Staunton, January 28 -- 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 each week presents a selection of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 118th such compilation, and it is again a double issue with 26 from Russia and 13 from Russia’s neighbors. Even then, it is far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.
1. Putin has Problems with Orthodox Ritual and Russian History. Vladimir Putin likes to present himself as a committed Orthodox Christian and Russian patriot, but he doesn’t know how to cross himself correctly in the Orthodox fashion, something often true of KGB-Inturist guides to churches in Soviet times (afterempire.info/2018/01/22/rights/), and he gets the route of Lomonosov’s travels wrong in a public statement (newsru.com/russia/27jan2018/putinsays.html). During a visit to Kazan, the Kremlin leader calls for the revival of Islamic education in Russia so mullahs and imams won’t have to seek training abroad (themoscowtimes.com/news/putin-calls-for-revival-of-islamic-education-in-russia-60276politforums.net/economics/1440023245.html). Meanwhile, stories are circulating that Putin’s father was involved in Soviet units that suppressed the Warsaw uprising (arman71.livejournal.com/70459.htmlbelrussia.ru/page-id-9858.html).
2. Little Real Enthusiasm for Putin’s Re-Election. Russians who aren’t being paid or compelled by their superiors to support Putin’s re-election show little enthusiasm for it, although that reality is lost behind the much ballyhooed state-financed and orchestrated efforts (znak.com/2018-01-26/shkolniki_krasnodara_bez_entuziazma_speli_pesnyu_pro_putina_dyadya_vova_my_s_toboypolitikus.ru/v-rossii/103946-v-podderzhku-uchastiya-putina-v-prezidentskih-vyborah-sobrano-bolee-16-mln-podpisey-grazhdan.htmlforum-msk.org/material/news/14269207.htmlkasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A66E9FA2BEAD). Meanwhile, the Russian government continued to do everything it could to disrupt the efforts of Aleksey Navalny’s supporters from pushing his agenda even though the regime has blocked his candidacy (sobkorr.ru/news/5A68469DA7E97.html, theins.ru/news/89033novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/01/26/75282-navstrechu-28-yanvarya, graniru.org/Politics/Russia/activism/m.267171.html). Kseniya Sobchak after getting the needed 100,000 signatures on her petitions, made a series of policy pronouncements including calling for the legalization of marijuana, the denunciation of Stalin, and an end to the persecution of Navalny (ura.news/news/1052320778, themoscowtimes.com/news/russian-presidential-candidate-sobchak-calls-to-legalize-marijuana-60247, ruposters.ru/news/24-01-2018/sobchak-mesto-stalinahttps://echo.msk.ru/blog/sobchak/2136312-echo/). Pavel Grudinin, the KPRF candidate, says one shouldn’t laugh at Stalin just as one shouldn’t laugh at Jesus Christ (newsru.com/cinema/25jan2018/grudinin.htmlsvpressa.ru/politic/article/191345/ura.news/news/1052321489). Support for a boycott of the March 18 vote is growing, with an entire Siberian town electing not to vote (tatarsk.gorsite.ru/news/gorod/zhiteli-tatarska-napisali-otkrytoe-pismo-prezident/). Officials are retaliating by various get out the vote measures including printing “vote on March 18” on grocery receipts in some places (sakhalin.info/news/145679ng.ru/kartblansh/2018-01-22/3_7155_kartblansh.html). Ever more Russians are worried about “dead souls” on voter lists and about the confusion of a race in whicih nationalists rum as communists and communists as monarchists (afterempire.info/2018/01/27/dead-souls/, https://www.znak.com/2018-01-24/v_regionah_rossii_nachali_vydavat_predvybornye_raznaryadki_po_yavkeidelreal.org/a/28993723.html).
State Apparatus Said Paralyzed by Struggle for Moral Values, Something It Does to Make a Show of Activity. That is the judgment of one commentator (https://echo.msk.ru/blog/partofair/2134682-echo/). Meanwhile, ever more former siloviki say that despite everything, there won’t be a palace coup (rusmonitor.com/byvshijj-general-fsb-aleksejj-kondaurov-dvorcovogo-perevorota-ne-budet.htmlnewsland.com/community/4765/content/chinovniku-vypisali-shtraf-v-100-tysiach-za-ubiistvo/6175302, gorod-812.ru/pochemu-chinovniki-stali-bolshe-obnimatsya-drug-s-drugom/, iarex.ru/articles/55321.html, dsnews.ua/world/treterimskiy-nartsissizm-pochemu-rossiya-zastryala-v-feodalizme-19012018220000 and newsland.com/community/4765/content/v-rossii-uzhe-15-let-uzakoneny-sosloviia/6179329thinktanks.by/publication/2018/01/22/katerina-bornukova-vlastnym-institutam-nuzhno-nauchitsya-kommunitsirovat-s-grazhdanami.htmlpolitsovet.ru/57817-putin-predlozhil-novoe-nakazanie-dlya-sudey.html), commentators suggest Russia doesn’t need either a president or political parties (echo.msk.ru/blog/planperemen/2134374-echo/ and ng.ru/editorial/2018-01-25/2_7158_red.htmlura.news/news/1052320774), politruks are introduced into United Russia (politsovet.ru/57826-v-edinoy-rossii-poyavitsya-politruk.html), and official figures show Russia is spending far more on the Presidential Administration than most regional budgets consist of (afterempire.info/2018/01/25/budgets/
4. kp.ru/daily/26784.7/3817658/). As US increases sanctions, Yeltsin oligarchs seek to separate themselves from Putin ones (dsnews.ua/politics/ssha-rasshirili-sanktsii-protiv-rossii-v-spisok-popali-desyatki-26012018180700 and ng.ru/economics/2018-01-21/100_oligarhi.html). Meanwhile, a Moscow man takes the cold war seriously and throws snowballs at the US embassy in Moscow (themoscowtimes.com/news/moscow-man-takes-cold-war-new-heights-snowball-attack-us-embassy-60268znak.com/2018-01-27/poklonskaya_priglasila_trampa_v_krym). Meanwhile, Russian media have had a field day with the US State Department’s announcement that during any US government shutdown, its twitter feed will not be updated (enta.ru/news/2018/01/21/pobirushki/ and twitter.com/USApoRusski/status/954745440007872512
Despite Putin’s Claims. All Macro Economic News is Bad. The growth in the Russian economy Putin has been talking about not only is only half what he had predicted but is within the margin of error of none at all (www.rbc.ru/newspaper/2018/01/24/5a6733379a794702c1da99de). Industrial production set a record for decline (ru-mir.net/2018/01/24/rossiyskaya-promyishlennost-postavila-rekord-po-samounichtozheniyu/), Russia’s foreign debt rose to 529 billion US dollars (.interfax.ru/business/596215), the rate of capital flight doubled from last year to this (rusnation.org/sfk/1801/1801-27.shtml), corporate defaults set a record as well (ng.ru/economics/2018-01-23/4_7156_defolts.html), and domestic debt rose 18 percent in 2017 (graniru.org/Economy/m.267082.html). Some analysts suggested that these numbers show that the policy of the Russian Central Bank is hurting the country more than any Western sanctions could (dailystorm.ru/politika-centralnogo-banka-rossii-vrednee-chem-novye-sankcii-ssha). Meanwhile, experts say that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev won’t allow Russia to leave the WTO (iarex.ru/news/55297.html), while others call on Moscow to become a full member of OPEC (ng.ru/economics/2018-01-22/4_7155_opek.html). And in its search for revenue, the Russian government is now talking about imposing “a death tax,” aka, an inheritance tax (
Russians’ Incomes Fall for Fourth Year in a Row, as Prices and Bankruptcies Rise. For the fourth year in a row – since the Crimean Anschluss in fact – the real incomes of Russians have fallen throwing the average Russian standard of living back nine years (mbk.media/news/realnye-doxody-rossiyan-snizilis-chetvertyj-god-podryad/finanz.ru/novosti/lichnyye-finansy/uroven-zhizni-v-rossii-otbrosilo-na-9-let-v-proshloe-1013996865 and gazeta.ru/business/2018/01/25/11625727.shtml). Meanwhile, bankruptcies and prices for consumer goods and food are going up (fedpress.ru/article/1941119, rbc.ru/newspaper/2018/01/22/5a6232af9a794792e035753b and forum-msk.org/material/news/14252600.html). Ever more workers are not being paid what they earn (politsovet.ru/57827-zadolzhennost-po-zarplate-v-sverdlovskoy-oblasti-vyrosla-pochti-v-sem-raz.html), but perhaps Russians can be pleased that the number of Russian dollar billionaires has gone up by 11 percent in the past year (nashgorod.ru/news/news104838.html). Not all Russians are happy about that or about the propensity of these people to buy citizenship in Malta and other countries (znak.com/2018-01-24/deputat_kommunist_zhestko_raskritikoval_rossiyskih_bogachey_beguchih_na_maltuzen.yandex.ru/media/id/5a425d0b86516548edce29ed/pensiia-deputata-v-rossii--220-tysiach-pensiia-obychnogo-cheloveka--v-16-raz-menshe-5a60bc32a815f1a8d15fe591). Ordinary Russians are taking extraordinary measures to make ends meet: One Urals teacher, for example, now has a second job as a stripper (chel.mk.ru/articles/2018/01/20/uralskiy-uchitel-fizkultury-stal-striptizerom.htmlbusiness-gazeta.ru/article/370429 and mbk.media/region/kak-zhivut-rabochie/regions.ru/news/2615697/forum-msk.org/material/news/14264955.html
7. Moscow Refuses to View Three School Attacks in One Week as Sign of System Failure. Murderous attacks on three schools in Russia’s regions have failed to convince the regime that it has to do more than engage in propaganda and cosmetic change, commentators say, to the outrage of parents (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A6492FBD5428). Some school officials are introducing guards but ever more people are blaming Putin for the problem (ura.news/news/1052321443, newsru.com/russia/20jan2018/buryatiaschools.html and sputnikipogrom.com/news/81297/putins-children/). Experts say that Columbine cults are displacing suicide pacts among Russian young people (newizv.ru/news/society/21-01-2018/gruppy-razvrata-vmesto-grupp-smerti-chem-razvlekayutsya-v-seti-uralskie-shkolniki-0ce6a009-1991-4df5-988c-eceb2fe7dd10), but many outside the regions of the attacks don’t know much because Moscow television has provided scant details (meduza.io/feature/2018/01/21/zhizn-vsegda-prosche-esli-ponimaesh-kak-i-chto-proishodit). Meanwhile, in other signs of social collapse, the police have been caught engaging in crime rather than fighting it (themoscowtimes.com/news/moscow-cops-release-armed-men-for-cash-moments-before-robbery-60250 andsobkorr.ru/news/5A68620D25CEF.html), an intense debate has broken out over whether living together should be legally treated as marriage (babr24.com/msk/?IDE=169873, politsovet.ru/57794-senator-predlozhil-priravnyat-sozhitelstvo-k-zakonnomu-braku.html and echo.msk.ru/news/2133674-echo.html), a scandal occurred when officials appeared to recognize a gay marriage conducted abroad, then backed down and punished those who registered it (echo.msk.ru/news/2136682-echo.html, newsland.com/community/5625/content/v-rossii-vpervye-priznali-odnopolyi-brak-mezhdu-muzhchinami/6181533 and ura.news/news/1052321581), single fatherhood an increasingly widespread phenomenon with 600,000 single fathers now counted by officials (snob.ru/selected/entry/133559), people are dying because the authorities don’t clear the streets or fix them (politsovet.ru/57807-iz-za-nechischenyh-dorog-na-urale-pogiblo-18-chelovek.html and newizv.ru/comment/petr-shkumatov/23-01-2018/dorog-net-no-vy-derzhites), and the number of Russians studying abroad has gone up 400 percent over the last 20 years (russian.eurasianet.org/node/65129). In other developments on the social front, vodka sales have actually increased slightly instead of the decline some officials have claimed (http://polit.ru/news/2018/01/23/vodka/ and ng.ru/economics/2018-01-24/100_vodkaattac.htmlmirnov.ru/obshchestvo/naja-sfera/starushki-horonjat-drug-druga-v-koryte.html), anger is growing about a government plan to require drivers take a test whenever their drivers licenses must be renewed (iz.ru/699689/evgeniia-priemskaia/borba-za-pravaej.ru/?a=note&id=32057, beregrus.ru/?p=10702, meduza.io/news/2018/01/24/deputat-elena-drapeko-predlozhila-sozdat-sovet-po-nravstvennosti and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A69B941E1815), widespread age discrimination in the workforce is reported in Russia (meduza.io/feature/2018/01/22/da-oni-knopochku-ne-mogut-nazhat), the first issue of a newspaper devoted to patronage appears in Moscow (takiedela.ru/news/2018/01/22/gazeta-patronazh/), the lack of substantive knowledge among recent graduates worries employers and government (chaskor.ru/article/sovremennye_vypuskniki_vuzov_42958), and an anti-rating of Russian universities which have given the most degrees on the basis of plagiarized dissertations appears (chaskor.ru/news/antirejting_po_chislu_falshivyh_dissertatsij_vozglavil_mpgu_42948).
8. More than Half of Rusisa’s Doctors Say Health Care Access has Fallen Under Putin. Some 57 percent of doctors say access to medical care has declined under Putin (demoscope.ru/weekly/2018/0755/opros01.phpnewsland.com/community/8225/content/sotsiolog-o-massovoi-khalatnosti-rossiiskikh-vrachei/6177235), rising prices for cancer medications are leading to more deaths from the disease among Russians (og.ru/society/2018/01/22/94082), prices for other medicines are also going up (newsland.com/community/4765/content/v-rossii-rezko-podorozhaiut-lekarstva/6180048kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A6B3A7C73A3Brosmintrud.ru/social/invalid-defence/407).
Moscow Backs More Day Care So Mothers Can Work. The Russian government wants to open more childcare centers so that mothers can return to the workplace as soon as possible given labor shortages caused by demographic decline (polit.ru/article/2018/01/24/babies/). Moreover, even though birthrates have fallen in Muslim areas, they remain much higher in the North Caucasus and parts of the Middle Volga than in majority Russian areas, even as mortality rates in the latter areas stand at levels higher than in most African countries (svpressa.ru/blogs/article/191387/). Russia now ranks 93rd in the world in terms of life expectancy (bfm.ru/news/373662sovross.ru/news/37667). Meanwhile, ever more adopted children are dying at increasing rates (newsru.com/russia/22jan2018/deti2.html), and surveys show that the best and the brightest are fleeing Russia or would like to (newsland.com/community/1039/content/iz-rossii-vse-bolshe-begut-obrazovannye-grazhdane/6178616 and topwar.ru/134543-rossiyane-begut-iz-rossii-15-grazhdan-sidyat-na-chemodanah-15-millionov-uedut-v-blizhayshie-gody.html
10. Russian Authorities Fine French Environmentalists Looking Into Radiation Leak. The Russian authorities have levied heavy fines on a group of French environmentalists who were seeking to track down the source of the radiation leak that spread into Western Europe at the end of 2017 (freeural.org/v-ozerske-oshtrafovali-francuzov-iskavshih-istochnik-vybrosa-rutenija/). Russian environmentalists feel they are losing on all fronts: They’ve declared the battle for Baikal to have been lost (regnum.ru/news/polit/2371091.html), they have launched a petition to save the famous lake from the Chinese (babr24.com/baik/?IDE=169830 ), and they say that the FSB is behind recent attacks on the ecological movement in the North Caucasus (hsvobodaradio.livejournal.com/3342094.html).
11. Did Ivan the Terrible Think He was a Russian? Maybe Not. Some scholars think that Ivan the Terrible, one of Russia’s national heroes, may not have viewed himself as a Russian (russian7.ru/post/schital-li-ivan-groznyy-sebya-russkim/). Vladimir Putin makes his 16th visit to Kazan and goes to the hospital to meet with former Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaymiyev (business-gazeta.ru/article/370559idelreal.org/a/shaimiev-nahoditsa-v-bolnitse/28997906.htmlidelreal.org/a/28991735.html). But a Bashkir commentator says that Putin remains committed to doing away with the non-Russian republics (idelreal.org/a/28978419.html). Cossacks in various cities commemorated the anniversary of the Soviet de-Cossackization decree (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/315729/ and sputnikipogrom.com/calendar/all/81411/24-january-1919-2/). North Caucasian aspects from several republics cooperate in campaign to demand restoration of direct elections in their republics (onkavkaz.com/novosti/3763-aktivisty-iz-adygei-dagestana-ingushetii-kchr-kbr-i-rso-vystupjat-na-forume-za-prjamye-vybory.html). Observers say that the Koreans of Russia are divided according to their origin, north and south, with the two generally keeping apart (nazaccent.ru/content/26454-raspisnye-veera-i-morkovcha.html). Circassians from abroad who have not been able to return as immigrants to their homeland are at least now coming as tourists (onkavkaz.com/news/2081-millionnuyu-cherkesskuyu-diasporu-ne-moguschuyu-pereselitsja-na-kavkaz-otpravjat-v-tur-po-zemlj.html). Buryatia has opened an expanded representation in Ulan Bator and has offered Mongolia 55,000 hectares of land for agricultural exploitation (infpol.ru/news/asia/139472-glava-buryatii-rasskazal-o-novom-statuse-predstaviteley-respubliki-v-mongolii/ and ca-news.org/print:1427309/). And an appeals court has reaffirmed the conviction of a Nenets who killed a Gazprom manager while defending a holy lake in the Russian north (nazaccent.ru/content/26429-sud-ostavil-bez-izmenenij-prigovor-ubivshemu.html).
Tatarstan Warns Against Extremism on Language Issue. In yet another indication that Tatar anger about Putin’s efforts to marginalize non-Russian languages, Kazan has warned against any extremism on the issue, apparently fearing that things could get out of hand (idelreal.org/a/ildus-nafikov-tatarstan-tatarskiy/28985228.html). Meanwhile, Tatars are pushing for the development of new textbooks on local studies and the Tatar language (nazaccent.ru/content/26425-v-tatarstane-razrabotayut-novye-uchebniki-po.html). In Kabardino-Balkaria, scholars are demanding the continuing of the obligatory study of the national languages there (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/315415/); and in Karelia, activists are demanding that ballots for the presidential election be translated into Karel and Wepsy (nazaccent.ru/content/26435-karelskomu-ciku-predlozhili-napechatat-byulleteni-na.html
13. ng.ru/ng_religii/2018-01-17/9_435_valaam.html and portal-credo.ru/site/?act=comment&id=2211). Some Orthodox experts are concerned about theology becoming a new Marxism-Leninism (regnum.ru/news/society/2371226.html), although a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate says that in Russia today, “theology is as important as psychology or philosophy” (realtribune.ru/news/people/629). The Russian church is helping the state in another way by calling on women to marry early and have children rather than waste time acquiring educations (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2018/01/24/prednaznachenie_zhenwiny_semya/interfax-.ru/?act=news&div=69118kommersant.ru/doc/3523225?from=author_strana). On the Muslim front, an Ufa mufti declared that Putin is “the spiritual leader of the Muslims of Russia” (onkavkaz.com/news/2083-video-putin-snova-v-mecheti-muftii-v-ufe-i-kazani-poschitali-prezidenta-duhovnym-vozhdem-musulm.htmlansar.ru/society/v-moskve-katastroficheski-ne-hvataet-mechetej). But Muslims are facing problems: many parishes can’t support imams (business-gazeta.ru/news/370595?utm_source=top24-newsinterfax-.ru/?act=news&div=69096). On the Jewish front, the Jewish establishment worked hard to prevent what could have been an explosive situation when a Moscow professor refused to allow a student with a yarmulke to take a test from getting out of hand. The professor ultimately backed down (nazaccent.ru/content/26427-rossijskij-evrejskij-kongress-ne-schitaet-incident.html, interfax-.ru/?act=news&div=69108nazaccent.ru/content/26414-professor-mgu-vygnal-studenta-iz-auditorii.html and sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/news/racism-nationalism/2018/01/d38682/ruskline.ru/news_rl/2018/01/24/spasenie_vozmozhno/). And on the Protestant front, many Protestant groups say they are suffering as a result of the Yarovaya laws (politsovet.ru/57775-zakon-yarovoy-udaril-po-protestantam-intervyu-s-istorikom-religiy-elenoy-glavackoy.html).
14. Even Pro-Putin People Say Kremlin Doesn’t Have a Clue about Regions. A supporter of Vladimir Putin says the Kremlin “doesn’t have a clue” about the regions, and another commentator suggests that it believes that as far as the federal subjects outside of Moscow are concerned, one size fits all as far as policies are concerned (ura.news/articles/1036273620 and ura.news/news/1052321131). People in the regions say Moscow is bankrupting their regimes by its unfunded liabilities (afterempire.info/2018/01/26/bankrot/). Simon Kordonsky points out that governors used to be members of the elite but now are only senior bureaucrats, without the ability to defend their federal rights (business-gazeta.ru/article/368884 and afterempire.info/2018/01/24/shaimiev/newizv.ru/news/society/21-01-2018/vashe-mesto-21-oe-chto-zhdet-alnoe-televidenie-rossii). Nonetheless, some regional news agencies, like URA.ru, have become very successful (ura.news/articles/1036273678regnum.ru/news/economy/2372161.htmlfreeingria.org/2018/01/novyj-ingermanlandskij-brend-nienchanz/).
St. Petersburg Democratic Activists Symbolically Bury ‘Future of Russia.’ Carrying a casket labeled “The Future of Russia,” democratic activists in the northern capital symbolically buried the future of their country (og.ru/society/2018/01/22/94063). Demonstrations and protests spread and featured increasingly direct attacks on Putin, some of them quite unrestrained (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A65ABD118A89, .sibreal.org/a/28976718.html, politsovet.ru/57846-protivniki-snosa-telebashni-otpravyat-pismo-putinu.html politsovet.ru/57843-veteran-bomzh-provedet-piket-u-shtaba-putina-v-ekaterinburge.htmlagonia-ru.com/archives/16825 and .kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A65ABD118A89). Conservatives say liberals are trying to discredit and force the removal of the Russian education minister (ura.news/articles/1036273645). The military cadets who protested with a lewd dance won’t be allowed to march in Red Square on May 9 (newizv.ru/news/society/25-01-2018/no-satisfaction-v-parade-na-krasnoy-ploschadi-9-maya-ne-poydut-kursanty-akademii-mchslenta.ru/news/2018/01/21/materi/, ura.news/articles/1036273633, ura.news/news/1052320798, mbk.media/suzhet/kak-podderzhivayut-kursantov/, momenty.org/city/i180851/, and regnum.ru/news/society/2372123.htmlthemoscowtimes.com/news/russian-women-undress-in-support-of-raped-murder-victim-60283versia.ru/rolik-so-striptizom-sprovociroval-volnu-uvolnenij-v-orenburgskom-minlesxoze). Other protests in the last week involved deceived debtors and people who feel they are being ruined by companies that are allowed to steal them blind and then declare bankrupt and gain state protection (politsovet.ru/57792-ekaterinburgskie-dolschiki-poprosili-putina-pozvonit-im.htmlecho.msk.ru/blog/rizhkov/2135018-echo/ and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A65A1B4AF8F4). Activists collected money for political prisoners (novayagazeta.ru/news/2018/01/27/139005-v-moskve-na-vechere-v-podderzhku-politzekov-sobrali-100-tysyach-rubleyura.news/articles/1036273674nvo.ng.ru/realty/2018-01-19/1_980_protection.html). And a new analysis suggested the truckers’ strike failed last fall largely because the economy has collapsed and there were 40 percent fewer paid miles available for truckers (znak.com/2018-01-25/ekonomicheskiy_spad_i_izmeneniya_rynka_do_40_dalnoboychikov_ostalis_bez_zakazov
16. kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A64AB4A7B30F and kavpolit.com/articles/memorial_kak_obuza_na_kavkaze-37198/). Meanwhile, a study concluded that the Russian security services have killed more than 70 scholars over the last dozen years (skeptimist.livejournal.com/2275824.html). Other news from the repression front includes: a man convicted of a crime was sentenced to work in a Russian Orthodox church (politsovet.ru/57796-uralca-v-kachestve-nakazaniya-otpravili-rabotat-v-hram.htmlsnob.ru/selected/entry/133523), the government bans any talk about the police on Messenger (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A65B12E041BC), the editor of BlogSochi has been arrested for two months (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/315426/), officials in the North Caucasus have tightened the screws in expectation of protests (kavkazr.com/a/v-ozhidanii-protestov/28991837.html), the film “Death of Stalin” loses its license to be shown in Russia (kommersant.ru/doc/3527849), beatings have become more common in places of temporary detention (mbk.media/suzhet/v-moskovskix-sudax-stali-bolshe/), a car belonging to Memorial was firebombed in Chechnya (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A66EFC8EB35E), the last Bolotnoye hostage was freed (snob.ru/selected/entry/133533), Duma deputy wants to ban any coverage of use of force by the authorities (politsovet.ru/57832-mizulina-predlozhila-zakryvat-socseti-za-informaciyu-o-nasilii.html), Moscow site blocked after reporting on FSB chief’s secret real estate operations (themoscowtimes.com/news/russian-site-blocked-after-report-on-fsb-chiefs-alleged-secret-real-estate-60264), the culture ministry banned the movie “Paddington” (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=36997), Russian penal officials now have an eighth type of punishment (sobkorr.ru/news/5A684C60DDAED.html), Russians can now be found guilty of a crime for failing to defend against a terrorist act (politsovet.ru/57839-v-rossii-vvedut-nakazanie-za-plohuyu-zaschitu-ot-teraktov.htmlkasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A683C6D5F21E).
17. Telephone Bomb Threats Continue Across Russia. Telephone bomb threats continue to empty public buildings in major Russian cities (nakanune.ru/news/2018/01/22/22495706/ and politsovet.ru/57818-v-moskve-i-ekaterinburge-evakuiruyut-sotrudnikov-yandeksa.html https://ura.news/news/1052320961). Few Russians believe Moscow’s claims that highway deaths have declined (babr24.com/msk/?IDE=169914), but many in Siberia believe that Moscow is selling off Siberia to China forits own profit (newphoenix.ru/clubs/48_russkii-mir-les-valjat-dengi-letjat-ili-.html). And many think that flying on domestically produced aircraft is a mistake (zloy-odessit.livejournal.com/2295102.html#cutid1).
18. At Putin’s Order, Russian Soldiers Now Swear to Serve Russia, Not Russian Federation. Even though soldiers in the post-Soviet Russian army have declared their allegiance to the Russian Federation and even though the Russian Constitution makes Russia and Russian Federation equivalent terms, Vladimir Putin has ordered that from now on, Russian soldiers will swear their allegiance to Russia rather than to the Russian Federation (afterempire.info/2018/01/23/no-federation/). Russian teachers are now being told that they train students in foreign languages not to learn about other countries but to tell other countries about Russia (diak-kuraev.livejournal.com/1910395.html). The Kremlin says it won’t check on reports that North Korea is exporting coal via Russia in order to avoid sanctions (kommersant.ru/doc/3532741?vk and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A6AD8F86F1B5). Russia’s space program is collapsing despite Putin’s claims (profile.ru/economics/item/124221-kosmicheskie-bankroty, newsland.com/community/5325/content/sozdatel-protonov-priznal-katastroficheskoe-polozhenie/6176410 and babr24.com/msk/?IDE=170008). But Russia did pick up one strategic ally: the South Ossetian army has now been absorbed into the Russian one (newsland.com/community/8211/content/v-sostav-rossii-voshiol-novyi-region/6182621). The Russian navy has just lost two more submarines which have been decommissioned (pravda.ru/politics/military/19-01-2018/1366607-podlodka-0/), and some analysts say the sanctions regime and the economic crisis may effectively end the Russian deep water navy for some time to come (charter97.org/ru/news/2018/1/22/276810/, occhidellaguerra.it/la-scure-delle-sanzioni-si-abbatte-sulla-marina-russa-slittano-le-commesse-e-si-cancellano-programmi/, and versia.ru/konflikt-mezhdu-rossijskimi-aviacionnymi-vlastyami-vyshel-na-ocherednoj-vitokthebarentsobserver.com/en/life-and-public/2018/01/kirkenes-pleads-release-spy-accused-frode-bergforum-msk.org/material/news/14265200.htmlnewsland.com/community/4109/content/putin-soobshchil-o-priniatii-novoi-gosprogrammy-vooruzheniia-do-2027-goda/6179931regnum.ru/news/polit/2372967.html, stoletie.ru/lenta/kitaj_nameren_sozdat_v_arktike_polarnyj_sholkovyj_put_598.htm, vz.ru/economy/2018/1/26/905387.html https://www.kp.ru/daily/26786/3820922/, and ng.ru/kartblansh/2018-01-24/3_7157_kartblansh.html). And to add insult to injury, a new computer game has appeared about the failure of Putin’s government to save the crew of the Kursk submarine (newizv.ru/news/society/22-01-2018/triumf-idiotov-gibel-podvodnoy-lodki-kursk-stanet-kompyuternoy-igroy).
19. Names Changing Faster than Statues. Many activists are succeeding in changing toponyms far more quickly than they are in having the statues of those they despise taken down (rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=79960, politsovet.ru/57820-kazaki-provedut-piket-za-pereimenovanie-sverdlovskoy-oblasti.html and ura.news/news/1052321100). But there was a great deal of movement on the monument front: Birobidzhan erected a monument to the Holocaust victims (nazaccent.ru/content/26448-v-birobidzhane-pochtili-pamyat-zhertv-holokosta.htmlkavpolit.com/articles/memorial_pamjati_pogibshih_v_terakte_1996_goda_v_k-37243/), FEOR wants a competition for the statue memorializing victims of the GULAG and death camps (interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=69138) even as a monument to executed “persons of Jewish nationality” goes up in the northern capital (interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=69100newsland.com/community/4109/content/reabilitatsiia-natsistov-v-rf/6174169), a controversy over removing a Lenin statue in Yekaterinburg intensifies (blog.newsru.com/article/22jan2018/lenin), a monument to Russia’s eastern border featuring a bear is vandalized (newsland.com/community/4765/content/vandaly-oblomali-ushi-medveditse-so-skulpturnoi-kompozitsii-zdes-nachinaetsia-rossiia/6175893), Tver residents say they want the hammer and sickle back on monuments in their city (kp.ru/daily/26784/3818504/), police show up when a Moscow theater shows “Death of Stalin”(kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A6ADEF6DAB4C), some commentators have suggested designating Lenin’s body a mummy (dailystorm.ru/telo-lenina-na-oficialnom-urovne-predlozhili-priznat-mumiey), and the Yeltsin Center continues to face financial problems (newsland.com/community/5652/content/2017-god-eltsin-tsentr-sovershenno-nerentabelen/6173654).
20. Putin’s Press Spokesman Says Russians Mustn’t Use Word ‘Boycott’ about Sporting Events. As ever more Russian outlets speculate about boycotts of the Olympics and the World Cup, Putin’s spokesman says Russian media must not use the word lest that encourage rumors or even actions (rbc.ru/politics/24/01/2018/5a6848d89a79472780485662?from=main). Meanwhile, the Kremlin is increasingly upset by the growing number of Russian athletes banned from international sports competitions (regions.ru/news/2615578/ and echo.msk.ru/news/2134392-echo.html). It is outraged by the banning of the Russian flag from the Olympics and even from fans there (regnum.ru/news//2371625.html and dsnews.ua/world/rossiyskiy-flag-zapretili-na-olimpiade-dazhe-dlya-bolelshchikov-24012018094900profile.ru/obsch/item/124169-169 and rbc.ru/newspaper/2018/01/26/5a69e9a09a79477273fa2785). But despite Kremlin efforts, the Russian online media continue to report about problems with the upcoming World Cup competition in Russia. A bridge being built in St. Petersburg is blocking the access of local people to their homes (rosbalt.ru/piter/2018/01/22/1676154.html). Millions of rubles are being allocated to kill homeless animals in World Cup cities (babr24.com/?IDE=169894 and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A634D1B8C14F). The FSB wants to suspend the operation of factories in the competition cities but economists warn that will cost the Russian economy a great deal (kommersant.ru/doc/3527354 and fedpress.ru/expert-opinion/1942931). Moscow is trying to shame hotels that are already engaged in price gauging for World Cup into cutting their rates (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A66F78480BD3). Various proposals have been made about what should be done with senior Russian officials behind the doping scandal. Among the most popular is sending Mutko et al to Magadan to train local people (rbc.ru/society/23/01/2018/5a66f70b9a79473459b7d9d1?from=main).
21. Russians Retreat into Past Because They’re Ashamed of Present and Fearful of Future, Blogger Says. A Russian blogger says that Russians’ focus on the past reflects their sense of shame about where their country is now and where it is heading (storm100.livejournal.com/4516070.html). But ever more evidence is surfacing that they have a lot to be ashamed of in the past beyond the obvioius. A story this week reported that in the final years of Soviet power, officials encouraged Soviet citizens to eat axle grease as food (russian7.ru/post/eda-iz-nefti-kak-sovetskikh-grazhdan-khot/).
22. Chinese Paper Says Marriage Between Chinese Man and Russian Woman ‘Ideal.’ A Chinese newspaper is encouraging Chinese men to marry Russian women saying that the two cultures fit together and that a mixed marriage in this case is “ideal” (inosmi.ru/social/20180118/241220757.html).
23. Family Violence in Russia Spikes After Moscow Decriminalizes It. Over the last year, there has been a radical increase in family violence after the Duma voted, at the urging of the Russian Orthodox Church and others, to decriminalize it (znak.com/2018-01-22/god_spustya_chem_obernulas_dekriminalizaciya_domashnih_poboev).
24. Russian Resorts Place Their Hopes in a New Iron Curtain. Russian resorts are not attracting as many paying customers as they would like, and some of their operators say that only the erection of a new Iron Curtain can save them because it would force Russians to travel more within the country than abroad (svpressa.ru/travel/article/191145/).
25. Russian Court Runs Out of Paper for Documents. A court in Nizhny Tagil has run out of paper and has announced that it won’t provide printed decisions unless people bring in their own paper for them to be printed on (ura.news/news/1052320932).
26. Urals Funeral Home Selling Previously Used Caskets as Morgue Become ‘Self Service.’ A funeral service in Nizhny Tagil has been found to be selling previously used caskets to the families of the newly deceased and then pocketing the money (ura.news/news/1052321088). Meanwhile, the Russian health ministry has launched an investigation into a hospital morgue that because of cutbacks has converted itself into a self-service operation after 3:00 pm (ura.news/news/1052320813).
And 13 more from countries in Russia’s neighborhood:
Kyiv Rejects Moscow’s Offer to Return Ukrainian Military Equipment from Russian-Occupied Crimea. The Ukrainian government has turned down a Moscow offer to return ships and other Ukrainian military equipment from the occupied peninsula, clearly sensing a trap and recognizing that most of the materiel would require enormous refitting to make it serviceable again (
2. mignews.com/news/ukraine/180717_110238_16282.html). Meanwhile, reflecting just how repressive Russian forces in Ukraine are becoming, there are widespread reports that even pro-Moscow groups in Crime area afraid to speak in public lest they get in trouble (sobkorr.ru/news/5A6B3C924E702.html).
3. Russians Leaving Moldova as Tensions Between Chisinau and Moscow Mount. Ethnic Russians in Moldova reportedly are leaving that country in record numbers as tensions between that country over its relationship with Moldova and Chisinau’s plans to seek reparations from Russia (ng.ru/cis/2018-01-26/1_7159_moldova.html and ria.ru/world/20180120/1512996980.html).
Moscow-Minsk Relations Hit a Rough Patch. Belarusians are increasingly concerned about the extent to which they have lost sovereignty by agreeing to a joint visa system (belaruspartisan.org/politic/413183/belaruspartisan.org/politic/413301/ and regnum.ru/news/polit/2370493.htmlcharter97.org/ru/news/2018/1/24/277118/
Minsk Blocks Charter 97 Portal. The Belarusian government has blocked the largest opposition web portal, Charter 97, sparking outrage among the opposition, human rights activists, and some Western governments (graniru.org/Politics/World/Europe/Belarus/m.267126.html
6. American Communists View Minsk as a Mecca. Communists from the US now view Minsk as their Mecca, frequently visiting and praising the Belarusian government (http://www.belaruspartisan.org/life/413753/). Meanwhile, thinktanks.by/publication/2018/01/21/belarus-sredi-chetyreh-stran-kotorye-stali-gorazdo-bolshe-doveryat-ssha.html).
7. Apartments without Plumbing or Heating Going Up Near Minsk. In a satellite city to the Belarusian capital, state construction organizations are building apartments having no plumbing or heating (charter97.org/ru/news/2018/1/22/276789/).
14,000 Armenians Have Given Up Citizenship in Last Five Years. Yerevan says that 14,000 Armenians have given up their Armenian citizenship over the last five years in order to take citizenship in another country (ru.armeniasputnik.am/armenia/20180110/10107028/femida-blagosklonna-chto-proiskhodit-s-armyanskim-grazhdanstvom.html
9. Traditionalist Attitudes Sweeping through Central Asian Countries. Several commentators have pointed out that reaction is on the march in Central Asian societies (rosbalt.ru/world/2018/01/18/1675360.html, camonitor.kz/30426-na-kazahstan-nastupaet-religioznoe-mrakobesie-kak-s-nim-borotsya.html, fergananews.com/articles/9753, centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1516397280 and caa-network.org/archives/11278). Arabic names are now the most popular names for children in Kyrgyzstan (fergananews.com/news/28024), Tajikistan is rated the most religious country in the region and may even introduce legal penalties against infidelity (islamsng.com/sng/news/14125fergananews.com/news/28045interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=69093centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1516642860).
10. Chinese Workers Coming to Tajikistan has Tajiks Go to Russia. Chinese workers are coming to Tajikistan even as Tajiks leave that country to work in the Russian Federation (centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1516979340 and fergananews.com/news/28077).
11. Kazakhstan Wants to Displace Russia as Air Stopover Between Europe and Asia. Astana has announced plans to encourage European and Asian carriers to use its airports as stopovers between Europe and Asia rather than those in Russia (fergananews.com/articles/9766).
12. Astana Refuses to Ban ‘Death of Stalin.’ Despite Moscow’s efforts, Kazakhstan authorities have decided not to ban the English comedy, “The Death of Stalin” (centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1516915860).
Narva Could Be Estonia’s Next Success Story. Estonian officials say that Narva, an overwhelmingly ethnic Russian city on the border with the Russian Federation, could be the country’s next success story and they hope to call attention to that by having it declared a European capital of culture (baltictimes.com/president__narva_could_become_estonia_s_next_success_story/ and bnn-news.com/estonians-see-narva-s-potential-in-culture-push-for-eastern-border-city-to-become-european-capital-of-culture-178732