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By John Helmer, Moscow   @bears_with Robert Service (lead images) commits the pathetic fallacy over and over. It isn’t that his fallacies are pathetic, and so deserve to be pitied. It is that Service takes money for writing histories, purporting to be about Russia, its revolutionary leaders, and now its current leader, by projecting his own […]

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By John Helmer, Moscow   @bears_with What can Foreign Affairs, bimonthly tribune of the Council of Foreign Affairs in New York, be referring to when it reported on the government for which “in worldview and practice, it was a conspiracy that perceived conspiracy everywhere and in everything, constantly gaslighting itself. In administration, it constituted a crusade […]

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By John Helmer, Moscow   @bears_with Harry Lime, the Third Man, was the character invented by British novelist and one-time intelligence officer Graham Greene, who understood how investment bankers operate when the breakdown of government makes the black market the only source of supply, trade, and profit. Lime’s racket in post-war 1948 Vienna, then occupied by […]

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By John Helmer, Moscow   @bears_with Somerset Maugham, the leading story-teller in the Anglo-American market a century ago, said there are three rules for writing a best-seller, but he added: “no one knows what they are.” As unlikely as it is for the profitability of a major line of business to be as unpredictable and irrational […]

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By John Helmer, Moscow Journalism is war by other means. If you don’t understand this you are either an enlisted soldier or a  casualty with a serious head-wound.  On the ground covered by journalism it’s impossible to hide;  innocent civilians are inevitably caught in the cross-fire. Most Russians have known this since the start of […]

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By John Helmer, Moscow “Always George’s problem,” John le Carré (lead image, left) has written in his latest resurrection of his best-known MI6 officer, George Smiley (right), “seeing both sides of everything. Wore him out.” “Breathtaking”, claimed an Irish novelist with no government experience, in a London newspaper review. “Gripping”, chimed a BBC journalist whose […]

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By John Helmer, Moscow Jonathan Haslam, an Englishman employed by Anglo-American universities to report Soviet and Russian political, military and espionage history for the past century until now, suffers from a tic.  That’s tic as in fanatic, the adjective Haslam applies to everyone who is a target of his history. But look again: Haslam’s tic […]

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By John Helmer, Moscow A bad smell is emitted by those who go about their business claiming to be more virtuous than others when they are not. Take Keith (Konstantin) Gessen’s (lead image) newly published autobiography cum novel about his time in Moscow. The word for the book is a cross between the noun fart […]

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By John Helmer, Moscow December approaches, opening the last stretch of the presidential election campaign that  concludes in sixteen weeks’ time, on March 18. What to watch for as President Vladimir Putin holds his December meetings with the oligarchs who rule Russia’s future, and the voters who will be the victims of it?  As the […]

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By John Helmer, Moscow The grand house domestic serial which has been one of the staples of British television is quite impossible in Russia. That’s not because pre-revolutionary Russia lacked the aristo palaces and gilded families, or that nostalgia isn’t popular on television. It’s because the gap between the upstairs family and the downstairs servants […]