Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Ordinary People with Disabilities Deserve Attention, Not Just ‘the Stars,’ Lunyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 29 -- All too often Russians pay attention to people with disabilities only if they can perform some remarkable feat like writing with their feet or performing like swimming champions or think about them at all either with pity or fear when such people are isolated in ways that resemble concentration camps, Igor Lunyev says.

            Not only is that attitude wrong – people with disabilities deserve to be treated with respect even if they do not display on first glance such remarkable abilities as “the stars” – but it has become an addition obstacle to the inclusion of such people  as people in the broader community (rosbalt.ru/piter/2021/12/01/1933389.html).

            “Real inclusion,” the journalist says, “is not a form of entertainment;” and acting as if it were carries with it the paradoxical problem that “as long as we look for talents, we lose talents because we do not turn attention on those who are not in a position to immediately show their talents to us.”

            But, Lunyev continues, “this is a problem at the margins. The main one is that inclusion is not for the special but for everyone. A person with invalid qualities is a full member of society even if society cannot see this” and such people should be respected “not because among them are geniuses but simply because they are people.”

            “In general education schools, resource classes for children with mental differences are needed not because among them may be someone who will attract attention but because every child and his or her parents must have a choice as to where and how he or she will receive an education,” Lunyev argues.

            “If someone without hands learns to play the guitar with his feet, then, this is something heroic; but if he doesn’t, that fact must not negatively affect the quality of his existence.” And those “who seriously are involved with helping people with disabilities do not seek talents and don’t assume the role of an impresario.”

            Seeking and finding talents is something interesting, the journalist acknowledges, “but it is still more interesting to search for and find not talents but a means of communications. Then talents too will appear, although often not those required in show business.” Understanding that is a prerequisite for a just and humane society

Like the Bourbons, Putin Regime has Learned Nothing and Forgotten Nothing in Planning for New Trash Dumps in the North, Britskaya Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 29 – When the people of Shiyes rose in opposition to Moscow’s plans to open a new trash dump near that northern settlement, Russians elsewhere took it as their model. But Moscow has failed to see that by using the same strategy it adopted at Shiyes, it not only will face more actions by the population but will likely have to reverse course.

            That is the conclusion Tatyana Britskaya, who covers the Russian North for Novaya gazeta, offers not only on the basis of her experiences in Shiyes but in two villages near Veliky Ustryug which is now “’a second Shiyes’” since Moscow is trying to do the same thing in the same way (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/12/01/oni-boiatsia-tolko-narodnogo-bunta).

            Plans for the new trash dump call for it to cover 65 hectares, six hectares more than the current largest dump in Europe which is located near Moscow, something that will cost billions of rubles to build and operate. But the population has not been consulted, and requests by people for new roads in the region have been rejected by the powers as “too expensive.”

            But if the authorities in Moscow and locally have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from Shiyes, the people in the North have learned a great deal and forgotten nothing about how the Shiyes protesters won out. The only things the authorities fear, they know, are scandals and mass protests. And so in yet another place, the people are going to give them both. 

            And the powers that be by their heavy-handed use of repression will only ensure that the number of scandals and the size of the protests with all the attention they will get will be larger than it was at Shiyes, exactly the opposite outcome that the authorities hope for but an example of how protests build on protests when those in charge don’t know how to act.

Moscow Providing Fundamental Science Too Little Money for Russia to Become Economically Competitive, Lenchuk Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 29 – The Russian government’s projected spending on fundamental research over the next decade will not be enough to allow the Russian economy to compete effectively with others, according to Elena Lenchuk, director of the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

            According to her, “fundamental science is under threat as a result of the reforming of the Russian Academy of Sciences, continuing underfinancing, and efforts to rate the contribution of fundamental research on the basis of metrics” (finanz.ru/novosti/aktsii/v-ran-zayavili-o-razrushenii-rossiyskoy-nauki-iz-za-nedofinansirovaniya-1031008289).

            In 2019, Russia spent only 0.17 percent of its GDP on fundamental research, a pitiful amount, Lenchuk says; but tragically if the government’s plans are not changes by 2030 it will be spending “significantly less.” And that will cast a dark shadow on the Russian economy long into the future.

            The Kremlin’s desire “to copy the West and shift all science to higher educational institutions isn’t something that will have good prospects,” she continues, because most scientific research there is intertwined with the educational process, while basic science in the Academy is directed “at the solution of economic tasks” over the long term.

            The problems of underfinancing are compounded in Russia, Lenchuk says, because there is no clear policy on scientific research and because the direction of such research remains divided among a wide variety of ministries which often have conflicting goals.

            “In developed countries, scientific-technological and innovation policies are an inalienable part of industrial policy,” the economist says; but in Russia today, that is not the case. And as a result, Russia is not getting the benefits that the existence and implementation of such a policy can bring.

Kremlin’s Neo-Traditionalism Deepening Divide Between Russians and North Caucasians, Zhelenin Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 29 – The peoples of the North Caucasus and the majority of Russians are going in different directions mentally, increasing misunderstandings and hostility between them and the probability that this trend will lead to a fundamental break between them, Aleksandr Zhelenin says.

            And what is most alarming, the Rosbalt commentator says, is that this divide is being unwittingly promoted by the Kremlin’s “conservative trend” which seeks to revive and cultivate “traditional values,” a policy that has difference consequences in Russian regions, on the one hand, and the North Caucasus, on the other (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2021/11/29/1933128.html).

            Russians are vastly more urbanized and modernized and thus far more resistant to any effort to get them to return to traditional values and practices, Zhelenin says, while North Caucasians are more rural and thus more traditional in their orientation and welcome suggestions that they can and should restore the past.

            As a result, the Kremlin’s policy is working far more effectively in the North Caucasus than in Russian cities where three-quarters of all Russians now live, something that might not be a problem if all the traditions of the North Caucasians were positive and if modernized Russians were fully guided by new values.

            But that is not the case: many traditions North Caucasians seek to restore are at odds with Russian laws and Russian traditions, and many Russians consciously reject traditions which are more communal than individual in their orientation. And that division means that they are increasingly different and that the Kremlin has problems with both.

Monday, January 17, 2022

In 1952, Stalin Planned to Divide Tatarstan into Three Oblasts But Didn’t Live to Do So

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 29 – In the murky last year of his rule, a time when Stalin appeared locked in a fight with Lavrenty Beria over the role of nations in the USSR, the Soviet dictator made plans to divide up the Republic of Tatarstan into three oblasts and to create three new CPSU obkoms, the Kazan, the Chistopol, and the Bugulminsk.

            Stalin had gone so far as to appoint 24-year-old Fikret Tabeyev to head the Bugulminsk oblast committee, but the future republic party head and Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan held the job only a few days before Stalin died and his plans for the destruction of Tatarstan were reversed.

            But Tabeyev’s remarkable elevation to such a senior party job so early in his life not only inspired his own propensity to appoint young people to key positions means that those long ago events continue to have an impact in Tatarstan where only in the last few years has the Tabeyev cohort, including Mintimir Shaymiyev, begun to leave the scene.

            That is just one of the many remarkable revelations found in a kind of article few are inclined to focus on now, despite their echoes in the present day: a 6200-word portrait of the career and character of Fikret Tabeyev by Kazan journalist Niyaz Akhmadullin (milliard.tatar/news/fikryat-tabeev-crezvycainyi-i-polnomocnyi-1177).

            Anyone interested in Soviet politics in general and nationality issues in particular will want to read this article carefully. But among the many intriguing things Akhmadullin relates the following seem especially noteworthy:

·       Tabeyev got the top party job in Tatarstan despite his youth because his more prominent opponent was known to have changed his nationality from Bashkir to Tatar in hopes of advancing in Kazan.

·       He succeeded in convincing Leonid Brezhnev that Tatarstan’s production of oil would benefit rather than suffer if Moscow allowed Kazan to invest more in housing and infrastructure, something that made him popular in the republic even though he was not committed to advancing the Tatar language.

·       He dodged a bullet that could have proved fatal when he rejected a proposal by Politburo member Aleksandr Shelepin to become a party secretary in Moscow.

·       In 1979, Tabeyev was appointed Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan because the Afghan authorities had told Moscow that they didn’t want a Central Asian. Mikhail Suslov told Tabeyev that he was the perfect candidate in that he was both a Muslim and a member of the CPSU Central Committee.

·       On returning to Moscow in 1986, he was named a first deputy chairman of the Soviet council of ministers but he did not fit in with Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms and soon retired.

New Russian Empire Must be Russo-Centric and Not Include Central Asia or the Caucasus, Kaplenkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 29 – Ever more Russians are discussing what form a new Russian Empire should take, and a consensus has formed that it must be centered on the ethnic Russians rather than on some amorphous multi-nationalism and that it must include former Soviet republics to Russia’s west but not those in the Trans-Caucasus and Central Asia, Valery Kaplenkov says.

            The Moscow political scientist says that none of the Russians want to restore something like the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union in that this would again undermine the special status of the ethnic Russians properly understood and threaten to tear about the new empire just as nationalisms did the previous two (iarex.ru/articles/83500.html).

            Russians recognize that if they pursue the goal of becoming a nation state, they will reduce their country to the size and importance of Muscovy and might not be able to hold even that, Kaplenkov says. Thus, the issue before them is what kind of an empire they should form, what special role the Russians must have, and what the borders of this new state should be.

            According to the analyst, “Russia has a unique change to combine in the future models of state arrangements of two kinds of statehood, imperial and national.” But for that to happen, “the geographic borders of the new Russian power need to be somewhat different than those which existed in pre-revolutionary Russia and the USSR.”

            Commentator Sergey Karaganov has pointed out what should be common ground: the new Russian empire must not include either Central Asia or the Trans-Caucasus. Countries there should be “allies of Russia but no more.” And they should be told that they have no future inside a new Russian empire.”

            If Moscow fails to recognize this and recognizes that it must never take back those parts of the former empires, Kaplenkov says, “Russia will turn into a chimera state, a parody of the USSR that sank into oblivion. And you will have to forget about such a formation having any Russianness at all.”

            Instead, “Russia must and should expand geographically only in the most difficult, Western direction. NATO and the EU, in which the Baltic republics now are and in which Ukraine and some forces in Belarus dream of being, are not eternal. In our world,” the political scientist says, “there is nothing eternal as a matter of principle.”

            No one in the 1970s “or even in the 1980s,” though the USSR would fall apart. But it happened. And everyone must remember that “the North Atlantic alliance and the European Union had a beginning and they will have an end. In their place likely will come other more local blocs instead.”

            In the new Empire, “the territorial division dreamed up by the Russophobe Ulyanov-Lenin must be destroyed;” and there must not be “any national formations.” Instead, the new empire must be divided “exclusively on administrative-territorial units: regions or krays.” Non-Russians in the new empire must have no more than “cultural-historical autonomies.”

            The concept of “multinationality” is out of date, the analyst says. What must replace it is “a single nation” within which other ethnoses live. “Russia undoubtedly is a multi-ethnic state,” but the Russians are the state-forming nation and they must define the state rather than allow its structure and purpose to be set by others.

            Those who worry that the demographic situation of Russians won’t allow this need to recognize that a new Russian Empire has in principle an important source of more Russians in addition to an improved demographic policy. It can and must absorb eastern Ukrainians and eastern Belarusians who were Russians until 1917.

Ashgabat Mulls Ending Food Subsidies for Almost Entire Population

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 29 – Turkmenistan’s government has kept the lid on protests not only by deploying its enormous security services against any potential protester but also by offering most of the population heavily subsidized basic foods. Faced with budgetary constraints, Ashgabat reportedly is thinking about ending the latter system in early 2022.

            If that happens, the average market basket for Turkmens not only in rural areas but in the major cities would jump by at least ten times, a development that would make it impossible for many in that country to feed themselves and almost certainly would provoke protests and clashes between the population and the regime.

            The Turkmen service of Radio Liberty reports that the government has not made any announcement of its steps in this direction, steps that the service’s sources say include ending subsidies to food products to the families of Turkmens who are working abroad and to the families of prisoners as well (rus.azattyq.org/a/31589983.html).

            That will affect a large swath of the population as there are approximately one million Turkmens working abroad, mostly in Turkey but also in the Russian Federation, and at the start of this year, there were 35,000 Turkmens imprisoned there. Given an average family size of five, that means a majority of the country’s six million residents will lose these subsidies.

            But that cutback does not appear sufficient to bridge the budgetary gap in Ashgabat, and officials are now considering ending food subsidies for all but military and security personnel and senior members of the government. If everyone else loses access to subsidized prices, it is difficult to see how Turkmenistan will avoid real hunger and political protest.