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The Russia Guy

In this podcast, translator and news aggregator Kevin Rothrock talks to movers and shakers in Russia-focused journalism and academia. Interviews deal with views on trending news stories, the overarching themes of “Russia watching,” and the ins and outs of life as a professional in this field. Help him pay for Buzzsprout and recording equipment by supporting him at Patreon.

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E44: Keith Gessen on The Quiet Americans

Kevin’s guest today is Keith Gessen, a novelist, journalist, literary translator, and assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Gessen has written about Russia for The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine, where he recently published a fascinating story, titled “The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio,” where he examines the historical and philosophical landscape of today’s Russia expertise in the United States. So what are you going to learn about on today’s episode of the podcast? This interview is devoted to Keith’s “Quiet Americans” story in The New York Times Magazine. Here’s a list of the questions, preceded by the times in the episode that they appear: (2:50) Why write this story now? How did it come together? (8:45) Did anything about this story surprise you? (13:14) What do you say to critics who accuse you of speaking only to “like-minded” Russia hands? (15:34) Do Russia domestic politics matter here? Did you leave them out of your story intentionally? Do you think they’re not important to understanding what shapes and divides America’s “Russia hands? (22:05) How did NATO expansion become a litmus test for American Russia experts? (29:53) What’s the influence of the U.S. news media on America’s Russia hands? (35:23) How should the U.S. media improve its Russia coverage? (36:48) Is this mainstream aware that it’s living in an echo chamber? (38:55) Why is realism so unpopular in American thinking about Russia? (43:28) You’ve written about the Russia experts, but what about the Russia grifters?Read “The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio”https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/magazine/the-quiet-americans-behind-the-us-russia-imbroglio.htmlFollow Keith Gessen on Twitter at @KeithGessenhttps://twitter.com/keithgessenPre-order his new book, “A Terrible Country: A Novel” (available July 10, 2018)https://www.amazon.com/Terrible-Country-Novel-Keith-Gessen/dp/0735221316If you enjoy this podcast, consider pledging a little dough to help with sound recording, editing, and hosting costs:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

50mins

21 May 2018

Rank #1

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E20: Going Vertical

In this episode, Kevin discusses “Going Vertical,” a new Russian blockbuster film about the USSR's 1972 Olympic basketball defeat of the United States, which was both an upset and upsetting to the Americans, who refused to accept silver medals, arguing that the game ended unfairly. This episode features audio clips from the film and from the actual game. Meduza also spoke to several of the 1972 team's members, including two of their widows, who have not exactly welcomed the new movie.https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/01/12/miracle-on-mapleSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

12mins

13 Jan 2018

Rank #2

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E58: Mark Galeotti

Kevin continues his interview series with professionals in the field of Russia expertise. Today's guest is Dr. Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague and the coordinator of its Center for European Security. Check out Dr. Galeotti's latest book: “The Vory: Russia's Super Mafia,” released this May by Yale University Presshttps://www.amazon.com/Vory-Russias-Super-Mafia/dp/0300186827In this interview, Kevin asks Mark several big questions, like what are the most important developing events and stories in Russia today? Will Putin stick around past 2024? Should we keep thinking about the Kremlin in terms of towers and clans? And Mark also talked a bit about himself, how he got into “the Russia game,” what was so special about his introduction to Russia, and how he manages to juggle so many different roles, while maintaining a sane private life.Follow Mark on Twitter:https://twitter.com/MarkGaleottiSupport this very podcast here:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockMusic:“Polyushka Polye” by The Red Army Choir, www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2YlbiyiuMcОлег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

46mins

18 Sep 2018

Rank #3

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E53: Anastasia Karimova

On today’s show, Kevin talks to to Anastasia Karimova, a former activist and journalist in Russia. Today, she’s a graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the United States. Anastasia’s personal history is fascinating in its own right, but it's especially interesting now, in the aftermath of the arrest of Maria Butina.Kevin asked Anastasia about finding her way into and out of Russian opposition politics. What were the old days like? What’s the world of protesting become today? She also talked about working for “Kommersant” and losing faith in Russia’s news media. And finally she talked about studying in the U.S. as a Russian person, putting Maria Butina’s alleged activities in some context.If you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a pledge at Patreon, where you can send Kevin money for all his grand efforts. Many thanks to the listeners already ponying up.www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

31mins

24 Jul 2018

Rank #4

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E54: How Russia Started Recruiting Hackers

Kevin reads the full text of a new investigative report by Meduza’s Daniil Turovsky about how Russia’s war in Georgia sparked Moscow’s modern-day recruitment of criminal hackers. The story is timely not just because we’re currently marking the 10-year anniversary of the Russo-Georgian war, but also because we’re still living in a world dominated by news about Russian election interference, cyber-threats, and more. This is an important story, but most of the reporting has happened in the United States, where the victims are located and the fallout has occurred. Turovsky’s new report is worth reading because it offers some insight into the other side of things: the world of the hackers who were likely mobilized for Moscow’s efforts in 2016. Read the text for yourself here, and share it with your pals:https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/08/07/it-s-our-time-to-serve-the-motherlandIf you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a pledge at Patreon, where you can send Kevin money for all his grand efforts. Many thanks to the listeners already ponying up.www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockOpening music: Assmack by Podington Bearhttp://freemusicarchive.org/music/Podington_Bear/Haplessly_Happy/AssmackClosing tune: Бременские музыканты (1969), Олег АнофриевSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

27mins

8 Aug 2018

Rank #5

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E15: Dumb Americans and Crazy Anti-Semites

Kevin commits Internet treason by criticizing his own country, moaning about Washington's inability to live up to its own word about FARA registration not interfering with media outlets' work. Then he moves on to moaning about the Russian Orthodox Church's weird obsession with an old and ugly conspiracy theory about Jews murdering the Romanovs in a “ritual killing.”How the U.S. says it treats ‘foreign agent’ journalists versus what it actually doeshttps://meduza.io/en/short/2017/11/30/how-the-u-s-says-it-treats-foreign-agent-journalists-versus-what-it-actually-doesFederal investigators have reopened the Tsar Nicholas II murder case, and the Russian Orthodox Church wants them to consider a notoriously anti-Semitic conspiracy theoryhttps://meduza.io/en/feature/2017/11/30/federal-investigators-have-reopened-the-tsar-nicholas-ii-murder-case-and-the-russian-orthodox-church-wants-them-to-consider-a-notoriously-anti-semitic-conspiracy-theorySupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

21mins

1 Dec 2017

Rank #6

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E95: Olesya Vartanyan on South Caucasus Breakaway Regions

Today's guest is Olesya Vartanyan, Crisis Group’s analyst for the “EU Eastern Neighbourhood.” Based in Tbilisi, she researches and produces reports on regional security issues in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, with a particular focus on breakaway regions in the South Caucasus. She told Kevin what it’s like to go from a career in journalism to the world of professional analysis, and let him ask her ignorant questions about the region.Follow her on Twitter here:https://twitter.com/Olesya_vArtFind her Crisis Group expert page here:https://www.crisisgroup.org/who-we-are/people/olesya-vartanyanSupport this very podcast here:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockMusic and audio:Ну погоди, episode 14, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncHd3sxpEbo&t=7sОлег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

25mins

13 Nov 2019

Rank #7

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E17: Aric Toler

Today's the first in The Russia Guy's new interview series. Kevin sat down (remotely. don't read too much into that word) with Aric Toler, one of Bellingcat's top analysts and the lead Eastern Europe digital researcher at DFR Lab, to find out how he got into the Russia expertise biz, and what life is like in the open-source intelligence world.Follow him on Twitter, y'all.https://twitter.com/AricTolerSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

29mins

19 Dec 2017

Rank #8

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E42: Natalia Antonova

Kevin’s guest today is Natalia Antonova, who as many listeners already know is a prolific writer, and a journalist who’s worked in Moscow, Kiev, and soon Washington, D.C., where she’s accepted a position at the Voice of America. Natalia was deputy editor at The Moscow News before it was liquidated in the collapse of RIA Novosti, and she’s been published all over the place, including The Washington Post, Politico, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, and many other fine outlets. Natalia is also a playwright and a poet, and she’s working on a fiction book right now.So what are you going to learn about on today’s episode of the podcast? Natalia and Kevin discussed her recent move back to the United States, and her new job at Voice of America. They also talked a lot about her experience in the Moscow art world, and she helped Kevin get some perspective on the “Seventh Studio” criminal investigation that has targeted acclaimed stage director Kirill Serebrennikov. She described what it was like editorially under pressure from the state when The Moscow News went under and while working at Russia Beyond the Headlines. And she and Kevin talked about her upbringing in Kiev and North Carolina, and how life brought her the Middle East, then back to the former Soviet Union, and finally again to the United States. You can follow Natalia on Twitter at @NataliaAntonovahttps://twitter.com/NataliaAntonova Natalia is also the co-founder of the Anti-Nihilist Institute nonprofit, which you can find @NoToNihilism on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/NoToNihilismIf you enjoy this podcast, consider pledging a little dough to help with sound recording, editing, and hosting costs:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

43mins

15 May 2018

Rank #9

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E49: Talking Russian Pension Reform With an 8-Year-Old

On today’s show, Kevin reviews the pension reform proposal slipped into Russia’s news agenda last week, just as the country’s attention turned to a certain soccer tournament. After summarizing the proposed reforms, Kevin gets some feedback about the plan from a very special guest, his eight-year-old daughter.So what are you going to learn about on today’s show? The Russian government wants to raise the country’s retirement age (from 55 to 63 for women, and from 60 to 65 for men), but how do they intend to do that? How are the authorities communicating this policy initiative to the public? Where’s Putin in all this, and what have the masses had to say about this momentous reform proposal? And what does an eight-year-old American girl think about all this?Catch up on Meduza's coverage of Russian pension reform here:*https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/06/18/officials-vow-to-raise-the-retirement-age-the-kremlin-fears-protests-and-labor-unions-are-fuming-this-is-russia-s-pension-reform*https://meduza.io/en/cards/russia-is-raising-its-retirement-age-how-and-whyIf you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a pledge at Patreon, where you can send Kevin money for all his grand efforts. Many thanks to the listeners already ponying up.https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

22mins

20 Jun 2018

Rank #10

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E16: False Flags! Treason! Hacker Conspiracy!

Kevin discusses three stories in this episode:A conspiracy theory says the FSB leaked a hacker's confession to incriminate the U.S. government in the DNC hack!https://meduza.io/en/feature/2017/12/12/new-information-about-russian-officials-orchestrating-the-dnc-hack-could-be-designed-to-pin-the-cyber-attack-on-the-u-s-governmentRelated to this story, see Ellen Nakashima's WaPo report:https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/court-document-points-to-kaspersky-labs-cooperation-with-russian-security-service/2017/12/13/14ba9450-df42-11e7-bbd0-9dfb2e37492a_story.html?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.5290e4ad429aThese religious traditionalists make for awful posterboys, if tolerance is your thing.https://meduza.io/en/feature/2017/12/11/a-moscow-university-student-is-attacked-and-forced-to-apologize-on-camera-for-offending-muslims-christians-and-all-women-by-criticizing-sexist-traditionsRussian media monitoring and censorship explained.https://meduza.io/en/feature/2017/12/13/a-hybrid-hunt-for-criminal-journalistsSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

25mins

13 Dec 2017

Rank #11

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E38: Yasha Levine on Telegram

Today’s podcast guest is Yasha Levine, an investigative journalist and the author of the new book “Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet,” which offers a new look at the little-discussed genesis of the very thing that brings my voice to your ears: the Internet. What did Yasha and Kevin discuss? You guessed it: Russia’s block of Telegram. Some highlights:*The concepts of “national information security” and “digital sovereignty” *How we ought to know whom to trust when it comes to keeping our online correspondence private*The role American tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Apple are playing in the battle over Telegram*A bit of context to bear in mind when comparing and contrasting the online ecosystems in Russia and the United StatesYou can pick up a copy of Yasha’s book, “Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet,” here at Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Surveillance-Valley-Military-History-Internet/dp/1610398025If you enjoy this podcast, consider pledging a little dough to help with sound recording, editing, and hosting costs:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

23mins

17 Apr 2018

Rank #12

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E35: Neil Hauer on Russia in Syria

In this episode, Kevin spoke to Neil Hauer, an independent analyst and journalist based in Tbilisi, Georgia, who focuses on Syria, Russia, and the North Caucasus, to learn more about the chemical weapons attack in Syria that provoked the latest tensions between Washington and Moscow. He discussed evidence and the military situation that led us here, as well as Russia’s threat to shoot down American missiles fired at targets in Syria. Neil also talked about Russian personnel on the ground and the risks of U.S. bombs claiming Russian lives. Follow Neil Hauer on Twitter:https://twitter.com/NeilPHauerIf you enjoy this podcast, consider pledging a little dough to help with sound recording, editing, and hosting costs:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

21mins

11 Apr 2018

Rank #13

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E12: Putin's Sandwich Buddy and Some Damn Good Reporting

After several weeks of silence, Kevin is back with a look at Evgeny Prigozhin, “Putin's favorite chef,” to talk troll factory, procurement deals, and American shortsightedness. He's also going to gab about two very fine pieces of original reporting — one very long, and the other not as much.For background about Mr. Prigozhin:https://meduza.io/en/feature/2016/06/13/evgeny-prigozhin-s-right-to-be-forgottenFor a summary of Navalny's May 2017 research on Prigozhin's "cartel":https://themoscowtimes.com/news/navalny-unmasks-a-cartel-allegedly-earning-billions-in-defense-contracts-58049For Sasha Sulim's epic work on the North Caucasus:https://meduza.io/en/feature/2017/10/31/guilty-by-bloodFor Mikhail Danilovich's probing look at unprosecuted hate crimes against gay men in Russia:https://meduza.io/en/feature/2017/11/02/he-wasn-t-worthy-of-being-a-manSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

31mins

4 Nov 2017

Rank #14

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E74: Maria Baronova on Leaving Russia's Opposition for ‘Russia Today’

Kevin's guest this week is Maria Baronova, a former opposition activist who now works for the state media network “Russia Today.” On this episode, Masha talks about her new job at “RT,” leaving the Russian opposition, and visiting the United States in the summer of 2018.Follow Baronova on Twitter here:https://twitter.com/ponny1Support this very podcast here:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockMusic:Ну погоди, episode 14, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncHd3sxpEbo&t=7sОлег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQHenrik Lundkvist, “Kalinka on a Balalaika,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH5znHQ9QRYSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

41mins

12 Apr 2019

Rank #15

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E97: Lincoln Pigman on Russian Cybersecurity

Today's guest is Lincoln Pigman, a Master’s graduate student at Oxford University and a research fellow at the Foreign Policy Center. He’s written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other outlets, usually about Russian cyberspace. About a year ago, he wrote an article in the Journal of Cyber Policy, titled “Russia’s Vision of Cyberspace: A Danger to Regime Security, Public Safety, and Societal Norms and Cohesion.”Follow Lincoln on Twitter here:https://twitter.com/lincolnpigmanSupport this very podcast here:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockMusic and audio:Ну погоди, episode 14, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncHd3sxpEbo&t=7sОлег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

30mins

21 Dec 2019

Rank #16

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E62: Alina Polyakova on Life as a D.C. Think Tanker

Today's guest is Alina Polyakova, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, an adjunct professor of European studies at Johns Hopkins University, and a specialist in far-right populism and nationalism, and Russian foreign policy.Alina and Kevin discussed who’s to blame for Donald Trump’s election, how you take a sociology doctorate and become a Washington think tank expert, and what life is like in the hustle and bustle of the American capital. She explained why she didn’t really like Keith Gessen’s “The Quiet Americans” piece in The New York Times Magazine this May, and talked about Washington’s lack of strategic thinking, when it comes to Russia.Follow Alina on Twitter here:https://twitter.com/apolyakovaAnd follow her work at the Brookings Institution here:https://www.brookings.edu/experts/alina-polyakova/Support this very podcast here:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockMusic:“Polyushka Polye” by The Red Army Choir, www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2YlbiyiuMcОлег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQ“Your Health,” Soyuzmultfilm, 1965, Ivan Aksenchuk, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFKxyA81TtMSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

53mins

12 Oct 2018

Rank #17

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E72: Alexey Kovalev on ‘Russians Always Knew There Was No Collusion’

Today’s show looks at a controversial new op-ed that appeared in The New York Times on Friday, March 29, 2019, titled “Russians Always Knew There Was No Collusion.” The subheader reads, “The Kremlin’s allies and its opponents alike have been baffled by America’s Russia obsession. Can we ever look at the U.S. the same way again?” Kevin speaks to the author of the text, Alexey Kovalev, the new investigations editor at Meduza and the author of many articles and op-eds in major news outlets, both in Russia and the West.Read the article here:https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/29/opinion/mueller-report-russia.htmlFollow Alexey on Twitter here:https://twitter.com/Alexey__KovalevSupport this very podcast here:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockMusic:Ну погоди, episode 14, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncHd3sxpEbo&t=7sОлег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQHenrik Lundkvist, “Kalinka on a Balalaika,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH5znHQ9QRYSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

43mins

31 Mar 2019

Rank #18

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E96: Ariel Cohen on Political Risk in Russia

Today's guest is Ariel Cohen, a scholar focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law, working as a specialist on Russia, Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. He’s currently a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, the director of the Energy, Growth, and Security Program at the International Tax and Investment Center (which promotes tax reform and public-private initiatives to improve the investment climate in transition and developing economies), and he’s a columnist at Forbes.Ariel talked at length about growing up in the Soviet Union, and how his childhood experiences inform his thinking to this day, not just about Russia, but about human nature and geopolitics. And he discussed conditions in the U.S. foreign service these days, where he says the demise of regional studies has done serious damage. Also, he talked about how he came to political risk analysis.Follow Dr. Cohen on Twitter:https://twitter.com/Dr_Ariel_CohenSupport this very podcast here:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockMusic and audio:Ну погоди, episode 14, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncHd3sxpEbo&t=7sОлег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

27mins

5 Dec 2019

Rank #19

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E79: Ivan Golunov's Investigation Into Russia's Corrupt Funeral Business

On today’s show, Kevin reads the full text of his translation of Meduza investigative journalist Ivan Golunov’s August 2018 report on corruption in Russia’s funeral industry. This is the journalism (plus a forthcoming part two) that got him arrested over the weekend and turned the country upside-down. Read the text at Meduza:https://meduza.io/en/feature/2019/06/12/coffins-graveyards-and-billions-of-dollars Chapter breakdowns:(5:33)ST. PETERSBURGA private security monopoly(8:21)VOLGOGRADThe “Pamyat” (Memory) Society(15:50)MOSCOWRituals and criminals(22:23)IN AND AROUND MOSCOW292 pairs of eyeballs for sale(26:42)MOSCOWAccess to death(30:36)RUSSIAA piece of land in Seychelles(34:08)MOSCOWGuardians of the graves(37:47)MOSCOW, TOLYATTI, AND OMSKSuicide at the cemetery(41:48)YEKATERINBURG“Dondiki” versus the President’s Office(44:19)RUSSIAThe activist from “Occupy-Pedophilia”(52:16)Finishing remarksSupport this very podcast here:www.patreon.com/kevinrothrockMusic:Ну погоди, episode 14, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncHd3sxpEbo&t=7sОлег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQ“Hedgehog in the Fog,” music by Mikhail Meyerovich, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jZ2G--y1hwSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock)

53mins

12 Jun 2019

Rank #20