Saturday, June 10, 2023

Metropolitan Tikhon, Putin’s Favorite Priest, Replaces Stephen King as Most Published Author in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – In 2021 and 2022, the American horror writer Stephen King was the most widely published author in Russia; but with the bans on translations of his work, Metropolitan Tikhon, Vladimir Putin’s favorite among the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, has replaced him.

            That shift in publishing is only one of several major developments in that branch. Book sales are down 10 percent so far this year compared to a year ago, and total print runs in the first quarter are down 23 percent compared to those in 2022 (

            Some of these developments reflect the impact of Putin’s war in Ukraine and the tightening of Moscow’s restrictions on the publication of works written by foreigners. But experts on the Russian book trade point to several deeper trends which have transformed Russia from the “most reading” nation in the world to one less interested in various kinds of books.

            Raisa Neyaglova-Kolosova of the Paulsen publishing house in Moscow, says that in Soviet times, Russians turned to reading because it was one of the few available kinds of recreation they had. But now there are far more and many of them, via the Internet, are even cheaper than reading.

            She notes as well that Russians are especially frequently turning away from fiction and reading instead non-fiction works which provide them with information rather than entertainment. They look for their entertainment elsewhere, and publishers are adjusting their lists accordingly, Neyaglova-Kolosova says.

            Alena Korolyeva, an entrepreneur in the book business, agrees with her but notes that bookstores are increasing in number in many parts of the country because profit can be made selling non-fiction authors.

With His Hyper-Centralization, Putin is Making a Civil War More Likely, El Murid Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – Ever more Russians are talking about the possibility of a civil war in their country after the passing of Vladimir Putin, Anatoly Nesmiyan who blogs under the screen name El Murid says, with some fearing that that will lead to the disintegration of Russia and others that it will lead to a recrudescence of an even more authoritarian centralized state.

            Both outcomes are possible, he continues, but the more immediate question is whether the Putin regime itself has created conditions that make such a conflict more likely or less. El Murid argues that despite Putin’s rhetoric and the assumptions of many, Putin has made such a conflict more likely (

            The blogger’s argument is based on an examination of what are the necessary conditions for a civil war and what are the sufficient ones. He argues that Russia avoided civil war after 1991 because of the continuing influence of Soviet homogeneity and power-sharing arrangements Yeltsin worked out in his 1992 agreement with the regions.

            Today, El Murid says, that power-sharing arrangement is viewed as “a mistake and even a step toward the potential disintegration of Russia.” But “that is absolutely not the case.” And in fact, Putin’s nullification of that accord had made possible “the entire current lists of crimes against Russia by the Putin regime.”

            The reason for that is the following: Yeltsin’s accord meant that people in one part of the Russian Federation viewed conflicts in another part of that country as far removed from their concerns. That limited the impact on Russia as a whole of both the first post-Soviet Chechen war and the clash between Yeltsin and the Supreme Soviet in 1993.

            The blogger notes that in 1993, he was living in Tatarstan and that the Moscow events of that year did not unsettle the republic because they were viewed as something local. “The regions philosophically related to what was happened in Moscow; and if the Supreme Soviet had won, they would have continued to live according to their own agendas.”

            By nationalizing politics, Putin has changed that; and he has created a situation in which force is the only means of suppressing differences between the center and the periphery and among various political blocs. As long as he has the force, Moscow can do that; but with his departure that will become more difficult.

            That is the result of the Kremlin leader’s campaign to destroy federalism; but to the extent that has only masked the differences between the center and periphery and left the country without a mechanism to resolve them other than through the use of force, that makes the use of force and consequent clashes more rather than less likely after Putin’s departure from office.

            According to El Murid, Russia “can remain a single space if we manage to create and implement a conciliatory mechanism that resolves the basic contradiction of our country, but if we do not create it, we will go through a civil war, as a result of which we will either end up disintegrating or returning to a unitary and non-viable state, which in a very short time will again go all the way to our current state and again cyclically return to the current point.”

Russia’s Orthodox and Muslims Clash on Origins and thus the Future of Russian State

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 6 – Two conferences in the last week, one organized by Metropolitan Tikhon, Vladimir Putin’s favorite priest, and a second arranged by the Moscow Islamic Institute, offered radically different versions of the origin of the Russian state and empire, Andrey Melnikov of NG-Religii says.

            The first stressed the importance of the conception of Moscow as the third Rome in the development of the Russian state, although there were serious disagreements as to whether that was a burden or a the guiding principle of how Russian rulers have acted over the last 500 years (

            Those who suggested that the Third Rome was a burden, including Tikhon, argued that the state and church have an obligation to increase the involvement of Russians in church life rather than engage in imperial actions. But those who viewed it as a guiding principle stressed exactly the opposite, and despite Tikhon’s influence, they appeared to be in the majority.

            The second conference, organized by the Muslim educational institution, argued that the origins of the Russian state lay instead with the subordination of Rus to the Golden Horde which provided a model for “Russian statehood and the formation of Russia as a polyethnic and poly-confessional state,” a view most participants in the Orthodox conference rejected.

            Three things about the simultaneous appearance of these two meetings are noteworthy. First and perhaps most striking is that they happened at all and at the same time in a Moscow that is increasingly totalitarian in its historical claims. Second, they show that such historical debates are about far more than the past.

            And third, they highlight the fact that Russian Orthodox and Muslim scholars and the communities from which they spring are deeply divided about this historical question and that however much the Kremlin seeks to suppress such differences, they remain very much alive and are likely to be the stuff of politics in the post-Putin era.


Friday, June 9, 2023

Given Growth in Number of Terrorist Cases, Russia’s Supreme Court Asks Duma to Allow More Courts to Hear Them

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 6 – The Russian Supreme Court has asked the Duma to amend existing law to allow cases of “a terrorist nature” to be heard not just in the limited number of courts as of now but in all district military tribunals, an implicit acknowledgement of just how rapidly these cases are multiplying.

            As recently as 2015, such cases were heard only in the courts of Moscow and the North Caucasus. Since then, courts in the Middle Volga and the Far East have been added to the list. Now the Supreme Court wants all military courts throughout the country to be allowed to hold such trials (

            This is an implicit acknowledgement of just how rapidly the number of such cases has expanded. Some of course are entirely fabricated by the authorities to repress the population; but others may be the product of actual conduct by people within the borders of the Russian Federation directed against that state system.

            One of the reasons the SOVA human rights organization says Moscow is taking this step is to save money: many judges in Siberia are currently forced to fly to the Russian capital and then back to neighboring Siberian cities because there are no direct flights between those locations. The amendments if passed will eliminate that need.

New Circassian Committee More Political and Youth Oriented than Other Circassian Groups, Organizers Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 7 – Russian pressure on and penetration of Circassian organizations abroad, generational changes in the community, and divisions about strategy and tactics among the more than five million Circassians in the diaspora have combined to produce more organizations which are often at odds with one another.

            In Turkey, home to the largest focus on local issues; but some are controlled by Moscow or openly hostile to it. Into this mix has now appeared the Circassian Committee, which defines itself as political, directed at the rising generation and supportive of an independent Circassia in the North Caucasus (

            On the one hand, this new group promises to be more politically active than many of the others and to be a harbinger of increasing activism by young Circassians who want to see change now. And on the other, it is certain to find itself increasingly in conflict with Moscow-controlled Circassian organizations.

            For background on this, see, and

To Protect Russia’s National Security, Putin Says Exodus of Russians from Border Regions Must Stop

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 7 – In recent decades, Russians have been migrating from rural areas to the big cities, a trend that includes within it, the departure of many ethnic Russians from border areas to places in the interior. That has left border areas with fewer people and made them less Russian in terms of population.

            Vladimir Putin says that this trend must be stopped in order to defend the national security and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and has told the country’s governors that they must take steps to make living in the border regions more, not less attractive (

            The departure of Russians from regions bordering Ukraine now under attack might seem to be the proximate cause for the Kremlin leader’s alarm, but in fact, it appears that he is more concerned about other regions, including the Russian Far East, an area that the tsarist government dispatched Ukrainians to in the years before World War I.

            That region, known to Ukrainians as the Green Wedge, still retains an interest in its Ukrainian heritage; and by issuing his order about border regions to the governor of neighboring Magadan, Putin signaled that he is as concerned about that as some of his senior security aides already are.

            For a discussion of this issue and how Ukrainian wedges like the one in the triangle along the Pacific shore and Chinese border, see this writer’s essay in Jamestown’s EDM yesterday at

Ukraine’s Population May have Fallen Below 30 Million, Some Estimates Suggest

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 6 – Ukraine has not conducted a census for two decades, but there is agreement by all observers that its population has declined over that period. Ukrainian officials suggest that their country now has just under 40 million people while some independent experts in Ukraine and Russia maintain that the real number is under 30 million.

            The latest estimate in this field comes from Kyiv’s Institute of the Future which says that if one takes into account both excess deaths over births, Russian occupation of portions of Ukraine, and the departure of Ukrainians for work or in the face of Russian aggression, the country’s population is now about 29 million (

            That figure is disputed by others and is likely far too low, especially as some Ukrainians are now returning to their country and the Ukrainian army seems set to reclaim much if not all of the territory the Russian military has occupied. But the overall number may be less significant than other demographic problems in Ukraine.

            Among the ones pointed to by the Institute, the following are especially worrisome and have been exacerbated by the Russian invasion: Ukraine now faces a decline in the size of its workforce and an increase in the number of pensioners; and its fertility rate has fallen to less than half of the 2.1 children per woman per lifetime needed to maintain the population.

            Those trends will place an enormous burden on Ukraine even after the war is over and many of the eight million plus Ukrainians who have moved abroad since its start return.