Thursday, December 8, 2022

For Homo Sovieticus, State isn’t Something Sacred but Rather Simultaneously ‘a Threat and a Support,’ Makarkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 7 – For Russians raised in the Soviet period and for many who remain influenced by such people and those times, Aleksey Makarkin says, the Russian state is not something sacred as many are no suggesting as their rapid dispensing with cults in the past shows but rather a combined “threat” and “support” they simultaneously fear and rely on.

            They view the state as a threat, the Moscow analyst says, because “at any moment it can punish people” without being forced to justify what it does; and they see it as a support because without the state, however inadequate it may be, life is impossible: it protects against war and it is the exclusive redistributor of resources (

            In both cases, there is no alternative and that is why it occupies such an elevated position, but it is not one that Russians won’t turn away from on occasion. The state itself has reduced the possibility for that by destroying the horizontal ties that might make the emergence of an alternative possible, leaving the population atomized relative to the state.

            Those who have grown up in post-Soviet times have a greater willingness to look for alternatives and even seek to create them, but, Makarkin says, such people “are relatively few in an aging society; and the other generations view them as unintelligent and unreliable” precisely for this reason.

Kadyrov Raising Military Unit Based on Sufi Order Not for Putin’s War in Ukraine but for His Own Use in the North Caucasus, Ingush Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 7 – Reports last month that Ramzan Kadyrov was organizing a military force based on the Batal-Haji wird of a Sufi order for use in Ukraine were disturbing enough given that the Chechen leader was doing so on under the terms of Putin’s mobilization order  (

            But now an Ingush human rights activist suggests something even more disturbing: He says that this new force may never go to Ukraine at all and instead will be used by Kadyrov both against his enemies within the Chechen nation and possibly against Ingushetia and Daghestan against which he has made territorial claims (

            There is no confirmation of this report, but it is entirely consistent with Kadyrov’s disregard for the law and his desire to have independent bases of power. It is, however, a worrying sign of just how much power he has arrogated to himself and how unwilling or unable Putin is to do anything about it.

            The threat that such a force would pose to Ingushetia is especially great, at least potentially, because a large share of the members of the Batal-Haji wird are Ingush – and many of these are senior officials in Magas. If Kadyrov were to use this force against Ingushetia, he might well expect support within Ingushetia for such a move.

            Given that Kadyrov already took ten percent of Ingushetia through a backroom deal in 2018, an act that sparked massive protests there, this report that Kadyrov may be planning to exercise a military option against the republic in the future is certain to raise the political temperature in the republic. 

Russia has Not Just a Fascist Regime but a Fascist Society, Zaidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 7 – Many commentators are now prepared to label the Putin regime as fascist, but they need to go further and recognize that in Russia today, it is not just the powers that be who are fascist but large swaths of the Russian population, according to Vadim Zaidman, a Russian commentator now living in Germany.

            It is certainly true many who don’t approve of Putin’s war in Ukraine aren’t protesting because they fear the personal consequences of such action, he continues; but no one can claim that Russians don’t know the truth about him or do not know that if a million of them went into the streets of Moscow, that regime would fall (

            And discussions about why there are so few Russians protesting the war ignore the important reality that a large share of the population openly, even enthusiastically backs what Putin is doing, at least until it impinges on their own lives, and that while such support may be less than the Kremlin claims, it is certainly higher than the opposition thinks.

            However appropriate it is to treat “with sympathy and understanding” those opposed to the war but fear protesting, Zaidman says, it is not appropriate to forget that most Russians certainly in the spring and summer “before the start of mobilization” were entirely sincere in supporting Putin and his war.

            According to the commentator, “people who back killing people in another country are not just immoral; they are fascists.” And they certainly know exactly what they are supporting. Those who say otherwise ignore the reality that Russians today have far less credibility than did Germans after Hitler to say they didn’t know what was and is going on.

            In the Internet age, Zaidman says, “it is impossible” to accept the claim that someone doesn’t know this or that fact. Of course, “not wanting to know” and choosing to ignore reality are “quite another matter.” Such “voluntary madness,” he continues, “testified to the fascistization of society and its complete dehumanization.”

            And that fascist essence of Russian society has not been changed at all, the commentator says, by the fact that some Russians have stopped supporting the war after they feared as a result of mobilization that their sons, husbands or other relatives might be taken from them. They are defending only themselves by so doing, not opposing Putin’s war as such. 

If Living Standards in Russia Rose, Fertility Rates would Likely Fall, Krupnov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 7 – Few are prepared to say openly that they are against increasing the standard of living of the Russian people, demographer Yury Krupnov says; but many quietly recognize that if living standards were to go up, the fertility rate – that is the number of children per woman per lifetime – almost certainly would fall.

            Surveys have repeatedly shown that those who are better off want fewer children than those who are poorer, the head of the Moscow Institute of Demography says, pointing to a 2017 Rosstat report that found that women who rated themselves very poor wanted on average 2.6 children while those who said they were very well situated wanted only 2.1.

            Figures for men parallel those for women, he continues. He then suggests this puts Russia in a bind especially since its population has not reproduced itself fully since the mid-1960s and that this year, the fertility rate has fallen to under 1.5, compared to that of 2.1 plus needed to keep the population stable (

            The implications of Krupnov’s observation are that the rate would have fallen even further had the standard of living of most Russians not declined this psat year and that any effort to boost incomes in the future would have the unintended consequence of sending the fertility rate down still further.

            Such conclusions, which appear logically necessary, are completely at odds with the declared policy of the Russian government although perhaps not its real intentions and with the expressed views of most Moscow commentators writing on demographic and social issues in recent years.

Plan Under Discussion to Evacuate Kremlin Leaders Abroad in Event of Russia’s Defeat in Ukraine, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 8 – Abbas Gallyamov, a well-connected commentator who earlier worked as a speechwriter for Putin, says that a source of his in the Presidential Administration has told him that officials there are making plans for the evacuation of Kremlin leaders in the event of a defeat in Ukraine and a revolution in Russia.

            The project, informally known as “Noah’s Ark,” the commentator continues, says that officials close to Putin are casting about for a country that might take him and his associates in. First, they thought of China, Gallyamov’s source says, but then rejected that destination given Chinese attitudes especially toward losers (

            Now, they are considering Argentina and Venezuela, with Sechin involved in exploring at least the second. “He has a good personal relationship with Maduro,” and so it is no surprise that he would be involved. Also involved  is Yury Kurilin, who used to be at Rosneft but has been devoting himself full time to the Noah’s Ark project since the summer.

            “Unfortunately,” the commentator says, “my source doesn’t know any other details,  but what he has said clearly shows that when those in the kremlin say that ‘everything is going to plan,’ it is important to clarify according to just which plan they have in mind given that they seem to have more than one.”


Even Russian Ultra-Nationalists Should Want Russia to Lose and Lose Quickly in Ukraine, Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 7 – If Russia’s “hurrah patriots” were to think about it and consider the most obvious historical parallels, they would understand that the fate of their country would be far better if Russia lost its war in Ukraine and did so quickly, according to opposition Russian commentator Igor Eidman.

            “Had Germany lost its Polish campaign in 1939,” he writes, “World War II would have ended before it began. Not only the victims of German aggression but Germany itself would have avoided millions of victims and total destruction” (

            Had Germany lost in Poland, Hitler and his Nazi regime would have collapsed, Eidman argues; and Germany likely would have been able to “return to the path of democracy. But to their great misfortune, the Germans easily won the Polish war” and Hitler continued the policies which led to his end.

            As of now, the Russian liberal commentator says, “Russians have had more luck. They are losing the war against Ukraine. If they had won, God forbid, the adventurers int eh Kremlin would have gone on until they landed in a war with NATO and Russia would be left without a stone standing on a stone … Moscow would then envy the ruins of post-war Berlin.”

            “Even hurrah patriots like Strelkov-Girkin already understand that Russia is losing the war,” Ediman says. But “it remains for them to come to an understanding that an early defeat, including withdrawal from the occupied territories and the payment of reparations would be a great blessing for Russia.”

            They must come to see what others already have: “Putin has dragged Russia into a situation in which all the other options would be even worse and more destructive.” That raises the question: “will they understand?” and another one as well: will the West recognize just how important it is for the world and for Russia to ensure that Russia loses and loses quickly?

The Victims of the 1988 Spitak Earthquake, RIP

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 7 – Thirty-four years ago, Armenia was hit by one of the worst earthquakes in its history or the history of the world. Some estimate that more than 100,000 people were killed, new fewer than 500,000 were left homeless, and more than 140,000 left crippled.

            The Armenian diaspora and governments and people around the world sought to provide assistance, although the Soviet government of Mikhail Gorbachev tried to restrict what was known about the tragedy, even though Gorbachev himself got credit for rushing home from the US three days after the earthquake with an epicenter at Spitak struck.

            The Spitak earthquake remains a deep scar on Armenia, something its citizens remember every year with sadness and some bitterness given how little the Soviet government did to help them recover and how difficult it has been for Armenia to cope with the consequences since becoming independent (

            Far more needs to be done to help those who survived to recover; and at the same time, everyone needs to honor the memory of those who suffered and died. On a personal note, the author of these lines remains very proud that after the earthquake he worked with Armenian-American activist Ed Alexander to provide Yerevan with census data about the region.

            Moscow had withheld such data from the Armenian authorities not wishing them to know just how many people had died. Indeed, Russia has continued to lowball the death toll from the earthquake at a still horrific 26,000. But with it – and it was on file at the US Library of Congress – those involved in the rescue operation were better able to search for survivors.