Saturday, September 30, 2023

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

 Paul Goble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Muslim Migrant Workers in Russia Radicalizing, Posing Challenges for Russia and Their Homelands, New Poll Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 22 – According to a new poll conducted by the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, 43 percent of Central Asian migrant workers in Russia say they would prefer to live according to shariat law and according to the laws of their home countries rather than the laws of the Russian Federation.

            The poll also found that 24 percent of them say they are ready to take part in protests to defend their right to live according to shariat inside the Russian Federation, and 15.3 percent say they are ready to engage in illegal actions to that end (

            Such attitudes not only exacerbate tensions between them and the dominant ethnic Russian population but serve to spread such convictions to Muslims from the indigenous population of Russia and to trigger greater Islamic radicalism in their homelands when they return.

            As such, they are a threat to both Russia and to the Central Asian countries.

            Igor Barinov, the head of the nationalities agency, says that the way before is to enforce Russian law and to set up programs to filter immigrant workers so that those with radical ideas do not enter or do not dominate opinion among the growing number of immigrant workers  (

            Vladimir Putin for his part continues to play down the problem, arguing at the Eastern Economic Forum that migrant workers form only “3.7 percent” and that any problems can be solved by insisting that the immigrants learn Russian and enforcing existing Russian legislation to the fullest.

Siberian Battalion Seeks Victory for Ukraine and an End to Moscow’s Dominance of Regions and Republics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 29 – Those involved in the promotion and activities of the Siberian Battalion, Anastasiya Sergeyeva says, want to fight to bring about the victory of Ukraine against Russia and an end to Moscow’s unfettered control over the regions and republics within the current borders of the Russian Federation.

            In an interview with RFI’s Russian Service, the international secretary of the Civic Council which oversees the group says that this “core of a liberation army” hopes to contribute to Ukraine’s victory and Moscow’s defeat (россия/20230928-наша-ближайшая-задача-создать-ядро-освободительной-армии-что-известно-о-сибирском-батальоне).

            Vlad Ammosov, who came up with the idea of a Siberian Battalion and who is himself an ethnic Sakha, Sergeyeva says, has as “his dream a Free Sakha, free regions of Siberia and other parts of the Russian Federation in which human rights and the well-being of ordinary citizens has importance.”

            Ammosov, she continues, is a former GRU officer who underwent his own process of “de-imperialization” as a result of his career experiences. Now, she says, “he like a majority of residents of Siberia wants sufficient decentralization to guarantee that no bosses will be able to run the regions having seized the power resources in the Kremlin.”

            Most of those in the battalion, Sergeyeva says, are Russians who have fled abroad because of Putin’s war in Ukraine. The group is entirely financed by contributions from émigré Russians and some inside the Russian Federation who recognize that in the current situation, only armed struggle can make a difference.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Moscow Calls On All Parties in Karabakh Conflict to Ensure Safety of Russian ‘Peacekeepers’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 23 – Normally, peacekeepers are responsible for ensuring the safety of the population; but Moscow has turned things around. The Russian foreign ministry has appealed to all parties in the Karabakh conflict to take every possible step to ensure the safety of Russian “peacekeepers,” some Russians are saying.

            This is just one of the anecdotes circulating in Russia that have been assembled by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova and posted on line at Among the best of the rest which capture much about how things are going in Russia today are the following:

·       Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu visited an arms show in Tehran and was shocked that Iranian UAVs are an exact copy of Russian Geran drones.

·       Putin said he was pleased to accept Xi Jinping’s offer to come to China. He had no choice: when the boss calls, you have to accept with pleasure.

·       Moscow has found a new way to deal with problems: simply declare shortcomings to be advantages and go on as before.

·       On the anniversary of the mobilization, military registration offices have invited men over 18 to take part in these festive events.

·       Some in the Duma have proposed sending all those in Russia who are unemployed to fight in Ukraine. What can these deputies be thinking? After all, everyone in Russia knows that they are effectively unemployed – and so would be the first candidates for dispatch if such a program were adopted.

·       Even Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov doesn’t believe what he says, but he has to say it because despite the size of Russia, there is nowhere he can retreat to as behind him is a noose.

Quick Acceptance of Azerbaijan’s Restoration of Control over Karabakh ‘Inevitably Raises Questions about Other Unrecognized Republics,’ Analysts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 21 – The relative ease with which the international community and the Russian Federation accepted Azerbaijan’s restoration of control in Karabakh “inevitably raises the question about the remaining unrecognized territories of the former USSR,” Russian analysts say.

            While the situations of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria are different from that of the former Artsakh, the fact that the world has accepted the Azerbaijani action so quickly and easily will change the dynamics of discussions about these places in Georgia and Moldova, analysts say ( and

            That is because one of the major constraints against Tbilisi and Chisinau taking military action was the widespread belief that neither the West nor, perhaps more significantly, Moscow, would sit calmly by if either did. Such concerns are likely still a factor, but they have been reduced by what has happened in the south Caucasus.

            And while analysts aren’t talking about other possibilities, such as using military force to change borders elsewhere on the former Soviet space, what has just happened in Karabakh is likely to have an impact as well, yet another result of Moscow’s use of force in Ukraine and its draw down of its offensive capacities elsewhere. 

Putin’s New History Textbook Sparks Outrage among Non-Russians, Deepening Divide between Them and Ethnic Russians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 23 – The new history textbook Vladimir Putin ordered prepared to stress the unity of the peoples of the Russian Federation is having exactly the opposite effect, highlighting the differences between them and deepening the divide between those who have been the victims of Moscow’s policies and Russians Putin presents as the core of the country.

            Commentators and republic leaders across the North Caucasus whose nations had been deported by Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s were the most outraged. They called for the book not to be used until it is rewritten to remove what they consider to be Stalinist propaganda against them (,, / and

            One of the sharpest criticisms of the new Moscow textbook came from Ingush historian Ruslan Buzurtanov who described much of the work as “an absolute lie” which calls them bandits and traitors  and an unjustified attack on non-Russians in the Stalinist manner (

            “Ingush territory was not under occupation in contrast to neighboring Stavropol, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia". We could in no way even had we wanted to betray our Motherland to anyone” as the text suggests, he wrote. And then he added two observations that strike at the Putin narrative of the Russian past:

            On the one hand, he says, “There were 1.5 million ethnic Russians in German units, in the form of the Russian Liberation Army, punitive detachments and so on. There weren’t even 20 Ingush in such units. So who then betrayed whom?”

            And on the other, Buzurtanov concluded that “one must not accuse the small peoples of what the leadership of the country at that time was guilty” because “the small peoples did not run the country.”

With Invasion of Ukraine, Putin has Triggered a Fourth Wave of Archaization in Russia, Something that Country Won’t Escape Quickly, Kulbaka Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 21 – Before last year, Russia had experienced three waves of archaization over the past 110 years, the first after the 1917 revolution, the second with the onset of World War II, and the third in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR and the beginning of market reforms, Nikolay Kulbaka says.

            According to the independent Russian economist, each of these was “the result of a crisis in the previous management model” in Russia and “the illusion” among some parts of its elites that stability and the existing order can be maintained by turning backward rather than seeking modernization (

            But such attempts had in each case “the opposite effect.” They destroyed the remaining parts of the previous system, exacerbated social conflicts, and increased by criminal activities and fights over the redistribution of property; and they led to “mass emigration of those who either felt vulnerable or had the qualification for better opportunities abroad.”

            Whenever a socio-economic system is destroyed, that can be a catalyst for intensive modernization, “especially if the country involved lags significantly behind the level of development in neighboring countries, Kulbaka argues, noting that this was the case in all three of the previous turns to archaization after a time.

            Unfortunately, this trend was undermined in all three cases by those who felt they had to turn to past models of rule lest modernization itself lead to challenges to their political power. Even more unfortunately, he continues, “the crisis that began in 2022 apparently opens the way for a fourth wave of archaization,” one whose “trajectory and consequences remain uncertain.”

            According to Kulbaka, “a distinctive feature” of the current wave “is the absence of an obvious modernization component.” Instead, it is taking place “under the banner of conservatism,” although some efforts at import substitution suggest that “a certain element of modernization is still present.”

            But because the modernization component is relatively small, a future transition of Russia “from an archaic to a modern way of thinking will take a long time, at least ten to fifteen years.” And during that period, rapid growth in comes won’t prove a panacea as it will only “increase social inequality.”

            This suggests, Kulbaka concludes, that “Russia will face an economic recession in the near future which will further consolidate archaic tendencies in society and increase the lag behind developed countries that Russia currently suffers.”

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Kremlin Creating ‘Explosive Mixture’ by Making Massive Payments to Soldiers and Convincing Russians They’re Engaged in Something Great, Chernyshov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 20 – The Kremlin is creating “an explosive mixture” that is likely to last for at least two decades by handing out massive amounts of money to those who serve in its war in Ukraine and by convincing the population that Russians are engaged in “heroic” actions like those of their ancestors, Sergey Chernyshov says.

            In an essay that originally appeared in Russian on the SibReal portal and that has been translated as “The Majority Never Had It So Good” in the Russian Post, the historian argues that this mixture explains why so many Russians especially outside the major cities support what Putin is doing and will continue to do so ( and

            Many Russian critics of Putin talk about all the things that Russians have lost because of his war in Ukraine, but in fact, Chernyshov says, they have not lost any of the things on such lists “because they had none of them to begin with.”  Not having had anything “special to lose,” they have gained two important things, which have combined into an “explosive” mix.

            First of all, many who have served in Ukraine have received enormous sums of money, far more than they could ever hope for in normal times. And second, with the encouragement of the regime, “they get to feel like they are part of something great. Just as our grandfathers defeated fascism, so too we are defeating Nazism in Ukraine.”

            “At the same time,” he continues, Russians get to feel that “we are beating the gays, the Jews, the entire collective West, Freemasons, in short, everyone. Those who are older rejoice” at the revival of Soviet practices; and what is especially great for them is that “all these gains” have come without their having to make any particular effort or “even get up from the couch.”

            The opposition has nothing to offer these people; and those who fail to “take this into account … might endlessly wonder why in the last elections, it was mainly the villages (and not the large cities) that voted for the governors appointed by the Kremlin and ‘the ruling party’ – even though it was precisely the village that suffered the most from mobilization.”

            Intellectuals and others who oppose Putin “try not to remember this fact: the many hundreds of thousands of men and women who have already taken part in the current war and the process of ‘rebuilding the new territories’ have millions of children.” And “these millions of children believe that their fathers and mothers are now doing heroic things.”

            “For public repentance,” Chernyshov continues, “we will have to wait until these children grow up and have their own children, so that these not yet born children can be told that their grandfathers committed undignified acts. For some reasons, it is easier to hear about grandfathers than fathers.”

            And then, “by the end of the 2040s, it will be possible to talk to the people about the losses that Russian society actually suffered from the current war. [Then] at least some of htem will really listen,” especially because “by that time, teachers whose careers began under Brezhnev will finally stop teaching.”

            “In the meantime,” the historian concludes, “the people are experiencing perhaps the best period in their lives. Sure, some of them from the war in zinc coffins; on the other hand, the whole street will be out for the funeral. How is that for reviving traditional values?”

            Chernyshov makes this argument to call attention to what he says is the divide between villages and major cities; but to the extent the feelings he points to exist, they exist to a certain extent in both places. It isn’t so much that Russians in the cities are entirely immune to the influences he describes; they are simply less so because of their experiences.


Monuments to Poles and Finns Torn Down Across Russian Federation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 25 – Whenever a country in Eastern Europe tears down a monument to Soviet occupiers, Moscow ensures that such actions receive prominent international media coverage and denunciations. But far less attention is being given to Russian destruction of monuments in the Russian Federation to Poles and Finns who resisted Soviet and Russian power.

            In recent weeks, a monument near St. Petersburg to Finnish soldiers who resisted Soviet aggression was torn down, a memorial to Poles exiled by the tsarist authorities and other Poles who were victims of Soviet repressions was demolished in Sakha, and a second monument to such Poles in St. Petersburg was removed (, and

            While the manner of their destruction suggests official organization, the authorities in these places have denied knowing anything about it, leading some local outlets to invoke the “what about” defense, pointing out that Russians are angry by what East Europeans are doing and only responding in kind.

            However that may be, one can only conclude as does the Region.Expert portal, that “when it invades other countries, Russia kills twice: first, the people there, and then memory about them” (

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Ukrainian War May End Life of Saami in Russia Directly through Combat Losses and Indirectly via Expansion of Rare Earth Mining on Their Territory

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 24 – Putin’s expanded war in Ukraine has already led to the loss of three percent of the 1500 remaining Saamis in northwestern Russia, a development that has attracted attention as has the return of two Russian criminals who killed a Saami but now have come back after service in the Wagner PMC as heroes.

            But a more serious threat to the future of Russia’s Saami nation involves Moscow’s plans to develop lithium and palladium mining in the remaining Saami areas inside the Russian Federation to compensate for the cutting off of supplies of these two rare earth minerals from Western countries ( and

            Lithium and palladium are important components in batteries and catalytic converters, but they are notoriously difficult to mine and handle. If Moscow’s plan to mine both in the Murmansk areas where Russia’s Saami live, much of the remaining traditional environment is likely to be destroyed and with it the basis of their national survival.

            Few Saami activists remain at large in Russia and most of the remaining population is too frightened to complain, but the larger Saami populations in Scandinavia – there are 60,000 Saami in Norway, 15,000 in Sweden and 5,000 in Finland – are alarmed and have been calling for the Scandinavian countries to take in the remaining Saami of Russia.

            They have had some success: Even though Norway has stopped issuing visas to Russians, Oslo has made an exception in the case of the Saami and some of them have emigrated. But Moscow has launched a propaganda campaign against that and so the numbers have still be small (

Russian ‘Peacekeepers’ in Karabakh Arrested for Shouting ‘No to War,’ Some Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 20 – According to an anecdote now circulating in Moscow, some Russian troops operating under the guise of “peacekeepers” in Karabakh have been arrested by the Investigative Committee for shouting the slogan “no to war,” a slogan that would get almost anyone in Russia in trouble if it concerned the Ukrainian conflict.

            That is only one of the stories Russians are telling each other that have been posted online by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       The lives of Russians would be much improved if their leaders actually had to experience what other Russians routinely do. But it would be a mistake to think that any really senior Russian officials will take that step.

·       Nearly half of all Russians think that their lives will improve over the next five years, raising the question if by some chance they are related to an African tribe that has not yet realized that sex is associated with childbirth.

·       No one can tell Putin why the ruble has really collapsed because anyone who did would be arrested as soon as the police could come to his office.

·       The Kremlin knows the smallest details about Joe Biden’s life but it says it doesn’t know anything about Kadyrov’s illness.

·       A Russian has found a way around the EU ban on Russian made cars. He says his Lada is not a car but “a bucket of bolts.”

·       According to Nikolay Patrushev, the Anglo-Saxons may be able to life with an environment that is protected; but Russians need to destroy forests, pollute rivers and kill rare animals if they are to avoid death.

·       Restricting internet access and banning books isn’t enough. Russia needs to do away with education and revive illiteracy which was widespread in the golden age of Rus.

Anti-Immigrant Attitudes among Russians Intensifying as the War in Ukraine Goes On, ‘Novyye Izvestiya’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 17 – In the past, hostility among Russians to immigrants and support for the idea of “Russia for the Russians” declined whenever Moscow became embroiled in a conflict beyond Russia’s borders. But the war in Ukraine as it lengthens is having a different consequence, a survey of the situation by Novyye Izvestiya says.

            The paper concludes that “the growth of nationalism is noted in the strengthening of nationalist organizations not only in Western Siberia” but across the country and that “it is growing step by step along with the special military operation” (

            This difference may reflect the fact that as the war continues and Russians feel they have little chance to affect the behavior of their own government, they may lash out at minorities who are less likely to be defended by the powers that be. If that is the case, then more nationalist outrages are likely in the coming months. 

            The independent newspaper reports on a recent protest in Tyumen by a group of young people who are seeking the expulsion of all non-Russians from the country, including what is most striking the Armenians, a group with whom Russians traditionally have had good relations. The police and the regional authorities did nothing in response.

            Polls show that the nationalists have a great deal of support among Tyumen residents, although many people there are  horrified. The paper notes that this trend is expanding throughout the country and gives as evidence the growth of an online group, the Russian Community.

            It currently has some 94,000 online followers and is active in Moscow oblast, St. Petersburg, Smolensk, Tver, Krasnodar kray, Ryazan, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Yekaterinburg, Vladivostok, and Khabarovsk kray. Those who marched in Tyumen were affiliated with it as well.


Moscow Dropping Pretense It will Defend National Minorities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 22 – Like its Soviet predecessor, the Kremlin is notorious for saying one thing and doing another; but now it is dropping any pretense that it feels responsible for defending ethnic minorities on its territory given that the Russian government has called for the denunciation of the EU convention on the defense of such minorities it signed in 1996.

            Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has signed off on a document that calls for President Vladimir Putin to send to the Duma a resolution denouncing Russia’s signature on the EU Convention, the latest example of Moscow’s exit from the international legal regime that it entered so hopefully in the 1990s ( and

            Russia already exited the Council of Europe in March 2022 after that body[‘s Council of Ministers suspended Moscow’s participation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council because of Russia’s armed invasion of Ukraine. Moscow then closed its representation with the Council on July 9, 2022, reducing its mission to an office of the Russian embassy in France.

            This latest move by the Russian government will undoubtedly outrage many non-Russians who will see it as an indication that the Putin regime is unashamedly promoting a Russia for the Russians and it will do little to stop these minorities from appealing to the international court of public opinion.

Non-Russian Groups Begin to Cooperate on a Bilateral Basis, Complicating Moscow’s Life

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 20 – Russian policy toward the non-Russians has been consistently based on a divide-and-rule approach, with Moscow working hard to keep non-Russians separate so that it can move against one without the risk that others will come to its defense against the imperial center.

            In recent months, non-Russian activists have formed a variety of umbrella groups that have brought together these ethnic and regional activists on the basis of their common interest in gaining greater autonomy or independence. Now, the non-Russians are taking the next step, forming bilateral agreements between two nations.

            The clearest and most ramified example of this is the appearance of a 1500-word Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of United Circassia and the Karelian National Liberation Movement which calls for the two to coordinate their efforts to achieve their national goals (

            At least in part, this accord is part of an effort by the two groups to assume leadership within their own national activists given that each commits to viewing the other as the only legitimate representation of the aspirations of that nation. But it is an example of expanding cooperation at a bilateral level that may shape the next chapter of non-Russian activism.

            And precisely because the two nations are so widely separated geographically – the Circassians are from the North Caucasus and the Karelians in a region adjoining Finland – this accord could become a model for other cases of bilateral cooperation and create conditions that would create problems for Moscow and even give it pause.

            Thus, for example, were the Tuvans and the Komi to reach a similar kind of agreement, the Russian government would have to know that any action against one of these peoples would likely generate a reaction by the other and thus perhaps be less prepared to take the risk that such actions could produce.

            That creates a new kind of ethnic challenge to the central authorities and thus deserves to be followed with care. 


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Global Warming Threatens Russian Pipelines and Railways and Survival of Numerically Small Peoples of the North

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 22 – The abnormally hot summer of 2023 which set records across the country is part of the global warming trend that is hitting Russia harder than the vast majority of countries. A new survey says that this warming trend threatens not only Russian infrastructure in the north but even the survival of numerically small peoples there.

            In a report on the To Be Precise portal, journalist Vladimir Omelin considers both the specific temperature figures over the past summer and also the impact of such warming across the board (

            Almost every day this past summer in the major cities and regions of Russia, temperatures set a record. Hardest hit were the northern and eastern regions of the country, where temperatures were higher than any on record over the last 100 years. Especially disturbing is that these temperatures pushed mortality rates even in the city of Moscow five percent.

            Especially hard hit were the Arctic regions of the country, Omelin says. “If in the majority of cities of Russia for the last 60 years, temperatures have risen 2 to 2.5 degrees centigrade, in Arctic cities like Anadyr, Salekhard and Khatanga, they have gone up three degrees and in Yakutsk four degrees.

            Rising temperatures and the melting of the permafrost layer means that approximately 40 percent of all buildings and infrastructure there has been harmed; and the environmental ministry says that losses from this by mid-century will be “a minimum of five trillion rubles” – 50 billion US dollars.

            “The most significant harm has occurred in the Yamalo-Nenets AD. In the zone of greatest risk are the cities of Novy Urengoy and Vorkuta. And important economic objects also are suffering, including 1590 km of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline, 1260 km of major pipelines in Yamalo-Nenets, and 280 km of the Ob-Bovanenkovo way.”

            But two other conclusions Omelin offers in his richly sourced article are if anything even more important. He suggests that climate change in the Russian north puts at risk the survival of the numerically small peoples of the region because it will destroy the natural world on which they rely and that it will also accelerate global warming elsewhere as well.


Mufti Albir Krganov – Putin’s Favorite among Muslim Leaders of Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 18 – Talgat Tajuddin, the last Soviet-era mufti still in office, will turn 75 in a few weeks. His most likely successor and someone who actually might have the power to create what some call a single “Muslim patriarchate” in Russia could be Albir Krganov, 46, who is a Soviet-style traditionalist and apparently Putin’s favorite among Russia’s Muslim leaders.

            When Tajuddin appeared on the verge of retirement in 2015, Krganov was tipped to succeed him; but the Ufa mufti was able to hold on. As a result, with the help of the Kremlin, Krganov had a new all-Russian Muslim organization created for him, the Spiritual Assembly of the Muslims of Russia (

            Krganov first caught Putin’s attention at the start of the second post-Soviet Chechen war when he travelled to the front lines to provide support for the Kremlin’s aggression. After that, the mufti was included in various presidential council after the personal intervention of Putin himself.

            According to Rinat Mukhametov, an Islamicist who specializes on the politics of the MSDs, “Krganov occupies a special position: if Tajuddin is simply super-loyal, then [Krganov} is super-loyal to the powers that be even when none of them ask him to be. Given that and his age – he’s a generation younger than Tajuddin – he is clearly a prime candidate for preferment.

            Mukhametov says that Krganov “embodies ‘traditional’ Islam, that is its Soviet variant. He is oriented toward the older generation, engages in ceremonials without serious religious activity and without any theological content.” And he opposes Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Union of Muftis of Russia, who is both activist and less servile.

            And in a move sure to please Putin and the Kremlin, Krganov has even joined the Two-Headed Eagle society of monarchists who routinely spout Black Hundreds ideas and support the creation of a neo-Soviet, Orthodox-Stalinist “Russia world.”

Baku Plans to Return 30,000 Azerbaijani Families to Karabakh Over Next Three Years

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 17 – Sakhib Garfarov, the head of the Azerbaijani parliament, says that Baku plans over the next three years to organize the return to Karabakh and Eastern Zengezur of 30,000 families who fled the region during the fighting in the late 1980s and early 1990s and have been living as refugees ever since.

            Assuming an average family size of five, that means some 150,000 Azerbaijanis will be returning to these regions, far more than the number of Armenians international media are reporting will be leaving (

            Gafarov says that the program, “The Great Return to Territories of the Azerbaijani Republic Freed from Occupation, will require rebuilding eight cities and hundreds of villages and will cost “more than seven billion US dollars.” The Azerbaijani government will bear almost all the costs.

Russians Don’t Need Toilet Paper: They have the Constitution for Sanitary Needs, Russians Say

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 17 – Russians don’t need toilet paper: in Soviet times, they had Pravda for their sanitary needs. Now, they have the equally valuable Russian Constitution for the same purposes, Russians are saying.

            That is just one of the anecdotes Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova has assembled and posted online this week ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Those saying there won’t be a mobilization this fall give exactly the same reasons for their conclusions that they gave a year ago just before the first mobilization.

·       VTsIOM has found that 146 percent of Russians favor the return of the 25-year-term for military service that was the norm in tsarist times.

·       Russians can’t use cars to enter Poland. They can go only on foot or in tanks. But any tanks they try to use will run out of fuel before they get there.

·       It is a good idea to send pupils to North Korea because then the children will see exactly what the words “everything is going according to plan” will mean once that plan is fulfilled.