“August Syndrome” strikes new Kremlin chief

August 29, 2008

Russia’s President Medvedev speaks to reporters at Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Dushanbe.  REUTERS/RIA Novosti     “April is the cruellest month”  wrote T.S. Eliot, but had “The Waste Land” been written by a modern Russian poet, August would have won the title hands down.

    Over the past two decades, coups, wars, floods, economic collapse and air disasters have blighted the eighth month of the year, when government and business largely shut down for the long school summer holidays, fixing the “August Syndrome” in the popular psyche.

    Like his predecessor Vladimir Putin, the syndrome has bitten President Dmitry Medvedev in his first year in office with the war over Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia.

    He sent in Russian tanks and troops this month to crush Georgia’s attempt to retake the province and recognised the pro-Moscow region and another secessionist province as independent states on Tuesday, sparking a major crisis in relations with the West.

    But the syndrome itself dates back to August 1991, when Communist hardliners tried to depose Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in a botched putsch which set the pattern for much of the ensuing post-Soviet period.

    In August 1993 Gorbachev’s successor in the Kremlin, Boris Yeltsin, locked horns with the Soviet-era parliament, a showdown that saw him dissolve the legislature the following month and eventually shell deputies into submission with tanks.

    In August of 1996, separatists in Chechnya took the capital Grozny by storm from Russian troops, a humiliation which resulted in a truce that gave the rebel province de facto independence.

    Two years later, a combined domestic debt default and effective rouble devaluation  in August ripped the heart out of Russia’s financial system and led to a prolonged economic crisis.

    Insurgents attacked the southern Russian republic of Dagestan from neighbouring Chechnya in August of 1999, leading to a Russian clampdown in the separatist republic that heralded the start of the second Chechen war which saw Moscow eventually reimpose its rule.

RUSSIAN NUCLEAR SUBMARINE KURSK STANDS IN VIDYAEVO.  REUTERS/Str Old    Putin fell victim to the syndrome in his first year as president and was roundly criticised for his slow response to the August 2000 sinking of a Russian nuclear submarine with all 118 crew.

    Fate gave Russia a break in 2001, only to come back with a vengence 12 months later. August floods in the southern Novorossiik region killed 60 people, a gas leak destroyed a Moscow block of flats, killing nine more, and 90 soldiers died when their helicopter transporter was apparently shot down by Chechen militants.

    In the same month the following year, 20 people, most of them local officials, died in the Far East region of Sakhalin in a plane crash and two air disasters in August 2004 left 90 people dead.

   This extraordinary litany of summer disasters would have sorely tested any nation and perhaps it says something about this enormous country, spread over 11 time zones, that it can absorb these body blows. Perhaps the fact that this unhappy sequence of events has a name, somehow helps…


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oh this is spectacular!the title is tres formidable!Parfait! go reuters!
but i think it’s a combination betwen absance of money for defence budget and the eatrhquake for Siberia, or maybe becuse he is afected by global warming!that’s why they warm up so quickly!and chill with the same speed!i swo in georgia now the clasical type of war, it was like seeing a good movie from the second world war!:))))), poor army,poor strategy, agresive type, nothing really prossional, it’s so obvies that they are not ready for war and they do not have the enought exercise.Maybe in ten yars, or so?!somebody should watch pravda newspaper online edition, the english version , to see the clasic manipulation thru propaganda, the russian people do not have knowledge of international languages!
again all the respect for reuters global news today with this title

Posted by Burca Alice Larisa | Report as abusive

Burca Alice Larisa does not know anything about international politics, conflicts, events, propaganda as well about Russia. That’s why she comments like some media wrote bears were walking in street of Moscow just after perestroika. She may be thinking that is true. It will be appreciated someone comments how sarcasm are used for hiding the real facts in Mr.Jon Boyle’s article.

Posted by andrey | Report as abusive

dear andrey,
who told you I am an expert in intrnational relationl?you jumped on this conclusion on youre own?something scares you in my post there, and it’s not me, but the news from jane’s .
youre agresiv type of answer can give some other impression , not what you really wrote there!I remind you not everybody here is an expert in international relations!
so next time please leave this strong position for some other directions!
but thank you anyway for youre comment,it rings a bell!

my comment was made with the articles title not with the sarcasm from it!it comes with some other info!as you can see I wrote from the start that i consider spectacular the title not the article!
But you seem to be an expert in this area!please this time you can write about the article’s sarcasm and Russia too and I promise i will read it!
best regards,

Posted by Burca Alice Larisa | Report as abusive

Dear Alice,

Please do not treat that respond as an agressive one, cause it is not 😉 I am Russian and live in Russia, though last 10 years am working with Americans, your knowledge of Russia, its relations with neighbour countries and so on sucks. Believe me, noone is better in propaganda then US. And it is stupid to underestimate Russian army power. Russia now is a strong economy with the same democratic regime as US. Come on try to open your eyes, it is not 90ies anymore, it is a whole different world now!!!!!

Posted by Ivan | Report as abusive

And you also have no idea how much Russia spend on its defence, your ideas about earhquakes in Siberea and Global Warming are crazy (Russia is one of the luckyiest countries in the world as far as nature issues) Most of Russians know 2 or more languages.

Posted by Ivan | Report as abusive

I just visited Russia for two weeks in July. It is a blessing that they are no longer in the financial turmoil of the 90’s. However, I do believe that a capitalistic economy and an authoritarian political system are recipe for disaster. I pray that dissenters will be able to be heard in the Russian society AND that Russia will be able to communicate and work for WORLD PEACE.

Posted by Suzanna Kay Carney | Report as abusive

Dear Ivan, I’m also Russian and live in Russia. Where did you see Russians who speak two or more languages? Inside your office of a Western coporation? Inside Moscow”s Garden Ring? Take a subway to discover that most of our compatriots don’t know which territories are part of their own country (and recently din’t know that Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia were not the part of the Russian Federation, that they barely speak good Russian and have not yet discovered the wonders of daily shoowers and deodorant. I love my country dearly but I coont stand unfounded stereotyping of the rest of the wolrd as ignorant on one hand and functioning in the same way as out authoritarian regime: controlled media, propaganda, “no justice” courts etc. Go 350 kn outside of Moscow (as I do regularly) and find one person who speaks a foreign language… or who is sober in the afternoon… both would be equaly difficult…

Posted by Anna | Report as abusive

I am a Guatemala’s citizen. From my little country, I can look how the Western countries fear the Russia economic and military power. In the recent Georgia war, neither USA or EU dared act against the Russian army. I saw through TV the hard face of Putin for Bush, speaking over Georgia. Clearly, Russia gained the war, crushing Georgia, and humiliating the Western countries. I think that the Jon Boyle article is motivated by this frustration.

Posted by Luis Rodolfo Cabrera Juárez | Report as abusive

“August Syndrome” has bitten westerners from their worries about how Nabucco pipeline project – a pipeline from the Caspian Sea carrying gas through Turkey to the West to avoid the traditional route through Russia and its satellites – would be jeopardized by the independence of Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia. Such Syndrome can be seen in the history – invasion of Iraq – for creating collective security and safeguards from Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Posted by andrey | Report as abusive

Did Mr.Jon Boyle write any article using Syndrome with sarcasm on invasion of Iraq ?

Posted by andrey | Report as abusive

dear ivan thank you very much for youre answer and also info in it!
i read pravda-ru everyday and even i expose news form that newspaper, but i read the news with the budget problems on jane’s d like i wrote up there, i would like very much to have a real wiew about Russia!
I like Russia, but i don’t like the goverment, it’s the same story as US problems.It\';s true that i don’t know so much about Russia, but i do know something , after all they are our neibours.I would like to speak russian ,then i could read a lot more in youre journales,but pravda has an english version.
I know that is not 90’s anymore, and that’s why i asked my self why russia did not brought to light much more then human resources and strategy!I don’t like Putin , but i have all the respect in the world for the best foreign minister that Russia has.
About americans?!i am not intrested in, but i see Nato an european power now!what do you say?

Posted by Burca Alice Larisa | Report as abusive

and about democracy about Russia like is in US!why everybody wants to compare youre gov with theirs, when it comes to this!i do not understand , just becouse there is a rival betwen them?but let’s be serious they could never be the same , this american democratic sistem does not feet any area or culutre!i see the EU with the same problem , they aplyy and impose the same politics all over!
is this world in apolitical crisis when it comes to values and strategy about it?or globalization is a distructiv machine from all points of wiew?!
i am alittle confuse, this world is craczy now,suprficial come against strong culuture,and many time we can see the first one wins!
I am so curios to see the external politics from US about Iran starting with the new gov.

Posted by Burca Alice Larisa | Report as abusive

Dear Alice,

I am not against US or any other EU countries. I actually find our countries very similar in many ways. This war in South Osetia was created not by Russia. You have to understand that geopolitical interest of US and NATO are complitely opposite to Russians. And if in 90 Russia could not do anything about NATO or US, now it can. As for goverment, i find our goverment democratic and logical. That is my opinion, based on my personal life and experience.

Posted by Ivan | Report as abusive

When Vladimir Putin says the US military was involved in this brutal Georgian attack on South Ossetia, I tend to believe him. Initially Putin said he was “guessing,” but now he’s implying Russia has some solid intelligence about US involvement. We know that earlier this year some US Senators, including Joe Biden, repeatedly and publicly condemned “Russian aggression” concerning the two breakaway regions.

It’s important to put Putin’s public statements in context. Putin said repeatedly in late 2002 and early 2003 that Iraq had no WMD’s, except SCUD’s which were destroyed before the US invasion. He turned out to be 100% correct. Bush probably intentionally lied to the US public.

Putin later says Iran gave up their nuclear weapon program and soon afterwards the CIA came out with a report saying Iran stopped their nuclear weapon program in 2003. Again Bush proved to be wrong. However recently Putin has said nothing on Iran’s nuclear weapon program, which is quite ominous.

Posted by Chris Baker (US) | Report as abusive

The comments here become so complex and also brought new information from diffrent points of view!I am excited to see how russians describe, fell and see the situation on the field!
Sometimes I still notice the confusion betwen international relations and geopolitics!Anyway I thank for all the answers that i got from andrey and ivan also, who was much more diplomatic!My post was direct and provocativ after all!
best regards to you all,it was a pleasure,can’t wait for next crossing of words

Posted by Burca Alice Larisa | Report as abusive