Sunday, June 16, 2024

Putin Working to Reduce Nations within Russia to Status of Ethnic Groups, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 15 – Since coming to power in 2000, Vladimir Putin has consistently worked to reduce the peoples within the current borders of the Russian Federation from self-standing nations, as proclaimed in the 1993 Russian constitution to mere Russian-speaking ethnic groups, Kharun (Vadim) Sidorov says.

            This change in terms, one long promoted by neo-Eurasianist Aleksandr Dugin (tengrifund.ru/aleksandr-dugin-o-desuverenizacii-respublik.html) and former nationalities minister Valery Tishkov (iz.ru/920557/valerii-tishkov/narod-ne-umiraet-s-iazykom), is no small thing, the Prague-based specialist on ethnic issues says (idelreal.org/a/mordovskiy-festival-i-rossiyskaya-mnogonatsionalnost-/32992102.html).

            Instead, it is fateful because once the peoples of the Russian Federation are reduced from the status of nations to that of ethnic groups, they are put on the road to losing their republics and their languages and becoming component parts of the only remaining nation in the country, the ethnic Russians.

            While many in Western countries may have no problem with this change, viewing it as nothing more than bringing Russia into line with what their countries have gone through in the past and now enshrine as completely acceptable, two aspects of Russian policy show why this is a mistake, Sidorov continues.

            On the one hand, Moscow is reducing nationality to ethnicity by suggesting that festivals are the best manifestation of the latter and working to eliminate distinctions between nations within the Russian Federation and ethnic groups with roots in other countries where those groups are defended as nations.

            And on the other, Moscow’s approach stops when it comes to the ethnic Russians not only within the country but especially beyond its borders where the Russian government demands that other states protect Russians as a nation and opposes all efforts to reduce them to the status of an ethnic group speaking the language of the state in which it exists.

            Sidorov’s important reflections on this point have been prompted by events in Mordvinia, a place where there are two nations submerged by Soviet and Russian policy to an artificial Mordvin identity and where these are equated with registered Cossack and diaspora groups and where all concerned are being compelled to speak Russian and ultimately to reidentify as such.   

 

Moscow Continues to Restrict Data It Releases but in Incomplete and Inconsistent Ways, ‘To Be Precise’ Portal Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 9 – Since February 2022, when Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine, Russian government agencies have stopped publishing almost 600 datasets; and they continue to shut them down, the To Be Precise portal says. But they have been doing so in incomplete and inconsistent ways.

            This trend, however, has been both incomplete and inconsistent. Sometimes the authorities have removed the data from one table or another but continued to put it up in another; and sometimes, they have stopped publishing data on a subject altogether but issued other data that allows these data to be easily calculated (tochno.st/materials/76-naborov-dannyx).

            Obviously, the portal says, less data is available to researchers; and it is more difficult for them to do their work. But many agencies have their own agendas as to what is released and what is not, and perhaps most importantly, the government as a whole finds it increasingly difficult to do its work when data isn’t released either at all or in comparable ways.

            A February 2024 law was supposed to introduce a certain consistency in what the ministries and agencies of the Russian government released. It required that any government body seeking to stop releasing data seek approval from the council of ministers. But that rule has been ignored in many cases, the portal says.

            That the Putin regime is trying to hide anything related to combat losses in Ukraine and other highly sensitive information is obvious. That it is doing so in a rational and centralized way, however, is equally clear and means that for the time being, much that the Kremlin wants hidden is still available to researchers prepared to spend more time and effort.

            This pattern is likely to continue because much of the data the Kremlin wants hidden is important for a wide variety of government agencies; and if the data is not released at all and if the government doesn’t have an effective system of distributing data secretly, then many of these agencies will be flying blind as they attempt to carry out their jobs.  

Saturday, June 15, 2024

In 1991, the Russian People Wanted a Sovereign Russia, were Ready to Give Up the Empire to Get It and thus Opened the Way to the Disintegration of USSR, Tsipko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 10 – By accusing Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Western governments of being behind the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Tsipko says, the Putin regime seeks to conceal what for it is a most unwelcome truth: at the end of Soviet times, it was Russians and no one else who wanted a sovereign Russia and were ready to give up the empire to get it.

            According to the senior Russian commentator who was deeply involved in Russian political life in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the USSR’s disintegration, which Putin calls the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century, was “the sovereign choice of the Russian people” (mk.ru/social/2024/06/10/raskryta-trudovaya-pravda-o-raspade-sssr-elcin-ne-byl-predatelem.html).

            Tsipko points out that the idea of a sovereign Russia was formulated and promoted by Russian ruralist writers, a group especially close to the thinking and feeling of the Russian people and distant from many democrats and certainly the West, at the RSFSR Writers’ Congress in 1988.

            Aleksandr Yakovlov, then a close advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev and someone often presented by the Putinists as “a CIA agent” who supposedly undermined the Soviet Union, advised Tsipko, then one of his aides, at the time that “you should read it and you will understand how the disintegration of the USSR began.”

            “I can give many other examples to show that today’s historians who are putting out conspiracy theories and linking all the events of post-Soviet history to a project of the CIA do not in fact have the slightest idea about what happened in the country after Stalin and what in fact led to the collapse of the USSR,” the Russian commentator says.

            Indeed, Tsipko continues, “all this conspiracy theory is designed to conceal” that the Russians themselves having suffered the depredations of Soviet power wanted sovereignty for a Russian country and were not ready to go into the streets to fight for the preservation of the old empire.

            The commentator notes that he personally was “at the time a categorical opponent of the disintegration of the USSR, spoke against sovereignty for the RSFSR, and, understood, even with Yakovlev’s comments, that the idea of sovereignty would lead to the demise of historical Russia.”

            But despite that, Tsipko says, Boris Yeltsin was positively inclined toward him and in December 1992 even proposed that Tsipko become minister for nationality affairs. The current Russian commentator says he rejected that proposal because he “felt that sooner or later this would end in blood, and already in October 1993 my fears were proved true.”

            Despite what today’s conspiracy theorists say, “today one must see the truth” and it is this: Yeltsin, “who really after his March 1991 meeting with striking Kememovo miners took the decision to actively support the idea of sovereignty for the RSFSR fulfilled he deep  demands of the Russian people.”

            The Beloveshcha accords that put the final nail in the coffin of the USSR were “based on the deep-seated need of the Russians to get rid of the empire, where they had never been a metropolis and where they lived at least during Soviet times even worse than the other peoples” under Moscow’s rule, Tsipko argue.

            “Today’s patriots,” he points out, “have forgotten what was heard everywhere especially in 1991 – ‘stop feeding the Caucasus,’ ‘stop feeding Ukraine,’ and ‘we must give all the natural reserves of Russia to its people” rather than to anyone else. Thus, “the idea of killing the empire belonged to the Russian people of the USSR” who were tired of living in poverty.

            These reflections, Tsipko says, arise when he and others visit the Yeltsin Center that some in Moscow want to close. Not only what is one display there but even more what is not sends a cleare message. In the museum, there is no reference to the fact that the Russian people and above all the Muscovites didn’t support the coup” in August 1991.

            That is an important truth. A second, which is not mentioned in the museum, is that “no one protested against the Beloveshcha agreements” or that Soviet officers who had sworn loyalty to the USSR and the CPSU almost to a man changed sides overnight and supported Yeltsin and Russian sovereignty.

            Another truth that everyone should remember despite efforts to get them to forget by accusing Yeltsin of treason and betrayal is this: “After the defeat of the GKChP, after Yeltsin’s glorious victory, there was no political foce which could have opposed the disintegration of the USSR.”

            Democratic Russia actively supported the idea of the disintegration of the USSR, and that political force in fact “actively cooperated with the Democratic Party of the US.” But the American government under President George H.W. Bush, did not favor the coming apart of the USSR and spoke against it in Kyiv on August 1.

            Tsipko says that he knows that to be the case on the basis of a month-long visit he paid to Washington at the time.

            Within Gorbachev’s command, the commentator continues, there were “only three people – Georgy Shakhnazarov, Andrey Grachev, and himself who actively resisted the idea of the sovereignization of the RSFSR.” The others followed what they were confident were the views of the majority of the Russian people rather than someone else, whatever the Putinists say.

Kazakhs Demand Reversal of Astana’s Decision to Impose Single Time Zone in Kazakhstan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 9 – Kazakhstan, which extends more than 3,000 km east to west, has had two time zones since Soviet times; but on March 1, Astana, in the name of national unity, decreed that all regions operate would henceforth function within a single time zone. The results? Popular outrage and the possibility that the government will back down.

            The Russian Federation has a long history of protests about time zones and day light savings time adjustments, with the most recent outbursts taking place in 2010 when Moscow sought to reduce the number of times zones in Russia from 11 to nine, a decision popular anger led the center to reverse (timeanddate.com/news/time/russia-protest-timezones.html).

            Now something similar is taking place in Kazakhstan. According to the Fergana news agency, people in northeastern portions of the country are angry about a change which means they do not have as many hours of daylight after work as they did. And they are expressing their anger openly (fergana.media/articles/133963/).

            Kazakhstan citizens have gathered 41,000 of the 50,000 signatures they need on a petition that would require the government to reverse course; and a government commission has been sent to the region to try to mollify the population by assuring that the government will listen to the people (gov.kz/memleket/entities/mti/press/news/details/692335?lang=ru).

            Whether Astana will back down remains to be seen. It seems likely that it will. But the fact that protests have arisen over this issue is a clear example of  how black swan events can prove far more important that developments that commentators might expect to provoke the kind of protests no government can afford to ignore. 

 

Friday, June 14, 2024

Putin Successfully Exploiting Widespread Anti-Americanism to Gain International Support, Shekhovtsov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 9 – Vladimir Putin has “very successfully” exploited both widespread anti-Americanism especially in the global south and the belief which exists there and more broadly that Russia today plays the same role in relation to the US as did the Soviet Union, Anton Shekhovtsov argues.

            “If something unites the contemporary world, that is anti-Americanism,” the director of Vienna’s Center of Democratic Principles continues. And Putin exploits that by saying that “we are against the Americans, and we are fighting with American proxies in Ukraine,” a message many accept (svoboda.org/a/anton-shehovtsev-rossiya-ispoljzuet-v-mire-temnuyu-silu-/32983783.html).

            According to Shekhovtsov, “this is one of the main strategic narratives which Russia uses in its conversation with ‘the global South,’ one that allows it to present itself as being a leader of the struggle with American imperialism and an anti-colonial power,” even as it conducts its own neo-colonial war in Ukraine.

            Many people in the global south and in the west view today’s Russia in the ways they viewed the USSR,” despite the fact that Putin’s Russia is “a hyper-capitalist state.” And “even many on the left as before view Russia as a certain counter-balancing force with regard to the US,” which they denounce as capitalist ignoring the fact that Russia is capitalist too.

            Putin’s success in exploiting unquestioning anti-Americanism helps him to obscure his own raw capitalism and his own imperial goals, especially because few are prepared to expose what Russia today is doing and just how unlike it is from its Soviet predecessor in this regard, the Russian √©migr√© analyst suggests. 

After a Decade of Decline, Russian Nationalist Violence has Skyrocketed Since Start of Putin’s Expanded War in Ukraine, SOVA Center Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 9 – After falling sharply from 2007 to 2021, the number of violent attacks by Russian nationalists on their opponents has risen sharply since the start of Vladimir Putin’s expanded war in Ukraine, according to Aleksandr Verkhovsky of Moscow’s SOVA Analytic Center.

            In 2007, the center recorded 630 such attacks, a number fell to 421 in 2010, 97 in 2015, and 54 in 2020. But now, the human rights activist and monitor says, it rose to 123 last year and continues to go up (agents.media/v-rossii-proizoshel-krupnejshij-s-serediny-2010-h-godov-vsplesk-ksenofobnogo-nasiliya/).

            This upsurge “began in the spring of last year,” Verhovsky says, acknowledging that the real increase is likely to be larger than his numbers show. On the one hand, not all attacks by Russian nationalist extremists are reported; and on the other, the SOVA Center records such attacks if victims are identified.

            Other monitoring groups show an even greater upsurge in violence over the last two years. The Nazi Video Monitoring Project, for example, reports that there have been 526 such attacks since January of this year.  Both monitors agree that while the attacks have increased and become more violent, the number of deaths has declined to only a handful.

            They also agree that most of those engaged in such attacks are young men who often engage in what looks like hooliganism and is often classified as such rather than the ethnic violence which it in fact is.

 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Almost 40 Percent of Russia’s Journalists Covering Environmental Issues have Been Threatened, Many Physically, EJN Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 6 – There is an old joke that if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really fall? Perhaps inspired by that idea, the Putin regime is seeking to repress the coverage of journalists about the wholesale destruction of the environment in the Russian Federation.

            According to the Earth Journalism Network (EJN), 39 percent of journalists in Russia have been threatened because of their work, with slightly more than a quarter of these cases involving a threat of physical violence against the writers and broadcasters (internews.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Covering-the-Planet-Report.pdf and idelreal.org/a/pochti-40-ekozhurnalistov-poluchali-ugrozy-iz-za-raboty/32981568.html).

            The journalists say that most of those who threaten them are directly connected with enterprises doing damage to the environment, but in the Russian case, these threats emanate slightly more often than from businesses, “on the order of 30 percent,” than from private businesses, 25 percent.

            These threats undoubtedly have prompted some journalists not to cover environmental issues; and 39 percent of those EJN surveyed said that they regularly engaged in self-censorship  or included information on climate change, for example, that they knew to be false but that the powers that be are committed to.

            Unfortunately, the Russian journalists working in this area said that the number of fake news stories on the environment has risen over the last decade and continues to go up.