Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Taz – What Chinese Assimilation of the Peoples of Russia Looks Like

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 15 – Perhaps the greatest if typically unspoken fear among Russians about China is not that Beijing will occupy this or that portion of the Russian Federation but that because there are so many more Chinese than Russians, the former will assimilate the latter through intermarriage, something they fear could spell the end of the Russian ethnos.

            Such concerns are almost certainly exaggerated even over the very long haul, but the publication of a photo album by the Regnum news agency of the Taz, a small ethnic group which arose a century ago as a result of intermarriage between Chinese, autochthonian and Russian peoples in the Russian far East, may bring them to the surface.

            Alyona Shilonosova, a journalist who put together the collection of photographs of members of the Taz ethnos, provides some information about a group few have ever heard of. According to the 2010 Russian census, none of those who identifies as a Taz speaks the language: they use Russian instead (regnum.ru/news/society/2550941.html).

            During the second half of the 19th century, many Chinese moved into the Russian Far East. Most were men looking for work, and they married women from among the indigenous numerically small peoples, the Udygey, the Nanay, and the Orochi. “Thus arose a new ethnic group, the Taz,” a term that is the russified variant of the Chinese “tadtszy” – or “alien.”

            “The first relatively reliable data about the numbers of Tax comes from 1872, Shilonosova says. “Then there were 638 of them in the Ussuri kray.” They did not live separately or in a different way than the peoples they intermarried with.

            In Soviet times, they were initially supported but then suppressed, with their language being viewed as a pastiche of Chinese, Russian, and minority tongues rather than the separate language of a separate people.  In 1938, Moscow decided to concentrate them in one place, the village of Mikhailovka in the Olgin District.

            The culture of the Taz nonetheless survived, and the evidence of the intermixing of the Chinese, aboriginal and even Russian peoples can be seen in the faces of those pictured in Shilonosova’s article. 

            Today, she continues, the number of Taz in Mikhailovka is hardly more than a few dozen. Their language has died out, and their formerly unique culture has been overwhelmed by the larger cultures of those they live among. If there are Taz in China, they are almost certainly more Sinified than those in Russia which have been Russified.

            Even more than their concentration in a single village in 1938 under Stalin, however, the Taz in the Russian Far East suffered from the anti-Chinese campaigns of the Soviet government from the 1950s to the 1970s. The Taz were not “officially” subject to suppression, but their number declined to approximately 250.

            In 2000, however, the Russian government extended official recognition to the Taz as a nationality when they were included in the list of numerically small indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation.

Moscow Doesn’t Trust Military Officers from North Caucasus for Most Senior Positions

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 15 – In the Soviet military, racism was far from absent, but some officers from the North Caucasus nonetheless made brilliant careers and rose to the highest positions. Among these was Dzhokhar Dudayev, a major general in the Soviet air force, commander of the Tartu garrison, and hero of Soviet operations in Afghanistan.

            But now, both because of Dudayev’s breaking with the Soviets and then the Russians to lead the Republic of Ichkeria and because internationalism is less highly valued among Russian officers now, Russian officers feel far freer to express their distrust of officers from the North Caucasus and rarely if ever appoint them to the most senior jobs.

            The appointment of Maj. Gen. Rustam Muradov to the post of deputy commander of the Southern Military District “is not a unique case,” the Kavkaz-Uzel portal says; but it is so rare that it is the exception that proves the rule: Experts say Moscow doesn’t trust North Caucasians for the highest jobs in the federal force structures (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/330308/).

                A major reason that he is an exception almost certainly lies in the fact that despite being an ethnic Tabasaran from Daghestan, he fought on Moscow’s side in both post-Soviet Chechen wars and participated in the seizure of Maskhadov’s staff in 2000, an operation that was led by Maj. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov. (For a full bio of Muradov, see kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/330303/.)

                Former Duma deputy Gennady Gudkov says that one rarely meets officers of North Caucasus nationality at the most senior positions in either the special services or the army. They may rise to the position of deputy commander on the basis of the professional and demonstrated loyalty but not to independent commands.

            Muradov thus has probably risen as far as he can, to be deputy commander of the Southern Federal District. His boss will be glad to have his expertise on the local situation; but Moscow isn’t going to trust him with anything more senior or more independent, Gudkov suggests.

            Other experts with whom Kavkaz-Uzel spoke agree.  Sergey Goncharov, head of the Alpha Anti-Terror Veterans Organization, said it was useful to have the expertise of local people in advisory positions.  And Aleksandr Perendzhiyev of the Experts Council of Veterans of Russia said Moscow won’t entrust the highest posts to an officer from the North Caucasus.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Russia’s Periodical Press, in Free Fall Last Five Years, Continues to Contract

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 14 – However measured – print runs, subscriptions, employment, kiosks, or advertising income – Russia’s periodical publications have been in free fall for the last five years and are declining in recent months at an accelerating rate, according to Oleg Falichev of Voyenno-Promyshlenny kuryer (vpk-news.ru/articles/47539).

            For the last five years, Elena Shtikova, executive director of the Union of Print Industry Enterprises says, “the number of employees in print media has fallen by a quarter. Some have found jobs in the electronic media, but not all.” And according to government figures, the number of print media in Russia has fallen from 73,000 titles to 52,629.
            This decline in turn has had a “multiplier” effect leading to the closure of typographies and the elimination of distribution points. For the next tear, Falichev continues, the number of workers in the sector is predicted to decline by 15 percent with advertising revenue falling another ten percent.

            Part of this decline reflects a shift to the Internet, but part of it is the product of government decisions limiting certain kinds of advertising such as for alcohol and tobacco. That has cut the income of newspapers and journals by “approximately a third,” officials in the sector say.

            The print media used to attract 25 percent of all advertising revenue, but now it brings in “less than four percent.” That has led to increases in the sale prices of newspapers and magazines as have rising costs for paper, printing and logistics. And print runs have fallen 10 to 15 percent every six months.

            Kiosks have disappeared. In 2004, there were 42,000 of them; now there are 16,500. Papers and magazines are now sold in more stores, but not enough more to make up for the collapse of news kiosks, Falichev continues. And despite efforts, only about one of five network stores carries newspapers and magazines.

            The overall figures are bleak. In 2013, Russian periodicals were issued in a total print run of one billion copies. By 2017, that number had fallen to 500 million. “During the first half of 2018,” Falichev says, “it fell another ten percent and at present does not exceed 450 million copies in all.”

Postal costs, rising faster than inflation, also are pushing down subscriptions.  

The Voyenno-Promyshlenny kuryer journalist says that any recovery will depend not just on more government assistance but on changing laws and regulations that now limit what advertising newspapers can carry and other services they might provide.  The sector requires a complex approach and greater cooperation among its various components.

Obviously more needs to be done and the government needs to help out because under conditions of information war and sanctions, it would be “simply stupid” for the government to allow Russia’s print media to die out.