Friday, August 12, 2022

Moscow's Repressive Policies Behind Decline in Russian Nationalist Violence over Last Decade, Verkhovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 19 – Violent actions by Russian nationalist groups rose between the mid-1990s given the high level of violence in society as a whole and the popularity of neo-Nazi ideology, and then this number declined “mainly due to successful repressive policies” by the Russian government, Aleksandr Verkhovsky says.

            No other factor played a significant role either in the rise of fall of ideologically motivated violence by Russian nationalist groups, the head of the SOVA Center which monitors extremist groups and government policies in response to them says (sociodigger.ru/3d-flip-book/2022vol3-19/ and sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2022/08/d46777/).

            A major reason that this shift could happen so quickly and so dramatically, Verkhovsky says, is that most Russian nationalists given to violence are younger than 25 and constantly being renewed. “As a result, the young and radical part of the movement more rapidly reacts to various factors than does the more moderate and older one.”

            Thus, “the use of force in Russian nationalism was transformed quite quickly,” with it being a central driving force before 2007 and an ever more marginal one after that time. Before that date, Russian nationalists often engaged in violence; after that, they rarely did, with court cases about violent crimes in the first period and extremism in the second.

            And this decline in the level of violence as a result of the government’s repressive approach also helps to explain why the flow of ultra-right Russian nationalists to fight against Ukraine in 2022 has been an order of magnitude smaller than was the case only eight years ago when many Russian nationalists went to fight in the Donbass.

            At present, the Russian government has put violent Russian nationalists back in the bottle by adopting a harsh line to any such action; but as Verkhovsky acknowledges, its success could change rapidly to failure precisely because of the replacement of one group of young nationalists by another who are less impressed by the widespread use of police power.

Global Warming Could Overwhelm Russia with Migrants from World Hot Spots, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 17 – There is broad agreement that global warming will help Russia in the short and medium term even though it will likely lead to the collapse of existing infrastructure in part of the North. But in the longer term, global warming may play an evil trick on the country when tens of millions of people from places so hot as to be unlivable seek to enter its territory.

            That is the judgment of Yevgeny Kuznetsov, a futurologist who has founded the Orbita Capital Partners. Noting that in the next 50 years, one to three billion residents of the earth are likely to find themselves in places where global warming has made their lives impossible (profile.ru/economy/klimaticheskaya-krivaya-kak-severnoe-polozhenie-rossii-opredelit-ee-budushhee-1135641/).

            Russia is one of the few places where the climate is likely to improve and where there is sufficient vacant land for people to move into. As a result, somewhere between 20 and 200 million of those displaced by global warming are likely to try to move to the Russian Federation, Kuznetsov says.

            How the country will cope with this influx, he continues, is a question for which he has no answer. But one thing is clear: if Russia has a positive image by that time, it may attract the most highly skilled of those displaced by climate; if it doesn’t, it may see a concentration of unskilled or low skilled workers on its territory, a development that will hold back development.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

‘Ethnic Enclaves Becoming a Reality in Russia,’ ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 18 – Russian officials and following them Russian scholars have long insisted that there are no ghettoes or “ethnic enclaves” in the cities of the Russian Federation even though the influx of migrants from Central Asia, the Caucasus and parts of the Russian Federation has made their denial increasingly unsustainable.

            (On the history of fights over the use of these terms in Russia over the last decade, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/02/kremlin-edges-toward-admitting-russian.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/02/ghettos-without-borders-appearing-in.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/01/moscow-may-not-yet-have-ethnic-ghettos.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/12/moscow-now-at-risk-of-ethnic.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/05/window-on-eurasia-russia-again-risks.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/02/window-on-eurasia-ghetto-for.html.)

            Now, Yekaterina Trifonova of Nezavisimaya gazeta has admitted there is no basis for denying the obvious and openly concedes that “ethnic enclaves are becoming a reality in Russia” (ng.ru/politics/2022-07-21/1_8493_enclave.html). whether other Russian writers will follow her lead or whether the protectors of Russia’s reputation will attack and silence her.

            She makes this acknowledgement during a discussion of what share of crimes migrants are responsible for, a frequently cited and extremely sensitive figure that politicians across the political spectrum fasten on without always understanding what kinds of crimes are involved, where they take place, and who are the victims.

            Because migrants are concentrated in a few cities and absent in most of the country, the four percent increase in crimes among them now regularly cited by the media is like “the average temperature in a hospital,” Mikhail Burda, an instructor at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, says. It doesn’t tell much about conditions in the big cities.

            Nor does this number or others like it speak to the way that crimes by immigrants affect the level of tension in society or the way that it predisposes immigrant workers and their families to live together in order to protect themselves from the anger of others, he continues. And it ignores that many immigrants are illegal and thus producing crime by their mere presence.

            Georgy Fedorov, head of the Aspect Center for Social and Political Research, says this alone causes the migrants to seek out others of their kind and to form “ethnic enclaves” where they can run their lives according to their own rules rather than be subjected by the rules of Russian law enforcement – and that too adds to their reported “criminality.”

            In commenting on the situation, Aleksey Yegorkin, a civic activist, argues that many of the crimes arise from fights among immigrants for territory and status or from clashes with the indigenous ethnic Russian majority. To deal with this, he calls for taking steps to promote “forced assimilation” of certain categories of immigrants.

            If his advice is heeded, that alone will likely lead not only to more conflicts between migrants and the majority population but also to their desire to live separately in ethnic enclaves if they in fact want to remain in the Russian Federation at all.

Uzbek Constitutional Changes about More than Term Limits and Karakalpakstan’s Right to Secede, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 18 – Most analysts have focused only on two aspects of proposed constitutional changes in Uzbekistan, their potential to zero-out term limits on the current president and thus allow him to rule for life and their plan, since reversed, to drop a provision which gives Karakalpakstan the right to seek independence via a referendum.

            But as the Central Asian Bureau for Analytic Research points out, there are more changes being proposed and the process by which they will likely be adopted raises important questions about politics in that Central Asian country (cabar.asia/ru/novye-popravki-v-konstitutsiyu-uzbekistana-neobhodimost-ili-zhelanie-vlastej-sohranit-svoj-status-kvo-i-privilegii).

            Some of the proposed changes are entirely welcome such as introducing a permanent ban on the death penalty and limiting the ability of the authorities to control the Internet or confiscate property without court orders. But in most cases, these are steps the authorities could have taken legislatively without constitutional amendment.

            What is most important, the CABAR analysis says, is that Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev decided that the population must be involved via a referendum after the various proposals were reviewed and collected in a single document. The date for that vote has not yet been announced, but it is expected to take place before the end of the year.

            What is clearly going on, analysts like Temur Umarov and Yury Sarukhanyan say, is that Mirziyoyev wants to look good internationally by staging a referendum even though it is already clear that he will get the approval of a majority of anything he offers even though Uzbeks won’t be allowed to pick and choose about the various innovations.

            Sarukhanyan for his part suggests that this may mean that a struggle is still going on behind the scenes about how the next Uzbek succession will occur. Mirziyoyev may not be certain about all the players and so is using the amendment process including a referendum to find out  more. 

Russian Security Council Proposal Opens the Way for Oppression of All but Traditional Faiths, Some Religious Leaders Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 18 – Experts at the Russian Security Council are calling for broad new investigations into the foreign ties of religious groups lest the latter be used by foreign governments against Russia, an appeal that some religious leaders say opens the way for a witch hunt against members of such groups.

            Moreover, they add, it divides Russians into two groups, those who are members of the four traditional faiths the Russian government recognizes as such plus those who are not members of any church and those who are members of denominations the government views as having foreign ties (ng.ru/ng_religii/2022-07-19/9_533_experts.html).

            The former will be fully protected, the advisors to the Russian Security Council say; but the latter will be subject to intense legal scrutiny because in the words of Roman Lunkin, a specialist on religion at the Moscow Institute of Europe, no one should be allowed to engage in attacks on the government under a claim of constitutionally-established religious liberty.

            According to Roman Silantyev, a specialist on Islam long rumored to be close to the FSB, this long-overdue step will help the government combat a situation in which some religious minorities are fighting against the regime not only with words but even with arms in their hands in Ukraine.

            Konstantin Bendas, bishop of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians, however, disagrees. He says that what the Council is urging sets the stage for a witch hunt among religious people in Russia and that the definition in law of terms like “traditional religion” and “religious extremism” will only make the current situation worse.

            “I won’t be surprised,” the bishop says, if this proposal is followed by one calling for the creation of some kind of special state organ with its own budget and broad authority” that the Russian leadership will then deploy against any religion it doesn’t like or threaten to, thus spreading fear through all who aren’t passive followers of whatever the Kremlin wants.

Russians May Not ‘Want War’ in the Abstract But They View It as an Entirely Legitimate Way to Achieve Their Goals, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 18 – Russians may not “want war” in any abstract sense, but they are more than ready to engage in it if their leaders call for war because they view such action as an entirely legitimate way to achieve their goals, Vladimir Pastukhov says. And that means they are predisposed to war just as some people are more at risk of catching this or that disease.

            Putin and his team in the Kremlin understand this far better than do anti-war Russian intellectuals, the London-based Russian analyst says.  Indeed, “the Russian intelligentsia is much more isolated from the realities of Russian society than the vaunted Russian ‘political leadership’” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=62EE885500D96).

            Putin recognizes as the intelligentsia does not that the Russian people are predisposed to war and that all they need is someone to trigger than impulse. In the current context, he is the trigger; but the underlying cause is the attitude Russians as a nation have long had about how they can and should deal with others.

Only Four Percent of Ukrainians Still Identify as Followers of Moscow Orthodox Church, Survey Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 7 –The share of Ukrainians identifying as members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has fallen from 18 to four percent over the last year while those that of those saying they are followers of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has risen from 42 percent to 54 percent, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology says.

            Those poll figures are a better measure of the relative standing of the Russian church and the autocephalous Ukrainian one than the number of parishes and bishoprics of the two, numbers that remain far closer and are regularly cited (thinktanks.by/publication/2022/08/07/v-ukraine-rezko-vyroslo-chislo-ateistov.html).

            To be sure, some of this decline in the number of adherents to the Russian church reflects the fact that the survey could not be conducted in areas in the eastern portion of Ukraine now under the control of Russian aggressors. But the shift is still impressive and means that the autocephalous church is now vastly larger and more important in Ukraine than the Moscow one.

            At the same time, the survey by the authoritative Kyiv polling agency found that the share of Ukrainians identifying as atheists rose over the past year from four percent to 17 percent, an apparent contradiction of the widely held view that there are now atheists in the foxholes of a country at war.