Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Ukraine Won’t Achieve Real Victory Unless Imperial Russia Disintegrates, Magaletsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – It is critically important that the world understands what the war in Ukraine is really about and how its outcome will determine not only the fate of the peoples now living within the current borders of the Russian Federation but also those in Russia’s neighbors and the world as a whole. Oleg Magaletsky says.

            The organizer of the Forum of Free Countries of Post-Russia says that Putin launched his expanded war against Ukraine “not for territory” but to destroy an alternative vision of society and politics, one based on democracy and freedom rather than totalitarian control (region.expert/ukraine-for-ingria/).

            Because that is the case, Magaletsky says, “the war can end only when one of the projects, Russia or Ukraine, ceases to exist.” That means, for Ukraine to win, Russia must cease its existence as an imperial state;” and for that to happen, its citizens must have the right to form their own states and get out from under imperial control.

            Unfortunately, that is not yet fully understood either by the so-called “Russian liberal opposition” or by Western experts and governments, he continues. “The Russian liberal opposition is not Russian (but Muscovite) and not liberal” because it is not prepared to offer to others the powers it hopes to arrogate to itself.

            And in the West, both experts and officials are still overwhelmingly of the belief that the disintegration of Russia is either impossible because of Moscow’s nuclear arsenal or unwelcome because it will cause so many headaches, even though the experience of the last 30 years and especially Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine should convince them otherwise, the activist says.

But whether anyone likes it or not, the Russian empire is “disintegrating,” continuing a trend from 1991 that was opposed by many in the West but happened anyway. And the West needs to prepare for that because otherwise the chance that there will be revanchism in what remains of a country centered on Moscow will be very great.

Magarlitsky says that among the things everyone must be concerned about is that Russian revanchism may arise not just in Moscow but in the regions, where people are more likely to suffer and thus will be more likely to listen to those who call for taking revenge on the supposed causes of their misfortunes.

And if revanchism is not blocked by the combined efforts of those now within Russia who want independence, those Russians who want to de-imperialize their state, and the West which has a compelling interest in all these things, then, Magarlitsky says, Russia will attack again – and he names as the most likely next target Latvia, even though it is in NATO.


Kremlin Deploying Two More Means of Repression

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – In recent weeks, the Kremlin has deployed two additional means of repression, one based on some new realities and a second the restoration of a Russian imperial practice from the past. It is entirely likely that the Russian rulers will expand their use of these techniques in the future, and so it is important to take note of them now.

            Grigory Golosov, a professor at St. Petersburg’s European University, points to the first: a three-step method in which the Putin regime identifies a group it doesn’t like, then declares it an international social movement, and then recognizes that group as extremist (polit.ru/articles/konspekty/grigoriy-golosov-o-perspektivnoy-tekhnologii/).

            That is exactly what Moscow has done in the case of the LGBT community, and it may apply the same method to feminism, the commentator says.

            The second, the taking of hostages of those related to individuals and groups the regime is fighting against, has a long history going back into the tsarist past; but it is now being used against √©migr√© opposition figures who are finding that their relatives who have not left the country are being persecuted and imprisoned (turantoday.com/2023/11/bashkir-hostage-russia.html and topwar.ru/166936-kavkazskoe-amanatstvo-zabytyj-socialnyj-institut.html).

            Up to now, this method has been applied most often to relatives of non-Russian activists now abroad; but there is no reason to think that with time, Moscow will use the same tactic against all those who have fled abroad to escape Putin’s repressive regime, especially since ever more Russian officials are denouncing those who “relocated” since the start of the Ukraine war.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Peasant Consciousness of Russians Didn’t Disappear with Urbanization Because Country’s Cities are Fortresses rather than Cities in the European Sense, Roshchin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – In less than a century, Russia has gone from an overwhelmingly rural country to an overwhelmingly urban one; but this change has not transformed Russians in the way that similar changes have elsewhere because the country’s cities are in fact fortresses created from above rather than cities in the European sense, Aleksey Roshchin says.

            As a result, urban residents in Russia still share the core values of the village: that they live at the edge of things and that the masters will decide everything rather than taking responsibility for their lives and situation, the Russian commentator continues (publizist.ru/blogs/113970/47222/-).

            This may seem strange to those who know the history of medieval cities in Europe where there was even a proverb that held “the air itself makes the city free!” But that was true of the cities in Europe which grew up for primarily economic reasons and were not created by the state for its purposes.

            The situation in Russia has been entirely different, Roshchin says. “Cities in Russia have always bee mainly fortresses, that is, they were created administratively by the state.” As a result, “they did not make people free neither under the Soviets nor under the Russian Federation,” although there was a brief period in the 1990s when it appeared that might change.

            As the commentator notes, there is no self-government in Russian urban places and thus the cities there “strictly speaking” are not cities. Instead, they are “military settlements.” And it doesn’t matter how large they are or how many multi-story apartment buildings they have. Those things don’t make it a city “in the old European sense.”

            This is “one of the main curses of Russian life,” Roshchin concludes. “The peasant spirit of the redneck and of servility does not disappear” from the country even when the peasantry in the countryside ceases to exist because its members have moved into urban places that really shouldn’t be called cities at all.

Departure of Three Non-Turkmen ‘Gray Cardinals’ in Ashgabat May Presage More Radical Change

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – Three senior advisors to the previous two presidents of Turkmenistan, all of whom ethnic Russians and thus not within the tribal bounds that define national life there, have left their positions in recent months, Aleksandr Zhadan by death, Viktor Khramov by retirement, and Vladimir Umnov, also by retirement.

            Aleksandr Knyazov, a Central Asia specialist at MGIMO, says their department could have far reaching consequences even more radical than those the new president has shown (ia-centr.ru/experts/timur-almukov/serye-kardinaly-turkmenistana-ushli-iz-politiki-chto-dalshe/).

            “Not being Turkmens,” the senior scholar who also teaches at St. Petersburg State University says, means that “while they of course have to deal with the clan system, they are outside of. The presence of such advisors gave [earlier presidents’ the possibility of balancing the influence of relatives in the taking of various decisions.”

            “And their non-Turkmen origin made them dependent on the president which in turn guaranteed their loyalty,” he continues. Knyazev does not say but it is implicit in what he does write that the fact that those replacing them are not ethnic Russians means that the influence of Moscow on the new president is likely to be much less.

            That in fact may be why the new president, although he is the son of his predecessor, has moved to swiftly to open up Turkmenistan to the world in order to address its economic problems and been willing to expand contacts with various countries despite Ashgabat’s constitutionally mandated neutrality.


Duma Deputy Wants New Law on Russian People to End References to Multi-National Nature of Country’s Population

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – Arguing that “there are many nations in Russia but only one people,” Duma deputy Sultan Khamzayev is calling for the adoption of a law on the Russian people that will replace the concept of “the multi-national people” of the Russian Federation with the idea that the country includes a single “Russian [russky] people.”

            According to the deputy, “there was a Soviet people” but after 1991 “there began a play on words.” There must be a common term for all, he argues. “The Russian people today are the Slavs, the multi-national people of Daghestan, Tatarstan, Chechnya, Bashkortostan, Udmurtia and Sakha” (https://ria.ru/20231125/zakon-1911774930.html).

            Talk about non-ethnic Russians (Rossiyane), the Daghestani deputy continues, was a Yeltsin innovation – and a mistake. “If in Daghestan, we converse in Russian, such as between Dargins and Kumyks, aren’t we a single people? The Daghestani one and globally, the Russian one.”

            Using an expression first popularized by Daghestani poet Rasul Gamzatov, Khamzayev says that “in Daghestan, I am an Avar; in Moscow, I am a Daghestani, and abroad, I am a Russian [russky]”

            His proposal appears to catch the spirit of much of what Putin has been saying, but there appears little likelihood that the Duma will approve his draft bill. Ildar Gilmutdinov, vice chairman of the Duma’s nationalities committee, says that Khamzayev’s ideas are at odds with Russia’s nationality policy strategy and cannot be accepted (nazaccent.ru/content/41564-v-gosdume-predlozhili-prinyat-zakon-o-russkom-narode.html).

Kremlin’s Main Objection to Same-Sex Unions is They Don’t Produce Children who Can Become Soldiers, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – The Kremlin’s main reason for opposing same-sex unions is not that they violate “Russian traditional values” but rather that they don’t produce children who can grow up and become soldiers for Moscow, some Russians say in their assessment of Putin’s anti-gay policies.

            This is only one of the anecdotes included in the latest collection assembled by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/47219/-). Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       In order not to anger Putin, his aides are photoshopping films about various leaders and may soon produce one showing how Biden would recognize Crimea as part of Russia if only he was a smart of the Kremlin leader himself.

·       Because Prigozhin was celebrated for taking Bakhmur no matter the cost, Russian generals now in Ukraine feel they have no option other than to take Avdiyevka again regardless of the number of combat losses.

·       Russian parents face two problems: teaching their children how to behave in polite society on the basis of moral values and then explaining to them why they should behave that way in Russia where the exact opposite situation obtains and the opposite values triumph.

·       The governor of Penza wants to remove memorial plaques to those from his region who have died fighting in Ukraine because he doesn’t want anyone to know just how many have.

·       In the last decade, the average pension in Russia increased from 9153 rubles to 14,904 rubles but fell from 295 US dollars to 193 dollars at the respective rates of exchange. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

In Harbinger of Worse to Come Elsewhere, Russian Siloviki Step Up Pressure on KBR Scholars and Activists

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – For more than a year, Russian siloviki have been putting pressure both directly and via the Internet on a group of scholars in Kabardino-Balkaria for their outspoken criticism of Moscow policies (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/12/moscow-and-its-agents-in-kbr-shift-from.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/11/kbr-scholars-say-powers-now-using.html).

            Now that pressure has increased, prompting the scholars to issue a new appeal, one that has attracted the attention of the Memorial Center (zapravakbr.ru/index.php/30-uncategorised/1909-v-kabardino-balkarii-siloviki-okazyvayut-davlenie-na-podpisantov-obrashcheniya-v-zashchitu-uchenykh and memorialcenter.org/news/v-kbr-siloviki-okazyvayut-davlenie-na-podpisantov).

            Not only are the scholars themselves being constantly called in for questioning about their motives and contacts, but they are being subject to searches in their homes and to Internet and other media attacks on their motives. This new wave of attacks is important not only in its own right but because what it presages is likely to happen elsewhere in the Russian Federation.

            In the past, with disturbing regularity, what Moscow has done in the North Caucasus has been a harbinger of what it then does elsewhere. The center uses the region as a testing ground; and in the absence of attention and protests from elsewhere, it then feels free to do much the same thing first in other non-Russian republics and then in Russian regions and major cities.