Sunday, December 3, 2023

Surkov Predicts End of ‘Ukrainian Fake State’ in 2024

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – Vladislav Surkov, often described as Putin’s chief ideologist, says that next year will bring the end of what he calls “the Ukrainian fake” state, the result of both what he views as the fundamentally primitive nature of Ukrainian thinking and the major shift in Moscow’s approach to problems among its neighbors.

            According to Surkov, “a fabulous worldview, magical thinking, impressionability, and excessive poetry are the main features of the Ukrainian soul,” with the world of the Ukrians “literally teeming with sorcerers, witches, drowned women who have revived, and even devils” (

            “From time to time,” he continues, “sorcerers and witches of the Maidan convince the population that if it just messes around in the square, life will get better;” but that doesn’t work, and when such efforts fail, “the ratings of the sorcerers and witches instantly collapse” but only to be replaced by “fresh crooks” offering the same prescriptions.

            Evidence of such magical thinking is all around, Surkov says. The much ballyhooed “’counter offensive’” was the product of such thinking. But it was doomed to fail, a classic example of those who make plans not on the basis of the real situation but in the hopes that something, perhaps a magic weapon, will turn up.

            Surkov says that “Ukrainians are beginning to become disillusioned with their sorcerers. And really who could possibly help them? Biden mummified alive? Decade Zaluzhny? Or the unhappy childless couple Ermark/Zalensky? Hardly … there won’t be a miracle,” despite the hopes of many in Kyiv.

            And a major reason for this, he argues, is that “Russia is no longer a mediator, patiently sorting out squabbles among the neighbors. Now, it is an impatient participant in the great struggle which will take its toll.” That is something “the pagans” in Ukraine need to recognize because 2024 “will be the year of degradation and disorganization of the Ukrainian fake state.”

            Such words undoubtedly reflect what many in the Kremlin believe, and his article is thus likely to be read by others in the Russian Federation as an indication of the way in which they should think because those above them do so. For that reason if for not other, Surkov’s unrestrained bigotry must be taken into account.

Ever More Russians Complaining to Putin about Impact of War in Ukraine, ‘Important Stories’ Portal Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – Russians have long viewed writing letters to their ruler as their last chance to achieve justice; and so it is no surprise that today, they are continuing this tradition and devoting most of their missives to problems arising from the dispatch of Russian military units to Ukraine.

            The Important Stories portal says that every month, the Kremlin now receives “more than 100,000 letters.” Before the war, most were about problems with pay and official abuses of the rights of Russians. Now, these letters are increasingly about the war and Russian military service (

            Not only have the letters sent to Putin increasingly been about military problems, but the number of letters has increased as well. In 2018, the Kremlin was receiving approximately 2300 a month. In 2022, that number has risen to “more than 80,000” and now is even higher with no end of this trend in sight.

            Much but not all of this increase has to do with the war. Since February 2022, Russians have sent “more than 180,000” letters to Putin concerning military issues; and that number too appears to be increasing the longer the war continues and the more widely it touches Russians in their personal lives.

            The Kremlin still reports every month on the number of letters it receives; and as recently as 2022, its officials said that they had examined 97 percent of the letters. But that doesn’t mean that they did more than look at them. According to one former official with direct knowledge of this system, it took actions in the case of only 1.3 percent.

            The fact that so many Russians continue to use this traditional means of seeking redress for their grievances shows that the war in Ukraine is agitating far more of the population in that country than protests or polls typically suggest. Indeed, these letters as a whole can be read as an important barometer of public attitudes about the war itself.

Widespread Political Anomie Not Mass Support for Conservative Values ‘Main Problem’ for Russia Now and in the Future, Zharkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – Vasily Zharkov, a Russian historian at the European University of the Humanities in Vilnius, says that “the main problem of mass political consciousness in Russia is not the much-ballyhooed ‘conservatism of the Russian people but its clearly expressed apolitical quality,” something that must be overcome if Russia is to have a democratic future.

            “Political anomie arose in the 1990s following the destruction of values, norms and institutions of Soviet society,” Zharkov says. Then, “it deepened in the 2000s as a result of weariness of the population from the radical changes” earlier and the rise of consumerism (

            And it took a major step in that direction after the failure of protests in 2011-2012 convinced the overwhelming majority of Russians that they had no effective role in politics and therefore should ignore and/or defer to their rulers, exactly what Vladimir Putin hoped for and has promoted.

            The Kremlin leader has been able to do so not only by using repression but by relying on neo-liberal ideas which have led many Russians to believe that they should focus only on their on personal concerns and not worry at all about the promotion of common values and above all on social justice.

            And neither the regime nor the opposition have taken up social justice as a cause because of the risks that doing so would awaken what is the underlying values Russians have but have decided not to pursue in the current situation when such pursuit would be fraught with dangers, Zharkov says.

            Indeed, he continues, “the Putin state has been doing everything possible in order to continue to block the demand of Russian society for social justice.” That has led to “a paradoxical situation” in which there is a strong sense among the population of the importance of social justice but no one to organize and focus it politically.

            One consequence of that is that Russians express a desire for a strong hand which is less about a hope for the return of a Stalin in all his dimensions than to the creation of a system in which social justice however imposed will be a more central element in Russian political life, Zharkov argues.

            Opposition parties now and a successor regime in the future should be focusing on advancing a leftist social agenda of social justice, he says, because only in that way will the population return to politics and Russia have a chance to move from a personalist dictatorship to a democratic regime.


Moscow Patriarchate Seeking to Provide ‘Moral and Spiritual Legitimacy’ to Putin’s War Effort, Staalesen Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – Especially since Putin began his full-scale military operation against Ukraine last year, Atle Staalesen says, “the Russian Orthodox Church has played a key role in providing moral and spiritual legitimacy and support to Putin and his accomplices;” and the Kremlin leader is grateful.

            Speaking via video to the Russian National Council, Putin praised the church for its support of the war, noting the sacrifices Orthodox clergy have made and continue to make in the course of the fighting, with more than 30 of its priests dying in combat, the editor of The Barents Observer reports (

            Kirill thanked Putin for his expression of gratitude and said that there is now a “common understanding” between church and state as far as the Russian world is concerned. In earlier remarks, the church leader said that up to 25 priests are working in the war zone at any given time, serving for two to four weeks before returning to Russia.

            As Staalesen points out, this represents the coming to fruition of longstanding efforts by the church to integrate with the military. In 2009, the patriarchate decided to develop a military clergy; and then in 2013, the year before the Crimean Anschluss, the Holy Synod formally adopted regulations governing a military priesthood.

Putin Threatening the Economy that has Allowed Him to Fight in Ukraine, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – In the course of a wide-ranging interview with Yuliya Latynina, Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev makes a number of key points about both the mistakes that Vladimir Putin has made in the course of prosecuting his war in Ukraine and the mistakes that the West has made in its efforts to force him to end his aggression.

            Among the most noteworthy ( are the following:

·       Putin has been able to prosecute the war because the Russian economy is today very different from the Soviet one. That model would not have allowed him to fight for as long as he has, and so efforts to return to it would destroy his ability to pursue further aggression.

·       In contrast to the wars of the 20th century, Moscow – and Kyiv as well – have been able to fight a war without general mobilization. Both have mobilized parts of their societies even as other parts have been able to go about their business as if the war was something “secondary.”

·       The sanctions policy arose because of populism, the desire to appear to be taking action rather than taking action that achieves one’s goals. As a result, and not surprisingly, the West’s approach has failed.

·       Unless the West adopts a new approach, Moscow can continue the war at its current level for several more years “but not for 15.” Its system lacks the resources for that.

·       Many forget that as the Soviet model collapsed, so too did the “Japan.Inc” one that led many to conclude that Japan would be a new superpower. The same thing is happening now with Russia, on the one hand, and China, on the other.

·       If the West wants to force Moscow to change course, it must adopt something resembling a full economic blockade and it must not be afraid to talk about regime change.  With the exception of President Biden’s remark in Warsaw earlier this year, the last has remained taboo.

·       To peel away members of the Russian elite from Putin, the West must not punish them individually as now but rather encourage them to defect, just as it did in Soviet times.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Moscow May Ban Nutcracker Ballet Because Even Talking about Killing a Rat King is Dangerous in Putin’s Russia, Some Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 1 – Some Russians say that the Kremlin may pan the popular Nutcracker ballet because even talking about killing the Rat King appears to carry an allegorical meaning and thus is extremely dangerous in Russia where people are being sent to prison and the camps for much less.

            That is just one of the anecdotes now circulating in Russia that have been collected by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova ( Among the best of the rest in her latest collection are the following:

·       Russian soldiers in Ukraine are happy that Moscow continues to supply food for the full complement of units even though so many have died. After all, in one case, as a result, they get food for 84 when there are only seven left.

·       Putin says people shouldn’t have problems if they have seven or eight children and their apartments become crowded. All they have to do is to move the pool table from the living room to the library and the tennis table from the second children’s room to the landing.

·       Because there are so many Putin doubles, Russians are confident that they will live and die only under Putin.

·       Russians are prepared to vote as they are directed unless it is for Kadyrov’s much-decorated son.

·       Now that Moscow had declared the LGBTs a movement and begun to punish its members, Russians are asking what kind of an organization that is and whether they should give up rainbow umbrellas. They are also asking what other categories of people will be declared organizations and then punished.

·       More than half of Russians tell pollsters that they are confident about the future and that it won’t be worse than now. The other half think the country has not yet reached bottom.

·       Those who report the cases of killers who get pardoned for service in Ukraine will get longer sentences than the killers did originally.

An Under-Reported Form of Anti-War Protest: Russians Work to Remove ‘Z’ Symbols from Their Cities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 29 – With mixed success, activists in Russian cities are seeking to have removed the “Z” symbol of support for Putin’s war in Ukraine that have defaced public buildings near where they live and that are clearly intended to suggest that support for “the special military operation” is well nigh universal, a form of anti-war protests that is seldom reported as such.

            The SibReal portal says that activists in cities like Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Kirov, Tyumen, St. Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg have organized appeals to local officials to remove these signs which they believe deface the public buildings and send the wrong message to the population (

            In some places, the activists have been successful; but in others, they have been threatened with charges of “discrediting the Russian army” and may go to jail as a result. But what their struggle is all about is perhaps best reflected in the comment of Vadim Palko, an activist in Irkutsk.

            He says that “if the Zwastika hangs everywhere and no one speaks out against it, then this means that the Zwastika is normal. And if someone fights for its dismantling and sparks a public debate, then it means that there is something wrong with this symbolism” and that Russians know that and want change.

            Moreover, Palko continues, such actions mean that “there is no total unity, the illusion of which propaganda seeks to impose. And the struggle itself helps people who do not support the war to know that they are not alone and powerless and even encourages others to think about the conflict and what should be done.”