Monday, August 2, 2021

‘Russian Federation’s Time Running Out,’ Russian Monarchist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – Russia today is living through “a serious crisis” because of the absence of trust by the Russian people into their rulers, a crisis that is only deepening because the rulers care not about Russia and the Russian people but only about making money for themselves, Igor Romanov says.

            The editor of the Vladivostok-based Russian Orthodox nationalist and monarchist site Bereg Rus says that the attitudes of the Russian people are not reflected so much in public opinion polls as in the distrustful and suspicious views Russians have about any project those in power advance (beregrus.ru/?p=13846).

            The people can see that those in power today are only concerned about how to create a smokescreen so the people won’t be able to see clearly that those running the country either up to now or after the upcoming elections don’t care about the wellbeing of the people but only about filling their own pockets.           

            Romanov says that the political system is filled with such people now and that there won’t be any change after the Duma elections because the current rulers have selected people to “replace” some of the parliamentarians with others of the same stripe.  And it is clear to Russians that it doesn’t make any difference what the mix of systemic party deputies is. 

            Those who are running Russia now have strayed from “our God-given Russian path.” And their actions are rapidly bringing matters to a head. According to the editor, “Russia will hardly remain a republic with ‘democratic values’ in the future. Those songs are not about Russia. Russian can only be an autocratic Orthodox monarchy.”

            “This is not ‘a Russian dream,’ he continues; “it is not simply a desire. It is the government system given to Russia by God.” That will require a tsar, and the approaching installation of both means that “the time of the Russian Federation is running out.” Russian people feel this, but many of them are just waiting for things to happen.

            But according to Romanov, they have a role to play in bringing the country back to its true nature. They must cleanse themselves and their society in order that a Russian autocratic monarchy will return as soon as possible.

            Romanov’s words are worth noting for two reasons. On the one hand, all too often those on the Russian right are ignored even though they may have a bigger constituency than more moderate or left of center positions do. And on the other – and this is the more important fact – the right is just as suspicious of the Putin regime’s focus on money above all else as is the left.

            That leaves the regime will less support than many including its denizens think, even though the two groups which don’t support it for that reason undoubtedly feel that they have nothing in common and display no willingness to cooperate with one another.

Totalitarianism can Coexist with Market Economy, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – Many assume that a market economy precludes political totalitarianism, Andrey Illarionov says; but in fact, the relationship between what occurs in the economy and what takes place in the political system is more distant and totalitarianism can coexist with a market economy.

            The arrangements in fascist states before World War II and China today confirm that, the economist continues. What one is seeing in Russia today is simply part and parcel of the same phenomenon, even though many are reluctant to admit this is in fact the case (svoboda.org/a/31366011.html).

            “For the last 30 years, we have learned that these things can exist alongside each other,” he says. A relatively free market is not inconsistent with a relatively repressive political system. Indeed, “a totalitarian regime can exist under conditions of a market economy” despite expectations to the contrary.

            More than that, Illarionov continues, the totalitarian regime can reduce the standards of living of the Russian people for a long time under market conditions now just as it did under state socialism in Soviet times. There is no reason to think that this arrangement cannot continue for at least several generations.

            Given the Kremlin’s control of the media, it is extremely unlikely that the population can coalesce around anyone opposed to the regime. Putin and his entourage have learned from the events of 1991 that they can be threatened by any such opposition and so they are working hard to ensure that it doesn’t and even can’t exist.\

            Illarionov stresses that “totalitarian regimes are destroyed only by three means: they collapse as a result of external intervention; they collapse as a result of revolutions within; and they collapse as the result of the death of the leader of the regime. There are no other variants” – and the Internet, despite expectations, has not changed this reality.

            The reason for that is simple: a totalitarian regime “will master any technical means more effectively and more rapidly than the opposition.” Thinking otherwise is to engage in self-deception, Inozemtsev says.

Defense Witnesses in Ingush Seven Trial Say Signatories of Ingush-Chechen Land Deal are the Guilty Parties

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – At this week’s session of the Essentuki trial of the Ingush Seven, nine defense witnesses unanimously declared that none of the Ingush Seven was guilty of the charges of inciting violence at the March 2019 protests. Instead, they all insisted the guilty parties were Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov who signed the land give-away earlier.

            Their testimony will certainly echo with the population, but it likely will not affect the verdict of the court. Six of the nine who testified themselves have been convicted (fortanga.org/2021/07/devyat-svidetelej-zashhity-podtverdili-nevinovnost-liderov-ingushskogo-protesta/). And the others have been publicly on the side of the Seven for a long time.

            Among these were Ibragim Doskiyev, a justice of the Constitutional Court of Ingushetia (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/366437/), DeputyMufti Magomed Khastyrov, Daymokh National Cultural Center leader Elberd Darbazanov, and activist Ramzan Sultygov (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/366437/, fortanga.org/2021/07/darya-kornilova-predstavila-podrobnosti-zasedaniya-po-mitingovomu-delu/, and  fortanga.org/2021/07/svideteli-po-mitingovomu-delu-obvinili-prezhnie-vlasti-ingushetii-v-narushenii-prav-zhitelej/).

            Meanwhile, in another case, a Nazran court extended the detention of Abbas Khamkhoyev for two months. He has been charged with possession of illegal explosives, a charge he earlier admitted to in part (fortanga.org/2021/07/abbas-hamhoev-zaklyuchen-pod-strazhu-na-dva-mesyacza/).

Kremlin Could Use Belarus as Bridge to Europe but Fears Taking the Risk, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – However angry Vladimir Putin is on occasion at Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the Kremlin leader is not about to stop supporting him lest he undermine his own standing at home or that of other authoritarian regime around the post-Soviet space, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.

            And despite the fact that a more independent Belarus could offer Moscow unique opportunities as a bridge to Europe, the Russian economist says, Putin and his regime don’t appear to understand how they could do so. At least, they are not prepared to take the risks involved (thinktanks.by/publication/2021/07/26/vladislav-inozemtsev-stavka-kremlya-na-lukashenko-vyglyadit-okonchatelnoy.html).

            Moscow will thus continue to place its bets on Lukashenka and to dose out support for him, primarily via credits unless Lukashenka proves more cooperative, Inozemtsev says. Moscow might not want to have a confrontation with the EU over Belarus, but the EU’s ability to affect Russian-Belarusian relations directly.

            “The situation could change,” the economist says, “if another round of civic resistance begins in Minsk and Russia were to interfere militarily.” But that is unlikely. Indeed, for reasons both in Russia and in Belarus, the current situation is unlikely to change in a radical way anytime soon.

            “The economic situation in Russia is stable, protests have been suppressed, and nothing threatens the regime,” Inozemtsev continues. “Lukashenka also does not intend to ‘hand over’ Belarus to the Kremlin because he considers the country his own property.” The problem is that Moscow and Minsk are driven by different things: Moscow by money; Lukashenka by power.

            Lukashenka is thus more likely to “dies in his presidential palace like Salvador Allende than to flee with his billions into some country loyal to him” such as Russia. And because that is so, further integration with Russia isn’t going to happen anytime soon because such integration could cost the Belarusian dictator not money but power.

            There is another factor working against rapid integration as well. Such integration could be “a problem” for Russia as well. It is one thing to approach integration; it is quite another to live with the reality of its implementation. The Kremlin doesn’t need either the social costs or the protests that Belarusians would bring with them if they were included in a Russian state.

            That is all the more so because Moscow is currently getting almost everything it wants from Belarus without having to take those risks. And those who suggest that Russian oligarchs and their allies want to get their hands on Belarusian assets are vastly exaggerating the value of the latter.

            And, of course, lying behind all of this is one other factor: Putin certainly recognizes that the absorption of Belarus would not bring him the political or financial benefits that seizing Crimea did in 2014. There would not be any “post-Belarus” consensus; and so the Kremlin is not likely to feel compelled to move more quickly toward unity. 

Collapse of Russian Healthcare System Greater Threat than Covid, Aleksandrov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – Russian officials and experts acknowledge that the coronavirus pandemic was responsible for 40 percent of the increase in mortality in Russia last year; but 60 percent of the increased deaths were from other causes, many of them related to the degradation of Russian healthcare under Vladimir Putin’s “optimization” plan, Ivan Aleksandrov says.

            Deaths from some causes didn’t change or even declined, the Russian journalist writing under a pseudonym says. Among these were deaths from cancer, accidents, and suicides (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-развал-системы-здравоохранения-смертоноснее-коронавируса).

            But others increased radically in 2020. Deaths from diseases involving the lungs, not counting covid, rose by 66 percent. Pneumonia deaths were up 250 percent, although some of these may have been misdiagnosed coronavirus cases. And deaths from heart disease and circulatory disorders were also up by double-digit figures.

            In many cases, these increases reflected a combination of three things: declines in standard of living, cutbacks in medical facilities and programs, and the reluctance of people to seek help outside the home lest they contract the coronavirus, Aleksandrov continues. But taken together, the non-covid causes of death are increasingly disturbing.

            The number of Russians suffering from diabetes has doubled since 2000, with deaths from that disease rising 22 percent last year from the year before. Many got worse because of the isolation regime and inadequate diet, but the trend is so great that it will likely continue, especially as the government has cut back programs for diabetics.

            The spread of diseases like diabetics and mental illness in Russia is so large that experts are speaking of  “non-infectious epidemics” and saying that by coming together with infectious ones like covid, the country has entered into a perfect storm that the healthcare system is currently incapable of handling.

            Deaths from drug overdoses increased by 60 percent last year over 2019, and mortality from alcoholism also rose, albeit only by six percent. Many of these deaths could have been avoided had people been able and willing to visit doctors, Aleksandrov says. But shortages of doctors and the pandemic have limited both.

            So far this year, he continues, “excess mortality has continued to grow” not only because of the pandemic but because of these other causes. Indeed, during the first five months of this year, mortality in Russia was 30 percent higher than during the same period in 2020. And there are signs that the situation may be deteriorating further.

            Rosstat has not issued death figures broken down by disease for the first five months, and it has not issued overall mortality figures for the last two. Healthcare activists are alarmed. Aleksandr Saversky of the League of Defenders of Patients’ Rights, says that the healthcare system’s failure to help is “one of the key causes” for rising deaths.

            He says that in his opinion, “this is a crime.”

Russian Population Set to Fall by More than a Million This Year, Corrected Rosstat Figures Indicate

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – Rosstat has corrected its own figures about demographic trends, and the new ones show that the situation in Russia is even more disastrous than many had feared. The country is now on track to suffer a natural decline (deaths over births) of a million or more this year and not the 600,000 to 700,000 officials had admitted earlier, Aleksandr Zhelenin says.

            The corrected figures released by the Russian State Statistical Agency show that Russia’s natural decline last year was not the 688,000 that Moscow has acknowledged but “more than 702,000,” a figure that points to even greater losses this year as most deaths come not from covid but from other causes, the Rosbalt journalist says (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2021/07/27/1913123.html).

            This is far and away the worst natural decline in Russia since 2005 when that statistic stood at 846,600, Zhelenin says, and calls attention to the failure of the regime to provide better living conditions and medical services for the population not only for those suffering from the coronavirus but also for those with other diseases.

            Instead, the Rosbalt journalist says, the government and its supporters have become increasingly callous about deaths. One TV doctor, for example, recently declared that all those who are dying should have died because they are elderly, weak and ill. Thus, the people don’t need more assistance. Instead, he implied, it should go to wealthy businessmen and the military.

            Zhelenin is not the only Russian writer frightened by this situation. Commentator Arseny Sobolevsky writing in Moskovsky Komsomolets says that while declining fertility is a worldwide phenomenon, the situation with regard to having children in Russia is worse because of the collapse of state-supported childcare and the continuing availability of abortion.

            Russia is already among countries with fertility rates far below the 2.1 replacement level. It now stands at under 1.5 and that in the opinion of experts means that it is a nation that is at immediate risk of “dying” (mk.ru/social/2021/07/28/zamknutyy-krug-demografii-rozhat-nelzya-izbavitsya.html).

            Sobolevsky is alarmed both by the cutbacks in government childcare, something that means Russians can choose to have children only if they have the money to pay for support, and by abortions which continue to be used as a major form of birth control, reducing the population both now and in the future.

            He notes that in the early 20th century, Russian demographers suggested that the country would have 500 million residents by 2000. That did not happen, and it did not occur “not so much because of bloody wars as because of radical changes in the laws [on the availability of abortion] and the way of life [without the support of either extended families or the state].”

            If that doesn’t change, Russia will soon have fewer than a third the number of people tsarist experts predicted, with no end in sight to the declines.

            Sobolevsky is especially alarmed by the impact of abortions. He says that King Herod remains infamous for having killed 14,000 infants in Christ’s time but that in the mid-1960s, Soveit citizens aborted about 20,000 children every single day. Abortions can’t be banned because that would drive them underground, but steps are needed to make them less numerous.  

Low Vaccination Rates, Not Election Campaign, Behind Increases in Covid Casualties, Kremlin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – The failure of Russians to get vaccinated in larger numbers and not any relaxation of restrictions as the result of the approaching Duma elections is to blame for the increases in the number of those getting infected with the coronavirus, according  to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov (regnum.ru/news/3330525.html and regnum.ru/news/3330527.html).

            But as the pandemic continues, other Russians are trying to come up with explanations for why, despite all the government’s efforts, the numbers have gone in the wrong direction. Andrey Nesmiyan, who blogs under the screen name El Murid, has come up with a most original one (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=60FF790E1C586).

            He argues that the government’s propaganda campaign about the pandemic is to blame. That campaign is creating post-traumatic stress among the population, something that weakens the immune systems of Russians and makes them more likely to contract the virus or even to die. He says the powers that be must cut back on some of their most threatening messaging.

            Today, the Russian authorities reported registering 23,032 new cases of infection and 779 new deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours, as the pandemic continued to ebb and flow across the country and with it the level of restrictions (t.me/COVID2019_official/3369, regnum.ru/news/society/3324376.html and regnum.ru/news/society/3330437.html).

            Outside of Moscow, ever more federal subjects are making vaccinations mandatory for an increasingly large number of categories of the population. In the North Caucasus, for example, three republics – Chechnya, Daghestan and Kabardino-Balkaria – have all taken that step (doshdu.com/v-chechne-vveli-objazatelnuju-vakcinaciju-ot-koronavirusa/).

            Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church reported that the spiritual advisor to Patriarch Kirill is among those who have come down with a covid infection, although the hierarchy said that his case was a mild one (https://regnum.ru/news/3330543.html).