Monday, March 31, 2014

Black Bird Press News & Review: 1 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

Black Bird Press News & Review: 1 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

A Day in the Life is a Marvin X play performed circa 1996 at Sista's Place in Brooklyn, NY. One evening a panel discussion followed an excerpt of the play. The panel was entitled Drugs, Art and Revolution. Panelists included Sonia Sanchez, Mrs. Amina Baraka, Mr. Amiri Baraka, Sam Anderson, Elombe Brathe, Omowale Clay and Marvin X. In this discussion, Amiri Baraka laid out his idea of the 27 City tour for the Black Arts Movement. Marvin X has decided to produce the BAM 27 City Tour--with your help!

6 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

8 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

7 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

5 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

5 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

4 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

3 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

2 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

1 - A Day in the Life - Marvin X and Discussion

Black Bird Press News & Review: Navigating the perilous mental landscape

Black Bird Press News & Review: Navigating the perilous mental landscape

Watch the zombie in the car ahead of you. He may be sleep walking or sleep talking or texting or having sex--his blinker says left turn or right turn, but the light changes and the car doesn't move, just sits still on the green light, until you finally blow your horn, then, slowing, the car turns and heads down the street. You wonder what is going on and the answer is nothing, it is a zombie car with a zombie driver. Whatever you do, be courteous, don't be rude, don't go into road rage for the zombie may pull a weapon, after all, the zombie is a danger to himself and others, so be careful, don't add fuel to the fire. This is how we must navigate the perilous mental landscape in the last days of the devil's world. Jesus told you this is only the beginning of sorrows, there shall be pestilence, drought, famine, earthquakes in diverse places, mudslides, tsunamis, planes disappearing from the sky, jails and prisons full of those suffering poverty, drug addiction and mental illness. The global bandits, the blood suckers of the poor, suffer no jail or prison time. They pay a simple fine then continue in their inordinacy, as the Qur'an says. They are the zombie too, so smart they outsmart themselves, thinking their wickedness shall last forever, they have enough guns and a monkey mind media that perpetuates the world of make believe that the deaf, dumb and blind inhabit as they make their daily round in the big yard, suffering their myriad addictions and afflictions and conspicuous consumption. --Marvin X

Tuesday, April 1, Marvin X speaks on KPOO Radio, 89.5FM,, 4pm-6pm, PDT,

For the People is produced and hosted by Safi wa Nairobi (

Tune in Tuesday, the 1st April 2014, to KPOO Radio, 89.5FM, San Francisco (, 4pm - 6pm, PDT, For the People.  During the first half of the show, hear music about fools and foolishness, in recogntion of April Fool’s Day.  In the second half of the show, we continue to highlight the Black Arts Movement Conference which took place earlier this year at UC Merced (‎), with the opening keynote address by conference co-producer, Marvin X (  Activist Genny Lim, who presented at the Black Arts Movement Conference, will be in-studio to talk about the upcoming SF Jazz Poetry Festival (  Lady Bianca (, talks about her latest project and upcoming CD release.  Also, folk from the Sugar Pie Team join us to talk about the forthcoming documentary on Sugar Pie DeSanto.  And Giorgia Ori will be in-studio to discuss her documentary about KPOO Radio (  Hear that and more, Tuesday the 1st April 2014, on 89.5FM, KPOO Radio, San Francisco, For the People, 4pm - 6pm, PDT.  For the People is produced and hosted by Safi wa Nairobi (

Friday, March 28, 2014

Elder Marvin X needs volunteers, young and old, to help organize the 27 City Black Arts Movement Tour

On May 29, 2014, Marvin X will turn 70 years old. No matter how youthful he looks, he has lived many lifetimes fighting oppression, jailed, exiled, "white" listed, virtual house arrest, yet he has persisted to be one of the most prolific writers in America and the world, some 30 books penned. He has organized Black Men (Oakland Auditorium, 1981), Melvin Black Human Rights Conference to Stop the Police Killing of Black Men (Oakland Auditorium, 1979), Kings and Queens of Black Consciousness (San Francisco State University, 2001), Tenderloin Black Radical Book Fair (San Francisco, 2004), Black Arts Movement Conference, University of California, Merced, 2014, et al.

To make the 27 City Black Arts Movement a success, Marvin X needs your assistance, young and old. Rats need not apply, only the sincere are needed. As Ancestor Amiri Baraka taught us, the Black Arts Movement is about beauty and truth. It is about a radical restructuring of society, and this begins with the cultural revolution, the uprooting of reactionary consciousness replaced with revolutionary consciousness--the total restructuring of society, not nit picking or cherry picking, but out with the old and in with the new. Somebody say Ase!

Our mission is to address all sectors of society, men, women, youth, children, seniors. Only when all sectors are involved can revolution be successful. We know this from a study of the North American African revolution and all other revolutions throughout the world.

Amiri Baraka talked constantly and endlessly about a united front of all progressive groups. We are in that tradition. The cultural revolution will benefit all because it will bring in the new and cast out the old into the dustbin of history.

If truth be told, all ethnic groups benefited from the Black Arts Movement. All have acknowledged this,
Native Americans, Asians, Latinos, Women, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender.

If you hear this message, let me hear from you at the earliest, again, young and old.

Love you madly, in the name of the Black Arts Movement's cultural revolution.

Thanks to all of you who have said you are Down with the BAM revolution! We must say this: the cultural revolution involves detoxing and recovering from the addiction to White Supremacy as prescribed in Dr. M's manual How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy. Please note that Dr. Nathan Hare said in his foreword to this manual, North American Africans suffer from Addiction to White Supremacy type II, i.e., self hatred.

Marvin X, Producer
Black Arts Movement 27 City Tour

Obama in the House of Saud

Obama tells Saudi Arabia will not make a bad Iran deal: U.S.

RIYADH Fri Mar 28, 2014 5:21pm EDT

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama are greeted upon their arrival in Marine One for a meeting with Saudi King Abdullah at Rawdat al-Khraim (Desert Camp) near Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
1 OF 9. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama are greeted upon their arrival in Marine One for a meeting with Saudi King Abdullah at Rawdat al-Khraim (Desert Camp) near Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, March 28, 2014.

(Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama told Saudi king Abdullah he would not agree to a bad deal with Iran on its nuclear program, a senior American official said, on a visit aimed at allaying the kingdom's concerns that their decades-old alliance is faltering.
While the two leaders discussed "tactical differences", they both agreed their strategic interests were aligned, the official said. A White House statement after the two hours of talks said Obama had reiterated the significance Washington placed on its "strong" ties with the world's largest oil exporter.
"I think it was important to have the chance to come look him (king Abdullah) in the eye and explain how determined the president is to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon," the official said.
The meeting was a chance to assure the king that "we won't accept a bad deal and that the focus on the nuclear issue doesn't mean we are not concerned about, or very much focused on, Iran's destabilizing activities in the region."
The official said the two had had a full discussion about Syria, where a three-year-old civil war has killed an estimated 140,000 people and uprooted millions. The two nations were working together "very well" to bring about political transition and support moderate opposition groups, the official said.
Saudi officials made no immediate comment on the meeting but Saudi state media said the talks were focused on Middle East peace efforts and the Syrian crisis.
Last year senior Saudi officials warned of a "major shift" away from Washington after bitter disagreements about its response to the "Arab spring" uprisings, and policy towards Iran and Syria, where Riyadh wants more American support for rebels.
However the White House statement said the two countries were cooperating to address issues including Syria, Iran, combating extremism and supporting Middle East peace talks.
The elderly king, accompanied by a number of senior princes, had what appeared to be an oxygen tube connected to his nose at the start of the meeting at his desert farm at Rawdat Khuraim northeast of the capital Riyadh, witnesses said.
Saudi state television showed Obama, accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, listening attentively while King Abdullah spoke, gesticulating with both hands as he made a point.
The Saudis want more reassurance on American intentions regarding talks over Iran's nuclear program, which might eventually lead to a deal that ends sanctions on Tehran in exchange for concessions on its atomic facilities.
Riyadh fears such a deal could come at the expense of Sunni Arabs in the Middle East, some of whom fear that Shi'ite Iran will take advantage of any reduction in international pressure to spread its influence by supporting co-religionists.
Major powers suspect Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran said its work is aimed only at generating electricity.
The senior official said the two had not had time to discuss the kingdom's human rights record.
In the run-up to the visit, officials had said Obama would aim to persuade the monarch that Saudi concerns that Washington was slowly disengaging from the Middle East and no longer listening to its old ally were unfounded.
Overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia is backing the insurgents in their battle to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is supported by Riyadh's rival, Shi'ite power Iran.
U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said coordination with the kingdom on Syria policy, particularly regarding providing help to the Syrian rebels, had improved.
"That's part of the reason why I think our relationship with the Saudis is in a stronger place today than it was in the fall when we had some tactical differences about our Syria policy," he told reporters on Air Force One.
One area where Riyadh has long differed from Washington is in Obama's reluctance to supply rebels with surface-to-air missiles, sometimes known as MANPADS.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that the U.S. was ready to increase covert aid to Syrian rebels under a new plan which included training efforts by the CIA, and was considering supplying MANPADS.
The White House has not closed the door to the possibility of such a move in the future, but the senior official said the U.S. remained concerned about providing such weapons to rebels.
Obama has shown himself wary of being drawn into another conflict in the Muslim world after working hard to end or reduce American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While Saudi Arabia supplies less petroleum to the United States than in the past, safeguarding its energy output remains important to Washington, as does its cooperation in combating al Qaeda.
An editorial in the semi-official al-Riyadh newspaper on Friday said Obama did not know Iran as well as the Saudis, and could not "convince us that Iran will be peaceful".
"Our security comes first and no one can argue with us about it," it concluded.
The Saudi king was accompanied in the talks by Crown Prince Salman, Prince Muqrin, who was named second-in-line to rule on Thursday, and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
Powerful Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who recently met top U.S. officials in Washington to discuss Syria, was not present.
Also present was the new American ambassador in Riyadh, Joseph Westphal, whose appointment was confirmed by the Senate late on Wednesday, apparently in order to let him attend Friday's meeting.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Lesley Wroughton and Angus McDowall in Riyadh and Sami Aboudi in Dubai; Editing by William Maclean)

Post card

The Black Arts Movement 27 City tour in honor of Amiri Baraka
The Black Arts Movement Poets Choir & Arkestra, now booking nationwide
Contact: Marvin X, Producer 510-200-4164/

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Philippines, Muslim rebels sign final peace deal to end conflict

MANILA Thu Mar 27, 2014 3:36pm EDT

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces raise their fists during a show of force inside the camp in Camp Darapanan, Maguindanao province, southern Philippines March 27, 2014.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces raise their fists during a show of force inside the camp in Camp Darapanan, Maguindanao province, southern Philippines March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer


(Reuters) - The Philippines and its largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), on Thursday signed a final peace pact, ending about 45 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people in the country's south.
The fight against Muslim separatists and Maoist guerrillas for almost five decades has stunted growth in resource-rich rural areas, besides scaring off potential investment in mines, plantations, energy and infrastructure.
Under the pact, Muslim rebels agreed to disband guerrilla forces, surrender weapons, and rebuild their communities while the government gives them self-rule with wider powers to control their economy and culture.
But potential threats to lasting peace remain, ranging from a small breakaway MILF faction to criminal gangs, Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and feuding clans, all a reminder to potential investors that the region is volatile.
President Benigno Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who briefly put aside his own country's problems over a missing Malaysia Airlines jet to witness the event, smiled and clapped as peace panel leaders signed the autonomy deal.
"Let us exchange our bullets for ripening fruit, our cynicism for hope, our histories of sorrow for a future of harmony, peace, and prosperity," Aquino told a gathering of officials, diplomats, lawmakers and Muslim community members.
"I will not let peace be snatched from my people again."
The event marked the final chapter in stop-start negotiations that lasted 17 years.
Malaysia, which has facilitated the peace talks since 2001, pledged its continued support.
"Much work remains, and there will be setbacks along the way," Najib said. "But the commitment to peace - the commitment I see in this room today - must not waver.
The final peace deal incorporates all agreements by the two sides, including annexes on power and wealth-sharing, and the creation of a police force for the autonomous Muslim area.
"The comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro is the crowning glory of our struggle," Muslim rebel leader Al Haj Ebrahim Murad said, in a reference to the new region, which takes for itself the name used for Muslim and non-Christian natives of southern Mindanao island.
He invited other Islamic groups, such as the Moro National Liberation Front, which opposed the deal, to join the new Bangsamoro political entity.
The United States welcomed the final peace deal and praised the "persistence and determination" of both sides along with the Malaysian government.
"The United States fully supports the ongoing peace and reconciliation process, and we encourage all parties to continue their efforts to ensure a future of peace, prosperity and stability in the southern Philippines," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in Washington.
The next important step is the drafting and passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which Aquino said would be a priority step. Both houses of Congress promised to pass the bill this year to create a new entity and expand the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
A plebiscite later in Muslim-dominated areas in the south will determine the shape and size of the new region.
The government aims to put in place by 2015 the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, serving as an interim government, Aquino said, before elections in 2016, when his term ends.
Thousands of MILF fighters and supporters gathered under colorful tents at the Muslim rebel camp in Maguindanao to celebrate the conclusion of the deal. Elsewhere in Mindanao, thousands of Muslims held prayer rallies and celebrations.
"The mood is very festive," said MILF official Nasrullah Abdullah. "We are so overwhelmed that members and supporters flocked here to the camp."
(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Manuel Mogato; Additional reporting by Will Dunham in Washington; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Paul Simao)


Vladimir Putin: The Rebuilding of 'Soviet' Russia

Vladimir Putin: The rebuilding of ‘Soviet’ Russia

Putin 2005
The world was stunned when Russia invaded Crimea, but should it have been? Author and journalist Oliver Bullough says President Vladimir Putin never kept secret his intention to restore Russian power - what's less clear, he says, is how long the country's rise can continue.
On 16 August 1999, the members of Russia's parliament - the State Duma - met to approve the candidacy of a prime minister. They heard the candidate's speech, they asked him a few questions, and they dutifully confirmed him in the position.
This was President Boris Yeltsin's fifth premier in 16 months, and one confused party leader got the name wrong. He said he would support the candidacy of Stepashin - the surname of the recently sacked prime minister - rather than that of his little-known successor, before making an embarrassing correction.
If even leading Duma deputies couldn't remember the new prime minister's name, you couldn't blame the rest of the world if it didn't pay much attention to his speech. He was unlikely to head the Russian government for more than a couple of months anyway, so why bother?
That man was a former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, and he has been in charge of the world's largest country, as president or prime minister, ever since. Few realised it at the time, because few were listening, but that speech provided a blueprint for pretty much everything he has done, for how he would re-shape a country that was perilously close to total collapse.
Putin 1999The little-known Putin became prime minister
Just 364 days previously, Russia had defaulted on its debt. Salaries for public sector workers and pensions were being paid months late, if at all. Basic infrastructure was collapsing. The country's most prized assets belonged to a handful of well-connected "oligarchs", who ran the country like a private fiefdom.
The once-mighty Russian army had lost a war in Chechnya, a place with fewer inhabitants than Russia had soldiers. Three former Warsaw Pact allies had joined Nato, bringing the Western alliance up to Russia's borders. Meanwhile, the country was led by Yeltsin, an irascible drunkard in fragile health. The situation was desperate, but Putin had a plan.
"I cannot cover all the tasks facing the government in this speech. But I do know one thing for sure: not one of those tasks can be performed without imposing basic order and discipline in this country, without strengthening the vertical chain," he told the assembled parliamentarians.
Born in Leningrad in 1952, Putin came of age in the Soviet Union's golden years, the period after the USSR's astonishing triumph in World War Two. Sputnik, the hydrogen bomb, Laika the dog and Yuri Gagarin all bore witness to Soviet ingenuity. The crushing of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 bore witness to Soviet resolve. Soviet citizens were enjoying a time of peace and prosperity. Life was stable. People got paid. The world respected them. Everyone knew their place.
When Putin spoke to the Duma, his homeland was a different, and less respected place. He spoke the language of a man who yearned for the lost certainties, who longed for a time when Moscow was to be reckoned with. He did not say it explicitly, but he was clearly stung by Russia's failure to stop Nato driving the forces of its ally, Serbia, out of Kosovo just months previously.
"Russia has been a great power for centuries, and remains so. It has always had and still has legitimate zones of interest ... We should not drop our guard in this respect, neither should we allow our opinion to be ignored," he said.

Extracts from Putin speech, August 1999

  • We need to put an end to revolutions. These are staged so that nobody can be rich. But at the moment the country needs reforms so that nobody can be poor. Although this task, unfortunately, is becoming harder by the day. There is no such thing as a thriving state with an impoverished population.
  • A most important instrument and a most important priority for the government is a secure food supply. We will provide serious assistance to the agrarian sector and in the final analysis to millions of peasants who have just one concern - to feed the country with quality Russian produce.
  • Russia's territorial integrity is not subject to negotiation. Or, especially, to horse trading or blackmail. We will take tough action against anyone who infringes upon our territorial integrity, using all the legal means available to us.
  • Russia has been a great power for centuries, and remains so. It has always had and still has legitimate zones of interest abroad in both the former Soviet lands and elsewhere. We should not drop our guard in this respect, neither should we allow our opinion to be ignored.
Source: BBC Monitoring
His domestic policy was to restore stability, to end what he called the "revolutions", that had brought Russia low. His foreign policy was to regain Russia's place in world affairs. Those two core aims have driven everything he has done since. If only people had been listening, none of his actions would have come as a surprise to them.

About the author

Oliver Bullough
Oliver Bullough is author of Let Our Fame Be Great, describing his journeys among the peoples of the Caucasus, and The Last Man in Russia, detailing the demographic decline of the Russian nation. He was a Reuters Moscow correspondent between 2002 and 2006 and is now Caucasus editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
Since then, he has seized every opportunity history has offered him, from the attacks of 11 September 2001 to the Ukrainian Revolution of 2013, in his bid to secure his aims. He has been tactically astute and ruthlessly opportunistic. At home and abroad, he wants Russia to regain the prestige it held when he was growing up.
The obvious place to start his campaign was in Chechnya, symbol of Russia's collapse. The Chechens had defeated Yeltsin's attempt to crush their self-declared independence, but it proved a bitter victory. The war devastated Chechnya's people, economy and infrastructure. Chechnya became a sink of kidnapping, violence and crime, and - until Putin - no-one did anything about it.
Finally, for long-suffering patriotic Russians, here was a man not only able to pay their pensions, but prepared to get his hands dirty to defend their homeland. By the turn of the millennium, when Yeltsin stood down, and appointed Putin acting president in his place, the unknown prime minister's public approval rating was above 70% a level it has barely dipped below ever since.
Putin's polling
Human rights groups and some Western governments accused Putin of breaking Russian and international law in his pursuit of his Chechen opponents. (The European Court of Human Rights has found against Russia in 232 "right to life" cases, effectively ruling that Russia repeatedly committed murder during its Chechen campaign.) But that has done nothing to dent Putin's popularity.
In Chechnya, hundreds of soldiers and thousands of Chechens died. Hundreds of thousands of Chechens fled to claim asylum outside Russia, but Russia's territorial integrity was secured, and Putin had begun his task of restoring Russian prestige.
Russian special police Grozny 2001Russian troops in Chechnya in 2001
After 11 September 2001, Putin recast his Chechen campaign as part of the global fight against terrorism, thus muting international criticism of his troops' conduct. He became briefly close to President George W Bush - who even claimed to have glimpsed Putin's soul - until the Iraq War drove them apart. In Iraq, Putin insisted that international law must be upheld - no invasion could be allowed without approval from the United Nations Security Council, and that approval was not forthcoming.
At home, he crushed the most powerful of the oligarchs, first those who controlled media assets, thus taming the lively television scene, and then in 2003 police arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the richest man in the country. His oil company was dismembered and bought by a state oil company. He was jailed in a process so egregiously predetermined that Amnesty International declared him to be a prisoner of conscience.
 Mikhail Khodorkovsky 2003
"I think it became absolutely clear when Khodorkovsky was arrested, that Putin was not going after the oligarchs to reassert the power of democratic civil society over these titans. He was doing it as part of building an authoritarian regime," says Chrystia Freeland, the FT's bureau chief in Moscow when Putin came to power, and now a Liberal member of the Canadian parliament. (She is also one of the 13 Canadians barred from entering Russia this week in response to Canada's imposition of sanctions against Russian officials.)
Putin kept a tight grip on the parliamentary elections at the end of 2003, and his allies gained two-thirds of the Duma. He praised the poll as a step towards "strengthening democracy" - monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe called it "overwhelmingly distorted".
In just four years, Putin had crushed Chechnya, reined in the free media and the oligarchs, gained a parliament that would do whatever he wanted, and shown that Russia had a strong voice in international affairs.
"He says what he thinks and does what he says - at least much more than probably any other contemporary politician or statesman. Western analysts and politicians always try to uncover some sort of false bottom in his statements, when there often isn't one. That applies to many other Soviet leaders including Stalin - at least in the run-up to and during WW2," says Dmitry Linnik, London bureau chief of the Voice of Russia radio.
"He is a nationalist - in the federal 'Russian', not ethnic 'Russian', sense of the word. That is his biggest driving force, I think - not hunger for power or personal ambition."
May Day 2009Putin restored some of the Soviet symbols, such as the five-pointed star
But Freeland disagrees.
"I think he has taken a series of decisions, quite rationally from his narrow personal point of view, that this kind of autocratic regime gives him the most personal power and personal wealth," she says.
There was one thing missing to make the world of his childhood complete: an ideology.
Putin restored some Soviet symbols. He brought back the Soviet national anthem and Soviet emblems, and praised the Soviet triumph in World War Two. But he embraced pre-Soviet themes too. He befriended the Russian Orthodox Church, and name-checked anti-Soviet philosophers like Ivan Ilyin, whose remains he had repatriated to Russia and buried with honour.
This trend towards a uniquely Russian form of conservatism accelerated after the wave of protests against electoral fraud that struck Moscow in 2011-2, which alienated Putin from Russia's liberals. Among his favourite ideologues is Vladimir Yakunin, an old friend, a fellow KGB graduate, an Orthodox believer and now head of Russian Railways, one of the country's most strategically significant companies.

Rise to the top

Putin 2013
  • Born Oct 1952 in Leningrad (now St Petersburg)
  • Studied law and economics before joining KGB
  • Served as KGB agent in East Germany 1985-90
  • Worked at mayor's office, St Petersburg, 1990-96
  • Became PM in 1999, then elected president following year
  • Married, two daughters
  • Speaks German and English
"Russia is not between Europe and Asia. Europe and Asia are to the left and right of Russia. We are not a bridge between them but a separate civilisational space, where Russia unites the civilisational communities of East and West," Yakunin said in a recent interview with Itar-Tass. Last week, he was added to the US sanctions list for "membership of the Russian leadership's inner circle", following the annexation of Crimea.
The idea of Russia being separate from but equal to the West is convenient, since it allows the Kremlin to reject Western criticism of its elections, its court cases, its foreign policy, as biased and irrelevant.
Many of Putin's friends, though dismissive of the West's economics, politics, values and structures, are, however, much attached to its comforts. Both of Yakunin's sons live in Western Europe - one in London, one in Switzerland - and his grandchildren are growing up there. According to the anti-corruption campaigner, Alexei Navalny, Yakunin has built himself a palace outside Moscow using foreign limestone and building materials brought in from Germany - a strange step for a man supposedly wedded to creating a Russian economy independent of the West.
Putin too has espoused principles, then dropped them when they proved inconvenient. In Iraq in 2003, he made a stand in defence of international law, opposing any invasion without UN approval. In Georgia in 2008, he sent in the troops without even pretending to consult with the Security Council.
Last year, intervention in Syria was out of the question. This year, intervention in Ukraine is justified and unimpeachably legitimate. It may be that principles have never been the issue - and that Putin's objective has always been to maximise Russian power, and to defy Western attempts to rein Russia in.
"We have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, conducted in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position," said Putin in his speech last week announcing the annexation of Crimea, a speech that repeated all his points from 1999, but with 15 years worth of additional resentment.
"If you compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this."

Extracts from Putin speech, March 2014

  • It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realised that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered.
  • Many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with. And what about the Russian state? What about Russia? It humbly accepted the situation. This country was going through such hard times then that realistically it was incapable of protecting its interests.
  • There was not a single armed confrontation in Crimea and no casualties. Why do you think this was so? The answer is simple: because it is very difficult, practically impossible to fight against the will of the people.
  • Our Western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right.
It is not easy re-shaping a country on your own, and Putin has needed the assistance of one key group within Russian society. While he has cracked down on independent journalists, businessmen and politicians, he has relied on state officials to make sure his ideas are implemented.
They have been well rewarded for their help. Wages for top officials increased last year by 20%, four times the increase in the general budget. Putin's spending binge means that, for the budget to balance, Brent crude must now average around $117 a barrel, more than five times the level needed in 2006, according to analysis from Deutsche Bank.
Putin in church 2013
Even that is not enough for top officials. Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokontsev said last week that, in 2013, the average bribe in Russia had doubled to $4,000. Last year, Transparency International gave Russia 127th place on its Corruption Perception Index, rating it as corrupt as Pakistan, Mali and Madagascar.
"Putin has really painted himself into a corner by destroying every independent source of power in Russia. He now has only the bureaucracy to rely on, and must keep increasing its funding to keep ensuring its loyalty," says Ben Judah, the British author of Fragile State, a study of Putin's Russia.
"Eventually, the money is going to run out, and then he will find himself in the same position Soviet leaders were in by the late 1980s, forced to confront political and economic crises, while trying to hold the country together. He looks strong now, but his Kremlin is built on the one thing in Russia doesn't control: the price of oil."
Putin has succeeded in building a version of the country of his childhood, one that can act independently in the world, and one where dissent is controlled and the Kremlin's power unchallenged. But that is a double-edged sword, because the Soviet Union collapsed for a reason, and a Russia recreated in its image risks sharing its fate.
According to Vladimir Bukovsky, a dissident who spent a decade in Soviet prisons before his exile to the West in 1976, Putin is totally genuine when he says the disintegration of the Soviet Union was a "geopolitical catastrophe".
Russia's President Vladimir Putin Putin with the head of the Russian army's main department of combat preparation in early March
"He does not understand that the collapse of the Soviet system was predetermined, therefore he believes his mission is to restore the Soviet system as soon as possible," he says.
As a middle-ranking KGB officer who loved the Soviet Union, Putin lacked the perspective of senior officers, who knew full well the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own inefficiency rather than because of Western plotting, Bukovsky says.
"It leads him exactly to… repeat the same mistakes. He wants this whole country to be controlled by one person from the Kremlin, which will lead to disaster," he says.
Putin's decision to invade Crimea was taken quickly and impulsively, by a small group of his favoured top officials. That means Putin has no one to warn him of the long-term consequences of his actions, and until he finds out for himself, he will maintain his course. That means relations with the West will remain uncomfortable, especially in areas he considers to be his "zone of legitimate interests".
But we can't say we weren't warned.
Oliver Bullough is Caucasus editor at the Institute of War and Peace Reporting. His most recent book is The Last Man in Russia, detailing the demographic decline of the Russian nation.