Monday, May 31, 2021

Growing Water Conflicts Could Threaten Independence of Central Asian Countries in Future, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 30 – The arrangements the five newly independent countries of Central Asia put in place in the early 1990s have continued to function but more by inertia than by any new agreement. For the time being, this path has avoided a crisis. But growing populations and economies, declining water levels, and new national goals threaten one in the future.

            Indeed, according to Zamir Karazhanov, a Rhythm of Eurasia journalist who has surveyed expert opinion about the situation, experts say that the growing problems in this sector may ultimately even threaten the independence of one or more countries in the region (

            Some of the governments there recognize the problem, but others are playing at brinksmanship either out of the conviction that they will get less than they do now from any new arrangement because they believe that threatening the others with one or another move is the best way to keep things as they are.

            The 1992 agreement which sought to ensure that the arrangements that Moscow had imposed earlier has worked more or less. But tensions have grown both as a result of the additional strains put on the system by efforts to save the Aral Sea, efforts that have collapsed despite outside help, and in 1998 led to the de facto collapse of the 1992 accord.

            Most of the decisions the governments have taken have been minor course corrections which keep things going, Karazhanov says; but they do not address the underlying problems. And “sooner or later,” all the countries are going to be forced to shift from this “inertial” approach and make fundamental decisions.

            The longer those decisions are put off, the analyst concludes, the more dangerous the conflicts that will arise are likely to be, given that “water in the two major rivers of the region is decreasing, while demand for it will only continue to increase.”

Tehran Chose Kazan Not St. Petersburg for a Consulate to Project Iranian Influence on Russia’s Muslims

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 30 – In 2007, Moscow gave Tehran a choice over where it could open a consulate, St. Petersburg or Kazan. Because of the economic position of the former, most people expected Iran to choose the northern capital; but it chose Kazan to be in a position to influence Russia’s Muslims, Ismagil Gibadullin says.

            Gibadullin, now Tatarstan’s leading specialist on Iran, worked as a translator at the Iranian consulate there between 2009 and 2012. He says Iranian diplomats were quite active during that period in countering the influence of Turkey but for some reason are much less so now (

            “As far as I know,” he said, “Iran had a choice to open a consulate general in Kazan or in St. Petersburg. Economically, possibly, it would have made more sense to do so in the Northern Capital, but the Iranians chose Kazan. I think the decision was considered by cultural considerations.”

            Tehran may have assumed, he suggests that “through Kazan, it would be more possible to build bridges with Russia’s Muslims especially since [the Iranians] could see that the Turks were actively working in this direction.”  And despite the widespread view, many Muslims in Russia, including Tatars, are interested in and have a positive view of Iran.

            Consequently, it made eminent sense for them to choose to locate their mission in Kazan, the distinguished translator of Persian and Turkic works and editor of the Kazan-based Islamospere portal ( which carries news and information about Muslims in the post-Soviet states and more broadly. 


Israel Bans Travel to Russia Because of Pandemic Surge There

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 30 – The Israeli government has prohibited its citizens from travelling to Russia until at least the middle of June because of the sharp spike in coronavirus cases in Russia, a spike that is especially sharp in Moscow and St. Petersburg to which most Israeli visitors go (

            Russian officials reported registering today 9604 new cases of infection, half of which were in the two capitals or their environs, as well as 355 new deaths from the coronavirus, as the pandemic stabilized or ebbed most other places in the Russian Federation ( and

            Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin blamed the upsurge in his city on the weather, arguing that the coronavirus has become a seasonal illness. Officials in St. Petersburg did not take that out ( and, but they and other Russian officials urged Russians to get their shots (

            Faced with falling vaccination rates, the Russian government is again organizing meetings of scholars and doctors to put out the message that vaccines are safe and the most effective way to combat pandemics like the current one (

            Meanwhile, a survey of Internet sales found that since the pandemic began, Rusisans have spent more time and money on gardens and also on their dachas outside of the city limits (

Epigenetic Consequences of Repression Last a Minimum of Four Generations, Khakuasheva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – The impact of wars, deportations, and repression last long after those directly involved have passed from the scene, Madina Khakuasheva says. Via epigenetic channels, they last a minimum of four generations and thus make these events far more horrific than most assume, especially those who say everyone must look to the future rather than the past.

            The senior researcher at the Kabardino-Balkar Institute for Research on the Humanities says that in the North Caucasus, one encounters “an unbelievably broad spectrum of psychological pathologies” among the descendants of the direct victims of such events (

            This should not surprise anyone familiar with the achievements of contemporary scholarship, Khakuasheva says. She points to the investigations of Isabelle Mansuy of Zurich’s Higher Technical School who has studied what happens to mice who descend from other mice who have been victims of trauma.

            She found, the Kabardin scholar says, that “information about stress leaves ‘an imprint’ for a minimum of four generations.” Of course, “this is not genetic memory. The continuity of genes does not change but of epigenetic memory” which is affected by such experiences and then transmitted to future generations.

            “Post-traumatic stress is transmitted through micro-RNA molecules which are located in sperm cells,” Khakuasheva explains; and “removing this feature is impossible. Therefore, children and grandchildren not only find out about the difficult life of ancestors but also share this burden.”

            According to the KBR researcher, “scholars are certain that such mechanisms exist in all living beings and that people are not an exception.” Russian political analyst Mark Urnov argues in fact that “genetic and epigenetic characteristics turn out to be much stronger than any formal education” in shaping behavior.

            At a minimum, this finding means that “the consequences of war turn out to be still more destructive and global than we imagined earlier since they are reflected on many generations of descendants,” Khakuasheva says. And that raises particular concerns about peoples such as those in the North Caucasus who have suffered multiple cataclysms in the last two centuries.

            Their problems, she says are complicated by the fact that the conflicts themselves are seldom dealt with in the same way as those like World War II which are declared over but which people recognize they have to help the victims of. In the case of the Caucasus, many of these traumas are simply passed over in silence.

            “The depressed state of the KBR which at one time was flourishing has promoted a psycho-somatic crisis which has left the republic among the subjects of the Russian Federation” in terms of the damage to the epigenetic record and this long-term impact must be acknowledged and responded to if recovery is to occur.

            Khakuasheva asks: “How did 95 percent of the forcibly deported Circassians and other representatives of the North Caucasus peoples adapt to the severe conditions of their new motherland and the new reality? We know about the enormous losses of the first wave of emigration.”

“But how did these difficult conditions influence on the gene fund of those who survived? About that, nothing is known.” And that is an increasingly urgent question given the findings of science. Otherwise, there is the risk that the links between crimes like deportation and current behaviors will not be seen and responded to appropriately.

Middle Class in Russia Plays Very Different Role than in Western Countries, Gontmakher Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – The roughly ten percent of Russians who are middle class not only by virtue of incomes but by level of savings, education, and rank in the economy play a very different role than do the much larger middle classes in more developed Western countries, Yevgeny Gontmakher says.

            Middle classes, the Russian economist points out, in both places play a conservative role, limiting the risk that the political systems will shift radically in one direction or the other. But because of their size and how they are defined and viewed, they play a very different role in the West than in Russia (

            In Western countries where the middle classes are large relative to the total population, Gonmatkher argues, they serve to protect democratic institutions from authoritarianism by alternating between center-left and center-right parties but not providing support for extremist groups that could challenge the status quo.

            In Russia, however, where middle class status is defined by the regime and society almost exclusively in terms of income rather than the other qualities and where if those characteristics are applied, it is very small, the middle class plays a conservative role but one that is fundamentally different.

            The Russian middle class is a major supporter of the current regime which provides it with employment and earlier provided for its enrichment, and it is conservative in another way. Those below it aspire to the incomes of the middle class however obtained rather than to the values of the middle classes of the West.

            And that means that the Russian middle class conserves the existing system as long as it is renewed just as the middle classes of other countries preserve the systems within which they exist. But the existing system is fundamentally different and so the conservative nature of the middle class in Russia has a very different impact than that of its counterparts abroad.

            The Russian middle class, he says, “is along with pensioners the social base of that political regime which has been formed with us over the course of the last 20 years.” Its members with the exception of freelancers and the free professions are satisfied with the situation because they are employed by the state and the state ensures that money flows to them.

            From their perspective, “any Russian reforms and even more the most radical ones create dangers to this status;” and therefore the Russian middle class will display its conservative nature, albeit to keep in place not democracy but the current arrangements that now profit its members.

            The Russian middle class plays another conservative role as far as the regime is concerned. Its existence established “the standards of ‘a worthy life,’” to which those below it aspire in terms of income, given that that is how the regime defines this class, rather than in terms of its values. That too works to preserve the system.

            The problem for the regime is that its policies aren’t permitting a sufficient expansion in the incomes of the middle class to keep its members happy or a growth in the number of its members to allow for the inclusion of the rising generation of educated young people who expect to gain that status. Not surprisingly, both are increasingly upset.

            And that pattern, Gontmkher concludes, does not provide any basis for optimism about the system either in the short term or the longer one. 

Decarbonization of World Economy will Hit Russia Harder than Any Sanctions, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – The Kremlin has failed to plan for or even take note of the increasingly obvious reality that the drive to reduce the use of fossil fuels around the world is going to have a more baleful impact on the Russian economy in the coming years than any combination of sanctions, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.

            In the short term, Moscow may benefit from rising prices for oil and gas, the Russian economist says; but in the middle and long term, those prices are going to fall so far that the Russian economy will no longer be able to function on the basis of their export. It will have to change or die (

            Instead of the optimism which informs the thinking of Russian leaders today, the current situation should be a cause for real concern, Inozemtsev says. He points to what happened over the last dozen years, when Moscow laughed at the shale-oil revolution, only to see it take off and push down the value of Gazprom from an expelled one trillion US dollars to 82 billion.

            “Something similar can happen with ‘decarbonization,” he argues. And it will happen not because of any plans in the West to “’neutralize’ Russia” but rather new technologies and the commitment to “’clean’ energy’ will drive down the prices for oil and gas, on whose exports the current Russian government depends.

            Indeed, Inozemtsev argues, “the traditional energy sector soon won’t exist;” and along with its disappearance will come the disappearance of the Russian economy. “Even China won’t be able to help: it, by the way, recently passed the entire European Union in terms of the number of electric cars.”

            The best the Kremlin can come up with is to say that it is “studying” the matter. But it isn’t taking seriously the fact that underlying trends mean that energy not based on gas and oil is becoming less and less expensive and thus not only more competitive but sufficiently low to drive down any purchases of petroleum.

            What this means at the end of the day, Inozemtsev says, is that “having overcome all sanctions and putting our geopolitical competitors ‘in their place,’ we may find ourselves encountering a much more dramatic situation, when the chief Russian export produce will become not so needed” and when its use domestically will also decline.

            According to the economist, “present-day political reality will permit President Putin to rule until 2036. We wish him the health he’ll need to rule the country until that time. But then it may turn out to be the case that [Duma speaker Vyacheslav] Voloshin was right when he said ‘when there is no Putin, there is no Russia.’”

            That may or may not be true of the state as such; but it is increasingly likely that it will mean the status of Russia as “an economic subject.” Indeed, that is almost inevitable if current trends continue abroad and in Russia itself.


Two Turkish Parties Call for Recognizing Circassian Genocide

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – Two Turkish opposition parties, the Democratic Party of the Peoples (DPN) and the Labor Party (EMER) have called for Ankara to recognize the Russian expulsion of the Circassians from their North Caucasus homeland at the end of the Caucasus war in 1864 to be an act of genocide.

            The DPN said that “we consider the struggle of the Circassian people for a free, equal and democratic life with their own language, culture and faith as our struggle. We all for satisfying its demands for democratic rights and freedoms in order to preserve its uniqueness, its language and its culture” (

            “The genocide of the Circassians must be recognized. Only by doing so can one oppose this serious crime against humanity. The Circassians living in Turkey must be given the right to names, language and culture and the names of villages which were changed must be restored, and their return to their motherland must be supported materially and emotionally without any conditions.”

            The EMER for its part said that “the government of Russia must face the truth of this genocide. The gates must be opened for those who want to return to their motherland. About six million Circassians living in Turkey are demanding the right for education in their native language, for changing their names, for travel to the motherland and have dual citizenship.”

“These requests which have been put off for a century must be heard and fulfilled,” the party says.

Only one country – the Republic of Georgia – has officially recognized the Russian actions against the Circassians in 1864 an act of genocide, although popular and even parliamentary support for such actions has been growing in many places as the issue has taken on a higher profile.

Turkey is unlikely to follow anytime soon, but two factors are likely to make it a more prominent issue there in the coming months. On the one hand, as ever more countries have declared that the events in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 were a genocide against the Armenians, many Turks are ready to denounce others for genocide in response.

And on the other, Turkish officials have been criticizing Russian actions in Crimea in terms that approach a finding of genocide and even linked Russian behavior there to Russian actions against the Crimeans. Taking the next step will be hard, however, especially given Moscow’s opposition ( andПризываем-Турцию-отказаться-от-использования-этнического-фактора-как-инструмента-геополитической/479462).

Nonetheless, the declarations of the two Turkish parties are certain to energize Circassians not only there but in other countries and in their North Caucasus homeland; and that may be the most important aspect of this situation as the region comes out of the pandemic and mass political activities become more possible.

Task of Demarcating Armenian-Azerbaijani Border Made More Difficult by Armenian Politicization of the Issue, Russian Analysts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – Transforming Soviet administrative borders into formal international state borders is no easy task, but it is being made more difficult in the case of the Armenian-Azerbaijani one because Armenian politicians are seeking to exploit the issue to increase Russian involvement in the hopes that will allow Armenia to recover more territory.

            That is the judgment of two prominent security analysts in Moscow, prominent independent expert Pavel Felgengauer and Dmitry Tsyganok, head of the Russian Center for Military Prognostication in comments to the Kavkaz-Uzel news agency (

            Felgengauer, for his part, echoes the conclusions of Azerbaijani observers who say that the border issue is being politicized and exacerbated by Armenian politicians not only because an election is going on there but because they hope that they can draw Russia in on their side and regain land they lost during the fighting last year.

            Such Armenians hope that they can “draw Russia into a confrontation with Azerbaijan” and thus present what are “technical problems” involved in coming to terms with the new post-war situation as political and something Moscow should join Yerevan in seeking to reverse one way or another.

            According to Felgengauer, “Russia does not need or want to be drawn into this conflict” even though it is explosive and likely to remain so for some time. Demarcation is going to be difficult because “maps from the USSR period are not suitable for demarcating the borders between former Soviet republics.”

            “In the USSR, the lines between administrative units were designated but they were not real borders, even more between two hostile states. The borders of the Soviet republics had an entirely different status, and they were not precise as far as particular places are concerned.” It is going to take a long time and much work to change that.

            Tsyganok agrees. The sides are going to have to agree about which maps, Soviet, Turkish, NATO, civilian or military maps they are going to start from. The Soviet maps are “the most exact.” But even they are less detailed than full demarcation is going to require and that opens the door for conflict.

            He points to the difficulties Russia and Kazakhstan had. There and without the further complication of a long-running military conflict, it took “two to three years” of preparation to allow negotiators to begin to draw lines. And then, it took another six years to actually draw lines the two sides could agree on.

            And that was the case when the two sides started with a commitment to demarcation the border. In the case of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, there is no such agreement. Until there is, there is going to be little progress and there are likely to be continuing efforts by one side or the other to politicize the situation by drawing in outsiders.

            What seems most likely is that Armenia and Azerbaijan will agree to the trilateral commission Moscow has already proposed with Russia as the third party and to the withdrawal of forces from areas near the border. Baku appears ready for that, but Yerevan much less so at least so far ( and


Kremlin Pushing ‘Deep People’ into Alliance with Liberals, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – By treating all criticism of the regime as legally-punishable “extremism,” the Kremlin is acting against its own best interests by leading members of “the deep people” who have supported it but who are now angry to ally themselves with the liberals under the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend, Abbas Gallyamov says.

            “Dissatisfaction with the situation in the country is now growing not only in the liberal milieu, against which serious repressions are being directed,” the Moscow commentator says. “Protest attitudes are intensifying in the ranks of “the deep people” as well (

            Such feelings are not yet as broad or intensely held, but repressing liberals who feel the same way as some in the deep people, Gallyamov suggests, is leading them to look at the liberals rather than the government as the ally of that part of the population, exactly the wrong conclusion in an election season as far as the Kremlin is concerned.

            “What is taking place,” the former Putin speechwriter continues, “is leading not simply to the growth of negative attitudes but also to the politicization of the formerly apolitical groups of the population.” And as the deep people become politicized, they have no option but to line up on the side of the liberals.”

            The deep people do not have their own political language and “therefore they have to borrow it; and they are borrowing it from the liberal activists. In this way, Gallyamov says, “’popular’ protest is uniting with liberal protest.”

            Up to now, for the deep people, this new combination lacks a leader who speaks for both and thus remains unfocused. “But this means only that it will not break through [too quickly] to the surface but will build up,” much like a boiler with the lid on sitting on a fire, Gallyamov concludes.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Russian Group Behind Attacks on Western Vaccines has Close Ties to Putin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – One of the groups behind attacks on Western vaccines has close ties to Vladimir Putin and the ruling United Russia Party, a new investigation has found, the latest indication that the Russian government and not some independent operation is behind these attacks (

            Today, the Russian authorities reported registering 9289 new cases of infection and 401 new deaths from the coronavirus as the pandemic ebbed and flowed across Russia. Particularly hard hit were the two capitals, which together with their environs, accounted for half of the cases ( and

            Under pressure from Moscow, regional governments are expanding their efforts to vaccinate people, including opening vaccination centers in places like zoos and dacha settlements to reach people whom they had earlier missed (

            Moscow and Tashkent announced an agreement under which Uzbek pharmaceutical companies will begin producing the Russian Sputnik-5 vaccine (

            One new development in the pandemic in Russia is this: As overall numbers have fallen in certain areas, people are focusing on specific cases of infection and death more than they did and raising questions about both the healthcare system and the official reports about losses ( and

Soviet Borders in Central Asia Failed to Consider Impact of Nomadic Groups, Baysalov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 28 – Moscow’s national delimitation of Central Asia in the 1920s suffered from many defects, Ermek Baysalov says; but one of its most serious shortcomings was the failure of the Bolsheviks to consider now nomadic groups changed the ethnic make up of the populations of particular places over the course of each year.

            The Soviets drew lines and promoted linguistic developments to form separate nations out of a population lacking these characteristics in the past. That effort was not always successful, but it laid the basis for the borders and border problems that exist up to now, the Bishkek researcher says.

            But at the time, the Bolsheviks utterly failed to consider one of the specific features of the area: the continuing presence of large numbers of nomads. As a result of their existence, “one and the same territory at various times of the year could vary by number and ethnic composition” (

            Nomads from one nation often moved onto territories the Soviets defined as belonging to another for part of the year and then moved back, a situation which meant that the nomads and their descendants viewed places they lived in for only part of the year as theirs given that they lived in their “own” national territories only part of the year as well.

            Such historical memories matter and continue to divide the region, blocking efforts at broader cooperation needed for modernization, Baysalov says. Consequently, it is important to go back and examine what happened a century ago if one is to have any hope of overcoming border disputes now.

            In the wake of the 1917 revolution, many in Central Asia wanted to form a Turkic Soviet Republic, but Moscow opposed what it saw as a pan-Turkic threat to Soviet rule. It thus proceeded with a policy that some continue to describe as “divide and rule,” separating peoples along linguistic and cultural lines to prevent them from coming together.

            The truth of the matter, the Kyrgyz researcher says, is “more trivial: “the centralized Soviet planning system started obviously from economic and transportation-logistical considerations than from ethno-demographic ones.” That meant that borders weren’t considered all that important and that territories were shifted from one republic to another in Soviet times.

            Baysalov provides a review of the border clashes which have taken place in Central Asia over the last 30 years since the countries there became independent. According to him, the chief sources of problems are in ethnically mixed areas like the Fergana valley, the enclaves all but Turkmenistan have in other countries, and the politically febrile capital cities.

            The Central Asian countries missed a chance to fix their borders quickly in the 1990s and now have more neuralgic problems, the researcher says. But “unlike the case in many other territorial disputes and conflicts such as Qarabagh, Kashmir or Palestine, the leaders of Central Asia publicly have remained attached to peaceful rhetoric.”

            That provides some basis for hope that they will be able to negotiate settlements and accept the idea of trans-border economic zones, open borders or even the re-articulation of “super-national identities” and thus end this troubled period by taking all the various factors involved into account.

Tatarstan to Have a Muslim Holiday in Memory of Those who Fell Fighting Ivan the Terrible in 1552

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 28 – During Russian Imperial and Soviet times, Kazan marked the anniversary of the occupation of Kazan by the forces of Ivan the Terrible in various ways, including with the erection of a monument to Russians who died in that fighting. But those who resisted his advance were largely ignored.

            With the weakening and then collapse of the Soviet empire, Tatar activists began to mark the event with a memorial day of their own on October 15th each year. But in the last decade, officials have tried to ban it lest such actions anger Moscow. Last year, city officials banned a demonstration on that date but a court overruled them.

            Now, the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Tatarstan has entered the fray. Its aksakals have announced that they will annually hold prayers in memory of those who died fighting the Russian force. The event will take place on the 13th day of the Muslim month following Ramadan.

            This action has drawn support from Tatar officials who see it as a way for Muslims to take control of a holiday that had been dominated by Tatar nationalists and thus give it more a religious than a political meaning. But others are worried that the two forces are coming together in this way.

            Many in Moscow are anything but happy about this development. Andrey Medvedev, a Moscow city deputy, argues that the new holiday will spark tensions between Tatars and Russians who he says “already for five centuries have lived peacefully in one country”  (

            Nationalism and separatism are dangerous, he says, and what is happening in Tatarstan is the appearance of “a new, completely anti-government discourse. Who needs this? And the main question: why are the government bodies [in Tatarstan] reacting so slowly to all this?” Is this the result of Turkey’s effort to create a Turkic world in opposition to the Russian one?

            And Roman Silantyev, a notorious critic of all things Islamic, says that the new holiday raises many other questions, in large part because Muslims and Christians fought on both sides in 1552. How is that going to be remembered? Will the Muslim holiday recall the Christian defenders of Kazan? If not, why not? (

            Neither Medvedev nor Silantyev, however, refer to what is almost certainly their greatest fear, that the transformation of 1552 from a narrowly Tatar national holiday to a broader Muslim one is likely to mobilize more Muslim groups in the Russian Federation and boost the status of Tatarstan as an increasingly Muslim center as their leader. 

Plan for Fiber Optic Cable along Northern Sea Route Put on Hold

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 28 – Earlier this year, Moscow announced plans to lay a fiber optic cable from Japan to Finland that would not only support the development of the Northern Sea Route but provide high-speed internet service to isolated parts of the Russian North (

            This project, which some called “the second Northern Sea Route,” was to link 11 regional centers in Russia’s Far North into a fiber optic cable to be laid by an international consortium of companies between Helsinki and Tokyo and to be build by an Arctic Connect consortium of Russian, Finnish, Japanese and Scandinavian companies.

            But those plans have now been frozen, backers say, because of problems finding sufficient financing, especially in Japan, thus putting at risk both Moscow’s aspirations for projecting power into the Arctic in this way and developing its own regions along the Arctic littoral (

            This is no small thing. Given the lack of fiber optic cables in this region, those who want to go online there have had to use more difficult and expensive satellite links, something that has put a crimp on shipping as well as on the development of shore facilities including Russian government operations.

            Sources involved in the program tell Vedomosti that they hope to resume work on the project at some point in the future, but in contrast to their bold statements earlier, they are now not giving any timeframe for work on the project to start let alone be completed. 

Russia’s Territorial Integrity Threatened by Any Internationalization of Northern Sea Route, Sivkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 28 – The passion with which Moscow commentators defend the idea that the Northern Sea Route must remain under exclusive Russian control reflects not just geopolitical and geo-economic calculations but also the central role that route plays in linking together the thinly populated Russian North to the rest of the country.

            “For Russia,” Konstantin Sivkov argues, “the Northern Sea Route has particular significance as an internal line of communications linking sparsely populated territories along the shore of the Arctic Ocean with the well-developed eastern and western regions of our country” (

            In addition, he says, the Route is the shortest waterway communication connecting the Far East of Russia with its main economic districts in the western portion of the country.” Were this link to be compromised, there would be a very real danger of “the separation from Russia” of an enormous number of resource rich but population poor regions.

            Most foreign governments focus on the benefits to international shipping that could accrue if there were international arrangements governing the Northern Sea Route, ignoring the fact that Russians do not that their country does not have a developed transport network in the North on land and thus must depend heavily on the sea.

            The Russian military specialist casts his argument in terms of what is required to operate in an area in which some country must provide the basis for free navigation. According to him, as long as ships can make the passage without the need for icebreakers, no one needs to control the Northern Sea Route more than anyone else.

            But when ice appears which is every year for significant periods, “it is not Russia but nature herself which blocks free sailing on the Northern Sea Route without Russian support.” That simply has to be recognized, and those who talk about “internationalizing” the route are really talking about something much bigger.

            “International control would lead us to the loss of a significant part of Russian territory,” Sivkov says. “Russia would have to give up its sovereignty over the ports of the Northern Sea Route, including Murmansk and Arkhangelsk which have most important economic and military-strategic importance.”

            “We woull.d have to allow foreign control and administration at our airports of polar aviation by giving others the right to run their activity. Our icebreaker fleet also would have to be handed over to foreign masters.” And foreign control would not be limited to these technical locations but would extend over much of the Russian North, he insists.

            “Is this acceptable for Russia? Obviously not! It would be unacceptable for the US if there were a requirement to place under international control its largest ports, scientific centers, airports, and other objects, which allow for sailing through the use of their communications nets,” Sivkov concludes.

After Kazan School Shooting, Much Talk but Little Action

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 28 – Just as in the United States, in Russia, after every mass school shooting, officials propose a variety of steps to tighten control over guns in order to prevent a repetition; but after expressions of support for such moves even at the presidential level, not much happens.

            What is striking about this similarity is how two such different systems which react so differently to most issues react in much the same way to this one, a reflection of both the difficulties of regulating weapons and the remarkable political strength of hunters and gun owners generally in both. (On this, see

            But what is striking as time passes from the latest Russian “Columbine” as its commentators have taken to describing school shootings in the Russian Federation is how much information is coming out about the complexities and loopholes in Russian gun law, a segment of governance that many in the West tend to assume includes only bans.

            In fact, as an article in Kazan’s Business-Gazeta points out, Russian laws governing ownership of guns are a hodgepodge of rules, some of which are quite restrictive but easily avoided while others are even less strict than those which exist in other countries including the United States (

            There are a large number of paths to gun ownership in the Russian Federation depending on the kind of guns involved. Many of these are filled with obstacles, but the obstacles are easily overcome by anyone who wants to take the time to navigate them. What is striking is that it is easier for ordinary Russians to get a handgun for personal use than it is for siloviki to do so.

            According to the Kazan portal, “every third siloviki does not get permission” for personal weapons when he applies, but the share of ordinary Russians who do is much larger. That is because the siloviki operate under tighter control in this respect than do other Russians who often can pick and choose how to apply for weapons.

            One of the most striking gaps in Russian gun laws is that there are absolutely no limits on  how many bullets anyone can purchase at any one time. People can buy a handful or “an entire carload,” Business-Gazeta says. There are even procedures for getting permission for importing ammunition on an individual basis.

            All this means that once an individual does have a gun, he is likely to be able to stockpile an enormous quantity of ammunition he can then use without any supervisions, thus creating a situation where mass violence becomes more rather than less likely.

            The portal notes that after every mass shooting in Russia in recent years, politicians have called for tighter controls; but despite their calls, almost nothing has happened. In the weeks since the latest “Columbine,” even President Vladimir Putin has called for changes. But they haven’t happened at least not yet.

            Indeed, the only change that has occurred is in the city where the shooting happened, officials have purchased more street cameras to monitor people. There hasn’t even been a willingness to put more guards at the schools because there is a raging controversy over whether Moscow or the localities should pay for this.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

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

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 28 – Below are 26 more stories from Russia this week that deserve to be noted because they shed significant light on Russia, its government and its people, but that I was unable to write up as full-scale Windows:  

1.      British Cleaner Company Sponsors Contest for Worst Bathroom in a Russian School. Domestos, a British cleaner company, has announced a competition to find the worst bathroom in a Russian school. Pictures of some of the horrors in that category are already pouring in (

2.      When Putin-Era Archives are Opened, They may Be Empty. Russia’s Archive Watch says officials in that country are destroying many things that had been saved in the archives in the past, making it likely that future historians will not find what they are looking for (  

3.      Climate Change Puts More than 40 Percent of Roads and Buildings in Russian North at Risk. Natural Resources Minister Aleksandr Kozlov says that the melting of permafrost as a result of global warming is putting “more than 40 percent” of all roads and structures in Russia’s North at risk of collapse and that the country will have to spend some five trillion rubles (70 billion US dollars) over the next 30 years to fix or replace them (

4.      Corruption in Russia Returns with a Vengeance as Pandemic Eases. Russia’s loss from corruption has risen 28 percent over the last four months, an indication that as the population has become more active, it has also returned to corrupt practices (

5.      Russians Say Moscow Shouldn’t Send Peacekeepers Anywhere Unless Russia’s National Interests Clearly Involved. A new VTsIOM poll finds that Russians are anything but enthusiastic about having their country get involved in the peacekeeping business as it now is in Qarabagh. Russians say Moscow should dispatch such forces only if it can show that the country’s national interests are directly involved (

6.      Idea that Soviets Didn’t Care about Ethnicity Absurd, Dragunsky Says. Commentator Denis Dragunsky says that those who say that no one in Soviet times cared about ethnicity have either forgotten or are lying. People cared a lot, especially in large and ethnically mixed cities (

7.      85 Percent of Russian Commanders have Served in Syria. Vladimir Putin told a meeting of the defense ministry that the preparation of commanders had improved because 85 percent of them had served at least one tour in Syria in recent years (

8.      Four Out of Five Russian Businessmen Don’t Feel Safe against Baseless Criminal Charges – and One in Four Prosecutors Agrees with Them. A survey of Russian business leaders found that “almost 80 percent” say they feel defenseless against baseless criminal charges; and when prosecutors were asked if this was the case, 18 percent of them agreed with 6.6 percent saying the arrests for economic crimes were unjustified (

9.      Putin Again Delays the Census. This Time to Avoid Conflict with Duma Voting. Last year, Vladimir Putin delayed the 2020 census to this year because of the pandemic; now, he has postponed it again so that it won’t conflict with the Duma elections, a move necessitated by the fact that many officials are involved in both (

10.  Two Out of Three Russian Marriages End in Divorce. Eurostat, the statistical service of the European Union, says that almost two out of every three marriages in Russia ends in divorce, ranking Russia second only to Ukraine on the continent (

11.  Ufa Artist Forms Putin Bust Out of Pulled Teeth. Yevgeniya Khaybullina, an Ufa artist, has modeled a bust of the Kremlin leader out of 500 teeth. She did so after Putin declared that he would knock the teeth out of anyone who tried to take Siberia away from Russia (

12.  Duma Moves to Prevent Lawyers from Taking Mobile Phones or Other Recording Devices into Prison. The Duma has passed on third reading a bill that will block lawyers from carrying mobile telephones, cameras, or other recording devices when they visit their clients in prisons or camps (

13.  Russia Rail Closing Most Restaurant Cars. Russia Rail says it will eliminate restaurant cars on most runs to save money. Passengers will be expected to bring food with them or purchase it at stops (

14.  Moscow Wants State Media Except from Possible Infringement of Foreign Agent Law. The Russian government says that state media should be exempt from financial examinations to determine whether they receive money from abroad because such outlets are not subject to foreign influence (

15.  Russia’s Caspian Flotilla Fitted with Anti-Drone Weaponry. In an indication that Moscow wants to be prepared for any use of drones in its southern region, the navy has fitted the Caspian Flotilla with drone killers, a step it has taken in the wake of Azerbaijan’s successful use of drones in the fighting with Armenia (

16.  Muscovites Remain Divided on Fate of Lenin. Residents of the Russian capital are divided almost by exactly the same percentages as they were four years ago, with 45 percent who want to see the Bolshevik leader buried as to the 42 percent who want to keep him in the mausoleum (

17.  Russian Government Boosts Salaries for Siloviki. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has signed an order that will raise the salaries of military contractors, siloviki and law enforcement personnel by 3.7 percent on October 1 (

18.  First Contingent of Prisoner Ready to Be Sent to Work on BAM Next Month. The Federal Prison System has organized a continent of 600 prisoners who will work on the Baikal-Amur Mainland ( Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin says Russia needs many more workers than the prisons and camps can currently supply (

19.  Moscow to Use AI to Monitor Internet. Roskomnadzor says it will use artificial intelligence to monitor the Internet for prohibited information but that human beings will make the final decisions on bans ( Russian parents tells pollsters that they intend to limit their children’s use of the Internet this summer (

20.  Russia’s Search for Minerals in Arctic Falling Short. A third of the 60 surveys Moscow has made of the Arctic seabed for mineral wealth have not found any (

21.  Construction Ministry Wants to Introduce a Real Death Tax. The construction ministry is calling for the imposition of a 1.5 percent a year tax on Russians so that their heirs will be able to bury them appropriately. The idea has been savagely attacked and may not be going anywhere (

22.  All Components of Russians’ Breakfasts Jumping in Price. The components of an ordinary Russian breakfast are increasing in price far beyond the average of inflation and eggs are on the verge of disappearing altogether (

23.  Russians Running Short of Samogon. Because of the rise in the price of components and a crackdown against it in some places, Russians are finding it more difficult than at any time since Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign to find and purchase samogon, the Russian word for moonshine (

24.  Ever More Activist Groups Shutting Down. Open Russia and both shut down this week after pressure from the authorities, and their leaders moved abroad. There was even a report that the Russian government may declare Wikipedia a foreign agent (как-активистов-вынуждают-уезжать-из-россии/31273271.html, and

25.  Petersburgers Outraged by Gazprom’s Plan for 703-Meter Skyscraper. Gazprom plans to build a 703-meter skyscraper in St. Petersburg to house its main offices. Residents are outraged not only by its location but by the fact that it will overwhelm the city’s existing skyline (

26.  Toliatti Teacher Forced Out for Refusing to Campaign for Ruling Party. Alena Skvortsova, an English-language teacher in Toliatti, was told to write a letter of resignation after she refused to vote for United Russia and campaign for it among the parents of her pupils (