Moscow

Alexei Navalny delivers a speech on August 25, 2013 during a campaign rally for the Moscow mayoral election (Getty)

While experts agree that the level of falsification in Moscow elections on Sunday was historically low, the narrow margin by which Sergei Sobyanin was elected the mayor of Moscow has given credibility to opposition claims that what fraud there was could have been decisive in the contest.

Mr Sobyanin, the incumbent, won 51.3 per cent of the vote, which put him within a whisker of the 50 per cent total that would have prompted a second-round runoff against Alexei Navalny.

While Mr Navalny got 27 per cent of the vote, analysts say that in a second-round contest between him and Mr Sobyanin some of the protest vote would have gone to Mr Navalny, even though it was unlikely to have been enough to beat the incumbent mayor. 

Esther Bintliff

Boris Berezovsky in August 2012 (Getty)

Boris Berezovsky in August 2012 (Getty)

Police have found “no evidence” so far that anyone else was involved in the death of exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, but are retaining “an open mind”, according to one of the detectives working on the case. It’s hardly surprising that questions remain. While one friend told the FT: “In the last few months, he was very depressed, very low. He felt beset by all the issues that surrounded him”, another – Nikolai Glushkov, a fellow Russian exile – told the Guardian’s Luke Harding: “I will never believe in the natural death of Boris Berezovsky.” It may be a while before any certainty is reached [update: police said late on Monday that a postmortem found the cause of death was “consistent with hanging”] – but in the meantime, it’s worth reading up on the life of a man whose influence over his homeland will be felt for a long time to come.

  • Owen Matthews recalls his first meeting with Berezovsky in 1998, at the “luxurious Logovaz Club, a restored prerevolutionary mansion in central Moscow”. In a piece full of pithy assessments (“Yeltsin may have made Russia free, but it was Berezovsky who made it for sale”; “Berezovsky was Dr. Frankenstein, whose monster was a poker-faced little KGB officer”), Matthews paints a vivid picture of the mathmetician-turned-kingmaker whose love of power contributed to his undoing.
  • Writing for the FT, Ben Judah contrasts the Berezovsky of old – “they called him ‘the comet’, because he burnt so bright and talked so fast” – with the “insecure, self-doubting and anguished man” of recent months.

 

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Esther Bintliff

Two weeks ago a masked assailant threw acid in the face of the Bolshoi’s artistic director Sergei Filin. The attack has cast a shadow over the reputation of one of the world’s most celebrated ballet troupes, as Courtney Weaver explains in her fascinating report on the tensions and rivalries that have emerged at the Moscow ballet in recent months.

What’s it like to dance at the Bolshoi? Here are four videos, and four dancers (well, three dancers and one choreographer, to be precise) who made their mark there over the years. For the sake of brevity, we limited ourselves to four, so they can only gesture at the Bolshoi’s long and varied history; please share your thoughts – and recommendations – in the comments.

1) Galina Sergeyevna Ulánova In this video from the Bolshoi’s official youtube channel, you can watch one of its most famous ballerinas – and one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed – fluttering across the stage, pressing down her net skirts, and talking about her favourite role (Giselle). Joseph Stalin himself is said to have ordered the transfer of Ulánova to the Bolshoi from its rival, the Mariinsky Theatre in Leningrad, in 1944 (“Although Leningrad was where the revolution started, Stalin never cared for it. He saw it as a rebellious city,The Economist notes in its obituary of Ulánova). 

Cars and trucks are stuck in a traffic jam during a snowfall in Moscow on December 4, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Traffic jam in Moscow on December 4 (Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin)

Russia has two main problems, according to an old 19th century joke: “dorogi i duraki”, or “roads and idiots”.

Over the weekend, many Russian motorists travelling between Moscow and St Petersburg were reminded of this saying, which even made a brief debut as a twitter meme “дураки + дороги” after the first snowfall of the year caused a 160km traffic jam on a highway between the two cities.

Finger-pointing in the wake of the snarl-up predictably pitted the “roads” versus the “idiots”, even as government emergency workers toiled frantically to clear new congestion on Tuesday following a fresh snowfall.

It was the drivers’ fault, claimed Andrei Kosinov, the head of the road service agency from the province of Tver, where the worst of the traffic jam occurred.

“This is mainly the result of uneducated drivers who are always hurrying somewhere, overtaking each other in the opposite lane, and so on… If there was a normal culture of driving, then these problems would not have occurred,” he said. 

For human rights workers in Russia, living with death threats can be an everyday reality.

One has to be prudent, assigning some the category of “prank” while taking others more seriously.

On Thursday, Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, one of the most prominent activists in Moscow, decided that the nine text messages she had received from an anonymous sender between Sept 28-30 fell into the latter category.

The author threatened her life and that of her unborn child, knew her unlisted address and had details about her private life known only to her and her close friends. 

Neil Buckley

In Russia, the music of Viktor Tsoi, a rock star who died young in 1990, is being played again. That is not just testament to how good it was, writes the FT’s Neil Buckley. With Russians once again protesting on the streets demanding greater democracy, the Tsoi resurgence highlights that history is, in part, repeating itself. 

Mikhail Prokhorov during his news conference on June 4, 2012. AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Mikhail Prokhorov during a press conference on June 4. AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball club as well as a good chunk of the Russian economy, has created a new political party, but refused to join it.

It is a characteristically inscrutable move by Prokhorov, whose political career is nothing if not an exercise in creativity. Last fall he established a political party which then summarily expelled him, following which he ran for President, declaring that with his $18bn fortune, he “represented the Russian middle class”. He came a surprising third in March. 

Esther Bintliff

AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev

AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev

We’ve all been there. You’re on stage outside, you’ve just secured an impossible victory forgotten to wear a hat, and an icy wind is blowing in your face.

Suddenly you’re blinking away tears.

We’ll never really know what was going on when Russia’s freshly-reinstated president Vladimir Putin appeared to weep during his victory speech on Sunday night. Was it simply a physical reaction to the bitterly cold wind, as his spokesman later claimed? Some well-timed eye-drops? Or a natural emotional response at the end of a long week?