Monday, August 8, 2022

National Anti-Corruption Committee Pushes to Make ‘Wrecking’ a Crime as It was in Soviet Times

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – Kirill Kabanov, head of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, says that shortcomings in the work of Russian enterprises in the face of Western sanctions and import substitution means that Moscow must again declare wrecking against the law and impose criminal sanctions against those who do not succeed in their economic tasks.

            Kabanov, who earlier served in the FSB and now is on the Presidential Human Rights Council, says that these shortcomings threaten the national security of the country and can’t be tolerated anymore (

            Senator Andrey Klishas, often associated with the most outrageous notions that nonetheless have the support of the Kremlin, said that Kabanov’s ideas deserved discussion because there are questions about why some industries aren’t performing as well as expected especially at a time when the country is engaged in a special military operation in Ukraine.

            The idea of making any economic failure the occasion for criminal charges goes back to the first years of Soviet power when the Bolsheviks went after miners and industrialists in the Shakhti affair and the Industrial Party case and then in the 1930s when such charges were used to purge the leaders of almost all major industries in the Soviet Union.

            It is far from clear whether this notion will go forward, but its attractions to the state are obvious: it would give the Kremlin an additional whip hand against industrialists and entrepreneurs and likely would have more support from other Russians than more hyperbolic charges.

            But precisely because that is the case, industry leaders and government officials responsible for making the economy function certainly fear that danger and will work very hard, almost certainly behind the scenes rather than more publicly, to block something that could cost them their jobs or even more.

            The fact that such a potentially divisive idea is even being discussed, of course, demonstrates that the Russian economy is not doing nearly as well as the Kremlin likes to claim. If it were, there would bee no need to roil the waters by raising the specter of Shakhti-type trials in the future.

Putin’s War in Ukraine has Boosted Non-Russian Support for Federalization of Russia, Garmazhalova Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 16 – By invading Ukraine, “the Kremlin has shot itself in the foot,” Aleksandra Garmazhapova says, because ever more non-Russians within the current borders of the Russian Federation are identifying with the situation of the Ukrainians and demanding that Moscow give real content to the federalism it falsely claims Russia has.

The émigré co-founder of the Free Buryatia Foundation says that her group, which began as an organization to help Buryats escape from military contracts requiring them to serve in Ukraine, now has a broader agenda: “full-blown federalization” of Russia (россия/20220723-в-бурятии-война-никого-не-обошла-стороной-александра-гармажапова-о-тех-кто-больше-не-хочет-воевать).

Although she has been accused of being a separatist, Garmazhapova says that she considers that “the ideal prospect” for her and the Buryats is “ a genuine federation …  union of equal peoples … in which each region will define its socio-economic and linguistic agenda” rather than having it imposed by Moscow.

“Many imperialistically thinking Russians including certain liberals must recognize that they are not above or better than the rest and that all are equal.” That will require a change in the thinking of many people, Garmazhapova says, as a recent survey she conducted on Instagram shows.

She expected perhaps 50 responses to her questions about the need for the de-Nazification of Russia but instead has received 100 to 150 every day. The Buryat activist said she had expected people with a clearly non-Slavic physiognomy would be the only ones complaining about discrimination and mistreatment.

But in fact, Garmazhapova continues, others like Udmurts, Karelians, Chuvash and Komi wrote in almost as frequently. They complained not only that they were the victims of discrimination but that Moscow both Soviet and post-Soviet was working hard to destroy their languages and thus their nations.

Because of Moscow’s attack on their languages, the Kremlin’s claims to be defending Russian in Ukraine where the government has been protecting the right of the people to use their national language has made non-Russians within Russia feel close to the Ukrainians and equally opposed to Moscow.

This is creating a new reality within Russia, the Buryat activist says, one that many non-Russians hoped for but would not have achieved had it not been for Putin’s  war in Ukraine and the arguments he has advanced in an effort to justify it.

Eight Years Ago This Week, Russian Forces Shot Down a Malaysian Airlines Plane, Killing 298

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – One of the most horrific aspects of the Putin regime is that it continues to commit so many atrocities that even major ones from the past are overshadowed by later events and begin to be forgotten. Indeed, it sometimes seems that Vladimir Putin commits new crimes precisely so that his earlier ones will be forgotten or at least ignored.

            No legal actions have been taken against Putin’s first crimes as president, the bombing of the Russian apartment buildings by the FSB that he was able to blame on the Chechens; and a verdict in a Dutch court in the case of the shooting down of the Malaysian jetliner eight years ago is expected only later this year.

            And even if that court returns a guilty victory as most observers expect, that will hardly be the end of it. As lawyers involved point out, the court will only be able to impose penalties if Moscow agrees to extradite those found guilty – and that is hardly something the Putin regime is likely to do.

            But both the families and friends of the victims especially of the latter are doing what they can to make sure that the world does not forget what it initially expressed outrage about, the killing of 298 civilians by Russian forces in 2014 (

            Maintaining outrage is hard especially if new outrageous crimes are committed by the same people, but failing to sustain at least some level of anger about what such people have done gives them a victory they do not deserve. On the eighth anniversary of the shootdown of the airliner, the least we can do is to remember the crime, those who committed it, and their victims.

Sixty-Nine Years Ago, 30,000 GULAG Inmates Revolted, Held Out Three Months and Changed the Course of Russian History

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – Sixty-nine years ago, in the summer following Stalin’s death, 30,000 GULAG inmates revolted against their jailors and held out for almost three months. Some call it a rising although the prisoners had no arms; others call it a strike. But this largest and longest prison rising in Soviet history convinced the Soviet leadership to change course.

            Alla Markarova, who has studied the rising for many years, says that one must look beyond the myths about this rising, myths that arose because there was so little information available at the time or even for many years thereafter (

            She says that the events of the summer of 1953 took place not in Norillag as many think but in Gorlag, a camp organized in Norilsk in 1948 which had a much harsher regime than did the better known camp. And she insists that it wasn’t a revolt but rather a strike because the prisoners didn’t take arms, attack the guards or attempt to flee.

            Makarova also points out that many of the real causes of the strike have been ignored, including the fact that earlier in 1953, Soviet POWs began to come back from prison camps in Germany where their experience of imprisonment was fundamentally different than that of Soviet citizens who’d been in the camps since the 1930s.

            Also adding to the pressure in Gorlag was the arrival there of 1200 prisoners from the special regime camps of Karaganda where earlier there had been a series of risings. At least some of those dispersed from there came to Norilsk and continued the activities which had led to their transfer.

            But the overwhelming reason for the strike, Makarova says, is that with the death of Stalin, many prisoners expected that they would be amnestied or at least that they would have their conditions of incarceration improved. When neither happened, they were ready to protest in whatever way they could.

            Just how many prisoners were killed in the course of the suppression of the strike remains uncertain. Soviet and Russian officials have admitted that some 50 were killed, but medical records from the camps, the investigator says, suggest that the actual number was much larger than that.

            Most of the participants were ultimately released and even posthumously rehabilitated. But the most important consequence of the strike was that the post-Stalinist leadership was forced to recognize that it could not go back to the past or even continue as it had up to that moment.

            Too many things had changed following the death of Stalin; and one of them was that the GULAG system on which his rule had depended was no longer a viable option for the country going forward.

Putin Attacking Not Just Ukraine but Entire World of Normal People, Skobov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – Everyone must recognize that Vladimir Putin is attacking not just Ukraine but the entire world of normal people with his Orwellian insistence that what he is doing is not a war because he isn’t calling it that and that no one should be allowed to contradict him, according to Russian commentator Aleksandr Skobov.

            The Russian prosecutor general has explained Putin’s ban on the use of the word “war” to describe the special military operation in Ukraine, the Kremlin critic says. A war exists only when a country declares general mobilization and introduces martial law. “If not, then, there is no war” (

            Those Russians who assert otherwise are likely to run afoul with officialdom and may even be charged with “actions discrediting the action of the Russian armed forces,” as more than 3300 Russians already have been for doing so or otherwise discussing the war in Ukraine (

            “Those who refuse to call a war a war not to speak of those who try to prevent others from calling a war that are by definition abnormal people,” Skobov says. “They are moral freaks and accomplices of the Russian fascist war criminals” because normal people know what a war is and what Russia is doing in Ukraine has all the features of that.

            In contrast to the Putin regime, “all normal people consider that when the army of one state conducts massive and systematic actions against another in the course of which military and civilian personnel die in large numbers and economic and residential infrastructure is destroyed that is to be called a war.”

            When Ukraine defeats Russia in this war, those Russians who have gone down the Orwellian path will be brought to justice; and the outcome will be a victory for all normal people in the world, Skobov concludes, against an increasingly abnormal one centered in Moscow. That means they must call this war by its proper name and ensure Russia’s defeat.


‘More than Half’ of Russian Population Not Represented in Duma, Nikulin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – Just because a country has elections and a parliament doesn’t mean that the latter will include representatives of large swaths of the population. Governments may make arrangements so that groups it doesn’t want to hear from remain “unrepresented,” Andrey Nikulin says.

            That is exactly what the Putin regime has done in the Russian Federation, the Russian commentator says. And as long as it is in power, it will use its forces to keep out the “more than half” of the Russian population which is currently not represented in the Duma and Federation Council (

            Among the groups in the Russian population not represented in the parliament, Nikulin continues, are “the tens of millions” who are liberal and pro-Western, nationalists Russian or otherwise, people on the left, federalists, Protestants, Old Believers, genuine feminists, and representatives of counter-cultural groups.

            In any normal country, a government seeing such a situation would rush to correct it. But Russia under Putin isn’t a normal country and is moving instead in exactly the opposite direction, he argues. As a result, whether it is possible to speak about “the chimerical being” on Okhotny Ryad a parliament is something that is far from clear.

Kyrgyzstan’s Softer Approach to Islam Explains Lower Rates of Muslim Radicalization There, Usenov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – Kyrgyzstan has seen an explosive growth in the number of Muslim organizations since 1991, but it has succeeded in keeping the radicalization of most Muslims there far better than other Central Asian countries have done, primarily because Bishkek had adopted a “softer” approach to dealing with the faith, Arsen Usenov says.

              The Kyrgyz political analyst notes that the number of mosques in Kyrgyzstan has increased from 39 in 1991 to 2930 in 2021. (In addition, there are now 418 parishes of other religious groups.) But almost all are traditional and loyal; and the regime has banned few Islamist trends (

“From the very start of its independent existence, Usenov says, “Kyrgyzstan has adhered toward a liberal approach toward the religious sector. Thus, unlike other post-Soviet republics, Kyrgyzstan had more space and freedom for the establishment and development of Islamic religious organizations brought in from the outside.”

Initially, the Kyrgyz state took a hands off approach, but growing religiosity and the insistence of many Muslims there that Islam should play a role in state policy, prompted the government to begin as of 2014 to devote more attention to the relationship between the government and Islam.

In a policy document adopted then and renewed in 2021, Bishkek committed itself to seeking greater control over the appointment of imams, regulating missionary activity by Muslim groups, and raising public awareness about state policy on religious questions and thus limiting the spread of extremist ideas.

Bishkek also called for a radical reform of religious education, something that has not yet happened, although the state has secured the introduction of secular subjects in the medrassahs and Islamic higher schools in the republic. It has also segregated those in prison for religious extremism from other prisoners lest the former spread their views.