Friday, December 28, 2018

A Baker’s Dozen of ‘Only in Russia’ Stories

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 27 – One of the features of the news in the waning days of the year is the appearance of stories that might not make the cut during other, busier periods. The last few days have offered numerous stories that highlight Russian realities, with at least 13 of them being worth mention here. 

1.      Moscow Introduced Toilet Paper and the SST in the Same Year.  A half century ago, the Soviet government began to produce toilet paper, long a feature of Western societies; but in the same year, it began testing of the supersonic transport plane, an indication that lags in one area do not necessarily point to lags in others, commentators say (

2.      To Avoid Paying for Communal Services, Thousands of Russians are Joining the USSR.  Declaring themselves to be citizens of the Soviet Union and thus not required to pay Russian fees for housing services, thousands of Russians in the last few weeks have joined the USSR, not the country but the trade union (

3.      Yandex Will No Longer Display Stories from Telegram Channels. The telegram channels which feature some of the most interesting stories about Russia today will no longer be displayed for Russians who use the country’s largest search engine, Yandex.  That will reduce attention to them and is another example of the “hybrid” restrictions Vladimir Putin has become famous for (

4.      Russians Mark Centenary of Having Two New Years Each Year. This year is the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Western calendar in Russia, something that happened without the Russian Orthodox Church following suit. As a result, for a century, some Russians have been celebrating two new years each year (

5.      Yoghurt Could Have Prevented 1917 Revolution, New Book Says. According to a new and popular Russian book, the revolutions of 1917 wouldn’t have happened had the Russian Empire been producing or importing more yoghurt. That is because with more yoghurt, the tsarevich’s hemophilia would have been ameliorated, Rasputin wouldn’t have mattered, the mad priest wouldn’t have been murdered … and so on (

6.      Social ‘Apartheid’ Now Dividing Moscow. Everyone knows that Moscow is divided from the rest of Russia by the ring road, with life within it far better than life beyond. But fewer know that officials are rapidly segregating the capital itself between a wealth inner city and a much poorer zone around it. That is beginning to spark complaints (, especially as the poorer areas are now suffering from things like outbreaks of diptheria, problems that the central media won’t cover (

7.      Could Helicopters Make Up for Closing of Rural Medical Points?  As a result of Putin’s “optimization” program, many villages and small towns across Russia have been left without any medical facilities, including doctors, and the health and well-being of rural Russians is suffering ( Now, one writer has come up with a solution: putting helicopters in regional centers to bring in to the remaining hospitals the sick from outlying areas, although it is far from clear how a government that won’t spend money to keep hospitals open is going to field a country-wide fleet of helicopters (

8.      Rosstat Figures Never Reliable about to Get Worse.  Change at the top of the Russian statistical agency means that it will produce ever less accurate and reliable figures, Russian experts say, something that will mean both experts and the authorities will increasingly be flying blind (

9.      Like Tsarist Predecessors, Russian Forces in Ukraine Now Go into Battle Carrying Icons.  Ever more frequently, Russian forces in the Donbass are carrying icons as they go into battle against Ukrainian defenders (

10.  Fewer than Half of Russians Name Putin ‘Politician of the Year.’ For the first time in many years, fewer than half of all Russians have named Vladimir Putin as “the political figure of the year,” according to pollsters (

11.  Defense Ministry Slips Up Again with Its Calendar.  A Russian defense ministry calendar intended to display Russia’s super weapons undercuts its own message by featuring in one of the pictures gloves made in the United States, an indication if one be needed of that country’s dependence on imports even in the defense sector (

12.  Moscow Says It will Ban Smoking … in 2050.  The Russian government displaying once again its proclivity not to take step-by-step actions now but to announce dramatic ones sometime in the distant future has announced it will ban the use of tobacco by mid-century, something that if it happens at all will occur when none of those now in office is still around (

13.  Some Russians Want ‘Show Trial’ of Gorbachev.  Ever more Russians, following the Kremlin, have an increasingly positive attitude toward Stalin, openly discussing how much they “lost” because Stalin supposedly died too soon ( and supporting the return of many Stalin-era approaches. The latest includes a call for “a show trial” of Mikhail Gorbachev for his crimes against the Russian people (

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