Friday, August 26, 2016

A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 46

Paul Goble

         Staunton, August 26 -- 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 46th 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.      Legal Problems for Putin? Many have suggested that the international community should use its legal powers against the Kremlin leader, but now such proposals are attracting more attention.  A Moscow commentator says US courts should bring charges against Vladimir Putin for his role in the 1999 apartment bombings (, Ukrainian officials have put Putin and his entourage on a wanted list (, and some Russians are now calling for his impeachment, calls that have even appeared on Russian television (

2.      Russians Now Choose Patriotic Symbols Other than Putin for Their T-Shirts.  Fewer Russians are buying T-shirts with pictures of Vladimir Putin than did two years ago, choosing instead other patriotic symbols (  But there are some problems with these other symbols: Most Russians tell pollsters they aren’t prepared to fly the Russian flag (, and some even are tearing down the Russian tri-color when it is put up in front of government buildings (

3.      ‘Putin’s Elections are Less Democratic than Soviet Ones Were.’  A  Russian commentator says that elections under Vladimir Putin are less democratic in some ways than Soviet ones were because at least in Soviet times one could vote against all candidates ( In other election news, two-thirds of Russians don’t think their votes or anything else will affect the state’s actions (, and one in five is prepared to sell his or her vote in an election few think will lead to any real change (

4.      Russians Cut Spending on Almost Everything Except Cosmetics.  As the Russian economic crisis deepens, most Russians are being forced to cut back on their purchases. But surveys show that one area where they are not cutting back in any significant way is in the purchase of cosmetics. Apparently, and in the best tradition of “hybrid” Russia, it is important to look good even if you don’t have enough to eat (  Business bankrupticies are increasing ( One businessman took hostages in a Moscow bank to protest how he has been treated ( Prices continue to rise ( Strikes and protests are becoming more numerous ( But the government continues to discourage private efforts to address problems: fining people in Astrakhan for trying to fix local roads that the authorities have allowed to deteriorate ( even though they appear to be less concerned about the efforts of smugglers to repair roads so that they can bring in contraband more easily ( Perhaps someone is being paid off for that.

5.      Moscow Says US Sent Genetically Modified ‘Mutants’ to Olympics.  A Russian defense ministry official explains the US victories at Rio by saying that the American team included genetically modified “mutants” specially designed for victory ( Meanwhile, in another Olympic story, many Russian outlets complained that the plane carrying the Russian team was detained for some hours on the tarmac of the Rio airport. What was not reported except in social media was that there was a problem: the Russian team failed to see that it could get its super-sized matryoshka doll on board by taking it apart (

6.      Russia Must Combat the Spread of English in Russia and Abroad.  A Russian commentator says that the spread of English around the world is anything but a natural phenomenon and that Moscow must set as one of its most important tasks blocking the spread of English first and foremost within Russia but also in other countries as well (

7.      Now You Can Buy a Kalashnikov Right at the Moscow Airport.  The Kalashnikov weapons maker has opened a shop at Sheremetyevo so that those travelling through it can pick up a Kalashnikov even before exiting the confines of the airport itself (

8.      Moscow Tells Parents of Soldiers Killed in Syria Their Children Died in the North Caucasus. To hide the number of Russian combat deaths in Syria, Russian officials are telling the parents of those who died there than in fact their sons died in the North Caucasus – even when parents know that their sons were not serving there (

9.      Russian Politics Gets Really Down and Dirty.  Those who don’t like the reporting of journalists like Yuliya Latynina are now using a new tactic against them: throwing fecal materials at them in the streets of Moscow (

10.  WillThere Now Be Charges of a ‘Jewish-Pokemon Conspiracy’?  The rabbi at the St. Petersburg synagogue has offered a bottle of kosher wine for those who are able to track down Pokemons nearby, an action that not surprisingly has triggered the usual kind of Russian commentaries given how many Russian officials and commentators have suggested that Pokemon is a Western plot against Russia (

11.  Volgograd Officials Ready to Rename Airport There ‘Stalingrad.’  Officials in the former city of Tsaritsyn, then Stalingrad, and now Volgograd say they are ready to rename the airport there in honor of the late Soviet dictator, something that has sparked both expressions of support and outbursts of anger (  (  Meanwhile, in Oryol, a scandal is brewing because officials apparently manipulated poll results in order to suggest that people there really wanted a statue of Ivan the Terrible when in fact it appears likely that most don't ( 

12.  Moscow has New Problems with India and Iran of Its Own Making.  Indian officials say that one in six of the Russian warplanes Delhi has purchased don’t work (, and Iranian officials say that Moscow was supposed to keep its use of an Iranian airbase secret, something Russian officials didn’t do (

13.  Marie Antoinette was a Piker: Russian Officials Eat Cake Intended for Orphans.  Just when one assumes that Russian officials can’t top their Marie Antoinette behavior, they nonetheless do. This week, officials in Sakha ate all of a cake that had been prepared for orphans, leaving the children with nothing ( This kind of thoughtless and cruel behavior is becoming ever more common, Russian journalists say ( and has led some officials to suggest that the media should be told not to talk about the growing gap between rich and poor in Russia lest it spark social tensions (

            And six more from countries near Russia:

1.      Ukrainian Army Drops Soviet-Style Hats and Uniforms.  De-communization in Ukraine is proceeding apace, with ever more Lenin statues taken down and places renamed for Ukrainian heroes rather than Soviet criminals ( But perhaps the most obvious sign of Ukraine’s turn away from Moscow is that Ukrainian soldiers are no longer wearing uniforms and hats like those of the Soviet and Russian armies (

2.      Zhirinovsky Says Russia Should Attack Ukraine When US Votes. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky says that Moscow should attack Ukraine as Americans vote in their presidential election so that Washington, being distracted, won’t do anything to help Kyiv (

3.      Kerch Bridge Won’t Last Even If It is Built, Ukrainian Expert Says.  Even if Moscow does manage to build the Kerch bridge to Crimea, something that is far from certain, a Ukrainian engineer says, the bridge will almost certainly be destroyed by the actions of currents in the waters there (

4.      Ukrainian Olympian Wanted to Put a Missile Blowing Up Moscow on His Canoe.  One measure of how Ukrainians feel about Russia’s invasion of their country surfaced at the Rio Olympiad.  A Ukrainian canoeist wanted to put a picture of a missile blowing up Moscow on his boat, but he was dissuaded from doing so by Olympic officials (

5.      ‘Armenian-Russian Friendship Museum Must Be Renamed Because Armenian-Russian Friendship Doesn’t Exist.’ Yerevan residents say that the museum devoted to Armenian-Russian friendship in their city must be renamed because such friendship does not now exist (

6.      ‘World Fears Russia Not Because It is Strong But Because It is Insane,’ Landsbergis Says.  Lithuanian independence leader Vytautas Landsbergis says that it is important for both Russia and the world to understand that “the world now fears Russia not because it is strong but because it is insane” (  At least some Russians agree: Samara residents want their governor examined by a psychiatrist after his recent claims about a CIA conspiracy directed against that oblast (

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