Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Achieving Putin’s Goal of National Sovereignty for Auto Industry Equivalent to Stalin’s Plan for Socialism in One Country, Patsvania Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 30 – The situation that has emerged since Russia began its expanded war in Ukraine means that achieving Putin’s goal of national sovereignty in the national automotive industry is quite similar to Stalin’s plan for building socialism in one country, according to Vakhtang Partsvania, an economist at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service.

            “In essence,” he argues, this will mean “a force course toward the archaization of the automotive industry, a decline in production and technological potential, the loss of key competences and knowledge as well as any chance for integrating this sector into the global automotive industry” (

            Prior to February 2022, Russia’s plans for its automobile industry “in some ways sought to keep pace with global trends;” but with the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine, many global automakers and suppliers of components and spare parts began to suspend business in Russia,” with many leaving the country entirely.

            The only country from which Moscow could attract automobile companies to come in and use existing plants was China ; “and with the departure of global automakers from Russia, there has been an impressive growth in sales of Chinese cars,” up from two to seven percent a decade ago to 60 percent or more now, with similar trends in the truck market as well.

            According to Partsvania, “the Russian authorities have been unable to resist this process of complete Sinification of the Russian automotive industry” given sanctions; but they have failed to see that this process “not only undermines the fundamental principles of Russia’s industrial policy and threatens the future of Russian auto makers.”

            “Any interventions aimed at protecting the domestic market and ‘domestic producers’ will primarily be directed against Chinese firms,” a risky move not only in terms of the operation of the sector but for political reasons as well, the economist continues.

“Until February 2022, the Russian automotive industry was a competitive industry with all the prospects for full integration into the global automotive industry. Today, there is no one to negotiate with except ‘the Chines,’, and to achieve similar effects with Chinese automakers, the government will need years of meticulous work, the success of which is not at all obvious even if we proceed from peacetime conditions and the absence of sanctions.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Russian Leaders Still Think Money Alone Can Solve All Problems, Nigmatulin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – In the 1990s, those who came to power believed that if they had enough money from the sale of raw materials, they could buy anything else they needed and so put Russia on the path to economic and intellectual degradation, Academician Robert Nigmatulin says.

            Now, the head of the Academy of Sciences Institute of Oceanology says, the country’s leaders seem to think that they can solve that problem simply by throwing money at it, an indication that they do not understand how science and technology work and that they are only going to make things worse (

            Scholarship, research and development have been underfunded, Nigmatulin says; and it will be most helpful if these key fields are given more funding. But that alone won’t solve the problems Russia faces in these areas. Other steps are required, and the leadership needs to be told that directly.

            Unfortunately, most officials who supervise science in Russia today are effective managers and yes men who tell those above them what they want to hear rather than the truth; and even more unfortunately, those above them are all too pleased to accept the idea that everything is fine and that the leadership need not take any additional steps.

            The authorities must take steps to create environments in which young scholars can flourish. Then they won’t leave Russia or may even choose to return, although Nigmatullin says that in his view, a significant portion of those who have left already are unlikely to do so unless things change in fundamental ways.

            “Unfortunately,” he continues, “the leadership of the country doesn’t understand this. It starts from the position that it knows everything better than we do … But no, they don’t.” The leadership needs to be told the truth, and it needs to act on it. The longer that doesn’t happen, the more difficult it will be to recover.

            Those who have been misleading the leadership by telling it what it wants to hear need to “repent.” “I am not in any case seeking blood,” Nigmatullin says; “but there must be repentance” for what they have done so that this negative pattern of the last 30 years will be overcome.

            At the same time, he suggests, the country’s leadership must may far more attention to the real and ramified needs of science than it does and should take as its model Soviet times when scholars ran institutes and political figures attended meetings of academics for more than a few minutes.

No One Attacked Russia before Putin Invaded Ukraine – But Some Officials Appear to Be Edging toward a Recognition of That, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 30 – Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, whose region has been attacked from Ukraine, says the solution to that problem is for Kharkhiv to be annexed to the Belgorod Oblast. Then no outsider would be attacking. But, some Russians say, before Putin went to war in Ukraine, no one ever shelled a Russian region. That was inconceivable.

            But other officials are edging in the direction of acknowledging that sad reality. One governor has suggested that the Russian army was “correct” in withdrawing from his city. He would have been even more correct if he had said that the abandoning of Ukraine by the Russian army would be even more correct, some Russians say.

            These are just two of the anecdotes Russians are telling one another that perhaps better reflect popular attitudes than any public opinion poll. They have been assembled and posted online by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova ( Among the best of the rest of her latest collection are the following:

·       Putin will soon present the new Order of Gagarin to Ramzan Kadyrov for allowing the passage of satellites over Chechnya.

·       Import substitution and technological sovereignty are not the same thing. The first is when instead of a German Mercedes, you drive a Chinese Moskvich; the second is when you walk rather than drive.

·       Putin says the secret of his political longevity is that the Russian people will vote for him regardless of what he does.

·       Putin expressed his condolences to Turkish leader Erdogan for winning re-election with only 52 percent of the vote.

·       The Russian people are truly amazing: they like the Internet and the iPhone but support bombing America; they like Mercedes but want to wipe Europe off the face of the earth; and their own government robs them but they hate NATO.

·       It isn’t true that Russia is banning everything. The Duma is currently preparing a law that will legalize marriages between different animal species. For example, it will allow snakes and hedgehogs to mate and thus produce hundreds of kilometers of barbed wire.

Kirov Oblast Villagers Support War Memorial Even When The War hasn’t Affected Them Directly and They Don’t have Basic Services

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 28 – The village of Spasskoye in Kirov Oblast appears to have been little affected by Putin’s war in Ukraine: no one from there has been mobilized, there are no new graves at the cemetery, and no one has put signs celebrating the conflict. But the war has sparked  discussions among the population and has imposed new burdens on a hard-pressed people.

            According to a report by The New Tab news portal, Spasskoye residents talk frequently about the war and have a wide variety of reactions ranging from incredulity to support to opposition (

            But they have donated funds for the army at the front, and almost a year ago, officials from the oblast suggested that they should erect a monument to the war and choose between a tank, a missile launcher and a cannon to be its centerpiece. Initially, people thought Moscow would pay but now they have found out that they will have to bear the cost directly.

            Village officials took aa poll via the Internet in which more than 200 people took part: 47 percent voted for the tank, while 39 percent voted for the rocket launcher. Fewer than eight percent took the occasion to vote against spending money on such a monument when there are so many needs that aren’t being met.

            The village no longer has an effective water supply. It doesn’t have an apothecary or medical point. It doesn’t have good transportation links to places where these exist. And its local library hasn’t had any new books in a decade except for contributions of religious literature from the Russian Orthodox Church.

            Anastasiya Skurikhina, a local Ne the only thing they are rated on is how they are conducting pro-war propaganda and keeping people quiet. “No one there needs anything else anymore,” she says.

            “Therefore,” Shurikhina continues, “I believe proposals like ‘let’s bring you a rank’ rather than ‘let’s solve the water problem’ are a spit in the face of the population by the authorities. And it is sad that the people don’t understand that.” Instead, each lives its own life with the people prepared to defer to the powers but not caring much about them otherwise.

            No one has been willing to take the job of the top official in the village because the pay is too low; and no one cared about the decision to do away with elections for a village council. When a meeting was held to discuss that, not a single Spasskoye resident showed up, a measure of the mutual isolation of the people and the politicians.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Russian Pressure on Circassians in North Caucasus Backfiring by Increasing Circassian Activism Abroad, Kase Kik Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 25 – Since the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine, Moscow has increased pressure on Circassian activists in the North Caucasus, confident that if it can force them to emigrate, that will kill off the movement as it has done with some ethnic Russian activists who have fled abroad, Turkey-based Circassian activist Kase Kik says.

            But Moscow’s assumption that what has worked with ethnic Russians will work with the Circassians has backfired; and each new émigré arriving from the homeland in Turkey and other countries where 90 percent of the world’s Circassians now live is energizing the Circassian national movement (

            “Russia’s powers that be are in the main incompetent in their analyses” of the Circassians because they follow all-Russian models. When leaders of other nations are forced to emigrate, Kik continues, “they quickly lose attention and relevance in Russian society and fall into political oblivion.”

            But this pattern doesn’t work with Circassians, Kik says. Most Circassians live in the diaspora and only gain from the political skills of those Moscow is forcing out. That is having another consequence Moscow appears not to have counted on: the new arrivals are reducing the influence of FSB-penetrated bodies like the International Circassian Association.

            It is also leading to the rise of new Circassian groups, including the Circassian Committee, an organization of which Kik is a part and which plans to step up the pressure for the return of Circassians to their homeland and the creation of an independent Circassian state in the borders it had before the Russian conquest.

            Kik’s words are yet another indication that Moscow’s continuing efforts to penetrate and disable the Circassian national movement aren’t working and that the Circassians are now on their way to gaining support both within Russian Federation and beyond them ( and

Residents of Kemerovo’s Nasha Rodina Call Their Village’s Link to Outside World a Schroedinger Bridge

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 26 – Many people don’t know about Schroedinger’s cat, a concept from quantum mechanics, but the 60 residents of Nasha Rodina (“Our Motherland”), in the north of Kemerovo Oblast do. They call the rickety suspension bridge between their village and the outside world the Schroedinger bridge because it both is and is not, an indication that they are not as cut off as many might imagine.

            This footbridge, which is impassable during spring floods and can carry only people and the occasional motorcycle in the best of times, is something the local authorities have promised to replace for decades; but the powers that be haven’t done so – and Nasha Rodina residents don’t want to lose this link (

            The village has no shop, no village council, no medical point, and residents use this bridge to get to neighboring villages across the river in order to meet their needs. What is perhaps most striking is that official maps show that there is a real bridge when in fact there is not, yet another case of the Schroedinger cat principle.

            But this is just one of the ways that what the government says and what the people know do not correspond. Residents say there are more people there than the oblast admits or the census reports, they note that the village had had name change after name change, and they acknowledge that the village has been passed back and forth among three oblasts.

            As Putin has demonstrated in recent weeks, Russians often have problems with old maps; but as the people of Nasha Rodina are doing every day, people there often have problems with much newer ones that show things that may exist some of the time but don’t exist on other occasions.


5,000 Bashkirs Protest Russian Mining, Putting Putin’s Plans to Make Russia Self-Sufficient in Manganese

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – Some 5,000 Bashkirs have gone into the streets to demand that Moscow and Ufa end plans to continue to develop gold mining in at Middle Volga region. Ufa has not been able to quiet the protest, and Moscow is worried because the suspension of mining there could put at risk Putin’s plans to make Russia self-sufficient in Manganese.

            At present, there are many proved deposits of manganese in the Russian Federation; but most of them are located far from the infrastructure needed to develop mines and then transport the valuable ore out. Bashkortostan is an exception; and so Moscow is clearly concerned that protests could delay or even block such development (

            Given that Moscow currently imports significant amounts of manganese from countries it may not be able to count on over the long haul, what the Bashkirs are doing has the potential to throw a wrench into Kremlin plans. It is for that reason rather than for gold that officials at the center are concerned.

            Ufa has sent its deputy prime minister to negotiate with the protesters; but as of now, he has not been able to open talks because the Bashkir demonstrators say that any mining will have adverse environmental impact on the air and water of their republic and that the only way forward must involve preventing mining there

            Three years ago, Bashkortostan attracted attention because of massive protests against plans to develop soda mines on a mountain sacred to that nation, a protest that became ever more political with demonstration leaders adopting ever more political and radical positions (

            Except for the Shiyes anti-trash dump protests in the far north, environmental protests in Bashkortostan have attracted the most attention in Moscow, largely because of the republic’s central location which means that any mining can be carried out at far less cost than at most other sites.

            But before the pandemic, the number of environmental protests had risen to 500 a year across the Russian Federation (; and since the pandemic’s end, their numbers have been rising once again, often radicalized by the war in Ukraine (

            The experience of the last decades of Soviet power suggest that the authorities have much to fear from such a development because then, and it appears again now, environmental protests are the seedbeds of political movements, including ones seeking autonomy or independence from Moscow ( and

Next Russian Revolution May Begin Not in Capitals but on the Russian Periphery, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – It has long been an axiom of Russian rulers and analysts of Russia that revolutions in that country begin in the capital cities. History gives them every reason to think that way. But Abbas Gallyamov says that recent events in Belgorod suggest that there is another possibility and that the next revolution could begin not there but on the periphery.

            The Russian blogger, who earlier worked in his native Bashkortostan and then as a speechwriter for Vladimir Putin, says that the success of the raid on Belgorod compels one to think about a possible scenario for revolutionary development in Russia which earlier seemed unthinkable (

            Internationally, there have been historically two kinds of revolutions, Gallyamov says, the Western one which begins in the capitals and then spread outward and the Eastern one which is “usually associated with the anti-colonial struggle” and which begins “not in the center but on the periphery.”

            The latest events in Belgorod Oblast, where the ineffectiveness of Russian siloviki was so obvious means that “now one must not exclude the shift of part of the border regions of Russian territory under the control of the Russian Volunteer Corps which is fighting on the side of Ukraine,” he continues.

            According to Gallyamov, “attitudes in Belgorod, Voronezh, Bryznsk and other regions located along the border are now much more opposition in nature than those of the country as a whole. The war has hit them harder than in the capital, and such differences could entail “a serious negative potential.”

            In his view, people there increasingly feel that “Moscow has drawn them into an adventure and then thrown them to their fate. Such interpretations destroy loyalty,” and that is why the local people did not resist the insurgents or provide the kind of support the Russian siloviki and the Kremlin expected.

            In the wake of this and possibly future incursions, the local population will remember a long list of complaints it has about Moscow and find that they are not alone in thinking that way. As a result, Gallyamov predicts, “the conformism which earlier worked for the Kremlin will begin to work against it.”

            If the Ukrainian military and its anti-Putin Russian allies in fact occupy a territory for some time, a portion of what is now Russian territory “could well be proclaimed as ‘a new Russia free from Putin.” Once that happens, that territory could expand and its position be embraced by ever more Russians, sparking a political crisis at the center.

Strength of Russian Regime Overrated while Passivity of Russian People Underestimated, Ginzburg Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – The coercive power of the Russian state is often invoked by commentators to explain the servility of the Russian people, Vitaly Ginzburg observes; but the relationship between state power and popular attitudes and behavior may in fact be quite different.

            There is increasing evidence that the state is in fact weak but remains in power becaue of the servility of the Russian people and that if any of the latter do rise up against it as in Belgorod Oblast, the state’s weakness is revealed, according to the Prague-based Russian commentator (

            The Belgorod action by a well-armed and motivated group against Russian forces must be assessed “both militarily and politically,” Ginzburg says. Militarily, a small unit was able to “freely enter the territory of Russia, engage in battle Russian border guards, destroy border checkpoints, seize trophies, and show success in the rear of the Russian army.”

            Moreover, the commentator continues, it forces Moscow to shift two brigades from elsewhere to expel the invaders, who weren’t trying to occupy territory but to highlight Russian weakness. But “the main effect and consequences of this raid go from beyond the military,” he argues.

            “This raid of a single company demonstrated not only the absolute incapacity of the Russian authorities to organize the defense of Russian territory,” but more than that, it highlighted the fact that the local population was unprepared to do anything to help Russian forces or defend their own country.

            None of the local people “rushed to defend the government” or displayed any particular enthusiasm for the actions of the Russian troops, Ginzburg says. And that provided the most important lesson of this action: It showed that “the powers in Russia really rest not on force which they don’t have but on a servile population which they have in excess.”

            And that means this: “Any organized attempt by any active part of the people in the current situation to open a second front for the liberation of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chechnya or any other region of Russia will not be successfully opposed for long by Moscow but instead will lead to the transformation of Russia into a set of normal states.”

            At the same time, the Belgorod action demonstrates that the West must finally recognize that “in Russia there is neither power or people and that the population will support the winners” regardless of where they come from. That means the West must ensure Ukraine’s successful attack on Russia. “Everything else is a waste of time.”