Monday, September 28, 2020

Stalinist Terror in the 1930s Closely Resembled Lenin’s in 1920s, Boguslavsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 27 – Many in Russia and the West believe that Lenin’s “red terror” was directed at real enemies of the Soviet regime, while Stalin’s was directed at imaginary ones and designed only to intimidate or boost the careers of those who carried out the Kremlin ruler’s orders.

            But, in fact, St. Petersburg historian Konstantin Boguslavsky says, the archives show that during the red terror in Crimea, the majority of those shot were not White officers but ordinary soldiers sympathetic to the Soviets and that many in the Cheka doing the shooting were animated not by ideology but by careerist motivations.

            Consequently, he suggests, there is a direct line between what the chekists did in 1920 and what they did in the late 1930s, when a majority of those executed were in fact innocent and many of those doing the executions were ordinary careerists (newizv.ru/news/society/21-09-2020/bey-svoih-bolsheviki-unichtozhali-ne-stolko-klassovyh-vragov-skolko-storonnikov).

            The historian says that “when there weren’t enough real ‘Whites,’ the chekists killed workers and peasants who sympathized with Soviet power.” They fulfilled the plan and boosted their own careers in the process, harming most seriously precisely those they claimed to be defending in both cases.

            Boguslavsky shows that Stalin and his Chekists were exactly what they claimed to be, the genuine “continuers of Lenin’s program,” a program that was evil and careerist at the outset rather than one that as some would have it initially gave great promise but was then perverted by Stalin.

            This is a real continuity in Russian history, albeit it is not one that Vladimir Putin with his obsession about “a single stream” of his nation’s past really wants to stress given that it represents just as much an attack on his favored Stalin as on Lenin who the current Kremlin ruler believes put in place the basis for the demise of the USSR in 1991.

Russian Opposition Presses for Elected Mayors, Opening Larger Issue of Elections for Regional Heads

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 27 – Opposition parties in Yekaterinburg have been circulating petitions asking local assemblies to vote on restoring elected mayors, a move that the ruling United Russia Party likely has enough votes to block but one that highlights the importance of elections to the Russian people and not just at this level.

            A group of opposition party activists has collected some 13,000 signatures on its petition, and the staff of the local legislature is now examining them. (Only 10,000 must be valid to force a vote.) That is likely, but experts say only 14 or 15 of the 50 deputies plan to support the measure, meaning that it will fail (ng.ru/politics/2020-09-22/3_7970_regions.html).

            Activists are also seeking support for a referendum on this issue at the election commission of Sverdlovsk Oblast, even though the obstacles to achieving that are much higher – the valid signatures of two percent of the region’s population – some 66,000 in all – are needed, Darya Garmonenko of Nezavisimaya gazeta reports.

            Those behind these efforts say that if they fail now, they will return to the issue in the spring, possibly multiple times, until they gain their end. What makes this and similar calls in the Altay and other regions important is that they highlight just how important elections are for the Russian people who have had fewer of them with each passing year of Vladimir Putin’s rule.

            And it is quite clear that these moves to restore elections at the mayoral level are only a prelude to demands for elections of regional heads, something that would reverse the current situation in which the Kremlin appoints its people often with no local ties or interests rather than allowing the population to choose its own head.

            What the opposition appears to be counting on is a two-step process. In the first, Kremlin loyalists will oppose their moves but in a way that will highlight the shortcomings of Putin’s “power vertical” arrangements. And in the second, one region or perhaps even Moscow will agree to mayoral elections in the hopes that that will calm the situation.

            It won’t. Instead, it will further energize those who want real democratic choice not only about their mayors but about regional heads and beyond. 

Moscow Neglects Its Other Epidemic and Cuts Back Testing for HIV/AIDS This Year

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 27 – Russian healthcare officials reduced the number of HIV tests by 15 percent during the first half of 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier, likely the result of a shift of resources to combat the coronavirus pandemic but unlikely to slow the spread of HIV.

            That is especially likely because 63.2 percent of the cases diagnosed this year were contracted by heterosexual contact rather than by homosexual relations – only 2.6 percent – and misuse of drugs – 32.6 percent, compared to earlier when almost 60 percent of infections came from drug use (hivrussia.info/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Spravka-VICH-v-Rossii-1-polugodie-2020.pdf and iq.hse.ru/news/401259819.html).

            One continuity, Russian healthcare officials admit, is that most of those who die from the infection now as in the past have tuberculosis listed as the proximate cause, boosting that figure. Since 1987, 1,465,102 Russians have been diagnosed with HIV. Of these 371,052 have died, including more than 30,000 deaths in each of the last three years.

            What this underscores is that the Russian healthcare system in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s “optimization” – a euphemism for serious cutbacks – cannot respond adequately to unexpected challenges. By testing less for HIV, Moscow can claim and has that the number of new infections has fallen; but in fact, that is an artefact of its cutback in testing.

            The odds are overwhelming that the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Russia is not ebbing as it is in many countries by accelerating, especially since the most important method of transmission is via heterosexual contact. It can no longer be dismissed as some politicians do as involving only gay people and drug users. 

Putin Pushing Lukashenka toward Repression Because That Helps Moscow Either Way It Turns Out, Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 27 – Vladimir Putin is pushing Alyaksandr Lukashenka to repress his own people because either of the most likely outcomes will work to his advantage, Igor Eidman says. If the Belarusian dictator succeeds in gaining control of the situation, he will be grateful for Putin’s support. If he doesn’t, Putin can exploit the protest against him.

            Belarusians and the West should not be under any illusion that the Kremlin leader is acting as a restraining influence on Lukashenka, the Russian sociologist and commentator says. Just the reverse. In either case, Putin will feel the way has been opened to the Russian Anschluss of Belarus he seeks (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5F6F939D7E293).

            Lukashenka and Putin both know that “the West will not interfere, Eidman says.  Lukashenka has been an outcast for some time, and Putin has become one. He no longer cares about the reaction of the Western powers. Promoting the use of force regardless of its short-term consequences works for Putin’s longer-term ones.

            Should Lukashenka succeed in suppressing the revolution that has risen against him, Eidman’s logic suggests, he will only confirm the view of most of the West about “the last dictator in Europe” and leave himself in a position in which he will have nowhere to turn for support or even survival than to Moscow.

            But if Lukashenka tries to suppress the Belarusians in the streets and fails, sparking violence or chaos, the West at a minimum will look the other way as it fears instability more than almost anything else and may even welcome albeit quietly an intervention by Putin and Russia to annex Belarus and quiet things down.

            For Putin, Lukashenka’s use of violence against the Belarusian nation thus is something the Kremlin leader views as a win-win situation. He certainly is indifferent to the fates of the Belarusian protesters who may be its victims.

Putin Preparing His Own ‘Tonton Macoutes’ in Syria and Libya for Use Against Russians, El Murid Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 27 – Many have neglected one of the most important reasons for Vladimir Putin’s sallies in places like Libya, Anatoly Nemiyan, a specialist on the Muslim world who writes under the screen name El Murid, and that is this: the Kremlin leader is using this opportunity to train his own version of “tonton macoutes” for use against Russians at home.

            The kind of behavior by Russian forces that the Kremlin leader sanctions and even encourages there is the perfect training ground for those who he will eventually bring home to be used against Russians as he steps up the level of terror to defend his own position in power  (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5F6F94C10C782).

            Like the saying that if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail, Nemiyan continues, the Putin regime thinks that “if there is a problem, then the simplest response is to ban it” or repress those who are behind it. That has governed the Kremlin’s approach to most things, including the coronavirus pandemic.

            Wishing to evade responsibility, Putin shifted responsibility for the heavy lifting to the governors; but then, not wishing for them to get credit or to get used to acting on their own, he has more recently worked to take back control – and to do so, he is becoming ever more repressive.

            As the situation has eased, Russians are beginning to ask some uncomfortable questions about what Putin was doing; and to prevent that from mushrooming into a political threat, the Kremlin leader is all too happy to use “soft” forms of totalitarianism like stay-at-home orders as long as they don’t harm the economy he depends on to make money and pay his supporters.

            In many ways, Nesmiyan says, the coronavirus has worked well for Putin; but if it had not occurred, he would have found another reason for shifting to “government terror” because his own position is less secure than it once was and he has no good means of solving the country’s fundamental economic problems.

            “To a large extent,” the blogger continues, “legitimacy already doesn’t worry the powers that be: the last two elections with their fantastic falsifications show that the required result will be achieved” regardless of what has to be done. Already Putin is using “arrests, detentions and even murders” to set “the norm” in his regime – all the kinds of things Papa Doc Duvalier used.

             To be sure, “tonton-macoutes have not yet appeared in the streets, but they are undergoing preparation abroad” in those places where the regime says they don’t exist. “But when required, they will return and repress people in Smolensk, Krasnoyarsk or Vladivostok” without the slightest hesitancy.

            From Putin’s perspective, attacking people in Idlib and attacking people in Arkhangelsk is just about the same. But to do the one, he has to make use of the other to train people who will do the repressing of the kind he apparently thinks he will need. Those “who aren’t there” in Syria and Libya are precisely the ones the Kremlin leader will rely on when he thinks he needs to.

 

Ingush Feminist Telegram Channel Challenging Misogyny

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 27 – In parallel with the rise of Ingush civil society in reaction to the land deal with Chechnya, Ingush feminists in June 2019 set up a telegram channel to provide mutual support for women in the republic who are victimized by the still deep-seated misogyny there.

            The channel, t.me/madopage, now has 1075 members, an enormous number given the small size of the republic – there are fewer than 150,000 adult women among the Ingush – and the traditional views of and restrictions on women speaking out about the abuses they suffer within the home.

            Most of the posts are anonymous because while the women want to share their experiences in the hopes of finding support against their oppressors and encouraging others to speak out, they still fear retribution from conservative forces in Ingush society which on gender issues is not much more advanced than Chechen or Daghestani patterns.

            Zalina M., an Ingush sociologist speaking on condition of anonymity, tells the feminist Daptar portal that the situation in her reflect reflects the continuing strength of misogyny and that there is no leader who is driving things back to the past as there is in Chechnya. The past, she says, has not gone away (daptar.ru/2020/09/26/ing-patr1-int/).

            She says that with each passing month, the posts on the telegram channel have become ever sharper and more critical of the situation Ingush women find themselves in, an indication that those who have spoken out are encouraging others to speak out as well and to take up the fight for women’s rights.

            Unfortunately, there are so many wrongs that must be righted, including but not limited to violence in the family, restrictions on women’s activities in and outside the home, polygamy, and concubinage which is “in essence” sexual slavery, that the struggle must continue and expand.

            But the most important step is for women to recognize that they are no one else’s property and to insist that they be treated as individuals with the same rights and freedoms as men. This portal, Zalina says, is helping them to do that.   

Coronavirus Numbers Rising Rapidly in Moscow, Major Russian Cities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 27 – Coronavirus infections are rising rapidly in Moscow and other major Russian cities, with the number of cases in the capital jumping from 1050 three days ago to more than 2,000 today, the result, experts say, of the start of flu season and declining caution among Russians (svpressa.ru/economy/article/276981/, kp.ru/daily/217187.5/4293934/, regnum.ru/news/3074643.html, and ura.news/news/1052451499).

            Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has recommended that an additional two million residents of the city go into self-isolation (rbc.ru/society/27/09/2020/5f702cbc9a794740c053cc91). But most analysts say that the Kremlin will do everything it can not to resume a general lockdown across the country.

            The reason is simple: “a complete quarantine kills the economy more rapidly than it kills the coronavirus (ura.news/news/1052451503), and officials want to maintain a balance between saving lives and saving the economy (kp.ru/daily/217187.5/4293794/). But because falling incomes are lowering demand, restoring the economy will take “no less than three years,” economists say (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/80334 and krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/80322).

            Outside the major cities, the pandemic continues to ebb and flow, with still more places being forced to restrict operations than re-open (regnum.ru/news/society/3070825.html). The country-wide daily figures remain dire: Today, the government reported 7867 new cases of infection and 99 additional deaths, bringing those totals respectively to 1,143,571 and 20,385 (стопкоронавирус.рф/).

An additional reason why the numbers may be increasing is that doctors have changed their view of how the coronavirus affects the body. They no longer see it as attacking only the lungs but attacking other organs as well and thus may be counting more infections and deaths than they were (business-gazeta.ru/article/482396).

            Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related officials, Russian epidemiologists warned that public transport and small stores are the most dangerous places as far as the spread of the coronavirus is concerned (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/80398), and government statistics showed that Russian imports had declined to 2007 levels (ura.news/news/1052451531).