Monday, August 28, 2017

A Baker’s Double Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories – No. 97

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 each week presents a selection of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of eac week. This is the 9yth such compilation, and it is again a).  double issue with 26 from Russia and 13 from Russia’s neighbors. Even then, it is far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1.      Russians Increasingly Looking Beyond Putin. Even though Putin almost certainly will be reelected if he runs, ever more Russians are looking beyond him and his era, a development that is making him effectively a lame duck. One Russian has asked “is there life after Putin?” ( The compiling of possible successor lists has underscored that he won’t be in office forever ( Putin himself has added fuel to this fire by talking about the qualities a Russian leader must have ( And ever more Russians are talking about how hard it will be to cure Russia of Putinism ( Nonetheless, the Putin cult continues to grow with some wanting to put the visage of the Kremlin leader on Russian currency (, and other suggesting that Putin may cease to be president only to become “an Orthodox ayatollah” ( Other Putin developments: by focusing on Khersones, Putin has reduced the centrality of the Russian mythology about Kyiv as the mother of Russian cities ( He has been criticized for failing to express sympathy to the victims of domestic terrorism even while he invariably does so if the victims are foreigners ( He has acquired a new dacha but apparently not a lot of new clothes ( and And Russians’ trust in Putin slips ever further behind their support for him (

2.      ‘Is Trump Still US President?’  After obsessing about US President Donald Trump for most of the last six months, now Russians appear to be forgetting about him, even asking in some cases whether he is still in power ( and There was a brief flurry of new interest when Russian outlets picked up Western stories that Trump is unhappy about the new Russian sanctions (

3.      Will Kremlin’s Use of Dating Service Boost Voter Turnout?  Given that the results of voting are predetermined but the level of participation is now, Russian political technologists are trying all kinds of things to boost the latter, including employing a dating service to get young people to the polls ( and Other political developments worthy of note: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says visa decision by US was designed to provoke a Maidan in Russia. His words were backed by a fake story about long lines at the US embassy ( and The foreign ministry unintentionally cast doubt on the legitimacy of Boris R( School directors who don’t support Putin will be fired ( A stable of 162 possible governors is being formed, an indication of more changes ahead ( Russians are unhappy with Medvedev government and no longer consider it a symbol of the country ( and Fewer than a thousand people have refugee status in Russia ( And Russian officials are making ever more foolish mistakes: Russian television made Sakha part of Japan (, and a Urals woman was registered as having a birthday on February 30 (

4.      More Russians Move into Shadow Economy as Putin Makes That Easier.  The shadow economy in Russia is growing with some 33 million workers ( ), and Putin is making this trend easier by cutting back no government inspections of firms ( Other macro-economic news includes: the dollar capitalization of Russian firms fell by 44 percent from 2009 to 2016 (, Muscovite renovation plans will lead to a jump in Moscow’s deficit (, Russian firms are reducing hiring of young people (, foreign investors are pulling out capital from Russia (, shadow reserves are running out in many companies (, unemployment now at critical levels in a quarter of Russian regions (, and one expert assessment says US sanctions are costing Russia 500 billion rubles (eight billion US dollars) every year (
5.      How Bad are Things for Ordinary Russians? Samara Residents are now buying dog meat for food (, and ten percent of Urals residents say they’ll have sex with bosses to get hired or be promoted (  More than half of Russians haven’t been to a restaurant or a movie in the last year (, and real Russian pay remains less than half what officials say it is ( Adding insult to injury, Russian officials have described the recent decline of Russian incomes as “a technical adjustment” ( One-third of pensions now have to work to make ends meet (, and Russians say they see no end to the crisis (
6.      Income Divide Only Deepens. Poor Russians spent on average 4,000 rubles (62 US dollars) to get children ready to go back to school; rich ones spent as much as 300,000 rubles (5,000 US dollars) ( The wealthiest have one trillion US dollars stashed abroad, about 75 percent of the country’s total wealth (,, and The Russian rich continue to buy up property abroad ( and to support high-end stores in Moscow ( What the Russian rich don’t do is give to charity: only one Russian billionaire has pledged to give away his wealth ( That is offensive to many poor Russians who give a far higher share of their incomes (

7.      ‘Property for Sale; Residents Convey.’ In what some Russians see as a return to serfdom, Russians are now selling property with an indication that the residents “convey” to the new owner ( Other social news: Russians feel more pride in the symbols of their country (, Russian school children will now be given lectures on state security (, Moscow claims to have reduced amount of illegal vodka (, the atomization of Russian society has reached unprecedented levels (, majority of Russians want to restrict immigration despite saying they aren’t prejudiced about immigrants (, and Internet usage is stratified by class with university students looking at one set of sites and those with less education at an entirely different mix (, and half of university students now prepared to emigrate becase of income inequality (справедливость-в-представлении-моло/).

8.      Being Elderly in Russia Means ‘We Hope You’ll Die Soon.’ Russia’s elderly are increasingly invisible even though they are more numerous and some say that the attitude of others is that “we hope you’ll die soon” as the only thing you have to look forward to is the cemetery (, and Diseases of all kinds are hitting ever more Russians but falsification of government statistics is so bad that only anecdotal evidence is available ( Medicines are increasingly expensive or not available at all ( and And experts say that depression among Russians is on the rise because they don’t talk about their problems with others (

9.      Russians in Republics Complain about Being Forced to Learn Non-Russian Languages. Picking up on Putin’s recent comment, ethnic Russians in non-Russian republics and in Tatarstan in the first instance are complaining about being forced to study the titular languages there ( and Moscow has also launched an attack on Tatar nationalists ( and But even Tatars who don’t speak Tatar are retaining their national identity, something that means Moscow’s obsession with language may not work out the way it assumes ( Other ethnic news this week includes: a Belarusian national cultural autonomy has appeared in Karelia (, a group of Caucasians beat to death a Russian athlete in Khabarovsk (, Ingushetia elite rejects idea of morals police (, Russians think Caucasians have advantages in entering Moscow higher educational institutes while North Caucasians think Moscow wants to keep them uneducated ( and, only eight percent of Russians think the unity of the people is important for Russia (, new restrictions have been imposed on north Caucasus marriage ceremonies (, Ramzan Kadyrov reunites families by pushing for polygamy (,Makhachkala said ignoring highland Daghestan (, more Daghestanis are now dying from highway accidents than in armed conflicts (, and Putin is urged to reject Russian nation law and proceed to do away with republics and even non-Russian nations ( and
10.  More Regions Delay School Openings because of Kurban Bayram. Because the Muslim holiday this year falls on the same day Russian schools are slated to open, ever more places where there are sizeable numbers of the faithful are delaying school openings until September 4, despite Russian warnings and complaints ( and Russian commentators point out that Russian Christianity is divided from the West even by the way it represents the cross (, a leading sect hunter says many more religious groups should be banned in the same way the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been ( and, the Russian Orthodox Church is expanding its cooperation agreements with regional governments even as it acqir3es more property ( and, the Moscow patriarchate says it will defend priest accused of organizing ring of prostitutes (, and Patriarch Kirill has denounced extreme forms of sports (

11.  Regions Vary Widely in Reaction to Moscow-Imposed Heads. A new study finds that some regions resist mightily when Moscow imposes a new head on them while others don’t ( They also vary enormously in terms of how welcoming they are to opposition parties ( New fears are spreading about the number of Koreans and Chinese in the Russian Far East ( Proponent of shifting capital from Moscow says Muscovites have no right to better life than other Russians (

12.  Surgut Violence Makes Russians Feel Insecure. The police in Surgut handled the violence there so ineffectively than all Russians could see it even on Moscow television, and many are now thinking about acquiring guns for self-defense. The failure of the Russian Guard to protect a Russian athlete in Khabarovsk only adds to this fear ( and In many places, demand for guns has skyrocketed (, and In other news on domestic security, fighters returning from the Donbass are getting little honor or even respect (, ethnic clashes are increasing in the military (, Russian officials are tightly restricting drone sales (, and the Russian stop list at the border now has 77,000 names on it (

13.  War in Ukraine Wrecked Russian Military Reform, Golts Says. Aleksandr Golts, a leading independent military affairs analyst in Moscow, says that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had the effect of torpedoing Russian military reform, putting off change as well as siphoning off enormous sums of money ( and Now,, other experts say, Moscow can’t hope to compete militarily with the West in the way that it talks at least not anytime soon: its satellite launches are failing, it won’t have any aircraft carrier at sea for more than three years, and it won’t have a fifth generation fighter until at least 2025 (,, and  Moreover, Russia is going to have a hard time maintaining its current level of arms sales abroad ( Moscow has finally acknowledged that it has only three real ports on the Pacific: the rest exist only on paper (, and an independent expert says that Russia suffered 27,000 combat deaths in Afghanistan and not the 15,000 Moscow has admitted (

14.  Two-Thirds of Russians haven’t Heard of Scandal around Mathilda but Half Plan to See Film. Sixty-nine percent of Russians say they haven’t heard anything about the scandal around the film about the love life of the last tsar, and 47 percent plan to go see it ( and  Other monument fights increasingly follow class lines ( munity/5442/content/borba-s-pamiatnikami-borba-klassovaia/5963207). This week these included a graffiti memorial to the Kursk (,  fighting over street names in Makhachakala ( and church in Khabarovsk (, the erection of pre-Soviet memorials in Kaliningrad (, and a church honoring Ivan the Terrible in Moscow ( Two other developments of note: Putin favors restoring a monastery in the Kremlin ( and 40 percent of Russians say Stalin had no choice but to engage in repressions (

15.  A Quieter Week on the Protest Front. With many on vacation, there were fewer protests this week than last or than are scheduled for next week and next month. The most prominent actions involved a woman dressed as Russia tying herself to a Lenin statue in Novosibirsk (, a massive petition drive against the show trial of Kirill Serebrennikov (, and an effort in St. Petersburg to take down illegal ads on streets, an action often violently resisted by those who put them up (

16.  Putin’s Russia Now So Repressive It is Not Possible to Work and Not Be Violating Law. A commentator says that the web of rule the Putin regime has imposed and the ways in which officials interpret laws to meet their needs mean that no one can have a job in Russia and not be violating one or another law ( A survey of Russian court decisions finds that they are becoming ever more absurd ( Beatings in prisons are getting worse ( and The authorities have now put out lists of who can and can’t be asked to provide commentaries on Russian television ( The Agora rights group documents that Moscow is using illegal as well as legal means to observe the activities of all in Russia ( And Nezavisimaya gazeta reports that there are now 29,000 foreigners in Russian prisons. Most are Central Asians and many are Islamist radicals (

17.  WADA Will Review Russia’s Status at End of September. The world anti-doping agency says it will review Russia’s status at the end of next month ( Meanwhile, another Russian athlete has lost a medal for doping ( and The stadium in St. Petersburg is still far from ready for the World Cup (, and Russia’s reserve teams aren’t ready either (  Meanwhile, Russian fans in Switzerland displayed the violence they are infamous for (

18.  Russians Will Have to Wait Three Months, Ukrainians Only Four Days for US Visa Processing.  The real cost ofin the US-Russian diplomatic spat is coming home to Russians. Not only will even those far from Moscow have to travel to the capital to apply, but they will have to wait on average almost three months for the process, while in Ukraine, Ukrainians will only have to wait four days ( Adding insult to injury, US officials have announced that Russians can apply for visas in third countries which may be closer to them than Moscow is (

19.  Massive Field of Nuclear Waste Identified Near Sakhalin. Soviet dumping of all sorts of nuclear materials in the sea around Sakhalin has led a massive and dangerous environmental disaster there, experts say (

20.  5,000 Russian Pilots May Soon Lose Their Licenses. Russian aviation is about to take another hit. Not only are many professional pilots moving abroad for higher salaries, but the Russian authorities have announced that they may strip 5,000 pilots of their licenses and force them to requalify. That will cut flights and further complicate transportation in Russia (

21.   Vladimir Kirillovich Didn’t Serve in SS, House of Romanov Says.  Although he had close relations with Nazi Germany, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, the father of the chief pretender to the Russian throne, did not serve in the SS as some have suggested, according the House of Romanov (

22.  Russian Court Declares Jan Nowak Book Extremist. A Russian court says that a book by Jan Nowak, longtime Radio Free Europe Polish broadcaster, hero of the Polish underground, and much decorated Polish émigré, is extremist, an indication that Moscow courts will now be looking not just at new books but at older ones as well (

23.  Western Broadcasting in Non-Russian Languages Designed to Provoke Russians, Moscow Commentator Says. According to a Regnum writer, Western broadcasts in non-Russian languages have been intended not just to stir up non-Russian nationalism but to provoke a backlash of Russian nationalism ( In another media development, Life TV ended broadcasts this week (

24.  Capitalism by Itself Couldn’t Give Russians a New Ethical System, Russian Writer Says. Many in the West and in Russia too assumed that capitalism by itself could provide Russians with a new ethical system in place of communism, but that is not the case, according to a Russian commentator. More is needed, and it hasn’t been supplied (

25.  Two Landmark Developments on Northern Sea Route. As a result of global warming and receding ice levels, a Chinese icebreaker has crossed the Central Arctic on its own thus opening the way for more Chinese shipping (, and a Russian tanker without icebreaker support has set a new speed record for the Northern Sea route as well (

26.  Pornography Gives Russians More than First Channel Can, Moscow Expert Says.  Pornography for all its moral shortcomings at least gives what it promises, a Moscow commentator says, while the government’s First Channel simply gives them nothing but meaningless chatter (

                And 13 more from countries in Russia’s neighborhood:

1.      Soldiers from Nine NATO Countries March in Kyiv Military Parade. Even though many are suggesting that it will be a long time if ever before Ukraine becomes a member of the Western alliance, the symbolism of soldiers from nine NATO countries marching in a Kyiv military parade on Ukraine’s national day was lost on no one, encouraging Ukrainians and their supporters and undoubtedly infuriating Vladimir Putin and his entourage (

2.      Red Cross Says 2700 Civilians have Died in Donbass Conflict. The International Red Crosssays that its research shows that 2700 civilians have died since the beginning of the Russian intervention there (

3.      Ukrainian Journalist Tells How Much Moscow Pays for Terrorist Acts in Ukraine. A Kyiv journalist has documented how much Russian agencies pay people for carrying out terrorist attacks in Ukraine (

4.      Ukrainian Monument Should Show Post-Russian Countries. A Ukrainian monument to the resistance Ukrainians have shown to Russian aggression, a sword plunged into a map of the Russian Federation, would be even more powerful if it showed the post-Russian states that country is likely to disintegrate into, according to one Russian analyst (

5.      Minsk Invites Observers from Seven Countries for Zapad Exercise. The Belarusian government has invited observers to come to follow next month’s Zapad exercise to help ensure that the joint Russian-Belarusian exercise does not lead to more apocalyptic results (

6.      Anti-Russian Posters Go Up in Belarus in Advance of Zapad Exercise.  Posters declaring that “where the Russian army is, there is war” and calling on the Russian military to “go home and not come back” have begun to appear in Belarusian cities in advance of the Zapad exercise (

7.      Moldova Asks UN to Help Force Russian Troops to Leave Transdniestria.  The Moldovan government has appealed to the United Nations to help get Russian troops to leave the breakaway republic of Transdniestria and reintegrate that territory into Moldova (

8.      Estonian President Warns Against ‘Self-Occupation.’ Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has warned her countrymen against taking steps that constitute a “self-occupation” and limit the country’s freedom and independence (

9.      Moscow Again Stirring the Pot in Latgale. Russian activists are again seeking to promote Latgale separatism in Latvia by visits, publications and broadcasts (

10.  Iran Paying for Armenian Translation of Koran.  Tehran is paying for a translation of the Koran into Armenian, thus making it accessible to the residents of that country (

11.  Tajikistan Teetering on Edge of Bankruptcy. The Tajik government burdened by massive debt and falling revenue is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, creating instability and opening the way for expanded outside influence by Russia and China (

12.  HIV Infections Spreading Along Central Asian Transport Routes. Medical experts have tracked the spread of HIV infections along major transport routing in the Central Asian region, raising concerns there about the expansion of such arteries in the future (

13.  Tashkent to Open Consulate in Kazan. The Uzbekistan government is expanding its network of consulates in Russia to provide support for its gastarbeiters there. Last week, it opened one in Vladivostok; this week, it has announced that it will soon do so in Kazan (

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