Monday, June 18, 2018

Muscovites See ‘Act of Terrorism’ Where Russian Officials See Only ‘Unhappy Accident’


Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 17 – On Saturday evening, a taxi plowed into a crowd in the center of Moscow, something that led many Russians to conclude that it was a terrorist act like ones that have occurred in Europe. But Russian officials quickly insisted that it was only “an unhappy accident.”

            The police put out a video which was intended to support their version of events, but some who had been at the scene insisted that the pictures it showed did not correspond with either what they had seen or what the authorities insisted was the case (msk.newsru.com/article/17jun2018/terror_taxi.html).

            A copy of the video is now available online and certainly supports the claims of those who saw in this action some intentional action rather than simply an accident. The driver kept going along the sidewalk through the crowd, and when people opened the door of the taxi he was driving, he sought to flee (facebook.com/slava.rabinovich.9/videos/1804972822897357/).

            Former Yekaterinburg mayor Yevgeny Royzman helped spread the version that this was a terrorist action first on Twitter and then on Echo Moskvy. The opposition figure said that the authorities have put out all kinds of versions, but that he personally “considers this a terrorist action (twitter.com/roizmangbn/status/1008249051752620033 and echo.msk.ru/news/2223204-echo.html).

                In reporting this controversy, the Newsru agency notes that “the unwillingness of the police even to allow the version about an intentional attack on pedestrians was reflected from the first … This isn’t surprising, especially now when universal attention is focused on Russia in connection with the World Cup competition.

            Moreover, it adds, it is worth noting that the US State Department before the weekend “published an appeal to its citizens in Russia warning them about the possibility of terrorist acts at the World Cup.”  And the agency points out that “the siloviki in Russia are extremely reluctant to recognize any incident as a terrorist one, even if there seems to be evidence of that.”

            Newsru cites the case last when a 19-year-old attacked others with a knife in Surgut, something ISIS immediately took credit for and that the man himself said was a follower of Islamist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “Despite this,” it continues, the magistracy continued to call what happened ‘attempted murder.’”

            It is often difficult to determine what lies behind a particular criminal act, and it is entirely possible that the Moscow authorities are correct in the current case.  But under conditions of low information when officials are known to lie to make the regime look good as now, many are unlikely to believe them -- and don’t.

            And that raises a still more dangerous possibility: Russians may see terrorism in actions that have nothing to do with terrorism and thus respond with fear and support for repressive measures as a result. 

New Draft Legislation on Cossacks Both Confusing and Dangerous, Semushkin Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 17 – New draft legislation under preparation by the Russian government since the end of last year further confuses the situaiton regarding the Cossacks, muddying the waters between the few genuine Cossacks who trace their ancestry back to before the Soviet period and the neo-Cossacks the Kremlin has been sponsoring to do its dirty work.

            The measure talks a lot about “the revival of the Cossacks,” Dmitry Semushkin says, but one can’t “’revive’ what has died of was killed,” as the pre-1917 Cossacks larely were. Instead, it promotes “re-enactors” in fancy dress much like the Civil War re-enactors in the United States who dress up in period clothing and imagine they are part of something.

            But both the proposed law like Russian government practice is dangerous because it lumps all the Cossacks together and thus undermines the few genuine Cossacks in Russia while promoting people who are little more than thugs as they showed in whipping protesters on May 5 (eadaily.com/ru/news/2018/06/17/zakon-o-razvitii-rossiyskogo-kazachestva-pravila-igry-v-kazakov-mnenie).

            The commentator provides a detailed analysis of the legislation, three points of which are especially worthy of notice and concern.  First, Semushkin says, the law specifies that anyone who declares that he (and it makes no provision for women doing so) is a Cossack is one regardless of ancestry or culture or anything else.

            That demonstrates, he says, that at one level, the measure is straight out of “the contemporary game culture of the neo-Cossacks” rather than having anything to do with the Cossacks as a people.

            Second, just as the Putin regime has increasingly reduced nationality to language, this measure reduces Cossacks to state service and even more to fancy dress.  Historically, Cossacks did not wear special clothes except during times of military service. But the new measure defines them in terms of their uniforms.

            That is part of a general trend in Russian society to move back to one based on social strata, but it makes a mockery of what the Cossacks are, their traditions, and their diversity, something the measure also ignores, focusing almost in its entirety on the Don, Kuban and Terek Cossacks rather than on anyone else.

            And third -- and this is in many ways the most disturbing aspect of the legislation – it specifies that Moscow will consider as a Cossack abroad only someone who cooperates with the Russian state.  Those who defend their nation against a state that tried to wipe them off the face of the earth from now one won’t be considered Cossacks by the Russian state.

            That suggests that the Russian government plans to launch a new effort to penetrate, subordinate and possibly even use Cossack groups abroad, yet another form of the “hybrid” wars that the Putin regime has become notorious for. 

            The new bill has not yet been presented to the Duma, and it remains unclear whether or if it will pass, although as a government measure, it almost certainly will. But as an indication of Kremlin intentions, it is a threat to the Cossacks as a genuine people and to others, both opponents of the regime within Russia and other countries as well.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Other Victims of Putin’s Pension Reform – Russia’s Youngest Children


Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 17 – No one questions that millions of older Russians will be the victims of the Kremlin’s plan to raise the retirement age. Many will not live to get a pension, and those that do will be suffering from far poorer health than their Western counterparts, making Moscow’s move especially indefensible (blog.newsru.com/article/15jun2018/pensii).

            But there is another group of Russians who are going to suffer too and as a result, the country’s social and demographic futures will be further compromised: the very youngest Russians who are often raised by grandmothers who look after them while their parents work in the absence of adequate day care arrangements.

            Russian blogger Anna Nesterova calls attention to this, arguing that the proposed pension reforms represent a direct attack “on the institution of ‘grandmothers’” and their role in raising the rising generation (newizv.ru/news/society/16-06-2018/ne-tolko-dengi-chto-poteryaet-strana-prinyav-zakon-o-pensionerah).

                “It is no secret,” she writes, “that most young families can’t afford a nanny or a private kindergarten, and many do not send their children to [public] kindergartens either because of their state of health or because they want their children raised at home.” But even those children who do go to public kindergartens will now be left alone at the beginning and end of the day.

            “Historically, grandmothers and grandfathers have looked after the home pre-school education” of the youngest children.  That worked fine with the current retirement ages, but if they are pushed up, many grandparents will be too old to help with their grandchildren when they retire even if they live that long, Nesterova points out.

            Consequently, “raising the retirement age will lead to a reduction in the level of the development of children who will be deprived of their time with the older generation.” And that will have another consequence parents should think about: it opens the way for greater manipulation of the young by the state regardless of what their parents want.

            There aren’t enough public kindergartens now, and if the pension proposal goes through, the blogger continues, many young children will be left to their own devices day after day. Some will undoubtedly turn in the wrong direction; and yet that appears to be among the many thinks those behind this idea have never thought about.