Friday, June 14, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 34 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 16th 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

Some Sochi Olympic Package Tours to Cost 20,000 US Dollars a Day.  Those who want to watch the Olympics in Sochi can now purchase packages costing up to  670,000 rubles (20,800 US dollars) a day, excluding he cost of travel to that North Caucasus city, Moscow newspapers say. This is only one of many indications that these games are being organized for the wealthiest, something that is infuriating ever more Russians and raising eyebrows in the West as well  (,,,, and

Sochi Games ‘a Curse’ for Daghestani Officials.  The upcoming Olympiad as become “a curse” for officials in Daghestan, “Nezavisimaya gazeta” says, noting that Moscow has been moving against officials in that North Caucasus republic for more than six months in the hopes of improving security conditions there (

Pre-Sochi Purge Hits Russian Military… Moscow’s efforts to impose order in the North Caucasus in advance of the Sochi Games has now claimed a senior military commander in the region, with the commander of the 58th Russian Army being charged with illegally using his subordinates as servants ( and

… and Muslims in Moscow. Under orders from President Vladimir Putin to crack down on Islamist groups in Russia in advance of the Sochi Games, Russian officials rounded up 300 Muslims in Moscow last week (

Moscow Bank Says Most Government Loans to Oligarchs for Sochi Work Won’t Be Repaid. Russia’s Vnesekonom Bank says that even if Olympic sites are completed on time, the Russian government is unlikely to get back many of the loans it has made to oligarchs involved in their construction and that as a result the Russian tax payer will have to bear the brunt of the costs (

Moscow Features Chukchis Not Circassians in Pre-Olympic Cultural Spectacle. “To celebrate the Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad’s Year of the Museum,” Russian officials say, they are “showcasing the culturreofthe Chukchi, Eskimos,” and other numerically small peoples of the North but not the Circassians or other peoples of the North Caucasus, possibly in the hopes that covering some ethnic communities will lead outsiders to conclude that Moscow is covering all of them  (

Russian Media Outlets Continue Anti-Circassian Campaign.  For another week, Russian outlets in the North Caucasus and elsewhere have continued their attacks on the Circassians, blaming that nation for Islamist terrorism and suggesting that its complaints about the 19th century genocide carried out against them are either false or overblown (, ,,, and

Sochi Journalists Call on Moscow to Drop ‘Fabricated’ Case against Journalist. Nikolay Yarst, a Russian Public Television journalist, who has been accused of drug possession apparently in an effort to silence him, faces new legal problems, something that has prompted journalists in the Olympic city to appeal to Moscow officials to drop what they call “the fabrication of a criminal case” against their colleague (  and

Russian Officials Seek to Close Crusading Sochi Paper. Russian officials have stepped up their efforts to close the “Mestnaya” paper in Sochi, apparently because its journalists have filed too many critical stories about the local establishment, corruption, and problems with the preparation of the Olympiad. To date, the paper has held out and attracted support from the population and journalists there and elsewhere in Russia. Many Sochi residents say they fear that if the paper is closed, they will not be able to find out about problems in their city (,,, and

Sochi Residents Say Olympic Construction Has Left Them ‘Like Animals in a Cage.’ Sochi residents say that contractors working in Sochi have ignored their property and labor rights and left them “like animals in a cage.” They add that their complaints to local, regional, and central Russian officials have been ignored with no one in the chain of command willing to “offer [them] any help” (

Putin Says He’s Ready for Georgia to Help with Security at Sochi.  Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Moscow is “absolutely ready” for help from Tbilisi on security at the Olympiad even though the two governments do not have diplomatic relations with each other. The Russian leader added that “we wantto repair our relationships” because “we have a very warm attitude to Georgia” and “are very close peoples” (

Shapsugs Seek Circassian Education in North Caucasus.  The Shapsugs, a subgroup of the Circassian nation whose ancestors lived where Sochi now is, are pressing their demands for expanding the use of Circassians in schools in Krasnodar kray and elsewhere ( ).

Circassian Activists Launch New ‘Krasnaya Polyana Genocide 1864’ Site. In order to call attention to what they call “the bitter reality and continued repercussions created and sustained by imperialist arrogance and stubbornness” of Russian governments over the last 150 years, a group of Circassian activists has launchd a special website to call attention to Russian crimes against their nation in Sochi and surrounding areas (

Shoddy Construction Methods Leave Sochi Sites a Mess.  Sochi residents say that “about half” of the streets around apartment blocks in their city are a mess as a result of sloppy construction of Olympic venues and support facilities and that many of the sites themselves may look finished but are little more than facades hiding construction shortcomings ( ). The residents add that contractors have destroyed much of the natural environment in many parts of the city (, and they complain that officials have failed to quickly clean up storm damage to beaches and other facilities ( Some of them have now gone to court to try to force contractors to live within the law but so far without signal successes ( and

Moscow Roundtable Highlights Problems in Russian-Circassian Relationship.  Speaking at an academic roundtable on “The Caucasus in the History of Russia,” Valery Tishkov, the director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, noted that one of the reasons for problems between Russia and the North Caucasus, including its Circassian regions is the fact that “the period of the joint existence in a single state has not been as long” as is the case with other non-Russian portions of the Russian Federation (

Russians Point to Few Post-Soviet Successes --Except Sochi.  According to a VTsIOM poll, “the majority of residents of Russia cannot name [any] successes” over the last two decades. The one most often named by the others is the Sochi Olympiad, an event that has not yet taken place. Seven percent said that it was already a source of pride (

Anti-Sochi Posters, Banned in Perm, Go Viral on Internet.  The satirical posters of the “Welcome to Sochi” exhibition that officials banned in the Russian city of Perm has now spread across the Russian blogosphere (,  and

Environmental Concerns Spark New Protests in Sochi.  Sochi residents and activists from the Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus organized a demonstration in a central square there tocall attention to the destruction of the environment there as a result of Olympic construction (, and Other Sochi residents staged a second protest in the city’s Kudepsta region over construction problems there ( and

Krasnodar Governor Promises Gastarbeiters Will Be Sent Home After Construction.  Aleksandr Tkachev, the governor of Krasnodar kray, said that he would not allow gastarbeiters from Central Asia to remain in Sochi after they finished building the venues of the Sochi gameslest they contribute to “a growth of criminality and social tension” and transform Sochi into a Kosovo, an apparent acknowledgement that that is what they are perceived to be doing (

Moscow TV Shows Open Sale of Illegal Drugs in Sochi.  Moscow’s “Rossiya” channel featured a segment showing the sale of illegal drugs in the Olympic city, noting that local residents are concerned but that the Russian interior ministry has been unwilling to make any comment about what is going on ( 

Sochi Residents Organize ‘Law and Order’ Movement.  In order to try to force Sochi city officials to stop violating Russian law, residents of the Olympic city are organizing a new movement, called “Law and Order,” to press their case (

Sochi Officials Can’t Identify Any of Their Number as ‘Pride’ of City.  Despite the erection last month of a sign to allow them to honor city officials who are “the pride” of Sochi, the local administration has not been able so far to identify “officials about whom [Sochi residents] can be proud,” the site says (

Will Sochi Follow Kazan and Kill Homeless Animals?  Officials in Kazan in advance of the Universiade there have killed some homeless animals.  Given that many in Sochi say that Kazan is a trial run for the Olympiad next year, some of them are now asking whether Russian officials in Sochi will follow Kazan’s lead in this regard too, despite repeated promises not to (

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