Saturday, May 27, 2023

10 Percent of Russian Population that is Actively Religious Divided Equally among Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Protestants, Mitrokhin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – Only 10 percent of the population of Russia today is actively religious, with that small fraction divided equally among Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Protestants, Nikolay Mitrokhin says. The remainder are indifferent or even increasingly hostile to religion, a trend that will increasingly set the weather in that country.

            “Today,” the specialist on religion in Russia who teaches at the University of Bremen says, “there is a decline in institutional religiosity on all fronts. That is the number of people involved is not growing but rapidly falling,” a pattern that will only accelerate as urbanization proceeds (

            That trend, Mitrokhin continues, is somewhat hidden by polls showing the same high levels of attachment to Orthodoxy as in the past. But those polls reflect the fact that people give the answers they think the authorities want; and the Putin regime wants people to identify as Orthodox  because that means for it that they are attached to the traditional values it favors.

            Most religious organizations in Russia now are in rural areas, and they are very small, involving only 15 to 20 people, the specialist on religion in Russia continues. They are losing members as people leave the villages and lack the ability to build new churches or mosques or to attract more people to attend existing ones.

            Over the last two decades, federal propaganda in support of religion as a traditional value notwithstanding, there has been a very rapid growth in anti-religious feelings among Rusisans, with ever more people intolerant of the actions of religious groups. It is now far easier to mobilize a protest against construction of a church than in favor it.

            This trend has been greatest among Orthodox Christians, but it is affecting Muslims as well, especially as they move from rural areas into big cities and as their fertility rates decline. That suggests that even they will play a smaller role in Russian life in the past and that the religious question as such will decline as well.

            Instead, what is likely is the growth of atheism and attacks on religious communities, “in the first instance against Orthodox” and especially after the current regime leaves the scene. In this situation, Muslims will gain elatively; and the real wild card is the Protestant one. For now, Protestants are trying to avoid attracting attention and the negative consequences that entails.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Aging Putin Regime Fails to See It is Creating 'a Russia without Russians,’ Grachev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – Ordinary Russians can see what the denizens of the Kremlin cannot: residents of major cities in their country are becoming ever less Russian and ever more Central Asian with each passing month, a trend the Putin regime has accelerated by its need for workers to replace those men it has sent to fight in Ukraine, Denis Grachev says.

            According to the interior ministry, there are now 16.9 million immigrants in Russia, 2.6 million more than there were when the war started, the blogger says. Most come from Central Asia, many don’t know Russians, and large numbers are concentrated in places that can only described as crime-filled ghettos (

            This problem has gotten worse in recent years for two main reasons, Grachev says. On the one hand, the war in Ukraine by taking men out of the Russian economy has led Moscow to bring in even more immigrants to take their places. And on the other, Putin “has been in power so long” that he is out of touch with what is going in the streets of Russian cities.

            “Judging from the directions the government is leading our country,” the Russian blogger continues, it is clear that the regime “doesn’t much care about the future of Russia. As they say, apres moi, le deluge.” But the failure of the regime to recognize this problem and even to use tax money from Russians to help the non-Russians is infuriating.

            Grachev’s words are not entirely accurate, but they likely reflect the views of many Russians who see more immigrants around them than they did in the past and overstate the impact of those communities. To the extent that is true, such conclusions constitute a problem for the Kremlin, especially if Russians link this trend with the war in Ukraine and Putin’s age.


Putin’s Orwellian NewSpeak has Four Basic Forms, Philologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 19 – The misuse and distortion of language has been “one of the main instruments” of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, Kseniya Turkova says. There are hundreds of individual examples of such abuse, but the philologist and member of the expert council of “The Word of the Year” competition says they all fall into four main categories.

            These include using words in exactly the opposite way that they are typically employed, engaging in euphemistic expressions, deliberate verbosity designed to produce information overload, and “of course, hate speech,” Turkova suggests (

            She discusses each and provides examples before offering some general conclusions. Turkova recalls that Russian philologist Gasan Huseynov once called this newspeak “a cesspool language” for which he was viciously attacked. “But as time has shown, it wasn’t and isn’t a normal language but rather an artificial tongue for another parallel reality.”

            As such, it is “closed upon itself with each linguistic innovation aimed exclusively at internal consumers who live in an information vacuum.” After all, she points out, “outside of Russia, terms like ‘the collective West,’ ‘the Anglo-Saxons,’ and ‘de-Nazification’ are not widely used.”

            “Before our eyes,” Turkova continues, “a horrific newspeak is taking shape or has already been formed. It is spreading ever more widely and capturing ever more territories that had been dominated by common sense.” But, she argues, “it is still possible to resist by analyzing and dissecting this parallel reality” and then rejecting it.


Acquittals in Russian Courts Fall to Only One in Every 670 Cases -- or 0.15 Percent

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – The number of acquittals in Russian courts is not about one percent as was the case as recently as a decade ago and as many still believe but only 0.15 percent –one in every 670 cases, Elena Yurishina says. And these consist almost exclusively siloviki, judges or people who have been accused not by the authorities but by other private parties.

            The analyst for the Anti-Torture Team reports this in a detailed article for the To Be Precise portal (

            Yurishina points out that these figures, for calendar year 2022, were gathered no by her organization but are contained in the official report of the Judicial Department of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ( What that means is that the real situation may be even worse than Moscow is reporting.

            But her research into the official figures calls attention to the fact that officials and especially those in the force structures are vastly more frequently found innocent compared to those in all other categories, that juries are 100 times more likely to find someone innocent than judges, and that only half of the charges brought by private persons leads to a sentence.

            And the legal specialist concludes with regret that the Russian authorities are doing every thing they can to reduce the number of people found innocent lest not guilty verdicts undermine the authority of the judicial system which itself is an important support for the current Putin regime.


Russian Liberals and Non-Russian Nationalists Live in Separate Worlds but Share Skepticism about Early Elections, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – The differences between the Berlin Declaration of Russian Democratic Forces and the Sixth Forum of Free Peoples of Post-Russia show that the two groups operate in separate worlds, Vadim Shtepa says; but they also show that the two groups, Russian liberals and non-Russian nationalists share a skepticism about early elections.

            The editor of the Tallinn-based Region.Expert portal says that there are some intriguing parallels and key differences between what is happening now and what took place at the end of Soviet times (

            In 1988, supporters of perestroika issued a programmatic volume entitled No Other Way in which they argued that the only way forward was within the framework of socialism and the unchanged borders of the USSR, positions that were soon undercut and made untenable by the actions of the Interregional Group of Deputies.

            “Today’s ‘Russian democrats’ who signed the Berlin Declaration, although they left Russia long ago, retain their Moscow-centric mindset. Their ideal is ‘a free, legal, federal Russia,’ arguing that ‘there is no other way.’” They are certain that Russia must “remain a single country with “internationally recognized borders.”

            Those who want a post-Russian future, of course, want to abolish these borders and establish new ones. For them, as for members of the Interregional Group, “their own republics look like future political subjects,” and they don’t trust Russian liberals concerning the possibility of any new federalism.

            “For those who call themselves ‘Russian democrats,’” Shtepa says, “the main problem is democracy itself … Their leaders actively oppose the main democratic instrument, free elecitons, because according to them, if such elections were to be held immediately after the fall of the Putin regime, then the supporters of the former system would inevitably win.”

            “Therefore, they associate the liberation of the country with the creation of some kind of unelected ‘transitional administration,’” failing to see that this would lead “not to liberation but simply to another repetition of the imperial track” with those who have never faced the voters in a free election assuming and holding power, the Russian regionalist continues.

            Unfortunately, many “’post-Russians’ sometimes adopt a similar position. They don’t talk about free elections either, probably believing the new independent states will emerge in some magical way or be created by some kind of ‘external management,’” the latter being quite fantastic under current conditions.

            This raises the critical question about what legitimacy both groups will have as “neither ‘the Russian democrats’ nor ‘the post-Russian patriots’ aspire to elections in their homelands where genuine social change could begin … The former don’t want to understand that real democratic power … cannot be established ‘from above,’ even by the most liberal Kremlin.”

            And the latter, as passionate as they are about drawing borders and coming up with flags haven’t taken the steps needed to create those entities through the promotion of elections or failing that of democratic culture as many of the non-Russian movements did at the end of Soviet times.

            Instead, both the liberals and the nationalists now operate on the basis of wishful thinking; and as long as they do, Shtepa warns, “the post-Russian era will remain virtual, unlike the post-Soviet one” which in fact became quite real.

Russian Liberals have Failed to Offer Alternative to Kremlin’s Imperialist Narrative, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – The current Russian state is imperialist in relation not only to the peoples within the Russian Federation but also to the former Soviet republics that are now independent states, Kharun Sidorov says; and “Russian liberals have not presented any alternatives” to this vision.

            Instead, the Prague-based analyst says, Russian liberals have acted as if Russia were a typical European country with some “abstract” and hence homogeneous “population” that must be held together in one state lest disaster occur, an idea that makes them allies rather than opponents of Putin and his regime (

            Such people, Sidorov continues, “typically ignore the substantive basis of the state is not some abstract population (‘the majority of people’) but a political community with a collective vision of history, which defines the parameters of this state, including territorially,” and that the understanding of this community pushed Russia to war against Ukraine.

            “When Vladimir Putin at a minimum in 2012 and in fact even earlier began to speak about Russia not as a state in the internationally recognized borders of the Russian Federation but as ‘historical’ or ‘big Russia,’ with borders corresponding to those of the Soviet Union, none of the Russian liberals or their allies criticized him ideologically for that,” he points out.

            Indeed, they did not say anything when “the doctrine of the restoration of spheres of neo-imperial domination of Russia in the post-Soviet space became official already in 1995 and in fact was begun to be realized still earlier, in the Russian hybrid operations in Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Tajikistan, and in 1994 in the full-scale war in Chechnya.”

Thus, they did not counter the fact that “Vladimir Putin came to power not from below at the head of a revanchist movement like the one Adolf Hitler led but as a result of the actions of and as a result of the actions Yeltsin [his predecessor] took in his ‘special military operation’ in Chechnya.”

This failure of the liberals to speak out, Sidorov says, means that “all their current anti-war position regarding the war of the Kremlin against Ukraine looks purely tactical, as a disagreement about methods and expediency and no about the goal itself … even today Leonid Gozman in the text where he calls for the complete victory of Ukraine over Russia continues” to support the idea that “’Russia is essentially a European power.’”

What is needed and what the Russian liberals have failed to provide is an alternative historical narrative which rejects the imperial narrative of the Kremlin rather than reinforces it by insisting the Russia is an integral country and has the right to sphere of influence over its neighbors.

But as of now, nothing of the kind is on offer, and “therefore if Ukrainian or Belarusian national democrats know why Ukrainians and Belarusians are not Russians, then Russians still do not understand why Russians are not Ukrainians or Belarusians.” Until that changes, the Kremlin narrative will remain dominant.

According to Sidorov, “analogous to this is the situation within Russia itself where Russian liberals do not see other nations with their own historical narratives” and instead conceive them all as part of “’historical Russia’” who can have no other fate than to be part of Russia.

As a result, the non-Russians just outside Russia’s current borders and the non-Russians within them have come up with their own national non-imperial narratives but Russians have not. They do not and cannot find a dignified place for themselves within the Russian historical narrative, the liberals have not offered one, and so they are compelled to think about exit.

Indeed, tis liberal failure, Sidorov concludes, means that the only logical choice non-Russians have is to “seek the disintegration of Russia” and thus “acquire the substantive foundations on which post-imperial political communities and states can be created” and maintained.


Thursday, May 25, 2023

Putin Fears Making Gorbachev’s Mistakes and So is Making Those of Nicholas II, Nikulin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – For too long, many Russians have lived with the illusion that eventually liberal Russians will be able to come to power via elections; but that is not going to happen – and Putin’s repression of civil society not only ensures that but helps to dispel these illusions, Andrey Nikulin says.

            The Russian television commentator suggests, however, that in its fears of making what it sees as the mistakes of Mikhail Gorbachev 35 years ago, it is making the mistakes of the last tsar, Nicholas II, 110 years ago; and that promises to usher in revolutionary change that will hurt many but that the Kremlin is making inevitable (

            Not only has the Putin regime blocked socially and politically active citizens from taking part in public life, just as Nicholas II did, Nikulin continues; but it is “pushing these groups into revolution” not only by those steps but by pursuing a failed attempt at winning support by conducting “a small victorious” and in its own terms “non-war” war.

            Nikulin argues that Russia would be far better off with evolutionary rather than revolutionary change, “but Russia is being pushed in the other direction.” And with every step Putin takes just as was the case in the run-up to 1917, ever more Russians both in the elites and the population can see that and are drawing conclusions.