Monday, March 25, 2019

Unlike Elsewhere in Russia, Yakutsk Actions Against Kyrgyz ‘Anti-Immigrant’ in Pure Form


Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 24 – The recent events in Yakutsk stand out because unlike elsewhere in Russia, they are “anti-immigrant in a pure form without any signs of racism,” because the Sakha and the Kyrgyz are of one race and speak closely related Turkic languages, Sergey Baymukhametov says. 

            Elsewhere in Russia, the commentator points out, local protests against immigrants are usually mixed with racism. Thus, Muscovites are upset by the arrival of Central Asians and Caucasians but not by that of Belarusians or Ukrainians (newizv.ru/news/society/24-03-2019/yakutskiy-sindrom-kogda-nechem-gorditsya-nado-unizhat-drugih).

            This suggests two things, both of which are worrisome, Baymuhametov says. On the one hand, it almost certainly means that the crime the Kyrgyz migrant worker has been accused of committing was only an occasion for the protests and not the cause and that the authorities played up this case to redirect the anger of the population away from themselves.

            And on the other, this demonstration of the ability of the authorities to do that suggests that as things deteriorate, officials elsewhere in Russia will be able to use the media and other means to channel the anger of the population against immigrants even of culturally and linguistically similar groups, like the Ukrainians and Belarusians for Russians.

            To the extent that is true, the commentator suggests, that will mean that even if Moscow is able to draw most of the ten million from such closely related nations, such selection by itself will not be sufficient to avoid the spread of xenophobia and attacks on outsiders to those groups as well.

            He cites the words of Levada Center sociologist Lev Gudkov: “People will not risk speaking out against the authorities. Instead, they will shift their anger to more suitable figures. That is a typical transference of aggression: if you have nothing to be proud of, you need to humiliate others.”

Protesters in Russia Today Younger, Poorer and Further Left than a Decade Ago, Sociologists Say


Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 24 – Sociologists like Oleg Zhuravlyev of Tyumen University say that there has been a major shift in the composition and attitudes of Russian protesters over the last decade. Compared to 2011-2013, protesters are significantly younger, from poorer groups, and further to the left. 

            Those taking part in the earlier demonstrations against election fraud, he and other sociologists say, were middle class, averaging between 25 and 40 years of age, and with higher educations. Those doing so now are much poorer, much younger, and with as yet no higher education (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-протестное-движение-молодеет-левеет-и-беднеет).

            Many who took part in the earlier protests had something to lose and thus were profoundly affected by repressions against them. Those, far more that the “Crimea is ours” euphoria reduced their ranks, Zhuravlyev says. Indeed, many of those who did take part regardless of their views on Crimea felt their protests were separate from that issue.

            There were significant numbers of young people in the 2011-2013 protests, but they took their lead from the adults. Now that has changed, the sociologists say. Most of them now act without considering the positions of the older generation, taking part in or even organizing protests on their own. 

            They have less to lose and are more influenced by the actions of other young people in much the same way as has been true in other countries. On the one hand, if protests are happening, they want to be part of that; and on the other, they will participate even if they are not all that enamored of the leaders.

            As some young people put it, in Zhuravlyev’s words, “we do not like Navalny personally but today this is the only mass opposition protest going.”

            This politicization of young people, the sociologist continues, is in no way surprising. In contrast to their parents, they grew up at a time when protests were part of their lives. “Today’s youths,” he says, “are growing up in a politicized milieu, unlike their older brothers and sisters” and they feel that they can protest with much greater impunity.

            Sociological studies also show that the composition of protesters is changing not only as far as age structure is concerned but also by their social status. If the 2011-2013 demonstrations were dominated by the middle class, more recent ones have sprung from those lower down the social pyramid. 

            As ever more poor people have come to take part, Zhuravlyev says, there has been a marked shift in protests away from middle class issues like ecology to left-wing causes like social equality and benefits.  The failure of the leaders of the pension protests to tap into this kept those demonstrations from becoming as massive as they might have been.

            As protesters have become younger, poorer, and further left, Zhuravlyev says, they have also become more dependent on leaders to organize the demonstrations even if those taking part do not always support such people. And that gives the new protests a more populist and less elitist character than the actions of 2011-2013.

            It is possible this pattern will change if the middle class reenters the protest movement, the sociologist says; but at present, those taking to the streets are sufficiently different from those who did so earlier as a result represent a different and potentially greater challenge to the regime, one more class-based and more radical even if superficially less threatening to the powers.

Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea has Cost Russia 23.5 Billion US Dollars, Aleksashenko Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 24 – The costs of Vladimir Putin’s Crimean Anschluss are incalculable because they involve international isolation and the stunted development of the Russian economy and Russian society, but efforts to measure the costs, direct and indirect continue, a reflection of the fact that ever more Russians see Crimea as a burden rather than an achievement.

            The latest such effort is by Russian economist Sergey Aleksashenko who has prepared a book-length study on the subject, a portion of which has been published in advance by Forbes (forbes.ru/obshchestvo/373707-cena-krymskoy-zagoguliny-ekonomist-aleksashenko-o-tom-vo-skolko-oboshlos-rossii).

            He says that very crudely, Crimea has already cost Russia 1.5 trillion rubles (23.5 billion US dollars) or approximately 10,000 rubles (160 US dollars) for every Russian man, woman and child.  To put that in perspective: Crimea has cost what Moscow spends on education over two years or on health care for three years or on culture for 15 years.

            Or, and this is the most dramatic figure, the Crimea costs are equal to what the Russian government spends on the Academy of Sciences for a total of 357 years, Aleksashenko says. Despite these figures, however, polls show that a majority of Russians (70 percent) currently do not think the annexation has had a negative impact on their lives.

            But the drumbeat of such assessments, showing that Moscow is sending more money to Crimea than it is on many more immediate social and economic needs of Russians may change that, especially if economic conditions in Russia continue to deteriorate.