Sunday, February 1, 2015

Russia’s Muslims, Ready to Protest, Seek Shariat Guidance on Demonstrations


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, February 1 – It is unclear which should disturb the Kremlin more -- that Muslims in the Russian Federation are now sufficiently angry that they are thinking about taking part in public protests or that these same Muslims feel that they should ask not what Russian law says about such meetings but rather what Islamic Shariat law does.

 

            In this week’s “Chernovik,” a Daghestani publication, Umar Gadzhiyaliyev surveys the opinions and fetwas of leading Muslim thinkers concerning meetings, when they are permissible and when they are not according to Islam, and even whether a Muslim can take part in such things at all (chernovik.net/content/religiya/mitingi-i-demonstracii-soglasno-shariatu).

 

            Not surprising to Muslims but perhaps to others, these “contemporary Islamic legal specialists have expressed various points of view on this subject. But if one summarizes them,” Gadzhiyaliyev says, “one can say that the scholars permit meetings and demonstrations … if they do not contain prohibited elements connected with external factors.”

 

            The Daghestani writer considers the views of several of them in detail and observes that many are concerned that men and women do not take part in such measures together, that those considering protests need to recognize the difference between living in a Muslim society where such things should not be the first choice and elsewhere where they may have no choice, and that those who participate must behave as good Muslims and not insult the dignity of others.

 

            “Thus,” Gadzhiyaliyev says, one can conclude that “if meetings and demonstrations do not entail obvious harm, lead to a positive result and do not contain prohibited elements, then at bottom they are permitted according to Shariat law.”

 

            But he, being a citizen of the Russian Federation, adds the expected “postscript.”  “This article,” he writes, “is not backing for or denigration of any specific measure and concerns only general propositions about meetings and demonstrations.”

 

Gastarbeiters’ Departure Beginning to Hit Russians Where They Live


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, February 1 – Many Russians have long been accustomed to thinking of immigrant workers as undesirable alines, but the departure of so many of them as a result of the economic crisis and new government restrictions on immigration is beginning to affect Russians where they live – and some of them may soon be changing their tune.

 

            On the one hand, the outflow of immigrant workers is pushing the price of housing and services up as employers are forced to pay higher wages to get work done. And on the other, when employers cannot find anyone to do the work that the gastarbeiters had been doing, that work, including sweeping the streets of snow, simply isn’t getting done at all.

 

            That has led Igor Albin, the vice governor of St. Petersburg, to suggest that residents of his city should stop complaining about snow removal, pick up shovels, and get to work, a proposal that recalls Marie Antoinette’s advice almost as much as the suggestion by another Russian official that Russians should respond to rising food prices by eating less.

 

            As Mariya Portnyagina points out in the current issue of “Ogonyok,” Russian officials have tried to downplay the size of the outflow of migrants, suggesting alternatively that it is seasonal or that the gastabeiters who have left Russia now will return when they find that no other country is ready to take them in (kommersant.ru/doc/2643912).

 

            But the size of the outflow is now so large and its impact on particular sectors of the Russian economy so obvious that officials and experts are now devoting more of their time to explaining what the impact of immigrant workers on the Russian economy really is and why Russia will have little choice but to work to attract them back.

 

            Nikita Mkrtchyan, a sociologist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, says that it is not the case that gastarbeiters have been working for less income and thus depressing wages for Russians.  They simply work at lower-paying jobs. But they often work longer hours and without taking sick days than Russians do and thus cost employers less.

 

            But the days when such people were arriving in virtually unlimited numbers are over, and in fact at the present time, the gastarbeiters who have been in Russia are going home and not coming back at least anytime soon.

 

            Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz diaspora leaders say that as a result of the declining exchange rate for the ruble and new requirements for those working in Russia, many of their co-nationals have concluded that working in Russia is not only unprofitable but increasingly unpleasant and are looking elsewhere.

 

            Trains and planes are leaving Russia for Central Asia full and coming back half empty, clear evidence that what these diaspora leaders are saying is true, Portnyagina says.

 

According to Sergey Abashin, a professor at St. Petersburg’s European University, the impact of the declining value of the ruble is less significant in the decisions of the gastarbeiters than are the new requirements the Russian government has imposed concerning Russian language knowledge and the payment for patents to work in Russia.

 

            In any case, the gastarbeiters are leaving, and Moscow does not know where to find more.  Vyacheslav Postavnin, the head of the Migration for the 21st Century Foundation, says that migrant workers currently form 8 to 15 percent of the Russian workforce and are responsible for six to 20 percent of its GDP.

 

            “Demographic predictions,” he points out, “show that dependence on gastarbeiters will only increase.” Postavnin says that the best hope for Russia is that those who are leaving now will discover that no other country wants to take them in and so will conclude that they have no choice but to return to Russia, whatever the new official requirements are.

 

            But it is far from clear, the “Ogonyok” journalist suggests, whether ordinary Russians are going to be very happy with the situation the departure of the migrants workers is already creating.  They are already being missed in construction, trade, and housing services, and officials and businesses are finding it hard to fill the jobs they have left.

 

            In Kazan, for example, some 15 to 20 percent of janitorial positions are now empty. In Sverdlovsk oblast, the shortage of workers has become so severe that officials are deploying prisoners from local camps to work in the cities.  And in Moscow, people are increasingly angry that the streets aren’t being kept clean.

 

            Some may take to heart the proposal of the St. Petersburg vice governor that they should clean the streets themselves. But others are likely to respond in other ways, increasingly infuriated by what some of them are certain to view as the incompetence of officials in dealing with migrants.

 

 

 

Putin’s Recipe for a Russian Disaster – Cutting Vodka Prices and Public Transport at Same Time


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, February 1 – Vladimir Putin has clearly learned the lesson some of his predecessors did not: when times are tough, boosting alcohol prices is a good way to trigger a social explosion.  But his decision to cut the price of the cheapest vodka -- which goes into effect today -- is a recipe for a longer term disaster.

 

            And that is all the more so because it comes at exactly the same moment that thanks to the Kremlin leader’s policies and decisions, regions have run out of money to maintain the electric train routes on which many Russians outside of the cities rely. As a result, Russian Railways is ending service, and the regions and their people have no good way to compensate.

 

            There has already been a great deal of discussion about the direct impact of cheaper vodka prices: they will lead both to greater consumption of hard liquor and they will also lead Russians to turn to surrogates which will now be harder to distinguish from “official” production. 

 

Both of those things will have a negative impact on public health, driving up alcohol-related illnesses like diabetes and alcohol poisoning even as they keep an inebriated public from protesting against the policies of the Kremlin which increasingly appear directed against the Russian people (forum-msk.org/material/news/10683478.html).

 

And there has been some discussion of the budgetary shortfalls in the regions that are leading to an end to government-subsidized electric train service in many of them, a service that is often the only reliable link people outside of rural areas have to cities where they can gain access to many services, including pharmacies and hospitals.

 

            Ending electric train service to rural areas is creating conditions which some Russian observers are already calling “a real genocide” of the Russian people. (See windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/12/window-on-eurasia-real-genocide-trains.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/04/window-on-eurasia-russian-regions.html.)

 

But the coming together of these two policies, a reduction in the price of vodka and the end of rural train service, a development that will exacerbate public health more than either on its own has only begun to be the subject of concern – and first of all in Pskov oblast where the trains stopped running today (lenta.ru/news/2015/02/01/pskov/).

 

To save money, the Pskov oblast authorities had already cut bus service to rural areas and ended the plowing of many roads outside of the cities, steps that cut off many rural residents from medical services and sent live expectancies in rural areas plummeting over the last two decades.

 

Indeed, the situation there is so dire already that as Vyacheslav Glazychev,a professor at the Moscow Institute of Architecture, has suggested, in five to seven years, there will only be four cities left in Pskov oblast “and nothing else.”  The cities will be Pskov, Velikiy Luky, Pechora, and Dno because of its railway junction (svpressa.ru/society/article/67168/).

 

Putin’s latest twin decisions will only accelerate that trend: more than 12,000 Pskov residents are currently suffering from alcohol dependency of one kind or another. Many of them live in rural areas. They will now be able to get vodka for less, but they won’t be able to get into the cities for medical help.  As a result, as local officials concede, many will die prematurely.

 

‘What Can Ukraine Expect from the West Now?’ Former GULAG Inmate Asks Bitterly


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, February 1 – Myroslav Marynovich, a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group who spend a decade in the Soviet GULAG and currently vice rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, has issued the statement below about how Ukrainians feel about what is happening to them now.  It deserves to be read in full and is given as such below

 

What can Ukraine expect from the West now?

 

I write to you as a former prisoner of conscience of the Brezhnev era. All other titles are rapidly losing sense in the light of the bleeding Ukrainian Maidan.

 

All my life I admired Western civilization as the realm of values. Now I am close to rephrasing Byron’s words: “Frailty, thy name is Europe!” The strength of bitterness here is matched by the strength of our love for Europe.

 

If it still concerns anybody in decision-making circles, I may answer the question in the title.

First and foremost, stop “expressing deep concern”. All protestors on the Maidan have an allergy to this by now in these circumstances senseless phrase, while all gangsters in the Ukrainian governmental gang enjoy mocking the helplessness of the EU.

 

Take sanctions. Don’t waste time in searching for their Achilles’ heel: it is the money deposited in your banks. Execute your own laws and stop money laundering. The Europe we want to be part of can never degrade the absolute value of human lives in favor of an absolute importance of money.

 

Also cancel Western visas for all governmental gangsters and their families. It is a scandal that ordinary Ukrainians living their simple lives have to provide their ancestors’ family trees to obtain a visa while ruling criminals guilty of murder, “disappearances”, and fraud in the eyes of the whole world enjoy virtually free-entry status in Europe. 

 

Do not listen to Yanukovych’s and Putin’s propagandistic sirens. Just put cotton in your ears. Be able to decode their lie; otherwise they will decode your ability to defend yourself.

 

Instead, listen to Ukrainian media sacrificing their journalists’ lives to get truthful information.

 

Do not rely so much upon the information provided by your special correspondents in other countries who come to Ukraine for a day or two. Hire Ukrainians who live in this country to translate the Ukrainian cry of pain. Secure money for that right now instead of waiting for funds from next year’s budget.

 

Come to Ukrainian hospitals and talk to so-called “extremists” who want to “subvert the legitimately elected government,” those who have “cruelly beaten” policemen and “deliberately” blasted explosives to wound themselves. 

 

Yes, the face of war is cruel. But, arriving at the Maidan, these people repeated almost literally what King George VI said to his people on the 3 September 1939: “We have been forced into a conflict, for we are called… to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world.”

 

Go out of your zone of comfort!  Just recall the coddled ancient Romans who refused to do that in time. Cajoling Putin won’t bring you security. Letting him take control over Ukraine could make the world peace even more vulnerable. A Ukraine divided by force won’t bring the world peace, just as a Poland and Germany divided by force didn’t bring peace to the world.

 

Let us conclude in solidarity with the King and the Ukrainian people: “The task will be hard.  There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield, but we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God.  If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then with God's help, we shall prevail.”

 

Kremlin Think Tank Confirms Close Links with Kremlin and with New Greek Premier


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, February 1 – There are denials, “non-denial denials,” and then denials that have the effect of confirming exactly what those doing the denying are seeking to disown and providing additional information as well.  A classical example of the last is provided by the head of Kremlin think tank who was trying to undercut the revelations of one of his former staffers.

 

            As Kseniya Kirillova documents on Novy Region 2, the head of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI), earlier part of the SVR and now in the Presidential Administration, admits his institution “over the course of the year has actively cooperated with analysts of the Greek SIRIZA Party” and that its leader, the new Greek prime minister, visited RISI (nr2.com.ua/News/world_and_russia/Premer-ministr-Grecii-aktivno-sotrudnichal-s-rossiyskimi-razved-analitikami-89522.html).

 

            That admission came in the course of a press release from RISI director Leonid Reshetnikov, a retired lieutenant general, concerning statements by Aleksandr Sytin, his former staffer, about RISI’s involvement in planning the Russian Anschluss of Crimea and the war in the Donbas and its current appeals for forming “pro-Russian” groups in Belarus on the basis of ties with the security agencies in that country (riss.ru/news/4173#.VM4FGY0o7IX).

 

            Reshetnikov clearly intended his remarks to undercut what Sytin had said, but in fact, the director’s words serve to confirm in large measure what the Russian analyst has said. Thus, as Kirillova notes, during the course of 2014, the director said, “the institute … prepared more than 600 analytic materials for those involved in the foreign policy of our country.”

 

            In response, the former general said, the institute and its staff “received for many of them a highly positive assessment from the policy making organs of the government.”  Clearly, at least in Reshetnikov’s mind, RISI is not one voice among many but a key player in the policy process in Moscow.

 

            More than that, it continues to play a role far beyond Ukraine. Reshetnikov noted that RISI analysts have “devoted great attention to the situation” in other former Soviet republics and beyond and to economic problems as well.

 

            But perhaps most immediately intriguing, Reshetnikov pointed to the close cooperation RISI has with Alexis Tsipras, the new Greek prime minister, who is also thought to have close ties with Eurasian ideologue Aleksandr Dugin who has also been a major advocate of Putin’s “Novorossiya” program (nr2.com.ua/News/world_and_russia/Novyy-premer-Grecii-svyazan-s-putinskim-ideologom-Duginym-i-rossiyskim-oligarhom-Malofeevym-FOTO-89304.html).

 

            And lest anyone think that RISI is out on its own, Reshetnikov concludes his statement with the observation that his institute “occupies a correct government position, and with complete conviction,” he says, “we will continue this line!” – words that should worry anyone concerned about the aggressive positions he and RISI have taken up to now.

 

            For background on Sytin and RISI, see my “Russian Think Tank that Pushed for Invasion of Ukraine Wants Moscow to Overthrow Lukashenka,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, 27.I.15 (jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=43458&cHash=7a202945ac364185e5021fc5dbf28fde#.VM4OIY0o7IU).

 

 

 

 

           

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Putin’s War in Ukraine Opening the Way to Fascism, Shlosberg Says


Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, January 31 – The war Vladimir Putin is conducting in Ukraine is leading not just to the economic destruction of Russia but to its moral destruction as well, and that in turn is opening the way for the rise of fascism, Lev Slosberg says. In fact, he argues, Russia today is becoming “ideally ready” for that horrific system.

 

            In an article in the current issue of “Pskovskaya Guberniya,” Slosberg, who represents the Yabloko Party in the regional legislature, argues that the course of war “chosen in essence by one man” is costing everyone enormously and that “many have already paid with their lives” (gubernia.pskovregion.org/number_725/01.php).

 

            Despite these costs, the deputy continues, “Putin has chosen for himself and his country ‘precisely this path of ‘consolidation of Russian society,” one based on the notion that “’the besieged fortress of Russia’ is ready to fight with the entire rest of the world. War for it is life; peace for it is death.”

 

          The longer this war goes on, the more serious its consequences will be, he continues. “One year of war has been sufficient for the destruction of the economic successes of the past ten years,” has already “thrown Russia back two decades,” and is continuing to do so.

 

          “Russia has neither the forces nor the means to continue this war for another year,” Slosberg says, but “everything is being thrown into this pyre of war.”  And Putin is not stopping because he believes he can gain strength by using military force to suppress Ukraine.

 

          But what the Kremlin leader is doing has nothing to do with seizing land. It is all about taking revenge against Ukraine for everything its people have decided on – “for the European choice of the majority of society” and for the ouster of the Kremlin’s man on the scene, Viktor Yanukovich.

 

          And for Putin, taking that revenge on Ukraine is absolutely necessary now before a generation arises in Russia which will make the same choices and thus put an end to his own rule, Slosberg says. To prevent that from happening, he continues, Putin will pay “any price” in Ukraine.

 

          He will do so, the Pskov deputy says, because he is “certain that Russian society supports him in his desire to take revenge on Ukraine. He is certain that his people are ready to pay any price, including with their lives, for his policy,” a conviction that arises from his having raised in Russia “a people of war.”

 

          Putin believes as well that if he wins militarily, no one will judge him. Only losers are judged in his understanding. And tragically, he has managed to convince many Russians who today are the people of war to share that view. “The people of war greets the president of war.”

 

          As horrific as the economic consequences of Putin’s war have been, the moral consequences of this kind are still worse: “since the end of the USSR, Russian society was never in such a horrific moral state as it is now. Russia today is a country ideally ready for fascism.”

 

          Fascism, Slosberg continues, “is when millions of people are happy as a result of hatred, when antagonism shapes the attitudes of the people and when those who think differently become state criminals.”

 

          “Fascism is when the state raises a people of war,” when there is a ministry of propaganda which is what “in essence the entire Russian state power” has become, and when people become convinced that they must never question the leader’s policies or his wars, when as now “the people of war” predominate “over the people of peace.”

 

          Most Russians think that the Nuremberg trials were only about the military crimes of the Nazi regime, “but in the framework of [that process] was studied how the fascist state was created and how an entire people” at the center of Europe fell under its spell.

 

          At Nuremberg, it was shown that “even a great people of science and culture does not have immunity against fascism. Fascism burned up public morality in Germany with the speed of fire,” and the result was horrific. Its “centuries’ old culture did not save it from fascism.”

 

          “The people of war do not need culture” because “the fuel in this conflagration became the lie, the all-embracing state lie,” with the burning of books symbolizing that reality.

 

          Putin has raised up a people of war because in reality “it is very easy to become a people of war. One need only hate more than love, wish one’s neighbor not good things but destruction, think that the greatness of the Motherland requires the denigration of other peoples, and be gladded by participation in their denigration.”

 

          “A people of war is capable of destroying its own Motherland because hatred and lies destroy any state and any society,” Slosberg says, and “the Russian state is rapidly moving toward its own Nuremberg process, through war,” a movement that is “taking place each day and each hour.”

 

          “It is very difficult to stop,” he continues, as difficult as stopping a train coming out of the mountains out of control. And at present “there are very few people in Russia who are trying to stop this insanity.”  Is there any chance that they will be able to do so?

 

          “This is the question for the people of peace,” who in Russia today are far less numerous than “the people of war.”  But they should take courage from the following fact: “a soldier at war always listens to the voice of peace because he wants to live.” Because that is so, “it is wrong to be silent.”

 

Radical Islamists Seeking to Join and Use Tajikistan Communist Party

Paul Goble

 

            Staunton, January 31 – Shodi Shabdonolov, the head of the Communist Party of Tajikistan, says that followers of the Salafi trend of radical Islam have been trying to join his organization in the hopes of using it as a Trojan horse to advance their own interests against Dushanbe.

 

            In an interview with the Tajik Service of Radio Liberty, Shabdolov said that his party does not prevent Muslim believers from joining but will not admit anyone known to be a follower of a radical trend, especially one that has been illegal in his country since 2009 (rus.ozodi.org/content/article/26821684.html).

 

            The communist leader said that Salafis had many times attempted to join his organization’s ranks but that they had always been met with suspicion and not admitted. He said that he and his comrades want to do what they can to prevent the Salafis from acquiring yet another platform for disseminating their radical views.

 

            Radio Liberty noted that on Thursday, an Iranian news organization had reported that “members of extremist groups had been directed to penetrate officially functioning political organizations of Tajikistan in order to propagandize their views.” It is also possible that some of the Salafis involved in this effort may be Tajiks coming from Afghanistan.

 

            At present, the Communist Party of Tajikistan is the third largest party in that Central Asian country, behind the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the Islamic Party for the Rebirth of Tajikistan.