Wednesday, September 20, 2017

More than 50 Times as Many Russians Marched This Week for Animal Rights Compared to Those Who Did So Against Mathilda

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 20 – Novyye izvestiya reports today that there were two major demonstration efforts in Russian cities last weekend, protests against the showing of the film Mathilda and demonstrations calling for more laws to protect animals from abuse and mistreatment  (

            The former attracted enormous attention in the media, while the latter barely was noted in either the government outlets or independent ones even though a rough count of the numbers taking part showed that 107,000 people took part in animal rights actions while only about 2,000 did in the Mathilda ones.

            “Perhaps,” Novyye izvestiya suggested, “the media are waiting until the animal rights activists arm themselves with the same methods that ‘the banner carriers’ supporting Poklonskaya, Shevkunov and Chaplin are now using!?”

Ethnic Balance Shifting Against Russians in Far North

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 20 – The number of members of the numerically small peoples of the North are increasing as are people from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, India and Ukraine while the number of ethnic Russians there is falling, fundamentally shifting the ethnic balance in that critical region.

            Flera Sokolova, a religious specialist at the Northern Arctic Federal University, says as a result of emigration and excess deaths over births, the number of ethnic Russians in the Russian Arctic has fallen by 26.3 percent, while the number of the numerically small non-Russian nations has increased by 23.3 percent (

                (Specifically, she says, the numbers of ten of these groups – the Dolgans, the Nents, the selkups, the Khants, the Chukchis, the Evenks, the Evens, the Entsy, the Eskimos and the Yukagirs – have gone up, while the number of others – the Kets, Nganasans, Saamis, Chuvans, Chulymtsy, and Kereks – have continued to fall.)

            The changing ethnic balance in the region has been amplified by the influx of others from the Caucasus, Central Asia, and further afield.  To date, this has not led to major inter-ethnic clashes – this is a territory “with a low level of ethnic conflict potential.” But “there are several potential threats,” including those that may set non-Russians and Russians at odds.

            The efforts of some from within the Russian community to identify as Pomors and to have that identity recognized as one of the numerically small peoples of the North has divided both Russians and non-Russians, Sokolova says. 

            Another threat is “a split between the indigenous population” which includes both Russians and the non-Russian numerically small peoples and those who have arrived recently is perhaps more urgent because those who have come in typically take jobs the others might get and have higher incomes, Sokolova says. 

            As a result, the declining size of the ethnic Russian population “includes within itself a threat of growing ethnic separateness” and may mean that Moscow will no longer have the ally it once had in “guaranteeing the defense of the national interests of the country” in the increasingly important Far North.

Competing Mobilizations: Minsk is Promoting Belarusianization; Moscow, Re-Sovietization

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 20 – Minsk is promoting the Belarusianization of Belarus while Mmoscow is pushing its re-Sovietization. But because both are being imposed from above, specialists on that country say, it is unclear whether the former will promote cultural security or the latter undermine it.

             That is the conclusion of a panel on the relationship of “soft Belarusianization” and Russian “soft power” that occurred during the Seventh International Congress of Researchers on Belarus that occurred in Warsaw last weekend ( and

            Vadim Mozheykov, a specialist on Belarusian culture, said that “’soft Belarusianization’ consisted of “the gradual, voluntary to the maximum extent broadening of the use of the Belarusian language, the support, development and dissemination of Belarusian culture, [and] the preservation and promotion of the historical-cultural heritage.”

            Such a policy, he continued, will help “form and strengthen national identity, help counter cultural and information threats and the challenges of disinformation and propaganda.” Those involved in the business of soft Belarusianization are divided between “those motivated by patriotic motives” and those who are exploiting it to make money.

            The Belarusian state plays a role but hardly the lead one -- at least in public because “there is the need after Crimea to balance the influence of the Russian world with the other side” but that “any sharp move” away from Russian influence will have exactly the opposite impact that Minsk wants.

            Three things make this difficult task even more so, Mozheyko says, “the absence of a tradition of a strong strategy of cultural policy,” “the infiltration of the state apparatus by supporters of the Russian world,” and “the previous policy which for many years was pointed in exactly the opposite direction.”

            Another participant in the panel, Andrey Vardomatsky of Warsaw’s Belarusian Analytic Center, said that “there is another process taking place in the country besides Belarusianization which is no less important. This is re-Sovietization, and it is also from above but not from Minsk but rather from Moscow.”

            “This concerns us directly for you know that the ratings of the Russian media in Belarus are higher than those of Belarusian outlets,” he continued.  And he argued that one still doesn’t feel any impact “in the mass consciousness” of the government’s support of “soft Belarusianization.”

            What one sees, he said, is that “the orientation toward Russia has not been reduced, the orientation toward Europe has not increased, and the process in the masses is not yet sufficiently developed to be felt … And Belarusianization has been de-depersonalized, and unlike for example Polish identity which has an enormous number of names and events.”