Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Non-Russians at Home and Abroad haven’t Forgotten Navalny’s Earlier Xenophobic Positions, Kosanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 18 – While non-Russians inside the Russian Federation and in the post-Soviet states have been horrified by the Kremlin’s murder of Aleksey Navalny, they have been in most cases restrained in the expression of their feelings because they have not forgotten the Russian opposition leader’s earlier xenophobic positions, Amirzhan Kosanov says.

            The member of the Social Chamber of Kazakhstan’s Majilis, he observes that “while giving one’s due to Navalny’s personality, positions, and actions, one cannot fail to take note of the restrained attitude of part of the Kazakhstan society and not only it to his person” (novgaz.com/index.php/2-news/3643-безумство-храброго).

            That is because “at one time, Navalny was distinguished by certain quite tendentious expresses which were rated by Amnesty International as ‘racist and xenophobic.’” He participated in actions which were “openly neo-imperialist and chauvinist,” and he even called for struggling against migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus.

            To observe this, Kosanov says, is not to join the choir of Kremlin agents who seek to discredit Navalny, especially since after the opposition leader was poisoned, he admitted that many of his earlier positions were mistaken. But it is a simple recognition that many will never forget what he said and did earlier.

            “Navalny understood the domestic electoral value of nationalism and tried to saddle this recalcitrant horse,” the Kazakh politician says; “but as a politician he should have understood that such expressions which offended the national feelings of citizens of neighboring states could not fail to elicit anger and influence his image in these countries.”

            Kosanov adds that reaction to Navalny’s murder also highlights two other unfortunate developments: the divisions within opposition movements everywhere caused by personal ambitions or worse and the failure of the international community to come up with better ways to help the political prisoners across the former Soviet space.

            If the former problem is one that these countries have had for a long time, he concludes, the latter is especially tragic because the West used to do far more for political prisoners than it is doing now, preferring instead to focus on economic and geopolitical issues instead of human rights.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Russia ‘Can’t Free Itself from Putin’s Madness on Its Own’ and Today's West has Neither Will Nor Plan to Do So, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 17 – Recent events, including not only the murder of Aleksey Navalny but the Kremlin’s aggression at home and abroad show that “Russia won’t be able to free itself from Putin’s madness on its own,” a situation that is especially tragic because today the West has neither the will nor the plan to do so, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.

            The Russian economist and commentator says that all Putin’s moves follow a similar strategy: first, attempts at intimidation, then a pause, and finally a decisive strike, an approach designed to “divert public attention both in Russia and abroad from the  target of destruction” (theins.ru/opinions/inozemtsev/269229).

            Throughout his time in power, Putin ahs succeeded more often than not and especially in “suppressing his own people.” His initial liberal reforms gave urban Russians something to lose and now they have become “captives of their own prosperity,” fearful of doing anything that might cost them any of that. And his repressions could indeed take everything away from them.

            Aleksey Navalny, whom Putin has just murdered, “tirelessly tried to rouse Russians,” but he made two main mistakes: he failed to recognize that any opposition in Russia will need some support from within the government to succeed, and he bet on the wrong issue – corruption – thinking that would cause Russians to rise in defense of justice.

            Now, Navalny is gone and there is no obvious candidate to replace him. Many opposition figures from the past have emigrated and become little more than “a support group for Ukraine” rather than politicians focused on Russia itself. That may be where these people can have the most impact now, Inozemtsev says; but it won’t help Russia anytime soon or by itself.

            That is because for  “the vast majority of Russians and not just ‘Putin supporters,’” the émigré politicians support for Ukraine “makes them traitors” and means that “any dialogue with them,” let alone viewing them as potential leaders for the country in the future, is “simply impossible.”

“Aleksey Navalny was the last major opposition politician who remained in Russia and did not predicate his future on the successes of the Ukrainian military,” Inozemtsev points out. And “therefore his loss is a catastrophic blow to the anti-Putin forces, the depressing consequences of which we will all soon witness.”

Along with other recent events, Navalny’s murder “represents a crucial milestone in the trajectory of modern Russia” because they provide convincing evidence that Russia “can’t liberate itself from the grip of Putin’s madness on its own.” It is going to need outside help and it isn’t clear where that is going to come from.

 

signify a crucial milestone in the trajectory of modern Russia. They underscore the reality that our country cannot liberate itself from the grip of Putin's madness by itself.”

            In 1995, historian Aleksandr Yanov talked about “Weimar Russia” (lib.ru/POLITOLOG/yanow.txt_with-big-pictures.html);  and the current situation shows that he was “indeed onto something, Inozemtsev says. After Hitler destroyed it, only the actions of the Allies destroyed him and then “transformed Weimar Germany into the modern state it is today.”

            Unfortunately, the commentator concludes, there is little understanding of the nature of the Putin problem in the West or the will to take similar actions now. 

At Current Rate of Advance, Moscow will Need 1,000 Years to Occupy Ukraine, Some Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 17 – Given that it took Russian forces almost a year to take Avdiivka and that there are more than 300 cities and 20,000 villages under Kyiv’s control, there is no way Moscow will be able to occupy Ukraine in less than a thousand years, some Russians are now saying to each other.

            That is only one of the anecdotes Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova includes in her latest collection (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/47791/-). Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Other countries elect presidents, but Russia elects a sovereign. For that, there can be only one candidate. All the others are decorations. And Russian voters can’t imagine anything else.

·       After a Krasnoyarsk city deputy described contract soldiers returning from fighting in Ukraine as alcoholics and rapists, Russian officials are struggling to decide what to charge him with: fake news or revealing a state secret?

·       If Putin wants to save the Russian nation, he should stop telling Russian women to have more children and instead end the wars in which Russian men are dying.

·       The truth is like the sun: it hurts to look at it, but it is pointless to deny it exists.

·       Moscow is arresting in absentia ever more foreign leaders. If it restores the death penalty, Russians ask, will there be executions in absentia as well?\

·       Russians were traumatized by losses in the Afghan war but aren’t by the losses in Ukraine. Apparently, there were still some real people in the 1980s.

·       That one Russian in six is now prepared to say that he or she doesn’t trust Putin shows that Russia is still alive. When that figure falls to zero, then Russia will no longer exist but simply be an extension of North Korea.

·       It is foolish to ask how the Kremlin benefited from the murder of Navalny. A maniac kills not because he benefits but because he is a maniac.

 

Putin’s War in Ukraine Means De-Colonization ‘No Longer a Metaphor’ in North Caucasus, Music Producer from Nalchik but Now in Georgia Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 16 – Bulat Khalilov, one of the founders of a company that records the music of the peoples of the North Caucasus, says that when he began a decade ago, he and his colleagues spoke of decolonization as nothing more than a metaphor. But Putin’s war in Ukraine means that it is “no longer a metaphor” but a real challenge.

            His company, Ored Recordings, was set up in Nachik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, and has produced a remarkable series of recordings of the traditional music of the nations of that region (oredrecordings.bandcamp.com/). But in October 2022, its organizers decided to move to Georgia because working inside the Russian Federation had become almost impossible.

            In a new interview, Khalilov says that his company continues to work both with diaspora groups and with those in the North Caucasus still willing and able to cooperate with Ored. The situation is difficult but not impossible, and he argues it is critically important for these nations (cherta.media/interview/lejbl-ored-recordings-o-muzyke-kavkaza/).

            When Ored was still in Nalchi, he says, “we didn’t say or declare anything illegal. We simply condemned colonialism, imperialism and militarism and this position was still not criminal.” But the situation is worsening because these issues have become all too real and everyone must adopt a clear position on them.

            After the expanded war in Ukraine began, Khalilov argues, “we understood that [decolonization] is not some terrible dystopian metaphor” but instead, a description of “the horror of today’s reality.” We recognized that “this is a real threat” as people are dying and wars are spreading.  

            “Our music has always been political” but now it is more so. It is about saving the peoples who sing or play it, helping them to see themselves as part of the world, and changing the narratives others have about them. North Caucasians aren’t Russians as all too many people in Moscow or in the West say; and the music they have proves that.

            “Music complicates the picture of the world in a positive way,” Khalilov concludes. It is not about promoting the idea that we are “so unique” but that we are part of the world. As such, “we are against local nationalism” and want our nations by means of their music to become part of the world directly rather than through the mediation of anyone else.

 

For Two Groups, Russian Presidential Election Remains Important even if Outcome is Already Certain, Levinson Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 16 – There are two groups in Russian society for whom the upcoming presidential election remains important even if the outcome is already known, Aleksey Levinson says. These are the members of the power vertical who must prove they in charge and the 10 million anti-war voters whom the Kremlin has deprived of a real choice.

            There is a tendency to say the upcoming election is irrelevant precisely because its outcome is a foregone conclusion, the Levada Center sociologist says. But that is a mistake because for two groups it may prove decisive (moscowtimes.ru/2024/02/16/chto-delat-desyati-millionam-izbiratelei-zhelayuschih-ostanovit-spetsoperatsiyu-a121833).

            The first consists of the members of Putin’s power vertical who must show themselves capable of “ensuring the controllability” over the population. They know that if they fail in large ways or small to demonstrate that to the satisfaction of those above them, they could lose everything.

            If what they will do is thus obvious, Levinson says, those in the second group, the roughly ten million Russians who oppose the war, many of whom signed the petitions for a candidate who promised to end it but whom the Kremlin has prevented from running, face a real dilemma and a real choice.

            What will these 10 million do? That is “a big question,” the sociologist continues. They aren’t about to leave the country as others did after the launch of the expanded war in Ukraine. And so what they will choose to do matters. They aren’t unified but they exist despite the efforts of the Putin regime to act as if they don’t.

Moscow’s Compatriots Program Allowing Too Many Non-Slavs to Enter Russia and Must Be Revised or Stopped, Shustov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 16 – Moscow has presented its program to allow people living abroad who were citizens of the USSR or are descendants of those who lived in that country or its predecessor the Russian Empire to return in order to compensate for Russia’s demographic decline.

            But Aleksandr Shustov, a commentator for the Rhythm of Eurasia portal, says that a close analysis shows that the program isn’t working that way but instead is allowing non-Slavs to enter Russia, thus changing the ethnic balance (ritmeurasia.ru/news--2024-02-16--gosprogramma-pereselenija-sootechestvennikov-stala-kanalom-dlja-migracii-ne-slavjan-71573).

            As a result, “the program of resettling Russian compatriots has lost its sense and become an instrument for the migration into Russia of the indigenous population of the Asian countries of the CIS,” something that Moscow has tried to hide by releasing so few statistics about it. But there are enough to reach that conclusion, Shustov insists.

            He offers an analysis of the data the government has released for 2022 and argues that his conclusions are supported by fuller data from Kaluga Oblast. There, officials say, 80 percent of the compatriots who came a decade or more ago were Slavs but by 2022, only 17 percent were, leading Kaluga to end its participation in the program (kommersant.ru/doc/5215478), a step Shustov clearly believes others should follow.

            “Today,” he writes, “the massive ‘recruitment’ of immigrants in CIS countries where there are practically no Russians or other Slavs left should be stopped.” Instead, the compatriot program should be kept in place “only where that demographic base remains significant.” And to ensure that, Moscow must focus on the nationality of applicants.

            But in an indication of just how racialist and not just nationalist Shustov’s approach would be, he urges that the Russian government “launch a mechanism to attractive the conservative-minded population of the United States and the European Union, many of whom are interested in moving to Russia” (ritmeurasia.ru/news--2023-02-24--kto-poedet-v-rossiju-ideologicheskaja-immigracija-64849).

            While the Putin regime may not yet be prepared to go that far, Shustov’s comments suggest that many in Moscow now are ready to restrict the compatriot program only to Slavs and not open to members of other groups who were or whose ancestors were citizens of the USSR or the Russian Empire.

            If that happens, among the biggest losers will be the Circassians who have long sought repatriation to their homeland in the North Caucasus and have tried to use the compatriot program to that end. They will be further radicalized by any further changes in that direction (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/07/circassian-activist-denounces-moscow.html).

Navalny’s Murder ‘Radicalizing Both Elites and Opposition,’ Mikhaylov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 16 – Putin’s murder of Aleksey Navalny is “the crossing of a Rubicon” equivalent to the Anschluss of Crimea or the current Russian war in Ukraine, Nikolay Mikhaylov says, one that shows the true nature of the current regime, makes the upcoming presidential elections meaningless, and radicalizes both the elites and the opposition.

            Before this act of violence, the Russian commentator says, Moscow could present itself as having some basis of legitimacy in elections; but now it is obvious that such efforts are fraudulent and that the Putin regime rests only on unrestrained violence against its opponents (moscowtimes.ru/2024/02/16/ubiistvo-alekseya-naavalnogo-radikalizatsiya-i-eliti-i-oppozitsii-neizbezhna-a121954).

            For many, “even the lowliest official,” it is now clear that the only exit from this system involves the death of someone, Mikhaylov says. “For many, this is a cold shower just as the fear of Beria coming to power [after the death of Stalin] played that role for the old Soviet nomenklatura that was accustomed to fearing everything.” And it will radicalize them.

            Elites who still believe that the regime can change through gradual evolution has received a clear signal that this is impossible. That attitude remains dominant now; but by killing Navalny, Putin has “sharply increased the chances” that some in the elite “will be frightened enough to dare to try other scenarios. And that is much more important than the situation in the opposition.”

            But the opposition has suffered its own Rubicon, Mikhaylov continues. Navalny’s projects will be at risk of collapse unless a new leader can emerge; and there will be an effort to find some leadership that can unite the opposition both inside Russia and abroad in ways it has not been up to now.

            Most immediately, Navalny’s murder “completely devalues ‘the elections.’” Now everyone can see that what is going on in Putin’s Russia isn’t about elections but about “intimidation, violence, a mockery of competition and of public opinion.” And both elites and the opposition will have to decide how to respond.