Thursday, December 25, 2014

Window on Eurasia: ‘A Real Genocide’ – Trains to Stop Running in Most Russian of Russia’s Regions

Paul Goble


                Staunton, December 25 – Local electric train service will end in Vologda Oblast on January 1, cutting much 70 percent of the population of that most ethnically Russian of Russia’s regions off from its capital, make it more difficult for people there to get educations or even medical treatment, and thus threaten them with what Aleksey Navalny calls “a real genocide.


            Oleg Kuvshinnikov, the governor of that region, says his administration has tried to keep the trains running by offering more subsidies to Russian Railways but not no avail, and he points out that the problem.” his region faces is one that many regions share (


            For people in many countries with good highways and large numbers of private cars, such a development may seem entirely normal, but as Navalny, the embattled Russian opposition figure, points out, in Russia which lacks such things, the ending of such local train service is almost apocalyptic for those who have relied on it (


                Even today’s Muscovites may not understand just how serious a development this is, Navalny says, but “as someone who for several years travelled by electric train to university and back (and 60 percent of the residents of the country will understand [him] perfectly well, this is HELL.”


            Vologda Oblast, he points out, is an enormous place, equal in size to all three Baltic countries. It has 1.2 million people, but only a quarter of them live in the administrative center. All the rest have to travel there in order to get medicines, education and so on. “How are these people going to get there if there are no electric trains?”


                Even during the years of stagnation and the wild 1990s, people could rely on the trains to run on time, but now after Putin’s much-ballyhooed growth and stability, Moscow is doing away with this most essential form of public transportation, directly harming the wellbeing and even the lives of the Russians involved, Navalny says.


            There is “a sad irony” in this, he continues, noting that for many months, Moscow television has been filled with stories about “’the genocide of ethnic Russians.’” Vologda Oblast “stands in first place among all other regions of Russia in terms of the Russian share of the population – 96.56 percent” of its people are ethnic Russians.


            And for many Russians, it is the archetypically Russian region because of the photographs of Russians taken there in 1908 by Prokudin-Gorsky. There were no trains then, and soon there won’t be any again, a remarkable testimony to what the last hundred years have brought the Russians there.


            Meanwhile, China is building more high-speed trains and electric trains continue to function even in war-torn Donetsk. But Moscow doesn’t care about the fate of the residents of Vologda, about the ability of mothers there to take their children to the oblast hospital or for shopping.


            Instead, the Russian government makes bold declarations about protecting Russians everywhere, except of course in Russian places like Vologda, and works to ensure that no one will challenge the right of rich Russians to build palaces in Sochi or buy expensive property in London or elsewhere in the West.


            If this isn’t evidence of “intentional genocide,” Navalny asks, “what would be?”

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