Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Putin Said Responding to Regional Anger in Ways Exactly Opposite Those Yeltsin Used Effectively


Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – The telegram channel SerpomPo says that people in Russia’s regions are becoming ever angrier at the center as their lives become worse and increasingly adopting the slogan “Stop Feeing Moscow.” But in response, Vladimir Putin is doing exactly the reverse of what Boris Yeltsin did to combat such incipient separatism.

            “In the 1990s, when Russia was on the brink of disintegration, Yeltsin’s ‘take as much sovereignty as you want,’ whether anyone likes this or not, saved” the situation and the country. Now, in contrast, SerpomPo says, Putin has adopted the opposite tact: “We will leave you as much sovereignty as we want” (reposted at charter97.org/ru/news/2018/11/20/313473/).

            “In the fat first years of the 21st century, this worked,” the channel continues. “but judging from the obtuseness with which the Kremlin is dealing with the regions, no one [at the center] intends to change course,” even though the reverse worked before and the current course seems designed only to make the situation worse.

            Such conclusions are not unique to this telegram channel. Valery Solovey, the MGIMO political analyst and commentator, draws much the same conclusion on the basis of letters and other communications he is receiving from friends beyond the ring road of Moscow (dialog.ua/russia/165135_1542653185).

Repression typically works if there is enough of it, but if Moscow assumes it can take and take without increasing how much repression it is prepared or even able to apply, then it may discover as does anyone who throws water on a grease fire that such actions are more likely to spread the conflagration than to put it out.             

Chechens Want to Show They’re the Direct Descendants of Noah


Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – It is almost universally the case that nations claim that they originated in the distant past – or at least earlier than those around them. Now, the Chechens are getting involved in this competition and claim they are descendants from Noah, even suggesting that archaeologists have found the Biblical figure’s ark in the mountains of the republic. 

            In the Prague-based Caucasus Times, political analyst Yevgeny Romanovsky points out that Chechens call themselves “Nokhcho,” which literally means “people.” But many Chechens argue that its more precise translation is “people of the race of Noah” (caucasustimes.com/ru/mif-o-noevom-kovchege-i-chechencah/).

            They believe that Biblical references to the region where Noah’s ark came to rest correspond with their republic; and “some investigators go even further: they seriously assert that the influence of the Chechens can be traced through all stages of the development of humanity,” Romanovsky continues.

            Such claims often taken on a hyperbolic form.  Ruslan Khaskhanov, a Chechen scholar at the University of Copenhagen, says that he has found traces of the influence of the Chechens in Scandinavia. And Chechen writer Said-Khamza Nunuyev has written several books advancing the idea that “the Chechens are the most ancient people on earth.”

            That has led some Chechens to suggest that the prophet Moses led into the wilderness not Jews but het ancestors of the Chechens and even that “when dying on the cross, Jesus Christ spoke Chechen.”  And now such outlandish notions are attracting more attention given that Chechen archaeologists claim to have found the remains of Noah’s ark on Chechen territory. 

            Moscow’s Dozhd television channel recently interviewed Marat Aslakhanov, one of the promoters of the idea that Noah left his ark in the mountains of Chechnya.  (Aslakhanov also believes that the Tyroleans in Northern Italy are a Chechen tribe that has forgotten its “’true origins.’”)

            Aslakhanov’s ideological soul mate, the Chechen artist Mukhammad Yaskhanov, has an online group with 6,000 people who actively discuss whether Noah chose to start humanity anew in Chechnya first of all, Romanovsky says. Their ideas are also finding support in the government of Ramzan Kadyrov.

            Dzhambulat Umarov, the nationalities minister, has provided funding for the preservation of the ark’s remains. And Chechen mufti Salakh Mezhiyev supports the Noah theory as well.  In Arabic, he says, “Noah is called Nukh or Nokh, and true Vaynakhs know that the real name of the Chechens is the Nokhs – in other words, the sons of Noah.”

Today’s Migrant Workers in Russia Very Different from Their Pre-2014 Predecessors, Abashin Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – Now that the number of immigrants in Russia has returned to its pre-2014 level, Sergey Abashin, an ethnographer at St. Petersburg’s European University says, it is important to take note of how different today’s immigrant workers are than those who came to Russia earlier.

            Interviewed by Elena Rotkevich of Gorod-812 news agency, the scholar says that at the end of last year, there were 8.7 million foreigners in Russia from the CIS countries. They varymarkedly in many ways from one country to another and over time (gorod-812.ru/migrantyi-edut-v-rossiyu-ne-za-tem-za-chem-ehali-ranshe/).

            Most of those coming from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are young men, Abashin says; women from those two countries form less than 20 percent of the total.  Those from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, have just the reverse gender pattern: The number of women is 50 percent to 100 percent larger than the number of men in each case.

            Kyrgyzstan is a special case among Central Asian countries: “Almost 40 percent of the migrants from there are women,” possibly a reflection of that nation’s nomadic past and certainly a product of the low social status of women without husbands in Kyrgyz society.  Many of them come to Russia to find husbands.

            The country supplying the largest number of immigrants to Russia is Ukraine – some 2.3 million at the end of last year – but “we know very little about them as there is a shortage of research on Ukrainian migration” because they blend in so completely with the surrounding Russian milieu.

            A major change from a decade ago, Abashin says, is that “not only poor people” are moving to Russia. “Many have money and even open their own businesses in Russia,” typically small ones but sometimes larger ones as well. Moreover, many now say that they didn’t so much come to work as to “look around.” 

            Today, the ethnographer says, they “work for a dream. In Central Asia, there are three main dreams: to build a house, to buy a car, and to host in a worthy fashion a major [family] celebration.” These dreams vary a little among the Central Asian countries. Uzbeks want a car, Tajiks a house, and “many Kyrgyz dream of staying in Russia forever.”

            In recent times, ever more immigrants have the dream of attending a Russian higher educational institution.  They see that as a way up the social latter, and they have been helped by the expansion in the number of government-financed places in universities and colleges in Russia.

            One continuity in immigrant behavior is a focus on their homelands and sending money home. “Annually, gastarbeiters send home from 12 to 19 billion dollars from Russia.” In 2017, Uzbekistan received the largest amount of these transfer payments.  Kyrgyz immigrants, Abashin says, are more inclined than others to want to remain in Russia.

            Indeed, for gastarbeiters as a whole, Abashin says, only 2 to 3 percent are inclined to see themselves remaining in Russia for the rest of their lives. 

            The scholar says that ethnic enclaves are not a major problem because the immigrants settle in apartments on the basis of price rather than choosing their neighbors.  They are far less inclined to commit crimes than are native Russians, and the number of crimes they do commit has been falling.

            Xenophobia is not a big problem, Abashin argues. It is the subject of political talk but not among ordinary migrants or Russians. Immigrants do fear skinhead groups “but they fear the police more, although any policeman as the migrants themselves say is always ready to take 500 or 1,000 rubles [as a bribe] and go away.”