Friday, October 9, 2015

A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories This Week – No. 5

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 9 -- The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and often strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.

            Consequently, Windows on Eurasia will present a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the fifth such weekly compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1.      ‘Goodbye Lenin’ Film a Model for Putin? The film about how a dutiful German son tried to suggest to his mother than the DDR still existed and the communists were still in power appears to have become a model for Vladimir Putin ( One piece of evidence for this: an elderly Russian in Tobolsk who tore down a picture of Stalin on a bus was beaten up by his fellow passengers (

2.      How Bad are Things in Russia? Russian Nationalist Wants Asylum in Latvia and Snowden’s Ready for a US Jail.  There are many ways to measure the problems a society has. At least one is the desire of some living in it to leave. This week a radical Russian nationalist sought political asylum in Latvia (, and Edward Snowden who has leaked massive amounts of US intelligence data and has been living in Moscow says he is ready to return to the US even if that means as it likely would that he would be in a US prison rather than a Russian apartment (

3.      Nothing Good Ahead as Russians Buy 400,000 Baseball Bats But Only One Glove.  Rights activists are concerned that there will be more violence given that Russians are arming themselves with baseball bats. They are not buying gloves and thus little reason to think they are planning to play the American pastime (

4.      Moscow TV Says Weather is Fine for Bombing Syria.  A state-controlled Moscow television station broadcast a report that the weather over Syria was good for a bombing campaign (

5.      Syria Campaign Adds to Growing List of Neologisms in Putin’s Russia. “Novosyria” and “Damascus is Ours!” are just two of the neologisms Putin’s campaign in Syria has added to the growing list of new words and phrases that are spreading through the Russian language (

6.      Some Take Moscow Clip on How Kerch Bridge Will Look as Evidence It Exists.  Russian officials have put out a video clip on how the bridge they say they will build to Crimea will eventually look.  Some take it as showing that the bridge already exists. To counter that, some Ukrainians have put out an alternative version of what will happen with the bridge should it be constructed (

7.      Russia Produces Fiber Optic Cable for First Time – ‘More Expensive but Ours!’ Some Moscow outlets are celebrating the fact that in a few areas, Moscow has achieved import substitution: it is now, for example, producing fiber optic cable for the first time. But the Russian version is more expensive. Indeed, the sanctions and countersanctions have created a situation where prices are often sharply higher: Russian orchards are now selling apples for two or three times the price they did before ( and

8.      Bribes and Other Forms of Corruption Behind 90 Percent of Construction Costs in Moscow (

9.      Russian Plans to Expose US Moon Landing as Fake May Backfire.  Despite economic hardships, Russians are now collecting money to expose what they say was the faked US moon landing in 1969. But some Russian commentators suggest this will backfire by calling attention to numerous Soviet Russian fakes in space as well ( and

10.  Potemkin Villages Thriving under Putin. Russia has a long history of making things look better than they are in advance of VIP visits, but now those efforts are taking new and expanded form. In one case, officials are stripping off and taking away the paving materials they used to make the roads look more presentable in one such place ( In Soviet and tsarist times, residents usually got to keep whatever “benefits” such visits brought.

11.  St. Petersburg Renames District to Avoid Present-Day Political ‘Associations.’ Those who have sought to get Russian officials to drop the names of Soviet torturers from places in their cities know how resistant they are to do so and how many delaying tactics they can employ.  But St. Petersburg officials wasted no time in dropping the name “Parnas” from one city district because of its “associations” with a present-day opposition party (

12.  Zhirinovsky Says Russia Should Retake Poland and Finland.  In a statement perhaps intended to make Putin look like a moderate, flamboyant LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky says that Russia should restore its borders as they were in 1917, thus taking back not only the entire former Soviet space but also Poland, Finland and two provinces in Turkey (

13.  Three Russian Statistics Not to Be Ignored.  One Russian in 28 is now homeless, according to Moscow officials; only 346 Cossacks serve in the Russian military as professional soldiers; and only 13,200 Russian Muslims made the haj this year, below this year’s Russian quota of 16,000 and far below the numbers who have been going over the past decade (, and

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