Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Putin Regime Now Targeting Telegram Channels

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 11 – In a sign of their growing importance as sources of news and commentaries given the vast number of Internet sites the Russian government has closed down since the start of Putin’s expanded invasion of Ukraine, some of the country’s top telegram channels have been targeted by the FSB and interior ministry.

            Most of the attacks have taken the form of detaining administrators or other employees of the channels, actions that have led some of them to cease updating their content and disrupted the normal flow of information out of them, according to one of their number, Baza (

            Because of their lack of transparency in many cases and because the only people who can put up content on them are the administrators, many analysts in Russia and the West are suspicious about these channels; but ever more Russians are turning to them and reposting their messages as opposite web portals have been closed down.

            For a partial list of the channels the Russian authorities have attacked over the last two weeks, see

Like Franco of Spain, Putin of Russia has Nothing to Offer but a Return to the Past, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 25 – Since Putin emerged at the top of the political heap in Russia, commentators have sought to capture what he is about by comparing him to one or another leader of the past or of a foreign country. As his nationalism and aggressiveness have increased, ever more have compared him to fascist leaders.

            One of the first to do so was Vitaly Portnikov, a Ukrainian analyst, who in November 1999 compared Putin to Spanish fascist leader Francisco Franco (

            Portnikov was extremely perceptive then at what kind of a regime Putin was likely to usher in: “This will be a state in which power will be based on the special services and the military elite. This state will have a close-knit elite combining the political and economic” and at least initially, many of his opponents will welcome his decisions.

            “There will be no freedom of speech in this state,” he continued. “for the majority of the population, that won’t matter. Most will be certain that they are building a strong Russia and ready to end terrorism, corruption and the economic crisis. For them, perestroika-era democracy will be remembered as a time of complete disappointment.”

            Portnikov has now revisited his comparison and posed the question whether now that Putin has launched a major war in Europe, he may be following in the steps not of Franco who did no such thing but rather in those of Hitler who did. But he argues the Franco analogy still holds and is worth recalling (

            Unlike the leaders of radical fascism, Hitler and Mussolini, Portnikov argues, Putin like Franco is “not a revolutionary but a counter-revolutionary.” Franco at least fought for power but Putin had it handed to him by his predecessor. He is “a nobody” and “like any mediocrity is solely concerned with returning to the past and maintaining his own power.”

            Both Putin and Franco, the Ukrainian analyst continues, “had only one political program, the program of restoration.” After Franco died, Spain had little choice but to restore the monarchy. Putin too has “nothing to offer Russia and the world but a return to the past,” to the USSR in the first instance but to anything but the present and future.

            Like Franco, Putin isn’t capable of building anything new. While he is in office, “everyone is afraid of him and  agrees that the past is very good … and that the future won’t happen … But as soon as he dies or loses power, Putinism will die with him because the past never defeats the future.” And people will more or less quickly forget him and his horrors.

            Just as the Spanish have done with Franco.

Gorbachev Wanted to Save the System He Now is Credited or Blamed for Having Destroyed, Stomakhin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 31 – Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and last president of the USSR, wanted to save the Soviet system he is now given credit for destroying, Boris Stromakhin says, something that should be remembered by everyone in the wake of his death when he is being celebrated as if what happened at the time of his leadership was what he wanted to take place.

            The Russian human rights campaigner who has been forced to emigrate to Ukraine points out that “Gorby was a protégé of Andropov” and that “the ideas of perestroika, democratization, and other cosmetic changes with the goal of getting money from the west for modernization because there was nowhere else were developed by Andropov when he was head of the KGB” (

            “Whole institutes developed then this theme – how to create the appearance of the liberalization of the Soviet regime without changing its essence and without those in power losing it,” Stromakhin says. But what Gorbachev discovered was that even the changes he was prepared to make toward that end undermined the system and his own role.

Consequently, Gorbachev “was not ‘a liberator.’ He simply did not want and did not intend to lose power;” but he did not understand the country over which he ruled and the fact that the system he had inherited could not be saved by cosmetic change. It could only be destroyed and replaced by something else, Stromakhin continues.

As the unintended result of his actions, “the steering wheel was torn out of [Gorbachev’s] hands; and his only merit was that unlike other communist leaders he judged sensibly: life is more precious than power” and did not go for broke, something that could have ended with his facing an execution like that of Ceausescu in Romania.

According to Stromakhin, “the ghost of Ceausescu after 1989 must have played a significant role” not only for what happened in the USSR but “in the personal fate of Gorbachev.” The Soviet leader saw what was happening elsewhere and “realized that it’s better to advertise pizza alive than to be shot or hanged.”

That decision to save himself has brought him undeserved laurels as “the liberator, the slayer of the communist dragon, the messiah and the righteous man.” But in fact Gorbachev never escaped from the communist paradigm in which he grew up; he simply wasn’t prepared to die for it, although it is important to remember, he was prepared to kill on its behalf.

He sent troops into Tbilisi in April 1989, more into Baku in January 1990, and still more into Vilnius in January 1991. “In all these cases, people died,” Stromakhin says. “Not as many as in Tiananmen Square or as many as would have died under Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev or Andropov” had they been in office thent

And they died at Gorbachev’s order, he writes. “No matter how often Gorby denied it, no matter how much he sought to shift the blame to the Central Committee, to the Politburo, to his generals, to anyone else, in the Soviet system of power such things could not have been sanctioned by anyone but the top man. No one below him would have taken the responsibility.”

“In 2011, when Gorby flew to London to celebrate his 80th birthday in the company of the Queen of England, Vladimir Bukovsky suggested he be arrested there for a trial concerning his involvement in the massacres of 1989-1991. Almost no one then either inside Russia or abroad supported that idea, Stromakhin recalls.

That is most unfortunate, the rights campaigner says. Had he been arrested and convicted, Gorbachev wouldn’t have been sent to prison for long. Instead, his punishment would have been symbolic.  He would have been the first living Soviet leader to be convicted of real crimes and not “mythical” ones like the collapse of the USSR and “the betrayal of communism.”

Gorbachev would have been found guilty of killing people to try to save the Soviet empire, not to destroy it. And that would have been important for the future of Russia. While the West wasn’t prepared to arrest him, Gorbachev was reportedly very much afraid that the Putin regime would. He knew what the KGB was like and what kind of trial they’d arrange.

Now the first Soviet president is dead, and he will receive praise from much of the world and denunciations from many in Russia who are still upset that he didn’t kill even more people and thereby save the Soviet system. The big question in the coming days is not about that pattern: the big question is who will go to his funeral?

Had Putin not invaded Ukraine, it is likely many Western leaders would have gone or sent senior officials as their representatives. Now that is less likely to happen, but the decisions they make will say a lot about whether they understand what Gorbachev was really about – saving himself when he couldn’t save his system rather than being the sainted figure many think.

‘Russian Empire a Balance of Russian Centralism and Disintegration,’ Prokhanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 4 – The Russian Empire has always been “a balance of two deep historical forces: Russian centralism” which leads to the flourishing of the state and society “and the forces of disintegration” which destroys centralism and leads to the collapse of the state and times of troubles, Aleksandr Prokhanov says.

            Whenever one of these gets the upper hand, there is a reaction, the Russian nationalist writer says; and what is happening now is the revival of Russian centralism after a period when the forces of disintegration were in the dominant position. That revival, he says, is only beginning and will soon spread to the intellectual world as well (

            “Soviet power was a wise and careful balance of these two forces: harsh centralism and moderate liberalism which did not reach a boil,” Prokhanov continues. But “this balance was destroyed during perestroika,” and “the Yeltsin decade was a time of the eradication of everything Russian and deep.”

            According to the Russian writer, during that time, “Russian and patriotic ideas were driven to the periphery of public life, and the word ‘Russian’ became if not a synonym of fascism then the synonym of a loser.” But with the arrival of Putin, there was the recovery of centralist and patriotic consciousness.

            Liberals were driven “out of many spheres of Russian life,” but there are still many places where they hide out and must be driven from, especially in higher education and the arts. For along time, “patriots were kept distant from universities, political institutions, and literary and artistic prizes.” Now, it is time for them to return and fill these places.

            That is the next step, Prokhanov suggests in conclusion, that Russian centralists must make to restore the balance of Russian history destroyed by Gorbachev and Yeltsin in alliance with the West.

‘Russia’s Imperialist Opposition will Disappear Together with the Empire,’ Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 4 – Russia’s “openly imperialist war” against Ukraine “has raised the question about the future of the aggressor itself” and prompted ever more people to ask what should be done so that some future more liberal leader of the country won’t soon be replaced by yet another aggressive “great power ‘hawk,’” Vadim Shtepa says.

            Unfortunately, the editor of the Tallinn-based regionalist portal Region.Expert says, “the Moscow opposition which calls itself ‘Russian’ thinks in exactly the same imperial categories that the Kremlin does.” They view Russia as a state divided between “the mother country,” that is Moscow, and “the provinces,” around it (

            Such a view of the country inevitably extends to its approach to the world beyond its borders, with a failure to accept decentralization and federalism at home almost inevitably leading to aggression abroad, something that means supposedly liberal “doves” become or are replaced by “hawks” all too quickly.

            Only if the opposition drops its ignorance of and opposition to real federalism and sees decentralization not as about economics alone can there be any hope that Russia will not resume its aggressive approach to its neighbors even if a “good tsar” replaces the current “bad” one, Shtepa argues.

            If it doesn’t, Russia may indeed disintegrate, not because the regions and republics want that but because those at the center, liberals or imperialists, refuse to recognize them as more than pawns in the hands of Moscow.  If the opposition does recognize that, then there is a chance for Russia to federalize and de-imperialize at home and abroad for an instant but permanently.

            Tragically, Shtepa says, “the current Russian opposition with its unitarist views is a strange mirror-like reflection of the Kremlin. It is incapable in principle of conceiving the gigantic Russian spaces from the Baltic to the Pacific as a territory of multipolarity and a free union of regions with equal rights.”

            That reality has prompted the Forum of Free Nations to begin to talk about “post-Russian history. That term sounds odd up to now, but in 1991, the word ‘post-Soviet’ did in the same way. History continues, but the imperial opposition probably will disappear together with the empire” it defends in much the same way the Kremlin does.


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Putin has Used and Gutted the Tatar National Congress Just as Stalin Used and then Destroyed the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, Aysin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 4 – Vladimir Putin has exploited and destroyed the World Congress of Tatars, ramming through a resolution none of the delegates had seen in advance approving everything he has done and that many Tatars who should have been at the meeting were not because they could see where the Kremlin leader was heading, according to Ruslan Aysin.

            The IdelReal commentator says that what has just happened in Kazan was thus “the funeral” of an organization which had played a serious role over 30 years, and he pointedly compares what Putin has done to the Tatars with what Stalin did to the Jews during and immediately after World War II (

            What Putin has done to the World Congress of Tatars echoes what Stalin did with Jewish activists in the 1940s, Aysin says. “In 1942, he created the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee to help influential Jewish communities around the world in the struggle” against Nazi Germany and to make the USSR look committed to the Allied cuse.

            “After that task was completed,” the commentator says, “the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee was shut down ‘as a center of anti-Soviet propaganda,’ and its head, Mikhoels, was executed on the personal instructions of the leader of the peoples.”

            “Dictators always operate according to the same paradigm,” Aysin continues. “For them, people, nations, religions and the state itself are simply tools to be used to strengthen their personal power.”

            The Tatar commentator draws that bitter conclusion after examining what happened at a meeting that was almost entirely scripted from behind the scenes, so organized that many prominent Tatars didn’t take part, and that featured the ramming through of a resolution approving Putin’s war in Ukraine without any serious discussion.

            Indeed when Fauziya Bayramova, the “grandmother” of the Tatar movement, attempted to speak, she was ignored, forcing her and some others at the meeting to withdraw because they were no longer allowed to speak to a meeting which in the past had featured serious debates about serious issues of concern to Tatars.

            It is quite clear that the Kremlin wanted to split the Tatar world into an archipelago, with the diaspora in one place, Tatarstan in a second, and all other Tatars in yet a third. “What can connect these worlds today” now that the Congress which was intended to do that can’t? The answer he says, is “nothing.”

             Aysin says that with the gelding of the Congress, “the Tatar nation stands on the edge of a deep abyss. National education has been destroyed, the population is being rapidly assimilated, and Tatarstan has been reduced to an ordinary region” whose “political institutions have been killed, its intelligentsia suppressed,” and the people left without leadership.

            And he adds in this regard that Moscow’s plan to organize national battalions to fight in Ukraine is intended to “dirty everyone so that we forget about our rights, freedoms and future. Aysin concludes by citing the observation of Karl Marx that “in politics for the sake of a goal, you can make an alliance with the devil himself.”

            “You just need to be sure that you are the one who draws the line and not the devil,” the German political theorist said. Unfortunately, those who took part in the charade Moscow has reduced the Congress of Tatars have failed in that regard.

Russia Dying Out Because Moscow Pays Ten Times as Much for Those who Die for It than for Those who are Born, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 3 – Russians now say they know why the birthrate is going down and the death rate up: Moscow is paying women who have a child only about ten percent of what it pays the families of those who die in combat. Because that is the case, they say, “no one should be surprised that Russia is dying out so rapidly.”

            That is just one of the anecdotes Moscow journalist Natalya Pushkaryova offers in her latest collection ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Russians now live in a country where terrorists become academics; KGB officers, patriarchs; ignoramuses, teachers; snitches, heroes; guards, governors; the insane, rulers; and anti-fascists, criminals.

·       They also live in a country where those who carry citations of Tolstoy or Jesus Christ into the streets can be declared extremists, but a madman who calls for destroying the entire world with nuclear weapons is a respected and highly paid Duma deputy.

·       The Central Bank says the Russian economy will decline significantly in the third and fourth quarters but the good news is that the billionaires around Putin won’t suffer at all.

·       Home builders in the regions and republics are expecting a banner year, given how much money the relatives of soldiers who have died in Ukraine are receiving.
·       Russians are compelled to believe that their lives are better than those of their counterparts in Western countries. If they didn’t, other Russians observe, they would find it impossible to continue to live.
·       Now even Putin has said that it’s not now 1937 “whatever anyone says. It’s 2022.
·       After a Russian woman was given a new apartment following an incident it which she threw an old shoe at the local governor, there has been a run on commission shops as other Russians try to purchase old shoes to do the same thing.

Soviet Monuments 'Part of Moscow’s Imperial Lie rather than about Remembering the Dead,’ Rogov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 24 – Moscow’s anger about the demolition of Soviet monuments in the Baltic countries to those who fought the Nazis highlights a fact that many are unwilling to admit, Kirill Rogov says. “From the start,” these monuments weren’t about remembering those who died in that conflict but about Moscow’s “imperial lie.”

            In Soviet times, they were all about promoting the notion that what the Red Army was doing was “liberating” these peoples when in fact it was only substituting one occupation for another, the Moscow commentator says. And consequently, there is no reason for them to be retained if that remains their purpose.

            If, however, Russia and Russians living in these countries had “reconceptualized these monuments as memorials to soldiers who died on the territory of these countries during the war against fascism … they would be legitimate and refer to the real history” of both these places and their people (

            Rogov continues: “a tank” – and many of the Soviet monuments in the Baltic countries feature one – “cannot be a monument to the dead at all. It is a symbol of state violence,” as Moscow demonstrated when it sent tanks into Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Vilnius and Moscow in 1991.

            But unfortunately, he continues, “Putin’s Russia like Stalin’s Soviet Union sees history as a means of confrontation.” And so it is prepared to use these monuments to “justify the state’s right to unlimited violence.” Thus, these monuments should and must come down unless and until both Moscow and Russians living in these countries change how they define the still-existing monuments themselves.

Famine Doesn’t Threaten Central Asia but Many Foods are Becoming Harder to Obtain, Marmontova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 26 – At present there is no threat of famine in Central Asia, but many foods are becoming harder to find because of supplies and purchase because of rising costs for some groups of the population in many of the countries there, Kazakh scholar Taisiya Marmontova says. And that alone is likely to generate significant social and political instability.

            Speaking to a teleconference yesterday and food security in Central Asia organized by the Eurasian Monitoring Center in Nur Sultan where she works, Marmontova said that there was little risk of famine but great risk of food shortages in many parts of the region (

            The impact of the pandemic and of the war in Ukraine has compounded the problems in this area Central Asian countries face because of rapidly rising populations – the region now has 76 million people and will soon have 100 million – and equally rapidly declining supplies of arable land and water to irrigate it.

            If those problems are not addressed now, Marmontova and other participants said, the future is dire and even without a famine, food shortages are going to become the cause of serious social, economic and political conflicts.

Entrance to Russian Political Elite will Now Pass Through Service in Ukraine, Minchenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 21 – The Presidential Administration has tried various means to come up with what it calls a cadres reserve, a group of people who are being trained to become part of the Russian political elite in the future. But Yevgeny Minchenko says that since the start of the war in Ukraine, all who have such aspirations must work at some point in the Donbass.

            Speaking to a meeting of political analysts devoted to the discussion of his own ideas about the emergence of a “Politburo 2.0,” the Moscow consulting company head argued that today, “all careers will now pass through the Donbass” in the broad sense of the word which will include all Russian-administered parts of present-day Ukraine (

            An enormous number of officials have attracted attention because of their roles in Ukraine. They will want “their pieces of the pie,” and they may even emerge as a kind of unified political group that will challenge others, Minchenko says. They are certainly numerous enough and already powerful enough to make that assumption.

            The organizational theorist adds that he is “certain” that Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov will rise in status, not only because of his actions in Ukraine but because of the symbolism of his shift from a fighter against Russia into a fighter for Russia and because of his links with the Islamic world.

            Indeed, Minchenko says, “Kadyrov is the only one of the regional leaders who remains a candidate member of the Politburo in its current version.” Tatarstan’s Rustam Minnikhanov has fallen off the list, but that isn’t the end of the story as far as he is concerned. If he becomes more active with the Muslim world, he too may return to that status.

One Russian in Three Believes Western Civilization and Democracy Unsuitable for Russia, VTsIOM Poll Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 23 – Since Vladimir Putin came to power, the share of Russians having a negative attitude toward Western culture and values has risen significantly, with one in three now telling VTsIOM that Western civilization, democracy and Western culture is not suitable for Russia.

            In addition, 44 percent say the West is having a negative impact on the cultural tastes of Russians and 55 percent add that Russians are in danger of forgetting their own culture because of the influence of models coming from the West (

            Fifty-nine percent do not see any value in Western civilization, democracy and culture, with slightly more than half of these saying that it is destructive. The share of Russians who have an alternative view has fallen from 55 percent in 2000, the year Putin became president, to 30 percent now.

            As might be expected, young Russians are somewhat less negative about the West and older ones more so. Those who live in cities as opposed to rural areas, those with more education rather than less and those who use the Internet rather than television follow the same pattern, VTsIOM reports.

            Today, half of all Russians say that they and their co-nations have forgotten their own culture with a majority of those who take this view blaming the influence of Western culture for that development. This pattern is almost identical to what it was in 2000 when VTsIOM began asking these questions.

            In addition, the pollsters found that 44 percent of Russians believe that Western culture has had a negative impact on their artistic tastes, a figure that is up eight percentage points since 2000. “Only nine percent of our fellow citizens,” VTsIOM says, “consider that Western culture doesn’t have any influence on the artistic tastes of Russians.”

On Ukraine, Putin in Near Perfect Unison with Vast Majority of Russians, Levinson Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 28 – Much as many do not want to admit it, Vladimir Putin has achieved something his predecessors did not: he and his policies in Ukraine and many other issues as well are in near perfect unison with the vast majority of Russians, according to Levada Center sociologist Aleksey Levinson.

            In an interview with Radio France International’s Russian Service, he says that all polls conducted show that the Kremlin leader is backed by 75 percent or more  of the Russian people, a figure that isn’t the product of fear or propaganda alone (россия/20220828-главная-идея-в-том-что-путин-это-навсегда-социолог-алексей-левинсон-о-том-почему-режим-путина-добился-небывалого-унисона-с-российским-большинством).

            Propaganda may have given shape to the feelings of Russians but it didn’t create them, Levinson says. Instead, most Russians are proud their country is standing up against its enemies abroad and have thus given carte blanche to its leaders to oppose that enemy, which in the case of Ukraine is the West in general and the US and the UK in particular.

            Russians don’t know when or how the war will end, he continues; but they are confidence that Russia will win a victory not so much in terms of particular results but “in a moral sense.” Thus, Putin has a broad range of outcomes that he can define as a victory and that the Russian people will accept, even though radicals want even more aggressive steps than those taken so far.

            This is possible because “the Putin regime has achieved unison with the Russian majority that neither the Stalin, Brezhnev or Khrushchev regimes did. This must recognized” because “it is a fact,” Levinson says. Those who don’t acknowledge that will fundamentally misread the situation.

       Moreover, he says, despite all the problems the war has caused for Russia, it has not had great influence on most Russians on things they care most about. “The difference between the current situation and that which was the case before February 24th for the greater part of Russia is not as great as many imagine. Life in Russia has changed very little.”

            Over the long term, that may change and Russian attitudes may change as well. But “the experience of the Afghan and Chechen wars suggests that society is not becoming entirely anti-war. That is not the case. There are strong anti-war sentiments but they do not take the form of a serious movement.” Again, Levinson says, that could change but it won’t happen anytime soon.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Putin Can’t Allow Any Real Talk about Future Because That would be an Implicit Criticism of His System, Chadayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 28 – The Kremlin is continually talking about the need to talk about the future, but there is no possibility that any honest discussion of the future will take place as long as Vladimir Putin is in power, Aleksey Chadayev says. Any image of the future different than the present would involve at least an implicit criticism of what is wrong with his rule.

            And that, the Moscow political scientist and commentator who has served as an advisor to Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin would have consequences for Russian politics today. Any such future scenarios would serve as mobilizing tools for those at odds with the current president, something Putin doesn’t want to see (

            Consequently, while the Kremlin may talk about finding some future goals, it won’t support their elaboration but rather seek to stifle them as it is much easier for those in power today to declare whatever exists as the final stage of evolution much as Francis Fukuyama did with his “end of history” arguments a generation ago.

            Putin’s understanding of the danger of such talk springs from his Soviet background. The Soviet leadership was quite prepared to talk about the building of communism, something that in reality was about a future so far away that it didn’t mobilize people against whatever the regime wanted to do, but it wasn’t ready to talk about shorter term goals as it recognized the risk.

            The current Russian president has clearly drawn the same conclusion and won’t allow an honest discussion about the more immediate future anytime while he is still in power, Chadayev says.  

Fate of Ukraine and Fate of Putin’s Russia Now Inextricably and Intriguingly Intertwined, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 27 – When Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine, many predicted that Kyiv would either surrender immediately or face a coup that would bring to power those who would. Such predictions have proved ridiculous, but what is not is that the outcome in Ukraine will have profound consequences for the future of Russia, Abbas Gallyamov says.

            The former Putin speechwriter says that what happens in Ukraine and what happens in Russia are now inextricably intertwined with at least six outcomes now possible for Putin’s own country (

            The first scenario, Gallyamov says, is that the war will drag on, the Russian economy will continue to sink into recession, and protest attitudes will intensify. As a result, angry voters and “some of the most determined elites” may force the Putin regime out and the government replacing his will begin peace talks with Ukraine.

            The second scenario also involves a prolonged conflict, with economic decline and an increasingly angry population. In an effort to prevent “a revolutionary coup” Putin names a successor. That individual concludes a ceasefire with Ukraine and begins peace talks. But the new man, closely tied to Putin, can’t make as many concessions and the talks collapse.

            The third scenario, which Gallyamov calls the Politburo Option, involves the transformation of the regime from a personalist to a collective dictatorship, with the other members of this group pushing Putin to adopt a Chinese model. This new leadership refuses to conclude a peace agreement, is delegitimated, collapses and Moscow finally starts talks.

            The fourth involves the defeat of the Russian army by Ukraine. Putin resigns and tries to install a successor via elections. But his weakness means that his nominee doesn’t win. That allows someone else to come to power, probably from the KPRF, and that successor begins talks with Ukraine.

            The fifth scenario is the “North Korean option,” the commentator continues. The Russian army loses but Putin manages to hang on, “gradually transforming Russia into something like North Korea.” After his death, his regime disintegrates and its successors whoever they may be begin talks with Ukraine.

            And the sixth scenario is what Gallyamov calls “reversal.” Putin declares victory and attacks all those who are pressing for more expansive action as “dizzy with success.” Because Putin remains in office, any talks between Moscow and Kyiv make little progress and “drag on for years.”

            Other scenarios are possible, although most of them will combine some elements of one or more of these, the commentator continues. But perhaps Gallyamov’s most interesting predictions involve what a peace treaty might look like and how the West would respond to a post-Putin Russia.

            As to what an agreement might look like, Gallyamov says it is likely to reflect the notion of “taking the people but leaving the land,” that is, Russia after a certain interval agrees to pull out of Ukrainian territory while Kyiv agrees to give Moscow time to resettle people east of the Urals.

            And as far as how the West will respond, one thing is clear: if Russia moves to establish a democratic system after Putin’s departure, Western countries won’t adopt a hands’ off approach as they did in the 1990s but rather take active steps to ensure that any Russian democracy will not degenerate into authoritarianism and lead the coming to power of another Putin.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Russia Faces Teacher Shortage of 250,000 This Fall, Experts Say, but Minister Denies There is Any Problem at All

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 1 – Experts at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service say that the country faces a teacher shortage of as much as 250,000 this fall, but Sergey Kravtsov, the minister responsible for primary and secondary education, denies that there is any shortage or any problem with staffing at all.

            According to Nakanune journalist Elena Rychkova, this difference in opinion reflects differences in the way the number of teachers needed should be calculated. The experts who point to the massive shortage say that teachers should only teach a certain number of pupils and only courses for which they are trained (

            Using those criteria, the figure of 250,000 is entirely justified. Those who say there is no shortage point out that in many schools, teachers can and do teach more pupils than the norm and often teach courses they hadn’t been trained for in pedagogical institutes but are entirely capable of handling. Indeed, they say, this saves the government money but makes for good schools.

            The problem is that the denial by officials of a problem ensures that things will only get worse and soon. Ever more teachers are leaving the field because of overwork, the teaching cadres are aging and many will soon go on pensions, and ever fewer of those trained to become teachers are going into the field.

            Kravtsov’s predecessor acknowledged as much three years ago, but she said that Russia would have a shortfall of teachers amounting to 250,000 would occur only in 2029. It has happened seven years earlier, and primary and secondary education fails a likely collapse with work actions by teachers and anger among parents and their children likely in the near future.

Moscow Officially Commemorates World War I for First Time

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 1 – Since 1918, World War I has been the orphan conflict as far as Moscow is concerned. It was never commemorated in Soviet times; and remained unmarked by post-Soviet Russia. But Putin’s desire to create a single stream of Russian history means that now, on the Day of Memory of Russian Warriors, World War I is being commemorated there.  

 A solemn ceremony took place at the obelisk to those who fell in the world war of 1914-1918. It was led by Sergey Naryshkin, the head of the Russian Historical Society and the SVR. Those attending also took part in a religious service and heard a lecture by Denis von Meck, a genealogist, about how to find information on ancestors who may have served in that war.

The session did not attract widespread attention at least so far – for an exception to the general silence, seeв-память-о-павших/ -- but the fact that this meeting took place at all is likely to open a new area of historical discussion in the Russian population, a discussion that like so many others may lead in directions the Putin regime won’t like.

That is because World War I not only led to a Russian defeat that in turn led to the rise of Bolshevism and the establishment of the Soviet Union but also to the emergence of the anti-Bolshevik White Movement, almost all of whose leaders were senior officers in that conflict and who fought Bolsheviks with the same devotion they fought the Central Powers.

Patriarch’s Claim Russia has Never Known Religious Wars False but Reflects Attitudes Moscow Doesn’t Want to Admit, Kazan Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 1 – Patriarch Kirill declared on July 27 that Russia has never known the religious wars that have been endemic in most countries (, a claim that on one level is clearly false but that on another reflects popular attitudes and a historical tradition Moscow is loathe to acknowledge, Mark Shishkin says.

            The Kazan historian says that in fact there were numerous cases in which the Russian state attacked others because of their religion, including the wholesale campaigns of the military and political administrations in the Muslim regions of the Middle Volga and the North Caucasus (

            But at a deeper level, the Russian state rarely declared a religious war against anyone, a pattern that Shishkin argues reflects two things Moscow doesn’t want to acknowledge. On the one hand, the average Russian has never been so attached to his religion that he or she religious differences as opposed to linguistic or cultural ones the basis of conflict.

            And on the other, the Russian state’s approach to religion was in large measure shaped by the Mongol Horde, a political structure which was strikingly tolerant of various faiths as long as they were politically submissive. In many ways, the Kazan historian says, Russian rulers have followed that path as well, setting itself apart in yet another way from European states.

            In support of the first of these explanations, the historian points to the conclusion of Orthodox missionaries at the end of the tsarist period who pointed to “the indifference” of ordinary Russians to the spread of their Orthodox faith. They cared about language and political loyalty but not about religion.

            “This indifference,” Shishkin continues, “was characteristics not only of the Russiangupeasantry but of other social groups, including the Orthodox clergy who served among non-Russian congregations.” In the case of these groups, there were many examples in which the priests accepted much from other faiths and even sabotaged efforts to insist on purity.

            According to the Kazan historian, “Perhaps it is precisely these features which make modern Russians confident that Russia was an exceptionally hospitable home for all the peoples part of it. A Russian settler could do domestic and economic injustice, but as a rule, he didn’t care about the religion of non-Russians.”

            The state did repress other religions but only episodically, Shishkin says, a pattern that does not point as much to tolerance as to the lack of popular support for doing more and an acceptance of the Mongol approach by both the population and the authorities that did so much to shape Russian thinking in a wide range of issues.

              Kirill and the Kremlin are unlikely to be willing to admit either. Indeed, both are far more interested in promoting Orthodoxy and its claimed supremacy over other faiths than any Russian state in the past has done for long. But Shishkin’s argument helps to explain why neither the religious nor the political authorities are likely to be able to do so regardless of their desires.

‘Sanctions are Crippling the Russian Economy,’ Yale Study Concludes

Paul Goble

            Sanctions and what they are doing to the Russian economy may not have the impact on Putin’s thinking and actions that their authors want, but with this report, no one in Russia or in the West who argues that sanctions have been irrelevant as far as the Russian economy is concerned deserves to be taken seriously.

            And that fact should but perhaps won’t alter the debate about sanctions in the West and lead those who believe that Russia must be stopped to consider other means of doing so given Putin’s willingness to let Russia suffer while he pursues his aggressive imperialistic war in Ukraine.

Free Buryatia Foundation has Helped 150 Buryats to Avoid Fighting for Moscow in Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 1 – The Free Buryatia Foundation, established by Buryat émigré Viktoriya Maladayeva in Kyiv shortly after Putin began his expanded war in Ukraine, has conducted research and disseminated information about how Moscow is using non-Russians to fight its battles.

            But perhaps its most important achievement so far has been to help 150 Buryat soldiers either to avoid serving in Ukraine at all or to return home if they are sent to Ukraine, Maladayeva says (

            Buryatia, like other non-Russian republics in the Russian Federation, she continues, “can’t determine [its] own policies … It is governed by the colonial policies of Moscow … If we had a real federation, the head of our republic could say no, Buryats won’t fight in this criminal war. But [the republic head] keeps providing cannon fodder for Putin.”

            Maladayeva points out that “Our languages and history are disappearing off the face of the Earth, while Moscow sucks all the money and resources out of the provinces. Moscow is a beautiful city but it’s such a facade of all of Russia, because if you go just a little further, the houses are falling apart, there are no roads, and there’s no work.”

            The activist’s comments make clear that Putin’s war is increasing the sense among many non-Russians that Moscow is behaving like an imperial power not only in Ukraine but at home. And to the extent that non-Russians within Russia take that view and see the non-Russians outside Russian borders as allies and fellow victims, that will be bad news for the center.

One Russian in Three Say Sun Orbits the Earth but the Other Two are Certain it Orbits Russia, Muscovites Joke

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 1 – A new poll reports that 35 percent of Russians say they believe that the sun orbits the earth. Muscovites respond that they are certain that the other 65 percent are equally confident that in reality the sun orbits Russia, another triumph of Kremlin propaganda which seeks to elevate the status of the country.

            This is just one of the latest collection of Russian jokes and anecdotes assembled by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Truth can triumph in Russia but only after a long struggle. It took a month for the father of a sailor killed when the Ukrainians sank the Moskva to get the word that his son wasn’t simply “missing in action” but actually dead.

·       After China followed the West and stopped selling smartphones in Russia, real patriots said there is no reason for concern. After all, such phones from Iran and North Korea are also good.

·       The price of school uniforms has risen so much in Russia over the last twelve months that Russian parents are now committed to shifting to online schooling for their children. That’s great, some say, because it means Russia will take the lead in that too.

·       Justice in Russia is now a circus but with one critical difference. In a real circus, people laugh at the clowns; in Russian courtrooms, the clowns laugh at the people.

·       Moscow is now celebrating Myanmar and its vicious military regime as a friend and partner of Russia. The Kremlin has little choice: Russia no longer has any other partners out there.

·       Putin raised the retirement age four years ago because he said the state had to save money. All that it has saved by not paying Russian pensioners the state has used in the last few months in the special military operation in Ukraine.

·       The Russian people are paying for increased exports to China. The government says it must have more electricity to run the trains and that Russians, not the Chinese, have to pay for that.


For Peace and Security, West Must Ally with Regional and National Movements within Russia, Shamayda Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 1 – Because any “peace” with Russia will only be “a pause before another attack,” Taras Shamayda says, the West must use other means to “eliminate the Russian threat.” It cannot occupy Russia as it did Germany. And so it must ally itself with and support those inside Russia committed to that end to bring about change.

            The most important of these allies, the Ukrainian commentator says, are the regional and national minorities. But to do so, the West must “overcome artificial obstacles in our own minds,” including the view that this is possible, that isolating Russia is better, and contempt for these forces (

            Moscow seeks to make these groups the enemies of Ukraine and the West more generally by using them as cannon fodder in its wars, but neither Ukraine nor the West must fall for that. The Buryats, Daghestanis and other non-Russians and Russians from the regions are not the enemy; the enemy is Moscow.

            Ukrainians have particular reason to recognize that reality and how to respond to it. After all, Shamayda says, “the crimes committed by Ukrainians among the Soviet forces in Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan did not reduce the importance of Ukraine in the collapse of the USSR and the gaining of Ukrainian independence.”

            Cooperating with non-Russian and regional movements within the current borders of the Russian Federation is vitally important for Ukraine and the West. Kyiv has taken important steps in this direction over the last several years. But it needs to do more, both to help these groups and to convince the West of the need to do the same.

            According to Shamayda, “the West must overcome its fear of the collapse of the Russian Federation.” After all, it is “the continued existence of Russia not its disintegration” that threatens Europe and the world. And in that fight, the most important allies are the non-Russians and the regionalists, “not some mythical ‘good Russians.’”

            The de-colonization of Russia is, the Ukrainian commentator argues, “a key prerequisite for the peace and security of Ukraine” and for the peace and security of the West. This process is “not about some kind of artificial dismemberment; its about helping enslaved nations gain their freedom, a chance to break forever from Russian identity and control.”

Share of Russian Women Killed by Partners Rose Dramatically During Pandemic Lockdown

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 31 – It is a commonplace to assert that the lockdown accompanying the covid pandemic increased stress among family members, but only now are data becoming available showing just how serious the impact of the stress of being confined together for extended periods was in the Russian Federation.  

            According to the Algorhythm of Light, a consortium of Russian women’s rights NGOs, the share of deaths of Russian women at the hands of partners increased from just over half of all such deaths to two-thirds during the pandemic when many couples were prevented from interacting with others outside the home (

            The group compiled these statistics on the basis of court filings and acknowledges that the actual numbers may be even worse. But the increase in such deaths during the pandemic was almost certainly worse in Russia than elsewhere because the government not only failed to have programs to combat it but denied that this was a problem ( and

            Russian women’s rights groups have been calling for the adoption of special laws and programs to prevent violence in the home for more than 30 years without success; and when they appealed at the start of the pandemic for emergency steps, they were no more successful than earlier (

            As a result, the upsurge in deaths from family violence in Russia was far greater than in any other country for which data are available.


UN Figures Show Russia on Path to Demographic Extinction, Krupnov and Chernyshov Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 31 – Yury Krupnov of the Moscow Institute of Demography, Migration, and Regional Development says that United Nations data show that Russia now “faces extinction and disappearance from history;” and Nakanune analyst Yevgeny Chernyshov summarizes the data pointing to that conclusion.

            “By most demographic criteria” reported by the UN, the Nakanune news agency analyst says, “Russia is at the bottom half of all countries and by some it is almost at the very bottom. This is a truth which must be reckoned with.” But instead, the government is in denial and the population is kept in the dark about the true state of affairs.”

            “Most officials are afraid to speak the truth, fearing that they will get in trouble with their bosses and thus continue to present a falsely positive picture of where the country is.” But as they do that, Chernyshov says, “the population is dying out” and doing far more rapidly than many suspect (

            He offers the following evidence drawn from 2021:

·       Russia ranks 15th from the bottom of the 236 countries the UN surveyed in terms of mortality rates.

·       This position did not reflect the impact of covid because other countries suffered from that and Russia’s ranking did not change.

·       Life expectancy in Russia fell by 4.5 years in 2021, the second greatest decline among all countries.

·       Russia suffered a million more deaths than births last year, the first time any country has suffered that kind of decline since 1950.

·       Russia ranked 193rd among the countries of the world with a fertility rate of 1.49 children per woman per lifetime.

·       In terms of mortality before age 40, Russia ranked 158th in the world; and in terms of mortality before 60, 179th.

·       Among men between 15 and 60, Russia ranked 212th, below even the poorest African countries.

·       And these figures are especially bad because Russia has succeeded in reducing infant mortality significantly. It ranks 40th in the world in terms of that figure.

Anti-Kremlin Protests in Regions Often Don’t Make It Even to Internet

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 31 – One of the difficulties of knowing how much protest activity is really going on in the Russian Federation is that the authorities in some regions simply close down the Internet access of those who put up protest signs or organize demonstrations and thus there is no record of what they are doing beyond the confines of their village, town or region.

            That pattern is suggested by a profile the portal presents of Aleksandr Pravdin, a 73-year-old psychiatrist in a village near Leningrad who as an individual has been putting up protest signs for two decades, often to the delight of his fellow villagers but to the horror of officials who block his access to the broader world (

            The pensioner says that while officials didn’t like his signs when he put them up before Putin expanded his war in Ukraine last February, they did not do much against him. But now they are increasingly angry and he may even consider leaving, especially as now, given official opposition, many of his former friends aren’t speaking to him.

            Among the signs Pravdin has put up and seen taken down are the following;

·       “Dima is a thief,” a reference both to the former president and the current head of the region in which his village is located.

·       “You aren’t Peter I; you are Adolf the 2nd,” a clear reference to Putin’s efforts to present himself as a continuer of Peter the Great’s efforts.

·       “The Day of Unity of Slavic Peoples” featuring Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream.”

·       “Peter: Thanks for the City. Forgive us for the fact that the fools have taken over.”

In Moscow or another large city, such expressions of the views of the population likely would get lost; but in a small village or town, they may have a far greater impact, albeig only with its confines, suggests.