Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Moscow’s Nationalities Agency and Cossacks under Its Control Increasingly Active in Russian-Occupied Ukrainian Areas

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 27 – The Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, headed by former FSB lieutenant colonel Igor Barinov, is assuming an increasingly prominent role in the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, not only conducting polls and organizing meetings but promoting the expansion of the activities of Russian Cossacks there.

            The agency, which was set up eight years ago by Vladimir Putin, has thus moved from monitoring and warning about nationality clashes, for which it has attracted some attention, to administrative work in these locations, about which it has not, according to Novaya Gazeta journalist Lyubov Borisenko (

            Barinov’s FSB background and his long involvement with Cossack affairs have given him both the allies and the models of behavior in this sphere; and his work, precisely because it isn’t directly subordinate to the Russian military command, has been able to take place out of the public eye, something that may make it even more important.

            Indeed, the only time Barinov’s activities in this regard come to broader notice is when he personally makes reports to the Kremlin or the Duma or when a particularly large delegation of Agency employees descends on Russian-occupied regions like Crimea and the Donbass, Borisenko points out.

            She suggests that what Barinov has done so far indicates that Moscow plans to use officially registered Cossacks to run things in the occupied territory and to have Barinov and  his agency supervise and direct their work. 

Emerging Leadership Crisis in Moscow Could be a More Violent Version of August 1991, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 27 -- Even now, “Russian elites are unhappy with Putin, but they aren’t trying to overthrow him” because “they have something to lose and don’t want to take risks,” Abbas Gallyamov says. But “at some point, it will be this conflict within the elites that will destroy the regime.”

            According to the former Putin speechwriter, the Russian elites are split between haws who want to build on what Putin has done up to now but in more radical ways that he is willing or able to and technocrats who oppose escalation at home and abroad and are ready for compromise (

            The technocrats are “much more numerous but much less consolidated,” while the hawks, albeit fewer in number are nearer the top and much more closely integrated with one another, Gallyamov says. They are thus in a situation where the hawks are dominant but the technocrats are increasingly angry.

            But “as the situation worsens,” he continues, “the intensity of confrontation will increase.” However it will not at least initially be about replacing him but about controlling the direction of his policies. As everyone should remember that is what the Prigozhin rising was all about: not getting rid of Putin but changing his approach.

            “The logic of events in this case will most likely be similar to what happened in August 1991, although everything will be handled much more harshly. As then, the first step will be taken by the hawks as they control most of the power resources and this gives them the courage to act.”

            According to Gallyamov, “the hawks will decide that Putin is already sufficiently dependent on them and at the same time has lost the ability to take ‘decisive actions.’ In other words, he is not crazy enough, and so they will escalate the game” against the technocrats who will then be forced to respond.

            The population in turn, “the street,” will do the same. “People are tired of war and endless ‘patriotic’ hysteria. They are simply passive but as soon as it appears to them that they have some allies at the top and that therefore the fight is not hopeless, they will immediately join in.”

            What will trigger such a turn of events is unclear, but regardless of what does, the logic of what will follow is unchanged. And just as Gorbachev lost his remaining power as a result of the August 1991 events, so too Putin will lose his power and position in much the same way if this logic works itself out.

            “The most important thing to understand,” the commentator concludes, is “that there are many fault lines among the Russian elites, and the only glue that holds them together into a single whole is Putin himself. When there is too little glue, when it begins to lose its grip, the structures themselves will fall apart.”

60 Percent of Russian Families with Children Can’t Afford Refrigerators, TVs or Sewing Machines, Specialist on Family Finance Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 27 – The Russian government has spent a lot of money to improve the lot of Russians who choose to have children, but those efforts have been insufficient to keep most people who decide to have children from falling into poverty, according to Guzel Ulumbekova, head of the Higher School for Healthcare Administration.

            For the demographic situation to change, she argues, the government must not only spend more on healthcare to push down mortality rates but also promote economic growth that reaches the population. At present, that is not happening; and so Russians aren’t having children (

            Evidence for that conclusion, Ulumbekova says, is that it is widely known that 60 percent of Russian families with children can’t afford refrigerators, televisions, or sewing machines and thus know that if they choose to have even one child let alone two or more, even with current levels of government support, they are likely to see their families slip into poverty. 

            She continues that the government should begin by nearly doubling the money it now spends on family support, from 1.7 percent of GDP to 3 percent, or some two trillion rubles (20 billion US dollars) a year rather than cutting it and also take steps to boost the economy as whole.

            Banning abortions will be counterproductive, Ulumbekova says. Such a ban may end legal and safe abortions but women will continue to get abortions illegally – and their choice to do so means that many of them will become disabled or die and thus “will never be able to give birth,” something that will push down the birthrate still further.

            The family finance expert says she “has the feeling that our deputies do not use scientific data at all, do not ask experts or think about the fate of the people.” They simply want to attract attention regardless of the costs. There are exceptions, she acknowledges, but “they are in the minority.”

            “What scares me about these speeches is that they are not afraid to say something stupid,” she concludes, adding in conclusion, “what kind of people’s representatives are they?”

Liberal Russian Opposition Must Think about What a New Muscovy will Be Rather than Back Kremlin’s Imperialism, Tatarstan Exile Government Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 27 – The liberal Russian opposition has refused to recognize the right of regions and republics within the current borders of the Russian Federation to become independent state or to think about what the new Muscovite state that will remain will look like and how it will relate to the other new states around it, Tatarstan’s government in exile says.

            In an open letter to the exile Congress of Peoples’ Deputies, the exile regime points out that Tatarstan as well as many other places now under Moscow’s rule “will not be a part of the Russian Federation no matter how wonderful and legal” the opposition says it will produce (

            The exile government says it has been deceived by Moscow leaders far too often to accept their promises and reminds everyone that what is called the Russian opposition is in fact the Moscow opposition because almost all of its leaders come from within the ring road and project the values of the capital on everyone else.

            Rather than following the Kremlin line and trying to maintain the current borders of the country, something that will be possible only by totalitarian means, the Moscow opposition should “begin to formulate the future policy of your Moscow State for yourselves and think about the principles of establishing  friendly relations” with its new neighbors.

            These relations, the Tatarstan exile leadership says, must be entirely different than the colonial ones now in place because “Moscow will no longer have the resources and taxes” that it has routinely taken from regions beyond the beltway and not returned. Instead, it will have to make its own way in the world, something that won’t be easy.

Central Asians who Back Moscow on Ukraine Do So for Pragmatic rather than Ideological Reasons, Uzmanova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 27 – Those Central Asians who say they back Moscow on Ukraine do so not because they have accepted any ideological themes that the Russian authorities have sought to promote but primarily because of pragmatic considerations of what Russia might do to them if they don’t, according to Kasiet Uzmanova.

            The director of the Central Asian Barometer says most Central Asians prefer to remain neutral because they are concerned about what Moscow might do, with those who fear Moscow’s actions most inclined to back Putin’s war even though on closer examination, they blame Moscow for the conflict (

            Uzmanova says this pattern is interesting because Central Asians adopt a very pragmatic position despite being inundated with Russian ideological messages on the television they watch and the films they view. They “support Russia because they fear hardcore consequences for their countries not out of concern about ‘the decaying West’ or belief that ‘Russia is our protector.’”

            Her observations suggest that anyone relying on public opinion polls in this region as well as elsewhere needs to keep in mind why people are saying what they are because those who take pragmatic positions as Central Asians do may quickly change their minds if they conclude that Russia is no longer in a position to impose real penalties on them.

Putin Using Medievalism to Justify His Effort to Restore Stalinism, Khapaeva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 27 – Vladimir Putin, who came to power without an ideology, has found in medieval models like Ivan the Terrible imagery that justifies the terror and inequality that is not only the basis of his own current rule but also provides a powerful justification among Russians for the restoration of Stalinism, Dina Khapaeva says.

            In a newly released book, Putin’s Dark Ages: Political Neomedievalism and Re-Stalinization in Russia, the US-based Russian scholar says Russia is “slipping into the middle ages” not only because of Putin’s interest in promoting a selection of ideas from it but also because these are echoed among Russians (

            By suggesting that Grozny’s terror is an integral part of Russian statehood and that inequality as in the middle ages is natural, Putin has found a way to convince people that his regime is both natural and legitimate within the Russian tradition, the intellectual historian continues.

            This is a double abuse of the middle ages, Khapaeva says. On the one hand, it suggests that what was typical then necessarily must be accepted now; and on the other, it ignores the fact that Russia never went through the middle ages in the way that the countries of Western Europe did.

            But medievalism has sources both in Putin’s own ideological quest and in the habits of mind of the Russian people. “When Putin came to power, he did not have any ideology at all. Instead, he counted on the Russian Orthodox Church to help with this.” But that hope proved in vain.

            As a result, the Kremlin leader began casting about for other sources to justify what he was doing. And a variety of writers and filmmakers offered imagery about Ivan the Terrible, Alexander Nevsky and other figures from more than half a millenium ago to serve that purpose. And Putin accepted these proposals enthusiastically.

            “Putin’s Russia is now run by terror,” and the country is far more totalitarian than it was under Brezhnev,” Khapaeva says. And now there is a very real possibility that Moscow will take the next step toward a world defined by its imagery of the middle ages and introduce not targeted but mass terror.

            The historian says that she hopes that this will be prevented by Russia’s defeat by Ukraine and the disintegration of Russia itself. And if that happens, the countries that will take shape will not be “feudal principalities” as some analysts are now suggesting, but entirely “new formations.” Using concepts from the middle ages to explain them is entirely inappropriate.


Moscow’s Threat to Cut Subsidies to Chechnya Would Never have Happened if Putin were Still Alive, Some Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 27 – Moscow media are reporting that the Russian government says it will end subsidies to Chechnya and some other non-Russian republics if their leaders don’t bring their budgets into balance. This threat to cut subsidies to Chechnya would never have happened if Putin were still alive, some Russians are saying.

            This is just one of the anecdotes that Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova has assembled in latest collection ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       “Welcome to the Russian Civil Society Support Committee! Take a chair.” “But I don’t see a chair.” “Do you see any civil society either? When there is, then you’ll see the chair.”

·       Russian national culture is summed up in a single phrase: “Well then, just in case, we’ll drink.”

·       May couples love one another as selflessly as Mikhalkov loves money and Putin loves lies.

·       For most of Russia, emigration means moving to Moscow.

·       Artificial intelligence is a real threat to people because it cannot lie. If it could lie, they would be even more threatened.

·       Many say the greatest misfortune of people is they live too long. But Putin has solved that problem.

·       Russians are delighted that Moscow won’t export gas to Europe. That means there is a chance that Russians will finally get some.

Ethnic Russians at Risk of Being 'Replaced' by Central Asian Migrants, New Academy of Sciences Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 27 – Ethnic Russians share the sense of many other long dominant peoples in other countries that they will be replaced by immigrants and their children because the latter are increasing in number and have more offspring, while the indigenous nation is declining in number and has ever fewer children.

            Such fears are being exacerbated by an Academy of Sciences study that finds immigrants from Central Asia are two and a half times more likely to have three or more children than are Muscovites, 42 percent to 17 percent ( and

            According to scholars at the Moscow Institute of Demographic Research who conducted this investigation, this pattern reflects fundamental differences in the values of the two communities, differences that make it unlikely that the government can correct the situation by any of the policies it has in place if it continues to rely on immigrant workers.

            Indeed, they suggest, “if Russians want to have a future, they will have to change,” adopting a very different value set than they have now. But that is unlikely given that the Putin regime maintains itself in power by promoting capitalist values that are affecting ethnic Russians far more than Central Asians.

            In short, although the authors of the study do not say so, the difference in demographic behavior between ethnic Russians and Central Asian immigrants is not just about length of urbanization but about the values people have. And in this regard, if the Kremlin doesn’t change the values or stop relying on immigrants, Russians will truly be “replaced” by the latter.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Some Russians Still Deeply Divided by Civil War of a Century Ago, Memorials Conflict Shows

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – A serious conflict has broken out in Rostov-na-Donu over a memorial bust of Baron Wrangel, a leader of the anti-Bolshevik forces in South Russia during the Russian Civil War, with monarchists praising him and defending the bust and communists denouncing him and demanding the memorial be taken down.

            What is most striking about this is that both sides present their positions as reflecting Kremlin policy and discuss the future of the bust in terms of Moscow’s current military campaign in Ukraine  (

            But lest this fight, which close observers say, is really a struggle between two small groups rather than a division in the population at large, the Kremlin has restricted coverage in all-Russian media of this debate lest it exacerbate tensions and highlight the internally contradictory nature of Putin’s belief in “a single stream” of Russian history.

            Russian political scientist Dmitry Dubrovsky says that “Putin has demonstrated that his sympathies are on the side of the white movement and the emperor and not the revolutionaries.” But at the same time, aware of how that might disturb Russians, he has not expressed himself forcefully and consistently on these issues, thus creating an opening for debate.’

            Memorial historian Andrey Petropavlov says that another factor is at work: Moscow can reasonably distance itself from Wrangel because the divide over the civil war is about the war over all rather than about individual personalities. They can be treated in various ways as the Kremlin struggles to define itself on an issue that still divides the population.

           What is taking place in Rostov, he continues, is “an example of an unfinished war of memory in which the Civil War continues in the thoughts” of Russians, a war that will continue as long as the government fails to putout a clear vision of the events of those years and the individuals involved.

            That hasn’t happened, Petropavlov says. The new Medinsky history textbook, for example, refers to Wrangel only once even though it gives more extensive treatment to Yudenich and Chapayev, neither of whom played as important an historical role.

Ukraine Won’t Achieve Real Victory Unless Imperial Russia Disintegrates, Magaletsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – It is critically important that the world understands what the war in Ukraine is really about and how its outcome will determine not only the fate of the peoples now living within the current borders of the Russian Federation but also those in Russia’s neighbors and the world as a whole. Oleg Magaletsky says.

            The organizer of the Forum of Free Countries of Post-Russia says that Putin launched his expanded war against Ukraine “not for territory” but to destroy an alternative vision of society and politics, one based on democracy and freedom rather than totalitarian control (

            Because that is the case, Magaletsky says, “the war can end only when one of the projects, Russia or Ukraine, ceases to exist.” That means, for Ukraine to win, Russia must cease its existence as an imperial state;” and for that to happen, its citizens must have the right to form their own states and get out from under imperial control.

            Unfortunately, that is not yet fully understood either by the so-called “Russian liberal opposition” or by Western experts and governments, he continues. “The Russian liberal opposition is not Russian (but Muscovite) and not liberal” because it is not prepared to offer to others the powers it hopes to arrogate to itself.

            And in the West, both experts and officials are still overwhelmingly of the belief that the disintegration of Russia is either impossible because of Moscow’s nuclear arsenal or unwelcome because it will cause so many headaches, even though the experience of the last 30 years and especially Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine should convince them otherwise, the activist says.

But whether anyone likes it or not, the Russian empire is “disintegrating,” continuing a trend from 1991 that was opposed by many in the West but happened anyway. And the West needs to prepare for that because otherwise the chance that there will be revanchism in what remains of a country centered on Moscow will be very great.

Magarlitsky says that among the things everyone must be concerned about is that Russian revanchism may arise not just in Moscow but in the regions, where people are more likely to suffer and thus will be more likely to listen to those who call for taking revenge on the supposed causes of their misfortunes.

And if revanchism is not blocked by the combined efforts of those now within Russia who want independence, those Russians who want to de-imperialize their state, and the West which has a compelling interest in all these things, then, Magarlitsky says, Russia will attack again – and he names as the most likely next target Latvia, even though it is in NATO.


Kremlin Deploying Two More Means of Repression

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – In recent weeks, the Kremlin has deployed two additional means of repression, one based on some new realities and a second the restoration of a Russian imperial practice from the past. It is entirely likely that the Russian rulers will expand their use of these techniques in the future, and so it is important to take note of them now.

            Grigory Golosov, a professor at St. Petersburg’s European University, points to the first: a three-step method in which the Putin regime identifies a group it doesn’t like, then declares it an international social movement, and then recognizes that group as extremist (

            That is exactly what Moscow has done in the case of the LGBT community, and it may apply the same method to feminism, the commentator says.

            The second, the taking of hostages of those related to individuals and groups the regime is fighting against, has a long history going back into the tsarist past; but it is now being used against √©migr√© opposition figures who are finding that their relatives who have not left the country are being persecuted and imprisoned ( and

            Up to now, this method has been applied most often to relatives of non-Russian activists now abroad; but there is no reason to think that with time, Moscow will use the same tactic against all those who have fled abroad to escape Putin’s repressive regime, especially since ever more Russian officials are denouncing those who “relocated” since the start of the Ukraine war.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Peasant Consciousness of Russians Didn’t Disappear with Urbanization Because Country’s Cities are Fortresses rather than Cities in the European Sense, Roshchin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – In less than a century, Russia has gone from an overwhelmingly rural country to an overwhelmingly urban one; but this change has not transformed Russians in the way that similar changes have elsewhere because the country’s cities are in fact fortresses created from above rather than cities in the European sense, Aleksey Roshchin says.

            As a result, urban residents in Russia still share the core values of the village: that they live at the edge of things and that the masters will decide everything rather than taking responsibility for their lives and situation, the Russian commentator continues (

            This may seem strange to those who know the history of medieval cities in Europe where there was even a proverb that held “the air itself makes the city free!” But that was true of the cities in Europe which grew up for primarily economic reasons and were not created by the state for its purposes.

            The situation in Russia has been entirely different, Roshchin says. “Cities in Russia have always bee mainly fortresses, that is, they were created administratively by the state.” As a result, “they did not make people free neither under the Soviets nor under the Russian Federation,” although there was a brief period in the 1990s when it appeared that might change.

            As the commentator notes, there is no self-government in Russian urban places and thus the cities there “strictly speaking” are not cities. Instead, they are “military settlements.” And it doesn’t matter how large they are or how many multi-story apartment buildings they have. Those things don’t make it a city “in the old European sense.”

            This is “one of the main curses of Russian life,” Roshchin concludes. “The peasant spirit of the redneck and of servility does not disappear” from the country even when the peasantry in the countryside ceases to exist because its members have moved into urban places that really shouldn’t be called cities at all.

Departure of Three Non-Turkmen ‘Gray Cardinals’ in Ashgabat May Presage More Radical Change

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – Three senior advisors to the previous two presidents of Turkmenistan, all of whom ethnic Russians and thus not within the tribal bounds that define national life there, have left their positions in recent months, Aleksandr Zhadan by death, Viktor Khramov by retirement, and Vladimir Umnov, also by retirement.

            Aleksandr Knyazov, a Central Asia specialist at MGIMO, says their department could have far reaching consequences even more radical than those the new president has shown (

            “Not being Turkmens,” the senior scholar who also teaches at St. Petersburg State University says, means that “while they of course have to deal with the clan system, they are outside of. The presence of such advisors gave [earlier presidents’ the possibility of balancing the influence of relatives in the taking of various decisions.”

            “And their non-Turkmen origin made them dependent on the president which in turn guaranteed their loyalty,” he continues. Knyazev does not say but it is implicit in what he does write that the fact that those replacing them are not ethnic Russians means that the influence of Moscow on the new president is likely to be much less.

            That in fact may be why the new president, although he is the son of his predecessor, has moved to swiftly to open up Turkmenistan to the world in order to address its economic problems and been willing to expand contacts with various countries despite Ashgabat’s constitutionally mandated neutrality.


Duma Deputy Wants New Law on Russian People to End References to Multi-National Nature of Country’s Population

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – Arguing that “there are many nations in Russia but only one people,” Duma deputy Sultan Khamzayev is calling for the adoption of a law on the Russian people that will replace the concept of “the multi-national people” of the Russian Federation with the idea that the country includes a single “Russian [russky] people.”

            According to the deputy, “there was a Soviet people” but after 1991 “there began a play on words.” There must be a common term for all, he argues. “The Russian people today are the Slavs, the multi-national people of Daghestan, Tatarstan, Chechnya, Bashkortostan, Udmurtia and Sakha” (

            Talk about non-ethnic Russians (Rossiyane), the Daghestani deputy continues, was a Yeltsin innovation – and a mistake. “If in Daghestan, we converse in Russian, such as between Dargins and Kumyks, aren’t we a single people? The Daghestani one and globally, the Russian one.”

            Using an expression first popularized by Daghestani poet Rasul Gamzatov, Khamzayev says that “in Daghestan, I am an Avar; in Moscow, I am a Daghestani, and abroad, I am a Russian [russky]”

            His proposal appears to catch the spirit of much of what Putin has been saying, but there appears little likelihood that the Duma will approve his draft bill. Ildar Gilmutdinov, vice chairman of the Duma’s nationalities committee, says that Khamzayev’s ideas are at odds with Russia’s nationality policy strategy and cannot be accepted (

Kremlin’s Main Objection to Same-Sex Unions is They Don’t Produce Children who Can Become Soldiers, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – The Kremlin’s main reason for opposing same-sex unions is not that they violate “Russian traditional values” but rather that they don’t produce children who can grow up and become soldiers for Moscow, some Russians say in their assessment of Putin’s anti-gay policies.

            This is only one of the anecdotes included in the latest collection assembled by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       In order not to anger Putin, his aides are photoshopping films about various leaders and may soon produce one showing how Biden would recognize Crimea as part of Russia if only he was a smart of the Kremlin leader himself.

·       Because Prigozhin was celebrated for taking Bakhmur no matter the cost, Russian generals now in Ukraine feel they have no option other than to take Avdiyevka again regardless of the number of combat losses.

·       Russian parents face two problems: teaching their children how to behave in polite society on the basis of moral values and then explaining to them why they should behave that way in Russia where the exact opposite situation obtains and the opposite values triumph.

·       The governor of Penza wants to remove memorial plaques to those from his region who have died fighting in Ukraine because he doesn’t want anyone to know just how many have.

·       In the last decade, the average pension in Russia increased from 9153 rubles to 14,904 rubles but fell from 295 US dollars to 193 dollars at the respective rates of exchange. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

In Harbinger of Worse to Come Elsewhere, Russian Siloviki Step Up Pressure on KBR Scholars and Activists

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – For more than a year, Russian siloviki have been putting pressure both directly and via the Internet on a group of scholars in Kabardino-Balkaria for their outspoken criticism of Moscow policies ( and

            Now that pressure has increased, prompting the scholars to issue a new appeal, one that has attracted the attention of the Memorial Center ( and

            Not only are the scholars themselves being constantly called in for questioning about their motives and contacts, but they are being subject to searches in their homes and to Internet and other media attacks on their motives. This new wave of attacks is important not only in its own right but because what it presages is likely to happen elsewhere in the Russian Federation.

            In the past, with disturbing regularity, what Moscow has done in the North Caucasus has been a harbinger of what it then does elsewhere. The center uses the region as a testing ground; and in the absence of attention and protests from elsewhere, it then feels free to do much the same thing first in other non-Russian republics and then in Russian regions and major cities.

MOU on Visa-Free Travel between Tajikistan and Iran Less than Meets the Eye

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – The memorandum of understanding on visa free travel for Tajiks going to or through Iran and Iranians going to or through Tajikistan that was signed during Iranian President Saiid Ibrahim Raisi’s visit to Dushanbe two weeks ago, a step widely celebrated in both countries, in fact is far less sweeping than it appears, Asia Plus says.

            Not only is it only a statement of intentions that must be followed by a formal agreement, the news agency points out; but the MOU specifies that each side has the right to block entrance  to its territory of anyone it deems undesirable without notification or explanation (

            Consequently, movement between the two countries who share similar but not identical languages is unlikely to take off as some have predicted in the last few days. Instead, there is likely to be a slow process of opening the border as the two governments seek to specify in more detail just who will have the right to travel without a visa and who will not.

Tatars Fear Moscow’s Plan to Ban Borrowings from Foreign Languages to Be Used Against Non-Russian Nations within Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – Ayrat Zaripov, head of the nationalities committee of Tatarstan’s State Council, says that Duma proposals to ban the borrowing by Russians of words from other languages will be used against those spoken by indigenous nationalities of the Russian Federation. As a result, he and other State Council members are seeking to amend the measure.

            Zaripov says he has no problem with efforts to limit borrowings from languages spoken in other countries but fears that the draft measure as written will open the way to further pressure against the languages of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation such as his own Tatar nation (

            Russian Duma deputy Yelena Yampolskays says here is no reason for these concerns because the rights of the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation are defended by the constitution and laws of the country and thus no one could possibly use the draft law banning the use of foreign words against them (

            But as Tatar activist Ruslan Aysin, who now lives in Turkey, says, there is no reason to trust her words, especially on the subject of language use by non-Russians which has been so politicized by the Putin regime (

Half of Those Buying Property in Moscow are from Elsewhere, Further Impoverishing Regions, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – Half of all those purchasing property in Moscow and Moscow oblast now are live elsewhere or at least are registered as doing so, although some may have already moved to the capital illegally, according to Juliya Bituze, a property analyst in the Russian capital.

            Hers is an estimate as there are no official statistics about this, but it is based, she says, on information from banks who handle mortgages on these properties (

            What this means is that the private sector is pulling money out of the regions and transferring it to the capital and its surrounding region in ways that parallel a similar trend in government operations where Moscow takes far more in taxes and other revenues from the regions than it returns in services.

            Those with money in the regions are purchasing property in the capital either because they hope to move there or because they believe the hotter market at the center may provide them with more returns on their investment. But their decisions will further depress property markets and the broader economy in the regions.

To Pay for Ukraine War, Moscow Slashes Funding for Infrastructure Repairs, Making ‘Technogenic’ Catastrophes More Likely

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – One of the consequences of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is that to pay for it, Moscow has slashed or even eliminated altogether planned spending on the repair of housing and other infrastructure. As a result, experts say, what Russians call “technogenic” catastrophes more likely.

            The budget the Russian government has announced for the coming years shows declines in spending in all key areas of civil infrastructure. Spending on the repair or replacement of aging housing stock, for example, is slated to fall from 45 billion rubles (450 million US dollars) this year to 19.2 billion rubles (192 million US dollars) next (

            Spending for replacing water pipes is slated to fall from 46.6 billion rubles to 23.8 billion rubles (466 million to 236 million US dollars), and spending on the repair of roads to fall even more, something that will guarantee more accidents and less efficient movement of people and goods among parts of Russia.

            According to one Moscow expert, ten percent of Russia’s roads need to be repaired every year to avoid disasters, but the new military-era budget of the Russian government will allow only six-tenths of one percent of them to be repaired next year – a decline of more than 90 percent.

            Russians are already feeling the consequences of these budgetary shifts; but the longer the war goes on, the more they will feel the results of the Kremlin’s decision to shift from butter to guns – and the more likely they will be to ask questions about the value of the war to them or even to protest against it.

Moscow Wants to Store and Process All CCTV Monitoring Done in Russian Cities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – There are approximately 1.2 million CCTV cameras in Russian cities; and officials estimate that by 2030, there will be five million. At present, these are operated and their tapes used and saved by city and regional authorities. Now, Moscow wants to centralize the storage and monitoring of all urban video surveillance.

            The Ministry for Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media has proposed creating a national platform to do this, an effort that it says will cost some 12 billion rubles (120 million US dollars). Experts say it will cost five to six times more with costs passed on to local owners ( and

            Such a system, the ministry says, will include facial recognition technology; and thus it will really be possible, if this plan goes forward, for Moscow like Orwell’s Big Brother to literally watch almost everyone in the Russian Federation almost all of the time, helpful in fighting crime but extremely troubling as a means of political repression.

Putin’s War in Ukraine has Frightened Many Ukrainians in Russia But Radicalized Others

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – For decades, ethnic Ukrainians have been the third largest nationality in the Russian Federation, behind only the ethnic Russians and the Tatars, and currently number 3.34 million or about three percent of the population of that country. They have been subject to intense pressure to assimilate, but many still identify as Ukrainians and even with Ukraine.

            After 1991, many ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Federation organized national autonomies and otherwise promote institutions that would help them preserve their identities. But with the coming to power of Vladimir Putin and then his invasion of Ukraine, the situation has changed dramatically (

            First, there was a wave of as yet unexplained murders of ethnic Ukrainian leaders in the first decade of Putin’s rule. Then, Moscow closed the two largest Ukrainian; and especially after 2014 and then 2022, the Russian government promoted the idea that the only good Ukrainian was one who believed that Ukrainians are a subgroup of Russians.

            These actions have led many ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Federation to keep silent or even assimilate; but they have also had the effect of radicalizing a significant minority who have recovered their identity and interest in the Ukrainian language and even engaged in protests against Moscow’s aggression.

            Both via the Internet and through contacts with friends and relatives in Ukraine, these people know what Moscow has been doing in their homeland; and they are angry enough to consider leaving Russia for somewhere else. How many these people there are is unknown, but they are certainly numerous enough to worry the Kremlin.

            And the longer the war goes on, the more ethnic Ukrainians are likely to feel this way given the depradations the Russian forces have visited on Ukrainians, a development that is likely to preclude their assimilation to the Russian nation and create a headache for Moscow long into the future.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

No One Yet Knows who Putin’s Opponents will Be in Presidential Elections, But Everyone Already Knows He’ll Win, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – Some Russians are sure that their country is the most democratic country in the world. After all, four months  before the presidential election, no one know who will run in opposition to Putin but everyone knows that he will come out the winner regardless of who does.

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

·       Russian officials are saying now that there is no need for total mobilization just as they said before the last presidential election that there was no need for raising the retirement age. But miraculously, just after that vote, the need arose.

·       Russia’s new ideology is kowtowing to China but is now trying to figure out how to express that in a less offensive way.

·       Some in the Kremlin want to change the constitution again so that they won’t have to change anything else.

·       Real war widows are now cursing those women who do not want to join their ranks and are demanding that their husbands, fathers, and sons be returned home while they are still alive.

·       When Russians say they have two pieces of news, other Russians ask to be told the good news first, prompting the question “who said there was any good news?”

·       The Kremlin has made reporting about the sending of cannibals, serial rapists and murderers to fight in Ukraine an act discrediting the Russian army. What it hasn’t done is to make the dispatch of such criminals an act of discrediting the Russian army, although it clearly is.

In Last Year, Russia’s Siloviki have Dramatically Expanded Efforts to Recruit Journalists, Businessmen and Recent Emigres, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 23 – Because of the war in Ukraine, Russia’s siloviki simultaneously are under pressure to recruit more people from various groups to serve as informers or agents and feel less constrained from using both carrots and sticks in increasing amounts to achieve their goals, expert observers say.

            Not all of these attempts are successful, and as a result, journalists and analysts who follow the Russian security agencies are in a better position to describe both how the siloviki operate in this regard and why they have selected certain groups as particular targets, according to a new article on the Cherta portal (

            As in the past, the siloviki use both “carrots” and “sticks” to recruit people; but in the last year, they have more often turned to sticks because the organs now that they can bring charges against almost anyone for incautious words about the war or other “skeletons in the closet” almost everyone has.

            “After the beginning of the war,” investigative journalist Andrey Soldatov says, “the siloviki became tougher and cruder.” He says that this has happened because “Russia is in a state of war and the employees of the organs can do much more than they could during times of peace.” They feel totally justified for anything they do that helps the war.

            Moreover, he and other observers continues, the siloviki have expanded their efforts beyond activists and journalists to businessmen who can help the Kremlin end run Western sanctions and to members of the recent wave of emigres from Russia who can be used as a kind of “substitute” for Russian spies expelled from some Western countries.

Products Disappearing from Russian Food Stores and Those Remaining are Rapidly Rising in Price

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – Despite Moscow’s celebration of increases in Russia’s GDP, most of which reflect new military spending (, the real situation of Russians is far less bright, with flat or falling incomes, the disappearance of products from stores, and steep prices rises for those that remain.

            Some products – especially fruit that is not grown in Russia such as bananas -- are disappearing because they have become too expensive to import – but others – like bread products – are rapidly rising in price because producers of wheat are exporting enormous quantities.

            This is attracting enormous attention and generating anger among many Russians (, and Moscow’s response has been denial and talk of export restrictions (

            But restricting exports of grain – Moscow sold 60 million tons of grain abroad last year – will only exacerbate downward pressure on the ruble, something the Kremlin hopes to avoid. But fears that the current situation could deteriorate and that Russians at least in some places may have difficulty getting food are driving official reactions behind the scenes.

            However, in the view of some commentators, the government has no plan and is only reacting which means that whatever it does will be too little too late and have unintended consequences. As a result, they say, “judging by the dynamics of what is happening, the worst is yet to come” (

Given Rising Repression, Residents Protest Putin’s War in Ukraine in Ever Quieter Ways

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – The Kremlin’s repressive measures have prevented any mass protests against the war in Ukraine and even made individuals increasingly cautious about expressing their views if they are at odds with the regime. But Russians are finding quieter and therefore still safer ways to express their opposition the Putin’s “special military operation.”

            The Sibreal portal notes that such “silent protest with the help of various symbolic actions and gestures is in today’s Russia often the only possible format that anti-war resistance can take” and says that “an anonymous picket of plastic dolls, green ribbons, the flag of Ukraine, and graffiti” are the means Russians are now using (

            These seldom get the attention that mass protests would and the absence of the latter leads many in Russia and the West to assume that the vast majority are enthusiastic backers of the Putin program. But these more restrained expressions of opposition call suggests that such conclusions are not true.

            Sibreal reports on a woman in Novosibirsk who has kept putting up a Ukrainian flag on her balcony, Omsk activists who document the anti-war broadsides and graffiti that have appeared in that city, and similar activities by anti-war Russians in Irkutsk, as well as the appearance of dolls as a means of protest in St. Petersburg.

‘Boom’ in Russian Consumer Sector Driven by Military Spending Coming to an End, Zubarevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 22 – The recent “boom” in Russian consumer industries and housing construction fueled by injection of funds from the military-industrial sector is now coming to an end in many parts of the Russian Federation although not as rapidly in Moscow as in other places, Natalya Zubarevich says.

            As a result, the Moscow economic geographer says, growth in these sectors is likely to be minimal in the future or even go negative, undercutting the hopes and expectations that military spending will be able to keep the civilian economy healthy (

            With regard to these sectors, Zubarevich says, “the boom is over. September was worse that August” with retail spending in most parts of the country except for Moscow and other large cities falling. The situation in outlying areas like the Russian Far East is especially bad, in part because it was not the beneficiary of the earlier “boom” elsewhere.

Russian Supreme Court’s Defense of Right to Self-Defense May Not Help Those who Use Violence to Resist Their Attackers, Legal Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 23 – Repeating a declaration it made in 2012, Russia’s Supreme Court has said that anyone who defends his or her life against an attacker is not guilty of a crime even if that defense harms or even kills the attacker and that that is especially the case if the individual being attacked is a woman.

            That ruling follows new data showing that Russians who are brought to trial for injuring or killing their attackers are only in the rarest instances acquitted by lower courts ( and

            But Russian legal experts say that this new defense of the right of individuals to respond to attacks is unlikely to have any more impact than the Court’s 2012 declaration because prosecutors and lower courts are inclined to treat responses to attacks as crimes in and of themselves and to invoke various articles of the criminal code to convict defendants.

Politically Motivated Prosecutions have Spread to All Regions and Republics of the Russian Federation, OVD-Info Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 23 – Politically motivated prosecutions have spread from only 16 federal subjects a decade ago to all the regions and republics of the Russian Federation and have targetted more than 3000 people, according to OVD-Info, a Russian human rights organization that tracks attacks on the rights and freedoms of the residents of that country.

            The organization’s documentation of that can be found at; and its work in this regard is discussed and generally praised at

            In part, this pattern may reflect better reporting: OVD-Info has a larger network of informants across the country than it did; but in the main, it appears to confirm that the Putin regime’s authoritarianism has spread from a relatively small part of the country prior to his return to the presidency to all of Russia now.

            The largest number of such prosecutions have occurred in Moscow (625), but far larger per capita rates have occurred elsewhere, including first of all in occupied Crimea (241 cases), Tatarstan (165 cases), and Bashkortostan (117 cases). Elsewhere the numbers of cases are smaller but the rates per capita are as high or higher.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Team Against Torture Only Russian Human Rights Organization with Branch in North Caucasus

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 22 – Despite continuing Russian government efforts to shut it down across the country, the Team against Torture continues to function and is today the only human rights organization which maintains a branch office in the North Caucasus, Olga Sadovskaya says.

            The Team’s lawyer says that the branch there is also under attack, often not just by the courts but by means of violent attacks on its representatives but that it continues to operate so that no victim must be allowed to feel he or she is alone (

            Moreover, Sadovskaya continues, that explains as well why it continues to pursue cases in the European Court for Human Rights and to use the media as much as possible to tell about its work. It is critically important that Russian citizens not feel that they are all alone against an all-powerful state.

            She says that the Committee against Torture will do everything possible to continue its activities in the North Caucasus and the south of Russia” because “it is important to us to work precisesly in those regions where the use of force against individuals is frequent and which at times serve as ‘testing grounds’ for the working out of such criminal methods.”

Kremlin’s Attack on LGBT Movement Threatens Balance on which Social Stability in Putin’s Russia Depends, Protopopov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 22 – According to Cherta’s Aleksandr Protopopov, the Putin regime’s decision to try to outlaw what it calls the international LGBT movement could “destroy the rickety balance of social stability” in Russia by undermining the principle on which the government’s repressive actions have worked up to now.

            According to the commentator, the Putin regime has worked according to the following logic. It has told the population that “you can do and think what you like, so long as you do not act against the powers or create any problems for them (

            The powers may increase the punishment for those who do act against it, but they have been reluctant to increase the number of those punished, lest they suggest the opponents of the regime are anything but small in number or offend larger groups than they have to. For the regime, targeted repression works; unlimited repression is dangerous.

            Thus, during the first year of the war in Ukraine, Moscow dramatically increased the number of those charged with disseminating fakes about the Russian army; but during the second, it has not increased the number, although it has increased the severity of punishments of those charged with that (

            Protopopov argues that “the powers do not want and even are afraid of mass repressions because they see those as threatening themselves because too great would be the risk of the violation of social stability and loss of control over the repressive regime.” What is happening now with the LGBT could do one or both of these things.

            “For the regime,” he continues, “extremism is any threat to the fullness of control over key spheres. And because the authorities fear ethnic and religious problems, there are in its list of extremists, dozens of ethnic and religious organizations.” But including the International LGBT Organization violates the rules the regime has operated under.

            It threatens to provoke a response among those who do not threaten it because like calls to restrict the arrival of immigrants from countries where Russian isn’t a state language, this ban would hurt broad groups of society who in no way actually threaten the regime and its prerogatives.

            Obviously, many in the political hierarchy want to show their loyalty by suggesting ever more repressive moves. But those on top have an interest in reining them in lest such moves undercut what has been the defining calculus of the Putin government, unless of course the regime really is ready to move to mass repression as a means of rule.

COVID Again on the Rise in Russia But Moscow Not Funding Development of New Vaccines

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 22 – COVID infections are rising in Russia just as they are in many countries, medical specialists say. Some Russian regions and institutions are reinstituting mask requirements. But Moscow has dropped funding for the updating of vaccines. Consequently, there is a real danger that when COVID hits hardest, Russia will be among the least defended.

            So far, Olga Matveyev, a Russian biologist who works in the US, says, the number of cases is still far lower than it was at the start of the pandemic, the numbers now less then 10 percent of what they were then (

            However, she suggests, those figures understate the problem for two reasons. On the one hand, Russian numbers include only those who go to hospitals and get registered by the state. Many who may be suffering milder versions of the disease or who don’t trust doctors may thus not be counted.

            And on the other, the virus behind COVID evolves into new strains; and thus, researchers must constantly come up with new vaccines as the old ones cease to work. Unfortunately, the Russian government has “other priorities,” first among them the war in Ukraine, and has stopped funding that effort.

            As a result, when COVID spreads as it is almost certain to do so, Russia’ population will be at greater risk of a new epidemic than are the residents of other countries.

Ingria Movement Seeks to Establish Pro-Western State on ‘Ruins of Empire’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 22 – A week ago, a conference of supporters of the formation of a Free Ingria met in Riga. Participants subsequently adopted a declaration, and now Maksim Kuzakhmetov, a leader of this effort, has posted online that declaration. An informal translation ( follows:

                                        The Declaration of the Free Ingria Conference

The fate of Ingria (Ingria) - our region, now located in the territories of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region as part of the Russian Federation, is deeply worrying. Ingria is part of Europe. All significant events in its history have occurred within a European context. St. Petersburg was founded on Ingrian soil for the sake of modernization and Westernization of Russia and thus the rich heritage of our region is inextricably linked with the European intellectual and cultural agenda.

The aggression unleashed by the Putin regime against Ukraine has irreversibly changed the foundations of the global order which emerged after the end of World War II. It has dragged Ingria into a senseless conflict with European countries, is deeply alien to our identity and interests, and has doomed our region to isolation from Europe, from its historical roots and human ties. For the sake of its aggressive ambitions, today's Russia, in fact, has renounced the achievements of its own modernization, turning to the dense archaism and the Golden Horde as a role model.

Having become a threat to international security and to its citizens, the modern Russian state is not promoting any of the positive values it had earlier pursued and does not offer any clear prospects for the development of our region.

In this regard, the conference participants declare their commitment to

• returning the historical name of Ingria to the territory now called the Leningrad region;

• the formation of the sovereign Republic of Ingria as a subject of international law within the administrative boundaries of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, building its relations with the Russian Federation (or another entity on its territory) and other states on the basis of equal treaties;

• the promotion of the values ​​of freedom, democracy, self-government, the rule of law as the foundations of the constitutional system of Ingria;

• the comprehensive revival of the cultural and historical heritage of the indigenous peoples of Ingria;

• following the European vector of civilizational development of Ingria with the building of mutually beneficial and partnership relations with states - the closest geographical neighbors, primarily the Baltic and Northern European countries;

• committing itself to coordinating its activities with national liberation movements of all regions and peoples of the Russian Federation to counter the imperialist policies of the Kremlin;

• declaring its solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who are courageously defending their European choice from aggressive Russian imperialism;

• promoting the formation of a broad civil and political coalition of supporters of the movement for the sovereignty of Ingria on the basis of mutual respect and equal cooperation.

We face a difficult task – the building of a prosperous Ingrian future on the ruins of the current empire, a future in which our country becomes a beacon of civic pride and economic success. Let's build the Ingria of our dreams together - where every voice will be heard, where every person can find their destiny, where our strong and free people will become masters of their land.

Kremlin has Five Rational Reasons for Welcoming and Promoting Ever More Outlandish Proposals from Duma Members, Grashchenkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 22 – The Kremlin has five reasons, rational but extremely dangerous, for supporting the increasing proclivity of Duma deputies to offer ever more outlandish and even outrageous proposals rather than engaging in genuine legislative work, according to Russian political scientist Ilya Grashchenkov.

            First of all, he says, the Russian establishment like those in many countries is having to respond to a wave of political populism and believes that throwing out such proposals is a good way to suggest that it is listening to the people given that almost all such proposals no matter how ridiculous have some support (

            Second, deputies are always seeking to learn what those above them want, and advancing such proposals is a clever way to do so, especially at a time when the country’s leadership has not taken positions on many things. If their notions attract support, well and good; if they don’t, these can be safely ignored after a few news cycles, Grashchenkov suggests.

            Third, such outrageous proposals are also a means of determining what the population itself wants. Running up an idea on the flagpole and then seeing who salutes is an old political tactic; and the use of the outrageous at a time when only the outrageous gets attention from the media is a useful tactic.

            Fourth, the plethora of such proposals “automatically devalues the work of the legislative body,” exactly the outcome the Kremlin wants. And fifth, such proposals diverts attention from real problems to imaginary issues, again a development that those at the top of the Russian political pyramid can only welcome.

Nationalities Agency Wants New Law Requiring Federal Subjects to React to Warnings of Problems in the Ethnic and Religious Area within Three Hours

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 22 – The Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs has prepared a new draft law that would require all federal subjects to react within three hours to notifications from the country’s monitoring network that there is a danger of ethnic or religious conflict on their territories.

            In the past, agency head Igor Barinov says, regional officials have reacted in a “formal” way rather than taking action to the roughly 80 such notifications the monitors send out each day and thus allowing small problems to grow into large ones (

            Because the imposition of such a requirement will place additional burdens on regional administrations, Barinov continues, his agency is ready, willing and able to provide expertise to them as to what steps to take in response to such notifications.

            What makes this proposal worth noting is that it provides yet another example of the ways in which the Putin regime is decentralizing responsibility while increasing centralization as far as control is concerned, a reminder that decentralization to be effective must involve more than just giving federal subjects greater responsibilities.