Monday, July 31, 2023

Putin Finds African Allies in His Campaign to Stay in Office Forever, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 29 – The most important thing Vladimir Putin got out of his Russian-African summit, some Russians say, was support for his plans to remain in office forever. Three African leaders in attendance who have been in power even longer than he agree with the Kremlin leader that changing officials more regularly is a Western plot.

            This meeting generated other Russian anecdotes as well. Some said the unity of Russia and Africa was based on the luxuries their leaders enjoy and the poverty their peoples suffer. Others that since humanity arose in Africa, this summit was the culmination of Putin’s promotion of traditions.

            And still others suggested that the meeting in fact was organized to replenish the collection Mocow has of knives planted in the back of Putin himself given that so few African leaders attended and the world gave so little attention to a meeting that the Kremlin leader hoped shows he and his country aren’t isolated.

            In any case, these are all included in the latest collection of Russian anecdotes and jokes that Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova has posted (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/46437/-). Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu celebrated ties with North Korea, a suggestion that in the future Russia will be North-West Korea. Russians are asking how did we get reduced to that status?

·       Everyone has always deceived Russia and continues to do so. Even Putin is too trusting. After all, he says he pulled Russian troops back from Kyiv this past year so as to start negotiations but nothing has happened in that regard.

·       The heavy rains Moscow is suffering at present are in fact the tears of the Mother of God crying as she calls out for an end to the special military operation in Ukraine.

·       The authorities assure everyone that things are going well. Better and better, in fact; but it is just not clear in what direction.

 

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Water-Short Kazakhstan Becoming Ever More Dependent on Flows from Neighboring Countries

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – Seven of the eight water basins of already water-short Kazakhstan are dependent on flows of water from foreign countries, and over the next two decades, six of these will nevertheless be suffering from serious drought and desertification, a trend that sets the stage for economic hardship within Kazakhstan and serious conflicts with its neighbors.

            Those dire consequences, Rhythm of Eurasia analyst Sergey Smirnov says, are described in official Kazakhstan data and are compounded by the lack of a serious policy to address water shortages, the absence of a single bureaucracy responsible for managing water, and Astana’s earlier decision to stop training specialists in this area.

            While that decision was recently reversed, the analyst says, there are clearly too few experts on the ground; and they have fewer opportunities to apply what knowledge they have given that water management facilities have bene cut back in Kazakhstan more since 1991 than during World War II (ritmeurasia.org/news--2023-07-25--vysyhajuschij-kazahstan-67714).

            Instead of facing the problem head on and coming up with a policy that will ensure the better use of water for agriculture and more reliable supplies to industry and the population, Astana has acted on the basis of the principle that if it raises prices, it will encourage everyone to use less water.

            But that strategy has two significant drawbacks. On the one hand, it impoverishes the population, especially in rural areas, without providing any hope that the situation will get better. And on the other, it enriches corrupt officials who thus have even less incentive to try to solve Kazakhstan’s drift toward desertification.

 

Astana’s Latinization Plans Seen Behind Rise in Kazakhs Studying in Russian-Language Schools

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Some analysts in Kazakhstan are suggesting that Astana’s plans to shift Kazakh from a Cyrillic-based script to a Latin one are behind an increase in the percentage of Kazakh pupils studying in Russian-language schools in that country and that the unintended result of Latinization may be the retention of Russian by a new generation of Kazakhs.

            While the share of Kazakhs in the population has increased dramatically in recent decades, the share of Kazakh children studying in Kazakh-language schools has not. Instead, between 2014 and 2022, the share of those studying in Russian-language schools has increased from 30.6 percent to 31.5 percent (qmonitor.kz/society/5851).

            Some analysts suggest that this reflects the desire of parents to give their children the opportunity to become migrant workers in Russia; but an increasing number argue that it is the result of the Latinization plans of the Kazakhstan government, with parents wanting to ensure that their children will learn Cyrillic to be able to read Kazakh materials published earlier.

            Changing alphabets, as other countries have discovered, means people are cut off from their national pasts and even decide to stop reading altogether. What is happening in Kazakhstan appears to be an effort from below to counter that, with parents likely more concerned about their children being comfortable in Cyrillic rather than wanting them to learn Russian. 

           But however that may be, this new finding is likely to exacerbate debates on the appropriateness and timing of alphabet change in Kazakhstan and other countries as well.

Why Russian Countryside is Dying: Karelian Village Lacks Potable Water, Aspirin, Telephones and ATMs – And Won’t Be Getting Them

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – The just under 100 residents of Prirechny, just east of the Karelian capital of Petrozavodsk and not far from Russia’s border with NATO member Finland, no longer have potable water, telephones or ATMs and won’t be getting them anytime soon if at all, residents and officials say.

            The villagers say that they are “cut off from the entire Russian Federation and live between heaven and earth;” while officials insist that the village has been sent money to improve things, although no one knows where it has gone, and that it is too small to save (nemoskva.net/za-aspirinom-prihoditsya-ehat-70-kilometrov-u-zhitelej-karelskogo-poselka-net-ni-chistoj-vody-ni-lekarstv-ni-telefona-ni-bankomata/ and runaruna.ru/articles/39902-kak-takoe-vozmozhno-v-karelskom-poselke-lyudi-zhivut-bez-svyazi-televideniya-i-lekarstv/).

            Since the last decades of Soviet power, villages in the Russian Federation have been dying by the hundreds of thousands but because they are small and isolated, they seldom are treated as anything more than a statistic. But these reports are a reminder both that there are real people living there and that the situation they face is a tragedy for more than just them.

            When people have to travel 70 kilometers just to get an aspirin, let alone see a nurse or doctor, and when they can’t count on having safe water to drink, that represents an indictment of the entire Putin system which appears to rest on the assumption that such people can be discarded, an attitude that ultimately undermines the country as a whole.

            For a broader portrait of this death of a way of life and why it is anything but natural, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/12/one-in-five-villages-in-many-parts-of.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/07/withering-away-according-to-plan-moscow.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/07/russian-villages-arent-dying-natural.html.

Russians Turning Away from Television and toward Telegram Channels for News, Creating Serious Problem for the Kremlin, Pertsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – Surveys show that a smaller share of Russians is now relying on television for news and that a larger number of them are turning to Telegram channels, the portion of the Internet that provides news coverage, according to Russian media analyst Andrey Pertsev,

            Between January 2022 and May 2023, he says, the number of Russians relying on Telegram “more than doubled” from 25.5 million per day to 51.2 million – 42 percent of Russia’s Internet traffic, while the percentage of those who rely only on television fell dramatically and is no longer covered (ridl.io/ru/otvernuvshiesya-ot-televizora/).

            According to Pertsev, the migration of Russians from television to Telegram represents “a serious problem for the Kremlin” which has relied on television to build and maintain its authority. And this shift is especially dangerous to the center because it is taking place during a major war and near the start of the next presidential campaign.

            In the past, the Kremlin could count on television to keep middle-aged and older Russians in its corner via television, but now “this audience is running to Telegram — it is no longer afraid of the Internet, where everything is complicated and ambiguous” and where alternative messages are being provided routinely.

            “The Kremlin is well aware of the danger of audience migration from television to Telegram,” and it has prosecuted some officers and officials who have used the latter and helped make them more popular. But “forceful persecution does nothing to solve the problem itself,” and those using Telegram, they will be more inclined to use Internet sites based abroad.

            These shifts and the changes in Russian attitudes toward the powers that be they portend represent one of the most serious challenges to the Putin regime so far; and the skill with which Prigozhin and others have used Telegram channels suggests that this media challenge will lead to other kinds of challenges as well.

 

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Russians Successfully Completing Military Service are to Be Rewarded with a New Term in the Army, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – The Kremlin is pulling out all the stops to expand the army, Russians say. The latest idea making the rounds and likely to be implemented soon is that all Russian soldiers who successfully complete their military service are to be rewarded by being given another term in the army.

            This is just one of the anecdotes Russians are telling each other to try to impose some order on their lives that have been collected by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/46406/-). Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Those Russians caught illegally felling trees will be send to Siberia to legally fell them for five years.

·       Despite claiming that most Russians are patriots, one Duma deputy has come up with a new mathematics that allows him to say that there are twice as many Russians trying to avoid service as seeking to perform it.

·       Another miracle from Russian statistics: After the Duma boosted the draft age to 30, it suddenly turned out that all the children of senior Russian officials turned out to be over that age.

·       Russian children will no longer be given birth certificates. Instead, they will be given summons to draft offices telling them to show up no later than 18 years later.

·       Putin plans to continue the war to its victorious conclusion but so did Hitler as late as the end of 1944.

·       The Duma says that the army is running out of cannon fodder but the high command says it is not suffering any losses.

·       Some FSB officers have been assigned to collect Putin’s urine and feces and so instead of being real spies, they get to carry around a suitcase full of shit from a crazy dwarf.

·       The rains in Moscow have been so heavy that every apartment bloc is surrounded by a sea and Russians can vacation on the seaside without leaving home.

 

Kremlin May have Its Reasons to Regional Units, But Federation Subjects who Form Them are Thinking Longer Term, Panyushkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 28 – Moscow is now giving governors the right to form military units of their own both to support the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine and to defend Putin against any future military challenge to his rule, Valery Panyushkin says. But the governors who do so, “even the most vertically integrated,” have their own longer-term purposes.

            “When the central government leads the country to a dead end … and collections money from the regions for this madness,” the opposition Russian journalist and writer says, many regional leaders are just “itching to start their own squads just in case” (spektr.press/russkij-mir-valerij-panyushkin-o-separatistskih-tendenciyah-v-gosdume/).

            “Now,” Panyushkin says, “under the guise of loyal patriotic zeal, every governor who has the means to do so assembles his own army, nominally in support of a Motherland at war but in fact, for the future, when the Motherland begins to fall apart,” something Putin has made increasingly likely by his war in Ukraine.

            Panyushkin says he “would like to be wrong,” but he says that he “doesn’t see any way out or light at the end of the tunnel but rather only the slow destruction of the country, its people, culture and language.” But if the country cannot save itself or be saved, the parts can and almost certainly will.

            “I imagine the country of Siberia, the country of the Urals, the country of Tatarstan, and even the country of Ingria,” the last in which he places “special hopes because [he] grew up there.” These will all be very different, although Russian “will be one of the state languages” all of them are likely to use.

            Panyushkin says that he believes that “those who turn out to be more democratic will achieve success relatively quickly; but their success will not teach anything to those Russian-speaking countries in which the appanage princelings continue to rule. They will insist on traditional values, bindings, and a special path until they reduce their people to total poverty.

            He concludes that he misses Ingria and dreams of coming back to her. “I am ready to care for her,” but as for all the other Russian-speaking countries, “I just can’t bring myself even to think about them.”

For Russians, Liberalism isn’t Antithetical to Imperialism in Part Because of Their Belief in the Universalistic Nature of Their Culture, Kalinin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – Many non-Russians have been outraged by what they see as the imperialistic views of ethnic Russians who call themselves liberals. For non-Russians, liberalism and imperialism are antithetical, but for Russians, they are not, at least in part because of Russian beliefs in the universalism of their culture, Ilya Kalinin says.

            This faith in the universalism of Russian culture can be positive, the Russian historian at Princeton University says, in that it makes Russian culture attractive to many. But when combined with the state-centric view of Russians about their history, it can lead to imperialism (svoboda.org/a/iljya-kalinin-u-rossiyskih-liberalov-estj-strah-revolyutsii-/32514357.html).

            And because this imperialism is wrapped up with a worshipful attitude toward Russian culture as such, Russian liberals often are just as imperialist as political figures like Vladimir Putin who may care far less about culture than they do and leave them as his allies on questions regarding both revolutions and the rights of other nations. 

Wagner PMC Soldiers Back from Ukraine Clash with National Guard in Tyva

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – A group of Wagner PMC soldiers who have returned to the Russian Federation after service in Ukraine clashed with National Guardsmen in the Republic of Tyva, after the former got drunk and denounced the Guardsmen for failing to fight well in Ukraine but not after the guardsmen in response fired their weapons into the air and arrested the Wagnerites.

            This incident was first reported by the Ostorzhno Novosti telegram channel and then picked up by the NeMoskva news agency (t.me/ostorozhno_novosti/18012 and nemoskva.net/v-tyve-byvshie-vagnerovczy-podralis-s-rosgvardejczami/). Small in itself, the clash may be a harbinger of worse to come and another reason the Prigozhin case is far from over.

            Apparently, this clash was not about ethnicity as the list of names of the Wagnerites arrested are all Tyvan; but it is certain that such fights could easily take on an ethnic dimension in non-Russian areas if the Wagnerites involved are of one nationality and those of the local police forces of another.

More than 25,000 Russians Sought Political Asylum in Europe or the US in 2022 But Fewer than Half Received That Status, Statistics Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – The number of Russians seeking political asylum in Europe and the United States set a record in 2022, according to official sources, but fewer than 50 percent of those who applied have received that status, although in Europe, most countries are not returning draft-age Russians to their homeland lest they be sent to fight in Ukraine.

            These figures have been reported by the To Be Exact portal and analyzed by Novaya Gazeta (tochno.st/materials/v-2022-godu-rekordnoe-kolichestvo-rossiyan-zaprosili-ubezhishche-v-ssha-i-nekotorykh-stranakh-evropy-no-veroyatnost-polozhitelnogo-resheniya-menshe-50-a-zhdat-ego-mozhno-godami and novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/07/24/iz-rossii-melkimi-perebezhkami).

            The figures for 2022 represent a rise of more than 300 percent from the year before. In the case of the US, more Russians applied for asylum last year than did in the eight previous years combined. But in the case of Europe, while the numbers increased, the figure was not dramatically higher than in 2021.

            According to specialists on emigration, the numbers in Europe did not grow because the EU tightened rules governing asylum, several countries stopped giving asylum to those Russians seeking it for humanitarian reasons, and several others saw the policies of their government change in the direction of opposition to immigration as such.

            While 2022 in the US was the peak of Russian asylum applications, that date came in Europe ten years ago and consisted almost exclusively of Chechens who sought asylum in Germany. Some European countries continued to approve a majority of applications but many did not. And in six cases, none of the applications were approved last year.

            One positive development since the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine is that European countries, even when they do not give asylum to Russian applicants are not sending back to that country men between the ages of 18 and 45 lest they be drafted and sent to fight in Ukraine.

            The chances for Russians’ receiving approval of asylum applications are higher in the US than in Europe, 88 percent of applicants received that status last year, up slightly from 86 percent the year before. But these figures must be treated with caution because the application process is so long that many gaining asylum now in fact applied years earlier.

Lustration May be Risky in Russia Immediately after Putin but Ensuring Russians Learn the Truth about Their Past is Essential, Nadporozhky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Lustration, the removal from public life and possible incarceration of officials of the previous regime, has played a positive role in many former communist countries, Ilya Nadporozhsky says. But the dangers that its application in Russia after Putin could provoke a counter-revolution with the leaders of his rule so great that it must be approached cautiously.

            The Russian PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin says that while it is important that the former leaders be removed over time, the risk that efforts to remove them quickly after Putin leaves the scene is so great that it could tear the country apart and make progress impossible (holod.media/2023/07/18/lustracii/).

            That is because, Nadporozhsky says, those who hope to change the system fundamentally will at least initially have to cooperate with some from the past or face the near certainty that the latter will resist quite likely with success and prevent positive change lest lustration lead to their complete loss of power and possible incarceration.

            After examining lustration efforts in other countries, the Russian scholar favors a two- step process, one that would focus on exposing to the entire population the crimes and mistakes of the past and only then seeking the removal of those officials still around who were involved with the commission of these crimes.

            Specifically, he says, the more than a thousand surviving Russian political prisoners “deserve the chance to speak openly about their experience and receive compensation” because the crimes of the past must be “documented and legitimized with the direct participation of the state.”

            “Otherwise,” Nadporozhsky says, “’the beautiful Russia of the future’ runs the risk of repeating the experience of ‘the Russia of the present,’ many of whose residents did not take part in the large conversation about the Soviet experience.” The past suggests that leaving this task to civil society alone won’t be sufficient.

            According to the scholar, “NGOs involved in such projects can be closed, historians sent to jail, and school textbooks rewritten. Trying to create ‘the only true’ version of history is dangerous and in principle impossible, but a society which understands the threats that can come from its own government seems more predisposed to … a desire to control those in power.”

Police Raids on Moscow Mosques Spark Protests by Muslims, North Caucasus Leaders and Human Rights Activists

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Last Friday, during weekly prayers, Moscow police raided several mosques in the Russian capital claiming that they were doing so in order to identify and arrest for deportation Muslims illegally in the Russian Federation. But local Muslims, leaders of North Caucasus republics, and human rights activists dismissed that claim.

            Several dozen Muslims took to the streets to protest the interruption of religious services, the leaders of Chechnya and Daghestan complained to Russian officials, and Svetlana Ganushkina, a rights activist, described the actions as examples of Islamophobia (fortanga.org/2023/07/toptalis-po-kovram-musulmane-nedovolny-rejdami-v-podmoskovnyh-mechetyah/ and novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/07/21/politsii-napomnili-pro-zakon).

            The raids were so clumsily carried out that in one case, a policeman apologized to the Muslims for disturbing their prayers. Some Muslim leaders urged that their followers not protest, but passions have risen to the point that calls for calm are being ignored, with many of the faithful seeing these raids as evidence that the Russian state is against Islam.

            If the government wants to find illegal immigrants, they say, it needs to look at Russian employers who fail to register immigrant workers from Central Asia and thus make them illegals rather than at the capital’s small registered mosques who are focused exclusively on providing religious sustenance to all believers.

            Should there be more raids, the likelihood that protests by Muslims will grow; but if the streets more often in order to press their demands for the opening of additional mosques in the Russian capital and for protection against anti-Muslim attitudes and actions from the Russian population.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Russians Fear Crime has Risen Since War Began but Real Explosion will Occur when War Ends, Moscow Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – Many Russians believe that violent crime is on the rise not only because the authorities have downplayed this trend in their reports, prompting suspicions to the contrary among the population, but also because the Russian people rely on the Internet which plays up crimes.

            In fact, according to Russian experts surveyed by Irina Garina of Novaya gazeta, there likely has been a rise in crime in Russia since the war began but it has been limited by the fact that the draft and partial mobilization of young men has removed from the population the people most likely to commit crimes (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/07/23/dokopatsia-do-zhuti).

            As a result, these experts say, the real explosion in crime will occur when these men return from the front. Indeed, they say, the spread of the use of firearms in the commission of crimes far from the frontlines in Moscow and other cities shows how quickly that will happen as some men already are returning from the fighting.

            Garina notes that Russian government claims about the reduction of crimes over the last several years reflects not only the removal of young men from the population but also by the failure of the authorities to define as crimes things like violence in the home that most clearly are.

            On the basis of her conversations with the expert community, the Novaya gazeta journalist concludes that “the denial of violence in the home is the official policy of the state.”

When Non-Russians Speak Their Languages, They Back Ukraine; but When They Speak Russian, They Support Putin’s War, Komi Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Komi activist Lana Pylayeva says that when she speaks Russian with her father, he supports Russia in its war with Ukraine; but when they speak their common native language, Komi, he backs Ukraine in large measure because when they speak in Komi, they are focused on threats to their nation and the loss of their language and identity.

            Her words are cited by Aleksandr Garmazhapova, an √©migr√© Buryat activist, in the course of an extensive interview on the possibilities and importance of the federalization of Russia (reforum.io/blog/2023/07/24/federacziya-eto-pro-uvazhenie-k-sebe-i-drugim-federacziya-eto-pro-otvetstvennost/).

            The Buryat’s decision to cite Pylayeva’s words suggests that she views the Komi activist’s experience to be more general and that in turn helps to explain why Vladimir Putin is so committed to the destruction of non-Russian languages not only to promote the formation of his “Russian world” but to eliminate opposition to policies carried out in its name.

            Garmzhapova offers a series of important observations about Russia and federalization. Among the most significant are the following:

·       Federalism requires strong regions as well as a strong central government with the two sides existing in more or less permanent negotiation. Putin, who never has taken part in serious talks, wants to preclude them with the regions by keeping them all as weak as possible because he knows that “strong regions always want more autonomy but weak ones don’t.”

·       “Possibly if 80 percent of Russia’s population belonged to the titular nation and 20 percent to a single national minority, there would be a not bad chance to create at asymmetric federation as in Canada. Butin Russia, there is a multitude of nations in this 20 percent.”

·       To promote federalization, some want to create macro-regional party lists so that Russia’s political parties will pay more attention to regions and their neighbors.

·       It would be useful to enshrine in the constitution the term “territories of compact residence of ethnic minorities.” These would be where people of one or another ethnicity actually live rather than where Stalin drew the lines around them.

·       Russia should follow the example of the Baltic countries and pursue democracy first and then federalization rather than the other way around. The reason is that only democratically elected leaders have the authority to make decisions people will respect.

·       Political theory clearly shows that political stability is almost impossible in a young democracy. Every election changes the government. Samuel Huntington made an interesting generalization: the first elections are won by the revolutionaries, the second by their predecessors (nostalgia is at work here), and in the third, the “former” are defeated, because they definitely cannot return to the old life for which people are nostalgic. These third elections are again won by the revolutionaries, who have already transformed into a full-fledged party. However, they also do not succeed. Therefore, in the fourth election, people say: “We are tired of both the revolutionaries and the former. Give me something new."

·       “Federalization is not a panacea but it is a path to the future and not to the past.”

·       Russia is surrounded by countries from which it must learn: Mongolia in the East and Ukraine and the Baltic countries in the West.

·       One of Russia’s biggest problems is the near total ignorance of people in one region about other regions. Many don’t even know which ones are part of the Russian Federation and which are not.

 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Middle-Aged Russians Fear Their Children are Being Corrupted by the Internet and Their Parents by Television

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – Middle-aged Russians say they know what to blame for their country’s troubles: the young are being corrupted by the Internet and the old are being corrupted by television. Only the dwindling number of those who don’t rely on either can possibly save the country.

            This is one of the latest anecdotes collected by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/46388/-) that provides a glimpse into what Russians are really thinking. Among the best of the rest in her current collection are the following:

·       Three inmates of a Russian prison are talking. One says he was sent to jail for criticizing the war criminal Girkin. The second says it was because he backed the Russian hero Girkin. And the third says he is Girkin.

·       Putin and Lukashenka have now visited Valaam together. Perhaps they will soon go to The Hague together as well.

·       Duma deputies reverse course when ordered to do so. One day, three submitted a bill to deprive those whose citizenship is based on birth. Three days later, they all denounced that idea.

·       The Duma plans to ban the International Criminal Court. Soon it will ban sunrises in unfriendly countries and gravity that is making it more expensive for Russian planes to take off.

·       Moscow says Ukrainian drone attacks on Moscow are an act of international terrorism, Apparently the Russian bombing of Odesa is only one of petty hooliganism.

·       Russian state media have been prohibited from talking about the decline of birthrates in Russia. Apparently now people will only be born and not die and then everyone will be amazed that there are only 70 million Russians left.

·       Russians are amazing. They’re afraid of everything except going to fight in Ukraine and dying there for unknown reasons.

 

Kremlin’s Ideology Far More Coherent than Many Assume, Suslov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 22 – It has become a commonplace to say that the Kremlin doesn’t have an ideology, but that is not the case, historian Mikhail Suslov says. Not only is its ideology more carefully developed than a first glance might suggest but it combines elements from the left and right that are often assumed to be at odds.

            Indeed, Suslov says, while the vocabulary some use comes from the church, the ideas they are articulating are more from the Soviet past; and while Putin talks about conservatism, his views are not Burkean but reflect “a utopian conservatism” with leftist elements designed to appeal to those opposed to Western liberalism (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/07/22/kreml-khochet-chtoby-putinizm-stal-universalnoi-ideologiei).

            Putinism emerged to address a fundamental problem faced by the Russian elite, the historian continues. And that is the question of what to do with the Soviet past. A real conservative Russian position would reject that revolutionary period, but “for the overwhelming majority of the political establishment in Russia, the Soviet past is an important anchor.”

            The Kremlin sought a formula that would overcome this split but integrating the Soviet past into a common Russian past, one in which identities but not political forms would be preserved. For the leadership, “the identity of the Russian people doesn’t change;” only the political forms of the state.

            Such an approach, Suslov argues, also has made it easier for Putin and his supporters to promote what appears to be antithetical to their conservatism, leftist appeals to opponents of Western liberalism and globalism that allow Moscow to regain its positions in the Third World and among those in the West who feel they have been sacrificed by liberal elites.

            Because of these combinations, he suggests, the Russian world is not nearly as central a concept as many assume. What is central is the notion of civilizational unity and its stability. Those who challenge that are thus not opponents but traitors, a perspective that explains Putin’s war on Ukraine.

            Suslov argues that Putinism already has a stable structure that he is promoting at home and abroad. This ideology rests on three basic ideas: populism, an identity-based conservatism (but not a systemic conservatism as in the West), and a right of center communitarianism which rejects liberal principles of governance.

Debate about Civic versus Ethnic Nationhood Intensifies in Kazakhstan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 21 – Kazakhstan is on its way to becoming a mono-ethnic state, with the share of ethnic Kazakhs in the population rising rapidly and that of other nations, including most prominently the ethnic Russians falling from being a plurality of the population as recently as the early 1980s to less than 15 percent now.

            That has sparked an intensified debate as to whether Kazakhstan should seek to assimilate the non-Kazakhs into the Kazakh nation or whether it should pursue civic nationhood that would be at least nominally independent from ethnic nations. Many ethnic nationalists favor the former, but most of the political class back the latter.

            The reasons for this are the same as in the parallel debate in the Russian Federation. The ethnic nationalists say that the only reasonable basis for creating a common identity is to draw all the non-Kazakhs into the Kazakh nation, while the advocates of civic nationalism counter that such an attempt could spark violence or secession (qmonitor.kz/society/5840).

            Up to now, the latter have the more important supporters in the regime; but the former are gaining ground not only because ethnic Kazakhs are becoming more numerous but because ever more people in Kazakhstan believe that even a Kazakhstanets identity should be increasingly heavily dominated by Kazakh content.

            Again, the debate resembles the one in the Russian Federation over ethnic Russian and non-ethnic Russian; but what makes the Kazakhstan one so intriguing is that Kazakhstan has been debating this issue since the 1970s when republic leaders urged a shift from Kazakh to Kazakhstanets identity given that the Kazakhs then were a minority.

            Now, the Kazakhs are the overwhelming majority of the population; but the debate has continued, serving as a not so distant mirror of what is also taking place among Russians who are still fighting over the relationship between civic and ethnic identities in their country should or even can be.

Costs of Repair, Modernization and Manning Prompt Moscow to Scrap Largest Nuclear-Powered Naval Ships

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 21 – The high and rising costs of repairing, modernizing and then manning Russia’s largest nuclear-powered ships is forcing the Russian government to scrap some of them and announce plans for building a larger number of smaller, conventionally powered ships to replace them. But some experts doubt Moscow can afford a sufficient number of those.

            The Russian government has announced that after the repair and modernizing of the Admiral Nakhimov is completed, the Russian navy will  scrap the Petr Velikiy, the largest nuclear-powered surface vessel in the fleet and the flagship of the Northern Fleet (versia.ru/rossii-ne-po-karmanu-atomnye-krejsera-i-avianoscy).

            The Petr Velikiy is the only atomic powered surface vessel in the Russian navy and the largest ship other than aircraft carriers in the world, but the extraordinarily high costs of modernizing the Admiral Nakhimov and the projected costs of manning the Petr Velikiy have led Moscow to conclude that it cannot afford to maintain this ship.

            The estimated costs of modernizing rather than scrapping the Northern Fleet flagship are estimated to be approximately 200 billion rubles (2.2 billion US dollars); and given Russia’s other defense needs, that is more than the navy will be able to spend in the foreseeable future, experts say.

            Also out of service at the present time and projected by many to share the same fate as the Petr Velikiy is the ill-fated Russian aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. It is currently in drydock and its return to service has been constantly put off. At present, it is scheduled to come back online next year; but experience suggests that is unlikely.

            To fill the gaps that the scrapping of these large ships will create, Russian naval planners are calling for the construction of a large number of smaller Orion-class ships, but Russian analysts say that the Soviet Union couldn’t afford the number required and that the Russian Federation is unlikely to be able to do so either.

 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Fewer than 75 Percent of People in Russian Federation are Ethnic Russians, ‘Sovetskaya Rossiya’ Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 21 – Vladimir Putin’s much-ballyhooed Russian world is numerically contracting both at home and abroad. According to figures offered by Sovetskaya Rossiya, the share of Russians now is under 75 percent of the population of the Russian Federation -- and not the 80 plus percent the Kremlin and its supporters routinely claim.

            And the size of the Russian nation in the world as a whole is declining as well. In 1989, ethnic Russians numbered 146.6 million people in the USSR as a whole, approximately 2.8 percent of the population of the world. Now, their number has fallen to 124.5 million –only 1.6 percent of the earth’s population (sovross.ru/2023/07/19/russkih-stalo-na-22-milliona-menshe/).

            Half of the 22 million decline in the number of ethnic Russians generally occurred within the Russian Federation, Sovetskaya Rossiya reports; and what makes this figure especially disturbing to Russians is that in 1989, Soviet officials predicted that there would be 140.3 million ethnic Russians by the end of 2022, 31 million more than there in fact are.

            “If the dying off of the Russian people isn’t stopped,” Sovetskaya Rossiaya says, then were there will be fewer than 100 million ethnic Russians in the world by 2043, and they will form “fewer than one percent of the world’s population – “or three times less than as the case at the end of the USSR.”

            Such figures, the paper suggests, call into question Putin’s commitment to reviving the Russian nation and highlight the way in which income inequality which is now greater in Russia than at any time in its history has played a role in suppressing births and increasing the number of premature deaths.