Monday, February 20, 2017

Moscow is Handing Out Russian Passports in Donbass Even as Putin Recognizes DNR and LNR Ones

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 20 – Even as Vladimir Putin decreed that Moscow recognizes documents issued by its clients the Donetsk Peoples Republic and the Luhansk Peoples Republic, Russian officials in at least seven places in the Donbass were handing out Russian passports, a repetition of what Moscow did in South Ossetia in 2008.

            The two steps are in fact interrelated, Aleksandr Artishchenko and Lidiya Grigoryeva of the Versia portal suggest. They mean that residents of the DNR and LNR can now take Russian citizenship on the basis of their own documents rather than on those of Ukraine, thus easing and accelerating the process (

            And that in turn suggests three more important things, the two authors say. First, it is an indication that Moscow may very well have had enough with negotiating about the fate of the Donbass and is prepared to live with or at least threaten to live with a frozen conflict there for a long time.

            Second, it is a statement of contempt about Western sanctions, an indication to the world that Moscow is no longer impressed by them or affected by them in such a profound way that there is any chance that it will change its policy in Ukraine no matter how long they remain in place.

            And third, it creates a situation in which Moscow can, as it has in South Ossetia, gradually move toward annexation, something that Artishchenko and Grigoryeva say there is ever more support for in Russia. They say that there will be demonstrations in support of that across Russia next weekend.

            The two add that one need not be “a prophet to predict what is going to follow:” in the immediate future, people behind the borders of the LNR and DNR including the rest of Novorossiya will want these passports because having them will confer real advantages whatever the future may bring.

            And one more thing is “not excluded,” the two say.  Soon it will be difficult for those who have only a Ukrainian passport to work in Russia, while those with DNR and LNR passports will find it quite easy. That too will have an impact on Ukraine and work to Moscow’s benefit, they argue.

Patriarch Kirill Blames Russian Liberals for Bolshevik Terror

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 20 – In comments about the two Russian revolutions of 1917, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, says that the Russian liberals who carried out the February revolution were responsible for the terror that followed the October one, because their “rocking the boat” of the Russian state led ineluctably to disaster.

            Such an interpretation, as the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta point out in a lead article today, is emblematic of the church’s position of condemning the terror that was visited upon the religious and everyone else by the Bolsheviks without denouncing the Soviet state that the latter produced (

            “At first glance,” the paper says, denouncing the terror that followed October by blaming the overthrow of stardom carried out by the form would appear to be a fundamental contradiction. But a deeper consideration shows that it is consistent not only with how the church and its Kremlin allies view the past but also how they think about the present.

            Kirill’s suggestion that “October is the logical continuation of February, and the victory of the Bolsheviks became possible thanks to the liberal opposition which ‘rocked the boat’” allows the powers that be in Moscow to have it both ways: to denounce liberals then and now while avoiding any serious criticism of the Bolsheviks and the Soviet system.

            In recent times, the paper points out, “the Russian Orthodox Church has been very cautious about the theme of communist symbols.” One of its hierarchs recently declared that it was premature to think about burying Lenin, for example.  And Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synod’s department for church-society ties, offered an even clearer denunciation of those who overthrew stardom.

            “The state could have developed further if the revolutionary opposition had sought a compromise with the authorities,” he declared, words that could be extended to the Bolsheviks but that the churchman did not.

            This treatment of “’liberal traitors’” in 1917, of course, “more closely corresponds to current political needs than to historical truth.” Kirill like Putin views liberals as the enemy then and now, and consequently, “the Russian Orthodox Church equates its critics to enemies of the state by asserting that political formations change but Orthodoxy remains constant.

Non-Russian Languages Threatened by Russia’s ‘Homegrown Globalism’ – Russification

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 20 – Languages which have relatively small numbers of speakers are threatened around the world by the forces of globalization, but in Russia, this threat is greater than many other places because of what one Chuvash commentator calls that country’s “homegrown globalism” – Russification.

            Ersubay Yangarov, the Chuvash correspondent for Radio Liberty’s Tatar-Bashkir Service, interviewed a group of Chuvash philologists, journalists, and teachers about the current state and future prospects of the Chuvash language in the Chuvash Republic and in the Russian Federation as a whole (

            While some expressed some optimism about the future, most are alarmed by state of Chuvash now. In the words of one journalist, “Russification is proceeding on the sly. Now, we struggle with cosmopolitan globalism but completely forget about our domestic homegrown form – Russification.”

            In the Chuvash Republic, Chuvash form 68 percent of the population, but only 274 primary schools use Chuvash and then only as a secondary language. “There is not a single school [now] in the republic which uses Chuvash for all subjects,” Yangarov points out. His interlocutors say the situation is the same for other republics and even worse for diasporas.

            Unlike even in Soviet times, now, “Chuvash has ceased to be studies in teacher training schools and technicums even though in them study primarily children from Chuvash villages,” and in urban kindergartens and schools no Chuvash classes are held at all, meaning that the language is increasingly being frozen out of the growing urban population.

            One of the clearest indications of that is that in classes five through nine, only one hour a week is devoted to the study of the Chuvash language, even though officials then count such schools as dual language institutions.  And in the republic’s university, the Chuvash philology faculty has been closed. As a result, there won’t be new teachers of Chuvash.

            Chuvash media are also in trouble, the participants in this discussion say.  On the one hand, people are turning away from the print media to the Internet. And on the other, in the words of one, “that relative ‘freedom’” in regional media outlets is “even lower than in the USSR,” given that officials see any interesting stories as potential attacks on themselves.

            And that is a problem because in Chuvashia as in most non-Russian areas, there are no private print media in the national language. That means the government controls them, and all involved know what the limits are as far as covering local stories that people are interested in but that officials don’t like.

            One longtime Chuvash journalist adds that “the picture is the same for all national newspaper – in Tatarstan, in Bashkortostan and in Mari El,” for example. And the many non-Russians who live beyond the borders of their titular republics face an even more dire situation relative to their native languages in the schools and in media.

            The participants make two final observations which are worthy of note. First, while many Chuvash parents choose to push their children into a Russian-language environment in the hope that this will help them get ahead, non-Russians from elsewhere who come to Chuvashia pick up the native language even more rapidly and completely than many Chuvash children.

            And second, they say, the situation with regard to non-Russian schools is much worse now under Putin than it was in Soviet times.  There were some 1200 Chuvash schools beyond the borders of the Chuvash ASSR before 1991; now there are only 300 and none of them uses Chuvash for all subjects.