Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Moscow’s Effort to Dose Out Bad News Leads to a Flood of It When Things Turn

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 26 – The Kremlin has sought to boost the amount of good news in the media it controls during the World Cup and to dose out bad news (dailystorm.ru/vlast/menshe-sterilnosti-zhurnalistam-razreshili-dozirovanno-vydavat-negativnye-novosti-v-dni-chm-2018). But now that Uruguay has brought Russia down to earth, today has brought a flood of news stories that are likely to be anything but pleasing to the regime.

            Here are ten of the most interesting:

1.      Russia has Moved from “a Post-Truth to a Post-Statistics” World. The Russian government’s statistical agency has a reputation for distorted and inaccurate statistics that few believe Rosstat even when it does manage to get its fact straight (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/06/25/76932-ot-postpravdy-k-poststatistike), although that may not be a problem for Putin’s most reliable supporters. Two-thirds of Russians now tell polltakers that they have never heard of “fake news” (regnum.ru/news/society/2437774.html).

2.      Chechen Leader Fills His Regime with Family Members and People from His Village. The BBC’s Russian Service has determined, and Moscow media have widely picked up on its story, that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov practices an extreme form of family values: he fills top government positions in his republic almost exclusively with family members and people from  his native village (bbc.com/russian/features-44576739 and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5B31E062345B7).

3.      Competition between TV and Refrigerator Being Displaced by One Between Couch and Job.  Many analysts in Moscow and the West have talked about the conflict between what people see on television and what they find in their own refrigerators as a defining factor of life in Putin’s Russia. It undoubtedly remains an important one, but now there is another – between the couch at home and the job at work – that is edging it out for many Russians (ng.ru/economics/2018-06-25/4_7252_working.html).

4.       A Bipolar World has Re-Emerged – but Russia isn’t Either Pole.  A Moscow commentator notes that a bipolar world has now re-emerged, but  in contrast to the past, Russia is not one of the poles. Instead, the Americans remain but the Chinese occupy the other, undercutting Putin’s claim that Russia is back (ng.ru/ideas/2018-06-26/5_7252_problem.html).

5.      Few Other Slavic Countries Look to Russia Anymore. Moscow has long assumed that it has the support of other Slavic countries even when it faces opposition from most others, but a new article points out that Russia’s behavior in recent years has alienated many of the Slavs and suggests that Moscow is unlikely to be able to recover its position with them anytime soon (svpressa.ru/society/article/203721/).

6.      Russia’s 300 Plus Company Towns Remained Mired in Misery. Despite much talk about solving the problem of aging towns built around a single industry in Soviet times and the announcement of new programs to save them, most of Russia’s more than 300 company towns, where millions of Russians still live, remain in deep trouble with few prospects of recovery (ng.ru/economics/2018-06-25/4_7252_live.html).

7.      Dying Volga River Could be Nation’s ‘Next Chernobyl.’ Pollution in Russia’s Volga River is now so bad that it threatens the health, well-being and even survival of the millions living along its banks. Indeed, some commentators are now saying that it rather than any atomic power plant will be Russia’s “next Chernobyl” (lenta.ru/articles/2018/06/25/volga_gibnet/).

8.       Kerch Bridge Seen Triggering Huge Natural Disaster. Vladimir Putin’s bridge to occupied Crimea has the potential to create an environmental disaster in the Sea of Azov and in parts of the Black Sea, according to Russian and international experts. That is likely to become the basis for even more criticism of Russia’s occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula (cont.ws/@ottuda/984407).

9.      In Russia, Monopolies Will Lead to Decay and Repression. A Moscow commentator argues that Russia’s increasing reliance on monopoly firms will lead to economic decay and that the regime will respond by increasing repression in order to hold power in the face of an increasingly impoverished population (ej.ru/?a=note&id=32615).

10.  Global Warming Hitting Siberia Hard. Not only is global warming melting the permafrost and destroying infrastructure across the Russian north, but it is producing much colder than normal temperatures in parts of Russia east of the Urals, challenging the ability of the Russian government to manage the situation (odaru.com/war-on-reason/banany-v-tajge-ili-sibirskaya-yazva/).

And even in the almost unrelieved good news about the world cup, a problem has emerged: it turns out that the woman whom Moscow’s First Channel chose to symbolize the Russian fan is a pornographic film star, something she denies but that much evidence shows to be the case (newizv.ru/news/society/26-06-2018/krasivaya-bolelschitsa-s-sayta-pervogo-kanala-okazalas-pornozvezdoy).

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