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The 5 Biggest Events That Shaped Putin's 2013

Published: January 8, 2014 (Issue # 1792)


Looking back at the main events that shaped Russia over the past 12 months, it is clear that 2013 will go down in history as President Vladimir Putin's "anti-year."

It was in 2013 that the powers that be not only embraced anti-smoking and anti-alcohol policies, but they also showed that they are anti-gay, anti-­children, anti-chocolate and even anti-Halloween.

Perhaps new efforts by Putin to spread anti-American sentiment was predictable, but his ­decision to portray Russia as anti-Big Brother by granting asylum to U.S. intelligence leaker ­Edward Snowden took many by surprise — including ­Putin himself, who told reporters in Finland in late June that ­Russia was "completely surprised" by Snowden's trip to Moscow. How, then, does ­Putin explain reports that Snowden spent several days in the Russian consulate in Hong Kong just before he flew to Moscow?

Furthermore, Putin's credentials in a nationwide anti-corruption drive took a hit last week when he pardoned former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky. His arrest in 2003 and 10-year combined jail terms have been widely interpreted as the Kremlin's punishment for the businessman's political ­ambitions aimed at Putin.

As it turns out, you can be as corrupt as you want if you are a friend of Putin, but if you are his enemy you get the "a-thief-must-sit-in-jail" treatment — at least until Putin needs to ­improve his image before the Sochi Olympics. In any event, Putin's selectively ruthless legal assault on Khodorkovsky brought new meaning to the expression attributed to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco: "My friends get ­everything, while my enemies get the law."

Here's a look at the top five political events of 2013 and how they shaped Russia.

1. The year of the ban.

Russia set a record for the number of bans this year. A ban on smoking in public places, enacted in June, was long-needed. But few ­actually believe that this law will make it any easier for nonsmokers to breathe as they walk down a crowded street or sit on a park bench. After all, smokers make up 40 percent of the population, and finding creative ways to skirt the law is a centuries-old Russian tradition, many would argue - particularly when it involves a highly addictive habit.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekov's book will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.





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