Staunton, May 13 -- 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 31st 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. Moscow TV Says Crimean Tatar Deportation was ‘Search for a Better Life.’ In the increasingly Orwellian world of Russian official media, nothing should surprise or shock, but this does: in its coverage of the Eurovision competition, a Moscow television station described the 1944 deportation of the Crimean Tatars as “a search for a better life” by those involved. It did so because the Ukrainian participant in the competition had sung a song about that act of genocide (http://qha.com.ua/ru/politika/rossiya1-nazvala-deportatsiyu-1944-poiskom-luchshei-jizni/159433/).
2. Under Stalin, Putin Would Have Been Shot Early On. A commentator for Radio Liberty suggests that Vladimir Putin who increasingly boosts the regime of Joseph Stalin should reflect on the fact that the Soviet dictator would have had him executed early in his career given his failings as an intelligence operative and economic manager in St. Petersburg (svoboda.org/content/article/27728152.html). But Putin’s problems are hardly limited to that: a picture of a Russian general pulling off the handle of the Kremlin leader’s car when he was trying to open it, hardly an advertisement for the quality of Russian goods or maintenance has gone viral on the Internet (charter97.org/ru/news/2016/5/12/203996/).
3. Russian Holidays Costing the Country Two Percent of GDP. Russian holidays long like the just completed May Day through Victory Day one are currently costing the country two percent of GDP, an enormous figure and one likely to increase as the Kremlin seems ready to offer still more days off to Russians (newizv.ru/economics/2016-05-10/239108-ubytki-vyhodnogo-dnja.html).
Siberians Angered by Moscow’s Offer to Help Canada with Its Fires When It Won’t Help Them. Siberians are upset that Moscow has very publicly offered to help Canada with the horrific fires in northern Alberta but has refused to do much of anything to help them with massive fires that if anything are larger and even worse than those in North America (arigus-tv.ru/news/item/82309/ and greenpeace.org/russia/ru/news/2016/05-11-wildfires/
6. A True Sign of the Times in Russia: The Road Ends HERE. Automobile enthusiasts have come up with a new sign for drivers in Mari El. It tells them to “Turn Around. The Road Ends Here,” yet another indication of how poorly served most of Russia is by its road network (mariuver.com/2016/05/08/dorog-zakonch/#more-47255).
7. Owe Money? The Russian Authorities Can Seize Your Pet. “To give the debtor an incentive for early repayment” of a debt, officials in Perm oblast have “arrested” his cat. Presumably when he pays up, his pet will be returned (themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russian-bailiffs-arrest-debtors-cat/568230.html).
8. Daghestani Islamists Piggybacking on Anti-Corruption Drive. The Russian government’s anti-corruption drive has given an opening to Islamists in Daghestan, the most Muslim republic in Russia. The Islamists are winning support there because they point out that they have been the most consistent opponents of widespread corruption (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/282137/).
9. Aeroflot Helps Officials Hide the Fact They’re Still Flying Business Class. In yet another demonstration that in Russia, all animals are equal but some are more equal than others, the state airline is helping officials hide the fact that they continue to fly business class even though the government in a cost-cutting move has said they shouldn’t. The officials get tickets showing they are flying in the back of the plane when in fact they aren’t (ura.ru/articles/1036267789).
10. Shoygu Flaunts His Christianity as Atheists Organize. Reflecting the increasing importance of being a member of the Orthodox church if you want to have a political career in Moscow, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu who converted from Buddhism – he is a Buryat – to Christianity went out of his wave over the Easter holiday to flaunt his new faith (svoboda.org/content/transcript/27726546.html?fb_action_ids=1283846004977854&fb_action_types=og.comments). Meanwhile and in response to the increasing influence of religion in Russia, the country’s atheists are forming their own organization, something that has already been criticized as a first step toward the revival of the League of the Militant Godless (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2016/05/11/ateisty_idut_v_boj/).
Duma Decides Not to Prohibit Relatives of Deputies from Working in Business. In a move that will ensure that corruption continues unabated, the Duma has decided not to ban employment in private business by the husbands or wives of deputies. In all too many cases, such “employment” is how the deputies have hidden payments to themselves (meduza.io/news/2016/05/10/deputaty-reshili-ne-zapreschat-svoim-rodstvennikam-zanimatsya-biznesom
13. Intourist Guides Told to Protect Foreign Tourists from Russian Hostility. In a story that appears to have been taken down since it appeared, Intourist guides reportedly have been told to get between foreign tourists and Russians hostile to them lest the tourists go home with a bad image of Russia (mk.ru/moscow/2016/05/11/inturisty-zhaluyutsya-na-moskvichey-plyuyutsya-grubyat-krichat-yanki-gou-khoum).
And six more stories from countries neighboring Russia:
14. Karakalpak Teachers Now Being Paid in Chickens Rather than Money. The authorities in Karakalpakistan in the western portion of Uzbekistan have run out of money to pay teachers and are now giving them chickens in lieu of real pay (centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1463033340).
15. Minsk Concerned about Power of Bloggers. In an indication that even in authoritarian Belarus, the Internet is playing an ever larger role, one commentator says that bloggers because of their ability to provide alternative sources of information are an increasing problem for Alyaksandr Lukshenka and his regime (charter97.org/ru/news/2016/5/9/203426/).
16. Uzbek School Children to Be Blocked from Attending Mosques This Summer. In the latest government move to prevent the spread of Islamist ideas, Tashkent is banning pupils from attending mosques during their summer break. Apparently, officials are concerned that if they spend too much time there, they will be radicalized (islamsng.com/uzb/news/10705).
17. Rising Prices May Put Haj Beyond the Reach of Tajiks. Prices for making the haj to Mecca are slated to rise by almost 25 percent this year for Tajikistan residents, an increase that will put the required Muslim pilgrimage beyond the means of ever more of them (islamsng.com/tjk/news/10670).
18. 30 Percent of Kazakhstan’s Males Said Suffering from Infertility. Doctors in the Central Asian republic say that nearly a third of all men in Kazakhstan now suffer from infertility, a figure dramatically higher than those reported elsewhere around the world (otyrar.kz/2016/05/v-kazaxstane-30-muzhchin-stradayut-besplodiem/).
19. Kazakhstan Said on Brink of Maidan and Radio Liberty is to Blame. Ever more Russian commentators are suggesting that Kazakhstan faces a Ukrainian scenario in the near future (pravda.ru/world/formerussr/10-05-2016/1300392-zemlya-0/), for which some in the region hold Radio Liberty’s broadcasts responsible (vb.kg/doc/339487_ygrozy_v_ca:_kto_stoit_za_mitingami_v_kazahstane_i_kyrgyzstane.html).