Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Beyond Moscow’s Ring Road, Russians Protest Against Repressive Yarovaya Laws



Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – The ancient question, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make any noise?” needs to be updated for Russia today. Now, people should ask themselves “if there are demonstrations beyond the ring road but not in Moscow, have they in fact taken place?”

            Yesterday, with the permission of the authorities in six Russian cities – Novosibirsk, Yekatrinburg, Ufa, and Kurgan – and, not having that permission, in a seventh – St. Petersburg – Russians came into the streets to protest the repressive Yarovaya “package” of laws that Vladimir Putin recently signed into law (vestnikcivitas.ru/news/3989).

            But because officials in Moscow refused permission and no march took place in the Russian capital, that became the story for most outlets, yet another indication of the Moscow-centric view of Russia not only in the Kremlin but among many Russians including those who do not live in or perhaps do not even like Muscovites.

            Indeed, Ekho Moskvy devoted more attention to the fact that one activist, Mikhail Lashkevich, had gone by himself to stand at the entrance of Moscow’s Lubyanka with a placard declaring “I am against the terrorist Yarovaya law” for which he was arrested than to all the meetings elsewhere (echo.msk.ru/news/1808928-echo.html).

            But those meetings reflected the views of many Russians as a collection of online photographs offered by Meduza.io shows (meduza.io/news/2016/07/26/v-rossiyskih-gorodah-proshli-mitingi-protiv-paketa-yarovoy), and they underscore the reality that whatever some may think Moscow isn’t Russia just as Putin isn’t either.

Plan to Settle Two Million Central Asians in Russian Far East Triggers Anger There



Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – The Russian Ministry for the Development of the Far East says that it is preparing to announce before the end of 2016 a new demographic policy for that region over the next 15 years, one designed to boost the current population of that Chinese border area from six million to eight million.

            Igor Romanov, the editor of the Beregrus portal, says that “it is obvious” on the basis of the documents that have been released so far that the ministry intends to meet this target primarily by bringing in immigrants from Central Asia, a development that he and others in the region very much oppose (beregrus.ru/?p=7470).

            He says that experts have subjected such ideas to “the harshest criticism” but that the government continues to believe that moving cheap labor resources to the region, which will supposedly “solve” the needs of the raw materials extraction industry there is the best way to proceed.

            What Moscow should be worried about but isn’t, Romanov says, is the quality of life of the people who live in the Russian Far East rather than their number. Life in the region has been rapidly “degrading in all relations but above all moral, educational and cultural,” and the introduction of Central Asian gastarbeiters will only make the situation worse.

            By inviting them to come to the Russian Far East, he continues, “we will not in  any way compensate for our democratic losses but simply ensure the replacement of the current population with another. Instead of the Russians who remain here will come other people, bearers of an alien culture, the so-called ‘new Russians’ [‘rossiyane’].
           
            “The Far East is a strategic region. Here are resources; here is the outlet to the Pacific. And here are needed not alien migrants but powerful, state-thinking leaders, people capable of reviving a deteriorating society and reviving truly Russian statehood.” That doesn’t take a lot of people but rather the right kind, Romanov says.
           
            “The life of Russia itself depends on the fate of the Far East,” he continues, and “here normal [ethnic] Russian people must life, to strengthen Russia and its access to the Pacific by their presence.”  And the Beregrus editor then concludes with words that may worry some in the Russian capital.

            “Two years ago,” he writes, “many volunteers went to the Donbass. Today, it is necessary for them to move to the Far East.” What is at stake, Romanov argues, is nothing less than “the preservation of Russia and its territorial integrity.”

Kremlin Invites Californian, Texan and Puerto Rican Separatists to Moscow Conference



Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – Last September, Vladimir Putin hosted a conference of separatist leaders from around the world. Now, he will be hosting a second such meeting next month that will involve, among others, pro-separatist activists from the US states of California and Texas and the American Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

            Russian commentator Leonid Radzikhovsky says that these meetings should not be taken seriously. They simply attract to Moscow marginal figures who are prepared to travel if someone pays their airfare and hotel accommodations. But they do show that the Kremlin is prepared to troll among even these (apostrophe.com.ua/article/world/2016-07-27/moskovskiy-syezd-separatistov-edinstvennaya-ih-ideologiya--otklonenie-ot-normyi/6433).

            According to the organizers of this year’s meeting, it will cost only 20,000 US dollars, a figure that suggests how relatively unimportant such gatherings are, the commentator says. Moscow will in this case at least get what it is paying for and not much more besides demonstrating once again its approach to the world.

            He says that he “doesn’t think that someone is counting on seizing Texas for two million rubles.”  But what holding such meetings may do is create “a Komintern of the psychologically ill,” a group Russia can make use of for propaganda purposes. But no one should confuse this was the huge financial support Moscow provides to groups like Marie Le Pen’s National Front.

            According to Radzikhovsky, all of those who have been invited are “official marginal. They can be neo-Nazis, Trotskyites, anarchists, or cannibals.” They have only one thing in common: all of them are mentally handicapped and have delusions of grandeur.

            “I too could proclaim an independent republic of the size of my apartment,” Radzikhovsky says.  But that wouldn’t have an impact on anyone else, and neither will these people, especially given that they are sponsored by someone who doesn’t tolerate even the talk of separatism regarding Russia.