Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Three Uniquely Russian Developments

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 15 – Three events this week represent what may be described as uniquely Russian developments: independent analysts conclude that one-quarter of state budget next year is secret, someone the government uses as an expert on extremism has been declared an extremist, and the status “enemy of Orthodoxy” has become a firing offense.

            First, in a move that makes government accountability ever more difficult, Vasily Zatsenin of the Gaydar Institute says, the Kremlin has increased the share of the budget that is classified as secret from an average of 11.2 percent for the years 2005-2012 to 24.8 percent for 2016 (vedomosti.ru/finance/news/17428831/rossiya-pryachet-byudzhet).

            Worse, he says, such secrecy is extending far beyond the security and intelligence sectors to include housing and other areas normally in the public domain. That makes a discussion of the government’s priorities more difficult, and it also provides new and larger opportunities for the covert diversion of public funds into private hands.

            Russian officials argue that this secrecy is not a problem, although outside epert say that the counties with the most open governments usually classify only one to three percent of their budgets. The United States, with its enormous defense budget, currently classifies about eight percent of its total state budget.

            Second, in a development that highlights the inconsistencies and some would say absurdities of the Russian government’s anti-extremism effort, a Kazan-based specialist who is a member of a government council that offers assessments of the extremist quality of texts has been found to be an extremist himself (nazaccent.ru/content/9361-sulejmanov-obzhaluet-preduprezhdenie-o-nedopustimosti-ekstremizma.html).

            Rais Suleymanov, head of RISI’s Volga Center for Regional and Ethno-Religious Research, is currently appealing a warning he received from a district court that his writings about Islamist radicalism in the Middle Volga and in other parts of Russia are themselves extremist.

            The researcher said that he believed his case will go into the history books because “Suleymanov is recognized as an extremist but at the same time they begin to cooperate with him as a consultant in the struggle against extremism,” an absurd situation that calls into question both the one and the other side of his activities.

            And third, in a move that shows the dangerously growing influence of the Moscow Patriarchate in affairs far from its core responsibilities, an artist has been dismissed from her university position for drawing posters in support of one of the Pussy Riot participants now incarcerated and thereby becoming “’an enemy of Orthodoxy.’”

            Despite having had her work displayed across the country, Lusine Dzhanyan was fired from the Krasnoyarsk University of Art and Culture where she had taught for ten years because, in the words of that institution’s rector, she had become “an enemy of Orthodoxy,” a “crime” nowhere defined in the criminal code (mk.ru/social/article/2013/10/07/926478-storonnitsu-tolokonnikovoy-hudozhnitsu-lusine-dzhanyan-obyavili-vragom-pravoslaviya.html).

            Dzhanyan has received support from artistic groups in Moscow and human rights groups both inside Russia and abroad, and many of them say that this blatant extension of clerical power in the Russian Federation will prove counterproductive to the Moscow Patriarchate and lead ever more Russians to oppose its pretensions and those of the state who support them.


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