Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lake Baikal at Risk of Dying like the Aral Sea, Environmental Activist Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, April 25 -- Lake Baikal is now at risk of dying as the Aral Sea did, the result of the actions of the governments and peoples living around and dependent upon it, unless they are prepared to take “the most extreme measures,” according to Gennady Klimov, an activist in the Republic of Buryatia.


            He has warned the Kremlin that three to four years from now – and “a maximum of five” – Lake Baikal is at risk of becoming a swamp in some places and a dead body of water in others because the rivers that fed it will no longer provide the water needed to maintain its current level -- exactly the same thing that led to the death of the Aral Sea (


            And the death of Baikal, he says, will have disastrous consequences for the peoples living around it, leading to more peat fires and also more local flooding because of the excessive harvesting of timber in the region and the resulting destruction of the network of streams and rivers that in the past carried the water to the great lake.


            The level of Lake Baikal continues to fall and is now 13 centimeters what experts say is the “lowest permissible norm.” More of its shoreline is turning into a swamp, and beyond that has emerged “a lunar landscape” in place of the forests that had existed earlier. Much of the animal life in the lake itself has been compromised and is dying out.


            According to Klimov, the death of the sea is most obvious away from its shores, in the disappearance or desiccation of rivers and streams whose waters will now never reach Baikal. Where once there were dozens of streams, now there is only one; and the situation is getting worse with each passing year.


            Four years ago, he warned the government that the uncontrolled harvesting of timber for sale abroad was wrecking the eco-system of the lake, but no one paid any attention. Now things are truly desperate: the waters of Lake Baikal are falling at “terrifying speed – one centimeter a week” in some months, the result of a dramatic decline in water flowing in.


            The roots of the problem resemble those which killed the Aral Sea: the inability or unwillingness of the authorities to restrain economic activity and population growth, divisions among governments and the failure of them to reach an agreement, and the constant invocation of the false argument that the problems are only temporary.


Klimov says that because the governments are divided and unwilling to do anything and because they continue to do the things that harm the lake, he has decided to mount a media campaign.  But it is clear that he is not optimistic given the forces arrayed against a sensible environmental policy.


And he has an additional reason for worrying: in recent years, Moscow has responded to environmental activism by charging and imprisoning people whose only “crime” if one can call it that is to urge that everyone try to save the world around them before it is too late. The Aral Sea is already dead; Lake Baikal could very well be the next major body of water to die.


Turkey May Now Charge Russia with Genocide for Actions against Turkic and Muslim Peoples

Paul Goble


            Staunton, April 25 – Angry that Vladimir Putin has labeled the mass deaths of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 a genocide, the Turkish foreign ministry said that Russia ought to know better given “the mass atrocities and exiles in the Caucasus, in Central Asia and Eastern Europe” it has committed and “the collective punishment methods such as Holodomyr as well as inhumane practices” it has employed “especially against Turkish and Muslim people.”


            “We consider that Russia is best-suited to know what exactly ‘genocide’ and its legal dimensions are,” the ministry’s statement said, implicitly suggesting that two can play this game and that Ankara is now prepared to label many Russian actions the same way (


                Actions by the Russian Imperial Government, the Soviet government and the post-Soviet government that Turkey could select from among to bring a charge of genocide is large, and its statement yesterday guarantees those Turkic and Muslim peoples who feel themselves to have been the victim of such a crime will press their case in Turkey and receive more attention there.


            Among the groups certain to raise this issue are the Nogays, Balkars, and Karachay in the North Caucasus and various Muslim groups throughout the Russian Federation, but beyond any doubt, the group that will be the most encouraged by Turkey’s actions will be the Circassians who have sought international recognition as the victims of genocide for many years.


            Their case, which attracted international attention but no  movement on their request in the run up to the Sochi Olympics, a competition that took place on the very site where Circassians were killed and expelled from Russia and on the 150th anniversary of that action, will now get more attention.


            One Circassian activist, Lidia Zhigunova, immediately after the appearance of the Turkish statement has laid out why the members of that nation will now expect to get greater support in Ankara ( ). Among other things, she writes:


The extermination and the expulsion of the Circassian population from their homeland in the Caucasus to Turkey that took place in 1860s, was no doubt one of the tragedies that the Turkish Foreign Ministry had in mind, when referring to Russia’s biases regarding this issue.


Russia still denies the fact that as a result of the deadly tactics used during the imperial conquest and the colonization of the Circassian territory, only a small percentage of population of Circassia remained in the homeland, the rest were exiled to Turkey, hundreds of thousands of them were starved to death or perished on their way to Turkey, or immediately upon their arrival.


The cynicism and the double standard of the Russian government regarding this issue is underscored by the fact that it has been over 30 years, since the Circassian organizations started demanding from Russia to reevaluate its attitude toward these historical events, and to classify the actions of the Russian empire that led to the dislocation of the Circassian population, its dispossession, and physical annihilation as genocide.



Emigres from Russia Increasingly Numerous and Diverse, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, April 25 – Over the last year, the number of people emigrating from Russia has doubled and become increasingly diverse, with its representatives ranging from those who have become patriots of their new countries of residence to a fifth column which supports Russia against them and wishes them ill, according to Kseniya Kirillova.


            Kirillova, herself a Russian living near Seattle, there are four basic kinds of “psychological types” to be found among the new wave of Russian emigres. First of all, there are the patriots, people who have loved and closely identified with the country they are from and find it difficult to make a transition (


            “It is much more complicated for ‘a patriot’ to move to another state than it is for the other categories because he feels a greater attachment not only to particular places which are dear to him but a closeness to the country as a whole.”  The loss of the motherland is thus “most often” a tragedy” for him, Kirillova says.


            There are two major subgroups within the patriot category, she continues, defined by the nature of their break with their homeland.  The first includes those whose break was “dramatic,” the result of persecution of disappointment with or anger at the government under which they had been living.


            “As a rule in such cases,” Kirillova continues, “the attitude toward the former motherland sooner or later is transferred by such an individual to the country where he now lives.” That is a major “plus” for the receiving country because “the émigré ‘patriot’ sincerely will try to bring something good to his new motherland.”


            That is not to say that such people always fit in easily: they can feel that their love is unrequited and react negatively; and because they did feel positive feelings about their original homeland, these may come back in play under such circumstances, Kirillova says.


            The second subgroup of émigré patriots includes those who departure from their country of origin occurred without any sharp break. As a result, they typically do not make the emotional transfer from it to their new place of residence; and their feelings about the two may be more conflicted than among members of the first subgroup.


That is not to say that they will not try to make a contribution to the new one, Kirillova argues, but rather to insist that they will do so without the emotional investment that some might expect even if they are positively inclined toward their new place of residence.  But it does mean that in the case of a conflict between the two, they may very well choose the former.


            The second category includes the cosmopolitans, she argues. These people consider the whole notion of “’a motherland’” as “unnecessary and even harmful.” They are not patriotic in the usual sense and feel little or no moral responsibility before the country where they live or whose citizens they are.


            Of course, she says, people in this group are have positive as well as negative characteristics, and “in developed European countries, cosmopolitan is just a form of worldview like any other kind.” Problems arise, however, only if the receiving country requires an oath of allegiance, something many cosmopolitans have problems with.


            The third category are the “vatniks,” a Russian slang term for “fanatic patriot” and used here “not as a synonym for ‘Putinist’ or ‘imperialist’ but more properly as ‘sov,’” someone who retains the Soviet worldview and believes that the government of whatever country he finds himself in has an obligation to help him and gets upset if in his view it doesn’t do enough.


            Finally, Kirillova says, there is the fourth category, for which she uses the term “’fifth column.’” Those in this category may have any one of a number of political views from communism to cosmopolitanism, but they are set apart by the fact that they declare that they “dream about the collapse of this country and await that development with impatience.”


            If those who hold such views act upon them, they will naturally fall afoul of their host country’s criminal system. But “among this category of people, the percentage of those who in one way or another violate the law is quite high” because they “provide false data to obtain political asylum” and hide their incomes from taxation.


            Such people justify these actions according to the principle that “the end justifies the means” and that when there is a war one, everything is fair if it promotes the victory of their side.  Such attitudes do little to endear them to those they live among, and their isolation only intensifies their feelings – and in their minds justifies them.


20 Questions for Those Who Back Putin’s Aggression in Ukraine

Paul Goble


            Staunton, April 25 – Viktor Kadochnikov, a Russian blogger, poses 20 questions that he suggests those who support Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine should be asking themselves. If they do and if they are honest, they won’t be able to support the Kremlin leader’s policies any more.


            Below, in summary form, are the 20 questions he says they should be confronted with. (


  1. “Why are Donetsk and Luhansk ‘Novorossiya,’ but when a passenger jet crashes in the this territory is instantly transformed into Ukraine?”
  2. “Mercenary activity is a crime in Russia. Why don’t ‘the militia men’ who come from Russia and are paid not fall under this provision of the law?”
  3. “The war is costing Ukraine several million dollars a day. It is logical to assume that it isn’t costing its opponent any less. Do you really think that Russia isn’t giving the so-called Novorossiya military and financial help?”
  4. “Why is it that everywhere where the militias liberate, there is war? … Why are the so-called punitive operations only where there are ‘militias’?”
  5. “Why must Ukraine hand over to band formations territories that legally belong to it? If the Ukrainian military doesn’t want to do this, does that make them punitive detachments?”
  6. Given the number of times Vladimir Putin has changed his story on Crimea, “is it possible to believe him now when he asserts that there are no Russian forces in the Donbas? If so, then why?”
  7. “How can one explain the fact” that Moscow has brought criminal charges against Russian citizens who are fighting for Ukraine but not against Russians who are fighting in Ukraine against the Ukrainian government?
  8. Do you consider the use by the militias of civilians as human shields something deserving of respect?
  9. How would you react if some American said as Igor Strelkov has that without an invasion, nothing much would have occurred?
  10. The Russian defense ministry has promised to provide five million rubles to the families of soldiers who “have died at the Ukrainian border.”  “Are you not interested in why [the details of their deaths] are being hidden from you?”
  11. Given that Moscow disperses opposition meetings, how do you think Vladimir Putin would react if some group seized administration buildings and proclaimed the creation of its own statehood on Russian territory? : Would Putin take measures or perhaps sit down with the terrorists to negotiate” as he demands that Kyiv do?
  12. “Why does every Ukrainian patriot, who wears Ukrainian symbols, sings the Ukrainian humn, supports the unity of his country and speaks against separatism automatically become a Banderite and fascist? Under what article of the criminal code?”
  13. Are all pieces of evidence of the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine, even those offered by Russian soldiers, forgeries produced in the West?
  14. “Comrade Putin frequently has declared that Russia is not a side in the conflict and that he personally respects and supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine. If that is really so, then why hasn’t Russia closed the border from its side so that volunteers (and not only they) from the Russian Federation do not have the opportunity to cross it in order to fight against the territorial integrity of Ukraine?”
  15. The Russian government last August explained the appearance of Russian troops in Ukraine by saying that they had crossed the border by mistake. “Do you really believe this? What would be your reaction if NATO soldiers ‘accidently became confused’ somewhere near Vladivostok?”
  16. “Why has Russia not once condemned the ‘Novorossiya’ militants and not once called ont hem to lay down their arms first? At the same time, officials of the Russian Federation have frequently called on Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms and leave the Ukrainian Donbas to the bandits. Why in all federal media is only one side given positive coverage?”
  17. How do you explain the fact that the forces of the DNR and LNR, hard-pressed as they were last August, suddenly “opened a new front in the direction of Mariupol and seized Novoazovsk? Who did this in fact: the forces of ‘the militias,’ whom the Ukrainian army had successfully contained or Russian soldiers without uniform markings who supposedly weren’t there?”
  18. Why does Belarus, so “close to Russia, support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and not agree with Putin’s imperialist plans? Why does Lukashenka, Putin’s ally in the Customs Union consider that there is no fascism as a mass phenomenon in Ukraine and say that it is necessary to destroy the militants fighting against Ukraine?”
  19. Do you believe Russian officials when they say that 12 Pskov soldiers did not die fighting in Ukraine but rather “by chance” died from heart attacks, suicides and accidents all at the same time?
  20. “What are the ‘Novorossiya’ militants fighting for and what is the use of what they are doing?”

Ex-Nazi General Backed by Soviet Secret Police Pushed for Single German-Russian State

Paul Goble


            Staunton, April 24 – Many in Russia and the West have been horrified by the Kremlin’s playing with extreme right neo-Nazi parties in Europe over the last several years, but as Pavel Pryanikov points out, Moscow has a long tradition of doing so, albeit not always so ostentatiously as Vladimir Putin has done.


            Perhaps the most notorious case of Soviet support for a neo-Nazi activist involved Otto-Ernst Remer, a Wehrmacht officer who played a key role in blocking the July 20, 1944 plot against Hitler but who later, supported by the Soviet secret police, pushed for the creation of a single German-Russian state to fight American imperialism and Zionism (


            As Pryanikov points out, “Remer’s post-war fate is a good example of how the USSR created ‘a fifth column’ in the West, regardless of the political and ideological views of those it recruited” because “in order to recruit Remer, the USSR did not have to search for any compromising information.”  He “sincerely supported” what Moscow wanted to promote.


            During World War II, Remer fought in the Eastern Front and in the Battle of the Bulge. In January 1945, at the age of 32, he became the youngest German general. At the end of the war, he was arrested in the American zone but ultimately released and then began his post-war political career in which Soviet agents were deeply involved.


            In 1949, he founded the Socialist Reich Party, a neo-Nazi organization supported by the Soviet Ministry of State Security that won seats in both the regional and national parliaments in the western zones of Germany and that supported the idea of “GeRussia,” a single German-Russian state to oppose the US and Zionism.


            Following arrest and then release, Remer “on the recommendation of the Ministry of State Security of the USSR” moved to the Middle East where he worked first for Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Naser and then for the Syrian government where with Alois Brunner, the former head of Nazi concentration camps in France, he helped create the security services for that country.


            In the early 1980s, he returned to the Federal Republic where he attempted to restart a Neo-Nazi party and spoke out repeatedly against the US, NATO and Zionism, again with the financial backing of the KGB. His Nazi views disposed him toward Russia: he said that “Russians were whites, while the US was very much contaminated by racial minorities.”


            In 1994, the German authorities sentenced him to 22 months in prison for inciting hatred and racism, but before he could be put in jail, he fled to Spain where he died three years later, Madrid having refused to extradite him to Germany.


            A year before his death, Pryanikov says, Remer in despair over what Boris Yeltsin had done in Russia, called for a confederation of Germany and Russia which would absorb the countries of Eastern Europe under joint rule. The new common state, he suggested, should have its capital in Minsk.


            The Russian blogger appends to his article a fragment from Remer’s 1983 “Manifesto of the German Liberation Movement.”  In it, the former Nazi general wrote that “Germany must leave NATO, the Americans must get out of Germany and out of Europe, and we must develop partnership with Russia – here are the goals which stand before true German patriots now.”


            “For Reagan and the Zionists,” Remer said, “The Soviet Union is the incarnation of evil, but for us it is a great power neighboring us with its own security requirements and a doctrine that corresponds to them.”



Friday, April 24, 2015

Is ‘Rossiyanin’ Really an Ethnic Term After All?

Paul Goble


            Staunton, April 24 – Many Russians make a clear distinction between “russky,” the Russian adjective for a member of the Russian ethnos, and “rossiyanin,” a noun designating anyone who is a subject of citizen of the Russian state. And many Russian nationalists dislike the former precisely because they say it demeans their ethno-national identity.


            But a new analysis of the origin of “rossiyanin” offered by commentator Taras Repin argues that “the meaning of this word is not limited” to citizenship as some assume but connotes a variety of specifically ethnic Russian values as well (


            The word “Rossiya” has its origins in the ninth century when Constantinople first began to talk about the metropolitanate of Rosiya.  That term soon replaced Rus even when Mosocw turned in the 16th century to ideas about Moscow as the Third Rome. According to historians, Rossiya was used in Europe alongside Rus until the proclamation of the Russian Empire.


                According to Fedor Gayda, one of their number,” the word ‘Rossiyane’ initially was a triumphal literary variant of the word ‘Rusins.’” Thus, he insists, “it in the first instance is an ethnonym and not a designation of political status.” Other historians suggest “rossiyane” has a Greek origin.


            By the eighteenth century, the term “rossiyanin” had passed firmly into the language and was used by tsars, officials, and historians.  Philologist Aleksandr Grishchenko argues that it never designated anyone other than “russkiye” or ethnic Russian people at that time or even in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


            Repin says that the first attempt to distinguish between an ethnonym and a politonym was made by General Aleksandr Kutepov, the head of the Russian All-Forces Union, who was kidnapped and killed by Soviet agents in 1929. He insisted that “rossiyanin” designated everyone in Russia while “russkiye” referred only to ethnic Russians.


            In the 1930s, this idea was developed by Konstantin Rodzayevsky, the leader of the All-Russian Fascist Party, and later during World War II by General Vlasov, the head of the anti-Soviet Russian army that the Germans set up as part of the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia.


            After the Soviet Union disintegrated, Russian President Boris Yeltsin invariably used “rossiyane” to refer to his fellow citizens, something that angered many Russians who remembered the use of the term by the Vlasovites. According to some, Yeltsin was trying to avoid giving offense; according to others, he was giving way to ideas pushed by Elena Bonner.


            Many viewed “rossiyanin” as an artificial and unnecessary word and pushed for the use of “russky” instead.  Gaida says they might feel differently if they knew that “rossiyanin” by its origins was “connected with ethnic and tribal membership” while the word “russky” they like so much was initially used simply to refer to anything under central government control.


Russia ‘Looks in a Mirror and Sees the USSR’ and Doesn’t Understand that Others Don’t See It That Way, Kazarin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 24 – “Russia looks in a mirror and sees the USSR and thinks that all those around it see it that way, tries to conduct itself as the USSR did and considers the threats which the Soviet Union did,” Pavel Kazarin says.  “But the West looks at Russia as Russia, wants a return to the pre-Crimea model and is trying to understand where Moscow’s red line is.”

            “But the most surprising thing happens when the Kremlin achieves what it wants, when the West” starts viewing Russia as the USSR, even though that is a danger to the world and a misfortune for Russia which does not have anything like the power the Soviet Union did (

             One of the biggest mistakes any analyst can make is to impute his own way of thinking to an opponent because he doesn’t think as the analyst assumes, the commentator and ICTV host says. Then, the analyst gets made and claims the opponent has gone insane. But he hasn’t: he is simply in another reality which “you haven’t taken the trouble to understand.”

            According to Kazarin, “the Russian elite is sincerely convinced that the preservation of its influence on the former Soviet republics is its natural right, given by history.  The misfortune is that this view overwhelms very many of those who seek to speak about the future.”

             He gives as an example the argument of Aleksandr Baunov who says that many in the Russian elite do not believe that Moscow lost the cold war and instead think that “the division of the Union took place not so much as a result of the collapse of the Soviet model … but rather because the Kremlin voluntarily agreed to join the club of western players.”

             The Russia elite feels it was betrayed by the West by not being offered the status of “equals at the common table with the world players” and having “the former Soviet republics recognized as within its ‘zone of influence.’”  And that picture of the world not the one the West sees is what “explains the entire logic of their current behavior.”

             Obviously, it is a very different thing to be in “the club of the winners” as compared to being in “the club of the losers.” Those who have lost lose their starting positions and have to work up from nothing; “the winner preserves his position and even strengthens it, Kazarin argues.

            “The Russian elite is sincerely convinced that the preservation of influence on the former Soviet republics surrounding it is the status quo and a natural right given by history,” even though “for the entire rest of the world such an approach is incomprehensible and unnatural.” What this means is that Moscow acts “as if the Soviet Union had not fallen apart, as if it had only been reformatted, but relations between sovereign and basal have remained as before.”

            For the West, all this seems strange because the Soviet Union after all did fall apart. The Kremlin is no longer a real political alternative to Washington on a world scale but rather a regional player that exports raw materials to the more developed world. When anyone points this out, as US President Barack Obama has, Russians are furious.

            But because Russian elites start from the assumptions they do, “the pro-Kremlin political analysts are certain that the West is seeking to destroy and divide up Russia, because in their own imagination, the Kremlin is an alternative global player” and has a civilization “capable of competing with the Western model.”

            No one in the West wants to do what the Russian elites assume because no one in the West needs “chaos at its borders” or “the Somali-ization of one seventh of the earth’s surface.” Unfortunately, Russians can’t believe that about the West because of what they believe about themselves.