When journalist Arkady Mamontov aired his television exposé on Pussy Riot last week, the central question was who was behind their riotous performance? Mamontov’s investigation yielded two culprits: oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky, and “some Americans” who hired Pussy Riot and choreographed their act in order to corrupt the souls of Russian youth. Mamontov didn’t need to spell out who those Americans were; everyone watching got the message anyway.
Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero By Abigail Green (Harvard University Press, 540 pp., $35) In 1827, an upright, well-to-do English gentleman, traveling through the Levant with his lady wife, ran into some dirty weather en route from Alexandria to Malta. But this particular gentleman was called Moses and his notion of calming the sea was to throw the afikoman half of the middle matzoh of the Passover seder into the churning waters. Apparently, as Abigail Green tells it, in some Sephardi traditions the breaking of the afikoman symbolizes the parting of the Red Sea.
RAMZAN KADYROV, one would assume, is hardly the sort of man the Russian government would want to show off to a group of foreign dignitaries. The Moscow-appointed president of Chechnya has been accused of deploying his several-thousand-man-strong personal militia—since absorbed into the Chechen government—to torture and murder his opponents, and many suspect that he played a role in the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist who exposed Russia’s brutal repression of separatists.
I. In the early 1990s, optimism was understandable. The collapse of the communist empire and the apparent embrace of democracy by Russia seemed to augur a new era of global convergence. The great adversaries of the Cold War suddenly shared many common goals, including a desire for economic and political integration. Even after the political crackdown that began in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the disturbing signs of instability that appeared in Russia after 1993, most Americans and Europeans believed that China and Russia were on a path toward liberalism.