Friday, November 22, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown – 11 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 39th 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

Russian Sports Minister Says Anti-Gay Law Should Have Been Adopted Only After Sochi.  Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister and the man who has had to defend Moscow for the Russian law banning the propaganda of LGBT values to young people, told RBK that “perhaps the state authorities should have waited a little ... It was possible to calculate how much resonance it would cause in the West,  especially in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics.” In short, for Mutko, the law is appropriate but it should only have been adopted after the games (

Austrian Paper Sees ‘Unmistakable Parallels’ Between Sochi 2014 and Berlin 1936. “Der Standard” says that there are “unmistakable parallels” between the Sochi Olympiad in 2014 with its anti-LGBT background and the Berlin Games of 1936 that occurred even as Hitler was preparing the Holocaust, parallels that people should not ignore ( Anti-Sochi activists are drawing the same parallels, photoshopping pictures of Hitler and Putin, with the suggestion that “every leader wants his own Olympiad” ( and

LGBT Supporters Rally against Russia Day at NY Stock Exchange.  LGBTs and human rights activists demonstrated against the holding of a “Russia Day” at the New York Stock Exchange because of Moscow’s anti-gay laws. The protest is part of a broader US LGBT effort against the Sochi Olympiad.  One guard said that the protesters had achieved a signal success: in contrast to past “days,” the Exchange did not put up the Russian flag outside its headquarters (

Russian Anti-Gay Law is an Attempt to ‘Exclude Sexuality’ from Human Rights and Citizenship, Expert Says.  Writing in the “Russian Analytic Digest,” Kai Wilkinson, an Australian expert on gay rights, argues that “the introduction of legislation seeking to keep LGBTQ people firmly behind a close and policed closet door ... marks an attempt by Russia to actively exclude sexuality fromnorm of human right and by extension citizenship. [This step] representsthe operationalizationof traditional values as a basis for human right [and] sets a dangerous precedent for the denial of the rights of citizenship to any group  at odds with traditional values, as well as encouragingthe use of moral vigilantism to censure dissent of any kind” (

Attacks on Gays in Russia Continue.  Two gunmen opened fire in a Moscow gay club. Meanwhile, in an indication that the Russian authorities are not doing enough to stop such violence, a Russian Orthodox activist was not sentenced to jail after shooting at a gay demonstrator who was carrying a balloon that the activist said “offended” him ( and

Russian Court Fines Lady Gaga for Promoting Homosexuality. A Russian court fined the group that organized Lady Gaga’s tour in Russia last May 615 US dollars for violating the Russian law against gay propaganda to young people.  One of those who was found guilty in this case said “the Russian government is criminal. Oppression will be met with revolution. Russian LGBTs you are not alone. We will fight for your freedom” (

International Anti-Doping Agency Provisionally Suspends Russian Drug Testing Lab.  The World Anti-Doping Agency gave the Russian authorities until December 1 to bring its drug testing laboratory up to international standards or face the prospect that WADA would permanently suspend it.  If the suspension stands, that would be both an embarrassment and create significant delays for Sochi competitors. WADA did not specify in public just what the problems were but at least one of them appears to be that the director the Russians had hired to head the Olympic lab had been arrested for drug abuse in the past. Russian officials have pledged to correct the problems promptly (,,,, and

Russia’s Torch Travails Continue, Sparking Mockery and Cartoons. The Olympic torch apparently did not go out this week as often, but its route through the Russian Far East sparked mockery and cartoons. Some focused on the expenses incurred – some 22,000 troops are guarding the route – but others found the pictures of it either absurd – flags and torches coming out of rivers, to give but one example.  As a result, a Yelkin cartoon showing Putin in Olympic garb carrying Russia as an Olympic torch that is burning at the other end went viral (,, and

Russians Lied about Circassian Support for Sochi Games, US Activist Says.  Russian media claims that a delegation of Circassian leaders from abroad adopted an official expression of support for the Sochi Olympics are a complete invention, according to Nikhad Yunis, a member of the International Circassian  Organization from the United States. In fact, he said, he and most Circassians continue to oppose the gameson the site of the genocide of their ancestors ( and

Circassians Use Istanbul Marathon to Oppose Sochi Games. Circassian participants in the Istanbul marathon wore shirts and carried signs calling on Turkey and other countries not to take part in the Sochi Olympiad (, and

Maykop Circassians Declare 2014 ‘Year of Grief.’  The Maykop Adyge Hase votedto declare2014, the 150th anniversary of the Circassian genocide “a year of grief.” Members said they would have done so even if the Olympiad had not been scheduled to take place in Sochi but that that decision makes this declaration especially necessary and important ( and

Current Definition of Genocide Reflects Stalin’s Ideas and Needs to Be Broadened.  Circassians who have sought to gain international recognition for the genocide of their ancestors at Sochi in 1864 have typically been told that the international definition of genocide doesn’t apply to them. But that definition, Stanford’s Norman Naimark argues in a new book, “Stalin’s Genocides,” reflects the Soviet dictator’s thinking and is too narrow. He says that it must be broadened to include other forms of mass murder of groups ( and

Circassians are Only Asking for an Apology, Scholar Says.  Sara Rainke, a specialist on Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, says that the Circassians are demanding “only an apology” for what Russia did to their ancestors.  If Moscow were to meet them part way on this, “the problem with Sochi would not be so large,” she writes in Berlin’s “Tageszeitung” (

German Greens Leader Says Sochi Games Must Acknowledge Circassian Tragedy.  Speaking at the opening of an exhibit on Circassian history in Hamburg, Cem Ozdemir, the head of the German Greens movement, said that at a minimum Moscow must acknowledge the tragedy that the Circassian people suffered there in 1864 ( and

Germany’s Circassians Call for Berlin to Boycott Sochi. The Circassian Cultural Union of Hamburg has issued a new appeal for the German government to boycott the Sochi Olympiad because the competitions are set to take place on the site of the 1864 genocide of the Circassian people (

Spending on Sochi Threatens Future of Circassian Scholarship in North Caucasus.  Because of the high cost of the Sochi Games, Moscow has fired 45 rsearchers at the Adygey Republic Institute of Humanitarian Research who have  been workingon Circassian issues. While the Russian government has been cutting staff at many universities around the country, this draconian move will almost certainly reduce the amount of research being conducted and published on Circassian issues in the future (

Openly Gay New Zealand Athlete Plans to Challenge Anti-LGBT Law at Sochi.  BlakeSkjellerup, a New Zealand speed skater, won’t “go back into the closet in any way” to avoid drawing the wrath of Russian officials. He may wear a special rainbow badge that has been designed for him bearing the words, “Blake Skjellerup – Proud 2014” (

Accident at Fisht Stadium Claims a Life. An industrial accident at the still-uncompleted Fisht Stadium where the Olympic Opening Ceremony is suppoed to take place cost the life of one worker and sent two others to the hotel (

Charges Brought Against Two Airlines for Delaying Flights at Sochi.  Russian prosecutors have filed charges against two airlines for failing to maintain their schedules and delaying  some 300 passengers as a result ( ).

English-Language Sochi Radio Begins Broadcasts.  Sochi Today, an English-language station, has begun 24/7 broadcastsat 101.5 FM in Sochi and 105.8 FM in Krasnaya Polyana to provide news and information to visitors (

Riviera Hotel Caught Dumping Untreated Waste into Sochi Sewers.  The luxury hotel, like many new buildings in Sochi, has now been connected with the city’s sewer system, but unlike most of them, it has refused to set up a filtration system to prevent the flow of certain toxic substances into the city’s sewers.  A special city commission has identified the violation of city ordinances and may bring criminal charges because of the harm this is doing to the city and its budget (

Leaning Towers of Sochi Case Settled. A Sochi court has partially satisfied those who brought suit against a construction company for failing to follow building rules and thus allowing the erection of buildings there that began to tilt and had to be destroyed lest they collapse on residents or passers by (

No Sochi Group Prepares ‘Know Sochi’ Kit for Athletes.  The organizers of the NoSochi movement acknowledge that they have failed to stop the Winter Olympics which will take place on the site of the 1864 genocide  and are now focusing on providing special kits for athletes that will tell those taking part in the games the tragic story of the Circassian deportation and genocide.  The group plans to send these kits to more than 300 athletes from 60 countries ( and

Moscow’s NTV Says Circassians Among Those Who Seek Russia’s Disintegration.  NTV broadcast a program entitled “Who Wants to Divide Russia?” in which it accused various people in the Russian Federation and abroad, including the author of these lines, of seeking the disintegration of the country. Among those singled out for special attention was Ibragim Yaganov, a Circassian activist ( ). Circassian groups denounced the attack as a “provocation” (

FMS Harasses Deutsche Welle Journalist.  Officers of the Federal Migration Service in Sochi detained Yekaterina Lukyanova, a journalist working for Germany’s Deutsche Welle radio, claiming she was “a foreign agent” and violating Russian law, although when challenged, the officers could not specify which one.  She in turn accused the officers of theft when they took her tape recorder, and they backed down and allowed her to leave the FMS facility, Moscow’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta” reported (

Human Rights Watch Calls on Sponsors, Journalists to Challenge Russia’s Anti-Gay Law at Sochi.  HRW has joined All Out in calling on Western sponsors of the Olympics and journalists who will be covering the games to challenge Russia’s anti-gay law but so far with little success.  When the sponsors have responded at all to the appeals, they have said that they have turned the issue over to the International Olympic Committee, which has already made it clear that it has no intention of making an issue of the Russian legislation.  Not a single corporate sponsor has agreed to do more, HRW officers say. All Out for its part has gathered 150,000 signatures calling on Coca Cola, one of the sponsors, to take a stand, but it is a measure of the level of fear in the Russian Federation that only 88 people in that country have joined in a corresponding effort (

IOC Demands Russia Block Broadcast of ‘Pirate’ Videos during Games.  In order to protect the rights of the sponsors of the Games and the contracts with the media companies covering them, the International Olympic Committee has demanded that the Russian authorities set up a system to ensure that any private and thus “pirated” videos of the competition that are put on line are taken down within a few minutes. Russian officials say they will form a group consisting of experts from the country’s force structures to do so (

6,000 Journalists Have Visited Sochi to Date. Even though the Olympics are more than three months away, some 6,000 journalists from other parts of the Russian Federation and abroad have visited Sochi.  Many of them have come on Moscow-organized and supervised tours, but many others have come independently. As a result, there is a steady and increasing flow of stories which not only flatter the authorities but point to the differences between what officials say and what is actually the case (

Krasnodar Governor Sends 3000 Workers to Help Finish the Job at Sochi.  Krasnodar Kray Governor Aleksandr Tkachev has organized the dispatch of 3000 “volunteers” to Sochi to help ensure that Olympic construction is completed.  “You must undertand,” he told them, “that everything depends at home. Yes, your wives and children remain at home and that’s tough,but you are building the Olympiad and you should be proud” ( and

EU-Russian Civic Forum Calls on Moscow to End Persecution of Environmentalists in Sochi.  The EU-Russian Civic Forum, a coalition of NGOs of the European Union and the Russian Federation, has called on Moscow to end the persecution of members of the Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus and other environmental activists working in the Sochi area ( The procuracy of Krasnodar Kray has now said it will investigate the matter (

Jordan’s Prince Ali Calls for Attention to Circassian Issue at Sochi. Prince Ali of Jordan says that the international athletic community should not be focusing only on the FIFA competition in Russia in 2018 but also on the Sochi Olympiad and that while it is “not FIFA’s job to get involved in the internal politics of a country,” the group “has a responsibility” to ensure that the competitions are conducted within the rules and after having addressed issues like the status of gays and the Circassians. Ali, who is a vice president of FIFA, adds that “The issues of racism or any discrimination – be it from players against players, be it from fans against fans or from workers or against workers – need to be tackled. At least we have to try our very best to diminish it as best we can” (

Billions for Sochi But Nothing for Russian Teachers and Doctors or for Public Safety.  Ever more Russian commentators are pointing to the ways in which spending for Sochi means that Moscow has no money to pay teachers and doctors promised salary increases or to guarantee public safety. For example, Yuliya Latynina says,  so much has been spent on stunts like sending the Olympic torch into space that the Russian government couldn’t find funds to guarantee the security of planes or airports. Indeed, other writers say, spending on Sochi has divided Russia into “two worlds,” one of Moscow officials who enrich themselves and another of ordinary Russian people who are increasingly impoverished as a result of what the Kremlin is doing  (

Moscow Puts Olympic Committee Not FSB in Charge of Information Security at Sochi, Soldatov Says. Andrey Soldatov, Russia’s leading independent specialist on the intelligence and security agencies there, says that Moscow’s latest moves to monitor and control the use of cellphones and other electronic devices at Sochi are disturbing not only by their unprecedented breadth but also by the fact they are being done entirely openly, with Moscow assigning responsibility for them to the Olympic organizing committee rather than the FSB.  That means, Soldatov says, that “the Russian authorities consider such monitoring of Olympic guests so natural that, without thinking about it,” they have given responsibility for it not to the security services but to a body that has not performed such functions ever before.  While that does not mean that the FSB will not be involved, it does indicate that there has been a spreading of such security efforts into parts of Russian officialdom many have assumed were separate from them (

Sochi Security Zone to Cover 4,000 Square Kilometers, Jane’s Clements Says.  Moscow is is focusing its security effort on a zone extending100 kilometers along the coast and 40 kilometers inland, according to Matthew Clements, an analyst at Jane’s Defense Weekly.  What is striking about his report is that most observers had assumed that any threat would come from inland rather than by sea (

Trash and Bicycles as Sochi Security Threats.  One Sochi resident suggests that trash in bags around Sochi could easily conceal a bomb, and other Sochi residents say that the ongoing counter-terrorism exercise suggests that Russian authorities are especially concerned about the possible use of bikes as the vehicles of choice for any terrorists entering Sochi ( and

Moscow Postpones Trial of NGO Accused of Being ‘Foreign Agent’ Until After Sochi.  A Russian court has postponed the trial of the Public Verdict NGO which the authorities have accused of being a foreign agent until February, possibly in order to avoid attracting more unfavorable media publicity in advance of the Olympiad (

Sochi Spending Hurting Many Russian Regions, Zubarevich Says.  Moscow’s spending on Sochi is leading to cutbacks in subsidies for most Russian regions even though the central government has done nothing to eliminate the unfunded mandates it has imposed on them, according to Natalya Zubarevich, a professor at Moscow State University who has served as an expert advisor at the UN and the World Bank. She says that as a result, the country’s economy is not recovering but rather sinking deeper into recession (

Moscow Cracks Down on Pirating of Sochi Trademark.  The Russian authorities continue to crack down on companies that exploit without permission the Sochi Olympiad trademark ( and But it has so far not succeeded in blocking those who seek to sell Olympic torches online or prevented the sale of its own special Sochi-themed Sochi currency for more than face values ( and

Ever More Sochi Officials Charged with Crimes.  Although many officials in Sochi have benefitted financially from preparations for the Sochi Games, an increasing number of them are being charged with a variety of crimes and even sentenced to prison terms.  In 2010, only one official was charge with the misuse of his office; in 2012, six cases, involving nine city officials, were begun (

Sochi’s Law and Order Movement Seeks Prosecution of Local Paper.  The local newspaper in Sochi, “Mestnaya,” has attacked the independent Law and Order Movement there for its  criticism of the city administration. In the past, the group has felt that the best response is not to dignify these charges by responding at all. Now, however, in the face of what is views as increasingly slanderous attacks, Law and Order has called on prosecutors to bring charges against the editors of the paper. Whether they will or not remains to be seen, but any court case would shine a bright light on  the way in which the city has used this outlet to repress independent groups (

Some Olympic Sites Declared Open But are Not Really Finished.  According to local residents, officials have declared certain Olympic-related facilities open even though visits to them shows that they are far from finished.  One example of that is the Adler railroad station which President Vladimir Putin officially opened but which as photographs show still requires a great deal of work to actually finish (

Kremlin Said Using Sochi Not Only to Steal from Russians but to Take Away Their Rights. Anaatoly Baranov, the editor of FORUM.msk, says that in addition to using the Sochi Games to steal from Russians and enrich themselves, the members of the Putin regime are showing a complete disregard for the constitutional rights of Russian citizens. It turns out, Baranov says, tht “a certain Putin can simply by his own order suspend the application of the Constitution of the Russian Federation” by requiring registration and limits on movement that the 1993 basic law prohibits ( Meanwhile, a Duma committee has approved special traffic rules for Sochi, further limiting Russians’ right of free movement. Igor Levedev, the vice speaker of the Duma from the LDPR, says that instead of passing such legislation, Moscow should “simply say to the citizens of Russia that the Olympiad in Sochiis not for them” but only for the elite and for foreigners (

Damage from September Storm Still Not Overcome.  The September 25 storm that knocked down trees, flooded parks and streets, and damaged the seawall and many buildings has still not been fixed nearly two months later, local residents and journalists say.  The city administration says that it doesn’t have the equipment it needs to do so because that is being used to finish Olympic buildings.  But as a result, many parts of the city are still a mess and may well continue to be through the time of the Games (

New Trial of Drug Dealers Points to Expanding Problem.  Three gastarbeiters in Sochi have been sentenced to lengthy terms in prison for selling illegal drugs, a case that will do nothing to ease relations between Russians and these Central Asian and North Caucasian workers. But this case, the latest in a series of such actions in recent months, suggests that the illegal drug trade is expanding in Sochi as more money and more people flow into the city in advance of the games (

Plane that Crashed in Kazan was Originally Slated to Fly to Sochi.  The Boeing 737 that crashed near Kazan was originally scheduled to fly to Sochi, but it was shifted to the Kazan route because “the number of passengers for Kazan exceded the number who were flying to Sochi,” according to company officials (

‘Misha and His Mothers Go to the Olympics’ Book Now Online. A children’s picture book that an American group has printed 10,000 copies of for distribution in Sochi to protest Russia’s anti-LGBT laws is now online.  Among the legends of the pictures in it are the following words of Misha: “I dream of a Russia where my family can be treated equally like in other countries. I’m scared when the men on TV say they want to take me away from my moms.  My name is Misha. My family has two moms and a dog named Laika. My moms and I went to the Olympics and new new friends from around the world. My new friend Pascal has two dads who are married. They live in France. . I’m scared when the men on TV say they want to take me away from my moms.  It made me feel sad to see the police beat up people who are gay like my moms. I dream of a Russia where my family can be treated equally like in other countries. I’m scared when the men on TV say they want to take me away from my moms.”  The producers of this book say that they do not believe it violates Russian law but say that local officials may nonetheless seek to confiscate it and arrest those who distribute it (

Some Sochi Residents Fear Their City Will ‘Go the Way’ of Stavropol.  Some Sochi residents fear that the influx of people from the North Caucasus to help build Olympic sites will trigger the kind of ethnic tensions that already are defining life in Stavropol. Their fears are especially great because in Sochi, as was the case in Stavropol, ever more ethnic Russians are leaving, thus accelerating the transformation of the ethnic mix of the city and its environs (

Some Sochi Residents Stop Paying Rent Because They Haven’t Been Paid Wages. The failure of some contractors to pay wages to people working on Olympic construction projects has now had a cascading effect. Beginning November 1, residents in some Sochi apartment buildings are not paying their rent.  If landlords move to expel them, the residents will use the court cases to protest wage arrears (

New Sochi Construction Impressive, But Who Will Use It After Olympiad?  Many Sochi residents and visitors are extremely impressed by the Olympic facilities now being completed. But an increasing number are asking who will use all these buildings after the Games and why “people on the Black Sea coast need yet another [city like Moscow]?” ( For a listing of just how many new buildings, roads, and infrastructure lines have gone up, see

Olympic Opening Ceremony to Feature Lezginka Dancing.  The organizing committee has announced that a group of young artists from the North Caucasus will dance the lezginka at the opening ceremonies of the Sochi games, despite the fact that many Russians are offended by that dance when North Caucasians do it in their cities (

Few Ordinary Russians Will be in the Stands at Sochi.  According to Maksim Gladkikh-Rodionov, the director of an auditing firm, few ordinary Russians will be in the stands at Sochi because of high prices. Most of the seats will be taken by “representatives of the [Russian] bureaucratic elite” and foreigners (

Two-Thirds of Russians Think They’re At Risk in Terrorist Attacks.  According to a new Levada Center poll, 66 percent of Russians say that they “do not exclude” the possibility of new terrorist attack, and 71 percent say they are concerned that they or those close to them could be among the victims (

Some Muslims in Russia Fear Sochi Portends for Them What 1936 Berlin Olympiad Did for Jews.  According to a commentary on the, some Muslims find themselves worrying about whether the Sochi Games could presage the kind of violence against them that Hitler’s Olympiad did for the Jews.  Most, the commentary says, do not think that the situation in the Russian Federation is that dire, but all hope that such fears will prove without foundation (

Olympic Contractors Continue to Illegally Dispose of Trash. Despite the protests of environmentalists, contractors working on Olympic sites are continuing to dispose of trash illegally and in ways that threaten public health. Sometimes they create new dumps without authorization; at other times, they simply throw the trash out (,,  and Meanwhile, a group of Sochi residents is using trash to make art, both to highlight how much construction and other waste there now is and to try to make something beautiful out of what is anything but (

Olympic Construction Destroying Sports Facilities for Sochi Residents.  Sochi residents are increasingly complaining about one of the ironic developments in their city over the last year: The companies building Olympic facilities are destroying many of the most popular sports facilities that residents and especially their children had been accustomed to use ( and

Blogger Proposes Contents for Sochi Survival Pack.  Anyone living in Sochi needs a survival pack, one blogger has said, and it should include water, heating devices, batteries and generators, and internet connectivity. Otherwise, he says, the individual’s fate will be less than good (

Many Sochi Residents Continue to Live without Electricity and Gas ... Despite promises and claims to the contrary, many people in Sochi do not have regular electric power or gas for cooking and heating. That is forcing many of them to live “by the light of the moon” (

... without Potable Water ...  Sochi’s water supply has been so contaminated that many people are posting pictures of water that is green or black or brown and reporting that it has terrible smells and is unsafe for drinking.  The authorities have responded by dumping massive quantities of chlorine into the water supply but that hasn’t helped in many cases, residents say. Some are now calling the water that comes out of their taps “Olympic juice” (,,,

... Without Heat or Safe Streets... The heating season has begun in Sochi, but many residents are not getting any heat or hot water.  The city authorities have claimed that everything is in order, prompting some Sochi residents to ask “why do they keep lying to us?” Others are complaining that walkways, underpasses and streets are so torn up that it is impossible to move safely fromone place to another (,,,

... But Now with Smog ... Sochi residents have seen somethingthat they suspect is worse than fog: smog, the result of construction fumes and atmospheric conditions (

... And Higher Prices. Because Moscow has imposed a price freeze during the Olympic Games, many merchants in Sochi are boosting prices now in order to establish a higher baseline during the Olympiad (

Sochi Airport Attracts 12 Percent More Passengers This Year than Last.  Russian officials proudly noted that 2.1 million passenger have passed through Sochi’s airport so far this year, 12 percent more than for the same period in 2012.  But visitors note that despite many upgrades, the airport still has “a reading corner” that resembles those of Soviet times (  and

Casting Call for Female Olympic Medal Presenters.  Russian Olympic organizers have advertised for 113 female assistants who will present the medals at the Sochi Olympiad. Only women between 17 and 35 are eligible, the organizers say, and they must be at least 5’5” tall. Once seleted, the presenters will be trained in make up and hair styling (

North Capital Can Aspire to 2024 Summer Games if 2014 Winter Games in Sochi Succeed. The Russian Olympic Committee says that St. Petersburg would be “a serious contender” to host the 2014 Summer Games if the Winter Games next February in the southern Russian city of Sochi are a success (

No comments:

Post a Comment