Sunday, June 30, 2019

Flooding in the Trans-Baikal has Cut Russia in Two as Far as Road Traffic is Concerned

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 29 –The horrific flooding in the Trans-Baikal has inflicted enormous human suffering compounded by the incompetence, malfeasance and dishonesty of Russian officials, all of which have been widely recognized by the victims and their families and reported in the Russian media (

            But one aspect of the situation, perhaps the most instructive of all, has attracted relatively little attention. The flooding has blocked all road traffic between Russia west of Lake Baikal and Russia east of that body of water,  cutting the country in two as far as that form of transportation is concerned (

            This blockage is an indication of just how poorly developed Russia’s infrastructure is. In many countries, a flood of the dimensions of the one around Baikal would disrupt ground transport; but in most, there would be alternatives, routes that might take longer but that could still ensure the delivery of critical supplies of food and medicine.

            Unfortunately, in most of Russia outside of the ring road around Moscow there are no alternatives: there is one road, one pipeline, and one rail line; and if anything happens to any one of those arteries, the people who depend on it are going to suffer. That the Russian authorities have chosen to ignore this and spend money instead on super projects is thus the real crime.

            One can only hope and pray that the waters will recede soon and the survivors of this tragedy will begin the long road to recovery – and one can also only hope and pray that the Kremlin will change its approach to the Russians outside of its charmed circle, although hopes for that are far dimmer than hopes for the recovery of the people of the Trans-Baikal.

Shafarevich’s ‘Small People’ Notion Helps Identify Russia’s ‘Internal Enemies’ Now, Retired Lieutenant Colonel of Justice Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 29 – Igor Shafarevich’s suggestion that “a small people” had harmed Russia in 1917 and again in 1991, an idea that has been widely and appropriately attacked as anti-Semitic, is a useful guide to hunting down those who threaten Russia from within now, according to Vladimir Nikolayev, a retired lieutenant colonel of justice.

            In 1982, Academician Igor Shafarevich, a world-renowned mathematician, published in samizdat an essay under the title Russophobia in which he argued that “a small people” had worked in 1917 to undermine “a big people” in Russia because of its hatred for that country and its traditional culture.

            Although he always denied an equivalency between “a small people” and the Jews, Shafarevich was attacked by Academician Andrey Sakharov, many other Russian liberals, and 400 prominent mathematicians around the world for precisely that. Later, unfazed by such criticism, he extended the idea that “a small people” had again defeated Russia in 1991.

            Despite or perhaps because of those attacks, Shafarevich has many defenders who want to extend his argument to Russia today.  Among them is Vladimir Nikolayev, a retired lieutenant colonel of justice, who says that even now “a small people” animated by hatred of all Russian traditions is working to harm the country.

            More than that, he argues in a post on the influential Russkaya narodnaya liniya portal, Shafarevich’s idea provides guidance for those who want to hunt down, contain, and defeat the “small people” that he says must be defeated in order to ensure the victory of “the traditional values of Russia” (

            As a result of the destructive work of “the small people,” Nikolayev says, “we have obtained the familiar conception of ‘the cursed past of Russia,’ the idea that Russia is ‘a prison house of peoples, the assertion that all our misfortunes today are explained by ‘survivals of the past’ and ‘the birthmarks’ of the system, not that of capitalism but of ‘Russian messianism’ or ‘Russian despotism.’”

            All this works to spread the idea that “’great power chauvinism’ is the main danger” to the country when in fact the main danger is “the informal conspiracy” based on “the small people” which hates “the large people” among whom it lives.

            Fortunately, Russia is too big and its regime too large for “the small people” to hope for a permanent victory. Healthy forces from among “the big people” can be counted on to overwhelm it, Nikolayev says. But that doesn’t stop “the small people” from continuing to come back and harm Russia.

            Often “the small people” succeeds enough to force the representatives of “the Big People” to play by rules the Small People establish, the retired legal affairs specialist says, and this means that they must “deny their national values and traditions and build a society on sand without roots.”

            That is continuing to happen and Russians as “the large people” must be vigilant, Nikolayev says. Shafarevich and his idea of “the small people” as a threat “gives us the weapons” to combat them.

            Obviously a single article does not mean that Russia is about to descend into some orgy of anti-Semitism; but the appearance of an article like this is deeply troubling because it will be taken by many as an indication that the center will at a minimum look the other way if Russians exclude Jews and other “small peoples” from positions of authority.

            That must be combatted and the epigones of Shafarevich must be subject to at least as consistent criticism as was the founder of this hateful idea. 

Putin’s Massive Closing of Schools Forcing Some to Operate on Three Shifts, Audit Chamber Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 29 – Defenders of Vladimir Putin’s educational “optimization” program have defended this money-saving effort by saying that the rural schools involved had so few pupils that their continued existence could not be justified because they could not support the variety of courses the pupils needed.

            In the 19 years of Putin’s rule, the number of schools in the Russian federation has fallen from 46,000 in 2001 to 24,000 with rural areas and smaller urban centers hit particularly hard.  Also closed under this program have been a small number of kindergartens: their number has fallen from 51,000 to 48,000.

            But in a report released yesterday, Svetlana Orlova, an investigator for the Russian Audit Chamber, says that the closings have clearly gone too far, with a one-size-fits-all approach meaning that in those areas with high birthrates (mostly Muslim), some schools are now forced to work two or even three shifts a day to accommodate all the children.

            She points out that Moscow is now spending less than three percent on education what it is spending on the high-profile national projects and that it is devoting a far smaller share of GDP to education than leading countries, 3.6 percent as opposed to five to seven percent for others (