Thursday, September 30, 2021

A Problem of Moscow’s Own Making: Who is an Indigenous People in the Russian North?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 27 – The Russian government has defined as indigenous peoples in the North those who are members of one of 40 numerically small peoples (under 50,000 each) who receive benefits from the government which allow them to continue to practice their traditional hunting and fishing.

            That approach has given rise to two sets of issues, one of which threatens to become explosive. The first involves those who are members of these numerically small peoples but who live in cities and do not live in a traditional manner. Some of them want to claim that status, but Moscow has been working hard to deny them such an opportunity and the money it involves ( and

            While this is a problem for some individuals and for the defense of national identities of these groups, it does not present serious difficulties for large numbers of people or Moscow as such. But the second issue does. The indigenous peoples in the Russian North are proud of that status and want to distinguish themselves from everyone else, including ethnic Russians.

            On the one hand, that has prompted some Russian nationalists to demand that the numerically small peoples of the north not be allowed to make a distinction that exists in Russian law. And on the other, it has led some Russian nationalists to demand the Russians living in the North be named an indigenous people as well and get benefits too ( and

            Moscow-appointed officials in the North not surprisingly are on the side of the Russians, although they face problems with the fact that Russian law itself defines indigenous peoples for the purpose of promoting the survival of these traditional communities and thus cannot oppose that without putting themselves in opposition to Moscow.

            But they may now have found a way to take action against the numerically small indigenous nationalities of the Russian North. Some of them are suggesting that foreign countries want to mobilize these communities by using the indigenous-non-indigenous divide and that Moscow must block that by ending this arrangement (

            This debate appears set to escalate with the non-Russians who benefit playing defense and the ethnic Russians and their corporate allies in the North playing offense and hoping to use the national security card to get Moscow’s attention and support for ending what has been one of the few defenses the indigenous peoples have.

            If the Russian side wins this debate, however, anger among the numerically small indigenous nations of the North will escalate; and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the Russian government by its willingness to cater to Russian nationalists on this question may be putting itself at far greater risk than it likely understands.

            The traditional peoples are armed, and many of them work as prospectors for natural resources and even have dynamite to search for rare minerals. Angering people with guns and explosives is far from the cleverest thing to do when they are located in critical regions with long and unguarded pipelines and highways.  

           But if the indigenous peoples of the North succeed, they will become a model for other non-Russians who are likely to see playing up the difference between their own nations and ethnic Russians who arrived during imperial expansion as politically useful. That could create an even more serious problem for Moscow as well. 

KPRF Faces a Serious and Divisive Choice about Its Future, Skobov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 27 – The KPRF’s surprising success in the recent Duma elections does not presage any threat of a communist resurgence – Zyuganov’s party is as far from Lenin’s as Patriarch Kirill is from early Christianity – but it does mean that the party now is confronted by a serious choice, Aleksandr Skobov says.

            It can either accept complete absorption by United Russia in some kind of “patriotic front” like the ones that existed in the GDR and Czechoslovakia, the commentator says; or it can resist the Kremlin and seek to become a genuine opposition, “with all the ensuing repressive consequences” (

            Gennady Zyuganov and his “party nomenklatura” beyond doubt “will be inclined to the first of these, Skobov continues; but they are not the only people who matter as far as this choice is concerned. Below them are “a new generation of activists and functionaries who view the party above all as a career lift.”

            The mummy that Zyuganov has turned the party into can’t serve their purposes. They are not Orthodox Stalinists but rather pragmatists, and “the logic of resistance to pressure from the dictatorship will push them in the direction of adopting an all-democratic agenda,” a direction they have already moved in as a result of the smart voting strategy of Aleksey Navalny.

            “This doesn’t mean,” the Moscow commentator says, that these reformers will find it easy to break from the KPRF and its slavish loyalty to the Soviet past and the Kremlin today. “But they may attempt to turn away from the most odious and obscurantist forms of state worship.”

            If that happens, then they could find themselves allies of the moderate-conservative branch of the democratic opposition, Skobov says. They might even move in the direction of the communists after the end of the Soviet bloc, increasingly becoming social democratic parties that accept democracy while promoting a left-of-center social agenda.

            But while that doesn’t mean that a revived KPRF would pursue a revolutionary course, it does represent a sharp break from its current position which combines Stalinism and commitment to obscurantist Orthodoxy national and has become “an organic part of the system of Putin’s ‘new autocracy.’”

            But the Putin regime which itself is evolving from “hybrid authoritarianism” to “’a new totalitarianism’ of a fascist type” will view any such move as a threat to its political base and will take active measures to prevent the KPRF from changing itself. Putin needs the communists to remain “anti-liberal, anti-Western and great power chauvinist.”

            The Kremlin will not tolerate any moves that appear to shatter “the ceremonial picture of the broad unity of society around itself.” It requires certain rituals and arrangements including deference to the ruling party and the retention of the ruling party of an overwhelming majority of the voters.

            Because that is the case, Skobov says, “if suddenly an exodus of votes from the party of power to the opposition, even to a loyal and imitation one” would compel the Kremlin to step up the pressure against it and possibly drive those trying to make that change “from the legal political field to the extra-systemic opposition.”

            “The transformation of the KPRF into a magnet attracting the voices of all the dissatisfied is absolutely unacceptable for the Kremlin,” the commentator continues. As a result, the Kremlin will do whatever it thinks it has to do in order to block such an evolution of the country’s political order.

75 Percent of Russian Anti-Vaxxers Say They have No Fears of New Wave of Covid Infections

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 27 – Russian officials have tried to boost sagging vaccination rates by playing up the horrors of the illness from the coronavirus, but a new Superjob poll finds that 75 percent of Russia’s anti-vaxxers have no fear of a new wave of the pandemic, an indication that scare tactics are unlikely to be effective (

            For Russians as a whole, 31 percent said they feared a new wave of the pandemic but 66 percent said they did not. Women were slightly more fearful than men, older people than young, and Muscovites than Peterburgers.   People in Novosibirsk, Kazan and Yekaterinburg showed figures between those of the two capitals.

            Today, Russian officials reported registering 22,236 new cases of infection and 779 new deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours. Officials also reported that total infections in the armed forces have now passed 40,000 and now stand at 40,200 (  and

            The pandemic continued to ebb and flow across Russia with deteriorating epidemiological situations outnumbering improving ones, including in the Russian capitals ( and More schools shifted to distance learning, sparking more anger among parents and politicians ( and

            Moscow refuses to order a shift to distance learning in the country’s higher educational institutions, with officials at the center insisting that such decisions must be made at the local and regional level, a shift in responsibility that means more anger will focus on what regional officials do than on what Moscow does (

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

·         The US government announced new rules governing vaccinations among foreign visitors to the US. The rules, slated to go into effect on November 1, will not consider those inoculated with the Russian vaccines to have been vaccinated, a rule certain to infuriate many in Moscow (

·         An elderly Sakha woman has conducted a ritual designed to protect people from the pandemic. She took this step after a local pregnant women died from the coronavirus (

Protests Against Falsification of Election Results Take Place Across Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 26 – The protests in Moscow against the falsification of the Duma elections were the largest and received the most attention, but they were not the only ones. There were protests in many cities across the country, and they took a variety of forms, including pickets and meeting with deputies, largely so as to avoid the arrest of participants.

            Among the cities were such protests took place, Sovetskaya Rossiya reports, were Khabarovsk, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Barnaul, Tyumen, Chita, Irkutsk, Saratov, Vologda, Volgograd, and Pskov (

            Most were relatively small – fewer than 100 participants – and were organized by the KPRF and its allies. But they deserve to be remembered as a popular protest against what the Kremlin did with the election results just as much as when liberal activists or people in Moscow take to the streets to show their anger and displeasure. 

Eight Russian Anecdotes for the Week

Paul Goble

Staunton, Sept. 26 – Each anecdote is a little revolution, several Soviet dissidents say. Their Russian counterparts could easily make the same observation. Russian blogger Tatyana Pushkaryeva offers eight especially instructive ones for this week (

·         Moscow has decided to sanction 33 members of the US Congress. That means they won’t be able to visit resorts in Krasnodar Kray, use Russian banks, or take advantage of sales in Russian shops.

·         There are three things in Putin’s Russia that are truly eternal: the annulment of the constitution, the falsification of elections, and the making and breaking of promises to pensioners.

·         Lenin returns and asks KPRF head Gennady Zyuganov how goes it for communists under capitalism. Zyuganov replies that he and his comrades are well taken care of.

·         A pessimist says that Russians should be angry because their pay buys less today than it did yesterday, but an optimist says that they should be pleased that they can buy more today than they will be able to tomorrow.

·         A decade from now, Russia’s education minister says he’s flown around the world and can assure Russians that their schools are the best in the world. Someone in the crowd shouts how: How can you fly around it given that you are heavier than air and the earth is flat?

·         Zyuganov is the most polite politician in Russia. He politely greeted Yeltsin’s victory in 1996 and he politely greeted the results of the 2021 Duma elections. This shows that “the communist Zyuganov is a genuine aristocrat” who knows how to behave regardless of what happens.

·         “The chief of state cannot be considered an honest man when the unofficial ideology of his country includes corruption, lies, and the violation of constitutional rights and the impoverishment of his citizens. That’s the case in Nigeria – but maybe you were thinking about some other country?”

·         A Russian oligarch decides to visit Malta. His secretary goes in advance and spend enormous sums of money to clean up the beach, spruce up the hotel and ensure that breakwaters are installed so the waves are just right. His boss arrives and celebrates how wonderful it is that he can travel somewhere and that when he gets there things are perfect. “You couldn’t arrange things this well for any amount of money,” he says.

‘Love is for Russians and People on Television,’ North Caucasian Women Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 26 – Young women in the North Caucasus constantly talk about love because of what they see on television and in other media, Svetlana Anokhina says. But at the same time, they are very much convinced that “tradition requires women be obedient and restrained, that duty be above love, and strong passions viewed as an illness and misfortune.”

            Anokhina, whose Daptar portal reports on the lives and problems of women among the non-Russian nations of the North Caucasus, surveyed women in that region on what their views are about love both for themselves and for others. Below are some of the most interesting responses (

·         An elderly Daghestani said that her parent’s relationship was better characterized by the word “respect” than by “love.”

·         Chechens in general don’t speak about love, one young Chechen woman said. People may feel love, but they don’t talk about it or even aspire to it.

·         One elderly North Caucasian women said that “if a woman falls in love, she is unfaithful by defintion” and that such a path shows that she is not able to control herself as she should.

·         Young North Caucasians sometimes hear that their parents really were in love before marriage but most do not.

·         “When I was 17, I went to study in Moscow,” one young North Caucasian woman said. The only advice she received from her mother was “don’t fall in love! Especially with a Russian.”

·         A young Ingush woman with her parents on the Moscow metro saw a couple kissing. Her father said, “don’t look! Look at the floor!” She said that “for Ingush, such actions are taboo. They are impossible.”

·         “It is forbidden to speak about [love],” many North Caucasian women said.

·         Women who marry for love often come to a bad end and are cast off by their husbands, several said.

·         One elderly Avar woman said “What is this love? We Avars don’t have love. Only Russians do and people on television.”



Moscow Pushing Russian Not to Promote Russian Nationalism but to Make Controlling Non-Russians Easier, Circassian Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 26 – Many non-Russians believe that the Kremlin is pushing the Russian language because of Moscow’s interest in promoting Russian nationalism, Murat Temirov says. But that is incorrect. The Russian government’s approach is entirely pragmatic. If everyone speaks the same language, it will be easier for the center to control all nationalities.

            The Circassian activist tells London’s Al Araby that “at the present time, the Russian government is excluding the languages of the indigenous peoples in order to make the Russian language the main and even unique one” but that it isn’t doing so “from nationalistic motives”

            Instead, Temirov suggests, it is acting on the basis of a “pragmatic” calculation that a single language will make it easier to “control” all ethnic communities, including presumably the Russians as well (شركس-روسيا-يبحثون-عن-حفظ-الهوية  in Arabic; and in Russian).

            But the Circassian activist devotes most of his attention to what he say are “the key tasks” of his nation, “the preservation of its culture and tradition, the repatriation of Circassians living in Syria [to their North Caucasus homeland] and recognition of the 19th century genocide of the Circassian people [by the Russian imperial authorities].”

            He says that Circassians both in the homeland and in the many countries where as many as ten million Circassians now live have exploited the electronic universe to promote the survival and spread of their language, but he acknowledges that achieving their goal in that regard is made difficulty because of “the discrimination against languages of ethnic minorities in Russia.”

            Recognition of the genocide is important but not nearly as important as preserving the language and culture of the nation and securing the return of Circassians from Syria to the homeland. That is “not simply a question of achieving historical justice; it is more than that the resolution of a humanitarian problem.”

            The Circassians of Syria have been pressuring Moscow since the war began a decade ago, citing the provisions of the Russian constitution and Russian law, but the Kremlin has not moved to meet their demands. Republics within Russia which have a Circassian population have developed their own programs, but as yet these are too small to satisfy the need.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Global Warming Forces Moscow to Postpone Construction of New Arctic Port

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 26 – A decision by the Russian authorities to postpone the construction of a deep-water port in the Nenets Autonomous District because of global warming is a reminder that for Russia as for other countries climate change is a two-edged sword, opening some paths for new development but foreclosing others.

            For more than a decade, Moscow has planned to build a major port in Indiga on the Arctic Ocean and connect it by new railroads extending to Arkhangelsk to the West and Sytyvkar in the south. Construction of the port was slated to begin in 2023 but now has been pushed off to third and fourth quarters of 2024 (

            Potentially, the new court could handle even more traffic than Arkhangelsk and thus promote the use of the Northern Sea Route and the development of the Russian North in important ways. But climate change means that building it is going to be far more difficult than the Russian government had anticipated.

            The reason for this delay – and further delays are not only possible but likely – has less to do with the port itself than with the rail lines connecting it with mines and oil fields inside the Russian Federation. Ships can move more easily to the port because of decreased ice coverage, but the melting of the permafrost means that building rail lines is more difficult.

            And without the rail lines, the port would be much less valuable to the Russian economy. Consequently, it appears the authorities at the center have decided to slow down until they can figure out how to lay track more reliably over the rapidly subsiding ground in the former permafrost zone.

            For background on these problems, see,, and

Azerbaijani-Turkish Exercises in Nakhichevan Prompt Iranian Military Moves

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 26 – Baku and Ankara are conducting joint military exercises in Nakhichevan for several years; but this year’s maneuvers are the first after last fall’s war and after Baku, Yerevan and Moscow agreed among other things to restore a transportation corridor through Zengezur between Azerbaijan proper and Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan.

            For that reason, as well as because concerns about Azerbaijan’s growing ties with Israel and its imposition of delays on Iranian truck traffic northward, Tehran views this year’s joint action as a threat to its interest and as a violation of the agreement of the Caspian littoral states on excluding the military presence of other countries.

             The Iranian government has taken two steps to underscore its displeasure at what Azerbaijan and Turkey are doing. On the one hand, it has dispatched more weaponry to Iranian units along the border. And on the other, its mullahs are demanding further actions against what they describe as a Turkic threat to Iran.

            In reporting these developments, Regnum commentator Stanislav Tarasov suggests that Iran could hardly do less given the loss in influence in the region it has suffered as a result of Azerbaijan’s victory last fall but that Iran has few options and all that it does have risk leaving it in a still weaker position (

            As a result, he suggests that Iran may back down once the exercises are over, possibly even taking part in talks with Turkey and Azerbaijan about future arrangements. But this week’s moves by Iran show just how dangerous the situation is and how easy it would be for troop movements to precipitate a serious conflict. 

Russians Recovering from Covid Reportedly Suffer from Vastly Higher Rates of Depression than Expected

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 26 – When the pandemic began, Russian medical experts predicted that 20 percent of those who became infected but then recovered would suffer from depression and other psychological problems. But the real rate, St. Petersburg State University scholars say, is now 29 percent (

            That higher figure, Andrey Nesmiyan who blogs under the screen name El Murid, reflects the way in which the impact of the disease has been exacerbated by the repressions that the authorities have been visiting on the population during the pandemic and promises to result in more Columbines and other asocial actions (

            Today, the Russian authorities reported registering 22,498 new cases of infection and 805 new deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours as the pandemic continued to intensify in many places with increased restrictions following ( and

            There was mixed news on other fronts of the pandemic. On the one hand, a Russian who had been vaccinated died in Yekaterinburg, a development that will do nothing to push up stagnant rates of those getting the shots. And on the other, a Russian expert teaching at an American university says international bodies will approve Sputnik-5 by the end of the year ( and

Russians Voted for Communists the Way They Used to Vote ‘Against All,’ Kolesnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 25 – Before Putin eliminated the opportunity for Russian voters to vote “against all” candidates, many chose to do just that. In the just completed Duma elections, a sizeable fraction of Russians voted for the KPRF for precisely the same reasons that animated them to vote that way when it was possible, Andrey Kolesnikov says.

            The Moscow Carnegie Center analyst argues that the KPRF did far better than anyone, including its leaders, expected but that it is important to understand that those who cast their ballots for the party are hardly committed communists. They did so in order to show their opposition to the current regime (

            “The massive voting for the KPRF doesn’t mean a return of communism,” Kolesnikov says. “More than that, it doesn’t mean a total shift to the left on the part of the electorate or a rebirth of Marxism.” Indeed, it is an open question whether even many KPRF candidates could be described as committed communists.

            Both KPRF voters and KPRF candidates are opposed to the Putin system and favor an idealized image of the past as the only real alternative. This search for an alternative, now as was the case at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, reflects a low standing of the Putin regime, something that has become “the norm” in Russian political life.

            It is of course true that there is a core KPRF electorate which supports the communist agenda, but most of its voters are simply in favor of a paternalistic system but one that functions to their benefit more than does the United Russia-backed system. Thus, what this election showed is not a shift from paternalism but a shift away from Putinist paternalism.

            “The Kremlin may be satisfied with the official signs of victory,” Kolesnikov continues. But it has to be worried for two reasons. On the one hand, that result reflected both conformism and official pressure and even falsification. And on the other, the election showed that ever more Russians aren’t happy with the paternalism Putin and his regime offer.

            “It isn’t so much that communism is making a comeback,” he says. Rather Putin has failed to meet the expectations of many Russians who used to vote for United Russia but now cast their ballots of the KPRF. And what that means is something the Kremlin cannot want: the voting showed that “the traditional social base [of the regime] is shrinking.”

            And while that may not lead to the kind of immediate protests that more liberal opponents of the Kremlin would like to see, it represents an erosion of the foundations of Putin’s power – and that is something that not just the KPRF and the liberal opposition can see but that Putin’s current supporters recognize as well. 

Ingush Seven Case Collapses as Tensions between Magas and Ingush Leaders Intensify

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 25 – Video clips and testimony offered this week by the defense effectively demolish the government’s twin charges against the Ingush Seven. The evidence shows that they did not form an extremist organization and did not promote attacks on siloviki. Rather, these two kinds of evidence show that the leaders did just the reverse.

            They were a moderating influence among the Ingush protesters and they sought to restrain those who were so angry at what officials had done with the border agreement with Chechnya that they were prepared to take more radical action (,, and

            But sentences being handed out in related cases suggest that the powers that be will not be dissuaded from convicting the Ingush Seven, a trend that is intensifying tensions between Ingush society which appears to be largely on the side of the defendants and the government in Magas (

            Just how angry many Ingush are about what the republic government has been doing was signaled by the decision of three deputies to refuse to accept certificates from the powers that be on the completion of their service as deputies in the republic’s Popular Assembly. They said their refusal was about the land deal with Chechnya (

            As popular anger has increased, the authorities have stepped up their harassment of any Ingush who can be viewed as an opposition figure including bloggers who posted articles suggesting the recent elections were anything but free and fair (

Russian Protest Shifting from ‘Protest of Minority’ to ‘Protest of Majority,’ Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 25 – Not all political protests are the same, Abbas Gallyamov says. There are protests of various minorities against government policies; and there are protests of the majority against the very legitimacy of the government as such. Until recently, all Russian protests have been of the first kind, but now they are becoming the second.

            The former Putin speechwriter and current political analyst says that “many think that the task of the opposition is the overthrow of the regime and the seizure of power. In fact, this is not exactly the case. At least now in the 21st century. Now opposition figures must not so much overthrow a regime as discredit it” (

            The reason for that is simple: “now even the most backward societies view the people as the source of political power” and therefore they try to show everyone, including those in power, that “the people are against them.” If they can do that, then, even many members of the ruling elite will feel powerless to fight challenges from the population, Gallyamov says.

            As the US political analyst Crane Brinton observed, “the most important cause of the destruction of regime is the loss on the pat of elites of a sense of justice and rationality of the existing order,” that is, when “a critical mass of the representatives of the ruling class cease to believe that they occupy their place by right.”

            In that event, as German-American analyst Hannah Arendt pointed out, revolutions occur quickly because those who have held power no longer feel they can keep it and those opposed to them find that power is lying in the streets and they are able to pick it up without what appears to be any resistance at all.

            A third American analyst, Samuel Huntington, suggested that there are two kinds of legitimacy, economic and procedural. A regime retains the former as long as it can oversee  a rise in living standards, but if it can’t do that, it must fall back to procedural, to the idea that it is in power because it has been chosen legitimately by the people.

            The Russian elite, Gallyamov points out, has not been able to maintain economic growth for the population; and so it must rely on the notion that it is in power because of the legitimate choice of the population. If that is challenged by large numbers of people, it will lack the power to remain in office for long.

            And when a majority of the population see that the regime lacks that kind of legitimacy too, that those in power are there only because of fraud and force, protests against them change from those of minorities to those of the majority, and the days of the regime, however powerful it may look, are numbered.


Combination of Floods in Some Regions and Drought in Others Means Russian Harvest This Year will Fall Dramatically, Analysts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 25 – At a time when food prices are rising and Russians are having difficulty buying the foods they need, the country faces another problem. Because of floods in some regions and drought in others, their country faces a decline in agricultural production this year, something that will send prices up and create shortages, Igor Pushkaryev says.

            Even though the amount of land sown this year was slightly greater than the amount sown last, crops are going to decline because in some areas, there hasn’t been enough rain for them to grow and in others, there has been too much and plants have rotted in the fields, he says government figures show (

            The size of fields which could be harvested has fallen significantly, for some crops by as much as 35 percent. And in the case of potatoes, new planting has fallen as well. Worse from the point of view of the market, the only reason overall production has not fallen further is the growth of private plots farmers use primarily for their own needs.

            There will thus be fewer potatoes coming to market and prices for them and for grains will go up, and these trends in Russia will be further exacerbated because production of these agricultural commodities in neighboring countries, on which Russia has relied when its crops do poorly, has also fallen. They will be buying from Russia and thus pushing prices up as well.

            Russians will thus face rising prices and shortages of many key food products, something the government won’t be able to stop because of the size of the problem and of the fact that these difficulties aren’t a one-year problem but have come into existence over many years and affect not just Russia but other countries as well.

            Consequently, experts say, the best Russians can hope to do is to “tighten their belts” in the expectation of more expensive food and less of it in the coming months.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Russians Abroad Didn’t Vote in Large Numbers But Often Voted against Party of Power

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 25 – Only 192,000 of the several million Russians living abroad who are eligible took part in the Duma elections, a reflection of their lack of interest in this ballot; but when they did vote – and their votes were concentrated in several electoral districts, they often voted against United Russia and thus the Kremlin and in at least one case decided the winner.

            That was in Tomsk Oblast where votes from France and Great Britain gave LDPR candidate LDPR Aleksey Didenko victory over United Russia aspirant Ilya Leontyev. Elsewhere, votes from Russians abroad narrowed the victory of United Russian candidates but did not defeat them (

            Among Russian citizens voting in Germany, KPRF candidates outpolled United Russia ones. In the Czech Republic, the KPRF, Yabloko, and LDPR all outpolled United Russia in party list voting. In Estonia, the division was roughly the same as in the Russian Federation, Aleksandr Mikhaylov of Rosbalt reports.

            In Ukraine, only about 400 Russian citizens showed up at the embassy and consulates to vote. Their votes were distributed among three districts, Yamalo-Nenets and two in Sverdlovsk Oblast. In Armenia, only about five percent of Russian citizens registered with the embassy voted. In Central Asia, shares were larger, with “more than 3000” voting in Kyrgyzstan.

            This discussion of voting by Russians abroad does not include those newly-minted citizens in the Donetsk and Luhansk “republics” of Ukraine. There about 150,000 voted via the Internet and hundreds move voted in Russia’s Rostov Oblast after being taken there in specially arranged buses.

Increase in Turkish Influence in Central Asia behind Calls for Russians to Leave, Steshin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 25 – Five years ago, no one in Central Asia was calling for Russians to leave or taking actions to promote their departure. But now that has changed, and the primary reason for it is the increase in Turkish influence across much of that region, according to Komsomolskaya pravda commentator Dmitry Steshin.

            At one level, even today, things look fine. Millions of Central Asians are coming to Russia to work, and they are sending billions of dollars back to their homelands. Disrupting that is hardly in their interests, the commentator suggests. And until the last two or three years, the situation was stable (

            In part of course, local elites use such conflicts to increase their authority, Steshin says. But the main driver is that attacking former hegemons is typical, and “countries who have not simply felt a new center of power but received from this center major promises always act in this way.” Turkey is the new center, and Central Asians are behaving as one would expect.

            What Central Asians have forgotten is that the benefits they obtain by working as migrants in Russia and then sending money home are available only to them on the basis of the good graces of Russia. If they offend Russians enough, those might be withdrawn; and that is something they should think about.

            But at present, many Central Asians assume Moscow won’t do that because Russia needs Central Asian immigrants to boost its workforce at a time of demographic decline. However, if Russians keep hearing about the abuse of their co-ethnics in Central Asia, that could change and change quickly.

            Moscow should respond by putting pressure on Turkey to back away from Central Asia and recognize that that region is part of Russia’s natural sphere of influence, Steshin says. And it should be willing to put more pressure on Central Asian governments to avoid allowing the spread of anti-Russian attitudes.

            If that doesn’t happen, there will be serious problems ahead not only for Central Asia but for Russia as well.

Pandemic's Fourth Wave Hitting Regions Harder than Capitals, Russian Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 25 – Because more people have been vaccinated in the capitals and because a larger additional number have contracted the covid virus and recovered, Maksim Skulachev says, people in Moscow and St. Petersburg are not seeing the explosive growth in the number of new cases of infection that the regions are.

            Indeed, in many places beyond the ring road, the number of cases has surged, and officials have been taking ever-more draconian steps to try to get the situation under control (

            The specialist on viral diseases says that the failure of more people to get vaccinated in the regions is the greatest reason for the recent rise in the number of cases of new infections and can be expected to continue for some time because of the return of young people to schools and universities ( and

            Today, for the first time since mid-August, Russian officials said they had registered more than 22,000 new cases of infection (22,041) over the last 24 hours. They also reported 822 new deaths from the coronavirus during that period ( and

            Russian medical experts said they expect the delta variant to remain the dominant one during the fourth wave (; and hospitals, hard pressed because of rising demand and a shortage of staff, played up the positive role of volunteers who have come to help nurses and doctors treat the infected and dying (

Russian Political Elite Seeks to Retain Post-Stalin Consensus while ‘Correcting Mistakes’ of Soviet Regime, Luzin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 24 – The Russian elite does not have an explicit ideology but it does have a shared set of beliefs that guide its actions, an ideology that has “grown out of political practice rather than from any philosophy,” Pavel Luzin says. But that does not make it any less influential. Indeed, it may mean that it is even more profoundly held.

            The Russian elite recognizes that the system over which it rules “lacks the revolutionary, military or national-liberation legitimation” that other authoritarian systems have, the Russian analyst argues. As a result, what legitimacy it has is based on authoritarian modernization and paradoxically elections (

            In fact, Luzin says, for the Rusisan elite, “due to the lack of other sources of legitimation, elections are much more important for the Russian authorities than they are for other similar systems,” even though while using them to mobilize people, the elite has actively opposed “any mass grassroots participation in the political life of the country.”

            Many explain this by reference to the personal experiences of Vladimir Putin who saw his career blocked by radical participation, but in fact, Luzin suggests, “the stripping of political agency from Russian society and the opposing of any revival of political agency is better explained by a functional analysis.”

            It represents “a kind of ‘non-aggression treaty’ within the Russian elite” that minimizes the risks for its members under conditions of “a shortage of resources for a competitive political struggle” and low levels of trust within the various groups in the elite and between its members and society as a whole.

            In many respects, Luzin says, “Russian authoritarianism now is a continuation of the consensus which emerged in the Soviet era after 1953 and was finally institutionalized in 1964,” which had as its “underlying motive” avoiding a repetition of Stalinism and also the stirring up of “an uncomfortable past.” 

            According to the analyst, “the denial of political agency to Russian society in support of ‘a non-aggression treaty’ within the elite is completely in line with the Kremlin’s ‘counter-revolutionary’ policy.” But it does not mean the elite doesn’t need or want feedback: it simply wants it on its own terms via surveys rather than via unregulated elections.

            According to Luzin, “the ideology of the Russian political class also has an economic dimension, one intended to set the Russian economic system apart from capitalism.” Instead, what it involves is “a peculiar ‘socialist consensus’” in which, as in perestroika and NEP, society has more freedom of action but the state remains responsible for overall well-being.

            This anti-capitalist approach doesn’t reflect any return to Marxism-Leninism but rather a reaffirmation of political practice over the last 30 years, one in  which growth and entrepreneurialism are “sacrificed for the sake of the stability of the political power system” and greater predictability for the elite is maintained.

            As far as foreign policy is concerned, the elite’s practical ideology is “fairly obvious.” On the one hand, it wants Russia to remain a superpower but without new burdens on itself. And on the other, it wants to ensure that the former Soviet space can serve Moscow in a completely neo-colonial way.

            “The Russian elite,” Luzin says, “seeks to retain its exclusive sphere of influence in the post-Soviet countries via the Eurasian Economic Union backed up by a system of military bases. This commodity-monetary approach helps maintain Russia’s high status and provides it with a guaranteed market for its companies as well as relatively cheap labor and food.”

            Because that is so, he continues, it has “learned its lesson” that “uncontrolled socio-economic and political processes in the former Soviet republics pose threats to order within Russia itself.” Moscow is committed that no post-Soviet state should “serve as an example of an alternative and successful state structure.”

            In brief, Luzin says, the mission of the Russian political elite now is to build on the past but to “’correct historical mistakes’” made by the Soviets. To that end, “the contemporary Russia elite is seeking to achieve several goals.” It wants to keep its citizens submissive, it wants to promote modernization, and it wants to “set rules for the post-Soviet space beneficial to them.”


Monday, September 27, 2021

Media Reflects Rather than Introduces Problems into Russian Society, Bresler Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 24 – Like most people in power, Russian rulers are inclined to blame the messenger rather than the message. They see the media as a cause of problems rather than a reflection of those which exist in society. And they are especially exercised by the impact of new media like the Internet.

            In the wake of the latest Russian Columbine violence, Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Investigation Committee, declared that the Internet is to blame for the attitudes of Russian young people like the youth who shot and killed some of his fellow students in Perm last week (

            But as Mikhail Bresler, an instructor in the department of international relations, history and Oriental studies at Ufa State Oil Technology University points out, the media has an impact but the general state of society has a far greater one. And in reality, “the media sphere only reflects what exists in real life.”

            Aggression and the belief that violence can solve problems are part of Russian life, the Ufa scholar continues. And that must be acknowledged rather than acting as if suppressing the media reporting them will solve the problem. Overcoming aggressiveness won’t be easy or quick.

It will only happen, Bresler says, if Russians acknowledge its real sources rather than blaming mirrors.

Russia Moving from Authoritarianism to Totalitarianism, Podrabinek Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 24 – Anyone who visited Russia for the first time in 20 years would immediately notice that the Kremlin has reduced the space of freedom in the country to what it was at the end of the 1980s, Aleksandr Podrabinek, a Soviet and then Russian dissident, observes.

            But many who live in Russia have a hard time seeing these changes because they have been gradual and Russians are inclined “to live by illusions” such as what appear to be elections and a market economy, a parliament and courts, “the illusions of democracy in an authoritarian state” (

            As long as the powers that be were prepared to run things as authoritarians, such illusions could exist. But now the men in the Kremlin have decided to restore totalitarianism. And no one in Russia can be under any illusions about what is going on, if they know anything about the history of the country, Podrabinek says.

            “Judge for yourselves,” he says. “What direct threat to the regime can come from religious organizations? None. In Russia all the main and largest confessions have always cooperated with any regime, traditionally giving to Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” But a totalitarian state has a different agenda.

            That is shown by its repression against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group whose numbers are small, who aren’t interested in politics and who don’t represent any threat to an authoritarian regime. “But for totalitarianism, they are enemies because a totalitarian power must control everything.”

            “What threat for an authoritarian regime does the LGBT community pose? Absolutely none.” It is a matter of indifference who has sex with whom and how. “But in a totalitarian ideological state, this island of independence and absence of control is impermissible.” Hitler and Stalin both put homosexuals in camps and prisons.

            And “what threat for an authoritarian regime represents quality education? None. Even if children become well educated people, the difference between being educated and engaging in political protest is large. But for a totalitarian state, educated people, especially in the humanities represent a terrible threat.”

            “They easily escape from under total control and are capable of creating communities attractive for others,” Podrabinek continues. “Therefore, the present-day Russian powers continuously imposes its ideological training and patriotic education” on the schools, taking time away from real subjects.

            According to the analyst, “the symptoms of totalitarianism are encountered in Russia ever more frequently.” More and more things are banned, and more and more absurdities are insisted upon. People are afraid and they back away from doing anything that might get them in trouble, actions that only hasten the transition from authoritarianism to totalitarianism.

            “Fear of those in power is spreading throughout the country, not of the law, which no one appears to care about but of the threat of arbitrary action by the state,” Podrabinek says. “State terror is another sure sign of totalitarianism. And it is our tomorrow if no force emerges to stop it.”

Regional Air Carriers in Russia in Deep Trouble and Not Primarily Because of Accidents

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 24 – Almost every week in recent months has brought news of the crash or hard landing of a regional carrier in the Russian Federation. But these accidents are only the tip of the iceberg of a problem that is imposing increasingly serious costs on the country and the linking together of its far-flung and relatively unpopulated regions.

            In Soviet times, officials liked to claim that one could fly from every village to every other, but the depopulation of rural areas has killed off that even as it has forced the closure of numerous airports. And as a result, where flights still originate, it is often necessary to fly thousands of kilometers via Moscow to get from one place to another not that far away.

            (For background, see,,, and

            Russian regional aviation is collapsing, experts tell Saniya Yusupova of the Sibreal portal. Without massive subsidies, it can’t survive and even with subsidies there are serious problems with aging planes, the inability of regional carriers to find pilots, and the lack of modern GPS location systems (

            As a result of the last, pilots have to work much harder than they do in larger planes which not only have positional devices but also automatic pilots. Those working for regional carriers generally are on planes that lack automatic pilots and therefore have to fly the plane from takeoff to landing without any break.

            Worse, the Russian government has so dramatically increased the number of rules for their behavior that if there is an accident, pilot error can always be found, something that protects the carriers and the government but not the aircraft crews and importantly not the passengers who rely on them.

            The contraction of regional carriers is leading to truly horrific outcomes, the experts say. “For example, there are direct flights between Magadan and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky each week, a distance of 867 km. On other days, one must go via Vladivostok – 5,000 km – or even Moscow –21,500.” And the cost of tickets is so great that people fight over seats.

            As airports have contracted both in number and size, it is increasingly difficult to service regional planes. Indeed, it can now cost more to service a 50-seat plane in Sakha than a 200-seat jet in Moscow airports. Something must be done, but as of now, regional carriers and the cities they serve have heard only promises and not seen any real commitment.

            In the words of one expert, “land transport cannot possibly connect enormous spaces in Siberia and the Far East. Only regional carriers can, but they face problems with aging equipment and inexperienced pilots. One can only hope that the human factor will not lead to disaster and that someone passengers will get to their destinations without a hard landing.”