Thursday, October 31, 2019

Constitutional Court to Decide If Moscow Can Keep Violating the Law and Not Letting Those Deported Return to the City

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 28 – Last week, the Russian Constitutional Court heard the appeal of three ethnic German women whose families were deported from Moscow by Stalin on ethnic grounds but whom the city authorities in Moscow, in spite of Russian law on the rights of the deported to return, have erected so many barriers to them that they have not been able to.

            For the first time in almost a quarter of a century, the Constitutional Court has heard a case concerning the rights of deported to return. In the 1990s, Yekaterina Butorina of Profile says, such cases were commonplace but not since then (

            One of the cases of the 1990s, in 1995, had the court declare that the children of those deported had the same right of return as their parents, even if they were born somewhere else. The three cases before the court now involve children as few of the original deportees remain alive.

            And even they, the journalist says, are declining in number. As of January 1, 2019, there were some 530,000 citizens of the Russian Federation who had the status of being victims of political repressions.  That is 60,000 fewer than two years earlier, and the rate of the decline of this pool will only accelerate with each passing year.

            That means that those like the three women in this case who are still in exile are running out of time.  Under the 1991 law on the rehabilitation of victims of political repression, they should not have had any difficulty going home; but the fact that they still aren’t back is a product of the complex legal changes of the last 30 years. 

            Until 2005, the federal authorities supervised this process and directed the federal subjects how to treat returnees and the order they were to be offered housing and other amenities. But in that year, Moscow handed off responsibility in this area to the regions and republics, and they took one of three paths forward.

            Some adopted special laws; others amended existing reginal legislation, both to bring their arrangements int line with the 1991 law. But there was a third group, including Moscow, the object of this case, that did not adopt new laws but rather threw up all kinds of obstacles to the return of the children of those deported.  

            As a result, Butorina says, is that in Moscow, “the right of return” came to be understood quite narrowly: if people had already returned and lived ten years of more in the city, then they could aspire to an apartment; but without any special advantages, something that meant many would not live long enough to get an apartment from the state as the 1991 law requires. 

            The federal authorities both legislative and executive appear to be on the side of the women; but Moscow is arguing that if it gives privileges to the politically repressed, it will have to discriminate against the disabled.  But what appears to be the case is that the Russian capital is seeking to run out the clock, outlasting those who have the right to claim the right of return.

‘If Someone is for Putin, He isn’t a Russian Nationalist,’ Pskov’s Pavlov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 28 – Georgy Pavlov, the longtime leader of Russian nationalists in Pskov who gained notoriety for his attacks on liberal Russian politicians and spent time in prison for sparking inter-ethnic hostility, now has changed his tune: he is ready to work with the liberals and anyone else to challenge Putin and end the incarceration of all who think differently.

            His evolution has been striking. In 2012, Pavlov was talking about purity of blood and demanded a purely Russian state. In 2014, he backed Putin’s aggression against Ukraine and called upon prosecutors to check out Pskov Yabloko leader Lev Shlosberg. But he has now dropped his earlier slogans and is focused on ending the imprisonment of people for their views.

            “Political prisoners are ow the most important item on the agenda,” he tells Lyudmila Savitskaya of MBK news. Now the regime is cracking down on all those who are against the regime, and those who are must come together to oppose and ultimately over throw it (

            Divisions among Russian nationalists emerged after the annexation of Crimea, Pavlov continues; and it was at that time that he began his own political evolution from the man who was known in the oblast as “Gosha the Aryan” who urged the use of physical violence against immigrants and liberals to a defender of political freedoms and human rights.   

            The reformed Russian nationalist says is earlier attitudes reflected “youthful maximalism. It is just the case,” he says, “that at that time I was more radical and now I have become more moderate.  Now, I do not see many of the activists of that time among the opposition and at actions.”

            By 2017, he had made the retirement of Putin and his government the centerpiece of his movement and thus attracted support from Navalny’s supporters and from Open Russia.  Pavlov says he backs Navalny’s call to do away with Articles 280 and 282 of the Russian criminal code that allow the state to punish people for their views.

Pavlov still believes that the current regime is destroying the ethnic Russians and keeping natives of the country out of positions of power.  And he says bluntly: “If someone is for Putin, then he isn’t a nationalist” because the Putin regime is working against the Russian nation.

It is possible, he concludes, that a Putin supporter may be a patriot or a monarchist but there is no chance that he is a Russian nationalist, committed to the best interests of the Russian people.

Russia Currently has Fewer than 350 Miles of High-Speed, Multi-Lane Highways, Rosstat Data Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 28 – An article intending to show that Russia’s roads are better than Russians think and therefore should rank higher on international ratings than they do in fact confirms just how far behind the West that country despite being the largest on earth lags in developing high-speed, multi-lane roads.

            At the end of the 1990s, Ruslan Khubiyev says, Russia had only 365 kilometers of such highways. Now, it has 2050 km; but Moscow plans to boost that number to 7600 km by 2025. Even if it reaches that level, which the record suggests is highly unlikely, it will still lag far behind Western Europe, China and most of the 50 US states (

            Most of these modern roads are concentrated in and around Moscow, thus creating the impression that the situation with regard to highways in the country as a whole is similar to that which exists in other countries. But in fact, once one goes a few hundred kilometers beyond the ring road, such highways are rare. 

            Khubiyev reports these and other figures in the course of arguing that Russia’s low ratings regarding highways represent what he calls “outdated stereotypes” rather than current reality.  And because Russians believe their country’s roads are bad, Russia is routinely ranked as having bad roads.

            “In other words,” the Moscow commentator says, “if representatives of business in Namibia and Ruanda consider that their roads are good, those countries rank higher” -- 31st and 32nd respectively last year while inappropriate Russian attitudes keep the country down near the bottom at 114th place.

            “Automobile roads in Russia are an eternal problem for a long list of reasons,” the commentator says. First of all, Russia is “an enormous country,” so connecting all of its parts together is a huge challenge. Second, there are significant regional variations in weather and the topography. Third, it lost a great deal of highway infrastructure in World War II.

            Fourth, the Soviet Union missed the growth in automobiles in other countries in the decades after the war and thus Russia didn’t have the roads when it began acquiring more cars. And fifth, “the majority of existing roads were built during the Soviet period” and are wearing out. Consequently, the need for repairs makes it harder to build new roads.

            As Khubiyev points out, the Russian government divides the country’s roads into three classes, those of federal importance which connect Moscow with foreign countries and regional center, those of regional or municipal importance, and those roads and streets within a particular city or village.

            Some in the first category have serious problems, but a majority of those in the second and third do. The Russian government plans over the next six years to bring up to standard at least 85 percent of the roads in 83 federal subjects. Only 46 percent of roads in this category now do so.