Sunday, February 28, 2021

Actions on Sixth Anniversary of Nemtsov’s Murder Take Place Across Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – In a sign that activism in Russian regions is not going to be limited to demonstrations organized by the Navalny staff but has other bases as well, Russians in many regions took part in memorial meetings on the sixth anniversary of the murder of Boris Nemtsov.

            There were nowhere near as many such actions as there were with the Navalny protests, but they were all locally organized and occurred despite the refusal of officials to give permission because of the pandemic (

            The 7x7 portal provides coverage today of the actions in Ryazan, Ulyanovsk, Smolensk, Pskov, Kostroma, Novgorod, Belgorod, and Voronezh. Others likely took place as well but have not yet been widely reported. But this is another indication that activism continues to spread to places where many in Moscow have not expected it to be. 

Russia Less a Mafia State than One Too Closely Integrated with Business, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – In most countries, corruption occurs when officials are paid off to do things for private interests that violate established laws and procedures, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. But in Russia, the situation is entirely different and, in many ways, far more pernicious.

            Russian officials “for their own profit at times even without violating the laws which from the outset were adopted for their enrichment” service industries they are supposed to be overseeing for the state because they are recruited on the basis of loyalty to those industries and to the enrichment of their own superiors, the Russian economist says.

            What that means, Inozemtsev suggests, is that “in our day, the reality which has arisen is less like a mafia state” praying on business “than a ‘commercial’ one in which businesses have worked hard to create clans within the bureaucracy that are guaranteed to support them because of common interests (

            Corruption of the usual kind of course continues to exist, but the far greater danger of such business capture of the bureaucracy is that both become ever less ambitious because the current arrangements work so well for them. That decline in ambition represents “a sign of the commercialization of the state. If it isn’t stopped, the Russian political elite will not have a chance to secure the development of the country.”

            How this works can be seen if one considers just how differently Russian state bureaucracies are staffed. They aren’t recruited on the basis of professional competence but on loyalty and typically loyalty either directly to economic sectors they supervise or indirectly to more senior officials who are loyal to those groups.

            Such groups of loyalists are not typically based on family ties as has become legend in many republics within Russia but on “purely commercial” calculations in which the competence of individuals to do the work they are assigned is viewed as far less important than their willingness to cooperate with those they are supposed to regulate.

            What this means, Inozemtsev concludes, is that changes at the very top of the bureaucracy likely matter less than changes in the middle range among officials who supervise those lower-level officials who actually handle relations with the sector they are nominally supposed to regulate.

            Increased circulation at that middle level would promote the transformation of the situation, he says; and precisely for that reason, it is unlikely to happen. Because it isn’t, the benefits of breaking up the commercial Russian state aren’t likely to be gained.

Federative Party Absurdly Being Accused of Being a Khodorkovsky Project, Miftakhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – Given the paucity of information about anything not being boosted by the authorities, it is perhaps no surprise that those not directly involved routinely come up with conspiratorial notions that all such activities are the work of outside forces like foreign intelligence services or Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Lenar Miftakhov says.

            Russia’s still-unregistered Federative Party has fallen victim to that tendency with numerous commentator suggesting that Khodorkovsky is behind the group because some of its members earlier were involved with his Open Russia effort. But that notion is absurd, the member of the party says (

            Those who are inclined to believe in conspiracies can seldom be dissuaded. Indeed, they often view efforts to dissuade them of what they are certain is true as yet another indication that they are right and everyone else is wrong. But in this case, the conspiracy advocates are wrong for the simplest of reasons.

            And it is this: what Khodorkovsky advocates and what the Federative Party does are diametrically opposed. That should lead those who think he is behind the group to ask themselves the simple question: why would the émigré opposition leader support a domestic group that is against his program and goals?

            As outlined in his latest book, Khodorkovsky sees Russia’s future “not as a union of regions (as our party declares),” Miftakhov says, “but as a country of cities” and not just of all cities but “only of megalopolises” around which the entire rest of the country would be organized.

            Khodorkovsky’s ideal is a Russia consisting of “a political union of urban megalopolises,” with the surrounding territories servicing them and their absorbing all the functions of the current federal subjects which would be disbanded to make this possible, the Federative Party activist continues.

            If the émigré political leader has his way, these megalopolises will have all the authority and resources of the former regions and all of them will be subordinate to the Kremlin” which will be controlled by those who share Khodorkovsky’s vision. “In my view,” the Federative Party activist says, “this is simply a new version of the empire.”

            The Federative Party in stark contrast wants power and control to be vested in the existing regions, to make their borders inviolable, and to have power divided between them and the center on the basis of their negotiated agreement among them rather than on orders from the center.

            Why would Khodorkovsky finance anyone who thinks that way? Miftakhov asks rhetorically.

            The Party currently plans to have a constituent congress in June. But even if it secures registration, something probably unlikely, it won’t be fielding its own party list for the Duma election, although some of its adherents may run as independents and even win places in the legislature if not this time around then in the future. 

Lubyanka Statue Debate Highlighted Ideological Vulnerability of Putin Regime, Popkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – The Kremlin launched the debate on which statue should go up in front of the FSB headquarters on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square in order to distract attention from Aleksey Navalny and stories about Putin’s palace in Gelendzhik, Roman Popkov says; but things didn’t work out as planned (

            The debate, although hyped by state media in all possible ways, did little to distract Russians from Navalny and the palace, the MBK commentator says.  Instead, it highlighted a fundamental ideological division within the Putin regime and had to be ended by calling attention to the ideological emptiness of the regime: a decision not to put up any statue at all.

            From its beginning, the Putin regime has simultaneously appealed to “’right-conservative’ and ‘white-patriotic’ emotions and to nostalgia for the Stalinist-Brezhnevite USSR,” Popkov says. In this debate there was little room for the Leninist origins of the Soviet state with the exception of the Cheka, the forefather of today’s security agencies.

            This “eclectic ‘monarchist-soviet’ worldview began to take shape in the Kremlin already under Stalin. It existed during stagnation. And in the 1990s, “hybrid ideas about ‘white’ and ‘red’ Russia became the internal content of the national-patriotic opposition. But under Putin, all this became a core principle of the state.

            That in turn called attention to “the absurdity and Kafkaesque quality of Putin’s Russian Federation,” Popkov says, a place where “the portrait of a professional revolutionary and inmate of tsarist prisons, a political émigré and organizer of the red terror hang in the officers of FSB officers who consider themselves ‘the new nobility.’”

            “The Chekists of the 21st century,” the commentator continues, “hate any revolution past or future. They love money and luxury. Vulgar imperialism is much close to them aesthetically than the asceticism of leather jackets of the chekists of a hundred years ago. They are the descendants of Benkendorf rather than Dzerzhinsky, even though they have pictures of the latter.

            That does not reflect their nostalgia for the times of Brezhnev and Andropov. Instead, it is all about their memory of defeat in August 1991 when the statue of the founder of the Cheka was toppled. They want revenge for that, and an important part of that revenge in their view should involve putting Dzerzhinsky’s statue back where it was.

            “But Dzerzhinsky is a figure who divides the cobbled together ‘imperial-patriotic’ consensus,” Popkov argues. And what the Kremlin saw what was happening with the debate about his statue, it proposed as an alternative the more unifying figure of Aleksandr Nevsky, something “the new nobility” in the FSB isn’t at all happy about.

            The FSB officers “do not want to understand that the Kremlin and mayor’s office simply organized the latest event so that people would forget about Navalny and the Gelendzhik palace. They and many veteran organizations aren’t that clever or flexible. And so they lost this round, but they won’t forget that either.

            And that makes what the Kremlin has done in this case something that not only reveals the division within the loyalist elements of the regime but also exacerbates the divide between the reds and the whites that Putin apparently had little idea he was deepening by this action. Deciding not to put any statue up only shows how vulnerable this division leaves the regime.



Unlike Stalin, Putin isn’t Bloodthirsty and Uses Violence Only When He Feels Threatened, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – Despite all his authoritarianism and other shortcomings, Abbas Gallyamov says, Vladimir Putin has one “undoubted plus” in comparison with Stalin: the Russian president isn’t bloodthirsty, takes no pleasure in mistreating others, and uses force only when he feels a real threat to his position.

            “In the Russian ruling group,” the former Putin speechwriter and now commentator says, “there are many openly tyrannical types who would shed rivers of blood.” Such people are “especially numerous among those who have emerged from the siloviki, but there aren’t many among others such as among the governors” (

            Putin isn’t interested in shedding blood for the sake of doing so, Gallyamov continues. “In principle, he could easily transform his regime into something much more bloodthirsty,” especially as there are so many around in and in the population who have forgotten what Stalin was really like and are quite prepared to bring back the Soviet dictator’s approach.

            The regime Putin has established and maintains is hardly gentle, but “all the same, it is far from being Stalinist.” As a result, while politically motivated violence and even murders do occur, this is “the exception and not the rule.” This doesn’t mean Russians should approve that, but they should welcome that the president isn’t inclined in the same direction.

            And “the radical opposition must clearly understand that when it warns about ‘a new 1937,’ most people in the country do not understand what it is talking about. This very strongly interferes with the ability of the opposition to move beyond its current limits, even in a situation when protest attitudes are intensifying and people in principle are ready to oppose the regime.”

            Given how much violence there has been to people like Boris Nemtsov and Aleksey Navalny to name but two, this may seem “a little blasphemous;’ but one must keep in mind that the number of these cases is in the dozens and not in the millions.” And that difference is quantity represents a difference in quality.

            The Russian people recognize this, and the opposition needs to as well. Otherwise, it will alienate rather than attract additional support for its campaign against Putin.

Political Crisis in Armenia May Lead 200,000 More People to Leave, Reducing It to Something like Abkhazia, Vardanyan SaysPolitical Crisis in Armenia May Lead 200,000 More People to Leave, Reducing It to Something like Abkhazia, Vardanyan Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – Ruben Vardanyan, the former owner of the Troika Dialogue investment company, says that the current political crisis in Armenia may lead as many as 200,000 more Armenians to leave their homeland for life and work abroad and even more to think about doing so in the near future.

            If that happens, Armenia risks becoming something like a second Abkhazia, with an ever-weaker economy and a political system incapable of maintaining control of the situation without the intervention one way of another of an outside power, most likely Russia (

            The only way to avoid this, Vardanyan suggests, is for the Armenian diaspora to take a more active role in the country rather than as now sitting and criticizing what is going on, especially in the wake of Yerevan’s defeat at the hands of Baku in the recent fighting over Qarabagh and the formerly Armenian-occupied buffer zone in Azerbaijan.

            Two Moscow experts on Armenia, Gevorg Migzayan of the Finance University and Mikhail Neyzhmakov of the Agency for Political Economic Communications, say that Vardanyan’s projections need to be taken seriously because he is a serious analyst but that there are more ways forward than he suggests (

            If Armenia continues to lose population at a high rate, some outside power will have to play a role to keep things from disintegrating, Migzayan says. But it is possible in his view that a group of technocrats could come to power in Yerevan, stabilizing the situation and limiting the outflow of Armenians.

            Neyzhmakov agrees, but he adds in addition that Abkhazia has proved relatively stable despite its small population and that Armenia may surprise everyone by proving to be more stable overall as well, even if it suffers from periodic outbursts of anti-government protests. Population size alone doesn’t drive politics, he suggests.

All Aspects of Russian Pandemic Response Distorted by Falsification, 3400-Member Watching COVID-2019 Group Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – An online group, Watching COVID-2019, set up by five experts including Aleksey Raksha and now having 3400 members across the country, has found that official information about no aspect of the Russian response to the pandemic from the development of vaccines to the numbers of infections and deaths is transparent and reliable.

            Instead, as Rimma Polyak of Vestnik Civitas summarizes their findings so far, all government-released data has been falsified or distorted to meet the needs of officials, a pattern that adds to fears about what the real situation is like including the safety of vaccines and makes any assessment based on official data problematic at best (

            The latest official figures are that over the last 24 hours, there were 11,534 new cases of infection and 439 new deaths, both continuing the downward trend in recent days, despite some continuing hotspots ( and One result of the downward numbers is that 56 percent of Russians now tell the Levada Center that they don’t fear getting infected (

            Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin says he hopes to soon lift restrictions on the activities of elderly residents , and the Russian government says that teachers will be required to get the vaccine, despite suggestions that the process will be entirely voluntary (

            One continuing impact of the pandemic in Russia which affects many concerns plans for school graduation testing. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has now issued an order that will simplify the process because of the complications arising from the spread of the coronavirus up to now (

            As the pandemic wanes, Russians are focusing increasingly on its economic consequences, especially as inflation has now risen to a five-year high (, and surveys suggest that almost ten percent of small and mid-sized Russian firms are on the brink of shutting down operations (


Unless Regions Become Republics, Russians will Remain Both a Colonizing and Colonized Nation, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 26 – Many believe that within the Russian Federation, the basic division is between the ethnic Russians as the state-forming nation and the non-Russians with their own autonomous republics, but in fact, with regard to escaping from the colonial situation in which both find themselves, the situation is far more complicated, Kharun Sidorov says.

            On the one hand, the Prague-based regionalist commentator says, the ethnic Russians under the system established by the USSR and continued to this day find themselves simultaneously a colonizing force, suppressing the non-Russians, and a colonized one whose own aspirations are suppressed by the imperial state (

            And on the other hand, the non-Russians are divided between those who have republics which are in most cases increasingly dominated by their titular nations and represent proto-states and the many other non-Russians who do not have such institutions and thus are not in a position to advance their national agendas.

            That means that any program for de-colonization of the Russian Federation must address the needs of the Russians and both kinds of non-Russians. For the first, the recipe is relatively easy. The predominantly Russian regions must become republics so that they can serve as representatives of their population rather than be instruments of the imperial rule of others.

            But dealing with the non-Russian portion requires not only being open to the elevation of the status of the non-Russian autonomies and being open to their departure from the Russian state entirely to become independent countries as the union republics did in 1991 but also recognizing the need to find ways to defend non-Russians without republic status.

            Many of them may be too small or too widely dispersed to allow for them to acquire republic status, but they can be recognized as corporate entities which deserve protection against assimilation by larger groups and against becoming spurs for radical nationalism on the part of these larger groups against them.

            Other countries, with India and Great Britain among the most prominent, highlight these possibilities and dangers. India first divided into India and Pakistan (which later split into Pakistan and Bangladesh), and then as a Hindu-dominated state. In this latter form, it sparked more nationalism among the Hindus and less tolerance among them for others.

            And in Great Britain, the position first of the Irish who left entirely and now of the Scots and Welsh who aspire in differing degrees  to self-determination has forced London to be more supportive of their aspirations than it is of English nationalism and its growing intolerance for minorities within it.

            Sidorov surveys these and other models of dealing with multi-ethnic states to suggest that Russians and non-Russians must adopt a different approach than the one they have now if they are to avoid entering into a new cycle in which the dominant Russians will become more nationalistic and the non-Russians of both types less willing to remain within a common state.

            There are figures in the Russian past both can draw on, but unless both Russians and non-Russians recognize how fraught the situation already is, he suggests, the country will enter into a new and explosive period of disintegration, one in which the nationalism of the largest group will be ever more imperialist and that of the smaller ones ever more radical. 

Siloviki Arrest Ingush Leader They’d Sought for Almost Two Years

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 26 – As the trial of the Ingush Seven wends toward its end with near certain convictions of many leaders of the March 2019 protest against Yunus-Bek Yevkurov’s giving away of 10 percent of the republic’s territory to Chechnya, the powers that be in Ingushetia have arrested another opposition leader who has eluded them for almost two years.

            In the weeks following that protest, the authorities both Ingush and Russian arrested dozens of opposition figures; and by June 2019, the most prominent one still at large, Akhmed Pogorov, a former Ingush interior minister and current vice president of the World Congress of the Ingush People, continued to give the Ingush and Russian authorities fits (

            He posted online video appeals and calls for the Ingush diaspora to come to the aid of the republic against rule by Moscow and Magas despite being on the Russian most-wanted list and official claims of his arrest (,, and

            What was especially infuriating to the authorities and likely encouraging to the Ingush opposition is that it appears Pogorov never left the republic and even continued to live in his own house for most of the period. That the powers that be did not or could not arrest him gave some hope that there were limits to the broad crackdown against civil society there.

            But now, the authorities have arrested Pogorov. He was seized in his own house; and his relatives in reporting the arrest pointed out that while his sons had moved to Moscow, Pogorov himself has been within the republic the entire time and thus could have been arrested if the powers had really wanted to (

            Pogorov’s arrest suggests that Moscow and Magas have decided to complete their crackdown in Ingushetia by silencing anyone who speaks out against the rising tide of repression there. His detention will certainly be read as an indication of that by many Ingush and may make it less likely that there will be mass protests against the looming conviction of the Ingush Seven.

            But at the same time, it creates a problem for the authorities. Pogorov at least in principle will have to be tried, and that will create yet another show trial like the one the Ingush Seven have faced that won’t convince anyone of the opposition’s guilt but instead will highlight the fundamental criminality of the regime.

            The powers that be may be able as a result of Pogorov’s arrest to avoid facing mass demonstrations in Ingushetia when the Ingush Seven verdicts are announced, but they will have achieved that at an enormous cost – the further radicalization of Ingush society that Pogorov’s detention is certain to provoke.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Central Asians Moving into Cities but Not Becoming Urbanized, Mamyrayymov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 26 – Measured in terms of the share of the population living in cities, the countries of post-Soviet Central Asia are rapidly becoming urban societies, Talgat Mamyrayymov says; but they aren’t being urbanized in terms of the values. Indeed, since 1991, that process has slowed because so many national leaders have direct links with villages.

            The Kazakh political scientist says that “at the present time in Central Asia lives a primarily marginalized population; that is, it is neither urban nor rural” and do not fit easily into the traditional society of the village or into that of cities and are viewed as outsiders by both groups (

            “The internal world of the marginal population tends toward a feeling of ‘moral dichotomy, division and conflict,’ one in which old habits have been cast off but new ones have not yet been formed,” Mamyrayymov continues. Thus, the incomplete urbanized may be viewed as an outcast or dissident in the villages, something blocks modernization from spreading.

            “In Central Asia and Kazakhstan,” he argues, “modernization was not completed in Soviet times.” In general, what modernization there was occurred within the local European population most of whose members left after the disintegration of the USSR. But the local populations who moved in to replace them have not yet been transformed by that experience.

            Moreover, the analyst says, there has been “an unrestrained revival of traditional values [from the villages], especially the values of khan-like authoritarianism and the broad spread of the archaicization” of everyone in these countries including urban dwellers. As a result, urbanization has not contributed to modernization.

            These trends have been promoted by senior leaders in many places who themselves are “former peasants and therefore willingly occupy themselves with the revival of traditional values, including the promotion of strata hierarchies and above that pyramid, devotion to ‘the khan,’” or as they see it to themselves.

            This trend has gone so far, the analyst argues, that in some places, even those who live in urban areas reject the modernized forms of city life because they see these social arrangements as antithetical to their own nation’s wellbeing. Longtime urbanites “stigmatize” such incompletely urbanized residents and refer to them with various pejoratives.

            That is one of the reasons why Central Asian countries continue to have a propiska (registration) system so that the longtime urbanites can keep themselves separate from the latest arrivals, an arrangement that also means that the latter are less likely to become urbanized and modernized, Mamyrayymov says.

            That has left the cities of Central Asia to be “without an urban culture,” but a city without that culture is “a fiction incapable of performing the functions of the city regarding industrialization” or modernization more generally. Overcoming this is going to take a long time, almost certainly more than a generation.

            But if such non-urbanized city dwellers continue to dominate the scene, the countries of Central Asia will not be able to modernize no matter what else they try, the analyst concludes.


Russians’ Passivity Welcomed by Regime Puts Country on Way to Failure, Scholars in Regions Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 26 – The widespread notion among Russians that nothing depends on them and that officials will take all the necessary decisions, an attitude that officials promote for their own interests, is sometimes dismissed as unimportant, a group of scholars from Russia’s regions say. But in fact, that attitude has put the country on the road to failure.

            Using ideas on how such passivity leads to national failure offered in 2012 by US scholars Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson in their book, Why Nations Fail, and developed earlier this year by Knife commentator Aleksandr Shertobitov in an essay entitled “Elites are Not Enough,” three of them interviewed several experts on this issue.

            Yevgeniya Sibirtseva, Yevgeny Malushev and Yekaterina Malysheva spoke with Aleksandr Romanovich, a specialist on public attitudes, sociologist Sergey Patrushev, sociologist Anna Ochkina, and urbanist Svyat Murunov about the links between social passivity and state failure (

            Romanovich says public activism promotes the development not only of individuals and society but of the country; and the absence of such activism in Russia means the country can’t form a civil society or have economic modernization. When Medvedev was president, people talked about civil society all the time. Now that term has “disappeared” from everyone’s lexicon.

            The major reason for the passivity of Russians is their belief, encouraged by the powers that be, that they can’t do anything on their own and that officials can make all the decisions needed. If people believe that, they will become ever more passive; and that is what has been happening.

            To be sure, Russians will organize to defend specific things; but that isn’t enough. The authorities can make concessions without creating a genuine exchange of ideas that will promote civic activism, Romanovich continues.

            Patrushev says the powers have encouraged Russians to believe that decisions are only to be made by others, aristocrats and communists in the past and professional managers now. “But democracy does not presuppose decisions by professionals. Rather, it presupposes decisions which satisfy the interests of people as to what is correct and incorrect.”

            A majority of Russians want change, but they don’t know how to achieve it. And a large share of them thus believe that some new “good tsar,” perhaps Aleksey Navalny, needs to come and put things right. They do not see themselves as part of this process, and they would likely exit from politics quickly if a Navalny or someone like him took power.

            Ochkina makes the same point and says that even those who want change now view protests as something objectionable that they don’t want to take part in. Replace the leader and then all will be well, they think. And they thus fail to understand that they must be a part of decision making for it to be effective.

            But Murunov puts it most clearly: “In Russia, he says, a unique situation has taken shape: practically everyone wants change, but no one can realize it.” Most look for some kind of a savior who will be a good tsar in place of a bad one. They do not see themselves as continuing actors in politics, economics and society.

            Because they think only in the short term, most officials are delighted with this situation, forgetting that without the input of citizens, the decisions of those in power will increasingly degrade because those with power will ignore the realities they need to take into consideration to make good choices.

            For things to change, he argues, the powers must “cease doing everything themselves” and instead of issuing bans and prohibitions, they must pass laws that include words like “one could,” “it would be welcome,” “it is permitted,” and “try.” So far, there is little evidence that the powers are ready to do that or the population to demand it.

            As a result, the prospects for Russia are anything but good.


Political Correctness Not Principles Dominates West and Weakens Its Influence in Russia and Other Authoritarian Countries, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 26 – The decision of Amnesty International to withdraw its designation of Aleksey Navalny as “a prisoner of conscience” reflects not the success of Kremlin actions but rather a fundamental change in the West, Sergey Shelin says. Fifty years ago, the West spoke on behalf of freedom. Now it doesn’t.

            Instead, many of its opinion leaders worry about political correctness and want to avoid any problems if someone dredges up something from the past of an individual they would have supported earlier, an approach that seriously limits their ability to influence Russia and other authoritarian states, the Rosbalt commentator says (

            “I don’t know how long the ‘new West’ will be what it is today,” Shelin says. “But in its present state it cannot help us morally because it simply isn’t capable of doing so. Its view of reality is completely different from what it was a half century ago. Then the language of freedom existed, in which it was possible to speak with the West. But now it doesn’t exist.”

            Both sides are the losers, he suggests, as the Amnesty International action shows. That is because most Russians accept the mistaken notion that Navalny is simply a pawn “in the geopolitical game” and are convinced that he has no real possibility of achieving power inside his own country.

            “In the short term, all this is true,” Shelin continues. “But not in the long term and not even in the medium one.” That becomes obvious if one considers the Brezhnev era, whose most important feature was not stagnation but the ideological dispute with the West about rights and freedoms.

            In that dispute, the West “confidently attacked,” and the Kremlin tried to defend itself. “The Nobel prizes given to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1970 and Andrey Sakharov in 1975 marked them as moral leaders.” Both dissidents and the powers shared that assessment and that laid the groundwork for real change.

            Still more important, he says, is that when perestroika began, people at the top and bottom “viewed these changes not only as a moral victory of our homegrown defenders of rights and freedoms but as a success of Western values which were viewed as indivisible and convincing.”

            “But what do we see now? Amnesty International apologizes” for what it feels compelled to do in stripping Navalny of its designation as a prisoner of conscience but it also makes clear that it feels it has no choice, making statements he made 15 years ago more important than the fundamental issues he is raising now.

            Clearly, a different atmosphere exists in the West and therefore the West’s ability to affect Russia has changed. What Russians and everyone else can see is that the West is no longer engaged in “the defense of rights and freedoms but in punishment for sins against political correctness no longer how long ago they were committed.”

            In today’s world, there is no chance that Navalny would be given the Nobel Prize as Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov were. Their petty failings would have kept them from receiving it, just as they are preventing Navalny from being a prisoner of conscience on the lists of Amnesty International.

            Those who make these decisions simply want to avoid running afoul of the guardians of political correctness. They no longer are concerned with promoting the Western values about rights and freedoms. That is a defeat not only for the West in Russia but a defeat for the West as such.

            It no longer speaks confidently for the principles on which it claims to be based. It simply wants to avoid problems with those who demand political correctness regardless of what that means for anyone, Shelin says.


A Baker’s Dozen of Other Stories from Russia This Week

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 26 – Below are 13 more stories from Russia that deserve to be noted but that I was unable to write up as full-scale Windows:

1.      Amnesty Denies Being Pressured to Strip Navalny of Prisoner of Conscience Status. After having given and then withdrawn the status of prisoner of conscience to Aleksey Navalny, Amnesty International said it had done to not in response to pressure from the Kremlin as has been suggested but because its review of Navalny’s past statements means that he does not qualify for that status under Amnesty rules. The organization still said it wanted him to be released (

2.       Duma Moves toward Make Slandering a Veteran a Crime. Even though a veteran has won his suit against Navalny for slander, a group of United Russia deputies is calling for making any such attacks a criminal offense. The measure has already passed its second reading (

 3.      Will Stalin’s Remains Soon Be Returned to the Mausoleum? Discussions about whose statue should be erected in the front of the Lubyanka have sparked debates about what may happen next. One commentator says he thinks that in a year or two, the Kremlin will return Stalin’s body to the mausoleum on Red Square (

 4.      Khakass Court Sentences Elderly Jehovah’s Witness Woman to Two Years in the Camps. In an unprecedented move given the age and gender of the defendant, an Abakan court sentenced an elderly female member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to two years in prison camp (

 5.       Trial Postponed Because Russian Judge Doesn’t Know Defendant’s Language. This week in the Komi Republic a defendant who demanded that his case be heard in his national language rather than Russian succeeded in forcing the court to delay hearings until a translator could be found (

 6.      Another Scandal Waiting to Happen. A Russian call girl says that some of her clients are senior officials she sees on television and she wants the world to know that many of them behave like “swine” (

 7.       Moscow Establishes Coordinating Center for Russian Government. In an effort to improve cooperation among the various agencies and ministries, the Russian government has now set up a new Coordinating Center that will be responsible for ensuring that communication among them improves (

 8.      Russian Diplomats Escape North Korea on Self-Propelled Rail Car. Not being able to fly or take a train out of North Korea, a group of Russian diplomats found a self-propelled rail car and managed to return to Russia (

 9.      Anti-Putin Shaman Charged with Using Sword to Resist Arrest. Aleksand Gabyshev, the self-proclaimed Sakha shaman who has announced plans to again march on Moscow and exorcise Putin from Russia, has been charged by officials in his home region with using a sword to resist arrest after he failed to show up for his required monthly meeting with psychologists (

 010.                   TikTok Now More Popular than Facebook in Russia. According to a new Levada Center poll,               TikTok has become more popular than Facebook among Russians (                v-rossii-tiktok-stal-populyarnee-facebook/).

11.  Americans Exploring Mars while Russian Preparing to Retake Reichstag Model. A commentator highlights just how different east and west now are by pointing out that the US is currently exploring the surface of Mars while Russian officials are organizing a mock retaking of the German Reichstag (

 12.  Many Socialist Realist Pictures Banned Because They Showed Soviet Life Too Accurately. Many Russian artists in Soviet times used socialist realist techniques but painted more honestly about what they saw around them. Their pictures were banned then, but now a selection of them shows precisely what they saw and communicated (

 13.  ‘Krokodil,’ Another Window on Soviet Life, Now Available Online. The complete run of the Soviet humor magazine, from 1922 to 2008, is now available online, allowing people now to see the cartoons and stories that captured Soviet and for a few years post-Soviet life more adequately than almost any other officially permitted source (