Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Russian Empire Must be Destroyed or New Putins will Arise Again and Again, Gabbasov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – Many believe that once Putin is gone, he can be replaced by democratic leaders who will take the country in an entirely new direction, Ruslan Gabbasov says; but unless the Russian empire is demolished, there is no guarantee that new Putins will again arise and carry out repressive and aggressive policies like his.

            To prevent that, the head of the Bashkir National Political Center in Vilnius says, the world must finally recognize that the problems Moscow confronts it with stem not just from Putin but from the forces that will remain at work as long as the Russian empire remains (atodangos.com/rusijos-vientisumas-gresme-civilizuotam-pasauliui/ in Lithuanian and  region.expert/evil-empire/ in Russian).

            “No one can give any guarantee that even after two terms of an administration headed by some Gary Kasparov or Yuliya Navalnaya as president of Russia that some Igor Strelkov will not come to power” and will repeat what Putin is doing by manipulating the Russian people with talk about how deceived and abused they have been.

            And then everything now going on will be repeated once again, Gabbasov says. Some may say this is too pessimistic; but no one can point to a case in Russian history when that is not exactly what has occurred. “Even in Russia’s most democratic years, 1991-1999, it conducted wars in Transnistria, and against the Chechen Republic Ichkeria.”

            “To break this vicious imperial circle under the name of Russia,” he continues, “it simply must exist as a state. This empire must fall apart into dozens of independent states which will then choose their own paths of development.” Some will be democratic, others less so, but none will be as dangerously aggressive as the Russian Empire now is.

Bolshevik Revolution was Above All First Challenge to Western World by Non-Western One, Kotsyubinsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – The importance of the Bolshevik revolution, Daniil Kotsyubinsky says in a brief article that is already attracting widespread attention, was not its call to build communism but rather that it was “the first modernized challenge to the West by non-Western civilizations, albeit one camouflaged under a Westernizing ideology.”

            Understanding this, the St. Petersburg social theorist and philosopher says, is important in its own right but also because it underscores an important continuity that is becoming ever more visible in Moscow’s policies of turning away from the West and taking its proper place among the powers of the non-Western world (gorod-812.ru/velikij-oktyabr-i-konecz-chelovechestva/).

            While the Bolsheviks attacked Sultan Galiyev, the activist within their own ranks that argued Russia should lead a revolt of the global south against the West, Kotsyubinsky says, Lenin in fact recognized that that was what his revolution was about and that this would become Russia’s trajectory in the future.

            In one of the last article he wrote before he was silenced by illness and death, Lenin in January 1923 said that the future of the world would depend on the outcome of a struggle between a dying West and the rising powers of Russia, India, China and the rest who having taken what they could from the West must eventually break free from it.

            This is “the true political testament of the Bolshevik leader and his message to humanity,” one that Russia is now in fact continuing, And it is this legacy, Kotsyubinsky says, that explains why the authority of Russia remains “quite high” among the leading countries of the non-Western world.

            Intentionally or not, this description of the Leninist project helps to fit the 1917 revolution into the single stream of Russian history that Vladimir Putin has sought to promote; but it may also lead to a reevaluation of Sultan Galiyev, who continues to be attacked but who spoke even more clearly about this meaning of the Bolshevik revolution than did its leader.

            On Sultan Galiyev and his continuing legacy not only within the Russian Federation but more generally, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/12/putins-turn-to-east-and-talk-about.html and https://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/01/three-events-in-sultan-galiyevs-life.html.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Ethnic Germans who Earlier Emigrated from Russia and Other Former Soviet Republics Now Buying Property in Kaliningrad

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – Almost two million ethnic Germans in the decades just before and just after the collapse of the USSR left Russia and the other former Soviet republics to live and work in Germany. Now, a small fraction of them are purchasing property in Kaliningrad, the non-contiguous part of the Russian Federation that formerly was Germany’s East Prussia.

            Exact figures are not available, journalist Yuliy Akhmedova says, but some 54,000 people who moved abroad in those decades have decided to return to Russia and chosen to live in Kaliningrad (newkaliningrad.ru/news/briefs/community/24075573-oblvlasti-za-16-let-v-region-pereekhalo-54-tysyachi-relokantov.html).

What percentage ethnic Germans form of these returnees is uncertain, but realtors there tell Akhmedova that it is significant (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2024/07/15/obratnopereselentsy).

            Realtors say that those choosing to buy property in Kaliningrad because it is closer to Germany where their children or other relatives still live. But these realtors also add that most people who do return to Russia or the other former republics choose to go back to where they lived before rather than selecting Kaliningrad.

            One reason Kaliningrad attracts perhaps  more than its share is that its regional government was the first in the Russian Federation to provide special subsidies to those who choose to return – on these and their size, see kommersant.ru/doc/6649073 – although the number of returnees since Putin launched his expanded war in Ukraine has declined.

            And realtors add that many of the Russian Germans who are buying property in Kaliningrad are doing so not with the intention of moving there immediately but rather to have a reserve in case they decide to leave Germany at some future point.

Moscow’s Use of Soft Power in Post-Soviet Space has Failed for 11 Reasons, Trukhachyov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – Moscow leaders talk ever more often about the use of soft power in the former Soviet space, Vadim Trukhachyov says; but they have not succeeded in any one of the countries on that space for 11 all too obvious reasons. Unless the Russian government addresses these shortcomings, it is unlikely to have any more success in the future.

            According to the instructor on international relations at the Russian State University of the Humanities, these 11 failures (eurasiatoday.ru/pochemu-myagkaya-sila-rossii-ne-udalas-ni-v-odnoj-strane-postsovetskogo-prostranstva/) include the following:

1.     Moscow started trying to use soft power longer after other countries had done so and has not caught up.

2.     Russian officials typically have not understood why Moscow needs to use soft power and argue that economic strength and a common past are sufficient bases for Russia to achieve its aims.

3.     “For all the post-Soviet countries, Russia was the past from which they were moving away, and Russia never offered any idea about a common future.”

4.     “For Russians remaining in these countries to become instruments of soft power, Russia had to become a Russian nation state but that did not happen.

5.     Moscow failed to target the educated and wealthy segments of the population in these countries, and so those people looked elsewhere.

6.     “Russia had nothing to offer that others could not offer” and often offer more abundantly.

7.     Officials in these countries were not impressed by thieves and criminals coming from Russia.

8.     Russia was insufficiently demanding as far as local elites were concerned.

9.     Russia failed to carry out educational work in which it would discuss the advantages of working with Moscow. It thus lost an entire generation.

10.  Russia failed to recognize all the external sources with which it had to compete, focusing narrowly on the US, the UK and the EU and thus failed to see dangers emanating from others.

11.  Russia doesn’t have a sufficient number of NGOs that Moscow could use to promote its soft power, a shortcoming that the Kremlin has not remedied because it fears that such groups could turn on itself.

 

For Moscow’s Party of War, Main Enemy is ‘Not the US, NATO or Ukraine but Russian Society,’ Filippov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – Ivan Filippov, a Russian journalist who has followed the Z channels which represent the most pro-war Russians, says that they increasingrly blame ordinary Russians and Russian officials as being the most to blame for the fact that the Russian army has not won more victories in the field.

            In support of his argument, the investigative journalist points to recent comments by Vladivslav Shurygin,  deputy editor of Russian nationalist and super-patriotic Zavtrav newspaper and a permanent member of the Izborsky Club (holod.media/2024/07/15/chto-volnuet-voenkorov-iv/).

            Writing on his Ramzai telegram channel, Shurygin, who is a prominent member of Moscow’s party of war, says that he “wants to say a few words about our main enemy. Not about the US, NATO or even the Ukrainian armed forces … Instead, I’m talking about another enemy altogether” (t.me/ramzayiegokomanda/13413).

            This enemy, Shurygin continues, consists of “stupid, deaf and indifferent officials who do not care deeply about anything except their own pockets … [and] about ordinary people swimming with fat whom the state serves with all its fervor” and allows him to travel to Turkey or Italy and condemn the war at home.

            Filippov says that Shurygin’s phillipic has been reposted in dozens of telegram channels and even attracted the attention of Duma members and others, all the more significant because he is known to be “one of the authors most loyal to the powers that be.” And Filippov says that it is thus clear that what Shurygin says is what many in the party of war believe.

            “The main thought which united all these Z authors,” he continues, “is their dream to end the peaceful and comfortable life of their fellow citizens so that the entire country can live at war.” That isn’t what the Russian people want, Filippov says; and that is why the Z authors are so angry.

Paying Russians to Bring Men to Military Recruiting Stations May Please Moscow as an Idea but as a Practical Matter, It Smacks of Desperation and Won’t Work, Aysin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 14 – Kazan has announced that it will pay 100,000 rubles (just under 1,000 US dollars) to anyone who brings someone to a military recruitment center to sign up for service in Ukraine. Moscow may welcome Tatarstan’s much-ballyhooed idea; but it smacks of desperation and won’t work, Ruslan Aysin says.

            The Tatar political scientist who now lives in Turkey says that few wives and children of men who might be brought to recruitment centers will find takers and that the whole idea will collapse quickly rather than spread (idelreal.org/a/sarafannoe-radio-voennogo-vremeni-aysin-o-planah-tatarstanskih-vlastey-verbovat-na-voynu-po-rekomendatsii-/33031194.html).

            Those who hoped to benefit by volunteering have done so and those who want to avoid service have either left or found ways to hide out. Moscow retains the possibility of ordering general mobilization, but the Kremlin knows that is so deeply unpopular that it is casting about for any alternative.

            The Kazan authorities for their part, Aysin says, know that Moscow will like what they are proposing even if it doesn’t attract anyone to the colors. They will get credit for suggesting this plan, and everyone will quickly forget that not only did it not work but it reflects Moscow’s increasing desperation to find enough men to fill the depleted ranks of its military.

Income Inequality among Russians, on the Rise Since Putin Came to Power, has Increased Further Since 2022 and Now Affects Almost All Regions, ‘Vyorstka’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – Putin points to an increase in the average incomes of Russians without acknowledging that the overall rise has been achieved only by a radical increase in the inequality between the incomes of the wealthiest Russians and those at the other end of the income scale, the Vyorstka news portal says.

            Those in the bottom 10 percent earn on average 10,761 rubles (110 US dollars) a month, while those at the top bring in an average of 152,351 rubles (1600 US dollars); and this enormous disparity is not just between Moscow and the regions but within the vast majority of regions and republics (verstka.media/rossiya-teper-strana-s-vysokimi-dohodami).

            That means that the sense of injustice that many Russians feel about such inequalities is not just between a wealthy Moscow and poor “provinces” but within the regions and republics as well where people experience it more immediately, one of the reasons that the KPRF and other systemic opposition parties are gaining traction.

            The Kremlin routinely claims that it is fighting income inequality, but it is doing so in a way that not only is not reducing this socio-economic problem but is at the present time, when Moscow has cut its subsidies to the federal subjects to finance its war in Ukraine, in fact is intensifying it within the latter as well.

            The only way that income inequality could really be reduced, the economists with whom Vyorstka spoke say is for Moscow to promote broad economic development that will lift all groups rather than help only a limited number of people, however successful the Kremlin may still be in spinning the numbers.

 

Monday, July 15, 2024

Under Putin, Russians have Become ‘Consumers but Not Citizens,’ Kolesnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 14 – One of the most widespread beliefs among Russians is that change will come as one generation displaces another; but that did not happen in the Soviet Union and it won’t happen in a post-Putin Russia --- at least not by itself – and those who are counting on it shouldn’t, Andrey Kolesnikov argues.

            The younger generation of Russians did grow up “in an era of markets, new communications technologies, and a consumerist civilization, the New Times columnist says; but they did so without democracy” and thus become “consumers but not citizens” prepared to take responsibility for themselves and their country (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/247742).

            “Not only did the patterns of human behavior not change with the appearance of new generations,” Kolesnikov says; but individuals in the rising generation adapted to circumstances rather than challenging them. Indeed, things got much worse with a growth in the new generation of passive conformists” who rapidly “turn into active conformists.”

            To be sure, the columnist continues, “the younger age groups are less supportive of the war and the regime but they still support both. And denunciations are written not only by those older and more senior in rank but by young or relatively young ‘concerned citizens’” who are not as different from their elders as many expected.

            Several decades ago, many Russians assumed that if their country had “transparent and free communications,” the kind of people that the Soviet state with its censorship and control could not form. There was even “incredibly naïve talk about ‘the party of television’ versus ‘the party of the Internet.”

            But it has turned out that fundamental changes are not about the freedom of information but rather about how it is understood and analyzed. Those characteristics of the Russian population did not change. And “after February 2022, the situation got even worse: to know the truth, you need to want to know it and to get real information you must want to receive it.”

            To be sure, “there are millions of wonderful young people” in Russia “who don’t accept the unnatural policies of the Kremlin and are horrified, including for personal reasons by the war … They would like to live differently.” And many of them have been heroic in their response to what is going on.

            But there are a far larger number who have adapted to what the regime wants and, in many ways, gone ever further in that direction than their parents, Kolesnikov says. Consequenlty, “the solution to the problem Russia faces” will not be solved by generational change by itself. Far more will have to happen.

            The anthropological and psychological type that characterized the Brezhnev era or even Stalin’s is returning incredibly rapidly and among the young ever bit as much as among their elders. That must be recognized rather than continuing to act as if time by itself will solve Russia’s fundamental problems.

Moscow Failing to Treat PTSD among Veterans Because Putin Regime Values Make that Impossible, Russian Psychologists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – A significant share of Russian veterans returning from Ukraine are suffering PTSD and committing crimes, but Moscow is failing to treat them effectively less because of a shortage of experts than because the values the Kremlin insists those who treat them follow make it impossible for them to do their jobs, five psychologists say.

            Radio Liberty journalist Denis Nesterov spoke with five of them and they were unanimous in saying this represents a serious and growing threat to Russian society as a whole, a point Duma deputies like Nina Ostanina have also made (svoboda.org/a/bessilie-psihologov-pochemu-trudno-pomochj-vernuvshimsya-s-voyny/33030624.html).

            In Russia today, these psychologists says, “it is almost impossible to reduce the level of trauma” such veterans have suffered and “make them safe for society.” Instead and precisely because of the values the Kremlin insists psychologists reflect, the problems these veterans face are intensifying and manifesting themselves in violence.

            According to the five, psychologists can achieve success only if they are able to guide those suffering from PTSD to see themselves as victims and then help them assume responsibility for the future. But the Putin regime rejects any notion that they are victims and does not want them to develop a sense of personal responsibility.

            And what is worse, the share of psychologists who are prepared to adopt that strategy is small. Those who do are at risk of being fired or otherwise punished. Most Russian psychologists go along with what the powers that be demand and thus fail to help their patients overcome the results of PTSD.

            Indeed, these government psychologists are so gungho that many veterans who might otherwise seek treatment do not get it at all because they fear that if they do go to such psychologists, the latter will seek not to help them to overcome their problems and adapt to civilian life but try to force them to return to fight in Ukraine.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

New August 1991-Style State Emergency Committee Appears Ever More Possible, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 13 – Vladimir Pastukhov, the London-based Russian analyst who is one of the most thoughtful students of politics in his homeland, says that in his opinion, “the conditions are arising” that could lead to the formation of a new August 1991-style State Emergency Committee that would challenge Putin not from the liberal left but the radical conservative right.

            In his telegram channel, the analyst argues that “we are witnessing the merging of the top of the security forces with the most reactionary part of the political class and htat as a result, ‘a new opposition’ is taking shape within the system, an opposition of cannibals that seeks to disrupt the status quo and demands changes” (t.me/v_pastukhov/1155).

            Something similar happened before in August 1991, Pastukhov says. It almost happened again in 1996; and now it appears to be happening again. That trend of an alliance of extremely reactionary security officials and ultra-nationalists is not something that should be dismissed “as insignificant.”

            After all, August 1991 happened; and before that “Rasputin was killed not by the Bolshevik Leninists or Savinkov’s SRs but by the hyper-Black Hundreds Purishkevich, Prince Felix Yusupov and with the direct participation of younger members of the Russian imperial family,” Pastukhov warns. 

 

Russian Officials No More Capable of Managing State Terror than They are of Managing Anything Else, El Murid Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 11 – Russian officials lack the capacity to manage terror in a systematic way and so it is inevitable that it will slip out of their control and be used by various forces for their own ends, including ends at odds with those of the Kremlin, according to Anatoly Nesmiyan who blogs under the screen name El Murid.

            That means, the blogger says, that the powers that be who are now involved in conducting terror are likely to fall victim to it and that at least some of them may decide that given Russian realities, state terrorism has to end to avoid that (t.me/anatoly_nesmiyan/19454 reposted at kasparov.ru/material.php?id=6690138D2BC81).

            This is hardly a new observation, but it is important because so many people believe just the reverse of what Nesmiyan is saying and believe that state terror can be effectively controlled by the Kremlin without any risk to those who are behind using that tactic to maintain themselves in power.

            That view has its origins to a large extent in Arthur Koestler’s novel about the Stalinist purges, Darkness at Noon, which posits that the state controlled everything and could control its use of terror as well without any adverse consequences to itself however many there were for the population it ruled.

            But a far more adequate description of the shortcomings of the use of terror by the state and a discussion of the ways in which it can rapidly grow out of control is to be found in Victor Serge’s novel about the Kirov murder, The Case of Comrade Tulayev, which shows that those who launch terror in that case rapidly lose control of the way it is used. 

Young People in Russia Turning to Internet to Find Their Ethnic Roots and Becoming More Radical as a Result, ‘Horizontal Russia’ Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – In Russia today, many young people don’t know their ethnic roots because of the radical changes that have taken place there over the last 30 years and because in some cases their parents and extended families are not actively working to hand down their languages and customs, the Horizontal Russia portal says.

            That has left many young people without a clear understanding of their ethnic identity, but some of them are using the Internet to find themselves, a change that is also having a profound impact on the way in which ethnicity there is constructed, the portal continues (semnasem.org/articles/2024/07/10/zumery-v-poiskah-nacionalnoj-identichnosti-shest-istorij).

            Horizontal Russia considers cases of this from around Russia, asking young people what sites they are turning to and considering how this is changing the nature of identity. Perhaps the biggest take away is this: if the identities of the non-Russians were defined primarily in terms of primordial ties, now many are being defined in terms of their opposition to the Russian nation.

            Websites in many cases play up conflicts, highlight clashes, and thus prompt those turning to ethnicity in this way to define the “us” by focusing on a negative “them,” exactly the opposite of what Moscow would like and what might make the integration of these people into a broader civic nation.

 

Rise of New Generation Behind Radicalization Not Only in Dagestan but Also Across Russia, Sokolov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – The new generation of North Caucasians, who grew up within Islam and view it as a key component of their identity, are radicalizing along Islamic lines because they do not like what Moscow is doing in their region and view Islam rather than a particular nation as the primary vehicle for protest, Denis Sokolov says.

            There are some exceptions to that pattern, the Russian specialist on the region says, Chechnya being the most obvious; but in general, what is happening in Dagestan now is likely to happen across the region and threaten Moscow’s ability to maintain control (svoboda.org/a/dagestan-kak-vtoraya-chechnya-/33028477.html).

            In fact, Sokolov says, in Dagestan, “we are seeing sings that radical separatist protest could ultimately topple the machine that Putin has built, signs that are already visible in all regions and in all industries.” In the North Caucasus, this radicalization is based on Islam; elsewhere, it is based on other things.

            In Dagestan and its neighbors, he continues, “Islam is becoming a ideology of separatism and a radical one at that,” a set of attitudes based on political and social protest that provides a framework for protest against Moscow and its rule, especially in places like multi-national Dagestan where there is no obvious “national” basis for such radicalization.

            Putin and his policies are in large measure to blame for three reasons. First, they are focusing on Ukraine to the exclusion of other threats. Second, their repressive measures are hitting young people first and infuriating them. And third, the Kremlin believes that playing up Islamism is useful to it because many in the West see it as a greater threat than Putin is.

            Such people are wrong, Sokolov says; because Putin is far more dangerous to the world than Islamists in Dagestan. But the fact that they believe otherwise means that the future of the North Caucasus is likely to be more complicated and more violent than would otherwise be the case.

‘The Volga River No Longer Exists’ – and Moscow’s Program to Save It has Utterly Failed, Duma Deputies and Environmentalists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – The Volga, perhaps the most fabled river in Russia, “no longer exists,” ecologists say. Indeed, “the word ‘Volga’ should not be used. What exists instead is the Volga cascade of reservoirs” which flows from one standing body of water to the next, each more contaminated than the one before it, one of them says.

            Six years ago, the Russian government announced a 127 billion ruble (1.3 billion US dollar) program to address this situation, but it has utterly failed, environmentalists and Duma deputies say, with only six of the 121 treatment plants the program called for now operational (newizv.ru/news/2024-07-08/bolnaya-volga-kuda-propali-127-milliardov-rubley-na-stroitelstvo-ochistnyh-431727).

            All this came out at a Duma hearing this week, but what did not come out was the identification of those into whose pockets the money went instead of for its intended purpose, yet another example of the way in which the Putin regime funnels public money into private hands to build support for itself instead of spending the money as intended.

            These hearings are not likely to change that, but precisely because they focused on the Volga and because of the symbolic importance of that former river for Russians, these findings may have a broader echo in the Russian public than any earlier discussion of environmental degradation in that country.

 

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Higher Incomes will Reduce Russians’ Reliance on Illegal Supplies of Vodka and Surrogates but Likely Won’t Reduce Deaths from Alcholism, Drobiz Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – Relative to incomes, alcohol in Russia is one of the most expensive in the world; and consequently, Russians making less than 25,000 rubles (250 US dollars) a month turn to surrogates, Vadim Drobiz, head of the Center for Researching Federal and Regional Alcohol Markets, says.

            At present, he says, Russians buy in stores roughly 1.2 billion liters of hard alcohol each year but are estimated to consume 1.6 billion. The difference consists of either alcohol that is diverted from regular plants to avoid taxes, self-produced vodka or surrogates that can include dangerous chemicals (svpressa.ru/economy/article/422177/).

            Drobiz says that approximately ten million Russians are regular clients of these alternative forms of hard liquor, although that figure has declined slightly since Putin launched his expanded war in Ukraine in 2022 because the conflict has boosted the incomes of some of Russia’s poorest people and allowed them to stop purchasing alternatives to legal vodka.

            That experience has an important lesson: only rising incomes will reduce consumption of illegal alternatives to registered alcohol, especially because “no one in Russia is seriously fighting against” the production of the former and because Moscow isn’t making certain that low-cost alcohol will be available in stores.

            At the same time and despite media reporting to the contrary, Drobiz continues, most of the deaths from alcohol consumption involve overuse of legal vodka rather than the consumption of any amount of illegal alternatives. And that means that rising incomes won’t by themselves reduce the death rate from alcoholism in Russia.

 

Moscow Planning Fleet of Dirigibles to Carry Coal Out of Russian North to Foreign Buyers

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 9 – Faced with a shortage of railways and highways, especially in the northern and eastern regions of the Russian Federation, Moscow is now placing its hopes for a reliable means to export bulk cargo like goal on a fleet of dirigibles which it plans to have in place within a decade.

            While the cost of  moving a ton of coal by dirigible is estimated to be about 20 percent higher than moving it by train or truck, using dirigibles makes sense, Russian experts say, because many of the largest deposits of minerals are far from rail and highway networks and those would be prohibitively expensive to build (eastrussia.ru/material/gruzite-dirizhablyami/).

            The dirigibles now on the drafting board would carry 50 percent to 200 percent more cargo than even the largest Russian aircraft, and they could land near mines far from rail or highway links. As a result, Moscow views them as important tools to overcome its problems with rail, highway, and even air links.

            Backers of the project say that dirigibles will also be used to move consumer goods to people in distant locations, to establish high-speed internet connectivity in Siberia and the Far East, and to assist in mapping and other scientific pursuits, including the development of the Vostochny space launch base.

            Skeptics suggest that this may prove to be a major boondoggle, yet another means of transferring government money into the hands of oligarch allies of the Kremlin and note that Moscow in the 1930s had a large dirigible fleet but gave it up because of the problems of producing enough helium. 

Friday, July 12, 2024

A Rare Report from ‘The Blue Wedge’ – a Ukrainian Region in Russia Just North of Kazakhstan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – The places in what is now the Russian Federation where Ukrainians resettled at the end of imperial times are referred to as “wedges” (kliny). The largest and most famous of these are in the Far East (“the green wedge”) and in the Kuban (“the almond wedge”). But those are far from the only such wedges of this kind.

(For more on the wedge issue in general, see jamestown.org/program/kyiv-raises-stakes-by-expanding-appeals-to-ukrainian-wedges-inside-russia/, jamestown.org/program/kremlin-worried-about-ukrainian-wedges-inside-russia/  and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/06/a-real-wedge-issue-ukrainian-regions-in.html and the sources cited therein.)

            Russian officials typically suggest that these regions are fully integrated and that those who were Ukrainian in the past have assimilated, but sometimes these officials express fears that Kyiv will exploit these communities against Moscow, comments that suggest that even Moscow doesn’t fully believe its own claims.

            But lest these claims be challenged, Russian officials have done what they can to restrict investigations and reports about the wedges. And thus any reporting about them is precious, especially when it concerns wedges other than the green in the Far East and the almost in the Kuban which remain far better on.

            One wedge that has suffered from a lack of coverage in particular in the Blue Wedge which is located in Omsk Oblast just north of the Russian border with Kazakhstan. Two years ago, a few articles appeared (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/06/kyiv-seeking-to-use-ukrainian-blue.html) and now a major one has opened a window on this region.

            Now, Marina-Maya Govzman, a journalist with the independent Ovdi information portal offers one of the most comprehensive portraits of that wedge where most people still speak Ukrainian and see themselves as part of Ukrainian culture but are divided by the war with some going off to fight and others are resisted despite police pressure (en.ovdinfo.org/gordienko).

            Among the many fascinating comments she collected from local residents, the following are especially instructive as to what is going on in the Blue Wedge:

·       “Welcome to Khokhland! That’s what we call it here.”

·       “In some villages, if you speak Russian, they immediately figure you aren’t from around here … In Blagodarivka, children couldn’t understand the young Russian-speaking teachers from the city, so retired teachers had to go back to work.”

·       Many in the Blue Wedge nonetheless have accepted Moscow propaganda and say, in Ukrainian, that they are fighting Nazis there. But there are also anti-war activists who have been subject to official persecution.

·       «Our grandchildren speak mostly Russian, but our children can also speak Ukrainian! As for us, we love both languages».

·       The head of the local village government says that “half of the people here speak Ukrainian. Just go to the store and listen. And they also speak Kazakh. We have many ethnicities here. Speak whatever you want. No one prohibits it, unlike in Ukraine.”

Both Russians and the West Fail to Understand How Three Distinct Russias Interact, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – Three Russias – the Russian idea, the idea of Russia and Russia as an idea – coexist and interact, but their relationships are so complex that they get in the way of understanding both by Russians themselves and by outsiders as to what is really going on and what is possible, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

            The first Russia, the London-based Russian analyst says, is “Putin’s fictional Russia, today’s façade, a country hooked on an ideological drug … with a craving for unlimited expansion and which has turned into a global exporter of chaos” (t.me/v_pastukhov/1148 reposted at kasparov.ru/material.php?id=668E3BEDCD17C).

            The second Russia, Pastukhov continues, is “the real Russia hidden behind the façade, the country ‘as it is,’ closed in on itself and indifference to everything, suffering from complexes and devastations, tired of a century of revolutions and terror, with a poor demography and an even worse elite, slowing dying.”

            And the third Russia is “a virtual one that never existed, Russia as an idea,” something invisible to prying eyes that exists only in the imagination,” a Kitezh that never drowned but “never really floated to the surface either, hidden deep in the subconscious of the people and manifesting itself in phobias, addictions and stable behavioral stereotypes.”

            According to Pastukhov, “the problem is that in Russia, it seems, everything imaginary is ultimately real, and everything real as a rule exists mainly in the imagination.” As a result, “the interactions among these three Russias are complex and poorly understood both by the Russians themselves and even more so by foreigners.”

            “Why,” he asks, “does the West constantly underestimate the Putin regime? Because behind the Kremlin leader’s façade, the West sees only the actual Russia of today, an unhappy, broken-down country that in the view of the West doesn’t pose the strategic threat that China does.”

            But “if the West better understood the depth, potential and true meaning of the Russian idea, at least in the way in which Richard Pipes did when he was advisor to Reagan, then it would set its priorities differently and the much-ballyhooed Chinese threat would fade into the background,” Pastukhov argues.

            “Behind the façade of modern Russia, which out of its hidden weakness gave rise to Putin’s Russia, frightening everyone with either real or imaginary power, lies the outlines of a Russia which exists outside of time and space as an idea, a ‘virtual Russia,’ invisible and intangible by conventional means” but one that provides it with “’dark social energy.’”

            This virtual Russia, the analyst continues, “makes the Putin regime both extremely dangerous for all humanity and much more resistance to any pressure, including military and especially economic than it seems to those who are accustomed to coming up with scenarios guided solely by Euclidean geometry and positivist thinking.”       

            Pastukhov then says that while he isn’t ready to “subscribe to the formula that ‘you can’t understand Russia with your mind,’” he doe believe that “it is really difficult to understand it only with your mind based solely on the historical experience of Europe. People there drink different wines there.”

            And that has led him to focus on the question “why is this ‘wine of Russian history’ almost always dark? Why shouldn’t it be filled with ‘light energy’?” Mikhail Epstein gives an accurate but incomplete answer when he says that this wine has been “bottled in moments of ‘cultural default.’”

            But Russia is not experiencing its first such default, and some European countries have experienced defaults of their own without giving up the possibility of the restoration of light, the analyst continues, who insists that the fate of modern Russia will depend on whether it can be “reformatted” so that it emits not dark energy but some other kind.

            “Unfortunately,” Pastukhov says in conclusion, “there is no clear answer; and any answer appears likely to lie more in the area of faith than in that of knowledge,” something that makes it particularly inaccessible to many in both Russia and the West.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Norway to Boost Its and NATO’S Strategic Presence on Jan Mayen Island to Ward Off Any Move against Spitsbergen

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 8 – The Norwegian Defense Estates Agency, the part of that country’s defense ministry that develops real estate for its military, has announced an 80 million US dollar modernization of defense ministry facilities on Jan Mayen Island, an otherwise uninhabited island near the Spitzbergen archipelago.

            The announcement (in Norwegian) is available at forsvaretsforum.no/forsvarsbygg-jan-mayen-langtidsplanen/har-signert-jan-mayen-kontrakt-verdt-820-millioner-kroner/386427. It is discussed in detail at thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2024/07/investments-jan-mayen-strengthen-norways-strategic-presence-north-atlantic.

            This announcement is especially significant now because Jan Mayen Island, while often grouped with the Spitzbergen archipelago, is not subject to the 1920 Svalbard treaty that reaffirmed Norway’s sovereignty over those islands but declared that Oslo could not establish a military base there. There are no such limitations on Jan Mayen Island.

            Moreover, it comes on the heels of Oslo’s decision to cancel the sale of the last large privately held parcel of land in Spitzbergen to the Chinese to prevent that land from being used against Norway’s national interests, a decision that is still being challenged (thebarentsobserver.com/en/2024/07/legal-experts-norways-decision-block-sales-svalbard-property-goes-against-svalbard-treaty).

            And the announcement comes as Norwegian security experts and others warn Moscow might exploit the provisions of the Svalbard Treaty to make a move against Norway and thus NATO (jamestown.org/program/moscows-first-move-against-nato-could-take-place-in-norways-svalbard-archipelago/ and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2024/05/norwegian-security-expert-alarmed-by.html).

Russians who have Fled Putinism Should Buy an Island and Create a New Russian-Speaking Nation, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 8 -- All too many of the million Russians who have fled Putin’s regime believe that it will soon collapse and that they will be able to return to a beautiful new Russia. Such optimism is likely “premature,” Vadim Shtepa says; and they need to consider alternatives rather than fall into despair.

            One of those options is to purchase an island somewhere in the world, one in which they could create a genuine alternative to the Russia Putin rules, the editor of the Tallinn-based regionalist portal, Region.Expert says (svoboda.org/a/russkiy-tayvanj-vadim-shtepa-o-postrossiyskoy-pragmatike/33021658.html, reposted at  region.expert/ru-island/).

            Before such a possibility is dismissed out of hand, he continues, those who have left Putin’s Russia need to remember that such an island could really be created much as English speakers did when they broke away from the United Kingdom and Spanish speakers did when they broke from Spain.

            Such an island state could become “a new small Russian-language country which would correspond to all the norms of international law and be a democratic parliamentary republic,” Shtepa says. It would likely be admitted to the EU and “by the very fact of its existence would demolish the Kremlin’s doctrine of ‘a Russian world.’”

            While such an island state would speak the same language as the country centered on Moscow, it would be significantly different as far as politics, economics and “the main thing psychology” are concerned. If it remained committed to imperial great-power chauvinism, “there would be no sense” for it to exist and it would be absorbed by the Muscovite state.

            Some will object that “we don’t need another country while Russia exists,” but that challenge can be dispensed with by recalling the multitude of English- and Spanish-speaking countries far from their ‘historical motherlands” and by pointing out that those who form such a Russian island state, one like Taiwan or Singapore, must pass an important psychological test.

            They must recognize and act on the proposition that, although they are Russian speakers, “the Muscovite kingdom and the Petersburg empire are not ‘our country’” and that those willing to take this step will be engaged in creating “an entirely different civilization,” just as the Americans have done.