Sunday, October 1, 2023

Many Russians Expect the End of the World to Bring Changes for the Better, Other Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 28 – Many people in Russia are waiting for the end of the world with interest and even hope because they believe that it will at least bring some change for the better, a comment on how bad things are for them now and an example of the insights provided by stories they are telling each other.

            That is just one of the anecdotes that Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova offers in her latest online collections ( and Among the best of the rest are the following:


·       The FSB has now detained a schoolchild for launching a paper drone.

·       Russians believed Ramzan Kadyrov was alive only when the media reported that he had objected to Medinsky’s Russian history textbook.

·       Russians should treat price rises with understanding, officials say; those who don’t show understanding should be sent to dig trenches in Ukraine.

·       Now, there is every prospect that each federal subject will be allowed to write its own history textbook, a prospect sure to generate problems for their neighbors and in Moscow.

·       A Russian doctor tells his patients that medicinal herbs work wonders: they’ve allowed him to buy a dacha for his son and finish a house for his daughter.

·       Russian pharmacies will soon start telling time because that is the only thing that truly heals.

·       Strelkov should have gone to the Hague rather than allowed himself to be arrested in Russia. After all, in the Netherlands, he’d be in a nice warm cell and certainly wouldn’t be beaten.

·       One day Diogenes was washing lentils to cook himself a stew. Aristipus, a student of Socrates, the king’s favorite, remarked with a grin: “If you had learned to flatter the king, you wouldn’t have to eat lentils.” “And if you learned to eat lentils, you wouldn’t have to flatter the king,” answered Diogenes.

·       Peskov says that Putin doesn’t know about the beating Kadyrov’s son gave Zhuravel because “it wasn’t possible to print the video.”

·       Putin is really greedy if he needs a salary, Russians say on hearing he’s boosted it.


Putin has Promised to Back Construction of Another Mosque in Moscow, Kadyrov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 28 –Ramzan Kadyrov says that Vladimir Putin has agreed to his request for the construction of a new mosque in the Russian capital, a statement that if it leads to the building of the first new mosque there in more than 25 years will boost the Chechen leader’s standing with Muslims in the Russian Federation.

            Putin spokesman have not confirmed this and so it is unclear whether Putin in fact has made this promise or whether Kadyrov is claiming something that in fact did not happen. So far this year, Kadyrov has intervened twice without success in Moscow city disputes with Muslims and so his latest claim should be treated skeptically (

            But however that may be, Kadyrov has put Putin and the Russian and Moscow governments in a difficult position: he has shown to the Muslims of the Russian Federation that he is on their side and forced the two sets of authorities either to agree with what he has demanded or show that they aren’t willing to do so.

            If the former, the Muslims of Moscow will certainly demand more mosques; if the latter, they will become increasingly angry at Russian officials who do everything possible to support the construction of more Orthodox churches but block similar efforts to build Muslim mosques and prayer houses.

Radical Increase in Share of Kazakhs in Higher Educational Institutions in 1960s and 1970s Helps Explain December 1986 Clashes

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 27 – It is a commonplace that the overproduction of university graduates relative to the demand for them in the economy can lead to political instability; and it is generally recognized that the overproduction of graduates from one ethnic group compared to others can do the same.

            Confirmation of both of these cases comes from what happened in Kazakhstan in the two decades before the clashes of December 1986, QMonitor journalist Bakhut Zhanabergen suggests in the course of an article that provides new insights into the causes of the ethnic and class bases of this conflict (

            At the start of the 1960s, he writes, Kazakhstan ranked 13th of the 15 union republics in terms of the number of students in higher educational institutions; but just two decades later, its ranking had risen to fourth. In the early 1960s, there were 75 students for every 10,000 residents of the republic; but in 1984, there were 171, more than twice as many.

            Ethnic Kazakhs accounted for most of this growth, and by 1984, they formed 54 percent of the student bodies, even though in the population of the republic as a whole, Kazakhs formed only about 38 percent. In the higher schools, ethnic Kazakhs thus ranked second only to Jews in the USSR in terms of number per 100,000 residents.

            “Such a disproportion,” Zhanabergen says, did not exist in another ‘subject’ of the USSR.” It reflected in part the actions of the rectors of the universities who worked hard to promote ethnic Kazakhs. In Almaty, for example, in 1986, 13 of the 15 rectors whose ethnicity can be established were Kazakhs.

            But these rectors, the journalist says scholars have found, promoted not ethnic Kazakhs in general but those from their particular clans and regions. As a result, ethnic Russians were not the only ones excluded from the most prestigious higher educational institutions: Kazakhs from other clans and regions were as well, a major source of tension.

            Both the explosive growth of ethnic Kazakhs in the republic’s higher educational institutions and the fact that some but not all Kazakhs were beneficiaries of that growth helps to explain the nature of the conflicts in December 1986 – and serves as a reminder that those studying ethnic conflicts must be alive to these kinds of shifts.


At Least 20 Russian State Agencies have Stopped Publishing Data Showing Russian Losses in Ukraine War, ‘To Be Precise’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 26 – A minimum of 20 Russian government ministries and agencies have stopped publishing data of various kinds that could be used to determine the size of Russian losses from combat in Ukraine, despite much-ballyhooed efforts by the Accounting Chamber to show how “open” these agencies are, the To Be Precise portal says.

            The reason is simple: the Accounting Chamber considers all data released and thus does not focus on data that no longer are, the portal says (;

            To Be Precise journalist argue that a much finer grained approach is needed in this case if Russians and others are to understand what is really going on – increasing restrictions on sensitive data that the Kremlin is covering by releasing other data in an effort to obscure what it is doing.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Putin’s Visit to Novocherkassk in 1991 Confirmed His Belief that Moscow Must Control What Russians Know about the Past

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 22 – There is a famous photograph of Anatoly Sobchak visiting Novocherkassk in June 1991 as part of an effort to uncover what had happened in that North Caucasus city in 1962 when Soviet troops fired on Russian workers protesting price hikes, one of the major demands of Russia’s democrats for glasnost about the events of the Soviet past.

            Among the bag carriers in Sobchak’s entourage was a very junior Vladimir Putin who had recently transferred from the KGB to Sobchak’s staff. The To Be Continued portal considers what Putin undoubtedly found out and how that shaped his views about what Moscow should do in the future (

            The Soviet suppression of worker protests in Novocherkassk in 1962 was something Moscow worked hard to suppress but which contributed to the rise of the dissident movement. (See Samuel Baron’s Bloody Saturday in the Soviet Union: Novocherkassk, 1962 (Stanford, 2001) and

            Sobchak at least publicly was committed to the idea that exposing the crimes of the Soviet past was the best way to prevent any repetition; but it appears likely, To Be Continued suggests, that Vladimir Putin drew entirely different conclusions and became convinced that the only way to prevent a repetition was to hide from the population what had happened.

            In the first decade of Putin’s time as president, the portal reports, “some of the exhibits were confiscated from the Novocherkassk tragedy museum – primarily documents from the KGB archives that were then classified again.” As a result, “the memory of the tragedy is slowly being erased” just as the memory of other Soviet-era tragedies.

            According to To Be Continued, what Putin learned in Novocherkassk is not that the past must be exposed to prevent a repetition but that “mistakes can always be hidden, history can always be rewritten, and this is the logic that guides the current president, who continues to cover up the crimes of his colleagues from the Soviet KGB.

            Other reports over the last decade show that the events of Novocherkassk in 1962 continue to worry the Putin leadership; but its leader and its members remain committed to a cover up rather than to an honest appraisal of what happened and why. (On current elite approaches to that tragedy, see and