Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Almost Twice as Many North Caucasian Soldiers have Died in Ukraine than Russian Siloviki Died in North Caucasus over the Last 11 Years

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – There are many ways to measure the impact of Russian combat losses in Ukraine ranging from gross numbers of killed and wounded to per capita impact in various federal subjects. But a new figure from the North Caucasus indicates just how hard that region has been hit by the war in Ukraine.

            According to the Kavkaz-Uzel news agency, “no fewer than 845” residents of the North Caucasus Federal District have died in the last year in fighting in Ukraine, almost twice as many as the 480 members of the Russian force structures who died fighting against North Caucasian resistance in the last 11 years (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/386211/).

            The news agency acknowledges that both of these figures are problematic and that the real numbers are almost certainly greater; but the information it does provide suggests that the mortality figures for the war in Ukraine are likely more understated than are those of the so-called “anti-terrorist” actions in the North Caucasus.

            The number of North Caucasians the Russian siloviki killed was certainly far larger than the number of losses these forces suffered, and consequently, the combination of those losses and the losses from combat in Ukraine mean that the impact of both wars combined on the populations of the North Caucasus nations is enormous.

            Not only is there the obvious psychological consequence of losing so many people, but there are the losses themselves: Putin’s war in Ukraine has killed off at least some of those who might have taken arms against the Russian colonial occupation of the North Caucasus in the past or in the future.

            And that in and of itself is certain to have an impact on the future of conflicts between Moscow and the non-Russians there in the first instance but elsewhere as well.

Soviet Union Ethnically Rooted Leadership in Non-Russian Republics Not to Promote These Nations but to Maintain Its Colonial Empire, Galko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 27 – Two views of Soviet nationality policy, one offered in the West and the second by Vladimir Putin, fundamentally misconstrue the nature of that policy, Dmitry Galko says. Moscow did not promote non-Russians as a form of affirmative action or to create nations where they did not exist but rather to do what it had to in order to maintain a colonial empire.

            The Belarusian journalist and commentator thus takes issue both with Harvard University historian Terry Martin whose 2001 book, The Affirmative Action Empire, has shaped the thinking of many in the West and with the current Kremlin leader who routinely blames the Soviets for creating nationalities (graniru.org/opinion/m.287295.html).

            The Soviets did not promote non-Russians to leadership positions in the non-Russian republics because they hoped to build nations but rather because as party discussions in the 1920s show, the Bolsheviks recognized that at that time they were too weak to hold the empire together unless they appeared to be solicitous of the non-Russians, Galko says.

            But as soon as the center gained strength, he continues, it wiped out almost all of these gains and it purged leaders in the republics on an ethnic basis, jailing and killing more non-Russians than it did cadres from the center and the Russian Federation more generally, a clear indication of what the original policy was really all about.

            An interesting question which Galko doesn’t address is this: did Putin draw on the ideas of the Soviet Union as an “affirmative action” empire as he shaped his own notion that Lenin and the Bolsheviks created nations? There is no public evidence that the Kremlin leader did, but it would not be the first time that something like that happened. 

Émigré Mokshas Unite to Fight against Russification and Mordvinization and for National Independence

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – A newly-formed Committee of Representatives of the Moksha people in emigration says that decades of assimilation (Russification) and atomization (Mordvinization) have left the Moksha with no choice but to struggle against both and to pursue independence rather than wait for anyone to hand it to them as happened to some nations in 1991.

            The Moksha, whom Moscow views as a subgroup of the Mordvin nation along with the Erzya, say that at present they lack an independent leader who can speak for them but “do not have time to wait” for the Russian Federation to disintegrate. Instead, they must start the fight now (idel-ural.org/archives/obrashhenie-komiteta-predstavitelej-naroda-moksha-v-emigraczii-k-dvizheniyu-svobodnyj-idel-ural/ and t.me/toramanj_terdema).

            To that end, the Moksha committee says it seeks to cooperate in the first instance with the Erzya national movement and the Free Idel-Ural Movement but that it hopes to pursue a more radical cause, expanding the presence of all online and creating a weekly publication to reach older people who don’t use the internet as often.

            Specifically, the committee continues, “we propose to change the tactic from the current one of reaching a small but quality audience to a larger one that is also quality.” Unless that happens, the Moksha are in such serious straits that they may not survive. They no longer have the time to wait.

            (On the Moksha, who have attracted much less attention than the Erzya, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/12/mordovias-erzya-and-moksha-look-to.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/10/moksha-emigration-comes-ou t-against-war.html and especially windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/03/as-mordvins-approach-majority-status-in.html.)

Moscow Hopes to Attract Seven Million ‘Ideological’ Immigrants from Europe and US

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – Given Russia’s demographic collapse and the threat of ,  transformation as a result of people coming in from culturally different Central Asia and the Caucasus, a group of Duma deputies has created a special staff to promote the coming to Russia as permanent settlers up to seven million “ideological” immigrants from Europe and the US.

            The primary target, Duma deputies like Dmitry Gusev of the Just Russia-For Truth Party sy, are people in those countries who are already members of the Russian Orthodox Church but in addition, the group hopes to attract others who are angered by the cultural policies of Western countries (ritmeurasia.org/news--2023-02-24--kto-poedet-v-rossiju-ideologicheskaja-immigracija-64849).

            Such people may be attracted to move to Russia, Gusev says, because they oppose what they see as official policies in the countries where they are now living directed against traditional families, promoting Black Lives Matter, “the terrorization of the white population, and LGBT propaganda.

            Because Russia has suffered a loss in indigenous population over the last seven years of more than three million people, the supporters of this movement hope to attract enough people from European countries to improve Russia’s demographic numbers without what they see as the negative and even criminal impact of people from Muslim countries.

            To date, the number of Europeans or Americans who have chosen to move to Russia for such “ideological” reasons is small, far smaller than the number who did in the 1920s and 1930s who came to take part in the building of communism. But the group is hopeful and has extended its reach into social media.

            The Moving to Russia group has “more than 2,000 subscribers,” the group says, and the group’s site, Russian Faith, which appears in ten languages, reaches people across the globe. But so far, organizers admit, only a dozen or so families from the US and Canada have expressed interest in moving let alone actually done so.

            Nonetheless, the group is likely to expand its efforts less perhaps in the hope of attracting millions of European immigrants to Russia than in intensifying cultural divides, especially in the United States, where supporters of traditional values see their own government as the enemy and Putin’s Russia as their friend.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Western Leaders Want Ukraine to Win but Russia Not to Suffer Defeat, Two Desires that Can’t be Squared, Skobov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 26 – Over the last year, Western leaders have had to give up on many of the assumptions that they had about Ukraine and Russia, Aleksandr Skobov says. But they still have yet to recognize that they want two things that can’t take place simultaneously: Ukraine to win the war without Russia suffering a defeat.

            Western leaders have kept that internally inconsistent agenda because they want to avoid escalation, the Russian commentator says, but also because they do not understand either the nature of Putin’s system and how such an approach gives Putin the chance to continue to blackmail the West by continuing to threaten “what the target of his blackmail is afraid of” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=63F917EB1834D).

            And unless the West understands what the Kremlin leader is about and how he rules Russia, Putin may be able to come out of this conflict strengthened rather than weakened at home and even has the chance to keep the conflict going in ways that could give him partial victories abroad despite the heroism of the Ukrainian nation.

            As Putin’s war in Ukraine passes into its second year, Western analytic centers are increasingly talking about “the real prospect of an extended war, in which at the beginning almost no one believed. At first, they did not believe that Ukraine would withstand a hit by foces greater than its own” and would “capitulate.”

            “Then, these centers did not believe that that Russian society, accustomed to a post-industrial relaxation would prove completely insensitive to the pain of huge losses in what is clearly not a defensive war,” Skobov says. They did not and in many cases do not understand that Russians remain indifferent not only to the pain of others but to their own pain as well.

            Many in these centers and elsewhere still “refuse to recognize the Putin regime as the reincarnation of Nazism primarily because they do not see in society a real political and ideological mobilization” like that which existed in Hitler’s Germany. There is no “genuine mass enthusiasm” but only its “purely” formal and pale “imitation.

            That, however, is the core principle of the way in which Putin has built his system, Skobov says. “Putin’s post-modern Nazism is Nazism de minimis.” But “that is what gives it its vitality” because “society is not at all obsessed with a desire for victory or particulary hurt in the event of failure.”

            Because of that combination, the commentator continues, “there is no longer any certainty that Putin’s regime will start to crumble even after ‘the loss’ of Crimea, whose acquisition once briefly set the hearts of Russians on fire.” Now, they may not care all that much about that either.”

“And having turned off both conscience and the ability to think rationally … we get the same result [in Putin’s Russia] as in Hitler’s Germany: people with whom the government can inflict any abomination and whom it can force to commit any abomination.” If the West refuses to see that this regime must be defeated even if that takes escalation, the future is grim indeed.

As long as the West believes that its first operational principle must be to avoid any escalation, “the Nazi dictator of Russia has the ability to blackmail the world with exactly that” because he can escalate the conflict at will, something that may not bring military victories but impose “another psychological victory over the West.”

            That must not be allowed to happen, Skobov says. Ukraine must win and Putin’s Russia must be defeated. Any other outcome will be a defeat not only for Ukraine but for the West as a whole. 

War in Ukraine Already has 18 Important Lessons for Military and Defense Policies of All Countries, ‘The Insider’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 25 – Russia’s expanded invasion of Ukraine launched a year ago is already leading experts around the world to call attention to the lessons the conflict has for other governments around the world. Vyacheslav Yepuryanu of The Insider has assembled and discusses 18 of them.

            They are as follows (theins.ru/politika/259630):

1.     Despite the expectations of many, tanks remain an important factor on today’s battlefield.

2.     Artillery is dominant and as before can be considered “the god of war.”

3.     Drones are more important than fighter planes.

4.     Drones are only the tip of the iceberg of new technologies that are transforming the battlefield.

5.     The ability of the sides to respond quickly to changes on the battlefield is the key to victory.

6.     Logistics are an ever more important element in modern war.

7.     Unlike in some earlier wars, quantity now does not automatically translate into a qualitative advantage.

8.     The modern battlefield is going to include a variety of units from different sources and not just the armies of the primary combatant countries.

9.     The ability to monitor the situation is now more important than any particular weapon.

10.  Nuclear weapons do not give the side that has them the advantages its leaders had expected.

11.  Cyber attacks, a key element before military action begins, may be less frequent after it starts.

12.  Micro electronics is key to the successful use of almost all weapons.

13.  Modern war now involves all aspects of life and not just the military.

14.  Defense currently enjoys an advantage over offense.

15.  Outside aid to Ukraine has allowed it to move from a war of position to a war of maneuver.

16.  Neither side can achieve victory by rockets alone.

17.  Weather remains a key factor that no technological advance has been able to overcome.

18.  Modern war will take place in and be about cities rather than the maneuvering of arms in rural areas.

Telegram Channel Promoting ‘Sick Outs' in Russia to Disrupt Moscow’s War Effort

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – Over the last year, the anonymous telegram channel, “Anti-War Sick Leave,” has encouraged Russians to take sick leave in order to force the authorities to replace them with people who will be able to do their work less well as a means to disrupt Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine.

            Open strikes would be even more effective, as the recent strike by couriers in Moscow showed; but at a time when the dangers of going out on strike are so high, taking sick leave as a form of sabotage against the Russian war effort can play an important role with lower risks and thus the likelihood of greater participation.

            One of the leaders of this movement, speaking on conditions of anonymity with Maksim Zagorov, the editor of the Holod portal, says his group has helped organize three major waves of sick outs in the Russian Federation over the last year and that they have impeded Russian military production (holod.media/2023/02/23/antivoennyi-bolnichnyi/).

            His group, the activist says, provides information on the kind of illnesses that individuals can declare as the reason for absences that doctors typically aren’t able to either diagnose or announce that there is no basis for such claims when these people turn themselves into hospitals for treatment.

            And he says that the effort has been successful enough that both those opposed to the war and Russian officials who are compelled to support it now recognize that “sick leave is sabotage” and will interfere with the war effort even if only a few people are involved because none of those brought in to replace those hospitalized will be as good at the jobs vacated by others.

            How large his organization is, the activist says, he will not say; and how many people have taken its advice, he doesn’t know, although there is growing evidence that Russians opposed to the war see sick leave as a form of protest they can engage in without high risks to themselves and their families.

            Thus, as the war grinds one, he suggests, ever more Russians will sign into hospitals not because they are really sick but because this is a very effective way of protesting against Putin’s war.

Duma Deputies Now Must Respond to Commands Not Just to ‘Vote’ Correctly but to ‘Offer Their Paws’ and ‘Fetch,’ Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 25 – In the latest expression of popular contempt for Duma deputies, Russians are saying that these dog-like people must now not only respond to commands to “vote” this way or that and “sit” when they are told but also to “offer their paws” and “fetch” when their Kremlin overlords command.

            That is just one of the new anecdotes circulating in Russia that have been assembled and published by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/45223/-). Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Any businessman who doesn’t make a voluntary contribution to the budget will have future criminal cases against him expanded to include the reference in every case to crimes he has committed up to now with the words “while having criminal intent.”

·       Russians, seeing steam rising from hatches in the pavement, have concluded that the authorities are warming up the bomb shelters, evidence of the first practical results of Putin’s recent speech to the Federal Assembly.

·       When Moscow complains about how the West has attacked Russia in Ukraine, it is behaving just like a burglar who says he was ambushed by trash in a hut he was trying to rob.

·       The Novosti news agency was far too modest in describing Putin’s speech. It said his remarks were “an information bomb.” Instead, it shoud have said it was the most important event since the appearance of humans on earth.

·       Putin knows that everyone knows he is lying, but that only makes him more willing to continue to do so.

·       Russia is about to get Potemkin megacities in place of Potemkin villages now that the Duma has allowed Rosstat not to publish data on price increases or mortality rates. Everything can be hidden and Russians will be forced to conclude that everything is wonderful.

·       A Duma deputy insists that he isn’t for sale except for money.

·       No Russian had heard of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut a year ago, but now they are told that without the Russian army taking it, their country cannot see real happiness and patriotism. Life will get better, the world will be multipolar, and many Russians will even stop drinking. What is located there? A cash horde from Yanukovich’s time or a secret passage to the middle of the earth?


Sunday, February 26, 2023

Number of Mosques in Turkmenistan has Been Cut Back to That at End of Soviet Times, Mitrokhin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – As in other former Soviet republics with large Muslim populations, the number of mosques in Turkmenistan increased from fewer than 200 at the end of Soviet times to 800 at the end of the last century. But now as a result of economic difficulties and repressive state policy, the number of mosques in Turkmenistan is back to where it was in 1991.

            That is just one of the pieces of information about religious life in Central Asia that Nikolay Mitrokhin, a Russian specialist on religious life, has shared in the course of an extensive interview to the Khan-Tengri journal (https://ia-centr.ru/han-tengri/oriental/khristianstvo-v-tsentralnoy-azii/).

            Among the many others Mitrokhin made relevant to the current situation, the following are especially noteworthy:

 ·       Protestantism in the region grew after 1991 as a result of the arrival of missionaries from the West and ethnic immigrants from other parts of the former Soviet Union. Aiding them in this was a Protestant training academy based in Azerbaijan.

·       Even in Soviet times, Protestants outnumbered Orthodox, although both were far outnumbered by Muslims of various groups. Today, these disproportions have become even greater.

·       Two of the countries in the region, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, have pursued moderately tolerant polices toward all faiths. The other three –Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – have been more repressive with Turkmenistan being especially so first against Protestants, then Russian Orthodox, and now even Muslims.

·       Except at the very highest levels, the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church and much of the laity is now drawn not from Russians coming in from the outside but from non-Russian converts.

·       Consequently, Central Asia can no longer play the role of a farm team for the upper reaches of the Moscow Patriarchate; but at the same time, there is no talk of autocephaly because the numbers of Orthodox are so small. Instead, Central Asian Orthodox only seek a greater role in Patriarchal institutions.

Putin Plays Poker Not Chess and He has a Losing Hand, Kasparov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – Many have suggested for many years that Russian leaders play chess while Western ones play checkers, with the former recognizing that they can sacrifice many smaller pieces in order to win the prize but the latter assuming that they have to win everything in the pursuit of their goals.

            But Vladimir Putin is different, Garri Kasparov says. He doesn’t play chess but poker, a judgment that must be taken seriously because Kasparov is not only an opposition leader but a world chess champion (gordonua.com/blogs/garri-kasparov/putin-ne-shahmatist-on-igrok-v-poker-kotoryy-blefuet-on-znaet-chto-proigral-no-nadeetsya-chto-etogo-ne-osoznayut-ego-vragi-1651622.html).

            Putin for some time has looked “like a man who knows he’s lost and knows he is lying to himself but hopes that his enemies don’t realize that yet,” Kasparov continues. “In such a losing position, he has a tendency to push harder, act hastily and appear overconfident in a display of the desperate bravado of the doomed.”

            “A long as Ukraine and its allies don’t blink and continue to apply pressure, victory is assured,” he insists. What must be remembered is that “Putin is not a chess player: he is a poker player who bluffs and knows hot to exploit any weakness in the resolve of his opponents.” In response, the West must “not play his game” but play its own and not fall for bluffs.

            Kasparov continues: “This week in Munich and Brussels, I spoke to hundreds of officials. Overwhelmingly, their view is that today is a turning point, that Ukraine must win, and that Putin must be stopped now for the sake of European and global security and stability. Even those who still make noise about talks with Putin understand that Ukraine can’t be sacrificed.”

            And the brilliant chess player concludes: “The free world has woken up after decades of post-Cold War dormancy. But words aren’t enough. Ten years ago, deterrence at lower cost and risk was possible than it is now. But the prices and risks will only increase if sufficient action is not taken now. Glory to Ukraine!”

Putin Fears Russians won’t Remain a Single Nation if Russian Federation is Divided Up

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 26 – Vladimir Putin has always believed the state itself is essential to Russian nation and so it is perhaps no surprise that in an interview today with Russia 1 he declared that if the West divides the country up, he “doesn’t know if the Russian people will remain a nation. Instead, you will have Muscovites, Uralians and others.”

            This is the Kremlin leader’s clearest statement yet that what he fears the West is promoting and that may be at risk of happening is not the disintegration of the Russian Federation along ethnic lines, with the non-Russian republics going their own way, but rather the coming apart of what he and others have defined as the Russian nation itself.

            On the one hand, his words are clearly intended to rally Russians around his regime in order to prevent the Russian nation from coming apart along with the Russian state, precisely what one would expect him to do as the war in Ukraine has ground on without the success he had assumed and promised (rbc.ru/politics/26/02/2023/63fb07d49a794704d80eb239).

            But on the other, Putin’s comment suggests that even he is aware that language alone won’t hold the Russian nation together and that there is a possibility that there could be multiple Russian-speaking states in the future just as there are multiple English-speaking countries at the present time.

            In that, he is ahead of many in the West who remain trapped in the view that any coming part of the Russian Federation will follow ethnic lines just as the disintegration of the USSR did three decades ago. And his words suggest as well that Putin is far more worried about regionalist challenges than many in the West are.

            Given his statist understanding of nationality, Putin may as a result pursue an even more centralist policy than he has to date; but if he does, that in and of itself could spark more regionalist challenges to Moscow’s rule and have the same effect on the regions that Gorbachev’s turn to the right at the end of 1990 had on the non-Russian union republics.

            It is all too often forgotten now that the Soviet Union came apart less because of Gorbachev’s liberalization than because his liberalization was followed by a harsh turn to authoritarianism, a turn that caused his foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, to warn of a dictatorship and resign.

            Obviously, the regions of Russia are less well positioned to withstand such a policy and Putin has not made his pursuit of centralization and authoritarianism all at once but rather slowly over time, something that has made it more acceptable to both the people within the Russian Federation and the West.

            But despite that, Putin’s own words now show that he is worried about regional challenges far more than almost anyone in Moscow or in the West has been. And that in and of itself is a revelation of what is going on in his mind and what is likely to guide his policies in the coming weeks and months. 

Representatives of Middle Volga Nations in Orenburg Declining in Number but Those of Central Asian Ones Increasing, Census Shows

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 22 – The ethnic mix in Orenburg Oblast, which some view as a corridor between the peoples of the Middle Volga and Kazakhstan that would give the former a greater chance at independence (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/02/tatars-and-bashkirs-must-recover.html), changed radically between the last two all-Russian censuses of 2010 and 2021.

            The number of ethnic Russians declined slightly, but changes in the share of peoples from the Middle Volga, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia were large. The first two fell dramatically but the third increased by an equal amount, suggesting Central Asia is moving north while the Middle Volga is no longer moving south (idelreal.org/a/32279013.html).

            The Central Asianization of Orenburg appears set to increase in the coming years, not only because of the outmigration or assimilation of Middle Volga nations but also because the ethnic Russian population is likely to decline even faster not only because of outmigration but also because it is older and thus likely to have fewer children.

            If that pattern holds, the peoples of the Middle Volga could find themselves adjoining a Central Asian space within a decade or so, even if their own nations decline in number in the Orenburg corridor, something some advocates of an independent Idel-Ural state have already taken note of.

Instead of urging Middle Volga nations to move into the corridor, these activists are calling on current and future residents of the Orenburg Oblast to join with Idel-Ural for its freedom and their own (idel-ural.org/archives/na-territorii-orenburgskogo-koridora-u-okkupaczionnyh-vlastej-net-deneg-na-pelmeni-banki-morozhennogo-czvety-barana-ili-meshok-kartoshki/).

Number of Ethnic Russians Grew in Soviet Period but has Fallen Since, Census Shows

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 21 – Between the 1959 and 1989 Soviet censuses, the number of Russians in the USSR grew from 114 million to 145 million; but between the 2002 and 2021 censuses in the post-Soviet Russian Federation, their number fell from 116 million to 105.5 million, perhaps the most significant trend these enumerations have documented.

            That judgment is warranted because nations large and small who feel that their numbers are declining typically feel threatened and want to reverse that pattern by changing state policy or  lashing out at other nations that are doing better (profile.ru/society/rossiya-v-nacionalnom-razreze-kak-za-sto-let-izmenilsya-sostav-naseleniya-strany-1260325/).

            Smaller nations whose numbers are declining frequently begin to talk about the threat that they will disappear altogether, while larger nations like the Russian more often lash out at others, denying the separateness of the latter as Vladimir Putin has done with regard to the Ukrainians as a way of covering or reversing his nation’s decline.

            Some of the recent decline reflects the fact that many ethnic Russians still live in former Soviet republics; some the aging of this nationality, with declining birthrates and rising deathrates; and some that for Russians more than perhaps for others, nationality has declined in importance because the state asks for it only in censuses.

            But there is no question that the trajectory of the Russian nation has changed and become increasingly negative, both absolutely and relative to other groups, the largest of which have remained stable in number or even increased and that that pattern is disturbing for Russians and encouraging perhaps for others.


Are the Wakhan Kyrgyz Finally Going to Get to Go Home?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 21 -- Few peoples of the world have been forced to fight and then flee more often than the Kyrgyz of Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. They initially fought the Soviets in the 1920s and 1930s as Basmachi, then fled to China only to move again when the communists took power, and retreating to Pakistan when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

            But their odyssey did not end there. The group divided between into two: about a 1,000 who hoped to be resettled in Alaska but ultimately were forced to move to the Lake Van region of eastern Turkey and about 300 who returned to the Wakhan Corridor, hopeful they could hold out. Both hoped to move to Kyrgyzstan but Bishkek wasn’t prepared to take them in.

            With the Taliban moving into their largely inaccessible region, some who had been eking out an existence in the Wakhan have been forced to flee again, this time to Tajikistan where their future is anything but secure (fergana.agency/news/122422/ and asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20210714/gruppa-etnicheskih-kirgizov-iz-afganistana-pereshla-granitsu-v-tadzhikistan).

            Many would like to return to Kyrgyzstan, their ancestral home, but Bishkek, in contrast to other post-Soviet countries, has displayed an on-again, off-again willingness to help, largely because of the costs of bringing them home and integrating them into Kyrgyzstan’s life (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/10/kyrgyzstan-officials-again-refuse-to.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2012/01/window-on-eurasia-kyrgyz-who-fled.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/11/kyrgyz-who-fought-bolsheviks-in-central.html).

            Now, the saga of the Wakhan Kyrgyz appears to be coming to an end. Kyrgyz President Sardyr Zhaparov has committed himself to bringing all the Kyrgyz abroad home, including the Wakhan Kyrgyz in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Turkey (ritmeurasia.org/news--2023-02-21--put-domoj-kak-kirgizija-vozvraschaet-na-rodinu-zhitelej-kryshi-mira-64792 and ritmeurasia.org/news--2023-01-26--bishkek-prinimaet-vse-mery-dlja-pereselenija-etnicheskih-kirgizov-iz-afganistana-64330).

            He says that the plight of these peoples weighs on his mind and that he is personally committed to ensuring that all Kyrgyz abroad return home and have what they need including housing and livestock to live the traditional Kyrgyz way of semi-nomadic life that other Kyrgyz have lost but that they continue to embody.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

In 2021, Kremlin Made Plans to Absorb Belarus as Soon as It had Achieved Regime Change in Ukraine, New Document Shows

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 20 – The Dossier Center has obtained a Kremlin document which shows that Moscow intended to gradually absorb Belarus into the Russian Federation over the next decade after it achieved regime change in Ukraine by military means. Russia’s inability to do the  latter so far has in no way changed Moscow’s plans for the former, the center’s sources say.

            The document, according to the Dossier Center, was prepared by the Presidential Administration together with the SVR, the FSB, the GRU and the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces and laid out specific tasks to be achieved over the next decade to make Belarus not part of a union with Russia but part of it (dossier.center/union-br/).

            Entitled “The Strategy Goals of the Russian Federation in the Belarusian Direction” and dated 2021, the document shows that what the Kremlin is really planning for its Western neighbor is entirely different that what Putin and other Russian officials say publicly. Moscow isn’t interested in a new union state but in the suppression of Belarusian statehood altogether.

            It is unknown whether similar policy documents exist regarding the future of other former Soviet republics, but it seems likely that if they are, they are likely to reflect the policies in this policy document rather than the words of Putin. Because that is so, this leak is likely to cause Belarusian and other non-Russian leaders to become more suspicious of Moscow.

UN CLCS Accepts Russia’s Documentation of Its Claims on Arctic Seabed, Increasing Likelihood It will Do the Same for Claims of Others

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 20 – The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UN CLCS) has accepted the evidence Russia has submitted in support of most but not all of Moscow’s claims on the Arctic seabed, a major step forward but not the last word in what has been a dispute that has been ongoing for more than two decades.

            On the one hand, the UN CLCS by its decision has acknowledged that it is possible for Arctic powers to use existing technology to provide reasonable claims to the seabed in the north, something that many experts had challenged and that the commission had not made a decision (un.org/depts/los/clcs_new/submissions_files/rus01_rev15/2023RusRev1RecSum.pdf).

            That opens the way for Canada, Denmark and Greenland to make similar submissions in the future, something that means a final decision on the Arctic is still years away. (The US is not affected directly because its border with the Russian Federation as far as the Arctic Ocean and its seabed are concerned is defined by a 1990 agreement.)

            But on the other hand, by recognizing the authority of Russian claims but not giving Russia all it wants, the UN CLCS decision is likely to be both welcomed in Moscow as a recognition of Russian rights and lead some there to insist that their country has the right to act now lest others intervene against it.

            In short, the decision doesn’t end the dispute but may in fact raise the issue to a new level. (For the decision, its background, and possible consequences, see arctictoday.com/russia-gets-approval-for-the-data-behind-much-of-its-arctic-ocean-seabed-claim/,  windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/08/moscow-plans-new-push-for-un.html, thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2022/12/canada-extends-continental-shelf-claim-increasing-overlaps-russia-arctic and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/11/moscow-should-act-unilaterally-if-un.html.)


Putin’s Successor Must Be Chosen by Matchsticks as No One Wants to Volunteer to Go to the Hague, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 21 – The Kremlin faces a real problem in choosing a successor to Vladimir Putin, Russians say. No one wants to volunteer for a position that will ultimately lead to a bench in the international criminal court in the Hague. As a result, the Presidential Administration has decided to use matchsticks. Whoever draws the shortest …

            That is just one of the anecdotes now circulating in Moscow that have been collected and republished by journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/45196/-). The best of the rest include:

·       The best gift anyone can give a Russian man on defenders of the country holiday is a medical certificate showing he is unfit to serve in the ranks.

·       After the debacle with Lilith, God decided to give Adam no choice as far as Eve was concerned, thus setting the tradition that Putin has followed in Russian elections.

·       Moscow is building the largest pre-trial detention center with room for 4,000 inmates. But even it won’t be large enough to hold all the senior officials of the Putin regime when the time comes.

·       Russian governors are like those in ancient Rome: When they come to a poor one, they leave rich; and when they come to a rich region, they leave richer still.

·       The FSB is outraged that the British Academy didn’t give the agency an award for its role in Navalny’s life. That would only have been right, the FSB says, after the Academy gave an award to those who made the film. There wouldn’t have been a film with the FSB, its leaders say. Biden came to Kyiv because Putin allowed him to, but Putin did not come to the Ukrainian capital because Zelensky didn’t allow him to.

·       Putin’s declaration that Russian presidential elections in 2024 will be carried out in strict accordance with the law. In Russian that means, he will be the only candidate, will win, and no one should expect him to leave anytime soon.

·       Like Brezhnev, Putin spoke for a long time, was interrupted frequently by applause, but “thank God,” he didn’t say anything either.

Moscow has Transformed How Russian Cities Look to Propagandize Putin’s War, ‘Novaya Vladka’ Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 20 – The Kremlin’s propaganda effort has not been limited to messages on television and in social media. It has led to the appearance of all kinds of symbols of and messages about the war that have transformed the way in which Russian urban places now look, according to the editors of the Novaya Vladka portal.

            Russians walking through their cities are bombarded with ideological messages not so much from the media as from the environment with new signs going up and old ones modified to promote support for the war, materials that may do even more to “normalize” the conflict and generate support for it, the portal says (thenewtab.io/budto-v-chuzhom-gorode-zhivu/).

            The portal chose the city of Penza to see how things have changed in the last year and concludes with a remark by one of that Russian urban center’s residents that 12 months later it is “as if I live in a different city,” one in many cases completely at odds with the one he had lived in earlier.

            The article contains a large number of pictures of Penza’s urban landscape today, a useful supplement to the more common discussions of broadcast and print propaganda and a reminder of how powerful such urban refashioning can be. One Penza woman said that as a result of what has happened, “the city is not visible,” having disappeared under the cover of propaganda.

West Bears Some Responsibility for Russians’ Failure to Protest War in Ukraine, Filipenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 20  Atomization of Russian society, repression and propaganda by the Putin regime, and widespread poverty among Russians, one in four of whom don’t have indoor toilets, Belarusian writer Sasha Filipenko says, go a long way to explain why Russians aren’t protesting the war.

            But the writer, who now lives in Europe, says that the West by acts of commission and omission bears part of the responsibility as well and must face up to that fact if the situation inside Russia is going to change (nzz.ch/feuilleton/europaeer-sollten-nicht-fragen-warum-die-russen-nicht-gegen-den-krieg-auf-die-strasse-gehen-sie-wuerden-besser-selber-auf-die-strasse-gehen-und-fragen-warum-ihre-laender-mit-putin-weiterhin-handel-treiben-ld.1723789 in German; holod.media/2023/02/20/why-dont-russians-protest/ in Russian).

            After detailing the reasons usually cited for the absence of mass protests – atomization and the flight of many abroad, intense propaganda, the decapitation of groups that might have gone into the streets, widespread repression, poverty, and their bad experience with protesting in the past – Filipenko points to three foreign causes that he says are critical.

            First of all, the powerless that many Russians feel as far as their ability to influence Putin by protests is justified by many of them with the repeated observation that if the West can’t influence the Kremlin leader with all of the West’s enormous powers, how can anyone expect Russians to do anything.

            Second, Putin has been pursuing an ever more repressive course at home and an ever more aggressive course abroad over the last 20 years; but despite the outrage of some, most Western governments did not do anything even as tough as impose serious sanctions until a year ago. Had the West acted earlier, so too might the Russians.

            And third, and most important, Filipenko says, when Russians think about protests, their model is not Ukraine but Belarus. When there were mass protests in Belarus, the West celebrated them but then has imposed sanctions on that country as if it is just as guilty as Russia for what is going on in Ukraine and ceased to give Belarusians visas.

            Any Russian thinking about protest “understands all too well” that he is likely to face repression at home and that while Europe will celebrate him, it will quickly “forget about him” and leave him on his own. “You are a hero today but tomorrow we will not open bank accounts for you because you haven’t overthrown your dictatorship with which we continue to trade.”

            Those in the West who condemn Russians for not protesting need to look in the mirror, Filipenko says; because what the West has done explains why Russians aren’t in the streets almost as much as Putin’s propaganda and repression against a population he fears just as much as he fears the Ukrainians.