporting a coup to replace Hitler by the recent chief Nazi functionary of Berlin city. No Marshall plan either, just let the NSDAP and Gestapo leaders convert their control of the state apparatus into ownership of the bulk of German economy. In addition suppose huge oil fields were discovered that would allow Germany to finance restoring its military capacity without any democratic reforms.

    What do you think would happen next? I think we are currently observing it.

    Comment by Ivan — July 25, 2014 @ 11:35 am

  5. @chris
    Agree partially. Hungary was part of the warsaw pact-to call that part of the soviet empire i would consider somewhat far-fetched- after all they had they own version of communism (in austria we call it gulyas communism, much softer than the soviet variety) also hungarians are very proud of their distinctive culture (they speak a finno ugrian language) and have always been vary of that…many a problem in the austro hungarian empire was rooted in that fact. Do not think hungarians would agree with you on that…the tanks in the hungarian revolution of 1956 were called in by the hungarian communist party whose power was at stake…
    Also, so far we have heard nothin of russians ( eight months into the crisis) in estonia or elswhere expressing a desire to join russia. Maybe it has to do with the fact that said counries are governed much better than russia and they prefer to live there- somethin which cannot be said of ukraine, unfortunately- so i consider this fear somewhat exagerated, although not impossible of course….
    @ ivan
    The lack of raw materials was the main motive for german outside aggression ( lebensraum). The discovery of oil on thier own soil would be one very important motive less. Also the nazis where not very astute in economic matters, contrary to what many believe it was a shortage economy ( read adam tooze’s book ” the wages of destruction)… So the probability of an internal revolution in peacful times would be much higher than in russia (russians and ukrainians are used to horrible governments, historically)…
    Also putin cannot be considered racist, ethnic russians constitute less than 50 percent of the population as everyone who has ever been to russia realizes….without mayor issues-except for the specific chechnya problem…so there are some important differences compared to your hypothetic scenario thought There is one thing that is common, however: both putin and the nazis were democratically elected:-)

    Comment by Viennacapitalist — July 25, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

  6. Apologies for my spelling, but it is really difficult to type on an ipad…

    Comment by Viennacapitalist — July 25, 2014 @ 12:36 pm

  7. Putin is a racist, his state might not be a pure Russian one but the imagery it projects is of Russia-race nationalism. Putin’s speech about interfering in territories to protect Russians refers to the race, not the passport holders. But the racism actually extends down into the generic propaganda the average Russian sees, Moscow metro in 2012 was covered with advertiser for the increased births campaign. The pictures were all white women and the sign said something like THEY are breeding, why wont you? Implying that the Russian race is facing a demographic crisis — which it is. Race as an issue has been brewing in Russia for the last 10 years, ever since the Chechen wars. Even Navalny, who is nominally an anti-corruption politician holds what you would consider even in the United States as quite right wing views on race. And then we go down the rabbit hole of various ideologues Putin likes to throw some rubles at, that gets even worse. Putin and his clique might be mostly interested in getting rich and some sort of nominal ‘respect’ for Russia but his actions have created a racism infection that is spreading through the regions and the lower bureaucracy. After he inevitably dies in office at age 80 or whatever the next 10 years will be scary for human civilization as Russian barbarism explodes.

    Comment by d — July 25, 2014 @ 1:03 pm

  8. Can I rent reader from your blog for 2 minutes, I can contribute to the commodity section of your site in case some readers feel orphaned.

    Futures, forwards, physicals and shipping in the Brent market. The Contango explained.

    Comment by The Trade, Shipping and Finance Wizard — July 25, 2014 @ 1:17 pm

  9. C’mon d, if he were racist the press would have tilted the coverage accordingly. Dont u think? Whenever i did business in moscow i could not fail to notice th large proportion of asian looking russians in top positions, i did not have the impression that race seemed to be a large impediment to social progress. Heck, one of putins main advisors (surkov) is chechen…also antisemitism is much larger in other eastern european countries ( poland) than in russia- trust me, i have extensive experience there and speak these languages…
    Also whenever there has been the odd skinhead problem he has always stressed the multinational aspect of russia….
    He definitely is a nationalist and collectivist and i detest that…but to us german speaking europeans, to be honest, american or british patriotism also looks a little odd…
    As a statist of course he is obssessed with manpower…critisism is ok, but lets keep a sense of proportion….

    Comment by Viennacapitalist — July 25, 2014 @ 1:20 pm

  10. The press is tilted according, because you werent able to pick it up doesnt mean it doesnt exist. When Sobyanin was placed as Mayor, he was attacked in the press for being a ‘foreigner.’ When the Ukrainian revolution is criticized, its criticized not just as a gay-European-fascism but also as a Jewish revolution — which itself is comical since Jews have long been replaced by Southern Muslims — whether Chechens or Central Asians — as the source of racist sentiment. At lower levels, the general climate has been sensed by the security organs and local police and fsb have been working closer with far right organizations in establishing lines of communication. Its true, Putin in building the fantasy that Russia is a modern state reacts violently against youtube-skinheads who post beheading videos. But his general body policy, his reliance on right wing ideology to project a strong and *Russian* not multi-ethnic state is the breeding grounds of further racism.

    Comment by d — July 25, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

  11. @Viennacapitalist

    The defining feature of Russian mentality is the fundamental disregard for (I would say, ignorance of the concept of) human dignity, everything else stems from it. Racism/xenophobia in Russia is just one of the secondary manifestations of this general attitude, and it may not be very visible to a Western foreigner precisely because of his being a Western foreigner (see below). You would have to be perceived as “one of them” to see it all.

    Russian mentality necessarily views all people in a master-slave hierarchy, Western foreigners being at the top of the hierarchy, with the resulting combination of subservience and deep resentment. This pervasive inferiority complex demands massive psychological compensators. An odd ice hockey victory against Americans helps, but those are few and far between. Disparaging the people perceived as being lower in the master-slave hierarchy is the obvious everyday remedy. That’s what non-Russian peoples in the Russian empire are generally there for, all those churkas, hachiks, etc.

    The primacy of the master-slave hierarchy explains Surkov etc.: if you can work your way up the master-slave hierarchy through theft and murder, this is viewed as a compensator for your lower ethnicity. The same psychological factors that are at work in the general population virtually guarantee that Surkov is still denigrated because of his ethnicity in some exclusive circles in the Kremlin, but master-slave hierarchy in the slavery-based system must be shown respect.

    This explains Putin’s rhetorical opposition to right-wing extremism, as well as his practical toleration of it: the ethnic Russian slaves must remember that Surkov is higher in the hierarchy, but you cannot punish them for beating up those lower in the hierarchy, for fear of upsetting the system.

    Comment by Ivan — July 26, 2014 @ 1:49 am

  12. @ d
    In what sense was sobyanin a foreigner? In the sense that he was not from moscow! The same as a bavarian would be a ” foreigner” in berlin. The attempt was to score some cheap points with dumb voters. And who called him a foreigner? Nawalny, not putin whose primary candidate he was – for the second most important job in russia, mind you. According to khodorkovsky, in his recent book, putin has been a fan of sobyanin foreverever…listen,i am not saying there are no racistst in russia, i am just saying one cannot accuse putin of that ( you can say many things against him, just not that he has shown traits of a racist)
    You further mix anti-gay with racist, these things are not synonymous: lots of afroamericans or hispanics are anti- gay without being racist, you get the point…the nazis by the way were more racist than anti-gay, a lot of their initial support base ( sa, ss) originating in gay- youth movements…. Not often dicussed, but fact nonetheless..
    @ ivan
    Your comments are absurd and you know it….

    Comment by Viennacapitalist — July 26, 2014 @ 3:13 am

  13. @Viennacapitalist

    Your reaction is very predictable, even if you don’t know it. Keep up the (relatively to Russian TV Channel 1) good work.

    Comment by Ivan — July 26, 2014 @ 3:59 am

  14. Sorry ivan, did not want to question your ( religously) held beliefs…

    And, yes – everything is a conspiracy…:-)

    Comment by Viennacapitalist — July 26, 2014 @ 5:03 am

  15. Sorry ivan, did not want to question your ( religously) held beliefs…

    And, yes – everything is a conspiracy…:-)

    Comment by Viennacapitalist — July 26, 2014 @ 5:03 am

  16. If there’s one thing that I think Westerners don’t generally connect very well when dealing with Russia, it’s the issue of “ethnicity” and how important it is to driving the perception.

    There is no such thing as “ethnic Americans”, so we wouldn’t understand the importance of it. There also isn’t such a thing “ethnic Britons”, either (though the Welsh might argue that they deserve the title); the United Kingdom will note that it has various ethnicities within it (Scots, Welsh, English, etc), but they would not identify any of them as the dominant ethnicity. France has divisions, but my understanding is they are based on linguistic differences (eg langue d’oi vs Provencal families) alone vice any other cultural elements.

    Whereas there is in fact an “ethnic Russian”, and Russia (the state) works hard to protect and advance the interests of Russia (the nation), despite Russia being a very multi-ethnic state. We generally don’t think of that and how important it is to the Russians because we would reject the idea of a state advocating the interests of a particular nation over others-especially in the realm of other sovereign states (until that state starts trying to exterminate particular nations).

    Comment by Blackshoe — July 27, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

  17. Whoops, forgot a useful link:

    Comment by Blackshoe — July 27, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

  18. @Blackshoe. Yes, the Russians are horribly bigoted against any non-Russian. The Ukrainians in particular infuriate them, precisely because they have the temerity to want to escape Russia’s tender embrace.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 27, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

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