Friday, May 10, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 39 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 13th 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

British Foreign Office Says Travellers Should Avoid North Caucasus … Citing the danger of terrorist attacks, the British foreign office has warned travelers not to visit portions of the North Caucasus not far from Sochi. It divides the region into zones, with the most dangerous being in the eastern and central part of the North Caucasus (

… But Kadyrov Says Chechnya is “More Secure than England” … Furious at London, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says that he is sure that conditions are “more secure than they are in England” and invites everyone to visit his republic. Other North Caucasus leaders register similar if less hyperbolically expressed objections to the British announcement (

… And Russian Diplomats Complain. The Russian embassy in London also complained, posting a declaration on its website saying that the British statement is both surprising and disturbing because the warning implies that “the British authorities are better informed about the situation regarding terrorist threats on the territory of Russia than are the Russian authorities” (

Putin Orders Strengthening of Russia’s Southern Borders.  Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed his country’s security agencies to do everything they can to strengthen their country’s southern boders to protect Russia from the illegal flow of migrants, terrorists and drugs (

US FBI Director Visits Georgia toTalk about Sochi Security.  According to Richard Norland, the US ambassador to Tbilisi, FBI director Robert Mueller discussed security at the Sochi Olympics with Georgian officials because his agency is responsible for the defense of Americans against any terrorist threat ( and

Sochi Police Block Soviet Veteran from Placing Flowers on Victory Memorial.  In what one Sochi blogger calls a manifestation of “real FASCISM,” the police in Sochi blocked a veteran of World War II from placing flowers at the war memorial there on Victory Day, evidence of the increasing high-handedness of the authorities in that Olympic city (

Bad Organization, Mismanagement Plague Pre-Games Competition in Sochi.  In what could prove a foretaste of things to come, the just-completed Cultural Olympiad in Sochi was plagued by bad organization and mismanagement so severe that many of the children who took part did not get their awards and many of their parents and local residents were deeply offended (

Sochi Residents Express Their Dislike of City’s Mayor with Graffiti.  Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov regularly says that 75 percent of Sochi residents support him, but ever more people there are expressing their anger at his trampling of their rights in pursuit of Olympic glory in Moscow by posting articles on the web and drawing anti-Pakhomov graffiti on city buildings (, , and

Georgia May Use Sochi Games Against Abkhazia, Commentator Says.  A Circassian commentator suggests that Georgia, which has now decided to take part in the Sochi Olympiad, may use that event to generate support for its call for the re-integration of the breakaway republic of Abkhazia, something that could make Tbilisi’s involvement with the games far more of a problem for Moscow than Georgia’s earlier plans for a boycott. In the event, Tbilisi currently plans to send only seven athletes to compete at Sochi (, and

Georgian PM’s Office Denies Reports He’ll Go to Sochi Games. Spokesmen for Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili say that they do not have any information supporting Russian media reports that he will attend the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympiad (

Buildings in Sochi May Collapse Because Contractors Did Not Prepare Ground Adequately.  Construction specialists say that in their rush to finish Olympic-related construction, builders did not prepare the ground underlying many facilities and as a result those buildings may collapse as the earth beneath them subsides ( and

More Corruption Found in North Caucasus Resorts Operation.  The Russian interior ministry says that it has found additional evidence of corruption in the scandal-plagued Resorts of the North Caucasus organization and that further charges against it will soon be brought ( and

International Rights Group Supports Circassian Appeal to Moscow. The International ovement for the Defense of National Rights says that it supports a Circassian appeal to the Russian president calling on him to recognize the Circassian genocide, provide assistance to Circassians in Syria, and help overcome the territorial divisions of the Circassian community in the North Caucasus (

Visitors to North Caucasus Resorts Pass a Billboard Warning that ‘Terrorism is a Threat to Humanity.’ In a survey of the problems – corruption, climate, bad roads, and  local opposition – that the development of resorts in the North Caucasus near Sochi face, Reuters repors that those who nonetheless do try to visit these sites will pass signs carrying the warning that “Terrorism is a Threat to Humanity,” a message that some of them are unlikely to find welcoming (

Those Who Get to the Resorts May Find Them ‘Potemkin Villages.’ At least one North Caucasus resort,the one located in Chechnya’s Veduchi, is little more than “a Potemkin village,” something that may look completed but in fact is little more than a façade, local journalists say (

Circassian Leader Says Moscow Has Missed Its Chance to Reach Out to His Nation.  Arambiy Khapay, theleader of the Adyge Khase-Circassian Parliament, says that Moscow had a chance to mend fences with theCircassians but has missed it by going ahead with plans to hold the Olympics on the site of the 1864 genocide of the Circassianpeople. Noting that many share his views, Khapay said that even if he and other Circassians are asked to participate in some way in the cultural program of the games, he personally would be unwilling to do so. Such activities, he suggested, would do the Circassians “more harm than good” (

Sochi Girl Breaks Her Leg on Badly Constructed Street There. A young girl broke her leg because of a hole in a Sochi street created and not corrected by those building Olympics-related facilities (

Prisoner from Sochi Recaptured After Flight from Moscow Prison.  Sochi was again in the Moscow news this week because Oleg Topalov, a Sochi man being held in Moscow Mastrosskaya tishina prison escaped but then was recaptured after a massive manhunt (

German Human Rights Activist Says Moscow Must Apologise to Circassians.  Sarah Reinke told the Taz newspaper that “Russia must apologise” to the Circassians for the genocide Russian officials carried out against that nation in 1864 (!115733/).

Sochi Residents Upset by Behavior of Central Asian Gastarbeiters.  To complete the construction of Olympics-related facilities, Russian contractors have brought into Sochi large numbers of gastarbeiters from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  As in Russian cities, there have been problems, including clashes, and Sochi residents say they can’t wait for the gastarbeiters to leave once the construction is done.  Muscovites howver suggest that Sochi residents are “naïve” if they think the Central Asians will ever go home (

Much Construction in Sochi is ‘Semi-Legal.’ There are many buildings in Sochi that have been thrown up illegally and are now only “semi-legal” because their owners either have power or pay bribes to local officials.  Those who don’t or can’t, local people say, face the prospect that their buildings will be torn down in the name of enforcing the law ( and

Moscow Officials Issue List of Foods Not to Be Sold in Sochi Lest They Make Visitors Sick. In an effort to prevent mass gastro-intestinal problems among visitors to Sochi next year, Moscow officials have put out a list of potentially dangerous foods that must not be included on the menus of restaurants in Sochi during the Games ( ).

Russians Angry that Sports Construction Reducing Funds for Roads in Their Areas. Ever more Russians appear to be recognizing that Moscow’s decision to spend massively on sports facilities is casting a shadow on their lives by reducing funds for the repair or construction of streets and roads near where they live (

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