Friday, March 24, 2023

Putin would Face a Revolution Relatively Soon Even if He Wins in Ukraine, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – Many believe that if Putin manages to “snatch a victory” in Ukraine, Russia will enter a new period of stability, Abbas Gallyamov says. There would be a brief outpouring of euphoria, but it wouldn’t last as long as the public reaction to the Anschluss of Crimea did.

            The reason for that is simple, the former Putin speechwriter says. The Russian people wants to return to “the prewar state when everything was relatively peaceful,” but that would require a fundamental change in Putin’s direction. There is no evidence he’s prepared to do so even if he wins (

            Russians don’t believe that things will get better for them after a victory or even return to what they were before Putin launched his war in Ukraine, Gallyamov says. They are going to demand changes, and Putin isn’t prepared to give any. His recent speeches show that he has no intention of doing anything different than he is now.

            But if Putin doesn’t win the war – and there are compelling reasons to think that he isn’t and won’t, Gallyamov continues – then “it will be really hard for him. His entire legitimacy is based only on the premise that he’s strong and always winning. And his failure to win the war he started would show that he’s no longer as strong as we thought he was.”

            “The magic would disappear … people would no longer be enchanted with him. The erosion of his legitimacy would speed up quickly. Indeed, it is already under way. And then within a year or two, he would turn into someone hated – an old dictator and an old tyrant.” Then, without that base of support, “he might face an elite coup or a military coup.”

            Speaking about the future, Gallyamov makes two proposals. On the one hand, he argues that Putin is likely to install Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister and try to make him responsible for what happens in a way that allows Putin to avoid responsibility for a disaster in Ukraine but get credit if miracle of miracles things turn out right.

            And on the other, the Russian commentator says that in the event of a collapse, currently imprisoned opposition leader Aleksey Navalny has “a big chance.” He’s getting “charged” and being in prison, “he’s not responsible for the current collapse.” Moreover, “people still remember him as Putin’s chief enemy.”

            “So,” Gallyamov continues, “when the regime collapses, it would be natural for people to turn to Navalny and look at him and ask him what he thinks.” That could be a launch pad for a rapid rise to the top.

            Were that to happen, Navalny’s Russia “would be a normal, peaceful country just like it was in the 1990s,” because “all this Russian imperialism, all this strategy based on conflicts with the Western world has exhausted itself … Everyone feels that this has led us into serious trouble” and they want to try something else.

            In many ways, Gallyamov argues, the situation is becoming like that in postwar Germany. This feeling to change course is growing and when it becomes overwhelming, the regime will collapse. What that means is that no one in Russia will want a repetition of what they have just gone through.

            “And again,” he says, “the strongest idea in Russia will be ‘never again’ like in post-Franco Spain where everyone already understood that [his] course had exhausted itself” and that the country must move in a radically different direction.

Constantinople Patriarch Moves against ROC MP in Lithuania and Belarus

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – Constantinople Patriarch Bartholemew continues his campaign against the ROC MP, visiting Lithuania to formalize the creation of a parallel Orthodox church there subordinate to himself and reaching out to Belarusian Orthodox living in Lithuania in a sign that he wants to do the same thing with Orthodoxy there.

            Bartholemew’s latest move will leave Lithuania in the same position as Estonia, with two Orthodox churches, one subordinate to Constantinopole and the other to Moscow and open the way to organizing either in Belarus itself or among Belarusians abroad something similar for that country ( and

            There are relatively few Orthodox in the three Baltic countries and so moves there may not matter to Moscow all that much, but Bartholemew’s threat to expand his reach into Belarus is more serious. Not only are most Belarusians Orthodox but Vladimir Putin views that country as an integral part of his “Russian world.”

Intriguingly, specialists on Orthodoxy have argued that Belarus is more likely to follow the Estonian path than any other if it moves away from Moscow in religious terms. Now that Lithuania has done the same, their predictions look even more compelling (

            But the symbolism of Bartholemew’s latest moves in Lithuania is serious as far as Moscow is concerned. According to one Moscow commentator, it leaves the Moscow Patriarch like Mikhail Gorbachev during the parade of sovereignties: “he forpmally rules but already has little influence” (

            And the editors of Moscow’s Nezavisimaya gazeta are if anything even more alarmist: they argue in a lead article that what Constantinopole is doing could end not only with Moscow losing its control over all Orthodox churches in the former Soviet republics but in losing control over Russia itself (

            That could happen, the editors suggest, if the Constantinopole church in Lithuania promotes the restoration of Lithuanian Rus, which was subordinate to Constantinopole and controlled much of Orthodoxy in what is now Russia up through the 16th century. If that happens, the Moscow Patriarchate could in principle find itself isolated in its own country.

            And that in turn could lead to a new great schism in the eastern church, this time between the Greeks and the Russians, with the Greeks in the person of Bartholemew controlling far more of the eastern church than the Russians and making Constantinopole not Moscow the center of world Orthodoxy.

            It seems unlikely that things will go that far, but the failure of the Moscow Patriarchate to respond forcefully to what is going on and the fact that in the church world today as in the geopolitical world Putin has upended by his invasion of Ukraine, the old rules don’t apply and no one knows what the new ones are


Far More Anti-War Protests Taking Place in Russia than Media Report, Russian Government Data Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – Protests against Putin’s war in Ukraine such as those which take the form of laying flowers at Ukraine-linked memorials in Russian cities seldom get any media attention either locally or at the center if there are no detentions -- but they are monitored and recorded by Moscow, according to an analysis of leaked Russian government data.

            Roskomnadzor, the Russian government agency responsible for monitoring, controlling and censoring the media in that country, monitors all protests in the Russian Federation on all topics, protests that seldom get any attention in regional or all-Russian media unless there are detentions.

            And that in turn means that the amount of popular anger about many topics and opposition to Putin’s war in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s awareness of both kinds of opposition is far greater than any surveys of the Russian media, central, regional or local, are in a position to suggest.

            A leak of its data for 116 days during 2022 shows that regardless of the subject and the number of people involved, Moscow monitors and then evaluates all protests in the country. Two Important Stories journalists, Irina Dolinina and Polina Uzhvak, analyze this official monitoring (

            Protests against the war took place more often in Moscow and St. Petersburg, in regional centers and in Siberia in particular. In Ulan-Ude, Sochi, Novorossiisk, and Glazov in Udmurtia, the only protests that to place during the period covered by the leaked document were against the war.

            The data also showed that there were four and a half times more protests against the war during this period than in support of it. Meetings in favor of the war formed only 14 percent of all actions. That means that 86 percent were either against the war or about other subjects where the population was against what officials are doing.

            Russians are taking to the streets to protest almost every day. Most of the demonstrations are small and about local issues and are not even picked up by the local media let along the federal outlets, but Roskomnadzor maintains a file and apparently provides data about this up the line to the Kremlin.

            For the period covered in the materials which have leaked, Khabarovsk had more protests than any other federal subjects (91 days out of 116), twice as many as St. Petersburg and three times more than Moscow and Bashkortostan, the result of demonstrations in support of the Khabarovsk governor the central authorities removed and charged.

            Just under half of all protest actions were by individual pickets, and only one in every five protests involved more than ten people. Many did not lead to detentions or arrests; and in their absence, the media didn’t report them. That has the effect of reinforcing the widespread view that protest is rare because it is both dangerous and ineffective.

New ‘Memorial’ Book Documents Russian Wars and War Crimes over the Past 30 Years

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 18 – The international community has been outraged by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the crimes it has committed there, but long before this conflict, the Russian government has been involved in wars and war crimes – and in almost all cases has done so without nearly as much criticism and almost always with impunity.

            The Memorial human rights organization which the Kremlin has shuttered has just released a 340-page volume, A Chain of Crimes, a Chain of War, a Chain of Impunity documenting both the wars and crimes, on the one hand, and the ways in which the international community failed to hold Russia to account (Доклад_Мемориал.pdf).

            As the book makes clear, all of the aggressiveness the Russian authorities have shown in Ukraine and all the crimes they have committed there have precedents in earlier Russian wars starting in Chechnya and continuing through Georgia and Syria, a track record few in the West often fail to recall because its failure to oppose the earlier crimes opened the way for new ones.

            Had the international community done more to oppose Russian crimes in these earlier wars, including the wars in Chechnya, the world might have been spared the war in Ukraine and the war crimes Russia has committed there, the report suggests. It is in this sense and this sense alone that the world bears responsibility for the current war.

New Law Allows Russian Agencies to Classify Any Data They Collect but Their Behavior Varies Widely, ‘Be Exact’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – A law passed three weeks ago allows the Russian government to block the release to the public of any information the authorities want to hide. According to the Be Exact portal, at least 14 ministries and agencies have already done so, with many of them having begun to impose restrictions on the release of data even before the law was passed.

            The situation with regard to Russian government data has been deteriorating since 2014, the portal says; but it took a sharp turn downward during the first six months of Putin’s war in Ukraine and is now set to take yet another plunge as a result of this law (

            Some agencies have stopped issuing all data, others have released only a little compared to what was the case earlier, still others are releasing data but doing so without advertising that fact, and some, having stopped releasing data earlier are now releasing it again, apparently either because the economy needs the data or because the ministry can easily falsify it.

            This variegated result, typical of the way the Putin regime does many things, allows officials to dismiss criticism that they aren’t releasing data even though that is exactly what they are doing – and in ways that suggest the veil of secrecy is going to be  cast over ever more subjects the longer the war goes on.


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Lenin Invented Siberia, Xi Told Putin, Forgetting that It has Always Been Part of China

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 21 – The visit of Chinese leader Xi to Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin has generated a remarkable number of anecdotes that probably say more about both the meeting and how Russian people see things. Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova offers five of the best (

·       Xi told Putin that Lenin invented Siberia when it fact it has always been a historical part of China.

·       Putin called the deal of a century his plans to sell gas to China at a 70 percent discount. When he sells it for nothing, then that will be the deal of the millennium.

·       Muscovites are truly ungrateful: they complained about being restricted in their movement around the city during Xi’s visit. They should have been pleased they weren’t shipped out to the boondocks entirely.

·       The Russian and Chinese presidents have announced the creation of a new union, PuXi Right, which is pronounced in Russian just like “Pussy Riot.”

·       Two unanswered questions from the summit: Xi wants to know how Putin is going to wrap things up? And Putin wants to know whether Xi will help him with weapons?


Pushkaryova offers four additional Russian anecdotes that are also worth noting:

·       Moscow fashion designers are coming up with a new clothing line for the elite. It will have simple lines and feature black and white stripes.

·       Putin says that if London supplies Ukraine with depleted uranium shells, Russia will be forced to react. After all, Moscow has plenty of red felt-tip pens and can draw another red line or two.

·       Bank security officers call a depositor and ask for his number so they can protect his account against unauthorized access. The man says he has a ten. When the officers ask what comes next, he says “the ten of clubs.”

·       Russians are now circulating Chekhov’s observation that “they say truth will prevail in the end, but that’s not true.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Russian Occupiers Using Draft to Decimate Crimean Tatar Nation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 19 – Many non-Russian nations within the borders of the Russian Federation say that Moscow is drafting men from their ranks disproportionately compared to those in the ethnic Russian nation and that the deaths of non-Russians in the Russian military in Ukraine are higher as well.

            This has sparked a debate as to whether these outcomes are the result primarily of Kremlin’s desire to fight this imperial war using members of nationalities it is trying to marginalize or even destroy or whether it reflects instead the fact that the non-Russians are generally poorer and more rural and thus more likely to join the army as a social lift.

            But a new statistic from Russian-occupied Crimea does not permit a similar debate. There, Crimean Tatar activists say, 90 percent of all draft notices have gone out to villages populated largely or exclusively by members of their nationality, a pattern that only ethnic targeting can explain (

            That official Russian focus on the drafting of Crimean Tatars is consistent with the repression that Moscow occupiers have visited on that nation, which currently forms only about 15 percent of the total there, since Russia occupied that Ukrainian peninsula in 2014. That Russian approach qualifies as both a war crime and a crime against humanity.