Monday, September 30, 2013

Window on Eurasia: American Isolationists Can Help Moscow Create a Multi-Polar World, Moscow Blogger Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 30 – Moscow has already assembled “a multitude of allies around the world” in its campaign to oppose American hegemonism and globalism, but in its “struggle to create a multi-polar world,” Russia must “seek to acquire allies within the United States,” first and foremost among American isolationists, according to a Moscow blogger.

            In an article posted on the “Telegrafist” site today, Maksim Sigachyov suggests that there are “two possible directions” Moscow could pursue in its effort to find “enemies of American globalism within the US” – focusing on separatists within the US or joining forces with “patriotic isolationists” in the Republican Party who oppose the “neo-conservative imperialists” (

                The latter which some call “isolationist paleo-conservativism” is more powerful, Sigachyov says, dominating as it does the right wing of the Republican Party including figures like Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Patrick Buchanan, and Paul Weyrich and with deep roots in the Tea Party movement.  Thus, it is a better ally for Moscow in its campaign for a multi-polar world.

            In support of his argument, he cites the September 16th article by Mikhail Shevlyakov on Robert Taft ( and as well as the conclusions found in  a September 3rd commentary by Bret Stephens in the “Wall Street Journal” (

            According to the Russian blogger, now is the time for Moscow to form an alliance with these American “patriotic isolationists” because, he says, “the overwhelming majority of Americans are against a military strike on Syria and more generally are against their country being drawn into new conflicts abroad when nothing is threatening the security” of the US.

            “Ordinary Americans” no longer support “humanitarian intervention” and thus have views like those of Robert Taft (1889-1953), who as a leader in the US Senate opposed American entry into World War II and opposed American involvement in Europe after the war which prompted Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., to describe his ideas in 1952 as “the new isolationism” (

                Taft’s views, Sigachyov says, were based on the idea of a “Fortress America” capable of defending itself if attacked but otherwise largely uninterested in what is taking place elsewhere in the world.  And those ideas, the Russian blogger argues, are now to be found throughout the United States, to the consternation of liberal internationalists and American financial interests.

            According to Sigachyov, who bases his argument on Shevlyakov’s article, there are four basic principles underlying American isolationism: “the US must built a ‘fortress America,” its strength willguarantee that no one will attack it, “the US must not interfere in foreign conflicts in ways that undermine its defense capabilities, and “involvement in wars threatens” to create “a dictatorship” in the US itself.

            One can see certain “parallels,” the Russian blogger says, with Russian Eurasianist and geopolitical writer Aleksandr Dugin, who writes about “’another Europe,’ as an alternative to the liberal-Atlanticist” variant in that American isolationists oppose the idea of “another America” to liberal internationalism of almost all kinds.

            It is clearly in Russia’s interests, he suggests, to promote these “isolationist tendencies of Amereican continentalism.”  Indeed, he argues, there may even be possibilities to conduct “a dialogue of Eurasian continentalism and American continentalism.” But even before that, the American isolationists will help “destroy the Global Wall Street.”

            Reaching out to American isolationists, Sigachyov says in conclusion, has ideological value within Russia because “right Republican isolationists” in the US and Russian nationalists both rely on “entrepreneurial forces” to oppose banks and global financial players.  And the American example, he says, will help Russians develop “an absolutely patriotic ideology.”


Window on Eurasia: With Koran Ban, Moscow Finally Provokes Russia’s Muslim Masses

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 30 –With a Russian court having now declared the Koran to be “extremist,” Moscow has finally done what it says only Wahhabist and other Islamist radicals and hostile foreign intelligence services want: it has provoked not just the leadership of Russia’s 20plus million Muslims but this community as a whole.

            Muslims in Moscow and in cities across the country have put up banners denouncing the Novorossiisk court’s September 17 decision to declare a translation of the Koran “extremist” – the one on the Moscow ring road reads “Russia Against Islam: the Koran is Banned” – staged demonstrations, and begun petition drives to have the Kremlin overturn this declaration.

            In some places, the police moved quickly to take the signs down, but in others, including the Russian capital, these signs have remained up.  The number of demonstrations appears to be increasing, and the number of Muslims signing petitions is growing as well. (For a sampling of reports, see,,,, and

            The demonstrators and petitions are calling the Novorossiisk decision “an absurdity” and “a beastial error,” one that in the words of the petition circulating in Krasnoyarsk kray “demonstrates the incompetence of the organs who are taking such decisions” (

            According to Krasnoyarsk Mufti Gayaz-khazrat Faatkullin, what has happened to the Koran in Russia could easily happen to the holy books of other faiths, a dangerous development in which is “evident the shadow of the era which ended in the 1990s” and one that all believers must therefore oppose.

            How far this effort by Muslims will go is unclear: their anger at the Russian state may dissipate more or less quickly because that state, however oppressive it may be in particular cases, is not capable of enforcing a ban on the Koran across the entire country.  But it is clear that Russia’s Muslims are angry about this action, and that poses two challenges for the Kremlin.

            In the short term, President Vladimir Putin will have to choose between two unpalatable outcomes: overturning the declaration of the court about the “extremism” of the basic text of Islam, something that will infuriate many Orthodox Russian nationalists, or enforcing the decree which will only further alienate Russia’s Muslims and the Muslim world abroad.

            And in the longer term, Putin’s regime and its successors will have to deal with a problem they have helped create: a growing sense of Muslim identification among various peoples of the Russian Federation and a willingness of Muslims to organize politically against the regime.

            That danger is already present.  According to recent surveys, ever more Muslims in the Russian Federation are prepared to support Muslim political parties, with an absolute majority in many predominantly Muslim republics saying they would  (

            Whatever Putin decides to do, this latest case of overreaching by a Russian court, apparently animated more by anti-Islamic attitudes among many Russians than by any legal standard Russia or otherwise, has made the situation far worse for the Kremlin than have any earlier actions by any Muslim group in the Russian Federation.

Window on Eurasia: Demographics in Non-Russian Republics Will Block Their Independence, Russian Nationalist Site Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 30 – Stalin’s first act of ethnic engineering, one that he and many others believe eliminated any chance that the Middle Volga could pursue independence, was to divide Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, surround both by ethnically Russian territories, and include significant ethnic Russian populations within them.

            But now apparently concerned that those arrangements may be insufficient, especially if the Russian Federation becomes a Russian nation state, a Russian nationalist site argues that patterns of ethnic settlement within these republics are such that they could not pursue independence without disintegrating ( and

            This research – and the site promises additional articles on the ethnic demography of other non-Russian republics in the future – is interesting not only because it shows the kind of studies that the 2010 all-Russian census makes possible but also because it unintentionally highlights Russian nervousness about the aspirations of these republics.

            Regarding Tatarstan, the Sinn-Fein-Front site begins with three oft-cited statistics: the small size of the Tatars relative to the population of the Russian Federation (3.72 percent), the small share of Tatars living in Tatarstan (23.7 percent), and the complicated ethnic mix within Tatarstan (with half of the population being Tatar but almost as many being ethnic Russians).

            And then it argues that most Tatars living outside the republic are well integrated into Russian life and have little interest in returning to their “historical Motherland.” Only Tatars already living there are characterized by what the site calls “aggressive Tatar nationalism” and far from all of them.

            But the most interesting data in the article are those concerning the ethnic composition of of Tatarstan’s regions as displayed in a series of maps.  Tatars are a minority in most of the parts of the republic and Tatarstan, as an ethnic entity, “is divided into three parts which are not connected with one another,” and thus, “the separation of Tatarstan from Russia is impossible.”

            The site provides a similar set of data for Bashkortostan and the Bashkirs.  It notes that only slightly more than half of the Bashkirs live in Bashkortostan, that they are outnumbered there by the Slavs (37 percent to 29.5 percent), and that they “dominate only in the south east and in a fragmentary way in the north.”

            Thus, the Sinn-Fein-Front page concludes “the establishment of a pure Bashkiria even on the territory of Bashkortostan is problematic.”  And it is made even more problematic, it asserts, because of the complicated relations of the Bashkirs with the Tatars – the site suggests their relationship is analogous to the Ukrainians and the Russians – and with the Finno-Ugrics.

            Therefore, the site concludes, “the risk of separatism is minimal” in Bashkortostan just as it is in Tatarstan.  Both republics, it continues, will be satisfied if they have significant cultural autonomy and local self-administration within a Russian nation state, something this Russian nationalist says no one can reasonably oppose.

            And consequently, the site says, those who think that “the transformation [of the Russian Federation] into an [ethnic] Russian state will automatically lead to the separation of the Middle Volga and Siberia and more generally to the reduction of Rus to the borders of Moscow oblast” are wrong.”

            Unfortunately for the Sinn-Fein-Front author, there are at least two reasons for thinking his argument is incomplete.  On the one hand, and as was obviously the case with the non-Russian union republics of the USSR in 1991, nationalist movements do not assume that the demographic situation they find themselves in is permanent.

            Some of them clearly pursued independence because they feared that they would be ethnically swamped by Russians if they did not, and others did so out of a belief that as independent countries, they would have the opportunity to change the demographic mix on their territories in the future.

            And on the other, if one uses the data provided by Sinn-Fein-Front but considers it in terms of ethnic Russian settlement patterns, those who argue for the elimination of the non-Russian republics through amalgamation like Vladimir Putin does or those who want a Russian nation state are up against the same problems that this page says the Tatars and Bashkirs are.

            Those areas in the Russian Federation which are ethnically Russian in the sense Sinn-Fein-Front suggests for the Tatars and Bashkirs are also disconnected one from another, and thus any effort to unite them in an ethnically Russian state could prove just as futile – and counterproductive – and this site says the non-Russians would find an analogous pursuit to be.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Finn Who Criticized Moscow for 1939-1940 Winter War Detained in Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 29 – Russia’s detention and subsequent expulsion of a Helsinki lawyer who has written books sharply critical of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Finland in 1940 is part of a disturbing new Russian campaign that reflects Vladimir Putin’s view that the Winter War allowed Stalin to “correct” earlier Bolshevik mistakes about Soviet-Finnish border.

            On Friday evening, Kari Silvennoinen, a Finnish lawyer and the author of two books that criticize Moscow’s actions in 1939-1940, “Soviet Guilt” and “Soviet War Crimes Against Finland,” was arrested at a Moscow airport and kept without food and water for 14 hours before being expelled  (

            Russian officials, Silvennoinen told a Helsinki newspaper, “say that I have not been arrested but this is a locked room” ( “I was able to call my Russian partner in St Petersburg. He talked with the border guard officers, but even he could not find out what this was all about.” His partner suggested that it may have been designed to “scare off” Silvennoinen from working on a criminal case in Russia.

On his return to Helsinki Saturday night, the lawyer said that he “realize[s] that I am not wanted in Russia. Back in time, I was persona non grata in the Soviet Union — now I am the same in Russia as well. […] I would like to know the official reason [for my arrest]. Naturally, they will never disclose the actual reason,” Silvennoinen suggested

He said he suspects he was arrested because of Moscow’s efforts to “criminalize” any deviation from Moscow’s official line on World War II and because of his work with Russian clients. Silvennoinen said he would not go back to Russia but would meet Russian clients in Helsinki: “Russia has gone full Soviet again. It is better to stay away.”

Because this incident has been resolved and because neither Helsinki nor Moscow have commented officially, there is a strong likelihood that little will be said.  But it is clear that this is part of a broader effort by the Putin regime against anyone in Finland who criticizes it. To give but one example, there currently denial of service attacks against some Finnish sites.

            Russian President Putin is clearly behind such actions.  In March, he declared that Stalin had launched the Winter War in order to “correct” mistakes of earlier Bolshevik leaders who had allowed Finland’s border with the USSR to come within “17-20 kilometers” of Petersburg (