Friday, October 15, 2021

Tatar President of Russia More Likely than a Russian President of Tatarstan, Living Central Asia Portal Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 9 – The Yandex page, “Living Central Asia,” poses two questions seldom raised in Russia: Could a Tatar become president of Russia? (zen.yandex.ru/media/centralasia/nezvanyi-gost-huje-mojet-li-tatarin-stat-prezidentom-rossii-615ef6c202f3ba7dca951c98) and Could a Russian become president of Tatarstan? (zen.yandex.ru/media/centralasia/mojet-li-russkii-stat-prezidentom-tatarstana-615ef23ae21a6b4975f093e8).

            Not surprisingly, it suggests that neither outcome is all that likely; but very surprisingly, the portal says that the former may be even more likely than the latter given the way in which Russian political life in Moscow and in the federal subjects has evolved over the last two decades.

            The page points out that “Tatars have an incomparably high level of representation in the halls of power, one which is greater than their share of the total population of the Russian Federation,” the continuation of a pattern set five centuries ago and that means there are many Tatars in positions from which a rise to the presidency is not excluded.

            But it notes that half of these Tatars were not born in Tatarstan but elsewhere and especially in Moscow and so are Tatar in a very different manner than those who rise through the ranks in Kazan. But all that raises the question: “Could a Tatar (of either kind) become president of Russia?”

            “Theoretically,” the portal says, “there are no obstacles against that happening if the people vote for him. Marat Khusnullin, a deputy prime minister, certainly is a conceivable candidate if he does not blot his copybook before Vladimir Putin leaves the scene. And it is not unthinkable that Putin would tip his hand in favor of a Tatar if he felt the Tatar was a good ruler.

            The question – “Could an ethnic Russian become president of Tatarstan?” – is different and more complicated; and the obstacles to a Russian taking that position now or in the future are very long against. Since the 1920s, the head of Tatarstan has always been a Tatar, one of the most characteristic features of Soviet and now Russian nationality policy.

            “Theoretically,” of course, “everything is possible” and Moscow could impose an ethnic Russian on Tatarstan. But there are good reasons to think that it isn’t going to do that. On the one hand, only someone who really knows the situation in Tatarstan could rule it. And on the other, the only people with such knowledge are Tatars the current rulers in Kazan have promoted.

            And there is yet another reason for thinking that a Russian president of Tatarstan is something far-fetched. Kazan routinely allows Moscow policies it doesn’t like to stir up trouble in the republic and then argues that only its own people are capable of running things as the Kremlin would like.

There is no good reason to think Moscow would want to find itself in a position where a Russian in Kazan could not cope with such a game that his subordinates would undoubtedly continue to blame. And so it is highly unlikely that the center would ever take the risk of changing the game by inserting an ethnic Russian in the top job in Kazan. 

Arrest of Moldovan Prosecutor, an Ethnic Gagauz, Sparks Protests and Warning that This Chisinau Step Trigger a Moldovan Donbass

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 9 – Chisinau’s decision to arrest Aleksandr Stoyanoglu, the ethnic Gagauz who had been serving as prosecutor general of Moldova, has sparked protests in his own home region and other cities in the republic and warnings that this move could result in the appearance of a Moldovan counterpart to the Donbass in Ukraine.

            Residents in Komrat, the largest Gagauz city, went into the streets and demanded that Stoyanoglu not only be released but restored to his position. They said that there was no justification for what Chisinau had done and that more protests are ahead (gagauzinfo.md/top1/62448-chto-esche-nuzhno-chtoby-mamalyga-vzorvalas-v-komrate-trebuyut-osvobozhdeniya-aleksandra-stoyanoglo.html).

            Many Gagauz said this arrest was “the last drop” which was certain to push them and others in Moldova into the streets to protest the current government (gagauzinfo.md/top1/62448-chto-esche-nuzhno-chtoby-mamalyga-vzorvalas-v-komrate-trebuyut-osvobozhdeniya-aleksandra-stoyanoglo.html).

            And Irina Vlakh, the pro-Russian head of Gagauzia said that the arrest showed that despite the trappings of democracy, Moldova has become a dictatorship. Some people elsewhere in Moldova and even some former Moldovan officials agreed (fondsk.ru/news/2021/10/09/moldova-riskuet-poluchit-svoj-donbass-gagauzia-protestuet-54643.html).

            Dorin Chirtoaca, the former pro-European mayor of Chisinau, warned Moldovan President Maia Sandu that she was putting the country at risk of having “a second Donbass in Moldova” by her arrest of Stoyanoglu (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=418244542992387&id=100044205350839).

            Also denouncing the move was Renato Rusaty, the former mayor Belts, the city sometimes referred to as “the northern capital of Moldova.” People there also staged protests against Sandu’s actions (ehomd.info/2021/10/08/usatyj-prizval-storonnikov-vyjti-na-protesty-v-zashhitu-genprokurora/).

            There have also been smaller protests in other cities, including the capital.

            (For background on the Gagauz issue and the way Moscow has used it before against the Moldovan government, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/08/chisinaus-policies-turning-gagauzia.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/07/russia-and-gagauz-expanding-ties-at.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/09/moscow-mulls-mobilizing-transdniestria.html.)  

 

Kremlin Wants 500,000 Emigres to Return by 2030, But Tragic History May Give Them Pause

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 9 – Vladimir Putin wants 500,000 people who have emigrated from the Russian Federation to return home by 2030. Russian diplomats and interior ministry officials are to encourage this process, and the government will bear the costs that those who come back must take upon themselves.

            This is not the first time in the last century that Moscow has encouraged emigres to return, and memories about how those who did so were treated constitute another reason why getting those now living abroad to decide to come back is going to be anything but an easy sell, Tatyana Voltskaya says (severreal.org/a/kak-v-rossiyu-vozvraschali-emigrantov/31494694.html).

            The Sevreal portal writer points out that in Soviet times, many who responded positively to the siren song of Soviet propaganda of return did not have a good time of it but ended up in the camps of the GULAG or even were shot by the Soviet authorities immediately or after a relatively short time.

            One of the worst such cases involved the 31,000 Harbin Russians who returned to the USSR in 1937. Of these, “more than 19,000 were shot, and the rest received terms in the camps ranging from 10 to 25 years. Most others who returned suffered in a similar way, although a few succeeded in winning the lottery as it were, Voltskaya continues.

            To be sure, “this was another country;” and Putin’s Russia is based at least so far “not on a great terror but on a consensus with the elites” and terror is used only in a targeted manner against those who “try to play politics.” But uncertainties of what will come in the future undoubtedly will be part of the calculus of Russian emigres thinking about returning.

            Russian Historian Yuliya Demidenko says that “all Soviet campaigns about the return of compatriots had a propagandistic purpose,” to send a message that life was better in the USSR than anywhere else. She considers that “repatriation after World War II was “the most tragic.” Many who returned did not do so voluntarily and many suffered.

            All those who have seen the brilliant 1999 film, “East-West” starring Catherine Deneuve will agree.

The Real Nationality Problem in Russia: the Powers Don’t Want Russians to be a Nation, Popov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 9 – The Russian authorities not only insist that crime and terrorism have “no nationality” but behave in ways that deny nationality to the Russian people because it is “convenient” for the powers that be to have a cowed and atomized population to rule over rather than a nation confident of its own powers, Dmitry Popov says.

            The titular nationalities of the former union republics and the current autonomous republics of the Russian Federation are all nations, the Moskovsky komsomolets commentator says. They all “have a very clear idea that they are the people” and that they are strong enough to defend their nation forcefully (ru/incident/2021/10/13/konflikt-s-kavkazcami-v-metro-pokazal-glavnuyu-problemu-russkikh.html).

            But as the recent clash in the Moscow subway between three Daghestanis and a Russian who was trying to defend a young woman they were harassing shows, Russians don’t have that sense of being a power in their own right and thus being able to act in defense of their values, ideals and personalities.

            “What do the Russians have instead of a nationality?” The answer isn’t pretty because “an atomized and divided people does not command respect” because “you can do whatever you want with its representatives” confident that most members of that group won’t respond forcefully, Popov continues.

            “It was only by some miracle that this terrible word” – Russians – “appeared in the Russian Constitution,” whereas in all the other constitutions of the post-Soviet space, the name of the titular nation is prominently featured and its importance as an actor is stressed. And everywhere else, that nation has special rights regarding outsiders and is ready to defend them.

            But in Russia, the powers don’t defer to a nation because the nation is not recognized as a power in its own right. Consequently, the regime can talk about expelling immigrant workers but it soon backs down “because our local capitalists need cheap labor” and only the immigrants are  ready to work for less and thus keep everyone’s wages down.

            “An atomized and divided people doesn’t command respect,” Popov says. But “the saddest thing is that this is convenient above all for the powers that be when it comes to Russians.” On occasion, as with the Russian man who defended the Russian women, the powers may “encourage some particular citizen.”

            But in doing so, those same powers keep insisting that “crime and terrorism have no nationality; and that means that the hero” in the case of the subway case involving a defense of a woman against the attentions of the Daghestanis “if he is a Russian, also lacks a nationality,” clearly, the most serious if unmentioned nationality problem in Russia today.

For Biblical Reasons, Russia Must Mark 300th Anniversary of the Declaration of Its Status as an Empire, Frolov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 9 – In another month, the 300th anniversary of the declaration of the Russian state as an empire will occur, and it must be marked widely for contemporary reasons which have their roots in the Bible and which are under attack by liberals, according to Russian nationalist commentator Kirill Frolov.

            The present-day reasons for commemorating this anniversary, Frolov says, are to show the baselessness of claims by Russian liberals that the Russian state is only 30 years old or by communists that it is only a little more than 100. This “’political heresy’” must be stamped out (materik.ru/analitika/pochemu-300-letie-provozglasheniya-rossiys/).

            Those who talk about the youthfulness of the Russian state want Russians to view the US and the UK as “older, smarter and more experienced,” something which is not only inappropriate but untrue, the commentator says. And he points to the efforts of China and Turkey to integrate their millennial pasts into the present, despite revolutionary upheavals.

            The Russian Empire was proclaimed on November 4, 1721; but in fact that state with that status took shape over several centuries proceeding it. And in making this anniversary, that earlier history must be recalled as well. In many ways, the proclamation was simply recognizing a reality that had already been established.

            If that is done, Frolov says, present-day Russia has a long history; and its current status must be defended as such in terms of the Biblical concept of Katekhon. As originally outlined in 2 Thesaalonians 2: 6-7, that concept has been developed to describe the forces which precede the Apocalypse and must be overcome before the end times are possible.

            Thus, the defense of Russia as an old state in the form of an empire is part of the story of the end of the world and its defense is the defense not only of Russians but of the integrity of the historical process as described in the Bible and thus of all those who follow the Christian revelation.

            (This may seem obscurantist in the extreme, but winning over fundamentalist Christians to the support of Russia is a major goal of the Kremlin in the United States and other Protestant countries, and what Frolov is doing is tightening the relationship between Russia and the Apocalypse by insisting on the Russian empire as part of the end times story.)

            What all this means, the Russian nationalist commentator says, is that “the all-state, all-national celebration of the 300th anniversary of the proclamation of the Russian Empire will become an important factor in the struggle for the fulness, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Russia” by undermining all notions about some mythical “’liberal transfer’” of power.

 

For Russians, Census is Only Statistics; for Non-Russians, It’s an All-Important Plebiscite, Free Idel-Ural Organization Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 9 – The Free Idel-Ural group, most of whose members have been forced to emigrate but which retains significant influence across the peoples of the Middle Volga says that “for Russians, the census is only about statistics, but for non-Russians, it is rare possibility to speak out on behalf of themselves.” Indeed, the group says, it is a critically important plebiscite.

            On its portal, the group says that “the nationality policy being carried out by Moscow in its colonies does not leave any possibilities for the development of non-Russian peoples. Even such relatively large nations as the Tatars who have their own republic as a subject of the federation speak ever less often about development, progress, and a broadening of possibilities.”

            “Instead of this, they talk about salvation from an approaching catastrophe, the liqudation of national republics, the complete end of any forms of educational work in their native languages, and the final assimilation and disappearance of their peoples,” the group says (idel-ural.org/archives/перепись-это-наш-плебисцит/).

            According to Free Idel-Ural, “practically all the national movements of the autochthonian peoples of the Russian Federation include one and the same word in their programs – ‘survival.’”

            “In this struggle with forced assimilation, time works for the empire. On our side is only firmness, courage and unity.” And to that end, “the census is more important than any voting, for attention and respect to these peoples will depend directly on their numbers.” Those who lose numbers as many of them are will get less and less attention and support.

            “We call upon all the sons and daughters of Idel-Ural, the Erzyan,  the Moksha, the Chuvash, the Maris, the Udmurts, the Tatars and the Bashkirs to declare themselves members of their peoples. Do not hesitate and do not fear clearly indicating your nationality!” The census is one time when this really matters.

            “Even if You have distant Turkic or Finno-Ugric roots (grandparents or even great grandparents), declare yourself a representative of the autochthonian people. This does not require any effort but its vitally important for saving those who are currently drowning in the Russian sea.”

            “This is a case when it is possible to show respect to your ancestors and to secure a chance to choose a better fate for your descendants. The All-Russian Census is our plebiscite. Speak out about yourself and your people.”

            Three things are noteworthy about this appeal. First, it is a reflection of the despair that many ethnic minorities in Russia feel, given their declining numbers and the increasing pressure of the Putin regime against their languages and cultures. Second, it is a sign that groups like Free Idel Ural believe the Internet can help them survive.

            And third, and perhaps most important for outside observers if not for the peoples themselves, it is yet another indication of how political the numbers of the Russian census are and must be read. They are not simply a description of reality but a playing out of a political struggle going on at many levels and in many places in Russia.

            (For background on the Free Idel-Ural organization and its members, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/05/tatar-leaders-in-exile-appeal-to-west.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/03/ever-more-active-idel-ural-movement.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/03/free-idel-ural-movement-takes-shape-in.html.)

Thursday, October 14, 2021

72 Federal Subjects Now Close to Requiring Lockdown to Contain the Pandemic

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 9 – Medical experts say that the epidemiological situation in 72 federal subjects  is now so dire that they must consider introducing a new lockdown soon if the pandemic is to be contained even though such actions would face resistance in the Kremlin because they would destroy the economy (ura.news/articles/1036283227).

            But if the pandemic is not brought under control soon – and today’s new infections – nearly 30,000 – and new deaths – nearly one thousand over the last 24 hours threatens to wreck the economy if nothing is done as the pandemic ebbs and flows throughout the country (t.me/COVID2019_official/3651 and regnum.ru/news/society/3387415.html).

            Also adding to pressure for a new lockdown is the conclusion of epidemiologists that vaccination rates have stagnated because positive incentives to get the shots aren’t working and mandatory injections are being used only sparingly against particular groups because of the Kremlin’s objections to requiring shots (business-gazeta.ru/article/525082).

            As someone who has tracked the pandemic in Russia since its beginning, this author has the sense that the Kremlin and the pandemic are playing a game of chicken, with the Kremlin hoping the pandemic will ebb and relieve in of the necessity to do something and the pandemic continuing to surge according to its own internal logic.

            At some point, almost certainly sooner rather than later, the Kremlin will have to blink and take action. Shifting all responsibility to the regional governments after all is ultimately no more successful a strategy than opposing mandatory shots and lockdowns is when the epidemiological situation is as bad as it now is in Russia.

The Greater Public Distrust in Elected Bodies and Individuals Becomes, the Stronger the Siloviki Will Be, Russian Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 8 – Polls in the wake of the Duma elections show that the share of Russians who distrust the results has risen dramatically and now almost equals the share of those who believe the vote was honest. The result of this trend, Russian experts say, is that the greater public distrust becomes, the weaker the political leaders and the stronger the siloviki will be.

            This impact is especially greater, political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin says, because the level of trust is divided segmentally. Those who backed United Russia think the voting was fair, while those who opposed it felt it was something in which they could place no trust (newizv.ru/article/general/08-10-2021/pravo-silnogo-v-rossiyskoy-vlasti-komu-vygodno-nedoverie-k-vyboram).

            At the same time, the elections were not falsified totally as in Soviet times or Chechnya today. They were falsified only in part and only in some places. And that in turn means, Oreshkin continues, that “they were dishonest although again not everywhere and not always,” something that deepens this divide as well.

            Mikhail Vinogradov, a political analyst who specializes on religious issues, says that in his view, the main cause of distrust is that people do not feel that they are real participants in a process of choosing leaders or policies, but they did not have that feeling in Soviet times and so accept much that others would protest about.

            Oreshkin points to another cause of a sense on the part of the population that the elections were illegitimate: 72 Duma candidates gave up the mandates they were elected to fill, and that mean 72 others who had not even run were inserted into the national legislature without a scintilla of popular support.

            Another Moscow political analyst, Aleksandr Kynyev, says he considers the situation to be catastrophic but not necessarily catastrophic in the way many think. The sense Russians have that the elections were not legitimate is not going to lead to a change in direction let alone a revolution.

            Instead, this sense that the voting was not legitimate will weaken those who are ostensibly elected by the people both absolutely and relative to the siloviki who are elected by no one and whose response to everything is to use force. Oreshkin agrees and believes that the illegitimacy of this vote points to more repression ahead.

 

Kremlin Sparking Separatism Even Where It Never Existed Before, Gessen Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 8 – The Kremlin has often justified its repressive policies by the need to counter separatism, but Masha Gessen says that the Putin regime’s policies have had the unintended consequence of provoking separatist attitudes even in parts of the country where such attitudes never existed in the past.

            What Putin is really doing is fighting democracy because it is increasingly obvious, the US-based Russian commentator says, that a democratic Russia would unlikely be able to survive in its current borders. And the reason for that, she says, is the combination of repressive and disordering policies the regime has pursued (nv.ua/world/geopolitics/masha-gessen-o-razvale-rossii-centr-sozdal-separatistskie-nastroeniya-poslednie-novosti-50188097.html).

            These relations “have been so spoiled and are now so disorderly,” Gessen says, that “the center has sucked out all the blood from the regions and actually created separatist and nationalist sentiments on the ground, even where they have never been in the last  20 years,” exactly the opposite of what Putin says he is doing.

            She continues by saying that they can’t imagine that “it will be possible to release this genie from the bottle” if democracy is put in place. Instead, at least “some of the subjects” currently within the borders of the Russian Federation will “separate.” From her perspective, Gessen concludes, the loss of such subjects will be more than made up for by the establishment of democracy.

Local Slavs Tried to Destroy Adygey Republic After It Joined Parade of Sovereignties in 1990

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 8 – Many commentaries today act as if the parade of sovereignties in the non-Russian republics at the end of Soviet times was a one-time act, ignoring two important things – the need for these newly proclaimed republics to set up a variety of institutions they did not have before and the active opposition of local Russians and other Slavs to the declarations.

            Kazbek Achmiz, a senior historian at the Adygey Republic’s Institute for Humanitarian Research, provides a useful correction to the oversimplification of this process with a description of what happened in Adygeya in the wake of its declaration of state sovereignty in October 1990 (Vestnik nauki ARIGI 28(52): 79-84, online at natpressru.info/index.php?newsid=12605).

            After the Adygeys had decided on the declaration, they faced the challenge of creating a new legislature and managing the process of elections so that the titular nationality, itself a minority in the republic, would have parity or close to parity relations with the non-Adygey population.

            This was not an easy thing to decide. The Adygeys were uncertain how large the republic legislature should be and how elections could be set up to ensure that the titular nationality would remain dominant. The Russian Duma subsequently recommended a republic parliament of 100 with election districts drawn so that the Adygey population could ensure itself parity.

            That was supported by the Committee of 40, a group of Adygey activists, who believed that without parity the republic would rapidly be transformed into a Russian oblast. And they had good reason for such fears because that is exactly what the Slavs of the region wanted and sought to promote.

            What the Slavs did was to insist that elections must be on the basis of a one-man, one-vote basis without any adjustment for ethnicity. Had that approach been adopted, the Adygeys could have hoped for at most about a quarter of the seats; and their republic would have been transformed into an oblast.

            Yury Kalmykov, a local official who subsequently became Boris Yeltsin’s justice minister, took the lead promoting as close to parity representation of the Adygs and Slavs as possible. He argued that republics should be able to ensure that the titular nationality would not be overwhelmed structurally in the political system.

            The election districts he helped design ensured that the Adygs got 42 seats out of 100, not the absolute parity they sought but a number sufficient to prevent a Slavic takeover of Adygeya. That system remains largely in place, and this is one of the reasons that Adygeya despite being a matryoshka republic surrounded by a predominantly ethnic Russian area still exists.

Nationalities May Decline in Number in Upcoming Census for Reason Moscow Won’t Like

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 8 – Like its Soviet predecessor, the Russian government is happy to see a decline in the number of nationalities listed in the census if that is the result of the assimilation of members of the smaller nations to the ethnic Russians. But Moscow is unlikely to welcome a development that will lead to a similar decline.

            That is the reconsolidation of nations that Moscow split apart to divide and rule the country. The most likely case of this in the upcoming census involves the dozen nationalities into which the Soviet government broke the Circassian nation, a division the Russian government has maintained (jamestown.org/program/moscows-delay-of-2020-census-opens-way-for-circassian-promotion-of-common-identity/ and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/12/circassian-drive-to-declare-common.html).

            But it is far from the only case, as two leading specialists on the ethnic map of the Russian Federation make clear. Akhmet Yarlykapov, a scholar at the MGIMO Center for the Study of Problems of the Caucasus, says other small people may follow the Circassian example (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/368861/ and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/368794/).

            There have been appeals to various Turkic nations to call themselves Nogays, he says, adding that “all small peoples now have such calls. Avars are called to write down that they are Avars, Circassians, Circassians and Tatars, Tatars” even if earlier they had been encouraged or even forced to identify as members of sub-ethnoses.

            And Sergey Aryutyunov, a professor at Moscow State University and one of Russia’s most senior and distinguished specialists on the North Caucasus, says that this may become a trend and that “the new census offers an opportunity” for correcting what he called “errors,” the identification of people not by nationality but by sub-ethnic groups.

            “This idea is popular not only among the Circassians,” the MSU scholar says. “By the way, it would be more correct to list not simple Circassian” in the census but rather “Circassian and then in parentheses ‘Adyg’” as that is the self-designator for most of the members of these various groups already.

            Among the nationalities who may do this are the Tses, the Nogays, the Udis, the Khvarshins, and the Botlikhts.” One group has already made it clear that that is its intension, the Nogays of Astrakhan. In the past, they were listed as Tatars; but now they want to be called Nogays.

            Some regional officials will pressure them in one direction, and others in the reverse. In Daghestan, for example, officials may press smaller ethnic communities to identify as Avars in order to boost the influence of that group in the republic. But others may oppose such a move precisely out of fears of that happening.

            Artuyunov is “certain” that “the results of the census will not show the real picture of the national composition” of the Russian Federation. For example, “peoples who do not live on the territory of Daghestan who are indigenous there most likely will write what they want.” The Botlikhs “living in Vladivostok” will describe themselves as Botlikhs.

            But those living in Daghestan will be pressed and in many cases will follow the pressure and write down that they are Avars. Representatives of these groups confirm that Arutyunov’s judgment is correct.

Prisons Central to Putin Regime and Films of Torture in Them a Major Political Problem

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 8 – Prisons and even their reputation for brutality are an important support for the Putin regime because Russians do not want to risk falling into them and thus are more willing to go along with what the regime wants. But for that threat to work, it must be implicit rather than explicit lest it provoke protests.

            That is what makes the films of torture in Russian prisons so dangerous for the Kremlin and has forced the Putin regime to plot a careful course between punishing those responsible and maintaining the utility of prisons and even their reputation for brutality as a political resource for the government. (On the films, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/10/gulagunet-documents-tortures-and-rapes.html.)

            Abbas Gallyamov, a former Putin speechwriter and now a frequent political commentator, argues that “the main sensation of the last few days has been the adequate reaction of the authorities to this scandal.” There have been checks, retirements, and even criminal cases. We haven’t seen anything like this for a long time” (rosbalt.ru/posts/2021/10/08/1925264.html).

            The reasons for this are not far to seek, Gallyamov says. Above all, officials have been forced to react in an unaccustomed way because there is video evidence. “Not simply words, but pictures, and as any propagandist will tell you a picture is a hundred times more influential than words.”

            When people only hear about something, they may ignore what their ears tell them. But “when they see something, they believe.” And had the regime not responded the way that it has – and it remains to be seen just how far it will go in continuing to act as it has so far – it would have lost what credibility it had with the Russian people.

            And the fact that this scandal involved the prison system only added to the pressure on the powers that be. Prisons are at the core of the Putin system, and people respond to it as they do at least in part because of the fear that they may land in jail. They fear that more than they fear any talk of mass repressions.

            “In general,” the commentator continues, “this is a most rare case when in making a choice between the siloviki and society, the regime has stood up on the side of the latter.” And that speaks to something else: It isn’t true that the regime simply ignores what the people think. It is only that it cares when its failure to do so would get the powers that be in trouble.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

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

Paul Goble

Staunton, Oct. 8 – 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.      Only 12 World Leaders Greet Putin on His 69th Birthday. In another sign of Putin’s isolation, only 12 world leaders sent him greetings on his birthday this year. None at all came from the US or from EU countries (business-gazeta.ru/article/524870).

2.      What Moscow Calls Redevelopment Actually Gentrification. The Russian government has promoted its rebuilding of housing in central cities as a way to improve the residences of people living there now, but in fact, experts say, it is a form of gentrification, a means of pushing out poorer residents and making room for wealthier ones (https://www.nakanune.ru/articles/117705/).

3.      Putin’s Involvement Means Pandora Dossier Won’t have Much Impact in Russia. Precisely because Putin and his entourage are among those mentioned in the Pandora Dossier of foreign holdings by world leaders, the Kremlin will make sure that this expose does not lead to problems for Russians involved (meduza.io/episodes/2021/10/09/v-rossii-ochen-mnogo-voruyut-kak-izmenilas-korruptsiya-pri-putine-i-kak-ot-nee-izbavitsya-uzhe-seychas, newizv.ru/news/politics/08-10-2021/pochemu-v-rossii-v-otlichie-ot-zapada-ne-budet-gromkoy-reaktsii-na-dosie-pandory and ura.news/news/1052509983).

4.      World Bank Lowers Russia’s Projected Growth Rate for Next Three Years. The World Bank has issued new lower and declining growth rate projections for Russia over the next three years (charter97.org/ru/news/2021/10/6/439575/).

5.      Political Analysts Say Duma Divided among Nine Elite Clans More than by Party List. If one considers the links of key members of the Duma, Russian analysts say, it is obvious that the legislature is in fact dominated by nine different elite clans far more than it is by the party lists (ura.news/articles/1036283216).

6.      Moscow Adds Nine More Journalists to Foreign Agents List. The Russian government has added nine journalists from Bellingcat and Kavkaz-Uzel to its list of foreign agents (rusmonitor.com/devyat-zhurnalistov-bellingcat-i-kavkazskij-uzel-popolnili-spisok-inoagentov-minyusta.html). The action come as others recall that 234 journalists have been killed or disappeared in Russia since 1993 (profile.ru/society/bez-sroka-davnosti-s-1993-goda-v-rossii-pogibli-ili-propali-bez-vesti-234-zhurnalista-938453/).

7.      Mass Deaths from Alcohol Surrogates in Orenburg Attracts Widespread Attention. The Russian media have been filled with stories about the deaths of more than two dozen Orenburg residents from drinking alcohol surrogates, yet another indication that many know the regime’s claims about Russians’ drinking less are at best a distortion of the real situation (rusmonitor.com/tipichnaya-rossijskaya-beda-massovoe-otravlenie-poddelnym-spirtom-v-orenburgskoj-oblasti-26-pokojnikov.html).

8.      West Reports Last 58 Attacks on Microsoft Originated in Russia. The recent hacking attacks on Microsoft came almost exclusively from Russia, with at least 58 of these attacks having been shown to be Russian in origin (rusmonitor.com/independent-rossiya-otvetstvenna-za-58-vzlomov-sovershennyh-pri-podderzhke-gosudarstva-microsoft.html).

9.      ‘Fact Checking’ as Cover for Censorship. The Russian authorities are requiring media and Internet companies to sign commitments to fact checking, something that media freedom activists suggest will be a cover for government censorship of their content (rusmonitor.com/vedushhie-internet-platformy-i-smi-budut-czenzurirovat-runet-pod-vidom-faktchekinga.html).

10.  Half of All Russians Prepared to Move from One Region to Another for Work. A new survey finds that Russians are increasingly prepared to move in order to get work, with half now ready to leave their home regions if necessary (newizv.ru/news/society/09-10-2021/polovina-grazhdan-gotovy-smenit-region-radi-raboty).

11.  Moscow Gives Priority to Foreign Flights, Shuts Down Many to Domestic Destinations. Probably because foreign flights earn more money than do domestic ones, Moscow gives priority to the maintenance of the latter while shutting down flights and even whole airports inside the country, leaving many Russians without access to air travel (newizv.ru/news/society/09-10-2021/v-treh-regionah-priostanovili-polety-v-malye-aeroporty, newizv.ru/article/general/07-10-2021/zagranitsa-vazhnee-aeroflot-prekraschaet-polety-v-26-regionov-rossii and sibreal.org/a/v-sibirskih-regionah-prekratilis-aviaperevozki-v-malye-aeroporty/31500721.html).

12.  Inflation in Russia Now Twice Government’s Projected Goal. Inflation in Russia officially rose from 6.7 percent in August to 7.4 percent in September, the latter a rate twice what the government earlier indicated was its goal (rosstat.gov.ru/storage/mediabank/181_06-10-2021.html).

13.  Chinese Shippers Get Priority Treatment in Kaliningrad Leaving Residents without Supplies. Because Moscow wants to curry favor with Beijing, Chinese shippers are getting priority treatment in Kaliningrad ports. But the result is that supplies going to that Russian exclave are often delayed with all the problems that leads to (vz.ru/economy/2021/10/8/1122890.html).

14.  23 Russian Regions Protest Moscow’s Renting of Land to China. Twenty-three Russian regions have protested Moscow’s plans to rent up to one million acres of agricultural land in the Far East to China. Moscow says that there aren’t enough Russians to work the land, but people in the region see this as another example of creeping Chinese neo-colonialism (publizist.ru/blogs/115416/41006/-).

15.  Nearly Two out of Three Russians Emigrating Say They Do So in Search of Security. According to a new Takiye dela poll, 64 percent of Russians now emigrating say they do so because they want to live in a secure environment, 54 percent say they are worried about the political situation in Russia, and 51 percent are concerned about the future of their children (svobodaradio.livejournal.com/5994286.html).

16.  One Russian in Four Certain Duma Elections were Dishonest. Twenty-four percent of Russians say they are certain the recent Duma elections were dishonest, and 23 percent more are inclined to that view, according to a new poll. Only 14 percent think the vote was honest (sovross.ru/articles/2182/53945).

17.  Migrant Rights Activist Expelled from Russia Seeks Asylum in Ukraine. Valentina Chupik, a rights activist who has worked on behalf of Central Asian migrants in Russia and who was recently expelled from that country, is seeking political asylum in Ukraine (centrasia.org/newsA.php?st=1633499640).

18.  Two-Thirds of Russians Say They’ve Never Heard of ‘Smart Voting;’ Only Nine Percent Support It. Commentaries on the recent Duma election have focused on smart voting as a major factor in the results. But 65 percent of Russians say they have never heard of it; and only nine percent say they back the idea (levada.ru/2021/10/08/umnoe-golosovanie/).

19.  Shoygu and Lavrov were Not the Only Stalking Horses in Recent Voting. When the defense and foreign ministers ran for Duma membership and then gave up their seats to others, that attracted a great deal of attention. But what has not is that this use of stalking horses to attract votes that allow those elected to give up their seats to unknowns is far larger than many may think. “More than 300” such cases occurred after the September vote (govoritmagadan.ru/bolee-300-parovozov-otkazalis-ot-mandatov-deputata-gosdumy-kto-oni/).

20.  Deaths in Russia up 18.5 Percent First Eight Months of 2021 Compared to Year Earlier. 238,000 more Russians died during the first eight months of this year than last, accelerating that country’s demographic decline (finanz.ru/novosti/aktsii/smertnost-v-rossii-ustanovila-rekord-s-razvala-sssr-1030853567).

21.  Only 38 Percent of Russians Say They Voted for United Russia, Not the 49 Plus Percent Moscow Claimed. A Levada Center poll finds that only 38 percent of Russians who voted in the Duma elections say they cast ballots for the ruling United Russia Party, far fewer than the more than 49 percent the regime claimed (https://novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/10/05/levada-38-rossiian-zaiavili-chto-golosovali-za-edinuiu-rossiiu-news).

22.  Dissatisfaction among Russians with the Regime Rises after Duma Election. The Public Opinion Foundation reports that the share of Russians dissatisfied with the government rose after the Duma elections, with 47 percent saying they had encountered that among their families and friends (politsovet.ru/71802-v-rossii-posle-vyborov-vyroslo-nedovolstvo-vlastyami.html).

23.  Over Last 15 Years, Russians have Become Less Hospitable and More Inclined to Violence. A new VTsIOM poll finds that over the last 15 years, Russians have become less hospitable to others and the share of those who sometimes feel they want to beat others has risen from 39 percent to 50 percent (politsovet.ru/71810-rossiyane-za-15-let-stali-menee-obschitelnymi-i-doverchivymi.html).

24.  Moscow Patriarchate to Mark Deaths of All Orthodox Christians Killed by Soviet State. The ROC MP has announced that it will mark with special services the deaths of all Orthodox Christians who were killed by the machinations of the Soviet state. The special holiday will take place on October 30 (ng.ru/ng_religii/2021-10-05/9_516_repression.html).

25.  Ukrainian Media Report Moscow Setting Up Seven Military Bases in Belarus. In an unconfirmed report, media in Kyiv are reporting that the Russian defense ministry is building seven new bases in Belarus (versia.ru/rossiya-skrytno-perebrosila-v-belorussiyu-voennyx-i-texniku).

26.  Moscow Upset Uzbeks Being Told Not to Use Russian Words. Many Uzbeks mix Russian words with their Uzbek speech. Now some activists are pressing Uzbeks to stop that practice to the anger of Russian officials who see this as a profoundly anti-Russian move (politobzor.net/240539-russkij-jazyk-v-uzbekistane-objavili-nepravilnym.html).

27.  Homeless Chelyabinsk Man Charged with Rehabilitating Nazism for Lighting Fire near War Memorial to Dry His Socks. The absurdity of charges in Russia today was highlighted by a case in which a homeless Chelyabinsk man was charged with rehabilitating Nazism for lighting a fire near a war memorial to dry his socks (bbc.com/russian/news-58772819).

28.  Russia to Have a Father’s Day. Russia has had a mother’s day for some time, but it has not had a father’s day. That has now been remedied: Vladimir Putin has signed an order making October 17 Father’s Day in that country (stoletie.ru/lenta/v_rossii_budet_otmechatsa_den_otca_287.htm).

29.  VTOTs Allowed to Hold Meeting on 1552 Anniversary. Kazan authorities have allowed embattled Tatar nationalist group VTOTs to hold a meeting to mark the anniversary of the sacking of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible. The group will hold it not in the central square but nearby. Last year, the executive authorities sought to ban the meeting, but the courts overruled them (nazaccent.ru/content/36853-tatarskim-nacionalistam-razreshili-pomitingovat.html).

30.  World Tatar Youth Forum Calls for Preservation of Republic Presidency. The Council of the World Forum of Tatar Youth has called for the preservation of the title of president for the head of the republic of Tatarstan (nazaccent.ru/content/36847-sovet-vsemirnogo-foruma-tatarskoj-molodezhi-prizval-sohranit-status-prezidenta-tatarstana.html).

31.  Northern Peoples Begin to Register on Lists Giving Them Special Rights. The Russian government   has begun to register members of numerically small peoples of the North and the Far East who still practice traditional ways of life on special lists that will give them benefits from the state. Many northern peoples believe that all their members should get such benefits even if they do not engage in traditional economic activities (nazaccent.ru/content/36845-dokumenty-na-vklyuchenie-v-spisok-korennyh-malochislennyh-narodov-nachali-prinimat-v-mfc.html).

32.  European Commission on Racism and Intolerance Says Russia hasn’t Fulfilled Recommendations for Change. The European Commission says that Russia has not fulfilled either of the two priority recommendations the group made to improve the treatment of residents of the Russian Federation (sova-center.ru/misuse/discussions/2021/10/d45043/).

33.  Russia will Remove Two Sunken Soviet Nuclear Subs but Only in 2030.  The Russian government says it will recover and decommission two nuclear subs on the seabed of the Barents and Kara Seas but only nine years from now (interfax.ru/world/795033).

34.  Prosecutors Seek to Label Male State an Extremist Organization. Now that the Male State group has begun interfering with businesses, the Russian government has announced that it will seek to have it labelled an extremist organization and then banned (znak.com/2021-10-05/prokuratura_potrebovala_priznat_muzhskoe_gosudarstvo_ekstremistskoy_organizaciey).

35.  Kremlin Beginning to Take Steps Against Climate Change. The Russian authorities are beginning to accept that climate change is real and have announced that they are taking steps to counter its impact (ng.ru/economics/2021-10-05/4_8269_kremlin.html). The announcement comes as the Carbon Brief group announced that Russia currently ranks fourth in carbon emissions among the countries of the world (carbonbrief.org/analysis-which-countries-are-historically-responsible-for-climate-change).

36.  Russian Harvest Down 10 Percent in August. Because of flooding in some parts of the country and droughts in others, the Russian harvest has fallen this year, down ten percent year on year in August (ehorussia.com/new/node/24438).

37.  Kaliningrad Officials Cover Over Medieval German Ruins. Russian officials in Kaliningrad have announced that they are going to cover over medieval ruins in the center of the city ostensibly to protect them. But activists say that this is another move to reduce the German image of the city (severreal.org/a/v-kaliningrade-zakopayut-ruiny-korolevskogo-zamka/31490597.html).

38.  One Russian in Six Suffered from Recent Problems with the Internet. Every sixth Russian experienced difficulties during the worldwide collapse of popular Internet services this month (superjob.ru/research/articles/113103/nepoladki-v-populyarnyh-socialnyh-setyah-i-messendzherah-skazalis-na-rabote-kazhdogo-shestogo-rossiyanina/).

39.  Thirty Percent of Parents Favor Banning Cellphones in Schools. Cellphones have become commonplace in Russian schools, and thirty percent of Russian parents say they favor banning them so that the phones don’t interfere with the educational process (https://www.superjob.ru/research/articles/113092/zapret-na-mobilnye-telefony-u-detej-v-shkole-podderzhivayut-3-iz-10-roditelej/).