Staunton, March 11 -- Even though Vladimir Putin is extremely successful in managing the news about the big issues in Russian life, such as what he calls “the investigation” rather than the cover up of the murder of Boris Nemtsov, he cannot control the flow of news items which directly or indirectly show the way in which his country is moving.
Here are a devil’s dozen of developments over the past week which paint a disturbing picture of just what the direction of that course now is:
- Russians May Like Putin But They Won’t Wear Putin Buttons. Fewer than 20 percent of Russians say that they wear or would like to wear Putin buttons or Putin T-shirts, a far cry from the 86 percent who say they support him – and yet another indication that his support may be broad but it is anything but deep (openrussia.org/post/view/3360/).
- Moscow Patriarchate Using Civil Courts to Impose Its Views. Even though the courts have dismissed a Russian Orthodox effort to declare a Wagnerian opera illegal (interfax-religion.ru/?act=print&div=18297), that attempt -- which attracted international attention and thus disturbed the Kremlin -- is only one of the tip of the iceberg in this regard and points to the rise of clericalism in Russia, according to Stanislav Minin, an expert on religious issues (sova-center.ru/religion/publications/2015/03/d31458/).
- Russia and North Korea Declare 2015 ‘Year of Friendship.’ In advance of the scheduled visit of the North Korean dictator to his Russian counterpart, the two countries have declared 2015 to be “a year of friendship,” an action which underscores not the expansion of Russia’s friends around the world but its contract to the set of outlaw governments like the one in Pyonyang (nr2.com.ua/News/world_and_russia/KNDR-i-Rossiya-obyavili-2015-y-godom-druzhby-91865.html).
- New Russian Immigration Rules Seen Increasing Number of Illegal Gastarbeiters. Instead of solving the problem of immigration, Moscow’s new rules point to an increasing number of illegals, possibly increasing profits for Russian businesses that can treat them in a cavalier fashion with impunity but certainly increasing the criminal aspects of that community in the future (newizv.ru/society/2015-03-10/216181-patent-iz-perehoda.html).
- Mass Dismissals at Some Russian Plants. Nearly 2,000 Russian workers were laid off at a single plant last week as a result of worsening economic conditions. Such increases in unemployment are not always being recorded in official figures, but they set the stage for serious social and even political problems where they occur (rabkor.ru/columns/events/2015/03/10/chimprom/).
- Conspiracy Theories have Become ‘Ethical Pornography’ in Russia. One Moscow commentator suggests that the rise of conspiracy theories as the Kremlin spins out versions of how Boris Nemtsov was killed represent a kind of “ethical pornography” in which every possibility seems possible and in which right and wrong as well as good and bad are constantly transposed (rufabula.com/author/dmitriy-ursulov/396).
- Supporters of Moscow Peoples Republic Clash with Anti-Maidan Activists. The Moscow Peoples Republic proved that it is more than an Internet project when some of its supporters clashed with Anti-Maidan activists in the Russian capital. The numbers of people involved appears to have been very small, but like the dog that talked, the fact that it happened at all is what matters (v7v7v7.com/2015/03/09/srochno-po-vsey-moskve-massovye-stychki/).
- As Lenin Statues Come Down in Ukraine, a Stalin Museum Goes Up in Russia. Supporters of the Soviet dictator have opened the first such museum near Moscow to memorialize the site to which Stalin made his only visit to the front in World War II in August 1943 (espreso.tv/blogs/2015/03/10/10_marta_2015_h_cerkov_vyzhyvshykh).
- Vladivostok Seeks Restoration of Tsarist-Era Free Port Status. The Russian city in the Far East is seeking the restoration of the status it enjoyed as a free port before the 1917 revolution, something that could boost its lagging economy but only at the price of expanding the role of foreign countries in a region that already looks more to China and Japan than to European Russia (kp.ru/daily/26350.4/3232379/).
- Fewer Marriages Ahead in Russia. There will be fewer marriages in Russia in the coming years because the numbers of people in the prime marriage cohort are much smaller than in the past, the result of the extremely low birthrates of the 1990s. That is yet another reason why the number of births in that country are likely to fall and its demographic situation worsen (opec.ru/1801762.html).
- Kostroma Oblast Being Destroyed. Russian-majority regions of the Russian Federation other than the two capitals get almost no attention, but as a description of the current state of Kostroma Oblast shows, they are the ones who have suffered the most over the last two decades and who, the Kremlin’s ideological pronouncements notwithstanding, are being given the least help now (forum-msk.org/material/region/10729498.html).
- No More Positive Heroes in Russia? In Soviet times, the communist authorities promoted images of positive heroes to get their citizens to take pride in their country and to work harder. But now, according to one Moscow commentator, positive heroes have almost disappeared from the media. Instead, the Putin regime offers only negative ones, people that Russians can and even are expected to hate (slon.ru/posts/49189).
- Beria Celebrated forBuilding Soviet Atomic Bomb. Lavrenty Beria, Stalin’s notorious secret police chief and a well-known degenerate, is now being celebrated as the father of the Soviet atomic bomb. It is true that as head of the NKVD, he organized much of the Soviet espionage and development effort in that sphere, but one has to ask what kind of a country would celebrate the memory of someone that despicable? (zavtra.ru/content/view/beriya-glavnyij-geroj-atomnogo-proekta-sssr/).