Friday, December 31, 2021

Russian Nationalists Upset Moscow has Put Soviet Anti-Zionist Film on Extremist List

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 9 – The Russian justice ministry has put on the extremist list a 1973 Soviet anti-Zionist film that the CPSU Central Committee had ordered produced but that Yury Andropov banned, an action that Russian nationalist Andrey Soshenko says raises the question as to whether the Putin regime plans to “prohibit anti-Zionism.”

            The film, “Secret and Obvious,” was placed on the extremist list on the basis of a Syktyvkar court decision in June apparently because the notoriously anti-Semitic film, all but one copy of which were destroyed shortly after it was produced, is being shown on the Internet (

            But Soshenko complains that there is no basis for this official action because the 90-minute film as it announces at its start presents only “facts,” that it is not anti-Semitic but only anti-Zionist, and that it is important for Russians and others to know these things (

            From his perspective, Moscow is only doing this to appease liberal opinion – and in that, he may be right because now the Russian authorities can point to this action as evidence that their extremist list contains things that many liberals and others would certainly feel deserve to be prohibited.

            But it seems likely that the new ban will have exactly the opposite effect of what its authors want, leading more people to pay attention to a film that up to now had attracted only the most marginal of viewers and causing others to reflect upon the entire system of banning books and films that the Putin regime seems obsessed with.

Moscow Opens Russian Orthodox Church in Qarabagh

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 9 – Moscow has taken another step to make the Russian presence in Qarabagh more permanent: it has opened the first Russian Orthodox Church there since the Soviets destroyed all such shrines more than half a century ago (

            Nominally, the church, which is located on the base of the Russian peacekeeping contingent there, provides religious services to those troops. But it is already clear that those behind it want to help maintain the ethnic Russian community there and Moscow’s hold on the disputed territory.

            Aleksandr Bodrov, president of the Russian Community of Stepanakert, says that “Russian churches in Qarabagh to my great regret have not been preserved. All were destroyed by the Bolsheviks in Soviet times, and because of that, the newly erected Russian Orthodox Church in honor of the Birth of Christ acquires sacral and historic importance.”

            But there is another reason why the appearance of this new facility is likely to anger many in Azerbaijan and please many in Armenia. Last month, Patriarch Kirill established a Yerevan-Armenian bishopric of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (

            There was no indication at the dedication of the new church in Stepanakert that it will be subordinate to this bishopric, but it is certain that many in Yerevan will expect that and many in Baku will be alarmed about what both will see as a tilt by Moscow in Armenia’s direction and an indication that Russia intends to remain in Qarabagh not for five years but forever.


Eight New Anecdotes Say More about Russia Today than Any Commentary

Paul Goble

             Staunton, Nov. 9 – As Russians struggle to make sense of what is going on in their country at a time of increasing repression, they like their Soviet ancestors are using anecdotes to explain things, an approach that combines insight with political deniability and that often offers more insights than any commentary.

             Moscow writer Tatyana Pushkaryova has been offering a collection of the latest ones now circulating on almost a weekly basis. In her latest sample posted on the Publicist portal (, the following are especially instructive:

 ·       “Four persons of a Slavic nationality attacked a Daghestani youth in Makachkala, and their lawyer insists that the young man attacked them first,” a reversal of the recent case in Moscow and something most Russians assume could not possibly happen.

 ·       Russian siloviki repeatedly rape their male prisoners even though they are among the very first to complain about the spread of homosexual culture in the West.

 ·       A missionary approaches a Russian and says “We want to speak with you about God. Aren’t you afraid of dying tomorrow?” The Russian replies, “No. I live in Russia and am afraid of living here tomorrow.”

 ·       “Our politicians are like tanks,” some Russians say, not because they can’t be defeated but because they aren’t afraid of getting covered in dirt.

 ·       Russia Today has ordered its journalists to stop referring to the Taliban as a terrorist organization, apparently because the bosses in Moscow see nothing wrong with the kinds of repressive moves that Afghan group is using given that Russian siloviki use many of the same.

 ·       “Does it seem to you that in the chaos all around, you are the only person who has remained psychologically health? If so, accept our congratulations: you have successfully passed the test, ‘Know and Study Your Region.’”

 ·       It is no surprise that Russian officials are now requiring people to get covid shots. After all, Putin promised the reverse. But his track record is such that anything he promises is a reliable indication that he will do just the reverse.

 ·       Russians say it is entirely proper that governors should be given life terms – but not in government offices but in government prisons.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Russian Juries Finding More Defendants Not Guilty, but Appellate Courts are Reversing Almost 90 Percent of Such Verdicts, Statistics Show

Paul Goble

             Staunton, Nov. 9 – When juries decided cases in Russian courts this past year, they found defendants not guilty in almost a third of all cases; but prosecutors appealed all such verdicts as Russian law requires and appellate courts reversed the jury findings in about 90 percent of the cases, dramatically limiting the impact of jury trials on Russian justice.

             When cases are held not before a jury but only a judge, fewer than one half of one percent of defendants are found not guilty, and so in those cases, there is little need for such appeals (

             These figures come in the first case from the Judicial Department of the Russian Federation Supreme Court (; the latter comes from a study conducted by the Moscow Institute on Judiciary Issues (

            On the one hand, as Marina Yurshina of Profile says, this pattern suggests that juries are the only part of the Russian judicial system where the presumption of innocence in fact exists. But on the other, the reversals show that the powers that be don’t trust them or their findings and are using the appellate courts to ensure that almost all people charged with crimes are convicted.

             Unfortunately, she adds, many Russians do not want to serve on juries because of the ways in which such service disorders their lives; and so prosecutors and judges have yet another way of keeping the number of jury trials down and the number of findings of innocence down to minimal levels.

Russians Aren’t Rejecting Putin Themes; They Simply aren’t Mobilized by Them Any More, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 9 – The decline in Vladimir Putin’s popularity does not mean that Russians have rejected his favorite messages, Abbas Gallyamov says. Instead, it means that while Russians still find those themes attractive, they view these messages as irrelevant to their lives, no longer are mobilized by them, but instead are focused on their personal live

            What is going on, the Russian commentator and former Putin speechwriter says, is an increase in the sense among Russians that “the powers that be are not acting in correspondence with the ideals they have sometimes proclaimed.” And seeing no prospect for change, they are focusing on their personal needs  (

            It is of course possible that at some point, the Russians will reject the messages along with the messenger; but that has not yet happened. And it could happen only if someone with a credible chance at gaining power speaks out in favor of the concerns they have in their daily life rather than simply criticizing Putin.

            In some respects, Gallyamov argues, this attitude is very much like that of the Soviet dissidents who demanded that the leaders of the USSR “follow their own constitution” rather than that they strike out in some new direction entirely.

            One might think that someone who presented a more credible defense of patriotism and the value of great power than Putin would win support, but that does not necessarily follow either, Gallyamov says. Those values haven’t been so much rejected as found irrelevant to the lives of ordinary Russians. Just repeating them then won’t achieve much for anyone.

            Russians aren’t rejecting stability and patriotism or denying their value. They simply view these things as unconnected with their daily lives and they leave them to those in power. Meanwhile the Russians focus on their own narrower problems, the commentator says, and that is defining the character of discourse in Russia today.

Ice in Eastern Portion of Northern Sea Route Trapping Ships and Casting Doubt on Moscow’s Plans

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 9 – Temperatures in the Arctic have been much higher than normal this year, but high winds and colder temperatures in parts of the eastern portion of the Northern Sea Route have trapped or delayed “more than 20 ships” there because Russia still lacks the icebreaker capacity to ensure their transit, The Barents Observer reports.

            These difficulties call into question Moscow’s plans to begin year-around shipping on the Northern Sea Route next winter and have ships carry as much as 150 million tons of cargo each year along it (

            There have been fewer problems in the western portion of the route which has seen higher temperatures and less ice than in the eastern part where temperatures have been somewhat lower and where only one Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker is currently operating. As a result, some ships have been trapped in the ice; and others have had to select alternative routes.

            Moscow has touted the rapid growth of its icebreaker fleet, but most are being used in the west rather than the east and in harbor areas rather than in the open seas. And three of its largest ships of this class are either moored in port for upgrades or being kept in reserve rather than used to rescue ships in the east.

Moscow Planning to Amalgamate Ethnic Russian Regions after 2024 Election, Asafov Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 9 – There are growing signs that the Kremlin plans to restart its regional amalgamation campaign not by trying to unite non-Russian federal subjects with predominantly ethnic Russian ones but instead by combining declining ethnic Russian regions, a move far less likely to provoke protests.

            That the center has decided that moving against non-Russian republics could be dangerous is suggested by the Kremlin decision not to use the public power law to do away with the so-called matryoshka republics, non-Russian federal subjects surrounded by ethnic Russian ones (

            Indeed, combining predominantly ethnic Russian regions in the central part of the country is even being discussed in the context of the more popular notion that Russia will become a country of large urban centers surrounded by largely depopulated areas (

            But now Aleksandr Asafov, a political commentator for Govorit Moskva radio, has provided new evidence for this shift. Citing the works of various political analysts, he suggests that amalgamation of Russian regions near Moscow is likely to return to the center of discussion after the 2024 elections (

            Among the candidates for such amalgamation are Tula, Ryzan, Vladimir and Tver Oblasts, all of which have seen declining populations and economies in recent decades and all of which are closely linked to the rapidly growing conurbation of Moscow and Moscow Oblast (

            What remains to be seen is just what new lines might be drawn and whether either the leaders of these federal subjects or Russian nationalists will protest, likely complaining that they are about to become victims of a policy that they and most others understood as being directed at the non-Russian minorities rather than the ethnic Russian majority. 

Putin Regime Allows Far Less Dissent within Its Ranks than Late Soviet One Did, Tsipko Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 8 – The Putin regime allows far less dissent especially on issues it considers fundamental than did the Soviet one in its last decades, Aleksandr Tsipko says. Instead, it forces most into silence and many into emigration and suffers from intellectual and moral degradation.

            After detailing how he was able to make a brilliant career in Soviet times despite publicly rejecting fundamental CPSU dogmas, the senior Moscow commentator suggests no one can expect to have a similar opportunity now and that this intellectual straightjacket extends back to current thinking about the Soviet past (

            Today, little remains of the ferment of perestroika or even from the period immediately before it as far as discussions of humaneness is concerned. “The unexpected has happened: the Soviet system has died and interest in anti-Soviet literature and the truth about the crimes of the Bolshevik era have disappeared at the same time,” Tsipko continues.

            “Now, no one besides Metropolitan Ilarion risks saying that the crimes of Stalin were in no way distinguished from the crimes of Hitler,” he says. “The problem is not only that we have lost interest in the spiritual heritage of Russian thinkers and interest in all who turned attention to the satanic nature of Marxism and Marxist ideology.” It is more profound than that.

            Putin himself continues to refer to Nikolay Berdyayev, but “with each passing day, we move further from the heritage of Berdyaev, Semyon Frank, and Pyor Struve who called for a post-communist Russia to combine the values of statehood and the values of freedom.” Instead, the first is elevated; and the others are rejected or ignored.

            The situation continues to get worse, Tsipko says. In the 1990s, Yeltsin and Gaidar “openly trampled upon the values of Russian statehood, but now the ideologues of ‘the Russian spring’ of 2014 will still greater frenzy trample on the values of freedom and the values of human life.”

            “Even in Soviet times,” the Moscow thinker says, “no one risked saying that the death of six million people during the famine of 1932-1933 was justified because we wer preparing for a war with fascist Germany. But today, the so-called historians of the Military History Society say exactly that,” forgetting that Hitler would not have come to power without Stalin’s help.

            Tsipko says that he is “disturbed by the shocking indifference of today’s patriots to the death of millions of their own compatriots. These are people not just with dead eyes but with dead souls.”

            “In Soviet times, anti-Sovietism came from both the heart as a protest against the crimes of Stalin and rom the mind as a protest against Marxist utopianism. But now, those who call themselves patriots have neither minds nor hearts,” Tsipko says.

            Pyotr Struve dreamed that when the Russians freed themselves from communism, they would be able to combine respect for the triumphs of Suvorov and Nakhimov with respect for the moral feat of Metropolitan Filipp who rose up against Ivan the Terrible and against the crimes of the oprichniki.”

            But today, the Moscow Patriarchate is prepared to rewrite its hagiography of Filipp so that it will correspond to the new approach of statist history that deifies Ivan.

            “It seems,” Tsipko says, “that we are not in a position to restore the value of Russian statehood without rejecting the value of human life. Our patriots have forgotten that the value of human life and freedom of choice are not just the values of European humanism but the deep values of Christianity.”

            Dostoyevsky showed that in the legend of the Grand Inquisitor, and “it is time for all our patriots to recognize that by justifying the murderers Ivan and Stalin in the name of the values of Russian statehood, we not only are entering into conflict with the values of European civilization but are leading the country to moral degradation.”

            “If there is no difference between good and evil in the assessment of our national history, then everything is permitted,” Tsipko says. “I think that there is a deep connection between the current departure from the values of humanism and the degradation of the Russian way of life.”

            “We have never given human life particular value,” he argues. “But when the authorities themselves say that life is worth nothing and that in the name of the values of statehood one can kill millions of people, then everything is permitted in ordinary life as well.”

            And Russians can see that all around them: “80 percent of the children in orphanages have living parents, and 80 percent of the elderly who are kept in special homes for the aged have living children.”