Sunday, July 31, 2022

Karakalpak and Pamir Events Highlight Strength of Regionalism within Central Asian Countries, Kuzmin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 7 – The recent violence in Karakalpakstan and the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast call attention to the increasing importance of regional self-consciousness in the countries of post-Soviet Central Asia, according to Kazakhstan-based Russian analyst Nikolay Kuzmin.

            Such regional identities, he says, are based on ethnic elements but reflect economic factors involving in the first instance “defense of one’s own and resistance to outsiders” as the “law of survival of such communities which are tied together by tribal and clan links” (

            And these identities are especially likely to emerge and grow stronger where the economies of the region are sufficiently different from the economies of the whole of the countries within which they exist. Such “alternative” economies may be based on illegal drugs or on the redirection of economic development away from the national pattern.

            In such situations, Kuzmin says, the combination of ethnic sensitivities and the needs of those who dominate the local economies come together whenever one or both believe that outsiders are threatening their status or power. That is what has happened in Karakalpakstan and in the Pamirs; and it is something that can happen elsewhere as well.

Alaska was Once Russian but Rus was Once Kievan, Russians Reflect

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 7 – Now that Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has said that Alaska should be returned to Moscow because it was once Russian and signs declaring that it is still “ours” have gone up in Krasnoyarsk, some Russians are reflecting, perhaps bitterly but perhaps not, that if that principle were to be adopted, Rus could again be Kievan.  

            This is just one of the anecdotes in the latest collection assembled by Tatyana Pushkaryova ( which provide key insights into how Russians are coping with what their Moscow leaders are saying and doing. Among the best of the rest are the following:

 ·       Russian leaders are confident they can steal other countries because they have already stolen Russia.

 ·       If the Russian ruble is really as strong as Moscow says it is, where are the long lines in the West of people wanting to buy this miracle currency?

 ·       The Duma has banned protests everywhere except perhaps in the kitchen, but the Putin regime’s thought police are on their way there too.

 ·       In Soviet times, Russians knew to read only the parts of an article beginning with the word “however.” Now, they have learned to ignore all articles claiming that people in other countries are protesting the policies of their governments. Such articles are just as deceptive because they usually are based on one or two people and not the overwhelming majority of the people.

 ·       In a single generation, a car in Russia went from being a luxury to being a necessity to being a luxury again.

 ·       Russians are gloating about the departure of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even though he won’t actually leave office until the fall. Obviously, the British are too primitive to understand that with his departure, Britain won’t exist.

 ·       The organs are getting greedy. In the past, they could be paid off with some of the wealth those they targeted had stolen from the Russian people. Now, they want all of it. The question remains as to where they will get any wealth in the future if they steal everything now.

New Mono-Ethnic Military Units a Threat to Russia, Malashenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 7 – In order to provide enough manpower for its war in Ukraine, Moscow has felt compelled to allow Chechnya and other non-Russian republics to form military units consisting almost exclusively of members of their own nationalities. This may help Russia in the short term, but it constitutes a serious threat over the longer haul, Aleksey Malashenko says.

            Chechnya is the most obvious case, the Moscow political analyst says. Moscow has allowed this innovation because it has been presented as involving units formed on the basis of the country’s territorial divisions rather than on the basis of ethnicity. But Chechnya is 95 percent Chechen and so the forces will be as well (

            If something similar happens in other republics, these units will be ethnic in the first instance; and it is unlikely that they will be disbanded even after the end of the Ukrainian operation. In that event, they will be viewed as the armies of the nations involved and thus a threat to Moscow, even if nominally they are part of the Russian armed forces.

            “What will actually happen in that future is far from clear,” Malashenko says; but the possibilities are worrisome. Already, the formation of such units means that they are giving Kadyrov “the status of a politician at the federal level,” thus changing relations between Moscow and the periphery in ways that are not in Moscow’s favor.

Super-High Male Mortality Reflects Social Conditions More than Access to Medical Care, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 7 – Super-high mortality rates among working-age males now threaten Belarusian society and its economy and make the achievement of improvements in life expectancy far more difficult than would otherwise be the case, according to a detailed new study prepared by the Minsk Institute of Sociology.

            That study provides details on a problem Russia also suffers from but increasingly fails to provide detailed data about ( as discussed at

            Prepared by Aleksey Boldyrev, the new study makes clear that super-high mortality among men is the product less of disease than of lifestyle choices and living conditions. It is twice as high in impoverished rural areas than it is in the cities where three-quarters of Belarusians now live.

            And the rate reflects extraordinarily high numbers of murders, suicides, alcohol consumption and accidental drownings. These account for one in every four deaths among this. Up to now, Boldyrev says, Minsk has focused on improving health care as a means of boosting life expectancy; but these figures show that doing that alone won’t be enough.

            His point is one that applies with even greater force in Russia. There, Putin’s healthcare optimization program has left working-age Russians and all others as well with less access to treatment, while his social and economic policies have contributed to an even more rapid spread of the conditions which are giving rise to super-high mortality in Belarus.    


Moscow Again Using Compulsory Military Service to Keep Sportsmen in Line, Bondarenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 7 –Moscow is again using the threat of military service to keep Russian sports figures in line, historian Sergey Bondarenko says. Those who do what the Kremlin wants can avoid service with impunity; those who don’t are regularly impressed into the army and forced to fight for this or that defense ministry team.

            In two ways, the historian says, the situation is even worse now than it was in Soviet times, including under Stalin. On the one hand, the Kremlin now feels free to do this not openly and legal but by kidnaping sports figures who violate the rules as happened with Ivan Fedotov a week ago (

            And on the other, the Kremlin decides their fate on its own. No other state agency or group of fans is prepared to speak out in their defense, a sharp contrast to Soviet times when powerful bodies like the security police or even sports fans defended their favorites against what the Kremlin wanted, sometimes forcing the center to back down.

            Instead, while the media do report what is happening to the athletes who as in Fedotov’s case are being denied the opportunity to play abroad, neither any of the various portions of the Russian state with interests in their respective sports teams or the fans of these teams are backing their favorites.

            What this shows, Bondarenko suggests, is that the centralization of power in Russia today is not only much tighter but also more mafia-like than it was even under Stalin and that few even of those many see as powerful are prepared to risk the consequences of speaking against its actions even if they oppose them.


Deciding on Flags for Republics No Simple Matter, Karelian Republic Movement Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 7 – As ever more maps of what a post-Russia future will look like appear, many of them are illustrated with flags of the various nations that many expect will gain statehood. But too often, the flags those who compile these maps select on the basis of Google searchers do not reflect the complexities on the ground, the Republic Movement of Karelia says.

            The situation in Karelia represents an extreme form of this problem, the Movement says, with various groups favoring various flags and none yet having universal acceptance. As a result, there is often confusion about which flag should be used and repression by the authorities against any flags they think may support national identities (

            The current official Karelian flag – one consisting of red, blue and green bands – is “a fragment of the flag of the Karelo-Finnish SSR.” It was “’reborn’ in 1993 when as a result of an unpublished order from Moscow all flags of the republics within the Russian Federation were styled on the Russian tricolor.”

            But that didn’t settle the matter. Karelian regionalists have long sought to return to one of two flags that emerged in the 1920s, the Otava (“Big Dipper”) flag consisting of seven gold stars on a field of blue ( or the Scandinavian-style one consisting of a cross of colors.

            After 1945, the Soviets prohibited both; but many Karelians have continued to use one or the other, with the Otava flag becoming that of those who back a Karelian republic and the Scandinavian one favored by those who support the idea of an ethnically Karelian national movement, two very different things.

            Some in Karelia see this division as unfortunate, but the Republic Movement of Karelia says it may be “providential” because both the republicans and the nationalists have their own distinctive flags and thus are not fighting over a common one as is the case in neighboring Ingria (

            Because the Karels form such a small percentage of the population, they can never hope to be the leaders of the movement to achieve independence for the republic. Only the regionalist movement can; and its flag with seven stars is thus useful because the seven can stand for so many different things.

Among them are “seven peoples, seven historical districts, seven unique regional brands and so on,” the Republican Movement of Karelia says. Consequently, choosing the Otava flag rather than any other is a clear sign that the republic movement is not dead but only beginning to take flight.


Putin’s War in Ukraine Politicizing Muslims in Russia, ‘Altyn Miras’ Portal Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 7 – Vladimir Putin has extended his repressive moves against Muslims from those he identifies as radicals to those even he has called moderate traditionalists, the Idel-Ural movement says. Together with his war in Ukraine, this is radicalizing the faithful and leading more Muslims to conclude that only secession can save their community.

            This is recreating a situation like the one that existed in the early 1990s, the Altyn Miras (Golden Inheritance) portal says, one when many Muslims within Russia thought about escaping Moscow’s rule but did not do so (

            At that time, the portal continues, the Russian state was weak; but Muslims missed their chance, many of them deceived by the divide and conquer approach of the Kremlin. More recently, the Russian state has regained strength and become more imperialistic and repressive; but Muslims have changed as well: they recognize the threat they ignored earlier.

            “Today,” Altyn Miras says, “the level of colonial pressure on Muslims of the region has achieved the peak of the last 30 years” and is touching all Muslims and not just those the Russian state has called radicals or extremists. But more important, this has led to a rebirth of the political consciousness of the umma.

            Under various pretexts, it continues, the Russian regime has been “liquidating Muslim organizations and even the parishes of mosques belong to the official clergy, not to mention the total repressions against Islamic organizations which do not belong to the official hierarchies.” Thus, adhering to “traditional Islam” is no longer an adequate defense and protection.

            “The vector of politics in relation to Muslim peoples has changed,” Altyn Miras says. “Earlier, this policy consisted in the division of Muslims into ‘traditional’ and ‘radical’ groups,” with the latter imprisoned but the former allowed to function. But now even the latter is coming under pressure to close.

            Indeed, it appears that Moscow has no intention of stopping until Muslim peoples are completely assimilated and Islam on the territory of what is now the Russian Federation is completely extirpated. But there is some good news: Muslim peoples are now recognizing this threat and doing something about it.

            “We can observe,” the portal says, “among all Muslim peoples occupied by Russia a trend toward the rebirth of religious and political consciousness and the more the Russian colonizers try to extinguish this way, the stronger it is becoming.” Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has accelerated this development, Altyn Miras says.


Saturday, July 30, 2022

Efforts to Unite Chechen Diaspora in Europe Highlight a Fundamental Problem

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 6 – One group in the Chechen diaspora, which enjoys the support of Ukrainian parliamentarians interested in promoting greater freedom for the peoples of Russia, is seeking to hold a congress in Strasbourg to unite all Chechens so that they can speak with a single voice regarding the future of their homeland.

            But the effort has run into the same problems that other efforts to unite diasporas have: the Chechen diaspora is extremely diverse with some of its members supporters of Ichkeria and others of Ramzan Kadyrov; and any unity will either be shaky or allow one group to weaken the other.

            Not surprisingly, some in the diaspora, in particular the leaders of the Ichkeria government in exile, while acknowledging the advantages of a single organization if it reflects their views are worried that any group like the proposed one may work for their opponents and marginalize rather than help them (

            The attractiveness and convenience of having a single group with which to deal is so great especially to outsiders that they may unwittingly promote an arrangement that will benefit their opponents, a danger that has been true in many conflicts and many diaspora communities around the world.

            Indeed, it is worth remembering that at the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, some Western observers pointed out that the only way Moscow could defeat the mujahidin was to get them to organize in a single group, an argument these observers made against those in the US and elsewhere who wanted to promote just that.

            Far better, these expert observers suggested, to suffer the obvious consequences of division among those opposed to the greatest threats rather than to promote a unity that would have less obvious but potentially more fateful negative consequences for precisely those the outsiders most wanted to help. 

Russian Army’s Actions in Ukraine Affecting Wildlife Not Only There but in Russia as Well

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 6 – Because nature is no observer of political borders, the scorched earth policies Russian forces have adopted in Ukraine as well as the enormous noise their operations involve have had serious negative consequences on the flora and fauna not only of Ukraine but increasingly in the border regions of the Russian Federation.

            Wild animals, for example, are fleeing into cities in Ukraine to escape both the noise of combat and the fires Russian troops have set to destroy the landscape Ukrainian forces have relied on, and ever more are crossing into Russia as well, bringing the war home in a new way (

            Fires and noise from the fighting has affected some 2.9 million hectares in Ukraine, and animals from that enormous region are fleeing into surrounding portions of Ukraine and into Russia, with foxes and other animals often travelling a thousand kilometers or more to escape the battles, ecologists say.

            Sometimes they bring disease and sometimes because their natural environments have been destroyed, they even attack people, spreading rabies and other diseases. Their departure means that animals people were used to seeing have disappeared. In many parts of Ukraine, it is unfortunately the case that no birds are heard.

            In May, activists and environmentalists in Ukraine set up the Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Working Group (UWEC) to address these issues. The group has had some success in Ukraine but believes that many of the developments arising from the war are tragically now irreversible (

            There has yet to be an analogous Russian organization, perhaps because Moscow does not want to call attention to this additional way in which its war in Ukraine is affecting Russia; but the longer the war continues, the harder it will be for the Russian powers that be to deny and fail to react to what ordinary Russians are seeing with their own eyes.

            Environmentalists are also worried about the spread of poisonous chemicals released during battles via air and water. They are less obvious so far but may prove even more deadly not only to the natural flora and fauna of both countries but to the human communities in Ukraine and Russia.


All Conflicts across Post-Soviet Space Echo in Moscow, Uzbek Community Leader Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 6 – Diasporas from the former Soviet republics now living in the Russian capital are so numerous that any conflict anywhere in the post-Soviet space will echo in Moscow, according to Bakhrom Ismailov, president of the Uzbek National-Cultural Autonomy there.

            Because that is so, it should surprise no one that the conflicts in Karakalpakstan are now echoing in the Russian capital, he and Maksetbay Allamuratov, a leader of the Karakalpak diaspora there, say (

            What is important, both they and others in these communities and among Russian specialists on Central Asia say, is that tensions in their homelands don’t grow over into clashes in the streets of the Russian capital and other Russian cities. Instead, the diasporas should work to maintain ties which have been frayed into the places they are from.

            These expressions of concern are a reminder of how closely tied the non-Russian diasporas in Russian cities are to their homelands, how important a source of information they are about those often inaccessible places, and how worried the Russian authorities are worried that conflicts elsewhere will spread to Russian cities whether Moscow is involved in them or not.