Sunday, August 1, 2021

Mistreatment of Sakha Shaman Recalls Worst Aspects of Soviet Abuse of Psychiatry, Gutiontov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Pavel Gutiontov, who reports on continuity and change in Russian society since Soviet times, argues that those who are repressing Shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev in Sakha are the spiritual heirs of the Soviet abusers of psychiatry with their diagnoses of “sluggish schizophrenia,” a disease they found only in dissidents.

            The Novaya gazeta writer details the sad history of punitive psychiatry in Soviet times when the communist rulers regularly confined dissidents in psychiatric prisons and treated them with mind-altering drugs (

            Like their Russian successors, the Soviet “doctors,” many of whom were associated with the notorious Serbsky Institute, defended themselves against criticism within Russia and from abroad by insisting that “the dissidents remained alive and society was cleaner” because of their isolation from it.

            Indeed, by pointing to how similar the Russian diagnosis in the case of Gabyshev is to the Soviet ones of 40 and 50 years ago, Gutiontov implicitly raises the question as to why there has not been a similar outcry among psychiatrists around the world, an outcry that in fact forced Moscow to restrict and then largely end this despicable practice.

            Would that there might be a similar denunciation of what Russian “psychiatrists” are no doing in prostituting their profession in service to the powers that be in the Putin regime.

Deteriorating Situation in Karakalpakstan Raises Questions about Tashkent’s Control

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Protests against Tashkent’s heavy-handed control of Karakalpakstan are continuing (, raising the possibility that the republic may be the next hotspot on the former Soviet space and even seek independence or inclusion in another country.

            Tashkent has come down hard on the protesters, but its repressive policies, a violation of the Uzbek constitution and the Uzbekistan-Karakalpakstan accord of 1993, are not working but instead intensifying anti-Tashkent attitudes in that republic that makes up 40 percent of Uzbekistan’s lands and includes almost two million people.

            Although Karakalpakstan has seldom attracted much international attention except in relationship to the desiccation of the Aral Sea adjoining it and the demographic disaster that has ensued for that, the protests are now gaining traction in the Russian press because Moscow writers are recalling that Karakalpakstan once was part of the RSFSR and could be again.

            More than any other portion of the former Soviet space, Moscow shifted Karakalpakstan from one republic to another during Soviet times. First it was situated within Kazakhstan, then, Kyzgyzstan, then the RSFSR, and only later handed off to the Uzbek SSR, a history that provides possible models for the future.

            That history and the fact that in the past Karakalpaks asked to join the RSFSR give explain this given Vladimir Putin’s desire to be the latest “ingatherer of Russian lands” ( , and

            Tashkent has no intention of letting go, even though its 1993 accord with Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan,  allows for a referendum; and Moscow is unlikely to support any such carving up of a former Soviet republic given the message that might send, although changes in Ukraine could shift the Kremlin’s calculus and open the way for Karakalpakstan.

            But even if Moscow doesn’t shift, the likelihood is that Karakalpaks will continue to pursue an exit from Uzbekistan and that their demands for independence or inclusion in some other republic will grow right along with Uzbek repression which has been assuming hyperbolic and contradictory forms.

            To give just one example, Tashkent has been closing Karakalpak schools and then forcing Karakalpak teachers to pay more than their annual salaries for retraining in Uzbek so they can teach in new Uzbek-language schools!

            Russia is not the only country that may be drawn into this controversy. Kazakhstan, of which Karakalpakstan was once a part and whose nationalities are far closer linguistically and culturally than the Karakalpaks and Uzbeks are may as well, although for the moment, Kazakhstan has adopted a hands’ off approach and sought to play down such possibilities (

Dropping Requirement Russians in Republics Study Titular Languages has Changed Their Attitudes, Kazan Sociologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Vladimir Putin’s order ending the requirement that Russian speakers in non-Russian republics study the languages of the titular nationalities has transformed Russian attitudes toward those languages and the peoples who speak them, Liliya Nizamova, an ethno-sociologist at the Kazan Federal University, says.

            In surveys taken before Putin’s decision, most Russians said they approved the requirement to have their children study the languages of the republics in which they lived. Now, most say they are against it. Putin’s action made opposition to such programs legitimate and thus fueled antagonism to non-Russians who objected (

            That shift in attitudes or the expression of attitudes may simply reflect the propensity of Russians to approve whatever the Kremlin says is right, but this is likely to play a larger role in the future relations between Russians and non-Russians then even the declining share of non-Russians choosing to send their children to non-Russian language schools.

            In 2012, Nizamova says, 70 percent of Russians living in Tatarstan said they approved having their children study Tatar. But after Putin’s announcement, the situation changed. Tatars continued to support the idea but the fraction of Russians who did “fell.” What this shows is that “the change of federal policy influenced the attitudes of the Russian population.”

            Today, only 21 percent of Russian parents say they would like to have their children become bilingual, an indication of a dramatic falloff in the share of Russians supporting bilingual education, the sociologist continues. Instead, 71 percent of Russian parents say they want their children to speak Russian most of the time.

            Some Tatar parents, seeing which way the wind is blowing, are choosing to send their children to Russian-language schools; and Russian dominance of television and the Internet means that even in rural parts of Tatarstan, ever more children are speaking Russian rather than Tatar.

            But other Tatar parents want to save their language; and they are casting about for models of hos to do that. Unfortunately, Nizamova suggests, those looking to Quebec or Catalonia are almost certain to be disappointed. Russia has a different history and isn’t going to tolerate even what those regions have achieved so far, let alone their independence.

            The only hope, she says, is for more people to recognize that genuine federalism will strengthen rather than weaken the country and that non-ethnic Russian national identity can be strengthened rather than undermined if non-Russian languages are not forcibly pushed out of the schools and public spaces.


Attacking Belarusian Think Tanks, Lukashenka Trying to Set Up Alternatives Under His Control, Chulitskaya and Kazakevich Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s attacks on independent research organizations have attracted widespread attention because they recapitulate and extend his attacks on all independent though in Belarus. But his effort to create alternatives under his control has not, Tatyana Chulitskaya and Andrey Kazakevich say.

            The director of the SYMPA school for young managers and the head of the Political Sphere Institute argue that the Belarusian dictator is making a profound mistake because he is cutting himself off from information about the real state of society and thus degrading his ability to control it (

            If the Belarusian leader closes down all the independent research centers and leaves only those he controls in place, Lukashenka and his regime simply will hear only what they want to hear however far removed from reality it may be; and that will lead to mistakes that could easily be avoided, Chulitskaya and Kazakevich say.

            According to the latter, Lukashenka is pursuing two goals by means of his mistaken policy. On the one hand, he simply wants to monopolize the entire political field; and on the other, he hopes that new and loyal institutes will become as influential as those he is attacking and thus help him. Neither outcome is likely, Kazakevich says.

            While few in the Lukashenka regime will acknowledge it, the work of the independent research organizations has often helped them. Until recently, officials regularly attended meetings with independent researchers and even drew on their research to come up with policies in less sensitive areas. But now that has come to an end.

            Kazakevich says it is a mistake to think that even the best independent journalists can serve as a substitute. Few of them work with data bases and none of them conduct their own independent research on popular attitudes “according to scholarly methodologies.” As a result, they don’t report many of the most important things.

            Any society can exist without independent researchers for a time, he continues. But for a society and its government to be effective, people need the kind of research that only independent research centers conduct and can offer. And attacks on it will only accelerate the brain drain from the country.

            What is likely to happen, the two suggest, is that ever more independent Belarusian researchers will attempt to do their work from abroad, with only a much smaller cohort left in country. That will reduce their impact. But at a time when the world is paying more attention to Belarusian developments, it is the least bad likely option.

Russians’ Long-Term Expectations Fall to Lowest Level Since They Began to Be Measured in 2009

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – The rising tide of inflation has pushed down optimism among Russians about the long-term future to the lowest point they have been since the Public Opinion Foundation began measuring such attitudes for the Russian Central Bank in 2009, according to its latest survey (

            In addition, the survey found, pessimists now outnumber optimists by 14 percent even for the next year, the worst relationship between the two groups since December of last year (

            What makes this especially worrisome for Russians as a nation is that even during the peak of the crisis in 2014-2015, “the majority continued to believe that the difficulties were temporary and that five years out the situation would correct itself.” That has now changed, with a majority having reached a different conclusion.

            As late as 2017-2018, continues, “the number of long-term optimists exceeded the number of pessimists by eight to 21 percent.” The situation began to change with the pension reform, but it has deteriorated more sharply because of the pandemic and the economic problems associated with it.

            Most Russians now see themselves as poorer than before but unlike in the past, they have little hope that the situation is about to change or will even in the longer term, Lev Gudkov of the Levada Center survey firm wrote earlier this month (; cf.

            Gudkov said and cites his words that “this poverty works for the authorities because with the growth of well-being grow demands and claims against it.” Without much hope for change, Russians are even less prepared to make such demands on the authorities, and the powers that be can continue along their current course.



Western Sanctions on Russia Unlikely to Be Lifted or Intensified, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – The West is unlikely to lift its current sanctions because Moscow is unlikely to change the policies that led Western countries to impose them in the first place, but at the same time, they are unlikely to intensify them because sanctions have not had their intended impact and their imposition has hurt Western economies, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.

            That will lead to a pause in the imposition of sanctions, the Russian economist says; but that in and of itself will have three important geopolitical consequences. First, it will mean that Moscow will feel free to act even more aggressively, confident that the West isn’t going to do anything more radical (

            Second, it will make it ever more difficult to maintain Western unity on Russia because some countries in Europe, more tightly connected to Russia by gas and other resources, will want a rapprochement with Moscow, while the United States, much less tied in that regard, will oppose doing so in a way that looks like a retreat from Western unity and its own leadership of the West.

            And third, Inozemtsev says, it will mean that Russian actions that prompted the imposition of sanctions in the first place, be it aggression against Ukraine or mistreatment of dissidents, will recede in importance and that those issues will gradually shift to the periphery of Western attention allowing Moscow to continue to act as it has while escaping responsibility.

            The immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Anschluss of Crimea “was probably the only window of opportunity the West had to launch a massive sanctions attack against Russia,” all the more so since the Kremlin didn’t expect it and wasn’t capable of coping with even the consequences of the sanctions that were imposed.

            But because Russia remains a nuclear power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the West was not prepared to organize a sanctions regime against it like the one it did against Yugoslavia in the 1990s, thus “dooming” what it did do to failure. Russia hasn’t changed course.

            Moscow “has not become less aggressive, it has not withdrawn from the territories it has occupied, it has not reduced its subversive moves in the EU, and it has not shown itself more willing to cooperate,” Inozemtsev points out. Instead, it has highlighted how limited the West’s options are given Western governments’ unwillingness to suffer from sanctions against Russia.

            What this means is that “no new sanctions will be imposed, but existing ones are unlikely to be lifted,” a pause that won’t change Russian policy or lead to progress on any of the issues that prompted the West to impose the sanctions in the first place, thus solidifying the change in international relations Moscow’s aggression led to in the first place.

            “It is thus high time to acknowledge that the sanctions policy has become part of the landscape of interstate communication rather than a means of persuading” Russia to change course. Moscow isn’t going to change because of sanctions; and if the West wants it to, it will have to adopt other policies rather than just more sanctions.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Vaccination Being Made Mandatory in Russia via the Workplace

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Because Vladimir Putin says he is against making vaccinations mandatory and because a large share of Russians don’t want to get the shots, the Russian government had adopted an alternative “hybrid” strategy of forcing people to get vaccinated: requiring employers to have a certain share of workers vaccinated and allowing them to let go without pay those who aren’t.

            Not surprisingly, this has sparked outrage among many Russians; but there is an increasingly widely held view that Moscow will not be able to secure adequate vaccination rates unless it uses compulsion and that this is the most effective way without crossing one of Putin’s red lines (,, andроссия-недоверие-к-госпропаганде-порождает-слухи-и-мифы-о-прививках-от-коронавируса).

            Russian officials reported registering 23,239 new cases of infection and 727 new deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours, both figures were down from the day before, with the largest declines being in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and growth, often large, elsewhere ( and

            International travel is opening up, but Russians cannot enter neighboring Finland unless they have received a non-Russian vaccine. Helsinki does not recognize the Sputnik-5 medication as valid (

            On the vaccine front, epidemiologists warned that more variants of the covid-19 virus are certain to emerge, but they also said that Russian vaccines should be effective in countering any or all of them and cautioned against panic ( and

            On the economic front, the Russian government said that during the pandemic, those without much education were the most likely to suffer unemployment, even as the spread of the disease created new wealth for some oligarchs and set the stage for Russia to enter “Industrialization 4.0” (, and

            Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,

·         The Kremlin said it is still requiring those meeting with Vladimir Putin to go through an extensive testing program, including several days in quarantine, despite the fact that he has been vaccinated (

·         The health ministry announced that it is beginning the test of a recombinant vaccine against covid-19 (

·         And Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova called for extending the sanitary shield program from 2024 to 2030 (