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Happy Russia Day!

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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With the recent inauguration of new president Dmitry Medvedev, how have things changed in Russia? Is the authoritarian freeze of the Vladimir Putin years starting to melt into a glorious new spring of freedom? Mark Ames, founder of Russian newspaper the Exile (and RadarOnline.com contributor), will provide occasional dispatches in pursuit of an answer to that question ... if the authorities don't lock him up first.

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THE NEW GUY Medvedev Today is "Russia Day." It's the official holiday when Russians celebrate their independence—from their own empire. On June 12, 1990, the Russian Republic's parliament passed a resolution declaring "sovereignty" from the USSR, paving the way for Russia to "free" itself from the 14 other republics it had spent centuries conquering. It would be like Mexico celebrating February 2, 1848—the day Santa Anna was forced to sign away California and the entire Southwest to the gringos—as "Mexico Day."

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Which may explain why Russia's state-run RIA Novosti grimly announced, "Unfortunately, the name of this holiday disorients the people completely."

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