Thursday, June 30, 2022

HSE Scholars Propose Developing Tourist Clusters in Russian North

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 10 – Some 50 years ago, America’s Time magazine carried an article on how Soviet Moscow could merchandize itself. Among the slogans it proposed were “Brush your teeth while we wash your brain” and “Visit Moscow during execution season.” The latter springs to mind on reading the latest story to surface on the Russian Internet.

            A group of scholars at St. Petersburg’s School of Economics and Management which is part of the HSE in the northern capital has proposed boosting Russian tourism in the Far North, site of numerous GULAG camps and Soviet military institutions in the past, by developing tourist clusters (

            Much of this enormous region should be a natural tourist attraction, the specialists on tourism at the institute say. Much of it is unspoiled because the territory was out of bounds for all but the Soviet military and Soviet penal institutions, including GULAG camps. Such places should be developed in ways that will allow Russians from the outside to visit.  

            The chief obstacle to this, the scholars continue, is that the Russian government has shown no interest in developing this region in that way. And without massive government support, tourism in the Far North will remain a pipedream even though everyone can see that the development of tourist sites in Scandinavia has been a boon for those countries.

If You Visit Russia Wearing a Gay Flag Lapel Pin or Button, You May Soon be Subject to 15 Days under Arrest

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 10 – Russian government repression of those who support gay rights is cast in terms of the defense of children from what Moscow calls “gay propaganda.” But a new measure before the Duma drops that limitation and imposes draconian new penalties for any advocacy of homosexual rights.

            Fines for individuals, organizations or media outlets all would go up dramatically if the new measure is passed. But perhaps the most disturbing innovation is one that would subject any foreigner charged with promoting gay rights not only large fines but a stay of 15 days behind bars (

            It is uncertain whether this bill will become law and how if it does the Kremlin will choose to enforce it. But the establishment of such special penalties for foreigners on this issue is likely to open the way for the setting of similar additional punishments for them in the case of other misdeeds from the Kremlin’s point of view.

            And that will simultaneously deepen the divide between Russia and the West, something that Putin and company may want, while infuriating people in the West and especially influential entertainers and others who might still visit Russia in the future, an outcome that the Kremlin may not care that much about but certainly would prefer to live without.

Fear of Losing Power of Gas Weapon Prompted in Future Prompted Putin to Invade Ukraine This Year, Levinson Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 10 – Many people have questioned why Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine this year, with many suggesting that his advancing age led him to decide that he needed to do something dramatic to cement his place in Russian history. That may have been a factor, but it certainly wasn’t the most important one, Aleksey Levinson says.

            Instead, the Levada Center sociologist says, the Kremlin leader became convinced that the West’s turn toward green energy in response to climate change would eliminate the power Russia’s oil and gas exports gave  him over European and other countries and that he needed to take geopolitical action (

            Putin felt, Levinson continues, that any drive to achieve geopolitical hegemony was a now or never situation. Europe was only beginning its move toward green energy, and the US, lagging behind in this, has in his opinion a weak leader who will not be able to make significant changes in economic arrangements.

            According to the sociologist, “the green transition over the course of one to three decades threatens Russia with the loss of the placed it has occupied in the world. And it threatens the present rulers and their successors because of the loss of their oil and gas revenues of their ability to rule the country.”

            Given that prospect and also that Ukraine may succeed in integrating into Europe, Putin and those around him attacked Ukraine as the only means available of defending Russia’s position in the world and their own position in Russia, two things that for the moment at least Russians as a nation support as well.

Putin’s War in Ukraine May Spark Variety of Epidemics, Epidemiologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 10 – Cholera outbreaks in Ukrainian cities whose infrastructure has been destroyed by Russian forces has already attracted attention, but Natalya Vinograd, a Lviv epidemiologist warns that there are risks of tetanus and typhoid epidemics there as well for the same reason.

            She also warns that there may be a spread of “exotic infections” that the Russian troops and especially those recruited from Buryatia or other distant locations may have carried with them when they invaded her country (

            Cholera is a particular threat, Vinograd says, because in its early stages, the disease seldom sends people for medical treatment. When they finally go, it may be too late to save them; and as a result, the mortality rate from the disease is extremely high – 17 to 30 percent -- far higher than it needs to be.

            She says that cholera is extremely likely to spread from Mariupol where it was first seen to other Ukrainian cities whose water and sewage infrastructure has been heavily damaged or where foods have become contaminated. To combat this, doctors need to identify origins; but often the first people infected are now in Russian-controlled areas where nothing is being done.

            According to Vinograd, there is also a great risk of other kinds of infections becoming epidemic in proportion because so many Ukrainians are now moving from place to place as a result of the fighting. They carry the bacteria with them and thus represent a threat to others even as they try to save themselves.

Long-Term Costs of Putin’s War in Ukraine Hitting Russians Beyond the Ring Road Harder than Those in Bit Cities, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 10 – The growing costs of Putin’s war in Ukraine are hitting two groups of Russians, the people in big cities who were either employed by foreign companies or who benefited from outside investment and the much larger group of impoverished Russians outside the megalopolises, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.

            Because the former have savings, more opportunities to find alternative sources of income, and even the ability and willingness to leave the country, they are in a far better position to weather the economic hardships that the war has imposed than are those elsewhere in Russia, the economist says (

            The latter have far fewer or even no savings, cannot count on being able to find new employment if they are laid off, and are less able or interested in leaving the country to live and work abroad; and because they are Putin’s base, the government has done more to cushion their situation with subsidies and adjustments to pensions.

            So far, Inozemtev continues, the government has been able to prevent these economic hardships from triggering protests in the regions against the war; but there are two reasons to think that this ability may be limited. On the one hand, unemployment outside of the megalopolises is far more likely to go up than in earlier crises.

            And on the other, both groups are likely to be hit by social fatigue the longer the war goes one with those beyond the ring road far more likely to display this sooner because they lack the resources to defend against it. Belt tightening in the regions may be all right if it is brief but not when people recognize that the decline is likely to be permanent.

            Because that is so, the potential for social explosions in reaction to the costs of the war is likely to be far greater in the smaller cities and rural areas than in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Inozemtsev argues.

            If the Russian opposition wants to take advantage of this, it “must not only denounce Moscow’s obviously criminal actions in Ukraine,” the commentator says, “but it must also consistently explain the connection between current events and the standstill in Russia’s economic growth.”

            So far, the opposition has not done this; and the Putin regime has been able to get Russians especially outside of the major cities to believe that anyone except the Kremlin and its imperialistic policies is to blame for the problems the Russian people face. If that changes, social explosions beyond the ring road are almost inevitable if the war goes on for long.

Central Asians May Soon Outnumber Ukrainians among Those Taking Russian Citizenship, Changing Face of Russia’s Cities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 10 – In the first quarter of 2022, the number of Tajiks taking Russian citizenship jumped to more than 33,000, while the number of Ukrainians doing so fell significantly. If that trend continues, Aleksandr Shustov says, “Tajiks soon may exceed Ukrainians in taking Russian citizenship.”

            This continues both a trend seen throughout 2021 and has been intensified by changes in immigration law and practice, the Moscow commentator says; and at least for now, it is seen among Tajiks rather than all Central Asian immigrants in Russia (

            But that may change, Shustov suggests; and assuming that does happen, the share of Central Asians among those taking Russian citizenship will only increase, especially as there have been declines in the number of Ukrainians, Belarusians and Moldovans doing so – and the risks for Russia will increase as well.

            Among these risks, he suggests, is the formation of ethnic “enclaves” or ghettos in Russian cities and the sharpening of ethnic tensions between indigenous Russians and Central Asians who are now Russian citizens, leading either to demands for an end to immigration from the culturally more distinct Central Asia or even the expulsion of those already there.

            As a result, Shustov concludes, “the migration situation will again become one of the chief domestic political problems,” a development that may feed into others conflicts particularly if tensions with the West remain in place for the longer term.


Moscow Providing Little Help to Russian Veterans Struggling with PTSD

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 10 – When Soviet soldiers returned from Afghanistan and Chechnya, many of them found it almost impossible to cope with the return to civilian life and some of them became part of the criminal world because that was the only place where they could fit in and even survive.

            Now, Russian soldiers returning from Moscow’s military conflicts abroad, most recently in Ukraine, are suffering from what Russians have learned to call post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or “the Vietnam syndrome,” and the authorities are taking some steps to try to limit the damage they may do on their return.

            But according to experts with whom Daily Storm journalist Yevgeniya Chernyavskaya spoke, these efforts have been largely ineffective because they are not comprehensive and because of the stigma appealing for psychiatric help has (

            Still worse, and apparently as part of Putin’s “healthcare optimization program,” the amount of aid going to veterans with PTSD has fallen over the last three years by nearly a fifth in ruble terms, from 245 million rubles in 2019 to 208 million in 2022 (3.5 million US dollars to 3 million US dollars), a drop in the bucket compared to the need.

            Moreover, most of even this limited amount of money is going to veterans of the Afghan and Chechen wars who are better organized and have greater influence in the defense ministry. That means that Russian veterans returning from Putin’s war in Ukraine are getting less help and are likely to have more problems themselves and create more problems for Russian society.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Lecture Format of Instruction and Teaching for the Test Reducing Russian Pupils to Conformist Automatons, Konnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 9 – A great deal of attention is being directed to the way in which Russian education is being cut off from the international system – see for example the discussion at – but a far more important problem is one that fewer are paying attention to, Grigory Konnikov says.

            And that is this, the young graduate student says. Russian education even more than its counterparts abroad depends almost exclusively on lectures rather than discussions and on teaching for the test, both of which have the effect of preparing children to be conformist automatons (

            Russian schools and universities operate on the principle that “the teacher says and the students repeat,” an arrangement that may suit the powers that be by encouraging not only conformity but also obedience but one that over time will lead to the degradation of the population and of the country as a whole, he argues.

            “The only way out of such an intellectually and consequently socially and politically negative situation,” Konnikov continues, is to shift “the emphasis in education from questions like ‘who’ and ‘what’ to ones like ‘how’ and ‘why’ and to do so through discussion rather than lectures and through essays rather than multiple choice tests.

            If Russia makes this change, then the younger generation will gain “a new set of tools for interacting with reality,” not only the reality of the past but of the present, he says. And then young people will be able “to ‘rebel constructively,’” create their own agendas and not be locked into the world of their parents or grandparents. 

Moscow Now Compiling Not Just List of Indigenous Nationalities but One of All Their Members

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 9 – The Russian government has long had a list of what it calls the numerically small indigenous peoples of the North and Far East, but now it has taken the next step and is seeking to compile a list of the members of these nationalities to determine who can get the benefits these groups have already been extended.

            The numerically small indigenous peoples – often slightingly and thus incorrectly called “the small peoples of the North” – have had their rights to traditional forms of economic and social activity acknowledged by the state. Not surprisingly, some people who are not members want to be and have even gone to court to achieve recognition. (On such strugges, see  

            Now, the Russian government has decided to “solve” this problem by coming up with a list of all the members of all the numerically small indigenous peoples, a process that is extremely challenging and already is running into difficulties ( and

            According to the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, there are some 47 numerically small peoples in the Russian Federation who collectively number slightly more than 300,000 people. Of these, it says, some 70,000 have applied for identification as members; and “almost 25,000” have been granted it.

            Those figures suggest both that many of the genuine members of these communities are so alienated from the government and its approach that they are not going to apply or perhaps may be being dissuaded from doing so and that the official registration process itself is going anything but quickly and easily.

            This reification of nationality among the numerically small peoples is being justified as required because of the privileges members of these groups get, but the process of forming lists of the membership may have an impact on other, larger nations within the current borders of the Russian Federation.

            That is because if such enumerations are conducted, Moscow may use the failure of many to take part in them to reidentify those who don’t seek such official recognition as an indication that these people need not be classified as members of non-Russian nations at all but instead can be counted as non-ethnic Russians or even ethnic Russians.  

Ideas about Russian World and Need to ‘De-Nazify’ Ukraine have Their Origins in Methodological Movement, Pertsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – The ideas, now being pushed by the Putin regime, that there is a Russian world which must be defended and extended and that Ukraine must be “de-Nazified” or even destroyed have their origins, Meduza commentator Andrey Pertsev says, in the work of Georgy Shchedrovitsky and his followers, known as the methodological movement.

            Shchedrovitsky, a philosopher, attracted followers as one of the first political coaches and political technologists in the Soviet Union’ and then in the 1990s, his followers promoted the idea of “a Russian world,” one then at the margins of the Russian political pantheon but now at the center (

            In a 7500-word article, Pertsev traces the origins of Shchedrovitsky’s ideas and his movement back to the final days of Stalin’s rule and then how it acquired influence first in intellectual circles and then political ones during perestroika and even more after the demise of the USSR.

            For most of this period, Shchedrovitsky and his circle attracted little attention and were assumed to be one of many marginal groupings which existed in the late Soviet Union and early Russian Federation and which consequently attracted relatively little attention from analysts and commentators.

            Pertsev’s study shows why that was wrong, and while the details on this he provides are fascinating, what is most important is his conclusion that the idea of a Russian world did not come out of nowhere but had broad support in the country’s intellectual and political classes and that when Putin began pushing the idea a decade ago, there was a ready-made market for it.


Ukrainians have Changed More Since Russian Invasion Began Three Months Ago than They Had over Previous 30 Years, Golovakha Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – Ukrainians have changed more since Putin launched his invasion in February than they had in the previous 30 years, a development that has transformed their society but is one that Russians as yet have failed to recognize, according to Yevgeny Golovakha, the director of the Kyiv Institute of Sociology at the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences.

            In his words, “what Ukraine was not able to do in the course of the 30 years of its independent existence, the war has done.” It has changed the attitude of Ukrainians to their state, their society and their future (

            Golovakha draws his conclusions by comparing the results of two polls his institute conducted, the first in November 2021 before the war and the second in the middle of May 2022 after the war had been going on almost two months.

            In the first, 53 percent said that the standard of living in Ukraine was on the whole bad, but in the second, 62 percent said that it was satisfactory or even good, an increase in the positive despite all that they have suffered and a sign that Ukrainians today feel they have something to lose and thus something worth defending.

            Similarly, before the war, 53 percent said Ukrainian life was characterized more by failures than by successes while in the second they were far more positive, with more than 60 percent saying that the successes equaled or exceeded the failures, the most positive evaluation ever.

            And as far as the future of Ukraine is concerned, only 13 percent in November they were confident that the future would be better, while now 76 percent of Ukrainians say that things will improve. This is “decisive,” Golovakha says. It means that Ukrainians see their country not only as viable but valuable, and this feeling is shared now by people in all parts of the country.

            What this means, he continues, is that “Ukraine will be able to resist for a long time and serve as a model for the West of how one must struggle for one’s own country and one’s own values.” And powering that too is the fact that now “more than 90 percent” of Ukrainians have a more negative attitude toward Russians than they did earlier.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Muslim Prayer Rooms Open Along Russian Highways in Middle Volga

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – In seven federal subjects in the Middle Volga, prayer rooms are being opened for Muslims who are travelling along major Russian highways there, the result of a joint project by the muftiate of Tatarstan, local mosques and one of the gas station chains, Interfax has announced.

            The 15 square meter prefabricated buildings feature all that is required for Muslims to engage in prayer five times a day. Their location has been chosen on the basis of projected demand ( and

            What makes this development worthy of note is that some of the prayer rooms are going to be opened not in historically Muslim areas but elsewhere, something that is likely to spark dissent among followers of other faiths and especially the Russian Orthodox Church which is likely to view this as a form of missionary activity and poaching on its canonical territory.

            Controversy and even possibly the destruction of one or more of these facilities are thus very real possibilities. But the fact that the project has gone as far as this suggests that the Russian government at least in principle is prepared to acknowledge in this way that the Muslim “space” in Russia is expanding and that opposing that is certain to be counterproductive. 

‘Regardless of Its Political System, Russia is and Will Always Be an Empire’ and So Must be Destroyed, Babchenko Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – Russia’s tragedy is that “regardless of the political system, it has always been, is now, and always will be an empire” in large measure because even those who believe they are liberals are imperialists to the core, Arkady Babchenko says. And there is no way out unless everyone, including liberals, admits it is an empire and must be destroyed.

             Putin’s war in Ukraine provides another object lesson of this fact, the Russian commentator now in emigration says, and recognizing this reality is precisely “where our healing must begin” (

            Russians of all political persuasions, he continues, must finally wake up to the fact that “’all our native lands’ are in fact lands seized from other peoples and soaked in their blood.” And because that is so, “the Empire must cease to exist and the peoples conquered by our ancestors must get freedom.”

             Russian liberals must recognize that this the case and overcome their own imperialistic impulses, Babchenko says; and they must thus work for the defeat and disintegration of the Russian Empire. Anything short of that will be insufficient to allow Russians to live in freedom and at peace with their neighbors.

Another Alcoholic Boris – Johnson Not Yeltsin -- Ready to Make Putin his Successor, Russians Joke

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – According to a story circulating in Moscow, “the alcoholic Boris, the head of the entire state, plans to tell his fellow citizens: ‘I am tired, I will leave, I have done all I could. Now the prime minister of Great Britain will be V.V. Putin” (

            Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova says that a second Russian anecdote now making the rounds says that Russia’s ambassador to Great Britain has assured people there than Moscow will now launch missiles at them as long as he, the ambassador, is in residence. What he doesn’t say, Russians add, is that he is about to go on vacation somewhere else.

            Among the other Russian political jokes and anecdotes the journalist offers are the following:

·       Moscow is closing down Russian lead smelters because it can’t sell the lead it has produced. Of course, it could continue to produce and export lead by contaminating the atmosphere but there is a problem: the lead put into the air could blow back into Russia.

 ·       Those who support the Kremlin and say we just have to tighten our belts apparently hope to endure the current situation so that they can die quietly in poverty.

 ·       One Russian liberal meets another at a theater and says he is waiting for the latter to denounce Putin’s war. The latter replies “keep waiting.”

 ·       More evidence of popular support for the war effort: two employees at a helicopter manufacturing plant have been charged for stealing generators needed to allow those planes to fly.

 ·       The leader of Fair Russia-For the Truth did everything he could to prevent anyone from finding out that his car had hit a pedestrian. In this, he showed himself to be a typical Putin patriot, something who fights for his own well-being above all.

 ·       China has shown itself to be a true friend of Russia. Like Western countries, it has closed its shops in Russia; but unlike them, it has blamed technical problems and done so without any fuss.

Moscow Says Armenia Must Retain Sovereignty over Zengezur and Azerbaijan Over Lachin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – In Moscow’s latest move on the Qarabagh dispute, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Armenia must retain sovereignty over what many call the Nakhichevan corridor through Zengezur and that Azerbaijan must maintain sovereignty over what has long been called the Lachin corridor between Armenia and what was Artsakh.

            On the one hand, this reflects a Moscow tilt toward Yerevan as Armenia has objected to any talk of an Azerbaijani corridor through Zengezur; but on the other, it gives Baku something it has long wanted, clear support for Azerbaijani sovereignty over the Lachin corridor, something it can use to control the movement of people and goods between Armenia and Stepanakert

            Lavrov’s words may allow Yerevan and Baku to make progress on delimiting the state border between them because they would appear to suggest that Moscow doesn’t want the area around Lachin to be the stumbling block to such an effort. Many observers had suggested that the two Caucasian countries will have little difficulty in drawing the border except near Lachin.

            That is because drawing the border there would mean an acknowledgement by Armenia that the corridor is within Azerbaijan rather than a lifeline to what Yerevan hopes will be to a revived Armenian community or even political entity in and around Stepanakert protected by Russian “peacekeepers.”

            Now, Moscow has come down on Azerbaijan’s side on this issue, something that will undercut European efforts to keep open the question of the final status of Qarabagh. But at the same time, Moscow has sweetened the deal for Armenia by taking a harder line on Zengezur/Syunik and insisting that there be no talk of an Azerbaijani-controlled corridor there.

            Moscow clearly expects that the only way to make these twin positions work is for the Russian troops and border guards in both places to remain in place and that if that occurs, it will be Russia rather than the European Union that will be in a position to resolve or at least continue to exploit the Qarabagh conflict in the future (

North Caucasus Likely to End Up in One Empire or Another, Prominent Avar Writer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – The North Caucasus is located in an extremely bad neighborhood and so is unlikely to be able to make its own way, Alisa Ganiyeva says. Instead, it is likely to end up in one empire or another, Russian or Turkish being the most likely but Arabization and Islamization also among its possible futures. Indeed, it could become an imamate.

            The Avar novelist who has attracted great attention within Russia and abroad for her novels about Daghestan, her biography of Lili Brik, and her articles and reviews in Russian and international newspapers and journals, says that unfortunately these outcomes are likely as well because of the current state of culture in the region.

            Not only are the non-Russian nations and languages under threat, she suggests, but what is emerging in the culture of many of them is an unfortunate and even self-destructive mix of Islam and a tendency to show off rather than be thoughtful (

            “If the Moscow tsar doesn’t strangle the region” as a result, Ganiyeva says, “the Turkish ruler will come. If he doesn’t arrive, then Arabization will begin. To survive, [people in the region] need a strong national identity, but it is not there. Instead,” she continues, what is on offer is “a mixture of Islam and people showing off.”

Patriarch Kirill ‘Exiles’ Second Potential Successor as Head of Russian Church

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – When Patriarch Kirill exiled Metropolitan Tikhon, long viewed as Putin’s favorite churchman, to Pskov four years ago, most observers concluded that the head of the church was protecting himself against a possible challenge or even replacement. Now that Kirill has exiled Metropolitan Ilarion to Budapest, many are drawing the same conclusion.

            Their reasoning would seem to be justified. After all, Ilarion has been the patriarchate’s “foreign minister” the traditional stepping stone for those who become patriarch; and Kirill is known to have been furious at him for his failures to block Ukrainian autocephaly or the declaration of independence by the Moscow church.

            The new man in that position, Metropolitan Antony, is Kirill’s former secretary and a loyalist much too young to represent a credible challenger to the current patriarch anytime soon. Indeed, some are saying that Kirill doesn’t want to have anyone around who might be his successor.

            But what has just taken place almost certainly reflects at least three other calculations on Kirill’s part. First, he may be trying to deflect blame from himself for the church’s failures in Ukraine by making him the fall guy.  Second, Kirill may want Antony’s skills in running Orthodox churches abroad to occupy his time rather than formulating broader policies.

            And third, and most important for those who dissent from the general view about what has happened, Kirill has “exiled” Ilarion to a church post in a place, Hungary, which has both political and personal importance for the current patriarch and therefore it may not be the complete demotion most see.

            On the one hand, the Hungarian government has been the least willing to commit to sanctions against Kirill personally or Russia more generally; and therefore, Kirill may view having Ilarion there as a way to make himself useful to the Kremlin (and himself) by encouraging Budapest to maintain its sympathetic approach to Moscow.

            And on the other, Kirill is said to have enormous cash holdings in the West; and having Ilarion in Budapest may mean that the supposed exile will in fact work to supervise them for the current patriarch during a period of Western sanctions when it is harder for the Moscow churchman to do that from Moscow.

            If these arguments are correct, Illarionov’s dispatch to Budapest may be far less the exile and end of his church career than many are now saying but instead only a detour on his road to the top of the church. Given Kirill’s typically careful handling of personnel matters at the top of the Patriarchate, that is at least a  possibility that shouldn’t be ignored.

            On this back and forth in the analysis of Kirill’s latest personnel moves, see,, ,, and

Monday, June 27, 2022

For First Time, Putin says His Goal in Ukraine is 'Recovering' Russian Territory

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – When Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, he said that its goals were to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Later when Russian-controlled areas sought to hold referenda on joining the Russian Federation, his spokesman indicated that that was their choice rather than Moscow policy.

            But now, for the first time, the Kremlin leader has made clear by comparing today’s events with those in the era of Peter I what many have long suspected: Russia’s goal in Ukraine now is “’the return’ of territories,” that is, imperial expansion of the borders of the Russian Federation (

            Kremlin propaganda is unlikely to change course and admit to this fact. But Putin’s words provide insight into his thinking in which he compares himself to tsars of several hundred years ago and sees the expansion of land under the control of the central government as the measure of Russian victory.

            Not insignificantly, Putin’s comments now reflect the views expressed in April by Sergey Naryshkin, someone widely identified as the leader of the war party in the Russian government, when the SVR head used language almost identical to that which the Kremlin leader is now using (

Russia has Too Many Bureaucrats, Revolutionaries and Passive Observers but No Real Politicians, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – In Russia today, there are no real politicians, only bureaucrats, revolutionaries and passive observers, Vladimir Pastukhov says. And if today’s revolutionaries come to power, they will not by themselves create a space for politics here: they will only recreate the current situation.

            The transformation will be more apparent than real, the creation of an Alice in Wonderland-type world in which everything is turned on its head: that which was bad will be declared good and conversely, the London-based Russian analyst argues (

            But if the revolutionaries on hand cannot create a space for politics, if a revolution as they imagine it won’t work, what will? Pastukhov asks rhetorically. The answer is obvious: What is needed is not “a routine change of power with the replacement of bad leaders by good” but rather “’a big bang’ which will form not simply a new state but a new civilization.”

            “Such an historical explosion practically is never the result of the realization of a rational plan in which people act guided by their economic or political interests,” he continues. “It always is the result of the victory of a movement, altruistic in its nature which is grouped around particular ideas.”

            According to Pastukhov, “a real revolution which changes not the powers that be but the course of history, however strange this may seem, is always irrational” and involves the efforts of people “’not from this world’ who need not power and even more not money but the realization of a certain idea in which they have almost a religious faith.”

            There were too few such people in Russia in the 1990s, and that is “one of the main reasons which condemned the post-communist experiment there to failure.” The intelligentsia sold out any altruism for privatization. And that means this: “the deaths of Men and Sakharov mean much more than we are accustomed to think.”

            Talk about altruism may seem absurd and impossible to Russians as their country enters its third decade of Putinism; but the fact that such altruistic revolutions haven’t happened at any particular time and place does not mean, Pastukhov argues, that revolutions driven not by a desire for power and money can’t happen in principle.

            Indeed, the London-based Russian analyst says, Russia is “ripening for such an historically turn” given that it has passed “through all the circles of hell.”  “I’m not saying this will happen tomorrow or even in ten years, but when it does, those who want to build such a society and policy must have prepared the building blocks.

            And they must do so, Pastukhov concludes, even if it is entirely possible that they will not live to see the edifice they want to build fully constructed.

Yandex Maps Makes Russia’s Borders with Ukraine and Other Countries Disappear

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – Vladimir Putin’s contempt for the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine is obvious, but there is one place where that border and others around Russia have already disappeared completely: Yandex Maps which has announced that its maps won’t be showing political borders anymore.

            Instead, the Russian news agency says, it will be highlighting cities, transportation links like roads and railways, and the location of natural resources. The borders Russian and before that Soviet maps invariably highlighted will no longer be displayed ( and

            This represents a change of major dimensions and clearly sends a message about how Moscow now views the state border that were established in 1991. It tells Russians that as far as their country is concerned, political borders are no longer as important as other kinds, at least with regard to countries bordering the Russian Federation.

            That may seem a small thing to many outside this region, but it is a la in the former Soviet space, where administrative-territorial borders were viewed as fundamental and where atlases showing them were released almost every year and were studied closely by Soviet officials and Soviet citizens.