Online book retailer buckles under FSB pressure
Book retailer Ozon.ru removed The New Nobility, a book on Russian security services history, from its retail inventory citing “risks to the company.” However, the book did find its way back to the electronic shelf after much outrage online.
“Well, it only took two days and a simple FSB inquiry,” the book's editor, Dmitry Litvinov, wrote on his blog. Litvinov attached an e-mail from Ozon.ru manager Alexei Kuzmenko, which said that this book selling “posed risks for the company” in connection with a FSB check.
The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia's Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB, by journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, was released in Russia in July after becoming a bestseller in the United States and Britain last year. It is based on years of firsthand investigations of Russia’s special services.
It should be noted that the book did reappear on the Ozon website after Litvinov’s post. Ozon PR director Mikhail Osin denied removing the book and said he provided a direct link to the page where it could be purchased. As of 1:00 pm Tuesday, the book could not be found through a search at Ozon.ru. However, it did reappear in search results later that day, Gazeta.ru said.
On September 14, the FSB contacted the director of the Chekhov printing house, with a written request for "information on those who ordered the printing of the book."
Yelena Yevgrafova, chief of Alpina Business Books, the book's publisher, shared a scanned copy of the letter:
“With a view to achieving our professional goals and the needs of the service, we hereby ask you to kindly send us information on the individuals who ordered the book The New Nobility by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan printed, including the mode of payment, bank account and bank details,” the request read.
Politician calls for protest lawsuits to be expedited
United Russia’s Anatoly Ivanov has submitted amendments to the law “On Meetings, Demonstrations, Marches and Pickets,” for consideration by the State Duma. If passed, this will oblige courts to expedite lawsuits contesting local authorities’ refusal to allow public events. Ivanov said he is acting in compliance with the Constitutional Court.
He proposes that the local authorities notify organizers of the event’s new location and time at least five days beforehand. If dissatisfied, the organizers may file a lawsuit, which the court must hear within three days, or immediately if it is filed just one day before the event.
“As it stands, public actions are easy to prevent,” Ivanov said. “The authorities usually suggest an unacceptable location or time.” He said the courts mostly overrule the authorities’ proposals as unjustified, but that this decision comes too late.
“If the amendments are approved, it will become impossible to prevent protests,” he said. “The draft law cannot be rejected because it is fully in line with the Constitutional Court’s 2009 decision.” Under the draft law, the authorities must provide solid grounds for their belief that the event going ahead at the proposed site and time is not in the public interest, and related court hearings involving the organizers must be held ahead of the event.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has appointed his deputy, Alexander Gorbenko, formerly director general of Rossiiskaya Gazeta, responsible for considering requests for protests in the city.
The protest law has been amended twice. In December 2010, United Russia proposed that organizers notify the authorities not only about the planned event’s site and time but also the expected number of participants and planned use of vehicles. The party also urged regional authorities to adopt local laws regulating protests in or on areas considered transport infrastructure. The law was again amended in February 2011, when the word “militia” was replaced with “police.”
Ivanov first submitted his amendments six months ago, but later withdrew them at the “insistence” of the party. Has he resubmitted them now because he has not been put on the United Russia list for the December parliamentary election? Ivanov, who heads the Trade Unions of Russia, explained: “I am an independent individual and acted independently within the party. The party says it must approve all drafts before they are submitted to the State Duma. I don’t think this is right. I have always voted against proposals that infringe on workers’ interests. The party does not like people like that, which is why I have not been put on the election list.”
He said trade unions on the party list will be represented by Andrei Isayev, head of the State Duma committee on labor and social policy, Mikhail Tarasenko, head of the Miners’ & Metallurgical Workers’ Union of Russia, Valentina Kabanova, chair of the Moscow Region Association of Trade Unions, and Sergei Vostretsov, head of the Association of Trade Unions of Russia Sotsprof, nominated in St. Petersburg.
Strategic Initiatives Agency – more questions than answers
Organized on Vladimir Putin’s initiative, the Strategic Initiatives Agency is supposed to become a “social escalator ” for enterprising and resourceful people. But the agency is just beginning to discuss the issue of social escalators and its leadership has “more questions than answers.”
According to speakers at a roundtable discussion entitled “Social Mobility in Modern Russia,” sponsored by the agency and the Institute for Regional Problems, a social escalator is a key mechanism in social development. It draws the active part of society into the elite and avoids possible upheaval from the bottom of the social pyramid. But this is a complex and controversial mechanism. All too often the social escalators only work for a short time and then break down, resulting in social degradation. Society must therefore watch over this mechanism and either upgrade it or develop a new one when necessary.
Dmitry Zhuravlyov, director of the Institute for Regional Problems, is disappointed that business, in effect, stopped being a social escalator as it was in the 1990s. But what does that leave?
SIA General Director Andrei Nikitin agrees that the social escalator that functioned in the 1990s is gone. What’s left is questionable. “Today, young graduates need 15 or so years of work experience before becoming, for example, a department manager,” he reflects. “There is no incentive. We have more questions than answers. Why do we need social escalators? Who is lining up to hop into these escalators? What responsibilities are they prepared to assume once they join the line? Also, how does the business escalator relate to the state service escalator?”
“The laws on civil service have made some attempt at reinstating a sort of table of ranks, but the system is not functional yet,” he says ruefully. “We rarely bring in managers from the regions. In the USSR, an experienced plant director could be given a ministry post and hope for further promotion. Today, this system doesn’t always work.”
Vladimir Yablonsky, social projects director at the agency, explains that most young people today consider state service to be the most promising prospect. “But it must be realized that the state cannot provide everyone with jobs. We are therefore looking for new environments with viable opportunities for upward social mobility,” he added.
Independent experts think differently.
Irina Vorobyova, an analyst from 2K Audit, Business Consultations/Morison International assessment department, believes a social escalator is a key tool for any state claiming to be successful and current. “Social escalators represent both the guarantee of success and a way to promote development and innovation,” she said. “Ideally, they afford any person the chance to succeed in life while observing common and transparent rules.”
Unfortunately, today’s Russia cannot boast of any vertical mobility mechanism in business or in society. “Social mobility mechanisms function properly in an open, competitive environment, ” Vorobyova said. “We can only achieve social mobility if we create such an environment, if most of society wants it.”
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