Staunton, October 30 -- The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and often strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.
Consequently, Windows on Eurasia will present a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the eighth such weekly compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.
1. Russian Activists Want to Make Putin a Saint. The National Committee 60-Plus has called on the Russian Orthodox Church to adopt special rules to allow the accelerated canonization of the Russian president while he is still alive (forum-msk.org/material/news/11045307.html).
2. But Some Iconography about Syria Portrays Putin as a Shiite Muslim. There have been rumors at various points that Vladimir Putin has converted to Islam, but most such suggestions have had it that he has joined “traditional Russian Islam” which is overwhelmingly Sunni. But as a result of the Kremlin leader’s backing of Syria’s Asad, some iconography portrays him as a Shiite (golosislama.com/news.php?id=28121).
3. Russians Take Putin to Court for Doing Nothing. A group of Russians in Lipetsk have launched a law suit against Vladimir Putin which seeks to hold the Kremlin leader criminally responsible for having failed to do anything to prevent the current crisis in Russia (forum-msk.org/material/news/11038662.html).
4. Russia Producing More Rockets but Its Tanks Get Stuck in Muddy Roads. Russia’s main rocket factory has now gone to three shifts a day, signally that Moscow intends to boost its military preparedness (echo.msk.ru/news/1647024-echo.html). But the Russian government has not been able to do anything about a fundamental reality: Russia’s roads are so bad that its tanks continue to be swallowed by the mud (sibkray.ru/news/8/878277/).
5. Russians Wearing T-Shirts Showing Bombing of Syria. T-shirts showing Russian planes bombing Syria are becoming extremely popular in Russia, but Russian attitudes about the war may be less enthusiastic that Putin would like: He recently had to order that the death of a Russian soldier there be declared a suicide, something few Russians appear ready to believe (charter97.org/ru/news/2015/10/29/175858/ and grani.ru/opinion/milshtein/m.245391.html).
6. Russian News Agency to Replace Journalists with Robots. The Yandex portal says that it will use robots rather than journalists to compile its news stories. The robots should be even easier to redirect in the ways the Kremlin wants (vedomosti.ru/technology/articles/2015/10/25/614215-yandeks-informagentstvo-roboti).
7. Eating Potato Chips is Sinful, Moscow Patriarchate Says. The Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy says that eating potato chips is sinful, part of its campaign to establish a kind of Orthodox Christian halal system defining what foods can and should be eaten and what ones must not be (themoscowtimes.com/article/540307.html, interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=60621 and izvestia.ru/news/594120).
8. Moscow has Given Only 317 Ukrainians Refugee Status. Despite its claims to be welcoming of those coming from Ukraine, the Russian authorities have given only 317 Ukrainians the status of refugee, a situation which leaves the rest in an irregular and potentially problematic legal status (qha.com.ua/ru/obschestvo/v-rossii-tolko-317-ukraintsev-poluchili-status-bejentsa/150233/).
9. Russian Soap that Smells Like Rubles Introduced in Vladimir Oblast. Russians in Vladimir Oblast can now buy soap that smells that freshly printed rubles. Like rubles, of course, the soap declines in size with every use (rufabula.com/news/2015/10/29/money-soap).
10. Ruble’s Collapse Leads to Flood of Chinese Tourism in Russian Far East. One group that has benefitted from the ruble’s collapse has been Chinese living near the Russian border. They have begun to flood into the region to take advantage of the lower prices as a result of the ruble’s decline. It seems certain that many Russians will be anything but happy about this collateral consequence of Russia’s monetary problems (asiarussia.ru/news/9660/).
11. Russian Cossacks Say Ukraine’s Donbas is Theirs. Cossack Groups in the Russian Federation say that Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region should be handed over to them, thus adding a new wrinkle to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and opening the way for new claims about Cossackia, a land that Moscow has long insisted doesn’t exist (ng.ru/regions/2015-10-28/6_kazaki.html).
12. Urals City Named Most Islamophobic Place in Russia. Muslims say that Pervouralsk-Vasilevsk-Shaitansk is far and away the most Islamophobic place in Russia. This may be something that the city fathers there will actually want to take pride in given the growing hostility to Islam in Russia (ansar.ru/person/pervouralsk-vasilevsk-shajtansk-samyj-islamofobskij-gorod-rossii-kto-izgonit-besa).
13. No Halloween in Russia if Church and State Can Help It. The Russian Orthodox Church and some Russian officials have stepped up their campaign against any celebration of Halloween, a holiday they view as a Western import that is especially noxious at a time of heightened tensions between Russia and the outside world (http://echo.msk.ru/news/1647224-echo.html and nazaccent.ru/content/18120-hellouin-po-nashemu.html).