Wednesday, December 7, 2022

A Russian Demand for the Mobilization of Non-Russians Once Led to the Appearance of a Theocratic State

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 6 – Most discussions about the nature of the states likely to emerge with the disintegration of the Russian Federation assume that they will share many common features either because of their common past in Putin’s Russia or because the desires of their leaders to retain power or their peoples to integrate in the Western world.

            Such assumptions are likely correct, but they need to be tempered by the possibility that some of the new states that may emerge, at least initially, may be far more different from the rest that at least for a time their neighbors and the rest of the world will be compelled to deal with entities radically different from themselves.

            That possibility is suggested by what happened after the collapse of the Russian Empire at the time of the 1917 revolution when during the Russian Civil War various leaders and peoples tried out a variety of ideas for the organization of states, ideas that had been forgotten in the intervening period but are now beginning to be recalled.

            One of the most unusual was the effort of some Buryats to create “a theocratic state like Tibet,” Marina Aronova of the Sibreal portal says. But it may have new relevance because of how this happened (sibreal.org/a/kak-edinstvennaya-v-rossii-teokratiya-voznikla-v-otvet-na-mobilizatsiyu/30417832.html).

            In a 3000-word article detailing this case, the journalist notes that “in the summer of 1918, during the civil war, Khorin Buryats in response to a mobilization declared by the Military-Revolutionary staff of the Transbaikal, at a local congress adopted a resolution about the liberation of Buryats from the draft into the so-called Red horsemen, the Ulan Tagdy.”

            That action, Aronova continues, “became the first step toward the establishment on the territory of Buryata of the first theocratic state like Tibet on the territory of Russia. It existed for several years until it was destroyed by the OGPU,” the successor to the Cheka and the predecessor of the KGB and today’s FSB.

            What makes her report especially noteworthy is this move to create a theocratic regime came in response to a Bolshevik effort to mobilize the Buryats. Given how angry some Buryats have been about Putin’s more recent partial mobilization, it is not impossible that they are thinking about the long-ago events Aronova recounts.

Russia’s Next President won’t have to Think: He or She will Simply have to Do the Opposite of What Putin has Done, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 6 – According to an anecdote currently circulating in Moscow, Russians feel that their country’s next president will have it easy. He or she won’t have to come up with a new program or even think about what to do. Instead, the new will simply have to remember what Putin has done and then do exactly the reverse.

            Other jokes and anecdotes assembled by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova this week (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/44588/-) include the following.

·       Putin hasn’t yet called French President Macron, the Kremlin says, because the Kremlin leader can’t yet reach the phone at the end of his long desk.

·       Putin better hurry up with plans to visit Donbass. Otherwise, he may miss his chance just as he did when he didn’t go to Kherson in a timely fashion.

·       An Oryol KPRF deputy has called for sending stray dogs carrying explosives to be sent to Ukraine to blow up that country’s tanks. Local people say that that idea should lead to another: the deputy should be sent to Ukraine carrying explosions on his back instead of the dogs and he should wear a poster declaring ‘For Putin and the Rothenbergs!’

·       The fact that Russian television is now talking about building bomb shelters in Russian cities shows that Putin really did have a plan and that he is a genius who foresaw a development that no mere mortal thought possible.

·       When Putin was caught driving a Mercedes across the Kerch bridge, his spokesman explained that this was all the fault of Beijing: ‘These Chinese have failed again to meet all the deadlines for delivering domestic products to us.’

‘A Cold Civil War has Already Begun in Russia,’ Karatsuba Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 6 – Many have been surprised that growing popular unhappiness with the war in Ukraine and the situation in Russia itself has not sparked mass protests and have sought to explain it by pointing to the government’s repression, the absence of a tradition of civic cooperation and of people to lead demonstrations, and the sense most have that protesting is dangerous and won’t change anything.

            All those things are true, historian Irina Karatsuba says; but to understand what is going on it is necessary to recognize that there is a distinctly Russian tradition of expressing anger and unhappiness and that it has been very much on display since Putin began his war and especially since he declared partial mobilization.

            As a result, she says, it is fair comment to say that Russians are expressing their opposition in ways fully consistent with these traditions and that at the present time, “a cold civil war has already begun in Russia” (sibreal.org/a/russkoe-gosudarstvo-kak-vampir/32162906.html).

            In the face of trauma and repression, Russians typically have sought to protect themselves individually either by offering to the powers what they want, passive acceptance, or by fleeing from the state as far as they possibly can, either through withdrawal into their private worlds or flight.

            Both these tactics have been on view this year, Karatsuba says. Russians have withdrawn into their own worlds complaining only when their direct personal interests are affected as by mobilization but not protesting against the war itself because such actions they know from experience won’t work and may land them in trouble.

            And Russians have fled the country, continuing a long tradition extending back half a millennium in which people who didn’t like what the powers were doing would leave, to Siberia or to other countries.  Hundreds of thousands have done so and that is no small thing as a form of protest.

            But there are others. Russians often demand that those mobilized be treated properly because that is about something that affects them directly. Only a saintly few take the risk to protest about the war as such given the near certainty that they will be punished for doing so by the authorities.

            As she puts it, “a protest about ‘making our preparation for murdering other people more comfortable for us’ also requires a certain courage. It of course is an act of sublimation, but people somehow are protesting. And the main thing is that such protests can serve as a training ground for other” more general protests in the future.

            But even passive acceptance does not mean support, Karatsuba says. Her contacts with many people from Russia’s smaller cities show that “there, there is no enormous support for the war. Yes, there are Z patriots, but they are few. The majority understand the cost of what is going on, but they are silent.

            They suffer from fear for themselves and those close them and a sense that any protest would fail and only get them into trouble. To use Steinbeck’s expression, “’the grapes of wrath’ are ripening,” but they are not yet fully so and ready to burst. That so many have fled and that so few are enthusiastic shows that.

            She says she feels the regime has entered its final agony in much the same way that she knows that the regime of Nicholas II did after three years of a horrific war. The fact that many in the Kremlin are now obsessed about the risk of facing a tribunal shows that even at the center of power people are afaraid.

            Karatsuba says that she doesn’t like the expression that history repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce. Instead, she says, she prefers a line that belongs to Andrey Knyshev. He said that “history repeats itself three time: once as a tragedy and twice for those to stupid to understand” and must have things repeated again and again.

After Putin, Russia Must Go Through Something Like America Did after the Revolution, Ponomaryov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 6 – After the Americans defeated Britain in their revolution, their states were part of a confederation from which each was free to leave. Because that system did not solve their problems and no one chose to leave, they then created a federal state which tied them together more firmly, Ilya Ponomaryov observes.

            In the future, Russia will need to go through something similar, the organizer of the recent meeting of the Congress of Peoples Deputies says, although in his view it is likely that some but far from all of the republics and regions now within the borders of Russia will decide to leave (idelreal.org/a/32155601.html).

            If such choices are made democratically, Ponomaryov says, he is all in favor of allowing these republics and regions to leave and opposes any notion that Russians should fight to block them from exiting. But as for himself, he favors keeping as much of the country together as agrees to remain in the hope of building a large and flourishing country.

            As such, he is positioning himself between the liberal imperialists who talk about transforming Russia rather than allowing its disintegration and the regionalist and republic activists who believe that the only way they can be free and democratic is if they are independent of Moscow.

            According to Ponomaryov, both these groups suffer from a problem of unrepresentativeness. The leaders of the liberal imperialists often speak only for themselves, and the regionalist and republic activist often live and work abroad and amount to no more than handful of people.

            He argues that his Congress of Peoples Deputies as it grows in size will reflect a diversity of views on Russia’s future and should not be seen as part of the liberal imperialist project or as backers of regionalist and republic secession. Instead, it includes some who favor one of these options and others who favor the others. That will become clear in time.

            Ponomaryov says he personally backs those in Ukraine who want to recognize the Republic of Chechnya-Ichkeria because its people have fought two wars and have shown their commitment to a government now in exile. At the same time, he opposes extending recognition to other republics and republics because they lack that experience.

            Asked about how soon any of these challenges are likely to come to a head, Ponomaryov says that the war in Ukraine soon “will end with the defeat of Russia, the physical destruction of Putin and, I think he won’t live until his next birthday. That is my prediction.”

70 Percent of Russia’s Afghan and Chechen War Veterans Suffered from PTSD, and the Figure for Its Ukrainian War Vets May be as High

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 6 – According to a 2015 Serbsky Institute report, 70 percent of the Russian veterans of fighting in Afghanistan and Chechnya suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seldom got the necessary treatment, and engaged in self-destructive and often criminal behavior (kommersant.ru/doc/2691719).

            Now, Russian experts say, an equally large share of the 300,000 plus Russians who have taken part in Putin’s war in Ukraine may suffer from the same disorder and the same consequences because once again the Russian authorities have failed to provide the support these men need (themoscowtimes.com/2022/12/05/scarred-by-war-returning-russian-soldiers-struggle-to-adapt-to-civilian-life-a79550).

            So far, few combatants have returned to Russia except those who have been wounded because the Russian command facing shortages of men cannot afford to allow for the kind of rotations many might have expected. But when larger numbers do return, that will constitute a serious threat to Russian social stability and even the political system itself.

Ever More Russians Think Russia Shouldn’t have Started Ukrainian War, but Ever More Think It has No Choice but to Continue, Kremlin’s Own Polls Show

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 6 – Since February, the Kremlin has ordered special confidential telephone polls of 900 people each week about whether Moscow should have launched the war in the first place, whether it is “going according to plan,” and “whether it should be continued,” Farida Rustamova and Maksim Tovkaylo of The Moscow Times report.

            The two have just gained access to some of these findings and among the most interesting they report is that these polls show that ever more Russians think Moscow should never have begun the war but that ever more believe that the country must continue the war and stay the course (themoscowtimes.com/2022/12/06/what-secret-russian-state-polling-tells-us-about-support-for-the-war-a79596).

            The share of Russians saying that “Putin did the right thing by starting the conflict” is now ten percentage points less than it was six months ago, 60 percent as of mid-November compared to 50 percent earlier, with as one would expect young people becoming more critical while older ones remained more supportive.

            But despite that trend, two out of every three Russians as of November 17 “supported continuing the fight.” Only 18 percent want Moscow to end the war, “the lowest number in six months, Rusamova and Tovkaylo say. This pattern holds, they say, “among both younger and older respondents.”

            Russian political scientist Yekaterina Schulmann suggests that “people are taking a ‘we shouldn’t have started it but we must go on’ attitude because they realize Russia is losing.” Because Russians feel that, they also feel that “the military operation must not end now – ‘we can’t leave when we’re losing,’” reflecting fears about “the consequences of military defeat.”

            She adds: “these polls reflect a Russian society inert and frightened, a country with a broken back … This is not bad news for the authoritarian political model since you can do anything with citizens like this – everything except mobilize” as the authorities are finding out now.

Dissernet Now Focusing Not Only on Plagiarism but on Hatred Narratives in Scholarly Works

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 6 – Since Vladimir Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine in February, Dissernet activists who have attracted attention by exposing plagiarism in the dissertations and publications of officials and scholars has refocused its efforts to track hatred narratives contained in such publications, Andrey Zayakin says.

            The group’s co-founder, charged with being “a foreign agent” and forced to emigrate, describes this shift to the 7x7 news agency (semnasem.org/articles/2022/12/06/narrativ-nenavisti-nash-glavnyj-predmet-issledovaniya-soosnovatel-disserneta-andrej-zayakin-o-rabote-volnogo-setevogo-soobshestva-posle-nachala-vooruzhennogo-konflikta-v-ukraine).

            Dissernet, Zayakin says, “continues to examine scholarly works for plagiarism;” but under conditions of war, its activists felt that it was necessary to examine a second issue: “how closely our scholarship and academic community in the social scientists has been involved” in preparing and prosecuting this conflict.

            Some of what they have found, he continues, undoubtedly is a response to what officials are doing; but some of it may have autonomously developed and even anticipated and influenced what those officials have chosen to do. Consequently, it is important to track what is going on in order to have some idea about this relationship.

            And there is an additional reason as well, Zayakin says. A nation must know its heroes and its villains; and those who work in the academic milieu and think they can escape examination for works that are little more than vicious advocacy for military action and worse must be exposed and held accountable.