Staunton, April 15 -- 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 presents a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 27th such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, 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. Ask Putin the Wrong Question – and Get Arrested. At least one person who asked Vladimir Putin an inconvenient question was arrested, others were harassed, and still a third was denied the opportunity because operators said the city he was calling from – Asbestos – doesn’t exist (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=570F53AF62FFD, temidnya.ru/blog/43668388268/ZHitelya-CHelyabinska-posle-voprosa-Putinu-uvezli-na-dopros?utm_campaign=transit&%3Butm_source=main&%3Butm_medium=page_0&%3Bdomain=mirtesen.ru&%3Bpaid=1&%3Bpad=1 and znak.com/2016-04-13/zhitelnica_asbesta_ne_smogla_zadat_vopros_putinu_iz_za_sboya_v_programme).
2. Is Russia about to Create New Ministries for Happiness and the Future? Federal Council speaker Valentina Matvienko on her return from a visit to the United Arab Emirates said that the Russian Federation perhaps should copy the UAE’s system of having special ministries responsible for public happiness and the future (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=570FD587AB2DA).
3. Some Russians Say They’re Living Not in the 21 Century but the 18th. Residents of a small Russian city aren’t focusing on the future. They tell journalists that they are living not in the current century but in the 18th (informator24.blogspot.com/2016/04/blog-post_76.html).
4. Social Chamber Wants to Fingerprint All US and EU Visitors to Russia. Both in response to Western sanctions and to improve security, the Social Chamber is calling on the Russian authorities to fingerprint all Americans and EU citizens who come to Russia (grani.ru/Politics/Russia/m.250598.html).
5. Desperate to Meet Draft Quotas, Military Commissariat Sends One Man Back to Doctors 12 Times. Russia’s demographic decline is especially obvious when the country seeks to raise its mass army. To meet the quota it has been assigned, one military commissariat sent a young man back to the doctors 12 times in hopes of getting him cleared for service (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=570F56A687371).
6. Moscow Urged to Lay Claim to Part of Moon. Some Moscow analysts say that Russia should lay territorial claims to portions of the lunar service, an indication that the Kremlin’s desire to project Russian power may be even broader than many fear (ng.ru/nauka/2016-04-12/9_moon.html).
7. Zhirinovsky Statue Goes Up in Moscow. While statues of Lenin are coming down in many places, a statue to the outspoken and often outrageous leader of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party has gone up in Moscow. The three-meter-tall statue of Vladimir Zhirinovsky rivals the biggest ones of Lenin (themoscowtimes.com/news/article/three-meter-statue-of-ldpr-leader-zhirinovsky-unveiled-in-moscow/565412.html). Meanwhile, in another indication of the Kremlin’s tilt to his kind of Russian nationalism, the authorities have registered the Russian March as a trademark, something they have not done for more democratic and liberal projects (meduza.io/news/2016/04/13/russkiy-marsh-zaregistrirovan-v-kachestve-tovarnogo-znaka).
8. Despite Kremlin Promises, One Third of Russian Residences Still Not Connected to Gas Lines. For the last decade, Kremlin leaders have repeatedly promised that all Russian residences in villages as well as cities will be connected to natural gas pipelines by this time. But according to “Novaya versiya,” a third still lack such connections (versia.ru/nacionalnyj-proekt-po-gazifikacii-strany-provalilsya).
9. All Religions are Equal But Some are More Equal than Others. Russian officials have announced that Muslims and Jews will share the same prayer room in a Moscow jail (islamrf.ru/news/russia/rusnews/39251/). Meanwhile, residents in one Kostroma village are furious that the authorities handed over their school to the Russian Orthodox Church and, despite promises, have not built them a new one (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57108EBDD0F2E).
10. North Caucasians Divided on Beauty Contests. People and organizations in the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus are divided about the appropriateness of having women from their region take part in Russian beauty contests and especially appearing in swim suits. Many activists say that such participation is immodest and a violation of Islamic rules; others say that they are pleased that Russians now have the chance to get a new view of North Caucasians (themoscowtimes.com/article.php?id=565820&lang=en and nazaccent.ru/content/20309-kongress-narodov-kavkaza-osudil-uchastie-treh.html).
11. Putin’s Moscow May Now Be a Kind of Hell But It No Longer has a Dante Library. Specialists on the great Italian poet and others who simply care about history and culture are outraged by the decision of Moscow officials to shut down the Dante Library in the Russian capital (philologist.livejournal.com/8392738.html).
12. Chechnya Wants Grozny Mosque on Russian Banknotes. A Chechen official says that Moscow should put a picture of Grozny’s cathedral mosque on some of its banknotes, a proposal certain to infuriate many Russian nationalists but one that could put the Kremlin in yet another difficult position (rufabula.com/news/2016/04/14/the-chehnya-heart).
13. Russian Journalists Try to Smuggle Canon into Switzerland. For reasons unknown, a group of Russian journalists attempted to smuggle a canon into Switzerland before being stopped by Swiss customs (svoboda.org/content/article/27672599.html).
And six more from countries neighboring Russia:
14. Tajikistan to Celebrate Day of the President. In a step that perhaps Vladimir Putin will want to follow, Dushanbe has announced that Tajikistan will now celebrate a new holiday, the Day of the President (vestikavkaza.ru/news/V-Tadzhikistane-budut-otmechat-Den-prezidenta.html). Given massive unemployment among young Tajiks, there should be no shortage of potential celebrants (centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1460655120)
15. Pozner Tells Ethnic Russians in Latvia to Learn Latvian. Pointing out that ethnic Russians are not an indigenous nation in Latvia, Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner said that Russians living in that Baltic country should learn Latvian, the national language (vesti.lv/news/pozner-v-latvii-net-korennyh-russkih?media=text&page=5#.VwJinynN1NJ.facebook).
16. Occupiers in Donbas Torture Protestant Pastor to Force Him to Convert to Russian Orthodoxy. A Protestant pastor says he was tortured by Russian occupation forces until he agreed to become Russian Orthodox (ru.krymr.com/content/article/27674509.html).
17. Tashent Launches Drive to Get Uzbeks Living Abroad to Return Home. Uzbekistan has launched a campaign to get Uzbeks living in other countries to return home, something that might prove attractive to some of them in Tajikistan and thus further destabilize the situation there (slon.ru/posts/66451).
18. Crimean Resident Tells Putin Things Got Better When Russia Took Over and the Electricity Went Off. A resident of Crimea sent a mixed message in his question to Vladimir Putin, telling the Kremlin leader that things on the Ukrainian peninsula got much better following the Russian occupation even though many of them lost electric power as a result (vchaspik.ua/region/381565zhitelnica-kryma-putinu-bez-sveta-stalo-luchshe-zhit).
Moscow Urged to Make Sebastopol Russia’s Capital. Some enthusiasts say that the Russian government should shift the country’s capital from Moscow to Sebastopol in occupied Crimea as a way of showing the world that Russia will never leave there. Few think that is likely versia.ru/minyust-perenos-stolicy-rf-v-sevastopol-neset-bolshie-riski). That is especially likely now that Moscow has announced that it is delaying for some time the construction of the bridge from Russia to the occupied peninsula likely (gordonua.com/news/crimea/vlasti-rossii-perenesli-finansirovanie-razvitiya-anneksirovannogo-kryma-na-neskolko-let-127610.html