Sunday, December 10, 2006

Something to Hide, Stirlitz?

Credit

"Stirlitz went into Müller's office and said, "Herr Müller, how would you like to work as an agent for Soviet Intelligence? The pay is good." Müller, shocked, gives an angry rebuff, then eyes Stirlitz suspiciously. Stirlitz starts to leave, but then stops and asks, "Gruppenfuhrer, do you have any aspirin?" Stirlitz knew that people always remember only the end of a conversation."----Russian joke that mocks the fictional Soviet secret agent, Stirlitz, and the braintrusts at the KGB

It is beginning to look more and more like the Polonium Fairy may have come out of the Chekist's overcoat. Earlier posts about the perils of polonium can be found on this blog by searching "polonium." The first post is here.

The real Putin is beginning to revert to type. He looks more and more like the drab, mendacious, thuggish, cookie-cutter KGB bungler with feet of clay that he is and less and less like the brilliant, glamorous, cognac-sipping, but fictional, Chekist Stirlitz, the Soviet James Bond.

Putin is no Stirlitz. Stirlitz, after all, preferred an intellectual approach to secret work and killed only one man in his long career. In any case, Russians tell "Stirlitz jokes" which suggest that, despite the KGB's spit-and-shine agitprop efforts, Russians are under no illusions that their secret policemen are Einsteins:

Stirlitz went into Müller's empty office. He walked up to the safe and pulled on the handle. It wouldn't open. After making sure that he was alone, he took out his gun and blasted away. Still, the safe wouldn't open. Next, he put a hand grenade under the safe and removed the pin. After the smoke cleared, Stirlitz once again tried to open the safe. Again, however, he was unsuccessful. "Hmmm..." the experienced intelligence officer at last concluded, "must be locked."

The columnist Charles Krauthammer believes that Putin himself was responsible for the murder of the KGB-turncoat Alexander Litvinenko.

On December 5, the Times said that "Intelligence services in Britain are convinced that the [polonium] poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko was authorised by the Russian Federal Security Service."

The Times (12-9-06) now reports that the Russian authorities are backtracking on their promise to cooperate with the British in the investigation of the polonium poisoning:

Having promised last week to co-operate fully with the British investigation, the Russian Prosecutor-General has thrown four separate obstacles in its way. He has told the visiting detectives that they may request interviews but only observe them, and then only if the interviews are granted. He has ruled out extraditing any Russian citizen for trial in Britain. He has announced his own investigation into the alleged attempted murder of two of Mr Litvinenko’s associates — who, as Russian citizens, provide a pretext for giving the Russian inquiry priority over the British one. And he has twice postponed interviews with the man Scotland Yard most wants to question.

That man is Andrei Lugovoy, the former KGB colonel, who not only met Mr Litvinenko on the day he appears to have been poisoned but also allegedly occupied a hotel room where traces of polonium-210 have been found. Mr Lugovoy has told The Times that he has nothing to hide. Even so, he has been unavailable since the Scotland Yard team’s arrival: they have been denied access to him at a clinic where a third figure in the affair is said to be suffering from acute radiation sickness.

It would be wrong to take entirely at face value Mr Litvinenko’s self-assessment as a persecuted crusader for justice. His loyalties and business dealings were complex and possibly compromised. That he was a strange man does not make his murder any less sinister. The Kremlin had at least three compelling reasons to wish to silence him. First, he claimed before his death to have evidence linking the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist and outspoken critic of Russian policy in the Caucasus, to state security forces. Secondly, he had written a book accusing the FSB of planning to blow up an apartment building to bolster President Putin’s case for invading Chechnya in 1999. A new and heavily annotated edition of the book is due to be published next month. Thirdly, as we report today, he claimed to have uncovered a Kremlin-backed plan to blackmail or eliminate foreign-based Russian citizens holding assets salvaged from Yukos, the oil company founded by the jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

....Mr Putin should remember that power corrupts, and centralised power corrupts the figure at the centre. [Full text]

Alas, Putin is just one more thuggish, uncreative, flat-footed, KGB gumshoe---not a Stirlitz:

"Stirlitz and Kathe are walking through the park. A gunshot rings out. Kathe falls. Blood flows. Stirlitz, relying on his keen instincts, immediately gets suspicious."

***

A flower pot fell off the window sill of the secret apartment and smashed Stirlitz on the head. This was the signal that his wife had just given birth to a son. Stirlitz shed a single manly tear. He hadn't been home for seven years.

***

On May Day, Stirlitz put on his Red Army cap, grabbed a red banner and marched up and down the corridors of the Reich Security Office singing the Internationale and other revolutionary songs. Never before had Stirlitz been so close to failure.

***

In the Reich Security Office, Müller, Himmler, and Bormann are all standing in the cafeteria line, patiently waiting their turn. Stirlitz enters and passes everyone as he strides directly to the head of the queue. He is served immediately. Müller, Himmler and Bormann are baffled. What they didn't know is that a Hero of the Soviet Union has the right to receive service without having to stand in line. [All Stirlitz jokes]

More Stirlitz jokes here.

Stirlitz opened a door. The lights went on. Stirlitz closed the door. The lights went out. Stirlitz opened the door again. The light went back on. Stirlitz closed the door. The light went out again. "It's a fridge," concluded Stirlitz.

Here is a Wikipedia entry on Russian Political jokes.

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