Friday, April 12, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 43 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my ninth 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

Unlike China Before Beijing Games, Russia is Becoming More Repressive.  Many had expected Moscow to moderate its repressive course if it received an Olympic bid, an American journalist writes, but the Russian government has cracked down further. Nonetheless, Joshua Foust suggests, “an Olympic boycott movement which would affect Russia’s much-beloved national pride might actually spur some reconsideration. Absent that movement, it’s likely Russia’s behavior will continue unmodified” (

Circassian Organizations in North Caucasus Demand Inclusion of National Symbols at Sochi.  Timur Tenov, a scholar at the Kabardino-Balkaria State University, says that “a majority of social organizations” in the Circassian republics “demand the inclusion of Circassian symbols” at the Olympiad, while a minority are calling for boycotts or other forms of protest (

‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Article Critical of Sochi Games Pulled from Paper’s Website. An article by Aleksey Gor bachev sharply critical of the Sochi Olympiad has been pulled from the website of the newspaper where it originally appeared. But copies of the article are still circulating on the Internet. For the story, see; for the text of the article itself, see

Abkhazia Plans to Highlight Its Stability at Sochi.  Nikolay Trapsha, an Abkhaz historian, says his republic plans to use the Olympic Games as an occasion to attract attention to itself as an island of stability and progress in the North Caucasus (

People Seeking to Visit a Beach Near Sochi Charged with Holding ‘Unsanctioned Meeting.’ A group of visitors who only sought to use the beach have been charged with trying to organize an “unsanctioned” meeting, a measure of the level of the nervousness of officials in the region about such a possibility (

Circassian MuftiatesWant to Open a Mosque in Olympic Village.  Religious leaders from Adygeya, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia are pressing officials for the right to build a mosque in the Olympic village at Sochi (

Sochi Mayor at Risk of Being on US Magnitsky List.  Anatoly Pakhomov, the mayor of Sochi, may be among those prevented from entering the United States by being listed on the Magnitsky List of officials who have violated human rights, according to Yury Mosha, an émigré Russian businessman (

Abkhaz Scholar Says Sochi Games Must Benefit Circassian Peoples.  Soslan Salakaya, an Abkhaz professor, says that the organizers of the Sochi Games must ensure that they are conducted in a way that will benefit the Circassian nationalities ( ).

Domestic, Foreign Groups Pushing Circassian Case on Sochi Games.  Aleksandr Krylov, a specialist at Moscow’s IMEMO, says that the Circassian issue has risen in importance as a result of the efforts of “certain foreign players and definite forces in the Caucasus” (

Sochi Being Sacrificed for Olympics, Visitor Says.  Tatyana Cherkezyan says her visits to Sochi have convinced her that the interests of the people of Sochi are being sacrificed in order to put on a good show for the Olympiad just as the interests of the people of Moscow were sacrificed for the Olympics in 1980 (

Resort Official Puts Himself Beyond Reach of Russian Law.  Akhmed Bilalov, the former head of the North Caucasus Resorts program who has been charged with embezzling millions of rubles, has gone abroad where for the moment at least he is beyond the reach of Russian courts (, and

Kremlin Might Free Khodorkovsky to Distract Attention from Sochi Failures.  A Moscow commentator has suggested tha the Kremlin might decide to free imprisoned Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky in order to district domestic and international attention from failings at Sochi (

Adyge Khase Leader Urges Tougher Stance on Sochi.  Murdin Teshev, the honorary chairman of the Adyge Khase public meeting, says that Moscow has not responded to Circassian demands and that the Circassians must adopt a tougher stance regarding the upcoming Olympiad (

Circassians Form Group to Protest Exclusion from Games.  A new movement, called “Right to a Motherland,” has emerged among the Circassians and is directing its efforts for the inclusion of their co-ethnics in the Sochi games “which are taking place on an ancient Circassian land” (

Sochi Construction Projects Face Labor Shortage.  Sochi construction projects are being held back by a shortage of skilled labor in the region, according to Russian specialists (

Fewer Foreign Networks May Cover Olympiad than Moscow Expects.  Three Australian television networks have decided not to put in bids to cover the Sochi games because the prices they would be expected to pay are too high (

Russian Fans Will Have to Pay More than Foreign Ones to Visit Sochi.  Ticket prices for people coming from Europe or Asia will be far lower than for those visiting from Siberia or even the Middle Volga, travel agencies say ( 

Putin Should Lead Russian Team at Sochi, Supporters Say. The Russian National Committee 60+, which was put together to plan for Putin’s 60th birthday, says that the Russian president should lead the Russian team at Sochi as a master of sports and notes that he will have the chance to carry the Olympic torch on his birthday (

US Geological Survey to Help Predict Problems at Sochi.  Officials of the US Geological Survey will help provide technical expertise about possible natural disasters that may occur in advance of or at the Sochi Olympiad (

Warm Weather May Threaten Competitions. Even the warehousing of snow may not be enough if Sochi suffers from anomalous warm weather next year, officials say, because high temperatures could make it impossible to keep venues in shape for competition (

Sochi Olympics ‘Shame’ Russia, Writer Says.  Commenting on an article that suggested that those building the Olympic venues are real professionals, a reader of “Novaya gazeta” says that corruption and other forms of official malfeasance about the games are “shameful.” He suggested that the builders should have been employed to put up housing for ordinary Russians (

Moscow May Put Off Protesters’ Trials Until After Sochi.  One Russian activist suggests that in order to avoid international embarrassment, Moscow may delay trials for those charged will illegal activities in the course of peaceful demonstrations in the Russian capital and elsewhere until the Olympiad is completed (

Sochi’s Duma Deputy Calls for Creation of Special Economic Zone There.  Sergey Krivonosov, a United Russia representative from Sochi in the Russian Duma, has called for the establishment of a special economic zone around Sochi, a step that would benefit the major investors in the Olympiad ( It is unclear, however, whether such a zone would do much to stem the decline of small business there (

Former Ecology Official in Sochi Sentenced to Prison for Nine Years.  Elena Sokolinskaya, the former head of environmental protection in Sochi, has been sentenced to nine years in prison for allowing builders to run roughshod over the green spaces of her city (

By Delaying Issues Until After Sochi, Moscow Will Face Bigger Problems.  Dmitry Kovalyev, a Russian commentator, says that the Kremlin is seeking to put off efforts to resolve problems in the Caucasus until after the Olympics but that doing so will only make those problems still worse (


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