Post Tagged with: "Russia"

How radioactive poison became the assassin’s weapon of choice

How radioactive poison became the assassin’s weapon of choice

This piece for Matter by Will Storr on the poisoning of former Russian secret service agent Alexander Litvinenko has all the intrigue of a techno-thriller novel:

TUCKED INTO THE Millennium Hotel on London’s Grosvenor Square, the Pine Bar is a place of hush and shadows. Dark wood panelling, leather seats, and black shaded chandeliers cosset those who seek discretion in style. Head barman Norberto Andrade has hidden many celebrities in its recesses during his 27 years of service, including James Bond stars Sean Connery and George Lazenby.

The three Russians who ordered drinks on the chilly afternoon of November 1, 2006 had little of the lethal glamour one might expect of spies. True, two of them were smoking cigars and drinking gin. But the other, a fair-haired man whose slightly angelic face and wide eyes gave him a look of worried alertness, was dressed inelegantly in a khaki t-shirt, jeans, and a denim jacket. He sipped green tea as the smokers, complaining about the small British measures, ordered several rounds of drinks at once. Andrade placed their orders on a tray, but when he reached their table, one of the men obstructed him. The moment had an unforgettably hostile edge to it. He struggled to put the drinks down, finally managing to sit them next to the tea pot.

The men eventually left, and Andrade cleared the table. As he poured the remaining tea away, he noticed that the consistency of the liquid that tipped into the sink was strange. Gooey. He couldn’t have known it as he puzzled over its weird yellow tinge, but the man who’d been sipping the tea was a 43-year-old Russian dissident called Alexander Litvinenko, and the tea itself, draining away into the London sewers, was lethally radioactive.

Litvinenko lived in north London’s desirable Muswell Hill; he left the Pine Bar and arrived back home around seven. He changed his clothes, sat down to a chicken dinner prepared by his wife, Marina, and spent the evening watching Russian news online. Four hours later, he went to bed.

Before long, however, he was up again?—?vomiting with such violence that Marina began to panic. She brought him wet towels, dosed him with magnesium tablets. Nothing seemed to work. During the night, his temperature plummeted, yet he begged for the windows to be opened so he could gulp down more of the freezing November air.

“It looks like they’ve poisoned me,” he said to his wife.

Full Story: Matter: Bad Blood: The mysterious life and brutal death of a Russian dissident

January 23, 2014 0 comments
Pussy Riot members to be freed from prison

Pussy Riot members to be freed from prison

Sometimes there’s good news:

Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alekhina, 25, will be freed from prison three months before their scheduled release, according to Reuters. The two women and fellow band member Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested for performing Punk Prayer: Mother of God Drive Putin Away from Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on Feb. 21, 2012. Their crime: “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility.”

Full Story: USA Today: Pussy Riot members to be freed from prison

Update: They’re out now

December 20, 2013 1 comment
Fearing Leakers, Russia Reverts to Typewriters

Fearing Leakers, Russia Reverts to Typewriters

USA Today reports:

“After the scandal with the spread of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the revelations of Edward Snowden, reports of listening to Dmitry Medvedev during his visit to the G20 summit in London, the practice of creating paper documents will increase,” an unidentified FSO source tells Izvestia.

One key reason for using typewriters is that each creates its own unique “signature” that can be traced, the newspaper says.

Full Story: USA Today: Spooked by NSA, Russia reverts to paper documents

July 12, 2013 0 comments
Tunguska Event Meteorite Fragments Finally Unearthed

Tunguska Event Meteorite Fragments Finally Unearthed

Tunguska rocks

MIT Technology Review reports:

The Tunguska impact event is one of the great mysteries of modern history. The basic facts are well known. On 30 June 1908, a vast and powerful explosion engulfed an isolated region of Siberia near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River. [...]

That changes today with the extraordinary announcement by Andrei Zlobin from the Russian Academy of Sciences that he has found three rocks from the Tunguska region with the telltale characteristics of meteorites. If he is right, these rocks could finally help solve once and for all what kind of object struck Earth all those years ago.

Full Story: MIT Technology Review: First Tunguska Meteorite Fragments Discovered

The catch: Zlobin collected the samples in 1988, and waited 20 years to analyze them, casting some uncertainty on his research.

May 8, 2013 0 comments
The Fifth Problem: Math & Anti-Semitism In The Soviet Union

The Fifth Problem: Math & Anti-Semitism In The Soviet Union

For all intents and purposes, “the fifth line” was a code for asking whether one was Jewish or not. (People of other nationalities, like Tatars and Armenians, against whom there were prejudices and persecution—though not nearly on the same scale as against the Jews—were also picked up this way.) My “fifth line” said that I was Russian, but my last name—which was my father’s last name, and clearly sounded Jewish—gave me away.

Even if I hadn’t been using my father’s last name, my Jewish origin would have been picked up by the admissions committee anyway, because the application form specifically asked for the full names of both parents. Those full names included patronymic names, that is, the first names of the grandparents of the applicant. My father’s patronymic name was Joseph, clearly Jewish, so this was another way to find out (if his last name weren’t so obviously Jewish). The system was set up in such a way that it would pick up those who were at least one-quarter Jewish and everyone of those was classified as a Jew, much like it was in Nazi Germany.

Having established that by this definition I was a Jew, the woman said:

“Do you know that Jews are not accepted to Moscow University?”

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean is that you shouldn’t even bother to apply. Don’t waste your time. They won’t let you in.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“Is that why you sent me this letter?”

“Yes. I’m just trying to help you.”

Full Story: The New Criterion: The Fifth Problem: Math & Anti-Semitism In The Soviet Union

November 8, 2012 0 comments
1 Member Of Pussy Riot Freed After Appeal, Others Still In Jail

1 Member Of Pussy Riot Freed After Appeal, Others Still In Jail

The Guardian reports:

A Moscow appeals court has released one of the jailed members of anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot, but ordered two others to serve the remainder of their two-year jail term in a Russian prison colony.

Yekaterina Samutsevich, the oldest of the three women at 30, walked free into the arms of her father, after serving six months in a pre-trial detention centre after being found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in August.

A panel of three judges accepted the argument of Samutsevich’s new lawyer that she had not participated fully in the group’s February performance of an anti-Putin “punk prayer” in a Moscow cathedral. Samutsevich had been kicked out of the cathedral shortly after entering, meaning she did not engage in the “aggressive movements” that had offended Russia’s Orthodox believers, she argued.

Full Story: The Guardian: Pussy Riot member freed after Moscow court appeal

(via Meredith Yayanos)

October 10, 2012 0 comments
Wikipedia Blacks Out Russian Version in Protest

Wikipedia Blacks Out Russian Version in Protest

The AP reports:

Wikipedia on Tuesday shut down its Russian-language site for 24 hours to protest a bill that would give the Russian government sweeping powers to blacklist certain sites, the latest in a flurry of legislation that appears aimed at neutering a growing opposition movement that has protested President Vladimir Putin‘s rule. [...]

The Kremlin has made no public comment on the bill, but lawmakers from Putin’s party were among those who wrote the legislation, and it is likely to pass. It follows other recent laws that have targeted groups Putin views as rivals or bad influences: A law imposing heavy fines for protesters was quickly pushed through parliament in June, and a bill that would label NGOs receiving foreign aid as “foreign agents” was approved just last week.

Time: Russian Wikipedia Shuts Down Site to Protest Bill

July 10, 2012 1 comment
The Soviet Synthesizer that Bridged Occultism and Electronic Music

The Soviet Synthesizer that Bridged Occultism and Electronic Music

Coil ANS cover

I have a guest post up today at Boing Boing on a subject I think will interest Technoccult readers:

You don’t play the ANS synthesizer with a keyboard. Instead you etch images onto glass sheets covered in black putty and feed them into a machine that shines light through the etchings, trigging a wide range of tones. Etchings made low on the sheets make low tones. High etchings make high tones. The sound is generated in real-time and the tempo depends on how fast you insert the sheets.

This isn’t a new Dorkbot or Maker Faire oddity. It’s a nearly forgotten Russian synthesizer designed by Evgeny Murzin in 1938. The synth was named after and dedicated to the Russian experimental composer and occultist Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (1872–1915). The name might not mean much to you, but it illuminates a long running connection between electronic music and the occult.

You can find traces of the occult throughout the history of electronic music. The occult obsessed Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo built his own mechanical instruments around 1917. The famous Moog synthesizer made an early appearance in Mick Jagger’s soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s occult film Invocation of My Demon Brother in 1969. And in the late 1970s Throbbing Gristle built their own electronic instruments for their occult sound experiments, setting the stage for many of the occult themed industrial bands who followed. The witch house genre keeps this tradition alive today.

It’s little the surprise otherworldly sounds and limitless possibilities of synthesizers and samplers would evoke the luminous. But there’s more to the connection. The aim of the alchemist is not just the literal synthesis of chemicals, but also synthesis in the Hegelian sense: the combination of ideas. Solve et Coagula. From the Hermetic magi of antiquity, to Aleister Crowley’s OTO to modern chaos magicians, western occultists have sought to combine traditions and customs into a single universal system of thought and practice.

Electronic music grew from similar intellectual ground, and it all started with Scriabin.

Full Story: Boing Boing: The Soviet Synthesizer that Bridged Occultism and Electronic Music

June 27, 2012 2 comments
Russia Wants Its Own DARPA

Russia Wants Its Own DARPA

RIA Novosti reports on Putin’s plan for the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry, a Russian equivalent to DARPA.

President Vladimir Putin has submitted to parliament a bill on the foundation’s establishment, which is expected to become Russia’s answer to the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The foundation will be tasked with informing the country’s leadership on projects that can ensure Russian superiority in defense technology.

It will also analyze the risks of any Russian technological backwardness and technological dependence on other powers.

Full Story: RIA Novosti: Russia to Take on ‘High Risk’ Defense Research Projects

(via Wired Danger Room)

June 26, 2012 0 comments
Cyberculture History: Electronic Music Pioneer/Soviet Spy Leon Theremin

Cyberculture History: Electronic Music Pioneer/Soviet Spy Leon Theremin

leon theremin

Theremin saw little of the $100,000 he was paid, Glinsky says, which most likely went straight into Soviet coffers. But he stayed in the US for a while working on other projects, and engaging in industrial espionage.

“His very reason for being sent over was his espionage mission,” says Glinsky. Demonstrating the theremin instrument was just a distraction, a Trojan Horse, as it were.

“He had special access to firms like RCA, GE, Westinghouse, aviation companies and so on, and shared his latest technical know how with representatives from these companies to get them to open up to him about their latest discoveries. [...]

Later that year he returned suddenly to the Soviet Union, leaving his wife behind. Some people suggested he’d been kidnapped by Soviet officials, but Glinsky says a combination of debt and homesickness led to Theremin returning voluntarily.

He returned to a Soviet Union in the grip of Stalin’s purges. He was arrested and falsely accused of being a counter-revolutionary, for which he received an eight year sentence in 1939.

BBC: Leon Theremin: The man and the music machine

March 13, 2012 1 comment