Friday, March 29, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 45 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my seventh special Window on Eurasia about the meaning and impact of the planned Olympiad on the nations in the surrounding region.  These WOEs, which will appear each Friday over the coming year, will not aim at being comprehensive but rather will consist of a series bullet points about such developments.  I would like to invite anyone with special knowledge or information about this subject to send me references to the materials involved.  My email address is  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble

Sochi Olympiad Not Unifying Russia as Moscow Hopes, Singer Says.  Mikhail Boyarsky a Russian singer, says that he doesn’t believe that the Sochi Olympics is unifying the country. At best, it may be a distraction from other problems; at worst, an event which highlights them. (

Anti-Sochi Posters Appear at Siberian Art Show, Go Viral Online. A series of posters against the Sochi games, with themes like “The Quiet Rehabilitation of Stalin is Taking Place in Russia,” “United Russia Violates the Rights of the Peoples,” “The GULAG is Being Reborn,” and “Bad Ecology in the Russian Federation,” appear at a Siberian art gallery and have spread across the Russian blogosphere ( and

‘You’ll Be Skiing on Mass Graves’ at Sochi, Poster Warns Competitors. A poster prepared by Circassians shows the mountains of Sochi being supported by the bones of Circassians who were killed there by Russian forces in 1864 (

Russian Media Expose Putin’s Snow Leopard Stunt.  Most Russian media at first accepted Vladimir Putin’s account of Mongol the snow leopard, but an increasing number of outlets are reporting that the leopard was abducted, held in captivity, and injured himself trying to escape from the cage in which he was kept until Putin’s photo op. (

More Than Half of 50 Billion USD Spent on Sochi has been Illegally Diverted. Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the Russian opposition, says calculations show that 25 to 30 billion US dollars supposedly spent on preparations for the Sochi games have in fact ended up in the pockets of corrupt officials and businessmen (

Olympic Construction Blocks Only Road Adler Residents Can Use.  Those responsible for building Olympic sites have routinely ignored the needs of local residents, shutting off power and water on a daily basis. But perhaps most dangerously, they have now blocke the only roads local people can use to get to hospitals in the case of an emergency (

Moscow Organizes ‘Dances of Small Peoples’ Competition in Sochi.  Russian officials included in dance competition a category demeaningly named “Dances of Small Peoples” as part of their effort to suggest that they are taking the concerns of the peoples of the North Caucasus into consideration in advance of the games. (

Russia Elite Building Resorts at Sochi Fearful Its Members Won’t Be Able to Go Abroad.  Britain’s Financial Times advances that argument, one that may help explain why the Kremlin has been able to attract so much money from the oligarchs, and some Russian news sites are picking this indictment of what is going on (

Parking Fines to Double in Sochi during Games.  Moscow hopes to recoup some of its spending on the games by increasing fines for parking, but as Novaya gazeta points out, there is one problem: more cars are expected for the competition but officials have not built enough parking spaces. (

Unhappy with Its Biathlon First Team, Moscow Sets Up Competitiors. Russian officials, upset that their biathlon first team has done so poorly have decided to form competing teams in the hopesof getting a better result at Sochi. (

Sochi Organizers Expect 250 Million USD from Ticket Sales. Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi organizing committee, says he expects the Sochi Games –estimated to cost 50 billion USD – to bring in 250 million USD in revenues, about the same as the Vancouver competition which cost far less. He added that some ticket prices will be very high but that many will be relatively reasonable in the hopes that Sochi can fill more than 70 percent of the seats that is the winter games average (

Russian Sports Minister Seeks to Lower Expectations of High Russian Medal Count.  Russian skiers “can’t be expected” to win their competitions at Sochi, Vitaly Mutko said. If they win third place, that would be “an outstanding achievement.” (
In Advance of Games, Moscow Will Seek to Calm North Caucasus with Cash.  Russian officials and commentators say that over the coming months, Moscow will use money as its primary means to calm the restive North Caucasus ( As a result, some observers say, Chechnya head Ramzan Kadyrov and others in the region can expect to retain their positions and act as they like until after the games (

Sochi Flooding Threatens Some Olympic Facilities. Russian officials say that poor decisions about the location of some Olympic venues and support facilities are putting them at risk of serious flooding. (  and

Sochi Housing Prices Now Too High for Longtime Residents.  The influx of money into Sochi in advance of the games has driven up housing prices to the point that many local people no longer can afford to live there. (

Greenpeace Says Russia Violates Environmental Promises. The builders of Olympic facilities at Sochi are dumping trash into rivers and woodlands and otherwise violating the environmental promises the Russian organizers have made to the International Olympic Committee ( and

Hollywood Adjusts Calendar Because of Sochi Games.  The Academy Awards, the Screen Actors Guild and the Producers Guild of America have all shifted the dates for their annual ceremonies so that they won’t conflict with the Sochi Games (

Kremlin-Recognized Religious Groups Will Supervise Religious Facilities in Sochi.  At the request of the Sochi Olympic Committee, the so-called “traditional” and officially recognized religions of the Russian Federation – Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism – will help run the five prayer rooms that are being set up for competitors and visitors at the Sochi Olympiad (

Berezovsky Called for Boycotting Sochi Games Until the Last.  Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch who died in Great Britain last week, predicted that the Sochi Games would fail and called for boycotting the right up until his death (

Russian Officials Killing Homeless Animals in Kazan, Sochi.  Officials have begun programs to kill homeless animals in Kazan and Sochi in advance of international competitions in those cities, actions that have sparked outrage, calls for boycotts, and online petitions against such inhumane behavior (,, and

Scholars Call on Moscow to Include ‘Circassian Elements’ at Sochi Games. Specialists on the North Caucasus in the Russian Federation have adopted a resolution calling on Moscow to include references to Circassians and their history in public materials about the games (

Russian Interior Ministry Hiring Divers to Protect Sochi from the Sea.   The MVD is seeking to hire divers who will be able to protect Sochi from any threat from the Black Sea during the Olympiad (

Moscow Scholar Dismisses Circassian Complaints, Says People Always Suffer in Wars.  Aleksandr Krylov a senior scholar at IMEMO of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says that people in the North Caucasus did experience “numerous victims and tragedies” in the past but that unfortunately that is what happens in wars. Consequently, there is no basis for demanding a boycott of the Sochi competition beause of what happened iin 1864 (

Sochi Games Focus Attention on Circassian Tragedy, Activist Says. Adel Bashqawi says that despite Moscow’s hopes to present itself in a positive light, the run-up to the Sochi Olympiad has had the effect of focusing international attention on what Russian forces did to the Circassians 150 years ago (

Is Moscow Seeking to Reduce Reports about Problems in Sochi?  In an act of intimidation undoubtedly intended to reduce the flow of unfavorable reports about conditions surrounding the  preparations for the Sochi games, FSB officers raided the offices of Environmental Watch in Maikop (

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