Tuesday, August 21, 2018

‘Why is Medical Care in Russia Worse than in Afghanistan?’ ‘Novyye izvestiya’ Asks


Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 21 – Even though the annual budget of a single St. Petersburg hospital is 1.5 times as large as the entire medical budget of Afghanistan, Andrey Nalgin says, the medical care Russians get in the first is in many cases far worse than that offered to victims in Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world.

            Identified as a Russian blogger, Nalgin draws this unflattering comparison in the pages of today’s Novyye izvestiya and suggests that the situation is even worse because the Russian hospital he provides pictures of is in one of the capitals and medical care in rural Russia is much worse (newizv.ru/news/society/21-08-2018/vopros-dnya-pochemu-meditsina-v-rossii-huzhe-chem-v-afganistane).

            “In 2000, there were 10,700 hospitals in Russia; in 2015, there remained only 4400.” The number of polyclinics fell from 21,000 to 16,500. Officials say this consolidation allows for better care, but in fact, Nalgin continues, their claims beg the question why a country like Russia can’t afford to do more than Afghanistan does.

            Another blogger, Sergey Nikitsky, says that this post is “specially for Vladimir putin and Sergey Sobyanin. I consider that such posts must be read in the Presidential Administration and the Moscow mayor’s office” so that people there will know the truth and thus feel compelled to take action.

                No Russian should have to live in a situation where the health care he or she is likely to be able to get won’t measure up to Afghan standards, Nalgin and Nikitsky conclude. Obviously, in publishing their posts, the Moscow newspaper agrees.  For its part, Novyye izvestiya notes that there has not been any reaction from officials from its earlier coverage of this issue.

‘Muslim Martin Luther’ Jailed by Both Soviets and British Recalled in Kazan


Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 21 – Musa Bigiyev, a Tatar Muslim theologian of the first half of the 20th century whom many have called Islam’s answer to Martin Luther because of his call for a reformation in the ways Muslims approach the Koran and who spent time in both Soviet and British jails, is attracting new attention in Kazan.

            Today, that city’s Business-Gazeta features an 8800-word article by Aydar Khayrutdinov of Tatarstan’s Institute of History who is the leading Tatar specialist on Bigiyev and his impact on Muslim communities both within the Soviet space and beyond (business-gazeta.ru/article/392614).

            Nearly half of the article is devoted to the complex life path of a man born in the Tatar community of Rostov in the 1870s – there is some confusion as to the exact date – who sought civic education in St. Petersburg but was rebuffed, and trained as a theologian in many medrassahs in the Russian Empire, the Middle East and India.

            In Russia, Bigiyev played a major role in the Muslim rebirth in 1905 and was responsible for compiling the records of the All-Russian Muslim congresses as well as taking part in the initial stages of the Tatar national movement. But even in that period, Khayrutdinov says, he began his important work on rethinking Islam.

             In 1909, he attracted attention for what others described as his identification of “errors in the Koran.” In fact, he did not speak about errors in the Koran itself but rather errors among those who read it because the Koran in its current written form has “more than 60 places” where interpreting the Arabic language has been problematic.

                His corrected version of the Koran won widespread recognition by the ulema throughout the Muslim world; and this constituted his first “victory” in what some call the reformation of Islam. And he followed this up with books using his revised version as the basis for the rereading of earlier Islamic thinkers.

            In 1917, he accepted both revolutions initially largely in the latter case because the Bolsheviks separated church and state thereby opening the way for Muslims to get out from under the combined forces of the Russian state and the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

            But he quickly broke with the Soviets, sought to help Tatar nationalists, and for his positin ceased to be printed in Russia. Nonetheless, he continued to write and was published in Western Europe and the Middle East. In the mid-1920s, he was arrested, confined to the Lubyanka and exiled.

Then, in 1930, he recognized he had to flee and he illegally crossed the border into Eastern Turkestan. Bigiyev subsequently acquired Afghan citizenship and travelled throughout the Muslim world on that. But when war began, he sought to get to Turkey and was jailed by the British when he passed through India. He finally reached Istanbul where he died in 1949.

Khayrutdinov says that “Bigiyev produced – in a good sense – a revolution in Islamic thought. His attempt to return to man the right to think freely in Islamic categories and not remain constrained by old dogmas” and that in turn opened the way for a wholesale rethinking of what Islam is and means.

Bigiyev wrote, the Kazan historian says, “that if human wisdom is allowed to display its full power, it will eclipse even the sun.” Some want to call him a reformer, but he wasn’t. He “stressed that it is not Islam which needs reform” and decalred that “Islam did not need any Luthers, although he was called that by many.”

“Yes, we know,” Khayrutdinov says, “Luther reformed religion. But Bigiyev says that what must be reformed is not Islam but our understanding of Islam.” He wasn’t a jadidist or a modernist either, the scholar continue, because those terms are too narrow. He was a believer who used his profound knowledge of Islam and his own mind to change how Muslims view it.

Even the Criminal World in the Russian Federation is Being Russified, ‘Vzglyad’ Reports


Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 21 – “For the first time in several decades,” Vzglyad reports today, “a Russian of Slavic origin known as Shishkan” has been elected “the god father” of the Russian criminal world marking a break from recent decades when “this post belonged to those born in the Caucasus.”

            The paper’s Oleg Moskvin says that Shishkan’s election inevitably prompts questions as to what “’the Russification’ of the upper reaches of the criminal world means and also about when the Russian police may be able to destroy “the institution of thieves in law” (vz.ru/society/2018/8/21/938003.html).

                The new head of Russian crime was chosen by a group of thieves in law at a Moscow restaurant at the end of last week.  Shishkan, whose real name is Oleg Ramensky and who is now 54, has been near the top of Russian crime since the early 1990s, Moskvin says, when he worked closely with the odious crime figure, “the little Japanese.”

            According to the journalist, “the election to a high post in the criminal world of an individual of Slavic origin … is in its own way a revolutionary event” given that in recent years this post was occupied by Yezidi Kurds and given that Shishkan faced competition from two Georgians.

            One of these Georgians was eliminated as a candidate when it became clear that he wouldn’t be released from prison in 2019 when his current sentence runs out. Instead, he will be extradited, probably to Spain, where he faces a new trial and likely a new spell behind bars, Moskvin says.

            But Shishkan’s election matters. Yevgeny Chernousov, a retired MVD colonel, says it “marks the end of the domination in the [Russian] criminal world of those born in the Caucasus.,” although he points out that the Caucasians always have had close ties with the Russians and vice versa.

            “All thieves in law are monitored by law-enforcement organs, the retired policeman says; but it is very difficult to move against them because “they with rare exceptions do not commit crimes with their own hands and people from their immediate circle do not testify against their bosses.”

             Nonetheless, other police officials and experts with whom Moskvin spoke, suggest that the Russian authorities are making progress.