Who wrote the book War and Peace?

Leo Tolstoy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo…),  a great 19th century Russian writer.

"War and Peace" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War…) is considered one of his greatest novels, as well as one of the greatest novels of all times. The book is long but a must-read.  Historically, it describes the time between 1805 and approximately 1815, including Napoleon's invasion of Russia.  Tolstoy combines his own perspective on the events and people with the creative narrative of  whole bunch of fictional characters and historical figures.

They say that somebody asked Tolstoy to briefly tell what "War and Peace" was about. He answered that if could tell the story shorter he would have written a shorter story.
 

Did Stalin really kill 60 million people?

No.

The real figure is 18 million. Which is a horrific figure. While neo-Stalinists try to presents those murders as “justified”, only less than 0.1% of that number were – the Communist murderers (but not their children) who deserved to be murdered by their Comrades.

But where the 60 million figure came from??

It is the “demographic impact” which cripto-Nazis misrepresent as the number of people killed by Stalin. With the obvious objective – to prove that Stalin and “the Russians“ were the real villains, true murderous barbarians, while Hitler and the Nazis “saved the Europe”.

To do their propaganda, they use the figure that incorporates two other components:

22 million killed by Nazis, including combat deaths, POWs, Holocaust victims of occupied USSR, non-Jewish civilian population – including children killed for fun, underage girls gang-raped to death, you get the picture. Soviet dissidents were adding that figure to the Stalin’s toll, claiming that better leadership would result in much less casualties, or likely no war at all.

20 million of “reduced births” due to hard environment etc. That is the purely statistical measure (the Statisticians who found that, been public servants of integrity and professionalism, are included in the 18 million killed).

Another question for you: did Nazis plan to murder 150 million, and were only stopped by USSR? Yes, read Generalplan Ost – Wikipedia

What is the geopolitical situation between Russia and Poland?

It is "improving". Putin has finally acknowledged and "apologized" for the mass massacre of Polish soldiers in Katyn in 1940 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kat…).  This has long been a sticking point in the diplomatic relations between the two countries, so that obstacle is finally off the table.

Moreover, the entire Polish cabinet was flying to Smolensk for the anniversary of massacre and crashed before landing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/201…). This unfortunate disaster resulted in much "hugging" between Russia and Poland, thereby building better rapport between the countries as well.

How difficult is it to travel around Moscow, knowing only English?

Not very difficult.
It is easy to get from the airport to a hotel and to major tourist sites. Some taxi drivers speak English and if they don't, they will at least know those popular locations.
Taking the metro around is also a good option, but not as easy. There are very few maps of the metro system in the stations and all station names and announcements are in Russian. But if you have a metro map, check the color/number of the lines and count the number of stations you should be able to get around pretty well.
In hotels and cafes or restaurants you should also be able to find people who speak English and the popular restaurants have English menus, so overall I don't see any issues if you stay in central Moscow.

Where are all of Russia's nuclear weapons?

They are probably distributed across Russia and in nuclear submarines.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin…

Nuclear strike targets are listed as the National Target Base (NTB), which is built from an intelligence list of 150,000+ sites across the world. The number of targets in the NTB has varied enormously – from around 16,000 in 1985, 12,500 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and 2,500 in 1995 before rising to the current list of 3,000 targets. Around 75% of the current targets are in Russia; of these, 1,100 are nuclear weapons sites.

Are there any examples of successful consumer web startups/products that first targeted an emerging or non-English/Latin market, and then expanded to the rest of the world?

ICQ came out of Israel – but I think they went global from the very beginning, as opposed to just concentrating on Israel.

Do people who live in eastern Russia look more Asian or more European?

Russians who live in all corners of the country look more or less the same everywhere. But there are other peoples out there. In Eastern Russia, there are Asian-looking Buryat, Altai, Tyva, Yakut, Chuckha and many other ethnicities. Still, they are less then 20% of the population all together.

What are the top Russian rock bands / performing artists?

Splean, Tequila Jazz, Aquarium are the ones who still doing something good and new, if we talk about rock. Aquarium is old but still experimenting – from folk to psy trance. 5'nizza – reggae/indie. Boombox – Ukrainian indie group.

There also are a lot of old groups like Kino, Alisa, and so on to listen to, but you should know – russian rock is more about lyrics then music.

What is the destructive yield of the largest deployed nuclear weapon?

The most powerful nuclear bomb ever detonated, nicknamed the Tsar Bomba ('King Bomb'), was a Soviet thermonuclear device (i.e. a hydrogen bomb) with an estimated explosive yield of 50 megatons (1400 times the combined yield of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs).

It weighed 27 tons, and was released from a specially modified Tu-95V bomber at an altitude of 10.5 km above the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Sea, on October 30, 1961. Its descent was slowed by a fall-retardation parachute, giving the release and observer planes sufficient time to achieve a minimum safe distance of 45 km before it detonated.

To reduce fallout, it was designed as an 'airburst' bomb, and detonated at an altitude of 4km. Even so, the blast was so powerful that it left a crater on the archipelago that is actually still visible – from space.

Statistics:

  • The 50Mt yield was the same as that from a train of 666,000 15.2m wagons over 10,000 km long, each wagon carrying 75 tons of TNT.
  • The fireball from the explosion was visible 1000 km away (1000km is the approximate distance from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina, or from London, UK,  to Marseille, in the south of France).
  • The mushroom cloud rose to an altitude of around 65km, and was 40km wide.
  • All the buildings in the village of Severny, 55km from ground zero, were completely destroyed.
  • Buildings up to several hundred kilometers away suffered varying degrees of damage, from moderate to severe.
  • The thermal pulse from the blast was felt 270km away, and could cause third-degree burns up to 100km away.
  • The primary atmospheric shockwave cracked windowpanes 900km away.
  • The secondary, reflected shockwave broke windows in Norway and Finland.
  • The seismic shock from the bomb travelled around the Earth three times, and would have registered 7.1 on the Richter scale if it had been detonated on the ground.

Despite its terrifying destructive power, the Tsar Bomba was actually one of the 'cleanest' nuclear bombs ever detonated, in terms of the residual fallout it created. Not that that would have been much consolation to its – probably millions of – victims if it had ever been used in anger over a large, densely populated metropolitan area, of course.

Curious footnote: A colour photograph of the Tsar Bomba blast, showing the fireball rising through a doughnut-shaped blast cloud, achieved wide public circulation, and became one of the iconic images of the Cold War era and the threat of nuclear war. In poster form, it has probably adorned the bedroom walls of millions of teenagers and college students around the world – possibly without many of them knowing its true significance as the largest man-made explosion of all time.

But Nature does it bigger:

As powerful as the Tsar Bomba was, it was only one-quarter the explosive yield of the Krakatoa eruption of 1883 (although it released its total yield in single explosion, of course, whereas Krakatoa erupted continuously over several days).

Videos of the Tsar Bomba test:

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q…

If you are curious to know how nuclear warheads actually work, see my answer here: Steve Denton's answer to How do nuclear warheads work?

Is there any way Russia can successfully replicate Silicon Valley on home soil?

Someone will succeed in systematically building a Silicon Valley and others will copy it; the existing Silicon Valley is the product of serendipity, not social engineering.  However, this does not preclude it from being understood and replicated.  The problem of developing social systems for systematic innovation is one that has been approached at the company level and failed.  Russia is attempting to address the problem of innovation and product development at the regional level using the apparatus of state power, instead of at the company level.

For example, Google saw internet video coming. Google had billions of dollars.  Google had thousands of PhDs and tens of thousands of engineers.  Google launched Google Video eight months before Youtube.  Google had every possible advantage and Youtube annihilated Google Video and Google was forced to purchase them for 1.8 billion USD.

If Google has nearly unlimited resources, is in the center of Silicon Valley and cannot launch a dominate product in another market, it suggests that  a theory of innovation and product development is still to be systematized and implemented.  Entrepreneurship today is in the state that management was in before Frederick Taylor.  If large companies could innovate or launch products as well as Silicon Valley, we would not have or need a Silicon Valley.

Several companies have attempted to systematize innovation and product development but have been notorious failures.  AT&T Bell Labs invented Unix, the C programming language, wireless Ethernet, and the laser, but made no money on the inventions.  The Xerox PARC lab invented the Xerox machine, the Graphic User Interface, Object Oriented Programming, and applications of the computer network but made almost no money off of them.  SQL was invented by an IBM researcher at the IBM San Jose Research Laboratory, but it was Oracle and Larry Ellison and not IBM that commercialized and then dominated the relational database market. 

Why is a playboy like Larry Ellison more effective at bringing new products to market than the whole IBM corporation?  That is the question that must be answered by any attempt at replicating the success of Silicon Valley.

It is sensible that the governments of nation states want to understand and replicate the mechanisms underlying innovation in other cultural regions.  Why did the first and second industrial revolution happen in Britain and not France?  During the industrial revolution Britain had nearly no natural resource, was an island and had a populations of a few million while France had a population of 40 million.  Yet it was Britain and not France that become the dominant superpower.  Was it culture, technology, geography, law, social institutions?  Why did the Britain empire decline technologically and financially after almost two centuries as a technological and financial superpower?  How did the did America dominate the 20th century and leave Britain in the dust? 

Why did Silicon Valley occur in the United States and not Japan?  Why California and not Boston or New York?  Why have other regions not developed the level of startup innovation as Silicon Valley, despite the presence of capital and abundant human resources?  Why has Europe not produced even a single Microsoft, Google, Youtube or Oracle?

It is doubtful that Russia will succeed in building "another Silicon Valley", however whatever the result is likely to be much better than what they have now.  The attempt will at the very least produce information which will inform later attempts.  Although it is gaining less publicity than Russia's efforts, China is also developing several regions that are becoming extremely entrepreneurial and already have several successful internet companies. Russia seems to merely be emulating this model.

The best book on entrepreneurship and innovation that I have found is "Innovation and Entrepreneurship", by Drucker http://amzn.to/djxhm7

The best book on the relationships between culture and geography and the success of Silicon Valley is "Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128", by Saxenian http://amzn.to/akHYGS

Saxenian also wrote a follow up book which is highly relevant to understanding how Silicon Valley culture is impacting entrepreneurship in China and India.
"The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy", by Saxenian http://amzn.to/cCdqsC