Friday, October 7, 2022

Since Mobilization Order, Russians have Begun to Live More Like Soviets Did, Figures Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 29 – Since Putin’s mobilization order, Russians have begun to live more like their Soviet predecessors, going to restaurants and cafes less often but when they can spending far more on air tickets to get out of the country, a pattern that was true last spring after his invasion of Ukraine began but that had been reversed over the summer.

            “These changes,” Vitaly Grankin of the Rosbalt news agency says, “are more expressive of popular attitudes than are the general figures for spending. Russians have not only begun to live more modestly but to return to the consumer habits of Soviet people who … generally didn’t have many of the habits of post-Soviet people” (rosbalt.ru/russia/2022/09/29/1975795.html).

            Because of inflation, this process of cutting back has been going on for some time, the commentator says, but the Sovietization of the daily behavior of Russians has increased significantly since the mobilization order and gives every sign of continuing well into the future as well.

            This doesn’t mean that Russia is about to return to Soviet conditions in all respects, Grankin continues, but it does set the stage for further Sovietization of behavior and attitudes and what is perhaps most worrisome, Soviet behavior and attitudes like those before Khrushchev’s times rather than later.

            For as he concludes, this “return to Soviet habits of daily life is taking place literally in all directions. In the best case, it will not be quick and citizens will learn how to adapt in a timely fashion” to what they appear to think is coming.

Despite Small Numbers Involved, Moscow Worried about Loss of Orthodox Parishes in Baltic Countries

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 4 – Even though the number of parishes in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania currently subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate totals only a few more than 200, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian government are worried by moves in all three countries to break ties between these parishes and their hierarches at the ROC MP.

            Among the most important reasons for this is that the three countries provide alternative models on how to go about this, thus raising the possibility that Orthodox churches in other countries will choose them as models and thus reduce the presence of the ROC MP abroad more seriously and transform the Moscow church into a narrowly national one.

            And that has created an unusual situation: while there have been moves in all three countries to reduce or even break ties between Orthodox churches in all three, moves that are likely to intensify in the future, the Moscow Patriarchate has been restrained in its reaction lest it provide support for the view in the Baltic countries that its churches are agents of Moscow.

            Moscow’s remarkably low profile given Baltic moves and especially Riga’s efforts (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/09/exploiting-caesaro-papist-nature-of.html) is a striking indication of how things have changed with the Russian world and its religious component outside the current borders of the Russian Federation.

            In the past, the Moscow Patriarchate spoke out frequently and harshly to any move against it, but now it appears to have concluded that the only way it has any hope of surviving is by avoiding doing anything that would highlight the way in which its churches abroad serve not religious needs but Russian state interests (ng.ru/ng_religii/2022-10-04/9_538_variants.html).

            Whether that presages a broadscale shift in the Moscow Patriarchate’s position or is possible only where the number of parishes and bishoprics is relatively small as in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania remains to be seen, but it suggests that the Russian church is losing ground and is now trying to figure out how to cope with that reality.

New Research Highlights Past Tatar Dominance of Orenburg Corridor

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 2 – The Orenburg or Kudymkar Corridor, the land between the republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan now within the Russian Federation, on the one hand, and Kazakhstan, on the other, has long been a sensitive issue for Moscow and for nationalist groups in the two Idel-Ural republics.

            When Stalin drew the borders of these two Russian republics and Kazakhstan, he made sure that there was an ethnic Russian corridor between them because according to his constitution, non-Russian areas could become union republics only if they had an external border and thus have the right to secede from the USSR.

            But because the area of this corridor was earlier dominated by Muslim Turkic groups and became predominantly Russian, Bashkirs and Tatars never forgot it and hoped they could recover such a land bridge to the outside world and thus lay the groundwork for their own eventual independence.

            Over the last several years, their interest in the corridor has grown with Ukrainian officials taking up the cudgels on their behalf given that if that corridor were bridged, Russia would be significantly weakened (jamestown.org/program/the-orenburg-corridor-and-the-future-of-the-middle-volga/, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/11/orenburg-corridor-threatens-russia-more.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/03/moscow-analyst-denounces-kazakh.html, and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/01/ukrainian-interest-in-orenburg-corridor.html).

            Because current borders mean that Bashkirs have a more immediate interest, there has been more talk about this corridor in Ufa than in Kazan. But that may be about to change. A group of Tatar scholars has gone to the region to examine grave markers there and concluded that the corridor remains part of “the Tatar world” (business-gazeta.ru/article/565535).

            Given the new fluidity in thinking in both Idel-Ural and Kazakhstan, the possibility of closing the Orenburg corridor and the opening of the possibility of independence for the republics of the Middle Volga is likely to be fueled by what might otherwise appear to be a narrowly academic study.  

Ilin Putin’s Favorite Philosopher Because of Their Common Obsession that Russia Could Fall Apart

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 2 – Ivan Ilin, whose words Vladimir Putin cited most recently in his speech on the annexation of four Ukrainian territories, has often been identified as the Kremlin leader’s favorite philosopher, but typically, analysts have suggested that his admiration for the Russian philosopher is rooted in Ilin’s admiration for fascism as a political system.

            But Vladimir Marchenko, the political observer for Kazan’s Business Online portal, argues that the real reason Putin admires the Russian political philosopher is their shared obsession with the risk that Russia could disintegrate and their commitment to do whatever it takes to prevent that (business-gazeta.ru/article/565537).

            To the extent the Kazan commentator is correct, Putin’s belief in authoritarianism like Ilin’s is not primary but rather a reflection of these fears, something that sets both men apart from other Russian thinkers who have flirted with fascism and explains why Putin is committed to overcoming divisions in Russia even by force to prevent disintegration.

            (For discussions on Putin’s longstanding interest in Ilin and the philosopher’s influence on him, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/04/russian-fascist-ivan-ilin-obvious.html,  windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/01/window-on-eurasia-kremlins-disturbing.html, and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/02/war-in-ukraine-direct-result-of-russias.html.).

Mobilization Order Hurting Russian Healthcare Less than Putin’s Optimization Already Has, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 28 – Vladimir Putin plans to mobilize up to 3,000 Russian doctors to support his military campaign in Ukraine, Dmitry Khubezov, head of the Duma’s healthcare committee, a number that both reflects the combat losses Russia has suffered and inflicts more harm on the Russian healthcare system.

            But as serious as that impact will be, Andrey Konovalov, leader of a doctor’s union, says, it pales in comparison with the effects of Putin’s healthcare optimization program which has led to the close of many medical points and left Russians outside the major cities without access to healthcare (nakanune.ru/articles/119621/).

            “The doctor shortage in Russia is growing,” he continues, and what money the government has put into the branch has gone not toward eliminating that shortage but rather to rebuilding facilities and purchasing equipment, money that thus goes to contractors rather than to improving medical care.

            That does not mean that anyone should ignore the impact of Putin’s latest action in this area but rather view it in the context of the Kremlin leader’s destruction of the already overextended and hard-pressed medical system. Whether this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back very much remains to be seen.

            But it is certain that at least in some regions, healthcare will continue to decline and mortality rates grow, precisely opposite to what the government is claiming and yet another cost of Putin’s war in Ukraine that Russians across the country will be feeling directly on their own skins.

Buryats, Kalmyks and Tuvins Fleeing to Avoid Mobilization and ‘Preserve Future of Their Nations’ – and Mongolia and Kazakhstan are Helping Them

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 1 – Russians and non-Russians have tended to respond to Putin’s mobilization order in different ways, with the more atomized Russians choosing to flee and the more ethnically consolidated non-Russians to protest (jamestown.org/program/are-non-russians-putins-primary-domestic-target-for-war-effort-or-simply-collateral-damage/).

            But that is only true when comparing all of the one against all of the others. Many Russians have protested and many non-Russians have chosen to flee, although this action of the latter has attracted less attention and appears often to have been taken for collective rather than individual reasons.

            Three of the non-Russian minorities whose members have chosen to flee are the Buryats, Kalmyks and Tuvins, all Muslim nationalities far from Moscow. They have been helped by individuals and groups within their ranks who believe that flight is the only way “to preserve their nations’ futures” and by activists in Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

            The numbers of such people is still more than an order of magnitude smaller than the 260,000 ethnic Russians who have fled abroad, but relative to the size of the nations involved, it is far larger and may have equal or greater importance for the future of these peoples (holod.media/2022/09/28/saving_minorities/ and idelreal.org/a/32057436.html).

            These new non-Russian emigrations like their predecessors in Soviet times may become an important source of information for the outside world about what is happening in their homelands and serve as a source of hope that their peoples will be liberated from Russian colonial rule in the future.

            This is even more likely to be the case because these non-Russian emigres have left for ethno-national reasons rather than only personal ones and thus are more rather than less likely to form the kind of communities abroad that Russians did after the Bolshevik revolution but have done so much less in succeeding waves.  

By Constantly Lying about War in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry Risks Losing Public’s Trust, Duma Defense Committee Head Warns

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 5 – Andrey Kartopolov, the retired colonel general who heads the Duma defense committee, says that the Russian military must “stop lying about the situation at the front. Now, the enemy is on our land … We know this from all kinds of sources … But the defense ministry doesn't report it."

            His words have been reported by telegram channels and websites (t.me/SolovievLive/131916 and kapital-rus.ru/news/390587-nado_perestat_vrat_v_gosdume_prizvali_minoborony_nachat_govorit_prav/) and are likely to have an impact greater that Margarita Simonyan’s more widely reported remarks of a similar kind (rutube.ru/video/e7d530bb7e23090ea5f32e57c30cf20b/).

            And they are especially significant for three reasons: First, they highlight increasing anger within the Russian elite about what is going on, anger that is manifesting itself in a search for whom to blame what is an increasingly disastrous situation on the Ukrainian front for Russian forces.

            Second, they show that Russians are getting news about what is really going on from other sources, including in the first instance the Internet, and thus are in a far better position than earlier to know what is happening and to compare that will what the regime is saying. As a result, the credibility of the regime is declining still further.

            And third, they point to a way in which Putin’s moves to annex Ukrainian territory is backfiring in Russia itself. If these territories are Russian, the failure of the Russian army to defend them successfully is even more disturbing to many Russians than earlier failures of the Russian forces to advance in Ukraine.