Staunton, May 19 – Sometimes the most interesting information provided by news stories in the Russian media – or indeed in the media of any country – is not what the authors thought they were conveying but rather what many readers and listeners are most likely to take from them. Among such stories recently are ten worth particular attention:
1. Almost a Third of Tobolsk’s Residents are Foreigners. The Rex news agency reported that approximately 30 percent of the residents of the Siberian city have foreign passports, an indication of the way in which businesses are having to attract workers from abroad to keep operating even in relatively large urban centers (iarex.ru/news/66549.html).
2. Middle-Aged Russians More Afraid of Unemployment than Being Sent to the Camps. Many Russians are worried about a return to 1937 with its repressions and GULAG, but polls show that most in their 30s and 40s are more worried about losing their jobs than about being send to the camps, perhaps calculating that the former is more likely than the latter (newizv.ru/news/society/16-05-2019/strashnee-kolymy-chego-boitsya-pokolenie-30-40-letnih).
3. One Duma Member Wants to Restore Julian Calendar and Leave Russia 14 Days Behind Rest of World. A Duma deputy has proposed returning the country to the calendar it had before 1917 and one that the ROC MP continues to use, an action that reflects the desire to restore the past but one that would leave the Russian calendar 14 days behind everyone else (forum-msk.org/material/news/15643880.html).
4. Russian Courts Returning Not Guilty Verdicts at Lowest Level Ever. A few years ago, Russian courts were finding those charged with crimes guilty at a lower rate than was the case in Stalin’s times. Now, their “success” rate has increased to the point that they are now returning guilty verdicts at the highest rate ever. According to new data, 424 of every 425 charged are now held to be guilty (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=37829).
5. Russia’s Private Military Companies Not as Attractive to Russians as Moscow Says. One man whom a private military company wanted to join up said he was told that he had better do so or he would be killed, an indication that despite high pay, these entities may not be as attractive to many Russians as some commentators and officials have suggested (idelreal.org/a/29919341.html).
6. Shamans Get Their First Church. One of the consequences of Moscow’s homogenizing approach to all things is that shamans, some of whom would like to receive official status, now have built their first “church,” a building with no real tradition among shamans (nazaccent.ru/content/29870-pervyj-v-rossii-shamanskij-hram-otkroetsya.html).
7. Declare Lenin a Saint and Bury Him, Some Russians Say. Vladimir Putin’s to reconcile the irreconcilable in Russian history continues, with one group of Orthodox activists now calling for the church to canonize the founder of the Bolsheviks and bury him in St. Isaac’s cathedral in St. Petersburg (eg.ru/politics/722972-posle-kanonizacii-lenina-doljny-pohoronit-v-isaakievskom-sobore-055776/).
8. Russians are Eating Less Well and Becoming More Obese. Many assume that when people have to cut back on food spending, they will lose weight. But in fact what almost always happens and is occurring in Russia today is that they eat less healthy but more fatty and unhealthy foods. As a result, in recent years, the level of obesity has doubled in that country as the economy has declined (forum-msk.org/material/news/15632660.html).
9. Ever Fewer Kilometers of New Roads are Being Built. Vladimir Putin has established an anti-record few would be proud of: he is building few kilometers of new road in Russia even though spending on highways continues to rise because of repairs. Those are becoming more likely now that officials have given permission to lay asphalt over snow, something that had been illegal in the past (rusmonitor.com/putinskijj-proryv-v-dorozhnom-stroitelstve-so-znakom-minus.html and politsovet.ru/62662-v-rossii-razreshat-ukladyvat-asfalt-v-sneg.html).
10. Unlike Commentators, Ordinary Russians Aren’t Thinking Much about Putin’s Successor Knowing Their Voices Won’t Matter. If one reads the Moscow press, one could come away with the notion that everyone in Russia is focusing on who will eventually succeed Vladimir Putin. But a new survey suggests that few ordinary Russians are devoting much attention to the question, knowing full well that they will not be the ones making the choice (themoscowtimes.com/2019/05/17/who-russians-think-will-succeed-putin-in-2024-a65621).