Friday, November 6, 2015

A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 9

Paul Goble

Staunton, November 6 -- 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 ninth 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.      Putin Now has Higher Approval Ratings than Jesus Christ… A Russian journalist has pointed out that Vladimir Putin has a higher approval rating among Russians than does Jesus Christ ( Among the reasons for that are a new opera that casts him as “the savior of Crimea” ( and mass measures like a flashmob in Chelyabinsk where people stood on a square in the shape of a giant portrait of the Kremlin leader (

2.      … But He has a Long Way to Catch Up with Lenin as Far as Street Names are Concerned.  If all the streets named for Lenin in Russian cities were stretched out end to end, they would extend 8631.5 kilometers, while Putin streets currently extend only 1.9 km (in the Chechen capital of Grozny) (

3.       Moscow Wants to Cut Russians’ Alcohol Consumption from 13.5 Liters to 10 Liters a Year.  Russian officials say they want to reduce the per capita consumption of pure alcohol from 13.5 liters a year to 10 liters annually ( Both figures are above what UNESCO has identified as amounts that inflict genetic damage, and both understate the problem because they are figures for the entire population. If underage children are exclude, alcohol consumption for Russian adults is even higher. Meanwhile, Russian analysts warn that Russia may face an alcohol shortage beginning next year given the country’s economic problems (

4.      Church and State Both Want to Control the Internet.  The Russian Orthodox Church is seeking to introduce an Orthodox wifi system in Russia that will restrict access to sites the Patriarchate disapproves ( Meanwhile, the government is mulling creating a single government site that will feature only the most correct information about news in Russia ( ). One reason both want to do so is the appearance on the Internet of materials extremely hostile to the Putin regime. (For a delightful selection, see Another is that Islamist militants are shifting away from the use of social networks like VKontakte toward others which Moscow finds it more difficult to block (

5.      Moscow’s Arctic Efforts Slowed Because Those Building a Base for It There Aren’t Being Paid. The Russian government from Putin on down has celebrated Moscow’s expansion into the Arctic, but that expansion has been slowed by the fact that the same officials are not paying workers who are constructing a base for Russia in that region ( ).

6.      Putin’s ‘Russian World’ Project Could Kill Russian as ‘Dead as Latin.’  Moscow’s efforts to promote the idea that it has special prerogatives over Russian speakers living outside its borders could ultimately kill the Russian language if Russian speakers there decide it would be better to speak the vernacular around them than risk Moscow’s intervention on their behalf, according to a Ukrainian commentator (

7.      Nearly One Russian in Five Ready to Sell His Vote in Parliamentary Elections.  A new poll shows that almost one Russian in five is prepared to sell his vote to the highest bidder in upcoming parliamentary elections, a measure of the relative importance of voting and having money in that country ( ). Meanwhile, “Novyye izvestiya” reports that officials are using both carrots and sticks to get Russians to go to demonstrations the authorities have sponsored and want to ensure are successful ( ).

8.      Russian Universities Cutting Back in European Studies.  Russian higher educational institutions are reducing the amount of research they conduct on Europe while increasing the amount they devote to Asia and Africa, an academic echo of Putin’s turn away from Europe (

9.      Can Only Russians Found Cities in Russia? Russian officials are insisting that a Russian established the capital city of Chuvashia even though there is compelling evidence that the city was in existence far before the Russians got there ( But that is only one of the problems Russians now face. They have to decide who is a Russian and who is not, something complicated by the fact that many Cossacks are Buddhists, something few Russians know or want to acknowledge (

10.  To Get a Buddhist Datsan, First Build an Orthodox Church.  Officials in Tyva have come up with a winning strategy to build the Buddhist dastan they have long wanted: they first built a Russian Orthodox Church to appease Moscow (

11.  Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery Removes Repin Painting about Ukrainians.  Officials at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery are making their contribution to Russia’s anti-Ukrainian propaganda: they have taken down Ilya Repin’s classic painting of the Zaporozhians writing to the Turkish sultan (

12.  Moscow Gets Object Lesson in the ‘Banned in Boston’ Syndrome.  Authors and publishers in the West have long known that official bans on their works can lead to higher sales. Now, Moscow is learning the same thing. A Russian court’s ban on a Muslim book that sparked much controversy and now has been reversed has been followed by an announcement that a new and larger edition of the controversial work will be issued for sale (

13.  Fifty Percent Increase in Russians Seeking Asylum in US This Year. More Russians sought asylum in the Unites States this year than in any year since the end of Soviet times. So far in 2015, the number has risen by 50 percent over last year and is twice as large as the one in 2012 (

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