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It was this fear, the fear of the petty careerist manipulating the system, which frightened me. It was an interrogation by something venal, dysfunctional and un-ideological-Tsarist rather than Soviet Russia. This was far more chaotic, far less predictable than the old KGB, no different to a provincial African official. 

The Khakassian woman, still upset, passed me a tiny piece of bread. "It's not food. I blessed this crumb with the spirits of this place. Eat it. To keep that thing away from us, those evil people away from you."

As the car drove through the forests I began to see Putin's smile again. The Siberian forests were now so dense it was as if we had driven into another slice of geological time. They swallowed the horizon like oceans. They seemed pristine like the land before time. But I kept thinking of Putin and his impenetrable smile. Then the voice of the witch, the stare of Navalny and the lips of the Chechen interrogator — and it suddenly hit me. They were all telling me the same thing: Russia is in grave danger. 

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February 28th, 2013
8:02 PM
"The Putin years have seen a boom in quack healers" Not true - if anything, they've seen a decline. The final years of the Soviet Union saw a mass explosion of psychic healers, etc. The trend continued steadily through the Yeltsin era.

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