Monday, February 18, 2019

Telephone Bomb Threat Forces Evacuation of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater


Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 17 – Telephone bomb threats continue to force the evacuation of buildings in Moscow and St. Petersburg (regnum.ru/news/accidents/2574492.html) and have affected their most prominent target, the Mariinsky Theater in the northern capital, a trend that has forced the central media to cover a phenomenon it earlier downplayed.

            Such coverage now of an attack on such a prominent place – see, for example, the article at  regnum.ru/news/accidents/2574506.html – will only spark additional questions about the inability of the Russian intelligence and force structures to do anything to prevent this new plague (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/02/new-wave-of-bomb-threats-forces-mass.html).

            And these are likely to be even more urgent because this reportage follows a time when such things were not reported and because of two other negative developments in the capital that also have been reported – the collapse of the roof of a St. Petersburg university building (meduza.io/feature/2019/02/16/v-sankt-peterburge-v-universitete-itmo-obrushilas-krysha-zhertv-net-i-eto-pohozhe-na-chudo) and violent ethnic clashes in Moscow (https://meduza.io/news/2019/02/17/v-moskve-nochyu-proizoshli-dve-massovye-draki-v-odnoy-iz-nih-pogibli-dva-cheloveka).

            It is often said that the most dangerous time for a bad government is when it tries to begin to reform itself. A corollary of that observation is that a government that begins reporting bad news in greater amounts after suppressing news about earlier equivalents may unintentionally lead its citizens to conclude that things are getting far worse far faster than they actually are. 

            In the current environment, where Russians are already angry about their falling standard of living and the regime’s spending on foreign adventures rather than on their needs, that pattern may turn out be even more true that earlier, with one or another piece of bad news becoming the trigger for a new wave of protest. 

Foreign Investors Won’t Finance Moscow Roads, Forcing Russian Capital to Delay Key Projects


Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 17 – Moscow, which has some of the worst traffic jams in the world, desperately needs new roads; but plans announced in 2014 to open several key sectors have been repeatedly postponed because Russian government plans called for foreign investors to finance up to a third of their cost and such investors have not come forward. 

            The failure of foreigners and especially Middle Eastern ones that the Russian authorities have actively pursued has forced Moscow to turn to Russian firms, many of which are at the brink of bankruptcy and promise more government assistance. As a result, Rimma Polak of Vestnik Civitas says, the costs of these problems have shot up (vestnikcivitas.ru/pbls/4206).

            Now, in the wake of the arrest of Micahel Kalvi of Baring Vostok, she suggests, foreigners will be even less willing to participate in such projects; and the Russian government will have to postpone their completion dates still further. Indeed, these delays are end with cancellations, something that will give Russians another reason to be angry at their government.

            Once again, Russia’s two greatest misfortunes in the minds of many, its roads and its fools, have converged and done so in a way that can’t be hidden from Russians living in the capital – and also in ways that the powers that be can’t easily blame on someone else. 


'Russian World' Center Near the Kremlin Shut Down Because of Debts


Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 17 – The headquarters of the International Foundation for Slavic Writing and Culture, informally known as the center of the “Russian world” and located only a 15-minute walk from the Kremlin, has been shuttered because of debts; and despite protests by its supporters, it doesn’t appear that it will rescued by the cash-strapped Russian government.

            On Thursday, officials ordered the foundation to vacate the building because of massive debts; and then on Friday, some 60 of its employees and supporters held a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the organization. The Russian culture ministry, however, indicated that it has no plans to do so (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/izgnanie-russkogo-mir/).

                The foundation, created in 1989 with the blessing of the Moscow Patriarchate, has been at that location since 1992. It has attracted attention for its “’pantheon of the heroes of Novorossiya,’ a monarchist museum, a restaurant, and its distribution of openly anti-Semitic and conspiracy theory materials

                The site also housed the editorial offices of the journal Russky dom, a radical nationalist publication whose editorial board includes Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov, a close friend and spiritual advisor to Vladimir Putin. But apparently, under today’s stringent economic conditions, even such ties to the Kremlin have proved insufficient to save the situation.

            The foundation was warned last October that it was operating in violation of the rules in various ways, but it appears the proximate cause of the closure is that it is 22 million rubles (300,000 US dollars) behind in rent payments. Its supporters argue that the government should intervene to pay that off and put the foundation on a more stable economic basis.

            All this suggests that despite the prominence the Russian world project has in the Putin ideological pantheon, the Russian authorities don’t have the money to rescue one of its most prominent centers.  That could also be an indication that the Russian world may be declining in importance for the Kremlin except as an ideological meme.