Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Ufa Allowed Bashkir Nationalism to Rise under Guise of Ecological Movement, Filin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 29 – The recent protests in Bashkortostan were inevitable, Georgy Filin says, because the current governor of that Middle Volga republic allowed Bashkir nationalism to rise under the guise of an ecological movement and failed to address the fact that environmentalism there from the start has been a cover for radical nationalism and Pan-Turkism.

            Many were surprised by the recent protests in Bashkortostan, the Moscow commentator says; but they should not have been. They were the result of the coming together of three factors: environmental concerns of the population, outside agitation from Turkey and Kazakhstan, and Ufa’s failure to respond adequately (versia.ru/vystupleniya-nacionalistov-v-bashkirii-predskazuemyj-rezultat-dejstvij-vlastej-respubliki).

            Filin bases his argument on the findings of a 2022 article by two Bashkir writers about “The Influence of Panturkism in the Republics of the Middle Volga Federal District on the basis of Nationalist Organizations of Baskiria” (cyberleninka.ru/article/n/vliyanie-pantyurkizma-v-respublikah-pfo-na-materiale-natsionalisticheskih-organizatsiy-bashkortostana-chast-1/viewer).

            He suggests that the old saying that “if you scratch a Russian, you’ll find a Tatar” needs to be updated to read: “if you scratch any Bashkir environmentalist, you’ll discover a [Bashkir] nationalist,” something that has been obvious for the last 20 years, especially after the Russian FSB general was shifted from Bashkortostan to newly-annexed Crimea.

            Lt. Gen. Viktor Palagin understood this linkage between environmentalism and nationalism and fought against it, but Ufa officials either did not or did not want to understand and act accordingly, Filinn says. Instead, they took environmentalism there at face value, a mistake that the nationalists and Pan-Turkists did not.

            Filin’s article is part of a virtual campaign against the current republic head, Radiy Khabirov, who is clearly fighting to remain in office by denying that nationalism is a problem and organizing rallies in support of himself. But it is more than that: it is a recognition of the ways in which environmentalism and nationalism are interconnected.

            And it is also a sign that Russia’s already hard-pressed environmentalists, at least some of whom are apolitical, are likely to suffer even more repression in the coming months. 

Putin hasn’t ‘Objectively Won’ in Ukraine but has Defeated ‘Illusory Expectations’ of His Opponents, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 28 – Vladimir Pastukhov says that Putin has not achieved any “objective” success in Ukraine except that “he did not lose;” but “that outcome is perceived as a victory precisely because of the over-heated expectations” of some in the Russian opposition and some in the West that Ukraine not having lost immediately was on its way to certain victory.

            These expectations were “illusory from the very beginning,” the London-based Russian analyst says. They have “collapsed,” but because of Kremlin’s PR efforts, “this collapse has been attributed to Putin as his victory” rather than a display of how wrong their expectations were (svoboda.org/a/vladimir-pastuhov-chelovek-lesa-zahvatyvaet-gosudarstvo-/32793540.html).

            When Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is viewed from a greater historical distance in the future, it will become obvious that neither in 2022 nor in 2023 did the Russian leader achieve his goals despite having what certainly appeared to be so many advantages over Ukraine, Pastukhov says.

            And he urges observers now not to award a victory in the conflict he launched just because by not yet losing, he has “defeated” the notions put about by some in Ukraine, the Russian opposition and the West that Ukraine was on the brink of defeating Russia and leading to its collapse and disintegration.

            Had their expectations been more realistic, the victory they are now ascribing to Putin would look illusionary as well, the London-based analyst says. 

Russia’s Demographic Problems Meet ‘Definition of Disaster’ – Small Shifts with Large and Negative Consequences, El Murid Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 27 – As a percentage of the population, the decline in the number of Russians each year has been relatively small, Anatoly Nesmiyan who blogs under the screen name El Murid says; but the impact of this small decline is casting an enormous shadow over the country as a whole as highlighted by the emerging labor shortages.

            As such, he argues, the falloff in the number of births among Russians meets “the very definition of a disaster,” when a small change in one part of the system threatens the survival of the entire system unless things change quickly (t.me/anatoly_nesmiyan/15936 reposted at kasparov.ru/material.php?id=65B3EE9881288).

            The Kremlin recognizes the danger but is so far unprepared to address it in any effective way, El Murid continues. Its exhortations and pressure will do little to ensure that Russians will have more children. They aren’t going to unless they can see a more stable and predictable future for themselves and their children than the one they believe is now on offer.

            But instead of creating the conditions in which Russians might draw that conclusion about their future, Putin and his regime are taking steps moving in exactly the opposite direction, causing Russians to have ever fewer children and exacerbating the problem that has already achieved all the characteristics of a disaster.

 

Kremlin Failing to Keep Its Promises to Convicts who Went to Ukraine but Instead Using Repressive Measures to Force More to Do So, Romanova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 27 – Russian prisoners who agreed to fight in Ukraine say they are not getting the payments they were promised or having their criminal records expunged. Instead, they say in an open letter to Putin, they aren’t getting pardons but only “conditional release” from their sentences and are being forced to continue to fight far longer than they expected.

            Olga Romanova, founder of the Russia in Jail Foundation, says the Kremlin took these steps because it was upset by headlines like “’Putin pardoned a cannibal.’ ‘Putin pardoned a murderer.’ ‘Putin pardoned a rapist’” and decided this couldn’t continue especially with in the runup to the election (currenttime.tv/a/zaklyuchennye-pomilovanie-uslovno-osvobozhdayut/32793564.html).

            But Moscow still needs the services of those prisoners who have volunteered in exchange for its earlier promises and hopes to get more instead of seeing this potential source of cannon fodder disappear and so came up with “a rather elegant way” to address the headlines, Romanova continues.

            The Kremlin “ushed through the Duma at the very end of the spring session” a law which allows for the conditional release of prisoners who have agreed to fight. An individual now goes into service by signing a contract for 18 months but that is now automatically released rather than representing the end of military responsibilities.

            If someone doesn’t continue to serve, she says, that means that they won’t be pardoned, putting these prisoner volunteers before Hobson’s choice. But the new system has yet another wrinkle that works against such people: if someone is released and goes home only to commit new crimes, they can be sent back to the front.

            At the same time, Romanova continues, Moscow is taking steps to create conditions in prisons to “’stimulate’” prisoners to sign such open-ended military contracts. Prisons are blocking food shipments from relatives, turning off the heating in the cells, taking away warm clothes and ending video contacts between prisoners and their relatives.

            Given those conditions, volunteering for military service in Ukraine still looks good, even under the new and more repressive conditions, the prisoner rights activist says.

 

Kremlin Now Understands that the Russian Empire has Been on the Way to Collapse for a Century, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 28 – The denizens of the Kremlin now “understand that the core content of the process which has been taking place in Russia over the last 100 years is the continuing decay of the Russian Empire” and thus believe that their task is to delay this outcome as long as possible by fighting against it, according to Igor Yakovenko.

            The Russian opposition figure now living in exile says that the Kremlin understands that “the decay of the Russian empire began in 1917, continued in 1991, and is now in its third phase” (idelreal.org/a/igor-yakovenko-proishodyaschiy-poslednie-100-let-v-rossii-protsess-eto-prodolzhayuschiysya-raspad-rossiyskoy-imperii-/32791287.html).

            And at least some of them understand as well, Yakovenko suggests, that by invading Ukraine, “Putin has accelerated this process.” That intuitive understanding lies behind Moscow’s new repressive laws and the formation in the regions and republics of special organs charged with combatting disintegration.

            These moves thus should not be read as evidence of the strengthening of the Putinist state but rather as a sign that it is weakening and even that those at the top recognize that fact even if their opponents are confused and overwhelmed by this display of what looks like unchallenged power. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Climate Change Hitting Different Russians Differently and that Must be Reflected in Analysis and Policy, Chernokulsky and Makarov Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 27 – Moscow and the West typically discuss the impact of climate change on Russia as a whole, but the country is so large and so diverse that such an approach is appropriate only for country-by-country comparisons and not for the elaboration of government policy, Aleksandr Chernokulsky and Igor Makarov say.

            The two HSE scholars, the first a climatologist and the second an economist, in a study comparing the way in which four major risks – heat waves, water stress, wildfires and permafrost melting – are affecting each of the country’s more than 80 regions. (The study is available at journal.econorus.org/pdf/NEA-61.pdf and is discussed at themoscowtimes.com/2024/01/26/how-will-russias-regions-bear-the-brunt-of-climate-crisis-a83865.)

            Treating Russia as a single whole may be justified at some global level, but it is a disaster analytically and in terms of policy because these differences are so great, Chernokulsky and Markarov says. Indeed, adopting a one-size-fits-all approach may end by exacerbating rather than ameliorating the problem.  

            Their article contains charges showing just how many of the four factors are critical in each federal subject and how serious the need is for carefully analytic approaches and policies that are based on a recognition of these differences.

 

Putin Shamelessly Flaunts His ‘Militant Dilettantism, El Murid Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 27 – Speaking in Kaliningrad, Vladimir Putin said demographers “don’t know anything” and thus he has to figure out what to do, a manifestation of “a militant dilettantism” that is extremely dangerous when the person infected with it has power and can act without constraints, Andrey Nesmiyan who blogs under the screen name El Murid says.

            As reported by the Kremlin, Putin declared: “Nobody knows what’s at the core of demographic processes. Now I that I’ve said this publicly … demographers will attack me and say that ‘you don’t know but we do.’ In fact, they don’t know anything, as it’s very difficult to figure out what’s happening” in that sphere (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/73303).

            What the Kremlin leader is saying, El Murid suggests, is that “all these demographers are fools, mediocrities, and ignoramuses. They know nothing about the subject of their study. As a result, the great geo-strategist has had to spend 10 to 15 minutes of his invaluable time to thoroughly study the problem and come up with answers” (telegra.ph/Voinstvennyj-dilentantizm-01-26 at kasparov.ru/material.php?id=65B35F096C708).

            That outright “rejection of a scientific approach” inevitably means “an amateurish and voluntaristic one,” one that is based on ill-informed judgments not only about the causes of problems but about what the consequences of policies chosen on the basis of such amateurish judgments will be, the blogger says.

            Putin is not alone in this. He has surrounded himself with other “dull” amateurs who are sure they “know everything better than any specialist” and that they can act on that basis. That is obvious across the board but nowhere more clearly than in the regime’s discussions about birthrates.

            Putin’s people “do not realize that an urban society is fundamentally different from a traditional society.” The first aims at survival and therefore bets on having enough children to ensure that, while the second “aims at improving he quality of its life” and therefore has fewer children.

            That is what demographers understand but that Putin doesn’t, El Murid continues. It cals for increasing the birthrate to “completely unimaginable levels” not recognizing that no modern urban society anywhere has a rate that high. But for the regime, this is irrelevant as “they don’t understand either the problem or the consequences of their actions.”

            This group of amateur-rulers has survived on the basis of what its predecessors built up earlier, but such reserves are not without limit – and the Putin regime, El Murid concludes, is daily testing what those limits are.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Now that Strelkov has Been Convicted of a Crime, He Could Get His Wish, Go to Fight in Ukraine, and Be Pardoned, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 27 – After a Moscow court sentenced pro-war activist Igor Strelkov to four years in prison on charges of extremism, some Russians observed that his conviction could be his passport to fighting in Ukraine. After all, if he agrees to join the Russian military, he could get his wish to contribute to the war and be pardoned for doing so as well.

            That is just one of the anecdotes Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova includes in her latest collection (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/47614/-). Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Moscow is now selling stripped down Vesta vehicles to attract Russians into buying cars. The special vehicles cost 1.5 million rubles – about 15,000 US dollars – but they lack airbags, steering wheel controls and heated seats. But they do have one great advantage besides price: no one would want to steal such a car.

·       The Kremlin’s domestic policies make absolute sense. Poll show that the main supporters of Putin are the elderly, the poor and the uneducated. Moscow is doing everything it can to increase the share of such people in the population.

·       The Russian government has announced a new list of compulsory subjects for the 2024 United State Exam: Denunciations, God’s Law, Digging Trenches, and the History of the United Russia Party.

·       Pet food prices are skyrocketing, but Russians shouldn’t despair: prices for their food will go up even more just as soon as the presidential election is over.

·       Russia’s actual population is much smaller and declining far more rapidly than Moscow admits. But no one should be surprised. After all, in school, Russians were taught that all species flourish and multiply in favorable conditions and wither or even die out in unfavorable ones.

·       Other than Moscow, the only region that is growing is Kaliningrad. Russians are moving there en masse because they’ve heard that it will soon be called K√∂nigsberg again.

 

 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

ROC MP’s Repression Now Means Russian Orthodoxy in Future Likely to Be ‘a Federation of Churches without a Vertical,’ Chapnin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 25 – The increasingly repressive actions of the Moscow Patriarchate against dissenters, actions far more severe than in Soviet times, means that after Putin, Orthodoxy in Russia is likely to be reorganized as a federation “without a clear vertical structure,” Sergey Chapnin says.

            The Russian specialist on the ROC MP who now works as a researcher at the Center for Orthodox Research at Fordham University in the US argues that the behavior of the Patriarchate is driving Christians out of the church and only survives for the time being by relying on state power and copying the state’s approach to dissent (theins.ru/opinions/sergei-chapnin/268550).

            But when this state collapses, Chapnin says, it is very likely that the believers will want nothing to do with a Patriarchate, especially as the bishops from whom Patriarchate Kirill’s successors are likely to be drawn, is as clueless and religiously ignorant as the man who appointed them.

            In big cities, genuinely Orthodox Russians are already church-shopping, shifting from congregations led by priests who tow the party line without question to those who are more open to change and more critical of the Patriarchate’s policies. But outside these places, Russian Orthodox don’t have that choice.

            However, when Putin goes, Kirill and his church are likely to disappear as well, with individual priests rather than bishops pushing for a confederation of Orthodox churches in place of the hierarchical system that the current patriarch has exploited and made even more authoritarian than his Soviet predecessors did. 

 

‘Russia Only Beginning to Feel Full Weight of Sanctions,’ Zolotov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 25 – One of the great tragedies of our time is the increasingly short-time horizons people and governments have about what they do and what is happening. If a policy doesn’t achieve its goals quickly and preferably immediately, then ever more people and officials are prepared to declare it a failure and demand that it be changed.

            That approach contrasts sharply when governments and individuals took a longer view and pursued policies few thought could ever be effective – until after many years they proved to be -- policies like American non-recognition of the Soviet annexation of the Baltic countries or containment of communism more generally.

            Today, the short-term perspective is leading some in the West to question support for Ukraine – after all, they say, the promised Ukrainian offensive last summer didn’t succeed – and to cast doubt on the value of Western sanctions – given that they have not yet prompted Vladimir Putin to end his aggressive war.

            In both cases, such short-term thinking is dangerous and plays into Putin’s hands. It convinces him that no matter what he does, the West will eventually decide that any attempt to stop him should be scrapped and a return to “business as usual” pursued. If the Kremlin leader is given reasons to believe that, he will have no reason to stop with Ukraine.

            Such dangers make articles like that of Russian analyst Ivan Zolotov in Novyye izvestiya especially important not only for Russian politicians but perhaps also and even more for Western governments and publics (newizv.ru/news/2024-01-24/otlozhennyy-effekt-rossiya-tolko-nachinaet-oschuschat-vsyu-tyazhest-sanktsiy-426490).

            Zolotov argues that “Russia is only now beginning to feel the full weight of sanctions.” Earlier it was protected by high oil prices but those have fallen and by reserve funds that are rapidly being eaten up. Moreover, Moscow officials acknowledge it has turned out that the Russian economy is far more dependent on imports than many had thought.

            He provides compelling evidence for each of these changes in order to argue that “now, the effect of sanctions is becoming ever stronger.” Consequently, it is no time to think about lifting sanctions or reducing support for Ukraine. Instead, sanctions now proving their effectiveness should be increased and support for Ukraine and its defenders boosted.    

In Response to Sakha Protest, Yakutsk Raids Migrant Homes and Businesses

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 25 – The republic authorities in Sakha have raided more than 180 homes and businesses belong to immigrant workers in Yakutsk in the wake of protests about a naturalized Tajik who had killed a Sakha man in a knife fight, an apparent effort to calm the situation by suggesting that the authorities are on the side of the titular nation.

            These raids, first reported by Olga Balabakina, vice president of the Sakha government (t.me/balabkinaov/78135), suggest that the authorities fear that there is a great danger the protests will reignite and want to be seen as concerned about the same issues as the population (nemoskva.net/2024/01/25/rejdy-v-otnoshenii-migrantov-proveli-v-yakutii-posle-stihijnoj-akczii-protesta/).

            Earlier, they had deployed police against the protesters and detained some of them. At the same time, Moscow shut down much of the Internet in the republic, something the republic government itself is not in a position to do on its own, an action that has received much more attention (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2024/01/sakha-residents-take-to-streets-to.html).

            That makes these raids intriguing because it suggests the republic government feels that the best way to calm the situation is to use carrots – that is, to implicitly take the side of the protesters – than the sticks favored by Moscow, something that may set the stage for additional conflicts between the Russian capital and Yakutsk.

 

After Moscow Labelled Them ‘Foreign Agents, Leaders of Karelian, Smolensk and Ingush National Movements Speak Out

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 25 – Having just been declared “foreign agents” by the Russian government (t.me/novaya_europe/28848, the leaders of three national movements, the Karelian, Smolensk and Ingush, are attracting more attention and are now speaking out about their goals and activities.

            Speaking for the Karelians is Vladislav Nobel-Oleynik, 27, a Pomor who has been in emigration since September 2022. He says he has been involved in ethnic activism for more than a decade but decided to increase his activities after Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2024/01/26/demontazh-rossiiskoi-federatsii).

            “I decided,” he says, “that the time had come when Russia may experience its final stage of disintegration and that Karlia like the other Finno-Ugric republics finally have a chance to achieve independence.” He takes his designation as a foreign agent as a sign that Moscow recognizes the danger it now faces.

            “The Karelian national movement consists of ethno-regionalists, people who represent the national minority of the northern region,” Nobel-Oleynik says. “We have Ingermanland Finns, Finns, Korels, Vepsy, Pomors, Kola Norwegians, and Saami. In addition, there are many GULAG exiles.”

            Vladislav Zhivitz, head of the Smolensk Republic Center (which was founded in August 2023), earlier served as a deputy in the Smolensk Oblast Duma but has now gone into emigration where he is promoting Smolensk identity and organizing the drafting of a national program that foresees that region as an independent country closely allied with a post-Lukashenka Belarus.

            At present, he says, “we are helping out supporters to get asylum in Europe and plan to present for public discussion a draft of a Constitution of the Smolensk Republic.” In addition, his group is pressing for the establishment of a unit of Smolensk volunteers who will fight alongside others for the freedom of Ukraine.

            And Ruslan Iouloy, spokesman for Akhmad Ozdo, head of the Committee for Ingush Independence (a group also established last year),  says that group too is preparing for the “approaching disintegration of the Russian Federation” and views its identification by Moscow as a foreign agent as a sign that the Kremlin sees this as a real possibility.

            According to Iouloy, the group will soon launch “’a department of legal defense’ to provide help to people seeking asylum or persecuted for political reasons for their resistance to the regime and so on. We are certain that t his will be only the beginning and expect the Russian government to give us a multitude of such ‘honors.’”

(For background, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/07/deciding-on-flags-for-republics-no.html (Karelia), windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/08/smolensk-oblast-deputy-announces-in.html (Smolensk) and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/09/committee-for-ingushetia-independence.html (Ingushetia).)

Bashkirs Simultaneously ‘Almost Cossacks’ and ‘Most Rebellious People of Russian Empire,’ Levchik Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 25 – For many people, the current protests in Bashkortostan came out of nowhere, and so they were inclined to see them as an anomaly that would have no long-term effects. But Dmitry Levchik says that in fact, “the Bashkirs were the most rebellious people of the Russian Empire” even though in many respects, they were “almost Cossacks.”

            The Moscow historian who specializes on the ways in which non-Russians were added to and treated by the Russian Empire says that the history of the interrelationship of the Bashkirs and the Russian state shows that some Bashkirs cooperated and others resisted and then revolted (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=65B4E4E186BC8).

            After the collapse of the Golden Horde in the 15th century, Levchik writes, the tsarist regime treated the Bashkirs “almost as Cossacks” because it saw them as the key to guarding its fur trade with Siberia and later as ensuring that St. Petersburg would have a base to advance into Central Asia toward India.

            To ensure Bashkir loyalty, the tsarist regime used both carrots and sticks; and in this situation, some Bashkirs were quite prepared to work with the tsarist authorities while others, whenever they sensed weakness were ready and willing to rise in revolt, something they did from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

            The Russian state responded with both repression and concessions, sending punitive expeditions to put down the largest of these revolts, many of which it had provoked by its own aggressive and repressive politics, and then making concessions, including ending the forced Christianization of Bashkirs and the establishment of a recognized Muslim hierarchy.

            That pattern, Levchik suggests, has continued to this day, and it explains both why the Bashkirs appear far more integrated in the Russian system than the Tatars but also why the Bashkirs have been ready to protest and even revolt against that system whenever it goes too far or appears to have weakened.

 

Democratic Federalism Best Way Forward for Russia Because Regions, Republics and Center have More in Common than Many Think, Garmazhapova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 25 -- Aleksandra Garmazhapova, head of the Free Buryatia Foundation, says that it is very easy for both Russians and non-Russians to “play the national card and say that some nations are bad and others good,” but they have more in common than they think and the best way forward toward a better life is democratic federalism.

            The Buryat native, who grew up in St. Petersburg but now lives in exile in the United States, argues that “federalism is connected with democratization as the one without the other is impossible in Russia” (reforum.io/blog/2024/01/25/ochen-legko-razygrat-naczionalnuyu-kartu-no-zadacha-reformatorov-sdelat-zhizn-komfortnoj-dlya-vseh/).

            When democratic federalism exists, each component may choose via referendum to exit; but most won’t because they will benefit from remaining within the larger country, Garmazhapova says. In any case, that choice and issues about borders should not be dealt with immediately but only after the institutionalization of democratic federalism.

            At present, activists both among the non-Russians and the Russians aren’t focusing on this requirement. “The Russian opposition in exile is often Moscow-centric: its view is the view from the capital” which looks on the regions as if they are not sufficiently developed to be able to make their own choices in a democracy.

            The non-Russians respond in kind, she continues. They see the oppositionists from Moscow as reflecting the imperialism of the current rulers of Russia rather than simply reflecting the views of the people who live in the capital as such. Garmazhapova says she understands this because while she was born in Buryatia, she grew up in St. Petersburg.

            She argues that there is a demand for federalization in historically Russian regions “and not only in national republics,” something that neither tends to recognize in the other but that can serve as an important basis for the promotion of democratic federalism in a future Russian Federation.

            Those within the borders of the today’s Russia “have been really unlucky,” she continues. “But this is not the end. We who are very different nonetheless have many things in common. In fact, Russian citizens have more in common than they have things which set them apart.” It is important for both sides to recognize this and “’not lose heart.’”

Kremlin to Confiscate Property of All Russians who Don’t Believe Putin, Other Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 25 – Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that the Kremlin no longer cares what the West thinks, but it is still concerned with what Russians believe. All those inside Russia who don’t accept as true what the Kremlin says will face the confiscation of all their property, other Russians say.

            That is just one of the anecdotes offered in the latest collection by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/47601/-). Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       No matter how many signatures Boris Nadezhdin collects to run for president, that won’t be enough to ensure he can run for president if one many in the Kremlin decides otherwise.

·       It turns out that Russia was raised from its knees only to be stood on its head so the rulers can shake down everyone else.

·       Duma members have decided that the term “speed bump” is provocative and offensive to the police and so are casting about for terms that the police can accept such as “a horizontally standing object underlying a negative increase in speed.”

·       Duma deputies say that the proposed law on confiscation is “crude and illegal” but they will pass it anyway.

·       Three Duma deputies voted against the law on confiscation. Now, the Duma speaker has said that they will be punished, first by the confiscation of their mandates and then by the application of the law to them.

·       Putin says he won’t take part in any debates with other presidential candidates. That would be “like arguing with a driver or a security guard as they do whatever they are told.”

 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Another Circassian Organization Breaks with Moscow-Controlled Group

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 24 – Two weeks ago, the Kayseri Hase, one of the largest Circassian groups in Turkey, resigned from KAFFED to protest the actions of the latter umbrella group of North Caucasian organizations there that have led it to become little more than a mouthpiece for the Moscow-controlled International Circassian Organization.

            When Kasyeri Hase took this action, Circassian activists like Martin Kochesoko predicted that this would lead other Circassian groups in the diaspora to take similar actions (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2024/01/independent-circassian-group-resigns.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2024/01/circassians-abroad-to-follow-kayseri.html).

            That has now happened. The Istanbul Association of Caucasus Culture has broken its ties with KAFFED, the Federation of Caucasus Organizations in Tukey, complaining of the latter’s slavish following of the ICA and its pro-Moscow positions (kavkazr.com/a/esche-odna-krupneyshaya-cherkesskaya-organizatsiya-v-turtsii-vyshla-iz-federatsii-kavkazskih-assotsiatsiy/32791623.html).

            Given that there are several million Circassians in Turkey and that they constitute the largest diaspora community of that nation, these actions seriously weaken the ICA and its Moscow controllers and likely presage an upsurge in Circassian activism first in the diaspora and then in the North Caucasus homeland.

Sakha Residents Take to the Streets to Protest Ethnic Murder Prompting Yakutsk to Shut Down Internet Lest There Be Even Larger Protests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 24 – After a Tajik who had recently become a Russian citizen killed an ethnic Sakha, several hundred residents of Yakutsk took to the streets to protest against this murder. They also attacked some of the booths Central Asians maintain in the central market there

            The police appealed for calm, noting that the murderer was “a Russian citizen just like you,” and the situation might have ended there had the authorities not raised the stakes by shutting down the Internet, limiting the ability of residents to make payments or transfer money, and the republic head warned that “outside” agitators were trying to destabilize the situation.

            Asen Nikolayev urged Yakutsk residents “not to respond to illegal calls by ‘provocateurs sitting abroad’ who want to ‘incite a conflict, sow hostility divide and embitter’ the residents of Russia. Be careful,” he said, when the real enemy is killing our fellow citizens, we must unite more than ever” (nemoskva.net/2024/01/24/bunt-v-yakutske-stihijnye-akczii-prohodyat-v-gorode-posle-ubijstva-26-letnego-urozhencza-namskogo-ulusa/).

            Given the extreme cold, few Sakha residents are likely to stay in the streets for long; but this case shows just how tense the ethnic situation there has become and how even a single crime can lead to mass actions. Indeed, that happened earlier. In 2019, Sakha residents staged a protest against the rape of a Sakha resident by a Kyrgyz.

            Details about the current situation, however, remain scarce given how far away Sakha is from Moscow and given the shutdown of Internet connectivity for the day of these events.

Neither Government Support for Cultural Programs Nor Local Activists Can Prevent Komi-Permyaks from Continuing to Decline, Residents There

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 24 – Between 2010 and 2021, the number of people declaring themselves to be Komi-Permyaks declined from 94,400 to 55,700; and residents say that the number speaking the Komi-Permyak language and identifying as Komi-Permyaks will continue to fall because they say members of that nationality have “ceased to love themselves.”

            Those with whom New Tab journalist Ivan Kozlov spoke said that people in that region are moving away from dying villages where there are no jobs to cities, first Perm and then on to larger cities, where they find it easier to speak Russian and identify as such rather than explain who the Komi-Permyaks are (thenewtab.io/my-komi-permyaki-sami-sebya-perestali-lyubit/).

            Moreover, the residents say, neither the support the government does give for cultural festivals and museums does little to keep the Komi-Permyak language and identity alive given that it has worked to eliminate instruction in the language in the region’s schools and helps Russian become even more dominant in cities and workplaces.

            And at the same time, many of the activists who say they want to save the Komi-Permyaks are not members of that nationality and do not speak the national language. As a result, despite their good intentions, they do are doing little or nothing to more than slow the decline of this people.

            At the same time, at least one local activist argues that the census figures are inaccurate. She says that there has been a decline in the number of Komi-Permyak speakers and of people identifying as Komi-Permyaks but insists it is far smaller than the census suggests because of the ways that enumeration was conducted.

(On that issue and the discontent it has sparked, especially in Tatarstan but now as this article suggests among the Komi-Permyaks as well, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/01/russian-census-report-on-changes-in.html).   

Russian Businesses Blocking Regime Efforts to Draft Their Employees to Fight in Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 24 – Facing a worker shortage and demands by those who remain for higher pay, Russian businesses have been working to block regime efforts to identify and then draft their employees to fight in Ukraine by hiding information about them from the military commissariats, according to a new investigation by the Cherta news agency. 

            This problem last year grew to such an extent that as of October 1, the Russian government imposed higher penalties on businesses that failed to provide lists of their employees so that the regime’s military commissariats could identify men for service in Ukraine (cherta.media/story/nikto-ne-xochet-chtoby-sotrudnikov-posylali-kuda-to-voevat/).

            But the penalties are still not so great and the likelihood that the authorities will impose them in any particular case – most employees of the military commissariats are elderly -- personnel offices with which Cherta journalists spoke say, that businesses have felt compelled to follow the letter of the law if it gets in the way of their operations and profits.

            Moreover, the investigation found, companies have a variety of strategies that allow them to hide employees from the military commissariats: They can spin off parts of their business into smaller portions that aren’t required to do this reporting, or they can change the status of employees to contractors about whom the government does not require businesses to report.

            Indeed, blocking employees from being drafted may be one of the reasons why the number of self-employed workers is skyrocketing, with one in five members of the Russian workforce now in that category (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2024/01/one-in-five-russian-workers-now-self.html).

Millions of Russians Now Face Another Communal Services Problem: Failing Elevators

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 25 – The collapse of heating, plumbing and light in Russian homes across the country has attracted more attention; but even as these problems intensify because of cutbacks in government funding in order to allow Putin to spend more on his war in Ukraine, millions of Russians face another communal services problem: failing elevators.

            According to government report, more than 100,000 elevators – one of every five in the country -- need to be replaced this year because they are more than 25 years old, but there is no money either at the federal or local level to do this (newizv.ru/news/2024-01-24/vse-sroki-proshli-kazhdyy-pyatyy-lift-trebuet-zameny-i-ugrozhaet-zhiltsam-426492).

            And the problem is not limited to aging elevators. Many of the elevators installed in the last 25 years are inadequate because builders cut corners to save money and the Russian authorities did little or nothing to force them to install elevators that would work for long periods or even throughout buildings where more than one elevator is typically needed.

            Because most urban Russians live in high rises, this means that many people have to walk up many flights of steps at risk to their health or take the only elevator available far away from their apartments and possibly suffer when they ride it. Many deaths and injuries are reported every year as a result of elevator accidents.

            This communal services crisis is unlikely to get the media attention that the absence of heat and plumbing do not only because the number of people affected in any particular accident is small but also because neither the government nor the media focus on it. But it is yet another disaster of Russian life under Putin that is contributing to a rising tide of anger in the population.