Friday, June 10, 2016

A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 35

Paul Goble

         Staunton, June 10 -- 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 presents a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 35th such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, 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.      Putin Tells Lukashenka He Isn’t Sleeping Well Anymore. Having kept so many others up at night, Vladimir Putin tells Belarus’ head Alyaksandr Lukashenka that he isn’t sleeping as well as he used to, getting not the seven or eight hours he needs but rather only five or six.  That decline almost certainly is due to age rather than anything else, but perhaps in the still of the night, the Kremlin leader may have to reflect on what he has wrought (

2.      How Bad is the Russian Economy? Bread, the most basic food commodity in Russia, is now being adulterated with various non-food content to extend it (, hospital patients are killing themselves because they can’t get the treatment (, and Russians are increasingly turning to dangerous surrogates for alcohol to drink themselves into oblivion: in the Komi Republic, officials have banned the sale of perfume in large bottles lest Russians drink it rather than use it to smell nice (

3.      Even Kremlin Projects Running Out of Money. Even major government projects are running out of funds: the Kerch bridge to Russian occupied Crimea no longer has the money to proceed with construction (; and, despite Putin’s promises, Russian aviation factories are producing few planes for civilian use, with now 84 percent of their output going to military needs (

4.      EU Says Moscow hasn’t Met Any of Its Suggestions for Fighting Racism.  The European Union had suggested a number of things that Russia should do to fight these evils; it now concludes that the Russian government has done nothing to meet any of these goals and instead is attacking the idea that it should have to meet any international standards ( and

5.      Duma Wants Those who Suppressed Prague Spring and Chechnya to Have Status Equal to World War II Vets.  Some Duma deputies are promoting legislation that would give Soviet and Russian veterans who suppressed the Prague Spring in 1968 and Chechen independence more recently status equal to those who served in World War II ( and

6.      Fewer Russians Vacationing Abroad but More Fleeing to Live There. Only three percent of Russians say they will vacation abroad this summer (, but more scientists and businessmen have either left to work there or say they plan to, with one in ten of Russia’s active scholars now employed abroad ( and one in six senior business managers saying they are currently arranging to leave ( Meanwhile, experts say that having a Russian passport puts Russians in 60th place among the countries of the world as far as ease of travel is concerned (, and Duma deputies are considering re-imposing Soviet-era style restrictions that would keep virtually all Russians from leaving the country without official permission (

7.      Fewer Russians Trust TV and Ever More Newspapers Tell Them Not To. Surveys show that ever fewer Russians trust what they are told on government television (, and some 100 newspapers in the Urals are now putting notices above television schedules in their pages suggesting that viewers should consider most TV outlets unreliable at best ( Duplicity on Russian television has become so widespread and appalling that some commentators are providing lists of what talking heads on Russian television really mean when they use certain terms (

8.      Few Russians Know Their Ancestors But Many Believe They are ‘Pure Blooded’ Russians. Few Russians know their own ancestors before the second generation and thus are not aware of how ethnically mixed they are ( Many believe they are “pure blooded” ethnic Russians ( and even have an interest in eugenics ( Such attitudes are promoting ethnic separation, and one indication of that is the appearance of a second “Jewish quarter” in a Russian city, this time in Kaliningrad (

9.      Turkic Peoples Will Soon Form Majority of Siberia’s Population. In Soviet times, thanks to the GULAG and subsidies, ethnic Russians came to dominate the population in Siberia and the Russian Far East. Now, their share has declined to 60 percent of the total with 40 percent consisting of indigenous Turkic peoples, according to scholars ( If that trend continues, Turkic groups will soon constitute a majority of the population there. That makes demands by leaders of the larger of these communities that they be given the support international treaties on indigenous peoples rather than denied it under Russian law ever more important (

10.  Duma Deputy Blames Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ for Merkel’s Hard Line on Russia. A Russian parliamentarian says that Angela Merkel’s new hard line on Russia is a reflection of the forces that recently published a new edition of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” thus offering one of the more curious pieces of political analysis in Moscow this week (

11.  Unknown Persons Topple Lenin Statue in Moscow, Leave Note Saying He was a Hangman. Statues of the founder of the Russian state are coming down all the time in Ukraine and other non-Russian countries, but they have tended to be left alone in Russia. Thus, it is interesting that someone toppled a Lenin statue in the Russian capital and left a note saying he was a hangman of the Russian people ( and

12.  Mohammed Ali Street to Appear in Grozny. Even as controversy continues to swirl in St. Peterburg over the renaming of a bridge in honor of a Chechen leader, Grozny has announced that it will honor the late American boxed Mohammed Ali by naming a street after him. The Chechen capital already has a Putin Boulevard (

13.  ‘You Have Enemies; We Have Concrete to Plant Them In.’  A Russian cement firm has come up with an intriguing as well as disturbing advertisement of how some might want to use its product. The ad shows various foreign leaders Moscow has described as the enemies of Russia and then a photograph of a block of solidifying concrete out of which are sticking two legs (

And six more from Russia’s neighbors:

14.  Even in Russian-Occupied Donbas Lenin Statue Taken Down.  People in the Russian-occupied portion of Donetsk have taken down a statue of the founder of the Soviet state, an intriguing spread of the “Lenin fall” that has spread across Ukraine (  Meanwhile, in nearby Russian Novorossiisk, citizens have put up a bust of Vladimir Putin “in gratitude” for his moves in Ukraine (

15.  Georgia Loses More Territory to Russia’s Creeping Annexation.  Russian border guards in South Osetia moved the border markers deeper into Georgian territory, continuing the creeping annexation of Georgia that Moscow has been engaged in recently (

16.  Kazakh Activists Call on Russia To Admit It Committed Genocide in Kazakhstan in 1920s and 1930s.  Kazakhs have become the latest nation of the former Soviet and Russian empires to demand that Moscow at least admit that it carried out genocide against them in the early years of Soviet power when the sedentarization of the nomadic population and the collectivization of agriculture there cost the Kazakhs a third of their population (

17.  Tashkent Bars Men with Beards from Football Matches. In an effort to prevent violence at soccer competitions, the Uzbek government has banned anyone wearing a beard to attend, apparently convinced that all those with beards are likely to be Islamist extremists (

18.  Tajikistan to Forcibly Treat Those with Tuberculosis. In an indication of how widespread TB has become in Tajikistan, Dushanbe has ordered that those diagnosed with the disease are to be treated regardless of whether they want to or not (

19.  Moscow has Corrupted Gagauz Leaders. A scandal has broken out in Moldova following documented reports showing that Russian officials have used bribes and other incentives to get Gagauz leaders to oppose Chisinau and support Moscow (

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