Friday, December 11, 2015

A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 14

Paul Goble

Staunton, December 11 -- The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and 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 fourteenth such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, this week once again, one could have put out such a listing every day, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest. 

1.      Stalin Drew Wolves but Putin Doodles. A photographer has captured Vladimir Putin doodling as he gives an interview ( But he can’t always hold his audience: Dmitry Medvedev again slept through part of Putin’s speech ( and he can’t tell the truth (

2.      Putin Updates Nazi Vocabulary.  A Moscow commentator shows the ways Vladimir Putin has updated Hitler’s words (, as Russian historians have shown the way Hitler copied Stalin’s techniques, including horrific medical experiments on inmates (

3.      ROC Says Pray for Putin, Avoid Fast Food, and Treat Other Faiths as Foreign Agents. Patriarch Kirill has come up with a special prayer for Russians about Vladimir Putin ( His aide Vsevolod Chaplin has called eating fast food a sin even though he doesn’t avoid it himself ( And the Moscow Patriarchate wants the Duma to extend the foreign agents law to religious groups (

4.      Turkish Crisis Catches Russia with Its Pants Down.  Vladimir Putin’s ban on imports from Turkey has created numerous problems, the most humorous being Moscow’s inability to produce anti-Turkish t-shirts; the most serious being that Russians may not be able to buy new underwear as most of that now on sale comes from Turkey ( Perhaps these problems provide additional evidence for one Moscow scholar’s contention that Russia has now finally succeeded Turkey as “the sick man of Europe” (

5.      Russians Don’t Need Tolerance: They have ‘Friendship of the Peoples.’ A conference of regime ideologists has concluded that Russians don’t need the false Western value of tolerance because they have “friendship of the peoples,” even though Soviet behavior thoroughly discredited that term for almost everyone (

6.      Russian Internet Both ‘More Mobile’ and a Lot Less. A new study finds that Russians increasingly go online via mobile devices ( In what may be an ironic related development, Russian officials have announced that WIFI will soon be available at several of Moscow’s largest cemeteries (

7.      Silantyev Wants to ‘De-Turkify Islam’ in Russia.  Roman Silantyev, a specialist on Islam with close ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, has called for “de-Turkifying Islam” in the Russian Federation, an appeal which fits in with the current anti-Turkish hysteria and also reflects the fact that many in Russia divide Islam not between Sunni and Shiia but between Turkish and Iranian. If Silantyev’s plan were to be implemented, there would be far fewer Sunni mullahs and far more Iranian Shiite imams (

8.      Crimeans who Say They have No Electricity Face Penalties.  The Russian occupation authorities have said that those Crimeans who say they have no electricity will face criminal penalties (  And these authorities have also announced that they will “never recognize” the United States (

9.      As Crime Rises with Economic Decline, Russia Opens World’s Largest Prison.  Russian statistics show that crime in Russia is on the rise, a natural result experts say of the decline in the standard of living ( Russian officials are ready, however. They’ve announced that they have opened what is the world’s largest prison (

10.  Official with Villa Abroad Tells Russians Foreign Vacations are ‘Harmful to their Health.’ A senior Russian official has told Russians that taking vacations abroad would be harmful to their health, a position he maintains even though he owns a vacation home abroad ( and

11.  Finno-Ugric Nations to Develop Their Own Computer Terminology.  Instead of simply borrowing from Russian which in this area has borrowed from English, Finno-Ugric nations in the Russian Federation say they will develop their own computer terminology, drawing on words from the three Finno-Ugric peoples who currently have their own countries, Estonia, Finland and Hungary (

12.  Lake Baikal a ‘Well for China?’  In a development that will enrage some Russians, a Chinese firm is now taking water from Lake Baikal and sending it back to a thirsty China, a move that has prompted one Russian site to ask whether the lake is on its way to becoming “a well for China” (

13.  Russian Updates Pastor Niemoeller’s Aphorism.  Reacting to the spread of repressive measures from one group to another in Putin’s Russia, many there and elsewhere now recall Pastor Niemoeller’s observation of why he didn’t protest Nazi attacks on groups he wasn’t a member of and what that led to.  Now a Russian has come up with an update: He held a sign saying “Stay Quiet Tomorrow when They Come for You; and the Next Will then Stay Quiet about You” (

And three more from what some Russians still call “the near abroad:”

14.  Armenia Hands Over a Mosque to Iran.  The Armenian authorities have handed control of a mosque in Yerevan to Iran, a nominally religious move with all-too-obvious political implications (

15.  Kyrgyz Hats Now Made in China.  The hats that symbolize Kyrgyzstan for many are now produced not in that country but in China, a shift in production that suggests a shift in orientation as well (

16.  Tajikistan Laws Make President ‘Leader of the Nation’ and Limits What Other Tajiks Can Call Themselves. The Tajikistan parliament has adopted a law formally making the incumbent president “the leader of the nation,” a move that some post-Soviet states have already taken and that more man (  In addition, Tajik officials have come up with a list of approved names from which Tajik parents can choose to give to their children. Other names will not be allowed (

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