Monday, August 3, 2020

Putin Transforming Russia into an East Germany or Something Worse, Gontmakher Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – Twenty years ago, Russian German analyst Aleksandr Rahr described Vladimir Putin as “the German in the Kremlin.” Now, Moscow economist Yevgeny Gontmakher says in alarm that the Kremlin leader is rapidly transforming the Russian Federation into a remake of the German Democratic Republic as East Germany was formally known.

            Putin is no longer issuing strategic plans or even new “decrees” about the future because he hasn’t met any of them, an outcome that he and his regime are working hard to blame on the pandemic rather than acknowledging their own mistakes, the economist says (mk.ru/politics/2020/08/01/rossiya-prevratitsya-v-gdr-tendencii-socialnoekonomicheskogo-razvitiya-strany-nastorazhivayut.html).

            “The level of professionalism of the powers that be is already so low that ‘national projects, developed in connection with the previous ‘May’ degrees don’t correspond to reality, as the Accounting Chamber has shown in its analysis,” Gontmakher says.  And the Kremlin isn’t issuing anything similar now.

            The absence of any clear plan prompts one to ask, he continues, “what is going to happen with Russia.” Its overall course is clear: “Russia will lose yet another decade in its economic and social development” if it continues as it is going now and will soon resemble Erich Honecker’s East Germany. 

            Gontmakher lists 12 ways in which this is so:

1.      “The political system will finally be transformed into a laughable decoration” rather than reality with elections occurring only with results “known in advance.”

2.      “Any social activity not sanctioned by the authorities even if it does not have an openly political character, will be blocked.”

3.      There will be “an informal but total censorship of the media” on anything concerning the state.

4.      “The Internet will work according to the Chinese model, with ‘undesirable’ sites and content blocked.”

5.      “Digitalization will allow for the complete control of the activities of any individual at work, on the street, in public places and often in the home.”

6.      “The borders will still be open but mostly for emigration of those who disagree with the powers or think differently,” an arrangement the powers will support in order to get rid of such people and make the control of those who remain easier.

7.      “The Russian economy as before will be based on the export of oil, gas and other raw materials. But the size of this export will constantly fall because of low prices on world markets” and changes in patterns of energy consumption.

8.      “The Russian economy not only will not become the fifth-largest in the world in absolute terms” but may fall further down the list as others grow.

9.      The government will claim victories in the fight against poverty but only by using completely falsified statistics.

10.  Quality medical care will be available to those Russians who can pay for it, but most Russians won’t have the money to do so and their health will deteriorate.

11.  “Schools will made into places where children are intensively ‘trained’ to follow the spiritual bindings” the Kremlin wishes to promote. Other subjects will suffer right up through universities.

12.  Movie theaters will show “only those pictures which promote ‘positive feelings’ in people toward the order put in place in the country.”
Having composed this list, Gontmakher says, he realizes the analogy with East Germany may not be the most appropriate one. Instead, he says, Putin is taking Russia in the direction of Orwell’s 1984 and everyone except perhaps Putin and his cronies will suffer as a result. 

‘Moscow isn’t Very Concerned about What Circassians Call Themselves,’ Beshtoyev Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – Circassians organizations have asked federal institutions about their attitude toward the use of Circassian as a common ethnonym, Aslan Beshtoyev says. Their answers suggest that “the federal center isn’t very concerned about what the Circassians call themselves,” a report that likely will make it easier for more to do so in the upcoming census.

            The head of the Kabardin Congress in the KBR made this declaration as Circassians both in the North Caucasus homeland and in the diaspora are urging Adygs, Cherkess, Kabards, Shapsugs, and other nationalities the Soviets divided the Circassian nation to reassert their common identity in the census (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/352462/).


            Some members of this nation have been reluctant to make this step either out of inertia, fears that it will be used against them by leaders of the binational republics, or that doing so will offend Moscow which earlier adopted this divide-and-rule approach to the Circassians. But Bestoyev’s statement suggests Circassians shouldn’t be concerned about Moscow at least.

            The Kavkaz-Uzel news agency surveyed Beshtoyev and several other Circassian leaders about how they view the current state of play on this issue (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/352462/). Beslan Khagazhey, head of the Peryt Organization, said he supports the campaign to have all Circassians call themselves precisely that.

            The Kabardinian activist says that “Kabarda is the name of a place” not of a people. “Earlier they called us Circassians of Kabarda or Pyatigorsk Circassians. But the self-designaiton has always been Adyge [Circassian].” He doesn’t expect everyone to shift this time around but over time, most will make the change.

            Madina Khakuasheva, a Circassian scholar, agrees, pointing out that “the self-designation of all Adygey ethnic groups without except is Adyg. They speak slightly different dialects of a common language and so if one stretches the point one could designate them as local ethnographic groups of the Circassian people.”

            She says that the lack of a common ethnonym and the associated idea that they are a single people has a “destructive” impact on “all spheres of their lives,” pointing out that “it is difficult to find an analogue to the present-day situation of the Circassian people: 90 percent live outside their historical motherland in all countries of the work, forming an enormous Circassian diaspora.”

             The 10 percent who live in the area of the historical homeland, she continues, “are divided into the territories of four or five subjects,” and because of this Soviet-imposed and Russian-supported division, some of them have lost sense of the fact that they are connected with one another and in fact form a single nation.

Clinical Trials Over, New Russian Vaccine to Be Given to Doctors and Teachers Soon, Population by October, for Free, Murashko Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – Russian health minister Mikhail Murashko says that now that clinical trials of the coronavirus vaccine one Russian team has developed have been completed successfully, the government will move quickly to vaccine medical workers and teachers (vz.ru/society/2020/8/1/1052898.html).

            Later, he continues, the authorities plan to begin to inoculate the rest of the population beginning in October. All such vaccinations will be given free to Russian citizens, the minister said at the opening of a new infectious disease hospital in Nizhny Novgorod (tass.ru/obschestvo/9102831).

            Despite skepticism about the medication given the way in which testing has been rushed, many Russians are eager to get the vaccine and the Russian authorities, including Murashko, are trumpeting what they see as a Russian victory in the race to achieve this breakthrough. None has indicated, however, whether it will make this vaccine available to other countries.

            Another question, given polls showing that many Russians do not want to risk getting the vaccine at least initially, is how rapidly Moscow will ramp up what promises to be a massive propaganda campaign to lead people to get the vaccine as it becomes available so that the economy can reopen.

            The pandemic, however, continues, with officials warning that it is “too soon” to weaken requirements that people wear masks, maintain social distance and practice good hygiene (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/rano-rasslablyatsya/). And the statistics on the pandemic in Russia released today only reinforce such recommendations.

            According to Moscow authorities, 5462 new cases were registered in Russia in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 845,443 cases since the pandemic began. In addition, the authorities reported that there were 95 deaths from the disease in the last day, pushing that toll over 14,000 to 14,058 (t.me/COVID2019_official/1178).

            The disease continued to ebb and flow across the country, with openings and re-closings generally tracking that pattern (regnum.ru/news/society/3021975.html). Some heads of the hardest hit regions are coming up with ever more elaborate euphemisms to try to conceal what is happening on their territories (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/08/01/86480-kollektivnyy-immunitet-k-zayavleniyam-gubernatora).

            Russia began restoring international flights but, media reports to the contrary, it will not complete doing so by August 11 because each bilateral route requires mutual agreement (rbc.ru/society/01/08/2020/5f2509469a794741fec96bbb?from=column_1). Moscow did reopen the border with Abkhazia, and Moscow city and oblast officials relaxed controls on theaters, movie houses and concerts.

            At the same time, Moscow officials closed 24 stores for failing to maintain the mask requirement (interfax.ru/moscow/719927), and the Russian government announced that it would change the formula according to which it allocates funds to regions because so many aren’t able to cope (regnum.ru/news/economy/3025975.html).

            Economic news continued to be dire. The ruble declined in value against foreign currencies for the 10th straight day and is expected to head lower in the coming weeks as well (svobodaradio.livejournal.com/4502771.html).  Analysts say Rosneft may default (finanz.ru/novosti/aktsii/moodys-zayavilo-ob-ugroze-defolta-russnefti-1029455358).

            Ninety percent of loans let in April are now non-performing Russian banks say (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78670), and almost a third of all Russian businesses are currently operating at a loss (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78644). And given budgetary stringencies, Moscow is cutting back spending on its space program (finanz.ru/novosti/aktsii/pravitelstvo-pustit-pod-nozh-raskhody-na-kosmos-1029455184).

            Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related news from Russia today,

·         Moscow oblast has launched its own site showing where infectious are most numerous (kp.ru/daily/27129/4215874/).

·         Analysts say that it will be difficult to ensure enough immigration as long as pandemic restrictions are in place (ritmeurasia.org/news--2020-08-01--integracija-v-maskah-perspektivy-migracii-i-rynka-truda-v-uslovijah-pandemii-50221).

·         And pet lovers are worried about what another quarantine may mean for their cats and dogs (mbk-news.appspot.com/practica/karantin-dlya-koshek-i-sobak/).