Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ukrainian Hackers Publish Surkov’s Plans to Destabilize Ukraine in Coming Months

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 25 – In a case where those who live by hacking may die by it, Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin’s point man on Ukrainian policy, has had his computer hacked by Ukrainian activists who have now posted online two documents detailing on the Kremlin plans to destabilize Ukraine over the next five months.

            A Ukrainian hacker group said yesterday that it had broken into the email accunt of Vladimir Surkov, Putin’s chief advisor on Ukraine and was now publishing two documents, one about Surkov’s plans for destabilizing Ukraine in the next three months and a second on forming a Transcarpathian Republic (cyberhunta.com/news/kiberhunta-peredaet-privet-surkovu/).

            While there is no way to independently confirm that the documents are in fact from Surkov’s email account, their level of specificity make them plausible and thus deserving of scrutiny. What will be potentially even more interesting is if CyberHunta publishes more such materials in the future as it promises to do.

            The first document is 15 pages long and lists a series of steps Russia should take between November 2016 and March 2017 to destabilize Ukraine and provoke new parliamentary and presidential elections. Among the steps listed are talks with Ukrainian opposition parties to organize protests in the form of a “Customs Maidan” in the second half of November.

            Other measures include activating some deputies in the Ukrainian parliament to expand corruption probes of the Ukrainian president and his team, and perhaps most worrying of all, “to introduce among volunteers [promoting these measures] one’s own people in order to sow panic, provoke church marches, and develop separatism in the regions.”

            The second, shorter document concerns Surkov’s ideas on how best to promote the formation of a Trans-Carpathian “republic” in cooperation with Hungarian groups in order to weaken Kyiv’s rule.

Children of Ethnically Mixed Marriages Should Be Raised as Orthodox Christians, Kazan Metropolitan Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 25 – Children born to ethnically mixed couples consisting of Tatars and ethnic Russians should be raised as Orthodox Christians, Metropolitan Feofan of Tatarstan and Kazan says; and if possible, this should be agreed to by the both members of the couple before they get married (golosislama.com/news.php?id=30382).

            On the one hand, this is little more than the standard view of the leaders of all confessions, although most of them suggest that the children should be involved in the choice. But on the other, it represents an effort by the Moscow Patriarchate to intervene in one of the most sensitive areas of life and to make religion more important than nationality. 

            In Soviet times, children of mixed Russian and non-Russian couples almost always had their children identified as ethnic Russians. Since 1991, however, that has changed, and where more often parents decide to have their children identified as members of the titular nationality of the country or republic in which they live.

            As a result, in the USSR, ethnically mixed marriages generally led to an increase in the number of ethnic Russians in the population from one generation to another; but in post-Soviet times, the reverse has been true particularly in non-Russian areas.  The metropolitan’s intervention is clearly intended to stem that.

            But it is striking that the Russian churchman did not refer to religiously mixed marriages where his remark might be more anodyne but to ethnically mixed ones, suggesting that in his view as in the view of many others, religion is the defining characteristic of ethnicity and that to be Orthodox is to be Russian.

            For some Tatars, Feofan is notorious for his pro-ethnic Russian positions. When he assumed his post, he referred to Kazan as “an immemorial Russian land.” He has promoted conversions of Muslims to Orthodoxy despite the Patriarchate’s official opposition to such things.      

            And even more than his predecessors, he has pushed for raising the status of the Kryashens, a ethnic community Tatar in culture and language but Orthodox Christian in religion, demanding that Kazan allow schools where the Kryashens live in compact majorities to be controlled by the Kryashens rather than by Tatar officials.

Russia Now Threatened by Something More Ancient than a New Middle Ages, Scholar Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 25 – “Not feudalism but something more ancient is knocking on Russia’s door,” according to Ulyana Nikolayeva, an economist at Moscow State University; and unless Russians face up to that, they are certain to draw the wrong conclusions about what should be done.

            In a 3800-word essay in “Nezavisimaya Gazeta-Stsenarii,” she argues that while many are inclined to assume that Russian society will go back to one of the immediately preceding stages, in fact, there is a risk that it may go much further back to the extreme diversity and violence of even earlier times (ng.ru/stsenarii/2016-10-25/9_6843_middleages.html).

            When in the 1990s, it became obvious that Russia, having ceased to be communist, wasn’t immediately going to become a liberal democratic free market system, many like Vladimir Shlyapentokh, David Satter and Simon Kordonsky expressed the view that Russia was on its road to a kind of neo-feudalism.

            They suggested that what were appearing in Russia at that time were “not capitalist classes but semi-feudal strata, that is, social groups which not only have different financial possibilities and economic resources but also possess in fact a different legal and power status” over all.

            In fact, Nikolayeva  says, what was and is going on is a far more thoroughgoing turn to the past, one that is best called “archaization,” which “is accompanied by the rebirth of social relations and forms typical for the very earlier stages of social development” including primary, pre-class and early class society.

            Far more than more modern societies, “archaic societies,” as ethnographers and anthropologists have shown, “were quite varied.” And what is significant now, she continues, is that “practically all these forms in one way or another are being reanimated in contemporary ‘transitional’ Russian society.”

            While many recognize aspects of this, few take them as pointing to a particular model, especially among social scientists who remain divided between those who believe in social progress and in a more or less common path of social development for all societies and those, a minority, who see each society as being unique throughout its developmental sequence.

            Despite that division, Nikolayeva continues, “all the basic discussions among economists and sociologists” are about the inter-relationship of economics, the political system and culture.  And when these discussions concern Russia, one must ask whether now any productive social activity can take place without archaic personal ties and the rituals that go with them.

            Those informal networks “give rise as well to the specific forms of social inequality in Russia. Only by belonging to power hierarchies and informal networks can an individual have the chance to be socially and economically successful,” even though many of these networks are taken from the distant past.

            But just as the Soviet system revived more than just the immediate past in the course of its construction, so too since 1991 the new Russian system has turned to some of the same more archaic forms of aggression, force and fear; and these things “touch ever more segments of life” in the country.

            As a result, she continues, there has been “a rebirth of a special mythological form of public consciousness of a form which arose at the earlier archaic (primary) stages of the development of society.” In it, “form always dominates over content,” a point of view that Russian media do much to promote.

            Such primitiveness of thought,  Nikolayeva suggests, “we see everywhere in present-day Russian realities from television and the football match … It only seems that we are all living in the 21st century.” In reality, “from the point of view of structure and content,” our consciousness “is not simply in the Middle ages but in primitive society.”

            “An individual with such an archaic consciousness isn’t capable of critical thought, calm analysis or the use of any complex logic. And this black and white vision of the surround world in today’s super-complicated one does not bode anything good for us,” the Moscow scholar argues.

            The reason that the Russian population was so disposed to turn to such primitive understandings is an outgrowth of the collapse of the Soviet system. That involved a collapse “not only of ideology and the country but a destruction of the entire existing system of values and customary norms of life.”

            It created a situation characterized, to use Emile Durkheim’s term, of anomie.  That involves a vacuum of values in which an individual finds it difficult if not impossible to live. “In such periods, the population begins to be drawn to the most readily available mental forms which have existed in a given culture during its past levels of development.”

            In Russia’s case, “this immediately threw social consciousness several levels back,” Nikolayeva says. Moreover, this trend “has been intensified also by the fact that the powers that be welcomed this” and promoted it by employing slogans that played to this primitive understanding of the world because that made Russia easier to rule.

            Tragically, she says, “for Russia with its complex history, such a strategy contains within itself an enormous danger because together with these archaic or pseud-historical forms of consciousness can be reborn and strengthen archaic and pre-law forms of social interaction”  that lead to the disintegration of society as such.

            Russia’s “present situation is far from unique.” It is true of many economically underdeveloped countries which have sought to impose market economics without market cultures.  Such “peripheral capitalism can turn even a comparatively flourishing country into poverty, lengthy economic stagnation, anomie, and spiritual degradation.”

            While it is not widely understood even among scholars, Nikolayeva says, Russia is on its way “not only and not so much to feudalism as such but to the most genuine archaic” forms, with many things people had though long discarded returning with new force.

            Of course, she says, Russians do not have to accept this. But they will only be able to fight against it if they understand what is going on.