Friday, May 17, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 38 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 14th 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

Duma Leaders Praise Olympic Construction, Ignore Sochi’s Problems, Residents Say. Leaders of the United Russia, Communist and LDPR parties visited Sochi and said, among other things, that the Olympic building program was on schedule and that they had bene told that “no extra money will be needed; maybe there will even be savings” ( and  But local residents complained that the Moscow politicians ignored them altogether, reaffirming their belief that “Sochi doesn’t have any relation to the future Olympiad” ( and

International Petition Drive Against Killing Homeless Animals in Sochi.  A group of Europeans has organized an online petition to protest the decision of the Sochi authorities to kill rather than sterilize homeless animals in that city prior to the competition. The authors of the petition note that the city is even expecting to make a profit of 42,500 euros on the killings (    

NBC Reports Strong Ad Sales But Also High Costs for Sochi Coverage. The Wall Street Journal reports that Comcast’s NBCUniversal division is now “projecting advertising sale of more than $800 million” for the Sochi games but that higher than normal costs may eat into profits (

North Caucasus Resorts Gets Another Director -- and a Deputy Related to Khloponin.  Sergey Verehchagin has been named director of the troubled North Caucasus Resorts project and Nikita Shashkin, a close relative of North Caucasus FD Plenipotentiary Aleksandr Khloponin, as his deputy (

More and More Construction Projects in Sochi Start and Then Stop without Explanation. Sochi residents are upset that the contractors preparing for the Olympics often start a construction project, dig up the grounds, and then stop, often for weeks or months, without any explanation but with many problems for those living nearby (

Sochi Residents Organize Against Their ‘So-Called’ Government. The citizens of Sochi are organizing to oppose the often inexplicable behavior of their “so-called” government which is supposed “to serve the people and not just be a ruler” but which has lost its bearing and is ignoring the will of the population ( To that end, some of the citizens are organizing into teams which check construction projects and report violations of the law to news outlets and website (

Moscow Ramps Up Anti-Circassian Campaign in the Media. Denies Any Genocide Took Place in 1864. With each passing week, Russian media outlets are pushing ever more anti-Circassian articles with some of them explicitly stating that there is no truth to Circassian claims that the Russian government committed a genocide against them by killing or expelling hundreds of thousands of them to the Ottoman Empire ( and

Sochi Rights Activist Dies, Officials Refuse to Allow His Burial in Local Cemetery. Yury Molchanov, a human rights activist who had exposed corruption and official malfeasance in Sochi and who had been the target of threats from supporters of the regime, died of a brain hemmorage. Sochi officials then refused to allow his wife to bury him in a local cemetery (

70,000 Gastarbeiters Now in Sochi, Given Housing Ahead of Local People.  Southern FD plenipotentiary Vladimir Ustinov says there are now 70,000 gastarbeiters working at construction projects in Sochi, and local officials says that they have been given housing ahead of local people who have been on waiting lists (  and

Olympic Facilities Encroach on Cemeteries. Many people in Sochi are disturbed by the fact that some Olympic venues and support facilities are encroaching on the territory of local cemeteries and making it impossible to honor the dead buried there (

Sochi City Officials Spend a Million US Dollars to Boost Their Image.  Even though they have failed to fulfill many of their basic obligations, regularly feature as defendents in criminal trials and are widely disliked by the population, Sochi city officials have set aside 32,628,000 rubles for a public relations campaign on their own behalf (

International Circassian Association Head Backs Appeal to Putin.  Kh. Sokhrokov, the president of the ICA, has announced his support of an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin calling on him to acknowledge the 1864 genocide and to support the return to their homeland of the Circassians now in Syria (

Circassians in US to Demonstrate on 149th Anniversary of Circassian Genocide.  Circassians living in the United States have announced plans to hold a demonstration in New York calling for the repatriation of the Circassians living in Syria, a boycott of the Sochi Olympiad, recognition of the Circassian genocide by the international community, and the  restoration of a united Circassiaan republic (

Georgian PM Says He Doesn’t Rule Out Going to Sochi.  Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishivili says that he does not know whether he will go to the Sochi games, notes that he hasn’t received “an official invitation,” but does “not rule out” that he might attend (

Putin Meets British, Israeli Prime Ministers in Sochi.  As part of his campaign to boost the Sochi Olympiad, Russian President Vladimir Putin received separately the prie ministers of Israel and Great Britain. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu did not discuss the games, but Britain’s David Cameron said that London will provide limited security cooperation with Moscow during the competititon (, and

US Ambassador to Moscow Says He Wants to Take His Family to Sochi.  In a tweet, Michael McFaul, the US ambassador to Moscow, says that he wants to take his family on vacatin to Sochi this summer (

Tour Packages for Sochi Games to Cost 10,000 US Dollars.  Russian tour firms have announced that tour packages for the Sochi games for a four day visit will cost 300,000 rubles or about 10,000 US dollars, far beyond the ability of most Russians or others to pay (

Putin Drops Visa Requirement for Competitors at Sochi, Other Games.  Russian President Vladimir Putin has suspended the visa requirement for all athletes who want to take part in the Sochi games or other athletic competitions in the Russian Federation (

Problems in Kazan Spark Rumors Universiade Will Be Moved to Another City. Several websites are reporting that officials, upset by the fact that many venues are not yet ready, may move the Kazan Universiade to another city, rumors that other officials are denying ( and

Adler Turns from Green to Gray Because of Dust but No Photographs are Allowed.  The city of Adler, where most of the Sochi venues are, used to be known for its green trees, but dust from Olympic construction has turned the city gray. Few know that, a Russian news weekly reports, because officials are prohibiting photographs of either the sites or the environmental pollution (

A Site Officials Listed as Completed Was Never Built. Sochi activists have discovered that one site Moscow officials routinely list as work completed, a railway station, was never built but remains open ground (

Circassian Activist in Tbilisi Calls on Georgia to Boycott Sochi Games.  Andro Gabisonia, the head of the Circassian Congress and Circassian Cultural Center in Tbilis, says that Georgia should boycott the Sochi games to protest Russia’s continuing violation of its territorial integrity (

Russian Scholar Says Sochi Could Promote Decentralization and Pluralism But that Putin is Opposed. In an article in “Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye,” Andrey Makarychev, who teaches at the Free University of Berlin, says that the Sochi Games could have had the effect of promoting a more pluralistic and decentralized Russia but that President Vladimir Putin has sought to use them to move in the opposite direction (

Sochi Part of Moscow’s Myth-Making Process, Swedish Scholars Say.  In an article in the latest issue of “Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye,” Bo Petersson and Emil Perrson of the University of Malmo say that Sochi has become part of the myth about the revival of Russia that President Vladimir Putin has worked so hard to promote (

Sochi Residents May Have Benefited Financially from Games but are Angry Because Their Voices Have Been Ignored, Swiss Scholar Says. Martin Mueller, a geographer at St. Gallen University, says that despite investments exceeding 100,000 euros per capita in Sochi, residents of that city are outraged because they have been ignored. He adds that their anger will continue long after the competition ends (

Despite Moscow’s Promises, Sochi Will Not Be Barrier Free for Invalids. Despite Moscow’s promises and plans to hold a para-Olympics there and despite IOC requirements, the Russian government has not made the Sochi venues accessible for those with physical handicaps. Indeed, in many cases, the facilities are not easily accessible even for those without such limitations (,,

Untreated Human Waste Continues to Flow into Sochi Streets and Trash Continues to Build Up Around the City. Despite complaints, officials have not stopped the flow of untreated human wastes into some Sochi streets, local residents say ( Moreover, and again despite complaints and official promises, mountains of trash continue to build up around Sochi (

Officials Decide to Demolish Leaning Tower of Sochi. A new building that has tilted in a few months even more than its famous counterpart in Pisa over the centuries because of subsidence and inadequate foundations will be torn down before it falls down, officials say (

Russian News Outlets Report ‘Sochi Countdown’ Compiler’s Judgment that Sochi Will be Putin’s Greatest Failure. and other Russian news agencies have reported Paul Goble’s statement to the Voice of America that “the Olympiad which Vladimir Putin planned as the symbol and greatest achievement of his presidency is more likely to become his greatest failure” not only because of the games themselves but of what they are showing Russians and the world about the nature of his regime (

Why are We Throwing a Party for Putin?’ Canadian Commentator Asks. Kate Heartfield of the Ottawa Citizen says that “it’s too late to cancel the Sochi Olympics. But it isn’t too late to make sure Sochi is the last incredibly stupid choice of location for a major international sports event” and one that is being used to whitewash an authoritarian political system (

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