Saturday, September 30, 2023

Putin’s Visit to Novocherkassk in 1991 Confirmed His Belief that Moscow Must Control What Russians Know about the Past

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 22 – There is a famous photograph of Anatoly Sobchak visiting Novocherkassk in June 1991 as part of an effort to uncover what had happened in that North Caucasus city in 1962 when Soviet troops fired on Russian workers protesting price hikes, one of the major demands of Russia’s democrats for glasnost about the events of the Soviet past.

            Among the bag carriers in Sobchak’s entourage was a very junior Vladimir Putin who had recently transferred from the KGB to Sobchak’s staff. The To Be Continued portal considers what Putin undoubtedly found out and how that shaped his views about what Moscow should do in the future (

            The Soviet suppression of worker protests in Novocherkassk in 1962 was something Moscow worked hard to suppress but which contributed to the rise of the dissident movement. (See Samuel Baron’s Bloody Saturday in the Soviet Union: Novocherkassk, 1962 (Stanford, 2001) and

            Sobchak at least publicly was committed to the idea that exposing the crimes of the Soviet past was the best way to prevent any repetition; but it appears likely, To Be Continued suggests, that Vladimir Putin drew entirely different conclusions and became convinced that the only way to prevent a repetition was to hide from the population what had happened.

            In the first decade of Putin’s time as president, the portal reports, “some of the exhibits were confiscated from the Novocherkassk tragedy museum – primarily documents from the KGB archives that were then classified again.” As a result, “the memory of the tragedy is slowly being erased” just as the memory of other Soviet-era tragedies.

            According to To Be Continued, what Putin learned in Novocherkassk is not that the past must be exposed to prevent a repetition but that “mistakes can always be hidden, history can always be rewritten, and this is the logic that guides the current president, who continues to cover up the crimes of his colleagues from the Soviet KGB.

            Other reports over the last decade show that the events of Novocherkassk in 1962 continue to worry the Putin leadership; but its leader and its members remain committed to a cover up rather than to an honest appraisal of what happened and why. (On current elite approaches to that tragedy, see and


Muslim Migrant Workers in Russia Radicalizing, Posing Challenges for Russia and Their Homelands, New Poll Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 22 – According to a new poll conducted by the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, 43 percent of Central Asian migrant workers in Russia say they would prefer to live according to shariat law and according to the laws of their home countries rather than the laws of the Russian Federation.

            The poll also found that 24 percent of them say they are ready to take part in protests to defend their right to live according to shariat inside the Russian Federation, and 15.3 percent say they are ready to engage in illegal actions to that end (

            Such attitudes not only exacerbate tensions between them and the dominant ethnic Russian population but serve to spread such convictions to Muslims from the indigenous population of Russia and to trigger greater Islamic radicalism in their homelands when they return.

            As such, they are a threat to both Russia and to the Central Asian countries.

            Igor Barinov, the head of the nationalities agency, says that the way before is to enforce Russian law and to set up programs to filter immigrant workers so that those with radical ideas do not enter or do not dominate opinion among the growing number of immigrant workers  (

            Vladimir Putin for his part continues to play down the problem, arguing at the Eastern Economic Forum that migrant workers form only “3.7 percent” and that any problems can be solved by insisting that the immigrants learn Russian and enforcing existing Russian legislation to the fullest.

Siberian Battalion Seeks Victory for Ukraine and an End to Moscow’s Dominance of Regions and Republics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 29 – Those involved in the promotion and activities of the Siberian Battalion, Anastasiya Sergeyeva says, want to fight to bring about the victory of Ukraine against Russia and an end to Moscow’s unfettered control over the regions and republics within the current borders of the Russian Federation.

            In an interview with RFI’s Russian Service, the international secretary of the Civic Council which oversees the group says that this “core of a liberation army” hopes to contribute to Ukraine’s victory and Moscow’s defeat (россия/20230928-наша-ближайшая-задача-создать-ядро-освободительной-армии-что-известно-о-сибирском-батальоне).

            Vlad Ammosov, who came up with the idea of a Siberian Battalion and who is himself an ethnic Sakha, Sergeyeva says, has as “his dream a Free Sakha, free regions of Siberia and other parts of the Russian Federation in which human rights and the well-being of ordinary citizens has importance.”

            Ammosov, she continues, is a former GRU officer who underwent his own process of “de-imperialization” as a result of his career experiences. Now, she says, “he like a majority of residents of Siberia wants sufficient decentralization to guarantee that no bosses will be able to run the regions having seized the power resources in the Kremlin.”

            Most of those in the battalion, Sergeyeva says, are Russians who have fled abroad because of Putin’s war in Ukraine. The group is entirely financed by contributions from émigré Russians and some inside the Russian Federation who recognize that in the current situation, only armed struggle can make a difference.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Moscow Calls On All Parties in Karabakh Conflict to Ensure Safety of Russian ‘Peacekeepers’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 23 – Normally, peacekeepers are responsible for ensuring the safety of the population; but Moscow has turned things around. The Russian foreign ministry has appealed to all parties in the Karabakh conflict to take every possible step to ensure the safety of Russian “peacekeepers,” some Russians are saying.

            This is just one of the anecdotes circulating in Russia that have been assembled by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova and posted on line at Among the best of the rest which capture much about how things are going in Russia today are the following:

·       Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu visited an arms show in Tehran and was shocked that Iranian UAVs are an exact copy of Russian Geran drones.

·       Putin said he was pleased to accept Xi Jinping’s offer to come to China. He had no choice: when the boss calls, you have to accept with pleasure.

·       Moscow has found a new way to deal with problems: simply declare shortcomings to be advantages and go on as before.

·       On the anniversary of the mobilization, military registration offices have invited men over 18 to take part in these festive events.

·       Some in the Duma have proposed sending all those in Russia who are unemployed to fight in Ukraine. What can these deputies be thinking? After all, everyone in Russia knows that they are effectively unemployed – and so would be the first candidates for dispatch if such a program were adopted.

·       Even Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov doesn’t believe what he says, but he has to say it because despite the size of Russia, there is nowhere he can retreat to as behind him is a noose.

Quick Acceptance of Azerbaijan’s Restoration of Control over Karabakh ‘Inevitably Raises Questions about Other Unrecognized Republics,’ Analysts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 21 – The relative ease with which the international community and the Russian Federation accepted Azerbaijan’s restoration of control in Karabakh “inevitably raises the question about the remaining unrecognized territories of the former USSR,” Russian analysts say.

            While the situations of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria are different from that of the former Artsakh, the fact that the world has accepted the Azerbaijani action so quickly and easily will change the dynamics of discussions about these places in Georgia and Moldova, analysts say ( and

            That is because one of the major constraints against Tbilisi and Chisinau taking military action was the widespread belief that neither the West nor, perhaps more significantly, Moscow, would sit calmly by if either did. Such concerns are likely still a factor, but they have been reduced by what has happened in the south Caucasus.

            And while analysts aren’t talking about other possibilities, such as using military force to change borders elsewhere on the former Soviet space, what has just happened in Karabakh is likely to have an impact as well, yet another result of Moscow’s use of force in Ukraine and its draw down of its offensive capacities elsewhere. 

Putin’s New History Textbook Sparks Outrage among Non-Russians, Deepening Divide between Them and Ethnic Russians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 23 – The new history textbook Vladimir Putin ordered prepared to stress the unity of the peoples of the Russian Federation is having exactly the opposite effect, highlighting the differences between them and deepening the divide between those who have been the victims of Moscow’s policies and Russians Putin presents as the core of the country.

            Commentators and republic leaders across the North Caucasus whose nations had been deported by Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s were the most outraged. They called for the book not to be used until it is rewritten to remove what they consider to be Stalinist propaganda against them (,, / and

            One of the sharpest criticisms of the new Moscow textbook came from Ingush historian Ruslan Buzurtanov who described much of the work as “an absolute lie” which calls them bandits and traitors  and an unjustified attack on non-Russians in the Stalinist manner (

            “Ingush territory was not under occupation in contrast to neighboring Stavropol, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia". We could in no way even had we wanted to betray our Motherland to anyone” as the text suggests, he wrote. And then he added two observations that strike at the Putin narrative of the Russian past:

            On the one hand, he says, “There were 1.5 million ethnic Russians in German units, in the form of the Russian Liberation Army, punitive detachments and so on. There weren’t even 20 Ingush in such units. So who then betrayed whom?”

            And on the other, Buzurtanov concluded that “one must not accuse the small peoples of what the leadership of the country at that time was guilty” because “the small peoples did not run the country.”

With Invasion of Ukraine, Putin has Triggered a Fourth Wave of Archaization in Russia, Something that Country Won’t Escape Quickly, Kulbaka Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 21 – Before last year, Russia had experienced three waves of archaization over the past 110 years, the first after the 1917 revolution, the second with the onset of World War II, and the third in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR and the beginning of market reforms, Nikolay Kulbaka says.

            According to the independent Russian economist, each of these was “the result of a crisis in the previous management model” in Russia and “the illusion” among some parts of its elites that stability and the existing order can be maintained by turning backward rather than seeking modernization (

            But such attempts had in each case “the opposite effect.” They destroyed the remaining parts of the previous system, exacerbated social conflicts, and increased by criminal activities and fights over the redistribution of property; and they led to “mass emigration of those who either felt vulnerable or had the qualification for better opportunities abroad.”

            Whenever a socio-economic system is destroyed, that can be a catalyst for intensive modernization, “especially if the country involved lags significantly behind the level of development in neighboring countries, Kulbaka argues, noting that this was the case in all three of the previous turns to archaization after a time.

            Unfortunately, this trend was undermined in all three cases by those who felt they had to turn to past models of rule lest modernization itself lead to challenges to their political power. Even more unfortunately, he continues, “the crisis that began in 2022 apparently opens the way for a fourth wave of archaization,” one whose “trajectory and consequences remain uncertain.”

            According to Kulbaka, “a distinctive feature” of the current wave “is the absence of an obvious modernization component.” Instead, it is taking place “under the banner of conservatism,” although some efforts at import substitution suggest that “a certain element of modernization is still present.”

            But because the modernization component is relatively small, a future transition of Russia “from an archaic to a modern way of thinking will take a long time, at least ten to fifteen years.” And during that period, rapid growth in comes won’t prove a panacea as it will only “increase social inequality.”

            This suggests, Kulbaka concludes, that “Russia will face an economic recession in the near future which will further consolidate archaic tendencies in society and increase the lag behind developed countries that Russia currently suffers.”