Friday, June 7, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 35 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 15th special Window on Eurasia about the meaning and impact of the planned Olympiad on the nations in the surrounding region.  These WOEs, which will appear each Friday over the coming year, will not aim at being comprehensive but rather will consist of a series bullet points about such developments.  I would like to invite anyone with special knowledge or information about this subject to send me references to the materials involved.  My email address is  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble

Putin Only One Who Can’t See the Risks Sochi Represents, Delyagin Says. Vladimir Putin has treated Sochi as his very own “triumph of the will” and consequently cannot see the risks that this competition presents for him even if in the unlikely event everything goes well, according to Moscow commentator Mikhail Delyagin. That is because the run-up to the games has already cast a harsh light on his irresponsible and corrupt rule and generated expanded criticism of the Russian president both at home and abroad (

Khrushchev Promised Communism, But Putin ‘Can’t Think Up Anything Besides Sochi.’ A new political cartoon by Elkin has Stalin saying that ‘life is becoming happier’ and Khrushchev promising ‘communism before 1980.’ But Vladimir Putin, Elkin suggests, “cannot think up anything besides the Sochi Olympiad” (

Satirical Sochi Posters at Perm Art Show Anger Moscow. A collection of satirical posters displayed at a Perm art exhibit showing Stalin hiding behind the mask of Mishka, the Olympic symbol, and the Sochi Olympics as a grenade rather than a matryoshka doll, has attracted the attention of Moscow officials who are demanding that the posters be taken down and that the officials responsible be held accountable (

Greenpeace Recognizes Gazaryan for Exposing Ecological Crimes in Sochi. Greenpeace Russia has presented its annual National Ecological Prize to Suren Gazaryan, a member of the Ecological Watch for the North Caucasus who now lives in Estonia,, for his defense of the environment in the North Caucasus and around Sochi ( Meanwhile, Russian officials said that Olympic construction was having an ever-smaller impact on the environment (

WWF Says Olympic Construction has Ruined River Supplying Drinking Water to Sochi.  The World Wildlife Fund has added the Mzymta River in Sochi to its list of ten ecologically at risk places in Russia.  That river, which supplies drinking water to Sochi, has been contaminated as a result of Olympic construction and will require many  years to recover (

Sochi Organizers Say They’re ‘Studying’ Nemtsov’s Charges about Games.  Aleksandr Zhukov, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, says that he “needs time to analyze the statistics” Boris Nemtsov offers in his recent pamphlet, “The Winter Olympics in the Subtropics,” but that Moscow is sure that its accounting chamber has prevented the kind of corruption that the opposition figure documents (

Four Die in Three Days of Sochi Beach Season.  Rescue workers are calling on visitors to Sochi to be more careful after four people drowned during only three days at the beach in Sochi this year. That is just one of the risks and discomforts visitors face if they go to Sochi this year because of construction and confusion, according to local journalists (, and

Power Shortages Interrupt Showings at Sochi Film Festival. Electric power outages, a daily occurrence in Sochi for many months, have attracted more attention now that they have occurred during a high-profile film festival there and led more people to question whether the power grid will be ready to support the Sochi Olympiad next year (

Visiting Moscow Writer Says Olympic Construction Far From Complete.  Bozhena Rynska, a journalist and writer, says her visit to Sochi earlier this week shows that “no one has been able to finish building anything for the Olympics” and that evidence of this is all around to anyone with eyes to see ( Cf.

US Sports Writer Says Chaos and Corruption Will Keep Him from Going to Sochi. David Williams, a Vail, Colorado, sports writer says that “corruption, construction chaos, likely coastal weather concerns, and potential for security mayhem” will keep him from attending the first Winter Olympics he’s missed since 1994 and that the IOC should recognize that it has made a mistake in giving the winter competition to Sochi, “a Black Sea resort with more palm trees than pine trees” (

Moscow to Keep Automobile Traffic Out of Sochi Area During Games.  Anyone who hopes to drive to the Sochi games will be disappointed because Russian officials have announced that they will block cars from entering the Olympic area, require drivers to park them in special lots, and then take buses into the city and adjoining venues ( and

Anti-Circassian Commentaries Continue to Increase in Russian Media. Russian writers continue to expand their attacks on Georgia and Western countries who have raised questions about holding an Olympic competition on the site of the 1864 genocide of the Circassian nation or even called for Moscow to include references to the plight of the Circassians in its Olympic arrangements (

Moscow Won’t Let Syrian Circassians Return Lest Turkish Circassians Do So.  Russia’s regional development ministry says that Circassians living in wartorn Syria should not be allowed to return, apparently fearful that if they do, members of the far larger Circassian diaspora in Turkey will also seek to come back to the North Caucasus, an influx that could transform the ethnic mix in the western North Caucasus in advance of the Sochi Games ( and

FSB Brings Charges Against Sochi Resident for Online Posts.  A criminal case has been lodged against a Sochi woman who has posted stories on her Vkontakte page that the FSB says promote inter-ethnic hatred, an indication that Moscow’s recent moves against the Internet are taking their most extreme form in the region where the Olympiad will be held (

Moscow Paper Focuses on Travails of Journalist in Sochi.  “Komsomolskaya Pravda” on June 4 became the latest Russian outlet to focus on the problems of Nikolay Yarst, a Public Television journalist, and his colleagues in Sochi. Yarst has been charged with drug possession in a transparent attempt to intimidate him and keep him from reporting on problems in the Olympic city. Meanwhile, local officials continue to pursue the case, and residents say these same officials are ignoring the open sale of illegal drugs at various point in the city  (, and

Russian Officials Raid Sochi Sites with Illegal Gastarbeiters. Paralleling developments elsewhere in the Russian Federation, Sochi and regional police have raided Olympic construction sites in an effort to identify and then expel locally unpopular gastarbeiters. But residents say it is unclear whether these raids are effective or only a sop to public opinion (

Average Bill at a Sochi Café Now Exceeds 1300 Rubles … Prices at restaurants and cafes in Sochi are rising to levels beyond the means of most Russians, with the average bill at a café there now exceeding 1300 rubles or 40 US dollars. Meanwhile, articles are appearing in the Russian regional press suggesting that the cost of travelling to Sochi during the games will make that impossible for their audiences ( and

… And General Price Rises Make Sochi Olympiad an Event Only for the Rich. Moscow’s “Sovershenno Sekretno” magazine has documented the dramatic price rises in all sectors in Sochi and suggests that the Sochi Games as a result will be welcoming only to the rich, arguing that Moscow’s use of the JetSet Sports group has exacerbated this problem (

New Storms Threaten to Knock Out More Power Lines in Sochi.  Officials say that strong winds and rains, not uncommon in Sochi at this time of year, may bring down more power lines and threaten residents and visitors (

Sochi Security Issues a Focus of Doha Meeting.  A planning session for next April’s Security Sport Conference in Doha focused on the security challenges facing organiers of the Sochi Olympiad (

US Congressional Delegation Says Washington Will Help Make Sochi Secure.  A House of Representatives delegation said in Moscow that Washington is reading to “assist Russia in security the Sochi Winter Olympics against a possible terrorist attacks” (

Sochi Synagogue Renovated for Games.  Rabbi Ari Edelkopf, head of the Jewish Community of Sochi, says that the synagogue in tht city has been renovated for competitors and visitors to the Sochi Olympiad ( ).

Exercises Test Sochi’s Preparations for Possible Terrorist Acts and Mass Protests.  The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry has carried out a series of simulated terrorist and protest actions in Sochi to help prepare that city for any eventuality during the games, officials say (   and

Some Olympic Construction Now Going Forward Around the Clock.  In the hopes of completing highway and other construction projects in and around Sochi, some contractors are now working through the night and weekends, something that allows them to move equipment around at times when there are fewer vehicles on the roads but that disturbs local residents and visitors to the city now (

Sochi Officials Deny Local People a Venue to Discuss Their Problems.  After promising a hall to local residents who wanted to discuss the problems Olympic preparations have created, Sochi city officials cancelled the offer at the last minute forcing the organizers to try to find an alternative venue (

Sochi Residents Appeal to Krasnodar and Moscow When Their Mayor Refuses to Help Them.  Sochi residents are now sending appeals to Krasnodar and Moscow because they have lost hope that Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov will do anything to help them with their problems, appeals that mean that the problems of the Olympic city will now attract even more attention than up to now (  and

Putin Compares Olympic Torch to Kalashnikov Rifle; Others Say It Looks Like Vodka Ad. Russian President Vladimir Putin says that the Sochi Olympic torch reminds him of Russia’s famed Kalashnikov rifle, but others say that it looks like the letter “R” in a Russian vodka advertisement (

Sochi Olympic Tickets Don’t Yet Specify Seat Locations.  Russian officials say that Russians  will purchase “about 70 percent” of all tickets for the games, but they acknowledge that the tickets now on offer do not specify where those purchasing them will in fact sit, thus limiting the attraction of any early purchases (  and

Soviet-Style Student Work Brigades Come to Sochi from Across Russia.  Student work brigades are being dispatched from various parts of the Russian Federation to help complete construction projects in Sochi, a trend that recalls Moscow’s approach in Soviet times (

Kozak, Predicting Success at Sochi, Says St. Petersburg May Seek 2024 Summer Games.  Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister who is overseeing the Sochi games, says that they will be successful and says that officials are discussing whether St. Petersburg should seek to get the 2024 Summer Games.  If the IOC agreed, Moscow would have organized a winter Olympics in the southern part of Russia and a summer competition in the north (

Chechen Workers in Sochi Claim Discrimination, Point to Disorder in Sochi.  Chechen workers at Sochi Olympics construction sites say they have not been paid, that the supply of building materials is inadequate, and that there is no effective supervision of what is going on there ( Meanwhile, conflicts between Vietnamese gastarbeiters and local people have broken out nearby (

Russian Officials Continue to Deny Shapsugs Official Recognition.  Russian officials continue to refuse to grant official recognition to the Shapsugs, a sub-group of Circassians whose homeland includes Sochi. Despite that, Shapsug leaders say they welcome the Sochi Games because development has improved the lives of many of them and because the competition gives them a chance to present themselves and their problems, including the 1864 genocide, to the world (

Circassian Documents 1864 Tragedy in Washington Publication. The Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor features an article by Ibragim Gukemukh, a Circassian, documenting the events of 1864 and demanding an end to the silence of the international community about that genocide ([tt_news]=40973&tx_ttnews[backPid]=7&cHash=76d855578c5a2b3ec82f211a0a0fe668).

Scandals Continue to Plague Sochi City Government. Almost every day, another Sochi official is brought to court on charges of corruption or malfeasance of another kind. Indeed, such charges have become so common that officials leaving for other reasons have been forced to deny that they are on the way out because of criminal activity ( ,  and

Moscow Moves Against North Caucasus Officials. In an indication that the situation in the North Caucasus may be even more explosive than many now think, Moscow has removed several powerful officials in Daghestan and elsewhere despite the risk that this may spark a new wave of instability there in advance of the Sochi Games ( and

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