Saturday, March 24, 2007

Europe's leading writers' call to action. Don't celebrate "the impotent nullities". Stop massacres and don't betray our civilisation.

In today's Independent there is a very touching and exceptionally clever appeal for preventing the massacres in Darfur. (See the end of this post.)

Not only do I find this so brilliant because of the signing writers - the books of whom I have read with adoration and respect - but also because they have so definite and real suggestions: Forbid them (the reps of the Sudanese regime) our shores, our health service and our luxury goods. Freeze their assets in our banks and move immediately to involve other concerned countries.

But does the Europe want to stop the massacre? The literary masters won't let the European leaders escape by letting them hide behind the economical facts or bureaucracy. They are demanding Europe to become a civilised cultural area again, respecting the values on which the European Community was originally established: It (the European tradition) is an inherited culture which sustains our shared belief in the value and dignity of the human being.

Dear Umberto Eco,

IStori has been a great fan of yours for years. For decades. Unlike most people, who seem to like "The Name Of the Rose" best, the book that made me hold my breath was "Foucault's Pendulum": a brilliant story about crimes in the past and (even) in the future, about crimes which may not have happened after all, and also about how people can do amazingly cruel and merciless things, only because they believe in dangerous systems build up, eventually, by themselves.

And thinking the destructive theories invented by themselves are somehow divine truths.

Please Mr Eco, keep up the good fighting! (And, add Chechnya and Russia on your list.)

I will send the following to our President, Ms Tarja Halonen, and Prime Minister, Mr Matti Vanhanen. (Not that I doubt they wouldn't already have been sent the letter.)

Hopefully some Estonian brothers and sisters will send this to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and the Swedes to Victoria, or whoever is the biggest leader there, and so on...


Darfur: a letter from Europe's leading writers
On the fiftieth anniversary of the EU, a call to action

Published: 24 March 2007

To the leaders of the 27 nations of the EU

How dare we Europeans celebrate this weekend while on a continent some few miles south of us the most defenceless, dispossessed and weak are murdered in Sudan?

Has the European Union - born of atrocity to unite against further atrocity - no word to utter, no principle to act on, no action to take, in order to prevent these massacres in Darfur? Is the cowardliness over Srebrenica to be repeated? If so, what do we celebrate?

The thin skin of our political join?

The futile posturings of our political class?

The impotent nullities of our bureaucracies?

The Europe which allowed Auschwitz and failed in Bosnia must not tolerate the murder in Darfur. Europe is more than a network of the political classes, more than a first world economic club and a bureaucratic excrescence. It is an inherited culture which sustains our shared belief in the value and dignity of the human being. In the name of that common culture and those shared values, we call upon the 27 leaders to impose immediately the most stringent sanctions upon the leaders of the Sudanese regime.

Forbid them our shores, our health service and our luxury goods. Freeze their assets in our banks and move immediately to involve other concerned countries.

We must not once again betray our European civilization by watching and waiting while another civilization in Africa is destroyed.

Let this action be our gift to ourselves and our proof of ourselves. And when it is done, then let us celebrate together with pride.

Umberto Eco
Dario Fo
Günter Grass
Jürgen Habermas
Václav Havel
Seamus Heaney
Bernard Henri-Levy
Harold Pinter
Franca Rame
Tom Stoppard

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Activists' headquarters raided. Newspaper confiscated. And, more poisonings in Russia.

I will be updating soon about the unclear and alarming situation in Nizhny Novgorod. The police there has recently confiscated a newspaper, its 60 000 copies (= the whole print run).

Today the police has still been harassing the activists who want to organise a demonstration on Sat 24. Some people are scared there. Like the ones who demand democracy, and fight for freedom of speech.

According to the local journalist and activist Oksana Chelyseva "the special issue of the newspaper is devoted to the situation in Nizhny Novgorod in regard to such problems as demolition of the historical center of the city, the unpopular reform of the housing and communal services, the construction of a highway in the heart of the historical city, the lack of any guarantees to hold fair election."

But before I get more information on Nizhny Novgorod, here is a very interesting piece of news from today's Moscow Times:

I think Tlisova's poisoning was a warning. When she failed to heed that warning and leave, she was "warned" again.

by Yulia Latytina:

An article ran 11 days ago in London's Sunday Times about a Russian journalist requesting political asylum in the United States. Working under the pseudonym of Maria Ivanova, she is an expert on the Caucasus region and claims to have been poisoned last autumn.

Up until last Thursday, people unfamiliar with the specifics of the story were trying to guess her true identity. Those who knew the whole story, however, were praying for her life. This is because Fatima Tlisova -- former correspondent for Svoboda, Novaya Gazeta and The Associated Press, head of the North Caucasus bureau of the Regnum online news service and winner of numerous international awards -- was scheduled to fly last Thursday from Nalchik, in Kabardino-Balkaria, to the United States. She was then to fly out of Turkey on Wednesday for the United States, where she has won a two-year scholarship to study at Harvard.

The unwanted publicity caused by the article in the Sunday Times may have put Tlisova in greater danger four days prior to her flight. The source of the information is unclear, as she never spoke with the paper's reporters, and I know many journalists who kept silent to avoid putting her in danger.

Because of her professionalism, the security services saw the widowed mother of two as an enemy. Before her poisoning, her home had been searched, she had been detained by authorities, and articles appeared calling her a U.S. spy and a terrorist leader. Her fellow journalists were questioned and told that she was a Turkish spy.
Her colleagues only learned about these events through third parties, or after weeklong delays: Tlisova, a proud Circassian, had absolutely no desire to make waves or leave her native Kabardino-Balkaria. She just wanted to work honestly at her job.

At the end of last October, Tlisova returned home after an evening walk, applied face cream from an old cosmetics jar, had a cup of coffee, and went to sleep. In the morning, skin was peeling from her fingers and her tongue had become swollen. She was rushed to a local hospital, where she was diagnosed with kidney failure.

A week later her symptoms had disappeared. After comparing her test results with those taken at the onset of her symptoms just 10 days earlier, doctors at a Moscow clinic couldn't believe the results came from the same person.

A few weeks later, I talked with one of the government's highest-ranking officials for the North Caucasus. He knew all about Tlisova's case. Kabardino-Balkaria is, after all, a small republic, and Tlisova is well-known. Despite her almost pathological humility, these events had caused quite an uproar. The official said he thought very highly of Tlisova and her work. "I ordered them to leave Tlisova alone," he told me.

Two weeks after this discussion, a man knocked at Tlisova's door and asked: "Does Ruslan Nakhushev live here?"

Nakhushev is a human rights activist from Kabardino-Balkaria who disappeared without a trace after he was interrogated by the Federal Security Service. Tlisova knew him well. It is events like this that suggest that the FSB has more to do with running the country than the civil authorities.

I think Tlisova's poisoning was a warning. When she failed to heed that warning and leave, she was "warned" again. The second poisoning affected both her heart and her kidneys. After that, the AP arranged for her to work in the United States as part of a two-year professional exchange program. And so it was that the journalist I consider to be the leading expert on the Caucasus left the country.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the country to prove that the Caucasus is a good place to invest. For that matter, it is also having trouble proving that self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky was involved in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the poisoning of former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Elections. Excellent time to celebrate Political Lies on Tuesday, March 20.

The Parliamentary Elections in Finland took place on Sunday.

The weather was horrible, it was raining cats and dogs. Half frozen cats and dogs.

More women then ever, 84 out of 201, 42 %. Two representatives younger than 30 (the both of those are men). Right wing won, the social democrats (not a very leftist party, anyway) lost a lot. That was not a surprise, both the ex-chair Paavo Lipponen and the current chair Eero Heinäluoma are widely know as very arrogant men who do not seem to be supporting little people, unlike their party is supposed to. And one of their ministers was caught hiring a graphic desinger, who was unwillingly moonlighting. (Asked by the minister's husband to accept his salary "under the table", taxes not included, of course.) Openly angry, inconsiderate and rudely behaving "social" "democrat", Mrs Leena Luhtanen dropped out. And, she was the Minister of Justice!

And, was my candidate elected? Unfortunately not. But I am happy I was able to vote for a friend, human rights activist, feminist and football fan. Despite of the fact that his team is Arsenal. (Definitely not IStori's team.)


Tomorrow, on Tuesday the 20th, it will be possible to heartily celebrate the Anniversary of the Political Lie. How appropriate.

In Helsinki, the reading will take place at Belly's (Uudenmaankatu, ex-Kultainen karhu), at 7pm. Please join us!

Quoting the press release of Peter Weiss Stiftung:

The Peter Weiss Foundation for Art and Politics' call for a worldwide reading in memory of Anna Politkovskaya has attracted great interest. On March 20, 2007, the Anniversary of the Political Lie, almost one hundred institutions, private individuals and schools in 19 countries will remember the assassinated Russian journalist. More than 100.000 people will attend the readings or listen to the radio broadcasts.

The events will be held at the following places: Antananarivo (MAD), Bamberg (D), Barcelona (E), Basel (CH), Berlin (D), Bonn (D), Bremen (D), Brussels (B), Bydgoszcz (PL), Coburg (D), Cottbus (D), Edinburgh (GB), Frankfurt (D), Freiburg (D), Graz (A), Hall i.T. (A), Hamburg (D), Hanau (D), Hanover (D), Helsinki (FIN), Kaliningrad (R), Karthum (SUD), Koblenz (D), Kwazulu-Natal (SA), Leipzig (D), Ludwigshafen (D), Lugano (CH), Los Angeles (USA), Lübeck (D), Luxemburg (LUX), Magdeburg (D), Milan (I), Mannheim (D), Montreal (CND), Moscow (R), Munich (D), Omsk (R), St. Petersburg (R), Prague (CS), Ramallah (Palestine), Rome (I), Rostock (D), Sasso Marconi (I), Seattle (USA), Schwedt (D), Stockholm (S), Tblissi (GEO), Valencia (E), Vienna (A), Zurich (CH). For an exact listing of the whereabouts and times, please visit our website

IStori commenting: this list is not complete. There is also one session in Rovaniemi, the Finnish Lapland: Rovaniemen Teatteri – Lapin Alueteatteri ja Lapin maakuntakirjasto osallistuvat Anna Politkovskajan muistoksi järjestettävään maailmanlaajuiseen lukutapahtumaan. Teatterin näyttelijät lukevat Politkovskajan monologeja teoksista Toinen Tshetshenian sota ja Putinin Venäjä – Vaietut puheenvuorot maakuntakirjaston Aalto-salissa tiistaina 20. maaliskuuta klo 17-18. Tapahtumaan on vapaa pääsy.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Some day I'll wish upon a star. Eternal wisdom.

Lovely piece of news: A baby girl was born in Moscow early this week. A very special baby girl.

I wish her wisdom and strength, with best of luck.

Here in Finland she will always have friends - in Helsinki we are quite a big bunch of people who were friends of her late grandmother. And I promise you will have friends closer to your age, too!

You are very welcome to visit us. I hope we will meet some day.


A new baby is an amazing creature. When looking into a baby's eyes I see eternal wisdom and peace: "she has just come from the other side", I was thinking when staring at the face of my baby.

"She must know the meaning of life. She knows everything."

But when we get older we keep forgetting.


Over The Rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?
Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The elections. One week to go.

We have our Parliamentary Elections in Finland next weekend. I have not voted yet. (= By regular mail. Unfortunately we don't have the Estonian e-vote system yet.)

But I will, sure. Mr HP, miss Funnybunny and I will walk to the school nearby, and there, write the numbers of our candidates (one per voter! But Miss F won't vote yet.), donate money to charity (there always is an elderly lady with the box right outside the voting premises), walk back home and make coffee, and drink it with warm Finnish bun. That is an ancient Finnish tradition, coffee and all.


But how to pick the right candidate?

To get my vote:

She/he must realise even though Finland is not a superpower of any kind, this is a rich country. We can afford to help the poorest countries by release them from their debts. (And for the poorest the debt was not much of help, in the first place. But lending money has been very advantageous to the industrial world.)

She/he must not be attracted to Finland joining a military union, actively led by the moods and desires of the greedy USA. (And yes, this "Nato option" is all the time on agenda, in Finland.)

The NATO question is like a Jack-in-the-box, it jumps up time after time, even when you think the issue is discussed, buried and the box is sealed.

Also, I an very interested in energy questions. People tend to think nukes are safe and clean now, as there have been few major accidents in recent years. Luckily so. But scepticism in this matter is healthy. Save and be safe. Use renewables.

The gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea? Sosnovyi Bor, the most dangerous nuclear power plant on earth? At Sosnovyi Bor there are four old Soviet-style nuclear reactors (RBMK's), originally 1000 megawatts each. (Which is a lot.) Far-fetched or not: because of the monstrous threats the nearby nuclear installations and new industrial development (gas pipes & the WWII poison tanks in the Baltic) cause us, I am also quite interested in how many languages he/she can speak fluently. And especially, weather he/she can Russian. My candidate should. (Few in Finland can. Russian language has not been popular here after the war.) Or should at least be interested in learning. (Quite many are, nowadays.)

He/she must belong in the right party. Or, not in any of the wrong ones. (Fortunately, none of our parties faced the destiny of Yabloko.)

Last, and also least. I don't want to know anything about her/his wardrobe, about his/her dancing abilities ("Dancing With the Stars" is the biggest hit on TV), weather he can sing ("Idols" is the 2nd), about his/her ex-spouses: the last year's shag, of our newly divorced Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, just wrote a book revealing "everything" (the woman wrote, not Vanhanen). They were together about half a year. And, the unlucky love story has been all over the papers ever since. He dumped her by an SMS. Then she told the whole nation he hates garlic. See?


If the debates on TV are too boring, do something useful. ...or just do something instead.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Do not get bamboozled in Estonian elections. (Especially if you want to buy your ticket to the top.)

The Estonians had the parliamentary elections last weekend. So, they have a new Riigikogu soon.

There were some major peculiarities in the Estonian elections I found fascinating:

*** THE STATUE ***

One of the ugliest statues I can think of, "Bronze Soldier", monument of Soviet occupation, became the centre of the hectic campaigns. Estonians of Russian origin felt uneasy. In the meantime the pro-EU and pro-NATO-Estonians, as well as all who still feel bad about the Soviet crimes against humanity, wanted to get rid of it. The Russians call it "The Statue of the WWII Soviet Liberator". (Here is an article from Kommersant.) (And BTW, Estonia is a member of NATO, Finland not. Possible, or so far to IStori, IMpossible NATO membership is an issue in the Finnish parliamentary elections this spring.)

A Stupid Comment By IStori:
Whatever you do, please do not send the statue over the gulf. You know, the director of the Finnish Broadcasting company, Mikael Jungner (a law student back then) threw tar and feathers over the Soviet-style Statue of the World Peace in Helsinki in 1990.

Should we Finns ever get something like the Estonian one, I would certainly do the same.

*** THE E-VOTES ***

In Estonia, one could vote by e-mail! Think of that! By e-mail! I have found this so ravishing that I have read all the articles I have seen about this new system.

Voters will get personal PIN codes, and then they will send the vote by e-mail. And, get this: if they feel they want to correct the vote, they can vote again. Only the last vote counts!

But is the system safe yet? I have come to think so. One of the most hilarious comments was in last Saturday's Hufvudstadsbladet (the biggest Finnish daily in Swedish: Nils-Erik Friis, journalist at HBL, had interviewed some Estonian professional in e-votes, and the specialist stated happily: "It is a good system if you want to sell your vote. You can do that twenty times. But it is a very bad system for anyone who wants to buy the vote."

A good BBC article on e-voting in Estonia here.


The Estonians are not very conservative voters! For example, the Green party, "Rohelised", was founded only three months ago, and now they already have six MPs. (Six out of 101.) Way to go, Greens! Pro Patria and Res Publica Union lost big time, Reform Party and Centre Party gained some. But how the draw the line between the Right and Left wings in Estonia? I am not sure.

A Stupid Comment By IStori: The line lies in front of the statue. Pay attention to linguistics: Who is calling whom a "nationalist"? And when.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Warlord offers a goat for Mrs Kenya's hand

How would you define the word "impossible"? Some things are impossible, like cows flying, plutonium disappearing from the earth, or George W. Bush becoming an intellectual. Well, how would you like the idea of You becoming one of Ramzan Kadyrov's wives?

And, since the object of the eager proposal was Mrs Kenya, does it mean that in Kenya – let alone Chechnya – women can take several husbands? Now, that would be some equality...

And, if you marry a Warlord, what does that make you? Warlady?

Warlord offers a goat for Mrs Kenya's hand
(by Adrian Blomfield in Moscow)

Traditionalists maintain that the best way to a girl's heart is to say it with flowers.
But if you are a feared Chechen warlord it could be better to say it with livestock.
That, at least, was the method adopted by President Ramzan Kadyrov
this weekend when he offered to make a visiting African beauty queen
one of his wives and sweetened the proposal by presenting her with two
horses, two chickens and a goat.
If she was taken aback, Caroline Varkaik, Kenya's contender at next month's Mrs World contest in Russia, covered it up well. Looking briefly surprised, she clasped Mr Kadyrov in a bear hug and promised to return in a year.
It was a strange conclusion to a controversial jaunt into lawless Chechnya
— scene of two brutally suppressed rebellions in the past 12 years — by
the participants of the 2007 Mrs World pageant. Touring Russia ahead of
the contest's finals, to be held in the Black Sea resort ofSochi on
March 8, many of the beauty queens on board the charter flight that
took them to the neighbouring and almost lawless province ofIngushetia, were reportedly unaware of their destination.

They were then whisked to Chechnya in a convoy of 15 black Porsches, with armed soldiers positioned every 500 yards along the 30-mile road to protect from rebel attack.
Supposed to be more wholesome than its Miss World counterpart — as well as
parading in the swimsuits contestants also show how quickly they can
change a nappy — the pageant has been mired in scandal of late.
Last year's competition in St Petersburg saw the winning tiara being ripped off a tearful Mrs Costa Rica's head before being handed to Mrs Russia, who was an 18-year-old model married to one of the country's richest men, fuelling allegations of vote rigging.

(Almost the same story in other words, and the first photo here in Kommersant.)