Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Solovyev’s Words Won’t Lead to Resurgence of Urals Separatism Since Other, More Serious Actions Haven’t, Yevloyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 5 – Many observers have suggested that Moscow TV personality Vladimir Solovyev’s attacks on the Urals region will lead to a rebirth of separatism there, especially given the overwhelmingly negative response to his words from local officials and intellectual leaders (

            But Russian political scientist and commentator Dmitry Yelovsky says that the risks of that happening are “not very great” because Urals separatism has not been provoked “by other, more serious things.” Therefore, he urges people not to get too excited about the back-and-forth between Solovyev and Yekaterinburg (

            Oleg Shargunov, a former staffer with the Uralsky Rabochiy newspaper agrees. But he says another part of Solovyev’s diatribe is troubling. The Moscow journalist has called on the population to turn in anyone they suspect of harboring anti-government views. That will not only spread fear in the population but overload the investigation committees with work.

            And in the current climate, he says, those agencies have quite enough to do without being distracted by such popular denunciations, most of which will be anything but useful. If people take Solovyev at his word and begin to act as a law onto themselves, that will create a far bigger problem for Moscow than any separatism in the Urals or almost anywhere else could be.

Crimes of Russian Forces in Ukraine Now Recall Those of Soviet Troops in Eastern Europe in 1945 -- and With Good Reason, Savvin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 5 – The war crimes and crimes against humanity Russian forces are committing in Ukraine now are the latest echo of those Soviet troops committed in Eastern Europe at the end and immediately after World War II, Dimitry Savvin says, a continuity the West is unwilling to see.

            Some in the West dismiss the latest actions as “excesses;” but others seek to blame what they see as Vladimir Putin’s turn to fascism, the editor of the Riga-based conservative portal says. Both these positions miss the point: the number of such crimes is too large to be “excesses” and they resemble what Soviet forces did in 1945 (

            If the West is to deal with it, Savvin says, its leaders and peoples must recognize that in this way as in so many others, the Putin regime is “an organic continuation of the Soviet system,” one with many of the same structures and even the same people. It is not some new fascist regime but rather an extension of that past.

            But people in the West “stubbornly refuse to talk about neo-Sovietism for the simple reason that references to Putin’s ‘fascism’ are very convenient.” It makes him and the Russian responsible and distracts attention from the responsibility for this development that lies with the West itself.

            The reason is obvious: if the West views Putin’s regime as neo-Soviet, then the question becomes inevitable: how was this possible? And there is an answer: “neither in 1945 nor in 1991 did the US, Western Europe or the entire world condemn totalitarianism as such.” Instead, they divided it between the bad, that is, Hitler’s, and the less bad, that is the communist variants.

            That failure not only allowed neo-Sovietism to appear in Russia but permitted communist parties to flourish in Europe and communist China to rise and now threaten its own people with concentration camps and the West with economic and military defeat, the conservative Russian nationalist says.

            “It would be a mistake to think that such a situation is explicable exclusively by a naked balance of forces,” Savvin argues. “In 1991, when the socialist camp headed by the USSR collapsed and China was not yet as strong … there was a completely realistic chance to condemn totalitarianism as such.”

            “But this simply didn’t happen.” Indeed, “no one even attempted to do so seriously,” because the notion that totalitarianism was of two kinds, the bad Nazi kind and the less bad Soviet one. “Now, however, the fruits of this amoral shortsightedness and false pragmatism have come to fruition, from Taiwan to Lviv and from Australia to Riga.”

             According to Savvin, “the re-Sovietization of the Russian Federation is not simply a PR game. It is a logical outcome,” and it involves foreign military expansion. It isn’t as if the West weren’t warned. “The Baltic countries and the East European ones did so frequently,” but they were ignored and their warnings dismissed as special pleading or worse.

            There can be no question that Russians must repent of what they have done in Ukraine and elsewhere, but there also is no question that the West must repent of its mistake policy of dividing totalitarianisms into bad and less bad categories, Savvin concludes, sadly noting that the prospects for either at present are far from good.

A Warning to Putin? When Stalin Sought to ‘Emancipate’ Russia from the West, He Doomed USSR to ‘a Slow Death,’ Shishkova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 5 – Seventy-five years ago, Stalin launched his anti-cosmopolitan campaign to cut Russia off from the West by affirming its uniqueness and superiority, Tatyana Shishkova says. But that effort cost the country “the opportunity to be the future of all mankind” and “doomed the Soviet project to a slow death.”

            The Russian cultural figure and commentator does not draw a comparison with Putin’s current efforts to boost Russian pride and isolate Russia from Western influence, but many of the readers of her article in the prominent Moscow newspaper, Kommersant, are certain to do so (

            “Today,” Shishkova writes, “we remember this struggle [at the end of Stalin’s time] by its most odious manifestations more or less captured in the well-known phrase, ‘Russia is the motherland of elephants,’” a reference to Stalin’s promotion of Russia as leading in everything without much regard for the truth.

            But in fact, the focus of this campaign was “not a struggle for primacy of discoveries but a clarification of relations with the West as such.” The USSR came out of the war as one of the victors and expected to remain among them and have its contributions to the war effort respected. That did not happen and this generated resentment.

            The West resumed its criticism of Stalin’s totalitarianism. It blocked his aspirations to take control of the straits. It did not provide the USSR with the aid it expected. And it even began to compare Stalin’s rule with that of Adolf Hitler, something completely unacceptable to Moscow.

            Stalin viewed the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II as an indication that Soviet efforts to master the achievements of Western civilization had come to an end. Russia could stand on its own two feet and was more than ready to surpass the West and thus “was ready to free itself” from the influence of the West.

            But the Soviet leader failed to see that what he was doing “actually contradicted the foundations” of his system. “The Soviet Union could not exist without the West,” either as a source of ideas and money or as a goal for the transformation of it into something like the USSR already was.

            Consequently, by cutting off Russia from the West, Stalin also cut Russia off from its future, putting his system on track to disintegrate. Had his successors continued his policies, that end would have come sooner than it did; but they turned away from the anti-cosmopolitan campaign and kept the system afloat for a while longer.

            It is impossible not to see parallels between this and Russia’s present under Putin and its future after he departs.

Conflict in Ukraine Highlights Russia’s Need for a New National Ideology, Panina Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 5 – It has become “obvious” that the conflict in Ukraine is not just between Moscow and Kyiv but between Russia and the West with the latter seeking to destroy Russian civilization, Elena Panina says; and it is also clear that Russian society is not completely prepared to respond to this challenge.

            What is needed, the United Russia Duma deputy and director of the Russian Strategy Institute says, is a new ideology, one that is based on the proposition that “Russian civilization is an alternative to the dying world of the West” and must be defended and developed on the basis of that separate path (

            Given the role she and her interest have played and the fact that Panina extrapolates from remarks that Vladimir Putin has made over the last year, her article deserves attention as a matrix within which discussions in the regime about the elaboration of a new ideology for the Putin regime are likely taking place.

            “The Russian Federation,” she begins, “is not simply one of almost 200 countries. It is more than a simple country. It is ‘a state-civilization’ (V. Putin).” And that means that “the synonym of the term ‘Russian civilization is the term ‘Historical Russia.’” It is one of several civilizations, just as the West is one and not the only possible model for others.

            For 500 years, Russia has had to resist “the aggressive pressure of the West.” Some of this Western aggression, of course, reflects a desire to seize Russian assets, “but the roots of this bestial hatred to Russia … must be searched for and found in the fundamental civilizational distinctions of Russian and Western civilization,” Panina continues.

            Put in lapidary terms, she suggests, Russia supports justice while the West promotes “a cult of comfort;’” it promotes “collectivism and not Western individualism; and Russia is characterized by “ethnic equality unlike Western colonial oppression.” For Russia, “people are more important than economics, life more than profit; and children are more valuable than selfish satisfaction.”

            Russians must be constantly provided with “super tasks” so as to give their lives meaning and to make their country into a real military superpower and thus “preserve and expand the Soviet inheritance in this in this sphere. This has enormous significance for the defense of Russia and the defense of the Motherland. But we must go further,” she says.

            Russia must also become an economic and technological superpower with an elite that promotes these goals and that identifies clearly the enemies against which Russia and Russians must struggle. To that end, Russian history must be presented a single uninterrupted course of positive developments.

            According to Panina, “at the core of Russian life is Victory, over the enemy, hell and chaos. Victory is beyond price: it redeems all sacrifices and ensures that none of them is in vain.” Because that is the case, “defeat for Russians is something worse than death” and must be avoided at all costs.

            “Victory is healing: it heals fears, invigorates people with heavenly energy, and provides strength,” Panina concludes. It is “metaphysical because for Russians it is always about overcoming evil, a task that is part of God’s plan. And it is not simply a matter of history: After 1945 is coming 2022.”

New ‘Cult of Security’ Being Used by Russia and the West to Justify Pre-Emptive Aggression, Kotsyubinsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 5 – Providing security for one’s own population has not only displaced other values such as democracy as the overriding value in many countries but also has become the justification for pre-emptive aggression and war so as to eliminate not just immediate threats but potential ones, according to St. Petersburg historian Daniil Kotsyubinsky.

            In a new book, The New Totalitarianism of the 21st Century (in Russian; St. Petersburg: Strata, 20220, he argues that this has become a veritable “religion” whose tenets cannot be questioned and which elites are using to justify far more aggressive action than they could when other values had more support (

            Kotsyubinsky argues that both Russia and the West are infected by this religion and that as a result, the world has become a more dangerous place. The pursuit of absolute security against future threats is thus leading to actions that make even current security for both sides more unsustainable.

            These trends have been developing and intensifying over the last two decades, the historian argues, not so much because of the actions of individual leaders as because of the impact of the Internet, a medium that has simultaneously brought people together and brought them into conflict by creating new us-them divisions.

            What is especially concerning, Kotsyubinsky says, is that as a result of the impact of the world wide web, society has been “radically de-humanized and ‘de-liberalized;’” and it has “deprived the intellectual class of the chance to propose to society a way out of the crisis situation which has arisen.”

               “Instead of great new dreams,” the historian continues, “the Internet has given rise to a heap of dangers directly arising from the key value for the West - freedom of speech. And these threats have called forth reactions that are infantile-hysterical and aggressive neo-totalitarian in their nature.”

              As a result, the West’s civilizational “authority” as the bearer of democratic values has been compromised both within the West and elsewhere. In its place, both sides are pursuing security both immediate and long term with little thought to what that means for the other values they proclaim, Kotsyubinsky says.

            An example of this is the West’s use of sanctions. They aren’t really being used to influence Russian actions. Few believe that is possible. Instead, they reflect an effort to define the world in the us and them dichotomy that the Internet promotes.  Only if the role of the Internet is limited can the world hope to escape from the cult of security and its consequences.

Mobilization, Should Putin Declare It, Anything but Straightforward, Agora Head Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 5 – There has been much speculation as to whether Vladimir Putin will declare a full-scale mobilization in order to improve Russia’s chances in its war in Ukraine although the Kremlin says he has no intention of doing so, but there has been remarkably little discussion of exactly what such a mobilization would mean.

            Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora human rights group, is a welcome exception. In Meduza, he discusses both what mobilization means in Russian law and also what shape it would likely take if Putin does eventually declare it (

            The picture he describes is anything but straightforward with a large number of issues left open even if mobilization is declared.  Mobilization was defined in Russian law in 1997 (, he says; but as it has never been fully declared, there are many uncertainties about how it would actually work.

“The law allows mobilization in the event of aggression or armed attack against Russia. Declaring mobilization legally recognizes that Russia is at a state of war with another country. If the war is not on Russian soil, however, the law does not permit the declaration of a mobilization because aggression and wars of aggression are prohibited by international law,” he continues.

 For that reason, Chikov says, “mobilization is possible only in the event of aggression from another state.” Moscow might claim that Ukrainian counterattacks constitute aggression even though they all are on Ukrainian territory. It could also make it countrywide or limit it to specific regions within the country.

In general, he continues, “Generally speaking, mobilization concerns men and women in the reserve. Women with specific skills, like doctors, would be subject to conscription. Russia’s reserves include discharged veterans, graduates of military schools, men older than 27 who never served in the military despite being eligible, men older than 27 whose service was deferred, men who did not serve due to physical limitations or other temporary conditions.”

Chikov continues: “Mobilization would not apply to individuals with the right to deferment from conscription during mobilization. And in addition, “citizens younger than 27 who did not serve as conscripts but were never actually exempted from the draft would not be subject to conscription under mobilization because they’re not technically ‘in the reserve.’”

But “those who served in Russia’s alternative civilian service would be subject to recruitment since mobilization is not limited strictly to combat roles. The armed forces can conscript these people as civilian personnel, for example, to serve as medical workers at hospitals.”

There is no profession that releases people from mobilization, but the list of codified exemptions is broad and includes conditions like illness, disability, and serious health problems suffered by a close relative” ( But whether the authorities would observe these limitations is uncertain.

“Anyone drafted in a mobilization could lose their right to leave the country, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all conscripts would face this restriction,” Chikov says; and “0nce mobilization has been announced, the authorities would begin issuing draft-board summons and detaining potential conscripts in the street.”

“Anyone who receives mobilization orders is required to appear at the military barracks or recruitment office designated in the summons. This obligation exists only after the summons is physically delivered, however, meaning that Russians located abroad, beyond the reach of the state’s subpoenas, can evade conscription by staying away.”

The mobilization law specifies that “under conditions of mobilization, citizens considered to be “in the reserve” could be sent directly into battle, given the assumption that they’ve already received all the necessary basic training. Fresh conscripts, on the other hand, would first have to first undergo at least four months of training.”

According to Chikov, Putin “also has the power to declare a military emergency simultaneously with mobilization. For example, an emergency could be declared in specific areas of Russia near the border with Ukraine, but this is a different legal condition regulated under a separate federal law” (

But in this case as well, there is no precedent, so it is impossible to say precisely what the Kremlin would do, the Agora rights activist says.


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

To Compensate for Losses in Ukraine, Putin Likely to Promote Russian Hostility to Ethnic and Religious Minorities at Home, Aysin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 5 – Like Russian rulers in the past faced with defeats abroad, Vladimir Putin is likely to try to compensate for his failure to deliver the quick victory in Ukraine he promised by playing up Russian hostility to religious and ethnic minorities inside the Russian Federation.

            The Kremlin leader will seek to rebuild his image as an all-conquering hero by suggesting to Russians that the only reason Russia has not won in a war abroad is because of enemies at home, the IdelReal commentator says, and like his predecessors, he will find it easier to attack minorities rather than ideological opponents (

            There are two reasons for that, Aysin suggests. On the one hand, to go after ideological opponents along gives them or at least their arguments a status Putin and his regime wants to deny them. And on the other – and this is vastly more important – the population will find it easier to focus on readily identifiable religious or ethnic minorities than on ideological groups.

            Russian history provides innumerable examples of this, including the attacks on Jews by Nicholas II and Stalin and attacks on ethnic minorities by almost all leaders of modern Russia. The government finds it easier to mobilize people with hatred than with positive ideas, particularly when it has none of the latter to offer.

            What this means is this, Aysin says. Putin’s regime will be looking for new enemies at home to explain or at least cover for the Kremlin’s losses abroad; and it will find them in precisely the places past Russian regimes have – in anti-Semitism, Caucasiophobia, Islamophobia and general hostility to any ethnic or religious minority.

            In the short-term, this unleashing of atavistic attitudes may prolong the life of a regime that has nothing positive to offer; but in the longer term, the promotion of such attitudes may create a monster that the regime will not be able to contain and that may very well sweep it away.

              The true horror of the situation arising from Putin’s war in Ukraine is thus ahead: many groups are going to suffer long before his dictatorship is swept away, and members of these groups are not going to forget why they were chosen as sacrificial victims and by whom and which nation attacked them.