Saturday, May 21, 2022

Putin’s Power Vertical Responsible for High Death Rate among Senior Russian Officers in Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 6 – More Russians have died in Putin’s war in Ukraine in two months than did in the Soviet war in Afghanistan over the space of 10 years, something that media outlets stress is degrading the capability of the Russian army but that importantly reflects the nature of the Putin system and its lack of confidence in anything but personal reporting.

            “Every death of a general makes the Russian armed forces less effective, Moscow analyst Pavel Luzhin says, as “it can take days or even weeks to replace them;” and in the interim, there is confusion in the command (

            That is true in all armies and why most keep general officers out of harms way, but the fact that these deaths are happening in the Russian case reflects the suspiciousness about inadequate reporting by junior officers to their seniors and by the military to the political leadership in the Kremlin.

            This lack of confidence is endemic in the Russian system and means that senior officials have to take risks in collecting information that officials and general officers would not have to take in other countries where trust in the reporting of subordinates is more widespread. And that is the more important reason why the death toll of Russian generals is so telling.

            Putin holed up in his bunker won’t go to the front, but he clearly is not prepared to accept anything but first-hand reporting by senior people including general officers – and the number of those he has confidence in is narrowing, a clear sign of the deterioration of his regime and its ability to function.

Friday, May 20, 2022

A Unique Feature of Putin’s War in Ukraine: Many Ukrainians Attended Same Military Schools Russian Aggressors Did and Can Talk to Them on That Basis

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 6 – There is one and only one characteristic of Putin’s war in Ukraine that resembles a civil war: because both Ukrainians and Russians were part of one country in Soviet times, many in the one nation attended the same military schools and served in the same military units as those in the other.

            That means that many in each army know more about the thinking in the other than might be the case otherwise and it means that many Ukrainians now civilians remember their earlier service in the Soviet army and use it in unexpected ways to defend themselves and their country against Russian invaders.

            Aleksandr Shvets, the editor of the Fakty internet journal, reports on one of the forms this has taken (

             He reports that one Ukrainian told him that along the line of the front, there were “veterans of the Soviet army” among the Ukrainians, people who “at one time graduated frm the same military schools as the Russian paratroopers who have come to Ukraine on what they assumed would be ‘a business trip.’”

           “’It’s better to surrender to the Ukrainian army,’” his interlocutor said “they assured the boys in Russian uniforms, who did not fully understand what the hell they were doing here. ‘At least you will be able to save your life. Ukrainians will fight to the end, because this is our land these are our homes, this is our country, and we have nowhere to retreat.’”  

“’What are you doing here? What are you risking your life for?... Go back!’" And in response they heard one and the same thing from the Russians: "There, behind us, are Kadyrov's detachments. They won't let us out of here alive...’"

Inter-Ethnic Marriages in Russia Most Common Where Both Partners Profess Same Religion, HSE Experts Say


Paul Goble

           Staunton, May 6 – Entering into a marriage with someone of a different nationality is still a brave undertaking, HSE scholars say; but the chances of such unions being contracted and remaining successful are greater when the couple shares a common religion, one of the key ways of overcoming differences in values, mentalities and traditions.

           This is just one of ten trends in marital behavior in the Russian Federation these researchers have identified ( The others include:


·       Orthodox countries like Russia see a decline in marriages in leap years because people believe that unions contracted then are unlikely, an old tradition that has not died out.


·       Ever fewer people are living alone either by choice or by accident, with men having more choices and women often left alone because of the premature deaths of their partners.

Women in Russia think more often about divorce than do men, and such attitudes help to explain why many men and women prefer to live in unregistered partnerships.


·       Russian fathers are increasingly assuming more of the role of parenting than they did at the end of the Soviet period. They no longer feel that this is demeaning, and they don’t object either to their wives earning more than they do.


·       Older Russians moved out of parental apartments on marriage; younger ones are more likely to do so only when they become economically self-sufficient.


·       Ever fewer Russians feel they must get married if a woman becomes pregnant. And more generally, Russians increasingly accept as normal births outside of marriage.


·       Most Russians say they want two children, but a large number do not have any children while a smaller share have three or more.


·       Grandmothers still play a major role in child-rearing, but increasingly they do not want to give up their own careers and are forcing men in marriages to assume more parenting roles.


·       Both by choice and as a result of economic change including a shift away from agriculture and difficulties of finding housing sufficient to accommodate such large groups, the multi-generational families that characterized Russian life a century ago are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Could Siberia become Another Sahara Desert? El Murid Says Putin’s Policies Carry that Risk

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 6 – Under Vladimir Putin who has promoted unrestrained logging and cut back forest management and fire protection systems, forest fires in Siberia have become worse every year. 2022 is already no exception, and the situation has reached the point where his past policy mistakes make it ever more difficult to change the situation, El Murid says.

            Indeed, the blogger Anatoly Nesmiyan who uses the pen name El Murid argues that the situation is now so dire that there is a very real risk that Siberia is on its way to becoming another Sahara with the same natural processes that produced that desert thousands of years ago now present in Siberia (

              The merciless and extremely barbaric logging in the taiga” that the Putin regime has promoted in order to maximize its profit has “an unambiguous result: the drying up of the taiga and the swamps in the forests” and consequently, fires of ever larger size which exacerbate these trends, he writes.

            Ever larger rivers in the region are drying out, and as a result, evaporation is declining and with it rainfall and snowfall, trends that also reinforce each other and are gradually “acquiring a self-sustaining and dynamically growing form,” El Murid says. As a result, “every year the situation in Russian forest lands is getting worse.”

            When the underlying foliage and water flows are left undisturbed or carefully protected, forest fires play a positive role and do not destroy the environment. But when forests are cut down as they have been in Russia the last two decades to sell off to China or others, then the fires themselves make the situation worse as well.

            This interconnected loop leads to the destruction of major rivers and climate change, something that happened thousands of years ago by natural causes and led to the formation of the Sahara. Now, as a result of Putin’s greedy intervention, the same thing is happening in Siberia and happening far more quickly.

            There is still time to reverse this man-made natural disaster; but for it to be reversed, Russians must first recognize that it is a disaster and also clearly identify who and what is to blame as well as the costs of not doing anything about it.

Khrushchev Wanted to Annex Northern Part of Kazakhstan to the RSFSR but Was Blocked, Kazakh Scholar Recalls

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 8 – Kazakh scholar Gulnar Mendikulova says that in the early 1960s, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev wanted to annex the northern portion of Kazakhstan where he had sponsored the Virgin Lands development program to the RSFSR but was prevented from doing so because of Kazakh opposition.

            Had he succeeded, the historian at Almaty’s Satpayev University observes, independent Kazakhstan would have been significantly smaller but the ethnic Kazakh diaspora inside the Russian Federation would have been much larger (

            Mendikulova’s observations on this point are part of her broader and fascinating discussion of the origins and fates of the more than five million ethnic Kazakhs now living beyond the borders of the republic, of whom most are irridentas and fewer than a million are √©migr√© communities who left Kazakh territory to live abroad.  

            But this recollection of Khrushchev’s failed attempt has obvious implications for the current situation in the post-Soviet states. On the one hand, his failure to the east is in striking contrast to his success in transferring Crimea from the RSFSR to Ukraine in 1954, something Russian nationalists have long complained about and that Putin has sought to reverse.

            And on the other, many Russian nationalists have long argued that the northern portion of Kazakhstan should be part of the Russian Federation, although they are probably uncomfortable with an ally like Khrushchev given their feelings about what they see as his betrayal in Crimea. They are likely to say that his “failure” in Kazakhstan reflects what he really wanted to achieve.

            However that may be, it is entirely likely given the deterioration in relations between the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan that some in Putin’s entourage are studying the maps the Khrushchev regime may have prepared not only as a justification for imperial revanchism but also as a model of exactly where new lines between the two countries should be drawn.