Friday, January 29, 2016

A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 21

Paul Goble

Staunton, January 29 -- The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and 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 twenty-first such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, this week once again, one could have put out such a listing every day -- but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1.      From Genghiz Khan with a Telegraph to Ivan the Terrible with an I-Phone. Since at least the time of Alexander Herzen, Russian writers have viewed their rulers as authoritarian rulers resembling those in the past made worse by modern technology. Now one has suggested that Putin has set up a medieval principality with i-phones and foreign cars ( But Putin may be more closely tied to Soviet leaders: he noted this week that he hasn’t thrown away his CPSU party card (  And even Russian nationalists are now upset that Putin’s Russia resembles something out of 1984. For them, “Big Brother” really is watching

2.      Kadyrov Only Saying What Millions of Russians Think, Dugin Says. Influential Eurasian leader Aleksandr Dugin says that Chechnya head Ramzan Kadyrov is only saying what millions of Russians think ( Most of Kadyrov’s declarations have received wide attention. One, by one of his aides, has not: an openly anti-Semitic attack on Israel and the West (

3.      Russian Authorities Hide Radiation Danger in Water Supply.  Officials in Voronezh have done what they can to hide the fact that the water supply on which many there rely is radioactive, an action that puts many at risk of serious illnesses including cancer (

4.      Duma Deputy Says US Behind Flu Epidemic in Russia.  In the latest over the top assertion by a Russian legislator, one Duma deputy says that the US has caused the flu epidemic in Russia in order to weaken his country (  But Russians are increasingly realizing that the threat to their health comes not from the US but from Putin’s optimization program which has reduced medical access ( and Putin’s ban on the import of most kinds of medicines, including those Russia doesn’t produce ( and  As a result, more Russians are going to get sick and die prematurely, but there too they will receive little help from the Kremlin.  Despite promises, Moscow has not yet introduced palliative care anywhere except for the top elite (

5.      Moscow TV Broadcast Story on Putin’s Ex Only in the Far East.  Russian television often broadcasts one thing to the center of the country and another to other parts. Recently, the story of the remarriage of Putin’s ex was broadcast only to the Far East but not to Moscow ( In another television story, Moscow TV dropped after a decade the popular weekly series on Muslims of Russia (

6.      Russians Are Lining Up Again.  Lines, a inevitable feature of Soviet life, are returning to Russia with a vengeance as shortages appear and people get in line in expectation that something will be available ( and  Sometimes, however, the wait can be just too long: One story making the rounds is that a Russian got in line at a dcotor’s office but died before he could be seen. Others in the line left him in place for more than two hours (

7.      Finnish Journalist Fined for Interviewing Ousted Petrozavodsk Mayor.  Having driven Galina Shirshina from office, Karelian officials are doing what they can in order to prevent her story from reaching a broader audience.  To that end, they fined a Finnish journalist for interviewing her (

8.      No One Talked about Russia in Davos.  To the horror of many in Moscow, almost no one taking place at the world economic meeting in Davos had anything to say about Russia, an indication of how marginal it has become at least in economic terms (

9.      Two-Thirds of Working-Age People in Kurgansk Oblast Unemployed.  The economic situation outside of Moscow is dire. Kurgansk oblast is one of the worst with unemployment now at more than 65 percent (  Whenever Moscow does  cast a glance at a region – as Putin did by suggesting that Europe’s Jews return to Russia and possibly settle in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, the media covers those places, often discovering the situation is far worse than anyone imagines (

10.  Patrushev Says World Should Thank Russia for Annexing Crimea.  Just when one imagines that senior Russian officials can’t go beyond what they have said, one of them surprises: Security Council head Nikolay Patrushev has now declared that the West should stop criticize Moscow for occupying Crimea and instead thank Russia for doing just that (

11.  Power Verticals Can Alienate People.  Vladimir Putin clearly believes that his construction of a power vertical has helped to generate popular support for himself, but a study of the Moscow Patriarchate’s efforts to create a power vertical within the church finds that steps in that direction have had exactly the opposite effect, alienating many Russians who earlier had been more sympathetic (

12.  Russia Doesn’t Need the World Cup, Some Russians Say.  Many in the West believe that Russia should be stripped of the 2018 World Cup because of its aggression in Ukraine, the racism of its fans, its corrupt involvement with international sporting bodies, and its athletes’ use of performance enhancing drugs. But now ever more Russians are saying they don’t want Moscow to hold the cup because the money it will cost could be better spent on social needs (

13.  Gastarbeiters Committing Fewer Crimes Per Capita than Russians Are.  Russian officials say that migrant workers have been committing less than four percent of all crimes in the Russian Federation. Since gastarbeiters form a larger portion of the population than that, this means that on a per capita basis, gastarbeiters are more law-abiding than Russians are (

And three from Russia’s neighbors:

14.  Uzbekistan Bans Political Science. Taking a leaf from some other authoritarian regimes, Tashkent has banned political science (  But the situation for the social sciences is not much better in Russia; There sociology texts are usually put in the esoterica sections of bookstores (

15.  Is Ukraine About to Be Flooded with Counterfeit US Dollars?  A senior Russian churchman has called for Moscow to print up counterfeit American currency and dispatch it to Ukraine in order to undermine the economy of that country (

16.  Can Baku Overcome Sunni-Shiia Divide by Having Them Alternate Services in Mosques?  The Azerbaijani authorities believe that they can promote Sunni-Shiite concord by having the leaders of the two trends of Islam alternate services in mosques.  Some are concerned that this will have the opposite effect and exacerbate tensions between the two or alternatively be used by the authorities to eliminate Sunni services in that majority Shiite country (

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