Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Russian Nationalist Says Non-Russian Republics with Ethnic Russian Majorities Must be Disbanded While Others Must be Supported

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 11 – A Russian nationalist has floated an idea that is superficially “democratic” but fundamentally imperialist and therefore remarkably like those hybrid ideas Vladimir Putin prefers. He says all non-Russian republics in which ethnic Russians form a majority must be disbanded while those with non-Russian majorities must be respected.

            Vladimir Basmanov, head of the Nation and Freedom Committee and secretary of the Central Organizing Committee for the Russian March, says that would be a democratic solution to the current intolerable situation because it would recognize the rights of the majority to run its own affairs in the federal subjects (idelreal.org/a/29608844.html).

            Under the terms of his proposal, the following non-Russian republics would be disbanded and their territories and populations amalgamated with neighboring predominantly ethnic Russian areas: Adygeya, Altai, Buryatia, Karelia, Khakassia, Komi, Mordvinia and Udmurtia. The other non-Russian republics would gain more state support and more autonomy.

            Basmanov is a frequent and harsh critic of Putin, but his idea is worthy of note because it is something that Putin might very well adopt in order to restart his currently stalled program to amalgamate the federal subjects, especially because its ostensibly democratic features would make it more difficult for democrats to criticize.

            But while it would be superficially democratic, such a program would in fact be profoundly imperialist, destroying the only protections some of these ethnic groups have and calling into the question the existence of other non-Russian republics as populations change or as the standard of “democracy” is applied.

            At the very least, radically multi-ethnic republics like Daghestan and all remaining bi-national republics (Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia) would be at risk as would those where the non-titular nationalities form a majority even if no one of them does as is the case in Bashkortostan.

            As such, Basmanov’s notion is worth keeping in mind because it is entirely possible that Putin or those close to him will pick up on it in the coming months, allowing the Kremlin leader to pick up support among some Russian nationalists by giving them something tangible as a result of coming down hard against the increasingly embattled non-Russians.

‘Russian Society’s Development Ever More in Conflict with Russian State’s Degradation,’ Sociologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 11 – Russian society is developing in ways that ever more frequently bring it into conflict with the degradation of the Russian state, sociologist Ella Paneyakh says. Up to now, the state has had the advantage but that is beginning to change with society more often able to win out against state interference.

            The St. Petersburg Higher School of Economics scholar says that these trends “may lead to an escalation of repression and the further tightening of the screws,” but they may also lead to “’a thaw,’” depending on which side wins out more often during the coming months (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/174514).

            And that highlights something few have been willing to acknowledge the full implications of, Paneyakh says: “The enemy of the authorities now does not consist of dissidents and human rights defenders but rather the very milieu in which easy coordination and mobilization of people who do not know one another has become possible.”

            Defeating that development, she continues, would require actions that would destroy far more than the regime wants to destroy. And the situation from the state’s perspective is only going to get worse given that ever more people are being swept up into this new communications revolution that the regime has promoted even though it fears the results.

            “Those who were apolitical yesterday massively go to the polls, having discovered the chance to oppose the outsiders the Kremlin has imposed in the second round: the public in the Internet, which yesterday hardly engaged in charity, in the course of a few days collects millions to cover the fine against The New Times, and the arrest of a well-known rapper” mobilizes millions more.

            According to Paneyakh, “tension is growing from two sides. “On the one hand, the government is increasing its pressure on society.”  But on the other, while the regime is focusing on the conventional political opposition, parents of school children and other groups outside of politics in the past are becoming political.

            “People living in Russia have become less ready to tolerate injustice and arrogance deployed against their interests” and are using social media to mobilize and take action. That and not some group of opposition figures is the real threat to the powers that be in Putin’s Russia at present, the sociologist continues.

            “The post-Crimea mobilization ‘around the flag’ has exhausted its potential,” and ever more people are displaying the attitudes which powered the protests of 2011-2012.  “While the regime struggles with Navalny and the network of his supporters,” the internet in all its forms has changed the population and its ability to respond.

            The problem for the powers that be, Paneyakh says, is that this infrastructure “is not the infrastructure of specific protest but the infrastructure of contemporary society and its economy as well.” Going after that to kill off protests will damage more than just the protester and that leaves the regime with few good choices.
            Nearly ever second Russian now has an account in social networks. Two out of three go to YouTube at least once a week; and any attack on their possibilities will redound against those who attack them because it will harm “the economy directly and the quality of life of all, both loyal and disloyal, as well as the future development of the country.”

Beijing Wants Moscow to Divert Siberian Water to China

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 11 – Ge Chili, director of the Russian-Chinese Strategic Investment Foundation, tells RBC that his group has asked Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to support a Chinese plan to construct a canal to divert water from the Altay region to China, a move that if Medvedev agrees seems certain to infuriate Russians and Siberians alike. 

            The idea was already discussed at the Shanghai Cooperation Council Summit in June 2018, he says, and “received political support.”  The 1200 to 1500 km canal would be built in two states. In the first, costing 10 to 13 billion US dollars, it would carry 600 to 700 million cubic meters of water a year (rbc.ru/business/10/12/2018/5bf67ef69a79475447e3f597).

                In the second stage, which would be built in the next two decades and cost 70 to 75 billion US dollars, it would lead to the flow of 1.8 to 2.4 billion cubic meters of water a year from Siberia to China, to be funded by international financial bodies like the IMF and World Bank. 

            China is desperate to find new sources of water, especially for its parched northern regions, Ge says.  Russian experts say they view the project as “realistic” as long as it doesn’t take more than one percent of the flow of water in the Altay water system, something that Chinese plans suggest is not a restrict Beijing cares very much about staying within.

            What is striking about this Chinese request and the apparently respectful response it is getting in Moscow is that the powers that be in the Russian capital appear to have forgotten what happened when they talked about diverting Siberian river water to Central Asian republics at the end of Soviet times.

            Then it provoked a serious reaction among Russian nationalists who viewed this idea as something that would lead to the destruction of the Russian village.  Now, with Moscow focused only on money, the Kremlin may very well go ahead.  But if it does, there will be an even more negative reaction because satisfying China will have negative consequences for Russia – and especially for Russian areas east of the Urals.