Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Sanctions have Exacerbated but Not Caused Problems Russian Cancer Victims Face, Kamolov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – Russian government media have worked overtime to blame the problems those in Russia suffering from cancer now face, but Bakhodur Kamolov, a Russian oncologist, says that while sanctions have exacerbated these difficulties, they are far from the most important causes.

            Those have arisen over the last three decades as a result of the chaos in Russian medicine during perestroika and the 1990s, Vladimir Putin’s healthcare cutbacks known euphemistically as “optimization,” and the decline of domestic pharmaceutical producers and of the expert community (rosbalt.ru/piter/2022/05/16/1957867.html).

            It is easy to point to the impact of sanctions which have made it more difficult for Russian researchers to travel and publish abroad, for Russian companies to import both medicines and components for the manufacture of medicine, and for Russian cancer victims to pay the rising costs of the most advanced medications, he says.

            But these pale in significance in comparison to the basic problem: Over the last 30 years, Russian oncology as a science and as a practice have been at best stagnating while oncology in the West has been advancing by leaps and bounds, curing many now who would certainly have died prematurely only a few years ago.

            (The author of these lines can attest to how remarkable that is. When he was diagnosed with leukemia a decade ago, he was told that only three years earlier, he would have been advised to prepare for death within two years. With a new chemo drug, he was told, he had a 90 percent chance of living two years, as opposed to a 90 percent mortality rate in the same period.)

            Given that 300,000 Russians currently die each year from cancer, the situation is dire; but no one should blame it on sanctions alone. The policies of the Russian government are responsible and must be changed if lives are to be saved.    


Russian Orthodox Patriarch’s Words Reflect Growing Role of Islam in Moscow’s Thinking Since Start of Putin’s War in Ukraine, Melnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – Patriarch Kirill’s positive comments about “the pious Islamic population” of Russia in recent days reflect the increasing role of Islam in Kremlin thinking during the course of “special military operation” in Ukraine over the last three months, Andrey Melnikov says.

            While the war between Russia and Ukraine has not yet taken on the form of the kind of clash of civilizations Samuel Huntington described, the editor of NG-Religii says, it is increasingly the case that Moscow is sensitive to the role of Muslims in the Russian Federation in it (ng.ru/ng_religii/2022-05-17/11_529_muslims.html).

            Like Christians and Jews, the Muslim community inside the Russian Federation is divided on the war, with some supporting Putin’s invasion and others very much opposed and even going to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces. But Muslims are in a very different position than are Orthodox Christians, Melnikov suggests.

            Because Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians as are the Russians, this conflict is one between two Orthodox peoples. As far as Islam is concerned, however, there are far more Muslims in Russia than in Ukraine, many of whom are now serving in Russian military units there, and Muslim countries have been more supportive of Moscow than has the Christian West.

            Consequently, both the Kremlin from the first days of the way and now the leadership of the ROC MP have spoken out far more warmly about the Muslims of the Russian Federation. On the one hand, this may be simply a tactical maneuver; but on the other, it may presage a new balance between Orthodoxy and Islam in Russia.

            At the very least, some Muslim leaders in the Russian Federation are likely to test the waters to see how far the pendulum has swung, hopeful that they can now translate their support for Putin’s war into a better situation for themselves in the future.

Moscow’s ‘Integration’ of Muslims of DNR and LNR into Russian Umma Raises Broader Questions

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 -- Although the number of Muslims in the Donets Peoples Republic and Luhansk Peoples Republic is small, the Russian authorities want to integrate them into the Russian umma in order to prevent Ukraine’s Muslim leaders from exercising any influence over them.

            But Moscow’s efforts to do so which began in 2014 face serious problems that raise larger questions not only about the future of Islam in Russian-occupied portions of Ukraine but also about the organizational structure of official, that is, state-recognized, Islamic structures in the Russian Federation itself.

            In NG-Religii, Rais Suleymanov, a specialist on Islam who has offended many Muslims by his attacks on Islamic leaders, says that the decision to integrate the Muslims of the Donbass into the Russian umma raises two serious questions to which at present there are no certain answers (ng.ru/ng_religii/2022-05-17/9_529_muslims.html).

            On the one hand, there is no single Muslim hierarchy in the Russian Federation but a plethora of Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSDs), one must ask just what the Muslims of the Donbass are being integrated into. Up to now, Moscow has sought to avoid facing this issue by having the Muslims of the two work with different centralized MSDs in the Russian capital.

            But that is only a temporary expedient, the specialist on Islam suggests, an indication that perhaps Putin’s war in Ukraine will precipitate changes within the structures of Islam in the Russian Federation and lead to the creation of a single supreme MSD to which all other Muslim organizations in that country would be subordinate.

            And on the other, as Suleymanov notes, “the legislation of the Russian Federation does not allow Russian religious organizations to legally include within themselves structures of other countries but does not prohibit talk about canonical unity with them.” That is the loophole that the ROC MP uses to control Orthodox in many post-Soviet countries.

            If the DNR and LNR are themselves annexed by the Russian Federation as Moscow has illegally annexed Crimea, their Muslims would be integrated into centralized MSDs in Moscow much as other MSDs across Russia are. But if they remain “independent” albeit unrecognized states, they present yet another challenge.

            Suleymanov traces the truly Byzantine changes that have affected the organizations of these communities over the last eight years. But it is his comments about the larger issues that are the more important, especially because the number of Muslims and mosques in these two predominantly Slavic areas is small, amounting to no more than a few dozen.

            But the Russian specialist does point to one aspect of the situation that may cause even more trouble: Ukraine’s Muslims like Ukraine itself has a tradition in which elections matter as Islam requires and in which there is a regular rotation of cadres at the top, a very different pattern than is the case in Russia where Muslim leaders like political ones tend to serve for life.

For a Better Future, Russians Must Reflect on What Kind of Past They Need, Kolesnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 15 – In recent years, many Russians have spent an increasing amount of energy and time discussing what kind of a future their country needs to have; but while doing so, Andrey Kolesnikov argues, they have spent far too little asking the fundamental question: to get to whatever future they want, what kind of a past will that future Russia need?

            The New Times columnist says that Russia has not been lucky about its future up to now because it has repeatedly had “bad luck” with its past. That problem arises because its rulers have used their power to create a past that justifies what they are doing and precludes development, rights and freedoms of Russians (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/212563).

            “The image of the future begins with the image of the past,” Kolesnikov continues. “If the heroes of the country are all military leaders and top politicians, Stalin and Beria, and informers and loyalists, that past forms the future of Russia, one that is very close to the Putinism of today.”

            But “if the heroes of the country are those who came out into Pushkin Square in 1965 and Red Square in 1968, then such a country has a completely different future.”

            Fundamental change in Russia will be possible only after Putin, he continues, as the history of Russia remains “highly personified” with leaders defining their eras. And there are reasons for hope. While Putin’s successors could be worse, Russian history suggests that the new leaders will compete with one another to liberalize things.

            Those who believe things will get worse argue that liberals have no option but to “cling to Putin” because democracy would bring to power the ultra-nationalists. But there are compelling reasons to think that democracy will have just the opposite effect and lead to liberalization not more repression.

            And reflecting on that means recognizing that many choices Russia made earlier were wrong, that the country would have been far better off under Yevgeny Primakov than under Putin. Not because the former was a brilliant manager but because under him, Russia wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine.

Putin isn’t ‘Copying the Nazis’ as Some in the West Say; He is a Nazi, Skobov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 15 – Some in the West are now beginning to say that Putin and his entourage are “’copying the Nazis,’” Aleksandr Skobov says; but in fact, given what they are saying and doing in Ukraine, it is far more appropriate to day that they “are not ‘copying the Nazis’ but that ‘they are Nazis.’”

            Indeed, he says, “the threat to humanity from Putin is no less than that from Hitler.” And just as no compromise was possible with Hitler, so too no compromise is possible with Putin. He and his regime must be “liquidated, an international court convened, and the de-Putinization, de-militarization, de-nuclearization, and de-verticalization of Russia must take place.”

            After the advance of democracy in 1989-1991, Skobov continues, “no one expected that a comprador kleptocratic and peripheral country with two percent of the world’s GDP would challenge the entire international order and aspire to world rule,” especially when the elite of that country had become so rich (graniru.org/opinion/skobov/m.285163.html).

            “Why should they try to burn down this home?” The answer lies in the fundamental nature of Putin and the people around him, about what they believe and hope for, and in particular about what they hate: liberal democracy, freedom, equality, the supremacy of law, and humanism.

            For them now just like the Nazis earlier, “the world is a place of eternal struggle for domination. Force decides everything. Those who have power decide everything. This natural law of the right of the strong cannot be limited by the weak. The fate of the latter is to subordinate themselves to the rulers established by the strong.”

            “This still was not an ideology,” Skobov says. “This was the worldview of the Russian ruling class which considered itself the caste of the elect” and who were ready to use force to achieve their goals. They went looking for a theoretical justification of this and found one ready-made in fascist ideology.

            Having violated with little cost to themselves the fundamental rights of liberal civilization within their own country, they decided on that basis to attack liberal civilization because they viewed it as “their own existential enemy.” And as they did so, they picked up and applied ever more provisions of Nazi thinking.

            They built their system into one based on “an ultra-conservative thought with its notion of their exclusiveness, supremacy and messianism of the Russian people which in their view was distinguished by its unique spirituality from the individualistic, consumerist, and pragmatic West.”

            According to Skobov, Putin has not simply violated the Potsdam system of prohibiting aggression and annexation but has attacked “all its principles: the supremacy of law, the equality of peoples, and collective responsibility for maintaining rules common for all.”  It is thus “no accident” that he has unleashed a war abroad as he has moved to totalitarianism at home.

            In all these ways, the Moscow commentator says, “Putin is acting exactly as Putin did in the 1930s. He shakes up the world order by creating a series of precedents for the brutal violation of both international law. He even draws on Hitler’s propaganda themes such as the notion of “a divided people.”

            But his convergence with Nazism is clearest of all in his statements about Ukraine, Skobov argues. There he and his acolytes have spoken about the need to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainians because they are opposed to Russia and thus are “an anti-people” which must be liquidated.

            In Putin’s understanding as in Hitler’s, “force and cruelty in fascism are not just instruments for the achievement of some specific goals. They are goals in and of themselves.” That reality is one that the West is only beginning to understand. It took the West a long time to take Hitler’s measure; one can only hope it won’t take as long to recognize the threat Putin is.


Monday, May 30, 2022

Ingush Council of Teips Invokes Ukrainian Crisis to Demand Release of Ingush Seven and Other Political Prisoners

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 15 – The Ingush Council of Teips says that because of the different foreign policy and economic situation in which Russia now finds itself because of the war in Ukraine, republic officials must free the Ingush Seven and other political prisoners to assure “the unity of the Ingush people” within “the big family of the Russian Federation.”

            The largest and most authoritative public organization in Ingushetia points out in a YouTube release that the Ingush political prisoners have been incarcerated since 2019 and that their continuing detention doesn’t “strengthen the unity of the Ingush people” or their ties with Russia (fortanga.org/2022/05/sovet-tejpov-prosit-osvobodit-ingushskih-politzaklyuchyonnyh/).

            Were the Ingush political prisoners to be released, the Council continues, the authority of the powers in Ingushetia would “rise” in the minds of the Ingush people and they would be better able to contribute to overcoming the difficult situation that the Russian Federation now finds itself in.

            Reports from the prison facilities where the Ingush Seven are being kept suggest that at least some of them who are now serving sentences of 7.5 to 9 years are losing all hopes that they will be released by an appellate court, especially now that Moscow no longer recognizes the decisions of the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.

            What is especially striking about the Council’s appeal is that it picks up on Kremlin arguments for all-Russian unity in a way that works against the repressive policies of the Putin regime, a reflection of the commitment to legality and cleverness that the Ingush demonstrators have always shown.

1920-21 Famine in Middle Volga had Human Costs and Ethnic Consequences Resembling Those of Holodomor in Ukraine and Asharshilyk in Kazakhstan, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 15 – Because the famine in the Middle Volga took place at the end of the Russian Civil War rather than a decade later and had fewer victims, because it occurred in places not now independent countries, and because it had many precedents, that horrific event has not attracted the same attention even though it had similar human costs and ethnic consequences.

            But it deserves attention, Prague-based commentator Vadim Sidorov says, not only as a tragedy in its own right but as a model of Bolshevik behavior that Stalin followed with terrible fidelity later in Kazakhstan and Ukraine (trtrussian.com/mnenie/povolzhskij-golodomor-i-nacionalnaya-politika-pamyati-8862994).

            Like its successors, the Middle Volga famine had natural courses which the Soviets made worse and exploited to achieve their policy goals of breaking the resistance of the peasantry and shifting the ethnic balance in all of these regions away from the non-Russians and to ethnic Russian dominance.

            That story is well-known in the case of Kazakhstan and Ukraine. But it is only beginning to be told as far as the Middle Volga is concerned. (For some contributions to that effort, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/12/tatars-must-remember-1921-1922-famine.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/03/intertwining-of-good-and-evil-in-soviet.html.)

            The Soviet government came to appreciate how it could exploit a famine for political gain when it comes to changing the ethnic composition of the republic involved. In 1920, Bashkirs in autonomous districts outside of Bashkortostan staged what came to be called the Pitchfork Rebellion.

            The peasants involved demanded that they be treated the way Bashkir peasants were in Bashkortostan rather than as some second-class citizens. Moscow jumped on this, deploying massive force to suppress the rebellion and then accused Bashkortostan of organizing the rising and used such unfounded accusations to begin the destruction of Bashkir autonomy generally.

            The famine and Soviet exploitation of it cost the Bashkirs more than a million lives, reducing their numbers inside the USSR from approximately 1.7 million in 1917 to roughly 800,000 nine years later, setting the stage for the repressions Bashkirs have suffered more or less continuously since then.  

            Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his writings about the 1920s and 1930s chronicled this disaster and declared that “the tragedy of the Bashkir people from war, repression and hunger” represents “one of the greatest ethno-demographic catastrophes in world history.”