MOSCOW, July 17, 2005 -- Are there honest judges in Russia? Good question. The answer probably depends on what you mean by honest.
If you mean honest like most American judges, the answer is “nyet.” But if you mean, will most of them give you a fair trial unless somebody offers a relatively substantial bribe or exerts relatively strong political pressure, the answer is probably “da.”
It all hinges on “relatively.”
My student Masha is a lawyer who spends a fair amount of time in courts. She’s a good litigator and wins most of her cases. Her law firm doesn’t offer or handle bribes. If a client wants to offer the judge a bribe, they put the client in contact with someone who will handle it, and let the rest happen as it may.
Has she ever felt that she had won a case on its merits when the opposing side won because they had offered a bribe?
Yes, once or twice, she replied somberly.
“How does it make you feel?”
“Very disappointed, very sad, very helpless.”
In my own case against Tioufline in 1998, I won without a bribe – probably because neither of us had the money to offer the substantial amount which would have been required to tip the case. My lawyer won on the merits.
However, so entrenched is the practice that there is a standard Russian joke about it, says Masha:
“The judge is hearing an important case. Ivanov offers him a ,000 bribe, but Antonov comes along with ,000.
“So the date of the hearing arrives, and they gather in the judge’s chamber: ‘Ivanov has offered me ,000,’ he says. ‘But Antonov has offered ,000.’
“The judge pauses.
“‘So now if Ivanov will come up with another ,000, we’ll get on with a fair trial.’”
Are there honest twins in Russia? A week ago I accused Andrei of perfidy. I was wrong. Or was I? Or was I wrong only in the timing?
Friday afternoon I sent him an SMS. “Don’t give me the run-around.” No answer. Then another one: “Why don’t you answer me? It’s important that we talk.”
A little after midnight I had a phone call on Andrei’s mobile phone -- from Zhorik.
“Let me talk to Andrei.”
“He’s not here. He’s at his friends’.”
But I could hear Andrei coaching him in the background.
“I hear Andrei’s voice,” I said.
“No, it’s a friend of mine.”
“Sergei has taken ,000 and gone.”
“I don’t know. We don’t know where he is. Andrei will call later and explain everything.”
This is perfidy from my adopted "family." Zhorik was lying. Andrei has a unique voice – it’s even a little different from Sergei’s. So I know Andrei was there and wouldn’t talk to me. It’s now noon on Sunday, and he still hasn’t called “to explain everything.”
Andrei knows Sergei can’t be trusted with money. He himself has told me not to give Sergei money. So why would he give Sergei possession of ,000? This is not making any sense. Something is going on, and it has the smell of perfidy.
I won’t let Andrei return without the money. Either he returns with money or not at all.
Zhorik has said he would come today. I doubt it; but if he does, I will force the truth out of him or he goes back too. If they leave me holding the bag with Rod and Nadya and EE, that’s the end of the road for them. They will have wound up bilking me out of ,000 or so; but that’s a drop in the bucket to what they would have eventually gotten if they hadn’t betrayed me – if they have betrayed me. And is that worth more than my love, respect, and trust? I don’t think so.
Am I borrowing trouble, as I often do? I don’t like to think of it as borrowing trouble; I prefer to think of it as being prepared. I don’t like to be surprised and not to have a plan of action in the event of any contingency. So I’m just lining up my ducks.
In any case, it will all be a little clearer two weeks from tomorrow.
In the meantime, I can’t plan a vacation because I don’t know if the money’s going to be there. Nor can I spend any money on Zhorik. That should give him an incentive to help me worm the truth – and the money – out of the twins.
Russia and China have both ordered the “immediate activation” of 10 combat-ready divisions to counter the “increasingly aggressive moves being made by the United States in the Caspian Oil Regions of Central Asia,” according to recent news reports.
According to a July 13 news account posted on the EnergyResources web site, both Putin and Chinese President Hu have also ordered the deployment of Special Forces to surround the large American Military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, whose governments have also ordered the Americans to leave.
According to USA today, the reaction of the U.S. military has been to increase their combat capabilities in both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, in “total disregard” of both Russian and Chinese warnings…”
In the meantime, Putin is also accusing the U.S. of coercing the European Union to pressure Russia to relinquish oil rich areas that are the home of the “Finno-Ugric” peoples, a primitive and naïve population whose historic economy has been based on the herding of reindeer. The Kremlin is calling it “a Finno-Ugric conspiracy to seize Russia’s oil assets.”
“Let's see what they do when the UN orders (the U.S.) to return California to Mexico," Putin is reported to have responded.
”…What is perhaps most insane about these Western people’s reactions…” comments the World Socialist Web Site News Service, “is their not caring to know that both Russia and China are not going to (give up) Central Asia or the Middle East by anything other than Military defeat. The suddenness of this War’s escalation will surprise these Westerners, even (though) their Military Forces (were) the ones who started it….”
And in a final note of cheer, the site warns that “the shocking devastation of Total Global War these Westerners know only through their movies; soon they will know it by looking out their doorways.”
We seem to be into scents today: first perfidy, and now cold war. I earnestly hope not. I don’t want to be a pawn in that game.
Amid these rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia/China, somebody comes along and says the “N” word. The state of acrimony the Bushmaster has fostered throughout the world has finally taken the lid off the word that nobody has dared to mention except in the most abstract and cautionary context.
But an up-and-coming Chinese military officer, a General Zhu, has publicly said that if the U.S. puts its missiles and “position-guided ammunition” into China’s territory – i.e., Taiwan, “I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons.”
Although General Zhu insisted that the views were his own and did not reflect the official Chinese position, it can be assumed that he had the full backing of his Chinese superiors and that it could be considered a warning to the U.S.
The New York Times notes that up to now, it has been assumed that any conflict between the U.S. and China over Taiwan would remain a local one that would not expand into a general war between the two countries.
“But the comments by General Zhu suggest that at least some elements of the military are prepared to widen the conflict, perhaps to persuade the United States that it could no more successfully fight a limited war against China than it could against the former Soviet Union.
”’If the Americans are determined to interfere, then we will be determined to respond,’ (Gen. Zhu) said. ‘We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.’"
These guys sound serious.
The political scene has indeed changed. Obviously, Dubya has made America safer – not only from terrorists but from the entire world.
My student Anton invited me yesterday to my first outing at a student’s home. We roasted mullet, which I hadn’t had since I was a kid in Florida, on an outdoor barbecue. He’s a bit strange, but seems to like me very much. When he went to Italy a few months ago, he brought me a present – a pound of Italian coffee and two pair of shorts!
Shorts? From a straight man to his teacher?
Mind you, I was quite glad to get them. In fact, I actually needed them. But he couldn’t have known, so why would anybody bring me two pair of shorts from Italy?
He’s in his upper 20s, and not bad looking. Traipsing around the yard in only his low-slung summer shorts revealed that he has the typical Slavic hair distribution: i.e., no hair on his chest and almost none on the lower part of his abdomen. He often talks about his wife and son, but I had gotten the impression that he was a bit of a Prussian with them – that he ruled the roost in a rather domineering fashion.
Nothing could be further from the truth. They seemed to have an extraordinarily loving and equal relationship. She was much younger than I had imagined – can’t be more than 20. And their son Mark, nearly four, is one of the most beautiful, intelligent, and sensitive kids I’ve ever seen; he acts much older than he is. He took to me immediately, invited me into the house and then up to his room; asked me to play with him; without prompting called me “Dedushka,” grandfather, to Anton’s delight, and seemed sad when I left.
There was no stiffness at all. I was immediately accepted as one of the family – by all of them, including not only Anton, Nastya, and Mark, but by Anton’s aunt and second cousin Lena, who also dropped by.
Anton inherited the property from his grandmother, and designed the house himself. He is an amateur landscape architect, and the place is quite attractive – a wooded acre in the little town of Bykova about an hour southeast of Moscow.
I haven’t figured out how he supports his upper-class lifestyle. He hasn’t had a job in the two years I’ve known him, and she is a full-time university student. They are both Russians born in Uzbekistan. My guess is that when his father died recently he must have left Anton a lot of bucksi. His mother is a medical doctor, but they were divorced a long time ago.
He has an odd, labored word formation pattern – both in Russian and English – and sometimes seems a bit brain damaged because I can’t follow his train of logic. But hey, maybe it’s my brain that’s damaged! Anyway, he’s an extraordinarily kind and loving guy, and seems to have a very high regard for me. Sometimes I think he is spending 0 a month for lessons with me just because he likes to be with me rather than to learn English. Very flattering, but nonetheless odd.
He seemed quite disappointed when I had to leave a little early to keep a dinner date with Rod Jennings, who incidentally, didn’t show up! Anton insisted that I must come again. “If you invite me, I’ll come,” I assured him.
We have our next lesson tomorrow.