Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Patriarch Kirill Lays Groundwork for Challenging Primacy of Ecumenical Patriarch

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 18 – Patriarch Kirill of the ROC MP has laid out his case for challenging Patriarch Bartholemew of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople with an eye either to overthrowing the churchman considered primus inter pares among Orthodox or to setting up an alternative Orthodox world under Moscow.

            At a meeting of a Moscow conference on “World Orthodoxy: Primacy and Collegiality in the Light of Orthodox Doctrine,” the Russian church leader extended his criticism of Bartholemew ever since the latter granted autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, something Kirill believes he had no right to do (ng.ru/faith/2021-09-16/100_rel16092021.html).

            According to the Moscow Patriarch, the church since the fifth century has had established rules for such things; and Bartholemew has violated them, an action that is forcing the Russian church as a guardian of order to consider how to respond, a decision about which, he said, will take place at a November meeting of the Russian church.

            According to Andrey Melnikov, editor of NG-Religii, Moscow has three choices: seeking to remove Bartholemew by an appeal to these principles and even bringing him before a religious court, creating a parallel Orthodox world led by Moscow rather than Constantinople, or threatening one or the other but continuing to live with the existing ambiguities.

            The latter is the most likely, the religious affairs specialist suggests; but by speaking of church decisions of 17 centuries ago, Kirill is showing that he is prepared to raise the stakes considerably, a move that promises to increase tensions among the Orthodox patriarchates and may presage new challenges to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s traditional status.

            Melnikov doesn’t say on this occasion, but it seems obvious that Kirill is seeking ways to recover domestically from what many see as his “loss” of Ukraine and that the Russian patriarch believes that seeking to promote Russian Orthodoxy in this way will stand him in good stead with a Kremlin committed to the building of “a Russian world.”

 

Plan to Return Russians to Rural North Caucasus Could Prove Explosive

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 18 – At a time when Moscow is considering how to implement Sergey Shoygu’s call for building new cities in Siberia to expand the Russian population there, some in the Russian capital are thinking about similar projects to stop Russian flight from the North Caucasus and even make possible the return of ethnic Russians to that region.

            Since the end of Soviet times, ethnic Russians have left the republics of the North Caucasus in massive numbers, reducing their share of the population to almost nothing in Chechnya and to a much reduced size elsewhere. Most of that flight came from the cities where Russians were most numerous because of industrial development.

            Now, Yegeny Tsots, a Regnum news agency commentator, argues that Moscow should develop centers outside those cities in the highland regions of the North Caucasus. That would allow them to live in one of the most environmentally friendly areas around and of course improve Russian security (https://regnum.ru/news/society/3374447.html).

            Moscow has had little success in holding ethnic Russians in the major cities of the North Caucasus whose political elites are dominated by members of the titular nationalities even if they are appointed by and entirely loyal to Moscow (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/04/moscows-efforts-to-hold-russians-in.html).

            What makes Tsots’ proposal intriguing is that he favors bringing ethnic Russians to new settlements in the mountainous rural areas of the North Caucasus rather than returning them to the cities there. Such flows would reduce the likelihood of conflicts in the capitals but could easily increase them in rural areas.

            On the one hand, the rural populations of the North Caucasus republics are almost homogeneous in their non-Russian composition. Establishing Russian outposts there would resemble the Cossack lines that the Russian Empire created as it expanded into non-Russian areas – and it would certainly be viewed as such.

            And on the other hand, such a move would exacerbate what is already one of the greatest problems in the region: land hunger. As populations have soared, fighting over land has intensified. If Moscow were to introduce ethnic Russians into the mix, such conflicts would be transformed from socio-economic ones to explosive ethno-national ones.

            Because of the near certainty that would be the case, Moscow is unlikely to move quickly in this direction. But the fact that it is talking about it at all reflects the growing fears in the capital that the emptying out of the rural areas of the country is a threat to the country’s national security that must be addressed.

            And because the current regime has no new ideas of how to address this problem, it is reaching back to ideas which circulated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, ideas that worked until they collapsed in the revolutionary upheavals of the first part of the twentieth century.

 

Name of Russia’s Northern Capital Far from Settled among Its Residents

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 18 – Thirty years ago, the residents of St. Petersburg voted to restore the name their city had had in imperial times, St. Petersburg. But despite that vote and the passage of more than three decades, the city’s residents remain very much divided over what their city should be called.

            The June 1991 referendum did not result in an overwhelming vote for change, with only 54 percent voting to restore the imperial period name and 42 percent voting against. Indeed, had it not taken place when many older residents were at their dachas and therefore not able to vote, it might not have passed (versia.ru/kak-30-let-nazad-leningrad-stal-sankt-peterburgom).

            A recent poll suggests that while support for Leningrad has declined somewhat, support for St. Petersburg has as well, with a striking increase in the share of those who would prefer Petersburg, without the “saint” (nevnov.ru/898731-peterburzhcy-ne-gotovy-menyat-nazvanie-goroda-na-neve).

            Today, 26 percent of the northern capital’s residents say they favor the name Leningrad, nine percent back Petrograd, which wasn’t an option in the 1991 referendum, 38 percent favor St. Petersburg, but 27 percent favor Petersburg without the saint, which also wasn’t an option in the earlier voting.

            Lev Lurye, a journalist and historian who has explored the history of the name, says that this pattern  represents a kind of recapitulation of what happened at the end of the 19th century. Then, as peasants flooded into the city, many of them preferred to call the city just “Peter,” a name that the educated elite felt was insulting to a great city.

            Today’s new residents are happy enough with Petersburg but like their predecessors, they don’t see any reason to add “saint” to its name. At the same time, Sergey Shuvalov, a toponymist, says many in the northern capital again prefer Leningrad because of its association with the blockade of the city during World War II.

             

Despite Current Dominance of Chekists, Dzerzhinsky Day Passed More Quietly This Year

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 18 – Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police, remains both a unifying and divisive figure among Russians, and that appears to explain three trends in Russian memorialization: the modesty of the celebration of his day, the rise of statues outside the major cities rather than in them, and the conflation of his image with that of imperial heroes.

            Dina Khapayeva, a commentator for Novaya gazeta, suggests that the relative modesty of commemorations of Dzerzhinsky today reflects his dual reputation. On the one hand, few in the current leadership want him demoted but on the other want him embedded in the Russian state tradition rather than a destroyer of it (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/09/17/ivan-dzerzhinskii).

            For many Russians, the demolition of Dzerzhinsky’s statue in front of KGB headquarters in Moscow remains the symbol of the defeat of the August coup. Thus, in the capital, there has been great reluctance to bring back statues of “Iron Felix.” Instead, those have appeared elsewhere in places like Tyumen and Kirov.

            Outside of the capital, Eurasianists and others who welcome the combination of Sovietism and the Russian state tradition have faced less opposition from those who may be willing to see a revival of the latter but still remain deeply opposed to any unmixed restoration of the former.

            When an effort was made to promote the restoration of the statue of Dzerzinsky in Moscow, officials faced such opposition that they were forced to hold a referendum that included two other names as well, Alexander Nevsky and, somewhat unexpectedly, Ivan III, the grandfather of Ivan the Terrible.

            While this was going on, the Officers of Russia appealed to the government for a decision on the removal of the statue in 1991. The Moscow procuracy held that this was “illegal,” a move with potentially far-reaching consequences because if taking down the statue was illegal, then does that mean the suppression of the coup was?

            More than that, this decision raises questions about the legality of Dzerzhinsky’s statue being put up in the first place in 1958 – and, perhaps most important, Khapayeva concludes, the question of questions: “who has the right to decide what symbols of the past and which of the future should stand in the capital of Russia?”

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Putin Cargo Goals for Northern Sea Route ‘Utopian’ and Won’t Be Met, Veselov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 18 – Vladimir Putin’s plans to expand trade on the Northern Sea Route are being undercut by problems in all the sectors his numbers depend upon including but not limited to cutbacks in production of bulk products, problems with the construction of ships capable of sailing the Arctic route, and environmental issues, Maks Veselov says.

            And while Moscow commentator continue to suggest the Kremlin leader’s goals will be met, ever more officials working on the route and experts studying it have concluded that neither the short-term goals for 60 million tons of cargo in 2024 or 110 million tons in 2035 are anything but “utopian dreams,” the Babr journalist says (babr24.com/kras/?IDE=218503).

            Veselov draws that conclusion on the basis of a close examination of the situation in Krasnoyarsk Kray, one of the eight Russian regions with Arctic territories and thus deeply involved with all aspects of the development of the Northern Sea Route. Everywhere one looks, he says, there are serious problems.

            First of all, the three main bulk cargos Moscow planned to form a major part of the shipping program – nickel, oil, and coal – have all had their production targets seriously reduced over the last several years. Because they are producing less, the amount of cargo that they will feed into the Northern Sea Route will fall as well.

            Second, Russian shipbuilding for the route is way behind schedule. Indeed, in the fall of 2020, Rosatom which oversees this part of the project, called for cutting Putin’s 2024 goal of 80 million tons by 25 percent to 60 million because Russia simply won’t have enough carrying capacity to ship more.

            And third, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the fragility of the Arctic environment is such that Moscow won’t be able to ignore the dangers that spills and other forms of contamination present. Moreover, as the region warms, there will be subsidence form the melting of the permafrost and infrastructure collapse.

            Russia will be able to increase the amount of cargo on the Northern Sea Route in the coming years, Veselov says, but not by anything like what Putin has promised and his pro-Kremlin spokespersons imagine. And it is not impossible that over the next several years, growth will be significantly lower than many now imagine and plan for.

Putin Plan to Attract 500,000 Compatriots Back to Russia by 2030 will Fail, von Eggert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 18 – Until Russian emigres and compatriots associate Russia with freedom, law and security, something highly unlikely as long as Vladimir Putin is its ruler, few of them will return however much of an effort Moscow makes to get them to do so, Konstantin von Eggert says.

            The Russian government has announced just such an effort. The foreign and interior ministries are supposed to convince 50,000 emigres and compatriots to return to Russia every year for the next decade, a move designed in part to cover losses from the coronavirus pandemic (dw.com/ru/popytka-putina-sobrat-razdelennyj-narod-budet-bezuspeshnoj/a-59216310).

            But appealing to these communities has as well “enormous political importance” for Putin, the Russian commentator says. He wants to show the West that his Russia is attractive and that any minor issues like the fighting in the North Caucasus or the imprisonment of dissidents are not something that disturbs Russians.

            His efforts during his first two terms to break with communism by arranging for the reburial of anti-Soviet fighters and thinkers won him support among the descendants of the first and second emigrations, although it did not cause large numbers of them to leave where they had been living and more to Russia.

            With time, the question of emigres became even more important for the Kremlin ruler. They and their return became part of his version of “a new Russian civic identity,” one based on the proposition that Russians must be loyal to the leader of the state, whatever he is called, to save the country and make it great again.

            After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin began to talk about the existence of a Russian world and the Russians as the largest “divided people” on earth. And his propagandists have urged without much success Russians living abroad to leave Estonia because of Russophobes there, to leave France because of Muslims, and to leave the US because of “’political correctness.’”

            These messages may have won the Kremlin some support, but they have not and will not lead people who are living abroad in more or less comfortable circumstances to take a chance and move to Russia with its unpredictable past, present and future, the Russian commentator continues.

            In support of his argument, von Eggert cites the words of the late Sergey Prikhodko who in the 1990s oversaw relations with the Baltic countries for the Russian foreign ministry. At that time, the commentator himself was working for Izvestiya and often interviewed the future deputy head of the Presidential Administration.

            Prikhodko openly said, von Eggert recalls, that “nothing will come” of Moscow’s efforts to get Russians to leave the Baltic countries. “People will still there even if they don’t have citizenship. This is after all Europe, and live is more predictable than it is with us, conditions are certainly no worse if no better, and even with ‘a non-citizen passport,’ one can live not badly.”

Ukrainian Commentator Says Putin Likely Infected with Coronavirus

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 18 – Ukrainian analyst Ivan Yakovina says the Kremlin reporting about Vladimir Putin’s decision to go into self-isolation probably means that he is infected with the coronavirus as it seems highly improbable large numbers of his staff are ill and he would not be (nv.ua/opinion/rossiya-pochemu-putin-na-samoizolyacii-yakovina-novosti-rossii-50184025.html ).

            However that may be, today, for the first time since August, Russian officials reported registering more than 20,000 new infections in one day (20,329). They also reported registering 799 new deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours as the pandemic continues to ebb and flow around the country (t.me/stopcoronavirusrussia/5725, meduza.io/news/2021/09/18/v-rossii-vpervye-s-avgusta-zaregistrirovali-bolee-20-tysyach-zabolevshih-kovidom-za-sutki and regnum.ru/news/society/3369923.html).

            Moscow oblast replaced Chechnya among the top three regions in terms of vaccination (rbc.ru/society/18/09/2021/61449ef99a79471589865303), and Moscow officials said infections had increased in the capital because of the return of people from their dachas and the reopening of schools (rbc.ru/society/18/09/2021/5e2fe9459a79479d102bada6).

            Muscovites did receive one piece of good news. As people have gotten vaccinated, more of them are using public transport to move about. As a result, those who drive are finding it easier to locate parking spaces when they do drive (superjob.ru/research/articles/113068/parkovatsya-v-moskve-stalo-chut-legche/).

            And a new analysis of Duma operations concludes that the legislature has been working ever more closely with the executive branch in the preparation and approval of laws since the start of the pandemic, a process leaders of both have been encouraging (ridl.io/ru/chrezvychajnoe-zakonotvorchestvo/).

The Dying Off of Russia Beginning with Pensioners, Drozdov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 17 – By any objective measure, “Russia is dying off, beginning with its weakest members, the pensioners,” Pavel Drozdov says. And the number of them is rapidly declining not only because of deaths among that age group but also because Russian men now “do not live to pension age” because of living conditions and the state of healthcare.

            Tragically, the Sovershenno-Sekretno analyst says, it is becoming obvious that the problems leading to the declining number of pensioners and hence the declining number of Russians as a whole are rooted in “a battle” between three sets of interests (sovsekretno.ru/articles/genotsid-pensionerov/).

            The Russian people benefit if they are healthy. The government with its budgetary problems benefits if “people are healthy but do not live to pension age,” and the medical system as currently designed is better off if “people live for a long time but are constantly sick” and in need of medical treatment.

            Most of the time, the interests of the Russian people are ignored, and the real fight is between a government that wants to reduce the cost of pensions to itself and a medical system that focuses on treatment rather than on the prevention of illness. And the consequences of this competition are increasingly obvious, Drozdov says.

            Between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, the number of pensioners in Russia declined by 1.2 million people or approximately 3300 a day. Some of this decline came in the form of deaths, of course; but much of it reflected that super high male mortality among working age Russians and government policies cut the number of new pensioners dramatically.

            When the federal government posted these numbers online, the reaction of analysts and the public to this obvious sign of the looming death of the nation was so angry that the Kremlin did what it normally does in these situations. It took down the report. But the bird was out of the cage, and eventually the numbers were restored.

            In addition, Drozdov says, the government is increasingly paying pensions to non-Russian citizens and doing what it can not to pay them to Russians; and the healthcare system is helping by reducing their numbers. But it is not just the healthcare system that is killing off older people.

            Overall government policy is as well. Moscow is committed to promoting the urbanization of Russians, but urbanization has consequences in this sector. In rural areas, people live in extended families and thus have children and grandchildren to help look after them and keep them happy.

            But in urban areas, the pensioners often live alone and die more quickly as a result. They become angry and depressed, and that pushes down their life expectancy as well. The government doesn’t object because that saves it the costs of pensions over a longer period, and the medical system doesn’t because the urban elderly fill up its clinics and hospitals.

            And in conclusion, Drozdov points to a particularly galling problem: “Getting drugs to treat rare diseases has turned into a sinister competition,” he says, with officials “openly delaying trials” in which those who need these medications are suing to get them. The officials clearly hope that the plaintiffs will die before judgments force them to pay up.

 

Urals Political Scientist Details Ways Parties and Candidates Used Internet in Campaigns

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 17 – It has become a commonplace to say that the Internet is playing an increasing role in Russian political life, but the nature and dimension of this role is only beginning to be studied, a pattern that has led some to dismiss the medium’s importance and others to overrate it.

            This week, the Association of Internet Technologists reported in Kommersant about the results of its study of the ways in which campaigns in the 225 single-member districts were being affected by the Internet, including launching of candidate’s pages, putting news on public sites, and seeking to promote commentaries by influentials (kommersant.ru/doc/4987429).

            Nadezhda Sivkova, a political scientist at the Urals Federal University, builds on that by drawing on research involving not only the current Duma campaign but also the primaries United Russia organized earlier this year (politsovet.ru/71642-agitaciya-v-rezhime-onlayn-sociolog-urfu-o-tom-kak-prohodila-izbiratelnaya-kampaniya-v-socsetyah.html).

            “The most popular places for candidates have become Instagram and Vkontakte,” she says. “All  parties to one degree or another are present on Vkontakte.” But only the four systemic parties and two new ones are on Instagram. The others have not yet made an effort in that direction.

            But such a presence “is not the only indicator” of the role of the Internet in campaigning,” Sivkova says. “Already this spring, we noted the very high level of clickability of content offered by the New People Party at the federal and regional levels. Possibly, this is a sowing of seeds, and possibly this is activity by the party’s supporters.”

            Earlier this year, “we did an analysis of the activity in social networks of candidates in the United Russia primaries where it was shown that among the winners, approximately 60 percent were active in social networks.” Those without such a presence were significantly less successful.

            United Russia then and now often posted the same content on various platforms rather than redesigning it to take advantage of the different audiences involved, the Urals political scientist continues. Other parties take a more diversified approach, she suggests. Nonetheless, United Russia ranks first in usage, followed by the KPRF, LDPR and Just Russia.

            “United Russia has an advantage in terms of the number of subscribers and general activity in social networks,” Sivkova continues. “The KPRF leads on clickability and the number of subscribers in the regions. In out view, clickability is the most important indicator reflected interest in content.” On that measure, United Russia is not doing well.

            “The LDPR is the leader as far as talking about party work is concerned,” she says. “Just Russia leads in terms of discussing issues of domestic policy.” Interestingly, Just Russia is also very interested in Twitter, even though the share of Russians making use of that channel is far smaller.

            According to Sivkova, only one of the new parties, New People, has been conducting active work in social networks. But it has had some real success, gaining much higher clickability numbers than even United Russia. She dismisses the suggestion of the Association of Internet Technologists that parties can stop using real sociology to track election trends.

            In her opinion, that is at best premature. Internet surveys are neither as reliable or as easy to conduct as the Association thinks. As a result, traditional polls and other sociological methods are going to remain important for a long time to come, even if the Internet becomes more important as a delivery method.

Black is White, Freedom is Slavery, and Stalin’s Invasion of Poland was ‘a Liberation Campaign,’ Russian Foreign Ministry Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 17 – In Putin’s increasingly Orwellian approach to the world, the Russian Foreign Ministry on the anniversary of the introduction of Soviet forces in Poland 82 years ago today described that action not as an invasion that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had opened the way for but “a liberation campaign” (twitter.com/MID_RF/status/1438768364353114115?s=20).

            The ministry said that the introduction of Soviet forces into Poland, which it argued had already collapsed as a state because of the German invasion, was not only an effort to liberate Belarusian and Ukrainian populations Poland had seized in 1920 but also designed to defend the USSR against the possibility that Berlin would move its forces further east.

            Moscow also said that Berlin had called on Moscow to move more quickly than it did but the Soviet government decided to move “only when there was a threat that German forces might press on to Minsk,” something that would have left the Soviet Union at risk of a broader invasion in 1939 and not in 1941 when it in fact came.

            The foreign ministry pointed out that “by September 17, the Polish military-political hierarchy had fled to Romania, Poland had actually ceased to exist as a state. Moscow could not allow that Hitler might seize all of Poland as this would have worsened the position of the USSR in the western direction.”

            Moreover, the declaration said, “the Soviet Union was interested in guaranteeing the security of the Ukrainian and Belarusian populations in Poland … as documents testify, the Ukrainian and Belarusian population received the Red Army as genuine liberators.” Stalin couldn’t have said it better: indeed, that is what his regime did say in 1939.

            Not surprisingly, many in Poland, Europe and even Russia denounced this Orwellian turn of phrase (snob.ru/society/evroparlament-upreknul-putina-v-popytke-perepisat-istoriyu-iz-za-vyskazyvanij-rossijskogo-prezidenta-o-vtoroj-mirovoj-vojne/), to which Moscow responded with another declaration denouncing them for rewriting history so as to “present the USSR as an aggressor equal to Hitlerite Germany (facebook.com/MIDRussia/posts/3758148397617907).

            As so often and with increasing frequency, the facts are not on the side of Moscow in its discussion of World War II. The Soviets invaded and occupied part of Poland on the basis of the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which Moscow finally published in 2019 (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/for-first-time-moscow-publishes.html).

‘The Tatar World from Kamchatka to Kaliningrad,’ Part I: the Far East

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 17 – In anticipation of the upcoming all-Russian census, Kazan’s Business-Gazeta has begun a series about “the Tatar world from Kamchatka to Kaliningrad” with a discussion of the state of Kazan Tatar communities in the federal subjects of the Russian Far East (business-gazeta.ru/article/522623).

Not only does this provide a baseline of numbers about Tatars outside of Tatarstan who after all outnumber Tatars within the republic, but it underscore the importance of Tatarstan to these communities and the importance of these communities to Tatarstan which has devoted more attention to its “world” than any other non-Russian nation within Russia.

For each of the eight federal subjects in the Far Eastern Federal District, the paper provides the number of Tatars in its population – it lists them as “preservers of the Tatar world” -- the rank of that national community among others, and comments both by Tatars in that federal subject and by Tatars in the republic capital of Kazan.

The communities range in size from 1500 to over 10,000. All are facing assimilation pressures, and many of these groups are aging as younger members move away and older members die. (In some places, having a Muslim cemetery is a major concern.) And all see their language disappearing.

Two issues of particular concern throughout the region: attracting a Tatar mullah for the local mosque, something that the regions have had mixed success in doing, and getting enough money from Tatarstan or Moscow to hold cultural festivals, open classes, and set up museum groups. Again on each of these measures, success has been mixed.

But interest in and even enthusiasm for Tatar national functions are high. As Sazhida Batalova, head of the National-Cultural Autonomy of the Tatars of Buryatia puts it, “we don’t know our language but this means we can dance; if we can’t dance,” then we can prepare traditional Tatar food for one another. It keeps the nation together.

 

In Advance of These Elections, the KPRF Became ‘a Real Opposition,’ Analysts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 17 – The Kremlin thought that if it isolated the Navalny movement, it would not face any organized opposition in the Duma elections now taking place, but nature abhors a vacuum and the KPRF emerged as the real opposition group in this campaign, changing both it and its relations with the authorities.

            This was unexpected on both sides, but Russian analysts say that the willingness of the KPRF leadership to take on such a higher profile and the widespread reaction of the authorities who worked to eliminate from many constituencies popular KPRF candidates means things aren’t likely to go back to where they were (trtrussian.com/magazine/kost-v-vyborah-kak-kprf-neozhidanno-dlya-rossii-stala-realnoj-oppoziciej-6628681).

            And that change has been underscored by the decision of the Navalny organization to list so many KPRF candidates as “intelligent voting” choices against the candidates of the ruling United Russia Party, an informal certification that for the extra-systemic opposition, the KPRF is now the most oppositional of any of the systemic parties (docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vSe2exjjq0o246AaIiUGPN48SAevbeOke09ZvMrwqcfVDk5Lz-MnHy3temxMSOBJY3Kfo4pjvgNbPIS/pub).

            Seeing the reemergence of the KPRF as an opposition force, some experts like Gleb Pavlovsky even suggested as early as the end of July that the Kremlin might seek to ban the KPRF from the voting. That hasn’t happened, but the suggestion that it could shows how far the situation has changed (vnnews.ru/expressnews/politolog-gleb-pavlovskiy-ne-isklyuchi/).

            All this suggests, political geographer Dmitry Oreshkin says, that the divide which had existed between the systemic and extra-systemic opposition as far as access to the protest energies in the population is concerned has begun to break down, a trend that by itself changes the political calculus of the Kremlin (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/09/16/tsvet-oppozitsii-krasnyi and facebook.com/greg.yudin.7/posts/4259605007492382).

            To try to block the growth of support for the KPRF, the Kremlin deployed both anti-communist propaganda and spoiler parties to attract away from the communist list people who were voting on the basis of particular issues. Both have had an effect, but neither was unexpected and neither has been as effective this electoral cycle as both were earlier.

            This shift has not left everyone in the KPRF leadership happy. Many are concerned about the identification of the party as an ally of Navalny because 61 percent of the 137 candidates for smart voting that his organization listed were KPRF deputies. And they have begun to try to put some distance between themselves and the opposition leader.

            Few think that all these changes with the KPRF point to the collapse of the existing system, but many, including Tatyana Stanovaya believe that it points to a growth of tensions after the elections when the Kremlin will have to try to decide how to deal with a group it thought it controlled but no longer does to the same degree (t.me/stanovaya/1195).

Saturday, September 18, 2021

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

Paul Goble

Staunton, Sept. 17 – Below are 39 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.      Putin Calls on All Russians to Vote But His Aides have to Explain How He Managed To. Vladimir Putin called on all Russians to vote in the Duma elections, saying it was essential to have a legislature representing everyone. But because he is self-isolating, he had to vote online. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a cellphone and so his aides had to arrange for him to vote via his computer, something other Russians can’t do (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66699 and znak.com/2021-09-17/v_kremle_obyasnili_kak_putin_smog_progolosovat_onlayn_esli_u_nego_net_telefona).

2.      Duma Campaign Gets Nasty. Dirty tricks against candidates, mostly among the opposition and apparently carried out by groups linked to the government, escalated in the last weeks of the campaign with fire bombings and death threats in many places (themoscowtimes.com/2021/09/17/in-russias-parliamentary-vote-spoiler-parties-and-dirty-tricks-abound-a75071 and ehorussia.com/new/node/24273). Some attacks were less violent but more politically nasty: one of the duplicate candidates running alongside Boris Vishnevsky issued a call for all taxes on Jews to be eliminated, clearly hoping that this would cost the real Boris Vishnevsky votes (znak.com/2021-09-13/u_vishnevskogo_poyavilsya_dvoynik_v_socsetyah_on_prizyvaet_k_otmene_nalogov_dlya_evreev).

3.      Moscow Continues Crackdown on Opposition Groups. The justice ministry has accused an organization defending prisoner rights of insulting the country b modifying the state coat of arms (nazaccent.ru/content/36670-minyust-obvinil-nepravitelstvennuyu-organizaciyu-v-nadrugatelstve.html). Activists who put up a banner calling for “freedom for Navalny and prison for Putin” in Kaluga were arrested (graniru.org/media/282589.html). And a man in Chelyabinsk who put up a sign saying the FSB is “the main terrorist” was given 30 months in prison for his action (https://zona.media/article/2021/09/10/fsb-terrorist).

4.      Milonov Calls for Adding LGBTs, Vegans, and Feminists to Foreign Agents List. Duma deputy Vitaly Milonov, notorious for his authoritarian impulses, now wants LGBTs, Vegans and Feminists to be charged as foreign agents and thus limited in their ability to function in Russia (ura.news/articles/1036282965).

5.      US Company Plans to Bring Back Mammoths to Siberia. Colossal, an American company, plans to use genetic engineering to bring back mammoths to Russia’s Siberia (polit.ru/article/2021/09/15/ps_colossal/).

6.      MGIMO Said Failing to Train Diplomats for Work in Muslim Countries. The Russian foreign ministry’s primary training academy, MGIMO, is failing to provide the kind of cultural and religious expertise needed by diplomats and others who are to work in Muslim majority countries, according to one educational specialist (centrasia.org/news.php?st=1631300280).

7.      Pskov Residents have to Call Estonia for Medical Help. Because of an absence of hard-surface roads and telephone lines in the western part of Pskov oblast, residents there often have to call Estonia to get ambulances and other medical assistance (severreal.org/a/v-prigranichnyh-derevnyah-net-svyazi/31450614.html). The region got more than the usual amount of coverage because Putin and Patriarch Kirill travelled there earlier this month to dedicate a statue to Alexander Nevsky, but much of the coverage was negative because local residents expressed resentment as to how they were treated as the monument was put up (interfax-religion.ru/?act=dujour&div=135 and zona.media/article/2021/09/10/exegi-monumentum).

8.      Russian Media Outlets Repeat German Paper’s Argument that Russia Illegally Took Land from China. Regional and local media outlets east of the Urals have given prominent coverage to a statement in Die Welt that Russia in the 19th century illegally seized lands that had belonged to China (govoritmagadan.ru/v-germanii-nazvali-dalnij-vostok-nezakonno-prisoedinjonnoj-zemljoj-kitaya/).

9.      Officials Shut Down – Briefly – Website of Sverdlovsk Paper that Made Fun of Bribes. Investigators shut down the website of Oblastnaya gazeta after the paper posted an article which took a humorous look at the state of bribery in that region (zona.media/news/2021/09/11/oblgazeta). Meanwhile, the Center for Research on Corruption and Organized Crime stopped work in Russia after being subject to pressure from the authorities (sibreal.org/a/center-po-issledovaniyu-korrupcii-i-orgprestupnosti-prekratil-rabotu-v-rossii/31461329.html).

10.  Most Russian Rivers are Heavily Contaminated with the Volga and Ob Being the Worst. Russia’s natural resources and environment ministry says that most Russian rivers are now heavily contaminated. Topping the list are the Volga and the Ob (trtrussian.com/novosti-rossiya/volga-i-ob-okazalis-samymi-gryaznymi-rekami-rossii-6567356).

11.  ‘Let Russians Eat Oysters,’ Official Says, Infuriating Many. Russians who can no longer afford to purchase ordinary food were outraged when the head of Russian fishing celebrated the fact that Russia is now producing enough oysters for everyone to eat (mk.ru/economics/2021/09/10/khvastovstvo-ministra-pro-obespechenie-rossiyan-ustricami-vyzvalo-sarkazm.html).

12.  One Russian in Seven Changes His Cellphone Whenever a New Version Appears. Like many people elsewhere, Russians want to have the very latest cellphones. Consequently, even if they have to cut back on other things, 14 percent of them say they will immediately buy a new model when it comes out (superjob.ru/research/articles/113054/kazhdyj-sedmoj-rossiyanin-menyaet-telefon/).

13.  If You Want to Interact with Russian Designers, Use Facebook; if with Guards, VKontakte. According to Superjob, Russian designers prefer to use Facebook to communicate; marketing specialists, Instagram; sales people, YouTube, and guards, VKontakte (superjob.ru/research/articles/113051/dizajneram/).

14.   Apartment Explosion Season Opens in Russia. Every year, in the early fall when people begin to turn on the heat, apartment blocks across Russia begin to suffer explosions, some destroying buildings but many leading to injuries and deaths (ng.ru/economics/2021-09-09/1_8248_gas.html).

15.   Woman Dumps Body of Her Sister on Regional Government HQ when She Can’t Pay 120,000 Rubles for the Funeral. A woman in Balashikha protested the rapid increase in prices for funeral services by dumping the body of her sister on the regional government office building when she was told she would have to pay 120,000 rubles (1700 US dollars) for her sister’s internment (snob.ru/news/zhenshina-privezla-grob-s-telom-sestry-k-administracii-balashihi-na-kladbishe-usopshuyu-soglasilis-horonit-tolko-za-120-tysyach-rublej/).

16.  Government Goes after Website Criticizing Employers. The Russian consumer affairs agency shut down the Antijob portal because one of the companies someone had criticized on a post on that site complained (https://t.me/proly_slil/2059).

17.  Capital Flight from Russia Continues to Accelerate. After doubling between 2019 and 2020, capital flight from Russia has continued to rise, reaching 51.5 billion US dollars during the first eight months of this year ( capost.media/news/ekonomika/chistyy-ottok-kapitala-iz-rossii-znachitelno-vyros/).

18.  Putin Protected from Having to Listen to Musicians who Oppose Him. Musicians who were scheduled to perform before Putin during Moscow’s City Day were removed from the program when it was discovered that they had opposition views (tvrain.ru/teleshow/vechernee_shou/pochemu_muzykantam_oppozitsioneram-537670/).

19.  Russian Officials Going After Traditional Faiths. In addition to attacks on Protestant and Muslim groups, Russian officials are now focusing their attention on pagan groups, challenging those who have complained about Russian occupation and directly interfering with the practice of animist faiths (nazaccent.ru/content/36665-unizhenie-russkih-v-shkolnom-uchebnike-proveryat.html and mariuver.com/2021/09/14/presled-mari-religii/).idelreal.org/a/31454574.html).

20.  New Medical Code in Vladimir Includes Ban on Criticizing Superiors. Doctors at the main hospital of Vladimir Oblast now have a new code of ethics which among other things includes a ban on criticizing any superiors of misconduct (sobkorr.org/news/613EEC2021C49.html).

21.  Share of Russians Saying They Want to Live in Russia Rising. Between 2010 and now, the share of Russians who say they would choose to live in Russia even if they had the opportunity to live elsewhere has risen from 23 percent to 41 percent (superjob.ru/research/articles/113053/esli-ne-rossiya/).

22.  Putin Orders Siloviki Pay to Be Indexed Above Inflation. In a move clearly intended to win him continuing support from his most important prop in the population, Putin has directed that the salaries of Russian force structure employees will from now on be indexed above the rate of inflation, meaning their incomes will rise much faster than those of other groups (znak.com/2021-09-13/putin_poruchil_predusmotret_sredstva_na_indeksaciyu_zarplat_silovikov_vyshe_inflyacii).

23.  Fraudsters Now More Active in Russia than at Any Time Since 1990s, Russians are increasingly likely to become victims of fraud, especially online, given that fraudsters are now more active than they have been at any point since the wild 1990s, Sovershenno-Sekretno says (sovsekretno.ru/articles/nazad-v-likhie-90-e/).

24.  Moscow Said to Suffer Shortage of 200,000 Migrant Workers But Many Residents Don’t Want Those Already There. Experts say that the Russian capital needs at least 200,000 more immigrant workers to fill available jobs, but many Muscovites aren’t happy that there are so many of them there and have been protesting against their presence (newizv.ru/news/society/13-09-2021/v-moskve-otsenili-defitsit-migrantov-v-200-tysyach-chelovek and nazaccent.ru/content/36668-zhiteli-sela-v-podmoskove-vyshli-na.html).

25.   Putin’s Favorite Churchman Says He Can’t Become Patriarch. Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov, long viewed as the church hierarch Vladimir Putin is closest to and therefore widely expected to become head of the Moscow Patriarchate at some point, has pointed out in an interview that he can’t aspire to that post because he lacks the advanced theological education that ROC MP rule require (ahilla.ru/mitropolit-tihon-shevkunov-ya-ne-mogu-byt-patriarhom-po-ustavu-rpts/).

26.   Two-Thirds of Russians Now Suffering from Pandemic Burnout. The stresses of life under pandemic has left two out of every three Russians suffering from “burnout” and leading them to try to find support from family members and close friends, ROMIR says (ng.ru/news/719924.html).

27.   Moscow Metro Puts Up Exit Signs in Uzbek and Tajik. One indication of just how many Central Asian migrant workers there are in Moscow is that the operators of the city’s Metro have now put up signs in Uzbek and Tajik to indicate where exits are (forum-msk.org/material/news/17409005.html).

28.   Russian Cities Appear to Be Waiting for Bolsheviks to Return. Many people have written about how many Soviet-era toponyms have been changed, but so many Soviet names remain on streets and parks that it appears, commentator Aleksey Roshchin says, that “the cities are waiting for the return of the Bolsheviks” (rosbalt.ru/posts/2021/09/13/1920951.html).

29.   Russia Cancels Moon Rocket Program. In a move that likely means Russia will not put humans on the moon anytime in the next few decades. Roskosmos has cancelled the super-heavy rocket that it had planned to use to carry cosmonauts there (znak.com/2021-09-15/rossiya_ostanovila_razrabotku_sverhtyazheloy_rakety_dlya_poletov_na_lunu).

30.  Transportation Ministry, Presidential Administration Considering Making All Federal Highways Toll Roads. One way to ensure that Russian roads are maintained, improved and extended is to make all federal highways toll roads, an idea that is said to have found favor with the transportation ministry and the presidential administration (https://krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/87756).

31.   More than Half of Employed in Chechnya and Ingushetia are in the Shadow Economy. Two of the poorest republics in Russia, Chechnya and Ingushetia, have economies that are overwhelmingly in the shadow sector. As a result, employees there are more likely to work in the shadow economy than in the fully legal sector (doshdu.com/bolee-poloviny-zhitelej-ingushetii-i-chechni-rabotajut-v-tenevom-sektore/).

32.   Russians Follow Saga of Lost Dog at Sheremetyevo Airport. The big story on Russian media last week was about a small dog who was lost during a transfer operation at Sheremetyevo Airport. Happily, after almost two days of being lost, the dog turned up, healthy and happy and has been restored to its owners (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/09/16/v-aeroportu-domodedovo-nashli-sobaku-propavshuiu-na-proshloi-nedele-vo-vremia-pogruzki-v-samolet-news).

33.   Comic Interior Ministry Wanted to Expel for His Criticism of Powers Can Remain at Least for Now. Idrak Mirzalizade, a standup comic whom the interior ministry sought to expel from Russia because of his critical commentaries on the powers that be, appealed that order to the courts. A court of first instance has now ruled in his favor, allowing him to remain at least for now (sobkorr.org/news/6143113A9D454.html).

34.   Foreign Minister Lavrov Corrupt, Important History Journalists Say. It had been widely believed that while Putin prefers his underlings to be corrupt so that he has leverage on them, that he allows a few who are so loyal to remain honest. One of those was thought to be foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. But now an investigation by Important History journalists concludes that he is massively corrupt but has hidden it better than many others (ehorussia.com/new/node/24296 and krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/87833).

35.   More than Three Out of Five Russians Say Shoygu’s Cities in Siberia will Never Be Built. A survey conducted by City 812 found that 62 percent of Russians do not believe that the cities in Siberia defense minister Sergey Shoygu has called for will ever be built, Of these, a quarter say the project will be started but quickly run out of money, and another quarter say that this is all campaign PR and has no real change of even beginning (gorod-812.ru/62-ne-verit-chto-shojgu-postroit-goroda-v-sibiri/).

36.   Programmers and Designers Don’t Get Professional Holidays Other Groups Do. Almost every occupation in Russia has its day, but two prominent ones do not, computer programmers and designers. As a result, they feel left out, Superjob suggests (superjob.ru/research/articles/113057/rezhe-vsego-s-profprazdnikami-pozdravlyayut-programmistov-i-dizajnerov/).

37.   Tatarstan Presses for More Tatar-Language Schooling Outside the Republic. The government of the Republic of Tatarstan has joined activists and educators in demanding that the Russian government ensure opportunities to Tatar speakers beyond its borders to have access to Tatar-language schools (azatliq.org/a/31452541.html).

38.   Police Seek to Discourage Those who Honor Udmurt Scholar who Committed Suicide to Defend His Nation. Siloviki in Udmurtia have been harassing those who place flowers on the site where Albert Razin, the senior Udmurt scholar burned himself to death in 2019 to protect what he viewed as the destruction of his nation’s language and culture by the Russian state (idelreal.org/a/31454574.html).

39.   Decommissioning Soviet-Era Nuclear Subs Now a Major Problem for Moscow. As Soviet-era nuclear submarines are decommissioned, the Russian authorities must find a better way to deal with the radioactive elements of these ships than the Soviets employed when they dumped such things into the Arctic. Given that Moscow hopes to develop the Arctic, those wastes must be cleaned up rather than added to, despite what appears to be a enormous price tag for such a program (zen.yandex.ru/media/varandej/saidaguba-kak-utiliziruiut-sovetskie-atomnye-podlodki-613b136abf6d62328ed66c8a).