Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Investment Increasing More Rapidly in Stavropol than in Non-Russian Republics of the North Caucasus, Khloponin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – Half of the increase in investment in the North Caucasus Moscow is promoting to pacify that unsettled region has gone to the predominantly ethnic Russian Stavropol Kray, whereas “the size of investments in the national republics” has been “more modest,” Presidential Plenipotentiary Aleksandr Khloponin says.

            Speaking to a Kislovodsk forum of major companies operating in his North Caucasus Federal District last Saturday, Khloponin said that investment in the district had increased by 113 percent during the first half of this year compared to a year ago and that as a result unemployment had fallen (

            But he acknowledged that much of this new investment had gone into the predominantly Russian Stavropol kray rather than the more unstable non-Russian republics and that this “inequality” was a matter of concern given that Moscow’s strategy is to promote economic growth there to undercut the appeal of those fighting against it.

             In addition to the imbalance between investments in Stavropol and those in the non-Russian republics, Khloponin identified five other problems with the pattern of investment.  First, he said the Corporation for the Development of the North Caucasus have failed to reach out and support small and mid-sized companies, thus limiting the corporation’s impact.

            Second, the presidential plenipotentiary pointed to “choke points” in the financial system, including what he described as “the still not too effective” government program which provides state guarantees to investors prepared to develop government-identified priority projects in the North Caucasus Federal District.

            Third, Khloponin noted “the passivity of local elites in the district, in the first instance, those in the organs of self-administration which are accustomed to using their own budgetary funds instead of working with investors.

            Fourth, he said that in his region, “the system of higher education has been seriously discredited” despite the survival of what he described as “a number of good higher educational institutions in the region.”

             Khloponin called for “the closure of ineffective regional branches of higher educational institutions of the capital, the centralization of the system of higher education, and the formation of a new ‘mark of quality’ on the foundation of the recently established North Caucasus Federal University.”

            And fifth, the Presidential Plenipotentiary pointed to the impact of “the negative image of the region in the media,” an image which reduces its attractiveness as a place for investment.  “Today,” he said, “Italian entrepreneurs are investing more in the North Caucasus than are Russian investors.  This means that we do not believe in ourselves and our potential.”

Window on Eurasia: Alksnis Says Prokhorov’s Call for Disbanding Non-Russian Republics Reflects Kremlin Thinking

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – Mikhail Prokhorov’s suggestion last weekend that Moscow disband the non-Russian republics reflects Kremlin thinking, according to a Russian nationalist commentator. But doing so won’t be easy, he continues, because even Stalin who understood the threat from such republics was not able to dispense with them.

            On the “Svobodnaya Pressa” portal yesterday Viktor Alksnis says that the proposal Prokhorov made in fact has been “widely discussed at a minimum for the last 25 years” and by many who understand the nature of the problem far better than the Civic Platform billionaire (

            Prokhorov, Alksnis continues, “evidently poorly studied the history of Russia in school because he doesn’t know that long before the appearance of the ‘Lenin-Stalin’ Soviet Union there were such unique ‘national subjects of the empire’ within the Russian Empire as the Grand Duchy of Finland, the Kingdom of Poland and the Bukharan and Khivan khanates.”

            According to the Russian nationalist commentary, Prokhorov’s proposal which has sparked so much discussion in the media was likely “recommended to him from behind the Kremlin wall” where “the Kremlin has decided again to take up the reform of the state arrangements of Russia.”

            That is because, Alksnis continues, the occupants of the Kremlin “understand perfectly the danger of the national principle of the construction of the state and that it will inevitably lead the country to collapse.” Ethnic federations routinely fail, he continues; non-ethnic territorial ones have a greater capacity to survive.

            Today’s Russian Federation, he continues, “inherited from the Russian Empire and Soviet Union all those destructive ‘illnesses’ which will make its existence as a single state impossible already in the not distant future.”

            Among those “illnesses” are the division of the country its “first class” subjects, the republics, and “second class” ones, the oblasts and krays, and the “de facto” support for the principle that members of the titular nationality have greater rights than others, regardless of what the Constitution says.

            Anyone who thinks this is not the case should ask himself whether he thinks an ethnic Russian could head Chechnya or Bashkiria or Tataria. “Theoretically, yes, he could. But we all understand that in fact this is impossible.” And the same thing is true with “the majority of leading posts in the national republics.”

            That situation gives rise to the sense among members of the titular nationality that their ethnicity alone gives them the right to aspire to membership in the UN or NATO, Alksnis says. “And why not? For if the Georigans and Latvians can, then why can’t we,” the  non-Russians asks.

            Alksnis suggests considering the case of Bashkira.  “By the way, why should we today call this republic Bashkortostan? He asks. Russians don’t call Britain or Germany the way the British and Germans do, so why should they be forced to call the land of the Bashkirs Bashkortostan in the name of “respect.”

            And he continues by asking rhetorically  “why have been manifested open hostility to the Estonia people and refusing to write the word ‘Tallin’ with two ‘n’s’ at the end when in Estonian, that work is written Tallinn? And why up to now [is there still a controvery over whether] to write ‘in Ukraine’ or ‘on Ukraine’?”

            Focusing on Bashkiria, Alksnis notes that at the end of the Soviet period, the share of official positions occupied by Bashkirs was roughly the same as their percentage in the population” but now the share of Bashkirs in office has more than doubled.”  And that republic is far from the worst in this respect.

            “If someone says this is normal,” the Russian nationalist writer and activist says, he “would respond that such things speak about an extremely unfavorable situation in nationality relations and that in Bashkiria at an official level the principle of the priority of the indigenous nationality, which contradicts the Constitution of Russia is being realized and is leading to the collapse of the country.”

            Because this situation obtains in practically all non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation, he says, “national elites and national administrative cadres are being created who are ready to go to the next step, to an exit from Russia and to the construction of [independent] national states.”

            Most of these people are currently “afraid to take that step because the defeat of the Chechen separatists in the second Chechen war is still fresh in their memories.”  But despite that, these elites “are ready and simply waiting a suitable moment” to act. And that means that “Russia faces severe tests” in the near future.

            “The only way to avoid” this threat to the existence of the country is to shift away “from the national-territorial principle of the construction of our state to the territorial one,”a shift where the “borders among the subjects of Russia” would be like “the lines which form the borders of the states in the US.”

            Taking this absolutely necessary step, Alksnis concludes, will be “hyper-difficult,” noting that “even I.V. Stalin, at the height of his powers in the post-war years, did not take the risk of doing away with the sovereignty of the union republics – even though he recognized very well all the danger of this sovereignty.”

            “But there is no other path,” he concludes. “Otherwise the collapse of Russia is ahead of us.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Putin has Destroyed the Possibility of Russia’s Peaceful Evolution, Shenderovich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 30 – Because of his personal authoritarianism and destruction of democratic institutions, commentator Viktor Shenderovich says, Russian President Vladimir Putin has destroyed the chance that Russia can evolve toward a better future and thus set the stage for a radical break with him at some point in the future.

            In an interview carried today on, Shenderovich says that the recent report of the Center for Strategic Processes showing Putin to have lost support does not mean that Putin will go because the Russian president doesn’t want to and no institution or person around him has the power to force the issue ( 

            Alfed Kokh, Shenderovich recalls in support of this conclusion, once wrote that people near the Kremlin had come up with a program that would allow for “the gradual and soft departure of Putin from power, but everything had concluded in a very funny way: no individual could be found who would agree to present this program to Vladimir Vladimirovich.”

            Putin’s support in the country has really fallen, in part because so many saw him as a desirable change from Boris Yeltsin but even more because “over the past 13 years he has been able to show his true self, his true goals, intentions and methods.  And today, of course, there is a call for renewal.”

            “But the dramatic nature of the situation,” Shenderovich argues, “consists in the fact that changing the situation by evolutionary means is already impossible” because “these institutions have been destroyed by Putin with the silent agreement of society itself.”  And it is important to remember that sociology is “not represented” anywhere in the organs of power.

            Putin doesn’t want to give up power, and he won’t been encouraged to do so by offering him protection against prosecution as Putin did for Yeltsin, the commentator says. The current Russian president is simply not interested in that. Moreover, he doesn’t think he needs to be, given his ability to mobilize those who get money from the budget and the siloviki.

            But the kind of “stability” he offers, Shenderovich continues, “is the classic stability of authoritarian regimes, which last and last and then all at once fall.  In Soviet times, too, everything was under control and with the help of the party, the special services, and the media. But in the course of a couple of years, everything crumbled away.”

            The danger is that while Putin and his regime are thundering against the legitimate demands of the civilized opposition, the Russian Federation is not prepared for the consequences of the fall of the price of oil or some action by the United States that will leave the country in the lurch.

            When that happens, “it will turn out that we are simmpply an enormous territory filled up with oil and gas no one needs, that it is simple for others to do without us. The budget will then collapse … and we will not be able to do anything because of the incapacity of the state to fulfill its social obligations.” 

            Then the Kremlin will “encounter not the Bykovs, Kasparovs or Novodvorskayas but with an entirely different public, which has radically different mean of resolving social-political problems.” Then the populists will appear which will “propose the simplest ,that is the most bloody and therefore attractive,” ideas of the left and the nationalists.

            “Russia has passed this way many times before,” Shenderovich says, but Putin and his entourage have a poor understanding of history.

            That should not surprise anyone familiar with Putin. “After all, he isn’t from a philosophy faculty … but from the Higher School of the KGB.” That is where he got his “black and white” picture of reality, one that sees “any compromise as a manifestation of weakness.”  And so unlike a democratic leader, he has no intention or interest in pursuing one.

            In this situation, society needs to restore what democratic institutions it can, Shenderovich says, and in this sense, the elections to the Coordinating Council of the opposition are useful because “for the first time in the course of 15 years, Russians are experiencing “honest elections with equal chances for all participants.”

            This is not the revolutionary act some believe, Shenderovich continues.  “Revolution is the overthrow of legitimate power and the violation of the law.” But in Russia now, Putin is the revolutionary” because like Stalin he has suspended the constitution.  Those who oppose him are thus counter-revolutionaries who seek to restore the rule of law.

            That is essential, he says, because “the only common denominator which can be found for Chukotka, Kalmykia, the Caucasus, Moscow and Bryansk are human rights and respect for the individual’s worth. This is the American path, the federal path, which in Connecticut work one set of laws and in Texas another, just as it ought to be” in Russia.

            But getting there won’t be easy or evolutionary, Shenderovich concludes, because of Putin’s authoritarian approach.  And he cites the remark of the writer Grigory Gorin, who having heard about Putin’s vaunted “power vertical,” said that “Russia is a horizontal country” and the only way to preserve the country is to respect human rights.

Window on Eurasia: CIS a Continuing and Disappointing Act of Improvisation, Olzhas Suleymenov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 30 – The idea of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Kazakh writer and diplomat Olzhas Suleymenov says, was “not bad,” but it suffered, like many of the projects of the perestroika period, from “the lack of a well-thought-out plan” and thus has proved to be a continuing act of improvisation.

            In an interview carried in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Suleymenov who attracted international attention and Soviet attack for his “Az i Ya” and who now serves as Kazakhstan’s permanent representative to UNESCO, says that outcome disappoints but does not surprise him (

            Suleymenov recalls that he told both Mikhail Gorbachev and Aleksandr Yakovlev at the time that the peoples of the Soviet Union were “entering perestroika without a clear program and without perspective.  We knew only that Soviet power as it had become clear was bad. But was it necessary to destroy everything?”

            Clearly, the poet-diplomat says, it was not. Rather what was needed was to think through the entire system and recognize what was worth saving and how to ensure that the society did not end up without ideals as is the case now.  “People of my generation,” he says, “must think about what to say to the new generation deprived of our principles, ideals and worldview.”

            In today’s post-Soviet states what is most important for most people is “personal success and wealth, and the interests of the collective and the state stand in last place.” Indeed, Suleymenov laments, the words “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” belong “not to a socialist but to American President Kennedy.”

            “This is an ideology which we do not have today,” he continues.

            In the 1980s, Suleymenov argues, “at the start of perestroika the possibility existed to influence the situation.” But today, he says, “I see not only the mistakes of other people but also the mistakes of our entire generation,” mistakes that make todays results anything but “unexpected.”

            “Already in those years it was clear that everything was moving not in the direction it should. And now, not one of the former republics of the USSR feels itself to be a reliable bulwark for future generations,” Suleymenov suggests, noting that he is currently writing a small book directed at young people that is intended to influence the future.

            Suleymenov told “Nezavisimaya gazeta” that he grew up in the difficult war years and was struck both by the Soviet system’s publication of German poetry at the time of the German invasion and the deportations of whole nations from the North Caucasus to Central Asia, an act he saw and in June 1989 led the USSR Supreme Soviet campaign to denounce.

            The Kazakh writer noted that his priorities have shifted over time, recalling that in the introduction to his book retelling the Tale of Igor’s Host from an alternative position, it was necessary for him to combine in himself “an Islamic specialist, a Turkologist, a poet, a historian and a linguist.”

            Today, Suleymenov concluded, he is focusing on etymology, a field which should involve those who “feel the word poetically.”  To that end, he says he is “trying to generalize the results of his many years of work into a new conception of linguistics,” an effort that will represent both a return to his roots and a contribution to the future.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Russian Federation’s ‘Imperial Nature’ Alienating That Country’s Neighbors, Ukrainian Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 29 – The integration of all or part of the post-Soviet space under Moscow’s leadership is impossible unless or until the Russian Federation overcomes its own “imperial” nature at home and treats all of Russia’s republics and regions equally and with respect, according to a Ukrainian political analyst.

            But despite Vitaly Pornikov’s warning that “no real union of Ukraine and Russia will be possible until the Russian state overcomes its imperial complex,” some Russian politicians and Russians in the republics are moving in exactly the opposite direction, seeking to make Russia more “imperial” and more unattractive to non-Russians both within and beyond its borders.

            “Today,” Portnikov says, “there exists the most serious lack of understanding among the citizens of Russia themselves. Because for an individual who comes from Moscowfrom Makhachkala, Grozny or even Kazan, this is his capital in which he completely naturally may behave as at home” ( ).

                “But for a Muscovite of Russian origin, this individual is a guest who must take into consideration the views of the Muscovite about home and traditions.”  And that in turn, the Ukrainian analyst says, contributes to “the most serious dissonance, because beyond any doubt, the capital of a Daghestani is Makhachkala, the capital of a Tatar, Kazan, and the capital for a Chechen, Grozny.”

            Moscow for all these groups is “the capital for those who live in central Russia and [ethnic] Russian regions of the country.  This is normal and natural, but no one wants to say this aloud, because for this, it would be necessary to transform the Russian Federation into a union of state formations,” something Moscow’s leaders are not willing to contemplate.

            Unless that happens, the Russian Federation will continue to alienate not only non-Russians living within its borders but also the non-Russian countries around its borders.  And ultimately, the failure of the Russian Federation to become itself “a union of state formations” will lead “sooner or later” to the undermining of Russian statehood.

            However that may be, some Russian politicians and some ethnic Russians appear committed to moving in the opposite direction.  On Saturday, Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire behind the Civic Platform, called for the abolition of the non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation (

                “The Stalinist and Leninist system of dividing [Russia] into national republics,” he said, “is ineffective in the 21st century.” Consequently, it should be abolished even if it requires, as would clearly be the case, “changes of the Constitution and the radical change of the budgetary system.”

            Meanwhile, two other groups in Russia attacked that country’scurrent system of ethno-federalism. A survey found that Muscovites “do not want to pay taxes” for other parts of the country, the other side of the coin of regional objections to Moscow’s control of their lives (

            And more seriously, groups of ethnic Russians in non-Russian regions of the Middle Volga have organized to protest requirements that their children learn the language of the titular nationality, something leaves them with less time to study the Russian language they need more generally (  and