Friday, October 22, 2021

Windows on Eurasia Closing for the Time Being

Because of a deterioration in my health, I am compelled to suspend preparation of the Windows on Eurasia series. I do not know when or even if I will be able to resume. After more than 17 years and 20,000 windows, I want all of my readers to know how grateful I am to them for all that I have learned from them. My best regards to all for the future. Paul Goble

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Anti-Vaxxers in Russia Behaving Unfortunately but ‘Rationally,’ Martynov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 15 – Kirill Martynov, the political editor of Novaya gazeta, says that in contrast to the situation in other countries, anti-vaxxers in Russia are behaving “rationally.” Their primary source of information about covid is government media, that media always lies, and no one believes it anymore (rosbalt.ru/posts/2021/10/15/1926316.html).

            Resistance to vaccinations and other anti-covid measures appears to be growing, with polls showing expanded opposition to almost every measure that the government proposes (superjob.ru/research/articles/113120/shtrafy-za-otkaz-ot-vakcinacii-podderzhivaet-kazhdyj-devyatyj/ and regnum.ru/news/3399045.html).

            And this comes as both new infections and new deaths over the last 24 hours have set records, 32,196 and 999 respectively; and as officials say that the pandemic situation in Russia is if not critical close to that measure (t.me/COVID2019_official/3702, regnum.ru/news/society/3394205.html and regnum.ru/news/3398799.html).

            Moreover, as bad as these numbers are, independent demographer Aleksey Raksha says that the real numbers are 2.5 times greater but that officials are falsifying them. That would mean that more than 2400 Russians are currently dying from the coronavirus every day (currenttime.tv/a/covid-statistika-russia/31510983.html).

            Federation Council head Valentina Matviyenko continues to insist that there is no basis for a lockdown, but economist and commentator Vladislav Inozemtsev says that “the time for explaining the advantages of vaccination” has passed and that more draconian measures need to be taken now (regnum.ru/news/3398817.html and rosbalt.ru/posts/2021/10/15/1926346.html).

            At the same time, there are increasing expressions of concern that the impact of anything the government does as far as the pandemic is concerned may have an extremely negative impact on the Russian economy (regnum.ru/news/3398856.html and profile.ru/economy/v-ritme-novoj-volny-kak-biznes-vstrechaet-osennee-nastuplenie-koronavirusa-942316/).

            Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,

·         Developers of the Sputnik-5 vaccine say they have completed yet another clinical trial of the medication and report that it is more than 90 percent effective (regnum.ru/news/3398521.html).

·         Ever more people are expressing concern that the pandemic will have a negative impact on participation rates in the upcoming Russian census (ehorussia.com/new/node/24497 and superjob.ru/research/articles/113121/uhudshenie-epidemiologicheskoj-obstanovki-uvelichilo-chislo-otkazov-ot-uchastiya-v-perepisi-v-1/).

·         And Moscow announced that it is restoring air traffic to nine more countries in about two weeks (interfax.ru/russia/797306).

Preliminary Census Results from Daghestan Suggest Peoples without Written Languages are Assimilating to Larger Groups Only Slowly

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 15 – The Russian census in Daghestan is being conducted in two parts. The first, during July, involved surveys of villages in mountainous parts of the republic where some of the smallest nationalities live. It involved about 76,000 people mostly from nationalities without a written language (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/369099/).

            Now, the census is being conducted among the remaining three million residents of the republic. No official data has been released so far from either round, but experts have had some access to the preliminary census in the mountainous areas and that has led to a discussion about how much assimilation is taking place.

            According to republic linguistics expert Uzlipat Gasanova, all of the numerically small nationalities in Daghestan which lack their own alphabets and writing systems are under threat; and as a result, many of them are assimilating to larger groups within the republic such as the Avars or Dargins.

            The authorities are not so much promoting this, she says, as failing to provide a defense of the smaller nationalities. Consequently, migration and educational opportunities are driving assimilation rather than any focused state policy. But some who have looked at the first part of the census aren’t so sure.

            Mavdzhid Khalilov, another linguistics professor, says that the non-literary Dido and Tsez peoples are overwhelmingly continuing to declare themselves members of their own nationalities. She puts the share of such people at 80 percent. They are not, she insists, assimilating at anything like the rate some like Gasanova say.

            Khalilov says that languages of the Avar-Ando-Tsez group are indeed under threat from these broader social processes; but she insists that the government isn’t promoting assimilation although it is doing little to prevent it. That means the process of assimilation is likely to be slower than many fear or hope for.

           To the extent this is the case, those Avars and Dargins who had hoped to boost their own numbers by assimilating these smaller groups appear likely to be disappointed. And that in turn means that the ethno-political situation in Daghestan will change less quickly and radically than many had assumed. 

           

Putin Doesn’t Live in a Parallel Reality but Revels in His Ability to Speak and Act in This One with Impunity, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 14 – Many who hear Vladimir Putin’s most outrageous statements or see his most aggressive actions are inclined to say he is living in a parallel reality; but in fact, Vitaly Portnikov says, the Kremlin leader constantly monitors reality to see just how far he can go. That reality suggests to him that there are few limits and that he can pursue his agenda with impunity.

            No matter what Putin says or does, the Ukrainian political analyst says, many in Russia and the West instead of standing up to him and taking effective action to block what he says or does want to avoid breaking with him and seek some new agreement. Putin sees all this and acts accordingly (graniru.org/opinion/portnikov/m.282863.html).

            He is “careful” in his actions, Portnikov says. “He studies what will be the level of responsibility to which he will be held. And if there isn’t any, then he goes further and with greater confidence. That is how it has been in Russia since his coming to power.” He watches how society and foreign governments react and when they don’t, he feels free to do more.

            Thus, Ukraine followed Georgia and now using gas as a political weapon in Europe have followed that. But instead of thinking up truly effective sanctions, many in the West want to avoid breaking with Putin and instead seek new agreements with him. Putin and his entourage see all this, and to what should be the surprise of no one, act accordingly.

            The Kremlin leader is laughing at the West and at his own society and reveling in his ability to do anything he wants without negative consequences, Portnikov says. “He hasn’t gone out of his mind. In that regard, all is well with him. It is we who have gone out of our minds if we continue to permit this.”

We have only ourselves to blame and we live in a parallel reality, the commentator concludes, “if we allow him to laugh for twenty years of rule and threaten and then have no doubt that his rule will last forever.”

Moscow Disbands Foundation for Preservation of Native Languages

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 14 – Despite Vladimir Putin’s assertion that Russia must do everything possible to ensure the preservation and study of native languages, the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs has now liquidated the Foundation for the Preservation and Study of Native Languages earlier created by Putin to do just that.

            The foundation, which even the Federal Agency that took this step says has been doing a good job, will cease to exist and its functions will be transferred to bureaucracies within the Agency and the educational ministries (infocus.press/fond-izucheniya-rodnyh-yazykov-budet-likvidirovan-zayavlyayut-v-fadn/ and nazaccent.ru/content/36925-fond-sohraneniya-i-izucheniya-rodnyh-yazykov.html).

            That will allow the government to save money, to “optimize” nationality policy, the Federal Agency says in taking this step. But it will simultaneously lower the priority given to saving non-Russian languages and ensure even greater bureaucratic control over all issues having to do with native language media and instruction.

            As such, this action follows the same pattern the Kremlin has been using more broadly: blaming bureaucratic changes which have powerful political consequences on the need to save money, and proclaiming in the past and again now that the bureaucracy alone will do everything that is necessary. It doesn’t need cooperation with the population but only obedience.

HIV/AIDS, Russia’s Other Pandemic, Expanding to Sub-Saharan African Levels

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 14 – So much attention has been devoted to the coronavirus pandemic that many Russians have forgotten that they face another pandemic as well, that of HIV/AIDS and that this epidemic now involves more than a million of them, with the rate of infections in some regions rivalling that of the poorest countries of the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa.

            According to Novaya Gazeta investigative journalist Antonina Asanova, Russia today now suffers from HIV cases ten times more often than do people in the European Union and in parts of the Urals and Siberia, that figure is 20 or even 35 times the EU rate (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/10/14/seks-bez-prosveta).

            Officially, more than 1.1 million Russians are listed as HIV infected, something that costs the economy for their treatment some 225.5 billion rubles (three billion US dollars) a year, with the government focusing almost exclusively on treatment rather than prevention, an approach that ensures the unregistered will continue to spread this disease.

            The spread of HIV can be described as “a quiet epidemic.” The first wave in the 1990s was largely limited to those who used drugs; but now almost two-thirds of new cases come from sexual contact heterosexual as well as homosexual. And the second wave now is dominated not only by that method of transmission but involves older people.

            “The largest number of new cases are not in the two capitals but in the Urals and Siberia,” Asanova reports. Kemerovo, Irkutsk and Perm are especially hit, and in the first two, “almost every 50th resident” – that is, two percent of the population would test positive for HIV if they were all being tested.

            “Such a level of the spread of the virus should logically be compared not with Europe but with the small and poor countries of Africa or the Caribbean Sea,” she continues. “The share of HIV positive cases in the Kuzbass is comparable to that in Gambia, Haiti and Belize. And this without any exaggeration is a catastrophe.”

            Most Russians still think of HIV/AIDS as “a disease of marginals” like drug users, prisoners and youths from poor families. “But in the last five years, HIV has ceased to be an illness linked to drug use. Now, more often than that, the virus is spread via ordinary undefended sexual contact,” with 65 percent of new cases last year coming that way.

            Only 55 percent of all Russian cases are getting anti-retroviral therapies, and that means that nearly half are still in a position to spread the disease, a pattern that makes the future grim indeed. Moreover, HIV is increasingly a disease of middle-aged and older people rather than the young.

            But what is especially worrisome, experts say, is that the stigma of having HIV is still so great in Russia that many who should be tested are avoiding doing so, another guarantee that this pandemic too will only get worse in Russia.

Putin Says Foreign Agents are Criminals, Signaling Broader and More Severe Attacks Ahead, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 14 – Vladimir Putin’s remark this week that “far from all” opposition figures are in prison has attracted more attention, but his statement that those who are classified by the state as foreign agents are guilty of a crime is more indicative of how he thinks and what he is planning, Sergey Shelin says.

            “Up to now,” the Rosbalt commentator says, “foreign agents formally were not considered criminals and were registered on an official list not for the violation of Russian law but for completely legally receiving money from foreign sources.” Now, Putin has made it clear that he considers that a crime in itself (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2021/10/14/1926232.html).

            This criminalization of the concept of foreign agent strongly suggests, Shelin continues, that the Kremlin leader plans, as Vladimir Pastukhov and others have argued, to shift from targeted repression to a more massive form, one that will include as its targets far more Russians than has been the cases in the past. 

            Putin shared his thinking on the criminal dangers those he has defined as foreign agents present to the political system he seeks to impose on the country  in remarks at an energy forum and in an interview with a CNBC reporter (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66916 and kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66920).

            According to the Kremlin leader, “everything must develop in a stable and peaceful fashion.” And there must not be any chance for a revolution that could interfere with this process. “We need stable and peaceful circumstances and the stable development of the economy and social sphere.”

            But not everyone agrees with this, Putin continued, although at present “far from all of these are in jail.” They are hostile to the position of the government and “every other of them has a foreign passport or residence permit,” a paranoid suggestion for which he offered no evidence at all.

            If such individuals don’t violate Russian law “and thus give reason to be declared a foreign agent,” Putin said, “that won’t happen,” a statement that might seem to offer the possibility that many will not but that contains within itself the notion that the basis for being declared a foreign agent is a criminal act.

            “On paper, everything remains as before,” Shelin concludes. “But Putin has reminded everyone about the actual state of affairs: those who ‘give an occasion’ [for being declared a foreign agent] are enemies.” And this means they are not just recipients of money from abroad but criminals under Russian law.