Thursday, September 21, 2023

‘Nezavisimaya’ Editor Defends Publishing Garbuzov as ‘Norm in Modern Society’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 10 – Nezavisimiya Gazeta has published two controversial articles by Valery Garbuzov, the now former director of the Moscow Institute for the Study of the USA and Canada ( and

            Garbuzov has been savaged for suggesting that the Kremlin is making foreign policy mistakes because it has been blinded by its own “illusions” about the nature of the rest of the world; and Nezavisimaya Gazeta in turn has been denounced by supporters of the Putin regime because it chose to publish Garbuzov’s argument and defense.

            Now, Konstantin Remchukov, the editor-in-chief of the independent Moscow daily, has issued a statement in defense of what his paper has done, arguing that it is no special case driven by some external forces but the continuation of a tradition the paper has followed since its founding (

            An informal translation of Remchukov’s statement follows:

After the publication of Valery Garbuzov’s article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a heated discussion ensued about the motives for its appearance in general and in our newspaper in particular.

Garbuzov answered about “in general” in his second publication with us last week.


As for the reasons for the appearance of this text on the pages of NG, the following should be kept in mind.


We, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, are an expert newspaper. That has been true from the very beginning of the paper’s existence. According to the tradition of the publication, materials coming to the editorial office from the heads of academic and research institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences are almost always published in one of the headings: “Carte Blanche,” “That’s How I See It” or “Ideas and People”.

The article by Garbuzov, director of the Institute for the Study of the USA and Canada and a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which came to NG, met the criteria for publication 100%. I do not edit current directors of academic institutions. 
Therefore, it went to print in the same form that it arrived to us.
I would like this explanation to be accepted as the substantive position of our publication and to put an end to the speculation and pseudo-analysis of those who saw here political intrigue, conspiracy, foreign hand, etc.
Publishing controversial materials is the norm in modern society.

After a Russian in a Mental Hospital Says He’s Glad He’s There after Seeing What’s on TV, His Guards Say It is Clear that He’s Already Recovered, Some Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 10 -- A story is circulating in Moscow that a patient in a mental hospital says he is glad he’s there after watching on television what is going on outside its walls. Hearing this, orderlies in the hospital immediately conclude that that individual has shown himself to have already recovered.

            That is one of the anecdotes compiled by Russian journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova this week ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Russian officials are pleased that falsifications in the election went so well because no violations were noticed or reported.

·       Moscow says every country should be allowed to do what it wants as long as what it wants is what Russia wants it to do.

·       The Russian government is giving pensioners more money so that they can give it to their unemployed grandchildren. This is a comprehensive solution as it supports young people and strengthens families.

·       In any well-functioning government, work on explaining why presidential orders haven’t been carried out must begin simultaneous with any work implementing them.

·       Many Russians who have fled abroad because of the war in Ukraine are now seeking to recreate the conditions of the homeland they fled in their new places of residence. In so doing, they are spreading the hopelessness that led them to flee in the first place.

·       A proposal calling on Russian government officials to stop using foreign medicines just as they are now compelled to stop using foreign cars has been rejected as unacceptably cruel because it would cause grievous bodily harm.

·       Russians should behave like the weather which doesn’t care whether anyone like it or not.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Medinsky History Textbook Codification of National Bolshevist Neo-Sovietism, Savvin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 10 – Vladimir Medinsky’s history textbook represents “the first official codification of the ideology of neo-Sovietism” in the only possible form such an effort can take – as a collection of myths and epic tales that makes National Bolshevism and Stalinism central to the Kremlin and the Russian people, Dimitry Savvin says.

            The editor of the Riga-based conservative Russian Harbin portal says that the new textbook follows the classic pattern of such myths, pointing to the existence of a golden age that has passed not because of its own internal contradictions but because of the actions of hostile outsiders (

            In this case, Savvin continues, the golden age is that of Stalin’s time in the Kremlin. It was followed by leaders who strayed from his past and whose positive efforts were undermined by a West committed to its destruction. But now, the golden age has a new defender – Vladimir Putin – who is committed to restoring that golden age.

            In some respects, Medinsky’s volume plays the role of Stalin’s Short Course, but with the major exception that Stalin’s work was embedded in a larger and more ramified ideological system while Medinsky’s is not. As a result, it is “eclectic in composition” and cannot count on people fitting it into a larger ideological world.

            Thus, the real model of Medinsky’s work, Savvin argues, is not so much the Short Course of Stalin’s times as it is the works of Nikolay Ustryalov, who in the 1920s created the concept of National Bolshevism, “in which, in his opinion, must be combined elements of Bolshevism and fascism.”

            To a large degree, “National Bolshevik tendencies began to appear already in Stalin’s times.” But now this ideology in fact is becoming the ruling ideology of Putin’s, “the logical result of a century-long development of the Soviet system,” the Harbin editor says.

            Among the characteristics of National Bolshevism found in Medinsky’s work, Savvin continues, are the following: Soviet identity, statism, anti-westernism, anti-capitalism, state control of the economy, opposition to any independent civic activity, and opposition to all kinds of nationalism, Russian and non-Russian alike.

            Medinsky denies the ethnocultural uniqueness and identity of all groups. Instead, he lumps together as Russians all those regardless of ethnicity or religion who are loyal to the Russian state. And thus, like his Soviet predecessors, Medinsky’s vision is anti-Russian as well as anti-national more generally.

Ousted USA and Canada Institute Head Refuses to Back Down from His Condemnation of Kremlin Illusions about the World

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 10 – On August 29, Valery Garbuzov, the head of the Institute for the Study of the USA and Canada, published one of the most significant articles to appear in the Moscow media in recent months. He denounced the Russian leadership for living in an illusory world of its own creation and making mistake after mistake because of that.

            For his troubles, he was fired (; but unlike most Russian officials who suffer such consequences for speaking out, Garbuzov has not backed down but instead published, also in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a defense of what he did (

            That speaks to his personal courage, the likelihood that he enjoys the support of many of his fellow academic colleagues and the possibility that some in the Russian political elite share his views and want them to be taken seriously. It also points to a decay in the Putin regime’s control mechanisms which earlier would have prevented the appearance of these articles.

            In his follow on article, Garbuzov thanks all those who have supported him with their messages and defends his institute which he argues cannot be described as a foreign agent but is doing important work in identifying and defining what is really going on in North America, something people in the Russian government need to know.

            But he goes further and restates the argument of his original article, noting that Russia’s leaders are making mistakes precisely because they are believing their own propaganda about the US. Unless that changes and soon, Barbuzov suggests, Moscow will make more mistakes – and that is something that must be avoided.


Protests about Local Problems Spreading in Russia But Seldom Attract Much Attention, Nezygar Telegram Channel Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 10 – The amount of public dissatisfaction and number of protests are growing across the Russian Federation, but most of this is about local issues such as the environment and construction and seldom gains the attention either of the national media or political parties, according to the Nezygar telegram channel.

            As a result, many underrate the amount of both dissatisfaction and protests and do not consider these local attitudes and actions as important and thus look only at places where the protest is about some national issue like the war in Ukraine and fail to see that protests are likely to grow, the channel says (

            Among the sites of these protests now, Daghestan is the leader and has garnered some attention. But others, including prominently Ulyanov Oblast, Krasnodar Kray, and Leningrad Oblast and slightly lesser actions in Udmurtia, Belgorod, Oryol, Chelyabinsk, and Penza oblasts, Krasnoyarsk Kray, and the republics of Sakha and Mari El have not.

            Because these are generally ignored in the all-Russian media and by politicians, the level of protest potential in the country as a whole is underrated, an especially dangerous mistake as the country heads into the fall when protests usually increase and especially in advance of the upcoming presidential election in 2024.

            Most such protests have little chance of spreading to become all-Russian ones, Nezygar concedes; but there is always the chance that some protest will catch fire either because of  attention or because of the action of one or another political entrepreneur. Consequently, these smaller protests deserve far more attention than they are getting.


Uptick in Birthrate Seven Years Ago and Continuing Influx of Immigrants Overwhelming Russian Schools

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 10 – The slight uptick in birthrates in Russia in the mid-2010s and the continuing influx of immigrant children have combined with the failure of the Russian authorities to repair existing schools means that at present Russia lacks approximately 900,000 places for students and has been forced to expand class sizes and go to double or triple shifts.

            Teacher salaries have not gone up, and overworked instructors, especially in the early grades, are now increasingly thinking about leaving the profession, an attitude that will make the current problems even worse soon, the To Be Precise portal says (

            Every third school in Russia needs significant reconstruction, the portal found. Even more lack central heating or indoor toilets. The situation in this regard is especially bad east of the Urals and in smaller cities. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, there are problems but they are far less serious.

            But the cities have not escaped the problem entirely. In places where migrants are most numerous and now live in virtual ghettos, the situation of school shortages is even more severe than in rural parts of Siberia and the Russian Far East, To Be Precise continues, a pattern that shows the unmet costs of immigration in Russia.

            For the country as a whole, fewer than one percent of all schools are in such bad shape that they must be torn down and replaced. But in some regions and especially in non-Russian republics in the North Caucasus and Asia, the share is larger, six to eight percent, and will only increase given that too little attention is being given to reconstruction.

Ethnographic Museum Exhibit Encouraging Russians to Think about Their Membership in Local Sub-Groups of Russian Nation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 8 – Vladimir Putin has encouraged Russians to think of themselves as members of a common and united nation, but a new roving exhibit put together by St. Petersburg’s Russian Ethnographic Museum is causing many to focus on their membership not in that commonality but in local sub-groups of the Russian ethnos.

            The exhibit features pictures and stories about 11 such sub-groups; and Tatyana Zimina, a specialist on Russian identity at the Russian Academy of Music says that the greatest interest has been in those groups that have promoted themselves and in regions from which people in various cities come (

             People in St. Petersburg often arrived in the northern capital from the Tver region where there are several sub-groups of the Russian nation, she points out; and having visited the exhibit, they are now far more aware than they were of the characteristics that set them apart from other Russians.

             Given how much the Kremlin wants people to think of Russians as a single group, it is at a minimum surprising that one of the leading ethnographic centers in the country is promoting an alternative view – and perhaps even more surprising that the Kremlin hasn’t intervened to stop this.