Monday, August 13, 2018

Russians Should Be Worrying More about What Kremlin Will Do Next if It Gets Its Way on Pensions


Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 13 – More than 80 percent of Russians are opposed to the government’s plan to raise pension ages, something that many say will land them in poverty or worse; but the regime seems committed to pushing the reform through because it obviously believes that it can ignore the will of the people.

            Russians should be angry about the pension crisis, commentator Valery Mironenko says; and they should be protesting with all their might but not only because of this measure alone. Clearly, he says, if the regime can do this against the will of the population, think what horrific step it might take then (publizist.ru/blogs/108984/26439/-).

            If Russians do not take that likelihood seriously and engage in mass protests and put pressure on their representatives and other officials, he suggests, they will discover that the regime will conclude that it can do whatever it wants with impunity – and then the future for Russians will be truly dire indeed.

Beijing has Confined One Million Uyghurs in Re-Education Camps, UN Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 13 – The UN Commission for the Liquidation of Racial Discrimination says that the Chinese government has forcibly confined approximately one million Uyghurs in political re-education camps, something Beijing denies but that many visitors to the Xinjiang region confirm (kommersant.ru/doc/3712644).

            Guy MacDougal, the vice chairman of the commission, says that “under the pretext of the struggle with religious extremism and the maintenance of social stability, China has transformed the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous District into something that recalls an enormous camp for military prisoners.”

            The situation may be even more dire than the UN says, Mikhail Kostikov of Kommersant reports. According to the World Uyghur congress, there are not a million Uyghurs confined in such camps but “about three million, who are ‘being subjected to indoctrination’ and ‘do not have access to lawyers’ or ‘contact with relatives.’” 

            Following ethnic clashes in 2009 between the Muslim Uyghurs and the Chinese Beijing has moved into the region to swamp the former and ensure central control, the Chinese authorities imposed tighter controls. But now that period, Uyghurs say, was one of “relative liberalization” because things became much worse after the change in governors in 2016.

            The new man viewed the Uyghurs as fertile ground for recruitment by ISIS – Beijing says as many as 5,000 members of that nationality have joined ISIS groups -- and attacked Uyghurs and other Muslim nationalities there for wearing beards, reading the Koran, attending mosques, or eating according to Islamic strictures. 

            According to sources who have been in the region, the Chinese do not use physical violence against the Uyghurs confined in these camps except for violations of the rules. Instead, they rely on the uncertainty the detainees have about their prospects to instill fears about when they might be released and what will happen to them.

            What the Chinese authorities are doing is clearly a crime against humanity; but the report about their actions is likely to instill fear among some non-Russian Muslims that Moscow may conclude that if Beijing can get away with this, then the Russian authorities may follow their course, especially at a time when the Kremlin is increasing repression of all non-Russian groups.

Siberians are an Ethnic Group that Arose Out of a Melting Pot of Peoples, Russian-7 Portal Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 13 – Moscow has worked hard to deny the obvious: the people of Siberia are a distinct ethnos which has a history far longer than do the ethnic Russians themselves and which arose and continues to develop as a result of “a melting pot” of people. But now a prominent Russian Internet side has admitted both of those things and more.

            The Russian-7 portal which often covers lesser known aspects of Russian history and culture features an article entitled “’A Multi-National Melting Pot’: How the Siberians Appeared,” in which it says among other things that “the term ‘Siberia’ is much more ancient than for example Rus (russian7.ru/post/mnogonacionalnyy-kotel-kak-poyavi/).

            The term first appeared in the fifth century common era and “until the 13th century, the word ‘Siberia’ was used exclusively to refer to a people and only later did it begin to be applied to the region where they lived.  ‘Siberia’ as the name of a land was first mentioned in medieval Iranian chronicles; and in 1375, a Catalonian atlas mentioned ‘Sebur.’” 

            Ethnic Russians and Cossacks did not make an appearance in the region until the end of the 15th century, the portal continues.  Their expansion was sometimes peaceful but often involved violent clashes with the local population. Beginning in the 17th century, the Russian state sent prisoners to the region.

            Many other people fled from European Russia to Siberia, settled and intermarried with the local population and did not return.  Such marriages with the Khanty, Mansi, Sakha, Buryats and others led to the formation of “a Russian-Siberian gene pool. But it is important to remember that ethnic Russians were “only part of the ancestry of the Siberian people.”

            The portal cites the conclusions of Novosibirsk sociologist Olga Yevchevskaya that the isolation of the Siberians is an important part of their regional self-consciousness; and historian Yury Chernyshov says that Siberians are deeply attached to their distinctive identity which emerged because of the harsh climate and the continuing impact of a melting pot.

            All this may seem of only marginal interest, but it is extraordinarily unusual for anyone in Moscow to acknowledge Siberian identity as an ethnic one distinct from Russian or to point out that Siberia referred to a people for centuries before it was applied to a region and is a far more ancient term than Rus in which Russians place so much value.

            And it is also remarkable although less rare for anyone in Moscow to acknowledge that a melting pot has worked anywhere in Russia, not only because that term comes from the United States but also because it implies not the assimilation of smaller groups by a larger one (e.g., the Russians) but a fusion of various nations into a new and different one.

            With this article, Russia-7 will likely spark a new debate between Russian nationalists, who deny the Siberians standing as an ethnic nation and have refused to count them as such in recent censuses, and the Siberians themselves, who will see this a step forward in their effort to win acknowledgement of what they are -- a separate nation with a separate territory.