Saturday, July 31, 2021

Vaccination Being Made Mandatory in Russia via the Workplace

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Because Vladimir Putin says he is against making vaccinations mandatory and because a large share of Russians don’t want to get the shots, the Russian government had adopted an alternative “hybrid” strategy of forcing people to get vaccinated: requiring employers to have a certain share of workers vaccinated and allowing them to let go without pay those who aren’t.

            Not surprisingly, this has sparked outrage among many Russians; but there is an increasingly widely held view that Moscow will not be able to secure adequate vaccination rates unless it uses compulsion and that this is the most effective way without crossing one of Putin’s red lines (,, andроссия-недоверие-к-госпропаганде-порождает-слухи-и-мифы-о-прививках-от-коронавируса).

            Russian officials reported registering 23,239 new cases of infection and 727 new deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours, both figures were down from the day before, with the largest declines being in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and growth, often large, elsewhere ( and

            International travel is opening up, but Russians cannot enter neighboring Finland unless they have received a non-Russian vaccine. Helsinki does not recognize the Sputnik-5 medication as valid (

            On the vaccine front, epidemiologists warned that more variants of the covid-19 virus are certain to emerge, but they also said that Russian vaccines should be effective in countering any or all of them and cautioned against panic ( and

            On the economic front, the Russian government said that during the pandemic, those without much education were the most likely to suffer unemployment, even as the spread of the disease created new wealth for some oligarchs and set the stage for Russia to enter “Industrialization 4.0” (, and

            Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,

·         The Kremlin said it is still requiring those meeting with Vladimir Putin to go through an extensive testing program, including several days in quarantine, despite the fact that he has been vaccinated (

·         The health ministry announced that it is beginning the test of a recombinant vaccine against covid-19 (

·         And Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova called for extending the sanitary shield program from 2024 to 2030 (

Moscow City’s Use of Chechen ‘Shariat Patrols’ Threatens Basis of Russian State, Agranovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – Because Moscow does not have the money to fund an adequate police force, it has recently chosen to hire private protection companies consisting of Chechens to do some of the work of the militia. These have become known in the city as “shariat patrols,” and many are worried about what their use will lead to.

            One who is particularly concerned is lawyer and rights activist Dmitry Agranovsky who says that he is “certain” that this will undermine the foundations of the Russian state, especially as what Moscow city has now done is “not unique.” Other cities and regions are using Cossacks, and one can imagine the Jewish AD using Jewish units (

            Such arrangements threaten the basic requirement of a state, that it have a monopoly on the use of force. “no other armed detachments are permissible either from the point of view of law or that of morality.” And such units, especially when they are complected on ethnic lines, threaten to be used as janissaries against protesters of other nationalities.

            The problem should be viewed even more broadly, Agranovsky says. “Only law enforcement personnel must be allowed to defend the legal order.” No “failures” from the outside must be allowed to arrogate themselves this power simply because they are armed and recognized by the government.

            “The shariat patrols” in Moscow “do not have the right to fulfill the functions involved in the defense of public order. They do have the right to protect specific objects.” But giving them broader powers is something the federal government and its prosecutors must focus on before things get out of hand.

            The faster that happens, he says, “the better.” Otherwise ever more Russians will seek to get weapons to defend themselves. Some will succeed and be “privileged” by their ability to defend their interests and property, while others won’t and thus will be reduced in status still further.

            Two other observers also share their concerns about what Moscow has done. Andrey Dmitriyev, head of the unregistered Other Russia Party of E.V. Limonov, says he fears there are close contacts between the shariat patrols and some in the bureaucracy who want to use them as de facto janissaries.

            That could lead to a repetition of Kondopoga and Biryulev, he says. And he asks pointedly: Can one imagine having an exclusively ethnic Russian unit patrol the streets of the Chechen capital? Such a development would undoubtedly prove explosive; but there is no reason for that not happening next.

            And Mikhail Pashkina, head of the Moscow Inter-Regional Union of the Police and the Russian Guard, says that the readiness of the city to use such units reflects its lack of money for real police work, something that has led ever more policemen to leave their jobs for ones with better and more assured pay. That has to be addressed to prevent disaster.

Security New Religion of 21st Century, Schulmann Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – “Security is the religion of the new century,” Yekaterina Schulmann says, “something that will likely protect the world from mass wars but only at the cost of adding to the power of “the priests of this cult … who will restrict our freedoms under the pretext of protecting us from threats and challenges.”

            The Moscow commentator offers this conclusion in an essay she prepared for a new book the Friedrich Ebert Foundation has issued in Moscow (Rossiya-2050 (NLO, 2021) in which she and others offer predictions on where Russia will be heading over the next three decades (

            Schulmann offers reflections on demographic developments and the likelihood that Russia will remain in its current borders and suggests that predictions that China will somehow seize Siberia and the Far East are almost certainly overstated both because of developments in Russia and because of others in China itself.

            Russia has passed through the second demographic transition, she says, with people marrying later and having fewer children. Increasingly, Russians live in major cities and there is no reason to think that these trends will change, although perhaps in 15 to 20 years, some Russians will take advantage of new technological possibilities and move out of urban areas.

            These trends mean that the Russian population will decline even as the numbers living in the major cities increase, Schulmann says. Moscow and St. Petersburg will continue to grow, with the Russian capital likely having 30 million residents by mid-century, a further concentration of the Russian population away from rural regions.

            Women and older segments of the population are likely to grow in importance too, she says. And thus in 2050, Russians will live in an aging but not disappearing Russia, one likely tied together far more closely by transportation and communication networks than those now in place.

            Schulmann says those who think that the North Caucasus represents an alternative model of demographic change are wrong. Its peoples too are going through the second demographic revolution, albeit later and more slowly than Russians. But this has consequences too for the political future of the country.

            In Russian areas, religion is increasingly the realm of those over 55 while in the North Caucasus it is dominated by the young who were not subjected to Soviet atheism, the Moscow analyst says. Because that is so, some predict a clash between an irreligious Russia and an Islamist North Caucasus, but there are good reasons why that is unlikely.

            Not only are North Caucasians changing demographically, but they would lose their chief investor, Moscow, if they challenged the center fundamentally. The Middle Volga is far more likely to do that, but the idea of a war between the north and south in the Russian Federation is almost certainly farfetched.

            Schulmann addresses two other issues: Chinese interest in Russian territory east of the Urals and the need for migrants to prevent the population from declining. With regard to the first, she says, China is undergoing its own demographic transition and at the same time can get what it wants from Siberia and the Russian Far East without the burdens of occupation.

            And with regard to the second, the shift to a post-modern service economy means that the needs for a large population and immigration to support it are likely to decline over the coming decades, even if the current Russian government is still focused on industrial rather than post-industrial development.

            These trends lead her to conclude that security will become even more than today the religion of the population and that rulers, serving as the priests of this “cult,” she says, will use such a faith to justify taking more rights away from the population and acquiring more power for themselves in the coming years.

Russians Value Free Education and Free Healthcare Far More than Right to Form Organizations, HSE Data Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – The Higher School of Economics monitors public attitudes to a wide variety of issues, and Svetlana Saltanova of the HSE’s IQ portal offers a survey of the latest, which show among other things that Russians today value free education and healthcare far more than they do the right to form public organizations.

            Sixty percent of Russians say that free education is their most valued right, with only two percent fewer listing free medicine, she reports the data show. Rounding out the top five are the right to life (51 percent), right to work (50 percent), and social security for the elderly and infirm (49 percent) (

            Far fewer Russians point to freedom of speech (38 percent), the right to move freely about the country (31 percent), and freedom of religion (24 percent) as important to them. And only 19 percent say that they want to take part in running the state or society, Saltanova continues.

            Eighty-nine percent of Russians say NGOs are important, but they have little direct experience of their operations. Only 28 percent of Russians say they have heard anything about NGO activities in their places of residence – and that number is as high as it is only because it is much higher in large cities while remaining very low elsewhere.

            Almost half (49 percent) have positive feelings about Russian citizenship, while only 24 percent have negative ones. What is perhaps most striking is that “almost every fourth person has no feelings of attachment to Russia at all,” the editor says.

            And Russians much prefer to give charity directly rather than through organizations, but this may be an artefact of the reality that while 23 percent of Russians take part in volunteer organizations of one kind or another, 80 percent of those do not consider themselves as volunteers. Only nine percent make that link.


Environmentalism and Nationalism Perhaps Unexpectedly but Increasingly Reinforce One Another, Fabrikant Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – Many analysts see environmentalism and nationalism as contradicting one another, because the former promotes universal values and the latter particularist ones. But in fact, Margarita Fabrikant says, their relationship is far more complicated and in recent decades they have become mutually supportive, something that changes the nature of nationalism.

            In an essay for the Liberal Russia Foundation portal, the Belarusian scholar says that talk about “eco-nationalism” looks superficially like yet another example of research conducted “in a series about ‘nationalism and …’” In fact, it is far more important than that (

            While many are still inclined to see the two movements as contradictory, Fabrikant says, in fact, they are increasingly reinforcing because they are both about protecting something and allowing their followers to conclude that they are engaged in the defense of something rather than seeking for something they do not have.

            Moreover, environmentalism is useful for nationalism because it helps elevate the importance of territory in the minds of nationalists. If one is concerned about protecting the environment of one’s people, one is thus in a far better position to protect one’s nation and to insist that it must have a territorial component.

            Ethnic groups which “lack contemporary social institutions can preserve their identity despite their geographic dispersal, she says. And “for the preservation of collective identity it is sufficient for them to share ideas about their past as part of the myth of their origins” even if this past is highly mythologized.

            But “for a present-day nation, on the contrary, one of the few necessary attributes is a really existing and clearly defined territory on which this nation by means of its ideas and social and political institutions has sovereignty.” That means the role of the environment in defining and then supporting the nation is far greater, Fabrikant says.

            That gives far greater content to the nation as “an imagined community.” It means that members have something very real to grasp onto, and in this respect, environmentalism leading to eco-nationalism plays an ever more important role. When people feel attached and defensive of a particular territory, they also feel far more attached to the nation itself.

            Consequently, Fabrikant says, one must not see environmentalism and nationalism as antagonists but instead as mutually reinforcing feelings, with the desire to protect and advance the interests of the one increasingly part of a similar set of desire regarding the other. 



Moscow May Liquidate Republics But Not Because of Declining Non-Russian Shares of Populations There, Valiyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – The upcoming all-Russian census has increased concerns in some republics that if the share of their titular nationality shows a decline, Moscow will move to liquidate them and thus to prevent that they must adopt policies designed to prevent such declines or better promote the growth of their titular nations.

            Nowhere have such concerns been greater than in Bashkortostan where some officials and activists are trying to promote the re-identification of Tatars as Bashkirs so as to boost the Bashkir share of the population. The issue there is especially fraught because Bashkirs form only 30 percent of the population, slightly less than Russians and only slightly more than Tatars.

            These fears have sparked tensions between Bashkirs and Tatars and between Bashkortostan and Tatarstan with some Tatars denouncing Ufa’s moves as the latest iteration of the Bolshevik strategy of weakening the Tatars by promoting what they call the “artificial” nation of Bashkirs and some Bashkirs denouncing Tatars for Kazan’s imperialism (

            But most people in both republics have adopted a more restrained line as far as this issue is concerned, viewing the whole issue as overblown or arguing that it does not mean what some in both republics think it means, the opening of the way to the destruction of the republics and their reduction to ordinary oblasts.

            Ruslan Valiyev, the editor of Ekho Moskvy v Ufe and himself of mixed Tatar-Bashkir parentage, is one of those who takes a more moderate position. He says he knows that people in both republics have sometimes identified with the titular nationality for career reasons but that this pattern doesn’t threaten the existence of either nation or republic.

            If republics are going to be liquidated, he argues, the reason will not be a decline in the share of titular nationalities in them. Rather, it will be because Moscow and specifically the Kremlin have decided to move against republics as such. Focusing on ethnic composition is thus a mistake (

            At the same time, Valiyev says, it is critically important to do more to support the non-Russian languages both those of the titular nation and those of ethnic minorities. That is because economic calculations will drive young people to speak Russian – it gives them additional opportunities – but the question of nationality must not be reduced to economics.

After Bolsheviks Looted Central Institutions to Sell Rarities Abroad, They Turned on the Regions, Tomsk Scholars Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – The story of how the Bolsheviks seized priceless works from churches, libraries and museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg and sold them abroad to raise money to finance their revolutionary projects and the economic development of the USSR has been frequently told.

            What is far less well known is that after the Soviet state ran out of things to steal in the two capitals, it turned on collections in the regions and did the same thing, often justifying this act of theft as the only way industry in those then-predominantly agrarian locations could be developed.

            One example of that was the way in which the Bolsheviks stole rare books and manuscripts from the Tomsk State Library, whose own collection had been created in part by the “nationalization” of private collections, in order to finance the development of the Kuznetsk metallurgical factory.

            Radio Liberty journalist Vladimir Yakovsky describes what happened on the basis of some recent scholarship by Tomsk historians. “In 1930,” he writes, “having almost exhausted the museum reserves of the two capitals,” officials of the Antiquariat organization the Bolsheviks had set up to handle these sales descended on the regions.

            Their focus was on the 24,000 volumes of the Stroganov family collection that were then held by the Tomsk State Library. That collection had been given by members of that family, many of whom had lived abroad and collected books for decades (

            Yakovsky interviews Galina Kolosova, chief librarian of the Tomsk State University library who has specialized on the issue of Bolshevik confiscations of materials from her facility. (See in particular her articles at; and

            Tomsk scholars resisted the Moscow effort, but the Antiquariat people, supported by the Soviet secret police, go their way, seizing and taking away for sale 49 boxes of books and manuscripts, including approximately 10 percent of the Stroganov collection. The only thing that saved the rest of the collection was the unintended consequence of Bolshevik actions.

            Because Moscow was offering so many books and manuscripts on the international market in the early 1930s, the combination of increased supply at a time of worldwide depression sent prices down precipitously, something that meant Moscow could not make as much money as it hoped, especially from collections in the regions.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Russians Told Vacations Abroad at Risk if Covid Situation at Home Doesn’t Improve

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – Unless Russians get vaccinated and take other steps to improve the epidemiological situation in their own country, they are likely to find that other countries, including popular destinations like Turkey, will again prevent them from travelling there, putting their vacations at risk (

            Today, Russian officials reported registering 24,072 new cases of infection and 779 new deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours, with the situation in Moscow deteriorating and driving the former number up while the latter represents only a slight decline from yesterday’s record daily toll ( ).

            The situation in many regions continues to deteriorate, and officials are adopting ever harsher measures to try to bring the pandemic under control. Not surprisingly perhaps, Chechnya has adopted the most draconian, forcibly vaccinating people who purchase fake vaccination certificates and requiring such certificates to move from one village to another (, and

            Meanwhile, medical experts provided another compelling reason for getting the shots. Those who don’t and contract the virus are very likely to suffer serious cognitive consequences including the deterioration of their memory function (

Bridge Collapse from Flooding Highlights How Fragile Russia’s Transportation Network Now Is

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Flooding as a result of heavy rains not only stopped traffic in both directions on the Trans-Siberian Railway but highlighted just how fragile Russia’s transportation network is and how a minor problem can become a major one because that system lacks the redundancy most national systems have.

            Last week, flooding destroyed a bridge over which the Trans-Siberian railway passes, leading to a suspension of service in both directions for three days. The situation was especially dire because a branch route had suffered a similar disaster a few days earlier precluding a redirection of traffic (

            The bridge collapse, some 300 kilometers from Chita in the Trans-Baikal, had such serious repercussions for Russian economic development in the Far East and the transit of goods to and from China that Vladimir Putin convened a session of the Russian Security Council to discuss how to get the bridge repaired and the line running again.

            East-Siberian transportation officials have begun an investigation to determine whether the bridge collapse was simply the result of flooding or reflected human error; and the Russian government at the order of Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has dispatched equipment for repairs from elsewhere in Russia.

            There have been suggestions that if the bridges had been upgraded and repaired more regularly, this problem might have been avoided and problems with China and other Far Eastern trade partners avoided (

            Whatever the final verdict is this calamity, “the consequences may be extremely serious,” equivalent to the blockage of the Suez Canal or the Bosphorus Straits, Russian experts say, first on the Russian Far East and then on Chinese-Russian trade relations (

            (A similar bridge disaster in Murmansk Oblast in June 2020 had similarly serious consequences within the country but did not have an equivalent impact on Russia’s foreign trade relations (

            Moscow’s biggest worry appears to be that China will further downgrade the importance of the Trans-Siberian as a route for its east-west trade and shift shipments away from it to other paths as Japan and South Korea have already done. If that happens, Russian officials say, a superficially minor bridge collapse will have large geo-economic and even geo-political consequences.


Aging of Russian Elite Reflects Worldwide Uncertainty about the Future, Mironenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – The Russian elite, like the elites of many other countries, is aging, reminding those with memories of the last years of the USSR, Vladimir Mironenko says, all the more so because the cause of this development is the same: “above all, no one knew [or knows] what to do next.”

            The Russian artist and publicist says that the world in the early 1980s entered “a pause” when no one was sure what they should do or how to hand things off to the next generation and the same sense of being in a pause and the absence of a road map for the future are once again in place (

            In the late Soviet era, “the second echelon of world rulers,” those who in the USSR  were often called Komsomols or even Pioneers were clearly too inexperienced to take over; and the aging elites were afraid to hand off things to them. Something similar is happening in the US now, although there are exceptions as in Canada and France.

            “Theoretically,” Mironenko says, “there is nothing bad about this. It is even possible that society must ultimately delegate to power only the very young and the very old,” two groups whose members are “closer to eternity, the first to the beginning and the other to the end.” They may fit together better than those in the middle who are less idealistic but not yet experienced.

            The chief task in such situations is not to allow the middle aged, those between 35 and 65 to muscle their way in. Of course, there will be exceptions, the commentator says; but they will be rare as in such times, the oldest will remain in power until they can hand things off not to their children but to their grandchildren.



Putin has Forgotten Machiavelli’s Maxim on When and When Not to Use Force, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Machiavelli advised that repressing people when there is a real threat to them and the prince is a good thing but continuing to repress them when there is no such threat creates dangers because if the population accepts the use of force in the first instance as justified, it sees its use in the second as a form of petty tyranny.

            Unfortunately, since the start of this year, Vladimir Putin appears to have forgotten this wise maxim, according to Abbas Gallyamov, a Moscow political commentator who once served as speechwriter for the Kremlin leader. And that opens the way for a far more dangerous future than would otherwise be the case (

            When there is a real threat to the authorities, even those who oppose them understand why the powers that be are acting as they are and accept it, he continues. But when there is no such threat, people start to ask why the powers are acting as they are and to draw conclusions about their adequacy as powers.

            At the start of the year when there were mass demonstrations and calls for Putin’s retirement, everyone could see that the Kremlin was threatened and thus understood its use of force, Gallyamov says. But now, no one is in the streets or making demands, raising the question as to what kind of a threat there is.

            And that means this, he argues. “From an instrument of necessary self-defense, repressions are now being transformed into purely arbitrary actions. The authorities are losing the sense of moral justification not only in the eyes of the population but also from the oint of view of elites.”

            That change can open the way to a revolution because “when protests grow, the basis for suppressing them grows as well,” but when they are suppressed and do not exist openly, the powers must take steps to eliminate the causes of protest. If they don’t, then repression in the absence of threats ends by creating a bigger threat.

            The Putin regime would do well to remember this ancient lesson of the politics of repression, Gallyamov says.

People Overreading Putin’s Essay on Ukraine, Novikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Most commentators of Vladimir Putin’s recent essay on Russia and Ukraine are overreading it, seeing it as laying the groundwork for a new Russian attack by preparing the Russian people for that or at least as a fundamental shift in Moscow’s relations with Kyiv and the West, Moscow lawyer Ilya Novikov says.

            In fact, Putin’s propensity to write articles reflects what one might expect to be the situation aging dictators face. They no longer can achieve some of what they intended and they are bored so they turn to writing about historical or other abstruse topics, he continues. Stalin provides the perfect model of this (

            “When Stalin understood that he wasn’t about to conquer the world and that he didn’t have any problems in the country, he turned to science and begun to write articles about linguistics and Marxists. Here is a sign of a bored dictator who is tired of everything else and so wants to try his hand at something else by writing an article,” Novikov suggests.

            Because that is the case, he continues, he “does not exclude that he wrote it himself with his own hands.” And if he had help with a draft, Putin himself went through and changed things just enough to make it his own. In any case, Novikov says, “I assure you that this article is not a harbinger” of anything, let alone a new war cold or hot.

            Putin’s essay is simply another way for him to cope with the boredom he increasingly feels, the lawyer concludes.   

‘Znak’ News Agency Publishes List of Five Chief Snitches in Russia Today

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Pro-regime organizations and individuals often denounce their opponents to the authorities with the expectation that the powers that be and the judicial system they control will accept these charges, penalize those denounced in this way, and clear the way for the snitches to advance up the career latter.

            Moscow’s Znak news agency has now published a list of what it refers to as the five “chief snitches of Russia” and describes how they have brought low their personal opponents (

            The first on the news agency’s list is Yekaterina Mizulina, the daughter of notorious  Senator Yelena Mizulina and someone who has singled out Internet activities for her special attention. She has attacked various Russians for their posts and called for slowing down the speed of connections for Internet companies that don’t open offices in Russia.

            Her usual charges involve supposed involvement with pornography and drugs, and Russian officials have followed up, most recently in the case of journalist Yury Duda now being heard in a Moscow court. She also wants to shut down Twitter because it supposedly carries pornographic messages.

            According to Mizulina junior, there are more than 200 bloggers in Russia who are promoting drug use and some 53 million social network accounts which either produce or repeat “destructive content.”  Almost ten million of these are accounts belonging to Russian children, she says.

            Second on the list is Vitaly Borodin, head of the Federal Project for Security and the Struggle Against Corruption. He was behind the denunciation of the Project publication that forced its closure and its researchers to leave the country. Borodin has conducted these attacks even though he himself studied in the US on a National Endowment for Democracy grant.

            Third is Aleksandr Ionov, current president of the Anti-Globalist Movement in Russia. The targets of his snitches include the Meduza news agency, Novaya gazeta, and Vazhnyye istorii which investigates corruption in the regime.

            Fourth on this list is the infamous Duma deputy Vitaly Mironov who has gone after gay activists and even Internet aggregators as threats to Russian national security without any justification. Unfortunately, the Russian powers that be take his claims at face value and follow up with legal action.

            And fifth is another Duma deputy, Vasily Piskaryev, who earlier was deputy head of the SKR. His targets have included NGOs which he has sought to close by having them labelled foreign agents or undesirable organizations.

Duma Considers Restoring Nationality Line in Passports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – One of the most infamous provisions of Soviet law was the existence of the so-called “fifth paragraph” in passports which fixed the nationality of a Soviet citizen in almost all cases for all times and which was used to discriminate in the first instance against Jews. And the elimination of this line in 1990 was welcomed by most.

            But two groups of officials are now pushing for its restoration, those like Russian nationalist Vitaly Milonov, who view it as a way to promote official Russian nationality, and those like Ildar Gilmutdinov, who see the nationality listing as the last line of defense for numerically small nations.

            Milonov has appealed to Justice Minister Konstantin Chuichenko to restore the nationality line for all residents of the Russian Federation, apparently believing that if it were restored now, many non-Russians would elect to identify as Russians in order to conform to the Kremlin’s goals (

            But Gilmutdinov, the deputy head of the Duma’s committee on nationalities, seeks the restoration of the nationality line only for and as a protection of numerically small nations who could use such documentation to ensure that only they get the benefits that Moscow has allocated for them (

            Neither proposal appears likely to take off anytime soon, as representatives of the ruling United Russia Party have declared that their Duma membership has not discussed raising it ( But Milonov and Gilmutdinov’s proposals are certain to attract attention and spark discussion as Russia conducts its decennial census in October.

            What makes the possibility of the restoration of a nationality line in Russian passports now especially fraught is that Moscow has pushed through an arrangement according to which for the first time, residents of the Russian Federation will be able to declare that they are of mixed nationality (

            Fixing official nationality again in passports could undercut that. Indeed, that may be one of the reasons United Russia is opposed, although in the past some of its members have pressed for the restoration of the fifth paragraph ( and

Russia Records Highest One-Day Death Toll from Covid Since Start of Pandemic

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Although Russian officials said they registered only 23,947 new cases of coronavirus infection today, they announced that they had recorded 799 deaths from the disease, the highest daily figure since the pandemic began more than 18 months ago (

            The number of new infections declined especially in Moscow city and oblast, but elsewhere there were hotspots which reported significant increases. In Khakassia, the situation became so dire that Moscow dispatched military personnel to help local medical facilities respond ( and

            And in Daghestan, officials expanded the list of professions where vaccination is now mandatory (, part of a general trend to require vaccinations as a condition of continued employment across Russia (

            Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,

·         Novyye izvestiya reported that senior managers at the pharmaceutical laboratory that came up with the Sputnik-5 vaccine have grown rich and are spending accordingly (

·         Some analysts are suggesting that the rise in divorces to 94 for every 100 marriages in Russia cannot be blamed on the pandemic alone but reflects underlying social changes and economic problems (

·         Moscow aviation officials announced that Russian carriers will resume flights to the Czech Republic and France on July 24 (


Even Though Few Will Win, Priests and Mullahs Running for Duma Seats are Urging Policies that May Lead to Policy Changes, Soldatov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – One of the more interesting but neglected aspects of the current Duma campaign is the large number of priests and mullahs who are running either in single member districts or on party lists. Few are likely to win, Aleksandr Soldatov says; but they are promoting ideas that may lead to new and even more repressive legislation.

            As the Novaya gazeta commentator notes, these candidates overwhelmingly come from marginal groups which link extreme nationalist themes and religion – and in which nationalism may be more important than religious faith – and are not connected either with the systemic parties or the traditional religious organizations (

            Many of them – and Soldatov surveys about ten of these candidates – favor a theocratic state, one in which either Russian Orthodoxy defines the country or Islam comes to define public life much as it has done in Iran. As such, there is little chance that they will win over a large number of voters.

            But two things make their appearance important, the commentator says. On the one hand, religious ideas are among the only ones that Duma candidates can discuss with relative freedom, thus allowing religious leaders the opportunity to promote ideas about an increased role for religion and nationalism in Russia.

            And on the other, they are a testing ground for these ideas. If such people garner much support, that will be a sign to the powers that be that the Kremlin can advance policies resembling the proposals of these figures even if as now seems likely none of these often marginal figures will ever see the inside of the Duma.

Nostalgia for Soviet Times Doesn’t Extend Beyond Elites to Most Russians, Especially Those under 35, Makarkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – Russians of a certain age and status are delighted to see American defeats much as their Soviet predecessors were to see them a generation or more ago; but even these attitudes have less to do with nostalgia than with a desire for revenge against the United States and the West, Aleksey Makarkin says.

            But what is most important, the Moscow political analyst says, is that even the drawing of such parallels, a form of nostalgia in and of itself, does not extend to the Russian population as a whole and especially to Russians under 35 whose vision of the world was not formed by life in the USSR (

            Compared to the older elites, “the next generations, those under 35 live already in another reality, without nostalgia and without pleasant or not very pleasant memories of the past,” Makarkin says. They are ever more concerned not about the past but about their “own present and the future of their children and grandchildren.”

            As a result, at the present time, he concludes, “Soviet nostalgia is characteristic of two otherwise opposed groups: ‘the reds’ (communists) and the national-patriotic subculture, on the one hand, and elites and sub-elites who react to this, on the other.” Nostalgia for all the talk about it is not something  informing how all Russians now think.

‘Russia may Cut Itself Off Completely from the West,’ Sergey Medvedev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – Sergey Medvedev, author of the 1920 book The Return of the Russian Leviathon, says that he “does not exclude that Russia may fully close itself off from the West,” reject the bases of modernity, and become something like Belarus given that there is little resistance among the Russian population to the Kremlin’s drive in that direction.

            What is already taking place, the HSE scholar says, is the formation of “a medieval strata-based society” where people’s legal status depends on their membership in one or another and where these are almost completely fixed ( in Russian at

            “The main aspect of bourgeois revolutions was the establishment of equality of all before the law,” Medvedev says. “But in Russia this equality has been taken away from people” and “the country has become one of total inequality.” Worse, this has been accepted by the overwhelming majority of the population.

            Ever fewer Russians say that what the Kremlin has done to Aleksey Navalny is wrong, a trend which “shows that people accept the state’s right to use force in relation to a citizen” and that the people recognize and accept “their own lack of rights.” Moreover, there has been “a normalization of force and terror” because of the state’s use of it.

            According to Medvedev, “Russia is proceeding along the Belarusian path.” That countr y despite is modernized aspects has been “transformed into a terrorist state, and there is no guarantee that Russia will not go along precisely the same path.”

            Those Russians who oppose this trend can emigrate; but if they remain in their own country, they either have to be willing to face severe consequences or adapt. Few will choose the first, and most will simply try to get along, given that the standard of living is not that bad for most.

            The possibilities for the West to do something are severely limited, as “any dollar or euro received from abroad may lead to the persecution of an individual or organization.” Consequently, what is needed is the formation of “new centers of Russian culture in which the intellect of the nation will be preserved.” And these centers will be abroad.

            Inside Russia, the Kremlin has created and imposed a quasi-religious cult of militarism and war. In Soviet times, people said “let there not be war.” Now, Russians are encouraged to think that they can repeat their victory. “The cult of Victory has been transformed into a chauvinist and militarism cult of war with elements of a religious cult.”

            In fact, Medvedev argues, “this is more than a religion; this is a government ideology” despite the constitutional ban against such things.

            When Vladimir Sorokin wrote The Day of the Oprichnik in 2006, his vision of such an anti-utopia in Russia seemed grotesque and unimaginable. But now what he predicted is becoming true, especially as “Russia is becoming the younger brother of China, its vassal,” and as China is filled with hatred to the West.

            The only limiting factor is that “in Russia, as always, the cruelty of law will be softened by the fact that it won’t always be enforced. This will not be a dictatorship of the North Korean type or an ideological one like Iran. It will be a corrupt thieving post-modernist Russian dictatorship.”

            This can go on for a long time, Medvedev says; but when oil runs out and the regime has to react, one can hope for change. In the immediate future, however, the situation in Russia will be “terrible and funny at one and the same time.”

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Putin Now Following the Path of Milošević, von Eggert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – For most of his 20 years in power, Vladimir Putin has “avoided openly nationalistic rhetoric,” Konstantin von Eggert says; but now, when talking about Ukraine, the Kremlin leader “sounds ever more like Slobodan Milošević at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s.”

            According to the Russian commentator, “the Serbian dictator liked to talk about the need for achieving the unity of the divided Serbs who were repressed by other peoples,” language that lay behind the wars in the former Yugoslavia and acts of genocide by the Serbs against others (

            Given that history, Putin’s shift is disturbing because it suggests he is more than willing to play a similar nationalistic card with regard to ethnic Russians who are citizens of Ukraine and launch an expanded military effort there, something that if cast in such ethnic terms will likely result in similar kinds of communal violence.

            There appear to be two reasons why the Kremlin leader is talking like this now, von Eggert says. On the one hand, Putin is reasonably worried that a Dutch court will name him and Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu as unindicted co-conspirators in the downing of the Malaysian jetliner.

            That is why the issue of that disaster is so prominently part of Moscow’ suit against Ukraine in the European Human Rights Court.

            And on the other, Putin has been emboldened by the decision of the US and Germany not to oppose Northstream-2, a decision made without the participation of Kyiv and thus, from his point of view, an indication that the West is moving at least implicitly toward “a Yalta-2” arrangement in the east.

            By raising the specter of violence in Ukraine, Putin thus puts additional pressure on Western governments to defer to him on what he wants as a recognized Russian sphere of influence including Ukraine. That is because his nationalistic and militarist language suggest that efforts to oppose Moscow would be prohibitively costly.

            But it remains an open question whether the West will agree, especially as many in Western capitals have not forgotten what its initial failure to stand up to Milošević led to in the Balkans.

Approaching Border Delimitation Deadline May Force Moscow to Assert Greater Control in North Caucasus

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – Vladimir Putin has ordered that all the federal subjects in Russia resolve any border disputes with their neighbors by the end of 2021, a deadline that some in the North Caucasus are unlikely to meet without significantly expanded intervention by Moscow, something the center faces difficulties in doing, Ivan Klyzszcz says.

            The doctoral candidate at the University of Tartu says that Moscow has now recognized that is economic policy in the region has failed and called for changes over the next few months, but the Kremlin has been unwilling to change the political landscape in the region by changing regional leaders on whom it relies (

            That combination means that social tensions remain high even though violence has declined and that current regional leaders have little interest in reaching agreement lest any concessions undermine their standing with the population. To break this logjam, Moscow may have to step up pressure, possibly to levels not seen since the time of the Sochi Olympics (

            The protests in Ingushetia over the land deal between former republic head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov are a warning of what could happen if the economy remains in recession and current political elites seek to reach the border agreements Moscow requires without such repressive actions from the center.

            At present, Klyszcz continues, there are two major border disputes that could erupt. The first is between Ingushetia and North Ossetia over the Prigorodny District which led to a war in the early 1990s and the flight of some 60,000 Ingush from that territory which had belonged to Ingushetia before Stalin’s deportation of that nation to Central Asia.

            And the second is between Chechnya and Daghestan over districts in the latter which had belonged to Chechnya before 1944 and which continue to be populated by Chechens who have become increasingly restive in recent years about being run from Makhachkala rather than from Grozny.

            Moscow had hoped that economic development would overcome all these problems and thus allow it to keep in place its political appointments in these republics, but that has clearly not been the case. Unemployment and poverty remain especially high in the republics where border disputes are the most serious.

            Two of the three republic leaders involved have already been forced out, Yevkurov in Ingushetia and Vladimir Vladimirov in Daghestan. Moscow shows no sign of being willing to dispense with Ramzan Kadyrov, and it certainly doesn’t want to signal that popular unrest will force its hand again.

            Consequently, Klyszcz suggests, Moscow is very soon going to have to make some fundamental changes. In the absence of economic growth, it will either have to change cadres, increase its own role, or give up on meeting the delimitation deadline, any one of which will give the center a black eye.

            That makes delay the most likely way forward, but precisely because the people and leaders in the North Caucasus will see that their resistance to what Moscow wants as the cause of that decision at the center, such a decision by the Kremlin puts off the immediate problem but only at the cost of making it worse down the pike.

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

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 23 – 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.       Moscow Plans for Massive Expansion of Trade on Northern Sea Route. Over the next decade, Moscow hopes for a 2000 percent growth in the amount of cargo carried over the Northern Sea Route but says much of this will be within portions of Russia rather than international ( and ).

2.       ‘Shariat Patrols’ Begin in Moscow. Moscow residents are calling police units composed exclusively of Chechens in their city “shariat patrols,” a reference that does not promise good relations between them (

3.       Nizhny Novgorod Residents Overwhelmingly Oppose New Church in Square or Cemetery. Eighty-eight percent of  Nizhny Novgorod residents at a meeting called to discuss the possibility of a new Orthodox church either in a square or in a cemetery say they are opposed to the idea (

4.       Ten Percent of Chukotka Residents have Mental Problems. The Russian health ministry says that ten percent of residents in Chukotka have mental problems, the highest rate by far among the populations of Russia’s federal subjects (

5.      Russian Prison Factories Sometimes Pay Workers Less than Two Dollars a Month. Factories in Russian prisons which produce goods for hospitals, the siloviki and tax service are a growth industry in part because they operate without any outside inspection. As a result, in some of them workers are paid less than two dollars a month and required to work as much as 12 hours a day (

6.      Moscow Plans to Delay 2020 Census for Third Time. Faced with difficulties in organizing the enumeration, Moscow officials have decided to delay the 2020 census for a third time, but this time for only a month from October 15 to November 14. The count in some difficult to reach places may not occur until December 20 (

7.      Russians More Tolerant of Sexual Minorities but Still Overwhelmingly Opposed to Single-Sex Marriage. VTsIOM polls show that Russians have become more tolerant of sexual minorities over the last 17 years but that they remain overwhelmingly opposed to single-sex marriages with 75 percent saying those should not be allowed (

8.       Collapse of One Bridge Closes Trans-Siberian Railway for Three Days. The collapse of a small bridge used by the Trans-Siberian railway has forced officials to suspend traffic in both directions for three days, another sign of the lack of alternative routes east of the Urals (

9.       Those Searching for GULAG Victims have to Use Nazi Maps Because Soviet Ones have Been Destroyed. The only way investigators looking for GULAG victims have been able to find their graves inn some cases is to use Nazi aerial maps because the Soviet authorities destroyed all of the Russian ones that might have helped them (

10.    Cosmonaut Says Russians Could Organize Private Space Flights. Sergey Ryazansky, a Russian cosmonaut, says he sees no reason why his country couldn’t organize private space flights like those which have recently taken place in the West (

11.   Russian Occupiers Operate Illegal Bacteriological Labs in Crimea. Moscow has long complained about US laboratories in the former Soviet republics, but now its own operation of a bacteriological laboratory in occupied Crimea has been exposed, something illegal on a variety of grounds (

12.   Russian Quality of Life Rated Below Ukrainian. A Numbeo survey finds that Russia ranks 67th out of 83 countries in terms of quality of life, below Pakistan, Georgia and even Ukraine (

13.   Buddhists and Jews in Russia Using Actors to Attract Attention to Their Faiths. Russia’s Buddhists and Jews have begun employing prominent actors to attract attention to their faiths, thus copying what some minority religions have done elsewhere (

14.   As Putin Ages, He Keeps Raising Retirement Age for Those Around Him. Vladimir Putin has proposed a draft law that would allow senior military commanders to continue to serve well beyond their current retirement ages, part of a general process of the graying of the Russian leadership and one that recalls the Brezhnev era in Soviet times (

15.   Russian Government Shuts Down 49 Navalny Websites. Calling attention to just how Internet-dependent the Russian opposition is, Russian officials have announced the shuttering of 49 websites connected with Aleksey Navalny and his staffs (

16.   Private Prisons aren’t Illegal in Russia But They Do Raise Concerns. The authorities have discovered a private prison in St. Petersburg, which even has its own crematoria for the disposition of bodies. They say that the existence of such a facility is not illegal under Russian law but activists say its existence raises serious concerns (

17.   Moscow May Ban Importation of Luxury Women’s Underwear. Russian officials say that women’s undergarments produced abroad in many cases do not meet Russian “security” requirements and should be banned (

18.   Russians Say Inflation Five Times What Officials Report. A survey finds that Russians on average believe inflation is running at 30 percent, nearly five times what officials say, a reflection of the tendency of people to focus on those items whose prices have gone up rather than on others which have not (

19.   Divorce Rates in Russia Rise, Led by Increases in Muslim Republics. The divorce rate in Russia this year is the highest it has been in seven years, with three Muslim republics, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Daghestan, where divorce is historically rare, among the regions showing the largest increases (

20.   Moscow Patriarchate Wants to Block Doctors from Proposing Abortions. The Russian Orthodox Church has asked the government to introduce new laws that would prevent doctors or other medical workers from ever proposing to a woman that she get an abortion (

21.   Moscow Drops Marriage and Children Lines in Russian Passports. Russians will no longer have to list their marital status or their young children on their passports but may request that such information be entered under newly released rules (

22.   Russians Ignoring Tokyo Olympics But Officials Aren’t. 97 percent of Russians tell VTsIOM they can’t name a single Russian athlete at the Tokyo Games where Russians are competing not  under their own flag but as representatives of the Russian Olympic Committee ( Four more Russian athletes have had to stay home because of drug use ( But Russian officials are pushing for victories by those Russian athletes who have gone to Japan and are angry that Tokyo, having shown Crimea as part of Russia, have now corrected their mistake ( and

23.   Only One Russian Business in Three Plans to Spend to Protect Environment. A new survey finds that only 32 percent of Russian business leaders have any plans to spend money to protect the environment (

24.   Russian Oil Production and Earnings from It have Peaked, Experts Say. 2019 was likely the peak in Russian oil production and its earnings from oil exports peaked earlier. Neither is likely to recover to the peaks they achieved a decade ago, Russian analysts say, the result of falling demand and the difficulties of pumping oil in ever more inaccessible places (

25.   Russian Case Against Ukraine at Strasbourg Unlikely to Be Decided for Years. Russian officials, having brought suit against Ukraine at the European Human Rights Court, are about to discover one of the features of Western jurisprudence. The case is unlikely to be resolved much before 2030 and so will continue to spark discussions about its absurdity throughout that period (

26.   Moscow Patriarchate Hopes Christian Right in US Can Help It in Ukraine. The Moscow Patriarchate hopes that the Christian right in the US will return the Republicans to power in Washington, something it believes will lead Washington to be more supportive of Russian religious organizations in Ukraine (