Friday, October 19, 2018

Real Russian Nationalists Must Be for Putin and His State, Kremlin Leader Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 19 – While Putin’s remarks about how all Russians will go to paradise and their enemies will burn in hell after a nuclear war have not surprisingly attracted more attention, his comments about “correct” and “incorrect” nationalism say a great deal about his retreat from his own rhetoric of a Russian world and thus about where he may be headed next.

            In a commentary for Deutsche Welle, Russian political analyst Fyodor Krasheninnikov notes that in his Valdai remarks yesterday, Putin made no reference to the idea of “a Russian world” that so animated him four years ago (dw.com/ru/комментарий-владимир-путин-и-вопросы-национализма/a-45952433).

                Instead, his comments “only confirmed the obvious,” the analyst says. “The theme of Russian ethnic nationalism no longer interests him and even is an annoyance.” Putin declared that “our national identity … is our culture and our history …We have 160 ethnoses living on the territory of the Russian Federation.”

            The country is thus “a multi-national state, and ‘if we want Russia to be preserved as it is, to develop and strengthen,” Putin says now, then it is in the interests of the Russians “as the state-forming people” to do whatever they can for “the preservation of this country,” its current borders and its current government.

            Putin isn’t talking about “a Russian world” here: “all the peoples of Russia are equal, although the Russians are a little more ‘equal’ than the rest” and together they form “a multi-national people” and it is there and not in any ethnos that “their identity” lies and must lie, Krasheninnikov says.

            With these words, the analyst argues, “Putin in effect refuses to th largest ethnos of Russia to right to any other identity separate from fidelity to the multi-national Russian state as it exists in 2018.” For the Kremlin leader, “to be a Russian means to be loyal to ‘this country,’ that is, in a practical sense to him personally.”

            Any other view, Putin clearly views as “‘the nationalism of the caveman.’”  By taking this position, Putin moves away from the more ethnically defined “’Russian world’” of 2014 and calls on Russians ethnic and otherwise to display instead “loyalty to multi-nationality and tolerance in his own understanding of these terms.”

            According to Krasheninnikov, “Putin is no longer offering any other ‘Russian world.’ He is simply proposing the kind of Russian nationalism one might expect from a retired lieutenant colonel of the Soviet KGB – statist not ethnic, authoritarian not democratic.   

            Indeed, the analyst suggests, in Putin’s mind, “real nationalism is to be for Putin regardless of whether you are an ethnic Russian or a Tatar. All the rest is ‘cavemanlike,’ ‘foolish,’ and ‘moronic’ and will lead to the disintegration of the state.”

            Given Putin’s falling ratings, the analyst suggests, Putin “needs right now some new conception of legitimacy which must not be put under any doubt by elections or polls.”  He is thus presenting himself as “the leader of 146 million” people with the same views who support the same “specific person, Vladimir Putin.”

            His ratings may fall; his candidates may lose; but as the leader of the nation in the sense he uses it, Krasheninnikov continues, Putin “a apriori does not depend on election procedures of the results of polls.” But in this, he is fooling himself if no one else just as was the case when he and his regime insisted that he was supported by 86 percent of the population.

            The truth is, the analyst concludes, that neither “’the Russian world’ nor Putin’s nationalism, nor 146 million” who supposedly share his views can support him and his regime forever.  On public view, “there is only the moral exhaustion of Vladimir Putin, his falling ratings, and his attempts to cover all this with sophistic and mutually exclusively slogans, nationalistic demagogy, and demonstrative over-confidence.”

            That is what Russians, ethnic and otherwise, saw and heard with Putin yesterday. It is almost certainly what will cause them to look at the Kremlin leader with new eyes – and that is the very last thing Putin himself wants or can afford. 

Thousands of Ingush Again Gather for Friday Prayers as Magas and Moscow Begin Crackdown


Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 19 – As they did a week ago, thousands of Ingush came to the central square in Magas for Friday prayers, an effective continuation of the protests against the border accord with Chechnya that lasted from October 4 to October 17 especially given the commitment of protest leaders to work toward a Congress of the Ingush People at the end of this month. 

            But even as they did so (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/326870/), Ingush republic officials backed by or forced by Moscow began a crackdown first against police who went over to the side of the people – some have been purged and others transferred (regnum.ru/news/2504052.html) – and then against protest leaders who are being investigated for tax irregularities (kavkazr.com/a/29551453.html).  

                Moreover, the Kremlin announced that it was sending a group of Presidential Administration experts to Ingushetia to investigate reports of corruption by some of those who had participated in the demonstrations (regnum.ru/news/2504033.html). All these acts of harassment, protesters said, are intended to frighten people off; but such tactics won’t work.

            The protesters now in their homes rather than in the square are working hard to organize the Congress of the Ingush People which is to convene on October 30. That meeting must represent “the next stage of the struggle” against the border accord, they said (nazaccent.ru/content/28452-protestuyushie-aktivisty-provedut-vsemirnyj-kongress-ingushskogo.html).

                Meanwhile, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov celebrated his triumph on the border accord. On the one hand, he taunted Ingush protesters by suggesting that if they staged a protest in Grozny, they’d be lucky to get out alive. And on the other, his government gave awards to officials who prepared the border accord (kommersant.ru/doc/3777192 and tvrain.ru/news/vlasti_chechni_nagradili_chlenov_komissii_po_opredeleniju_granitsy_s_ingushetiej-473620/).

            Other developments about the Ingush protests over the last 23 hours included:

·         The Daghestani delegation which visited the protests a week ago returned home and reported what they had seen. They called for talks between the sides and urged the formation of a new public movement, “Peace and Development for the Caucasus,” to unite the peoples of the region (ndelo.ru/detail/dagestanskaya-delegaciya-podvela-itogi-poezdki-v-ingushetiyu).

·         A survey of public opinion conducted by the Kavkazr portal found overwhelming support across the North Caucasus for holding a referendum on the Chechen-Ingush border agreement. Such things should not be prepared and agreed to without public assent, North Caucasians said (kavkazr.com/a/29552633.html).

Parties Other than United Russia Ignoring Local Elections, Setting Themselves Up for More Failures Ahead


Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – Elections at the municipal level are going on more or less constantly in Russia, but they seldom attract much attention from the population or it seems from the systemic opposition parties. Instead, these races are dominated by United Russia and to a lesser extent by those running at least nominally as independents.

            That might not matter in many countries, Ivan Rodin of Nezavisimaya gazeta says; but the Putin system’s “filtration” arrangements in which candidates for governor must get support from local officials means that in the future the opposition parties will in many cases not be able even to run (ng.ru/politics/2018-10-17/1_7334_consignment.html).

                Experts at the Golos voting studies group say in a new report, The Sleepy Kingdom: How Parties have Forgotten about the Voters, that “the inability of the majority of political parties to independently overcome the municipal filter in gubernatorial elections in large measure is the result of the passivity of the parties themselves in local elections.” 

            They draw that conclusion on the basis of an examination of the results of 44 local elections which took place in 68 federal subjects over the last two years. In them, United Russia won 827 seats and independents won 198, but the systemic parties finished far behind, with the KPRF getting only 37 seats, the LDPR only 27; and Just Russia, just 18.”

            This “passivity,” Rodin says, “has an objective basis.”  Party leaders aren’t interested in running in local elections, often don’t have local ones on whom they can draw, and have inevitable difficulties in getting the approval of the United Russia-dominated administrations especially outside of Moscow. 

            The dominance of United Russia and independents over the other parties is even more pronounced at the level of heads of municipalities. There, out of 140 chosen by the voters, United Russia took 87 of the chairs, and independents 45.  The three systemic opposition parties together took only eight. 

            On the basis of this study, the Golos experts draw the following conclusions: “The present-day Russian party system is not fulfilling its key functions: the parties as a rule do not take part in the overwhelming majority of elections, they are weak in choosing and promoting cadres, they poorly reflect the interests of definite groups of the population in the localities, and do not ensure communications between citizens and local social institutions, on the one hand, and the authorities, on the other.”

            This pattern, they say, is undermining the authority of the party system, especially given that government payments to the parties have not declined but risen.  This has led to what they call “a crisis in the party system,” one that is causing ever more members of the political and economic elites to search for “non-institutional instruments to influence the political system.”