Sunday, November 18, 2018

Despite Yesterday’s Crackdown, Ingush Government Approves Demonstration for November 27


Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 18 – More details are coming in about detentions, charges, and police actions, including blocking roads, that prevented Ingush opposition groups from holding a subbotnik yesterday in the portion of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Yevkurov has transferred to Chechnya on the basis of his September 26 agreement with Ramzan Kadyrov. 

            The republic siloviki took control of key roads in order to prevent people from coming to the protest, detained leaders who nonetheless managed to get there, and charged them with various infractions including disobeying police orders, resisting arrest, and in one case tearing an officer’s uniform.

            Ingush opposition leaders encouraged their followers to go home lest there be clashes, and those detained have been released pending charges (svoboda.org/a/29605797.html, graniru.org/Politics/Russia/activism/m.273854.html, kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5BF01B776BEE9 

            Ingush protest leaders said they would organize another demonstration on November 26 but did not say where it would take place or what form it would have (echo.msk.ru/news/2316988-echo.html). Perhaps to head off problems, the Ingush government announced accord opponents could hold a meeting on November 27 (tass.ru/politika/5805105).

            In another Ingushetia development, the republic authorities said that they would carry out a reconstruction of the road system near the new border. That work, Yevkurov said, would be completed by the summer of 2019 (vestikavkaza.ru/material/248158).

Despite Common Poverty, Rural Ukraine and Rural Belarus Now Two Different Worlds, Lavnikevich Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 18 – Many people make the mistake of judging countries on the basis of life in the capital cities, but that is a serious mistake. One needs to get out beyond these places and see life in rural areas as well. That is what Denis Lavnikevich, a Belarusian journalist who has just moved to Kyiv, has now done.

            While living in Belarus, he says, he spent a great deal of time in rural areas and small towns; but before moving to Ukraine to work as a commentator for Delovaya stolitsa, he says he had not seen the rural parts of that country except out of the window of a bus (dsnews.ua/politics/hozyaeva-na-svoey-zemle-12112018220000).

            Now, he has had the chance to do more and what he saw, Lavnikevich says, are “two different backwoods worlds.”

            At first glance, many Ukrainian villages do not look that different than most Belarusian ones. There are numerous half-destroyed wooden houses, many of which are deserted, even though the cost of purchasing any of them would be less than for a smartphone. Both seem forgotten by the authorities and probably are, except at election time.

            But then you encounter in Ukraine what might be called “a backwater town of a new type,” an indication that in Ukraine “there are not just ghost villages” but something else. There you see brick homes, carefully maintained yards, and average cost cars.  People are working, and they have money to spend.

            “In Belarus there also are such villages,” Lavnikevich says. “They are populated as a rule by Protestants” who don’t drink and have a strong work ethic. A well-known example is Polesya’s Olshany.

            “The life of a Ukrainian village is organized in a principally different way than the life of a Belarusian one,” he says. “Ten to fifteen years ago, there was practically no work in the village in Ukraine. People lived on the basis of their gardens and small farms; young people and working-age men left for the city.”

            “But everything began to change with the development of agricultural business,” the journalist says. “Major agro-holdings concentrated under their administration large areas of land and launched massive export-oriented production, which has rapidly become one of the foundations of the economy of the country.”

            These concerns need workers, and “they have become the largest employers in the village. Of course, today those who want to make a lot of money continue to leave, to the cities, to Poland or even further. But those who remain in their provincial area and do not sit around without work.”

            “In Belarus,” Lavnikevich says, “everything is different.” Kholkozes and Sovkhozes inherited from Soviet times continue to provide work, but wages are truly small.  Private production “in the best traditions of the USSR” is prohibited, and people increasingly turn to alcoholism.

            In sum, the journalist says, “the difference between rural Belarus and rural Ukraine is in the different self-assessments of the people. Both live very poorly. But in Belarus, this poverty is the conserved Soviet model where an individual does not feel himself to be the master on his own land.”

            “In Ukraine,” in contrast, “the decline of the village is the result of the political and economic chaos of the last two decades. But here people know that they themselves are the masters and therefore the Ukrainian backwoods s changing by relying on its own resources. The Belarus village isn’t.”

To Keep Control, Moscow Raising Costs to Russians of All Forms of Protests, Karyagin Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 18 – The social and economic situation in Russia continues to deteriorate and the level of pessimism about the future is now at the highest level in eight years, but this has not translated into mass protests of any kind because the government has raised the price of taking part in such protests and Russians are behaving rationally in not doing so.

            Mikhail Karyagin, a Russian political scientist, argues out that the various “negative” stimuli Russians have experienced in recent months would have led them to protest had it not been for the ways in which Moscow has systematically raised the price of engaging in protest (actualcomment.ru/golodnye-bunty-privedut-li-ekonomicheskie-problemy-k-protestam-1811141135.html).

            “The negative stimuli” Russians have experienced “should have provoked a certain response,” he says.  But the explanation for why they haven’t done so more vigorously and dramatically is that they see the instruments available to them as fewer and more expensive just as the regime hopes they would.

            Indeed, of all the outlets people in most countries have to protest to the government about their situation, Russians have only one that is more or less just as available now as it was a year or two ago – and that is voting. But voting by its nature is an episodic event, and if the regime schedules unpopular actions, many Russians may forget that by the time of the next election day.

            Russian anger was expressed in the September elections, and it is possible it will last until another round of regional elections next summer or even until 2021 when there will be a vote on the Duma members, Karyagin says. There are few signs things are going to get better, and so that is at least possible.

            As for other protest channels, he continues, “one must admit that in recent times, they have become ever fewer. Changes in the rules for holding meetings, mass arrests of participants, serious fines, and sometimes real jail sentences have significantly increased the cost of this instrument for citizens.”

            That reality was shown at the time of pension reform. Polls showed that 90 percent of Russians were against the plan to raise retirement ages, “but only a few thousand went into the streets.”  For most, this was a rational choice rather than something determined by culture – and the Kremlin was counting on that.

            Using the Internet for protests has also become more expensive given the cases brought against an increasing number of people for posts, reposts and likes.  And using the regular media is almost impossible: most is tightly controlled, and the small part which isn’t isn’t accessible to many.

            “One of the most free spheres” of public life in which protest is possible, the political scientist says, is art.  The powers that be do on occasion ban performances or exhibits, but they find it more difficult to control this segment than others. Consequently, “political figures are becoming ever more numerous in creative activities.”

            The big question now, however, Karyagin says, is whether Russian popular anger will grow faster than the regime increases the price for protests. If it does, Russians like anyone else will go into the streets.  If it doesn’t, then the current pattern of sullen but unexpressed anger will likely continue for some time.